Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Greg Sheridan: In Praise of 'Great' Men

"The most influential foreign affairs analyst in Australian journalism*," Greg (Jerusalem Prize) Sheridan, Foreign Editor of The Australian, has a soft spot for the high and the mighty:-

"Indonesia's Suharto was an authentic giant of Asia, a nation-builder, a dictator, a changer of history." The Australian 28/1/08

[Suharto presided over the following deaths: Indonesia:1965-1968 - 1 million; East Timor:1975-1999 - 183,000; West Papua - 100,000; Aceh - 15,000 (Total:1,298,000) Figures from The Australian, 29/1/08]

"[John Howard:] A decent man, a genuinely great prime minister and a giant in Australian foreign and security policy." The Australian 29/11/07

[2003-2006 - 665,000 Iraqi deaths: Figure from The Lancet 11/10/06]

"Paul Wolfowitz is a good man brought down by a shabby, politicised witch-hunt." The Australian 19/5/07

[2003-2006 - 665,000 Iraqi deaths: Figure from The Lancet 11/10/06]

"[Dick] Cheney may not be everyone's cup of tea. But he's a straight shooter and a loyal ally." The Australian 25/2/07

[2003-2006 - 665,000 Iraqi deaths: Figure from The Lancet 11/10/06]

"George W Bush may well be judged, ultimately, a great president, especially in the war on terror." The Australian 14/9/06

[2003-2006 - 665,000 Iraqi deaths: Figure from The Lancet 11/10/06]

"Nothing could fell the mighty Ariel Sharon but his own brain." The Australian 6/1/06

[Sharon presided over the following Palestinian/Arab deaths: Bureij - 15; Qibya - 67; Suez War - 650; 1967 War - 21,000; 1982 Lebanon War - 13,000; Second Intifada 2000-2005 - 4,228 (Total: 38,960). Figures from Kimmerling, Wikipedia, UN]

* According to The Australian's website.

Monday, January 28, 2008


I've alluded in earlier posts to the ms media's tendency to self-censor by way of caving in to the Israel lobby's demand for faux balance. The Israel/Palestine dynamic is hammer to anvil, fighter jet to stone, in every respect asymmetric. This includes the volume of media coverage devoted to both sides. When, for example, did you last hear a Palestinian voice on the ABC? As opposed to oleaginous and omnipresent Israeli flak-catcher, Mark (Black is White) Regev. And yet, even when a Palestinian perspective makes it into the ms media, it cannot be allowed to stand alone.

Take today's (28/1/08) The Age, for example. On the letter's page we have two letters about The Great Gaza Breakout. The Age titles say it all:-

In Israel's defence... Mick Stone, Bentleigh

Followed by-

...and for the Palestinian case Dora McPhee, Parkville

Then, in the same issue, two op-ed pieces:-

No easy solution while Hamas keeps warring by Fania Oz-Salzberger*

Followed by-

Palestinians suffer as the world fails Gaza by Michael Shaik*

This is a false balance.

Mick Stone's plaint: "If The Age is about balance, how is it that we never see the results of any of the 4200 rockets recently fired at Israeli civilians from Gaza..."

Fania Oz-Salzberger's: "We are not blind to the plight of innocent Palestinians, but no one is naive enough to think that militants are not busy shopping too, for the next qassam [sic] rocket and the next suicide bomb."/ "...the Hamas government under Ismail Haniye simply deleted peace from its dictionary."/ "Why...should Israelis care about Gaza's children?...Seeing them flock out of their claustrophobic strip, free for a fleeting moment, Palestinians do touch Israeli hearts, even if terrorists are enjoying an Egyptian market day, too."

Get the picture? A pile of poo: gross exaggeration (4200 rockets), crocodile tears (Palestinians do touch Israeli hearts), falsehoods (Hamas deleted peace), and weasel words (militants/terrorists).

Anyone who dares contest the Israeli master narrative, and actually makes it into the ms media, must expect to be dogged by a malign, mendacious, nay-saying doppelganger, a sort of Mark Regev clone, whose task it is to distract the reader and neutralise his message. A bit, if you will, like being served two plates at a restaurant: one, the meal you ordered, the other, a steaming great pile of ordure. The result is, of course, predictable.

Lest you think I exaggerate, sample this from the UK's Independent of 27/1/08: "Yehuda Shaul is a religious Israeli who served in the army. Now he runs guided tours highlighting the abuse of Palestinians [in Hebron]...Shaul is seeking to demonstrate to his visitors that the settlements and the formidable military apparatus which protects them have violated the human rights of the Palestinians who live - in what was once the teeming Arab city centre. But his every footstep is dogged by another religious Jew conducting a non-stop monologue designed to drown out Shaul's explanation of what his visitors are seeing." [A rough guide to Hebron: The world's strangest guided tour highlights the abuse of Palestinians]

*Fania Oz-Salzberger is professor and Leon Liberman chairman of modern Israel studies at Monash University. Whatever happened to Middle East studies?
* Michael Shaik is the public advocate for Australians for Palestine.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

We Remember Warsaw: The Sequel

What did I tell you! Bambi's rash decision last week (22-24/1/08) at the Sydney Morning Herald to print 7 letters on the Warsaw/Gaza Ghetto analogy, with only 2 favouring Israel [See my earlier post, We Remember Warsaw], had the Zionist media hounds baying for her blood.

How do I know? Check out this revealing POSTSCRIPT from the bottom left-hand corner of Saturday's Herald (26/1/08): "To enter the Israeli/Palestinian discussion on the letters page is to let the genie out of the bottle: it invites a big bag of mail loaded with strident opinions, thoughtful insights and the odd insult. We try to find correspondence that adds to readers' understanding and acknowleges the complexities of the issue. Seven letters were published and 90-odd left out. Competition was tough this week." Miranda Harman, letters co-editor

My thoughts on this:

a) Any perceived slight or challenge to the Israel lobby's monopoly on ms media coverage of Palestine-Israel is intolerable to the Israel lobby advocates who routinely patrol that coverage, and a reflexive, "strident" response is sure to ensue.

b) I'd like to believe that resident Bambi, Miranda Harman, is merely reflecting on the sound and fury occasioned by her decision of 24/1/08, and not issuing a veiled apology for it. Which is to say, I'd like to believe she's got spine.

c) As a natural born pessimist, however, I'm betting that no matter what crimes and outrages Israel perpetrates in the future, Miranda will be wondering if publishing any letters blowing the whistle on same is worth the flack, and will therefore refrain from doing so. Which is to say, I won't be holding my breath for any repeat of last week's journalistic bravado.

d) Despite losing the battle on the letters page last week, the Israel-firsters will still win the war if Miranda succumbs to self-censorship in the future and runs no more letters from a Palestinian perspective, or seeks to 'balance' same with a dollop of pro-Israel propaganda. Which is to say, it'll probably be business as usual at the Herald from now on.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Clueless in Gaza

I don't usually talk about things I know nothing about, but then I'm not the Sydney Morning Herald editorialist. Take the Herald's editorial of 24/1/08, Luckless Gaza's grim prognosis, for example.

"Luckless"? Rather than being the victims of a monstrous and cold-blooded crime against humanity, the 'strangled', 'starved', and 'brutalised' people of the Gaza Strip are merely the victims of fate! Israel is always the innocent bystander in these matters.

"Israel's decision to ease its...blockade of the...Palestinian enclave, which has been ruled by the extremist Hamas movement since last June, was sensible." "Extremist"? A weasel word. And hypocritical to boot.

