31 Mar 2009

Time Is Running Out For Israel To Adapt

By Antony Loewenstein
The ground is slowly shifting in international attitudes towards Israeli policies. But the longer Israel delays changing direction, the fewer options it will have, writes Antony Loewenstein
As the new Israeli Government under Benyamin Netanyahu begins its tenure, a small report in the Israeli daily Ha'aretz this week highlighted the reality of the situation in Palestine:

"Construction activity on West Bank settlements has increased in the transition period between the February general election and the formation of the new government, Ha'aretz has learned.

"One notable example is the extensive earthworks being carried out in preparation for the construction of a road to connect the settlement of Eli, north of Ramallah, with the Hayovel outpost Yuval, just south of the Arab city.

"The earthworks are being carried out on private land owned by residents of the Palestinian village of Qaryut. The mayor, Abd al-Latif Lavum, plans to submit a petition today to the High Court of Justice demanding the issuing of a stop order to the Civil Administration to halt the work."

Such brutal facts make Netanyahu's talk about "economic peace" — that is, reducing Israel's economic pressure on Palestinians in the hope they will become more pliable if their stomachs are full — completely irrelevant.

Saeb Erakat, one of the leading Palestinian peace negotiators under President Mahmoud Abbas, virtually begged the Obama Administration in last week's Washington Post to pressure the new Israeli regime to cease settlement building and engage seriously with the Palestinians.

Tragically, it is a forlorn hope, not least because it is being expressed by Fatah, a party, that has negotiated repeatedly with the Israelis for years and achieved absolutely nothing in return other than expanded colonies.

Outgoing Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert chastised his Palestinian opponents recently by claiming he "offered a deal that has never been offered by any Prime Minister in the history of the State of Israel. A deal that dealt with the heart of every problem".

Talk is cheap in the Middle East. Only facts on the ground matter. And these facts, highlighted by human rights group Gisha, remain dire for the human rights of the imprisoned Palestinians.

Even the ineffectual European Union is warning the Netanyahu Government that it must not "walk away from the peace process". Perhaps the EU should follow the lead of US diplomats who recently assessed Jewish settlement activity at an Israeli-occupied district near Jerusalem — a rare public examination of illegal colony expansion.

But this has all happened before. Washington calls the settlements "unhelpful". Israel provides a spurious excuse and continues building. The Palestinians yelp that such moves "hinder" peace but have no power to stop it. The occupation deepens. A two-state solution, long professed as the ideal outcome by the Western world, becomes more unlikely — arguably impossible. One leading Israeli commentator now even argues that the Arab League initiative to bring the entire Arab world into peace with Israel could not now be implemented even if Israel agreed.

With notable exceptions, the global Jewish diaspora remains largely mute and therefore complicit in the process. One leading Jewish American leader, the Anti-Defamation League's Abraham Foxman, now happily and unashamedly agrees Zionism is racism, on the basis that it is a valid form of nationalism like any other.

How is this being pro-Israel? Such questions were consistently asked during the recent Australian visit of American/Israeli peace activist Jeff Halper, including at his talk at Sydney University.

John Mearsheimer, co-author of The Israel Lobby, asked Jews this same question last week, demanding to know how their silence in the face of a Greater Israel narrative would allow the Jewish state to survive in the long-term.

One commentator on the post added a pithy response:

"The US should publicly state that for every Jewish Israeli living in one of those illegal colonies, one Palestinian will be allowed to return to Israel and reclaim his or her properties. We'd be pleasantly surprised at how fast the colonies disappear."

As with the global financial crisis, waiting for America to provide leadership on this is a fool's game. The creators of the mess are unlikely to find the best solutions to fix it. Although the Obama administration has indicated a few differences in policy to the Bush years — although not towards Afghanistan and Pakistan, continuing the disastrous drone-bombing of "terrorists" and infuriating the civilian population — it is far too early to tell whether the Middle East will change.

Veteran journalist Seymour Hersh, writing in the New Yorker, indicates that Washington is looking to improve its relations with Syria, reflecting the belief that this could be easier than negotiating with the Palestinians. Furthermore, Iran would then be isolated. But Hersh includes a key paragraph that demands attention, arguing that during January's attack on Gaza the incoming Obama officials had no real issue with Israel's bombardment:

"[T]he Obama team let it be known that it would not object to the planned resupply of 'smart bombs' and other high-tech ordnance that was already flowing to Israel. It was [retired Marine General and national security adviser candidate James Jones] who came up with the solution and told Obama, 'You just can't tell the Israelis to get out.'"

Change, indeed.

