Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Only in 'The Australian', No. 16,972

Question:

What have...

a) the late night bashing of a Jewish group at Sydney's Bondi Beach;
b) an anti-Israel protest in Denver, Colorado;
c) an elderly Holocaust survivor;
d) SRC election shenanigans at the UNSW;
e) BDS; and
f) Sydney University's CPAC's director, Associate Professor Jake Lynch

... got in common?

Well, absolutely nothing at all - except that they've all been lumped together on the front page of today's Australian, thanks to the creative flair of 'journalists' Ean* Higgins and Jared Owns, under the headline, To Jewish leaders, incident proves you can never stop fighting anti-Semitism.

[*Yes, I have spelt it correctly.]

The Taming of Tanya

Hope springs eternal, as the saying goes.

Some people out there apparently see Labor's new deputy/shadow foreign minister, Tanya Plibersek, as the Great White Hope of the ALP, partly on the strength of her description of Israel as a "rogue state" back in 2002.

Well, she's come a long way since then. But not, mind you, without a bit of - ahem - 'guidance' from 'friends' in the party:

"A year or so after Tanya Plibersek's widely reported anti-Israel comments, several Jewish friends who were openly Zionist and active in the Labor party told me they had since spent many hours talking to her about Israel, Zionism and the Palestinians. They said she had been quite open to discussing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict [and] her attitudes had shifted. Plibersek now understood why there was a Jewish State and recognised a two-state approach was the only practical solution. I was sceptical. I want to a book launch at Gleebooks where Plibersek was to be the guest speaker. The book was about Israel, the Palestinians and the Middle East, and Gleebooks was a well known gathering place for pro-Palestinian sentiment. I knew the audience would be hostile to Israel and it would be easy to score points by kicking the Israeli can. But Plibersek spoke with insight and genuine conviction. I was intrigued and pleasantly surprised to hear her say injustices suffered by the Palestinians could not be ended and a Palestinian state could not be achieved without ensuring there was a Jewish state and Israel was entitled to security as much as the Palestinians."
(Letter from Irving Wallach, Bronte NSW, The Australian Jewish News, 25/10/13)

Still,  one can never be sure she's quite got the message, so:

"Asked whether she would be open to travelling to Israel to further her understanding of the conflict on the ground, she said: 'I have had the pleasure of visiting Israel before, and I would welcome the opportunity to visit again'," (Plibersek 'would welcome' chance to visit Israel, The Australian Jewish News, 25/10/13)

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

The Unpalatable Truth About Martha Gellhorn 6

"I know now that there are things for which I am prepared to die. I am willing to die for political freedom; for the right to give my loyalty to ideals above a nation and above a class; for the right to teach my child what I think to be the truth; for the right to explore such knowledge as my brains can penetrate; for the right to love where my mind and heart admire, without reference to some dictator's code to tell me what the national canons on the matter are; for the right to work with others of like mind; for a society that seems to me becoming to the dignity of the human race."

Dorothy Thompson, 1937

 "What then should we be? That each will answer for himself. But for myself I say: Though stripped of every armor, be a warrior - a warrior of the spirit, for what the spirit knows."

Dorothy Thompson, 1955

***

And so to my concluding post on this subject. I began with the question: Isn't it time to rename The Martha Gellhorn Prize for Journalism? Needless to say, I believe it is.

Also needless to say, I base my case on the fact that Martha Gellhorn failed, and miserably so, the pre-eminent litmus test for journalistic integrity in our time, namely, Palestine or Israel - which side are you on?

So what to call it then? Keeping in mind that the prize is awarded to "journalists whose work has penetrated the established version of events and told an unpalatable truth," I'd be inclined to name it (if not after my all-time favourite choice, J.M.N. Jeffries) after the great American journalist Dorothy Thompson (1893-1961).

Dorothy who? I hear you all chorus. Unfortunately, for most of us today, Dorothy Thompson's is a long forgotten name. That wasn't the case, however, in her heyday. For a background sketch, try this from the dust jacket of Peter Kurth's invaluable 1990 biography, American Cassandra: The Life of Dorothy Thompson:

"For 3 decades, amid the sweeping events of the first half of the twentieth century, no journalist was more controversial, more opinionated, more irreverent, or more quoted than Dorothy Thompson. At the pinnacle of her career, Thompson's thrice-weekly news column, 'On the Record' - one of the longest running news columns ever - reached millions of people around the globe. She was heard by millions more in her regular radio broadcasts. She was satirized by Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy in Woman of the Year, and in 1939, in a Time magazine cover story, was called the most influential woman in America next to Eleanor Roosevelt."

For most of her life, Dorothy Thompson was, in fact, an uncritical supporter of the Zionist movement, largely because, like so many other Western intellectuals of the time, she was focused more on the struggle against fascism in Europe, including the appalling resurgence of state-sponsored anti-Semitism under the Nazis in pre-war Germany, than on the crimes of British imperialism in faraway Palestine or elsewhere.

Writes Peter Kurth:

"[S]he had been, up through the end of World War II, one of Zionism's most profoundly moving spokesmen. In May of 1942 she had appeared as a keynote speaker at the Biltmore Hotel in New York, where an international conference had been called to agitate for unrestricted Jewish immigration to Palestine. There is no question that Dorothy, up to that point, was wholeheartedly sympathetic to the Zionist movement and convinced (as later she was not) that the Jews were 'a separate people'... that needed to be dealt with as such after twenty centuries of persecution and oppression. 'The whole anti-Semitic movement is full of fetish and black magic,' Dorothy had written in 1943. 'It is a kind of modern witchcraft. Back of this black magic is the fact that the Jews do lead an abnormal life. They are a cohesive people without a place on earth of their own. That fact gives them, in the superstitious mind, an atmosphere of doom. An atmosphere of doom produces an atmosphere of fear.' And a state of their own, 'built by themselves and expressing their own peculiar culture and way of life,' might liberate the Jews from their status as outsiders. It would end the 'ghost story' of the Diaspora. It would allow any Jew, anywhere in the world, to make a choice: to become a member of the Jewish state, or to surrender his Jewishness (as distinct from his religious practice) once and for all to the country of his birth.

"Indeed, it was with an eye to the assimilation of the Jews that Dorothy had first thrown her support behind political Zionism. She had been assured 'time and again' (and for the first time in London, in 1920, during the Zionist conference that launched her career) that the Jewish state in Palestine would encompass 'in equal partnership' the indigenous population of the region, and that 'actively dissident Arabs,' if there were any, could be transferred 'to other parts of the vast Pan-Arab Empire, which covers a territory as large as large as the United States.' Ignorant of Arab culture, badly informed about the history of the Middle East, Dorothy had not then imagined that a Palestinian shepherd would care very much whether he drew water from a well in Bethlehem or in Fez. Later she would deeply regret the cultural and racial prejudice that had allowed her to regard 'the Arabs' as interchangeable bodies, indistinguishable one from another and superfluous in the face of Western plans, but even at the height of her devotion to Zionism she never suspected that whole populations (nearly a million people, by most estimates) would be uprooted from their homes in Palestine and driven into exile.

"'I should be opposed to it if I were a Jew,' Dorothy had warned, 'with the undimmed memory of the dispersion of my own people in mind. I should not want any Arab to sit beside the waters of Babylon and weep because he remembered Zion.' Her first trip to Palestine in 1945 had convinced her that Zionism was not the 'liberal crusade' she had thought it to be, 'that the Zionist leaders envisaged,' as she put it, 'not a small state of Jews who chose to live in Israel, but a Zionist state destined to become the leading power in the Middle East, as the ward of world Jewry whatever their citizenship in other countries [might be].' Dorothy was very much upset by Jewish terrorism in the quest for statehood. She was 'shocked beyond measure' when Menachem Begin, one of the leaders of the Irgun group that was responsible for the massacre of more than 250 Arabs at Deir Yassin, was accorded a hero's welcome by the Jews of New York, and when Ben Hecht, Peter Bergson, and other leading Zionists 'put on a show in Madison Square Garden' and 'slandered Great Britain' by displaying the Union Jack topped with the Nazi swastika. The failure of Israel, after 1948, to agree to the fixing of its borders, to heed the call for the internationalization of Jerusalem, or to provide any relief or compensation for the Palestinian refugees led Dorothy to conclude that Zionism was 'an aggressive, chauvinistic movement' and that the State of Israel was 'an expansionist power' - 'a creation of the United Nations decision made against the opposition of the whole Arab and Moslem world.'

"Ultimately Dorothy was more worried about the effect of Israeli propaganda on American foreign policy than she was about the righteousness or iniquity of Israel itself... She was ahead of most of her colleagues in journalism in considering the problem of Israel at all (beyond merely hailing its creation as a humanitarian enterprise or, like Walter Lippmann, arguing that the Western allies ought to 'impose peace' on the Middle East through the establishment of a joint Israeli-Palestinian confederation). But just as Dorothy was one of the first - and only - American journalists to speak out in defense of the Arab nations, so was she the first and most prominent American journalist to be smeared with the label of 'anti-semite'." (pp 423-425)

I'll finish specifically on the issue of the Palestinian Arab refugees of 1948, the ones so venomously slandered by Gellhorn. As it happens, the first ever documentary film in English on the subject of those refugees, Sands of Sorrow (1950), produced by the Council for Relief of Palestine Arab Refugees, was introduced and closed by Dorothy Thompson. Here is her moving introduction:

"I'm Dorothy Thompson and I have been asked to introduce Sands of Sorrow because I've recently returned from visiting the scenes of the picture you are about to see. Of course, the impression left on my mind by these wretched casualties of political change is much more distressing than the film. For no film can convey the icy winds from Mt Hermon as they blow upon flimsy, floorless tents in Syria or the rains that turn dwellings into mud holes in the rainy season in Lebanon. Nor the defeated feeling even of those who are trying to help, but this film tells part of the story that, until now, has hardly been told at all outside the Arab world."

This is light years away from the propagandist bile of Martha Gellhorn.

Re the name change, I rest my case.

