Yesh Gvul
Courage To Refuse
Free The Five
New Profile
Refuser Solidarity Network

Name: Antony Loewenstein
Home: Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
Comment Rules
About Me:
See my complete profile

My Work

Sweat-Shop Productions
Sweat-Shop Productions
Sweat-Shop Productions



Previous Posts



Powered by Blogger


Tuesday, January 31, 2006

The cross-cultural blog-off

As previously noted, leading Iranian blogger Hossein Derakhshan is currently in Israel in an attempt to break the taboo between the two peoples. This Haaretz interview covers a vast range of subjets, from Bush to anti-capitalism, the power of blogging to the repressive Iranian regime. Key quote:

"I am trying to show Israelis that there are lots of people like myself living in Iran, with the same moderate ideas about Israel and the world. Most Iranians want normal relations with Israel, and do not view Israelis as bloodthirsty Jews who want to kill all Muslims, which is how the regime tries to portray them."

UPDATE: Lisa Goldman is Hoder's host while in Israel. Her blog offers reflections on the tour.

Within the community

The International Herald Tribune explains a bold, new media experiment:

"When riots erupted in the outskirts of many French cities last autumn, media around the world struggled to find a way to tell the story of those suburban areas, known as the banlieues.

"A Swiss magazine took the opportunity to try a new approach to online journalism, in an effort to report the issue in a deeper and perhaps more helpful way.

"What is emerging from the experiment is an example of how 'old' media can revitalize themselves by incorporating the tools of the 'new' media while serving readers in a way that the printed press simply could not have managed before."

The results are extremely interesting:

"At the height of the riots in early November, the Swiss weekly L'Hebdo decided that its initial articles had not gone far enough in helping readers understand what was happening in France. So the editors chose the town of Bondy, in the suburbs of Paris, and started sending reporters there on rotations of seven to 10 days.

"Working from a tiny room they called the ‘Bondy microbureau,’ which they borrowed from the local soccer club, the reporters have been doing a lot more than filing their typical weekly stories for the magazine, which is based in Lausanne and has a circulation of 44,000.

"They have been posting short and long reports several times a day, as well as photographs, on what has become known as the Bondy Blog,"

The reporting is often personal and rough and a world away from the polished, and sometimes detached, style of traditional journalistic narratives. Journalists say they've discovered a relationship with their readers that simply didn't exist before. Perhaps most importantly, the publication wants to give something back to the community:

"'L'Hebdo plans to announce in this week's issue that it is going to gather a group of young people from Bondy, bring them to Lausanne for journalism training and a 'blog school' and then hand them the digital keys to the Bondy Blog, while continuing to support them technically and editorially.

"'We came from outside, and tried to cover their reality as best as we could,' Michel, the world-affairs editor, said.

"We want now to help them do it by themselves, using the tools of journalism and of blogging to become actors in their own social space."

"Closing the loop, the project will be financed in very 'old media' way: A major French publisher will turn the Bondy Blog into a book, and the proceeds will go toward supporting blogging in the banlieue."

Munich redux

My following article appears in today's edition of Crikey:

"Steven Spielberg's latest film, Munich, is a milestone in mainstream American culture. It tells the story of the 1972 Palestinian attack on Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympics but focuses more on the aftermath – and Israel's response – than the massacre itself. Many prominent Jewish groups have condemned it while Spielberg, a self-confessed ‘pro-Israeli Jew,’ says he made the film ‘out of love for both my countries, USA and Israel.’

“The Washington Post's Charles Krauthammer reached dizzying heights of vitriol when he claimed that ‘Spielberg makes the Holocaust the engine of Zionism and its justification. Which, of course, is the Palestinian narrative.’ He argued that such arguments were shared by Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and proved a new war against the Jews was upon us. Harvard Law Professor Alan Dershowitz was similarly outraged and wrote that Spielberg confused cause and effect, damning him for claiming counterterrorism ‘only incites more terrorism, which in turn provokes reprisals.’ Mark Baker, lecturer in terrorism at the University of Melbourne, was incensed that Spielberg had ‘created a flattened universe where there is no moral compass of right and wrong.’

“The triumph of Munich – and the work is not without its flaws – is a Hollywood film that confidently challenges the myth of Israeli moral superiority and its use of state-sanctioned terror. As Robert Fisk recently argued, any nation that embraced an ‘eye for an eye’ ideology is bound to discover the immorality and uselessness of such actions. ‘The real enemy [in the conflict],’ wrote Fisk, ‘is taking other people's land away from them.’ Spielberg has allowed Palestinians, albeit far-too-briefly, the chance to talk about their longing for a homeland. Similar dreams, in fact, to many Jews the world over. Spielberg doesn't shy away from bestowing the “other” side with humanity, something that threatens accepted Zionist dogma.

“Screenwriter Tony Kushner recently wrote that critics of the film – and advocates of shock and awe ‘diplomacy’ – simply refuse to accept anything other than simple ‘morality tales’: noble and valiant Israelis versus evil and brutal Palestinians. As Hamas assumes control in the occupied territories – partly due to years of Israeli and US undermining secularism within the Palestinian movement – and former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu compares Hamas's victory to the rise of Nazism in 1930s Germany, Spielberg's plea for greater understanding could not be more timely."

For more information on the subject, read here.

History repeating?

Australia was directly complicit during Indonesia's long and brutal occupation of East Timor. West Papua is little different:

"The Indonesian military is using the same tactics of terror in West Papua that were employed during its bloody reign in East Timor, and Australia should step in to mediate a peace settlement, warns separatist Herman Wainggai.

"Mr Wainggai, the leader of the 43 asylum-seekers who arrived in Australia two weeks ago, said ongoing abuses by the Indonesian military, often in cahoots with militias, were terrifying the indigenous community.

"'It's the same as with East Timor,' he told the Herald yesterday from Christmas Island, where the asylum-seekers are being processed by immigration officials. 'They have created militias and jihadis in West Papua. The people, and especially activists for independence, are very scared.'"

For more information on the "Free West Papua" movement, see here.

The choice is easy

Some, of course, simply believe Hamas should be ignored. It is precisely this kind of Western arrogance that (partly) led to the Hamas victory, will lead to more bloodshed and force Hamas to seek support in the Islamic world. While Mahmoud al-Zahar, leader of Hamas in the occupied territories, discusses his group's future plans and ideals, others, such as Azzam Tamimi, director of the Institute of Islamic Political Thought, argues that new opportunities for peace are emerging:

"Contrary to the claims of alarmists who see the Hamas election victory as a threat to peace, new opportunities for making peace could now emerge. The peacemaking episodes of the past were based on assumptions absolutely unacceptable to the majority of Palestinians and those who support the justice of their cause. From Oslo to the road map it was always assumed that Israel was the victim that needed to live in peace and security and that the key to this was the end of Palestinian terrorism. The new peace process that Hamas may indeed be willing to be part of should be based on the fact that the Palestinians are the victims and have been victims since Israel was created on their soil. It is not Palestinian terrorism that is the problem, but Israeli aggression.

"Well, let the Palestinians dream of the end of Israel and let the Israelis dream of Eretz Yisrael from the Nile to the Euphrates, but let's negotiate an end to the violence. Hamas alone is capable of that because Hamas will not give up the right of Palestinians to go back to the villages and towns from which the terrorists who stole their land drove them."

It is inconceivable that an Australian newspaper would publish such an article. Indeed, Arab and Palestinian voices have been virtually silent in the local press, as if their views, hopes and fears - including about women in Gaza - should always come secondary to Israelis and Americans.

The Secular Party

Australia has a new political party, The Secular Party of Australia. They believe in:

- Separation of Church and State
- Individual Freedoms and Choices
- Progressive Economic Policies
- A Fair and Equitable Society
- Global Solutions to Global Problems

Check out their platform.

I particularly like their ideas for the Middle East:

"The only possible long-term solution to the Middle East problem, consistent with principles of honesty, compassion, freedom and justice, is a unitary secular state in which all people have equal rights. This will perhaps require a degree of compromise that most Jews will find painful to accept. To allay Jewish fears that a specific homeland is required for their security, the Secular Party proposes that a coalition of countries be formed that will guarantee their asylum in the event of their persecution. In the proposed unitary secular state, no religion should be presumed authentic and no rights or privileges should be granted on the basis of claimed ethnicity or religious belief.

