Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Living in a Zionist Bubble

"We lived in a bubble. We didn't know what exists outside the kibbutz."

So commented one of the group of Melbourne Jews, recalling their kibbutz 'experience' back in the 70s, on  the ABC's Compass program, Whatever Happened to... The Kibbutzim (28/7). It set the tone for the entire program.

Not one of our former kibbutzniks - all long since returned to their comfortable Australian middle class existence - at any stage ventured any kind of comment or reflection that went beyond Zionism's ideological bubble. On the contrary, they were having the time of their lives, convinced they were 'creating a new society' and 'making the desert bloom' - until, that is, the Egyptian and Syrian armies rudely intervened in October 1973, "shattering our dreams."

At one point, we heard the testimony of a South African Jew who said he'd become involved in anti-apartheid protests there but left for Israel because he couldn't bear to be part of a racist South Africa. Presumably, Israel's expulsion of the bulk of the Arab Palestinians in 1948 and the Zionist groupthink of the kibbutz combined to ensure that he was not disturbed by a sense of deja vu.

Nor did Compass presenter, Geraldine Doogue's simple-minded narration help, with the kibbutz characterised simply as "a radical social experiment" with no mention of its discriminatory, Jews-only nature, or its central role in the Zionist colonisation and takeover of Palestine. There was, need I say, no mention whatever of dispossessed Palestinians. At one point Doogue referred to "disputed land," but said nothing of the parties to this so-called 'dispute'. Absent any political context, she could have been talking about hippie communes in Nimbin.

In short, viewing Whatever Happened to... The Kibbutzim merely confirmed my original suspicion that it was going to be yet another example of the ABC uncritically dishing out Zionist propaganda. See my 28/7/13 post Zionist Propaganda Alert

By way of a corrective, here is some useful data on the genealogy of the kibbutz from Gabriel Piterberg's fine study, The Returns of Zionism: Myths, Politics & Scholarship in Israel (2008). (Given the length of Piterberg's account, I've had to leave out much that is of considerable interest, so please consider the following excerpts merely an appetizer and an incentive to purchase this invaluable, eye-opening book):

"Common knowledge has it that the kibbutz originated from an astonishing socialist experimentation with an ideology the settlers (pioneers, or chalutzim) had acquired in Europe. Even someone as astutely prophetic as and sober as Arendt thought that the kibbutzim were marvellous. That this rendering accords the settlers not only a central role but also hyper-agency is hardly surprising, for these settlers were members of the Second and Third Aliyas, that is, the ruling political elite of the Yishuv (from the 1920s onward), the World Zionist Organisation (WZO) and Jewish Agency (from the 1930s on) and the state of Israel (1948-1977). However, there is solid scholarship that seriously questions this story and offers a threefold correction: it tempers the settlers' hyper-agency by underscoring the pivotal role played by German Jewish settlement experts; it shows that the decisive factors were the conditions and desire of colonization; and that, even in terms of ideational flow from Europe to Palestine, what we have is ideas of colonization and race rather than socialism.

"In the mid 1980s two geographers of the Hebrew University, Shalom Reichman and Shlomo Hasson, published a revealing article on the formative influence of the pre-First World War colonization project of the German Reich in the Posen (Poznan in Polish) province of the east Prussian marches, upon the early phase of the Zionist colonization effort in Palestine. A sizeable chunk of the east Prussian marches, the Ostmark, had been appropriated when Poland was partitioned in the late eighteenth century. In the latter decades of the nineteenth century, three of the Ostmark provinces - Eastern and Western Prussia, and Silesia - had a German majority; only the fourth, Posen, had a Polish majority of roughly 60%. Posen was identified by the Germans as a centre of Polish nationalism. The purpose of the state project - the wider background of which was the crisis of German agriculture and the attendant Landflucht (land flight) - was to effect a demographic transformation in Posen first and foremost, and in the Ostmark more generally, by dispossessing the Polish majority of its hold on the land and settling Germans in their stead...

"The German project... had a formative impact upon the Zionist project in four related ways: the impact of the German project resulted in the decisive rejection of the French model that had been introduced by the Rothschild experts; it accorded primacy to national colonization over economic profitability; it accorded primacy to (an equivalent of) the state and its bureaucracy over the market and private capitalists; and it implanted in the WZO what [Gershon] Shafir perceptively calls the pure settlement frame of mind. The agents of this formative impact were two German Jewish settlement experts, Franz Oppenheimer (1864-1943) and perhaps the single most important individual for the Zionist settlement in Palestine, Arthur Ruppin (1876-1943)...

"Ruppin's role in the colonization of Palestine was so pivotal that he is known in Zionist Israeli lore as 'the father of Jewish settlement in the land of Israel'. In addition to settlement... he was also responsible for the historical alliance within Zionism between the nationalist bourgeoisie and the labour movement, and for the agreement with the Nazis on the transfer of German Jews and their capital to Mandate Palestine... [His] Weltanschauung was social Darwinism and its formation occurred in the 1890s and 1900s, within a budding interdisciplinary paradigm that became known as Eugenics or Racial Hygiene (Rassen-hygiene). One of Ruppin's mentors was a central promulgator of the new paradigm in Germany, the blond, blue-eyed biologist Ernst Haeckel, whom Ruppin described in his diary as 'the marvellous German type'. Haeckel's mission was to disseminate 'Darwinism as a Weltanschauung'. From Ruppin's early work in the early 1900s, it is clear that he adhered to a rigid biological determinism of race, whereby 'we are connected to our predecessors not through the spiritual tradition but through the continuity of the primordial substance that exists in our body.' His reflections on the superhuman (Ubermensch) resulted in his conclusion that such a man should develop only among his physical type, from which view the shift to the idea of racial purity needed just a nudge. What made Ruppin concern himself for the rest of his life with the correction and betterment of 'the Jewish race' was the anti-Semitic rejection by his beloved German nation and homeland...

"Evidence for the extent to which the German colonization project in Posen and East Prussia in general informed Ruppin consists both of explicit statements by him that this was the case, and structural similarities between the Prussian and Zionist colonization projects. On several occasions Ruppin stated his indebtedness to the German venture... Two principles evinced the pure settlement vision that underpinned Ruppin's colonizing approach; these in turn were congruous with the spatial concept of the German Colonization Commission. 'One', Reichman and Hasson elaborate, 'was to avoid penetration into areas densely inhabited by another national group, and the other was to form contiguous blocks of settlements'...

"Shafir confirms the argument that the kibbutz was first and foremost a colonizing tool for the formation of a settler project, and that it was based to a considerable degree on social and ethnic exclusion. He observes: '[T]he national character of the kibbutz was its foundation and raison d'etre and determined its composition, and in part its structure. The kibbutz became the most homogenous body of Israeli society: it included almost exclusively East European Jews, since it was unwilling to embrace Middle Eastern and North African Jews, and was constructed on the exclusion of Palestinian Arabs'." (pp 78-87)

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Behind the Iranian Refugee Exodus 2

A media miracle of sorts has happened. The following opinion piece, by Sara Haghdoosti, executive director and founder of Berim* (pronounced in Farsi 'beh-rim', meaning 'let's go'), actually appeared in yesterday's Sydney Morning Herald!

It places a large part of the blame for the current spike in the number of Iranian asylum seekers attempting to reach these unwelcoming shores squarely where it belongs - on the shoulders of the Gillard/Rudd government which has happily joined forces with the US and its other western client regimes to impose economy-busting sanctions on their country over its nuclear program. The only issue I have with Haghdoosti's piece is its failure to spell out the only real beneficiary of these sanctions: Israel. Could this have been a condition of its publication, I wonder? (See also my 20/7/13 post Behind the Iranian Refugee Exodus.):

"What do the Australian Labor Party and Bart Simpson have in common? They use the same tactics when it comes to crisis management. Namely wreaking havoc, then turning around and crying: 'I didn't do it.' It's not the same sort of cry we heard last week from an Iranian refugee when she was captured on camera after hearing that she would be settled in Papua New Guinea and not Australia.

"You have to admit the Australian government gets full marks for chutzpah when it comes to dealing with asylum seekers. It takes some gall for Foreign Minister Bob Carr to be able to say: 'They're leaving their country because of the economic pressures - much of it produced, I guess, by the sanctions.' Really? Because there's no other reason why anyone would want to leave Iran? Because there aren't hundreds of political prisoners in jail? Because a young man didn't just die under interrogation for comments he wrote on a blog? Because Baha'i and the gay community aren't actively persecuted? Because the country doesn't have the second highest rate of incarceration in the world?

"Even if we put the Iranian government's human rights record aside - Bob Carr 'guesses' the reason is the sanctions? As though sanctions miraculously fell from the sky and are wholly unrelated to to him and anyone in government? When people try to escape famine do we call them 'economic refugees'? Of course not. In the case of Iran, our foreign policies are designed to cripple the economy and for the most part they are working. Inflation is sky high, unemployment is growing and the cost of food is rising daily. The Australian government is helping create poverty and then it is turning around and labelling people as politically oportunistic when they try to feed their families.

"Let us be clear: sanctions aren't benign - they're economic cluster bombs. They don't discriminate but often have a disproportionate effect on the most vulnerable. Want to stop Iranians getting on boats? We could start by not taking food off their tables and medicine off their shelves. Australia could use its new seat on the United Nations Security Council to highlight the fact that international sanctions are creating a medicine shortage in Iran. International sanctions don't apply to medicines directly but because they do apply to Iranian banks it has become virtually impossible to perform transactions that are legal because Western companies aren't willing to take the risk of dealing with Iranian banks. In Iran there are patients for whom a medicine is the difference between life and death. If parents put a child on a boat to Australia because they can't find medicine to keep their child alive are they considered economic refugees? Remember, these are ordinary Iranians who have no say in the country's nuclear policies. Their only crime is that they were born in Iran and their lives are at risk because of it. It's time we looked in the mirror. The Iranian government isn't the only one who who is persecuting the Iranian people - our government's sanctions are also doing it.

