Friday, May 31, 2013

The things that you're liable to read into the Bible...

... ain't necessarily so.

All things considered, the settler-colonial movement known as Zionism really has had a dream run.

While there are many reasons for this, one of them is purely ideological. No other mob of usurping European colonials has ever been able to exploit the Bible to such great advantage as the Zionists. Having said that, it was only the prior colonisation of the European mind by the biblical narrative that enabled them to get away with it.  

I was yet again reminded of this when I read the following letter, by Vic Alhadeff, chief executive of the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies, in the Sydney Morning Herald of May 29:

"Associate Professor Mohamad Abdalla indulges in a groundless swipe against Israel in his response to Paul Sheehan's column on the Koran. Arguing that many groups use biblical texts to justify violence against others, he claims that 'Zionists use them regularly against Palestinians'. No they don't. What reputable Israeli leaders do is rely on the Bible to justify their 4000-year connection to the land. They disavow violence and they don't use biblical texts to justify violence against Palestinians. That's a critical difference."

A "groundless swipe," eh? I don't think so.  Alhadeff is being disingenuous here.

Historically, although primarily secular nationalists, Zionist leaders have unashamedly used the Hebrew Bible to dress up their naked colonial land grab in Palestine, and none more so than Israel's founding father, David Ben-Gurion:

"The Bible has been utilised by modern secular Zionism as 'history' rather than theology or a source of belief... [T]he secular Zionist claim to Palestine is based on the biblical paradigm and the notion that God had given the land to the Jews... In 1937 David Ben-Gurion (1886-1973), a Russian Jew, later to become the first prime minister and chief architect of the State of Israel, told the British Royal Commission visiting Mandatory Palestine that the 'Bible is our Mandate'. Ben Gurion, who is revered in Israel as the 'Father of the Nation', was a non-believer and deeply secular Zionist. From its earliest days in the late 19th century secular Jewish Zionism embraced the Protestant Zionist biblicist doctrine of exclusive land ownership. This fundamental doctrine was premised on the notion that the Hebrew Bible provides for the Jews' sacrosanct 'title deed' to colonise Palestine, and gives moral legitimacy to the establishment of the State of Israel and its current policies towards the indigenous Palestinians. The nationalised and racialised European doctrine, which viewed the Jews in racial terms, was not only central to Zionist policies in the late 19th century but was ever pervasive within mainstream Christian theology and biblical scholarship. The link between Zionist myth-making, Zionist settler-colonialism, territorial expansion into the occupied West Bank and the use of the Hebrew Bible is reflected in the claim of Ben-Gurion that the Bible was the Chosen People's sacrosanct title deed to Palestine, 'with a genealogy of 3,500 years'. A leading advocate of the historicisation of the Bible, Ben-Gurion wrote: 'The message of the Chosen People makes sense in secular, nationalist and historical terms... The Jews can be considered a self-chosen people... Though I reject theology, the single most important book in my life is the Bible'." (The Bible & Zionism: Invented Traditions, Archaeology & Post-Colonialism in Israel-Palestine, Nur Masalha, 2007, pp 16-17)

Much as Alhadeff might pretend that by referencing the Hebrew Bible "reputable Israeli leaders" are merely illustrating an alleged "connection to the land" of Palestine, as opposed to asserting a divinely- (or historically-) sanctioned prior ownership of it, no serious student of Zionist colonialism in Palestine is fooled.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Nakba? What Nakba?

Aborigines, n: Persons of little worth found cumbering the soil of a newly discovered land. They soon cease to cumber, they fertilize.  Ambrose Bierce, The Devil's Dictionary, 1911

"Mass graves have been discovered in the historical cemetery of Al-Kazakhana in Jaffa, Al-Aqsa Foundation for Islamic Endowments & Heritage announced on Monday. The graves contain the remains of Palestinians killed by Jewish militias in 1948 during the Nakba (Catastrophe). According to the Foundation, they were discovered during routine maintenance and rehabilitation of the cemetery in one of the cities occupied by Israel since 1948. The Head of the cemetery rehabilitation project, Muhammad al-Ashqar, said that the remains indicate that they were of Palestinians of varied ages 'killed by Zionist gangs' in Jaffa." (Mass graves of Palestinians discovered,, 28/5/13)

Israel Gets What Israel Wants

Remember John Howard's former immigration minister/attorney-general, Philip Ruddock?

Happily, he's just an opposition backbencher these days and we don't get to hear much from him anymore.

Lately, however, he's popped up in federal parliament sick with worry that Australia's bloated intelligence agencies are being starved of funds by the government.

But that's not why I'm on his case right now. The thing is, I just couldn't help noticing the following words in his speech on the tabling of the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence & Security's latest Annual Report of Activities:

"I read about what is happening in Syria and the reports of Australians abroad engaged in activities in that region. In some cases their work is said to be humanitarian, but in others the reporting suggests that they are active participants. These are people who can come back to Australia after they have been trained in organisations that ought to be of considerable concern to us." (

It's strange how selective such concerns can be.

Ruddock apparently had no such concerns when tapped on the shoulder by the Israelis sometime in 2000/2001 and asked to relieve them of the burden of around 200 members of the South Lebanese Army (SLA), the puppet militia who'd followed their masters back into Israel following the Israeli  retreat from occupied south Lebanon in 2000.

As non-Jews (Maronite Christians actually) in a 'Jewish' state, they were surplus to requirements, and, having passed their use-by date, just had to go... somewhere... anywhere.

But where? No problem. Where else but good old Australia?

As you know, when it comes to Israel, Australian governments are the softest of soft touches, and none more so, arguably, than that of John Howard. Sure, you've all heard Howard's 'We will decide who comes to this country and the circumstance in which they come', but hey, for Israel... anything!

Still, you might have thought that the SLA's experience in terrorising Shia villages and Palestinian refugees in south Lebanon, and their expertise in attaching electric wires to the fingertips, tongues and genitals of anyone unfortunate enough to fall into their clutches, would have given Ruddock and his mates pause. But no, like Lola, Israel always gets what Israel wants.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

In the Name of Afghanistan

Making no attempt to escape, Michael Adebolajo stands at the scene of his crime outside a London army barracks, a blood-streaked meat cleaver in his hand, the mutilated corpse of soldier Lee Rigby at his feet, and explains exactly why he's done what he's done, on camera:

"The only reason we have killed this man today is because Muslims are dying daily by British soldiers... it's an eye for an eye... By Allah, we swear by almighty Allah, we will never stop fighting until you leave us alone." (DIY terror, Deborah Snow & Nick Miller, Sydney Morning Herald, 25/5/13)

Could he have made his motive any clearer? And yet the Australian media's just not listening. All you ever hear is the refrain: in the name of religion/ in the name of Islam.

But this murder really isn't about religion. Adebolajo didn't say: Islam made me/us do it.

It's about British war crimes against his co-religionists in Afghanistan and elsewhere:

"Britain's military police... have started at least 126 investigations into incidents in which British troops are alleged to have killed or injured Afghan civilians since January 2005... The Guardian has calculated that around 90 civilians, including women and children, were killed or wounded in the investigations and prosecutions listed here. However the actual number of casualties at the centre of the 126 investigations is likely to be much higher as the MoD has kept secret details of more than half the investigations." (Afghanistan: list of investigations & prosecutions of British troops, DataBlog, Rob Evans, The Guardian, 30/3/12)

No historical parallel is exact but I'm reminded here of the case of the young Polish-German Jew, Herschel Grynszpan. In 1938, Grynszpan shot dead the German diplomat Ernst vom Rath in Paris. Crucially, he made no attempt to get away, explaining that he'd acted to avenge persecuted German Jews. A postcard in his pocket read:

"With God's help. My dear parents, I could not do otherwise, may God forgive me, the heart bleeds when I hear of your tragedy and that of the 12,000 Jews.* I must protest so that the whole world hears my protest, and that I will do. Forgive me. Hermann [his German name]."

[*Herschel was referring to the deportation by the Nazis of Jews of Polish origin. The Poles refused to accept them, leaving them stranded on the border.]

The German press, of course, spun the murder as an attack by "the Jews on the German people," and it was used as a pretext for the massive anti-Jewish pogrom of Kristallnacht ('Night of Broken Glass').

Now we know why the Nazis got the murder of vom Rath wrong. But why are we getting the murder of Lee Rigby wrong? 

[NB: All my data on Grynszpan, including the quotations, comes from Wikipedia.]

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

About that 'Satirical' Misinfographic

Yawn... yet another 'expose' in yesterday's Murdoch fishwrapper of how those bloody Muslims have us all on the run:

"The Australian National University has cited international violence in the wake of the Danish cartoon and Innocence of Muslims controversies in justifying its decision to force student newspaper Woroni to pulp a satirical infographic which described a passage from the Koran as a 'rape fantasy'... In the April 16 edition of Woroni, authors Jamie Freestone, Matthew McGann and Todd Cooper posed the question, 'How should I value women?' Their answers referenced Aisha, the prophet Mohammed's nine-year-old wife, and described the 72 'houris' - women depicted in the Koran as large-bosomed virgins who are a reward in paradise - as a 'rape fantasy'." (Uni bans Koran satire for fear of violent backlash, Rachel Baxendale, The Australian, 27/5/13)

Predictably, it's provided the opportunity for a feeding frenzy by Islamophobic letter writers in today's Australian, who, and here's the irony, bang on about free speech in a paper that has scant respect for that very value.

But for me free speech is really not the issue here.

No, the problem I have is not with the university's pulping of the trio's so-called "satirical infographic," but rather with the simple fact that the blokes who created it know SFA about the subject they're supposedly satirising.

All these boofheads have done is pluck a couple of canards from one or other of the hundreds of Islamophobic websites that infest the internet, and milk them for a few laughs under the pretence that they have something useful to say on the subject of Muslim women. And I'm supposed to get all het-up if the university raps them over the knuckles?

I'm sorry, but I'm somewhat handicapped here by two apparently very old-fashioned ideas:

1) Universities have (or should have) something to do with critical thinking.
2) If you really feel you must have a say on a subject, make sure you first know what you're talking about.

Now before I move on to the Aisha and 72 virgins canards, I thought I'd provide you with the solitary result of a little google search on our would-be satirists. What follows is taken from a Q&A under the heading Feminist of the Week: Jamie Freestone. It can be found at the website (6/3/12):

Q: Do you think feminism has a place in today's society?
JF: No. Just kidding, that's a bit of a Dorothy Dixer, isn't it? In poorer nations, especially poorer nations where fundamentalist Islam is the dominant religion, it is cardinally important. In somewhere like Australia it's still important but it's sometimes harder to see exactly how sexism is manifested and what should be done about it.

