Sunday, May 30, 2010

How to Recognise Serious Journalism

"The Australian is a world-class newspaper. But journalism is expensive and those of us who understand how important serious journalism is to a functioning democracy need to make sure we protect that role from the bloggers and aggregators who live off our work but can never break a real story." Ken Cowley, co-founder with Murdoch of The Australian, quoted in From ink to iPad: witness at The Australian's birth embraces digital delivery, The Australian, 28/5/10)

Now here's a spot of serious journalism by The Australian's foreign editor Greg (Jerusalem Prize) Sheridan. Let's see what it has to offer:

Gross hyperbole: "The Earth moved between Israel and Australia this week, with Kevin Rudd's government expelling an Israeli diplomat over the Dubai passports affair, and it may be that the Earth moved in Australian politics as well." (Expelling Israeli diplomat was a confected, self-serving exercise, The Australian, 29/5/30)

[But the Earth didn't budge in December 2004 when the Howard government expelled Israeli 'diplomat' Amir Lati.]

More gross hyperbole: "When the passport misuse was first revealed in February, the Rudd government made a great song and dance about it. Emotions ran high. The government in effect sooled the Australian media on to savage Israel. It made sure there were cameras outside the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade when the Israeli ambassador, Yuval Rotem, was summoned for a ritual dressing down. For 6 weeks the Israelis were cast into diplomatic outer darkness."

Bizarre conspiracy theorising: "The government decided to announce the expulsion on Monday, the first day of parliament's new sitting. This was the day it was likely to face its heaviest pasting over the resource super-profits tax, just as the earlier outburst of confected anger against Israel coincided with a spike in the pink batts controversy."

A misplaced concern for the offender: "The Israeli embassy was not told of the impending expulsion until 11am. This is a great contrast to the British behaviour. When the British expulsion was announced, the Israeli diplomat was already back home. If you are doing something to an old friend, more in sorrow than in anger, surely you tell the old friend first. Similarly, it is a great breach of normal practice for a friendly country to publicise the visit of an agency head, such as [ASIO's David] Irvine."

Misrepresentation: "Smith also let it be known that the Israeli to be expelled was the Mossad chief in Canberra."

[Hadn't Smith told The 7.30 Report's Kerry O'Brien on 24/5/10: "I'm not proposing to identify either by name or by function the individual concerned"?]

Breathtaking ignorance: "Smith said intelligence cooperation between Canberra and Jerusalem would now cool for an indefinite period. This will be entirely to our detriment. Despite the recent difficulties, not least its agents being filmed in Dubai, kilo for kilo, the Mossad is without question the best intelligence agency in the world."

[Hadn't The Australian's defence correspondent, Mark Dodd, written, "'The major source of Australia's intelligence is through the ABCA [America, Britain, Canada, Australia] countries and anything of critical interest to both countries [Israel and Australia] will be passed on regardless of this affair', an Australian security analyst with extensive Middle East experience says. 'Australia's reliance on Israeli intelligence sourcing is almost neglible and anything of criticality will come through other sources. I don't see this as being a big intelligence problem at all'"?]

Illiteracy: "Australia... will, according to our own Counter-Terrorism White Paper, quite likely be a target of Hezbollah terrorism. On all these subjects no country is better informed than Israel."

[The relevant document actually reads: "Australia is currently home to a small number of people who support other causes that involve active terrorist campaigns overseas. The terrorist movements they support do not necessarily see Australia or Australians as a target for their violence but some might see that Australia could be used as a suitable or convenient location for an attack on their enemies. This includes groups with a long history of engaging in terrorist acts and a current capability to committ them such as Lebanese Hizbollah's External Security Organisation."]

A dearth of research: "The government's outrage against [loose lips Deputy Opposition Leader Julie] Bishop was entirely confected. The government also suggested the Israelis had broken a specific agreement with Australia over passports. This is almost certainly untrue. The Israelis don't acknowledge their passport forgeries and to promise not to do it again can only be predicated on them having done it in the first place. No Howard government minister has any recollection of any such agreement."

[Hadn't The Australian's defence correspondent, Mark Dodd, written, "According to former foreign minister Alexander Downer, that involved a promise by Israel its Mossad operatives would not misuse Australian passports after a bungled 2003 attempt to clone Australian and New Zealand identities, an incident more worthy of the Keystone Kops than a crack spy organisation"?]

Excuses, excuses, excuses: "The Israelis have to operate in a unique environment. They have to undertake operations in the Middle East. But use of an Israeli passport in most Middle East countries is impossible. So they are forced to use other passports."

Drive-by smears: "Israel is incredibly beleaguered at the moment. It has never been under such sustained political attack. In many parts of the world, anti-Israel sentiment is morphing into traditional anti-Semitism. By making such a cynical and exuberant public relations bonanza out of this episode, the Rudd government is directly licensing the recrudescence of the worst sentiments imaginable."

Ken Cowley's right. Serious journalism like that needs all the protection it can get.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

All the Way With Mossad?

Has Australia gone all the way with Mossad?

The 'evidence' so far:

"The idea of Mossad operating in Dubai or other Middle East areas would not surprise most people, but Australians may be surprised at Mossad agents in Canberra." (Mossad's man in canberra has to go, John Lyons, The Australian, 25/5/10)

Not really, John.

"Since the killing of a Hamas leader in Dubai in January, Mossad has been held up to unprecedented scrutiny. Among the information that has emerged is the revelation that Mossad has an officer based in the Israeli embassy in Canberra. Confirmation of Mossad's Australian presence has emerged by Canberra's insistence on 'the London model' - code for Mossad's Australian station chief being expelled rather than a Foreign Ministry official... The Israeli embassy in Canberra has 6 Foreign ministry officials and a commercial attache. On top of that is the Mossad agent, whose name Israel declares. Countries deemed to be 'friendly' to Australia, such as Israel and the US, declare their intelligence officers. Much of their job is liaising with the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) and the Australian Secret Intelligence Service (ASIS)... Given the relationship between Israel and Australia, it is unlikely Mossad would try to pay Australian officials. Rather, Mossad would be interested in anyone in Australia who might pose a threat to Israel. In recent years, some Australians have had their passports cancelled, on ASIO's recommendation, to stop them going overseas. Often the major concern has been that the individuals might be planning to travel to the Middle East to engage in an act of terrorism against Israel. Israel wants to find out about such individuals in the source country rather than allowing them to enter Israel. The Mossad officer in Australia can engage in his own investigations but the majority of his work would be trying to find out what Australian authorities are learning about Islamist groups. Much of the information gathered by ASIO and ASIS is not accessible to Mossad - Australian intelligence officers are not permitted to share information branded AUSTEO, or Australian Eyes Only - but an effective Mossad officer would develop relationships with ASIO and ASIS officials and learn as much as possible about groups of concern." (ibid)

So that's it then?

Not by a long chalk:

"Australian security agencies use false passports issued by the Department of Foreign Affairs to allow covert operations to function overseas, intelligence sources have admitted. Following the admission by the Deputy Opposition Leader, Julie Bishop, about Australia's use of fake passports, sources confirmed Australia has a long-standing tradition of providing passports to overseas intelligence agencies. These countries are within the 'Western intelligence club' - specifically Britain, the United States, New Zealand and Canada, sources confirm... Security agencies, including the international spy agency, the Australian Secret Intelligence Service, as well as ASIO and the federal police, use false passports issued by the Department of Foreign Affairs to allow covert operations overseas. Australia does not use the identities of its citizens or forge existing passports. Rather, it creates a passport of a fictitious person and provides it to an intelligence operative... The Australian government would also be extremely judicious in its use of such passports, particularly so when providing them to other countries." (Australia part of fake passport swapping club, Dylan Welch, Sydney Morning Herald, 27/5/10)

OK. So Australia's issuing fake Australian passports to US, UK, NZ and Canadian intelligence agencies. Is Israel also part of this fake passport swapping club?:

"The major source of Australia's intelligence is through the ABCA [America, Britain, Canada, Australia] countries and anything of critical interest to both countries [Israel and Australia] will be passed on regardless of this affair', an Australian security analyst with extensive Middle East experience says." (No blow to intelligence flow, Mark Dodd, The Australian, 26/5/10)

Should that be ABCAI?

Cast your mind, dear reader, back to the words of Israeli intelligence expert and Haaretz journalist Yossi Melman (see my 28/3/10 post Up To Our Necks): "A third role [of Mossad] was to maintain secret, clandestine but very vital and useful contacts with its counterparts, whether it's... ASIO or... the CIA or... M16. And they have developed over the years very, very intimate relations, sharing information and... assessments and even, nowadays, going into the field, enjoying the operations in the war against global terrorism..." (The Mossad, Rear Vision, Radio National, 24/3/10)

Going into the field, enjoying the operations in the war against global terrorism?

Have we gone all the way with Mossad?

