Friday, February 29, 2008

Ahmadinejad: Our Part in His Downfall

In December last year I drew attention to what must surely have been the loopiest of pre-election promises by any Australian politician: then Oppostion Leader, Kevin Rudd's promise to charge Iran's President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad under the Genocide Convention." (See my post, Testing Time for Rudd)

This bizarre promise surfaced in the context of electioneering in the Sydney seat of Wentworth, held by Howard Government minister, Malcolm Turnbull. Wentworth has the largest number of Jewish voters in Australia, and Turnbull, although not Jewish, was as reflexively supportive of Israel as any of Howard's ministers. How was Rudd to get around this? Maybe it's not enough to have your candidate (George Newhouse) both Jewish and Zionist, so why not outbid Turnbull for the Israel vote by...targeting Israel's current bete noire, Ahmadinijad? At least, that is what I imagine happened. Prior to uttering The Promise, however, it was all pretty much shadow boxing:-

The Australian Jewish News had informed its readers back in December 2006: "Likud leader [and former Israeli PM] Binyamin Netanyahu and a group of top American and Canadian lawyers are spearheading an international bid to indict Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad for genocide at the International Court of Justice at The Hague. 'We must cry 'gevalt' before the entire world', Netanyahu said. 'In 1938, Hitler didn't say he wanted to destroy [the Jews]; Ahmadinejad is saying clearly that this is his intention, and we aren't even shouting. At least call it a crime against humanity. We must make the world see that the issue here is a program for genocide'. Concurrently - and in coordination with Netanyahu - a group of top legal experts met in New York to claim that Ahmadinejad's incitement against Jews violates the 1948 UN Convention on the Prevention of the Crime of Genocide, speakers said...'We will try the law. We will try politics. We will try everything', said Alan Dershowitz, a prominent attorney and professor at Harvard Law School [& defender of OJ Simpson & Zionist propagandist extraordinaire (The Case for Israel) & torture advocate]. 'But if they fail, we will use self-defence'. In addition to seeking an indictment of Ahmadinejad in the International Criminal Court, Professor Dershowitz disclosed that he and Irwin Cotler, a Canadian legislator and prominent human-rights lawyer [& Chief Council of the Canadian Jewish Congress, aka Canada's Israel lobby], were preparing a brief to justify military pre-emption if legal efforts don't work." ('Indict Ahmadinejad for genocide', 22/12/06)

Then, quite coincidentally and entirely off his own bat, Shadow Foreign Affairs Minister (now attorney general) Robert McClelland told the Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council (AIJAC) that: "Labor wants Australia to lead a push to have the United Nations Security Council refer the Iranian leader to the International Court of Justice over his statements about 'wiping Israel off the map' and denying the Holocaust. He said a charge of incitement against Ahmadinejad would 'move the international legal system from punishing genocide post-facto to preventing it before it occurs'. Secondly, it would seriously undermine Ahmadinejad's international legitimacy and his standing at home. The preparation of formal changes [sic] and the process of hearing would require Ahmadinejad to justify his inflammatory and destabilising posturing and rhetoric', he said." (Charge Iranian president with inciting genocide - Labor minister, The Australian Jewish News, 9/3/07)

That same month, Melbourne Ports Labor MP Michael Danby tried to table a motion calling on the Howard Government "to bring Ahmadinejad to account through the United Nations and International Court of Justice over his calls for the destruction of the Jewish State," but alas "another motion criticising the recent political violence in Zimbabwe got the nod ahead of Iran on the agenda." (Danby's Iran motion stalled, AJN, 30/3/07) Danby was no more successful in September "because a full schedule meant that Indi MP Sophie Mirabella's motion calling for the release of 3 Israeli hostages took precedence..." Talk about in on the act! Way to go, Sophie! And then, rain, in form of the federal election of 07, stopped play.

The Australian House of Representatives may have given Danby the brushoff, but its US counterpart was taking the matter much more seriously, voting in June 2007 by 411-2 votes to "implore" the UNSC to charge Ahmadinejad with violating the Genocide Convention. A piece by former Israeli ambassador to the UN and president of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, Dore Gold in The Jerusalem Post (21/6/07) describes how the campaign to get Ahmadinejad was hatched by Dershowitz, Cotler, John Bolton (outgoing US ambassador to the UN, and American Enterprise Institute neoconman), and an Israeli legal team at a December 14, 2006 meeting sponsored by the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations and the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs at the offices of the New York Bar Association. Gold also tells how two British MPs invited Netanyahu, Dershowitz, Cotler and the aforementioned Israeli legal team to address the House of Commons; how, by June 2007 69 British MPs had signed up to "urge" the Blair Government to table a resolution at the UNSC demanding Ahmadinejad be tried for incitement to commit genocide; how, on March 5 2007, shadow minister McClelland, even quicker off the mark than the Brits, had called on the UNSC to do the same; how, in April 2007, the Canadian Parliament's Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on International Rights adopted the same motion; and how half a dozen US states were divesting from companies doing business in Iran.

Gold's final paragraph is most revealing: "For years, Iran and its allies have tried to systematically delegitimize the State of Israel through fictitious charges about 'Israeli war crimes'. The time has come for Israel to counter with a campaign of its own, which unlike the accusations of its adversaries, is firmly grounded in international law and a growing consensus of increasingly significant international opinion." There you have it: Israel has never committed war crimes, all allegations of same are pure fiction authored by "Iran and its allies" (including Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, B'tselem?), we're not gonna take it no more, and we're hitting back with one helluva PR campaign against the current Hitlerian scourge (no, worse!), Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Even though Rudd had foolishly turned the Netanyahu/Dershowitz/ Cotler/Bolton/McClelland/ Danby folie a six into an election promise, I concluded my earlier post thus: "Sheer madness of course, but will Rudd have the ticker to buck a promise to the Israel lobby he should never have made in the first place?"

Newspaper says...'No' - if the Sydney Morning Herald report, Caution at Iranian overtures (Jonathan Pearlman, 27/2/08), is anything to go by: "The Rudd Government is proceeding with a plan to charge Iran's President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, with inciting genocide and has rejected a call by the Iranian ambassador to split from a United States-led push for harsher sanctions. The office of the [now] Foreign Affairs Minister, Stephen Smith, said yesterday the Government was pursuing its election commitment to bring international criminal charges against Mr Ahmadinejad over his Holocaust revisionism and his calls to wipe Israel off the map...'On the possibility of taking legal action against the Iranian president, the Australian Government is currently taking legal and other advice on this matter', said Mr Smith's spokeswoman, Courtney Hoogan." Maybe, just maybe, that's code for 'We're currently working on the legalese necessary to drop this hot potato'. One can dream...

Beyond the obvious questions - Is this in Australia's interest? Is it even in Israel's interest? Haven't Smith and his staff got anything more important to do? Isn't the Genocide Convention designed to tackle actual cases of genocide, rather than alleged intentions to commit same? What are we doing in bed with the likes of Netanyahu, Dershowitz, et al? Why are we reading from Israel's delusional PR script? - could it possibly be that, despite an army of bureaucrats, minister Smith is still unaware that Ahmadinejad's alleged call to wipe Israel off the map is a hoax? Let us review the matter:-'s Justin Raimondo is always a reliable guide in these matters. Of the abovementioned congressional vote, he wrote: "Now, I hold no brief for the Iranian ranter - whose jeremiads against the West are in the category of Borat-like humour - but this seems [only seems, Justin?] like yet another example of political pandering and congressional grandstanding that bears little, if any, relationship to reality. To begin with, the resolution is motivated by a mistranslation of a speech given by Senor Ahmadinejad, in which he cited the Ayatollah Khomeini and seemed to call for Israel to be 'wiped off the map'. Yet, as Jonathan Steele, and Farsi-speaker and Middle East expert Prof. Juan Cole make very clear, that is not what the Iranian President said, or intended to say. Ahmadinejad...said the current regime in Tel Aviv will be 'wiped off the page of time'. It was a call for 'regime change' not genocide - but, never mind. Like most war propaganda, which is almost never related to reality except in the most tenuous sense, the point is not to tell the truth but to characterize the enemy in a particular way. With Israeli Prime minister Ehud Olmert in Washington to ramp up the Lobby's ferocious campaign to get the US to attack Iran - or at least credibly threaten to - the pro-Israel forces on Capitol Hill were out in full force, herding their congressional supporters into a massive display of obedience with a whopping 411-2 vote." (The End of Dissent? 22/6/07)

If minister Smith and his department are aware that the allegation is groundless, then an entirely reasonable and unsurprising surmise would be that, like the Howard Government before them (although to give Alexander Downer credit, he was never prepared to go where Smith is now proposing), the Ruddies are mere putty in the hands of the Israel lobby. After all, Rudd has been rambammed twice (2003 & 2005); has rhetorically gone where no American politician has and declared that his support for Israel is "in my DNA"; has been personally congratulated by Israeli PM Olmert on his election victory; and has pledged to undergo a third rambamming in his first term of office.

Pray that sanity prevails and the tried and true Australian politician's distinction between core and non-core promises comes to our rescue.

Postscript: Speaking of jeremiads, cop this from Senor Sheridan: "The odds are against a US strike on Iran under any circumstances, and I would say the odds are even against an Israeli strike. But either or both are much more likely if it looks like Obama will win." (This is no time for a celebrity in the Oval Office, The Australian, 28/2/08)

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Bush's Taxi to the Dark Side

After winning an OSCAR for her documentary Taxi to the Dark Side, a film about the US Government's use of torture in Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay, Australian filmaker, Eva Orner branded the Bush administration "a bunch of war criminals, " who "needed to be stopped." (Oscar winner Eva Orner: US are war criminals, Herald Sun, 26/2/08)

Earlier still, on 14/2/08, Australia's Defence minister, Joel Fitzgibbon, "denounced the handling of the war in Afghanistan and [said] the allies are disunited, lack a clear plan and have failed to deal with the drug trade." He went on to warn that "a new strategy was required to ensure the Australian contribution was not for 'nil'." (Afghan war being botched: minister, Jonathan Pearlman, SMH, 15/2/08)

A look at the machinations leading up to the US (and Australian) attack on Afghanistan in 2001, bears out the truth of Orner's remarks and raises the question that Fitzgibbon really needs to be asking: Why are we aiding and abetting?

