Thursday, May 29, 2008

Benny Revisited

"The Jews have four or five thousand Palmach troops and a paper army of fifty thousand in the Haganah, but they have only ten thousand rifles... The Jews are outnumbered in soldiers forty to one, in population a hundred to one, and in area five thousand to one." Leon Uris in Exodus

I have written several posts this month about Israeli historian Benny Morris. In my last (Benny Diagnosed, 14/5/08), I referred to his forthcoming book 1948: A History of the First Arab-Israeli War, and suggested that "it would no doubt be lauded in the Murdoch press here." 1948 was duly reviewed in The Australian on 24/5/08 with the expected hyperbole ("a significant work that is likely to become the standard account of the first Israeli-Arab war") by Abraham Rabinovich whose reports on Israeli affairs routinely rub shoulders in The Australian with those of its Middle East correspondent, Martin Chulov.

Although I haven't read the book, Rabinovich's review suggests that Morris' transition from historian to propagandist, alluded to in my earlier posts, is now all but complete.

Take these two sentences, for example, from the opening paragraph: "...Benny Morris spells out the Arab dysfunction and Jewish cohesiveness that permitted 650,000 Jews to forge a state 60 years ago in the face of a hostile Arab world that outnumbered it 40 to one. In doing so, they belied the confident predictions of the CIA and the British military command that the Jewish state would be stillborn."

Confident predictions of an Arab victory? Pull the other, Benny/Abraham.

What follows is taken from Stephen Green's invaluable 1984 book, Taking Sides: America's Secret Relations with a Militant Israel 1948/1967. Green's data is based "almost entirely on documents available [via FOIA requests] in the Modern Military, General, and Diplomatic branches of the National Archives in Washington":-

"The idea that the victory of the Jews in the battle for Palestine was a miracle victory against overwhelming odds is arrant nonsense. More precisely, that idea is unsupported by the documentation. US military and intelligence professionals followed quite closely the preparations for war in the Middle East, as the British Mandate drew to a close... Fortunately, the vast majority of persons engaged in strategic planning for the US at the time were thorough professionals who had little use for legends or myths. They were more concerned with numbers of soldiers, arms and equipment, training, sources of resupply, financial resources, and the like. And in these hard terms, the prospects for the new Jewish state looked bright indeed, before, during, and after the declaration of Israeli independence in May of 1948..."

"The Chiefs of the British Middle East and Palestine commands estimated the Haganah had 'a reasonably well-trained and equipped force of about 65,000 persons with a reserve of perhaps up to 40,000'... The Haganah had 'transport and all the machine guns, rifles, mortars together with ammunition that it needs'..."

"Already in 1945, the composition of the Jewish immigrants into Palestine - legal and illegal - was changing: people of military age, many of whom had already had military training and/or experience in Europe, predominated... And alongside the Haganah, the Jewish settlements had the extremist Irgun ('3000-5000') and Stern group ('several hundred'), which were also very well armed. The British Chiefs thought that the Jews would win a war with the Arabs in the short run, but in the longer run, economic and supply factors would favour the Arabs unless the Jews were resupplied from outside the Middle East..."

"A year and a half later, in November, 1947, the US Army Intelligence Division was asked by the CIA to do the military section for an estimate that the agency was preparing on the 'Consequences of the Partition of Palestine'. The total strength of the Arab forces in Palestine, the Army said, was 33,000, most of whom were members of poorly equipped 'quasi-military organizations'. The largest number of Arabs that would ever be mobilized against the Zionists was between 100,000 and 200,000, including soldiers from all the surrounding Arab states. In an all-out war, however, Army Intelligence estimated that the Jews could mobilize and arm with modern weapons some 200,000 men and women 'who have had some combat and supply experience at one time or another'..."

Although Palestinians outnumbered Jews by over 2 to 1, "Another Army ID document... showed Arab males only outnumber Jewish males in the 20-39 'military' age group by 149,000 to 121,000..."

"On May 13, the day before the end of the mandate, Secretary of State Marshall predicted in his 'Daily Report Palestine' that the combined Arab armies would be no match for the Haganah... the US Consul General reported:'Considerable doubt exists that Arab armies other than [Jordan's] Arab Legion will do more than cross Palestine frontiers and await developments'. And later: 'Jewish Agency would regard invasion of Palestine by Arab armies as releasing Agency from obligations of 29 November [Partition] resolution, replied that Ben Gurion had always said that main aim of Jews was to get all of Palestine'." [So much for Rabinovich's concluding paragraph: "In retrospect, the worst thing that could have happened to the Jewish state would have been Arab acceptance. Partition as envisioned by the UN would have left Israel with only a 50,000-person Jewish majority within its boundaries, a disparity that would have been reversed within a few years by the high Arab birthrate."]

"On May 18, four days after the [Arab] invasion, the Army Intelligence Division... summarized [the fighting thus]: 'Upon the termination of the British Mandate, the proclamation of the Jewish State was countered by the entry into Palestine of the regular armed forces of the Arab League States of Egypt, Transjordan, Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon. These forces... total some 20,000 men. The organized Arab guerillas already operating within Palestine number some 13,000. Opposing these forces are over 40,000 full-time Jewish troops, supported by some 50,000 militia.' The Jews had outnumbered the Arab forces, regular and irregular, by nearly 3 to 1."

Green concluded: "In books, movies, and TV shows in the 50s and 60s, the Jewish state was depicted as having defeated the Arabs against overwhelming odds, contrary to virtually every professional strength estimate of the opposing forces that was made at the time of the war itself."(pp 66-73)

If Rabinovich is correct, Morris' 1948 looks more like a throwback to Leon Uris' propaganda novel Exodus than the touted "significant work that is likely to become the standard account of the first Arab-Israeli war."

Monday, May 26, 2008

A Tale of Two Exhibitions

The corporate media's idea of what is and isn't newsworthy never ceases to amaze.

Screaming headlines, front page reports, assorted commentary and opinion pieces, photographs, and soundbites from Kevin Rudd ("absolutely revolting") on down, all occasioned by Bill Henson's abortive NSW Police-interdicted exhibition of photographs of naked child models, have rained down on us for days now. That's the news that's fit to print.

Another abortive NSW Police-interdicted exhibition received no such media attention, apart from a May 13 report in the Sydney Morning Herald and a May 14 piece on Radio National's PM program. No, this exhibition wasn't about what could, in the eyes of some, be construed as porn, but about worse, much worse. It was about Palestine.

The Herald reported that plods from the NSW police anti-terrorism squad had paid a visit to Sydney's Leichhardt Council on the eve of an exhibition about the Palestinian Nakba set up in the library's foyer by local group Friends of Hebron. This had led to Council canning the exhibition because, in the words of the mayor, "it hadn't met the council's criteria for such projects, which include not being divisive." A police media spokesman was reported as saying that "the officers were from the community contact unit, which falls within its Counter Terrorism Operations. They had not visited the library to tell it to cancel the exhibition, but only to 'say hi' to Friends of Hebron." (We're just here to say hi: terror squad)

The mayor apparently objected to some of the photographs' captions, "including one that said Palestinian children going to school needed protection from children from Israel who were throwing stones," and was quoted as saying, "Being in a public library is different to being in an exhibition space. If you're in an exhibition space and someone knows they are going into the exhibition, they expect to be educated and confronted. But most people going into a library just want to return books."

The mayor's superb grasp of the issues, not to mention her way with words, were further aired on PM: "The sort of thing was Israeli children throwing stones at the Palestinians on the way to school and another thing was that they are destroying this house so that they can get it, the Israelis are. There was another thing about... there was the first image was a bombed down house with a how would you feel if the Israelis did this to your house."

The head librarian, apparently too traumatised to speak herself, was quoted by a FoH spokesperson, as saying that the police "had put the fear of God into her and the staff and everyone in the library felt intimidated by... the 'Men in Black'."

However, the piece de resistance (If I can use that word without exciting the attention of Men in Black who just want to drop in and say hi) was the PM reporter's hilarious exchange with Peter Dein, "Assistant Commissioner of NSW Police in charge of counter terrorism":-

PETER DEIN: Police from the Community Contact Unit have no interest in that particular exhibition and they haven't said anything to anybody about the fact, or the content of that particular exhibition. They were there simply to make contact with the people that were running that exhibition, not in relation to the exhibition itself.

EMILY BOURKE: So it's a complete coincidence that the exhibition was happening on the afternoon that the officers arrived?

DEIN: Most certainly, yes. As I said, they were there for the purpose of tracking down the people that they wanted to speak to so that they could start building this relationship and they thought it was a convenient place to attend because they were led to believe that they were actually at the library that afternoon. As it turned out they weren't and they left messages for the people to contact them and it appears as if somehow the message got twisted.

BOURKE: There's been an allegation that the actions by the police were... intimidatory... they have been described as 'Men in Black'. That they put the fear of God into the librarians, that it's a throwback to McCarthyism...

DEIN: That's outrageous. That is just incredible to even hear that. God only knows where that's coming from. It's very disappointing to find out that this has come to that. What they were trying to do was exercise a proactive, positive initiative for the purpose of making contact with people in communities that need our assistance and need us, need to become very acquainted with police for the purposes of looking after them and that's just totally outrageous that someone would even think that."

Oh dear! "... they were led to believe..." Were they now? Now who, I hear you asking, was it that alerted the 'Men in Black' to the nefarious goings on of the FoH sleeper cell in the library foyer? Search me (No, not you, Men In Black!).

Interestingly, a group(uscle?) of alert - and highly alarmed - citizens, name of Inner West Chavurah, who recently issued a press release thoughtfully summarised as "The FoH had not abided by their undertakings, and seem upset at the consequences"?

Herewith its somewhat arcane theoretical introduction, followed by my plain English translation:-

"The FoH wished to convey a narrative of suffering by the Palestinian people at the hands of Israel. The Chavurah indicated that this approach invites the competing narrative of suicide bombing in Israel and constant shelling of Israeli towns from Gaza even though Israel withdrew unilaterally from there." Palestinians don't suffer. And even if they do, it's got nothing to do with Israel. And even if it has, Israelis suffer just as much, if not more, at the hands of the Palestinians. And quite undeservedly too, seeing as how when Israel recently did them a good turn by exiting the Gaza Strip, the buggers just up and bit her on her ample (khaki-clad) bum.

