Saturday, October 25, 2014

What's Fit to Print at The Australian

'All the News That's Fit to Print'. That, of course, is the motto of The New York Times. Whatever this means for today's NYT, for Murdoch's Australian flagship (motto: 'The Heart of the Nation'), crazed, preferably Hamas-affiliated, Palestinians are most definitely newsworthy:

"A Palestinian man rammed a car into pedestrians in Jerusalem yesterday, killing a baby and injuring six people in what Israeli police said was a 'hit-and-run terror attack'... The driver, identified as Abed Abdelrahman Shaludeh, 21, a Palestinian from Silwan in east Jerusalem, died from his injuries... He had been shot and wounded as he tried to flee police spokeswoman Luba Samri said. The US condemned what it called a 'terrorist' attack. 'We express our deepest condolences to the family of the baby, reportedly an American citizen, who was killed in this despicable attack,' State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said in a statement... Family members said [Shaludeh] had been recently released from an Israeli prison where he served 14 months for disturbing the peace. Family members confirmed Shaludeh was a nephew of senior Hamas bomb-maker Muhi al-Din Sharif who was killed in the West Bank city of Ramallah in mysterious circumstances in 1998. Israeli officials also identified him as a member of the radical Islamist Hamas movement." (Baby dies as Palestinian rams car in Jerusalem crowd, AFP, The Australian, 24/10/14)

But not the crimes of despicable, land-grabbing settler scum. No way:

"A young Palestinian girl was struck by an Israeli settler vehicle earlier Sunday has succumbed to her wounds, medics told Ma'an. Einas Khalil, 5, died after being hit by a car driven by an Israeli settler near the central West Bank town of Sinjil, medical sources at Palestine Medical Complex in Ramallah said. The girl and young Nilin Asfour were walking on the main road near the village when they were hit, and were taken to the hospital in Ramallah where their wounds were described as serious. Einas passed away hours later. Residents of Sinjil accused the settler of deliberately hitting the girls... Over 500,000 Israeli settlers live in settlements in the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem, in contravention of international law." (5-year-old Palestinian girl hit by settler car succumbs to wounds, maannews.net, 19&21/10/14)

Or the latest settler infestation in occupied Silwan, Shaludeh's home patch:

"Dozens of Israeli settlers moved into two homes in the predominantly Arab neighborhood of Silwan in East Jerusalem overnight Sunday. The move effectively doubled the number of Jews living in the central part of Silwan, where relatively few Jewish families had lived before." (Number of Jewish Silwan residents doubles in overnight mission, Nir Hasson, Haaretz, 20/10/14)

Friday, October 24, 2014

Visiting Zionist Comedians You May Have Missed

Zionist comedy? I know, it sounds like the ultimate oxymoron, right?

Wrong!

Meet Breakstone and Hendel:

David Breakstone, vice-chair, World Zionist Organisation (WZO):

"We have to keep hammering home that we also feel terrible distress over the death of so many innocent Palestinian civilians, particularly the children. The other thing I think we need to do is present the human side from Israel. Although our children have not been killed in this conflict, they've certainly been traumatised." (WZO vice-chair in Australia, The Australian Jewish News, 22/8/14)

Dr Yoaz Hendel, former communications director for Benjamin Netanyahu, currently chairman of the Institute for Zionist Strategies:

"Human rights is not the monopoly of the radical left and it's not the monopoly of liberals. It's part of Zionism. The fact that we have minorities in Israel, it's part of what we are... This is Israel's character." (Israel champions human rights, The Australian Jewish News, 22/8/14)

I rest my case.

Gough Whitlam: To PLO or Not to PLO 3

"The next speaker was Lionel Murphy. He opposed the final position put by Gough and reminded Cabinet of the decision taken to force the Australian Wheat Board to honour its contract to supply wheat to Egypt on credit. He said that had we not stood by correct principles then, we would not have escaped the consequences of the energy crisis as we did. It never pays in the long run, he said, to forsake principles, and in this case, we had people who, so far as we knew, were law-abiding citizens merely wanting to come to our country to put the case for the Palestinians. It didn't matter, he argued, whether we were for or against that case, justice demanded that they be given a chance to put their case to the Australian people. He said it didn't matter how Whitlam's final decision was dressed up, it was discrimination based on political expediency and would not stand the test of history. He concluded by saying he supported my case without qualification.

