A.Loewenstein Online Newsletter


Posted by: Sammi IbrahemChair of West Midland Palestine Solidarity Campaign

US protects Israel from sanction over Gaza crimes, proves Wikileaks

Posted: 19 Apr 2011

This is what matters and why Israel must pay a price for murdering Palestinians:

The US worked behind the scenes to help Israel contain United Nations probes into possible war crimes committed during the 2008/’09 Gaza war, Foreign Policy reported today.
The online foreign affairs magazine cited exclusive WikiLeaks cables, detailing moves by Washington’s UN ambassador Susan Rice to prevent a more thorough UN investigation of alleged abuses in the conflict.
Some 1400 Palestinians and 13 Israelis were killed during the three-week Israeli offensive in December 2008 and January 2009, which was aimed at halting Palestinian rocket attacks.
According to one cable, Rice spoke with UN chief Ban Ki-moon three times on May 4, 2009 to urge him to remove recommendations for a wider investigation from a board of inquiry report into attacks on UN sites in Gaza.
Rice “underscored the importance of having a strong cover letter that made clear that no further action was needed and would close out this issue,” the US diplomatic cable said.
Ban said his staff was working with the Israeli delegation and “called her after the letter had been finalised to report that he believed they had arrived at a satisfactory cover letter”.
Later that year, Israel and the US pushed back against a similar effort to investigate the war by the UN Human Rights Council, which appointed a team led by the South African jurist Richard Goldstone.
The release of the Goldstone probe coincided with US efforts to revive Israeli-Palestinian peace talks and, in another cable, Rice linked the two during a meeting with Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon.
Rice told Ayalon that Washington “is still studying the report, remains concerned about the fact-finding mission’s mandate and many of the recommendations in the report”, according to the cable.
She then urged him to “help us help them with progress on the peace process, saying that the report can be more easily managed if there is progress”.
The Goldstone report said there was evidence that both Israel and Palestinian militant groups had committed war crimes and possible crimes against humanity, urging independent probes on both sides.
Two weeks ago, Goldstone stepped back from the report, saying new information about Israel’s military actions led him to believe he had erred in concluding that Israel targeted civilians during the 22-day conflict.
He cited a UN committee of independent experts that followed up on the report and found Israel “has dedicated significant resources to investigate over 400 allegations of operational misconduct in Gaza”.
In contrast, Hamas, the Islamist militant group ruling Gaza, “have not conducted any investigations into the launching of rocket and mortar attacks against Israel” that triggered the offensive, Goldstone wrote.
Israel, which bitterly opposed the investigation from the beginning, had since demanded that the UN rescind the report.
But last week, three report co-authors – Pakistani human rights’ lawyer Hina Jilani; Christine Chinvin, a professor of international law at the London School of Economics; and former Irish peacekeeper Desmond Travers – rejected calls to retract it.

Marrickville madness over BDS but Palestine rights aren’t forgotten

Posted: 19 Apr 2011 08:15 AM PDT

I was present at last night’s Marrickville council meeting over BDS. It was a circus. Hundreds of people attended. Protesters, Zionists, students, unionists, Palestinians, Arabs, citizens. Countless numbers of people couldn’t fit into the council chambers (luckily I was inside for proceedings). In the end, the BDS didn’t succeed but in many ways this wasn’t the only issue at hand; raising the question of Palestine in a way that was being noticed locally and globally. There was passion in the room. Mayor Fiona Byrne kept her cool and has spent months bravely trying to defend BDS against a barrage of hate and lies from the Murdoch press.
Predictably, most of the anti-BDS speakers – there were around 17 speakers and the meeting lasted for over three hours – talked in motherhood statements. Peace. Harmony. Two equal sides (Israel and Palestine). Little about occupation.
At the last minute I was asked to speak. I focused on the realities in Palestine and Israel’s racial discrimination. This is something that impacts us all, the lack of dignity of the indigenous peoples of the land. One side is the occupier and the other is occupied. It’s not really all that complicated. This is what Zionism is.
I spent my allotted three minutes detailing how the West props up Israel and it is our responsibility to speak up for human rights. Jewish-only roads in the West Bank. The siege on Gaza and ever-increasing settlements in the West Bank. Nearly universal backing in the UN for Palestinian rights (except Nauru, Marshall Islands, Australia, Israel and the US). As BDS takes off in countless places, the arguments against it become even further removed from Palestine itself. If you can’t argue on the facts, change the subject. Talk about local politics, or “balance” or “peace”.
Last night BDS was defeated in Sydney but the message I’m hearing from countless activists is that this has galvanised people to step up the campaign for Palestinian rights. The politicians who last night didn’t vote on principle but for partisan, political reasons (also known as selling out) will not be so easily forgotten. Isn’t it about time the corporate press looked seriously into the role of the Zionist lobby in this country and how it influences public and political debate?
It’s just beginning.
Here’s the Sydney Morning Herald report:

Marrickville Council’s controversial push for a boycott of Israel was quashed at a tempestuous, crowded meeting last night.
Gallery members reported being spat on, accusations of cowardice were screamed at councillors and flags and banners were waved as police looked on.
Labor councillors and two Greens who had supported the initial push to support the global Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign against Israel, voted with two independent councillors against it.
The council’s support for the movement has drawn unprecedented ire, including from the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies, the Foreign Affairs Minister, Kevin Rudd, and the Premier, Barry O’Farrell, and messages of support from figures such as John Pilger and Julian Burnside.
The Greens councillor Max Phillips denounced the attacks on the council but said: ”I do not believe there is sufficient understanding or support to justify council [supporting] a boycott of Israel … It must not be imposed.”
He was jeered with calls of ”there goes your preselection.” The Labor councillors Mary O’Sullivan and Sam Iskander spoke passionately about their trips to Bethlehem and their support for Palestinian human rights, but said ultimately they could not continue to support the boycott. Cr O’Sullivan moved the motion which brought the boycott down.
A separate motion by the mayor, Fiona Byrne, to retain in-principle support for the boycott was rejected. The only councillors who continued their support were the mayor, the independent Dimitrios Thanos and Greens pair Marika Kontellis and Cathy Peters.
Hundreds of people attended the passionate meeting, which was filled with shouting, flag waving and jeers. Many could not find a seat in the chamber and stood in corridors and on the street.
A Jewish blogger and pro-Palestinian rights activist, Antony Loewenstein, said he was spat on on his way in and called a pig. Proceedings were repeatedly interrupted. One woman called Arab councillors who did not support the boycott ”f—ing cowards”, first in Arabic, then in English, before storming out.
Cr Byrne said she shocked by the vitriol the issue had attracted. ”I personally don’t understand why we’ve had a sledgehammer used to crack the egg that is Marrickville Council on this issue,” she said.
Though the boycott was voted down, the council formally registered that it remained ”concerned about Palestinian human rights and calls on Israel to end the occupation of Palestinian lands”.
Twelve councillors and 18 members of the public addressed the three-hour debate.

And here’s the Australian story (thank God the paper didn’t include any Arabs voices; they don’t want to pollute their pages):

A Greens-dominated Sydney council was last night forced to abandon its bid to implement a boycott of goods and services from Israel, after a fiery meeting that lasted more than three hours.
Two of the five Greens on Marrickville Council repeatedly split from their colleagues by refusing to back motions to water down the original proposal to support the global boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign.
The council finally passed a motion that resolved not to pursue the BDS “in any form” with the support of the same Greens councillors, Peter Olive and Max Phillips, four Labor councillors and two independents.
A report by council staff that put the cost of the boycott to ratepayers at more than $3.7 million was repeatedly cited as a reason to dump the BDS campaign, passed by 10 votes to two last December. Last night, only four councillors – three Greens including mayor Fiona Byrne and an independent, Dimitrios Thanos – sought to maintain the boycott.
Labor councillor Mary O’Sullivan, who put forward the motion to dump the boycott, accepted a last-minute amendment by Greens councillor Peter Olive that stated the council remained concerned about Palestinian human rights and called on Israel to end the occupation of Arab lands.
The decision to dump the boycott followed three hours of robust debate during which 17 members of the public and all 12 councillors of the inner-western Sydney council exchanged views.
Several members of the public were ejected from the gallery; on more than one occasion tempers flared and it appeared fights might break out.
The Israel boycott has plagued Marrickville Council and the Greens since the campaign for last month’s NSW election. Ms Byrne, who supported the boycott, failed in a bid to snatch the state seat of Marrickville from former Labor deputy premier Carmel Tebbutt after it was revealed she had proposed to introduce a motion for a statewide boycott of Israel if she entered parliament.
Ms Byrne was greeted upon entrance to the council chambers last night by raucous boos and cheers from about 70 banner-wielding locals – a mixture of pro-Israeli and pro-Palestinian supporters.
Resident Leslie Marsh began the meeting with an impassioned rejection of the global BDS campaign, pointing out it counted among its supporters Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi. “The division in this room is the perfect example of what the BDS does: it takes moderate people and moves them to extremes,” he said.
The boycott had become an umbrella for a “whole range of extreme viewpoints”.
Another local, a church minister who identified himself as Father Dave, spoke in support of the boycott, pointing out that the movement aimed to challenge the military occupation of Palestine by non-violent means.
He blamed “months of lies, threats and political intrigue” for the controversy.
Independent Morris Hanna, who has consistently opposed the boycott, said he felt “ashamed” to be a Marrickville councillor. He said numerous residents had approached him with their concerns since the boycott had drawn widespread scrutiny.
“I hope for the Palestinians and for the Israelis that they live in peace in the future without Marrickville Council trying to interfere,” he said.
Greens councillor Cathy Peters spoke most forcefully in support of the boycott, claiming the campaign against it had created an atmosphere of bullying and intimidation, and had threatened democracy.
Ms Byrne spoke briefly at the start of the meeting, to commend a watered-down version of the original motion that expressed support for the BDS movement in principal.
At the end of the debate she quipped: “We have certainly put the BDS on the national agenda, whatever that means”.

