Monday, January 23, 2012

No Whispering in the Heart?

You may have noticed that one of Australia's most prominent Zionists, lawyer Mark Leibler, is heavily involved in the current push to recognise indigenous Australians and remove racially discriminatory provisions in the Constitution:

"Mark Leibler, better known as a leading corporate and tax lawyer at Arnold Bloch Leibler, was co-chair, with Patrick Dodson, of the expert panel. Its report, Recognising Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples in the Constitution, was released yesterday with a national referendum to be held either before, or at, the next federal election next year. Speaking to Prejudice yesterday, Leibler said he was asked by the Prime Minister to take on the co-chair role in 2010. 'I felt it was important and I agreed', he said." (Constitution report leaves Leibler proud, Susannah Moran, Prejudice/The Australian, 20/1/12)

As he explained recently in an Age opinion piece, Leibler felt the issue was very important and agreed to Gillard's request for very personal reasons:

"Racism turns your life into a lottery. It reduces your ability to control your destiny or make decisions for yourself. To stay or go becomes a matter of life or death. Racism condemned my maternal grandparents to being murdered in Auschwitz. In 1939, it drove my parents from Belgium and the Nazis to find sanctuary in Australia." (Racism still shadows our history, 20/1/12)

A cris de coeur, indeed. And so beautifully put. But something nags.

As Leibler wrote this, did he for one moment pause to consider that whole generations of Palestinians have had their lives turned upside down so that, in addition to his parents' Australian sanctuary, he (and they) could also call Israel home? Did it cross his mind for so much as a nanosecond that Israel is because Palestine isn't? Did he perish the thought that maybe, just maybe, Palestinians too are the victims of a profoundly racist project?

Unsurprisingly, following his deeply felt prelude, fine, noble sentiments followed:

"As far as the constitution is concerned [Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people] are invisible; no mention of their heritage and cultures; no mention of their place as the first inhabitants of this country and as the world's oldest continuing cultures. How did this happen? Because the constitution, understandably, reflects the values and beliefs of the time it was drafted. The founding fathers'... perspectives - including those on race - were of the 19th century, not the 21st... Today, there is no more pressing need than to remove the sections in the constitution dealing with race and to end the exclusion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people from the document and, at the same time, acknowledging their place, cultures and languages as integral to our nation's identity."

But did it ever enter the mind of this Zionist advocate that, where the indigenous Arab inhabitants of Palestine are concerned, Zionists have written the book on invisibility - whether it's a 'people without a land for a land without a people', or Golda Meir's "non-existent" Palestinians or Zionist lobby-funded Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich's "invented" Palestinians, or a myriad other variations on the theme?

Dit it occur to him how so 19th century is the idea of an ethnographic state such as Israel, a state which excludes ethnically-cleansed Palestinian refugees simply because they're not Jewish, but hoovers up any Jew, anywhere on the planet, even ferreting out and uprooting so-called 'lost tribes', proclaiming that the land of Israel is their exclusive and God-given birthright?

Did he possibly reflect that there is no more pressing need than to remove the panoply of apartheid legislation, beginning with the thoroughly racist Law of Return, which underpins Israel's 'Jewishness' and forever excludes non-Jewish Palestinians from becoming integral to its identity?

I seriously doubt it.

I'm reminded here of the 19th century Sydney barrister, Richard Windeyer. Australian historian Henry Reynolds describes a man as dismissive of Aboriginal rights to the land of Australia as any latter day Zionist is of Palestinian rights to Palestine.

Windeyer, writes Reynolds, in the context of an 1842 debate, "took particular exception to the proposition that the Europeans 'had no right to take the land'. That claim, he argued, begged the whole question 'which is whether the land be theirs'. Europeans who ventured into the interior of Australia had met Aboriginal people and had assumed the land was 'more or less appropriated'. But the tribes didn't actually inhabit the land. Rather they ranged over it. 'That they have never tilled the soil, or enclosed it, or cleared any portion of it, or planted a single tree, or grain or root, is acknowledged'. As a consequence there was no ownership. Aboriginal occupation of the land did not 'by the law of nature establish any title to the substance of the soil'. It was, indeed, 'the height of absurdity to talk of the title of these men of the woods to anything not under the control of their bludgeons'... In a sweeping peroration Windeyer declared: The consideration of the rights of the Aborigines to the enjoyment of their laws and customs, to the soil of the country, to its wild animals is done. The argument is sound, the chain of reasoning is complete'." (This Whispering in Our Hearts, 1998, pp 20-21)

But something still nagged at the man. As Reynolds puts it:

"And yet that was not the final word. His powerful analysis had not satisfied his own conscience. 'How is it our minds are not satisfied?' he asked. 'What means this whispering in the bottom of our hearts?' (ibid)

No such whispering in your heart, Mark Leibler?


paul said...

I noticed.

Anonymous said...


Leibler had a few tricks to perform on this high wire.

The sections of the constitution allowing the government to make laws for any race are the same sections of the constitution that allow the little known "Ethno-Religious Groups Provisions" of the Anti-Discrimination Act{s}, state and federal to operate. Notice how the "provisions" cover "Groups".
Sikhs are one of two "groups" covered, however they appear to be covered only for company - otherwise "groups" would have to be the singular 'group'. Guess the other "group".

Herein lies Leibler's legal labours.

How to appear to seek to abolish race discrimination from the constitution, while maintaining special treatment for his own "group".[Must agree with Leiblers view of history and no hurt feelings already. Or else.]

A cut here and a paste there and some pseudo-Semitic semantics.

Just don't rely on the media to spell it out for you or the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders either.

Constitution shopping.

Wasn't it Bismark who said that the public should not see how sausages or laws were made?