In his 2004 book, Destroying World Order: US Imperialism in the Middle East Before and After September 11, leading American expert in international law, Francis A Boyle, guides us through these murky waters:-

Boyle portrays the Bush government as a warmongering cabal that shamelessly exploited the 9/11 tragedy to wage "an illegal armed aggression [against Afghanistan] that has created a hunanitarian catastrophe for the 22 million people of [that country] and is promoting terrible regional instability." He points out that "there is not and may never be conclusive proof as to who was behind the terrible bombings in New York and Washington DC, on September 11, 2001," and describes how the Bush administration, "deliberately invoking the rhetoric of Pearl Harbour," misrepresented an act of terrorism against the US as an act of war, which is defined by international law and practice as "a military attack by one nation state upon another nation state." Boyle writes, "The implication was that if this is an act of war, then you do not deal with it by means of international treaties and negotiations: You deal with an act of war by means of military force. You go to war. So a decision was ignore and abandon the entire framework of international treaties that had been established under the auspices of the United Nations Organization for the past 25 years in order to deal with acts of terrorism and instead go to war against Afghanistan, a UN member state. In order to prevent the momentum towards war from being impeded, Bush Jr issued an impossible ultimatum, refusing all negotiations with the Taliban government, as well as all the extensive due process protections that are required between sovereign states related to extraditions, etc. The Taliban government's requests for proof and offers to surrender bin Laden to a third party, similar to those which ultimately brought the Libyan Lockerbie suspects to trial, were all peremptorily ignored."

Bush failed to get either the UN Security Council or the US Congress to authorize war. Boyle writes that he "went to the US Congress and exploited the raw emotions of this national tragedy to ram through a congressional authorization to use force....[however], Congress failed to give Bush Jr [a formal declaration of war along the lines of what President Roosevelt got from Congress after Pearl Harbour] and for a very good would have made Bush Jr a 'consitutional dictator' insofar as that, basically, Americans would now all be living under martial law. Congress might have just as well closed up and gone home for the rest of the duration of the Bush Jr war against terrorism for all the difference they would have made."

"Instead of a formal declaration of war, the US Congress gave Bush Jr what is called a War Powers Resolution Authorization [which] basically gives [him] a blank check to use military force against any individual, organization, or state that he alleges - by means of his own ipse dixit - was somehow involved in the attacks on September 11, or else harboured those who were," despite the fact that the UN Charter expressly forbids an armed agression against a UN member state.

Two further attempts to get the Security Council's authorization to use military force failed, leading to the US invoking Article 51 of the UN Charter and informing the Security Council that "the US reserved its right to use force in self-defense against any state that the Bush Jr administration felt the need to victimize in order to fight their holy war against international terrorism as determined by themselves" - the same defense asserted by the Nazi war criminals at the Nuremberg Tribunal in 1945.

Boyle's conclusion: "The Bush Jr war against Afghanistan, in violation of the Kellogg-Briand Pact of 1928 and the UN Charter of 1945 [both requiring contracting parties to resolve international disputes peacefully], constitutes a Nuremberg Crime Against Peace." Orner knows this. Fitzgibbon & Co don't want to.

Postscript (4/3/08): In his Sydney Morning Herald opinion column, Harry puts the prince in principle (4/3/08), radical neocon pundit (and self-confessed republican) Gerard Henderson, in telling us how impressed he was by "Prince Harry putting his life on the line in Afghanistan" (a bit of palace PR if ever there was one), went on to misrepresent Eva Orner's accusation that the Bush administration were "war criminals" as a "far left" position. It speaks volumes about the kind of world we are now living in, that support for the principles of international law can be dismissed in this way. The sine qua non of the neocon, of course, is a massive contempt for international law and a belief that it should be replaced by the law of the jungle, which Henderson dresses up as (quoting from Andrew Roberts' A History of the English-Speaking Peoples Since 1900): "[T]he English-speaking peoples unmistakably demonstrat[ing] to the rest of the world that they still enjoy global hegemony," or, in his own words, "[T]he moral imperative of the West to intervene in the world, sometimes militarily, to help spread democracy."

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Israeli Cluster Bombs in Australian Arsenals?

I was born/ Between factory walls/ And I was conceived/ Amongst the ivory halls/ And in this world/ I knew my role/ I went to work/ With a single goal

I traveled the earth/ To far-off lands/ From the Asian jungles/ To the African sands/ I flew in planes/ Of camouflage green/ Before I settled/ Upon this scene

Like a shooting star/ I came to rest/ And this farmer's field/ Is where I nest/ Just watching the seasons/ Come and go/ Watching the long grass/ Grow and grow

Years go by/ And I lay here still/ For my purpose is clear/ For me to fulfill/ The sun was out/ It was the middle of May/ When the farmer's 3 children/ Came out to play

They ventured near/ I lay in wait/ One unknowing step/ Sealed their fate/ One thousand shards/ Of plastic rose/ From where I lay/ And through their clothes

Into their bodies/ The shrapnel sank/ Here in this field/ By a river bank/ The blood poured down/ Shone in the sun/ And one cluster bomblet's/ Job was done

David Rovics: Ballad of the Cluster Bomb

On 22/2/08 Australia signed the Wellington Declaration, a draft international agreement to ban the use of cluster bombs, which scatter deadly bomblets over a wide area. As singer/songwriter, David Rovics' poignant lyrics so graphically show, those little nasties which do not explode on impact can lie in wait, unexploded, for years after a conflict has ended, killing or maiming anyone who accidentally disturbs them.

But Australia, being Australia, just had to have reservations now, didn't it? Apparently, we tried to water down the proposed treaty on the grounds that a) it could get in the way of our working with countries who oppose the treaty, such as the US [China, India, Pakistan, Russia, and Israel also oppose the treaty]; b) we need our own supplies of the little bastards "for training and research purposes"; and c) something called a "sensor-fuse cluster munition" should be excluded from the definition of what constitutes a cluster bomb. (Aust signs anti-cluster bomb declaration, ABC News, 22/2/08)

So far, so good. If Howard had won last year's election, not only would we not have signed up, but the Australian Defence Forces (ADF) might have been buying cluster bombs... from Israel. That's right, the country whose army rained over 1.2 million cluster bomblets over south Lebanon in the final days of the 33-Day War in 2006, causing one Israeli 'Defence' Forces commander to comment: "What we did was insane and monstrous, we covered entire towns in cluster bombs." (Israel fired more than a million cluster bombs in Lebanon, Meron Rappaport, Haaretz, 12/9/06)

A Senate committee last year had found a submission from Israel Military Industries (IMI), the government-owned corporation that is Israel's largest weapons manufacturer, sufficiently persuasive to open the way for the ADF's acquisition of Israel's M85 cluster weapon, which, according to IMI's sales pitch, "had a hazardous dud rate of 0.06%, compared with similar American cluster devices with dud rates between 2-23%." (Australian Army eyes controversial Israeli cluster bombs, The Australian Jewish News, 15/6/07)

The question arises: were any Israeli M85s purchased prior to the fall of the Howard regime, and, if so, would this not explain Australia's desire to retain supplies of same for "training and research purposes?" And is the M85 a "sensor-fuse cluster munition?"

The final treaty is to be negotiated in Dublin in May. It will be most interesting to see what Australia's position will be at that conference.

Monday, February 25, 2008

On Being Honest

On Radio National's Correspondents Report (24/2/08) the ABC's Europe correspondent, Rafael Epstein, reflected thus on the declaration of Kosovo's independence: " I know from my own heritage that these moments are powerful. They sear themselves into the collective consciousness of a people. I grew up being told about the mythical, almost magical moment, when Israel declared itself independent in 1948. Then, as now, the Prime Minister of the new nation is [sic] idolised by his own people and to be honest, despised by those who feel they've been displaced."

Does Epstein honestly believe that the 750,000 odd Palestinians driven from their homes in 1948 into an exile that lasts till this day were not, in fact, displaced, but only felt displaced?

I'd hate to think so. However, Epstein and many of his fellow foreign correspondents have yet "to be honest" about that "mythical...magical moment when Israel declared independence."

An excellent starting point would be Israeli historian, Ilan Pappe's brilliant book The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine (2006): "This book is written with the deep conviction that the ethnic cleansing of Palestine must become rooted in our memory and consciousness as a crime against humanity and that it should be excluded from the list of alleged crimes. The perpetrators here are not obscure - they are a very specific group of people: the heroes of the Jewish war of independence, whose names will be quite familiar to most readers. The list begins with the indisputable leader of the Zionist movement, David Ben-Gurion, in whose private home all early and later chapters in the ethnic cleansing story were discussed and finalised. He was aided by a small group of people I refer to in this book as the 'Consultancy', an ad hoc cabal assembled solely for the purpose of plotting and designing the dispossession of the Palestinians." (p 5)

Or, if that's a bridge too far for Epstein & Co, perhaps they could at least read John V Whitbeck's essay, If Kosovo, Why Not Palestine? at (20/2/08).

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Danby's Drubbing in the AJN

The Sydney Morning Herald's Middle East correspondent, Ed O'Loughlin, taking on Michael Danby MP, Labor's Minister for Israel in...The Australian Jewish News!? Read on:-

As indicated in an earlier post (Ed v Abraham), Fairfax's Middle East correspondent is not (unlike The Australian's Greg (Jerusalem Prize) Sheridan*) exactly flavour of the month in The Australian Jewish News. Sniping at Fairfax/Ed has been going on for years in Tzvi Fleischer's Media Matters column, but a concerted attack against him in the form of an opinion piece (Sullying a fine reputation) by Danby on September 14 last year must have come as the last straw.

