On the speech of The Hon. Walt Secord, Labor, in the NSW Legislative Council, arising out of the NSW Parliamentary Friends of Israel (PFoI) "study mission" 'debate' of February 28:
Here's Walt's rationale: "In a job that can be overwhelmed by discussion papers and briefings, I try to keep in mind that seeing things first hand provides the greater insight. That is why I try to see things for myself and that is why I support parliamentary study tours."
Like Fred, he's a serial offender:
"This was my second visit to Israel in two years."
So putting 2 & 2 together: the more trips, the more insight, OK? Which should make Walt Secord the most insightful guy in the NSW Parliament, right?
But the insights can wait. First a wee housekeeping matter: "I acknowledge the effort to provide Palestinian and Israeli Arab perspectives, such as the Governor of Bethlehem and the Abu Ghosh Israeli Arab education officials."
That's right - Palestinians, finance, water, shalom-n-salaam. Boooring.
Now, moving (the operative word here) right along to matters of substance:
"Last year, I did a March of the Living-inspired trip, culminating in a trip to Yad Vashem... My 2011-12 study tour started in Armenia so that I could learn more about the first genocide of the 20th century... After Armenia I visited Auschwitz-Birkenau in Poland and then flew directly to Israel and visited Yad Vashem. I then travelled to Halabja in Iraqi Kurdistan near the Iranian border to see a contemporary context of genocide. Halabja was where in March 1988 Saddam Hussein unleashed chemical gas attacks on the Kurds, killing 5,000 people.** As a person who has studied the Shoah, I believe that, as Nobel Prize winner and Auschwitz survivor Primo Levi said: Those who deny Auschwitz would be ready to remake it. So while these visits are often challenging, they are vital to promoting that which must never be forgotten."
Insight: there's no business like Shoah business.
"On my study tour this year, 2012-13, I visited the United Arab Emirates, Oman, Armenia and Georgia... Israel and the Palestinian territories, including Bethlehem and the Aida refugee camp; the ancient ruins of Western Armenia; Turkey, Istanbul, Anzac Cove at Gallipoli; and, finally, Cairo and Giza in Egypt."
Re Turkey, Erdogan got cross with Israel over the Gaza flotilla; political Islam is challenging traditional Turkish secularism; and Turkey's got to 'fess up to the Armenian genocide.
Re Egypt, "I fear that it will be very difficult to travel [there] in about a year"; "I fear for its Christian minority"; tourism in Egypt is down; Will Morsi hand over power if he loses the next election?
What can I say?
But hey, it's not all gloom-n-doom and penetratin' insights. How about his snaps?
"There were personal highlights too, such as taking my parliamentary colleague Luke Foley to his first Shabbat meal" and "gatecrashing the wedding of Yair and Sandra Miller in Jerusalem." There was "seeing... Rick Colless and his wife locate the WW1 grave of his great-uncle at Beersheba Commonwealth War cemetery" and "going out on the Sea of Galilee with Paul Steiner... the son-in-law of Jewish communal leaders and interfaith activists Josie and Ian Lacey."
But enough of such frivolity! Back to core parliamentary business:
"In addition to the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies portion of the trip, I added on several days to explore Israel myself. Last year I visited the Gadot Observation Point near the Golan, Masada, Tiberius, Sderot, Gush Etzion, the Dead Sea, Ramallah, Nazareth, Jerusalem, East Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and Eilat as well as Jordan."
But there's more!
"This year, as part of my exploration of other faiths, I visited the Baha'i Temple and Gardens in Haifa... [then] I travelled [to] and stayed at Kibbutz Kadarim in Israel's north. To get real first-hand experience, I caught an Egged bus from the roadside at Kibbutz Kadarim to Akko and then Tel Aviv. I sat among Israel Defence Forces soldiers on their way home for Shabbat."
All of which "raises the question of whether this trip has shifted my view on any matters in relation to Israel."
And what profound and deeply original insight is trotted out by way of answering the above question in the negative?
"[C]urrently Israel does not have a partner in [sic] peace."
Worth every penny, I reckon.
Next in the Doing the Donkey in the NSW Knesset series: Robert Borsak MLC. Stay tuned.
[*See my 2/3/13 post Doing the Donkey; ** "Halabja marked something of a turning point in the United States' scandalous support for Saddam Hussein's war of aggression against the Islamic Republic of Iran - including his use of chemical weapons against civilian as well as military targets. Ever since the Iraqi military had started using chemical weapons in 1982 and Iran had started complaining about it to the UN Security Council, the US had blocked any SC action on the matter... As then Secretary of State George Shultz later explained, Washington blocked international pressure on Iraq to stop using chemical weapons because 'you don't want Iran to win the war'." (Halabja & America's support for using chemical weapons against Iran, FL & HM Leverett, goingtotehran.com, 19/3/13)]