Saturday, September 30, 2017

A Guest of the Lowy Institute

"There was passionate support for foreign news reports at the Lowy Institute's media awards in Sydney on Saturday night at which the New York Times columnist Bret Stephens delivered the keynote address... Stephens referred to the controversy that followed Lowy's invitation for him to speak at the media award ceremony, which was to be named after the late ABC broadcaster Mark Colvin. But Lowy removed Colvin's name after a family disagreement. 'I'm aware of the controversy that has gone with my selection as your speaker,' Stephens said." (Guthrie's content shake-up threatens ABC empires, Amanda Meade,, 29/9/17)

Hmm... The controversy that has gone with my selection as speaker.

It appears that Colvin's wife, in particular, objected to her husband's name being associated with that of Stephens. But why? Could it possibly have had something to do with Stephens' Zionism?

Since this was nowhere explicit in Stephens' LI speech (on dissent), presumably only the brows of the more informed in the audience would have furrowed at the ludicrousness of Natan Sharansky being mentioned in the same breath as Galileo, Nelson Mandela, and Rosa Parks, and Michael Oren, Israel's ambassador to the US, being singled out as a victim (of "organized claques of hecklers"/"junior totalitarians" no less!), we really need to look elsewhere for it.

Over at, for example, where Stephens lets it all hang out. Gird your loins for What's holding the Arab world back?:

"In the judo competition of the 2016 Olympics in Brazil, an Israeli heavyweight judo fighter named Or Sasson defeated his Egyptian opponent, Islam El Shehaby, in a first-round match. The Egyptian then refused to shake the Israeli's extended hand, earning boos from the crowd.*

"If you want the short answer for why the Arab world is sliding into the abyss, look no further than this little incident. It illustrates how hatred of Israel and Jews corrupts every element of Arab society.

"You won't find this explanation for the Arab world's decline among journalists and academics. They reflexively blame the usual suspects: the legacy of colonialism, unemployed youth, the Sunni-Shia sectarian divide, and every other politically correct excuse they can think of. For them, hatred of Israel is treated like sand in Arabia - just part of the landscape.

"Yet the fact remains that over the past 70 years the Arab world expelled virtually all of its Jews, some 900,000 people, while holding on to its hatred of them. Over time the result proved fatal: a combination of lost human capital, expensive wars against Israel, and an intellectual life perverted by conspiracy theories and a perpetual search for scapegoats. The Arab world's problems are a problem of the Arab mindset, and the name of that problem is anti-Semitism.

"As a historical phenomenon, this is not unique. Historian Paul Johnson has noted that wherever anti-Semitism took hold, social and political decline almost inevitably followed. Just a few examples:

"Spain expelled its Jews in 1492. The effect, Johnson noted, 'was to deprive Spain (and its colonies) of a class already notable for the astute handling of finance.'

"In czarist Russia, the adoption of numerous anti-Semitic laws ultimately weakened and corrupted the entire Russian government. These laws also led to mass Jewish emigration, resulting in a breathtaking loss of intellectual and human capital.

"Germany might well have won the race for an atomic bomb if Hitler hadn't sent Jewish scientists like Albert Einstein and Edward Teller into exile in the US.

"These patterns were replicated in the Arab world. Contrary to myth, the cause was not the creation of the state of Israel in 1948. There were bloody anti-Jewish pogroms in 1929, Iraq in 1941, and Libya in 1945.

"Nor is it accurate to blame Israel for fuelling anti-Semitism by refusing to trade land for peace.

"Among Egyptians, hatred of Israel barely abated after Prime Minister Menachem Begin returned the entire Sinai Peninsula to Egypt. And among Palestinians, anti-Semitism became markedly worse during the years of the Oslo peace process.

"Johnson calls anti-Semitism a 'highly infectious' disease capable of overwhelming intellectuals and simpletons alike. Its potency, he noted, lies in transforming a personal and instinctive irrationalism into a political and systematic one. For the Jew hater, every crime has the same culprit and every problem has the same solution. Anti-Semitism makes the world seem simple. In doing so, it condemns the anti-Semite to a permanent darkness.

"Today there is no great university in the Arab world, no serious scientific research, a stunted literary culture. In 2015, the US Patent Office reported 3,804 patents from Israel, as compared with 30 from Egypt, the largest Arab country. Hatred of Israel and Jews has also deprived the Arab world of both the resources and the example of its neighbour. Israel quietly supplies water to Jordan, helping to ease the burden of Syrian refugees, and quietly provides surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities to Egypt to fight ISIS in the Sinai. But this is largely unknown among Arabs, for whom the only permissible image of Israel is an Israeli soldier in riot gear, abusing a Palestinian. Successful nations make a point of trying to learn from their neighbours. The Arab world has been taught over generations only to hate theirs.

"This may be starting to change. Recently, the Arab world has been forced to face up to its own failings in ways it cannot easily blame on Israel. The change can be seen in the budding rapprochement between Jerusalem and Cairo, Riyadh and Abu Dhabi.

"But that's not enough. So long as an Arab athlete can't pay his Israeli opposite the courtesy of a handshake, the disease of the Arab mind and the misfortunes of its world will continue.

"For Israel, this is a pity.

"For the Arabs, it's a calamity."

See what I mean?

[*"I have no problem with Jewish people or any other religion... But for personal reasons, you can't ask me to shake the hand of anyone from this State... " (Islam El Shehaby: 'I've respected the judo rules,]

Friday, September 29, 2017

Corbyn's Latest Foreign Policy Pronouncements

From Jeremy Corbyn's 2017 Labour conference speech in Brighton:

"[W]e also know that terrorism is thriving in a world our governments have helped to shape, with its failed states, military interventions and occupations where millions are forced to flee conflict or hunger. We have to do better and swap the knee-jerk response of another bombing campaign for long-term help to solve conflicts rather than fuel them. And we must put our values at the heart of our foreign policy. Democracy and human rights are not an optional extra to be deployed selectively.

"So we cannot be silent at the cruel Saudi war in Yemen, while continuing to supply arms to Saudi Arabia, or the crushing of democracy in Egypt or Bahrain, or the tragic loss of life in Congo. And I say to Aung San Suu Kyi - a champion of democracy and human rights - : end the violence now against the Rohingya in Myanmar and allow the UN and international aid agencies in to Rakhine state. The Rohingya have suffered for too long!

"We should stand firm for peaceful solutions to international crises. Let's tone down the rhetoric, and back dialogue and negotiations to wind down the deeply dangerous confrontation over the Korean Peninsula. And I appeal to the UN secretary general, Antonio Guterres to use the authority of his office and go to Washington and Pyongyang to kick start that essential process of dialogue.

"And let's give real support to end the oppression of the Palestinian people, the 50-year occupation and illegal settlement expansion and move to a genuine two-state solution of the Israel-Palestine conflict.

"Britain's voice needs to be heard independently in the world. We must be a candid friend to the United States, now more than ever. The values we share are not served by building walls, banning immigrants on the basis of religion, polluting the planet, or pandering to racism."

A genuine two-state solution of the Israel-Palestine conflict???