And so, lo and behold, in the 22/2/08 edition of the AJN, a no-punches-pulled, point-by-point rebuttal of Danby's "falsehoods" (Ed's word) by Ed himself...and a revealing editorial, Why we published O'Loughlin. I present both below, beginning with the consummate chutzpah of the editorial (and my between the lines reading and comments):-

"Within days of starting work in a newsroom, trainee journalists are quickly and firmly made aware that they are there to report the news, not make the news. Maybe Ed O'Loughlin was away that day. O'Loughlin is the ME correspondent for Fairfax Media, and has attracted headlines in this newspaper, and occasionally the general media [I'm certainly not aware of any], for a perceived lack of balance in his reporting from Israel and surrounding areas. As a foreign correspondent in a region perpetually on the brink of conflict [most of it initiated by yours truly], O'Loughlin's main brief is to report back to Australians on that conflict. Fair enough. But he has done little to enlighten Fairfax readers that Israel is a living, breathing, first-world nation, a world leader in science, technology, art and culture, which has maintained a thriving and robust democracy despite the perpetual threats it faces to its existence. [IOW, O'Loughlin eschews the partisan reporting of Greg Sheridan. And surprise, surprise...]The Australian's foreign editor, Greg Sheridan, covered this side of Israel far better in a 3-week visit late last year than O'Loughlin has during his entire posting. [See my posts: Gullible's Travels; When Even the Retraction is Dodgy 1 & 2] Fairfax raised further shackles [sic] with a recent spate of letters published in the Sydney Morning Herald, comparing Israel's treatement of the Palestinians in Gaza to the Nazis' treatment of Jews in the Warsaw Ghetto. From all reports, a flurry of letters rebutting these claims were not published, leading to further claims of anti-Israel bias at The SMH. [See my posts We Remember Warsaw; WRW: The Sequel] This week, The AJN has taken the unusual step of publishing an opinion piece by O'Loughlin, rebutting some of the criticisms of his reporting from Israel that we published in a column by Melbourne Ports MP Michael Danby last September. Mainstream media balance, or the lack thereof, has been a bugbear of our community [What, all of them?] for many years, with the ABC and SBS also targets of Jewish [Zionist lobby?] ire. We share that discomfort. But it would be churlish and hypocritical of us to editorialise on media balance and then not put that into practice by denying O'Loughlin an opportunity to defend his work. [I have no way of knowing but could the AJN perhaps have been given the choice of printing Ed's rebuttal or facing an Australian Press Council adjudication?] Fairfax might produce some of Australia's finest newspapers, but this week, at least, we would like to think we have taught it a lesson in presenting both sides of a story."

And here is Ed O'Loughlin's withering rebuttal of "Danby's rubbish" (Ed's word again), My Israel reporting explained:-

"This newspaper published an article by Federal MP Michael Danby on September 14 last year, alleging bias on the part of Fairfax newspapers and myself. The article contained a number of falsehoods. In fact, it contained little else. One: I have never referred, as Danby claims I habitually do, to suicide bombers as 'militants'. Two: When writing about Israel's separation barrier in the West Bank, I refer to it not merely as a wall, as he states, but as a complex of walls and fences. The term 'wall' is used alone only in relation to specific sections, such as those in and around East Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Qalqilya, and Tulkarm, where the barrier is, in fact, a wall. Three: In relation to Israel's controversial deportation of African refugees last August, Danby writes, bizarrely, that there was no mention in Fairfax newspapers 'of the riots by Darfuris in pro-Sudan Cairo or the murderous beating of [sic] Egyptian border guards of Darfuri refugees. No context. No report by O'Loughlin. In fact, I reported on the issue on August 21. The piece fully set out the Israeli Government's policy, its explanation for its policy and the criticism of that policy in a petition signed by a majority of Israeli parliamentarians headed by Opposition Leader and former Likud prime minister Benyamin Netanyahu. Perhaps Danby should save his bile for them, rather than Fairfax newspapers. Four: Dr Hanan Ashrawi denies thinking or saying, as Danby says she does, that 'some Fairfax newspapers are too pro-Hamas'. She says she is 'very puzzled' by his reference to 'her criticism of Fairfax ME correspondent Ed O'Loughlin's most recent coverage of events in Gaza', as she is not familiar with me or my reporting. Nor are any such allegations made in the SBS broadcast to which he refers. I asked Dr Ashrawi if perhaps she had made such statements in private to Danby, or if he is authorised to make statements on her behalf, as he did in your newspaper, but she says she does not know him. Five: I have never stated that Israel's withdrawal from Gaza was 'all part of a cynical scheme to occupy the West Bank forever'. Mr Danby may be referring to contextual references in some of my reports to an interview given to the Israeli newspaper Ha'aretz in October 2004 by the chief adviser to then prime minister Ariel Sharon, Dov Weisglass, the leading architect of that 'disengagement' policy. In his interview Weisglass stated: 'The significance of our disengagement plan is the freezing of the peace process...It supplies the formaldehyde necessary so there is no political process with Palestinians...When you freeze the process, you prevent the establishment of a Palestinian state. Effectively, this whole package called a Palestinian state, with all it entails, has been removed indefinitely from our agenda'. Similarly, one of Israel's most respected and well-connected mainstream commentators, Nahum Barnea, wrote in the mass daily Yediot Ahronot on February 21, 2005, several months before the evacuation of the Gaza settlements, that 'Sharon believes that his plan will put off for years, perhaps forever, a withdrawal from all the territories. His tactics may have changed, but the plan remains the same: to reach a stable arrangement that will leave Israel with a large chunk, up to 40%, of the West Bank'. If Mr Danby chooses to interpret this policy as cynical, then he is, of course, entitled to his opinion. Six: In a rare foray into fact, Danby points out that I did not report on a Human Rights Watch report accusing Hezbollah of committing war crimes by bombarding Israeli civilian centers during the 2006 war. This is true. He is wrong, however, to leap to the conclusion that this stems from bias against Israel. I did not file a piece on the Hezbollah report because I was on another assignment in Gaza at the time of its release. In my absence, the story was covered with a syndicated piece from The New York Times. A little honest research could have cleared up all these points before Danby's baseless and uninformed attack went to print in your newspaper. I was not, however, given any opportunity to respond before the article was published. Sadly, Danby's rubbish has now taken on a life of its own on the internet, where it is being cited as factual evidence of bias on the part of Fairfax newspapers and myself, from a 'reliable source'."

* Sheridan wrote a lame and self-serving letter in the AJN of 15/2/08. It should be read as a postscript to my posts on his minimalist and dodgy retractions of factual inaccuracies published in The Australian (When Even the Retraction is Dodgy 1 & 2):-

"I am delighted that The AJN and some of its writers and readers found my recent series of articles in The Australian to be of some interest. To these editorialists, op-ed writers and correspondents who wrote in praise of the articles: I am deeply grateful. To those who pointed out some of my mistakes: I am also very grateful, for well meant criticism is helpful to anybody trying to write about complex issues. Certainly, in one article [only one!?], I got the number of Israelis killed by Palestinian terrorism wrong and I am glad to be corrected on such an important matter. I'm also glad to be corrected on the spelling of Gilo, where my wandering finger added an unrequired 't'. The article in my series which provoked by far the greatest interest [& criticism] was one entitled 'Deep inside the plucky country', which appeared in The Weekend Australian of January 19-20. It was mostly an impressionistic [& highly partisan] piece about the sights and sounds and personalities I encountered in Israel. I think it caused so much reaction in part because of its very simple thesis: that there are things in Israel which are compellingly interesting beyond the conflict with the Palestinians. When, aeons ago, I was a student, it was common to talk of Israel in the context of the kibbutz movement, or Israeli social egalitarianism, or the role of the trade union movement in Israel, or some aspect of Jewish culture. [Typically, the present diminished role of the kibbutzim and trade union movement, and Israel's growing social divisions, hold no interest for Sheridan.] But now, so many opponents of Israel, and even as a consequence sometimes its supporters, seem to talk of it only in connection with the conflict, whereas it is an incredibly fascinating and diverse, and therefore paradoxically undereported, society." So the only problem with his PR piece was a factual error and a typo!?

Saturday, February 23, 2008


Rambam (v): To be sponsored by smooth-talking Israel lobbyists in Australia on a grooming session conducted by tough-talking PR people in Israel with a view to the sponsored adopting the missionary position for Israel when required in Australia. Usually said of Australian politicians, media hacks and other serviceable community misleaders.
Rambam Fellowship, Journalists Mission etc: Formal designations given to the process of rambamming.
(From The Dictionary of Zionist Discourse)

To be read in conjunction with my earlier post, Ram Bam Thankyou Ma'am:-

A perfect illustration of an Australian politician adopting the missionary position for Israel after having been successfully rambammed has just cropped up in The Australian Jewish News: "NSW Greens Senator Kerry Nettle moved that the Senate 'calls on the Australian Government to make representations to the Israeli Government to immediately lift the blockade of Gaza'. But Queensland Labor Senator Joe Ludwig strongly opposed Nettle's motion. He accused the motion of being 'one-sided', and said it 'does not recognise the complexities of the situation'. When the motion was put to a Senate vote, it was defeated, 54-8. Only Greens and Democrats senators voted in favour, with Liberal and Labor senators uniting to bring the motion down...Ludwig, the minister for home services...visited Israel in 2007 on a trip organised by the Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council." (Greens' Gaza motion scuttled, 22/2/08)

Yep, the rambamming of the Liberal and Labor parties is definitely paying dividends.

And remember our Sydney-based journalists, recently returned from their NSW Jewish Board of Deputies' Journalists Mission, who were due to report to "the plenum?" Well, according the same issue of the AJN, they have. And guess what? Their rambamming "had changed their perception of [the Holy Land]."