"Portrayed in these terms the Middle East conflict gets replicated in Leichhardt with tensions felt in the community and tit-for-tat accusations of who is the victim, and who is the perpetrator. The reality is that everyone in the Middle East suffers, and many respond by perpetrating and the violence continues." FoH terrorists have imported this cosmic cycle of Mid-East violence into Pleasantville such that its once pleasant and placid streets are no longer... well, placid or pleasant.

"The dilemma for Council was: should Council facilities be used in activities that have the potential to cause disharmony, anxiety, and dissention [sic] in the Leichhardt community?" Because FoH terrorists are out and about scaring the bejesus out of Pleasantville's horses, Pleasantville Council has been forced to act to prevent the very Decline and Fall of Pleasantville as we know it.

"The Chavurah posed a positive way forward: why not celebrate the courageous people, on the ground, Israeli and Palestinian, who at some risk to themselves extend a hand of friendship and trust and undertake joint projects to improve each others lives and demand that a two-state solution* be enacted by their leaders." The Chutzpah, in its unrelenting search for peace (and at some considerable risk to itself) extended its trembling white hand, fairly dripping with beads and mirrors, towards the ticking bombs of the FoH, in a most generous offer: the FoH extremists would get 90% (or 95%, or 97%, or whatever) of the grassy sward out back of Pleasantville Library, while Chutzpah would keep the Library and the Council (which Abraham had long ago earmarked as Chutzpah territory anyway).

[* Deciphering Chutzpah's utterances is not always easy. I take its reference to "a two-state solution" to mean that part of the West Bank should be annexed to the state of Israel, while the rest is given over to an Israeli settler state. And the Palestinians? What Palestinians?]

"A joint effort by IWC and FoH would replicate the many peace initiatives being practiced in the Middle East." Let's play a game. We'll pee on your leg, and you pretend it's raining.

Given that this is Middle East Reality Check, it is appropriate to conclude this post by moving beyond the high farce of our NSW plodders, the ignorance and timidity of council seatwarmers, and the unctuous platitudinising of the IWC Zionists to the awful reality of Hebron under Israeli occupation - the whole point of the exhibition we weren't allowed to see:-

"It is a scene repeated, with minor variations, virtually every day: a group of Palestinian schoolgirls, huddled together with their mothers, their teachers, and a team of international volunteers, is picking its way across a rocky hillside. Behind them is the school from which they have just departed... Before them is the path along the hillside, terminating in a narrow set of stairs leading down to a paved road. In between, there is a group of Jewish settler girls, accompanied by a detachment of heavily armed Israeli soldiers... They see the Palestinian schoolchildren approaching and stand up to obstruct the path, heaping verbal abuse at the Palestinian girls and their mothers. Pushing and shoving follows... The Israeli soldiers... try to intervene, but they are under strict orders. Their duty is to protect the Jewish girls: they are not allowed to physically restrain them. The girls are emboldened because they know there's nothing the soldiers can do to stop them - and that if any Palestinian so much as lifts a hand to them, the soldiers will instantly step forward to protect them. The soldiers plead with the girls to make way for the Palestinians; at the same time they bark orders at the Palestinian mothers and daughters, 'Yalla, imshi!' (Come on, get moving!) Finally, the procession breaks through the crowd of settler girls.

"The Palestinian children's ordeal is not over, however. As they approach the top of the steps, Jewish settler boys... start pelting them with stones. The path narrows and bottlenecks as it reaches the top of the stairs. The stairs themselves are narrow and slippery: they descend along the side of a building, but there is no bannister facing the street side, no protection of any kind - an open drop to the street below. The Palestinian children and their mothers, crowded together and gingerly picking their way down the slippery steps one by one, are exposed to the stones. Some of the Jewish boys pelting them are as young as 5 or 6. There are adults - Jewish settlers - watching them. None intervenes. There is another detachment of Israeli soldiers here as well; but the boys, like their sisters on the hillside above, know that the soldiers are incapable of stopping them. The stoning continues.

"The main entrance to the [school] was sealed with razor wire by the Israeli army in 2002: this dangerous path is the only way for the Palestinian schoolchildren to get to and from their school. Because of the nature of the harrassment and intimidation the children face, there are at least 3 different international organizations providing escorts and observers to accompany them as they come and go from school, including Temporary International Presence in Hebron (TIPH) and the Ecumenical Accompaniment Program in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI), sponsored by the World Council of Churches. The escorts observe and record what happens on a daily basis, and relay their observations, pictures, and videos, but they can't physically protect the Palestinian children or their mothers. On the contrary, they must frequently practice the Christian virtue of turning the other cheek. In June 2006, Duduzile Masango, a young South African Christian volunteer with EAPPI, was assaulted by an elderly settler woman near the [school], who attempted to smother her with a towel. In April of that year, a German social worker, a Norwegian sociologist, and a Swiss lawyer, all also with EAPPI, were stoned by settlers near the school while accompanying Palestinian children. The lawyer needed several stitches for a head wound as a result.

"In November 2006, Tove Johansson, a Swedish human rights worker with TIPH, was among a group of international volunteers accompanying Palestinian schoolchildren when the group was surrounded by Jewish settlers - adults this time... The settlers closed in and started spitting on the Palestinian children and their international escorts - so much spit that one of the observers said it felt like rain. Pushing and kicking followed. Then one of the Jewish men reached forward and broke a glass bottle on Tove's face, shattering her cheekbone. As she fell to the ground, the crowd of settlers surged forward, cheering and chanting. At that point, the Israeli soldiers who had been so far standing by called for the crowd of settlers to back off. They backed off a little, but continued jeering. The Palestinian children were terrified; their young escorts, tending to Tove, were hardly less shaken. Finally, the Israeli police intervened - threatening to arrest the international human rights workers if they did not move off.

"The international observers come and go. For the Palestinian children of Hebron, however, these are scenes of everyday life. It doesn't always end in blood, but they face this ordeal twice each day, going to and from school." (Palestine Inside Out: An Everyday Occupation, Saree Makdisi, pp 209-211)

Friday, May 23, 2008

Kevin Bonhoeffer vs Adolf Ahmadinejad

Just how far out on a limb is Prime Minister Kevin Rudd prepared to go in support of Israel? Further than anyone else it seems. Our leader's bizarre quest for the scalp of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the Iranian president (see my earlier posts Ahmadinejad: Our Part in His Downfall, 29/2/08 & Testing Time for Rudd, 21/12/07), apparently remains alive - long after such neocononsense bit the dust in the US, Canada and the UK.

The matter most recently surfaced (where else?) in The Australian of 14/5/08 under the heading Iranian leader in Rudd's sights: "The Rudd Government is preparing a case to take [the Iranian president] to the International Court of Justice for 'inciting genocide' and denying the Jewish Holocaust. Australia is the only nation pursuing Iran's despotic leader who had threatened to 'wipe Israel off the map', through international laws... Attorney-General Robert McClelland... confirmed yesterday the Government was seeking legal advice on taking Mr Ahmadinejad to the ICJ."

Rudd's total isolation on the matter was only emphasised in the same report by this serve from former foreign minister Alexander Downer*, no slouch in sucking up to Israel: "Mr Downer accused Mr Rudd of knowingly misleading the Australian public and the Jewish community with a 'ghastly stunt' that he knew could not be carried out and would only undermine Australia's diplomatic standing."

And in the same issue, foreign editor Greg (Jerusalem Prize) Sheridan opined fatuously that while such a move "is almost certain to fail," it is "nonetheless... a noble endeavour worthy of every support." [In an attempt to answer the question on everyone's lips - Why doesn't Israel itself try hauling Ahmadinejad before the ICJ? - Greg avoided the obvious answer (How would it look for the country that gave the finger to the ICJ in 2004 over its judgment calling for the dismantling of Israel's Apartheid Wall to now be running a case there?) and helpfully explained that Israel "does not want to invest big diplomatic and political resources into a process that will probably fail, or even if it has some partial success will probably produce only a slap on the wrist for Ahmadinejad." Ergo, Australia can "invest big diplomatic and political resources into a process that will probably fail," because, according to Greg, taking up the legal cudgels on behalf of Israel would be "a righteous act."]

Next day, The Australian quoted Rudd himself: "It is not just... hyperbole from the bully pulpit of Tehran. It is the roll-on effect across the Islamic world to those who listen to Iran for their guidance. I think this is dangerous stuff. The world community should unite against it... They are an incitement of international violence and what we have said in the past is that we will take legal advice... on whether there is a profitable way forward here through the appropriate international legal mechanisms, and we'll study that advice carefully." (PM hits at Iran 'bullies')

How can it be that a supposedly intelligent Rudd, who has publicly acknowledged that the Iraq war was based on lies about weapons of mass destruction, has now fallen for a new set of lies about Iranian WMDs, and added his voice to the neocon/Israeli clamour for yet another disastrous war?

It is tempting to read between the lines and conclude that he is simply waiting for "legal advice" which will allow him to wriggle out of his idiotic pre-election promise to the Israel lobby (see my 29/2/08 post, Ahmadinejad: Our Part in His Downfall for a discussion of the promise's political context). If the assessment of Dr Adam McBeth of Monash University's Castan Centre for Human Rights Law is correct, that would be a logical deduction. McBeth has described the attempt as "pointless," and is quoted as saying, "I presume they [Rudd & McClelland] are doing this for political reasons and saying what a particular constituency wants to hear." (The Australian Jewish News, 23/5/08)

There is, however, another, more troubling explanation for Rudd's standing by (so far at least) his promise. What if he genuinely believes in what he's doing?

In an essay, Faith in Politics, published in The Monthly of October 2006, Rudd professed his unstinting admiration for pre-war German theologian and "muscular" Christian Dietrich Bonhoeffer. He wrote of Bonhoeffer's defence of German Jewry and stated that "For Bonhoeffer, whatever the personal cost, there was no moral alternative other than to fight the Nazi state with whatever weapons were at his disposal." In sketching "an alternative vision for Australia's future," Rudd conjured up "an Australia that becomes a leader, not a follower, in the redesign of the rules of the international order that we helped craft in 1945, to render future genocides both intolerable under international law and impossible under international resolve... The time has well and truly come for a vision for Australia not limited by the narrowest of definitions of our national self-interest. Instead, we need to be guided by a new principle that encompasses not only what Australia can do for itself, but also what Australia can do for the world."

