Two New Zealand activists have raised thousands of dollars through crowdfunding after an Israeli court fined them for their role in singer Lorde cancelling her show in Tel Aviv, but they plan to donate the money to Gaza Mental Health Foundation instead, reports Al Jazeera.
Justine Sachs and Nadia Abu Shanab have rejected the legal action which ordered them to pay over $12,000 in damages for causing mental harm to three Israeli teenagers who had purchased tickets to the concert.
The defendants wrote on Friday on fundraising website Give A Little that they had no intention of complying with the Israeli ruling.
“We will not be paying the court ordered amount. Instead, we would like to redirect the support extended to us back to Palestinians in need of mental health support,” they wrote, adding that the money would go to the Gaza Mental Health Foundation.
“Emotional distress is a lived reality for Palestinians in Gaza, where over half of children suffer PTSD as a result of Israeli military attacks,” the activists wrote.
Abu Shanab of Palestinian descent told RNZ that the pair were not prepared for the amount of international attention they would receive.
‘Sense of responsibility’ She said the pair had been “struck with a sense of responsibility”.
“Israel has chosen to make an example of us,” Abu Shanab said.
The lawsuit, filed in January, is the first ruling to cite a controversial 2011 Israeli anti-boycott law that allows civil action against entities who call for a boycott of the state as part of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement.
Palestinians in Gaza face mounting mental health crisis
Activists behind the BDS movement say it is inspired by the campaign that targeted South Africa’s apartheid regime.
“Playing in Tel Aviv will be seen as giving support to the policies of the Israeli government, even if you make no comment on the political situation,” the activists wrote in their letter to Lorde in December.
The singer responded on Twitter, saying the concerns had been “Noted!”
Days later, the 21-year-old New Zealander cancelled the performance which was due to conclude her Melodrama world tour, saying she “didn’t make the right call” in her initial willingness to sing in Tel Aviv.
Israel sees BDS as a strategic threat and accuses it of anti-Semitism – a claim activists firmly deny, calling it an attempt to discredit them.
Artists who have participated in the cultural boycott of Israel through the Palestinian-led BDS movement include Brian Eno and Pink Floyd’s Roger Waters, writers Arundhati Roy and Eduardo Galeano, and filmmaker Ken Loach.
If you’re an optimist, then I’m about 24 hours from Gaza. If you’re a pessimist, then I’m about 24 hours from witnessing a violent raid by the Israeli Defence Force on the Al Awda, the lead boat in the 2018 Freedom Flotilla which is aiming to break the decade long naval blockade imposed on the Palestinian people of Gaza.
I joined the Flotilla a week ago, in Sicily, Italy. We’ve sailed for seven days, straight down the middle of the Mediterranean. As I write, we’re not far off the coast of Egypt.
Contrary to popular belief, the Freedom Flotilla’s primary aim is not to deliver humanitarian aid to the people of Gaza, although it is carrying much needed medical supplies on board (and the boats, if they make it through, will be donated to a Palestinian union to help contribute to an economic base for a ravaged people).
The Flotilla’s primary aim is to break the naval blockade and bring international attention to the plight of Palestinians, a people who have suffered under a brutal Israeli occupation since 1967, the last time the Gaza sea port was officially open for business.
On that front, the Freedom Flotilla does very well.
This is not a big story in Australia (or New Zealand) – we find our own ways to oppress people, like those detainees on Manus and Nauru. So the indefinite detention of more than 2 million Palestinians in Gaza is hardly newsworthy in Australian media eyes.
Indeed, we only really ever hear about Gaza when Israel unleashes another slaughter, like it did a few weeks ago when more than 140 unarmed Palestinian protesters were shot dead – and thousands more injured – for approaching the border fence between Gaza and Israel to protest their right to return to their lands.
Significant story But the Flotilla is a significant story internationally. Thousands and thousands of column centimetres have been filed in papers around the globe as, for the past two months, four ships – Al Awda, Freedom, Falestine and Mairead – have sailed throughout Europe, visiting multiple countries including Sweden, Norway, Denmark, England, France, Spain, Portugal and Italy.
It’s also captured the imagination of the television media – on board Al Awda is a crew from Al Jazeera, an international news service based in Qatar. On board Freedom is a crew from Press TV, a service out of Iran.
Notably though, I’m the only western journalist on board (although the Press TV journalist is British, based in London). Richard is Muslim, brown and a journalist for a service beamed from a nation that has long been at war with Israel – I won’t be surprised if he’s singled out for a special welcome by the IDF, an army that describes itself as ‘the most moral on earth’, while imposing a ‘perfect Apartheid’ on the people of Gaza and the West Bank, and while shooting unarmed men, women and children for approaching a fence.
This is the same IDF that, eight years ago, raided the 2010 Freedom Flotilla, killing 10 passengers including two journalists. At least six of those passengers were found by a United Nations report to have been summarily executed. Hundreds more, the same UN report found, were tortured by Israeli soldiers and officials, while dozens were badly beaten at Tel Aviv airport by Israeli police – a kind of ‘Israeli farewell’ for peace activists with the audacity to try and shine a light on the actions of a state that daily breaches countless international laws, and basic human rights.
All of these facts about modern day Israel are known by the people participating in the 2018 Freedom Flotilla, and yet still, they come.
Three dozen of them from countries all over the world – New Zealand, Malaysia, Singapore, Canada, America, Great Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Morocco, Algeria.
They also know what awaits them if (and when) the IDF does attack – a brutal boarding, and a stint in an Israeli prison followed by deportation which will make any future international travel to nations aligned with Israel substantially more difficult.
Talking to activists I’ve spent days talking to activists like Joe, and Jan, and Charlie, and Jonathon, each of whom have already completed one Flotilla (some of them multiple Flotillas).
They keep coming back because nothing has changed. In fact, things have gotten worse, and not just in Gaza.
Every day, Israel expands more and more Jewish settlements into Palestinian land in the West Bank, a flagrant breach of international law done under the watchful and helpful eye of the United States, which uses its power within the United Nations to block any sanctions – and most criticism – of Israel.
For Australia’s part, we generally side with the Americans, either by voting with her or abstaining – we’re not a big enough, powerful enough nation to bully on a truly global scale, so we hide behind one instead.
That’s been one of the more eye-opening parts of this trip – with so many people from so many parts of the world living in such close quarters for an extended period, you get to learn a lot about other nations, and what they think about yours.
There’s a Kiwi on board with me, Mike Treen, a union leader from NZ. He’s really the only passenger with any deep understanding of Australia and the crimes our nation commits – and the ones we choose to ignore from others – in order to ensure a life of privilege and relative wealth.