Friday, May 28, 2010

The Heat Is On

Israel, Australia's foreign policy sacred cow, has been receiving some rare stick from elements in Australia's ms media:

The Age:

"Few nations have been so consistently supportive of Israel in the UN General Assembly and other international forums in which it is short of friends as Australia has, regardless of the party in power. So when Foreign Minister Stephen Smith described the forging of Australian passports by Israel's intelligence service, Mossad, as 'not the action of a friend' he was reminding that country's government that friendship involves reciprocal obligations. Unfortunately but unsurprisingly the reminder was ignored, with an Israeli foreign ministry spokesman commenting that Australia's expulsion of an Israeli diplomat in retaliation for the forgeries was 'not in line with the quality and importance of our relationship'. Israel's friends are apparently expected to behave with equanimity if Mossad decides to steal their citizens' identities." (Editorial: Israel's identity theft could not have been ignored, 26/5/10)

Most rare of all, however, the editorialist dared cross swords with AIJAC boss Colin Rubenstein: "The expulsion was also criticised by other Australians who should know better. The executive director of the Australia/Israel and Jewish Affairs Council, Colin Rubenstein, described it as 'an overreaction and unhelpful'. Just what would Mr Rubenstein consider to be an appropriate and helpful reaction? Congratulating Mossad on abusing the trust of members of the Jewish diaspora by allowing its agents to steal their identities, perhaps?"

The Sydney Morning Herald:

Although the Herald focused its criticism on what its editorialist called Deputy Opposition leader Julie Bishop's "extraordinarily inept public comments about Australia's intelligence operations," it concluded that "[t]he Rudd government was right to object strongly to Israel." (Her own worst honeytrap, 27/5/10)

The Australian:

Quite uncharacteristically, not so much as a peep on the subject from its editorialist!!!

The 7.30 Report:

In his interview with foreign minister Stephen Smith (Stephen Smith joins the 7.30 Report, 24/5/10), Kerry O'Brien wondered just how sincere the government was in its reaction:

O'Brien: The British Government expelled the Mossad station head in London. It seems a safe assumption that you followed the British template here, and there are further reports that the person expelled here is definitely a Mossad agent. Why are you being coy about that?

Smith: Well, because I'm following what we regard as the appropriate foreign policy and diplomatic response here. We've asked Israel to remove one of its officers. I've said, publicly, people will draw their own conclusions about that. But I'm not proposing to identify, either by name or by function, the individual concerned. But we haven't slavishly followed here the British approach. Yes, the outcome in terms of requiring a removal is substantively the same, but we have conducted our own investigation, we have acted on our own advice, after careful consideration of our agencies' reports. If all we were doing was mirroring the UK, we would have done it much more quickly. If all we were doing, as the Deputy Leader of the Opposition asserts... was being political, we wouldn't have taken such time giving it careful consideration.

O'Brien: Is this wink-and-a-nod stuff where you go through the diplomatic dance, but that at an intelligence level our spies say to their spies, 'Fair cop, guys. You've been caught at this. Keep your head down for a while and things will get back to normal fairly soon? See you soon'.

Smith: We have expelled, effectively, a diplomat. There will be, necessarily, a cooling-off period so far as the relationship between our respective international agencies are concerned.

O'Brien: Does that really matter? I mean, what does it actually mean in reality?

Smith: Well, it does. No, no; it is very important, Kerry. Traditionally we have had a very good relationship at that agency or international community level with Israel. We are dealing with very serious national security issues where there are mutual interests or mutual concerns.

O'Brien: OK.

Smith: But we can only put it behind us if Israel conducts itself genuinely as a friend.

Intriquingly, O'Brien went on to raise the issue of Iran's nuclear program, but only by way of trotting out the elephant in the room:

O'Brien: Well you've talked about Iran's nuclear program. You'd be aware of the revelation in the Guardian newspaper today in Britain based on official South African documents that Israel had offered to sell nuclear warheads to apartheid-era South Africa, in fact offered them in three sizes. Does that suggest to you that Israel could be counted on as a responsible nuclear citizen, and do you agree it's embarrassing as Israel's biggest ally, America, pushes hard to stop Iran getting nuclear weapons?

Smith: Well I've seen reference to the article, Kerry; I haven't had the opportunity of having it carefully assessed. But the suggestion that Israel has nuclear weapons is not a novel suggestion. In this matter...

O'Brien: Well, not at all, but the fact that they were trying to flog off nuclear warheads to the apartheid regime of South Africa puts it in another light too.

Smith, of course, evaded the issue:

Smith: Well I'm not in a position to attest to that one way or another. It is a very sensible thing to do, Kerry, when you're dealing with national security matters, to not, unlike the Leader of the Opposition, run off in response to newspaper articles. So, I say advisedly: I haven't had that carefully assessed. We know the suggestion's been made in the past. We know that Israel has a long-standing policy of stated ambiguity so far as possession of nuclear weapons or not is concerned. Our strong policy position, which we put not just to Israel but to others, is that Israel should join the nuclear non-proliferation treaty and do that without conditions.

But I dips me lid to Ten News' senior political correspondent, Hugh Riminton, who, at Smith's press conference on 24 May, asked the kind of question that had the minister squirming:

Riminton: If there hasn't been an apology, if there hasn't been a gesture of contrition, who are we to talk about remaining firm friends? Is not a firm friendship, if that's what it is, based on an understanding, an acknowledgement of error and wrong, and if the government is willing to remain firm friends, should the Australian people feel that same firm friendship with a country that doesn't acknowledge a wrong...

Smith (talking over Riminton): I have made, I have made, ah, very firmly from day one, the point that, ah, we do not regard these actions as the actions of a friend. That's the first point. Secondly, I also made the point to the parliament that we now need to embark upon the rebuilding of trust and confidence in our relationship with Israel. Friendship is a two-way street, but I don't think you'll find, ah, in any of, ah, this matter, ah, whether it's with Australian officials or generally, that Israel has been drawn on these matters.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Do We Really Need Israel?

Does Australia really need Israel? The Australian's defence correspondent, Mark Dodd, initially suggests that we do:

"Despite tough talk on Monday that Israel's actions were not those of a friend, Minister for Foreign Affairs Stephen Smith knows all too well that neither country can afford to have sour diplomatic relations." (No blow to intelligence flow, 26/5/10)

Dodd then goes on to say the following:

"The potential for prolonged diplomatic damage should not be over-stated. While Canberra gains some benefit from intelligence sharing with Israel - mostly involving developments in Lebanon - formal agreements with allies, all of whom maintain links with their Israeli counterparts, mean it is highly unlikely Australia will be cut out of the intelligence loop. 'The major source of Australia's intelligence is through the ABCA [America, Britain, Canada, Australia] countries and anything of critical interest to both countries [Israel and Australia] will be passed on regardless of this affair', an Australian security analyst with extensive Middle East experience said. 'Australia's reliance on Israeli intelligence sourcing is almost negligible and anything of criticality will come through other sources. I don't see this as being a big intelligence problem at all'. Asked how critical any interruption on intelligence sharing would be on intelligence sharing between Canberra and Tel Aviv, the analyst replied: 'Not much. I've worked at the levels where I would see it and there is nothing much of any note. We might give them some stuff on JI [Jemaah Islamiyah] but they [Israel] would get it through the Americans, the Brits, the Canadians, even the Singaporeans: they have very close links with Israel'."

So why is it that we can't afford to have sour diplomatic relations with Israel?

PS: Could someone at News Limited please have a word in Andrew Bolt's ear? Here he is in a demarcation dispute with Mark Dodd: "It's not as if this decision doesn't come without a cost. Guess which of the two countries actually gains most from that exchange of information? We have soldiers in Iraq who are targets of the Islamist forces of which Hamas is part. In that part of the world, Israel has better sources." (The PM's trashing of brand Australia, Daily Telegraph, 26/5/10)

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Keystone Journalists

They're a tad confused over at The Australian right now because they can't quite decide who has the more incompetent spooks, Australia or Israel.

Is it Australia? as foreign editor Greg (Jerusalem Prize) Sheridan claims:

"The [Rudd] government has mishandled this matter from the start, and the Keystone Kops escapades of the Australian Federal Police in Israel on their fact-finding mission were not the worst of it." (Badly misjudged action will have a political cost, 25/5/10)

Or is it Israel? as defence correspondent Mark Dodd claims:

"What rankles with Smith seems not so much the murder of al-Mabhouh, but a breach of a confidential undertaking given to Australia years earlier during the Howard government. 'The Dubai passports incident also constitutes a clear and direct breach of confidential understandings between Australia and Israel dating back some years', he said. According to former foreign minister Alexander Downer, that involved a promise by Israel its Mossad operatives would not misuse Australian passports after a bungled 2003 attempt to clone Australian and New Zealand identities, an incident more worthy of the Keystone Kops than a crack spy organisation." (No blow to intelligence flow, 26/5/10)

Well, it seems at least one Israeli journalist has made up his mind; in the incompetence stakes, the Israeli spooks win hands down:

"But the [Israeli] media has not been so positive [about the Israeli-Australian relationship]. Writing in Haaretz, columnist Amir Oren says it took 'a special talent' to damage the relationship between Israel and Australia. Lately, there have not been any top-tier Australian politicians who were not supportive of Israel', Oren writes. 'It thus requires special talent to transform Australia into a country that feels obligated to take steps against Israel. Yet one person in Israel has that talent. And this time, it is not Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman. The person who managed to get Israel in trouble with Australia, Britain and the other embittered countries is the head of Mossad, Meir Dagan. But what does Dagan care about Rudd, Smith, or [David] Irvine? So long as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is in his pocket, the world can go to hell. And if it does not do so on its own, Dagan will show it how'." (ibid)

His Master's Voice

The Rudd government has finally bitten the bullet on Mossad's use of Australian passports in its dirty work in Dubai in January, and decided to expel an Israeli 'diplomat'.

