Sunday, June 26, 2016

A Chip off the Old Blockhead

From Greg Sheridan, OA, Jerusalem Prize:

"Once, a Greenpeace fundraiser came to our door, seeking a donation. 'Look, old boy,' my father said, 'I'm a bit busy at the moment. I'm cooking a whale in the back yard on my woodchip barbecue.' Another thought, another world view, so succinctly summarised." (The Forum, The Weekend Australian Review, 25/6/16)

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Almost as Cute as Israel

"Establishing an embassy in Morocco will address a major gap in Australia's diplomatic network. Across North and West Africa, Australia now has embassies only in Egypt, Nigeria and Ghana. Given the centrality of the Arab world in global politics, the government has recognised that this is inadequate and the joint parliamentary committee on foreign affairs, trade and defence this year recommended the establishment of a resident embassy in Morocco. Morocco is a key nation among moderate Arab powers and emerged from the Arab Spring with serious democratic reforms and political and social stability. It is also a key player in regional counter-terrorism efforts and a generally pro-Western and friendly power in the Arab world." (Libs plan 24/7 'global watch' and new eyes overseas, Greg Sheridan, The Australian, 23/6/16)

Friday, June 24, 2016

The Price of Politics

Here's Wendy Carlisle's introduction to Background Briefing's latest (19/6/16) feature, The Price of Politics, on Radio National:

"If you want to know who's funding your politician's election campaign before voting on Saturday week, you'll be waiting a very long time. In fact, you'll have to wait a year after next. Australia's political donations laws are so lax the full list of donors and what they've spent won't be known until February 2018. But now there's a new report into political spending by the big end of town which shows just how little we really know about what our top companies are up to. For the first time the top ASX companies have been given a transparency score which is designed to measure just what those companies are up to and what they're telling their shareholders about their political spend. Di Martin has this report for Background Briefing.

"This federal election will be the first since explosive allegations about political donations were made in NSW's Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC). It heard how the Liberal Party got around the strictest donation laws in the country, laws that banned property developers' donations in NSW. Yet donations made by property developers to a federal Liberal fundraising body were then routed back into NSW party coffers."

Then came a familiar, gravelly voice:

"Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. It is a pleasure to welcome you to the 2016 annual general meeting of Westfield Corporation."

Di Martin continued:

"Frank Lowy's Westfield is one of the property developers whose donation of $150,000 ended up with the NSW Liberals."

Lowy again:

"The meeting is now open for questions and general discussion."

Then Martin:

"One of the first is from Stephen Mayne. He's standing in the federal election on a ticket of reforming political donations law. He's also a Westfield shareholder: 'When we made that donation in December 2010 were we aware that that money was going to be finishing up with the NSW Liberal Party when developer donations in NSW had been banned at that point?'"

To which Lowy predictably replied:

"We made the donations appropriately according to the law and the inquiries that were held after that have said we have not been advised of anything that we have done contrary to what is expected of us."

The underlying assumption here, of course, is that Westfield's 2010 donation was all about greasing the wheels for more shopping malls. But is there any real need to keep a naturally neoliberal, Liberal government sweet? Could there, perhaps, be another reason for the donation?

I have no idea. None whatever. But what I do know is that Lowy is an unabashed supporter of Israel and that the Liberal regimes of NSW premiers Barry O'Farrell (2011-15) and Mike Baird (2015-) have outdone all previous NSW and other state governments in demonstrating their love and affection for the apartheid state. (Simply click on the O'Farrell/Baird labels below and marvel at its manifestations and extent.)

Needless to say, this bizarre phenomenon is not touched on in Background Briefing's otherwise invaluable report.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Michaelia Cash: No Gertrude Bell

Last week's Kitchen Cabinet with Annabel Crabb on ABC TV proved definitively, if proof were necessary, that travel doesn't always, as the old adage assures us, broaden the mind.

Annabel's guest, the frenetic Minister for Women & Cats, Michaelia Cash, is described on the program's website as "whipping up a salmon bake and talking about her travels in the Middle East." But don't let your imagination run wild. Michaelia's no Gertrude Bell. Here's the relevant transcript - with annotations: 

MC: I went backpacking for 3 years.
AC: But that's such a long time to go backpacking...
MC: It is a long time to go backpacking.
AC: But why'd you go to the Middle East?
MC: Oh, I actually went to London first... I then met an Israeli girl and she said to me 'Look I live on a kibbutz in Israel... in the Golan Heights.' When you're a backpacker the beauty of it is you just go with the flow.

The Golan Heights is not in Israel. It's occupied Syrian territory.

AC: You just go with the flow?
MC: You just go with the flow, quite literally.
AC: Wow...
MC: And so it was fantastic.
AC: And did you venture into Palestine?

*Sigh* If you're in 'Israel', you're in occupied Palestine.

MC: I did go into Palestine. I lived in the Old City of Jerusalem, in the Muslim section, for 3 months.
AC: Right... and did you see much of the conflict first hand?
MC: I had arrived just after the intifada had ended, and so if you went out, basically everybody was armed.

