Australia’s Israel lobby are like little sheep

Posted: 21 Jun 2010

The role of religious lobbies in Australia isn’t new (witness the Prime Minister and Opposition Leader last night trying to impress the Christian lobby and its mates across the country, saying things about gay marriage, climate change and refugees). There needs to be far more sunlight into the relations between governments and lobby groups. Who gets access, when and how?

The Zionist lobby is seemingly oblivious to how the wider community views its action. Witness this article by Peter Hartcher in today’s Sydney Morning Herald (written in his typically sympathetic way for a group of old men who have nicely send him to Israel on a number of charming trips).

But how does this look? Wealthy Jews are upset and demand the Rudd government only show blind dedication to the Jewish state.The Prime Minister asks them to dinner to explain his positions. Some are pleased and some are not. But once again we have the sight of old, connected Jewish men demanding our leaders follow every action of Israel. Not playing into stereotypes at all. And what does it say about their real attitudes towards Israel and its never-ending occupation? They care about nothing other than their own power:

When Kevin Rudd sat down to dinner in the Lodge with six leaders of the Jewish community this month, several remarked at the trouble he’d taken; the Prime Minister had ordered kosher food, flown from Melbourne, for the event. It was a nice touch, but not enough.

Rudd convened the dinner as a reconciliation with Australia’s Jewry. He was the first prime minister to invite the Jewish leadership to address a crisis in relations since Malcolm Fraser after the outbreak of the first Lebanon war in 1982. But it was going to take a lot more than a kosher dinner to allay the anxiety, anger and frustration around the Lodge dining table.

The Jewish community was deeply disturbed by the abrupt change in the government’s Israel policy. And Rudd’s treatment of the local Jewish fraternity, too. He had always been strongly pro-Israel. A former chairman of the World Jewish Congress Isi Leibler last year described him as “a Christian Zionist – he understands and has some sympathy for us”.

The Jewish community was an important source of Labor funds for the 2007 election. A single lunch in Sydney raised $100,000. A Toorak tennis court party for 200, attended by Rudd and Julia Gillard, raised more.

Labor values? More like wanting Jewish money.

Finding some way to maintain the illusion of moving towards Jewish democracy

Posted: 21 Jun 2010

While the EU continues to back Israeli policies – ignore the mild rebukes over Gaza, this is close to business as usual – the Israeli rich are thriving, certainly helped by the recent acceptance into the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. What occupation? What growing intolerance of minorities?

Liberal Zionists in Israel are still worried about the lack of a two-state solution – the words “Jewish” and “democratic” are a comfort for those who refuse to acknowledge any religious state by definition cannot be democratic – but the pro-settler figures are talking about a one-state solution of another kind altogether:

The conventional wisdom, pronounced by many Israelis and Palestinians alike, is that in the absence of an agreement with the Palestinians, Israel will either eventually cease to be a democracy or cease to exist. This calamitous prognostication is worthy of some scrutiny.

What would happen if Israeli sovereignty were to be applied to Judea and Samaria, the Palestinian population there being offered Israeli citizenship? Those who, in Israel and abroad, consider the Israeli “occupation” of Judea and Samaria an unbearable evil should be greatly relieved by such a change that would free Israel of the burden of “occupation.” If the Palestinians in Judea and Samaria are given the right to vote in Israeli elections, like the Palestinians currently living in Israel, Israel would not cease to be a democracy. Nor would it cease to exist, although its demography would change significantly. However, Israel would face the serious challenge of absorbing the Palestinian population in Judea and Samaria into the fabric of Israeli society. Can Israel be expected to meet such a challenge?

The language of democracy and human rights from those who only believe in Zionist supremacy.

Away from the empty opinion articles, Palestinians are being increasingly treated as expendable (thank you Amira Hass in Haaretz):

Palestinians who choose to study and work abroad are finding out – too late – that they have imperiled their right to return to their hometown.

Last Wednesday afternoon a “shabah,” an illegal sojourner, sat in the small conference room of Jerusalem District Court Judge Noam Solberg. That’s how he was described by Solberg and a representative of the Interior Ministry, attorney Gur Rosenblatt. The illegal resident reads and writes Hebrew, but in the small room he had difficulty following the learned claims of the judge to the effect that a person born in Jerusalem’s neighborhood of Sur Baher 43 years ago, whose parents and grandparents and great-great grandparents are from there, who went to elementary school and high school in Jerusalem, who recently paid NIS 120,000 for a construction permit from the Jerusalem municipality, is an illegal sojourner. In other words, a criminal.

Meet the criminal: Dr. Imad Hammada. He’s a father of three, with a fourth on the way. Married to a nurse who works for the Leumit HMO in Jerusalem. This biography includes other elements that could sound very Israeli: studied electrical engineering in the United States and worked in Silicon Valley to pay for his doctoral studies and to get experience. Speciality: nanotechnology (a nanometer is one billionth of a meter ). Frequent visits to his family at home, in Jerusalem.