Heady stuff. Could Rudd's professed desire to "redesign... the rules of the international order" in the interests of eradicating genocide with "whatever weapons [are] at his disposal" be the motive for his quixotic quest? (Certainly, Rudd declared earlier this year that Australia is aiming for a seat on the UN Security Council in 2013, and Israel has been quick to announce its support for such a move.) If so, Rudd would very much appear to be labouring under a host of dangerous delusions, no doubt stoked by hardline Zionists both within and outside his government. These would include the idea that Ahmadinejad is the new Hitler and that he is actually planning a nuclear holocaust against Israel. Not to mention Rudd's self delusion that he is some kind of antipodean Bonhoeffer out to nobble Adolf Ahmadinejad any which way.

Is there no-one among his minders with a sufficient grasp on reality to tell the guy that Ahmadinejad's alleged call to 'wipe Israel off the map' is a mistranslation (see my 29/2/08 post Ahmadinejad: Our Part in His Downfall) and that Nazi Germany was then, but this is now? For all our sakes, let us hope so.

*You'll be pleased to know that Downer has just received the American Jewish Committee's Ramer Award for Diplomatic Excellence.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Supping With the Devil

Hello, Kafka. The following quotations speak for themselves:-

"Discussions of Israel's military trade usually focus on the flow of weapons into the country - US-made Caterpillar bulldozers used to destroy homes in the West Bank, and Britain supplying parts for F-16s. Overlooked is Israel's huge and expanding export business. Israel now sends $1.2bn in 'defence' products to the US - up dramatically from $270m in 1999. In 2006, Israel exported $3.4bn in defence products - well over a billion more than it received in American military aid. That makes Israel the fourth largest arms dealer in the world, overtaking Britain." (How war was turned into a brand: Political chaos means Israel is booming like it's 1999 - and the boom is in defence exports field-tested on Palestinians, Naomi Klein, The Guardian, 16/6/07)

"[Senator Helen Coonan] also pointed to potential long-term collaboration between [Australia & Israel], saying 'there are some synergies between Australia and Israel in the security sector'. And a number of Israeli ICT companies are already active investors in these areas in Australia, she added." (Despite threats, Israel is a 'land of innovation' - Coonan, The Australian Jewish News, 17/11/06)

"Another troubled defence project, a $145m unmanned aerial vehicle contract with the army has been placed on a 'projects of concern' list. The contract was signed in... 2005 by then defence minister Robert Hill and provides for the supply of 8 Israeli-made 1-View tactical UAVs. But 2 years behind schedule it now joins a list of 9 delayed defence projects worth billions of dollars... 'We're very worried about this', Defence Procurement Secretary Greg Combet said yesterday. 'It's important we get these UAV capabilities out in the field where they're being utilised in Afghanistan'." (Spy plane joins list of troubled projects, The Australian, 17/5/08)

"Each targeted assassination is a large-scale operation that integrates hundreds of specialists from different military branches and security apparatuses. Beyond its reliance on background intelligence, targeted assassination depends on sharing real-time information between various agents, commanders, operators and different military planes, and their ability to act upon it. After a Palestinian is put on the death list he is followed, sometimes for weeks, by a 'swarm' of various unmanned aircraft. Often, different swarms would follow different people simultaneously in different areas of the Gaza Strip. In this way, the security services establish the targeted person's daily routines and habits, and maintain continuous visual contact with him until his killing. As well as being cheaper to operate, unmanned drones have the advantage over manned planes or helicopters in that they can remain in the air around the clock, some for as long as 30 hours, and because their formations circulate in relatively small areas while providing a multiplicity of angles of vision. Moreover, drones are quiet and barely visible to the human eye. This is the reason why, from 2004, the Air Force started to shoot its missiles from drones rather than from its more visible attack helicopters or jets. A swarm of various types of drones, each circulating at a different altitude, up to 30,000 feet, is navigated by a GPS system and woven by radio communication into a single synergetic reconnaissance and killing instrument that conducts the entire assassination operation. Some drones are designed to view the terrain vertically downwards in order to establish the digital coordinates of a targeted person, while others look diagonally, in order to distinguish facial features or identify a vehicle's licence plates. Some drones are designed to intercept radio signals and mobile phones, others can carry and shoot missiles. With the development and proliferation of drone technology, there remains, as Shimon Naveh put it, 'very few Israeli soldiers in the airspace over Gaza... the air is mainly filled with Golems... an army without soldiers'. Although until 2004, military jets and helicopters carried out the assassinations, they are now largely used to divert attention from the real area of operations by flying over other parts of the Gaza Strip when the assassinations take place." (Hollow Land: Israel's Architecture of Occupation, Eyal Weizman, p 241-242)

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Murdoch's Man in Beirut

Is it possible to work for Murdoch as a Middle East correspondent and produce anything of real value? A purely rhetorical question, of course. However, putting the routine pro-Israel/US framing aside (Hezbollah gunmen "holding the country to ransom"), haven't we at least got a right to expect The Australian's Middle East correspondent to get the basics right? To be on top of the facts, whatever the spin placed on them? To do a modicum of cross-checking? To maybe read through his report before sending it off for publication? I'm talking of course about Martin Chulov, currently 'reporting' on the latest clashes between Lebanese government and opposition forces, and the answer to my questions is apparently 'no'.

Take this report, for example: "Sunday's violence, the worst internal strife in Lebanon for 18 years, came amid reports that several opposition-aligned guerillas had been mutilated as payback for their involvement in earlier attacks. Two men from the pro-Syrian Hezb al-Kulmi faction had one hand and one foot chopped off, allegedly by opposition-aligned factions." (Militias renew violence with attack on village, 13/5/08)

First, with regard to Lebanon's "worst internal strife for 18 years," Chulov seems to have forgotten last year's fighting between the Lebanese Army and Fateh al-Islam militants in Nahr al-Bared camp north of Tripoli, which raged for over 3 months and left around 400 dead (Families return to Lebanon camps, 10/10/07, http://www.bbc.co.uk/).

Second, that "Hezb al-Kulmi faction" is woefully transliterated from the Arabic. His use of incorrectly transliterated Arabic suggests that he's never even heard of the Syrian Social Nationalist Party (SSNP), which begs the question what is he doing reporting on Lebanon? And if he has heard of the SSNP before, is there no-one who can vet his transliteration, which should have read 'Hezb al-Qaumi'.

Third, his talk of 'mutilation'. This seems to be a glancing reference to the worst act of violence to come out of the clashes: a massacre of 13 SSNP members, including an Australian of Lebanese origin (reported in Australia the day before), by gunmen belonging to Saad Hariri's Future Movement in the northern town of Halba. Yet, even though this key event has an Australian angle, Chulov skates over it.

Finally, what is one to make of his nonsensical assertion that "opposition-aligned guerillas" had been mutilated by "opposition-aligned factions"?

And take a look at this report: after reference to Hezbollah "sparking the worst round of civil conflict for 17 years" and again overlooking Nahr al-Bared, Chulov writes that "After earlier indicating it would comply with Hezbollah's demands to overturn two decisions - to sack the opposition-friendly airport security chief and dismantle an independent communications network - the Government said yesterday it would now stand by the moves." (We won't stay on sidelines, warns Lebanese army, 14/5/08)

Let's be clear here. Chulov is telling us that the Lebanese government, after first moving against Hezbollah and then backing down, has now decided to "stand by" its original move. This, of course, was not the case, as this Associated Press report of the same day made clear:

"The US-backed Cabinet on Wednesday reversed measures against the militant Hezbollah movement that set off Lebanon's worst violence since the 1975-90 civil war... Information Minister Ghazi Aridi said the government made a 'courageous' decision to revoke the measures 'in view of the higher national interest'." (Lebanese Cabinet reverses anti-Hezbollah decisions, Katarina Kratovac)

Incidentally, Chulov was back on track by 17/5/08 with "The Government had just given way on two issues that a week earlier it had considered bastions of sovereignty. The first was a move to sack the airport security chief... whose allegiances did not lie with the law-makers. The second was to dismantle a communications network used by Hezbollah to avoid the electronic eavesdroppers of Israel and the West."

And how about this thoroughly misleading final paragraph: "Since the end of the war with Israel in 2006, Hezbollah has demanded a greater say in Lebanese affairs. The elected Government of Prime Minister Fouad Siniora has attempted to stand firm in the face of the Opposition's bid for power, which has seen 4 government MPs slain and its majority in parliament steadily whittled away."

This can only be understood as an insinuation that Hezbollah itself has been knocking off government MPs. Yet there is no evidence that this is the case and no-one in government ranks is asserting it. Clumsy writing or a deliberate attempt to smear Hezbollah?

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Benny Diagnosed

"The Mau Mau oath is the most bestial, filthy and nauseating incantation which perverted minds can ever have brewed... [I have never felt] the forces of evil to be so near and so strong as in Mau Mau... As I wrote memoranda or instruction... I would suddenly see a shadow fall across the page - the horned shadow of the Devil himself." British Colonial Secretary Oliver Lyttelton (quoted in Imperial Reckoning: The Untold Story of Britain's Gulag in Kenya, Caroline Elkins)

"When someone steals your ox, it is killed and roasted and eaten. One can forget. When someone steals your land, especially if nearby, one can never forget. It is always there, its trees which were dear friends, its little streams. It is a bitter presence." Mau Mau Chief Koinange (quoted in Imperial Reckoning)

This will be my third and last in this series on Israeli historian Benny Morris.

As Morris' latest book, 1948: A History of the First Arab-Israeli War, has just been released in the US* and will no doubt be lauded in the Murdoch press here, it might be useful to lift Benny's lid and take a peek inside. Fortunately, Morris' illness has already been expertly diagnosed by Gabriel Ash (Diagnosing Benny Morris: The Mind of a European Settler, http://www.dissidentvoice.org/, 26/1/04). Ash's analysis, written in response to Shavit's interview with Morris (see my last post), is as good a guide to the Zionist mindset as you're ever likely to read. Here's the gist:-

"As the interview progresses, it emerges with growing clarity that, while Morris the historian is a professional and cautious presenter of facts, Morris the intellectual is a very sick person. His sickness is of the mental-political kind. He lives in a world populated not by fellow human beings, but by racist abstractions and stereotypes. There is an over abundance of quasipoetic images in the interview, as if the mind is haunted by the task of grasping what ails it: 'The Palestinian citizens of Israel are a time bomb', not fellow citizens. Islam is 'a world in which human lives don't have the same value as in the West'. Arabs are 'barbarians' at the gate of the Roman Empire. Palestinian society is 'a serial killer' that ought to be executed, and 'a wild animal' that must be caged.