"It was a splendid defence of our position and had a vote been taken straight after Murphy's speech we would have won! I was now quite confident of winning, but I was not to know that Willesee would follow Whitlam and ask Cabinet to reject his own proposition. I half suspected that something was amiss because Willesee had leaned over to whisper something to Whitlam which caused him to nod approvingly to whatever it was he had said.

"Opposition then came from Minister for the ACT Gordon Bryant who charged that the PLO was not only at war with Israel but also at war with anyone who got in their way. He supported Beazley's argument that a visit by the PLO would stir up local tensions. He was not concerned about the electoral consequences, but although normally we would accept visits from both parties to a dispute, we had to remember that the PLO was at war with mankind.

"It was at this point that Don Willesee was brought into the debate for the second time. He had spoken only briefly when introducing his proposal. It was obvious now that he had changed his mind; and to me equally obvious that this is what he had whispered to Gough because he called Willesee even though he had already spoken once, and even though he had not asked for the call. He began by saying that he wanted the discussion kept within Ministerial circles until the dispute relating to Hartley and the PLO was known. He was not keen, he said, on the delegation coming to Australia. A report had been received through Peking suggesting that it might be preferable to defer the visit. He said it was a very difficult situation and he 'now' believed that we should tell them not to come at this time.'

"It was indeed a very difficult situation for Willesee! There were elements within his own Department who had counselled against the visit. His own Prime Minister had switched sides after hearing Wheeldon and Beazley. But Willesee came from the same state as the chief Ministerial protagonists for the Jewish cause. Don liked all three, and had a very deep personal respect for them and an admiration for their intellect. By an intelligent count of heads he could tell that the voting would be extremely close and he just didn't want his vote to result in a one vote win for all the things that Beazley and Wheeldon had warned against. If Cabinet was going to split down the centre he was not prepared to take any risks!

"Faced with what seemed the certain defeat of the original proposal to accept all the delegates, everyone accepted the view that the one vetoed by West Germany should be excluded. I sought to salvage something from the wreck by proposing an amendment that would admit the two who had been accepted by the United Nations General Assembly. There seemed to be no reason why anyone could object to them, and our acceptance would show that we were not taking sides. But the vote showed I had badly misjudged the mood of Cabinet, for it was only Whitlam's vote that saved Beazley's amendment from being lost, and the votes of Whitlam and Willesee that prevented my amendment from being carried.

"Gough had insisted on treating Beazley's opposition as an amendment to the motion to admit the four delegates. It probably didn't matter much because the die had been cast; but it was, of course, contrary to all the rules of debate to accept an amendment that was a direct negative of the motion. He apparently believed there was some technical advantage in doing this whereas, in fact, it was a disadvantage; because an even vote would have meant its defeat and the same rule would have applied if a vote were taken on the motion. In fact, it was this that forced Gough to vote in the show of hands I demanded. He frequently abstained from voting on issues whenever his own vote would make no difference to the outcome. So, when he declared the so-called amendment carried on the voices, I immediately called for a show of hands. Gough correctly guessed my motive but when only 9 of the 18 Ministers put up their hands in support of Beazley's amendment he was forced to show his own or see it defeated. So the amendment was declared carried by 10 votes to 8. Bowen had voted against the amendment and Morrison for it, but as the meeting was almost finished, and before my motion could be put, Morrison and Bowen tacitly paired by leaving the Cabinet meeting together. My motion was then put and declared lost on the voices which was confirmed on a show of hands, 7 for and 9 against, with Gough voting against giving entry visas even to the two delegates who had been given credentials to UNGA."

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Gough Whitlam: To PLO or Not to PLO 2

"Lionel Bowen appeared to sense that Gough was about to somersault and that Willesee and I were going to be left high and dry, so he took the point that the matter should never have been brought to Cabinet and ought to be left to the Minister for Labor and Immigration. He said, 'Clyde has already said that he is willing to let them in. We should do that if he wants to.' But Gough, no doubt realising that the issue had already gone too far and that it was therefore too late to sweep it under my carpet, reminded Cabinet that both Willesee and I had sought Cabinet's guidance because we feared the consequences of a decision taken either way. There were enough 'hear, hears' around the room to convince Bowen that a decision could not be avoided so he did not persist with his point.