So Saudi Arabia is a poor country and sexism's a rare and endangered species in Australia? Right...

Now to the canards themselves.

First, neither Aisha's name nor her age at the consummation of her marriage to the Prophet are even mentioned in the Qur'an. She only really crops up in the hadith, the authenticity of which depend on confirmation in the Qur'an. As to the question of her age at the consummation of her marriage to the Prophet, try reading Age of Aisha (ra) at time of marriage by Zahid Aziz at, which suggests that she was really around 14-15 years of age at the time of consummation.

Second, nor are those 72 'houris' to be found in the Qur'an. They come rather from a 9th century hadith by Ahmad at-Tirmidhi. Nor is there any reference there to the size or otherwise of their bosoms. (See my 21/7/09 post 72 Virgins... Again!)

Seriously now, if our valiant trio really want to live bravely and strike a blow for free speech and human rights, let them try heading up a BDS initiative on campus - after first reading Omar Barghouti's BDS: Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions: The Global Struggle for Palestinian Rights (2011) of course.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Shaoquett Moselmane Speaks Truth to Power

With so many NSW state politicians bending the knee to Israeli apartheid and its local fifth column these days, the voices of those who fearlessly speak out in defence of Palestinian rights deserve our utmost respect.

One such is NSW Labor MLC Shaoquett Moselmane.

He had this to say in the context of a speech on religious freedom in the NSW Legislative Council on May 23:

"In a democratic country such as ours there are many ways in which people can express their views - the opportunities are wide open. I am a person who will not shy away from having my say. I will always say and do what is right, even in the face of the trash I have read in the Australian-Israeli media. One or two reporters writing in the Murdoch press - namely the Australian - have been attacking me and denying the truth of Israel's occupation of Palestinian land and the killing and dehumanising of the Palestinian people. This is utter garbage. I accept the right of people to express their views, even when they are wrong, naive, ill-informed, indoctrinated and blinded by the power of a political lobby group that is cancerous, malicious, and seeks to deny, misinform and scaremonger. What I do take exception to is foreigners intervening in the right of Australian politicians to speak out. Therefore, I say to the Israeli ambassador, Yuval Rotem, 'Butt out and stay out. Your perceived right to bully as you do in the Middle East does not extend to the Australian political arena.'

"In today's Australian, Cassandra Wilkinson*, lacking journalistic integrity and an informed knowledge of the Israeli occupation of Arab lands, took aim and attacked me. In an example of sloppy reporting and sloppy journalism, she quotes a statement she attributes to Mr David Shoebridge MLC that was actually made by Dr John Kaye MLC. Perhaps because Dr Kaye is of Jewish descent Ms Wilkinson conveniently attacks others in the NSW Parliament who simply dare to criticise - as any ethical or moral person would do - the state of Israel's illegal and criminal practices against the Palestinian people. I applaud all Muslim and Arab leaders for speaking out on these and other issues. I call on the Australian Arab Muslim community to unite and for once speak with one Australian voice. I ask them to protect the right of their community to speak out and deliver a message of peace and citizenship on behalf of their community so that neither they nor their messages are misconstrued or misunderstood."

In an article in today's Australian (Attack on Israel's backers puts ALP in damage control, Christian Kerr & Mark Coulton), quoting snatches of the above speech, we get some idea of the pressure Shaoquett Moselmane is coming under to toe the party (Likud?) line. One is reminded of the pressure to which the courageous and principled federal Labor MP Julia Irwin was subjected whenever she spoke up for the Palestinian cause:

"Clashes on Middle East policy are expected when the NSW Labor caucus meets tomorrow after a Muslim MP attacked supporters of Israel as 'cancerous' and 'malicious'."

(You'll note here that Moselmane was referring to the Israel lobby, not mere supporters of Israel. He's in good company in this regard: Fairfax columnist Mike Carlton has called the lobby a "ferocious beast," and another former Fairfax columnist and broadcaster, Terry Lane, described it as "malicious, implacable, mendacious and dangerous." (See my 12/6/10 post A Ferocious Beast.)

"MLC Shaoquett Moselmane was slapped down by Opposition Leader John Robertson after he used a speech in parliament about religious tolerance and multiculturalism to attack his critics, including columnists in The Australian... 'I comprehensively reject the allegations made by Mr Moselmane. I have made this clear to him', Mr Robertson said, adding that he had contacted Mr Rotem and Yair Miller, the president of the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies. NSW Labor general secretary Sam Dastyari called the remarks 'completely inappropriate'. Australian Workers Union national secretary Paul Howes condemned Mr Moselmane's comments as 'contrary to the policy of the Labor Party'. Mr Moselmane declined to return calls from The Australian."

Watch this space.

[*See my 23/5/13 post Cassandra Wilkinson & Herstory.]

Et tu, Jeremy?

The London Declaration on Combating Antisemitism madness rolls on, having now spread to the NSW Knesset.

Not content with the mere formation of a Zionist mega-faction incorporating representatives from every party in state Knesset - the NSW Parliamentary Friends of Israel - Australia's Israel lobby now has them signing on the dotted line:

"Thirty Liberal and Nationals MPs and Green Jeremy Buckingham signed the charter, watched by members of the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies. Frontbenchers and high-profile members Viktor Dominello, Glady Berejiklian, Pru Goward, Robyn Parker, Andrew Constance and Legislative Council president Don Harwin were among the group." (Libs back bid to beat anti-Semitism, Christian Kerr, The Australian, 24/5/13)

That watched by is so telling. No secret ballot here!  Were it not so sinister, the groupthink on display would be almost comical.

One can only imagine the hushed conversations currently taking place in the corridors of the NSW Knesset: 'Reluctant to sign? I've signed. Everyone else is signing. Maybe you should too. You wouldn't want to be labelled ANTI-SEMITIC, would you?'

But the icing on the lobby's cake here must surely be the wedging of the parliamentary Greens, with the deeply (nay willfully - he's had more than enough time to educate himself on this issue) ignorant Jeremy Buckingham signing a document that, in typical Zionist fashion, conflates anti-Semitism with criticism of Israel. Not that this should have come as any surprise. Having earlier foolishly joined the steering committee of the NSW Parliamentary Friends of Israel, how could he wriggle out of something like this?

What's the bet he'll be off to Israel for the next parliamentary rambamming later this year?

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Bishop Takes Axe to Human Rights Activism

On 11 July 2011 the Israeli Knesset approved a Law for Prevention of Damage to State of Israel through Boycott.

According to Wikipedia "[t]he law states that individuals or organizations who publicize a call for an economic, cultural or academic boycott against a person or entity merely because of its affiliation to the State of Israel and/or to an Israeli institute and/or to a specific region under Israeli control, may be sued civilly, in tort, by a party claiming that it might be damaged by such a boycott. The law also allows Israeli authorities to deny benefits from individuals or organizations - such as tax exemptions or participation in government contracts - if they have publicized a call to boycott and/or if they have obligated to participate in a boycott."

Unfortunately, this particular attack on human rights activism has finally found its way to these shores, and a variant of same is now being promoted by opposition foreign affairs spokeswoman, Julie Bishop, who has just declared that "[t]he Coalition will institute a policy across government that ensures no grants of taxpayers' funds are provided to individuals or organisations which actively support the BDS campaign." (Libs to cut funding for anti-Israel activists, Ean Higgins, The Australian, 25/5/13)

And who should she be in her sights but Associate Professor Jake Lynch of Sydney University's Centre for Peace & Conflict Studies (CPACS):

"It is inappropriate for Associate Professor Lynch to use his role as director of the taxpayer-funded CPACS... in support of the anti-Semitic BDS campaign." (ibid)

Not that Bishop is operating entirely under her own steam in this matter, of course. The usual suspects are never far away:

"Australia-Israel & Jewish Affairs Council executive director Colin Rubenstein supported the Coalition's initiative. 'It is obviously inappropriate for publicly funded bodies to engage in BDS against Israel... it is the role of government to make this clear,' he said." (ibid)

The Coalition's initiative - don't you just love that?

I suspect that the passage of anti-BDS legislation in federal parliament would be for Israel lobbyists such as Rubenstein what the issuing of the Balfour Declaration was for Chaim Weizmann back in 1917. Orgasmic.

Still, certain prior ejaculations and emissions on the subject of BDS by Israel lobbyists are sure to create a measure of cognitive dissonance here.

Take Rubenstein, for example. Back in 2011 he signed a document called Statement of Jewish Organizations on BDS, one of whose central tenets was that BDS is "antithetical to freedom of speech." (  He now has the unenviable task of justifying Bishop's move to muzzle BDS supporters. 

Then there's Peter Wertheim, Executive Director of the Executive Council of Australian Jewry (ECAJ), who only days before (May 20 to be precise), at a UNSW panel discussion, suggested that, when all is said and done, BDS is really a bit of a paper tiger:

"My take on BDS, particularly in Australia, and I've said this a number of times, is that it has been a free gift for the cause of Zionism. That doesn't mean I support it. I think it's an insidious campaign. I do think it's inherently racist, but in terms of its success and whether it's something to be really afraid of or anything like that... no. We need to be alert to it, keep monitoring it, watching it, but we don't need to fear it." (Q&A: On-campus anti-Semitism & BDS)

Draconian legislation to combat something so harmless? But that's not all. According to Wertheim, not only is BDS a paper tiger, but it's actually done wonders for Max Brenner's bank balance:

"Since the boycott campaign against Max Brenner Australia began in 2011, their business has really boomed." (Quoted in BDS targets uni over campus shop, Christian Kerr, The Australian, 18/4/13)

Well, what do you know? Maybe for Zion's sake and Max's profit margin, our friends in the lobby should be promoting BDS? Maybe Wertheim should have a word in Bishop's ear before the print dries on the paper and the damage is done?

There's another angle here worth considering. I'm wondering to what extent Bishop and Gillard are now caught up in an outbidding process on this issue that they can't quite contol? A short time line will show you what I mean:

September 2012: Opposition moves anti-Greens motion in Senate condemning BDS. Government & Greens vote against it. Motion is defeated. Bishop crows, "This reveals the extent to which Federal Labor is captive to the radical agenda of the Greens."

April 2013: Gillard beats Opposition to punch by signing London Declaration on Combating Antisemitism. (See my 28/4/13 post The Latest Prime Ministerial Kowtow.) 