No doubt our Israel lobbyists and their auxiliaries at The Australian have been preparing for this moment. Yesterday, they swung into action. Here's The Australian's foreign editor, Greg (Jerusalem Prize) Sheridan, expertly lip-syncing the lobby:

Lobby: "Executive Council of Australian Jewry (ECAJ) president Robert Goot and Zionist Federation of Australia (ZFA) president Philip Chester issued a joint statement registering their disappointment. 'We consider that decision to be an overreaction'." (Jewish leaders bemoan reaction, 25/5/10)

Sheridan: "The Rudd Government has overreacted and made a bad mistake in expelling an Israeli diplomat over the Dubai passports affair." (Badly misjudged action will have a political cost, 25/5/10)

Lobby: "[Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council (AIJAC) executive director] Mr [Colin] Rubenstein was disappointed that Australia had followed the precedent of the ousted British Labour government 'in its overreaction'. Ireland, France and Germany, which also had passports allegedly implicated in the killing of Mabhouh, had not taken such action, he said. 'I didn't think we would ape the British', he said." (Jewish leaders bemoan reaction)

Sheridan: "Surely the Rudd government is more mature and worldly than the most desperate days of the dying Gordon Brown interregnum? Australia should not ape its former masters in London in this but embrace some of the sophistication of Berlin or Paris..." (Badly misjudged action will have a political cost)

Hang on! Let's hear that last bit again: the sophistication of Berlin or Paris? It seems only yesterday that Sheridan was deriding these two sophisticates as "two faded and unprincipled hags of old Europe." (The psychosis of despising all things American, 6/2/03)

PS: More monkey business over at News Limited: "So why has the Prime minister now aped that craven British response?" (The PM's trashing of brand Australia, Andrew Bolt, Daily Telegraph, 26/5/10)

PPS: Even more monkey business at NL! Here's Sheridan quoting Labor's Minister for Israel, Michael Danby: "Even if there was some obscure previous incident, Berlin and Paris are as sophisticated as the mandarins of Canberra and their reaction (no expulsion) demonstrates why we did not have to ape the British Foreign Office." (Expelling Israeli diplomat was a confected, self-serving exercise, The Australian, 29/5/10)

Monday, May 24, 2010

Second-Class Citizen Khaled

The Australian's opinion editor, Rebecca Weisser, just cannot comprehend why Palestinians don't raise their champagne glasses and toast the birth of the Jewish state on May 15:

"The Palestinian diaspora in Australia is facing an unexpected catastrophe. Normally, May 15, Israel's Independence Day, is the most important day of the year for celebrating their victimhood: the catastrophe, as they see it, of the founding of Israel." (Journalist says only truth will set Palestine free, 15/5/10)

One 'brave' Israeli Arab soul, however, refuses to celebrate his 'Palestinian' victimhood on May 15:

"But, this year, visiting fresh from the streets of Gaza, Ramallah and Jerusalem is Khaled Abu Toameh, an Israeli Arab Muslim journalist, who declares: 'I'd rather be a second-class citizen in Israel than a first-class citizen in any Arab country'. And some in the diaspora are not happy about his visit." (ibid)

Mind you, it's not that Abu T's exactly over the moon about being a second-class Israeli: "If I were a Jew living in Israel, I would be very worried about the deterioration of relations between Jews and Arabs inside the country. We, the Israeli Arabs, have been extremely loyal to the State of Israel ever since its establishment. We are the Arabs who in 1948 did not challenge Israel's right to exist.* We accepted Israel. We welcomed Israel. We helped build Israel. Israel gave us passports, citizenship, okay. But... sadly, the State of Israel or the Israeli establishment were not equally loyal towards its Arab minority... I'm talking about employment, services, infrastructure. We continue to suffer from what [former prime minister] Ehud Olmert called a policy of systematic discrimination against the Arab minority. Now the good news is that Israel is not an apartheid state. But the bad news is that there is discrimination inside Israel. It's not just against Arabs - it's against Russians. It's against Ethiopians. It's against the elderly. It's against the disabled. If this policy continues and the Israeli establishment does not wake up and embark on an emergency plan to improve its relations with its Arab minority, the third intifada will be on the streets of Haifa and Akko, and the Negev and Galilee." (Citizen Khaled, The Australian Jewish News, 21/5/10)

Whence this mysterious, free-floating discrimination, sufficient to have Israeli Arabs (but not Russians, Ethiopians and the elderly) take to the streets in protest, but not sufficient to be called apartheid? Abu T doesn't say, but he's emphatic that, whatever its origin and nature, because Arabs can live in Jewish neighborhoods and go to Jewish schools, it's therefore not apartheid.

Leaving aside the question of just how many Arabs actually live in Jewish neighborhoods or go to Jewish schools, Abu T's PR line is that, because the obvious segregation of South African apartheid isn't replicated in Israel, it's therefore not an apartheid state. His other is to point the finger at alleged apartheid in the Arab/Muslim world: "I passed some Lebanese girls who were organising Israel Apartheid Week in Canada. I stopped at their information table and I asked them, 'Excuse me, which apartheid are you talking about?' They said, 'Of course, the Jewish state, and apartheid against the Palestinians'. And I asked them if they were from Lebanon. 'What about apartheid in Lebanon against the Palestinians, where in Lebanon there is a law that prevents Palestinians from working in more than 60 professions? By law, it's written in the law'. Can you imagine if the Knesset met tonight and passed a law banning Arabs from working in one profession?"

Put to one side the capital F fact that the only reason the Palestinians are in Lebanon is because Israel refuses to allow them to return to the homes and lands from which they were expelled by Zionist forces in 1948, an issue Abu T shows not the least interest in, and consider the implication of his final question - that Israel's Knesset has never actually passed anti-Arab/pro-Jewish legislation when in fact such legislation is fundamental to Israel's status as a Jewish state.

Our most reliable guide to Israel's apartheid legislation is Israeli scholar and activist, Uri Davis. In his invaluable treatise, Apartheid Israel (2003), Davis points out that apartheid is a political system where racism is regulated through acts of parliament, and shows that, in Israel's case, the main body of Israeli law, via its incorporation of the exclusivist constitutional stipulations of the World Zionist Organization (WZO), the Jewish Agency (JA) and the Jewish National Fund (JNF), incorporates a distinction between Jew and non-Jew. Although the Israeli Knesset is formally accountable to all its citizens, Jews and non-Jews alike, in the key areas of immigration, settlement and land development, the Knesset has passed laws ceding state sovereignty to, and vesting its responsibilities with, the WZO, the JA and the JNF, which are constitutionally committed to serving and promoting the interests of Jews and Jews only. In Davis' analysis, this legal deception has given rise to a veiled, but no less real, apartheid, which ensures, for example, that 93% of pre-67 Israel is retained for cultivation, development and settlement by, and for, Jews only.

Obviously though, when your trip to Australia is paid for by the Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council (AIJAC), the United Israel Appeal (UIA), and the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies, you're not going to go there.

[*We threw every flower we had at the Zionist forces!]

Saturday, May 22, 2010

The Japanese? Jewish!

Wow! This is amazing, Dad. The most amazing painting in the world. It's inspirational, isn't it?

-Inspirational? Of course it's inspiring. Because it's Indian!

No, Dad, not the Mona Lisa. She was an Italian noblewoman from the 16th century.

- Son, this is Mina Losa, a Gujerati washerwoman from Bhavnagar.


-Yes! Look at the expression on her face. What is she thinking?

She's contemplating the irony of her situation... asking us whether we are observers... or voyeurs.

-Rubbish! She's asking how much does this painter charge because my brother can get cheap paint.

Why would Leonardo da Vinci go all the way to Bhavnagar to paint someone?

-Because it's quite near where he lived.



Leonardo da Vinci's not Indian, Dad.

-Of course he is, son. Now look at this one.

What, The Last Supper?

-Ah! 12 men sitting around the table for dinner. Where are the women?... They're in the kitchen!

He's a Renaissance artist! Renaissance artists are famous for being Italian...Donatello... Raphael... Titian...

-Kashmiri, Punjabi, Gujerati. See, son, all the great artists - Indian!

(Da Vinci was an Indian, Goodness Gracious Me, BBC, 1998-2001)

I wouldn't miss The Australian Jewish News for quids. And here's why:

"Following Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman's trip to Japan last week, Zeddy Lawrence looks into claims that the relationship between the Jews and the Japanese isn't just diplomatic. Could it be that the legendary Samurai are actually descended from the ancient Israelites?... [T]here is a school of thought that contends that the ancient Japanese warriors were... Jewish. Indeed, the word samurai itself, it's argued, provides the first clue to the historical link between the oriental sect and the children of Israel. Samurai, it is claimed, is derived from the region where the tribe initially hailed from, namely Samaria." (The first samurai? 21/5/10)

Goodness gracious me.

