Thursday, April 30, 2009

Same Old, Same Old...

Let's ring in May with a laugh courtesy of this letter by Frank Bonaccorso of Perth in today's The Australian: "I didn't know if I was reading The Australian or The Australia-Israel Review yesterday morning. Everywhere I looked, gushing tributes to a man who admitted to collusion in a cartel that added to the cost of everyday staples for each man, woman and child in Australia. Unlike your editorial writers (Vale Richard Pratt, 29/4), not everyone believes 'he died an honoured figure'. Remember, charges against Pratt were dropped because of his failing health. He was right to surmise, as he told Cameron Stewart (The great enabler, 29/4), that the general public would see him 'as a rich person who made his money doing something that is wrong in the eyes of the law'."

Frank, maaate. You mean you've only just noticed that The Australian and The Australia-Israel Review are one and the same publication?

Bloodless Journalism

Remember Gaza?

Fairfax's Middle East correspondent, Jason Koutsoukis, reports from the killing fields, but it's a compromised and anodyne effort. (Gaza shifts from a state of war to a state of despair, Sydney Morning Herald, 27/4/09) There's virtually no sense of agency in his report: Israel is shielded by the passive voice, and its monstrous brutality toned down: "The borders between [sic: with] Israel and Egypt remain closed to everything but food and medical supplies [more on that in a minute!] and humanitarian aid. And with things like concrete, steel or any other materials needed to rebuild Gaza prohibited from entering, the thousands of homes, offices and public buildings destroyed in Israel's intense bombing campaign remain just piles of rubble."

And of course there's the obligatory 'balancing' act: "A report released last week by the Israel Defence Forces high command said that 1,166 Palestinians were killed during the 3-week campaign. Of those killed, the report said, 709 were members of Hamas or Islamic Jihad, and 295 were confirmed as innocent civilians. The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights, however, said the 22-day offensive resulted in the deaths of 1,417 Palestinians of whom 236 were members of Hamas or other militias, and a further 255 were police officers. Thirteen Israelis were killed."

But there's worse: "An obvious question that springs to mind about Gaza is, 3 months after the end of the Israeli offensive, is life measurably worse for Gaza's 1.5 million citizens? 'A little bit, but not by much', said Hamdan Nimat, a 38-year old father of 4 who was born in the Jabaliya refugee camp, but whose parents were born in Ashkelon, a coastal centre several kilometres north of Gaza now a part of Israel. 'The real truth about life in Gaza is that no one is dying because there is no food', Mr Nimat said. 'Nor is anyone dying because of lack of medicine'." Is this Nimat character for real? I mean really for real? Mr Koutsoukis?

Compare that cosy little assessment to this from Inter Press Service's Mohammed Omer: "Mohammed al-Sheikh Yousef could save his eyesight if only he could cross the border out of Gaza. He was denied a permit by Israel; he got one from Egypt, but not for someone to accompany him. And he can't go on his own, because he cannot see very well. 'If Mohammed does not get out of Gaza for medical treatment within the next 14 days, he may totally lose his eyesight and be blind for life', Dr Mawia Hasaneen, head of the ambulance and emergency service for Gaza hospitals, told IPS in a telephone interview. 'In the past few weeks we have received 150 appeals from people in Gaza who are in need of urgent medical care', says Ron Yaron from Physicians for Human Rights, a human rights group in Israel that campaigns on behalf of Palestinian patients to obtain exit permits for healthcare. 'We submitted 99 applications to the Israeli army on behalf of the patients, but only 15 were approved', Yaron told IPS. 'Israel as the occupying power has primary responsibility for the health of the civilians of Gaza, because it controls the crossings. It should not use the patients as a political tool'. The emergency staff often stand by, helpless spectators to suffering. 'I just received a call from the mother of a 4-year-old child from Jabaliya refugee camp in the north; her son has congestive heart failure and respiratory distress', said Dr Hasaneen. 'As an official I can't stand to watch her child dying simply because medical treatment is not available in Gaza and the borders are closed'. But he has no option but to do just that. The al-Mezan Center for Human Rights, based in Gaza, says that at least 41 Gazans died last year of causes that can be attributed to the collapse of the medical referral process. Currently, it says the condition of hundreds of Gazans is deteriorating rapidly. For Gazans, what happens at the border crossings can make the difference between life and death. Medicines for many easily treated diseases sit across the Rafah crossing with Egypt or the Erez crossing into Israel. Patients cannot get across, and most medicines are not allowed in." (Gazans desperate for medical care denied, 28/4/09)

Compare it too with Israeli journalist Gideon Levy's empathy, passion, plain-speaking and eye for detail: "Alyan Abu-Aun is lying in his tent, his crutches beside him. He smokes cigarettes and stares into the tiny tent's empty space. His young son sits on his lap. Ten people are crammed into the tent, about the size of a small room. It has been their home for 3 months. Nothing remains of their previous home, which the Israel Defense forces shelled during Operation Cast Lead. They are refugees for a second time; Abu-Aun's mother still remembers her home in Sumsum, a town that once stood near Ashkelon. Abu-Aun, 53, was wounded while trying to flee when his home in the Gaza town of Beit Lahia was bombed. He has been on crutches ever since. His wife gave birth during the height of the war, and now the baby is with them in the cold tent. The tent was sent flying during the storm that devoured the Gaza Strip on Wednesday, so the family had to put it back up. They received water only occasionally in a container, and a tiny tin shack serves as a bathroom for the 100 families in this new refugee camp, 'Camp Gaza', in Beit Lahia's Al-Atatra neighbourhood. Abu-Aun sounded particularly bitter this past weekend; the Red Cross refused his family a bigger tent. He has also had enough of eating beans."

"For three months, the Abu-Aun family and thousands of other have been living in five tent encampments built after the war. They have not begun clearing away the ruins of their homes, let alone building new ones. Thousands live in the shadow of the ruins of their homes, thousands in tents, thousands crowded together with their relatives, tens of thousands who are newly homeless and whom the world has lost interest in. After the conference of donor countries, which convened to great fanfare in Sharm el-Sheikh a month and a half ago, which included 75 countries and agreed to transfer $1 billion to rebuild Gaza, nothing happened. Gaza is besieged. There are no building materials. Israel and the world are setting conditions, the Palestinians are incapable of forming a unity government, as is needed, the money and concrete are nowehere to be seen and the Abu-Aun family continue to live in a tent. Even the $900 million promised by the United States is stuck in the cash register. It's doubtful whether it will ever be taken out. America's word.

"It's exactly three months since the much-talked-about war, and Gaza is once again forgotten. Israel has never taken an interest in the welfare of its victims. Now the world has forgotten, too. Two weeks with hardly a Qassam rocket has taken Gaza completely off the agenda. If the Gazans don't hurry up and resume firing, nobody will take an interest in their welfare again. Although not new, this is an especially grievous and saddening message liable to spark the next cycle of violence. And then it will be certain they won't get aid because they will be shooting.

"Somebody must assume responsibility for the fate of the Abu-Aun family and other victims of like them. If they had been injured in an earthquake, the world probably would have helped them recover long ago. Even Israel would have quickly dispatched aid convoys from ZAKA, Magen David Adom, even the IDF. But the Abu-Aun family was not injured by a natural disaster, but by hands and flesh and blood, made in Israel, and not for the first time. The response: no compensation, no aid, no rehabilitation. Israel and the world are too preoccupied to rebuild Gaza. They have become speechless. Gaza, remember?" (Gaza, remember? Haaretz, 19/4/09)

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Join the Dots

"A surge in Israeli high-tech investment and the transfer of world-leading military technology is set to be unleashed next year with the expected sealing of a free trade agreement* between Australia and Israel. The signing of the FTA... will signal an even closer defence relationship between the two countries involving high-end robotic technology, smart missiles and unmanned aerial drones - military areas in which Israel is a world leader... Training exchanges involving Australian Defence Force personnel and its Israeli counterpart are likely to be finalised soon, [Yuval Rotem, Israel's ambassador] told The Australian yesterday. Confidential imports from Israel last year consisting of classified defence technology totalled $14 million - a figure projected for fast future growth." (Israel deal to boost defence, Mark Dodd, The Australian, 26/9/07)

[*On this subject, see my 11/4/09 post The Ambassador Reflects... : "There has been less progress than I expected [on a free-trade agreement]. It's still on the table. I know from the Australian point of view there is a desire to see a comprehensive deal..."]

