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Letters to The Australian

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Israel must be strong

One can argue ad nauseam regarding Israel’s conservative political parties and their idiosyncracies (“Netanyahu must steer ship of state”, 28/12). Despite national opposition, past Israeli governments have returned strategically important regional areas to Arab overlords. The result has been catastrophic, militarily, with many Israeli lives lost. Until at least one influential representative Arab leader declares that the Palestinian Arabs accept the existence of the democratic state of Israel, in the first instance, it is all a waste of time.

Aviva Rothschild, Caulfield North, Vic

It’s a measure of the extremism represented in the governing coalition cobbled together by Benjamin Netanyahu that even the Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council has voiced its concern. The far-right dogmatism and ambition of partners such as West Bank settlers Itamar Ben-Gvir and Bezalel Smotrich pose a defiant challenge to Netanyahu’s captaincy.

He may well be “Israel’s longest-serving and most experienced political leader”, as Mark Leibler and Colin Rubenstein declare, but what they and your editorial fail to point out is that Netanyahu is exploiting all his political skills to battle corruption charges.

The Faustian pact he has forged with ultra-Zionist radicals may delay his reckoning but will not serve Israel well, much less address the moral malady that afflicts its nationhood, the entrench­ed and worsening disenfranchisement of the Palestinian people.

Tom Knowles, Parkville, Vic

Article link: https://www.theaustralian.com.au/commentary/letters/chinas-persecution-of-uighurs-remains-a-hurdle-to-detente/news-story/c5400a62770a9fdd1971272052396abf
Article source: The Australian (29/12/2022)

2024-05-08 07:04:10.000000
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Palestinians ‘weren’t there at all’– Netanyahu tells credulous Jordan Peterson

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Palestinians ‘weren’t there at all’– Netanyahu tells credulous Jordan Peterson

BY PHILIP WEISS  DECEMBER 14, 2022

( https://mondoweiss.net/2022/12/palestinians-werent-there-at-all-netanyahu-tells-credulous-jordan-peterson/ )

Conservative scholar/media star Jordan Peterson turned over a new leaf this fall by touring Israel with the ideologue Ben Shapiro and dining with Benjamin Netanyahu. Now Peterson has published an interview with Netanyahu titled “Does Israel Have a Right to Exist?” in which he allows Netanyahu to rant against Palestinians and misrepresent history:

Israel did not create “a single refugee” in 1948. No, neighboring Arab armies did that by telling the Palestinians to flee. This has always been Jewish land, the bible tells us so. Though before Jews returned to it, it was just a “barren dump” and “wasteland” and “ruin.”

There was no such thing as Palestinians. They were “southern Syrians” till Zionism built a “miracle” in the desert and they emigrated to the land.

Peterson has a large following, and the interview has gotten 800,000 views in eight days. Though happily, many commenters on the video have denounced Peterson for his hospitality to racism and historical fictions.

Here are some of Netanyahu’s Zionist fables. On the refugees:

“Seventy five years ago when the state of Israel was declared, you did not have a single Arab refugee…. In fact the refugees are the result of Arab aggression and not its cause. …. The Palestinian refugees… fled in advance of the advancing armies [from five Arab countries] being promised that they could return in a few days, the Jews would be annihilated and driven into the sea, that didn’t work out, thank god.

The Zionists “did not kick out an existing population with a national consciousness.” Because no one was there, it was barren land.

“The Arabs who had conquered the land [in the 600s] basically left it barren. They never made it their own. It was a barren land. Practically it was an empty land…. The Jews came back in the 19th century to the land of Israel. The result of this return was that we started building farms, factories, places of employment. Arabs from nearby countries started emigrating. And they now became– they call themselves Palestinians. They reconstructed history, they said we’ve been here for centuries. No they haven’t. They weren’t there at all, and they didn’t have a national consciousness….

