Friday, 28 October 2011


“Bringing Islam to the masses” is the goal of the new TV campaign from MyPeace, the organization that recently gave us the “Jesus: a prophet of Islam” poster. Clearly deciding they’d generated enough controversy for one year, MyPeace have now taken a softer approach; slo-mo visuals, mood music and a warm Aussie voice inviting us to “explore the real values of Islam.”

“Saving one life is as if you have saved all of humanity” we learn, as a bronzed Aussie lifeguard rescues a boy from the surf. You can’t quibble with that, particularly if you're a parent.

From an advertising point of view, the approach is similar to the current “Jesus-All About Life” campaign, also featuring visuals of sunburnt Aussies; along with a crème brulee, a dead pet goldfish, and questions about the meaning of life. Jesus himself even gets a chocolate-bar style logo.

Both ads - Muslim and Christian - offer a panacea to the “crisis of the soul” that supposedly afflicts modern Australia. Who could disagree with an ad that asks you to look after your parents in old age, reminding you that they looked after you as a child? Or who could not be moved by sentiments such as “How come the more you have, the more you want?” or the facebook-ish conundrum that ”we’ve got more friends, but less friendship"?

The role of advertising is to convert consumers to a brand’s point of view by finding its most salient aspect, linking it to a compelling insight, and allowing the brand to put its best foot forward. Both ads do just that. Were I currently in the market for a religious organization to join, I’d be saying “sign me up for either one of those, thanks. They sound great. In fact, I think I’ll take them both.” After all, you can’t have too much of a good thing. With all ads, however, it’s worth reading the fine print first. Just in case.

The Jesus ad is sponsored by a whole host of Christian organizations, so if I sign up I'll have to make the sort of mind-numbing decisions normally required for choosing a broadband plan. Should I go Baptist or United? Join the Salvos or Hillsong? Too hard - I give up.
The MyPeace campaign for Islam is much simpler, giving me chapter and verse of the Qu’ran to help me make up my mind. It invites me to look more closely at the Qu’ran, so I do. It only takes a few seconds online to check the veracity of the advert's claims. Yep. Chapter 5 verse 32 points out the benefit of saving every single life, although oddly it refers to saving the Children of Israel rather than the Nippers of Bondi. But the point is the same. Intrigued, I read on.

And that is, of course, the problem with selective quoting. Readers should judge for themselves the appeal of the Koranic verses either side of the one quoted, but as an ad man I would struggle to make either 5:31 or 5:33 as convincing a “sell” as the lifesaver scenario. One has to admire the chutzpah (if that’s the right word) of choosing as your major sales pitch a quote adjacent to one advocating “that they should be murdered or crucified or their hands and their feet should be cut off.” Still, the Bible has more than its fair share of blood and gore. Selective quoting (and interpretation) is something all religions and advertisers are guilty of, so it would be wrong to single out this ad exclusively.

However, reading the rest of the passage felt a bit like a chocaholic being sold an amazing new flavour of Magnum ice-cream, eagerly biting into it, and discovering it's anchovy.

Will the ad “bring Islam to the masses”? No, but it will make many non-Muslims re-consider their attitudes towards the religion. Will it attract converts? Undoubtedly. Was it worth doing? Definitely. Taken at face value, it is a positive expression of worthy sentiments espoused by Muslims. Full credit to MyPeace and its founder Diaa Mohamed, who clearly recognizes the need for Islam to be seen putting its best foot forward and engaging in mainstream public debate about how its values are relevant to contemporary society. “We hope this campaign provides Australians with fact and insight around Islam,” Mohamad maintains. No problems there. Some consumers, however, may find themselves unconvinced when it comes to reading the fine print.

Thursday, 20 October 2011

SWAN"S GOOSE COOKED BY COMICAL ALI (Spectator leader Oct 22)

A week may be a long time in politics, but so is thirteen minutes when you’re up against Ali Moore, the ABC’s sharpest interviewer. With an amused twinkle in her eye, Ali slowly grilled Wayne Swan to reveal that underneath his shiny new cloak of “The World’s Greatest Finance Minister” lies… not very much at all.

“I believe there is a serious situation in the global economy,” Wayne informed startled viewers, before enlightening us that he personally sees his main role as “getting on with making sure that we strengthen the global economy.” Whew!