Friday, May 21, 2010


"The Construction, Forestry, Mining & Energy Union [CFMEU] has become the first major Australian union to boycott all Israeli-made goods produced in the occupied Palestinian territories. The union's executive voted this week to join the international Boycott, Divestment & Sanctions [BDS] campaign aimed at the 'illegal' settlement policies of the Netanyahu government. The campaign's goal is to prevent 'Israel's normalisation until it abides by its obligations under international law'. The CFMEU said it would push for the entire Australian union movement and the Labor Party to join the boycott." (Union boycotts Israeli goods, Sydney Morning Herald, 20/5/10)

Note the Herald's placing of quotation marks around the word illegal as though the matter were in dispute. Pathetic!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Taking the Mickey (Mouse)

"'Love between man and woman is not a hoax', writes [Ayaan] Hirsi Ali, one of whose complaints against Islam is its insistence on unattainable behaviour. 'The perfect religion, the perfect God, the infallible prophet, the manual of right and wrong - you can't think of anything more Disneyfied than Islam', she tells me." (Love brings critic of Islam back for more, Tony Allen Mills, The Sunday Times/The Australian, 15/5/10)

When I first read the above, I admit, I was sceptical. Was Christianity, for example, any less Disneyfied than Islam?

To answer this vital question, I consulted 4 of Australia's most eminent Christian leaders: Cardinal George Pell, Reverend Fred Nile, Pastor Brian Houston of Hillsong Church and Catch the Fire Ministries' Danny Nalliah.

And you know what (as the PM would say)? They were unanimous in their view that the Mickey (Mouse) should be taken out of Christianity, and spoke as one, and at length, about Christianity's innumerable flaws, God's many imperfections, Jesus' complete and utter fallibility, and how Christianity had jettisoned all notions of right and wrong as outmoded thinking. They left me in no doubt whatever: now I can't think of any religion more unDisneyfied than Christianity.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

A Real Journalist

Israeli-Arab journalist Khaled Abu Toameh is in town, with both the Sydney Morning Herald (toda Miranda) and The Australian (toda Rebecca) sufficiently impressed to serve up his "insights." Here's Abu T's bio in both papers:

"An Israeli citizen and Arab Muslim, one of 1.4 million Arabs in Israel, Toameh first worked for the PLO newspaper Al-Fajr, where he said editors waited for instructions from Yasser Arafat about how big his picture should be and what should be on the front page. Wanting to be a 'real journalist', he went on to work for foreign news organisations, such as BBC and CNN, where his high-level contacts on both sides and courageous independendence provided invaluable insight." (Why 'balance of terror' feels safer than the peace process, Miranda Devine, SMH, 13/5/10)

"Toameh started his career in journalism at the Palestinian newspaper Al-Fajr, but he left because it was not about journalism but propaganda. He says, 'It's ironic that people like me have to go and work in the Israeli media to be able to practice genuine journalism'." (Journalist says only truth will set Palestine free, Rebecca Weisser, The Australian, 15/5/10)

Abu T now writes for a real newspaper, Israel's Jerusalem Post. In fact, the Post is so real (even surreal) it runs t-shirt ads under the heading Don't Mess With Us! Show Off Your Mossad & Israeli Pride, offering shirts bearing such warm and fuzzy messages as: Don't mess with Mossad; Mossad; Mossad's Dubai Operation; and We are watching - Mossad.*

And if that's not real enough for you, there's its editor-in-chief, David Horowitz, the author of such standards of genuine journalism as Still Life with Bombers: Israel in the Age of Terror; A Little Too Close to God: The Thrills & Panic of a Life in Israel; and Shalom, Friend: The Life & Legacy of Yitzhak Rabin.

Abu T's bona fides as a real journalist don't just come from the paper he works for, however. Just look who's sponsoring his visit. None other than those well-known afficianados of genuine journalism, the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies and the United Israel Appeal. I cannot for the life of me, therefore, understand why Amanda and Rebecca, both real, nay surreal journalists, omitted to mention just who was paying Abu T's way.

But the sine qua non of a real journalist is surely the quality of his insights, and my fave Abu T insight, faithfully recorded by Rebecca, is: "If Palestinians are allowed to get on with their lives, things will continue to slowly get better."

[*Jerusalem Post: Profiting from Mossad murder,, 2/3/10]

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Telling, Not Talking, Points

Just occasionally, so occasionally as to prompt a post such as this, the voices of those who know what they're talking about stand out among the propagandists, spinmeisters and ignoramuses who dominate mass media discourse on the Middle East.

I refer in this case to free lance journalist Michael Otterman and University of California academic Reza Aslan, here for the Sydney Writers' Festival (SWF). They were interviewed on consecutive days (17 & 18/5/10) by Fran Kelly on ABC Radio National's Breakfast program.

Otterman is the co-author of a new book about the "sociocide" of Iraq, Erasing Iraq, based on interviews with some of the 2 million* externally displaced Iraqis living today in dire circumstances in Syria and Jordan. He made these telling points:

On support for Western intervention among Iraqis:

"Some Iraqis I spoke to supported the toppling of Saddam Hussein, but I didn't meet any who supported this prolonged occupation."

On the extent of the Iraqi refugee crisis:

"The Iraqi refugee crisis is the largest in the region since 1948 and the establishment of Israel."

On the roots & results of Iraqi sectarianism:

"Before 1991 Iraq had the strongest public health system in the region, one of the strongest education systems and all this Sunni/Shia violence did not exist. This [sectarian conflict] has all occurred after the [2003] invasion, as the US literally empowered certain tribal and religious leaders in their quest to stabilise [Iraq], which they really didn't do successfully, but the end result of all this has been the rise in fundamentalism which has obliterated ethnic and religious groups like the Mandaeans, and still today many people cannot return to their homes because, for many, they don't have a home to return to...Baghdad had over 200 mixed neighborhoods before the war, now there's only roughly 25..."

On media neglect of the issue:

"We didn't feel that the media was sufficiently asking or answering this question: what do Iraqis think about the invasion, before during and after?"

Aslan, author of How to Win a Cosmic War, neatly cut through the usual USraeli claptrap about Iran's nuclear program:

"[This] emphasis [on Iranian nukes] has to be understood by outsiders. When we think of Iran, all we care about is the nuclear issue. It's the number one issue in our minds. Iranians couldn't care less about this issue. In their top 10 list of to-do items, the nuclear issue is number 11. They are in the midst of the greatest social challenge to the regime, great political fracturing, an economy on the verge of collapse. Frankly, they don't really talk about the nuclear issue all that much... It's so far down on their list of concerns right now that there's a real disconnect between the way the US and the international community wants to deal with Iran and the way Iran wants to deal with the international community. In fact, if we focus too much just on this nuclear issue, there is a very real chance that we could derail what could be a very significant social challenge to this regime... Here's a question nobody bothers asking: why does Iran want nuclear weapons? It's not a difficult question to answer. 1) Iran is literally surrounded, I mean encircled, by American troops, troops from a country whose stated foreign policy for 3 decades towards Iran has been, unambiguously, regime change. 2) As much of a threat as Iran with nuclear weapons could conceivably pose to Israel sometime in the near future, as you and I sit here having this conversation, Israel has 200 nuclear weapons, most of them pointed at Tehran. Why wouldn't Iran want nuclear weapons? My argument is that if you want to deal with Iran's nuclear ambition, you cannot deal with it as just a national issue. It's a regional problem, and unless you're willing to deal with the other nuclear powers in that region - Israel, Pakistan and India - all of whom have nuclear weapons outside the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, and all of whom receive tens of billions of dollars in foreign and military aid from the US, despite their illegal programs, unless you're willing to deal with that, you're never going to deal with Iran."

Unfortunately, the ms media being what it is, another SWF invitee, Christopher Hitchens, is far more likely to hog the media limelight than either of the above. In a Good Weekend feature, Devil's advocate (15/5/10), we get an insight into Hitchens' terrifying tunnel vision : "His last book, God Is Not Great, promoting the characteristically gloves-off view that 'religion poisons everything', brought him a wider audience and placed him in good company with Richard Dawkins (The God Delusion) and Philip Pullman (The Good Man Jesus & The Scoundrel Christ), bang up with the zeitgeist. 'I knew when I saw Dawkins' book that there was something in the air'. Why now, does he think? He waves a hand: 'Depraved papacy, jihads, Palestine, creationism in American schools - all in the name of theocracy'."

That's right, Palestine is all about theocracy. Not Israel, the Jewish state, but Palestine for Christ's sake!

[*Another 3 million are internally displaced.]

Monday, May 17, 2010

For Heaven's Sake, Hari!

