Israel’s very best friends (delayed post)

Israel’s very best friends

Michael Brull

 

Israel may well consider itself blessed when it come to Australia’s media. They are such good “friends of Israel”, that sometimes their devotion to the Israeli government even outshines that of  Australia’s leading Jewish organisations, and on occasion even the Israeli government.

 

One of Israel’s newest friends is the Australian Protection Party. Jeff Sparrow identified [http://www.abc.net.au/unleashed/2877306.html] these friends in an article on The Drum in September. According to evidence cited by Sparrow, Hodges is a “long time racial activist”, who thinks Hitler’s writings “still have much relevance”. Specifically, Hitler’s “comments on multiculturalism and politics in general”.

 

The Jewish News finally reported on this new friend, with the front page [http://michaelbrull.wordpress.com/2011/10/09/the-jewish-news-stop-nazi-comparisons-on-app-supporting-max-brenner-and-the-best-editorial-its-ever-run-on-the-mosque-burning/] declaration: “Strange bedfellows”. Anyone who looked for a condemnation of Israel’s newest pro-Hitler friend (there have been others, such as Anwar Sadat) would have wound up disappointed. The closest one came to even criticism of the APP was a news story describing it as “hardline”, or describing it as one of the groups with “fringe political ideologies” supporting Israel.

 

The editorial notes that its new friends stand “shoulder to shoulder” with them in the campaign against BDS. However, whilst “we may be grateful” at these new friends, they “have their own agenda”, so their support may not be reliable. Whether the “support” of a pro-Hitler group who wants a return to White Australia is a good thing evidently is too trivial a concern to seriously consider.

 

However, there was one criticism made of APP, though it was not made explicitly. A news article featured the peak body for Jews in Australia, the Executive Council of Australian Jewry, calling for an end to “inappropriate use of Nazi analogies”. A lengthier outline of ECAJ’s position can be found at Galus [http://galusaustralis.com/2011/09/5140/ecaj-urges-restraint-from-all-sides-in-bds-rhetoric/]. Whilst they display the usual double standard, in that comparing Israel to the Nazis is anti-Semitic, whereas comparing BDS advocates to the Nazis is a mere rhetorical excess, they still oppose these Nazi comparisons.

 

So it turns out [http://www.abc.net.au/unleashed/2847334.html] Paul Howes, Kevin Rudd, and much of the Murdoch press is more fanatically pro-Israel than the leading Jewish body in Australia. They think people who want to boycott Israel are like Nazis – the leading Jewish organisation does not. If ECAJ was consistent, it would say that by its own logic, Howes, Rudd, the Murdoch press (and more) are anti-Semitic for making Nazi comparisons. Evidently, it thinks that would be absurd, or has no desire to make such powerful enemies at a time. Interestingly, this may well demonstrate the comparative lack of influence of the Jewish lobby, and that Australia’s support for the Israeli government is motivated by different considerations.

 

Then there is the case of Greg Sheridan. In 2008, after Sheridan wrote about how fantastic Israel is for the Australian, the Jewish News printed two letters, both pointing out a particularly glaring factual inaccuracy (one by Sol Salbe, one by me). Sheridan had claimed that “a few years ago… [Palestinian] terrorists were murdering 1500 [Israeli] citizens a year”. I wrote that according to Israeli human rights organisation B’Tselem, “1030 Israelis – 325 of them soldiers – were killed from 2000 to the end of 2007. During this period, 4437 Palestinians were killed, including 867 children.” Sheridan conceded the next week he was wrong. He never explained how he came up with this figure – and the Australian was never made to explain why it didn’t check this most basic fact. I am the last person to describe the Israeli government as a credible source, but it does not lie about how many Israelis have been killed. According to its current website [http://www.mfa.gov.il/MFA/Terrorism-+Obstacle+to+Peace/Palestinian+terror+since+2000/Victims+of+Palestinian+Violence+and+Terrorism+sinc.htm], 1216 Israelis have been “killed by Palestinian violence and terrorism since September 2000”.

 

So however it is that Sheridan “researches” his articles on Israel, it appears the process is more supportive of the Israeli government than the Israeli government. It’s maybe a little remarkable that the Jewish News checked his facts more rigorously than his editors at the Australian.

 

More recently, Sheridan explained [http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/opinion/anti-semitism-the-real-issue-that-dare-not-speak-its-name/story-e6frg6zo-1226144877560?sv=f4ab2ab0741870175c9c17b127601e5d] that the “key issue in the Israeli-Palestinian dispute, and in the wider Israeli-Arab dispute” is the “pervasive and profound anti-Semitism that permeates the contemporary Islamic world”. Not the millions of refugees in the Palestinian diaspora who Israel refuses to let return to their homes, not the brutal occupation of the territories conquered in the 1967 war, and not the appalling discrimination suffered by Palestinians living within Green Line Israel.

