Site search Web search

powered by FreeFind

Indexed by the FreeFind Search Engine

Contact us at: red-jos_at_red-jos_net

21 OCTOBER 2009

Report's Clear Findings Of Israeli Terrorism

By Michael Brull

There's a reason the Goldstone Report into the attack on Gaza has created a political storm, writes Michael Brull. It's because it presents rock solid evidence that Israel's military routinely acts like a terrorist organisation

Kevin Rudd would never meet with a member of Hamas, because it is supposed to be a terrorist organisation. Yet there are rumours circulating that on 3 December, our Prime Minister is going to a lunch where the guest of honour will be Israel's Vice Prime Minister, Silvan Shalom. If this goes ahead, Rudd will send a message that he supports terrorism.

Is this a polemical exaggeration? Actually, no, it's not. Terrorism isn't simply a nasty word to show disapproval of Israel's military assault on Gaza. Terrorism is a substantive concept. Any definition of this concept must include the intentional use of force against civilians to achieve political goals. This is exactly what the Goldsone report into war crimes during the Gaza attack shows Israel is guilty of.

However, despite all the controversy over the report after its release last month, and over its endorsement last week by the UN Human Rights Council, this finding has yet to be widely discussed.

The report has received a great deal of media coverage, yet its actual contents are almost universally unexamined. There has been discussion of whether or not Israel was foolish in refusing to cooperate with Goldstone, and of whether the report is biased or adequately even-handed in its condemnation of Hamas for firing rockets at Israel. There has been extensive discussion of the initial refusal of the Abbas-led Palestinian Authority to support the report at the UN Human Rights Council — a refusal that could have been predicted. Yet the controversies over the report largely steer clear of the substance of its findings against Israel's behaviour.

So, what does the report actually say about Israel's attack on Gaza? About half of the report is devoted to it. The broader findings are important, and worth discussing. Yet the finding that Israel is guilty of what amounts to terrorism is an incredible charge, and warrants at least some attention and discussion. How did the UN Fact Finding Mission (henceforth "the Mission") reach this conclusion? And what did they actually say?

Before turning to the discussion of Israel's military onslaught, I should note that the Mission not only charged Israel with crimes that should properly be considered terrorism. The Mission also explicitly accused Israel of terrorism because of its appalling treatment of Palestinian detainees. As they note, Israel subjected Palestinian detainees to "continuous and systematic abuse, outrages on personal dignity, humiliating and degrading treatment".

The Mission explicitly found that "All of the persons held were civilians" [emphasis added]. This did not affect their treatment, which included "constant death threats and insults", men women and children being "detained in degrading conditions, deprived of food, water and access to sanitary facilities, and exposed to the elements in January without any shelter". Men were "repeatedly made to strip, sometimes naked". A Palestinian was forced to be a human shield for Israeli soldiers "with a gun pressed against his head", whilst another group of eight Palestinian prisoners were shackled inside a bus for a four-hour bus ride, during which they were "continuously beaten, kicked and punched by four or five soldiers on board". (You'll find that covered in paragraphs 57, 60 and 1147 to 1171. It's a long report, and there's plenty in it, so I'll include these paragraph numbers so you can see for yourself.)

The Mission concludes that Israel "deliberately" subjected all of these civilians to "cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment throughout their ordeal in order to terrorize, intimidate and humiliate them (1164)." It goes on (1171): "The rounding-up of large groups of civilians and their prolonged detention under the circumstances described above constitute a collective penalty on those persons in violation of article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention and article 50 of the Hague Regulations. Such treatment amounts to measures of intimidation and terrorism, prohibited under article 33 and a grave breach of the Convention that constitutes a war crime." [Emphasis added.]

In the rest of the report, the Mission avoids the use of the word terrorism, except in relation to the blockade on Gaza. The blockade is condemned as a policy of "collective punishment", and arguably a crime of persecution as a form of a crime against humanity (1331-1335). In paragraph 1328, it is noted that the prohibition in Article 33 Fourth Geneva Convention against collective punishment bans "likewise all measures of intimidation or of terrorism". It is not judged explicitly whether the blockade infringes the prohibition of terrorism.

Israel's military attacks themselves are not called terrorist. Yet it is hard to imagine a more compelling case to support that label than the evidence compiled and conclusions drawn by the Mission. In what follows I will give only a sample of some of the evidence for some of the Mission's findings, with longer selections on my blog.

Importantly, the report shows that Israel's attacks were intentional. According to the Israeli military's website, "Official data gathered by the Air Force concluded that 99 per cent of the firing that was carried out hit targets accurately". Furthermore, the Israeli Government has only acknowledged one error in its attack, despite the various challenges it has faced from human rights organisations. From this, the Mission concluded that "what was struck was meant to be struck". The destruction in Gaza was due to "deliberate planning and policy decisions throughout the chain of command" (1187-1191).

So what were these deliberate decisions? They include the decision to bomb a mosque specifically when hundreds had gathered inside it for prayers (822-843). There was the decision to fire flechette shells — a weapon by its "nature lacking in discrimination" — at a tent during a condolence ceremony "in the vicinity of a large group of civilians" (881-884). Similarly, Israel was condemned for firing mortars — a weapon "incapable of distinguishing between combatants and civilians" — at a location "filled with civilians" (699).

Israel also bombed, destroying partially or in full "at least 280 schools and kindergartens" (1271). Of the buildings housing operations of the UNRWA relief organisation, 57 "were damaged by shelling or airstrikes, including 36 schools (six serving as emergency shelters), seven health centres, three sanitation offices, two warehouses and five other buildings." Furthermore, 35 UNRWA vehicles, including three armoured vehicles, were damaged (1295-6). Israel also bombed the al-Quds and al-Wafa hospitals with white phosphorous shells (629, 635), among the "48 per cent of Gaza's 122 health facilities [which] were directly or indirectly hit by shelling" (1255). Unsurprisingly, the Mission found the use of white phosphorous "in such an area [to be] reckless" (649).

Israel also launched a "deliberate and premeditated" attack on the Gazan Wastewater Treatment Plant, striking it "precisely" where it would cause a mass outflow of raw sewage (974). According to the Palestinian Federation of Industries, "324 factories had been destroyed during the Israeli military operations at a cost of 40,000 jobs" (1009). This is on top of various other forms of wanton destruction, such as what the UNDP estimates are 3354 homes completely destroyed in Israel's attack, and 11,112 partially damaged (1245). Israel also destroyed 19 out of 27 concrete factories in Gaza, "representing 85 per cent of the productive capacity". This includes the only cement packaging plant, first bombed by helicopters, then attacked with bulldozers, tanks, and explosives which had to be placed "inside the building"(1012-1015).

Israel launched "multiple air strikes" on the Namar Wells complex, among the 10 per cent of Gaza's water wells destroyed in the attacks (1249). There was also "large-scale and systematic destruction of greenhouses" throughout Gaza: "it is estimated that over 30 hectares of greenhouses were demolished" (1021). Partially as a result of this, Gazans now face the complete collapse of their water supply.

Israel destroyed a Gazan flour mill with several missile attacks, ending Gaza's "sole remaining flour producing capacity" (933). It also sent in tanks and bulldozers to "systematically" destroy the "land, crops, chickens and farm infrastructure" of the Sawafeary chicken farms, killing all of its 31,000 chickens and "systematically flatten[ing]" its coops. Across Gaza "close to 100,000 chickens were killed", and 35 per cent of the egg market was destroyed (954-960).

Why did Israel cause such malicious damage? The destruction of this civilian infrastructure was done for "the specific purpose of denying their use for the sustenance of the civilian population of the Gaza Strip", which was "part of a policy of collective punishment of the civilian population"(1320). This takes place in the context of a "military doctrine that views disproportionate destruction and creating maximum disruption in the lives of many people as a legitimate means to achieve military and political goals" (1213). There is a well known term for attacking civilians to achieve political goals — that term is "terrorism". The Goldstone Report found that "Statements by political and military leaders prior to and during the military operations in Gaza leave little doubt that disproportionate destruction and violence against civilians were part of a deliberate policy" (1215).

