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"...public opinion deserves to be respected as well as despised" G.W.F. Hegel, 'Philosophy of Right'

PM's National Press Club Speech on Iraq « Previous | |Next »
March 14, 2003

My personal reaction to the PM's case for war delivered to the National Press Club now can be found What can you say. My reaction? I was not persuaded by the passionate rhetoric that Australia should go after Saddam Hussein because he might arm the likes of international terrorists, such as al Qaeda, with weapons of mass destruction

But still, full marks for Howard for engaging in debate at the Press Club and on the ABC's 7.30 Report. There was genine engegement this time not the crude attack on the critics that has been the policy in the past. THe PM was given it his best shot. A very good and critical account of this speech is given by Tim Dunlop How the Australian PM made the case against war with Iraq. On Tim's account the PM's argument is that:

"we go after Saddam because terrorism is a threat and Saddam has WMD. The question is really, then, are the two matters linked in any meaningful way that justifies war now with Iraq? My opinion is that he didnít make this case....The argument that there is a link between the two, and that therefore attacking Iraq is attacking al Qaeda simply isn't credible."

I concur. The PM's best shot was not convincing. He did not persuade a sceptical audience that we ought to take invade Iraqi regime rather than than attack al Qaeda, because Saddam Hussein has, or is likely to pass his weapons along to al Qaeda.

I would like to come at this speech from a tangent. What struck me from a public policy viewpoint was the PM's one-sided remarks on the Palestine-Israel conflict. John Howard said:

"Israel is also a special target of terrorism. Israelís legitimacy has been denied for almost fifty years by many of her neighbours. And even the steadfast support of the United States for Israel has not altered that situation. In that setting, many extremist Middle Eastern groups have mounted terrorist attacks on Israeli interests over the decades. And in the 1990s, these murderous methods have spread to other Middle Eastern and Islamic extremist circles. All of this in part emphasises the need for the world to try even harder to achieve a lasting settlement of the ongoing dispute between the Israelis and the Palestinians - a subject to which I may return in a moment."

That, as it stands, tacitly gives support to the Israeli state using military power to crush the Palestinan people and dispossess them of their homeland. (occupied territories) Equally one sided? Maybe. It depends on what John Howard says next.

Before we come to that we should note that John Howard did not address the official acceptance of the ideology of ethnic cleansing by the Jewish state, and its practice under the cover of the US war with Iraq. See this Position Paper Against the Transfer/Ethnic Cleansing of Palestinians (scroll down to 1.31. 03.)

Sharon's new Israeli coalition government includes the racist National Union, which is an alliance of three small parties: Moledet, Tekuma and Yisrael Beitenu. Moledet calls openly for "solving" the Palestinian-Israeli conflict by forcing millions of Palestinians out of their homeland, while the National Union's joint platform states that all three parties espouse "transfer" and "population exchange." This is an open call for the ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians. It received no recognition in the PM's speech, only muted coverage in the Australia media and has passed largely without comment in thsi country. For the US see this report.

If the PM is rightly concerned about the brutality of the Iraqi regime then he should be concerned with the policy of ďsolvingĒ the Palestinian-Israeli conflict by ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians. As he promised, the PM returned to Palestinian-Israeli issue in his speech. He said:

"Israel has no stauncher friend or ally than Australia in her legitimate aspiration to exist behind secure internationally recognised boundaries. We also support the establishment of an independent Palestinian state and it remains one of the great disappointments Iíve witnessed in the time that Iíve been Prime Minister that the courageous attempt of Ehud Barak, offering so much of what had been asked of him by the Palestinians was not successful. But we have to move on and I would again renew my appeal to Ariel Sharon to use the authority of his re-election to take every opportunity that may be there to move towards peace. And I welcome Arafat's appointment of a Prime Minister and I hope he or she has a good negotiating mandate. But could I just say one thing to the Palestinian Council and any who may be responsible or who may exert influence, how can any Prime Minister of Israel take the steps Iím talking about while the murderous pattern of suicide bombing continues to be inflicted on their people."

