Sunday, September 30, 2012

Touche!

"John Howard has re-entered the culture wars, describing the Gillard government's national [F-10] school history curriculum as 'unbalanced, lacking in priorities and quite bizarre,' and accusing it of marginalising the Judeo-Christian ethic and purging British history." (Howard revives history wars, Dennis Shanahan, The Australian, 28/9/12)

 "This so-called Judeo-Christian ethic is bunkum. The West owes its greatness to the Greeks and Romans, with some help from the Arabs and Chinese. John Howard gets an F for history." (Michael Wong, Norman Park, QLD, The Australian, 29/9/12)

PS 1/10/12: This came in today's Australian. It's extraordinary the way the reappearance of John Howard can generate such hard-ons:

"The proposed national history curriculum is typical of the hidden horrors that an elite, clinging to the coat-tails of a naive Labor government, can inflict on us. John Howard has ensured that the proposal will not fly under the radar to carpet-bomb our educational institutions with leftist theories... One giveaway is the proposal that Australia be studied as a new-world settler society. Settler is a term to be uttered through gritted teeth. If the curriculum is adopted, all those Australians who have worked for generations in war and peace to build a nation reflecting man's highest ideals will have been snookered. The effrontery of the devisers is breathtaking but they won't get away with it." (Peter Edgar, Garran, ACT)

Walking in the Mufti's Shoes 3

This will be my final post in this series.

The Mufti died in Beirut in 1974. His deep concern for the protection of the Noble Sanctuary (Haram ash-Sharif) from Zionist vandalism and destruction (illustrated by the first post in this series) was well-founded. The Haram, along with the rest of East Jerusalem, only escaped an Israeli takeover in 1948 thanks to the efforts of Jordan's Arab Legion. Nineteen years later, however, it was not so lucky, with Israeli forces violating its sanctity during their conquest of East Jerusalem and the West Bank. The Mufti's worst nightmare was realised on June 7, 1967 when the Israelis stormed the Haram:

"The Israelis are shrewd - but it is the wisdom of Harvard Law School, not of Solomon. For all the biblical publicity puffs, they had fought here in Jerusalem, as everywhere, with all the cautious, long-range planning and reliance on technology of any modern industrial state - their combat style and manner of movement, however improvised the logistics, were reminiscent of the American army. 

"When the paratroopers drove into the city, their leading elements swerved sharply to the left and pushed on into the Haram ash-Sharif. Heavy armour could not pass even through this most northernmost and accessible gate, so the men stormed the shrine by foot and in jeeps, and with a tremendous roar which told us at the other end of the Haram that the city had fallen.

"Within minutes they were in the Awqaf to take as prisoner the Governor, the Qadi, and [tourism director] Khalidi. Directly across the lane leading from the Awqaf gateway into the Haram is the African Hospice - for pilgrims from Sudan and Chad who settled generations ago in Jerusalem. The Israelis were rounding up all the men they could find, and here they fell upon the deputy governor, the chief of police, and his deputy, who had abandoned [Governor] Khatib in a last-minute bid to evade capture. Both the chief of police and his deputy had thrown away their uniforms, and they cringed with fear and embarrassment as they were led out of the Hospice wearing the outrageously misfitted civilian clothes they had grabbed there. The men were first frisked and then marched with their hands above their heads 200 yards down to the lower platform of the Haram directly beneath the windows of my apartment and told to face the wall.

"The Qadi was wearing a heavy jibba - the cleric-like coat favored by Azhari-trained sheikhs - and each time his arms would begin to fall the Israeli guards jabbed him lightly with their bayonets. But the Qadi never lost his composure. Within a few minutes they were brought before the paratroop commander, Colonel Mordecai ('Motta') Gur, who had established his HQ next to the Dome of the Rock. A swarm of photographers replaced the guards.

"Khatib told the Colonel that a meeting had been scheduled for 1200 hours, at which time the city could be formally surrendered. Gur replied that while he welcomed any measure that would save him the trouble of putting down resistance, everyone should understand that his first duty was to his soldiers. If resistance came from any house, they would destroy it. But at the same time he stressed that his soldiers had strict orders not to molest or destroy either persons or property except in self-defense.

"The spot from where Gur stood and spoke with the Governor and his party afforded one of the most exquisite views of the Haram. A little to the south, the high platform they stood upon fell away for the broad stairs - Mawazin (The Scales) - framed by unattached arcades and descending to the pool and cypress-groved compound of Al-Aqsa Mosque. The door of Al-Aqsa had been blasted open by a bazooka shell that also damaged the upper facade. There had been no snipers in the mosque. 

"Below the platform, hundreds of Arabs were being marched in for detainment, interrogation, and occasional beatings as the Israelis continued to round up men at random throughout the city. Hundreds of these men, many of them my neighbors, were passed off to foreign correspondents as captured soldiers who had thrown away their uniforms.

"An Arab dressed in khaki and limping on his deformed leg was brought in. His khaki shirt and pants - the war surplus that afforded cheap and popular dress to the poor - were covered with blood. The paras, assuming that it was Israeli blood, began kicking and beating him with their rifle butts until the cripple was close to death. The blood splattered on his clothes had come from the bodies of his two children whom he had just dug out of the ruins of his shelled house when he was seized as a prisoner and sent off to the Haram. If any of the detained men moved awkwardly or implied defiance, they too were beaten." (The Fall of Jerusalem, Abdullah Schleifer, 1972, pp 195-196)

The fears for the sanctity and integrity of the Haram ash-Sharif which plagued the Mufti back in the 1930s are as relevant today as they were back then. Scan just about any recent ms media report which touches on the subject of the Haram , the stand-out feature of the Jerusalem skyline since the 7th century, and you'll invariably find it referred to as the Temple Mount.

Schleifer wrote elsewhere in his book: "The fall of Jerusalem took 3 days; the siege had been under way since 1917." (p 22)

In fact, the siege continues. The demolition of Arab homes and the takeover of others by Jewish settlers is a feature of life in occupied Arab East Jerusalem today,  and Zionist fanatics, fixated on burying the Haram under a third Jewish temple, are just biding their time.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Walking in the Mufti's Shoes 2

Orwell may have been silent on the subject of Palestine but other, now virtually forgotten, voices were raised, not just in defence of the Palestinian people but in defence of the Mufti himself.

British missionary and pro-Palestine activist Frances E. Newton made no bones about the fact that it was Britain which propelled the Mufti into Hitler's arms: 

"I am glad to claim the friendship of the much-maligned Hajj Amin el Husseini, the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem. If ever Great Britain had a believer in our good faith it was he. It was only when he realised that the privileged position granted to the Zionists under the Mandate was inimical to Arab interests that he became the recognised leader of the patriotic Arab movement. The Royal Commission exonerated him from inciting the people to open revolt, but held him responsible for not being able to quench the unquenchable spirit of the Arab patriots. His words misinterpreted, his actions misconstrued, goaded into opposition to the policy we were pursuing, regarded as an enemy to be disposed of if found in any land under British influence, he was nowhere safe except among our former enemies, the Italians and the Germans, admittedly a most regrettable refuge - but where did the blame lie?" (Fifty Years in Palestine: The Case for the Arabs1948, p 293)

Newton's fellow activist, British journalist and historian JMN Jeffries, who was to Palestine what Orwell was to Spain, here brings his trademark moral clarity and eloquence to bear on the subject of the Mufti:

"There seems little doubt that the Mufti is a man of conspiratorial temperament, and that he may have come to have a hand in the propagation of armed resistance on the soil of Palestine is pretty likely. But the point to be put concerning the Mufti is this. What attitude exactly, and what action, was to be expected of him when it had grown absolutely plain that years upon years of pacific request and remonstration had not succeeded in winning discussion of the charges brought by him and other Arab leaders against the Mandate and its makers, much less the rebuttal of these charges. If he did take to intrigue after years of non-suited appeals and disallowed petitions, and if no reasoned arguments of his had obtained even consideration of the subject of appeal, then who is to judge him? Certainly not men in the high places of governments or Leagues with 20 solid years of intrigues with the Zionists behind them." (Palestine: The Reality, 1939, pp 674-675)

And here is Jeffries on allegations that the Palestinian rebels of 1936-1939 received German weapons:

"If any Arab leaders, or any sections of the people, have cultivated any kind of relations with Powers who are hostile to ourselves or are rivals to ourselves, it has not really been zealous cultivation, but enforced acceptance of the only relations they have been able to obtain. If any insurgents have turned to German gun-runners to obtain rifles, it is because since 1919 no Arab in Palestine has seen anything else (morally always and physically sometimes) but the barrels of our rifles and the immigrant ships coming up from the sea behind them." (ibid p 679)

Walking in the Mufti's Shoes 1

In a moving 1943 essay, Looking Back on the Spanish War, George Orwell compiled the following list of fascists and fellow travellers:

"When one thinks of all the people who support or have supported Fascism, one stands amazed at their diversity. What a crew! Think of a programme which at any rate for a while could bring Hitler, Petain, Montagu Norman, Pavelitch, William Randolph Hearst, Streicher, Buchman, Ezra Pound, Juan March, Cocteau, Thyssen, Father Coughlin, the Mufti of Jerusalem, Arnold Lunn, Antonescu, Spengler, Beverly Nichols, Lady Houston, and Marinetti all into the same boat! But the clue is really very simple. They are all people with something to lose, or people who long for a hierarchical society and dread the prospect of a world of free and equal human beings. Behind all the ballyhoo that is talked about 'godless' Russia and the 'materialism' of the working class lies the simple intention of those with money or privileges to cling to them." (Homage to Catalonia, 1938/1962, p 244)

What a crew! indeed. Now ordinarily I'd defer to Orwell's judgement in these matters, but I do have a problem with the inclusion of one particular name at least in the above list, namely that of the Mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin al-Husseini.

Yes, he was a wartime collaborator, although his appeals to his fellow countrymen to side with the Germans against the British met with little response. His collaboration, however, cannot be accounted for by a simple desire to cling to money or privilege. And yes, he made anti-Semitic broadcasts for the Germans, but the question here is whether his anti-Semitism was more a reaction to the threat posed by Zionist settler-colonialism to his homeland than anything else. He did, however, have something to lose - his country.