"Kevin Rudd is set to announce Australia's biggest military build-up since World War II, led by a multi-billion-dollar investment in maritime defence, including 100 new F-35 fighters, a doubling of the submarine fleet and powerful new surface warships. The new defence white paper will outline plans for a fundamental shake-up of Australia's defence organisation to ensure that the nation can meet what the Prime Minister sees as a far more challenging and uncertain security outlook in Asia over the next two decades... Mr Rudd said yesterday the delivery of the white paper was proving 'acutely challenging as we work to defend ourselves from the global economic storm'... he told the Australia-Israel Chamber of Commerce." (Revealed: Rudd's defence plans, Patrick Walters, The Australian, 25/4/09)

Rudd also said: "I further acknowledge the great work of the Australia-Israel Chamber of Commerce in hosting today's [24/4] function and in supporting the relationship between Australia and Israel and enabling me to confirm again publicly before you all what I have said throughout my political career that I am a lifelong friend of the State of Israel... Australia cannot support and will not support a document which reaffirms the 2001 Durban Declaration and Program of Action. That 2001 declaration singled out Israel*. The inflammatory remarks of President Ahmadinejad of Iran at the conference are unacceptable and underlined the Australian Government's decision not to attend that conference. The Australian Government condemns the continued campaign of anti-Semitism on behalf of the government of Iran."

[* See my 26/4/09 post Controlling the Terminology. So "singling out Israel" is the reason we dumped on Durban II?!!!]

"New data released today [27/4/09] by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) reveal a significant rise in arms transfers to the Middle East... The United States remains the world's largest exporter of military equipment, accounting for 31% of global arms exports for the period 2004-2008. During this period, 37% of US deliveries went to the Middle East... There were increasing volumes of transfers... to states involved in armed conflict in 2008, such as Afghanistan, Georgia, Israel, Pakistan, Sri Lanka." (Significant rise in arms deliveries to the Middle East, says SIPRI,, 27/4/09)

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

File Under Disinformation

Such is the grip of his obsession with Israel, that Greg (Jerusalem Prize) Sheridan, foreign editor extraordinaire of The Australian, felt compelled to embed the following sentence in an 'opinion piece' otherwise devoted to North Korean missile testing: "Iran's Mahmoud Ahmadinejad responded [to Obama's outstretched hand] with a speech that contemptuously said the Jews control US foreign policy." (Kim's nuclear reaction, 25/4/09) Presumably he meant Ahmadinejad's Durban II speech. (See my 23/4/09 post Australia Dumps on Durban 2) And presumably he meant this particular sentence in that speech: "Was not the military action against Iraq planned by the Zionists and their allies in the then US administration in complicity with the arms manufacturing countries and the possessors of wealth?" File under disinformation.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Controlling the Terminology

"If you can control the terminology of the debate, you can win the debate." Mark Regev, Israeli prime minister's spokesman for international media, in PM spokesman: Naming Gaza op 'Cast Lead' was a PR mistake, Cnaan Lipshiz, Haaretz, 24/4/09.

To understand the virulent Zionist campaign directed against the just-concluded Anti-Racism Review Conference (Durban II), it is first necessary to acquaint oneself with the language used in the 'debate' over Palestine/Israel at The World Conference Against Racism (Durban I) of 2001.

The initial text contained 6 paragraphs dealing with "Zionist racist practices," including an appeal for Israel "to revise its legislation based on racial or religious discrimination such as the law of return and all the policies of an occupying power which prevents the Palestinian refugees and displaced persons from returning to their homes and properties," and a suggestion for the need "to bring the foreign occupation of Jerusalem by Israel, together with all its racist practices to an end." Draft documents had referred to the "increase of racist practices of Zionism and anti-Semitism" and "movements based on racism and discriminatory ideas, in particular the Zionist movement, which is based on racial superiority." To sum up, Israel was correctly fingered as a state which practices racism.

However, after an American and Israeli walkout - and the possiblity of same by Canada and EU countries - the final text was rewritten by conference officials to remove the 'offending' language. (A parallel, but separate, NGO Forum, to its credit, did in fact produce a document describing Israel as a "racist, apartheid state.")

This final text (the Durban Declaration & Program of Action (DDPA), with its bland references to the "plight of the Palestinian people under foreign occupation" and their right to "an independent state," became the focal point for the campaign to boycott Durban II because, despite all references to the Palestine/Israel conflict eventually being dropped from the Durban II draft text, it still reaffirmed the earlier DDPA of Durban I. And so, for no other reason than that of eliminating the DDPA's tokenism, an attempt was made to scuttle the Durban II conference, with Israel (and its overseas lobby groups) orchestrating a boycott by fellow colonial-settler states, the US, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, aided and abetted by former colonial states such as Italy, the Netherlands and Germany. The phony nature of this campaign to control the terminology of the 'debate' was highlighted by Navi Pillay, the UN's High Commissioner for Human Rights, in her final address to the conference:

"I had to face a widespread and highly organized campaign of disinformation. Many people, including Ministers with whom I spoke, told me that the Durban Declaration & Programme of Action (DDPA), which... was agreed by 189 states at the original World Conference Against Racism in 2001, was anti-Semitic, and it was clear that they had either not bothered to read what it actually said, or they were putting a cast on it that was, to say the least, decidedly exaggerated. Many others have labelled the entire Durban process a 'hate fest'... [T]his is hyperbole... a gross exaggeration. But it is everywhere on the Internet. And, I'm sorry to say, in many mainline newspapers, who, incidentally, declined many op-eds that I sent to them... If people actually read the DDPA, they would have realised that it includes a paragraph which says that 'the Holocaust should never be forgotten'. It includes two paragraphs that denounce 'anti-Semitism and Islamophobia', one paragraph which mentions the suffering of the Palestinians, their right of self-determination and the security of all states, including Israel, and two paragraphs calling for peace. That's all there is on the Middle East. And I could not get these corrections published in some important newspapers, particularly in the US, who used the word 'hate fest' without checking these paragraphs... Because of this campaign that was so determined to kill the conference, some countries decided to boycott it, although a few days earlier they had actually agreed on what is now the final text. I consider this bizarre. You agree on the text on Friday evening, and walk out on Sunday..."

The repeal, in 1991, of General Assembly Resolution 3379 (1975) equating Zionism with racism ("Zionism is a form of racism and racial discrimination"), following a successful number-crunching campaign by the Bush I and Israeli governments, was an important, initial step in Israel's efforts to gain control over the terminology of the 'debate'. Thirty-four years later, it seems that for the UN to so much as hint that Palestinians are living under "foreign occupation" is enough to trigger the kind of "bizarre" spectacle referred to by Navi Pillay.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Selling Lieberman 2

How The Australian's foreign editor spins Israel's foreign minister:-

"Over the next year or two, probably for as long as it stays in office, there will be a sustained effort to demonise the Israeli Government of Benjamin Netanyahu. The speech last week by Netanyahu's Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, in which he explicitly supported a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian dispute [!] but was reported as if he had said the opposite, is a case in point." (Israeli leaders mislabelled by foes*, Greg (Jerusalem Prize) Sheridan, 9/4/09)

And what Lieberman actually says:-

"The international community has to 'stop speaking in slogans' if it really wants to help the new Israeli government work toward a solution to the Palestinian conflict... Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman told The Jerusalem Post on Thursday... 'Over the last two weeks I've had many conversations with my colleagues around the world', he said... 'And everybody, you know, speaks with you like you're in a campaign: Occupation, settlements, settlers...' Slogans like these, and others Lieberman cited, such as 'land for peace' and 'two-state solution', were both overly simplistic and ignored the root causes of the ongoing conflict, he said... The path forward, he said, lay in ensuring security for Israel, an improved economy for the Palestinians, and stability for both. 'Economy, security, stability', he repeated. 'It's impossible to artificially impose any political solution. It will fail, for sure. You cannot start any peace process from nothing. You must create the right situation, the right focus, the right conditions'." ('World leaders must drop their slogans', David Horovitz, 24/4/09)

[*See my earlier post on the Sheridan/Lieberman love-in: Selling Lieberman, 15/4/09]

Friday, April 24, 2009

The Cunning Little Devil!

The absolute all-time favourite pastime of Zionist propagandists is finger-pointing. It's a variation on the obnoxious little bugger in the classroom who, when caught out for some misdemeanour by his teacher, invariably accuses the teacher of picking on him, denies he was doing anything, and alleges, contradicting himself, that so-and-so elsewhere was doing it too. A beautiful example of same appeared - where else? - on the opinion page of The Australian of 22/4/09. The heading read:

Outrage reserved for Israel: Why do Muslim countries care so much more about Palestine than Chechnya, asks Brett Stephens The Wall Street Journal

And, without even reading it, you knew exactly where Stephens was coming from: "I have a hypothesis. Maybe the world attends to Palestinian grievances [or "alleged mistreatment of Palestinians," as Sheridan has it] but not to Chechen ones for the sole reason that Palestinians are, uniquely, the perceived [!] victims of the Jewish state." You can see it in your mind's eye, can't you? That obnoxious little Stephens brat screaming at his teacher: You're always picking on me! And that finger, that bloody little, snot-covered finger, pointing straight at a group of his classmates sniggering away down the back of the room.

But, credit where credit's due. Young Stephens has grown up (well, sort of) and provided us, in the above sentence, with the key to the liberation of Tibet, no less! Now, if only we could get the Chinese to contract out their occupation of Tibet to the experts of the Israel Occupation Forces (IOF), then "maybe the world would attend to Tibetan grievances."