Wikileaks founder takes a leak on US empire (and we cheer)

Posted: 18 Apr 2011



A painting of Julian Assange taking a leak has won this year’s Bald Archy prize.
The caricature by French artist Xavier Ghazi portrays the WikiLeaks founder with his trousers around his ankles, urinating into a top hat with the US flag on it.

What Australians really think about Israel/Palestine? (mainly confusion)

Posted: 18 Apr 2011

The main message from the latest Essential Media polling is that most people don’t really know much about the conflict and remain unsure who is to blame (see here and here).
A few points. Close to a majority said that criticising Israel isn’t anti-Semitic (take note Zionist lobby). Many believed the issue fueled anti-Muslim sentiment in Australia. Most didn’t think Australia should back Israel over the Palestinians.

BDS will continue in Australia (aka we’re only warming up over Palestine)

Posted: 18 Apr 2011

Public meeting
Boycotting Israel is the right thing to do:
Why Murdoch’s Australian is wrong over BDS
Speakers include:
Samah Sabawi, Australians for Palestine
Antony Loewenstein, author of My Israel Question
Sylvia Hale, former NSW Greens MP
The Murdoch media’s campaign to force Marrickville Council to abandon its support for a global campaign to pressure Israel to abide by international law has been relentless.
This meeting, called by concerned residents, will discuss the issues behind the global boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign and how we can support justice for Palestine.
Plus a screening of the short video by Anna Baltzer: Life in Occupied Palestine
Organised by Marrickville residents supporting the global Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign. Sponsored by the Sydney Peace Foundation.
Friday May 13, 6.30pm for 7pm
Holy Trinity Church Hall
11 Herbert Street
Dulwich Hill, Sydney
Gold coin donation

Mercenaries look at Libya and see dollar signs

Posted: 18 Apr 2011

What a glorious war:

Libya might soon turn into a goldmine for private security firms. Reports say that the UK is already hiring mercenaries to protect the interests of the big corporations there, once Colonel Gaddafi goes. But the fresh history of the previous NATO-led interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan give a pretty clear picture of how exactly the big men with guns could turn this civil war-torn country into a proper Wild West. To the world, homeless and displaced people, disrupted water and electricity supplies, and decimated infrastructure might be tragic scenes of the destruction of lives, while to Britain’s large private security sector they are nothing but a gold mine…Libya increasingly looks like it will be a volatile state for a good while to come and a new conflict zone means a new cash cow for private security companies.

When will this stop? Aussie media sees role defending glorious Israel

Posted: 18 Apr 2011

The Sydney Morning Herald features (gasp!) an Arab in the story:

Marrickville Council’s push for a boycott of Israel is likely to be quashed at a meeting tonight despite an attempt by the mayor, Fiona Byrne, to soften the move by calling for an in-principle boycott only.
The four Labor councillors and two of the five Greens, Peter Olive and Max Phillips, who supported implementing the global Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign in principle last December, would not commit to continuing that support yesterday. Without their votes the mayor’s new motion for an in-principle boycott will not pass tonight.
Moammar Mashni, of Australians for Palestine, said the withdrawal of support for actual boycotts was disappointing.
”[Critics] have created such a frenzy around this debate that moved away from the central message of what the BDS was all about – it’s about non-violence … a principled stand to deliver both peace and justice,” he said.
A local group, the Inner West Jewish Community and Friends Peace Alliance, said even the mayor’s revised motion should be rejected.
”There’s real healing that needs to be done in our community and just coming in with in-principle support for the BDS movement, that hasn’t been discussed with us or the community,” said the group’s secretary, Janet Kossy.

