Is the position of letters editor at The Sydney Morning Herald reserved for the especially clueless? Listen to this Postscript from Mike Ticher commenting on letter writers' responses to the carnage in Gaza: "As ever most letters focused on moral rights and wrongs: who did what 40 or 60 years ago, who had or had not broken international law and was or was not justified in certain actions. Those certainly should be debated, but it would make a change to have a more pragmatic debate about what might realistically work to change the situation." (17/1/09)
Ah yes, right and wrong, history, international law - so boring, so yesterday. And yet some letter writers actually took the bait - no doubt allowing Ticher to bin other writers who likely had more of a grasp of the moral, historical, and legal background to the issue. (I do not, of course, include the Fishmans, Lewis's and Burds in this category.)
Don Brown of Narrabeen tried his best to descend to Ticher's challenge, grumbling relevantly that neglecting the history of the conflict was "as difficult as discussing US-Muslim relations without mentioning the twin towers." His letter climaxed with "The power imbalance, both militarily and diplomatically, is so great that Israel believes it is impervious to any criticism, let alone any punitive action. It has developed nuclear weapons, bombed Syria, built walls and settlements and ignored the claims of the Palestinians for all the long years of the occupation." So far, so good, but Ticher's puerile terms of reference reduced Don to this nonsense: "Perhaps if the immense military aid to Israel were to be totally replaced by a program of building schools, clinics and sporting facilities to be shared by the people of both Israel and the occupied territories, some progress could be made." (19/1/09)
Bruce Weatherlake of Bli Bli, Qld wrote relevantly about the need for Israel to allow the Palestinian right of return, but, nobbled by Ticher's terms of reference, plunged into irrelevance with "All Australians... have been heartened to see the great camaraderie among different members of the South African cricket team; something unimaginable 25 years ago," and concluded with this inane Obamarism: "Everybody is going to have to give. Everybody is going to have to have some skin in the game." (19/1/09)
Guys, guys, this is so not a game! Don't allow yourself to be diverted by know-nothings like Ticher. Here are the kinds of things you could have written about, courtesy of Australian academics John Docker & Ned Curthoys' newly formed Committee for the Dismantling of Zionism: Statement of Aims:-
1) In the Ghandhian tradition of non-violence, the committee stands for the peaceful co-existence of Israeli Jews and Palestinians within a unified democratic state where everyone is a full citizen irrespective of religion or ethnicity.
2) The committee supports the view of Sir Isaac Isaacs, a Jewish jurist and former Governor General of Australia in the 1940s, that the very idea of a Jewish state is absurd, unjust, and untimately untenable, since it makes all the non-Jewish citizens necessarily and inevitably second-class citizens.
3) In the Gandhian traditon of non-violence, we support the cultural and economic boycott of Israel.
4) The Jewish Right [sic: Law] of Return is a weapon in the Zionist colonization and occupation of Palestinian lands. Accordingly, we urge that the world wide Jewish diaspora should renounce the Right of Return.
5) We urge support for UN Resolution 194 which declares the unconditional right of the Palestinian refugees expelled from Palestine in 1948 to return to their homes.
6) We observe that Zionist Israel is guilty of genocidal policies as defined in Article II (c) of the Genocide Convention, in that it intends to destroy, in whole or in part, an ethnic group by "deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part." By "physical destruction" we mean that Zionist Israel transparently seeks to destroy Palestinian society and remove Palestinians from their ancestral lands in order to Judaize those same lands.
7) The world wide Zionist organisations are also guilty, in terms of the Genocide Convention, Article III (e), of "complicity in genocide." (From antony loewenstein.com/blog/ 5/1/09)
To add insult to injury, the SMH (along with its Ziocon rival, The Australian), on the same day as the above letters, failed to cover the third and largest of Sydney's massive anti-Israel demonstrations. Contrast this with the excellent coverage in Melbourne's Age - Thousands march in Melbourne against Gaza war, Andra Jackson, 19/1/09 - a piece, moreover, which actually quoted some of those who spoke at the rally, and, in a revolutionary new journalistic development, even one of the demonstrators!
By turning its back on the thousands of Sydneysiders who flooded the streets of Sydney's CBD for block after block to express their solidarity with the victims of Israeli genocide in Gaza, the SMH reveals itself yet again to be more of a media firewall acting to block and deflect, rather than a serious newspaper in the business of reporting and investigating contemporary trends and developments. Whether this failure to report arises out of cowardice or conviction, the SMH as currently configured, deserves our contempt.
Another indication of the strength of popular feeling against Israeli war crimes emerged in The Sun-Herald of 18/1/09. In response to that publication's airing of the views of federal Labor MP Julia Irwin (one of the tiny minority of Australian politicians with the courage to speak up for the Palestinians) the week before, columnist Kerry-Anne Walsh wrote as follows: "Ms Irwin's article generated a greater flood of correspondence in The Sun-Herald than any issue in recent years, the overwhelming majority in support. What emerged - strongly - in their views was a yearning for politicians to break ranks and voice opinions." (Toe the line, don't step on any) Walsh followed this with a selection of these emails. Needless to say, the Israel lobby, in the person this time of Robert Goot of the Executive Council of Australian Jewry (ECAJ), had obtained a right of reply - Just defence despite death toll. What a pity that his space on the paper's Comment page wasn't given over entirely to that "flood of correspondence."
World public opinion is turning decisively against the rogue state of Israel, and rightly so. The bulk of the Australian corporate media (with the possible exception of The Age), however, still hasn't got it.