Monday, March 3, 2008

Australia, Gaza and Israel

Yes, we have returned and we have seen such beautiful country, a country doing a beautiful thing, welcome to country, and we are sorry. Never before have indiginous Australians been welcomed into the seat of power in this country, the halls of government in Canberra, halls so ironically lined with Aboriginal art, the building itself shaped like the iconic hunting tool of the first Australians, the bomerang. Welcome to country was danced and chanted and then the new Prime Minister here, Kevin Rudd, said these words: Today we honor the indigenous peoples of this land, the oldest continuing cultures in human history. We reflect on their past mistreatment. We reflect in particular on the mistreatment of those who were stolen generations--this blemished chapter in our nation's history. The time has come for the nation to turn a new page in Australia's history by righting the wrongs of the past...We apologize for the laws and policies of successive governments that have inflicted profound grief, suffering and loss on these our fellow Australians. We apologize especially for the removal of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children from their families, their communities and their country.
For the pain, suffering and hurt of these stolen generations, their descendants and for their families left behind, we say sorry
To the mothers and fathers, the brothers and the sisters, for the breaking up of families and communities, we say sorry.
And for the indignity and degradation thus inflicted on a proud people and a proud culture, we say sorry.
We the Parliment of Australia respectfully request that this apology be received in the spirit in which it is offered as part of the healing of the nation.
For the future we take heart, resolving that this new page in the history of our great continent can now be written...
A future where this Parliament resolves that the injustices of the past must never, never happen again.
A future where we harness the determination of all Australians, Indigenous and non-Indigenous, to close the gap that lies between us in life expectancy, educational achievement and economic opportunity.
A future where we embrace the possibility of new solutions to enduring problems where old approaches have failed.
A future based on mutual respect, mutual resolve and mutual responsibility...
(The Age, Wednesday, February 13, 2008, p.1)

And all the time we traveled the 1200 km, I kept thinking of the people of Gaza, of as Hannah Arendt has written, the basic human freedom of movement; even more for the people of Gaza trapped as they are between two unmoved violent forces--the Israeli military and the Hamas militants, no place to run, no place to escape from advancing Israeli tanks, a trapped people targeted at will, a Holocaust we will bring to them, says an Israeli politician--the most shameful words from a Jewish mouth. Yes, we saw the beauty of free and wild beaches, the green of peaceful ocean bays, the joy of dolphins arching their backs out of the sea to take in the life giving air so they could resume their travels, the rivers that break out of the bush and return to the sea, the unbroken bush at the end of land masses, the places of a people's history with names like Wreck Bay, the rolling pasture lands and then that most strangest of national capitals, Canberra, built stone by stone up from a farmer's paddock--a huge sprawling country seat of national discourse, with the blue mountains behind it and the imposing escarpment of the Macquarie Pass guarding its entrance--the national art galleries still awaiting the stories they will tell. And now home where the news awaits us.

A note from Dorothy:
Hello, all--Nothing to add to this except my usual refrain: of course the fact that there is (albeit very small) Israeli opposition to the current nightmare is totally ignored in the U.S.

From Haaretz, February 3, 2008, the words of Gideon Levy:
'Restraint' is Deceitful, and 'Forbearance' is Vain

Even yesterday evening, after the IDF already had killed about 50 Palestinians, at least half of them unarmed, and including quite a number of women and children, Jerusalem continued to claim, "A present there will be no major ground operation." It's incredible: The IDF penetrates the heart of a crowded refugee camp, kills in a terrifyingly wholesale manner, with horrible bloodshed, and Israel continues to disseminate the lie of restraint. Two days earlier Israel killed more Palestinians then have been killed by all the Qassams over the past seven years. Among the dead were four children and an infant. The next day Israel killed another five boys. And who is the victim? Israel. And who is cruel? The Palestinians.

This victimhood is not new, nor is our self-deception. The current lie: 'restraint.' Israel is demonstrating restraint in the face of Qassams; this assertion continues to spur the commentators and security experts to urge it to embark on the anticipated 'major operation.' But this operation began long ago. It reached its peak yesterday.

Our desperate attempt to have our cake and eat it too, to claim that there is no 'major operation' at a time when the IDF is killing dozens every day, is nothing new. It has existed since the days of the 'enlightened occupation' and 'purity of arms,' through the 'major operation that has yet to begin'--all of them impossible desires. A senior minister who was asked last week about the seige of Gaza replied: 'Occupation of Gaza` is less moral. In this way, we have once again established ourselves a relative and distorted values system, with no absolute morality, only a double standard, Behind every action of ours in Gaza, even the terrible one this weekend, hides an option that is even worse. The fact that we are not yet carrying it out helps to present ourselves in a positive light, to boast how moral we are.

During the past two years, we have killed almost 900 Gaza residents. About half of them were people who did not take part in the fighting. That is how restraint looks. At a time when we are counting the Qassama and their victims, in Gaza they are counting the dead...

Imagine if the Palestinians were to kill dozens of Israelis, including women and children, in one week, as the IDF did. What an international outcry we would rise and justifiably. Only in our own eyes can we still adhere to our restrained, forbearing image, All the talk about the 'major operation' is designed to achieve only one goal; to show it is possible to be even more violent and cruel.

That is an extremely pathetic consolation. The siege, the assassinations and the raid this weekend are terrifying enough. The claim that as opposed to them, we do not intend to kill children and citizens, is also overused and deceptive. The gun sights of Israeli weaponry are sophisticated. If the Palestinians had Apache helicopters and sophisticated drones like ours, we can assume that they would choose more strategic targets than the yard of a hospital in Ashkelon or a parking lot in Sderot. The Qassam is the weapon of the poor and helpless.

In the South, a war of attrition is taking place between the strong and the weak. It will not be stopped by military means. It is therefore suprising and depressing that to see the uniform chorus of trhe residents of Western Negev, city dwellers and kibbutzniks, the direct victims, in favor of the IDF's pointless fighting. How is it that in the entire South, not a single different voice can be heard, calling for a change in direction? How is it that no group of Sderot residents, yes, they of all people, is shouting in protest?...

The residents of Sderot and now Ashkelon as well, have to look and see beyond the fence that is meant to protect them, and is imprisoning their neighbors. To understand that as long as things are so bad there, things will be bitter for them as well. That as long as we don't talk to them, nothing will change. They, who know that every assassination is followed by the 'Color Red' Qassam alert, fear and anxidety, who know that dozens of assassinations have not improved their lives at all, that the present raid will not help either, should be the pioneers who bring about the change we need...Perhaps the good will originate from the South and someone there will call for something else?

As I type these words in, my rage grows at the American communities that will not allow a candidate to express his sympathy for the suffering of the Palesitinians, at the cowardliness of the politicians who back down in the face of the monolithic wall of hands of Israel brigade, at all of us who are allowing these silences. In the above article, Levy calls on those who are in danger to break the unending chorus of yes more violence, yes more of their deaths, bomb them into the sea. And we in America, who face no danger, cannot even begin to question in the best democratic and Jewish manner, this seemingly seamless support for a heartless and damning policy. Our silence joins us in those words, unthinkable, from a Jewish mouth: we will unleash on them a Holocaust. How do you say sorry for this?

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