How shallow is this?:

"Heaven is a constantly shifting shape because it is a history of subconscious human longings. Show me your heaven and I'll show you what's lacking in your life. The desert-dwellers who wrote the Bible and the Koran lived in thirst - so their heavens were forever running with rivers and fountains and springs... Today's Islamist suicide-bombers live in a society starved of sex, so their heaven is a 72-virgin gang-bang." (Heaven can wait, Johann Hari, The Weekend Australian Magazine, 15/5/10)

Leaving aside the question of whether the Quran (or the Bible for that matter) was written by desert-dwellers, Hari appears blissfully unaware that the notorious 72 virgins, which so titillate the Islamophobic fraternity, are nowhere to be found in the Quran (see my 21/7/09 post 72 Virgins... Again!). Nor does anything remotely resembling sex, let alone a heavenly gang-bang, appear in the Quran, which refers only to the soul's rendezvous with a chaste and perfectly compatible companion.

Hari's lurid nonsense (also dispensed by the odious Christopher Hitchens) is certainly far from original: "In the course of the Middle Ages, Christian hostility was often expressed in anti-Islamic tracts that attacked the supposed falsehoods and inconsistencies in the Koran. Many of these polemics concentrated their attacks on the character of Muhammad himself, who was variously denounced as a 'pseudo-prophet', a 'magician', and a 'carnal' and polygamous libertine who had deceived his credulous followers with blasphemous promises of 'sex in heaven'." (Blood & Faith: The Purging of Muslim Spain, Matthew Carr, 2010, p 13)

In fact, Hari is so taken with the idea of the Quran as bodice-ripper that he returns for seconds:

"Worse still, the promise of heaven is used as an incentive for people to commit atrocities. I have seen this in practice: I've interviewed wannabe suicide bombers from London to Gaza to Syria, and they all launched into reveries about the orgy they will embark on in the clouds." (Heaven can wait)

Really? Now I don't know what alcohol-induced (?) high Hari was on when he penned that rubbish but it was apparently sufficient to erase all memory of his ever having written the following lines thoughtfully preserved at

"But we must be honest about this phenomenon. The suicide bombers we are confronting today are reacting against real problems, albeit horribly, and denying this fact obscures the situation we are all in... Survivors of these attacks usually report that the bombers die with a smile on their face - and this is not to do with the belief that they are going to heaven, because secular and Hindu bombers do the same." (We fail to understand the suicide bomber, 21/5/03)

"Many commentators in the West have argued recently that public opinion is being littered with myths about Hamas: that they are supporters of al-Qa'ida, for example, or they believe suicide bombers end up in paradise with 72 virgins... It is not hard to see why people succumb to this madness [suicide bombing], repulsive though it is... From one viewpoint, you are the disenfranchised citizens of a displaced, tiny people who have been abused by the Israelis, abandoned by the Arabs and ignored by the world for 50 years. You will probably never have a decent job; you'll be lucky if you leave Gaza once in your life. You are nothing..." (Hanging with Hamas, 23/8/03)

Wannabe Gazan suicide bombers lusting after cloud-borne orgies? For Heaven's sake, Hari!

Saturday, May 15, 2010


In my 2/7/09 post, The Palestinian Golan Heights, I alluded to the malign effect of television on the brain after noting the foot-in-mouth commentary of the Sydney Morning Herald's television reviewer Doug Anderson.

Doug's latest Middle East gaffe (I don't have time for the others) only confirms what I wrote then. Previewing a doco on Iran, Iran & The West (Part 1), screened on SBS last night, he wrote: "To mark 31 years since the Islamic Revolution that replaced Shah Pahlavi with Ayatollah Khomeni's theocracy in Iran, a retrospective of the diplomatic nightmares that have ensued. [Has he ever heard of a sentence?] This is a thorough and illuminating piece of work. Given the present regime's demonstrations of vigorous confrontation is its chosen stance, the relatively mild engagements of the Rafsanjani, Khatami and Khamenei governments seem a distant memory. How were so many creative initiatives squandered? Do we simply blame boofheads like the former US ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton and the sartorially challenged Mahmoud Ahmadinejad? Ridiculous matters of ego, of face, the loss of face (and the cutting off of hands to save it) are involved. [The cutting off of hands to save face?!] The Iranians are civilised people and their fighters have shown unparalleled resilience in Afghanistan, with the Northern Alliance the only credible opponents left standing in the fight against the Talibs. Having a bet each way is a shrewd tactic and Iran's ability to play a mean hand of poker is abundantly evident in the doco."

Seen one turban, seen 'em all, eh Doug?

Friday, May 14, 2010

Burning Questions

"Palestinians are the only people on Earth that use, as their national day, someone else's independence day. Tomorrow is Nakba Day. 'Nakba' means catastrophe in Arabic, and the 'catastrophe' they commemorate is the establishment of Israel." (Palestinians architects of their own misery, Bren Carlill*, The Age, 14/5/10)

[*Bren Carlill is an "analyst" at the Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council (AIJAC)]

Excuse me, Bren, mind if I ask you a few questions?

First, a shortie: can you perhaps shed any light on the Palestinians having a "national day," but not a nation?

Second, when you say the "Palestinians are the only people on Earth that use, as their national day, someone elses's independence day" - by which you mean, I take it, Israel's Independence Day - I have a problem. Allow me to explain. You see, when I think of independence days, I think of people winning their independence from the rule of some oppressive foreign power. To cite but three examples: the Algerians from the French; the Indians from the British; and the Indonesians from the Dutch. You get my drift? You with me? Yes, I'm coming to the point. Just what oppressive foreign power did Israelis win their independence from?

And no, don't say Britain. Face it, without Balfour, Wingate, Churchill and the British army, without the British Mandate over Palestine, there'd be no Israel today. So please, if you wouldn't mind, tell me what Israel's Independence Day is all about.

Finally, there's that bit about the Palestinians commemorating the establishment of Israel as a catastrophe. Do you think it might have something to do with their being the "architects of their own misery" as you put it? I mean, and I'm sure you'd be the first to agree, didn't the Palestinians, in 1948, for reasons best known to themselves (or maybe not), mysteriously, inexplicably, incomprehensibly just walk away from their homes? You know (who better?), the full Marie Celeste. The air of enchantment. The porridge still warm on their breakfast tables. The fruit fairly bursting on the trees in their orchards. The money stashed away in their bank accounts. The goods going nowhere on the shelves of their shops. But, amazingly, no Palestinians! And then there's their Jewish neigbours, distraught and in tears at their going. I mean, the Palestinians just upped and went walkies, right? Probably, and I've got the uncanny feeling here you'd be in complete agreement with me, in response to those Arab Alan Jones's of the day in Damascus and Cairo and Baghdad persuading them to drop whatever it was they were doing at the time and go. I mean the likes of you and I would just tell Alan to shove it, right? OK, maybe not you then, but you know what I'm getting at - unlike your Palestinian klutz, normal white folks like us, we'd just stay put, now wouldn't we?

Sorry to burden you with so many questions, but hey, your an expert, an analyst, right? Even better, an AIJAC analyst. Which explains the appearance of your learned treatise, Palestinians architects of their own misery, in one of Australia's very best papers, The Age.

My ears are fairly itching to receive your pearls of wisdom. Please don't disappoint.

PS: Of the 54 readers of Bren's little diatribe who bothered to comment before The Age quickly closed off discussion, only 14 gave it the thumbs up. Oh dear!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Weaponising the Holocaust

Existential threats getting you down? Islamofascists wherever you look? Hitlers around every corner? Anti-semites and de-legitimisers under your bed? Self-haters under your skin? Can you afford not to be insured?

"There is a sense that Israel with its own historical legacy, the memory of the holocaust, deserves to have insurance, [a] national insurance policy in the form of nuclear capability, just to ensure that another holocaust would not happen. (Avner Cohen, Pressure grows on Israel over suspected nukes, AM, ABC Radio National, 13/5/10)

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Ziocons Rule

Now that the United Kingdom has a new misleader in the Conservative Party's David Cameron, it pays to revisit journalist Peter Oborne's pioneering expose The Pro-Israel Lobby in Britain (13/11/09) at To whet your appetite, here are just two extracts from his lengthy investigation into Britain's Zio-Conservatives:

Don't mention the war (crimes)...

"Every year, in a central London hotel, a very grand lunch is thrown by the Conservative Friends of Israel (CFI). It is often addressed by by the Conservative leader of the day. Many members of the shadow cabinet make it their business to be there along with a very large number of Tory peers and prospective candidates, while the Conservative MPs present amount to something close to a majority of the parliamentary party. It is a formidable turnout. This year's event took place in June, with the main speech by Tory leader David Cameron and shadow foreign secretary William Hague in attendance. The dominant event of the previous 12 months had been the Israeli invasion of Gaza at the start of the year. So I examined Cameron's speech with curiosity to see how he would handle that recent catastrophe. I was shocked to see that Cameron made no reference to the invasion of Gaza, the massive destruction it caused, or the 1370 deaths that had resulted. Indeed, Cameron went out of his way to praise Israel because it 'strives to protect innocent life'. I found it impossible to reconcile the remarks made by the young Conservative leader with the numerous human rights abuses in Gaza. Afterwards I said as much to some Tory MPs. They looked at me as if I was distressingly naive, drawing my attention to the very large number of Tory donors in the audience. But it cannot be forgotten that so many people died in Gaza at the start of this year. To allow this terrible subject to pass by without comment suggested a failure of common humanity and decency on the part of the man most people regard as the next Prime Minister. To praise Israel at the same time for protecting human life showed not merely a fundamental failure of respect for the truth but also it gives the perception, rightly or wrongly, of support for the wretched events that took place in Gaza. That is not to condone or excuse the abhorrent actions of Hamas, but to overlook Israel's culpability is undoubtedly partisan. It is impossible to imagine any British political leader showing such equanimity and tolerance if British troops had committed even a fraction of the human rights abuses and war crimes of which Israel has been accused. So that weekend, in my weekly Daily Mail political column, I criticised Cameron's speech to the CFI, drawing attention to his failure to mention Gaza and his speaking of Israeli respect for the sanctity of human life. Soon I received a letter from Stuart Polak, the long standing CFI director: 'Peter, the snapshot of our lunch concentrating on the businessmen and David's alleged comments was really unhelpful'. The CFI political director, Robert Halfon, wrote saying that my letter was 'astonishing' and accusing me of making a 'moral equivalence between Israel and Iran..."

