Tuesday, August 31, 2010


Here's a curious piece from a Canadian columnist called Theo Caldwell:

"Over the past few weeks, I... have written about Sakineh Ashtiani, a woman sentenced to death by stoning in Iran for the crime of 'adultery'. The good news is that folks from all walks of life and political persuasions have rallied to Ashtiani's cause. The strange news is, some still suppose Israel is the problem. You can extrapolate the Ashtiani case to any number of issues - the growing danger of Iran, the cruelty of Sharia law, the misogyny of Islamic regimes - but even if you spend a paragraph, as I did last week, pointing out Israel is irrelevant to the topic, that's still the part that gets people animated. Every public opinion engenders some measure of response, and there are those who perceive hypocrisy whenever one injustice is given press rather than another. They'll complain, 'I notice you didn't write about the expulsion of the Acadians' or 'the theft of the Elgin Marbles' or whatever. But as a reliable tangent and an object of anger, the Jewish state stands alone." (Anger over Israel floods other frustrations, Toronto Sun, 22/7/10)

Poor old Theo. Why is everyone constantly at him over Palestine?

Maybe, just maybe, it's because he's the kind of guy who, as the people of Gaza were being bombed, shelled, incinerated and otherwise disposed of by the Israel Offence Forces in 2008/2009, could write:

"Quite reasonably one might ask about the plight of Palestinian children, and it is a cruel irony that they are victims of the same violence [He's referring to Palestinian suicide bombings]. If only the grown-ups influencing them placed the same priority on barring hatred from their hearts. Instead, they are inculcated with perverse histories and vicious notions of murder and martyrdom from their earliest years... [On the other hand] even as they live in the shadow of death, [Israelis] teach their children to love life." ('How do I raise my children not to hate?' Toronto Sun, 14/1/09)

OK... It's great that Theo's taken up Sakineh's cause, but the above words sort of raise a few questions about where exactly he's coming from, no?

I wonder how he'd respond to Israeli kids, inculcated with perverse histories and vicious notions of murder and Jewish supremicism, attempting to murder a Palestinian kid by stoning:

"I had never been a witness to attempted murder - but that is exactly what a gang of youths from the [Israeli settler] outpost 'Tal Yam' tried to do to Hilal Majaida [a 16-year-old Palestinian resident of the village of Mouasi in the Gaza Strip] yesterday. All of us - media personnel, the army, the police - at first saw these youths as a gang of harmless brats and the word 'summer camp' was repeated again and again in reports. The IDF and police had hoped the matter would die down, but these 'campers' were bent on murder. 'He's Arab - we have to kill him', 'Hakam Lehorgeha, Hashkem Lehorgo' (If someone tries to kill you, rise up and kill him first) was the explanation they gave. These youths, with an average age of 15 or under, didn't see a problem with throwing large stones point blank at the head of a young man lying unconscious. Four or five stones had already missed his head when we, a few journalists, tried to intervene, screaming at them that he was injured, that they should let him be. However, they just laughed and threw another large stone which struck his head. Only then did we pull ourselves together, and begin dragging him away, with the settler youths attacking us from the rear. Someone alerted a paramedic; I do not know his name, though I do know he's a resident of Gush Katif. He wavered for 20 seconds or so over whether or not to treat Hilal while the attackers yelled, 'If you treat him, we'll kill you too'. He turned away with an embarrassed look and left. The injured boy just lay there, his face covered in blood, losing consciousness. He was eventually taken to the hospital in Khan Yunis." (Adapted from I saw youths with murder in their eyes, I saw a paramedic abandon someone wounded, Nir Hasson, Haaretz, 30/6/05, kibush.co.il)


The Age... Again!

Senior Lecturer in the Department of Social Work at Monash University (and co-author of Jews & Australian Politics) Philip Mendes writes in The Australian Jewish News that "Whatever the final outcome, the 2010 election campaign confirmed beyond doubt that Australian Jews are very fortunate to live in a country where both major political parties are so favourably disposed to their key concerns."

He does, however, have a bone to pick: "The low light of this election was arguably the continuing obsession of The Age newspaper with Tim Mathieson's employment by Jewish communal figure Albert Dadon, and the associated inference that Jewish fundraisers have unduly influenced Prime Minister Julia Gillard's views regarding Israel. In reality there is no evidence that wealthy Jewish political donors act differently to other wealthy political donors. Many are almost certainly driven by business and ideological agendas, rather than by specifically Jewish motives. That is hardly a news story." (Jewish voters the winners, 27/8/10)

From which one may deduce the following:

1) If The Age investigates a potential or actual conflict of interest not involving a Jewish communal figure, it can safely be regarded as a legitimate journalistic investigation. If, however, it does involve a Jewish communal figure, it's definitely an obsession.
2) That Albert Dadon is (i) an Israel lobbyist (ii) creator of the Australia-Israel Leadership Forum and (iii) has form in ferrying Australian politicians to Israel and Israeli politicians to Australia is an entirely irrelevent consideration.
3) Given Israel's obvious charisma and sex-appeal, it would be churlish to suggest that money has anything to do with Gillard's hots for the place.
4) By ideological agenda it should be assumed that it is Labor's deep and abiding commitment to peace, justice, human rights and the environment that attracts Jewish political donors, certainly not - heaven forbid! - its cute habit of humping Israel's legs.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Journo Hack Hearts PR Flack

In Behind the lines of Mr Cool, Fairfax's Middle East correspondent, Jason Koutsoukis, brings his journalistic 'talents' to bear on everyone's favourite spinmeister Mark Regev:

"Regev's greatest gift as a spokesman for Israel is his ability to control himself. It's difficult to imagine him losing his cool, raising his voice or displaying any kind of arrogance and zealotry, which could so easily alienate an audience." (Sydney Morning Herald, 28/8/10)

Yes - in much the same way as Koutsoukis' greatest gift as a journalist is to forgo the kind of homework and hard questions which could so easily have the Israel lobby hassling the Herald's editor.

"'One thing I am meticulous about is to make sure that I am properly prepared and properly briefed on whatever position it is that I am called upon to explain'."

OK. Got that? Before he talks to journalists, Regev must ensure that he has been properly prepared and briefed on whatever position he has been called upon to explain. IOW, that he has the official line down pat.

"'It's never personal for me when I'm on camera'. His boss, Netanyahu, refuses to utter the words 'two-state solution' for fear of inflaming his political allies in [sic] the right, but Regev is unafraid to express his personal view in favour of such an outcome."

So although Mr Spin has just explained that before talking to journalists he learns the official line by heart, the clueless Koutsoukis goes on to describe him as unafraid to express his personal view!?

And this personal view, we are supposed to believe, is really Netanyahu's view - except that he's regrettably forced to take a 'Don't mention the two-state solution' vow of silence for fear of frightening his coalition horses.

OK... And Mr Spin's daring personal view is... ?

"'We need to be respectful of the Palestinian narrative, and of the Arab perspective of this conflict. Palestinians want their own state. I understand that. I support that aspiration'."

Well ain't that nice! His master's voice supports a Palestinian state! What a wonderful world! So I can now move on and blog about something else then?

Not quite. If there's one word in this game that tells you its user is talking through a hole in his posterior, it's the word narrative - a word designed to magically transform the killing fields of occupied Palestine into your proverbial level playing field and conjure up that old cliche about there being two sides to every story.

Nor should it be forgotten (as a vertical German soldier might once have said of a horizontal Pole while standing on the latter's neck):

"'Behind the headlines of this conflict lies the fact that we have been living with each other for such a long time'."

So long, in fact, they're practically best friends:

"'We, Israel and the Palestinians, know each other very well'. Regularly in on-air conflict with representatives for the Palestinian side of the argument, Regev says he enjoys strong personal relationships with the same people off camera."

Yes, Jason, we get along like an olive orchard on fire. But alas, there's a problem:

"'I am strongly of the view that while Palestinian aspiration for statehood is entirely legitimate, I think the Palestinian people have been consistently betrayed by their leadership. Statehood has become a matter of choice for the Palestinian leadership'."

Yes, there's no avoiding the issue. Although Israel is well served by its leaders, the sad fact is the Palestinians are eternally betrayed by theirs.

Now if only they had a visionary leader like Bibi, who, after his meeting with President Obama on July 6, spoke of his "'vision of a demilitarized Palestinian state' that would recognise 'the Jewish state'." (In speech to Jewish leaders, Netanyahu endorses two-state solution, Doug Chandler, The Jewish Week, 7/7/10)

Saturday, August 28, 2010

An Unorthodox Jew

Excerpts from one of the late historian Tony Judt's last essays, on the meaning of Jewishness:

"I reject the authority of the rabbis - all of them (and for this I have rabbinical authority on my side). I participate in no Jewish community life, nor do I practice Jewish rituals. I don't make a point of socialising with Jews in particular - and for the most part I haven't married them. I am not a lapsed Jew, having never conformed to requirements in the first place. I don't 'love Israel' (either in the modern sense or in the original generic meaning of loving the Jewish people), and I don't care if the sentiment is reciprocated. But whenever anyone asks me whether or not I am Jewish, I unhesitatingly respond in the affirmative and would be ashamed to do otherwise."

