Monday, August 31, 2009
Saturday, August 29, 2009
At oritarfa.net, I clicked on Ori's paintings, and was struck by a work titled simply Pinchas, based on Numbers 25. Pinchas, an athletic youth, was depicted thrusting a spear through the bodies of a man and woman engaged in sexual congress. Ewww! Orit's caption being a tad too sketchy for me (not being acquainted with the relevant Biblical fairy tale) I decided to go directly to Numbers 25: "And Israel abode in Shittim, and the people [of Israel] began to commit whoredom with the daughters of Moab. And they [the daughters of Moab] called the people unto the sacrifices of their gods: and the people did eat, and bowed down to their gods. And Israel joined himself unto Baalpeor: and the anger of the LORD was kindled against Israel. And the Lord said unto Moses, Take all the heads of the people, and hang them up before the LORD against the sun, that the fiece anger of the LORD may be turned away from Israel... And, behold, one of the children of Israel came and brought unto his brethren a Midianitish woman in the sight of Moses, and in the sight of all the congregation of the children of Israel, who were weeping before the door of the tabernacle of the congregation. And when Phinehas [Pinchas], the son of Eleazar... saw it, he rose up from among the congregation, and took a javelin in his hand; And he went after the man of Israel into the tent, and thrust both of them through, the man of Israel, and the woman through her belly."
In sum, the jealous deity of the Israelite tribe does not suffer those who mix it with non-Israelites gladly, and his anger will strike down both - even in flagrante delicto. Orit comments on her painting as follows: "My saddening experiences in Israel during the Intifada prompted my first politically tinged painting. Pinchas contains political messages associated with the religious camp while using erotic images palatable to more liberal, secular audiences. It asks the basic question: at what point is the use of force a desired and moral option?" I found this comment ambiguous: while she seems to be referring only to the division between religious and secular Israeli Jews, and its potential for Jew-on-Jew violence, there's also that reference to the Intifada. Her words can be read as suggesting that questions about the desirability or morality of the use of force only arise where Jews are concerned, and that force against non-Jews (whether Moabite/Midianite 'whores' or Palestinians) is a given. If so, Ori's moral perspective would seem to be in complete agreement with that of the tribal god of Numbers.
My worries about Orit deepened when I clicked on the hyperlink in the first paragraph of Zionist Love Story (don't worry, I'll get there!). It took me to The Land of Hollywood - Eretz Hollywood (14/8/08). Orit describes how she was taking "headshots" in the Hollywood hills - no, not quite in the way Palestinians take headshots - because she's hoping to embark on an acting career. Still, her mind can't help wandering back to Eretz Israel, which she finds herself comparing with the equally beautiful Eretz Hollywood. Except that, in the case of the former, she just "couldn't fully relax to its physical beauty. I'd see much more than earth. I'd wonder who lives in those homes and if they are happy. I'd wonder if they lost anyone to wars or terror. I'd wonder how they came to this land, where they trace their Jewish history. I'd wonder how many fought and died for the earth. Who sowed it? Who wants it?" And you just know how exclusive that wondering is! "In the Hollywood hills, I don't ask those questions. I see pretty homes and foliage and feel confident people are generally content, living their lives without too many existential fears, without too much historical baggage. My mind doesn't go into a deep place where I think about the fate of the Jews and humanity."
Of course not, Orit's is an exclusive, tribal wondering. The Hollywood hills carry no historical baggage for this Hollywood hopeful. I guarantee Dee Brown's Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee is nowhere to be found on her bookshelf: "California Indians were gentle as the climate in which they lived. The Spaniards gave them names, established missions for them, converted and debauched them. Tribal organizations were undeveloped among the California Indians; each village had its leaders, but there were no great war chiefs among these unwarlike people. After the discovery of gold in 1848, white men from all over the world poured into California by the thousands, taking what they wanted from the submissive Indians, debasing those whom the Spaniards had not already debased, and then systematically exterminating whole populations now long forgotten. No one remembers the Chilulas, Chimarikos, Urebures, Nipewais, Alonas, or a hundred other bands whose bones have been sealed under a million miles of freeways, parking lots, and slabs of tract housing." (p 220) And I can't see Ori hearkening unto the voice of Chief Seattle after a night on the town wining and dining: "And when the last Red Man shall have perished, and the memory of my tribe shall have become a myth among the White Men, these shores will swarm with the invisible dead of my tribe, and when your children's children think themselves alone in the field, the store, the shop, upon the highway, or in the silence of the pathless woods, they will not be alone. At night when the streets of your cities and villages are silent and you think them deserted, they will throng with the returning hosts that once filled them and still love this beautiful land." Wrong tribe, baby!
Orit goes on to recall the view from her Jerusalem apartment: "... the walls of the Old City straight ahead, the villages of East Jerusalem to the right, the Knesset building to the left. It's a stunning cityscape, but there too, I could never just enjoy it. The white, tubular solar heaters on the rooftops disrupt some of the organic beauty of the golden Jerusalem stone and pointy tips of the cypress trees. But I also look at the heaters in wonder though. They are symbols of the modern achievements of the Jewish State. The trees don't know it but they started as a seed planted into a Jewish dream coming true - lining paved roads named after great Jewish sages and thinkers." Ah, but then there's that proverbial fly in the ointment: "Then I'd look to the less tended landscapes of Arab East Jerusalem, and I remember how some unenlightened people living there are trying to kill me for wanting to live that dream, for recognizing it." Can you believe it? Some unenlightened Ayrabs wan't to off little old me just for wanting to live my Jewish dream. How very dare they! Why can't they clean up their 'hood instead, so's I've got a better view? Better still...
And so to A Zionist Love Story. Orit says she "divorced Israel in September of 2008, about 9 years after making aliyah... I often liken Israel to a lover. Anyone who makes aliyah is essentially embarking on a marriage with the Jewish state." How so? "It's easy for Diaspora Jews to fall madly in love with Israel. Israel is so very seductive, especially during the first dates, whether they be educational trips or summer vacations. Just touching the soil revived by the Jewish people after 2 millenia causes butterflies. Jews experience intoxicating romance with the land while taking walks along the Tel Aviv shore at sunset; they revel in the land's beauty at getaways in the plush North; they get frisky on the beach of Eilat and at Tel Aviv nightclubs; they delve into their past and dreams at Masada, the Golan Heights, and the Old City of Jerusalem. Most of all, they engage in heart to heart talks about life, humanity, and the Jewish soul while praying at the kotel. But once the Jew ties the knot with Israel by making aliyah, the honeymoon quickly fades and the reality of married Israeli life kicks in." And that reality? There's communication barriers, government bureaucracy, lousy jobs, but no, that's not it. "We simply went through too many crises: the Intifada, the Disengagement, the Lebanon War - all so saddened me, like miscarriages that set me back from truly focusing on my creative output. I felt infertile." Those bloody unenlightened Ayrabs again, ruining my beautiful Jewish dream! Thank God for good old dependable America: "He was the shoulder I cried on when I felt jerked around by Zion. He was there for me when I needed him - understanding my language, spoiling me with cushy malls and fabulous spas, entertaining me with great TV shows, and allowing me to focus on my self-development and dreams."
I was intrigued about Orit's reference to Sharon's 2005 disengagement from Gaza, so I googled Orit Arfa/Gaza and hit upon Orit Arfa: I burned a book at israelinside.ning.com: "To summarise, the novel [which she'd written in Israel but decided to burn before leaving] followed the migration of a 21-year old Gush Katif expellee from Gaza into Tel Aviv where she acted out her rebellion against religion and the State of Israel in the country's hottest nightclub. It spoke true of my own experience as someone who protested in Gaza during the Disengagement - an event that completely shattered my admiration and belief in the Zionist entity as such. They didn't burn books in Gaza, but the IDF demolished thousands of Jewish homes. They let the Palestinians burn the synagogues - and whatever holy books got trapped inside."
So Orit wasn't/isn't too happy because she believes Israeli settlers should be able to set up camp on the range wherever they please, just like in the good old US of A, where these days there's barely an unenlightened Redskin anywhere to spoil the view or scalp you just because you're living your American dream. Her novel, she went on to explain, was her "attempt to make Israel more like America, a land of the free and home of the brave. A place where people aren't judged by their race and religion (ideally), but by their character and creativity... Now that I've expelled myself from Israel I'm living out her quest for individualism in a country that still honours this value." You simply couldn't make this stuff up. Orit wants Israel, the Jewish state, to be "a place where people aren't judged by their race or religion"?! Talk about having your cake and eating it too.
For American Jews like Orit, it seems, one country is simply not enough. Israel must exist as a Jewish state so that she may come and go as the whim takes them. Or, as she puts it in A Zionist Love Story (when she tells us that Nefesh B'Nefesh (NBN) have invited her to blog on the progress of a batch of "newlyweds" making aliyah): "When I'm back there, my 'ex' and I will probably have a fling and remember the good times - easy without the pressure of commitment. Yet even as I'm beginning to fall in love with my best friend (America), I wouldn't mind if Israel swept me in his strong, sexy arms for a few weeks."
