A 35-strong pack of Israeli war criminals and their camp followers, including Deputy Prime Minister Silvan Shalom and former Security Minister and Shin Bet supremo from 2000 to 2005, Avi Dichter, lunched with Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and the latest Leader of the Opposition, Tony Abbott, in Sydney on December 3. This extraordinary gathering (apparently quid pro quo for DPM Gillard's trip to Israel earlier in the year) was inexplicably ignored by the Sydney Morning Herald, and got scant treatment by The Australian, whose reporter, the appropriately named Jodie Minus, really only seemed to have eyes for the Rudd/Abbott handshake and body language: "The Prime Minister didn't waste any time moving in for the congratulatory handshake. But neither man studied at the Mark Latham school of hand manoeuvres and the grip was more passive than aggressive, with Mr Abbott holding on to just 4 of Mr Rudd's limp-looking fingers." (Rivals get hands on, 4/12/09)
In fact, the only reference in Minus' report to the latest Israeli-Australian carry-on came in this sentence: "At the Australia Israel Leadership Forum's gala luncheon... Kevin Rudd and the Opposition leader were asked to the podium to accept a copy of a Jewish picture book, Touching the Stones of Our Heritage."
It wasn't much to go on, but my interest was sufficiently piqued for me to google Stones. At that point the plot began to thicken. Up came this little blurb: "Touching the Stones of Our Heritage: The Western Wall Tunnels by Dan Bahat: Throughout the 2,000 years since the Holy Temple that stood in Jerusalem was destroyed, the Western Wall has stood as the prime symbol of Jewish yearning. Today, more than 50 years since the restoration of Jewish sovereignty, the Wall remains an intense expression of national pride and of the profound affinity between the Jewish people and the city of Jerusalem. Through photographs, text and original drawings, this spectacular album takes the reader on a journey of discovery through the Western Wall and its tunnels. Included is a bonus transparency overlay showing how it was, and what it looks like now... Features of this book:... Includes a full color insert of the Temple Mount with overlays showing how it looked in ancient and modern times... THE WONDER OF THE WORLD THAT WAS (AND IS) MISSED." (judaism.com)
Well, well, well - instead of handing Rudd and Abbott a book containing merely glossies of 'Israeli' landmarks, Shalom had handed them one which represents the third holiest shrine in Islam, the Haram ash-Sharif (Noble Sanctuary), containing the Dome of the Rock and Al-Aqsa Mosque, as, in effect, squatting on the foundations of a structure of far greater importance - an ancient Jewish temple, the subject of much contemporary Jewish "yearning". Not that the Arabic term Haram ash-Sharif even appears in Bahat's book, the term of choice being The Temple Mount.
Now given that a copy of Stones hasn't yet found its way into my hot little hands, I can't be 100% certain, but are we not entering Hint, hint, do you get my drift? territory here? One thing's for sure though, Rudd and Abbott are not going to learn in Stones that the Haram ash-Sharif (not to mention the rest of East Jerusalem) is, under international law, occupied territory to which the Israelis have absolutely no legal claim whatever.
And the book's author, 'archaeologist' Dan Bahat? Here's a revealing snapshot: "According to the man warmly referred to as Israel's Indiana Jones, an ongoing crime continues to be perpetrated against world Jewry. 'The Jewish people around the world are disconnected from The Temple Mount today. The Arabs claim that it has nothing to do with the Jews, but we know better', says Professor Dan Bahat, one of Israel's most famous, respected and colourful archaeologists. 'At every entrance to The Temple Mount today, there are guards there who ask if you are Jewish. If you answer 'yes', they tell you that you cannot go inside. It's a crime forever'... The Temple Mount is the holiest location in Jewish life. According to religious tradition it's where the world originated and where the biblical sacrifice of Isaac took place. It's also where King Solomon built the first Jewish Temple. The Roman King Herod... rebuilt the temple. With Jews kept off the hilltop by Muslim restrictions and both government and rabbinic bans, The Kotel - a retaining wall of the second Temple - is the holiest place at which Jews can pray. 'What concerns me is a political problem connected to The Temple Mount', says Bahat. 'I believe the Chief Rabbinate made a terrible mistake in 1967 by installing signs reading that no Jew should go onto The Temple Mount (until the Temple is rebuilt)'. Asked about Ariel Sharon's famous visit to The Temple Mount in 2000, Bahat left no doubt as to his feelings. 'I am still angry over this', he says. 'Everyone blames Sharon for going to The Temple Mount and starting this Intifada more than 2 years ago. Of course this is not true, but what really makes me mad is that there was such an uproar because a Jew went to The Temple Mount in the first place. This should not be'." (Israel's 'Indiana Jones' addresses Toronto's Jewish community, toronto.ujcfedweb.org) Some disinterested scholar!
