What follows is an update of my 29/5/09 post (Her Brilliant Career) on Deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard's proposed visit to Israel:-
After a detour to the United States, Gillard arrived in Israel to address the inaugural Australia Israel Leadership Forum on 24/6/09 and reaffirm her government's claimed genetic ties to Israel. "Erev Tov Haverim (Good evening friends), Shalom, Salaam, G'Day!," she greeted the assembled faithful (who must have winced at the token Salaam) in her familiar nasal twang. "Our Forum is part of a wider celebration of Israeli and Australian culture," she droned on, echoing Rudd's parliamentary motion of 14/3/08: "That the House: (1) celebrate and commend the achievements of the state of Israel in the 60 years since its inception..." Yep, for the Ruddies, it seems, if not for the rest of the world (or the Australian people for that matter), Israel's always a cause for celebration.
Meanwhile, as Gillard & Co were busy celebrating the sheer festive magic that is Israel, out in the real world of the Israeli-Occupied Territories (OPT) it was business as usual: In the period 18-24 June, 5 Palestinian civilians, including a journalist, and an international human rights defender were wounded; the Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) conducted 19 incursions into Palestinian communities in the West Bank; the IOF arrested 22 Palestinian civilians, including 2 children in the West Bank; the IOF continued to impose a total siege on the OPT and isolate the Gaza Strip from the outside world; IOF troops positioned at military checkpoints continued to harass Palestinian civilians; the IOF continued measures aimed at establishing a Jewish majority in occupied east Jerusalem; the IOF forced 2 Palestinian civilians to demolish their homes, and issued demolition orders against others; Israeli settlements continued to expand in the West Bank and Israeli settlers continued to attack Palestinian civilians and property; Israeli settlers set fire to Palestinian farmers' tents, injuring 3; Israeli settlers uprooted at least 150 trees and razed dozens of dunums of agricultural land. (Weekly report on Israeli human rights violations in the OPTs, 18-24/6/09, reliefweb.int)
Central to Gillard's spiel was the invocation of the recently coined myth that Australia was somehow metaphysically present at key junctures in the history of the Zionist project, enabling, through its interventions, both the implementation of Britain's Balfour Declaration of 1917 and the UN partition resolution (181) of 29 November 1947. The myth's creators would have us believe that Australian troops, in action against the Turks at Beersheba in 1917, weren't so much doing their bit for King & Country as paving the way, via the Balfour Declaration, for the British Mandate over Palestine, from within whose womb the state of Israel emerged (See my 1/5/08 post Myth In-formation). As Gillard put it: "Yesterday the delegation visited the Park of the Australian Soldier at Beersheva. It is a wonderful reminder of our shared history and one more part of the legacy of the late Richard Pratt. It will serve as a place of pilgrimage for Australians and a reminder that the freedoms we enjoy today were hard-won."
The other aspect of our alleged "shared history" - former Labor Minister for External Affairs Dr HV Evatt's 1947 chairmanship of the United Nations Special Commission on Palestine (UNSCOP), which proposed the partition of that country into a Jewish and an Arab state, was alluded to by Rudd in his abovementioned parliamentary motion "celebrating & commending" Israel's 60th anniversary: "Australia is proud to have played a significant part in the international process that led to the foundation of the state of Israel. Australia's then Minister for External Affairs, Dr Evatt... was chairman of the Ad Hoc Committee meeting on the Palestinian Question that proposed the partition of Palestine." (See my 14/3/08 post The Israeli Occupation of Federal Parliament 3) In Gillard's speech, we get this truncated version: "When a vote was called in 1947 on United Nations General Assembly Resolution 181, to establish separate Jewish and Arab States, the Australian delegate was the first to vote. The first vote in favour of Israel's right to full independent nationhood and its right to live securely within defined borders. Our support has continued strongly ever since..."
The very first vote, eh? Had Gillard visited one too many classrooms prior to her pilgrimage? Can't you just see the Australian delegate crying out 'Sir! Sir! Sir!' as he waves his hand furiously to catch the teacher's attention and beat all the other kids to the nod in response to the invitation: 'Right, now who wants to be first to vote for Israel?' That aside, Gillard's implication is that a vote in favour of UNGA Resolution 181 was something every little Goody Two-Shoes in the UNGA classroom back then automatically aspired to. In reality, of course, it was bully boy tactics in the schoolyard that secured the passage of the resolution.