 

Sheridan’s article argues in support of Israeli rejectionism of a two-state agreement, on the grounds that such a peace deal “could gravely compromise Israel’s security”. Suppose we adopt the radical position that Palestinians are as human as Israelis, and therefore have equal human rights. We might then be skeptical that the right of Israelis to peace trumps the Palestinian right to self-determination. How might one respond to the argument that we should abolish Israel in the interests of Palestinians, but we might let them have their state when Palestinians are convinced that the Jews will offer sufficient security guarantees for them? Does it sound reasonable to suspend the rights of Jews until Palestinians feel safe?

 

Yet put aside the moral framework, and just consider the factual question. Sheridan posits that Israel lacks a “partner on the other side both willing and able to make and enforce a peace agreement that provides for Israel’s security.” Is this true?

 

As I have noted before at the Drum, the Israeli army [http://www.abc.net.au/unleashed/2909478.html] has been able to drastically reduce the number of troops it deploys in the West Bank, because of collaborative efforts with Fatah security forces to repress threats to Israel. This is probably the greatest demonstration of faith in Fatah possible for the Israeli army. Apparently, the Israeli army and intelligence services have more faith in Fatah than Greg Sheridan. Perhaps he understands Israeli security better than they do.

 

Also worth considering is this [http://www.haaretz.com/news/haaretz-wikileaks-exclusive/haaretz-wikileaks-exclusive-israel-has-no-clear-or-consistent-policy-on-gaza-strip-or-hamas-1.354824] little noticed Wikileaks revelation.

 

Firstly, as to Israel’s security, it revealed the US embassy noting the obvious

On November 11, 2009 the U.S. embassy in Tel Aviv reported to Washington that “Israelis are enjoying the best security situation since the outbreak of the second intifada [in 2000], the result of Israeli intelligence successes in destroying the suicide bombing network in the West Bank as well as good security cooperation with the Palestinian Authority’s security forces.”

Correcting for the reflexive pro-Israel bias of an alleged disruption of a suicide bombing network years after Hamas declared it would end its tactic of suicide bombing, the truth in this apparently has gone unnoticed by Mr Sheridan. More interestingly, the Israeli army general responsible for Gaza and southern Israel, Major General Yoav Galant explained that “In the short term… Israel wants Hamas to be strong enough to enforce the de facto ceasefire between the two sides and prevent the firing of rockets and mortars into Israel.”

 

That is, Hamas has been so successful in ensuring Israel’s security from rockets, that in the short term Israel supports Hamas. Clearly, the Israeli government knows that if Israel enters a truce with Hamas, Hamas will honour the truce. If this fact were not concealed, there might be pressure on the Israeli government to reach a peace agreement with the representatives the Palestinians democratically chose.

 

Fortunately, this was concealed from much of the public, such as by “friends” of Israel like Sheridan. Strangely, contributing to the avoidance of a peace agreement is considered by some a service to Israel.

 

Interestingly, if one wants to read at least some criticism of Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians, it appears the Jewish establishment is becoming a little uneasy. For example, after the Goldstone Report was released, the Australian Jewish News editorialised [http://michaelbrull.wordpress.com/2011/04/07/jewish-news-vs-goldstone/] that Israeli should “take this report very seriously”, and not simply stick to the “boilerplate argument that the report should not be taken seriously because the UN has a historic bias against Israel”. Mysteriously, the editorial the next week reversed the position of the AJN on the Goldstone Report – yet this was indicative of at least some unease.

 

More recently, a new Jewish NGO, the New Israel Fund Australia, has been launched. It is supposed to support Israeli NGOs, a generally worthwhile project, given that NIF supports some fantastic organisations. It has decided its greatest priority, however, is respectability in the Jewish community, choosing as its chair Robin Margo, the former president of the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies. Strangely enough, in his new role he has complained [http://www.nif.org/media-center/nif-news/1117-the-hall-was-transfixed] that the majority of Australian Jews “have heard only the official party line on Israel for years.” A few short years ago, the JBD was among the many Jewish communal organisations which [http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/opinion/cut-paste-not-perfect-but-israel-is-still-more-right-than-wr/story-e6frg6zo-1111113122513 ] blasted Independent Australian Jewish Voices, on the grounds that, for example, “debate and airing of diverse views is the norm within the Jewish community” (David Knoll, JBD, and Graham Leonard, ECAJ). If Jews have only heard “the official party line on Israel”, why did he become President of an organisation that had declared the opposite? And why didn’t he offer, or allow, a different line during his presidency? Who was he criticising?