“Can you give us some detail?” Ms. Moore repeatedly begged, struggling in the face of a tsunami of bureaucratic jargon along the lines of “All of these things are part of the architecture of a comprehensive response” and “a sizeable facility to assist a European financial stability facility.” Until Wayne finally confessed: “it's entirely a matter for the European ministers to talk about what they intend to do.” And, er… that’s it.

As for genuine insights into the global debt crisis, Australia’s IMF role, cabinet leaks, the effects of onshore processing on the surplus and the legalities of the carbon tax – all raised by the determined Ms. Moore - Swan failed to deliver anything other than pre-rehearsed spin and obfuscation.

To the point where the interview tipped into satire: “I couldn't give you an update on that, but there will be an update on that in the normal processes through the mid-year review at the end of the year. That's the appropriate time to provide the update.”

By the end, our world-famous Treasurer was left floundering that: “I don’t know if those reports were accurate or not,” “I'm not ruling anything in or out,” and “I'm not going to speculate about what may or may not happen.”

Even the amiable Ali struggled to keep smiling.


‘Ruddbullism’ sounds like one of those infectious diseases such as botulism or toxoplasmosis that hints at much unpleasantness to come. First diagnosed by John Stone in these pages over eighteen months ago, the term describes an unhealthy merging of policy strains on climate change, work choices, boat people, the republic and other issues where supposed opponents Kevin Rudd and Malcolm Turnbull found common ground. ‘Ruddbullism’ has now re-surfaced in The Australian courtesy of Brit-journo Nick Bryant; not as a sickness but as a suggested panacea for the perceived problems that plague our politics.

Coined by Stone, the term is a piss-take of ‘Butskellism’, used to describe the philosophical meeting of minds between Conservative and Labor ‘foes’ Rab Butler and Hugh Gaitskell that paralyzed British politics for decades until being dismantled by Margaret Thatcher.

According to Bryant, who after several years as the BBC correspondent to Oz knows a thing or two about the place: "The message from successive polls is that Australians would… favour a return to ‘Ruddbullism.’ Indeed, they repeatedly show that Rudd is much more popular than (Julia Gillard) and that Turnbull has broader appeal than Tony Abbott."

This contrasts with how former Secretary to the Treasury and Queensland National Party senator originally saw it: “Our own political scene was firmly in the grip of ‘Ruddbullism’, (yet) it was already clear that the Coalition parties had little hope of regaining office in 2010 under Turnbull.”

Much like botulism, a bacterium that enters the body through wounds, ‘Ruddbullism’ can also be viewed as a virulent strain that gains access through self-inflicted wounds upon the body politic. Perversely, it was the desire by Rudd and Turnbull to work together and stitch up an emissions trading scheme that eventually saw the two of them both lose their leadership positions. Similarly, Rudd’s embrace of feel-good policies such as the apology to the “stolen” generation – which Turnbull was also strongly in favour of, going so far as to publicly criticise former leader John Howard over, maintaining that his former boss’s position on the apology "was an error clearly" – weren’t enough to save either of them from being turfed out by their own party-rooms. Both leaders lost their jobs not in spite of, but indirectly because of their support for ‘Ruddbullist’ principles. According to John Stone: "Malcolm Turnbull welcomed, literally within hours of its appearance, the Rudd government’s Fair Work Australia Bill, conceding to Labor ‘a mandate’ not merely to repeal John Howard’s Work Choices legislation, but also to turn back the workplace relations clock by 25 years. He… embraced with equal fervour Kevin Rudd’s emissions trading scheme proposal, threatening to sacrifice Australia’s economy on the altar of global warming religion."

Where Stone saw a toxic threat, Bryant sees a healthy tonic.

"Rudd and Turnbull seemed to be leaders primed for a national moment pregnant with so much regional and international possibility," Bryant declares. Clearly he is a fan of both. Which is not all that surprising. Call it the British disease, if you will; that voguish longing for a touchy-feely centrist position that gave the world the original ‘Butskellism’, the brief flowering of Tony Blair’s ‘Third Way’ and the current ‘Camcleggism’ which seeks to marry severe budget cuts with trendy soft left causes such as gay marriage, renewable energy and bucketloads of overseas aid.

Lost in the enthusiasm for such a ‘compromise’ scenario is the awkward fact that in Australia the punters won't vote for it. The closer both Rudd and Turnbull came to agreeing with each other, the faster they both plummeted in the opinion polls. It was only under Tony Abbott, who by fighting Labor on border protection and carbon taxes and drawing a clear distinction between the two parties where Turnbull had failed to, that the Liberals finally managed to tap into the thoughts and attitudes of Middle Australia and regain their current dominant position in the polls.

