The Air Raid Shelters on the Road to Masada

The road to Masada, my road at any rate, began not in Jerusalem but three weeks earlier in Northcote, that quiet, secure and exquisitely fashionable suburb on the outer edge of inner-city Melbourne, where a dinner invitation saw the table talk soon turn to Israel. The television news that night had led with reports from Gaza—images of rockets heading north interspersed with grim-faced Israelis asserting that enough was enough. “You can’t support Israel, surely not?” marvelled a fellow guest, a chap with some sort of academic sinecure who had begun airing his impeccably righteous views well before the crudités were whisked away.

If you watch ABC television, listen to Radio National or once read Mike Carlton in the Sydney Morning Herald, there will be no need to cite another word or talking point, for it was all there in my fellow guest’s laundry list of the lockstep Left’s latest crusades and grievances. Had it not been for the irregular sprays of spittle that marked his more animated complaints, he might have been a life-size example of those talking dolls with the programmed catchphrases small children expect and enjoy. Just pull the string and out the clichés tumble to their immediate delight.

“Seriously,” he continued, “I’ve got nothing against Jews, except when they act like Nazis.” This observation passed for wit, and the table was ringed with wry smiles at Zionism’s evil being so pithily laid bare. Our hostess was a lovely woman, someone whose passions run hotter for hemlines and health fads, and this being Melbourne, her favourite football team, than international affairs. She had laboured long and hard to prepare the evening’s fare, so rather than ruin her night, to my shame I let the comment pass with nothing more muscular than a meek and muttered, “That’s not really fair.” If there is a book of postmodern etiquette it must surely advise that taking up such a gauntlet is best done over dessert, when harsh words can no longer ruin a fine main course of well-cooked organic beef.

This essay originally appeared in our September 2014 edition.
It is reprised as a reminder that, for Israel and the Jews,
when things change they get even worse

On the way home, modern Melbourne was John Batman’s sleepy village: light traffic, no perils but for unilluminated cyclists and those low-rise roundabouts which town planners have insisted on placing at nearly every intersection. If there was a moment of anxiety it came at the roadblock near the zoo in Royal Park, but it was only a sobriety checkpoint manned by Victoria Police with their blow-in-this demands. It is an ostentatiously safe place, this city on the Yarra, protected from unpleasantness and peril at every round-the-roundabout turn of life’s daily journeys. Safe to live and raise a family, to pursue love if that joy is not already yours. And safe, too, to mount abstraction’s pulpit and sermonise from the great heights of moral clarity, as the blowhard from the ivory tower earlier demonstrated, about the murderous shortcomings of others in a distant and far, far more perilous land.

How very different are the checkpoints on the highway from Jerusalem to Masada. They are overseen not by courteous constables but, for the most part, kids in olive-drab fatigues who wear Galil assault rifles on their shoulders and the expressions of much older, harder-bitten men. Their gaze as they check the passing cars for bombs eliminates all doubt that this is any sort of country for theorists and dinner-party polemics. Off to the distant left on the outward leg of the journey you could see Jericho, where the walls came tumbling down. Now there are fresh walls of one sort or another defining all of Israel’s borders and landscape—long, high walls to keep out the human bombs who, a few years back, were taking such a dreadful toll in pizza shops and coffee bars, on buses and at a teenage girl’s bat mitzvah. No exploding Palestinian has done much damage for quite a while, and the walls—whether of cement or razor wire, arrays of high-tech motion sensors or cordons sanitaires of guns and living flesh—are a big part of the reason. You’re definitely not in Melbourne any more, you are reminded, as the urban oasis of water-blessed Jericho shrinks in the rear window, its receding skyline a bar chart of minarets clumped in spikes and thickets beneath a low pillow of brown air. It is empty desert in every other direction, and you wonder why anyone would fight for it. On rocky, bleached hillsides the few scrawny sprigs that pass for bushes must have perversity encoded in their DNA. You couldn’t run a single sheep on twenty acres of this real estate, yet it is soaked with blood and desire in equal measure.

Down to the Dead Sea and along its eastern shore the road runs, the only signs of human life an odd cluster here or there of Bedouin humpies. A small boy leading a goat on a rope is the only human to put in an appearance since the last checkpoint, way back on Jerusalem’s outskirts. And then, finally, Masada, a rearing butte just down the road from the cave where they found the Dead Sea Scrolls. Delivered to the summit by cable car, you look down on a crazy pavement of wadis, of earth scored and fractured into a thousand fissures by the fierce but irregular downpours that dump their moisture further to the west and long ago washed away the last semblance of fertility.