Meanwhile, back in occupied Palestine, in the illegal Gush Etzion settlement bloc, to be precise, Netanyahu and 5,000 guests have just celebrated 50 years of Israeli occupation... 'There will be no more uprooting of settlements in the land of Israel,' [Netanyahu] said to applause." (Israel holds controversial ceremony marking 50 years of settlement, Michael Blum,, 28/9/17)

Thursday, September 28, 2017

The White Man's Burden Rides Again

Check out the abstract for The case for colonialism by Bruce Gilley, published in Third World Quarterly, 8/9/17. Gilley is an associate professor of political science at Portland State University:

"For the last 100 years, Western colonialism has had a bad name. It is high time to question this orthodoxy. Western colonialism was, as a general rule, both objectively beneficial and subjectively legitimate in most of the places where it was found, using realistic measures of those concepts. The countries that embraced their colonial inheritance, by and large, did better than those that spurned it. Anti-colonial ideology imposed grave harms on subject peoples and continues to thwart sustained development and a fruitful encounter with modernity in many places. Colonialism can be recovered by weak and fragile states today in three ways: by reclaiming colonial modes of governance; by recolonising some areas; and by creating new Western colonies from scratch."

So what's next for the TWQ?

Hmm... hey, I've got just the thing: HW Crocker's If you live in freedom, thank the British Empire (

"Over the last 400 years, what power has done the most to spread the ideals of limited government, an independent judiciary, certain inalienable rights, and free markets. That power would be the British Empire, the largest empire the world has ever known, which made these ideals global aspirations. It was the British Empire, along with America, that defended these ideals in two colossal world wars.

"Freedom was an Englishman's right - and wherever he went, he took that right with him. Whether he was an English colonist in America, governing himself through a locally-elected assembly; or an English adventurer, like Sir Stamford Raffles, creating the free-market city state of Singapore, or an English officer, like T.E. Lawrence, leading Arab tribesmen against the Turks, the British always thought of themselves as liberators, as bringers of freedom. The British believed the final and necessary justification of their empire was a moral one. The British kept the peace; they brought sound, honest administration; and they insisted that basic moral standards were honored.

"The British did not try to nation-build in the way we think of it now. They were under no illusions about making Arabs or Afghans or Zulus into Englishmen. They were more content to leave people alone, to let them be themselves, to govern them with the lightest possible hand.

"In American history, we remember this when we think of the British Empire's so-called 'benign neglect.' We can see it throughout the history of the British Empire. Think about the vast territory of the Sudan - it was governed by 140 British civil-servants. Even Gandhi praised the British Empire, paraphrasing Jefferson, saying that he believed that the best government was the government that governed least, and that he found that the British Empire guaranteed his freedom and governed him least of all.

"In the defense of freedom, the empire drew moral lines. No power did more to abolish slavery and the slave trade in the modern world than did the British Empire. The British treasury spent enormous sums to liberate slaves and compensate slave-owners in the Caribbean. The Royal Navy had, as a primary duty, the eradication of the slave-trade - and, in fact, abolishing the slave trade became a major factor during the expansion of the British Empire. The British enforced a Pax Britannica, putting down pirates, taming headhunters, and keeping the peace between previously warring tribes and religions. While respecting - and often ruling through - local leaders, the British still insisted on certain Judeo-Christian moral standards. They were not, in that respect, multiculturalists. They had a firm sense of right and wrong. When Sir Charles Napier was confronted by the practice of suttee - widow-burning - in India, he told the Brahmin priests involved that he understood it was their custom. But the British had a custom, too: They hanged men who burned women alive, and their goods were confiscated. So, if the Brahmins insisted on continuing their tradition of widow-burning, then he would insist on following his British tradition of hanging the murderers of widows. Widow-burning in India soon ceased.

"But we don't have to dig far into history, into the abolition of slavery and widow-burning, to find the British Empire on the side of moral right and freedom. We can think of events within our own lifetimes or those of our parents and grandparents. When we think of the two deadliest threats to freedom in the twentieth century, we generally think of Communism and Nazism. But how many remember that in 1940, after the Hitler-Stalin pact, and after the fall of France, one power, the British Empire, stood alone in mortal combat against the combined tyrannies of the world.

"Even where the British have merited criticism, as in Ireland, there is more to the imperial story. During negotiations to create the Irish Republic, for instance, British Prime Minister David Lloyd George, who could speak Welsh, reminded the Irish nationalist and Gaelic extremist Eamon de Valera that the Celts never had a word for 'republic.' It was an idea given to them by the English.

"This is our own history, too. If you love America, you should also love the power that gave us our sense of inalienable rights - rights traceable back to Magna Carta. It all started in America with the British Empire, a great, liberty-loving empire. It is the empire's legacy - the English-speaking world - that remains the great global guardian of freedom today."

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

The Iraqi Kurdish Independence Referendum

Kurdish warlords plot independence course to fill the ISIS vacuum, The Economist/The Australian, 25/9/17:

"As the jihadists of the so-called Islamic State retreat, the Arab and Kurdish forces allied against it in Iraq are turning their arms towards each other.

"Rather than celebrate victory, Masoud Barzani, the President of Iraqi Kurdistan, called a referendum on independence for today, not just in his constitutionally recognised autonomous zone but in the vast tracts that his forces seized from Islamic State. Protesting against this threat to Iraq's integrity, Iraq's Prime Minster Haider al-Abadi gathered his commanders at Makhmour, opposite the Kurdish front lines. If the referendum went ahead, Kurdistan 'might disappear', he warned. Hoping to prevent to prevent their allies from sparring, Western mediators have stepped in. But yesterday Barzani remained committed to his referendum.

"Kurdistan is far from ready for statehood. The government is steeped in debt; its coffers are empty. The Peshmerga, its vaunted fighting force, is split among family-led factions.

"Barzani, for his part, has made a mockery of the political system. In 2015 he shut parliament after it tried to limit his powers and questioned how he spends oil revenues. Instead of dealing with the region's ills ahead of parliamentary and presidential elections planned for November, he has used the referendum to distract the public and rouse nationalist fervour. Rallies across Kurdistan feature fireworks and fiery rhetoric. 'Whatever it takes (to gain independence),' says a normally cool-headed official at a rally. A toll of half a million dead, he suggests, could be acceptable.

"Neighbours around the enclave are uniting against the Kurds. Iraqi politicians speak of closing its airspace. Fearing that the referendum will stir separatists sentiments among their own Kurds, Turkey and Iran have mulled closing their borders with Iraqi Kurdistan. Turkey is conducting military exercises on the frontier. It could turn off the tap of the territory's only pipeline, blocking its oil exports. Western powers are also threatening to withhold aid to Kurdistan if Barzani rejects their proposals.They are offering Barzani and Abadi a room in the US embassy to negotiate a deal under their auspices. Abadi might endorse a process that buys him time. Barzani is still hoping for a path to independence.

"Many Kurds, for now at least, would prefer their leaders focus on improving Kurdistan rather than seceding. Even in the Kurdish capital, Irbil, the referendum has left many nonplussed. As the threat of a siege mounts - Kurdistan imports almost everything - people are stockpiling basics. Flights out of Irbil are packed. But many are feeling squeezed financially. The referendum is 'a luxury only the rich like Barzani can afford,' complains a teacher, who moonlights as a taxi driver because of cuts to salaries. Beyond Barzani's strongholds the campaign for independence has begun belatedly, if at all. In a straw poll in the main market of Sulaymaniyah, in the east, your correspondent could not find one Kurd who said he would vote.

