Sunday, April 21, 2019

Extraordinary Death Experience

I've heard of election pitches, but this:

"The Liberal Party needs a variety of views, including people who have extraordinary life experience... I ran the war in Iraq for a year. That is unique experience." (Molan mounts insurgency to keep seat, David Wroe, Sydney Morning Herald, 18/4/19)

Yes folks, without Major-General Molan in charge, the war in Iraq would've been a complete and utter disaster.

Saturday, April 20, 2019

Speaking Truth to Power, 1954

While we're focusing the 50s, consider the following powerful words of Henry A. Byroade, Assistant Secretary of State (1952-55), addressing the Dayton (Ohio) World Affairs Council on April 9, 1954. They'd be inconceivable today, coming from a key US administration figure:

"To the Israelis I say that you should come to truly look upon yourselves as a Middle Eastern state and see your own future in that context rather than as a headquarters, or nucleus so to speak, of worldwide groupings of peoples of a particular religious faith who must have special rights within and obligations to the Israeli state. You should drop the attitude of the conqueror and the conviction that force and a policy of retaliatory killings is the only policy that your neighbors will understand. You should make your deeds correspond to your frequent utterances of the desire for peace." (Violent Truce: A Military Observer Looks at the Arab-Israeli Conflict 1951-1955, Commander E.H. Hutchison, 1956, pp 97-98)

Just to be clear, among other things, Byroade is calling on Israel here to abandon a central pillar of Zionist ideology, the 'Jewish people' concept, which underpins the claim that Israel is not merely a state of its citizens, but rather a state representing all Jews, regardless of where they live, or whether they wish to be part of this fictional, supranational, entity.

Such plain-speaking, however, inevitably drew the wrath of the Zionist lobby of the day: "I had all kinds of problems," he recounted in an official interview, "There was a lot of pressure put on the Secretary of State, John Foster Dulles, to get me out of the Service. I know: he talked to me frankly about it. He said to me once that a part of these problems were rumors about my sexual life. John Foster Dulles said, 'The President and I know exactly what's behind all this.' He said, 'Do you realize when I ran for the Senate in New York, they tried to pin a sex rap on me?'" (Truman Library - Henry Byroade Oral History Interview, 9/88, trumanlibrary.org)

Friday, April 19, 2019

Death of a Sheikh

Just a reminder that Israel's ethnic cleansing of Palestine - the Palestinian Nakba (Catastrophe) - is not a thing of the past. The mass expulsion of Palestinian Arab civilians by Zionist terror gangs began well before the creation of Israel and the intervention of Arab state forces in May 1948, and continued up until armistice lines were agreed to in March 1949. There were, of course, more mass expulsions when Israeli forces overran the West Bank in 1967.

But that doesn't mean that Israel wasn't busy doing what it does best in the 18 years between 1949 and 1967, when Jordan controlled the West Bank.

The following incident occurred in 1952, just one of many examples of Israeli brutality against Palestine's indigenous Arab population recorded by Commander E.H. Hutchison, USNR, in his memoir, Violent Truce: A Military Observer Looks at the Arab-Israeli Conflict 1951-1955 (1956). (Hutchison was an Observer in the United Nations Truce Supervision Organization's (UNTSO) Mixed Armistice Commission (MAC) in Jerusalem from 1951-54):

"Since the beginning of the Armistice, Jordan and Egypt had complained on many occasions that Israel was cutting down her Arab population by driving Bedouins and even Arab villagers across the border. Israel was condemned in some instances but had taken no steps to allow the return of the Arabs.

"On September 17, 1952, an incident occurred that gave us a chance to study one of these cases first hand. It gave us an interesting insight into the lot of the Bedouin and the village Arab still living inside Israel. On the morning of the 17th, Major Itzaq, Senior Jordan Military Delegate to the MAC, called to inform us that the Israelis had expelled ten families of the es-Sani tribe and that they had been stopped inside the Jordan border south of Hebron. This wasn't the only call during the week concernong the es-Sanis and on the 22nd of the month we went into the area and counted over 100 families, nearly 1,000 members of the tribe, camped temporarily just inside Jordan... [From] the only tent that had been pitched, an old man stepped out... He looked fierce, but his eyes twinkled. Sheikh El Hajj Ibrahim es-Sani beckoned us to his tent.