But hang on! There's more to that title than meets the eye. Why do Muslim countries care so much more about Palestine... ? As in, why does Uzbekistan (or Kosovo or even Chechnya) care so much more about Palestine... ? Stephens is pulling a swiftie here. Because if we substituted Arab for Muslim, then the answer would be obvious: Arab countries care more about Palestine than Chechnya because Palestinians are fellow Arabs. But that simple answer wouldn't lend itself to Stephens' enduring proclivity to finger-point, now would it? Some things never change. The cunning little devil!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Australia Dumps on Durban 2

Let's first get 'Adolf' Ahmedinejad's speech at Durban II out of the way. Yesterday's Murdoch fishwrapper predictably called the Iranian president's rather unremarkable speech an "anti-Semitic tirade." (UN Integrity Damaged: Australia was right to have no part of Durban II, The Australian, 22/4/09)

Now, whether you love him or loathe him is irrelevant. Is his speech "anti-Semitic" as alleged? Let's take a look at some of the wording:

"Following World War II, [a number of powerful countries/the UN Security Council] resorted to military aggression to make an entire nation homeless under the pretext of Jewish suffering and they sent migrants from Europe, the United States and other parts of the world in order to establish a totally racist government in occupied Palestine. And, in fact, in compensation for the dire consequences of racism in Europe, they helped bring to power the most cruel and repressive racist regime in Palestine."

It would be more accurate to say that such powerful countries as Britain and the United States were instrumental in enabling Zionist forces to ethnically cleanse Palestine in 1948, and that the suffering of European Jewry at the hands of the Nazis provided a pretext for same. However, that the ethnic cleansing was motivated by the desire to achieve a Jewish majority in what had been, up to that point, a non-Jewish majority land, and that this makes it an inherently racist endeavour, is incontestable and cannot be smeared as anti-Semitism.

"The Security Council helped stabilize the occupying regime and supported it in the last 60 years, giving them a free hand to commit all sorts of atrocities. It is all the more regrettable that a number of Western governments and the United States have committed themselves to defending those racist perpetrators of genocide while the awakened-conscience and free-minded people of the world condemn aggression, brutalities and the bombardment of civilians in Gaza. The supporters of Israel have always been either supportive or silent against the crimes."

Pointing out that Israel has received disproportionate support from former and current imperial powers is hardly anti-Semitic. Nor can accusing it of genocide* be so described.

[*Article II of the Genocide Convention defines this crime as "any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial or religious group" by "(a) Killing members of the group; (b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group; (c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part..."]

"World Zionism personifies racism that falsely resorts to religions and abuses religious sentiments to hide its hatred and ugly face."

Israel promotes itself as a Jewish state, representing not simply its own citizens, but Jews the world over. It also works assiduously to conflate the faith of Judaism with its Zionist political program. Recognising this is hardly the stuff of anti-Semitism.

Yet another Zionist beat-up from the self-styled Heart of the Nation.

In today's Durban II beat-up, however, we actually get the drum on the toings & froings of our foreign minister, Stephen Smith. (See my 20/4/09 post Australia Dumps on Durban.) Foreign editor Greg (Jerusalem Prize) Sheridan begins his usual Zionist tirade by banging on ludicrously about that "vile and hateful anti-Semitic jamboree" Durban I of 2001: "Israel was demonised not just for its alleged mistreatment of Palestinians in the occupied territories but uniquely as a racist state. The very idea of Zionism - a Jewish state in the Middle East was denounced as racist." (Boycott is a triumph of principle over hate)

For some perspective, here's what Durban I's Declaration & Program of Action (DPA) actually said about the Palestinians: "We are concerned about the plight of the Palestinian people under foreign occupation. We recognize the inalienable right of the Palestinian people to self-determination and to the establishment of an independent state" (Article 63); "We call for a just, comprehensive and lasting peace in the region" (Article 64). The Palestinians were also included on a list of "Victims of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerence." Even the Holocaust got a mention. OK, so Sheridan gets it wrong yet again - surprise, surprise. But there is some gold in his propaganda dross:

According to Sheridan, when this fearsome anti-Semitic talk was dropped from Durban II's draft declaration, but not that document's reaffirmation of Durban I's DPA, the Dutch and the Australians got going. Over to you Greg: "A Russian, Uri Boychenko, chaired the overall preparatory effort and laboured mightily to clear up the text. He got most offensive things out, except the first paragraph's ringing declaration that Durban II reaffirmed Durban I. Thus, although there were no obnoxious references to Israel in the final text, the reaffirmation of Durban I meant that its positions were re-endorsed. Boychenko could not get this out because the Organisation of the Islamic Conference said it would boycott the conference if it was removed... Meanwhile the Dutch put in a heroic effort to substitute a shorter, better text that did not contain the reaffirmation. On March 12, Smith... said Australia would not be attending unless the text was fundamentally changed and Canberra was convinced the conference would not be misused as an anti-Semitic hate fest in the way the first conference was. In the following few weeks, the Dutch asked Smith to make a final decision until their efforts on the text were exhausted. Having an important group of countries, including Australia, still up for grabs, as it were, gave the Dutch extra leverage in their ultimately unsuccessful efforts to fix the Durban II declaration and make the conference workable. Smith co-ordinated his actions with the Dutch foreign minister, with Clinton, and with a number of his other counterparts. When it was clear the text was irredeemable, a cascade of nations pulled out. First there was Italy, then the US, Australia, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Germany and Poland... as an Australian I am proud of our actions."

How revealing is that? I ask again, why is the Australian foreign minister doing Israel's dirty work?

Monday, April 20, 2009

What They're Reading at the Lowy Institute

"His [Thomas P.M. Barnett, 'a consultant to the Pentagon and private corporations'] main argument... is that states fall into 2 groups: those that are integrating into the world economy (the 'Functioning Core') and those that are not (the 'Non-Integrated Gap'). At the core of the Core is the US, 'the source code for today's globalisation'. To achieve security and prosperity, he argues, the US should 'go slow on the politics (multiparty democracy) while getting our way on the economics (expanding world middle-class)'. This may involve further interventions, which would require the US military to beef up what Barnett calls its 'SysAdmin' capabilities (for post-conflict stabilisation and reconstruction, counterinsurgency and the like) rather than its 'Leviathan' force (war-fighting capacity)... He remains a supporter of the decision to invade Iraq, stating that 'George W Bush was right to lay a Big Bang on the Middle East's calcified political landscape'. His reasoning is that the invasion locked the US 'into real, long-term ownership of strategic security in the Gulf' and transformed Washington's interest in obtaining Middle Eastern oil into a broader 'commitment to bodyguard globalisation's ongoing transformation of those traditional societies'. But the exact opposite is more likely true: the war has had a chilling effect on the US's use of force and ruined the public's appetite for foreign interventions." (Great Powers: America & The World After Bush, reviewed by Michael Fullilove, director of the global issues program at the Lowy Institute for International Policy, Sydney Morning Herald, 18/4/09)

Two points:

Don't you just love this warmonger's way with words? Make Love not Leviathan Force! Pretty catchy, eh?

When the Lowy Institute's DoGIP argues, contra Barnett, that the Iraq war has had a "chilling effect on the US's use of force" and has "ruined the public's appetite for foreign interventions," I can't help but get the feeling that he views these developments as a negative.

Australia Dumps On Durban

The arcane saga of Durban II goes on: "Despite changes to the draft text last month to exclude specific references to Israel, Foreign Affairs Minister Stephen Smith said on Monday that it was 'unlikely' Australia would attend the Durban Review Conference, aka Durban II, which commences in Geneva on April 20. However, he was holding off on making a final decision to give a UN working group the opportunity to make last-minute changes." (Australia attendance at Durban II 'unlikely', The Australian Jewish News, 17/4/09)

The draft conference declaration has been neutered, with no mention of Israel, occupation, racism or apartheid*, but that's not good enough for Smith. And Smith's failure to jump when the Zionist Lobby says jump is simply not good enough for its movers & shakers: "Smith's postponement, however, just days in from the conference, has frustrated Jewish leaders, who have been lobbying the Government for months [sic: over a year] to boycott the conference... This week, Executive Council of Australian Jewry president Robert Goot said he wrote again to the Foreign Minister urging him to pull out of the conference given that ongoing deliberations of the draft text had gone from 'bad to worse'." (ibid)

So for Goot, the dropping of all references to Israel in the draft means that it has "gone from 'bad to worse'"? Can you, dear reader, figure these guys out?

