2014 columns, Politics

Whitewashing occupation? Bill Shorten and the Israel Lobby

by David Donaldson , April 14, 2014Leave a comment

West Bank

 

Racism and military occupation have no place in the modern world, and are certainly not something looked upon favourably by a majority of Australians.

Yet while apartheid, for example, has become a byword for shame and racism, the Labor Opposition leader feels comfortable asserting that some Israeli West Bank settlements are legal. That a regime founded on racism and military occupation can be considered at least potentially acceptable is exactly what Bob Carr is talking about when he says the right-wing Israel lobby holds inordinate influence over our political debate.

The West Bank, which is supposed to form the bulk of a Palestinian state under a two-state solution, remains a fundamentally divided society. There are separate services and rules for Jews and non-Jews in most areas of life: roads, water, land rights, the movement of people, and basic legal rights are all dependent on whether you happen to be Jewish or not. Effectively, the Palestinian residents of the West Bank are ruled over by Israel, yet are completely disenfranchised – something ignored by those who promote Israel as ‘the only democracy in the Middle East’.

In addition to the military occupation and restriction of basic rights within the West Bank, Israel is carrying out ethnic cleansing in many areas, ejecting non-Jewish residents for ‘military exercises’ or nature reserves. Jewish settlements just happen to sit in the areas not required by the state.

Refusing to condemn the settlements, in practice, means assenting to the continuing replacement of Arabs and Bedouins with Jews, in violation of international law.

Incredibly, a couple of weeks ago we saw Opposition Leader Bill Shorten telling the Zionist Federation of Australia that only ‘some settlements … have been decided or deemed to be illegal under Israeli law.’ This is not ALP policy, which says that all settlements are illegal, a position held by most of the world. Many Labor MPs were outraged that their leader seemed to be changing highly controversial party policy to reflect his own views.

‘Even Israel’s closest ally, the United States, regards the settlements as illegitimate,’ said Labor’s former Minister for International Development Melissa Parke when the issue came up last month.

Bob Carr told the media last week he believed that ‘extreme right-wing’ pro-Israel lobbyists in Melbourne have an ‘unhealthy’ influence on Australia’s policy towards Israel-Palestine.

Predictably, said lobbyists immediately tried to imply Carr was an anti-Semite, implying that he was painting the entire Jewish community with the same brush. Where Carr used the term ‘pro-Israel lobby’, those attacking him insisted on saying he was criticising the ‘Jewish lobby’. Labor MP and strong supporter of Israel Michael Danby even went so far as to call Carr a ‘bigot’.

This is a tactic that American academics and authors of The Israel Lobby and US Foreign Policy, John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt, have referred to as ‘the great silencer’: ‘Anyone who criticises Israeli actions or says that pro-Israel groups have significant influence over US Middle East policy […] stands a good chance of getting labeled an anti-Semite.’ The debate rarely takes place on the merits of the policy, instead instantly leaping to the question of whether or not the dissenter is a racist.

Mark Leibler, National Chairman of the Australia/Israel and Jewish Affairs Council (AIJAC) and one of those attacking Carr, wrote in The Age on Friday: ‘Carr’s claim that Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council and the Jewish community take an extreme right-wing view on Israel is disingenuous. Carr knows that there are quite a range of different views in Israel and within the Australian Jewish community in relation to settlements.’

This is exactly the problem with organisations like AIJAC: despite a range of views within the Jewish community, the main, influential Jewish community groups tend to advocate a far right-wing viewpoint on Israel that is inimical to the principles of modern social democracy. Organisations such as the Australian Jewish Democratic Society, which take a more critical view of Israeli policy, are usually drowned out by better resourced and better connected right-wing bodies.

If we believe apartheid to be completely unacceptable, there is little reason to defend the settlements.

When else would it be conceivable that the leader of Labor – an ostensibly social democratic party – would be prepared to accept that one people, backed by a military occupation, could build houses on the land of another?

To support even some of the settlements not only ignores the social democratic values of the Labor party, but the opinion of the majority of international legal scholars and, indeed, the majority of states. The victory of the pro-Israel right is that these issues are even debated in the first place.

David Donaldson is a Master of International Relations graduate who lives in Melbourne. He tweets @davidadonaldson.

ACO logo




capote-dog

The Outsiders: The early stories of Truman Capote

The recent publication of The Early Stories of Truman Capote – a collection of newly-discovered short stories from the archives of the New York Public Library – reveals the preoccupations of the adolescent Capote, drawn to drifters, exiles, and others living on society’s fringes. Read more »

CAROL

You Could Burn a House Down: Todd Haynes’s Carol

For many years, lesbians in fiction were punished for their social transgressions, condemned to a life of solitude, insanity, feigned heterosexuality and/or suicide. Radically, Carol portrays a lesbian love that doesn’t destroy or diminish its subjects, but enables them to transform, to grow and to be free. Read more »

21EMMYJP6-master675

Killings Columnists Pick Their Best of 2015

As 2015 concludes, we also farewell our fabulous 2015 Killings columnists. They’ve entertained and delighted us all year with fortnightly columns on culture, politics and society, and now they offer us a wrap up of their highlights for 2015 across their respective fields. Read more »

21EMMYJP6-master675

Killings Columnists Pick Their Best of 2015

As 2015 concludes, we also farewell our fabulous 2015 Killings columnists. They’ve entertained and delighted us all year with fortnightly columns on culture, politics and society, and now they offer us a wrap up of their highlights for 2015 across their respective fields. Read more »