Political posturing which promises a new direction without delivering it is unhelpful at best and damaging at worst. It never ceases to amaze me how the Zionist faction of the mainstream Jewish community continues to write as if the "peace process" will continue, no matter who runs Israel or America.

Take the recent revelations of IDF human rights abuses during the Gaza war. The accusations are severe and warrant independent investigation. Human Rights Watch also released a report providing evidence that Israel illegally used white phosphorous on civilian areas.

Rather than react with horror, many Zionist spokespeople have attempted to smear the messengers, particularly the IDF soldiers making the accusations. David Horowitz, editor of the Jerusalem Post, worries that the global outrage against Israel is affecting Zionist resolve:

"The notion that the tried and true methods of anti-apartheid trade protest could be widely adopted against Israel in Britain and then Europe may seem unthinkable to some.

"But it is not unthinkable to those who are internalising the degree to which Israel is being demonised and delegitimised post-Operation Cast Lead, and the extent to which this process makes defending Israel uncomfortable even for those on that continent who do have the rare capacity to distinguish between legitimate criticism and distortion, manipulation and outright falsehood.

"Put simply, Israel has rarely looked this bad in European eyes."

Some, such as a former chairman of the pro-settler Yesha Council, argue that simply setting up a PR ministry would solve the country's image problems. The issue, dear Zionists, isn't the message. The problem is your shocking behaviour.

But this is perhaps where hope may lie. Israel only knows the language of discrimination, humiliation and violence (witness its decision to worsen its treatment of Hamas prisoners held in Israel, in a pointless effort to pressure the group to release Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit). These moves have never worked and they won't now. A policy of domination has proven a failure for years and yet the Zionist establishment wants to continue it.

New York Times columnist Roger Cohen argued last week that Hamas had to be engaged and that the US should abandon the practice it followed under Bush of no longer tolerating Israeli behaviour no matter what. In its editorial that paper also stated that Hamas had to be included in any Palestinian unity government.

Pressure on the Obama Administration to break with decades-old policies is rising. Even a growing number of American Jews want intense force placed on the Israelis, according to a study by progressive lobby group, J Street.

Talk about the one-state solution is also spreading, prompted by the stalling and obfuscation of the political and media elite. Meanwhile Jewish attacks against Arabs in Israel are soaring.

If the status quo is sustainable, I'd like to know how.

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Posted Tuesday, March 31, 2009 - 15:27

You're going to cop it Antony. The usual 'self hating Jew' etc.
As someone opposed to the Bush/Howard/Blair insane invasion of Iraq I got called unAustralian and anti-American for holding views that have turned out to be 100% correct.
Truth will out and the war mongers will have to slide back into the darkness of their caves.

Posted Tuesday, March 31, 2009 - 16:50

Graeme I have been sent death threats for daring to defend the little Bakhtiyari kids from the abuses of Howard and Ruddock, let alone protesting against blasting Afghanistan and Iraq to bits.

Antony though is making the same mistake that all jews seem to make, whether they mean to or not. Israel is not a jewish state, anymore than Australia was ever a white Australia.

1.5 million people have to be airbrushed out of their own country if we want to call the place jewish.

It should be remembered that when the talk is of private land that jews only owned 6% of Palestine before the 1948 ethnic cleansing, they were offered 33% by Peal in 1837 (long before the holocaust you note), which they refused and they were then suggested that they could have 56% of Palestine so they stole it and now control 93%.

Shlomo Sand has proven that jews have no major historical link to the land and over 2 million could leave tomorrow and safely go home to the US, Canada, Australia,England,Russia, France and Chechnya.

That would give the land back in a nanosecond wouldn't it now.

Posted Tuesday, March 31, 2009 - 22:38

"...Abbas virtually begged the Obama Administration in last week's Washington Post to pressure the new Israeli regime to cease settlement building and engage seriously with the Palestinians."

Sure. When Hamas recognizes Israel's right to exist and stops firing rockets into Israeli territory and when when the mindless zealots who blow themselves up in search of Nirvana start thinking about the innocent children within range of their suicide bombs. That's when I'll start caring, thanks.

Sorry but after all the rhetoric and finger pointing is done with, everytime there's two facts I can't get past when it comes to Israel and Palestine:

1) As a gay man, why on earth would I support an undemocratic, backward, Islamic state that has absolutely no respect for GLBT rights and seems to be stuck somewhere in the year 1436, over a modern, democratic Jewish state that has great respect for GLBT rights to the extent that Israel recognizes same sex common law marriages. In fact, I can broaden this argument right out just by taking away the "GLBT" bit and replacing it with "human".