Note the position. Though Australia is a staunch ally of Israel, it supports the establishment of an independent Palestinian state. Reasonable enough. However, the Howard government sides with the Israeli state against the murderous use of terror by the Palestinians. Note the complete silence about ethnic cleansing. That is what is shocking, given the critical response to the same practices in Europe when practised by the Serbs.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 10:25 AM | | Comments (13)


Correct! Howard is psychologically incapable of an empathetic response to the plight of the Plaestinians. It is a common disability in this neck of the woods. But without this ability to approach the issue with fairness to both sides all is wind and bluster and no solution from this perspective, short of the final cleansing solutions you detail, amount to anything other than a prolongation of the current crises.

The problem for the Palestinians is simply this:

They announced their grievances to the world with hijackings and a terror campaign back in the seventies. Now while this can have great shock value and initially gain attention , its continuance will inexorably harden world opinion against it. Sooner or later you have to win your argument with the facts and negotiate compromise win/win solutions with your opponents. I think the world was beginning to listen seriously to their grievances when they renounced terror and were subsequently enjoying a degree of self autonomy, moving towards self-rule.I certainly was.I hardened my views again when they reverted to terror.

What you have to understand is that I, like most Australians wouldn't know an Israeli from a Palestinian if we fell over one in the street. Many of them look very similar on TV to me, except when they wear their respective funny clothes. What Arafat and his crowd have to understand, is that I and my kind, switch off completely to a race of people who appear to idolise their tiny tots in suicide bomber outfits. Also we are beginning to see this increasingly ugly pattern emerging among other Arab Muslims.

Well Gary et al. I am personally not afraid of these bastards. Concerned and alert yes, but I refuse to crawl into bed and pull the covers over my head, hoping the terror wont strike me. Not while this Anglo-Saxon has breath in his body and taxes in his pocket.

You lie in bed with your new Arab friends if you like. Me, I'll invite the Israelis round to dinner and listen to what they've got to say, because they appear to be more like me in their habits.

it has nothing to do with sleeping with Arabs as opposed to inviting Israeli's around to dinner.
The two posts (PM's Press Club Speech & Background to Iraqi war need to be read together.

I argued for the possibility of Israel to become a multi-national liberal state and for citizenhip to be based on national and not ethnic criteria.

I suggested this as one possible pathway out of the present catastrophe.

Ciitzenship based on national criteria (belonging to the nation) is what we have in Australia. So why is it good for Australia and not for Israel?

Why do you support ethnic nationalism in one country(Israel) but not in another (Australia)?

We do not have a multinational state in Australia. Canada is close to be one with Quebec and the indigenous people--two peoples one nation. Why is that pathway dismissed out of hand in favour of a tacit acceptance of transferring a people out of Israel.

Why this suggestion on my part? Because the US and Australia are talking about bringing liberal democracy to the Middle East. I took the suggestion seriously, and explored how that might work with the big festering problem in the Middle East:--the Israeli-Palestenian conflict.

Interesting how the suggestion for democracy is rejected out of hand. It implies that the recent moral talk about bringing freedom and democracy to the Middle East by the 'war now' party is little more than a figleaf. A figleaf for the unrestrained use of US power in the Middle East; and using that power to further its own (and Israels)strategic interests.

'You lie in bed with your new Arab friends if you like. Me, I'll invite the Israelis round to dinner and listen to what they've got to say, because they appear to be more like me in their habits. '

You're a cheerfully nonchalant racist aren't you? What a casual admission of a xenophobic mindset. Makes life easy I suppose to divide everyone up into 'like me' and 'not like me'.

'Sooner or later you have to win your argument with the facts'

The facts are that the Palestinian territories have been illegally occupied for nearly 40 years. I assume you'd fight an occupation by say Indonesia, wouldn't you? You'd put the cue away after a few years, eh? You'd 'negotiate compromise win/win solutions with your opponents', I suppose. Even though they enjoy such an overwhelming dominance (thanks to their Uncle Sam) that they feel no need even to listen to you, let alone make agreements with you. They are in fact preparing the ground for a radical proposal - that your whole people should be ethnically cleansed from their territory and pushed into Jordan, to 'prevent terrorism'. You'd keep 'negotiating', I take it.

'What you have to understand is that I, like most Australians wouldn't know an Israeli from a Palestinian if we fell over one in the street.'

