Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The Sarafand Massacre

"The story of Australia's extraordinary military contribution to the ending of Ottoman rule in Palestine in World War I is an epic rivalling Gallipoli in feats of courage and endurance, but is far less well-known. The military story is intimately connected to the publication by Britain of the Balfour Declaration in November 1917 supporting the establishment of a Jewish national home in Palestine. This was the first official step on the long road to the attainment of Jewish statehood in May 1948." (Australia & Israel: A Pictorial History Celebrating 60 Years of the Australia-Israel Bilateral Relationship)

I've already posted (Myth In-formation, 1/5/08) on the Australian Zionist lobby's shameless appropriation of the charge of the Australian Light Horse at Beersheba in 1917 as some kind of quasi-metaphysical prelude to the transformation of Palestine into Israel. With the publication of Beersheba: A Journey Through Australia's Forgotten War, Sun-Herald columnist Paul Daley reminds us that our 'heroes' (cum Zionist conscripts) - or at least some of them -had, subsequent to their taking of the Turkish defences guarding Beersheba, gone on to blot their copy books in a manner that would have done the later Zionist terror gangs of the Haganah, the Irgun and the Sternists proud.

Here's an edited extract from Daley's book:

"After the armistace in November 1918, Australians and New Zealanders from the Anzac Mounted Division... were camped near the Jewish settlement of Richon le Zion, close to the Mediterranean, not far from present-day Tel Aviv... The Australians' commander-in-chief - as it had been in Beersheba - was the formidable but well-respected British cavalryman General Sir Edmund Allenby. The small Arab village of Surafend stood close to Richon. The local Arabs quickly began stealing from the Anzacs once their camps were established, and the soldiers, who had tolerated the Bedouin for years, had exhausted their patience. They saw no difference between town and village Arabs and the Bedouin. To the Anzacs they were all trouble. The resentment against the Arabs was fuelled by the fact that the Anzacs' mostly British commanders had an informal policy of turning a blind eye to the misdeeds of the natives. It was part of a strategy to engender Arab support for British rule of Palestine. Late on the chilly winter's night of December 9, 1918, 21-year-old trooper Leslie Lowry, a machine-gunner from the New Zealand Mounted Rifles Brigade, slept in his tent. The local Arabs had been thieving from the Anzac camp night after night and, like many Anzacs, Lowry used his kitbag as a pillow so he'd wake if the barefoot robbers tried to pinch his valuables. Sure enough, the young New Zealander stirred just as someone was tugging his kitbag. The robber bolted, and Lowry sprang out of bed and chased him through the line of guards around the camp* and into the nearby dunes. Lowry grabbed the robber, who, using a revolver, shot the trooper through the chest... Nobody actually saw Lowry's attacker... According to Trooper Ambrose Stephen Mullhall of the 3rd Australian Light Horse Regiment, Lowry 'told his comrades before he died the thief... was a Bedouin and that he had gone to the Bedouin village'. True to Lowry's word, the attacker's footprints were tracked to a hole in the fence near Surafend... [The Anzacs] wanted revenge, and they took it. How many people they killed and exactly who was involved has, however, always been hotly contested. By most Australian accounts, the New Zealanders led the attack on the village while the Australians at best stood by and watched or at worst participated, albeit in vastly smaller numbers.

"[Henry] Gullett deals with the Surafend massacre in 4 pages of his 844-page history [Official History of Australia in the War of 1914-1918, 1923]: 'They were angry and bitter beyond sound reasoning. All day the New Zealanders quietly organised for their work in Surafend, and early in the night marched out many hundreds strong and surrounded the village. In close support and full sympathy were large bodies of Australians. Entering the village, the New Zealanders grimly passed out all the women and children and then, armed chiefly with heavy sticks, fell upon the men and at the same time fired the houses. Many Arabs were killed, few escaped without injury; the village was demolished... The Anzacs, having finished with Surafend, raided and burned the neighbouring nomad camp, and then went quietly back to their lines' While both the New Zealanders and the Australians were quick to mount official inquiries into the killings, the inquiries were a farce. The Australians blamed the New Zealanders or claimed they were unaware of what had happened. The Kiwis blamed the Australians or feigned ignorance... The war diary and intelligence summary of the 2nd Light Horse Brigade, commanded by Sir Granville Ryrie, is an example of military obfuscation, and can be interpreted as the point at which the Surafend cover-up began... The diary neglects to mention that when Allenby stood the entire Anzac Mounted Division to attention that day... he told them that they were a bunch of 'murderers' and, with that, he wiped his hands of the Australian light-horsemen." (One bloody secret, Good Weekend, 25/7/09)

[*Why didn't the camp's guards manage to keep would-be thieves out?]

This was followed by 3 letters on the subject in Monday's Sydney Morning Herald. Peter Wertheim (Darling Point), a former Jewish Board of Deputies president and ardent Zionist (you can read his profile at holocaust.com.au), predictably advocated for the war criminals: "The atrocity was in reprisal for the murder of a New Zealand trooper." Oh - so that's OK then? A hundred eyes for an eye. How very Zionist! And anyway, he went on, Allenby shared responsibility because, "in a misguided attempt to win over the Arab population," he allegedly "refused to apprehend the culprit."

Malcolm Murdoch (Fisher, ACT), also bent over backwards to find excuses for our boys: "Well before Surafend, many Anzacs were critical of their British commanders for the way they needlessly sacrificed their troops, and the refusal to allow the Arabs to be punished for their misdeeds." Murdoch even resorted to that hoary spinner of bush yarns Ion Idriess (1889-1979)* to the effect that "the Anzacs quickly found that leaving a wounded soldier temporarily on his own in the desert often resulted in the man having his throat slit and his clothes and equipment stolen." While understanding the Anzac's desire for "justice," Murdoch at least baulked at their "methods."

[* Here's a taste of Idriess' tall tale-telling: "Then someone shouted, pointing through the sunset towards invisible headquarters. There, at the steady trot was regiment after regiment, squadron after squadron, coming, coming, coming! It was just half-light, they were distinct yet indistinct. The Turkish guns blazed at those hazy horsemen but they came steadily on. At 2 miles distant they emerged from clouds of dust, squadrons of men and horses taking shape. All the Turkish guns around Beersheba must have been directed at the menance then. Captured Turkish and German officers have told us that even then they never dreamed that mounted troops would be madmen enough to attempt rushing infantry redoubts protected by machine-guns and artillery. At a mile distant their thousand hooves were stuttering thunder, coming at a rate that frightened a man - they were an awe-inspiring sight, galloping through the red haze - knee to knee and horse to horse - the dying sun glinting on bayonet points. Machine gun and rifle fire just roared but the 4th Brigade galloped on. We heard shouts among the thundering hooves - horse after horse crashed, but the massed squadron thundered on. We laughed in delight when the shells began bursting behind them telling that the gunners could not keep their range, then suddenly the men ceased to fall and we knew instinctively that the Turkish infantry, wild with excitement and fear, had forgotten to lower their rifle sights and the bullets were flying overhead. The Turks did the same to us at El Quatia. The last half mile was a berserk gallop with the squadrons in magnificent line, a heart-throbbing sight as they plunged up the slope, the horses leaping the redoubt trenches - my glasses showed me the Turkish bayonets thrusting up for the bellies of the horses - one regiment flung themselves from the saddle - we heard the mad shouts as the men jumped down into the trenches, a following regiment thundered over another redoubt, and to a triumphant roar of voices and hooves was galloping down the half mile slope right into town. Then came a whirlwind of movement from all over the field, galloping batteries - dense dust from mounting regiments - a rush as troops poured for the opening in the gathering dark - mad, mad excitement - terrific explosions from down in the town. Beersheba had fallen." (The Desert Column, 1932)]

It took Tom Ruse (Woollahra) to inject some reality into the debate: "My grandfather was a surgeon in the Australian Medical Corps and spent nearly 4 years stationed in the Middle East, much of it in Palestine. From his letters, photographs and recollections, he found the Palestinians to be among the most noble and gracious people he had met."