There are curious rectangles, too, each defined by low walls of piled stones. The guide explains them as vestiges of the Roman camps with which the general Titus ringed the entire massif in a ruthlessly methodical tightening of the noose that doomed the last holdouts of a hopeless revolt against imperial rule. Titus’s ramp to the summit is there as well—most of it, anyway—to boggle the mind that such a massive undertaking could have been built at all, let alone with baskets of dirt and rocks hauled by hand beneath a slave-driver’s whip. It did the trick, this improbable construction, and the wall was breached by siege engines block-and-tackled to the top, where the conquerors found only the bodies of the defenders, all dead by their own hands.

Masada is modern Israel’s mythology and shrine, a place as sacred in imagination as in stone, where Israelis take vows that Jews will never be driven from their homeland. “Masada will not fall again,” they pledge. Down south, the armoured columns were pushing deeper into Gaza. You could hear only the wind and the crows in the ruins of the fortress Herod built and see no further than Jordan’s hills beyond the Dead Sea’s shimmer, but it was the sound and spectre of tanks and gunships down south that clattered in the imagination.

At Masada’s foot there is a resort where you can get a decent meal—no cheese with your meat, though—and take a dip in the Dead Sea, the lowest and by far the saltiest body of water on the planet. The water is hot and thick, verging on the viscous, and the first splash makes you think of what it might be like to dive head-first into a full spittoon, the novelty of floating chest-high above the surface doing little to minimise the unpleasantness of the experience.

More off-putting, however, are the small placards riveted to what seems every second Israeli wall. All display a stick figure bolting towards a flight of downward stairs, and each points to the closest air-raid shelter. Over the past few weeks, as the rockets rose from Gaza, it has been wise to make a mental note of the nearest bolt hole. The warning sirens are unsettling as well, especially for a visitor unaccustomed to the notion of death dropping suddenly from a sky of unrelenting blue, and they erupt whenever Israel’s homegrown Iron Dome defence system detects an incoming threat. In the towns and kibbutzim closest to Gaza, the ones that have copped the recent worst of it, there might be thirty seconds’ warning, on a good day perhaps as much as a minute, in which to fling yourself into a cellar or a hole.

Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and parts northern are luckier, residents getting the luxury of a full ninety seconds to find shelter, which few seem to do. Iron Dome has proved so effective it is very nearly a given that Hamas’s rockets will be destroyed in the air, as some 90 per cent of those identified as threats to life and property have been, so why bother with the scampering?

Israel has been under threat since its creation. Like the zealots atop Masada, the locals fully accept that their homes are ringed by enemies and that, every so often, something will need to be done about it. Hence, the assault on Gaza and, as was inevitable, the chorus of international condemnation that went with it.

“We were overdrawn this time,” noted Michael Oren, Israel’s ambassador to Washington during Obama’s first term, a day or so later in a conference room at the Knesset complex:

Israel always needs credit in the account. We pull out of Sinai, wherever, and that banks the credit we need to defend ourselves somewhere else, another time. We withdrew from the Golan, and that put credit in the account—same thing. Because this is Israel and we are Israelis, that’s the way it works for us.

He was talking about the Gaza campaign as the latest eruption in what has been a long and movable feast of raids, incursions, invasions, assaults and assassinations. Hezbollah to the north in Lebanon, intifadas waxing and waning in the West Bank, and now, day after day, this endless barrage from Gaza. Israeli parents know their kids will someday be in uniform and trained to lock and load, boys and girls alike, all taught to take life if need be. In Northcote they talk airily of “solutions” and the pressing need for “justice”; in Israel, peace is recognised as a transient commodity with a very limited shelf life. The better part of a thousand missiles had been sent on their way by the time the troops went in, and that number grew as the tunnels and subterranean armouries were found, fought over and destroyed.

“Use ’em or lose ’em” seemed to be Hamas’s motto, and fly the missiles did. Three Israeli teenagers had recently been kidnapped, beaten and butchered, but that was on the West Bank, where Israeli vigilantes soon paid back the favour with a victim of their own and a petrol spritz and matches—vengeance of such callous brutality as to make a Belfast hard man blush. The rockets kept coming. There were protests and more rockets. Something had to give, and Gaza under Hamas, for reasons that are sharply defined up close but convenient to overlook from far away, was the eager volunteer.

“We were overdrawn this time, as I said: no credit in the bank of world opinion, but there has been no choice,” Oren continued.  “Being bombed constantly by a neighbour is something no country would tolerate, and never for as long as we have put up with it. Yes, we had no credit, and we knew that we were overdrawn before this operation began. But we had also run out of patience.”

The polls suggest some 80 per cent of Israelis supported the Gaza offensive, and many of those that didn’t were soon to be given a lesson in irony. When some 7000 gathered in Tel Aviv to demand a unilateral end to hostilities, their rally was ruined by incoming missiles. Many Israelis thought that quite funny.