There are various military figures quoted who have outlined or advocated a military policy described by the Mission as one of "massive and deliberate destruction", ever since the last war on Lebanon. For example, Major General (Ret.) Giora Eiland held that the next time Israel attacks Lebanon, it should not target Hezbollah, but should include different targets, such as "the destruction of the national infrastructure and intense suffering among the population" (1192-1199). No less significantly, the Israeli Government declared that it was legitimate to target the "supporting infrastructure" of Hamas (1200 — see also 1209-1212). As the Mission notes, the severity of the blockade from 2007 showed Israel had decided that "effectively the population of Gaza" was the supporting infrastructure that it should target (1211).

The report concludes that Israel, "rather than fighting the Palestinian armed groups operating in Gaza in a targeted way, has chosen to punish the whole Gaza Strip and the population in it with economic, political and military sanctions" (1330). The Mission noted statements by Israeli officials "to the effect that the use of disproportionate force, attacks on civilian population and the destruction of civilian property are legitimate means to achieve Israel's military and political objectives" (1894). That is, they adopted the means of a terrorist organisation carrying out terrorist acts.

The conclusions about the attack on Gaza are devastating. Israel's attack on civilian infrastructure "was the result of a deliberate and systematic policy by the Israeli armed forces. It was not carried out because those objects presented a military threat or opportunity, but to make the daily process of living, and dignified living, more difficult for the civilian population."

It further found that "the operations were carefully planned in all their phases. [...] There were almost no mistakes made according to the Government of Israel. It is in these circumstances that the Mission concludes that what occurred in just over three weeks at the end of 2008 and the beginning of 2009 was a deliberately disproportionate attack designed to punish, humiliate and terrorise a civilian population, radically diminish its local economic capacity both to work and to provide for itself, and to force upon it an ever increasing sense of dependency and vulnerability" (1891-1893).

Israel continues to terrorise the Palestinians in Gaza with its blockade, an ongoing crime against humanity. The military attack was only part of the "continuum" of policy of which the blockade is the centrepiece. As terrible as the massacre was, the war on Gaza's civilian population continues.

How has our Government responded to all this? During the massacre, Julia Gillard's contribution was to defend the right of Israel to defend itself. When she visited Israel, she didn't visit Gaza, nor even mention it. Rudd is matching Howard's support for the Israeli Government, as it escalates its crimes against the Palestinians. Have they no shame? Or should we just conclude that our Government supports terrorism against Arabs?

27 OCTOBER 2009


It’s like a red rag to a bull! Every time someone attacks Zionism or Israel here in Australia and that person happens to be gay, lesbian, transgender or some other sexuality which the zionist population finds difficulty accepting, they are invited to try going to Iran or similar country.

According to Ian Katz of Caulfield, 7,000 gay people have been killed in Iran by the fundamentalist regime since 1979 when the infamous Ayatollah seized power. The source of this figure is not provided. It is stated as a fact.

Statistics from countries such as Iran where censorship is even tighter than in countries such as Australia are difficult to obtain and even more difficult to verify. Those organizations around the world such as Human Rights Watch and the gay and lesbian equivalents working with gay and lesbian refugees from Iran and other countries have estimated that about 4,000 gays and lesbians have been murdered by the Iranian regime since 1979.

In 2009 in Tel Aviv, an office belonging to a gay and lesbian organization was bombed and two people were killed – not by Palestinians but by homophobic Israelis who were murderers.

In the United States of America, a country where officially it is not illegal to be gay or lesbian, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) issues an annual survey of hate crimes in that country, and gay and lesbian hate crimes figures since 1979 indicate that there are, on average, an annual number of hate crimes committed against homosexuals of about 1,000 to 1,500. Many of these hate crimes are murders.

So far we have only mentioned Iran and the United States of America. The UK, Europe, Australia, Canada, all produce figures showing gay and lesbian murders taking place on a regular basis.

As a gay Jewish man I choose not to live in Iran or Israel or South Africa where I was born. South Africa’s new constitution is one of the most progressive of modern times in its inclusion of rights for gays, lesbians, transgenders, which include the right to marry people of the same sex. This benighted religious-right-dominated country Australia has emphatically forbidden such equal rights for all its citizens yet, despite all the faults it has, it is a country where many of my ancestors were born and lived and where I have citizenship and continue to live in comparative peace..

I have been discriminated against because I am Jewish in the countries in which I have worked - South Africa, the UK and Australia, and I have been discriminated against in Australia because I am gay. I am a minority in a minority.

Now most Zionists are Jewish, and being Jewish they know about the Holocaust, discrimination and anti-semitism. They are minorities amongst many other minorities.

Gays, lesbians and transgender people are also minorities amongst many other minorities, but unlike Zionists, homosexuals are assaulted and murdered on a regular basis.

As a conclusion, one would think that Zionists would know about oppression and vilification and abuse, and therefore not be party to it themselves, but it seems that they are incapable of comprehending any picture in the greater universe of which they form but a miniscule part and should therefore not themselves abuse others who don’t conform to their narrow conservatism. They ought to know better but they don’t!

The two items below are by Ian Katz of Caulfield not Cana and Michael Burd of Toorak not Tel Aviv:

Iran has hanged more than 7000 homosexuals since the Islamic Revolution in 1979. The plight of women and ethnic minorities such as the Kurds, Baha’i, and Copts in the Arab and Islamic world continues to be of grave concern. The list goes on.

History is against the Iranian dissidents who dare to dream of a free and democratic country. Like the people suffering under the junta in Burma, and Israelis in Sderot pounded by rockets, there was hope that the current administration in Washington, the UN, and the so-called freedom fighters of the international political Left would be there to support them. Unfortunately, they were mistaken.

Caulfield, Vic

Hi Mannie,

I notice you are still ranting and raving about those pesky zionists, I wonder how long you and your partner { comrade ?] would last in your beloved palestinian terror-tories, Iran or Pakistan .

I'm pleased that my writings annoy you at least I know you are taking notice, I'm flattered ...

Have a Nice day or should I say Salam alakum ?

CC My Mailing list.........

Thursday, October 22, 2009


Michael Burd, that well-known zionist from Toorak not Tel Aviv, has some astonishing results from his statistical analysis of the Jewish Population Survey as the following extract from his 4 September 2009 letter to the Israel Zionist Times aka Australian Jewish News (AJN) illustrates:

Debunking myths

"ONE of the revelations of the Jewish Population Survey was that 80 per cent of Jews support Israel. As editorialised in The AJN, this debunks the “absurd notion pushed by the likes of Antony Loewenstein and Jews Against the Occupation that there is a large silent group of Australian Jews who don’t support Israel”.

A little analysis of our own will explain, with some of the results of the Monash University survey:

September 2009 – Monash University
The Australian Jewish Community Survey 2008-2009
Methodological Considerations and Key Findings

The Gen08 Jewish population survey was conducted in Australia and New Zealand from September 2008 to April 2009. It was completed by more than 6,200 respondents.

A Jewish web site gives the following 2006 population figures: In Australia there are approximately 103,000 Jews who represent 0.5 per cent of the population. In New Zealand there are approximately 7,000 Jews who represent 0.15 per cent of the population.

Out of 110,000 Jews in Australia and New Zealand, about 6,000 responded to the Monash survey. This figure represents 5 per cent of the Jewish population. Of this number Burd tells us that 80 per cent of Jews support Israel. 80 per cent of 5 per cent leaves a total of 4 per cent of Jews in Australia and New Zealand who have expressed support for Israel. Whatever happened to the other 96 per cent?

This is rather a far cry from 80 per cent of the Jewish population of both countries as Burd would have us believe.

So it rather looks as if Burd of Toorak not Tel Aviv has shot himself in the foot yet again, and yet he gets his nonsensical letters published as the voice of the Jews in The Age and the AJN.

Burd should be laughed off the media for his unbelievable stupidity and prejudices. When people like him discover that Israel is a theocracy not dissimilar to their friends the Iranians they will suddenly not enjoy what they see or hear. Israel has not only been invaded by the fundamentalist religious fanatics from the USA but is now being run by them, and there will not be peace in the region until the whole ghastly situation is reversed.