And speaking of Arabs, British military historian Liddell Hart's summary of their contribution to the defeat of the Turks in Palestine is worth quoting as a corrective to the hyped role of our Light Horse: "In the crucial weeks while Allenby's stroke was being prepared and during its delivery, nearly half of the Turkish forces south of Damascus were distracted by the Arab forces... What the absence of these forces meant to the success of Allenby's stroke, it is easy to see. Nor did the Arab operation end when it had opened the way. For in the issue it was the Arabs, almost entirely, who wiped out the 4th Army, the still intact force that might have barred the way to final victory... The wear and tear, the bodily and mental strain that exhausted the Turkish troops and brought them to breaking point was applied by the Arabs, elusive and ubiquitous, to a greater extent than by the British forces, both before and during the final phase." (Colonel Lawrence: The Man Behind the Legend, 1934, p 303)

The Arabs, of course, had been promised independence by the British (in the form of the Hussein-McMahon correspondence, 1915). For their pains, however, the British gave them the Balfour Declaration of 1917 and the Sarafand massacre. And the rest, as they say, is history.

Postscript: You might think that, having discovered the dark side of the Australian Light Horse, a journalist such as Daley might be a little less gung-ho in support of our current 'exploits' in Afghanistan. Not so, I'm afraid. His opinion piece in The Sun-Herald of 26/7/09 is called The path to peace will be long: our mission in Afghanistan remains a vital one. His only concern is with Australian deaths, and the only mention of civilian casualties refers to those caused by the... Taliban!

Sunday, July 26, 2009

No Idea

As it happened, Greg (Jerusalem Prize) Sheridan found himself on a long-haul flight to Israel recently: "For the first leg of the journey I had a book on Iran by my side, but I found the airline has new, big screens in business class (a rare luxury) and a huge library of recent and classic films on offer." (Aloft with the seductions of sloth, The Australian, 25/7/09)

You can guess what happened next. Fast forward to final paragraph: "The book on Iran had to wait for a long time... And when I finally did open a book about the Middle East on this journey, I found myself seduced by a 40-year-old Morris West thriller, The Tower of Babel, a rattling good read, rather than anything more scholarly." (ibid)

No wonder he's got no idea.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Awesome Israelis & Godawful Gazanazis

Herald Sun columnist Alan Howe was a member of DPM Gillard's entourage to Israel in June. So unbelievably awesome did he find the World's Most Vibrant Nation that he decided to stay on to chart its Epic Struggle against the Forces of Darkness bent, as usual, on its Utter Annihilation.

Alan's latest column, Stone-age ambition (20/7/09), is a Searing Expose of the Pain & Suffering of the Heroic Inhabitants of "the world's most bombed city," Sderotingrad [Move over Stalingrad, Hamburg and Dresden!], as they stoically endure Wave after Wave of Gazanazi rocket attacks: "On most corners there are simple concrete bomb shelters, smaller versions of the ones in their schools where the shelters also serve as playgrounds, a prime Arab target, of course. No one in Sderot [and Alan's interviewed all 20,000 of them!] drives around listening to CDs or the radio. They are permanently tuned to the possibility they'll hear a calm, disembodied woman's voice announcing 'Tseva Adom' - Code Red. Because they have got just seconds to get from their vehicle to a shelter, seat belts are never worn. No one has a shower unless there is someone else in the house, no point in smelling like roses with a homemade missile about to reshape your roof... Almost a third of the people of Sderot are being treated for psychiatric illness." The horror! The horror!

As for the Evil Roof-Renovating Gazanazis, Sderotingrad's elevation to the status of "world's most bombed city" is the least of their vile accomplishments! Did you know that these Spawn of Amalek have also been "the first to bomb themselves back to the Stone Age"? Pretty fiendish, eh? Alan reveals that, in the "festering malevolence" that is their Gazan Lair, they had actually been "praying for" Operation Cast Lead, knowing that if only they could "goad the Israeli army into an indiscriminate response," they'd reap a bountiful PR crop of..."dead schoolkids." The dirty bastards!

But hang on, surely the Awesome Israelis didn't fall for that, did they? Fraid so. The Cunning Gazanazis, of course, got just what they wanted, a bumper crop: "[T]he most insightful moment of [the conflict] was captured on film: a Hamas hero, trying to evade Israeli fire, picks up a small child by the scruff of the neck as 'cover' as he runs from one side of the street to the other." The dirty bastard!

But hang on, didn't Alan just say something about an "indiscriminate" Israeli response? Yes? So here we have the Godawful Gazanazis goading the Awesome Israelis into an indiscriminate response - but using their own Gazanazikids as human shields to guard against same. This didn't quite add up, I twigged. Surely a mere human shield's not going to stop an indiscriminate response. So I googled for that film clip Alan had found so insightful. No trace. Alan, please? I typed in "scruff of the neck" but all I could find was a reference to an Israeli colonel testifying before an Israeli court that "a slap, sometimes a punch to the scruff of the neck or the chest, sometimes a knee jab or strangulation to calm somebody down is reasonable." (The truth walks into a court in Jaffa, Michael Sfard, forward.com, 10/6/09). And I typed in "human shield" only to find out that Amnesty International had not only cleared Hamas of this despicable practice, but fingered the IDF instead. (Amnesty: Israeli troops used children as human shields in Gaza, antiwar.com, 1/7/09) Blimey, was I confused!

But then, I thought, who am I but a mere blogger, one given, in the words of Alan's boss, John Hartigan*, to "the trivialisation and corruption of serious debate." Who am I to cavil with a Quality Journalist like Alan? I should have been a pair of ragged claws... etc, etc. [*See my 2/7/09 post Corrupting serious Debate]

Truly, Alan's Israeli handlers should be proud of the man. He's a credit to them. Still, if I may venture a criticism - not of him, but them: Why, if they wanted Australians to gain the maximum insight into the Trials & Tribulations of Sderotingrad, didn't they put him in touch with Yad Ezra V'Shulamit. That's right, Yad Ezra etc etc. You see, Sderotingrad is not only bigger than Stalingrad, but bigger than Stalingrad and the Ukrainian famine combined: "What are people feeling in southern Israel today? Fear. Tension. And hunger. The Jewish residents of Sderot, Netivot, Be'er Sheva and Ofakim are literally starving, afraid to risk their own lives to go in search of food and, just as likely, not finding it. 'Shops are closed, businesses are closed, and more than 200,000 people don't know where their next meal is coming from', says Ariel Lurie, founder and executive director of Yad Ezra V'Shulamit, which is trying to ease the humanitarian crisis in Israel's southern cities under fire... Yesterday, as a Yad Ezra V'Shulamit volunteer handed out bread, groceries and chickens in a Sderot bomb shelter, a man told her the conversation he had overheard between his wife and son. There were only 2 pieces of bread left, and a little soup. 'You eat the bread', his wife had said. 'No, you eat it', the boy replied. 'No, I want you to eat it', the wife insisted. The argument went on for some time, as neither wanted to risk his life to go get more food. In the end, they decided to eat the soup and to save the bread for the next day." (Yad Ezra V'Shulamit feeds hungry residents of southern Israel, Haaretz, 13/1/09)

See what I mean? Mark Regev seems to be losing his touch.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Zionist Svengalis

"Not every despairing person can make, at home, the necessary belts, fuses and lethal charges. These things require a godfather." (Christopher Hitchens, Svengalis behind the murderers, The Australian, 20/7/09)

To return to Hitchens' column and the subject of Palestinian suicide bombers (see my previous post), you'll remember the gin-sodden ex-Trotskyist popinjay's contention that "nasty, vicious, fanatical old men, not human emotions," were the be-all & end-all of the Palestinian suicide bombing phenomenon.

Well, I got to thinking about those grumpy old Svengalis and their bomb belts. Who made the first bomb belt? I asked myself.