"In addition to the humanitarian argument, there is a geopolitical one to be made here. Iran is a country where more than half the people are under 30, well-educated, media-savvy and hungry for change. Instead of backing these young people, we are supporting policies that make it harder for them to campaign for change within Iran. Most of us have seen the power of technology - particularly smartphones and the internet in terms of political organising. For all politicians' claims that the sanctions don't impact people's ability to organise for reform, who can afford a smartphone when the price of food and medicine quadruples? Perhaps before abandoning our international obligations under the Refugee Convention, we could examine how we are contributing to the suffering that makes people flee in the first place. We can continue trying to shirk our international responsibilities with a bipartisan smile or we could recognise the power we have internationally and use it proactively. We could use our seat on the Security Council to highlight and help prevent the adverse humanitarian impact sanctions are having on Iran. We could set an example to the world by reassessing those policies ourselves.

"There is a generation that through the green movement has already proved that they have the potential to deliver change in Iran. If we can't help at least let's ensure that we're not doing active harm." (How can trying to feed a family be opportunistic?)

[*One of Berim's principles is that "any state-sponsored violence, be that economic or military, that punishes ordinary Iranians for the actions of their government is ethically and morally unacceptable." About Berim, berim.org)]

Joe Hockey: My Palestinianity is Firmly Under Control

Seriously head-shaking stuff:

"The Hockey* life story is one of the more textured of an Australian public figure and bears re-telling for what it reveals about a more complex individual than might seem to be the case on an affable surface. Of Palestinian-Armenian origin (his paternal grandmother was Palestinian); grandfather, who deserted the family, was Armenian) Hockey is the product of a marriage between Richard Hokeidonian and Beverly Little... Richard had dropped the 'donian' part of his name when he migrated to Australia in 1948 to get away from turmoil in the Middle East. He named his youngest child Joseph Benedict out of gratitude to former Labor Prime Minister Joseph Benedict Chifley. Hockey's Palestinian connection has been tricky for him over the years, given his own party's tilt towards Israel. He does not deny his heritage. He has Palestinian and Armenian friends, but Hockey's Sydney and Canberra milieu is far removed from a conflict on the other side of the world. 'It's my culture. It's my heritage. It helps to define me. But it doesn't control me,' he says. He describes, nevertheless, an emotional reaction after visiting a Palestinian refugee camp in Gaza in 1998 with his father. 'We walked through the refugee camp where you'd had 3 generations living in a room 2 metres by 2 metres. It was very emotional because there I was with my father, and there but for the grace of God I could've been.' Could it be the Palestinian loss of patrimony has something to do with Hockey's desire to own a piece of Australian countryside? He describes his 200-hectare cattle property in the Atherton Tablelands behind Cairns... as his reality check." (No more Mr Sunrise, Tony Walker, Financial Review Magazine, August 2013)

Don't you just love the sentence: "Richard... migrated to Australia in 1948 to get away from the turmoil in the Middle East."

Shhh... don't mention the NAKBA!

And don't you just love how, while your Danbys and Frydenbergs have no qualms about flaunting their Zionism, Joe Hockey keeps his Palestinianity firmly under control?

[*For my readers overseas, Joe Hockey is Australia's shadow treasurer.]

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Zionist Propaganda Alert

ABC television's religious affairs program Compass is currently screening a series of documentaries under the heading Whatever Happened to...?

As the Compass website explains: "In this series Compass revisits radical religious and social movements in Australia's recent past, exploring their impact and legacy."

To date, they've covered the Hare Krishnas and the Charismatics. Tonight's episode, screened at 6:30 pm, is Whatever Happened to... The Kibbutzim. Here's the blurb:

"Episode 3 - The first Kibbutz was founded in Israel just over 100 years ago. A radical socialist experiment, it combined communal living and Zionist philosophy with the aim of 'making the desert bloom'. Soon there were dozens, and training farms were set up in countries like Australia to prepare young people for the physical hardship of kibbutz life where - in exchange for manual labour - volunteers were provided with food, shelter, education and medical care. In the late 60s and 70s many young Australians, Jewish and non-Jewish, went to Israel to join a kibbutz. Why did they go? How has the experience shaped their lives? And do kibbutzim still operate? Compass finds out."

With a Zionist sales pitch like that - making the desert bloom indeed! - I'm afraid it doesn't bode well. Needless to say, I'll be returning with a corrective after the screening if necessary.

But just in case you find yourself asking whether the kibbutz phenomenon isn't perhaps a tad too marginal to be part of a series on Australian religious and social movements, let me remind you that there is still at least one old bugger around who once came under the influence and has never fully recovered from the experience:

"Two weeks pass [following a hip replacement]. And I've been demoted from the Zimmer to crutches to walking stick. And while I become very attached to my tormentors (a variation on the Stockholm Syndrome), it's time to leave [Mater Hospital]. For Wolper, a Jewish hospital nearer home. If you think the Catholics are tough, you haven't been in Wolper. It's like a kibbutz during the Six-Day War. With a hint of Mississippi slave era (Tote that barge, lift that bale.) And I'm going in for 3 days a week for months." (I'm in the hip crowd, Phillip Adams, The Weekend Australian Magazine, 20/7/13)

Sunday's Sermon

Seriously now, Anne Speckhard PhD and her phony mates in the 'counter-terrorism' business wouldn't know terrorism if it hit them in the face.

One American who does is my all-time favourite preacher, the Reverend Jeremiah Wright. Wright delivered the following sermon on Sunday, September 16, 2001, just 5 days after the terror bombings of the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on September 11. Imagine how much longer it'd be if he were delivering it today:

"Violence begets violence. Hatred begets hatred. And terrorism begets terrorism.

"A white man said that y'all, not a black militant - Ambassador to Iraq, Edward Peck. Not a reverend who preaches about racism. An ambassador whose eyes are wide open and who is trying to get us to wake up and move away from this dangerous precipice upon which we are now poised.

"He pointed out, a white man, an ambassador, he pointed out that what Malcolm X said when he got silenced by Elijah Mohammad was in fact true - America's chickens are coming home to roost.

"We took this country by terror away from the Sioux, the Apache, the Arawak, the Comanche, the Arapaho, the Navajo. Terrorism!

"We took Africans from their country to build our way of ease and kept them enslaved and living in fear. Terrorism!

"We bombed Grenada and killed innocent civilians, babies, non-military personnel.

"We bombed the black civilian community of Panama with stealth bombers and killed unarmed teenagers and toddlers, pregnant mothers and hard-working fathers. 

"We bombed Qaddafi's home and killed his child. Blessed are they who bash your children's head against the rock.*

"We bombed Iraq. We killed unarmed civilians trying to make a living. We bombed a plant in Sudan to pay back for the attack on our embassy, killed hundreds of hard-working people, mothers and fathers who left home to go that day not knowing they'd never get back home.

"We bombed Hiroshima. We bombed Nagasaki, and we nuked far more than the thousands in New York and the Pentagon, and we never batted an eye.

"Kids playing in the playground. Mothers picking up children after school. Civilians, not soldiers, people just trying to make it day by day.

"We have supported state terrorism against the Palestinians and black South Africans, and now we are indignant because the stuff we have done overseas is now brought right back into our own front yards. America's chickens are coming home to roost.

"Violence begets violence. Hatred begets hatred. And terrorism begets terrorism."

[*Psalm 137,9]

Saturday, July 27, 2013

The Terrorist Whisperer

Thank God for the Sydney Morning Herald's opinion editor I say. He/she knows exactly what the Herald's (dwindling) readership really wants. Namely, stirring tales of derring-do, with catchy titles such as Fanging out with vipers,  or I put my head in the croc's mouth and survived... the halitosis!, or Care for a swim in shark-infested waters? Why not?

Which is why, I guess, Anne Speckhard's opinion piece, Inside the homes, heads and hearts of terrorists is both frightening and fascinating, was selected for inclusion in the opinion pages of yesterday's Herald:

"Have you wondered what it would be like to talk to a terrorist? It's hard to imagine just being in the same vicinity of one, let alone staying at their houses, eating with them and having hour-long discussions. Over the past decade, I have been researching the psychology of terrorists and extremists, their supporters, close family members and associates... One of the most common questions people are intrigued to know is: what is it like to talk to a terrorist? It's both frightening and fascinating... The truth is they started out as ordinary people just like you and me... I wanted to understand what takes normal people to put themselves on the terrorist trajectory... I overcame my fear via my fascination with their descriptions of the experiences that drove them into terrorism. In conflict zones such as Chechnya, Palestine and Iraq, many of the traumatic experiences they described were heartbreaking and I could understand (but never endorse) how they were drawn to groups that promised them the possibility of revenge and empowered them after they felt totally overwhelmed by the violence of another... When talking to the terrorists... it was always really useful to go as far as possible into the actual context of their lives... I understood that terrorists view themselves as part of a movement and as soldiers for their cause. They don't see their actions as any more wrong than our soldiers judge their killing in combat was wrong. Of course, there is a huge difference and there is never any justification for terrorism of any type; there is no cause anywhere in the world that justifies targeting and terrorising innocent civilians on its behalf."

Well, I don't know about you, but after reading that I was impressed. What a brave woman is this Anne Speckhard - sorry, Dr Anne Speckhard. I mean, it's a miracle she wasn't eaten alive!

So just who is this Wonder Woman?

According to the Herald bio, she's a professor of psychiatry at Georgetown University. But not just any old professor - she's an "adjunct associate" professor. Not just a pretty face, eh?

In fact, so impressed was I that I checked out her website and now I'm just itching to get my hands on her latest book: Talking to Terrorists: Understanding the Psycho-Social Motivations of Militants, Jihadi Terrorists, Mass Hostage Takers, Suicide Bombers & 'Martyrs'.

I swear, not since Aaron Klein's Schmoozing with Terrorists: From Hollywood to the Holy Land, Jihadis Reveal their Global Plans - to a Jew! have I been this excited! And when I'm through with that, the very next on my to-read list will have to be Dr Speckhard's Warrior Princess: A U.S. Navy Seal's Journey to Coming Out Transgender.

But back to Talking to Terrorists. Just look at the reviews assembled on her website. All 5-star and all by the right people.

