Monday, November 30, 2009

No Bull

When "the most influential foreign affairs analyst in Australian journalism" (aka Greg (Jerusalem Prize) Sheridan) met "a giant of contemporary Middle East politics" (aka Ehud Olmert) over lunch at Sydney's Circular Quay last week, he must have had quite an attack of the vapours, given the pheromones charging full tilt from the "balding lawyer with a modest paunch... dressed in jeans and black T-shirt with a Red Bull logo." (Olmert still dreams of peace, The Australian, 28/11/09)

Mind you, Mr Influential has always had a thing for giants, having previously described Suharto as an "authentic giant" and John Howard as a "giant in Australian foreign and security policy." (See my 29/1/08 post Greg Sheridan: In Praise of 'Great' Men)

"Olmert's term in office," Sheridan cooed, "is best remembered for the extensive negotiations, and final peace offer that he undertook with [that pygmy] Abbas."

Of these the Israeli giant said: "On the 16th of September, 2008, I presented him (Abbas) with a comprehensive plan... based on the following principles. One, there would be a territorial solution on the basis of the 1967 borders with minor modifications on both sides." This, reports Sheridan, "would have allowed Israel to keep the biggest Jewish settlement blocks [sic] which are mainly now suburbs of Jerusalem, but would certainly have entailed other settlers having to leave Palestinian territory and relocate to Israel. In total, Olmert says, this would have involved Israel claiming about 6.4% of Palestinian territory in the West Bank."

OK then, let's get this straight: the mob that, contrary to international law, stormed into the West Bank in 1967 and has refused ever since to leave, in defiance of UN resolution 242, is now offering the West Bankers the deal of a lifetime. Hmm! That aside, the giant reckons his mob is/was now prepared to give it all back except for just 6.4% of the West Bank, consisting of settlement blocs "now suburbs of Jerusalem." Incredible! But... um... don't those settlement blocs - sorry - "suburbs" extend east almost to Jericho in the Jordan Valley, effectively cutting the West Bank (and the proposed Palestinian state) in two? And the West Bank? Does that come with or without the Jordan Valley? Or with or without the bits now west of the West Bank wall? Greg? Can you get back to us on this?

"No. 2 was the issue of Jerusalem... Jewish neighbourhoods would be under Jewish sovereignty. Arab neighbourhoods would be under Palestinian sovereignty, so it could be the capital of a Palestinian state." Righto! So those Jewish settlements - sorry, "neighbourhoods" - ringing Palestinian East Jerusalem (Gilo, Har Homa, East Talpiot, Ramat Eshkol etc), wouldn't they sever said "Arab neighbourhoods" (the putative Palestinian "capital") from the West Bank? Greg? Can you get back to us on this?

"Third was the issue of Palestinian refugees... I told [Abbas] I would never agree to a right of return. Instead, we would agree on a humanitarian basis to accept a certain number every year for 5 years, on the basis that this would be the end of conflict and the end of claims. I said to him 1,000 per year." Run that past me again. Of the 5 million Palestinian refugees currently in exile beyond Israel's borders (wherever they may be at the moment), 5,000 get to return to their homes and lands. Greg? Are you there, Greg? But there's more to this giant than fabulous offers: "I was the first Israeli prime minister to speak of Palestinian suffering and to say that we are not indifferent to that suffering," he said solemnly.

Those pheromones were too much. Sheridan was clearly smitten: "Olmert is right to paint this offer as embodying the most extensive concessions, and the best deal, ever offered to the Palestinians by an Israeli leader."

And that Palestinian pygmy, Abbas? The Israeli giant, with pained look and shrug, could only lament, "He promised me the next day his adviser would come. But the next day Saeb Erekat rang my adviser and said we forgot we are going to Amman today, let's make it next week. I never saw him again."

Pearls before swine, obviously.

PS: While on the subject of Israeli pearls and Palestinian swine, you might like to check out my 13/11/09 post Mendes & Dyrenfurth's Win-Win Plan.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Israel: Just Another Middle Eastern Autocracy

In a propaganda piece in today's Age, Isi Leibler (described as "a former leader of the Australian Jewish community who now lives in Israel") writes as follows: "Israel remains the only democracy in the region; 20% of its inhabitants are Arab citizens, who enjoy equality of rights, freedom of expression and elect their representatives to the Israeli parliament. By contrast, Israel's despotic neighbours are autocracies or dictatorships which deny freedom of religion and many other basic human rights." (Cowardly bias blights attitudes on Israel, 28/11/09)

This particular Zionist cliche is, of course, a staple in the mainstream media, and my earlier posts on the subject can be viewed by clicking on the relevant tag below.

Ilan Pappe, author of The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine (among other titles) and currently the chair of history at Exeter University, tackles it head on in his insightful contribution (The Mukhabarat State of Israel) to the recently published anthology, Thinking Palestine (ed Ronit Lentin, 2008). Outta the way, Isi!:

"[The role of the Israeli army and secret service testify] that Israel [is] a mukhabarat state, a local Arab and Middle East variant of the oppressive state. Politically, the mukhabarat (secret service) state exists mostly within the Arab world (although there are similar states elsewhere). Such a state is characterized by an all -pervasive bureaucracy and ruled by military and security apparatuses (Entelis 2005). The variants of this model range from robust to liberal autocracies, and the span is wide enough to include Israel. What characterizes such states is the sustainability of their security establishment (the mukhabarat) in the face of internal challenges and external pressures. This sustainability is ensured by a strong connection to an outside power: 'the mukhabarat state cannot long endure, if it lacks the financial resources to pay its soldiers, purchase arms, upgrade equipment, maintain supplies, and acquire externally-gathered intelligence data' (Entelis 2005:1)... Readers versed in the critique of Israel are familiar with its depiction as 'an army with a state'. This is actually a common reference to the mukhabarat state of Algeria, about which it was written that 'every state has an army but in Algeria the army has a state', describing the deeply enmeshed linkage between the state and the security apparatuses (Bellin 2004: 144). This is not dissimilar to the bold attempt by several critical Israeli sociologists to define Israel as a militarist society (Ben-Eliazer 1995; Erlich 1987; Karmi & Rosenfeld 1989). The role of the army or security apparatuses in these studies appears to be... part of the state's foundation and raison d'etat... The [non-democratic founding] ideology and colonialist reality produced a state in which the army and security apparatuses reign not in exceptional circumstances, but as a rule. While the militaristic model mobilizes Jewish society, as a typical mukhabarat state it oppresses the Palestinian population... In Israel, martial law is the legal and political reality for almost all its Palestinian citizens at any given time, directly or indirectly. The authoritarian, rentier militaristic state of the Arab world is a model that better corresponds, historically and theoretically, with the state within the State of Israel: the state of the Palestinians within the Jewish state. However, as argued by others before me (see, eg Ram 1993), it is a hybrid with another model, the settler-colonial state, which can be presented as a mixture of an Arab post-colonial model and a colonialist model such as Apartheid South Africa... My argument is that the Israeli paradigm is a colonialist and post-colonialist mixture, a political outfit of a settler state ruling through a mukhabarat state."

Pappe charts in Israel's history an "escalating cycle which carries the potential to end the pretence and the false inclusion of Israel in the western democracy frame of analysis":

"The first wave was in 1948, leading to the rights to own land and water and to buy and sell land being denied to the Palestinians by law, as was the right for full citizenship. This was followed by discrimination in every aspect of life, while welfare, education and protection from abuse of the law were all practised systematically and efficiently but not legalized. The second wave was legislation through the imposition of the Emergency Regulations on the occupied West Bank and Gaza strip in 1967 that denied basic human and civil rights to the millions who lived there. It began with ethnically cleansing 300,000 Palestinians and then constructing the oppressive regime we are familiar with today. All this was achieved without undermining Israel's membership in the exclusive democratic club. The third wave... concerns greater Jerusalem, defined as one-third of the West Bank, where potential Palestinian citizens of Israel have lived since it was officially annexed to Israel in 1967. A set of municipal regulations, town planning ordinances and other municipal legislation enabled the ethnic cleaning of the 200,000 Palestinians who live there - an operation that needed time and has not yet been completed at the time of writing (40% have already been transferred; see report on East Jerusalem at And there is a fourth wave of legislation that began in 2001. A series of parliamentary initiatives led to new discriminatory laws, among them 'The Nation and Admittance to the Country Law' which disables any reunion of Palestinian couples living on either side of the Green Line and of families separated for whatever other reason. In practice it is a means of preventing the return to the homeland of any Palestinian who 'overstayed' abroad. Other laws institutionalized discrimination in the realms of welfare and education (including the secret service's right to determine the employment of school principals and teachers). And finally, there are the laws, already mentioned, equating opposition to the Jewishness of the state with treason." (pp 164 -168)