A fanatical movement of European settlers, possessed by the idea of carving an exclusive ethno-religious state out of a non-European land (despite the opposition of its indigenous population), secures the backing of the day's imperial bully, and under the protection of its bayonets, moves in uninvited. After reaching critical mass, it overuns 78% of said land, dispossessing 85% of the indigenous population in the process. And then, having secured a new imperial patron, it goes on to overun and occupy the remaining 22%, which it proceeds to settle at a rate of knots, shooting and caging the natives in the process. Now that's about as extreme as it can get for any people. And yet, the indigenous resistance to that actual extremist force is branded "extremist"?

Israel, note, is deemed "sensible" in "easing" its blockade of Gaza, not 'criminal' or 'extreme' in initiating it, but "sensible", as in, when you've knocked your victim to the ground, leapt on top of him, seized him by the throat, and squeezed till your arms hurt, you loosen your grip just enough to prevent him from expiring, so you're not up on a murder rap.

"[T]he cynical Hamas tactic of encouraging Palestinian fighters to maintain a haphazard barrage of homemade missiles on nearby Israeli civilian targets has worked, prompting an all too typical and counterproductive, Israeli overreaction." Not only "extremist," but "cynical" as well! Of course, it is beyond the bounds of permitted discourse for the SMH to accuse the Israelis of cynicism, but a more informed and acute observer, such as Israeli peace activist, Uri Avnery, knows cynicism when he sees it: "If the Qassams were really bothering our political and military leaders, they would have jumped at the [December 07 Hamas] cease-fire offer. But the leaders don't really care about what's happening to the Sderot population, out on the geographical and political 'periphery', far from the centre of the country. It carries no political or economic weight. In the eyes of the leadership, its suffering is, all in all, tolerable. It also has an important positive side: it provides an ideal pretext for the actions of the army. The Israeli strategic aim in Gaza is not to put an end to the Qassams. It would still be the same if not a single Qassam fell on Israel. The real aim is to break the Palestinians, which means breaking Hamas." [Help! A Cease-fire! 22/12/07] To acknowledge that Israel's behaviour is both cynical and criminal would also mean breaking free of the mendacious 'Palestinians initiate/Israel only ever retaliates' formula that is part of the received 'wisdom' of msm coverage of the issue.

Still, a faint, inchoate awareness emerges at the beginning of the final sentence: "The hard fact is that there can be no settlement until Hamas is invited into the game...", but is completely undone by the rest: "...and it refuses to play except on its own, unacceptable terms."

Let's look at Hamas' "unacceptable terms." Practically speaking, Hamas constitutes no real threat to Israel. To pretend that it is, or could ever be, is frankly laughable. Israel simply uses such talk to delude its people and maintain a pretext for endless war with the Palestinians in an effort to realise the old Zionist dream (Palestinian nightmare) of a Greater Israel, stretching from the Mediterranean Sea to the Jordan River. This is why Israel has never expressed any interest in the idea of a hudnah (truce), despite Hamas' leaders repeated offers of same. As Azzam Tamimi, Palestinian founder of London's Institute of Islamic Political Thought, and author of Hamas: Unwritten Chapters (2007) has written: "The general and long-term hudnah proposed by Hamas stipulates as a first condition an Israeli withdrawal to the borders of 4 June 1967, which means the return of all the land occupied by the Israelis as a result of the six-day war including East Jerusalem. This would entail the removal of all Jewish settlers from those areas. In addition, Israel would have to release all Palestinians held in its prisons and detention camps. It is highly unlikely that Hamas would settle for anything less, in exchange for a long term truce that could last for a quarter of a century or longer." [p 159]

So, an end to bloodshed and a full and complete withdrawal from the 22% of Palestine illegally occupied and settled by Israel in 1967 is "unacceptable?" But what did Arafat or Abbas ever get out of being "invited" into a "game," played on Israel's "own, unacceptable" terms? Only a role in policing the Palestinian people on Israel's behalf so that it could get on with its core business: swallowing Palestinian land while spitting out its inhabitants.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

We Remember Warsaw

On 22/1/08 the following letter appeared in The Sydney Morning Herald:-

"Nearly 70 years ago, in a small European city, an oppressed and occupied people were under siege, living under atrocious and brutal conditions, lacking food, medicine, electricity, water, and slowly being strangled in the hope they would just disappear. Warsaw Ghetto 1941 - Gaza 2008. Israel, you are a disgrace." Zaid Khan, Blakehurst

This was followed, on 23/1/08, as befits the Israel lobby's insistence (except when their own spokespeople are crowding out dissenting voices) on a policy of faux balance whenever Palestine-Israel comes up on the opinion pages, by:-

"I am not as familiar as Zaid Khan with Europe 70 years ago but, to the best of my knowledge the oppressed minority in Warsaw were not firing Katyusha rockets indiscriminately into the surrounding area and neither were their kids being wrapped in explosives and sent out to blow up the neighbours." David Calvey, Vaucluse

So far, so predictable. The prospect of pursuit by a snarling, snapping pack of pro-Israel media hounds is usually enough to deter the Bambi responsible for the letters page from publishing letters in support of Palestine. Had Bambi realised he/she'd let his/her guard down with Zaid Khan's timely letter and sought to ward off the hounds by publishing Calvey's too-clever-by-half riposte from, of all places, Vaucluse?

I will say nothing of Calvey's cheap shot, other than to point out that the resistance in Gaza does not fire Katyushas and wonder, along with Israeli journalist, Amira Hass, just why, given the anger and desperation in the ghetto, there aren't in fact more suicide bombers: "The truth is that nearly every Palestinian has many reasons to be fed up with life to the point of suicide and thoughts of revenge, and those thoughts are not only linked to military attacks. Even without killing, the Israeli occupation regime kills hope, plans, relationships, ways of life. Living among Palestinians brings daily examples of the thousands of shades that despair has, just as the regime of occupation and colonization brings with it thousands of variants of material and mental abuse. Every moment, people mourn for the lives they could have had and which they are not experiencing. How explosive is the daily insult which people experience under a foreign rule that decides who will live in their own house and who will not, who will have access to their lands and who will not, when the bulldozer will tear up your grandparents' land in order to attach it to a highway and a green settlement, who will waste several hours every day at a checkpoint, who will send their children to the university and who will send them to beg, who will lose their source of livelihood, who will see their family and when, and who will not." [Where are the suicide bombers? 12/07].

Next day something interesting happened. Readers, it seems, had had enough. They could see right through Calvay, the invisible man, directly into the heart of darkness that is the Warsaw/Gaza Ghetto:-

"What we can never know, David Calvey, is whether the oppressed in Warsaw would have retaliated had they been given the means with which to do so." Rachel Merhabi, Turramurra

"You're right, David Calvey, the oppressed minority in Warsaw did not protest with rockets and suicide bombs. But I believe most of them ended up in the Nazi gas chambers." Paul Sadler, Newtown

"The reason, David Calvey, that the oppressed minority were not fighting back with weapons and explosives is that they didn't have them. I am sure Polish Jews would have used anything available and done anything possible to disrupt the German war machine. I am sure what Zaid Khan was getting at is the massive hypocrisy of Israel: it was oppression back then when done to them, but it is somehow OK to do it to someone else now." David Gardiner Camperdown

"Maybe I'm not as familiar as David Calvey with Europe 70 years ago but, if the oppressed minority suffering in Warsaw was subjected to the same oppression for 50 continuos years or more, they too would take more extreme measures, Also, to the best of my knowledge, like the people in the occupied territories, the oppressed in Warsaw did eventually revolt against the oppression, and justifiably so." Brad Spencer Ljubljana, Slovenia

"I don't need to visit Gaza to tell David Calvey that 99% of its population don't have rockets in the back shed and bomb vests in the bedroom. Like the Jews in Warsaw, most Palestinians in Gaza are being held captive with the barest of essentials, purely on the basis that they were 'accidentally' born of the wrong blood in the wrong place. How can the average Palestinian Joe hope to stop the actions of a few mad militants? And why should the Israelis expect them to do so? The current Israeli policy holds every man, woman and child responsible for any act of terrorism. Last thing I heard, there were quite a few unsolved murders in Sydney. I say we lock the whole place down until people there realise that the rest of the country won't tolerate it. After all, if they are prepared to murder their fellow Sydneysiders, they might come after the rest of us." Anura Samara Geneva, Switzerland

What on Earthwas Bambi thinking when he/she let this lot in? Had Bambi also had enough? Will he/she now be torn to pieces by the pro-Israel pack? Will there be a mea culpa in the next issue? Think I'm joking? Let's go back a few years and look at the brouhaha which followed Herald cartoonist, Moir's cartoon of 12/8/03, in which he dared to associate Israel's West Bank wall of 2003 with the Warsaw Ghetto of 1943. The Herald was inundated with outraged letters, 9 of which were published over the next 2 days.