They are among the most closely related peoples in the world - almost indistinguishable genetically. Both descend from ancient Bedouin stock and share many elements of language and custom. The Bedouins are just about the most fractious people on Earth, famous for family vendettas and sibling murders, and this appears to have been passed to their descendants. There is the sense that the rest of us are being dragged in as proxies to a an ancient festering family feud.

You've fallen into the us v them mentality. It may be that I too would share superficial lifestyle elements with Israelis over Palestinians, but I feel more solidarity with a powerless, oppressed people than I can with their brutal oppressors, backed as they are in their 'brave' intransigence by the most powerful ally any nation ever had.

The underlying attitude of people like you appears to be 'how dare they get upset that Israel has stolen their land'. And 'if they just stopped bombing buses and cafes, Israel would graciously come to the table to talk.' If you publicly espouse that sort of rot, you're either a cynic or a dill. Why not try it the other way round - say to Israel 'if you get off their land, they might stop bombing you. And if they don't stop then, you can do what you like with them, with our support.'

Too easy, no?

Gentlemen, I am not particularly interested in moving on Palestinians or Israelis, nor getting overly involved in their respective land title claims. In fact I wish them all peace, prosperity and a long life.I simply have a layman's view of their problem.

They both live on the same hunk of terra firma and their ancestors would appear to have more historical claims to the land than my Anglo-Saxon ancestry would entitle me to in my own country.(Likewise my other immigrant European friends and colleagues).

I also think it's a bit rich to blame the current status quo on the Yanks. Perhaps we should sheet the blame home on the Germans, who were responsible for the Jews pilgrimage to the promised land with their final solution. (Maybe they should be responsible for sorting out the mess). The Brits tried to hold the fort on behalf of the Palestinians, immediately post-war but couldn't stem the flow. Short of bombing refugee ships what could they do? After trying to keep the peace between the two parties and the obvious, ensuing conflict over land, they packed up and left it to the claimants to sort out.

Now everyone expected the Palestinians and their Arab mates to continue on where Hitler (and Stalin) left off. The fly in the ointment was, the Jews of course had learned a valuable lesson, and wanting no part in this, kicked arse and set up the current state of Israel. Having seen some inherent problems in the political systems of the states they had left behind, they wisely chose democracy for their fledgling state. As well they had to kick arse a few more times, to ensure they weren't marching off to the gas ovens again.

So! Where does this get us? Problem, we have too little land and too many claimants. Now I, like my fellow Anglophiles are willing to listen to any good argument by the claimants, just as we listened to men like Ghandi, Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela.(we might have been a bit slow on the uptake, but we saw their point in the end)

I can listen to the Israelis because they are democrats like me and don't want to blow up my son when he's enjoying his footy post-season trip to Bali, to get their point across. On the other hand the Arabs do. Is it any wonder I and my kind lean toward the Israeli point of view.

What the hell has Arafat achieved in 30 odd years with his tactics. You go and suck up to him and his kind, because of your blind idealogical hatred of the US if you like. You seem like soul-mates to me.

Me, I'll listen to any Ghandi,Luther King or Mandela who comes along to present a good argument on the subject.

I cannot see how arguing for a liberal, bi-national democratic state based on national citizenship is sucking up to Arafat and his kind, or expressing a blind ideological hatred of the US.

Nor do I see how arguing for that liberal state in Israel supports blowing up your son on his way to footy.

I'm comfortable with my comments to date which I'll let stand with the hard core left and their fondness with anyone, (however obnoxious their habits), who stands with them against the Great Satan US.

Gary, your stance is a more subtle one, humanist, but nevertheless somewhat naive in my opinion. How so? Well you and I and John Howard may well agree that it would be nice if Jews and Arabs could all get along in a nice democratic multicultural way like Australians mostly do.

Q. Is is there a reasonable likelihood of this, given the history of Palestine? The Israelis would no doubt answer no, since they could point to the fact that when they acceded a large degree of self autonomy to the Arabs, the latter showed no faith in this process by a continuos reign of terror,refusal to recognise the State of Israel,etc. Also would Jews be prepared to submit to Sharia law in this new state, if Palestinians as a majority voted for it? Never.

Are you seriously suggesting they should? Perhaps your warm fuzzy stance on a new multi-ethnic state, is simply an exercise in sophistry when you know, deep down, no self respecting, Australian would ever wear the yoke of what you propose, let alone any deeply suspicious, freedom loving Jew.