But the song & dance has finally paid off with Smith announcing: "Regrettably, we cannot be confident that the Review Conference will not again be used as a platform to air offensive views, including anti-Semitic views." (Anti-racism talks hit by Western boycott, AAP, 20/4/09)

Typically, Smith was merely waiting for the US to pull out: "On Friday [20/4], negotiators, including Western and Muslim states, believed they had ironed out the most controversial issues relating to religious discrimination and the Middle East in the draft conference declaration. But the US State Department spokesman Robert Wood said it still reaffirmed unacceptable parts of the 2001 Durban declaration referring to the Middle East conflict and infringed on freedom of speech." (ibid)

So let's draw a few relevant conclusions from all this:
1) Australia, which voted against funding Durban II in the UN in January last year**, has sufficient chutzpah to stuff the UN around since then with its maybe/maybe not routine before finally giving it the finger, but insufficient chutzpah to give same to the Israel Lobby.
2) The KRuddies have just made their own special contribution to Australia's grand foreign policy tradition of 'All-the-way-with LBJ'.
3) It's simply not good enough anymore for the UN to ignore what Israel so transparently is - a racist, genocidal entity - it must knuckle under to USrael and adopt the rhetoric of the Israeli PR machine.
4) The KRuddies have, by implication, ordained that calling the Israeli occupying power an occuping power is anti-Semitic; that calling Israel's racist project and policies racist is anti-Semitic; and that calling apartheid Israel an apartheid state is anti-Semitic.
5) The KRuddies have once again affirmed that support for Israel is in their DNA.
6) Canberra, like Washington, is effectively Israeli-occupied territory.
7) Black is white, wrong is right.
8) Over at Israel Lobby HQ, they're popping champagne corks.

Stop Press: Blimey! I've just seen today's Australian. Cop this: "The Australian understands the Dutch will not be going to the conference and Germany is also considering a boycott after intense lobbying by Mr Smith of his European counterparts..." (Israel slur fear forces boycott, Mark Dodd) There you have it - Smith has been swanning around Europe, at Australian taxpayers' expense, acting as a sock puppet for the Israelis. Could it get any worse?

[* See my 20/3/09 post Australia Bats for Israel in the UN **See my 18/1/08 post Working Out the Mechanics of Our Relationship]

Friday, April 17, 2009

One of the Rambammed 'Lashes Out'

"A senator who travelled to Israel free of charge on a Jewish-sponsored study program has lashed out against claims by a former Australian ambassador to Israel, who said that such trips for federal MPs offered a 'sanitised' view of the conflict and possibly tainted Australia's foreign policy in favour of Israel. Senator Glenn Sterle from Western Australia, who visited Israel in March 2007 as part of the Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council (AIJAC) Rambam fellowship program, said he took personal offence at the comments made by former Australian ambassador to Israel Ross Burns this week. 'We're not absolute idiots. We're mature enough to make our own decisions', Sterle told The AJN. Although he didn't visit the Palestinian towns of Ramallah or Bethlehem on the trip, Sterle contended the mission's itinerary wasn't heavily biased towards Israel. 'I met Palestinian journalists and we heard their side of the story. It was balanced. There's no doubt about that." (Senator lashes out at claims MPs trips to Israel 'sanitised', The Australian Jewish News 17/4/09)

Palestinian journalists? -Ah, yes, I remember them well. Let's see... Give me a minute. Their names are on the tip of my tongue... Balanced? - Absolutely, not a shadow of a doubt... at least until the 18th of January this year when...

The 18th of January? Remember that day? The serried ranks of bomb-belted Palestinian babies, clutching Made-in-Iran inter-continental ballistic missiles in their grubby (but chubby) little hands, were on the verge of wiping Sderot off the map. Well, that was what finally tipped the balance for Senator Sterle. Initially, torn between the Palestinian side of the story and the Israeli, both of which had been fixed in perfect balance in his mind ever since his 2007 AIJAC rambamming, he was plunged in an agony of indecision on that day over the Pros & Cons of the Rockets from Gaza. But, seeing that Israel's heavily armed PR offensive was faultering, and that Sderot, a city he had grown to love (having visited it not once, but twice!), was about to fall to the Sons of Amalek, he thought to himself, 'Strewth! I'm not an absolute idiot. I'm mature enough to make my own decisions'. And you know what? He did. 'To hell with balance', he cried. 'This is Israel's hour of need!' And he made his way, unbidden and unaided, to the Israel solidarity rally organized by the Jewish Community Council of Western Australia (JCCWA) and the State Zionist Council at Perth Hebrew Congregation on January 18.

There he rubbed shoulders with "about 1500 Western Australian Jews, along with local politicians and Israeli diplomats" and heard a JCCWA spokesman declare, in chilling tones, that the "war in Gaza was 'part of a regional and global conflict with militant Islamism, headquartered in Iran'." (WA rallies behind Israel, AJN, 22/1/09) At that, he was persuaded to take the microphone in his trembling hand and say a few words. Well, we don't have a transcript or anything, but here's how 'Sandy' at reported him:

"Senator Glenn Sterle had visited Sderot twice and empathised with the town's distress caused by living under siege and the constant threat of rocket attacks. He expressed his feeling from meeting dozens of Israelis that the nation genuinely seeks peace." (WA expresses solidarity with Israel, 24/1/09)

And here's how* reported him:

"Senator Glenn Sterle in particular spoke of the education programs that Itamar Marcus of Palestinian Media Watch had shown them, and how young children are being brought up with images and messages of hate." (Perth expresses solidarity with Israel, 18/1/09)

[* I was particularly impressed with this comment on the Jewgleperth report from one, Matisiyahu. It gives you a real insight into the psyche of the always humble, thoroughly decent, and genuinely peace-seeking Israeli: "Matisiyahu is back!!!!! Have been busy in Gaza remodelling. Turns out the UN buildings are being used for more than just aid distribution but let's not waste space talking about things we already know. Met a nice guy in a tunnel recently who muttered something about wanting to be a martyr so he could have his 72 virgins blah blah blah. He got his wish. I think the saying is be careful what you ask for because you may just get it." What a mensch!]

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Bushama It Is

Lebanese leftist academic & blogger The Angry Arab on Obama:

"Well, it took just 2 days for Obama to dispel any notions of a change in US Middle East policy. For some reason, many Arabs and many American leftists I know have wanted to believe so bad that Obama would deviate from the Zionist path of US foreign policy. I thought it would be a matter of weeks before he'd prove me right, not a matter of hours. His speech on the Middle East today could easily have been written by Benjamin Netanyahu. The fact that he is - unlike Bush - intelligent, competent, and articulate is irrelevant. The set of Zionist (or rather Revisionist Zionist because American establishment Zionism has been largely Revisionist Zionism since the days of the Reagan administration) dogmas that guide US foreign policy will remain in place even if a potato or Sarah Palin is president of the US... Obama's speech was quite something. It was like sprinkling sulfuric acid on the wounds of the children in Gaza - those who survived the Israeli terrorist festival of butchery and massacre that is. His remarks left you with the impression that there are 2 sets of problems in the holy land: terrorism against civilians in 'southern Israel', and then some vague, undefined civilian suffering in Gaza caused by some vague, undefined natural disaster - an earthquake or hurricane maybe. He specifically mentioned the violence against 'southern Israel', but left what happened in Gaza unclear. He saluted Mubarak not only for oppressing his own people, but for oppressing the Palestinians and imposing the siege on them. He then followed the Zionist line that all aid should pass through the transparent gangs in Ramallah, Fatah having a long record of transparency, integrity, and high ethical standards - not to mention collaboration with Israel. He also defined the requirements for implementing 'the Arab peace plan': Arab governments have to normalise relations with Israel. All Arabs must now hug the nearest Israeli; and no, shoes are not accepted as tokens of affection, not in Western culture. But you might say, optimistically, that he didn't mention Dahlan. I say, Oh, no - he did mention Dahlan! He made reference to the Jordanian oppressive state's training of 'Palestinian security forces', which is just a fancy name for the Dahlan gangs. But I also noticed that when he left the podium, he began to shake hands, and the first head I saw was none other than Martin Indyk... PS Now I'm pissed off. Al-Jazeera is playing (and I mean distorting) Obama's remarks as if they were a message of love and compassion for the Palestinian people. How much longer will some supporters of the Palestinian people go on deluding themselves about Obama?" (Obama &... Indyk: I told you so, damn it, The Angry Arab news Service, 22/1/09) The Angry Arab has since taken to calling Obama Bushama.