"Some years ago I attended a gala benefit dinner in Manhattan for prominent celebrities in the arts and journalism. Half-way through the ceremonies, a middle-aged man leaned across the table and glared at me: 'Are you Tony Judt? You really must stop writing these terrible things about Israel!' Primed for such interrogations, I asked him what was so terrible about what I had written. 'I don't know. You may be right - I've never been to Israel. But we Jews must stick together: we may need Israel one day'. The return of eliminationist anti-Semitism was just a matter of time: New York might become unlivable. I find it odd - and told him so - that American Jews should have taken out a territorial insurance policy in the Middle East lest we find ourselves back in Poland in 1942. But even more curious was the setting for this exchange: the overwhelming majority of the awardees that evening were Jewish. Jews in America are more successful, integrated, respected and influential than at any place or time in the history of the community. Why then is contemporary Jewish identity in the US so obsessively attached to the recollection - and anticipation - of its own disappearance?"

"[W]hat can it mean - following the decline of faith, the abatement of persecution and the fragmentation of community - to insist upon one's Jewishness? A 'Jewish' state where one has no intention of living and whose intolerant clerisy exclude ever more Jews from official recognition? An ethnic membership criterion that one would be embarrassed to invoke for any other purpose? There was a time when being Jewish was a lived condition, but today this is true only of an isolated minority of 'old believers'. Modern-day Jews live on preserved memory: being Jewish largely consists of remembering what it once meant to be Jewish... Memory is a notoriously unsteady basis for any collective enterprise. The authority of historical injunction, in the absence of contemporary reinforcement, recedes into ritualised liturgy and thence into obscurantism. In this sense American Jews are instinctively correct to indulge their Holocaust obsession: it provides reference, liturgy, example and moral instruction - as well as historical proximity. And yet they are making a terrible mistake: they have confused a means of remembering with a reason to do so. Are we really Jews for no better reason than that Hitler sought to exterminate our grandparents? If we fail to rise above this consideration, our grandchildren will have little cause to identify with us. In Israel today, the Holocaust is officially invoked as a reminder of how hateful non-Jews can be. Its commemoration in the diaspora is doubly exploited: to justify uncompromising Israelophilia and to service lachrymose self-regard. This seems to me a vicious abuse of memory. But what if the Holocaust served instead to bring us closer, so far as possible, to a truer understanding of the tradition we purport to evoke? Here, remembering becomes part of a broader social obligation by no means confined to Jews."

"Unlike my New York table companion, I don't expect Hitler to return. And I refuse to remember his crimes as an occasion to close off conversation: to repackage Jewishness as a defensive indifference to doubt or self-criticism and a retreat into self-pity. I choose to invoke a Jewish past that is impervious to orthodoxy: that opens conversations rather than closes them. Judaism for me is a sensibility of collective self-questioning and uncomfortable truth-telling: the dafka-like quality of awkwardness and dissent for which we were once known. It is not enough to stand at a tangent to other peoples' conventions; we should also be the most unforgiving critics of our own. I feel a debt of responsibility to this past. It is why I am Jewish." (History's lesson for tomorrow, New York Review of Books/The Australian Financial Review, 27/8/10)

Friday, August 27, 2010

The Nerve...

... of The Age!:

The Jewish Community Council of Victoria (JCCV) and the Zionist Council of Victoria (ZCV) are reportedly angry at The Age for sub-editing a story from the UK Daily Telegraph - about Israel's illegal Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank - which changed "Jewish settlements" to "illegal Jewish settlements" and "West Bank" to "occupied West Bank." (Community anger over The Age, jewishnews.net.au, 25/8/10)

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The US Withdraws From Iraq...

... after having f****d it real good (and kicking some truly spectacular own goals in the process):

"With the withdrawal of US combat troops from Iraq, the administration, the military and the media are trying to put a positive spin on this grim chapter of US history. It would certainly give some comfort to the grieving families of the over 4,400 soldiers killed in Iraq if their sacrifices had left Iraq a better place or made America safer. But the bitter truth is that the US intervention has been an utter disaster for both Iraq and the US.

"First let's acknowledge that we should never have attacked Iraq to begin with. Iraq had no connection with our 9/11 attackers, had no weapons of mass destruction and represented no threat to the US. We were pushed into this war on the basis of lies and no one - not George Bush, Dick Cheney, Condoleezza Rice, Colin Powell, Karl Rove, Donald Rumsfeld - has been held accountable. The 'think tanks', journalists and pundits who perpetuated the lies have not been fired. Most of them can be found today cheerleading for the war in Afghanistan.

"It's true that Iraqis suffered under the brutal rule of Saddam Hussein but his overthrow did not lead to a better life for Iraqis. 'I am not a political person, but I know that under Saddam Hussein, we had electricity, clean drinking water, a healthcare system that was the envy of the Arab world and free education through college', Iraqi pharmacist Dr Entisar Al-Arabi told me. 'I have 5 children and every time I had a baby, I was entitled to a year of paid maternity leave. I owned a pharmacy and I could close up shop as late as I chose because the streets were safe. Today there is no security and Iraqis have terrible shortages of everything - electricity, food, water, medicines, even gasoline. Most of the educated people have fled the country, and those who remain look back longingly to the days of Saddam Hussein'.

"Dr Al-Arabi has joined the ranks of the nearly 4 million Iraqi refugees, many of whom are now living in increasingly desperate circumstances in Syria, Jordan, Lebanon and around the world. Undocumented, most are not allowed to work and are forced to take extremely low-paying, illegal jobs or rely on the UN and charities to survive. The UN refugee agency (UNHCR) has reported a disturbing spike in the sex trafficking of Iraqi women.

"The Iraq war has left a terrible toll on our troops. Over 4,400 have been killed and tens of thousands severely injured. More than 1 in 4 US troops have come home from the Iraq war with health problems that require medical or mental health treatment. 'PTSD rates have skyrocketed and in 2009, a record number of 245 soldiers committed suicide', said Geoff Millard, chair of the board of Iraq Veterans Against the War. 'If vets coming home from Iraq don't get treated, we will see a rise in homelessness, drug abuse, alcoholism and domestic violence'.

"It has also drained our treasury and contributed to the present financial crisis. As of August 2010, US taxpayers have spent over $750 billion on the Iraq war. Counting the cost of lifetime care for wounded vets and the interest payments on the money we borrowed to pay for this war, the real cost will be in the trillions. This money could have been used to invest in clean, green jobs, or to rebuild our nation's schools, healthcare and infrastructure-ensuring real security for Americans.

"In addition to harming our troops and economy, the war has deeply tarnished our reputation. The US policy of torture, extraordinary rendition, indefinite detention, violent and deadly raids on civilian homes, gunning down innocent civilians in the streets and absence of habeas corpus has fueled the fires of hatred and extremism towards Americans. The very presence of our troops in Iraq and other Muslim nations has become a recruiting tool.

"And let's not forget that our presence in Iraq is far from over. There will still be 50,000 troops left behind, some 75,000 private contractors, 5 huge 'enduring bases' and an embassy the size of the Vatican City. As major General Stephen Lanza, the US military spokesman in Iraq, told the New York Times: 'In practical terms, nothing will change'.

"So let us mark this moment with a deep sense of shame for the suffering we have brought to Iraqis and American military families, and a deep sense of shame that our democracy has been unable to hold accountable those responsible for this debacle.

"The lessons of this disastrous intervention should serve as an impetus for Congress and the administration to end the quagmire in Afghanistan. It's time to end those unwinnable, unjustifiable wars and bring our war dollars home to tackle the most strategic task for our national security, ie rebuilding America." (The Iraq legacy: tell it like it is, Medea Benjamin (cofounder of Global Exchange and CODEPINK: Women for Peace) opednews.com)

Tuesday, August 24, 2010


Ross Gittins, the Sydney Morning Herald's economics editor on Julia (Desperately Seeking Government) Gillard:

"Voters work on instincts and impressions, not rational analysis. They can smell a politician who puts self-preservation ahead of the national interest. They can smell it even when they're not sure they fancy the measures needed to advance the national interest. And they're never impressed. But Labor's loss of principles extends beyond its loss of core belief in the need for reform. It also involves standards of acceptable behaviour in public life. It's now clear many voters were repelled by Labor's ruthless treatment of Rudd, and by Gillard's part in it despite all her protestations of loyalty. No policy reform principles and no personal principles turned out to be a deadly combination. Gillard stands revealed as little more than a careerist. Such people never endear themselves to the electorate." (Voters censure Labor's lack of principles, 23/8/10)

Never Let a Chance Go By

As a professional film reviewer without an axe to grind, the ABC's Margaret Pomeranz has this to say about the new British comedy Four Lions:

"The controversial satirist Chris Morris did extensive research for his debut feature film Four Lions. He discovered, like with stag parties and five-a-side football teams, that terrorist cells have their fair share of conflict, friendship, misunderstanding and rivalry. He says terrorism is about ideology, but it's also about berks... as you'll see. The leader of this British-based group, Omar... is determined to go to training camp in Pakistan, and he and the terminally dimwitted Waj... finally get their chance. I think Chris Morris is a bit too clever for me. I didn't find this film funny at all, except for a couple of moments. Ultimately, I was left with a feeling of profound sadness. The never-ending riff on the comedy of extreme dumbness I know a lot of people find hilarious, but it bores me. I didn't believe these characters, is anybody that stupid? And so I found it difficult to enter into the spirit of the film... Morris has used satire to rail against people's suggestibility, and this film certainly delivers that. But I just don't get it. I don't get this film. It seems to me that Morris has tried to create comedy with a message, but about what? How dumb terrorists are? Or maybe how dumb audiences are. I wish I could be more informative, but it's beyond me." (At the Movies, abc.net.au)

As an opinion page editor with a whopping great Zionist axe to grind, The Australian's Rebecca Weisser has this to say about Four Lions:

"Morris's insight about the extraordinary, indeed hilarious, stupidity of terrorists is profoundly subversive. It turns on its head the favoured view of the left-leaning intelligentsia that terrorism is a rational act, a recognisable if misguided indictment of the West or a tragic but understandable response to the terrible injustices visited on Muslims... in the Muslim world... The terrorists are not apparently motivated by Tony Blair's alleged war crimes in Iraq or the US-led occupation of Afghanistan, which are barely discussed. And it is not about Israel, which is mentioned only by implication when the terrorists' car breaks down and one of the terrorists blames Jewish parts." (Complete idiots slide into jihad, 21/8/10)

While Margaret finds Four Lions merely a failed attempt at slapstick, Rebecca opportunistically seizes on Morris' hyped expertise on jihadi terrorism ("After years of research speaking to everyone who might know...") to get Israel, Blair, and the rest, off the hook as a driver of Muslim rage.

