Proud to stand with Palestine — a response to The Australian

Saturday, July 4, 2009 - 10:00

The July 1 Australian carried an extraordinary attack by Ilan Grapel on Green Left Weekly and its monthly Arabic insert the Flame titled "A willing ally to Hamas's hatred". Both publications are guilty of a "radical anti-Israel stance", Grapel said.

But the Flame, "unbeknown to its English readers", also allegedly "supports terrorist groups and promotes violence".

Grapel claims that, through the Flame, GLW is "openly promoting extremism".

Grapel relies on a few selected quotes that defend the right of Palestinians to resist Israel's illegal occupation — a right recognised by international law — to argue the Flame promotes "terrorism".

The issue of the Flame he takes these quotes from was produced in January, as Israel's bombs, including banned chemical weapons, rained down on Gazan civilians.

Apparently, this is not "terrorism" to Grapel. The Flame and GLW both disagree.

Grapel relies on selected quotes, minus their context, in a language most readers of the Australian don't speak to suggest something sinister. He is playing on anti-Arab sentiment that exists in some quarters to feed suspicions that anything in Arabic is likely to promote fundamentalist extremism.

In fact, the team of Sudanese refugees who produce the Flame themselves fled from persecution at the hands of the repressive Islamic regime in Sudan. They are victims of the sort of Islamic fundamentalism Grapel disingenuously accuses them of supporting in Palestine.

The Flame's only crime is to support the Palestinian people against oppression and occupation. This is the same position that GLW holds.

This is not "extremism". Israel's illegal occupation is in violation of international law and hundreds of United Nations resolutions.

Supporters of Israel regularly seek to deflect legitimate criticism of Israel's appalling human rights record by labelling detractors as supporters of terrorism and Islamic fundamentalism.

Such tactics are designed to intimidate and stifle dissent. But the big problem is that these tactics are not working.

Israel is more isolated than ever. A worldwide boycott, sanctions and divestment campaign against Israel — inspired by similar tactics employed against the South African apartheid regime — is beginning to hurt the Israeli economy.

Sympathy with the Palestinian cause is growing in Australia. A June Roy Morgan poll commissioned by the Sydney-based Coalition for Justice and Peace in Palestine and the Adelaide-based Australian Friends of Palestine found many more Australians found the Israeli military action in Gaza in January unjustified (42%) than justified (29%).

More respondents sympathised with Palestine (28%) than Israel (24.5%).

The barefaced brutality of Israel's December-January war on Gaza, in which more than 1300 civilians were killed, shifted world opinion further away from Israel. Record numbers, in the millions, protested Israel's war in cities around the world.

Contrary to the claims of its defenders, Israel is no more a democracy than apartheid South Africa was. It was founded on the ethnic cleansing of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians. Those Palestinians who remain in Israel are second-class citizens, while those driven out are denied the right to return.

Israel's deputy prime minister Avigdor Lieberman said in an October 2006 interview that, "when there is a contradiction between democratic and Jewish values, the Jewish and Zionist values are more important".

Lieberman spoke aloud what has been the unspoken policy of successive Israeli governments.

In January, Israeli academic Ilan Pappe wrote: "It seems that even the most horrendous crimes, such as the genocide in Gaza, are treated as desperate events, unconnected to anything that happened in the past and not associated with any ideology or system … Very much as the apartheid ideology explained the oppressive policies of the South African government, this ideology — in its most consensual and simplistic variety — has allowed all the Israeli governments in the past and the present to dehumanise the Palestinians wherever they are and strive to destroy them."

Finding it hard to defend such actions, Israel's supporters, like Grapel, resort to attempts to demonise opponents of Israel's crimes.

However, Grapel clearly had difficulty in finding evidence in GLW or the Flame to back up his allegations. He failed to quote a single sentence from the Flame advocating terrorism. Rather, he offered his own interpretations of a few selected words and phrases.

A reference in support of the Palestinian resistance to what Amnesty International called a "wanton and deliberate" assault on Gaza is really a "euphemism for terrorist violence", Grapel decided.

Criticism of the region's US-allied Arab dictatorships for collaborating with Israel in its siege and war on Gaza somehow becomes "implicit calls for other Arab states to expand the Gaza war".

GLW and the Flame stand for peace in Palestine. It is Israel that prevents peace by denying freedom and justice for the long-suffering Palestinian people.

[Soubhi Iskander is the editor of the Flame. Stuart Munckton and Emma Murphy are editors of Green Left Weekly].

From GLW issue 801

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