His polar opposite, Zio-conservative propagandist & foreign editor of The Australian Greg (Jerusalem Prize) Sheridan, though long beaten to the punch by The Angry Arab, concurs:

"[O]n all the big foreign policy questions, Obama has continued Bush's policies. The predator drones still fly over Pakistan, destroying any al-Qa'ida operative dumb enough to talk on the phone. The terrorists are still in Guantanamo as Obama's administration develops the Bush administration's decision to shut Guantanamo, as a necessity of global PR, while trying to stop the terrorists from going back to killing civilians. Like Bush, Obama is pursuing an attempt to engage the Iranian regime and even using the same official Bush did. He is withdrawing from Iraq very slowly, on a timetable improved by Republican senator John McCain. He acknowledges the success of the US troop surge in Iraq and wants to emulate it in Afghanistan. He stands four square behind Israel's security. And so on... As someone who broadly supported neo-conservative foreign policy, long live the cult of Obama, say I." (Obama is Dubya's acceptable face, 11/4/09)

We have consensus. But then, in the same piece, Sheridan typically stuffs up with a characteristic broad-brush smear: "Most Arab political cultures are awash in the most bizarre paranoia and conspiracy theories." Bizarre paranoia & conspiracy theories, Greg? You mean, like this:

"Iran is the center of terrorism, fundamentalism and subversion, and is, in my view, more dangerous than Nazism, because Hitler did not possess a nuclear bomb, whereas the Iranians are trying to perfect a nuclear option." Then Israeli prime minister (now president), Shimon Peres, 1996 (Israel cries wolf, Roger Cohen, The New York Times, 9/4/09)

Or this:

"You don't want a messianic apocalyptic cult controlling atomic bombs. When the wide-eyed believer gets hold of the reins of power and the weapons of mass death, then the entire world should start worrying, and that is what is happening in Iran." Benjamin Netanyahu, Israeli prime minister, 2009, (ibid)

Or this:

"Hamas is really a problem for the Palestinians and for Egypt more than Israel. It must be clear that the problem of our region and of Israel is Iran by proxy, because Hamas and [Islamic] Jihad are really Iran by proxy, as is Hezbollah. Without Iranian support, they cannot exist. It's Iranian money, Iranian ideology, it's political support, Iranian technology." (Avigdor Lieberman, Israeli foreign minister, 2009 (A conversation with Avigdor Lieberman, Lally Weymouth, The Washington Post, 1/3/09)

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Selling Lieberman

Greg (Jerusalem Prize) Sheridan, The Australian's comprehensively rambammed foreign editor, continues to amaze with the sheer chutzpah of his propaganda pieces.

April 9 was no exception. Sheridan was at great pains to emphasise that Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu was leading a centre-right government, not a hardline right government, and declared that anyone who begged to differ was simply an "enemy of Israel," an "heir to ancient anti-Semitism," and engaged in a "relentless quest to delegitimise and demonise [Israel] at every point" by "mislabelling a democratic government of mainstream, democratic politicians as hardline right-wing... an important part of that quest." (Israeli leaders mislabelled by foes).

Of course, while Sheridan, a legendary deligitimiser, demoniser and mislabeller of the Palestinians (he later refers to the democratically elected Hamas government of Palestine as a "terrorist death cult"), is busy affixing the 'correct' labels, the rest of us have long since concluded that Livni=Barak=Netanyahu=Lieberman.

Foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman, in particular, is in dire need of sanitisation, and this is exactly what Sheridan sets out to do. A piece of cake, of course. Simply ignore, as Sheridan does, Lieberman's call for the bombing of the Aswan Dam when Egypt lent support to Arafat (1998); his proposal to divide the West Bank into 4 cantons (2001); his statement that the Palestinians should be given an ultimatum - 'At 8am we'll bomb all the commercial centers... at noon we'll bomb their gas stations... at 2 we'll bomb their banks...' (2002); his proposal that Israel's thousands of Palestinian prisoners be drowned in the Dead Sea (2003); his declaration that 90% of Israeli 'Arabs' "have no place [in Israel]" and should "take their bundles and get lost" (2004); and his call for the execution of Israeli 'Arab' MKs who meet with members of the Hamas-led Palestinian Authority (2006).

Of course, the fact that Lieberman had advocated (2004) transferring those bits of Israel riddled with 'Arabs' to the Palestinian Authority in return for the annexation of those bits of the West Bank blessed with Israeli settlement blocs could hardly be ignored. Ditto the fact that he had gone to the last election with a proposal that Israelis be required to swear a loyalty oath and undertake military service, a thinly disguised attack on Israeli 'Arabs'.

With regard to the former proposal, Sheridan speciously claims that Lieberman can't be accused of advocating "ethnic cleansing or anything like it" because, although "the land underneath [the feet of Israeli 'Arabs']" might become part of "a Palestinian state," "presumably no Israeli citizen would be forced to give up their citizenship."

Presumably? Sheridan, of course, ignores the racist Israeli obsession with demography and the maintenance of a Jewish majority state underpinning Lieberman's 'transferist' thinking. Back in 2007, however, when Sheridan actually interviewed Lieberman in Israel, he acknowledged, correctly, that "the idea of excluding people on the basis of their ethnicity or religion is anathema to every liberal principle," (although going on to qualify this with the bald assertion that it "conforms to the reality of the Middle East"). (See my 21/12/07 post Greg Sheridan: Charmed by Israel's 'Most Dangerous Politician')

Presumably, Sheridan's concern for "liberal principles" is now passe. That said, even then Sheridan made excuses for Lieberman, finding him "charming in a rough Russian way" and "more open to change than many Israelis."

As for Lieberman's proposal for a mandatory loyalty oath, Sheridan is of the view that while this may be seen "as insulting to Israel's Arab citizens," it is "not the black hand of fascism," and that it is "not unreasonable for Lieberman to want to debate the civic identity of Israel's Arab citizens."

Insulting to Israel's Arab citizens? Just a debating exercise? Here's former Israeli 'Arab' member of the Knesset Azmi Bishara: "The people who stayed here [after the expulsion of 1948] did not immigrate here. This is our country. This [Israeli] state came here and was forced on the ruins of my nation. I accepted citizenship to be able to live here, and I will not do anything, security-wise, against the state... but you cannot ask me every day if I am loyal to the state. Citizenship demands that I be loyal to the law, but not to the values or ideologies of the state." (Lieberman's charm offensive, Palestine Monitor, 9/3/09) Amen.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Name Them!

This post should be read in tandem with my 29/3/09 post (Rambamming Makes the Front Page) on the expose of MPs and political junkets by Sydney Morning Herald journalist Phillip Hudson.

Hudson's just done it again with Ex-envoy warns on bias from MPs' free trips (13/4/09), which focuses squarely on the issue of junkets to Israel. Here are the relevant bits (along with my comments in square brackets in bold):

"A former Australian ambassador to Israel has raised concern about the high number of overseas travel gifts accepted by federal MPS [Feds are just the tip of the iceberg - see my 30/3/09 post I've been to Israel too...] and suggested the scheme could be [!!!] distorting Australia's foreign policy perspectives. Ross Burns said that during his time as ambassador in Israel from 2001 to 2003 there were many visits by MPs but only one was not a travel gift. He said that this had translated into a substantial political benefit for Israel over Arab countries. 'The issue of subsidised travel is a difficult one', he told the Herald. 'The issue was particularly tortuous in the case of Israel, where a disproportionate number of visits, including backbench MPs, Opposition frontbenchers and serving ministers, were funded not by the Australian Government or the Parliament but by Israeli lobby groups... The heavy reliance on subsidised visits to Israel has taken its toll in terms of Australia's wider interests. Most MPs and ministers who visited until recently followed programs that gave a heavily sanitised view of the Israel/Palestine situation... Missing, for example, was any exposure to the heavy burden that Israel's occupation of most of the lands of Palestine has imposed on both societies [Can you imagine someone writing about the German occupation of Europe in terms of 'imposing a heavy burden on both societies'?]. Australia's embassy in Tel Aviv could often be sidelined in the natural desire of the hosts, and accompanying 'minders', to present a few 'facts on the ground' including meetings or visits that might be construed as accepting Israel's sovereignty in contested [occupied] territory. The number of trips to Israel also greatly outnumbered visits to Arab countries, even those that have provided significant elements of the Australian community such as Lebanon and Egypt... Ms Liu has done us a great service in reminding the Australian public that subsidised travel does have a hidden cost. I suspect the costs may be a lot more trivial in the case of China than in the Middle East, where our stocks have never been lower and where political mindsets have long been conditioned through the practice of subsidised visits'..."

Hudson goes on: "The Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council [AIJAC] has paid for 13 MPs to visit Israel since November 2007. Its executive director, Colin Rubenstein, said the program had been running for several years. Some journalists from the Herald have taken this trip [When are you going to do an expose on that, Phillip?]. 'It's usually a 5-day or so intensive visit to try and understand better the very complex realities of the Middle East [Oh yes, so fearfully complicated only the Israelis can explain what's going on!] so they have a better understanding of what's transpiring in the region and frankly make them more effective as parliamentarians... They're mature people. We let them make up their own minds. They're exposed to a whole range of viewpoints. They meet with a whole range of Israeli and Palestinian opinion when we can ["When we can"?]'. He said the trips usually cost several thousand dollars each and the money came from supporters in Australia, not foreign governments."

Is it too much to expect the Herald to name the MPs concerned, not to mention the Herald (& other) journalists? And what about those "supporters in Australia," without whose largesse our poor MPs would not be able to avail themselves of this once-in-a-lifetime chance to better understand "the very complex realities of the Middle East"? Who are they?