2) If it happened in any other country we wouldn't be having this weird endless argument about its right to defend itself that we have with Israel and Palestine. Imagine if the indigenous community here decided to escalate their land rights movement by sending out suicide bombers into Australian cities and firing rockets into them. How would the rest of Australia react? Of course, the indigenous people are nothing like the Palestinian terrorists. Rather they are a model of peace and goodwill even though we stole their country and should, following the logic applied when it comes to Israel, all get back on our immigrant ships and get out, while indigenous people have every right to blow themselves up in the middle of Swanston Street as an "act of desperation". 1788 and 1948 are dates not that far removed in history in the bigger measure of things.

As a Marxist myself, when it comes to most of the Marxist Left and its position on Palestine and Israel, I get so incredibly frustrated. The Marxist Left, the loudest of the whiners when it comes to this issue, with its endless mindless self-righteous inveighing, has totally and wilfully blinded itself to historiscist logic here, and I can find no other explanation for its irrationality in this particular case except a sometimes not even very subtle anti-Semitism.

Even a cursory analysis of historical materialism would lead one to conclude that in the scheme of development, Israel is way more progressed and advanced than is Palestine. After all, in Marx, capitalism and democracy come AFTER feudalism and despotism, not before them. Sometimes I wonder if anyone out there has actually even read "Capital" anymore.

Some of these so-called Marxists ought to read a little Nietzsche for dessert.


Posted Wednesday, April 1, 2009 - 12:40

It is not progressive or advanced to blow up children locked in an open air goal.
Israel receives approx US $8 million per day in 'aid'. If they are so advanced and civilised then they will stop playing the victim and sticking out their hand for support.

Posted Wednesday, April 1, 2009 - 16:52

Antony, there already is one Arab living in Israel for every Jewish settler in Palestine. However, the difference being, the Jewish settlers (whether you believe it or not) have legitimate claims of ongoing ancestral connections to Jewish religious sites, something good Christians would be aware of if they read their Holy Bibles.
The biggest trouble with the violent fighting for the nation of Palestine is that it has now become in reality a Jihad.
And unfortunately because of this, extremist behaviour is the order of the day, and the Palestinians are now not just 'occupied', they have been totally 'conquered', or perhaps 'annhilated' would be a better term.
And the Europeans should keep their anti-Semitic noses out of the Middle East, as most of them are either bitter and twisted Catholics, or disillusioned atheists with no real stake in the region anyway.
The sad truth is the Palestinians, like the Ceylonese, Siamese and other antiquated, anachronistic misnomers for countries and people, will, one day no longer exist.
And a new day will dawn and the Palestinian people will have become Jordanians, Egyptians, Saudi Arabians, Syrians, Iraqis, Iranians, Turkish, Lebanese, Israelis or maybe even Australians.

Posted Thursday, April 2, 2009 - 00:01

Wow. More insightful political commentary from a guy so clueless about Israeli politics he didn't even know that Tzipi Livni was a <a href="http://www.news.com.au/dailytelegraph/story/0,22049,24720821-5001031,00.....

All Loewenstein's articles are the same. Light on commentary, heavy on plagiarism. All slogans, no substance. He's a one-trick pony and if you reckon time's running out for Israel, Antony, how do you think things are looking for your journalism career? Hack pieces in New Matilda paying your rent yet? I don't think so.

I shouldn't be mean to Antony. It must frustrate him immensely that he can't simply delete my comments here like he does on his blog. Mr "I've been silenced" Loewenstein is the biggest hypocrite in the Australian blogging community.

So Antony, how does it feel to know you have attracted a Holocaust denying scum like MaryJ, who happens also to be a regular contributor to your blog? Nice circle of friends you have there, Antony. Add her to those carrying swastikas at the last rally you spoke at.

And she's smart too:
<blockquote>Shlomo Sand has proven that jews have no major historical link to the land </blockquote>
Yup. All those archaeological relics were really made in China during the seventies and planted there to fool the world. Thousand year old artefacts, and references to them even in the Koran had most people fooled but you've bravely exposed the truth Maz! Kudos...

Of course if you want to talk about historical links to the land, here's a few quick questions for you. I'm sure you'll have no problem answering, because you've read like what? Three, maybe four books now?

<blockquote>A Japanese View of the Palestinians
by Yashiko Sagamori

If you are so sure that "Palestine, the country, goes back through most of recorded history", I expect you to be able to answer a few basic questions about that country of Palestine:

When was it founded and by whom?

What were its borders?

What was its capital?

What were its major cities?

What constituted the basis of its economy?

What was its form of government?

Can you name at least one Palestinian leader before Arafat?

Was Palestine ever recognized by a country whose existence, at that time or now, leaves no room for interpretation?

What was the language of the country of Palestine?