Nice work if you can get it, Orit, but here's the rub: Orit and her American "newlyweds" can come and go, like the settlers in the Israeli-occupied West Bank (a significant proportion of whom seem to be Americans), because Israel, as a state for all Jews, has a Law of Return which accords all Jews full citizenship rights should they care to take up the offer and live their dream. Only trouble is, Orit's dream is the Palestinian's nightmare. To indulge her right to have two homes and dream her dreams, millions of Palestinian refugees must remain stateless in camps in neighbouring Arab states, while millions more must live under a settler-friendly military occupation in the West Bank, under cannon fire in Gaza, or as barely-tolerated, second-class citizens in Israel itself. But then, they're just unenlightened riffraff whose dreams are of no consequence whatever, right?
Wednesday, August 26, 2009
This will be my final post on Morris West's The Tower of Babel, the preferred in-flight reading of The Australian's foreign editor Greg (Jerusalem Prize) Sheridan as he wings his way from the lucky to the plucky country. Babel, described by Sheridan as a "ripping good read," is an invaluable compendium of 60's/70's Ziobabble - the kind that still resonates with him and makes his columns on the subject of Israel such ripping good rants.
Having introduced you to West's awful 'Arabs' and awesome 'Israelis', it's now time to reveal where all this is heading - to the Zionist myth of Masada, which is to say the Zionist appropriation of the Jewish revolt against Rome (66-70 CE), and (to paraphrase Israeli historian Idith Zertal's Israel's Holocaust & the Politics of Nationhood, 2005, pp 30-31) the cloaking of the 1st century Jewish rebels in the mantle of Zionism and their transformation into Palmach fighters as a foil to the scorned alleged passivity of the leaders of European Jewry and their people in the face of Nazi slaughter:-
It is January 1967. Israel's military brass are playing their annual war games in the Negev Desert: "The real objective [of Operation Maccabee] was the pass of Abu Agheila, key to the Sinai Desert, where in the campaign of 1956, Israel had suffered grievous losses... If the Sinai campaign had to be fought all over again - and every threatening pointer said that it would - Abu Agheila would have to be retaken." (p 335) The Israelis have got to get Abu Agheila right next time around because the consequences of not doing so are dire: "In Israel every life was precious, because, without men, the desert would creep back and eat up the pastures and wither the pine trees and fill the cisterns with sand." IOW, Operation Maccabee was "a rehearsal for survival." Think about it: "two and a half million, camped in a narrow perimeter, beset, outnumbered by tens of millions, a child country, matched against giants terrible in their armour." (p 335)
As you would, Jakov and Chaim decide to undertake a "sentimental journey" by helicopter to Masada during their lunch break. "As they banked and began their spiral around the great plateau, they fell silent, awed by the monstrous majesty of the place, familiar yet terrible, sacred, glorious and full of bloody memories." (p 336) West parades before us, in turn, Herod the Great, the Parthians, Titus, Eliezer ben Yair and his Zealots, and Flavius Silva.
Understandably, Jakov has a sudden access of spine-stiffening Masada Syndrome: "[T]his was a symbol of Israel itself - walled in by [Arab League] boycott and blockade and belligerent rivals. They would never starve her into submission but they could and did reduce her, bleeding her capital into arms, cutting the life-lines of her trade, blackmailing those who wished to do business with her. But she still held out - as the thousand on Masada had held out for 3 years against the 10,000 Romans." (p 357)
And then, having touched down, these two Zionist warriors out of central casting, Jakov and Chaim, become "twins drawn back into the womb of the same folk-memory" - from which comes the voice of Eliezar ben Yair himself: "Let us die then, before we become slaves under our enemies..."
Israel's raison d'etre is revealed at last:"The Chief of Staff thrust his hand into the pocket of his tunic and brought up a small shard of pottery, inscribed with a Hebrew character. He smiled and held it out to Jakov Baratz. Baratz nodded and brought out another one to match it... They were the personal tokens of the Zealots of Masada, used for the drawing of rations, and perhaps for the last fratricidal lottery on the mountain-top. They were the last answer to the last question. The symbols inscribed on them were the only words that made sense in the Babel tower of politics and legalities and family quarrels, and split loyalties. Sooner or later, believing or unbelieving, every man had to find one inch of soil* on which he would stand and defy the world. Sooner or later, he had to say: 'This is all I know. It is not enough; but so be it.' Sooner or later, prophet or mountebank, he had to take his own small shard of truth in his hands, write his name on it and toss it into the bowl, prepared to live or die by the draw. 'Full circle', said Jakov Baratz. 'Twenty years and we're here again' 'Do you remember the words, Jakov?' 'I remember them'. They clasped hands, pressing the potsherds into their palms and recited the old oath of the Haganah and their own covenant with the new Israel. 'Masada shall not fall again'." (pp 339-340) [*Err, shouldn't that be someone else's soil? And lo, "it" wasn't nearly enough, Israel going on in June to take and occupy the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, Syria's Golan Heights, and Egypt's Sinai Peninsula.]
And here's the same propaganda trope passed from Ephraim Sneh to Sheridan: "Apart from the overwhelming experience of visiting the Yad Vashem museum recalling the Holocaust, the most powerful image I saw in Israel was in a small office in the Knesset (parliament) building in Jerusalem. I had gone to see Ephraim Sneh, a white-haired veteran Labour Party politician and soldier, a former cabinet minister and a former general. He points to a picture on the back wall of his office. It is of 2 Israeli F-15 fighters flying over Auschwitz. 'When we didn't have F-15s, we had Auschwitz', he says. His grandparents, he tells me, were killed by the Polish farmers they had paid to shelter them. You learn the lessons of trusting other people with your security. Israel will certainly make compromises. But it will not commit suicide." (Deep inside the plucky country, The Australian, 19/1/08)
Of course, this was no blinding insight for Sheridan - he'd picked it up decades before from his mentor on the Middle East, Morris West. This, folks, is the raw material for Sheridan's 'quality' journalism.
Sunday, August 23, 2009
Meet the 'Israelis':-
Jakov Baratz, Director of Military Intelligence, is The Tower of Babel's poster boy, the complete converse of that awful Syrian Ba'thist, Colonel Safreddin. He's your typical, conscience-racked Israeli philosopher-warrior who does everything humanly possible to avoid civilian casualties when planning his country's next war crime... which the author has based on Israel's 1966 "reprisal raid" on the West Bank village of Samua when the West Bank was still under Jordanian control (1948-1967). "PLO terrorists" have been infiltrating Israel from the West Bank and Jakov and his staff have been tasked by Aron the PM to prepare a plan for said "reprisal raid"on one of three villages in the Hebron area. They must consider how long it'll take Jordanian troops to counterattack, and, of course - being Israelis and all - "We have then, to consider the villagers themselves. We are to avoid civilian casualties*. Our plan is to move out the population and then destroy the village. However, the villagers must have some place to go. If there are caves and wadis where they can shelter, so much the better. We cannot have them caught in cross-fire between the Jordanians and ourselves... Any questions?... 'Suggestion, sir.' 'Let's have it.' 'Medical services. In case there are civilian casualties...'" (pp 90-91) [*"The Israelis are among the most disciplined troops in the world and go to great lengths to avoid civilian caualties." Greg Sheridan (See my 8/2/09 post On Planet Sheridan)]
As the "raid" proceeds, Jakov and Israeli Chief of Staff Chaim observe the action from an "observation post overlooking the Hebron valley": "In essence, the Hebron plan was very simple and there was little room for mistakes. At 0600 the fighters would be in the air, and the ground troops would be right on the Jordan border. They would drive 5 kms into Jordan territory and surround the village. The villagers would be moved out and a mixed company of infantry and engineers would move in to clear out stragglers and set demolition charges in houses and public buildings. The charges would be exploded, the company would withdraw, the operation would be over. The tanks were there to protect the infantry, provide a massive show of strength and bar the road to any approach by troops of [Jordan's] Arab Legion. The only probable oppostion would be small arms and sniping from armed irregulars of the PLO." (pp 310-311)
And lo, like clockwork, "[w]hen the villagers saw [the Israeli tanks] they fled in panic..." But, just for the panic-proof among them, "a huge distorted voice began calling on the villagers - if any remained - to leave their homes and follow their neighbours... They would not be harmed, the voice promised them, but if any man fired a shot... they would be killed without mercy. The call was repeated, once, twice and again. Then, under the watchful eyes of the gunners, the last frightened folk crept out of their homes and hurried away. The ring of tanks closed around the huddle of empty habitations. The troops moved in to prepare its destruction." (pp 315-316)
Jordanian troops arrive only to be badly mauled by Israeli tank rounds. In the village, "buildings... spouted fire or collapsed like card-houses in a puff of dusty air," before Israeli troops, "shepherded" by tanks, depart for home, "unscarred, unhurried." Remarks Chaim, "Very neat, very efficient." (pp 316-317) The PM, of course, is a tad pissed off at the number of Jordanian casualties, but Chaim will have none of it: "'We told you the risks. You accepted them. We [the military brass] won't be made scapegoats'. The PM drew in his horns like a snail."
