Truth, Lies, and Useful Idiots (Part One)

We all want the war in Gaza to end.

How do we do that when the conflicted parties cannot agree despite the best intentions of the UN and countries that have historically brought some influence to bear?

Maybe the next step is to nuke Israel. It won’t take a nuclear-armed adversary to do it, just a barrage of well-placed missiles aimed at Israel’s nuclear facility at Dimona, 80 kms from Jerusalem as the crow flies. (Nuclear fallout doesn’t require road or rail).

Hamas can do it. So too can Hezbollah and Iran, or any number of groups in Iraq, Syria or the Iran-backed Houthis.

Then the war will end, as was proven with Hiroshima and Nagasaki. But so will the world, at least the one we know.

After the mess is cleaned up, after the celebrations end, will come the reckoning. The first is the reality that much of Israel will be uninhabitable. Then the fact that too many Muslims died because close to 25% of Israeli citizens are not Jewish. Collateral damage is part and parcel of war, no matter how forensic armies are in their march to victory.

And then the world will face the truth. Truth is not aspirational but factual, but even these can be contested by people who pray for history to metamorphosize. While we wave flags and chant about our hatred for Israel, it might be instructive to consider the following:

1. Far from Israel being a colonial settler state, the Jewish people are indigenous to the land. We know that from biblical and historical literature (including the writings of Titus Flavius Josephus), from archaeology (pottery used in Jewish funerary offerings found near Jerusalem date back to the First Temple period), and because Jesus was born a Jew and like all Jewish males, was circumcised after eight days. This is acknowledged in the New Testament, the foundational document of Christianity, including Luke 2:21, Matthew 1:17, Mark 9:5 and John 4:22. That was a little over 2,000 years ago, at the dawn of Christianity and well before Islam which appeared sometime between 570 and 600 AD.

2. We also know that Jesus prayed at the Second Temple in Jerusalem (Mark 11:15), which was destroyed in 70 AD by the Romans. It was built on the site of the First Temple under the rule of King Solomon around 957 BC and destroyed more than 400 years later by the Babylonians.

3. It might come as a surprise to learn that the Al Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, one of the most revered sites in Islam, and one of the most contentious in Israeli-Palestinian relations, is built on the ruins of both temples. The only remaining evidence is the Western Wall, one of the most important sites in Judaism. If this was an issue concerning Turkey’s President, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, you can bet that someone would be paying rent at the very least.

4. There are significant burial sites in the West Bank dating back to early Jewish life there, including Rachel’s Tomb on the outskirts of Bethlehem, the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron, and the Shalom al Israel synagogue in Jericho.

5. When it comes to Gaza, modern-day Israel has never been that interested. It was occupied by Egypt from 1949 until 1967 when it came under Israeli rule. In 2005, the Prime Minister and former general, Ariel Sharon, unilaterally withdrew Israeli settlers and the army, declaring “I am working on the assumption that in the future there will be no Jews in Gaza.”

6. And then there is the insidious cry for the Jews of Israel to go back to Europe “from where you came!” DNA studies and archaeological evidence reveal that the majority of Jews in Israel can trace their origins to the Middle East including Israel, North Africa and the Iberian Peninsula. Ashkenazi Jews – who came from central and eastern Europe – represent a little over 30% of the population.

7. The claim that Israel has reduced Gaza to an open-air prison or concentration camp is a lie, but one that grows with the telling. When Israel left Gaza, the population was approximately 1.3 million people. In 2023, it had grown to approximately 2.1 million, an increase of 60%. After Hamas won the civil war against Fatah in 2007, it declared that “There will be no concessions on any inch of the land. We will never recognise the legitimacy of the Israeli occupation, and therefore there is no legitimacy for Israel.” This was a declaration of war issued not by Israel but by Hamas. Despite this, figures released by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs revealed that in 2022, there were 424,417 exits via the Erez Crossing from Gaza into Israel, and 245,145 exits via the Rafah Crossing into Egypt. That equates to 32% of the population, although I am not sure how many unique visits that represents. It would be hard to find a concentration camp where a third of the inmates were able to come and go. Instead of making life better for Gazans, Hamas and its fellow travellers made it worse. Money from Qatar, other governments, institutional donors and UN agencies that should have been spent on hospitals, schools, roads, and services that we demand of our own governments, has been systematically misused by Hamas without oversight. Unofficial estimates suggest that at least one billion dollars was poured into building tunnels estimated by Reuters to run for more than 500kms. And yet there is not one bomb shelter for the citizens of Gaza anywhere. Think about it, not one! This lack of concern for the women, children and elderly in Gaza is deeply shameful.