The fusillade of rockets is a curious thing, variously understood, as is so much about Israel, depending on where you happen to be standing. From Northcote, or in the rudderless Washington of its current leader, distance makes for simplicity; indeed, for the simplistic. The international gabble in those last weeks of July 2014 was not of provocation but “proportion”—the word used by US Secretary of State John Kerry when he swept in with the intention of muscling Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government into an alleged peace pact cooked up by Hamas in conjunction with Qatar and Turkey. Proportionality, in fact, was all the rage. Hamas had not managed to kill many Israelis, so where did Israel get off sending in a whole army?

More astute operators than Kerry or Obama would have known such a pact could never be accepted and dispensed with the charade, if only on the strength of its architects’ antipathy to the Jewish State. Turkey, long a friend, has been progressively renouncing Kemal Ataturk’s legacy of secularism, the thermostat that formerly warmed relations with Jerusalem having been given a decidedly chilly twist by Prime Minister Erdogan and his Islamists. Consider also that Qatar is a pocket handkerchief of sand snotted with fundamentalist fervour, the proverbial oil well that issues passports, and that it is also the past and current sanctuary to Hamas political leader Khaled Mashal. No surprise that the proposal was rejected at a sniff.

There was more pointless talk as well of an alternative deal emerging from Cairo, but that was even more improbable. General Sisi’s Egypt has no love for Hamas, blood brothers of the Muslim Brotherhood he ousted and imprisoned and in whose cause Mashal first chanted “Death to Israel”. The tunnels that were the objectives of Israel’s latest incursion begin under Sisi’s territory and he was quick to seal them, so the very idea that Mashal would accept any “peace outline” drafted by the man simultaneously strangling his Gaza supply lines was ludicrous.

Along with sirens and the odd pop-pop-pop in the night, the white noise of diplomatic babble is part of the region’s eternal soundscape. There is another and different strain of diplomacy, though, one that comes veiled but is no less prone to posturing.

On July 22, in a field about a mile from Ben Gurion Airport, a Hamas rocket exploded, to no one’s great surprise. The missile had been tracked from the second it left Gaza, its trajectory plotted and its target area predicted. The human operator supervising the nearest in the network of Iron Dome launchers was advised by his software that it would do no harm. The field was empty, so it was decided in accordance with standing military orders to let it ride a known ballistic arc and blow up unimpeded. Why waste a volley of interceptors on what was a threat only to rocks? In Washington the incident was seen rather differently, the Federal Aviation Administration immediately cancelling all US carriers’ departures to Israel. There was no reason to do anything of the sort, the Israelis protested: We let it go through to the keeper because we don’t like firing missiles near incoming planes, so we were actually being very careful indeed. Unmoved, the USA stuck by the ban until Israel promised to double Iron Dome’s coverage of the airport and environs. It might have been possible to believe Ben Gurion Airport was in serious peril, but you would have had to search far and wide to find anyone prepared to tell you so.

More popular was the explanation that saw the short-lived ban as Obama’s bitchy payback for sending Kerry on his way with no olive branch to wave. Such was the resentment that Haaretz felt obliged to remind its readers, “Obama is Not the Enemy”. The US president was an innocent abroad and a ham-fisted one at that, the editorial conceded, but he remained a friend of the Jews all the same. Even in Israel, where the number of opinions and perspectives in any one room is the square of those present, few read editorials and fewer found this one persuasive. “Obama?” began a jeweller in the Jewish Quarter of the Old City before ending his three-word sentence with the obscenity of a transitive and contemptuous verb.

Then there is the matter of cement, an innocent enough commodity, you might think, but the object of endless wrangling. Its scarcity for building schools and hospitals is always cited as one of the worst examples of the Israeli blockade’s inhumanity. Less mentioned is that Gaza is a sandy plot and relatively easy to mine with tunnels, which Hamas has done to an extraordinary extent. Hamas has installed more than 1600 tunnels, underground arsenals, rocket factories, command posts and barracks for its fighters, some as deep as sixty metres beneath the surface. Gravity would see the Gazan sands refill those spaces in an instant were it not for the vast quantities of cement required to support their ceilings.

According to Israeli officials, a typical tunnel requires some 700 tonnes of cement. Some of the larger underground works are said to be wide enough to accommodate garages of motorcycles which fighters hope to use for raids and kidnappings on Israel’s side of the wire. The pictures released by the IDF of Gaza’s catacombs make you wonder how many hospitals and schools might have been constructed if all that clandestine spadework, not to mention the ingenuity that has produced homemade, pedal-powered gougers, had been put to good use above ground.

