Sunday, April 25, 2010

'An Unmistakeable Whiff of Zionism!'

Ghassan Hage, Professor of Anthropology & Social Theory at Melbourne University, reflects on the the Cronulla riots (11/12/05) in his contribution to the 2009 anthology Lines In the Sand: The Cronulla Riots & National Belonging, Edited by Greg Noble:

"I kept a straight face and nodded when Marwan said: 'Mate, Alan Jones is a Zionist. Ackerman is a Zionist... they all go on special trips to Israel. The Israelis look after them and they pay back by working hard on making everyone hate us...' But I couldn't help revealing a smile when he said: 'you're naive if you think that the Zionists miss a chance of turning people against Arabs. And so, if you ask me, the mob in Cronulla, they were all influenced by Zionists or Zionists themselves...' The thought of all those beach boys in Cronulla as Zionists was hilarious. And I was smiling what must have looked like a condescending smile. It was unprofessional of me and Marwan was rightly offended. He prides himself to be well informed and an avid reader, and he is way beyond being intimidated by anybody or anything that threatens his firm beliefs. It also helps that he is a very solidly built bricklayer twice my size: 'yes go ahead and laugh, Mr Professor, you're a fucking idiot like the rest of them'." (Zionists, p 252)

"Perhaps what initially made the thought further linger in my mind was the vague sense of an analogy at the level of my own subjective imaginary between the way I think of the Israeli state 'encircling' and 'destroying' Palestinians and the image of the Cronulla crowd encircling that lone Lebanese guy and going for him. This is very thin indeed as far as social scientific evidence goes, but it is what made the thought 'linger on' in the back of my mind not what sustained it as a serious analytic proposition. What did sustain it analytically was the idea that slowly firmed in my mind that, despite their radical differences, Zionist politics today and the Cronulla crowd are/were both manifestations of assertive monoculturalism." (p 253)

"Unlike places such as England, where multiculturalism continued to temper emergent monocultural tendencies, the Australia of John Howard [1996-2007], after 10 years of a government committed to a politics of White restoration, was perhaps one of the few places in the Western world outside Israel where people were continuously and systematically invited to be 'relaxed and comfortable' in asserting White colonial 'core values' in the face of 'Third world looking people' who supposedly did not share these values and to be proud of themselves doing so. The Cronulla pogrom, in so far as it was a racist festival of self-indulgence, is unthinkable without the broad legitimisation by government and pro-governmental media of the White politics of 'counter-victimology' that it represented. In this construction, if you feel that it is you who is victimised by minorities, and not vice-versa as the multiculturalists like to claim, then you are probably right... don't let the multiculturalists censor you, express your outrage! This was long ago a foundational White minority Hansonite refrain, part of what I called then the ideology of 'White decline'. The Howard government, slowly and surely, ensured the propagation of this attitude throughout Australian culture by making it the very ideology of White reassertion. It is a paradoxical hybrid which not only asserted a belief in the cultural superiority of 'western' values, but which managed to fuse a sense of being threatened with a sense of domination: the purpose of being in power is not to feel powerful, but to assert your claim to be a victim: powerfully! Here again is an unmistakeable whiff of Zionism! You dominate, invade, penetrate, humiliate the Palestinian third world looking other... but at the end of the day, the problem is Palestinian/Arab aggression and anti-Semitism. Now here is the point that could be usefully highlighted: Australia under Howard had had more than 10 years of encouraged assertion of this type of White monoculturalism when the Cronulla event occurred. At the same time, and despite this, multiculturalism was too well entrenched in everyday life to simply disappear. So those Lebanese boys, mainly in their late teens and who are supposedly so un-integrated, must have grown up not just in the midst of Sydney's multicultural suburbs but also in the shadow of the aggressive reassertion of monocultural values. So why on earth are they only the product of multiculturalism? Are they not also, if not more so, the product of multiculturalism?" ( pp 256-257)

I was reminded of Hage's insightful analogy when I read the following in Murdoch's Daily Telegraph recently: "Sydney has Australia's largest proportion of Middle-Eastern born residents, but in a city of more than 4 million people they still number only about 120,000. Undeniably the community is disproportionately represented in criminal activity. You only need to go to the jails to see what NSW prison's officers have come to call their 'Gaza Strip'." (A culture of crime, Chris Masters, 9/4/10)

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