And just for the record, Chris Morris, in interview, disagrees with Rebecca Weisser:

Isn't it the case that a lot of the motivation for terrorists is the material promise of a sated afterlife, that the rewards aren't actually that spritual?

I think that idea of a paradise as luridly attractive is a bit of a journalistic myth to be honest. It's a complicated set of motivations but I think one reason they're doing this is more like giving money to Live Aid.

Like a charitable donation?

But a donation that's gone a bit far! We've tried to represent lots of different motivations in different individuals - from pure nihilism to not really knowing. Unless you're a nihilist you have to believe you're doing the right thing. If you show a person something that's undeniably terrible - some Muslims being very badly treated - then unless you're inhuman, you'd sort of say, Yes that's awful, what can I do about it? 'Well, give some money, help with some food aid. Or if you want to do a bit 'more', I can tell you how...'" (Chris Morris talks about making Four Lions, film4.com)

Monday, August 23, 2010

Coming to a School Near You?

Building bridges, raising awareness, reaching out. Sounds good. Tell me more:

"The NSW Jewish Board of Deputies' (JBD) third 'bridge-building' road trip saw the organisation's chief executive, Vic Alhadeff, raise awareness about the Jewish community on NSW's Central Coast. Alhadeff conducted interviews with two local radio stations, discussing such topics as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, racism and JBD outreach programs. Together with education manager Lynda Ben-Menashe, he also delivered a 2-hr presentation about the Holocaust to Erina High School's HSC students." (Gosford road trip, 20/8/10)

Just a minute, what was that about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict?

I wonder what Vic & Lynda had to say to the students of Erina High about that little shindig. Well, actually I don't have to wonder. I've got a fairly good idea thanks to the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies' newsletter, At the Board. Volume 1 - 2008 has this to say under the heading Bridge-building tour reaches thousands:

"The NSW JBD reached 800 people directly - plus thousands more through media interviews - during an intensive bridge-building tour of Central West NSW. JBD CEO Vic Alhadaff and Education Manager Lynda Ben-Menashe visited Forbes, Parkes, Dubbo and Mudgee, conducting 19 engagements in a week - with 8 schools, 5 media outlets, 3 Anglican churches, 2 Rotary clubs and one MP - Independent Member for Dubbo Dawn Fardell. Topics covered included Israel, the Middle East, the Holocaust, the Jewish experience in Australia, Jewish belief and practice, racism and antisemitism... Throughout their visit, Alhadeff and Ben-Menashe encouraged visits to the Sydney Holocaust Museum and distributed educational materials, including the Understanding Judaism brochure which was published by the JBD; the anti-racism Paper Clips DVD; Alan Dershowitz's book The Case for Israel; Rabbi Raymond Apple's book The Jewish Way; promotional packages from the Sydney Jewish Museum; and lists of websites for teachers to utilise... 'We spoke about Israel's world-leading water-management practices, the fact that drip-irrigation - which is used extensively in the Central West - is Israeli technology, and the fact that Israel leads the world in water recycling. 'We encouraged connections with the Australia-Israel Chamber of Commerce, which conducts IT trade missions to Israel. We also found commonalities between the local communities and Israel's experience in responding to terrorism, as the Forbes rugby team was in Bali and Forbes lost 3 of its sons there. We emphasised that the clash with democratic values for which those 3 young men were killed is what Israel faces on a daily basis."

Yes, kiddies, it really is as simple as that: just as your mates were murdered most foully by the enemies of democracy in Bali, those same enemies of democracy have been, and are even now, busy murdering Israeli Jews.

Now while Vic & Lynda are free to propagandise for Israel in Australian schools, and have been doing so at least since 2008, over in 'the Middle East's only democracy' another group, with a genuinely educational agenda, can't even speak to Israeli teachers, let alone get into an Israeli schoolroom:

"Government officials warned Israeli teachers last week not to cooperate with a civic group that seeks to educate Israelis about how the Palestinians view the loss of their homeland and the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948. Israel's education ministry issued the advisory after Zochrot - a Jewish group that seeks to raise awareness among Israeli Jews of the events of 1948, referred to as the 'nakba' by Palestinians - organised a workshop for primary school teachers. The ministry said the course had not been approved and told teachers not to participate in Zochrot-sponsored activities during the coming school year." (Israel tells schools not to teach nakba, Jonathan Cook, The National, 21/8/10)

Hm... I wonder what Vic & Lynda are telling Australian students about the Palestinian nakba. Well, actually I don't need to wonder, I know. Here's a paragraph on the subject from a little booklet distributed by the JBD called The Arab-Israel Conflict & the Peace Process: "Essentially... the Arab exodus was a result of the fact that the war of 1947-1949 took place, in the sense that if there had been no [Arab] invasion and a peaceful partition had been completed then it is unlikely that any substantial emigration would have occurred."

To unwrap: There are no Palestinians, only generic Arabs. There was no ethnic cleansing, only war. If only the Arab states hadn't invaded Palestine, if only the Palestinians - sorry, Arabs -had jumped for joy at the partition of their homeland, then there'd have been no substantial emigration.

Substantial emigration, for God's sake!

Perhaps, now that Zochrot have been prevented from talking to Israeli teachers, they could visit Australia, stopping off first at the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies to educate slow learners, Vic & Lynda, before proceeding to Erina High and all of the other schools who've been misinformed by them.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Wake in Fright...

... at the prospect of an Abbott government. Excerpts from Tony Abbott's pitch to the readers of The Australian Jewish News, 20/8/10:

"Israel has no stauncher friend in the world than the Liberal-National Coalition. Israel's democratic values and courage deeply impress Australians. And our two countries' open cultures and western traditions [1] provide us with much in common. Indeed, western civilization is absolutely inconceivable without the Judeo-Christian heritage... The Coalition is firmly committed to restoring the Australia-Israel friendship to the strength it enjoyed under the Howard government... A Coalition government would never support a one-sided UN resolution against Israel [2] to curry favour with anti-Israel states in the General Assembly... The Coalition will never forget that Israel is a country under existential threat in a way that is beyond most Australians' experience and understanding. It is only too aware that Iran and its allies, Hezbollah and Hamas, openly seek Israel's destruction. Nor should we forget that Israel is the only mature, pluralist democracy in its neighbourhood. It was obvious to me when I visited Israel for the second time in 2008 that while occasionally, Israel like all countries, makes mistakes, it is a bastion of western civilization in a part of the world where the rights of minorities and the value of respectful dissent are not well appreciated. The Coalition maintains a complete and and unshakeable commitment to Israel's security. That includes support for a two-state peace settlement involving regional recognition of Israel's right to exist and an accomodation of the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people. Israel and the Jewish community internationally rightly remain deeply concerned about Iran's nuclear weapons' ambitions, given that country's threat to wipe Israel off the map. The Coalition is committed to maximising international pressure on Iran, including through sanctions, to deter Iran from developing nuclear weapons. I was interested by the ideas for concerted international action against Iran expressed by the former Canadian justice minister Irwin Cotler... He called for Iran to be brought before the International Court of Justice for breaching the UN's genocide convention... because of its state-sanctioned incitement to genocide. A Coalition government - conscious that this was yet another Labor broken promise - would look closely at that idea. [3] I am aware of a range of domestic policy issues of concern to the Jewish community. A Coalition government would support, or consider sympathetically, all of them. For example, the draft National Educational Curriculum does not adequately cover the Holocaust, one of the greatest tragedies in human history. The Coalition would take steps to rectify this deficiency [4]... the Coalition is concerned about the activities of extremist organisations of particular concern to the Jewish community. Hizb ut-Tahrir (HUT) is an organisation that is openly hostile to our democratic values and way of life, to non-Muslims - Christians, Jews and Hindus - and to moderate Muslims as well... A Coalition government would examine closely whether there are legal options for closing down HUT, including under incitement to violence laws. I am also concerned that international preachers of hate were allowed to visit Australia to give lectures at the Sydney conference and that Federal Government officials weren't even aware that they were here. A Coalition government would institute measures to fix these obvious intelligence gaps on planned visits to Australia by members of such groups and ensure that they don't get visas..." (Coalition sympathetic to community's concerns)

[1. Abbott on Howard's foreign policy stance: "Far from being America's deputy sheriff, Australia ran a kind of neighbourhood watch scheme in support of western values." (Battlelines, 2009) When questioned by the ABC's Kerry O'Brien on what he meant by this, the best he could manage was, "We have obviously done the right thing by our neighbours. We've done the right thing in East Timor, we've done the right thing, to the extent that we could, in PNG. We've done the right thing, as far as we can, in The Solomons and elsewhere. Australia is a very powerful country in our region, in our neighbourhood, and we have to shoulder the responsibilities that that strength brings."]