"Bill Hayden took the line I had expected. He said that he would be disappointed if Cabinet decided not to issue the visas. Israel, he said, had been successful in getting its story across in Australia and other countries and the Arabs had been equally unsuccessful. To talk about the PLO threatening the boundaries of Israel, he said, was sheer nonsense because there were no internationally acceptable boundaries of Israel. He argued that the Arabs had been treated quite badly, but as they were accepted into society they would become more responsible. But responsibility, he said, could not be expected from them while the world treated them as terrorists and outlaws. 'We shouldn't play for teams; and so to deny the delegation the right to even put their case would be establishing an unhappy principle.' The Government, he declared, shouldn't allow emotions to overshadow the real issue.

"I had been waiting for Beazley to come into the debate because I wanted to reply to him as I knew his contribution would be a telling one. I had expected him to speak earlier, but apparently he was well satisfied with Wheeldon's contribution. However, Hayden's argument was too persuasive to ignore and Beazley immediately followed. He agreed with Hayden about the emotional issues involved, but took another view. It was not opportune for the PLO to come to Australia now, he argued; neither would he accept a delegation from the IRA while they were responsible for bombings in the UK. 'I mean,' he said, 'that I wouldn't accept IRA supporters as representatives of the IRA while they are planting bombs in London.' For these reasons he was against any of the delegation members being permitted to enter Australia.

"Beazley's speeches were always good, but coming after Wheeldon's, this was something of an anticlimax. It fell far short of what I had expected. But I could tell from Gough's affirmative 'head-nodding' that he had already decided to switch. He was beginning to see the political consequences of his original stance. Joe Riordan was heavily dependent upon Jewish support in his elctorate of Phillip. Joe Berinson was an influential backbencher and shared with Riordan the distinction of being the most powerful backbench debater in Caucus. And there were other reasons: not the least of which of which was the financial backing given to the Leader's fund by Jewish sources. And, in any event, if the decision went against the Arabs, Cabinet anonymity would guarantee that no one would question the reasonable assumption that Gough had been over-ruled.

"I followed Beazley and told Cabinet we would be doing ourselves less than justice if we debated the question in a climate of heat. We ought to look at the question calmly and make an objective assessment of the real issues and reach a rational conclusion. I said that it was not history that was important, but whether we adopted a correct national approach to the principles involved. This called for a sensible and rational understanding of what was being proposed. 'I will clear the visas,' I declared, 'unless Willesee says 'No', and providing they are cleared of any suspicions of being involved in terrorist activities.' I reminded Cabinet of the decision taken on 15 October 1973 in response to a motion put on the notice paper by DLP Senator Kane concerning the Middle East war when it was agreed by the Government that there should be no departure from its neutral and even-handed policy in the Middle East. The government, I said, should not be taking sides in the Middle East dispute and should not be seen to be taking sides either. 'The PLO is fighting a war! War itself is terrorism,' I argued. However, I said I would be prepared to support a deferment of the matter if that would solve anything. 'But deferment would not solve this issue,' I went on, 'we must take it head-on and face the political consequences whatever they may be. If the PLO comes here, the Government will lose votes and we ought to recognise this, but we must not submit to blackmail from any group.'

"For the third time Gough came into the debate. This time, he began ambivalently. He said that he had been put in a non-partisan stance. Freedom of entry and the right of the PLO to be heard were something we ought to support, he said, but lamented the fact that the granting of visas would not get the government any votes. He said he was worried! 'The PLO,' he confided, 'had approached us through diplomatic channels and we put them off.' They are aware that Hartley is not supported by the Government. This was a clever tactic because he knew that most of his Ministers shared his dislike for Hartley. However, only two or three were swayed by their hostility to Hartley. Gough said he recognised that the Palestinians were entitled to have a country of their own 'but if we take Beazley's point, it will exacerbate feelings within the Australian community to allow entry to a delegation from the PLO. However, if we refuse them entry we would also have to deny entry to Zionist groups.' He argued that all PLO members were not terrorists and that Israel was just as intransigent as the PLO. He concluded: 'Although it may be against our principles, I feel we ought to advise the Ministers not to issue visas. These representatives can't tell us anything we don't already know.'