 

However, it should be noted, in his new incarnation, Margo quoted Naomi Chazan approvingly, condemning an “occupation that is “immoral, undemocratic and un-Jewish””.

 

More recently, the AJN has finally found that not all is perfect in the Holy State. In an editorial [http://michaelbrull.wordpress.com/2011/10/09/the-jewish-news-stop-nazi-comparisons-on-app-supporting-max-brenner-and-the-best-editorial-its-ever-run-on-the-mosque-burning/] on October 7, it came out scathingly against “The arson attack on a mosque in a Bedouin town in the Galilee”. Denouncing this “price tag” operation as a “cowardly hate crime”, they say this will “shock the overwhelming majority of Jews who are repulsed by their acts.”

How else can the burning of Muslim houses of prayer be seen if they have indeed been carried out by Jews, a people who once were subjected to Kristallnacht? After all, the slogan “never again” is not merely a mantra for the Jewish people to never allow a repeat of the Nazi-like behaviour against them, but also a promise to [sic – not] stand by as other minorities are persecuted and, certainly, never to practice those repugnant tactics ourselves against others.

Strangely enough, by their own logic, this may be anti-Semitic. It is also not clear why this is the one crime which shocks them so deeply. Perhaps because it was perpetrated by deranged Jewish fundamentalists. The editorial writes that “The shame is not just that it happened, but that it has apparently taken until now for enough people to sit up and take notice of the problem.” This could be said of them – after all, they apparently didn’t notice that this is the fifth [http://www.haaretz.com/blogs/a-special-place-in-hell/a-message-for-jews-in-a-charred-mosque-at-yom-kippur-1.388534] such attack on a mosque in the last year alone. Unsurprisingly for Israel, none of the perpetrators have been brought to justice.

 

Furthermore, if burning a mosque down offends the editors of the AJN so much, why didn’t Israel’s attack on Gaza in 2008-9? According to Norman Finkelstein, Israel destroyed 30 mosques during the attack, and damaged a further 15. This included the systematic targeting of minarets. Minarets have no strategic value – they’re too narrow to store snipers. South Africa’s John Dugard, who led the Arab League’s fact finding mission, concluded that they were “deliberately targeted on the grounds that they symbolised Islam.” Finkelstein also notes that from 2001-8, Israel had already damaged or destroyed 55 mosques in Gaza. Perhaps the editors of the Jewish News can explain why they feel no shame that they haven’t yet thought to “sit up and take notice of the problem” – and it should be stressed, this is a tiny sample of Israel’s cruelty to the Palestinians.

 

Consider another recent example. A group of left-wing Israeli activists accompanied Palestinians, a married couple, on a protest, whose privately owned land has been stolen by the settlement, Anatatot. There is video footage [http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=EKzNrNhTu5w] of what happened next – Israeli settlers viciously assaulted the Palestinians. They were both hospitalised, as were three activists [http://zope.gush-shalom.org/home/en/channels/press_releases/1317480522/]. The Israeli police not only failed to intervene – they arrested three of the activists. No settlers were arrested.

 

That evening, another group of leftist activists, Israeli and Palestinian, arrived to protest the earlier attack. They were also, male and female, severely assaulted. Again, the police didn’t intervene, and 19 more activists were injured. The video footage shows the settlers chasing the activists, chanting “mavet la’aravim” (death to the Arabs). Activists don’t expect any justice after the event – after all, many [http://972mag.com/policeman-involved-in-attacking-activists-identified/24591/] of Anatot’s settlers are police, and at least one of the attackers was a policeman. A Sheikh Jarrah Solidarity activist wrote furiously that this was a pogrom, and “anyone who doesn’t cry out against it is a party to it.” Those who refuse to speak out “will enable more blood to be shed in the future.” One of NIFA’s directors, Liam Getreu, has written in support of Sheikh Jarrah Solidarity.  Strangely, after their activists were viciously assaulted and they called out for solidarity, NIFA hasn’t spoken out. Or even condemned the mosque burnings that have so offended the AJN.

 

However, it would be wrong to imply that just because the Netanyahu government won’t bring the settler terrorists to justice, it hasn’t done anything. It has set up a task force to try to legalise [http://www.haaretz.com/print-edition/news/netanyahu-seeks-to-legalize-outposts-built-on-private-palestinian-land-1.389233] the kind of land theft by the settlers that prompted the protest.

 

Israel’s “friends” obviously aren’t doing the Palestinians any favours. However, Israeli journalist Larry Derfner recently made a different point [http://www.forward.com/articles/143855/] about Israel’s friends: he says he has “had it” with their support. “All it’s doing for my country now is enabling its most nationalistic and militaristic tendencies, helping it slide into the next war, helping it lose its place in the democratic world, helping it self-destruct. If that’s “pro-Israel,” give me neutrality.”

