KARKAR: Australia’s selective civil courage bodes ill for Palestinian struggle 18Sep11 September 18, 2011

Editor’s note:  Below is our response to Revd Peter Kurti’s op ed in The Canberra Times on 6 September (also below).  His article elicited considerable outrage from our supporters who believed that the disinformation and erroneous statements it contained ought not to go unchallenged.  Our response was submitted to the editor of The Canberra Times who approved it but said that it would have to wait until the following week.  However, one day merged into the next with a publication date always being deferred.  With no likelihood of the response being published two weeks after Revd Kurti’s article appeared in the paper, we thought it best to send the response out to our lists so that people could see that we did indeed respond and see for themselves our refutation of those ill-considered remarks.  It says little for the professionalism of our media that it can give space to slanderous accusations without giving equal space to a defence against them, especially when we are constantly being told that anything we write must be balanced by another opinion.  This of course allows serious abuses of reputation and plainly untrue accusations such as we have been seeing recently that equate legitimate criticism of an oppressive regime with anti-Semitic attacks on the Jewish people.  The logic of that means that Israel is then beyond reproach regardless of what crimes it perpetrates.  No reasonable person could possibly think that a regime purporting to represent the Jewish people can escape condemnation in perpetuity for what it does today to the Palestinians because of atrocities committed against Jews in another time and another place.  It seems though that is just what pro-Israel propagandists and an acquiescent media, politicians and other leading lights in this country want to have us believe.  This dangerous nonsense needs to be stopped before it spins any further out of control.  Without media support, we must rely on our network to circulate this far and wide.  Revd Kurti’s article can be accessed HERE

by Sonja Karkar  -  Australians for Palestine  -  18 September 2011

When a society is deprived of its freedom, citizens have no protection from persecution and terror. It is, therefore, understandable if an oppressed people look to those who are free to exercise civil courage to speak out in their defence.

 Palestinians under Israeli occupation, subject to discrimination inside Israel and denied their right to return home have been looking to the international community for 63 years to act upon the appalling injustices visited upon them.

 One of the most influential political theorists of the 20th century Hannah Arendt said that courage is crucial to politics, not just in a heroic sense, but in being prepared to break the silence in spite of the disdain, ridicule or hostility one is likely to invite.   It means defending any human being whose dignity and rights are being attacked – anti-Semitism being no more or less offensive than the demonisation of the Palestinian people.

 When Palestinian civil society called for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel in 2005, it was not calling for an attack on the Jewish people, but to put pressure on the Israeli government to end its apartheid policies and practices.  It was a call of last resort since Israel has violated umpteen United Nations resolutions and refused to abide by international law in its quest to create an ethnically pure Jewish state on the backs of the Palestinians and their land.

 The Max Brenner chocolate business is just one of hundreds of companies legitimately targeted for boycotts.  It is a subsidiary of the Israeli parent company, the Strauss Group, the second largest food and beverage company in Israel.  It makes no apology for supporting the Israeli Golani brigade, which has a long history of terror campaigns against Palestinian civilians.

 Protesting against the blatant support of an apartheid regime is a form of civil courage.  The Australian Greens exercised that courage when various of the party members refused to back a motion in the Senate condemning activists who have protested against Max Brenner. Since taking up the BDS call, the Greens have come under a vicious and sustained attack from the mainstream media, political opponents and the Israel lobby.

 Suggestions that such protests are singling out Jewish businesses are slanderous claims.  Even more outrageous are the comparisons of these boycotts with the anti-Semitic treatment of European Jews in the 1930s.  Jews themselves employed boycotts against Germany.  In fact, London’s Daily Express of the time carried a headline “Judea declares War on Germany”.   A worldwide boycott severing trade and financial relations with Germany was called for by millions of Jews and threatened to cripple the country before they were called off eight years later.

 Boycotts are legitimate nonviolent tactics that have been used to hold repressive regimes to account. However, the international community has failed miserably to stop Israel’s human rights violations and its illegal settlement enterprise, which has created at best a Bantustan state for the Palestinians.

 Not only has Israel’s Prime Minister Netanyahu refused to back the Palestinian statehood bid, he has done everything to undermine the possibility of that state.  Now, misinformation is being spread about a poll taken in July this year by the Palestinian Centre for Public Opinion saying that Palestinians reject the two-state solution and seek the eventual elimination of Israel.  This is blatantly untrue.  The results are openly displayed on the Centre’s website showing that 65.4% of Palestinians support President Abbas’ statehood bid and 72.2% said that not implementing reconciliation is detrimental to the Palestinian national interest.

 Criticism today of Israel has nothing to do with any irrational loathing of Jews.  It is a direct consequence of the usurpation of land and the driving out of its indigenous population to create a state for Jews only regardless from where those Jews originate.  The Palestinians, who have been there since time immemorial, were variously Jews, Christians or Muslims and regardless of their religious persuasions, lived together in harmony for centuries until political Zionism sought to create an exclusively Jewish state. 

 The usual canard about activists singling out Israel when there are other states guilty of human rights abuses just does not hold water.    The ‘worst first’ should not be the rule for activists wanting to stop any criminal acts and more particularly when it has been Palestinian civil society that has put out a call for global boycotts to stop Israel’s crimes against them. 

 Israel is indisputably guilty of institutionalised racism and illegally occupying another people. The massive financial and military support Israel receives from the US allows its crimes to have a global reach outside the crimes carried out by other states. These crimes are largely concealed by the mainstream media.  Moreover, Israel enjoys diplomatic cover from its staunch allies who vow unconditional support making it doubly difficult for activists to expose what Israel is doing to a wider audience.

 The public complacency that is so glaringly apparent is the indifference people have to the relentless, ongoing persecution of Palestinians while at the same time denouncing anti-Semitism.  If the latter is abhorrent, so is the former:  political and civil freedoms should never be the privilege of one group to the exclusion of another.  To suggest otherwise, smacks of bias and utter contempt for the universal principles of freedom, equality and dignity for all human beings.  

 In a world where prejudice and racism are alarmingly on the rise, there is a desperate need for dissidents – like Socrates’ gadfly – to sting the political beast into realising the terrible wrongness of being selective when it comes to human rights.  It is a role that many Australians would like to see all our politicians play rigorously in service of the truth.   Unfortunately, that will take the kind of civil courage we have yet to see, and tragically too late for so many in the six decade long Palestinian struggle for freedom and justice.

 Sonja Karkar is a co-founder of Australians for Palestine and the editor of its website  http://australiansforpalestine.com

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