Wednesday, December 29, 2010


Whose homeland?

"Mayhem, riots, death threats and sabotage attempts followed when the 230 Iraqis on board were told they were being taken back to Indonesia. People shouldn't behave this way, but they do. This was a lesson the Royal Navy learnt blockading Palestine to prevent Jews reaching their homeland* in the 1940s." (Arms are extended but backs are turned: Compassion is the likely loser after the tragedy at Christmas Island, David Marr, Sydney Morning Herald, 18/12/10)

[* See my 17/6/10 post Cannon Fodder for Zion: Exodus 1947]

This is a monumental howler by one of Fairfax's better journalists.

When even the best of them recycle Zionist mythology in this way, you've got to wonder what's going on. Was Marr channeling Leon Uris' 1958 propaganda novel Exodus, presumably read decades ago? Does this mean he hasn't read a corrective account of that event since? If so, what does his recourse to mythologised history tell us about the quality of his critical faculties, which, until reading the above, I had held in high regard?

Marr is the biographer of Australian novelist Patrick White (1912-1990), the first Australian to win a Nobel Prize for Literature.

In 1943, White, an RAF intelligence officer, was stationed in Haifa*. He wrote of the time:

"Looking back at the year I spent in Palestine I see a highly coloured, degrading collage: murders committed by the Stern Gang, adulteries between the Allied Forces and their Jewish mistresses, bribery, slander [...] Night after night the cabaret churned into action under the windows of the Hotel where we were billeted [...] Down the Carmel The Warsaw Concerto was belted out on a piano as we ate our vegetable stews. By day boatloads of European refugees who had escaped through Romania could be seen coming ashore, their few possessions squeezed into shoddy suitcases. Nightly again, at another club, another orange diva, this time Berlin, seduced us with You Walked Out of a Dream [...] and the dream in which we were all walking - of true love, peace, permanence, an Israel visualised by all the Jews, from the tragic European forced settlers, the bloodiest Stern Gangsters, to the tough new race of sabras born in the land of their forbears." (Why bother with Patrick White?

White, like so many Europeans at the time, was caught up in the Zionist dream, while blind to the Palestinians' nightmare. White may have had some excuse; it was 1943, and the Stern Gangsters hadn't yet been unleashed on the natives. It's now almost 2011, Marr has no such excuse.

[* On the fate of Haifa, see my 7/5/08 post Bend It Like Benny]

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