From under the linoleum
Old newspapers show Mussolini's imperialism looked a lot like today's

I sat on the floor and picked through the tragedy of the country we now call Ethiopia laid out on the yellowing pages. It was eerily reminiscent of the current Iraq adventure.

A tale for our times
The December 1934 assassination of Sergei Kirov

Seventy years on, the killing of Sergei Kirov casts an eerie light on the events of 11 September 2001, the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan, the “war on Terror” and the state-sponsored hysteria surrounding the shadowy figures of Osama bin Ladin and Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.

Ninety-three years of bombing the Arabs
It was the Italians, hell-bent on acquiring an African empire, who got the ball rolling. In 1911 the Libyan Arab tribes opposed an Italian invasion. Their civilians were the first people in the world to be bombed from the air.

Dispossessed all over again
After spending nearly two months in the West Bank the pull towards my village was growing stronger, especially after being detained twice and threatened with deportation … an Australian Palestinian returns to her ancestral home.

The tragic inevitability of a forlorn hope
Australia slides further into the Iraq quagmire
Cabinet documents recently released under the 50-year rule show that, in 1954, Liberal (conservative) Prime Minister, Robert Menzies, and key figures in his Cabinet were extremely gloomy about the prospects for success in an American war against nationalists in Indochina. But eventually they went to the Vietnam War anyway.

Bombing King David
One man’s freedom fighter is another’s terrorist

Some historians date the beginning of modern terrorism from the 1946 bombing by Zionist terrorists of the British military HQ in Jerusalem.

Don’t loiter near the exit
Military debacle and economic decline haunt the Bush regime

When I was just a young possum in the school cadet corps there was a hoary old war story that we all knew. It was almost certainly apocryphal, but it ruefully expressed a nasty historic truth about the US role in the demise of the British Empire.

 


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Thinking outside the square

1 November 2003

The weather was glorious, so Joadja, Old Possum and I drove down to Royal National Park and walked from Wattamolla to Curracurrong and back again.

It was a fat time for PIs, but I’d lost interest in work. I’d been approached by both sides in the Liberal Party’s Great Wentworth Branch Stack. Allegations that dead people, babies and dogs had been signed up were flying thicker than rocket-propelled grenades in Baghdad, but I turned them all down.

Truth to tell, I was flush with funds anyway. A media organization with an interest in the Rene Rivkin Secret Accounts Scandal had payed me top dollar to track down one of Rene’s mates: Bill “Bible Basher” Hayden, former Whitlam Government minister and one-time Governor-General. I’d located him at the swanky Connaught Apartments in Liverpool Street and my client had been suitably generous.

The wildflowers were out on the heath: banksias and purple Kunzea capitata, delicate red and white Darwinia fascicularis (which was named after old Erasmus Darwin, Charles Darwin’s grandad). There was pink peach-flower tea-tree, masses of ball honey myrtle, and in the wet gullies, big yellow blooms of Hibertia scandens and the gorgeous deep pink of native dog rose.

Lizards sunned themselves everywhere, honeyeaters were in abundance, and Jo was warned off by a nesting peregrine falcon that swooped over her head, cackling furiously.

“What do you think about the Hanan Ashrawi business?” Jo asked.

“I must say, I was surprised that Bob Carr stood up to the Zionist bullying”, I said. “Like most of the pollies, he’s a wholehearted supporter of Israel. Why’s he doing this?”

“Well, I suspect the motive is entirely pragmatic”, Jo opined. “He’s been running a One Nation-style Leb-bashing exercise for months and I suppose it suddenly occurred to him that there are an awful lot of Lebanese and Arab voters out there, and they were all in working class seats held by Labor and the pro-Zionist Jews were concentrated in upper middle-class Liberal seats the ALP has no hope of winning. Makes sense that Carr’d try to claw back a bit of credibility among the Arabs --his law-and-order populism is pushing them towards the Greens.”

“Right. Typical. He just fakes a little segue to the left.”

Old Possum sighed. “It’s time that sensible Jews -- people of goodwill -- insisted that you can be a Jew and be honourably opposed to the political philosophy called Zionism”. He crossed his paws on his walking stick and went on.

“It’s time to recognise that the whole Zionist project was a tragic mistake. Understandable maybe, under the terrible circumstances of European anti-Semitism, and the Holocaust, but a historic mistake nevertheless. Driving another whole people off the land they’d called home for hundreds of years, expelling them from their homes, their farms and their businesses, and setting up an ethnically exclusive theocratic state was just dumb and dangerous. How did they expect the Palestinians would react?”

“They thought they were just backward Arabs who’d vanish into the desert. The original inhabitants were no part of the state they planned to set up”, Jo said.

“They thought wrong. People never forget a fundamental injustice like that. Then, you’ve either got to wipe them out completely, or face centuries of hostility. It’s no foundation for a secure future. Just dumb, really.”

“Funny isn’t it”, I said, “The American neoconservatives say they want to build a modern, secular, multi-ethnic democracy in Iraq, but they totally support and massively subsidise Israel, when, by its own definition, it’s an ethnocentric theocratic state. Why the hypocrisy? Why not advocate the same solution for Israel slash Palestine?”

“Because the motive for all US actions in the Middle East (ditto the Brits and Europeans) is nothing to do with pure democratic ideals -- that’s just spin doctors’ blather -- it’s to do with oil.” Old Possum replied.

“So what’s the answer to the Israeli-Palestinian debacle?” Jo asked. “The silly road map thing is a disaster”.

“Nick’s right. Why not the solution we accept as normal here: a single, secular, multi-ethnic, multicultural democracy? What could possibly be wrong with that? All Palestinians get the right to return to their homeland; anybody in the new entity gets the right to settle within it wherever government policy allows.”

“And Jerusalem ... the holy sites?”

“Well, with a secular multicultural state the whole issue of Jerusalem pretty much disappears. If it needs to be further defused, why not put the holy sites under an international commission made up exclusively of atheists. Religiously, they’re entirely neutral: it’s all just culture to them. Just recruit a few atheist archaeologists and administrators. After 50 years, review the whole arrangement.”

“What would we call the new entity?”

“Any bloody thing. ‘Israelestine’, maybe, or something neutral like ‘Levant’. Come to think of it, ‘Palestine’ was originally a neutral name. The place was known as that for centuries and hundreds of thousands of Jews were happy to migrate to Palestine when nobody called it anything else.”

For a while, we sat in silence looking at the view. A cool breeze blew in. Out over the Pacific the sun broke through towering pearly clouds, shafting into the sea in pools of silver and luminous green.

“Well, we solved that one, easily enough”, I said. “Now all we gotta do is implement it”.