Most of the rest of the crew and passengers see us as not much more than a “friendly nation of convicts” with kangaroos, BBQs and dangerous wildlife.
Lunar eclipse Talk turned to that last night, as the crew and passengers gathered on the top deck to watch a full moon lunar eclipse, an event predicted decades ago, and not to be repeated for more than 100 years.
I enjoyed the irony of the symbolism. The ultimate outcome of the Freedom Flotilla – a raid by the IDF and the assault and jailing of peace activists – was also predicted a long time ago. Although it’s likely to be repeated again next year, or the year after.
Under the lunar eclipse, I asked the captain of the Al Awda, a 27-year-old Norwegian sailor named Herman, why he would risk jail, and worse, to bring attention to the brutalization of a people he’s never met, a nation he’s never visited.
“Change starts with the people. It always has,” said Herman.
“The point of this trip is to inspire people to bring about that change.”
New Matilda editor Chris Graham reported earlier today from the Al Awda, a lead ship steaming through the Mediterranean Sea about 24 hours [at that time] from an attempt to break the Israeli naval blockade on the Palestinian people of Gaza.
After months of preparation and training, the Freedom Flotilla is ready to depart for Gaza today.
The converted fishing trawler I am travelling on, the Al Awda (Return), along with three sailing yachts have been under constant guard as previous flotillas have been sabotaged in foreign ports by the Israeli secret services trying to stop the attempts to break the blockade.
I have met up with my fellow Kiwi of Palestinian descent, Youssef Sammour, a sailor and yacht engineer currently working in Dubai, who leaves Palermo after 45 days at sea.
He has been sailing on the flotilla yacht Freedom since Amsterdam. If the boats are intercepted and the crew arrested they will all be subjected to a 10-year ban on re-entering Israel.
As a third generation refugee, Youssef does not want to rule out the possibility in the future of visiting his homeland.
Youssef considers himself a Kiwi as he has spent half his life in New Zealand at school and university. His father Khalil got work in New Zealand as a surgeon at Greymouth Hospital on the West Coast of the South Island.
My mum, Joan, grew up in Blackball, a small mining town just outside of Greymouth, and went to school in Greymouth. My Granddad, Walter Kirk, was a miner and a unionist, and part of the “red” Federation of Labour, the first national union federation formed in 1920 which had its national headquarters in Blackball.
Famous figures Famous figures of the New Zealand Labour movement – Paddy Webb, Bob Semple, Walter Nash, Harry Holland – were household names, friends or colleagues.
Granddad was also one of the first, if not the first, Kiwi to play rugby league professionally in Australia for at least one season in the early 1900s.
For mum, Blackball was home, and it was where she wanted her ashes spread when she died which we were able to do five years ago. The only problem is she wanted them spread at the top of a steep mountain range behind Blackball known as The Creases.
I was back on May Day this year to commemorate the fifth anniversary of her death.
Youssef’s dad didn’t actually want to go to Greymouth – too small, isolated, and cold. He left his wife and son in Auckland and visited when he could.
Yet three years later, by the time he had finished his contract in Greymouth, Youssef says his father left in tears as he had come to love the place his colleagues, patients, and the wonderful people of Greymouth.
Youssef’s family’s story is both typical and special. Youssef’s dad was born on May 15, 1948 – the day known in Palestinian history as the Nakba – the day of “catastrophe”. The Jewish settlers proclaimed the state of Israel and presided over the expulsion of 750,000 Palestinians.
Traumatised by events Youssef’s grandmother went into labour while on the road from Palestine to Lebanon. She gave birth to Khalil and was so traumatised by the events that she could not breast feed her child. They were forced to crush almonds for the milk to feed him along the way.
His parents were childhood friends, growing up in a refugee camp in Lebanon. Dad went to Cairo to become a surgeon and Samira, Youssef’s mum stayed in Beirut to study Chemistry. They ended up meeting again a few years later as they found themselves working in the same hospital in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
They are still happily married today, Khalil is in his last year of work as chief of the surgical department in a private hospital in the Emirates.
They are looking to move back to NZ and finally get some well earned R&R. For a Palestinian family, home can be Beirut, Auckland or Greymouth, but often never Haifa, the home of their birth, even to scatter their ashes as I was able to do for my mum.
The Al Awda, one of the Gaza Freedom Flotilla’s four boats. Mike Treen is on board for the final leg of her voyage to Gaza. Image: Kia Ora Gaza
My own place on the Al Awda, I am taking over from another young Palestinian scholar, Awni Farhat, who grew up and Gaza and completed a master’s degree in human rights conflict studies in the Netherlands, but can’t return like a normal person to visit his family.
Such are the many small, but cruel, ironies of life in occupied Palestine.
Al Awda was a Norwegian fishing trawler. Scandinavians have been strong supporters of the decade-long campaign to breach the blockade from sea. Like New Zealand, these countries have strong fishing industries.
Blockade inhumanity One aspect of the inhumanity of the blockade is stopping the fishing people in Gaza from plying their trade – even within the 12-mile maritime boundaries.
A reign of terror is maintained. Boats are fired on several times a day, dozens of fishers are wounded and a few killed each year. Just this last few weeks a limit of three nautical miles has been imposed. Several boats in Gaza that were planning to meet our small armada were singled out to be bombed in port.
Swedish sailors and campaign supporters were instrumental supplying the three yachts – Freedom, Mairead and Falestine – that have been part of the flotilla from the beginning of the journey in May. A Danish Socialist MP, Mikkel Gruner, is on the Al Awda. We have a professional chef from a leading restaurant as our personal cook.
Torstein Dahle, a city council member in the port city of Bergen and leader of the Red Party in Norway has spearheaded getting a fishing boat ready that can be donated to the fishers of Gaza and be able to carry the crew and volunteers to break the blockade.
This work to transform the ship began in January this year. A volunteer team of engineers, mechanics, carpenters and electricians have laboured for hundreds of hours to complete the work in time for the sailing part of the journey to begin.
In many ways this is a project of direct solidarity from workers and fishers in Scandinavia to the fishers of Gaza. They have generously allowed some others to join them because we have our own positions in our own societies and can amplify their message across the globe.
Workers intervene Other workers have intervened to ensure the boats can reach their goal. The port authorities near Lisbon, Portugal, tried to prevent the ship’s entry until the port workers union Sindicato Dos Estivadores E Da Actividade Logistica told them they would have a serious problem if they tried.
That has been the pattern through the journey. Usually national governments and the police try to make life hard, while local governments and the people’s organisations welcome the boats.