To top it off, in the issue of 16/8/03, the following grovel from Herald editor, Robert Whitehead appeared: "It is as important for the Herald to be accurate and fair as it is to admit when we do not live up to its own high standards. That is why we began inviting people earlier this year to help us correct the record whenever they saw a material error. An honesty about mistakes and a willingness to fix them is important to us and our readers. The same is true of errors of judgement. Finding ways to redress these, however, can be less straightforward. An example this week was the Moir cartoon published on Tuesday. It likened the Nazis' building of the Warsaw ghetto with the Israeli Government's building of a security fence on the West Bank. To publish it was a lapse of judgement and I apologise to the many readers who, understandably, took great offence. As Moir said in a note in the aftermath, he was intending to be provocative 'but I should have used a less sensitive metaphor to make the point about historic irony'."

Pathetic! But funny how the comparison comes naturally to Palestinians - as an inmate of the virtually encircled West Bank town of Qalqilya commented at the time to a journalist from the UK Observer: "It feels like a concentration camp...with the difference that there the people were waiting for death. Here they are just waiting for us to leave."

The Herald's grovel back then reminds us of the need to stand up to the lobby. In the words of Mearsheimer & Walt : "As the primary source of independent thinking in democratic societies, scholars and journalists should be encouraged to resist the lobby's efforts to shape public discourse and to encourage more open discussion of these important issues." [The Israel Lobby & US Foreign Policy p 351]

What will tomorrow bring?

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Gullible's Travels

Saturday's Sydney Morning Herald, and The Australian of the same day, (19/1/08) afforded the reader a textbook contrast between factual and informative journalism on the one hand, and pure PR on the other. In the former category, came Under a state of siege, by the Middle East correspondent for the SMH and The Age, Ed O'Loughlin. In the latter, came Deep inside the plucky country, by The Australian's Foreign Editor (and recipient of the State Zionist Council of NSW/Zionist Federation of Australia/World Zionist Organization-sponsored Jerusalem Prize), Greg Sheridan.

O'Loughlin and Sheridan are planets apart, with O'Loughlin's feet firmly on planet Earth, and Sheridan off in deep space on a planet all his own.

Palestinian (Swiss) Cheese

O'Loughlin tours the Israeli-occupied West Bank in the company of an Israeli human rights activist. He reports that the territory is rapidly in the process of being transformed into "an archipelago of disconnected Arab enclaves, controlled by walls, fences and checkpoints which Palestinian people and goods cannot cross without Israeli permission," while "in the settlements and on the bypass roads...Jewish settlers...enjoy freedom of movement and superior rights and protections to the indigenous Palestinians."

He quotes independent Palestinian MP and winner of the 2003 Sydney Peace Prize, Hanan Ashrawi to the effect that "The settlements and walls and roads and tunnels are the superimposition of an Israeli reality over Palestinian land, a grid put in place to control Palestinian movement, resources and land, that is making it impossible to build a Palestinian state." And he talks to a settler, Arieh King (one of 450,000 in the Israeli-occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem), who wants a West Bank without Arabs, and to Rabbi Ascherman (of Rabbis for Human Rights), who opposes King and his kind. O'Loughlin is a correspondent who simply and honestly bears witness to the politicide of the Palestinian people. Sheridan, on the other hand, is there to sell us the Zionist dream.

Abba Eban, a former Israeli foreign minister, once opined that "Propaganda is the art of persuading others of what one does not believe oneself." I suspect that Sheridan believes every word he's written, therefore, let me introduce:-

Gullible's Travels

The opening paragraphs of Gullible's account of his most recent Israeli gig is a corker. Rivetted by "the countless gum trees that populate Israel"... "exotic Australian settlers in the land of the Bible," he experiences a distinct - but profoundly irrelevant - patriotic surge: "It's as if a single ghost gum represents every Australian soldier who ever fell in the Middle East, through all the many decades that Australian soldiers have been fighting and dying there." Hilarious! Wonder if he had his Akubra on?

Gullible informs us that he had attended "a seminar at Ariel [an Israeli settlement] on the international media's treatment ["biased & hostile" of course] of Israel." "The world media," he laments, "cover the Palestinian territories and only cover Israel as a brooding and malign presence in the territories," and Israel itself is "under-reported," even when "only a few years ago terrorists were murdering 1500 of its citizens a year."

Hm, "1500" Israeli citizen deaths in Israel, year after year, presumably since the beginning of the Second Intifada in 2000? Do the math for 2000-2005 (5x1500=7500) and, according to Gullible, Palestinian terrorists/suicide bombers slew 7500 Israelis in 5 years! And that's not including those Israelis (troops/settlers) slain in the occupied Palestinian territories. Crikey, this even tops all 5315 Palestinian (4228), Israeli (1,024), and foreign (63) Intifada-related deaths from 2000-2007 at 5315! [Source: Israeli-Palestinian Fatalities Since 2000 - Key Trends, UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), 31/8/07]

Enter stage LEFT, the "biased and hostile" international media in the form of the BBC: Their data, Analysis: Palestinian suicide attacks (29/1/07) estimates the number of Israeli victims of Palestinian suicide bombers for 2000-2005 at 522, while OCHA's estimate of Israeli civilian deaths at the hands of suicide bombers in Israel is just 460 (402 civilians/58 security forces personnel).

Gullible's religious prejudices emerge in his caricature of Jerusalem: "Jerusalem is an eternal city: the centre of Judaism, the fountainhead of Christianity and an important site for Islam." Good one, Gullible! "Visually it is quite stunning, its character maintained by the most enlightened civic ordinance on record: that all new buildings must be constructed of white Jerusalem stone." Ah, Israel, you've done it again! Except that it was the British who were responsible for the original stone construction regulation, and the Israelis who have reduced the the role of stone to a mere cladding material. Nor is it quarried in Jerusalem, but mainly from the bedrock around the Palestinian cities of Hebron and Ramallah. [See Eyal Weizman's chilling 2007 book Hollow Land: Israel's Architecture of Occupation.]

"Tel Aviv is predominantly secular Jewish, with very few Arabs and ultra-orthodox Jews." Gullible, of course, doesn't tell us that that's because the Palestinian Arab villages of Abu Kabir, Manshiyya, Summayl, Shaykh Muwannis and Salama (along with their inhabitants) were wiped off the map in 1948. [See http://www.zochrot.org/]

"The Druze are a small separate, Arab religious group found in Lebanon, Syria and Israel. Within Israel they are fiercely loyal to the state of Israel...and serve in the Israeli army with great distinction..." Nowhere near as "fiercely loyal" as Gullible though: at Israel's http://www.ynetnews.com/ we read in Rift between Israel, Druze growing (18/1/08) that "patriotism in the Druze community is quickly waning," because, says a Druze MK, Israel's Druze are waking up to the fact that service in the army as a path to equality with Israeli Jews is "a mere illusion," and that "we are first and foremost Arabs." Ouch!