And as we all know, this will not happen until the USA stops feeding Israel with everything it requires for military domination of the region.

To unquote Neville Chamberlain: "NO PEACE IN OUR TIME!"

EDITOR'S NOTE: It is irresistable to note that Michael Burd has, as part of his email and twitter accounts, the use of the yiddish word "FAIGALE". This is the slang expression used in yiddish to mean what the English homophobic word poofter means.

Monday, October 19, 2009


Zionists living in Australia and critical of Goldstone and other issues pertaining to their beloved “homeland!!!” have written letters from 2 October 2009 to the Israeli Zionist Times aka Australian Jewish News and come from many countries around the globe.

One of those countries is South Africa from which Richard Goldstone himself comes.

The South African apartheid state consisted of many minority groups, many of whom were repressed, suppressed, tortured, expelled from the country, murdered - the sorrowful list continues.

At the end of the apartheid years in 1994, South Africa had a population of between 35 and 40 million. Of these 5 million were white and amongst the white group was the Jewish group. Many Jews who were against the apartheid regime and who were politically involved were either imprisoned or in many cases fled or were exiled.

Some like Ruth First were murdered by the regime. Obviously many Jews were unable to leave the country or, in some cases unwilling to, because they supported apartheid.

Some were zionists, some were not. There were approximately 120,000 Jews in South Africa in 1948, and some 40 years later that number had dwindled to about 70,000. Latest figures for Jews in South Africa put that number at about 100,000, similar to the number of Jews in Australia at the current time.

Many South African Jews who were able to, came to Australia. Some were zionists, some were not.

Letters to the local zionist rags indicate that many of the critics of the Goldstone report are from South Africa.

It is difficult to understand why these people came to Australia when there was always the possibility of their going to Israel which has a law allowing Jews to settle there - the Law of Return or some such law. Had they gone to Israel, they would have been able to support their dream homeland and fight for its right to do what it did/does in Gaza and the Occupied West Bank and help to make it safe for other like-minded zionists from the USA, Australia and other countries around the world.

What these zionists do, in fact, is live in Australia, safely away from Hamas rocket attacks on Sderoth and other places, and then say that the Goldstone report is biased, one-sided, Hamas-supporting and other ridiculous nonsenses.

Some of these zionists are those whose letters have appeared in the local rags, but there are obviously many more who live in Australia, but still call Israel home.

When I was a small boy in South Africa in the 1930s and 1940s there were many white South Africans whose parents, grandparents or other relatives came to settle in South Africa, but after a few generations there, still called England "home".

Plus ca change - the more things change the more they remain the same!!

Letter-writers attacking Goldstone in the AJN:

As at 2 October 2009
JOSH BARTAK St Kilda East, Vic

As at 9 October 2009
ALAN FREEDMAN St Kilda East, Vic
HENRY HERZOG St Kilda East, Vic

as at 16 October 2009
DR BILL ANDERSON Surrey Hills, Vic
WOLFE RAKUSIN Caulfield North, Vic

19 NOVEMBER 2009

Thursday, November 19, 2009


Breaking the Australian Silence

(This speech was delivered at the Sydney Opera House on Thursday 5 November 2009)

Thank you all for coming tonight, and my thanks to the City of Sydney and especially to the Sydney Peace Foundation for awarding me the Peace Prize. It’s an honour I cherish, because it comes from where I come from.

I am a seventh generation Australian. My great-great grandfather landed not far from here, on November 8th, 1821. He wore leg irons, each weighing four pounds. His name was Francis McCarty. He was an Irishman, convicted of the crime of insurrection and “uttering unlawful oaths”. In October of the same year, an 18 year old girl called Mary Palmer stood in the dock at Middlesex Gaol and was sentenced to be transported to New South Wales for the term of her natural life. Her crime was stealing in order to live. Only the fact that she was pregnant saved her from the gallows. She was my great-great grandmother. She was sent from the ship to the Female Factory at Parramatta, a notorious prison where every third Monday, male convicts were brought for a “courting day” -- a rather desperate measure of social engineering. Mary and Francis met that way and were married on October 21st, 1823.

Growing up in Sydney, I knew nothing about this. My mother’s eight siblings used the word “stock” a great deal. You either came from “good stock” or “bad stock”. It was unmentionable that we came from bad stock – that we had what was called “the stain”. One Christmas Day, with all of her family assembled, my mother broached the subject of our criminal origins, and one of my aunts almost swallowed her teeth. “Leave them dead and buried, Elsie!” she said. And we did – until many years later and my own research in Dublin and London led to a television film that revealed the full horror of our “bad stock”. There was outrage. “Your son,” my aunt Vera wrote to Elsie, “is no better than a damn communist”. She promised never to speak to us again.

The Australian silence has unique features.

Growing up, I would make illicit trips to La Perouse and stand on the sandhills and look at people who were said to have died off. I would gape at the children of my age, who were said to be dirty, and feckless. At high school, I read a text book by the celebrated historian, Russel Ward, who wrote: “We are civilized today and they are not.” “They”, of course, were the Aboriginal people.

My real Australian education began at the end of the 1960s when Charlie Perkins and his mother, Hetti, took me to the Aboriginal compound at Jay Creek in the Northern Territory. We had to smash down the gate to get in.

The shock at what I saw is unforgettable. The poverty. The sickness. The despair. The quiet anger. I began to recognise and understand the Australian silence.

Tonight, I would like to talk about this silence: about how it affects our national life, the way we see the world, and the way we are manipulated by great power which speaks through an invisible government of propaganda that subdues and limits our political imagination and ensures we are always at war – against our own first people and those seeking refuge, or in someone else’s country.

Last July, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said this, and I quote: “It’s important for us all to remember here in Australia that Afghanistan has been a training ground for terrorists worldwide, a training ground also for terrorists in South-East-Asia, reminding us of the reasons that we are in the field of combat and reaffirming our resolve to remain committed to that cause.”

There is no truth in this statement. It is the equivalent of his predecessor John Howard’s lie that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction.

Shortly before Kevin Rudd made that statement, American planes bombed a wedding party in Afghanistan. At least sixty people were blown to bits, including the bride and groom and many children. That’s the fifth wedding party attacked, in our name.

The prime minister was standing outside a church on a Sunday morning when he made his statement. No reporter challenged him. No one said the war was a fraud: that it began as an American vendetta following 9/11, in which not a single Afghan was involved. No one put it to Kevin Rudd that our perceived enemy in Afghanistan were introverted tribesmen who had no quarrel with Australia and didn’t give a damn about south-east Asia and just wanted the foreign soldiers out of their country. Above all, no one said: “Prime Minister, There is no war on terror. It’s a hoax. But there is a war of terror waged by governments, including the Australian government, in our name.” That wedding party, Prime Minister, was blown to bits by one the latest smart weapons, such as the Hellfire bomb that sucks the air out of the lungs.

In our name.

During the first world war, the British prime minister David Lloyd George confided to the editor of the Manchester Guardian: “If people really knew [the truth], the war would be stopped tomorrow. But of course they don’t know and they can’t know.”

What has changed? Quite a lot actually. As people have become more aware, propaganda has become more sophisticated.

One of the founders of modern propaganda was Edward Bernays, an American who believed that people in free societies could be lied to and regimented without them realising. He invented a euphemism for propaganda -- “public relations”, or PR. “What matters,” he said, “is the illusion.” Like Kevin Rudd’s stage-managed press conferences outside his church, what matters is the illusion. The symbols of Anzac are constantly manipulated in this way. Marches. Medals. Flags. The pain of a fallen soldier’s family. Serving in the military, says the prime minister, is Australia’s highest calling. The squalor of war, the killing of civilians has no reference. What matters is the illusion.

The aim is to ensure our silent complicity in a war of terror and in a massive increase in Australia’s military arsenal. Long range cruise missiles are to be targeted at our neighbours. The Rudd government and the Pentagon have launched a competition to build military robots which, it is said, will do the “army’s dirty work” in “urban combat zones”. What urban combat zones? What dirty work?


