Friday, June 10, 2011

What Christopher Pyne Heard

Just to soften you up:

"We were getting to the root of BW's problem. He was under the impression that the PM ought to know what is happening. The basic rule for the safe handling of Foreign Affairs is that it is simply too dangerous to let politicians get involved with diplomacy. Diplomacy is about surviving till the next century - politics is about surviving till Friday afternoon. There are 157 independent countries in the world. The Foreign Office has dealt with them for years. There's hardly an MP who knows anything about any of them. Show MPs a map of the world, and many of them would have difficulty finding the Isle of Wight. Bernard was prepared to argue that MPs cannot be so ignorant. So Dick gave him a short quiz:

1. Where is Upper Volta?
2. What is the capital of Chad?
3. What language do they speak in Mali?
4. Who is the President of Peru?
5. What is the national religion of Cameroun?

Bernard scored 0%. Dick suggested that he stand for parliament." (Yes Prime Minister: The Diaries of the Hon. James Hacker, Volume 1, Edited by Jonathan Lynn & Antony Jay, 1986, pp 175-176)

Now to business. We all know that politicians, like kids, say the darndest things, but where do they get them from? What is the genesis of the tomfoolery that emerges whenever they open their mouths, which, in the case of Shadow Minister for Education Christopher Pyne, is all too often. Did I/we really hear this wannabe education minister on Q&A last Monday express the concern that BDS might "break down the harmony between Israeli and Palestinian citizens."

We sure did. And here's the sound-byte to prove it:

"The second thing I'd like to comment on with the BDS campaign... is that one of its key elements is to break down the harmony between Israeli and Palestinian citizens. So where Israelis and Palestinians are doing business together, involved in academic activities together at Al Quds University and other places, the AFL Palestinian-Jewish team that comes to Australia, came two years ago and is coming again this year, they're the kind of things that build relationships between Palestinians and Jewish Israelis to try and bring peace to the region, and yet the BDS campaign says those things must stop. So rather than adding to the peacefulness of the situation they are actually trying to make it worse. I assume to get some kind of blow up or some kind of revolution."

Now how this imaginary "harmony" gets elevated above the 63-year-old Middle East conflict, Palestinian refugees, Israeli occupation and all too frequent Israeli wildings is best known to Mr Pyne and his shrink. But where, if I may select just one strand of the above, did Pyne get his talking point about Al-Quds University? I mean, the jury's out on whether he even reads books, let alone books on the Palestine/Israel conflict.

Well, in this precise instance, I'm pretty sure I know just where Pyne has picked up his patter, directly or indirectly: ABC Radio National's The Science Show, much given these days to spruiking for Israel (See my 12/12/10 post The ABC of Zionist Propaganda. And here's the offending item, Students excel at Al-Quds (16/4/11):

Robyn Williams: Scientific research could also be a force for peace, even in the Middle East. This is Palestinian Professor Ziad Abdeen at the Al-Quds University in Jerusalem.

Ziad Abdeen: I'm amazed by the number of students I come across who are eager to go for higher degrees and who are eager to excel in the field of research... I think it's gratifying to be contributing to knowledge rather than becoming a teacher where you churn the knowledge. There is a difference there. And I truly believe our university is giving high priority to research this has given the motive and the drive for the youngsters to go forward in that area...

Robyn Williams: That will come as a surprise to many people from, say, Australia who would regard this area as almost a war zone and the last place you'd want to be thinking about a scientific career and scientific ideas.

Ziad Abdeen: It's all a matter of perception, isn't it?

Zounds! These terrorists do science! Who would have thought?

Poor Professor Abdeen. Little does he know that he has been involved in a production designed to burnish Israel's tarnished image for an Australian audience. But then that's all you get from our token Palestinian, because the rest of the item is pure hasbara:

Robyn Williams: Professor Ziad Abdeen is at the Al-Quds University on the West Bank...

Oh really - not in illegally occupied, then illegally annexed, Arab East Jerusalem?

... where Palestinian students work in tandem with Jewish students.

Palestinian students working in tandem with Jewish students! How wonderful!

... This is Dr Abdeen's colleague, Professor Mark Spigelman.

Mark Spigelman: You know, when they come to work with us, we don't notice a difference. They are students, some good, some bad. Mostly, the Palestinians are good because they are selected already...

Passed the security test, did they?

... For the last 2 years we have worked together on a German National Science Foundation grant looking at ancient DNA and several students are working on this grant. And all I can say is we work well together. We don't have any problems. We don't distinguish Israeli[s from] Palestinians and I'm pleased to say that our young students from Israel and the young students from the Palestinian Authority work together without any friction and they produce good results.

Young students from Israel and the PA working together, eh? Is Al-Quds University then a functioning joint Israeli-Jewish/PA-Arab campus? Some kind of utopian haven of Israeli-Palestinian peaceful coexistence? And whether it is or isn't, isn't this the vibe Pyne's picked up?

But before you all let that warm inner glow completely overpower your critical faculties, ask yourself this question: Are poor but worthy West Bank Palestinian students, bravely competing for places in one of the few tertiary institutions available to them, finding their way blocked because anywhere up to half of all places at Al-Quds are reserved for Jewish Israelis already well-served by superior DNA and a plethora of Israeli universities? Or this: Which language are lectures delivered in? Or this: Why has this good (if indeed that's what it is) news been kept from us until now? Or this, the biggie: If we have a joint Israeli-Palestinian university, why not a binational Israeli-Palestinian state for everyone who lives between the river and the sea? But I digress...