"In the Western World the table pounding would have started at once - but not here. Solemn greetings were exchanged... It was fully thirty minutes before the District Police Commander expressed his regrets that his government could not allow the es-Sani tribe to remain in Jordan. He hastened to explain that Jordan's arable lands were already crowded, and if the es-Sanis were allowed to stay, Israel would push other tribes across the border. There were still approximately 15,000 Bedouins in the Negev.

"Sheikh Ibrahim listened attentively; occasionally he cast his eyes upwards and spread his hands in a gesture of despair. When the district commander had finished, there was a minute of dead silence. El Hajj Ibrahim looked from one to the other and then dramatically presented his case. According to him the es-Sanis were once a rich tribe. Their many herds grazed over the lands of the Negev but the people, other than those assigned to tend the herds, lived on the lands they cultivated southeast of Beersheba... At the end of the Arab-Jewish hostilities, the Israelis forced them to leave these lands and move to El Laqiya, northeast of Beersheba. The land there was poor, but they worked hard, and during the next three years they had made it productive to the extent that Israel declared a quantity of their grain as surplus crop and demanded that it be sold to the government at a fixed price. El Hajj Ibrahim continued. He explained that over a month ago the Israeli Military Government had told him Israel was going to establish a settlement at El Laqiya and that his tribe would have to move to Tel Arad. He knew the Tel Arad area well and, seeing no possibility of survival there, ignored the order. A week later the Israelis brought in tractors and representatives of a land company; work was started on the es-Sani lands. El Hajj Ibrahim took his complaint to the Israeli courts and, according to him, they granted him a provisional judgment against both the Military Governor of Beersheba and the land company engaged in the work. The tribe was given permission to stay at El Laqiya.

"The legal action, however, did not stop the Israeli Military Governor, who moved in rapidly to enforce his demands. When he stated that the tribe would have to go to Tel Arad, by force if necessary, the old Sheikh countered by saying that he would move his tribe to Jordan before he would go to Tel Arad. The Military Governor explained that this would be against the terms of the Armistice with Jordan but that he would make no attempt to stop the move. El Hajj Ibrahim took the offer and the border east of El Laqiya, usually carefully guarded by Israel against infiltration, remained open until his tribe crossed into Jordan. 'Now,' he concluded in a shout, 'you stop me. Where can I lead my people?' El Hajj angrily whacked the carpeted ground.

"Following this conference we immediately arranged for a meeting between the Israeli and Jordanian representatives at the border area near the scene of the crossing. Here we were informed by the Military Governor of Beersheba, Lt. Colonel Hermann, and the Chief Israeli Delegate to the MAC, Lt. Colonel Ramati, that El Hajj Ibrahim es-Sani had asked if he could move his tribe, 'residents of Tel Arad,' into Jordan. The Military Governor stated that he had told the Sheikh he could not grant such permission but would not object to the move... After days of bickering it was finally arranged for the tribe to return to Israel, although the Israelis wanted them transported inside Jordan to a point opposite and closer to Tel Arad. The Jordanians refused to do this and it was finally settled that the transfer would be made at the original point of crossing, on the Hebron-Beersheba road.

"It was October 26, before the es-Sanis were back in Israel. Seventeen of the tribe members had vanished deeper into Jordan and the search for them was not pressed. The crossing was a drama of frustration and despair driven by an unrelenting force. The Israeli court action was forgotten. By allowing the es-Sanis to cross into Jordan under threat of being sent to Tel Arad, the Israeli Military Governor had very cleverly been able to make credulous his claim that these were nomadic people who should not be allowed to control the more productive areas. Lt. Colonel Hermann, who admittedly pressured the tribe to leave their lands and openly allowed them to cross into Jordan, now blandly stated, with authoritative cunningness, that the es-Sanis had broken the laws against crossing the border and must be held responsible for the violation.

"On the days of the crossing operation, the Israelis turned out in a show of force. Five trucks were brought from Beersheba for which the tribe was charged L160 per truck, per trip. The grain was resacked and loaded on the trucks; nothing else was taken on these trucks. The grain was not being sent with the tribe. It was being placed in separate storage where, as I was told, an amount would be deducted to cover the cost of the crossing operation plus an amount to cover the back taxes and surplus grain claimed by the Israeli Government.

"Armed Israelis sat next to armed Arabs as the members of the tribe filed across the border. The men were searched by soldiers and police. The women were taken under a bridge where they were similarly inspected by Israeli police women. Many arguments broke out and displays of temper frequently brought the always present tension near the breaking point. The Sheikh paced among the members of his tribe, alternately shouting orders and offering words of consolation. He was visibly under a great strain.

