Public First Program


Shane Elson


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May 2008 # 3

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Back to Editorials 2008

Al-Nakba and Optimism

Margaret Thatcher once proclaimed “there is no alternative!” She made this pronouncement during the miner’s strike that almost shut down England during the 1980s. A closer examination of the subtext of her speech and this declaration reveals that, from a position of state based, capitalist supported and ideologically endorsed power, there can be no alternative to the will of the rulers being imposed on those they rule. 

When we turn to examine the so called “problems” in the Israeli occupied territories, the same principle is being espoused by those who hold the power. Even more so is this view held by those who pull the strings of power from a distance. 

Over the last couple of weeks there has been some media coverage of the 60th anniversary of the declaration of the state of Israel and at the same time the remembrance of what the Palestinians call Al-Nakba. The few reports that I saw or read were ‘balanced’ but only in the fact that they didn’t examine the root issue. In fact the most enlightening comment came from an Israeli who said ‘if they want peace so much, they should come and live here’. This man was not referring to Palestinians but to the wealthy sponsors of Israel who live outside the country they profess to love so much. 

In our papers, over the last couple of weeks, there were commentaries and letters by Israeli apologists and their supporters and responses by supporters of justice and peace pointing out their narrow and biased perspectives of those who control power in the current “conflict”. 

Perhaps the most shocking comments were made by Mark Baker who wrote in an Age article that, “visionary leadership on all sides [is needed] to transcend past grievances for the sake of the future”. This comment was aptly summed up in the title of the article, Let past grievances lie: the state of Israel is here to stay. Words and concepts that can only be uttered from a position of power. In other words, according to Mr. Baker, ‘Palestinians and your supporters, get over it!’ We only every hear this type of comment from victors. 

Perhaps as shocking but just as expected, were the comments by Mark Leibler in response to Malcolm Fraser’s considered perspective. As usual, Leibler begins by attacking Fraser’s grasp of the “facts”. He then proceeds on the usual disinformation dissemination that is common among leading, non resident Jews in places like Australia, Britain, the US and elsewhere. Towards the end of his propaganda piece he engages with the “appeasement” rhetoric and urges Fraser to consider that Hamas must meet the “sensible conditions set by the international community”. What he fails to point out is his beloved nation’s failure to abide by similar “sensible conditions set by the international community” that require Israel to abide by international laws. 

According to Baker and Leibler, therefore, there can be no alternative to the killing and “war” simply because Israel’s “will” is correct and absolute. Leibler declares, “Israel only targets those waging war on Israeli civilians and soldiers” while Baker says, “Israel … can only be erased by committing a second genocide against Jews”. Both men engage in hyperbole and invoke the language of the victor. They claim absolute sovereignty and right over the lives of those they have no knowledge of. I ask them, “if you love Israel so much, why don’t you go and live there?”

Live there where your stubborn refusal to admit the mistakes you have allowed to continue create the conditions in which the people you supposedly love are exposed to the imagined and real ‘dangers’ of Palestinian resistance. Why is it that from a distance, these men and their peers pontificate on what is right and wrong in a place they may have visited but never lived in. Live in like those they are trying to ‘protect’ live in. Those that cannot afford to relocate elsewhere because the Israeli government only pays for Jews to relocate into Israel. 

There is an alternative but it will take far more determination, good will and guts than Leibler and Baker are prepared to accept and embrace. The alternative is for Israel to accept the will of the international community, as expressed in numerous UN resolutions and to be blunt, grow up. 

The alternative is that supporters of the state of Israel realise and embrace the fact that they need to broaden their view of the so called “two state solution” and give back all the land that has been stolen in the last 60 years; pay compensation to the land holders dispossessed during this time; repatriate Palestinian refugees to the lands of their ancestors and abide by the international community’s will that peace prevail and reconciliation be achieved. 

Am I being too optimistic? Perhaps. However, to quote the founder of Zionism, Theodore Herzl, “if you will, it is no legend” (which Baker, in his article, removes from its real context and distorts). My optimism is lies in the fact that all power is transitory. As I have noted elsewhere, while I do not believe in the Zionist cause in its contemporary guise, I can relate to Herzl’s dream for a homeland. He and his powerful benefactors and their descendants have created the current situation only because the balance of power shifted. This means it can shift again and I remain optimistic that when it does, the Palestinian people and those, like me, who support their cause, will prevail. 

However, I believe that when this balance of power does shift it will not be like the previous shift which ushered in violence and death on a scale that is not seen elsewhere. I believe the new prevailing power that does bring peace will usher in an age of reconciliation, justice, reparation and peace. The only ones who will stand in the way of this optimistic outcome are those who refuse to believe there really is an alternative and continue to use the blunt weapon of brute power.

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