All the evidence indicates that the blue-collar "battler" constituency in the suburbs strongly support tough border protection and fret about higher costs of living, most notably energy prices. These voters have no time for Turnbull and will never support the green tinges of the ‘Ruddbullist’ agenda. Kevin Rudd’s initial success and triumph were largely due to his pretense that he was “John Howard-lite.” The more he distanced himself from that position, the faster he fell out of favour with “struggle street.” Turnbull, too, foolishly mimicked Rudd’s distancing of himself from the policies of Australia’s second-longest serving Prime Minister, much to his own detriment.

Turnbull’s tragedy, of course, is that he’s either in the wrong electorate or the wrong party. Take your pick. His constituents are the one group in Australia who yearn for ‘Ruddbullism.’ A Labor party ticket with both Rudd and Turnbull together would be an answer to the sweetest dreams of the Wentworth crowd.

It’s easy to see how the ‘Ruddbullist’ philosophy came about. In 2008-9, Kevin, confidently shedding his Howard-lite clothes, and Malcolm, eagerly donning the cloak of Liberal leadership under the mistaken belief that his own constituents expressed the desires of the larger electorate, found themselves dressed like a pair of slightly embarrassed identical twins. The majority of Australians suddenly woke up to the fact that the two leaders were prancing about in a manner utterly alien to them.

Although Rudd has now bounced back in the opinion polls, his popularity is probably as much due to the unfair manner in which he was dumped as to the policies he espoused. Call it the Short Poppy Syndrome. As is well known, we Aussies love an underdog. Where Red Dog endlessly roamed the outback looking for his deceased master, Rudd Dog now ceaselessly roams the globe, refusing to believe that his leadership is dead. And the audiences can’t help but love him.

According to the online Medical Encyclopedia, botulism can lead to hyper-sensitivity, double vision, nervous exhaustion, nausea and finally paralysis of the entire system. It can be fatal.

Much like ‘Ruddbullism’ really.