Tell me more: "Jewish radio announcer [2GB] Joel Labi...said seeing the security fence up close 'hit home that Israel's enemies are a lot closer than people make it out to be'." Don't ask me what that means. The SMH's deputy foreign editor, Kirsty Needham, said that "her visit to the Lebanese border and the town of Sderot had allowed her to witness the fear Israelis are forced to live with daily." And Lebanese and Palestinian fear, Kirsty? 2UE's Glenn Wheeler "was stuck by the close proximity in which Jews, Muslims and Christians live, particularly in Jerusalem." Is he unaware that his ersatz "Muslims and Christians" are really all just Palestinians? And what happened to the Daily Telegraph's Tim Blair? How'd he wriggle out of this? (All quotes from Journalists reassess Israel)

Meaningless platitudes perhaps? Just going through the motions? Guess we'll just have to wait and see whether their rambamming is only skin deep.

But there's more from the AJN: "Last week 5 Australian water experts returned from a Jewish National Fund (JNF) mission to Israel, where they explored water-restoration projects throughout Israel. Dr Paul Sinclair of Environment Victoria, Raymond Ison from the University of Melbourne, Tony McLeod from the Federal Environment Ministry, the National Farmers Federation's Ben Fargher and Fairfax journalist Jewel Topsfield spent 10 days in Israel..." (Australian water experts visit Israel)

Blimey, all these rambam shuttles are making me dizzy.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

A Thorn Among Roses

That peculiar name - Flemming Rose - has popped up again, this time on the opinion pages of The Australian, as the author of a column headed You can't take away our right to offend: Islamist threats to kill free-thinking Western artists must be resisted (20/2/08).

Flemming who? Think 2005-2006, Denmark, and12 cartoons depicting the Prophet Mohammad in a Danish newspaper, Jyllands-Posten, sub-edited by...Flemming Rose. Originally appearing in The Wall Street Journal (surely a dead giveaway that the WSJ is now well and truly in Murdoch's hands), Rose's plaint touches on the plight of Danish cartoonist, Kurt Westergaard, now apparently on the run following the arrest by Danish police of 3 men "who allegedly had been plotting to kill him."

Says Rose of Westergaard's original 2005 cartoon, "depicting the prophet with a bomb in his turban": "My colleagues and I understand that this cartoon may be offensive to some people, but sometimes the truth can be very offensive."

This crusader for "truth" goes on to detail further examples of what he calls "a global battle for free speech," and rails against last year's adoption by the UN Human Rights Council of "a resolution against defamation of religion, calling on governments across the world to clamp down on cartoonists, writers, journalists, artists and dissidents who dare to speak up."

A brief bio appended to the above informs us that Flemming Rose "is writing a book about the challenges to free speech in a globalised world." We can hardly wait.

Taking the offending cartoons at face value, US cartoonist and author, Art Spiegelman, has made the following observations in a detailed and thoughtful (though apolitical) critique of the cartoons, and the controversy and violence which followed their publication and distribution: "The cartoon insults were used as an excuse to add more very real injury to an already badly injured world, and in this at least they succeeded. They polarized the West into viewing Muslims as the unassimilable Other; for True Believers, the insults were irrefutable proof of Muslim victimization, and served as recruiting posters for the Holy War...the Jyllands-Posten - a newspaper with a history of anti-immigrant bias - seemed somewhat disingenuous when it wrapped itself in the mantle of free speech to invite cartoonists to throw pies at the face of Muhammad last September." (Drawing Blood: Outrageous cartoons and the art of outrage, Harper's Magazine, June 2006) Rose's publish-and-be-damned posturing would, it seems, cut little ice with Spiegelman.

Which brings us back to the question: Flemming who? Daring crusader for free speech, or something else entirely? The following, from The Caricatures in Middle East Politics by James Petras & Robin Eastman-Abaya, 26/2/06, pulls no punches:-

"Given Mossad's long-standing penetration of the Danish intelligence agencies, and their close working relations with the right wing media, it is not surprising that a Ukrainian Jew, operating under the name 'Flemming Rose' with close working relations with the Israeli state (and in particular the far right Likud regime) should be the center of the controversy over the cartoons. 'Rose's' ties to the Israeli state antedate his well known promotional 'interview' with Daniel Pipes [who also pops up from time to time in The Australian], the notorious Arab-hating Zionist ideologue. Prior to being placed as a cultural editor of a leading right-wing Danish daily, from 1990 to 1995 'Rose' was a Moscow-based reporter who translated into Danish a self-serving autobiography by Boris Yeltsin, godchild of the pro-Israeli, post-communist Russian oligarchs, most of whom held dual citizenship and collaborated with the Mossad in laundering illicit billions. Between 1996-1999 'Rose' the journalist, worked the Washington circuit...before returning to Moscow 1999-2004 as a reporter for Jyllands-Posten. In 2005 he became its cultural editor...In his new position 'Rose' found a powerful platform to incite and play on the growing hostility of conservative Danes to immigrants from the Middle East, particularly practising Muslims. Using the format of an interview he published Pipes' virulent anti-Islamic diatribe, probably to 'test the waters' before proceeding to the next stage in the Mossad strategy to polarize a West-East confrontation."

You can read the rest at

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Ram Bam Thankyou Ma'am

The more tarnished Israel's reputation becomes, the more the Zionist propaganda mill must work to maintain Western support for, or neutralise Western opposition to, Israel's relentless hammering of Palestine and its people. One tactic is to approach Western politicians, civic leaders, media personnel, or celebrities (whether past, or in, their prime) and sell them on the dubious virtues of a sponsored pilgrimage to Jerusalem.

To mention only the most recent examples that I am aware of, an Israeli invitation to Prince Charles to make an official visit came to light in October last year only when his minders' emails were accidentally leaked. These revealed just how leery they were of the blandishments of Israel's propaganda millers: "Acceptance," acknowledged Charles' private secretary in one of the emails, "would make it hard to avoid the many ways in which Israel would want HRH to help burnish its image." (The Australian, 17/11/07) Ah, yes,"the many ways."

More recently, the same propagandists of Zion are trying to entice the remaining Beatles (whom they knocked back in the 60s as corruptors of youth) to attend Israel's 60th 'birthday' bash later this year. We can only hope that Paul and Ringo (or their minders) will be as savvy as Prince Charles (or his).

In Australia, however, it seems that our movers and shakers, in politics, the media, or elsewhere, simply can't resist the charms of Israel's thrusting statesmen-warriors.

Author, journalist and blogger, Antony Loewenstein, in his invaluable 2006 investigation into Australian Zionism, My Israel Question, raised the subject of the Australian/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council's Rambam tours to Israel:-

"[AIJAC]'s Rambam designed, in the words of its Sydney-based founder Brian Sherman, to 'lift the veil' on Israel for opinion-makers whose knowledge of the Israel-Palestine issue 'is formed by day to day reports in the media where Israel is largely seen as an occupying force'. Since 2003, around 120 fellows have participated in the program, including unionists, ALP and Liberal MPs, political advisers, journalists and editors. The journalists include: Herald & Weekly Times editor-in-chief Peter Blunden and journalist John Ferguson; the Australian Financial Review's Ben Potter and Robert Bolton; chief editorial writer for the Age, John Watson; The Courier-Mail's Dennis Atkins; SBS's Sally Watson, the SMH's Louise Dodson; and Channel Ten's John Hill...The week-long program includes meetings with prominent Israeli politicians, a tour of the separation fence, brief meetings with Palestinian leaders in Ramallah and a host of other conservative individuals inevitably singing from the same song sheet, including former Israeli prime ministers Ehud Barak and Binyamin Netanyahu." (pp 220-221)

The latest(?) 'Rambam fellows' to 'benefit' from an AIJAC-organised pilgrimage to Israel are a batch of unrepresentative swill (to borrow from Paul Keating) from the West Australian Legislative Council. According to The Australian Jewish News (25/1/08), they included Nick Griffiths, George Cash, Ray Halligan and Bob Kucera. These ALP and Liberal MLCs "visited the ANZAC cemetery, where they were briefed on WW II historical connections between Australia and Israel [apparently oblivious to the fact that the war had ended well before the creation of Israel, when Palestine was still Palestine] and were treated to a tour of the city of Sderot. They also met Israeli leaders, including Knesset members Ephraim Sneh and Yochanan Plesner...Palestinian Media Watch director Itamar Marcus... [also] explained the nature of his work to the Australian politicians." Cooed AIJAC's executive director, Dr Colin Rubenstein, "the MPs gained a better understanding of the many dimensions of Israeli society, its achievements and the challenges it confronts."

Ephraim Sneh, a two-time visitor to Australia, who has said of our political masters, "Thankfully, I don't think that in Australia there is one side that loves Israel more than the other," appears to be a permanent fixture of such junkets. We've already encountered him in the conclusion to Greg (Jerusalem Prize) Sheridan's plucking silly Deep inside the plucky country PR piece in The Australian on 19/1/08 [See my posts, Gullible's Travels and When Even the Retraction is Dodgy 1 & 2].

Sheridan had been wined on a glass of vintage Israeli paranoia: "I had gone to see Ephraim Sneh, a white-haired veteran Labour Party politician and soldier, a former cabinet minister and a former general. He points to a picture on the back wall of his office. It is of 2 Israeli F-15 fighters flying over Auschwitz. 'When we didn't have F-15s, we had Auschwitz,' he says." One imagines our WA political junketeers imbibing much the same toxic brew. Or perhaps Ephraim served them this heady little (molotov) cocktail: "There are countries which try to evade the unavoidable confrontation with evil, but in Israel, we don't have this privilege because we are the first name on the hit list" (AJN, 24/8/07). Parenthetically, don't you just love it when the guys who have raised the hit list (not to mention the hit) to an art form talk this way? Hm, what's on today's to-do list: Palestine, Lebanon, Syria, Iran? OK, let's warm up with a couple of liquidations in the West Bank, or maybe a spot of collateral damage in Gaza. A Hard Day's Night indeed!