[2. A Coalition government would never support a one-sided UN resolution against Israel? Shadow foreign minister Julie Bishop on 12/8/10: "Of course I'd never say I'd never ever abstain, there could be all sorts of circumstances that arise in the future. I don't know, Israel could do anything." (Labor slams Bishop for Israel stance, Daniel Flitton, Sydney Morning Herald). Astute SMH columnist Mike Carlton wrote of Deputy Liberal leader and Minister for Foreign Affairs, Julie Bishop, yesterday: "Beautifully groomed, famed for her 'death stare'. But, like Lord Downer before her, would need help using the atlas at Foreign Affairs." Yet, on this matter at least, she's less a fool than her leader.]

[3. "[Bishop] refused to commit to other measures to stop further development of the Islamic republic's nuclear weapons program, arguing it would be tantamount to the broken election promise given by the then Labor Opposition, which pledged to haul Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmedinajad in front of the International Criminal Court for inciting genocide." (Presenting an alternative, AJN, 30/7/10) Looks like you're commited now, Jools! For what it's worth, here's the Howard government's assessment of the idea Abbott is now committed to examining: "Mr Downer accused Mr Rudd of knowingly misleading the Australian public and the Jewish community with a 'ghastly stunt' that he knew could not be carried out and would only undermine Australia's diplomatic standing." (Iranian leader in Rudd's sights, The Australian, 14/5/08) Fools rush in...]

[4. See my 12/4/10 post Sam Lipski's National Curriculum]

Have a nice day...

Saturday, August 21, 2010

A Moderate Zionist

From Australian sociologist Sol Encel's obituary in the Sydney Morning Herald:

"Encel was a broadly educated and deeply scholarly liberal intellectual who cared mightily about public ethics. He believed that a society is only as good as the way it treats its minorities. For his whole life he fought for social justice, inclusion and honest dealing. Never an orthodox socialist but an unflinching progressive social democrat, he was for many years a member of the ALP and an activist in organisations including the Council for Civil Liberties, the National Health & Medical Research Council, the Australian Association of Gerontology and a range of public bodies on age discrimination, science policy, education, support for the unemployed, multicultural issues, science policy and human rights. He was also a prominent member of the Jewish community, a moderate Zionist and member of Academics for Peace in the Middle East who defended the national right of Israel to exist within a larger concern for peace, internationalism and universal human rights."(Fighter for the poor & oppressed, Michael Pusey, 19/8/10)

What's a moderate Zionist?

Is it someone who aims for Palestinian knees, rather than Palestinian heads? Is it someone who thinks it's enough to pull out of the occupied territories and ignore the plight of the refugees of 1948? Is it someone who fights for the poor and the oppressed - provided they're not Palestinian?

Friday, August 20, 2010

A Pre-Poll Breakfast Tradition

Tradition, tradition! Tradition!
Tradition, tradition! Tradition!
Who, pre-poll, must scramble for a donation,
Feed a party and get it re-elected, say her daily prayers?
And who wants the right, as leader of the party,
To have the final word in this country?
The PM, the PM! Tradition.

(With apologies to Fiddler On the Roof)

This is not the real story:

"The controversial property career of Julia Gillard's partner, Tim Mathieson, is in serious doubt as the couple face the possibility of a fishbowl life in the Lodge in Canberra. Senior Labor and business sources say it is unlikely Mr Mathieson will continue to act as a sales consultant with high-profile [Israel lobbyist] Melbourne developer and ALP benefactor Albert Dadon if Labor is victorious on Saturday. A growing consensus in Labor and government is that it would be untenable for the Prime Minister to have a partner in property development - especially one working for a developer who raises funds for Labor and is dependent on state Labor government planning approvals. Last night the Prime Minister's office left open the possibility of Mr Mathieson ending his property career: 'Julia and Tim will be sitting down after the election, considering his options', a spokeswoman said." (Mathieson job on the line, Epstein & Millar, The Age, 19/8/10)

This is the real story:

"The review of Mr Mathieson's employment was confirmed yesterday as it emerged that Ms Gillard attended a pre-election breakfast with the Jewish community at Mr Dadon's Toorak mansion on Sunday. The ALP increasingly regards Mr Dadon as a major conduit to donations, including [!] from the Jewish business community. Some Labor sources described the event as a fundraiser. Others who were there, including prominent ALP fundraiser and Melbourne Ports MP Michael Danby, disagreed. The pre-poll breakfast tradition was begun in the 1950s by clothing industry figure and Gloweave founder Saul Same. Since then Labor leaders have met prominent Jewish community members shortly before each federal election. 'It's really an opportunity for the ALP to sell itself, and then on that basis individuals would choose whether to give [donations] or not', said David Same, Mr Same's son. Mr Dadon told The Age the breakfast was neither a fundraiser nor a party. 'It's not a gathering, obviously you don't know the tradition, there's no need for me to make any comment'. One business source explained that money was not collected at such events but some attendees would later be asked for contributions. Kevin Rudd attended a similar function at Mr Dadon's home before the 2007 poll." (ibid)

Mm... looks like Epstein and Millar's questions ruffled a few of Albert's feathers there. Well, I for one didn't know about the pre-poll breakfast tradition, Albert. It's absolutely fascinating: prior to every election, it's traditional for the Labor Party to pitch to some prominent members of the Jewish community over cornflakes, and, lo and behold, the party coffers are magically replenished.

Albert's ruffled alright: "But Mr Dadon stresses that he makes donations and raises funds for both major parties - 'and the amount is pathetic'. 'I feel really that this whole thing is simply because I'm a Jew and that's what I resent', he told ABC Radio." (news.ninemsn.com.au, 19/8/10)

Poor guy. As a former jazz musician, he might find some consolation in that old number of Nina Simone's. How does it go? "I'm just a soul whose intentions are good/ O Lord, please don't let me be misunderstood."

But back to Julia and the real story. I don't know what her pitch was at the Pre-Poll Breakfast Tradition, but I imagine it must've been along the lines of her pitch to Jewish voters in this week's Australian Jewish News (Labor's support for Israel to continue):

"Australia's relationship with Israel is a unique bond that endures through good times and difficult ones. The long history between our nations provides the foundation for our modern relationship. It is a modern and vibrant relationship between two states that share many fundamental values. One of those is ongoing recognition of Israel's right to defend itself... This year, shortly after I became PM, Mr Netanyahu called me to offer his congratulations. During that call, I assured him that under my leadership, the Australian Government would remain a friend of Israel."

(She goes on to tick off Israel's 60th birthday bash in federal parliament, Albert's Australia-Israel Leadership Forum knees-up in Jerusalem (where she was quite overcome by Shimon Peres' pheromones - "I was struck by his knowledge of Australia and the depth of his judgment after a lifetime of involvement in world affairs") and its follow-up in Melbourne.)

"Like all friends, we may have differences from time to time. That is natural in the complex world of international affairs. When differences occur, we need to manage them carefully. Australia will continue its strong international support for Israel. We share with Israel a recognition of the danger posed to the Middle East by the behaviour of Iran's leadership and the course it is taking. We have introduced some of the strongest economic sanctions against Iran of any country. We remain vigilant to any attempts to target Israel with unbalanced criticism. We will also continue to support a two-state solution to the conflict in the Middle East. Australia's commitment to Israel's sovereign right to exist within secure borders is unshakeable. Only a negotiated solution can provide a just and enduring peace to the Israeli-Palestinian issue. For negotiations to succeed, the support of Israel's neighbours and friends will be essential. Australia wants Israel to be able to enjoy the fruits of a normal existence, within a Middle East that recognises its right to live in peace. As a committed friend, Australia will continue to stand in support of Israel as it seeks peace with security."

(Gillard proceeds to butter up the invitees, and reminds them that her government has already forked over $20 million dollars of taxpayers' money under the Secure Schools Program and will add another $15 million more if re-elected.)

"As Australians, we all have the right to live our lives in security. We have the right to have our beliefs and communities respected by others. Where there is a need for action to protect those rights, we will act. For Australian Labor, our history of support for the State of Israel is an important part of our own party history. I look forward to building on these strong foundations - our history, our shared values and the great strength that the Jewish community brings to Australia - to take our friendship to new heights during the next term of government."

One shudders to imagine how this sick, dysfunctional relationship, sorry "friendship," could possibly be taken "to new heights."

In Labor's Pre-Poll Breakfast Tradition we see the grubby and undignified process whereby an Australian prime minister (one even more vacuous and devoid of principle than the one she ousted) literally hands over her party's Middle East policy to a group of people whose first political allegience is to a foreign, in fact apartheid, state, in exchange for the wherewithal to win power. The case for funding elections from the public purse couldn't be clearer.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

No Laughing Matter

"A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on." Winston Churchill

Noticed a little rant in today's Australian by The Jerusalem Post's tame Arab, Khaled Abu Toameh. Nothing exceptional, mind you. Just your run-of-the-mill Islamophobic rubbish: "Almost every day, a new atrocity is committed in the name of Islam. 'One can understand why so-called 'moderate' Muslims living under Arab and Islamic dictatorships are afraid to speak out. but what about those living in the West?... These 'moderates' need to understand that Hamas, Hezbollah, al-Qa'ida and the rest of the Islamic terror organisations will kill them first on their way to murder the 'Zionists', 'Crusaders' and 'infidels'." (Moderate Muslims need to speak out)

But this caught my eye: "In the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip, Palestinian women have been banned, in the name of Islam, from smoking and laughing in public."

Smoking and laughing banned in public - but only for women - and in the name of Islam! The nerve of those Hamas guys!