“I confess,” wrote Lord Curzon, viceroy of India, over a century ago, “that countries are pieces on a chessboard upon which is being played out a great game for the domination of the world.” We Australians have been in the service of the Great Game for a very long time. Do the young people who wrap themselves in the flag at Gallipoli every April understand that only the lies have changed – that sanctifying blood sacrifice in colonial invasions is meant to prepare us for the next one??

When Prime Minister Robert Menzies sent Australian soldiers to Vietnam in the 1960s, he described them as a ‘training team’, requested by a beleaguered government in Saigon. It was a lie. A senior official of the Department of External affairs wrote this secret truth: “Although we have stressed the fact publicly that our assistance was given in response to an invitation by the government of South Vietnam, our offer was in fact made following a request from the United States government.”

Two versions. One for us, one for them.

Menzies spoke incessantly about “the downward thrust of Chinese communism”. What has changed? Outside the church, Kevin Rudd said we were in Afghanistan to stop another downward thrust. Both were lies.

During the Vietnam war, the Department of Foreign Affairs made a rare complaint to Washington. They complained that the British knew more about America’s objectives than its committed Australian ally. An assistant secretary of state replied. “We have to inform the British to keep them on side,” he said. “You are with us, come what may.”

How many more wars are we to be suckered into before we break our silence?

How many more distractions must we, as a people, endure before we begin the job of righting the wrongs in our own country?

“It’s time we sang from the world’s rooftops,” said Kevin Rudd in opposition, “[that] despite Iraq, America is an overwhelming force for good in the world [and] I look forward to working with the great American democracy, the arsenal of freedom …”.

Since the second world war, the arsenal of freedom has overthrown 50 governments, including democracies, and crushed some 30 liberation movements. Millions of people all over the world have been driven out of their homes and subjected to crippling embargos. Bombing is as American as apple pie.

In his acceptance of the 2005 Nobel Prize for Literature, Harold Pinter asked this question: “Why is the systematic brutality, the widespread atrocities, the ruthless suppression of independent thought of Stalinist Russia well known in the West while American criminal actions never happened. Nothing ever happened. Even while it was happening it never happened. It didn’t matter. It was of no interest.”

In Australia, we are trained to respect this censorship by omission. An invasion is not an invasion if “we” do it. Terror is not terror if “we” do it. A crime is not a crime if “we” commit it. It didn’t happen. Even while it was happening it didn’t happen. It didn’t matter. It was of no interest.

In the arsenal of freedom we have two categories of victims. The innocent people killed in the Twin Towers were worthy victims. The innocent people killed by Nato bombers in Afghanistan are unworthy victims. Israelis are worthy. Palestinians are unworthy. It gets complicated. Kurds who rose against Saddam Hussein were worthy. But Kurds who rise against the Turkish regime are unworthy. Turkey is a member of Nato. They’re in the arsenal of freedom.

The Rudd government justifies its proposals to spend billions on weapons by referring to what the Pentagon calls an “arc of instability” that stretches across the world. Our enemies are apparently everywhere -- from China to the Horn of Africa. In fact, an arc of instability does indeed stretch across the world and is maintained by the United States. The US Air Force calls this “full spectrum dominance”. More than 800 American bases are ready for war.

These bases protect a system that allows one per cent of humanity to control 40 per cent of wealth: a system that bails out just one bank with $180 billion – that’s enough to eliminate malnutrition in the world, and provide education for every child, and water and sanitation for all, and to reverse the spread of malaria. On September 11th, 2001, the United Nations reported that on that day 36,615 children had died from poverty. But that was not news. Journalists and politicians like to say the world changed as a result of the September 11th attacks. In fact, for those countries under attack by the arsenal of freedom, nothing has changed. What has changed is not news.

According to the great whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg, a military coup has taken place in the United States, with the Pentagon now ascendant in every aspect of foreign policy.

It doesn’t matter who is president – George Bush or Barack Obama. Indeed, Obama has stepped up Bush’s wars and started his own war in Pakistan. Like Bush, he is threatening Iran, a country Hillary Clinton said she was prepared to “annihilate”. Iran’s crime is its independence. Having thrown out America’s favourite dictator, the Shah, Iran is the only resource-rich Muslim country beyond American control. It doesn’t occupy anyone else’s land and hasn’t attacked any country -- unlike Israel, which is nuclear-armed and dominates and divides the Middle East on America’s behalf.

In Australia, we are not told this. It’s taboo. Instead, we dutifully celebrate the illusion of Obama, the global celebrity, the marketing dream. Like Calvin Klein, brand Obama offers the thrill of a new image attractive to liberal sensibilities, if not to the Afghan children he bombs.

This is modern propaganda in action, using a kind of reverse racism – the same way it deploys gender and class as seductive tools. In Barack Obama’s case, what matters is not his race or his fine words, but the power he serves.

In an essay for The Monthly entitled Faith in Politics, Kevin Rudd wrote this about refugees: “The biblical injunction to care for the stranger in our midst is clear. The parable of the Good Samaritan is but one of many which deal with the matter of how we should respond to a vulnerable stranger in our midst …. We should never forget that the reason we have a UN convention on the protection of refugees is in large part because of the horror of the Holocaust when the West (including Australia) turned its back on the Jewish people of occupied Europe who sought asylum.”

Compare that with Rudd’s words the other day. “I make absolutely no apology whatsoever,” he said, “for taking a hard line on illegal immigration to Australia … a tough line on asylum seekers.”

Are we not fed up with this kind of hypocrisy? The use of the term “illegal immigrants” is both false and cowardly. The few people struggling to reach our shores are not illegal. International law is clear – they are legal. And yet Rudd, like Howard, sends the navy against them and runs what is effectively a concentration camp on Christmas Island. How shaming. Imagine a shipload of white people fleeing a catastrophe being treated like this.

The people in those leaking boats demonstrate the kind of guts Australians are said to admire. But that’s not enough for the Good Samaritan in Canberra, as he plays to the same bigotry which, as he wrote in his essay, “turned its back on the Jewish people of occupied Europe”. . Why isn’t this spelt out? Why have weasel words like “border protection” become the currency of a media crusade against fellow human beings we are told to fear, mostly Muslim people? Why have journalists, whose job is to keep the record straight, become complicit in this campaign?

After all, Australia has had some of the most outspoken and courageous newspapers in the world. Their editors were agents of people, not power. The Sydney Monitor under Edward Smith Hall exposed the dictatorial rule of Governor Darling and helped bring freedom of speech to the colony. Today, most of the Australian media speaks for power, not people. Turn the pages of the major newspapers; look at the news on TV. Like border protection, we have mind protection. There’s a consensus on what we read, see and hear: on how we should define our politics and view the rest of the world. Invisible boundaries keep out facts and opinion that are unacceptable.

This is actually a brilliant system, requiring no instructions, no self-censorship. Journalists know not what to do. Of course, now and then the censorship is direct and crude. SBS has banned its journalists from using the phrase “Palestinian land” to describe illegally occupied Palestine. They must describe these territories as “the subject of negotiation”. That is the equivalent of somebody taking over your home at the point of a gun and the SBS newsreader describing it as “the subject of negotiation”.

In no other democratic country is public discussion of the brutal occupation of Palestine as limited as in Australia. Are we aware of the sheer scale of the crime against humanity in Gaza? Twenty-nine members of one family -- babies, grannies – are gunned down, blown up, buried alive, their home bulldozed. Read the United Nations report, written by an eminent Jewish judge, Richard Goldstone.

Those who speak for the arsenal of freedom are working hard to bury the UN report. For only one nation, Israel, has a “right to exist” in the Middle East: only one nation has a right to attack others. Only one nation has the impunity to run a racist apartheid regime with the approval of the western world, and with the prime minister and the deputy prime minister ofb Australia fawning over its leaders.

In Australia, any diversion from this unspoken impunity attracts a campaign of craven personal abuse and intimidation usually associated with dictatorships. But we are not a dictatorship. We are a democracy.

Are we? Or are we a murdochracy.

Rupert Murdoch set the media war agenda shortly before the invasion of Iraq when he said, “There’s going to be collateral damage. And if you really want to be brutal about it, better get it done now.”

