The Victorian firestorm: hundreds of homes, farms, and businesses - charred, smouldering, crushed. Anywhere up to 200 dead. Hundreds more homeless. Livelihoods and futures destroyed. The earlier Gaza firestorm: thousands of homes, farms, and businesses reduced to twisted rubble. Over a thousand dead. Thousands more maimed. Tens of thousands homeless. Livelihoods and futures destroyed. The similarities in the devastation and suffering of the two communities, the Australian and the Palestinian, are stark and obvious to us all - but not to one man, The Australian's Greg (Jerusalem Prize) Sheridan, the Australian corporate media's most vocal advocate for Israel. No, the stark and obvious parallel between Victoria and Gaza has completely evaded him. For Sheridan, the only parallel - you guessed it - is with Israel.
Why in the first place it fell to Murdoch fishwrapper's foreign editor to write an opinion piece about one of Australia's greatest natural disasters (Crisis survived, we must quickly apply the lessons, 12/2/09) is a mystery (like much that goes on at The Australian) we shall probably take to our graves. Unsurprisingly, the result was predictably cliched ("They breed them tough in the Australian bush, none tougher than the women, who always seem to be at the front of all the volunteer efforts; and none tougher than the men, who fight like tigers to save their homes until it's too late, and then fight to save their families; and none tougher than the children, who manage to stay optimistic, that is, to stay children") and utterly simplistic ("If backburning makes a forest a little less pretty but saves a dozen Australian lives in a rural town, then we must backburn much more aggressively"). Still, if that had been it, I could merely have consigned it to the recycling bin without further thought. But no, there was more. There was this bizarre concluding paragraph: "More people have died in fires in Australia this year than have died from terrorism in Israel in the past several years. I would never trivialise terrorism in Israel. Rather I applaud the national effort the Israelis put into confronting their national danger. We should do no less."
Sheridan's delusional obsession with Israel seems total. When he contemplates the firestorm sweeping south-east Victoria, he sees a firestorm of Palestinian "terrorism" sweeping Israel, and in Operation Cast Lead, an aggressive backburning operation conducted by tough Israeli pioneers fighting desperately to save their homes and families. This is seriously weird. Planet Sheridan indeed.