The best pro-Israel policy money can buy:

"The CFI is beyond doubt the best connected, and probably the best funded, of all Westminster lobbying groups. Eighty per cent of Conservative MPs are members. The leader of the Conservative Party is often expected to appear at their events, while the Shadow Foreign Secretary and his team are subjected to persistent pressure by the CFI. CFI's director Stuart Polak is a familiar face in Westminster and well known to everyone in the Tory establishment. Robert Halfon, the CFI's political director and Tory candidate for Harlow, is sometimes regarded as the brains of the operation. Both are well liked by Tory MPs. One Tory MP has told us that, before he stood in the 2005 election, he met Stuart Polak who put Israel's case to him strongly at a social event. Towards the end of the meal, Stuart Polak asked if his campaign needed more money. Sure enough, weeks later two cheques arrived in the post at the Conservative office in the constituency. Both came from businessmen closely connected to the CFI who the Tory MP says he had never met before and who had never, so far as he knew, ever stepped inside his constituency. Another parliamentary candidate fighting a marginal seat told us that he had gone to see Stuart Polak, where he was tested on his views on Israel. Within a fortnight a cheque from a businessman he had never met arrived in his constituency office. On studying donations to Conservative constituency offices before the 2005 election a pattern emerges. A group of donors all with strong connections to pro-Israel groups, (almost all are on the board of the CFI) made donations of between 2,000 and 5,000 pounds either personally or through their companies to the constituency offices of certain Conservative candidates."

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Pixilated Presidents

"In religion and politics people's beliefs and convictions are in almost every case gotten at second-hand, and without examination, from authorities who have not themselves examined the questions at issue but have taken them at second-hand from other non-examiners, whose opinions about them were not worth a brass farthing." Mark Twain, Autobiography, 1959

George W Bush - who gave us "God would tell me, 'George, go and fight those terrorists in Afghanistan', and I did, and then God would tell me, 'George, go and end the tyranny in Iraq', and I did"* - is but the most recent example of your pixilated American president. He destroyed Iraq.

Harry S Truman (1945-1953) is another. He helped destroy Palestine:

"In May 1949, one year after [de facto] recognition [by the United States], Israel gained full membership in the United Nations. The Truman administration gave Israel a $100 million loan. De jure recognition would finally be announced on January 31, 1949, after the Israeli elections... After Israel was created, the historical and religious meaning of what he had done became more important to Truman, especially his role in the return of the Jews to Palestine. Truman shared his thoughts with [his special counsel Clark] Clifford about biblical prophecies concerning the Jews' return to Zion in the Old Testament. Clifford, who considered himself an amateur Bible student, recalled exchanging passages with the president that dealt with the subject. One of the most striking quotes Clifford found was from Deuteronomy: 'Moses went up from the plains of Moab unto the Mount of Nebo, the top of Isgah that is before Jericho, and the Lord showed him all the land from Gilead unto Dan... all the land of Judah unto the western sea and the south and the plain'. As Clifford remarked in 1988, 'You can take an old biblical map and you could do quite a lot with that with the present boundaries of Israel'. That, he added, was what the Old Testament had promised to the Jewish leaders of the day. One of the president's favorites, which he often quoted, was also from Deuteronomy: 'Behold, I have given up the land before you. Go in and take possession of the land to which the Lord has sworn unto your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob'. Others were from Genesis, which referred to 'an everlasting possession'...

"In the spring of 1949, Eliahu Elath [Israel's 1st ambassador to the US] accompanied Israel's Chief Rabbi, Isaac Halavi Herzog, to a meeting with Truman. Truman asked him if he knew what he had done for the refugees and to establish Israel. Herzog 'reflected for a moment and replied that when the President was still in his mother's womb... the Lord had bestowed upon him the mission of helping his Chosen People at a time of despair and aiding in the fulfillment of His promise of Return to the Holy Land'. In ancient times, Rabbi Herzog continued, 'a similar mission had once been imposed on the head of another great country, King Cyrus of Persia, who had also been given the task of helping to redeem the Jews from their dispersion and restoring them to the land of their forefathers'. At that point, Elath recalled, the Rabbi read aloud the words of Cyrus: 'The Lord God of Heaven hath... charged me to build him a House at Jerusalem, which is in Judah'. As Truman heard the Rabbi's quote, 'he rose from his chair and with great emotion, tears glistening in his eyes... turned to the Chief Rabbi and asked him if his actions for the sake of the Jewish people were indeed to be interpreted thus and the hand of the Almighty was in the matters'. The Rabbi told Truman, 'he had been given the task once fulfilled by the mighty king of Persia, and that he too, like Cyrus, would occupy a place of honor in the annals of the Jewish people'. Truman took the Rabbi's words to heart. When Eddie Jacobsen told an audience at the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York that he was introducing the man who had helped create Israel, Truman quickly responded, 'Helped create Israel? I am Cyrus, I am Cyrus'. Eliahu Elath, speaking years later as the president of Hebrew University, told his audience that the Bible was Truman's 'main source of knowledge of the history of Palestine in ancient times'. Quoting Truman's farewell address as president, given on January 15, 1953, Elath singled out a passage that revealed his hopes for the Holy Land. Truman had said, 'The Tigris and the Euphrates Valley can be made to bloom as it did in the time of Babylon and Nineveh. Israel can be made into the country of milk and honey as it was in the time of Joshua'." (Safe Haven: Harry S Truman & The Founding of Israel, Allis & Ronald Radosh, 2009, pp 344-346)

What a goose!

[*The truth about God & George, Simon Freeman, timesonline, 7/10/05]

Monday, May 10, 2010

They Were There A Moment Ago!

Now you see them:

"The US is likely to ask Australia for co-operation in an extended campaign, beyond UN sanctions, to apply pressure on Iran to give up its nuclear weapons ambitions." (Australia 'key ally' for the US on Iran, Greg Sheridan, The Australian, 8/5/10 - p 10)

Now you don't:

"Australia will almost certainly be asked by the Obama administration to levy extra sanctions against Iran, beyond those soon to be mandated by the UN Security Council, in a last-ditch effort to stop Tehran going nuclear." (White House looks to Rudd to go harder on Tehran, Greg Sheridan, The Australian, 8/5/10 - p 23)

Ah, those bloody Iranian WMDs - almost as elusive as Saddam's.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

A Different Kind of Newspaper?

Graham Perkin (1929-1975), the editor of The Age (1966-1975), is credited by Eric Beecher (of in his review of Ben Hills' biography, Breaking News, with transforming The Age into "the gold standard of modern Australian journalism over the past half century"; inventing "the paradigm for investigative journalism in Australia"; and creating "an open, ideas-infested newsroom atmosphere." (Tribute to editor who inspired a newspaper's golden age, Sydney Morning Herald, 8/5/10)

Beecher also quotes Perkin as saying, in 1969, "We are trying to produce a different kind of newspaper. A popular newspaper of great quality and breadth. Our paper will look at the whole world, at all people. It will attempt to spread understanding and encourage decency, discourage inhumanity and attack prejudice." (ibid)

Admirable sentiments, of course, but when it comes to the Palestine/Israel conflict, Perkin and his kind all seem to suffer from Achille's heel.

Speaking of which, it just so happens that another, contemporary sufferer, Phillip Adams, was interviewing Ben Hills on ABC Radio National's Late Night Live recently when this little exchange took place:

Adams: Let's look at some of the dark side of the Perkin's moon... I think it's fair to say that there was a lack of balance in Middle East coverage which made the Israelis quite happy.
Hills: Yes, certainly he took a couple of sponsored trips to Israel but... those were the days the '67 war was coming up. It was plucky little Israel against the Arab world. And the Arabs had done themselves no favours by hijacking aeroplanes and blowing them up so... it is quite understandable that public sympathy and the sympathies of The Age were completely with Israel at that stage and that the Arab point of view didn't really get a look in in The Age for many years. (Graham Perkin & the Golden Age of Journalism, 6/5/10)

Seems that even an editor's editor can go weak at the knees under the influence of Israeli pheromones. And just look at our talking heads. When is Adams going to admit to the number of free rides he's given to Zionist propagandists over the years? And here's Perkin's protege, Ben Hills, rushing to the great man's defence with the lamest of excuses.