May 16 2013: Opposition ups ante by staging mass Opposition signing of declaration. (See my 17/5/13 post The Tel Aviv Declaration on Combating Criticism of Israel.)

May 25 2013: Bishop declares above-mentioned anti-BDS legislation if Coalition wins coming election. Ball now in Gillard's court.

So what's next? Gillard responds with an even more draconian Israeli-style 'Law for the Prevention of Damage to State of Israel through Boycott'? 

Seriously, it's time to take Israel out of Australian politics. 


Saturday, May 25, 2013

Why Boycott Max Brenner?

Honest reporting invariably plays second fiddle to crusading at Murdoch's Australian. Nowhere is this more so (notwithstanding some useful reports by its Middle East correspondent, John Lyons) than in its fanatical support for Israeli apartheid.

As I demonstrated in yesterday's post, the Australian devotes an extraordinary amount of column space to the burnishing of Israel's increasingly tarnished international image and attacking those Australians who dare to speak up for the Palestinians, in particular those who've declared support for the pro-Palestine BDS movement. The paper's opinion pages are the key here. For as long as I can remember they have been the almost exclusive preserve of Zionist apologists and lobbyists.

A quick scan of the opinion pieces listed in yesterday's post, for example, reveals that of the 8 which have appeared since 16/4, only one in support of the Palestinian case, that by Professor Stuart Rees, a prime target of the current phase of the Australian's anti-Palestinian crusade, has been accepted for publication. This is tokenism at its most blatant.

The following article, Why boycott Max Brenner?, by another of the paper's recent targets, Palestine solidarity activist Patrick Harrison*, was refused publication by the Australian:

"When I visited Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories in 2011 to take part in environmental volunteer projects, apartheid was plain to see. West Bank Palestinians were restricted in what roads they could travel on to tend their fields. Activists were arrested when they tried to highlight this injustice by boarding buses in Israeli settlements, echoing the Freedom Rides fighting segregation in the US. Every Palestinian house had rainwater tanks because the mains would run dry in the summer; the Israeli settlements had irrigated lawns that could rival Sydney's north shore.

"So when I came home for Christmas and showed my family the photos I took in the West Bank, they could easily see the comparison. For my family, it's close to home - my parents met and married in South Africa under apartheid. However, calling Israel an 'apartheid state' means something much more than just a comparison with South Africa before 1994. The Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, which came into force in 2002, defines apartheid as 'an institutionalised regime of systematic oppression and domination by one racial group over any other racial group or groups.' This is the crime of which Israel is guilty with laws of citizenship that discriminate against non-Jews, dozens of other examples of institutional racism, and legal distinctions between 'Israeli Arabs', West Bank residents and East Jerusalemites - of which 80% live in poverty according to a recent report.

"This is why I campaign for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel. The parent company of Max Brenner - a chocolate shop company that has become the focus for the BDS campaign in Australia - is the Strauss Group. It is not merely a financial partner in this apartheid the way many multinationals are. Its support of the Israeli military extends as far as to donate care packages to commandos of the Golani and Givati brigades to 'sweeten their special moments.'** These brigades are Israel's shock troops; the Givati brigade penetrated furthest of all units involved in the 2008-09 invasion of Gaza. The Golani brigade was stationed at checkpoints in the Palestinian city of Hebron shortly after I visited the West Bank. Christian Peacemaker Teams' activists documented a rise in the number of serious human rights violations against the people of Hebron at the time.

"Max Brenner Australia's relationship to the Strauss Group is plain to see, although the company tries to hide it. In an interview in the Australian, the general manager of Max Brenner in Australia, Yael Kaminsky, said Max Brenner Australia 'never got involved with the Strauss Group... we only have the franchise rights in Australia and we report to the office of Max Brenner that is based in New York.' Yet the Strauss Group's annual report last year said Max Brenner International in the US is wholly owned by Strauss USA, itself a wholly owned subsidiary of Strauss Group Ltd. The report said 'the [Strauss] Group operates chocolate bars' in Australia.

"Boycotting Max Brenner has nothing to do with the identity of the company's owners, just as the campaign to boycott Veolia for its operations in the occupied territories has nothing to do with the religion or race of its boss. It is about raising awareness of the Israeli government's crimes in Palestine. If the owners of Max Brenner are as truly independent of of ties with Israeli apartheid as they claim, they can easily put an end to protests outside their stores by rebranding their store, handing back the franchise rights, and sending a signal that people of all backgrounds condemn Israel's crimes." (Green Left Weekly, May 22)

[*Patrick has a blog: Al-Thawra Eyewitness; **See my 12/7/09 post How Sweet It Is.]

PS: The Australian's opinion page editor, Rebecca Weisser, has an article in today's paper arguing against the privatisation of the ABC, but reckons it needs more - wait for it - balance. (Subsidy fine, but balance required)

Friday, May 24, 2013

The Australian's Operation Smear & Loathing

Murdoch's Australian is pompously referred to as the 'great' man's 'flagship'.

Warship more like it, armed to the teeth with all the latest Zionist lies, smears, canards, spin and good old-fashioned bullshit direct from Israel's 24/7 hasbara mill.

Think I'm exaggerating? That's only because you don't read it. (Not that I blame you, of course.)

Here's a list of the ordnance (ordure?) lobbed on Palestine's defenders in the land down under (the Zionist thumb) since April 12:

12/4: Students call for Israeli uni boycott, Ean Higgins
16/4: Jewish students slam council over 'pet' BDS, Ean Higgins
16/4: Appalling attempt to boycott Israeli uni, Philip Chester, Zionist Federation of Australia
17/4: Pro-Israel letters from Phil Herd, Kangaloon, NSW & Philip Mendes, Kew, Vic.
18/4: BDS targets uni over campus shop, Christian Kerr
19/4: Students were told about Brenner, Christian Kerr & Mitchell Nadin
29/4: Campus rally to protest Max Brenner opening, Ean Higgins
30/4: PM denounces activists as anti-Israel protest turns anti-Semitic, Christian Kerr
30/4: The ugly face of student activism, Peter Wertheim & Julie Nathan
1/5: Gillard BDS stance slammed as too little, too late, Christian Kerr & Ean Higgins
1/5: Unis tolerating intolerance: Racist anti-Israel protests expose lack of understanding, editorial
2/5: Protests lack link to Israel: BDS fan, Christian Kerr
2/5: Islam becomes the new guilt: We've replaced our contrition over the Holocaust, Clive Kessler
3/5: Jihad Sheila link to anti-Jewish posts, Ean Higgins & Christian Kerr
3/5: Anti-BDS letter from Professor Fred Hilmer, vice-chancellor, UNSW; pro-BDS (but not Max Brenner) letter from Alastair Harris, Braidwood, NSW
4/5: Pro-Israel letter from Daniel Lewis, Rushcutters Bay, NSW
6/5: Student body rethinks anti-Israel boycott, Christian Kerr
7/5: Labor split over Israel boycott, Christian Kerr
7/5: It'd hurt us to boycott Israel: Anti-Semitism aside, Israelis make a vast contribution, Tim Harcourt
8/5: Anti-BDS move at Sydney Uni tipped to fail, Christian Kerr
10/5: University of open minds: Sydney University gives anti-Israeli activists short shrift, editorial
14/5: Anti-BDS stance 'easy, populist', Christian Kerr
14/5: Reality ignored in rush to judgment on 'apartheid' Israel, Bruce Loudon
14/5: Strange way to promote peace: critics of Israel should turn their attention to Iran, editorial
15/5: MPs unite to sign anti-Semitism pact, Christian Kerr
20/5: Labor MPs to back PM on anti-Semitism, Christian Kerr
21/5: Cruel game behind politicians' rush to condemn anti-Semitism, Stuart Rees, chairman of the Sydney Peace Foundation (NB: token response from one under fire)
22/5: BDS to go the doctor at Sydney uni, Christian Kerr
22/5: Bell tolls for anti-Semitism, Howard Jacobson, novelist
22/5: 3 letters contra Rees from Merv Morris, St Kilda, Vic., Michelle Kerr, Asquith, NSW & Stephen Jones, Bonython, ACT
23/5: BDS 'smeared by cynical Israel lobby', Ean Higgins
23/5: Boycott continues centuries-old hatred, Cassandra Wilkinson
23/5: 1 letter contra Rees from Douglas Kirsner, Caulfield North, Vic.; 1 'let there be empathy' letter from Stewart Mills, Balmain, NSW
24/5: Libs back bid to beat anti-Semitism, Christian Kerr
24/5: 3 pro-Israel letters from James McDonald, Annandale, NSW; Robert Friedman, Caulfield, Vic & John Francis, Lauderdale, Tas; 1 pro-Palestine letter from Peter Slezak, Bellevue Hill, NSW; 1 neutral from Paul Norton, Highgate Hill, Qld

And what's all the sound and fury about? There's scant evidence here of reason, rational discourse, research, or honest reflection. Just spin and smear. Just good old Zionist hysterics, all vitriol, hyperbole and talking points. Here's a stream-of-consciousness selection:

"... the insidious BDS... extremist, anti-Israel BDS policy... extremist BDS campaign... boycotts and sometimes sanctions campaigns aren't always anti-Semitic, but when you target individual businesses because they are Jewish, it is clearly anti-Semitic... often anti-Semitic BDS campaign... anti-Semitic activities such as the BDS campaign... misconceived BDS campaign... the BDS campaign has too much of a resemblance to the Nazi boycotts of Jewish businesses... an anti-Semitic campaign... BDS is anti-Semitic in its implications... BDS is the most recent name for a centuries-old hatred... the BDS campaign easily passes Natan Sharansky's 3D test for anti-Semitism - demonstration, double standards and delegitimisation... overwhelmingly BDS reeks of anti-Semitism... the BDS campaign is but a moral millimetre away from Krystallnacht..."

Nasty stuff indeed. But I'll leave you on a positive note. Here's Peter Slezak's near lone voice of reason (probably cut to ribbons by the letters editor):

"Israel defines itself as a Jewish state and then critics such as Stuart Rees are automatically accused of anti-Semitism. One might reasonably wonder then, how to protest against violations of international law and Palestinian human rights without being denounced with this slur. Conflating criticism of Israel with anti-Semitism dishonours the memory of its victims and cheapens the term. Genuine concern about the scourge of anti-Semitism would generalise as a concern with racism, discrimination and oppression in all its forms - against Jews or Palestinians."

