How much do we know about Frank Lowy and his beloved Israel?

In my book My Israel Question I discuss the role of Australian Jewish billionaire Frank Lowy and his closeness to Israel.
This story, in Haaretz yesterday, reveals both his unhealthy relationship with former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and largely unreported role in supporting the Zionist state:

The event on Thursday afternoon at the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp in Poland was extraordinary and unprecedented in the history of that place. Its existence had been kept under wraps and no official invitation was sent out. The organizers were uneasy about talking about it and forbade participants from talking to the media. However, former prime minister Ehud Olmert, who was supposed to be the guest of honor and keynote speaker at the event, gave away the secret.
Auschwitz supplied the answer to the question where Olmert was while an investigation connected with him was under way in Israel (the Holyland affair), and in doing so publicized the ceremony’s existence. On Wednesday afternoon, a day before the ceremony, it transpired that Olmert had canceled his participation. The official reason: He was returning to Israel because of the investigation.
What was the secret and why did the organizers, headed by Keren Hayesod – United Israel Appeal, decide to keep the event quiet? It turns out that the monument – an authentic freight car that was used to transport Jews to the death camps – was supposed to commemorate the members of a private family, in return for a tidy sum. This type of commemoration is contrary to the clear policy of the memorial site, which is devoted to perpetuating the suffering and memory of all the camp’s inmates and not only those whose relatives who can afford a private memorial.
The donor is Frank Lowy, an Australian tycoon and a friend of Olmert. That is why the former prime minister was invited to the ceremony. Lowy’s name was mentioned prominently in the Bank Leumi affair, in which Olmert was suspected of trying to tilt a tender in his friend’s favor. The case was closed for lack of evidence.
Lowy’s father, Hugo, was one of the 1,600,000 people murdered at the camp. Lowy paid for the memorial in his name in the form of a freight car that was used for transporting Jews to Birkenau. In addition, he committed himself to donating something to the Auschwitz site. The sign that was placed at the new memorial reads: “The train car was donated and restored by the sons of Hugo Lowy, who was put to death here in May 1944.”
Lowy has every right to ask to memorialize his father who was killed in the Holocaust, in any way he sees fit. However for fear of public criticism, or other reasons he does not wish to divulge, Lowy instructed Keren Hayesod – UIA head Greg Masel to keep a low profile over the matter. Lowy was not available for comment before publication.

Now why would the Times want the world to know that America has no idea about Iran?

Who really benefits from this Sunday New York Times lead story (all from anonymous sources, of course)?

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates has warned in a secret three-page memorandum to top White House officials that the United States does not have an effective long-range policy for dealing with Iran’s steady progress toward nuclear capability, according to government officials familiar with the document.
Several officials said the highly classified analysis, written in January to President Obama’s national security adviser, Gen. James L. Jones, came in the midst of an intensifying effort inside the Pentagon, the White House and the intelligence agencies to develop new options for Mr. Obama. They include a set of military alternatives, still under development, to be considered should diplomacy and sanctions fail to force Iran to change course.
Officials familiar with the memo’s contents would describe only portions dealing with strategy and policy, and not sections that apparently dealt with secret operations against Iran, or how to deal with Persian Gulf allies.
One senior official, who like others spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the memo, described the document as “a wake-up call.” But White House officials dispute that view, insisting that for 15 months they had been conducting detailed planning for many possible outcomes regarding Iran’s nuclear program.

Rudd government treats refugees as political footballs

Welcome to Australia, a Federal government that wants to be “tough” on asylum seekers, clearly makes policy on the run and is increasingly reminiscent of the previous Howard regime. Brutes.
The only major party in Australia that makes humane sense is the Greens and people remember (look at the UK, where Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg is the most popular leader since Winston Churchill, not least because he appears to be a man of principle, though time will tell, of course):