Instead the Gazans ended up with rockets, lots of them, which have been sent off to Israel, pointy-end first. As instruments of slaughter they have not been terribly effective, killing few and injuring perhaps a score of others. This was to be expected, given that all lack guidance systems and many, especially those built on-site rather than smuggled in happier days from Egypt, are propelled by volatile compounds mixed and loaded in what amount to ad hoc underground kitchens. But dead Jews are not the only measure of a military campaign’s success; indeed, for all sorts of other reasons, the toll in the lives of nearby kibbutzim and those city dwellers to the north, where the larger rockets are ambitiously aimed, is beside the point, which has been to win space and sympathy in the Arabic media and, further afield, in publications like, well, the Age, Sydney Morning Herald, and the ABC.

Several months ago, before Gaza’s Hamas zealots stepped up their daily blitz, the polls suggested that the rival faction, Fatah, held a commanding lead in public support and would most likely emerge from forthcoming elections as the chosen representative of the Palestinians in both Gaza and the West Bank. The rockets and Israel’s response changed that. While Gazans have not seen those promised schools and hospitals, conflict does have a tendency to solidify support. As of the latest samplings, and to the extent they can be trusted in a time of chaos and war, Hamas is now ahead of Fatah, with which it has fought repeatedly. So much ground has Hamas made up that Fatah began distributing flyers depicting its fighters, in their green headbands, shaking hands with Hamas counterparts, identifiable by the preference for yellow headgear. If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em, as the ancient wisdom says.

None of this mattered too much to the pair of young women in fatigues manning with their comrades an Iron Dome launcher—it might have been mistaken for a shipping container tipped to a forty-five-degree angle—about thirty miles north of the Gaza Line. Their sector was quiet that hot, arid afternoon and the mood almost listless. They giggled at some private joke on the track to their command post, a tatty and sun-bleached tent remarkable only for its antennae and oversize generator. One carried a mauve handbag on her shoulder which clashed with the pillar-box red of polished toenails peeking from sandals most likely not of military issue. Reservists, perhaps, they were Israel in miniature, the snapshot of a nation that has somehow incorporated the frivolous signs of a peace it has never known with the uniformed expectation of the instinct to survive.

One wonders how the residents of, say, Northcote might react if their neighbours in St Kilda, some twelve kilometres distant as the missile flies, took to lobbing high explosives into their backyards. They won’t, of course, but the comparative distance is not out of scale, as Israel is a very small place indeed. That difference in perception is, rather, a matter of the luxury afforded by the vastly greater gulf of half a world’s remove.

That dinner-party bore intent on displaying his anti-Zionist credentials drew his prime objection from the circumstances of Israel’s creation. It was the Palestinians’ land and the Jews took it—that was, by his summation, Israel’s original sin and the reason the Jewish State warrants no sympathy from conspicuously decent folk like himself.

That there were twice as many Jews in Jerusalem as Arabs in 1947, before the UN redefined the boundaries to give Arab and Jew roughly equal representation, would have bothered him not at all, just as, one guesses, the pogroms that saw an estimated 800,000 Jews flee their homes in Arab lands might also be dismissed. Like the little man on the air-raid shelter signs, some quarter of a million bolted for Israel’s refuge between 1948 and 1951. History will always be the battleground for conflicting interpretations, most reflecting the highly subjective images of those who hold out their preconceptions and prejudices as the ideal. An absolutist’s view of events will always be a prerequisite for displays of moral preening, but the simplistic invocation of the events and players from three-plus generations ago sheds no light on the here-and-now.

Instead, those far from the tangle of conflicting motives and internecine intrigues that characterise what is laughably termed “the Mideast peace process” can pontificate without fear of complications fouling the narrative. Israel is guilty because, well, Israel exists, and let’s leave it there—all agreed?—before we move on to the port and cheese.  An attitude both sad and shallow, it is not without its perils, one of which is the whirlpool of hate into which the more ardent and energetic need little persuading to fling their passions.

The same week in which washed-up radio host and Sydney Morning Herald columnist Mike Carlton was fired after ten days of controversy arising from his splenetic assault on Israel and the Der Sturmer-style cartoon that accompanied it, eight drunk youths invaded and terrorised a school bus full of Jewish primary schoolers in Bondi. Shouting the obligatory “Heil Hitlers”, they threatened to slash throats while screaming their support for any Palestinians who shed Jewish blood. In Melbourne that same week, visitors to a Jewish library in sleepy Caulfield found their cars’ undersides being inspected with the aid of mirrors on poles. Their next surprise: newly installed barriers to foil suicide bombers.