"In the Nineveh Plains, where an earthen wall splits the Arab- and Kurdish-ruled areas, other minorities view the referendum as an impossible loyalty test. 'Each side is forcing us to choose when we should just abstain,' says a priest at St Joseph's, a towering Chaldean church that serves displaced Christians in Irbil. Abadi is planning a conference for Christians to air their grievances at the end of the month. Barzani is urging priests not to go.

"The tensions are also affecting Kurds beyond Kurdistan. Under Saddam Hussein, Baghdad was Iraq's largest Kurdish city. Many Kurds have since drifted north, but hundreds still hold positions in the government and the army. Their loyalty has been questioned and jobs put at risk.

"If violence flares, Kirkuk may be where it starts. The fighting could spread quickly along the region's ethnic faultlines into Syria, where Arab and Kurdish forces are also competing to take land from Islamic State.

"Even if the referendum passes, Barzani is not obliged to declare independence. A deal might better serve his interests. Right now, he risks ignominy if the exuberance of statehood that he has stoked should dissipate, and his people flee a failed and besieged state. With an accord, he could boast of at least bringing evasive Iraqi officials to the table. He might yet win their agreement to restore the old subsidy for the Kurds that was cut when they began selling Kirkuk's plentiful oil independently. And he might add the Peshmerga to the Iraqi government's payroll, as was done for the Shia militias. He would thus alleviate Kurdish fears of being marginalised, having served their purpose in fighting Islamic State.

"Come the election in November, Western powers are likely to turn a blind eye if the ballot is again postponed. If so, Barzani could thus secure his position as Kurdistan's preeminent warlord, and prolong his one-man rule."

Monday, September 25, 2017

That Was Then. This Is Now

Compare and contrast:

"His Majesty's Government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people... it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine... " Balfour Declaration, November 2, 1917

"Over 50 Christian and Muslim sites have been vandalized in Israel and the West Bank since 2009, but only 9 indictments have been filed and only 7 convictions handed down, according to Public Security Ministry data. Moreover, only 8 of the 53 cases are still under investigation, with the other 45 all closed." (53 mosques & churches vandalized in Israel since 2009, Yotan Berger & Nir Hasson, Haaretz, 24/9/17)

Saturday, September 23, 2017

The Joy of British Imperialism

What a damning indictment of little britain this finding is:

"The British public are generally proud of their country's role in colonialism and the British Empire, according to a new poll. At its height in 1922 the British Empire governed a fifth of the world's population and a quarter of the world's total land area... YouGov found 44% were proud of Britain's history of colonialism while only 21% regretted that it happened. 23% held neither view... The British Empire is not widely taught in detail in British schools, with history lessons tending to focus on other areas." (British people are generally proud of their country's role in colonialism and the British Empire, poll finds, Jon Stone,, 19/1/16)

Trawling through the 320 comments which follow the report, it is safe to assume that the vast majority of little brits wouldn't even know the Balfour Declaration if it hit them in the face. Staggeringly, only one mentioned Palestine, Britain's worst ever colonial crime, and even then referred to it as 'Israel'.

Some examples of the abysmal ignorance of little brits on the subject of British colonialism in general, and the Middle East in particular, are as follows. The first borders on Trumpian parody:

"British Empire. Fantastic. Winners. Changed the world for the better. And made a fortune while doing it. No sitting idle on benefits for them. Technology, the law, exploration - the Brits were at the forefront. But nice to see so many comments from the heirs of so many losers. Obviously not exterminated. Clearly no genocide. To cap it all, the British were thoroughly nice too, freely handing back countries when the natives had gained some modicum of civility. Best Empire ever." (ScottishDanno)

As for the Middle East:

"The Middle East, to it's (sic) benefit would be seeing the rule of secular law right now rather than the vicious rule of religion." (PGwood)

Simple-minded PGwood is obviously blissfully unaware that his country was single-handedly responsible for transforming unsuspecting multi-sectarian Ottoman Palestine into the viciously mono-sectarian Jewish state of Israel.

The only response to PGwood, from NK, missed the opportunity to point this out, asking merely "Why would you want Britain to meddle in how people run their own countries? If reform is to take place there then let it happen from within. Look at the mess in Iraq and Syria right now because of British and US meddling."

PGwood, clearly oblivious to the fact that the Middle East isn't 'next door' to Britain, replied, apropos of nothing: "If your neighbour is throwing rocks at his wife, do you say something about it. or not?"

Coming closer to Britain's meddling in the Middle East, but nonetheless maddeningly vague, is this effort:

"Those getting all misty-eyed about colonialism would to well to reflect on its enduring legacy. No, not cricket and railway networks but the mess that is now the Middle East and North Africa and the human wave that is only starting to rebound on Europe. Empire is (sic) a very long embrace indeed." (lastflightout)

To which came this blame-it-all-on-the-French, blatantly racist reply:

"It didn't endure. It has no legacy. And actually, the Middle Eastern and African countries with most problems seem to have been French, not British. Regardless, when the civilised Europeans left, the natives returned to their brutal, savage and backward ways." (Brad_Humberside)

Which in turn elicited the following rejoinders: "Saudi Arabia? Israel? Yes? Would you like to have another go at defending British barbarism?" (Kay Parlay); "'civilised Europeans' - yes, so civilised they didn't know to wash their behinds after defecating, or wash their hands after that before eating." (adamcrossphoto)

But back to the "problems" of the Middle East. We've already had Brad_Humberside pointing the finger at the French, now we've got this genius blaming the Ottoman Empire:

"The middle east problems were as much caused by the collapse of Ottoman power (only partially nudged over the line by the British and French) and the ungainly carve up afterwards. Not the Empires finest moment maybe but you can only ever deal with the problems in front of you at the time." (RevCr)

Only partially NUDGED over the line!!!??? But let's focus on "the problems in front of you," shall we?

There was, in fact, no problem for the British and French to deal with in the Middle East during World War I or immediately thereafter. Rather, these two imperialist bovver boys created problems for the people of the Middle East:

Britain, for example, who had promised her Arab allies independence in the 1915 McMahon Treaty, betrayed them by agreeing to divide the Arab world between themselves and the French in the 1916 Sykes-Picot Agreement. It then went on to compound that treachery by supporting, in the 1917 Balfour Declaration, the establishment of a Jewish national home in Palestine, thus creating the Palestine problem where before there had been no such problem.

Friday, September 22, 2017

The One Subject On Which All US Presidents Agree...

... and why.