Robert Pape, in his authoritative study of suicide bombing, Dying to Win: The Strategic Logic of Suicide Terrorism (2005), is of the opinion that "the first attacker to use a 'suicide belt'" was a young female Tamil Tiger recruit named Dhanu, who used the device to assassinate Rajiv Ghandi in 1991. "It is not known how the Tigers hit upon the idea," he writes, but speculates that they may have been inspired by a scene in Frederick Forsyth's 1989 novel, The Negotiator. (Pape, p 227)

Perhaps, but Pape has overlooked another, earlier bunch of Svengalis who beat Forsyth to the punch by decades. First, a little context: From 1945 to 1948, a branch of the Palmach, known as Ha'mossad Le'aliya Bet (or Mossad), organized the clandestine immigration of European Jewish refugees to Palestine in defiance of the restrictions on Jewish immigration imposed by the British Mandate authorities at the time. From August 1946, the British began deporting such illegal arrivals to camps in Cyprus. Now read on:-

"There was resistance of some kind to British capture in almost all the Mossad ships, but it became established Mossad policy beginning with the British government's Cyprus decision in August 1946. The Mossad then issued instructions for passive resistance during the transfer of refugees to the British deportation ships. The initiators of this resistance policy and its escalation were Palmach headquarters in Palestine and members of Mossad's operational arm there. They were responsible for bringing the refugees from ship to shore, and thus the potential sites of clashes with the British were within their 'jurisdiction'. Their commander was David Nameri, a kibbutz member and one of the founders and senior officers of both the Mossad and the Palmach and the liaison between the two. An activist in both his views and actions, he had no direct contact with the refugees as did his colleagues in Europe. He therefore formulated his positions without being influenced by the specific fate of the refugees, their sufferings and fatigue, or their ability to fight or resist. The first instructions on resistance were transmitted from Palestine to ships that were already at sea, before a comprehensive policy had been adopted: 'If there is an attempt to take control of the ships outside the territorial waters, there should be passive resistance such as: preventing them from coming up the ladder, blocking the approaches to the helm and the engine room, interference with handcuffing and creating havoc'. A few days after publication of the British decision on deportation to Cyprus, Nameri demanded that the refugee ships be transformed into true vessels of war. His opinion, and that of some of his colleagues, was that 'shouts and curses' were no longer sufficient and that it was time to act, to conduct a fierce and violent battle against deportation including deliberate sabotage of the deportation ships. Explosions were put on the ships and were sometimes attached to the bodies of refugee women, who thus became living bombs. Instructions were given as to how and when to carry out sabotage. 'If they are deported without any response we will never be forgiven', Nameri stated in a cable to the Mossad in Tel Aviv (he was himself in Haifa, where the refugee ships were held until deportation). Nameri, who undoubtedly remembered the Patria tragedy six years previously - more than 260 Jewish refugees drowned as a result of a badly executed dynamiting of the ship that was supposed to deport them - and his own role in it, was still not deterred from renewing his demand to sabotage ships loaded with thousands of refugees." (From Catastrophe to Power: Holocaust Survivors & the Emergence of Israel, Idith Zertal, 1998, pp 140-141)

So here we have a bunch of "nasty, vicious, fanatical old (?) men" aka the Mossad, under the supreme command of another "nasty, vicious, fanatical old man" by name of David Ben-Gurion, turning female Holocaust survivors into ticking bombs for use against British sailors in a blatant attempt to make propaganda for the Zionist cause. Nice.

As to whether these ticking bombs ever went off, Zertal, an Israeli historian, records only that "[w]hile some [Mossad agents] organized resistance at almost any price, others calculated the cost and benefit, especially with regard to victims. With the deportation of both the Catriel Yafeh and the Twenty Three, orders came from shore to those accompanying the refugees to conceal and transfer explosives on the bodies of women refugee passengers. This appalling order was carried out, and a bomb was detonated on one deportation ship." (ibid p 169)

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

72 Virgins... Again!

"All you have to do is promise them 72 virgins, and they'll kill to get there." (Christopher Hitchens: Religion Poisons Everything, truthdig.com, 6/6/07)

Gin-sodden ex-Trotskyist popinjay, neocon windbag and Slate columnist Christopher Hitchens revisits the phenomenon of the Palestinian suicide bomber, reductively concluding that "nasty, vicious, fanatical old men, not human emotions [such as despair] were making the decisions and deciding the days and the hours of death." (Svengalis behind the murderers, The Australian, 20/7/09) Utterly shallow, of course, but that's Hitchens for you.

A corrective is needed.

Mohammed M Hafez' Manufacturing Human Bombs: The Making of Palestinian Suicide Bombers (2006) is a nuanced and insightful study which examines the individual, organizational, and societal motives behind the phenomenon:

"[A]t the level of the individual, religious and nationalist appeals that equate self-sacrifice with martyrdom and national salvation are instrumental in producing volunteers for suicide attacks. Individuals are not inspired to carry out suicide bombings because these are the optimal tactic given the constraints of the political environment or the calculations of costs versus benefits; rather, they are inspired by the redemptive nature of self-sacrifice. The religious and nationalist framings of Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades go beyond mere manipulation of individual minds; they combine religious texts and historical narratives with ritual and ceremony to foster a culture that venerates martyrdom. The cultural context of Islamic revivalism and the political context of nationalist conflict allow those appeals to resonate with the broader public and with potential bombers. Militant groups also draw on the desire for national empowerment in the context of powerlessness in order to motivate individuals to undertake 'heroic' acts to shake the passive public into action. Finally, militant groups draw on the desire for vengeance that arises when individuals perceive members of their actual or imagined community as humiliated or traumatized by hated enemies.

"At the level of the organization, the case of the Palestinian suicide bombers shows that despite the outwardly religious nature of militant groups, strategic considerations in the context of asymmetrical warfare are the primary drivers for the adoption of suicidal violence as the preferred method of resistance. The difference between those who support suicide bombings and those who oppose them does not correspond to a religious-versus-secular split - both religious and secular factions see the value of suicide attacks. Instead, the split among supporters and opponents corresponds to the divergence between those who believe resistance is the only viable option and those who believe negotiations are more effective. Thus, it would be a mistake to equate suicidal violence solely with Islamism or religious fundamentalism.

"At the level of society, the Palestinian case shows that communities embrace and venerate 'martyrdom operations' when 2 conditions converge: (1) communities feel a deep sense of victimization and threat by external enemies in the course of political conflict, and (2) legitimate authorities promote or acquiesce to extreme violence. Palestinian suicide bombings in the al-Aqsa uprising developed out of a mix of threats and opportunities. On the one hand, the Palestinians felt victimized by Israelis who used harsh measures and collective punishments to end the uprising. On the other hand, the Palestinians felt empowered by government and religious authorities to strike back with extreme violence to punish the Israelis. This dynamic suggests that the phenomenon of volunteerism for suicide bombings is intricately connected to the broader political contexts in a given society. Militant organizations, no matter how ideologically savvy and politically astute, cannot generate high rates of volunteerism for suicide attacks without the presence of opportunities and threats in embattled societies." (pp 67-68) [See also my 2/7/09 post Schmoozing With Aaron Klein!]

And here's the Israeli context, without which the above would not have been possible, from US academic Steve Niva: "While suicide bombings are often portrayed as individual and random acts of fanaticism or desperation, leading to an excessive focus on the 'mind of the suicide bomber', my research has found that suicide bombings are highly organized and patterned. They are the product of a deliberate strategy by militant groups to both punish Israel for specific acts and to mobilize popular support for their organizations. I trace the origins of this pattern to the first suicide bombing inside Israel in April 1994 that came exactly 40 days (the standard Muslim mourning period) after the massacre of 29 Palestinians praying in a Hebron mosque by the American-Israeli settler Baruch Goldstein in February 1994. Since that time, my research has shown that Palestinian militant groups have adopted a policy of using Israeli acts of violence, especially assassinations of militant leaders and civilian massacres, as the trigger for launching suicide bombing attacks inside Israel... [M]y research suggests that the pattern of suicide bombings can only be explained in the context of Israel's violent actions, often war crimes under international law, which routinely precipitate and provide a rationalization for such attacks." (academic.evergreen.edu)

Needless to say, a shot as cheap as Hitchens' just wouldn't be complete without the following: "To have added the promise of paradise to this pogrom is to have made spiritual and mental sickness complete; to have made it a sexual paradise is obscene into the bargain. (Women martyrs are obviously not offered the same level of bliss and promiscuity by the Koran [sic].)"

Nor are martyred men, Bozo. The 72 virgins are not found in the Quran, but in a 9th century hadith from Ahmad al-Tirmidhi: "The martyr has a guarantee from God: He forgives him at the first drop of his blood and shows him his seat in Heaven. He decorates him with the jewels of faith, protects him from the torments of the grave, keeps him safe on the day of judgment, places a crown of dignity on his head with the finest rubies in the world, marries him to 72 of the pure virgins of paradise and intercedes on behalf of 70 of his relatives."