OK, so let's deal with the alleged ban on smoking first. You're probably imagining, as Abu T expects you to, the already downtrodden women of Gaza now being set upon by male chauvinist Hamas goon squads whenever they dare light up in public. Such a picture sort of detracts from the Israeli blockade, doesn't it? Well, hush my mouth, did I mention the Israeli blockade? Abu T doesn't. Which is precisely the point of his slimy little propaganda piece. It's only when you realise that cigarettes have to be smuggled into Gaza through tunnels and sold for God knows what exhorbitant price before you find yourself thinking about whether the women of Gaza can even afford cigarettes in the first place. But Abu T's little deception doesn't end there.

What Abu T doesn't let on here is that the ban only applies to the water pipe or nargila, a fact which only emerges in another of his 'reports' in The Jerusalem Post: "The Hamas-controlled Ministry of the Interior on Sunday issued an order banning women from smoking the nargila in public places in the Gaza Strip." Nor, it seems, has the ban on smoking the nargila in public got anything particular to do with Islam either: "Ehab Ghissin, spokesman for the Ministry of Interior, said that the decision to ban women from smoking the nargila in public was taken because the practice 'violated social norms and traditions'." Nor is such a ban applied exclusively to women: "[T]he ban also applied to minors under the age of 18." (Hamas bans women from smoking in public, The Jerusalem Post, 19/7/10)

So let's amend Abu T's original sentence: In the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip, Palestinian women and under-18s of both sexes have been banned from smoking the nargila in public in an attempt to maintain traditional social standards. Discriminatory, sure, but nothing to put the criminality of the Israeli blockade in the shade.

And why do I have the feeling that the following would not find its way into an Abu T 'report': "Police in the northern West Bank district of Salfit detained and charged 6 men on Wednesday for smoking in public during the fasting hours of the Muslim holy month. Police charged the unidentified men with 'violating the sanctity of Ramadan'." (PA police detain 6 for smoking during Ramadan, maannews.net, 19/8/10)

OK, now what about Abu T's claim that Hamas has banned women from laughing in public?

This allegation (which, through the magic of the internet, has become almost a meme) revolves around a Palestinian woman named Asma al-Ghul. Before we examine Abu T's own spin on al-Ghul's story, let's see how her story is presented by others:

"Hamas security forces detained a Gazan journalist at a beach over the weekend because she was not wearing a headscarf. Asma al-Ghul, who writes for the Palestinian daily Al-Ayam [sic], said she was at the beach... with a mixed group of friends when men in civilian clothing asked her why she was not wearing a headscarf. When she asked them who they were, they showed her Hamas security forces identity cards. She said that when questioning her, the men accused her of 'laughing out loud' and walking around the beach without a male escort. They would have arrested her, Al-Ghul said, if she had not phoned the Hamas authorities. She was released after her Palestinian passport was confiscated. Al-Ghul also said the men threatened her life and that she cannot leave her home." (Hamas arrests Palestinian woman for not wearing headscarf, Avi Issacharoff, Haaretz 6/7/09)

Accused of laughing out loud, but no hint of a ban there.

"An attempt by Hamas police to detain a young woman walking with a man along the Gaza beach has raised alarms that the Islamic militant group is seeking to match its political control of the coastal territory with a strict enforcement of Islamic law... Freelance journalist Asma al-Ghoul says a group of Hamas police sent a clear message that certain behaviour would not be tolerated when she went to the beach one evening in late June. Al-Ghoul, 26, said she was spending time with a group of friends, 2 women and 3 men on the northern Gaza shore. Al-Ghoul is fairly exceptional in Gaza because she does not wear a headscarf. On that evening she wore jeans and a T-shirt, a dress that is considered fairly provocative in Gaza's conservative society and which could have easily attracted the attention of the plain-clothes Hamas vice police who patrol the beaches. Al-Ghoul swam, fully dressed, with a girlfriend, and then asked a male friend to walk her over to a nearby beach house rented by another couple she knew to shower and change. Three policemen showed up and waited for al-Ghoul in the beach house garden, said an eyewitness who asked to remain anonymous because of security concerns. They took her identity card and demanded she accompany them to a nearby station, an order she refused. The eyewitness said the police did not say why they wanted to detain al-Ghoul, but were insinuating that her behaviour was unbecoming. Under Hamas' strict interpretation of Islamic law, a woman should not go out in public with men who are not related to her. The police eventually returned al- Ghoul's identity card after the home owner contacted a senior Hamas official who intervened and spoke to the officers by telephone..." (Hamas tries to detain woman walking with man, Diaa Hadid, The Guardian, 8/7/09)

No mention of laughter there whatsoever - let alone an Islamically-inspired Hamas ban on women laughing in public.

Now here's Abu T writing in The Jerusalem Post for 6/7/09 under the hading, 'They accused me of laughing in public' (+ my comments in square-bracketed bold): "A Palestinian female journalist complained over the weekend that Hamas policemen attempted to arrest her under the pretext that she came to a Gaza beach dressed immodestly and was seen laughing in public. The journalist, Asma al-Ghul, said that the policemen instead confiscated her passport. Since the incident, she added, she has been afraid to leave her home, especially after receiving death threats from anonymous callers. 'They accused me of laughing loudly while swimming with my friend and failing to wear a hijab', Ghul told a human rights organisation in the Gaza Strip. 'They also wanted to know the identity of the people who were with me at the beach and whether they were relatives of mine'. In a phone interview with the Dubai-based Saudi-owned Al-Arabiya News website, the journalist said that the policemen who stopped her belonged to the [alleged] Hamas government's Propagation of Virtue and Prevention of Vice security force. The special force reports directly to the Ministry of Waqf Affairs and is said to be [!] a copy of units that have long been operating in Saudi Arabia and Afghanistan. The Hamas government, according to local reporters [who shall remain nameless], has refrained from publicly admitting that the force exists out of fear of being branded fundamentalist. The Hamas force consists of dozens of plainclothes police officers who patrol beaches, public gardens, restaurants, hair salons and coffee shops to make sure that males and females are not mixing together and that the women are dressed modestly. Ghul said that many Palestinian women have noticed the presence of the police officers at the beaches and other sites. She said that the talk in the Gaza Strip these days was about Hamas' intention to impose the hijab on all female school children from first to 12th grade. She said she was astonished by the fact that the Hamas security forces were providing security to hotels that are frequented by women wearing miniskirts while at the same time targeting 'common people' who go to beaches and public parks. Ghul said that Hamas has banned men in the Gaza Strip from swimming topless. 'And as in my case, Hamas has banned women from laughing while swimming', she added. She and her friends were stopped by Hamas policemen while swimming in the sea. She said that the policemen confiscated her passport and laptop after accusing her of laughing loudly and appearing in immodest clothes in a public place. Two of her male friends were detained for questioning for three hours. They said the police officers beat them and abused them verbally before releasing them. Hamas security commanders initially said that the journalist and her friends were stopped because they were having a mixed party at the beach. Later, one of the commanders said that Ghul was stopped because she was not wearing a hijab while swimming. Another commander [My God, this Hamas is all chiefs and no Indians!] claimed that the journalist and her friends were stopped because they had been seen smoking nargilas and partying in a public place. Islam Shahwan, spokesman for the Hamas security forces, said that policemen had been deployed at the beaches at the requeset of the Minstry for Waqf Affairs. He said the policemen's task was to impose law and order and prevent harassment of families picnicking and swimming at the beaches. 'We are there for the safety of the people', he said. 'We operate there to prevent men from harassing women. We've received many complaints about these negative practices'. Shahwan said that Hamas does not interfere with the way women want to dress. However, he stressed, 'we must preserve our Islamic culture and traditions. If there's a woman who wants to dress as she wishes, she must go to a private swimming pool and not to a public place'."

Al-Ghul says Hamas has banned women from laughing while swimming. And if al-Ghul, as 'reported' by Abu T, says Hamas has banned women from laughing while swimming then it must be so. But, hey, no mention of public places!

I rest my case.

Israel's Trailer Trash

"The military - and battlefield - experiences which shape the Israeli character demand that young adults take initiative, demonstrate leadership and handle life-threatening situations in real time, therefore engendering personality attributes and imparting IT knowledge that give them a leading edge when they enter the workforce." (Military secrets behind Israel's economic miracle, The Australian Jewish News, 19/3/10)

"A former Israeli soldier who posted on Facebook controversial photographs of herself posing with blindfolded Palestinian prisoners has said she did nothing wrong. Eden Abergil... has been the target of withering criticism from both at home and abroad after she uploaded the photos to the website under the title, 'The Army... the Most Beautiful Time of My Life'. The images were taken while she was serving... in the Israel Defence [sic] Forces [IDF]. Ms Abergil's Facebook friends enthused over the photographs. 'That looks really sexy for you', said one friend about a photograph showing Ms Abergil smiling next to two cuffed and blindfolded Palestinians. 'Yeah, I know', Ms Abergil responded. 'Laugh out loud, honey. What a day it was. Look how he completes my picture. I wonder if he's got Facebook!'" (Facebook photo innocent, says Israeli soldier, Jason Koutsoukis, Sydney Morning Herald, 18/8/10)

After her glory days in Abu Ghraib, America's trailer trash, Lynndie England, whined, "We were told we were supposed to do those things."

After hers in the West Bank, Israel's trailer trash, Edenn Abergil now whines, "I risked my life, got injured. I was a model soldier, and now I wish I never served in this army." (ibid)

Laugh out loud, honey!