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Cassandra Wilkinson & Herstory

The Australian's holy war against the demonic forces of the pro-Palestinian BDS movement in Australia took a most unusual turn today with an opinion(ated) piece by columnist Cassandra Wilkinson, Boycott continues centuries-old hatred.

Described at the Australian as a "strategy consultant," an adviser to ex-NSW Labor politicians, Michael Costa and Christina Keneally, and a "regular SkyNews commentator on political issues," Wilkinson has never before, so far as I'm aware, broken into print on the subject of Palestine/Israel. Nor, it appears, has she ever been rambammed. And as for Exodus - that'd be the second book of the Bible, right?

Still, there exists at least one sign that the lady's for turning. Here she is, for example, discoursing on "20th century security":

"The history of 20th century security shows that when the West turns a blind eye to trouble around the world, things get worst [sic]. When the French and British ran out of Suez, the Middle East got less safe..." (Sky News, The Nation with Helen Dalley, Kerry Chikarovski, Cassandra Wilkinson & Ed Husic,, 8/11/12)

Wowee, break out the pith helmets and the puttees NOW!

Apparently, back in '56, the Britz and the Frogz should've told Eisenhower to go get stuffed, shocked and awed Cairo, pursued Nasser all the way to his spiderhole in the sticks, put him on trial for stealing the Suez Canal, pronounced him guilty and strung him up. The fact that they didn't means the Middle East's been all down hill since then.

A recent (23/5) twitter exchange yields another insight. Make of it what you will:

Glenn Barling: great article this morning in the australian.
Cassandra Wilkinson: thanks - small gesture of solidarity from a Bondi girl to her neighbours.

And so to Wilkinson's column:

She's deeply troubled about something she calls "the bonds of convenience growing between elements of the Left and anti-Semitism."

Her beloved UNSW, in particular, is a real worry:

"The student activists who tried to prevent the University of NSW from allowing Mr Brenner [!] to open on campus, claimed the BDS campaign was initiated in 2005. Such sloppy referencing and fact-checking wouldn't pass muster on their exams, I hope. As it happens, I studied history at UNSW - something the protesters could profit from before they graduate. A basic grasp of history shows us the boycotting of businesses is a longstanding tactic in the campaign of hate against the Jewish people."

Let me get this straight, Wilkinson's study of history at UNSW taught her that boycotts of Jewish businesses have always been, are now, and will always be nakedly anti-Semitic. Right...

Maybe, if that's what is being dished out as history at UNSW, our 'offending' student activists would do well to ignore her advice.

It's painfully obvious here that however much 'history' Wilkinson actually studied at UNSW she still does not have the wherewithal to distinguish between Jews as Jews and Jews as Zionists.

Never mind, she still has the wherewithal (UMURDOCH?) to con her readers into thinking of the Israeli corporation which owns the Max Brenner brand as just a sweet little man standing behind a counter against a backdrop of yummy chocolate allsorts.

The only alternative explanation is that she really does believe that to be the case. Hell, maybe she's the kind of person - poor thing! - who walks into, say, a Dick Smith outlet expecting to see the guy in person.

That Ms Wilkinson has a 'way' with history becomes appallingly apparent at the start of her next paragraph:

"Boycotts of Jewish merchants were practised in the Austro-Hungarian Empire and the Ottoman Empire and later across eastern Europe..."

Let's focus, shall we, just on the Ottoman Empire? Unless she's prepared to cite a source or two for the assertion that boycotting Jewish shops was a feature of life under the Ottomans, I think we can safely dismiss it as garbage.

For my part, however, having read the fascinating study Ottoman Brothers: Muslims, Christians, and Jews in Early Twentieth-Century Palestine (2011) by Michelle U. Campos, Assistant Professor of the Modern Middle East at the University of Florida, the only reference to a boycott I could find was a joint Muslim/Christian/Jewish Ottoman citizen boycott of Austro-Hungarian products following the Austro-Hungarian annexation of Bosnia-Herzegovina in 1908. Just one quote should suffice: "Importantly, Muslims were not the only participants in the imperial boycott, and in many locations Christians and Jews were also active as organizers, mobilisers, and participants. When the mass demonstrations spread inland to Jerusalem, they were led by the Mufti Taher al-Husayni, but he was joined by Jewish, Greek Orthodox, and Armenian representatives who were elected to serve alongside him on a boycott committee." (p 104)

On the general status of Ottoman Jews, Campos writes as follows:

"For the Ottoman state... population diversity was a product of, and a powerful testament to, successful empire building. The eponymous founder of the dynasty, Osman, had consolidated his power in Asia Minor in the late 13th century through alliance with local Turkic tribes and Christian principalities. As the empire spread throughout Asia, Europe, and Africa, later sultans continued to integrate their diverse subjects into the state... After the conquest of Constantinople, the capital of Byzantium, Sultan 'Fatih' Mehmet ('the Conqueror') retained the Patriarch of the Greek Orthodox Church and strategically moved Jews into the city to replace the fleeing Byzantines. Decades later, in 1492, when the Spanish monarchs Ferdinand and Isabella expelled Jews and Muslims from the Iberian Peninsula, Sultan Beyazit II famously welcomed the exiles to Ottoman shores.

"The point of this recounting is not to argue that the Ottoman Empire was a multicultural paradise, for it surely was not. As an Islamic empire it maintained an 'institutionalized difference' between Muslims and non-Muslim subjects which was accentuated - or indeed erupted - in times of crisis. Non-Muslim populations were organized, counted, taxed, legislated, and otherwise 'marked' according to their confessional or ethno-confessional communities. At the same time, however, non-Muslim communities were allowed a tremendous degree of self-governance and autonomy in the realms of communal institutions and religious law, and comparatively speaking, the status of non-Muslims in the Ottoman Empire was far better than that of non-Christians in Europe." (pp 8-9)

To say that Wilkinson's grasp of history is shaky is to indulge in understatement:

"In 1922, the Fifth Palestine Arab Congress called for a boycott of all Jewish businesses."

An Arab Congress meeting in Nablus in 1922 resolved to boycott the elections for a proposed gerrymandered Legislative Council. This had nothing whatever to do with 'Jewish businesses'.

"In 1943, the Arab League banned the purchase of 'products of Jewish industry'."

The Arab League was not founded until 1945.

"Note I have passed over here the not insignificant events of 1933-45 lest I fall foul of politicians such as Greens MP David Shoebridge..."*

When it comes to the subject of boycotts, I certainly won't be passing over the Nazi era. The fact is that when American Jews called for a boycott of German goods in 1933, the World Zionist Organisation (WZO) opposed the idea: "It not only bought German wares; it sold them, and even sought out new customers for Hitler and his industrialist backers." (Zionism in the Age of the Dictators, Lenni Brenner, 1983, p 59)

Now let me draw Wilkinson's attention to the Zionist anti-Arab boycott: "But this [Zionist] craze for the possession of [Palestinian] land did not prevent the [British] Government from attempting to protect [Palestinian Arab] cultivators against displacement through the sale of land over their heads. It was no secret that no Arab could be employed on land purchased by the Jewish National Fund. In fact clause 23 of the lease agreement [Jewish] settlers are required to sign, makes it incumbent on the lessee 'to execute all works connected with cultivation of the holding, only with Jewish labour." (Palestine Through the Fog of Propaganda, M.F. Abcarius, 1946, p 131)

Ah, but why bother with the real facts or the actual dynamics of the colonial struggle still underway in Palestine, when you're just a cog in the machinery of the Australian's holy war against defenders of Palestinian rights? Just get on with it and smear to your heart's content:

"In reality [the BDS] is the most recent name for a centuries-old economic persecution of Jews for having the temerity to become educated and entrepreneurial despite their exclusion from many occupations, geographies and institutions."

Wilkinson's grasp on the present is equally shaky.

She is shocked that NSW Labor MLC Shaoquett Moselmane** "disgraced the house by accusing Israel of running torture camps..."

Moselmane was, of course, referring to the notorious Khiam Prison in Israeli-occupied south Lebanon (1982-2000), and his disgraceful accusation just happens to be supported by Human Rights Watch. (See Torture in Khiam Prison: Responsibility & Accountability, 27/10/99.)

Wilkinson is also shocked by Moselmane's claim that "Israel is driven by a 'craving to take over other people's lands'," seemingly oblivious to Israel's 65 years of territorial expansion, aka wiping Palestine (and chunks of Syria and Lebanon) off the map. She then has the gall to accuse him of being "particularly guileless in his views"!

Finally, Wilkinson spruiks the thoroughly bogus London Declaration on Combating Antisemitism*** as though it's the only thing capable of preventing the seemingly "trivial or childish" BDS protest at UNSW from morphing into something - Wink, wink, nudge, nudge, know what I mean? - more "potent."

"The Left," she cries, must "stand with those who educate women, stand with those who let gays serve openly in the military, stand with those who allow free speech and political activism. Stand, in short, with the Jewish people and their state of Israel."

It's hard to believe she's even read the declaration, which calls on its signatories to legislate against hate crime, essentially Zio-speak for criticism of the Zionist project and its manifold crimes against the Palestinian and other Arab peoples.

Doesn't it say somewhere in the Old Testament that 'It is better to be quiet and be thought a fool than to open your mouth and remove all doubt'?

[*Yet another indication of Wilkinson's shoddy journalism. This 'Correction' appeared in The Australian on 24/5: "Cassandra Wilkinson's opinion article in The Australian yesterday... incorrectly attributed a quote, which accused supporters of Israel of 'using the Holocaust for political purposes', to NSW Greens MLC David Shoebridge. In fact, the statement was made by fellow Greens MLC John Kaye. The Australian apologises to Mr Shoebridge for the error."; **See my 3/4/13 post Doing the Donkey in the NSW Knesset 10; ***See my 17/5/13 post The Tel Aviv Declaration on Combating Criticism of Israel.]

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

'When the Chips are Down': A Review

After reading Robert Magid's attempted satire in the 17 May issue of The Australian Jewish News, I can only conclude that Zionism is to humour what a lion is to a gazelle. (Magid is, of course, the owner/publisher of The AJN).  

Magid's short story, When the Chips are Down, features the tortuous deliberations of a bizarre, fictional BDS grouplet (based in Manly of all places!), the Israel Boycott Committee.

On learning that the chip in their computers and phones is manufactured in Israel, the committee earnestly debates whether or not to dispense with their phones and computers. (At one point the lone Jewish member of the group actually fears that he may become the victim of a pogrom at the hands of the others!)

