Sunday, August 2, 2009

The Blindness of Bob Hawke

"After 62 years in the labour and Labor movements, 79-year-old Bob Hawke was lauded, applauded and given life Labor Party membership at its national conference in Sydney yesterday. And the longest-serving Labor prime minister's* acceptance speech was typical 'Hawkie': long, teary and self congratulatory... He nominated as one of his greatest achievements helping end the apartheid regime in South Africa by leading an international investment boycott.** He said nothing could beat the day Nelson Mandela walked into his office, took his hand and said: 'Bob, if it weren't for you, I wouldn't be here'. 'That we, a small country, could be so instrumental in bringing to an end that vicious, unfair, unethical regime is something that this great party should forever be proud of', he said to thunderous applause." (He's a Labor man for life, Kerry-Anne Walsh, The Sun-Herald, 2/8/09)

[*1983-1991; ** Interestingly, considering his self-assessment, Hawke doesn't even rate a mention in Robert Harvey's 2001 study, The Fall of Apartheid: The Inside Story from Smuts to Mbeki.]

Of course, when it came to the world's other apartheid state, Israel, Hawke could see neither the woods nor the trees: "This then is the reality with which we are confronted - 18 Arab States covering 13 million square kms and Israel, even with the post-1967 lines... in control of much less than 1% of that figure, threatened constantly with extinction... In the 1930s appeasement under threat and blackmail permitted... the holocaust in which 6 million of our fellow human beings, who happened to be Jews, were exterminated. All mankind was diminished by these events. I do not speak here for my party or for the industrial movement which I lead. But as an individual Australian. I know that I am not an island and I know that if we allow the bell to be tolled for Israel it will have tolled for me, for us all, and we will all to that extent again have been diminished. This would be an especial loss for Australia, which under the leadership of Dr Evatt as Minister for External Affairs, played a major part in the emergence of the State of Israel." (from Hawke's address to the 26th Biennial Conference of the Zionist Federation of Australia & New Zealand, Quadrant, March-April 1974)

IOW: 1) Palestinians (ie ersatz Arabs) can be accomodated quite comfortably in any one of 18 Arab states (as presumably could South African blacks in any one of x African countries); 2) The fact of the Holocaust overides everything else, including the rights of Palestine's indigenous people. It is they (not the Europeans, and certainly not we Australians) who must pay the price for European anti-Semitism; 3) Doc Evatt (not the majority of people who actually lived there) knew what was best for Palestine in 1947 and Australia's reputation stands or falls with his.

Hawke had (has?) no understanding whatever of the Palestinian Nakba of 1948: "Within days of the UN resolution [181] there began a program of mediation based upon the repeated assertion that the armies of the Arab States would invade Israel upon its proclamation as a State and would annihilate it within a matter of days. It was in this context of an attempt virtually to abort the birth of Israel or to ensure its early demise that the Arab States themselves urged Arabs within the proposed State of Israel to flee, thus initiating the problem of the Arab refugees..." (ibid) Hawke could not even bring himself to use the word 'Palestinians'. His speech to the ZFA, if not handed to him on a platter, reveals an outlook so insufferably Eurocentric, colonial, and Zionist as to preclude any realisation of the bleeding-obvious parallels between apartheid Israel and apartheid South Africa.

Australian historian John Hurst, in his 1979 biography of Hawke, attempted to shed some light on Hawke's Ziophilia: "One of the main reasons for Hawke's deep and principled commitment to the Israeli cause was his fundamental belief that the world owed the Jews a place in which they could live free from persecution and oppression. Jews had been reviled, bullied and persecuted for centuries, the scapegoats for the ills of mankind. The Germans alone could not be held responsible for the holocaust... the world had allowed that disaster to happen... Hawke believed, deeply, that the creation of Israel by the United Nations... was a partial redemption of the world's debt to the Jewish people - that nation had to be allowed to live. Hawke had developed a great admiration for the Jewish character, Jewish intelligence and creativity. Jewish determination and the inspired devotion with which Jewish migrants from all parts of the world were turning barren tracts of the Holy Land into fertile ground... There were other, more personal, reasons for Hawke's attachment to the Jews. Anti-Semitism had been rife at one of the schools Hawke attended in his youth. He remembered with revulsion how he had been among the baiters of a Jewish boy, John Eisner, whom he had once physically attacked. Looking back, he felt a deep sense of guilt. As he grew in understanding he developed a contempt for all forms of insidious anti-Semitism. It seemed to him that the anti-Israel position was an expression of a deep-rooted prejudice." (Hawke PM, p 102-103)

I think that Hawke's attack of the guilts explains his blindness to the justice of the Palestinian cause. I wonder what Rudd's excuse is?

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