One yacht was rammed and damaged by French police boats in Paris. In Palermo where we are at the moment, the mayor, Leoluca Orlando, who comes from people’s campaigns against corruption and Mafia control of the Church and the state in Sicily has announced that port will be renamed in remembrance to the historic Palestinian national leader Yasser Arafat who died, or more likely murdered by Israel, in 2004.
He is also fighting to preserve the city as a place of safe haven for refugees and beat back attempts by the right-wing and fascist forces in Italy to blame refugees for the social problems created by the capitalist Europe project which has resulted in nothing but austerity, welfare cuts and growing unemployment for working people across Europe.
The Freedom Flotilla participants were also warmly welcomed by thousands of Italian and Spanish supporters of refugee rights and open borders in a joint march through the fantastically beautiful city at night.
Everything is on Mediterranean time here. The place comes alive from 7pm when many central city streets are closed to cars, and families (including young children which made my Anglo-Kiwi mind a bit uncomfortable) enjoy meals on street tables until late at night.
Palermo is the capital city of Sicily and has a history going back 2700 years. It has been governed and settled by Greeks, Romans, Arabs, Normans. It is a historical and cultural centre for the meeting points between west and east in Europe.
Mike Treen (left) and Youssef Sammour with the Palestinian Ambassador to Italy, Dr Mai Alkailla. Image: Kia Ora Gaza
Ambassador’s visit The Ambassador from Palestine to Italy, Dr Mai Alkaila, came to visit on July 18 during our training session to express solidarity and support. There was an unplanned and tearful reunion with Dr Swee Ang, a consultant orthopaedic surgeon; author of From Beirut to Jerusalem and the ship’s doctor.
Dr Ang’s journey with Palestine began as a volunteer surgeon in Gaza Hospital in Beirut’s Sabra Shatila Palestinian refugee camp in 1982. About three weeks after her arrival, more than 3000 of them were massacred.
These events traumatised the young surgeon and Dr Ang describes how the love and generosity of the Palestinian people helped bring her back to a purposeful meaningful life – but now one forever intertwined with the fate of the Palestinian people.
Dr Ang served in Gaza in 1988-89 during the first Intifada and again in 2009 after the Israeli invasion of Gaza in December 2008 that left thousands of casualties.
The ambassador generously offered to bring lunch the next day which she duly delivered and then served it herself – bodyguards discretely in the background. That day she spoke to Youssef and myself to say how she had delivered a special message of thanks to the NZ Embassy in Rome for New Zealand taking up the sponsorship of a UN Security Council resolution in December 2016 critical of the Israeli settlements in the occupied territories.
This resolution was significant because the US abstained rather than veto it as they usually did anything critical of Israel. This is not a new stance for New Zealand but one of the original sponsors had pulled out and it seems that then NZ Foreign Minister Murray McCully agreed to sponsor it without checking with the Prime Minister.
It led to Israel withdrawing its ambassador to New Zealand and barring the New Zealand ambassador in Israel. Diplomatic relations were restored in June 2017 after then Prime Minister Bill English wrote a cowardly letter to Israel expressing “regret” over the fallout from the resolution.
Peters not happy The current Foreign Minister and NZ First leader, Winston Peters, who has a strong personal bias towards Israel, was not happy. The resolution features in the Labour-New Zealand First coalition agreement, which states a commitment to “record a Cabinet minute regarding the lack of process followed prior to the National-led government’s sponsorship of UNSC2334”.
Ambassador Alkaila also expressed her delight at the decision of NZ artist Lorde to boycott performing in Israel.
A city reception was also held and then the mayor and the ambassador joined and spoke at a support function in the evening of July 19.
We have had intensive training from US professionals in non-violent resistance. Tips have been given from those arrested, abused, or tasered by the Israeli military on previous expeditions on what might be expected.
Only one previous Gaza blockade shift saw casualties. In 2010, a six-boat flotilla led by a Turkish ship the MV Mavi Marmara, with almost 500 passengers was assaulted in the middle of the night and 10 were killed and dozens injured. This led to a prolonged diplomatic crisis between Turkey and Israel. Turkey as a NATO member is one of the few majority Muslim countries to maintain friendly relations with Israel.
Since then Israel has usually just boarded the ships, towed them to port and deported the participants after a few days of questioning.
My fellow passengers on the Al Awda are an extraordinary group. I hope to have a chance to talk to them more during our journey and get to tell their stories over the next few weeks.
Blockade must end Whatever happens on this trip to Gaza, the siege and blockade will end.
lsrael is increasingly revealing its racist, authoritarian character. There are 13 million Palestinian people. Seven and a half million are displaced or in exile. Six and a half million Palestinians continue to live in historic Palestine alongside six and a half million people of Jewish descent.
A way must, and will be found to destroy the apartheid system that seeks to preserve the ethnic superiority of one group over another and allow that majority of people in the the region who want to live in peace and security to do so.
Mike Treen is the New Zealand representative on the 2018 international Freedom Flotilla determined to break through Israel’s illegal blockade of Gaza. The national director of the Unite Union and a veteran human rights defender is reporting here in rthe first of a series of reports for Kia Ora Gaza. The reports are being shared on Asia Pacific Report by arrangement.
Headline: Why is Israel so afraid of 16-year-old Palestinian girl Ahed Tamimi?
OPINION:By Ariel Gold and Taylor Morley
Sixteen-year-old Ahed Tamimi was back in court last Thursday, with the judge ruling for the third time that her detention be extended – this time for another five days.
Over the past week and a half, Ahed has been shuffled between numerous Israeli prisons and police stations. She has been held in cold isolation cells with cameras pointed at her 24 hours a day.
Repeatedly, without a parent or lawyer present, they have attempted to interrogate her. The reasoning for the judge’s rulings to extend her detention is that she “poses a risk” to the military and the Israeli government’s case against her.
Israel is right that Ahed Tamimi poses a risk. But it isn’t a risk to one of the most heavily armed and advanced militaries in the world or to the legal case being built against her.
The risk she poses is in her refusal to submit to the Israeli demand that Palestinians acquiesce to their own occupation.
Israeli logic is that Palestinians should cooperate with their own oppression. They should move quietly through the checkpoints, open their bags, not look their occupiers in the eye and not challenge or protest the theft of their lands, resources and freedoms.
Israeli logic is that if they don’t like it, they can leave. Actually, they would strongly prefer that Palestinians leave. The strategy is to make life so unbearable for Palestinians, that they leave willingly. This even has a name: “voluntary transfer.”
The protests are met with tear gas, rubber bullets, skunk water and live ammunition.
In 2012, Ahed’s father was declared a prisoner of conscience by Amnesty International. In 2013, her uncle was killed by a tear gas canister shot to the head. In 2014, her mother was almost permanently disabled when she was shot in the leg with a .22 caliber bullet.
