Dumping on Israel is apparently a basic drive of many media persons and "analysts." There is no possible way that any story, however remotely connected to Israel, or however, laudatory, cannot be turned into a condemnation of Israel. If Israel is condemned, then it is proof of Israel's inequity. If Israel is praised, it is the Israel lobby or the neocons at work. If Israeli doctors heal Palestinians, it is due to their guilty conscience. If Israel is poor, it proves that Zionism is a failure and Israel is an unviable client state. If Israel is rich, it proves that Zionism is a doctrine of the fat-cat capitalists.
Conversely, there is no way that a story that shows Arabs or Palestinians or Muslims in a bad light, cannot be spun as Israel's fault. If Hamas dumps Fatah people off roofs in Gaza or slices them up into steaks, it is because they have been made desperate by Israel. If Iran denies the Holocaust, it must be because they are angry at Israel over treatment of Palestinian Arabs. If Fatah steals money from Palestinians, it is because they are supported by the Israeli warmongers, and never mind that they were stealing money in the same way long before the Oslo process.
In this classic sample of media hate literature, Alan Ramsey "deconstructs" a ceremonial Australian tribute to Israel. Ramsey has no compunctions about rewriting history:
She is the daughter of a British colonial police officer who served in British-mandated Palestine in the 1930s, before the United Nations ceded half of it to become a Jewish state in May 1948.
The United Nations actually ceded half of the Jewish National home that was ordered by the Mandate to be a Palestinian Arab state. They did not "cede" half the mandate to Israel.
As Ramsay wrote, "How can you top that lot?" How, indeed?
Blinkers off for the other side of story
March 15, 2008
Nobody else spoke. The whole affair, carefully orchestrated, carefully bi-partisan, lasted just 15 minutes. The press gallery was almost empty.
So, too, were the two public galleries. About 100 invited guests, each wearing a security pass, filled the first three rows of the Speaker's gallery upstairs and spilled into the fourth. These were the people who, after Rudd's seven-part, 191-word motion had been "put and passed" without a vote, applauded enthusiastically. The only other person who spoke - or attempted to - was a middle-aged woman.
She got to her feet, in the seats behind the VIP guests, and held up a T-shirt, exclaiming, "What about UN resolution 242?", as Rudd had begun speaking. Two attendants moved in quickly. Taking her by the arm, they escorted the woman outside, without fuss. Unlike what is still happening in Israel's military occupation, after 41 years, of the Palestinian people of the West Bank and its siege of the Gaza strip, it was a very civilised eviction.
On this day, in the Australian Parliament, normal legislative business resumed at 12.13pm. The VIP guests upstairs in the Speaker's gallery filed out. Most of the MPs downstairs drifted away to their offices. At 4pm the Israeli ambassador hosted a reception in the Parliament's second-floor Mural Hall for invited guests only. Rudd and Nelson reappeared, as suitably Uriah Heepish as their midday speeches had been.
That night, back on the floor of the House of Representatives, the woman MP who took Tim Fischer's southern NSW seat off the Nationals in 2001 and, in two elections, turned it into safe Liberal territory, did an extremely courageous thing.
Her name is Sussan Penelope Ley.
She is the daughter of a British colonial police officer who served in British-mandated Palestine in the 1930s, before the United Nations ceded half of it to become a Jewish state in May 1948. Born in Nigeria in 1961, Ley spent most of the first 13 years of her life in what was then the Trucial States, later the United Arab Emirates. Her family migrated to Australia in 1974. She has lived here ever since, working as an air traffic controller, a commercial pilot, a shearer's cook, a farmer, and a senior taxation department official. She has a bunch of degrees, three children and is now a member of the Nelson shadow ministry.
What Sussan Ley did in Parliament on Wednesday night was speak for the Palestinian people. She was the only MP who did. In fact, the only MHR of the House's 150, apart from the two leaders, to even raise the issue.
When Rudd and Nelson had spoken at midday I counted 53 Government MPs present, including six ministers, and 39 Coalition MPs. When Ley got the call 7½ hours later, at 7.38pm, to speak on the adjournment, there were five people in the public gallery, four Labor MPs and two Coalition MPs in the chamber, and one journalist in the press gallery. She was the fourth-last speaker before Parliament shut down for the day, after 11 hours, and she was allowed five minutes.
