Israel situation endangers us all

A piece on Antony Loewenstein’s blog drew my attention to an article in the Sydney Morning Herald by Paul Sheehan. Seen by many as a conservative, pro-Israeli, anti-Muslim commentator, he wrote:

as someone who has given support to Israel, and taken a hard line against Muslim racism, I can no longer draw any other conclusion than that the combustible policies of the Israeli Government have become a danger to Australia and to Australians everywhere.

That doesn’t make me feel overly relaxed I must say. As was said in a very good interview on ABC’s Lateline tonight, “everything in the Middle East is connected”, and I feel more and more like we’re getting connected to it too.

One of the few areas I tend to stay away from commenting on, even when invited, is the Israel-Palestine issue. This is for a combination of reasons – a few of them being that it’s too complex, too hard and too sensitive, and I know too little about it. There seems to be more than enough fault all round, and any middle ground seems to have been blasted away long ago. Given that I have no influence on the issue anyway, that’s enough reasons to just stay away from commenting on it, although I do try to get better informed.

As the situation in and around Israel gets very dire once again, I am also getting the sinking feeling that the whole Middle East issue is one that is now much more likely to bite us very directly, no matter how much we might like to think it has nothing to do with us and is on the other side of the world.

Isolating any one act in such a drawn out, multi-faceted conflict is fraught with problems. Even the reports that Israel had reacted to the capture of one its soldiers by invading Gaza and capturing members of the elected Palestinian government, while seeming excessive, didn’t really grab my attention. But when the report came through that Israel had deliberately bombed a powerplant in Gaza, knocking out electricity for hundreds of thousands of Palestinian citizens, I figured something was badly wrong, even for this tragic and horrifically traumatised part of the world.

I know international law and standards are rather out of fashion in Australia and the USA these days, but I had thought the notion of collectively punishing all citizenry for the actions of their government was still regarded as simply unacceptable.

Even from a completely self-interested point of view, it is hard to see how this sort of action is going to achieve anything other than throwing an extra thousand litres of petrol on the inferno of hatred, bitterness and seething sense of injustice that is already producing more and more recruits for what many western eyes will see as terrorism.

There is an excellent piece in The Guardian this week by religious scholar, Karen Armstrong, which sheds more light than usual – although not much hope – on the real religious background to the current situation.

It reinforces for me why we in the West, wherever in the world we may live, should be getting very worried about the consequences of such disproportionate actions by Israel, and the apparent willingness of Western governments to turn a blind eye to actions they would be harshly critical of were they committed by others. Double standards rankle much more with the oppressed and the powerless than with the powerful.

the chief problem for most Muslims is not “the west” per se, but the suffering of Muslims in Guantánamo, Abu Ghraib, Iraq and Palestine.

Karen Armstrong paints a brief but good history of some of the modern fundamentalists and how far they vary from traditional beliefs. Today’s violent religious extremists are radical, often far removed from traditional theology and target the moderates of their own faith as much as they do those from the ‘other side’.

She believes that this hasn’t been so much a battle between Islam and the West, or even a resurgence of traditional religious fundamentalism. We are failing to see the conflicts within religions because we are obsessed about looking for conflict between religions (or cultures).

An apparently impassable gulf yawns between liberal and fundamentalist Christians, reform and orthodox Jews, traditional and extremist Muslims. Because of our preoccupation with the so-called clash of civilisations, this internal tension is often overlooked.

Unfortunately, the one-dimensional, hypocritical and ignorant ‘you’re either with us or against us’ approach which our government has been party to will end up creating the very unpleasant, violence-riven world that their self-defined war purports to be aimed at preventing.

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  1. Andrew

    Have you lost it? Israel pulls out of Gaza to meet the accords and tries to persuade the Palis to reach peace. The palis then elect a grouping that is considered even by Europeans to be a terror group- Hamas.
    Hamas thanks the Isealis by allowing rocket attacks to continue and kidnaps an Israeli soldier.

    Tell again how you feel?

    If say Queensland was a sovereign nation and the NSWers were doing all the could to kill Queenslanders, what would you do as an elected representative. Remember you’re dealing with Hamas now.

    Please… tell us?

  2. Oh and the shorter version of Paul Sheehan piece is:
    1 The holocaust is silly to dwell on too much, despite most of the Middle East wanting to repeat where Hitler didn’t finish off.

    2 Israel shouldn’t do anything about Hamas/Pali aggression because it may hurt Australia.

    This is what passes for thoughtful journalism at Fairfax these days. And you wonder why those whackers are losing readership.
    Gooddd it’s just getting worse.

  3. I just remembered another reason why I don’t normally comment on Israel-Palestine issues – it is usually impossible to have a rational, dispassionate discussion about it.

    I can only assume PC that you don’t know much about Paul Sheehan, but not only is your ‘summary’ not what he’s said in the piece I linked to, it is directly the opposite of what he has argued for some time.