"Once again, Gough had caved in under pressure. He was afraid of the political, rather than the electoral, consequences of standing by proper principles. I was the one who would have been forced to accept the odium for the decision and it made me angry that after leading us to believe he supported our line, he should leave us holding the bag. Even so, I still thought there was a good chance we could win, but I was determined that if we were defeated on the voices I would call for a show of hands and thus force Gough to register a recorded vote."

To be continued...

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Gough Whitlam: To PLO or Not to PLO 1

Vale Gough Whitlam (1916-2014). With respect to the Middle East conflict, we've all heard about his Labor government's (1972-75) so-called 'even-handed' Palestine/Israel policy. But what did it look like in practice, and just who in the Whitlam government was doing what (and why) for Israel at the time?

What follows is an edited extract, over three consecutive posts, from then Labour & Immigration Minister Clyde Cameron's The Cameron Diaries (1990), pages 35-40:

 "The matter came before Cabinet on 29 January 1975... via Senator Willesee, who proposed that four members of the [Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO)] delegation be granted entry visas...

"Gough opened the debate in support of visas being issued to all members with the exception of one who was suspected by the West German Government of being involved in the massacre of Israeli athletes attending the Olympic Games in Munich... He referred to the Party's platform and to the need to maintain an even-handed policy in the Middle East. In fact, Gough had made such a powerful and persuasive case that I felt it was unnecessary to speak. Willesee, who had already been assured of Gough's support, shared my belief that the proposal would be endorsed notwithstanding the opposition we knew would come from Kim Beazley. So, he contented himself with a brief, almost casual, outline of his proposition.

"But then Senator John Wheeldon charged into the debate with a spirited and at times bitter denunciation of Gough's argument. He accused Gough of inconsistency in that he had issued instructions against granting even transit visas to South African sporting teams en route to New Zealand and on the grounds that South Africa was practising apartheid. The PLO, he taunted, were not prepared to even recognise the right of Israel to exist. In no circumstances, declared Wheeldon, should the Australian Government issue visas to PLO representatives as such. To do so, he argued, would lead to the inescapable fact that that we were granting official recognition to Arab terrorist organisations. The PLO, he said, had openly boasted of their terrorist activities and had publicly and specifically refused to disclaim that their goal was the destruction of the state of Israel.

"Wheeldon asserted that if the PLO were allowed entry to Australia they would most certainly engage in pressure tactics here. Indeed, he continued, they are already doing this from the PLO office in Melbourne which operates under the spiritual guidance and camouflage provided by Bill Hartley [of the Victorian Socialist Left]. No other government, he claimed, had received PLO delegates; and we would be guilty of splitting principles and of gross hypocrisy if we granted entry visas to a delegation representing the PLO. Moreover, it would be highly damaging electorally to the Party and to the Government.

"Wheeldon's outburst caught me by surprise. It caught Gough too! We knew that Kim Beazley had often expressed his opposition to the PLO and to Hartley's involvement in their cause. But hardly anyone had been prepared for Wheeldon's emotive blast. And yet, upon reflection, I should not have been surprised because he had often echoed Beazley's sentiments about Hartley. Moreover, it was well known that he was very close to Joe Berinson, the highly respected and very talented Jewish Labor Member for the Division of Perth.

"Berinson, a qualified pharmacist who had later won a law degree, was dedicated to the cause of Israel. Beazley had been influenced by his brilliant intellect, and it had now become evident Wheeldon had come under his spell as well.

"As soon as Wheeldon finished, I knew that one or two Ministers might have doubts about the advisability of granting the request, but with Whitlam, Willesee and me supporting the proposal I had little doubt it would be carried. Lionel Murphy, Rex Connor and Bill Hayden too, had on previous occasions indicated their support for an even-handed policy for the Middle East. However, to my surprise, Gough began to back and fill, and as soon as Wheeldon finished, he again entered the debate to say that he had received a note from Al Grassby, Special Consultant to Murphy on Community Relations, to the effect that the delegation may not come even if it were approved. I began to wonder whether under the ferocity of Wheeldon's attack Gough was going to water."

