The ALP and Israel is like a disease that no medicine can cure
04 Jul 2010

Australian unionist Paul Howes loves Israel. He supports its criminality, murder of opponents, defends it from everybody and would ideally like to make love to the Jewish state. He’s also one of the key figures behind the recent coup of Julia Gillard when overthrowing Kevin Rudd.
Welcome to the modern Australian Labor Party, where Israel is a state religion.
His column in yesterday’s Sunday Telegraph is a typical rant that conveniently forgets to mention that one of Australia’s leading Zionist lobbyists, Albert Dadon, is actually an Israeli lobbyist. He wields influence but of course we can’t mention this. Furthermore, Howes doesn’t want to see that there is a profound conflict of influence with the Prime Minister’s partner working for a Zionist lobbyist who is trying to affect government policy towards the Middle East. But of course for some, anything related to the Jewish state is beyond criticism. Fat chance:

It hasn’t taken long for the double standards to emerge, in the week since our first female Prime Minister took office.
While it’s significant that Julia Gillard is our first female PM, what’s really significant is how long it took us to get there.
I’m writing this column in the Sydney CBD, where we have a female Lord Mayor and State member, and female federal MP, a female Premier and a female Governor.
In Canberra, there’s a female Governor General and – at last – a female PM. With the exception of the dual-Lord Mayor/Member for Bligh, all these women are, or were appointed by, Labor.
The Liberal Party, on the other hand, is so bereft of female talent that they’ve recycled Julie Bishop as deputy leader three times for different leaders, despite the fact that she’s not considered competent enough to hold the shadow Treasury portfolio.
But the progressive side of politics has always championed women. In my own role as a union official, we have had female leaders of the Australian Council of Trade Unions since 1996, with the newest president, Ged Kearney, taking office in the past week.
She replaces Sharan Burrow, who has been elected as the head of the global trade union movement.
Yet we’ve already seen double standards being applied to our new PM with significant media coverage of Prime Minister Gillard’s hair, clothes, voice and domestic arrangements.
The Melbourne Age carried a front-page story last week about the employment status of the Prime Minister’s partner, Tim Mathieson.
He works as a salesman for a Melbourne property company, chaired by Albert Dadon, prominent in the local Jewish community.
The article implied that, somehow, because Mr Mathieson works for a company associated with a Jewish community member, this would somehow impact on the PM’s stance on foreign policy, particularly in relation to her views on Israel.
It was one of the crassest examples of shoddy journalism I’ve seen. The implication was, firstly, that because Mr Mathieson is a man and the PM a woman, whatever he thinks about the world or who he works for will impact on what Ms Gillard thinks.
The second implication was that, simply because Mr Mathieson works for a company owned by a prominent Jew, his personal views on policy matters will be skewed by his job.
One Canberra press gallery journalist summed it up best on Twitter when he said: “I can’t ever recall a male politician being the subject of claims his wife’s job would influence his views on the Middle East.”
He was spot on, summing up in one sentence the appalling double standards applied to Prime Minister Gillard in the article. In fact, outrage over the article was so intense that even former Age editor Michael Gawenda labelled it “bizarre”.
Mr Mathieson’s employer, apart from being Jewish, is a well-known jazz musician and was chairman of the Melbourne Jazz Festival.
Following the logic of The Age’s article, one could presume that our nation’s leader will redirect the Government’s arts funding solely towards the Australian jazz industry.
Ludicrous, isn’t it? Just as ludicrous as saying that the PM is going to toe some pro-Israel line simply because of who her partner works for. It’s the type of double standards and sexist reporting that belongs in the past.
Julia Gillard has shown she is her own person. It doesn’t matter what her hair looks like. I don’t think anyone is really interested in how she dresses. It doesn’t matter who her partner works for or what their living arrangements are.
What matters is that she’s the best person for the job and light years ahead of Tony Abbott when it comes to understanding the needs of ordinary Australians. Yes, she’s different from her predecessors, but just like Kevin Rudd, John Howard, Paul Keating and Bob Hawke, she is her own person.
Any suggestion that her partner’s views, or her hairstyle, has any bearing on how she runs the country is laughable at best, sexist at worst.
Paul Howes is national secretary of the Australian Workers’ Union


India helped kill Tamil resistance
 04 Jul 2010

Why were the Tamil Tigers defeated in Sri Lanka last May?