"Morris' disease was diagnosed over 40 years ago by Frantz Fanon [in The Wretched of the Earth]. Based on his experience in subjugated Africa, Fanon observed that 'the colonial world is a Manichean world. It is not enough for the settler to delimit physically, that is to say, with the help of the army and the police, the place of the native. As if to show the totalitarian character of colonial exploitation, the settler paints the native as a sort of quintessence of evil... The native is declared insensitive to ethics... the enemy of values... He is a corrosive element, destroying all that comes near it... the unconscious and irretrievable instrument of blind forces'... And further down, 'the terms the settler uses when he mentions the native are zoological terms' (let's not forget to place Morris' metaphors in the context of so many other Israeli appellations for Palestinians: Begin's 'two-legged beasts', Eitan's 'drugged cockroaches' and Barak's ultra-delicate 'salmon'). Morris is a case history in the psychopathology of colonialism.

"When the settler encounters natives who refuse to cast down their eyes, his disease advances to the next stage - murderous sociopathy. Morris, who knows the exact scale of the terror unleashed against Palestinians in 1948, considers it justified. First, he suggests that the terror was justified because the alternative would have been a genocide of Jews by Palestinians. Raising the idea of genocide in this context is pure, and cheap, hysteria. Indeed, Morris moves immediately to a more plausible explanation: the expulsion was a precondition for creating a Jewish state, ie the establishment of a specific political preference, not self-defense. This political explanation, namely that the expulsion was necessary to create the demographic conditions, a large Jewish majority, favored by the Zionist leadership, is the consensus of historians. But, as affirmative defense, it is unsatisfactory. So the idea that Jews were in danger of genocide is repeated later, in a more honest way, as merely another racist, baseless generalization: 'if it can, [Islamic society] will commit genocide'.

"But Morris sees no evil. Accusing Ben-Gurion of failing to achieve an Arabenrein Palestine, he recommends further ethnic cleansing of Palestinians, including those who are Israeli citizens. Not now, but soon, 'within 5 or 10 years, under 'apocalyptic conditions' such as a regional war, which 'is likely to happen within 20 years.' For Morris, and it is difficult to overstate his madness at this point, the likelihood of a nuclear war within the foreseeable future is not the sorry end of a road better not taken, but merely a milestone whose aftermath is still imaginable, and imaginable within the banal continuity of Zionist centennial policies: he foresees the exchange of unconventional missiles between Israel and unidentified regional states as a legitimate excuse for 'finishing the job' of 1948.... Morris, a respectable, Jewish, Israeli academic, is out in print in the respectable daily, Haaretz, justifying genocide as a legitimate tool of statecraft. It should be shocking. Yet anybody who interacts with American and Israeli Zionists knows that Morris is merely saying for the record what many think and even say unofficially. Morris, like most of Israel, lives in a temporality apart, an intellectual Galapagos Islands, a Jurassic Park, where bizarre cousins of ideas elsewhere shamed into extinction still roam the mindscape proudly.

"Nor should one think the slippage between expulsion, 'transfer', and genocide without practical consequences. It is not difficult to imagine a planned expulsion turn into genocide under the stress of circumstances: The genocides of both European Jews and Armenians began as an expulsion. The expulsion of Palestinians in 1948 was the product of decades of thinking and imagining 'transfer'. We ought to pay attention: with Morris' statement, Zionist thinking crossed another threshold; what is now discussed has the potential to be actualized, if 'apocalyptic conditions' materialize.

"It is instructive to look closer at the manner in which Morris uses racist thinking to justify genocide. Morris' interview, precisely because of its shamelessness, is a particularly good introductory text to Zionist thought. His racism is not limited to Arabs. Genocide, according to Morris, is justified as long as it is done for 'the final good'. But what kind of good is worth the 'forced extinction' of a whole people? Certainly not the good of the latter... According to Morris, the establishment of a more advanced society justifies genocide: 'Yes, even the great American democracy couldn't come to be without the forced extinction of Native Americans. There are times the overall, final good justifies terrible, cruel deeds'... Morris' supremacist view of 'Western Civilization', that it values human life more than Islam, has its basis in the moral acceptance of genocide for the sake of 'progress'. Morris establishes the superiority of the West on both the universal respect for human life and the readiness to exterminate inferior races. The illogicalness of the cohabitation of a right to commit genocide together with a higher level of respect for human lives escapes him, and baffles us, at least until we grasp that the full weight of the concept of 'human' is restricted, in the classic manner of Eurocentric racism, to dwellers of civilized (ie Western) nations. This is the same logic that allowed early Zionists to describe Palestine as an empty land, despite the presence of a million inhabitants. In the end, it comes down to this: killing Arabs - one dozen Arabs or one million Arabs, the difference is merely technical - is acceptable if it is necessary in order to defend the political preferences of Jews, because Jews belong to the superior West and Arabs are inferior. We must be thankful to Professor Morris for clarifying the core logic of Zionism so well...

"How can one explain Morris' knowledge that the ethnic Darwinism that was used to justify the murder of millions of non-whites, including Black African slaves, Native Americans, Arabs and others, was also used to justify the attempt to exterminate Jews?... [P]erhaps Morris displays another facet of the psychopathologies of oppression, the victim's identification with the oppressor. Perhaps in Morris' mind, one half tribalist and one half universalist, the Jews were murdered to make way for a superior, more purely Aryan, European civilization, and the Jews who are today serving in the Israeli army, both belong and do not belong to the same group. They belong when Morris invokes the totems of the tribe to justify loyalty. But when his attention turns to the universal principle of 'superior civilization', these Jews are effaced, like poor relations one is ashamed to be associated with, sent back to the limbo they share with the great non-white mass of the dehumanized. In contrast, the Jews of Israel, self-identified as European, have turned white, dry-cleaned and bleached by Zionism, and with their whiteness they claim the privilege to massacre members of 'less advanced' races...

"[And where does Morris'] fire and brimstone Islamophobia coming from? From Europe of course, but with a twist. Europe has always looked upon the East with condescension. In periods of tension, that condescension would escalate to fear and hate. But it was also mixed and tempered with a large dose of fascination and curiosity. The settler, however, does not have the luxury to be curious. The settler leaves the metropolis hoping to overcome his own marginal, often oppressed, status in metropolitan society. He goes to the colony motivated by the desire to recreate the metropolis with himself at the top. For the settler, going to the colony is not a rejection of the metropolis, but a way to claim his due as a member. Therefore, the settler is always trying to be more metropolitan than the metropolis. When the people of the metropolis baulk at the bloodbath the settler wants to [perpetrate] in the name of their values, the settler accuses them of 'growing soft', and declares himself 'the true metropolis'. That is also why there is one crime of which the settler can never forgive the land he colonized - its alien climate and geography, its recalcitrant otherness, the oddness of its inhabitants, in sum, the harsh truth of its being elsewhere. In the consciousness of the settler, condescension thus turns into loathing.

"Israeli settler society, especially its European, Ashkenazi part, especially that Israel which calls itself 'the peace camp', 'the Zionist Left' etc, is predicated on the loathing of all things Eastern and Arab. (Now, of course, we have in addition the religious, post-1967 settlers who relate to the Zionist Left the way the Zionist Left stands in relation to Europe, ie as settlers). 'Arab' is a term of abuse, one that can be applied to everything and everyone, including Jews. This loathing is a unifying theme. It connects Morris' latest interview in Haaretz with Ben-Gurion's first impression of Jaffa in 1905; he found it filthy and depressing. In another article... Morris blames the 'ultra-nationalism, provincialism, fundamentalism and obscurantism' of Arab Jews for the sorry state of the country (although Begin, Shamir, Rabin, Peres, Netanyahu, Barak, Sharon, and most of Israel's generals, leaders, and opinion makers of the last 2 decades are European Jews). For Morris, everything Eastern is corrupt and every corruption has an Eastern origin. One shouldn't, therefore, doubt Morris when he proclaims himself a traditional Left Zionist. There is hardly anything he says that hasn't been said already by David Ben-Gurion or Moshe Dayan. Loathing of the East and the decision to subdue it by unlimited force is the essence of Zionism.

"Understanding the psycho-political sources of this loathing leads to some interesting observations about truisms that recurr in Morris' (and much of Israel's) discourse. Morris blames Arafat for thinking that Israel is a 'crusader state', a foreign element that will eventually be sent back to its port of departure. This is a common refrain in Israeli propaganda. It is also probably true. But it isn't Arafat's fault that Morris is a foreigner in the Middle East. Why shouldn't Arafat believe Israel is a crusader state when Morris himself says so? 'We are the vulnerable extension of Europe in this place, exactly as the crusaders'. It is Morris - like the greater part of Israel's elite - who insists on being a foreigner, on loathing the Middle East and dreaming about mist-covered Europe, purified and deified by distance. If Israel is a crusader state, and therefore a state with shallow roots, likely to pack up and disappear, it is not the fault of those who make that observation. It is the fault of those Israelis, like Morris, who want to have nothing to do with the Middle East.

"Morris is deeply pessimistic about Israel's future... The end of Israel is always felt to be one step away, hiding beneath every development, from the birthrate of Bedouins to the establishment of the International Court of Justice. Naturally, every Palestinian demand is such a doomsday threat. This sense of existential precariousness can be traced back to 1948; it was encouraged by Israel's successive governments because it justified the continuous violence of the state and the hegemony of the military complex. It may eventually become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

"But this existential fear goes deeper. It is rooted in the repressed understanding... of the inherent illegitimacy of the Israeli political system and identity. 'Israel' is brute force. In Morris' words: 'The bottom line is that force is the only thing that will make them accept us'. But brute force is precarious. Time gnaws at it. Fatigue corrodes it. And the more it is used, the more it destroys the very acceptance and legitimacy it seeks. For Israel, the fundamental question of the future is, therefore, whether Israelis can transcend colonialism. The prognosis is far from positive. In a related article... Morris explains that accepting the right of return of the Palestinian refugees would mean forcing Israeli Jews into exile. But why would Jews have to leave Israel if Israel becomes a binational, democratic state? One cannot understand this without attention to the colonial loathing of the Middle East which Morris so eloquently expesses... It is to Frantz Fanon again that we turn for observing this first. 'The settler, from the moment the colonial context disappears, has no longer an interest in remaining or in co-existing'."