Hindsight is all very well, but if your homeland is literally being pulled out from under you by a fanatical, unyielding colonizing movement, your rebellion against its unheeding, imperial sponsor and protector has been brutally crushed, and you're on the run, then your options begin to narrow somewhat and you might well begin clutching at straws.

The fact is that Hitler was not so much the Mufti's soul mate as the enemy of his enemy. Absent the plot hatched in London in 1917 by Lord Balfour and Chaim Weizmann against the Arabs of Palestine, and all that flowed from it - the British refusal to allow the Palestinians meaningful representative government; the waves of deluded European Jewish immigrants, both 'legal' and illegal, convinced that Palestine was really theirs; the Zionist movement's strategic acquisition of Palestinian land and the expulsion of its peasant cultivators; the covert Zionist arms smuggling and stockpiling; the British  privileging of the concocted rights of the immigrant invaders over the natural right of the indigenous Palestinians to the land of their ancestors, their homeland - without all this, the Mufti would never have found himself in Berlin.

Astonishingly, such was the Eurocentrism of the time, that even someone as principled and perceptive as Orwell appears never to have really noticed the bitter struggle against imperial domination and settler-colonialism forced on the hapless indigenous inhabitants of Palestine by his own country. One of history's great mysteries, I'm afraid.

So how about, just for once, we walk for a bit in the Mufti's shoes? Here's a sympathetic portrait of the man and his travails just prior to the bloody but ultimately unsuccessful Palestinian uprising of 1936-1939, during which he ended up on the run from Palestine's British overlords:

"In the spring of this year (1935) he presided over a meeting of 400 ulama, during which he announced that anyone who sold land to the Jews would be excommunicated, a declaration which he endorsed by a fatwah. He has also bought land in large quantities which is saved for the Arab cultivator.

"The Mufti is very bitter against the British Government. 'I am not against the Jews,' he says. 'I am against the British Government, for without its permission not all the money in the world would have given the Zionists a footing here...

"One British adviser after another,' he will say, 'has pointed out that immigration must cease; but nothing is done. Until land transfer and immigration cease no good can come.'

"On one occasion, when certain improvements which were being carried out in land conditions were mentioned, he shook his head. 'What is the use? Imagine that I have a house. Some one richer than I offers to decorate it, to make it beautiful, to turn it into an earthly paradise; what is the use to me if I am not to live in it? The Arabs are being pushed out of the country so that others may enjoy the improvements.'

"At the root of the Mufti's pessimism is the prospect of a possible Jewish majority and of the effect that such a change would make in the status of the Arabs. Although it is a possibility that may never arise it is one that is constantly being held up as a goal by the Zionists, and is now much more openly talked of than it used to be.

"Besides being fearful of a Jewish majority the Mufti was extremely anxious about the Zionist designs on the Haram, beginning with the Wailing Wall, which was, of course, part of the outer wall of the Mosque of Aksa. This fear may seem far-fetched; but some of the letters he received from time to time confirmed him in his suspicions. The danger, indeed, appeared so great to him that some months back he had written a letter which he had sent to all the heads of the Moslem religion all over the world. As it contains some evidence which shows that his fears are not altogether chimerical I give it in full. 

MOSLEM SUPREME COUNCIL, JERUSALEM

IN THE NAME OF GOD THE MERCIFUL

In obedience to the words of God and His Prophet, and in consideration of the grave situation of the Moslems in this Moslem Arab country (Palestine), which contains the first of the two Kublas and the third Holy Shrine, which is the Mosque of Aksa, the surroundings of which have been blessed by God when He said in the Koran, 'Glory to God, Who took this servant, by night, from the Mosque Haram to the Mosque Aksa, the surroundings of which We have blessed,' it has become necessary to appeal to you, exposing the situation, the bare facts, and the great danger which has befallen this sacred and blessed Moslem country, and to make the cries for help of the Moslems of Palestine reach your ears and those of your brethren Moslems under your rule.

"It is the fashion to say that the Zionists have no intention of trying to regain the site of their Temple; that the idea is a fiction of the Arab brain. The Zionists have officially denied that they have any such intention, but others of the party, bolder and more outspoken, have said just the contrary. The Jews [the Mufti wrote] covet the whole of Palestine, and wish to make it a Jewish State. They wish to take the Mosque of Aksa from Moslem hands and to destroy the Dome of the Rock in order to establish on the ruins thereof a new Temple to replace the old one which was destroyed, and not a stone left of it, two thousand years ago.

"The Jewish project to Judaize Palestine during a period of 5 years is mentioned - a consummation which the Zionist torrent sweeping over the country would seem to render possible. And a letter written by Sir Louis Bols is quoted in which he said that Chief Rabbi Kook and the Rabbinical Councils of Jerusalem claimed that the Wailing Wall was Jewish property, including all the Temple area. 'This place is known,' he wrote, 'as Al-Haram Ash-Sharif, and contains the Mosque of Aksa and the Dome of the Rock, which is revered by the Moslems because it is the third Holy Mosque in the world.'

"That was as far back as 1920, and it is evident that the idea persists. In the Encyclopaedia Brittanica (1926), under the heading of 'Zionism', these words occur: 'The Jews are looking forward to the redemption of Israel... to the restoration of the Jewish State, to the rebuilding of Solomon's Temple and the restoration of David's Throne.' The Jewish Encyclopaedia is even more explicit; it states that the Jews are looking forward to 'worship in the Temple that is the Mosque of Aksa and to make their Kingdom in Palestine.'

"The cream of the collection of evidence which the Mufti had accumulated in order to make his position plain to his fellow-Moslems is certainly to be found in the following missive which was sent to him by the Chief Rabbi of Rumania:

EXCELLENCY, IN THE NAME OF GOD, THE ETERNAL,

I, the undersigned, Ibrahim Rosenbakh, Chief Rabbi, residing at No. 20 Treimi Shartoni, Yukhnia, Rumania, beg to inform your Excellency the following: King David bought, by contract, Moria Hill, in Jerusalem, from Arnon-el-Yabousi, and donated this hill for the Eternal God. I supplied the proof of the foregoing to the Chief Secretary of the Palestine Government, under cover No. 26/487 Jerusalem. In the Name of God the Eternal I demand: 1. To make the Arabs permit the priests, the sons of Aaron, to perform their religious services, and to make the Arabs understand that such permission results in the required aid of all nations, so that the entire world can hear by radio the religious blessings which the priests will ask from God on this sacred spot. 2. After the Arabs, with good intention, permit that, they may remain as guardians, and in this matter the rights of possession of King David, as mentioned in Psalm 24, will not be violated by the lapse of time. Written at 13.30 hours on 20th November, 1930, 26th of the Jewish month, 5691.

Yours faithfully,

(Signed) ABRAHAM ROSENBAKH

"What reply, if any, the Mufti made to this strange suggestion is not recorded. Two quotations are made, proving the intentions of the Zionists, one of which was penned by the late Lord Melchett: 'The day in which the Temple will be rebuilt is nigh, and I shall work for the rest of my life to rebuild Solomon's Temple in the place of the Mosque of Aksa.'

"The photographs which the Zionists sent round the world furnish other proofs, if more are needed, to prove this point. They represent the Wailing Wall and the mosques of Aksa and Hebron surmounted by Jewish emblems. A contemptuous reference to the Arabs is one of the last of the quotations used by the Mufti in this letter; it is culled from the writings of Mr Zuikwell. 'The Arabs,' he writes, 'must pull down their tents and return to the desert whence they came.' Surely a case of those who live in glass houses abstaining from throwing stones! And, for the matter of that, we all crawled out of a tent or a wigwam in the remote past!

"The letter attracted a great deal of attention, and sympathetic replies were received from Egypt, and especially from India." (Palestine of the Arabs, Mrs Steuart Erskine, 1935, pp 163-168)

To be continued...

Thursday, September 27, 2012

A Deserving Country

So the Prime Minister of the USraeli client state of Australia, Julia Gillard, in her address to the UN General Assembly on 26 September reckons we "deserve"* a seat on the UN Security Council.

This is the client state:

a) whose Foreign Minister H.V. Evatt played an instrumental role in the UNGA's decision to recommend the partition of Palestine over the heads of its people in 1947.

b) that supported the Israeli/British/French aggression against Egypt in 1956.

c) that tailed the US into Vietnam in 1962.

d) that tailed the US into the Persian Gulf in 1991.

e) that tailed the US into Afghanistan in 2001.

f) that tailed the US into Iraq in 2003.

g) that called for NATO intervention in Libya in 2011.

h) that calls for the West to "muscle up to the Syrian regime."

i) that talks of the need for "robust actions" against Iran.

j) that routinely votes with USrael and a motley crew of Pacific Island states against any resolution critical of Israeli human rights abuses and war crimes.

k) that acts as an errand boy for Israeli interests in UN fora and beyond.

l) that has never had an independent foreign policy thought in its entire life.

We deserve a seat on the SC? What the f... ! You're kidding me?!

[*UN must muscle up to Syria & Iran, says Gillard, Phillip Coorey, Sydney Morning Herald, 27/9/12]

Killing the Dead Sea

Another very good reason to boycott the sale of Israeli Dead Sea mineral products:

"Activists have taken to the Dead Sea to raise awareness about the sea's falling water levels and ecological health. It's thought that water from the River Jordan, industrial activity, and the extraction of minerals for health benefits are all factors for concern. The lake levels are dropping at around 1-2 metres a year." (Around the world, SBS World News, 15/9/12)

Ilan Pappe: Israel is an Apartheid State

At Sydney's Festival of Dangerous Ideas at the Sydney Opera House last Sunday, touring Israeli historian, Ilan Pappe, spoke to the topic, Israel is an apartheid state. The Concert Hall was virtually full, partly I imagine as a result of his hugely successful appearance on Q&A, and the audience was appreciative and receptive. Needless to say, Pappe was a breath of fresh air, speaking easily and wittily without notes, and was given a well-deserved standing ovation at the end.