"The primary obstacles in achieving this solution are Judaic beliefs that presume exclusive territorial entitlement, and irreconcilable Islamic beliefs that also necessitate superior claims to territory. The key to dissipating this irreconcilability is simply to put forward the proposition, which is impeccably based in reason, that the beliefs on which the conflict is based are false, unnecessary, undesirable, harmful, and based on nothing more than ancient mythology. Astoundingly, it seems that perhaps no political leader anywhere has ever put forward this proposition."

Barriers to peace

The following statement has been issued by "Jews Against Genocide":

"On January 19th we, a group of concerned Jews, spray painted the infamous Nazi slogan 'Arbeit Macht Frie' ('Work Makes You Free') on a sign placed by the Israeli occupation authorities at the Kalandia checkpoint that read 'The Hope of Us All'.

"The Sign 'The hope of us all' and the New Ramallah Terminal were inaugurated on the 20th of Dec 2005. The new terminal is set up so that there is no physical contact between the soldiers and the Palestinians. The soldiers scream commands to the Palestinians over loud speakers as they are made to go through a series of electronic gates and turnstiles. The new Terminal embodies the occupation in its alienated, bureaucratically cruel form. It is situated between one Palestinian area and another and flanked on both sides by the annexation barrier effectively turning Ramallah into a ghetto.

"'Arbeit Meicht Frie' was written at the entrance of Auschwitz and other Nazi concentration camps. In spray painting on that sign we did not mean to say that Ramallah is Auschwitz. We did, however, wish to point out that there are many disturbing parallels between the tactics used by the occupation and those used by the Nazis. For example, the attempt to beautify dehumanising institutions through empty phrases like 'The Hope of Us All' and 'Arbeit Macht Frie'. We believe that it is important to heed these disturbing parallels as warning signals in order for another Holocaust never to happen again, to any people. We wrote a paragraph explaining our action in Arabic and English and distributed it to people as we were painting the sign, and we posted that paragraph next to the slogan.

"Unfortunately the Israeli authorities have decided to use our action for their own purposes and are accusing the Israeli human rights group Machsom Watch of 'defacing the checkpoint'. (See Kalandia terminal crossing compared to Auschwitz by Margot Dudkevitch.) These accusations are baseless. None of the people involved in writing the slogan have anything to do with Machsom Watch. The Israeli Military is attempting to find excuses to deny witnesses access to the checkpoints where human rights are systematically violated."

Read this for a typical example of how checkpoints are destroying Palestinian lives and the "security fence" is harming both Israelis and Palestinians.

The real legacy of Ariel Sharon

In the wake of the Hamas victory in the Palestinian territories and the sickness of Ariel Sharon, the Middle East is again in flux. For those in Sydney, I'll be speaking at the following event on Thursday, February 2 at 7pm at the Humanist Society Bldg, 10 Shepherd St (transport: off Broadway, near corner City Rd.)

The event is organised by the Socialist Worker.

- Antony Loewenstein (freelance journalist & author, currently writing book on the Israel/Palestine conflict)
- Jarvis Ryan (ISO)

"The demise of Ariel Sharon led to outpourings of praise from governments and media worldwide. They presented an image of a man who made the transition from soldier to 'man of peace'. His withdrawal of settlers from Gaza and founding of the political party Kadima are said to show his commitment to putting the peace process back on track. But Sharon opposed every genuine attempt to deliver peace with the Palestinians. This forum will critically examine the motivations behind the Gaza pullout, and look at the prospects for peace and justice in the Middle East in the post-Sharon era.

"All welcome."

This is the first of many public talks I will be conducting in the coming months.

Double bind

Tony Blair is easily impressed:

"Meles Zenawi was hailed last year by Tony Blair as a leading member of a new generation of African leaders, and was praised for his enlightened approach to the continent’s problems. Indeed, the Ethiopian Prime Minister impressed Mr Blair so much that he asked him to become a member of his much-vaunted Commission for Africa."

Meles, however, is a dictator, murdering political opponents, rigging elections, launching wars against his neighbours and stealing Western aid. Read a full profile here.

"Redeem Ethiopia" reveals the true face of a new colonialism - Western aid:

"In Ethiopia today, thanks to aid, we have a government that totally ignores its own people while it is completely beholden to the interests of those giving it aid. In a sense we have a colony, an aid colony that is administered by locals, but answerable to those who finance it. For Meles, what is at stake is his ability to rule for however long he wishes, sustained by the "development" money he receives from his friends."

I heard similar arguments while travelling around the occupied territories in Palestine. A number of Palestinians said they desperately needed Western financial support, but much of it was simply directed at maintaining the status-quo and the occupation, rather than a struggle against the colonial masters, Israel and the US.

Keeping us safe

John Howard is the "Man of Steel".

Monday, January 30, 2006

Ditching a black and white reading

"So many fundamentalists in my own community, the Jewish community, have grown very angry at me for allowing the Palestinians simply to have dialogue and for allowing Tony Kushner to be the author of that dialogue."

Steven Spielberg, talking about the reception to his film, "Munich"

News bytes

- Steven Spielberg, defending his film "Munich" in Der Spiegel, says he "would be prepared to die for the USA and for Israel."

- Cindy Sheehan is thinking of entering politics on an anti-war platform.

- Simon Jenkins writes in the London Times how Britain - and by extension, Australia - is "being set up by the Americans in Afghanistan."

- US officials in Iraq are dealing, thoroughly unsurprisingly, with insurgents (or in Bush-speak, "terrorists.")

- Prime Minister John Howard has memory loss, defends his government's reputation and spins furiously to avoid further embarrassment over the oil-for-food scandal. Just another day in paradise.

- According to the Mail on Sunday, Tony Blair and George Bush worked together to deceive the UN and the world over their intentions to invade Iraq. I like this line especially:

"And it alleges the British Government boasted that disgraced newspaper tycoon Conrad Black was being used by Mr Bush's allies in America as a channel for pro-war propaganda in the UK via his Daily Telegraph newspaper."

A new challenge


Steven Spielberg's latest film is a milestone in American mainstream culture. The story of the 1972 Palestinian attack on Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympics, the movie is less concerned about the massacre and focuses instead on the aftermath. Many prominent Jewish groups and Zionists have condemned the work, clearly a sign that Spielberg has created something worthwhile.

The director says this about himself and his motivations:

"I made this picture as a committed Jew, a pro-Israeli Jew and yet a human Jew. I made this movie out of love for both of my countries, USA and Israel.

"Some political critics would like to see these people [Palestinians] dehumanised because when you take away someone's humanity you can do anything to them, you're not committing a crime because they're not human. This film clearly states that the Black September of the Munich murders were terrorists. These were unforgivable actions but until we begin to ask questions about who these terrorists are and why terrorism happens, we're never going to get to the truth of why 9/11 happened, for instance."

The film tells the story - "inspired by real events" - of the Mossad-led retaliation team directed by Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir to hunt down and kill the organisers of the massacre. Eric Bana plays Avner, the leader of the squad. In the beginning, the team finds its targets with vigour but soon doubts start creeping in. Avner becomes the moral compass of the film, left defending a homeland he no longer recognises, loves or respects. In the end, he turns his back on the Jewish state entirely and settles in Brooklyn.

It is clear why the film has generated such animosity in the Jewish community. Writing in the Washington Post, Charles Krauthammer could barely believe that Spielberg had dared humanise Palestinians at all:

"Spielberg makes the Holocaust the engine of Zionism and its justification. Which, of course, is the Palestinian narrative. Indeed, it is the classic narrative for anti-Zionists, most recently the president of Iran, who says that Israel should be wiped off the map. And why not? If Israel is nothing more than Europe's guilt trip for the Holocaust, then why should Muslims have to suffer a Jewish state in their midst?"

Spielberg is no better than Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in Krauthammer's Zionist paranoia. Does he not realise that such delusional words only make him look like an extremist? Perhaps he doesn't care, such is his desperation to prove Israel's moral case.