8. Even worse, in times of conflict, Hamas has no hesitation in using its own citizens as human shields. Israel’s war against Hamas has revealed the extent to which the population has been led to the slaughter, and UN agencies are complicit in this through their silence and, as we have now discovered, through their active participation. Tunnel entrances exist under hospitals, schools, mosques, apartment buildings and UN agency offices; those same tunnels provide facilities for the production of weaponry, command-and-control centres and the imprisonment of hostages. Of course, these will be targeted. No army would willingly walk away from an enemy intent on its destruction. Despite that, according to Colonel Richard Kemp, the former commander of British forces in Afghanistan, Israel has done more than most armies in trying to avoid civilian casualties. It sounds gratuitous to say that, given the terrible images we see daily from Gaza, but Israel’s repeated calls for Gazans to leave areas that are to be attacked, are precisely the areas that Hamas wants the Palestinians to remain. Most people would move, such is the innate need for safety and security, but Hamas has forcefully discouraged that. Every death, real or imagined, is a victory for Hamas and pointedly, for Iran.

9. Imagine if Australia was threatened by a neighbouring country, not in a fit of pique but consistently over many years. Would it take those threats seriously? It certainly would if the threats morphed into action. Ask yourself, would Australia act in the way that Israel has? The answer is, I hope so. If you believe that Israel has not stolen land or displaced people, then you would hope your government would act just as forcefully.

10. Three Israeli prime ministers have agreed in principle to a two-state solution (Shimon Peres, Ehud Olmert and Ehud Barak), but it never materialized with the Palestinian leadership (and their backers) being the major roadblock.

11. Gaza should have been a shining light to the Palestinian people, a burgeoning economy similar to Singapore had its people been free to pursue a life that we enjoy in Australia, North America, the United Kingdom, Western Europe and Israel.

12. Today, popular opinion only speaks about Israel’s so-called “extremist right-wing government” headed by Benjamin Netanyahu, as if this is all that Israel has ever offered. But that isn’t the reality. Since elections were held in Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem in 2005, there has never been another election in any Palestinian territory. In contrast, over those 19 years there have been nine elections in Israel. The people have voted for governments representing the center left, the right and the far right. Even the Islamist Ra’am Party became part of the ruling coalition in 2021. Ra’am was headed by Mansour Abbas, no Zionist-loving quisling. Abbas recognized Israel’s right to exist and the need for Palestinian Arabs living in Israel to be fairly represented in the Knesset, the country’s parliament. The fact that an Arab party and an Islamist one at that was allowed to contest the elections and then join in government should speak volumes. But most people seem to be deaf to that inconvenient truth.

13. The decision by South Africa’s African National Congress Party to lead the charge against Israel’s actions in Gaza at the International Court of Justice has been applauded around the world, but no-one has bothered to call them out on their voting record at the UN. The country has abstained on more than two-thirds of UN votes on human rights abuse in many Muslim-dominated nations. Yet it has supported all 99 anti-Israel resolutions it was able to vote on. Why is Israel held to a higher standard?

14. Which brings us to the useful idiots marching in our streets, writing letters to editors, defacing Jewish owned properties (even if they’re not!) or tearing down posters calling for justice for hostages forcibly taken to Gaza on October 7 last year. Have any of you questioned why there is no independent verification of the numbers released on the dead and injured in Gaza by its Hamas-run health ministry? At the time of writing, the Ministry has reported that 26,500 Gazans have died as a result of Israel’s bombing. Israel claims to have killed more than 10,000 Hamas and other terrorists, but none of these deaths – even if the figures are inflated – are factored into the Ministry’s reporting.

15. Have any of you asked how many of the dead and injured were rendered thus by misfired rockets from Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad and other groups? We know claims by Hamas that Israel killed more than 471 Palestinians at Al Ahli Hospital in Gaza City (the Anglican diocese that manages the hospital reported that 200 were killed), were a lie. It has since been verified that only a handful of people died after a misfired rocket from PIJ was responsible. It landed in the courtyard of the hospital, not the facility itself.