Here is an edited version of what she said:
"Today the Parliament passed a motion honouring Israel's 60 years. My purpose tonight is not to diminish Israel's achievements but to note the interests and legitimate aspirations of the people of Palestine.
"Israel has many friends in this country and in this Parliament. The Palestinians, by comparison, have few. Theirs is not a popular cause. But it is one I support, in part out of knowledge that the victors of World War II, including Australia, wrote a 'homeland' cheque to cover the sins of the holocaust and centuries of anti-Semitism in Europe, but it was the Palestinians who had to cash it.
"Israel has much to celebrate after 60 years. It has built a modern, accomplished and intelligent society, one whose scientific and technological expertise offers a great deal to the world. It has a robust democracy, a free press, a secular state with freedom of faith, and an unfettered opposition, regrettably rare in the Middle East. If there were peace between Israelis and Palestinians, one can only imagine the achievements of these two cultures today.
"Israel's 40-year occupation of the Palestinian territories, its continued expansion of [illegal Israeli] settlements [on Palestinian land] and its refusal to allow the return of expelled refugees have caused deep resentment in the Arab world. Palestinian corruption in government and failure to abandon violence against civilians as a political tool have meant Israel does not feel secure behind secure borders. Sixty years have seen a great deal of bloodshed - Arab, Israeli and others, including 34 US soldiers killed by Israeli forces on the USS Liberty during the 1967 war. I do not find it helpful to engage in a forensic apportionment of blame; each side has legitimate grievances.
"The current blockade of Gaza, confiscation of Palestinian land, and the expansion of settlements must be mentioned in the context of today's motion. Gaza is besieged, contained and on the brink of starvation. Rockets are fired into Israel every day, and Israel has a right to self-defence, but the crushing economic embargo feeds fury and resentment both in Gaza and the West Bank. [A total] 2679 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli [military] forces in the Gaza Strip since September 2000, [while] an Israeli human rights organisation reported 1259 of those were not participating in hostilities when they were killed, and 567 were minors
"We ought not be naive or simplistic about the challenge faced by the Israelis in moving towards peace with a [popularly elected] counterpart, in Hamas, that is funded and supported by a foreign power [Syria] and which retains an explicit commitment to [terrorism] as a political instrument. But may I remind the House of the example of the Northern Ireland peace process [which succeeded] after a more than 40-year struggle.
"There are signs the Israeli people are developing a renewed hunger for peace. A recent Tel Aviv University poll indicates 64 per cent of Israelis believe the [Israeli] Government must hold direct talks with the Hamas government in Gaza towards a ceasefire. Military occupation, blockades and hostility against civilians in the name of security will result in [more] violence and terror. We must think what we can do [for] ordinary Israelis and Palestinians to give them some faith in the peace process
"We are the leaders of our generation. We are accountable for results. If the principal protagonists and the rest of the world community hand Palestine on to the next generation as a twisted mess of grievance, hatred and retribution, then we have failed. The last two generations of leaders have failed to produce peace. Let us renew our efforts."
Unlike earlier in the day, nobody applauded - though I wished I could have. Many Australians, too, had they been present, surely would have wanted to acknowledge such a speech of such honesty and sensibility, about the Israelis as much as it was about the Palestinians. Ley put the grovelling Rudd and Nelson to shame. The truth is there is no real debate in this country about the travesty of what is happening in the Middle East, and there are those in the community who, with their money and influence, do all they can to ensure no such open debate occurs, either in the national Parliament, in the media or anywhere else.
So why was the Rudd Government, in its first four months of office, doing what no Australian government or parliament had done, to acknowledge any of the decades of Israeli statehood since the Six-Day War in 1967 saw the Israeli military occupy the Palestinian territories of the West Bank and Gaza and ignore 40 years of mutual violence and barbarity as well as 40 years of United Nations resolutions, to withdraw?
