21 November 2017


Inside the camp, the men were desperate but determined.
Sick. Hungry. Trapped. They wanted freedom.
This is Manus Island.
The men packing the boat with rice, cigarettes and medicine had fled war and persecution in their home countries.
Now, at 1 a.m., off the coast of a remote island in Papua New Guinea, they were speeding back to the detention camp they hated.
Why, I asked, would they return to the prisonlike “refugee processing center” where they had been trapped for nearly five years?
“We have brothers to feed,” said Behnam Satah, 31, a Kurdish asylum seeker, as we cruised over moon-silvered waves on a hot November night. “We have brothers who need help.”
Secret supply runs maintain the camp’s solidarity.
Power, food and water were cut off weeks ago.
The asylum seekers have been ​trapped​ for years.
Some holdouts struggle with ​anxiety and ​depression.
More than 1,300 asylum seekers have been dumped on Manus Island since the end of 2012 as part of Australia’s contentious policy to keep migrants from reaching its shores. They were all but forgotten until last month when Australia’s attempt to shut down the center and move the men to facilities near the island’s main town of Lorengau hit resistance.
Hundreds of the men refused to leave.
Many said they were afraid to move closer to town, where some had been attacked and robbed by local residents. But it was more than that. With the attention of the world finally on them, the camp’s detainees had turned their prison into a protest, braving a lack of water, electricity and food to try to jog loose a little compassion from the world.
They had already suffered and understood danger. Fleeing more than a dozen countries, they had risked their lives with human traffickers on ramshackle boats leaving Indonesia. And ever since the compound started filling up in 2013, it has been plagued by illness, suicide and complaints of mistreatment.
But now, by staying there and sneaking in and out by boat, they were risking arrest in a desperate search for self-determination, and to intensify scrutiny of Australia’s migration policy and methods.
And that scrutiny has come.
Veteran United Nations officials said this month they had never seen a wealthy democracy go to such extremes to punish asylum seekers and push them away.
Papua New Guinea officials and local leaders, enraged at how the camp’s closure was handled, have demanded to know why Australia is not doing more to help the men.
Instead, Australia is cutting services — reducing caseworkers and no longer providing medication, officials said, even though approximately 8 in 10 of the men suffer from anxiety disorders, depression and other issues largely caused by detention, according to a 2016 independent study.
“It’s a very drastic reduction,” said Catherine Stubberfield, a spokeswoman for the United Nations refugee agency, who recently visited Manus.
Australia’s Department of Immigration and Border Protection did not answer questions about the service cuts. In a statement, it said general health care was still available and “alternative accommodation sites” were “operational” and “suitable.”
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has also doubled down on Australia’s hard-line approach, arguing that offshore detention has been a successful deterrent against illegal trafficking.
But in Papua New Guinea, deterrence increasingly looks like an incentive for cruelty. Officials, Manus residents and outside experts all argue that Australia has a responsibility to those it placed here, to international law, and to its closest neighbor.
“They’ve put the burden on a former colony which does not have the resources for many of the things its own people want, like health care and a social safety net,” said Paige West, a Columbia University anthropologist who has done extensive fieldwork on Manus. “This is a problem created by Australia’s failure to comply with its human rights obligations.”
The camp is a half-hour boat ride from town.
Relations with refugees have been uneasy.
Jobs on Manus are scarce. Rents are rising.
Just south of the equator, the heat is relentless.
