That's it! One read of the 'opinion piece' by Fairfax journalist Jonathan Swan, Once a refuge, Israel ignores its real origins (22/6/12), and I frankly couldn't give a toss whether Fairfax gets snapped up by mining magnate Gina Rinehart or not.
If Swan's extraordinary naivete and mind-blowing ignorance is supposed to be a sparkling example of Fairfax's 'quality journalism', vis-a-vis News Limited's relentless, ideologically-driven poison, the field may as well be abandoned to the likes of Rinehart and Murdoch. Too harsh? I don't think so:
With its ridiculous assertion that the creation of Israel was fundamentally about catering for refugees, the very title encapsulates the abysmal ignorance of the piece. Let me make this crystal clear: the political Zionism of Herzl, Wiezmann and Ben-Gurion was first and foremost about the procrustean task of transforming a religious grouping - Jews, in all their diversity - into a racialised, nationalistic entity known as 'the Jewish people' at a time (roughly from the Napoleonic era through to the end of World War II) when ethnically-based nationalism was all the go. Zionism was, like all such European nationalisms of the time, chauvinistic at best, toxic at worst (Nazism). To mistake the rhetoric of 'refuge' and 'rescue' for the substance of the Zionist project, which focused solely on carving out, and shoring up, an ethnically homogeneous Jewish state in Palestine for 'the Jewish people' at the expense of its indigenous inhabitants, is to indicate that you have zero idea of what you're talking about:
"In a museum that exhibits dead children's shoes and photographs of skeletons piled in holes, it was an Australian that angered me most. Printed on a wall inside Yad Vashem, Jerusalem's Holocaust museum, is a quote by the Australian diplomat Thomas W. White, dated 1938. 'As we have no racial problems,' White told a conference of world leaders, 'we are not desirous of importing one.' And with that, Australia joined the United States and almost every wealthy nation in rejecting Jewish refugees who were fleeing the Nazis."
The conference referred to here is the Evian Conference of 1938, about which Swan has obviously not taken the trouble to learn, being content with a mere statement (the propaganda value of which escapes him) tacked on the wall of Israel's pre-eminent Holocaust memorial (the propaganda use of which also escapes him). If he had done a little research, he would be aware that neither the Zionists in Palestine nor those elsewhere supported the wholesale rescue of German Jewry; the former because they wanted only the fit Zionist youth among them as potential Arab fighters; the latter for much the same reasons, paradoxically, as White.
In the words of US scholar, Lenni Brenner: "Since [Palestine's Zionists] did not want the bulk of German Jewry in Palestine, it might be assumed that the Zionist movement, at least in America, tried to find other havens for their brethren, but this is not so. Throughout the world, the Jewish bourgeoisie acted timidly out of fear that 'too many' refugees in any country would unleash local anti-Semitism. Sending the refugees to Palestine seemed to be the perfect answer..." (Zionism in the Age of the Dictators, 1983, p 146).
Nor does the United States, which initiated the Evian Conference and the Rublee rescue plan which emerged from it, deserve Swan's stick, given that it was deliberately boycotted and sabotaged by the Zionists who preferred instead to work with the Gestapo to channel into Palestine only youthful German Zionists, as recruits for the coming move against Palestine's majority Arab population. (See my 21/11/11 post Laying Siege to German Jews.)
"White's quote is a reminder of Israel's founding purpose: to be a haven for refugees. Israeli leaders have long said with pride that they have reached out, not only to Holocaust survivors, but to desperate people from places such as Vietnam, Kosovo and Darfur."
Swan seems to be confusing Israel with the Statue of Liberty's famous words: Give me your tired, your poor/ Your huddled masses yearning to be free;/ The wretched refuse of your teeming shore..." If he wishes to establish what it is exactly that constitutes Israel's founding purpose, he should try looking up its Declaration of the Establishment of the State of Israel, May 14, 1948. If he did, he'd find that Israel's founding purpose is first and foremost about the supposed "right of the Jewish people to national rebirth in its own country," and that the closest it ever gets to his haven for refugees nonsense is this: "The catastrophe which recently befell the Jewish people - the massacre of millions of Jews in Europe - was another clear demonstration of the urgency of solving the problem of its homelessness by re-establishing in Eretz-Israel the Jewish State, which would open the gates of the homeland wide to every Jew and confer upon the Jewish people the status of a fully privileged member of the comity of nations." One wonders, what part of for Jews only doesn't Swan understand?
