This post, the latest in my Witches Brew series on the anti-BDS 'debate' in the NSW Legislative Council on September 30, features the 'contribution' of one of the LC's 'Arab' contingent, namely the Liberal's John Ajaka. It makes for very sad reading indeed.
During the course of his speech, Ajaka confessed:
"My father was born in Lebanon and my mother was born in Palestine-Jerusalem. I say that because she has two birth certificates: one says that she was born in Palestine and the other says she was born in Jerusalem."
I find this statement quite puzzling. What's with this Palestine-Jerusalem business? Does the Australian-born (1956) Ajaka not know that Jerusalem is in Palestine? That it has always been in Palestine? Why this beating around the bush?
According to his 2007 Inaugural Speech (hereinafter IS), Ajaka's parents "travelled to Australia from Lebanon in the early 1950s." Could his mother then, have been a Palestinian refugee? In any case, didn't the woman whom he described as "the one who believed in me, who encouraged me, who pushed me," (IS) pass on something - anything - about the nakba which had overtaken her or her people? If so, there is nothing whatever in either Ajaka's IS or his September 15 LC speech to indicate this.
I find this a most curious matter. Certainly, I can't imagine the two beaming gents in the gallery, on whose behalf our motley crew of MLCs were strutting their stuff on that day (exclusive, I need hardly remind you, of the Greens' John Kaye and David Shoebridge), being at all backward in coming forward about some imaginery direct descent from the Kings David and Solomon, if not Abraham himself.
Anyhow, returning to our Lebanese-Palestinian-Australian's LC speech, just wrap your head around this load of old cobblers:
"This form of boycott as pushed by the boycott, disinvestment [sic] and sanctions is nothing more than prejudice and racism... directed at one part of our community... If this type of boycott were directed at an Islamic, Catholic or Jewish community or any other religious or cultural community it would not be acceptable... We in this country welcome people who want to do business here, because they provide jobs and resources. I must admit that I have had a few Brenner waffles - perhaps too many. It is unacceptable that such a business is being subjected to this dreadful boycott."
This is truly jaw-dropping stuff. There's a hint in sentence two that Ajaka doesn't even connect Max Brenner with Jews, let alone Israel, seeing it merely as a business, but I'll charitably assume that his words didn't quite come out as intended. That said, we seem to be dealing here with a guy who, though admitting to having a Palestinian mother, has so little awareness of the Palestine problem or BDS that he misconstrues it as attack on multiculturalism or a case of sectarianism. Clueless. Utterly, utterly clueless.
But it gets worse: "My office library contains the first book that I read, Mein Kampf. I read it as a year 11 student while studying advanced history."
OK... Deep breath... Read that again. Mein Kampf was the first book I read. The first book I read. The first. And that wasn't until he was in Year 11 at Marist Brothers in Kogarah (IS)! Ach mein Gott! Ajaka got all the way to senior high school without opening a book? And this is one of the blokes currently running the show in NSW?! Gott help us!
He continues, invoking the by now familiar anti-BDS Nazi slur:
"I still have it, but not because I respect it; in fact, I detest it and its message. I have kept it as a reminder of the potential outcome of a protest such as the one we are witnessing against one religious or ethnic community. It is a reminder that that should never happen in Australia. We cannot allow this type of prejudice and racism to fester and spread. It is not a protest; it is the dreadful beginning of a movement targeting one culture and one religion. I cannot accept that and I will not allow it to happen: I will do everything I can to prevent it... For those reasons, I reject the BDS movement and everything it represents."
What to make of this guy? In his IS he laments that in his youth he had "always been aware of my ethnic background; it was hard not to be, with the ever-present taunts and jeers thrown by other children," and that "still, even now, a latent prejudice runs through our community like an underground stream - a stream that bubbles to the surface in times and in places unexpected, as with the emergence of the stench and stain of One Nation."
And yet, he can laud former Liberal Prime Minister John Howard, the man who pinched Pauline Hanson's policies and made them his own, as "a great leader of our country, whom I am proud to have always supported..."
Ajaka's rage against those who've messed up his childhood is palpable:
"When I was a child some of my peers sadly constructed my entire identity solely on my ethnic background. They isolated, separated and labelled me a wog. This was all I would ever be to them. Well, I do not want my children - any children - growing up with the feelings I had when I was growing up. We have come so far in the past 30 in tearing down the monolith of prejudice. I am here to add my own small contribution to the continuation of this important task. If the first reason for my presence in this place is to fight prejudice, the second is to fight injustice. I believe in the spirit of law."
And yet, Ajaka's seeming obliviousness to the almost century-old, bloody settler-colonial dynamic at play in Palestine/Israel - bizzarely, at no stage in his blessedly short 'contribution' does he even mention the word Israel - renders him blind to the fact that BDS is nothing more than a response to the Zionist project's ongoing isolation, separation, labelling (and worse) of his mother's people, a reaction to the massive monolith of (anti-Arab) prejudice and injustice which is the apartheid state of Israel.