The Inner West Jewish Community and Friends Peace Alliance carried out a phone survey on the campaign in March, and found that two-thirds of residents did not support it.
Ms Kossy called for $12,000 in donations in early March for ”activities that we believe will make a decisive difference” against the boycott. She would not comment yesterday on how much had been spent on the campaign.

The paper then proceeds to publish a piece by two Sydney Zionists on why BDS is wrong (I mean, why would the paper give space to any Arabs or Palestinians or dissident Jews?). The two women can’t even bring themselves to condemn the occupation (it’s “complex”, they whine):

A recent blog claimed that when peace is finally brokered between Israel and a Palestinian state, the stance of Marrickville Council will be proudly remembered. We beg to differ, as did voters in the recent NSW election who rejected the Greens’ candidate, the Marrickville mayor Fiona Byrne, and council’s proposed boycott of all things Israeli.
The question now is how to heal the rift, especially given that the boycott plan now appears to be in tatters.
When you politicise a protracted international conflict at the local level, the rancour hits hard because it is felt not only in the chambers of government but on our streets, souring relationships between neighbours and community groups.
To argue that a Sydney council is not an appropriate entity through which to express foreign policy is one obvious point, no matter how well-meaning the boycott proposal. The more important issue is that it is time to end the Middle East blame game.
As members of the Marrickville and Leichhardt Jewish communities who have been embroiled in this bitter controversy, we stand for peace building. We support positive actions that both assist the Palestinian people and progress efforts to build a viable Palestinian state. We believe in a two-state solution as the only viable path towards a lasting peace.
Even within local Jewish communities there are many different views on the occupied territories, settlements and the Israeli government’s policies. This conflict is extremely complex, with many different narratives and truths that are also intricately linked to both regional and global tensions. There are no simple solutions and reducing the issues to slogans doesn’t help.

The paper publishes a number of letters (and the Herald will certainly now think; well, that’s that issue taken care of, let’s move on):