For those of you not present, I thought it might be useful to summarise his speech and the q&a session which followed:

Pappe: Is this a dangerous idea? Many Israelis wouldn't think so. Nor South Africans. Nor many journalists and progressive folk in the West. Liberal Zionists though find it dangerous, and for many years have been trying to square the circle in an attempt to justify Israel's apartheid policies. Jewish communities, of course, are allergic to the very idea. No, it's not the recognition that Israel is an apartheid state that's dangerous, it's Israel itself that is dangerous; dangerous to Palestinians, dangerous to Jews in Israel and abroad, and dangerous to the world beyond.

Apartheid is a generic term for a legal, economic, social and political regime based on dispossession, discrimination and segregation on the basis of race, religion or nationality. The early Zionists, who were prolific diarists, described the Palestinians as dangerous aliens and usurpers. Their resistance to Zionist colonisation led the colonisers to develop apartheid policies of self-segregation and gated communities, which they forced on the native population once they'd become a ruling majority in 1948.

They institutionalised segregation, forcing on the Palestinian minority in Israel an invisible apartheid based on restricted living spaces, double standards in the courts and reduced access to state benefits. The Palestinian Israelis are confined to enclaves, with no new Arab towns being built since 1948. In contrast, hundreds of Jewish settlements have been constructed. In the West Bank, apartheid is starkly visible. Gaza of course is a world on its own, a large ghetto. How ironic that the people who most suffered from policies based on demography and population control in Europe should be dishing it out to others in Palestine.

Pappe then took questions from the audience:

The first questioner took exception to his reference to Palestine's indigenous Arab population. Jews too are indigenous to 'Palestine' she contended. Pappe responded that he was not indigenous to Palestine, but a 3rd generation settler-colonialist, and that, for good or ill, that's what most Israeli Jews, and Australians for that matter, were. Sorry about that.

The second bemoaned the US's propping up of Israel, seeing little progress so long as that pertained. Ever the optimist, Pappe reminded the audience that historically nothing is forever and cited such positives as America's 1919 King-Crane Commission and President Eisenhower's bringing the Israelis to heel in the wake of the 1956 Suez crisis. He further noted a fundamental change away from knee-jerk support for Israel in US universities, civil society and the trade union movement.

The third asserted that however hard poor little peace-seeking Israel looked, it simply couldn't fond a peace partner. Pappe, however, explained that the so-called peace process had essentially been a matter of USrael always dictating to the Palestinians.

The fourth asked Pappe if he saw evidence of a tipping point in the Middle East conflict, but I can't quite remember his answer. I think it was something along the lines of the light being often just around the corner of the darkest tunnel.

The fifth raised the issue of an academic boycott of Israel. Pappe was supportive of the idea, pointing  out the role of Israeli academics in squaring the Israeli circle and acting as a scholarly shield for Israeli oppression.

The sixth asserted that while there was only one Jewish state, African refugees were flocking there, so go figure, Pappe. Pappe argued that in fact Israel didn't really care where its immigrants came from so long as they boosted its numbers vis-a-vis the Palestinians, and noted that many of the so-called Russian Jews brought in in the 80s were actually Christians. He went on to say that, at the end of the day, only the Palestinians were in a position to give permission for people to live in Palestine.

And lo, the seventh turned out to be our friend from the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies, Vic Alhadeff. Vic asserted that as an ex-South African he knew what apartheid was and had struggled against it (See my 23/10/10 post SuperVic?). Pappe, he charged, was too blinded by anti-Zionist ideology to be an objective historian. Isn't it funny, said Pappe, how only Zionist historians get to be objective? He went on to refer to South Africa's apartheid as petty apartheid in comparison with Israel's more hidden, veiled variety. A comic interlude then occurred following some confusion on the compere's part as to whether Vic's question had been fully addressed and he was invited for a second chomp of the cherry. Vic, having already resumed his seat, fairly leapt from it and sprinted to the microphone, evidence if one needed it, of the man's astonishing athleticism, if not of the relevance of his intellectual contribution to the debate, given that I was too cracked up to hear what he said second time around.

The eighth referred to a thesis on the Tantura massacre of 22-23 May, 1948 by one of Pappe's former students, Teddy Katz, suggesting that it had been discredited by the evidence of one of his interlocutors, an Abu Fihmi. The latter had died a long time ago, reflected Pappe, and the fact that Katz became the subject of a defamation case over his thesis is indicative of the depth of Nakba denial in Israel. (The Katz affair features prominently in Pappe's 2010 book Out of the Frame: The Struggle for Academic Freedom in Israel.)

If I got it right, the ninth asked if Pappe's politics were in conflict with his faith. Pappe said he'd heard just about every question and more during his 14 appearances in Australia but not that one. He replied beautifully that, as his Zionism receded, the more human and Jewish he felt.

The tenth was outraged at the fact that Zionist barrister Irving Wallach had sought to legitimise his support for Israel by citing the alleged statements of certain aboriginal clients. Pappe remarked on the phenomenon of the blind spot so common in certain Jewish intellectuals/activists, who evinced concern for every downtrodden people on the planet bar one. I can speak to an Israeli audience, he said, about Palestinian women forced to give birth at checkpoints, Palestinian kids suffering from cancer being refused entry to Israeli hospitals, the demolition of Palestinian homes, and the torture of Palestinian prisoners, and nothing moves them! - which is why we need a global BDS campaign.

A final comment - for the record. Pappe's appearance at the National Press Club last Wednesday was attended by not one representative of any ms media outlet. I have heard, in explanation, that the ms press don't bother attending NPC sessions when historical matters are on the agenda. If there is any truth in this, it surely constitutes a damning indictment of the press. And while on the subject of Pappe and the press, I imagine that efforts were made to interest at least its Fairfax half in taking an opinion piece from him, doing an interview with him or maybe even a feature. Whether that was the case or not, nothing whatever by or about Pappe ever appeared. Censorship? Self-censorship? Who knows? To look at it from another angle; if, here in Australia, we have a press that doesn't actively seek out an interview with a visitor of Pappe's stature, that's bad; but if we have a press that actually refuses an opportunity to interview him when offered one by those organising his tour, that's even worse.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

The Airbrushing of Frank Lowy

Take a look at the opening paragraph of this Sydney Morning Herald report on Frank Lowy, Australian billionaire and generous donor to such deserving 'charities' as Israel's Jewish National Fund (JNF) and Australia's LibLab:

"The Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, and one of Australia's greatest refugee success stories, Frank Lowy, joined forces last night to defend multiculturalism against criticisms prompted by the riots in Sydney on Saturday... Giving the inaugural Australian Multicultural Council, Mr Lowy said it was time to move the discussion about multiculturalism to a new phase, 'beyond the recognition that it makes for a more vibrant community, or that we now have a wider choice of restaurants'." (Gillard, Lowy defend multiculturalism, Phillip Coorey,  20/9/12)

What a man, we're expected to exclaim. From refugee rags to riches beyond the dreams of avarice and on to multicultural icon. Bring on the musical!

Reality, however, cannot so easily be (air)brushed aside.

I dedicate this post, therefore, to a critical examination of the two key propositions that underpin Coorey's report: 1) that Lowy was a refugee; and 2) that Lowy is such a paragon of multiculturalism that we, the public, should sit up and take notice of what he says on the subject.

Not that I haven't already animadverted on these matters before - namely in the two posts, Frank Lowy: Arab Fighter (14/11/10) and Refugees (19/7/10) - however, in this post I'll be drawing on a new (for me) source: Jill Margo's 2000 biography of Lowy: Frank Lowy: Pushing the Limits.

Firstly, was Lowy a refugee or an immigrant?

After the war, Lowy and other members of his family returned from Russian-occupied Budapest to their home town, Filakovo, in Czechoslovakia:

"The Holocaust was finally over," writes Margo. "Frank locked away the experience and did not revisit it for 40 years. Throughout 1945 his family began to pick up the pieces of their shattered life. Alex established his own business and opened a shop. John found a new interest: Zionism. Frank was sent to nearby Kosice and a Zionist-funded camp for youngsters, where he was taught primarily about Palestine and Zionism... the Zionist Youth Group [there] was encouraging young people to emigrate to Palestine. Frank understood that this was an opportunity for a new start: There was nothing for me in Czechoslovakia, memories were terrible and I felt enormous inner pressure to leave. I had missed so many years at school, was not motivated to catch up and had no desire to create roots there. Joining the group to go to Palestine was like going to a school camp. This offered a new beginning, a new country, a new identity, a chance to be part of the Jewish drive to create a homeland. The Jewish Agency sent emissaries, collecting strays and displaced persons, and moving them clandestinely to Palestine. I felt I was leaving a place to which I did not belong for a much brighter future." (pp 32-33)

So the reason why Lowy left Czechoslovakia was because he'd been bitten by the Zionist bug. And yet, in his address to the AMC, in which he portrays himself as a refugee, all mention of the siren call of Zion is missing, to be replaced by this:

"And they have returned to their small town [Filakovo] to find they are no longer welcome... The surviving members of this close family know they have become temporary residents in their town and must find somewhere else to be."

In spinning himself as a refugee, Lowy has sketched a postwar atmosphere of anti-Semitic menace, necessitating flight. Nowhere, however, in Margo's biography is there any suggestion that post-war Filakovo is some kind of anti-Semitic hotbed. In fact, his brother John, the first in the family to be bitten by the Zionist bug, is quoted as complaining only that "I felt I had no identity. I was born in Czechoslovakia and was a Czechoslovakian citizen but neither Czech nor Slovak... Palestine seemed to be the place for recreating an identity." (p 32)

It's clear from the above that Lowy did not flee Czechoslovakia for Palestine. Rather he'd been indoctrinated and lured there by Zionist agents (whose only mission was to boost the size of the Jewish community in Palestine vis-a-vis the Palestinian Arabs). And just as Lowy has departed from Margo in his sketch of postwar Filakovo, so too with his account of his journey by boat to Palestine. In Margo, his boat contains 400 passengers (p 33), while in his AMC speech, it's risen to 700. Likewise, in Margo there's no hint of brutality when his boat is intercepted by the British, but in his AMC speech, we get this far more colourful account: "There are scuffles and commotion as the British soldiers board the boat. At gunpoint the frightened refugees are herded into the grey, steel hull of the warship."