Friday, November 27, 2009

Mosque Busters

Follow the thread:

"Yehuda Etzion was no less colorful. A student of the Elon Shvut Yeshiva, determined and zealous in his faith, he was among the 'professional settlers' during the first years of Gush Emunim, spending long periods on the hilltops, moving constantly from one to another. Etzion did his military service as a paramilitary yeshiva soldier in combat engineering, a unit that provided him with the training in explosives that he latter used in terror group activities. He was a partner to the first settlement attempt by the Elon Moreh nucleus in Samaria, in the spring of 1974, and was among those who were forcibly evacuated while Sharon was endeavoring to protect him with his own body and instructing the evacuating soldiers to refuse to obey orders. Afterward Etzion headed the work brigade out of which the settlement of Ofra grew. During the days of Camp David he took part in demonstrations all over the country and organized protest settlements. However, the failure of the settlement attempt at Rujaib near Nablus right after the signing of the Camp David agreements led him to cut himself off from Gush Emunim and to a period of isolation and thought. Settling the land no longer looked to him like the most important course of action. He set out to seek a 'personality of spiritual stature, who would put himself at the head of an initiative that would march the Jewish people toward the fulfillment of their destiny'. The books of his relative, Shabtai Ben-Dov, and the conversations he conducted with his friend Yeshua Ben Shushan gave him ideas about the ways of accelerating the process of the Redemption... When Etzion asked... Ben-Dov whether removing the Dome of the Rock from the Temple Mount would start a dynamic of Redemption, the latter replied..., 'If you want to do a deed that will solve all of the problems of the Jewish people - do that!' Etzion and Ben Shushan turned for advice to Rabbi Zvi Yehudah Kook, the spiritual leader of Gush Emunim, and the rabbi directed them to Ariel Sharon." (Lords of the Land: The War Over Israel's Settlements in the Occupied Territories, 1967-2007, Idith Zertal & Akiva Eldar, 2007, pp 81-82)

"The destruction of a mosque by Hindu radicals that led to some of the bloodiest religious riots in India since Partition was 'meticulously planned' by politicians including a former prime minister, according to a leaked report of the official investigation. The razing of the 16th-century Babri Mosque - in the northern town of Ayodhya, on December 6, 1992, by an estimated 150,000 Hindus - led to national violence in which about 2000 people died, mostly Muslims. The demolition also cemented the power base of the Hindu fundamentalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which came to power 4 years later. BJP hardliners had long claimed the mosque stood on the birthplace of Lord Rama, the Hindu warrior god, and had campaigned for a Hindu temple to be built on the site... Those [politicians] allegedly involved included former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee..." (Hindu MPs behind razing of mosque, Rhys Blakely, The Australian, 25/11/09)

"Ariel Sharon [was] the first Israeli prime minister to visit India since independence in 1947... During a dinner organised in his honour by his Indian counterpart, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, on September 9, Sharon reaffirmed his government's determination to 'act against terror'. Vajpayee said: 'Our defence cooperation rests on the foundation of mutual understanding of security concerns'. The spectacular blossoming of Israeli-Indian relations owes much to their joint perceptions of 'Islamic threats' in Kashmir and in Palestine. Long fascinated by Israel, the leaders of the nationalist Hindu Indian Peoples Party (BJP) decided in 1999, after a fresh wave of bloody clashes with Kashmiri guerillas... to call on Israeli expertise... The events of September 11, 2001, further boosted that cooperation, and the Indian prime minister's national security adviser... speaking earlier this year to the American Jewish Committee in Washington, argued in favour of a central axis consisting of the United States, Israel and India that would fight terrorism together. Israel is now India's second-largest arms supplier after Russia." (Sharon & Vajpayee see eye to eye on terror, Francoise Chipaux, Guardian Weekly, 18/9/03)

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The 9/11 Industry

"Israelis last week gathered at a ceremony dedicating a new Jerusalem monument in memory of the victims of the September 11 attacks on the United States in 2001... The Jerusalem monument is the fourth 9/11 memorial site in Israel, following Rishon Lezion, Ness Ziona and Be'er Sheva." (Jerusalem unveils September 11 monument, The Australian Jewish News, 20/11/09)

"When asked what the [September 11] terrorist attacks would do for US-Israeli relations former [now current] Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu blurted out*: 'It's very good'. Then he edited himself: 'Well, not very good, but it will generate immediate sympathy'. Netanyahu correctly predicted that the attacks would 'strengthen the bond between our two peoples, because we've experienced terror over so many decades, but the United States has now experienced a massive hemorrhaging of terror'." (The Transparent Cabal: The Neoconservative Agenda, War in the Middle East, & the National Interest of Israel, Stephen Sniegoski, 2008, p 139)


Monday, November 23, 2009

A Brighter Future for Iraqis

Last Saturday, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd told a parade of Australian troops who had 'served' in Iraq in Operation Catalyst (2003-2009), our 'contribution' to Operation Iraqi Freedom, that they were the "Anzacs of today," and that "[i]n our name and under our flag, they risked their lives to provide others with a brighter future."

In fact, one such glorious Anzac, Major-General Jim Molan, even became chief of operations of the Iraq multinational force, and in that capacity played a special part in providing said brighter future to the residents of Falluja in 2004 (see my 4/10/09 post Operation Get Goldstone).

A glimpse of same was thoughtfully provided by the Sydney Morning Herald on the very day the PM spoke:

"Zainab Abdul Latif moves wearily between her 3 children, wiping their foreheads and propping them up in their wheelchairs. 'Every day they need intensive care', the Falluja mother, 29, says. Neither her 2 sons, Amar, 5, and Moustafa, 3, or her daughter Mariam, 6, can walk or use their limbs. They speak 2 words - 'mama, baba' - between them. And all are in nappies. Zainab is one of many faces of Falluja's postwar years, overwhelmed by a workload that she has no means to change. 'They cannot eat or drink by themselves, and every day I have to take Mariam to the hospital. She is very sensitive to flu and regularly gets diarrhoea and other ailments. The doctors have told me they are mentally retarded and have nerve paralysis. They say it is congenital. I really can't take care of them like this and I need help'. One of the few people she can turn to is Bassem Allah, the senior obstetrician who is the chief custodian of Falluja's newborns. During medical school he had to search Iraq for case studies of an infant with a birth defect... 'Now, every day in my clinic... there are large numbers of congenital abnormalities or cases of chronic tumours... Now, believe me, it's like we are treating patients immediately after Hiroshima'. Across Falluja neonatal wards and centres for disabled people are facing such an influx of infants or children aged under 5 with chronic deformities that they are fast running out of space and staff to help... [Falluja] was the site of the 2 most savage and prolonged battles in Iraq during the past 6 years. The potentially toxic residue of precision munitions that rained on the city for up to 2 months in 2004 has left many medical professionals questioning the long-term impact of modern weaponry, although few are willing, so far, to directly blame the war." (Battered city's youngest victims, Martin Chulov, Guardian)

Futures don't come much brighter than that now, do they?

Hm... those munitions that were rained on the city? Sounds like depleted uranium (DU) weapons to me. We know that they were widely used by coalition forces in Iraq, and we know that they end up as a radioactive dust which can be inhaled, ingested or absorbed through wounds. In fact, DU weapons were also used in Iraq in the earlier Gulf War -with interesting consequences: "In February 1991, more than 300 tons... of DU weapons were used in southern Iraq. After 5-to 6-year latent periods, increases in childhood cancers and birth defects were documented in the Basra governate. The most recent data indicate a fourfold increase in congenital malformations compared to 1990, the year preceding the war." (World Tribunal on Iraq: Making the Case Against War, ed Muge Gursoy Sokmen, 2008, p 210)

With stuff like DU dust swirling around Falluja (and who knows where else in Iraq), the PM's talk of a brighter future for Iraqis is, if anything, understated. Given that the shelf-life of DU is around - oh - 4.5 billion years, he could have described it as an eternally glowing future.

Meet the Candidates...