More than a million people have been killed in Iraq as a result of that invasion -- “an episode”, according to one study, “more deadly than the Rwandan genocide”. In our name. Are we aware of this in Australia?

I once walked along Mutanabi Street in Baghdad. The atmosphere was wonderful. People sat in cafes, reading. Musicians played. Poets recited. Painters painted. This was the cultural heart of Mesopotania, the great civilisation to which we in the West owe a great deal, including the written word. The people I spoke to were both Sunni and Shia, but they called themselves Iraqis. They were cultured and proud.

Today, they are fled or dead. Mutanabi Street has been blown to bits. In Baghdad, the great museums and libraries are looted. The universities are sacked. And people who once took coffee with each other, and married each other, have been turned into enemies. “Building democracy”, said Howard and Bush and Blair.

One of my favourite Harold Pinter plays is Party Time. It’s set in an apartment in a city like Sydney. A party is in progress. People are drinking good wine and eating canapés. They seem happy. They are chatting and affirming and smiling. They are stylish and very self aware. But something is happening outside in the street, something terrible and oppressive and unjust, for which the people at the party share responsibility.

There’s a fleeting sense of discomfort, a silence, before the chatting and laughing resumes. How many of us live in that apartment?

Let me put it another way. I know a very fine Israeli journalist called Amira Hass. She went to live in and report from Gaza. I asked her why she did that. She explained how her mother, Hannah, was being marched from a cattle train to the Nazi concentration camp at Bergen-Belsen when she saw a group of German women looking at the prisoners, just looking, saying nothing, silent. Her mother never forgot what she called this despicable “looking from the side”.

I believe that if we apply justice and courage to human affairs, we begin to make sense of our world. Then, and only then, can we make progress.

However, if we apply justice in Australia, it’s tricky, isn’t it? -- because we are then obliged to break our greatest silence – to no longer “look from the side” in our own country.

In the 1960s, when I first went to South Africa to report apartheid, I was welcomed by decent, liberal people whose complicit silence was the underpinning of that tyranny. They told me that Australians and white South Africans had much in common, and they were right. The good people of Johannesburg could live within a few kilometres of a community called Alexandra, which lacked the most basic services, the children stricken with disease. But they looked from the side and did nothing.

In Australia, our indifference is different. We have become highly competent at divide and rule: at promoting those black Australians who tell us what we want to hear. At professional conferences their keynote speeches are applauded, especially when they blame their own people and provide the excuses we need. We create boards and commissions on which sit nice, decent liberal people like the prime minister’s wife. And nothing changes.

We certainly don’t like comparisons with apartheid South Africa. That breaks the Australian silence.

Near the end of apartheid, black South Africans were being jailed at the rate of 851 per 100,000 of population. Today, black Australians are being jailed at a national rate that is more than five times higher. Western Australia jails Aboriginal men at eight times the apartheid figure.

In 1983, Eddie Murray was killed in a police cell in Wee Waa in New South Wales by “a person or persons unknown”. That’s how the coroner described it. Eddie was a rising rugby league star. But he was black and had to be cut down to size. Eddie’s parents, Arthur and Leila Murray, launched one of the most tenacious and courageous campaigns for justice I’ve known anywhere. They stood up to authority. They showed grace and patience and knowledge. And they never gave in.

When Leila died in 2003, I wrote a tribute for her funeral. I described her as an Australian hero. Arthur is still fighting for justice. He’s in his sixties. He’s a respected elder, a hero. A few months ago, the police in Narrabri offered Arthur a lift home and instead took him for a violent ride in their bullwagon. He ended up in hospital, bruised and battered. That is how Australian heroes are treated.

In the same week the police did this -- as they do to black Australians, almost every day – Kevin Rudd said that his government, and I quote, “doesn’t have a clear idea of what’s happening on the ground” in Aboriginal Australia.

How much information does the prime minister need? How many ideas? How many reports? How many royal commissions? How many inquests? How many funerals? Is he not aware that Australia appears on an international “shame list” for having failed to eradicate trachoma, a preventable disease of poverty that blinds Aboriginal children?

In August this year, the United Nations once again distinguished Australia with the kind of shaming once associated with South Africa. We discriminate on the basis of race. That’s it in a nutshell. This time the UN blew a whistle on the so-called “intervention”, which began with the Howard government smearing Aboriginal communities in the Northern Territory with allegations of sex slavery and paedophile rings in “unthinkable numbers”, according to the minister for indigenous affairs.

In May last year, official figures were released and barely reported.

Out of 7433 Aboriginal children examined by doctors, 39 had been referred to the authorities for suspected abuse. Of those, a maximum of four possible cases were identified. So much for the “unthinkable numbers”. Of course, child abuse does exist, in black Australia and white Australia. The difference is that no soldiers invaded the North Shore; no white parents were swept aside; no white welfare has been “quarantined”. What the doctors found they already knew: that Aboriginal children are at risk -- from the effects of extreme poverty and the denial of resources in one of the world’s richest countries.

Billions of dollars have been spent – not on paving roads and building houses, but on a war of legal attrition waged against black communities. I interviewed an Aboriginal leader called Puggy Hunter. He carried a bulging brief case and he sat in the West Australian heat with his head in his hands.

I said, “You’re exhausted.”

He replied, “Look, I spend most of my life in meetings, fighting lawyers, pleading for our birthright. I’m just tired to death, mate.” He died soon afterwards, in his forties.

Kevin Rudd has made a formal apology to the First Australians. He spoke fine words. For many Aboriginal people, who value healing, the apology was very important. However, the Sydney Morning Herald published a remarkably honest editorial. It described the apology as “a piece of political wreckage” that “the Rudd government has moved quickly to clear away … in a way that responds to some of its supporters’ emotional needs”.

Since the apology, Aboriginal poverty has got worse. The promised housing programme is a grim joke. No gap has even begun to be bridged. Instead, the federal government has threatened communities in the Northern Territory that if they don’t hand over their precious freehold leases, they will be denied the basic services that we, in white Australia, take for granted.

In the 1970s, Aboriginal communities were granted comprehensive land rights in the Northern Territory, and John Howard set about clawing back these rights with bribery and bullying. The Labour government is doing the same. You see, there are deals to be done. The Territory contains extraordinary mineral wealth, especially uranium. And Aboriginal land is wanted as a radioactive waste dump. This is very big business, and foreign companies want a piece of the action.

It is a continuation of the darkest side of our colonial history: a land grab

Where are the influential voices raised against this? Where are the peak legal bodies? Where are those in the media who tell us endlessly how fair-minded we are? Silence.

But let us not listen to their silence. Let us pay tribute to those Australians who are not silent, who don’t look from the side – those like Barbara Shaw and Larissa Behrendt, and the Mutitjulu community leaders and their tenacious lawyer George Newhouse, and Chris Graham, the fearless editor of the National Indigenous Times. And Michael Mansell, Lyle Munro, Gary Foley, Vince Forrester and Pat Dodson, and Arthur Murray.

And let us celebrate Australia’s historian of courage and truth, Henry Reynolds, who stood against white supremacists posing as academics and journalists. And the young people who closed down Woomera detention camp, then stood up to the political thugs who took over Sydney during Apec two years ago. And good for Ian Thorpe, the great swimmer, whose voice raised against the intervention has yet to find an echo among the pampered sporting heroes in a country where the gap between white and black sporting facilities and opportunity has closed hardly at all.

Silences can be broken, if we will it. In one of the greatest poems of the English language,

Percy Shelley wrote this:

Rise like lions after slumber
In unvanquishable number.
Shake your chains to earth like dew.
Which in sleep has fallen on you.
Ye are many – they are few.

But we need to make haste. An historic shift is taking place. The major western democracies are moving towards a corporatism. Democracy has become a business plan, with a bottom line for every human activity, every dream, every decency, every hope. The main parliamentary parties are now devoted to the same economic policies -- socialism for the rich, capitalism for the poor -- and the same foreign policy of servility to endless war.

This is not democracy. It is to politics what McDonalds is to food.

How do we change this? We start by looking beyond the stereotypes and clichés that are fed to us as news. Tom Paine warned long ago that if we were denied critical knowledge, we should storm what he called the Bastille of words. Tom Paine did not have the internet, but the internet on its own is not enough.