    As I indicated in my post, I don’t know what the solution is. But I do know that what is being done is almost certainly making things worse.

  4. There is something truly tragic about anyone who would support the punishment of 1.5 million men, women and children who have done nothing because of the actions of one person.

    We invaded Iraq and punished 25 million because of Saddam Hussein, Afghanistan because of Bin Laden – tens and tens of thousands of people who had done nothing at all wrong are dead, their towns and cities are reduced to rubble, they had no armies, or air forces or navies and Afghanistan was broken back poor.

    In Iraq food money was stolen by the AWB and covered up by this government so the people were dying of malnutrition to the estimated tune of 1.3 million people over 12 years.

    PC, the Lebanese have now killed some Israeli soldiers, there are 124 dead Palestinians – are we now to punish and kill more Palestinians because the Lebanese did something?

    You say the Israelis were good guys for pulling out of Gaza but they left it so that the Palestinians couldn’t move in or out and they lobbed 3,000 shells on them in the meantime while the Palestinians had nothing but home made rockets.

    On some level I agreed with Sheehan which is quite rare. What the Israelis and the west have to do urgently is stop the dancing guilt. It was not the Palestinians who sent 6 million innocent people to the gas chambers.

    That was “us”.

  5. Are you referring to the Nazis as “us”, Marilyn? You may consider yourself to be one of that group, but don’t presume to speak on behalf of the rest of Australia.

    As for Israel, it is doing what it has since 1948 — responding to Arabic and Islamic aggression. As the war between Islam and the West accelerates, Israel will inevitably be one of the main fronts. However, as Andrew points out, we in Australia are not isolated.

    We are targets of Islamic extremism, just as much as Bali or Bombay. This is only the beginning.

  6. I liked it when Israel used to be the “little counrty that could”. I also remember that Israelis were different from “the other side” because they only targeted armed fighters, while the terrorists targeted civilians.

    That’s why the new PM is crazy to be bombing power stations just because the Palestinians kidnapped a soldier. The thought of collective punishment is offensive to me for a lot of reasons.

  7. Andrew

    I don’t care who Paul Sheehan is , what he said before etc. He’s wrong now. Israel is attacked almost everyday by people who a nothing less than Nazis and turned suicide bombing into a national sport.

    Actually the issue is not complex at all. There’s a bunch of Islamic nazis who wish to kill jews. That’s all.


    It’s possible but you’re getting stupider by the day.

  8. Pc, there’s no need to get personal, no matter how strongly you feel about the issue, and your comments are not constructive at all – indeed, they are a part of the violent cycle that has beset Israel and Palestine for decades.

    Your solution seems to be to kill or otherwise displace all the Palestinians – which is not only morally vacuous, but pointless as well. They are not going anywhere, and mutual calls for destruction, with both sides painted as blood-crazed demons, are racist and worthless. That will not stop the killing.

  9. White and black in Australia
    Jew and Muslim in Palestine/Israel
    Catholic and protestent in Nth. Ireland
    Indian and indigenous in Fiji

    The bitterness of all these conflicts is because the basis of mass engagement on the issue is self and community identity and culture. The most brutal acts as well as the proposed solutions are justified in terms of notions of who we are.

    However the decision to establish a Jewish state after WW2, the decision of Britain to occupy Ireland and continue to occupy Nth. Ireland, the decision to import indentured Indian labour to Fiji and the decision to establish a British colony in this continent are all decisions made by elites to further their economic and political agendas.

    The political agendas of the elite manipulate the masses sense of individual and collective identity in order to justify and empower their agendas. Hegemony and all that stuff.

    Folks like Moses, Jesus, Mohommod and Buddha and many others all spoke of transcending notions of egoic self definition.

    When we can identify the Israeli agenda as not simply defending the ancient holy land but also playing a key role in Facilitating the U.S. and it’s interests in the middle east, and we can see the Palestinian struggle as not just defence of the ancient holy land but also a key point of the resistance to U.S. interventions in the middle east then we can understand the entrenched conflict.

  10. from:

    “This is a particularly desperate time in the lives of the 1.45 million Gazans who live in 140 square miles of the most densely populated place on earth. Daily life for them has been almost unbearable as they’ve had to endure continued Israeli oppression without letup. With only their spirit to enable them to resist and armed with little more than rocks, small arms and crude homemade rockets, they’re pitted against the world’s fourth most powerful military assaulting them at will. The toll has been devastating”

  11. I want to remind people of Australia’s response in two refugee cases.

    Akram Al Masri was a refugee from Palestine who worked in the Gaza, he had torture scars on his body where the PA tortured him because they thought he might be a collaborator with the Israelis. He wasn’t of course but Arafat was a paranoid old man – so Akram had to flee and arrived here where he was locked up in Woomera. Eventually the federal court released him because he could not be sent back to the state of Palestine because of course there is no such state. It is often written that he was denied access by Syria and Jordan and Israel therefore he must be a bad person, the truth is he was a refugee.