In 2015, a video of Ahed preventing her younger brother from being arrested went viral. Her cousins and her older brother have spent time in Israeli prisons.
On Friday, December 15, during a protest of President Trump’s announcement of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, Ahed’s 14-year-old cousin Mohammed Tamimi was shot in the face with a rubber bullet. He was taken to the hospital where he required surgery and a was placed in a medically induced coma.
A few hours later, when armed soldiers came to Ahed’s home demanding to enter, she pushed back. She slapped and kicked them, and screamed that they could not come in.
Shenila Khoja-Moolji wrote in Aljazeera about the stark contrast between the support Malala Yousafzai received after being shot in the head by the Taliban and the silence on Ahed’s case by feminist and political leaders.
Big difference Granted, there is a big difference between being shot on the way to school and arrested after slapping a soldier.
Malala was invited to meet with President Barack Obama. She was championed by Senator Hillary Clinton and listed as one of the 100 most influential people in Time magazine.
In 2013 and 2014, Malala was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize and in 2014, she won. In contrast, while Ahed’s story has received some coverage in the news, she has yet to find state actors or prominent influencers to champion her cause.
While the West seems mostly indifferent to Ahed’s plight, Israel is hell-bent on hating the girl.
Israeli Education Minister Neftali Bennett called for Ahed and her family to “spend the rest of their lives in prison.”
Minister of Defence Avigdor Liberman said she and her family should “get what they deserve,” and prominent Israeli journalist Ben Caspit said that Israel should “exact a price at some other opportunity, in the dark, without witnesses and cameras”.
Caspit afterwards tried to backpedal his threat, saying his words had been taken out of context. But as the #MeToo movement has made clear, denying one’s intentions does not undo or excuse them.
Marginalised voices As the #MeToo movement continues to build and uplift more marginalised voices, Ahed’s voice is not recognised when she could be regarded as a pillar in the movement.
Ahed is revoking her consent for Israel’s brutal occupation. She refuses to give her consent to Israeli forces that invade her family’s home in yet another vicious, meritless night raid. She confronts her aggressors and stands up to the violent system of power that keeps perpetuating this cycle of abuse against Palestinians.
In the same way survivors of sexual assault and rape are silenced, doubted and blamed for the crimes committed against them, Ahed is facing the same backlash from her aggressors.
Israel is working overtime to discredit her and erase her voice, with the hope that people will believe their fabrications over her truth. Now is the time for voices in the #MeToo to call for her release and help draw the parallels.
Shenila Khoja-Moolji explains the reasons for such lack of support for Ahed as being due to acceptance of state violence, Western society’s selective humanitarianism and the political, rather than individual nature of Ahed’s feminism.
These are all valid and important explanations. But support for Ahed is also a condemnation of the state of Israel. It is a condemnation of Israel’s military court system which allows children to be held in isolation and denied access to their parents during interrogation.
It is a condemnation of Israel’s settlement enterprise and continued presence on Palestinian land. To support Ahed is to rebuke Israel’s assertion that Palestinians must comply with their occupiers, that they must open the doors for the soldiers who enter their homes.
Internal power Certainly their 16-year-old girls must not raise an arm to soldiers. It is one thing to support Malala for taking on the Taliban, but quite another to support Ahed as she takes on Israel’s strongest allies and the purported only democracy in the Middle East.
Not all feminist leaders are afraid to express support for Ahed. CodePink is hosting a petition to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, demanding Ahed’s release. We, along with others, like Jewish Voice for Peace, are asking Members of Congress to sign onto Representative Betty McCollum’s legislation to require that US aid to Israel not go to the abuse and detention of Palestinian children.
Ahed is a threat to Israel’s entire system of power. She is not only aware of her own internal power, she is completely unafraid of her aggressors.
This is the same bravery required for sexual assault survivors to tell their stories and hold their accusers responsible. It is the essence of the struggle for women’s rights and why feminism is so incompatible with militarism.
For Ahed to be successful in her fight for the liberation of her people, we first need her to be released from jail. To make this happen, we need all people who call themselves feminists and human rights advocates to say #FreeAhed.
Headline: One Palestinian family’s devastating story of Israeli military cruelty
OPINION:By Sister Barbara Cameron
When I read last week of the detention of a young Palestinian teenage girl, 16-year-old Ahed Tamimi, dragged from her bed in the middle of the night by Israeli soldiers, for me it wasn’t just another Palestinian teenage protester.
I was devastated. This is the beautiful young woman I’d met as a happy, innocent 10-year-old, in whose house I’d slept, with whose family I’d sat at table, to whose grandmother I had listened as she shared the pain of the terrible things her own children had suffered at the hands of the Israeli military, her daughter shot in a military court room, her son detained innumerable times.
I was gutted thinking of this family having to deal with yet another trauma, fearing what might happen to their 16-year-old daughter in military detention.
Ahed with her mother Nariman … a family suffering again from the cruelty and injustice of the Israeli occupation. Image: Al Jazeera
Not only that but her 15-year-old brother, Mohammed, is now lying in an induced coma as the result of the injury caused by being shot in the face by a rubber bullet. For me it was heartbreaking news.
In 2011, as a NZ Catholic nun, a Mission Sister, I had volunteered with the International Women’s Peace Service group in Palestine on the West Bank, a group that supports the Palestinians in any nonviolent resistance to the occupation of their land by Israel, and reports on human rights abuses.
It was at that time I had the privilege of meeting Ahed’s father, Basem Tamimi, a charismatic village leader (in my book, another Gandhi or Mandela), whose gentleness and commitment to nonviolent, peaceful protest against the Israeli occupation of their land was in stark contrast with the picture of protesters I’d formed, from the media, of Palestinian resistance to occupation.
In that man’s home, with that little girl and their family, we enjoyed the warm, generous hospitality, typical of Palestine.
Accused by military police Within days of that experience Basem was picked up by the Israeli military police accused of inciting protesters to throw stones at the soldiers.
What follows are excerpts from the speech Basem gave in the military court in June 2011.
“In my lifetime I have been nine times imprisoned for an overall of almost three years, though I was never charged or convicted. During my imprisonment, I was paralysed as a result of torture by your investigators…
“International law guarantees the right of the occupied people to resist occupation. In practising my right I have called for and organised peaceful, popular demonstrations against the occupation, settler attacks and the theft of more than half the land of my village…
“Our demonstrations are in protest of injustice. We work hand in hand with Israeli and international activists who believe like us that had it not been for the occupation, we could all live in peace on this land…
“I did not incite anyone to throw stones, but I am not responsible for the security of your soldiers who invade my village and attack my people with all the weapons of death and the equipment of terror…
“Despite all your racist and inhumane practices and Occupation we will continue to believe in peace, justice and human values. We will still raise our children to love; love the land and the people without discrimination of race, religion, or ethnicity, embodying thus the message of the messenger of peace, Jesus Christ, who urged us to “love our enemy”.
