It’s always best to keep your mouth shut and have people suspect you don’t know what you’re talking about, than to open it and confirm it. Michael Brull pulls apart white-anointed Aboriginal ‘leader’ Warren Mundine’s latest ‘thought bubble’. This is the first of a two-part series.
Israel doesn’t have many friends left in Australia. Thus, when Warren Mundine came out with a particularly strong defence of the Israeli government this week, he quickly found himself plastered onto the front page of the Australian Jewish News.
The Likudnik apologetics were originally printed in the Australian Financial Review, and then reprinted in the AJN.
The first peoples of Palestine were not the Palestinians
Perhaps most strikingly, Mundine identified the Jews in Israel as its “first peoples”. As virtually no-one in public life in Australia still says things that silly, the AJN was suitably impressed. The relevant part of a sentence read as follows: He rejected “Arab propaganda that Jews are interlopers in Israel, not its first peoples who lived there for millennia before Arab colonisation.”
So Jews were there before the “Arabs”, who are the real colonisers. Not even Palestinians – Mundine doesn’t even speculate on who they might be, where they might come from, or what rights they might have. Presumably, he considers them part of the collective of Arabs who colonised Jewish land.
Virtually every word of Mundine’s op ed reeks of out-dated and extremist hasbara. It is so crude that it is hard to even know where to begin. In the first part of the sentence where Mundine contrasts Arab colonisers with the Jewish first people’s, Mundine writes “Ceding Jewish claims to Jerusalem means acknowledging Jews’ ancient and continuing presence there”.
Presumably, Mundine knows this is bullshit. That is not what the dispute over East Jerusalem is about.
As Mundine himself concedes in the article, Israel conquered East Jerusalem in 1967. That is not an ancient presence. It is a presence based on a few decades of illegal settlements. Immediately after the war, Israel acted to annexe East Jerusalem. This annexation is rejected by the rest of the world, and the United Nations Security Council. Israel’s Justice Minister conceded they had acted against international law, and “contravened the Geneva Conventions in the most blatant way”. That is, Israel’s Justice Minister at the time admitted that Israel had no right to claim East Jerusalem.
However, Mundine thinks it has been a Jewish city for thousands of years. Anything else reflects uncritical acceptance of “Arab propaganda” that Jews aren’t the “first peoples” of the land. Apparently, mythology about Jewish history 3,000 years ago impresses Mundine more than the Geneva Conventions.
And that’s just one sentence of Mundine’s article. The whole article continues likes that.
Airbrushing out of history Israeli rejectionism
Where it isn’t completely disconnected from reality, it offers a tendentious account of history. Even where actual facts are recounted, they are twisted out of context, and attached to the false claims of Israeli propaganda.
An example of this approach is his discussion of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations during the Clinton years, but no later. Thus, even though Israel’s current Prime Minister says over and over again that he opposes the creation of a Palestinian state, Mundine claims that the “elephant in the room” blocking peace is that “Palestinian leadership doesn’t really support a two-state solution.” And neither do the “Arab nations”.
Shortly before Mundine’s article appeared, a new report appeared, documenting how Israeli rejectionism sunk a peace summit with Jordan and Egypt. Naturally, that didn’t feature in Mundine’s analysis.
Mundine points out correctly that the US blamed the Palestinians for the impasse in peace negotiations in 2000. He leaves out that the Americans are hardly impartial, given that they give Israel billions of dollars in aid every year. And that they blamed Israel for the breakdown in talks with the Palestinians from 2013-4.
Regardless of what happened 16 years ago, it is hard to dispute which party is rejectionist today. You just need to listen to the Israeli government to know that it rejects a two state agreement, because it is opposed in principle to the creation of a Palestinian state. The Palestinian Authority and surrounding Arab countries have repeatedly offered peace with Israel if it reaches an agreement with the Palestinians. Mundine’s article is so detached from reality it doesn’t even refer to any of this, even just to disagree with it.
Mundine also ignores Israeli rejectionism under Prime Minister Ehud Olmert documented in the Palestine Papers. In 2008, the Palestinian Authority made a generous offer of a peace agreement to Israel. The map offered was shown in the leaked papers. It left over 300,000 Israeli settlers in place. Israel said no. Just as Israel said no to a Palestinian state through every single Prime Minister before Ehud Barak, including the liberal Zionist saint, Yitzhak Rabin.
So let us turn to the negotiations in 2000, which Mundine discusses. Aside from misrepresenting the facts of what the Palestinians were offered, Mundine misrepresents what happened in the negotiations. He claims that the talks (presumably at Camp David in 2000) broke down because the Palestinians wouldn’t give ground on East Jerusalem and the refugee question. In fact, they gave considerable ground on every question, in addition to the precondition imposed on them of conceding 78 per cent of historic Palestine just for Israel to even agree to talk to them.
What Mundine leaves out is that after the Palestinians rejected the Camp David offer, they went on to negotiate at Taba in 2001. The chief Israeli negotiator at Taba was Shlomo Ben Ami. Ben Ami himself conceded that “if I were a Palestinian I would have rejected Camp David, as well.”
Thus, the Israeli position at Taba moved closer to Palestinian terms. There is no dispute that those talks ended because Israel withdrew from them. It takes some audacity to blame Palestinians for preventing peace talks from succeeding, when Israel is the party that withdrew from them. Yet that was the standard Israeli propaganda position for years afterwards, until it was updated to the myth of Olmert’s generous offer. Mundine apparently missed that memo, and continues to cling to the Camp David generous offer story.
I just want to register a few more points. Firstly, Mundine claims that Israel “returned Sinai to Egypt” in 1978. That is wrong. Israel and Egypt signed a peace agreement in 1979, but Israel only removed its settlements in 1982. To this day, Egypt has limited sovereignty over the Sinai Peninsula.