When, after much argument (and even tears!), the matter is finally put to a vote, only two of the group are prepared to sacrifice their computers and phones. Outraged at the others' supposed inconsistency, these two brand them as hypocrites, tear up their membership cards (yes, membership cards!), and proceed to destroy their computers and phones before storming out of the meeting.

Such, we are supposed to infer, is the self-defeating folly of boycotting Israel.

Now exactly why Magid should think that the current point(s) of manufacture of a global component for a global product such as the computer should cause such ructions in the ranks of BDS campaigners is a bit of a mystery I'm afraid.  

As a thoroughly unconvincing caricature, When the Chips are Down should have been put down at birth. But then what AJN editor is going to stand in the way of his paper's owner?

Still, if Robert Magid wishes to persist in writing fiction with a focus on the need for absolute consistency in all things, if that's his schtick,  I've got just the subject for his next piece: former Israeli PM, Yitzhak Shamir (1983-84 & 1986-92).

Shamir, you see, was nothing if not a model of consistency. In his early days as a leader of Israel's notorious Stern Gang, Shamir not only sought a wartime alliance with the Nazis against the British* but went on in 1948 to order that the UN mediator in Palestine, Count Folke Bernadotte, be dispatched using a German-made Schmeisser MP40 sub-machine gun.**

What a mensch!


[*See my 4/7/12 post Yitzhak Shamir, His Gang & Their Nazi Flirtation; **See my 19/5/13 post What Would Raoul Wallenberg Do?]

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Israel Studies: What You Get

A ripping good yarn:

"[Israelis] know for a certainty that a Jewish nation has been in existence since Moses received the tablets of the law on Mount Sinai, and that they are its direct and exclusive descendants (except for the 10 tribes, who are yet to be located). They are convinced that this nation 'came out' of Egypt, conquered and settled 'the Land of Israel', which had been famously promised it by the deity; created the magnificent kingdom of David and Solomon, which then split into the kingdoms of Judah and Israel. They are also convinced that this nation was exiled, not once but twice, after its periods of glory - after the fall of the First Temple in the 6th century BCE, and again after the fall of the Second Temple, in 70 CE. Yet even before that second exile, this unique nation had created the Hebrew Hasmonean kingdom, which revolted against the wicked influence of Hellenization.

"They believe that these people - their 'nation', which must be the most ancient - wandered in exile for nearly 2,000 years and yet, despite this prolonged stay among the gentiles, managed to avoid integration with, or assimilation into, them. The nation scattered widely, its bitter wanderings taking it to Yemen, Morocco, Spain, Germany, Poland, and distant Russia, but it always managed to maintain close blood relations among the far-flung communities and to preserve its distinctiveness.

"Then, at the end of the 19th century, they contend, rare circumstances combined to wake the ancient people from its long slumber and to prepare it for rejuvenation and for the return to its ancient homeland. And so the nation began to return, joyfully, in vast numbers. Many Israelis still believe that, but for Hitler's horrible massacre, 'Eretz Israel' would soon have been filled with millions of Jews making 'aliyah' by their own free will, because they had dreamed of it for thousands of years.

"And while the wandering people needed a territory of its own, the empty, virgin land longed for a nation to come and make it bloom. Some uninvited guests had, it is true, settled in this homeland, but since 'the people kept faith with it throughout their 'Dispersion' for two millenia, the land belonged only to that people, and not to that handful without history who had merely stumbled upon it. Therefore the wars waged by the wandering nation in its conquest of the country were justified; the violent resistance of the local population was criminal; and it was only the (highly unbiblical) charity of the Jews that permitted these strangers to remain and dwell among and beside the nation, which had returned to its biblical language and its wondrous land." (The Invention of the Jewish People, Shlomo Sand, 2009,pp 16-17)

Israel Studies Comes to China

From the Angry Arab:

"From my Saudi student source in China: 'I had a long and fruitful conversation with Prof. X that might be of interest to you regarding Zionist outreach efforts in China. (You can quote but please delete [his name as] they can really hurt him.) He was quite forthcoming since, he admitted, he was hoping for someone to come [from] outside the Israeli-Zionist circles and ask him what they are doing. He added that despite his affiliation with many Zionist groups here, he is pro-Palestinian. However, they still co-opt his name for their projects (as in the Project3500*) and other groups like SIGNAL.** He added that the Zionists have been active in buying scholars since the salaries of scholars in China is quite low, which also explains why there has been such a flowering of Israel studies programs across China (10 have opened over the last 2 years). Most institutions and universities resisted this initially, especially those staffed by the older generation of scholars but the new generation is cracking across the board. (Beijing University doesn't have one. He resisted opening an Israel studies program since he saw it for what it was but he suspects one will open as soon as he leaves.) A lot of the funding for these programs does not come from the Israeli government but from Zionist groups in the US such as AJC [American Jewish Committee]. An indigenous organization called SIGNAL, headed by a Yale alumni businesswoman*** is also doing a lot of work in China... The rationale behind these programs is to fight the so-called de-legitimisation campaign globally and influence Chinese and Indian elites. Zionist advocacy has another angle - working through Christian channels in China. Apparently, the Israeli Tourism Ministry is inviting the leaders of evangelical Christian communities to visit the Holy Land. Many of them end up being very supportive of Israel." (Israel & Chinese universities,, 19/5/13)

Can a Max Brenner outlet be far behind?

[*"History is being rewritten to portray Israel as a colonial State built on the lands of the indigenous people, the Palestinian Arabs. This willful erasing of 3,500 years of Israel's history has not yet infected the 1.3 billion Chinese. Dry Bones Project: educating China about Israel's 3500 year history before 1948 through a series of free, online, digital Chinese-language graphic books written and drawn by Dry Bones cartoonist Yaakov Kirschen. Each work will tie the history of China to the history of Israel, emphasizing the concept of the Jews and the Chinese as two ancient civilizations which have survived centuries of attack by barbarian forces and foreign empires." (; **Sino-Israel Global Network & Academic Leadership (SIGNAL): "Enhancing China and Israel's relationship through high-level academic interchange. SIGNAL established the first Israel Studies Programs (ISPs) at universities in China. During 2011-2012, SIGNAL opened ISPs in cooperation with Sichuan International Studies University (SISU) in Chongqing, Henan University in Kaifeng, Shanghai International Studies University (SHISU) in Shanghai and Shihezi University in Shihezi, Xinjiang... SIGNAL sponsored Israel Studies research paper competitions expose an ever growing number of students to the modern Jewish State. For a full semester, under faculty-supervised research, the students focus on a range of topics including Israel's history, society, culture and politics." ( ***Carice Witte]

Monday, May 20, 2013

Join the Dots...

1) "The centrality of Israel in the workings of the Executive Council of Australian Jewry (ECAJ) and other mainstream 'peak bodies', such as... the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies (JBOD), is misplaced and a waste of time and limited community resources. Local issues, some of which include aged care, social welfare, education, abuse, alcohol/drugs and social entrepreneurship, deserve the attention of groups whose imprimatur is to support the community needs of Australian Jews." (Community begins at home, Manny Waks, The Australian Jewish News, 9/11/12) (See my 14/1/13 post Where's This All Going?)

2) "The Jewish National Fund (JNF) in NSW raised more than $8 million last year it was revealed at their annual general meeting last Tuesday night. President Alex Abulafia said it was a staggering amount of money and it shows the community is connecting with the organisation and its projects... He said that people seem to enjoy the fact that they can go to Israel and visit buildings, facilities, water reservoirs and sites that they have contributed to... Abulafia said that in a couple of years, he hopes JNF NSW can raise $10 million each year." (JNF NSW raises more than $8 mil, The AJN, 17/5/13)

3) "If you thought poverty wasn't a problem for the Jewish community, think again. A recent report from Monash University's Australian Centre for Jewish Civilisation revealed 6500 Jews in Victoria (18.4% of the community) and 5000 in NSW (15.7%) are scraping by with a weekly income of between just $200 and $400." (The poverty precipice, Timna Jacks, The AJN, 17/5/13)

Sunday, May 19, 2013

What Would Raoul Wallenberg Do?

If you'd heard that an Australian Coalition government had announced the establishment of a human rights award you'd start wondering what the... was going on, right? And if you'd also heard that a leading Israel lobbyist was to be one of its judging panel you'd fall off your perch in sheer disbelief, right?

Well, strange to tell, both have come to pass, and as far as I'm aware, no one in the ms media has yet reported on either strand of the story!

An annual NSW Human Rights Award was announced by NSW Premier Baruch O'Farrell in September last year and Vic Alhadeff of the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies has just been named as one of its 3 judges.

The Premier's 2012 press release informs us that "[t]he recipient of the award will become the NSW Human Rights Ambassador for 12 months, giving them an opportunity to promote human rights issues." It further informs us that the award will be presented to "an individual from Australia or internationally... and is being established in memory of Raoul Wallenberg, who single-handedly saved tens-of-thousands of lives during the Holocaust." (You may have heard that Wallenberg, to whom I shall be returning later, has just been awarded honorary Australian citizenship by the Prime Minister.)

Now call me a cynic but I can't help wondering whether O'Farrell's Human Rights Award has been designed as a riposte to the Sydney Peace Foundation's Sydney Peace Prize. Could it even be, I wonder, a belated act of revenge for the SPF's awarding of the Sydney Peace Prize to Palestinian activist Hanan Ashrawi back in 2003? This, you'll recall, was an occasion when the Israel lobby massively overreached itself, and suffered a highly embarrassing public backlash as a result. (See my 17/1/12 post Ashrawi Redux.)

All this, of course, is pure conjecture.

However, apart from the chutzpah of appointing an apologist for one of the world's most egregious human rights violators to the award's judging panel, what really interests me here is a certain 'what if?' scenario which I'll sum up with the question: What would Raoul Wallenberg, the Swedish diplomat who heroically risked his neck to rescue thousands of Hungarian Jews in 1944, only to later disappear into the Soviet Gulag, have done if he'd survived the war, gone on to become the 'UN Mediator in Palestine' in 1948, and faced the problem of what to do with hundreds of thousands of uprooted Palestinian refugees?