Hitchens should be so lucky.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Having It Both Ways at The Australian

"When the people who planned the [Jakarta hotel] bombings are captured, they will most likely take their lines from bin Laden and talk about American imperialism and the way the West dishonours Islam. The Bali bombers dressed up their motives in religious rhetoric at their trials, condemning Western decadence, claiming Australians, Americans and Jews - it is always the Jews - are oppressing Muslims." (Editorial: The terrorists know they will never win, The Australian, 18/7/09)

"Another barbaric terror attack in Indonesia - presumably by Islamists - and not an American or Israeli in sight." (Letter from Michael Burd, Toorak, Vic in The Australian, 20/7/09)

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Selective Breeding

As Gaza burned, and the shattered bodies of men, women and children lay all around, you might remember Sydney Morning Herald columnist Paul Sheehan putting the boot in thus: "Women, living under sharia law*, are used primarily as breeding stock." (It's too easy to blame the Jews, 12/1/09. See my 13/1/09 post Oriana Fallaci Meets Israeli PR at the SMH) [*Needless to say, Gazans do not live under sharia law.]

I was reminded of Sheehan's smear when I read the recent comments of Israel's housing minister, Ariel Atias. Alarmed at what he called an "Arab [demographic] takeover" of the Galilee, Atias revealed that his "national mission" was to Judaise the area by bringing in ultra-Orthodox Jews (Haredim) whose "birth rate - estimated at 8 children per woman - is twice that of the Muslim population." (Israel calls on ultra-orthodox to 'save' Galilee, Jonathan Cook, antiwar.com, 6/7/09) And again, when I read the reference, in yesterday's Australian, to "cases of Haredi being accused of neglecting children, including an incident in which a large family forgot one of their children when they boarded a plane." (Clashes reveal Israel identity crisis, John Lyons)

Now could you ever imagine Sheehan writing: 'Women, living under halachic law, are used primarily as breeding stock'? Silly question.

Not that Sheehan would have the faintest about either sharia or halachic law. I mean, here's a guy who confuses the hijab with the chador: "Bankstown, the heart of Keating's electorate, now has one of Australia's largest concentrations of non-English speaking background (NESB) immigrants. Bankstown Plaza is filled with East Asians, Muslims and Pacific Islanders. The chadore [sic], headcover for Muslim women, is common at Bankstown Square." (Among the Barbarians: The Dividing of Australia, 1998, p 97)

That must be Bankstown Square, Tehran. Hilarious.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Military Madness Miscellany

"One of the habits of our national life is to glorify all aspects of the military. I have always assumed this gushing, out-of-proportion praise could only come from those who have never met our soldiers and experienced first-hand their limited intelligence and primeval interests in life." Mark Latham (Latham berated for attack on Diggers, The Australian, 12/6/09)

"They may not legally be able to join the armed forces yet, but that hasn't stopped a group of Tasmanian students from getting right into the defence of Australia. Four pupils have received Defence 2020 National Youth Challenge awards... 'We had to do all these assignments'... Bothwell District HS' Gemma Lovell explains... 'We had to speak to someone who's been in the army... I learnt how all the army people help everyone overseas, like in Afghanistan. A lot of people are very poor and don't have any food or anything like that, and the way [the Army] help is really good. It's not all fighting... The most challenging thing I did was when we went down to Holsworthy in Sydney, which is the army base. Me and this guy from Queensland had to ask questions of the army people that had come back from Afghanistan a few weeks back... We got to hold these machine gun things [which] was pretty cool and it all got filmed and goes on a website'." (Defence insight secures win, spress.com.au, 11/2/09)

"Soldiers in Afghanistan will carry cash to pay civilians whose family members are killed or injured or whose property is destroyed as a result of Australian Defence Force operations.... Defence believes allowing tactical commanders the discretion to make on-the-spot payments will help it win the 'hearts and minds battle'." (Troops give cash to Afghan victims, Cynthia Banham, Sydney Morning Herald, 2/7/09)

"REMEMBER THEM Military History Tours 2009/10: Military History Tours (Aust) Pty Ltd, the operators behind the successful battlefield tours to Villiers-Bretonneaux, is proud to present 3 new tours to battle sites significant to the Anzacs and to Australians as a whole. Each tour includes accomodation, most meals, all transfers and Australian tour guides fully trained in military history." Advertisement, The Australian, 7/7/09)

"And I will be going to Israel on a Yachad Scholarship to study disability issues and the role of women in the Israeli military." (Senator Mitch Fifield, Adjournment Speech - Gilad Shalit, 25/6/09, mitchfifield.com) [See my 11/7/09 post Hot on Gillard's High Heels]

"We ought to pay close attention to what preoccupies our military. While defense officials hold discussions on buying the F-35 combat jet at $200 million per plane, the IDF is mostly busy with miserable, pointless police work that befits an occupation army... In the dead of night, soldiers in elite and not-so-elite units break into the homes of Palestinians... and needlessly awaken and frighten women and children. Their comrades spend their service standing at checkpoints, occasionally shooting and killing needlessly. Other soldiers chase after children throwing stones or Molotov cocktails and shoot at them... We saw it, of course, during Operation Cast Lead, the war that provoked almost no opposition. As reported last week by... Human Rights Watch, our drones bombed helpless Gaza residents... Our jets and helicopters, among the most sophisticated in the world, are bombing residential neighborhoods. They may be preparing for an operation that fires the imagination in Iran, but meanwhile they are circling the Gaza sky as if it belonged to them. If that were not enough, we now have the most advanced system of all: female soldiers who are lookouts trained to shoot live fire after completing 'precedent-setting training'. The army newspaper Bamahane reported it with great enthusiasm: 'This is the first time female soldiers will shoot automatic gunfire from within a WR, noted the CO of the TB', whatever those initials mean. In simpler language, it means that 19-year old girls are playing with joysticks in an air-conditioned room and 'taking down' people. This then is the great progress of the 'people's army' - to train women to kill, while their comrades, soldiers and Border Police, are routinely sent to shoot live fire at unarmed demonstrators at Bil'in and Na'alin. This, for the most part, is the IDF's balance sheet. This is what largely preoccupies the best, most moral army in the world. Pilots who have never fought in an air battle and soldiers with no army against them now spend most of their time maintaining the occupation in a kind of pathetic combat, and they are our protective shield. When the day of reckoning comes, we will remember this." (Our IDF, Gideon Levy, Haaretz, 6/7/09)

Friday, July 17, 2009

Zionists Say the Darndest Things

Still crazy after all these years:

"I believed that if we crave life in the Mideast arena, we have to sometimes just 'go crazy'." Former IDF Chief of Staff Dan Halutz speaking on the third anniversary of Israel's 2006 rampage in Lebanon (Halutz: Sometimes you just have to 'go crazy', ynetnews.com, 12/7/09)

Narcissism on steroids:

"There are now many Iraqis embedded with US forces in Kirkuk. In the dining hall on the main base, I like to watch the Iraqi officers watching the melting pot of US soldiers around them - men, women, blacks, whites, Asians, Hispanics - and wonder: What have they learned from us? We left some shameful legacies here of torture and Abu Ghraib, but we also left a million acts of kindness and a profound example of how much people of different backgrounds can accomplish when they work together." New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman (Goodbye Iraq, and good luck, 15/7/09)

It's us & them:

"Me? Brute force? I thought I was actually sensitive. In national and international issues, force is also a language. But I do not like wars between Jews. I prefer to direct the brute-force energies within me at the goyim." Netanyahu's National Security Adviser Uzi Arad (There is no Palestinian Sadat, no Palestinian Mandela, Haaretz, Ari Shavit, 16/7/09)

In your dreams:

"[P]ossibly someone might come along and say 'I am an engineer of events; the depth doesn't interest me - I am going to produce an event'. And within 3 years - presto - 4 Annapolises, 2 disengagements, global pyrotechnics. And then, suddenly, in 2015, there is a Palestinian state. Stamps, parades, carnival. That could happen. A fragile structure, yes; an arrangement resting wholly on wobbly foundations. But it could happen. There could be a Palestinian state." (ibid)

It's Dr Strangelove all over again:

"[Herman] Kahn is the original Dr Strangelove. He was a Jewish-American genius who was a salient nuclear hawk and dealt with the planning and feasability of nuclear wars... He attracted a group of devotees of whom I was one in the 1970s... Like Kahn, I was one of the hawks. One of my projects was a paper for the Pentagon on planning a limited nuclear war in Central Europe." (ibid)

Only the lonely:

"We are always alone. Sometimes we have partners and lovers and donors of money, but no one is in our shoes." (ibid)

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Yet More 'Quality' Journalism

The Australian is capable of objectivity in the case of China: "The al-Qa'ida call for vengeance [against China's crackdown on Muslim Uighurs in Xinjiang] will be used by China to provide greater credibility, domestically and abroad, for its rhetorical concerns about the dangers from Muslim activism." (Al-Qa'ida to take on Beijing, Rowan Callick, 15/7/09)

But can you imagine the same degree of objectivity in the case of Israel? namely 'The Hamas call for vengeance [against Israel's massacres of Palestinians in Gaza] will be used by Israel to provide greater credibility, domestically and abroad, for its rhetorical concerns about the dangers of Muslim activism.'

