Thursday, March 22, 2018


"For a handful of settlers to take their laws, values, language, technology, medicine and civic institutions out of Europe and transplant them to largely underdeveloped lands across the other side of the planet in an age of no internet, no smartphones and no air travel is a miracle; a miracle that not only continues to benefit those whose ancestors set it in motion but those who joined the team later." (We should rescue these people from a failing system bent on revenge, Sherry Sufi*, The Australian, 20/3/18)

[*Chairman of the West Australian Liberal Party's policy committee.]

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

More Fool He

Kevin Rudd in today's Sydney Morning Herald:

"In virtually every speech Howard has given on Iraq since 2003, he has also sought to justify his decision to go to war on the grounds that I, too, had said at the time that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. As in fact had most people. But there is a small problem with this argument. Like most Australians then, I had no access to intelligence material. I accepted the government's claims about the existence of Iraqi WMDs at face value - it didn't cross my mind that Howard would flagrantly misrepresent its content." (Monstrous strategic mistake that took us to war in Iraq)

It didn't cross his mind? Really? Well, I never...

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Britain's 'Collective Amnesia'

Ever get the feeling that the Iraq war (2003-), the great war for regime change and Israeli hegemony in the Middle East (let's cut the crap about oil), has largely receded from living memory?

That the impact of digital amnesia and neoliberal policies on peoples' lives has been so great that the 21st century's equivalent of World War I now seems almost as remote as that war?

That one of the reasons people are so gulled by the official 'rebels vs the dictator' line on Syria is because they've forgotten what the Iraq war was really all about?

Now I haven't read British writer Will Self's latest novel but I cannot fault his response to the following interview question:

The Iraq war also features heavily in Phone. Why was it important to you to include?

"I cannot think of a serious literary novelist in this country who's tackled the Iraq war at all. And I think it is the biggest stain on our national character of the past 20 years. And I think that collective amnesia about it and refusal to engage with it is playing out in political decisions that are being made now." (Will Self: 'The novel is absolutely doomed', Alex Clark,, 18/3/18)

But it's worse than that: never forget that "the biggest stain on [Britain's] national character" of the past 100 years is the Palestine problem and that not one "serious [British] literary novelist," except the now forgotten Ethel Mannin (1900-1984)*, has tackled that particular stain.

[The Road to Beersheba (1963); The Night & its Homing (1966)]

Monday, March 19, 2018

'Journalism', SMH, 17/3/18

"At Aida Refugee Camp we meet another young man who walks us through the camp he calls home, which has existed for 70 years since the Europeans arrived in Palestine." (Where the West was lost: The Walled Off Hotel in Bethlehem is one of the world's truly great art hotels, Nina Karnikowski, Traveller, Sydney Morning Herald, 17/3/18)

So just 70 years ago a mob of generic 'Europeans' just turned up in Palestine and, lo, a Palestinian refugee camp came into being???

"Increasingly, as we have seen in Iraq and Afghanistan, savage 'wars among the people' are simply not viable." (Never-ending wars make for more My Lai massacres, C. August Elliott, Sydney Morning Herald, 17/3/18)

So one day the people of Iraq and Afghanistan just decided to turn on one another - and not an American, Brit or Australian soldier in sight???

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Tel Aviv, Mon Amour


"Young filmmaker Naor and his mother are on a road trip through Israel, and Naor is telling his near-silent mother the story of recent events in his life. In this, he and his writer grandfather and his artist girlfriend, Yael, have defied the order to evacuate Tel Aviv and are living in the near-abandoned city under threat of being bombed. This is the contemporary world but there is no indication of a date, reinforcing the real-world fact that Tel Aviv is frequently under threat. Raphael Jerusalmy, a former member of the Israeli intelligence services turned humanitarian worker turned antiquarian book dealer and novelist, lives in Tel Aviv. Like the famous photograph of the string quartet in the ruins of Sarajevo, his book celebrates the persistence of art in times of chaos... it combines a jolting realism with the timeless quality of fables." (Review of Evacuation by Raphael JerusalmyIn short fiction, Spectrum, Kerryn Goldsworthy, Sydney Morning Herald, 10/3/18)

What can I say?