Monday, October 28, 2013

The Unpalatable Truth About Martha Gellhorn 5

Fast forward to July 1967, in the wake of Israel's conquest of the remaining 22% of historic Palestine (the West Bank and Gaza Strip), Syria's Golan Heights, and Egypt's Sinai Peninsula in the so-called Six Day War. True to form, Gellhorn was there, whitewashing the suffering of a new wave of Palestinian refugees, many of whom were also refugees from the 1948 era.

The following extract comes from her essay Why the Refugees Ran*, included in a 1988 collection of her essays called The Face of War. We see again the Palestinian straw man of her 1961 propaganda piece (joined on this occasion by a Palestinian straw woman); the hoary Zionist myth of Palestinians as witless pawns of Arab radio broadcasts; the always kind and thoroughly decent Israelis at a complete loss as to what has gotten into these people; and the usual apologetics for Israeli aggression:

"Aquabat [sic] Jaber and the neighboring Jericho camps are now ghost towns though probably most of the residents will filter back. No other mass exodus happened anywhere else in West Jordan and it is fishy. The lightning war was not heard even as a passing bang in this valley. The camp leader, himself a Palestinian refugee, is a choleric fat man, a powerful UNRWA administrator, feared and obeyed by his people... Why didn't he prevent this panic flight? We insisted that there must have been some sort of trouble to drive the people away.

"'No, no. The battle lasted an hour, far off,' the camp leader said. 'There was nothing here. No, no, the Israeli army did not come here at all; everything is all right; everything is correct. There are plenty of supplies. There is no trouble.'

"Since non-war had been followed by instant peace, why did the refugees run? 'People talk,' the camp leader said. 'There were a lot of stories. Political party people spread rumors. They said all the young men would be killed. People heard on the radio that this is not the end, only the beginning, so they think maybe it will be a long war and they want to be in Jordan.'

"A group of sullen young men were sitting in a cafe; they tuned in to Radio Cairo as we passed. Perhaps Radio Cairo and all it stands for, Arab politics and propaganda, are the true reason for the first frantic rush of of camp refugees into a second exile across the Jordan. They were not escaping the danger of war, nor fleeing their shattered homes. There are 20 UNRWA refugee camps in West Jordan, not one of them was touched by the war; not one resident was killed (Statement made by UNRWA's chief representative in West Jordan, during an interview on July 4 at Kalandia, which confirmed my own observations.)... I suggest that blind fear of the Israelis, not the dangers of war, was their driving emotion. Radio Cairo had promised destruction of the Jews. King Hussein's last broadcast before his ceasefire is memorable. 'Kill the Jews wherever you find them. Kill them with your hands, with your nails and teeth.' Now the Jews had won, so the Jews would kill them instead.

"The majority of Palestinian refugees do not live in camps. Any of these, like any other Arabs who were exposed to actual war, may have decided to escape immediately lest the fighting go on or start again and trap them in danger. Perhaps some of the first wave of refugees had valid, political reasons for leaving, unlike the later waves of stoical departing Arabs.

"In the last few weeks, neither fear of war nor fear of reprisals nor family nor financial complications explain the smaller but steady flow of people plodding over the Allenby Bridge, no matter what the waiting hardships of exile. 'They don't feel secure,' said an intelligent Palestinian woman on UNRWA's staff in Hebron. 'They don't know what is going to happen next. They want to be among Arabs.' She surprised me by remarking that the local Israeli military commander had been 'very kind to UNRWA, very gentle and helpful,' amazing words for an Arab to use about a Jew. The commander had provided a car for their work, and truck transport for refugee women, children and old people to the Allenby Bridge. I surprised her by remarking that this truck transport, a gesture of decency in the white heat of summer, had been transmuted through propaganda into forced expulsion. If the Israeli army had tried at any moment to prevent the exodus, that would have been treated as forced detention." (pp 297-98)

And how's this for pious claptrap (Forty-six years on, note Gellhorn's advice not to "harass Israel for an overnight solution."):

"Hopefully, the Jordanian and Israeli governments will be able to co-operate... on the return of all those refugees who chose to come back to West Jordan. UNRWA's 'educated guess,' here, is that 100,000** of its West Jordan refugees are now on the east bank... It would be wise and restful not to harass Israel for an overnight solution of the 19-year-old Palestine refugee problem. With time, work, and money, the Israelis will manage simply by treating their acquired Palestine refugee population as people, not as political pawns." (p 298)

That Gellhorn is little more here than a peddler of Israeli propaganda becomes patently obvious when contrasted with the findings of research carried out by American University of Beirut sociologists Peter Dodd and Halim Barakat in September 1967, and set out in their report, River Without Bridges: A Study of the Exodus of the 1967 Palestinian Arab Refugees (The Institute for Palestine Studies, 1969).

Here is the conclusion from Chapter 5, The Exodus: Its Direct & Indirect Causes:

"It is now time to attempt to answer our original question. Why did the exodus of 1967 take place? The answer is that the exodus was a response to the severe situational pressures existing at the time. The situational pressures were generated by the aerial attacks upon a defenseless country, including the extensive use of napalm, the occupation of the West Bank villages by the Israeli army, and the actions of the occupying forces. Certainly the most drastic of these actions was the eviction of civilians and the deliberate destruction of a number of villages. Other actions, such as threats and the mass detention of male civilians, also created situational pressures.

"For a number of reasons, which we have termed indirect causes, the Arab villages were not well equipped to resist these situational pressures. They were caught by surprise, ill-informed and unfamiliar with the terrifying nature of aerial bombardment. Their family-centred social structure decreased attachment to community and to nation. They fled to protect their families, including, and by no means least, the honor of their womenfolk.

"It is our opinion that the fears felt by the Arab villagers were not unreasonable. They are intelligible and explicable. One does not need to view the exodus of June 1967 as a mass panic of superstitious and ignorant people. It seems more reasonable to see the exodus as the response of the Palestinian Arab villagers to the conditions of enemy attack and occupation. In an earlier section of this report, we have presented our finding that the refugee families had strong ties with their home communities: ties of property, of affection, of kinship and of long residence. It is perhaps a measure of the strength of the 'situational pressures' that the families left their homes in spite of these ties. To explain it as a panic does not do justice to the strength of community ties, nor does it explain the cause of the exodus." (pp 54-55)

Israeli historian Tom Segev's book 1967: Israel, the War & the Year That Transformed the Middle East (2007) presents Gellhorn's beautiful Israelis in a very different light, one more in keeping with the Israelis we have all come to - ahem - know and love today.

Segev reveals that a range of strategies, both passive and active, was used by the Israelis to stimulate flight and depopulate the West Bank: The roads leading to Jordan's Allenby Bridge were kept open. The bridge itself was not immediately destroyed. Buses and trucks were made available to speed up the exodus, not as a humanitarian gesture as Gellhorn has it. Again, despite her assertion to the contrary, refugee camps in the Jericho area were bombed, and columns of fleeing refugees were fired on. Vehicles equipped with loudspeakers disseminating disinformation designed to spook civilians into flight, made the rounds of West Bank towns and villages. Hundreds of homes were destroyed in the town of Kalkilya. The villages of Beit Awa and Beit Mirsim in the Hebron area were destroyed. The inhabitants of  3 villages in the Latrun salient, Imwas, Yalu and Beit Nuba, were expelled and the villages razed. Large numbers of young men were rounded up in Tul Karem and detained. Harassing night searches of Palestinian homes by Israeli troops were instituted. The aim was simply to drive home the message: get out! (Segev, pp 403-407)

Gellhorn, apparently, heard nothing of this. And anyway, why spoil a beautiful friendship with Israel's hero du jour, Defence Minister Moshe Dayan.*** 

Finally, on the subject of her fanciful speculation about refugees attempting to "filter back," those who tried were simply shot on sight. Only a limited number were later allowed to return as a PR exercise. (Segev, p 540-542)

To be concluded in my next post... 

[*Written for the UK Guardian; *Dodd & Barakat estimate the number of 'old [1948] refugees' at 100,000 and the 'new refugees' at 100,000. Later estimates rise to well over 300,000; *** Moorehead, p 426]

Sunday, October 27, 2013

The Unpalatable Truth About Martha Gellhorn 4

In the West Bank (under Jordanian rule at the time), Gellhorn, who had hearted Republicans in 30s Spain, uncharacteristically finds herself warming to monarchists:

"In Jordan, a refugee's education and self-reliance showed at once in his politics. The better educated, the more able do not waste their time on thoughts of violent revenge, and give their loyalty to King Hussein. The more ignorant and less competent nourish themselves with a passion for Nasser, war, and Return."

In Israel itself, she seeks out "the [Palestinians] who stayed behind, the non-refugees," interviewing a Christian Arab schoolteacher in Galilee who informs her that "[i]n the 1948 war, the next village was bombed by the Jews; when we saw that, we knew we had no hope."

Gellhorn responds with the following parenthetical comment to the reader: "(Pause for breath: the Jewish Air Force at the time consisted of 19 Piper Cubs, a nice little plane, not a bomber...)"

In fact, the fledgling AIF had "25 Avia S-199s (purchased from Czechoslovakia, essentially Czechoslovak-built Messerschmitt Bf 109s) and 62 Supermarine Spitfire LF Mk IXEs (also purchased from Czechoslovakia)... Many of the first IAF's pilots in 1948 were foreign volunteers (both Jewish and non-Jewish) and World War II veterans... As the war progressed more and more aircraft were procured, including Boeing B-17s, Bristol Beaufighters, de Havilland Mosquitoes and P-51D Mustangs..." (Wikipedia)

The following conversation ensues, with Gellhorn displaying a mastery of Zionist talking points, an appalling condescension and racism, and a palpable impatience with an interlocutor who sounds suspiciously like the proverbial straw man:

"'The Arab Kings [says the teacher ] were not the true representatives of the Arab peoples when they made war against Israel. Now all the refugees should come back and we should have Palestine.'

"At this point, I decided to make one long, determined stand to see whether there was any meeting ground of minds on a basis of mutually accepted facts and reasoning.