And speaking of exposes, I'll leave you with a quote from Grant F Smith's 2007 book Foreign Agents: The American Israel Public Affairs Committee from the 1963 Fulbright Hearings to the 2005 Espionage Scandal: "It is popularly believed that the immense power of the Israel lobby sprang from broad grassroots commitment by concerned individuals across America. However, evidence from internal American Zionist Council and AIPAC documents reveal a different history. Many groups, including Christian religious organizations now highly active in AIPAC-directed affairs, were initially indifferent to or even suspicious of Israeli initiatives. It took millions of dollars of Israeli government and overseas funds and decades of effort to create the public relations, lobbying, and political juggernaut that now dominates in America. However, not all Americans welcomed the formation of Israel's lobby. Founder Si Kenen's startup activities proved to be so brazen that they were put under the microscope of a US Senate committee investigating the activities of non-diplomatic foreign agents in the United States... The Senate Committee on Foreign Relations dove headlong into questions about whether the American Zionist Council, AIPAC, the Jewish Agency, and Si Kenen were avoiding Foreign Agents Registration Act declarations or filing false ones, acting as unlawful conduits to launder tax-exempt funds, and illegally disseminating Israeli government propaganda in the United States. This investigation, conducted by Senator James William Fulbright, provides the first outside glimpse into the American Zionist Committee, Si Kenan, and AIPAC." (pp 20-21)

Saturday, April 11, 2009

The Ambassador Reflects...

Diplomacy: The art and business of lying for one's country -Ambrose Bierce

After one year in office, the Israeli ambassador, Yuval Rotem, reflects in an interview with The Australian Jewish News on his 'achievements':-

"[W]hen [the change of government] took place I think we were pretty ready in terms of the connection, in terms of personal ties, in terms of being able to introduce our input. This eventually cultivated the ground for the most important accomplishment of this embassy to date, which was to convince the political infrastructure to move the motion on a bipartisan basis on March 12, 2008, celebrating Israel's 60th anniversary.* The fact is we were the only embassy throughout the world to do so, the only parliament in the world that made this kind of political act, and provided this kind of support in a very public, very open, very sympathetic way... In addition, the Rudd Government approved the visit of (former) Governor-General [Major General Michael Jeffery] to Israel.** It was the first state visit to Israel, which included the inauguration of the park in Be'er Sheva [The Park of the Australian Soldier]. It's an amazing indication about this relationship, but also shows how the Governor-General's visit was important in enhancing this relationship one step further... There has been less progress than I expected [on a free-trade agreement]. It's still on the table. I know from the Australian point of view, there is a desire to see a comprehensive deal..."

[*See my March 2008 posts The Israeli Occupation of Federal Parliament]
[**See my posts Anzac Day Special: Diggers Die for Israel (24/4/08) & Zionist Myth In-formation (1/5/08)]

When asked what he thought of the Australian press, he said: "Definitely better than the British, but not yet like The Wall Street Journal. One of the top 3 elements in our agenda has been to go to all those briefing rooms, and we go on an almost monthly basis to all the major papers and have a serious briefing. Some of them are not easy encounters; some even include strong, heated debate. But I think we don't have the luxury of just ignoring them - we have to try to relay to them our agenda. I am very happy in some areas - some correspondents have been changed and I think working with the editors, together with a better job in Jerusalem, there has been some progress on the reporting and editorial line on Israel and the Middle East." (One year down... the ambassador reflects, 26/9/08)

We have in the above interview the ambassador's admission that he not only has regular sessions with editors, in which he browbeats them over their papers' Middle East coverage, but also a hint that he just might have had a hand in the termination of a correspondent's services. The reference to a change of "correspondents" could only be a reference to the departure of the Sydney Morning Herald's Ed O'Loughlin in May last year. For the first intimation of same, see my 8/1/08 post Ed v Abraham (where the AJN reveals that O'Loughlin's designated successor, Jason Koutsoukis, was "briefed" by the Israeli ambassador). And for some idea of the forces ranged against O'Loughlin, see my 24/2/08 post Danby's Drubbing in the AJN.

One aspect of O'Loughlin's departure came under the scrutiny of ABC TV's Media Watch program on 19/5/08. MW noted that a full page "farewell" piece by O'Loughlin, Wars between worlds, filed for both The Age and the SMH, appeared only in The Age of 10/5/08 (Its introduction read as follows: "As Ed O'Loughlin's 5 years as Middle East correspondent comes to an end, he reflects on his time covering one of the world's most intractable conflicts."). MW asked O'Loughlin, then in Dublin, if he was surprised at the failure of the piece to appear in the Herald: "Yes, I was very surprised... It was pulled at the last minute, I understand, by the editor Alan Oakley. It's the first time in five and a half years that I've had a piece spiked... There has been an intensive lobbying effort to skew the Herald and The Age to a pro-Israel position and I've had nothing but support until now. That's why I'm surprised that they pulled my final piece... I was told informally that there were concerns about how the pro-Israel lobby would react to it." (Saying goodbye is hard to do)

Thursday, April 9, 2009


There seems to be a lot of it going around lately, but what exactly happens at an 'interfaith dialogue'? In theory, it sounds just fine/halal/kosher - members of the 3 Abrahamic faiths exploring issues of faith together in the interests of mutual harmony and tolerance. But there's more to it than that, as this extract from an article on the subject by Deborah Stone, research director of the B'nai B'rith Anti-Defamation Commission and a former editor of The Australian Jewish News, indicates:-

"Heba Ibrahim is a bright young woman. A masters student in public policy, she could one day be running a government department. She is also a committed young Muslim who recently joined the board of the Islamic Council of Victoria. In years to come, she may influence the Australian Muslim community's choice of imam, their statement on the 'next Gaza' and what is said about Jewish people in Islamic schools. Her attitude to the issues that concern us as Australian Jews will be influenced by her Jewish friends - people she met at the recent Multifaith Future Leaders Program run by the B'nai B'rith Anti-Defamation Commission (ADC). I'm not starry-eyed about this program. I know interfaith dialogue has been disappointing for the Jewish community. The attitude to Israel displayed by our Muslim and Christian dialogue partners, as well as the Arab community, has been deeply discouraging... Recently, Jewish community leaders met to discuss the future of interfaith dialogue. Many indicated surprise and disappointment at the uniformity of opinion expressed in public by the Muslim community on Israel, especially the refusal, of those they know to be more moderate, to speak out." (Our community will suffer if we give up on dialogue, AJN, 3/4/09)

What exactly is expected of Heba Ibrahim here? Reading between the lines, it seems she's expected to tone down her wholly justifiable outrage over Israel's war crimes in Gaza, and to accept Israel as it is, apartheid, occupation, periodic rampages and all. By doing so, she'll earn the approval of her Jewish interlocutors and be badged a 'moderate', which, of course, will oblige her to speak out against expressions of outrage by her fellow Muslims when Israel next has a turn.

In other words, it's not so much Judaism as Israel that's at the heart of so-called 'interfaith dialogue'. That being the case, Heba Ibrahim should understand that, by engaging in same, she's rubbing shoulders with Zionists whose primary concern is blunting any criticisms she may have of Israel and its behaviour.

As Israeli scholar/activist Uri Davis reminds us, Zionism (the idea that it is a good idea to establish and consolidate in the country of Palestine a sovereign, Jewish state) is not Judaism. Judaism is a religion, a confessional statement that belongs, like all confessional statements, to the private realm of the individual. Zionism, on the other hand, is a political programme that, like all such, ought to be judged by the extent that it is compatible with the universal values of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and the standards of international law. And when that yardstick is applied, Israel fails miserably.