Harvard Law Professor and Israel apologist Alan Dershowitz was equally concerned and Mark Baker, a course lecturer in terrorism at the University of Melbourne (writing in the Australian Jewish News on January 27) was incensed that Spielberg had "created a flattened universe where there is no moral compass of right and wrong":

"Munich, the byword since 1938 for political appeasement against evil, is exactly that: a film that appeases the evil of terrorism by equating the blood of victims with the blood of perpetrators. I never expected to be sitting through another Exodus, in which the certainties of Zionism ignore that Palestinians could just as easily be singing 'this land is mine'. Yet Steven Spielberg’s new film tries to make up for the stupidity of Hollywood’s cowboy-and-Indian polarities by creating a flattened universe where there is no moral compass of right and wrong.

"The moral confusion is there from the outset, with the juxtaposition of the reactions of an Israeli and a Palestinian family to news of the loss of their sons - one a victim of terror; the other a murderer. The film is obsessed with these kinds of narrative symmetries: there are 11 terrorists in Spielberg’s list to match the 11 murdered Israeli Olympians, signalling that counter-terrorist strategies could only be invented by Jews who live by the vengeful ethos of an eye for an eye."

The paper's editorial thankfully took a more measured, and revealing, line:

"Much has changed since the pioneering days of Exodus and Cast a Giant Shadow, when Hollywood was a source of comfort and sustenance for Israelis and Jews, as witnessed in the once-unthinkable Golden Globe Award given last week to the Palestinian movie Paradise Now. It is a change that some of us, understandably, find hard getting used to."

The Zionist Organisation of America called for a boycott of the film and in perhaps the most hysterical analysis, Jack Engelhard, author of the novel "Indecent Proposal", wrote that Spielberg is "no friend of Israel":

"In Hollywood today, where David is Goliath and Goliath is David, you never want to be labelled a conservative or a fan of Israel. Hollywood is all about being trendy and Israel is not the trend. You won't get invited to the right parties and you won't win any Oscars if your heart bleeds for a nation that is always on the verge of being wiped off the map.

"Jews pioneered Hollywood. If, as our enemies say, we own Hollywood, well, here's the plot twist - we have lost Hollywood, and we have lost Spielberg. Spielberg is no friend of Israel. Spielberg is no friend of truth. His "Munich" may just as well have been scripted by George Galloway."

"Munich" has many faults. The film is too long, supposedly factually inaccurate and the Palestinian narrative isn't given nearly enough time to breath, but Spielberg has articulated a view long held by many, but furiously denied by Israel-apologists: the Jewish state's actions are immoral and breeding even greater hatred. Robert Fisk says the film is almost revolutionary:

"But Spielberg's movie has crossed a fundamental roadway in Hollywood's treatment of the Middle East conflict. For the first time, we see Israel's top spies and killers not only questioning their role as avengers but actually deciding that an 'eye for an eye' does not work, is immoral, is wicked. Murdering one Palestinian gunman - or one Palestinian who sympathises with the Munich killers - only produces six more to take their place. One by one, members of the Mossad assassination squad are themselves hunted down and murdered. Avner even calculates that it costs $1m every time he liquidates a Palestinian.

"So now the real challenge for Spielberg. A Muslim friend once wrote to me to recommend 'Schindler's List', but asked if the director would continue the story with an epic about the Palestinian dispossession which followed the arrival of Schindler's refugees in Palestine. Instead of that, Spielberg has jumped 14 years to Munich, saying in an interview that the real enemy in the Middle East is 'intransigence'. It's not. The real enemy is taking other people's land away from them.

"So now I ask: will we get a Spielberg epic on the Palestinian catastrophe of 1948 and after? Or will we - like those refugees desperate for visas in the wartime movie Casablanca wait, and wait - and wait?"

There were times I was moved to tears while watching the film. Spielberg's film-making skills - I've never been a huge fan of his work, though 'Schindler's List' was a flawed exercise in Holocaust remembrance - caused me to feel ashamed of the Jewish state. For an American Zionist to make such a statement means that Israel can no longer rely on its supposed higher morality and victimhood to survive and prosper. Those days are long gone. The Holocaust cannot be used to justify every Israeli move (as the film ably demonstrates.)

Spielberg's film is also an essay on the morality of the use of state terrorism. The director, along with screenwriter Tony Kushner, argues that such behaviour is useless, morally bankrupt and counterproductive. State-sponsored terrorism, the greatest scourge of our time, is usually ignored in the mainstream media or relegated to the backpages. It
is therefore significant for Spielberg to debate such actions.

The "crime" of Spielberg is daring to articulate an alternative perspective in the Middle East conflict. Such revelations are a direct threat to Zionist supremacy in media, government and public circles. I'll finish with Kushner's recent essay on his motivations behind the film:

"I think it's the refusal of the film to reduce the Mideast controversy, and the problematics of terrorism and counterterrorism, to sound bites and spin that has brought forth charges of "moral equivalence" from people whose politics are best served by simple morality tales. We live in the Shock and Awe Era, in which instant strike-back and blow-for-blow aggression often trump the laborious process of analysis, investigation and diplomacy. "Munich's" questioning spirit is an affront to armchair warrior columnists who understand power only as firepower. We're at war, and the job of artists in wartime, they seem to feel, is to provide the kind of characters and situations that are staples of propaganda: cleanly representative of Good or Evil, and obedient to the Message.

"Contradiction in human affairs, such as the possibility that injustice can drive people to do horrible things, is routinely deplored and dismissed in these troubled times as just another example of the naivete of the morally weak (a.k.a. liberals and progressives). But there will always be pesky people who, when horrific crimes are committed, insist on asking, "Why did that happen?"

"This is a great annoyance to the up-and-at-'em crowd, whose unshakable conviction is that the only sane and effective response to terrorism is savage violence commensurate with the original act. To justify this conviction they offer, as so many of the political critics of "Munich" have done, tautologies on the order of "evil deeds are done by evil people who do evil deeds because that's what evil people do." If that's helpful to you as a tool for understanding terrorism, you won't like "Munich."

"In the film, the Palestinian-Israeli conflict is presented not as a matter of religion versus religion, or sanity versus insanity, or good versus evil or civilization versus barbarism or Judeo-Christian culture versus Muslim culture, but rather as a struggle over territory, over geography, over home.

"We've followed the lead of many Israeli historians, novelists, filmmakers, poets and politicians who have recognized and described the Israeli-Palestinian struggle this way — as something tragic and human, recognizable. We've incurred the wrath of people who reject, with what sounds like panic, an inescapable fact of human life: People do terrible things in the name of a cause they believe is just, even in the name of a cause that actually is just.

""Munich" insists that this characteristic of human behaviour is not meaningless in the struggle against terrorism. In other words, we believe that one aspect of the struggle against terrorism is the struggle to comprehend terrorism. If you think understanding the enemy is unimportant, well, maybe there's a job in Washington for you."

On the hustings

Former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu - and Likud's failed leader - has compared the rise of Hamas to the success of the Nazis in 1930s Germany:

"A few days ago, a new foe arose. When Hitler rose to power, it was said that ruling would moderate him, and it was also said in regards to the Ayatollahs regime and the Taliban. There are urgent warning signs that [scream] out a lust for murder and destruction.

"The Likud will not continue transferring territory, [we] need to stop giving them money - neither ours nor the world's - and [we] must prevent them from establishing an army any which way possible."

Netanyahu says that international pressure will convince the Palestinian government to change direction. Perhaps the more extreme elements of the Arab world - likely to become key benefactors of Hamas - will attempt to pressure the Western world to isolate the Jewish state. Extreme rhetoric on either side is counterproductive and pointless.