“With love and justice we make peace and build the future.”
Again suffering cruelty Now, six years later in the wake of the demonstrations on the West Bank following Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, this family is again suffering from the cruelty and injustice of the occupation.
Ahed Tamimi, who was arrested by the Israeli army on December 20 is now scheduled for trial. This is the second delay in her trial date. Her father, Basem, has been summoned for interrogation. Her mother, Nariman, is still being held in detention.
This update from Basem:
“They dragged Ahed out of bed, handcuffed her and put her in the back of their military jeep. She is 16 years old.
“The next morning, my wife went to the police station to be with our daughter as she was interrogated. But Israel took her into custody as well. The following day, they arrested my 21-year-old niece Nour.
“This is too much! Israel must immediately release the Tamimi women! They must stop their persecution of my family.
“All of this started last Friday when soldiers in my village shot 15-year-old Mohammed Tamimi directly in the face with a rubber-coated steel bullet. Following surgery, Mohammad had to be placed in a medically induced coma.
“Then the soldiers came to our home. Ahed and Nour slapped the soldiers in the face and pushed them back, yelling that they could not enter our home.
“The Israeli military is threatened by our regular protests, by our refusal to live with occupation.”
Focus on ‘slapping’ What some people will focus on reading this or hearing the news will be the slapping of an Israeli soldier by a 16-year-old Palestinian girl.
What we don’t usually hear about is the provocation that leads to the reaction. In this case we do … the shooting of a rubber bullet in the face of the girl’s 15-year-old brother which has left her brother in an induced coma, and the ongoing history of harassment that family has experienced .
In the light of all this suffering by the Palestinians over 50 years and in an effort to end the violence and the occupation, Palestine leadership some years ago asked the international community to support them in one of the few nonviolent ways pressure can be brought to bear on the occupying force, that is through the BDS movement – the boycott of Israel, as was done in the past to bring an end to apartheid in South Africa.
New Zealand and New Zealanders have done that in the past. Let’s continue to do this for all the children and young people of our world, who suffer at the hands of military power, for Ahed and Mohammad, for their grandmother, for their mother and father, for the whole Tamimi family.
Sister Barbara Cameron is a Mission Sister in Morrinsville.
Headline: Bryce Edwards’ Political roundup – Dear Lorde here’s what they’re saying about your boycott of Israel
Bryce Edwards’ Political roundup: Dear Lorde, here’s what they’re saying about your boycott of Israel
It seems that everyone is writing open letters to you about whether or not you should be performing in Israel. So, I thought I’d join in, rounding up the political coverage, to help you work out whether you’ve made the right decision.
The case in favour of your boycott
It all kicked off when local political activists put the case for you to cancel your Tel Aviv concert. Nadia Abu-Shanab and Justine Sachs argued that “Playing in Tel Aviv will be seen as giving support to the policies of the Israeli government” – see: Dear Lorde, here’s why we’re urging you not to play Israel. They noted your political opposition to “institutional racism, sexism and white privilege” and suggested you extend this to the Israeli state.
Your decision not to play Tel Aviv was celebrated by many in New Zealand. The capital’s daily newspaper, the Dominion Post, published an editorial yesterday pronouncing your decision as “commendable”, saying “We support Lorde’s efforts to do what she thinks is right, and we hope she has the maturity and political dexterity to fight for her corner and handle what is likely to come next” – see: Lorde’s first steps on new, dangerous stage.
The newspaper also notes that your career is likely to suffer as a result: “she is also set to tour the United States – 30 concerts that could go some way to solidifying her status in global pop royalty. That new-found political awareness and maturity is likely to be tested in what is still regarded as the most important entertainment market in the world. Given the strong Jewish influence in American politics and the clear and painful rebuke for the United States in the still-fresh UN vote, Lorde is likely to meet a very different type of melodrama and the kind of questions that go beyond her music.”
Others in the local media have congratulated you for your decision, especially in light of the criticism you have received. Entertainment reporter Dani McDonald says: “The blood of Palestinian children continues to flood the streets of Gaza, but Israelis seems more concerned about Lorde’s choice to cancel her Tel Aviv show. There, Lorde, is evidence that you made the right decision. It’s been amusing and sickening reading the backlash to the 21-year-old Kiwi singer’s decision to backtrack on her show that was scheduled for June, 2018” – see: Israelis’ reactions to Lorde is exactly why she shouldn’t play there.
Leftwing bloggers have been particularly buoyed. A writer at The Standard blog, draws parallels with the boycott movement against South Africa, and your stand is seen as having a global significance in the context of recent conservative trends: “Of the tiny moments of resistance in 2017’s cascading cataclysm against civility, tolerance, and decency in Europe, US, and most of the Middle East, this is the largest tiny moment from a New Zealander in a very, very long time” – see: Ain’t Gonna Play.
Writing on the Daily Blog, Frank Macskasy is even more enthused, suggesting your “courageous stand” will go down in history as a continuation of other progressive political beacons this country is supposedly known for, and “Once again, New Zealand has shown the way in the world” – see: Lorde takes a stand. You are given a place in the pantheon of activist heroes: “2017 has become the year that women have spoken out against injustice and abuse by those in power. Lorde has become to her generation what Rosa Parkes, Jane Fonda, Kate Shepherd, and many others were to theirs.”
Not everyone in New Zealand is full of praise. Local comedy writer, Dane Giraud speaks up for the Jewish community in a folksy letter to you, providing a counterview to those who have asked you not to go to Israel, saying “Here’s what it comes down to: you’re being asked not to sing in front of a stadium full of Jews. Sounds pretty crappy when put that way” – see: Dear Lorde, here’s why an Israel boycott is the wrong answer.
He makes the case that by boycotting Tel Aviv, you are boycotting ordinary Israeli fans rather than the Israeli state. What’s more, although boycotts have their allure (“I think people dig them because they feel both extremely dramatic and benign all at the same time”) they can be counterproductive, potentially encouraging “intransigence from either side”, thereby adding “to the misery of both Jews and Arabs”.
Not surprisingly, a number of others from New Zealand’s Jewish community are expressing disappointment with your decision. A spokesperson for the New Zealand Jewish Council, Juliet Moses, attempts to correct what she sees as misinformation about Israel and its treatment of Palestinians – see: Lorde has taken a bow to the bullies.