What was the prevalent religion of the country of Palestine?

What was the name of its currency? Choose any date in history and tell what was the approximate exchange rate of the Palestinian monetary unit against the US dollar, German mark, GB pound, Japanese yen, or Chinese yuan on that date.

And, finally, since there is no such country today, what caused its demise and when did it occur?

You are lamenting the "low sinking" of a "once proud" nation. Please tell me, when exactly was that "nation" proud and what was it so proud of?

And here is the least sarcastic question of all: If the people you mistakenly call "Palestinians" are anything but generic Arabs collected from all over -- or thrown out of -- the Arab world, if they really have a genuine ethnic identity that gives them right for self-determination, why did they never try to become independent until Arabs suffered their devastating defeat in the Six Day War?

I hope you avoid the temptation to trace the modern day "Palestinians" to the Biblical Philistines: substituting etymology for history won't work here.

The truth should be obvious to everyone who wants to know it. Arab countries have never abandoned the dream of destroying Israel; they still cherish it today. Having time and again failed to achieve their evil goal with military means, they decided to fight Israel by proxy. For that purpose, they created a terrorist organization, cynically called it "the Palestinian people" and installed it in Gaza, Judea, and Samaria. How else can you explain the refusal by Jordan and Egypt to unconditionally accept back the "West Bank" and Gaza, respectively?

The fact is, Arabs populating Gaza, Judea, and Samaria have much less claim to nationhood than that Indian tribe that successfully emerged in Connecticut with the purpose of starting a tax-exempt casino: at least that tribe had a constructive goal that motivated them. The so called "Palestinians" have only one motivation: the destruction of Israel, and in my book that is not sufficient to consider them a nation" -- or anything else except what they really are: a terrorist organization that will one day be dismantled.

In fact, there is only one way to achieve peace in the Middle East. Arab countries must acknowledge and accept their defeat in their war against Israel and, as the losing side should, pay Israel reparations for the more than 50 years of devastation they have visited on it. The most appropriate form of such reparations would be the removal of their terrorist organization from the land of Israel and accepting Israel's ancient sovereignty over Gaza, Judea, and Samaria.

That will mark the end of the Palestinian people. What are you saying again was its beginning? </blockquote>

If you want to talk about the future, fine. But if you are going to talk about history, you should acknowledge that prior to 1967, the Palestinians don't really have one.

Of course in that you also <a href="http://newmatilda.com/2009/03/30/when-antisemite-not-antisemite">deny the Holocaust</a>, I don't think there's really much point.

Posted Thursday, April 2, 2009 - 12:49

danlew, your accusations of Holocaust denial is a meaningless accusation when you continue to perpetrate the lie that everything that Israel does is holy and good and everything that the Palestinians do to protect their own lives and property is evil. You condone war crimes so your opinion is useless despite its wide ranging justifications for those crimes against humanity.
The Palestinians refuse to roll over and die despite your desires and to continue to abuse the entire population of Gaza will not solve anyones problems. Time to drag yourself out of a pre-medieval mindset of divine right to kill others.

Posted Thursday, April 2, 2009 - 14:33

".....scum like MaryJ "

It is about time the Editor cleaned up this site.

Posted Thursday, April 2, 2009 - 22:02


"As a gay man, why on earth would I support an undemocratic, backward, Islamic state"

Presumably, you support the undemocratic, backward, but secular state of Australia?

"that has absolutely no respect for GLBT rights"

whereas Australia has had a measure of respect for, in one state, less than 10 years, and the rest, less than 30. The difference, of course, is that Australia has been internally 'at peace' for far longer than that, whereas Palestine hasn't. The chances of internal social and democratic change tend to diminish under direct attack, and the *need* for solid and definitive leadership grows. Take a look at western history for examples, particularly WWII's Churchill/UK. People weren't debating gay rights in WWII, instead they were engaging in nationalist rhetoric. Noone particularly cared about the plight of Europe Jews, Gypsies or homosexuals in Nazi Germany, at the time. All that came after, in peace.

Judging a people fighting for their lives by what you gauge are backward values is counter-intuitive, and perhaps your personal judgements/experiences override your sense of compassion for their suffering. It shouldn't.

"Jewish state that has great respect for [...]. In fact, I can broaden this argument right out just by taking away the "GLBT" bit and replacing it with "human"."

Except that to do that, with respect to Israel, is wishful thinking, not fact. Palestinians are also human, and as Graeme pointed out, there is nothing at all either democratic, progressive, or advanced about blowing up children in the open air prison of Gaza, or starving them, or letting old men and women die in the heat in a checkpoint queue, or a pregnant woman die for lack of medical aid, or a child die with a bullet in their head, because they committed the crime of being Palestinian.

