Public First Program


Shane Elson


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Mar 2008 # 2

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Back to Editorials 2008

Political Animals

“Animals”. “Inhuman”. “Terrorists”. “Unmerciful killers of innocent men, women and children”. These are just of few of the epithets that are used to describe Palestinians. Not some Palestinians but all of them. The people who use these words are not using them randomly or as mere rhetorical turns of phrase. These words and many others like them, are deeply ingrained into certain classes of the Jewish ruling class and their supporters. 

The events of the last few weeks show that our current crop of leaders must believe the deployment of these words, by Israeli spokespeople, is to be accepted without question. In these times of ‘post 9-11’ hysteria, it seems that no-one in a prominent position is prepared to object to and criticise the activities of the true aggressors in the Israeli / Palestinian conflict. Those that attempt to speak out are either denied the media space to put their arguments or are howled down as “anti-Semitic” “Jew haters”. 

In a 2006 article in the Australian Jewish News a range of ‘leading’ Jews in Australia reflected on and compared the support that former prime minsters Hawke and Howard offered Israel. Ron Weiser, President of the Zionist Federation, noted that both were “unswerving supporters of Israel [but] what has been outstanding about John Howard is not only his commitment to Israel’s existence, but his deep understanding of Israel’s actions in defence of her existence”. In other words, Howard supported a nation that is, very much, engaged in the unmerciful killing of innocent men, women and children. 

Isi Leibler, former president of the Executive Council of Australian Jewry, wrote that John Howard was, at that time, “unquestionably Israel’s greatest supporter in the international arena.” In an interesting twist that underscores the flawed logic of many leading Jews who attempt to justify Israel’s aggression, Robert Goot, honorary life member and past president of the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies, wrote that Hawke’s unquestioning support for Israel is “emotionally based and a product of his deep and abiding commitment to social justice, basic human rights and authentic democratic government” and that “understanding and applying the Jewish experience was part of Hawke’s value system.” I wonder what value system that was? 

In 1996 Alexander Downer, former foreign minister, in an address to the 37th Biennial Conference of the Zionist Federation of Australia / United Israel Appeal, told the assembled ‘dignitaries’ that “on my first day as Foreign Minister, as a visible sign of this Government’s and this country’s commitment to peace in Israel, I joined with the Jewish Community in the deeply moving memorial service for the victims of the cowardly and abhorrent terrorist bombings which were directed at innocent Israeli civilians in February and March this year.” Note the deployment of the word “terrorist”. 

These utterances of past political leaders should be remembered because during the parliamentary session yesterday, our current prime minister, the current opposition leader and all their parliamentary colleagues passed a motion that “honours” the 60th anniversary of Israel’s “independence”. Our parliamentary representatives, it seems, have very short memories. I was convinced that they really believed that it was illegal for one country to try and take over another or to use terror tactics, torture, indiscriminate killing and mass deprivation of human rights as the means of overwhelming its perceived enemies. After all, we invaded Iraq to “protect” the “free world” from such atrocities didn’t we? 

Yet, after 60 years of occupation, ignoring numerous UN resolutions, defying all human rights and peace efforts, the state of Israel continues to be defended by our governments. In the last few weeks about 200 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli forces. The majority of the dead were ‘collateral damage’. That is, they were killed indiscriminately. Don’t you, like me, get sick of hearing Israeli spokespeople and their supporters, offering half baked apologies for these deaths? What you have to remember is that these spokespeople and their supporters truly believe that Palestinians are “animals”, “inhuman” and “terrorists”. “But what about the Israelis who are killed by Palestinians?” you ask. Exactly. What about them? 

At the end of last week a supposed “Arab” gunman entered a school and shot eight students dead. For them and their parents I mourn. While this act has been condemned by anyone who was asked to comment on it, no one condemns the killing of the 30 or so Palestinian children killed by Israeli bombs in the previous week. While not defending in any way the killing of innocent children by anyone, it is worth considering that the school at which the killings took place is an ultra nationalist, Zionist school that has produced some of the most rabid “settler” leaders. 

While the term “settler” has an almost romantic, outback feel to it, inviting comparisons to those who opened up new frontiers, the settler movement in Israel is driven by a blood lust that is insatiable. These people believe that all Arabs should be driven from the face of the earth and that only when the boundaries of Israel reach, uninterrupted, from the River Jordan to the Mediterranean will the Christ come to earth. These ultra nationalists are the most dangerous group within the Jewish community.  

As I mentioned, I’m not defending the killer but I am trying to understand why someone might commit such an act. In trying to understand that I find that there are those, on both sides, who see the others as “Animals”. “Inhuman”. “Terrorists” and “Unmerciful killers of innocent men, women and children”. 

The “problem” of Israel and Palestine is not a problem of insurmountable proportion. It is a problem that is being actively supported and encouraged unequally. The motion that was moved in our parliament yesterday demonstrates that our current government is just as corrupt and immoral as the previous one. If they weren’t they would be passing motions condemning the aggressive, unjust and unequal responses by Israel to the slightest provocation by a desperate and oppressed people. 

I will engage in a little bit of the rhetoric I oppose by saying that the motion passed by our politicians, regardless of what they might think in their heads, their actions and refusal to speak out, demonstrates that they too believe that Palestinians are nothing more than “Animals”. “Inhuman”. “Terrorists” and “Unmerciful killers of innocent men, women and children”. 

If this is really not the case and I am missing something then I await a response that demonstrates that our politicians are really concerned about human rights and justice and that they will demonstrate this by calling in the Israeli Ambassador and condemning his government for their appalling treatment of those whose territory they occupy and have stolen. If our government’s rhetoric is to be matched with actions, then nothing short of doing this will convince me that the real “Animals”. “Inhumans”. “Terrorists” and “Unmerciful killers of innocent men, women and children” are not sitting in our parliaments.

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