And Yochanan Plesner, president, no less, of Ehud Olmert's governing Kadima party, did he outline for them "the growing hostility of Israel's neighbors in a geopolitical context," as he did to those Jewish students from the US who documented (on the highs of their 2006 Hasbara* Fellowships (designed to enable them to "communicate a pro-Israel message to the Diaspora community, specifically on college campuses"). [*hasbara: Hebrew for 'explanation', as in explaining/promoting Israel to the world]

Did the inimitable Itamar Marcus, Israeli settler, former advisor to Likud leader, Netanyahu, and director of the Zionist propaganda site, Palestinian Media Watch, recycle the same "provocative clips of incitement and indoctrination in Palestinian schools," viewed by the aforementioned incited and indoctrinated US students? After his presentation, we're told the students "discussed a campaign called Teach Kids Peace which Hasbara Fellowships has been bringing to campuses across North America," and which "stresses the need to end the hate being taught in Palestinian schools as the cornerstone for ending the violence in the region." Such a pity, though, those photos flashed around the world during Israel's 2006 war on Lebanon of prepubescent Israeli schoolgirls writing From Israel with love on tank rounds about to be lobbed across the border onto their Lebanese sisters. 'After everything I've worked for', poor old Itamar must have groaned.

Whatever, you can be sure that Ephraim, Yochanan, Itamar, and the rest, vital cogs in Israel's vast propaganda mill, did their orchestrated best to lay our polly waffles in the proverbial aisles.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, if the wooed and wowed WA wallies think they can just sink back into the leather of the Legislative Council and while away their days dreaming of their most recent foreign fling, they've got another thing coming. That is, if the experience of another mob recently returned from a Journalists Mission sponsored by the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies, is any guide. A NSWJBoD advertisement (AJN 15/2/08) informs us that Glen Wheeler (2UE), Kirsty Needham (SMH), Tim Blair (Daily Telegraph) and Joel Labi (2GB) will be "reporting to the plenum" on 19/2/08 about their "intensive fact-finding programme" in Israel.

No doubt, like the Jewish students from the US on their 2006 Hasbara Fellowships program, and the NSW journalists on their 2007 Journalists Mission, the Rambammed WA MLCs will henceforth be expected to adopt the old missionary position for Israel when required.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Imad Mughniyah: Allegation as Fact

Senior Hezbollah military leader, Imad Mughniyah, was killed in Damascus on 12/2/08 when his vehicle exploded. A persistent Israeli/US charge for many years has been that Iran/Hezbollah were behind the bombing of a Jewish community centre in Buenos Aires in 1994, and that Mughniyah had "orchestrated" the attack.

Contrast the different approaches to the allegation by Fairfax and Murdoch:

Fairfax: "Israel blames him for bomb attacks against its embassy and a community centre in Argentina in 1992 and 1994." Israel braces for retaliation after Hezbollah chief killed, Ed O'Loughlin, SMH, 15/2/08

Murdoch: "Mughnieh had been a high profile Israeli target since he led two attacks on Israeli interests in Argentina in 1992 and 1993." Divided Beirut turns out to mark death of slain leaders, Martin Chulov, The Australian, 15/2/08; "In 1993, Mughnieh orchestrated the attack on the Israeli embassy in Buenos Aires and a later bombing of a Jewish centre in the Argentinian city." Slain terrorist stayed in shadows, Martin Chulov, The Australian, 16/2/08

O'Loughlin merely reports the allegation. Chulov reports the allegation as fact.

[Notice too the discrepancy between O'Loughlin and Chulov when it comes to dates. Predictably, Chulov's dates are wrong. The bombing took place, not in 1993, but 1994. In addition, he gets the year of the earlier bombing of Israel's embassy in Buenos Aires right (1992) in his first report, but wrong (1993) in his second. Where pro-Israel propaganda trumps factual reporting, however, as it generally does in the Murdoch press, screwing up dates is a mere bagatelle.]

The allegation will, of course, continue to be presented as fact in the Murdoch press and myriad other pro-Israel propaganda outlets, especially on the internet. For what it's worth, however, anyone interested in the truth should consult Gareth Porter's 18/1/08 investigation for the The Nation, Bush's Iran/Argentina Terror Frame-Up. Porter's is a model of investigative journalism. The entire article can be accessed at:-

Here is Porter's introduction to whet your appetite:-

"Although nukes and Iraq have been the main focus of the Bush Administration's pressure campaign against Iran, US officials also seek to tar Iran as the world's leading sponsor of terrorism. And Team Bush's latest tactic is to play up a 13-year-old accusation that Iran was responsible for the notorious Buenos Aires bombing that destroyed the city's Jewish Community Center, known as AMIA, killing 86 and injuring 300, in 1994. Unnamed senior Administration officials told the Wall Street Journal January 15 that the bombing in Argentina 'serves as a model for how Tehran has used its overseas embassies and relationship with foreign militant groups, in particular, Hezbollah, to strike at its enemies'.

"This propaganda campaign depends heavily on a decision last November by the General Assembly of Interpol, which voted to put 5 former Iranian officials and a Hezbollah leader [Imad Mughniyeh] on the international police organization's 'red list' for allegedly having planned the July 1994 bombing. But the WSJ reports that it was pressure from the Bush Administration, along with Israeli and Argentine diplomats that secured the Interpol vote. In fact, the Bush Administration's manipulation of the Argentine bombing case is perfectly in line with its long practice of using distorting and manufactured evidence to build a case against its geopolitical enemies.

"After spending several months interviewing officials at the US Embassy in Buenos Aires familiar with the Argentine investigation, the head of the FBI team that assisted it and the most knowledgeable independent Argentine investigator of the case, I found that no real evidence has ever been found to implicate Iran in the bombing. Based on these interviews and the documentary record of the investigation, it is impossible to avoid the conclusion that the case against Iran over the AMIA bombing has been driven from the beginning by US enmity toward Iran, not by a desire to find the real perpetrators."

Now, Mughniyeh might not have had anything to do with the AMIA bombing, but did you know about his "alleged role as the terrorist 'mastermind' behind the planning for Hezbollah's July 2006 war with Israel..?" (Chulov again, 16/2/08) No? Neither did I!

Let us deal with this (unsourced, of course) sweeping allegation that Mughniyeh had planned a war against Israel in 2006: Hezbollah had planned to abduct Israeli soldiers - but for a prisoner exchange, not a war. In fact, Hezbollah's leader, Hassan Nasrallah, is on record as saying that "We had not forseen, not even to one-hundredth, that the hostage taking would lead to a war of that was not possible that a reaction to a hostage taking reaches such proportions." [Quoted in The 33-Day War by Achcar & Warschawski, p 33] Tragically, it seems Nasrallah wasn't aware of Moshe Dayan's dictum: "Israel must be like a mad dog, too dangerous to bother." No, the planning for a war with Hezbollah was actually the other way around. In the words of Ron Pundak, Director-General of the Peres Center for Peace: "Hezbollah gave them a wonderful option to do something the army was already prepared to do, with a well-constructed operational plan on the shelf." (Achcar & Warschawski, p 35)

Sunday, February 17, 2008

What We Are or What We Do?

Again, a tad tangential, but what the hell. In reading the first press coverage of Australia's biggest terrorism trial so far, which commenced in the Victorian Supreme Court on 13/2/08, I was struck by two things:-

1) Remember this? "American's are asking, why do they hate us? They hate what we see right here in this chamber - a democratically elected government. Their leaders are self-appointed. They hate our freedoms, our freedom of religion, our freedom of speech, our freedom to vote and assemble and disagree with each other." President GW Bush, Address to a Joint Session of Congress and the American People, 20/9/01

That speech, so soon after 9/11, produced the rationale, repeated ad nauseam by every pro-war pundit and politician since, for the Bush/Cheney War on Terror: it's not what we are doing (or have done) in the Middle East, it's what we are, our very way of life, that motivates our jihadi enemies to attack us.

How did this rationale stack up in light of the Crown's case? Not very well, it would seem. The prosecutor, Richard Maidment SC, told the Court that the 12 accused "believed a mass-casualty bombing would force the federal government to withdraw its troops from Iraq." (Terrorist plan to hit trains, court told, Sydney Morning Herald, 14/2/08)

2) The second matter to give me pause came after reading the following words in the same article: "Mr Maidment said that an undercover officer had breached the cell, posing as a Muslim from Turkey with an interest in violent jihad and expertise in building bombs with ammonium nitrate, a commonly available chemical. At one point, the undercover agent was asked by Benbrika [the group's leader] how much ammonium nitrate would be required to blow up a large building. He then asked for the obtain twice as much - 500 kilograms. The infiltrator...also demonstrated to Benbrika the power of a small ammonium nitrate bomb during a visit to country Victoria. The men were under heavy surveillance for 18 months before their arrests and Mr Maidment said the transcripts of almost 500 intercepted conversations would make up the bulk of the evidence before the jury."

I was reminded of Guy Lawson's fascinating Rolling Stone article (7/2/08), The Fear Factory, on the practice of 'lawfare' - the convergence of local police work and FBI intelligence-gathering, relying on the use of paid informants, who "cajole and inveigle targets...into pursuing hairbrained schemes," and surveillance recordings - under the aegis of 102 US Joint Terrorism Task Forces (JTTF).

