The only editorial comment on Sunday's extraordinary Return to Palestine marches in the Australian press was to be found in Murdoch's Australian. Predictably, Zionist rag that it is, the editorialist offers us nothing new, merely deploying the standard Zionist canard that the refugees, ethnically cleansed from Palestine by Zionist forces in 1948, have been artificially kept on ice since that time merely for use as a propaganda tool against Israel when required by the region's incorrigibly cynical and manipulative Arab rulers:
"Only the naive believe the deadly clashes along Israel's borders on so-called Nakba Day (in the Palestinian lexicon Catastrophe Day, the day Israel was founded) are a signal that the spirit of defiance and confrontation that has challenged regimes across the Arab world is now inspiring Palestinians to greater militancy. There is some of that, to be sure. Palestinians desperate to advance their cause could hardly remain untouched by the images of demonstrators boldly rising up to achieve change in Egypt, Tunisia and elsewhere. But the choreography of what happened on Sunday suggests a more complex dimension to the clashes that occurred as Israeli soldiers opened fire on thousands of Palestinians marching from Syria, Lebanon, Gaza and the West Bank. Central to that choreography is Syria... which is seriously under threat from demonstrators, together with its close ally Iran and Hezbollah, the catspaw they jointly created to control South Lebanon. For 37 years, the truce between Israel and Syria, where about 500,000 Palestinians live, has kept the border between the 2 countries quiet... Similarly, nothing in South Lebanon - where there are another 500,000 Palestinian refugees - moves without the permission of Hezbollah. That these 2 borders should suddenly be the scene of the co-ordinated demonstrations and violence witnessed on Sunday suggests Mr Assad, as he brutally seeks to survive, is now playing his long-anticipated Israeli card. He is cynically telling countries pressuring him to reform his odious regime that if they persist in trying to force change, he can cause serious problems for Israel..." (Syria playing dangerous game: Israel protects its borders as Assad creates deadly diversion, Editorial, The Australian, 17/5/11)
And with that little Zionist homily, editorial commentary in this country was exhausted, the Fairfax papers having nothing whatever to say on the matter. But how utterly typical! As in the political sphere, when it comes to the touchstone issue of Palestine, the intellectual poverty and moral cowardice of the Australian corporates is nowhere more evident.
Thankfully, some overseas outlets, such as the UK's Economist magazine, are able to shed some honest editorial light on the significance of the Return to Palestine marches:
"For many years now, we've heard American commentators bemoan the violence of the Palestinian national movement. If only Palestinians had learned the lessons of Gandhi and Martin Luther King, we hear, they'd have had their state long ago. Surely no Israeli government would have violently suppressed a non-violent Palestinian movement of national liberation seeking only the universally recognised right of self-determination.
"Palestinian commentators and organisers, including Fadi Elsalameen and Moustafa Barghouthi, have spent the last couple of years pointing out that these complaints resolutely ignore the actual and growing Palestinian nonviolent resistance movement. For that matter, they elide the fact that the first intifada, which broke out in 1987, was initally as close to non-violent as could be reasonably expected. For the most part, it consisted of general strikes and protest marches. In addition, there was a fair amount of kids throwing rocks, as well as the continuing threat of low-level terrorism, mainly from organisations based abroad; the Israelis conflated the autochthonous protest movement with the terrorism and responded brutally, and the intifada quickly lost its non-violent character. That's not that different from what has happened over the past couple of months in Libya; it shows that its very hard to keep a non-violent movement non-violent when the government you're demonstrating against subjects you to gunfire for a sustained period of time.
"In any case, if you're among those who've made the argument that Israelis would give Palestinians a state if only the Palestinians would learn to employ Ghandian tactics of non-violent protest, it appears your moment of truth has arrived. As my colleague Peter Beinart writes, what happened on Nakba Day was Israel's 'nightmare scenario: masses of Palestinians marching, unarmed, towards to borders of the Jewish state, demanding the redress of their decades-old national grievance'. Israel's Palestinian Arab Spring: the tactics of mass non-violent protest that brought down the governments of Tunisia and Egypt, and are threatening to bring down the governments of Libya, Yemen and Syria, are now being used in the Palestinian cause.
