How an Australian unionist fell in love with occupation Israel

Australian unionist, close to the Labor party and rabid Zionist Paul Howes has a long history of embracing everything about Israel – its occupation, murder of opponents etc – and seems to place himself as a new Australian spokesperson for the glories of the Holy Land.

It’s utterly embarrassing and believed by fewer people every year but Howes won’t give up. He knows where his bread is buttered.

His latest piece in Saturday’s Australian is headlined, “‘Aussie Israel’ a model that should inspire“. Some choice quotes below:

Way back in time, in the 1930s, the Kimberley region was for a short period conceived of as a possible Jewish state, in the Australian desert.

It was an idealistic project. It foundered largely because of the outbreak of war and the Depression immediately before it.

It is now one of those “what if” questions.

One wonders what could have happened had the refuge and safe haven, a homeland away from home for a restless, troubled, brilliant, exiled people using their passionate ingenuity, which created a great flowering in the Negev Desert, instead been concentrated on our great spread of sand in the Australian west.

A wilderness was to be tamed and turned into farms and orchards and pastures and factories, with secondary industries such as tanning, tinned fruits, jams, leather products, mats and bricks, with a dam across the Ord river and hydro-electricity, all done by 75,000 Jewish settlers.

The WA government issued its Pilbara cities report 18 months ago. It called for the development of a Pilbara high-rise, high-density urban centre to provide affordable housing and opportunities for Australian families wanting to work in this resource region.

So I believe there is an opportunity now, thanks to the mineral resources rent tax deal, to think of building desert settlements and to look at opportunities to create new enterprises in what may seem unpropitious places, by finding new ways of working the land.

For such a task we have the model of what was created by Israel in the Negev Desert and the city of Beersheba. I will be making a pilgrimage to this extraordinary place, the crucible of three great religions, at the end of the year, to see how much can be done with unpromising beginnings in these hot, harsh places, and what we in our much vaster deserts might now do, in the Pilbara in particular.

Beersheba, with its long biblical connection to the Jewish people, is the modern-day capital of the Negev, with a flourishing economy built around electronics, chemical, pharmaceutical and high-tech industries.

I think if we were to decentralise and build a similar size city in the Pilbara or elsewhere — a city a little larger than, say, Townsville or Cairns — then we have much to learn from the modern-day development of Beersheba.

The Palestinians are invisible.

Text and images ©2024 Antony Loewenstein. All rights reserved.

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