The detention center, a warren of barracks and tents, sprawls across a naval base used by American troops in 1944 during World War II. The Papua New Guinea Supreme Court ruled in 2016 that the camp was illegal, calling it a violation of “personal liberty.” The governments of Australia and Papua New Guinea agreed in April to close the site by Oct. 31.
But finding alternatives has been a struggle.
Some of the men at the camp — all of whom were caught at trying to reach Australia by boat — have been granted refugee status and are hoping for relocation to the United States, under a deal brokered by President Obama and initially opposed by President Trump.
But nearly 200 of the 843 men still stuck on Manus (women and children were sent to the island of Nauru) have not had their asylum claims fully processed, or their claims have been rejected, leaving them effectively stuck on the island.
For now, all of the detainees are expected to move to three smaller facilities, near Lorengau, a few miles from the camp.
Lorengau is not a big place. It is a close-knit rural town with a few thousand people, a single supermarket, a rusty playground and electricity that comes and goes.
The new detention facilities are set apart from main roads and are closely guarded — we were turned away when a photographer and I tried to visit. But detainees can come and go. And photos, taken by the men, show that none of the facilities were fully operational more than a week after the move was supposed to happen.
At one of the new facilities, West Lorengau Haus, the electricity and water had not been turned on when representatives of the United Nations refugee agency visited days after the main camp had officially closed.
“It’s still a construction site — you can’t just move refugees into that space,” said Ms. Stubberfield, the spokeswoman.
The two other sites also had problems: One had intermittent running water, and the other, the East Lorengau Transit Center, lacked caseworkers.
Kepo Pomat, who owns the land that facility occupies, said he had issued the authorities an ultimatum: If his company did not receive the caseworker employment contracts, he would kick the refugees off his property.
Part of the problem is that the governments of Australia and Papua New Guinea are at odds over who is responsible for the men. Australia says Papua New Guinea is in charge of providing for them. Papua New Guinea says it is willing to house the refugees, but it is Australia’s responsibility to pay for them and pursue ways for them to leave.
“We’ve been urging that the Australians keep up their responsibility,” said Duncan Joseph, a community leader and the island’s Red Cross representative. “The fact that they’ve withdrawn and drastically scaled back services doesn’t change that for us, morally and legally, they are responsible for these men.”
Many of the detainees who have moved to the new sites reported crowded dormitories and delays with getting food. Some did not receive the weekly stipend of $30 for medicine and incidentals they were promised upon arrival.
Mohyadin Omar, 27, a lawyer with a soft demeanor who fled Somalia in 2013, said the move to the transit center had made him consider returning to Mogadishu. He is a certified refugee who lost his entire family to war. He fears he will be killed back home, but he may go anyway.
“I’m tortured four years here,” he said. “I’m done.”
Behrouz Boochani writes about the camp’s struggle​s​.
But others suffer silently.
Morteza Arefifar recently tried to commit suicide.
Joinul Islam was attacked with a machete.
Back inside the main detention camp, conditions deteriorated quickly after the Australians officially left on Oct. 31, cutting off the electricity and water before departing.
In the equatorial heat, the men who were sick got sicker. Asthmatics needed inhalers. Diabetics needed insulin.
Mr. Satah, the leader of the supply operation, seemed relieved when our boat pushed ashore. The navy guards and police meant to keep everything out of the camp either did not see us or chose not to intervene. Mr. Satah, a fast-talking former English teacher, smiled he led a dozen men carrying food and medicine toward a container inside the compound.
“O.K. Brothers, thank you very much — love you, love you,” he said, echoing their expressions of appreciation.