Flying over "illegal" Bedouin encampments in the Negev Desert, Gullible informs us that "The problem they cause is for those trying to get education and social services to their children." Those boody Bedouin! Must the white man forever shoulder his burden? Gullible, of course, evinces no awareness whatever of the Bedouin's history of evictions and deportations, or the current Israeli campaign of uprooting (or aerial defoliation) of their crops in an effort to force them out of their encampments and into sterile development towns. No, he's literally and figuratively above all that.

In the Israeli- occupied Syrian Golan Heights, Gullible sees bunkers from which "Syrian soldiers...would fire...at workers on the kibbutz below" in the bad old days before the miraculous victory of 1967. Now you might justifiably expect a real journalist, as opposed to a PR peddler, to question what his Israeli minders are telling him. Take veteran UK Middle East correspondent David Hirst, for example. In his comprehensive and deadly accurate 1977 history of the Middle East conflict, The Gun and the Olive Branch, he described his own response to the seductions of Israel's Golan Heights myth: "A post-war visit to the windswept, battle-scarred plateau was a moving experience - at least it was for those of this writer's fellow tourists, probably all of them, who accepted what our guide told us...about the Syrian guns which used to rain destruction on the farmers peacefully tilling their fields in the valley below...However, the guide did, with an air of complicity, tell us one unexpected truth. 'We are now entering what used to be the demilitarized zone,' he said, 'regular soldiers were forbidden to enter it. Of course, we got around that by sending them in disguised as police. But that's another story.' It is another story, a long one, and naturally he did not tell it." [211-212] Hirst does though, detailing the premeditated Israeli campaign of illegal encroachments and provocations that acted as a "curtain-raiser to the June War." Gullible, the tourist, is content with what the guide tells him.

Then he's off to see "Jewish settlements in the West Bank," first filling us in with some invaluable historical background: "After the 1967 war, when Israel was attacked by a coalition of its Arab neighbours, Israel took territory in East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza," some of which "is necessary for security." Gullible thus relays yet another Israeli myth: that the Arab-Israeli war of 1967 was an act of self-defence by Israel against a Hydra-headed Arab existential threat. The reality? Israel was just itching for a blue with Nasser's Egypt. Listen to the latest research by Israeli historian, Tom Segev: "Some time before the crisis with Egypt, Allon [leader of Ahdut Ha'avoda and ethnic cleanser of 1948] had developed a theory that Israel's strategic circumstances necessitated a preemptive attack. In his 1959 book, A Screen of Sand, he described in great detail the danger that the Arabs might destroy Israel's air force on the ground. In an interview that was not supposed to be made public for many years, he claimed he had written this only to avoid complications with the Israeli censor: in fact, he had meant that Israel should destroy the Arab air forces. He called this 'active defence', or 'preemptive counterattack', and he maintained that 'there is no substitute for aggression, in the positive sense of the word'." [1967: Israel, the War and the Year that Transformed the Middle East p 312] Allon's theory informed Israel's 4/6/67 decision to launch an unprovoked preemptive strike against Egypt: "Warhaftig [minister of religious affairs] asked...how they [cabinet] could present an Israeli first strike as a response...Allon thought that the prime minister could announce to the world's heads of state that the Egyptians had attacked, and minutes later Israel would respond. The prime minister would risk a lie, but only historians would know the truth...The resolution that evolved asserted that Israel was acting against 'the ring of aggression tightening around it'." [1967 p 336] Gullible's "attack" by a "coalition" of Arab states is a variation on this discredited theme.

To justify Israel's refusal to give up the occupied West Bank, Gullible asserts that, in "the two places it has done that, in southern Lebanon and Gaza, the result has been disastrous. [Israel] was subject to thousands of rocket attacks from southern Lebanon until it went to war with Hezbollah and now every day Qassam rockets are fired from Gaza at nearby Israeli civilian towns..."

First, let's clarify what he's saying about Lebanon: that in the years between Israel's forced withdrawal from south Lebanon in 2000 and its 2006 rampage, "thousands" of rockets had rained down on Israel. Not so, I'm afraid. According to Hezbollah expert, Professor Augustus Richard Norton of Boston University, "Generally...this six-year period was a relatively quiet, peaceful time by historical standards, and this was frequently commented on by Israeli officials prior to the summer of 2006. The more serious clashes tended to occur in the Shebaa area of the occupied Golan Heights...Hezbollah also began firing Katyusha rockets, mostly into the occupied Golan Heights, with a few episodes of Katyusha firings into Israel proper as well. Although several dozen incidents occurred over the last 6 years, in almost every case, according to Israeli sources, the culprits were Palestinian fedayeen, not Hezbollah." [Hezbollah, p 91-92]

Second, Gaza: neither the infinitely greater and more lethal rain of Israeli shells and missiles on Gaza, nor the Hamas Government's cease-fire offers comes within Gullible's blinkered purview. Israeli dissident, Uri Avnery has written, "If the Qassams were really bothering our political and military leaders, they would have jumped at the [December 07 Hamas] cease-fire offer. But the leaders don't really care about what's happening to the Sderot population, out on the geographical and political 'periphery', far from the centre of the country. It carries no political or economic weight. In the eyes of the leadership, its suffering is, all in all, tolerable. It also has an important positive side: it provides an ideal pretext for the actions of the army. The Israeli strategic aim in Gaza is not to put an end to the Qassams. It would still be the same if not a single Qassam fell on Israel. The real aim is to break the Palestinians, which means breaking Hamas." [Help! A Cease-fire! 22/12/07]

Despite spending "days driving up and down the West Bank" and visiting "as many Jewish settlements as I could," Gullible was unable to find even one "belligerently bearded Jew with a knit skullcap on his head, a Bible in one hand and a rifle in the other," concluding that Israeli settlers are unfairly stereotyped. While the stereotype exists, he believes, "they are a minority." "The settlers I met lived where they did...mainly [because of] the lower cost of housing, the communal lifestyle and educational opportunities and sometimes because of a desire to be connected to biblical lands." Just regular guys it seems, nary a fanatic among them - except that their presence on occupied Palestinian land is in violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention and makes a mockery of the concept of a viable and contiguous Palestinian state.

Of Israeli settlements in occupied East Jerusalem, Gullible avers that "no Israeli government will give up central suburbs such as Har Homa and Gilot [sic: Gilo]." Too risky! "For an Australian it is almost impossible to imagine the smallness of the distances involved. Gilot was routinely fired on by snipers in Bethlehem several years ago...[which] is like Sydney's Surry Hills being fired on by Redfern..."

Ahem! Let's take a closer at these fearsome "snipers." Palestinian pastor, Mitri Rihab, writing of the period October/November 2000 in his 2004 book, Bethlehem Besieged, says, "It was becoming routine that in the night, a few armed young Palestinian men would appear in the outskirts of town and fire a few bullet rounds at a Jewish settlement that wasn't even in the range of their fire. What they were doing made no sense to the majority of the population, since the shooting had no political reason or justification. Most of Bethlehem's residents were against these acts, and many viewed the young men as potential criminals or gang members who thought of themselves as some kind of Palestinian Rambos. Not only was it impossible for the bullets to reach the other side, but the Israeli soldiers used the shooting as justification to fire back with heavy artillery on the civilian neighbourhoods." [p 95-96] And that is why Gilot cannot be given up!

Gullible concludes predictably with the traditional Zionist shrug: If only the Arabs/Palestinians would give peace a chance, then "compromise on borders might be possible." Alas, "too many Arab...and Palestinian leaders are playing for the long-term and still believe that in time they will wipe Israel off the map."