A mere sample:

"The embarrassing truth about Terrorism Studies is that most writers on the subject have never met a terrorist. Dr Anne Speckhard is an exception... Nobody has gotten closer to the 'heart of darkness'." - Alex P. Schmid, Director, Terrorism Research Initiative

"She has succeeded in delving into the terrorist mind." - Joe Charlaff, Journalist, Israel

"Anne goes alone and without security into the lion's den to interview her subjects who most often have blood on their hands." - Peter S. Probst, Former Assistant for Terrorism Intelligence, Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations & Low Intensity Conflict (OASD/SO/LIC), Former Special Assistant for Concept Development - Office of Special Planning - Office of the Secretary of Defense and Former CIA Officer (Directorate of Operations and Directorate of Intelligence)

"Invaluable to those in the field of terrorism studies, as well as to the general public." - Yoram Schweitzer, Director of the Low Intensity Warfare & Terrorism Project and Senior Research Fellow at Israel's Institute for National Security Studies

"As advisor to Detainee Task Force 134, I watched Anne in action at Camp Cropper, the world's largest detention center. Her empathy, smile, Belgian chocolates, and paper tissues for the occasional tears worked to enlist the cooperation of even the most hard-hearted and unrepentant killers." - Rohan Gunaratna, Author, Inside al Qaeda: Global Network of Terror

Be still, my beating heart. I think I'm in love...

Friday, July 26, 2013

If This Be Philosophy...

The book of essays, published in 2005, is called The Heart of Things: Applying Philosophy to the 21st Century. On its cover there is a photograph of an ancient tome, suggestive of authentic wisdom and real insight into the ways of the world around us. Its author, British philosopher A.C. Grayling, writes sensibly in the introduction:

"Almost everyone wishes to live a life that is satisfying and fulfilling, in which there is achievement and pleasure, and which has the respect of people whose respect is worth having. Such a life is one that adds value - to the experience of the person living it, and to the world that the person occupies. To add value to things involves making good choices. To make good choices requires being informed and reflective. To be both these things one must read, enquire, debate and consider."

Inside Grayling's book there is an essay called Fences, which is rather odd given that he's really writing about the great walls of history, walls such as the Great Wall of China and the Berlin Wall, designed to keep unwanted people out. Grayling's ruminations on these exclusionary structures are not merely the products of a book-lined study. Our philosopher is a traveller and has seen the walls of which he writes. Among them is Israel's West Bank wall. And this is what he has to say about this hideous, illegal, land-grabbing, 8m-tall, concrete obscenity:

"From Shuneh one sees the unhappy, tormented, disputed, tragic land where yet another barrier stands newly raised, as if nearly 3,000 years of failed experiments with the idea counted for nothing... The futility of the gesture is a measure of the desperation, and the tragedy, prompting it - a desperation felt, and a tragedy suffered, on both sides of the fence planted in that troubled and bloody ground west of the Dead Sea."

The observation is beautifully phrased and, yes, he's right, we have all history to suggest that, like the Berlin Wall, Israel's apartheid wall will one day come crashing down.

But just look at Grayling's characterisation of the Israeli occupation: an occupied, stolen land is airbrushed into a "disputed, tragic land." In fact, there is no sign anywhere of either occupier or occupied - only equally unhappy, tormented, suffering souls.

This is just plain bullshit, of course. You don't have to visit an occupied land to know that some people, known as the occupiers, are having a ball, while others, known as the occupied, lie bleeding in the dust and the broken glass; or that the occupiers have swimming pools and manicured lawns, while the occupied are left with bullet-perforated rainwater tanks and charred, bulldozed orchards.

Not only is there no evidence here that our best-selling, globe-trotting, celebrity philosopher has the wit to know what the hell is going on in occupied Palestine, or eyes to see for that matter, but there's none to suggest he's even followed his own advice and done some serious reading - any reading, actually - before writing such piffle.

And this from a citizen of the country most responsible for the laying the foundations of Zionism's Iron Wall in Palestine.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Indyk the Enigmatic

"[The Yom Kippur War] was a kind of defining moment for me in terms of my search for identity. I sat up at night listening on my radio to the BBC reports of Henry Kissinger flying in to get the ceasefire and from that moment on I became absolutely obsessed about the idea that I too should play some role in trying to make Israel safe, because that would make me safe." (Leadel Interview, 'Martin Indyk', cited in Powerbase's profile of Indyk, powerbase.info)

The Australian's Cameron Stewart (rambammed: 2005) always gives good pro-Israel spin, but yesterday's effort, Indyk to lead new Mid-East effort, just blew me away.

First we got this revelation:

"[Indyk] is expected to play a pivotal role in efforts to kick-start the stalled Middle East peace process and broker a settlement between Israel and Palestine. Mr Indyk, 62, is tipped to head the US delegation to the new round of talks between the two states..."

So we already have a Palestinian state?! The fabled two-state solution's been there all this time and nobody noticed?!

I-N-C-R-E-D-I-B-L-E!!!

But back to Indyk.

Keep in mind that this particular gent was:

*a former American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) staffer
*a founding director of the pro-Israel think tank the Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP)
*a director of the pro-Israel Saban Center for Middle East Policy
*a two-time US ambassador to Israel (1995-97; 2000-01)
*a key Clinton adviser (along with Dennis Ross) at the 2000 Camp David summit at which "Palestinian negotiators complained that they were 'negotiating with two Israeli teams - one displaying an Israeli flag, and one an American flag'."  (quoted in The Israel Lobby, Mearsheimer & Walt, lrb.co.uk, 23/3/06)

Yet all Stewart could manage was fluff like this:

"Martin Indyk once taught Middle Eastern politics at Sydney's Macquarie University... The son of a Sydney surgeon John Indyk was raised in the Sydney suburb of Castlecrag and educated at the University of Sydney and the Australian National University before moving to the US in 1982."

But the bit that really had the coffee all over the page was this:

"Although he has a reputation for even-handedness, reports of his likely appointment have received a mixed response, with Israelis and Palestinians fearing he may be too close to the other side. Mr Indyk is considered to be close to Israel and has long been a passionate advocate of the US's strong support for Israel. However, he has also made clear that he understands and is not opposed to Palestinian aspirations and interests."

So despite this bloke having been the director of more US Israel lobby shops than you can poke a stick at, lo and behold, he's now the proverbial riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma!

Quality journalism strikes again... but only in the Australian.

[For more QJ by Cameron Stewart see my posts Quality Journalism Alert (28/2/10); The Eyes Have It (16/8/11).]

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Most Definitely a Shaw Thing

Further to my July 11 discussion of George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950) and his attitude toward Islam, it's interesting to recall just what the renowned, left-leaning, Irish playwright and essayist had to say about Zionism.

Zionism, it should be said, was hardly uppermost in Shaw's mind, and insofar as he touched on it, it is reasonable to assume that he shared the British Left's purblind tendency to see British imperialism rather than the ruthless, manipulative, ethno-nationalism of the Zionist movement as the main player in Palestine.* Nevertheless, as an Irishman, he knew a colonial clusterfuck when he saw one coming.

Shaw's take on the Zionist project in Palestine emerges most strongly in a short, untitled, satirical sketch he wrote on the origins of Britain's fateful 1917 Balfour Declaration, which infamously promised to "view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people."

It came in the context of a correspondence with British socialist and Independent Labour Party MP Fenner Brockway, most probably, although this is not specified, in the late thirties. As Brockway explains in his memoir Outside the Right:

"I had a startling reply to a request for an opinion on a policy statement on Palestine which I had written for the I.L.P. 'This is all nonsense, the historical part,' he rebuked, adding he could only comment adequately in the form of a 3-act play. He enclosed it and granted me the right to publish. The theme was that Arthur Balfour gave Dr Weitzmann Palestine in return for a chemical device for killing Germans. I reproduce the play at the end of this chapter." (1963, p 87)

Referred to by Brockway as Shaw's "lost play," the playwright's skewering of the insufferable Lord Arthur James Balfour is deliciously Yes Minister:

ACT I

1917. Scene: The Foreign Secretary's room at the Foreign Office. Arthur is contemplating with dismay a document which has been handed to him by an attache.
Arthur: Boy, this is awful. Are you sure your figures are correct?
Attache: They have been checked 3 times over, sir.
Arthur: This is really what the war is costing us?
Attache: Under the mark, if anything, sir.
Arthur: Young man, do you realize - but no. Only a Scot can feel as I feel about it. Look at this one item alone. Five thousand and thirty-eight pounds, 15 shillings and  9 & 7/8 pence for cordite enough to kill a single German. How can any country stand such a strain?
Attache: It's not the cordite, sir. It's the acetone [**] that is so expensive. Cordite cannot be made without acetone.
Arthur: I don't know what acetone is; and I don't care. All I know is that if we go on like this we shall have to give an order to cease killing Germans. Dead Germans cost too much... Are our chemists trying how to find something cheaper?
Attache: They are doing their best; but nothing has come of it so far. There's a chemist in Manchester who has a microbe that makes acetone for next to nothing.
Arthur: Send him here instantly. Why hasn't he been sent here before?
Attache: Impossible, sir, unfortunately.
Arthur: Nothing is impossible when we are at war. Why is it impossible?
Attache: He is a Jew, sir.
Arthur: Is his microbe a Jew?
Attache: I suppose not, sir.
Arthur: Is Sir Herbert Samuel a Jew or is he not? Is he in the Cabinet or is he not?
Attache: But it is a coalition Government, sir. All sorts of people are let in.
Arthur: Any other objection?
Attache: Well, Manchester, you know, sir. Provincial. And Owens College! If it were Cambridge, now, we might stretch a point.
Arthur: If this Jewish gentleman is not in this room in 3 hours, you go to the trenches.
Attache: Oh, if you make a point of it, of course. But we shall lose tone.
Arthur (roaring): Get out!
(The attache shrugs his shoulders and goes out.)
Arthur (clutching his temples as he again pores over the sheet of figures): Five thousand and thirty-eight golden pounds to put one Boche out of action! And we have to exterminate the lot of them!

ACT II

(As before, 3 hours later, but with Dr Chaim Weizmann instead of the attache.)
Arthur: Doctor Weizmann, we must have that microbe at your own price. Name it. We shall not hesitate at 6 figures.
Dr Weizmann: I do not ask for money.
Arthur: There must be some misunderstanding. I was informed that you are a Jew.
Weizmann: You were informed correctly. I am a Jew.
Arthur: But - pardon me - you said you did not ask for money.
Wiezmann: Precisely, I do not want money.
Arthur: A title, perhaps? Baron? Viscount? Do not hesitate.
Wiezmann: Nothing would induce me to accept a title. I should have to pay more for everything.
Arthur: Then may I ask, without offence, since you want none of the things that everybody wants, what the devil do you want?
Weizmann: I want Jerusalem.
Arthur: It's yours. I only regret that we cannot throw in Madagascar as well. Unfortunately it belongs to the French Government. The Holy Land belongs naturally to the Church of England and to it you are most welcome. And now will you be so good as to hand over the microbe.