"Towards evening on October 26, the last truck, piled high with tents and personal belongings, lurched over the border. The stragglers of the tribe were precariously perched on top of the load. I walked over to Sheikh Ibrahim and his eldest son, Mohammed, who were preparing to follow their tribe. We shook hands solemnly. Mohammed had lost none of the anger he had displayed throughout the operation. His lips drew tight: 'What you have seen is all that is left of a once prosperous and respected tribe.'

"The old Sheikh cupped his left hand over our handclasp in friendship. He was still very much the leader - in his memory, the leader of a proud and carefree people. Now, his eyes reflected defeat. Three weeks later a small notice appeared in the Israeli papers which stated that Sheikh El Hajj Ibrahim es-Sani had died at Tel Arad." (pp 30-37)

NB: Hutchison gives the figure of 5,491 Arabs driven from Israel into Jordan from June 1949 to October 1954 (p 91)

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Not Your Average Fanatics

One of the most disturbing trends around today is the tendency of many well-meaning folk - Ilhan Omar for one - to apologise, or otherwise back down, when under attack by Zionists for comments in support of the Palestinian cause. The simple fact of the matter is that it is those who advocate for Israel, not those who advocate for Palestine, who should be apologising for their role in aiding and abetting Israeli apartheid. If pro-Palestinians have done their homework, and are in command of the facts, there should be no backing down or appeasement of Israel lobbyists.

US academic Steve Salaita's essay The problem with apology (stevesalaita.com) should be read in its entirety by anyone intending to weigh in on the subject of Palestine/Israel. Here's an extract:

"You probably know that pro-Israel activists are intense, but unless you've been their target it's hard to imagine the level of intensity. They never stop. This relentlessness separates them from garden-variety fanatics. A single punishment, no matter how vicious, is never enough. Their goal is to force targets into destitution, and then they'll keep going until observers are destitute by association. The belligerence honors the settler-colonial entity to which they're devoted. If you fight back (the correct decision), they'll smear you as anti-Semitic. If you ignore the noise, they'll grow louder. And if you apologize, well, it would be a bad idea. They'll see it not as a victory, or an opportunity for reconciliation, but as an invitation to be more exasperating. The lists of journalists, academics, writers, artists, politicians, musicians, and activists punished for affirming Palestinian life - or merely for running afoul of right-wing Zionist orthodoxy - illustrates that recrimination is its own kind of stimulus. It's been so effective, may as well accelerate the model. It's hard to imagine the model's demise without reshaping the anatomy of US political discourse. And forget about avoiding it. If you criticize Israel's behavior - or condemn Zionism, the more important approach - you simultaneously risk defamation, or at least the nattering inanity of both voluntary and professional trolls. Institutions exist around the world to protect Israel's reputation and inoculate the state against the kind of inquiry any healthy community understands as normal. These institutions are funded by billionaires and various government agencies. It can lead to the bizarre scenario of a solitary Twitter critic getting pitted against the world's most powerful forces. I was once that solitary critic."

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

'An Outbreak of Pro-Palestinian Sentiment'

"Bill Shorten is under renewed pressure to haul anti-Israel Labor MPs into line as an outbreak of pro-Palestinian sentiment within the opposition threatens to disrupt his election campaign." (Jewish leaders demand clarity on Israel stance, Richard Ferguson, Paige Taylor, The Australian, 16/4/19)

Let's hope it's highly contagious!

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

What's Bill Doing?

Ah yes, Bill Shorten and the Pratts:

"Bill Shorten rebuffed an invitation to catch up with Rupert Murdoch in January and also passed on the opportunity to meet him this month after the media mogul flew into Sydney with son Lachlan. But the Opposition Leader has no such qualms about breaking bread with Anthony Pratt, Australia's richest man and generous political benefactor. On the second day of the federal election campaign... Shorten made a detour to Pratt's Sydney luxury apartment overlooking Circular Quay and Sydney Harbour. He was there for lunch with the cardboard box king who... has a net worth of $12.9 billion..." (No time for Murdochs as Shorten meets Pratt, Kylar Loussikian, Sydney Morning Herald, 13/4/19)

Loussikian goes on to review Shorten's relationship with the Pratt family, including the recent fundraiser at the Pratt mansion in Melbourne's Kew, on which I posted earlier this month.

However, the only clue we get to what this all means is the following: "And as one Labor staffer put it: 'Someone's got to pay for the fliers'."

Typical of the blinkered mainstream press, however, the question of what's in it for Pratt is never asked. How telling is that?

