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Questions about Australian union support for Palestine a smokescreen

Posted: 19 Jul 2011 06:02 PM PDT

My following investigation appears in Online Opinion:

Union Aid Abroad – APHEDA does essential work in many corners of the globe. But its focus in Palestine has caused the local Israel lobby to pressure the Australian government to sever ties to the group. This isn’t likely but once again highlights the aim of the Zionist mainstream against any assistance to the occupied Palestinians.

During a recent parliamentary committee in Canberra, Liberal Senator Eric Abetz asked AusAID what exactly it was backing in the Middle East.

There’s no problem with such questions in theory but the aim was twofold: do the Zionist lobby’s bidding and attempt to demonise any kind of support for Palestinians; and frame Israel as a benevolent power in Palestine.

A recent report from the Australia/Israel and Jewish Affairs Council (AIJAC), stated:

“At the October 2010 Estimates hearings, Senator Eric Abetz questioned AusAID on elements of its funding dispensed to APHEDA. Senator Abetz asked AusAID whether it funded organisations associated with BDS [boycott, divestment and sanctions] or the APHEDA ‘study tours’ to the Middle East. AusAID responded that “no AusAID or other Australian Development Assistance funds are provided to any groups for the BDS campaign” and that “AusAID does not provide any funding for the [APHEDA] study trips.” However, regarding Ma’an Development Centre AusAID conceded that while “AusAID does not directly fund Ma’an Development Centre… under the Australian Middle East NGO Cooperation Agreement (AMENCA) AusAID provides funding to Union Aid Abroad APHEDA.””

APHEDA released a statement clearly explaining that, “no AusAID funds or resources are used to support campaigning by MA’AN or APHEDA.” AIJAC apparently doesn’t understand the concept of independent Palestinian organisers making independent decisions about policies without Australian NGO or government direction.

AIJAC continued:

“Senator Abetz returned to these issues at the 2 June 2011 Estimates hearings, eliciting yet more revelations. Abetz asked AusAID: “What are the safeguards in place that prevent AusAID funding being used by APHEDA or any of the other in a manner that contravenes Australian government policy on Israel? Let us just pluck an example out of the air like BDS?” AusAID replied simply: “We have no information that any of the NGOs we are supporting…are involved with that program.”

“But Senator Abetz then pointed out to AusAID that: “According to APHEDA’s annual reports all of APHEDA’s funds for Middle East projects originate from AusAID,” which would seem to imply that it must be AusAID’s tax dollars being given to the Ma’an Development Centre by APHEDA. In response, AusAID did not contest this claim, merely re-stating its position that no AusAID funds are contributed towards organisations that support BDS. The AusAID representative offered no concrete assurances that the Australian taxpayer money apparently being given to the Ma’an Development Centre via APHEDA is not being used for BDS activities.”

Again, AIJAC fails to understand the realities in Palestine itself. Officially Australia claims to be opposed to the illegal colonies in the West Bank but also states its opposition to the BDS movement. These are inherently contradictory positions on the ground because there are no Palestinian groups of importance that aren’t engaged in some kind of political or economic opposition to creeping settlement expansion. In other words, AIJAC is calling for the severing of assistance to all Palestinian groups because they dare to protest against the illegal colonies.

The Gillard government has thus far avoided tackling this question, simply calling BDS “nuts” but offering no alternative to a non-existent peace process in the region.

AIJAC concludes:

“Given the information revealed in these hearings, there now seems ample reason to raise such questions about the AusAID funding to APHEDA. Given AusAID’s inability to provide adequate answers to Senator Abetz’s questions, the ball must now move to the court of Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd, as AusAID implied. There is now a good basis for expecting a review of his department’s funding of APHEDA in light of these revelations and the fact that on 1 April 2011, Mr. Rudd assured Australians that his government “did not condone nor support any boycotts or sanctions against the Jewish state.””

It is interesting how the other three relevant Australian NGOs (CARE, World Vision and Actionaid) did not get questioned and odd also how their Palestinian partner NGOs (like just about every Palestinian NGO, according to an aid insider who spoke to me) have equally signed up to the 2005 BDS call, yet it is the APHEDA partner that gets singled out.

The Palestinian NGO Network (PNGO Network) is signed up to the BDS and all the Australian NGOs have at least one Palestinian NGO partner who is a member of the PNGO Network. If the Australian government (or AIJAC) were really serious about severing connection with any Palestinian group that backs BDS, then the Palestinian Authority would also have to be shunned because it has implemented partial BDS against settlement goods.

The Australian union movement is increasingly backing BDS against a recalcitrant Zionist state. There are a handful of prominent unionists, such as ACTU Assistant Secretary, Michael Borowick, an Orthodox Jew, who opposes BDS and organises Zionist lobby trips to Israel and Palestine but they are a dwindling minority.