The Liberal candidate for the December 5 Bradfield by-election is Paul Fletcher. He's eminently qualified for Federal Knesset... sorry, Parliament: "'I was involved in student politics at Sydney University, and while I was there, I was selected by the Australasian Union of Jewish Students (AUJS) to go to Israel', he told The Australian Jewish News. Since that 2-week trip in 1986, Fletcher has returned once to Israel, in 1999 with Howard government communications minister Richard Alston. 'The main purpose of the trip was to visit a number of high-tech companies', he said. 'It was interesting to see the success of Israel and its innovation in communications technology'. Communications is Fletcher's expertise, having worked as Alston's chief of staff, and then in the private sector as an executive at Optus." (Community & communications the key for Fletcher, 20/11/09)

Ditto for the Liberal candidate for the December 5 Higgins by-election, Kelly O'Dwyer: "She was singled out during her days in Costello's office as an up-and-comer, and invited to participate in the Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council's Rambam Mission to Israel in 2006. 'What was most compelling for me was that the trip brought into sharp focus the daily reality of living with the threat of terrorism', she said of her visit to the Jewish State." (In the footsteps of a stalwart, AJN, 20/11/09)

Talk about the right stuff!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Norm & Jason

Just look at the kind of Israel-friendly language used by Sydney Morning Herald Middle East correspondent Jason Koutsoukis in his 19/11/09 report Netanyahu shrugs off world criticism:

"Jewish neighbourhoods in East Jerusalem"/"built on land [which] is regarded as an illegal settlement by the United Nations"/"Gilo is home to 40,000 Jewish residents and completes a ring of Jewish neighbourhoods."

Jewish neighbourhoods, not Israeli colonies. Jewish residents, not Israeli colonists. Is regarded as illegal by the UN [presumably just another source of subjective opinion], not 'is illegal under international law'. And the 'o' word, occupied - banished entirely!

Contrast this with the no-nonsense language of another news report in the same issue on Sahrawi activist Aminatou Haidar ('African Gandhi' risks life, Xan Rice): "The Moroccan Government, which considers Western Sahara to be its southern provinces, even though this has no foundation in international law..." Render this into Morocco-friendly language and "no foundation in international law" becomes 'regarded as illegal by the UN'...

Israeli propaganda, peddled in the mainstream media by the likes of Koutsoukis, wreaks havoc on the public's understanding of the criminal Israeli colonization underway in occupied Palestine. Look what happened when one of these know-nothing peddler hacks bumped into the formidable Norman Finkelstein on Danish TV (You can enjoy the video on Finkelstein's website):

Norman Finkelstein: Any talks or resolution of the [Israel/Arab] conflict has to be based on international law, and the law is clear: the basic priciple of international law is that it's inadmissable to acquire territory by war. Israel acquired the Golan Heights in the June 1967 war, and therefore, in international law, it has no title to any of the Golan Heights. There has to be a full Israeli withdrawal to the pre-June 4 border. That's a precondition. You can't resolve any conflict unless there are basic principles - and the principles for resolving the Israel/Palestine or Israel/Syrian conflict has to be international law.

Adam Holms: Just a couple of days ago Israel's Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon paid a visit to our studios. Just listen to what he says: 'Hamas is the real enemy of peace. Hamas is the enemy of Palestinian interests. By the way, Hamas does not represent Palestinian interests but Iranian interests. They're being helped and supplied and financed and equipped by Iran with the same ideology of sharia - a very radical Islamist entity...' It's pretty clear what he's saying: the onus rests with Hamas. What's your take on this?

Norman Finkelstein: Well it's not as if Hamas has been around since eternity. The Israelis had the option of settling the conflict with the Palestinians before January 2006 when Hamas was elected to office. If Hamas is the obstacle, then why weren't they able to settle the conflict before Hamas was elected into office? Because they refused the terms of the international community. Every year, as it happens, in November, the international community votes on a resolution at the United Nations General Assembly to settle the conflict and every year the vote is the same. The whole world on one side, 161 nations last year, and then there are the US, Israel, Naurau, Palau, the Marshall Islands, Micronesia and sometimes Australia on the other side. The problem is not Hamas. Hamas has repeatedly said it's willing to settle the conflict in the June 67 border.

Adam Holms: But still they refuse to recognise the state of Israel.

Norman Finkelstein: Well they refuse to recognise what they call the legitimacy of the state of Israel, but under international law they're not obliged to recognise the legitimacy of the state of Israel. If you go back to 1947, Gandhi said he'd accept the reality of Pakistan but he would never accept the legitimacy of the state of Pakistan. And Hamas is not expected to be held to a higher level of diplomacy than Gandhi. Gandhi said Pakistan is a reality which I'm forced to accept but I don't accept it as legitimate and that's the same as the position of Hamas.

Adam Holms: But this is what makes Jerusalem wary of Hamas because they keep saying how can you have a neighbour that doesn't recognise our legitimacy?

Norman Finkelstein: You see the problem is... listen to your own language. You're just spouting Israeli propaganda. Why are you saying Jerusalem? East Jerusalem is occupied territory under international law. That was the ruling of the International Criminal Court in 2004, and if you look at the Goldstone Report that just came out... they refer to East Jerusalem as occupied Palestinian territory. But now you've given over Jerusalem to the Israelis. You're just repeating Israeli propaganda. They have no title under international law to East Jerusalem.

Adam Holms (sheepish & defensive): Speaking of what you call my Israeli propaganda, which I refute, but anyway you're on record for saying that Israel is a terrorist state, a lunatic state... Why do you use such stark language about a state which is essentially just defending its own right to exist?

Norman Finkelstein: OK, you accuse me of using stark and provocative language, so let's take the renowned international jurist Richard Goldstone, who was the chief prosecutor for the war crimes in Rwanda and Yugoslavia - he came out a few weeks ago with a report on what Israel did in Gaza approximately a year ago and he said... Israel's purpose was to 'punish, humiliate and terrorise' a civilian population - terrorise a civilian population. So is Mr Goldstone guilty of incendiary language or is he simply accurately reporting on what happened? Terrorism is a fact and refers to the targeting of civilians and civilian infrastructure to achieve a political end, and Israel routinely targets civilians and civilian infrastructure to achieve political goals, so it's terrorism. I can't help it if that's what Israel chooses as its targets...

Adam Holms: Terrorist state or self-defence? It depends on the eye that looks at it.

Norman Finkelstein: No. Let's say for argument's sake that Israel were engaged in a war of self-defence in Gaza - that still means you can engage in terrorism. You can be engaged in a war of self-defence, but if, in the course of the war, you're targeting civilians and civilian infrastructure then you're engaged in terrorism. That's the basic distinction in international law between the reason why you went to war and how you're conducting the war.

Adam Holms: What do you think the international community should do about Israel? How should the case of Israel be handled?

Norman Finkelstein: There's a very simple way to handle it. They should enforce the law. That is the easiest and most efficacious way to resolve the conflict.

Adam Holms: So Israel's been granted special treatment you say.

Norman Finkelstein: The law is not being enforced against it. Richard Goldstone is saying Israel is committing war crimes and possible crimes against humanity, and Israel should be brought before the International Criminal Court if those who are guilty of these crimes are not prosecuted. Just enforce the law. These are not radical ideas...

Koutsoukis and his kind need a similar whipping.

Friday, November 20, 2009

A Moment of Sheer Bipartisan Magic

While you were all toiling at the coalface yesterday, you'll be pleased to know that your 'leaders', in the padded depths of their parliamentary playpen, were sweating over a matter of vital importance to the welfare of this great nation:-

The Speaker - I have received a letter from the honourable the Deputy Leader of the Opposition proposing that a definite matter of public importance be submitted to the House for discussion, namely: The government's failure to properly manage Australia's foreign relations.

Ms Julie Bishop (Curtin - Deputy Leader of the Opposition) - One of the most important roles of the person who holds the office of Prime Minister of Australia is to manage our foreign relations in a way that benefits the natural interest... I think it is instructive... to look at some of the statements of this Prime Minister when in opposition... yadda, yadda, yadda... It is... deeply regrettable that the Labor government is overturning Australia's longstanding bipartisan policy of refusing to support one-sided resolutions against Israel in the United Nations General Assembly. The coalition has always recognised the aspirations of the Palestinian people to self-determination. But any prospect for a lasting peace in the Middle East also requires that the Palestinian people and Israel's neighbours recognise the right of the state of Israel to live within secure borders. This must be the crucial foundation for any durable two-state solution. Resolutions at the UNGA that speak only of Palestinian rights to a homeland yet make no reference to the right of the state of Israel to exist are inflammatory and counterproductive. This is especially so when key backers of these resolutions such as Iran speak openly of seeking the destruction of the state of Israel. Late last year we saw a shift in Australia's voting patterns for UNGA resolutions on the conflict in the Middle East. It is disappointing that the Australian government has again voted in support for such a resolution.* We in the opposition again express our hope that the Labor government is not trading on fundamental questions of principle in order to attract support at the UN for the Prime Minister's personal campaign to win a seat on the UN Security Council. More than 60 years ago the Australian government was one of the first countries to vote in support of the creation of the state of Israel at the UN. It has not been the traditional practice of Australian governments to adopt or endorse some of the one-sided resolutions against Israel that now come before the UN. This government has now voted in favour of 3 of these resolutions. Why? Why have they done this? We can only assume it has to do with the Prime Minister's efforts to garner votes for his personal crusade to secure a seat on the UNSC. Australia should never get into the business of trading on principle or on our support of Israel simply to gather votes for the campaign for the SC. If some principles are compromised, where will this government stop?... yadda, yadda, yadda.