In reality, of course, is that the Zionist movement has always played for the long-term and has almost succeeded in wiping Palestine off the map.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Working Out the Mechanics of Our Relationship

The Israel lobby in Australia has chalked up its first victory with the Rudd Government. In The Australian Jewish News (AJN) of 7/12/07, Robert Goot, president of the Executive Council of Australian Jewry (ECAJ), was reported to have "spoken with representatives from the Department of Foreign Affairs & Trade and hopes to meet [Australian Foreign Affairs Minister Stephen] Smith as soon as possible. Goot said he would like to ask Smith about ways to prevent anti-Semitism at the World Conference Against Racism [WCAR] in Durban in 2009, and 'to work out the mechanics of our relationship in the future'."

In the AJN of 18/1/08, we read that "The Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council (AIJAC) has praised the Rudd Government and its UN ambassador for voting against funding for the so-called UN Durban Review Conference, or 'Durban II'." AIJAC's Dr Colin Rubenstein griped that the WCAR held in 2001 "was hijacked and turned into a caricature of the very forces it was supposed to combat, even reviving the old canard that Zionism equals racism." He "commended" the Rudd Government for what he called its "principled stance."

41 (to 93) states, all European (apart from the US, Australia, Canada, Republic of Korea & Turkey - Israel does not vote on Shabbat) voted against funding Durban II. The US ambassador to the UN, Mark Wallace, even went on to vote "alone against the UN 2008-09 regular budget because money for hatemongering had been included." [www.eyeontheun.org Amusingly, Wallace is described on this neocon Hudson Institute website as "US Representative for United Nations Management & Reform."]

Let's get back to basics here. As Uri Davis, Israeli anti-Zionist activist and author, points out in his seminal 2003 work, Apartheid Israel: Possibilities for the Struggle Within, political Zionism is a political programme committed to the notion that it is a good idea to establish and consolidate in the country of Palestine a sovereign, Jewish state that attempts to guarantee in law (eg Absentees Property Law 1950) and in practice (via the mass expulsion of its indigenous Palestinian Arab people in 1948) a demographic majority of the Jewish tribes in the territories under its control, in other words a form of apartheid. Because, unlike western democratic political programmes, Zionism is not predicated on the principle of the separation of religion and tribalism from the state and violates the values enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and the standards of international law, it is a form of racism. The Israel lobby, of course, seeks always to blur the fundamental distinction between Judaism (a confessional statement belonging to the private realm of the individual) and Zionism (a political programme), and routinely smears anti-Zionism by linking it with anti-Semitism.

The Rudd Government's vote on Durban II cannot, therefore, be described as "principled," since Israel, as a Jewish state, is incompatible with the principles enshrined in the UDHR. Australia's vote is, in fact, a vote for racism and apartheid.

At the 2001 WCAR, most participants (but not Australia) supported a resolution equating Zionism with racism, prompting a walkout by Israel and the US. The final text of the resolution, while recognising the Palestinians' right to self-determination and expressing concern at their plight under foreign occupation, drops all criticism of Israel. The parallel WCAR NGO Forum, however, stuck with the original resolution, declaring Israel a "racist, apartheid state," and calling for the imposition of "a policy of complete and total isolation of Israel as an apartheid state as in the case of South Africa, which means the imposition of mandatory and comprehensive sanctions and embargoes, the full cessation of all links (diplomatic, economic, social, aid, military cooperation and training) between all states and Israel." [http://www.badil.org/e-library/NGO-excerpts.htm]

You can now see why the Israel lobby in Australia is busy "working out the mechanics of [its] relationship" with the Rudd Government.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Believe Nothing

January 08: The Strait of Hormuz. Innocent American warships just minding their own business buzzed by provocative Iranian speedboats from which emanates sinister voice warning of impending doom?

Nah! Just the Pentagon getting creative. You can read all about it in How the Pentagon Planted a False Story by Gareth Porter, Inter Press Service 16/1/08.

But what about this little scenario?:

September 07: Dayr az-Zawr, Syria. Daring Israeli commandos snatch nuclear material dripping with North Korean fingerprints from under noses of (presumably somnolent) Syrian/North Korean guards at Syrian/North Korean nuclear installation?

Nah! Just the same (?) US officials getting creative.

This little fable first appeared in Murdoch 's UK The Sunday Times and was immediately taken up by The Australian's man in Jerusalem, Abraham Rabinovich in 'N Korea samples' at Syrian nuke site, 24/9/07. You can read all about it in Shooting Blanks by John Dagge at http://www.syria-today.com/

PS: I can't resist tacking on the final paragraph of Rabinovich's fable, sorry, story: "In another incident on Thursday, Israeli fighter jets were dispatched to the northern Golan Heights, along the border with Syria, when 'suspicious activity' was reported in the area. It was discovered later that the objects in the air were migrating birds."

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Propaganda v Self-censorship

The Australian's editorials on Palestine-Israel are a bottomless pit of Zionist mythology and propaganda. In Two-state solution is worth the effort: Palestinian allies must not stymie the peace process (14/1/08), the editorialist spins the proverbial sow's ear of Bush's recent gigs in Jerusalem and Ramallah into the silk purse of a serious attempt to create a "viable, contiguous, sovereign and independent" Palestinian state. Amid his pigs-will-fly persiflage, he embeds the following Zionist myths, lies, misrepresentations and errors: "In 2000, after the Clinton administration brokered an agreement in which then Israeli prime minister, Ehud Barak offered a deal that would have set up an independent state in all of Gaza and 90% of the West Bank, PLO leader Yasser Arafat rejected the offer and Palestinians responded by launching a 4-year suicide-bombing campaign, targeting Israeli civilians. When Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005, Hamas launched a bombing campaign on Israel and a brutal takeover of the territory, with the Iranian-backed Hezbollah later attacking Israel from Lebanon in 2005."


The myth of Barak's 'generous offer' is staple fare for The Australian (and the mainstream media in general), recycled ad nauseam over the years on the basis of Goebbel's formula: "If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it."

Mearsheimer & Walt's indispensable The Israel Lobby & US Foreign Policy (2007), offers just one of the many scholarly refutations of this nonsense. Under the heading, Camp David Myths (pp103-107), they write: "According to this story [ie the portrayal of Israel as primed for peace and the Palestinians as bent on war], Prime Minister Barak offered the Palestinians 'almost everything' they wanted at Camp David...But Arafat, still determined to derail the peace process and eventually destroy Israel, rejected this generous offer and instead launched the Second Intifada...There is only one problem with this widely held version of events: it is not correct...the terms [Barak] offered them at Camp David were far from generous."

Mearsheimer & Walt point out that: a) The Palestinians were offered immediate control of Gaza b) Eventual control of 91% of the West Bank c) Minus 10% of the West Bank in the form of the Jordan Valley, which Israel would hang on to for 6-21 years, leaving the Palestinians with immediate control over only 81% of the West Bank d) Minus a further 5%, owing to Israel's more reductive definition of what actually constituted the West Bank. That is, the Palestinians were effectively offered only 76% of the West Bank, and this despite "the fact that they had already agreed in the 1993 Oslo Accords to recognize Israeli sovereignty over 78% of the original British Mandate [of Palestine]. From their perspective, they were now being asked to make another concession and accept at best 86% of the remaining 22%."

Nor were the Palestinians to get a) a contiguous state b) sovereignty over occupied Arab East Jerusalem c) control over borders, airspace or water resources. In addition, they would be denied the right to form an army.

"Given all this," Mearsheimer & Walt conclude, "it is not surprising that Barak's former foreign minister, Shlomo Ben-Ami, who was a key participant at Camp David, later told an interviewer, 'If I were a Palestinian I would have rejected Camp David as well'."[Mearsheimer & Walt's account unfortunately omits to mention Israel's refusal to repatriate or compensate Palestine's 1948 and 1967 refugees.]