"'Please bear with me and help me,' said I. 'I am a simple American, and I am trying to understand how the Arab mind works, and I am finding it very difficult. I want to put some things in order; if I have everything wrong, you will correct me. In 1947, the United Nations recommended the Partition of Palestine. I have seen the Partition map and studied it. I cannot tell, but it does not look to me as if the Arabs were being cheated of their share of good land. The idea was that this division would work, if both Jews and Arabs accepted it... The Jews accepted this Partition plan; I suppose because they felt they had to. They were outnumbered about two to one inside the country, and there were the neighboring Arab states with 5 regular armies and 40 million or more citizens, not feeling friendly. Are we agreed so far?'

"'It is right.'

"'The Arab governments and the Palestinian Arabs rejected Partition absolutely. You wanted the whole country. There is no secret about this... The Arab governments never hid the fact that they started the war against Israel. But you, the Palestinian Arabs, agreed to this... And you thought... that you would win and win quickly. It hardly seemed a gamble; it seemed a sure bet. You took the gamble and you lost. I can understand why you have all been searching for explanations of that defeat ever since, because it does seem incredible. I don't happen to accept your explanations, but that is beside the point. The point is that you lost.'

"'Yes.'  It was too astonishing; at long last, East and West were in accord on the meaning of words.

"'Now you say that you want to return to the past; you want Partition. So, in fact you say, let us forget that war we started, and the defeat, and, after all, we think Partition is a good, sensible idea. Please answer me this... If the position were reversed, if the Jews had started the war and lost it, if you had won the war, would you now accept Partition? Would you give up part of the country and allow the 650,000 Jewish residents of Palestine - who had fled from the war - to come back?

"'Certainly not,' he said, without an instant's hesitation. 'But there would have been no Jewish refugees. They had no place to go. They would all be dead or in the sea.'

"He had given me the missing clue. The fancy word we use nowadays is 'empathy' - entering into the emotions of others. I had appreciated and admired individual refugees but realized I had felt no blanket empathy for the Palestinian refugees, and finally I knew why... It is hard to sorrow for those who only sorrow over themselves. It is difficult to pity the pitiless. To wring the heart past all doubt, those who cry aloud for justice must be innocent. They cannot have wished for a victorious rewarding war, blame everyone else for their defeat, and remain guiltless. Some of them may be unfortunate human beings... But a profound difference exists between victims of misfortune... and victims of injustice. My empathy knew where it stood, thanks to the schoolteacher... He has never seen even a corner of a real big war; he cannot imagine it. He thinks war is something that lasts a few weeks... you run away for a bit and then come home to your undamaged houses and lead a good life, indeed a better material life than before. None of these Arabs has suffered anything comparable to what survivors of modern war know; none can imagine such catastrophe."

So the Palestinian nakba, the ethnic cleansing of 85% of the population of Palestine overrun by Zionist forces in 1948, the Israeli refusal to allow their return as demanded by international law and the United Nations, the theft of their homes, lands, businesses and bank accounts, and the consignment of around 750,000 people, all indigenous inhabitants of Palestine, to exile in perpetuity, is a mere "misfortune" which cannot even begin to compare with the "injustice" suffered by European Jewry.

But it gets worse. Gellhorn (whose knowledge of Arabic is zero) plumbs new depths of calumny and racist abuse with this outburst:

"Arabs gorge on hate, they roll in it, they breathe it. Jews top the hate list, but any foreigners are hateful enough. Arabs also hate each other, separately and en masse. Their politicians change the direction of their hate as they would change their shirts. Their press is vulgarly base with hate-filled cartoons; their reporting describes whatever hate is now uppermost and convenient. Their radio is a long scream of hate, a call to hate. They teach their children hate in school. They must love the taste of hate; it is their daily bread. And what good has it done them?"

In fact, today's Islamophobic banshees, such as Oriana Fallaci, Pamela Geller, and Melanie Phillips have nothing on Gellhorn:

"Victory over a minor near enemy is planned as as the essential first step on a long triumphant road of conquest. A thousand-year Muslim Reich, the African continent ruled by Egypt, may be a mad dream, but we have experience of mad dreams. We cannot be too careful. The echo of Hitler's voice is heard again in the land, now speaking Arabic."

But, as the following data indicates, there's more, much more, to Gellhorn's Atlantic Monthly hatchet-job on the hapless victims of Israeli ethnic cleansing than meets the eye:

"In the early 1960s the American Zionist Council's (AZC) [AIPAC's parent organization] Magazine Committee met regularly with writers to prepare articles for top US magazines such as Reader's Digest, the Saturday Evening Post, and Life. In its program for 'cultivation of editors' and 'stimulation and placement of suitable articles in the major consumer magazines,' the committee pushed lighter subjects with prepared texts such as the 13th anniversary of Israel's founding while killing investigative pieces at such publications as the Christian Science Monitor. The committee confronted two major news items challenging Israel: fallout from the 'Lavon Affair' (a cover up of failed false-flag Israeli terrorist attacks on US government facilities in Egypt) and American peace proposals calling for the return of some expelled Palestinian refugees to their homes and property in Israel. The Israeli government and its US lobby invested heavily in arguing against the return of Palestinian refugees through The Atlantic, according to yet another secret AZC report: 'The Atlantic Monthly in its October issue carried the outstanding Martha Gellhorn piece on the Arab refugees, which made quite an impact around the country. We arranged for the distribution of 10,000 reprints to public opinion molders in all categories. Acting on information that anti-Israel groups were bombarding the Atlantic with critical letters, we stimulated a letter campaign designed to counteract their impact... Interested friends are making arrangements with the Atlantic for another reprint of the Gellhorn article to be sent to all 53,000 persons whose names appear in Who's Who in America... The November issue of the Atlantic carried a special 64-page Supplement on Israel, with articles by some of Israel's top names... Our Committee is now planning articles for the women's magazines for the trade and business publications'." (The Israel lobby swims The Atlantic, Grant F. Smith, antiwar.com, 17/8/10)

To be continued...

Saturday, October 26, 2013

The Unpalatable Truth About Martha Gellhorn 3

The October 1961 issue of The Atlantic Monthly carried a lengthy report by Gellhorn called The Arabs of Palestine.

Here's the editor's preface:

"Martha Gellhorn, novelist, journalist, and former war correspondent, has recently returned from a journey to the Middle East, where she went to see the 'Palestinian Refugee Problem' in terms of real life, real people. Here she reports how the Arab refugees and Arab Israelis live, and what they say about themselves, their past and their future."

Gellhorn's introductory paragraphs set the tone for what is, in effect, a journalistic hatchet job. Were she speaking to us directly, it'd go something like this:

Listen, I know what refugees are. I saw them "in Germany at war's end... [T]he whole country seemed alive with the roaming mad - slave laborers, concentration camp survivors who spoke the many tongues of Babel, dressed in whatever scraps they had looted, and searched for food in stalled freight cars though the very rail-yards were being bombed." Now I knew that in the Middle East "there would be no high explosive, no concentration camps, but the imagined, expected scene was bad enough, lice and rickets and tuberculosis, bodies rotting in the heat, the apathy of despair [but] nothing I had read or heard prepared me for what I found." So what did I find? You're not going to believe this: A bunch of people as happy as pigs in clover, living off the fat of the land, and spoilt rotten, one and all, by Aunty UNRWA!

First a camp for Palestinian Christians in the hills near Beirut:

"The camp consisted of little cement or frame houses rambling over the hillside, a village of poor people, disorderly and beflowered and cheerful. School was letting out for lunch; troops of children... meandered home, shouting bye-bye at friendly, giggling length. They are Roman Catholics here, but the young teachers are refugees, not priests. They have to teach the children about Palestine, since most of them have never seen the country and even the oldest cannot remember it. The children are taught hate, the Garden of Eden stolen from them by murderers; their duty is to live for Return and Revenge.

"The miniature white clinic had only one customer, a nice-looking girl of 21 who had brought her fourth baby for a checkup. Her husband works in Libya... The resident nurse, a buxom elderly woman, said they had no real sickness... My [Palestinian UNRWA] guide announced that if any refugee needed an operation he was taken in an ambulance to a hospital in Beirut where UNRWA reserved beds and paid for everything; you would have to be a rich man in Lebanon to get such good and speedy treatment."

Luxury! What more could they want? Their country back? No, no, no. According to Gellhorn, her guide tells her:

"It can all be solved with money... if every man got a thousand dollars for each member of his family... he could be a citizen in any Arab country he likes, he would not think of Palestine any more. Then he could start a new life and be rich and happy... [T]hose who really do own something in Palestine must be paid for what they had there. But those are not many. Most had nothing, only work'."

Why, this guide could almost be a product of the good old Israeli propaganda mill:

"Out of the blue, my guide announced: 'There is no crime in the camps. No thefts, no fires, no blood feuds. It is much better than it was in Palestine..."

As could Gellhorn herself, chiming in with:

"And this is true. In all the camps. Exile has taught one valuable lesson: how to live lawfully and peacefully together."

Then it's off to Gaza:

"The refugee camps are much larger than those in Lebanon, small towns by Middle Eastern standards. They are by no means luxury establishments, but many people live in a nastier state in American and European slums. The poor villagers of Gaza are not as well housed or cared for as the refugees. The Gaza Strip is not a hell hole, not a visible disaster. It is worse; it is a jail - with a magical long white sand beach, and a breeze, and devoted welfare workers (UNRWA) to look after the prisoners. The Egyptian government is the jailer."

We should be so lucky!

Now check out these happy little vegemites:

"The Vocational Training School at Gaza is a freshly painted group of buildings, with well-kept lawns, flower borders, scrubbed Spartan self-respecting dormitories, and impressive workshops equipped with the complex machinery that modern life seems to depend on. The boys were on their playing field that afternoon, a holiday, marking white lines for various sporting events to come. A few of them drifted back and wanted to show off every inch of their school. Did they like it here, did they enjoy their work, were they happy? Needless to ask; the answer glowed and shone on them. The graduates of this school find good jobs for which they are trained; amongst its many other parental functions UNRWA operates a placement bureau throughout the Middle East. This is the new generation, the UNRWA graduates, and you find them everywhere in the Arab refugee world. They have not yet been crippled by exile, regret, or hate, and they may well be the brightest citizens of the Arab future."

So nice to see that, unlike the UNRWA school in Lebanon, hate is not on the curriculum.