Remember, as you read the following 'Who'd-have-thought,' that its author, Aaron David Miller (Public Policy Scholar, Woodrow Wilson Center), believes that the presidency, not the Israel lobby, is the decisive force in US Middle East policy. Hence his surprise at the enduring nature of the Trump/Netanyahu bromance:

"A year ago... I predicted that it would only be only a matter of time before US President Donald Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would be annoying the hell out of one another, and that anyone who believed that Trumpland would produce a dramatic improvement in the US-Israeli relationship ought to lie down and wait quietly until the feeling passed... Clearly... I've been dead wrong. As Netanyahu and Trump met Monday at the United Nations General Assembly for the third time in the president's first eight months - a first in the history of US-Israeli relations - even I'm a little stunned by how the relationship has blossomed seemingly without serious disruption and complication. So where did I wander off the highway? And what, if anything, might change in what appears to be not just an extended honeymoon but a pretty happy marriage?" (Mea culpa: I said Trump & Bibi would blow up,, 18/9/17)

Back in the wake of the 2007 publication of Mearsheimer & Walt's groundbreaking study, The Israel Lobby & US Foreign Policy, Miller insisted in an interview that "the two professors attached far to much importance to the influence of the pro-Israeli community [Miller's euphemism for Israel lobby] as a force in America's Middle East policy," that "when presidents lead... lobbies almost always will follow," and that, "in the case of Arab-Israeli peacemaking... lobbies don't carry the day." (Debate over controversial 'Israel Lobby' continues,, 20/9/07)

In light of his 'Oh-what-a-surprise' Foreign Policy piece, I'd remind Miller's of the following words of Mearsheimer & Walt's (taken from the introduction to the book Miller dismissed, in the above interview, with these words: "I'm not sure I would describe the book as a thoroughly important one."):

"America is about to enter a presidential election year... The candidates will inevitably differ on various domestic issues - health care, abortion, gay marriage, taxes, education, immigration - and spirited debates are certain to erupt on a host of foreign policy questions as well... Yet on one subject, we can be equally confident that the candidates will speak with one voice. In 2008, as in previous election years, serious candidates for the highest office in the land will go to considerable lengths to express their deep personal commitment to one foreign country - Israel - as well as their determination to maintain unyielding US support for the Jewish state. Each candidate will emphasize that he or she fully appreciates the multitude of threats facing Israel and make it clear that, if elected, the United States will remain firmly committed to defending Israel's interests under any and all circumstances. None of the candidates is likely to criticize Israel in any significant way or suggest that the United States ought to pursue a more evenhanded policy in the region. Any who do will probably fall by the wayside." (p 3)

And why is this so?:

"The real reason why American politicians are so deferential is the political power of the Israel lobby." (p 5)

So much for presidents leading and lobbies  - Miller can't even bring himself to say 'Israel lobby' - following.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

When Rudd Went Rogue...

Ever dreamt of having the POWER & INFLUENCE to put words into a politician's mouth? Read on:

"Five days later I [John Lyons] was in Cairo, covering a visit by Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd. At a news conference, he spoke about his desire for Iran to agree the regular international inspections of its nuclear facilities. An Egyptian journalist asked: if Iran and other nations had to agree to inspections, why shouldn't Israel? Rudd remarked that he could not dispute the logic, and agreed that all countries with nuclear weapons should have to submit to regular inspections.

"My ears pricked up. I knew Israel preferred that nobody even referred to their nuclear weapons, let alone talked about inspections...

"So after the news conference I asked Rudd if he could elaborate on his comments. He told me: 'Our view has been consistent for a long period of time, and that is that all States in the region should adhere to the NPT [Non-Proliferation Treaty], and that includes Israel. And therefore their nuclear facility should be subject to IAEA [International Atomic Energy Agency] inspection.'

"Soon afterwards, Rudd was a guest at one of Albert Dadon's banquets at the King David Hotel in Jerusalem... The evening had been going calmly... when the mood in the room suddenly changed. An unwelcome guest had just arrived at the banquet courtesy of the Internet. My interview with Kevin Rudd in which he declared that Israel should not be exempt from international inspections had just been published online. People were standing looking at their phones and reading the story. The anger started bouncing off the walls.

"Sylvie came over to me: 'That man over there is telling people that you've verballed Kevin Rudd in your interview!'

"'That man' was Yuval Rotem, Israel's Ambassador to Australia - who had travelled to Jerusalem for that trip...

"By now it was fair to say I was pretty fired up. So often people instinctively blame the messenger if they don't like what someone has said. And so I went looking for Rotem. 'Ambassador, I hear you are telling people that Kevin Rudd did not make those comments about nuclear inspectors.'

"Rotem seemed uncomfortable that I had challenged him. 'Well, no Australian foreign minister has ever said that before,' he answered. 'Why would Kevin Rudd say it?'

"'Don't you think that's a question for you to ask Kevin Rudd?' I resonded. 'There are two tapes of that interview - I have one and Mr Rudd's staff have one. Would you like a copy? And Mr Rudd is just over there... '

"Just then Rudd's chief of staff, Philip Green, walked past. I beckoned him over. 'Philip, Mr Rotem is saying Foreign Minister Rudd never called for international inspectors for Israel's nuclear facilities.'

"'He did,' replied green. 'We have no problem with your story.'

"I then went looking for [Michael] Danby, who was also telling people in the room he doubted the story, and explained the same thing to him. Danby then switched his anger from me to Rudd. 'I'm going to take this up with Andrea Faulkner,' he said, referring to the Australian Ambassador to Israel...

"Now that it was clear that the quotes were not made up, the gates of fury opened against Kevin Rudd. The next morning I saw huddles in the foyer of the King David Hotel as different groups from Dadon's delegation discussed the issue.

"Dadon told me that while theoretically Israel should be under the same regime of inspections as anyone else, in reality they should be exempt. He was going to talk to Rudd and insist that he say at his upcoming press conference with Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman that Israel had 'unique' security circumstances'.

"At the press conference, Lieberman addressed the nuclear issue. 'What is important is not whether any country is a member of the NPT [Non-Proliferation Treaty] but whether it is responsible,' he said. 'Israel does not regard any inspector as necessary, as it is a responsible country, and we have proved this for many years.'

"Then came Rudd's turn to speak. He concentrated more on Iran's situation, saying Australia was deeply concerned about Iran's nuclear program. Then he mentioned Israel. 'We recognise... Israel's unique security circumstances... but in terms of our fundamental position on the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, as it applies to this region... all states should be in, including Israel.'

"And so, while he had restated his position, he had added the words that Dadon told me he had wanted him to add.

"Dadon could not come to the press conference but, knowing that I was going along, telephoned me at home that night. He asked: 'Did Kevin use the phrase 'unique security circumstances?'

"'Yes,' I said.

"'Good.'" (Balcony Over Jerusalem: A Middle East Memoir, 2017, pp 268-71)

For the details as reported at the time, see my 20/12/10 post The Kevin Rudd Road Show 2.

Yet again: BUY THIS BOOK!

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

The Rohingya Nakba

"Amnesty International says it has found evidence of an 'orchestrated campaign of systematic burnings' by Myanmar security forces targeting dozens of Rohingya villages over the past three weeks. The human rights group released a new analysis of video, satellite photos, witness accounts and other data that found more than 80 sites were torched in Myanmar's northern Rakhine State... The UN children's agency estimates about 389,000 people have fled to Bangladesh to escape a military offensive that has been described as ethnic cleansing." (Military burning Rohingya out: Amnesty, The Australian, 16/9/17)

Monday, September 18, 2017

Shout It from the Rooftops!