And how about this on SBS' 6.30 News last night: "It's not the first time Israel faced criticism of its Gaza offensive, claimed by Palestinians to have cost more than 900 civilian lives." (Israeli soldiers speak out)

Contrast this with how the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) reported Gaza's death toll: "Over the course of the 22 day Israeli assault on the Gaza Strip, a total of 1,417 Palestinians were killed. Of these, 236 were combatants. The vast majority of the dead... were civilians and non-combatants: protected persons according to the principles of international humanitarian law. PCHR investigations confirm that, in total, 926 civilians lost their lives... 255 police officers were also killed; the majority (240) in air strikes carried out on the first day of the attacks." (Press Release, 12/3/09)

Even that figure can only be provisional. With the finding of yet another decomposed body under Gaza's sea of rubble, according to a Palestinian Health Ministry official, "the number of those who were killed during the Israeli war on Gaza amounts to 1,505." (Medics identify 1,505th victim of Gaza assault, Ma'an News Agency, 11/7/09)

From now on, when SBS reports Israeli death tolls, I'll expect them to leave out both cops and combatants. And I'll also expect them to use a qualifier such as claimed or alleged.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

How Sweet It Is

"Strauss Group, Israel's 2nd-largest food and beverage company, has become, over the past few years, an international corporation with a steadily growing part of its business conducted outside of Israel. The Group employs 11,600 people and operates 19 production sites in 16 countries. In the last 6 years the group has consistently achieved growth that more than doubled the volume of its business during that period, generating... around $1.7 billion in turnover at the end of 2008, of which 47% came from international activities. The Group is built around 3 core businesses: Strauss Israel, which focuses on 2 major consumption trends: Health and Wellness and Fun and Indulgence; Strauss Coffee... and Strauss North America, which incorporates the Mediterranean dips and spreads company Sabra, with product lines that target the health and wellness trend, and the Chocolate Bar chain Max Brenner that targets the fun and indulgence trend." (About Us - Overview, A glimpse into the Strauss Group business world, strauss-group.com)

"Max Brenner presented the Chocolate Bar to the world as an innovative retail concept characterized by a unique chocolate culture that strengthens the social experience and the fun of eating and drinking chocolate... Max Brenner has 24 Chocolate Bars operating around the world: 6 in Israel, 2 in the US, 2 in the Philippines, 1 in Singapore and 13 in Australia." (ibid)

"Max Brenner wanted to be an author. So it seems surprising that he ended up being a world-famous chocolatier... But his passion for the cocoa bean doesn't obscure his nuanced view of the world. When asked about politics and specifically about the protests at his Sydney stores - seen as a symbol of Israel - earlier this year, Brenner was quick to respond. 'Everything that has to do with conflict seems stupid to me. I am a very peaceful person. Whether it is in Israel, or not, anything to do with violence, aggressiveness or appearing at protests or boycotts seems silly [to me]. But then again I am just a tiny person who loves beautiful things'." (Brenner on chocolate, The Australian Jewish News, 10/7/09)

"Our connection with soldiers goes as far back as the country, and even further. We see a mission and need to continue to provide our soldiers with support, to enhance their quality of life and service conditions, and sweeten their special moments. We have adopted the Golani reconnaissance platoon for over 30 years and provide them with an ongoing variety of food products for their training or missions, and provide personal care packages for each soldier that completes the path. We have also adopted the Southern Shualei Shimshon troops from the Givati platoon with the goal of improving their service conditions and being there at the front to spoil them with our best products." (Corporate Responsibility, Over 70 years of Community Involvement, strauss-group.com)

"Sayeret Golani was created in 1951. It was originally named Machleket Siyur Meyuchedet, or Special Reconnaissance Platoon; a part of the 1st Golani Infantry Brigade... They have operated all over Israel and even beyond; in Lebanon, Syria, and even Uganda. Sayeret Golani has had a bloody but illustrious history." (Israel's Sayeret Golani, specwarnet.net)

"It was the height of the Palestinian intifada, or uprising, which began at the end of 1987, and Rabin, then Defense Minister, ordered a policy of 'force, might and beatings' to quell the rebellion. Israeli soldiers filled hospital wards with young Palestinian men with their hands in casts, their arms swollen like sausages. The Golani Brigade was in the midst of it. One day reporters came upon some of them in a Palestinian village near Bethlehem, dragging youths into a bus packed with soldiers beating their clubs on the steel seat frames in unison and chanting wildly: 'We are Golani! We are insane! And even in Golani, it seemed, few beat the Palestinians with the enthusiasm of Pvt. Yigal Amir [Rabin's assassin]. 'In Golani, everybody hits', Mr Amir's comrade, Mr Nagar remembered. 'I wasn't clean either. But Yigal was something special, a rank unto himself'. During searches in Jabalya, a refugee camp in the Gaza Strip, Mr Nagar said, 'The officer says, before breaking into a house, give them a 10,000 mile tune-up. Yigal was the enforcer, with a capital E. Hit them hard, hit here, push there. Destroy stuff. He enjoyed badgering them just for fun'... The experience was not uncommon. A government report in 1989 on the effects of serving during the intifada found troops more violent in every aspect of their lives and, among the religious right [like Amir], imbued with a deeper hatred of Arabs. Three men who had served in Golani have committed widely publicized murders of Arabs and an Israeli peace campaigner." (A son of Israel: Rabin's assassin, John Kifner, The New York Times, 19/11/95)

"Channel 10 on Thursday released footage taken by Israel Defense Forces soldiers of themselves humiliating a bound and blindfolded Palestinian man at a West Bank checkpoint. The footage shows the Palestinian kneeling and repeating sentences given to him to say by the soldiers, who belong to the Golani Brigade. One of the lines is: 'Golani will bring you a log to stick up your ass'. As the detainee repeats the words, the soldiers are heard laughing raucously in the background." (IDF troops film themselves humiliating bound Palestinian, Haaretz, 6/11/08)

"At the eye of the Gaza storm is the Golani Brigade. Golani is currently operating in the sector in which the IDF has seen the toughest battles with Hamas, the eastern part of Gaza City... Golani has a complex image within the IDF.... [I]t is known as a brigade that struggles with no small number of disciplinary problems and scandals, caused by bad behavior ranging from revolts against commanders to abuse of Palestinians." (The IDF's Golani Brigade: always first on the scene at the front line, Amos Harel, Haaretz, 6/1/09)

Sins of Omission

Greg (Jerusalem Prize) Sheridan, foreign editor of The Australian and advertised "most influential foreign affairs analyst in Australian journalism," did not write these sentences in his opinion piece on 9 July: '[A]s usual, the Israelis have the international community bluffed. They have achieved this with the Palestinian territories in part by convincing the world that all Palestinian activists are 9/11-style terrorists.'

But he did write this: "[A]s usual, the Chinese have the international community bluffed. They have achieved this with Xinjiang in part by convincing the world that all Uighur activists are 9/11-style terrorists." (China's crackdown has the world bluffed)

Nor did he write: 'The Palestinians have a lot of grievances... When the Jewish Zionists took control of Palestine in 1948, Jews made up 33% of the poulation, with Palestinians the vast majority.'

But he did write this: "The Uighurs have a lot of grievances... When the Han Chinese communists took control of Xinjiang in 1949, ethnic Han made up about 6% of the population, with Uighurs the vast majority." (ibid)

He has never referred to Palestinians as 'a minority in their own homeland.'

He has, however, referred to Uighurs as "a minority in their own homeland." (ibid)

Likewise, he has never written about 'the danger of the nationalism and Jewish Israeli chauvinism.'