First, I'm reminded of Rowan Atkinson's wonderful 'Devil Sketch', modified thus:

'Israeli poet-warriors, if you step forward - my God there are a lot of you... '

Second, "there is no indication of a date" because there is no "real-world fact that Tel Aviv is frequently under threat."

Yes, in the context of the first Gulf War, the Iraqis fired Scuds at Tel Aviv in January 1991, but let's stick with the "real-world facts," shall we? Here's the BBC: "... eight missiles streaked in and exploded in balls of flame... Casualties are believed to have been light - nobody was killed, and only a few people injured. It is the first time Tel Aviv has been hit in the history of the Israel-Arab conflict." (BBC ON THIS DAY/18/1991: Iraqi Scud missiles hit Israel, 18/1/91)

And as for projectiles fired more recently from the bombed out Gaza Strip, here's The Jerusalem Post of 16/11/12: "Hours earlier, two rockets were fired from the Gaza Strip in the direction of the greater Tel Aviv area and prompted a red alert air raid siren to be sounded in the city for the second straight day. The IDF stated that the rocket had not landed in Tel Aviv, but local residents reported hearing an explosion following the siren. No injuries or damage were reported." (Two rockets land outside Jerusalem; two fired at TA, Yaakov Lappin, 16/11/12)

Obviously, more racket than rocket...

Third, and related to the above, whence the "chaos" in Tel Aviv?

Fourth, since Kerryn has risibly dragged the 1992-96 Siege of Sarajevo into this, it should be remembered that almost 14,000 Sarajevans were killed in the siege, 10,000 apartments were destroyed and 100, 000 damaged.

And finally, the million dollar question: has Kerryn never heard of that bloody great pile of rubble somewhere to the south of Tel Aviv called the Gaza Strip?

Friday, March 16, 2018

Labor Voters & a Palestinian State

In the lead-up to the next Australian Labor Party national conference in July, the usual suspects, in this instance the Executive Council of Australian Jewry (ECAJ) are getting nervous. Solution: wheel out Murdoch hack Simon Benson to unveil ECAJ's YouGovGalaxy poll which, according to Benson, reveals that:

"Federal Labor is at risk of alienating its support base over the party's pursuit of Palestinian statehood ahead of its national conference, with a majority of its own voters rejecting the move without the Palestinian Authority striking a peace deal with Israel." (ALP voters reject Palestine push, The Australian, 13/3/18)

Sample question:

In your opinion, when should Australia recognise a Palestinian state?

Now check out the framing, particularly of the third:

Immediately, with or without a Palestinian peace agreement with Israel (ALP voters: 14)

[How about:... with or without an Israeli withdrawal from the Palestinian territories illegally occupied for the past 60 years?]

After a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinian Authority (ALP voters 27)

[... premised on Israel's wanting one of course]

When all Palestinian groups renounce violence (ALP voters 12)

[But not Israel of course]

Never (ALP voters 12)

Don't know (ALP voters 36)

[Actually, it's the enormous number of 'dunnos' that make this last category the most interesting. Does it mean that 36% of ALP voters are deaf, dumb and blind? Or live in sheltered workshops? Or under rocks? I mean, this is 2018.]

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

When Doc Evatt Did a Job on Palestine 4

This is the final aspect of the 1947 session which I would like to address. I find it the most significant in terms of what I believe it reveals of Evatt's bias and of the deliberate subversion of proper procedure in this case as a result of his bias.

We have already seen that the case of Palestine was a challenge and a proving ground for the new UNO. However, the partition resolution of 1947 was only a recommendation, although it carried "tremendous moral force" in Evatt's words (Freilich, p 161) and was exploited by the Zionists to lend an air of legitimacy to their future actions in Palestine. The UN of course had no means at its disposal to implement such recommendations, and all participants were well of this fact. The Arabs, for instance, said that they would continue to resist the Zionist settlers regardless of what the UN decided.