This view of the world, would have Jews applauding the laudable ideal of democracy, as Adolf was elected triumphantly to the Reichstag. (Now we all know what happened next Gary).

Where does that leave you? With the alternative of separate Palestinian and Israeli States. That's the problem when you look at a map like a patchwork quilt, of current concentrations of Jewish and Arab settlements. You will need the wisdom of your Almighty to sort out mutually acceptable boundaries, as everyone knows. It's a political minefield and no-one wants to be between the parties when it happens.

I'll labour the point here Gary. You and I live in Adelaide and when our Govt. needs more land for a new highway,etc, it simply compulsorily acquires the land it needs, paying the owners appropriate compensation. All very legal and above board.(except for the odd prickly greenie or farmer perhaps) Try this in Palestine and WW3 breaks out.

Where are we all now? Back to too little land and too many claimants. Who should we listen to? This is where you and I part company Gary. I'll go with the less than ideal status quo, because your solution will probably be a final one for the Jews.

Why am I, John Howard and most Australians clear on this(and this is the point you dont get Gary) BECAUSE week by week, one part of your multi-ethnic Utopia is showing the world what the Israelis have been trying to tell it for years.

I'll spell it out for you Gary. In America when some crackpot mind controller plays games with a teenager, they lock him up for kidnapping. In other parts of the world he is a highly respected member of the clergy.

Yes Gary, democracies can also trawl their societies for the mentally sick and dysfunctional, and inculcate them to do their dirty work for them, but we dont, because it dont feel right. It didn't feel right when Hitler did it, Stalin,Hirohito,Pol Pot,Milosevic, and now the mad mullahs with their brain washing and their interpretation of the Koran.

Do you get it now Gary? We dont like mind gamers, they dont feel right.

Since Australians do not have the problem of their territory being deeply divided between different peoples so the bi-national solution is not relevant to them. I never suggested that Australia and Israel were similar in this respect.

What we do have is a federalism premised on different regions with different values and customs etc. Federalism is relevent here because it shifts power away from the centralized to unitary state and decentralizes by giving the regions greater autonomy and individuality.

That is why I mentioned Canada in relation to a bi-national LIBERAL STATE. That is not but the warm and fuzzy multiculturalism in Australia--its a restructuring of federalism and power sharing.

And there are Palestinians who are currently Israeli citizens-hence we have national citizenship not ethnic citizenship within Israel. Differnt peoples but citizens of the one state. That has not meant the end of Israel.-- Hitler, the final solution etc etc.

So I do not see that the only option is seperate Palestinian and Israeli states.

You claim that a democratic, liberal state is utopian fantasy for Israel. Well it seems that a lot of Israeli citizens do want Israel to be a democratic liberal society.

What I interpret your argument to be is a rejection of Israel as a liberal state.

First let me say that I was employing some irony (without brackets)when I said I couldn't tell a Jew from a Palestinian Arab. I'm aware of their common ancestry, if somewhat ignorant of the various religious/historical texts on the matter.

I personally dont give a fig about ethnicity, except inasmuch as it may bring some undesirable values attached to it. In this I am sure, the Jews and Arabs we speak about, may share the same concerns. They may each wish to congregate (ie share nation-hood) with similar cultural and political values, rather than along any strict ethnic lines,as you rightly point out. While a large majority of each culture may share a revulsion of their own and their opposite culture's worst religious fundamentalism, they may prefer to live in their own quiet way, with their own different value set.

To me, the values of the respective protagonists are more important than ethnic considerations in any lasting peace plan. If this were not the case, then a 'Federated Republic of Korea' should be able to solve all the problems of the Korean peninsula. I think not.

At this point, I would have to say that your idea of a federal liberal state is a laudable one, but I would suggest in the immediate short term, hopelessly optimistic.There has been too much bad blood and mistrust, for the respective parties to accede to any immediate power sharing with each other. That may change over time with reasonable peaceful coexistence of course and that would be the long term objective of any peace plan.

I also share your concern that given the hopelessness of the current situation, Israelis are ironically, increasingly being attracted to the idea that their problems should be moved on (or walled up). I understand your antipathy to this.