“It’s not your land, it’s been our land for 3500 years. If you took over somebody’s apartment, kicked them out, dispossessed them, and they never gave up their claim… and you left this barren dump, OK? And the families, the progeny of the people you kicked out came back, rebuilt the house… you cannot come back and tell them, you don’t belong here, we’re going to kick them out.

“Especially since your latecomers who have come to live in part of the house, which is what so-called Palestinians are. We say to them you can live here, we can live here, but it’s our land, its our state…”

This is Nakba denial, and hateful to those who respect human rights and history. Netanyahu’s claim that Palestinians are “southern Syrians” is the same line that Sheldon Adelson, his friend and the late Republican donor, used to put out.

Jews have suffered more than anyone else.

“If any people has any right to a state, if any people never gave up their dreams… If any people rebuilt their home from nothing, from barren, wasted land, it’s the Jewish people. To tell them, you who have suffered more than anyone else… you have no right to be there, but the Arabs who are trying to destroy you, they have a right, That is a complete perversion of history…

The land belongs to us.

“The Jews belong to this land, this land belongs to the Jews, the Palestinians are free to live here next to us, among us, but they are not free to demand the dissolution of the Jewish state…

There’s no occupation, Netanyahu says, using biblical terms for the West Bank: “our so- called occupation of the heartland of the Jewish people, Judea and Samaria.”

More ranting about Arabs are not productive:

“We came back to this land to this land that was laid barren by the Arab conquest, brought it back to life, and allowed Arab immigration, what we call now Palestinian immigration, to come back in…

“They did nothing with the land. They built one town. Ramle. That’s it. Hundreds of new sites that we built…. The Arabs did nothing with it… We perform this miracle… it was desert, it was nothing.”

Netanyahu repeats that it’s like being evicted from an apartment and when you come back, there are “no tenants” there.

“They took over my apartment a long time ago…The apartment was left barren and many decades– in this case, centuries later, I come back to this barren mess, this ruin, and I build it up back, I not only improve it, I make my ownership based on improvement, but that nobody else did anything with it. There was no someone else! There practically were no tenants, that’s my argument… “

Peterson never challenges Netanyahu’s lies about Palestinian history and Palestinian refugees. He does not touch on Netanyahu’s corruption trial or Netanyahu’s current plan to take on fascistic coalition partners to gut the Israeli legal system so he won’t go to jail.

So the interview is not so different from PBS News Hour’s Judy Woodruff, interviewing Netanyahu for 11 minutes a few weeks ago and leaving him off the hook on corruption and racism and apartheid charges (“You see a home for the Palestinians in years to come?”).

PETERSON AND SHAPIRO AND NETANYAHU AT DINNER IN OCT. 2022, SCREENSHOT FROM SHAPIRO’S YOUTUBE.

Peterson accepts the claptrap surely because he is a Christian Zionist and opposes the American left at every turn, so Netanyahu is a hero. But Peterson offers a rationalization for theft that his own commenters are mocking. There is a “principle of ownership in English common law,” Peterson says, that “if you own territory and you’re doing nothing to it and someone squats on it” and does something productive, that someone gets to keep the land. “You have to do something productive with [territory].. The Jews have actually taken the land and did something with it. … They invited other people to live there… It wasn’t an oppressive regime.” This is high-minded hasbara, or explaining Israel to the world.

In turn, Netanyahu justifies Israeli land theft on the basis of the bible.

“The bible describes how the Jewish people lived on this land, were attached on that land, fought off conquerors sometimes were conquered but stayed on their land… till the 7th century… We were conquered by the Romans, conquered by the Byzantines. They did a lot of bad things to us, but they didn’t really exile us…. The loss of our land actually occurred when the Arab conquest took place in the 7th century. The Arabs burst out from Arabia and they did something that no other conqueror… nobody did before… They actually started taking over the land of the Jewish farmer. They brought in military colonies that took over the land.”

(Military colonies — a wee bit of projection there!)