Though it was after 2 a.m., many of the men were eager to guide me through the camp, where most had lived for more than four years, in many cases without ever leaving.
They showed off the well they had dug for water, and the protest signs they posted on Twitter using cracked cellphones, cherished like fine crystal.
Some of the men who stayed at the camp appeared mentally stronger than those who had relocated.
They made clear they want to be resettled in a third country, neither Australia nor Papua New Guinea. In the meantime, they were surviving. They were defying the authorities. Thanks in part to money from supportive Australians and local boat pilots risking arrest, they had cigarettes, a stash of booze, and a measure of what they have most craved: agency and autonomy.
“There are many things that brought us to the point where we’ve said we will never go,” Mr. Satah said when he was still in Lorengau gathering supplies. “But remember, we didn’t come here by choice.”
Behrouz Boochani, another Iranian Kurd who has become well-known for writing from the camp, put it more simply in a resistance manifesto: “All the conversations are driven by one thing, and one thing only, and that is freedom,” he wrote. “Only freedom.”
Why then have more of the men not tried to pursue a future in Papua New Guinea? After I spent time in Lorengau, it became clear: Even for those who have made a life in Manus, there are real challenges.
Mustafizah Rahman, 25, an asylum seeker from Bangladesh, married a local woman and opened a shop in a red shipping container near the main Lorengau market.
There, he said, he is pursuing his dream “to become a multimillionaire.”
The island’s residents consider him a model of integration. But Mr. Rahman, whose wife is eight months pregnant, remains stateless, he said, without formal residency in Papua New Guinea.
Lorengau has become increasingly crowded with climate change refugees who have moved there from more remote islands, and Mr. Rahman said he was barely getting by after paying for rising rent and food costs.
“Not everyone can do this,” Mr. Rahman said, between customers. “We’re really not accepted in this country. If they bring everyone to town, many people will die.”
Photos in camp point to the past.
Graffiti shows the pain of detention.
And the dead are memorialized.
Another challenge: missing family.
The fear of violence is shared by many of the asylum seekers, who have been targets of attacks in Manus and in other parts of Papua New Guinea, as they have been in other countries. A recent Human Rights Watch report documented a series of cellphones thefts and attacks, some involving machetes.
Kakau Karani, Lorengau’s acting mayor, said that the risks were exaggerated and that in fact, many residents had provided the men with food, lodging and work.
Around 10 children have been born to asylum seekers and local women, the mayor said, adding, “If we weren’t friendly, we would not be making babies here.”
Other residents worry that the men are preying on local women.
Ultimately, both the asylum seekers and the local residents are a mix of potential and risks.
Some of the detainees are resilient and have learned new languages. Others survive with sleeping pills or drink too much — as do some local men.
Australia says offshore detention has reduced trafficking and deaths at sea. Mr. Turnbull has rejected an offer from New Zealand to take 150 of the refugees, arguing it would encourage traffickers.
But for Manus, the effects are evolving and still being tallied. Six detainees have died here. A small number have reached Australia for medical treatment. Hundreds have left, after agreeing to deportation. And 54 refugees from Manus and Nauru have made it to the United States.
When might more follow?
Yassir Hussein, one of the camp’s leaders, said he often contemplated ideals like liberty and justice — and what they mean for migration’s winners and losers.
“We are happy for the lucky ones,” he said. “But why are they lucky? Why are we not lucky?”
Damien Cave is the Australia bureau chief for The New York Times. Sign up for his weekly newsletter and follow him on Twitter: @damiencave.