Mr Stephen Smith (Perth - Minister for Foreign Affairs) - yadda, yadda, yadda.

Ms Julie Bishop - What about Israel?

Mr Stephen Smith - I will deal with all of them; do not worry... yadda, yadda, yadda... Let me deal with the Middle East. The government has changed 3 votes before the GA -

Ms Julie Bishop - Why?

The Deputy Speaker - The Deputy Leader of the Opposition had her turn earlier.

Mr Stephen Smith - They were on settlements, reflecting precisely the same view as the United States administration; on the Geneva Conventions applying to the occupied territories - and how would Australia have looked in the terrible Gaza conflict last December and January if we had not adhered to the application of the Geneva Conventions?; and, thirdly, on the right of self-determination of the Palestinians -

Ms Julie Bishop interjecting -

The Deputy Speaker - The Deputy Leader of the Opposition had her turn. She is abusing the standing orders.

Mr Stephen Smith - When you look at who votes in those matters, at the strong stand that Australia takes defending Israel's interests on the Goldstone report and at the strong stand that Australia took in the Durban II review, we are in very good company because our approach to these matters is a two-nation-state solution and to support the peace process. (Time expired)

Mr Johnson (Ryan) - yadda, yadda, yadda.

Mr Dreyfus (Isaacs) - yadda, yadda, yadda... But I also wanted to mention just how absurd are some of the nitpicking propositions that were advanced by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition... in relation to Australia's long-standing and continuing support for Israel... yadda, yadda, yadda... In relation to Israel, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition should be ashamed of herself for suggesting that there has been any lessening in the strength of Australia's support for the state of Israel. She omitted to mention - and this is the selective approach she took to almost all of the topics she mentioned - the support Australia gave to Israel during the Gaza conflict at the start of this year; the vote that Australia made at, and Australia's position in withdrawing from, the Durban review conference and its assistance to ensure that other countries did the same; the Deputy Prime Minister's visit to Israel as part of the Australia-Israel Leadership Forum in June this year; and Australia's position on the Goldstone report. (Time expired)

Mr Laming (Bowman) - yadda, yadda, yadda.

Ms Parke (Fremantle) - yadda, yadda, yadda. (pp 57-67, Hansard, 19/11/09)

And then, guess what? Magic happened! A hush fell over the House. You could hear the proverbial pin drop. Stephen's eyes met Julie's across a crowded chamber. As if in a trance they moved, nay glided, towards one another. Then, hand-in-hand, in the most extraordinary display of bipartisanship the House had seen since the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition sang Happy Birthday to Israel on March 14 last year, they announced that they'd like to dedicate another song to Israel in confirmation of the Lucky Country's undying love for the Plucky Country. And then, as the assembled members grew misty-eyed and broke out in goose bumps, Stephen and Julie proceeded to belt out Helen Reddy's immortal classic You're My World:

You're my world, you're every breath I take
You're my world, you're every move I make
Other eyes see the stars [of David] up in the sky
But for me they shine within your eyes

As the trees reach for the sun above
So my arms reach out to you for love
With your hand resting in mine
I feel a power so divine

You're my world, you are my night & day
You're my world, you're every prayer I pray
If our love ceases to be
That is the end of my world for me

With your hand resting in mine
I feel a power so divine

You're my world, you are my night & day
You're my world, you're every prayer I pray
If our love ceases to be
That is the end of my world for me
End of my world
End of my world
End of my world for me...

[*It's curious how the Australian corporate media simply doesn't bother reporting how we vote in the UNGA. Apparently, the resolution referred to by Bishop - a re-affirmation of the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination - was voted on earlier this month.]

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

No Hidden Agenda

If Sydney Morning Herald international editor Peter Hartcher seriously intended the contents of his puff piece on Israel (Israel feels tarnished as critics apply apartheid tag, 17/11/09) to be the story, he was fooling himself.

It was in fact his accompanying disclosure that he had "travelled to Israel as a guest of the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies"* that became the real story, acting as a lightning rod for reader scepticism and dissent. Of the 114 comments** posted on the Herald's website by sun-up today, 23 zeroed in on Hartcher's JBOD junket and its journalistic spin-off.

[*Actually a defensive measure since his Herald colleague Paul Sheehan was caught out. See my posts Oriana Fallaci Meets Israeli PR at the SMH (13/1/09) & Oriana Fallaci Meets Israeli PR at the SMH 2 (19/1/09); **81 were critical of Hartcher and/or Israel]

Obviously stung, Hartcher felt the need to post the following addendum: "A number of comments attach great significance to the fact that, as pointed out at the end of the column, I travelled to Israel as a guest of the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies. Some impute a hidden agenda. Earlier this year I wrote about the United Arab Emirates after travelling there as a guest of the Lowy Institute for International Policy. This attracted no comment. It is routine for journalists to accept paid travel. The question is not whether journalists take trips; it is whether they disclose them. Disclosure means that readers can take this into account in forming their views. This is the exact opposite of a hidden agenda."

In a nutshell: 'I travelled to the UAE on a Lowy Institute junket and no one complained so why now? And anyway, press junkets are fine, so long as they're disclosed.'

Such disingenuousness warrants scrutiny. Hartcher did in fact go on a Lowy Institute-sponsored trip to the UAE and disclosed this at the foot of an opinion piece on 31/3/09. (See my 2/4/09 post Say It Isn't So) What he didn't disclose, however, was that he is listed as a "Visiting Fellow" on the Institute's website, with all that that entails by way of the Institute's provenance. Nor would the average reader necessarily be aware of its Zionist agenda. (See my 18/10/09 post Lowy's Elephantine Agenda)

Be that as it may, Hartcher was not whisked off to the UAE for a puff piece. Just look at the opening paragraph: "Australia has a new friend in the Middle East. It's not the prettiest regime in the world but as Arab autocracies go, it's about as good as it gets. In this case the real estate adage applies - as far as Australia is concerned it's about location, location, location."

No, Hartcher was there for one reason only - to report (quite uncritically I might add) that "The Federal Government has moved to permanently base Australia's various Middle Eastern regional military assets in the UAE. In return, Australia has about 30 personnel in the UAE training its fast-growing special forces troopers... Both countries are now girding for the coming crisis with Iran, which lies just across the Gulf from the UAE."

Comparing the circumstances surrounding his UAE trip with those surrounding his Israel trip is like comparing apples with oranges, and Hartcher knows it.

As to Hartcher's contention that sponsored trips are kosher provided they're disclosed, how does he reconcile this with the requirements of The Fairfax Code of Conduct?: "We will not accept gifts or inducements which could impair our judgement or be perceived to be a conflict of interest, bribe or inappropriate gift."

Has Hartcher's judgement been impaired? Just how much pro-Israel spin is there in Israel feels tarnished...? Let me count the ways:

1) The UN is derogatively described, Israeli-style, as an "international resolution factory."

2) The Israeli talking point It's All About Rockets is uncritically regurgitated: "After enduring some 800* rocket attacks... Israel sent its armed forces into Gaza last December to stop the firings at source." Where's the context? The Israeli siege of Gaza? The unilateral Hamas ceasefire? The never-ending Israeli incursions and extra-judicial killings? The Israeli murders that finally prompted a renewal of Palestinian rocket and mortar fire? - all of which has been canvassed in my 22/8/09 post Gillard: Sychophant.

[*This appears to be a typo - the cited ITP demands a figure in the thousands, anywhere from 6 -10 thousand. See my 5/1/09 post Go Figure 1]

3) Israel's turkey shoot in Gaza (13 Israeli to 1,417 Palestinian deaths (PCHR)) is casually described as a "clash."

4) "This was the whole point of the Hamas strategy. By deliberately positioning themselves in residential areas, the Hamas fighters were goading Israel to shoot back at civilians' homes." On the contrary, Mr Hartcher, Amnesty International's investigation produced no evidence to support this claim. They did, however, find evidence that Israeli troops used Palestinians as human shields. See my 4/10/09 post Operation Get Goldstone.

5) Hamas is described as an "Islamic terrorist group banned by the US, the EU and Australia." Standard Israeli rhetoric here.

6) Meet Hartcher's interviewees, both standard issue Zionist axe-grinders: Gerald Steinberg, "professor of political science at Bar Ilan University and the head of a think tank called NGO Watch [sic]"; Isi Leibler, "the businessman and former chairman of the World Jewish Congress." At least that (partially?) answers the question of who Hartcher spoke to in Israel.

