Friday, June 15, 2012

Keep BDS Out Of My Valley


Many will know that I have an issue with the Tweed Echo, an openly aligned Australian Greens "independent" newspaper distributed in the Tweed Valley of northern NSW (where I live), with an internet  offshoot, that in the past has  had some difficulty masking the anti-Israel obsession that has come to characterise and define that side of Australian politics. Should there be any doubt about that you need only attempt to question the Greens on their policy on whether Israel has a right to exist.  They are agnostic. As shameful and disgusting as it is, Australia has a political party that refuses to acknowledge that the Jewish state is not only a legitimate expression of Jewish nationhood born of a hard fought national liberation movement but even refuses to accept that the country and the Jews have a right to be left in peace. The Australian Greens refuses to oppose war and the open threats of genocide and instead apes the ugly rants of the rat bag nasty left and their Islamist and other fascist allies.

About a year ago I wrote a letter to this paper in response to some pretty cranky stuff they published even by the Australian Greens standards. Elsewhere I provided a preface:

A nasty Echo from the past

In the Tweed and Byron Shires there are a lot of Greens. They are everywhere. They are like blowflies at a Barcaldine barbeque. They even have their own newspaper, the Echo. It is the only openly politically aligned newspaper around. While one can respect their industry they show all the hallmarks of their party, including a marked intellectual cowardice. Like most Greens, they are right wing, to the point of reactionary, masquerading as progressives. They campaign against everything. Every now and then their campaigns spill over into something very ugly indeed.

The paper had published an openly antisemitic letter , just in time for the annual Byron Blues Fest. The usual grubby and odious muck. Here's an extract:
"No question of debating the issues, just a tirade of abuse and slander against those who feel strongly enough to take a stand for the human rights of the Palestinian people.
"This is the usual Zionist propaganda onslaught which sets out to crush and silence all opposition both within Israel and the shrinking West Bank and elsewhere in the world.
"The problem is not one of anti-Semitism but one of aggressive, nationalistic, expansionist Zionism. You do not have to be Jewish to be a Zionist. President Woodrow Wilson, a devout Presbyterian, was also a self-professed Zionist, so too is US Vice President Joe Biden. Zionists wrote the Balfour document."
At the time I let it pass. As you do. You would go mad if you tried to respond to this hateful filth every time it pops up.

Not content with the the paper decided to put on display its "non-anti-Semitic but anti- Zionist" credentials by publishing this choice little editorial titbit. I reproduce it in full.
"An Australian delegation will join the international Freedom Flotilla 2, which will set sail next month to break the blockade of Gaza and end Israel’s illegal collective punishment of the people of Gaza. The Australian contingent includes Sylvia Hale, former Greens member of the NSW Parliament, Vivienne Porzsolt of Jews Against the Occupation, Alex Whisson of Australians for Palestine, and youth worker Michael Coleman. The boats will carry humanitarian aid and medical supplies. Our experience with the pro-Israel lobby suggests that the delegation will be accused of anti-semitism, along with Backburner for reporting it."
Excuse me while I vomit.