To be continued...

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

A Shadow Minister Afraid of His Own Shadow

I always thought Mark Dreyfus, Australia's Shadow Attorney-General, was elected by his Australian constituents to look after Australia's national interests.

Silly me! It seems that for some of us out there his primary political responsibility is - or should be - to defend Israel whenever they think the occasion demands.

Of course, their baying and yapping over his refusal to reflexively fall in with their peculiar Israel first obsession wouldn't much matter if Dreyfus had the inner fortitude to simply shrug it off and get on with the Australia first business for which he and his fellow parliamentarians were elected.

But no, Dreyfus, for reasons best known to himself, takes the concerns of the Israel first crowd very seriously indeed. So seriously, in fact, that he feels he owes them an explanation for not frothing at the mouth and going for the jugular whenever Israel is critiqued in his vicinity.  Hence his letter in The Australian Jewish News of October 10:

"Several people have written to me and The AJN regarding my participation in the ABC's Q&A program on September 22, and in particular my decision not to directly respond to a comment made by another of the panellists, Randa Abdel-Fattah, that was highly critical of Israel in the context of the recent conflict in Gaza."

Just to remind you what Ms Abdel-Fattah said on Q&A that night, by way of contextualising the phenomenon of Muslim youth radicalisation: "... the one thing we never address is the role of Western foreign policy and the grievances - the legitimate grievances - that cause [radicalisation]... Why is it that we choose to ignore that elephant in the room? The role of Western foreign policy in creating the mess in the Middle East that we see... the fact that we had the decimation of Gaza by Israel two months ago, and the conspiracy of silence - in fact, I'll go even further, the legitimating and justification giving Israel a licence to kill, does that not fuel anger? Does that not plant the seeds? We go around in the West trying to cut down the trees of terrorism even as we plant seeds of terrorism and we do that when we allow Israel to get away with its war crimes..."

A mere statement of the bleeding obvious, I would have thought. But not to Dreyfus:

"One thing on which I and all the letter writers agree is that all the views expressed by Ms Abdel-Fattah were wrong."

All the views?

So Gaza wasn't decimated?
So Israel doesn't get a free pass to kill and maim over and over and over again?
So Israel doesn't do war crimes?
So the sun doesn't rise in the east and set in the west?

But I digress.

Here are Dreyfus's (heavily pruned) reasons for not taking Ms Abdel-Fattah down, Israeli-style:

"I will briefly explain my reasons for not engaging Ms Abdel-Fattah in a debate on Israeli actions on Q&A. First, the recent conflict in Gaza was not the topic of Q&A... Secondly, Ms Abdel-Fattah's views clearly reflected a well-known perspective, and I find it hard to believe that her statements could convince anyone who did not already subscribe to her views on this topic... Finally, I respect the right of Australians to hold and express a diversity of views, including views with which I vehemently disagree."

Well and good. But then he concludes: "I will continue to take real opportunities to sensibly discuss Israel's future security."

Oh, really? Is that your job?

Apparently so.

So, readers, next time you hear the Australian shadow attorney-general going in to bat for Israel, think of the Israel first pack snapping at the poor man's heels, and keep in mind that in Mark Dreyfus we have a shadow minister seemingly afraid of his own shadow.

Oh, and contemplate too the delicious irony of Dreyfus representing the seat of Isaac, named after former Governor-General Sir Isaac Isaacs, who had no problem whatever, bless him, with putting the boot into Zionism and its dirty deeds in Palestine.*

[*See my 29/10/11 post Greg Sheridan's Worst Nightmare.]

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Mission Accomplished

"Driving down Saadoun Street, we swing past Firdos Square. There, the stump of the plinth from which a bronze of Saddam Hussein was famously toppled - the dictator's right foot remains - prompted a local to observe: 'Everyone talks of how safe it was, if not good under Saddam - you were safe if you didn't discuss politics.' Now, it seems, everyone is talking about politics - and no one is safe." (The city of burnt trees and bravado, Paul McGeough, Sydney Morning Herald, 18/10/14)