7) Steinberg is quoted as saying, "[The Goldstone report] is an attempt to turn Israel into a new apartheid state."

A little googling, however, would have told Hartcher that the apartheid experts over at South Africa's Human Sciences Research Council had already found Israel to be an apartheid state. (See my 21/9/09 post Israeli Apartheid: The Jury's In)

Whatever Steinberg's academic worth, his role as president of NGO Monitor (Hartcher can't even get the name of Steinberg's outfit right, calling it NGO Watch) should alert any journalist worth his salt to the existence of an agenda. According to NGO Monitor's website, its objective is "to end the practice used by certain self-declared 'humanitarian' NGOs of exploiting the label 'universal human rights values' to promote politically and ideologically motivated anti-Israel agendas." One example of Steinberg's oeuvre is Human Rights Watch: White (phosphorous) lies (The Jerusalem Post, 17/1/09). Keeping in mind Goldstone's finding "that the Israeli armed forces were systematically reckless in determining its use in built-up areas," I'll leave it to you to decide who is actually running an agenda here. If anything, Goldstone, a self-confessed Zionist, is pulling his punches. (See Did Richard Goldstone hide more sinister crimes in Gaza? - Part 1: White Phosphorus & Flechettes at

8) "The Israeli objection is to the emphasis in the report. Goldstone directs the great bulk of his scrutiny and criticism to the Israeli side. He does not give weight to the fact that Israel was responding to hundreds of rocket attacks from Hamas." See point 2.

Hartcher is correct, however - there is no "hidden agenda" behind his puff piece. It's actually out in plain view - on his sleeve.

Postscript: Interestingly, when I last looked, I couldn't find any mention whatever of Hartcher's junket on the JBOD's website. Why so coy, guys? And the Herald's website has just closed off comments on Israel feels tarnished... at 133. Why so soon, guys?

Monday, November 16, 2009

Dialogue of the Colonizer & the Colonized

"To tell the truth, the style of a colonization does not depend upon one or a few generous or clear-thinking individuals. Colonial relations do not stem from individual good will or actions; they exist before his arrival or his birth, and whether he accepts or rejects them matters little. It is they, on the contrary which, like any institution, determine a priori his place and that of the colonized and, in the final analysis, their true relationship. No matter how he may reassure himself, 'I have always been this way or that with the colonized', he suspects, even if he is in no way guilty as an individual, that he shares a collective responsibility by the fact of membership in a national oppressor group. Being oppressed as a group, the colonized must necessarily adopt a national and ethnic form of liberation from which he cannot but be excluded." (The Colonizer & the Colonized, Albert Memmi, 1965, pp 38-39)

"Just before Yom Kippur, Robi Damelin, 65, an activist in the Israeli-Palestinian Bereaved Families for Peace... revealed in [Haaretz Magazine]... an unusual letter of reconciliation that she'd written to the Palestinian sniper who killed her son David, an officer in the reserves. In March 2002, Ta'er Hamad positioned himself with an old carbine rifle on a hill opposite a checkpoint in Wadi Haramiya, killed 8 Israeli soldiers and 2 Israeli civilians - and escaped unscathed. Two and a half years later, in October 2004, he was arrested by an Israel Defense Forces unit operating in his village of Silwad. After learning of his incarceration, Damelin decided to contact him and his family, seeking reconciliation. 'This is one of the hardest letters I'll ever have to write', she wrote them, some months later. 'David was 28, studying for a master's degree in the philosophy of education at Tel Aviv University. He was part of the peace movement and did not want to serve in the occupied territories. He had compassion for all human beings and he understood the Palestinians' suffering. He treated those around him with respect. David belonged to the officers' movement that refused to serve in the occupied territories, and yet, for many reasons, he served when he was called up for reserve duty. I cannot describe to you the pain I have felt since his death. After your son was apprehended, I spent many sleepless nights thinking about what to do: should I ignore the whole thing or try to find a way for closure? I came to the decision that I wish to choose the path of reconciliation'. Robi Damelin waited several years for Hamad's response, which swiftly dashed any hopes she harbored of reconciliation.

"'I recently learned of the contents of a letter by Robi Damelin, mother of the soldier David, who was one of the 10 soldiers of occupation who were killed in the operation for which I was sentenced to 11 life terms', Hamad wrote. 'I cannot address the soldier's mother directly. Not because it is difficult for me to convey my response from prison, but because my hand refuses to write in a style that epitomizes the policy of the occupation, that refuses to recognize and to accept the rights of our people. I cannot hold a dialogue with someone who insists on equating the occupation with its victims. This is my response to the letter of Mrs Damelin, and I hereby criticize her sarcastic style when she thinks that with emotional words it is possible to resolve this decades-old conflict... Mrs Damelin did not explain what led the soldier David to enlist. She doesn't know the iron fact that her son not only took part in the torture of my people, but stood at the head of the perpetrators of the killing and murder. From her letter, it appears that she is living on another planet. She forgets that the late Abu Amar (Yasser Arafat) called for peace 35 years ago. I wish to remind the mother of the soldier David that history proves that a people that does not fight an occupation with all means, including arms, cannot obtain its rights. This is the lesson that must be taken from looking at your ally America, who was humiliated in Vietnam, and this is the lesson of your army's withdrawal from Lebanon. You must remove your hands from our land and from our people, and if not, it is our duty to kill the murderers. Mrs Damelin says that she joined the Palestinian and Israeli parents' organization for peace after the death of her son. This is an organization of parents who lost their children in the arena of the conflict, while she is determined to equate our martyrs with their casualties, likening those who are fighting for their rights with the occupiers. Just as I refuse to directly address the soldier's mother, I cannot wish to meet her. I cannot meet with the occupier of our land on the same land. I carried out the operation as part of the struggle for freedom, justice and the establishment of an independent state, not out of a love or lust for killing. Acts of violence are a necessity imposed on us by the occupation and I shall not abandon this path for as long as the occupation continues'." (From Forgiveness of dead IDF soldier's mother leaves Palestinian killer cold, Kobi Ben-Simhon, 31/10/09)

Friday, November 13, 2009

Mendes & Dyrenfurth's Win-Win Plan

Reading The Australian can sometimes be awfully confusing. That was certainly the case with me after perusing the edition of 11 November. The word 'fundamentalist' seemed to crop up wherever I looked - with the result that I'm now at a complete loss as to who the real fundamentalists are. Are they the Zionists or the anti-Zionists?

On the one hand there was The Atlantic's Andrew Sullivan telling us it's the Zionists: "How to push Israel to end all their settlement provocations and fundamentalist intransigence in Jerusalem and the West Bank?" he asked. [Answer: "[I]n a rational environment, the US would look to the massive aid that American taxpayers send to Israel..."(Israel reality check)]

On the other hand, co-authors Philip Mendes & Nick Dyrenfurth were drumming up a right little storm with their repetition (x5) of the 'f' word: "anti-Zionist fundamentalists"... "the fundamentalists"... "the fundamentalist agenda"... "the fundamentalists"... and "the fundamentalists." (The enemy within: The far-Left hijacked the Palestinian cause)

See what I mean?

Anyway, my confusion aside, what Philip Dyrenfurth & Nick Mendes particularly wanted to get across to the reader was their "win-win plan" for the fabled Middle East Conflict. And here it is in a nutshell: "More and more Israelis and diaspora Jews understand that Israel will not only have to freeze West Bank settlements, but eventually dismantle at the very least all settlements east of the security barrier. Equally the Palestinians will have to make concessions that facilitate peaceful relations. This means finally accepting that the 1948 refugees will only return to the Palestinian state and not to Israel."

Pure genius, Philip Mendes & Nick Dyrenfurth! You've found at long last the Holy Grail of Middle East Peace. Here, the pair of you, take a Nobel Peace Prize each from the jar. You deserve it.

But you know what they say about the devil being in the detail, so let's take a closer look at the lads' award-winning win-win plan: Israel already has 78% of historic Palestine, leaving 22% for a Palestinian 'state'. However, according to Philip Dyrenfurth & Nick Mendes' win-win plan, Israel is to get another 12.8% of that 22%, containing all those settlement blocs now conveniently west of the security barrier (or as your anti-Zionist fundamentalist would call it - the Separation Wall), and a further 25.2% in the form of the Jordan Valley. Subtract Israel's settlement blocs and the Jordan Valley from the 22% of historic Palestine known as the West Bank and that leaves precisely 14% for a Palestinian 'state'. Now that's a win-win plan for sure!

