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Byron Shire
April 11, 2021

Australia’s backing of apartheid Israel shameful

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Gareth W R Smith, Palestine Liberation Centre, Byron Bay.

Supporters of Palestine are often asked why don’t we agitate for Tibet, the Rohinga or Russian gays instead.

The reason is simple, Australia backs apartheid Israel ignoring its appalling human rights record just as it backed Indonesia, despite its invasion of East Timor in 1975 and the subsequent loss of one third of its population.

Many supporters of East Timorese independence switched their support to Palestine once the Timorese achieved independence in 1999.

I went as a UN volunteer to Viqueque province and witnessed first hand the terror inflicted on the Timorese by the Indonesian military.

I met women who said their babies were held by the ankles by soldiers who warned that that if they voted for independence it would be known and their infants would be whipped against a tree or wall.

On the sacred mountain of Matebian I was shown a scar on the hillside which is all that remained from a cave that scores of young Timorese hid in.

An Indonesian missile scored a direct hit and buried them all alive.

Australia hounded East Timorese activists and trained the infamous Kopassus special forces in Pearce Air Force base and at Canungra in the Gold Coast hinterland.

Outside the church in Makadiki  BAe Hawk aircraft screamed just above the palm trees. One man in the crowd cried out, ‘Do we have to die again’. Pushing through the crowd I embraced him giving an assurance that the UN would stay in Timor regardless of the peoples’ choice.

Around 1pm on August 30, our ballot boxes were snatched up by CIVPOL and we were told to get the hell out of there because there was going to be a bloodbath: there was.

Australia and the rest of the world stood by doing nothing.  Now, after 50 years the Palestinians continue to die and be maimed while Israel is feted and our politicians, journalists, academics and captains of industry flock to this pariah.  Why do they have to die again?



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  1. Yes the Palestinians continue to die committing acts of terrorism and other violence attacking innocent bystanders spurred on by Jew-hatred and incitement to murder by their leaders.

    • Hey Jack, you say “the Palestinians continue to die committing acts of terrorism and other violence attacking innocent bystanders spurred on by Jew-hatred and incitement to murder by their leaders.” Your comment exemplifies the twisted, misinformed opinions that abound in this country due to the extremely biased pro-Zionist mainstream media. It is hardly surprising that so many share your prejudiced belief when this sort of garbage has been shoved in our faces for generations, the myth of Jewish persecution at the hands of Islamic terrorists. The historical truth is the exact opposite, Palestinians have been suffering the relentless violence of Zionist terrorism for more than a century now. Just do some research and you’ll find the truth, it’s not hard

  2. There are many horrors and wrongs in the third world Gareth. Some struggles though become causes celebres and attract the left. Ironically it was the left in Australia who demonized the Dutch and supported the Javanese in their struggle to take over the Indies. Some of those many wrongs I refer to were committed under Suharto, but I know having lived there several times – I was the second Australian student allowed to study in Indonesia under Suharto – most Indonesians take a more balanced view of his regime. They recognize the gross corruption and the heavy hand of the military but they know he took over Indonesia from a internationally hostile left wing demagogue – Sukarno ; that Suharto reduced the proportion of people living in poverty form about fifty percent under Sukarno to ten percent, with better nutrition health and education; and that he kept a measure of harmony between conflicting ethnic and religious groups. He was recognised too as bulwark against communism at a time when it was very much a world wide force for evil and oppression, and was potentially such a threat in Portuguese Timor – that is why the record of Whitlam’s Wonosobo meeting with Suharto shows our PM encouraged Suharto to “integrate” East Timor which was likely to fall to the left. The Indonesian regime in East Timor was at times quite brutal against opponents, but it also brought education, health and family planning all neglected by the Portuguese (ironically the family planning, better health services and economic growth brought about a reduction in the birthrate causing a gap between the actual population and that which might have occurred under the Portuguese, and this was interpreted by some here as a genocide . Eventually the excesses and the nondemocratic practices of Suharto changed following his overthrow in the late 90s not because of the hectoring of westerners – which most Indonesians resent – but because the of the rise of an educated middle class, a result of the growing economy he brought about. It is not uncommon for people who work in a country to take the side of those around them whom they see as oppressed . I know many ex-colonials form PNG took a similar view to yours about Indonesia which they saw as a threat to “their natives”. But colouring whole countries and peoples as black or white is poor history and unhelpful in understanding conflict in the world. In respect of Israel I will not comment on the merits or otherwise of the Palestinian cause – it is but one of many conflicts in the world and I do not choose to allow the American media’s interest in the Middle East to dictate where I should focus my attentions. I must say though, as someone who was part of the famous Brisbane anti-apartheid demonstration which stopped racially selected rugby teams playing in Australia, I think you have a very poor understanding of how obnoxious such a fundamentally racially-based system apartheid was, if you apply that term to Israel.