This is in Australia, formerly a world away from care, and now, unless we are very lucky, on the road to the appalling and horrific. When innocent lives are broken, who will be to blame? The simpleton fanatics who light the fuse or point the gun? Certainly they will be the ones most likely to end up in the dock. But what of their enablers, the pedlars of rhetoric and cheap columns, the reporters who hit the pathos button to mourn dead Palestinian kids—real, stage-managed or imagined—while neglecting to mention the ample evidence of Hamas hiding its fighters and rockets amongst its own civilians? What responsibility will accrue to their words and broad and sloppy strokes? Who will ask them if they feel the slightest guilt for playing to the gallery, for creating an atmosphere in which it can seem a good idea to torment Jewish toddlers on their school bus?

Israelis have learned to live with hate and death, becoming even more efficient by necessity in the skills of doling out more than they receive. But Australia? God help us all, even those dinner-party sophists, when the baby-killer clichés sprout teeth and flesh is ripped apart like so many of today’s conceited illusions.

Roger Franklin is the editor of Quadrant Online


28 thoughts on “The Air Raid Shelters on the Road to Masada

  • en passant says:

    Excellent English prose and well argued that reality is much different from the cultured tones of our detached elites.
    I admire you for taking such risks to view the truth first hand as, unlike you, I would fear to venture into the depths of Northcote after dark. After all it was home suburb for one of the Australian supplied suicide bombers.

  • rosross says:

    Having been directed here given the closing of the other discussion involving Israel I would just say, I am curious as to why so many of those who would be on the ‘right’ or conservative side of politics, take a highly subjective position in regard to the Israel situation.

    Having found in the time of Covid it is this group, thankfully, which is doing the most to defend principles of law, justice, democracy and human rights, I am even more confused as to why that does not apply to the Palestinians. Surely principles must be applied equally if they are to have any relevance and surely if we betray principles for one, we betray them for all?

    Regardless of the history, it is not possible, as a matter of principle, to deny the inhumanity and injustice of Israel’s colonisation of Palestine and its treatment of the people of that land, as still happens today, nearly a century on from the creation of the Israeli State in Palestine.

    And, having spent time in Israel and been to Masada and worked with and for Israelis, I fully understand the challenges they face but I also understand the part they played and continue to play in the creation and maintaining of those challenges. It is because I think the situation does such harm to Israelis that I wish to see justice for the Palestinians, who, with justice on their side, grow stronger in their suffering while Israelis grow weaker and their culture more debased.

    • Ian MacDougall says:

      An excellent comment here from rosross. I happen to have known a former Israeli army officer, now an Australian citizen, who when asked what he thought of the situation between Israel and the Palestinian Arabs replied: “Terrible. Just terrible.” His view was that both sides were right, each in its own way, and of course in its own perception.
      The Arabic term for ‘Palestine’ is ‘Felastin;’ making the Palestinian Arabs arguably descended from the Philistines of the Bible. But, whatever the origins of the peoples of the Levant at any stage, they had the misfortune of living right on the crossroads of Europe, Asia, and Africa. That led to a very complicated history of claim and counter-claim; each one (unsurprisingly) justified by the religions of the claimants and counter-claimants respectively.
      And no shortage of wars. If you can’t defend it, you don’t own it; a simple principle going right back in time; and beyond the origins of humanity and right back to the dawn of the Animal Kingdom.

      • rosross says:

        Times change and so do attitudes. If the partition of Palestine were mooted today for any reason it would be summarily dismissed. Who would support taking a slab of someone else’s country to allow followers of one religion to set up their own State which demanded total power, control and a majority for them always and which immediately disenfranchised the majority Christian and Muslim population? No-one.

        In 1947 in the chaotic aftermath of WWII and after nearly 77 years of work by the Zionists, the UN Mandate gave the go-ahead for Zionist armies to create the State of Israel in Palestine. By this time Israeli terrorist groups had been hard at work ‘preparing the ground.’ But still in 1947/48 close to a million Palestinians Christians and Muslims were driven out and hundreds of thousands killed with 530 Palestinian towns and villages ‘wiped from the face of the earth’- but not British Mandate maps.

        Since that time, in wars provoked by Israel as even Israeli historians have declared, Israel has taken all of Palestine and crushed the native population under military colonial rule while it continues to dispossess.

        Why has that been allowed? Israeli hatred of the native Palestinians is intense and many do believe they are subhuman. This attitude is sourced in racism toward Arabs which was powerful in centuries past and at work in the mid 19th century.

        By any reckoning the creation of the Israeli State and its actions since have been brutal and barbaric toward the native people, the Palestinians. In an age when the British are condemned for their relatively benign forms of colonisation, there is increasing intolerance toward the Israeli State. Including from many Jews, particularly the US where they are setting up groups to work for justice and freedom for Palestine. Why would they not when Israel gives Judaism and Jews a bad name, claiming as it does, to act for them?