But - yawn - despite The Australian's foreign editor, Greg (Jerusalem Prize) Sheridan, once assuring us that "[t]he Israelis are among the most disciplined troops in the world*," despite The Australian once gracing its front page with an Israeli pin-up in uniform and M-16 (who earnestly assured us that all she ever did in the army was help Palestinians, even while they were attacking her**), and despite Liberal Senator Mitch Fifield telling us last year he was off to Israel on a Yachad Scholarship to look at the role of women in the Israeli military***, trailer trash like Eden Abergil are no aberration in Israel: "Fire was opened at him from a heavy machinegun... After the soldiers reached the area they discovered a body without weapons or explosive belt. 'He's an ordinary man who did not know where to go. The soldiers then tied the body to a military jeep that drove to the outpost, where cameras were taken out and pictures were taken, immortalizing the new 'mascot' of this combat unit. Since that time, soldiers call the body of this Palestinian 'Haffi', which is a word derived from two Hebrew words meaning innocent." (Israel's Abu Ghraib? Tom Regan, csmonitor.com, 22/11/04)

Abu Ghraib??? Really? But where are the naked prisoners? Surely the IDF doesn't do naked prisoners? Maybe those shots are still in the pipeline, but how about naked soldiers?:

"The practice of taking a picture of the [elite naval] commandos standing nude in natural surroundings in Israel, then hanging the photo in their headquarters, is a longstanding tradition of the unit, [Israel] radio said." (IDF discharges commandos after paper prints nude photos, Haaretz, 25/11/04)

'That damn facebook...' (One Hebrew talkback recorded on Why Eden Abergil is more than just 'One hell of an idiot', blogs.news.sky.com, 17/8/10)

Laugh out loud, honey!

[*There may be the will but not necessarily the way, 5/2/09); **Gender not frontline issue in Israel, 25/9/09; ***Adjournment Speech, Gilad Shalit, 25/6/09, mitchfifield.com]

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Running On Empty

Whether Gillard wins or loses on Saturday, it's Apres her le deluge:

"Here is how they think these days in the Labor Party: cram a few hundred party faithful into a low, dark room at the Brisbane Convention Centre, hammer them with everything they'd heard before, and somehow the punters at home will see on their television screens a party keen to govern. 'Friends', says Julia Gillard over and over again to the meagre audience before her. 'Friends, we are the party of Medicare...' Somewhere in the past few days, the Prime Minister has begun to channel the Baptist preachers of her youth. She is now the great believer, not speaking from calculation but the heart: 'All my life I have believed in the power of hard work...' Work was the word of the day. She had nothing to say about foreign policy. The words 'global warming' did not pass her lips. Once she had paid due respect to the traditional owners of the slab of South Brisbane on which we met, Aboriginals weren't mentioned again. It was all nuts and bolts, bread and butter, deliberately mundane. There was no red carpet. Bob and Blanche simply appeared in the room. Kevin Rudd was given a standing ovation as John Faulkner steered him to his seat... Three years ago, this was the city of victory. That feeling has seeped away. Once-cheerful kids in Kevin 07 T-shirts have grown older and wiser. The state is deserting the party. But unchanged from those happier times is the rock music pumped into these events. It was always low-key: all repetition, all rhythm, no tune. Thank God for Bob Hawke. He might have to put his feet up for a week after this performance, but to see him raging at the microphone again was absolutely refreshing. Did no one tell him that triumph and celebration were off the agenda? He accused the other side of braying and he should know: at the age of 80 he has the last street-corner voice in Australian politics. Old Labor prime ministers live so long they put Japanese pensioners to shame. Gough is too frail to fly north. We're told Paul Keating had a previous engagement that kept him from the launch. So the two old leaders who turned out for Gillard's show were the betrayed, still honouring the party that clawed them down. That's loyalty. Citing Ben Chifley's Light on the Hill only to modestly abandon the comparison, Gillard took a bow, kissed Tim Mathieson - not an Al and Tipper moment: she took a couple of goes to land one properly - then in the one shining moment of the occasion, gave her parents a long, long embrace. Next she awkwardly kissed the Treasurer's neck, the light's died and that was that." (When invoking work is just the job for a desperate leader, David Marr, Sydney Morning Herald, 17/8/10)

PS - From a later edition of the SMH: "This, we were assured before PM Gillard climbed to the stage to deliver her speech to officially launch the government's plea for re-election, was the real Julia, unplugged. There would be no auto cue. No written speech, either. She would rely on nothing but a few dot points, her press secretaries solemnly assured the media gathered in the wings at the Brisbane Convention Centre. Within seconds, hardened hacks were tweeting this development. The point, of course, was that a week before in the same place, Oppostion Leader Tony Abbott had used during his campaign launch an auto cue... Gillard's minders wanted to convey the message that she was braver, more spontaneous and capable of speaking directly to the electors without the limiting filter of a speech carefully prepared for her. Ah, but the distance between myth and reality, as ever during election campaigns, proved as wide as Lake Eyre in flood. As Gillard took the stage, a thick sheaf of typed papers was discreetly placed upon the podium by a stagehand crouching almost out of sight. A video camera and The Sydney Morning Herald's chief photographer, Andrew Meares, captured the moment when the staffer slipped the papers into place. When Gillard had finished speaking and the audience was agog at her ability to deliver an unscripted address (indeed, Gillard herself described it as 'from the heart'), Meares turned his camera on the papers lying strewn upon the lectern. Even a cursory glance showed it was a written speech. A closer inspection showed it was the very speech she had delivered, word for word. It was a near faultless speech, barely a stumble - and the PM hardly glanced at her notes, giving the impression she has a near-photographic memory. But so much for Julia unplugged. A case, you might think, of too much spin. No one would have cared a fig if she had read the whole thing - if only we hadn't been hoodwinked into believing this was a free-form plea from her soul. (The hidden truth behind the PM's 'impromptu' speech, Tony Wright, SMH, 17/8/10)

The Arabs' Pacific Push

Most readers of this blog will be aware of the tendency of a handful of Pacific island states to cluster protectively around Israel whenever it gets sin-binned in the United Nations General Assembly. To draw on a recent example: when 114 nations endorsed the Goldstone Report in the UNGA in November last year, 18 nations, including a bloc of Pacific minnows - the Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Nauru and Palau - voted against. (See my posts, Israel's Pacific Solution (9/11/09) & Israel's Pacific Solution 2 (12/11/09))

This may be about to change:

Following a visit to the Pacific region by UAE Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan the Arab League held an Arab-Pacific summit in Abu Dhabi in June, attended by all 14 members of the Pacific Islands Forum (PIF). There the PIF "agreed to 'note the concern of Arab states regarding the conflict in the Middle East, in particular in Palestine', and 'agreed on the need to settle all outstanding disputes and issues based on relevant Security Council resolutions and the principles of the Road Map recognising that the views of the Arab states were crucial to a just, comprehensive and permanent peace'." Furthermore, "[t]he Arab League has decided to send an official delegation to the Pacific and establish an office for the Pacific islands in the region; the UAE has launched a $54 million development fund for the islands and a new Arab-Pacific Forum is being set up in the UAE." (Arab League seeks influence with Pacific push, Rowan Callick, The Australian, 11/8/10)

Watch this space.

Monday, August 16, 2010

People In Glass Houses

"A vote for the Greens is a vote against indigenous rights, says Aboriginal academic and community leader Marcia Langton. Professor Langton told The Australian the Greens could not pretend to support indigenous rights while they supported Queensland's Wild Rivers laws." (Voting for Greens 'hits Aboriginal rights', Patricia Karvelas, The Australian, 16/8/10)

But how credible is Marcia Langton? What is not revealed in the above Murdoch report is that Marcia Langton was a 2003 National Australia Bank Yachad Scholarship Fund Fellow in Israel, a state that routinely violates the rights of its indigenous Palestinian Arab people, and is currently the chair of Noel Pearson's Cape York Institute. (On Pearson's peculiar musings see my posts Zionism Goes Native (11/2/10) and Earth to Noel Pearson (15/2/10))

Diplomatic Dancing

"All governments are run by liars & nothing they say should be believed." I.F. Stone

It seems only yesterday that this May 24 exchange between Kerry O'Brien and foreign minister Stephen Smith took place on the ABC's 7.30 Report:

O'Brien: Is this [expulsion of an Israeli 'diplomat'] 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 intelligence agencies is 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.

Now here's Smith, less than 3 months later in The Australian Jewish News saying that we've kissed and made up: "I am very confident that things are now back to business as usual... Often when you have a difficult issue that you've got to manage, your capacity to manage that and then to move reasonably quickly off it reflects the strength of the [Australia-Israel] relationship... I'm very confident now that in terms of agency-to-agency relations, government-to-government, nation-to-nation, it is business as usual'. He added that at no time during the diplomatic impasse did the two countries' intelligence agencies stop cooperating to quash the rogue Iranian regime. 'One area [of the Australia-Israel relationship] we did not want to see disturbed was the ongoing cooperation and exchange of information on Iran', he said." (Smith charts positive course for Australia-Israel relations, 13/8/10)

Those last two sentences are most interesting. Not only do they indicate that the cooling-off was, as O'Brien suspected, a total sham, but, if the AJN's paraphrased sentence is to be believed, Smith seems to be indicating that Australia is actually cooperating with Mossad to bring about regime change in Iran. (If, BTW, you think that's a tad far-fetched, please read my 29/5/10 post All the Way With Mossad?)

Saturday, August 14, 2010

The Real Julia Gillard

Journalist David Marr's feature on Prime Minister Julia Gillard in today's Sydney Morning Herald is a portrait of the ultimate political careerist. The following extracts deal with her university years in the early 1980s. And take a look at the theme: She wanted to take Palestine out of the Australian Union of Student!