To recap: the cool, civilian casualty averse Israeli army has carried out the pollies' dirty work with the heaviest of hearts, but apart from one too many Jordanian troops biting the dust, neither villagers (shame about their village though) nor Israeli heroes emerge with so much as a hair out of place. Now you believe that, don't you? West did. Sheridan does. Only problem is history wasn't quite as "neat" as the novelist would have us believe.
According to Israeli historian Tom Segev, "The military had been demanding permission from the government to act against a Jordanian village for months... The government had refused, authorizing only limited action that the military commanders deemed useless. Now the army proposed entering the village of Samua... and bombing a few dozen houses there. Chief of Staff Rabin [Chaim] went to see [PM] Eshkol [Aron] at his home in Jerusalem. Eshkol would have preferred to take steps against Syria, but he agreed that the circumstances demanded action in Jordan, despite the risk of unwanted conflict with the Jordanian army." (1967: Israel, the War & the Year that Transformed the Middle East 2007 p 150)
Nor, it seems, did the villagers or their attackers emerge unscathed: "Israel's envoy to Washington, Ephraim Evron, reported that the [military] attache [at the US embassy in Amman, who visited Samua] had seen 'many civilians' bodies, which suggested that not all the houses were evacuated before being blown up. Some of the bodies were those of elderly women who had not been able to escape in time, Evron reported. Operation Shredder, as it was called, grew far beyond the [security] cabinet's expectations... A regiment commander in the paratroopers was killed and 10 IDF soldiers were wounded." (1967, p 151) Oops!
There were other consequences of the raid as well: the West Bank erupted in anti-Hashemite riots, savagely put down by the Jordanian army. It also had the effect of convincing King Hussein that whether he threw in his lot with the Syrians and the Egyptians or not, Israel wanted to occupy the West Bank regardless (see Lion of Jordan: The Life of King Hussein in War & Peace, Avi Shlaim, 2007, p 227). Funny that, because one of the novel's themes is alleged Arab provocations of Israel designed to goad it into war.
Party pooper Segev might describe Yakov, Chaim & Co as "like adolescent boys or bulls in rut. They believed in force and they wanted war. War was their destiny (1967, p 296)," but what the hell does he know? West's Director of Military Intelligence is a man who cares, damn it, a man in pain:
"As he walked back alone to his office [Jakov] thought, as he had thought many times before, that it was all too spare and frigid and impersonal - a game played on a sand map, with no true knowledge, or even knowledgeable discussion about the human factors involved. Move out the civilian population! So simple! A roar on a bull horn and the human ants march out in orderly procession from the ant-heap. But it was never like that. How could it be? It was something far more poignant and destructive, old women doddering in panic through the alleys, a confusion of men shouting and yelling in contradiction, babies snatched from the breast, children herded like frightened sheep to caves and clefts in the hillside, the small hoards of seven hundred poor lifetimes buried under a pile of rubble. For what? To tell a harried princeling that he must police a hundred miles of desert border a little better. Medical services! God Almighty, how easy it was to say - how harsh the instant reality! A man with his eye gouged out by a bullet; a boy pushing his spilled guts back into his belly; the blank puzzlement on the faces of the dead. How easy it was to make political calculations - as if you could work out the whole human equation with a pair of calipers and a slide rule. Across the Atlantic the assembly of nations would sit in judgement on the act which, today, was being planned with such professional detatchment. All round the spinning planet, men and women would read the news and wonder whether this incident or the next would trigger an atomic destruction. There were no bounds to the consequences of the simplest act of violence. One man dead meant thousands would never be born. One homeless man might one day tear down cities in a mad vendetta against the human race. You could push the monstrous logic to a point at which it would drive you mad. On the other hand you could affect to ignore it altogether and limit yourself to that area of action which was allotted to you by legal commission. You could inform, advise, protest and then submit yourself to the consensus with a clear conscience... Or could you? He remembered Eichmann* sitting in his glass box in the courtroom, and making the same plea in a hundred different forms. What beat Eichmann in the end was the sheer horror of the arithmetic; but it started with the first Jew beaten by the first bunch of bullies in the street. So, if because of what you have begun this morning, one child is killed in a Hebron hovel, where do you stand? You know it can happen. You know it probably will. You have already accepted this tacit probability. How do you plead, Jakov Baratz? Guilty or not guilty?" (pp 91-92) [*Whoops! Inappropriate analogy! Morris West, you're an anti-Semite for sure!]
Like all those Israelis charged with keeping the hordes of Amalek at bay, Jakov suffers terribly from Existential Threat Syndrome (ETS): "'A man was killed this morning, sir; a peaceful farmer...' 'We have lost 6 million dead in the holocausts, Captain. Israel is built on their ashes. remember that'... The young man saluted and went out, closing the door behind him. Baratz stood staring at the map, where the red ink was spattered like blood spots and the cryptic military symbols told the story of a daily battle for survival. The map was as familiar to him as his own skin and he reacted instantly to every itch and prickle on its surface. Sometimes in his troubled dreams it was a skin; a living human skin, stretched tight and pegged down over a narrow ground between Egypt and Jordan and Syria and Lebanon and the sea which was its life blood. Suddenly the skin would errupt into swellings and pustules and out of these would come legions and legions of soldier ants, marching in serried ranks until they blotted out the skin and ate through it to the bare ground. When the ants left, the ground would be covered with bones, over which the voice of the ancient prophet chanted a threnody: The Power of the Lord laid hold of me and by the Spirit of the Lord I was carried away and set down in the midst of the plain which was covered with bones. Round the whole extent of them he took me, where they lay thick on the plain, all of them parched quite dry. Son of man, he said, can life return to these bones... Then, in the dream, there would be a silence while he waited for the promise of resurrection that should follow the threnody. But the promise never came and he would wake, sweating and terrified, knowing that if the ants took over the land there would be no resurrection any more and that the House of Israel would be blotted out for ever."
But, despite his troubled dreams, he's really just a regular guy we can all identify with (unlike those Arab freaks already described: "[H]e did not believe in magic any more than he believed in the God of the Fathers, who could sit removed in his heaven while 6 million of his chosen ones perished in a monstrous hecatomb. And this was the irony of his situation, that in him, an appointed trustee of the continuity of Israel, the continuity was already broken. The hands which lay before him on the table were not anointed to a priesthood. No prophecies were written in their leathery palms. They called down no benediction from a silent sky. They were artisan's hands, apt to the working of wood and metal. They were soldier's hands, that could strip a gun and assemble it again from stock to muzzle swifter than most. They were lover's hands, which had once wakened Hannah to triumphant ecstasy..." (p 6)
And, and, he's sooo connected to the land: "He had come to it as a child, son of a landless trader from the Baltic, and he had never forgotten the splendour of his arrival: the furnace blaze of the sun, the blinding sky, the mountains hewn as if by wild axe-men, the desert where the air danced and cities and palm trees swam upside down and vanished at a glance. As a youth he had farmed it, building rock walls with his bare hands, carrying baskets of earth on his back, planting the vine twigs and the lemon-trees. As a man he had fought over it, using the military skills that the British had taught him, counting every bloody mile from Lydda to Ramle, to Abu Ghosh and the final foothold on Zion*. And now his love for it was manifold: a dark passion that bound him closer to the soil than he ever had been to the body of a woman. He was jealous too, like all lovers; because his tenure in the beloved was always insecure - and no one knew better than he how strongly it was threatened." (p 30) [*So Jakov threw himself into the ethnic cleansing of Palestine in 1948? You gotta love this guy.]
To be continued...
Saturday, August 22, 2009
Gillard's continued parroting of the Israeli mantra of self-defence is either totally cynical or betrays an abysmal ignorance of international law. The following data is culled from the paper, Gaza: Not a War of Self-Defence, by international law expert (School of Oriental & African Studies, University of London) Victor Cattan (humanrights-geneva.info, 19/1/09):-
1) An occupying power cannot, under international law (Chatham House Principles of International Law on the Use of Force in Self-Defence), invoke self-defence against an attack from those it occupies. (I say occupying power because, despite its September 2005 withdrawal, by controlling Gaza's entry and exit points, its airspace and territorial waters, Israel merits this description under international law.) Rather, Israel's 27/12/08 attack on Gaza was merely an act of aggression of the kind outlawed by the International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg (1945).
2) Nor can Israel rely on Article 51 of the United Nations Charter to argue that it had the right to defend itself against an "armed attack." The International Court of Justice (ICJ) distinguishes between a "frontier incident" and a military action having sufficient "scale and effect" as to constitute an "armed attack." Moreover, Palestinian rocket and mortar attacks from Gaza cannot be viewed separately from Israeli attacks on Gaza. 11 Israeli deaths from September 2005 to December 2008 have to be seen in the context of 1,250 Palestinian deaths for the same period.