And back in Israel, there is disappointment with your boycott. The Jerusalem Post newspaper published an editorial that alleges you don’t understand the issues properly: “Lorde would do herself a favor to study the issues before making such a decision. Lorde is in a blissful state of unawareness, at least with regard to the history and reasons behind the Israeli-Palestinian conflict” – see: Lorde and the BDS bullies.
The paper also says: “By caving in to BDS pressure, Lorde let herself be used as a political tool and joined a short list of performers who backed out of shows in Israel out of some distorted sense of solidarity with the Palestinian cause.”
Many Israelis are clearly more saddened than angry that you won’t be playing Tel Aviv. Einav Schiff, writing for YNet News, emphasises what Israeli fans are missing: “It’s not every day and not every decade that the Israeli audience gets an opportunity to see a musician as she sails to the top, at the end of a phenomenal year in nearly every aspect” – see: BDS, unfortunately, is still alive and kicking.
Reflecting on the boycott movement against Israel – referred to as “BDS” (Boycott, Divestments and Sanctions) – Schiff says Israelis need to realise the significance of your decision: “The past summer’s concerts, and primarily the high profile of Radiohead’s arrival, gave us the feeling that BDS had been defeated. Lorde’s cancellation indicates that it was an illusion.”
David Brinn of the Jerusalem Post, also says “Lorde’s cancellation is more ominous than it looks. The sudden cancellation of New Zealand pop sensation Lorde’s concert next June in Tel Aviv, only days after it was announced, was undoubtedly a blow to the ‘BDS is ineffective, everything is fine’ mantra we, Israelis, like to believe. She was, by far, the biggest contemporary name to announce a 2018 show in Israel” – see: Lorde’s cancellation: Losing a generation.
Questions about boycott tactics
The biggest challenge to your decision to boycott Israel relates to the very concept of boycotts – the idea that they can be inconsistent or even hypocritical. After all, when an artist like yourself makes a decision to exclude a particular audience on moral or ethical principles, then there is a natural tendency of critics to check if you are being arbitrary or consistent in the application of your principle.
When you’ve come out to say that a particular country doesn’t meet your political standards to play in, you are implicitly suggesting that the countries you do perform in are political acceptable.
Hence, a number of people you have disappointed by boycotting Israel are asking why you are boycotting their country but willing to play other politically-questionable countries. For instance Juliet Moses from the New Zealand Jewish Council challenges you on your recently announced concerts in Russia: “Strangely, despite that country’s human rights abuses, support of the genocidal Assad regime in Syria, and occupation of Crimea, no one called for her to cancel that show or suggested she is a Putin supporter. Likewise, she is not accused of complicity with Trump and his policies when she performs in the United States”.
Similarly, a “heartbroken” 15-year Jewish fan living in London has written you a letter to say: “you are playing St. Petersburg and Moscow when Russia has broken the Geneva convention for its actions in Ukraine – how can you pull out of one concert and not the other? In addition, in Russia, it’s just been announced that the opposition leader, Alexei Navalny, will not be allowed to run against Vladimir Putin for President. You are punishing the people of one country because you don’t agree with their government, but not another. Why?” – see: A letter to Lorde from a devastated fan.
Even yesterday’s Dominion Post editorial, which was highly supportive of your decision, felt inclined to raise this point: “People might quite rightly ask why Lorde would boycott Israel but continue in the US, which has so clearly turned its back on peace, and the Palestinians, and sided with its Israeli allies. They might also want to know if she still intends going ahead with two concerts in Russia, where homosexuals are hounded, the LGBT community are virtually outlawed and democracy is near-dead. What is her stance on that? Politics is a Pandora’s Box. Opening it might seem the right thing to do, but you risk being squeezed into a corner” – see: Lorde’s first steps on new, dangerous stage.
You might also want to check out an interesting feature in the Sydney Morning Herald by Karl Quinn about musical boycotts, discussing what other countries should be on the list for you to avoid: “If you’re going to boycott every country with a dubious record, how about adding the United States to the list? It may be the world’s biggest market for live music but it is guilty of targeted political assassinations, installing puppet regimes in foreign countries, and exporting Mariah Carey’s music to the world. Or how about Australia, where much of the remote indigenous population languishes in abject poverty and the treatment of refugees is in serious breach of human rights conventions” – see: Lorde’s Israel backdown shows doing the right thing in music is far from black and white.
It’s obviously very difficult to come up with a list of “clean countries”. Quinn has this conclusion: “Maybe touring Denmark might be safe (oh, wait, there’s that history with Greenland). What about Sweden? (Oh no, there’s the Sami issue.) Oh well. There’s always New Zealand I guess.”
This provocative piece asks you: “Offended by colonialism, wanton land theft, and an ongoing discrimination of an indigenous population? Say goodbye to Wellington, not Tel Aviv.” Here’s his challenge to you: “If Lorde is truly committed to the principles she now espouses, she should announce her refusal to perform in or return home to her native New Zealand, a country that is guilty, in spades, of the crimes BDS supporters falsely attribute to Israelis.” The argument is then backed up with a trawl through New Zealand history of land theft and ethnic disparities, concluding that an “occupying force” is “illegally and cruelly” depriving “an indigenous population of its right for self-determination in its historical homeland”.
It’s worth pointing out that not all musicians agree with the tactic of boycotting Israel. In fact, there are a number of highly-political and even leftwing artists who have felt very strongly about the correctness of going to Israel – most notably in the last year, Radiohead, Morrissey, and Nick Cave. And for some interesting leftwing celebrations of those artists breaking the boycott, see Brendan O’Neill’s Nick Cave vs the BDS bigots, and Tom Slater’s Three cheers for Thom Yorke.
A different approach to showing solidarity with Palestinians
Rather than boycotting your Israeli fans, there is another option – visiting the West Bank and Gaza while in Israel. This was actually suggested by the New Zealand Jewish Council’s spokesperson Juliet Moses, who says that if you wanted to help with furthering the peace process you “could have performed in Tel Aviv, a liberal secular city, and visited grassroots movements in the West Bank, co-founded by Palestinians and Israelis, as I did last year – movements promoting non-violence, transformation and dialogue between the two sides”.
Of course, you could go much further than that, and actually perform a concert in Palestine. This is what one Israeli writer, activist, and musician has suggested – you should definitely read Yuval Ben-Ami’s important article, This Israeli urges Lorde: Play Palestine instead. He says to you: “Instead of simply cancelling your show in Tel Aviv, cross the checkpoints and the separation wall and do what most pop icons have yet to do: perform in the West Bank.”