But he has written about "the danger of the nationalism and ethnic Han chauvinism." (ibid)

Go figure.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Hot on Gillard's High Heels

Look who's next in line for some of that seductive Israeli stroking:-

"Following hot on the heels of his parliamentary colleagues' trip to Israel with the Australia Israel Cultural Exchange (AICE), Victorian Senator Mitch Fifield departed for the country last Friday. The Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for Disabilities, Carers & the Voluntary Sector was awarded a Yachad scholarship* to travel to Israel. Deputy Opposition Leader Julie Bishop, together with other MPs**, is also visiting Israel this month as part of an Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council (AIJAC) trip. Senator Fifield said his trip would primarily focus on matters relating to his portfolio. He will visit Israeli non-governmental organisations (NGOs) that provide help to people with disabilities, their families and their carers. He will also visit NGOs that work with youth at risk. Senator Fifield has been a long-time supporter of the Jewish community and was also one of two senators who recently defended Israel in parliament.***" (Senator's Israel scholarship, The Australian Jewish News, 10/7/09)

[*Yachad scholarship: "Mitch is an advisory board member of the Yachad Accelerated Learning Project (YALP). YALP is a unique educational program based on Israeli approaches to addressing systemic educational disadvantage. YALP began as a pilot project in Australia aimed at raising the scholastic achievements of students in regional and remote communities, particularly those with a high proportion of academically low achieving indigenous students... YALP is a partnership between: Indigenous & Non-Indigenous Communities; Government, Industry & Philanthropy; Israel & Australia." (mitchfifield.com)]

[** "I take this opportunity to acknowledge that, while the parliament is in recess, a number of members of this and the other place will be travelling to Israel. At the moment, the Deputy Prime Minister, with the member for Higgins, is leading the Australia-Israel leadership dialogue, which Senator Brandis, Senator Barnett and Mr Pyne are also participating in. Also during the break there will be an Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council (AIJAC) delegation, led by Ms Julie Bishop, going to Israel. Senator [Simon] Birmingham [Lib SA], Senator [Scott] Ryan [Lib Vic], Mrs [Louise] Markus [Lib MP for Greenway, NSW] and Mr [Bruce] Billson [Lib MP for Dunkley, Vic] will also be taking part in that. And I will be going to Israel on a Yachad scholarship to study disability issues and the role of women in the Israeli military. These high-level exchanges are important. Australia and Israel share common values. Both Israel and Australia are great and robust democracies. Israel is a beacon of hope and liberty in the Middle East. Israel needs its friends, and there are none more staunch than Australia." (Adjournment speech - Gilad Shalit, 25/6/09, mitchfifield.com)]

[*** "Those who kidnapped Gilad are terrorists. They are criminals. Gilad was defending his country, democracy and the rule of law. We should not forget that Gilad was defending his homeland - defending Israel from those we know seek its destruction." (ibid)]

Can hardly wait for Mitch's coming report on "the role of women in the Israeli army." Only one thing's bothering me: if disability issues is Mitch's thing, wouldn't Gaza be the place to go?

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Highway Robbery

Here's an interesting piece from the Sydney Morning Herald's Middle East correspondent Jason Koutsoukis: "The Israeli Prime minister's closest adviser and key strategist, Ron Dermer, has admitted that Israel faces a serious public relations problem and needs aggressively to tackle negative perceptions around the world... 'We have to break out of the straitjacket', he said. 'We have to defend our own right to defend ourselves. It's not for other people to do it for us... It is not enough for Israel to say that it wants peace... You must also say that you are not a thief. We did not steal another people's land. That is the core of this conflict'... In pursuing a strategy that will centralise the Government's responses to issues raised by the foreign media into a kind of war room, and make better use of public opinion research, Mr Dermer says Israel has to start shaming countries and organisations that hold Israel to a different standard. '[People] who get together to call for a boycott against Israel, are they calling for a boycott against North Korea, the world's largest concentration camp? When you hold Israel to a standard that you won't hold another country to, what are you doing? You are being anti-Semitic... Within this story [of Israel & the Middle East] is this narrative that has grown much stronger in recent years that is essentially false: people who see us as colonialist invaders. But once the Palestinians accept that we, the Jews, are here by right, that we are not foreign colonialists and we're not invaders, even if they say [the land] it's 1% yours and 99% ours, then we're in real negotiations'. " (Israel draws up road map for image overhaul, 4/7/09)

On the allegation of holding Israel to a different standard to other international terror states, see my 17/5/09 post Sheridan in Love 4. It's Dermer's claim that Israel is not a land-grabbing colonial settler state that I wish to tackle here. True, prior to 1948, the Zionist movement in Palestine wasn't in much of a position to turf the natives off their land. It had to fork out for the territory it acquired. After 1948, however, it was a different story:-

"Having expelled the majority of the native indigenous Palestinian... people from the territories that came under the control of the Israeli army in the course of the 1948-49 war and being congnizant of UN General Assembly Resolution 194(II) of December 1948 'that the refugees wishing to return to their homes and live at peace with their neighbours should be permitted to do so at the earliest practicable date', the Israeli authorities then pursued the systematic destruction of their homes with the aim that there be no homes for the refugees to return to. Of the 500 or so Palestinian Arab villages and cities, some 400... were destroyed and almost all razed to the ground by the Israeli army during the 1948-49 war and throughout the 1950s.

"As noted above, the State of Israel has consistently denied the right of return to the erstwhile Palestinian Arab inhabitants of the land, and violated UN General Assembly resolutions recognizing their right of return and calling for their repatriation. In fact, all 1948 Palestinian Arab refugees and internally displaced persons are legislated in Israel as 'absentees' through the Absentees' Property Law of 1950. Thus some four million 1948 Palestinian refugees today outside the 'Green Line' have been alienated from all rights to Israeli citizenship, to their lands, and to their properties in Israel. And of the 150,000 of the native indigenous Palestinian Arab people who found themselves in the wake of the 1948-49 armistice agreements inside the 'Green Line', the approximately one million Palestinian Arab citizens of Israel today, some 25%, 250, 000 persons, are internally displaced persons, 'present absentees', likewise denied all rights in their pre-1948 properties inside Israel... The vast number of properties classified under the Absentees' Property Law... as 'absentee property' can be further assessed if one recalls that, until 1947, individual or corporate Jewish land ownership in Palestine did not exceed 7% of the territory of British Mandate Palestine, or 10% of the territories that came under Israeli rule and occupation following the 1948-49 war. According to the Israeli Custodian of Absentee Property, almost 70% of the territory of pre-1967 Israel consists of land classified as 'absentee property'... Jewish National Fund estimates, on the other hand, set the figure as high as 88%... All these massive properties have been vested under the Absentees' Property Law... with the Custodian of Absentee Property... Under the said law, every right an 'absentee' had with regard to any property is vested with the Custodian, and the status of the Custodian was legislated to be the same as that of the owner of the property... By all accounts, the properties invested in the Custodian... following the 1948-49 war constituted the primary rural and urban resources for post-1948 Israeli, exclusively Jewish, settlement projects, cultivation and development.

"As Moshe Dayan noted in his famous speech before students at the Israeli Institute of Technology (Techniyon) in 1969: 'We came here to a country that was populated by Arabs, and we are building here a Hebrew, Jewish state. In a considerable portion of localities we purchased the lands from the Arabs. Instead of Arab villages, Jewish villages were established. You even do not know the names of these villages and I do not blame you, because these geography books no longer exist. Not only the books, but also the villages no longer exist. Nahalal was established in the place of Mahalul, Gevat in the place of Jibta, Sarid in the place of Hanifas and Kefar Yehoshu'a in the place of Tel Shamam. There is not a single settlement that was not established in the place of a former Arab village'." (Apartheid Israel: Possibilities for the Struggle Within, Uri Davis, 2003, pp 31-36)

Pull the other, Ron.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Our Lady of the Walkleys

According to her profile at womenofaustralia.info, the ABC's Monica Attard is the holder of "five Walkley Awards including a Gold Walkley for Excellence in Journalism." We are also told that she believes that "the journalist should not set out to provoke interviewees, but at times there is a moral obligation to speak out." Since leaving ABC's Media Watch, Attard has been interviewing the movers & shakers on Radio National's Sunday Profile.

Interviewing Israel's Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon and Australia's Deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard on 2/7/09 was evidently not one of those occasions that entailed "a moral obligation to speak out." No, more a time to go with the Zionist PR flow washing over the ABC these days.

Attard's introduction set the tone for the interviews: Israel's inexorable 61-year old colonial project of swallowing the land of Palestine while spitting out its indigenous inhabitants was described as a "dispute." Hamas, not Israel's occupation and colonization of Palestine, was "the sticking point." Its "habit of firing rocket missiles [!!!] into Israel... a practice which caused a dramatic and bloody response from Israel earlier this year," was the main game, with not a peep about Israel's sadistic throttling of the Gaza Ghetto. And then, of course, the obligatory reference to Iran, which "leaves Israel feeling very nervous indeed." How very solicitous. What followed was predictably tame:-

Ayalon's risible statement that "we do not interfere with other countries' domestic issues" passed without comment from Attard. As did his hypocritical references to the Iranian elections: "an issue of freedom and human rights"; "I do hope there's no bloodshed"; Iran should abide by "international norms." Ditto for Ayalon's equally hypocritical reference to Iran's alleged "illegal nuclear activities."

