When it comes to the Middle East conflict the Sydney Morning Herald editorialist never seems to get it:
"The short-lived boycott of Israel by Marrickville Council has been an interesting study of how distant foreign policy issues can sometimes intersect with local politics. The council and its mayor, Fiona Byrne, would never have envisaged the attention they ended up getting from what they would have regarded as a worthy but probably futile gesture."
Attention? Scan my 8/4/11 post The Australian Goes on the Warpath and tell me that's the word. Bullying, intimidation, thuggery, lies, misrepresentation, but attention?
"After all, many other councils - especially in the gentrified inner areas of Sydney and Melbourne - have similarly 'warned the Tsar' by adopting causes in conflict with Canberra's official policy. They have flown the Tibetan or West Papuan flag, hosted East Timorese resistance leaders, damned the Burmese junta. Why not support Palestinians?"
Causes in conflict with Canberra's official policy? Who is the Herald trying to kid here? Gillard's about to raise the issue of Tibetan human rights in China. Last November she wrote a letter of support for Burma's Aung San Suu Kyi and called for the release of Burmese political prisoners, free and fair elections and a political reconciliation process. At the same time, the Indonesian president complained that she was trying to 'pressure' him to investigate evidence of torture by the Indonesian military in West Papua. As for East Timor, the Howard government's military intervention in support of the East Timorese people seems to have been forgotten. But Palestine? Gillard's been cosying up to their oppressors ever since her university years. (See my 24/6/10 post Julia Gillard: A Retrospective)
"The difference is that Israel is a democracy, at least within its 1967 borders, and is open to argument; indeed in its domestic politics it's riven by argument. By jailing a former president for rape and putting a recent prime minister on trial for corruption, it has shown a strong ethos of impartial justice."
A democracy within its 67 borders? But without genuine equality for its non-Jewish citizens, and with the vast bulk of its indigenous population ethnically cleansed, stateless, and therefore disenfranchised, since 1948. Impartial justice? For Jews maybe, but for Palestinians on both sides of the Green Line?
No, the difference is not that Israel is or is not a democracy. The difference between councils taking up other causes and that of Palestine is that, in the case of Palestine, and only in the case of Palestine, there's a fanatical fifth column on hair-trigger ready to spring into action to snuff out any publicly expressed deviation from its dogmas. In the words of Herald columnist Mike Carlton, "It is a ferocious beast, the Jewish lobby. Write just one sentence even mildly critical of Israel and it lunges from its lair, fangs barred." (See my 12/6/10 post A Ferocious Beast)
The problem with the Herald editorialist is that he/she/it has a memory like the proverbial sieve. The Herald reported back in 2007 on Marrickville Council's first foray into Palestinian solidarity, the formalisation of a sister city relationship with Bethlehem Council. Smooth sailing? Not on your nellie: "The NSW Jewish Board of Deputies says the Palestinian council is controlled by the Muslim organisation Hamas. 'Their raison d'etre, as clearly expressed in Hamas's charter, is the destruction of Israel and worse than that, to kill every Jew', the board's chief executive, Vic Alhadeff, said..." (O little town of Marrickville what a fuss you've caused, Sunanda Creagh, 20/6)
And when Leichhardt Council proposed holding an exhibition highlighting the plight of Israeli-occupied, settler-infested Hebron... Well, you can read about that in my 26/5/08 post A Tale of Two Exhibitions)
And just in case I haven't made myself crystal clear - It's the Lobby stupid! - you may have heard SBS World News reporter Marion Ives saying, in her report on the BDS debate at Marrickville Council last Tuesday night: "The failure of the Israel boycott has raised questions about another council policy. For 12 years Marrickville has had a ban on Burma and one councillor now wants that rethought." (Boycott backdown)
Twelve years and we barely even knew about it. I wonder why?