Friday, 14 October 2011


The best way to read Rolling Stone magazine is with a joint in one hand, a goon of cheap red in the other, and Joe Strummer on the turntable, loud enough to wake the neighbours.
Today’s readers probably prefer Eskimo Joe on their iPods, but otherwise not much will have changed.
Or has it? In the past, RS founder Jann Wenner prided himself on the quality of his political musings, having introduced the world to awesome talents ranging from Hunter S. Thompson to P.J O’Rourke.
Rarely has the international edition (often labeled as the cultural arm of the Democrat party) bothered itself with Australia, other than to trot out the odd Nick Cave review. In the latest issue all that has changed.
Australia, startled readers from the USA to Europe now learn, is Global Warming Central. In his near-hysterical diatribe, climate change advocate Jeff Goodell manages to turn his recent (all expenses paid?) trip down under into a terrifying journey through a land where “the wrath of the climate gods is everywhere.”
Under the eye-catching headline “Climate Change and the End of Australia”, Jeff vividly describes a nightmarish Oz where “homes along the Gold Coast are being swept away, koala bears face extinction in the wild, and farmers, their crops shriveled by drought, are shooting themselves in despair.”
Yikes! What’s more, “dead kangaroos sprawl by the side of the road… Palm trees are bent horizontal in the wind… It's as if civilization is being dismantled…”
All because Australia “happens to be right in the cross hairs of global warming.” As this spellbinding yarn unfolds, and a bleak future indeed looms across Dorothy Mackellar’s sunburnt horizons, an apt metaphor springs to my mind. But the author beats me to it:
“Australia will look like a disaster movie. Habitats for most vertebrates will vanish. Water supply to the Murray-Darling Basin will fall by half, severely curtailing food production. Rising sea levels will wipe out large parts of major cities… The Great Barrier Reef will be reduced to a pile of purple bacterial slime. Thousands of people will die from heat waves and other extreme weather events… Depression and suicide will become even more common among displaced farmers and Aborigines.”
Pass the popcorn! Or even, better, pass the spliff.
I take a deep breath, and plunge on. As Jeff knows, no thriller is complete without a sinister villain or two: “Australia is home to Rupert Murdoch's media empire… Murdoch's papers fail to point out that the more coal the country burns and exports, the fiercer its hurricanes are likely to become.”
And not only your run-of-the-mill hurricanes, but “hurricanes of fire,” too. Jeff neatly weaves the Victorian bushfires into his tale of climate change woe. “Under a high global-warming scenario – essentially the track the world is on today – catastrophic fires will occur every year.”
And then comes a moment for profound moralising: “You might think that surviving such a harrowing encounter would make (Jane) O'Connor more attuned to the risks of living on a superheated planet, but it hasn't. "I think the jury is still out on the science of climate change," O'Connor says from the safety of her air-conditioned office.” Air-conditioning! We Australians really are the limit!
Nowhere, of course, do America’s equally wild weather patterns get a mention. Is it because Democrat Obama has basically given up on climate change? Suddenly, it’s all down to us Aussies.
“The reef is one of the wonders of the natural world – and (you’re) going to trash it just because (you) don't want to drive smaller cars or pay a little extra to put solar panels on the roof?" he ponders.
But it’s the climactic third act of his disaster script where Jeff really goes to town. Toowomba, as it happens.
“The fact that the sky can hold more water is precisely what happens in a warming world. Four inches of rain fell (and) what had been a manageable soaking turned into a catastrophe… The floodwaters continued down into the Lockyer Valley, bursting through smaller towns and sweeping buildings, cars and people away… Eventually, the floodwaters… all poured into the Brisbane River, which flows through Australia's third-largest city. The river rose 15 feet above normal, breaking its banks and forcing the evacuation of tens of thousands of residents.”
Gasp! Terrifying stuff. But I barely have time to pour myself another glass of red before Narrabeen, too, gets swept away in a raging torrent of melodrama and hyperbole.
"The beach, the hotels, the houses – the sea will cut right through to Sydney Harbor (sic). Manly beach will vanish. We walk for a while, watching all the happy people strolling along the boardwalk and drinking wine in cafes and surfing the waves. The sun is shining, and everything is lovely. Too bad that it all has to go.”
Defending the article against an online backlash, Australian RS editor Toby Creswell struggles to hide his embarrassment. The tone of this is probably a bit too alarmist and some of the minor details stick out to us Australians but the gist of it is pretty spot on.” Sorry, Toby, not good enough. Omitted from this racy account is the fact that the ferocity of the Victorian fires was largely due to a build-up of fuels thanks to a lack of burning off by Greens-dominated councils. ‘Yasi ‘was a classic strong “La Nina” cyclone of the sort that regularly pound the Queensland coast; it just happened to hit a town. The Brisbane deluge was caused by the ineptitude of the Labor party’s decision – driven by belief in climate change - to use the Wivenhoe Dam for storage rather than for flood mitigation as it was designed. Narrabeen and other such beaches were swept away in the 70’s and many times before that.
In the tradition of Al Gore, exaggeration and lies are being foisted by Rolling Stone upon an impressionable audience in order to create fear about climate change - and loathing for those who question it.


"I don't think I have ever been made so angry by anything published on the Drum Ever!" - Johnno

Having spent the past five years hiring and firing people, I know how difficult it is trying to get to the bottom of things when there’s a stuff-up. Especially when it’s a monumental one.

“Come in, Julia. Do sit down. Now tell me. What happened exactly?”

Invariably, Julia will start blubbing and I’ll have to wait several moments while she dries her eyes with a tissue. To cover the awkward embarrassed silence, I buzz my secretary and ask her to bring in a pot of tea for us both.

“I don’t know where to begin,” Julia finally says between sniffles. “I thought I had it all under control. But… I don’t know… it was a disaster right from the start!”

That’s when she’ll look up at me with imploring eyes. “It was Kevin who started it all you know!” she’ll finally blurt out. “It’s all his fault.”

“Of course it was,” I nod, leaning back in my swivel chair. Already I can tell it’s going to be a long drawn out meeting. I buzz my secretary again. “Better cancel lunch at Tetsuya’s” I say.

Bit by bit the facts dribble out. Julia shakes her head in irritation. “I always said it was a stupid idea. But Kevin insisted. He had this massive hang up about asylum seekers, right from the word go, so first thing he does is he goes and cancels the Nauru contract. Just like that!”

I nod sympathetically. “Not, in hindsight, such I wise decision,” I say, trying not to sound too judgmental.

She bristles. “But of course I told him at the time ‘what on earth are we going to put in its place?’ and he goes ‘don’t worry we’ll sort it out later’.”

