Friday, July 7, 2017

Reading Between the Lines on Bob Carr & Israel

I've always been intrigued by the question of why it is that so many people allow themselves to fall under the influence of clearly nonsensical, even downright nasty, ideas. Ideas such as Zionism, for example.

Certainly, Jewish Zionists are easy to read and can be assumed to have been indoctrinated from their earliest days. Those classic lines of the English poet, Philip Larkin, spring to mind here: "They fuck you up, your mum and dad/ They may not mean to, but they do." Ditto for Christian Zionists. (So that I am clear here let me acknowledge that in the past most Jews were anti-Zionists, and that growing numbers of today's Zionised Jews are coming to see through, and to reject, their early Zionist indoctrination. May that welcome trend continue.)

That said, it's gentile Zionists of the political and scribbling classes who interest me the most, simply because, given their positions of influence within the prevailing political power structure, it is they who have the greatest potential for aiding and abetting, covertly and overtly, the Zionist cause.

Both Bob Carr and Bob Hawke fall into this category, and if they are both at last, thankfully, evolving into critics of Israel, if not yet of its underlying Zionist rationale, they must surely acknowledge their part (albeit, in the scheme of things, minor) in aiding and abetting the monster they now find themselves grappling with.

The rusted-on Zionist Murdoch press cynically attributes all such deviations from its own party-line on Israel to pressure on Labor MPs representing electorates with high numbers of voters of Arab origin, and will even feature lists of seats where Jews and Arabs make up one percentage point or more of the electorate, as though these were the sole determinant of the matter.* This is because it is ideologically incapable of conceding that such deviations have anything to do with intellectual/moral growth, let alone, particularly in the cases of Carr and Hawke, as regret for something which may once have seemed to them like the proverbial 'good idea at the time', but which, they have subsequently discovered, has been anything but. Yet there is much to support this thesis, especially if one reads between the lines, in Brad Norington's feature in yesterday's Australian, Carr alarms pro-Israelis:

"As a young union education officer and aspiring politician, Carr was so passionate in his support of Israel that he set up a Labor Friends of Israel group in 1977. His inspiration was reading a pamphlet written by then ACTU president Bob Hawke that put the case for Israel. Carr was a member of the dominant NSW right faction and a 'Cold War warrior'. He was wooed to a cause opposed by the party left, which had thrown its support behind the Palestinians. In her biography of Hawke, Blanche D'Alpuget writes that he was of the generation that, in its youth, was stunned by the news of the Holocaust and then exhilerated by the founding of the Israeli state.... While Hawke's first visit to Israel fired his passion, he was also influenced by a mentor, Clyde Holding, who showed 'uncanny foresight' about changing ALP attitudes to Israel in the 1970s by encouraging prominent Labor people to speak out in its defence. Holding told D'Alpuget that young radicals were a bit lost for a cause when the Vietnam War wound down: 'They were on the lookout for the next wretched depressed victims of American capitalism - and there were these benighted Palestinians'."

Notice in both cases the role of party mentors. For Labor politicians back in the 70s a large - how large? - part of their 'decision' to back Palestine or Israel simply came down to whether they were on the right or the left of the party. The actual merits or otherwise of the political cause were seemingly irrelevant. Clyde Holding (Danby's predecessor in the seat of Melbourne Ports btw), for example, hated the party's left faction, led by George Crawford and Bill Hartley, both of whom were anti-colonialists, and therefore, pro-Palestine. Hence Holding's pro-Israel stance. My point here is that, for those on the right of the ALP, little, if any, real thought or investigation went into their choice.

