Bring on the Tea Party in the Jewish statePosted: 06 Jun 2010

There is no real opposition party in Israel. The nation is increasingly mirroring the Tea Party movement in the US – see here for a thorough explanation about how Israel believes it can simply ignore global opinion, a nice little delusion that won’t last when BDS starts to hit more – and sees blind defence of the state as the highest calling. Over to you, Gideon Levy:

Suddenly Tzipi Livni’s authoritative voice was heard in the Knesset. “Let MK Hanin Zuabi have her say. Democracy is tested by its tolerance and readiness to hear other voices, even subversive ones,” Livni said. Silence fell over the hall.
Zuabi ended her speech uninterrupted and the Kadima leader rose to the podium. Knesset members of all factions sat up straight, in anticipation of what she had to say. This always happens when Livni takes the podium. For an hour the opposition leader outlined her impressive credo, blasted the government and proposed a well-formulated alternative. Stop the blockade, it has only caused damage. I would have allowed the flotilla to reach Gaza; I’d call all the Palestinian people’s representatives to the negotiating table immediately, to reach peace based on the 1967 borders and a solution to the refugee problem. Israel’s international status and democratic character are immeasurably more important to its future than continuing the occupation.
Are you pinching yourselves? Of course you are. None of this actually happened, nor could it ever happen.
What did we get instead? While Zuabi was savagely attacked in the Knesset – Livni kept mum. While Livni’s faction members shouted the loudest against Zuabi, threatening to shatter the country’s fragile democracy – Livni kept mum. When the blockade continued – Livni kept mum. After Israel brutally abducted the flotilla ship – Livni skipped from one television studio to another, justifying the operation with frightening alacrity.

It’s like Israel wants to be loathed internationallyPosted: 06 Jun 2010

Yesterday’s editorial in Haaretz:

The intelligence failure and faulty planning in last week’s operation to board the Mavi Marmara led to a crisis in Israel’s foreign relations in the blink of an eye and a low in its standing in world public opinion. The international community is demanding an investigation into the incident and is roundly criticizing the siege Israel continues to impose on the Gaza Strip’s 1.5 million residents. Friendly countries such as the United States and France are demanding that the Israeli government lift restrictions on the passage into Gaza of goods and raw materials for civilian use.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in his usual manner, rushed to raise the specter of the Iranian threat along with the adage that “the whole world is against us.” Instead of locating the source of the fire scorching the diplomatic relations we built up with such effort, Netanyahu is following in the footsteps of his ostracized foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman, accusing the world of hypocritical treatment of Israel.
In an effort to evade responsibility for the crisis and escape his obligation to fundamentally change his policy, the prime minister is distorting the nature of the criticism against his government and has plied it as hatred of the Jews.
Netanyahu and Lieberman are imposing a siege on a Jewish and democratic state that has professed to be a light unto the nations, but is becoming anathema among nations. The disagreement over halting construction in West Bank settlements and East Jerusalem sorely eroded the goodwill Israel had garnered in the wake of Netanyahu’s declared support for a two-state solution. Last month’s nuclear nonproliferation conference diverted attention from the Iranian nuclear program to Israel’s nuclear capabilities. The summit of countries bordering the Mediterranean, which had been due to open today in Barcelona, was scrapped following Arab leaders’ refusal to be in the company of the Israeli foreign minister. And finally, the proximity talks with the Palestinians are being portrayed as a recipe for perpetuating the deadlock in the peace process.
Reasonable governments of democratic countries act in accordance with the interests of their citizens. Even if the world is “hypocritical,” as Netanyahu claims, he must fundamentally change his government’s aggressive and inward-looking approach; it is not within his power to change the nature of the rest of the world.
A thorough investigation of the Mavi Marmara incident and the lifting of the siege against civilians in Gaza are essential steps, but they are certainly not sufficient. If Israel is to break out of the international siege and strategic catastrophe it now faces, it urgently needs a different policy.

Cultural boycott gathers steamPosted: 06 Jun 2010

Another day, another brave move to isolate Israel in the only language it understands:

Author Iain Banks called for a cultural and educational boycott on Israel Thursday following its deadly raid on a flotilla of ships carrying aid to the blockaded Gaza Strip.
The author, well known for his science fiction novels and other works, said in a letter to the Guardian newspaper that he had instructed his agent to turn down any further book translation deals with Israeli publishers.
“Appeals to reason, international law, U.N. resolutions and simple human decency mean — it is now obvious — nothing to Israel,” Banks wrote.
“I would urge all writers, artists and others in the creative arts, as well as those academics engaging in joint educational projects with Israeli institutions, to … convince Israel of its moral degradation and ethical isolation, preferably by simply having nothing to do with this outlaw state,” he said.
Nine pro-Palestinian activists died Monday after Israeli forces stormed a group of ships carrying aid to the Gaza Strip, which is currently under an import blockade Israel says is meant to prevent the passage of weapons to Gaza’s Hamas leaders.