10 November 2017


Berkeley's News | The Daily Californian

Retraction of cartoon censors legitimate criticism, ignores anti-Semitic aspect of cartoon

letter to the editor
Willow Yang/File

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Shortly after Harvard Law professor Alan Dershowitz spoke on campus, The Daily Californian published a political cartoon criticizing his support of Israeli human rights abuses. In an editor’s note, the Daily Cal originally wrote, “The artist’s intent was to argue that (Dershowitz’s) recent lecture at UC Berkeley were (sic) hypocritical.” Following a flurry of accusations that the cartoon was anti-Semitic, however, the Daily Cal retracted the cartoon and removed the image from the publication’s website. So, was this cartoon a legitimate critique, or not?
The cartoon was mostly a legitimate critique. One aspect of the depiction, however — Dershowitz’s positioning as a spider — was unmeritorious of publication, given that this echoes anti-Semitic propaganda depicting Jews as dehumanized insects.
The cartoon appears to make these points:
Dershowitz is putting on a show in an attempt to convince his audience that Israel is a liberal state, which is the false self Israel tries to project to liberal college campuses through, for example, pinkwashing. Israel, however, is in fact an egregious human rights abuser, including Israeli Defense Forces’ brutality against innocent and underage Palestinians, assassinations and collective punishment and oppression. Dershowitz is hypocritically complicit in and an enabler of Israeli human rights abuses by distorting reality in his public argument for Israel as a “liberal” state while defending and refusing to condemn Israeli human rights abuses.
The above are fair and accurate criticisms of Dershowitz based on his record.
But Dershowitz’s body is illustrated as arachnid. The Third Reich’s propaganda machine depicted Jews as insects, as members of Bears for Israel point out in their letter to the editor. In its retraction, the Daily Cal states, “We are ensuring that a detailed knowledge of the history of harmful visual propaganda becomes an integral part of how we train our staff.”
Political cartoons that overlap in unnecessary ways with historical anti-Semitic propaganda are at the least insensitive and could be labeled as crossing the line into anti-Semitism. Although we might assume Joel Mayorga, the cartoonist who drew Dershowitz as a spider, is guilty of historical ignorance, not intentional anti-Semitism, historical ignorance is no defense for the editors who published the piece.
According to an article in the Daily Cal, Mayorga said, “No matter how I drew him, the anti-Semitic card would have been thrown. When anybody tries to call out Zionism or military policy, the anti-Semite card is always thrown to delegitimize those critiques.” Mayorga is right, in that Israel’s apologists usually label any criticism of Israel as anti-Semitic. And usually, these charges are canards.
Given the benefit of historical education, however, redesigning the image so that Dershowitz is portrayed in human form would be all that’s needed to remove any implication of actual anti-Semitism. Imagine Dershowitz as a giant –– say, 26 feet tall, the same height as Israel’s imposing apartheid and land confiscation wall –– who is still crushing a Palestinian with one foot and holding up an IDF soldier who assassinates a Palestinian civilian. This design would emphasize Dershowitz’s outsize and privileged power to persuade the public of a false reality.
Some critics, such as UC Berkeley Chancellor Carol Christ, claim the violent elements of the image perpetuate the blood libel myth. I disagree. Dershowitz has metaphorical “blood on his hands” — culpability — as a result of his discourse, which shields Israel from appropriate forms of condemnation and sanction in the court of public opinion. Dershowitz’s pro-Israel propaganda is gaslighting writ large. Israeli soldiers who murder unarmed and innocent civilians, in addition to underage Palestinians, should not be immune from being the subject of political cartoons that depict these atrocities simply because of the past history of the blood libel myth, and neither should a Jewish professor who defends Israeli atrocities.
Put another way, the “blood on his hands” imagery was necessary to make the point about Dershowitz’s culpability, and it therefore cannot be called anti-Semitic. On the other hand, Dershowitz being drawn as a spider was unnecessary.
The Daily Californian’s retraction was an abdication of its responsibility to defend the legitimate aspects of the cartoon. It wrote: “The cartoon depicted Alan Dershowitz presenting as he crouched on a stage, with his body behind a cardboard cutout labeled ‘The Liberal Case for Israel.’ Dershowitz was drawn with twisted limbs. His foot was crushing a Palestinian person; placed in his hand was a depiction of an IDF soldier next to someone the soldier had shot.”
Notably, the retraction doesn’t state the one and only element of the cartoon that could truly be considered a reflection of anti-Semitic propaganda: Dershowitz’s arachnid form. ‘Twisted limbs’ is not the same as insect. The insect aspect, which is dehumanization, was the problem. On the other hand, Dershowitz’s foot crushing a Palestinian and his holding of an IDF soldier who had shot a Palestinian were fair criticisms. Israel’s apologists intimidated the Daily Cal into retracting the entire cartoon, including the aspects of it that represented legitimate criticism. Furthermore, the Daily Cal seems unaware of the difference between actual anti-Semitism and legitimate criticism of Israel, which it conflates in the retraction.
Mayorga said he “disagreed with the retraction and that he felt censored.” I would like to see the Daily Cal invite Mayorga to publish a revised, non-spider-Dershowitz cartoon, still with blood on the professor’s hands, and stand behind it. Actual Palestinians, who are actually suffering and dying as a result of intentional Israeli atrocities, should be the primary concern of the editor, not the bruised ego of a privileged professor who is culpable for the perpetuation of such atrocities.
Matthew Taylor is a Jewish UC Berkeley alum with a B.A. in peace and conflict studies.