Interesting too that for Murdoch's Australian it is still, 35 years after Perkin's death, "plucky little Israel against the Arab world."

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Zionism Red in Tooth & Claw

The latest issue of The Australian Jewish News (7/5/10) carries a most extraordinary advertisement, co-sponsored by the Jewish National Fund (JNF) and the St George Bank, for JNF NSW's June 2 Annual General Meeting.

The ad features Paul Howes, Australian Workers Union (AWU) national secretary and ACTU vice-president, as the AGM's "guest speaker."

For a Zionist institution that these days likes to conceal its historic role as a snapper-up of Palestinian land for Jews-only use with folderol about tree-planting and conservation*, the JNF here bares its teeth as an integral component of the Zionist project to wipe Palestine off the map.

[*See my 12/8/08 post A Certain Jewish Tree Planting Group]

The relevant text (accompanying a photo of Howes) reads as follows: "UNION CHIEF WHO SAID: 'I'm proud our nation helped to kill Hamas terrorist in Dubai'... come hear outspoken Paul Howes..."

Let's get this straight: JNF NSW is inviting the Jewish community - as the ad puts it: "The entire community is invited" - to come and hear Paul Howes tell them how proud he is that Australia helped a gang of Israeli assassins asphyxiate an unarmed, defenceless man in a third country. That's right - Australia, accessary to murder!

Just imagine the uproar (particularly in the Murdoch press) were a local Arab/Muslim organisation to invite the Arab/Muslim community to celebrate the murder of an Israeli abroad.

Of course, Howes did not put it quite that starkly when, in his Sunday Telegraph column of 7/3/10*, he wrote "I'm proud that our nation has played a small and accidental role in the removal of the terrorist al-Mabhouh from the planet." He was referring, of course, to the Mossad assassins' use of Australian passports. One can't help wondering, however, whether Howes would be entirely comfortable with the JNF's 'streamlining' of his words. What part of the old saying - If you lie down with dogs, you'll get up with fleas - does he not understand I wonder.

[* See my 7/3/10 post The ACTU's Sarah Palin]

While on the subject of the JNF, there is one little indicator that Australian Jews are finding the JNF's apartheid somewhat problematic. In the AJN's regular Vox Pop feature, in its issue of 10/8/07, 5 young Jews were asked: "Should the JNF be allowed to exclude non-Jewish Israelis from leasing its land?"

Four of the 5 answered as follows: They shouldn't be able to refuse, because what difference does it make if they are Jewish or non-Jewish? It's discrimination. (Kim Alman, Student, 17); No, as long as they have good intentions and are happy to live under the same laws as everybody else. (Wendy Ginsburg, Medical administrator); No, provided the people supporting the JNF are aware that they are giving the money to both Jews and non-Jews. (Greg Kitay, Financial analyst, 26); It's a straight business decision. They should lease to whomever they see fit, but they shouldn't discriminate on the basis of race. (Josh Gordon-Carr, Student, 20). The fifth answered, Yes. The money given to the JNF is provided by and meant for Jews, hence the name. (Danny Buchen, Student, 19)

Four out of five ain't bad.


"Ingeus [the job placement agency 97% owned by Kevin Rudd's wife Therese Rein] has operations in Britain, France, the Netherlands, Poland, Switzerland, Israel and South Korea. The group appointed the corporate blueblood David Gonski as chairman last October..." ($1m bounty Reins on PM's household, Scott Rochfort, Business Day/Sydney Morning Herald, 7/5/10)

"Mr Gonski, the chairman of the Australian Securities Exchange, Coca-Cola Amatil and Investec Bank, sits on dozens of other boards including Westfield Group, Singapore Airlines and Sunraysia... Mr Gonski is a high-profile philanthropist in Sydney's Jewish community, and a long time confidant of Westfield boss Frank Lowy." (David Gonski to chair Therese Rein's company, Natasha Bita, The Australian, 3/11/09)

Gonski is also a member of the "extended executive" of the United Israel Appeal (UIA) NSW. (

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Indonesian Rambamming

Not content with romancing Australian media hacks in Israel, a process of co-optation I have called rambamming*, Australia's Israel lobby has also been busy romancing their Indonesian counterparts. [*See in particular my 30/3/09 post I've been to Israel too]

Organised jointly by the Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council (AIJAC) and the American Jewish Committee (AJC), Indonesia's first (?) rambamming took place in 2007. AIJAC's executive director Dr Colin Rubenstein was uncharacteristically blunt, voicing the lobby's rationale as follows: "[The 7 Indonesians] were a group of very senior journalists with great political contacts and influence on public opinion." (Indonesians make historic visit to Israel, The Australian Jewish News, 2/11/07)

While in Israel, the Indonesians met then foreign minister Tzipi Livni (who reportedly told them "it was important for Indonesia to be a force for moderation in the Middle East") and president Shimon Peres (who said, "Our enemies are not the Muslim or Arab world. Our enemies are hatred and terror"). (ibid)

The 2007 rambammed were Bambang Harymurti, editor-in-chief of Tempo; Uni Lubis, vice-chief editor of Star AN TV; Tofan Mahdi, managing editor of The Java Post; Ray Wijaya, news division head of PT Cipta TPI; Meuta Hafid, news anchor of Metro TV; Artine Ution, chief editor of TPI TV; and Endy Bayuni, editor-in-chieh of The Jakarta Post.

This February, 9 more Indonesian hacks took the plunge: Arief Suditomo, programming and production director of the SUNTV Network and editor-in-chief of RCTI television; Maria Hartiningsih, senior journalist at Kompas Daily; Heru Hendratmoku, production director at Radio News Agency; Dwi Kristanto, front-page editor, Rakyat Merdeka; Eva Mazrieva, news producer at ANTV Jakarta; Retno Shanti Ruwyastuti, deputy chief editor, Metro TV in Jakarta; Purwanto Setiadi, managing editor, Tempo; Meidyatama Suryodiningrat, deputy chief editor, The Jakarta Post; and Avian Tumengkol, editor-in-chief, Waspada Online and editor-at-large, The Waspada Daily in Medan. (Source: Selamat Israel, AJN, 30/4/10)

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Amos Oz, Oz, Oz, Oi! Oi! Oi! 2

A documentary about Israeli literary icon Amos Oz is coming our way. Here's The Weekend Australian's film critic Evan Williams waxing worshipful:

"Amos Oz: The Nature of Dreams is a documentary... about the Israeli writer and literary academic Amos Oz. Born in Jerusalem, Oz lived on a kibbutz as a teenager and served with the Israeli army during the Six-Day War. A secular Jew, he has something of the stature of a sage in his homeland. Among Israeli writers and intellectuals he is perhaps the staunchest advocate of a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Watching him I was struck by his candour, his evident love of plain language. Newsweek has described him as 'a kind of Zionist Orwell: a man obsessed with simple decency and determined above all to tell the truth, regardless of whom he offends'. To judge from this sensitive and always affectionate documentary, he is most likely to offend zealots on both sides. He is particularly resentful of Europeans who lecture Israel on history or morality. Europe, he reminds us, is a small continent whose wars have shed more of the world's innocent blood than those of any other continent or nation... I commend the film, not only to those interested in Israel's history and politics, but to all those troubled by fanaticism and intolerance in any of their modern guises." (Review, 1/5/10)

Don't you just love Williams' logic? Anyone not as worshipful of Oz as he, must, ipso facto, be a zealot and so hopelessly out of order. And as for bloody-handed Europeans (collectively guilty, of course!) having no right to criticise Israel, it is only William's obvious ignorance of the Palestine problem that prevents him from seeing the Zionist project for what it is - the most virulent form of European colonialism.*

So for all you zealots out there offended by Williams' shallowness and gullibility just click on the Amos Oz tag below and read my 21/8/08 post Amos Oz, Oz, Oz, Oi! Oi! Oi!

[*Here's Israeli writer (and Oz basher) Yitzhak Laor's take on Zionism and European colonialism: "It should have been through us that Europe could have redeemed itself for its colonial past. It should have been through us that Europe learned to tolerate Islam, the most prominent refusal to accept Western secularism as a way of life. Tragically, what has happened is the opposite. It is through us that Europe... intensified its hatred of Islam and the Arabs: our state - presented as the true heir of Holocaust victims, most of whom looked 'very different from modern Europeans', most of whom were mocked in the same manner that traditional Muslims are mocked today - gave way to the return of the colonial. If we peel away the belief in the eternity of Zion, an eternity that every nationalist in the world believes about his or her nationhood; if we push aside the ancient religious yearning for Zion, a yearning that never disappeared but was also never acted upon by the believers until political Zionism took over and nationalized the Jewish religion; if we forget the prayers for redemption in Zion, which are still recited daily by religious Jews in Israel, as well as in Paris or Brooklyn or Yemen, we can get at the pure logic of the tragedy: Zionism thought it would politically resolve the exile within Europe - Jews as 'Orientals inside the Occident' - not just by an Exodus, by going elsewhere, but by going to the heart of the colonial hinterland of Europe, the East, not to become part of that East but in order to become a representative of the West 'over there', far away from the exile we were subjected to 'here', inside Europe. This is how Herzl put it, in very crude words, in his programmatic book The Jewish State. After his bitter and sincere description of European hatred toward the Jews following the Dreyfus affair, a hatred he saw as incurable, he writes: 'For Europe we could constitute part of the wall of defence against Asia: we could serve as an outpost against barbarism. As a neutral state we would remain in contact with all of Europe, which would have to guarentee our existence'." (The Myths of Liberal Zionism, 2009, pp 5-7)]

Monday, May 3, 2010

Mind Wide Shut

The ABC puts out a lavish monthly music/arts/culture magazine (cum program guide) called Limelight. Unfortunately, in its April 2010 issue, it's added another string to its bow: Zionist propaganda.

