Once to every man and nation comes the moment to decide,
In the strife of Truth with Falsehood, for the good or evil side.
James Russell Lowe, nineteenth century abolitionist
As quoted by Martin Luther King Jr concluding the Riverside speech of 4 April 1967 when King first linked the struggle for civil rights to the Vietnam War.
Human rights and peace are about as necessary and compelling a combination as any in nature. One without the other is an orphan that never was. A water molecule without oxygen. Only a violent revolutionary or an academic could disagree.
Or perhaps Bob Carr.
It’s time to talk Turkey about the Israel issue.
Not just Turkey.
It’s time to talk Egypt, Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Iraq, Libya, Islamic State, Russia, Syria again , Obama, Europe, very especially Iran and very much in particular “Palestine” and all those across the seas who are driven into the Israel issue by duty or conviction whether for good or evil. All of them; woman, man and nation. It is time to talk Left. Especially the now openly antisemitic academic Left.
Some will take the use of “scare quotes” for “Palestine” as a calculated offence to the actuality of “Palestinian” human rights and nationhood; however “nationhood” is defined. Not so. It is respectful of the rights of these people to not label them and therefore to define them by a banner they never did choose for themselves. It was chosen for them, then used by the regimes that have since ruled over them that they also did not chose. The PLO, PA, Hamas, Fatah, Islamic Jihad and the rest. They war among themselves most of all but they do have one overriding thing in common. Never an election in sight. Ever. There was an “election” in “Palestine” about a decade ago. It was the first. It led to a sharp and bloody “civil war” as brutal as any and all civil wars. But a war within a “state” that does not exist and never has? What eventually emerged to grab power promised and delivered more killing and war and not just in Gaza.
Everyone agrees another “election” is not a good idea right now, especially Hamas and Fatah. One “election” was enough. Another brewing “civil war” has higher priority. Of all the “polities” in the world only “Palestine” needs this many “scare quotes”.
There is much at stake here. This is a struggle for the language as much as for civil rights and peace. It is a struggle for language. Those who are arrayed against Israel and accuse her people of genocide, imperialism, fascism, aggression, illegality, war mongering, apartheid and racism are first of all mortal enemies of language as are all ideologues of totalitarianism and their fellow travellers. Also drained of any worthwhile meaning are terrorism, defense, law, ethnic cleansing, soldier, two state solution, occupation, independence, liberation, freedom and self determination.
Kill the language of politics, and civil rights and peace are at your mercy, as George Orwell so brilliantly made manifest for the ages. The Left are particularly adept at this. The past belongs to you no matter what abomination you have in mind. Genocides, wars, nakbas, nations and peoples either happened or did not depending only on the narrative of your ideology and nothing else. That can be changed at will.
As human conflicts go, this one has been loaded with enough baggage to weigh down the Sixth Fleet.
At stake is the idea of the rule of law and especially the concept of international law.
What could be called in Australia, the Bob Carr slur against the law, is so ubiquitous that many take it as a given. That the 1949 armistice lines are now borders and therefore the Jews living beyond the borders and their communities are illegal even if they are on land where Jews have lived continuously for centuries. Even in Jerusalem. The Israeli government is acting illegally by permitting Jews to live in certain Jewish neighbourhoods in Jerusalem, or indeed by not removing them, by force if necessary, to make way for Hamas and the PLO. Only Jews are illegal. Arabs can and do live where they like, even if they are Israelis, including in what was once the Jewish Quarter of the Old City. There is no suggestion of illegality from anyone and certainly not from Bob Carr. The Bob Carr concept of jurisprudence has very closely defined boundaries indeed. Whether people are living in an illegal community depends entirely on whether the people are Jews. Jews living in a part of the city where they are forbidden are breaking the law.
The 1949 armistice lines are exactly that. The lines were declared in a flash by soldiers on a battle field strewn with vehicles, guns, interlocked troop units and the tangled debris of war. They were not and were imagined to be borders. It was an interim boundary pending negotiations and treaty between the parties that did not even include “Palestinians”, let alone “Palestine”. They did not exist as an identifiable people or nation. All that was in the future. The negotiations never happened and so the state of war never ended. Instead there were three more wars. Every peace initiative since has been grounded in the principle of land for peace. A negotiated border in exchange for peace and recognition. The “Palestinians” have been retrospectively catapulted into history as a principal party, as sometimes happens, even if no one is able to define who they are or accept where they came from. (Here’s a hint. Jews are from Judea. Arabs are from Arabia.) That the “Palestinians” are there now no one can deny but here is the rub. Land for peace was accepted by Israel and Egypt and so there was a peace treaty. A permanent peace with Israel has never been accepted by “Palestine”. That would require recognition of the sovereignty of the Jewish state, including sovereignty over her borders and population, and that is abhorrent to the ideology of Palestinianism and those who push this ideology from Tehran to the campus of Sydney University. As Yasser Arafat observed to Bill Clinton after the collapse of the Camp David talks, any “Palestinian” leader who attempted such a treaty would be signing his own death warrant.