Monday, April 15, 2019

Jonathan Freedland's Dream Zionists

Here's the liberal Zionist editor of The Guardian, Jonathan Freedland, pretending that Netanyahu's victory at the polls will be equally bad for Jewish Israelis and Palestinians, and omitting the fact that it was the former who enabled it:

"So Palestinians will have to brace themselves for a Trump 'peace plan' that is likely to deny them the territory they need to build a state of their own. Meanwhile, Netanyahu's victory promises a further assault on democratic norms and the rule of law inside Israel. It surely spells gloom for the long-term prospects of both peoples, but they are used to that by now. It's been this way on and off for most of the last quarter century. For truly this is the age of Netanyahu." (Netanyahu's victory means life is about to get worse for Palestinians, theguardian.com, 10/4/19)

George Orwell would be turning in his grave if he knew Freedland had been awarded a special Orwell Prize in May 2014 for his 'journalism'. Certainly, at least on the subject of Palestine/Israel, he seems incapable of producing anything other than pro-Israel PR.

In a 2012 New Statesman essay, Yearning for the same land, Freedland reveals why.

In it, he argues unconvincingly that, alongside the Zionism we're all familiar with, "the expansionist desire to control the entire biblical land of Israel," there's another "true" Zionism, consisting of "the more modest claim that there should be a Jewish national home within historic Palestine," and that that is the Zionism he, Freedland, professes. IOW, it's two states for two peoples, with the Palestinians getting a mere 22% of their historic homeland at most, contingent on the unlikely event of every soldier and settler pulling up stakes and getting out.

Whatever their imagined difference, both Zionisms, of course, subscribe to the same dogma, namely that Jews constitute not a faith community, but a "people" who, "like every other people, have a right to self-determination in the historic land of their birth." Although the concept of Jewish peoplehood has no basis in fact (and has been exploded most recently by Israeli historian Shlomo Sand in his 2009 book The Invention of the Jewish People), Freedland accepts it uncritically. Nor does he acknowledge the absurdity of this fictional people's achieving its fictional right of self-determination at the expense of another.

Sensing he's on shaky ground here, he attempts to bolster his case by shamelessly playing the Holocaust card: "The Jewish people, scythed by the Holocaust and after centuries of persecution, were gasping for breath in 1948; their need for a home was as great as that of any people in history. They had the right to act, even though the cost for another people, the Palestinians, was immense." Overlooked, of course, is the bleeding obvious that it was Germany, not the Palestinians, who perpetrated the Holocaust, not to mention the fact that the majority of Jews displaced by the war would have preferred to migrate to the United States and elsewhere than to Palestine.

Freedland goes on to claim that there was no "logical" connection between the pre-1967 Zionist colonisation of Palestine and the post-1967 Zionist colonisation of its West Bank and Gaza remnants. The Israeli settlement of the occupied territories was not, he asserts, "the ineluctable consequence of Zionism - as the Israeli right argued then and now." Presumably, for Freedland, those responsible for settling pre-1967 Palestine, his "true," Labor, Zionists, were more than content with their "national home" in 78% of historic Palestine. How strange then that their behaviour after 1967 belies this:

"The authorized, 'legal' settlements began in the era of the Labor-led governments, from 1967 to 1977. They flourished in the days of the Likud governments that followed and during the subsequent period of the Labor, Likud, and unity governments. In the course of the negotiations that engendered the September 1993 Oslo agreement, and in the period following it, the settlements saw an unprecedented building boom. All the the subsequent governments have made a point of approving new construction, ostensibly only within the boundaries of the existing settlements, but they have always supported - by political and budgetary deed and by failing to enforce the law and deter violations - the establishment of new settlements in the guise of new neighborhoods and 'illegal' outposts." (Lords of the Land: The War Over Israel's Settlements in the Occupied Territories, 1967-2007, Idith Zertal & Akiva Eldar, 2007, pp xvii - xviii)

Freedland, of course, overlooks entirely the colonial-settler roots of the Zionist project and the trampling of the indigenous Palestinian Arabs' right to national self-determination following World War I; the fact that political Zionism, from its inception, was focused exclusively, as one of its early slogans put it, on 'a land without a people'; and that Zionist colonisation, like every other form of colonisation, has only ever trampled underfoot the rights of those it has dispossessed.

Freedland may try to fool us with his airy talk of Zionist "dreamers" and "two peoples, fated to seek their dreams in the same land," but in truth he's only fooling himself.