Furthermore, the claim that this demonstrates Israel’s commitment to peace is absurd. The Egyptian dictator Anwar Sadat offered more generous terms in the early 1970s for Israel. They were Sinai for peace, without the later fig-leaf he insisted on for the Palestinians. Israel rejected those terms, forcing Egypt and Syria to go to war in 1973 to regain territories occupied in the 1967 war. To this day, Israel still occupies the Syrian Golan Heights, which it has illegally annexed.
Palestinians are responsible for the misery in Gaza
Mundine concedes that Israel “blockaded Gaza” after it “fell to Hamas”. However, he then blames the people of Gaza for their own suffering. He claims that “Under Hamas, manufacturing and agriculture collapsed, unemployment rose to global highs and the economy fell into ruins. Gaza could have industry, trade and people commuting to Israel for work. Instead its people dig tunnels, plan suicide bombings and fire rockets.” Those familiar with the effect of the siege on Gaza can only find Mundine’s unoriginal assertions despicable.
Mundine expresses horror at Palestinians who he claims honour Palestinians who kill Israelis. Yet Israel has been convulsed by the case of Elor Azaria, an Israeli soldier who was caught on film shooting dead an injured Palestinian man lying on the ground.
The Israeli public rallied so strongly to his side, it was considered career suicide for the Defence Minister Moshe Ya’alon to oppose the murder. In the end, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu rallied to the soldier’s defence, whilst Ya’alon was forced to resign.
Leading Israeli politicians, including Netanyahu have called for Azaria to be pardoned, after he was found guilty and sentenced to 18 months imprisonment for manslaughter. When Azaria was convicted, Netanyahu said this was “a difficult and painful day for all of us”.
Mundine also feigns horror at Palestinians honouring terrorists, forgetting that Zionist terrorists went on to become Israeli Prime Ministers (Menachem Begin and Yitzhak Shamir).
“History shouldn’t be sanitised or edited to suit an agenda”
I want to return to Mundine’s claim that it is “Arab propaganda that Jews are interlopers in Israel, not its first peoples who lived there for millennia before Arab colonisation”. This inversion suggests that Jews were there first, and then Arabs came to colonise it, presumably against the wishes of the indigenous Jewish population.
This is not just bullshit, but so egregious that even most pro-Israel lobbies are reluctant to make that kind of claim today. In fact, an actual guide to Israeli propaganda takes a softer line than Mundine. Interested readers can consult the Israel Project’s guide to propaganda from 2009.
For example, it warns advocates “Don’t pretend that Israel is without mistakes or fault. It’s not true and no-one believes it.” It also urges propagandists to “Acknowledge the complexities of the situation”.
Mundine somehow falls afoul of these suggestions, instead advancing his own version of terra nullius. Mundine is apparently unaware that the creation of Israel meant an injustice to the indigenous population of Palestinians.
Consider his account from January:
“In 1947 the United Nations approved a plan to partition Mandatory Palestine into a Jewish state and an Arab state. The Jews accepted the Plan but the Arabs didn’t. The State of Israel was declared in 1948 and immediately invaded by neighbouring Arab states. In the next few decades around 850,000 Jews were expelled from countries in Northern Africa and the Middle East with little more than the clothes on their back. Conflict in that region continues today.”
In his version, there are no Palestinians. There are only “Arabs”. Jews were expelled from neighbouring Arab countries (the story is actually more complex) – but apparently nothing relevant or comparable happened to Palestinians around the same time.
Yet we know from Israeli archives that Israel ethnically cleansed some 700,000 Palestinians from the land that became Israel, and then adopted a plan to prevent their return, which they called “retroactive transfer”. Mundine doesn’t dispute this – he pretends it didn’t happen. In his story, there are just Arabs, inexplicably opposed to the indigenous population of Jews for some reason.
Contrast this to the explanation of Benny Morris, a hawkish Zionist historian brought to Australia by Jewish communal organisations. He said that the conflict was caused by the fact that the Zionists “sought radically to change the status quo, buy as much land as possible, settle on it, and eventually turn an Arab-populated country into a Jewish homeland”.
The leader of the right-wing Zionist camp frankly acknowledged why the Palestinians resisted Zionism: “We are seeking to colonise a country against the wishes of its population, in other words, by force.” Or as the leader of the labour Zionists, and Israel’s first Prime Minister observed, “There has been anti-Semitism, the Nazis, Hitler, Auschwitz, but was that their fault? They only see one thing: We have come here and stolen their country. Why should they accept that?”
Mundine should be able to understand why his terra nullius fairy tales are hurtful. He has explained in the past why the denial of colonial history is hurtful. In the case of Australia,
“Armed foreigners entered their countries and took possession of their lands through fear, intimidation, trickery and/or violence, under the authority of a foreign government. Their choices were to flee or remain in subjugation. How is it that learned minds can look at this scenario and conclude there was no invasion in a geo-political sense? Because of the way Britain thought about Australia and its first peoples. Britain assumed Australia’s first peoples didn’t claim ownership of the land.”
Mundine accepts that “most of the British colonists didn’t see themselves as invaders. The First Fleet’s objective wasn’t to launch an attack; the British soldiers weren’t deployed to wage war. Their mission was to establish a penal colony. But taking land and subjugating the people of the Sydney Basin was essential to this mission.”
Aboriginal people “didn’t invite or welcome British colonists to occupy their lands. People may resent this, deride it or try to distort it but, in the end, there it is.”
He concluded that “History shouldn’t be sanitised or edited to suit an agenda, to make people feel worse or to make them feel better. History is messy and brutal. People need to learn about past events, in full and as they happened, regardless of whether the details might offend someone.”
Exactly, Mr Mundine. Perhaps you should follow your own advice.