Perhaps a better solution to ethnic cleansing may be the Partitioning of Palestine along value lines rather than the more repugnant ethnic lines, with your Federalism in mind long term Gary. Remember the birth of India and Pakistan Gary, when it became clear that Hinduism couldn't coexist with Islam either?

How could the UN partition Palestine along value lines and leave the problems of India/Pakistan behind? Simply this- give the people involved a democratic choice in the matter.

Let the Israeli State set up a Constitution for its new state and let Arafat and his cohorts set up theirs and open for business, touting for new citizens. Give them about a year to do this and then the UN supervises a vote of all the inhabitants and maps the concentrations of would be citizens. It then has the task of partitioning the new states, bearing in mind these concentrations.

It has the power to compulsorily divide land, on a per capita value basis. It can move people on and pay appropriate compensation to all parties concerned in much the same way as our Govts do. I am sure the developed world would chip in the bucks.Perhaps the other Arab states would like to chip in some land to clinch the deal and solve their Palestinian refugee problems.

The UN would guarantee the security and integrity of the formed states for a pre-determined period, say 10 yrs. Perhaps a trial period of 5 yrs could be given to inhabitants to change states etc, etc. The rules of the game open up endless possibilities for the parties, as well as endless hours for all those lovely UN beauracrats. Roll up folks, every player wins a prize!

Notice also Gary your laudable idea of Federated States can be incorporated in the deal. If both States wish to Federate after say a trial period of 5 yrs and their populations agree, so be it.

I must say I'm just dying to see how the votes and subsequent partitioning allocations pan out. Aren't you? Maybe we could do the same in Korea if it pans out well in the Middle East. Heh! Heh!

Yes folks you heard it here first on the Sauer-Thompson blog site.


I put forward a bi-national federal state with national citizenship because I think that the partition option will not work.

Why not? The Sharon Israeli Government does not want an independent Palestinian state.

From what I can make out the Israeli state is re-occuppying Palestinain territory under the guise of the Iraqi war and in the name of fighting the war against international terrorism.

If it is all is going to be Israeli territory with US support then what do you do with the Palestinian people.Transfer them out? Where to? Iraq?

Hence my bi-national option with citizenship based on national not ethnic criteria.


'just as we listened to men like Ghandi, Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela.(we might have been a bit slow on the uptake, but we saw their point in the end'

Oops. Did you really listen to Ghandi and Mandela? The bit where Gandhi said (in 1946): "In my opinion, they (the Jews) have erred grievously in seeking to impose themselves on Palestine with the aid of America and Britain and now with the aid of naked terrorism... . Why should they resort to terrorism to make good their forcible landing in Palestine?"

Miss that bit? Mandela's position on the issue has been consistent over the years and he's even blunter than Gandhi. Israel after all was the apartheid regime's great pal; arms deals, UN support, you name it.King died before the end of the 67 war, the subsequent occupation, terrorism etc but it is impossible to imagine him supporting the Likud, or even the more centrist Labor position, which is still grossly discriminatory and punitive towards Arabs. We'll give you the benefit of the doubt - you're a bit slow on the uptake.

'I can listen to the Israelis because they are democrats like me'

Listen to this, from Moshe Dayan, a democrat like you, speaking a funeral oration for a settler killed by a Palestinian farmer: 'Let us not today fling accusation at the murderers. What cause have we to complain about their fierce hatred to us? For eight years now, they sit in their refugee camps in Gaza, and before their eyes we turn into our homestead the land and villages in which they and their forefathers have lived.. . Let us make our reckoning today. We are a generation of settlers, and without the steel helmet and gun barrel, we shall not be able to plant a tree or build a house. . . . Let us not be afraid to see the hatred the accompanies and consumes the lives of hundreds of thousands of [Palestinian] Arabs..'

Or from 1969:"Jewish villages were built in the place of Arab villages. You do not even know the names of these Arab villages, and I do not blame you because geography books no longer exist, not only do the books not exist, the Arab villages are not there either. Nahlal arose in the place of Mahlul; Kibbutz Gvat in the place of Jibta; Kibbutz Sarid in the place of Huneifis; and Kefar Yehushu'a in the place of Tal al-Shuman. There is not one single place built in this country that did not have a former Arab population."