09 November 2017


If You Don’t Feel Pride in the Balfour Decision, You Must be a Nazi

So now it’s time for us all to follow Theresa May’s bone-headed suggestion that we feel “proud” of the iniquitous Balfour Declaration on its hundredth anniversary this week. The Israelis will be celebrating – and why not, for it set Britain’s seal on the future Israeli state in Palestine. Perhaps Israel would not have been created without it. But the fearful suffering and tragedy of the Palestinian refugees which was to follow in the coming years suggest that the Balfour letter – through its very wording – was certain to create a terrible wrongdoing which to this day curses the place we used to call the Holy Land.

Even more disgraceful than May’s foolish words – for many Britons may well feel shame or prefer silence when they contemplate this episode of history – were Mark Regev’s remarks this week that citizens of the United Kingdom, to which he is currently accredited as ambassador – are “extremists” if they oppose the Balfour Declaration.

Thus, the man whose nauseous excuses for the slaughter in Gaza we had to put up with when he was an Israeli government spokesperson, continues that “those who oppose the Balfour Declaration are exposing themselves for the extremists they are. If you oppose a Jewish national home, that means you think Israel should be destroyed. And let’s be clear: that’s the position of the Iranian government; that’s the position of terrorist groups like Hezbollah and Hamas.”

So I get it. Instead of giving the Israeli ambassador a dressing down for such undiplomatic language towards her own citizens, May preferred to keep a cowardly silence while Israel’s ambassador told us what to think about the Balfour Declaration – and that if we didn’t agree with him, we were all extremists, terrorists, and therefore presumably antisemites, racists, Nazis, not to mention sympathisers of Hamas.

What gall this man has. Does Regev not even realise – as at least one Israeli journalist has pointed out – that the Balfour Declaration may itself have been, by extension, antisemitic? It followed only a few years after Britain passed laws specifically introduced to prevent further Jewish immigration to the UK from Russia and Eastern Europe. In 1917, we certainly wanted the support of the Jews of Europe and America in the First World War – but we preferred any Jewish immigrants to avoid dank London and head for sunny Palestine.

Yet let’s point out something right away. Israel – whether or not Balfour was its original foreign sponsor – exists, and will only disappear if it destroys itself (which its prime minister’s continued policy of thieving even more Arab land for Israeli colonists might ultimately bring about).

As one of Israel’s finest historians, now an Oxford scholar, has rightly pointed out, Israel’s existence might have been grossly unjust to the hundreds of thousands of Palestinians who lost their homes – now a diaspora of more than six million refugees – but it is legal and came into existence legally. It is internationally recognized – though its colonies in the West Bank are not – and it is a member of the United Nations and has diplomatic relations with 159 countries.

This, however, does not excuse Theresa May’s “pride”. Indeed, it was instructive to note that in her remarks, she placed Britain’s trade relations in front of the terrifying injustice done to the Palestinians. Of course she did. For she cares more about the results of Brexit than she cares about millions of refugees. This, remember, is the lady who held Donald Trump’s hand.

Here, for the record, is what she actually said about Balfour: “I am … pleased that good trade relations and other relations that we have with Israel we are building on and enhancing. We must also be conscious of the sensitivities that some people do have about the Balfour Declaration and we recognise that there is more work to be done. We remain committed to the two-state solution in relation to Israel and the Palestinians.” And that is about as disgraceful as the Balfour Declaration itself.

So let’s remember what this document actually said in 1917: “His Majesty’s government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavours to facilitate the achievement of this object, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country.”

The obvious lie in this single sentence – a charter for “refugeedom” if ever there was one – is that while Britain would support a Jewish “homeland”, the majority of the population (700,000 Arabs as opposed to 60,000 Jews, according to Hanan Ashrawi) are not regarded as having a “homeland” at all – but merely referred to as “existing non-Jewish communities”. They are not even called Arabs or Muslims – which most of them were – but as just “communities” which “exist”. And which of course might be persuaded one day to exist somewhere else.

