My Thoughts on Israel

I’ve been reading, and getting into lots of debates, about Israel lately. The whole conflict over there hasn’t been one that’s taken a lot of my attention over the years, although it’s one subject I’ve always been aware I should take the time to educate myself on. I thought I’d try to condense my current thoughts about it here and hopefully we’ll be able to have a constructive and polite discussion about it.

Let me handle the usual complaints up front – no, I am not an anti-Semite. I have Jewish friends. I greatly admire many Jewish people, past and present, from Seinfeld to Einstein.

Nor am I anti-Zionist. I completely understand and sympathize with the desire of the Jewish people to have a land of their own where they can live without the fear of oppression, where they have a sense of self-determination.

On the other hand, I can totally sympathize with the feelings of the Arab people of Palestine. for 1000 years, they were occupied at various stages by the Christian armies of Europe, the Ottoman Empire, the British, Egyptians, Jordanians and now Israelis. They have lived on this land for 1000 years and, up until Britain took control in 1917, represented 90% of the population. Surely they too have a right to self-determination and to the land their families have lived on for so long?

It seems to me that the offer that the partitioning of Palestine is pretty difficult to justify on a moral basis. After all, the Palestinian Arabs weren’t the people who had been oppressing the Jews for the last 2000 years. It was mostly the Christians of Europe. Most recently, it was Christian Germany under the Nazis (yes, they were Christians). If the United Nations felt like the Jewish people deserved a land of their own, surely it would have been much more morally justified to carve out part of Germany for them? It doesn’t matter much that the Zionists WANTED Palestine – it wasn’t morally justified to punish the Arabs of Palestine.

So when we look at the anger and violence committed by the Palestinian Arabs (and their supporters in the other Arab countries) against the Jews “invading” (in their eyes) their country since 1917, we have to see it as they see it if we are truly to understand their position. They see the Israelis as invaders and they (the Arabs) are trying to defend their homeland against an occupying army.

The other factor in all this is that, rightly or wrongly, the UN *did* vote for the partition. Therefore, under international law (which I agree with), the Arabs should abide by the decision and take only lawful measures to fight against it if they feel (as I do) that it was immoral.

However, if we accept that the UN has the power to decide such things, then Israel also needs to abide by the UN’s resolution in 1976 that Israel should go back to it’s pre-1967 borders. This is also a resolution that both Hamas and the Arab League have said they will support and, with it, will recognize Israel’s right to exist.

So – I am not anti-Semitic or anti-Zionist, I am pro-peace and pro-justice.

However, like in all things, I don’t claim to know everything about the subject, so I’m happy to be corrected. All I’m interested in is getting to the truth.

Can anyone tell me where I am misguided or wrong?

GDay World Live 001

I did my first (well, first in a long, long time) GDay World Live show on uStream tonight and it was a lot of fun! Thanks to everyone who joined in. I talked for an hour and forty minutes! WTF!?

I talked about:

    Free Will
    Why Christianity Is Dangerous
    Why Capitalism Is Broken
    The Israel – Palestine Conflict

You can watch the whole thing below or download it in FLV format.

G’Day World #359 – Antony Loewenstein on Gaza

You’ve seen it in the news over the last month. On December 27, Israel broke a six-month truce with Hamas (the democratically-elected leaders of the Palestinian people living in Gaza) and launched a three-week long attack on the small, densely-populated region.

Palestinian casualties – 1,400 dead including more than 400 children and 100 women. Israeli casualties – 12 Israeli soldiers and 3 civilians.

My guest on this show is Antony Loewenstein, Sydney-based journalist, author and blogger.

Read more:

David Rose article in Vanity Fair

Henry Siegman, director of the US Middle East Project in New York, former national director of the American Jewish Congress and of the Synagogue Council of America, article “Israel’s Lies”


A note about this show:

With the help of my two assistants Tim Grainger and Jonathan Hewlett, we ran a LIVE TWITSTREAM of the interview through the gdayworld twitter account. We asked people to submit questions via Twitter during the interview and I fed those back to Antony during our call. It was my first attempt at podcast twinterviewing and the results were interesting.

Thanks to Darryl King from iReckon for seeding the filthy idea into my head over coffee a few days ago.

What If The Italians “Returned” to England?

I’ve been reading “Zionism and Palestine”, a book written in 1937 (and updated in 1940) by Sir Ronald Storrs. His perspective on Zionism is somewhat unique. In 1918 Storrs became Military Governor of Jerusalem. In 1921 he became Civil Governor of Jerusalem and Judea. From 1926-1932 he was Governor and Commander-in-Chief of Cyprus.

Zionism and Palestine by Ronald Storrs

This morning I read this passage about the suggested return of Jews to Palestine which I suspect puts the Palestinian view into some perspective:

The injunction, under Article 6 of the Mandate, that the Administration “shall encourage in co-operation with the Jewish Agency close settlement by Jews on the land, including State lands and waste lands not required for public purposes” in Palestine, sounded with a curious difference in different ears. To the world at large it seemed a reasonable satisfaction by the bestowal of surplus, unused and unwanted areas. To the Zionist, who had hoped that with the prosperity of British rule his rapidly augmented population would need every possible acre of land in the country, it was the obvious initial minimum of concession unwarrantably delayed by the Government. The thinking Arabs regarded Article 6 as Englishmen would regard instructions from a German conqueror for the settlement and development of the Duchy of Cornwall, of our Downs, commons and golf-courses, not by Germans, but by Italians “returning” as Roman legionaries. For such loss of national and political future repeated assurances of strict and scrupulous maintenance of religious rights and sites (assumed under British rule everywhere) were about as satisfactory compensations for the inviolable conservation of the Court of Arches and of Westminster Abbey. Article 6 has not yet been “implemented”, owing to the lack of available State property, but it still stands in the Mandate, and is still being vigorously pressed by Zionists.

“The Jewish People Control America”

No – that’s not ME saying that. I have no evidence to support it.

It’s actually a quote attributed to former Israeli PM Ariel Sharon from 2001.

The quote (which is allegedly from a conversation between Sharon and his Foreign Minister, as quoted by Israeli radio) reads:

I want to tell you something very clear, don’t worry about American pressure on Israel, we, the Jewish people control America, and the Americans know it.

(I found the link on the Beyond The Fringe blog).

Why would Sharon say that? How does it all work? I have no theories. But I find it an interesting quote.

The US calls Israeli PM a liar

From the “When You Can’t Even Trust Your Friends” department:

A boast by Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert that he persuaded President Bush to reverse a U.S. vote on a Gaza cease-fire at the United Nations is “just 100% totally completely not true,” the State Department declared Tuesday.

(from the LA Times – are they still running?)

So – one of them is lying.

You have to wonder – what incentive would Olmert have to lie about such a thing? To make it sound like he has pull with an out-going US President? What’s the point of that? Especially when his phone call didn’t stop the vote passing.

But if you ask yourself what incentive the USA would have for lying – that’s much easier to comprehend. They don’t want it to seem like the US President takes orders from Israel.

The LA Times story also says that diplomats from around the world were sure the vote was going to be unanimous minutes before it happened, so it seems obvious that the US State Dept is lying through their teeth.

What do you think?

(Update: Beyond The Fringe has a great and detailed analysis here.)