Lawson writes: "[T]he use of informants has led the government to flirt with outright entrapment. In Brooklyn, a Guyanese immigrant and former cargo handler named Russell Defreitas was arrested last spring for plotting to blow up fuel tanks at JFK International Airport. In fact, before he encountered the might of the JTTF, Defreitas was a vagrant who sold incense on the streets of Queens and spent his spare time checking pay phones for quarters. He had no hope of instigating a terrorist plot of the magnitude of the alleged attack on JFK - until he received the help of a federal informant known only as 'Source', a convicted drug dealer who was cooperating with federal agents to get his sentence reduced. Backed by the JTTF, Defreitas suddenly obtained the means to travel to the Caribbean, conduct Google Earth searches of JFK's grounds and build a complex, multifaceted, international terror conspiracy - albeit one that was impossible to actually pull off. After Defreitas was arrested, US Attorney Roslynn Mauskopf called it 'one of the most chilling plots imaginable'. Using informants to gin up terrorist conspiracies is a radical departure from the way the FBI has traditionally used cooperating sources against organized crime or drug dealers, where a pattern of crime is well established before the investigation begins. Now, in new-age terror cases, the JTTFs simply want to establish that suspects are predisposed to be terrorists - even if they are completely unable or ill-equipped to act on that predisposition. High-tech video and audio evidence, coupled with anti-terror hysteria, has made it effectively impossible for suspects to use the legal defence of entrapment. The result in many cases has been guilty pleas - and no scrutiny of government conduct."

Murder in the Editorial?

This post might seem somewhat tangential to my concerns - but only if you believe that clash-of-civilizations spruiking and Islamophobia more generally are not part and parcel of the post 9/11 pro-Israel propaganda offensive:-

"Not surprisingly, those who believe the archbishop [of Canterbury, Rowan Williams] has damaged his moral authority and credibility beyond repair are resurrecting Henry II's lament about one of Dr William's most illustrious predecessors in Canterbury, the 12th century Saint Thomas Becket: 'Who will rid me of this turbulent priest?' " So ran the concluding paragraph of The Australian's editorial (A Turbulent Bishop: Sharia law is incompatible with Western tradition) for 11/2/08.

The 12th century Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Becket, engaged in a struggle over the rights of the Church with King Henry II, was murdered by four knights, who interpreted Henry's famous lament as a command. He was thereafter venerated as a martyr and canonised by the Church.

So, according to The Australian, not only is it "not surprising" that some folk out there are calling for the murder of the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams for merely expressing a controversial viewpoint, but neither, it would seem, is it deserving of condemnation.

Of course, if Rowan Williams were to meet Thomas Becket's fate, he would not only become a martyr for the Anglican Church, but a martyr for free speech.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Rotem's Revenge 2

Israeli ambassador, Yuval Rotem, has been busy of late, cutting and pasting. What appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald on 4/2/08 as Voices missing from Gaza debate (See my previous post, Rotem's Revenge), had popped up across the Tasman in The New Zealand Herald on 3/2/08 as Try wearing Israeli shoes.

I'll return to the courageous Kiwi, who dissed Yuval's boss and had to be sorted, later. For the nonce, being a bloodhound for official Israeli talking points, I'll examine those bits of Rotem's response which were spun exclusively for the NZ Herald:

"Would New Zealanders ask their Government to sit idly by while a terrorist organization fires missiles on the towns of Tauranga or Hamilton?" asked Rotem. Now where had I seen this little rhetorical trick before? Of course - in Greg (Jerusalem Prize) Sheridan's plucking silly paean to Israel, Deep inside the plucky country (See my post Gullible's Travels): "For Gilot [sic] to be fired on from Bethlehem is like Sydney's Surry Hills being fired on from Redfern, or Richmond being fired on from the Melbourne Cricket Ground." As Israel's official Spinmeister, Mark Regev, must have laid down: 'The teensy weensy dimensions and oh-so-vulnerable character of Israel can perhaps best be brought home to the parochial ignoramuses of the world by the addition of a touch of local colour. If you're slapping down an offender in Australia, you could for example... If in New Zealand, try...'

Now, that contagion of looking at Gaza and seeing only that other ghetto, surely it hasn't also flared up in the Land of the Long White Cloud? I'm afraid so: "To draw parallels between Nazi Germany and Israel's current actions is offensive and undermines the indignity that the Jewish people suffered. The security fence was erected along a border for which the sole purpose was to protect the people of Israel against terrorism. What Matt McCarten fails to understand [here Rotem switches from the innocents of Sderot to those of Jerusalem and other parts] is the horror caused by these extremists using themselves as human bomb carriers; of climbing on buses, seeing innocent children and still pulling the trigger. Of seeing these same children maimed, blinded and killed by the screws and nails the terrorists have embedded in their bombs to cause the utmost pain possible." But there's only one little problemo here: The "security fence" does not always follow the internationally recognised border known as the Green Line, but often diverges deep inside the occupied West Bank, snaffling up Palestinian land and water resources in the process. And we won't mention those Palestinians maimed, blinded and killed by Israel's version of the nail bomb - the flechette shell.

Rotem's conclusion wields the Zionist propaganda weapon of last resort - the false allegation of anti-Semitism - further cheapening this already degraded currency: "[I]t is not asked that Matt McCarten, in his opinion piece on Gaza, be denied the right to express his views, nor is it asked that a newspaper limit the freedom of speech by refusing to print them. With the right to freedom of speech comes a responsibility not to distort the facts or inflame and play to prejudices. There is a fine line between fair and just criticism, and blunt anti-Israel sentiment which is a camouflage for anti-Semitism." Matt can wear it with pride.

Speaking of whom, Matt McCarten is a regular columnist for the NZ Herald. His column, extensively quoted below, reminds us here in the Land of the Bitten Tongue & the Minced Word that yet again New Zealand is light years ahead of us in so many things, including the ability to speak plainly and fearlessly in the ms media about the vicious and relentless destruction of Palestine:-

West stands by while a whole population is illegally jailed 27/1/08 (

"After this week, does anyone doubt that Israel is a terrorist state? Our televisions couldn't hide the truth last week that 1 1/2 million civilians are imprisoned behind walls Israel has built around them. The entire Gaza population is cut off from the world, with no one permitted to leave or enter their compound. All goods, including oil, have been cut. The entire population is starving and without electricity.

"This imprisonment follows a decision by Israel to collectively punish Palestinian civilians. The reason is that members of the Gaza resistance - mainly Hamas militants - have been causing a nuisance by lobbing homemade missiles over the prison wall into Israel. Damage is minimal but the Israeli Government and its military are embarrassed by these acts of public defiance.

"What Israel doesn't admit is that its military constantly carries out air raids and 'surgical strikes' that kill and maim hundreds of Palestinian civilians, with the blessing of the US administration. The world takes the word of the Israeli Government when it claims it is targeting militants. When innocent victims, including children, are killed and maimed that is accepted as collateral damage.

"Television shots last week showing tens of thousands of Palestinian civilians streaming into Egypt through holes blown through the wall that encircles Gaza show Israel's huge crime against the Palestinian people.

"One of the chilling crimes committed by the Nazis when occupying Poland was walling off a large part of the city of Warsaw, forcing all Jews into it.

"Inside these walls there was a Jewish resistance that ran attacks against its jailers. The Nazi occupiers took retaliation by carrying out collective punishment against the civilian population, which included shelling, assassinating their leaders and cutting off supplies.

"What's the next move for Israeli leaders? They could have to follow the example of the Nazis who in the end massacred everyone inside the compound...

"The truth is Israel is a terrorist state and is able to wage crimes on an innocent people because it is funded and abetted by the world's only superpower. Watching the television images of the Palestinians breaking through to freedom surely must make everyone in the world realise we are being sold a great lie about Israel wanting to negotiate peace."

Yes, New Zealand is different. Thank God.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Rotem's Revenge

"Diplomacy, n The art and business of lying for one's country." Ambrose Bierce, The Devil's Dictionary

There was no way the Sydney Morning Herald was going to get away with it. Bambi's daring ( inexperience?) in printing 5 letters likening the Gaza to the Warsaw Ghetto (See my posts, We Remember Warsaw & WRW: The Sequel), was an inexcusable lapse. The Protocols of the Propagandists of Zion require that such lapses shall not pass. And, of course, this one was no exception.

And so, none other than the Israeli ambassador himself, Yuval Rotem, was wheeled out on the Herald's opinion page to dispel the publics' persistent perception that Israel is to Gaza as Nazi Germany was to the Warsaw Ghetto. Rotem's propaganda line had already been laid down by Israel's ubiquitous Foreign Media Adviser, Mark Regev: "Hamas is the problem; there's no doubt about that. Hamas is holding the whole region hostage. It's holding the Israeli population in the south hostage to the daily missile barrages...and it's holding the civilian population of Gaza hostage, who are suffering because of the extremist and hateful agenda of this regime." [Foreign Ministry response to events at Rafah crossing, Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 23/1/08]

In Voices missing from Gaza debate (4/2/08), the ambassador claimed that neither the voices of the people of Gaza nor those of Israel were "being heard."

This is certainly true for Palestinian voices, particularly in our craven, Israel-friendly media. But that, of course, was not what the ambassador meant. Regev had decreed that Hamas hostage-takers were the problem, and Rotem was dutifully parroting his talking point: "Hamas is holding the people of Gaza hostage to its belief that Israel should be destroyed and in doing so it is destroying its own people's hope of survival." Asserted, of course, with a well-practised shrug of the shoulders and a pained look.

Israel's representative would have us believe that the Palestinian people, who only two years ago elected Hamas to government in the occupied Palestinian territories, are the dupes of a band of genocidal thugs. The real dupes, of course, are those Israelis who (with the honorable exception of Israeli refuseniks) fill the ranks of the Israeli occupation forces and obediently carry on the grand tradition, pioneered by their fathers and grandfathers, of ethnically cleansing Palestine of its indigenous people. And that alleged "belief that Israel should be detroyed" is merely a rhetorical ploy to divert us from the awful reality that it is Palestine that is systematically being destroyed, by Israel.