16. Have you wondered how Hamas could justify stealing water, food and electricity from Gazan hospitals to run its subterranean operation for the privileged few? That any angry outbursts about the unfairness of it by Gazans was quickly silenced by Hamas.

17. And how many of you waved flags of defiance, raised your fists in anger, screamed obscenities at the knowledge that hundreds of thousands of mostly Muslim women, children and the elderly have been killed in Iraq, Syria, Kurdistan, Yemen, Sudan, China and Myanmar over the last decade? The answer is, very few. You should be ashamed of your selectivity on whose deaths you mourn, or be cowed into remaining silent because some of the perpetrators were Arab or Muslim. But you should be deeply ashamed that few if any of you protested outside the Syrian embassy in Canberra in 2013 after Basha al-Assad’s army carried out an attack using the nerve agent Sarin against civilians living in two opposition-controlled areas in the suburbs around Damascus. Fourteen hundred people, mainly children, died as a result, but you were complicit with Assad through your silence. Is it because you are so blinded by your hatred of Israel and yes, of Jews, to allow any degree of daylight into your critical and emotional thinking?

18. Have you questioned why there is very little independent media reporting from Gaza like there is in Israel? That most cameramen and journalists (a term I use advisedly) are from a small cohort of ‘friendly’ outlets like the Qatari-owned Al Jazeera. When it comes to Al Jazeera, there is incontrovertible evidence that the news outlet’s Arabic-language flagship has focused primarily on the glorification of what happened on October 7 and relies almost solely on official statements by Hamas. Only the English language service has provided some basic and largely one-sided coverage of events on October 7. This was a claim made by Khalil Shikaki, professor of political science in Ramallah, home of the Palestinian Authority, and a director of the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research.

19. There is a small but vocal chorus promoting the intersection between Indigenous Australians and Palestinians in relation to stolen land (albeit land that Israel has never sold or ceded). But nowhere that I can see, be it in the writing or the telling, do our Indigenous leaders support the violent overthrow of any State or Federal Government or to cause harm to any group. Or indoctrinate young children to hate and act on that hate. But that is precisely what Palestinians are doing, led by the Palestinian Authority, alongside Iran and its proxies including Hamas. I have yet to see a book, podcast or pamphlet from our First Nations leadership that talks about Jews as pigs or monkeys deserving of death. The US House of Representatives’ Committee on Foreign Affairs, has taken issue with the PA and its President, Mahmoud Abbas for their support of social media posts with Arabic hashtags like ‘the knife intifada’, ‘poison the knife before you stab’ and ‘slaughtering the Jews’. It decries hate speech that is appearing in mosques, schools, in newspapers, and on television. Its 2015 report said in part, “Consider growing up in an environment in which television shows regularly glorify terrorists who have killed Israeli civilians; where you are taught that Jews are subhuman…or watching a small boy interviewed on television who speaks of wanting to…build bombs to blow up all the Jews.” No less chillingly, it holds the PA and its leadership in contempt for promoting the idea that children can see “the family next door receive a generous stipend for their son igniting his suicide vest.”

The scenes from Gaza are horrific. Whether the number of killed or injured has been inflated to suit Hamas’ narrative is no longer the point. Any death or injury in war is tragic and heartbreaking, particularly when it involves children. But your lack of knowledge about events in the Middle East and your empathy for an organisation that is cruel and inhuman, defies belief.

You don’t have to like Jews; God knows there are many I don’t like and who reciprocate in kind. But to single Jews out as though we are a people without a purpose, raised to infect society rather than enhance it, is a terrible trope that once applied, makes it easier to spread to other parts of society. Ask any Muslim how it feels to be marginalised and diminished. Ask any member of the LGBTQI+ community. Ask any Indigenous Australian who has to wake up every morning knowing that their land is inequitably shared, not through choice but through an act of colonial narcissism.

Antisemitism should not be fashionable or tolerated. Many of you are deeply uncomfortable about calls to gas, stab or force Jews out of their homes, but too cowardly to say or do anything about it.

I thought I knew you, but I was wrong. And frankly, that scares me.

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