Australians rally around the Hebron Festival of Friendship
 04 Jul 2010

The following article by Vivienne Porzsolt appears in this week’s Green Left Weekly:

Leichhardt Friends of Hebron can be very proud of the Festival of Friendship for Hebron it held over June 25-26.
The event raised more than $5000 for a kindergarten in the impoverished village of Um al Khair in the South Hebron hills. It also won a significant political victory over the ban the previous Leichhardt Council administration placed on a Palestinian photo exhibition two years earlier.
A festival banner was prominently displayed outside as the town hall filled with people at the opening to hear Greens Mayor Jamie Parker and Palestinian ambassador Dr Izzat Abdulhadi. Palestinian writer Randa Abdel Fattah and Palestinian refugee Fathieh Douer also spoke.
The festival could not have taken place without Parker’s support. It was in stark contrast to the weak-kneed actions of the previous administration.
A panel chaired by journalist and author Peter Manning on “Censorship of the Palestinian story: how does it shape Australian understandings?” included Carole Lawson, former convener of Leichhardt Friends of Hebron, Karen Vesk and Alissar Chidiac, formerly of the Powerhouse Museum, and Dr Peter Slezak from Independent Australian Jewish Voices.
Slezak said the concept of “neutrality” was morally nonsensical in the face of human oppression and violation of international law.
He discussed the tendency to self-censorship and the need for institutions like the ABC, the print media and museums to conduct themselves with integrity and not cave in to the pressure exerted by Israeli propagandists.
The festival also featured the Australian premier of the Welcome to Hebron and a presentation by Lisa Arnold of APHEDA Union Aid Abroad on the history of Israel/Palestine. I spoke about my recent work with Israeli peace activists. There were also musical performances and poetry readings.
The festival received overwhelming support from a wide range of people across the community. Several professional artists performed free of charge.
Leichhardt Friends of Hebron was formed in 2007 to engage Leichhardt Municipal Council and the local community to raise awareness of the Palestinian story and provide practical humanitarian support.
The task was complicated by the intervention of the Inner West Chavurah, a local Jewish community group. It opposed the development of a “sister” relationship between Leichhardt and Hebron on the grounds that a public body like a council should not “take sides”.
The group was concerned, as are many Jews, that the campaign would provoke anger against Israel and Jews. However, it is the brutal actions of the State of Israel that are responsible for anger against Israel.
Jews best protect themselves from this hatred by being clear about the human rights issues involved and taking an ethical stand.
Leichhardt Friends of Hebron supports a collaborative approach. Its partner in building the kindergarten in South Hebron is a group of Palestinians and Jewish Israelis working together to support grassroots Palestinian communities under occupation.
This kind of partnership is an example of the kind of fruitful co-existence that could be possible between Palestinians and Jews in Israel/Palestine.
But for this to happen, the current oppressive regime must be abolished. All people concerned with justice and peace should work together to that end.
[Vivienne Porzsolt is a member of Jews Against the Occupation.]


Gillard reassures America and Israel of her backing
 04 Jul 2010

Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard has no original ideas of her own. Business as usual, “centrist” foreign policy dressed up as realism and pragmatism:

The Prime Minister said she had no plan for big changes in foreign affairs. “Sitting here now it’s not my intention to change any of the fundamentals of our foreign policy,” she said. “So, obviously, support the American alliance; support the continued deployment in Afghanistan – I had a comprehensive briefing about that; our support for Israel; focus on our region.
“I’ve had the opportunity to speak to a number of people around the world in the sense of congratulation phone calls and other things, so I don’t have any short-term or any dramatic policy changes in mind.”


Asylum seekers deserve respect and a home
 04 Jul 2010

When both major sides of Australian politics race to the bottom to demonise the most vulnerable within our borders (and the ones without a megaphone to tell us what they’re thinking and feeling), it takes brave voices to lead the debate:

The Greens and one of Australia’s most prominent human rights lawyers have urged new Prime Minister Julia Gillard to be honest about asylum seekers and have the courage to be compassionate on the issue.
“I challenge her to tell the truth,” Julian Burnside QC told journalists in Adelaide on Sunday.
“I challenge her to depart from what Tony Abbott has been doing – Tony Abbott has been lying to the public, creating an utterly false impression about the number of people who come by boat seeking asylum and the reasons that they come seeking asylum.
“I challenge Julia Gillard to point out to the public that at the current rate of arrivals it would take about 20 years to fill the MCG with boat people.”
Mr Burnside is in Adelaide to address a public forum on asylum seekers, being hosted by South Australian Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young.
“Julia Gillard is sending all the signals clearer than ever that she’s prepared to chase Tony Abbott down that low road of Howard-style politics and continue to beat up on asylum seekers and refugees for political gain,” Senator Hanson-Young told journalists.
She says she’s “dreading” Ms Gillard’s announcement this week on the future of the current suspension on processing of Sri Lankan asylum seekers.
Senator Hanson-Young says instead of having the “courage” to explain to people the truth about asylum seekers, Ms Gillard seems intent on maintaining the current state of hysteria.
“The only problem we have is that we are not treating people humanely and that’s the issue that Julia Gillard needs to address,” she said.
“We are not being flooded by people – we take less than one per cent of the world’s total refugee population and yet we are taking hundreds of thousands of migrants each year for economic reasons.
“We are not necessarily prioritising those who are in desperate need.”
Mr Burnside also challenged Ms Gillard to point out to the public that Australian troops are in Afghanistan fighting the Taliban, and that most of the Afghani asylum seekers arriving in Australia are fleeing the Taliban.
“If they are fleeing our enemies surely we have an obligation to process their claims for protection properly and treat them decently,” he said.
“… We’ve got people fleeing a fate almost as bad as faced Jewish refugees during the 1930s and yet just as we turned our backs on them back then, we are apparently willing to turn our backs on the Hazaras (from Afghanistan) and the Tamils (from Sri Lanka) now.
“It’s quite outrageous and future ages will say ‘what did you think you were doing?’.” 