* See David Margolick's review of 1948 (Endless War, New York Times, 4/5/08) and its "evisceration" by John Mearsheimer (http://www.philipweiss.org/)

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Benny Unhinged

Benny Morris' letter to The Irish Times, continued from my previous post:-

"There was no Zionist 'plan' or blanket policy of evicting the Arab population, or of 'ethnic cleansing'. Plan Dalet (Plan D), of March 10th, 1948... was the master plan of the Haganah - the Jewish military force that became the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) - to counter the expected pan-Arab assault on the emergent Jewish state. That's what it explicitly states and that's what it was. And the invasion of the armies of Egypt, Jordan, Syria, and Iraq duly occured, on May 15th. It is true that Plan D gave the regional commanders carte blanche to occupy and garrison or expel and destroy the Arab villages along and behind the front lines and the anticipated Arab armies' invasion routes. And it is also true that mid-way in the 1948 war the Israeli leaders decided to bar the return of the 'refugees' (those 'refugees' who had just assaulted the Jewish community), viewing them as a potential 5th column and threat to the Jewish state's existence. I for one cannot fault their fears or logic."

No Zionist plan of eviction or ethnic cleansing? Yet Plan Dalet ("master plan of the Haganah") provided for the expulsion of Palestinian townsfolk and villagers. And they weren't allowed to return. So... if it looks like a duck, walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, then it probably... isn't a duck!?

The absurdity of Morris' words are obvious. What he is telling us here is that, because Zionist forces 'expected/anticipated' an Arab invasion, they were justified in emptying entire Palestinian towns and villages of their inhabitants and razing them, and had a master plan to do so, which wasn't really a plan of eviction or ethnic cleansing.

But Morris hasn't told the whole story in his letter:-

First, Plan Dalet didn't just fall from nowhere into the Haganah's lap. It came from the top, from the Jewish community's leader, David Ben-Gurion:-

"On 2 November, ie, almost a month before the UN General Assembly Resolution was adopted... the Executive of the Jewish Agency, Ben-Gurion, spelled out for the first time in the clearest possible terms that ethnic cleansing formed the alternative, or complementary, means of ensuring that the new state would be an exclusively Jewish one. The Palestinians inside the Jewish state, he told his audience, could become a 5th column, and if so 'they can either be mass arrested or expelled; it is better to expel them'... Plan Dalet was not created in a vacuum. It emerged as the ultimate scheme in response to the way events gradually unfolded on the ground, through a kind of ad-hoc policy that crystallized with time. But that response was always inexorably grounded in the Zionist ideology and the purely Jewish state that was its goal. Thus, the main objective was clear from the beginning - the de-Arabisation of Palestine - whereas the means to achieve this most effectively evolved in tandem with the actual military occupation of the Palestinian territories that were to become the new Jewish state of Israel. " (The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine, Ilan Pappe, p 49)

Second, Plan Dalet had little or nothing to do with any perceived/expected/anticipated Arab invasion. (And, it has to be said, if you go to some corner of the Arab world with the intention of making it as Jewish as England is English, and moving its inhabitants on, you're hardly in a position to blame the Arab states if they get riled on behalf of their fellow Arabs.) Here's the reality:-

"Immediately upon the adoption of UN Resolution 181 the Arab leaders officially declared they would despatch troops to defend Palestine. And yet, not once between the end of November 1947 and May 1948 did Ben-Gurion... sense that [his] future state was in any danger, or that the list of military operations was so overwhelming that they would impinge on the proper expulsion of the Palestinians. In public, the leaders of the Jewish community portrayed doomsday scenarios and warned their audiences of an imminent 'second Holocaust'. In private, however, they never used this discourse. They were fully aware that the Arab war rhetoric was in no way matched by any serious preparations on the ground... they were well informed about the poor equipment of these armies and their lack of battlefield experience and... training... The Zionist leaders were confidant they had the upper hand militarily and could drive through most of their ambitious plans. And they were right." (Pappe, p 46)

"The Arab decision as to how much to intervene and assist was directly affected by developments on the ground [ie from December 1947- mid-May 1948]. And on the ground they watched - politicians with growing dismay, intellectuals and journalists with horror - the beginning of a depopulation process unfolding in front of their eyes... Few of them were in any doubt at that early stage, in the beginning of 1948, of the potential disaster awaiting the Palestinian people. But they procrastinated, and postponed, for as long as they could, the inevitable military intervention, and then were only too happy to terminate it sooner rather than later; they knew full well not only that the Palestinians were defeated, but also that their armies stood no chance against the superior forces. In fact, they sent troops into a war they had no chance of winning... Only when the Jewish forces intensified their actions and their true intentions became fully exposed did Arab governments design some sort of a coordinated reaction... and only at the end of April 1948 was it decided that they would send troops into Palestine. By then a quarter of a million Palestinians had already been expelled, 200 villages destroyed and scores of towns emptied." ( Pappe, pp 117-118)

Third, if it isn't already clear from my first point, the real reason for Plan Dalet and the ethnic cleansing of Palestine had more to do with realising the Zionist goal of a Jewish state, that is a state with as many Jews and as few non-Jews as possible, than with facing a potential Arab invasion. "In the territory of their future greater Jewish state there lived, in early December 1947, one million Palestinians... while the Jewish community itself was a minority of 600,000." (Pappe, p 49) Go figure, folks!

So much for The Irish Times letter. But if you thought that Benny Morris was merely a historian ocassionally given to bending history for propaganda purposes, you'd be wrong. The man has another, darker side. In an extended interview with Haaretz journalist Ari Shavit on 9/1/04, the real Benny Morris emerges as a foaming mix of Vladimir Jabotinsky and Oriana Fallaci. Called Survival of the Fittest, the complete interview with additional commentary by Israeli philosopher Adi Ophir can be found at http://www.mideastweb.org/. Take a look at this:-

On Ben-Gurion & the goal of a Jewish state: Ben-Gurion was a "transferist" [the Israeli euphemism for someone who believes in expelling the Palestinians from Palestine en masse]. "He understood that there could be no Jewish state with a large and hostile Arab minority in its midst... If he had not done what he did, a [Jewish] state would not have come into being... Without the uprooting of the Palestinians, a Jewish state would not have arisen here." Sometimes people have to make way for an ideological fixation.

Ethnic cleansing is justified: "In certain conditions expulsion is not a war crime. I don't think the expulsions of 1948 were war crimes. You can't make an omelet without breaking eggs. You have to dirty your hands... There are circumstances in history that justify ethnic cleansing... when the choice is between ethnic cleansing and genocide, the annihilation of your people, I prefer ethnic cleansing." Note that the "annihilation" Morris is speaking about has nothing to do with any perceived Arab military threat to the Jewish community, but a Palestinian demographic threat to the viability of a Jewish state: "That is what Zionism faced [in 1948]. A Jewish state would not have come into being without the uprooting of 700,000 Palestinians. Therefore it was necessary to uproot them... I feel sympathy for the Palestinian people, which truly underwent a hard tragedy... But if the desire to establish a Jewish state here is legitimate, there was no other choice." IOW, contrary to his Irish Times letter, the Palestinians had to go, not because they "launched hostilities on the Jewish community in Palestine in the hope of destroying that community" or "to counter the expected pan-Arab assault on the emergent Jewish state," but because their very existence in Palestine, hostile or otherwise, conflicted with the concept of a Jewish state. He trots out the familiar Zionist trope, "The Arabs have 22 states. The Jewish people, did not have even one," and then states, "Even the great American democracy could not have been created without the annihilation of the Indians. There are cases in which the overall, final good justifies harsh and cruel acts that are committed in the course of history." And anyway, he says, the Palestinian Nakba was only a matter of "small war crimes." Only "about 800 were killed," and that's "peanuts/chicken feed" compared to other massacres.

Ben-Gurion was a wimp: Ben-Gurion "got cold feet during the war... he should have done a complete job... If Ben-Gurion had... cleansed the whole country - the whole Land of Israel, as far as the Jordan River... he would have stabilized the state of Israel for generations."

Transfer Now?: "In the present circumstances it is neither moral nor realistic [to transfer and expel the Arabs from the West Bank, Gaza, the Galilee and the Triangle]. The world would not allow it... But, in other circumstances, apocalyptic ones, which are liable to be realized in 5 or 10 years, I can see expulsions... The Israeli Arabs are a time bomb... They are a potential 5th column. In both demographic and security terms they are liable to undermine the state."

The Palestinian right of return: "The entire Palestinian national elite is prone to see us as Crusaders and is driven by the phased plan. That's why the Palestinians are not honestly ready to forgo the right of return. They are preserving it as an instrument with which they will destroy the Jewish state when the time comes."

Islam is the problem: "There is a deep problem in Islam. It's a world whose values are different. A world in which human life doesn't have the same value as it does in the West, in which freedom, democracy, openness and creativity are alien."

Dealing with barbarian Palestinian serial killers: Shavit suggests to Morris that "A large part of the responsibility for Palestinian hatred rests with us. After all, you yourself showed us that the Palestinians experienced a historical catastrophe." Morris responded, "True. But when one has to deal with a serial killer, it's not so important to discover why he became a serial killer. What's important is to imprison the murderer or to execute him... The barbarians who want to take our lives. The people the Palestinian society sends to carry out the terrorist attacks, and in some ways the Palestinian society itself as well... is a very sick society. It should be treated the way we treat individuals who are serial killers... Something like a cage has to be built for [the Palestinians]... There is a wild animal there that has to be locked up..."

The future?: "There is no solution... An iron wall is the most reasonable policy for the coming generation... Ben-Gurion argued that the Arabs understand only force... He was right. That's not to say we don't need diplomacy. Both toward the West and for our own conscience..." Note the admission, diplomacy is just to appease the West and salve our consciences.

On universal values: "Preserving my people is more important than universal moral concepts." The tribe comes first.

On the clash of civiizations: "I think there is a clash of civilizations here... I think the West today resembles the Roman Empire... The barbarians are attacking it and they may also destroy it... The Arab world as it is today is barbarian... The phenomenon of the mass Muslim penetration into the West... is creating a dangerous internal threat... Exactly like the Crusaders, we are the vulnerable branch of Europe in this place."

On Zionism: "The whole Zionist project is apocalyptic. It exists within hostile surroundings and in a certain sense its existence is unreasonable... It wasn't reasonable for it to succeed in 1948 and it's not reasonable that it will succeed now." Shavit asks him sensibly, "If Zionism is so dangerous for the Jews and makes the Arabs so wretched, maybe it's a mistake?" Morris responds, "No, Zionism was not a mistake. The desire to establish a Jewish state here was a legitimate one... But given the character of Islam and the Arab nation, it was a mistake to think that it would be possible to establish a tranquil state here that lives in harmony with its surroindings." I'm reminded here of Einstein's dictum: "The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results." Benny's no Einstein.