The Greens have accused the federal government of a discredited Howard-like approach to asylum seekers by deciding to reopen a West Australian detention facility.
On Sunday, Immigration Minister Chris Evans announced the government would reopen the centre at Curtin Air Base in a bid to ease overcrowding and potential conflicts at Christmas Island.
The decision came just a week after a freeze was put on Afghan and Sri Lankan refugee applications as a deterrent to new arrivals.
Senator Evans said Curtin would be readied immediately to hold 200-300 Sri Lankan and Afghan asylum seekers whose refugee applications had been suspended.
“Previously it’s been used for this purpose and initially we’ll be upgrading the facility to accommodate that cohort of persons who have had their asylum claims suspended,” Senator Evans told reporters in Perth.
“We need to find an appropriate secure facility to deal with these asylum seekers.”
Greens immigration and human rights spokeswoman Sarah Hanson-Young slammed the move, saying it was another example of “policy-on-the-run” from the government.
“The immigration policy, the refugee response from the government, is a dog’s breakfast – it’s one announcement after another without the real follow-through of any type of practical long-term or humane approach, from the Australian government,” she told reporters in Adelaide.
Senator Hanson-Young said Curtin – 40km southeast of Derby in Western Australia’s far north – had in the past been described as “a living hell hole”.
She said Prime Minister Kevin Rudd was trying to win votes, but warned “the Australian public are smarter than that”.
“Everything he’s announced over the last couple of weeks harks straight back to the days which were discredited under the Howard government, where we detained vulnerable people in the middle of the desert, where we detained children behind barbed wire,” she said.
“This is a government who said they would work to dismantle that regime and now we see them implementing it themselves.”
Senator Evans said the first group of single-male asylum seekers – who are subject to a three-month freeze for Sri Lankans and a six-month freeze for Afghans – would be moved from Christmas Island to Curtin as soon as upgrades were finished.
In addition, 60 single-male detainees would immediately be moved to the Darwin detention centre, and a group of about 70 unaccompanied minors moved to Port Augusta, in South Australia.
While that move was planned for Sunday, it was delayed until at least Monday, after a charter plane suffered mechanical difficulties.
Senator Evans said “a couple of hundred or so” people would be moved off Christmas Island “in the next week or two” to ease overcrowding.
Opposition immigration spokesman Scott Morrison said the new policy was “another example of failure by the federal government”.
“We’ve seen now people being transferred to Darwin, which the government said it would do once Christmas Island was overflowing, and we now see a complete end to offshore processing in this country,” he said.
Mr Morrison said the costs of dealing with asylum seekers in Australia were spiralling out of control.
“How much is it costing them in midnight flights, these charter flights, all around the country as Christmas Island spills over?,” he said.
“How much is it costing to put in place all these new centres and facilities being reopened at Curtin?
“The cost is mounting and the government’s failure continues to increase.”
Senator Evans said he did not know the final cost of expanding Curtin, but the government would “invest considerably” in the centre.
Refugee Council of Australia CEO Paul Power said the use of the Curtin facility to house asylum seekers was completely inappropriate.
“It is one of the most remote places in Australia and facilities would have to be built,” Mr Power said.
“This population of asylum seekers will include torture and trauma survivors, and services for them will be nigh on impossible to deliver.
“It is hard to think of any good policy reason to pick this remote location instead of locations closer to available services.

Jews who don’t adore Israel are still good Jews (pass it on)

Tony Karon in The National on Jewish impatience with Israel:

The Zionist dream had always been that Israel would be not only the spiritual, but also the political and physical home of the world’s Jews. That dream has faded, largely because it is not shared by a majority of the world’s Jews, who have chosen not to live in Israel, and are unlikely to move there in the near future.

Israelis can certainly count on support from America when their physical safety is threatened by suicide bombers or rockets. But much of that support evaporates when the issue is whether the Israelis can expand settlements in East Jerusalem in the name of biblical fulfilment.
Having integrated themselves into a wider society in which they enjoy the same rights and responsibilities before the law as any other citizen, many Jewish Americans appear to be losing patience with Israel’s insistence on defying international norms.