In the interests of sustaining this "moral force" it could well be argued that Evatt should not have steam-rolled the partition decision through a weary and often resentful Special Committee in order to finish the deliberations in November. The Jews and Palestinian Arabs had been fighting for two decades anyway, and some tired delegates argued to Evatt that a few more months would make little difference. But Evatt was adamant. (Evatt, p 148)

His opposition to a proposal to put some of the legal problems before the ICJ for a ruling was perhaps part of the unseemly haste which he imposed on proceedings, and worse, perhaps it also reveals his real opinion as to the legality of the proceedings. I can think of no other reasons for this opposition, because Evatt had emerged as one of the leading supporters for a major role for the ICJ in all UN problems.

At the San Francisco conference he had championed the concept that the ICJ must become a key UN institution. In an address given shortly after the conference to the Royal Institute of International Affairs in London, he said: "The future working of the world organisation would be greatly helped if access to the ICJ is made possible wherever international disputes of a legal or justiciable character are not disposed of by conciliation or direct negotiation... By such means the Court would be given an opportunity of developing a code of sound international law and practice which could help greatly in balancing the Security Council." (Australia in World Affairs, 1946, p 20)

As Sir Frederic Eggleston commented in 1946: "Dr Evatt advocates not only an expansion of the ambit of international law but also an extension of the power of the ICJ." (26. ibid, Preface)

I have already noted that during October 1947 while Evatt was rushing the Special Committee through its agenda, he found time to deliver lectures at Harvard Law School on Frankfurter's invitation. In these lectures, published soon after, Evatt described his own role in pushing for a more democratic UN structure. One of his nine main objectives had been "to declare that justice and the rule of law shall be principles guiding the actions of the Security Council, and for this purpose to require the maximum employment of the Permanent Court (ICJ) in determining the legal aspects of international disputes." He continued: "Faults have become apparent in the working of the UN. The International Court has so far been denied almost totally the opportunity of working..."

In his third lecture, he repeated this theme: "Article 96 (of the UN Charter) provides that the General Assembly or the Security Council may seek advisory opinions from the Court on any legal question... Yet to date not a single advisory opinion has been sought from the Court... It is clearly necessary to make every effort to ensure the fullest possible use of the functions assigned to the Court. To this end Australia has introduced an important resolution into the present Assembly, seeking a recommendation that each organ of the UN and each specialized agency should regularly review the difficult and important questions of law which have arisen in the course of their activities and which involve questions of principle which it is desirable to have settled." (27. The Task of Nations, p 42)

This resolution, inspired by Evatt, was actually adopted on November 14 by UNGA in plenary session while its sponsor was apparently doing his best to see that the Palestine 'hot potato' did not in fact come before that. august body.

For at one of the late night sittings of the Special Committee in the last week of November, the proposals to refer several matters concerning Palestine to the ICJ came to the vote. Evatt wrote in his memoirs of that occasion: "The only matter on which there was any substantial disagreement was whether the UN itself had jurisdiction to reach a decision as to the future government of Palestine. The voting on this point was very close but the proposal for its reference to the Court was defeated. As to the validity of the action proposed to be taken by the UNGA, I never had any doubt... " (28. pp 155-6)

He himself had decided that some of the points which the Arab delegates wanted to refer to the ICJ were "patently absurd, for instance whether or not the Balfour Declaration was a legally binding declaration. Obviously it was political in essence and in character... " (29. p 157)

Precisely - yet the Balfour Declaration, promising a homeland for the Jews in Palestine, had been explicitly written into the text of of the British Mandate as if it were a legally binding declaration (with the aid of Frankfurter, as we have seen). The policies of British rule in Palestine had been based on the "authority" of the 1917 Balfour Declaration in this way. Evatt himself wrote that one of the main arguments against the Arab proposal for a unitary state was that "the promises of the Balfour Declaration would have been dishonoured."