I smile, and pour the tea. Julia shrugs wearily. “For about a year or so, it was all hunky dory. Nothing much changed. Everyone agreed that Kevin had done the right thing.”

“Sugar?” I say.

She ignores me, and carries on. “And of course, all that other stupid climate change stuff was going on and mining taxes and wotnot and next thing you know Kevin’s gone and those faceless men from Sussex street insist on giving me his job! Me?!? The next day all of his job sheets get dumped in my lap!”

“About the, er, stuff up?” I say, trying subtly to nudge her back on the track. She glares at me, and defiantly shakes her red bob.

“What was I to do? Suddenly there’s boats arriving left, right and centre! I tried East Timor, but they didn’t even bother returning my calls. Then I tried Manis, but no luck there either. So I got Chris to give the Malaysians a call and – hoorah!! - they were all up for it! So long as we did a bit of quid pro quo. You know, did a bit of ‘contra’.” She touches her (rather elongated) nose and gives me a wink.

“Chris?” I ask, puzzled.

She stares at me defiantly. “The podgy, nerdy little guy from Accounts. He’s my assistant now.”

I try not to show any emotion. “Really?”

There’s a long, awkward silence. “And, er, did you, and er, this Chris cover all the bases?” I ask as nonchalantly as possible

Again, the steely glare.

“Did you check it all out with the legal department?” I demand.

There’s a stifling silence.

I sigh wearily, and pick up my mug of tea. This is always the hard part. It’s not easy telling someone you had high hopes for that they have completely, utterly, irredeemably and – worse still - unnecessarily failed in their task.

“This is, um, kind of a monumental stuff up,” I say, preparing her for the worst. “You do realize that it’s now open season for people smugglers, don’t you? We’re going to be swamped. Inundated. From a business point of view, it’s not a good look. We are a laughing stock.” There. I’ve said it.

Julia starts to blub. I hate it when they blub.

“It’s all Tony’s fault,” she says, wiping her eyes with her sleeve.

I frown. “Tony? I thought you said it was Kevin’s fault?”

“Kevin’s! And Tony’s! And Chris’s!” she sobs, shaking her head in dismay.

I rub my forehead, then discreetly buzz my secretary. “Have you got the number for those faceless men in Sussex street?” I whisper as quietly as I can.

Wednesday, 12 October 2011


Shrines from Shanghai to San Francisco are testament to the fact that, much like my iPod, Steve Jobs died way too soon. There is a cruel irony in this. More than almost any other person on the planet, Jobs embraced the ethos of built-in-obsolescence. Going to an early grave, sadly, appears to be in keeping with his core beliefs. Indeed, it was Steve himself who said back in 2005 that “death is very likely the single best invention of life.”

I only know Jobs through the endless array of devices that I have purchased from him. Going way back, I bought three Macintosh computers when, flushed with pride and optimism but not much cash, I first set up my own small business in the mid-nineties. Foolishly, I should have waited. It was only a few months later that, to great fanfare, the ultra-cool translucent iMac came out. Every advertising or film person worth their salt had to have one. Packing the old ugly boxes away, I excitedly splashed out on this wonderful new curvaceous plaything for our office.

Again, I should have waited. In an industry that values style and fashion, our young company had barely celebrated its first birthday when I realised its technology already looked out-of-date. The multi-coloured clamshell shape of the iBook had arrived on the scene, utterly transforming the way our industry worked. My proud iMac soon joined its clunky siblings tucked away in the company broom cupboard, and our daily business was now conducted exclusively on these stylish, portable new devices.

But not for long. For the next decade, like every other small businessman, I struggled to find the cash to keep up with Steve's never-ending, dazzling array of must-have products. The lolly-colours of the iBook range now looked embarrassing in the new era of the PowerBook, where almost annually a new design or feature superceded the last of these silver-plated miracles. Battling to keep up, I shook my head in disbelief at firewires that no longer fitted, connection ports that seemed to mysteriously change shape, functions that worked on older operating systems but not the newer ones and so on. The list of changes updates and new requirements has been endless. But it was worth it. To be cutting edge.

Meanwhile, as the products became thinner and thinner, so too did their maker.

I'm currently on to my seventh iPod. The first one proudly housed my entire CD collection of many thousands of songs; I was devastated when it abruptly kicked the bucket after about only eighteen months of service. It still sits forlornly in its handsome dock, as dead as the great man himself.