        It is just hard to understand why many seek to justify nearly a century of inhumanity from Israelis toward Palestinians when we would never tolerate such behaviour in anyone else and are quick to judge the Chinese for atrocities toward native peoples and we fought against apartheid in South Africa. The double standards are shocking.

      • rosross says:

        If you can’t defend it you don’t own it is surely a primitive philosophy? I thought we had moved beyond might is right and after the Second World War rejected the concept of right of conquest.

        The Palestinians did try to defend themselves with the help of allies just as the French did in WWII but unlike the French and allies, the Palestinians and their allies lost. And since Israel is backed by the military superpower of the US, how on earth could the Palestinians ever defend their land?

        Is such a might is right approach really how we want our world to be? This is dog eat dog values, if they can be called values, and such attitudes will filter down through all of the layers of human society. It means anyone who has the power to do something has the right to do it and there are no principles to be applied of justice, human rights, rule of law, democracy and common human decency.

        Such a horrible world is why we do not accept might is right but seek to enforce principles of civilized behaviour. If we had done that long ago Israel would have been a democracy of one State shared equally by the native people and the colonists. As we have done in Australia. As the Americans, Canadians, New Zealanders and other Western democracies have done.

        • Ian MacDougall says:

          rosross: You say, “If you can’t defend it you don’t own it is surely a primitive philosophy? I thought we had moved beyond might is right and after the Second World War rejected the concept of right of conquest.” That thought of yours may be the reality, somewhere in the world, but I have yet to see evidence of it, Anywhere, But it was never so on any continent whose history is known, and which histories tell of successive invasions and attempts by those already there to stop them. It is also nowhere present in the governments nor of their policies in the modern world, all of whom maintain defence forces. None incline to shed them; particularly in the light of the history of countries like Tibet, whose distinctive Buddhism is arguably the most peaceful and peace-loving of all the world’s religions.

          • rosross says:

            I was approaching it from a matter of principle. I was not saying that might is right did not remain a reality in general. But, principles underpin a semblance of a civilized world and we ignore them at our peril.

            Even as we accept what the world is, it is important to hold to what the world at its best can be or might be.

            As to Buddhism, deep reading shows it to be highly misogynistic and there are Buddhist fanatics around as well. I believe Tibet should also be free from colonial rule, and the West Papuans. I apply the same principles to them as I do to Palestine although neither China or Indonesia treat those they have colonised as badly as Israel treats the Palestinians.

      • rosross says:

        It is a Zionist myth that Palestine comes from the Philistines. Egyptologists have transcribed from ancient hieroglyphs references to Palestine and Palestinians which are 5,000 years old. They also made a note when a tribe called Judea arrived in Palestine and set up camp 3,000 years ago.

        Oddly, or perhaps a reflection on biblical stories, at the time the Jews supposedly fled Egypt to Canaan, they were fleeing to what was an Egyptian colony. Highly unlikely. Then again, the Egyptians as consummate scribes and clerks never mentioned Hebrews at all, let alone as slaves.

        The Philistines came along much later. The most likely origin of the name is from that of the Palestinian and Canaanite God, Pales.

      • Paul W says:

        This conclusion presupposes that all those claims are effectively equally. There is no reason to believe in such ‘equality’.

  • Doubting Thomas says:


  • Paul.Harrison says:

    Some say they have been to Masada. It appears they have learned nothing about survival. Well said, Roger. If you do not already have a PhD in politics, you should.

  • Solo says:

    Roger, as per your second paragraph, the kids these days are calling those sorts of people “NPC”s. This acronym stands for non-playable character in computer games. Typically, NPCs are characters in the games that the player interacts with but have no agency for themselves. The NPC might give a quest or add some flavour to the game by telling a story, but only has scripted lines and will always only say the same thing “Greetings traveller, how may I help you today” etc. This unthinking parroting is helpful when describing folks who simply repeat what they’ve been told over and over.

    As to Israel vs Palestine, I don’t care much for either. I can see that options are going to be limited to develop any sort of country when goods and services are embargoed at will by a more powerful neighbour, but murdering women, children, the elderly etc shows a level of hatred that we typically don’t see in western countries and is totally barbaric and abhorrent to me. Given this has been going on one way or another for over 2000 years, I doubt any lasting peace or common understanding will ever be achieved. Israel can’t wipe out the Palestinians in earnest, lest they be accused of ethnic cleansing, and the Palestinians will never be powerful enough to kill off Israel (unless Kim Jong lends them a nuclear weapon).