Tel Aviv, by 'travel writer' Tamara Thiessen, begins with this plea to the reader: Don't let chronic political tension keep you away from Israel. Intensely enriching, human and historic, its dolce vita in the Middle East lifestyle peaks in the pleasure-seeking, seaside city of Tel Aviv."

Dolce vita lifestyle? Tell it to the Palestinians!

Some of the dumber bits (followed by my comments):

"Imagine that you head to Israel without thinking of the country's political-cultural crisis, but with your mind wide open. I ponder this possibility on the plane after finally overcoming a decade-long apprehension of bombs on buses."

Political-cultural crisis? Ethnic cleansing & occupation = a political cultural crisis? Mind wide open? Mind wide shut more like it.

"[O]ver 400 kilometres of a planned 700 km 'fence against terror' has been built along the West Bank borders..."

Along the West Bank borders? Really? Not inside the occupied West Bank?

"Looking over the sun-hazed skyscraper silhouette, I sense how Jewish emigrants envisaged the city a century ago, surging up from the sand dunes only a couple of kilometres from the ancient Arabic port of Jaffa. Their idealism of building a peaceful, modern town was captured in the name Tel Aviv, meaning the Hill of Spring."

Ah yes, sand dunes for a people, for a people without sand dunes. Lest we forget: "The city of Tel Aviv was established in an area where Arab localities existed - particularly Jaffa and its suburbs in the south, but also smaller villages east and north of the city, whose names we still know today. The Arab localities in the Tel Aviv area, as well as their inhabitants, have been largely erased from the maps of the region and from its posted signs. While Hebrew-speakers still make use of the names Abu Kabir, Manshiyya, Summayl, Shaykh Muwannis and Salama, little is known about these places, and what is known is repressed." (Map of Tel Aviv & Its Palestinian Villages,

And as for that "ancient Arabic port of Jaffa," it's now but a shadow of its former self, literally bulldozed by Tel Aviv (aka the Zionist project), its remnant Palestinian population (following the Great Purge of '48) barely hanging on:

"The ground floor of Zaki Khimayl's home is a cafe where patrons can drink mint tea or fresh juice as they smoke on a water pipe. Located by Jaffa's beach, a stone's throw from Tel Aviv, the business should be thriving. Mr Khimayl, however, like hundreds of other families in the Arab neighborhoods of Ajami and Jabaliya, is up to his eyes in debt and trapped in a world of bureaucratic regulations apparently designed with only one end in mind: his eviction from Jaffa. Sitting on the cafe's balcony, Mr Khimayl, 59, said he felt besieged. Bulldozers are tearing up the land by the beach for redevelopment and luxury apartments are springing up all around his dilapidated two-story home. He opened a briefcase, one of five he has stuffed with demands and fines from official bodies, as well as bills from four lawyers dealing with the flood of paperwork. 'I owe 1.8 million shekels [$500,000] in water and business rates alone', he said in exasperation. 'The crazy thing is the municipality recently valued the property and told me it's worth much less than the sum I owe'. Jaffa is one of half a dozen 'mixed cities' in Israel, where Jewish and Palestinian citizens supposedly live together. The rest of Israel's Palestinian minority, relatives of the Palestinians in the occupied territories, live in their own separate and deprived communities. Despite the image of coexistence cultivated by the Israeli authorities, Jaffa is far from offering a shared space for Jews and Palestinians, according to Sami Shehadeh of the Popular Committee for the Defence of Jaffa's Homes. Instead, Palestinian residents live in their own largely segregated neighborhoods, especially Ajami, the city's poorest district. Only last month, Mr Shehadeh said, the Jewish residents' committees proposed creating days when the municpal pool could be used only by Jews. Although Jaffa's 18,000 Palestinian residents constitute one-third of the city's population, they have been left powerless by politically since a municipal fusion with Jaffa's much larger neighbor, Tel Aviv, in 1950. Of the cities' joint population, Palestinians are just 3%. After years of neglect, Mr Shehadeh said, the residents are finally attracting attention from the authorities - but the interest is far from benign. A 'renewal plan' for Jaffa, ostensibly designed to improve the inhabitants' quality of life, is in fact seeking the Palestinian residents' removal on the harshest terms possible, he said. 'The municipality talks a lot about 'developing' and 'rehabilitating' the area, but what it means by development is attracting wealthy Jews looking to live close by Tel Aviv but within view of the sea', he said. 'The Palestinian residents here are simply seen as an obstacle to the plan, so they are being evicted from their homes under any pretext that can be devised. 'Some of the families have lived in these homes since well before the state of Israel was established, and yet they are being left with nothing'. The current pressure on the residents to leave Ajami has painful echoes of the 1948 war that followed that followed Israel's declaration of its existence. Once, Jaffa was the most powerful city in Palestine, its wealth derived from the area's huge orange exports. AS Israeli historians have noted, however, one of the Jewish leadership's main aims in the 1948 war was the expulsion of the Palestinian population from Jaffa, especially given its proximity to Tel Aviv, the new Jewish state's largest city. Ilan Pappe, an historian, writes that the people of Jaffa were 'literally pushed into the sea' to board fishing boats destined for Gaza as 'Jewish troops shot over their heads to hasten their expulsion'. By the end of the war, no more than 4,000 of Jaffa's 70,000 Palestinians remained. The Israeli government nationalized all their property and corralled the residents into the Ajami neighborhood, south of Jaffa port. For two years they were sealed off from the rest of Jaffa behind barbed wire. In the meantime, Jaffa's properties were either demolished or redistributed to new Jewish immigrants. The heart of old Jaffa, next to the port, was developed as a touristic playground, with palatial Palestinian homes turned into exclusive restaurants and art galleries run by Jewish entrepreneurs." (Extract from Jaffa's 'renewal' aims at expulsion of Palestinians, Jonathan Cook,, 16/9/08)

"By the time we leave, I have stopped thinking so much about the differences between Arabs and Jews. We have eaten along with other Jewish people at fantastic Arab eateries and seen Jews and Arabs walking alongside each other as friends. In the New Year they held a peace march together in the streets of Tel Aviv."

And Kevin Rudd is a smart but humble man, and the moon is made of green cheese, and the tooth fairy exists, and...

"Having discovered Israel, I feel more civilised: firstly, by my insights into these two rich cultures, and secondly, from an understanding that there is hope."

Pass the bucket, quick!

Thiessen dares quote Dr Johnson - twice:

"As 18th century writer Samuel Johnson said, 'The use of travelling is to regulate imagination by reality, and instead of thinking how things may be, to see them as they are'."

"Again to quote Dr Johnson, 'Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness'."

You want Dr Johnson, Ms Thiessen? Ill give you Dr Johnson: "Mankind have a great aversion to intellectual labor; but even supposing knowledge to be easily attainable, more people would be content to be ignorant than would take even a little trouble to acquire it." Think about it.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

How to Pick a Palestinian Terrorist

Ever wondered what it's like being The Australian's opinion page editor Rebecca Weisser?

Guided by your near supernatural ability to differentiate between what you call mainstream and radical opinion, and your unerring sense of exactly what it is the readers want to read (See my 26/4/10 post Do You Want Your News Limited?), you and you alone can decree the following 'opinion' mainstream and so worthy of gracing the pages of The Australian:

"What is more, any Palestinian state would materialise only amidst compromise. There will be no return to the 1967 borders; at most Palestinians would be compensated for territorial adjustments made necessary by large blocs of Jewish settlements and Israeli security concerns. There will be nothing more than a token right of return for Palestinians to Israel. Jerusalem will remain undivided and at most shared. Terrorists would see all this as a sellout, and they would target not just Israel but those Palestinians and Arab states that made peace with it." (The Palestinian peace distraction, Richard N Haass, The Wall Street Journal/The Australian, 30/4/10)

So if you're a Palestinian and you cannot bring yourself to graciously accept (a) Israel's hanging on to large chunks of occupied West Bank territory in defiance of international law and the resolutions of the United Nations; (b) the ongoing 62-year exile of Palestinian refugees from their homes and lands in pre-1967 Israel; (c) Israeli sovereignty over occupied East Jerusalem; and you dare to suggest that any Palestinian leader who does is a sellout, then, hey, you're a terrorist.

Got that?