It is extraordinary, as an Australian, to watch the speed at which our new government is undermining whatever respectability this country had left in the Arab world through expressions of unconditional love for the State of Israel. More extraordinary still is the fact that Mr Abbott has a competitor, determined to outdo him in his Zionism – namely, his Canadian counterpart, Stephen Harper.
Harper’s recent pledge to the Knesset – that his government’s support for Israel was of Biblical proportions – “through fire and water” – did not go unnoticed by the Canadian public, as seen in the telling piece of Satire published in the Canadian blog, The Beaverton, last week, entitled “Israeli Prime Minister Stephen Harper returns after long visit in Canada”.
Abbott’s Zionism seems to have attracted less attention in Oz. This may simply be because most Australians are still too transfixed by the new PM’s brutal treatment of refugees to notice any other acts of inhumanity.
The Israel-lovers club of Canada and Australia: White, Conservative and Christian
By Chemi Shalev
After hearing Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s promise the Knesset this week that his government would support Israel “though fire and water,” one could excuse Israeli lawmakers for thinking that they had died and gone to hasbara heaven.
And after seeing Benjamin Netanyahu enthusiastically nodding at Harper’s assertion that singling out Israel for criticism was the same as anti-Semitism, one might easily imagine the prime minister imploring God to seriously consider “castling” the current residents of the White House in Washington and Langevin Block in Ottawa, at least for the remainder of President Barack Obama’s second term.
And coming straight on the heels of Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop’s even more extraordinary proclamation in Jerusalem last week on the legality of Jewish settlements in the territories, Harper’s visit to Israel took on the airs of what the Hassidim call “mashiachzeit”: this is the way the world will look after the Messiah arrives.
But even for Israelis less religiously inclined, these back-to-back expressions of uninhibited political support were welcome rays of sunshine amidst the gathering clouds and proliferating forecasts of impending torrents of condemnation, isolation and boycott. Things can’t be that bad, many Israelis told themselves, if fine, upstanding countries such as Canada and Australia were willing to unabashedly stand up against the otherwise shrill winds of Western public opinion.
Indeed, under their respective conservative governments, both Canada and Australia have gone above and beyond the traditional parameters of support for Israel, much to the dismay of its detractors among commentators and public opinion in both countries and in the Arab world at large. Harper has dramatically broken with the mildly supportive but largely detached Israeli policies of his predecessors, while Australia’s Tony Abbott has rapidly reinstated John Howard’s effusive pro-Israel policies after three years of realignment efforts carried out by the recently ousted Australian Labor Party.
Although the prim and proper Harper and the bold and brash Abbott have been described as polar opposites on a personal level, their shared love for Israel stems from nearly identical ideological roots. Both are deeply-religious social conservatives and proud nationalists who view themselves as serving on the front lines of a Western, Judeo-Christian civilization that is under threat: their support for Israel is not just a matter of political expediency, if that, but of firmly held convictions and belief.
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This is a telling conference! The fact that such a conference was held in Gaza at all is a sign of the times! Certainly there is a major shift in power in the Middle East. Foreign super-powers are receding into the background and the Arabs and Persians are taking their future into their own hands.
The statement by Wadah Khanfar is particularly telling, I think: “There are four nations in this region – the Arabs, Turks, Kurds and Iranians.” It will indeed be a major turning point if (often artificial) national loyalties are replaced by traditional ethnic/tribal ones. Certainly there is little place for Israel in such an equation!
As superpower influence fades, regional security depends on Palestine’s
Participants at a major conference in Gaza have concluded that as the influence of America, Russia and the EU diminishes, regional security is depending more and more on Palestine’s. The shift has come about, said the gathering of academics and researchers, following the democratic change in the Middle East.
Those taking part in the Palestinian National Security Conference included the former Director-General of the Al-Jazeera Media Network, Wadah Khanfar, and Dr Mohsen Saleh from Al-Zaytuna Research Institute in Beirut. The conference was sponsored by the Political and Management Academy in the Gaza Strip.
In his keynote speech, Mr Khanfar said that the influence of the US, EU and Russia on the Arabs and Muslims is fading. “They will not be out of the game, but they can no longer affect the choice of presidents in the region,” he insisted. “This means that a new future is emerging. What was once believed to be our unavoidable destiny has become something in the past.”