Without a doubt Wallenberg, "a man of moral courage and heroic example," as Prime Minister Gillard described him, would have stated categorically that:

"It is... undeniable that no settlement can be just and complete if recognition is not accorded to the right of the Arab refugee to return to the home from which he has been dislodged by the hazards and strategy of the armed conflict between Arabs and Jews in Palestine. The majority of these refugees have come from territory which... was to be included in the Jewish State. The exodus of Palestinian Arabs resulted from panic created by fighting in their communities, by rumours concerning real or alleged acts of terrorism, or expulsion. It would be an offence against the principles of elemental justice if these innocent victims of the conflict were denied the right to return to their homes while Jewish immigrants flow into Palestine, and, indeed, at least offer the threat of permanent replacement of the Arab refugees who have been rooted in the land for centuries." (Progress Report of the UN Mediator on Palestine, 16/9/48)

As a man of "moral courage and heroic example" he could hardly have done otherwise.

The quotation above came in fact from the pen the actual UN Mediator in Palestine in 1948, Count Folke Bernadotte, another Swede who had, as head of the Swedish Red Cross during the war, rescued thousands of European Jews and others from Nazi concentration camps. And like Wallenberg, Bernadotte too met a sticky end, gunned down in Jerusalem on September 17, 1948 by Stern Gang terrorists.

Now just imagine, if you will, Australia's Arab community trying to interest Gillard and/or her successor, Tony Abbott, in granting honorary citizenship to Count Folke Bernadotte. Hell would freeze over first, right?

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Who Am I to Demur?

Chief executive of the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies and NSW Human Rights Award judging panelist, Vic Alhadeff (said panel having just been chosen by no less a luminary than NSW Premier Baruch O'Farrell*) had an opinion piece in yesterday's Sydney Morning Herald.

Now in case you missed it, here are the opening lines:

"I'm a Seinfeld aficionado. I've watched every episode a ridiculous number of times, yet still find the humour brilliant. But then there's 'The Soup Nazi' - an episode about a surly delicatessen owner who refuses to serve customers who flout his excessive rules of decorum. It's witty and well scripted, but it commits a cardinal offence: it trivialises the meaning of what a Nazi is, and in doing so degrades the language associated with those who devised, planned and perpetrated the most grotesque genocide in history." (Don't call me a Nazi-Nazi: trivialising a word sends the wrong message about a genocidal regime, 17/5/13)

Got the idea?

Of course, Alhadeff has no such problem with the trivialisation of the word 'anti-Semitic', which once meant simply 'hatred of Jews as Jews', but is now routinely deployed by Zionist propagandists to blunt and deflect perfectly justified criticism of apartheid Israel and its ruling Zionist ideology. Nor, for that matter, did he have any problem, as far as we know, with the BDS movement being smeared as quasi-Nazi during the BDS 'debate' in the NSW Legislative Council in September 2011, despite being present in the visitors gallery throughout. (See my Witches Brew series from 17/9/11 to 17/12/11.)

Be that as it may, I was later reminded of Alhadeff's opinion piece when reading a review by Jordan Mainzer of the new Israeli film The Gatekeepers, which features the reflections of 6 former heads of Israel's internal security service, Shin Bet.

In his review, Mainzer quoted Avraham Shalom, head of the Shin Bet from 1981-1986, saying that "the Israeli occupation of Palestine is a 'brutal force, similar to the Germans in World War II'." (Is occupation sustainable? Thoughts on Dror Moreh's 'The Gatekeepers',, 25/3/13)

My first reaction was: Sort of leaves Seinfeld's 'Soup Nazi' in the shade, doesn't it?

But then, on further reflection, I began to have doubts. After all, I thought, what would a former head of Shin Bet know about the Israeli occupation of Palestine? I mean, if the Sydney Morning Herald's opinion editor, in his/her infinite wisdom, thinks that Alhadeff on Nazis is good enough for its readership, and if Baruch O'Farrell, in his infinite wisdom, thinks Alhadeff's the right man to size up contenders for a prestigious human rights award, who am I to demur?

[*See my 9/5/13 post Barry to Baruch in 60 Seconds.]

Friday, May 17, 2013

The Tel Aviv Declaration on Combating Criticism of Israel

My o my, Gillard's really started something here. Have you ever seen a more blatant display of political one-upmanship than this:

"More than 40 members of the federal opposition banded together yesterday to sign the London Declaration on Combating Anti-Semitism after they were incensed by comments from the head of the Sydney Peace Foundation, Stuart Rees, attacking the document. The Australian yesterday reported Professor Rees had lashed Julia Gillard for signing the declaration, calling the gesture 'childish, thoughtless but easily populist'... She was joined last week by opposition frontbencher Christopher Pyne... To counter [Professor Rees'] comments, Victorian Liberal Josh Frydenberg arranged for a group of colleagues to gather in is office immediately to sign the declaration. Close to 30 Coalition members from all states and factions joined him, ranging from veteran parliamentarians such as Philip Ruddock and Judi Moylan to newcomers such as Wyatt Roy, Scott Bucholz and George Christensen. Opposition leader Tony Abbott and frontbenchers Bruce Billson, Peter Dutton, Greg Hunt, Scott Morrison, Malcolm Turnbull and Sharman Stone also signed. As news spread, a steady stream of MPs beat a path to Mr Frydenberg's office to add their names, taking the total to 49.... Yesterday's events mean that close to a quarter of the global parliamentarians to sign the declaration are Australian. NSW Liberal senator Marise Payne is expected to repeat the process for members of the upper house today." (MPs unite to sign anti-Semitism pact, Christian Kerr, The Australian, 15/5/13)

Now in case you're inclined to applaud Frydenberg and Co. for endorsing what appears on the surface to be merely an anti-racist initiative, ask yourself just how many of those who beat a path to Frydenberg's office actually sat down and read the 'fine print', or if they did, how many fully comprehended what they were signing on to - essentially a commitment to defend Israel and all its works based on the illegitimate conflation of anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism. (See my 28/4/13 post The Latest Prime Ministerial Kowtow).

To cite but one sentence from the declaration's preamble: "We are alarmed at the resurrection of the old language of prejudice and its modern manifestations - in rhetoric and political action - against Jews, Jewish belief and practice and the state of Israel." (my italics)

Not, of course, that any of this lot, even if they were aware of what they were doing, would bat an eyelid at such a conflation. Or, for that matter, having taken this first step, at going on to support legislation criminalising expressions of anti-Zionism as anti-Semitism.

Now I introduced this post by saying that Gillard had started something here. But in fact the buck didn't start with her. If you've read my earlier post on the declaration, you'll see that she's just another link in a chain of useful fools stretching back to the Steering Committee of the Inter-parliamentary Coalition for Combating Antisemitism, the outfit sponsoring the declaration. And at the head of the committee you'll find none other than former Minister for Public Diplomacy & Diaspora, now Speaker of the Knesset, Yuli Edelstein, a member of Israel's ruling Likud Party.

If honesty means anything these days - I'm a little old-fashioned here - the so-called London Declaration on Combating Ant-Semitism would more correctly be called the Tel Aviv Declaration on Combating Anti-Zionism, or more broadly, the Tel Aviv Declaration on Combating Criticism of Israel.

The irony here, of course, is that the declaration is actually bad news for anyone genuinely concerned about combating anti-Semitism, as a former Jewish member of the Zionist cult has pointed out:

"Whenever I was asked to speak on contemporary antisemitism, I took the opportunity to explain the Israel-antisemitism connection. A panel discussion organised by the Faculty for Israel-Palestine Peace at Birkbeck on 14 May [2007] focused on how the politicisation of discussion about antisemitism, through the labelling of forms of criticism of Israel as antisemitic, was hampering free and open consideration of Jew-hatred. I outlined how Israeli governments had successfully sought to control efforts to define and combat antisemitism at the international level. Increasing acceptance of the so-called 'Working Definition' of antisemitism of the European Union Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia had helped Israel in this regard. It had led to a situation where 'We cannot discuss Israel-Palestine without getting entangled in arguments about what critique of Israel is antisemitic; and we cannot discuss contemporary antisemitism without getting entangled in arguments about Israel-Palestine'." (The Making & Unmaking of a Zionist: A Personal & Political Journey, Antony Lerman, 2012, pp 176-177)

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Why Pick on Israel?

The question on every Zionist lip:

"Why does Israel consistently attract the ire of the international community ('Reality ignored in rush to judgment on 'apartheid' Israel', 14/5)?" asks prolific letter writer and Israeluvvie Joel Feren, of Elwood, Victoria.

"Israel is indeed different to its neighbours - it is democratic and a champion of rights. It is senseless that Israel is labelled a demonic superpower of the Middle East while the despotic Syrian government massacres more than 80,000 civilians, Saudi Arabia subjugates women, Iran remains under police tyranny, Egyptian Coptics [sic] face persecution and thousands of Palestinian refugees are left to languish in refugee camps in Jordan." (The Australian, 15/5/13)

Er, Joel, I think that last one could be described as the sleeper carriage in your train of thought, mate.

Thousands of Palestinians languishing in refugee camps in Jordan. Ever ask yourself what they're doing there in the first place?

Does the word refugee ring any bells? Suggestive perhaps of a flight from something? Something dire?

The word Palestinian? Hm?

Doesn't work for you?

OK, let's try a multiple choice question.

Did Palestinian refugees in Jordan:

a) drop from the sky?
b) spontaneously - no one knows why - decamp from Palestine and move to Jordan?
c) flee at the point of Zionist bayonets and worse, either in 1948 or 1967, and remain there because Israel won't let them return?
d) witlessly fall victim to the old Israeli 'Jordan is Palestine' propaganda line and relocate to Jordan?

Unsent Letter

Wallahi, Merv Bendle of Inverloch, Victoria, gets himself into a right royal mess with his letter of 11/5/13:

"Abdullah Saeed makes two contradictory assertions in his article ('Being Muslim does not equate with being violent', 10/5). First, that Islam is not an inherently violent religion... Apart from being contradictory, these assertions are not supported by the evidence..." (The Australian)

What then does he propose we do to combat this inherently violent religion?

"What is required is a courageous stance by leading Muslim scholars and intellectuals, firmly denouncing Muslim fundamentalism and the violence it promotes."

Now hang on, Merv... if Islam is inherently violent, why expect Muslim scholars and intellectuals to denounce Muslim fundamentalist violence? I mean, these guys have Islam coming out of their ears, right? So wouldn't its inherently violent nature also drive them to promote violence?

Not that Merv has anything much to worry about in his little seaside nook down in Inverloch. I seriously doubt any of the scimitar-waving hordes have ever penetrated that far south. Still, you never know. It doesn't hurt to take precautions. What about a little speedboat at the ready for a quick Andrew Bolt across Bass Strait to Tasmania just in case?