OK, seeing this is the The Science Show, you'll forgive me a little healthy scepticism and a desire for some, like, evidence for the suggestion that Al-Quds is a haven of Israeli-Palestinian peace and understanding. And guess what, google as I might, I could find none. That doesn't mean, of course, that I didn't come across some interesting bits and pieces along the way:

"The Shin Bet is reportedly trying to entice Palestinian medical students to join the Israeli intelligence service by promising entry to al-Quds (Jerusalem). The spying agency allegedly tried to blackmail two fifth-year medical students at al-Quds University who are pursuing internships in Palestinian university hospitals in the city, Israel's English-language Haaretz newspaper said on its website on Wednesday. A 'Captain Biran', who introduced himself as the Shin Bet agent responsible for monitoring the university, told the two to report on other students and their activities as a condition for renewing their entry permits, Haaretz reported." (Shin Bet blackmails al-Quds students,, 12/5/10)

"The project, kicking off this year between Bard College in Annandale-on-Hudson, New York, and the West Bank's al-Quds University, seeks to improve relations between Americans and Palestinians while boosting education in the Palestinian territories, said Bard College president Leon Botstein... The degree from Bard will be a huge benefit for Palestinian students because Israel does not currently recognize degrees from al-Quds, said al-Quds executive vice-president Hasan Dweik." (American & Palestinian colleges form partnership, Ben Hubbard, AP/, 12/3/09)

"One group of such Israeli mathematics professors love to work with its Arab counterparts at Al-Quds University, a cooperation about which Al-Quds President Sari Nusseibeh said, 'We hope this effort will prove to be a step in showing how the universal language of mathematics can be translated into a shared language of political and moral values'. Nusseibeh, you see, is a Palestinian terrorist, who provided intelligence to Saddam Hussein's forces when he was shooting SCUD missiles at Israel. Nusseibeh spent time in Israeli prison as a terrorist, and then was allowed to leave Israel for 3 years under a plea agreement." (When it does not add up: anti-Israel mathematicians at Israeli universities, Lee Kaplan,

You know, I'm particularly worried about those Jewish students at Al-Quds University, what with their own government not recognising their degrees and all. And yet they're going there nonetheless, so stuck on Israeli-Palestinian togetherness are they. Oh well, maybe the Shin Bet'll employ them even if their degrees are worthless. And that terrorist at the top of the Al-Quds University tree, twirling his moustache - will these idealistic Jewish students be safe do you think?

Ah, but I've disrupted Mark Spigelman's platitudes long enough. Now what was it he was saying? Oh yes:

... It is a step. And so the work is good and if only the politicians would see what happens between young people I think we would have less problems and more peace.

Robyn Williams: Is the reality of the situation that you have most of the population on both sides wanting, as you said, peace, and a minority, which unfortunately includes the politicians, going in the other direction?

Mark Spigelman: Yes. If you really ask the people 'do you want your child to carry a gun or a pen?' 80% would say, 'I'd rather a pen'.

Well, duh, Mark, what else are they going to say if you put it to them like that?

... And the reality is that we are being led by a minority of the population that prevents peace.

Name names, Mark! Do you mean the dreaded Hamas?

... I don't know when peace will come. We are two people living together, we are going to live together. Sooner or later we are going to have peace.

Robyn Williams: Well, mostly, in a democracy, which it is on both sides, if there is a constituency, in other words a majority of the population wanting something, eventually it happens. Why isn't it happening here?

Mark Spieglman: That's a good question. If I knew the answer I'd probably get the Nobel Peace Prize. It isn't happening here, but it will. I'm optimistic. And maybe not in my lifetime, but I'm getting on a bit. There will be peace between the two people and they will coexist and will live togther and will do great things together.

Robin Williams: Amid the turmoil, the scientists and the students get on with it. Professor Mark Spieglman from Sydney, working now in Jerusalem.

Surely that's the source of Pyne's propaganda. And here's how it comes to lodge in his grey matter: Williams is sent by the ABC - at taxpayers' expense - to record some 'good news' about Israel, which, as it happens, needs all it can get right now, returns with all sorts of highly dubious factoids and propaganda snippets, packages them nicely for an unsuspecting ABC audience, including our pro-Israel pollies, who then regurgitate the nonsense on ABC television in an effort to shield Israel from the burgeoning BDS campaign. Damn if Israel isn't getting its money's worth here!


Anonymous said...

While his salary is paid by the Australian tax payer, I thought that his costs are paid by the Israeli Department of Hasbara.

Rob said...

Also Pyne seems to have completely failed to notice that there are no "Palestinian citizens" as thers is no Palestinian state,and that this is in fact one of the many reasons for considerable disharmony between the land and house stealing Israelis and the oppressed and disposessed out for the Australian government to side with Israel,the US,Palau and the Marshall Islands in opposing the UN motion to recognise a Palestinian state in September.

אראל סגל said...

Why do you take Pyne's word? Come and see for yourself. In every Israeli university, there are Jews and Arabs that study together.

You call your site "Reality Check" - the best reality check is through eyesight.

MERC said...

Read it again, Hasbaroid. The subject is not 'Jews and Arabs' in 'every Israeli university'. The subject is the Palestinian Al-Quds University.