ACT III

Mr Bernard Shaw in his sumptuously furnished study reading the announcement of the Balfour Declaration.
MR B. S.: Another Ulster! As if one were not enough.

CURTAIN

[*For the full story here, see my April 2012 serialisation of J.M.N. Jeffries's Palestine: The Reality, Chapter 11: The Balfour Deception 1-7; **For this particular strand of the story, see my 11/11/12 post Palestine on a Platter.]

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Krudd's 'Simple & Elegant' Solution

Listen up, you tired, you poor, you huddled masses yearning to breathe free...

If you liked Nauru...

"The Nauru detention centre descended into chaos on Friday night with riots breaking out and reports that a policeman had been stabbed and was being held hostage. There were also reports of multiple explosions and parts of the centre being set on fire. Between 150 and 200 detainees were involved in the rioting and many have breached the fence, according to a spokeswoman from the Department of Immigration & Citizenship. A witness on Nauru... said the riot was sparked by false rumours that the Manus Island centre had been closed. The rumours emerged before Prime Minister Kevin Rudd's announcement on Friday afternoon that all asylum seekers heading to Australia by boat would now be sent to Papua New Guinea for processing and resettlement... According to a written order obtained by Fairfax Media, Nauru's acting Police Minister, David Adeang, has deputised a new 'Nauru Police Force Reserve' to respond to the riots. The force includes contractors from Australian company Transfield as well as 'all others deputised to respond'. Women and children on Nauru have been instructed by the government to lock their doors and stay inside until further notice. All men have been told to present to the centre to be deputised as security guards. Up to 1000 men are estimated to have responded to the call for deputies distributed via text message on the island's mobile phone network. Police now have the extra challenge to control these men, 'baying for blood', as one islander put it." (Rumours spark wild riot on Nauru, Bianca Hall & Daniel Flitton, Sydney Morning Herald, 20/7/13)

... you are going to love Papua New Guinea:

"The deadly disease cholera is endemic, the murder rate is 13 times higher than in Australia, sexual assaults - particularly gang rapes aimed at foreign women - are on the rise and the crime rate is escalating. The Foreign Affairs Department is so concerned about the safety of people travelling there it has issued travel warnings about ethnic disputes and a lawlessness that is so bad they advise Australians to travel in convoys after dark with car windows up and doors locked. This is Papua New Guinea - where foreigners live in compounds with security guards and where the treatment of women has come under the spotlight this year after a recent series of gruesome crimes, including the pack rape of an American academic in April and the burning murder of a 20-year-old mother accused of witchcraft. Plans by Prime Minister Kevin Rudd to send asylum seekers there for resettlement have been met with disbelief by refugee advocates and been described as 'mind-boggling' by one nun who worked there for almost 20 years and visits regularly. Franciscan nun Sister Aileen Crowe said that because of land ownership issues, the only place asylum seekers could be resettled was in the towns, where the violence has increased, driven up by widespread unemployment. 'This is a very difficult social climate to put these people in,' she said. 'There is a long list of people waiting for jobs. The asylum seekers will become very ostracised if they try and [get] into the labour market.' Sister Aileen said the last time she visited nuns in Port Moresby, they spent every night terrified as men tried to break into their house. Father Paul Lonot Sireh, who was born on Manus Island but now lives in Australia, warned that the island's facilities needed upgrading because islanders were already living with a main road that was like a logging track and 'people are dying every day because there are insufficient drugs and no hospital facilities.' Expats living in Papua New Guinea have written about the out-of-control inflation, how renting a two-bedroom, two-bathroom house costs $US6500 ($7075) a month and how fresh produce in Port Morseby - almost exclusively imported from Australia by air - is prohibitively expensive, with broccoli costing $8 a bunch and a small lettuce $5. Port Moresby was last year rated as the eighth most expensive city in the world." (Violence, disease risk for asylum seekers, Natalie O'Brien, The Sun-Herald, 21/7/13)

Welcome to fortress Australia, where a Labor PM (with Israel in his DNA) recently took over the reins from another Labor PM (with Israel in her bones) in the name of fending off a challenge from a Liberal prime ministerial wannabe (who believes we're all Israelis now).

Welcome to a nation which sends maritime asylum seekers to a concentration camp on a nominally independent Pacific island state called Nauru, ruled by an 'acting president' and protected by an 'acting police minister' who calls upon the local lads (who 'bay for blood') to rally to the defence of the island whenever those in Australia's Guano Ghetto just can't take it any more.

Welcome to the Australia of PM Krudd, the 'prissy, precious, prick' who now proposes that, as of 19 July, all maritime asylum seekers be sent permanently to the above-mentioned paradise of PNG, a solution hailed by the Israel-loving, Jerusalem Prize-winning foreign editor of Rupert Murdoch's flagship rag, called - what else? - The Australian, as "simple and not without elegance." (PNG solution has to bridge the credibility gap, Greg Sheridan, 20/7/13)

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Behind the Iranian Refugee Exodus 1

The real story behind the comparatively large number of Iranians lately heading to these shores has never been told in Australia's mainstream media. The nearest you're liable to get is something like this, buried deep in the text of a news report: "Mr Jahangir admits that financial problems in Iran's struggling sanctions-beset economy are the 'first' reason why many of these people have fled." (It isn't all about money for marginalised Iranians, Michael Bachelard, The Age, 3/7/13)

Iranian asylum seekers like Mr Jahangir, of course, have cause to be guarded on this matter lest they be dismissed out of hand as merely 'economic refugees'. But what's to stop the Australian mainstream media from seriously examining the link between Iran's struggling sanctions-beset economy and our Iranian refugee influx?

Well plenty, actually. Any examination of just why it is that the Iranian economy is currently being hammered by the wrecking ball of international sanctions would inevitably lead to discussion of a nuclear-armed Israel, which hypocritically insists that Iran must never have such weapons and uses its AIPAC-engineered stranglehold over the US Congress to ensure uncritical American backing for its stance. (This is not to concede, of course, that Iran is out to acquire nuclear weapons, although it would be hypocritical in the extreme, with a nuclear-armed, apartheid state regularly throwing its weight around in the area, to claim that it should not have this right.)  And so, in a highly Zionised and cowardly media culture such as Australia's, with our own mini AIPAC ready to pounce at any sign of deviation from the Likud Party line, it is only natural that mainstream media analysts would shy away from such a discussion.

Given that a) the implementation of multilateral sanctions against Iran in 2012 is ruining the Iranian economy and helping fuel a refugee exodus; b) these sanctions have been imposed at the behest of Israel simply to enable it to maintain its top-dog status in the Middle East; and c) Australia, whose PM has declared that support for Israel is in his DNA, has been an enthusiastic party to the imposition of sanctions on Iran, I can only conclude that we are complicit in the destruction of Iran's economy and hence the acute distress of its people, and that the very least we can do under the circumstances we ourselves have helped bring about is a) pull out of the Israeli-instigated, US-backed blockade of Iran; and b) welcome those Iranians that make it to these shores, as opposed to bribing Papua New Guinea to take them, as PM Krudd is doing to shore up the racist, bogan, white-pride vote. Nothing less than our reputation as a civilised nation is at stake here.

The ms media's cowardice (and, it has to be said, cluelessness on this issue) is largely responsible for Australians having simply no idea what life is like in a sanctions-beset economy.

The following extended quote, from a 2013 study by the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran, gives us some appreciation of just why it is that Iranians are on the move:

"Moving any goods into or out of the country has become prohibitively expensive due to substantially increased transaction and operating costs arising from the sanctions' banking, financial, and insurance prohibitions. Critically, this includes foods, medicines, and other humanitarian items - either because the payment channels have been cut off as a result of the banking prohibitions, or because firms have become reluctant to do business with the Islamic Republic for fear of running foul of the sanctions. As a result, it has become difficult for the country to maintain the requisite level of essential imports, which include not only foods and medicines, but the inputs and raw materials that Iran's industries depend on as well.

"Meanwhile, the sanctions have halved Iran's oil revenues. This has contributed significantly to the precipitous decline in the value of the rial. With its foreign exchange earnings halved and unable to transfer its oil earnings back to Iran, the Iranian government has found it difficult to supply the requisite funds to support its currency. As a result, inflation has sharply increased, to at least 50% by some estimates, and higher in some sectors. The standard of living of all wage earners has plummeted and a rising number of unemployed individuals and their families living in the country's urban centers are being pushed into poverty and malnutrition. The decline in the nation's manufacturing sector, and with it, the condition of Iran's roughly 15 million workers and their dependents, has been particularly pronounced. The sanctions have reduced access to and substantially raised the cost of the hard currency that manufacturers require for the purchase of indispensable inputs, raw materials, spare parts, machinery and capital goods. At the same time, by imposing restrictions on and increasing financial, transportation, and insurance costs, sanctions have increased operating costs. Since 2012, the number of bankruptcies, layoffs, and plant closures has substantially increased. The rapid depletion of the country's foreign currency reserves will increasingly choke off the capital goods and inputs that Iran's industrial sector requires in order to sustain operations. This will result in the closure of more plants and operations, and the impoverishment of ever-larger segments of the working population. Indeed, some two-thirds of the nation's manufacturing units are on the verge of closure, and employed workers are now being paid in an irregular and infrequent manner.