But you know what? It's really even more win-win than that. You see, according to Philip Mendes & Nick Dyrenfurth's win-win plan, all those Palestinians, who just mysteriously decided to go walkabout in 1948 when they saw a heavily-armoured Zionist win-win plan rumbling towards their village, and just as mysteriously couldn't seem to find their way back home afterwards (and who now number around 5 million), well they all get to go and rub shoulders in the 14% of historic Palestine to be known as the Palestinian 'state'. Now there's a win-win for you! Israel gets to keep 86% of historic Palestine, all Palestinian refugees are shoe-horned into the remaining 14%, and, hey presto, there are no more refugees with any reason to still call Jaffa, Haifa, Acre and hundreds of other towns and villages in Israel home.

But there's more - win-win that is. Nick Mendes & Philip Dyrenfurth didn't even mention occupied East Jerusalem, home to Islam's third holiest shrine, the Haram ash-Sharif. But not to worry, another Israeli contender for the Nobel Peace Prize has come up with a win-win plan for that: "Yehuda Glick is a 44-year-old American-born Jew who spends most of every day preparing for the arrival of the Messiah in Jerusalem. Since he became the executive director of the Temple Institute, Mr Glick's main task has been to supervise the manufacture of the utensils the high priests will need when the day arrives. Crowns and other instruments made of solid gold fill glass cases in the Temple Institute museum in Jerusalem's Old City. Other artefacts include an array of copper urns, trumpets made of silver and garments to be worn by the High Priest, woven from golden thread. Musical instruments, including hand-made harps and lyres, lie ready to be brought to life upon the Messiah's appearance... Jews call [the Haram ash-Sharif] the Temple Mount... Their religion holds that a third temple will be built [there] upon the arrival of the Messiah... Today the Temple Mount is dominated by the Al-Aqsa Mosque and the gold-topped Dome of the Rock. 'Al-Aqsa can stay', Mr Glick said, pointing to the mosque. 'It's not even on the Temple Mount proper. But we intend to just build over the Dome of the Rock... '" (Jews raise millions to be ready for coming of the Messiah, Jason Koutsoukis, Sydney Morning Herald, 14/11/09)

Sadly though, as Philip Mendes & Nick Dyrenfurth remind us, "the [anti-Zionist] fundamentalists of course will never accept this [or Mr Glick's] win-win plan. Such is the nature of black-and-white revolutionary socialism."

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Israel's Pacific Solution 2

Further to my 9/11/09 post Israel's Pacific Solution, today's Australian reports as follows: "Israel is sending a foreign ministry official to the Solomon Islands next week to seek an explanation as to why it was the only country in Oceania to vote at the UN for the Goldstone report condemning Israel's assault on Gaza... The Marshall Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia, Nauru and Palau joined Australia in opposing the Goldstone report... Fiji, PNG, Samoa and Tonga joined New Zealand in abstaining." (Israel wants answers from Solomons, Rowan Callick)

What the fly on the wall is going to hear:

Solomon Islands, you've been a bad, bad, baaad boy. All the other nations in the Israeli - I mean Pacific - Ocean either voted against Goldstone or abstained... OK, you're right, not quite all... Kiribati, Tuvalu and Vanuatu were absent when the vote was taken. Such acts of truancy simply cannot be tolerated here in the Israeli - err Pacific - and rest assured I will be seeking an explanation from each of them. But you! Going for Goldstone! How could you? Gross insubordination! What on earth possessed you? If you couldn't quite bring yourself to follow the magnificent example of our Head Prefect, Australia, the very least you could have done was abstain. And you have the nerve to call yourself the Solomons - while dissing us, the dinky-di (a little slang I've picked up from our Head Boy) descendents of King Solomon himself! You should be ashamed of yourself. Now, Solomons, you see what I have here? ... No, I'm not listening to any of your lame excuses, boy. Put out your hand now!

Billabong Flats

Australia's descent into military madness as a support act for US imperialism is gaining pace under the Rudd Government. Read this (& weep):

"Don't tell anyone but the Federal Government is spending $87.5 million on a new Middle East military base. Not that it's using the word 'base'. Instead, budget papers state the money is being spent on 'command and control enhancements' in the Middle East. Under a diplomatic agreement with the host country, the location cannot be revealed. The Government cannot give the location of the old bases the new one is replacing. A Defence Force spokesman said he could not say where the bases are because of security considerations and 'host national sensitivities'. But given that the locations are widely known, the coyness has less to do with security and more to do with 'sensitivities'. Instead, it's imposed by the Arab hosts, who do not want to advertise they are accommodating foreign troops and their hardware. The secrecy leads to a curious absurdity: the details and images of most of the bases are on the internet, in the Middle East press and on Defence Force websites. Australian ambassadors have openly said where they are and they have been mentioned in Hansard. The Sun-Herald is a party to the subterfuge. On an ADF-escorted trip to the Middle East and Afghanistan, it signed an undertaking not to reveal 'operationally sensitive information' - including 'the country in which ADF support bases are located outside of Iraq and Afghanistan'. Without breaching that undertaking, we can reveal - drawing on what spies call open sources, and readers call Google - where these bases are. One of them has a big sign out the front, adorned with red kangaroos and the words 'Billabong Flats'. We can reveal bases have been or are being closed in Kuwait and Qatar. The new one is at Al Minhad Airbase in Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates. Australian troops going to Afghanistan acclimatise in Kuwait, at a compound attached to a US base called Camp Victory. The base is alongside Kuwait's Ali Al Salem Air Base. You can find more about the base at Liberal senator David Bushby visited the base and told the Senate all about it on June 18." ($87.5m for not so secret army base, Tom Hyland, 8/11/09)

Sorry Tom, the Sydney Morning Herald's Peter Hartcher let the cat out of the bag in March of this year. You can read all about it - and more - at my 2/4/09 post Say It Isn't So.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Remembrance Day

George Carlin RIP

I'd like to talk a little about that 'war' we had in the Persian Gulf. Remember that? The big war in the Persian Gulf. Lemme tell you what was goin' on.

Naturally, you can forget all that entertaining fiction about having to defend the model democracy those lucky Kuwaitis get to live under. And for the moment you can also put aside the very real, periodic need Americans have for testing their new weapons on human flesh. And also, just for the fun of it, let's ignore George Bush Sr's obligation to protect the oil interests of his family and friends. There was another, much more important consideration at work. Here's what really happened.

The simple fact is that America was long overdue to drop high explosives on helpless civilians; people who have no argument with us whatsoever. After all, it had been a while, and the hunger gnaws. Remember that's our specialty: picking on countries that have marginally effective air forces.

Let me tell you what I liked about that Gulf War. It was the first war that appeared on every television channel, including cable. And even though the TV show consisted largely of Pentagon war criminals displaying maps and charts, it got very good ratings. And that makes sense, because we like war. We're a warlike people. We can't stand not to be fucking with someone. We couldn't wait for the Cold War to end so we could climb into the big Arab sandbox and play with our nice new toys. We enjoy war.

And one reason we enjoy it is that we're good at it. You know why we're good at it? Because we get a lot of practise. This country is only 200 years old, and already we've had 10 major wars. We average a major war every 20 years. So we're good at it!

And it's just as well we are, because we're not very good at anything else. Can't build a decent car anymore. Can't make a TV set, a cell phone, or a VCR. Got no steel industry left. No textiles. Can't educate our young people. Can't get health care to our old people. But we can bomb the shit outta your country, all right. We can bomb the shit outta your country!

Especially if your country is full of brown people. Oh, we like that, don't we? That's our hobby now. But it's also our new job in the world: bombing brown people. Iraq, Panama, Grenada, Libya. You got some brown people in your country? Tell 'em to watch the fuck out, or we'll goddam bomb them! If you're brown, you're goin' down.

Well, who were the last white people you can remember that we bombed? In fact, can you remember any white people we ever bombed? The Germans! That's it! Those are the only ones. And that was only because they were tryin' to cut in on our action. They wanted to dominate the world. Bullshit! That's our job. That's our fuckin' job.

But the Germans are ancient history. These days we only bomb brown people. And not because they're cutting in on our action; we do it because they're brown. Even those Serbs we bombed in Yugoslavia aren't really white, are they? Naaah! They're sort of down near the swarthy end of the white spectrum. Just brown enough to bomb. I'm still waiting for the day we bomb the English. People who really deserve it.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Israel's Pacific Solution

On 5 November, the United Nations General Assembly endorsed (GA/10883) the report of the UN Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict (aka Goldstone Report), which concluded that both Israel and Hamas had committed possible war crimes. The vote was 114 in favour to 18 against, with 44 abstentions and 16 absences.

Australia, of course, voted against. The UN website reported as follows on its whys and wherefores:

"Australia's representative said his delegation had been deeply saddened by the conflict in the Gaza Strip and Southern Israel and that it regretted how efforts to address the situation since had stalled. Australia had voted against the resolution on the Goldstone Report because of its flawed content. However, that did not undermine the humanitarian welfare of of the Palestinian people before, during and after that crisis, which remained unacceptable. Australia did support a proper investigation of any breach of humanitarian rights and laws. It was crucial for such a serious matter to be dealt with properly. He called on both parties to investigate them and to inform the Member States of their results."

