Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Educating Gabrielle

Gabrielle Upton is a banking and finance lawyer turned state Liberal MLA for Vaucluse and also Chair of the NSW Knesset's largest fan club - the NSW Parliamentary Friends of Israel.

Recently returned from a 5-day Israel lobby-funded "study tour," along with 9 of her colleagues, Upton wrote about her trip in the February 8 Australian Jewish News under the heading A new perspective. Typically, there is nothing new in her perspective, just the same old adulatory rubbish you'd expect from one so recently rambammed:

"Let me say at the outset that I felt my hopes were dashed. I had hoped that the NSW Parliamentary study tour to Israel hosted by the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies, would clarify my understanding of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I had also hoped that it would clarify the solutions. The study tour did neither - it didn't offer easily digested analyses or conclusions. Rather, it was a unique and insurmountable valuable opportunity, and I relished every moment. It rigorously challenged my thinking, and added many layers to my understanding of the conflict and the solution."

Rigorously challenged your thinking?

I don't think so. Upton's mind was made up long ago. Here she is rhapsodising about Israel in a 10/5/12 speech in the NSW Knesset on the occasion of Israel Independence Day: "a recognised commercial and intellectual powerhouse... an economic innovator... the only true democracy in the region... I first visited Israel when I was 23 years of age... I stayed just outside Tel Aviv in Petach Tikva with an Israeli family and I vividly remember looking out from the apartment towards the West Bank and only then really appreciating how close some of the threats were to the security of Israel."

She may be looking at illegally-occupied Palestinian territory but all she can see is a threat to... Israel!

"The study tour began with a Tal Becker briefing. Tal's ease dissecting Middle East geopolitics left me wanting a podcast of the briefing to replay the parts I missed while thinking through his assertions."

Ah yes, the quietly spoken Aussie-accented Tal Becker from Ziocon 'think'tank, the Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP).

It's easy to see why Upton's so impressed. Just listen to Geraldine Doogue's interview with him on Radio National on 20/9/12. The Zionist talking points just trip off the tongue: there's no such thing as free speech in the Middle East - except in Israel. Iran's a threat to everyone - Israel, the region, and the world. And, hey, it's not just its nuclear program, every instance of instability anywhere in the Middle East can be traced back to - you guessed it - Iran. It's not only threatened to wipe Israel off the map, it sponsors terrorist groups in every nook and cranny of the region, don't you know?

Just the thing to lay any friend of Israel in the aisles.

"The inherent strength of the study tour lay in the variety of perspectives we could soak up - only a mature democracy like Israel has the confidence to offer such an opportunity. We visited Palestinian territory and an Israeli settlement block [sic], and met their respective leadership [sic]. We viewed an Israeli settlement from the Governor of Bethlehem's office. We shared a home-cooked dinner with a senior education official and his colleagues in Abu Gosh [sic], and a lively discussion with Isi Leibler in his lounge room resplendent with Judaica. Observing how Israelis and Palestinians live close by one another on the ground gave me hope for a broader solution for long-term peace. We spoke with Israeli Arabs, journalists, academics, a former Supreme Court justice and the higher levels of Israel Defence Force and Foreign Ministry personnel. All were generous with their knowledge, patient with our unflagging questions and intensely passionate to have us understand their perspective."

Observing how Israelis and Palestinians live close by one another on the ground gave me hope for a broader solution for long-term peace?

In fact, so close are the two, you'll even find Israeli settlers living inside Palestinian homes in East Jerusalem and Hebron! Now things don't get much more neighbourly than that.

"Visiting Yad Vashem was like taking a big hit to one's heart and gut. Why and how could such evil occur? Visiting Sderot and the Erez Checkpoint served to contemporise the horror for me. How can young children enjoy carefree play when their playground equipment serves as a bomb shelters?

And while you were viewing that Israeli settlement from Bethlehem your heart went boom diddy boom, right?

"There were personal sharings from Israelis throughout the study tour. Listening to Arnold Roth, who lost his daughter in a suicide bombing, was both profoundly disturbing and heartening. His family now channel their energies towards assisting disabled children - a generous response that defies such a despicable terrorist act. Like Arnold Roth, Khaled Abu Toameh, a self-titled moderate Islamic Israeli journalist, railed against Western media bias. He warned us of an Islamic tsunami circling the world." 

Does anyone do propaganda quite like this lot? A father of a suicide bomb victim who takes disabled kiddies under his wing and a Muslim who makes Geert Wilders sound like a complete pussycat!

"We shared dinner with Tel Aviv business entrepreneurs, whose ideas and products will make their way into international markets and to our shores in Australia. I am firmly convinced that Israel's proven capacity to innovate through high-risk tolerance, and to commercialise, are its competitive advantage and a key to enhance its international standing. The Israeli spirit shone through all of this - resilience, ingenuity and steely strength - pragmatism and excellence hand in hand." 

Whoopy-do! Israel has a proven capacity to innovate but hasn't had a new idea on how to live with Palestine's indigenous Arab population since Herzl first talked of spiriting the penniless population across the borders* and Jabotinsky urged the building of an iron wall of Jewish bayonets which the natives cannot break through.** Steely strength indeed!

[*See my4/1/13 post What Would Herzl Do?;**See my 12/6/08 post Pemulwuy in Palestine.]

"Free speech is a fundamental value as far as many democracies are concerned but there are lots of societies, particularly in the Middle East, where free speech hasn't been cultivated in that way, so I guess it's important that sometimes these issues come up when the actual free speech being used is so provocative, but I still think we have to defend it." Tal Becker speaking to Geraldine Doogue on Radio National on 20/9/12 about cartoons mocking the Prophet Muhammad published in a French magazine.

"Iran's state-run news network Press TV has been taken off the air in the US and Canada, the English-language television station has said on its website." (Iranian channels switched off, DPA, AFP/Sydney Morning Herald, 11/2/13)

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