As for the origins of the Second Intifada, Mearsheimer & Walt write that "The common claim that Arafat launched the Second Intifada in...2000...does not stand up to evidence either...The former head of Shin Bet, Ami Ayalon, has stated that 'Arafat neither prepared nor triggered the Intifada'...[Shlomo] Ben-Ami is exactly right that the Second Intifada 'did not start merely as a tactical move. It erupted out of the accumulated rage and frustration of the Palestinian masses at the colossal failure of the peace process since the early days of Oslo to offer them a life of dignity and well-being, and at the incompetence and corruption of their own leaders in the Palestinian Authority'."

Lies & Misrepresentations

"When Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005, Hamas launched a bombing campaign on Israel..." asserts the editorialist.

In fact Hamas observed a unilateral 'temporary hudnah' or tahdi'ah (calming) from March 2005 until an Israeli shell pulped a Palestinian family enjoying a picnic on a Gaza beach in June 2006. While the Palestinians both offered, and unilaterally observed, truces/ceasefires on a number of occasions since the outbreak of the Intifada, for the Israeli killing machine it was always just business as usual.

Then there's the assertion that "Iranian-backed Hezbollah attacked Israel from Lebanon in 2005." Zionist propaganda typically misrepresents both Hamas and Hezbollah as mere puppets of Iran/Syria, because to acknowledge them as indigenous, essentially nationalist reactions to Israeli aggression and occupation would be to shift the focus of responsibility for their existence and behaviour onto Israel. Notice too how Israel, which is funded by the US to the tune of $3 billion in direct foreign assistance per year, is never routinely described as 'American-backed'. Then there's the characterization of Hezbollah's limited hostage taking raid, which provided Israel with the pretext to launch its own premeditated aggression on Lebanon, as a general 'attack' on Israel. And finally, there's the straight factual inaccuracy of claiming that this took place in 2005, instead of 2006.

The Sydney Morning Herald's editorial of the same day, Ambushed in the Levant, thankfully manages to avoid the above, and even contains some meat: "Israel refuses to return to its pre-1967 borders, as required by United Nations resolutions, insists it will hold onto all of Jerusalem, and is determined to deny the right of return to Palestinians uprooted from their lands when Israel was created in 1948."

Those words, however, are prefaced (and compromised) by the following inanity: "[Olmert and Abbas] have not budged from their entrenched positions."

While Israel's intransigence is clearly referenced, the editorialist cites no such intransigence on the Palestinian side. The nonsensical notion that there is some kind of balance of intransigence here is sadly typical of the Fairfax press, and suggests a reflexive deference, honed by pressure from the Israel lobby, to the empirically false idea that, despite mountains of evidence to the contrary, both sides are somehow equivalent. Forthrightly acknowledging that Israel to Palestine is as hammer to anvil is to invite flak from lobby hacks, so Fairfax invariably takes the line of least resistance, indefensible assertions notwithstanding.

The Herald editorial is further marred by the following unbelievably coy reference: "It is to be hoped that future US leaders put a premium on trying to resolve regional conflicts earlier in their terms, and are braver in staring down powerful domestic lobby groups that erode their ability to act as credible honest brokers." Which "regional conflicts"? What "lobby groups"? The Herald editorialist simply cannot name names. He's loud in urging future US presidents to 'stare down' the lobby whose name he dares not speak, but can barely emit a squeak when it comes to naming the bugger himself.

It takes a Mearsheimer & Walt to spell it out: "Once again, as the presidential campaign season gets underway, the leading candidates are going to enormous lengths to demonstrate their devotion to the state of Israel and their steadfast commitment to its 'special relationship' with the United States.

"Each of the main contenders emphatically favors giving Israel extraordinary material and diplomatic support - continuing the more than $3 billion in foreign aid each year to a country whose per capita income is now 29th in the world. They also believe that this aid should be given unconditionally. None of them criticizes Israel's conduct, even when its actions threaten US interests, are at odds with American values or even when they are harmful to Israel itself. In short, the candidates believe that the US should support Israel no matter what it does.

"Such pandering is hardly surprising, because contenders for high office routinely court special interest groups, and Israel's staunchest supporters - the Israel lobby, as we have termed it - expect it. Politicians do not want to offend Jewish Americans or 'Christian Zionists', two groups that are deeply engaged in the political process. Candidates fear, with some justification, that even well-intentioned criticism of Israel's policies may lead these groups to turn against them and back their opponents instead...

"...they fear that speaking the truth would incur the wrath of the hard-liners who dominate the main organizations in the Israel lobby. So Israel will end up controlling Gaza and the West Bank for the forseeable future, turning itself into an apartheid state in the process." [Israel's false friends, Los Angeles Times, 6/1/08]

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Palestine: Somewhere Over the Rainbow

Bush in Israel: the intersection of a man, whose only possible defence against indictment as a war criminal could be that of diminished responsibility (as Washington's resident Village Idiot), with a political entity, whose only possible psychiatric diagnosis could be that of narcissistic personality disorder, an affliction characterised by high risk-taking, didain of others, general obliviousness to the consequences of one's own actions, and feelings of victimhood, despite the fact that it is the sufferer's own behaviour that causes the events that upset him.

The Prez stayed in a $2900-a-night hotel in Jerusalem's most expensive hotel in occupied East Jerusalem. "The Jerusalem City Council decided to enhance Mr Bush's vista by turning off the perimeter lights, allowing the Old City to be bathed in natural moonlight." [The Australian 10/1/08] Outside the official Jerusalem residence of Israeli President Shimon Peres, he was greeted by "a line of children waving US and Israeli flags" who sang "what sounded like a club remix version of the celebratory folk song 'Hava Nagilah'," while inside, as a choir crooned in the background, "a young girl appeared and sang 'Over the Rainbow' in Hebrew and English," before handing the Prez (and Peres) "a red rose." This was followed by a dance troupe. [Bush blushes on Mideast arrival 9/1/08, worldblog.msnbc.com]

Later, the Prez was to receive from his "personal friend and confidant," Israeli PM Ehud Olmert (described by Bush as "a man of strength") the following gift: "a global positioning system for the handlebars [of his bike], loaded with the trails on his Texas ranch and riding paths in Israel." When it's turned on, "the American and Israeli flags appear, and the sentence: 'To my friend George Bush, from one athlete to another, happy trails'. " [Bush begins peace effort bonded with Olmert, The New York Times 10/1/08]

And that was the substance.

In Ramallah, where "hundreds of US flags to welcome Mr Bush were strung to street lamps only in the hours before his visit here, for fear that they would be pulled down or burned by locals," and "residents within vantage point of the motorcade, or presidential compound, were placed under virtual curfew for the duration of the visit and none was allowed near their balcony [The Australian 11/1/08]," the Prez mouthed platitudes about a "viable, contiguous, sovereign, and independent" Palestine, despite Olmert's prior refusal "to commit Israel to stop building new Jewish settlements in occupied East Jerusalem or expanding Jewish 'population centres' in the West Bank." [SMH 11/1/08]

In the spirit of 'keeping it real', and as an antidote to what you've just read, here's a little poem by Arab-American poet, Gihad Ali, as relevant today as it was in 2004 when it was written. It's called Eye to Eye:

Look into my eyes/And tell me what you see./You don't see a damn thing,/'cause you can't possibly relate to me.

You're blinded by our differences./My life makes no sense to you./I'm the persecuted Palestinian. You're the American, red, white and blue.

Each day you wake in tranquility,/No fears to cross your eyes./Each day I wake in gratitude,/Thanking God he let me rise.