And, to rise to your analogy, were I an Aborigine, and I found my children dead as a direct result of Australian guns and bombs, retaliation would be justifiable, and, no doubt, expected (as it is expected from Gaza/west bank).The key issue is that with nearly every foray into Israel, the instigator is a merciless and vicious foray into Palestinian territory with F16s and tanks, where young and old alike die. If you're unaware of this fact, I suggest you take a look at the Huffington Post, which published recently all cease-fires for the past few years, and who broke them. In nearly all cases, it was Israel, not Palestine.

In many respects, violent retaliation from Aboriginal Australia is probably justifiable as it stands, given the deliberate genocide so many nations of Australia have faced to date (and continuing). Lucky for us, Aborigines are still an extreme minority in Australia (making any such attack effective and literal suicide) - thanks to our effective and longer span of genocide against them, and, by that inaction and very likely a more peaceful and remarkably forgiving philosophy, are dying a slow but sure cultural death. In the one or two examples where, in local degrees they have attempted revolt - however limited - the hand of the state has fallen with remarkable swiftness on their heads (think Palm).

So I sincerely hope we *would* be discussing this issue, but I also sincerely hope that we can do it *prior* to any escalation, and resolve it properly, and not patronisingly, not by giving with one hand and continuing to take more with the other, or worse, claiming to give whilst taking everything. *We* (non indigenous Australians) have none of the moral highground, and Aborigines have all of it. The same, of course, goes for Palestine, as per the international laws regarding occupation.



Posted Thursday, April 2, 2009 - 22:08

re Earnest's post: I looked at the guidelines - it definitely forbids personal attacks:

"Are abusive
Attack the writer not the argument"

If Mary can have her posts censored for (presumably) promoting hate (a thing which is done by every pro-Zionist contributor on a weekly basis on this site), then surely statement like the one above deserve to be removed?

The trouble of censorship, I suppose, is that once you start, you either don't stop, or you risk appearing compromised.



Posted Friday, April 3, 2009 - 11:45


When i visited Jerusalem there was a gay pride march being organised -by both Arabs and Israelis.

Then the head Rabbi, the Archbishop and the head Imam all got together to condenm it. Finally something they could agree on!

The march didn't happen.

There is plenty wrong with large sections of palestinian and israeli when it comes to respect for the GLBTQ community.

We're not asking you to support that.

We're asking you to condem it when children not old enough to know what sex is let alone understand sexuality are blown to pieces or allowed to die in a hospital bed with the medicine they need twenty ki8lometres away waiting to get through a check point.

Don't get your wires crosed.


Posted Friday, April 3, 2009 - 12:00

sorry.. the word societies is missing from the following sentence

There is plenty wrong with large sections of palestinian and israeli [societies] when it comes to respect for the GLBTQ community.


Posted Friday, April 3, 2009 - 12:39

I agree with Derek. The shocking personal abuse and language used against by the pro-Zionists against anyone who questions any segment of their 'religion' and genocidal practices is quite incredible, and should be deleted from this blog, and the perpetrators 'advised'. I was censored/advised by NM for comments unrelated, but which were only the mildest in form against what some of these bloggers seem to be getting away with. The personal and terrible abuse against MaryJ for repeating what is written in plain sight on US edition of Aljazeera Magazine, and elsewhere, quite legally, is unforgivable, and should be culled.
To me also, it is a sick world when one small segment of society, now known to be as 'sick' as Hitler in their treatment of Human Beings, and for much the same reasons, can have all discussion on such a thing as numbers killed at a time of War/Genocide, declared illegal and with jail terms offered; as any discussion on this particular 'Genocide' of a segment of the people exterminated has been treated.
(This is like walking on Zionist eggshells!)


Posted Sunday, April 12, 2009 - 15:45

"the Jewish settlers (whether you believe it or not) have legitimate claims of ongoing ancestral connections to Jewish religious sites, something good Christians would be aware of if they read their Holy Bibles." (denise)

And here is the issue in it's essence.
Consider this stance next time the words, compromise, negotiation, or justice, are raised.

This typical Israeli belief and that of many other Jews as expressed by denise is an absolute religious dogma to reinstate a 2000 year old perpetual leasehold directive from God; along with a God given commandment to see those deposed and all others who oppose it as Amalek and hence their killing and their children's to be justified. Slowly but surely this is being achieved.

What is the Hebrew or Yiddish word for 'jihad'?.... Zionism!

Posted Monday, April 20, 2009 - 17:15

'It is about time the Editor cleaned up this site.'
I support EarnestLee... these person attacks are pretty ordinary.