“So it is under the Arab conquerors that the Jews lost their homeland.. The Arabs were the colonials, the Jews were the natives dispossessed… We were flung to the far corners of the earth, suffered unimaginable suffering because we had no homeland. … We never gave up the dream of coming back to our ancestral homeland.”

This is claptrap. The scholar Shlomo Sand debunks it in his books “The Invention of the Jewish People” and “The Invention of the Land of Israel.”

The claim that there was not a single refugee at the time of Israel’s founding is laughable. Consider that the scholar Ibrahim Abu Lughod and his family left Jaffa in May 1948 before the state of Israel was created because they feared for their lives. Hundreds of thousands of other Palestinians took similar actions.

Many fled because of violence by Zionist militias who sought to take over areas coveted by the Jewish state (like Deir Yassin on the road to Jerusalem) outside the boundaries the U.N. had drawn. Many were trucked away from their villages by the Israeli army so as to create a Jewish majority in the new state. Most importantly, at least 700,000 refugees were not permitted by Israel to return once the armistice was achieved in 1949.

How can a serious scholar indulge the racism and cultural supremacy of saying that Palestinians “did nothing” with the land? And does it matter whether the people you kick out of your country have a “national consciousness”? Don’t they still have a right to their homes and villages? Records are clear that over 400 villages were erased by the Zionists. This is dangerous thinking, and it’s a sad reflection on Peterson that he humors it.

Peterson characterizes the Nakba as an intellectual fad. Why has the idea of Palestinians being indigenous and displaced “gained such cachet in the west?” Peterson asks.

Netanyahu is clearly nettled by the rise in consciousness of the Nakba in the west. “Intellectual elites have created a fake history that deracinates Jewish roots,” he says. He seeks to counter the “settler-colonial” critique of Zionism with slogans, of which he’s a master.

We are not the Belgians in the Congo, we are not the Dutch in Indonesia, we are not the British in South Africa. We had been there all the time…. We were kicked out of the Congo and nothing happened in the Congo. Nothing. no other people there, no development, nothing..

He reprises Joan Peters’s argument, in “From Time Immemorial”, fully discredited by Norman Finkelstein, that the Palestinians in Israel in 1947 had emigrated there to get in on the great developments of Zionism.

Netanyahu justifies the pro-Zionist Balfour Declaration by the British in 1917, later endorsed by the U.S.– on a similar basis, the bible and Jewish cultural supremacy.

They [western leaders] basically knew that the land was practically empty.. It made sense both from biblical prognostication and also a humanist view that this evil of history, this injustice of history would be corrected. These Jews who had contributed so much to civilization, and morality and history… [the leaders] concluded knowing the history I describe that is so unknown today on college campuses and among so-called intellectuals that Jews had a right to rebuild their national life in their ancestral land.

Reflect that this is the racist political leader, praised by the Democratic establishment, who successfully demolished the possibility of a two-state solution during his first 15 years in office.

Comments on the video are mostly scathing.

Lion Heart. “A quick summarising: If your house is empty and you only put a couch there, someone should come and be in your house instead.” Also judging by Benjamin’s logic, natives should be taking America and Canada back and rule. Right?

theobnoxiousweed”: “Netanyahu’s main philosophy of the entitlement for Israel is based on the inherent superiority of the Jewish people. He repeatedly describes the lands around Jerusalem as barren wastelands. A similar philosophy to my ancestors who declared Australia empty a few hundred years back and thought of the inhabitants as having no entitlement to the land they lived on due to their perceived primitive culture.”

Reid Schwantz: “My great great great great great great great great grand father, the first human on earth posses the whole lands and oceans under the atmosphere where all human live nowadays. inspired by mr. netanyahu, now i’m thinking about to claim it back after 50k years or so.”