An aid insider tells me that a number of key unionists continue to bully APHEDA behind the scenes in an attempt to stop its work in Palestine, including the successful study tours led by APHEDA. The pressure has singularly failed.

These trips are seen as a threat because they refuse to follow the path set by AIJAC, Albert Dadon and other Zionist lobbyists who take politicians and journalists on propaganda tours around Israel (with five minutes in Ramallah). The Greens recently obtained a long list of media and political elite figures that took the Dadon trip last year and this proved that both major political parties and corporate press are ideologically compromised by such visits.

For those who know the reality in the region, advocating for Palestinian rights under occupation has become unavoidably and necessarily linked to some form of BDS endorsement.

It is ironic that the right-wing Israeli Knesset is making it illegal for Israeli’s to support BDS and yet this is the “democratic” state that Zionists argue we must uncritically support.

Even in Australia, it’s apparently illegal to simply protest outside a shop, Max Brenner, which supports the Israeli army. It is not, as claimed by blind defenders of Zionism, an attack on Jewish businesses but rather a non-violent and legitimate form of protest, like what occurred against companies and individuals who supported apartheid in South Africa.

Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd is always quoting the fact that Australia has “greatly” increased aid to the Palestinians to $56m in 2011-12 and the important activities the aid is doing. However, he uses this “fact” to erroneously answer questions about Australia’s support of Palestinian aspirations (statehood, refugee right of return, end the occupation, human rights etc) for peace. In a political conflict such as this, providing aid is only half the answer: it must also be coupled with the insistence that Israel comply with relevant international, humanitarian law. The Australian government is silent on law enforcement against its great friend and ally.

Following the ripple effect of the Marrickville BDS campaign and rising public support for the Palestinians, there is growing scrutiny in Parliament on AusAID’s Palestine program. It’s tragic that Palestine, with the least resources available to it and under siege, has to answer for the world’s ills and people’s petty prejudices.

APHEDA’s Middle East project officer Lisa Arnold tells me: “Gaza is a man-made disaster of more than five times the scale of the Indian Ocean tsunami; it’s just that the deaths and destruction occur over the course of decades, not minutes.”

The reality remains that APHEDA operates vitally important programs across Palestine – a few years ago I visited one of its programs at Gaza’s only rehabilitation hospital – and the Zionist lobby with its corporate and media mates should not be allowed to threaten this life-line to a people under occupation.

It is not the right of the Australian Senate to pry into what APHEDA or their Palestinian partners do with their own monies or other donor funds. What AIJAC and its lobby friends desperately want to avoid is any examination of what Israel is doing in the West Bank and Gaza and why hysteria against any critics of Zionist policies is now par for the course by its Israeli government masters.

Murdoch empire ruled by arrogance and denial (and respected by few)

Posted: 19 Jul 2011 05:54 PM PDT

Jay Rosen on a bloated corporate culture that indulges and fellates power. Oh, and loves wars against Muslims:

When the news broke that the Murdochs had hired the Edelman firm to handle public relations in the UK, I thought to myself, “Edelman has a crisis response practice, but do they have a denial division?”

Because to me that is the most striking thing about the way News Corp has reacted to these events from the beginning. Denial! Not only in the sense of deflecting questions with “move along, nothing to see here…” (when, in fact, there is something) but that deeper sense of denial we invoke when we say that a woman is in denial about her unfaithful husband or a man about his coming mortality.

Denial is somehow built into the culture of News Corp, more so than any normal company. It isn’t normal for the CEO to say, as Murdoch said on July 15, that his company had handled the crisis “extremely well in every way possible,” making just “minor mistakes,” when the next day the executive in charge (Rebekah Brooks) resigns, then a day later gets arrested, followed by Murdoch’s closest aide, Les Hinton, who also resigned in hopes of reversing the tide of defeats.

Your top people don’t quit for minor mistakes, but no one in News Corp seemed troubled by that July 15 statement. The Wall Street Journal reported it without raising an eyebrow. Murdoch was confronted with his “minor mistakes” quote in Tuesday’s parliamentary hearing but he turned down the chance to take it back. Where does denial so massive come from?

Here’s my little theory: News Corp is not a news company at all, but a global media empire that employs its newspapers – and in the US, Fox News – as a lobbying arm. The logic of holding these “press” properties is to wield influence on behalf of the rest of the (much bigger and more profitable) media business and also to satisfy Murdoch’s own power urges.

However, this fact, fairly obvious to outside observers, is actually concealed from the company by its own culture. So here we find the source for the river of denial that runs through News Corp.

Fox News and the newspapers Murdoch owns are described by News Corp, and understood by most who work there as “normal” news organisations. But they aren’t, really. What makes them different is not that they have a more conservative take on the world – that’s the fiction in which opponents and supporters join – but rather: news is not their first business. Wielding influence is.