Heba Ibrahim should be aware that her interlocutors will do everything in their power to obscure this vital distinction because for them the Jewish state has essentially become their new civic religion. American historian Steven T Rosenthal has described the genesis and elements of what has been termed Israelolatry among American Jews thus: "In this devotion the role of prophet was filled not by the remote and forbidding Theodore Herzl but by the charismatic and sensationally photogenic David Ben Gurion. The role of high priest was played by United Nations representative (and sometimes foreign minister) Abba Eban, loved by American Jews for his urbane sophistication, for his beautifully crafted speeches defending Israel, and for his Cambridge-accented bon mots. The romantic warrior figure of General Moshe Dayan, who more than any Israeli captured the imagination of American Jewry as the exemplar of the 'new Jew', provided an avenging angel. These larger-than-life personalities, collectively embodying Israel virtues of vision, intelligence, and courageous action did battle against the forces of darkness symbolized by Egypt's Gamal Abdel Nasser whose threats may not always be credible but could invariably be counted on to be suitably apocalyptic. In such circumstances a body of dogma arose that was accepted by both Israeli and American Jews. The first was expressed by the Hebrew phrase Ein Breira (There is no alternative). Given the eternal vow of the Arab 'confrontation states' to destroy the 'Zionist entity', Israel had no option but to pursue the hardest line of political and military policies. The other was expressed by Ma Yomru ha Goyim? (What will the Gentiles say?). Because of the pervasiveness of world anti-Semitism and Israel's political and military vulnerability, any public criticism of Israel by the Diaspora, it was feared, would play into the hands of those who wished to destroy her. Even private criticism was discouraged, since American Jews generally felt that only Israelis could assess their own situation and that it was immoral for those who lived in peace and security to discuss policies that might put Israeli lives at risk. At the local level, enforcement of this orthodoxy often fell to the federations, which did their job so effectively that by the late 1960s criticizing Israel was seen as a worse sin than marrying out of the faith." (Irreconcilable Differences? The Waning of the American Jewish Love Affair with Israel, 2001, xvi-xvii)

Even though their idol has long since crumbled, as idols will, and their pantheon is seen as all too mortal, our current crop of Zionist dead-enders still expect the rest of us, especially the Heba Ibrahims of Australia, to be suitably reverential.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

By Way of Deception

"The US President, Barack Obama, has begun a push to rid the world of nuclear arms in a landmark speech that called for a ban on testing and a global summit to prevent criminals or terrorists acquiring nuclear weapons... Mr Obama's initiative tallies with an international commission on nuclear arms prompted by the Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, who called for a nuclear weapons-free world at Hiroshima last year. Mr Rudd and Mr Obama discussed nuclear arms in Washington last month... and pledged to work jointly on global disarmament. The President said he would seek a treaty to end production of nuclear material and would push Congress to ratify the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty - which bans explosive testing - and pressure the remaining 8 non-signatories such as China, India, Pakistan and Israel." (No nukes, vows Obama, Jonathan Pearlman, Sydney Morning Herald, 6/4/09)

"Pressure... Israel"? You've got to be joking! The last time an American prez tried 'pressuring' Israel over its nukes was in the 1960s. The prez was John F Kennedy and the Israelis, under prime minister David Ben-Gurion, comprehensively creamed him:

"There was one major concession by Washington. Dimona did not have to be inspected by the International Atomic Energy Agency. Ben-Gurion had insisted in his private exchanges with Kennedy that such inspections would violate Israel's sovereignty. The White House eventually agreed to send a specially assembled American inspection team into Dimona. That agreement was further softened by a second concession that, in essence, guaranteed that the whole procedure would be little more than a whitewash, as the President and his senior advisers had to understand: the American inspection team would have to schedule its visits well in advance, and with the full acquiescence of Israel. There would be no spot checks permitted.

"Ben-Gurion took no chances: the American inspectors - most of them experts in nuclear reprocessing - would be provided with a Potemkin Village and never know it.

"The Israeli scheme, based on plans supplied by the French, was simple: a false control room was constructed at Dimona, complete with false control panels and computer-driven measuring devices that seemed to be gauging the thermal output of a twenty-four-megawatt reactor ( as Israel claimed Dimona to be) in full operation. There were extensive practice sessions in the fake control room, as Israeli technicians sought to avoid any slips when the Americans arrived. The goal was to convince the inspectors that no chemical reprocessing plant existed or was possible. One big fear was that the Americans would seek to inspect the core physically, and presumably discover that Dimona was utilizing large amounts of heavy water - much of it illicitly obtained from France and Norway - and obviously operating the reactor at far greater output than the acknowledged twenty-four megawatts. It was agreed that the inspection team would not be permitted to enter the core 'for safety reasons'...

"The American team, following a pattern that would be repeated until the inspections came to an end in 1969, spent days at Dimona, climbing through the various excavations - many facilities had yet to be constructed - but finding nothing. They did not question the fact that the reactor core was off-limits and gave no sign that they were in any way suspicious of the control room. The Israelis even stationed a few engineers in a concealed area in the control room to monitor the machinery and make sure that nothing untoward took place." (The Samson Option, Seymour Hersh, 1991, pp 110-111)

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Treat Kev Mean, Keep Kev Keen

"The Prime Minister is delighted that the shift from a cosy G8 of only the richest nations to a more democratic and diverse G20 has given Australia 'a seat at the table' in reshaping the world's economy... " (Summit seating leaves Rudd in far-off Siberia, Peter Wilson, The Australian, 3/4/09)

But what a seat: "Rudd was seated last night between Ethiopia and Spain - in other words, in Siberia. Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero and Meles Zanawi are not even paid-up members of the G20, and were simply invited along to London by the British Prime Minister to try to make the gathering 'more representative'. Zapatero is the unpopular chap who celebrated his 2004 election by pulling Spanish troops out of Iraq and he annoyed Barack Obama this month by pulling his troops out of Kosovo. He was banished last night to a dinner seat that was still one place better than Rudd's. The only way Rudd's seat could have been worse would have been to have him out in the kitchen helping Jamie Oliver do the dishes." (ibid)

Oh dear!

"European leaders are expected to resist American pressure to join the Pentagon's military 'surge' in Afghanistan, disappointing Barack Obama. The US President has made the campaign against the Taliban and al-Qaeda the centrepiece of his new foreign policy and used yesterday's NATO summit [in Strasbourg] to further his agenda with European allies. Resigned to a half-hearted response from the Europeans on Afghanistan, the Americans have already scaled back demands to avoid being snubbed publicly and instead focused on manpower to train the Afghan police and to enhance security before elections in Afghanistan in August. The NATO summit was expected to struggle to match civilian resources to the increased US military deployments..." (Europe reluctant to join Obama's Afghan surge, Ian Traynor, Guardian News/New York Times/Sydney Morning Herald 4/4/09)

Seems the Europeans know a quagmire when theyre standing in one. But not Rudd: "Australia has been excluded from a NATO leaders' summit... despite repeatedly pressing for closer engagement on the war in Afghanistan. Australia has almost 1100 troops in the country, the largest of the non-NATO allies. The Government has repeatedly criticised the Howard government for failing to engage with NATO on the strategy for the war. Last year's summit in Bucharest... was attended by the PM Kevin Rudd, the Minister for the Defence, Joel Fitzgibbon, and the Chief of the Defence Force, Angus Houston. But a NATO spokesman... said non-NATO members were not invited to the summit because it would celebrate the organization's 60th anniversary. The main item, however, will be the war in Afghanistan... [& it] is widely expected to lead to greater European troop commitments, which would create pressure for Australia to bolster its contribution." (Australia excluded, Jonathan Pearlman, SMH, 4/4/09)

Jeez, whether it's the G20 or NATO, little Kev desperately wants to join the Big Boyz, and yet, despite his proven expertise in throwing 60th birthday bashes for other countries (well, for one very special friend at least), they won't let him play with them! So, what's he gotta do to impress these guys? Simple - send even more Australian troops to Afghanistan.

Postscript: "Australia is poised to lift the number of military trainers serving in Afghanistan after NATO announced plans to send another 5000 combat troops to stem a worsening Taliban insurgency... It's understood the Government is preparing to send up to 250 army trainers and supporting troops to the war-ravaged country to bolster the Afghan security forces." (Australia to boost Afghan effort, Mark Dodd, The Australian, 7/4/09)

"The veil of secrecy surrounding the country's worst kept secret - the Rudd Government's plans to send more troops to Afghanistan - is slipping away. The Australian Defence [!!!] Force has quietly placed orders for 17,000 blizzard survival jackets and other extreme cold weather equipment... " (Shopping list points to Afghan mission, Cameron Stewart, The Australian, 14/4/09)

Friday, April 3, 2009

The Great Debate

I absolutely love The Angry Arab, aka As'ad AbuKhalil*, and his Angry Arab News Service. The man's intelligence and spirit should be bottled and consumed by all on a daily basis. Failing that, you can do no better than start your day with his news service ( His inimitable account of his April 1 debate at the University of San Francisco with the Israeli Consul General is simply irresistable. So here it is with a little tweaking of that trademark Angry Arab stream of consciousness...

[*Professor of Middle Eastern Studies at California State University, Stanislaus]

"I had a long day yesterday. I woke up late after a deep sleep. During the day, I had to preserve my voice by taking these Halls' drops and avoiding phone conversations. The few times I did speak, I had to say I was preserving my voice for the debate. At one point, Amer asked me about preparation. I told him that this was a job I'd been preparing for all my life.

Two days ago, I jotted down some notes in bed, but I had to throw the notebook away after a few minutes because I got so mad. Usually, when I have to deal with a debate of this kind, I remind myself of the massacres that Israel has committed against our people, one after the other. I know the facts and the sources, so I only jot down an outline of what I'm going to say.

When I arrived there, they pissed me off right away - which is a good thing for my debate performance. There was a heavy security and police presence. Then I met the professor who was going to moderate the debate. We went to a hall and I noticed that there were 2 chairs and 2 signs with names on them - mine and his (the representative of The Usurping Entity). I didn't like the arrangement so I said to her, 'I don't want to sit next to him. I'd like you, as moderator, to sit between us.' She asked me whether I was kidding. I said, 'Do you see me in a joking mode? Do you see me kidding with you? You think this is a joking matter for me?' She finally realised, shall we say, that the Angry Arab was not kidding around. She said that she'd been planning to make her introductory remarks and then sit in the audience. I said, 'That's easy. Instead of sitting here, we can put your chair between me and him and you can sit between us.