The Howard government did not "honour" Israel's 50th anniversary in 1998, nor the Hawke government the 40th anniversary in 1988, nor the Fraser government the 30th anniversary in 1978. Why the 60th in 2008 the instant a Labor Government comes to power?
When the Labor caucus met on Tuesday, as it does every week the Parliament sits, Sydney's Julia Irwin asked Rudd this very question.
Why? Irwin never takes a backward step in her defence of Palestinian rights, but all she got from Rudd this time was waffle. He did not explicitly respond as to why 60 might be different from earlier decades when the Parliament had done nothing and neither had earlier governments. And no Labor MP supported Irwin in pushing it.
She was a lone voice in the Labor caucus as Sussan Ley was in the Parliament. How's that for political ticker?
Leaders vie to ladle on the gush
When our Prime Minister spoke in the Parliament this week before a select audience of 100 VIP guests, including the Israeli ambassador, he was speaking to a 191-word proposal he had drafted, in consultation with a range of people, which read:
"That the House [of Representatives]
"(1) celebrate and commend the achievements of the state of Israel in the 60 years since its inception;
"(2) remember with pride and honour the important role which Australia played in the establishment of the state of Israel as both a member state of the United Nations and as an influential voice in the introduction of Resolution 181 which facilitated Israel's statehood [in 1948], and as the country which proudly became the first to cast a vote in support of Israel's creation;
"(3) acknowledge the unique relationship which exists between Australia and Israel, a bond highlighted by our commitment to the rights and liberty of our citizens and encouragement of cultural diversity;
"(4) commend the state of Israel's commitment to democracy, the rule of law and pluralism;
"(5) reiterate Australia's commitment to Israel's right to exist and our ongoing support to the peaceful establishment of a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian issue;
"(6) reiterate Australia's commitment to the pursuit of peace and stability throughout the Middle East; and
"(7) on this, the 60th anniversary of independence of the state of Israel, pledge our friendship, commitment and enduring support to the people of Israel as we celebrate this important occasion together."
Make of this splendid piece of mutual back scratching what you will, but know that the supposed virtue of Australia "proudly" becoming "the first to cast a vote in support of Israel's creation" at the United Nations in 1948 is sophistry. We were the first for no other reason than, in voting by alphabetical order, Australia was the first country to vote.
Some excerpts from the speeches of the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition in support of the bipartisan motion make the point that when politicians seek to trowel on the gush, Australia loses nothing now that Rudd and Nelson have replaced Howard and Beazley.
Rudd: " The 60 years since the establishment of Israel have been full of challenges and full of trials. Similarly, the process for the emergence of a Palestinian state has come along a tortuous path. There has been too much bloodshed. But over those 60 years there has also been cause for hope.
"We think today of prime minister Menachem Begin standing with Jimmy Carter and Egypt's Anwar Sadat at the White House on March 26, 1979 at the signing of the Israel-Egypt Peace Treaty that followed the Camp David accords. Prime minister Begin used both the Hebrew and Arabic words for peace when he urged: 'No more war, no more bloodshed, no more bereavement. Peace unto you. Shalom, salaam, forever.' "
Nelson: "In a region of the world that is characterised more by theocracies and autocracies, the state of Israel is the custodian of the most fragile yet powerful of human emotions, and that is hopeful belief in the freedom of man, freedom of speech, freedom of religion and freedom of assembly. There are many things for which Israel stands and which characterise the modern state of Israel, but included among them is the celebration of knowledge for its own sake and knowledge as the driver of economic development and emancipation from human poverty
"Israel, like all democracies, is far from perfect, but it is, in every sense of the word, on the front line of the struggle for the things that we hold dear, not only as Australians and free people but as human beings. And it is far too frequently on the front line of the struggle against all the things repugnant to universal human ideals
"Israel is home to many things that are spiritual, but it is home in the end to the human spirit of resilience, of confidence, of determination and of respect for one another, irrespective of political, religious or other affiliations No Australian who believes in the dignity of man, in freedom and in democratic principles should ever, through neglectful indifference, allow Israel to be a stranger. To do so would be to diminish ourselves and our own true security "
How can you top that lot?
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