What was that line from the 60s? You don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows. Well here's the wind from templemount.org: "Unfortunately, the Temple Mount presently remains under the supervision of the Waqf, the Supreme Moslem Council, and they have prevented any systematic archaeological studies. In fact, the Waqf has gotten increasingly resistive [sic] to investigations of any kind on the Platform - which they consider to be a huge outdoor mosque sacred to Islam. Who knows what events developing in the history of Jerusalem will one day change the staus quo, allowing scientific investigation of the entire Temple Mount, below ground as well as above? Then, according to the hopes and dreams of devout Jews for centuries, a Third Temple can be built on the foundations of the First and Second Temples and temple worship according to the Torah restored." Notice how "archaeological studies" and "scientific investigation" morph seamlessly into a rebuilding of a third temple? And the Dome of the Rock and Al-Aqsa Mosque? Now you see them, now you don't. Hell, you can feel that plot thickening now, can't you? Why, if Dan (Indiana Jones) Bahat had had his way back in 1967, when the site was - ahem - acquired, the Third Temple would be packing them in right now!
Touching the Stones of Our Heritage - some "Jewish picture book," Ms Minus!
But there's more. I mentioned Avi Dichter at the beginning of this post. Although The Australian gave him an opportunity to beat the drum on Iran (Ex-Israeli spy chief warns about Iran, 4/12/09), it was left to an Australian Zionist blogger, present at the luncheon, to remind us that Dichter too has a keen interest in stones. The Ozi Zion Blog informs us that the former Shin Bet head and now Kadima MK concluded his speech "with a powerful story of how he added a 3rd stone (from Jerusalem) to the 2 stone collection of a friend - (from Aushwitz [sic] and Massada [sic]). Jerusalem is the heart of Israel and will remain so." (szcnsw.auton.telligence.net.au) In fact, Dichter has real archaeological form: "Police have prevented Muslim burial at the foot of the Temple Mount for several months, as Public Security Minister Avi Dichter responded to pleas to reserve the area as a significant archaeological site." (Dichter rules area near Temple Mount off-limits to Muslim burial, Nadav Shragai, Haaretz, 29/5/07)
And more. With former Israeli PM Ehud Olmert also in town we've got Israeli war criminals coming out of our ears. His visit was described in The Australian Jewish News (4/12/09) as "a precursor to an influx of senior Israeli politicians and other influential figures in the coming week for the second Australia Israel Leadership Forum." Now I don't know whether Olmert put in an appearance at the Forum's galah luncheon, but I do know that, among his other crimes, he's got form in messing with Jerusalem: "As mayor of Jerusalem in the 1990s, Olmert oppressed the Palestinian inhabitants of the city and intensified the process of de-Arabisation. He pressed for opening the 'archaeological tunnel' near the Muslim shrines and encouraged American Jewish right-wing millionaires to build Jewish settlements in the middle of unilaterally annexed Arab districts and pushed for the building of the Apartheid Wall that cuts up Arab neighbourhoods." (The Bible & Zionism: Invented Traditions, Archaeology & Post-Colonialism in Israel-Palestine, Nur Masalha, 2007, p 181) Oh, and he and Indiana go back some years with Olmert penning a forward to another of Indiana's books, The Illustrated Atlas of Jerusalem.
What's really been going on in little old Sydney then? Given Australia's tendency to cosy up to Israel at various UN and other fora (and Shalom's hugs and kisses for our cold-shouldering of Goldstone and Durban II*), I can't help wondering if this hopelessly laid-back land isn't being subjected to the hard word - along the lines of Cut the teasing, bitch. If you really love me, you'll move your embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Dear oh dear, would the world still respect us in the morning? And then what? Shalom, Dichter, Olmert et al take up archaeology in earnest? Watch this space...
[*Australia a 'leader of the free world', Greg Sheridan, The Australian, 4/12/09]
[The following 2 posts of mine are highly relevant to this subject: Who Did What? (28/9/09); Mosque Busters (27/11/09)]