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.

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