Our suffering trumps yours: What we "suffered for 2,000 years" is "far more shocking than what happened in 1948 to a small part of the Arab nation that was then in Palestine."

I haven't quite finished with Benny Morris yet. Next post.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Bend It Like Benny

I referred in my last post to a letter by Israeli revisionist historian Benny Morris, originally written to The Irish Times. An edited version had been used by The Australian in an effort to counter the views, published in the Sydney Morning Herald (29/4/08), of Australian academic and author Peter Manning on the ethnic cleansing of Palestine by Zionist forces in 1948

What follows is a dissection and discussion of the content of Morris' letter in its original, unedited Irish Times version. Given that 2008 is the 60th anniversary of the Palestinian Nakba (Catastrophe), as the Zionist ethnic cleansing of Palestine is called in Arabic, and that Morris' views will no doubt be advanced by propagandists of Zion as the last word on the subject, it is appropriate that his summation in The Irish Times be carefully analyzed. Morris' paragraphs, in italics, will be followed by my analyses of same:-

"Israel-haters are fond of citing - and more often, mis-citing - my work in support of their arguments. Let me offer some corrections. [The responsibility of] the Palestinian Arabs... for what befell them in 1948... was very direct and simple. In defiance of the will of the international community, as embodied in the UN General Assembly Resolution of November 29, 1947 (No 181), they launched hostilities against the Jewish community in Palestine in the hope of aborting the emergence of the Jewish state and perhaps destroying that community. But they lost; and one of the results was the displacement of 700,000 of them from their homes."

I dealt in my last post with the flagrant injustice and illegality of UNGA Resolution 181, which recommended the partition of Palestine into a Jewish and an Arab state, and examined, in my post of 14/3/08 (The Israeli Occupation of Federal Parliament 3), the Machiavellian process that led to its passing. I will not go over that here. Suffice it to say that, in light of the above and Israel's track record of contempt for the will of the international community, Morris' phrase, "in defiance of the will of the international community," couldn't possibly ring more hollow. Was Israel's takeover of west Jerusalem (alloted neither to the Jewish or the Arab state) not "defiance of the international community"? And what of its grab for territory beyond the area alloted to the Jews and its expulsion en masse of the Palestinians? And as for the Palestinians' "defiance," wasn't that to be expected? Were the Palestinians supposed to take the partition of their ancestral homeland by the white mob in the UN, lying down? Or on the chin perhaps? The logic of Morris' schoolmasterly tone is outrageous: the Palestinians should have just copped it sweet! Maybe he's spent a little too long in the dark bowels of the Zionist archives. The architect of Palestine's ethnic cleansing, David Ben-Gurion, would have found Morris' views laughable: "Were I an Arab," Ben-Gurion said, "I would rebel even more vigorously, bitterly, and desperately against the immigration that will one day turn Palestine and all its Arab residents over to Jewish rule."

Schoolmasters of course are hardly ever concerned with the context of a playground spat. They just want to know who hit who first: "[The Palestinians] launched hostilities..." He says the same in his 2004 magnum opus on the subject, The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem Revisited (hereafter Birth Revisited): "The UNGA resolution... triggered haphazard Arab attacks against Jewish traffic. The first roadside ambushes occurred... the following day, when 2 buses were attacked and 7 Jewish passengers shot dead. The same day, snipers in Jaffa began firing at passers-by in Tel Aviv. The Arab Higher Committee, which flatly rejected the resolution and any thought of partition, declared a 3-day general strike, beginning on 1 December, thus releasing the urban masses for action." (p 65) Yep, the Palestinians swung first. Or did they? In his footnote, Benny is not so sure: "Traditionally, Zionist historiography [!] has cited these attacks as the first acts of Palestinian violence against the partition resolution. But it is probable that the attacks were not directly linked to the resolution - and were a product... of a retaliatory cycle..." (p 139) Then there's the jolly Bring it On! lads of the Irgun and the Stern Gang. When exactly did they start swinging?" Morris writes vaguely, "[T]he IZL and LHI... beginning already in early December [?] 1947, reverted to their 1937-1939 strategy of placing bombs in crowded markets and bus stops. The Arabs retaliated... " (p 66) [Speaking of that lot, Michael Palumbo notes in his 1987 book, The Palestinian Catastrophe, "The Irgun leader Menachem Begin later explained his attitude during this period: 'My greatest worry in those months was that the Arabs might accept the UN plan. Then we would have had the ultimate tragedy, a Jewish state so small that it could not absorb all the Jews of the world'. Irgun terrorism however would make sure that no agreement would be possible." (pp 34-35)] The British High Commissioner in Palestine, Sir Alan Cunningham, certainly didn't toe the Morris line: "The initial Arab outbreaks were spontaneous and unorganized and were more demonstrations of displeasure at the UN decision than determined attacks on Jews. The weapons initially employed were sticks and stones and had it not been for Jewish recourse to firearms, it is not impossible that the excitement would have subsided and little loss of life be caused." (Quoted in The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine, Ilan Pappe, 2004, p 268)

And what are we to make of the words, "in the hope of aborting the emergence of the Jewish state and perhaps destroying that community?" This is how Morris spins Cunninham's "spontaneous and unorganized Arab outbreaks." And that glib sentence with its euphemistic ending, "But they lost; and one of the results [of their losing] was the displacement of 700,000 of them from their homes," glossing over entirely the question of what it was that caused their "displacement," is a sure sign that Morris has moved from history to propaganda.

"It is true, as Erskine Childers pointed out long ago, that there were no Arab radio broadcasts urging the Arabs to flee en masse; indeed, there were broadcasts by several Arab radio stations urging them to stay put. But, on the local level, in dozens of localities around Palestine, Arab leaders advised or ordered the evacuation of women and children or whole communities, as occurred in Haifa in late April, 1948. And Haifa's Jewish mayor, Shabtai Levy, did, on April 22, plead with them to stay, to no avail."

Ergo, the Palestinians were responsible for their own dispossession! But let us look in detail at the situation in Haifa, Palestine's only major port, which had been alloted by the UN to the Jews.

Here is a summary of Pappe's account of Haifa's cleansing (pp 93-96): Its Palestinian inhabitants had been subjected to a "Jewish campaign of terrorization" since December 1947, including "heavy shelling, sniper fire, rivers of ignited oil and fuel sent down the mountain-side, and detonated barrels of explosives, [which] went on for the first months of 1948," before intensifying in April. The British then informed the Zionists that their troops were pulling back to the port area in preparation for their final withdrawal from Palestine in May, leaving the Palestinians who hadn't already fled to face the coming Zionist onslaught (known as Operation Cleansing the Leaven after the Jewish practice of removing all traces of bread and flour from homes on the eve of the Passover) unprotected. The Palestinians, according to Pappe, were the bread and the flour to be cleansed, and the operation was launched on Passover's eve, 21 April. The British advised the Palestinian community's remaining leaders [described by Pappe as "a group of 4 exhausted men, who became the Arab community's leaders for the hour"] to persuade their people to leave the city. Given that the British were not prepared to protect Haifa's Palestinians from expulsion, their leaders told the British that "they wanted to leave in an organised manner. The [Haganah's] Carmeli Brigade [however] made sure they would leave in the midst of carnage and havoc. On their way to meet the British commander, [the Palestinian leaders] could already hear the Jewish loudspeakers urging the Palestinian women and children to leave before it was too late. In other parts of the town, loudspeakers delivered a diametrically opposing message from the town's Jewish mayor... who beseeched the people to stay... But it was Mordechai Maklef, the operation officer of the Carmeli Brigade, not [Mayor] Levi, who called the shots. Maklef orchestrated the cleansing campaign [with the orders:] 'Kill any Arab you encounter; torch all inflammable objects and force doors open with explosives'." Thousands of Palestinians fled to the market area adjacent to the port, from which they hoped to flee by boat. Terrorised by Zionist mortar barrages falling around them, they broke through into the port itself and were literally driven into the sea.

Now compare Pappe with Morris. Despite the latter's fog of detail, prevarification and excuses, it is impossible to conclude from his account of the same events that the Zionist forces were engaged in anything other than good old-fashioned ethnic cleansing in Haifa, Mayor Levy notwithstanding: "By 21 April, when the Haganah launched its onslaught, the remaining population was in great measure primed for evacuation." (p 187) "Operation Passover Cleansing aimed at 'breaking the enemy'... not... the conquest of most of Arab Haifa." (p 189) "Haganah Radio announced that 'the day of judgment had arrived' [and] called on the populace to 'evacuate the women, the children and the old immediately..." (p 191) "The orders of Carmeli's 22nd Battalion were 'to kill every [adult male] Arab encountered' and to set alight with firebombs 'all objectives that can be set alight'..." (pp 191-192) "The [Arab] notables' announcement of evacuation on the evening of 22/4 was not a bolt from the blue. Tens of thousands... had departed during December 47-early April 48. On 21-22 April, the [4 Palestinian] notables had the fresh example of Arab Tiberius before their eyes [In Tiberius the British army encouraged and protected a Palestinian evacuation]. And by the evening of 22/4, thousands had already voted with their feet, first by fleeing... to the harbour and the boats to Acre... The Hagganah mortar attacks... were primarily designed to break Arab morale in order to bring about a swift collapse of resistance and speedy surrender. There is no evidence that the commanders involved hoped or expected that it would lead to mass evacuation... But clearly the offensive, and especially the mortaring, precipitated the exodus." (pp 199-200) "The local Jewish civilian leadership initially sincerely wanted [the remaining] Arabs to stay... But the offensive of 21-22/4 had delivered the Arab neighborhoods into Haganah hands, relegating the civil leaders to the sidelines... At the same time, the attitude of some of these local leaders radically changed as they took stock of the historic opportunity offered by the exodus to turn Haifa into a Jewish city." (p 201-202) "After 4-5 days of Haganah rule [over the occupied Palestinian neighborhoods, involving curfews, searches, interrogations, arrests, beatings and looting], 'the Arabs were not interested in staying', an American diplomat reportedly told the Haganah." (p 204) "But were the Haganah actions [23/4-early May] motivated by a calculated aim to egg on the evacuation? At the level of Carmeli headquarters, no orders, as far as we know, were ever issued to the troops to act in a manner that would precipitate flight... But if this was official policy, there was certainly an undercurrent of expulsive thinking akin to the IZL approach." (p 207) "The Hagana attacked [the nearby town of] Balad ash Sheikh on 24/4... Whether the Haganah intended to trigger the evacuation of Balad ash Sheikh is unclear, but the method of attack... seems to have been designed to achieve it." (p 207)

By mid May the systematic destruction of Palestinian houses had begun. By mid July the remaining 4,000 Palestinians of Haifa had been coralled into a single area. Demolitions were completed in October. And Mayor Levy? Once he'd been reassured that the destruction was purely for military reasons and that his municipality would therefore not be liable, he was happy. In context, Haifa's Jewish mayor offers Morris cold comfort. By citing the words of the mayor, without mentioning the actions of the Haganah, Morris, the historian, becomes Morris, the propagandist.