 

 

Update:

 

So it turns out the timing for this was bad, because there’s just been the prisoner swap, which deserves lengthier discussion, which I won’t do. Suffice to make a few points: firstly, most discussion in the Western media is brazenly racist – best captured [http://english.al-akhbar.com/blogs/gadfly/us-media-reports-gilad-shalit-swapped-1000-non-people-updated] in the title of Max Blumenthal’s blog, “Gilad Shalit swapped for 1000 non-people”. This has been noticed [http://angryarab.blogspot.com/2011/10/two-worlds-about-prisoners-release.html] in the Arab [http://english.al-akhbar.com/content/french-press-bias-coverage-prisoner-swap] world.

 

The basic principle that Palestinians are as human as Jews has been entirely missing from most accounts of the swap. Liberals who recoil in horror at the military “justice” system of Guantanamo Bay and its systematic torture can’t understand why anyone would want to free Palestinians who are alleged to be terrorists. I mean, not so long ago, Israel killed dozens of Palestinian terrorists [http://overland.org.au/2011/08/beyond-the-headlines-in-israel-and-palestine/], and then it turned out the militants who’d attacked Israel were Egyptian [http://www.richardsilverstein.com/tikun_olam/2011/09/21/yediot-idf-investigation-confirms-all-eilat-attackers-were-egyptian-not-gazan/]. We’re meant to trust the Israeli army that the people it holds are terrorists. According to the Goldstone Report (para 1444), “during the past 43 years of occupation, approximately 700,000 Palestinian men, women and children have been detained under Israeli military orders.” I guess they were all terrorists.

 

As virtually no one in the West knows the names of any of the Palestinian prisoners, but all know the name of the soldier serving in an occupying army. So it is worth reading [http://english.aljazeera.net/indepth/features/2011/10/2011101613718856735.html?utm_content=automateplus&utm_campaign=Trial6&utm_source=SocialFlow&utm_medium=MasterAccount&utm_term=tweets] a few stories of Palestinian families, who waited for the return of their loved ones. It may be shocking to some to realise that Palestinians can grieve and suffer like anyone else.

 

Mohammad Halabia, 17, student from Abu Dis, East Jerusalem
Arrest: 2009
Imprisonment: 1.5 years
Charge: Throwing a petrol bomb

“Mohammad was half-way through 11th grade when he was arrested. He was focused on school and a hard worker. He worked after school at a garage, he would just come home, eat, change and go to work. On weekends, he would work 12 hours a day to help us.

“He was arrested with a group of friends one day after going out to eat after work.

“An Israeli patrol grabbed them and took them to a military base. They abused them. During the arrest they broke Mohammad’s leg, and he was on crutches for three months.

Duaa Jayyousi, 32, student from Tulkarem, occupied West Bank

Arrest: 2002

Imprisonment: Ten years

Charge: Transporting attacker to Netanya

 

“The Israelis accused Duaa of transporting an attacker to Netanya, an industrial city on the coast.

 

“For the first year or so after her arrest, we had no idea where she was because the Israelis didn’t tell us. Since then, we have visited her whenever we could.

 

“It usually takes us five or six months for each permit. And sometimes after we get that permit, we get to the prison, and they turn us back and we have to start again.

 

“Duaa is my only daughter, I only have her and my son – who was seriously wounded by the Israelis. So you can imagine what it means to know she should be coming home soon.

Mahmoud Alama, 16, student from Beit Ummar, occupied West Bank

Arrest: August 6, 2011

Imprisonment: Two months

Charge: Stone throwing

 

“Mahmoud was in his last year of high school when he was convicted of stone throwing. He was sentenced to three months in prison.

 

“I hope nobody ever has to go through what we went through. The moment I saw him at his first trial … I will live and die and never will forget the expression on his face – the humiliation and the emptiness.

 

“From that day on, we never felt even content. We haven’t haven’t eaten right. I sent the money for the 500 shekel fine today. His sentence ends on Thursday anyway.

 

“He’s been in jail for a several months so I don’t want to throw a big party in the streets.

 

“But we’re counting down by the minute, everyone, from my youngest to me. We are all counting by the minute until he gets home.

 

Perhaps these stories can explain why a Palestinian crowd [http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/palestinian-view-despite-the-siege-and-the-suffering-we-can-share-in-a-feeling-of-victory-2372564.html] chanted “We want another Shalit”.  Until Israel shows that there is another way of liberating Palestinian prisoners, Palestinians will continue to try to capture Israeli soldiers. And the Western media will look on mystified, wondering why the Palestinian savages don’t value life like we do.

Comments
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