Much can be said about the failure of Australian politicians, like their American allies, to issue an overt condemnation of the Israel’s actions. Thankfully some academics, like John Docker and Ned Curthoys, and writers, like Greg Barns (who is also a barrister and a former political advisor), are not at all weak and do not mince words when it comes to the current humanitarian crisis Palestinians face.
Docker and Curthoys have established a new group within Australia called the Committee for Dismantling of Zionism. What is of particular note in the Committee’s first statement is that their condemnation of the current siege does not begin with an implicit endorsement of Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish-only state. This is a very brave act stemming from the Jewish diaspora and follows the spirit of other Jewish diaspora thinkers, like Daniel and Jonathan Boyarin who propose that the ‘lesson’ of any diasporic experience should be “that peoples and lands are not naturally and organically connected”.
The Barns opinion piece, while short, highlights the lack of humanity Western politicians have displayed over the last week. A particular target of Barns is President-elect Obama. Obama has failed to issue any statement on the carnage taking place in Gaza, preferring to holiday and play golf. I am not in the least bit surprised by Obama’s lack of action, especially in the context of his election campaign where he did all he could to distance himself from his onetime friend Rashid Khalidi, an American-Palestinian professor at Columbia university. This was part of Obama’s overall scheme to endear himself to those groups in American domestic politics, including the Israel lobby, who thought he was a supporter of terrorism or to weak and ‘liberal’ to deal with the ‘enemies of Israel’.Bush might be on his way out of the White House but his replacement, in terms of foreign policy, is so far proving to be much the same.
The Docker and Curthoys statement and the Barns article can all be found below.
1. Committee for the Dismantling of Zionism
John Docker & Ned Curthoys
The December 2008 Gaza Massacre
We are part of an increasing number of people around the world of Jewish descent who are sickened by the coldly calculated massacre of the Palestinians of Gaza and who utterly repudiate Israel’s claim that it acts in the name of Jews the world over. Like Antony Loewenstein we deplore the ‘myth of Israel’ as perpetual victim and rational peace seeker, and its stranglehold over media reportage of the Israel-Palestine conflict.
The massacre in Gaza cries out not only for immediate condemnation but for historical explanation. As scholars working in the fields of genocide studies and research into the long history of European colonization, it seems clear to us that Israel – as in the history of white Australia since 1788 – is a genocidal settler colonial society that since its founding in 1948 continually seeks to destroy the foundations of life of the indigenous Palestinians, their health, dignity, livelihood, personal security, access to education, and political organisation, so that the Palestinians can be replaced by colonizing Zionist settlers. Recent genocide scholarship has highlighted how much the original definition of genocide (by Raphael Lemkin in chapter nine of his 1944 book Axis Rule in Occupied Europe) linked genocide and colonization as a two stage process of destruction of the home society (not necessarily by physical annihilation qua Nazism) and replacement by the incoming colonizers. Such has been the continuing historical pattern of Israel in relation to the indigenous people of the land. In 1948 the Zionist forces violently drove out over 700,000 Palestinians by deploying ‘admonitory massacres’, as the Israeli historian Ilan Pappé has evoked in horrific detail in his recent The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine (2006). Pappé details the continuous series of massacres in 1948-49 and sporadically thereafter that the Zionists perpetrated against the Palestinians in order to ‘Judaize’ ethnically-cleansed Palestinian lands. In 1967 the Israeli state conquered the West Bank and Gaza and has aggressively continued a genocidal pattern of replacement and destruction, creating and expanding Jewish settlements, stealing Palestinian land and ghettoizing remaining Palestinian communities, attempting, through a brutal military occupation, to make life humiliating and unbearable for the Palestinians.
What we are now witnessing is a form of settler colonization reminiscent of nineteenth century Australia, in which a settler colonial ‘logic of elimination’ (to quote historian of settler colonialism, Patrick Wolfe) combines massacre and population sequestration (reserves) to incapacitate the sovereign self determination of an indigenous people. Yet indigenous peoples have always resisted the genocidal processes of destruction and replacement that settler colonialism enacts. The indigenous peoples of Australia have magnificently resisted and still do, despite all their historical sufferings. The indigenous Palestinians as a people are also resisting the disaster that Zionism and Israel have brought upon them, thereby providing the continuing possibility of a future coexistence between Israeli Jews and Palestinians.