"Most of Palestine's 700,000 'refugees' fled their homes because of the flail of war (and in the expectation that they would shortly return to their homes on the backs of victorious Arab invaders). But it is also true that there were several dozen sites, including Lydda and Ramle, from which Arab communities were expelled by Jewish troops."

Notice the euphemism "flail of war." Morris' bracketed words above are pure conjecture. In discussing the ethnic cleansing of Haifa, he writes in Birth Revisited, "Most of the remaining Arab leaders also encouraged the remaining townspeople to leave (perhaps assuring them that they would soon be returning in the wake of victorious Arab armies, but I have found no evidence of this)." (p 198)

"The displacement of the 700,000 Arabs who became 'refugees' - and I put the term in inverted commas, as two-thirds of them were displaced from one part of Palestine to another and not from their country (which is the usual definition of a refugee) - was not a 'racist crime'... but the result of a national conflict and a war, with religious overtones, from the Muslim perspective, launched by the Arabs themselves."

How strange! There are certainly no inverted commas around the word refugees in Birth Revisited. Why now the recourse to petty semantics? Simple - when you're writing propaganda, you'll reach for anything at hand.

I'll deal with the rest of Morris' letter in my next post.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Insatiable

I've written before about the mainstream media's tendency to self-censor opinion pieces on Palestine by caving in to the Israel lobby's spurious demand for what it calls 'balanced reporting' (see Doppelganger, 28/1/08; Anticipatory Compliance, 28/4/08). This demand, superficially plausible, is in reality a demand for a faux balance, based on the absurd notion that every presentation of the victim's story, unless 'balanced' by a presentation of the perpetrator's story, is ipso facto guilty of being unbalanced.

On those rare occasions when the Fairfax press actually gets around to publishing a Palestinian story, and in so doing risks the ire of the Israel lobby, faux balance becomes its principle defence mechanism against the confected outrage of Israel lobbyists.

A classic example of this came with the publication of an opinion piece by Australian author and academic Peter Manning in the Sydney Morning Herald of 29/4/08. In Redress the balance on Palestine, Manning argued that, in commemorating Israel's 60th anniversary in federal parliament, prime minister Rudd ignored the ethnic cleansing and mass expulsions of Palestinians perpetrated by Zionist forces at the time, which Palestinians call the Nakba (Catastrophe).

Manning wrote about "the Israeli propaganda narrative that the Palestinians had simply abandoned their country, not fought enough for it and left for friendly Arab countries," and pointed out that this myth had been "demolished" by the research of Israeli historians such as Avi Shlaim, Ilan Pappe, Tom Segev and Benny Morris. He ended his piece with the forlorn hope that Rudd might "redress the balance" in May, the 15th of which is hyped as Israel's 'Independence' (from what?) day. All pretty straightforward, nothing controversial. Leon Uris' 1958 propaganda novel, Exodus, still echoed by Zionist propagandists whenever the subject of 1948 arises, had to succumb eventually to the ravages of genuine historical inquiry.

However, in the certain knowledge that Manning's presentation would unleash a Zionist version of the hounds from Hell, the Herald had taken the trouble to pre-emptively notify the hellhounds of their intention to publish Manning, as well as the content of same, such that on the very day of its publication, a flanking response by Colin Rubenstein of the Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council (AIJAC) appeared. Rubenstein's riposte, The time for peace has come, was typically all smoke and mirrors:-

"A scattered, dispossessed people, suffering oppression and having just emerged from history's most heinous genocide [Rubenstein here tries to slip us 2 mega assumptions: 1) the Zionist notion that Jews are 'a people'; and 2) that the entirety of these people, as opposed to European Jewry, were the victims of oppression/genocide], accepted the newly formed UN partition plan [Considering that the Jewish colonizers of Palestine had purchased only 6% of that land by 1947, but (as a result of US arm twisting in the UN) were offered a further 48%, why wouldn't they accept?] and built [after first ethnically cleansing 78% of Palestine of the majority of its non-Jewish majority indigenous population & refusing them the right of return] an enviable [If an apartheid state which privileges Jews over non-Jews is enviable] society in part of their ancestral homeland [Zionist forces occupied a further 24% of Palestine beyond the UN partition line in 1948, including the western half of Jerusalem which was supposed to have come under international control], which now serves as a vibrant cultural centre and beacon for Jewish identity worldwide [All Jews again? The majority of Jews, contrary to Zionist goals, vote with their feet by choosing to live in a variety of open, pluralistic and democratic states such as Australia], including for the Australian Jewish community... While it is understandable that Palestinians remember the suffering of 700,000 Palestinians who fled or otherwise lost their homes in 1948 [What crimes are buried under this little circumlocution. You'd think this were merely the equivalent of losing your keys], it is worth remembering that this tragedy [More a crime against humanity] was completely avoidable [Not really. Once the Zionist movement had determined on a Jewish state in a land with a non-Jewish majority, and secured the services of the British in this endeavour, a God-almighty clash with the Palestinian population was inevitable] had Palestinians and the Arab states heeded the UN's resolution calling for 2 states for 2 peoples [Even if the Palestinians, contrary to every other indigenous people on the planet, had overlooked the injustice* and illegality** of the partition proposal, and shouted their acceptance of it from the rooftops, this would have made no difference whatever to the final outcome given that the Zionist goal was a Jewish state over as much of Palestine as possible with as few non-Jews as possible]. Instead a war to ethnically cleanse the area of Jewish inhabitants was launched [Zionist propagandists routinely project Israel's crimes onto its victims]." Rubenstein goes on to refer to "the so-called unlimited and legally unprecedented 'right of return' to Israel for Palestinian refugees and their descendents [Not only is the right of return for refugees enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) at Article 13, but UNGA Resolution 194, calling on Israel to allow Palestinian refugees to return to their homes, has been reaffirmed by the UN countless times and its acceptance by Israel was a condition of Israel's admittance to the UN as a member state]" as a "maximalist demand" which "would lead to the demographic destruction of Israel as a Jewish state."

* The Partition Plan was unjust because, although the Jewish settlers owned only 6% of the total land area of Palestine and constituted only around one third of its population, they were given over 50% of the most fertile parts of the country, which included 400 Palestinian villages and an almost equal number of Palestinian Arabs (438,000 to 499,000 Jews). Even within the area allocated to a Jewish state, the settlers owned only 11% of the land.

** The partition plan was illegal because it violated "the principle of equal rights and self-determination of peoples" enshrined in Article 1 of the UN Charter.

I dealt in an earlier post (The Israeli Occupation of Federal Parliament 3, 14/3/08) with the manifestly corrupt process that led to the passing of UNGA Resolution 181 (the Partition Resolution), but given the store placed in it by propagandists such as Rubenstein (who alludes to Evatt's "possibly decisive role in securing [its] passage") and the frequency with which they invoke it as a token of Israel's international legitimacy, it is worth quoting the verdict of Israeli historian Ilan Pappe : "If United Nations Special Commission on Palestine (UNSCOP) members [who drew up the partition plan] believed that the 2 political entities [an Arab and a Jewish state] would peacefully exist and therefore not much attention needed to be paid to balances of demography and geography... they were guilty of totally misreading Zionism and grossly underestimating its ambitions... the UN map was an assured recipe for the tragedy that began to unfold the day after Resolution 181 was adopted. As theoreticians of ethnic cleansing acknowledged later, where an ideology of exclusivity is adopted [Zionism] in a highly charged ethnic reality, there can be only one result: ethnic cleansing. By drawing the map as they did, the members who voted in favour of the Partition Resolution contributed directly to the crime that was about to take place." (The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine, 2006, p 35)

Next day, no doubt in response to the letters of outraged Zionists (how many this time?), the Herald's faux balance defence mechanism kicked in on the letters page with a letter commending Manning's contribution followed by a spray of Zionist paranoia: "... the left will never accept [Israel] as legitimate until it commits demographic suicide or is wiped out in an Islamist version of the Holocaust." This was followed the day after by this doozy of a letter: "I applaud the editors of the Herald in their balanced approach to the expression of opposing views on the Middle East (Opinion, April 29, and Letters, April 30)."

And just as the old, familiar refrain, 'You-couldn't-make-this-up-in-a-million-years', came to mind, I opened The Australian of the same day to find, in the Cut & Paste section at the bottom of the letters page, the following heading above an extract from Manning's Herald piece: "Historical record comes back to bite the Israel-haters: Peter Manning, in The Sydney Morning Herald, cites historian Benny Morris to discredit 'Israel propaganda'."

Next to that The Australian had placed the following: "In a letter to The Irish Times, Benny Morris sets the record straight: Israel-haters are fond of citing my work in support of their arguments. Let me offer some corrections." Morris himself then went on to state that: a) "In defiance of the will of the international community" Palestinians "launched hostilities against the Jewish community... in the hope of aborting the emergence of the Jewish state and perhaps destroying that community. But they lost," and were "displaced," fleeing their homes "because of the flail of war (and in the expectation that they would shortly return to their homes on the backs of victorious Arab invaders)"; b) "There was no Zionist 'plan' or blanket policy of evicting the Arab population, or of 'ethnic cleansing'. Plan Dalet of March 10, 1948, was the master plan of the Haganah... to counter the expected pan-Arab assault on the emergent Jewish state"; c) "It is true that Plan D gave the regional commanders carte blanche to occupy and garrison or expel and destroy the Arab villages along and behind the front lines and the anticipated Arab armies' invasion routes. And it is also true that midway in the 1948 war the Israeli leaders decided to bar the return of the 'refugees' (those 'refugees' who had just assaulted the Jewish community), viewing them as a potential fifth column and threat to the Jewish state's existence. I for one cannot fault their fears or logic."*

So can we now expect pieces like Manning's - written for the Herald - not only to fall victim to that paper's spinelessness, but also to be mauled in The Australian? And if the Herald is under any illusion that its faux balance routine is enough to satisfy the Zionists, the editorial in the same week's Australian Jewish News (2/5/08) should disabuse it: "What a pity The Sydney Morning Herald published Peter Manning's opinion piece... The fact that next to this unsubstantiated Israel-bashing diatribe, The SMH published a very moderate opinion piece by Dr Colin Rubenstein... calling for peace, did not make a case for balanced reporting... While we would never diminish the value of a free press, we would argue that both sides of the debate are not yet given equal coverage in Australia. The AJN will soon be publishing a regular column... monitoring coverage of Israel... in the mainstream media."