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Foretelling the Nakba

Today is Nakba Day, which marks the 65th anniversary of the expulsion of around 85% of Palestine's indigenous Arab population from those parts of the territory overrun by Zionist forces in 1948.

Those expelled, augmented by further mass expulsions in 1967, make up the Palestinian refugee problem which is still with us today. Needless to say, this is because Israel refuses to repatriate these refugees simply in order to maintain a Jewish supremacist state in historic Palestine.

I've often wondered if anyone in Palestine in the years/months immediately prior to the Zionist campaign of ethnic cleansing which began in December 1947 could see, or at least sense, what was coming.

Two unblinkered observers of Palestine's Jewish community at the time, both British, certainly came close.

The following disturbing portrait of the community comes from the novelist, playwright and travel writer Robin Maugham (1916-1981), a nephew of Somerset Maugham, and appears in his 1947 book Approach to Palestine:

"It seemed to me, as I travelled round Palestine that too much time had been spent arguing the rights and wrongs of the business and far too little time in examining dispassionately the facts. Noble perorations to the converted cannot transfer populations or transmute Jews into Arabs. There are probably over 700,000 Jews in Palestine today. They are there - in the wide streets they have built and in the lovely orange groves they have planted on land that was desert. They vary in type from the old, religious gentle Zionist (who settled there before the Balfour Declaration) to the 16 year old, atheist, Russian-trained gangster who joins in a raid within 3 days of his secret landing. There are infinite variations in type and in attitude. All generalisation is bound to be inaccurate. But I found that the Jews I met could be divided into precisely the same categories as the Germans I knew in Berlin before the war.

"I found merchants and doctors who only wanted to get on with their jobs and to be left in peace. These were the moderates. Some approved of illegal immigration. All condemned terrorism. But moderates all over the world are generally the quiet, docile people. The tragedy of moderates is that they are ineffective. I asked these Jews, the friendly shopkeeper and the talkative barman, the old German specialist and the Australian tailor, I asked them why they did nothing to stop terrorism and illegal immigration. 'But what can we do to stop it?' they replied. 'How can we control the Jewish Agency? We're only little people of no importance. There's nothing we can do.' It was the same answer I used to hear in Germany, in Italy, and in Austria.

"Many of the Jews in Palestine went there to escape an evil. They decided to build a new country. For the sake of their friends still in Europe and for the sake of their children they suffered great hardship. Slowly, painfully, the desert was made fertile, the avenues were constructed. And now the evil they sought to escape has come upon them.

"Striding along the roads between the rich groves and over the blue hills of the Holy Land come bands of brown-skinned vigorous boys, flushed and bright-eyed, chanting their patriotic songs. The satchels clamped on the back of lean, healthy bodies clad only in shorts, the defiant gaze, even (surprisingly enough) the curly blonde hair - all is the same as in Hitler's Germany. Buses full of school children bellowing their slogans rush through the streets of Tel Aviv. And the parents cannot control them.

"'I would not even know if my son belonged to the Irgun Zwei a shopkeeper said with tears in his eyes. 'He would not tell me. He tells me nothing.' The old man was leaning across the counter talking to me. As he spoke, three boys of about fourteen walked into the shop, barged violently against me and ran out. I met Jews who were friendly, Jews who were nervous, men and women who openly supported the terrorists, people who said (with a backward glance to make sure that they were not overheard) that they loathed the Jewish Agency and longed to leave Palestine. The adults varied. But every single Jewish child I saw looked at me with unconcealed hatred. And every single one could speak no language except Hebrew. Fascism has come to Palestine. And the Jewish young man is potentially more dangerous than the storm trooper. He is more intelligent." (pp 85-87)

Another equally disturbing snapshot of the community comes from an article in the May 1948 edition of The Nineteenth Century Magazine, Palestine Note-Book. It was written by Bevil John Rudd (1927-2009), an officer in the Coldstream Guards:

"When I took part in the search for arms in the Jordan Valley settlements, I was very impressed with the grim determination and unity that the settlers displayed in the face of guns and bayonets. The communal pattern of their lives became clearer. It was pathetic to see photographs of their children among the parents' precious belongings, up to the age of about five, and then none at all until they were nearly grown up. From six years old they seemed to have been sent away to the child-rearing settlements. There is no such thing as family life. On the roads I have often seen bands of young children slogging along on a settlement route march. I have never seen, in the open, a mother and father with their child, not even with their baby in a pram. The babies live in a communal nursery. Parents were miserable as they told how they were only allowed to see their babies when they have come in after twelve hot hours work in the fields.

"The crudest living arrangement of all seemed to be in the tents, which housed a training company of Hagana. There were six grizly men and one girl sleeping in each tent. None of these ferocious youths had any belongings except blankets. They were a hard, pitiless band.

"In an Upper Galilee settlement, there is a Stock farm for human beings. Fine figures of Jewish youths are imported and breeding is accelerated. This blatant method of race production revolted us.

"After all these observations my mind turned against this regime of gaunt, narrow-minded people, pent up with bitterness and cunning. People who suppress a child's wish to own a rattle or a bicycle. However primitive the Arab may be, I thought his individualism worth more than the Jewish modernity and lack of liberty. On the other hand, if the Jewish community plans a struggle - the survival of the fittest - in the Middle East, then mass-produced, tough, settlement stock is the breed they want. Otherwise I do not understand what all this is leading to. Surely some form of master race, so similar, it seems, to the Nazis."

Now lest any Zionist thought police out there mount their high horses to condemn Maugham and Rudd's Zionist-Nazi analogising as mere expressions of rank anti-Semitism, let them first ponder deeply the following diary entry for 17/3/45 by Lord Balfour's niece, Blanche Dugdale:

"Went to the Dorchester and had tea with Chaim [Weizmann] and Vera... [Chaim] painted a dark picture of psychology of rising generation in the Yishuv, said Ben-Gurion is much to blame and is perhaps frightened now of the devils he has failed to discourage." (Baffy: The Diaries of Blanche Dugdale 1936-1947, 1973, p 219)

And this for 25/3/45:

"After tea I walked with [Chaim] in Hyde Park, he poured out things that made him uneasy about the youth in the Yishuv. He said Ben-Gurion was largely responsible and had much on his conscience." (ibid, p 220)

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

The One & Only

As a former Hawke government minister, the prospect of a Labor wipeout in September is concentrating Barry Cohen's mind wonderfully. Now an occasional scribbler for the Australian, Barry's convinced that if only Labor would dump Julia Gillard for Bill Shorten, it might at least be back in business in 2016. You see, according to Barry, Bill's got that certain something no Labor leader can possibly do without.

Now I'm sure you can guess what it is, but here, let Barry spell it out for us:

"As avid readers of this column will be aware, I have for a long time been an enthusiast for Bill Shorten to lead Labor at the next election. My conversion to the Shorten cause occurred when I was invited to listen to a group of aspiring politicians who had just returned from a study tour of Israel. I was open-mouthed that he had grasped the complexities of the conflict so quickly. It was incredible for a newcomer to the subject. A year later I dined with him in Canberra when he was the new member for Maribyrnong. He rose quickly to become Minister for Financial Services and Superannuation. At age 45 he is perfect to lead Labor in its fightback. He has the intelligence, ideas, passion, charisma and drive to inspire Australians to once again put their faith in Labor." (How Labor can shorten the poll odds, 13/5/13)

Monday, May 13, 2013

The Battle of Hanita 3

'The Attacking Force Must Be a Thousand Strong'

"For worse, it seems! At midnight the colony is attacked by a large guerrilla band. The prowlers are spotted by the revolving searchlight when they are only 200 yards distant and in the act of dividing themselves into 3 columns for the assault on the colony. The watchmen shout the alarm. Instantly the night is filled with the warcry of the Bedouin. It comes from all sides. The attacking force must be a thousand strong.* The searchlight beats down on the white-cloaked figures now running at top speed. They are coming from 3 sides and firing their rifles. But the Jews have manned the barricades. They are holding their fire. Suddenly the searchlight goes out. The attackers are too near now to let the light burn: it would give away the position of the defenders. The Bedouin blaze away aimlessly. But now there are short spurts of flame from the rocks of the barricade: the Jews have held their fire till their targets are unmistakably clear. Two, three, four salvos - and then stillness.

"The searchlight goes on and slowly turns its beam on the surrounding country: the Bedouin are streaming back. The firing has stopped altogether. Nothing is heard but the moaning and whimpering of the wounded. The beam points fiercely at a fallen Bedouin who is trying to raise himself on one hand while keeping the other convulsively clumped over his abdomen. When he becomes aware that the light keeps him in focus, he turns his face in the direction of the camp and cries out in a whimpering voice: Don't kill me, baba! Don't kill me, I am your brother! The light moves abruptly away from him. It sweeps, without stopping, over what appear mere bundles of white rags and then peers into the distance, lighting up the bluish hills opposite.

"The Bedouin are assembling for a new assault. The 3 columns are now merging into one solid phalanx. There is to be a mass attack this time. It is to come from the north side of the colony, the side where the barricade has not been completed. The first attackers have discovered the colony's weak spot. They now come running forward en masse, filling the night with their unearthly screeching. The searchlight beats down on them. When they are 400 yards away they drop to the ground and begin to disperse, crawling on hands and knees, taking advantage of every clump of shrubbery and of every boulder. Whenever the searchlight is turned in a southerly direction for a moment, to see that no enemies are sneaking up from the rear, the attackers in front, taking advantage of the temporary darkness, dash forward a few yards. The whole plain is filled with creeping, crawling figures.

"At a shout from one of the leaders they get to their feet and rush for the opening in the fence. The first men are 50 yards away when once more they drop to the ground. Now they fire their guns. The searchlight is bespattered with bullets. In a flash the Bedouin are up and running again. They are only 20 yards off. Their faces can be clearly distinguished. Many carry a knife between their teeth. That will be for throat-cutting and mutilation when they get within the colony. But now with a simultaneous crash the colonists' rifles spit fire. The foremost ranks of the attackers go down with a terrifying shout, the second and third waves push on over the bodies of the fallen. Another salvo from the colony, as deadly as the first. It is immediately followed by a third and a fourth. The Jewish fire is sustained. Some Bedouin are right on top of the barbed wire fence. One of them shouts to his followers: We are in! as he flourishes a long knife. At the same moment he grabs his throat and falls. A Jewish girl has shot him through the mouth. The bodies of 3 or 4 of his immediate followers fall on top of him, a writhing cluster of wounded and dead.