Cash is referring here to the first intifada (1987-1993). "Everybody," of course, means Israelis.

I remember you'd go to nightclub after nightclub after nightclub.

Night clubs are such great places to learn about a country. Just remember: wherever you go, if you want to know what's going on - for example, why, in this case, "everybody was armed" - just go to "nightclub after nightclub after nightclub, OK?"

People would literally just be there with their machine guns and, you know, playing with them as though they were guitars. It was quite bizarre. So yeah, it was an interesting time to be in Israel. It was an interesting time to be there.

AC: Obviously, in Australian politics, there's always, um, you know, a fairly spirited debate about the Middle East. So where does it leave you?
MC: I very much believe in the two-state solution. I very much believe in the two-state solution.

Good grasp of the mantra there! Watch your back, Julie Bishop... 

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Bill Shorten Gives Bibi the Biff

The Israeli colonisation of the Israeli-occupied West Bank rolls on and on and on:

"The Israeli government has approved an additional $18m to pay for West Bank settlements." (Israel approves extra $18m for West Bank settlements, AFP,, 20/6/16)

But wait... what's this?

The formidable, utterly fearless Bill Shorten, armed with federal Labor's awesome July 2015 policy on Israeli settlements is, even as I type these words, on the blower to Netanyahu:

Listen up, Bibi, I'm going to read the riot act to you, OK? Here goes:

"Labor... recognises that settlement building by Israel in the occupied territories... is a roadblock to peace. Labor calls on Israel to cease all such settlement expansion... If... there is no progress in the next round of the peace process, a future Labor government will discuss joining like-minded nations who have already recognised Palestine... "

So stop it, OK?

Bibi? Bibi? Are you there, Bibi?


Just kidding.

Monday, June 20, 2016

'Neighbours' From Hell

In Israeli-occupied Hebron:

"Fahdi had a scarred face and a shortage of teeth. During one nocturnal incursion a conscript laid a hand on his wife's breast and when he struck out another soldier hit him on the left cheek with a rifle butt and he lost three teeth. Then the offender smote him on the right cheek and he lost two more. Between my first and second visits to this family stick-wielding settler children had left their seven-year-old son with a four-inch scar on his scalp. Fahdi's brother Abdul lived next door and his nine-year-old son had recently been attacked by a woman who dragged him into her trailer home, held him down in an armchair - knee on stomach - then forced a stone into his mouth and manipulated his jaw until two teeth were broken. The bruises on his face had not yet faded. As Fahdi said, 'You couldn't make it up.' Abdul's wife had suffered fractured fingers when a mob of women went on a rampage and she tried to shield her five-year-old daughter from their fists." (Between River & Sea: Encounters in Israel & Palestine, Dervla Murphy, 2015, pp 270-271)

Murphy's latest book is a must-read.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

The Guardian: What Palestinian Refugees?

In the face of an ailing Fairfax press, a tepid, harassed and self-censoring ABC, and a ferociously zioconservative Murdoch press, I assume that some (how many?) Australians are turning to the online Guardian website as a news source. Few, I imagine, are aware that, with Jonathan Freedland at the helm, the Guardian is virtually a no-go zone for critical commentary on the subject of Palestine/Israel.

It should come as no surprise then to find there Guardian columnist Giles Fraser's warm and fuzzy, Israel-you're-better-than-this rubbish: You'd think that Israel, of all places, would respect its refugees: Africans facing genocide are making a modern-day Exodus, fleeing through the Sinai. But the Israeli government has no time for non-Jewish asylum seekers (17/6/16).

An extract:

"At the [Tel Aviv] bus station, I meet up with Mutasim Ali. who runs an advice centre for African refugees. He tells me that as legitimate refugees the state cannot deport them. Instead, the government is 'making conditions so hopeless that asylum seekers feel they have no choice but to leave'. Officially classed as 'infiltrators', they are subject to daily racism and harassment, being taken to the miserable Holot detention centre in the Negev, for no other reason, he says, than to 'break your spirit' and 'stop you integrating into Israeli society'. Some are offered cash sums of up to $3,500 to get on a flight to Rwanda or Uganda and basically bugger off. All of which is massively disappointing from the government of a country that inspired the first international agreement protecting the rights of refugees."

The problem here, of course, is a complete absence of context. The entire piece makes no reference whatever to Israel as a nation founded on the forced deportation of up to a million Palestinian Arabs in 1948.

Any who tried to return were shot out of hand as infiltrators.

Those Palestinians now under occupation, many of them the descendants of 1948 refugees, are subject to daily racism, harassment and worse designed to break both their spirit and their bodies.

The blockaded inhabitants of the Gaza ghetto, most of whom are also the descendants of 1948 refugees, are serially bombed and shelled, with the same aim of breaking both their spirit and their bodies.

And yes, the idea of throwing money at Palestinian refugees to basically bugger off has, from time to time, been mooted by Israeli officials.

The assertion that Israel has inspired anything even remotely humane with respect to the treatment of refugees is an obscene distortion of the truth. What dishonest, shoddy journalism this is.