Take, for example, the case of the head of the Philippino delegation: "Speaking to the General Assembly, Mr Romulo, on the morning of 26 November 1947, said: 'My delegation takes part in this final stage in the consideration of the Palestinian problem with profound misgivings. With interest, we have followed the course of the debate since the special session of the General Assembly last April. We have carefully studied the Report of the Special Committee on Palestine and pondered the various proposals that have been submitted. As a result of these studies, the Philippines Government has come to the conclusion that it cannot give its support to any proposal for the political disunion and the territorial dismemberment of Palestine... We hold that the issue is primarily moral. The issue is whether the United Nations should accept responsibility for the enforcement of a policy which, not being mandatory under any specific provision of the Charter nor in accordance with its fundamental principles, is clearly repugnant to the valid nationalist aspirations of the people of Palestine. The Philippines Government believes that the United Nations ought not to accept any such responsibility'. On the orders of his government, Romulo was on the Queen Elizabeth bound for Europe within hours of delivering his fiery speech against partition. [The Philippines] Ambassador [to the US] Elizalde had spoken by telephone to President Roxas and told him of the many pressures to which Romulo and the delegation had been subjected. While the ambassador believed that partition was not wise, he felt that it would be foolish to vote against a policy so ardently desired by the US Administration at a time when 7 bills important to the Islands were pending in the US Congress. The Ambassador and President Roxas agreed that support could be gained easily by voting properly on Palestine. In Manila, as political adviser to the President of the Philippines, was Julius CC Edelstein, a confidant of Zionist Herbert H Lehman." (The Palestine Diary, Vol 2, 1945-1948, Robert John & Sami Hadawi, 1970, p 250)
Do I need to add that on 29 November the Philippines' delegate voted for partition?
I've already posted on the Machiavellian politics of partitioning Palestine (The Israeli Occupation of Federal Parliament 3, 14/3/08; Talking Turkey on the Two-State Solution, 11/11/08), and suggested that Australia's role, such as it was, is hardly something to be proud of (Evatt's Legacy, 5/12/08). However, by invoking the myth of Australian troops as closet Zionists and Evatt as some latter-day Lord Balfour, Gillard was able to avoid reference to the only genuine historical link between Australia and Israel - our common origins as colonial-settler states created at the expense of pre-existing indigenous populations. The closest she got was this: "Both [nations] have been established and built in difficult, sometimes hostile, physical conditions."
Another near-brush with reality came with her talk of a "world where exclusion and humiliation breed despair and hatred" - surely a reference to Israel and its 61-year exclusion of Palestinian refugees and 42-year occupation of the Palestinian territories? Err, no. Iran was what she touched on next, though how such words apply there is beyond me. Yet, if she were really serious about the "despair and hatred" of the wretched of the earth - which she clearly isn't - she need look no further than Israel's cruel experiment in Gaza.
Take, for example, the case of 20-year old trainee teacher Yahya Abu Saif, a resident of the Gaza Strip. Back in January, when the Israelis were raining fire and brimstone on Gaza, Yahya was in a mosque targeted by an Israeli missile. His right leg was amputated and the shrapnel which pierced his skull, paralysing his left side. Weekdays he's in Gaza's only rehabilitation hospital, a shattered building with perforated walls and a disabled hydrotherapy pool. Neither the hospital nor its pool can be repaired because Israel won't allow any building materials into Gaza. Yahya needs a special right-hand controlled wheelchair, but the Israelis won't allow them in either. He comes home on weekends to a 5-room house with 13 occupants, only 2 of whom have work. The toilet, a hole in the floor, is at the bottom of 6 steep, concrete steps. A local organization wants to build him an accessible toilet, but you guessed it, the Israelis won't allow any building materials into Gaza. Yahya needs an artificial leg, but the Israelis will only allow a drip-feed of prosthetic equipment and medical supplies into Gaza. (See Recovery battle for Gaza war injured, Heather Sharp, BBC News, 24/6/09)
Gaza, of course, isn't on Gillard's itinerary. In fact, it's as remote from her mind as the moon. She hasn't a flicker of interest in how Israel (or any other terror state for that matter) sadistically keeps an entire subject people in various states of "despair and hatred." She's simply too busy being stroked by the Israelis: "In front of an elite audience of Israeli politicians, academics and cultural figures at a dinner at the landmark King David Hotel, senior Israeli minister Isaac Herzog paid a warm tribute to Ms Gillard for her support for Israel during the Gaza conflict in January. 'You stood almost alone on the world stage in support of Israel's right to defend itself', enthused Mr Herzog, an act of courage he said would never be forgotten by the people of Israel... Mr Herzog, a personal friend of Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and chairman of the Israel-Australia parliamentary association, also thanked federal parliamentarians for passing a motion last year in support of Israel's 60th anniversary." (Israel to Gillard: thanks for standing by us, Jason Koutsoukis, The Age, 24/6/09)
"We should be honest about the difficulty of achieving a just and lasting settlement to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict," she droned on.
Gillard's vapid and platitude-ridden speech fairly reeks of dishonesty and ignorance. She's definitely prime minister material. Have a nice day.