You worry about your education/And the bills you have to pay./I worry about my vulnerable life/And if I'll survive another day.

Your biggest fear is getting ticketed/As you cruise your cadillac./My fear is that the tank that just left/Will turn around and come back.

American, do you realise,/That the taxes that you pay/Feed the forces that traumatize/My every living day?

The bulldozers and the tanks,/The gases and the guns,/The bombs that fall outside my door,/All due to American funds.

Yet do you know the truth/Of where your money goes?/Do you let your media deceive your mind?/Is this a truth that no one knows?

You blame me for defending myself/Against the ways of Zionists./I'm terrorized in my own land/And I'm the terrorist?

You think you know all about terrorism/But you don't know it the way I do,/So let me define the term for you,/And teach you what you thought you knew.

I've known terrorism for quite some time,/ 55 years and more./It's the fruitless garden uprooted in my yard./It's the bulldozer in front of my door.

Terrorism breathes the air I breathe./It's the checkpoint on my way to school./It's the curfew that jails me in my own home./And the penalties of breaking that curfew rule.

Terrorism is the theft of my land,/And the torture of my mother,/The imprisonment of my innocent father,/The bullet in my baby brother.

So American, don't tell me you know about/The things I feel and see./I'm terrorized in my own land/And the blame is put on me.

But I will not rest, I shall never settle/For the injustice my people endure./Palestine is our land and there we'll remain/Until the day our homeland is secure.

And if that time shall never come,/Then we will never see a day of peace./I will not be thrown from my own home,/Nor will my fight for justice cease.

And if I am killed, it will be in Falasteen./It's written on my every breath./So in your own patriotic words,/Give me liberty or give me death.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Dominating Public Discourse: SBS/AIJAC News

Overheard on SBS 6:30 pm World News Australia bulletin, 9/1/08: SBS newsreader, Anton Enus, interviewing a Kadima MK about Bush's visit to Israel: "What about those settlements that are still being built in the disputed areas?"

"Disputed areas"? Enus means the Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories, in particular the West Bank. The West Bank has been under Israeli military occupation since it was seized by Israeli forces in 1967. It is the longest military occupation of our time. As to its status: "The UN Security Council, the High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention, and the International Committee of the Red Cross, have each resolved that the [Palestinian] territories...are occupied...[but] The Government of Israel in its public statements and many of Israel's citizens and supporters dispute that the territories are occupied and...argue it is more accurate to refer to the territories as "disputed" rather than "occupied..." [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Israeli-occupied_territories]

Why have SBS (as well as the ABC) chosen to ignore the reality of international law in favour of toeing the official Israeli line?

This incredible state of affairs is the fruit of a campaign waged against SBS (and the ABC) by the most militant component of Australia's Israel lobby, the Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council (AIJAC). Blogger and freelance journalist, Antony Loewenstein, has described this campaign in his 2006 book, My Israel Question:

"In October 2003 AIJAC released a report alleging systematic bias at SBS news and current affairs in relation to the Israel-Palestine conflict...It also objects to SBS calling the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem 'occupied Palestinian land'. Why? According to the report, 'It is indisputably the case that this land has never previously been under the sovereignty of either the Palestinian people or a state called Palestine, nor is there any legally binding UN decision or international treaty that says it should be'....I submitted a freedom of information request to SBS requesting all documentation related to Middle East programs between 2001 and 2003. I eventually received a bundle of documents that confirmed my suspicions: the vast majority of 29 letters of complaint submitted to SBS news and current affairs management about Middle East coverage were from AIJAC's Colin Rubenstein or other AIJAC staff, and all fit a similar pattern." [pp 192-195]

As the redoubtable Mearsheimer & Walt point out in their 2007 blockbuster, The Israel Lobby & US Foreign Policy, "Pro-Israel forces are well aware that dominating discussions about the Jewish state is essential to their agenda. These efforts do not always succeed, of course, but are still remarkably effective." [p 168]

Just how effective was apparent on SBS' 6:30 news on Wednesday night.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Ed v Abraham

While mainstream news reports on Palestine/Israel are not as amenable to pro-Israel propaganda as mainstream opinion pieces, the inclusion or omission of vital contextual information can certainly be used to reveal or conceal the true nature of this settler- colonial conflict.

It's worth contrasting how the Fairfax and Murdoch press report the same events.

In Bush to land in Israel as Annapolis hopes fade, 8/1/08, the Sydney Morning Herald's (and Melbourne's The Age) correspondent in Jerusalem, Ed O'Loughlin, opens with, "The US President, George Bush, is due to land in Tel Aviv tomorrow for his first presidential visit to Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories..." The key contextualising word here is "occupied." If we didn't already know it, the 'o' word informs the reader that the Palestinian territories are under Israeli military occupation, with all that that implies in terms of international law (occupations are illegal), the balance of opposing forces in the Palestinian territories (grossly assymetrical), and the nature of those forces (occupiers v resistance fighters).

In Israel lacking proof on nukes, 8/1/08, The Australian's Abraham Rabinovich merely has Bush visiting "Israel and the Palestinian Authority..." No contextualising 'o' word, just two sides, falsely implying a symmetrical balance of forces.

O'Loughlin describes the Palestinian Authority as a "rump Palestinian Authority in the Israeli-occupied West Bank." This tells us that the PA is a lesser entity than we might otherwise assume from Rabinovich's failure to use such a qualifier.

O'Loughlin explains the PA's beef thus: "The Palestinians are angered by Israel's announcement in the immediate aftermath of Annapolis of plans to extend several big Jewish settlements in the West Bank, contrary to international law, rather than honouring its committments to curb settlement growth..." And so we learn that Israel, the occupying power, is further violating international law by building settlements on occupied Palestinian land. O'Loughlin even refers in his report to "West Bank colonies."

Rabinovich explains the fly in the ointment as "The escalating confrontation between Israel and Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip [which] has soured the atmosphere" and reports that "Mr Olmert said Israel would step up its attacks in response to the rocket salvos from Gaza." No illegal Israeli settlement expansion in the occupied West Bank, just Israeli armed forces understandably retaliating against a prior Palestinian aggression emanating from the Gaza Strip. No hint that the Hamas Government there had proposed a cease-fire in December which would have ended the "rocket salvos" in return for an end to Israel's military incursions into the Strip and its 'targeted' assassinations of Palestinian leaders. And no hint that this was rejected out of hand by Israel. Seemingly as an afterthought, Rabinovich eventually gets around to mentioning Bush's expectation that "Israel live up to its pledge to dismantle illegal settlement outposts in the west Bank..." Oh, so only "settlement outposts" are illegal, not settlements as such?

And that's all from Rabinovich, except to point out that his first 6 paragraphs are on Israel's current bogey, Iran, and the last 2 on that old standby, al-Qa'ida. Poor little Israel - as if those nasty Palestinian "rocket salvos" weren't bad enough. Sheesh, what a neighbourhood!

But there's more from O'Loughlin: there's the "scores" of Palestinians "arrested or wounded" by "last week's Israeli security operation in the West Bank city of Nablus..."; and there's Israel's peculiar idea of a Palestinian state- "no military forces," "limited independence," Israeli "control of its borders, air space and the Jordan Valley," and "Israeli security forces continuing to enjoy a free hand to operate in Palestinian areas."

Clearly, where O'Loughlin reveals, Rabinovich conceals. Sadly, the former may not be with us much longer.

Federal Labor's 'Minister for Israel', Michael Danby, has written in The Australian Jewish News [14/9/07] that "Like many people, I have given up subscribing to The Age because of its primitive coverage of the Middle East. Getting angry over breakfast spoils my day. Fortunately, other people make it their business to monitor O'Loughlin's writing and expose his errors of fact and interpretation."