Gellhorn bids adieu to Gaza's Club Med thus:

"I left Gaza, wishing that I could take all the young people with me, and not to Palestine, but out into the wider world. Their destiny should not be to go back, but to go forth. They need exactly the opposite of what the Jews need. There is plenty of room for both needs."

Now let me get that straight: Palestinian 'refugees' need to be dispersed throughout the Arab world. 'The Jews', on the other hand, need to be crammed into Palestine - sorry - Israel.

Talk about taking the words right out of Israel's mouth!

To be continued...

Friday, October 25, 2013

The Unpalatable Truth About Martha Gellhorn 2

You can see why Pilger thought Gellhorn the journalistic real deal:

"It was in the textile mill towns of North Carolina that Martha finally found the writing voice that she had been looking for. It was clear and very simple, a careful selection of scenes and quotes, set down plainly and without hyperbole. Nothing particular; there were many other writers who did the same just as well. What made it her own was the tone, the barely contained fury and indignation at the injustice of fate and man against the poor, the weak, the dispossessed. Nothing so enraged her as bullying, superiority, the misuse of power; nothing touched her so sharply as people who had become victims, through the stupidity or casual brutality of others, or children who were frightened, in pain or did not have enough to eat." (Martha Gellhorn: A Life, Caroline Moorehead, 2003, p 91)

 "She was often furious; furious with apocrophiars, a word she coined for those who rewrote history, particularly to their own advantage; furious with critics who read fact into her fiction; with trimmers and prevaricators; with those who had no guts for the fight and those who destroyed others, casually; and furious with the crassness and arrogance of governments. Like lying, sitting on the fence was contemptible. Martha's horizons were peopled by villains, politicians in particular, men and women such as Nixon and Kissinger and Mrs Thatcher, who led the innocent into chaos and the dark night, stupidity and arrogance." (ibid, pp 5-6)

Clearly, to her immense credit, she was no Greg Sheridan, Paul Sheehan or Peter Hartcher. And yet:

"Her blind spot was the Palestinian cause, in which she saw nothing honourable or good. A few chaps braved the fury and challenged the magisterial dismissal; most preferred to leave the subject to one side." (ibid p 6)

Why such sound and the fury at the mention of Palestine?

In a word, as my previous post indicated, 'Dachau'.

Gellhorn reached the SS-run concentration camp on the heels of the American army in May 1945, and took in its array of horrors: the walking skeletons, the evidence of medical experimentation on prisoners, the gas chamber and its crematorium, and the piles of bodies that the SS had not had time to dispose of before the camp was liberated. As her biographer noted:

"Something changed for Martha that day; something to do with what she felt about memory and the past, and her own sense of optimism, and perhaps even about being Jewish.* It was in Dachau, she said, that she really understood for the first time the true evil of man." (ibid p 284)

In her Eurocentric tendency to elevate the Nazi genocide as some kind of gold standard in man's inhumanity to man, Gellhorn calls to mind the insufferable Jewish Hungarian emigre intellectual and writer, Arthur Koestler. Here, for example, is Koestler playing the holocaust card at a social gathering in mandate Palestine in 1945:

"When he got into a heated argument with a British official named Ronnie Burroughs, who was making the case for evenhandedness between the Jews and the Arabs, Koestler burst into an impassioned denunciation of British indifference to the fact that the Jews of Europe were dying like flies for lack of a place to go. 'He thundered like an authentic Old Testament prophet, demolishing the other man's position,' according to the young American correspondent Saul David, who was present. 'Ronnie murmured something about the unfairness of Koestler's argument. Koestler apologized, but said it was impossible to be cool about such matters 'when your mother has been baked in an oven in Lublin'.' The shocked silence that followed this statement ended all argument then and there. Later a more knowledgeable bystander commented that 'Koestler was right, but his mother wasn't baked anywhere. She is alive and well'." (Koestler: The Literary & Political Odyssey of a Twentieth-Century Skeptic, Michael Scammell, 2009, p 257)

As it happened, Gellhorn and Koestler once met over dinner in wartime London, with the following, perhaps predictable, result:

"[H]e evidently thinks that he alone has a corner on the Light and the Way. I absolutely loathed him and made it clear, and it was mutual," she wrote to Ernest Hemingway. (Moorehead, p 246)

I venture to suggest that Gellhorn, post-Dachau, also considered that she had a corner on the Light and the Way, and that, as with Koestler in the aforementioned incident with Ronnie Burroughs, nothing brought this out quite like bringing up the case of the Palestinians.

The problem with Gellhorn though was that she took her blind spot one step further and went on to wage a vile Zionist propaganda war against Arabs in general and Palestinian refugees in particular.

[*Gellhorn's father was Jewish. Her mother, Christian.]

To be continued...

Thursday, October 24, 2013

The Unpalatable Truth About Martha Gellhorn 1

I've been meaning for a while now to tackle the subject of The Martha Gellhorn Prize for Journalism, an award which, in the words of its creator, the great Australian journalist John Pilger, "is in honour of one of the 20th century's greatest reporters. It's awarded to a journalist whose work has penetrated the established version of events and told an unpalatable truth. It's validated by powerful facts that expose establishment propaganda, or 'official drivel', as Martha Gellhorn called it." (An unpalatable truth: The Martha Gellhorn Prize for Journalism, John Pilger, Information Clearing House, 3/6/11)

So having just learned that the worthy Nazareth-based journalist Jonathan Cook was awarded the Gellhorn Prize in 2011 is probably as good a prompt as any to raise what at first blush may appear to be a rather odd - even highly inappropriate - question: Isn't it perhaps time to rename this award?

Before returning to that question in my next post, a brief introduction to the career of Martha Gellhorn (1908-1998) and her connection with John Pilger is in order.

The following sketch, by Shane Maloney, John Pilger & Martha Gellhorn, comes from the Australian magazine The Monthly (5/3/08), and flags the concern I have about Gellhorn as a model of genuine, 'truth-to-power' journalism:

"Martha Gellhorn wrote many things during her remarkable 60-year career. Reports on living conditions in the mine and mill towns of Depression-era America. Newspaper despatches from battlefronts as far-flung as Spain, Finland, Java and El Salvador. Trenchant and prophetic observations on the rise of fascism. Eyewitness accounts of wars, insurrections, revolutions and invasions. Novels, collections of short stories, travelogues and autobiography.

"In 1975, she wrote a 'fan letter' to a stranger she saw on television. He was a 35-year-old Australian journalist named John Pilger. Gellhorn had chanced upon an interview in which Pilger was copping a mauling for his first book, The Last Day, an eyewitness account of the hasty American retreat from Saigon. Personally acquainted with the reception often given to the bearers of unpalatable news, she promptly went out and bought the book. Judging it fine, she wrote to Pilger to tell him so.

"Pilger, it transpired, owed his introduction to Indochina to Gellhorn. Eight years earlier, her articles on the horrors being unleashed on Vietnam's civilians had prompted Pilger's editor at the Daily Mirror to send him to cover the war. Pilger found Gellhorn's fan mail 'moving', but it was another 3 years before the two inveterate travellers were to meet. In 1978, following the screening of Pilger's documentary Do You Remember Vietnam?, they finally sat down together.

"Gellhorn kept a flat, a court of sorts, in London's Cadogan Square. As a young Midwesterner in Paris, she'd modelled for Chanel and Schiaparelli, and she retained a slim, striking elegance that must have contrasted to the lanky Aussie with fiercely independent hair. Over a bottle of Famous Grouse, they talked about 'the struggle of memory against forgetting', agreeing furiously on almost everything. The exception was Palestine. Gellhorn was one of the first journalists to enter Dachau and her adherence to Israel was unqualified. Pilger steered around the subject and the two became good friends.

"Strongly averse to 'the kitchen of life', the former Mrs Ernest Hemingway was a terrible cook. On subsequent visits, Pilger took food. Sometimes they would stroll in the park, talking surfing and snorkelling between denouncing the vileness of Kissinger. An incorrigible smoker, Gellhorn once got thrown out of Selfridges for lighting up.

"Martha Gellhorn was still reporting in her eighties, travelling to Panama in the wake of the American invasion and interviewing street kids in the favelas of Brazil. She died of cancer* in 1998. John Pilger continues to annoy the buggery out of his critics."

To be continued...

[*Although Gellhorn had cancer, it was a pre-emptive pill that actually did the trick.]

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Peter Hartcher: Where's the Disclosure?

In an opinion piece on Iranian President Rouhani's overtures to the United States, the Sydney Morning Herald's international editor, Peter Hartcher, concluded that "an agreement [with the West] would need to guarantee that Iran's bomb-making capacity is dismantled, and verifiably so." (Closer eye needs to be kept on Iran, 22/10/13)

Leaving aside the fact that there is no evidence whatever that Iran is in fact in the business of making nukes, I note that Hartcher's sole reference to the Middle East's only possessor of nuclear weapons, Israel, is a reference to Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu not "specif[ying] what he would do if Iran crossed his red line, [although] we know it would not be pretty."

Hartcher's failure to mention the rogue elephant in the room - Israeli nukes - is really the only thing of interest in an otherwise pedestrian analysis.

That failure is easy to explain:

To begin with, Hartcher has been rambammed, not once, but twice (2009 & 2011).

In addition, he chaired a meeting at Sydney's Central Synagogue in 2010 where celebrity American lawyer and Zionist advocate Alan Dershowitz "set out the case for a military attack on Iran." (See my 10/10/10 post Goose & Gander.)

Finally, in 2011, Hartcher arrogantly dismissed supporters of basic Palestinian rights as sufferers of "Marrickville Council syndrome." (See my 20/6/11 post Hartcher Brings the House Down.)

Writing in response to significant reader criticism of his 2009 rambamming, this "guest of the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies" wrote: "It is routine for journalists to accept paid travel. The question is not whether journalists take trips; it is whether they disclose them. Disclosure means that readers can take this into account in forming their views." (See my 18/11/09 post No Hidden Agenda.)

So why was there no disclosure of Hartcher's history as a card-carrying supporter of the apartheid state at the foot of his latest opinion piece?

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Journalism 101 at The Australian

If any of you budding young journalism students out there aspire to work for Rupert's Australian, you'd better start developing a real down on BDS, OK?