"The others still out in the field begin to waver. They fire their rifles and run back; first, individuals only, then the entire band runs and flees. The Jewish fire keeps up relentlessly. Every shot finds its mark among the retreating guerrillas. Dozens of white-cloaked figures slump forward. They do not rise again. Soon the night is still, except for the cry of wounded men.

"Once more, just before dawn, the horde returns. But again it is bloodily repulsed. When a British police patrol arrives at 7 o'clock, the colonists are watering the donkeys and rigging up the rest of the barricade. Others are busy putting the roof over the tool shed.

"What happened here last night? asks the officer commanding the patrol.

"We were attacked! replies one of the colonists.

"That's rather obvious, says the officer The whole plain is covered with dead men. We surprised the last Bedouin carrying off their wounded... Have you any casualties?

"The colonist points in the direction of the tent where the scroll of the Law was placed the previous afternoon. Eight dead, one wounded; he is dying too!*

"Well, this is no place for a colony anyway, says the officer shaking his head. What will you do if they come back tonight?

"We will be ready for them! says the Jew quietly, as he drives a stake into the ground.

"The officer looks into the tent where the dead lie and takes out a notebook. He writes something down in it, walks out, swings back into the saddle, and rides off with his men.

"Thus ends the first day in the life of Hanita, the name by which the colony is to be known. Hanita means spearhead, a pointing arrow." (pp 214-217)

[*Now recall that line of J.M.N. Jeffries': "The strategic character of Hanuta was endorsed by an attack upon it, in which one of its defenders was killed and one of the assailants." (See my 12/5/13 post Israel: The Movie?)]

The Battle of Hanita 2

'Darkness Gathers Quickly in the Holy Land'

"The tract of 4,000 dunums had been thoroughly explored and surveyed in the meantime. It would provide a living for 80 families, or 500 souls, if they could engage in mixed farming: sheep raising and poultry breeding, with tobacco the chief crop. All this had been settled by the agronomical experts who had examined the land. One third of the area was to be used for pasturage, and one of the first tasks of the settlers would be the planting of a forest of eucalyptus trees. For deforestation and consequent soil erosion constitute one of the worst blights of the Holy Land. The candidates to take up the work were in readiness, too. The occupation group consisted of 90 young people, 80 men and 10 women. They were to go out before the bulk of the settlers and make the place fit for habitation. The pioneers had been carefully selected from many localities with reference to their fitness and courage for occupying a new tract in a frontier region where only recently fierce battles had raged between government forces and Arab bands.

"The occupation took place in what has become of late years the usual form for establishing a new settlement in Palestine: the colony was completed in all essentials between sunrise and sunset in one single day. All preliminary preparations were made in the workers' quarter in Emek Zebulon, at the foot of Mt Carmel. The caravan of trucks was on the way while the moon still hung over the dark waters of the Mediterranean. Thirty-seven lorries loaded with tents, planks, mattresses, cots, length of iron pipes, provisions, and water rumbled off into the future. The orders were that they must stay closely together, that there was to be no singing on the road, and that no one change from one truck to another. At the head of the procession rode a party of ghafirs, or supernumerary constables, themselves Jewish pioneers. Behind them, in motor cars, were 400 laborers, who were to return in the evening after the colony was established. At the tail end, behind the trucks, trotted a contingent of donkeys needed to carry loads up the hill. A second group of ghafirs brought up the rear.

"The sun came up as the party arrived on the chosen spot. Immediately the workers scattered to tasks previously assigned to them. Some began to mark out the by-road which was to connect the settlement with the Haifa-Beyrouth highway running along the Mediterranean shore, less than a mile distant. Two springs had been discovered by the surveyors. Their waters were now brought to the camp by means of pipes. Tents were pitched, weeds uprooted, stones pried loose for a barricade behind a barbed-wire fence which was going up in the meantime. The high wooden watchtower was set in place with a giant searchlight. Some of the ghafirs stood on guard while the rest hammered and shoveled and got to work, although their rifles remained near by for handy reference, if need be...

"At midday a recess is called. The food is quickly eaten, for there is still much to be done before nightfall. But a few minutes remain before the back-to-work signal will be given, and someone starts to sing Alinu hartza, we have gone up to the land! Instantly the Hora dance circles form, widen, expand, whirl like wheels within wheels, faster and faster. But not for long...

"La avoda, back to work! Hammers pound, saws buzz and rip, picks clang their way into strong ground. All hands are working at top speed. There is not a minute to lose. The settlement must be completed before nightfall, and sun has now passed the meridian. A fresh breeze comes up from the Mediterranean. It must be near five o'clock, the hour when the old-world sea always stirs mysteriously, no matter how calm the weather.

"But then there is an interruption.* A delegation has come to the newest settlement in western Galilee from the oldest in eastern Galilee, bringing a gift of a Sefer Torah, a scroll of the Law. All work comes to a standstill. Quickly a tent is cleared out and converted into a synagogue. Six young men advance and in turn kiss the scroll which is contained in a cylindrical velvet-covered, tubelike box with a ring of little silver bells fastened to the top of its axis. The whole company forms a procession to take the Word of God to its new home.

"All at once the man bearing the scroll breaks into singing: El bene, bene betcha bekarov, build thy house, O God, build it speedily! The congregation takes up the prayerful chant, and they dance as long ago their king, the 'man after God's own heart,' once danced when the Ark of the Covenant was brought to Jerusalem.

"'I was glad.' shouts one man, with arms outstretched and dancing about, 'I was glad when they said unto me: let me go into the house of the Lord!' All the colonists repeat the words of the 122nd Psalm: 'Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: they shall prosper that love thee...'

"Now the sun is going down swiftly. The visitors and helpers from Haifa are leaving. Most of the ghafirs are piling into their cars. That night 5 troopers will remain behind with the 90 young men and women in the wilderness. Darkness gathers quickly in the Holy Land. The colonists are in their new home, for better or for worse..." (pp 211-214)

Will our heroes (and heroines) survive their first night alone in the "howling wilderness" of Upper Galilee or will the sun rise on their torn and bloodied corpses, now food for the vultures and jackals of the desert? Stay tuned for the final, gripping episode of The Battle of Hanita.

[*Needless to say, this "interruption" hardly fits with the reality of the secular kibbutz movement of the time. But, as they say where this kind of stuff plays well, you ain't seen nothin' yet, buddy!]

Sunday, May 12, 2013

The Battle of Hanita 1

Continued from the previous post...

'The Jews Would Not Take No for an Answer'*

"It was in 1938 that the Jewish National Fund acquired several hundred dunums of land in the north western corner of Upper Galilee near the borders of Lebanon and notified the British administration of its intention to establish an agricultural colony on the newly purchased territory. A beginning was to be made with the redemption of the Galilean province of the Holy Land, once the most densely settled and most flourishing agricultural area of Palestine, now for the most part a howling wilderness of rock and treeless solitude.

"The Palestine administration at once vetoed the project. The High Commissioner, Sir Harold MacMichael, based his objection on the argument that colonists taking up residence in so remote and isolated a district would present a constant temptation to Bedouin raiders both from across and inside the borders of Palestine. The nearest Jewish inhabitants were in eastern Galilee, too far for their settlers to come to the aid of an establishment in western Galilee in the event of danger. If the Jews, the High Commissioner intimated, instead of starting in the extreme northern wilds of Galilee, would establish colonies in the south of that province and then gradually push northward, establishing colonies chainwise or rather like stepping-stones in the direction of the frontier, something might perhaps be said for the reclamation of Galilee. But to establish the first settlement at the extreme limit of no man's land, was a too hazardous enterprise for which he, Sir Harold, would not assume responsibility.

"The directors of the Jewish Agency replied that they would be glad enough to establish an entire chain of colonies but that the administration's land-buying regulations had so far precluded the purchase of sites that might serve as steppingstones on the road to the north. They must therefore start where they could - that is, on the spot which had just recently become the property of the Jewish people. Sir Harold proved adamant. His interpretation of the mandate which charges Britain with facilitating 'the close settlement of Jews on the land' works out in practice in placing, by order of the government of Great Britain, of course, as many obstacles in the way of the purchase of land by Jews as possible and after that, if the Jews still succeed in getting hold of a plot of barren, rocky, desert land on which no human being in his right sense would live, in discouraging them from settling on it.

"Only, the Jews would not take no for an answer. They could not abide by the High Commissioner's decision. In withholding his official fiat, the High Commissioner may well have been carrying out his duty in that he acted in the spirit of those restrictive measures designed against and imposed upon Jewish Palestine by a narrow-minded, anti-Jewish bureaucracy in the sole interests not of the British Empire, but of a handful of feudalistic Arab landowners. The Palestinian Jews, on the other hand, could not do otherwise than what they did. They insisted again and again that the High Commissioner's decision be revoked and that the colony be opened up - that particular colony and others, always more colonies and settlements by hook or by crook. For the Palestinian Jews feel behind their backs the ever-growing anguish and desperate pressure of the homeless and hopeless Jewish masses in Europe still seeking a way out of what had become to millions of them a gruesome deathtrap or a living hell after Hitler's advent to power...**

"After months of wearisome palaver, pleading and insisting on the one side, haggling and quibbling on the other, with references to the Colonial Office in London going to and fro, the High Commissioner finally, reluctantly gave in. The Jews were permitted to establish that colony on their own land in their own country. They could go out there to that desolate spot in Galilee if they wanted to, but they must not blame the administration if disaster should overtake them on the pioneer trail.

"Mi yivne ha-Galil? Who will build Galilee? the young people sang that night all over Palestine, when the government's decision became known. El yivne ha-Galil! God will build Galilee! came the answering chorus." (pp 208-211)

Will the valiant White Man succeed in carving out Godzone in the howling wilderness of Upper Galilee or will he succumb to the onslaught of the savages who infest its trackless wastes? Stay tuned for the next exciting episode of The Battle of Hanita.

[* Heading and emphases are mine; **Van Paassen is rewriting 1938 in light of later, wartime developments. Here's the real motive for 'reclaiming' the Galilee: "Re Palestine: Chaim [Weizmann] and the Palestinians [i.e. Palestine's Jewish leadership] hold the view that the turn of the Yishuv to be sold to the Arabs is very near. We cannot yet resist by arms - we can only work by every means, fair and foul (all is kosher now) to buy land, bring in men, get arms. And in 2-3-4 years we will bring the Jewish State into being." (Blanche Dugdale, Baffy: The Diaries of Blanche Dugdale, 1936-1947, 1973; entry for 1/10/38, page 110]