Lowy might play the refugee in his AMC speech but the reality was that he'd been recruited, along with thousands of others in the postwar years, by agents of David Ben-Gurion's Jewish Agency for a Mossad-organised attempt to breach Britain's blockade of Palestine, established not, it should be remembered, as an act of anti-Semitic cruelty, but simply to prevent the swamping of Palestine's majority Arab population by illegal Jewish immigration. As the British government stated at the time: "[this] illegal traffic is not, as has been maintained, a movement arising spontaneously among the European Jews who see in Palestine their only hope for the future. Nor are those who encourage and direct it inspired solely by the sympathy which is so widely felt for suffering [rather it is] a widely ramified and highly organized movement supported by very large financial contributions from Zionist sources, which has been built up and put into operation by unscrupulous persons in an attempt tp force the hand of His Majesty's government and anticipate their decision on future policy in Palestine."*

With regard to Palestine then, Lowy was not only not a refugee but an illegal immigrant, an unwitting pawn, if you will, in a Zionist people-smuggling operation, itself just one aspect of the postwar Zionist rebellion  against British mandate rule in Palestine.

Fast forwarding then to his decision in 1952 to migrate to Australia from what was by then Israel, we read in Margo that:

"When Frank first went to Israel there was every expectation the rest of the family would follow. But while he was there, Ilona [Lowy's mother] and his brother Alex followed [sister] Edith and her husband to Australia. They could have gone to Israel but economic conditions in the early 1950s were harsh... The thought of leaving Israel was difficult... but, for Frank and his brother John, the urge to be reunited with their mother Ilona was stronger." (p 52)

With regard to Australia then, Lowy was simply an immigrant, not a refugee.

Secondly, is Lowy such a paragon of multiculturalism that he should be lecturing us on the subject?

With the events of September 15 in mind, Lowy opined in his AMC address that migrants "should agree to live by the standards and values of this society... and agree to pass on these values to your children, to ensure they receive a broad and balanced education, untainted by the ideology of hate."

But Lowy's a Zionist  who has donated significant sums of money to one of the main arms of Zionist colonialism in Palestine, the Jewish National Fund. As a financial backer of the JNF, Lowy's therefore doing his bit to ensure the maintenance of Zionist settler-colonial rule in Palestine over its indigenous Palestinian Arab population, whether they be in perpetual exile, under military occupation or living in Israel as second-class citizens. To advocate multiculturalism in Australia while funding monoculturalism and apartheid in another is to risk being called a hypocrite.

But there's another reason why Lowy's little homily on multiculturalism rings hollow. It has to do with what he was doing in Palestine in the critical year of the Palestinian Nakba, 1948. All we get in his AMC speech is this:

"Ashore in Palestine, he feels a sense of freedom. No one is chasing him or pointing a gun at him because he is Jewish. But the following year he's in a makeshift uniform, back in the turmoil of war, fighting in the War of Independence for the new state of Israel."

Of course, this kind of patter is the usual stock-in-trade of  the Zionist  true believer, who cannot bring himself to acknowledge  the reality of the massacres and expulsions of Palestine's indigenous Arab population that were perpetrated by Zionist forces in Palestine in 1948. The historical record, however, is what should guide the rest of us. Relying on Margo's sketchy, no doubt sanitised, account of this period in Lowy's life, and fleshing it out with data from scholars of the Nakba, we can get at least some idea of Lowy's  involvement in the events of 1948:

Margo mentions an Israeli attack on the Palestinian village of Sejera [ash-Shajara] in February 1948, in which Lowy was wounded. Palestinian historian Walid Khalidi has written of it: "In mid-February 1948, as a battle flared between Arab and Haganah forces in the Baysan Valley, the Haganah forces carried out a diversionary attack on ash-Shajara." (All That Remains: The Palestinian Villages Occupied and Depopulated by Israel in 1948, 1992, p 541)

Margo reveals that Lowy was involved in the 'liberation' of Tiberias in April 1948: "We would occupy one house and then move to the next. First we would break down the door, check if anyone was inside, throw in a grenade and then occupy it." (p 43) Michael Palumbo adds the necessary context: "[W]hen it was learned that the British were about to evacuate Tiberias, a company of elite Palmach troops were sent in to reinforce the town's Jewish militia. On the night of 17-18 April, a co-ordinated drive was made to cut the Arab section of town in two. Barrel-bombs, loudspeakers and 'horror sounds' were used to frighten the civilian population. (The Palestinian Catastrophe: The 1948 Expulsion of a People from their Homeland, 1987, p 107)

After the fall of Tiberias, Israeli troops reportedly looted and desecrated Christian religious establishments there. (Palumbo, p 108)

In June 1948, according to Margo, Lowy joined the Barak battalion of the Golani Brigade. She quotes his commanding officer, Rafi Kocer thus: "They were a highly motivated unit. In some ways I think they were avenging the Holocaust and empowering themselves." (p 46) The question of exactly why Lowy and his troop should be avenging the Holocaust by attacking Palestinian Arabs obviously didn't occur to either Kocer or Margo. I wonder if it's ever occurred to Lowy?

Margo cites a second, final attack by the Golanis on Sejera in June 1948, though her timing appears to be out, however. Here's Khalidi again: "The village was captured on 6 May 1948 in the aftermath of the fall of Tiberias... The attack was part of a Haganah effort to consolidate its hold on lower Galilee before 15 May. Units of the Golani Brigade (mainly the 12th or Barak Battalion) struck at dawn and took the village after a 'powerful attack', according to the History of the Haganah. An unspecified number of villagers were killed during the attack; the Haganah's account states that the village's inhabitants 'fled leaving their dead behind'." (p 541)

Margo goes on to say that "[i]n the 6 months between July and December 1948, Kocer's commando unit had been involved in 73 combat missions, many behind enemy lines," and that from October 1948 Lowy was involved in fighting against the Egyptians in the Western Negev. (p 50)

While only Lowy himself is privy to the precise details of his involvement in what Israeli historian Ilan Pappe describes as the ethnic cleansing of Palestine, which led to the Palestinian refugee problem that is still with us today (5.5 million souls and growing), the data presented above is surely sufficient to cast doubt on whether he's really the right person to be lecturing Australians on the meaning of multiculturalism. 

[*Quoted in From Catastrophe to Power: Holocaust Survivors & the Emergence of Israel, Idith Zertal, 1998, p 237]

Sunday, September 23, 2012

NSW Police Riot, September 15 2012

The disturbances involving Muslim demonstrators and police that occurred in Sydney's CBD on Saturday, September 15, have generally been referred to in the corporate media as the 'Muslim riots'. The following two eyewitness accounts suggest that it may well have been the police rather than the Muslim protesters who initiated the violence:

News reader: SBS reporter Andrea Clarke was in Hyde Park when protesters had the second major confrontation with police:

Andrea Clarke: We were standing here with about 100 protesters and what felt like several hundred police when the protesters attempted to leave the park peacefully. They were heading into Pitt St Mall and police literally just set upon them. There was a massive skirmish. The protesters responded by throwing bottles and rocks and sticks. Police did not muck around. They pulled out the pepper spray and they took down at least two protesters right in front of me in a fairly violent manner and then the entire group charged across Hyde Park and that's where it really all fell apart. Police divided and conquered. They chased them down the street. They chased them away but not before protesters smashed the windscreen of at least one police car and also received another few injuries, so it was an extremely violent day. Mounted police, dog squad police. You can hear the dog squad behind me... hundreds of officers. It was an extraordinary show of force and it ended violently. (Live update on Sydney protests, SBS 6.30 World News, 15/9/12)

"I was attending a small but engaging rally against internet spying on September 15... at Hyde Park North, when 7 police cars and 4-wheel drives drove into the park and about 20 police officers got out. Protesting members of the Muslim community shouting 'Allahu Akbar' marched into the park and police told us to hurry and pack up. More police ran in phalanx formation towards the Muslim rally. This rally of 300 to 400 people, including women and children, older men and young Muslims, were protesting against the anti-Islam film Innocence of Muslims, produced in California, which one woman at the rally described as 'disgusting'. I spoke to 3 young women who were sitting calmly on the ground about why they protested. 'We had to protest this horrible film. If Jesus had been called horrible things in a film, Christians would have protested,' one of the women said. 'The police are being too heavy,' added another woman.

"The police lined up, truncheons extended, behind and in front of the Muslim protesters. One police line then advanced on the protesters, yelling. The young men in the protest moved back. A woman with a pram hurried out past the cops. 'Let's get out of here,' said one of the young women I had been speaking to and they left to get out of the police cordon. Police cars blocked off Macquarie St, near the NSW Parliament, and parts of College St. It was a huge, over the top, show of force by the police. I saw 3 large police dogs. The police kept goading the protesters by shoving them back in coordinated waves of advance. The protesters were chanting through megaphones. Then a bottle was thrown by a young man in the protest and the cops started firing pepper spray into the front row of protesters. They also sprayed it up into the crowd. There were cries of anger and 'Down, Down USA!' chants. One young man was dragged off after he had an allergic reaction to the spray, according to one of the protesters. Two protesters were injured and taken to hospital, said a young woman. A group of male protesters then formed a circle, chanting through the megaphone. They started praying, angry but determined. The police stayed back as a police helicopter hummed overhead.

"Onlookers came to watch the chanting, also watching the police. Young men washed their faces in the Hyde Park fountain and came back to chant. I saw a young Muslim woman of high school age crying. The media focused on the most provocative fundamentalist placard, but I saw an older woman giving out a leaflet which said, 'Islam=peace' and Mohammed=humble'. I met an Iraq war veteran at the rally who said he had left the army because of the crimes the occupation troops committed against the Iraqi people. He said that the community had the right to protest without police violence. Participants in the anti-spying action filmed the police pepper spraying the protesters and the huge line of police. One person who had marched with the rally since it started at Town Hall said: 'The police didn't let us march where we wanted to go.'