3) Nor should it be forgotten that Israel violated a ceasefire which had been in effect since June 2008, by killing 6 Gaza Palestinians on 4/11/08. This led to retaliatory rocket and mortar fire, resulting in 1 Israeli death in the week prior to Israel's "act of aggression" against Gaza on 27/12/08.
4) Nor can that "act of aggression" (27/12/08-18/1/09) qualify as self-defence because, according to an ICJ ruling on the use of force in self-defence to repel an "armed attack," said force must be necessary, proportionate and in conformity with international humanitarian law.
5) It goes without saying, but can never be said often enough these days, that all colonised peoples, including the Palestinians, have been accorded, by UNGA resolution 2649, the right to restore their right of self-determination "by any means at their disposal."
Ex-Labor leader and Gillard mate, Mark Latham, who used to think she should head up the party, now has this to say about her: "Over the years I have received tender messages from Gillard saying how much she misses me in Canberra... One of them concerned her study tour of the US, sponsored by the American government in 2006 - or to use her moniker - 'a CIA re-education course'... She promised 'to catch up when I'm back from the US and I'll show you my CIA-issued ankle holster'. 'I never got to see her ankles or her holster, but I will say this: you have to hand it to those guys in Washington... Within the space of 2 years they converted her from a highly cynical critic of all matters American into yet another foreign policy sycophant'." (Latham turns on 'brainwashed' Gillard, Christian Kerr, The Australian, 20/8/09)
Ditto for the guys in Jerusalem.
Friday, August 21, 2009
Meet the Syrian Ba'thist:-
Colonel Omar Safreddin, a most unBa'thist Ba'thist...
"Colonel Omar Safreddin was a man of fixed and clear beliefs. He believed in Allah, the One the Merciful. He believed in Mohammed the Prophet - blessed be His Glorious Name! He believed in the Book and in the Reading which was the fountain of all knowledge. He believed in the People - the Chosen of God, the Sons of the Prophet, who had rolled like sea waves across the face of the earth and who, through the Book and the Prophet, must find again their identity and their brotherhood and their dignity among the infidel. He believed in the Land and the Tribe, defined by borders and by possessions and by history and tradition. He believed in power, and its exercise by an elite who had prepared themselves to assume it.
"In the Syrian Army, which was his own tribe and territory, he had set himself to create such an elite: a group of young officers, noble in body, enlightened in spirit and trained by education to be the first inheritors of the revolution and the resurrection... The instrument of application was the Hunafa Club, a group of 15 young men who met every week... The Club took its name from that small group of Meccan believers, among whom Mohammed the Prophet first found inspiration and enlightenment... Each meeting of the Club began with prayer and ablution, which were followed by a ritual meal... After the meal, the members recited in chorus the Summons, which the angel Gabriel made to the Prophet at his first calling, and the Answers which he, terrified, gave to the angelic voice. It was, perhaps, symbolic that Omar Safreddin spoke with the voice of the angel while his disciples answered with the voice of the Prophet." (pp 73-74)
"What could they know of the high visionary enterprise of building a 20th-century state on the ruins of a French colony and a province of the Ottomam Empire? What could they know about the vision - larger yet - of Islam restored and purified, of an Arab hegemony... from the Euphrates to the Pillars of Hercules?... This was his own mission. To fight the Jews... to call together the wandering Arabs - those who were left behind in the march of history - and weld them into a mighty host eager for the rewards promised by the One the Merciful. He had to bring them back to the tremendous simplicities of the Book. He had to teach them that the risk was worth the gain and that it was always expedient for a few to die for the ultimate greatness of the many." (pp 167-168)
My God, the Syrian Christian originator of that stream of Arab nationalism known as Ba'thism, Michel 'Aflaq, would be turning in his grave if Colonel Safreddin had really been a member of his movement. The objectives of the Ba'th were strictly secular: Arab unity, freedom and socialism. For 'Aflaq, the answer to contemporary Arab decadence and disunity was not religion, but a moral resurrection (ba'th) of each and every Arab individual. Islam, if it figured at all in Ba'thist thinking, was merely seen as a product of the genius of an eternal Arab nation. Here's 'Aflaq in full flight: "They ask us, Brethren, what do you mean by the mission, the eternal Arab mission? The Arab mission does not consist in words which we proclaim, it does not consist in principles to be incorporated in programs, it does not constitute matter for legislation. All these are dead, counterfeit things... It is our life itself, it is to agree to experience this life with a deep and true experience, great and massive in proportion to the depth of suffering undergone by the Arabs, in proportion to the great dangers which threaten its continued existence. This living and true experience will bring us back to ourselves, to our living realities; it will make us shoulder our responsibilities and will set us on the true path in order that we may fight these diseases and these obstacles, these counterfeit conditions, in order to fight social injustice, class exploitation, and the eras of selfishness, bribery and exploitation, in order to combat tyranny, the falsification of the popular will, and the insults to the dignity of the Arab as a citizen and a man; for the sake of a free society in which every Arab will regain consciousness of himself, of his existence, his dignity, his thinking, and his responsibilities. The experience in which our struggle takes place is that of the Arab nation dismembered into different countries and statelets, artificial and counterfeit; we struggle until we can reunite these scattered members, until we may reach a wholesome and natural state in which no severed member can speak in the name of all, until we can get rid of this strange and anomalous state. Then will it be possible for the Arabs to unite, for their spirit to be upstanding, their ideas clear, their morality upright; then will their be scope for their minds to create, for they will have become that wholesome natural entity, one nation. This wholesome and true experience, struggling against the existing conditions until we return to the right state, such is the Arab mission... " (The Struggle for Syria, Patrick Seale, 1986, pp 155-156)
To complete the caricature, Omar Safreddin can sleep quite soundly as his infant son hovers between life and death in a hospital bed: "[H]e settled himself in the chair, stretched out his long legs, canted his military cap over his eyes and began to take long deep breaths. Within 3 minutes he was asleep... This was the method man, pure, without alloy. You see death hovering. You pray against him. You sleep; because you have done all that there is to be done. Death comes. You weep. You bury the body. You breed again." (p 85)
In short, Colonel Safreddin is to Ba'thism as Sheridan is to journalism.
Before ending this post in the series, consider this sentence from West's novel: "[Aziz] lingered on [the next question] tenderly, as if he were testing the blade of a dagger." (p 100) Can you imagine any writer today getting away with this: '[Insert Jewish name] lingered on the next question, as if he were counting a bag of money'?
To be continued...
Wednesday, August 19, 2009
Meet the 'Palestinians':-
Nuri Chakry: The best thing that ever happened to Nuri was the Israeli 'takeover' of Palestine. The guy was made for Beirut...
"In his lighter moments... Nuri Chakry was wont to deliver a little speech describing himself. '... There's no such thing as luck. Character is destiny. We do what we are. We get what we deserve. I, for instance, am a Phoenician. I love money. I love trade. The haggle is a game to me; the risk is as heady as hashish. If I'd been here in the old days, I'd have sat in a little booth down by the mole, changing gold for silver, trading camel hides for axe-heads and oil for the lentils of the pharaohs. I am - what do you call it? - a huckster. For me there is only one rule: never do business with a huckster smarter than myself... ' Chakry was a Phoenician, in the sense that he was an adopted citizen of what had once been a Phoenician city. However, the record showed - for those who could dig deep enough to find it - that he was a Palestinian Arab, born in Acre, who had fled the country in 1948 when the Israelis took over." (p 17)
Chakry's best mate, Heinrich Muller. An ex-Nazi? But of course!
"[Chakry's] alliance with Heinrich Muller had lasted for 17 years and had produced a handsome profit for both... Heinrich Muller was not Heinrich Muller at all. He was a Swabian, born and babtized Willi Reiman, and he had been one of the most expert forgers in the Third Reich... "(p 66)
Idris Jarrah: PLO terror master; an ex-informer, he's in on the fantasy of liberation merely to line his own pockets...
"Idris Jarrah, the mild-eyed terrorist, was a man who understood the why of things. He understood the personal why, the political why and the public why. And he understood that they were all different and mutually contradictory. The personal way was the simplest of all. Idris Jarrah was a stateless Arab. A stateless Arab had no identity and no future. If he wanted a home, he could have it among the refugees on the Gaza Strip or in the hovel towns west of the Jordan. If he wanted work, he could have that too - as a street sweeper or a day labourer or a pedlar of dates or a carver of trifles for the tourists. But if he wanted an identity - an official assurance that he was a person and not a nameless piece of flotsam - then he had to find a market in which he could buy one, at a price which he could pay. Idris Jarrah had found such a market in the Palestine Liberation Organization - that family of dispossessed zealots which had vowed to drive the Jews into the sea*, re-establish the old borders of Palestine and build an Arab hegemony across the whole of the Fertile Crescent**. As for the price, Jarrah was able to offer solid coinage. He had worked first as an informer and later as a junior detective for the old Palestine police force. He knew the tricks of espionage and the usages of terror. He had learnt from the British the value of system and method. Because he had no illusions and no hopes beyond the Organization, he worked with a nerveless efficiency. Because he never promised more than he could perform, his work always gave satisfaction; and because he believed in neither God nor politicians but only in Idris Jarrah, he was beyond seduction - if not insensible to his self-interest. He spoke his mind, took his orders, delivered a night raid or a bomb explosion, collected his pay and slept happily with any available woman, while greater men tossed in nightmares of frustration or dreamed wild fantasies of empire.
