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Byron Shire
May 23, 2024

Managing free speech and truth as defined by many different voices

Latest News

Rally demands action over Gaza

As the crisis in Gaza continues to escalate, a march through Byron’s streets last Saturday demanded immediate action from the Australian Labor government to stop the genocide and mass starvation of the Palestinian civilian population in Gaza.

Other News

Consumer watchdog asked to investigate MasterChef ‘renewable gas’ claims

Claims that ‘renewable gas’ is making MasterChef 'greener' are under scrutiny following a complaint to the ACCC.

Getting groovy with Ino

Originally from NZ, Ino Pio is proud to have called the Northern Rivers home for the last decade. When visiting Byron Bay or Ballina you will be sure to see him playing around town.

Local Labor MP supports Future Gas Strategy

Climate research scientist, Joelle Gergis, has joined other scientists, academics, think tanks and economists in condemning federal Labor’s Future Gas Strategy, which was released last week.

Contraband, Chile’s 9/11 and black ops 

Putting the life of local adventurer Chris Dewhirst into print would be no easy task. But he’s managed to do it, in part, with Everest Guns & Money.

Adam says it’s time for a Sunday bus for north Byron Shire

As many people are aware, there is no public transport in the north of Byron Shire on Sundays, making it difficult for people, young people in particular, to get to where they want to go. Adam Luck has decided to take action on this problem. 

Dance for Brazil

The Mahico and Aruanda crews are joining hands to invite the entire community to be a part of Dance for Brazil – a day to flood Brazil with support, this Sunday in Byron Bay.

Israel, Gaza, West Bank, Jordan. Image Wikimedia

I hesitated to add my voice to the chorus about the Gaza conflict, especially to the controversy over The Echo’s publication of a half-page advertisement by the Australian Jewish Association (AJA). 

But to be clear: well done The Echo for doing so; you made clear it was a paid ad, you emphasised your own independence and in publishing it, you succeeded in stimulating the series of well-written and informative letters on this vexing subject, including the varying viewpoints recently from Jenny Bush; Boyd Kellner; Jamie Webb; and Dany Wakil. 

The criticism of The Echo for doing so is misinformed: if only ‘your truth’ is worthy while ‘their truth’ is not, you don’t understand free speech. 

Jenny Bush, if anything was too restrained, for example, in describing the behaviour of extremist Jewish settlers in Hebron. They actually throw soiled nappies onto the heads of passing Palestinians and it’s so bad that the council had to erect nets in the alleyways to catch them; they still drip faeces onto passers-by.

Who owns what

But there are even more fundamental issues here than were raised by your correspondents. 

This is essentially a fight over real estate. Two tribes want it, each has rights to it, and extremists in both tribes want all of it, to the exclusion of the other tribe, driven partly by religious fundamentalism and partly by opportunism. 

As the late and great Christopher Hitchens said: ‘…those who think they have divine permission are truly capable of any atrocity.’ That applied to Hamas on 7 October; it equally applies to the Jewish ultra-orthodox nationalist/religious settler movement in the West Bank. They think they have a divinely ordained right to all of ‘eretz Israel’.

Time to share?

Finding a lasting solution to this piece of real estate has defied clever minds and people of goodwill for over 75 years. Any solution requires that the two tribes share the land. As is often said, ‘You can have peace or you can have all the land; you cannot have both ‘.

Getting there will require reasonable people in both tribes to confront their own extremists. 

For the Palestinians, this obviously means stomping on Hamas, Islamic Jihad and all the other Islamist fanatics. No one says it is easy, and one reason is that Islam as a religion has never had its own Enlightenment as did Christianity in the 16th and 17th centuries (after 200 years of Christians slaughtering other Christians). 