Ben-Ami suggests that you play in the small city close to Ramallah, and not far from Tel Aviv: “Israelis are legally allowed to visit the new open-air theater in the Palestinian town of Rawabi, which seats 12,000”. He argues that this act would make an important political statement while encouraging Israeli fans to travel into the occupied territories to learn more about the Palestinian situation.
Finally, Yuval Ben-Ami is actually a huge fan of yours, and is responsible for a fascinating project called the Israel-Palestine Lorde Diaries – an attempt to collectively record a tribute cover album of Pure Heroine in Hebrew and Arabic which he undertook two years ago upon becoming obsessed with your first album. You can read more about this in Renee Ghert-Zand’s Lorde help us, Daniel Estrin’s In Holy Land, a tribute to Lorde gets complicated, or you can listen to his interview with Wallace Chapman on RNZ: Yuval Ben-Ami – Lorde in the Holy Land. But best of all, check out some of the middle eastern covers he produced, such as Team, Biting Down, and Royals.
Australia and other Pacific nations did not join almost 130 countries in an overwhelming vote at the UN demanding the United States drop its recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, reports RNZ Pacific.
US President Donald Trump had threatened to cut off financial aid to countries that voted in favour.
A total of 128 countries — including New Zealand — backed the resolution, which is non-binding, nine voted against — including Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Palau and Nauru — and 35 abstained.
Twenty-one countries, including Samoa and Tonga, did not cast a vote.
New Zealand supported the UN resolution calling for the US to withdraw a decision to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
New Zealand’s longstanding foreign policy position supports a two-state solution.
President Trump’s move overturned decades of American foreign policy and defied world opinion.
The 35 abstentions included Australia, Fiji, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu and Tuvalu.
US ‘leadership role’ Australian UN Ambassador Gillian Bird said Australia wanted to see the US play a leadership role in brokering peace and abstained from the vote, saying: “We do not wish to see any party isolated from the process.”
“There is much in this resolution with which we agree,” Bird told the General Assembly after the vote.
“We do not, however, consider that this further resolution in addition to the many on the peace process issued by the general assembly helps brings the parties back to the negotiating table.
Nevertheless, Washington found itself isolated as many of its Western and Arab allies voted for the measure.
Some of those allies, like Egypt, Jordan and Iraq, are major recipients of US military or economic aid, although the US threat to cut aid did not single out any country.
A spokesman for Western-backed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas called the vote “a victory for Palestine” but Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rejected the vote as “preposterous”.
US Ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, told the 193-member General Assembly ahead of Thursday’s vote: “The United States will remember this day in which it was singled out for attack in the General Assembly for the very act of exercising our right as a sovereign nation.”
Australia was joined by Argentina, Canada, Colombia, Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Philippines, Rwanda, Uganda and South Sudan in abstaining.
Micronesian nations Guatemala, Honduras and Togo joined the Micronesian Pacific countries, formerly administered by Washington as a UN trust territory, US and Israel in voting no.
According to figures from the US government’s aid agency USAID, in 2016 the US provided some $US13 billion in economic and military assistance to countries in sub-Saharan Africa and $US1.6 billion to states in East Asia and Oceania.
The General Assembly vote was called at the request of Arab and Muslim countries after the United States vetoed the same resolution on Monday in the 15-member UN Security Council.
The remaining 14 Security Council members voted in favour of the Egyptian-drafted resolution, which did not specifically mention the US or Trump but expressed “deep regret at recent decisions concerning the status of Jerusalem”.
Headline: Gideon Levy: New Zealand, one state for two nations
ANALYSIS:By Gideon Levy in Auckland
Late-morning light bathed the landscape in bold colors. It’s early summer here, and the sun was already very strong, broiling. It’s also the season in which the pohutukawa trees burst into crimson blossoms along the roadside.
The view from the heights of this Auckland suburb of Orakei is breathtaking, like almost every place in the beautiful country of New Zealand: an azure bay, endless green meadows, homes, boats and of course sheep.
Only a few skyscrapers spoil the horizon, on the other side of the bay.
The sound of birdsong sliced through the silence. An Australian magpie was perched on a structure atop a hill, singing a song unlike any I’d ever heard in my life. The landscape was equally inimitable. The colours of the magpie, black and white, blended with the black and white of the structure, which serves as a marker for ships at sea.
Soon another magpie arrived, and the two began singing to each other, a serenade for two magpies, a hypnotic duet, before flying away.
Unavoidably, Israeli poet Nathan Zach’s “A Second Bird” leaped to mind: “A bird of such wondrous beauty I shall never see again / Until the day I die.”
Father of social welfare On the slope below, close to the waterline, is the tomb of New Zealand’s 23rd prime minister, Michael Joseph Savage, with a large stone obelisk rising over it. Savage, who served as the country’s first-ever Labour prime minister, from 1935 to 1940, is considered to be the father of its social-welfare policy.
He was laid to rest here in 1940, at Bastion Point on the coast, a gesture of esteem for someone who became a beloved figure to his nation. “The New Zealander of the century,” The New Zealand Herald called him.
But the hill above the grave site of the adored premier is fraught with a more recent, different and painful history. Forty years ago, hundreds of people barricaded themselves here for 506 days. They were Māori from the Ngahi Whatua tribe, and were joined by white human-rights activists who came to show solidarity with them in what was called an “occupation” but was actually a liberation.
It was an indigenous display of protest and independence, revolving around ownership of the land on which we were now standing, above Bastion Point. The so-called occupation lasted from January 5, 1977, until May 25, 1978, when the protesters were evicted, ending 17 months of a determined civilian, nonviolent struggle.
Some 230 people were arrested during the eviction, but no one was hurt. The event became a milestone in New Zealand history.
A television report broadcast here on that May day when the occupiers were evacuated carries the voices and the images. On film, the site looks more like Woodstock than like Umm al-Hiran, the Bedouin town in the Negev where a villager and an Israeli policeman were killed last January.
In the footage, hundreds of unarmed New Zealand police and soldiers are seen quietly removing the demonstrators, who had camped here for almost a year and a half in order to restore the land to its Māori owners. No blood is shed, no violence erupts; there’s only singing and weeping.
Model of nonviolence The activists later claimed that the police had orders to open fire at them, but that didn’t happen: The officers were unarmed throughout the eviction. The reporter likened the convoy of police vehicles arriving at the site to a military convoy in World War II, no less, but to Israeli eyes, which have seen violent evictions in the Negev and in the territories, the Bastion Point incident is a model of nonviolence and civil resistance.
The only fatality was little Joanne, a 5-year-old Māori girl who died in a blaze caused by a heating stove that the protesters on the hill lit on a cold winter night in one of the makeshift structures they lived in – tents, trailers and huts.