It might help, for example, if next time you're reading anything (anything, that is, apart from your usual fare of text messages or tweets), you carry a pin with which to jab any of those 3 offending letters whenever they rear their fugly heads.

Just keep in mind that when it comes to the Middle East, The Australian Jewish News has nothing on The Australian.

So what does this mean in practice?

Well, if you're writing about any of those NSW Greens politicians who've deviated from core Greens' business such as tree-hugging into hardcore Israel-bashing, you couldn't really find a better model than Joe Kelly's piece in today's Australian, Watermelons gain power in Greens:

Greens senator Lee Rhiannon should always be dubbed "hard left Greens senator Lee Rhiannon."

Those who support her should be described not as her supporters, but as "her forces."

'Watermelons' - as opposed to 'tree-huggers' - are never elected to the leadership of the NSW branch, they "seize control" of it, OK?

NSW Greens MLC David Shoebridge should be labelled "controversial."

A little innuendo goes a long way: "Mr Greenland has denied being a 'far-out leftist'."

And when it comes to sources, simply refer to "one Greens source said," or "a labor observer said," or even just "the source said."

Piece of cake, really.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Danby to Keep Young Bill on Straight & Narrow

"Bill Shorten embodies the traditional core values of the Labor Party, and his solid support for Israel reflects that. Mr Shorten knows, as we do, that bipartisan support for Israel is an integral part of the fabric of our country's foreign policy."(AIJAC national chairman Mark Leibler, The Australian Jewish News, 18/10/13)

While firefighters in NSW are battling desperately to contain and extinguish blazes across the state, a battle of far greater import, unheralded by the media, has been fought by a small band of heroes against a fire that came close to consuming the very core principle - nay, the very heart and soul - of the federal Labor Party: its unshakeable, unswerving, uncritical, river deep and mountain high love for Israel.

Make no mistake about it, in igniting the (dead) wood of the parliamentary Labor party last November, Labor's pyromaniacal foreign minister, Bob Carr, triggered a conflagration that almost destroyed the PM herself!

Still, PMs come and PMs go.

Far, far worse, Carr's incendiary act came close to changing forever the very way we vote - vis-a-vis Israel - in the UN General Assembly.

The good news is that now, with Carr's unlamented departure from Labor's parliamentary ranks, the last burning embers of critical thinking on the subject of Israel have finally been extinguished, and the smoke is beginning to clear to reveal the lineaments of a new party firmly under the control of those for whom Israel is, was, and always shall be, the proverbial light on Labor's hill.

I can now reveal that this epic struggle for the Israeli soul of the Australian Labor Party was won largely by the heroic efforts of one man, Michael Danby MP. After all, as this humble and self-effacing man hinted in a recent tweet, it was his Solomonic wisdom that has guided Bill Shorten ever since the latter fell under his spell while barely out of short pants:

"Known Bill since he was 20. Always thought he'd be PM. Hope my (parliamentary secretary) role contributes to his office projecting serious and adult policies." (17/10/13)

Serious and adult policies? Wink, wink, nudge, nudge...

Still, it should not be forgotten that however great has been Danby's role in seeing off Carr and overseeing Bill Shorten's rise and rise to the wuthering heights of Labor leadership, others too have been risking their all in dousing those last flickering embers of critical thinking (on the subject of Israel):

"ECAJ representatives have met with Tanya Plibersek on several occasions, most recently in Sydney last week. The meeting discussed the differences of opinion we had had with the former government but was friendly and constructive', [said ECAJ president Danny Lamm]." (ECAJ on Plibersek: forgive and forget, The Australian Jewish News, 18/10/13)

And just to make sure that Danby's magic on Shorten doesn't wear off, ECAJ "will be working with him to try to reverse some of the poorly considered statements about Israel that were made in the name of the previous government." (ibid)

And just to make sure that ECAJ's magic on Shorten doesn't wear off, AIJAC's Colin Rubinstein "said he was looking forward to working with Shorten and his shadow cabinet." (ibid)

And just to make sure AIJAC's magic on Shorten doesn't wear off...

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Anzackery

God help us. As if bushfires weren't bad enough, Australia is about to be engulfed by a tsunami of militarism and faux patriotism. No one, and no expense, will be spared. Resistance, as they say, is futile. So gird your loins for wall-to-wall jaw-jaw about war-war.

The following extracts, which focus mainly on the funding angle, are from Paul Daley's timely essay in the The Guardian, Australia spares no expense as the Anzac legend nears its century (15/10/13):

"Australia's reverence for all things Anzac has for decades now been quarantined from the fierce political and cultural battles that have flared over other aspects of Australian history. So perhaps it is not surprising that even after the recent change of federal government, Australia's 'Anzackery' - as some dissenting historians now refer to the obsession with Anzac myth and legend - continues with unwavering bipartisan political indulgence.

"Consistent with such bipartisanship, the Abbott government is honouring - and even slightly increasing - Labor's $140m-plus funding commitment to Australia's first world war centenary commemorations in 2014. Before the coming federal budget, spending on Anzac commemorations is one thing, it seems, with guaranteed immunity from the threat of across-the-board cuts to other cultural programs in a range of portfolios. The $140m-plus in federal funding for the first world war centenary will be supplemented by the Anzac centenary public fund, which aims to collect corporate donations.

***

"Ken Inglis, the author of Sacred Places: War Memorials in the Australian Landscape, pointed out Anzac had become a 'secular religion' for Australians. Maybe this is why the Anzac Centenary Advisory Board, now overseeing commemoration planning, strikes such an ecclesiastic tone to explain its determination 'to ensure that the Anzac centenary is marked in a way that captures the spirit and reverence it so deserves and that the baton of remembrance is passed on to this and future generations.'

"Some Australian spending ($32m to upgrade the first world war galleries at the Australian War Memorial) mirrors that in the UK... but a fundamental of Australia's commemoration is the $100,000 that Labor granted to each of the 150 federal electorates for community commemoration projects.

"A spokesman for Senator Michael Ronaldson, who holds the newly-created portfolio of minister assisting the prime minister for the centenary of Anzac, confirmed that, consistent with its election pledge, the Coalition will increase that amount by $25,000 per electorate 'to support grassroots commemorative activities to ensure that all Australians, no matter where they live, can participate in this important period of national commemoration.'

"The spokesman confirmed the Abbott government will meet all of Labor's centenary spending and programme commitments... The auditors may sigh at how the $18.75m on electorate-by-electorate spending will be reconciled... Australia's centenary spending will include: $8.1m on restoring memorials and graves; $6.1m on an Anzac interpretive centre; $3.4m on an Anzac community portal to share Anzac stories; $4.7m on an Anzac arts and culture fund; $14.4m on overseas commemoration services; $2.8m on a televised re-enactment of the first troop ships to sail from Albany in Western Australia; $10m on an Anzac centenary travelling exhibition and $10.4m to support the work of the Anzac centenary advisory board.

"It's an awful lot of money."

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Tony Abbott's 'Altruistic' War in Iraq

"The invasion of Iraq... was to liberate other people, to advance everyone's interests and to uphold universal values... If it's possible to engage in an altruistic war, this was it." Tony Abbott, Battlelines, 2009, p 158

"New research estimates that almost 500,000 Iraqis died between 2003 and 2011 as a direct result of violence or the collapse of civil infrastructure during the [Iraq] war. Published in the journal PLOS Medicine, the study concludes at least 461,000 'excess' deaths - which would not otherwise have occurred - followed the US-led invasion that overthrew Saddam Hussein's regime. Contrary to public perception, bombing accounted for just 12% of violent deaths." (Iraq war death toll nearly 500,000, Sydney Morning Herald, 17/10/13)

Friday, October 18, 2013

The MP Who Dares Not Speak His Name

So just who is this mysterious MP that dares not speak his name?

"One Labor MP said Ms Plibersek, elected as MP for Sydney in 1998, had come a long way since 2002 in her views on Israel, deciding she wanted to be a more pragmatic player. However, the MP said there were other caucus members who would be a better fit in the job [of shadow foreign affairs minister]. The MP singled out Richard Marles, who is seen as a strong candidate for a domestic portfolio." (Israel attack threatens Tanya Plibersek's choice of foreign affairs portfolio, Ben Packham, The Australian, 16/10/13)

Of course, I have absolutely no idea who he is, but having said that...

He'd have to be crazy about Israel:

"Well Michael Danby is a passionate supporter of Israel - Israel right or wrong. I describe Michael, who's a great friend of mine, as being a stronger Labor Zionist than Ben Gurion, the founder of the state of Israel himself." (Bob Carr speaking to Sabra Lane on Radio National's AM, 12/12/12)

He'd have to have an inordinate interest in getting the right kind of foreign minister:

"Bob Carr, Michael Danby has accused you of behaving in an unacceptable manner and he's used a Gough Whitlam phrase, 'acting like Tiberius on the telephone', organising the numbers against Julia Gillard." (ibid)

He'd have to be mates with Richard Marles:

"Former Trade Minister Richard Marles claimed flights to Labor MP Michael Danby's 2008 Parliamentary wedding but said he had other meetings in Canberra the next day." (Prime Minister Tony Abbott claimed over $10,000 for family travel in 2012, Gemma Jones & Jessica Marszalek, news.com.au, 9/10/13)

And he'd have to have complete confidence that Marles has the best qualifications for the job: 

"The largest ever Australian parliamentary delegation to visit Israel will travel to Jerusalem in December. They will be part of a dialogue hosted by the privately funded Australia Israel Leadership Forum. Julia Gillard has given approval for 6 ministers and parliamentary secretaries to be part of the trip led by Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd. They will be part of a record 17 members of the House of Representatives and Senate who will take part in the visit. The other Labor MPs are Communications Minister Stephen Conroy, Industry Minister Kim Carr, Parliamentary Secretary for Agriculture Mike Kelly, Parliamentary Secretary for Pacific Island Affairs Richard Marles and MPs Michael Danby and Anthony Byrne. Bill Shorten, the Assistant Treasurer, is expected to join." (Record number of pollies for Israel, John Lyons, The Australian, 25/10/10)

Thursday, October 17, 2013

A Heretic Recants

One of the Labor cult's most bizarre features, particularly for devotees on the rise, involves the recanting of any criticisms of Israel that may have been made in the past, and the subordination thereafter of independent thought on the subject (best exemplified by such criticisms) to the party's prevailing Zionist groupthink.