  • Occidental says:

    I too find it difficult to comprehend why conservatives, of which I count myself as one, have become so rusted on to this anti palestinian/ pro israel position. Yes the Palestinian’s employ barbaric tactics at times, but when you are incapable of forming a state, or growing your economy in the gaol which passes for your home, it is hardly possible to develop a formal defence force or army with which you can prosecute a convential war. While the biblical justification to the formation of Israel is risible, the holocaust is not, hence it is understandable that modern Israel exists. But Israels on going treatment of the Palestinians, and its continued search for Liebensraum at the expense of Palestinians can not go on forever. Al Qaida’s raison de etre is really Palestine, because all of the so called US sins, originate in this issue. Finally do you really think that nuclear weapons will only remain in the hands of state actors? I would guarantee as sure as the sun rises in the east that Islamic groups will eventually acquire these weapons if not now then in 10,50, or a hundred years. What do we do then? Israel must learn to accomodate the demands of the Palestinians. Presently it uses its convential might to deny the Palestinians genuine hope, but its convential might has a use by date.

    • rosross says:

      The tragic irony is that while the Jewish experience of holocaust in WWII is used to justify the existence of Israel, most Jews have not, do not and never will live in Israel.

      It is also ignored that the Zionist plan to colonise Palestine was created in the 1890’s long before the Nazis existed.

      But, here is where we are at. History records that people can be killed but ideas cannot. The Palestinians have a right to be free, either in their own State, which is fully independent, or as citizens in one shared State. Even if the 6 million Christians and Muslims disappeared tomorrow there are still 8 million Palestinians in the Diaspora to fight for the idea that Palestine should be free.

      Israel was never going to be able to rid itself of the native people of the land it colonised and continues to colonise. No matter how much blood is shed again, and much blood has been shed in Gaza by Israel already, the fight for freedom and justice will not end.

      It will, as you say, just get worse. There is a very good chance, as some said long ago, that many of the weapons shipped to Ukraine were sold onto other markets and that may well apply to the Palestinian Resistance.

    • Paul W says:

      Palestinians have self-government and have had it for 30 years at this point: the result of an agreement that was reached with Israel. Palestinians have been offered a state several times since then and each time it was refused. They themselves have never made a counter-offer.
      The Palestinians actually have a very large, USA-trained police force. They run their own schools, universities, hospitals, cities, etc.
      Economic growth will always be difficult given they persist in preaching violence against their largest trading partner (Israel). Exactly how many businessmen want to invest in such a society?
      Conservatives are right to support Israel against a radical society whose only skill is complaining about a lack of opportunities even when rational analysis shows they have had ample. You have been played for a fool, friend.

      • rosross says:

        Palestinians do not have self-government. It is a cruel farce to suggest they do. All of Occupied Palestine is controlled by Israel under military colonial rule and the PA is a puppet of both Israel and the US. Gaza is a prison in Occupied Palestine and to call it self-governing is laughable.

        You are aware that Israel continues to colonise all of Palestine and has been busy in Jerusalem throwing Palestinians out of their homes and handing them over to Jewish settlers? Sorry, which bit of that is self-governing?

        You are aware on Jewish Holy Days the Palestinians are put under house arrest so the illegal settlers can travel with more convenience on Jew-only roads across Occupied Palestine? Which bit of that is self-governing?

      • rosross says:

        So much for self government.

        ‘We are fighting human animals’, Israeli defence minister says

        “I have ordered a complete siege on the Gaza Strip. There will be no electricity, no food, no fuel, everything is closed,”

        Children make up 47% of Gaza’s population of two million, with over 800,000 having never known life without the blockade.

        A reality check for all those who say Gaza is not a prison and not controlled by Israel.

    • Paul W says:

      If the Biblical justification for Israel is risible, what about the Homeric justification for Greece?
      Funny how Israel needs a justification for its existence!

      • rosross says:

        Greece is a country and a people. Israel was founded in the name of a religion, Judaism, even though the Zionists were atheists in the main and mostly still are.

        Greece was not created on someone else’s land with a policy of dispossession if not eradication of the native people as Israel was in Palestine. Very different.

        Greece is ancient. Israel was created 75 years ago and has remained an occupier and a coloniser in Palestine.

