Sydney Morning Herald columnist Paul Sheehan has predictably weighed in on the Gaza genocide (It's too easy just to blame Jews, 12/1/09), telling his readers that he "just happened to be in Israel" last November. He's being disingenuous. There was of course nothing happenstance about his trip - it was sponsored by the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies (JBOD) and the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs (see my 17/11/08 post Rambam Alert!) , part of a process I call rambamming - defined elsewhere in this blog as "being sponsored by smooth-talking Israel lobbyists in Australia on a grooming session by tough-talking PR people in Israel with a view to the sponsored adopting the missionary position for Israel when required in Australia." To my knowledge, no disclosure that a rambamming has taken place has ever accompanied an article on Israel and the Palestinians by a rambammed Herald journalist. Just click on the rambamming tag at the end of this post for a fuller picture of this below-the-radar activity.
Sheehan's November 2008 rambamming didn't take long to bear fruit (See my 27/11/08 post His Master's Voice), and now that the Israel's army is cutting a bloody swathe through Gaza, and Israel's PR machine is working overtime defending the indefensible, Sheehan's putting pen to paper in defence of Israel's actions should come as no surprise.
There are, of course, the usual factual stuff-ups (a sure give-away that the generalist pundit has only the shakiest grasp of the subject at hand), and I shall deal with these first: 1) Sheehan refers to the group of Israeli settler fanatics illegally occupying a Palestinian house in the Palestinian West Bank city of Hebron as occupying a "settlement." 2) In a reference to Jordan's administration of the West Bank from 1948-1967, he hilariously describes the West Bank Palestinians as an "ethnic majority" and their Jordanian Hashemite rulers as an "ethnic minority." Sheehan is labouring under the illusion that the Hashemites are an ethnic grouping rather than a dynasty. To add to the hilarity, he even has these 'ethnic' Hashemites simultaneously ruling the Gaza Palestinians! 3) Finally, his figure of "6,000 Hamas rocket attacks" on Israel from Gaza (repeated twice) is the same nonsense I've refuted elsewhere (See my 5/1/09 post Go Figure 1). Moreover, assigning all such rockets to Hamas alone is simply incorrect.
Then there's Sheehan's retailing of the contemptible Israeli propaganda line about the United Nations Relief & Works Agency (UNRWA) 'warehousing' "displaced Palestinians for decades because it has been in the interests of the Arab world for this problem not to be solved." He would have us believe that the issue of the Palestinian refugees arises not from Zionist ethnic cleansing in 1948 (glossed over with the neutral-sounding "displaced"), but from a deliberate failure of the UN to disperse them around the Arab world!* Sheehan thus attempts to shift responsibility for the Palestine refugee problem from the Israelis, who created it, to the UN, which set up UNRWA to manage it.
[* Nor was this for want of trying. Consider the following story from the time of the Egyptian military administration of Gaza: "Nasser feared the consequences of provoking the Israelis... He understood that the situation in Gaza was potentially explosive; thousands of refugees crowded into a tiny area with nothing to occupy their minds except the memory of what they'd left behind and how they were going to return. Already some Palestinians were crossing the Armistice lines, usually to collect possessions from the villages which hadn't yet been destroyed by the Israelis, but sometimes also to raid Israeli settlements bordering the Strip. As it was, Israeli reprisals for these incidents were becoming increasingly severe and in Nasser's mind they could easily provide the Israelis with the excuse to launch a full-scale war, which he knew Egypt was unprepared to fight. Nasser's way of defusing the situation, or so he thought, was to draw up a plan in 1954, in conjunction with the United States and UNRWA, to resettle the refugees in the Sinai. By any standards the conditions in the refugee camps were bad but the refugees vehemently opposed any move which either suggested their stay was permanent or that if they were to leave it would be anywhere but back to Palestine. For example when UNRWA had attempted to plant trees in Gaza's camps they were immediately uprooted by enraged residents who berated the Agency for wasting money on something which no one would be around long enough to see grow. Gaza's response to the leaking of the plan was therefore quite predictable. For two days, thousands of demonstrators took to the streets, besieging Egyptian personnel in government buildings and burning vehicles and installations." (Stateless in Gaza, Cossali & Robson, 1986, pp 13-14)]