To amplify on this:

a) Australia's representative was so deeply saddened he had to have a cup of tea, a Bex and a good lie down.

b) For Australia's representative, Israel's brutal hammering of Gaza was in reality more of a border dispute, involving Gaza and Southern Israel in equal measure. He was, in fact, so burdened with sadness and regret that he was quite oblivious to the mutterings of 114 other representatives to the effect that, if they'd had to choose, they'd sooner have seen out the conflict on the Israeli side of the border, thankyou very much.

c) Yes, for Australia's representative, the Goldstone Report was hopelessly flawed. It existed. Perhaps if it'd been a Regev Report...

d) Oh yes, the humanitarian welfare of the Palestinian people... Of course, the poor buggers were up Shit Creek minus the proverbial paddle before, during and after that crisis, weren't they? Australia's representative finds that unacceptable. But not unacceptable enough, apparently, to provide them with said paddle.

e) Crisis? Yeah, like when you can't find a corkscrew to access the chardonnay.

f) And the Australian representative's idea of a proper investigation? A proper investigation is strictly in-house, know what I mean?

Mind you, Australia wasn't alone in voting Goldstone down. So too did Canada, the Czech Republic, Germany, Hungary, Israel (naturally!), Italy, Netherlands, Panama, Poland, Slovakia, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Ukraine and the United States. And, of course, it was joined by its mini-mates in the Pacific, the Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Nauru and Palau. Now when it comes to lining up in the General Assembly with Israel, the United States, and Australia, these Pacific minnows, need I say, have real form. To take but one example, when the UN General Assembly passed resolution GA/10534 on 17/11/06, condemning an earlier Israeli hammerings of the Gaza Strip, only 7 countries voted against: Israel, the US, Australia, the Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Nauru and Palau. What's going on here?

A little googling casts some light on this bizarre alignment. Take Palau (pop:20,000), for example, a cluster of 300 islands administered by the US until 1994 when it became 'independent'. Palau's UN 'ambassador' (2004-), Stuart Beck, an American-Jewish television company executive married to a Palauan, is described on as a man who "champions Israel." And how did Beck become Palau's ambassador? Simple: "I said to them, 'Look, you don't produce anything, you don't manufacture anything, nobody's after your labor pool, you don't have anything that anyone wants... so the only thing of value you have is your UN vote... So they said to me, 'Why don't you do it?'"

Then there's Narau: The New Zealand Herald (12/4/04) provides this thumbnail sketch: "The tiny Pacific nation of Nauru came under scrutiny during the 90s when it acted as a money-launderer for the Russian mafia. The tax haven filtered an estimated $107 billion through 400 off-shore banks, all registered to a single Nauru government mailbox. It also sold its passports to non-citizens... The 21 sq km nation of just 12,000 people is now paid by the Australian government to house asylum-seekers in detention centres. It has been on the verge of bankruptcy after nearly a century of phosphate strip mining left it a nation of bleached coral pinnacles."

Israeli historian, Tom Segev, tells the amusing story (Nauru on our side, Haaretz, 11/12/06) of how he tried to place a call to Nauru's UN 'ambassador', Marlene Moses, "to thank her for her country having stood by my country in its time of difficulty" and "ask her how they decide there in Nauru to support, for example, Israel's refusal to return East Jerusalem to the Palestinians": "'Yes, it's a country', I insisted to the operator... She had been working there for years and no one had ever asked her to connect them with Nauru. 'It's a country?' 'Yes, a small one. And it supports Israel'. 'You're kidding', the young woman said. 'It supports Israel?' 'Yes, though it's even smaller than Sderot'. 'That doesn't matter', said the operator, 'as long as it supports us'. The telephone connection to Nauru is out of order. The operator promises to make a special effort, perhaps via Australia. It didn't work. Later, I read on the Foreign Ministry website that there are no phones in Nauru." On finding out that both water and electricity on the island are strictly rationed, and recalling the Australian TV series 'Embassy', set in East Timor, Segev was prompted to entertain "a thoroughly arrogant colonialist sort of idea: 'Was it possible', I wondered, 'that Nauru automatically votes as Australia does?'" So he rang Jonathon Chew, first secretary in the Australian Embassy. Mr Chew "gently but firmly" set him straight. "'Nauru is an independent nation', he explained to me. He could assure me that Australia does not dictate to independent nations how to vote in the UN. Australia opposed the draft resolution [calling on Israel to dismantle its West Bank settlements] this time, too, as it has before, because it felt that it was not sufficiently balanced and therefore would do nothing to promote peace, and Australia, of course, supports efforts to promote peace." Segev was left to reflect: "Evidently this is also the view of the United States, the Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Palau and Nauru. At least half the people of Israel support the main points of the UN resolution, as does the vast majority of the people on the planet, but it's nice to know that we have friends and that we're not alone." Oh, and he never did get through to Marlene Moses.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

A True Blue Friend of Israel

Islamophobia, Zionism, climate-change denial - a seamless fit:

"Fred Nile's Christian Democratic Party plans to run an emotive anti-Muslim, anti-carbon trading campaign in the by-election for the northern Sydney seat of Bradfield... The party's propaganda for the December 5 by-election... declares 'Enough!' and urges Australians to 'Stand your ground in defence of Christian values'. It uses a selection of alternating slogans, including, 'Ten-year moratorium on Muslim immigration', 'No nukes for Iran - we must defend Israel' and 'No carbon tax - stop the ETS'. Mr Nile - who sits alone in the NSW upper house since expelling fellow MP Gordon Moyes* from the CDP 6 months ago - yesterday denied the CDP was dragging the politics of race into the battle for Bradfield. 'The CDP is opposed to racism and we have people of all races on our team', he said. 'But Muslim is not a race. It's a religious and political ideology'." (Nile raises crusade in by-election, Imre Salusinszky, The Australian, 6/11/09)

[*"Dr Moyes once described Mr Nile as a pathetic, friendless figure who works all day with his door closed and 'eats his fast-food meals alone and he spends every night alone in a cheap motel in western Sydney'." (Nile calls on the power of prayer to remove a political thorn in his side, Rick Fenely, Sydney Morning Herald, 4/2/09)]

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Zionism's Bedside Manner

Dvir Abramovich begins his grizzle, Hollywood should stop exploiting the Holocaust (The Age, 2/11/09), with this little gem: "In a 2005 guest appearance on the sitcom Extras Kate Winslet, playing herself as a nun on a Holocaust film is asked, 'You doing this, it's so commendable, using your profile to keep the message alive about the Holocaust'. Winslet responds, 'God, I'm not doing it for that. We definitely don't need another film about the Holocaust, do we? It's like, how many have there been? You know, we get it. It was grim. Move on. I'm doing it because I noticed that if you do a film about the Holocaust, you're guaranteed an Oscar. I've been nominated 4 times. Never won. The whole world is going, 'Why hasn't Winslet won one?'... That's why I'm doing it. Schindler's bloody List. The Pianist. Oscars coming outta their ass...' Winslet was right, winning the Oscar for best actress this year for The Reader."

He laments, "The commodification of the Holocaust into a profitable, Oscar-reaping enterprise has reached such a nadir that commentators are saying, There's no business like Shoah Business'. Though I find this epigram distasteful, it does reflect a disturbing trend in which the Holocaust is being packaged and sold by fimmakers who are using this dark chapter as a ticket for advancing their own fame and artistic agenda. These films conveniently skip over the mass shootings, the gas chambers, the ovens, the mounds of naked bodies - filling up the screens with harmful falsifications. The damage Hollywood, with its huge marketing machine is doing the memory of the Holocaust is enormous. Think of Hollywood's cowboy and Indian movies and how they shaped our understanding of that episode."

Abramovich goes on to detail the ways in which he feels the current crop of Holocaust-themed films (The Reader, Inglourious Basterds, and The Boy in Striped Pyjamas) misrepresent the Holocaust. Typically, though, as a Zionist spruiker, he completely ignores the subjects of Zionism's shameless exploitation of the Holocaust as a cover for its crimes against the Palestinians* and Hollywood's considerable services to Zionist propaganda **.

[*See my 14/12/08 post Quack Cure (in response to an earlier Abramovich grizzle in The Age), **and my 1/10/08 post Paul Newman: Zionist Dupe.]