"I think that if the police had left the protesters alone they would have marched, chanted and prayed in peace. Instead, the police goaded the protesters, in particular the youth, and so the police are responsible for the clashes that took place. The use of pepper spray and truncheons was extremely aggressive and unprovoked. There was no need to surround the rally and charge the protesters and there was no need for the police to come out in such massive force.

"The police would be unlikely to have used this level of force against most other protests of 300 to 400 people. But Muslim protesters get different treatment. Muslims have been scapegoated and criminalised by state and federal governments and the mainstream media. Muslim communities are the target of intense racism and have been made fair game in this country. Now the protesters, not the police, are being blamed by politicians and the media of the 1% and even more fear and hate is being whipped up against the Muslim population. We should condemn the police who brutally provoked these protesters and squandered thousands of dollars in a massive show of police repression in the heart of Sydney." (Eyewitness: NSW police riot against Muslim rally in Sydney, Rachel Evans, Green Left Weekly, 19/9/12)

Saturday, September 22, 2012

The Nakba Comes to Q & A

Getting Israeli historian Ilan Pappe on Q&A on Monday night was quite a coup. In fact, I can't even remember any program ever on ABC television devoted, even if not in its entirety, to the issue of the ethnic cleansing of Palestine. 

Q&A, September 17 2012, was memorable for many things.

First, there was an uncharacteristic silence from the ms media's most vociferous Zionist, Greg (Jerusalem Prize) Sheridan, foreign editor of the Australian. As he himself remarked at one point, "Haven't I been magnificently silent through all that debate? It is the longest debate on Israel ever held in Australia in which I haven't spoken, you know."

And better for him to have remained magnificently silent than to flaunt his abysmal ignorance thus:

"I comprehensively reject Ilan's narrative of Israel. I think it's wrong in every respect. I haven't had time to read all of Ilan's books but I read this week devastating critiques of them by historians, who are very critical of Israel, for their factual inaccuracy. Benny Morris and others who are very critical of Israel, not servants of the Israeli Government."

Who is he trying to fool? For one, Sheridan wouldn't know a book by Pappe if it hit him in the face. For another, portraying Morris as a trenchant critic of Israel simply means he hasn't read Morris either. Happily, apart from the above, this pompous windbag had little else to say other than to moan irrelevantly about Israel's so-called legitimacy coming under attack, crack this little funny - "There is no country in the Middle East which better observes the human rights of all its citizens than Israel" - and draw a false analogy between Arab Jewish immigrants to Israel and ethnically-cleansed Palestinians.

The only real attempt to land a few blows on Pappe came from Zionist barrister Irving Wallach. Of course, we'd heard Wallach's line a thousand times before: the Palestinians were the authors of their own misfortune. If only they'd accepted the 1947 UN partition plan! Then, presumably, Israeli forces would have advanced no further than a line on a map drawn by a UN committee and the Palestinians would now be partying in at least 44% of their ancestral homeland. One (just one!) of the problems with this little fantasy can be summed up by the rhetorical question: Since when have lines on a map ever been an obstacle to Zionist expansionism? Wallach then followed this with: If only the Palestinians hadn't been led by the Mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin al-Husseini*, a man who'd spent the war years in Nazi Germany schmoozing with Adolf Hitler!

Despite Pappe's categorical dismissal of Wallach's 'if onlys' as "Israeli propaganda," credulous ringmaster Tony Jones was mightily impressed by the second at least:

Jones: OK. All right. Let's settle this issue of the Mufti of Jerusalem because I have seen those pictures. I have seen the history. He was connected to Hitler. [What exactly have you been reading, Tony?]

Wallach: Yeah, definitely. Absolutely.

Jones: There isn't any doubt about that.

They hadn't, however, reckoned on Pappe's succinct presentation of the bleeding obvious:

"Stupid behaviour by a Palestinian leader does not justify the ethnic cleansing of Palestine. A Palestinian refusal to accept the partition may or may not be justified. What is not justified is punishing the Palestinians by depopulating half of [Palestine]. We have to understand what happened in 1948. Imagine half the population of a country [being] forcibly expelled. Half the villages destroyed. Half the towns demolished. Is this the right kind of punishment for for a leader who made a stupid mistake in World War 2? This was not a tragedy. This was a crime against humanity."

The insularity and self-absorption of one elderly Zionist questioner (on video) was breathtaking. He wanted to know why Q&A "coincided with the holiest days of the Jewish calendar, Rosh Hashanah," thus "preventing observant Jews from being able to attend as members of the audience or even to watch the broadcast."

This provided an opening for another jab by Wallach, for whom defending Israel from a prominent critic obviously took precedence over Rosh Hashana: "Look, can I say this about Ilan's whole point of view, and that is: it is designed and intended to perpetuate a conflict model and narrative." There was, said Wallach, a war, but both sides have been moving towards a two-state solution. He went on portentously, "if you want to carry on in Ilan's fashion and throw around cliches and accusations then a couple of things follow. Firstly, you have to seriously consider surrendering your claim to be an objective historian. Secondly, you have to accept that what you want to do is encourage ongoing conflict and battles and death and destruction between the Israeli and Palestinian peoples. If you want to go along the conflict road, then forget about peace. If you want to promote Israel as a pariah state for your own political and ideological agenda, go ahead. History will not thank you for it."

Wallach's little homily, which smeared Pappe as a promoter of violence while ignoring the fact that the root of all violence in Palestine/Israel stems solely from the Zionist movement's goal of imposing a sectarian 'Jewish' state on the indigenous non-Jewish inhabitants of Palestine, led to the following revealing exchange:

Pappe: Can I...?

Jones: Ilan, yes, you have to respond to that.

Pappe: Can I respond? First of all, I don't think Israel's seeking legitimcy [as such]. Israel is seeking legitimacy as a racist state within the community of civilised states.

Wallach (interrupting): Look, pardon me, can we stick to the facts?

Pappe (as if bone-weary of Zionist claptrap): No. No. Please no.

Wallach: Please stick to the facts.

Pappe: I didn't interrupt you. You taught me a lesson about being polite so try to apply it to yourself. Now, Israel wants to remain both a racist and a democratic state. This is an oxymoron... Secondly, the documentation for the ethnic cleansing of Palestine [and] for Israel's criminal policies since is there and most Israeli historians recognise that. So the debate in Israel is not over facts but morals. Whether it was right, as Benny Morris says, in self-defence, to ethnically cleanse another people, or whether it was immoral. I say it was immoral, not Jewish, inhuman and finally...

Jones: What's being challenged is the documentation.

Pappe: No. No.

Jones: Which, as a historian, you are relying on. [Jones, like Doogue, who knows little or nothing about the Palestinian Nakba is challenging Ilan Pappe? Is this chutzpah or what?]

Pappe: The documentation is not challenged. Nobody challenges it.

Wallach (taking advantage of Jones insufferable chutzpah): And Tony, if I might say so, what's also challenged...

Pappe (trying to close the door on this peddler of Zionist snake oil): No, let me finish.

Wallach (channelling Benny Morris):... is the slur of an ethnic cleansing as opposed to war followed by refugees. That's what's under challenge.

Pappe: Yes. Now...

Wallach: And in that regard Ilan is on his own...

Pappe: In that regard, you could look...

Wallach: Ilan is on his own as regards the historians. He's on his own.

Pappe: I am totally alone - with 5-6 million Palestinians and another 10 billion people in the world. Now, the point I'm making...

Sheridan (ever the smartarse heckler from Greg & Tony Do Monash): There are only 6 billion people in the world. [Actually its over 7 billion.]

Pappe: Six billion. That's right. I extended it to the universe. I'm sure even aliens understand that the Zionist version is wrong. Now, the...

Sheridan: I'm sure the aliens watch the ABC.

MULTIPLE SPEAKERS TALK AT ONCE

Jones (having allowed Wallach and Sheridan to interrupt Pappe repeatedly, now proceeds to cut him short in favour of the two panellists, Moore and Davidson, who know nothing about the issue): I'm going to get you to sum up because we haven't heard from at least two of our panellists for quite a while.

Pappe: I know but let me make a final, very important point. By the time the so-called war started on May 15, 1948, when the Arab armies entered Palestine, half of the Palestinians had already become refugees. This was [before] the war. And this was the plan, the unpleasant reality that Israelis have to come to terms with if Jews and Arabs are ever to have peace and reconciliation.

The idiocy of the decision to include Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore on the panel became apparent when she rambled vacuously: "Well, I just think that history's fine and I acknowledge that there have been terrible experiences of the Jewish people during particularly the Hitler era and for Palestinians as well but, you know,, I think we really should be talking about solutions here. I think of the families of the two communities and, you know, the bloodshed that continues, and I really think we should all be working very hard to try and find solutions."

You're kidding me! Pappe had to be cut short for that? History's fine, like, but hey, it's behind us. Now let's all shake hands and move on. Jeesus! Is it too much to expect people like Moore to say simply: Hey, I'm a whizz on the Sydney CBD but this Jew/Palestinian thingy? Forget it! And if Tony Jones asked her if she'd learnt anything from Ilan Pappe, all she had to do was ask, Alan who? But no, she not only blaahed the above but went on to rhubarb the following:

"You know, Europeans came to this country 200 years ago. The Aboriginal community had been here for 60,000 years. Now the Europeans dispossessed the Aboriginal people of their land and we're now working very hard on reconciliation and making amends and so I really think reconciliation and coexistence and solutions for the Palestinian and Israeli communities should be the goal of everyone involved in this issue."

Such is the 'quality' of Australia's political class (not sure if class is quite the right word here, know what I mean?).

Tony Jones asked if her if she was equating Aboriginal dispossession with Palestinian dispossession. It's "comparable," she replied, apparently in blissful ignorance (after all these years) of the fact that millions of Aboriginal people are not living in refugee camps in PNG and New Zealand.