Some years back, for example, a rising Labor star, Rose Jackson, was 'discovered' by The Australian (of course!), to have proclaimed, whilst a student politician, that she opposed a Jewish state because all states should be secular, not Jewish, Islamic or Christian.

When outed in the thick of a council election campaign, however, Rose recanted thus:

"Looking back, I think I just bought the prevailing polemic on campus at the time that Israel was some sort of quasi-theocracy. Having explored the subject more deeply since then, I understand this is nonsense. I realise I just misunderstood." (Just click on the 'Rose Jackson' label below for details of the saga.)

Now it's deputy Labor leader Tanya Plibersek's turn to recant - for a second time, in fact.

She once said, in 2002, in response to the US labelling Saddam Hussein's Iraq a rogue state:

"I can think of a rogue state which consistently ignores UN resolutions, whose ruler is a war criminal responsible for the massacres of civilians in refugee camps outside its borders. The US supports and funds this country. This year it gave it a blank cheque to continue its repression of its enemies. It uses US military hardware to bulldoze homes and kill civilians. It is called Israel and the war criminal is Ariel Sharon. Needless to say, the US does not mention the UN resolutions that Israel has ignored for 30 years; it just continues sending the money."

Plibersek recanted this flawless analysis in 2011:

"Ms Plibersek told The Australian in 2011 that she no longer held such views and had spoken 'injudiciouslly'. Like most Labor Part members and supporters, I'm in favour of a two-state solution, she said." (Israel attack threatens Tanya Plibersek's choice of foreign affairs, Ben Packham, The Australian, 16/10/13)

Now, having put her hand up for the shadow foreign affairs portfolio, she's recanted again - apparently bowing to Foreign Minister Julie Bishop's demand that she "make amends" by "publicly retract[ing] those statements." (ibid):

"A spokesman for Ms Plibersek confirmed yesterday that she still stood by her 2011 comments." (Carr set to quit Senate in a week, Mark Coultan & Joe Kelly, The Australian, 17/10/13)

Can a penitential pilgrimage to the holy shrines of Sderot and Yad Vashem be too far off?

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Mossad & Associates 2

Meir Dagan's Lawfare Programme

"The National Security Council (NSC) appears to be the central node in the Israeli Government's attempts to use deniable civil actions against alleged terrorist financing. According to veteran Haaretz intelligence correspondent Yossi Melman, this strategy was initiated by Meir Dagan when he headed the NSC in the late 1990s, before becoming chief of the Mossad. In a 2007 article, Melman went on to suggest that Israeli intelligence was connected to a lawsuit brought against the Arab Bank, one of the largest financial institutions in the Middle East. The law firm which brought the Arab Bank case, Mann Mairone, moved into terrorism litigation around 2001, having previously specialised in taxation and commercial law. In the process, it acquired a roster of researchers and advisors drawn largely from Shin Bet and Israeli military intelligence.

"Wikileaks cables show that the Arab Bank was a frequent subject of discussions between Israeli NSC officials and US diplomats during the case. At one such meeting with US Treasury officials in 2005, ILC contacts Udi Levi and Uzi Shaya were prominent in defending the litigation, although vague as to the justification for it:

Levi said the bank had stopped all transactions to the territories after it was sued in US court. He cautioned, however, that the bank is 'playing with evidence, cleaning the records, and deleting accounts' to cover its tracks. Shaya said that the GOI had unspecified proof that the Arab Bank is still dealing with Hizballah in Lebanon.

"Levi went on to suggest further litigation:

Levi called INTERPAL and other European groups that channel funds to Hamas 'a problem we do not know how to solve,' but added that lawsuits similar to the ones filed against the Arab Bank might help. He suggested that another option to restrict funding would be to prevent INTERPAL from clearing dollar donations through New York.

"Interpal, a British charity focused on Palestine, had been a source of friction between the Israeli and British governments for several years. The Israeli daily Haaretz reported in 2004 that Foreign Minister Jack Straw had refused a request from his Israeli counterpart Silvan Shalom to put an end to Interpal's activities. Significantly, Haaretz noted that even if the Israeli intelligence on Interpal were made public, it would not necessarily meet the threshold for banning a UK charity and that 'it is therefore not at all certain that even if the evidence were to be revealed, it would lead to a curbing of Interpal in Britain.'

"Interpal was also targeted in 2007 by a British think tank, the Centre for Social Cohesion, as chronicled in Spinwatch's pamphlet, The Cold War on British Muslims. In their attack, the CSC cited 'allegations made by Israel and the USA,' as well as a 2006 BBC Panorama documentary, which had also relied extensively on evidence provided by current and former Israeli security officials. In 2009, an inquiry by the UK Charity Commission found that there was insufficient evidence to take actions over claims that Interpal beneficiaries were supporting terrorism, because it could not verify 'the provenance or accuracy' of material provided by the Israeli government.

"Udi Levi's comments suggest that such developments are in line with the wider strategy being pursued by the NSC.

Key Questions

"If a firm that has received covert support from the Israeli government is now targeting BDS activists, does this mean that the Israeli government has widened its use of lawfare in a bid to silence its critics? As we have noted, firms like the ILC are prepared to take on the Israeli government over issues like the Bank of China case. Yet that case itself illustrates the extent to which they are nevertheless dependent on a government which is prepared to use and then abandon terror victims for cynical political reasons. The fact that the Israeli Government is prepared to support organisations whose hardline stances are at odds with its own public positions must also create doubts about how sincerely held those positions are. The targeting of the Palestinian Authority in particular, in cases largely dependent on official Israeli sources, is surely inconsistent with any commitment to a genuine peace process."

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Mossad & Associates 1

The following investigation into the Israeli lawfare outfit, Shurat HaDin - Israel Law Centre (ILC) by the UK organisation, Spinwatch (spinwatch.org), is a must-read. You may remember Shurat HaDin's characterisation in the Murdoch press here as a 'civil rights' organisation. As Spinwatch's research shows there's a little more to it than that. Given its length, I'm posting it in two parts:

BDS campaigner targeted by law firm with links to Israeli intelligence

by Tom Griffin & David Miller (5/10/13)

"A law firm targeting the Boycott, Divestment & Sanctions (BDS) movement has close links to Israeli intelligence, US government cables leaked by Wikileaks show:

"Shurat HaDin - Israel Law Centre (ILC) made a complaint to the Australian Human Rights Commission last month against Jake Lynch, the director of the Centre for Peace & Conflict Studies at Sydney University, over Lynch's support for BDS. The ILC, set up in 2003, claims to be 'a fully independent non-profit organization, unaffiliated with any political party or government body.' However, the organisation's director, Nitsana Darshan-Leitner, has privately admitted to taking direction from the Israeli Government over which causes to pursue and relying on Israeli intelligence contacts for witnesses and evidence.

"Darshan-Leitner made the comments in 2007 to diplomats from the US Embassy in Tel Aviv, who reported the conversation in a cable leaked by Wikileaks four years later. It states:

Leitner said that in many of her cases she receives evidence from GOI [Government of Israel] officials, and added that in its early years ILC took direction from the GOI on which cases to pursue. 'The National Security Council (NSC) legal office saw the use of civil courts as a way to do things that they are not authorized to do,' claimed Leitner. Among her contacts, Leitner listed Udi Levy at the NSC and Uzi Beshaya at the Mossad, both key Embassy contacts on anti-terrorist finance cooperation. Leitner offered a case against Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) as [an] example of ILC's close cooperation with the GOI. After obtaining a judgement against PIJ for NIS 100 million (USD 25 million), ILC requested a lien for that amount against the Abu Akker Trading Company as a third party defendant. At the time, Abu Akker was one of the largest Palestinian importing companies, and Leitner said the Mossad provided her with the intelligence (similar to information provided to USG officials in a classified briefing) to prove that the company was funneling money to PIJ. According to Leitner, the ILC now decides its cases independently, but continues to receive evidence and witnesses from Israeli intelligence.

"The US cable goes on to comment that:

While the ILC's mission dovetails with GOI objectives of putting financial pressure on Israel's adversaries, the often uncompromising approach of ILC's attorney's seems to overreach official GOI policy goals. ILC's relentless litigation has proven to be an obstacle to the GOI's releasing of all customs revenues previously withheld from the PA [Palestinian Authority].

"ILC has engaged in a wide variety of other actions in the US, Australia, Israel itself and in Egypt as well as targeting Iran, Syria, North Korea and the Palestinian Authority. Amongst its targets have been financial situations including UBS, American Express Bank and the Lebanese-Canadian Bank, President Jimmy Carter, World Vision Australia (a Christian aid agency) and, most notably, the largely successful attempt to stop the second Free Gaza Flotilla. This involved a blizzard of legal threats against insurance companies, port authorities and satellite firms. They were informed they would open themselves to criminal liability for 'aiding and abetting' a 'terrorist' organisation or would become 'legally liable' for any future attacks by Hamas.

The Bank of China Affair

"Further details of the ILC's links with Israeli intelligence have emerged amid fallout from a case brought by the firm against the Bank of China. According to accounts in the Israeli press, officials from the NSC approached Darshan-Leitner, after identifying the bank as a conduit for Hamas and Islamic Jihad. Darshan-Leitner found a suitable plaintiff to bring the case in the family of Daniel Wultz, a 16-year-old American citizen killed in a suicide bombing in Tel Aviv in 2006. Yediot Ahronot reported: 'In her discussions with the intelligence agents, Darshan-Leitner insisted that she receives massive assistance from the government. She demanded convicting information on the bank's activities, affidavits from authorized people and a commitment to provide for the trial an authorized witness who will say that the Chinese knew about the nature of the accounts and refused to close them. The consent was given - orally. In 2009, a lawsuit was filed to the NY Federal Court.'