I was also told that that she (or the university) had been planning to host a reception for her 2 guests until someone who knew about me told them, 'I can assure you that As'ad will not agree to a reception with an Israeli diplomat.' So the reception was scrapped. I then told my host that I wouldn't be acknowledging or speaking to the Israeli guest. She looked baffled and nervous. She asked me why I have these positions. I told her, 'You'll understand after you hear my remarks.' I could tell she was getting more and more nervous by the minute. Then she said something about the 'academic' environment or collegiality, and added something about 'us' getting along. That made me even more angry, which was great preparation for the debate, and I said, 'This is no joke, or game or schtick for me. This is about killing 400 Palestinian kids in Gaza in 3 weeks. I don't 'get along', and I don't want to 'get along'.'

By this time, the security and the police had grown even more visible and extensive. The moderator remarked that it was necessary for 'his safety.' That made me even more pissed off (which, as I've said, was great preparation for the debate as far as I was concerned). I said, 'What about my safety? Is that part of the picture, or don't Arabs deserve safety?' I watched them searching backpacks and was told that the Israeli had notified the police and various security agencies.

As I sat there, I was pleased to see my students from California State University, Stanislaus. I'd warned them, 'You'll see a different side of me from the one you see in the classroom.' Then I met a Palestinian student from San Francisco University - probably the only one on campus. I also saw a student of mine from 7 or more years ago.

While I was sitting - with the moderator now in the middle - I saw the shadow of a man (because I'd made a point of not looking at him) standing before me with his hand out. He was saying, 'Nice to meet you, professor. Hi, professor.' I kept looking straight ahead, as if there was no one standing in front of me. He repeated his greeting a few times, but I kept on totally ignoring him. He finally gave up and took his seat. Well I debated a man yesterday, but I have to say I haven't the faintest idea what he looked like! I didn't look at him or address him once. At one point, during the debate, he asked me to look at him, but of course I ignored him. He then looked at the audience and said that I hadn't looked at him or shaken his hand or made any attempt to humanise him. I muttered into the microphone that I see them the way they see the children of Gaza.

Over dinner with Amer and Riad later, both commented that they would have had great difficulty ignoring him the way I did. Amer, however, added that my lack of shyness, timidity or the need to be polite helps me in these situations. I must say, it is easy for me to be socially rude when I want to be. I asked them, 'Are you kidding? My very best moments are when I'm ignoring Israelis who are trying to greet me or shake my hand.'

The president of the university greeted his... Israeli guest. One of the university administrators has noticed that and later expessed his displeasure to me. The moderator didn't even bother flipping a coin or asking who would like to speak first, but simply gave the Israeli the nod. She wasn't to know of course that that's the way I like it, because then I get to say what I want and respond to the first speaker. We also had 5' to respond after the presentations.

Now you must understand that I can't really evaluate my own performance or say how I did. I'll leave that to witnesses or your own opinions when you watch it on video. That's right, I'm told it was taped and will provide you with further information when it comes to hand.

What I can say is that as soon as it was my turn, I felt a rush. My voice was back in full force and I was singing like Fayruz. A woman who'd accompanied the diplomat and was sitting in the front row was squirming and looking sympathetically at her Israeli colleague some 2 minutes into my talk. I couldn't read her face but felt she was telling him, 'We didn't expect this to happen.' But it did, and As'ad was on a roll. I can't tell you how well I did, but I can say I enjoyed it thoroughly and would even waive the speaker's fee to do it again.

When I first came to the US and watched debates between Israeli and Arab speakers, I always found myself being critical of their style and content. So I have no excuse: when I debate, I say what I want. I do it my way, and last night was no exception. I explained my approach to the audience. I said, 'I want you all to know that my participation was at the invitation of the University of San Francisco and that I strictly adhere to the boycott of Israel.' And I called on them all to boycott Israel at all levels. I told them that I first met (armed) Israelis while under occupation in South Lebanon in 1982, and that I resolved back then that I would henceforth meet them only on my own terms. I explained that I was strictly against terrorists and terrorism, that I'm opposed to any deal or negotiations with al-Qa'idah or with Bin Laden, and that accordingly I'm opposed to any deal or compromise with the state that pioneered the practice of terrorism in the region. And I went on...

The moderator was clearly nervous. I told her that later. She started getting nervous as soon as I spoke. She told me she never gets nervous. I said, 'Well, you were nervous many times today.' The audience was largely sympathetic to the Palestinian view. Most were quite knowledgeable of the issues and many had been to Palestine, which put the Israeli speaker in a difficult position - not that I felt sorry for him. There was a British professor (who had a teaching job in France) visiting at Stanford who kept yelling at the Israeli speaker. He was absolutely furious. Amer, Riad and I later commented that it was rare to see an American professor venting such anger at an Israeli speaker. By the time I'd finished my first 20' presentation, I felt relieved. I felt I'd done my job even though I said more later. I'll let you know when the video's uploaded, although I've been told that the first 20' - the Israeli speaker's presentation - is mysteriously missing from the university's tape. Oh, at one point I did criticise the moderator. It was during the Q & A. I was making a point and she started to interrupt me. I said, 'Look, I can tell you've been nervous regarding my attitude ever since I started speaking.' I said, 'It's clear you weren't expecting this. You were expecting an Arab who would hold hands with the Israeli speaker. I know I've disappointed you, but I did tell you I'd say what I wanted and in my own way.'

Driving back home that night with Amer and Riad, Al-Jazeera Arabic called me for a comment on US reactions to Lieberman's remarks. I was yelling into my cellphone but my voice was weak by that point. It'd been a long day - satisfying, but long. But, lest we lose sight of the realities, I told Amer and Riad that no matter who won the debate, they're still occupying our land and killing our people."

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Say It Isn't So

Say it isn't so: "The Federal Government has moved to permanently base Australia's various Middle Eastern regional military assets in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). In return, Australia has about 30 personnel in the UAE training its fast-growing special forces troopers. Behind the details of the arrangement are the 2 countries' larger needs. Australia has decided to stop pretending. Instead of pretending that we are occasional visitors to the Middle East, only rushing in when the US decides to go to war there and rushing out when it finishes, Australia is now acknowledging that it has permanent interests in the area... Both countries are now girding for the coming crisis with Iran, which lies just across the Gulf from the UAE." (Gulf friends look to us as Iran flexes its muscles, Peter Hartcher*, Sydney Morning Herald, 31/3/09)

The pro-US UAE, according to Hartcher, is worried about Iranian retaliation in the event of a strike by USrael against its nuclear facilities. That's the UAE's "larger need," but what's ours? We're still in Iraq, we've never been more involved in Afghanistan, and prime minister Rudd has even offered counter-insurgency trainers to Pakistan (see my 31/7/08 post Pure Genius) and spoken of his interest in keeping the Straits of Hormuz open "in coalition with the US." (See my 22/9/08 post The Left Hand... & the Right) But, wherein lies Australia's "larger need" to keep open the Straits of Hormuz and beef up the UAE's special forces?

As Scott Ritter reminds us in his 2006 book Target Iran: "The conflict currently underway between the US and Iran is, first and foremost, born in Israel. It is based upon an Israeli contention that Iran poses a threat to Israel, and defined by Israeli assertions that Iran possesses a nuclear weapons program. None of this has been shown to be true, and indeed many of the allegations made by Israel against Iran have been clearly demonstrated as being false. And yet the US continues to trumpet the Israeli claims..." (p 208) If so, it looks as though the only possible reason for the Rudd government's newfound interest in the Straits of Hormuz and a "permanent" presence in the Emirates is to aid and abet the coming USraeli mugging of Iran, itself the product of Israel's desire for regional hegemony.

After all, Rudd has said that support for Israel is "in his DNA," and, alone among world misleaders, has threatened to drag the Iranian president before the International Court of Justice for incitement to genocide against Israel. (See my 23/5/08 post Kevin Bonhoeffer vs Adolf Ahmadinejad) And what would you expect of a man whose speeches at Zionist functions could just as easily have been given by any of Israel's current crop of misleaders: "Israel has always confronted these challenges to its existential existence. That is why Israel continues to survive to this day - resolute in its mission and intelligent in its stategy." (Rudd: I am Israel's proud 'lifelong' friend, The Australian Jewish News, 23/2/07)

Into what uncharted foreign policy waters is Rudd taking this country?

[* Hartcher affixed the following disclosure to his piece: "Peter Hartcher, the Herald's international editor, travelled to the UAE as a guest of the Lowy Institute for International Policy." Can we expect a similar disclosure from the next Israel junketeer? Don't hold your breath.]