"Millions of Iranians from the lower and middle echelons of society are struggling to meet the rising costs of rent and food; the growing ranks of the unemployed now face dispossession and hunger. The crisis in the country's healthcare system has become particularly severe. Iran is critically dependent on imports in this sector: its stock of medical equipment is almost entirely imported, and its pharmaceutical industry depends on imports for 80% of the raw materials they utilize to manufacture their products. Advanced drugs used to treat life-threatening diseases (which afflict some 6 million Iranians) are all imported. Yet due to the banking sanctions and Iran's expulsion from SWIFT, there are no viable channels to make payments to Western suppliers. The Iranian government has greatly exacerbated the situation by not allocating the requisite hard currency to the medical sector. As a result there are acute shortfalls in medicines and equipment, and long delays in transporting medicines to Iran. The most vital drugs for cancer and other severe diseases are now unavailable. Shortages, and the devaluation of the rial, have produced a 350% inflation rate in medical costs, making what is available increasingly out of reach for most Iranians. The nutritional value and balance of the consumption basket of the majority of Iranians has also plummeted. The nation is dependent on imports for about a quarter of its food requirements. With the plunge in the value of the Iranian currency, the rise in the cost of imports, and the growing ranks of the unemployed, increasing numbers of Iranians are no longer able to afford meat, poultry, fruits, vegetables, and dairy, relying instead on a diet largely comprised of carbohydrates. Significant increases in the rate of poverty, hunger, and malnutrition engender other negative repercussions, especially for women and children. The most pernicious of these are the withdrawal of children from school and child labor, with the brunt of these practices being borne by women and girls. Women are more likely to lose their jobs, and economic and social dislocations may well lead to increased domestic violence." (From Executive Summary, A Growing Crisis: The Impact of Sanctions & Regime Policies on Iranian Social & Economic Rights)

Sorry that was so long, but I need to rub it in. Whatever other problems individual Iranian asylum seekers may have with the current regime in Iran, one thing is sure: the Iranians appearing on our doorstep are the casualties of an economic war waged by the 'friends' of Israel, including Australia, against their homeland. Decency and morality dictate that if we insist on assisting USrael destroy their country, we owe these people a debt, just as we did (and still do) with the Iraqis whose lives we also helped destroy.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Blair the Barbarian

The chutzpah. The chutzpah:

"So what should the West do [about Egypt]? Egypt is the latest reminder that the region is in turmoil and won't leave us alone, however much we may wish it would. Disengagement is not an option, because the status quo is not an option. Any decision not to act is itself a decision of vast consequences." (We can't let Egypt collapse, Tony Blair, The Australian, 17/7/13)

The Middle East won't leave us alone, however much we may wish it would. Just like Iraq forced our hand, eh Tony?

Here's imperialism's latest pitch from a practitioner of the art: If that perfectly innocent bystander, the West, invades, or destabilises, or otherwise meddles in the affairs of a Middle Eastern country, it's only because said country has left it with no choice in the matter.

Yeah, right.

There is nothing new, of course, in such talk. It's just another variation on Kipling's 'white man's burden'. (See my 5/11/11 post Rudyard Kipling Redux.)

The following reflection on the subject of European imperialism in the Middle East says it all. It's taken from a book published in 1940, The New Spirit in Arab Lands, by an Arab-American, H.I. Katibah:

"There was a time, in the distant past, when imperialism wore a halo around its head; when wholesale murder on the battlefield assumed a mystical quality of divine vindication, if not exultation. There was a time when Jehovah was called the Lord of Hosts, when the almighty God judged among the nations of the world by the sword and the javelin. The great Thothmes III, whom James Breasted called the first empire builder of history, could then appropriately put in the mouth of his God the words of a paean which has come down to us as a monument at Karnak: I have come that I may cause thee to tread down them that are in the marshes; The lands of Meten tremble for fear of thee.

"We feel a thrill of vicarious pride and majesty as we listen to Ammon-Ra, the supreme Egyptian God, adressing his favourite son, the king: I cause them to behold they majesty as a fierce-eyed lion, while thou makest them to be corpses throughout their valley.

"That day has long past. A different philosophy of life has come to the world to disturb those who deify selfishness and glorify greed. Today imperialism has fallen on evil days; it has 'lost face' with all people of intelligence and integrity. It slinks about like a cowardly villain, taking refuge in hypocritical self-justification. It has stooped to apologize and to defend itself like a convicted criminal before the bar of justice. The secret pang of conscience and blush of shame which we now feel as we grimly go about our business of bombing innocent women and children from the sky were blithely absent in a Thothmes, a Nebuchadnezzar or a Genghis Khan.

"This most illustrious of Egyptian monarchs, whose conquests extended from upper Egypt to Megiddo and the confines of Mesopotamia in the 16th century before Christ, would feel quite out of place among the conquerors of our present day. How absurd would it sound to our ears if the Karnak monument had recorded that Thothmes III had conquered the Tehenu and the Utentiu in order to bring them the bounties and beneficences of Egyptian civilization, to prepare them ultimately for self-rule! It would have been equally absurd for Thothmes to have announced to the world, perhaps with his tongue in his cheek, that he was carrying the 'brown man's burden' in darkest Africa, or in white Syria. No such thoughts disturbed the mind of Thothmes III. If some of his unfortunate enemies were spared, if some war slave rose to the rank of a Moses and was brought up with the Pharaoh's children, that was only incidental to a social system that recognized no freedom or rights for the vanquished. The threats of Thothmes were as fearful as his favors were condescending.

"If we argue that there is some grain of truth and honesty in the humanitarian claims of the modern imperialists, let us not forget that Thothmes and his peers did not so thoroughly crush and annihilate their enemies as their boasts would indicate; their cruelties on the battlefield were not so grim as one would gather from reading their monuments. We have the authority of Breasted himself that Thothmes 'launched his armies upon Asia with one hand and with the other crushed the extortionate taxgatherer.'

"That was ancient imperialism at its best, unmasked, yea naked, standing like a beautiful and mighty savage in the face of the sun, fearful and fascinating like a very God, of one piece with the thundering torrents, the lightning and the earthquake. Not so is modern imperialism which looks more grotesque than grand. Its savagery is atrocious and cunning; the breath of its lying propaganda, like that of a repulsive monster, kills ere it reaches its victim. It is a reversion to barbarism shorn of its innocent beauty and majestic grandeur." (pp 116-118)

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Done & Dusted

"The man who plans to be Australia's next immigration minister has re-embraced the 1970s term 'integration' [and] raised the prospect of a series of English-test 'barriers' to attaining citizenship..." ([Scott] Morrison harks to 'integration', Rick Feneley, The Age, 18/7/13)

Seriously now, has this bloke led a sheltered life out there in The Shire or what? Integration's been with us for yonks, as this now 8-year-old letter to the Sydney Morning Herald clearly testifies:

"I recently shared a footpath with a young woman wearing the hijab. A young man (of Middle Eastern appearance) made a suggestive remark. She replied: 'Go f... yourself,' and then lit a cigarette. How much more integrated can you get?" Gary Stowe, Springwood (1/3/06)

Scott, mate, put down the Greg Sheridan and get out a bit more, OK?

In Palestine's Green & Pleasant Land

"I descended from the desert train at Ludd which had all the look of a large camp in the desert; appropriately enough perhaps, for it is the traditional birthplace of the soldier St. George. At the moment, however, there was nothing romantic or rousing about its appearance. It was perhaps unusually dreary; for heavy rains had fallen and the water stood about in what it is easier to call large puddles than anything so poetic as small pools. A motor car sent by friends had halted beside the platform; I got into it with a not unusual vagueness about where I was going; and it wound its way up miry paths to a more rolling stretch of country with patches of cactus here and there. And then with a curious abruptness I became conscious that the whole huge desert had vanished, and I was in a new land. The dark red plains had rolled away like an enormous nightmare; and I found myself in a fresh and exceedingly pleasant dream.

"I know it will seem fanciful; but for a moment I really felt as if I had come home; or rather to that home behind home for which we are all homesick. The lost memory of it is the life at once of faith and of fairy-tale. Groves glowing with oranges rose behind hedges of grotesque cactus or prickly pear; which really looked like green dragons guarding the golden apples of the Hesperides. On each side of the road were such flowers as I had never seen before under the sun; for indeed they seemed to have the sun in them rather than the sun on them. Clusters and crowds of crimson anemones were of a red not to be symbolised in blood or wine; but rather in the red glass that glows in the window dedicated to a martyr. Only in a wild eastern tale could one picture a pilgrim or traveller finding such a garden in the desert; and I thought of the oldest tale of all and the garden from which we came. But there was something in it yet more subtle; which there must be in the impression of any earthly paradise. It is vital to such a dream that things familiar should be mixed with things fantastic; as when an actual dream is filled with the faces of old friends. Sparrows, which seem to be the same all over the world, were darting hither and thither among the flowers; and I had the fancy that they were the souls of the town-sparrows of London and the smoky cities, and now gone wherever the good sparrows go." (The New Jerusalem, G.K. Chesterton, 1920, pp 39-40)

[Related post: The Blooming 'Desert' (27/4/12).]

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Our ABC Owned

The following interview with George Galloway on ABC Radio National's Breakfast program on July 4 tells us as much about the interviewer as it does about the interviewee, wonderfully exposing the Murdoch press fantasy of the ABC as a kind of leftist bastion for the nonsense it is.

Radio National's too-clever-by-half interviewer, James Carleton, was hilariously unmasked by Galloway as just another lazy peddler of received - which is to say, USraeli - 'wisdom' on the Middle East. I simply cannot imagine him, for example, approaching an interview with US Syrian interventionist John McCain or Israeli spinmeister Mark Regev in quite the same condescending way. Be that as it may, Galloway easily put Carleton in his place, with even Breakfast presenter Fran Kelly finding it necessary to rush to salve her colleague's wounds following the conclusion of the interview. Enjoy:

Fran Kelly: But first in Australia at the moment is the radical and controversial British MP George Galloway, a fierce critic of both the former Egyptian dictator Hosni Mubarak and his democratically-elected successor Mohammed Morsi. GG is known more famously for his fierce criticism of the US, of Israel, and of his own country's foreign policy. In fact, he was expelled from the British Labour Party for that but twice returned to the House of Commons with upset victories with his small socialist party called Respect. GG twice met with Saddam Hussein. He's spoken with Syria's President Bashar Al-Asad. He's been deported from Egypt by Hosni Mubarak, and is currently a Press TV reporter for Iran. He spoke yesterday with James Carleton and this interview was recorded before the Egyptian army militarily intervened in Egypt.