Article link: https://mondoweiss.net/2022/12/palestinians-werent-there-at-all-netanyahu-tells-credulous-jordan-peterson/
Article source: Mondoweiss, 14/12/2022

2024-05-08 07:04:10.000000
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Bungled handling of West Jerusalem makes a tough decision worse

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Bungled handling of West Jerusalem makes a tough decision worse

 

By Matthew Knott

Updated October 18, 2022 — 7.19pmfirst published at 7.17pm

Changing Australia’s position on a topic as contentious as the capital of Israel was always going to arouse intense opposition and debate.

But the messy, confusing way the Albanese government executed its decision to no longer recognise West Jerusalem made a challenging task significantly more inflammatory and damaging than it needed to be.

The bungled handling of the issue stands in stark contrast to the rest of Penny Wong’s successful short tenure as foreign minister, which has been marked by competence and assuredness.

There’s been a flurry of visits to Australia’s previously neglected Pacific neighbours and a symbolically powerful trip to Wong’s childhood hometown in Malaysia. Wong has met twice with her Chinese counterpart, helping stabilise a crucial relationship after years of escalating tension.

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Now she faces her first crisis in the form of an infuriated Israel.

The main problem on West Jerusalem is not the policy change itself – which Labor announced in opposition – but the timing of the reversal.

The announcement came as a shock to the Israeli government and Australia’s Jewish community, which had no inkling the issue was on the government’s agenda.

The question of West Jerusalem had faded from attention in Australia over recent years and did not feature in the May election campaign.

The decision was an embarrassment for Israel’s fragile centre-left governing coalition just two weeks before Israel’s national elections.

Intensifying Israel’s anger was the fact the decision coincided with the Simchat Torah, a Jewish holiday. On the day the government announced a major change to its foreign policy, the Israeli embassy in Canberra was closed for the holiday, its phone going straight to voice mail.

The Israeli government and its local supporters feel not only disappointed but blindsided by Australia’s lack of consultation and warning – just as Emmanuel Macron did when Scott Morrison axed a lucrative submarine contract with French company Naval Group.

The only reason the issue flared up now is that in recent days the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade quietly scrubbed a reference to West Jerusalem from the Israel page of its website.

According to the government, an overeager public servant got ahead of themselves by updating the website to reflect the government’s stated position on West Jerusalem. The problem was that cabinet hadn’t made a decision on the issue and the government hadn’t announced any policy change.

After the update to the website was revealed on Monday night, the government hurriedly assured reporters and anxious pro-Israel groups that Australia hadn’t changed its position on recognising West Jerusalem.

That was true until, a few hours later, it wasn’t: the Albanese cabinet met in Canberra on Tuesday morning and agreed to reverse the Morrison government’s stance.

As Wong says, Labor’s decision returns Australia to the international mainstream when it comes to the Israel-Palestine dispute. The global consensus has long held that the status of Jerusalem should be resolved only as a result of peace negotiations that lead to a two-state solution.

Donald Trump exploded that consensus in 2017 by officially recognising Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and announcing he would relocate the US embassy from Tel Aviv.

Morrison flagged doing the same in the lead-up to the 2018 Wentworth by-election, a seat that just so happens to have a large and politically active Jewish community.

In the end, Morrison recognised West Jerusalem as Israel’s capital but stopped short of relocating the Australian embassy.

According to Middle East specialist Rodger Shanahan, a non-resident fellow at the Lowy Institute, Morrison’s decision was “intellectually incoherent … policy-making on the run” that made Australia an international outlier. The new government, Shanahan argues, was right to overturn it.

But a change of such a sensitive, globally significant nature should be announced in an organised, carefully considered way. That’s not what happened here.

A policy born in regrettable circumstances has died an unnecessarily painful death.

Australia was already grappling with a volatile and complex geopolitical environment; now it has a self-inflicted diplomatic stoush with Israel to deal with as well.

Article link: https://www.theage.com.au/politics/federal/penny-wong-australia-still-recognises-west-jerusalem-as-israeli-capital-20221018-p5bqm3.html
Article source: The Age, 19/10/2022

2024-05-08 07:04:10.000000
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