    Because I typed up the reports a few years ago I know that he put his fist through a window in despair because DIMA gave him two choices – stay in detention forever or stay in detention forever because he could not leave the country. Akram had been imprisoned by the PA, watched his mother murdered and been shot in the head himself. He knew indefinite detention.

    When he put his fist through the window he slashed all the tendons but the surgeon didn’t fix it properly, hardly surprising because he was a paediatrician. So Akram had to have further surgery but still cannot properly use his arm.

    Anyway Akram was released under the 800 year old habeas corpus and Ruddock hated it so he appealed. The person involved in that was Mr Al Kateb, another Palestinian with no state.

    It was argued in the High court that even though he had not committed any crime, even though it was not his fault that Palestine was not a state and that he had tried 80 countries to accept him – remember he is just a refugee – 4 of our less than esteemed high court judges decided that it was OK for Mr Al Kateb to be jailed for his whole life without ever being charged with a crime.

    Makes Gitmo look benign by comparison but what people didn’t understand was that three Palestinian families with 10 children were hanging on the case. This case meant that two Palestinian kids born in detention to the same mum during her 4 years of jail without charge, could have spent their whole lives in Baxter – imagine that in a so-called civilised nation.

    Other Palestinians have been forcibly removed, shackled, gagged and drugged while their kids watched and dumped in Dubai, Jordan and Syria – which is where Akram ended up, he didn’t have clearance for Israel at all.

    David Corlett found Mr Al Kateeb, another Palestinian, clinging to sanity in Thailand where he had been dumped after DIMA tried to get him to Vietnam on a hush hush deal and I met one young Palestinian man who had spent 18 months in an isolation cell in Port Hedland before he was suddenly released a few years ago.

    We here in Australia treat Palestinian refugees like garbage, we ignore the cruelty and persecution of them in Palestine and pretend that the Israeli’s can do no wrong.

    Well they are doing wrong and they have turned Gaza into their own revolting Warsaw ghetto in some form of sick revenge for what the nazi’s did.

    People might not like it but the nazis were anglo, aryan, us. The rest of the west just turned a blind eye while 6 million were slaughtered by our “brothers”. I don’t like that, I hate it but it is the truth.

    It was not the Palestinians who did this terrible thing so why are they punished while we sit and watch?

    I asked Michelle Grattan how many dead Iraqis we might consider worth worrying about and received silence in response.

    That says it all about the mogadon swilling, brain dead, selfish Australia we have become I reckon.

  12. Hi Andrew

    Thanks for the link to the Armstrong article – I’m an avid Guardian reader but missed that one.

    Having once been a ‘fundamentalist’ christian myself I now regard ‘fundamentalism’ as a disease of religions. The ‘fundies’ of all religions have far more in common with each other than with their own host religion. Hatred of diversity, gays, women and pleasure are common to all, while many of the ‘hosts’ have been advocating tolerance for centuries.

    I’m terribly afraid that this virus is about to infect our politics with the rise of the “Family First” party and the incredibly disproportionate influence it seems to be having.

    Interesting times…


  13. PC sounds like another member of the people who post over at Loewensteins blog,these people believe white is black when it comes to Israel.
    And if you dare to critize the Govt of Israel you are in there eyes anti semitic

  14. Marilyn

    Much as I agree with your views on refugees, and much as I don’t like agreeing with pc person, can you PLEASE stop turning every f***ing thread into a rant about Australia’s treatment of asylum seekers. It is EXTREMELY annoying. If people can’t or won’t get the point, saying it twice as loud, twice as long and twice as abusively is not likely to change their views. In fact it probably makes it much less likely, while pulling every discussion off topic at the same time.

    Back on the topic, I agree with Jeff Poole’s comments too.

  15. That says it all about the mogadon swilling, brain dead, selfish Australia we have become I reckon.

    marilyn if thats what you think of this country that feeds you why dont you just leave. just call if you need someone to carry your bags to the plane.

  16. Why should innocent civilians be killed for the actions of a terrorist group (Hezbollah.)?

    Israel has struck civilian targets, Beirut International Airport, roads, bridges and even Lebanese military bases. This is all despite the fact that the Lebanese military are not involved in the conflict. The Lebanese called for a ceasefire from both Israel and Hezbollah. They are stuck in the middle and their civilians are the only ones that will suffer from the Israeli offensive. We must not forget that Israelis are also dying from an escalation of rocket attacks by Hezbollah on civilian targets in Israel.

    The only people that lose out in this conflict is the civilians in Israel and Lebanon.