According to the same edition of The Australian Jewish News, O'Loughlin was going to be replaced as Middle East correspondent at the end of 2007 by Jason Koutsoukis, The Sunday Age's Canberra correspondent. The grooming of Koutsoukis had, it seemed, already begun, with a "briefing" by the Israeli ambassador, and a "meeting" with "various Jewish communal groups." "There are two sides to every story," Koutsoukis was quoted as saying, "and I think we've got to tell both sides. Perhaps we've only been telling one side. That's been some of the concerns expressed to me by Jewish community leaders so far."

Sounds ominous. Still, as I write, Ed remains with us. We live in hope.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Educating Condi

Remember Willy Russell's wonderful 1980 play, Educating Rita, and the movie based on it, starring Michael Caine as the pissed and pissed-off professor, Dr Frank Bryant, who is assigned the job of giving beautician, Rita, played by Julie Walters, the education she craves?

Remember when he tells her at one point that he'd have to "bugger the bursar" in order to be dismissed from his university post?

Talk about life imitating art:-

It seems that the undoubtedly pissed-off (and possibly pissed) editor of the Israeli daily, Haaretz, David Landau, informed US Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, at a September 10 briefing in Israel last year, that the US would have to "rape Israel" to bring about a peace settlement with the Palestinians. [http://www.thejewishweek.com/viewArticle/c41_a1531/News/Short_Takes.html]

But is Rice educable?

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Hue & Cry on the Letters Page

Factual references to Palestine or Palestinians in the letters pages of the mainstream press inevitably elicit a fierce baying from a pack of dedicated Zionist media hounds.

Their latest hue and cry, in The Australian of January 4, was occasioned by a January 3 letter by Bob Birch (Smiths Lake, NSW) on the subject of David Hicks. Responding to a call by a previous letter writer (Henry Geelhoed, 29/12/07) for the cancellation of Hicks' (and anyone else's) citizenship for fighting other peoples' wars, Bob relevantly observed, "Curiously, he omits to mention those Australians of Jewish descent who have served in Israel's wars with its Arab neighbours, and who continue to serve in the Israel Defence Force's oppression of the indigenous inhabitants of Israel/Palestine."

Well, Bob's letter set off the pro-Israel pack something terrible. Leading the charge was Vic Alhadeff (CEO, NSW Jewish Board of Deputies, Darlinghurst NSW). Vic took umbrage at Bob's "swipe" at the IDF, which he defended as an outfit "obliged to respond to the ominous threat of terrorism [which it did] in accordance with international law." Well, no. Israeli human rights monitor, B'Tselem's 2002 report, Trigger Happy - Unjustified Gunfire and the IDF's Open-Fire Regulations during the al-Aqsa Intifada , for one, suggests otherwise.

Vic also took exception to Bob's reference to the Palestinians as the "indigenous inhabitants of Israel/Palestine." The real indigenes, he asserted, "are Jews; they have been there for 3800 years." Well, yes and no, Vic, the Devil is, as always, in the detail. Consider Palestinian scholar, Nur Masalha's reference to same: "[I]t would not be unreasonable to argue that the modern Palestinians are more likely to be the descendents of the ancient Israelites (and Canaanites) than Ashkenazi Jews, many of whom were European converts to Judaism. Certainly historically...many of the original Jewish inhabitants of ancient Palestine had remained in the country but had accepted Christianity and Islam many generations later." [The Bible & Zionism: Invented Traditions, Archaeology & Post Colonialism in Palestine-Israel, Verso, 2007, p 253]

In any event, such 'We've been around longer than you lot' talk cannot gainsay the fact that the Palestinians, now a minority in Palestine-Israel, were there well before the Zionist colonial project, resulting in what is now Israel, expelled them beyond the borders of historic Palestine.

Peter Cohen (Ormond, Vic) was also there, snapping at Bob's heels, but to some comic effect: so outraged was Peter, as his fingers fairly flew over the keyboard, that he wrote, "Henry Geelhoed (29-30/12) tells us that Israel attacks the 'indigenous inhabitants' of Palestine," oblivious of the fact that it was really Bob Birch, not Henry Geelhoed (the gent to whom Bob had responded), who was his intended target. Alas, poor Henry. So reactive, so blood-to-the-head, are these Zionist attack dogs that collateral damage, a specialty of the trigger happy IDF, is bound to result.

Of course, for Peter, as for Vic, Palestine's "indigenous inhabitants" could only be Jews, or at least "the descendents of Jews whose families remained in Israel after the Roman revolt..." "The Roman revolt"? Goodness, more comedy? Surely he means the Jewish Revolt against the Romans (66-70 AD), the one that resulted in the destruction of the Temple at Jerusalem.

Then there's his final paragraph: "And don't forget the half of Israel descended from nearly a million Jews who fled from other Arab lands, and the Christians, Baha'i and others who also found refuge in the democratic State of Israel." Peter's a laugh a minute. "A million Jews who fled...other Arab lands"? I dealt in my first post, below, with the issue of "Jews who fled Arab lands" - in reality Arab Jews, numbering some 500,000, who emigrated to Israel following Zionist efforts to uproot them. "Christians, Baha'i...who found refuge in...Israel"? God only knows what Christians he's on about, surely not indigenous Palestinian Christians? And as for Baha'is, www.bci.org/boise/persecut points out that some Baha'is were exiled in the 1860s to Ottoman Palestine, where their leader, Baha'u'llah, "established the world centers of the new religion in Akka and Haifa long before the establishment of the State of Israel."

Finally, the yappiest of them all: Michael Burd, without whose snarl no letters page of The Australian is complete. Michael asked Bob "to look at the world map and see all the conflicts involving David Hicks' mates: apart from Palestine, none has anything to do with Israel or the Jews."

Ah Michael, you really should pick up a copy of Israeli scholar, Benjamin Beit-Hallahmi's The Israeli Connection: Whom Israel Arms & Why, I.B. Tauris, 1988, p xii: "Mention any trouble spot in the Third World over the past 10 years, and, inevitably, you will find smiling Israeli officers and shiny Israeli weapons on the news pages. The images have become familiar: the Uzi submachine gun or the Galil assault rifle, with Israeli officers named Uzi and Galil, or Golan, for good measure. We have seen them in South Africa, Iran, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, Namibia, Taiwan, Indonesia, the Philippines, Chile, Bolivia, and many other places from Seoul To Tegucigalpa, from Walvis bay to Guatemala City, from Taipei to Port-au-Prince, Israeli civilians and military men have been helping, in their own words, in 'the defence of the West'."

That was then. What about now? Here's just a glimpse:1) "...the leaders of the nationalist Hindu Indian People's party (BJP) decided in 1999, after a fresh wave of bloody clashes with Kashmiri guerillas.., to call on Israeli expertise to help quell the guerilla war in Kashmir...Israel is now India's second-largest arms supplier after Russia." [Sharon and Vajpayee see eye to eye in war on terror, The Guardian Weekly, 18/9/03] 2) "Israeli intelligence and military operatives were, by mid-2004, quietly at work in Kurdistan, providing training for Kurdish commando units and...running covert operations inside Kurdish areas of Iran and Syria. The Israeli operatives include members of the Mossad...who work under cover in Kurdistan as businessmen..." [Chain of Command: The Road from 9/11 to Abu Ghraib, Seymour Hersh, Allen Lane, 2004, p 353] 3) "New allegations that Israeli arms dealers helped the army of Ivory Coast attack a French military base look likely to reignite long-tense relations between Israel and France." [Analysis: Israel hand seen in Ivorian clash, World Peace Herald, 17/11/04] 4) "Israel has passed Britain to become the world's fourth largest weapons exporter." [Defense Min: Israel now world's fourth largest weapons exporter, Haaretz, 9/12/07].