Describing the civil unrest in the wake of the Arabic revolutions and the bloodshed in Syria as the “natural birth pangs” of the revolutions which may last longer than expected, Khanfar said, “This period is critical, as the region can be an area for blood and tears or an area of light and freedom. The decision is in the hands of the revolutionary parties and politicians.”
On security issues, Khanfar suggested that there is nothing called Palestinian or Egyptian or any other “national” security, but there is something called regional security. According to the veteran journalist, “There are four nations in this region – the Arabs, Turks, Kurds and Iranians. All four have a common thread running throughout their history. As such, these nations have to work together to build regional security, and the work has to begin in Palestine, where the state of Israel was planted in our midst.”
He accused those who defame the Palestinians and their issue as being the enemies of the revolutions. “They want to distort the focus of their states at which point they will lose it altogether; they must accept that security in the region is centred on Palestine.
With regards to Palestinian reconciliation, Khanfar stressed the need for this to include all Palestinians, including those in the diaspora, to produce a comprehensive agreement.
The former political advisor of the Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi told the conference that there is no national security for Egypt without security for Palestine. Mohamed Saiful-Dawla expressed his respect for the Gaza Strip and described it as the “citadel” from where security for the whole region will spring. “This is the only citadel which refuses to accept the Israeli occupation and has achieved impressive victories,” he said.
Father Roy writes: Please see my highlights in the article pasted below. Note the concluding paragraph in particular. This incident was not reported in the US media. It was, however, reported by an Israeli daily newspaper. Peace, Roy
Palestinian woman subject of another Jewish hate crime in Jerusalem
On Monday, February 25 a Palestinian woman was attacked by a mob of ultra-Orthodox Jewish women in broad daylight at the light rail station in Jerusalem.
The Palestinian woman was punched by one passing Jewish woman in an unprovoked attack, before the Jewish woman’s friends joined in, managing to tear off the Palestinian’s headscarf off as they rained blows on her body.
The Israeli daily newspaper Maariv reported that the light rail security guard, in addition to around 100 religious Jewish men, stood by at the Kiryat Moshe rail station watching the beating and doing nothing.
Dorit Yardan Dotan, an eyewitness who captured the assult with her camera phone, told Maariv that she was horrified by the violence and that the security guard was even smiling.
There were more than 100 Orthodox Jews including Yeshiva students who watched an Arab woman being beaten," Dotan said. "She was escorted by an elderly man before a heated argument erupted and people shouted. I couldn’t understand the motive behind that, and all of a sudden they all attacked the Arab woman beating her severely."
Hate crimes are not uncommon for Palestinians living in Jerusalem or in the ’48 territories. Ynet reported that on February 24, a Palestinian man in his 40’s who works for the Tel Aviv Municipality as a street cleaner was assaulted by 20 Jewish youth, who targeted his head.
As a result, Hassan Usruf had to undergo surgery on his jaw while suffering injuries made to his eye socket, but no arrests were made and his attackers remain unpunished.
In August 2012, dozens of Jewish teenagers beat up three Palestinian youth in Zion Square, West Jerusalem. The mob relentlessly kicked and punched the Palestinians, and shouted racist slurs and chants such as "Death to Arabs!" over and over again as more than 100 bystanders stood by watching the lynching without interfering.
One of the Palestinian youth, 17 year old Jamal Julani, was beaten unconsciousness and had to be resuscitated on site after the mob ran away. Julani had to be hospitalized, and has no recollection of the incident.
In the aftermath of the lynching, Israeli police arrested several Jewish teenagers, the youngest being 13 year old. One of the suspects, a 15 year old, defiantly told the court, "For my part he [Julani] can die. He’s an Arab."
Nimrod Aloni, the head of one of Tel Aviv’s colleges for the Institute for Educational Thought said of the mob attack, "This is directly tied to national fundamentalism that is the same as the rhetoric of neo-Nazis, Taliban, and K.K.K. This comes from an entire culture that has been escalating toward an open and blunt language based on us being the chosen people who are allowed to do whatever we like."