"This arrangement began to collapse in the face of Chinese Government pressure ahead of a visit to Beijing by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu earlier this year. The Wultz family has accused the Israeli Government of sabotaging the case by failing to provide the documents it promised at the outset. The standoff is particularly embarrassing because Daniel Wultz's mother, Sheryl Cantor Wultz, is a cousin of Eric Cantor, the House Majority Leader in the US Congress.

"Among the key documents at the centre of the case is an affidavit by Uzi Shaya, who may be the same person as 'Uzi Beshaya', the Israeli security official named in the 2007 cable as a contact of both Shurat HaDin and the US Embassy. Another US cable describes Shaya as an officer of Israel's Shin Bet [security] service, working in the Counter Terror Finance Bureau of the Israeli NSC alongside Udi Levi, Darshan-Leitner's other intelligence contact."

To be continued...

Monday, October 14, 2013

Showbag Bill & Pratt the Younger

"Bill Shorten's enemies - and he made a few on his journey through the union movement... used to call him 'Showbag Bill'... Plenty of style on the outside, not much substance within." (Labor's Shorten experiment: the tale of 'Showbag Bill', Tony Wright, The Age, 14/10/13)

Two cheers for the new Labor leader, Showbag Bill. For a Labor man, Showbag's got some very interesting connections:

"Shorten might have earned his political stripes in the union movement but he is far from the stereotypical old-style Labor union man. Well educated and articulate, he has long moved in the sorts of business and social circles that raise suspicion among more ideologically driven colleagues. He was best man, for instance, to John Roskam, of the extremely conservative Institute of Public Affairs... Shorten's first wife, Debbie Beale, is the daughter of multimillionaire businessman and former Liberal MP Julian Beale. His current wife, Chloe, is the daughter of the Governor-General, Quentin Bryce. In 2006 he famously borrowed, with a single phone call, the private jet of the late billionaire Dick Pratt to fly to the Tasmanian mining town of Beaconsfield..." (Labor's Shorten experiment)

Ah yes, the very Israel-friendly Pratt connection. (Simply click on the 'Dick Pratt' label below and refresh your memory.)

Now wasn't it only recently that the Pratt family - minus Dick of course - popped up in the news?

"Former US Ambassador to Australia Jeffrey Bleich is joining the Pratt family's high-powered advisory board for its $5 billion global paper, packaging and recycling empire... 'Jeff will be a great resource as we develop our tripartite strategy linking our business interests in Australia, the US and, increasingly, in Asia,' Visy Group executive chairman Anthony Pratt said." (US ambassador for Pratt advisory board, Damon Kitney, The Australian, 11/10/13)

Yes, yes, yes... but what was it that young Anthony had said to an audience of graduating students at Monash University last Thursday whilst there to receive an honorary doctorate?

Ah yes:

"Mr Pratt told graduates that he could see a future for manufacturing where a factory would employ only a few people. 'The factory of the future will not employ 150 people, but only 3 or 4. Furthermore, it will be completely dark, because robots don't need to see'." (ibid)

How that must have cheered and comforted those about to enter a tough labour market. 

Hm... maybe Showbag Bill and Pratt the Younger need to sit down together (maybe at the nearest Max Brenner outlet) and sort this jobs business out, because only a matter of days before Anthony was inspiring his student audience Bill was all fired-up with the following bright idea:

"I believe a national rehabilitation strategy must be explored to ensure that... those on the disability support pension benefit from the dignity and satisfaction of work." (From welfare to work: Bill Shorten's disability plan, Troy Bramston, The Australian, 7/10/13)

There are 824,082 disability support pensioners out there.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

The Day Julia Gillard Faced the Music

"Explaining why her foreign minister was 'so hostile to Israel' and blaming the Jewish community for the weakness of her cabinet and caucus on Israel - this was what Bob Carr had reduced Julia Gillard to in her final months as prime minister." (Gillard driven over by Carr on Israel, Chris Kenny, The Australian, 12/10/13)

The bastard! Sounds like emotional abuse to me.

OK... For "Jewish community" read 'Israel lobby'.

"Leaked documents reveal the acute embarrassment Senator Carr created for Ms Gillard over the question of Australia's support for Israel... Ms Gillard's briefing notes for a Jewish community [sic] event in Sydney in April included talking points with suggested answers to the question: 'Bob Carr is so hostile to Israel - what are you going to do about it?'"

Can you imagine any other foreign lobby so cocksure of itself as to ask an Australian PM such a question?

"The then prime minister's speaking notes also included a plea for the Jewish community [sic] to lobby Labor MPs to bolster support for her position in cabinet and caucus. 'There were not many voices in caucus,' she complained. 'This community has work to do'."

Can you imagine the leader of any other country calling on a foreign lobby to put pressure on her own parliamentary colleagues in order to achieve its aims?

"The split over the Middle East came to a head last December [sic: November] when Ms Gillard told cabinet of her intention to vote no to a UN resolution giving the Palestinian territories [sic: Authority] observer status at the UN. This triggered a backlash within government, led by Senator Carr, that forced Ms Gillard to back down and instruct Australia's UN ambassador to abstain from the vote. It is the only clear instance of Ms Gillard being thwarted by her own cabinet and caucus... Australia received diplomatic complaints from the US and Israel..."

Ouch!

"... for failing to vote against the resolution, which passed comfortably regardless. And domestically, Jewish community leaders conveyed their disappointed [sic] to the government."

I'm - we're - so sorry, so very, very sorry. Even Bob... No, really!... Please believe me - er, us... What's that?... I owe you one?... I see... Yes, I've got a pencil... April 23?... Chifley Tower?... Right... OK, OK, don't worry, I'll be there, promise...

"So on April 23, when Ms Gillard went to a high-powered lunch at Chifley Tower, hosted by the Executive Council of Australian Jewry, she was in a difficult position. At the event she would become the first Australian politician to sign the London Declaration on [Combating] Antisemitism."*

Penance!

But that wasn't all:

"But she also might might have to apologise for her foreign minister, who had led the charge on the UN vote and also had made strident comments about Israeli settlements on the West Bank being illegal. 'I know Bob is genuinely committed to Israel's security and survival,' her speaking notes suggested. 'He feels exceptionally strongly on the settlements'."

What kind of political system do we have where a PM has to - or feels she has to - grovel like this to a foreign lobby? Or even blame the lobby for her not being able to deliver the goods in the manner to which it's become expected:

"The notes also directly addressed the way Ms Gillard was rolled by her party on the UN resolution; and they suggested putting the onus back on the Jewish community [sic]. 'There were not as many voices in cabinet supporting a 'no' vote on that resolution,' they prompted. 'There were not many voices in caucus. There were a lot of members who should have been heard from - and who were not. So I believe this exposed a weakness in the community's [sic] reach compared with previous years'."

Where was this woman's, this nation's, dignity?

And the near future?

"Once Labor's new leadership team is resolved on Sunday, it can expect to be lobbied fervently by the Jewish community [sic] to strengthen its support."

Back to the grovel...

(For my complete coverage of this issue see my posts: Australia's Foreign Policy Shame (28/11/12); While You Weren't Looking (1/12/12); Julia the Downhearted (6/12/12); The Prisoner of Zion (4/12/12); The Prime Minister Who Put Her Job on the Line for Israel (18/1/13).)

[*On the London Declaration see my posts: The Latest Prime Ministerial Kowtow (28/4/13); Behind the Anti-Semitism Industry (30/4/13); The Tel Aviv Declaration on Combating Criticism of Israel (17/5/13).]

PS: Make of this what you will: "Your story 'Gillard driven over by Carr on Israel' (12-13/10), refers to a lunch attended by Julia Gillard on April 23 organised by the Executive Council of Australian Jewry. It alleges that Ms Gillard's 'speaking notes' included 'a plea for the Jewish community to lobby Labor MPs to bolster her support in cabinet and caucus'. As one of the organisers of the lunch who sat alongside the prime minister, I can say without qualification that Ms Gillard, who spoke without notes, made no statements of the kind referred to in the article at the lunch, openly or in private conversations with the guests. If any such statements were included by Ms Gillard's staff in her briefing or speaking notes, as the article seems to claim, she did not use them. Nor did Ms Gillard or any of her parliamentary colleagues or staff make any such statements to the ECAJ at any other time." Dr Danny Lam, ECAJ president, Sydney, NSW (Letter to The Australian, 14/10/13)

PPS: Make of this 14/10 twitter exchange what you will:

Jack Sumner: Letter in Oz fr Pres. Exec Council Aust. Jewry indicates @chriskenny piece 'Gillard driven over by Carr on Israel' is a misrepresentation.
Chris Kenny: No, your tweet is a misrepresentation. Letter says nothing of sort and is not at odds with story at all. Facts. Try them.
Jack Sumner: Your piece based on leaked speaking notes which Gillard did not have at lunch or use in her address. Facts. Try them.
Chris Kenny: Politicians don't take their briefing notes to lunch. Strangely enough they are for briefing. You could try Cuba...
Jack Sumner: "If any such statements were included --- in her briefing --- she did not use them." Don't recall any mention of that in ur piece.
Jack Sumner: As I said a misrepresentation.
Chris Kenny: Don't know or care what she said... the story was about the briefing notes... Bad luck.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Israel's Bob Browns to Visit Australia

A full-page advertisement in The Australian Jewish News (4/10) for this year's Jewish National Fund (JNF) Gala Dinner reminded me of our rambammed student politicians (class of 2010), the subject of my October 1 post, A Transformative Experience.

You'll recall:

"Tania Levi, a KKL-JNF guide, was explaining the importance of KKL-JNF's water projects to a group of young Australian politicians who were visiting Israel as part of a fact-finding mission to the Middle East. Members of the group included Duncan McDonald, John Shipp, Xavier Williams, Jesse Overton-Skinner, Eloise Howse, Jesse Marshall and Joel Burnie... This was the first time that the group had heard about KKL-JNF, so Tania briefly reviewed KKL-JNF's history... emphasizing the fact that KKL-JNF is Israel's largest and oldest green organization and leads the country's water recycling efforts." (Young Australian politicians visit KKL Negev water projects, KKL-JNF, The Jerusalem Post, 8/8/10)

Alas, the above KKL-JNF press release didn't record the gormless group's reactions on learning that Israel's JNF was actually a tree-hugging outfit.