And what of the Israeli voice in Rotem's phony balancing act? He would have us believe that Israel is "being denied a voice by the world media, which are choosing to focus on the situation facing Gazans while ignoring the terrifying plight of the people of Sderot, a town in southern Israel...In Gaza the terrorist organization Hamas focuses its weaponry on civilians; on children in their schools and kindergartens, on families' homes and in the streets of Sderot."
But before spinning Sderot, shouldn't Rotem have first consulted that other Israeli voice recently heard in the ms Australian media? Wasn't Professor Fania Oz-Salzberger (chair of Modern Israel Studies at Monash University) telling us mere days before (28/1/08) in The Age that "The truth must be said, and in the Israeli public sphere it is said loud and clear: Gaza is immensely worse off than Sderot. Israeli children in the western Negev face a daily routine of sirens and near-miss explosions. Yet Sderot's kids have food, medical care and holidays away from it all. Their parents can choose to leave, and most of them proudly opt to stay. Children in the Gaza Strip get none of those benefits." Oh dear! Still, he did manage to mimic his compatriot's crocodile tears, "We are not blind to the plight of innocent Palestinian civilians..," with his 'own' "To see the people of Gaza suffer is not pleasurable for Israelis."[See my post, Doppelganger]

A given in this kind of propaganda, of course, is that Israel only ever acts in "self-defence," and Rotem does not disappoint. His example: "[Israel]blocked fuel supplies only after Palestinian snipers killed an Ecuadorian volunteer..." But if we wanted to know the context in which that killing took place, we'd have to turn to the Israeli daily, Haaretz: "Parts of southern Israel were subjected to a barrage of 25 Qassam rockets and dozens of mortars Tuesday, the IDF said, in the wake of IDF raids in Gaza that killed 19 Palestinians...Also Tuesday, an Ecuadorian volunteer working in the fields of a kibbutz near Gaza was shot dead by a sniper from Hamas' armed wing." [25 Qassams fired at Israel after deadly IDF Gaza raid, 16/1/08] That's right, clobber a guy, and if he fights back, clobber him some more and scream self-defence. Works well, every time, especially in our barely functional ms media.

Surprisingly, however, there are compensations in wading through Rotem's propagandist sludge. Take this platitudinous gem for example: "Unlike other forces in the region, Israel does not have the luxury of not being an island of optimism that radiates hope and future for all the people in our neighbourhood." Well done, Yuval! All your own work? This little confection is almost as good as my favourite (from our very own Mark Leibler) : "For Hamas and Hezbollah, every dead Israeli child is a victory and a cause for celebration. For Israel, every dead Palestinian child is a tragedy and a mistake."

"At what point," ambassador Rotem concludes, remembering his theme of unheard voices, "will Israelis be given a voice in this debate?" Well, here's one Israeli voice regrettably denied a hearing in Australia's ms media, that of Interior Minister, Meir Sheetrit. The Jerusalem Post reports him as having "called on the IDF to 'take off its gloves', head into Gaza with armored tractors and raze an entire neighborhood from which rockets have been launched..." [IDF should wipe out parts of Gaza, 11/2/08] Very Warsaw Ghetto, no? And speaking of voices unheard...

The voice of Palestine's democratically elected Hamas government is unlikely ever to surface in our gutless ms media, although Israel's liberal daily, Haaretz, has no qualms in giving it a platform. Just imagine, if you will, the following on the same page as Rotem's rot:-

"Last week's bombing in Dimona was the first martyrdom operation committed by Hamas in more than 5 years. For some time, we have been warning the world that the relentless pressure on our people would eventually tell. In the last 2 months, more than a hundred people have been killed by the Israeli occupation forces in the Gaza Strip, including many civilians, women and children.

"Thirty people have died in the last month for lack of medical care brought on by the embargo. Only 2 weeks ago we saw the appalling sight of over 40 women and children seriously injured when an Israeli F-16 dropped an enormous bomb in the middle of the densely populated Gaza City, a few meters from a wedding party. This kind of atrocity, piled onto the daily death toll, has finally tested the patience of Palestinians, and after lengthy restraint, revenge was inevitable.

"To many in Israel and the West, this act of resistance will be judged in isolation. They will no doubt say that it justifies the inhumane embargo on the people of Gaza and the arrests of more than 500 people and the daily torture of innocents in the West Bank by both Israelis and the puppet government imposed on us by the US.

"What they seem to forget is that just in the last 2 years, 2,000 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli military action and thousands more injured. The cold-blooded fact is that the ratio of Palestinian deaths to Israelis is now over 40 to 1.

"The Hamas-led government has consistently called for a long-term cease-fire. For 9 months before the election that brought us to power we observed a unilateral cease-fire, ensuring that no rockets were fired from Gaza by our movement. We observed this policy during the first 6 months in government, despite the fact that our words and actions were summarily dismissed by the Israelis and their US allies.

"If the people of Sderot want to know why rockets continue to land around them, they should ask their own government why it has continually rejected our calls for a cease-fire and continued its policy of daily incursions and reckless targeting that put the whole population at risk." [Excerpt from Palestinian revenge was inevitable, by Ahmed Yousef (senior political advisor to the foreign minister in the Hamas government), Haaretz, 12/2/08]

Monday, February 11, 2008

Scoop! Gaza Goes Global!

Sinister forces are on the march and threatening Israel's very existence! How do I know? you ask. It's all here in The Australian!

In Suicide bombing returns to Israeli soil after a year (5/2/08), Jerusalem correspondent, Abraham Rabinovich, says, "Mr Diskin [head of Israel's internal intelligence agency, Shin Bet] told Israel's cabinet that since Hamas breached the border with Egypt almost two weeks ago, advanced weaponry and dozens of trained militants from Iran, Syria and Egypt have poured into the Gaza Strip. He said the weapons included long-range rockets capable of hitting Israeli towns that were previously beyond Hamas's reach..." Whoa! "Advanced weaponry and dozens of trained militants"? Crikey!

Then he says, "Israel Radio yesterday quoted a security official as saying Hamas was building a substantial military potential in Gaza and sought to reach mutual deterrence with Israel. The official said it was necessary to launch a ground offensive to smash this capability before it advanced much further."

Hm, "mutual deterrence with Israel"? Scary, eh! What was that you said? Probably the lads in Israeli PR concocted it as a pretext for the Israeli Defence Forces to waltz in and re-arrange the furniture? My God, you're cynical, my friend. This is The Australian, not The Syrian Morning Herald! Now listen to this:-

It's headlined, Breach 'let jihadis flood into Gaza' (9/2/08), and it's by their Middle East correspondent, Martin Chulov. Chulov says, "The Palestinian Authority claims the two-week breach of the border between Israel and Egypt last month allowed up to 2,000 global jihadi militants to infiltrate the strip to take up the fight against Israel."

Great Scott! Before you can say, 'Greg Sheridan', the "global jihadi militant" count's up from "dozens" to "2,000!" Sorry? What's that you're asking? Questions, questions, you're full of 'em. Had they been hanging about in the Sinai just waiting to pounce? If they wanted to "fight against Israel," why didn't they "infiltrate" Israel and not Gaza? Wouldn't they have gotten in the way of all those "would-be suicide bombers who crossed into the Sinai desert from Gaza...plotting to strike Israeli cities" (The Australian, 6/2/08)? Blimey! I wish you'd treat this with the seriousness it deserves. Anyway, Chulov says it's a PA, not a PR source, you ignoramus.

Listen to this. He goes on to say that "Security sources in the West Bank say the men, many of whom battled coalition forces in Iraq, brought with them weapons and explosives to add to an already formidable arsenal controlled by Hamas. The men have begun tours of Hamas training camps throughout Gaza and have vowed to step up attacks on the Israeli side of the security barrier, say key figures among Fatah forces loyal to PA President Mahmoud Abbas..."

Thank God we don't live in Israel! What's that? More carping questions? Why didn't they just go directly into Israel? You're incorrigible, you know that?

Chulov also says, "'Hamas has turned the Gaza Strip into an international centre for global jihad', one official said. Another told Israeli media: 'Most of the men who entered the Gaza Strip through the breached border are now being trained in Hamas's camps and schools'."

Strewth, now I'm getting confused. I thought Rabinovich said Diskin said they were already trained! And Chulov's already had the PA saying they'd fought in Iraq against the cowboys! So why do they need to be "trained" by Hamas? And what's this about going to school?

Deep breath. I must have faith. Greg, Martin, Abraham, Rupert - they've never let me down before. And anyways, surely the PA guys'd know a battle-scarred global jihadi if they saw one? After all, weren't they all "global jihadi militants" themselves only a short time ago before they saw the light and teamed up with the Israelis and the Americans?

Oh no, I should've stopped there. Now Chulov's saying, "Palestinian Authority officials have in the past falsely claimed Iranian academics and regime figures had infiltrated Gaza using a tunnel network, which runs under the southern border."

What the hell are you laughing at? Shut your mouth! I swear, if you crack any bloody jokes about Iranians wearing black gowns and mortar boards, and clutching PhDs in their hands, popping up out of holes in the ground to teach ex-Iraqi global jihadi militants Shi'ism 101 in Hamas schools -or say anything about Ayatollahs covered in mud - I'll do what Chulov reckons the Egyptians are going to do to anyone who infiltrates into Egypt again: I'll break your bloody legs!

Sunday, February 10, 2008

When Even the Retraction is Dodgy 2

The Australian's Foreign Editor, Greg (Jerusalem Prize) Sheridan has been forced to resile yet again from some of the more egregious porkies in his Paean of Praise to Israel, Deep inside the plucky country (19/1/08). [See my post, Gullible's Travels]

You will remember how Sheridan was forced to climb down from his figure of 7,500 Israeli civilian victims of Palestinian "terrorists" from 2000-2005 in Israel proper (19/1/08) to 1100 (2/2/08), which, as I demonstrated in When Even the Retraction is Dodgy was itself dodgy, because it included all Israeli fatalities, civilian and military, in Israel and in the occupied Palestinian territories.

Well, the following was appended to his latest (9/2/08) opinion piece (Obama vote touches on race, undeniably) in The Australian: "Several readers have drawn attention to an ambiguity in my...article, Deep inside the plucky country (January 19). Israel has indeed been subject to thousands of rocket attacks over the decades. But since its withdrawal from southern Lebanon in 2000, the rocket and mortar attacks have numbered in the hundreds rather than the thousands as I reported."

