Israel is a sick society. Before anyone accuses me of being an anti-Semite or reports me to the Jewish Board of Deputies, the Anti-Defamation League, Sharri Markson of The Australian or Michael Danby, the Labor MP for Tel Aviv, I’d like to point that the words are not mine.
Israel’s President Reuven Rivlin said publicly the other day: “It’s time to admit honestly that Israeli society is sick.”
He went on to suggest that the country’s citizens have “forgotten how to be decent human beings”.
The sickness is underlined by this week’s decision to launch a highly provocative housing development on Israeli-occupied Palestinian land in East Jerusalem with 1060 Jewish-only homes to be built.
In mid-October the British House of Commons voted 274 to 12 to support a Palestinian state. This followed a decision by the new Swedish Government to recognise any future Palestinian state.
The Commons decision was welcomed by leaders of the Church of England who stated that the right of Palestinians to belong to an independent state was “long overdue”.
None of this appears to be getting through to Australian politicians, academics, church leaders or journalists.
Fremantle Labour MP Melissa Parke, a former senior UN diplomat, called for a campaign of protest against Israel’s violent policies against the Palestinian Arab population during a courageous speech in parliament this week.
She told Parliament: “What I am to say today will likely not be popular in this place or indeed in the wider community. However, there comes a time when the injustices have so mounted up that plain speaking becomes a duty.”
Without endorsing the global Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against Israel, she told MPs: “However, I do wish to dispel some of the misunderstandings around the official BDS campaign, including that its supporters are anti-Semitic and intent on the destruction of Israel.
“That is not the case; it is not anti-Semitic to protest injustice.”
Predictably, she was rebuked by Labor colleagues and ignored by others.
On the same subject, US Secretary of State John Kerry and former presidential contender, recently said Israel risked becoming an apartheid state but he quickly recanted after his private, behind-closed-doors comment became public.
Kerry is right, however. The definition of apartheid is when an oppressed people are racially (or religiously) segregated from the host nationality and given inferior civil rights and denied the liberties held by those in power. That’s the purest definition of the Zionist state of Israel: it has abandoned the inclusive policies of the state’s founders and imposed racial and religious exclusivity.
The Australian labor and trade union bureaucracy show no sign of giving Israel the pariah status it deserves. Perhaps they are waiting for a call from Washington before they change the party line.
Jillian steals the show
In the NSW Parliament tributes flowed to Marlisa Punzalan, winner of The X Factor, a commercial television talent show which, I admit, I have never watched.
The 15-year-old Filipino-Australian from Mount Druitt, a downtrodden suburb in western Sydney, became an overnight heroine among parents and kids in the migrant community.
Health Minister Jillian Skinner, the 70-year-old MP for North Shore on the other side of Sydney, rose to the occasion.
Ms Skinner, a product of the Presbyterian Ladies’ College in Melbourne and the first woman journalist in the Victorian Parliamentary Press Gallery in the 1960s, praised the Mount Druitt chorister saying: “She thinks that the only people who voted for her came from electorates in Western Sydney and from her school.
“She is wrong. I voted for her.”
“Cull” takes his leave
Peter Cullen, a policy adviser and press secretary to Gough Whitlam and Senator Pat Kennelly (Victoria), sent a message to friends in June asking them to the National Press Club – to his own wake.
“Well, I wasn’t going to let you lot drink my free grog without me,” he said.
After a two-minute farewell speech from his wheelchair, “Cull” took a couple of questions. I asked if he believed Washington was involved in Gough’s dismissal in 1975. He had no evidence of CIA involvement … long pause … but “a clear objective of the Nixon administration was to get rid of Whitlam’s government”.
I took that as a “Yes”.
Someone asked about the current Abbott Government. “Cull” thought that the worst government he has seen in his lifetime was Billy McMahon’s … long pause … “but that was before the election of Tony Abbott”.
Peter Manning Cullen, aged 87, died on 25 October mourned by his four children, Ruth, Simon, Louise and Marcus (his wife and another daughter pre-deceased him), and a great many friends and admirers.
His life was dedicated to “old Labor” values and the quiet deployment of his political wisdom, experience and knowledge.
Today’s Labor minders, spin doctors, hollow men and spivs wouldn’t have known his name, let alone sought him out for advice.
Mad Monk continued
Prime Minister Tony Abbott this week called for a “sensible, mature” debate about the GST in the context of a debate over federation reform and a new tax system.
“My hope is that just for once it might be possible to have a debate rather than a screaming match,” he said. “That is my hope, that just for once it might be possible for us in Parliament, one side and the other, the national government and the state and territory governments to a have a mature debate rather than a screaming match.”
If you want to know the meaning of chutzpah, this is it. Throughout the Rudd-Gillard-Abbott governments Abbott shouted down every measure suggested by Labor, the Greens and Independents.
For his constant negativity, he became “Dr No”. He attacked every government Bill and destroyed every policy initiative. In sections of the media (not News Ltd) he was called Parliament’s “wrecking ball”.
Now, suddenly, he wants a “sensible, mature” debate and no “screaming match”. It is a shallow manoeuvre without a grain of sincerity. He’s merely trying to buy time as his regime falls deeper into instability. Its incompetence is permanently on show.
The wear and tear of high office is becoming evident too; clearly out of his depth, Abbott’s starting to flounder.