It’s depressing to read how someone with limited facts and a little bit of power can highjack a serious argument such as the boycott of Israel. It’s absurd to liken the Israeli situation to a dispute between Queensland and NSW. It should be obvious that Queensland wouldn’t lob rockets into NSW.
Cr Byrne seems to think Israeli checkpoints are there just to make life difficult for Palestinians. She chooses not to know or maybe doesn’t remember that thousands of Israelis were wounded or killed by suicide bombs over a decade ago. Since then, with stringent border controls and a wall, the number has been drastically reduced.
I’m interested that the Greens are the ones promoting this boycott. I wonder if they know that Israel was the only country that ended the 20th century with more arable land, more trees and more green space than when the century began. Do they know what Jerusalem, Nazareth and Bethlehem looked like at the beginning of the 20th century?
Maybe Marrickville councillors need to make a trip to Israel to see for themselves. That might produce a positive outcome.
Howard Gelman Glebe
On the one hand, Fiona Byrne claims that Marrickville Council has an advocacy role on behalf of its residents, and on the other acknowledges that the council ”didn’t have time to educate people about the campaign” (”Backlash forces end to Israel boycott”, April 18). This confirms that the personal views of Cr Byrne and some of her council colleagues were behind the campaign to boycott Israel, as opposed to responding to residents’ requests for action on behalf of the Palestinian people.
Did Cr Byrne have this issue at the centre of her election commitments to the people of Marrickville? Politicians at all levels of government have a duty to deliver as promised to those who elected them, not a right to use that platform for their personal views.
Rob Fraser Drummoyne
Fiona Byrne may like to align her actions with those of Desmond Tutu and Julian Burnside, but to the best of my knowledge neither is head of a local council responsible for rates, roads and rubbish (”Rates, roads – justice in Gaza”, April 18).
Back to your day job, Ms Byrne – or is the mayoralty merely an apprenticeship and media training opportunity for a career in state and federal politics?
Santo Calabrese Cherrybrook
Regardless of the merits of the debate, Fiona Byrne’s reasons for terminating the boycott sound very much like chardonnay socialism. If there is no cost for a supposedly principled decision, can one not query the genuine commitment of the decision-makers?
David Gilfillan Potts Point
Fiona Byrne’s opinion piece serves to remind us that by placing human rights values at the top of all decision-making tasks, whether in families, schools and universities, council meetings, or as part of discussions on carbon-pricing, we can raise and deal with questions ethically.
Marrickville Council’s mayor and councillors followed this model yet have been mocked and vilified for it, standing like David against the Goliath of the Israeli government machine, whose failure to focus upon human rights values has brought international condemnation.
Heather Formaini Balmain
Fiona Byrne is quite right to generally encourage ethical purchasing but her support of the boycott of all things Israel was itself unethical and far from peaceful.
Perhaps she should visit Israel and speak to the many Israelis who work every day for Palestinian rights and then she may realise that boycotting all Israelis was a confrontational and silly idea.
It would be akin to blaming all Palestinians for the relentless rocket attacks into Israel from the Gaza strip.
David Whitcombe Maroubra
Do they absolutely agree, sort of agree, or are they a green house divided? There are now six democratically elected NSW Greens to State Parliament. Prior to the election, not one of them publicly declared their support or opposition to the Israel bans. They hedged – individually and collectively. Now that the election is over, isn’t the public well and truly entitled to know where each of them stands on the issue – or is that still off-limits? At least we know what Bob Brown and Lee Rhiannon think. Before the Marrickville Council vote, isn’t it about time we also knew what our elected NSW Greens parliamentarians think, or will a ”spokesperson” simply continue their invariable tactic of criticism after the event, no matter what?
Peter Bower Naremburn
It is a pity Fiona Byrne didn’t clarify her council’s position on the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign before it cost her the election. I worry that this policy has cost the NSW Greens a lot of support at a time when we need to be strong in the face of environmental incursions by our new right-wing government.
Gabrielle Tindall Bellingen

Murdoch’s Australian editorialises in its predictably patronising way. No mention of Israeli occupation or anything citizens can do to support Palestinians, just bile directed at anybody who dares speak up for Arab human rights. This is a sign of intellectual weakness and insecurity, not strength.

Chutzpah, in the true Hebrew meaning of the word, is not the admirable sort of audacity for which we tend to use the word now. Real chutzpah, it is said, is the sort of impertinence that sees a man accused of murdering his parents beg for mercy on the grounds that he’s an orphan. So the term is apt to describe the brazen way the Marrickville Council, in Sydney’s inner west, has gotten above its station by implementing an economic boycott against Israel.
Section 51 (xxix) of the Australian Constitution makes it very clear that the federal parliament is responsible for foreign policy or, in the jargon of the time, “external affairs”. The local government authority upon which councils such as Marrickville exist is not even mentioned in the Constitution. These are the cold, hard facts that underscore the absurdity of the council and its Greens Mayor, Fiona Byrne, attempting to play their jaundiced role in Middle East power politics. The council’s support for BDS (boycott, divest and sanctions) action against Israel has been condemned by the national leadership of the Greens, the Labor Party and the Liberals. Yet even as she prepares to tear down her metaphorical wall against Israeli infiltration, Ms Byrne continues to argue that her council has a role to play in resolving the intractable dilemmas of international relations. As Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd pointedly put it, she might first concentrate on collecting the garbage and looking after the parks and gardens. Mr Rudd succinctly described this provincial excursion into the heady realms of foreign policy as “just plain nuts”.
While this affair seems ripe for satire, there are serious issues at play. The persistent inconsistency between Ms Byrne, Greens federal leader Bob Brown and senator-elect Lee Rhiannon demonstrates a shambolic policy development apparatus within a party now in a powerful alliance with the Gillard Labor government. Senator Brown needs urgently to assert leadership on foreign policy issues and eliminate the loopy anti-Israel sentiment from his ranks. The Labor Party, unfortunately, is not blameless, with four of its councillors having backed the BDS move. When the council votes to overturn the policy, they intend to put this right, but Julia Gillard must ensure that her party’s strong support for Israel is not compromised again by such jejune antics from elected officials.

Former UN official in Sri Lanka; UN report is “Srebrenica moment”

Posted: 18 Apr 2011


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