As to Israel's taking aboard Vietnamese, Kosovan and Darfuri refugees, let's look at the facts:
1) Vietnamese: In 1977, 65 Vietnamese boat people were picked up by an Israeli vessel off the Vietnamese coast: "Begin's decision [to admit these people into Israel] was in a way pure theater. Sixty-six Vietnamese were hardly a burden, and in terms of the hundreds of thousands who had fled Vietnam and were looking for a new home, they were less than a drop in a bucket. Nor was Israel threatened with the arrival of more Vietnamese once a first group of them was accepted. The South China seas were far away and their waves were not about to sweep up more boats on Israel's shores." (A shame on Israel, Hillel Halkin, nysun.com, 10/7/07)
2) Kosovans: In 1999, 217 Kosovans received temporary shelter in Israel. (140 Kosovar refugees leave Israel for home, Gil Sedan, jweekly.com, 30/7/99)
3) Darfuris: "Several hundred were granted official refugee status, and with it the right to work." (An open letter to Israel from a Darfur refugee in Tel Aviv, Hamed Sadinden, fugeefridays.blogspot.com, 13/4/09) As for the rest: "[A]ll we ask is the right to live and work in Israel and take care of ourselves while we are here." (ibid)
Whence this feeling of being underwhelmed?
"What to make, then, of the recent vow by Israel's Interior Minister, Eli Yishai, to rid the country of all illegal immigrants within 3 years? Or of the Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, who has branded illegal immigrants 'infiltrators' and said he plans to build 'holding facilities' to store tens of thousands of aliens 'until they can be sent out of the country'?"
What to make? Simple: these illegal immigrants aren't Jews and so can't be tolerated in a Jewish state. What part of Jewish State does Swan not understand?
"The most toxic migrants, we are told, come from Sub-Saharan Africa. Since 2005, about 60,000 have crossed the Sinai Desert and through the Egyptian border into Israel. Yishai says these Sudanese and Eritrean immigrants are raising Israel's crime levels, and that their numbers need to be quelled. Netanyahu argues that illegal immigrants burden Israel's economy and threaten its Jewish character. Then there are last month's south Tel Aviv protests. Haaretz reported a crowd of residents waving placards and chanting 'the people want the Sudanese deported' and 'infiltrators, get out of our home.' The Likud politician Miri Regev participated in the protest and said that 'the Sudanese were a cancer in our body'. Africans' shops and apartments were attacked. It's this last image, of broken store-fronts and glass, that will knock the wind out of many Holocaust survivors, some of whom fled Europe after Kristallnact - the Night of Broken Glass - where Nazis ran a series of co-ordinated attacks on Jewish homes, shops and synagogues throughout Germany and parts of Austria. At a park in Neve Shaanan, an area of Tel Aviv inflamed by 'infiltrators', a daughter of Holocaust survivors, Orly Feldheim, told a New York Times reporter: 'I feel I am in a movie in Germany, circa 1933 or 1936.' Netanyahu should be chilled by what Feldheim said. Now that the Prime Minister's word - 'infiltrators' - has reached the mouths of violent xenophobes, he has attached himself to scenes that could alienate even his most rusted-on supporters. Netanyahu knows better than most that the Holocaust is never very far from an Israeli's mind. He should also know that many Israelis believe their country has a special responsibility to help those in need, given it was founded as a refuge for survivors."
Notice here how the link between Israel's exalted Jewish character and Netanyahu, the ideological heir of the Irgun terrorists whose bloody hands and knives* were instrumental in creating that Jewish character (of which more later), is missing? It's as though a hitherto fine and upstanding member of the international community had suddenly, inexplicably, become possessed and begun foaming at the mouth and spitting forth racist curses. Then there's the ludicrous suggestion that this uncharacteristic behaviour will only alienate his hordes of prim and proper supporters who are, of course, gobsmacked at the spectacle. The naivete here is nothing short of astonishing. What part of Benjamin Netanyahu does Swan not understand?