"The political why was equally clear to him. So far as the Arab world was concerned the State of Israel was God. If you did not have it, you would have to invent it as a focus of discontent and as a rallying-point for the sorely divided Muslim world. Without the Jew, what other scapegoat could you find for the slum-dwellers in Alexandria and the beggars who scratched their sores in the courtyard of the Noble Sanctuary and the workless men in Damascus and the hundred and ten thousand lost people camped between the desert and the sea near the city of Samson? Without the Jew, how could you find a common cause for the wealthy Lebanese, the Kuwaitis and the Bedouin tribesmen and the Hashemite King and the Marxist Syrian and the Egyptian Fellah fighting a meaningless war in the Yemen? Arab unity could only express itself in the negative: destroy the Jews! But without the Jews it could hardly express itself at all! As for the restoration of Palestine, Jarrah knew better than most that even if it were restored it would be dismembered overnight by its jealous neighbours. So the Organization was dedicated to a fantasy, but fantasy was the stock-in-trade of politicians and they paid large sums of money to preserve it and to keep men like Idris Jarrah working for their rival causes.
"And this was the public why. The Egyptians wanted Israel destroyed, but they lacked the money and the resources to do it. The Syrian socialists wanted to get rid of the little king of Jordan, who was a friend of the British and a symbol of outdated tribal monarchy. The Jordanians wanted a highway to the sea and a port on the Mediterranean. The Lebanese wanted money and trade and the Russians wanted a socialist arc from Baghdad to the Pillars of hercules. For each of them, the Palestine Liberation Organization had a peculiar value. They could praise it publicly or damn it in secret and pay generously to keep it alive." (pp 24-25) And the Americans, Morris?
Although West's 'Palestinians' might rivet the likes of Sheridan, and provide grist for his Zionist mill, they are little more than cardboard cut-outs. Nor has West done his history homework. Remember that he's writing about the period leading up to the 1967 Arab-Israeli war. The PLO was created in 1964, with Arab League backing, but did not embrace the concept of armed struggle against Israel at the time. This was espoused by the Palestinian nationalist organization Fatah, which operated independently of the PLO and took up armed struggle against Israel clandestinely in 1965 because all Arab states except Syria opposed such a course. So West's characterization of the pre-67 PLO as a military tool of the Arab states is sheer baloney. The PLO did, however, come under the control of Fatah after the war, in 1968. As for West's nonsense about the Palestinian resistance aiming to "drive the Jews into the sea," the stock standard Zionist talking point of all time, Fatah's position was clear: "All the Jews, Moslems and Christians living in Palestine or forcibly exiled from it will have the right of Palestinian citizenship... This means that all Jewish Palestinians - at the present, Israelis - have the same right, provided, of course, that they reject Zionist racist chauvinism and fully agree to live in the new Palestine as Palestinians. The revolution therefore rejects the supposition that only Jews who lived in Palestine prior to 1948... and their descendants are acceptable." (Palestine: The Arab-Israeli Conflict: A Ramparts Press Reader, ed Russell Stetler, 1972, p 208)
West's blindness on the issue of Palestinian refugees is curious. While registering the fact of Palestinian dispossession ("cast him out of his homeland," "refugees on the Gaza Strip or in the hovel towns west of the Jordan," "dispossessed zealots") he shows no interest in going further: Why were they cast out? What were the circumstances of their dispossession? Nor can he appreciate the obvious connection between dispossession and resistance, dismissing the latter as zealotry and fantasy. Dispossession and statelessness fail to elicit from him the most elementary empathy. (Sheridan, of course, goes one step further, dismissing even the fact of Palestinian dispossession as "rubbish... just rubbish." See my 9/5/09 post Sheridan: Nakba Denier). The best West can do is reflect, typically through his Israeli protagonist, that "it was impossible to render an absolute justice to every single human being who, by the act of birth, was made a victim of the human paradox. Six million Jewish dead were commemorated in the sombre crypt of Yad Vashem; but 310, 000 living Arabs were camped in the hovels of the Gaza Strip and they would not renounce one jot of their claim to a place in their original homeland." (p 149) And why the bloody hell should they, then or now?
I'll leave you with a genuine Palestinian voice from that era, that of the wonderful Leila Khaled: "I come from the city of Haifa*, but I remember little of my birthplace. I can see the area where I played as a small child, but of our house, I only remember the staircase. I was taken away when I was 4, not to see Haifa again for many years. Finally I saw my city 21 years later, on August 29 1969, when Comrade Salim Issawi and I expropriated an imperialist plane and returned to palestine to pay homage to our occupied country and to show that we had not abandoned our homeland. Ironically, the Israeli enemy, powerless, escorted us with his French and American planes. What I knew about Haifa had come from my parents and friends and from books. Now I saw Haifa from the air and formed my own cherished image of my home. Haifa is caressed by the sea, hugged by the mountain, inspired by the open plain. Haifa is a safe anchor for the wayfarer, a beach in the sun. Yet, I, as a citizen of Haifa, am not allowed to bask in its sun, breathe its clear air, live there with my people. European Zionists and their followers are living in Palestine by right of arms and they have expelled us from our homeland. They live where we should be living while we float about, exiled. They live in my city because they are Jews and they have power. My people and I live outside because we are Palestinian Arabs without power. But we, the graduates of desert inns, we shall have power and we shall recover Palestine and make it a human paradise for Arabs and Jews and all lovers of freedom." (My People Shall Live: The Autobiography of a Revolutionary, 1973, pp 21-22)
[*See my 7/5/08 post Bend It Like Benny]
To be continued...
Tuesday, August 18, 2009
When Greg (Jerusalem Prize) Sheridan, the "most influential foreign affairs analyst in Australia" (theaustralian.com.au) and foreign editor of The Australian, last found himself winging his way to the Plucky Country, he admitted to "being seduced by a 40-year-old Morris West thriller, The Tower of Babel." "A rattling good read," he described it. (See my 26/7/09 post No Idea) That's right - "seduced." Mark that word. This 1968 potboiler didn't simply materialise in Sheridan's briefcase. No, it was consciously selected for this trip of trips (with DPM Gillard, no less), lovingly dusted off, and reverentially placed there by the man himself.
I've often wondered what kind of intellectual (I use the term loosely) input has gone into the production of the Sheridan we all know and love, and specifically, what it is that makes his opinion(ated) pieces on the Middle East such ranting good reads. So, taking as my cue his reference to Morris West's wild eastern, I managed to track down a copy (hint: St Vinnies), and peg on nose, read the damned thing - cover to cover! Now, at last, I feel I not only know where Australia's "most influential foreign affairs analyst" is coming from when he writes about the Middle East, I feel I have actually located the very point at which the earlier plasticity of the Sheridan brain (I'm being optimistic here) had hardened into the synaptic sclerosis of Zionism. And so, over the coming weeks, I shall regale you, dear reader, with gems from the book that "seduced" our Greg some 40 years ago and continues to seduce him to this very day.
Now where would those bloody Ayrabs be without Israel?
"So far as the Arab world was concerned the State of Israel was like God. If you did not have it, you would have to invent it as a focus of discontent and as a rallying-point for the sorely divided Moslem world. Without the Jew, what other scapegoat could you find for the slum-dwellers in Alexandria and the beggars who scratched their sores in the courtyard of the Noble Sanctuary and the workless men in Damascus and the hundred and ten thousand lost people camped between the desert and the sea near the city of Samson*? Without the Jew, how could you find a common cause for the wealthy Lebanese, the Kuwaitis and the Bedouin tribesmen and the Hashemite King and the Marxist Syrian and the Egyptian Fellah fighting a meaningless war in the Yemen? Arab unity could only express itself in the negative: destroy the Jews! But without the Jews it could hardly express itself at all!" (p 25) [*Yep, without Israel the lives of these victims of Zionist ethnic cleansing in 1948 would have absolutely no meaning! And as for that figure - one hundred and ten thousand - West has it elsewhere as three hundred and ten thousand (p 149) Is this where Sheridan gets his creative accounting from? See my posts When Even the Retraction is Dodgy (4/2/08) and 2 (10/4/08)]
Or, as Sheridan put it in his feature Israel still looks good, warts & all (6/5/09) 40 years later, "It would be wrong to understimate the benefits that anti-Semitism can provide Arab regimes. Israel is the licensed grievance for these societies. By theologising the Israeli-Palestinian dispute, and presenting it as a case of Western and specifically Jewish persecution of an Arab minority, Arab regimes, even those allied with the US, can offer an outlet to anger on the street and attempt to channel both Islamist and pan-Arab sentiments in a direction that does not challenge their rule."