The bands the Pixies and Gorillaz have also cancelled an upcoming Israeli visit.

” Everyone thinks the same thing”Posted: 06 Jun 2010

How many Israeli “leftists” and usually apathetic Israelis joined patriotic fervour over the last week to defend their country and praise the actions of the IDF:

“I’m not anti-Palestinian,” said Chen Ben Dori. “I want peace. I want a country for the Palestinians. I know the blockade is the last resort and not the best way to go, but I don’t feel like we have another choice if we want to live here safely.”
Like many Israelis who are trying to present Israel’s side, she is not optimistic that the world will listen, but said that at least it feels good to be doing something. “It’s better than watching TV and reading the newspapers and grumbling,” she said.
Yoram Ben Zion is also skeptical that all these PR efforts will bear fruit. “We’re doing what we can but there’s no way to win in the end because we’re a small minority.”
“It’s not easy seeing the whole world against you,” he said. “It isn’t fun.” But he does see one silver lining in Israel’s predicament. “If there’s one good thing about the whole world hating us, it’s that suddenly we like ourselves more, that it forces us to become united. Everyone thinks the same thing. It hasn’t been like that for years.”

The desperate need to recognise failure in the Middle EastPosted: 06 Jun 2010
The following letters appear in today’s Sydney Morning Herald:

Peter Wertheim (Letters, June 4) is right to say the Geneva Conventions are ”an expression of customary international law and are universally applicable”. The whole civilised world agrees, except the Israeli Supreme Court, which said they did not apply to the occupied Palestinians because without a prior sovereign there could be no occupation. There will be no peaceful solution until Israel recognises they are truly universal.
Paul Unger Grenfell
Many thanks to Peter Wertheim for clearing up the application of customary international law to Israel’s actions last Monday. I wonder if he could advise if the Palestinians might be able to take the same sort of action under the same law in their endeavours to rid themselves of the 340,000 Israelis living illegally in settlements on their land.
Frank Adshead Mona Vale
In the beginning was self-defence: if you hit me, I’ll hit back harder, until you no longer can. Then came international law, the process by which states, to protect their own, agreed to mutual limits: if you keep your blows above the belt, I will too. They limited action against other states, each other’s citizens and their own, and they agreed that attacks that came from your territory counted as yours – as much an invitation to hit back harder as if you had made them yourself.
Some people argue that non-state foreign attackers, although they recognise no limits themselves, should be protected by the states’ self-imposed limits on retaliation against other states. They claim that states have no rights against non-states, only responsibilities. This is nonsense, of course. If attackers fall outside the definition of the limits, they are entitled to no protection.
Judith Rona Bondi
The fact that the San Remo Manual may embody customary international law does not at all mean that it is of universal application. A blockade is an act of war, and Israel is not at war with the Gaza Strip. As a matter of law, it cannot be at war with the Gaza Strip. Israel is conducting a blockade, but not one recognised as legitimate under international law. It is repulsive to claim that boarding foreign ships in international waters was justified by the need to prevent them breaching a blockade that was illegal to begin with.
Nicholas Olson Peakhurst
Describing how the Turkish ship Mavi Marmara was being prepared for the arrival of the Israeli soldiers, Paul McGeough mentions that ”electric angle-grinders were brought in – to cut steel bars from the lifeboat bays”. I am curious to know what these steel bars were going to be used for. Peaceful protests?
Michael Messer Balmain
Would Paul McGeough accompany a convoy of “peace activists” bringing humanitarian aid to Kurdish rebels in Turkey? He might then be able to write an informed article on the relative merits of Turkish and Israeli jails.
Michael Jaku Double Bay
”Strange times indeed,” says Immanuel Suttner (Letters, June 4). What he found strange, among other things, was Turkey’s treatment of its Kurdish minority and the seeming indifference of Herald letter-writers. Turkey was, until recently, a good friend of Israel, notwithstanding its behaviour towards the Kurds. And I don’t remember reading Mr Suttner’s protestations about it.
Andrew Sarkadi Double Bay
I commend the editorial imploring diaspora Jews to question the actions of the Israeli government (”Candour is not Israel’s enemy”, June 4”). As a Jew who attended a Zionist Modern Orthodox school, I am well aware of the assumptions and fears held by many Jews; that it is inconceivable that Israel is not acting morally (even if we do not understand the reasons for its actions); that we will be persecuted and oppressed if we do not hold onto the Jewish homeland tightly with both hands (no matter whom we suffocate in the process); and that the rest of the world doesn’t understand, and stubbornly refuses to see these truths.
I despair that this fear stops us loosening our grip on the status quo for even a moment, and truly internalising that we are helping to perpetuate the existence of the Palestinians under occupation and in poverty-stricken refugee camps. The status quo cannot continue no matter what we choose to believe. Either we embrace our futures together, or continue to defend these increasingly desperate and immoral actions until the world has finally had enough.
Nicole Erlich St Lucia (Qld)