Netanyahu seems to believe that Israel has the right to dictate candidates and political platforms for the Palestinian people, criticising the current Israeli government for allowing Hamas to participate and allowing Palestinians to vote in East Jerusalem. Netanyahu rants like a colonial master off the leash.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

About race

Tim Wise, Znet, January 27:

"If you're looking to understand why discussions between blacks and whites about racism are often so difficult in this country, you need only know this: when the subject is race and racism, whites and blacks are often not talking about the same thing. To white folks, racism is seen mostly as individual and interpersonal - as with the uttering of a prejudicial remark or bigoted slur. For blacks, it is that too, but typically more: namely, it is the pattern and practice of policies and social institutions, which have the effect of perpetuating deeply embedded structural inequalities between people on the basis of race. To blacks, and most folks of colour, racism is systemic. To whites, it is purely personal.

"These differences in perception make sense, of course. After all, whites have not been the targets of systemic racism in this country, so it is much easier for us to view the matter in personal terms. If we have ever been targeted for our race, it has been only on that individual, albeit regrettable, level."

The truth lies behind

While some in the Australian mainstream media seem to naively believe that the Hamas win in the Palestinian elections was a great surprise - read Amira Hass to discover why so many Palestinians voted for the militants - veteran Israeli commentator Aluf Benn articulates an official, yet revealing, view:

"The Israelis warned the Americans that that unsupervised Arab democracy will bring the Muslim Brotherhood to power, not pro-Western liberals. But Washington refused to listen and insisted on holding the elections on schedule. The new reality requires both Washington and Jerusalem to re-evaluate the situation, before the Hamas effect hits Amman and Cairo. In any case, it will be hard to turn back democratic change and resume the comfortable relations with the old dictatorships.

"Israel will have to formulate a new foreign policy and strive for peace between nations, not merely with their rulers. And that will be much more complicated."

Putting aside the fact that the Americans and Israelis seem to believe they have right to "supervise" Arab democracy - Robert Fisk recently said that, "The Arab world, which is principally what we're talking about, would love some of this shiny beautiful democracy which we possess and enjoy. They would love some of it. They would like some freedom. But many of them would like freedom from us - from our armies, from our influence. And that's the problem, you see. What Arabs want is justice as much as democracy. They want freedom from us, in many cases. And they're not going to get that" - the rise of Hamas signals a radical shift in the Middle East conflict.

Although one Hamas official has already signalled that Islamic law would be a source for legislation in the occupied territories - Gideon Levy rightly says that a "secular, moderate and uncorrupt movement would have been preferable" - last week's election result certainly offers the Israelis and Americans a lesson: force will never work. The Israelis may have assassinated any number of Hamas "terrorists", and yet such moves only led to a stronger resistance movement.

Besides, Israel once funded and supported Hamas. Read this UPI report from 2002:

"Israel and Hamas may currently be locked in deadly combat, but, according to several current and former U.S. intelligence officials, beginning in the late 1970s, Tel Aviv gave direct and indirect financial aid to Hamas over a period of years.

"Israel ‘aided Hamas directly – the Israelis wanted to use it as a counterbalance to the PLO (Palestinian Liberation Organization),’ said Tony Cordesman, Middle East analyst for the Center for Strategic Studies.

"Israel's support for Hamas ‘was a direct attempt to divide and dilute support for a strong, secular PLO by using a competing religious alternative,’ said a former senior CIA official."

The future path of the Middle East peace process is certainly in question, but to suggest, as many Western commentators seem to believe, that the election of Hamas has ruined any chances of peace, conveniently forgets the fact that the PLO and Israel were not moving in that direction for years.

Convincing the non-believers

The following article appears in this week's Australian Jewish News (January 27):

NSW Education Department dumps Mid-East simulation
Mark Franklin

"The NSW Department of Education and Training has dumped a controversial program, developed by Macquarie University, in which students simulate the main players in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

"In the computer simulation, university students, as well as Year 11 history students at seven NSW high schools, role-played leading figures in the conflict.

"According to Dr Andrew Vincent, the director of Macquarie University’s Centre for Middle East and North African Studies, the simulation enables students to 'gain an insight into views from all sides of the argument'.

"But a review by the NSW Department of Education, prompted by the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies, found the course to be unsuitable for high schools. However, it will continue at Macquarie University.

"The board said the simulation’s background information on the figures represented was heavily biased against Israel. The seven schools which had used the simulation included North Sydney Boys High School and Killara High School, where Jewish students complained about it.

"Board of Deputies president David Knoll told the AJN: 'Our community welcomes the government’s continuing commitment to balance, factual accuracy and objectivity in educational programs.'

'The simulation exercise did not meet the government’s own standards on teaching controversial issues in schools,' he said.

"The federal member for Melbourne Ports, Michael Danby, said the university’s simulation was an indictment of the anti-Israel bias displayed by its Centre for Middle East and North African Studies.

"He also criticised Dr Vincent over the appointment to the centre’s board of Jewish left-wing commentator Antony Loewenstein, whom Danby previously attacked over his vehement criticism of Israel.

"'I’d like to know how the vice-chancellor of Macquarie University can justify either Loewenstein’s appointment or the kind of bias the NSW Department of Education’s decision points to', Danby said.

"'One wonders what kind of graduates are being churned out by such biased facilities and I think the funding of such one-sided courses at Macquarie University, at the Australian National University, and other places, ought to be investigated by parliament.'

"Dr Vincent rejected charges that the simulation has been biased and defended the appointment of Loewenstein, who hosts an internet blog that deals largely with Israel and is writing a book about the responses to the Israel-Palestinian conflict, scheduled to be published later this year.

"'We wanted a Jewish person on the board. We didn’t have any Jews on the board and it seemed to be an absence', Dr Vincent said.

"'He was a fairly well qualified person who writes extensively about the Middle East…It seems an ideal choice.'"

Meddling MP Michael Danby - who has a history of trying to quash dissent - and the leading Jewish organisation in NSW seem to believe that any reading of the Israel/Palestine conflict that doesn't subscribe to a strict interpretation of Zionist dogma is biased. This skewed logic also extends to complaints about my appointment to the board.

It is about time that Danby and his Zionist defenders understood that their reading of the conflict - never-ending excuses for a brutal and illegal occupation - is starting to wear thin in the wider community.

The problem with democracy

Robert Fisk, The Independent, January 28:

"Oh no, not more democracy again! Didn't we award this to those Algerians in 1990? And didn't they reward us with that nice gift of an Islamist government - and then they so benevolently cancelled the second round of elections? Thank goodness for that!

"True, the Afghans elected a round of representatives, albeit that they included some warlords and murderers. But then the Iraqis last year elected the Dawa party to power in Baghdad, which was responsible - let us not speak this in Washington - for most of the kidnappings of Westerners in Beirut in the 1980s, the car bombing of the (late) Emir and the US and French embassies in Kuwait.

"And now, horror of horrors, the Palestinians have elected the wrong party to power. They were supposed to have given their support to the friendly, pro-Western, corrupt, absolutely pro-American Fatah, which had promised to "control" them, rather than to Hamas, which said they would represent them. And, bingo, they have chosen the wrong party again.

Result: 76 out of 132 seats. That just about does it. God damn that democracy. What are we to do with people who don't vote the way they should?"

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Teaching the kids

The latest educational development in Tajikistan is causing waves:

"Tajikistan’s secondary school system will be placing an increased emphasis on Islam, as per a new government initiative.

"The move pleases Islamic parties in the country, which unlike those in other countries in Central Asia, are allowed to participate in the government."

Some secularists are unhappy but New Eurasia explains the rationale:

"The importance of Islam to Tajikistan’s history and culture is self-evident. It seems only natural, therefore, that it should be covered in the school system. So long as students are learning about Islam from an academic perspective, as opposed to a religious one, this move does nothing more to threaten the secular nature of the regime. Furthermore, increased knowledge about Islam may diffuse some of the more extreme elements of Tajik society, as their inclusion in the political process arguably does."

When Murdoch's Australian, claiming to represent the popular majority, argues that schools in Australia should focus on the positives in our history - stressing the negatives is clearly a "leftist" conspiracy - it's reassuring to think that countries on the other side of the world are equally struggling with the changing face of religion in contemporary life.