    • Hey Peter, if you don’t understand that Israel is an apartheid regime then you don’t understand what apartheid means. Israel was established as an exclusively Jewish state. Non-Jews don’t have the same rights as Jews in Israel, that’s what makes it an apartheid regime. Just do some research, you’ll find the truth, it’s not hard.

      • Hey John, FYI non Jews are university students, teachers, doctors, lawyers, in the army, police force and Judiciary. They are members of parliament. It was not established as an exclusively Jewish state. Any reasoned and honest appraisal does not support your contention.

        Just do some research, you’ll find the truth, it’s not hard.

      • I am sorry John – apartheid was a system that divided and discriminated against people by race, itself a contrived concept based on peoples origins and skin colour. The fundamental thinking behind Apartheid was that some people were racially inferior, a wrongful thinking that was widespread in the world and certainly in this country. So when we protested against apartheid, we protested against all who believed white people were superior intellectually and culturally, and all people and governments who discriminated by race. Protesting against the imposition of a state for Jewish people is a reasonable enough thing to do, just as is protesting for the rights of people anywhere who have their rights impinged on or who are displaced, but while it can reasonably argued that Israel is discriminatory in its treatment of Palestinians and non-Jews it is not apartheid (“apart-oid” maybe!).

        • Sorry Peter, you’re assuming the term “apartheid” refers to the former apartheid regime of South Africa.

          The following information is from http://www.latimes.com/opinion/op-ed/la-oe-makdisi-israel-apartheid-20140518-story.html

          “Apartheid” is a word with a very specific legal meaning, as defined by the International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid, adopted by the U.N. General Assembly in 1973 and ratified by most United Nations member states (Israel and the United States are exceptions, to their shame).

          According to Article II of that convention, the term applies to acts “committed for the purpose of establishing and maintaining domination by one racial group of persons over any other racial group of persons and systematically oppressing them.” Denying those others the right to life and liberty, subjecting them to arbitrary arrest, expropriating their property, depriving them of the right to leave and return to their country or the right to freedom of movement and of residence, creating separate reserves and ghettos for the members of different racial groups, preventing mixed marriages — these are all examples of the crime of apartheid specifically mentioned in the convention.

          Seeing the reference to racial groups here, some people might think of race in a putatively biological sense or as a matter of skin color. That is a rather simplistic (and dated) way of thinking about racial identity. More to the point, however, the operative definition of “racial identity” is provided in the 1965 International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (to which Israel is a signatory), on which the apartheid convention explicitly draws.

          There, the term “racial discrimination” is defined as “any distinction, exclusion, restriction or preference based on race, color, descent, or national or ethnic origin which has the purpose or effect of nullifying or impairing the recognition, enjoyment or exercise, on an equal footing, of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural or any other field of public life.”

          A few basic facts are now in order.

          The Jewish state (for so it identifies itself, after all) maintains a system of formal and informal housing segregation both in Israel and in the occupied territories. It’s obvious, of course, that Jewish settlements in the West Bank aren’t exactly bursting with Palestinians. In Israel itself, however, hundreds of communities have been established for Jewish residents on land expropriated from Palestinians, in which segregation is maintained, for example, by admissions committees empowered to use ethnic criteria long since banned in the United States, or by the inability of Palestinian citizens to access land held exclusively for the Jewish people by the state-sanctioned Jewish National Fund.

          Jewish residents of the occupied territories enjoy various rights and privileges denied to their Palestinian neighbors. While the former enjoy the protections of Israeli civil law, the latter are subject to the harsh provisions of military law. So, while their Jewish neighbors come and go freely, West Bank Palestinians are subject to arbitrary arrest and detention, and to the denial of freedom of movement; they are frequently barred from access to educational or healthcare facilities, Christian and Muslim sites for religious worship, and so on.

          Meanwhile, Palestinian citizens of Israel must contend with about 50 state laws and bills that, according to the Palestinian-Israeli human rights organization Adalah, either privilege Jews or directly discriminate against the Palestinian minority. One of the key components of Israel’s nationality law, the Law of Return, for example, applies to Jews only, and excludes Palestinians, including Palestinians born in what is now the state of Israel. While Jewish citizens can move back and forth without interdiction, Israeli law expressly bars Palestinian citizens from bringing spouses from the occupied territories to live with them in Israel.

          And so it goes in all domains of life, from birth to death: a systematic, vigilantly policed separation of the two populations and utter contempt for the principle of equality. One group — stripped of property and rights, expelled, humiliated, punished, demolished, imprisoned and at times driven to the edge of starvation (down to the meticulously calculated last calorie) — has withered. The other group — its freedom of movement and of development not merely unrestricted but actively encouraged — has flourished, and its religious and cultural symbols adorn the regalia of the state and are emblazoned on the state flag.