"Carr recalls Hawke turning up to a 'seedy' Trades Hall office he had rented for Labor Friends of Israel. 'He was affected by grog but spoke eloquently, almost coming to tears when he spoke of Golda Meir,' Carr said... Carr says he maintained his loyal support of Israel. When Israel continued its expansion of settlements in occupied Palestinian territory in the West Bank, criticism from the ALP's left grew louder. Carr asked one Jewish contact about the settlement increase: he claims he was told not to worry because they would be 'withdrawn' when peace was eventually reached with Palestinians. 'The next time I looked there were more,' Carr recalls. 'I asked, why, if they are going to withdraw, do they keep planting them so deep into the territories?'"

This focus on settlements and settlement expansion is, of course, Carr's most oft-quoted reason for his turn away from Israel. While Israel's West Bank settlements are a good start to a good hard look at the Zionist project in Palestine, a little investigation would have told him that Jews-only settlements/colonies have been the central feature of that project since it began in earnest after World War I. Before 1948 they were called kibbutzes and sold to gullible Westerners as socialism's greatest achievement. Since Israel's conquest of the West Bank in 1967, of course, the utopian socialist facade of the pioneering kibbutz has been discarded, and we have been left merely with settlements, generally inhabited by Israel's version of the Taliban, and no-one, except the usual suspects, sees these as anything other than illegal facts-on-the-ground, a prelude to Israel's outright annexation of the West Bank and the final step in its realisation of the Zionist wet-dream of a Greater Israel. I imagine that for most of his early career in the party Carr was spending what little time he had outside the Labor bubble reading up on the American Civil War, and so that little investigation, unfortunately, never really proceeded and the proverbial penny was left hanging. And of course, the party needed to fund its election campaigns, didn't it? But, frankly, what politician will admit such things in public?

"As NSW premier from 1995 to 2005, Carr claims he remained neutral on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He attended functions of both communities in an official capacity. While harbouring doubts about the settlements, the closest to a turning point came in 2003 when he agreed to welcome Palestinian scholar and activist Hanan Ashrawi, who was awarded the Sydney Peace Prize by the University of Sydney. According to Carr, he had already angered the Australia Palestine Advocacy Network by refusing to condemn Israel's building of a dividing wall with Palestinians. He told them that if bombs were 'going off in central Sydney' while he was premier, he would have built a dividing wall too."

Norrington has stuffed up the timing here with "he had already angered...," which seems to refer to Ashrawi's 2003 visit, while APAN was not, in fact, born until 2011. Carr's idiot remark about the wall, however, was made to APAN, as he relates in his 2014 Diary of a Foreign Minister at pps 95-96. Did no one there at the time pointedly remind him that bombs only went off because Palestine was, hello, under occupation, and that said wall was actually just another a West Bank land grab and will be enclosing around 100 Israeli settlements, including settlers and settlements in occupied Arab East Jerusalem? I ask that question because Bob mentions no such rejoinder in his diary.

"At Ashrawi's welcome, Carr said he had told Sydney's Jewish community that a two-state solution would become more difficult with more settlement activity, and Israel risked insurgency and international isolation if its burgeoning Arab population was denied civil rights. But he stresses he also said, 'Israel will not be bombed into a peace agreement'. Carr says the negative, even vitriolic reaction to his welcoming of Ashrawi, whom he considered a Palestinian moderate, left him puzzled. He still spoke at Holocaust memorials and Jewish museum events - but his 'old fondness' for Israel faded [...] Carr says he has immersed himself more in the history and culture of the Palestinian people, but argues the Israeli settlements issue is his primary motivator."

Of course, immersing oneself in the history of the Palestinian people, can only lead, ineluctably, to one conclusion, and, if what I reported in my last post, Age Shall Not Weary Him, is correct, Carr appears to be getting there, but will certainly not admit it, for now, on the record, to a Newscorpse journalist. One hopes too that Simon Sebag Montefiore's tosh tome on Jerusalem, Jerusalem: The Biography that we see on Carr's bookshelf in the photo of him by John Feder is not what he means by immersing himself in Palestinian history.

[*The Australian, The Electoral Israeli-Arab divide, 5/7/17. There is more of the same in Norington's feature story on Carr.]

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