So here is the letter I sent them.
Dear editor,
Your nasty little sneer about the "pro-Israel lobby", and your complaint about "accusations of antisemitism", pretty much sum up the main reason why your party, the Greens, has no place in mainstream Australian politics.
You complain about your "experience with the pro-Israel lobby". Given that you have never published anything that could be remotely described as "pro-Israel", it can only be that you never publish opinions that differ from yours or the "experience" you claim is very limited indeed. None at all. What is your problem? "They" can't be bothered with you? Who do you mean by this "lobby" anyway? Israel is solidly supported by every major political party in our country. As you would expect from a liberal democracy for the only liberal democracy in the Middle East and the only state there that provides and guarantees full political and civil rights for Arabs. Only some of your party's candidates and some of "One Nation"'s attack Israel so obsessively.Why? If by the "pro-Israel lobby", you mean Australian Jews, then say so. We need to know. About you. Not them.
Your complaint about allegations of antisemitism is absurd. I don't believe you. Some years ago I issued a challenge on Margo Kingston's Webdiary site, that would be famous in part of your paper's core market. Webdiary, I mean. The challenge was to produce a single example of someone serious, seriously suggesting that criticism of Israeli policy, or government, was of itself antisemitism. No takers. A few attempts but no cigars. Not one. It's been over five years now.
The opposite is the truth. It is impossible to defend Israel, and the democratic secular Zionist principles that underpin it, without being accused of racism. Sooner or later it always happens. Always. It is also true that much of the incessant attacks on Israel, especially from the political extremes, and from militant Islamism, is driven by antisemitism. This cannot be honestly denied. It is everywhere.
I said then how ubiquitous your whiny complaint was. "Anybody who criticises Israel risks being labelled an antisemite". Rubbish. A lie. Produce an example. Just one will do. This lie was intended to intimidate or pre-empt those who seek to defend Israel especially against its harshest critics. Nothing has changed.
The situation in Gaza can be summed up in a sentence. Israel has the stark choice of either attempting a military blockade or simply allowing Hamas to become as lethally armed as Hezbollah. Gaza is an Iranian colony ruled by a subsidiary of the Muslim Brotherhood. Their grievance with Israel has nothing at all to do with "occupation". Gaza is not "occupied". Their grievance has everything to do with the fact that Israel is free, liberal and democratic and, above all, with the fact that Israel is the Jewish state. They say so again and again.
Nor do I accept that for you this is about the "Palestinians". The old hard left that now control your party in this state does not give a rat's arse about the Palestinians. They never have and they have been around for a long time. If they gave a damn at all they would be hollering from the rooftops for the liberation of these tragic people from the death grip of Hamas. For them, this is not about the Palestinians at all. Even less is it about the millions of people from Tunisia to Syria and beyond right now risking their lives in a desperate brave struggle for some of those freedoms that Israeli Arabs enjoy as of right and have for decades. For the old hard left, this is about something else entirely.
It is an outrage that your party sought to impose BDS sanctions on Israel, as part of a global campaign aimed at the destruction of the Jewish state, almost as soon as it took effective control of a Sydney council. I can think of no clearer example of abuse of elected office at local government level. I will be publicly asking Greens candidates, especially any standing for re-election in the Tweed Shire, precisely what her position on BDS is. I will do this in an open detailed letter that I will copy you and other local press. If the Greens want this argument then I for one will be happy to oblige.

 And what happened? You know what happened. The Echo declined to publish the letter. This is how  they demonstrate their commitment to free speech and debate.

But today, almost exactly one year later, they did publish this letter.

Speaking in defence

Ex-Israeli Defence Force platoon commander and now psychotherapist, Avigail Abarbanel, is the editor of Beyond Tribal Loyalties: Personal Stories of Jewish Peace Activists. She was due to be part of a panel at the Limmud Oz Jewish cultural festival, Monash University, during the long weekend, but the event was cancelled without explanation. The Limmud Oz Board have been accused of political censorship.
Byron Bay’s reputation as a centre for free speech and debate, and as a vigorous supporter for writers through the Writers’ Festival, will welcome Avigail to the Community Centre on 23 January at noon where she will speak to her book. Entry is by gold coin donation.
Gareth Smith, Byron Bay
and check out this comment they also published!
Yes, I heard about Avigail’s problem with censorship at Monash on one of Philip Adams’ radio shows this week. She and her colleague explained themselves very well, to Adams’ obvious discomfort. He’s a notorious supporter of Zionism, having an apostate daughter living in Israel, although he pretends to be ‘open minded’ about the Middle East.

Catch it on ABC RN archives
A huh. Well I too am passionate advocate of free speech and debate so I posted this comment.
It is a serious disgrace to Australian democracy that we harbour so many haters of Israel and the Jews; especially it seems around Byron Bay masquerading as a “centre of free speech and debate”. Try telling the truth. The last thing you want is free speech and debate.
I have no idea who Avigail Arabanel is but you can be certain that if she had anything worthwhile to say she could have said it in Israel. Israel is the centre of free speech and debate in the Middle East. Israel is the only centre of free speech and debate in the Middle East. Why did she have to come to the other side of the planet to say it?
By my count there were 159 presenters at the Limmud Oz 2012 festival of Jewish culture and learning last weekend.
Who knows how many were , in your words, “due to be part of a panel discussion?”. Hundreds? Over a thousand? Look for yourself.
I have no idea why Avigail was “cancelled without explanation” from one of the hundreds of panels that must have been convened during the festival. Anyone who has had anything to do with the organisation of this sort of event, such as the Byron Writers’ Festival for example, will know this is unavoidable but I know one thing for certain .
Your paper has shown not the slightest bit of interest in anything that the other hundreds of speakers at Limmud Oz 2012 have had to say and you can be sure that not one of them will be invited to speak at the Byron Bay Community Centre, irrespective of the date.
Please do not lecture Israel and the Jews about free speech and debate. I don’t think you quite understand the concept.
Geoffff’s Joint, Bar and Grill.
Your comment is awaiting moderation.
So how has this centre of free speech and debate handled my latest post?

We don't know yet. My comment is still "awaiting moderation."

