Sunday, December 28, 2008

Massacre in Gaza

The sun is shining.  Christmas has come and gone.  Most of us are on holiday and it's a relaxing, comfortable time. And while we are enjoying ourselves Israel is perpetrating yet another massacre upon the unarmed, captive population of Gaza.  So far, in the worst attack upon this tiny, crowded strip of land in over 40 years, the heroes of the Israeli Air Force have dumped over 100 tons of bombs, killing policemen, civilians, women and children.  Hundreds have been killed, many hundreds more have been wounded.

Israel claims that it is responding to the dozens of home-made rockets which have been launched by Gazan militants, killing one Israeli, in the past week. Cynics claim that it makes good sense, with elections coming up, for Ehud Barak and Tzivi Lipni to demonstrate their strength and resolve.  Either way, the response is totally disproportionate.  It is a war crime - if one can describe a few thousand lightly-armed men confronting one of the world's most powerful, best-equipped armies as a "war'.  No, it is a massacre.

Please, my fellow Australians, help end this slaughter by making your feelings known to our Foreign Minister: and Israel's ambassador to Australia, HE Yuval Rotem: 

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Joe Sacco

Great Christmas present!  My son gave me a copy of Joe Sacco's comic book/graphic novel, "Palestine", published by Jonathan Cape in 2003.  Not normally a fan of the comic book and manga genre, I was entranced by Sacco's vivid account of his experiences in Israel, the West Bank and Gaza in late 1991 and early 1992 - the time of the first intifada.  As Edward Said wrote in his glowing introduction: "With the exception of one or two novelists and poets, no one has ever rendered this terrible state of affairs better than Joe Sacco".

Terrible state of affairs indeed.  In the 25 years since Sacco visited the region the situation has not changed for the better for the Palestinians: the Israelis have left Gaza but have turned it into a huge concentration camp, starving its population into submission; in the West Bank the resistance has been imprisoned and disarmed while the American-trained forces of the Palestinian Authority do Israel's police work; Jewish colonist settlements increase and flourish while politicians worldwide ("the scum floats to the top") turn their backs.

Two things that have not changed are the indomitable will of the ordinary Palestinians to resist this genocide and a growing core of decent people, in the West and within Israel, willing to speak up on behalf of Palestinian human rights.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Alan Ramsey

My heart was heavy when I learned that today's column in the Sydney Morning Herald was Alan Ramsay's last. Alan has been a fearless critic of all that was false, pretentious and immoral in our society. He was virtually alone amongst Australian mainstream journalists in criticising Israel's vicious and inhumane treatment of the subject Palestinians.  For this he was pilloried and denigrated by the Zionist lobby.  Still, he held firm and would not resile from his beliefs.

Where does this sort of courage and integrity come from? I wish I knew. But he had it in abundance. And now, the light that he shone on this most important arena of human rights abuses is dimmed.  We, as a nation, are the poorer.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Homage to Bil'in

The farming village of Bil'in lies west of Ramallah, close to the border with Israel, in the Occupied West Bank.  Since 1967 the villagers have seen their agricultural lands and orchards stolen, acre by acre, tree by tree, and absorbed into nearby illegal Israeli settlements.  Nowadays very little remain of the traditional lands which once were theirs.

The people of Bil'in have fought this theft of their lands through peaceful demonstrations and protests.  Each Friday after morning prayers, accompanied by international human rights workers and Israeli anarchists and supporters, they attempt to march to the site of the apartheid barrier hemming in the village.  Invariably, they are confronted by troops from the Israeli Occupying Force and the brutal Border Police, whose violent methods of dispersal have caused a number of deaths and serious injuries to the protestors.

One old man travels in the bus from Ramallah each week to join in the protest.  With his sunburned, weatherbeaten face and courageous spirit, clad in the traditional keffiyah and ageyl and wearing Palestinian flags and a badge of Yasser Arafat in his lapels, he came to symbolise the spirit of the popular resistance to me.  This portrait is a homage to him and to the people of Bil'in.

Monday, December 8, 2008

God Cried

"The best-equipped army in the Middle East, supported by one of the most powerful air forces in the world, backed by a navy, and outnumbering its opponents by a conservative five to one, was totally unable to knock off a band of ragged-arse kids equipped with the sort of weapons that might just about control a football crowd in Uruguay...."

So wrote Tony Clifton and Catherine Leroy in their book "God Cried", about Ariel Sharon's 1982 invasion of Lebanon and siege of Beirut, by which he intended to finally destroy the Palestinian armed resistance and its leadership.

Twenty six years later and the Israelis have still not been able to realise their grand Zionist dream of driving the indigenous population from all the lands between the Mediterranean and the Jordan.  Gaza is undergoing a slow genocide, East Jerusalem is being ethnically cleansed, the West Bank has been split up into a series of impoverished Bantustans where Jewish colonists control the hilltops and water resources.  The resistance has been disarmed, jailed or gone into hiding. Surrounding Arab states appear indifferent to the fate of the Palestinians.  

All of this would indicate a disastrous state of affairs - if it wasn't for the will of the people. Humiliated, starved, beaten, jailed, tortured, dispossesed, they continue to resist. They deserve our admiration.  They need our help.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008


 Shehada St, Hebron, the shopfronts welded shut. Palestinians are forbidden to even walk along this street. Apartheid is alive and well.

With the news that the economies of the UK, the USA and Germany are now officially in recession the question has to be asked, "Can Australia be far behind?" Lots of people are doing it tough here, some are losing their homes, but it will have to get much, much worse before we see anything like the Depressions of the 1930s and 1890s which our parents and grandparents went through.  (My parents, both hardworking people, finished up living in a tent on the beach.)

And spare a thought for the citizens of Hebron (Al Khalil) as they try to survive after nearly forty years of Israeli occupation.  Large sections of their markets remain closed, the doors welded shut by the military authorities. Other locations are roofed with protective mesh to block the rubbish and fecal matter dumped upon them by the rabid Zionist settlers squatting in the overlooking buildings.

Yet the people of Hebron have it easy compared to their Palestinian brothers and sisters desperately trying to stay alive in Gaza while their Israeli overlords prevent foodstuffs, fuel and medical equipment from reaching them. Their crime for this collective punishment of slow starvation?  To elect a government of their choice in free, fair and democratic elections.