Could this be the first time in Australian history that the following sentiment has been publicly expressed?:

"For more than 20 years, Australians have read and heard pro-Israel positions from journalists, editors, politicians, trade union leaders, academics and students who have returned from the all-expenses-paid Israel-lobby trips. As someone who has both taken one of these trips when I was the editor of the Sydney Morning Herald and then many years later lived in Israel for six years, I am in a position to compare what one is exposed to on these trips and the truth. In my opinion no editors, journalists or others should take these trips: they grotesquely distort the reality and are dangerous in the sense that they allow people with a very small amount of knowledge to pollute Australian public opinion. Those on the trips return to Australia thinking they have some sort of grasp of the place, but they have spent more time in Tel Aviv's most expensive restaurants and cafes and in settlements than looking at the real crisis behind trying to continue an occupation against another people. The effect of these trips is to shore up opinion behind the hardline pro-settlement elements of Israel politics. They allow Israel to avoid the public backlash that objective reporting of their settlement activity would bring." (Balcony Over Jerusalem: A Middle East Memoir, John Lyons, 2017, p 288)

If you haven't yet purchased a copy of Lyons' book, please, do it NOW!

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Rambamming Works Wonders

John Lyons, former Middle East correspondent for The Australian has reported in his new book that:

"Soon after I arrived in Israel, I asked an Israeli military commander, Lieutenant Colonel Eliezer Toledano, the operations officer for the Israeli Army in the West Bank, whether he regarded the West Bank as 'occupied'. He looked puzzled. I explained that for years the pro-Israel lobby in Melbourne had insisted to me that the West Bank was not 'occupied'. 'If this is not occupied then the media has missed one of the biggest stories of your time, our withdrawal from the West Bank,' the commander responded, laughing." (Balcony Over Jerusalem: A Middle East Memoir, 2017, p 279)

The aforementioned "pro-Israel lobby in Melbourne" is, of course, the Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council (AIJAC), organisers of the  'Rambam study visit' to Israel in which Anne Aly and several other federal Labor politicians (Meryl Swanson (NSW), Milton Dick (QLD), Julian Hill (VIC), Steve Georganas (SA) and SA senator Alex Gallacher) participated in March this year.*

Just how successful the visit was in Rambamming home AIJAC's 'not occupied' propaganda line is particularly evident in the report-back responses of Rambamees Meryl Swanson, MP (Paterson, NSW) and Milton Dick (Oxley).

Here's Swanson:

"Like a lot of people, I had watched documentaries and read things and thought, these people [Palestinians] are occupied. I've come home feeling that [view] has somewhat shifted, and that my perspectives are far broader now... I'm now thinking about what I can do in my electorate to form [agricultural] linkages with Israel." (Israel trip empowered MPs, The Australian Jewish News, 4/4/17)

And here's Dick:

"I think terms that are often bandied about - like settlements, occupation, apartheid and the wall - these are all easy catchphrases and cliches to use, and often there isn't a counterbalance given to a lot of those arguments." (ibid)

[*For the record, in addition to the above flock of Labor sheep, AIJAC was also shepherding around, at the same time, a flock of their Liberal counterparts: Tony Pasin (SA) ("Sadly... too much of what we read [in newspapers] is written through a villain and victim prism, and not through the prism of peace."), Nicole Flint (SA), Andrew Hastie (WA), Andrew Wallace (QLD) and SA state shadow minister Corey Wingard.]

Friday, September 15, 2017

Kissing Cousins

Australia's first female Muslim MP, Labor's Anne Aly (Cowan, WA), went on a study tour of Israel in March this year. Apparently, so overwhelmed was she that she's only just now gotten around to unburdening herself on the subject at an Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council (AIJAC) debriefing in Perth:

"When the opportunity came to visit Israel, I was grateful because I needed to have the experience. I needed to go and see for myself... to actually experience what it was like in Israel rather than fit into some kind of position I should take on any of the issues... I really wanted to formulate my own opinion through my own experience, because nothing replaces the experience of actually being somewhere and having that experience of being there." (WA MP talks of her visit to Israel,, 14/9/17)

Ah, the politician's lot. That email/phone call. That knock on the door. What could it portend? Well, blow me down if it isn't an opportunity to visit Israel.

And what a wonderful opportunity that is! Just imagine, you not only get to formulate your own opinion of the Palestine/Israel shindig through your own experience, but have attentive Israel lobbyists on hand to decide where you go and who you speak to, and afterwards whisk you off to all the best eateries in the land. You'd be silly to pass it up, eh?

As it happens, Aly, who had arrived in Australia at the tender age of two, recalled the words of her mother:

"Growing up... my mother always called Jewish people our cousins. Always called Israelis our cousins."

Cousins, eh? Not so much a rambamming as a family visit! (After all, isn't MUM the word?) And, hey, doesn't Mrs Aly's homely maternal wisdom put the wars of 1948, 1956, 1967 and 1973 in a whole new light? Mere family tiffs! And all praise to cuz Anwar for kissing and making up with cuz Menachem at the White House in 1979, cuz since then it's been kissing cousins all the way.

The despair over the Palestine/Israel contretemps that had apparently dogged Ms Aly for all of her 49 years disappeared, I'm pleased to hear, in an instant:

"It's really easy to get caught up in the kind of despair of you know 40 or 50 years of no resolution, but what I saw, what I saw was inspiration. What I saw was people who want to live in peace... "

No, nothing even vaguely resembling a brutal OCCUPATION - just smiling, welcoming Israeli cousins, all apparently cooing 'Shalom ilaykum, cuz' at Ms Aly.

Of course, once blinded by anti-Israel propaganda, she could now see that Mum was right all along:

"The only exposure that I really ever had to the whole Palestine-Israel question was with propaganda. We really need to be vigilant against that, and particularly we need to be vigilant against propagandising the situation to be about Muslim versus Jew. It's not about Muslims versus Jews. Muslims and Jews are cousins."

And the proof in the pudding? Her Israeli cousins tenderly ministering to their fallen-on-hard-times Syrian cousins:

"Dr Aly recalled an emotional encounter at the Ziv hospital in Safed, where Israeli doctors treat victims of the Syrian Civil War. Dr Aly talked about how she became a translator for her fellow MPs [Senator Alex Gallacher, Julian Hill, Steve Georganas, Meryl Swanson and Milton Dick*]. She also reflected on her admiration for the doctors and staff who are treating the injured Syrians."

Now that must've been one, like, almighty emotional encounter for the normally phlegmatic Aly, cuz: "When I was going to the White House people were like, 'Wow you must be so excited to meet Obama' and I was like 'meh'." (Why teenage extremism is personal for Anne Aly, Rachel Olding, Sydney Morning Herald, 12/2/16)

[*I'll deal with these rambammed non-relatives in my next post.]