Syrians are so bloody hopeless that any Syrian doctor who really cared about the welfare of his people would immediately throw in his lot with the Israelis and join an Israeli spy ring, no?
"The house surgeon hesitated a moment, resentful and stubborn; but the anger in [Dr] Bitar's eyes subdued him instantly... Bitar bent over the bed and bathed the child's forehead with a damp cloth, crooning a tuneless little song of comfort. He had seen hundreds like this one, in rich apartments and stinking hovels, the life draining out of them through leaking and inflamed intestines, their skin dry as silk on the dyers' racks, their muscles knotted by electrolysis, literally dying of thirst because their parched gullets could not absorb a drop of water. Helpless and moribund they were the focus of all his anger - against demagogues and junta men and claptrapping theorists who made politics while their children wilted with trachoma and malarial spleens and intestinal parasites. Finally, with miraculous haste for Damascus, the bottles and the trays were wheeled in and he was able to scrub up and begin the simple, overdue surgery." (p 82)
Dr Bitar is seriously pissed off. If only he hadn't been corrupted by the ways of the West!
"He felt suddenly old - too old for the angers that consumed him every day; too old for the hopeless battle against poverty and ignorance and disease; too tired for plots and counterplots against a regime which he hated, because his studies abroad had given him a taste for unattainable liberty and a faith in the free commerce of men and ideas. In his secret heart he knew that the battle was futile and the plots were barren. Only time and education would cure ignorance. There was no cure for death. And liberty was a state towards which man grew slowly, or reacted dangerously from the tyranny of the collective. But he could not abandon the fight, because to do so was to abandon himself... " (pp 83-84)
To be continued...
Friday, August 14, 2009
"She needs to see her immensely successful visit to Australia as a template for how she should campaign throughout the West. The most important lesson she must learn from her time here is that she and the Uighur movement must definitively abandon any quest for a separate state. I had a long conversation with Kadeer in Melbourne and the formulation she uses is that the Uighur movement is not asking for independence or for autonomy but for self-determination... [This formulation] is extremely dangerous. Self-determination always means independence... Tibet's Dalai Lama, whom Kadeer greatly admires, does not support an independent Tibetan nation. Rather, he wants Tibet to remain part of China but to enjoy cultural and regional autonomy. As a result many Western leaders, including Kevin Rudd and John Howard before him, have been able to meet the Dalai Lama as a spiritual leader and endorse better human rights for Tibetans." (Uighurs must fight for rights within China: If Rebiya Kadeer is wise, she will follow the example of the Dalai Lama, 13/8/09)
What a stunning coincidence! It just so happens that Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu also advocates autonomy for the Palestinians writhing under the heel of his army's jackboot, but not statehood. And as the Australian mainstream media's foremost spruiker of the Likud line, it just wouldn't do for Sheridan to be advocating for one brand of self-determination while denying another, now would it? Nor do we want Kadeer pursuing a policy that might result in 'inappropriate' analogies being drawn between Chinese and Israeli colonialism. So Rebiya, abjure Uighur statehood, and go for autonomy within China instead. Do a Dalai and get to visit wonderful places like Australia, where you too can chat with the likes of Kevin Krudd himself.
Not, of course, that all those years of abjuring statehood and kowtowing to China has done anything to advance the Tibetan cause. In fact, the Dalai Lama has finally admitted to having been there and done that:
"'The situation inside Tibet is almost like a military occupation', I heard the Dalai Lama tell an interviewer last November... 'Everywhere. Everywhere, fear, terror. I cannot remain indifferent'. Just moments before, with equal directness and urgency, he had said, 'I have to accept failure. In terms of the Chinese government becoming more lenient [in Chinese-occupied Tibet], my policy has failed. We have to accept reality'... [The Dalai Lama] acknowledged... his 'Middle way' policy - of not seeking full independence from China for Tibet, but only a 'genuine and meaningful autonomy', whereby China could control Tibet's defense policy and foreign affairs, while Tibetans might enjoy the freedom to take care of their culture, their religion, and their special environment - was coming under more and more criticism. So, he said, he would step aside and allow others to come up with a 'new, wiser, realistic' approach." ('A Hell on Earth', Pico Iyer, The New York Review of Books, 9/4/09)
And what, precisely, is it that Sheridan doesn't like about "the quest for a separate state"? "Once you start on the process of ethnic separatism you never stop. The logic is inexorable; why should I be a minority in your state when I can make you a minority in my state? That way lies ethnic cleansing and perhaps genocidal violence... "
What a coincidence! Just what the Chinese have been accusing the Dalai Lama of doing: "China terminated its regular meetings with [the Dalai Lama's] envoys, essentially accusing him of arguing for ethnic cleansing." (ibid)
And speaking of coincidences, that's just what the Israelis and their supporters, who want to hang on to their illegal West Bank/East Jerusalem colonies, have been accusing those who call for their removal:
"If you can't convince 'em, accuse 'em. That's the advice from The Israel Project (TIP) for pro-Israel activists answering questions about settlements. Rather than try to defend Israeli settlements, change the subject. If that doesn't work, try accusing those who advocate removing Jewish settlements of promoting 'a kind of ethnic cleansing to move all Jews' from the West Bank." (Change the policy, or change the subject? Douglas M Bloomfield, njjewishnews.com, 9/7/09)
And speaking of Israeli colonies, what's the latest Sheridan line on those?:
"Obama's obsession with settlements in the West Bank and even in East Jerusalem, as if the entire Middle East, no, the entire Muslim world, hinged on this minor matter, is in the deepest sense irrational." (Obama gets serious on Middle East, The Australian, 1/8/09)
There you go, Rebiya, stop banging on about such a "minor matter" as Chinese colonization of your homeland - it's just not healthy!
Sheridan wasn't the only one whispering in Kadeer's ear, though. She also met with federal Labor MP Michael Danby, crusader for human rights everywhere - everywhere but Palestine, that is.
In an opinion piece on the Stern Hu case in The Australian, Danby referred to China's "brutal crackdowns in Tibet and Xinjiang, and their clumsy local interventions over the Olympic torch and attempts to stifle Rebiya Kadeer at the Melbourne International Film Festival and at the National Press Club..." (Let's not appease Beijing, 14/8/09)
Again - quite coincidentally - he too was an advocate for doing the Dalai:
"Danby was one of two parliamentarians to speak at Sunday's controversial film premiere of The 10 Conditions of Love - a documentary on Kadeer's life - the other was Greens leader Senator Bob Brown... At the premiere, Danby delivered a message to Kadeer supporters from his good friend, the Dalai Lama. 'He asked me to convey to you in Melbourne that she is another one of the national leaders who is a paradigm of non-violence', Danby told the audience." (Danby v China, The Australian Jewish News, 14/8/09)
Danby, who is chair of the Parliamentary Friends of Tibet group*, was off in India last month paying a visit to the Dalai Lama in Dharamsala, the capital of Tibet's government-in-exile. There, according to the AJN, his "eyes were opened."
To what, exactly? To the chalk and cheese difference - I kid you not - between Dharamsala and... Ramallah! Take it away AJN:
"The thing that would strike you if you went there is that everything is so well organised... Everything is so frugal, everything is so modest, but they have institutions for archives, for medicine, an institute of the arts with Tibetan artists, institutions for refugees, for retraining nuns. What strikes you is that here is a people who get no support from the United Nations, not a dollar, who get very little assistance from any government apart from the Indian government... who have everything'. Danby... contrasted the set-up in Dharamsala with the Palestinian government in Ramallah. 'The difference in the mentality and institutions is something', he said. 'Here you have Ramallah, [and] the Palestinians, who are having butter gorged down their throats by the United Nations, by the European Union, and yet they don't have anything by comparison with the Tibetans. It is not something that you can really make a wider point about outside the Jewish community, but inside the Jewish community people would understand. It is so maddening to see this."
[*Along with Melissa Parke (Labor MP), Peter Slipper (Liberal MP), Greens senators Sarah Hanson-Young and Scott Ludlum and independent Senator Nick Xenophon.]
What can one say about a man who would use Tibetan suffering as grist for his pro-Israel propaganda? That there might be some significant differences* between the cases of Dharamsala and Ramallah is obviously neither here nor there for Danby. Never miss an opportunity to attempt to score a cheap propaganda point for Israel.
[*When was the last time, for example, Chinese tanks, armored personnel carriers, and bulldozers moved into Dharamsala, destroying its water mains, cutting its electric lines or digging up its roads? When was the last time the PLA stationed snipers on its high buildings and erected road blocks? When was the last time Chinese tanks and bulldozers attacked the compound of the Dalai Lama, confining him to the basement? This was, of course, the fate of Ramallah on just Day 1 of Israel's Operation Defensive Shield (29/3/02-21/4/02). And how many Tibetans live outside its borders? A mere 2%, compared with over half of the Palestinian nation.]
With 'friends' like these, Rebiya, who needs enemies?