GG: Instability is inherent in any revolution. Revolution is a process not an event. The French Revolution took more than 10 years. The Bolshevik Revolution more than 6 years. And these Arab revolutions are at most 2 years old, so it's often two steps forward and one step back. Sometimes one step forward, two steps back, and that's where Egypt seems to be today. The long dictatorship from which I was deported and declared persona non grata of Hosni Mubarak is gone but the new dispensation has been born but not grown up yet. One thing is for sure, President Morsi has only himself to blame. He had it all in his hands but he blew it. The Muslim Brotherhood failed to share power and predictably it has utterly failed. Millions of people more than had demanded the removal of Hosni Mubarak are on the streets demonstrating that the President should go just 12 months after a very convincing presidential election victory by him. It's sad but I think it's inevitable and inherent in the Muslim Brotherhood's view of the world, not just in Egypt but in Turkey, for example, where Prime Minister Erdogan is facing rather similar challenges.

JC: Do you see no role for organised Sunni Islam in a democratic, plural context then?

GG: That's why I'm sad because I do. Political Islam is an entirely legitimate political strand. It doesn't have to be like the Taliban or al-Qaida. It can be successful as for a long time Erdogan's government in Turkey was successful. President Morsi I'm afraid never got past first base.

JC: Let's take us to Syria where there aren't any bases in a sense. The long intergenerational dictatorship of the Asads. How do you characterise the situation in that country?

GG: The truth is no one can win the war. The regime cannot prevail over the opposition and the opposition cannot bring down the regime, and in any stalemate the only option is to go to the table. But one of the reasons the opposition has not been able to overcome the Syrian regime is because they have managed to terrify every religious and ethnic minority in Syria, thus consolidating all of them behind President Bashar al-Asad.

JC: Well, let me put it to you that that only began when the conflict metastisised. What it began as was as a pro-democracy, pro-Christian, pro-minority, pro-Muslim pluralist call for demonstrations, and it was Asad whose response was to torture and send in the snipers.

GG: Well, that's true up to a point. I don't know the extent to which Christians were ever involved but most of what you said there I agree with. That said, the militarisation of the Syrian uprising was, it's now clear, a plan of many for a very long time. The Muslim Brotherhood uprising in Syria as long ago as 1982 was drowned in blood and they've been nursing their wrath ever since.

JC: Drowned by the father of the present dictator, Hafiz al-Asad, who destroyed every single rebel and another 20,000 civilians in Hama to add good measure.

GG: Indeed, and was warmly applauded for doing so, privately if not publicly, by most of the Western governments who did not want to see the Muslim Brotherhood come to power in Syria. And be careful what you wish for because what lies behind your questions is a wish that this trend should succeed. But you see in Egypt where that trend can lead. Me, on the other hand, I was with the uprising in Hama in 1982 because I believe that the Muslims have to have the government that they themselves choose, not one that's imposed upon them by others. But most Western governments supported the late Hafiz al-Asad's crushing of that uprising. It had profound consequences. All I'm saying is that the idea that all of this came out of the current Syrian regime's response to democratic protests is wrong. Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the international Muslim Brotherhood, had long planned an uprising in Syria and they got one and look at the result. It ends in the cutting open of peoples' chests and the eating of their hearts, all the while chanting the name of God into the nearest video camera to put it up on YouTube in the belief, apparently, that people will find this appealing, but they don't, and most Syrians are terrified by it which is why they've clung to the jacket of President Asad and that's why he's prevailing I think.

JC: Of course we can't say they've clung to Asad's jacket by any precise measure because he doesn't allow for free or fair elections.

GG: Although he has been advocating them. I personally asked Bashar al-Asad the day after the fall of the Tunisian dictator Ben Ali to call a presidential election right there and then. I like to think he was interested in doing that but other elements of the regime probably precluded that. But I've got a surprise piece of news for you: if there was an election tomorrow for president of Syria, I believe that Bashar would still win it despite a hundred thousand deaths, despite a million plus refugees, and that would be a testament not so much to whatever qualities he has but how terrified the people are of what seems to be the alternative.

JC: And the terror goes, you must concede, in both directions. It's not as if only minorities - Alawis, Christians, Druze, Kurds, feel annihilation. The people of Homs, Deraa and elsewhere are experiencing annihilation, and they fear that should the revolution fail or surrender it will only get worse.

GG: Most of the dying, at least for the past 7 months, has been on the government side, but it's true, there are horrific episodes of violence almost beyond our imagination, but of course representative government will be the key and it's up to the Americans to persuade their clients, the Syrian opposition, to come to the negotiating table.

JC: But how can you suggest that America is the barrier to representative democracy in Syria, not Bashar?

GG: Because Bashar is there in Geneva and has been since Kofi Annan proposed democratic transition. It's the opposition that hasn't turned up. You know this very well. The opposition cannot even agree on a line to be taken towards negotiations in Geneva. Now the US and its clients in the Persian Gulf are the key to this. A regime broadly representative of the Syrian people can be constructed.

JC: And does that require both intervening collections of powers withdraw, not just the Gulf states, but also Hezbollah and Iran, and with a diplomatic cover from Moscow?

GG: Well, Hezbollah were the very last foreign force to enter the war in Syria when often, listening to mainstream media, [one] imagines that they were the first. They were the last to join.

JC: And they would do well to be the first to leave, wouldn't they?

GG: I think that the Lebanese and Iranian presence in Syria is, of course, a reflection of the sectarian divisions that have increasingly become dominant in this conflict. It goes without saying that as the sectarianisation of politics in Syria recedes, so will the presence of their neighbours and their co-Islamists...

JC: But isn't the order the wrong way round? Foreign powers get out first, then...

GG: If you could agree with me right now that every foreigner will withdraw from Syria, no one would be more delighted than me. The problem is people like you, if you don't mind me saying, have a very selective view of which foreigners you want to withdraw.

JC: No, no, no, I'm talking about the jihadis, the Chechens, the Saudis, the Qataris...

GG: Well, wonderful, let's all...

JC: ... and the Iranians.

GG: ... let's all... Frankly, nobody would be happier than the Hezbollah. They don't want to send their soldiers to die in Syria. Their people have been taken from the front with Israel. But of course you and I both know that the Chechens and the Libyans and Australians, hundreds of Australians, who have gone as foreign fighters to Syria cannot be withdrawn by you or me or by my government or your government because they're determined upon martyrdom or victory and that's the problem. These people will somehow have to be withdrawn from this battlefield before others can credibly be asked to do so.

JC: Let me ask you about your work as presenter with Press TV, the broadcaster of the Iranian government.

GG: Actually, I have 3 TV shows. One is with RT, Russia Today, the second with Al-Mayadeen TV, which is a Beirut-based Arabic TV station, and a third with Press TV, and if ABC want to hire me tomorrow, I'm available.

JC: I'm afraid that's above my pay scale.

GG: I'll appear on any television station that will not interfere with what I have to say.

JC: To say that you'll appear with anyone so long as they don't tell you what to say means that you'll appear, logically speaking, with some terrible people.

GG: Yeah, people like Sky News, the BBC, ABC - some of them are truly terrible. I've even been many times on Fox News and you don't get much more terrible than that.

JC: Do you have reservations about the reportage of Press TV?

GG: None whatsoever, anymore than I had any reservation about talking to the ABC which has a take on things...

JC: You talk...

GG: ... with which I profoundly disagree.

JC: You accepted an invitation to be interviewed by the ABC. You are employed as a presenter from Iran's Press TV. There's an important distinction.

GG: Sure, but it's an important caveat this, because what I say on Press TV is what I say on ABC TV and is what I've always said, and I think that's the test, not who owns it.. Look, Rupert Murdoch is the most venal press baron of them all but if he gave me a program on Sky News tomorrow, I'd take it because I know that I would speak my truth on Sky News as I speak it everywhere else.

JC: So that means you have reservations but would also be on Fox. You just seek to counter it with your own consistent views like, for example, Press TV, as I say, the government-owned station in Iran that...

GG: Well, you're a government-owned station. Why do you say that with such a high nose?

JC: Because...

GG: Why do you say that as if being government-owned is somehow beyond the pale?

JC: ... because the...

GG: You're government-owned. The government pays your salary.

JC: OK, so you seriously liken the ABC with its independent board and charter...

GG: Ah...

JC: ... with Press TV...

GG: Please don't make me laugh... independent board and charter. You toe the line of the Australian state. Press TV toes the line of the Iranian state. Don't pretend you got a fur coat on because I can see your drawers. The fact is government-owned media stations are government-owned media stations. Criticise what they've said, and you're about to, that's fine, but don't criticise them because they're government-owned when you get a government paycheck in your wallet. I don't share that interpretation.

JC: Well, that's simply based on following Press TV and their reportage. Take for example when they legalised gay marriage in Minnesota. That took place, quote, because the state is "known to be under the influence of Zionist, Jewish and homosexual figures."

GG: I didn't see that reportage...

JC: I'm happy to give you the copy.

GG: Neither have I had it quoted at me. I'm in favour of gay marriage. I have never said a word against Jews. I'm answerable for what I say. If I worked for Fox News, I wouldn't be responsible for Bill O'Reilly.

JC: You've not met me until today but you're certain I'm a mouthpiece for a government.

GG: I didn't say you were a mouthpiece. I said that you have a government paycheck in your pocket like a Press TV employee has a government paycheck in his. It's hardly fair to throw at me.

JC: I wasn't so much as throwing it at you as seeking to learn the degree to which your views coincided with your government employer, and I'm glad we got there notwithstanding the temperature.

GG (chuckling): Yeah, well, sometimes with heat comes light.

JC (chastened*): George Galloway, thank you very much for being with us.

GG (with a twinkle in his eye): You're welcome.

Fran Kelly: George Galloway there and I guess government-owned is not government-controlled, and that's the difference... George Galloway was once Spectator magazine's debater of the year so our James handled himself pretty well.

I bet that's the last time we'll ever hear Galloway on our ABC.

[*Listen to the interview online and you'll see what I mean.]

Sunday, July 14, 2013

The Censoring of George Galloway?

One of the finest orators in the world today is the UK's fearless George Galloway MP. Yet, despite being in Sydney earlier this month and receiving an ecstatic reception at two packed venues, the mainstream media (apart from a 6:30am appearance on ABC Radio National* on July 4) seems to have ignored him.

Couldn't Fairfax have sent a reporter to interview him? What about ABC and SBS television? Where was his Q&A appearance? Talk about a lost opportunity!

