Friday, March 15, 2013

Doing the Donkey* in the NSW Knesset 1

The last time I set out to comment in detail on the bizarre antics of the inmates of the NSW Legislative Council was when they 'debated' the subject of BDS in September 2011. This resulted in 10 posts - the 'Witches Brew' series - spanning the period 17/9/11-17/12/11 and highlighting the lengths to which NSW MLCs are prepared to go in swearing fealty to the Israel lobby.

Having absorbed the blow of that particular 'debate', I had foolishly hoped that it'd be the first and last time I'd be witness to such a grovel in this particular forum. Alas, it was not to be. Many of the same motley crew, primed by a silly season sojourn in Israel, have taken the opportunity provided by a February 28 motion (that the NSW Parliamentary Friends of Israel January 'study mission' to Israel be 'noted') to do it all again!

Ready yourselves, therefore, for a series of non-consecutive posts, spread over the next few months (there's a lot of ground to cover here), featuring a series of ringing tributes to a fabulous, faraway land "where women glow and men plunder," and where "you can hear, you can hear the thunder/ Better run, better take cover." (Note that, although the motion was moved on February 28 the speeches which followed were only concluded yesterday with the motion's affirmation.)

The mover of the motion, National Party MLC Rick Colless, spoke first, giving a day-by-day summary of the 10-member (plus partner), 5-day tour.

Brace yourselves for the highlights. To borrow the words of the Angry Arab - You will learn that which you knew not before:

In what was to become a leitmotif of these speeches, The Greens just had to be fingered as party (line) poopers: "Noticeably absent from the group were The Greens from New South Wales. The Greens were the only political party represented in the NSW Parliament that did not participate in this very important mission." I had thought Greens MLC Jeremy Buckingham might have cracked and found himself wedged between Fred Nile and Robert Borsak on a long haul flight to Ben Gurion Airport, but happily I was wrong.

After reminding his colleagues in the chamber of the alleged purpose of the "study mission" - "to build an understanding of the complex and various issues impacting on Israel and other jurisdictions within the Middle East" - Colless detailed the itinerary thus:

Day 1: Softening up talks from "peace negotiator" Dr Tal Becker of Israel's Ministry of Foreign Affairs; "interfaith" guru Chief Rabbi David Rosen ("enthusiastic & charismatic"); and Ozraeli "human rights" champion Isi Leibler ("succinct overview"). Visit to the Knesset ("one of the most robust debating chambers in the world"); the [illegally occupied and annexed] Old City of Jerusalem (full of "people who adhere to each of 4 [Is the 4th Buddhist?] different faiths... yet live in peace and harmony" [?]); and the Wailing Wall. [Hey Mark (Deckelbaum, guide), what's that structure on the top with the golden dome? Dunno, Rick, we Israelis can't see the dome for the wall.] Finally, dinner with Professor Gerald Steinberg ("enlightening").

Day 2: Bethlehem, to which "our Israeli friends were not permitted to go." Met the Palestinian Authority Governor of Bethlehem "who outlined the PA's perspective." [Which was? Another leitmotif of these speeches is that not one of these rambammed speakers bothers reporting back what any West Bank Palestinian, invariably anonymous, actually said. It's as though they've been programmed to switch off on such occasions. Funny, hey?] Visited Israel's Supreme Court. Had lunch with Jerusalem Post columnist [and Palestinian collaborator] Khaled Abu Toameh who said that the 'Arab Spring' was actually an "Islamic tsunami" [Catchy, eh?] and opined that "once the extremists get the upper hand in many of these areas they will then come after Israel once again... [T]hey would start by eradicating the Jews, then they would eradicate the Christians and then they will come after moderate Muslims and eradicate them as well," which patter "sent a chill up the spines of many of us." Finally, off to Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Martyrs & Heroes Remembrance Museum, which "had a huge impact on all members of the group."

Day 3: Gush Etzion, "a Jewish settlement block [sic] within the Palestinian area," which "shows there is a great deal of will amongst the Palestinian people, the Muslim people and the Jewish people to work together towards a peaceful solution in that greater area." [My God, who'd have thought - Israel's colonization drive in the occupied West Bank is a joint Palestinian/Muslim/Jewish enterprise!] Met with Ruth Kahanoff, deputy director of the Foreign Ministry's Asia Pacific Department. [And you all thought Palau, the Marshall Islands, Micronesia etc voted with Israel in the UN as the spirit moved them?] That evening met with Arnold Roth, "a Jewish person formerly from Melbourne who has since gone back [?] to Israel," and whose "daughter died in a terrorist attack." ("To hear what the people have to endure in these terrorist attacks really makes one aware of the sort of terror the people in Israel live with every day.") Finally, dinner with "a Muslim family in the Palestinian area. It was extremely interesting to talk to them and get their views on where the area was heading." [But not sufficiently interesting for Colless to tell us what their views were, it seems.]

Day 4: Brigadier General Mike Herzog on "the changing Middle East landscape." Then Sderot where the first words we heard were "If you hear a siren, you have 15 seconds to get into a bomb shelter." Gee, "those communities live with that sort of stuff exploding every day." On to Beersheba's Park of the Australian Soldier where there's "a memorial to the Charge of the Light Brigade, which occurred on 31 October 1917." [See what I mean about learning that which you did not know before? Silly me, I always thought that the Charge of the Light Brigade took place on October 25 smack bang in the middle of the Anglo-Russian Crimean War of 1854. Oh well, can't win them all!] Dinner with Paul [wait for it] Israel of the Australia-Israel Chamber of Commerce.

Day 5: Lunch at Metula on the Lebanese border in a "nice boutique hotel." ("Our hostess told us about the lovely and peaceful town. Someone [on cue] asked, 'What about the rockets?' She said [on cue], 'Well... [w]hen they fire the rockets they generally go straight over the top of us.' Someone else asked [on cue], 'What if they start shooting at you?' She said [on cue], 'Well... we shoot back'... The constant threat does not seem to worry them to any great extent." [Thank God Fred didn't fart is all I can say.] Finally, back in Tel Aviv that night with the Australian ambassador Andrea Faulkner.

Rick and his missus were so enamored of the place that they stayed on for 4 more days, exploring sites of religious significance in Jerusalem, visiting Masada, and inspecting "water recycling and irrigation projects with people from the Israel water industry." Though he's been back here 2 months, I like to think that some of that Israeli water still mingles with the Australian variety behind his ears.

Next in the Doing the Donkey in the NSW Knesset series: Luke Foley MLC reveals why he and his colleagues had no choice but to go to Israel. Stay tuned.

[*See my 2/3/13 post Doing the Donkey.]

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