We need an Australian glasnost, the Russian word from the Gorbachev era, which broadly means awakening, transparency, diversity, justice, disobedience. It was Edmund Burke who spoke of the press as a Fourth Estate. I propose a people’s Fifth Estate that monitors, deconstructs and counters the official news. In every news room, in every media college, teachers of journalism and journalists themselves need to be challenged about the part they play in the bloodshed, inequity and silence that is so often presented as normal.

The public are not the problem. It’s true some people don’t give a damn – but millions do, as I know from the responses to my own films. What people want is to be engaged – a sense that things matter, that nothing is immutable, that unemployment among the young and poverty among the old are both uncivilised and wrong. What terrifies the agents of power is the awakening of people: of public consciousness.

This is already happening in countries in Latin America where ordinary people have discovered a confidence in themselves they did not know existed. We should join them before our own freedom of speech is quietly withdrawn and real dissent is outlawed as the powers of the police are expanded.

“The struggle of people against power, “wrote Milan Kundera, “is the struggle of memory against forgetting.”

In Australia, we have much to be proud of – if only we knew about it and celebrated it. Since Francis McCarty and Mary Palmer landed here, we’ve progressed only because people have spoken out, only because the suffragettes stood up, only because the miners of Broken Hill won the world’s first 35-hour week, only because pensions and a basic wage and child endowment were pioneered in New South Wales.

In my lifetime, we have become one of the most culturally diverse places on earth, and it has happened peacefully, by and large. That is a remarkable achievement – until we look for those whose Australian civilisation has seldom been acknowledged, whose genius for survival and generosity and forgiving have rarely been a source of pride. And yet, they remain, as Henry Reynolds wrote, the whispering in our hearts. For they are what is unique about us. I believe the key to our self respect -- and our legacy to the next generation -- is the inclusion and reparation of the First Australians. In other words, justice. There’s no mystery about what has to be done. The first step is a treaty that guarantees universal land rights and a proper share of the resources of this country.

Only then can we solve, together, issues of health, poverty, housing, education, employment.

Only then can we feel a pride that comes not from flags and war. Only then can we become a truly independent nation able to speak out for sanity and justice in the world, and be heard.

1 and 2 JANUARY 2010

For reasons which I can only imagine at the moment, the article below, which appeared in The Age newspaper on 1 and 2 January 2010 is not available through search engines or The Age online. It is available as a scanned copy of the paper’s article on Australians for Palestine’s web pages. Here is the article and below it is Dora McPhee’s response to it:

Australians' Gaza protest

By Andra Jackson

A delegation of Australians including Jewish journalist Antony Loewenstein are among hundreds of people from around the world who will hold mass protests in Cairo and Gaza today over Israel’s continuing blockade of the Palestinian enclave.

Today marks the first anniversary of the economic blockade imposed during Israel’s Operation Cast Lead offensive against Hamas-ruled Gaza, which closed off most movement of people and goods in and out of the territory.

Egypt initially denied the international activists permission to enter Gaza from Egyptian territory to hold the protest, which was initially scheduled for yesterday’s official anniversary.

But following media coverage of the protests in Cairo, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak’s wife, Suzanne, intervened two days ago to secure permission for a smaller contingent to travel to Gaza.

Speaking from Cairo yesterday, Loewenstein said 1362 delegates from 42 countries had protested daily since December 22 over Egypt’s co-operation with Israel in maintaining the blockade that extends to medicine, food and building supplies.

The Gaza freedom march, as it is billed, includes Pulitzer Prize-winning author Alice Walker, French Greens senator Alima Boumediene-Thiery and Filipino author and MP Walden Bello, as well as two Melbourne men among at least 12 Australians.

The protest to highlight the long-running humanitarian crisis in Gaza, was organized by American lobby group Code Pink.

It comes just days after UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called on Israel to end the siege imposed on the Gaza Strip, with a UN report warning destitution levels in the enclave had reached “an unprecedentedly critical level.”

Loewenstein said the protesters planned to enter Gaza to hold a Gandhi-style non-violent action with residents.

Egypt has given permission for two delegates from each country represented in the international protest to enter Gaza, Loewenstein said.

Two Sydney women have been selected as Australian representatives, including former ALP staffer, journalist and activist, Donna Mulhearn, who acted as a human shield during the US invasion of Iraq.

A spokesman for the Israel embassy in Canberra, Dor Shapira, denied there was a blockade of Gaza, saying there was a border that Israel monitored. (Editor's italics - people who utter statements like these should be taken to the International Court in The Hague and tried as war criminals for crimes against humanity!)

Dora McPhee (VIC) responds to Jackson’s “Australians’ Gaza protest”, The Age January 2, 2010

Thanks to The Age for finally running a report by Andra Jackson: “Australians’ Gaza protest” (Jan 01, 2010). The denial by the Israeli spokesperson in Canberra, Dor Shapira, that there is a blockade of Gaza does not hold water when the blockade is entering its third year and is the very reason why international human rights advocates including some Australians are attempting to enter Gaza in a Gandhi-style non-violent protest.

On the anniversary of Israel’s brutal assault on Gaza the surviving civilian population, who were not even allowed to flee Gaza as refugees, are still not able to rebuild their homes and lives precisely because of Israel’s ongoing siege and blockade. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon is calling on Israel to end the siege and blockade of Gaza because of the devastating effects on the health and well being of 1.5 million Gazans, who are being collectively punished. As half of Gaza’s population are children and eighty percent are already dispossessed refugees this inhumane treatment of an oppressed population, slowly being driven to abject destitution, deserves better media coverage than what it is getting.

14 JANUARY 2010

Thursday, January 14, 2010


Aleph has kindly given me permission to reproduce their letter to the Jewish Community Council of Victoria. In my blog I reproduced an article from MCV in which this issue was discussed. However at that stage I did not have this background information and now it will help to make the issue of child abuse in the Jewish communities much clearer.

Of course it all ties in with homophobia which Jewish communities perpetrate no less than other communities around the world. Jews used to like to think of themselves as more tolerant than other communities but events have shown in recent years that they can be just as intolerant as the next man, woman or child in the street!

Attention: Geoffrey Zygier - Excecutive Director JCCV / John Searle - President JCCV January 8 2010
Dear Messrs Zygier and Searle,

Over recent months it has been brought to the attention of the JCCV numerous times that any intolerance and oppression of same-sex attracted youth, whether due to religious reasons or otherwise, has been directly linked to serious mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, self-harm and suicide.

In October 2009 the JCCV released a statement during Mental Health Week acknowledging the critically high rate of suicide in same-sex attracted people caused by intolerance of their sexuality.

Back in April 2008 the JCCV, under the presidency of Anton Block, called for a swift response to allegations of sexual abuse in the Melbourne Jewish Community, as reported in the Australian Jewish News.

It may not have been impressed clearly enough upon the JCCV as to the gravity of the nature of the abuse that same-sex attracted youth experience directly as a result of religious intolerance of their sexuality. By forcing a person into a state of depression or contemplation of suicide because they are told homosexuality is sinful, unacceptable, abnormal and contrary to religious beliefs constitutes psychological abuse. When this occurs in a child it becomes psychological child abuse. People who perpetrate this abuse are child abusers.

The community does not tolerate sexual child abuse. The community does not tolerate physical child abuse. The community continues to tolerate psychological child abuse. People who are aware of perpetrators of sexual or physical abusers of children are obligated to take action to prevent this harm. The community is obligated to stamp it out. People who do not take action against this harm are complicit in the ongoing perpetration of the abuse.

The situation is the same when it comes to psychological child abuse. People who are aware of the abuse are obligated to prevent the harm against the children and the community is obligated to stamp it out. Currently the community remains silent on this abuse perpetrated by intolerance of homosexuality. This is completely unacceptable. The JCCV has a solid track record of taking swift action when it becomes aware of damaging or harmful situations in the community. It has responded to sexual abuse claims, under-age drinking, anti-semitism, fundamentalist extremism etc. To date the JCCV has remained consistently silent on the matter of psychological child abuse perpetrated by intolerance of homosexuality. There is no excuse for this.