Selective memory

The Australian Jewish News editorialises on the significance of Australia Day:

"We Jews - whose narrative has so much in common with Aborigines in terms of our associations to land, history and memory - know more than most the meaning of dispossession and, if not stolen generations, then massacre and, yes, genocide. It is here that the proximity to Australia Day of the United Nations-sponsored International Holocaust Remembrance Day resonates loudly, without in any way comparing the tragedies that have befallen both peoples. And while we can be rightly proud of our outstanding achievements Down Under, it is the injustices that continue to prevail that we must urgently redress."

Jews have indeed suffer attempted genocide, discrimination and stereotyping over the centuries and our contribution to Australia has been significant, considering a relatively tiny population. Many have worked tirelessly for Aboriginal rights and the 1992 Mabo case was at least partly due to Jewish legal know-how (and moral certitude.)

The editorial, however, is dangerously selective when discussing "injustice." While ongoing support for the Aboriginal community is vital, equal effort is not being spent attempting to readdress another tragedy within the Jewish state itself. If an Aboriginal person is dispossessed and disadvantaged, which many certainly are, the Palestinian people are also in need of international support and solidarity. Indeed, it was the formation of the Jewish state in 1948 that directly caused the dispossession of untold Palestinians. This injustice is yet to be resolved.

If some Australian Jews care about refugees, Aboriginals and low-income earners, they should not forget about what their silence is condoning in Israel.

Another world is possible

Tens of thousands of people descend on Venezuela for the ever-growing movement against imperialism and the mainstream media closes its eyes:

"The overarching WSF [World Social Forum] theme 'Another World Is Possible' and opposition to 'imperialism' and war are the common denominators among the broad range of organisations and individuals gathered in Caracas this week, where one of this year's three Forums is taking place. The first phase was held Jan. 19-23 in Bamako, Mali, and the third is scheduled for late March in Karachi, Pakistan.

"he wide variety of organisations and participants was expressed by the multicoloured march, in which some 15,000 activists representing dozens of local and visiting organisations took part starting on Tuesday evening and stretching into the wee hours of the morning along two avenues in the southern part of the capital.

"Some 70,000 participants had registered for the WSF as of Wednesday, for around 1,800 activities organised by just over 2,000 different civil society groups."

For more information, see here, here and here.

Friday, January 27, 2006

News bytes

- The Iraqi blogosphere explodes with a range of opinions.

- US Jewish groups are campaigning for action in Darfur. "Darfur hit a heartstring in the Jewish community," said Steve Gutow, executive director of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs. "It shows that when we say 'never again,' we mean it...It is one of those moments when everybody seems to be saying the same thing and we see an extraordinary force coming about."

- Prime Minister John Howard gives invaluable advice to Hamas. Perhaps he would like to travel to Ramallah and offer his insights personally.

- Germany plunges into a baby crisis:

"Germany was plunged into an anguished debate yesterday about how to encourage reluctant couples to breed after new figures showed Germany with the world's highest proportion of childless women.

"Thirty per cent of German women have not had children, according to European Union statistics from 2005, with the figure rising among female graduates to 40%. Germany's new family minister, Ursula von der Leyen, said that unless the birth rate picked up the country would have to 'turn the light out'."

- Medialens challenges the accuracy of Iraq Body Count.

A victory for clarity

Ali Abunimah, The Electronic Intifada, 26 January:

"Hamas' victory in the Palestinian Authority legislative elections has everyone asking ‘what next’? The answer, and whether the result should be seen as a good or bad thing, depends very much on who is asking the question.

"Although a Hamas success was heavily trailed, the scale of the victory has been widely termed a ‘shock.’ Several factors explain the dramatic rise of Hamas, including disillusionment and disgust with the corruption, cynicism and lack of strategy of the Fatah faction which has dominated the Palestinian movement for decades and had arrogantly come to view itself as the natural and indisputable leader.

"The election result is not entirely surprising, however, and has been foreshadowed by recent events. Take for example the city of Qalqilya in the north of the West Bank. Hemmed in by Israeli settlements and now completely surrounded by a concrete wall, the city's fifty thousand residents are prisoners in a Israeli-controlled giant ghetto. For years Qalqilya's city council was controlled by Fatah but after the completion of the wall, voters in last years' municipal elections awarded every single city council seat to Hamas. The Qalqilya effect has now spread across the occupied territories, with Hamas reportedly winning virtually all of the seats elected on a geographic basis. Thus Hamas' success is as much an expression of the determination of Palestinians to resist Israel's efforts to force their surrender as it is a rejection of Fatah. It reduces the conflict to its most fundamental elements: there is occupation, and there is resistance."

Hamas rises

The victory of Hamas in the Palestinian elections is, in the words of one Haaretz commentator, "one of the most important events in the history of the Middle East since the Six Day War." The Palestinian people have spoken and elected a party that they believe will be a viable alternative to the endemically corrupt Fatah. It should be noted that Hamas was not running on a platform of destroying Israel or wiping Jews from the face of the earth - its charter was barely even raised during the campaign - but rather, the corruption in the Palestinian Authority and its failure in improving the conditions of the Palestinian people.

Rabbi Michael Lerner, editor of Jewish group Tikkun, writes this:

"Just as the election of previously Israeli terrorists Menachem Begin, Yitzhak Shamir and Ariel Sharon set the backdrop for the possibility of peace negotiations with Israel's enemies in the past thirty years, the election of the murderous terrorists of Hamas may ultimately make it more likely that a peace agreement entered into by a Hamas dominated government would actually amount to something lasting and substantial.

"We at Tikkun have no sympathy for Hamas' terrorism, and we are distressed that the new government of the Palestinians will be a government collaborating with those whose hands are drenched in blood. But this does not distinguish them, for example, from Ariel Sharon's government or George Bush's government, which have both been responsible for the deaths of more innocent civilians than Hamas (though always excusing themselves because these deaths were 'only collateral damage'). So Israel and the U.S. ought to get off of their moral outrage at Hamas and recognize that this election provides them, in the long run, with opportunities to make peace with their enemies. But that will only happen if Israel and the U.S. stop using the lame excuse that they won't negotiate with terrorists, a position that would have led the U.S. to remain in Vietnam to this day, refusing to talk to Vietnamese terrorists."

World reaction has been swift and utterly predictable.

Grave concerns exist about the true intent of Hamas and only the most idealistic would ignore these warnings. For example, an Iranian-style repressive environment for the women of Palestine would be a major concern, as would a virulent Holocaust-denying environment. There is evidence that Hamas is already taking some responsibility for a less militant future, though only time will tell how effective that will be.

The democratic world, supposedly warmly embraced by neo-conservatives everywhere, must accept the Palestinian result. Hamas is now a legitimate political force.

Tikkun expresses my personal feelings pretty accurately:

"We at Tikkun are not so optimistic about Hamas - their legacy of violence is deeply troublesome. But then again, we tend to be very critical of anyone who relies on violence, including the Israeli government and the United States government, and also the gangsters now running Iran, China, the Soviet Union, Syria, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Sudan and the list goes on and on and on. It is without compromising our critique of these governments that we simultaneously support steps for peaceful accommodation rather than military escalations."

Israel's current path is leading to inevitable disaster, a walled-in, ghetto-style Zionism defined by occupation and oppression. The rise of Hamas may force Israel to negotiate with its former enemies and reach a long-lasting peace agreement. Of course, this may all be wishful thinking, but today's election result does nothing to challenge Israel's military, political and economic supremacy in the Middle East.

In moderation

Following an infestation of abusive comments, I've decided to start moderating comments. After you've been approved the first time, you'll subsequently be able to post without hassle.

Let the debate continue.

I'd like to thank God

I have no idea how, but I've won "Best Australian Mainstream Media Blog Award" at the 2006 Australian Blog Awards. Thanks to all who voted and supported me.

Although I'm not a mainstream site, nor funded or supported by a major media company, I'll happily take the award and unending adulation.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Slapping down the West

Journalist and author Dilip Hiro on the rise of political Islam in the Middle East:

"This [Palestinian elections] is but the latest manifestation of the rise of political Islam in the electoral politics of the Middle East, a development that - despite the Bush administration's endless promotion of democratic reform in the region - is causing deep worry among top policy makers in Washington.