Wednesday, August 12, 2009
Foreign editor Greg (Jerusalem Prize) Sheridan waxed indignant, urging the Australian government to intervene in the matter: "The Chinese embassy... must surely realise they cannot operate in Australia in the same way that their government does in China. And it is long since time past that the Rudd government should tell the Chinese this." (Diplomats must pull their heads in)
The paper's editorial went even further, demanding that the Chinese ambassador be carpetted: "Foreign Minister Stephen Smith should call in Chinese ambassador Zhang Junsai and ask him to convey an equally plain reply to Beijing: butt out. Mr Zhang must be told heavy-handed attempts to stop a woman who has broken no laws in Australia and who Canberra considers no threat to either this country or the peace of the world are unacceptable. And when he conveys that message, the ambassador could explain to his superiors that even if the Australian government wanted to stop Ms Kadeer from addressing the Press Club, it is not its decision to make, that in Australia freedom of speech is a fundamental right, not a privilege conferred and withdrawn by the state. Mr Zhang could also add that the Australian people will never accept a foreign power seeking to censor information and suppress criticism here." (China has no right to censor in Australia)
I couldn't have agreed more with that final, stirring sentiment: "[T]he Australian people will never accept a foreign power seeking to censor information and suppress criticism here."
But oh, the hypocrisy! the hypocrisy! Check this out from The Australian Jewish News of 3/6/05: "Controversial Israeli academic Dr Uri Davis' scheduled address to the NPC in Canberra next week is unlikely to go ahead... Davis' scheduled address - 'The Jewish National Fund of Australia: a critical assessment' - had provoked some concerns within the Jewish community, with Jewish National Fund (JNF) CEO Rob Schneider warning officials of possible legal action. 'The club could do themselves irreparable harm and damage and we would hold them jointly responsible for what Davis may say that could be defamatory towards the JNF', Schneider told the AJN." (Controversial Israeli speaker's Canberra address in doubt)
Well, well, well. So Uri Davis' appearance at the NPC went ahead regardless, yes? Err, no: according to The Canberra Times, "The NPC cancelled yesterday's scheduled address by a controversial academic because of lack of interest, not because of pressure from the Jewish lobby. The club said it had already rebuffed pressure to call off the speech by Uri Davis, a critic of the JNF of Australia, before the cancellation was made on economic grounds." (Club denies bowing to Jewish lobby, Ross Peake, 8/6/05) Well, that's the official line. But here's the rub. This blatant attempt to censor Uri Davis elicited not a peep from The Australian .
Nor did The Australian' s editorialist/foreign editor choose to crow about this: "The Israeli Government will lobby the ABC to abandon plans to screen a BBC documentary [Israel's Secret Weapon] that claims Israel has used nerve gas against Palestinians, and has an arsenal of chemical, biological and nuclear weapons... Israel's ambassador to Australia, Gaby Levy, said he would ask the ABC to reconsider airing the program... An ABC publicist said the ABC was committed to airing the program and would not be censored." (Israeli bid to block documentary, Patricia Karvelas, The Australian, 2/7/03) You'll be pleased to know that in this case the ABC stood by its guns and the documentary went to air in August of 2003.
As far as The Australian is concerned, it seems, what's good for the Chinese goose isn't good for the Israeli gander.
Monday, August 10, 2009
"In Dragon Fighter*, [Rebiya Kadeer's] compellingly readable autobiography, and in our long discussion, Kadeer describes a system of pervasive discrimination and sometimes outright persecution, against Uighurs by the Chinese government. The Chinese will never give up control of Xinjiang. It is a vast territory... on China's western border, and it contains much of the country's mineral and energy resources. Kadeer accuses Beijing of flooding the province with ethnic Han Chinese immigrants to make the Uighurs a minority in their own homeland, and to extinguish their cultural distinctiveness. She says it is Beijing's policies that have made it difficult for Uighurs and Han Chinese to live together in harmony. After 6 decades of Chinese rule, it is the Chinese government policy of portraying Uighurs as enemies of the state, and as a threat to the Chinese people, which has destroyed the preconditions of coexistence. The Chinese government rhetoric that Uighurs are all separatists has played a big role in making the minds of Chinese people see the Uighurs as enemies." (Courage of her conviction, 8/8/09)
[*See the extracts in my 5/8/09 post Occupations.]
Discrimination, persecution, settlers, demonisation of the natives - sound familiar? While any attempt to substitute Palestinians for Uighurs and Israel for China, would, of course, be rejected out of hand by Israel apologists such as Sheridan, the Uighur/Palestinian, China/Israel analogy comes naturally to an objective student of Chinese colonialism.
Take Christian Tyler's Wild West China: The Taming of Xinjiang (2003) for example: "Among the pioneers who came to [Xinjiang] after Liberation  were prisoners and soldiers commanded to open up the virgin lands, including many former Guomindang [Nationalist] soldiers. Civilian settlers came after 1954, slowly at first then in ever-increasing numbers. But in that year was created one of the most powerful and unusual entities ever seen, which was to play - as it still does - a controlling part in the sinicization of the Muslim west. The Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps (bingtuan) was the result of a merger of two outfits set up to feed and supply the army, always a problem in the borderlands. Mao transferred to its care about 150,000 Guomindang and Muslim soldiers who had surrendered to the People's Liberation Army [PLA]. They, their families, civil servants and others who had worked for the Nationalists... were impounded in 'regiment farms'. Their task was twofold, to reclaim land for agriculture and to defend the border. Later, they would be charged with domestic riot control as well. The Corps also took in political convicts from China proper - landlords, Nationalist officials and other such 'reactionary elements' - after they had served their sentences. In its early days, the Corps sent recruitment parties to the east to bring back, more or less voluntarily, hundreds of thousands of technicians, engineers, doctors, teachers and tradesmen... Altogether, at least half a million Chinese soldiers and civilians were moved to [Xinjiang] in the first 5 years of the People's Republic." (pp 134-135) "Today [the bingtuan] is the province's biggest economic enterprise and landowner, its largest employer, and a powerful instrument for controlling the Uighurs. It is a state within a state, run by the PLA, independent of the provincial government and reporting directly to Beijing... Like any Western agro-industrial conglomerate, the Corps operates farms, forests, mines, factories, canals, reservoirs and transport. But it is also a welfare state, with its own schools, hospitals, laboratories, pension funds, police force, courts, prisons - and, of course, labour camps. Yet its structure is a military one: it has 14 divisions, each with their own regiments and companies. China makes no secret of the purpose of the Corps. In 1977, the Xinhua news agency described it as 'shock brigade in building socialism' whose workers stand 'with rifle in one hand and hoe in the other'. These days, the hoe has been joined by the engineering lathe, and the rifle that used to be aimed at Soviet border troops is used to shoot down Uighur demonstrators. Like the gun-toting Jewish settlers on the Palestinian West Bank, the role of these workers is politically strategic." (pp 194-195)
Sunday, August 9, 2009
"'I am proud', said Saeb Erekat, a senior aide of Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president and Fatah's leader. 'Are we fighting? You bet! Are we screaming at each other? You bet!' "
He paused, then added: Are we planning to assassinate Muhammad Dahlan's* critics? You bet! Are we stealing the Palestinian people's money? You bet! Are we collaborating with Israel in its occupation of Palestine? You bet! Are we covering up the assassination of Arafat? You bet! Am I the biggest buffoon on the Palestinian stage since Ahmad Shuqayri? You bet! Do we lie to the Palestinian people? You bet! Do I offer to shine the shoes of Israeli leaders? You bet! Were we proud of Dahlan's gangs when they fled in their underwear from Gaza? You bet! Is Abu Mazen USrael 's chief puppet? You bet! Do the Palestinian people make fun of me when I speak and yell? You bet! Is the Fatah conference the mother of all jokes? You bet!" (angryarab.blogspot.com, 7/8/09)
[*See my 6/3/08 post Mainsewer Media Clueless in Gaza]
"I could see in 1991... not only that the gains of the [first] intifada were about to be squandered but that Arafat and a few of his closest advisers had already decided on their own to accept anything that the United States and Israel might throw their way, just in order to survive as part of the 'peace process'. The major losses incurred by the misguided policies of the PLO leadership during the Gulf crisis, and by the constant mismanagement of funds and assets that were never accounted for, caused the PLO leadership in panic to concede every single national aim and legal principle to the so-called interim solution proposed by Yitzhak Shamir and seconded by George Bush [senior] and James Baker. We received no acknowledgment of self-determination, no certainty of future sovereignty, no right of representation, no mention of reparations (and this from a state which received billions of dollars from Germany for the Nazi Holocaust). And if that were not bad enough, the Oslo Declaration of Principles celebrated on the White House lawn on September 13, 1993, was actually a good deal worse. For the first time in our history, our leadership had simply given up on self-determination, Jerusalem, and the refugees, allowing them to become part of an undetermined set of 'final status negotiations'. For the first time in our recent past, we accepted the division of our people - whose unity we had fought for as a national movement since 1948 - into residents of the Occupied Territories and all the others, who happen today to constitute over 55% of the Palestinian population; they exist in another, lesser category not covered by the peace process. For the first time in the 20thC, an anti-colonial liberation movement had not only discarded its own considerable achievements but made an agreement to cooperate with a military occupation before that occupation had ended, and before even the government of Israel had admitted that it was in effect a government of military occupation. (To this day Israel has refused to concede that it is an occupying power.)" (Peace & Its Discontents: Essays on Palestine in the Middle East Peace Process, Edward Said, 1996, pp xxviii-xxix)
[See also my posts The Bigger Picture (4/11/08) & USrael's Palestinian Recruits (12/12/08)]
Friday, August 7, 2009
Adams really only came alive in his second interviewee of the night - with Melbourne-based GP and author (Raft) Howard Goldenberg, who works for part of the year as a relief doctor in remote Aboriginal communities. When asked why, Goldenberg explained: "Two prime ministers ago we had a national program... called reconciliation. I realise that I live in the nicest, racist country in the world, and it's an enormous privilege to live here... and I enjoy it at the cost of the dispossession of its previous owners, and I thought: I'm in a trade that's portable and I can do a token..."