"Such faith has been drained by the Palestinian occupation, and Netanyahu's latest announcements may have turned off life support. He has also crushed a key source of pride for liberal Zionists. Like many moderates, Gil Troy, a history professor at McGill University, in Montreal, Canada, and author of Why I am a Zionist, counts Israel's compassion towards refugees as one of the country's greatest achievements. 'To Israel, today's refugee is tomorrow's citizen,' Troy wrote in a Jerusalem post blog. 'In a clear repudiation of the accusation that Zionism is in any way racist, Israel has accepted black, brown, and white refugees... with nearly 80,000 Ethiopian refugees constituting the only welcome migration I know of involving black Africans to a mostly white country.'"
Incredibly, despite Swan's subject, Israel and its treatment of refugees, this is the first time the word Palestinian has cropped up. But only, you'll note, in reference to the occupation. The standout feature of Swan's vacuous opinion piece is that, in an article about Israel and refugees, he makes no mention whatever of the existence, let alone the history and circumstances, of millions of Palestinian REFUGEES, driven out of their ancestral homeland in 1948 to create the Zionist movement's Holy Grail, a Jewish majority in Palestine. This enables him to suggest, through the example of Gil Troy, that Israel's origins were as pure as the proverbial driven snow. Troy is apparently the kind of bloke who can say without blushing that Israel's compassion towards refugees is one of its greatest achievements; and Swan is the kind of bloke who, again, without blushing, believes and reproduces every word. The man reveals himself here as either a complete ignoramus or a shameless propagandist. Whichever shoe fits, it's a mystery how can he be allowed to get away with this.
It's perhaps instructive at this point to compare Swan's performance with a recent piece by an Israeli journalist commemorating Israel's Vietnamese refugees. While Shoshana Bryen deploys a similar propaganda trope to Swan's - "The experience of Jewish refugees and the hopelessness of statelessness made Israel sensitive to the hopelessness of people from another place, another culture, another war, giving the Vietnamese a place to start over" (Israel & the boat people, timesofisrael.com, 6/6/12) - she is only too aware of Israel's original sin, hurrying to add, parenthetically, "(For those rolling their eyes on behalf of stateless Palestinian refugees..," before attempting to cover up this inconvenient truth by trotting out yet another Zionist talking point: "It is precisely the Jewish experience with statelessness that impels Israel to continue to seek a mechanism by which Palestinians can achieve the state the Arabs declined on their behalf in 1948 - without losing the state of Israel.)" No rolling of the eyes on behalf of stateless Palestinian refugees for Swan, the issue is simply dropped down Orwell's memory hole quicker than you can say, But what about the Palestinian refugees?
"But can Israel still claim this self-image? Vic Alhadaff, the chief executive of the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies, believes it can. Alhadeff defends Israel's immigration policies, arguing that the country has 'absorbed thousands of refugees from Vietnam, Albania, Kosovo and Darfur, and hosts 120,000 illegal foreign workers. Like Australia,' Alhadeff says, 'Israel is attempting to balance humanitarian needs with the need to protect its borders from waves of illegal immigration.'"
Almost 65 years of Palestinians rotting in refugee camps** and Swan is asking, Can Israel still claim this self image? The mind boggles.
"But if Israel genuinely wishes to strike such a balance, it has done a good job in hiding it. It is one thing to have a prime minister who calls illegal migrants 'infiltrators'; it is quite another to have a 'Prevention of Infiltration Law', recently amended to allow Israeli authorities to detain 'infiltrators' for up to 3 years."
OMG! Israel passes laws which discriminate against refugees! Who would have thought?
"While Netanyahu ponders his next assault on illegal immigrants, I hope he pays a visit to Yad Vashem. After he reads the quote by Thomas W. White, Netanyahu will find outside rows of trees honouring the 'righteous among the nations' - those brave souls, Oskar Schindler included, who risked their lives to rescue Jewish refugees."
Oh yes, a simple visit to Yad Vashem (led by Swan?) and Netanyahu will be so overcome by remorse that he'll rush back to the Knesset and deliver a historic and heartfelt speech, softie that he really is, beginning with the words, I don't know what came over me...
Seriously now, could Ms Rinehart do any worse?
[*See my 9/4/12 post Zionism Red in Tooth & Claw; **Take a look at the latest ANERA report (6/12) on Palestinian Refugees in Lebanon.]