Or Arthur Ruppin in 1930: '"[Palestinian dispossession is inevitable because] land is the vital condition for our settlement in Palestine'

Or Israel Zangwill in 1920: 'To fold their tents and silently steal away' is their proverbial habit: let them exemplify it now." ..'"many are semi-nomad, they have given nothing to Palestine and are not entitled to the rules of democracy."

Or Menachem Begin, in a speech to the Knesset, quoted in Amnon Kapeliouk, "Begin and the 'Beasts,"' New Statesman, June 25,1982: '[The Palestinians] are beasts walking on two legs.'

Or David Ben-Gurion, May 1948,
From Ben-Gurion, A Biography, by Michael Ben-Zohar, Delacorte, New York 1978: "We must use terror, assassination, intimidation, land confiscation, and the cutting of all social services to rid the Galilee of its Arab population."

Or Theodore Herzl, founder of the World Zionist Organization, in 1895: "Spirit the penniless population across the frontier by denying it employment... Both the process of expropriation and the removal of the poor must be carried out discreetly and circumspectly."

Or Rabbi Yitzhak Ginsburg, head of the Kever Yossev Yeshiva (school of Talmud) in Nablus:
"The blood of the Jewish people is loved by the Lord; it is therefore redder and their life is preferable.. the killing by a Jew of a non-Jew, i.e. a Palestinian, is considered essentially a good deed, and Jews should therefore have no compunction about it."

Even dear old Yitzhak Rabin, in the leaked censored version of his memoirs, published in the New York Times, 23 October 1979: "We shall reduce the Arab population to a community of woodcutters and waiters."

Here's Israel Koenig, being honest: '"If I was an Arab leader I would never make [peace] with Israel. That is natural: we have taken their country."

Another honest fellow, Elyakim Haetzni, a settlement leader at Kiryat Arba: "We don't agree with the concept of limiting ourselves to natural growth.
Settlements are a grass-roots phenomenon. No government can withstand the pressure, because inside each Jew, there is a small settlement movement.
It's the essence of Zionism."

Some recent captures from a few of your fellow democrats in Israel; from usenet forums:

' The Arabs belong in tents in the desert, which is where they came from, and will go back to if they keep fucking with

Let's not forget Haim Miller, deputy mayor of Jerusalem quoted in Yediot Aharonot, Feb. 7, 1998: "I don't sign orders to destroy the houses of Jews, only of Arabs"

He was only playing, compared to Israeli Chief of Staff Rafael Eitan (Gad Becker, NYTimes 4/14/83): 'We shall use the ultimate force until the Palestinians come crawling to us on all fours ... When we have settled the land, all the Arabs will be able to do will be to scurry around like drugged roaches in a bottle."

Remember that mad settler Goldstein who blew up 25 or 30 Arabs at prayer in a mosque? This is the epitaph at his grave, which has been turned into a shrine: '"Here lies the saint, Doctor Baruch Kapal
Goldstein, blessed be the memory of the righteous and holy
man, may the Lord revenge his blood, who devoted his soul
for the Jews, Jewish religion and Jewish land. His hands are
clean and his heart is clear. He was killed as a martyr of
God on the 14th of Adar, Purim, in the year 5754."

But the last word goes to the admirably concise Rabbi Ya'acov Perin in his eulogy at Goldstein's funeral (cited in the New York Times, 02/28/1994):
"One million Arabs are not worth a Jewish fingernail."

Some democrat.

There is no doubt plenty of similar stuff emanating from the other side, but the point I'm making is that you're visceral identification with Israelis because of their democratic fellowship perhaps says more about the prejudices you bring to the issue than teh issue itself.

Point taken. I was laying it on a bit thick and labouring a point. I concede that there may be too many Israeli troglodytes for my comfort now- see also my comments in Gary's "Whither Israel" above.

That still leaves you with suggesting a workable solution for the protagonists. I haven't got anything better than my democratic Partition plan along 'value' lines. In Bush, Blair and Howard I'm becoming convinced I'm going to get the opportunity to see some sort of Partitioning soon.

Fair enough Observa.

Partition is the only workable solution, with a fully functional and sovereign Palestinian state. The fly in the ointment with that so far isn't Palestine, or even the US. No prizes for guessing.

There's only one nation able to discipline a wayward Israel. Again, no prizes...