Thursday, September 14, 2017

The Way Forward

"The human rights and Palestine solidarity organization, BDS South Africa, welcomes the calling-off of the Africa-Israel Summit which was meant to take place in Togo next month. The decision comes following several boycott threats. This is welcomed as good news by human rights organisations and the global BDS movement which has called for the isolation of Israel over its human rights abuses and violations of international law... Last month it was reported that several countries, including South Africa, were planning to boycott the summit. South African Ambassador Sean Benfeldt explained that South Africa will not take part because the summit was viewed as a step by Israel to normalize relations between Africa and an 'occupation state.' In addition, the head of International Relations for South Africa's governing ANC party, Minister Edna Molewa, is quoted as saying on the issue: 'We cannot turn a blind eye to Israeli efforts to galvanise support from Africa and elsewhere, with a view to undermining the Palestinian cause.' BDS South Africa welcomes the decision and commends South Africa and other African states who were to boycott the summit. However, our governments must continue to resist all Israeli attempts to influence, corrupt or weaken our solidarity with the Palestinians - including attempts, in contradiction to our policies, by some within our own Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO). The Palestinians were a people that supported us during the darkest days of Apartheid, while Isreal, we painfully remember, was supplying arms to the Apartheid government." (BDS South Africa Press Statement: Israel-Africa Summit called off following boycott threats, 11/9/17)

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Avnery Takes Us For a Ride

In support of the contention that age doesn't automatically confer wisdom, I offer the following reflection by birthday boy, Uri Avnery:

"The Arabs were here before we arrived... I still believe that the early Zionists made a terrible mistake when they did not try to combine their aspirations with the hopes of the Palestinian population. Realpolitik told them to embrace their Turkish oppressors instead. Sad. The best description of the conflict was given by the historian Isaac Deutscher: a man lives in an upper floor of a house that catches fire. In desperation the man jumps out of the window and lands on a passerby down below, who is grievously injured and becomes an invalid. Between the two, there erupts a deadly conflict. Who is right?" (A confession: Uri Avnery turns 93,, 8/9/17)

The first 3 sentences indicate either that Avnery has no real understanding of the settler-colonial nature of the Zionist movement or, more likely, is merely having a lend of us. Beyond sad.

Given its settler-colonial nature, at no stage in its history could the Zionist movement have given any serious thought to "combining their aspirations with the hopes of the Palestinian population."

Just to drive home the point, let me quote from an early Zionist document which a reader of this blog kindly referred me to recently. The author of Our Program, Menachem Ussishkin, Secretary of the First Zionist Congress (1897) and head of the Jewish National Fund (JNF) from 1923 until 1941, wrote in 1904:

"In order to create... a Jewish state in Palestine, it is above all necessary that the whole soil of Palestine... should be in the possession of Jews... But how is land obtained in any country? Only in one of the following three ways: by force, that is, by depriving the possessor of his property by violent means; by forced sale, that is, by expropriation (the taking of private property for public purposes) by the state; or by voluntary sale. Which of these three means is applicable in Palestine? The first is entirely excluded. For that we are too weak... "

Not excluded, mind you, because it was morally repugnant, but excluded because the Zionist movement had yet to take up arms and ethnically cleanse Palestine. Ussishkin, btw, would go on, in 1936, to advocate that the Palestinian Arabs be transferred to Iraq.

As for Avnery's "best description of the conflict [with the Palestinians]," Deutscher's fable of the falling man, see Christopher Hitchens' demolition job on that, quoted in my 27/2/14 post George Brandis, 'Hitch 22' and Some Burning Questions.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

What an Inspiration She Is!

"The Australian government encourages the people of Africa to see us as an open-cut mine for lessons learned, for skills, for innovation and, I would like to think, inspiration." - Julie Bishop quoted in Australians ripping $40b out of Africa, Eryk Bagshaw, The Sun-Herald, 10/9/17)

Monday, September 11, 2017

Innocent Bystander in Tough Neighbourhood...

... just drops in to say hello:

"Israeli jets flew low over the city of Saida in southern Lebanon in southern Lebanon on Sunday causing sonic booms that broke windows and shook buildings... " (Israeli jets break sound barrier in south Lebanon causing damage,, 10/9/17)

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Phillip Adams: Normalising Zionism

More muddying of the Palestine/Israel waters by the ABC's Philip Adams:

"We are all, each and every one of us, dual citizens... Just as Muslims pray to Mecca, Australia's Roman Catholics are, in a real sense, dual citizens of Australia and Vatican city. Australian Jews, from the Orthodox to the secular, have a form of dual citizenship with Israel. All diaspora cultures are powerfully connected to the cultures that gave them birth... " (Layers of loyalties, The Weekend Australian Magazine, 9/9/17)

Let's get this straight.

Australian Muslims have no designs on Mecca. They merely face it when praying, and, on occasion, visit as pilgrims.

Australia's Roman Catholics acknowledge the Pope as their spiritual leader. For historical reasons, he just happens to reside in the Vatican.

While Israeli Jews resident in Australia may be said to constitute an Israeli diaspora,  Australian Jews, in general (whether born overseas or in Australia), have no diasporic connection whatever with Israel.

Just because political Zionism pushes the fantasy that all Jews, no matter their ethnicity, origin, or current citizenship, constitute a 'people/nation', and that the Zionist entity known as Israel is the 'national home' of this alleged 'people/nation' does not make it so.

And just because successive governments of this entity have sought to con Jews into emigrating there by legislating an apartheid 'Law of Return' (1950), granting anyone who can demonstrate a biological connection with a Jewish woman automatic citizenship rights, does not mean that Australian Jews are bound by it or have to take it seriously.

Suffice it to say that it is precisely the most ardent Zionists in Australia's Jewish community - Colin Rubenstein, Vic Alhadeff, Michael Danby et al - who never take advantage of this "form of dual citizenship," as Adams puts it, and emigrate to Israel.

The only genuine diaspora associated with the usurping Zionist entity is the Palestinian Arab diaspora. But you'll never hear about that from Adams.

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Things That Go Bump in the Night

Zionists and their fellow-travellers (think here of Turnbull/Shorten, for example) are always banging on about Israel's alleged lack of security. They discourse endlessly about its need for 'secure borders,' 'security fences,' and about 'living in a tough neighbourhood.'

All bullshit, of course, designed to mask a genocidal reality.

The simple fact of the matter is that ever since the predatory, European settler-colonial movement known as Zionism was introduced into historic Palestine by the British after World War I, it has turned the lives of its indigenous Arab population into a living hell of insecurity and fear.

When next you hear a Zionist droning on about Israel's alleged need for security, spare a thought for the utterly defenceless inhabitants of the tiny West Bank village of Umm al-Kheir:

"Spent the last two days at Umm al-Kheir, a Bedouin village in the South Hebron Hills, enjoying the wonderful hospitality, generosity, and loving kindness. This was not my first trip there. And as much as I hate to say it, as with most things in Palestine, things are so much worse than my last visit. The illegal colonial settlement of Carmel belonging to the entity called Israel surrounds the village on almost every side. Some of the tents and housing units are less than 20 feet from the 'security fence'. Housing units in the illegal settlement have increased and more are being built, with plans to take more of the land owned by the village to continue expansion.