        • RAPProds says:

          The same old trendy cliche of “colonialism,” “occupier,” etcetera. Boring thoughtless nonsense. Rome colonized Europe and created the most powerful cultures the world has ever known. Britain colonized India and created the Indian nation. Only the hopelessly ignorant can deny that the purpose of the powerful occupying the weak is the story of humanity on earth. The European tribes quickly realized that Rome offered a better way. This is considered heresy, but it is nonetheless the truth. The Jews were persecuted and dispersed and despised throughout the world, murdered by the millions for nothing except for being Jews (no other race or ethnicity can claim such historical depredations), and were close to extinction. If the Nazis had won I have no doubt that today most Europeans would not have a nod for the Jews. They would have been relegated to a footnote. Instead of annihilation, they chose their forsaken homeland. The Arabs, whose collective GDP, sans oil, all 350 million of them, would not match the GDP of Finland, waged war on the gift of the Jews. Yes, a gift, that only the forward-looking states of the Arab world are finally realizing. A full twenty percent of all the Nobel Prizes have been awarded to a relatively tiny minority. European culture, its critical culture, owes its existence to the Old Testament. Judaism is the oldest surviving religion on earth. They could rescue these ragtag nomads from their medievalism. Instead, they have waged persistent and atrocious massacres crooning “Allah Akbar.” And as for the oppressive dictator Iranian clergy, is hated almost unanimously by their countrymen, a curse on them. I would urge the ignorant Aussies to wrest their heads out of their anuses.

          • john mac says:

            We are the minority on this one , Rapprods . The Palestinians are the tip of the Arab spear , and want no peace , for like the climate change/ Voice advocates , or any other grievance group , can never be placated as victimhood or Martyrdom is so intoxicating . Add to that what Israel has conceded , and that , as an oasis of civility in a desert of violence and hatred , with no oil six inches under the surface to enrich it , well I’m surprised and disappointed at the support for Palestinians on this site . When all is said and done , what has been allowed in Sydney this week , shows crystal clearly that Islam and the west are incompatible , for that’s what this is really all about . They know only to destroy . Might be the first time I’ve ever disagreed with rosross .

  • rosross says:

    Having been to Masada and fortunate enough to have visited Israel when it was still possible to drive around Occupied Palestine I can only feel sad at the tragedy which is the Israeli colonial enterprise.

    It is simply not possible to colonise someone else’s country and deny them human and civil rights while occupying all of it as Israel does with the Palestinians, and not create a situation where increasingly violent resistance is guaranteed.

    If it was noble, brave and crazy for the Jews in the Warsaw Ghetto to stand up against their occupiers, and it was, then surely the same applies to those Christians and Muslims imprisoned in Gaza?

    Having worked with and for Israelis and known some great people, albeit heavily racist toward Palestinian Christians and Muslims, I can only feel sorry for Israelis because 75 years of being brutal occupiers and colonisers has debased their culture and their society. Some recognise this but most do not. The Palestinians, as the subjugated victims have only become more resilient, stronger and more determined. Crushed under occupation the raw material becomes like a diamond, harder and brighter.

    While there were many reasons why Israel was set up in Palestine in 1947, there is no justification for the occupation by Israel of all of Palestine and its continued colonisation. Many have warned in recent times that the increasingly radical nature of the Israeli Government and its encouragement of pogroms carried out against the Palestinians by illegal Jewish settlers, would end in bloodshed and greater violence.

    The Palestinians are killed anyway because they exist. Why would they not fight even if they die when death happens anyway?

    What other people have endured nearly a century of violent colonial occupation? There are none. Even the West Papuans under Indonesian colonial rule and the Tibetans under Chinese rule, have more rights and freedom than the Palestinians.

    Israel has been betrayed by those who call themselves friends by being supported in doing what it does and being what it is. And the best of Judaism and its followers have been betrayed along with the Israeli State.

    Israel cannot keep 6 million Palestinians under permanent military colonial rule. It cannot keep 2 million of them imprisoned in Gaza. Neither can it get rid of them in any way. Since two states are impossible there must be one, shared equally. It is just a matter of how much more blood is shed before that happens.

    • Paul W says:

      We can add “after that happens” since everyone with a functioning eyeball can see the inevitable outcome of the mix you advocate: a second Holocaust. Sick.

      • rosross says:

        Since most Jews do not, never did and never will live in UN Mandated Israel how would a shared State between Israelis and Palestinians threaten another experience of holocaust for Jews?

        Hyperbole does not make a case. Jews lived alongside Christians and Muslims in Palestine in the past and can do again. One thing is certain, fear is not a good basis for decision-making and Israel cannot get rid of 6 million Palestinians and neither can it continue to hold them under military colonial occupation.

        What is your solution if you reject a shared State? I think Israelis also deserve to live in freedom and democracy because the occupation and continued colonisation of Palestine is destroying them.

        Many young Israelis have left and returned to the countries their parents and grandparents left to colonise Palestine. One of the biggest communities is in Berlin. They feel safer in Germany than they do in UN Mandated Israel which if you think about it is a wonderful symbol of healing.

Leave a Reply