Was it just ineptitude, or self-censorship on a grand scale? Who knows? If anyone can enlighten me on the matter, I'd be grateful.

All we have are a few, incomplete, amateur YouTube videos of Galloway's two speeches, but unfortunately no transcripts. To partially remedy this dearth of coverage, here at least is the inspiring coda to his first speech, delivered on July 3:

"Let me close with a reflection on Jerusalem. This is something sacred that too many people in this umma have forgotten. After the Gaza onslaught, Operation Cast Lead, in 2008-2009, when I was a hero breaking the siege on Gaza to some of the people who now insult me and accuse me because I've made a stand with Syria, when they were throwing flowers at me instead of stones and insults, I broke that siege on Gaza, not once, but 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 times. I broke that siege on Gaza, and I'm proud to have done so.

"In Gaza, I went to a destroyed ruin which had been absolutely eviscerated in an Israeli missile attack. Two missiles, one immediately after the other, had reduced this home literally to ash. Not even rubble, just ash. And there, in this slum which had been destroyed, I found a little girl looking like your little girls. 11-years-old, wearing a hijab. She had been staying with her grandmother and the missiles had not killed her but had killed her mother and her father and all 5 of her brothers. And there she was with her grandmother, looking through the ash, hoping to find something to keep from the family life she had had, and this is what she said to me: 'Where is this umma they teach about in school? Where is this umma they teach about in the mosque? Why did they leave us alone to face this? What did we do to deserve to be left alone to face this?' She repeated it twice, but the second time was to my back because I had no answer to her question.

"This umma, with its states and its kings and its presidents and its armies, its navies, its airforces, its trillions of dollars in gold and diamonds, couldn't lift a finger to come to the rescue of this little girl. But they have all the riches of Croesus to spend destroying Syria, destroying another Arab country while this little girl is left alone to face these trials, and they tell us how pious they are. They pray, O how they pray. They fast, though it doesn't show. They tell us how Sunni they are. They tell us how religious they are, how Muslim they are, whilst they cannot lift a finger to come to the rescue of Jerusalem, of al-Quds, of al-Aqsa, from the roof of which the Prophet himself ascended to the heavens and returned with the revelation. The Emir of Qatar goes shopping in Tel Aviv, whilst the country that's occupying al-Aqsa is preventing the faithful from praying there, is undermining the very foundation of al-Aqsa with their archaeology, desperate to find a connection to this piece of rock and so far, utterly and abysmally failing. How can it be possible for people who keep telling us how Muslim they are to even sleep at night whilst Jerusalem is in the hands of foreigners? How is it possible that they can sleep, and not just sleep, but sleep with the people who are holding Jerusalem in chains and in foreign occupation? Talk about sleeping with the enemy, they're belly-dancing for the people who are occupying Holy Jerusalem!

"Well, I know where I stand and have always stood. What I'm saying to you now, I would have said to you last year, 10 years ago, 20 years ago, 30 years ago, 40 years ago, and as long as God gives me breath I'll be saying it. The last words on my lips on this earth: God willing, we will be in Palestine. I'll never give up this struggle."

[*I'll transcribe and post this soon.]

Saturday, July 13, 2013

They Arrest 5-Year-Olds, Don't They?

Listening to SBS World News last night at 6.30 pm, my ears pricked up when, by way of mentioning an upcoming news item, I heard a comment to the effect that Israel's arrest of a 5-year-old Palestinian boy was "heavy-handed." I can't swear to it but assume it came from newsreader Ricardo Goncalves.

The use of such a limp term - a synonym for 'harsh' - just blew me away.

Think about it. Since when does anyone arrest a 5-year-old for anything? And of all the reactions this bizarre behaviour could have elicited - 'outrageous', 'obscene', 'unforgivable', and 'unbelievable' come to mind - the best SBS can come up with is "heavy-handed."

OK, I thought, I'll revisit the entire news bulletin later on the SBS website and transcribe the exact details. When I did, this morning as it happens, the offending comment had simply vanished. Was this simply normal editing procedure or... what?

At any rate my effort was not entirely wasted because it enabled me to check out certain aspects of the news item (from the late, great Al-Jazeera) itself that had troubled me, in particular the prominence given to Israeli spin.

(Having said that, and this is another story entirely, SBS was the only channel I'm aware of that even featured this story. Ditto for the Australian press.)

Here's the transcript, along with my interpolated comments:

Ricardo Goncalves: [The issue of] children being caught up in conflict zones has been graphically illustrated in the West Bank. The Israel Defence Forces has been criticised by human rights organisations for detaining a 5-year-old child after he threw a stone at an Israeli settler's car.

Note the complete absence here of 'occupied' and 'allegedly'.

Simon McGregor-Wood (Al-Jazeera): Wadi' has just been caught throwing a stone.

'Allegedly' is missing here too.

He is 5 years old. In this video shot by the human rights organization B'Tselem, he's being detained by Israeli soldiers. Local Palestinians try to intervene. [Cut to Jessica Montell, B'Tselem's executive director]: 'You can see from the video the panic, the terror in the eyes of the child even when he understands that he's being put into a military jeep surrounded by heavily-armed Israeli soldiers. It's an extremely traumatic experience.' Soldiers take Wadi' home in this jeep. From there his father Karam and he are taken to an Israeli checkpoint for questioning. Karam was blindfolded.

Missing here is the fact that Wadi''s father was threatened with arrest if he did not comply, and that they were taken first to a military base, where Karam was not only blindfolded but also handcuffed.

The rules of Israel's military occupation of the West Bank state that the age of criminal responsibility starts at 12 and that it applies to the children of both Palestinians and Israeli settlers. But in a place like Hebron where children from both sides are often found throwing stones at each other the Palestinians complain it's only ever their children who get arrested. The Israeli army issued a statement saying at no point was Wadi arrested or taken away from his parents.

Are often found throwing stones at each other? Oh, really? Are you sure of that?

[The IDF logo appears on screen accompanied by the following words, which McGregor-Wood reads out:] It goes on to say, 'It is critical to bear in mind that even rocks thrown by children can pose a lethal threat to people. Between January and May 2013 over 2050 separate rock-throwing incidents occurred throughout Judea and Samaria, injuring well over 150 Israelis.'

I'm left wondering here why Al-Jazeera deems it necessary to highlight, visually and orally, such blatant Israeli propaganda. Would any other terrorist outfit be accorded the same courtesy?

Wadi's ordeal ended after a senior Israeli officer intervened. He criticised his men for detaining the boy in front of cameras and ordered the removal of his father's blindfold.

So this is the first officer to appear at either the military base or the checkpoint? What sort of outfit is this IDF? (Please, that was a purely rhetorical question! We all know what sort of outfit it is, don't we?) And still no mention of those handcuffs!

Both were then handed over into the care of Palestinian security officers. Israeli and Palestinian human rights groups say there has been a rise in the number of such incidents in recent months and they are demanding a legal response from the Israeli army but that may not bring much comfort to Wadi' or his father.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

A Shaw Thing?

The Australian's dirt unit is at it again:

"Anti 'Islamophobia' advertisements due to screen on major free-to-air channels from today rely on a fabricated quote from Irish playwright and avowed atheist George Bernard Shaw, from a book that does not exist, according to the International Shaw Society. The 30-second ads have been funded by the Sydney-based Mypeace organisation, which says it hopes to 'build bridges' between Muslims and other Australians... The advertisements quote Shaw proclaiming the prophet Mohammed was 'the saviour of humanity' in a book he is supposed to have written entitled 'The Genuine Islam'. But ISS treasurer Richard F Dietrich said he had compiled a complete list of Shaw's work, which did not include the book."  (Ads for Islam 'misquote Shaw from bogus book', Rachel Baxendale, 9/7/13)

And a good thing too because there is no such "book." Genuine Islam is actually the name of a Malayan Muslim periodical of the thirties.

Baxendale goes on:

"In his writings, Shaw described the religion in a 1933 letter to Rev Ensor Walters as 'ferociously intolerant'. 'Mahomet rose up at the risk of his life and insulted the stones (that the Arabs worshipped) shockingly, declaring that there is only one God, Allah, the glorious, and the great... And there was to be no nonsense about toleration,' Shaw wrote. 'You accepted Allah or you had your throat cut by someone who did accept him, and who went to Paradise for having sent you to Hell'."

Conveniently, she left out the letter's next sentence: "Mahomet was a great Protestant religious force, like George Fox or Wesley..." Wouldn't want to upset the Prods now would we?

Baxendale goes on to explain that the quote attributed to Shaw and intended for use in the Mypeace ads - "I have always held the religion of Muhammed in high estimation because of its wonderful vitality... I have studied him... and in my opinion far from being an Anti-Christ he must be called the Saviour of Humanity..." - appeared in the context of a conversation between Shaw and a Muslim cleric published in the abovementioned Malayan periodical, but separately, in a quotation box, and without attribution. Baxendale's inference is that it was therefore a complete fabrication. In fact, she refers to Shaw's Muslim interlocutor perjoratively as a "Muslim propagandist."

One scholar who has written honestly on the matter - having no axe to grind - is Rachel Leow in her blog, A Historian's Craft. Unlike Baxendale, she reserves an open mind on the issue of the quote:

"Where did it come from? Did the interviewers specially solicit a statement from Shaw? Under what conditions? Or did they cite it from some hitherto unknown-to-me book that Shaw has written on Islam? Did they simply cobble it together out of things he said later on, over post-interview tea and smokes? Did they... write it themselves? I have no answers to these questions, and perhaps more qualified scholars of Shaw might be able to point me in the right direction. I don't really think the interviewers wrote the quote entirely themselves, though, for reasons that involve the line at [C:1]."  (Being an unforgivably protracted debunking of George Bernard Shaw's views of Islam, idlethink.wordpress.com, 3/12/08)

(For those wishing to dig deeper, I'd recommend reading Leow's post in its entirety.)