Never trust the IDF. EverPosted: 06 Jun 2010

What’s a little lying by the Israelis to bolster their case that the murdered activists (and all on-board) were Jew haters? Free Gaza explains:

The IDF admitted today in a press release that it doctored audio footage from its exchanges with the Gaza flotilla in order to paint the flotilla passengers as anti-Semites.
However, their comments made no more sense with this explanation: “This transmission had originally cited the Mavi Marmara ship as being the source of these remarks, however, due to an open channel, the specific ship or ships in the “Freedom Flotilla” responding to the Israeli Navy could not be identified.
During radio transmissions between Israeli Navy and the ships of the “Free Gaza” Flotilla on 31 May 2010, the Israeli Navy ship attempts to make contact with the ‘Defne Y’ on channel 16. Other ships from the flotilla respond on the channel, without identifying themselves. At some point during the radio exchange the Israeli Navy is told by one of the ships to “shut up, go back to Auschwitz” (2:05) and “don’t forget 9-11. (5:42).”
According to our Captain of Challenger 1, Denis Healey, a man with 25 years of experience on the sea, there would be no way that anyone could communicate with each other without the entire fleet hearing the exchange. “There was no exchange like this by anyone on any boat during the entire time I was piloting the boat,” said Denis.
Huwaida Arraf, the woman you hear on the radio, concurred. “The open channel is always the open channel, and everyone knows who is on the radio.”
All radio transmissions on the sea are heard by all captains. Once again, Israel is caught in a lie trying to defned itself for the murder and mayhem it committed the morning of May 31, 2010.

More here.

Just a nice touch of humanityPosted: 06 Jun 2010

04.06.10: Martin Rowson on the Gaza flotilla attack

Fox News tells us the truly fair and balanced view on GazaPosted: 06 Jun 2010
Fools and desperados, allow Fox News’ Glenn Beck show you the light over Israel’s attack on the Gaza flotilla (because only He knows the vile hatred thrown at the Jewish state from all the quarters of the “lamestream” media:)

Talking BDS post flotilla massacrePosted: 06 Jun 2010

My following interview with Green Left Weekly appears today:

Sydney-based journalist and author Antony Loewenstein is an outspoken critic of Israeli policies and author of the best-selling 2006 book My Israel Question. He is the co-founder of advocacy group Independent Australian Jewish Voices and is a board member of Macquarie University’s Centre for Middle East and North African Studies. Articles and commentary by Loewenstein can be found at Antonyloewenstein.com.
Green Left Weekly’s Tony Iltis spoke with Loewenstein about Israel’s military assault on the unarmed Freedom Flotilla, which sought to bring humanitarian aid to break Israel’s siege of the Palestinian Gaza Strip. At least nine activists were killed in the assault.
Loewenstein told GLW he was surprised by Israel’s assault on the Freedom Flotilla. “While we’re clearly used to Israel breaking international law by occupying peoples land, killing people, launching unprovoked wars — that’s normal Zionist behaviour.
“But”, he added, “this was surprising because it appears to be so utterly disproportionate, which again is not unique for Israel, but is so counterproductive.”
Loewenstein said the action shows “sheer arrogance and self-delusion”. He said if the action was fully thought through by Israel, “and evidence suggests it was”, then it apparently believed that “whatever Israel was to do, the world would simply accept”.
“Or more importantly, the US would support Israel when it claims it was self-defence.”
He said: “What does seem clear is that Israel believes using overwhelming force in the middle of the night on a humanitarian ship in the middle of the ocean, in international waters, would somehow not provoke some kind of response.
“The argument has been made that the activists on the boat reacted violently and Israel had no choice but to open fire on them.
“In the footage that Israel has released thus far, you do see evidence of the commandos coming from the helicopters and being set upon by activists.
“But what was Israel expecting people to do? Simply lie there and take it? The truth is that Israel was invading a sovereign entity on international waters and people had a right to defend themselves from that attack.”
He told GLW: “The bigger issue here is not this tragedy, but the siege on Gaza. That’s what this is all about.
“It is about the fact that the siege is immoral and counterproductive. This has brought far greater focus onto the blockade of Gaza, which has been going now for three-and-a-half years.
“I did hear that Egypt has opened its border with Gaza temporarily — we don’t know for how long, maybe just three or four days. Of course Egypt’s role in the blockade is just as scandalous as Israel’s.
“In a sense, they’re a client state that does the dirty work of Israel and the US.”
On whether this incident will prove to be a turning point in the struggle for justice and peace in the Middle East, Loewenstein said: “It’s very hard to say. Clearly, there are now growing international calls for the lifting of the siege, including from our Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, who’s hardly known for being brave on the Middle East (or on anything really).
“He did come out yesterday and say the siege should be lifted, which is a welcome comment from the Australian government and a very rare one at that.”
But he added, “the government that matters the most is the US”.
“The Obama administration’s response so far has been tepid, to put it mildly. Although they have in the past called for the lifting of the siege, there has not been any comment along those lines in the last 48 hours.”
However, Loewenstein added: “Just this week there was an interview in the [British] Guardian with Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal, who said that there was growing contact between his organisation and the Obama administration but America simply hasn’t got the guts to speak out.
“So there was contact. And if there’s going to be any chance of peace, Hamas must be involved in the process.
“We keep hearing so much propaganda that Hamas are like Hitler, and they’re going to destroy all the Jews, that they hate Jews. There are undoubtedly some elements in Hamas that don’t like Jews. I saw this when I was in Gaza.
“But the truth is that they are a pragmatic political organisation that won a democratic election four years ago.”
He said progress to peace could not occur until Israel and the West recognises this. “If they think that continually blockading and isolating Gaza will achieve their interests — well, in fact, it’s having the opposite effect.
“I don’t see any evidence of Israel changing its position on this, frankly, but there needs to be sustained international pressure. If there’s not, and this should have happened a long time ago, there needs to be sustained growing calls and action [targeting Israel with a campaign] of boycott, divestment and sanctions.
“That is the only way Israel will understand — if it feels political pain.”

