Thursday, May 23, 2013

Cassandra Wilkinson & Herstory

The Australian's holy war against the demonic forces of the pro-Palestinian BDS movement in Australia took a most unusual turn today with an opinion(ated) piece by columnist Cassandra Wilkinson, Boycott continues centuries-old hatred.

Described at the Australian as a "strategy consultant," an adviser to ex-NSW Labor politicians, Michael Costa and Christina Keneally, and a "regular SkyNews commentator on political issues," Wilkinson has never before, so far as I'm aware, broken into print on the subject of Palestine/Israel. Nor, it appears, has she ever been rambammed. And as for Exodus - that'd be the second book of the Bible, right?

Still, there exists at least one sign that the lady's for turning. Here she is, for example, discoursing on "20th century security":

"The history of 20th century security shows that when the West turns a blind eye to trouble around the world, things get worst [sic]. When the French and British ran out of Suez, the Middle East got less safe..." (Sky News, The Nation with Helen Dalley, Kerry Chikarovski, Cassandra Wilkinson & Ed Husic,, 8/11/12)

Wowee, break out the pith helmets and the puttees NOW!

Apparently, back in '56, the Britz and the Frogz should've told Eisenhower to go get stuffed, shocked and awed Cairo, pursued Nasser all the way to his spiderhole in the sticks, put him on trial for stealing the Suez Canal, pronounced him guilty and strung him up. The fact that they didn't means the Middle East's been all down hill since then.

A recent (23/5) twitter exchange yields another insight. Make of it what you will:

Glenn Barling: great article this morning in the australian.
Cassandra Wilkinson: thanks - small gesture of solidarity from a Bondi girl to her neighbours.

And so to Wilkinson's column:

She's deeply troubled about something she calls "the bonds of convenience growing between elements of the Left and anti-Semitism."

Her beloved UNSW, in particular, is a real worry:

"The student activists who tried to prevent the University of NSW from allowing Mr Brenner [!] to open on campus, claimed the BDS campaign was initiated in 2005. Such sloppy referencing and fact-checking wouldn't pass muster on their exams, I hope. As it happens, I studied history at UNSW - something the protesters could profit from before they graduate. A basic grasp of history shows us the boycotting of businesses is a longstanding tactic in the campaign of hate against the Jewish people."

Let me get this straight, Wilkinson's study of history at UNSW taught her that boycotts of Jewish businesses have always been, are now, and will always be nakedly anti-Semitic. Right...

Maybe, if that's what is being dished out as history at UNSW, our 'offending' student activists would do well to ignore her advice.

It's painfully obvious here that however much 'history' Wilkinson actually studied at UNSW she still does not have the wherewithal to distinguish between Jews as Jews and Jews as Zionists.

Never mind, she still has the wherewithal (UMURDOCH?) to con her readers into thinking of the Israeli corporation which owns the Max Brenner brand as just a sweet little man standing behind a counter against a backdrop of yummy chocolate allsorts.

The only alternative explanation is that she really does believe that to be the case. Hell, maybe she's the kind of person - poor thing! - who walks into, say, a Dick Smith outlet expecting to see the guy in person.

That Ms Wilkinson has a 'way' with history becomes appallingly apparent at the start of her next paragraph:

"Boycotts of Jewish merchants were practised in the Austro-Hungarian Empire and the Ottoman Empire and later across eastern Europe..."

Let's focus, shall we, just on the Ottoman Empire? Unless she's prepared to cite a source or two for the assertion that boycotting Jewish shops was a feature of life under the Ottomans, I think we can safely dismiss it as garbage.

For my part, however, having read the fascinating study Ottoman Brothers: Muslims, Christians, and Jews in Early Twentieth-Century Palestine (2011) by Michelle U. Campos, Assistant Professor of the Modern Middle East at the University of Florida, the only reference to a boycott I could find was a joint Muslim/Christian/Jewish Ottoman citizen boycott of Austro-Hungarian products following the Austro-Hungarian annexation of Bosnia-Herzegovina in 1908. Just one quote should suffice: "Importantly, Muslims were not the only participants in the imperial boycott, and in many locations Christians and Jews were also active as organizers, mobilisers, and participants. When the mass demonstrations spread inland to Jerusalem, they were led by the Mufti Taher al-Husayni, but he was joined by Jewish, Greek Orthodox, and Armenian representatives who were elected to serve alongside him on a boycott committee." (p 104)

On the general status of Ottoman Jews, Campos writes as follows:

"For the Ottoman state... population diversity was a product of, and a powerful testament to, successful empire building. The eponymous founder of the dynasty, Osman, had consolidated his power in Asia Minor in the late 13th century through alliance with local Turkic tribes and Christian principalities. As the empire spread throughout Asia, Europe, and Africa, later sultans continued to integrate their diverse subjects into the state... After the conquest of Constantinople, the capital of Byzantium, Sultan 'Fatih' Mehmet ('the Conqueror') retained the Patriarch of the Greek Orthodox Church and strategically moved Jews into the city to replace the fleeing Byzantines. Decades later, in 1492, when the Spanish monarchs Ferdinand and Isabella expelled Jews and Muslims from the Iberian Peninsula, Sultan Beyazit II famously welcomed the exiles to Ottoman shores.