None of this is to suggest that a negotiated two state solution is not fair, legal and equitable. Just not at all possible right now, is all. So what the Israeli PM says in an election campaign is irrelevant to all of this. Of course there can be no unilateral withdrawal to an old armistice line puffed up as a border in a war that has never been declared over. That is not a bid for peace and if it is required by law, then this is a law that requires that Jews who can not be killed or subjugated must commit suicide. Good luck with that. This is something beyond the gift or power of Netanyahu or anybody else. Even Obama, Jimmy Carter or Carr could not deliver on that. If you want Jews dead then it will have to be murder. The haters of Israel should at least have the honesty to say so.
Exactly a year to the day after the Riverside speech, Martin Luther King had his throat torn out by a single bullet from a high powered rifle while leaning over the rail of the balcony of an Afro American segregated motel in Memphis, while talking to a colleague of Jesse Jackson below, silencing him forever. Twelve years earlier and he had begun his campaign with the Montgomery Bus Boycott.
Many then thought his campaign was a pipe dream. King was a trouble maker. He was up against an ingrained racism in people who themselves were often thought of in racist terms. White trash. The Alabama cops just across the state border in Driving Miss Daisy. The mob who Gregory Peck had to guard his client from in To Kill A Mocking Bird thereby inspiring a generation of lawyers who might have otherwise done something more useful with their lives. Incorrigible and beneath reform. Fifty years later and there are hundreds of high schools, streets and public buildings named after Martin Luther King, most of them in the south. People can change. In the time of Martin Luther King most Australians would likely have identified more with segregationists with the bull horns and the guns than with the non-violent civil rights movement. We had our own segregation and King and his movement would have been seen as evidence in support of the White Australia Policy. Keep foreign racial troubles out. Political cultures are never stagnant. It is bigotry to suggest they are never ending for some.
The notion of Jews being confined to their own section of town is hardly new but to declare it as modern law is bizarre, offensive and dangerous. If there is any hope of an agreed land for peace deal then it must be negotiated between parties that are not impugned as illegitimate. If one party is to be excoriated as “illegal” then the negotiations have failed even before any one has come to the table. That way lies war. This is why Carr and people like him, including of course the whole BDS movement, are a threat to world peace.
The terrifying thing is that Carr may well be right and that if the matter was to now come before an international tribunal,such as the ICJ, a majority of the judges, coming as they do from countries where judges are under the thumb of the ruling ideology and even some who are not, may decide that Jews living free are illegal in “Palestine” as they are throughout the Muslim world. Or would be illegal had they not been expelled decades ago. They offend not just sharia. At that point international law will have caught up with sharia. It is exactly at that point that international law as a concept worth preserving will have died. What stumbling brain dead hulk that remains would be best put down before it did any more harm. A victory for Bob Carr.
So it is time to stop calling this issue the Israel/Palestine conflict. It has nothing to do with “Palestine” or Israel, or at least nothing they can do much about. It is a multi layered abuse of the language to call it this. Israel and “Palestine” are paper boats in a bath buffeted by much wilder ocean winds. Neither is really in control of its destiny. “Palestine” in particular has no free agency at all.
Call it the Israel issue if you like because it is least of all about Israel and is about the rest of us. Take a look at “Palestine” and the rest of the Muslim world, especially Iran that now the worst and most dangerous US president in history, even worse than Carter, has fallen on both knees to appease like a supplicant who beholds a vengeful prophet. This could be exactly the problem. Take a look and you are staring into the mouth of an active volcano. If you think that tossing Israel into the boiling lava will calm the angry fires, a sort of human virgin sacrifice to the gods, then you are indeed in the mental atmosphere of the seventh century.
As if you could. Some sacrifice. Some virgin. But you could end up destroying the world.