Australia’s Zionist lobby demands government loyaltyPosted: 05 Jun 2010

So the New York Times features a story this week headlined, “Washington Asks: What to Do About Israel?” Its opening sentence:

Some topics are so inflammatory that they are never discussed without first inserting a number of caveats.

Of course in Australia any serious discussion about Israeli policy or Australia’s relationship with the Jewish state is tantamount to treason and the Zionist lobby is in overdrive. Their paranoia, insecurity and bullying shows the wider community a few things: Jews don’t like debate, Jews can’t handle open discussion about the Middle East and Jews demand to get their own way. Wonderful ways to further stereotypes, people:

Jewish leaders have cried foul over Fairfax Media’s reporting of the Gaza crisis, after chief correspondent Paul McGeough likened Israeli forces to hyenas as they hunted down protesters.
McGeough and photographer Kate Geraghty were on a ship in the flotilla as it tried to breach the Israeli blockade of the Gaza Strip on Monday.
Nine activists, eight of them Turks, died as Israeli commandos intercepted the flotilla.
In his account of the incident yesterday, McGeough said the Israeli forces “tightened the noose” on the protest convoy.
“Sneaking up and around every boat, there were bullet-shaped hulks which soon became impossible to hide,” he wrote. “They hunted like hyenas — moving up and ahead on the flanks; pushing in, then peeling away; and finally, lagging before lunging.”
Executive Council of Australian Jewry executive director Peter Wertheim said McGeough’s role on the convoy was to espouse anti-Israel propaganda.
McGeough’s sneering comment likening Israeli forces to hyenas gives away his bias, as does his failure to report on the links of the (Turkish extremist group) IHH to Hamas, al-Qa’ida and other jihadi groups.
“The alleged humanitarian purpose of the Gaza flotilla was a sham. It was intended as an exercise in propaganda and there can be no doubt that McGeough was there to further that purpose.”
Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council executive director Colin Rubenstein said McGeough’s language was “inflammatory” and ignored the extremist elements behind the flotilla.
Australians for Palestine spokesman Michael Shaik said McGeough’s hyena comparison was “a colourful description but I wouldn’t call it inaccurate”.
He denied the operation had been orchestrated by the IHH, saying he devised the idea in 2006, even before Hamas seized control of Gaza. Mr Shaik complained that for the first three days of the crisis, international observers had heard only the Israeli point of view.
Comment was being sought from Fairfax Media.

Meanwhile, the Federal Member for Israel, Labor’s Michael Danby (some background on this intellectual here) offered this gem amidst the usual blather about Israel defending itself against terrorism:

On Tuesday, I met with the Prime Minister and the Foreign Minister to discuss a number of measures that would establish clearly Australia’s on going partnership with Israel. So  a group of senior Australian Jewish leaders including Robert Goot (EIJAC), Albert Dadon (AICE), Mark Leibler (AIJAC) and Philip Chester (ZF) attended with myself and Mark Dreyfus a meeting at the Lodge with the Prime Minister and the Foreign Minister. A number of other positive suggestions were made and will be revealed in time.

Get ready for some grovelling of the highest order.

See: www.antonyloewenstein.com

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