Sophisticated or unsophisticated, defenders of Israeli atrocities and crimes use simple or fancy language to say outrageous things. Gaita’s speech on Gaza is up on the Monthly website. Among his contributions is the view that we shouldn’t call the Palestinians the “indigenous inhabitants of the land”. This is because it’s not in the interests of Israel. Gaita also makes the remarkable claim that no Palestinian could call Jewish immigrants “foreign settlers”. Yes, the Jews who came from pogromist Eastern Europe and so on were really indigenous. The rest of his speech is somewhat uninformed, and on contentious issues he simply makes assertions of what he claims is the case (largely based on the claims of the Israeli government). He claims the New Historians are called revisionist historians, when they are not called revisionist historians. And he shows next to know acquaintance with any of their actual work, though to be fair, he is familiar with the title of an Ilan Pappe book, and has probably read Benny Morris’s interview with Haaretz lamenting Ben-Gurion’s failure to kick out all the Arabs. Gaita claims that talk about an indigenous population in Palestine “hinders” “clear thinking” about the issues. This is because he’s not willing to outright assert that the Jews are the real indigenous population, though he doesn’t dismiss this claim entirely (it, or aspects of it, are merely “misleading”). The problem is it’s unhelpful to Zionism to acknkowlegde that Palestine has an indigenous population. So we should just avoid talking about it. I mean, this is outrageous. Even Andrew Bolt wouldn’t say this kind of stuff about the indigenous Australians. But sophisticated progressives don’t seem to apply the same standards to Palestine (and whilst I understand Gaita opposed the war in Iraq, I’m curious if he has the same colonial disdain for Iraqis too) as they would to our indigenous population.
His counterpart, who is less sophisticated, is Alan Howe. He writes of “the festering malevolence that is Gaza.” His opening line is that
“THE people of Gaza are set to be the first to bomb themselves back to the Stone Age. Serves them right.”
He writes that “many Gazans prayed” for the Israeli attack. Indeed, Gaita has a more thoughtful air, and uses bigger words, but he didn’t think this was improbable either.
It concludes that “Alan Howe visited Israel as a member of the Australia Israel Leadership Forum.”
Yep, that’s who goes on these tours. Howe writes that the Palestinian leadership celebrates “Dead schoolkids” (“Great!”), but we should not conclude that Howe is callous. He writes of the “resilient people who choose to live in the world’s most bombed city.” Yes, the Jews in Sderot. He has great sympathy for their suffering.
I wrote further commentary, but lost it. So to summarise some points: Gaita regards Richard Falk, UNRWA and Jon Dugard as biased, and unfit to investigate Israel’s crimes against the Palestinians? Why? Basically, because they have criticised Israeli human rights violations in the past. Well, I think Burma or China or Saudi Arabia would love to adopt similar reasoning to prevent investigations of their crimes by Amnesty. He even says groups like this are “anti-Israel” for criticising Israeli crimes, and he insinuated that Dugard is anti-Semitic. Israel’s war crimes (and he has “no doubt” Israel committed some) should not be investigated. Why? Because “60 years after the Holocaust…” Yes, I’m not making that up. He also speaks of the “murderous ferocity” “millions” of Muslims have for Jews. It is nice Gaita is comfortable being an anti-Muslim racist. Note also how he ridicules those who claim genocide in Gaza (and there was no genocide in Gaza in my opinion), and thinks this should be dismissed and so on. However, earlier in his talk, he speaks with sensitivity and respect for Jews who fear Hamas wiping out Israel, as written on every rocket. Gaita grants that Hamas poses no threat to Israel’s existence, but plainly the concerns and fears of Jews and Palestinians should not be treated equally. He also claims the educational institutions of the Palestinians profess vile hatred for Jews. This has long been discredited, by Akiva Eldar, in the Journal for Palestine Studies and so on, but at least we know that Gaita takes seriously the propaganda of an institute founded by a West Bank settler.
As an afterthought, Gaita notes that Israel had an alternative to the invasion, including ending the siege on Gaza, which he calls for. That Israel invaded Gaza with no credible pretext plainly is not a major concern for Gaita.
I think discussions of Israel always end up worrying about whether someone’s antisemitic. I think it’s about time we start focusing debates on Palestine about whether the discussants are anti-Palestinian racists, and whether they are willing to treat both people as equals, deserving the same rights and considerations.