"Last year began with Islamist candidates winning most of the seats in the first very limited municipal polls in Saudi Arabia and ended with the Iraqi religious parties - both Shiite and Sunni - performing handsomely in the December parliamentary elections. The official Iraqi results, announced on January 21, showed the Shiite United Iraqi Alliance winning almost 80% of the seats that should go to the majority Shiite community. Likewise the Islamic Iraq Party won 80% of the places to which the Sunni minority is entitled.

"In between these polls, in a general election held last summer, Hizbollah emerged as the preeminent representative of Lebanese Shiites, the country's largest sectarian group (which is grossly underrepresented in parliament). And in the first election for the legislative assembly not flagrantly rigged by Hosni Mubarak's regime in Egypt, the Muslim Brotherhood registered a nearly 60% success rate by winning 88 out of the 150 seats it contested. The Brotherhood certainly could have won many more, but its leadership deliberately decided to contest only a minority of seats in order not to provoke the regime of Egypt's pro-American president and so create a situation in which he might be likely to strike out indiscriminately against the opposition."

Sooner or later, the US and its Western allies will have to learn to deal with groups like the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas. True democracy means accepting the will of the people, without interference or obstruction.

The West should be worried.

A new dawn

The following advertisement by Israeli peace group Gush Shalom will appear in Haaretz on January 27:

"With Hamas entering the Palestinian parliament, and perhaps the Palestinian government, there presents itself a historical opportunity to include this movement, with its leaders, members, sympathizers and voters, in the peace process. Any peace agreement so reached will be stronger and more durable.

"Every Palestinian group that talks with the Government of Israel does thereby recognize the State of Israel in practice.

"In the past, that applied to the PLO. The same way, it applies now to Hamas."

For more information on the Palestinian elections, see here, here and here.

Leading Israeli journalist Amira Hass expresses the sentiment of the election:

"The elections taking place today in the Palestinian Authority are fluctuating between two poles: The Israeli occupation and its tremendous involvement in Palestinian lives, and the responsibility that the occupied have for their own lives. The world, led by Israel, loves to forget that the Palestinian parliament and government, despite their respectable name, are not state institutions, and that the PA enclaves are not independent."

Open up and bite me

On this Australia/Invasion Day, if you're feeling in need of spiritual awakening, or an injection of moral certainty, or even reassurance that Australia in 2006 is one big, happy family that rather likes the aroma of Bush's rear passage, read on.

Liberating their pockets

Who says the US can't manage the Iraqi occupation? The office of the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction:

"A new audit of American financial practices in Iraq has uncovered irregularities including millions of reconstruction dollars stuffed casually into footlockers and filing cabinets, an American soldier in the Philippines who gambled away cash belonging to Iraq, and three Iraqis who plunged to their deaths in a rebuilt hospital elevator that had been improperly certified as safe.

"The audit, released yesterday by the office of the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, expands on its previous findings of fraud, incompetence and confusion as the American occupation poured money into training and rebuilding programs in 2003 and 2004. The audit uncovers problems in an area that includes half the land mass in Iraq, with new findings in the southern and central provinces of Anbar, Karbala, Najaf, Wasit, Babil, and Qadisiya. The special inspector reports to the secretary of defence and the secretary of state.

"Agents from the inspector general's office found that the living and working quarters of American occupation officials were awash in shrink-wrapped stacks of $100 bills, colloquially known as bricks."

Reading the report, it's hard to know whether to laugh or cry. On second thoughts, wider knowledge of US incompetence and corruption reveals a superpower bereft of nation-building abilities and this can only be a blessing.

Guns for sale

Fancy an AK-47? Looking to buy an early Christmas present for your young, virile son? Look no further.

Much more information here on these startling deals.

Survivors come second

Jewish historian Norman Finkelstein writes:

"In The Holocaust Industry I documented the World Jewish Congress's double shakedown of Swiss banks and Nazi holocaust victims. The mastermind of this plot was a repellent sewer rat named Rabbi Israel Singer who headed the World Jewish Congress. In the appendix to the second paperback edition of my book I stated that Singer won't be stopped 'unless he is finally put where he belongs, behind bars.' It seems that day might not be so far off. In the past year it has been reported that while denouncing the Swiss banks for using secrecy laws to deny Jews access to their Holocaust-era accounts, Singer himself opened up a secret Swiss bank account where he was squirreling away monies pilfered from the World Jewish Congress. Now it seems that the House of Hucksters is beset with yet new scandals."

Jewish newspaper, The Forward, explains:

"The World Jewish Congress is fighting to block publication in Switzerland of a series of magazine articles [by journalist Daniel Ganzfried] that reportedly will contain damaging new allegations about the organization's management and handling of funds.

"Ganzfried, the Swiss journalist, has been sharply critical of Jewish communal efforts to win back Holocaust-era assets, which have roiled Swiss Jews' relations with their neighbours. He said his upcoming articles will be aimed at documenting the shortcomings in that process."

Despite years of abuse, Finkelstein's initial thesis is being confirmed yet again. Leading Holocaust scholar Raul Hilberg has supported Finkelstein's analysis of Jewish organisations' mismanagement and cynicism while trying to negotiate lost funds:

"When I read Finkelstein's book, The Holocaust Industry, at the time of its appearance, I was in the middle of my own investigations of these matters, and I came to the conclusion that he was on the right track. I refer now to the part of the book that deals with the claims against the Swiss banks, and the other claims pertaining to forced labour. I would now say in retrospect that he was actually conservative, moderate and that his conclusions are trustworthy. He is a well-trained political scientist, has the ability to do the research, did it carefully, and has come up with the right results. I am by no means the only one who, in the coming months or years, will totally agree with Finkelstein's breakthrough."

The latest scandal merely confirms Finkelstein's allegations against one of the world's leading Zionist organisations. Their primary interest is not the Holocaust victims themselves, rather obtaining financial reward and spending the money as they see fit, either for themselves or on Zionist projects in Israel.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Money talks

Google's unofficial motto may be "Don't be evil", but it appears the company is willing to sacrifice integrity for market share:

"Google, the world's biggest search engine, will team up with the world's biggest censor, China, today with a service that it hopes will make it more attractive to the country's 110 million online users.

"After holding out longer than any other major internet company, Google will effectively become another brick in the great firewall of China when it starts filtering out information that it believes the government will not approve of.

"Despite a year of soul-searching, the American company will join Microsoft and Yahoo! in helping the communist government block access to websites containing politically sensitive content, such as references to the Tiananmen Square massacre and criticism of the politburo."

Google Watch has more on the relationship between the internet giant and the communist regime.

Warriors and wusses

Joel Stein, LA Times, January 24:

"I don’t support our troops. This is a particularly difficult opinion to have, especially if you are the kind of person who likes to put bumper stickers on his car. Supporting the troops is a position that even Calvin is unwilling to urinate on.

"I'm sure I'd like the troops. They seem gutsy, young and up for anything. If you're wandering into a recruiter's office and signing up for eight years of unknown danger, I want to hang with you in Vegas.

"I do sympathize with people who joined up to protect our country, especially after 9/11, and were tricked into fighting in Iraq. I get mad when I'm tricked into clicking on a pop-up ad, so I can only imagine how they feel.

"But when you volunteer for the U.S. military, you pretty much know you're not going to be fending off invasions from Mexico and Canada. So you're willingly signing up to be a fighting tool of American imperialism, for better or worse. Sometimes you get lucky and get to fight ethnic genocide in Kosovo, but other times it's Vietnam.

"And sometimes, for reasons I don't understand, you get to just hang out in Germany.

"I'm not advocating that we spit on returning veterans like they did after the Vietnam War, but we shouldn't be celebrating people for doing something we don't think was a good idea. All I'm asking is that we give our returning soldiers what they need: hospitals, pensions, mental health and a safe, immediate return. But, please, no parades.

"Seriously, the traffic is insufferable."

The brain-drain

Iraqi academics are being targeted. This international petition (supported by many of the world's leading thinkers) aims to bring the issue to wide attention.

Robert Fisk wrote on this disturbing development in July 2004:

"Other university staff suspect that there is a campaign to strip Iraq of its academics, to complete the destruction of Iraq's cultural identity which began with the destruction of the Baghdad Koranic library, the national archives and the looting of the archaeological museum when the American army entered Baghdad."