Asked about Gillard's trip to Israel, Ayalon cooed these now familiar sweet nothings: "We see Australia not only as a sister democracy, but as a very good friend and ally which has historic ties here in Israel. There were Australian soldiers... that participated in... liberating the land of Israel from the Ottoman Empire during World War I. [!!!] They were again here in World War II. We have very good trade relations and are really kindred spirits in many, many ways when it comes to the rule of law, democratic values, ethics. You also had come to a barren land and made it bloom, [!!!] so the relations are very good and we were very happy and pleased and delighted to have here the Deputy Prime Minister of Australia, and the more visits the better, and we also intend to reciprocate with visits in Australia as well." Neither his liberties with history, nor his humbug, elicited so much as a groan from Attard, allegedly "one of Australia's most respected news and current affairs journalists (womenofaustralia.info).

"There are some things we don't have in common," Attard finally piped up, referring merely to Gillard's parroting of Obama's call for a "freeze" on Israeli settlements. The former Israeli Ambassador to Washington was more than a match for her though: "We understand, but friends may agree to disagree." And then, having touched on that Incarnation of Evil and Insuperable Impediment to Lasting Peace in the Middle East, Hamas, came this gobsmackingly gormless question from Our Lady of the Walkleys: "Can you accept Hamas having a role in a Palestinian government in return for more settlements?" Think about it.

"Was there any discussion of military cooperation between us?" Attard asked. The otherwise fluent Israeli pollywaffle sounded lost for words: "No, but... we... you know... as like-minded states in many areas of course... that we will always share everything that we can and we will continue with that." Share what? she neglected to ask. "Was an international peace-keeping force discussed?" she did. "We're not there yet," replied Ayalon. Yet? she didn't ask.

A particularly bizarre question arose in the context of Attard's reference to Ayalon's chairmanship of "an organisation dedicated to increasing the number of immigrants to Israel." Referring to Jews who live outside Israel as a "diaspora," Attard asked, "Would you consider helping Australian Jews move to Israel considering that Australia has the highest proportion of Jews outside Israel?" Were they perhaps in some kind of danger that only Attard could divine? Apparently, the distinct possibility that Australia's Jewish community might actually consider Australia their real home seems to have eluded her. Ayalon, of course, didn't miss a beat. "Australia could be a very great place for us to work," he chirped.

At that, it was Gillard's turn. "How did the idea of a settlement freeze go down with the Israeli leadership," Attard asked her: "I don't think that they were surprised by Australia's position. Our foreign minister Stephen Smith had made it well known. Clearly, for the Israeli government... this is a difficult issue. What the prime minister would say is that he does agree with the need to halt the further development of new settlements, but he would seek to continue to have natural growth within current Israeli settlements, whereas the Americans have made it very clear that they're talking about a halt on all settlement activity. The Australian view is that we do need to see a halt if we are going to have a peace process and dialogue in the Middle East that leads to a two-state solution... and it only makes the striking of that agreement more complicated if we continue to see settlement activity..."

Asked about possible "obstacles" in the way of such a scenario, Gillard proceded to tie herself in knots: "I walked away from my conversation with the Israeli prime minister believing there was a real preparedness for a genuine discussion. He genuinely wants to step forward and engage in a discussion about peace. He has obviously made his predispositions as the prime minister of the nation clear, but he's also said he's prepared to participate in a discussion with the Palestinian leadership with no preconditions." This was apparently too hard for Our Lady of the Walkleys to unravel, and so the contradiction inherent in Netanyahu having "predispositions" (no Palestinian army, no Palestinian control over airspace, no sharing of Jerusalem, no right of return for Palestinian refugees, Palestinian recognition of Israel as an ethnocracy), but "no preconditions," was left dangling.

Past this point, Gillard started sounding like Ayalon himself. When asked if the Australian government could see itself dealing with Hamas, she positively took the words right out of his mouth: Hamas was a "terrorist organization" that needed to "renounce violence." If images of Israeli state terror rose before her eyes, the Walkley Winner remained mum.

She did, however, raise the issue of Amnesty International's recent accusation of Israeli war crimes in Gaza (See Amnesty accuses Israel over Gaza, Jason Koutsoukis, SMH, 3/7/09). Gillard, continuing to channel Ayalon, responded: "We do need to remember this was an Israeli response to continued rocket attacks out of Gaza into Israeli civilian areas." And when asked about Israel's "level of force," Gillard-Ayalon was quick to assert "Israel's need to defend its people," before adding that "we've continued to express concerns about the humanitarian circumstances of the Palestinian people." And to whom in Israel did you express these concerns, and with what result? Attard didn't bother asking.

Monday, July 6, 2009

More 'Quality' Journalism at The Australian

"Saddam Hussein was evil, but he was no genius. According to declassified FBI prison interviews with the Iraqi dictator he wanted the world to believe he was armed with weapons of mass destruction. His purpose was to intimidate Iran, which he feared more than the US... But by encouraging the US and its allies to overestimate his arsenal he designed his own destruction. These revelations end arguments the US invaded Iraq to make it an American puppet... And the way US energy companies pulled out of the bidding for petroleum concessions on offer in Iraq this week demonstrates arguments the war was all about oil were always nonsense. While the West's intelligence effort was utterly inadequate, all GW Bush, Tony Blair and John Howard are guilty of is being gulled by Saddam. He did his best to make them believe he was armed with chemical and biological weapons... [I]n invading Iraq the allies acted in good faith. Saddam wanted the world to believe he was armed and dangerous - and he succeeded." (As inept as he was evil: Saddam wanted the world to believe he was dangerous, The Australian editorial, 4/7/09)

Run that past me again: "[H]e wanted the world to believe he was armed with WMD." Did he now? What did Saddam really say in those declassified prison interviews?

"Saddam acknowledged Iraq had made a mistake in destroying some weapons without UN supervision. In Saddam's view UN inspectors wanted all their expenses... paid for by Iraq. Instead of waiting for the inspectors and bearing these expenses, Iraq commenced destruction of the weapons. Iraq did not hide these weapons. Regarding destruction of weapons, Saddam stated, 'We destroyed them. We told you, with documents. That's it.' When asked about restrictions placed on locations... Saddam replied, 'By God, if I had such weapons, I would have used them in the fight against the United States'." (The Saddam Files: His final interviews, The Independent, 5/7/09) Nothing here about wanting the world to believe he had WMD.

Or here: "Saddam stated the development of WMD was for the defence of Iraq's sovereignty. Iraq demonstrated this with the use of WMD during the Iran-Iraq War, as Iran had threatened the sovereignty of Iraq. Yet Iraq did not use WMD during the 1991 Gulf War as its sovereignty was not threatened... Saddam claimed his position was that Iraq prior to the invasion did not have them." (ibid)

In fact, in the years leading up to the invasion of Iraq, Saddam denied having WMD. Hans Blix, head of the UN's Monitoring, Verification & Inspection Commission in Iraq (2000-2003), quotes from a letter of Saddam's (7/2/02) to the Turkish PM (cited by US Assistant Secretary of State for Non-Proliferation Robert Einhorn): "As pertains to the WMD, Iraq, which no longer has any of these weapons, and has no intention of producing them, is in the forefront of those who are keen that our region be free of WMDs." (Disarming Iraq: The Search for WMD, p 60)

The Australian's editorial is quality alright - quality bullshit.

Quality Journalism Heads South

"Quality journalism,"* as produced by the "most influential foreign affairs analyst in Australian journalism"** Greg (Jerusalem Prize) Sheridan: "Latin America is a vast treasure house of cultural and human richness. But, at the moment, too much of it is going badly awry. Too much chilli in the burrito, not enough sweetness in the tortilla." (Where democracy heads south, The Sunday Telegraph, 5/7/09)

And in case you were wondering, it's supposed to be about the coup in Honduras.

Viva "quality journalism"!

