If you'd heard that an Australian Coalition government had announced the establishment of a human rights award you'd start wondering what the... was going on, right? And if you'd also heard that a leading Israel lobbyist was to be one of its judging panel you'd fall off your perch in sheer disbelief, right?
Well, strange to tell, both have come to pass, and as far as I'm aware, no one in the ms media has yet reported on either strand of the story!
An annual NSW Human Rights Award was announced by NSW Premier Baruch O'Farrell in September last year and Vic Alhadeff of the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies has just been named as one of its 3 judges.
The Premier's 2012 press release informs us that "[t]he recipient of the award will become the NSW Human Rights Ambassador for 12 months, giving them an opportunity to promote human rights issues." It further informs us that the award will be presented to "an individual from Australia or internationally... and is being established in memory of Raoul Wallenberg, who single-handedly saved tens-of-thousands of lives during the Holocaust." (You may have heard that Wallenberg, to whom I shall be returning later, has just been awarded honorary Australian citizenship by the Prime Minister.)
Now call me a cynic but I can't help wondering whether O'Farrell's Human Rights Award has been designed as a riposte to the Sydney Peace Foundation's Sydney Peace Prize. Could it even be, I wonder, a belated act of revenge for the SPF's awarding of the Sydney Peace Prize to Palestinian activist Hanan Ashrawi back in 2003? This, you'll recall, was an occasion when the Israel lobby massively overreached itself, and suffered a highly embarrassing public backlash as a result. (See my 17/1/12 post Ashrawi Redux.)
All this, of course, is pure conjecture.
However, apart from the chutzpah of appointing an apologist for one of the world's most egregious human rights violators to the award's judging panel, what really interests me here is a certain 'what if?' scenario which I'll sum up with the question: What would Raoul Wallenberg, the Swedish diplomat who heroically risked his neck to rescue thousands of Hungarian Jews in 1944, only to later disappear into the Soviet Gulag, have done if he'd survived the war, gone on to become the 'UN Mediator in Palestine' in 1948, and faced the problem of what to do with hundreds of thousands of uprooted Palestinian refugees?
Without a doubt Wallenberg, "a man of moral courage and heroic example," as Prime Minister Gillard described him, would have stated categorically that:
"It is... undeniable that no settlement can be just and complete if recognition is not accorded to the right of the Arab refugee to return to the home from which he has been dislodged by the hazards and strategy of the armed conflict between Arabs and Jews in Palestine. The majority of these refugees have come from territory which... was to be included in the Jewish State. The exodus of Palestinian Arabs resulted from panic created by fighting in their communities, by rumours concerning real or alleged acts of terrorism, or expulsion. It would be an offence against the principles of elemental justice if these innocent victims of the conflict were denied the right to return to their homes while Jewish immigrants flow into Palestine, and, indeed, at least offer the threat of permanent replacement of the Arab refugees who have been rooted in the land for centuries." (Progress Report of the UN Mediator on Palestine, 16/9/48)
As a man of "moral courage and heroic example" he could hardly have done otherwise.
The quotation above came in fact from the pen the actual UN Mediator in Palestine in 1948, Count Folke Bernadotte, another Swede who had, as head of the Swedish Red Cross during the war, rescued thousands of European Jews and others from Nazi concentration camps. And like Wallenberg, Bernadotte too met a sticky end, gunned down in Jerusalem on September 17, 1948 by Stern Gang terrorists.
Now just imagine, if you will, Australia's Arab community trying to interest Gillard and/or her successor, Tony Abbott, in granting honorary citizenship to Count Folke Bernadotte. Hell would freeze over first, right?