"She was a natural leader. That was never doubted. In the mad world of campus politics, she showed calm good humour, a sharp tongue and a combative streak. But her remarkable career as a student politician - first leading the Students Representative Council at Adelaide University and then heading the Australian Union of Students (AUS) in Melbourne - raised doubts early on about her deeper beliefs. 'It was progressive instincts that led me to get involved in the AUS', she says. But as its first woman president she found herself caught in a bitter partisan divide as she fought for the survival of this once radical body. Though a long time ago, it was a key battle in her career which still colours her political reputation. She wanted to take Palestine out of the AUS. 'When Whitlam brought the troops home, people then went on a mad cat [sic] pursuit of the New Vietnam and decided it was Palestine, completely misunderstanding that what had motivated most Australian youth was conscription. The question of Palestine was never going to be the new Vietnam for Australian students. So the union got more eccentric and irrelevant. I think it was right', she says, 'to draw a line under that'. The Right loathed her for even trying to keep AUS afloat. The Left loathed her for abandoning Palestine. Her pragmatic campaign to shift focus to educational issues - funding, scholarships etc - did not win much traction. She remembers the self-mocking credo of her faction: 'What do we want?' 'Gradual change'. 'When do we want it?' 'In due course'. The year after her term as president, AUS finally collapsed. Three irreconcilable views of Gillard emerged from this brawl, three conflicting images that dog her still: Gillard the leftie, Gillard the sellout, and Gillard the political operator." (The moment of truth, David Marr, Sydney Morning Herald, 14/8/10)

Marr's cliche about the mad world of student politics aside, while the best and the brightest students of the 1980s (and those of the 1970s) were grappling with one of the great moral and political issues of our time - the wiping of Palestine off the map - Gillard (who confides to Marr that "one of my prized possessions still is the prefect's tie that I got in [Unley High]. It was the first leadership position I ever had.") had decided that it was her mission, having captured the leadership of the AUS, to wipe Palestine off its agenda. And why? Because she, the union's head prefect, had decided it was an eccentric and irrelevant issue, that she had to draw a line under it and change focus to educational issues. Whether these are the real reasons, however, is anyones's guess. Whatever, they failed to gain traction, and after her leaving (wrecking?), AUS collapses! What a glorious legacy.

Keep in mind too that Gillard's ascendency in the AUS coincided with the aftermath of Israel's brutal attempt to wipe Lebanon (& the Palestine Liberation Organisation) off the map in 1982. Given Gillard's record above, what's the bet that the brutal Israeli invasion and occupation of Lebanon awakened not a flicker of concern in head prefect Gillard?

"She also earned a reputation, in some circles, of being a captive of the Zionist lobby. As Prime Minister, Gillard listed 'support for Israel' surprisingly high on the list of fundamentals of Australian foreign policy: only below the US alliance and the war in Afghanistan and above 'focus on our region'. She says, 'I am obviously a supporter of Israel as people would know'. The Prime Minister describes herself as 'not uncritical' of the settlements and a supporter of the two-state solution. But does she have any real, practical hope that two states will emerge? 'I think it's possible', she says and pauses for a long time. 'It's possible, but yeah it's hard. Across my lifetime, we've seen what appeared to be waves of progress which then didn't amount to real change. So I suppose that has instilled in me a sense of how difficult it is and how fixed the positions are'." (ibid)

Gillard did indeed have the reputation of being a captive of the Zionist lobby in those days. So much so that she took sufficient umbrage at being labelled a Zionist collaborator by some on the left that she threatened legal action.* Not, mind you, that the student politician who had proclaimed at the time, "I do not intend to have the tag of 'Zionist' follow me around for the rest of my life," really knew or cared what Zionism was. The above passage suggests someone who, for all her prattle about the virtues of hard work (telling Marr, for example, that "[My parents] taught me the value of hard work"), has obviously never lifted a finger, at any stage in her career, to educate herself on the issue of Palestine. Her every utterance on the subject, as above, smacks of ignorance and boredom.

[*See my 25/7/10 post, Me, A Zionist? How Very Dare You]

One of the ironies in Gillard's career is that she succeeded Labor identity Barry Jones as the member for Lalor in 1998. Jones was a reader and thinker, and took enough of an interest in the Palestine problem to read at least one book on the subject that we know of. In his autobiography, A Thinking Reed (2006), he recalls how "In January 1983 I was co-opted, at short notice, to join a Caucus delegation to Israel, organised by Barry Cohen*, MP for Robertson, underwritten by the Israeli Government and some Melbourne business people [MERC: That's right, rambamming has a long history!] One of the delegation had dropped out at the last minute so Barry invited me... The embassy had invited us to meet Menachem Begin, Prime Minister of Israel, Leader of the Likud, co-winner of the Nobel Peace Prize with President Sadat of Egypt and, as a younger man, a member of the Stern Gang [sic]. I had read a powerful book, The Longest War (1982), by Jacobo Timmerman, a courageous Argentinian publisher who survived torture, emigrated to Israel and wrote a tough analysis of human rights abuses against Palestinians. I tackled Begin directly, quoted a few sentences from The Longest War and invited him to comment. Begin shrugged, stretched out his arms and his voice went an octave higher. 'So he's got a pen? So he writes a book? What has that to do with me?' He refused to be drawn on Timmerman." (p 253)

[* "... a close friend so long as I refrained from any criticism, however mild, of Israel." (p 241)]

Unlike Jones, Gillard looks as though she'd rather die than pick up a book for any other reason than to kill time: "And for someone who's regarded as having such a fierce intellect, her library hardly sounds like a heady trip through academia... It's 'airport trash', page turners..." (Spotlight on the redhead, Mike Bruce, couriermail.com.au, 15/12/06)

And just imagine Gillard echoing these views of her predecessor:
"My view of politics has always been universal and historical. I was never attracted to it as the means of climbing the greasy pole or determining the spoils of office. I joined the Labor party out of a deep, but probably naive, commitment to egalitarianism and liberation. I saw the conservative symbol as a mirror in which a voter could see the beneficiary of voting Liberal or National: 'I'm voting for self-interest'. But I saw Labor as the 'other interest' party, and its symbol should have been a pair of binoculars because often the beneficiaries of its policies were remote: Aborigines, prisoners, refugees, famine and victims of disease." (ibid, p 135)

Bishop: 'Israel Could Do Anything'

My God, did Julie Bishop say that? Did she what:

"Labor has hit out at claims that the Coalition will always back Israel in sensitive votes at the United Nations. Seizing on reports that Liberal deputy leader Julie Bishop told a Jewish community forum in Melbourne last month an Abbott government would always vote against UN resolutions critical of Israel, Foreign Minister Stephen Smith said she had shown 'an immense lack of judgment'. Such a change could see Australia voting against resolutions put to the General Assembly each year calling on Israel to respect the Geneva Conventions governing the rules of war in the occupied Palestinian territories. The Howard government switched Australia's vote to abstain in 2004 after Australia had previously backed the resolution over decades. But Australia has never before voted against the resolution. 'Julie Bishop clearly doesn't understand the serious implications of what she has committed a Coalition government to do', Mr Smith said yesterday. But Ms Bishop has denied the Coalition intends to take a blanket approach to voting on UN resolutions should it win office. 'I said we would return to the voting pattern of the Howard government', she told The Age yesterday. 'I make no apology for my strong support of Israel. I think the Rudd-Gillard government weakened Australia's stance at the UN as they pursued votes for their campaign to the Security Council'. Ms Bishop said the Coalition would oppose what are seen as one-sided resolutions against Israel but her comments at the Jewish forum had been mis-reported. 'Maybe that's what they wanted me to say, but I didn't. I'm very careful about these things', she said. 'Of course I'd never say I'd never ever abstain, there could be all sorts of circumstances that arise in the future. I don't know, Israel could do anything'." (Labor slams Bishop for Israel stance, Daniel Flitton, Sydney Morning Herald, 12/8/10)


OK, let's explore this. It's clearly shorthand for 'Israel could do any crazy thing,' or 'You never know what fool thing Israel's going to do next'.

But just how crazy does Israel have to get for Bishop to vote against it in the UN?

Maybe if we examine her response to just 2 of the crazy things Israel has done recently, we can get some idea of just how much craziness she can tolerate.

How about Israel purloining Australian passports? Here's what she had to say about that:

"It would be naive to think that Israel is the only country in the world that has used forged passports, including Australian passports, for security operations', she said. She was then asked by the interviewer: 'What, we do?' 'Yes', was her reply. 'I believe that it has occurred, but I wasn't the foreign minister at the time'." (Bishop stokes fake passport storm, sbs.com.au, 25/5/10)

So that's OK then, the Israelis can nick our passports whenever they like.

How about Israel gunning down aid workers on the high seas?

"We should not rush to judgment - at these early stages there are claims and counter-claims. There must be a full inquiry into the matter." (Julie Bishop talks to the Capital Jewish Forum, jwire.com.au, 10/6/10)

No, definitely not crazy enough to move our Jules.

How about Israel nuking Iran?

Watch this space.