When are the Bambis at Fairfax going to realise that faux balance is not enough, that only when the Fairfax papers become Israel-boosting, Palestine-bashing clones of Murdoch's The Australian will the snarling and snapping cease?

*I'll deal with Morris in my next post.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Zionist Myth In-formation

From the folk that brought us such golden oldies as Driving the Jews into the Sea (1948-2008), The Great Palestinian Moonlight Flit (1948), The Greatest Existential Threat Ever Told (1967), Hey Yasser, Have I Got a Deal for You! (2000), and the current chart topper, Wiping Israel Off the Map, comes a little number written exclusively for Australian consumption: The Charge of the Australian Zionist Horse Brigade. At the moment it's literally charging up the Australian charts faster than an Israel lobbyist can get on the blower to a news editor. Just check out these variations and spin-offs:-

"The ties that bind Jerusalem and Canberra were further cemented with the commemoration last November of the 90th anniversary of the Charge of the Light Horse brigade [31/10/08], when brave Aussie Diggers trounced the Turks at Be'er Sheva, paving the way for the capture of Jerusalem...And it is in Be'er Sheva that Richard Pratt is ploughing funds to build the Park of the Australian Soldier - a permanent memorial to those who died in battle for the Jewish state." (Editorial by Dan Goldberg, Rhapsody: Linking Culture between Israel & Australia, Jan-Mar 2008)

"Ninety-one years after the Australian Light Horse captured Be'er Sheva, a group of descendants, veterans, representatives from the Australian Defence Forces and dignitaries will travel to Israel to unveil a monument commemorating the legendary charge. It is likely to be an emotional trip for the 200 men and women who make the journey, not only because of their close links to the battle of Be'er Sheva, but also because the result of the famous victory was the emergence of a thriving, democratic and vibrant nation... just 2 days after Be'er Sheva was taken, another historic event occurred. The first decree which identified the need for a Jewish homeland in Palestine, the Balfour Declaration, was signed at a British cabinet meeting. While the two events weren't strategically linked, history has demonstrated that they were both integral to the conception of a Jewish state... The Be'er Sheva monument honouring the Australian Light Horse [by Australian sculptor Peter Corlett] has been erected in the newly built Park of the Australian soldier. The project was undertaken by the Pratt Foundation, which has also worked closely with the Israel Travel Centre to locate and send 60 descendents of the legendary regiments to Israel for the unveiling." (Charge! Memories of the Light Horse, Adam Kamien, Australian Jewish News, 25/4/08)

"The battle claimed 31 Australian lives but opened the road to Jerusalem and, eventually, Damascus, for the Allies and precipitated the fall of the Ottoman Empire. Two days after the battle, Britain pledged a homeland for the Jews... it was [Minister for Veterans' Affairs, Alan] Griffin's predecessor, Bruce Billson, who put the victory into context when he spoke at the launch of the Park of the Australian Soldier in May last year. 'The Australian victory at Beersheba in 1917 set in train some remarkable events - the liberation of Jerusalem, the fall of the Ottoman Empire, the British Mandate in Palestine and, ultimately, the establishment of the state of Israel." (Charge of Beersheba, Dan Goldberg, editor of Rhapsody, The Sun-Herald, 27/4/08)

"Australia's Jewish community can be proud the unique Australia-Israel relationship has been an important dimension of Israel's remarkable story. This relationship began in World War I at Gallipoli, where Jewish Zionist volunteers from what was not yet called Palestine fought alongside Australian diggers." (The time for peace has come, Colin Rubenstein, executive-director of the Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council (AIJAC), SMH, 29/4/08)

"The park, named the Park of the Australian Soldier, was opened by Governor-General Michael Jeffery and Israeli President Shimon Peres. Five years in the planning, the park is an initiative of the Melbourne-based Pratt Foundation, which has worked with the City of Beersheba council in an effort to produce a facility that taps into the legacy of the Australian campaign and builds on what Mr Peres described as a bilateral relationship 'without any bad weather'." (Light Horseman takes a stand in Beersheba, Martin Chulov, The Australian, 29/4/08)

"The Pratt Foundation set out some 5 years ago to pay tribute to their courage, and to commemorate the ties of war and peace which have linked Australia with Jewish and Zionist history. We chose Be'er Sheva because this is where the Australian Light Horse won a remarkable victory - and this is where the gallant 800 changed Jewish history, and the history of the Middle East. The Australian capture of Be'er Sheva marked the beginning of the end of Ottoman rule in Palestine. And as a moment in history which should command our attention, on the same afternoon of October 31st, that the Light Horse rode towards the Turkish guns and wells, the British War Cabinet signed off on the Balfour Declaration, a critical milestone along the path to Israel's establishment." (Speech by Sam Lipski [of the Pratt Foundation] at the dedication ceremony for the Park of the Australian Soldier, http://www.ajn.com.au/, 29/4/08)

Not everybody is quite in tune of course. Dan for one is all over the place. In his Rhapsody rap, he's got the Australian Zionist Horse literally dying for Israel (see my April post Anzac Day Special: Diggers Die for Israel), whereas in his rendition for The Sun-Herald he's got them dying for Israel, but retrospectively. Then there's a slight question of timing. Adam's got the Balfour Declaration signed off by the Britz 2 days after the charge of the Zionist Horse, but the others reckon that that's when it was issued. And Sam's contradicting Adam, saying it was signed off on the same day as the Light Zionist charge. These guys are all over the place! But worse than all that was that closet Arab-lover Martin who called Be'er Sheva Beersheba! And bloody silly Dan, all over the place as I said, after first calling it by its correct name, Be'er Sheva, goes on to call it Beersheba too! And Colin, what can we say about Colin? Off on a frolic all his own to Gallipoli of all places! So typical of that AIJAC mob.

Seriously though, it's time for a reality check. Try as I might, I can find nothing on the charge of the Australian(?) Light Horse in any of the reputable histories I've consulted. Naomi Shepherd's Ploughing Sand: British Rule in Palestine 1917-1948 - 0. Jill Hamilton's God, Guns & Israel: Britain, the First World War and the Jews in the Holy Land - 0. Sami Hadawi's The Palestine Diary Volume 1, 1914-1945 - 0. George Antonius' The Arab Awakening - 0. I hate to spoil the festive mood, but could it be that the taking of Beersheba by 800 Australians was just a sideshow? That Gaza was actually the main military game?

Here's Hamilton: "While [the British cabinet] sat at No.10 Downing Street [General] Allenby's massive army of over 100,000 men, 50,000 horses and squadrons of aircraft was breaking through the Beersheba/Gaza fortifications. As well as ammunition they had a new weapon, asphyxiating gas... Allenby unleashed the contents of 10,000 shells to float across the formidable trench system and barriers at the third battle of Gaza on 1-2 November 1917... After taking Gaza, Allenby broke through the Turkish lines and on 4 November started up the coast to Jaffa."(p 143)

Could it be that it was the Arab Revolt and their capture of Aqaba that turned the tide against the Turks in Palestine? Here's Antonius: "In its military implications, the move to 'Aqaba caused serious embarrassment to the Turco-German command in Syria at a time when every available man and gun were needed to oppose the British advance on Jerusalem. But its political consequences... were more damaging still. 'Aqaba became the tangible embodiment of the Revolt and a base for the political undermining as well as the military undoing of the Turkish power in Syria." (p 225) And this: "The political action manifested itself in a variety of ways, all of them tending to weaken Turkey by winning the Arabs of Syria over to the Allied side. The principle weapon of propaganda employed was that, thanks to the agreement concluded between Sir Henry McMahon and the Sharif (now King) Husain, the Allied cause had become identical with the cause of Arab independence; and that the triumph of allied arms would bring freedom to the Arab peoples... Colonel A C Parker... invited Shaikh Furaih abu Meddain, the paramount chief of the Beersheba tribes, to a conference at al-'Arish and handed him an autograph letter from King Husain calling upon all Arabs to aid the efforts of the British forces who were working for Arab liberation. Aeroplanes flew over the Turkish lines and rained copies of King Husein's letter, on the back of which was printed an appeal from the British command asking Arab officers and men in the Turkish army to desert... The tribes in the Beersheba district who had fought on the Turkish side... melted away... and re-appeared further south on the right flank of the British forces advancing on Gaza... the British forces advancing towards Jerusalem found themselves fighting in a friendly country, while the Turks... found themselves fighting in the midst of a decidedly hostile population." (p225-227)

Despite the myth-making and re-writing of history by the hasbara merchants in Israeli PR, the dirty truth is that the diplomatic front was where political Zionism got its foot in the door of Palestine. Israel came with the fall of No. 10 Downing Street to the Zionists. Nothing heroic about it, just a grubby exercise in realpolitik. Behind the closed doors of No. 10, a Christian Zionist in a top hat committed to the handing over of the land of Palestine to the smooth-talking salesman of a European national movement, political Zionism.

And the natives who had been conned by British promises of independence? Lord Balfour wasn't talking through his top hat when he wrote: "Do we mean, in the case of Syria, to consult principally the wishes of the inhabitants? We mean nothing of the kind... The contradiction between the letter of the Covenant and the policy of the Allies is even more flagrant in the case of the 'independent nation' of Palestine than in that of the 'independent nation' of Syria. For in Palestine we do not propose even to go through the form of consulting the wishes of the present inhabitants of the country... The Four Great Powers are committed to Zionism. And Zionism, be it right or wrong, good or bad, is rooted in age-long tradition, in present needs, in future hopes, of far profounder import than the desires and prejudices of the 700,000 Arabs who now inhabit that ancient land... In short, so far as Palestine is concerned, the Powers have made no statement of fact which is not admittedly wrong, and no declaration of policy which, at least in the letter, they have not always intended to violate." (Quoted in David Hirst, The Gun & the Olive Branch: The Roots of Violence in the Middle East, pp 41-42)

No wonder the Israelis and their boosters in this country want to gull us with fairytales.