True, his stay abroad lasted longer than expected, from 1989 to 2007. That’s familiar to us, too. Now, three months after receiving his doctorate, in August 2007, he and his family packed their suitcases and returned home, a year after he received American citizenship. An Israeli company and an American company with a branch in Israel wanted to employ him and changed their minds. The Interior Ministry informed them that he was a tourist.

Tourist? How come? That is how he discovered that the Interior Ministry had revoked his residency status. Through attorney Leah Tsemel he petitioned the Jerusalem District Court sitting as a Court for Administrative Matters, against the revocation of his permanent residency permit. For the past three years he has been living in his homeland, in his city, in his parents’ home – without health insurance for the children, without rights, in constant danger of arrest and expulsion.

“The prolonged illegal stay in the country is to the detriment of the petitioner,” said Judge Solberg in a stern voice. He said that it could be a reason for rejecting the petition out of hand. In the corridors of the District Court on Salah al-Din Street it was said that as opposed to liberal judges David Cheshin and Yehudit Tzur, who have left, Solberg is known for summarily rejecting similar petitions. It turns out that this time Solberg had inner conflicts, as he put it.

The earth is bleeding thanks to BP

Posted: 21 Jun 2010

Naomi Klein, one of the finest journalists in the world today, reports extensively on the Gulf of Mexico disaster and finds a disturbing human-led arrogance to try and manage an environment that continues to refuse taming:

John Wathen, a conservationist with the Waterkeeper Alliance, was one of the few independent observers to fly over the spill in the early days of the disaster. After filming the thick red streaks of oil that the coast guard politely refers to as “rainbow sheen”, he observed what many had felt: “The Gulf seems to be bleeding.” This imagery comes up again and again in conversations and interviews. Monique Harden, an environmental rights lawyer in New Orleans, refuses to call the disaster an “oil spill” and instead says, “we are haemorrhaging”. Others speak of the need to “make the bleeding stop”. And I was personally struck, flying over the stretch of ocean where the Deepwater Horizon sank with the US Coast Guard, that the swirling shapes the oil made in the ocean waves looked remarkably like cave drawings: a feathery lung gasping for air, eyes staring upwards, a prehistoric bird. Messages from the deep.

As climate change negotiations wear on, we should be ready to hear more from Dr Steven Koonin, Obama’s undersecretary of energy for science. He is one of the leading proponents of the idea that climate change can be combated with techno tricks like releasing sulphate and aluminium particles into the atmosphere – and of course it’s all perfectly safe, just like Disneyland! He also happens to be BP’s former chief scientist, the man who just 15 months ago was still overseeing the technology behind BP’s supposedly safe charge into deepwater drilling. Maybe this time we will opt not to let the good doctor experiment with the physics and chemistry of the Earth, and choose instead to reduce our consumption and shift to renewable energies that have the virtue that, when they fail, they fail small. As US comedian Bill Maher put it, “You know what happens when windmills collapse into the sea? A splash.”

Colonies feel some economic pain

Posted: 21 Jun 2010

It’s working, slowly but surely:

The cover story of this morning’s (June 21 2010) Maariv business section reports that targeted boycott and divestment actions — Israeli, Palestinian and international — are pushing an increasing number of Israeli companies out of the West Bank settlements and into Israeli proper:

Those who love some commerce after a US occupation

Posted: 21 Jun 2010

A grimly fascinating tale in the New York Times about an enterprising Lebanese man who has opened a flash restaurant in Baghdad:

Mr. Hage, 51, is the most updated version of an old Lebanese story, that of a diaspora known for its willingness to follow commerce where it leads. Simply put, for a decade, he has trailed America’s imperial pursuits. After helping build an airport in Kandahar, in southern Afghanistan, he stopped in Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. For six years, he has come into and out of Iraq, where so many fortunes were made, via the American government, in construction and services.

“Wherever the Americans are, we are,” he said. Then he smiled, flirtatiously. “Next,” he said, “we’re looking to go to Iran.”

There are countless men and women across the world, in the West and East, who thrive on America’s never-ending war machine.

Who’s your Zionist loving Daddy, Israel?

Posted: 20 Jun 2010

What does an Israeli patriot want?

Gideon Levy sees an Israeli population convinced the world is against them and only keen to hear reassuring comments about the nobility of the Jewish state.

The Wall Street Journal opinion page would agree. Here’s Shelby Steele today claiming that anti-Semitism is at the heart of the world’s growing disillusionment with Israel. The only people who believe this today are the Murdoch press, the Israeli population, some in the Zionist Diaspora and Europe’s far-right. Nice coalition:

“World opinion” labors mightily to make Israel look like South Africa looked in its apartheid era—a nation beyond the moral pale. And it projects onto Israel the same sin that made apartheid South Africa so untouchable: white supremacy. Somehow “world opinion” has moved away from the old 20th century view of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as a complicated territorial dispute between two long-suffering peoples. Today the world puts its thumb on the scale for the Palestinians by demonizing the stronger and whiter Israel as essentially a colonial power committed to the “occupation” of a beleaguered Third World people.