For Wallach, however, any suggestion of comparability between indigenous Palestinians and indigenous Australians was to venture into dangerous territory. This mere inkling of a truth - that in fact both peoples were steamrolled by a belligerent, relentless, and unforgiving settler-colonial project - simply had to be scotched. Hence the following:

"[C]an I say this about this question of Aboriginal people: my first job as a solicitor was with the South Coast Aboriginal Legal Service... One of the things that surprised me was the number of my Koori clients coming up to me and saying, Mate, we appreciate what you're doing. We feel just like you and your people, the Jews. We went through exactly what you're going through." (There are two ways of looking at this. The less charitable is simply to dismiss it as poppycock. After all, unless Wallach wore a neon sign on his head saying Wandering, Suffering Jew, his Aboriginal clients would likely have perceived in him little more than another, albeit sympathetic and helpful, white man. The more charitable interpretation is to assume that Wallach did indeed talk to his clients about the fate of his relatives in Nazi-occupied Poland, in which case the word may well have got around, incurring the reaction he describes. What is certain, however, is that if his Aboriginal clients had heard the real story of the Palestinian Nakba, they'd have identified with the Palestinians, not the Zionist terror gangs of the Haganah, Irgun and Stern.)

I particularly enjoyed this delicious exchange between a member of the studio audience and Pappe: 

Marrianne Fraser: After all the pogroms throughout the centuries, with Jews never being able to own land in any country they lived in [???] and being forced from their homes time and again as portrayed so well in my favourite musical Fiddler on the Roof, and after the Holocaust, isn't it just for Jews to have been given a place to call their own?

Pappe: You know, this kind of question always reminds me of people setting off in search of a refuge for battered women and abused children. They find a home where another family lives, throw them off the balcony, and their home becomes the refuge. Of course Jews are entitled to a safe place, and in many ways the Palestinians were willing to give them a safe haven. What they were not willing to give them was the right to take over their homeland. I think there's a difference between giving people a refuge (which, for some reason, you Australians refuse to give these poor boat people) [and a group who come to take over your country]. Imagine if these boat people today were knocking on your door saying, Dear Australians, 2,000 years ago Australia used to be my homeland. You must give us half now and the rest later on. This would never be accepted by anyone in Australia and rightly so

Finally, who could forget this wonderful contribution from someone known only as 'audience member'?:

"We keep speaking about the history, 1948 and all that. I was privileged to have worked in Israel and Palestine for the last 18 months, and was even able to attend a meeting with the current mayor of Jerusalem. At the time he had just announced 5,000 more Jewish homes in East Jerusalem, but when we questioned him about that he just laughed and said, 'I've only announced 5,000 but there are 90,000 planned,' so the ethnic cleansing is still going on as far as I'm concerned."

[*Re Haj Amin, I'll be doing a post in the near future.]

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Yes, Geraldine, the Palestinians Were Ethnically Cleansed 2

So what exactly, I'd like to know, led to Radio National's decision to follow Monday's interview with Israeli historian Ilan Pappe with a rant by fellow Israeli historian Benny Morris on Tuesday? Lobby pressure or a craven act of self-censorship?

And what a rant it was! Morris threw every vile epithet in the book at Pappe in what amounted essentially to a case of character assassination. Pure projection of course, but nothing in Geraldine's questions betrayed the slightest awareness that she was dealing with a deeply disturbed individual.

Morris' tirade reminded me of nothing so much as the excoriations of a cult leader directed at one who not only got away but is now blowing the whistle on the whole mad enterprise. Poor Geraldine, desperately seeking relief from the cognitive dissonance occasioned by her exposure to the bleeding obvious on Monday, got more than she bargained for with motor-mouth Morris, the Israeli establishment's go-to historian on the events of 1948. Once a colleague of Pappe's, Morris has, in the words of the former, "transformed to become a racist anti-Arab pundit and less of a professional historian." (Out of the Frame: The Struggle for Academic Freedom in Israel, 2010, p 20)

Here's my transcript with bracketed commentary:

Doogue: Well there are other 'new' historians who see Israel's history very differently [from Ilan Pappe]. One of those is Professor Benny Morris an Israeli professor of history at the Ben-Gurion University of the Negev. He's a harsh critic of Ilan Pappe. Indeed, writing in The New Republic last year he said: "At best Ilan Pappe must be one of the world's sloppiest historians. At worst, one of the most dishonest. In truth, he probably merits a place somewhere between the two." Well Benny Morris now joins us from Beersheva. Professor welcome to Radio National Breakfast.

Morris: Thank you for having me.

Doogue: Ilan Pappe says if you go to the sources and look at the documentation from 1948 onwards, which you have done as well, then you form a very different opinion of what happened to the Palestinians compared with mainstream Israeli history. Now how far do you disagree with that?

Morris: Ilan Pappe's description is mendacious and politically motivated. He's an anti-Zionist and he wants to blacken Israel's image. Actually, I saw the documents long before and published long before Ilan Pappe [inaudible] actually what happened. The documentation gives us a complex picture. We have the Palestinian Arabs launching an attack on the Jewish community, followed by an attack by the Arab states during which, in self defence, Israelis occupied Arab towns and villages, some of which they expelled. Most of the people fled and there was no pre-planning, no systematic what he calls ethnic cleansing. There were cases where there were expulsions, cases where Arab leaders instructed or advised Arabs to leave and in most cases Arabs fled the wrath of war, the flame of war and not because of any systematic plan or intention by the Israelis.

[Shhh... don't mention Ben-Gurion's telling the Jewish Agency mere weeks before the UN partition plan that to prevent the Palestinians in the proposed Jewish state becoming a fifth column, "they can either be mass arrested or expelled: it is better to expel them." (2/11/47)*

Or the infamous Master Plan for getting rid of the Palestinians, Plan Dalet of March 1948: "These operations can be carried out in the following manner: either by destroying villages (by setting fire to them, by blowing them up, and by planting mines in their debris) and especially those population centers which are difficult to control continuously; or by mounting combing and control operations according to the following guidelines: encirclement of the villages, conducting a search inside them. In case of resistance, the armed forces must be wiped out and the population expelled outside the borders of the state." (10/3/48)]**

What is true is that the Israelis as policy did not allow the Palestinians to return to their towns and villages, arguing that these very Palestinians tried to destroy Israel and would constitute a fifth column were they to return.

[This, of course, is typical Zionist double-talk: one version for the Geraldines of this world, another for his fellow Israelis. Keeping in mind that the Palestinian Arabs had been smashed militarily by the British in the late 30s and were therefore no great military threat to the Zionists in 1948, what Morris only hints at here, the Palestinian demographic threat - the fact that the Palestinian Arabs were the majority population in Palestine in 1948 - becomes explicit in an interview he gave to Haaretz journalist Ari Shavit in 2004, Survival of the Fittest: "That is what Zionism faced [in 1948]. A Jewish state would not have come into being without the uprooting of 700,000 Palestinians. Therefore it was necessary to uproot them... I feel sympathy for the Palestinian people, which truly underwent a hard tragedy... But if the desire to establish a Jewish state here is legitimate, there was no other choice." (See my 11/5/08 post Benny Unhinged for a fuller account of this interview.)]

Doogue: So a central part of Ilan Pappe's thesis as I understand it anyway was that going right back to the end of 19th century through to the 30s and so on the planners, the people who were dreaming of the Jewish state did allow themselves to almost fantasise how good life would be if they had no Arabs around them at all and that this did amount to and led to a genuine plan to evict the Palestinians so they could have the land to themselves. Now you contest that, do you?

Morris: Again, it's a mixture of truth and fantasy. The world Zionist leaders, especially during the 1930s including Ben-Gurion, the leader of the Zionist community in Palestine, did talk about, think about the possibility of transferring Arabs out of Palestine but that was because the Arabs had revolted against British rule and were attacking the Zionist community in Palestine. The Jews in Europe were suffering from anti-Semitism and needed a safe haven and in order to supply them with one the Jews wanted a state in Palestine and they understood that as masses of Jews poured in they would be attacked by the Arabs who wanted to expel them. So part of the Zionist response was perhaps it would be best to transfer Arabs or some Arabs or all Arabs from Palestine but this was never [inaudible] and we see this in Ben-Gurion's diary. This was never adopted as policy. This was just an idea, one idea, among Zionist leaders how to deal with this problem of Arab belligerancy and expulsionism vis-a-vis the Jewish community. It was never adopted as policy by the Jewish Agency or the Israeli government subsequent to May 1948. It was never adopted by any major party as part of its platform. Without doubt though the feeling about transfer in the 30s in some way affected the actions of Israeli generals, officials and politicians in what happened in 1948. It affected them in not wanting the Arabs to return once they'd fled.

[Now compare the above antiseptic account of the 'transfer' idea with that in his 2004 book, The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem Revisited: "My feeling is that the transfer thinking and near-consensus that emerged in the 1930s and early 1940s was not tantamount to pre-planning and did not issue in the production of a policy or master-plan of expulsion; the Yishuv and its military forces did not enter the 1948 War which was initiated by the Arab side, with a policy or plan for expulsion. But transfer was inevitable and inbuilt into Zionism - because it sought to transform a land which was 'Arab' into a 'Jewish' state and a Jewish state could not have arisen without a major displacement of Arab population; and because this aim automatically produced resistance among the Arabs which in turn persuaded the Yishuv's leaders that a hostile Arab majority or large minority could not remain in place if a Jewish state was to arise or safely endure. By 1948 transfer was in the air." (p 60) Just one idea among many, eh? If 'transfer' - expulsion - was inevitable and inbuilt into Zionism maybe its publicity-conscious leaders not only didn't need to shout it from the rooftops but knew that to do so would be quite counter-productive under the circumstances. If Geraldine had had a clue, could she not have alluded to this?]

Doogue: It might be useful to listen to what he did say because he did say proof of the expulsion of the Palestinians, no matter what the exact plans were or how pre-meditated it was, is plain to see: "And the proof is there. Every Jewish settlement is built on the ruins of a Palestinian village. There are 5.5 million Palestinian refugees who are testimony to the fact that they were expelled. So actually the true story is there even without going to the archives but when you get to the archives you can see a very systematic planning, a realisation that is very sad for me, a realisation I don't agree with but that was how Zionist leaders saw it." So how far have your views... because you and Ilan Pappe if I'm right were pretty close. How far and why have you fallen out?