The JCCV lists amongst it's goals:
• Facilitation of harmony and positive relationships between the various elements of the Victorian Jewish community and between our community and the larger community
• A positive perception of Jews in Victorian society
• A thriving local Jewish community
• A safer local Jewish community

The JCCV needs to achieve its goals and fails to do so by not speaking out against this terrible abuse. It fails it's members and it fails its community.

The JCCV has been aware of the extreme risks of intolerance of homosexuality since at least October 2009. It has not made a single statement specifically speaking out against the abhorrent practice of intolerance of homosexuality and lack of unconditional acceptance of same-sex attracted youth since then. It is now long overdue for a statement from the JCCV speaking out strongly against this specific psychological abuse. The entire Jewish community would benefit greatly by having a statement issued before another week goes by.

The President of the JCCV John Searle and other community leaders will become complicit in this ongoing psychological child abuse if they don't acknowledge the harm and speak out immediately.

Michael Barnett.
Aleph Melbourne.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

25 FEBRUARY 2010

No Right of Reply in AJN to certain people?

The Israel discussion

Posted on 13 November 2009

THE right to disagree with Israeli government policy has become, in many ways, even more controversial than the policies themselves. Over the past decade, a number of Jewish activists have railed against what they claim is a taboo, imposed by established pro-Israeli advocate groups, against any criticism of Israel. First there was the Independent Jewish Voices in England, followed by similar groups in Europe and here, the Independent Australian Jewish Voices (IAJV). All these groups have attempted to widen the debate about the Middle East. But the English and Australian groups have touched a nerve and created a dilemma for many thoughtful, open-minded Jews.

In Australia, many people would like to see Israel’s policies more flexible, less aggressive and defensive, but they cannot bring themselves to support IAJV due to an underlying hostility in the group’s activism that unnerves them. Now, a new group has emerged in America, called J Street -– the name referring to a missing street in the grid system of Washington DC, a nod to the missing voice in debate about Israeli policy. J Street is founded and supported by a broad range of American Jewish public figures.

Its call for more vigorous debate has attracted criticism from the heavy hitter of American Jewish advocacy, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee.

From a global perspective, however, the significant thing about J Street is that it is clearly, unequivocally pro-Israel. J Street’s charter on its website reads: “J Street is the political arm of the pro-Israel, pro-peace movement. J Street was founded to promote meaningful American leadership to end the Arab-Israeli and Israeli-Palestinian conflicts peacefully and diplomatically. We support a new direction for American policy in the Middle East.

“J Street represents Americans, primarily but not exclusively Jewish, who support Israel and its desire for security as the Jewish homeland, as well as the right of the Palestinians to a sovereign state of their own.”

The IAJV’s statement of principles on its website reads: “We are Jews with diverse opinions on the Middle East who share a deep concern about the current crisis in the region, we are committed to ensuring a just peace that recognises the legitimate national aspirations of both Israelis and Palestinians with a solution that protects the human rights of all.

“We believe that Israel’s right to exist must be recognised and that Palestinians’ right to a homeland must also be acknowledged … We feel there is an urgent need to hear alternative voices that not be silenced by being labelled disloyal or ‘self-hating’ … in particular we are concerned that the Jewish establishment does not represent the full range of Jewish opinion.”

I have abridged the statement, but anyone who reads it in full on the website will notice that something is missing: a declaration that the IAJV is pro-Israel.

The IAJV recognises Israel’s right to exist, but does not say it is pro-Israel. This absence carries a significance far beyond words. It underscores the whole vibe, reportage, commentary and activism that has emanated from this group over the past few years. The group is characterised by a noticeable lack of empathy with Israel, beyond its criticism of successive governments and policy towards Palestinians.

There is no reason why any group of Jews has to declare itself pro-Israel, and the IAJV is entitled to be critical of the Israeli government. It refers to J Street on its site and sees the two as kindred spirits. But that absence of an underlying support for the country, the nation and the people permeates everything it does and says. Deep down, this is what rankles a substantial number of Australian Jews, and stops them from supporting the group.

J Street has illuminated why the temperature of discussion is so heated in Australia, why many have tried to ignore or dismiss the IAJV and why others have started their own response (such as The Sensible Jew, a blog started this year by two Melbourne women who wanted to present an alternative voice to both the Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council and the IAJV).

Hopefully, J Street’s model can be used to help forge a new cast of public discussion in Australia. At the very least, it may loosen up a conversation that has been stifled by attention-seeking behaviour and name calling.

Michael Visontay lectures in media at the University of NSW.
Posted on Thursday, February 25, 2010 at 04:50PM by IAJV

No Right of Reply in AJN to certain people?

The article below is a reply to Michael Visontay in AJN Nov. 13, 2009, ‘The Israel Discussion’:

The editor of AJN, Zeddy Lawrence refused to publish this reply in which I have sought to correct certain misrepresentations and misunderstandings about the nature of IAJV published in an Opinion article by Michael Visontay.

Whatever one’s views of the issues concerning Israel/Palestine or of IAJV, the most significant fact about the editor’s decision is his policy of not allowing the right of reply to certain people whose views he considers are not to be made available to the readership of AJN.

I agreed not to make Lawrence’s actual email to me public, but indicated that I would convey the gist of his remarks: His reasons for not publishing my piece were essentially that he sees his role as protecting the community from unpopular views by standing up for Israel and ensuring that Israel’s point of view is expressed. I provide my own reply to Zeddy Lawrence below the article.


IAJV and “empathy with Israel”

It is reassuring that in his recent column (AJN November 13), Michael Visontay does not find fault with anything Independent Australian Jewish Voices (IAJV) has actually said or written but only with what he imagines we really mean. Visontay does not cite anything from the voluminous material on the IAJV website since 2007 to justify his charge of “an underlying hostility in the group’s activism.” Remarkably, Visontay also presumes to explain what “permeates everything” IAJV does without interviewing any of its founders or contributing writers.

By inventing the stance of IAJV, Visontay neglects key features of IAJV articulated in declarations on our website. We have hundreds of signatories to various statements and several bloggers, none of whom are likely to agree with one another on anything. Visontay does not reveal that IAJV is not an organization with a membership, representatives or official doctrines at all. By analogy with the editorial role of a magazine or journal, we write:

IAJV is not an organization or society with members or political platform. In accordance with the principles enunciated in the initial statement, we aim to widen the debate to include a range of opinions not reflected in mainstream Jewish media or official community organizations. As part of this effort, our blogs provide a forum for independent Jewish opinions that are, of course, those of their authors and not those of IAJV organizers or signatories of any IAJV petitions or statements. Of course, there is no doubt about our critical “editorial” orientation. However, Visontay’s charge of bias is always made against dissident opinion on the spurious assumption that the prevailing orthodoxy is somehow neutral.

The significance of IAJV rests precisely on the fact that we are concerned to widen the public dialogue and to ensure a representation of growing Jewish opinion here and around the world that departs from the uncritical “pro-Israel” line of community leadership and official organizations.

Toward this end, we have cooperated with other groups to bring significant people on lecture tours including internationally renowned Jewish figures such as Jeff Halper and Sara Roy. Their views are well represented in Israel itself and regularly published in Ha’aretz, and therefore it is meaningless to describe our efforts to have them heard here as hostile to Israel.

For the record, there can be no inference from what we have published to the claim that IAJV is not “pro-Israel” unless this is interpreted to mean uncritical support for all Israeli government policies and actions. Facing uncomfortable facts about Israel is discouraged by those who, in Ed Murrow’s familiar words, confuse dissent with disloyalty. Those who voice criticism are denounced in familiar ways, or merely “characterised by a noticeable lack of empathy with Israel”.