[*See my 2/7/09 post Corrupting Serious Debate; **About Greg Sheridan, The Australian's website]

Friday, July 3, 2009

Honduras: The Israeli Connection

The democratically elected Honduran President Manuel Zelaya has just been ovethrown in a military coup. The New York Times reminds us - ever so gently - that "The United States has long had strong ties to the Honduras military and helps train Honduran military forces. Those close ties have put the Obama administration in a difficult position, opening it up to accusations that it may have turned a blind eye to the pending coup. Administration officials strongly deny the charges, and Mr Obama's quick response to the Honduran president's removal has differed sharply from the actions of the Bush administration, which in 2002 offered a rapid, tacit endorsement of a short-lived coup against Mr Chavez." (In a coup in Honduras, ghosts of past US policies, Helene Cooper, 30/6/09)

But someone else has also had very close ties to the Honduran military:-

"Mention any trouble spot in the Third World over the past 10 years, and, inevitably, you will find smiling Israeli officers and shiny Israeli weapons on the news pages. The images have become familiar: the Uzi submachine gun or the Galil assault rifle, with Israeli officers named Uzi and Galil, or Golan, for good measure. We have seen them in South Africa, Iran, Nicaragua, El Salvador, from Seoul to Tegucigalpa, from Walvis Bay to Guatemala City, from Taipei to Port-au-Prince, Israeli citizens and military men have been helping, in their own words, in 'the defense of the West'." (The Israeli Connection: Whom Israel Arms & Why, Benjamin Beit-Hallahmi, 1987, p xii)

That's right, Tegucigalpa, capital of Honduras. Here are some of the pre-1987 details:-

"Honduras has the distinction of being the poorest country in one of the poorest regions of the world. This lack of resources does have its positive aspects, though; for instance, it has sometimes prevented the Honduran generals and their Israeli friends from carrying out grand designs for spending on new and sophisticated weapons. Honduran ground forces have been equipped with Israeli Galil rifles and Uzi submachine guns, and both the air force and ground forces have had Israeli advisors. Israel has played a crucial role in making the Honduran air force the strongest in Central America, by sending Israelis to train Honduran pilots, and by selling rebuilt French Dassault Super-Mystere B2 jets equipped with American engines. These jets, originally built in the 1950s and considered obsolete anywhere else today, are considered sophisticated in Central America - they were the first supersonic jet fighters in the region. Since 1977, Israel has sold twelve Super-Mysteres, three Arava transports, and a Westwind jet transport to Honduras, making it the leading air power in the region. (Israel wanted to sell its Kfir jet fighters to Honduras, but since their engines are made by General Eletric, the United States used its authority to block the sale.)

"The December 1982 visit to Honduras by Defence Minister Ariel Sharon received much attention. 'During my brief stay, I could take advantage of the opportunity to sign agreements on agriculture, health, and cultural assistance', he said at a news conference in Tegucigalpa. Sharon came only two days after President Ronald Reagan left - and according to a Honduran functionary, 'Sharon's trip was more positive. He sold us arms. Reagan only uttered platitudes, explaining that Congress was preventing him from doing more'. The Sharon entourage included General David Ivri, commander of the air force, and General Aharon Beit-Hallahmi, then director-general of the Defense Ministry. Besides signing a military accord, including weapons deliveries and training by Israeli advisors, Sharon visited miltary bases - and contra units based in Honduras.

"Interestingly, Sharon was invited not by the Honduran government, but by the commander-in-chief of the armed forces and strongman General Gustavo Alvarez Martinez, who had told the world about his admiration for two great modern generals: Irwin Rommel and Ariel Sharon. The Sharon visit reciprocated Alvarez Martinez's secret visit to Israel in July. The major arms deal envisioned by Sharon did not materialize, apparently because of the Hondurans' lack of hard currency. Sharon's aides had proposed a rearmament program worth $200 million, while impoverished Honduras could offer only $1 million. Three years later, in August 1985, Honduran foreign minster Edgardo Paz Barnica visited Israel and announced that his country was interested in Israeli civilian aid, but not in arms or military advisers. He acknowledged that Israel had sent military aid and advisers in the past." (ibid, pp 88-89)

So what was Honduras like when Sharon admirer General Martinez was strutting his stuff? Did any of that alleged 'Light unto the nations' shine on Honduras?

"With the ascension of Ronald Reagan to the White House... US pressure to democratise ended, and the military strengthened its stranglehold over the economy... Tens of millions in military aid poured into the generals' coffers, and the country was used as a base for US covert actions in the region... The president was reduced to a figurehead, while the army chief, General Martinez, a fanatical anti-Communist, wielded the real power. Under General Martinez, a comprehensive 'anti-subversive' pogrom was carried out, and death squads roamed the land. Labor organizers, dissidents of every stripe, even Catholic priests were rounded up, jailed, tortured, and murdered. Trained in Argentina in the tactics of the 'dirty war', Martinez was unrelenting in his ferocity, and his reign of terror effectively shut down Honduran civil society - with the enthusiastic approval of the American embassy." (History haunts Honduras, Justin Raimondo, antiwar.com, 30/6/09)

That was then. This is right now: "A Latin American expert sent me this from a major newspaper in Honduras: "Buena noticia. Embajadas de Taiwan e Israel reconocen al nuevo gobierno de Roberto Micheletti." (Good news. The embassies of Taiwan and Israel recognize the new government of Roberto Micheletti.) (The Angry Arab News Service, 1/7/09)

Will death squads be roaming the land once more?

Thursday, July 2, 2009

The Palestinian Golan Heights

Doug Anderson is the Sydney Morning Herald's TV reviewer. In today's edition, he reviews Beyond the Walls, a documentary on Israel's 100% illegal, land-grabbing West Bank Apartheid Wall to be screened on ABC Television tonight. Anderson has been the SMH's TV critic for as long as I can remember. His introductory sentences prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that too much television turns your brain to mush: "An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth... in perpetuity. In the land of the blind the one-eyed man is... Moshe Dayan? The arguments persist - lives are taken, sacrificed and wasted in an intractable dispute between Israelis and Palestinians. Neither can claim the high moral ground yet both lay claim to the Golan Heights [!!!] and Yahoo Netanyahu's rubbery policy of 'no new settlements' (but gradual and natural growth) is matched by faster breeding among the Palestinians. Do I have a solution? Do you? No."

I have a solution, Doug, switch the bloody thing off for once in your life and read a book.

Corrupting Serious Debate

Is that the truth? Or was your News Limited?

John Hartigan is the chairman and chief executive of Murdoch's News Limited, owner and publisher of The Australian, the foreign editor of which is Greg (Jerusalem Prize) Sheridan. Hartigan spoke yesterday to the National Press Club in Canberra. Among other things, he said, "several newspapers, notably the Wall Street Journal and The Australian... had prospered by investing in quality reporting." Just click on the 'Greg Sheridan' tag at the bottom of this post if you'd like to see what "quality reporting" means in action.

Hartigan had something else on his mind at the NPC: "Mr Hartigan... took aim at the blogosphere and so-called 'citizen journalism'. He said bloggers lacked the resources, training, skills and contacts to produce reliable news. 'Blogs and a large number of comment sites specialise in political extremism and personal vilification', he said. Mr Hartigan dismissed the claims often made by bloggers that theirs was a fresh, more democratic medium. 'Amateur journalism trivialises and corrupts serious debate', he said. 'It degenerates democracy into mob rule and rumour'." (Future of our newspapers is bright, Paul Maley, The Australian, 2/7/09)

Long live political extremism, personal vilification, the trivialisation and corruption of serious debate, mob rule, and rumour!

Lame As

Greg (Jerusalem Prize) Sheridan in praise of DPM Julia Gillard: "Gillard's outlook on... international relations generally has matured and deepened enormously over the past few years." (Gillard prime ministerial material in Israel, The Australian, 25/6/09)

Julia Gillard, on the ABC's Radio National, displaying her alleged enormously matured and deepened outlook on international relations:-

Geraldine Doogue: Now Minister Gillard, you've just returned from Israel and the Middle East. You're known for a bit of a forensic mind yourself. I wonder - if you were trying to sit there solving those issues, what would be your top priority seeing what you just have?
Gillard (embarrassed laugh): Well I may have to defer to the great and the good like Tony Blair who are working on these problems, but having just been to the Middle East, it seems to me that there is good will on both sides, both the Israeli and Palestinian side. I think the parties need to sit down and negotiate issues that have been identified in earlier peace processes. They of course go to having a separate state for the Palestinian people, its borders, its government's arrangements, and the way in which Israel and that new state will work together. (Breakfast, 1/7/09)

It doesn't get much lamer than that.