The December 2008 Gaza massacre by Zionist Israel poses an intense dilemma for Israel’s organized Jewish supporters and much of the Jewish diaspora, who have for decades cooperated with and been complicit in the ongoing, incremental Israeli genocide of the Palestinians. Israel is guilty under article II, part C of the UN Genocide Convention, in that it intends to destroy, in whole or in part, an ethnic group by ‘deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part’. Will the Jews of the world continue to be so supportive, or will they historically disavow genocidal settler colonialism in the Middle East and question their own previous support? Historically, Israel is the imposition of a European nation state, founded on the notion of one people, one religion, one ethnicity, in an area of the world, the Levant, which through the centuries has been a space where Jews, Muslims and Christians have lived together in the same societies. The very idea so precious to Zionism, of Israel as a Jewish state, is absurd, as the great Jewish jurist and Australian governor-general Isaac Isaacs pointed out in the 1940s. What if Australia called itself a Protestant state, immediately making all non-Protestants second class citizens systematically facing abuse, discrimination, and state violence, as Palestinian Israelis do to the present day? Israel/Palestine should become a democratic state, a democracy where all who live in that land are full citizens whatever their religion or ethnicity.
The Australian government not that long ago in its apology over the Stolen Generations extended sympathy and understanding to the indigenous people of Australia. Why doesn’t it extend a similar sympathy to the indigenous people of Palestine?
1 January 2009
2. West weak while Palestinians pay
In Australia you can go to jail for donating money to a cause like Hamas, which runs the lives of 1.5 million Palestinians on the Gaza Strip. However, it is not an offence for you to support organisations in Israel, which actively disrupt the lives of Palestinians by ripping up their olive groves or financing illegal settlements in areas of clear dispute between Israel and the Palestinians.
Hypocritical? You bet.
The Australian government, be it Liberal or Labor, like successive US administrations of any hue, is tied to a policy of supporting Israel at almost any cost. The plight of the Palestinians is given patronising lip service by Canberra and Washington.
If an Australian politician is invited to an Israeli function they will fall over themselves to be seen there. The same goes in the US. But if you suggest to those same politicians that they actively and consistently support Palestinian organisations or causes they will go weak at the knees and find any excuse to be out of town on that day.
There is no way any Australian or American politician should be supporting Israel’s disproportionate use of force against Hamas in the Gaza Strip.
Hamas is an organisation with limited resources and munitions, while Israel has one of the best funded armies in the world.
The result of its Gaza offensive is untold suffering to innocent men, women and children, while the Hamas leadership remains in hiding underground.
Perhaps the most abject failure of the fracas in the Gaza has been that of the man whom so many thought – foolishly in this columnist’s view – would shift US policy towards the Middle East onto a more just and humane plain.
Last week Mr Obama, in a scene eerily reminiscent of his predecessor George Bush, stayed on the golf course and wouldn’t say boo while Palestinians were being remorselessly attacked by the Israelis.
Some of us are not surprised by Mr Obama’s weakness last week. He, like all candidates for the US Presidency, actively courts the powerful pro-Israel lobby in the US. In fact, he did so very publicly after it became clear he would win the Democratic nomination.
Mr Obama was at pains to show the American electorate that he was not anti-Israel and now he is compromised hopelessly.
If he is the man of compassion and hope that his supporters never tire of telling us he is, then how can he be so indifferent to the suffering of ordinary Palestinians over the past days?
How can he sit back and let the Israelis make life so intolerable for those on the Gaza Strip that even the apolitical Red Cross has condemned Israel?
The pro-Israel lobby says Hamas is an organisation that is dedicated to the destruction of Israel. True, but this only tells part of the story.
Hamas might be a terrorist organisation in the eyes of those who would jail you for supporting it in Australia, but to many Palestinians it represents a lifeline.
Israel has blockaded the Gaza Strip since Hamas took control in 2007 and sought to strangle the area economically.
This has merely made Hamas more relevant to people in the area as it provides medical help, welfare, housing and employment. Israel has created the monster it now seeks in its bullying and indiscriminate fashion to destroy.
What is unfolding today – a sad case of history in this part of the world yet again repeating itself – is due to the West’s refusal to pressure Israel’s leadership for significant concessions and recognise the yearning of the Palestinian people for a homeland is as legitimate as that of the Jews.
It is the Palestinians who, from the Oslo Accords in 1995 onwards, are forced to make the big plays in diplomacy. The Palestinians are meant to stomach continual humiliation and eroding of their rights so that Israel might come to the party and negotiate some form of peace.
The leadership of Israel is today morally and ideologically corrupt. It does not matter who replaces Ehud Olmert as prime minister in the next couple of months, it seems political leaders in Israel know only one thing – use military and economic might to destroy ordinary Palestinians so they give up on groups like Hamas.
It is a flawed and failed strategy, but Israel gets away with it because they are the good guys that politicians in places like Washington and Canberra pander to time and again.
Meanwhile, Palestinians are denied their fundamental human rights to be citizens of a place that is their homeland.
They talk about justice for all? Yeh … and pigs might fly.