Living by delusions

Israel's acting PM Ehud Olmert offers platitudes about a Palestinian state:

"The choice between allowing Jews to live in all parts of the land of Israel and living in a state with a Jewish majority mandates giving up parts of the Land of Israel. We cannot continue to control parts of the territories where most of the Palestinians live.

"Israel will keep security zones, main settlement blocs, and places important to the Jewish people, first of all, Jerusalem, united under Israeli control. There can be no Jewish state without Jerusalem under Israeli sovereignty."

And there will not be a Palestinian state under these conditions. The soon-to-be formed new Palestinian government will see to that.

Meanwhile, the Arab Association for Human Rights has released a report, "Beyond the Walls":

"In the State of Israel, the Palestinian Arab minority and the Jewish majority live largely in separate areas. With the exception of 'mixed cities', in which a significant Palestinian minority lives alongside a clear Jewish majority, most Palestinians and Jews live in their own communities, in a territorial separation of sorts.

"Apart from this territorial separation, recent years have seen the establishment of separation walls and fences between Arab and Jewish communities within the State of Israel, and, in other cases, between Arab and Jewish neighbourhoods within the same city. This physical separation has been initiated by the Israeli establishment and is meant to prevent physical or even eye contact between the two populations. The reasons offered as to why these walls have been established seem rather foreign to the realities on the ground.

"This report aims to provide a review of these walls and fences as they manifest themselves in three areas within Israel, and to discuss the human rights violations they entail."

Today's comments by Olmert suggest that Israel has no intention of eradicating discrimination against non-Jews. By saying that he wants to begin, "setting the permanent borders of the state of Israel to ensure a Jewish majority", he would ideally like no Palestinians or Arabs at all, but alas, international pressure would not allow such a move. Instead, expect further resistance to negotiate with the Palestinians - especially if Hamas "terrorists" are in government - and a growing realisation among Palestinians that a one-state solution may be the only long-term solution. Israelis may continue fencing themselves in, but living in a highly militarised penitentiary will eventually become unbearable.

Some revolution

So much for the Howard government's care of workers:

"The decision to scrap unfair dismissal protection for businesses employing fewer than 100 workers will create just 6000 new jobs nationwide rather than 77,000 claimed by business and the Government, a research study suggests.

"The study is outlined in one of 22 papers criticising the recently passed employment legislation that are to be published in a special issue of Sydney University's Journal of Australian Political Economy."

The study cost a little over $100,000 of public money, while the Howard government spent millions advertising the changes. $55 million and counting.

Opening minds

Canadian-based Iranian blogger Hodder is travelling to Israel:

"This might mean that I won’t be able to go back to Iran for a long time, since Iran doesn't recognize Israel, has no diplomatic relations with it, and apparently considers travelling there illegal. Too bad, but I don't care. Fortunately, I'm a citizen of Canada and I have the right to visit any country I want.

"I'm going to Israel as a citizen journalist and a peace activist."

His mission should be applauded:

"As a citizen journalist, I'm going to show my 20,000 daily Iranian readers what Israel really looks like and how people live there. The Islamic Republic has long portrayed Israel as an evil state, with a consensual political agenda of killing every single man and woman who prays to Allah, including Iranians. I'm going to challenge that image.

"As a peace activist, I'm going to show the Israelis that the vast majority of Iranians do not identify with Ahmadinejad’s rhetoric, despite what it looks like from the outside.

"I'm going to tell them how any kind of violent action against Iran would only harm the young people who are gradually reforming the system and how the radicals would benefit from such situation."

This kind of cross-cultural understanding is vital if we are to avoid yet another Middle East catastrophe (and let's not forget that the Bush administration has consistently shunned any overtures from Tehran.)

Just another washed-up Zionist comedian

After my recent TV "debate" with Jewish "comedian" Austen Tayshus (information here), I received this email:

"Mate, I wouldn't discuss appearance if I were you. Resorting to swipes at my appearance is evidence of how bereft you truly are. You are ashamed of who you are, lacking even the basic knowledge of yiddishkeit. You are a coward and a liar and our history is sprinkled with Nebbishes like you. I challenged you once to a debate and you declined because you are gutless. Lets debate publicly with a mediator, so you 'can get a word in edgeways'. Tayshus."

God bless him.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

A film I'd like to see

West Bank Story

Ari Sandel (USA/ 2005/ 22 min)

"A musical comedy set in the fast-paced, fast-food world of competing falafel stands in the West Bank. David, an Israeli soldier, falls in love with the beautiful Palestinian cashier, Fatima, despite the animosity between their families' duelling restaurants. Can the couple's love withstand a 2000 year old conflict and their families' desire to control the future of the chickpea in the Middle East?"

The truth hurts

Fair go for all

Reuters reports an important development in Israel's understanding of the conflict:

"Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni said on Monday acceptance within the international community of Israel's right to exist as a Jewish state would erode with time as conflict with the Palestinians dragged on.

"Unless progress was made towards establishing a Palestinian state as mandated by a U.S.-backed peace road map, Livni said in a speech, pressure could grow to turn Israel into a bi-national state in which Israelis and Palestinians would share power.

"With a higher Palestinian birth rate, that could mean the end of a Jewish majority in what is now Israel, she said, giving voice to an argument interim Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has raised for trading occupied land for peace.

"'I say that time works to our disadvantage, not only from the standpoint of demographic numbers...but also from the standpoint of the legitimacy of a state for the Jewish people in the eyes of the international community,'" Livni told a policymakers' forum near Tel Aviv."

I've long believed that a bi-national state is the ideal way to resolve the conflict, but it must be reached in stages. Therefore, a two-state solution is the best way forward for the foreseeable future. A full and frank appreciation of suffering on both sides, reparations for Palestinian losses in 1948 onwards, the eradication of the occupation, a shared Jerusalem and joint environmental policy will, at some point in the future, be the only solution.

Livni - Jews Sans Frontieres rightly asks: "Where else on the world would a politician so obsessed with 'demographics' be described as 'centrist' and by Reuters too? - has merely articulated the fear within many Jews. Can you imagine the outcry if George Bush publicly stated he wanted a white majority to remain in the US? When Israel talks about "demographics", however, it's labelled "pragmatism."

News bytes

- Iceland engages in a furious debate over freedom of the press.

- Devastating personal stories about the disintegration of Zimbabwe under Robert Mugabe.

- A Time magazine reporter in Iraq reflects on the difficulties of doing her job in the war-ravaged country.

- Recently deceased media mogul and tax-dodger Kerry Packer will soon be given a taxpayer-funded public memorial at the Sydney Opera House.

- A new report analyses the environmental efforts of nations around the world. New Zealand is the overall winner.

- Bush's domestic spying program is actually a "terrorist surveillance program." Thank the Lord above the King cleared that one up.

Transparency challenges some

US Zionists are worried:

"In the wake of the Jack Abramoff scandal, Jewish groups are closely watching plans to restrict lawmakers' lobbyist-sponsored travel, which could have a devastating impact on Israel trips that build support for the Jewish state in Congress.

"Rules proposed in Congress this month could place stringent restrictions on how lawmakers travel at the expense of lobbyists and the organizations connected to them. The most aggressive plans call for restrictions on paying for legislators' hotel rooms and airfares, which could prevent them from travelling across the country to speak to interest groups such as American Jewish organizations."

These Israeli trips change politician's mind about Israel's "right" to security - along with financial assistance - and Jewish groups are rightly concerned that new restrictions may change the dynamic in Washington.

The Jerusalem Post continues:

"One suggested rule, proposed by Rep. David Obey (D-Wisconsin), would forbid lobbyists from paying for or participating in trips by lawmakers, and would prevent trips sponsored by organizations that perform any lobbying activities. Many Jewish groups perform some lobbying activities and likely would be included in the ban, analysts said.

"'Any member can travel anywhere they want to go; they've just got to do it on their own dime,' said Ellis Brachman, an Obey spokesman."