Morris: I don't think we've fallen out. Politically, we don't have the same agenda or beliefs and Pappe in my opinion is not a serious historian and invents things. There is no documentation for a plan or pre-plan or pre-determination for the expulsion of the Palestinians in 1948, not before or during 1948. There was mass flight. In some cases there were expulsions. In some cases Arabs asked old people to leave their sites. The fact that there are 5 million refugees today - 700,000 of them in 1948 - is not proof of anything except that they left their homes. The question is why they left their homes and, as I said, they left mainly because of war. There is another fact which points in my view to the fact that there was no pre-plan or systematic expulsion and that is that at the end of the 1948 war 160,000 Arabs remained in place in the area that became the state of Israel alongside 700,000 Jews. IOW about a fifth of the population. The fact they remained there and were allowed to is proof that there was no systematic ethnic cleansing as he puts it. Had there been they would have been expelled as well.

[Of course, the only thing that the existence of an Arab minority in 'Israel' after 1948 proves is that ethnic cleansing isn't always 100% successful. In his 2004 Haaretz interview, Morris complained that Ben-Gurion "should have done a complete job" and "cleansed the whole country as far as the Jordan River." As for today's Palestinians (those still in Palestine that is), Israel's minority Palestinian Arab citizens, the descendants of those 160,000, and the Palestinians under Israeli military occupation in the Palestinian territories, here's what Morris told Haaretz in 2004: "In the present circumstances it is neither moral nor realistic [to transfer and expel the Arabs from the West Bank, Gaza, the Galilee and the Triangle]. The world would not allow it... But, in other circumstances, apocalyptic ones, which are liable to be realized in 5 or 10 years, I can see expulsions..."]

Doogue: What for you is the central problem with Pappe's approach, because he's going to be here in Australia with quite a few public appearances? How do you critique him?

Morris: The basic problem is he invents the documentation, mistranslates, invents whole sentences in the things he supposedly quotes. He is essentially a liar. Not one sentence in any of his books can be trusted, especially on this type of subject because he has a political axe to grind which is to blacken Israel's image to serve the Palestinian purpose. He wants no Jewish state, no Zionist state, just a Palestinian state which he says will contain Jews and Arabs, essentially a majority Arab state. That's his political agenda and he subordinates his history writings to this political end and this isn't the way historians are supposed to write history.

Doogue: Why would he do that though? Does he represent a real strand in Israeli society?

Morris: He represents a type of self-hating Jew. There have always been self-hating Jews and people who've been anti-Zionists within Israeli society. It goes beyond anti-Zionism in his case. It's something which only a psychiatrist could explain. There are such Israelis, academics who call for an international boycott of their own universities. But it's a very small number. Israel's a democracy. It allows them to flourish. Ilan Pappe no longer lives in Israel. He works in England. I'm not really sure he can be called an Israeli.

Doogue (who seems to have no problem whatever with Pappe being described as a psychiatric basket case who can hardly even be described as an Israeli anymore, still can't quite believe that Israeli Jews are Zionists) : He did claim in yesterday's interview that about 95% of Jews in Israel would be Zionist and that only a small percentage of Israelis would agree with his take on Israel's past. Does that misrepresent or correctly represent in your view the level at which the Palestinian issue is debated and contested among other Israelis?

Morris: No, there are gradations. It doesn't simply divide between Zionist and non-Zionist. He's actually quite correct that the number of anti-Zionist Jews living in Israel is very small. There are also a lot of ultra-Orthodox Jews who are also anti-Zionist but they're not involved in this kind of discussion. They care only about the Bible. There are also all sorts of gradations among the Zionists: more critical of the government, more critical of Israeli policies. It doesn't simply divide into yes-men and critics of the whole Zionist enterprise, which he of course is.

[He's right, of course, there are all sorts of Zionists: they range from those who want all Palestinians out (the hard-boiled) to those who just don't want them to become a majority again in their former homeland (the soft-boiled).]

There was a little more but I  weary, and anyway I think you've got the point.

[* Pappe, The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine, 2006, p 49; ** ibid, Chapter 4: Finalising the Master Plan.]

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Yes, Geraldine, the Palestinians Were Ethnically Cleansed

How fascinating the interaction on Radio National's Breakfast program yesterday between Israeli historian Ilan Pappe, a bloke who knows what he's talking about because he's done his homework and more, and veteran ABC journalist Geraldine Doogue, who, despite having worked for the ABC for more decades than I can remember, seems utterly clueless when it comes to the basics of one of the planet's great unresolved colonial conflicts.

So clueless, in fact, that Ilan Pappe's account of what really happened when Israel sprang into being in 1948, seems actually to have shocked her. Nor was it just 1948. Pappe even had to explain at one point that the vast majority of Israelis are actually Zionists!

How to explain the bizarre phenomenon of someone at the very top of the journalism tree experiencing the kind of discombobulation suffered by young Virginia when doubt was first cast on the existence of her beloved Santa Claus?

Is this the legacy of years of Zionist pressure on the ABC over the issue of Palestine, and the culture of self-censorship that has developed there and elsewhere in the ms media in response to it? How else is one to account for this 60-something journalist and broadcaster being so comprehensively shielded from the awful truth of what really happened back in 1948, the year of Israel's birth?

Here's the transcript, with the odd annotation by yours truly:

Doogue: Well one of Israel's most controversial historians is visiting Australia. Ilan Pappe is speaking at a number of events, including the Festival of Dangerous Ideas next Sunday where he'll address the not uncontroversial topic, Is Israel an Apartheid State? Ilan is an Israeli born-and-bred author and academic but he's now based at the University of Exeter in the UK. As one of Israel's 'new' historians - it's a new category - he has challenged the accepted history of Israel's formation over the years, courting controversy with provocative books and articles that have enraged many within his homeland, including titles such as The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine and The Bureaucracy of Evil: The Hidden History of the Israeli Occupation, and he's with us in our Sydney studios now. Ilan, welcome to Radio National Breakfast. 

Ilan Pappe: Thankyou. It's a great pleasure to be here.

Doogue: Why did your whole life as an historian and an Israeli seem to pivot really on seeing original documents from the start of Israel in 1948?

Ilan Pappe: Well, I think I come from a comfort zone, from a privileged side of Israeli society and I thought that part of that privilege was the ability to look at my society up-close and see what's wrong, what kind of injustices occur in it. And, as part of my professional career, I'm an historian, and these two impulses, the impulse not to abuse your position of privilege on the one hand, and my professional curiosity on the other, fused together in research on the foundational mythology of the state of Israel, and there I ran into the trouble that still haunts me today.

Doogue: Where did this material come from that so changed you?

Ilan Pappe: The material itself comes from two sources. One is archival material that has been declassified after 30 years in the Israeli state archives and the other was just opening my ears and listening to the Palestinians about what happened to them in 1948, which most Israelis do not do. So hearing the other side substantiating what is said in the archival material was for me a very powerful fusion that really changed my life both as a professional and as an activist.

Doogue: And how much did it fundamentally alter the story you'd been told and learned like every Israeli child about your national history?

Ilan Pappe: The two were diametrically opposed. Almost every bit of it came out the other way. Every villain in a way became a hero and every hero became a villain. But the most important thing was the fact that we were told that the Palestinians left Palestine voluntarily in 1948. That's why the country was emptied. But the documents showed really clearly that the Israelis had forcibly and systematically expelled the Palestinians so as to make way for the creation of the Jewish state. This was the greatest revelation for me compared to what I was taught in school and learned in university before starting my research.

Doogue: So essentially you're saying that this material revealed that the original Zionist Jews who first came to what is now Israel back in the late 19th century [sic] and continuing through the activism of the 30s and World War 2 planned for the expulsion of the Palestinians who lived on this land in what you now describe as the planned ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians. Jee, I can't think of anything more inflammatory to be suggesting.

Ilan Pappe: In a way yes, but there's so much more living proof to this crime, and it is a crime to uproot an indigenous population from its homeland. There's no justification for doing that. And the proof is there. Every Jewish settlement is built on the ruins of a Palestinian village. There are 5.5 million Palestinian refugees who are testimony to the fact that they were expelled. So actually, there's the true story even without going to the archives. But when you go to the archives you can see a very systematic planning, a realisation that is very sad for me, a realisation I don't agree with, but that was how Zionist leaders saw it.

Doogue (in disbelief): But... but... but... I mean, which Zionist leaders and what did they actually say?

Ilan Pappe: Mainstream Zionist leadership from the very beginning understood that from their perspective they could not have a Jewish state as long as the Palestinians remained in Palestine. In order to fulfil their main slogan - We are a people without a land looking for a land without a people.

Doogue (highly agitated, her bubble of ignorance quite burst): But... but not all Israelis even then were Zionists. I mean this is the point of the trouble... I'm trying to seek... What do mainstream Israelis who don't consider themselves Zionists at any point, what do they say in relation to this matter? 

Ilan Pappe: I think most Israeli Jews would consider themselves to be Zionists and would either be...

Doogue (interrupting):... really?

Ilan Pappe: Oh yes, indeed. Israeli Jews, about 95% of them, would tell you we are Zionists. Zionism for Israelis is a synonym for being an Israeli Jew. People like me who regard themselves as non-Zionists are a very, very small minority in the state of Israel. So the vast majority of the Israeli Jews were brought up on this narrative that the Palestinians left voluntarily and that's why actually there are very few of them in the land of Palestine, whereas the truth is that their country was built through what I call an operation of ethnic cleansing which has major implications for the moral validity of the state and for the future solution of the conflict with the Palestinians.

Doogue (clutching at straws): So what do official sources say and did say about this material when it came out? I'm seeking to ventilate the debate. I mean you're presenting a very blunt... err... sort of clear-cut view. Is it the view in Israel?

Ilan Pappe: Well, it's very interesting. We had a left-centre political elite ruling in Israel until 2000. They were in a state of denial and the struggle was to convince them that they were hiding the truth. Unfortunately, since then we've had a right-wing [inaudible]...