Thanks to Norman Finkelstein's The Holocaust Industry: Reflections on the Exploitation of Jewish Suffering, and Jack Shaheen's Reel Bad Arabs: How Hollywood Vilifies a People, much light has been shed on those two issues. What is less well-known, however, is the cruelly instrumental attitude of the pre-state Zionist movement in Palestine (led by David Ben-Gurion) towards Holocaust survivors and Jewish displaced persons. Some revealing snippets from Israeli historian Idith Zertal's From Catastrophe to Power: Holocaust Survivors & the Emergence of Israel (1998):

"The Jewish tragedy, which was revealed fully only after the war, and the unprecedented suffering of those who survived the destruction not only failed to budge Ben-Gurion from his views, but even entrenched them. After visiting the Displaced Persons (DP) camps in late 1945, Ben-Gurion remarked to a soldier from the Jewish Brigade, who demanded more extensive Zionist work in the camps, that 'the Zionist mission is not to save the remnant of Jews in Europe, but to save Palestine for the Jewish people'. The efforts of various Jewish philanthropies to provide immediate succour to the Jewish refugees, especially children - to extricate them from the camps and transfer them to foster families or institutions in Britain, France, and Switzerland - were halted at once by Ben-Gurion. When he reached Heidelberg at the end of his tour of the camps in Bavaria, he transmitted telephone instructions to the Jewish Agency representative in London 'against removing people from the American zone [of occupation] - not to France, England or Switzerland... I demanded that the removal of children and adults be stopped... unless for purposes of 'aliya', under instruction of the Jewish Agency'." (p 186)

"The encounter [between Palestinian Zionists and Holocaust survivors] was imbued with deep fear and a sense of guilt, incorporated by the Zionist discourse that placed a wall between 'us' and 'them', transforming the other side, the 'diasporic', into an object, a faceless mass of people waiting to be redeemed while performing the historic Zionist role assigned to them. 'It will be hell if all the [DP] camps come [to Palestine]', Ben-Gurion was told by rescue operatives in Europe in early 1946, in response to his question about what would happen if the Jewish Agency got the 100,000 entry permits it demanded. 'All this filth, just as it is, you [the Jewish Agency/Ben-Gurion] plan to move to Palestine?' protested the Zionist agents sent to Europe to deal with the needs of the refugees and bring them to Palestine. Ben-Gurion responded that it would be better for them ('the filth') to be in Palestine than elsewhere, implying that only in Palestine could the survivors be of any benefit and fulfill their historical function. 'When these Jews come to Palestine, we'll have trouble', said Ben-Gurion, 'but it will be Jewish trouble'. reporting the conversation to the Jewish Agency Executive, he never commented on the use of the term 'filth' by rescue agents, and he repeated it without elaboration." (p 216)

Yet, even back then you could glimpse a Holocaust industry of sorts:

"The importance of the Holocaust survivors in [Ben-Gurion's] formula derived from his belief in the crucial role of international public opinion. With the international media fed and orchestrated by a well-run Zionist propaganda machine, no power in the enlightened Western world would have the strength to prevent the Holocaust survivors from reaching their only refuge - the 'home of their lives' - in Palestine." (p 231)

Now wouldn't a Holocaust movie about Zionism's bedside manner really give Abramovich something to whinge about?

Friday, November 6, 2009

An Excruciating Moment

"It was one of those excruciating moments in Australian politics." (Honours even as Faulkner soldiers on, Brad Norington, The Australian, 5/11/09)

Oh, you mean like celebrating Israel's 60th birthday in federal parliament last year?

"Defence Minister John Faulkner last night gave US General David Petraeus one of Australia's highest honours, the Order of Australia, for his distinguished service against terrorism in the Iraq war. Only 6 years ago, Senator Faulkner had opposed the war and challenged claims that Iraq posed a terrorist threat. During a censure motion in parliament against the Howard government, he decribed the decision to send 2000 troops as 'unilateral adventurism' and a 'confidence trick'... The nomination for general Petraeus to receive an honorary Order of Australia... came from the Chief of Australia's Defence Force, Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston. But it is understood it had the imprimatur of Kevin Rudd, who opposed the Iraq war as opposition foreign affairs spokesman. John Howard bestowed the same award to General Petraeus' predecessor, General John Abizaid, in March 2007." (ibid)

As Basil Fawlty might say, 'This is typical. Absolutely typical...'

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Cognitive Dissonance

Jerusalem Post journalist Ron Friedman writes about the proposed deportation of some 1200 children born to illegal foreign workers in Israel: "In a country where the word 'deportation' is laden with emotional baggage, the Israeli government is grappling with the dilemma of whether to deport the children of illegal foreign workers, ahead of a self-imposed November 1 deadline." (, republished in The Australian Jewish News, 23/10/09, as Labour Pains)

He quotes Ze'ev Factor from the Centre of Organisations of Holocaust Survivors in Israel: "[Israel has] a moral obligation especially in light of what happened to the Jewish people. We are talking about children who only know our country and only speak our language, and children must not be allowed to experience expulsion from their country of birth, just because of their ethnic origin. It is a lesson that is carved in our flesh."

Well said, Ze'ev. I assume that noble sentiment extends to all those Palestinian kids (and their descendents) expelled from their homeland just because of their ethnic origin in 1948?

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Tit for Tat

Sun-Herald journalist Paul Daley's* report (No end in sight to great divide, 1/11/09) on what he calls "the tit-for-tat conflict between Palestinians and Israelis" or "the cycle of tit-for-tat violence" left me reaching for the smelling salts.

What is this tit-for-tat nonsense? 'Tit-for-tat' implies a symmetry between the parties, but this particular 'conflict' (another woefully inadequate term) has all the symmetry of a criminal and his victim. Characterising the odd punch landed by the colonised on their colonisers, and the latter's always disproportionate response, as tit-for-tat is a grotesque misreading of the underlying dynamic of the relationship. No, what's happening in occupied Palestine is more of a 'hammer-and-anvil' thing.

Still, Daley did use the contextualising 'o' word, something his colleagues often neglect to do: "the long-running Israeli occupation of East Jerusalem and the West Bank"/ the "occupied territories." And he even managed a hint of scepticism in relation to Israel's official line on its reasons for mugging Gaza: "Israel invaded Gaza late last year, ostensibly in response to Hamas rocket attacks on Israeli towns along the Israeli border."

But then he stuffs up big time: "But Hamas has fired more than 50 home-made rockets and mortars at Israel since August. The Israeli Air Force bombed a weapons warehouse and two tunnels in the strip on October 22 after several rockets were fired into the town of Sederot [sic]..." According to wikipedia, there have been 11 incidents involving Palestinian rocket/mortar firings from Gaza since August (List of Palestinian rocket attacks on Israel, 2009). Unfortunately, just how Daley managed to conjure 50 homemade rockets and mortars out of that is anyone's guess. As is what the Israelis were up to in the same time frame. Far from sitting on its hands with respect to Gaza - which is the impression you'd get from reading Daley - Israel was in fact quite busy there, killing 5 adult civilians, 3 children and 7 fighters; wounding 13 adult civilians, 4 children and 5 fighters; arresting 12 people; staging 16 incursions; bombing border tunnels and other infrastrucure; shelling fishing boats; razing agricultural land; and keeping Gaza's borders hermetically sealed (See Palestinian Centre for Human Rights - Weekly Reports, Whatever the Palestinian tit, that's a hell of a lot of Israeli tat, none of which is referred to by Daley.

Now here's a revelation for a mainstream media man: "Gaza is a misery for many of its 1.4 million residents, close to a million of whom are refugees." A million refugees, eh? That'd also be a hell of a lot of Israeli tat, no?

"Israel has played its part too [in improving the lot of the Palestinians in the West Bank]. The previously permanent Israeli checkpoints around some West Bank cities and towns... have been removed while medical services are offered to some Gazans." Daley's uncritical regurgitation of Israeli spin here is belied by an AFP report (based on UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) data) dated 9 October: "Israel has 592 obstacles such as checkpoints, trenches and barriers across the occupied West Bank and a report that Israel was moving 100 such curbs can not be verified... The figure was down from a total of 618 registered in August." (West Bank riddled with Israeli obstacles: UN)

And what is meant by while medical services are offered to some Gazans? Here is what Gazan doctor and human rights activist Mona El-Farra had to say about the state of medical services in Gaza on 17 October: "The emergency health services in the Gaza Strip are in a state of imminent collapse due to shortages of electricity, medicine and other vital, life-saving equipment. Due to a lack of available services in Gaza, many patients are forced to seek medical treatment abroad. However, the closure makes accessing external treatment a near impossible task. To date at least 391 patients have died as a direct or indirect result of the closure." (

This is nowhere near good enough - even for a slow Sunday.

[See my 29/7/09 post The Sarafand Massacre]

One of the Best...

... videos on the Gaza Holocaust: Rainbow Over Palestine @