    Not to mention that Iran has threatened the wrath of the Islamic world if Israel strikes Syria. Any attack by Israel on Syria would prompt Iran to enter the hostilities which would trigger US and British involvement and perhaps Australian involvement. The escalation could result in World War 3.

    Israel needs to show restraint in this case I feel. I fear any further escalation in the situation. It is spinning out of control.

  17. That’s what amazed me most about how the west bought the issue of weapons of mass destruction as a justification to invade Iraq, yet Israels nuclear weapons program has not been challenged by the the U.S. and it’s sherriffs.

    Where does Israel get such a military budget disproportionate with it’s size and economy that allows it to seriously threaten the whole middle east?

    Sadam is in Gaol now because of his attacks on civilian populations. Which Israeli general or politician will the U.S. arrest for the current slaughter of the innocents.

    The “free world” has the capacity to immediately end this conflict by economic and diplomatic ways, without arresting war criminals, local governments should deal with such things as the South African truth and reconciliation commission.

    Land rights for the Hebrew tribes and for the Muslim tribes in Palestine is a seperate issue altogether than the present global conflict that is flaring in the middle east at present.

    The economic sanctions and political restrictions applied to organisations such as Hamas should be equally applied to the Israeli state. Conversley the western military aid budget to Israel should be redirected into nation building programs for the Palestinian and Israeli governments equally.

  18. Israel gets a lot of its weapons and funds for its military might from the US. That would explain why the US don’t jump up and down about Israel’s nuclear program.

    Just remember that the US also gave Iraq chemical and biological weapons in the 80s to help Iraq defeat Iran in the Iran-Iraq war. Guess who was the envoy sent to sell Saddam the chemical and biological weapons capability to Iraq? It was Donald Rumsfeld!

    I don’t think there should be a war between Islam and the west. War is ugly, war kills, war is disastrous for the environment. Dialogue and diplomacy are more ideal, but sometimes diplomacy doesn’t work and war is the only option, but it should strictly be a last resort and it should be sanctioned by the UN security council (none of this narrow coalition of the willing.)

    I must ask how come no one is kicking up a fuss about Pakistan, India, China, US and Russia’s nuclear weapons programs?

    Why are we going to sell Uranium to China and India given that in the future our Uranium could be enriched and used in nuclear weapons?

    There are several pressing questions for the world to answer. Why do we apply tough standards to some countries and not others?

  19. Listen up red and pc and Vic – the problem of the way we treat refugees here is in direct proportion to how we treat people in their own countries and the reason why we let the Israeli government get away with what they are doing to the Palestinians. We helped Saddam torture Iraqis instead of getting genuine useful information. Kapeesh?

    If we treat humans with great inhumanity by calling them baby killers who want to exploit us it is so much easier to blow them to bits or stand silently by while others blow them to bits, or rape and murder them or shoot them down in the streets.

    That is why I bring it back to how we treat the refugees here.

    Red, I will not be leaving so you can save the baggage handling – I have no interest or desire in allowing or agreeing with my government and the plebs. being cruel to humans and living creatures without speaking out.

    What right has Israel got to blow up the Beirut airport, roads, bridges and cut the people off from the world? None whatsoever and it is my right to say so.

    What right did they have to murder women and kids by the dozen, or over 120 Palestinians in recent days and leave over 1 million people without services.

    None, and I will continue to say so while our supine government let’s Israel do whatever they like.

    The joke of course is that Israeli refugees here aren’t treated too much better than the Palestinians but at least they have a state to return to and are not locked up for life. In Israel they lock up people arbitrarily without trial or charge but we have made it legal.

    It’s interesting Max that you mention China and India because traditionally the largest populations in the detention centres are Chinese and they are treated the worst of all while we race off like toadies to sell them more and more uranium which could well come back to us and now we want to sell it to India so they can blow up Pakistan.

    Now Vic, try the exercise of linkage for a change – if we torture Palestinians here, why would we be hypocritical enough to support them against the excesses of Israel or the old PA?

    Come on – Palestinians here, Iraqis, Iranians, Afghans – they all had valuable information about their countries which could have helped us but we made them hate us instead.

    It will come back to bite our bums one day.

  20. LOL… it seems the comments re Marily never change. I’ll just add a ditto then and save some time typing.

    I don’t think there will ever be an end to the Arab/Islam – Israeli conflict. Not short of killing them all off that is.

    We could of course invite the Israelis to a spot on the North-West coast or somewhere in central Australia. That would get them out of the hostile neighbourhood. Tasmania would be too cold for ’em. But then you’d still have the problem of Jerusalem and the fact that both sides are totally implacable.

  21. marilyn i have a friend who study,s the old testement he and i both agree that there will never be peace in israel.
    was not israel part of palestine once.
    if there is one thing im not that is a
    mogadon swilling, brain dead, selfish Australian
    i think its an insult to be referd to as one .

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