Some of the NSW Greens are peeling away, as leaves from a lettuce, from support for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions, the people’s campaign launched in response to Israel’s serial violations of international law, and the quiescence of governments. What should they do instead? Reframe the issue. Appearing to ditch principles for expediency would rob the Greens of their USP: the equivalent, in political communication, of Dutch elm disease. They have been labelled, in media and political discourse, as “extremists”. So, turn the tables: put the focus on “mainstream” debate on the Israel-Palestine conflict, here in Australia, and ask just how reasonable and representative it is. How did BDS arise in the first place? There’s a clue in the exhaustive coverage by the Murdoch press over this past week. Of all the thousands of words shovelled over the NSW Greens, one is conspicuous by its absence: “occupation”. Israel’s ongoing, illegal occupation of Palestinian territory is the most salient single fact about the conflict. To succeed in making out BDS advocates to be “the problem” requires readers and audiences (in other words, voters) to be bamboozled into ignoring the elephant in the room.
We are being very poorly represented on this question. An online survey by Research Now of 1021 Australians last year, by Griffith University researchers Eulalia Han and Halim Rane, showed: “The majority (55%) understand the Israel-Palestine conflict to be about ‘Palestinians trying to end Israel’s occupation and form their own state’.”
The Bahraini King bragged about intelligence contacts with Israel, and instructed that official statements stop referring to Israel as the “Zionist entity,” according to the latest trove of documents revealed by WikiLeaks. On February 15, 2005, U.S. ambassador to Bahrain William Monroe met with the leader of the small kingdom, Hamad ibn Isa Al Khalifa – the same king whose position is now threatened by popular protests. Monroe wrote to Washington the next day, saying the meeting was amiable and that the two sat near the fireplace on a cold and unusually wet day. Their conversation lasted about an hour and a half, and at some point moved to the subject of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The king said he was pleased with the developments in the peace process. He also revealed to the ambassador that he had instructed his public information minister to stop referring to Israeli in official statements of the kingdom as the “enemy” or the “Zionist entity.”
Mohammed Tantawi, the head of Egypt’s ruling generals, was an obstacle to Israeli efforts to stop arms smuggling within the Gaza strip, according to Israeli security forces. The assessment was privately delivered to US diplomats, alongside praise for former intelligence chief Omar Suleiman’s efforts to stop weapons trafficking, according to the WikiLeaksembassy cables. The revelations come in a tranche of the most militarily sensitive cables from the US embassy in Tel Aviv. They have been handed over to Israeli newspapers by WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. The Hebrew-language paper Yediot this week announced a deal under which it will print an interview with Assange, who has recently had to defend WikiLeaks from accusations of antisemitism. The cables show intimate co-operation between US and Israeli intelligence organisations. Israel’s preoccupation with Iranian nuclear ambitions is well known and the US cables detail the battering on the subject that diplomats repeatedly receive from Tel Aviv. They also shed detailed and sometimes unexpected light on Israel’s military analyses of its other enemies and friends in the region. Egypt is the primary route for weapons and munitions into the Gaza strip, and the US has been facilitating co-operation between Israel and Egypt to tackle this for several years. On arms smuggling across the Egyptian border to Hamas in Gaza, Israeli intelligence chiefs described as “supportive” Omar Suleiman, who was Egypt’s intelligence minister, but said defence minister Mohammed Hussein Tantawi was “an obstacle”in a November 2009 cable.
The cables also shed light on Israel’s assessment of Hezbollah’s mounting capability to strike directly at Tel Aviv with an arsenal of more than 20,000 missiles. Israeli intelligence chiefs briefed their US counterparts during a regular Joint Political Military Group (JPMG) session on 18 November 2009 about the scale of potential Hezbollah attacks from Lebanon. Washington was told: “Hezbollah possesses over 20,000 rockets … Hezbollah was preparing for a long conflict with Israel in which it hopes to launch a massive number of rockets at Israel per day. A Mossad official estimated that Hezbollah will try to launch 400-600 rockets and missiles at Israel per day – 100 of which will be aimed at Tel Aviv. He noted that Hezbollah is looking to sustain such launches for at least two months.” Other cables detail regular secret talks between the US and Yuval Diskin, head of Israel’s internal security agency, Shin Beth, over the role of Hamas in Gaza. On 12 November 2009 the embassy reported the views of the general responsible for Gaza and southern Israel, Major General Yoav Galant, that Hamas needed to be “strong enough to enforce a ceasefire”. He told the Americans: “Israel’s political leadership has not yet made the necessary policy choices among competing priorities: a short-term priority of wanting Hamas to be strong enough to enforce the de facto ceasefire and prevent the firing of rockets and mortars into Israel; a medium priority of preventing Hamas from consolidating its hold on Gaza; and a longer-term priority of avoiding a return of Israeli control of Gaza and full responsibility for the wellbeing of Gaza’s civilian population.” Galant was to be made Israel’s chief of defence staff earlier this year but the appointment was cancelled due to scandal.