I addressed these questions in my talk to the recent Limmud-Oz festival in Sydney on Jewish Identity and Responsibility (available on the IAJV website). It is noteworthy that Visontay’s charge was precisely the one levelled against Hannah Arendt because she dared to hold Israel to universal standards. She insisted that Eichmann’s crime was a “crime against humanity” and not just against the Jewish people. In a famous admonition Gershom Scholem said that Arendt lacked ahavat Israel – love of the Jewish people. However, there can be no doubt either about Arendt’s profound commitment to her Jewishness or that she was, in Scholem’s own words, “an extraordinary Zionist”. Other commentators saw Arendt’s book Eichmann in Jerusalem as her “most intensely Jewish work, in which she identifies herself morally and epistemologically with the Jewish people.” Her answer to the charge of lacking ahavat Israel was to say “Love is not a collective matter: I indeed love ‘only’ my friends and the only kind of love I know of and believe in is the love of persons.” In this way, at the same time as Arendt emphatically confirmed her Jewishness by giving it political expression, she continued to challenge the unreflective, self-celebratory nature of group affiliations.

It helps us to see Visontay’s complaints about IAJV’s lack of sufficient “empathy with Israel” in a wider context. It is striking that in Plato’s Republic, Socrates makes the same distinction as Arendt and admonishes Callicles for not only loving a person but also for being in love with the state of Athens.

I have noticed that we have something in common. We are both lovers … Besides the person I love, I am also in love with philosophy, while besides your lover, you are also in love with thestate of Athens. Now, I have noticed that, despite all your cleverness, you are unable to contradict any assertion made by your beloved ...

Israeli Jeff Halper notes that today the same “unreflexive, self-celebratory group affiliation” is deep in the heart of Jewish identity, but mainly among diaspora Jews, and not so much among Israelis themselves. However, the true friends of Israel are not those who serve uncritically as propagandists for official myths but those who stand with the many Israelis to condemn, not only the crimes of Palestinians, but also those of the State of Israel. Independent Australian Jewish voices who speak out against crimes committed in their name recognize a responsibility to the wider human community, especially Palestinians, to participate in a more balanced dialogue. In this regard, it is revealing that, of all the desperately important moral and political issues IAJV has raised, Visontay manages not to mention a single one.

Email To Editor of AJN, November 21, 2009
Dear Zeddy,

Thanks for your lengthy reply and for explaining your reasons for rejecting my article.

I confess that I am rather shocked by the reasons you give, especially because, on your own account, clearly it's nothing about the content of what I have written that is the ground for your decision.

You refer to your responsibility to the Jewish community as editor which you evidently conceive as not allowing the right of reply to direct criticism. I'm sure that even people in the Jewish community who strongly disagree with my views would not support your position in preventing them being heard in the community newspaper. Even if they did think that I should not be heard, it's rather more astonishing that you, as editor, should take such a stance.

Your position is all the more remarkable because you have not objected to anything I have written. My article is surely unremarkable and mild. I have mainly sought to correct Visontay's misrepresentations about the nature of IAJV and put his criticisms in a larger intellectual context by citing distinguished intellectual figures and universalized ethical principles that are also central to the venerable Jewish tradition.

As I mentioned in the article, these were views I had articulated at the Jewish Limmud-Oz festival and this makes your other reasons equally inappropriate where you suggest, by comparison with the British IJV that I am somehow to be regarded as setting up my tent outside the Jewish community. You must recognize that this is not our own view of ourselves but an effort to quarantine certain members of the community whose views you don't share - in this case many hundreds of distinguished and ordinary Jews.

Furthermore, this is deeply offensive not only to me personally but an affront to the entire community that you claim to be acting on behalf of. My 84 year-old mother is a survivor or Auschwitz and your idea that I must be somehow excluded from the Jewish community is to treat your community with disrespect by presuming to decide whose views they may be permitted to hear in your AJN pages. When this goes so far as to prevent the right of reply to direct criticism and misrepresentation, it really does raise questions about how you understand your role as editor.

Evidently, this means that Visontay may discuss IAJV and make misrepresentations, but I am not permitted to reply because of who I am in some unclear sense, even when I make the mildest responses to which you seem to have no substantive objection. You may not know that AJN has in the past not rejected articles and letters from me speaking even more explicitly and strongly about controversial questions regarding Israel and the Jewish community.

Your policy as you describe it is now a serious departure from this openness that the AJN had admirably followed in accordance with the most elementary principles of fairness and journalistic standards. In effect, you have said that the AJN must protect the wider Jewish community from hearing certain views of some of its own members who are, after all, respectable and informed.

Worse still, these very views are widely available in the public media in Israel itself, as you well know. This is a conception of a censorship that is quite shocking to me and would be to many members of the Jewish community who would not agree with my views. The most dictatorial regimes permit a free press to the views they agree with. The test of editorial and journalistic principles is whether you permit the expression of views that you or the community may not share.

I'm afraid that even from your own point of view, you fail to recognize the harmful effect that your decision and attitude will have for AJN and the Jewish community you claim to support. You may recall the bad press in the mainstream media that AJN received on an earlier occasion when an advertisement placed by Jewish community members was censored. Such efforts to prevent respected people being heard is hardly to advance the very aims you express in support of the Jewish community or Israel. You don't seem to understand or accept the point I made in my article that I and IAJV sympathizers are also supporters of Israel. I have close family in Nahariya and Tel-Aviv and close friends who are Israelis. You don't advance the cause you support by so explicitly admitting to acting in the patronizing way towards the Jewish community by deciding which Jews they may be permitted to hear.

I had a large and respectful audience at Limmud-Oz where I presented my talk, though most did not agree with my views. They knew who I am and came in the best spirit to hear what I had to say and to argue with me. We had a vigorous and mutually respectful and even enormously friendly discussion, with many strongly opposed people getting in touch with me afterwards to continue the discussion.

This is the spirit in which I had expected the AJN might serve its important role in the community. Surely, this is how it should be, and there was no hint that I was somehow unwelcome or inappropriate as a member of the Jewish community presenting at a community festival. Your effort (not ours) to somehow exclude me and other supporters of IAJV from the Jewish community is a very disappointing and frankly offensive position to adopt.

I had naively imagined that my mildly expressed article and my explanation about the nature of IAJV would indicate that IAJV is far from being hostile to Israel or the Jewish community as you appear to think. On the contrary, I had expected that you would recognize that we may disagree about various substantive questions but that we are trying to foster the dialogue where we disagree. So, you respond, not by taking up the well-meaning concern to engage in respectful, informed dialogue, but by preventing me being heard - and not even because you object to anything I have actually said! Let me conclude by asking you to reconsider your decision and to publish my piece - as AJN has done in the past. This would be an important, constructive step towards engaging with those many respected, informed members of the community who care as much as you do about their Jewishness and about Israel.

It's precisely the fact that we disagree that provides the reason to engage with each other in the pages of AJN.

I look forward to hearing from you again.

Best and cheers for now,

14 FEBRUARY 2010

We have just received notification of this rally which is to take place on 19 March 2010:

Jewish and Israel/Palestine Issues Part 1

Jewish and Israel/Palestine Issues Part 2

Jewish and Israel/Palestine Issues Part 3

Jewish and Israel/Palestine Issues Part 4

Jewish and Israel/Palestine Issues Part 5

Jewish and Israel/Palestine Issues Part 6

Jewish and Israel/Palestine Issues Part 7

Jewish and Israel/Palestine Issues Part 8

Jewish and Israel/Palestine Issues Part 9a

Jewish and Israel/Palestine Issues Part 9b

Jewish and Israel/Palestine Issues Part 10

Jewish and Israel/Palestine Issues Part 11

Jewish and Israel/Palestine Issues Part 12

Jewish and Israel/Palestine Issues Part 13

Jewish and Israel/Palestine Issues Part 14

Jewish and Israel/Palestine Issues Part 15

Jewish and Israel/Palestine Issues Part 16

Jewish and Israel/Palestine Issues Part 18

Jewish and Israel/Palestine Issues Part 19

Jewish and Israel/Palestine Issues Part 20

Jewish and Israel/Palestine Issues Part 21

Jewish and Israel/Palestine Issues Part 22



Mannie's blogs may be accessed by clicking on to the following links:

MannieBlog (from 1 August 2003 to 31 December 2005)

Activist Kicks Backs - Blognow archive re-housed - 2005-2009

RED JOS BLOGSPOT (from January 2009 onwards)

This page updated 17 APRIL 2014 and again on 26 OCTOBER 2016

Page 59