"The villagers sit day after day waiting for the illegal occupation soldiers to come with their bulldozers to demolish more of their housing. People speak openly about their discouragement for their future but still stand steadfast, [saying] that they will not be moved or defeated. Our tent was one of those closest to the fence and for two nights we sat up most of the night while Zionists threw stones over the fence at the tent or at anything that appeared to move. The village leader says the violence is increasing all the time and fears that one of these nights something much worse than stones will be thrown. Fortunately, no one was hurt (physically) the past two nights but there was little or no sleep for us or any of the men of the village who sat up keeping an open eye and ear to try to spot the thugs doing this. The commotion would wake up many of the villagers and you could hear the crying of many frightened small children throughout the night.

"This is an every night occurrence and everyone is exhausted, all of the time, and can only catch a few hours of sleep after sunrise. Phone calls to the police of the entity called Israel Police as well as the Palestinian Authority Police are a waste of time. No one will respond to the calls for help to make the settler violence stop. Many Internationals, such as ourselves, go for a few nights (when we have the people to do so) to help with a protective presence but it doesn't stop the ever-increasing settler violence. The Bedouin are a very peaceful people and are committed to nonviolence but they are called terrorists by the Zionists and most of the Zionist-supporting governments of the world (such as the United States). More International presence is needed, and more of the world needs to know the truth." (Two nights in Umm al-Kheir: a journal,, 5/9/17)

Friday, September 8, 2017

Israeli Pot to North Korean Kettle

You'd think a UN-defiant, nuclear-armed, apartheid state would simply STFU, but nooo:

"Israel condemned on Monday the hydrogen bomb test carried out by North Korea on Sunday, saying the test 'is a continuation of the defiant conduct' of the country. Foreign Ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon said in a statement that 'North Korea must comply with all of the Security Council resolutions and refrain from testing and developing weapons of mass destruction and the means to launch them." (Israel condemns North Korea's nuclear test, calls for 'decisive international reaction', Barak Ravid,, 4/9/17)

Thursday, September 7, 2017

The Refugee Specialists

"Mention any trouble spot in the Third World over the past ten years, and, inevitably, you will find smiling Israeli officers and shiny Israeli weapons on the news pages." (The Israeli Connection: Whom Israel Arms & Why, Benjamin Beit-Hallahmi, 1987, p xii)

"Israel has continued to sell weapons to Myanmar as thousands of Rohingya refugees flee the military's violent crackdown in the Rakhine state. The weapons sold to Myanmar include over 100 tanks, weapons and boats used to police the country's border, according to human rights groups and Burmese officials Israeli arms companies such as TAR Ideal Concepts have also been involved in training Burmese special forces who are currently in the Rakhine state where most of the violence has taken place." (Israel arming Myanmar amid ongoing massacre of the Rohingyas, Areeb Ullah,, 5/9/17)

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

A British Education

Last Monday's Q&A dealt, in part, with the issue of Britain's colonial crimes, particularly in relation to India. Among other things, we learned that discussion of these is absent from Britain's history curriculum:

Tony Jones: I'm just wondering, have young Brits come to terms with their colonial past?
Laurie Penny: No, we haven't at all. Young Brits of every class have no idea about our colonial past. That is being deliberately done. We're deliberately denied or kept away from education about the graphic facts of what the British did around the world, including in this country, to the people of this country. The crimes of the British and the crimes that we've committed and were done in our names, over 400 years of pillage and conquest is something that we don't like to think about. And yet, it is everywhere in modern British history. When people talk about Brexit, it's stunning to me that if you ask British people who voted for Brexit what their major fear is, their fear is people will come to our country and take our things.
Shashi Tharoor: That's exactly right.
Laurie Penny: I just can't... It doesn't compute. We don't know this history. I took history in British schools up to the age of 18. And I got a pretty good grade. And...
Shashi Tharoor: You never learned a line of colonial history, did you?
Laurie Penny: Almost everything you have just said, I learned from your book.*

It should never be forgotten that it was 'Great' Britain's issue of the Balfour Declaration that created the Palestine's Israel problem.

[*Inglorious Empire: What the British Did to India (2017)]

Tuesday, September 5, 2017


The Murdoch press is currently on a Captain Cook binge, with a 5-part series by journalist Trent Dalton, Cook Rediscovered. Today's essay, An Endeavour for the age, contains these words from Cook's journal: "... the natives... did not offer to touch any of our Casks that had been left ashore and in the after noon 16 or 18 of them came boldly up to within 100 yards of our people at the watering place and there made a stand - Mr Hicks who was the officer ashore did all in his power to entice them to him by offering them presents but it was to no purpose all they seem'd to want was for us to be gone... "

Quite. Cook read the Australians' body language correctly.

For these representatives of the original owners of this land, Cook and his men represented only one thing - trouble. They felt it first in their bones, before they felt it, as buckshot, on their bodies.

While they could not, of course, have known at the time of their coming dispossession at the hands of wave after wave of European settlers, their gut instinct told them that no good could possibly come of these invaders, and that only one response was required, namely, BUGGER OFF!

Another, far wordier Briton, the writer G.K. Chesterton, detected, in his fashion, a similar reaction on the part of the indigenous Arab inhabitants of Palestine to invading European Zionists in 1920:

"The Syrians and Arabs and all the agricultural and pastoral populations of Palestine are, rightly or wrongly, alarmed and angered at the advent of Jews to power... I will give one curious example from one of the best and most brilliant of the Zionists. Dr. Weizmann is a man of large mind and human sympathies; and it is difficult to believe that any one with so fine a sense of humanity can be entirely empty of anything like a sense of humour. Yet, in the middle of a very temperate and magnanimous address on 'Zionist Policy,' he can actually say a thing like this: 'The Arabs need us with our knowledge, and our experience and our money. If they do not have us they will fall among sharks.' One is tempted for the moment to doubt whether any one else in the world could have said that, except the Jew with his strange mixture of brilliancy and blindness, of subtlety and simplicity. It is much as if President Wilson were to say, 'Unless America deals with Mexico, it will be dealt with by some modern commercial power, that has trust-magnates and hustling millionaires.' But would President Wilson say it? It is as if the German Chancellor had said, 'We must rush to the rescue of the poor Belgians, or they may be put under some system with militarism and a bullying bureaucracy.' But would even a German Chancellor put it exactly that? Would anybody put it in the the exact order of words and structure of sentence in which Dr. Weizmann has put it?.. If the Zionists wish to quiet the fears of the Arabs, surely the first thing to do is to discover what the Arabs are afraid of. And very little investigation will reveal the simple truth that they are very much afraid of sharks; and that in their book of symbolic or heraldic zoology it is the Jew who is adorned with the dorsal fin and the crescent of cruel teeth... But the case is yet more curious than that. These simple tribes are afraid, not only of the dorsal fin and dental arrangements which Dr. Weizmann may say (with some justice) that he has not got; they are also afraid of the other things which he says he has got. They may be in error, at the first superficial glance, in mistaking a respectable professor for a shark. But they can hardly be mistaken in attributing to the respectable professor what he himself considers as his claims to respect. And as the imagery about the shark may be too metaphorical or almost mythological, there is not the smallest difficulty in stating in plain words what the Arabs fear in the Jews. They fear, in exact terms, their knowledge and their experience and their money. The Arabs fear exactly the three things which he says they need... " (The New Jerusalem (1920), pp 289-291)

Monday, September 4, 2017

Israel: The World's Greatest Gerrymanderer

Israel gets creative to counter its demographic disadvantage (, 31/8/17) is a must-read from Nazareth-based journalist Jonathan Cook:

"Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu offered a crushing rebuke to the perennial optimists roused to hopes of imminent peace by the visit to the Middle East last week of Donald Trump's adviser and son-in-law, Jared Kushner. At an event on Monday in the West Bank celebrating the half centenary of Israeli occupation, Mr Netanyahu effectively admitted that US efforts to revive the peace process would prove another charade. There would be no dismantling of the settlements or eviction of their 600,000 inhabitants - the minimum requirement for a barely feasible Palestinian state. 'We are here to stay forever,' Mr Netanyahu reassured his settler audience. 'We will deepen our roots, build, strength and settle.'

