Here's the Sydney Morning Herald's political editor Peter Hartcher, writing in Saturday's SMH on former prime minister Kevin Rudd's alleged appearance on what Hartcher calls "the leadership catwalk":
"But Rudd's reach for moral leadership went beyond associating himself with organised religion. Consider two of his first acts as Prime Minister. The first was to sign the Kyoto Protocol, promising to address the 'great economic and moral challenge of our time'. The second was to apologise to Aborigines. Both were things that John Howard had extravagantly refused to do. Howard had given Rudd a precious gift. Both acts by Rudd were popular, as testified by the polls, and both bestowed a kind of moral benediction on a country that had been troubled by the government's failure to act on either... Rudd's critics were scornful of his symbolism. They completely missed an important dimension of Rudd as leader. Symbols are powerful because they are the visible signs of invisible realities. And while each symbolic act touched different invisible realities, the uber-appeal was moral. Religious voters and atheists alike found in Rudd a moral leader." (A transformer's sequel: Kevin Rudd understands why the people turned against him as PM - and what he could do to regain their trust, 18/6/11)
I think we can safely assume from the above that Hartcher approves of Rudd's February 2008 apology to Australia's indigenous people, an apolgy, you'll note, containing many references to past mistreatment:
"Today we honour the indigenous peoples of this land... We reflect on their past mistreatment... The time has now come for the nation to turn a new page in Australia's history by righting the wrongs of the past... We apologise for the laws and policies of successive Parliaments and governments that have inflicted profound grief, suffering and loss on these our fellow Australians... We today take this first step by acknowledging the past and laying claim to a future that embraces all Australians... A future where we embrace the possibility of new solutions to enduring problems where old approaches have failed... A future where all Australians, whatever their origins, are truly equal partners, with equal opportunities and with an equal stake in shaping the next chapter in the history of this great country, Australia."
I think we can also assume from what he's written that Hartcher is prepared to give due recognition to the importance of symbols and "invisible realities" in politics.
Imagine my surprise then when the very same Peter Hartcher, on the very next day, speaking as a panelist on Israel & Palestine in the New Middle East at the Sydney Opera House's Ideas at the House, contemptuously dismissed fellow panellist Saree Makdisi's references to the Palestinian refugees of 1948, their inalienable right of return, and the need for an inclusive one-state solution, taking in the present Jewish population of Israel, Israel's Palestinian citizens, returned Palestinian refugees and those Palestinians under occupation in the West Bank and Gaza, as "a reversion to old narratives," completely "unrealistic," and an example of "Marrickville Council syndrome."
What possessed him, I wondered, to ramble on, quite irrelevantly, about Koreans, Tibetans and Maoris, and to arrogantly dismiss any discussion of the historical roots of the Palestinian/Israeli conflict as little more than the airing of "old grudges" or "old illusions on a Marrickville Council scale"?
Damn silly questions, of course. The only question really worth asking in this context is surely: Who sponsored Hartcher's trip to Israel in 2009? (See my 15/3/10 post Pawns in a Propaganda Game)