"The point of this recounting is not to argue that the Ottoman Empire was a multicultural paradise, for it surely was not. As an Islamic empire it maintained an 'institutionalized difference' between Muslims and non-Muslim subjects which was accentuated - or indeed erupted - in times of crisis. Non-Muslim populations were organized, counted, taxed, legislated, and otherwise 'marked' according to their confessional or ethno-confessional communities. At the same time, however, non-Muslim communities were allowed a tremendous degree of self-governance and autonomy in the realms of communal institutions and religious law, and comparatively speaking, the status of non-Muslims in the Ottoman Empire was far better than that of non-Christians in Europe." (pp 8-9)

To say that Wilkinson's grasp of history is shaky is to indulge in understatement:

"In 1922, the Fifth Palestine Arab Congress called for a boycott of all Jewish businesses."

An Arab Congress meeting in Nablus in 1922 resolved to boycott the elections for a proposed gerrymandered Legislative Council. This had nothing whatever to do with 'Jewish businesses'.

"In 1943, the Arab League banned the purchase of 'products of Jewish industry'."

The Arab League was not founded until 1945.

"Note I have passed over here the not insignificant events of 1933-45 lest I fall foul of politicians such as Greens MP David Shoebridge..."*

When it comes to the subject of boycotts, I certainly won't be passing over the Nazi era. The fact is that when American Jews called for a boycott of German goods in 1933, the World Zionist Organisation (WZO) opposed the idea: "It not only bought German wares; it sold them, and even sought out new customers for Hitler and his industrialist backers." (Zionism in the Age of the Dictators, Lenni Brenner, 1983, p 59)

Now let me draw Wilkinson's attention to the Zionist anti-Arab boycott: "But this [Zionist] craze for the possession of [Palestinian] land did not prevent the [British] Government from attempting to protect [Palestinian Arab] cultivators against displacement through the sale of land over their heads. It was no secret that no Arab could be employed on land purchased by the Jewish National Fund. In fact clause 23 of the lease agreement [Jewish] settlers are required to sign, makes it incumbent on the lessee 'to execute all works connected with cultivation of the holding, only with Jewish labour." (Palestine Through the Fog of Propaganda, M.F. Abcarius, 1946, p 131)

Ah, but why bother with the real facts or the actual dynamics of the colonial struggle still underway in Palestine, when you're just a cog in the machinery of the Australian's holy war against defenders of Palestinian rights? Just get on with it and smear to your heart's content:

"In reality [the BDS] is the most recent name for a centuries-old economic persecution of Jews for having the temerity to become educated and entrepreneurial despite their exclusion from many occupations, geographies and institutions."

Wilkinson's grasp on the present is equally shaky.

She is shocked that NSW Labor MLC Shaoquett Moselmane** "disgraced the house by accusing Israel of running torture camps..."

Moselmane was, of course, referring to the notorious Khiam Prison in Israeli-occupied south Lebanon (1982-2000), and his disgraceful accusation just happens to be supported by Human Rights Watch. (See Torture in Khiam Prison: Responsibility & Accountability, 27/10/99.)

Wilkinson is also shocked by Moselmane's claim that "Israel is driven by a 'craving to take over other people's lands'," seemingly oblivious to Israel's 65 years of territorial expansion, aka wiping Palestine (and chunks of Syria and Lebanon) off the map. She then has the gall to accuse him of being "particularly guileless in his views"!

Finally, Wilkinson spruiks the thoroughly bogus London Declaration on Combating Antisemitism*** as though it's the only thing capable of preventing the seemingly "trivial or childish" BDS protest at UNSW from morphing into something - Wink, wink, nudge, nudge, know what I mean? - more "potent."

"The Left," she cries, must "stand with those who educate women, stand with those who let gays serve openly in the military, stand with those who allow free speech and political activism. Stand, in short, with the Jewish people and their state of Israel."

It's hard to believe she's even read the declaration, which calls on its signatories to legislate against hate crime, essentially Zio-speak for criticism of the Zionist project and its manifold crimes against the Palestinian and other Arab peoples.

Doesn't it say somewhere in the Old Testament that 'It is better to be quiet and be thought a fool than to open your mouth and remove all doubt'?

[*Yet another indication of Wilkinson's shoddy journalism. This 'Correction' appeared in The Australian on 24/5: "Cassandra Wilkinson's opinion article in The Australian yesterday... incorrectly attributed a quote, which accused supporters of Israel of 'using the Holocaust for political purposes', to NSW Greens MLC David Shoebridge. In fact, the statement was made by fellow Greens MLC John Kaye. The Australian apologises to Mr Shoebridge for the error."; **See my 3/4/13 post Doing the Donkey in the NSW Knesset 10; ***See my 17/5/13 post The Tel Aviv Declaration on Combating Criticism of Israel.]

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