What I found in my letterbox yesterday
 04 Jul 2010

It’s election time in Australia, so bring on the dog whistling and race hatred:


New York Times readers start to see the darkness in Gaza
 04 Jul 2010

New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof has been travelling around Palestine (here’s his recent strong piece from the West Bank).
Now it’s Gaza. Although his words are couched in too many cautious tones, his blog offers the reality of what he really saw:

My Sunday column is from Gaza, where I argue that Israel should not just ease the trade restrictions but lift them. The problem with closing off Gaza, quite aside from the injustice of collective punishment, is that it tends to foster just the extremism that most threatens Israel and the entire Middle East. The constituencies for moderation and peace — civil society and the business sector — have been nearly destroyed and silenced, while Hamas appears to have been strengthened.
A couple of further thoughts. It’s very hard to gauge how popular Hamas is, but my vague sense is that Hamas may have lost popularity since the election in 2006 and since my last visit (2008). This doesn’t seem to have anything to do with Israeli policies, but rather with weariness with Hamas’s Islamism, nuttiness and intolerance. Antics like Hamas’s attacks on summer camps for kids are emblematic of how the group antagonizes ordinary people. People are just tired of Hamas, and if Israel would stay out of the picture there’s some hope Hamas could eventually be displaced. Israel’s efforts to punish Gazans for Hamas may have the perverse effect of making Hamas more popular than it would otherwise be, and of keeping Gilad Shalit a prisoner longer than he would otherwise be. But that’s conjectural: it’s very difficult to understand public opinion in Gaza. 
I’m sure some readers will dispute my suggestion that life in Gaza is better than it was a couple of years ago, and that there isn’t a humanitarian catastrophe in Gaza. But there seems to me to be no doubt about that. The most striking difference from my last visit is that then there was very little gasoline available in Gaza, so cars were running on vegetable oil — and the smell was terrible. There were also huge numbers of horse carts. Now gasoline is readily available by tunnel from Egypt (I’m told it’s cheaper in Gaza than in either Israel or the West Bank), and cars are humming along nicely. Gaza still has huge numbers of jobless people and it is poor, but it is materially better off than Arab countries like Sudan or Mauritania. Indeed, it’s probably  better off than Egypt.
Traveling into Gaza remains a kick, although it’s slightly more normal than it used to be. Leaving from Israel, you pass through a series of empty corridors, with steel doors opening magically before you (they’re remote-controlled by Israeli guards far behind you). There’s nobody around, because very few people are allowed to use the crossing. Finally you walk out and follow a path for about 3/4 of a mile through a no-man’s-land into Gaza (it’s fenced off now, which is better than it used to be), and finally you reach a drink stand and a few taxi drivers. A bit beyond that is a new Hamas checkpoint. Returning is even stranger: After leaving the last Gaza checkpoint, you reach steel doors that are magically opened for you by Israelis, who then instruct you through speakers to go through a series of gates and put all your possessions on trays to be inspected. Then you pass through X-ray machines, and gates in front of you are automatically opened until you finally reach some people.
One of the tragedies of the Middle East is that Hamas was actually nurtured in its early years by Israel. The thinking was that Israel’s real threat came from secular Palestinian nationalists, and a religious group would distract Palestinians by keeping them praying in mosques. For those who want to learn more about Hamas and its history, I strongly recommend a new book by Beverly Milton-Edwards and my Times colleague Stephen Farrell, “Hamas.”


Better find another country to visit, Hebron oppressor
04 Jul 2010

Watching every step. Israeli officers and politicians will soon be before international courts. That day is coming:

The IDF was forced to cancel the departure of the outgoing Hebron Brigade commander, Col. Udi Ben-Moha, to study in the UK. Yedioth Ahronoth has learned that the army feared that Ben Moha would be arrested upon landing due to suspicion of involvement in war crimes in the territories.


Blumenthal on “fear” in America, used and abused by Murdoch
 04 Jul 2010

Jewish American film-maker Max Blumenthal recently premiered on US TV a documentary on the use of fear in the Tea Party movement, ably funded and backed by the Republican party and Fox News:
Max Blumenthal goes inside the Tea Party from Ram Bam on Vimeo.


Petraeus dying to be seen as pro-Israel
 04 Jul 2010

Oh dear:

Last March General David Petraeus, then head of Central Command, sought to undercut his own testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee that was critical of Israel by intriguing with a rightwing writer to put out a different story, in emails obtained by Mondoweiss.
The emails show Petraeus encouraging Max Boot of Commentary to write a story– and offering the neoconservative writer choice details about his views on the Holocaust:
“Does it help if folks know that I hosted Elie Wiesel and his wife at our quarters last Sun night?!  And that I will be the speaker at the 65th anniversary of the liberation of the concentration camps in mid-Apr at the Capitol Dome…”


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