Nowadays, we have a variety of iPods (some for jogging, some for holidays, one for the car) as well as, of course, several iPhones. Some of them work, some of them don’t. Fingers crossed I get to the end of writing this article before my iPad decides to croak.

Beyond the style, the coolness, and of course the intuitive technology, we can also thank Steve Jobs for turning the marketing philosophy of built-in obsolescence into high art. Planned or otherwise, it’s certainly been my experience that too many of his products come burdened with a use-by-date that would make even the most fervent salesman blush. It’s feasible these days that an apple you buy from your local supermarket may well have a longer lifespan than the Apple you buy from your local electronics store.

The recent anti-climactic iPhone 4S release has been criticized for being yet another example of Apple’s addiction to planned obsolescence, along with tamper-resistant screws and other “innovations”, such as the fact that the price of a replacement battery for an iPod Shuffle is the same as a new device. Equally, the iPhone’s Lithium-Ion batteries have a finite life of 300 to 500 cycles, meaning with heavy use they may only last a year. Before the iPhone, mobiles without user-replaceable batteries were virtually unknown. Apple maintains that you can always pay to replace the battery (at the so-called “Genius” bar; what happened to the word “Repairs”?), but it costs more money, takes up to a week, and you lose your phone’s entire memory. So – hang on! – why not just buy a new one?
In 1954, Brooks Stevens, an American industrial designer, made popular the theory of "Planned obsolescence”, which he defined as "instilling in the buyer the desire to own something a little newer, a little better, a little sooner than is necessary."
Don't get me wrong. I'm a big Apple fan. (God forbid I should ever have to buy a PC.) Each new Apple invention has clearly enriched my life, and I'm grateful for that. It’s just that they never seem to stick around as long as I think they should.

In death, as in life, Steve Jobs stayed true to his brand.

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

(Spectator leader Oct 7)

News that Julia Gillard has enlisted the scriptwriting services of stand-up comedian Corinne Grant comes as no surprise. But Corinne will struggle to maintain the high comedic standards.

Who can forget gems such as “There will be no carbon tax under the government I lead,” said with a straight face? Or the hilarious “I am the best person to lead this country,” a line delivered with all the quixotic defiance of Python’s Black Knight.

Julia’s deft touch involves taking what we know and twisting it with biting sarcasm: “What I've said to Kevin is I think that this is the best (time for him) to spend more time with his family, which I know is one of his key priorities."

As Corinne knows, the set-up is always important in writing a killer gag. Having dismissed the Howard government’s Pacific Solution as “costly… and wrong in principle” Julia them embarked upon a series of side-splitting alternatives. "In recent days I have discussed with President Ramos-Horta of East Timor the possibility of establishing a regional processing centre” got a few laughs, but nothing like the awesome satirical irony of the Malaysian solution.

Students of stand-up will study the Gillard technique for years. On tackling climate change: "A representative group of Australians drawn from all walks of life will help move us forward," was funny enough, but Julia milked it to the hilt: "The committee concluded that in view of the creation of this committee that the proposal of a citizens' assembly should not be implemented."

Every great comedian has a predictable catch-phrase. “Just like that!” was Tommy Cooper’s, used whenever calamity struck. Julia has her own punchline for whenever she stuffs up: “Mr. Abbott will need to take the responsibility for that.” It’s a good gag, but it’s wearing a bit thin. Over to you, Corinne.

Friday, 7 October 2011


Nazism, fascism, apartheid, neoconservative imperialism and America’s escalating war machine: Antony Loewenstein spewed up the lot in his recent article about ‘Zionism’ on the ABC’s The Drum Unleashed. It was heavy going, deliberately timed for the run-up to Palestine’s bid for statehood at the UN last week.
We learned that: ‘America and Israel have contributed to a decade of unprecedented decline and imperial overreach,’ that ‘our politicians are obsessed with displaying loyalty to Zionism at every opportunity,’ and that ‘Turkey and Egypt turning away from the Zionist state’s arrogance is a welcome realignment.’ Really? From a supposed peacenik, the idea that the diplomatic breakdown between two countries is to be welcomed is disturbing.
Earlier, Kathy Newman, Justice for Palestine’s Brisbane spokesperson, gave as her reason for boycotting chocolatier Max Brenner ‘the Israeli regime’s brutal colonisation of Palestine’. And the NSW Greens are most agitated by what they call ‘the siege of Gaza and imprisonment of 1.5 million people’.
Inflammatory stuff. Loewenstein loves to throw up a hazy smokescreen of pseudo-intellectual themes with which to shroud his dark, angry musings. ‘Perpetual war’, ‘collective punishment’, ‘Western exceptionalism’ and ‘the Zionist Diaspora’ all get served up.
Missing, of course, is the crux of the matter. Three little words that never seem to rate a mention. No, I’m not referring to Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions. I’m referring to Land for Peace.
Until the various antagonistic tribes (Hamas, Hezbollah, Fatah, the Muslim Brotherhood, the ayatollahs, the Assad Syrians, the new Egyptian leadership, etc) swear to make genuine peace with Israel, then the issue of land (a viable Palestinian state, settlements, Gaza, the West Bank, East Jerusalem, the Golan, south Lebanon and so on) is not even worth discussing because it won’t, and can’t, be resolved.
Loewenstein and his ilk are quick to see basic security issues as a sinister plot. Er, no… other nation states call it ‘survival’, and it’s a normal response to unrelenting aggression. Hamas is dedicated to the obliteration of Israel and the annihilation of every Jew. We all know about Ahmadinejad, his potential nuclear arsenal, his whacko fantasies and his revolting calls for Israel to be wiped off the map. So where are the Australian boycotts, divestments and sanctions of Iranian goods and businesses?
The tarnished label of ‘Zionism’ and the issue of settlements is at best a red herring. Linking them to Nazism and apartheid is an intellectual obscenity. Israel is a democracy — still the only one in the region — and the tenor of its government shifts from Right to Left as it does in any democracy. Under the left-wing Barak administration, Israel offered Yasser Arafat 97 per cent of the West Bank, all of Gaza and a chunk of East Jerusalem with which to create a Palestinian state. In return, Arafat gave them the second intifada and a thousand dead Israelis. Land? Yes. Peace? No.
In 2005, the right-wing Sharon administration handed autonomy of the Gaza strip to the Palestinians. In return, more than 10,000 rockets were launched from Gaza into the backyards of Israeli homes. Land? Yes. Peace? No.
In 2000, Israel withdrew from southern Lebanon. In response, Hezbollah chose to murder three Israeli soldiers and provoke a war. Land? Yes. Peace? No.
In 2008, conservative Prime Minister Olmert presented the Palestinians with a map offering a land area equivalent to 100 per cent of the West Bank and Gaza Strip after land swaps, as well as comprehensive proposals about the other issues. The Palestinians responded with silence.
Land? Go for it! Peace? Nope.
Only two weeks ago, the new Egyptian PM redefined the long-standing Camp David accords — in which Israel returned the Sinai in exchange for a peace treaty — as ‘open to discussion. We could make a change if needed.’ So he’s happy to hang on to the land, but peace is now dismissed with a shrug.
Land? Yes. Peace? ‘Not a sacred thing,’ apparently.
Conversely, in 2003 the Israelis completed construction of their much-maligned security barrier. And suicide bombings (and Israeli deaths) plummeted dramatically. Peace? Sort of. Land? No, sorry.
Seems there’s a pattern here. It is hardly surprising that the Israelis are reluctant to hand over any more land when every time they do the promised ‘peace’ never actually eventuates.
‘The time has come for our men, women and children to live normal lives, for them to be able to sleep without waiting for the worst that the next day will bring,’ stated Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas, addressing the General Assembly of the UN last week. Words that could just as easily and appropriately have been uttered by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
But as Abbas held up a copy of the membership demand he had handed to Ban Ki-moon, crowds in Ramallah and across the West Bank did not appear to have peace in mind. ‘With our souls, with our blood, we will defend Palestine!’ they roared.
Whatever happens during the direct negotiations in New York, it will only be another step in this endless, tragic dance. Groundhog Day, Middle East style. Some 64 years ago, the promised Palestinian state never materialised because the land originally proposed for it by the UN was gobbled up, with the West Bank and East Jerusalem snaffled by Jordan, Gaza grabbed by Egypt and a miniscule area taken by Israel for security.
So here are a few questions of my own: Why isn’t Jordan being asked to cede territory to the new Palestine? Why are Palestinians treated as second-class citizens in Jordan? Do the Jordanians have any hot chocolate shops we can all
go and boycott?
Loewenstein’s pulse-racing accusations and undergraduate fixations make for great copy. But the truth is far simpler. The Israelis will give up the land when Hamas, Hezbollah and other murderous entities give up trying to kill them.
‘When Israel withdrew from the Gaza strip the entire world applauded,’ Netanyahu said ruefully, ‘but we didn’t get peace, we got war.’
The Palestinians will get their land. When Israel gets her peace.