This, second, retraction is as dodgy as the first. First, there's his attempt to pass off an assertion ("Where [Israel had] done that [ie go back to its 1967 border] in southern Lebanon...the result has been disastrous. It was subject to thousands of rocket attacks from southern Lebanon until it went to war with Hezbollah...") as "an ambiguity." Second, there's his attempt to pad out "rocket attacks" with "rocket and mortar attacks."

More importantly, however, his revised figure of "hundreds" of such attacks since Israel's withdrawal from Lebanon in 2000 is as incorrect as his earlier "thousands."

And here's the proof:

a) According to UN figures cited by Stephen R Shalom of the Faculty of Political Science at William Paterson University in the US, 48 rockets fell on civilian areas of northern Israel in the period from May 2000-July 12 2006. [Lebanon War Question & Answer, 7/8/06] So much for "hundreds." (For the purposes of this post I will not discuss who fired them or the context of same.)

b) Israel's Ministry of Foreign Affairs' list, Hizbullah attacks along Israel's northern border May 2000-June 2006, offers the following sketchy data (in reverse chronological order): "Katyushas"/"6 Katyushas"/"mortars & Katyushas"/"20 mortars"/"1 anti-tank missile"/"missiles & rockets"/"heavy rocket, mortar fire." No "hundreds" here either.

c) Zionist propaganda website, CAMERA (Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America), cites only one instance (9/4/02) of "Katyushas" being fired into northern Israel within this time frame. [Timeline of Hezbollah Violence, 17/7/06,] "Hundreds" would surely have received more prominence than this.

d) Daniel Sobelman's August 2004 Strategic Assessment for Tel Aviv University's Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies, Four Years after the Withdrawal from Lebanon: Refining the Rules of the Game, analyses cross-border conflict from 2000-2004. Sobelman finds that "In the second half of the period since the withdrawal, Hizbollah emerges as an organization wishing to preserve the status quo in the north...After the IDF withdrawal from southern Lebanon, Hizbollah turned the Shab'a Farms area on the slopes of Mt Dov into its major, nearly exclusive theater of operations against Israel...Despite the ongoing demand that Israel withdraw from the disputed area in Mount Dov, Hizbollah today is to a large extent an organization that preserves the existing rules of the game on the Israeli-Lebanese border, which are regulated primarily by the principle of 'measure for measure'...A senior official in the organization, Nawaf Musawi, in charge of external relations, even went so far as to define the organization's relations with Israel as a 'cold war'...Since January 2003 the north has enjoyed the longest periods of quiet that the region has known in several decades, and particularly since the withdrawal." No joy for Sheridan here.

Whether he is plucking "thousands" or "hundreds" out of the air, Sheridan's pathetic attempt to paint the period 2000-2006 on Israel's northern border as some kind of protracted Khe Sanh redux places him on the same level as the most artless of pro-Israel cyber-warriors.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

'Confused & Confounded': David Hardaker Takes His Leave

"I think it's fair to say," intoned presenter, Elizabeth Jackson, on Radio National's Correspondents Report, "that some of the best material that has aired on this program has been written and delivered by the ABC's Middle East correspondent, David Hardaker. After nearly 3 years, David is leaving Jerusalem and returning to Sydney to await the arrival of his second child. So, what was he thinking as he packed his bags and headed home?"

On came the familiar voice of David Hardaker. What he had to say left me shaking my head:-

He began by musing on the theme of justice. A friend had "ventured the view that what happened to Hamas after it won the Palestinian elections seemed so unjust. Unjust. She was, of course, talking about the international effort to make it impossible for Hamas to govern, given that they're defined as a terrorist group, even though they won the election. But the word 'unjust', suddenly it seemed to be an alien concept. I don't think I've lost my moral compass completely - it's only that, in the ME, words like 'just', 'unjust', 'justice' seem to have no meaning. " By way of illustration, he talked about Egypt(!), "where I lived for 18 months," and asked, "What's just about studying as hard as you can and doing the best you can, but being denied a job because your family doesn't have any connections?"

Yes, quite unjust, but how, I thought, can being denied the job of your choice be up there with the nonexistent prospects of a typical resident of Gaza who has had both his country and his life stolen (or even taken), just as his father's life, and his grandfather's, right back to the Catastrophe of 1948, had been stolen, and who now finds himself under siege (and undernourished) in the world's largest open-air prison? Another irrelevant story followed, about a wealthy Cairene friend whose light-fingered chauffeur had died in police custody.

The moral? "By the time I got to Jerusalem 'justice' as a concept was on its last legs. I know they say you need moral outrage to be a good journalist. I'm not sure that's the case when it comes to covering the ME. In fact, I think you can end up being outraged all the time, and in the process miss what's going on."

Here was a man who couldn't see the wood for the trees, one who could rattle off one case of personal injustice after the other to the point where he's convinced that the Middle East is a place apart, a morality-free zone. One can see him sipping his lattes in Sydney in the coming months, and telling the old joke about the frog and the scorpion: how the scorpion persuades the frog to carry him across the Red Sea on his back after first promising him that he will not sting him to death, which would mean suicide for them both. Halfway across, the scorpion stings the frog. 'Why did you do that?' asks the frog. 'Now we're both going to die!' 'This is the Middle East', replies the scorpion, as they both descend to a watery grave. Hardaker may not "miss what's going on" on the surface, but he appears to miss an understanding of the underlying dynamics at work in Israel's unrelenting, decades long, no-holds-barred project of wresting Palestine from its indigenous Arab population.

There were cliches: "In the end there's power, and how you can use it to your advantage. There's a great phrase to capture the strange alliances that form in the Middle East, it's 'the best of enemies'. How else to explain a secular government like Syria hosting the leaders of the Islamic Hamas movement, especially when not too many years ago, then president, Hafez al-Assad ordered an operation which killed something like 20,000 members of the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas' fellow travellers, just to teach them a lesson. Or how else to explain the sudden transformation of the Palestinian Fatah movement from a group of so-called 'terrorists' to best friends of the US Government? The rise of Hamas has made them the best of enemies."

On Planet Middle East, politics is all about Power, while here in the Real World it's all about Principle, right? And Religion is sooo important that an alliance between Syria and Hamas is inexplicable, even though Israel is breathing down both their necks, right? And that, "not too many years ago" - if Hardaker had done his homework, he'd have known that while Assad was tangling with the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas had yet to be born. As for the Fatah-US alliance, what's so "sudden" about that? Arafat and Fatah had been pinning his hopes on the Dishonest Broker for well over a decade. What did I say about the wood and the trees?

There was homey wisdom: "A Canadian colleague of mine believes 3 years is enough to cover the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He knows a guy who snapped at the start of his fourth year, he says, because of the lies. An American newspaper heading out of town after 5 years, feeling tired from it all. Why? 'The lies, the lies, the lies', Craig says. Personally, I don't find all the lying, coming from both sides, to be the problem. For me the difficulty is grappling with the various truths, the multitude of various Palestinian and Israeli groups who are certain that their vision of this land - its past and its future - is the right vision. The big picture of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and indeed the whole Middle East, can be confusing and confounding."

It's all just too hard, isn't it? But is it? Only if your premise, like Hardaker's, is a false equivalence between the two sides. Only if you can't see who's doing the hammering and who's being hammered. Only if you can't see the wood for the trees.

There were platitudes: "There was the time Israeli border guards killed a 10 year-old Palestinian girl who happened to be near a demonstration...Her father just happened to be a former militant, a man who once carried a gun, but gave it up to work for peace with a joint Israeli-Palestinian group. It was, as the cliche has it, a cruel irony. But here's what's wonderful: despite what happened, that man swore that the death of his little girl would only make him work harder for peace."

The assumptions, the assumptions! As a "former militant," the Palestinian was once ipso facto a warmongering fanatic, and so, an enemy of peace. Only by giving up the gun could he become a peacemaker. Israelis, of course, are never warmongering militants, they're border guards or soldiers or armed settlers, peacekeepers in fact, and hence peacemakers. What's more, these trigger-happy (but peacekeeping) folk not only get to keep their guns, but can even shoot the children of reformed Palestinian militants without running the risk of being seen as warmongering militarist bullies by the 'confused and confounded' Hardakers of the international media.

That the Palestinians have little option but recourse to violence seems far from obvious to Hardaker. Given that they are up against a ruthless enemy who will only get off their case if they give up their rights and pack their bags, they will, as Canadian philosopher, Michael Neumann, correctly points out, "continue to choose, sometimes violence, sometimes nonviolence, most often a mixture of the two. They will presumably base their choices, as they have always done, on their assessment of the political realities. It is a sort of insolent naivete to suppose that, in their weakness, they should defy the lessons of history and cut off half their options. The notion that a people (in any sense of the word) can free itself literally by allowing their captors to walk all over them is in historical terms a fantasy. In short, the Palestinians had to use violence of some sort: it might not work, but there was at least some historical precedent for it working." [The Case Against Israel, p 135]

When one listens to hacks such as Hardaker, it is well to recall the words of veteran BBC correspondent, Tim Llewellyn: "Since the Palestinians began their armed uprising against Israel's military occupation three years and eight months ago, British television and radio's reporting of it has been, in the main, dishonest - in concept, approach and execution. In my judgement as a journalist and Middle East specialist, the broadcasters' language favours the occupying soldiers over the occupied Arabs, depicting the latter, essentially, as alien tribes threatening the survival of Israel, rather than vice versa. The struggle between Israel and the Palestinians is shown, most especially on mainstream bulletins, as a battle between two 'forces', possessed equally of right and wrong and responsibility. It is the tyranny of spurious equivalence." [The Observer, 20/6/04]

For what it's worth (not very much in my opinion, obviously), Hardaker's farewell to this can of worms may be found at: