Last weekend I was interviewed by SBS News Radio about the war in Gaza, the use of social media and what #FreePalestine really means:
Today I spoke at a large Sydney rally in support of Palestine, Gaza and a dissenting, non-violent Jewish perspective. I think there were only a handful of Jews in the predominantly Muslim and Arab crowd. I hope that more Jews begin to find their voice on this vital humanitarian issue and refuse to allow Israel to speak in our name.
Thanks to Rahaf Ahmed for filming my speech:
This morning I was invited onto Channel 7’s Weekend Sunrise to discuss the Israeli onslaught in Gaza and Israeli government extremism:
I’m honoured to be asked to sign the following just released statement with a range of distinguished people around the world:
Jews Say: End the War on Gaza — No Aid to Apartheid Israel!
Jews for Palestinian Right of Return, July 22, 2014
On July 12, 2014, Gaza civil society issued an urgent appeal for solidarity, asking: “How many of our lives are dispensable enough until the world takes action? How much of our blood is sufficient?”
As Jews of conscience, we answer by unequivocally condemning Israel’s ongoing massacre in Gaza, whose victims include hundreds of civilians, children, entire families, the elderly, and the disabled. This latest toll adds to the thousands Israel has killed and maimed since its supposed withdrawal from the Gaza Strip in 2005.
In response to this crisis, we urgently reaffirm our support for a ban on all military and other aid to Israel.
In 1967, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. opposed the Vietnam War with his famous declaration: “For the sake of the hundreds of thousands trembling under our violence, I cannot be silent.”
Today, *we* cannot be silent as the “Jewish state” — armed to the teeth by the U.S. and its allies — wages yet another brutal war on the Palestinian people. Apartheid Israel does not speak for us, and we stand with Gaza as we stand with all of Palestine.
In the face of incessant pro-Israel propaganda, we heed Malcolm X’s warning: “If you’re not careful, the newspapers will have you hating the people who are being oppressed, and loving the people who are doing the oppressing.”
For Israel’s relentless war on Gaza is no more an act of “self-defense” than such infamous massacres as Wounded Knee (1890), Guernica (1937), the Warsaw Ghetto (1942), Deir Yassin (1948), My Lai (1968), Soweto (1976), Sabra and Shatila (1982), or Lebanon (2006).
Rather, it is but the latest chapter in more than a century of Zionist colonialism, dispossession, ethnic cleaning, racism, and genocide — including Israel’s very establishment through the uprooting and displacement of over 750,000 Palestinians during the 1947-1948 Nakba. Indeed, eighty percent of the 1.8 million people sealed into Gaza are refugees.
Like any colonial regime, Israel uses resistance to such policies as an excuse to terrorize and collectively punish the indigenous population for its very existence. But scattered rockets, fired from Gaza into land stolen from Palestinians in the first place, are merely a response to this systemic injustice.
To confront the root cause of this violence, we call for the complete dismantling of Israel’s apartheid regime, throughout historic Palestine — from the River to the Sea. With that in mind, we embrace the 2005 Palestinian call for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign, which demands:
* An end to Israeli military occupation of the 1967 territories
* Full equality for Palestinian citizens of Israel
* Right of return for Palestinian refugees, as affirmed by UN resolution 194
Initial Signers (list in formation; organizations, schools and other affiliations shown for identification only; *Co-founder, Jews for Palestinian Right of Return)
Avigail Abarbanel, Psychotherapist; editor, Beyond Tribal Loyalties: Personal Stories of Jewish Peace Activists (2012, Cambridge Scholars), Inverness, Scotland
Noa Abend, Boycott From Within
Stephen Aberle, Independent Jewish Voices; Vancouver, BC
Lisa Albrecht, Ph.D. Social Justice Program, University of Minnesota
Anya Achtenberg, novelist and poet; teacher; activist; International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network
Mike Alewitz, Associate Professor, Central CT State Unversity; Artistic Director, Labor Art & Mural Project
Zalman Amit, Distinguished Professor Emeritus; Author, Israeli Rejectionism
Anthony Arnove, International Socialist Organization
Gabriel Ash, International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network, Switzerland
Ted Auerbach, Brooklyn for Peace
Anna Baltzer, author and organizer
Ronnie Barkan, Co-founder, Boycott from Within, Tel-Aviv
Judith Bello, Administrative Committee, United National Antiwar Coalition
Lawrence Boxall, Independent Jewish Voices, Canada; Vancouver Ecosocialist Group
Linda Benedikt, writer Munich, Germany
Nora Barrows-Friedman, journalist; Oakland
Prof. Jonathan Beller, Humanities and Media Studies Graduate Program in Media Studies, Pratt Institute, Brooklyn
Medea Benjamin, co-founder, CODEPINK
Rica Bird, Joint Founder, Merseyside Jews for Peace and Justice
Audrey Bomse, Co-chair, National Lawyers Guild Palestine Subcommittee
Prof. Daniel Boyarin, Taubman Professor of Talmudic Culture, UC Berkeley
Lenni Brenner, Author, Zionism In The Age Of The Dictators
Elizabeth Block, Independent Jewish Voices, Toronto ON
Max Blumenthal, Author, Goliath: Life and Loathing in Greater Israel; and Senior Writer for Alternet.org
Mary P. Buchwald, Jewish Voice for Peace-New York
Monique Buckner, BDS South Africa
Maia Brown, Health and Human Rights Project-Seattle & Stop Veolia Seattle
Estee Chandler, Jewish Voice for Peace, Los Angeles
Rick Chertoff, L..A. Jews for Peace
Prof. Marjorie Cohn, Thomas Jefferson School of Law; past president, National Lawyers Guild
Ally Cohen, Ramallah, Palestine; International Solidarity Movement media coordinator
Ruben Rosenberg Colorni, Youth for Palestine, Netherlands
Mike Cushman, Convenor, Jews for Boycotting Israeli Goods (UK)
Margaretta D’arcy, Irish actress, writer, playwright, and peace-activist
Natalie Zemon Davis, Historian
Warren Davis, labor and political activist, Philadelphia, PA
Eron Davidson, film maker
Judith Deutsch, Independent Jewish Voices Canada; Science for Peace
Roger Dittmann, Professor of Physics, Emeritus California State University, Fullerton; President, Scholars and Scientists without Borders Executive Council, World Federation of Scientific Workers
Gordon Doctorow, Ed.D., Canada
Mark Elf, Jews Sans Frontieres, London, UK
Hedy Epstein, Nazi Holocaust survivor and human rights activist; St. Louis, MO
Marla Erlien, New York NY
Shelley Ettinger, writer/activist, New York, NY
Inge Etzbach, Human Rights Activist, Café Palestina NY
Richard Falk, Professor of International Law, Emeritus, Princeton University; Former UN Special Rapporteur on Occupied Palestine, 2008-2014
Malkah B. Feldman, Jewish Voice for Peace and recent delegate to Palestine with American Jews For A Just Peace
Deborah Fink, Co-Founder, Jews for Boycotting Israeli Goods UK
Joel Finkel, Jewish Voice for Peace-Chicago
Sylvia Finzi, JfjfP; Jüdische Stimme für gerechten Frieden in Nahost, EJJP. Germany)
Maxine Fookson, Pediatric Nurse Practitioner; Jewish Voice for Peace, Portland OR-
Richard Forer, Author, Breakthrough: Transforming Fear Into Compassion – A New Perspective on the Israel-Palestine
Sid Frankel, Associate Professor, University of Manitoba
Prof. Cynthia Franklin, Co-Editor, Biography: An Interdisciplinary Quarterly, University of Hawai’i
Racheli Gai, Jewish Voice for Peace
Herb Gamberg, Independent Jewish Voices, Canada
Ruth Gamberg, Independent Jewish Voices, Canada
Lee Gargagliano, International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network
Cheryl Gaster, social justice activist and human right lawyer, Toronto ON
Alisa Gayle-Deutsch, American/Canadian Musician and Anti-Israeli Apartheid Activist
Jack Gegenberg, Professor of Mathematics, University of New Brunswick, Fredericton NB
Prof. Terri Ginsberg, film and media scholar, New York
David Glick, psychotherapist; Jewish Voice for Peace
Sherna Berger Gluck, Emerita Professor, CSULB; Israel Divestment Campaign
Neta Golan, Ramallah, Palestine; Jews Against Genocide; Co-founder, International Solidarity Movement.
Tsilli Goldenberg, teacher, Jerusalem, Israel
Steve Goldfield, Ph.D.
Sue Goldstein, International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network, Canada
Marty Goodman, former Executive Board member, Transport Workers Union Local 100; Socialist Action
Rabbi Lynn Gottlieb, Freeman Fellow, Fellowship of Reconciliation
Hector Grad, International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network, Spain
Prof. Jesse Greener, University of Laval
Cathy Gulkin, Filmmaker, Toronto ON
Ira Grupper, Bellarmine University, Louisville, KY
Jeff Halper, The Israeli Committee Against House demolitions (ICAHD)
Larry Haiven, Independent Jewish Voices Canada, Halifax
Evelyn Hecht-Galinski, publisher, Germany
Stanley Heller, The Struggle Video News TSVN
Shir Hever, Jewish Voice for Just Peace, Germany
Deborah Hrbek, media and civil rights lawyer, NLG-NYC
Dr. Tikva Honig-Parnass, Jews for Palestinian Right of Return
Adam Horowitz, Co-Editor, Mondoweiss
Gilad Isaacs, Economist, Wits University.
Selma James, International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network
Jake Javanshir, Independent Jewish Voices, Toronto
Riva Joffe, Jews Against Zionism
Val Jonas, attorney, Miami Beach
Sima Kahn, MD; President of the board, Kadima Reconstructionist Community
Yael Kahn, Israeli anti-apartheid activist
Michael Kalmanovitz, International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network (UK)
Dan Kaplan, AFT Local 1493
Susan Kaplan, J.D. National Lawyers Guild
Danny Katch, activist and author
Bruce Katz, President, Palestinian and Jewish Unity (PAJU), Montreal, Canada
Lynn Kessler, Ph.D., MPH, psychologist/social justice activist
Janet Klecker, Sonomans for Justice & Peace for Palestine, Sonoma CA
Prof. David Klein, California State University, Northridge; USACBI
Emma Klein, Jewish Voice for Peace, Seattle WA
Sara Kershnar, International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network
Harry Kopyto, Legal activist Toronto ON
Richard Koritz, veteran postal trade unionist and former member of North Carolina Human Relations Commission
Yael Korin, PhD., Scientist at UCLA; Campaign to End IsraelI Apartheid, Southern California
Dennis Kortheuer, CSULB, Israel Divestment Campaign
Steve Kowit, Professor Emeritus, Jewish Voice for Peace
Toby Kramer, International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network
Jason Kunin, Independent Jewish Voices Canada
Dr. David Landy, Trinity College, Dublin
Jean Léger, Coalition pour la Justice et la Paix en Palestine, membre de la Coalition BDS Québec et de Palestiniens et Juifs Unis
Lynda Lemberg, Educators for Peace and Justice, Independent Jewish Voices, Toronto ON
David Letwin,* activist and teacher, Al-Awda NY
Michael Letwin,* former President, Association of Legal Aid Attorneys/UAW Local 2325; USACBI; Al-Awda NY
Les Levidow, Jews for Boycotting Israeli Goods (J-BIG), UK
Corey Levine, Human Rights Activist, Writer; National Steering Committee, Independent Jewish Voices Canada
Joseph Levine, Professor of Philosophy, University of Massachusetts Amherst
Lesley Levy, Independent Jewish Voices, Montreal
Mich Levy, teacher, Oakland CA
Abby Lippman, Professor Emerita; activist; Montreal
Brooke Lober, PhD candidate, University of Arizona, Gender and Women’s Studies Department
Antony Loewenstein, journalist, author and Guardian columnist
Jennifer Loewenstein, Professor of Middle Eastern Studies, University of Wisconsin, Madison
Alex Lubin, Professor of American Studies, University of New Meixco
Andrew Lugg, Professor Emeritus, University of Ottawa, Canada
David Makofsky, Jewish Voice for Peace, Research Anthropologist
Harriet Malinowitz, Professor of English, Long Island University, Brooklyn
Mike Marqusee, Author, If I Am Not for Myself: Journey of an Anti-Zionist Jew
Miriam Marton, JD
Dr. Richard Matthews. independent scholar, London ON
Daniel L. Meyers, Former President National Lawyers Guild-NYC
Linda Milazzo, Writer/Activist/Educator, Los Angeles
Eva Steiner Moseley, Holocaust refugee, Massachusetts Peace Action board member and Palestine/Israel Working Group
Dr. Dorothy Naor, retired teacher, Herzliah, Israel
Marcy Newman, independent scholar; Author; The Politics of Teaching Palestine to Americans
Alex Nissen, Women in Black
Dr. Judith Norman, San Antonio, TX
Henry Norr, retired journalist, Berkeley CA
Michael Novick, Anti-Racist Action-Los Angeles/People Against Racist Terror
Prof. Bertell Ollman, NYU
Karin Pally, Santa Monica, CA
Prof. Ilan Pappé, Israeli historian and socialist activist
Karen Platt, Jewish Voice for Peace, Albany CA
Dr. Susan Pashkoff, Jews Against Zionism, London UK
Miko Peled, writer, activist; Author, The General’s Son: Journey of an Israeli in Palestine
Prof. Gabriel Piterberg, UCLA
Mitch Podolak, Founder, Winnipeg Folk Festival and Vancouver Folk Music Festival
Karen Pomer,* granddaughter of Henri B. van Leeuwen, Dutch anti-Zionist leader and Bergen-Belsen survivor
Lenny Potash, Los Angeles CA
Fabienne Presentey, Independent Jewish Voices, Montréal
Diana Ralph, Independent Jewish Voices Canada
Roland Rance, Jews Against Zionism, London
Karen Ranucci, Independent Journalist, Democracy Now!
Ana Ratner, Artist, Puppeteer, Activist.
Michael Ratner, President Emeritus, Center for Constitutional Rights
Prof. Dr. Fanny-Michaela Reisin, Jewish Voice Germany
Diana M.A. Relke, Professor Emerita, University of Saskatchewan
Prof. Bruce Robbins, Columbia University
Stewart M. Robinson, retired Prof of Mathematics
Professor Lisa Rofel, University of California, Santa Cruz
Mimi Rosenberg, Producer & Host, Building Bridges and Wednesday Edition, WBAI 99.5 FM; Association of Legal Aid Attorneys/UAW Local 2325
Lillian Rosengarten, Author, From The Shadows Of Nazi Germany To The Jewish Boat To Gaza
Prof. Jonathan Rosenhead, British Committee for the Universities of Palestine (BRICUP)
Yehoahua Rosin, Israel
Ilana Rossoff, International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network
Martha Roth, Independent Jewish Voices; Vancouver BC
Marty Roth, Emeritus professor of English, University of Minnesota
Ruben Roth, Assistant Professor, Labour Studies, Laurentian University; Independent Jewish Voices Canada
Emma Rubin, International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network
Cheryl A. Rubenberg, Middle East Scholar; Editor, Encyclopedia of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict; Author, The Palestinians in Search of a Just Peace
Josh Ruebner, Author, Shattered Hopes: Obama’s Failure to Broker Israeli-Palestinian Peace
Mark Rudd, retired teacher, Albuquerque NM
Ben Saifer, Independent Jewish Voices Canada
Evalyn Segal, Rossmoor Senior Community
Sylvia Schwarz, International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network
Yossi Schwartz, Internationalist Socialist League; Haifa
Carole Seligman, co-editor, Socialist Viewpoint magazine
Yom Shamash, Independent Jewish Voices, Vancouver, Canada
Tali Shapiro, Boycott from Within; Israel
Karen Shenfeld, Poet, Toronto ON
Sid Shniad, National Steering Committee, Independent Jewish Voices Canada
William Shookhoff, Independent Jewish Voices, Toronto ON
Melinda Smith, Jewish Voice for Peace, Albuquerque NM
Kobi Snitz, Tel Aviv
Marsha Steinberg, BDS-LA for Justice in Palestine, Los Angeles
Lotta Strandberg, Visiting Scholar, NYU
Carol Stone, Independent Jewish Voices, Vancouver BC
Miriam (Cherkes-Julkowski) Swenson, Ph.D.
Matthew Taylor, author
Laura Tillem, Peace and Social Justice Center of South Central Kansas
Peter Trainor, Independent Jewish Voices, Toronto
Rebecca Tumposky, International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network
Darlene Wallach, Justice for Palestinians, San Jose CA
Dr. Abraham Weizfeld, JPLO
Bonnie Weinstein, Co-Editor of Socialist Viewpoint magazine; Publisher, Bay Area United Against War Newsletter
Sam Weinstein, International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network-Labor; former President, UWUA Local 132
Judith Weisman, Independent Jewish Voices; Not in Our Name (NION); Toronto ON
Paul Werner, PhD, DSFS Editor, WOID, a journal of visual language
Noga Wizansky, Ph.D., artist, instructor, and researcher; Administrator, Institute of European Studies, UC Berkeley
Marcy Winograd, public school teacher, former congressional peace candidate
Bekah Wolf, UC Hastings College of Law Student; Co-founder, Palestine Solidarity Project
Sherry Wolf, International Socialist Organization
Dave Zirin, Author, Game Over: How Politics Have Turned the Sports World Upside Down
Jews for Palestinian Right of Return
Strong interview with Electronic Intifada founder Ali Abunimah on Al-Jazeera English explaining the reality of Israeli violence in Gaza, resistance to its onslaught and the need for justice:
Gideon Levy in Haaretz:
The goal of Operation Protective Edge is to restore the calm; the means: killing civilians. The slogan of the Mafia has become official Israeli policy. Israel sincerely believes that if it kills hundreds of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, quiet will reign. It is pointless to destroy the weapons stores of Hamas, which has already proved capable of rearmament. Bringing down the Hamas government is an unrealistic (and illegitimate) goal, one that Israel does not want: It is aware that the alternative could be much worse. That leaves only one possible purpose for the military operation: death to Arabs, accompanied by the cheering of the masses.
The Israel Defense Forces already has a “map of pain,” a diabolical invention that has replaced the no less diabolical “bank of targets,” and that map is spreading at a sickening pace. Watch Al Jazeera English, a balanced and professional television channel (unlike its Arabic sister station), and see the extent of its success. You won’t see it in Israel’s “open” broadcast studios, which as usual are only open to the Israeli victim, but on Al Jazeera you will see the whole truth, and perhaps you will even be shocked.
The bodies in Gaza are piling up, the desperate, constantly updated tabulation of mass killing that Israel boasts of, which already numbers dozens of civilians, including 24 children as of noon on Saturday; hundreds of people injured, in addition to horror and destruction. One school and one hospital have already been bombed. The aim is to strike homes, and no amount of justification can help: It’s a war crime, even if the IDF calls them “command-and-control centers” or “conference rooms.” Granted, there are strikes that are much more brutal than Israel’s, but in this war, which is nothing other than mutual attacks on civilians — the elephant against the fly — there aren’t even any refugees. In contrast to Syria and Iraq, in the Gaza Strip the inhabitants do not have the luxury of fleeing for their lives. In a cage, there’s nowhere to run.
Since the first Lebanon war, more than 30 years ago, the killing of Arabs has become Israel’s primary strategic instrument. The IDF doesn’t wage war against armies, and its main target is civilian populations. Arabs are born only to kill and to be killed, as everyone knows. They have no other goal in life, and Israel kills them.
One must, of course, be outraged by the modus operandi of Hamas: Not only does it aim its rockets at civilian population centers in Israel, not only does it position itself within population centers — it may not have an alternative, given the crowded conditions in the Strip — but it also leaves the Gazan civilian population vulnerable to Israel’s brutal attacks, without seeing to a single siren, shelter or protected space. That is criminal. But the barrages of the Israel Air Force are no less criminal, on account of both the result and the intent: There isn’t a single residential building in the Gaza Strip that is not home to dozens of women and children; the IDF cannot, therefore, claim that it does not mean to hurt innocent civilians. If the recent demolition of the home of a terrorist in the West Bank still stirred a weak protest, now dozens of homes are being destroyed, together with their occupants.
Retired generals and commentators on active duty compete to make the most monstrous proposal: “If we kill their families, that will frighten them,” explained Maj.Gen. (res.) Oren Shachor, without batting an eyelid. “We must create a situation such that when they come out of their burrows, they won’t recognize Gaza,” others said. Shamelessly, without question — until the next Goldstone investigation.
A war with no goal is among the most despicable of wars; the deliberate targeting of civilians is among the most atrocious of means. Terror now reigns in Israel as well, but it’s unlikely there is a single Israeli who can imagine what it’s like for Gaza’s 1.8 million inhabitants, whose already miserable lives are now totally horrific. The Gaza Strip is not a “hornet’s nest,” it is a province of human desperation. Hamas is not an army, far from it, despite all the fear tactics: If it really did build such a sophisticated network of tunnels there, as is claimed, then why doesn’t it build Tel Aviv’s light rail network, already?
The 1,000-sortie and 1,000 tons of explosives marks have almost been reached, and Israel is waiting for the “victory picture” that has already been achieved: Death to Arabs.
Moving report, on NBC News, by Ayman Mohyeldin that details the current Israeli violence in Gaza. Slowly but surely Americans are being exposed to the reality of Israel’s crimes in Palestine:
In 2013, I released with my co-editor Ahmed Moor the edited collection, After Zionism. It featured many prominent views on the viability and necessity of a one-state solution in Israel and Palestine.
Now a new study of Palestinians, via Haaretz, reveals the growing belief amongst Palestinians in Palestine that a state treating all its citizens with equal respect under the law is desirable. Sadly, there’s no evidence that the majority of Israelis feel the same way:
By more than a 2-1 margin, Palestinians oppose the two-state solution, favoring instead the goal of a Palestinian state “from the river to the sea,” according to a recent poll by the centrist Washington Institute for Near East Policy.
At the same time, though, the poll found that a large majority of Palestinians favored the tactic of “popular resistance” – such as demonstrations and strikes – over violence to achieve their goals, Globes reported Sunday.
Interestingly, Gazans were more moderate when it came to tactics, but more hardline about the goal.
The survey also found that West Bank leader Mahmoud Abbas was a much more popular leader than Gazan leader Ismail Haniyeh – both in the West Bank (28.1 percent to 6.9 percent) and in the Gaza Strip (32.4 percent to 11.7 percent).
The poll, which questioned a relatively large sample of 1,200 respondents, was taken June 15-17 – following the abductions of three Israeli teenagers, the formation of the Fatah-Hamas unity government, and the collapse of the Kerry peace talks. However, it was conducted just before West Bank protests arose against Abbas for his cooperation with Israel’s search for the kidnapped boys and crackdown on Hamas.
Asked what political goal they favored over the next five years, 60.3 percent replied “action to return historic Palestine, from the river to the sea, to our hands,” while 27.3 percent answered “end[ing] the occupation of the West Bank in order to reach a two-state solution.”
Another 10.1 percent said the goal should be a “one-state solution, for the entire region, from the river to the sea, in which Jews and Arabs enjoy equal rights.”
If a Palestinian leadership were to reach agreement with Israel on a two-state deal, 64 percent said Palestinians should still continue to press on for a Palestinian state encompassing the territories and Israel, while 31.6 percent said they would accept a two-state solution.
On the question of tactics, again, the trend was toward moderation, with 70 percent of Gazans and 56 percent of West Bankers saying Hamas should observe a cease-fire with Israel. Asked if Hamas should go along with Abbas’ demand that the unity government publicly renounce violence, 57 percent of Gazans agreed, while West Bankers were split evenly.
Popular resistance won the support of 73 percent Palestinians in Gaza and 62 percent of those in the West Bank.
I was interviewed for the SBS TV news earlier this week on Canberra’s insane decision to avoid calling East Jerusalem “occupied” despite the entire world knowing that it is, except the occupying nation itself, Israel. Shalailah Medhora is the journalist (and a link to the video is here):
Last week Attorney-General George Brandis told Senate Estimates that Australia would drop “occupied” when referring to East Jerusalem.
Australia is the only nation apart from Israel to change its language on the contested land.
“Australia [will] isolate itself from the entire international community, and from the peace process,” Ambassador to the General Delegation of Palestine, Izzat Abdulhadi, told SBS.
The Ambassador has met with counterparts from Arab and Asian nations to draft a letter calling for an urgent meeting with Foreign Minister Julie Bishop to clarify Australia’s position.
“In this letter we express our deep concern about this position of Australia,” Mr Abdulhadi says.
“We think it’s important for Australia to revise its position.”
Israeli Ambassador to Australia, Schmuel Ben-Schmuel, has welcomed the policy shift.
“It’s a reasonable step which I wish all like-minded countries would accept,” Mr Ben-Schmuel told SBS.
The Ambassador says the change will help the peace process.
“The way through peace is through direct negotiation through the parties involved.”
Former Australian Ambassador to Israel, Ross Burns, disagrees.
“Now we seem to be losing our capacity to dialogue with the Arab side,” the ex-Ambassador turned Palestinian advocate, says.
“Our name has been mud, particularly among the Palestinians, but also generally in the Arab world.”
Some commentators think the decision to drop “occupied” is less about the federal government’s ideology, and more about keeping the Jewish lobby happy.
“They’re trying to do this as some kind of quid pro quo in relation to the Racial Discrimination Act,” Independent journalist and author Antony Loewenstein says.
Representatives of the Israeli community in Australia refute that.
“It’s irrelevant,” Colin Rubenstein from the Australia/Israel and Jewish Affairs Council says.
“It’s completely unrelated to that.”
Foreign Minister Julie Bishop issued SBS with a statement saying there’s been no change to the federal government’s position on the legal status of the Palestinian Territories.
The Palestinian Authority has summoned Australian representative in Ramallah, Tom Wilson, to issue a please explain.
Dr Saeb Erekat, a senior member of the Palestinian Authority, has written to Minister Bishop saying that the Arab League and the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation may review their relations with Australia in light of the policy shift.
My following interview appears in the Guardian:
During an event at the Sydney writer’s festival last month, Israeli writer and author Ari Shavit told a packed auditorium that his country was “an oasis in the Middle East”. He explained to the audience, who largely appreciated his words despite some grumblings when he condemned the occupation of the Palestinian territories, that “the Zionist revolution is a phenomenal success”.
Shavit’s new book, My Promised Land: The Triumph and Tragedy of Israel, has received plaudits from the cream of the liberal, American, political elite. Even former Israeli prime minister and defence minister Ehud Barak writes on the back cover that Shavit “is being brutally honest regarding the Zionist enterprise”.
The book attempts to challenge Zionist myths. One of the more celebrated chapters revolves around Shavit’s recounting of Israeli forces driving the Arab residents from the Palestinian town of Lydda in 1948. He doesn’t shy away from explaining the violence inflicted but then writes that, “I know that if it wasn’t for them [the militias], the State of Israel would not have been born … They did the dirty, filthy work that enables my people, myself, my daughter, and my sons to live.”
During an exclusive and extensive conversation with Shavit, he tells me that despite decades of conflict and negotiation the “only solution is the two-state solution”.
He continues: “It is the moral and political duty of every Israeli prime minister to try to achieve the two-state solution. Because I have some doubts if this final status peace agreement can be signed today, the next step should be trying to create two-state dynamics that will lead to a two-state solution. We must end the occupation for sure, which if it can’t be done in these circumstances immediately must be done gradually by a settlement freeze and then a withdrawal from parts of the West Bank.”
Shavit also believes that the Palestinians have a responsibility to build a viable state of their own. They “should use whatever land liberated for them in order to have development projects and rebuild a new kind of Palestinian reality,” he says. “You then have Israel moving forward, what I call a nation saving project that ends the occupation, while Palestinians are going into a nation building process to hopefully build a democratic, life-loving Palestine.”
On the first page of My Promised Land, Shavit writes that, “as long as I can remember, I remember fear. Existential fear.” I ask him if he still feels that way in the 21st century, as a man in his late 50s. He does. “Although Israel seems to be strong, politically, economically and militarily, at the same time we are intimidated. The two pillars of Israel’s existence are occupation and intimidation and there is a tendency on the Left to see occupation and overlook intimidation and on the Right to focus on intimidation and overlook occupation. Both are there and both are unacceptable.
“Peace-loving people around the world should also address that Israel’s security concerns are not just an issue for generals and strategic experts, or because of Jewish neurosis and our history, but we’re intimidated because of Iran and brutal, violent forces in the region such as Hamas, Hizbollah and Islamist forces in Syria.”
My Promised Land hasn’t received universal praise. American historian Norman Finkelstein just released an entire book, Old Wine, Broken Bottle, debunking the book. Others condemn Shavit’s many writings advocating violence against Israel’s enemies in the Middle East.
Independent Israeli journalist Noam Sheizaf, writing in +972 Magazine, sees the work as the “Zionist story, retold by the elite, for the elite”. Sheizaf attacks “the intellectualisation of violence – and ultimately, murder – [as] a central theme with elites in the US and Israel, due to the inherent contradiction between their values and the massive implementation of military force they often pursue.”
Sheizaf condemns Shavit for obsessively focusing on powerful Ashkenazi, Jewish men with the almost complete exclusion of Mizrahi Jews, another large and influential section of Israeli society. “Every social or political group remains the object of the same view”, the reviewer concludes, “deprived of an existence that stretches beyond the role it plays in the Ashkenazi elite’s drama.” Furthermore, Sheizaf wonders about the lack of women in Shavit’s narrative.
Shavit counters these critics not by responding directly to them but by telling me that he refuses to accept that Israel, of all nations “with a past” such as Australia, should not be welcomed. He argues that it can’t be that “liberal Americans, liberal Canadians, liberal Australians and liberal New Zealanders will say that of all the peoples in the world, Israel is the only one that is sinful and morally wrong. Most nations, if not all nations, have skeletons in their past and I thought it was my moral duty to address the side that many Zionists and Israelis do not address. But to take that out of context and not see the larger tragedy of Jewish history and the larger impressive and sometimes even heroic parts of Israeli and Zionist history, that’s wrong.”
What does the success of Shavit’s book in the US reflect about the current climate towards the Jewish state? The author tells me that, “I think there are many people who have an issue with Israel’s present policy, mainly occupation and settlements, and yet they have a sense that there is a need to have Israel, that Israel is legitimate, just and a necessary entity.”
I ask Shavit about the growing global movement of boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel, which the author strongly rejects. “The only way to win the battle within Israel [against Jewish extremism] is to have a strong sense that the international community will stand by Israel,” Shavit says to me, “totally accepts Israel’s legitimacy, and will stand by it post occupation.
“If people are not Israel haters and are into really ending the occupation in a reasonable way, the policy should be the exact opposite of BDS. Go to Israelis, hug them, promise them love and support once they do the right thing and demand of them to do the right thing. Right now so many Israelis have deep suspicions whether this kind of [BDS] pressure will end the moment they end the occupation.”
During Shavit’s Sydney writers’ festival event, he continually claimed that, “Israel is not settlers or soldiers” and yet the occupation of Palestinian land in the West Bank has been a fact for nearly 50 years. Although he wants to “avoid the blame game” – he praises pro-settlement, Zionist lobbyists around the world because “I’m not ashamed that we have some organisations speaking up for the Jewish minority” – he’s aware that there is growing global impatience with maintaining the status quo.
Ultimately, Shavit fears the “cancer eating Israel from within” and tells me that, “we cannot survive another decade with the suicidal ways in which Israel is building more settlements”. But he has some hope that “a realistic peace concept, rather than a utopian one” can appear to convince the majority of Israelis that “they must act to save Israel from occupation”.