For an undisputed Shavian quote on the subject of the Prophet Muhammed, one need look no further than the Afterword to his iconoclastic 1932 short story, The Adventures of the Black Girl in Her Search for God:

"Six hundred years after Jesus, Mahomet made a colossal stride ahead from mere stock-and-stone idolatry to a very enlightened Unitarianism; but although he died a conqueror, and therefore escaped being made the chief attraction in an Arabian Chamber of Horrors*, he found it impossible to control his Arabs without enticing and intimidating them by promises of a delightful life for the faithful and threats of an eternity of disgusting torment for the wicked after their bodily death, and also, after some honest protests, by accepting the supernatural character thrust on him by the childish superstition of his followers; so that he, too, now needs to be rediscovered in his true nature before Islam can come back to earth as a living faith."  [*A reference to what Shaw calls 'Crosstianity'.]

Not, mind you, that that should be taken as in any way an authoritative assessment of the Prophet, any more than Shaw's favourable view of Stalin's Russia should be accepted as the last word on that subject.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Home Angel, Street Devil

In an opinion piece in yesterday's Sydney Morning Herald, Kevin Rudd's former international aid adviser, Daniel Street, had this to say of his former boss:

"Rudd's only interests were the needs of others, and particularly those living on the margins. Far from the cameras, and between a busy work schedule, it was edifying to see him carve out time to provide care and comfort to those who have no home." (Listening, caring Rudd has always been here to help)

What a pity then St Kevin didn't confine himself to running soup kitchens and offering free hugs in Australia's towns and cities, because when it comes to his foreign policy record, all I can remember of the first Rudd ministry is his charity work for those most wretched of the earth, the Israelis.

In Yesterday's Herald...

Two nail-on-the-head letters from yesterday's Sydney Morning Herald:

"Australians are weary of boat people coming in their thousands. A problem can be solved only if its root cause can be identified. Boat people are the direct result of the war on terrorism unleashed for spurious reasons on the people of the Middle East by the US and its allies, including Australia. We have torched their homes, burnt their fields, bombed their villages and towns, and killed and maimed countless thousands. People who escaped death and devastation have arrived here with no possessions. We created these boat people; we cannot evade our responsibilities to them. We had a similar situation during the Vietnam War. We created hundreds of thousands of refugees; many of them arrived here by boat. Apparently we have not learned the lesson from that war. The only way to stop boat people coming is to call off the war on terrorism, and help rebuild the countries ravaged by war. And vow never to follow the US into another war on false grounds." Bill Mathew, Parkville (Vic)

"Three young men died as a result of Labor's faulty insulation program. Rudd has apologised to their families but the opposition is demanding all information available about the issue. I don't remember John Howard, Tony Blair or George Bush apologising to the parents of the young men and women (not to forget the Iraqis) who lost their lives in a flawed and, to many, illegal invasion of Iraq. In fact, they all claim it was the best thing to do. Tell that to the Iraqi people who are still dying in great numbers and whose country has been left in ruins. Maybe these three should release all the information and warnings they received before their internationally condemned invasion. Many believe Howard, Bush and Blair should face war crimes charges for their actions. The least they could offer is an apology." William Bielefeldt, Kembla Grange

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Our Man in Tel Aviv 1

"Australia's next ambassador to Israel hopes to change what he says is 'a bit of a one-dimensional impression' of Israel among the wider Australian public. Foreign Minister Bob Carr announced on Tuesday that senior career officer with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) Dave Sharma will replace Andrea Faulkner as ambassador in June... 'A lot of what we see, particularly in the Australian media, is really about conflict in the Middle East... and I think people as a result in Australia, the mainstream public has a bit of a one-dimensional impression of Israel. I'd like to try, to the extent that I can, [to] lend my support to showcase some of the more interesting parts of what's going on in terms of the relationship and how it works for both of us, and then give a more rounded impression of the nature of today's Israel and Australia's relationship with it'." (Our new man in Israel, The Australian Jewish News, 17/5/13)

Hm... to borrow Julia Gillard's words on the recent leadership spill: Call me old-fashioned, but I always thought an ambassador's role was to represent his country, not the country to which he's been posted.

Let Us Pray... For Israel

The Israeli-government-sponsored push to recruit and mobilise Australian politicians to work for Israel has never been more feverish.

Hot on the heels of the London Declaration on Combating Antisemitism mass sign-in in May comes this little try-on:

"A bipartisan group in Federal Parliament will form an Australian Israel Allies Caucus (AIAC) after a Knesset Christian Allies Caucus (KCAC) delegation met with politicians, including Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus and Opposition Leader Tony Abbott last Friday. KCAC director Josh Reinstein said the delegation, which included KCAC chairman and MK David Rotem, was on a fact-finding mission... 'We want to establish an Australian Israel Allies Caucus, as Australia and Israel share values and have always enjoyed a culture of mutual support. We wanted to find out which politicians would be interested in being involved.' Reinstein said, 'They [the caucus] will take on legislation and resolutions and mobilise support for Israel.'... The delegation met with federal politicians, including Christopher Pyne, Philip Ruddock and Jewish MP Josh Frydenberg... The AIAC will join a growing network, including 5 caucases in America, 7 in Europe and 3 in Asia... The delegation also met with the NSW Parliament and more than 100 religious leaders at a forum organised by NSW Christian Democrat MP Fred Nile." (Israeli allies caucus to be founded in Parliament, The Australian Jewish News, 28/6/13)

A real can of worms this one. Let's dissect a few:

Josh Reinstein, director of the KCAC, is an American-born Israeli who works for Israel's Ministry of Public Diplomacy & Diaspora Affairs, headed by Yuli Edelstein MK (Likud), the main man behind the London Declaration on Combating Antisemitism initiative. (See my 17/5/13 post The Tel Aviv Declaration on Combating Criticism of Israel.)

David Rotem is a Yisrael Beiteinu MK. This is the party led by the thuggish former foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman, once known for suggesting that Gaza be nuked and currently on trial for corruption.

In the photograph which accompanies the above report, in addition to the political fraternity, Frydenberg, Reinstein, Abbott and Rotem, we have Christian Zionists, Keith Buxton and Marisa Albert:

Buxton is director of the Queensland-based Bridges for Peace, which has links with the KCAC. His support for the Zionist project in Palestine is apparently unconditional and appears to derive from his own peculiar theological ruminations: "Firstly, I need to emphasise that we do not proselytise. Nor do we focus on an apocalyptic Armageddon scenario [in scripture]. I personally believe that references in Zachariah to Jews being converted and destroyed are a misreading. Sadly, in many ways, the destruction can be seen to have already happened, with the fall of Jerusalem and the events of the Holocaust. We stand with Isaiah's call to 'comfort my people.' We focus on the fact that God is faithful to his covenant promises to the Jewish people and to the land, going right back to Genesis 12... The Jewish people are an integral part of God's redemptive purpose." (A chat with Reverend Keith Buxton, The Australian Jewish News, 1/10/10)

Albert heads the Jerusalem East Gate Foundation, a "Filipino Christian Ministry based in Manila and Jerusalem," which has reportedly "organized and funded" the "Jerusalem-Australia initiative." (Pro-Israel caucus to be formed in Australia, Gill Hoffman, cac.org.il, 21/6/13). Here's a potted biography:

"President of Kol Adonai Foundation (Philippines) and the East Gate Foundation (Jerusalem). The partner organizations are Asia initiatives to bring spiritual, moral and practical support from Asia into Israel. Their main ventures include live praise and worship on the Mt.of Olives, the production and worldwide airing of 'Voice From Jerusalem' programs and the Asia-to-Israel Shavuot Worship Tours. As member to the Knesset Christian Allies Caucus, EGFJ was the organizer and major sponsor to the first Jerusalem Summit Asia held in Manila in August 2004. Miss Albert was former President of White Stone Productions, a special events management corporation which serviced top multinational companies in Asia. She is also President of the In His Care Leadership Network Israel."  (jerusalemsummit.org)

Something of the flavour of Ms Albert's particular brand of Christian fruit juice can be gathered from this little item at koladonai.org:

"When in Jerusalem, one of the most authentic and meaningful biblical sites to visit for a time of meditation, prayer and praise fellowship is the Mount of Olives. We know that the presence of God is within us and everywhere that is sanctioned unto Him. But there is a significance also to the places that evidence biblical occurrence and biblical prophecy. The pilgrim and tourist who comes to Israel also 'comes home' to his biblical homeland and enters into a prophetic connection. Coming into the Holy Land also enhances spiritual prayer connection These are prayers of thanksgiving and honour to the Holy One who dwells in Zion; prayers for spiritual aspirations; prayers for loved ones; prayers for the church and for the community of nations; and prayers for peace for Israel. They may be prayers for the establishment of Jerusalem as the capital city of the coming King. They may be prayers calling on the love of Messiah to touch the precious people of the Middle East with His great love, hope, peace and blessings. They may be prayers that cry out, 'Come, Messiah, Come!" (At the most special Prayer Mountain in the world)

Now of course these Christian Zionists aren't always off with the pixies. They also take time off to push a very Israeli political agenda. Like Iran-bashing, for example. I wonder, could an Abbott (or Rudd) government, under the influence of their kool-aid, ever go this far:

"Edelstein and other speakers frequently cited the pressure from members of Canada's Israel Christian Allies Caucus who were successful in lobbying Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper to completely sever ties with Iran last week." (Int'l Christian lawmakers vow to stop Iranian nukes, Melanie Lidman, cac.org.il, 10/3/12)

Then there's Jerusalem. Could an Abbott (or Rudd) government, under the influence, ever fall victim to UJS (United Jerusalem Syndrome) and go where no country, not even the US component of USrael, has ever gone before:

"High-profile parliamentarians and congressmen in Washington, Europe and elsewhere around the world are celebrating together the historical date of the reunification of Jerusalem,' [Former tourism minister Benny Elon & president of the Israel Allies Foundation] said, 'and at the same time they are trying to do their best to relocate their embassies to Jerusalem through legislation." (International Israel Allies representatives in US, Europe and Israel for a united Jerusalem, Gil Hoffman, cac.org.il, 6/3/13)

OK, to sum up this terminal madness, we have here a Filipino Christian Zionist happy clapper organising and funding Israeli government representatives on a trip to Australia to recruit Australian politicians to 'do the donkey' for Israel. It doesn't get much more bizarre - or brazen - than that. (In case you've forgotten what doing the donkey entails, allow me to refer you to my posts USrael: The Movie (14/2/13) and Doing the Donkey (2/3/13) - to be read in that order.)