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, jwire.com, 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, antiwar.com, 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, reuters.com, 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, palsolidarity.org, 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, haaretz.com, 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, mintpressnews.com, 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 (thenational.ae.com, 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, theguardian.com, 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.]