Round Round Get Around... 3

They get around:

"An Israeli man was arrested Friday for allegedly running an organ trafficking network in the Ukraine, Army Radio reported. The Israeli, whose name was not revealed, was arrested by Ukrainian police along with 12 other people. According to the report, the network operated for over 3 years and recruited donors via the internet. Most of the donors were young women who agreed to sell a kidney for $10,000. The organs were then allegedly transferred to Israelis in need of a kidney transplant, which cost over $200,000, said the head of the Ukrainian organization for combating human trafficking during a press conference following the arrests. Ukrainian police estimated that the network made a gross sum of $40 million." (Report: Israeli suspected of running Ukraine organ trafficking ring, Haaretz, 6/8/10)

"A man the US deems one of the worst offenders among sellers of stolen financial data has been arrested in France. Vladislav Horohorin, 27, of Moscow and a dual Israeli and Ukrainian citizen, was arrested at the weekend in Nice on a US warrent as he prepared to board a flight to Moscow, the Justice Department said... The US believes the suspect is one of the founders of CarderPlanet, a criminal internet forum for selling stolen credit card data. 'The network created by the founders of CarderPlanet, including Vladislav Horohorin, remains one of the most sophisticated organisations of online financial criminals in the world', said US Secret Service assistant director for investigations Michael Merritt. 'This network has been repeatedly linked to nearly every major intrusion of financial information reported to the international law enforcement community'." ('Credit card crime king' caught, The Australian, 13/8/10)

Friday, August 13, 2010

Koutsoukis Recycles Israeli Propaganda

In the context of reporting Israel's judicial inquiry into the handling of its raid on the Gaza Freedom Flotilla vessel Mavi Marmara on 31/5/10, Fairfax's Middle East correspondent, Jason Koutsoukis, writes that: "Things began to go wrong after several of the commandos who were lowered on to the deck of the... Mavi Marmara, were attacked by a number of passengers. Other commandos were sent aboard the Mavi Marmara with orders to save the lives of their comrades, shooting dead 9 passengers and injuring more than 30 others." (Netanyahu to shift blame over deadly raid on Gaza flotilla, Sydney Morning Herald, 9/8/10)

And here's the official Israeli line: "During the boarding of the Mavi Marmara, the demonstrators on board attacked the IDF naval personnel with live fire and light weaponry including knives and clubs." (IDF forces met with pre-planned violence when attempting to board flotilla, mfa.gov.il, 31/5/10, updated 21/6/10)

In both accounts the aid activists are the attackers. Koutsoukis fails only to mention their 'weapons'.

Even Murdoch's Middle East correspondent, John Lyons, manages a little more objectivity: "Turkey has called the raid 'state-sponsored terrorism' while Israel has said its commandos were attacked as they attempted to board one of the boats and were acting in self-defence." (Israeli PM defends action on Gaza, The Australian, 10/8/10)

To set the record straight, here's what really happened from the first book-length treatment of the massacre to emerge:

"At around 4:25am on May 31, 2010, Israeli commandos attacked the Mavi Marmara while the boat was in international waters. They had been trailing the convoy for hours and harassing them for about 90 minutes prior to this by circling the ship with Zodiac dinghies full of Israeli commandos. Immediately following the morning prayer, the Zodiacs moved quickly along side the Mavi Marmara. They shot at the ship with paintball rifles and attempted to board. The ship then turned, heading away from Gaza at full speed. Israeli helicopters then descended minutes later, and the commandos began firing smoke and percussion grenades on the ship, followed almost immediately by rubber bullets and live ammunition. Meanwhile, those on the ship were not about to be boarded in international waters, and they resisted the attack with slingshots, bare hands, water hoses, and various objects from the ship. Three Israeli commandos who had dropped from helicopters were overpowered, their weapons disabled, and were taken below the fifth deck, where they were searched and then provided with basic first aid. The other commandos continued to fire live ammunition rounds, shooting dozens of unarmed civilians, including an Indonesian doctor.

"By the time the attack was over, nine people - eight Turkish citizens and a dual American-Turkish citizen - were dead. Autopsy results later revealed that those killed in the attack were shot a total of thirty times. The Guardian reported that 61-year-old Ibrahim Bilgen, 'was shot four times in the temple, chest, hip and back', and that 19-year-old Furkan Dogan, 'was shot five times from less than 45 cm, in the face, in the back of the head, twice in the leg and once in the back. Two other men were shot four times and five of the victims were shot either in the back of the head or in the back'. Footage released by Iara Lee and analyzed by Ali Abunimah shows that the Israelis fired indiscriminately into a crowd of unarmed people huddling behind a cabin door, disproving the claim that the commandos were merely defending themselves against an onslaught." (Midnight on the Mavi Marmara: The Attack on the Gaza Freedom Flotilla & How It Changed the Course of the Israel/Palestine Conflict, ed by Moustafa Bayoumi, 2010, p 3)

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Julia Irwin Spills the Beans

I was thinking only the other day: 'I hope (retiring, pro-Palestinian Labor MP) Julia Irwin writes her memoirs'. I had no idea, however, that we'd be party to her experiences as a supporter of the Palestinians in a thoroughly Zionised Australian Labor Party (ALP) so soon. We have the redoubtable freelance journalist and blogger Antony Loewenstein to thank for that scoop, and the complete version of his interview with her may be found at his website. What Irwin has to say, as a party insider, is dynamite, and it will be interesting to see to what extent, if any, it is drawn on by the mainstream media. Needless to say, I won't be holding my breath.

What follows are some of the juicier bits of Irwin's testimony (along with a few of my own comments in square-bracketed bold):

"With a few exceptions, the great majority of the Caucus have strong pro-Israel views. Many have visited Israel as guests of various groups. You would find a check of the Register of Members Interests worth reading as it discloses who has been to Israel and who paid for the trip. Many members and senators from right-wing unions have had close links with the Israeli union movement over the years and have maintained entrenched views."

[For a regularly updated list of these polliewaffles, both federal and state, as well as journalists and others (along with some of their recorded 'impressions') see my 30/3/09 post I've been to Israel too.]

"While ALP officials, Eric Roozendaal and Mark Arbib have spoken to me and requested that I should have my speeches vetted, visit the Holocaust Museum, visit Israel and meet with members of various Jewish organisations, these requests have not been followed up. After one speech on Palestine, the ALP chief whip tore up my application for leave from the House when I was to attend an Inter Parliamentary Union meeting in Geneva. This was later approved but not before some emotional displays on both sides."

[For the first reported inkling of Arbib's role as an urger for Israel see my 30/7/10 post Get Thee to Israel!]

"Until very recently... Kevin Rudd... [had not] spoken to me on [the Israel/Palestine conflict]... Then, strangely, at the Caucus meeting on the Tuesday before he was deposed as Prime Minister, I had gone up to Kevin to ask him to sign a hardback edition of 'The True Believers' which had been signed by all party leaders from Gough Whitlam [on]. Kevin was surprisingly friendly and inquired about the reaction of supporters of the Palestinian cause to the government's handling of the expulsion of an Israeli diplomat over the theft of Australian passports and his statement calling for an inquiry into the Mavi Marmara incident. His remarks led me to believe that there had been some change in the government's position with regard to Israel even if it was only a small step from being totally uncritical."

[The question is to what extent that small step was a factor in Rudd's downfall. My posts, The Best Israel Policy Money Can Buy (22/6/10) and If Only Rudd Hadn't Expelled That Israeli Diplomat... (1/7/10), marshal the available evidence.]

"Without naming names, I could point to at least one ALP member who receives big donations from Palestinian interests but is silent on the issue. (I should add that I have never been offered financial support for my re-election campaigns from groups outside my electorate and none with direct links to Palestinian interests)."

"There is certainly a belief that support for Palestine will swiftly end any prospect of a front bench position. Even a hint of offence can result in an immediate, unconditional apology. For all MPs there is the desire to 'play it safe'. Why make enemies over an issue which does not directly affect your local community? And I have to add that many Labor members have an intense dislike of Arabic people. That's something that comes across in their less guarded moments. They will talk about human rights abuse in every corner of the world, but not Palestine."

[This is a damning insight into the parliamentary wing of the party: a bunch of racists whose leaders are vetted and approved by pro-Israel enforcers.]

"On the Labor side (and as far as I know the same applies to the Liberals), a newly selected member for a winnable seat is hosted to a private fundraising dinner. A table full of Jewish businessmen are happy to hand over $10,000 for the candidate's first campaign. That's a big bonus for a new member and many never forget the generosity. I was never afforded such an honour, but I can say that I would have been suspicious of the motive."

[For a description of the same phenomenon in the UK's Conservative Party see my 12/5/10 post Ziocons Rule.]

"And then there are the trips to Israel. The chance to see the achievements of 60 years of Zionism, and to look down on the depressed Palestinian villages is hard to pass up for some. How could any member not be impressed by such achievement, and how could they not share the fear of the backward Arabs threatening such an enlightened society? Any check of the Register of Members Interests reveals how Tel Aviv is such a popular destination, especially when it's free. A visit to Israel is almost a rite of passage for new MPs and senators."

[Again, a damning insight into mainstream politics in this country and one that's barely caused a ripple of interest in the corporate media - largely because it too is caught up in the same corrupting practice.]

"Shortly after my motion on the Israel/Palestine conflict in 2002, the Israel Lobby sprang into action. 'Jewish Friends of Labor' was formed and no doubt has been a rich source of support for Labor candidates ever since. As I have told Michael Danby, Julia Irwin has been the best electoral asset he has had. The Jewish Lobby needs support from both sides of politics. It cannot afford to snub Labor even if most Jewish voters live in blue ribbon Liberal seats. Personally, while I have survived 4 terms, I have no doubt that senior ALP figures have promised to end my career on more than one occasion. At the grass roots level, in the branches and the wider electorate the lobby has no influence. Only at the highest levels can a member be threatened. But a party which allows that to happen is not worthy of public support."

[Amen, Julia.]

It is devoutly to be hoped that Julia Irwin will find time while retired to pen a fuller account of these goings on.