Such rules would of course not just affect Zionist lobbyists, but any attempt to tighten loopholes should be applauded. Check out AIPAC's latest advertisement on the far-too-cosy relationship between politicians and the lobby.

In Australia, the Rambam Israel Fellowship Program takes journalists, politicians and their advisors to Israel (with a brief stop in Ramallah) in an attempt to convince individuals that Israeli governments decisions - from expanding settlements, imposing arbitrary checkpoints, construction of the wall etc - are vital for Israeli needs. Palestinian desires are secondary, at best.

The situation, however, may be starting to change. The Muslim population of Australia is growing strongly while the Jewish community is languishing. The numbers game suggest that politicians will soon be keen to appeal to a Muslim constituency and a less Israel-first agenda.

As in Israel, demography presents its own hackneyed solutions.

Getting real

Zvi Bar'el, Haaretz, January 22:

"Alas, ‘the elections in the Palestinian Authority were supposed to be part of the democratic process, but they are not. There is no democracy in the world that would allow a terrorist organization to participate in elections,’ cried the new foreign minister, Tzipi Livni.

There is no basis, of course, for this emotion. Even the United States agreed to allow people suspected of terror activity to participate in its two new 'democracies' - Iraq and Afghanistan - if only in the hope that it might help the governments in these states win some sort of legitimacy. The U.S. also expressed quiet satisfaction about Hezbollah's participation in Lebanon's government for the first time. The administration believes that, in this way, an organization defined as terrorist might demonstrate greater political responsibility.

Livni, therefore, can calm down and turn her attention to several other non-democratic matters that are happening in the PA areas - the checkpoints, the felling of trees, the theft of land. Hamas' participation in the parliamentary elections is the least of her worries."

For more on the Palestinian elections, read here, here, here and here.

UPDATE: Veteran Israeli peace activist, journalist and politician Uri Avnery adds his voice of reason to the debate:

"Hamas's presence in the next Palestinian government is not a reason to reject peace negotiations. On the contrary, it is a compelling reason for starting them at long last. It would mean that we negotiate with the entire Palestinian spectrum (excluding only the small Islamic Jihad organization). If Hamas joins the government on the basis of Mahmoud Abbas' peace policy, it is manifestly ripe for negotiations, with or without arms, based on a hudnah (truce).

"Thirty years ago, when I started secret contacts with the Palestine Liberation Organization leadership, I was almost the only person in Israel in favour of negotiating with the organization that was at the time officially designated as "terrorist". It took almost 20 years for the Israeli government to come round to my point of view. Now we are starting again from the same point."

Paying the price for a crazy war

My latest piece for Online Opinion - one of Australia's most popular e-journals of social and political debate - evaluates the long-term costs of the Iraq war and the embedded journalism that allows the slaughter to continue:

"Australia is inadequately served by its elected representatives. As [former] minister of defence, Robert Hill told us that “political progress is being made in Iraq” and leaving troops in Iraq was “contributing to [our] own security.” The facts contradict him and yet media interest barely registers. The Sydney Morning Herald still believes - according to its editorial on January 12 - the US 'hoped to create a stable, secular democracy [in Iraq]'. Readers should therefore presume had US planning been more efficient, the Iraqi people would be living in utopia. The fact untold thousands of Iraqis have been murdered since 2003 and tortured or targeted by US-backed Shiite militias, should be enough to cause reflection for even the most hardened chicken-hawk.

"Such false presumptions are the mainstay of the mainstream media and result in diminished democracy. Our mainstream media has never been more reviled and mistrusted. Why, for example, did a leading journalist from The Age recently travel to the US as a guest of the world’s leading military contractor, Lockheed Martin? Brendan Nicholson filed a report on January 7 about Australia's role in the US-led missile defence system. Propaganda was too kind a word."

My Online Opinion archive is here.

One rule for us

Rupert Murdoch indicates he may turn away from Tony Blair's Labour:

"Rupert Murdoch, the head of News International, urged David Cameron last night to commit the Conservative Party to a Thatcherite tax-cutting agenda to win the next election.

"The proprietor of The Sun and The Times, whose influence is credited with helping Tony Blair and New Labour win power, hinted that he would be prepared to switch support to Mr Cameron's style of Conservatism if he adopted tax cuts."

Why did Murdoch first support Blair?

"We swung behind Labour and they didn't turn away from the Thatcher legacy. Tony Blair is on record saying he would not undo what she had done, and he has not.''

The "Thatcher legacy" - so warmly embraced by individuals like Murdoch - was exposed by John Pilger in 2003:

"Most Labour voters had endured 18 years of cuts in education, social security, disability and other benefits - yet [Gordon] Brown reversed not a single one of them, including a tax base that allows the likes of Rupert Murdoch to avoid paying tens of millions of pounds to the Treasury. Today, nothing essentially has changed. One in four Britons is still born into poverty - a poverty that has hardened under Blair and Brown and remains the chief cause of higher rates of ill health, accidents and deaths in infancy, school exclusion and low educational performance."

The Murdoch press is solidly behind the conservative Liberal party in Australia. but if the empire smells a change in the wind, their ten years of "principled" support of John Howard will vanish. Behind the populist veil, the Murdoch press is interested in being close to power and maintaining superior political access and financial largesse.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Buying face time

George W. Bush has denied any friendship or relationship with Jack Abramoff, the Republican lobbyist - and supporter of Zionist extremists - currently embroiled in a corruption scandal. It now appears that the president is lying. Time reports:

"Time has seen five photographs of Abramoff and the President that suggest a level of contact between them that Bush's aides have downplayed. While Time's source refused to provide the pictures for publication, they are likely to see the light of day eventually because celebrity tabloids are on the prowl for them. And that has been a fear of the Bush team's for the past several months: that a picture of the President with the admitted felon could become the iconic image of direct presidential involvement in a burgeoning corruption scandal like the shots of President Bill Clinton at White House coffees for campaign contributors in the mid-1990s."

It is virtually inconceivable that the US President had no contact with Abramoff, considering his influence in Washington. A report from USA Today in May 2005 stretches credibility even further:

"In President Bush's first 10 months, GOP fundraiser Jack Abramoff and his lobbying team logged nearly 200 contacts with the new administration as they pressed for friendly hires at federal agencies and sought to keep the Northern Mariana Islands exempt from the minimum wage and other laws, records show."

These continuing revelations should sink Bush and his corrupt Republican party - if the quagmire in Iraq does not - but it all depends if the mainstream media accepts the likely calls of plausible deniability.

Getting tough over "evil"

I recently commented that Jews are sometimes their own worst enemies when attempting to blindly support Israel, spewing vitriol in an attempt to defend the indefensible. We now have another specimen for examination.

Andrew Klavan is a crime novelist. His recent piece in the LA Times is a classic piece of kicking an own-goal style of writing. Titled "Why God chose the Jews", enjoy this sample of Klavan's prose:

"There is one good thing about anti-Semitism: It lets you know who the bad guys are. Right, left, black, white, freak or straight, the minute someone starts rattling on about the evil Jews, you know your train just pulled into Slimeball Station.

"All bigotry is wrong, of course, but there's something about this particular form of prejudice that is weirdly reliable as a sign of deeper wickedness. Perhaps it's because the Jews contributed so much to humanity's moral code that to hate them as a race is to despise the restraints of morality itself

"Whatever the reason, true, virulent anti-Semitism is such a good indicator of the presence of evil that I'm tempted to believe that when God made the Jews his chosen people, this is what he chose them for: to be a sort of Villainy Early Detection System for everyone else.

"Unfortunately, in his infinite love for his creation, I suspect the Big Guy may have overestimated our intelligence. Maybe he thought that after Hitler we'd just, you know, like, get it. Instead, we still see apparently intelligent people appeasing, making excuses for and even embracing the sorts of stinkers who ought to set off the Big Alarm."

Is that clear? There are evil people everywhere, hiding in Iran and Venezuela and South America, determined to destroy Jews and Israel. Any criticism of Israel is therefore a sign of this evil and must be eradicated (ideally by military force.) Furthermore, Jews are the moral inspiration for the world, "chosen" by God for a special purpose, namely to warn others about, er, evil.

Does the boy who cried wolf sound familiar?