Doogue: With the second intifada...

Ilan Pappe: Exactly... and they don't deny it. They actually accept it as part of what should have been done and maybe what would be done again for the sake of Israel's survival. IOW, for them the idea that power was used in order to establish the state is not a problem, whereas for people on the centre-left this was a problem but they were denying it. So we're either in a state of denial, which is bad, or we have a position that endorses such actions, which is also not very positive. Unfortunately, the Israeli political scene today lies between those two positions.

Doogue: Have you been accused of being a self-hating Jew of the sort I thought was done very humorously in Howard Jacobson, a UK Jew, his [novel] The Finkler Question which won the Booker Prize, arguing against people in a way such as yourself who seem to be almost fortified by the notion that there's something inherently wrong with Jewish people being successful? [The only book Geraldine's ever read that touches on the Palestine/Israel problem, not counting Leon Uris' Exodus?]

Ilan Pappe (trying to get his head around such a ridiculous question): Yes... no... I always say that to be a self-hating person you need to hate yourself and I'm [actually] quite pleased with myself. I mean I have some criticisms but it's never hate. No, this term was produced by Jews who feel uncomfortable about what Israel is doing as a Jewish state, and who haven't come to terms with it and hate themselves in a way for being part of it. I don't think that people who expose an injustice that is done in their name and struggle against it are in an uncomfortable position. In fact, I felt very liberated after exposing what I did and feel much more at peace with myself. I think Jews who have a problem here are those who endorse policies in Israel that in any other part of the world they'd condemn.

Doogue (thoroughly discombobulated): But... I don't know where it leaves you because in a sense you're undermining the whole moral authority of this state are you not? [So Pappe, not the Zionist ethnic cleansing of Palestine, is undermining some imagined Israeli 'moral authority'?]

Ilan Pappe: Well, I think I'm undermining the moral authority of a regime. There's a difference between a state and a regime. In South Africa you had an apartheid regime. You didn't undermine the validity of South Africa as a state by questioning the moral validity of its apartheid regime. So I am undermining and challenging the ideological regime that Israel subscribes to but not the state itself. I mean I do think that if quite simple, elementary democratic principles were applied to every citizen who lives in Israel it would be a more just and peaceful place.

Doogue: What is the state of citizenship of the Palestinian Arabs? 

Ilan Pappe: Well, it's not their state.

Doogue: Pardon me, Palestinian Israelis?

Ilan Pappe: Palestinian Israelis are not part of the common good in republican terms because there is an identification between Israel and the nation. The nation of Israel are the Jews, not the Palestinians. Israel does not admit being a binational state although it is of course to all intents and purposes. So if you are not Jewish in Israel you are already a second class citizen by definition. In fact, a Jewish baby born tomorrow in Sydney has more rights [in Israel] than a Palestinian in Haifa whose family has been living there for 600 years.

Doogue: But this is not new. We've known this for a while. [Who is she kidding here?] You say things are getting worse.

Ilan Pappe: It's getting much worse because the legislation against the Palestinians in Israel has become more xenophobic and ruthless. The whole political system in Israel has moved to the right. It is far more committed to ruthless and callous policies towards any Palestinian under Israeli control, whether inside Israel, in the West Bank, or in the Gaza Strip. So I think Israel is no longer playing the democratic game which it played until recently, which left some space for improvement and some scope for hope. I think this current Israeli political elite is very dangerous, not just for Jews and Arabs but for the Middle East as a whole.

Doogue (trotting out a favourite Israeli propaganda line): So has Israel, even this current regime as you put it, got anything to be proud of because quite a few Palestinians argue that even if they don't like it, they prefer to live in Israel than in other parts of the Middle East. [Well of course, Geraldine, it is their homeland!]

Ilan Pappe: Well, I don't know of many Palestinians who like being in Israel now. That may have been right about 10 or 15 years ago [but] it is becoming more and more unbearable to be a Palestinian or a non-Jew in Israel [today]. Of course there are many achievements for Israel as a state project, culturally, socially, economically. But I think they are dwarfed when you juxtapose them with its human rights record. You can have a thriving, prosperous society but if it's built on injustice all this prosperity will eventually be doomed because you cannot hold on to these achievements if the basic moral infrastructure of the state is questionable and contrary to basic human and civil rights.

Doogue: So Ilan, I know you feel you've been effectively driven out and are now living and working in the UK. How are you received when you do go back, because you're still an Israeli with an Israeli passport?

Ilan Pappe: I think that most Israeli Jews cannot yet subscribe to my views but more and more will eventually. There is always a difference between the way the state treats you and those who know you intimately treat you. So in my very close society people have far more respect for these views, but unfortunately the state and society as a whole still regard Jews like myself as too dangerous or challenging and would rather continue with the siege mentality that has characterised this society since it was created. But I'm very hopeful. There's a new generation and new realities developing around us in the Middle East. So I think in due course that the idea of a more just and democratic society won't be utopian any more and will maybe turn into the new Israel and Palestine we are all dreaming of.

Doogue: Have you felt threatened in Israel?

Ilan Pappe: Yes, I was threatened. My family was threatened. But I think I'm a very minor victim of such intimidation compared to the real victims of brutality, the Palestinians in prison without a trial, the mothers who sit next to their demolished homes. So it has to be put in context. Jewish dissidents in Israel are still treated in a tolerable way. This may change but it's mainly Palestinians who dare to resist that really receive the harsher treatment and they should be the ones who get our solidarity and empathy.

Doogue: Finally, where does this all go in the next 10 years, Ilan? I mean is there any chance Israel will be accepted as a genuine neighbour and will Israel accept the region as a decent neighbourhood? [That's right, Geraldine, it's all about Israel, isn't it?]

Ilan Pappe: Well, for that to happen Israel as a state and society would have to come to terms with the fact that they are part of the Middle East, part of its problems and part of its solutions. This is not yet the perceived position in Israel, so as long as the Israelis continue to regard themselves as alien actors in the Middle East, they will continue to be alienated by the Middle East or by the neighbouring societies around them and the conflict will continue. Israel is a very strong military power and that's why it has not been defeated. But military power is not enough to maintain a society as a vital place and Israelis are risking more and more losing the sympathy of the world, the support of the Americans, and the tolerance of the region around them, and they may soon become a pariah state which would lead a lot of good Israeli Jews to think twice whether they want to stay there or seek their future elsewhere.

My God, is the ABC a sheltered workshop or what?

Monday, September 17, 2012

Greg & Tony Do Monash 2

"Abbott is a man with mentors. Most were old men with embattled beliefs: true believers; relics of lost causes; men with a high view of their life and mission; men who believed in the magic of the crown, the church and old institutions. The chance to ride out with them to confront the zeitgeist touched something deep in young Tony. He was a kid with a powerful wish to serve. To stand for old ideas and old authority in the late 1970s took courage of a kind, and deep faith in faith. He believed the path Santamaria was inviting him to take was essentially religious... The tactics [however] were not so lofty. The Democratic Clubs were small and their membership carefully controlled. The correct line was strictly enforced. They used tactics Santamaria developed to fight Reds in the unions: provocative campaigning, ceaseless leafletting and infiltrating rival organisations. They called themselves moderates but their position was extreme: as far to the right as the Maoists and Trotskyists on campus were to the left. They were accused of rough-house tactics and wrecking what they couldn't control. The student newspaper Honi Soit reported: 'This organisation has a long history of politically motivated violence - whether as vigilantes for vice-regals, smoke-bombers for Saigon, poster pullers for political reaction, or bullies for by-elections.' " (Quarterly Essay: Political Animal - The Making of Tony Abbott, David Marr, pp 9-10)

Ever since David Marr's Quarterly Essay on Tony Abbott lifted the lid on the antics of the Democratic Labor Party's shock troops on university campuses in the late 70s, Bob Santamaria's children, holed up in the News Limited bunker, have been unable to come up with a coherent counter-narrative. I mean, just look at this mob, they're all over the shop:

On the one hand we've got right-wing Catholic Zionist and Australian foreign editor Greg (Jerusalem Prize) Sheridan adamant that Marr's got it all wrong:

"Marr makes a series of judgments about campus politics that have no relationship to the facts and represent either historical amnesia or historical distortion. He states, for example, that those whom he describes as Democratic Labor Party activists were as extreme as the communists and Trotskyist groups they opposed... The DLP had no presence on the campuses in the 70s... Abbott and I were both members of the Sydney University Democratic Club, which was affiliated with BA Santamaria's National Civic Council. The NCC and the DLP were related because Santamaria was influential in both. But they were separate organisations with different internal dynamics and cultures. Marr's inaccuracies in basic matters of which organisation was which mirror his larger distortions." (Selective Cold War memories, Greg Sheridan, 15/9/12)

And on the other we've got right-wing Catholic Zionist* and Australian columnist Angela Shanahan saying just the opposite:

"So for what it is worth, I think Marr's basic assessment of Abbott's Democratic Labor Party ideological background in university politics is pretty sound. As for that wall-hitting incident, well, who knows, or cares?" (Ideology-free is how a campus should be, Angela Shanahan, 15/9/12) 

[*Elsewhere in her column Shanahan referred to the "Australian Union of Students with its various mad obsessions (particularly a trenchant** and irrelevant opposition to Israel)." Last year, she wrote: "When I first read of the boycotts of the Max Brenner chocolate shops, I was mentally transported to the good old days of my misspent youth sitting on the lawn in front of the library of the University of NSW, flirting, eating finger buns and vociferously booing while some Trotskyite who never seemed to finish any degree droned on about the evils of the state of Israel." (Nothing sweet in the silence surrounding anti-Israel boycotts, The Australian, 17/9/11)

What is it with this lot? No listening, no reading, no thinking, just booing, heckling and denial. They entered university with their minds made up and nothing's changed since.]

[**Synonyms for trenchant: incisive, effective, penetrating. So Shanahan was impressed but booed anyway? I rest my case.]

What a rabble! Rupert, please sort this lot out NOW!