This is now—figuratively in some quarters and literally in others—the moral template through which Israel is seen. It doesn’t matter that much of the world may actually know better. This template has become propriety itself, a form of good manners, a political correctness. Thus it is good manners to be outraged at Israel’s blockade of Gaza, and it is bad manners to be outraged at Hamas’s recent attack on a school because it educated girls, or at the thousands of rockets Hamas has fired into Israeli towns—or even at the fact that Hamas is armed and funded by Iran. The world wants independent investigations of Israel, not of Hamas.


One reason for this is that the entire Western world has suffered from a deficit of moral authority for decades now. Today we in the West are reluctant to use our full military might in war lest we seem imperialistic; we hesitate to enforce our borders lest we seem racist; we are reluctant to ask for assimilation from new immigrants lest we seem xenophobic; and we are pained to give Western Civilization primacy in our educational curricula lest we seem supremacist. Today the West lives on the defensive, the very legitimacy of our modern societies requiring constant dissociation from the sins of the Western past—racism, economic exploitation, imperialism and so on.

When the Israeli commandos boarded that last boat in the flotilla and, after being attacked with metal rods, killed nine of their attackers, they were acting in a world without the moral authority to give them the benefit of the doubt. By appearances they were shock troopers from a largely white First World nation willing to slaughter even “peace activists” in order to enforce a blockade against the impoverished brown people of Gaza. Thus the irony: In the eyes of a morally compromised Western world, the Israelis looked like the Gestapo.

This, of course, is not the reality of modern Israel. Israel does not seek to oppress or occupy—and certainly not to annihilate—the Palestinians in the pursuit of some atavistic Jewish supremacy. But the merest echo of the shameful Western past is enough to chill support for Israel in the West.

Who would like to condemn the racism of Geert Wilders?

Posted: 20 Jun 2010

Hands up the people who have heard many supposedly mainstream Jews calling Jordan the real Palestinian state? I have and this shameful attempt to essentially ignore the millions of Palestinians under occupation in the West Bank and Gaza is sadly common amongst Muslim-hating Zionists. The Zionist right and far-right European politicians who loathe Islam are increasingly working together:

Geert Wilders, who leads the right-wing Party for Freedom (PVV) in Holland, said last week he believes Jordan should be renamed Palestine. The Jordanian government responded by saying Wilders’ speech was reminiscent of the Israeli right wing.

“Jordan is Palestine,” said Wilders, who heads the third-largest party in Holland. “Changing its name to Palestine will end the conflict in the Middle East and provide the Palestinians with an alternate homeland.” Wilders added that Israel deserved a special status in the Dutch government because it was fighting for Jerusalem in its name. “If Jerusalem falls into the hands of the Muslims, Athens and Rome will be next. Thus, Jerusalem is the main front protecting the West. It is not a conflict over territory but rather an ideological battle, between the mentality of the liberated West and the ideology of Islamic barbarism,” he said. “There has been an independent Palestinian state since 1946, and it is the kingdom of Jordan.” Wilders also called on the Dutch government to refer to Jordan as Palestine and move its embassy to Jerusalem.

Flotilla anger threatens to sink Jewish state

Posted: 20 Jun 2010

That’s a headline in today’s Murdoch Australian that indicates a growing fear within the Zionist community. The piece by Abraham Rabinovich is remarkably measured (mostly, anyway) and includes this:

The explosion of anger [after the flotilla massacre] is unlikely to have been touched off by a transient episode such as the interdiction of the flotilla. A more probable explanation is Israel’s failure over four decades to find a way to end its occupation of the Palestinian territories. The resentment has accumulated like leaking gas that can be ignited by a random spark.

Defence Minister Ehud Barak acknowledged this when he told his cabinet colleagues last week that “a daring and assertive political initiative” aimed at achieving a peace agreement with the Palestinians was necessary if Israel is to emerge from its international isolation.

The isolation has become pronounced since Benjamin Netanyahu became Prime Minister last year. Under intense pressure from Washington, Netanyahu declared his readiness to accept a Palestinian state alongside Israel, but his repeated statements that Israel must build Jewish homes in East Jerusalem, his appeasement of West Bank settlers, his failure ever to paint an optimistic picture of co-existence with the Palestinians, suggest he does not, deep down, believe in it.

The Palestinians, of course, are no less to blame than Israel for the political stalemate, given their internal rivalries, their past negotiating positions and their recourse to terror.

The lesson of the flotilla affair for Israel is that the status quo, which has lasted for 43 years, is no longer viable. The world has lost patience with the ongoing conflict and it wants Israel, as the occupying power, to do more to resolve it.

Sadly, there is no evidence that Israel and its main Diaspora supporters are doing anything to address these concerns.

See: www.antonyloewenstein.com


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