“4 words for you brother: No Justice, No Peace.” That was the polite part of the email. The rest chastised me for being a “degenerate Zionist hack” who “regurgitated other people’s lies” and so on, following an article I wrote wondering whatever happened to the principle of Land for Peace? For those too young to remember, this was the rather quaint concept whereby Israel would hand over disputed (or as my new email buddy would no doubt see it “brutally colonized”) land in exchange for recognition of Israel’s right to exist peacefully alongside her neighbours.

There was a time when Land for Peace was accepted by all sides as the basis for solid negotiating on what would then become the two state solution that would give the Palestinians their own country.

Clearly, the goal posts have now moved. If my anonymous email correspondent does indeed speak on behalf of many Palestinian sympathisers, as he or she clearly believes, it is illuminating. The deal is no longer Absence of Land equates to Absence of Peace. It’s now Absence of Justice equals Absence of Peace. Which is a problem for all sides.

Land and Peace are both definable, objective bargaining chips. A border is a border. Peace is peace. (For those in the Middle East unfamiliar with the term, it means not killing, hurting or abusing each other.) Justice, on the other hand, is entirely subjective. It exists purely in the eye of the beholder, or indeed, the person making the judgement. So the new deal, if I am to understand those four words correctly, is “until you give us what we deem to be our just deserts, we are prepared to attack you.”

This sentiment was echoed when Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas held aloft a copy of the UN membership demand he had handed to Ban Ki-moon. Palestinian crowds, watching on TV, did not appear to have a strong lust for peace. "With our souls, with our blood, we will defend Palestine!" they shouted.
Which I mention only by way of explaining why I believe Australia should vote ‘no’ to the Palestinian bid for recognition of statehood in the United Nations. The goal of the UN is to ensure that the nation states of the world live in peace side by side. The UN was established to ensure this could occur. The UN’s emblem of the olive branch is a symbol for peace, dating back to ancient Greece. The United Nations does not send in troops, it sends in Peace Keepers.

According to Article 4 of the Charter of the United Nations: "Membership in the United Nations is open to all … peace-loving states which accept the obligations contained in the present Charter and, in the judgment of the Organization, are able and willing to carry out these obligations.”

And therein lies the fundamental question. Can a new State of Palestine guarantee and accept the obligations of peaceful co-existence with its closest neighbour? Is it “able and willing” to do so?

There is no question that the Palestinians must have their own state. And also that both the Israelis and Palestinians should be able to sleep at night without wondering whether a bomb will come crashing through the roof. Abbas, with all the best will in the world, simply cannot guarantee peace, when his partners, the Hamas rulers of Gaza, have as their stated goal the obliteration of Israel and of every Jew.

The Anti-Defamation League director Abraham Foxman has urged Abbas to return to peace talks and to halt what he sees as his efforts to delegitimize Israel, including using phrases in his UN address such as “racist, colonialist, annexationist, brutal, ethnic cleanser, and aggressive;" to describe Israel. Words hardly designed to achieve "the goal of two states living side-by-side in peace and security."

Hillary Clinton maintains UNESCO should "think again" about voting on Palestinian membership, saying it’s "inexplicable" they would consider pre-empting any vote by the Security Council, a vote that the US may well veto. Why? For the simple reason that such a vote, far from encouraging peace within the region, may well achieve precisely the opposite. A negotiated, comprehensive, genuine peace must come before, not after, recognition of statehood. Through direct talks between the two parties.

Julia Gillard has sensibly intimated that Australia will vote ‘no’ to Palestinian statehood at this stage, arguing it is “not the path to peace.” Kevin Rudd, ever keen to curry favour with his UN chums for his own self-interested goal of landing a major gig there, wants Australia to abstain. I believe that is in nobody’s interest other than possibly his own.

Using the threat of “No justice, no peace” may well be a powerful rallying cry for those who – like my email mate – clearly feel aggrieved or disenfranchised. But it is not the basis for statehood. The United Nations already has to deal with too many states beholden to violence as a means of settling old scores. It doesn’t need another one.