18-gilmore-girls.w1200.h630

Tim McGuire

Progressive to a Point: Homophobia and Gilmore Girls

You can’t watch a TV show over and over again without picking up on a couple of its flaws, much as you might prefer not to see them. In the case of Gilmore Girls, the hamartia I didn’t want to find was a troubling and weirdly homophobic one, layered over with pithy dialogue, pop culture nods, and the small town charm that made the show’s seven seasons such a success. Read more »

ROSEANNE - On set in New York - 10/16/93 
Sara Gilbert (Darlene) on the ABC Television Network comedy "Roseanne". "Roseanne" is the story of a working class family struggling with life's essential problems.
(AMERICAN BROADCASTING COMPANIES, INC.)
SARA GILBERT

Rebecca Shaw

Out of the Imaginary Closet: Fictional characters who should have been gay

When you are part of a group that isn’t portrayed in the same way (or only negatively, or not at all) you become desperate for that glimmer of recognition. Here are several characters that I loved as a young person, who became stand-ins for the openly lesbian characters I wanted to see so much. Read more »

SPEAR_0014_Edward_Mulvihill copy 2

Lauren Carroll Harris

Eyes Open Dreaming: Spear and the potential for an Australian art cinema

Commercial success has long been prized as Australian cinema’s salve, and the values of that commerce-based vision of success have deeply permeated the national conversation. Spear sets this conversation aside entirely, raising in its stead the possibility of an art cinema in Australia. Read more »

CAROL

You Could Burn a House Down: Todd Haynes’s Carol

For many years, lesbians in fiction were punished for their social transgressions, condemned to a life of solitude, insanity, feigned heterosexuality and/or suicide. Radically, Carol portrays a lesbian love that doesn’t destroy or diminish its subjects, but enables them to transform, to grow and to be free. Read more »

Bowie - The Image  1

The Art of Immortality: David Bowie and The Image

With the news this week of David Bowie’s death at the age of 69 from a long battle with cancer, watching The Image is an oddly reassuring experience: the shared, mass hope that it can’t be true, that he’s not really gone, is played out in this grainy, almost haunted relic now almost 50 years old. Read more »

21EMMYJP6-master675

Killings Columnists Pick Their Best of 2015

As 2015 concludes, we also farewell our fabulous 2015 Killings columnists. They’ve entertained and delighted us all year with fortnightly columns on culture, politics and society, and now they offer us a wrap up of their highlights for 2015 across their respective fields. Read more »

18-gilmore-girls.w1200.h630

Tim McGuire

Progressive to a Point: Homophobia and Gilmore Girls

You can’t watch a TV show over and over again without picking up on a couple of its flaws, much as you might prefer not to see them. In the case of Gilmore Girls, the hamartia I didn’t want to find was a troubling and weirdly homophobic one, layered over with pithy dialogue, pop culture nods, and the small town charm that made the show’s seven seasons such a success. Read more »

PLM

Matilda Dixon-Smith

Family Matters: Please Like Me and the Aussie TV family

In a recent episode of Josh Thomas’s Please Like Me, the bouncy titles run over three little scenarios: Josh cooks dinner for his mate Tom and his boyfriend Arnold; his Mum cooks for her new housemate Hannah; and his Dad cooks for his wife, Mae. The three of them stir, sip wine and dance daggily around their kitchens in a neat metaphor for this season’s fantastic, cohesive new trajectory. Read more »

ss_8df8236403f5aad45eeedd33d2bd545e45435b39.1920x1080

Katie Williams

The More Things Change: Choice and consequence in Life is Strange

You can either be a benevolent hero or a monster, but few games deal with the multitudes contained by actual people. And what does it matter, anyway? There’s no such thing as regret when it comes to in-game decision-making – not when you can so easily restart the game to see what outcome will result from choosing Option B instead. Read more »

svfw crop

Katie Williams

Silicon Valley Fashion Week?: Fashion, technology, and wearability

Last week saw the inaugural Silicon Valley Fashion Week? (yes, with a question mark) unfold in San Francisco. The show promised ‘drones, robots, and mad inventions’, and tickets sold out swiftly; attendees were clearly eager to see more inventive clothing in this heartland of nerds. Read more »

AnimalCrossing copy

Katie Williams

Digging For Meaning in Utopia: Storytelling in Animal Crossing

Animal Crossing is a series of games in which – as my partner once remarked incredulously – ‘nothing ever happens.’ In its latest incarnation, Animal Crossing: New Leaf, you become the unwitting mayor of a town populated by anthropomorphic, bipedal animals. Read more »

Sydney - January 20, 2016: This Is How We Die perfomed during the 2016 Sydney Festival (photo by Jamie Williams/Sydney Festival)

Impossible Futures: Tomorrow’s Parties and This is How We Die

These two shows ask: how hard do we need to listen? In each, minutiae can be discarded, at least in slivers of time. Tomorrow’s Parties and This is How We Die each allow your brain to detach for a moment: to spin off into the different worlds they create, before returning once again, as best you can, to the work at hand. Read more »

Tom Conroy and Colin Friels in Mortido. Photo credit: Shane Reid

Jane Howard

A Shining Nightmare: Mortido‘s Sydney

Sydney is a city of shine and reflective surfaces. The glint of the harbour follows through to city high-rises clad in polished glass, bouncing off the wide windows of the mansions hugging the undulating land before it gives way to the impossibly deep and wide water. But this beauty that can betray the darkness of the city and its people. Read more »

_85072354_hamlet3-pa

Angela Meyer

Outrageous Fortune: Seeing Hamlet as a Cumberbitch

Jazz swells, hushing the audience, and the solid black gate of the theatre curtain opens. It reveals the lounging figure of Hamlet, playing a record, sniffing his father’s old jumper. But what I see first is not Hamlet: it is Benedict Cumberbatch. Read more »