Near the place where she died, on the lower slope of the hill, stands a memorial to Joanne Hawke – a Māori sculpture and a commemorative sign that tells her story.
The Negev Bedouin have reason to be envious of the Māori achievements and of the solidarity that some of the white European population, known as Pakeha in the Māori language, have demonstrated for them. In the end, the land in question was returned to its Māori owners, even though they are not permitted to build on it.
Bastion Point is now the greenest hill in the vicinity of Auckland, a nature reserve and a national heritage site for the country’s indigenous people. Atop the hill today is a small Māori village with well-kept homes in a uniform style, among them the house of the leader of that protest 40 years ago, Joseph Hawke, the uncle of Joanne. He was a two-term Labour member of Parliament, serving until 2002, and is now a homebody. His son, Parata Hawke, told us the story of the hilltop protest his father led. He was a boy then, and thought his dad was taking him on a picnic.
The younger Hawke, a social activist who has nine daughters, is a handsome man in his fifties, head shaved with only a ponytail in the back, adorned with a traditional wooden ornament. Barefoot and wearing shorts, Parata Hawke first speaks in the Māori language before switching to English. His family’s original surname was Haka, but his father anglicised it, like many other Māori.
The television in the guest room in his parents’ home, where he’s now staying, is tuned to Al Jazeera in English. He serves his guests homemade bread with butter. A magnificent Māori singer, named Paitangi, with a tattooed chin, will accompany him in her powerful voice, at a solidarity rally with the Palestinian people (where I was speaking).
Collection of Māori weapons Parata Hawke is active in that movement and is well informed about events in the Middle East. He has a collection of ancient Māori wooden weapons, including a 300-year-old spear, which he forbids strangers to touch.
Roger Fowler, who was active in New Zealand’s large-scale movement against the Vietnam War in the 1960s, was present during the entire “occupation”. He married his Māori bride, Lyn Doherty, on the hill in the midst of the protest. In recent years he’s been a vigorous and determined activist for Palestinian rights.
Last weekend he took part in a demonstration of hundreds of people outside the American consulate in the city, against the decision to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. When the Israeli tennis player Shahar Pe’er took part in a tournament in Auckland some years ago, Fowler threw a tennis ball onto the court in an attempt to disrupt the match.
He also took part in a raucous demonstration against the apartheid regime in South Africa when that country’s rugby team played at Eden Park, Auckland’s largest rugby stadium, in 1981. It was the South African team’s last game in New Zealand before the regime changed. And speaking of rugby – every match here begins with the haka, the Māori war dance.
About 750,000 residents of New Zealand are Māori, 17 percent of the population. In most realms of life, the Arab citizens of Israel, whose proportion within the population is roughly the same, can only envy them. There are no Māori ghettos, Māori are well integrated into society, mixed marriages are a matter of routine, and at Auckland’s international airport visitors are greeted by typical Māori artwork and murals. There are also five Māori universities in New Zealand.
Nevertheless, Parata Hawke says that his people are still in the midst of a battle for their land, their heritage and their national honour. It’s a war of attrition, he says.
“They stole our land and killed our people,” he explains, “and until the occupation of the hill, no one even talked about it.” For the Palestinians, he suggests nonviolent resistance. “If we take another route, we’ll lose.”
Elections defeat The Māori Party sustained a defeat in the last election, in September, not managing to get even one seat at the House of Representatives, the country’s legislature, which, like Israel’s, has 120 members; most Māori vote Labour. But Winston Peters, the deputy prime minister and foreign minister in the new centre-left Labour-Green-NZ First government, is the son of a Māori father and a mother of Scottish origin.
The road to having an Arab foreign minister in Israel is still very long.
The foreign minister of New Zealand’s “big sister”, Australia, is not an aboriginal. Julie Bishop is white, industrious and ambitious. She receives the guest from Israel warmly and courteously in her office in the Parliament building in Canberra. She even plies the stranger who has come to meet her with gifts: stuffed kangaroo and koala bear toys.
Our conversation takes place off the record, but her position on the Palestinian issue wouldn’t shame any Israeli right-wing leader. It’s easy to see why Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu felt so comfortable on his visit to Australia last February. Hard-right MK Bezalel Smotrich (Habayit Hayehudi) would feel equally at home here.
Australia’s Jewish lobby wields dramatic influence. Almost every new MP is invited on an “informational” trip to Israel, along with many journalists. And signs of the Israeli propaganda machine are hard to miss here.
Former Foreign Minister Bob Carr, who has changed his views since leaving office, also points to the large donations that Jewish activists make to the two big parties when explaining Australia’s one-sided approach.
Carr is one of the few politicians in Australia to have a balanced approach to Israel and the Palestinians, who is not a member of the Greens.
Coalition anomaly Mark Coulton, deputy speaker of Australia’s House of Representatives, a member of the National Party that is part of the ruling centre-right coalition, is an anomaly here. He tells us that he returned a few months ago from a visit to the occupied territories – very different from what is seen on the Israeli information tours – and has since become one of the independent, exceptional voices in the House against the Israeli occupation.
Coulton, himself a farmer, was especially shocked by the attitude of the occupation authorities toward Palestinian agriculture. He won’t forget the farmers he met from the Qalqilyah area of the West Bank who can’t access their land because it’s on the wrong side of the security barrier, or the shortage of water they suffer – in contrast to the abundance of water in the Jewish settlements – and the butchered olive trees.
In Australia, in any event, the Israeli occupation can go on celebrating. Its only opponents, pretty much, are the Greens.
Beautiful Australia, with its beaches and its affable people, is occupied with other matters. A major furore erupted here recently when it emerged that some members of the House and the Senate hold dual citizenship, sometimes even without being aware of it. Now they have to resign.
On the margins of that storm there were also some who asked about the question of dual loyalty of Australia’s Jews, although that question did not come up for public debate. The Jewish establishment there can go on activating its effective, aggressive pro-Israel lobby without interruption. “Israel, right or wrong,” is its slogan, I’m told.
All of that is forgotten as though it’s air on Karekare Beach, about an hour’s drive from Auckland. The sand here is black with bits of glittering iron; the landscape is rocky and wild. This is where Jane Campion’s film The Piano, with its unforgettable landscapes, was filmed.
Now, in early summer, the beach is empty. Here, on the shores of the Tasman Sea, between Australia and New Zealand, opposite the cliff and the rocks, the waves and the black sand, almost everything is forgotten amid nature’s ravishing beauty.
Gideon Levy is a Haaretz columnist and a member of the newspaper’s editorial board. He joined Haaretz in 1982, and has won many awards. He recently visited Australia and New Zealand on a lecture tour.