Israel’s Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs says West Bank isn’t occupied

Posted: 18 Jul 2011 11:00 PM PDT

This is Zionist propaganda that would like the world to ignore this or this:

 

Remembering what Chomsky does to help people in countless places

Posted: 18 Jul 2011 11:01 PM PDT

As Noam Chomsky prepares to arrive in Australia later in the year to receive the Sydney Peace Prize, haters routinely forget the tireless work by the American intellectual behind the scenes on behalf of those persecuted by governments. This campaigning is rarely acknowledged and it often comes at some personal cost. Below is one case in literally thousands. It was published in the Sunday Age in 1997. I’m told the man mentioned was eventually brought to safety:

An Indonesian embassy official has sought political asylum in South Africa, claiming to have classified documents detailing official corruption in his country and evidence of human rights violations in Indonesian-ruled East Timor.

The official, Stany Aji, said he had been assisting the pro-democracy movement in Indonesia and had been in contact with Guruh Sukarnoputra, former opposition parliamentarian and brother of pro-democracy leader Megawati Sukarnoputri.

Marco Boni, a spokesman for South Africa’s Foreign Ministry, confirmed yesterday that an application for asylum had been received from Aji, who had been working in the trade section of the Indonesian embassy. “Our Home Affairs Department is considering the case at the moment,” he told ‘The Sunday Age’.

Aji, who has been in hiding since his activities were discovered, appealed last week for urgent help via the Internet, sending a message to US academic Professor Noam Chomsky of Boston. Chomsky is known as a strong critic of the Indonesian regime and has intervened in previous bids for political asylum by East European and Latin American dissidents.

“(South Africa) has so far not given me any guarantee of granting asylum due to the fact that South Africa wants to hold on to good relations with Indonesia,” Aji said in his plea to Chomsky. “The information that I hold would most definitely break this illusory and temporary state of good relations with the Indonesian Government.”

Chomsky later sought help from a number of colleagues around the world, including Deakin University academic Scott Burchill. “He said the fellow seemed to be in a bit of trouble,” said Burchill, a lecturer in international relations. “The official also wanted to contact Jose Ramos Horta, who Chomsky thought was still in Australia.”

Ramos Horta, who lives in Sydney but spends much of the year travelling, is an exiled East Timorese resistance leader who shared the 1996 Nobel Peace Prize with the territory’s Catholic bishop, Carlos Belo. He was in Australia until last week.

What Murdoch thugs fear most; sunlight

Posted: 18 Jul 2011 08:48 PM PDT

Wendy Bacon, a journalist for the Australian Centre for Independent Journalism at the University of Technology, writes in New Matilda that now is the time to seriously investigate the power of the Murdoch empire in Australia. It’s called democracy, hacks:

There are two main ways of thinking about freedom of expression in the context of a democracy.

One way concentrates on freedom of the press. This tends to emphasise the importance of an unrestrained press to hold others accountable. From that point of view, the more power the press has the better.

The other way puts the emphasis on communication — access to information and a voice for all groups. This second way assumes that the media marketplace is not an even playing field and that some steps may be taken by governments to protect the rights of less powerful groups and individuals.

Not surprisingly, press owners and journalists often react negatively to any suggestion that could impinge on their freedom. Take the Weekend Australian’s vehement defence of its editorial performance and its attack on Greens leader Bob Brown’s call for a media inquiry into media ownership. The Saturday editorial accuses News Limited’s critics of wanting to swap a robust media for “a monocultural media” which is ironic as that is exactly what critics of Australia’s ownership laws say they want investigated. While failing to come to grips with critics’ key concern, which is the potential abuse of media power gained through concentrated ownership, the paper says it will debate media regulation on its merits — provided, it seems, that the underlying preference for the profit motive is accepted by us all.

Meanwhile, across in the tabloids, the Herald Sun’s Andrew Bolt announced to the readers of Australia’s biggest newspaper that Greens Leader Bob Brown’s “jihad” on freedom of speech was ”totalitarian”.

In fact, in a long press conference on Friday, Brown said he was in favour of free speech and had no predetermined ideas about the answer to what he sees as threats to diversity. He supports a legal right to sue for breach of privacy. (In fact this would only benefit those few with resources to take action and should have a public interest defence.)

It’s understandable that Australian News Corp journalists have mostly concentrated on explaining that they do not systematically break the law like their peers at News of the World. But doesn’t this sidestep the key point in this saga for Australia — that there is no competition here? Tabloid journalism in Australia is controlled by News Ltd, each paper having its own city market to itself.

After the phone hacking scandal broke, few commentators thought about how much of the results of News of the World unethical practices ended up being served up to Australian audiences. There are lots of advantages of being part of a global “integrated media company” as News Corporation describes itself.

10 questions the British MPs will not ask Murdoch

Posted: 18 Jul 2011 07:03 PM PDT

And it’s all about Iraq and Tony Blair’s desperate need to receive the backing of the media mogul.

T

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