Sri Lanka may not be the best judge of Israeli criminality

Priceless and absurd. For Sri Lanka to call for the end to Israel’s occupation, how about examining its own brutal occupation of Tamil areas in the country’s north and east?
Nobody said international relations aren’t based on hypocrisy:

Sri Lanka has called on Israel to withdraw from the occupied Palestinian territory saying sustainable peace could only be obtained if Israel were to withdraw from the territories back to the 1967 borders and end the blockade, illegal expansion of settlements and the construction of the separation wall.
Sri Lanka’s Deputy Permanent Representative to the United Nations in New York Bandula Jayasekara, speaking at the UN Security Council said his country believed a resolution of the Palestinian conflict was crucial in restoring peace in the Middle East, and had therefore called on all sides to fully implement resolutions regarding both the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people and the two-State solution.
While the relaxation of restrictions regarding the economic blockade in the Occupied Palestinian Territory were noted, there were still deep concerns about the daily suffering and hardships the Palestinian people continued to endure while living under occupation, he said.
The Palestinian Authority, in honouring its obligations, needed to implement its security plan to ensure its territory was not used for illegal attacks on Israeli civilians. Allegations of illegal arms flows must be investigated. Both sides must do everything possible to ensure the safety and security of civilians, Jayasekara further added.
He said Sri Lanka supported the Palestinian Authority under the leadership of President Mahmoud Abbas, as well as international efforts for early resumption of negotiations, and cited the unity of the Palestinian people as essential to the process for lasting peace.
He hoped both sides would ensure a climate conducive for the resumption of negotiations and regretted that the announcement of new settlement construction had resulted in a setback to the progress made.

Hands up the Tamils who still want independence?

This weekend Australia’s Tamil community voted on establishing an independent Tamil homeland in Sri Lanka. The vote – also occuring in other nations around the world – has no real political power but may prove the strength and determination of the Tamils to continue their struggle for independence:

Chomsky fears the rise of fascism in the US

We have been warned:

Noam Chomsky, the leading leftwing intellectual, warned last week that fascism may be coming to the United States.
“I’m just old enough to have heard a number of Hitler’s speeches on the radio,” he said, “and I have a memory of the texture and the tone of the cheering mobs, and I have the dread sense of the dark clouds of fascism gathering” here at home.
Chomsky was speaking to more than 1,000 people at the Orpheum Theatre in Madison, Wisconsin, where he received the University of Wisconsin’s A.E. Havens Center’s award for lifetime contribution to critical scholarship.
“The level of anger and fear is like nothing I can compare in my lifetime,” he said.
He cited a statistic from a recent poll showing that half the unaffiliated voters say the average tea party member is closer to them than anyone else.
“Ridiculing the tea party shenanigans is a serious error,” Chomsky said.
Their attitudes “are understandable,” he said. “For over 30 years, real incomes have stagnated or declined. This is in large part the consequence of the decision in the 1970s to financialize the economy.”
There is class resentment, he noted. “The bankers, who are primarily responsible for the crisis, are now reveling in record bonuses while official unemployment is around 10 percent and unemployment in the manufacturing sector is at Depression-era levels,” he said.
And Obama is linked to the bankers, Chomsky explained.
“The financial industry preferred Obama to McCain,” he said. “They expected to be rewarded and they were. Then Obama began to criticize greedy bankers and proposed measures to regulate them. And the punishment for this was very swift: They were going to shift their money to the Republicans. So Obama said bankers are “fine guys” and assured the business world: ‘I, like most of the American people, don’t begrudge people success or wealth. That is part of the free-market system.’
People see that and are not happy about it.”
He said “the colossal toll of the institutional crimes of state capitalism” is what is fueling “the indignation and rage of those cast aside.”
“People want some answers,” Chomsky said. “They are hearing answers from only one place: Fox, talk radio, and Sarah Palin.”
Chomsky invoked Germany during the Weimar Republic, and drew a parallel between it and the United States. “The Weimar Republic was the peak of Western civilization and was regarded as a model of democracy,” he said.
And he stressed how quickly things deteriorated there.
“In 1928 the Nazis had less than 2 percent of the vote,” he said. “Two years later, millions supported them. The public got tired of the incessant wrangling, and the service to the powerful, and the failure of those in power to deal with their grievances.”
He said the German people were susceptible to appeals about “the greatness of the nation, and defending it against threats, and carrying out the will of eternal providence.”
When farmers, the petit bourgeoisie, and Christian organizations joined forces with the Nazis, “the center very quickly collapsed,” Chomsky said.
No analogy is perfect, he said, but the echoes of fascism are “reverberating” today, he said.
“These are lessons to keep in mind.”

Standing up for Palestine at Berkeley

Here’s something to inspire us on the first day of a new week:
See: www.antonyloewenstein.com

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