Uri Avnery raises the question that’s on everybody’s lips. Will the current turmoil in the West Bank continue to escalate? Is Netanyahu trying to foment that escalation? Is it all timed to strategically coincide with the Obama visit? These questions are difficult to answer, but, as Avnery points out, on one point we can be clear: while the Palestinian resistance is currently non-violent it cannot remain so for ever.
The First Intifada began non-violently. This is often forgotten. Ongoing imprisonments and aggression from the IDF eventually provoked a violent reaction from the Palestinians and hence the whole event is remembered as a virtual war. At the moment the Palestinian resistance is again largely made up of non-violent protests, hunger-strikes, and the world-wide BDS campaign. But continued provocations will eventually take their toll, after which the spin doctors will depict the uprising as an unprovoked explosion of Arab aggression!
Will Obama be able to leverage any positive influence in this process? It is doubtful, but while the influence of the US recedes into the background, the partisan support from the surrounding Arab nations and from the rest of the world is on the increase!
The Third Intifada?
by Uri Avnery
IS THIS the third intifada? This question was raised this week by a number of Israeli security experts. And not only by them – their Palestinian colleagues were almost as perplexed.
All over the West Bank, Palestinian youth threw stones at Israeli soldiers. All the 3500 Palestinians in Israeli prisons took part in a three-day hunger strike.
The immediate reason was the death of a young Palestinian man during interrogation by the Shin Bet. The autopsy showed no reason for the death. It was no heart attack, as first (and automatically) claimed by Israeli officials and their stooges, the so-called “military correspondents”. So was it torture, as practically all Palestinians believe?
Then there were the four prisoners on a hunger strike which has already lasted 150 days (mitigated by infusions). Since almost every Palestinian family has now – or had in the past – at least one member in prison, this generates much excitement.
So is this IT?
THE UNCERTAINTY of security officials stems from the fact that both the first and the second intifada broke out in an unexpected way. Both the Israeli and the Palestinian leaderships were taken by surprise.
The Israeli surprise was especially – well, surprising. The West Bank and the Gaza Strip were, and still are, full of Israeli informers. Decades of occupation have allowed the Security Service to recruit thousands of them by bribery or blackmail. So how did they fail to know?
The Palestinian leadership, then in Tunis, was equally in the dark. It took Yasser Arafat several days to realize what was happening and laud the “Stone Children”.
The reason for the surprise was that both intifadas were completely spontaneous. No one planned them. Because of this, no informer could warn his handlers.
The trigger for the first one was a road accident. In December 1987, an Israeli driver killed several Palestinian workers near Gaza. All hell broke loose. The second was triggered by a deliberate Israeli provocation after the failure of the 2000 Camp David conference.
The Israeli army was quite unprepared for the First Intifada. Defense Minister Yitzhak Rabin famously exclaimed “Break their bones!” which some commanders took literally and carried out faithfully. A lot of arms and legs were broken with rifle butts.
Though the second intifada was also unexpected, this time the army was prepared for any event. Troops were trained in advance. No bones were broken this time. Instead, sharpshooters were placed near unit commanding officers. When a non-violent demonstration approached, the officer pointed out the ringleader, and the sharpshooter killed him. Very soon the non-violent uprising turned into a very violent one.
I don’t know what the army plans for the third intifada. But one can be certain that even if it starts as a non-violent mass protest, it will not stay so for long.
TWO WEEKS ago, the Israeli Channel 10 showed a documentary about Ariel Sharon’s manipulation of the Second Intifada.
It started when Prime Minister Ehud Barak allowed Opposition Chief Sharon to visit the Temple Mount, accompanied by hundreds of policemen. Since Sharon was a pork-eating atheist, there was no religious motive for the visit. It was a provocation, pure and simple.
When Sharon approached the Muslim shrines, he was greeted with stones. The police killed the stone-throwers with live ammunition. And lo and behold, the Second Intifada was on the way.
Arafat in far-away Tunis had nothing to do with it. But once the intifada had started, he embraced it. The local Fatah cadres took command.
Soon after, Sharon came to power. He did everything possible to stoke the fires. In the documentary, his closest assistants were interviewed at length and disclosed that Sharon did this quite deliberately.