"So where is the Israeli-Palestinian conflict heading if the two state solution is dead? The answer: back to its origins. That will entail another desperate numbers battle against the Palestinians - with Israel preparing to create new categories of 'Jews' so they can be recruited to the fray. Demography was always at the heart of Israeli policy.

"During the 1948 war that founded a Jewish state on the ruins of the Palestinian homeland, 750, 000 Palestinians were expelled in a campaign that today would be termed ethnic cleansing. By the end, a large native Palestinian majority had been reduced to less than a fifth of the new state's population. David Ben Gurion, the country's founding father, was unperturbed. He expected to swamp this rump group with Jews from Europe and the Arab world.

"But the project foundered on two miscalculations.

"First, Ben Gurion had not factored in the Palestinian minority's far higher birth rate. Despite waves of Jewish immigrants, Palestinians have held fast, at 20% of Israel's citizenry. Israel has fought a rear guard battle against them ever since. Studies suggest that the only Israeli affirmative action program for Palestinian citizens is in family planning.

"Israeli demographic scheming was on show again last week.

"An investigation by the Haaretz newspaper found that in recent years, Israel has stripped of citizenship potentially thousands of Bedouin, the country's fastest growing population...

"Meanwhile, another Rubicon was crossed this month when an Israeli court approved revoking the citizenship of a Palestinian convicted of a lethal attack on soldiers. Human rights groups fear that, by rendering him stateless, the Israeli right has established a precedent for conditioning citizenship on 'loyalty.' Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked underlined that very point this week when she warned the country's judges that they must prioritise demography and the state's Jewishness over human rights.

"The second miscalculation arrived in 1967. In seizing the last fragments of historic Palestine but failing to expel most of its inhabitants, Israel made itself responsible for many hundreds of thousands of additional Palestinians, including refugees from the earlier war. The 'demographic demon' as it is often referred to in Israel, was held at bay only by bogus claims for many decades that the occupation would soon end. In 2005, Israel bought a little more breathing space by 'disengaging' from the tiny Gaza enclave and its 1.5 million inhabitants.

"Now, in killing hopes of Palestinian statehood, Mr Netanyahu has made public his intention to realise the one settler state solution. Naftali Bennett, Mr Netanyahu's chief rival in the government, is itching to ignore international sentiment and begin annexing large parts of the West Bank. There is a problem, however. At least half the population in Netanyahu's Greater Israel are Palestinian. And with current birth rates, Jews will soon be an indisputable minority - one ruling over a Palestinian majority.

"That is the context for understanding the report of a government panel - leaked last weekend - that proposes a revolutionary reimagining of who counts as a Jew and therefore qualifies to live in Israel (and the occupied territories).

"Israel's 1950 Law of Return already casts the net wide, revising the traditional rabbinical injunction that a Jew must be born to a Jewish mother. Instead, the law entitles anyone with one Jewish grandparent to instant citizenship. That worked fine as long as Jews were fleeing persecution or economic distress. But since the arrival of one million immigrants following the fall of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s, the pool of new Jews has dried up.

"The United States, even in the Trump era, has proved the bigger magnet. The Jerusalem Post newspaper reported last month that up to one million Israelis may be living there. Worse for Mr Netanyahu, it seems, that at least some are included in Israeli figures to bolster its demographic claims against the Palestinians. Recent trends show that the exodus of Israelis to the US is twice as large as the arrival of American Jews to Israel...

"With a pressing shortage of Jews to defeat the Palestinians demographically, the Netanyahu government is considering a desperate solution. The leaked report suggests opening the doors to a new category of "Jewish" non-Jews. According to Haaretz, potentially millions of people worldwide could qualify. The new status would apply to 'crypto Jews' whose ancestors converted from Judaism; 'emerging Jewish' communities that have adopted Jewish practices; and those claiming to be descended from Jewish 'lost tribes'... "

Sunday, September 3, 2017

My Quarrel with Salman Rushdie

I notice that yesterday's Australian is plugging Salman Rushdie's new anti-Trump novel.

In case you're wondering what laser-like insights into the current American freak show await therein, never forget that Rushdie once dismissed the Palestine problem, on an American talk show, as "a kind of old quarrel." (Seth MacFarlane & Salman Rushdie on Israel, youtube, 2011)

Saturday, September 2, 2017

The Balfour Declaration Centenary: 2 Months to Go

November 2, 1917- November 2, 2017

Article 20 of the Palestinian National Charter (1968):

"The Balfour Declaration, the mandate for Palestine and everything that has been based upon them, are deemed null and void. Claims of historical or religious ties of Jews with Palestine are incompatible with the facts of history and the true conception of what constitutes statehood. Judaism, being a religion, is not an independent nationality. Nor do Jews constitute a single nation with an identity of its own; they are citizens of the states to which they belong."

Friday, September 1, 2017

Sectarian Birds of a Feather

"It was in 1989, soon after the collapse of the Soviet Union, that the Government of India turned in its membership in the Non-Aligned Movement and signed up for membership in the Completely Aligned, often referring to itself as the 'natural ally' of Israel and the United States.* (They have at least this one thing in common, all three are engaged in overt, neocolonial military occupations: India in Kashmir, Israel in Palestine, the United States in Iraq and Afghanistan.) (Listening to Grasshoppers: Field Notes on Democracy, Arundhati Roy, 2009, p 146)

1989, it seems, also saw the birth of India's 'Temple Mount' movement:

"Claims that the [17th century Muslim mausoleum known as the] Taj Mahal is a Hindu temple  have surfaced periodically, either from lone Hindu mavericks, revisionists, or extremist Hindu groups ever since PN Oak, an Indian writer, published his 1989 book Taj Mahal: the True Story, in which he claimed it was built before Muslim invaders came to India. Proponents of this theory resent that its glory belongs to India's Muslim heritage and argue that since some of the Mughal invaders destroyed Hindu temples or converted them into mosques, it follows that the Taj Mahal must have originally been a Hindu structure." (Taj Mahal is Muslim tomb not Hindu temple, Indian court told, Amrit Dhillon,, 30/8/17)

In fact, a group of Hindu lawyers, who claim that the Taj Mahal "had originally been a temple called Tejo Mahalaya dedicated to the Hindu deity Shiva," are currently petitioning the Agra court for the right to perform Hindu prayers at the Taj Mahal.

Sound depressingly familiar?

[*Israel is currently India's chief weapons supplier.]