          The question is not whether the term “apartheid” applies here. It is why it should cause such an outcry when it is used.

          • Thank you John. I was aware of the expanded definition of race which has long lost meaning in any anthropological sense. I would prefer apartheid retained its original more specific meaning because it embodied the obnoxious aspect of supposed genetic racial superiority that went on in South Africa and that is lost in the new definition. I am not sure that the UN definition is indeed widely accepted in Australia and like-minded countries. Correct me if I am wrong but I understand the Convention has been signed but not ratified by Australia and nor have a number of other nations including the USA as your article mentions, but also Canada, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, South Africa and New Zealand have not ratified the treaty. It would appear too that the extended meaning was largely intended to be used against Israel, but I can see that if you accept the looser meaning of the word you could refer to Israel as apartheid.

  3. Anyone interested in learning the truth about the creation of Israel and the root causes of terrorism in the Middle East would do well to read State of Terror – How terrorism created modern Israel, by Thomas Suarez.

    “A tour de force, based on diligent archival research that looks boldly at the impact of Zionism on Palestine and its people in the first part of the 20th century. The book is the first comprehensive and structured analysis of the violence and terror employed by the Zionist movement, and later the state of Israel, against the people of Palestine. Much of the suffering we witness today can be explained by, and connected to, this formative period covered thoroughly in this book.”

    • Hey John, thought you might be interested in reading some other reviews of this book.

      “The book is so biased and contains so many untruths, distorted quotes and unsubstantiated allegations, that one must conclude that it would never have seen the light of day, were it not for the fact that the publisher is Karl Sabbagh’s new company. (Sabbagh thinks Israel is responsible for global anti-Semitism.) ”

      “The truth – surely – is that no mainstream publisher wanted to risk publishing such a shoddy and biased distortion of the truth.”

      Just do some research, You’ll find the truth, its not hard.

      • Hey Simon, I used to believe the mainstream pro-Zionist narrative until I did some research and discovered the truth.

  4. Why Israel?

    I think Jake Lynch summed it up in his keynote speech at the 2015 Boycott Divestment and Sanctions Conference in Byron Shire. The facts are all there, you will find the truth, it is not hard.


    Many countries are involved in Apartheid, religious persecution, non-declaration of nuclear weapons, marginalisation of minorities, war crimes, breaches of international law and UN conventions including the targeting of civilians during warfare, the transfer of the population of the occupier to occupied territory, unlawful annexation of territory, oppression of indigenous people, laying siege to a civilian population, arrest and administrative detention of children, extra-judicial murder, state-sponsored terrorism, economic warfare …

    It is only Israel that does all of these things and that is why it is a legitimate target for opposition.

  5. Let Jewish victims of Nazi horror speak for themselves about Israel’s atrocious violations of Palestinian human rights in this ad they placed in the NY TImes:

    “As Jewish survivors and descendants of survivors and victims of the Nazi genocide we unequivocally condemn the massacre of Palestinians in Gaza and the ongoing occupation and colonization of historic Palestine,” the letter says. “We call for an immediate end to the siege against and blockade of Gaza. We call for the full economic, cultural and academic boycott of Israel. ‘Never again’ must mean NEVER AGAIN FOR ANYONE!” – See more at: http://mondoweiss.net/2014/08/holocaust-survivors-palestinians/#sthash.VR0sfBfw.dpuf

  6. This topic gets so much coverage in this paper and for what reason??? A handful of refugees, immigrants and bleeding hearts. Why on earth is there a PLO outpost in Byron Bay and I wonder just how much tax payer and council money goes into.

    The majority don’t care, so to the minority that spend so much of their unemployed time writing dribble in this paper, how about you show us that you really care by packing your bags to make a difference at the coalface.

    Here’s an idea, lets get rid of the refugees, immigrants and bleeding hearts and I bet the so called housing crisis will be solved overnight.

  7. What coalface are you working at, Bernard? The glaring fact you can’t deny is that so many refugees and immigrants have the guts to pack their bags and seek a safer, better life for themselves and their families. Why don’t you watch Australian Story’s “Shooting For The Stars” and learn about a South Sudanese refugee, Mayor Chagai, who packed his bags and is making a huge difference “at the coalface” (http://www.abc.net.au/austory/content/2017/s4689389.htm)
    You want us to get rid of refugees so obviously you want Australia to adopt a different foreign policy, one that doesn’t join the “Coalition of the Willing” , for example, and be complicit with the US and its killing machine in Iraq and elsewhere (remember Abu Ghraib and extraordinary rendition where thousands of people were kidnapped and tortured and often with Australians present?). You don’t like “bleeding hearts” but I don’t think you need worry because, if you’ve got a heart, there’s probably not much blood in it. I am so sorry for you and hope you discover your basic humanity and come to accept that we are all human whatever our creed, colour, economic status or race.