We'll see. Who knows? This may be the first time ever the Australian Greens and their supporters have ever allowed a contrary opinion to their anti-Israel blather to b published. Anyone prepared to lay odds?
I will let you know. 

cross posted Israel Thrives


  1. Thanks for sharing this one.

    Good piece, Geoffff.

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. Oops was looking at the wrong issue.

    Indeed it was published! With a link to this site!

    I'm delighted to say my disagreement with the Echo is at an end. For now. Not that it was exactly a war of attrition in the first place.

    This is worth an update post.

    Let's see if any of the Israel bashing cranks have the guts to rear their ugly heads here.

    In my experience they are usually gutless as well.

  4. They are everywhere. They are like blowflies at a Barcaldine barbeque.

    Hee hee, yes, but not, alas, confined to Byron Bay. If only we could round them up in one spot, all the better to keep them in a safe, controlled environment.

    I'm not aware of the Bay's reputation as the centre of free speech: the centre of wankerism, yes, and some exceptionally nice beaches and landscape, yes.

  5. Caz, a lot of people don't like Byron Bay and I must admit I rarely visit these days even though it's only about forty minutes drive south. I used to quite like the place but I grew up in the very south of Queensland and I remember it well from childhood. I still do quite like the place I suppose. The hinterland is spectacular but the hinterland all around here is spectacular. I have a mate who lives on a rural property about eight kilometres from the beautiful hamlet of Uki right at the source waters of the Tweed River and at the base of Mount Warning that looms over the whole region like a beacon by day as sure as the Byron Bay lighthouse does by night. It too is forty minutes drive from here and I can see them both from my place. It's a counry road drive up into the range along the banks of the dwindling Tweed and the landscape is as spectacular as any in the world that I have seen and I have seen a fair few places.

    The land is lush. This is one of the most water rich parts of the country and the climate is subtropical. There has never been a drought and the only time in memory the local council imposed water restrictions they were lifted within the week. It rained. The dam filled.

    Mount Warning is an old volcano that once errupted back in the formative periods of the continent. That means the soil is so rich as far as here and beyond right up the valley to the Tweed source at the border that you could grow a boiled egg and anything else in it and they do.

    The surfies liked Byron Bay because of its breaks and whatever else the town offered until the local council hired a ranger packing a sidearm, or what appeared to be a sidearm, to drive them out of town. The surfies didn't like that and the fact that the guy in the council uniform (who I must admit I have always instinctively disliked ... "animal control officers" eg ... I mean give me a break ... ) happened to be an aborigine lead to an unfortunate racist overtone that substantially weakened the surfies' case most of whom were hoons and louts anyway. So they hung around the Gold Coast beaches more. Welcome back.

    Anyway that's how I remember the story.

    They might have had a case. The Byron council was run by a bunch of hicks, hillbillies, redneck ignoramuses and weirdo fanatics of one sort or another afterall and they probably didn't bother checking past the local police whether they were in breach of state law. Perhaps they weren't.

    Anyway nothing has changed. That council is still run by a bunch of hicks, hillbillies, redneck ignoramuses and weirdo fanatics of one sort or another. It's just that back then they were reactionary rural conservatives with often bizarre views about such things as race, blood, religion and the land but who wanted the whole place to themselves and now they are card carrying members of the Australian Greens.

    Come to think of it nothing has changed at all. Not even the guns. Byron Bay has a serious after dark violence problem with quite a few all night venues and the local poliice have called for camera surveillance of the main street to help protect the people. But the Greens riddled council won't find the money.

  6. Geoff

    You write beautifully.

    I am now following this piece on two sites.!! You are driving me totally meshiga. I was almost there anyway and you've finished me off !!

    I know nothing much about about Byron Bay other than it's a breeding ground for Greenies and loony lefties. There's a way out hated filled idiot who holds sand castle competitions to see who can build the best 'security barrier'

    I am aware of the violence. Last week on one if the rare occasions I turned on the 'idiot box' there was a news item about it.

    I also know that the Jewish kids from Sydney frequent the place in preference to the Gold Coast.

    We stopped for lunch there a few years back on the drive up north. Pretty enough place.

    That's it.

  7. Why thank you Shirl.

    I'm going to do an update post on the Tweed Echo when I get a chance but it looks like a case of one hand clapping. They published my comment but not yours.

    Fine I will of course put your comment up here in the update.

  8. Thanks Geoff with 4 f's

    I've just written a letter to the AJN. Bit upsetting - as it was way too long and it lost something by its reduction

  9. Geoff, my comment was published in the Tweed Echo. My letter to the Editor will be in the AJN too (Australian Jewish News)

    I wrote to the Editor and asked hi to withdraw the letter I had sent. He wrote back and told me he liked the substance of it and would happily publish the full version

    i'll send them to you