If they had, maybe we'd have read about the chorus of cools, awesomes, amazings, and I-had-absolutely-no-ideas from Duncan, John, Xavier, Jesse, Eloise, Jesse and Joel at this revelation.

Having learnt all there is to know then and there from the lovely Tania about Israel's cool, awesome, truly amazing Jewish Green - sorry, National - Fund, I imagine they'd all be looking forward to attending this year's JNF Australia 2013 Gala Dinner where they'll get to hear from Israel's leading green activists, Yaacov Peri MK and Avigdor Kahalani, keynote and guest speakers respectively:

"Minister Yaacov Peri is a former head of Shin Bet, the Israeli security agency and was the President and CEO of Cellcom. He is currently Minister of Science, Technology & Space and a member of the Yesh Atid party in the Knesset."

"Brigadier-General (ret.) Avigdor Kahalani served with distinction in the IDF in a career spanning 30 years. He is most famous for his heroics in the Yom Kippur War for which he received the highest military decoration, the Medal of Valor."

Green credentials don't come much better than that. And only $70 per head too!

Thursday, October 10, 2013

The Strange Silence of Guardian Australia

Katharine Viner, editor-in-chief of Guardian Australia has posted a thoughtful essay on GA's website: The rise of the reader: journalism in the age of the web (9/10/13).

Among the many comments in the thread which followed her piece was this by the courageous director of Sydney University's Centre for Peace & Conflict Studies, Associate Professor Jake Lynch:

"Interesting account of the dispute with Julie Bishop. I wonder if it is at all related to Guardian Australia's refusal to take any interest in Bishop's abuse of her office to stifle dissent on a key area of foreign policy? Before the election, she told Murdoch's Australian newspaper that government research grant money would be withheld from me, and any other academics who support a boycott of Israel - even for projects on unrelated topics. This would, she said, be a 'government-wide policy'. I am about to find out whether it will actually be implemented, since I am up for a Discovery Project grant from the Australian Research Council, with funding decisions due to be released later this month. Education Minister Christopher Pyne would have to write the cheque, if my proposal is approved by fellow academics. Hopefully he will take an approach more in keeping with intellectual freedom.

"Meanwhile, the Australian has continued to pursue the story. One of its reporters, Ean Higgins, has offered occasional news pieces, which have been both accurate and balanced. But another, Christian Kerr, has produced a steady stream of sensationalised and agenda-driven articles, calculated apparently to 'egg on' the Coalition and the pro-Israel lobby.

"Other media have generally left this issue to the Australian. From the Sydney Morning Herald, there has been a deafening silence. The Conversation* refused to run anything on it, despite the topic being of direct concern to academics, who make up the vast majority of its contributors and a big slice of its readership.

"I did get a piece on the ABC's opinion site, The Drum commissioned by its editor, Chip Rolley. As he is the former artistic director of of the Sydney Literary Festival, he has a 'hinterland' of professional achievement in a field other than journalism, which I have guessed might give him more 'bottom' when it comes to resisting criticism from the pro-Israel lobby or Bishop herself. From the rest of the Corporation, there has been an apparent 'pre-emptive buckle'. Producers of two programs on ABC Radio refused my offers to come on and discuss it.

"In short, the story typifies the way such issues develop in a public sphere beset by the narrowness and shallowness of the Australian mediascape, with its ownership patterns referenced here by Katharine Viner.

"I had assumed that Guardian Australia would take on the job of filling in some of the gaps, the 'strategic silences', that result - and the successes she claims in this lecture bear that out. Australian politicians should really not be able to get away with calling people terrorists when they are not, or failing to act meaningfully in response to the evidence of anthropogenic climate change or its connection with the growing intensity and frequency of extreme weather events. In these respects, GA has already contributed helpfully to accountability in its short career.

"But repeated attempts to get GA to take an interest in Julie Bishop's stifling of dissent by victimising me, and any others who advocate an academic boycott of Israel, have failed. It has been like striking a match against a wet box.

"We are gathering support on a petition and will shortly try to get some media attention for it, see here: http://www.change.org/petitions/defend-free-speech-and-human-rights-and-support-the-bds Perhaps then the Guardian will decide it can no longer leave this important story to the Murdoch press."

The interesting thing here is that Katharine Viner is the co-editor (with Alan Rickman) of the 2005 play My Name is Rachel Corrie, a moving play based on the writings of the ISM activist crushed to death in 2003 by an Israeli military bulldozer while attempting to defend a Palestinian home. A play, moreover, whose first  performance in New York failed to go ahead due to Israel lobby pressure. Viner is further described in a 2005 interview as having a "fascination with the Middle East, [spending] most of her holidays in places like Lebanon, Syria, Israel and the West Bank, to the point where her brother jokingly dubbed her a 'trauma tourist'."** GA's refusal to report the facts of Jake Lynch's case is therefore puzzling in the extreme. 

[*Described by Wikipedia as "an independent source of news and analysis that uses content sourced from the academic and research community"; **It's good to feel scared from time to time, Julie Tomlin, pressgazette.co.uk, 4/5/05]

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Travel Tart

"A Coalition MP who lashed out at supermarkets selling halal meat* took 'arduous' taxpayer-funded overseas study tours to broaden his cultural understanding. Luke Simpkins argued he needed 'to visit the homelands of major non-English speaking communities' of his WA electorate to better understand their concerns. His trips to Vietnam, Thailand, Greece and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia in 2011 cost taxpayers $15,840 but he argued they were a success... Mr Simpkins said disputes in Macedonia were 'complex'." (Taxpayers pick up tab for jet set, Daniel Hurst & Jonathan Swan, Sydney Morning Herald, 8/10/13)

How interesting that the Herald should neglect to mention Simpkins' February 2012 trip to Israel - a journey that seems to have inspired several parliamentary fulminations against Iran.**

So, what exactly do we, the people - Simpkins' employers, actually - get for our generous funding of his wanderlust?

Well, here's a sample, an extract from his fulmination of 11 February 2013 in which he contends that Iran is bent on conquering the Middle East and imposing a "Shiah theocracy" on its Sunni Arab majority:

"Iran has a sense of entitlement as the dominator in the region, which leads to fears that they are willing to go to extreme measures in acquiring this domination. For too long, Iran has positioned itself as the victim and continues to claim ancient conflicts between Shiah and Sunni denominations and even between Persian and Arabic ethnicities as justification for violence and hatred. Shiah belief portrays itself as being the little fish in the Arabic Sunni pond. Iran believes it is its responsibilty to return to Persian dominance, as before the Arabisation of the region between the 7th and 14th centuries. So they view it as their right to spread the Shiah theocracy and to suppress the Sunni majority."

Now exactly where Simpkins gets this stuff & nonsense from is anyone's guess. Israel's foreign ministry perhaps? One thing's for sure, though, if he'd had a genuine interest in Iran or Shi'ism, for a mere fraction of that $15,840, he could've picked up a copy of Shi'ism: A Religion of Protest (2011) by Hamid Dabashi, Professor of Iranian Studies at Columbia University, turned to pages 302-303, and meditated on the following:

"The appeal and significance of the Islamic Revolution [1977-1979] went far beyond Iran or Shi'ism and reached farthest into the heartland of the Arab and Muslim world. This Iranian revolution has never been called a 'Shi'i' revolution, always an 'Islamic' revolution, for not a single ideologue, militant or moderate, turbaned or tied, thought of himself as a Shi'i revolutionary before thinking of himself as a Muslim. It is imperative now to keep in mind that Shi'is have never considered themselves Shi'is who happened to be Muslims, but exactly the opposite, Muslims who happened to be Shi'is. Shi'ism for the Shi'is is a take on their Islam, not Islam a take on their Shi'ism. Undue emphasis is put on the distinction between orthodoxy and heterodoxy in Islam or any other religion. Every religious orthodoxy is a politically successful heterodoxy. The political logic of that medieval fact transcends any single world religion and has a larger claim on universality. What ultimately emerged as the Islamic Revolution in Iran was never branded a 'Shi'i revolution' in its character or disposition, political aspirations or institutional foregrounding. That revolution always had a global claim on Islam and the world it inhabited. From its very first rumbles, the Islamic revolution had regional, cross-sectarian, and even trans-Islamic aspirations... The Shi'is have always thought of themselves as Muslims. Sectarian thinking in and out of Muslim communities is always a matter of external political manipulation of internally dormant doctrines. Throughout history, every single revolutionary uprising for or against Shi'ism has had more immediate material and political causes and consequences. Today only the United States, Saudi Arabia, and al-Qaeda speak of Shi'is as Shi'is, for Shi'is themselves think of their identities as integral to the Muslim world at large. The reason for Iranian support for the Lebanese Hezbollah is not because they are Shi'is; nor do Iranians withhold their even more active support for Hamas because they are not Shi'is. "

Think of the saving to the taxpayer. But then, hey, what would someone like Dabashi know?

[*See my 6/2/12 post Here We Go Again; **See my 10/10/12 post Izzy Izzy Izzy, OI Oi Oi.]

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Shorten Collars the Zionist Vote

"Among the good reasons for ALP members to vote for Bill Shorten in the current leadership contest, there are some relating particularly to Jewish concerns.

"Bill Shorten did significant work as education minister in securing better funding for our schools. He has always been a strong supporter of the US alliance, which many regard as the cornerstone of Australia's security. He has had a long association with the Jewish community and is a stalwart supporter of Israel, which he has visited several times. Last year he led a high-powered delegation of financial-sector executives to Israel, and had meetings with president Shimon Peres and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

"Bill Shorten's support for Israel was in evidence last November when Bob Carr moved to roll Julia Gillard's backing of Israel and the US on a vote to give the Palestinians observer status at the UN. While Bill Shorten sided with Julia Gillard for Australia to vote for Israel and the US to reject this resolution, Anthony Albanese supported Bob Carr's initiative to bring about Australia's abstention.

"Under Shorten's leadership, we could be certain that Labor would continue to support Israel's right to defend itself, and oppose efforts to force Israel into premature concessions." (Letter from Professor Douglas Kirsner in The Australian Jewish News, 4/10/13)