    • I’m at Australia’s coalface, working hard to fund welfare bludgers like your self no doubt. Your response is a fairly standard one from a bleeding heart…the ole I’m sorry for you blah blah. It means nothing to anyone outside of the airy fairy crowd and is far disconnected from the realities of life. You too have fallen victim to forming an opinion that only wants to be heard by like minded fruitcakes so as to ensure you maintain your place among the sheep. You have too much time on your hands and this only inflates your feeling of self worth and societal contribution.

      You know good and well Gareth that the majority of Australians could not care about some Sudanese refugee who has been given the golden ticket to the Australian welfare system and then gets promoted like a hero on ABC. How about you get just as vocal and teary eyed about born and bred Australians dying of starvation or freezing to death in their homes because the focus and welfare money is tilted toward refugees and immigrants. People like you and your left wing minority mates have destroyed our great country.

      • I think it worthwhile to bring a note of realism to your rant. There is no evidence that supports your statement that the majority of Australians do not care about refugees. Surveys undertaken by the aid program show Australians are consistently supportive of spending on people in need around the world.. The majority do support the bipartisan off-shore detention system, suggesting most Australians, while not necessarily uncaring, are realistic as to how any refugees can come here, and unwilling to allow our refugee allocation to be taken by those who can afford the tens of thousands of US dollars needed to bring a family on a boat. Your suggestion that refugees have a ” golden ticket to the Australian welfare system” is misleading. While it takes refugees longer than other migrants to get the language and other skills to find work, most refugees do end up in work and over time they have low unemployment levels; Among migrants the largest recipients of Centrelink benefits are English migrants, and the largest recipients of excluding age pension benefits are Kiwis. Welfare provided to refugees is a small part of all welfare payments, and most goes as age pension and health benefits to refugees who came from Europe after the war. I am not sure what you mean by “…your left minority mates have destroyed our great country.’ We live in a country with among the world’s highest incomes and wealth, relatively low taxes, high standards of housing, low levels of corruption, best-practice investment legislation, a strong international student, tourism and export sectors, reasonably strong environmental protections, among the highest life expediencies and health outcomes, a high standard of education, low unemployment and historically high rates of employment, good public infrastructure, a free media, strong protection for people of other races, disabled, gays and women. I appreciate it is not perfect and some people do do it hard but if you have lived and worked in as many developing countries as I have, you would not think our country has been destroyed. It is also wrong to suggest that those who reject the anti-immigrant sentiments you espouse are left wing; I and many of my friends are self-funded retirees who live off our capital – we are hardly socialists but not one of us would have a bar of any of your nonsense. I appreciate you think people in the Northern Rivers are disconnected from life – if that means being disconnected from the xenophobia, racism and bigotry that thrives in some areas in SE QLD and some other parts of regional Australia, than we are proud of that – it probably reflects that the region has a higher standard of education than other regional areas shires. By all means present your opinion, but if you want to be taken seriously by the readers of the Echo, you will need to support your views with some sort of evidence and argument, not just vitriol.

  8. Well said, Petrus. I’m heartened by the census results which show a more humane and tolerant Australia in which 10.3 per cent of all Australians were born in a country classified as “Asian” by the ABS compared to the UK on 3.9 per cent and New Zealand on 2.2 per cent. If Bernard doesn’t love the new Australia well then he can just leave it.

  9. It was only re-reading your letter on Israel that I noticed the reference to “..despite its invasion of East Timor in 1975 and the subsequent loss of one third of its population.” The estimated third of the population lost was derived by taking the estimated population growth in Portuguese Timor and comparing it with the actual population after it was integrated with Indonesia. The Portuguese neglected Timor over the length of its colonial period, including its health services, and under Salazar’s regime supported the Catholic hierarchy’s opposition to the promotion of family planning in Timor – so the birth rate was very high. Whatever Suharto’s failings, his family planning programs are cited as best practice among the large developing countries – effective and implemented using strong social pressure but with sensitivity to local beliefs. In the largrly Catholic Indonesian island of Flores the uptake of effective family planning was as high as comparable non-Catholic areas – mirroring the experience with Catholics in Australia – and this was achieved by working closely with the local priests, nuns and Catholic lay women. These programs were successfully rolled out in East Timor, and the birth rate fell markedly, causing the discrepancy between the actual versus the predicted population. Certainly some people died in the conflict but it was nothing like the one third figure the left has used for decades. As so often left wing supporters of rebel conflicts do not seem to be able step back and take a balanced view of these conflicts and feel a need to demonise the perceived oppressors as beyond redemption. Historiographers will have a field day when they come to examine the twentieth century history of left wing support for third world causes célèbres.


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