The ICJ would very likely have handed down a ruling that the Balfour Declaration was legally invalid, and perhaps that the Mandate which imposed Jewish migration on the unwilling indigenous inhabitants was also invalid.. Any such ruling would have been disastrous for the Zionist cause at that time, and would have made the partition vote even harder to swing.

Furthermore, regarding Evatt's pronouncement on the validity of the partition resolution, obviously it was not Evatt's opinion that was being sought by a number of members of the Special Committee, but that of the body designed and set up to give the legal judgements which they felt were needed in order to help them in their deliberations.

A spokesperson for this group was the Pakistani representative, Sir Muhammad Zafrulla Khan, a distinguished lawyer who himself later became a judge on the ICJ. He wrote that by the end of the sittings of Evatt's Special Committee he no longer believed in the good faith of the delegates. He analysed the voting pattern concerning referral to the ICJ: "As to our legal questions, the Committee rejected the resolutions on all the first 7 questions, but on the eighth question, i.e. whether the UN had any legal authority to do what they were proposing to do, the resolution to the effect that it had the authority was passed by 21 votes to 20. It is interesting to analyse those figures. In all, the Committee were 57. Only 21 who gave a positive vote were satisfied that the UN had authority to do what they were proposing to do and 36 were not satisfied." (30. Khalidi, p 716)

Evatt was highly satisfied that the ICJ, the instrument of international law whose 'maximum employment' he so ardently sought in theory, and whose prestige was a matter of such concern to him, was once again bypassed on this occasion. Yet idf ever a learned opinion and a considered judgement by the top legal authorities of the UNO was appropriate, it was in the case of Palestine in 1947.

This brings this paper to its conclusion, though there are other important aspects to consider such as the actual outcome of the decision. Evatt's attitude to the Arabs and the Palestinians, and his double standards on the issue of migration (in the case of Australia, he was a firm supporter of the White Australia policy and the right of Australians to have complete control over immigration policy, a right he wanted to deny to those inhabitants of Palestine who were opposed to Jewish immigration.

I conclude with a brief postscript.

Evatt was elected to the Presidency of the UNGA for the 1948 session, which was held in Paris.

In Palestine itself, violence had erupted almost immediately after the UNGA vote was announced.

In India, where partition was actually being enacted as the Special Committee was sitting, 225,000 people had been killed by inter-communal violence by October, 1947. Mahatma Gandhi believed that generations to come would continue to pay the price for the mistake of partition.. By the same token he came out strongly against the partition of Palestine: "... Palestine belongs to the Arabs in the same sense that England belongs to the English. It is wrong and inhuman to impose the Jews on the Arabs. What is going on in Palestine today cannot be justified by any moral code of conduct... The nobler course would be to insist on a just treatment of the Jews wherever they are born and bred... As it is, they are co-sharers with the British in despoiling a people who have done no wrong to them." (31. Khalidi, p 367)

By the middle of 1948 there were already over 800,000 homeless Palestinian refugees and the state of Israel had been proclaimed. The UN-appointed Count Bernadotte, a patrician Swedish idealist, as its mediator in Palestine. His brief was to recommend final border plans for Israel, which had already occupied more land than had been allotted to it in the partition plan. He reported to the UN that "it would be an offence against the principles of elemental justice if these victims of the conflict were denied the right to return to their homes while Jewish emigrants flow into Palestine." (32. David Gilmour, The Dispossessed, p 74)

On September 17, Count Bernadotte and his aide, Colonel Serot, were assassinated by members of the Stern Gang in Palestine. This occurred on the very day on which Evatt commenced his reign at the UN. At this fateful moment, "the flag-draped coffins of Count Bernadotte and Colonel Serot, gunned down in Jerusalem, arrived at the airport on the day that the President of France handed over the golden key of the Palais de Chaillot and declared it United Nations territory for the time of the Assembly. The two coffins lay at the airport, a reminder of what came of the United Nations intervention." (33. Tennant, p 232)