Sheehan also reflects the routine tendency of Zionist propagandists to blur the fundamental distinction between Jews/Judaism, on the one hand, and Zionists/Zionism, on the other. The result is that Melbourne demonstrators, whom he alleges were waving placards which read "Clean the Earth from the dirty Zionists" (photographs anyone?) and "Stop the sub-human Zionist landgrabbing barbarian mass murderers in occupied Palestine," are described as "anti-Jewish." Hyperbole aside (and assuming of course that such placards actually existed), these slogans, prima facie, are clearly directed against the ideology of political Zionism (ie the idea - following the definition of Israeli scholar Uri Davis - that it is a good idea to establish and consolidate in the country of Palestine a sovereign, Jewish state that attempts to guarantee in law and in practice a demographic majority of the Jewish tribes in the territories under its control) and its followers, not Jews or the faith of Judaism as such. In essence, for example, the first is little different to say 'Cleanse the Earth of Communists'. As for the second, I would really only quibble with the inclusion of "sub-human," on the grounds that ideological blindness, whether of the Zionist or any other variety, is, alas, all too human. Moreover, Sheehan might like to take a look at the photograph of the baseball-hatted Zionist at San Francisco's 10/1/09 promassacre rally holding a placard which reads, "Until all of Gaza is destroyed, the job is not done" (indyby.org), or maybe check out some of the racist anti-Arab filth currently flooding cyberspace from Zionist blogs and websites.
Did I say racist anti-Arab filth? Forget cyberspace/blogosphere. Look no further than Sheehan's own opinion piece: "Gaza has become a giant warehouse of misery. It has no economic growth, no prospects, almost no civil order, yet about half the population is under the age of 17. The population has exploded amid economic privation. Women, living under sharia law, are used primarily as breeding stock. When Nizar Rayan, the most senior member of Hamas, was killed in the latest Israeli attacks, he had 4 wives and 14 children." This surely has to be a new low for the Herald: the Palestinian family, currently being hammered mercilessly by Israel's "iron fist," is caricatured by Sheehan, from the comfort of his air-conditioned Fairfax office, as a fanatical, Jew-hating, jihadi husband wielding the sword of sharia law over a supine, bovine wife, who has little option but to keep on flooding the grim and grimy streets of Gaza with babies. And how terribly, terribly inconvenient for the poor Israelis who have to listen to the constant ticking of this demographic time-bomb! Why, it must surely drive them mad, mad enough to...
If Sheehan is seriously concerned about the plight of women, I'd suggest he first look in his own backyard - say in the troubled Sydney suburb of Rosemeadow where almost one quarter of all families are headed by single mothers "totally dependent on welfare," and where "most teenage girls are either pregnant or carrying a child on their hip." (Violence begins where hope ends on Rosemeadow housing estate, John Stapleton, The Australian, 10/1/09)
In addition to its standout racism, Sheehan's paragraph is riddled with falsehoods. If Gazans live in misery and economic deprivation, one need look no further than the decades of de-development the Strip was subjected to under Israeli occupation and the crippling effects of the post 2005 Israeli blockade. And that nonsense about "no civil order" (I assume Sheehan means prior to Israel's bombardment and invasion) has been flatly contradicted by courageous Haaretz journalist Amira Hass who, unlike Sheehan, was actually in Gaza not long after his rambamming. In This is Gaza (27/11/08) she wrote," Gaza is the ability to tell jokes in any situation, and the burning insult of having no running water for 3 or 4 days. And yet, the children go clean and neat to school... Gaza is also parents leaving their children alone at home, without fear, or letting them go to a playground far from home, or go by themselves to their grandmother in the Jabaliya refugee camp... Gaza is people's constant attempt to cling to a normal life, although Israel foists on them abnormal terms of imprisonment, isolation from the rest of the world and deterioration to a state of humiliating dependence on international charity programs."
In melding the febrile Islamophobic fantasies of the late Oriana Fallaci* with the current requirements of Israeli PR, Sheehan's latest propaganda piece plumbs new depths.
[* Sheehan actually reviewed the demented Fallaci's The Force of Reason on 15/5/06. There is not a hint of criticism throughout. His final sentence can only be described as admiring: "The history Oriana Fallaci has felt and seen has filled her final years with a lucid, fearless rage."]