"So now we have an opportunity to see how Americans will react. We've asked the Palestinians to lay down their arms. We've told them their lack of a state was their own fault; if only they would embrace non-violence, a reasonable and unprejudiced world would see the merit of their claims. Over the weekend, tens of thousands of them did just that, and it seems likely to continue. If crowds of tens of thousands of non-violent Palestinian protesters continue to march, and if Israel continues to shoot at them, what will we do? Will we make good on our rhetoric, and press Israel to give them their state? Or will it turn out that our paeans to non-violence were just cynical tactics in an amoral international power contest staged by militaristic Israeli and American right-wing groups whose elective affinities lead them to shape a common narrative of the alien Arab/Muslim threat. Will we even bother to acknowledge that the Palestinians are protesting nonviolently? Or will we soldier on with the same empty decades old rhetoric, now drained of any truth or meaning, because it respects established relationships of power? What will it take to make Americans recognise that the real Martin Luther King-style non-violent Palestinian protesters have arrived and that Israeli soldiers are shooting them with real bullets?" (Here comes your non-violent resistance, 17/5/11)
Thankfully too we have As'ad Abukhalil, aka The Angry Arab, and his indispensible news service, with its eyewitness updates, informed and critical commentary, wit, wisdom, and much else besides. Abukhalil has posted this vivid testimony to the courage and determination of the Palestinian returnees at the border with their Palestinian homeland:
"As'ad - not me - was in [the border village of] Marun ar-Ras. He sent me the following report after returning home: 'I witnessed unbelievable courage and heroism today. Ten deaths and dozens wounded, and these Palestinians would not stop. It was mind-boggling. I was 200 metres behind the fence. At the end, the Lebanese army attacked us and began shooting in the air. They chased us up the mountain. I'll never forget this day. Thousands of bullets were fired over our heads to drive us back. Friends were literally at the fence and I saw them falling. I will upload pics and videos later on FB. I will email you my thoughts later. We are still in shock. We were literally taking cover behind rocks. I don't really know what to say. I swear, if only these Palestinians were trained, armed and supported, Israel wouldn't last a week. Every Israeli bullet, As'ad, killed or wounded people on our side. Dozens of ambulances were leaving with them. But still they wouldn't stop. Showers of rocks were hurled in the other direction, but the damn Israeli snipers were shooting us down, one by one'." (angryarab.blogspot.com, 16/5/11)
Having introduced Abukhalil, I can't let this post go without quoting his spray at the shameful role of the Lebanese army in the massacre at Marun ar-Ras:
"This failure of an army, perhaps one of the greatest failures of an army ever, today shot at anti-Israel demonstrators at the Lebanese border after Israeli occupation war criminals had killed and wounded many of them. The lousy Lebanese army said that it didn't want to open a 'front' now because the situation is critical. I want to scream at the commanders of that lousy army: Wlah (I can't possibly translate this into any other language), you didn't open a front when Israel was attacking Lebanon and bombing your barracks. Wlah, when did you ever shoot to defend Lebanon from Israeli aggression? Wlah, your soldiers were sleeping when young volunteers defended Lebanon in 2006 and humiliated the Israeli occupation army. Wlah, you seriously think that any sane Lebanese (who is not on the payroll of the House of Saud or the House of Hariri) would ever consider you and your lousy soldiers qualified to defend Lebanon and resist Israeli aggression and occupation? Wlah, you are the army of shame, submission, humiliation, regression, withdrawal and cowardice. Go and munch on some snakes* - maybe that'll make you feel tough. What a joke you are."
[* A pathetic and cruel Lebanese army initiation rite]