Saturday, August 5, 2017

The Australian Reviews John Lyons

John Lyon's invaluable book, Balcony Over Jerusalem, was reviewed in today's Australian by one of its journalists, David Leser.

Unfortunately, Leser's seemingly irresistible urge to defend the indefensible - apartheid Israel - and indulge in special pleading for Palestine's colonisers and occupiers tells us far more about Leser than it does about Lyons' book.

Here we go then:

"... the Middle East is a hellishly complex place. Every aspect of history is contested. Every word is loaded."

Quite why Leser feels he has to reference the entire Middle East when dealing specifically with Israel's occupation of the Palestinian territories is anyone's guess. But I simply don't understand how he can seriously talk about contested history and loaded words without reference to the following passage which he earlier quotes from Lyons' book: "If the whole world could see the occupation up close, it would demand that it end tomorrow. Israel's treatment of the Palestinians would not pass muster in the West if the full details were known. The only reason Israel is getting away with this is because it has one of the most formidable public-relations machines ever seen..."

Without Israel's vast propaganda apparatus there'd be neither contestation nor loading.

"I've argued with family members over this issue, and lost Jewish friends in the process - all because I believe, like Lyons, that the occupation is a moral stain on both the Jewish State and the Jewish soul."

I don't get it. Why the arguments? Occupied river-to-sea Palestine belongs to neither Leser nor his family. Neither he nor his family nor his Jewish friends have a right to one centimetre of Palestinian soil. And not only is the occupation he refers to "a moral stain," the very existence of a "Jewish Stateon Palestinian Arab land is a moral stain on all who conceived it, created it, and, today, continue to support it.

"My concern is that for all the rush of understandable anger [Lyons] directs at Israel, his book is mostly devoid of sympathy for the multiple internal problems and frailties that Israelis face, not to mention the wild diversity of the country's immigrant survivor population."

Does Leser seriously expect Lyons (or anyone else), who has, in Lyons' words, seen the occupation "up close," to sympathise with its perpetrators? Has Leser, in his 40-year-old career as a journalist, ever once felt sympathy for the people of any other occupying power? And, seriously, where is the "wild diversity" in a Jewish state?

"Throughout history Jews have been despised, displaced, vilified, persecuted and, ultimately exterminated for the fact of their Jewishness, and they have carried their collective trauma - this epigenetic inheritance - into a murderous neighbourhood where they are both a minority and majority at the same time. A tiny minority among hundreds of millions of (mostly) Arabs and a majority when it comes to the Palestinians."

And the Palestinian Arabs are responsible for that? Historical anti-Semitism in Europe trumps the right of Palestinians to their Palestinian homeland? What kind of sick morality is that? And who funneled European Jews into said "murderous neighbourhood"? I'll tell you who - the murderous Zionist movement, motivated by one hell of a murderous idea: Jews in, Palestinians out.

"That, along with countless wars and acts of terrorism over the past 70 years, is what has driven the psychopathology of victimhood and its inevitable - and terrible - consequence: oppression."

Yes, countless wars... initiated by the Israeli army. And countless acts of terrorism... initiated by the Israeli army and its pre-state predecessors, the Haganah, the Irgun and the Stern Gang.

But the biggest deception here is Leser's omission of any reference to the Zionist movement. The dark truth is that Israel is the product of a settler-colonial movement, riding roughshod, as these movements do, over the rights of the natives, not some pitiable creature whose past was so traumatic that it just can't help using the Palestinians as a collective punching bag.


Anonymous said...

Great assessment MERC.

Heartstrings said...

I have just begun reading John Lyon's book Balcony over jerusalem. The rampant criticism and nasty name calling of all Australian dignitaries and journalists who question our foreign policy in regards to US and Israel is alarming. It's a good reason to read the book. I often think of Mandela interview in NY in 1990 where he suggests the mistake of political anaysists is to think their enemies are our enemies. Clearly they are not.