So for Muslims the Koran is still the literal word of God as distinct from the Bible which for all but fundamentalist Christians is today considered inspirational but only metaphorically ‘true’. So ISIS and Hamas can readily find Koranic authority for their slaughter of Jews (and Christians and Hazidis, and even of Shia fellow Muslims), and because all Muslims worldwide are supposed to support fellow members of the umma (the faithful), condemnation of Hamas from other Muslims is often absent or mealy-mouthed.

For Israelis (and for the Jewish diaspora), the challenge is, if anything, even more difficult. 

Why? Because of a contradiction that lies at the foundation of the State of Israel since its founding in 1948: the central, preferred place for the ultra-orthodox in Jewish life. They comprise most of the settler movement and today they hold the balance of power in Bibi Netanyahu’s government. Bibi will cling to power in order to stay out of jail on bribery charges, and does not care if he ruins civil society or Israel (just as Trump is doing everything he can do to delay his own trials in the hope that he can pardon himself if re-elected). 

So Bibi allowed Hamas to do its thing in Gaza, with the tragic results we have all seen, and he continues to allow the settlers to murder Palestinians in the West Bank (over 350 so far, just since 7 October). When I point out to my many Jewish friends that the settlers and the ultra-orthodox are a fanatical obstacle to peace, they change the subject. It’s all too hard. And that’s why this can has been kicked down the road for 75 years, and why Jews don’t want to talk about it. 

Prising the settlers out of the West Bank (and frustrating their current plans to ‘ethnically cleanse’ the two million Palestinians so they can retake Gaza) will be resisted, probably violently.

The great Israeli Foreign Minister Abba Eban once said, ‘Palestinians never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity’. Tragically, at no time was that more true than in 2001 when Yassar Arafat turned down Bill Clinton and Ehud Barak’s offer in the Taba Accords, ostensibly because they did not offer the ‘right of return’ to all Palestinians but really because Arafat was afraid he would be overthrown or even killed by his more radical Fatah members ( Egyptian President Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin both were murdered by their own side for daring to try to make peace). 

It is almost too sad to think that if he’d taken the offer, an independent State of Palestine today would be 23 years old, and probably thriving in a peaceful Middle East.

Having courage

So, what to do? Moderate, reasonable Israelis and Palestinians (and they are many, even most of each tribe), supported by friends and well-wishers outside Palestine, will have to find the courage to say, ‘This is what we want. If you stand in the way, we will sideline you. If you try to sabotage it, we will suppress you. If you resort to violence, we will stomp on you.’ 

Difficult? Of course! But out of the current tragic mess, perhaps Israelis and Palestinians will find the courage to sideline the extremists and bring forward the leaders to grab this opportunity. 

Israel could start by releasing Marwan Barghouti from prison, where he has been held for over 15 years on spurious murder charges, just as Nelson Mandela was in South Africa. Barghouti could be Palestine’s ‘Mandela’.

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  1. Well written but misses the point that this is about a genocide that is happening in Gaza and that we are in Australia, a signatory to the Genocide Convention Act 1949 which gives us a clear charter in Article 1 “The Contracting Parties confirm that genocide, whether committed in time of peace or in time of war, is a crime under international law which they undertake to prevent and to punish.”
    PREVENT! Australia needs to demand a ceasefire now and act on the Articles of the Genocide Convention Act.
    “The Contracting Parties, having considered the declaration made by the General Assembly of the United Nations in its resolution 96 (1) dated 11 December 1946 that genocide is a crime under international law, contrary to the spirit and aims of the United Nations and condemned by the civilized world; RECOGNIZING that at all periods of history genocide has inflicted great losses on humanity; and
    BEING CONVINCED that, in order to liberate mankind from such an odious scourge, international co‑operation is required;
    Call out the Genocide now! Ceasefire now. “International co-operation is required”

    • Who says there is a genocide being committed? The ICJ stopped at saying genocidal acts may be plausible. I assume that they are equally implausible.

      • Well said James, spoken like a true genocide apologist, or whatever you want to call the massacres in Gaza, which you obviously support.


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