His aim was to cause a general uprising, in order to give him a legitimate reason for re-conquering the West Bank, after parts of it were turned over to the Palestinian authority in the Oslo agreements. And indeed, a large number of suicide attacks and other outrages provided the necessary national and international legitimization for Operation Defensive Shield, in which Israeli troops re-entered all West Bank towns and spread death and destruction. In particular, the Palestinian Authority’s offices were systematically ransacked, including the Education and Social Services ministries. Arafat was surrounded and isolated in the Ramallah Mukata’ah (“Compound”), and kept a virtual prisoners for years, till his murder.
In the film, the advisors readily admitted that Sharon did not even contemplate a political initiative to end the intifada – his sole aim was to vanquish the Palestinian resistance by brute force. During this intifada 4944 Palestinians were killed, as against 1011 Israelis. (In the preceding intifada, 1593 Palestinians and 84 Israelis found their death.)
Israelis believe that Sharon’s brutal methods were a great success. The Second Intifada sputtered out.
WILL THERE be a Third Intifada? If so, when? Has it already begun or were the recent events only a kind of general rehearsal?
No one knows, least of all our security forces. There is no reliable information from the agents. Again, everything is spontaneous.
One thing is certain: Mahmoud Abbas, Arafat’s heir, is very much afraid of it. He waited for a few days, and then, once he was sure that this was not a general uprising, he ordered his American-trained police forces to intervene and put an end to the demonstrations.
More than that, he publicly condemned the outbreaks and accused Binyamin Netanyahu of deliberately fomenting them.
One of the causes for this suspicion was that on Friday the Israeli police did not prevent young Palestinians from reaching the Temple Mount (“Haram al-Sharif”), as they do frequently when there is the slightest suspicion of coming unrest.
I put the question to a circle of friends: Assuming for a moment that Abbas is right, what might have been Netanyahu’s motive?
One answered: He is afraid that Barak Obama will, in his upcoming visit to Jerusalem, demand the resumption of the “peace process”. Netanyahu will tell him that, in view of the new intifada, that is impossible.
Another volunteered: Netanyahu will tell the President that Abbas has lost his authority and therefore is not a viable partner.
Yet another: Netanyahu will tell the Israeli public that we have an emergency at hand, so we need to set up a Government of National Unity at once. All Zionist parties must be pushed by their voters to join.
And so forth.
BE THAT as it may, the pertinent question is whether a spontaneous outbreak is in the offing.
Frankly, I don’t know. I doubt if anyone does.
The absence of any genuine peace initiative makes another intifada probable at some point. How long can the harsh occupation continue without a serious challenge?
On the other hand, it does not appear that the great mass of the Palestinian people is mentally prepared for a fight. In the occupied territories, a new bourgeoisie has come to life, which has a lot to lose. Under the auspices of the US, the Palestinian Prime Minister, Salam Fayyad, has succeeded in stimulating some sort of economy, in which quite a number flourish.
The prospect of another round of violence does not appeal to these people, nor does it attract poor people, who are already fully occupied with their daily survival. To get these people to rise up, you need an extremely provocative event. This can happen tomorrow morning, or within weeks or months, or not at all.
Abbas accuses Hamas of fomenting unrest in the West Bank, which is governed by Fatah, while Hamas itself, at the same time, is keeping the cease-fire in its own dominion, the Gaza Strip. Actually, both regimes, each in its own part of Palestine, are interested in quiet while accusing the other of collaborating with the occupation.
(A century and a half ago, Karl Marx denounced the efforts of his socialist adversary, Ferdinand Lassalle, to set up workers’ cooperatives. Marx asserted that once the workers had something to lose, they would not rise up anymore. If you want a revolution, Lenin is supposed to have said, “The worse things are, the better”.)
THE MORE people on both sides talk about the Third Intifada, the less it is likely to happen. As the Germans used to say, Revolutions foretold are not going to happen.
But if there is no end to the occupation in sight, the Third Intifada will break out one day, quite suddenly, when nobody has been talking about it, when everybody on both sides was thinking about other things.
read more wisdom from Uri Avnery on the Gush Shalom website