Wonderful, I thought, a man who practises what he preaches. Then Adams, one of Australia's card-carrying atheists, came out with this: "It's the Jewishness now I want to look at because, to your surprise, you had specifically Jewish reactions to aspects of Aboriginal life. What were they?" Replied Goldenberg: "It was a surprise, but when I reflected, I realised I should have anticipated that members of two peoples with histories of dispossession and humilation and killing would recognise each other, would find points of intersection and of parallel, and I think equally powerful were operations of community and family and those bonds that are extremely strong..." Fair enough. But no, this apparently wasn't good enough for Adams. He had to channel the doctor's thoughts in a specifically Zionist direction: "And also the deep mythology of land, which of course is the Israel story or the claim that Israel makes." Goldenberg took the bait: "That's right, and Aboriginal people remind me from time to time that that reclaiming of land and of pride should be a model to them. All this is unexpected, and then, in really remote places a bloke will hail me and discuss the Middle East with me in a most sophisticated way [Adams laughs], and this bloke, an initiated elder, is watching CNN every night and is much more up to date than I am about the Middle East."
To clarify: Having only just interviewed Antony Loewenstein on the trials of the dispossessed, indigenous population of Palestine, Adams consciously elicits from Goldenberg a statement to the effect that the political Zionist myth of a return to, and a "reclaiming," of Palestine, what he terms the "Israel story," is seen by some Aboriginal Australians (or at least those who watch CNN) as some kind of "model" for Australia's dispossessed, indigenous population. The mind, as they say, boggles.
Thursday, August 6, 2009
"Ferocious opponents in federal parliament, John Howard and Bob Hawke, agree on at least one thing in their post-political lives: the importance of the US-Australian relationship. Yesterday, in a grand show of bipartisanship, the University of Sydney announced that both had been signed to the advisory council of the US Studies Centre." (Hawke and Howard find common cause in US ties, Luke Slattery, The Australian, 30/6/09)
"Barack Obama has a new best friend among world leaders. His name is Kevin Rudd. A senior official in the Obama Administration said the President had bonded more closely with Mr Rudd than with any other leader. Indeed, the two have taken up where John Howard and George Bush left off, according to the State Department official responsible for US policy in the Asia-Pacific, Kurt Campbell." (Barack's new BFF: a match made in Kevin, Peter Hartcher, Sydney Morning Herald, 1/8/09)
Wednesday, August 5, 2009
The very definition of a land without a nation
Redoubtable Uighur freedom fighter Rebiya Kadeer is currently in Melbourne for the Melbourne International Film Festival (MIFF) screening of an Australian documentary about her life - The 10 Conditions of Love.
China occupies Rebiya Kadeer's homeland - East Turkistan (Xinjiang). Israel too is an occupying power. However, while China is not an official sponsor of MIFF, Israel is. It is difficult to imagine MIFF director Richard Moore ever accepting China as an official sponsor of the festival. So why then has Israeli sponsorship not been dropped?
Spot the difference:
"It is like being in a small room with your family. You have bolted the doors and all the windows to keep strangers out. But they come anyway - they just walk through your walls as if they weren't there. They say they like your room. They bring their families and their friends. They like the furniture, the food, the garden. You shrink into a corner, pretending they aren't there, tending to your housework, being a rebellious son, a strict father or an anxious mother - crawling about as if everything was normal, as if your room was yours for ever. Your family's faces are growing pale, withdrawn - an ugly grey, as the air in their corner becomes exhausted. The strangers have fresh air, they come and go at will - their cheeks are pink, their voices loud and vibrant. But you cling to your corner, you never leave it, afraid that, if you do, you will not be allowed back." (The Third Way: A Journal of Life in the West Bank, Raja Shehadeh, 1982, p 133)
"Our people were branded as 'nationalists' trying to destroy unity between the Chinese and other ethnic groups. The number of arrests increased dramatically throughout the entire Uyghur nation. Hundreds of schools were closed. Thousands were forbidden to work. Tens-of-thousands of people were subjected to searches and scrutiny. Officials and youth under 18 were no longer allowed to pray. Birth control mandates were more strictly enforced. Uyghurs permitted to work had an even harder time finding employment. For example, among 60 employees at a company in our own nation, at most 10 would be Uyghurs. The rest of the employees would be Chinese planted in our land to grow free and to take all of the sunlight, while we were to wither away underneath them." (Dragon Fighter: One Woman's Epic Struggle for Peace with China, Rebiya Kadeer, 2009, p 209)
"An English friend who works for an international organisation was returning at night to Jerusalem from a work visit to Nablus. The road was deserted, he told me. On both sides were large stretches of olive fields which he had enjoyed looking at during his morning drive north to the city. When he got halfway to Jerusalem he saw to his right an entire olive orchard on fire. It was a dark, moonless night. Above he could see the glittering lights of the settlements dominating the hills and down below the unprotected Palestinian orchard, its thousand trees ablaze, beacons of the anger and destructive transformation of this ancient, cursed land. 'It was an awesome sight', he said. 'These trees were not planted in clusters - there was some distance between them. This could not have been a bushfire. It was arson'. Not only had the settlers prevented the farmers from reaching their orchards to pick the olives during this last olive-picking season, they were now burning these ancient trees." (When the Bulbul Stopped Singing, Raja Shehadeh, 2003, pp 150-151)
"I went from house to house, but Chinese people were watching me from every doorway. In the past, there had always been colorful flowers blooming in the gardens and fresh bouquets in lovely vases on the tables outside. But I saw no flowers anywhere as I turned my head, and then my whole body three-hundred-and-sixty degrees in search of a flower. The streets stank of trash... The brook along the village road looked as if it had dried up long ago. And the weeping willows looked like they were indeed weeping in their withered state. The Communists had no relationship with nature, and because the people owned nothing, they felt no sense of responsibility for the environment or property around them... The next morning, we saddled two horses. We wanted to go up into the mountains to the places where we had been so happy as children. Along the Irtysh River, we saw Chinese panning for gold with a sieve. The forest we had loved, which had been full of evergreen and deciduous trees, had been cut down to the ground. I spurred my horse forward. On top of the mountain we had once found only nature, alone with herself. But even here there were Chinese gathering things from these mountains and placing them into their baskets. When I saw so many Chinese even in this place where I had hoped to find peace, I remembered a friend's prediction that I had heard in childhood: 'One day it would rain Chinese from the sky'." (Kadeer, pp 118-119)
"As we neared the top of the hill the clods of soil began to feel wet even though there was no spring nearby and it hadn't rained. We soon realized that we had walked into the open sewers of the Jewish settlement of Talmon to the north. This settlement might have had a rubbish collection system but it did not have one for treating sewage, which was just disposed of down the valley into land owned by Palestinian farmers. We tried to step lightly so as not to drown our shoes in the settlers' shit. As we trudged through the soggy ground we met two boys who showed us the way out of the bog. We noticed they were taking us away from the paved road and told them that was where we were headed. 'It's too dangerous', they said. We asked them why. 'The settlers', they said. 'If you're walking and they drive by they swerve and hit you. They ran over Mazen. And if an army jeep comes they shoot. No one uses the road'." (Palestinian Walks: Notes on a Vanishing Landscape, Raja Shehadeh, 2007, pp 170-171)
"It was as if the walls to our cells were closing in on us a bit more every day. We Uyghurs already felt like we had been locked up, but the confinement was getting even tighter. If a Uyghur boy wanted to learn boxing out of a simple interest in the sport, he was detained as a separatist. If a countryman with a mustache applied for employment, he was forced to shave it off. If someone recited a Uyghur poem, he was considered a fundamentalist. This was a time during which those in power dropped their masks. The high functionaries decided that our Uyghur nation was a part of China and should therefore be settled by even more Chinese. There were scenes in the streets where Chinese would beat Uyghurs, forcing them off sidewalks or buses with the words, 'Get out of here! This is our land!' Women working in civil service were prohibited from wearing long skirts because that garment was considered a symbol of religious values. In the job market there were positions offered exclusively to Chinese - it said so on the signs." (Kadeer, p 306)