We can forget that Balfour and his chums admitted within months that they didn’t intend to give the Arabs any attention. They certainly didn’t get any. Within just over 30 years, Israel itself was created and the Palestinian tragedy began. And in this, Theresa May takes “pride”.

I did particularly enjoy those “sensitivities” she referred to. Not, presumably, the “sensitivities” of the Palestinian refugees, but perhaps a few Tory MPs and, I suppose poor Jeremy Corbyn who’s getting his usual whipping, this time for not attending the Balfour Declaration formal dinner in London. If only he could be as forthright as this over Brexit and denounce the whole shambles of leaving the EU – but alas, he’s more worried about his Labour constituencies.

Anyway, for May, there is “more work to be done” and she still supports a two-state solution. More “work” to do? When the occupied Arab West Bank is still being concreted over? When any sane person realises that the “peace process” has collapsed?

This is a tragedy, of course, for Israelis as well as Palestinians. Israel’s achievement is that it has stayed alive – with massive and uncritical support and subventions from the United States, to be sure – and actually does exist as a state. But without peace with its neighbours and an end to Jewish colonisation of other people’s land, and without a Palestinian state – which alas, I suspect will never exist – Israel will always be at war, always live in fear and always have enemies. But there you go.
Feel plenty of “pride” like Theresa. And if you don’t, consider yourself a Nazi.

03 November 2017


The situation on Manus has become critical if not criminal, and at this stage there should be an outcry from Australian citizens demanding an end to this foul treatment of people who in the main have experienced nothing but trauma over the last several years since fleeing from those causing them untold grief and sorrow. 

The whole story really starts in 1992 when Paul Keating was Australian Labor Party (ALP) Prime Minister of Australia after deposing Bob Hawke.

Keating decided that people coming to Australia seeking asylum should be locked up and screened before being allowed to be let out to mix with Australian citizens and their lives and cultures. 

The situation has gone steadily downhill since then, with the ALP's cruelty being continued by the Coalition and other small groups within the federal parliament carrying on the "great" tradition started by Keating so long ago, with the latest disaster from a country which thinks it is entitled to some UN recognition on its Human Rights organisation. 

Manus was officially closed by the Australian government on 1 NOVEMBER 2017 when electricity, water, food and other necessities of life were removed from 600 asylum seekers who have refused to move.

On 3 NOVEMBER 2017 the Papua New Guinea government, emulating its Australian masters, has refused to let church groups enter the camp with food, and a boatload from Australia carrying supplies has also been forbidden from landing.

It is difficult to comprehend the cruelty being inflicted on these people and reminds me of stories from South Africa and Europe during the Nazi and Stalinist and other regime disasters of much of the 20th century.

This could well be termed a genocide in the making, and in the end will be similar to what the world is doing to the Palestinians in their own country and what is being done by governments everywhere which have been trying to get rid of their indigenous communities by every means at their disposals.

29 October 2017


Don't go there: The missing Arab piece of Beersheba's centenary events

It isn't the first thing most people would think of, but the final outcome of the New Zealand elections reverberated more than 16,000 kilometres away.  Prime Minster Jacinda Ardern appears to be far too busy to travel to Beersheba in Israel.

Her predecessor, Bill English, was meant to join Australia's Malcolm Turnbull and Israel's Benjamin Netanyahu there to commemorate the capture of the town by the Anzacs 100 years ago. In the interim it was decided that New Zealand Governor-General Dame Patsy Reddy would go.
New Zealand First leader Winston Peters, left, and Prime Minister-designate Jacinda Ardern shake hands after signing a ...

New Zealand First leader Winston Peters, left, and Prime Minister-designate Jacinda Ardern shake hands after signing a coalition agreement on October 24. Photo: AP

That the event is worth noting is not in dispute. It took gumption and bravery to overrun the town.   The victory of the Light Horse Brigade on October 31, 1917 caused the collapse of the Ottoman lines and allowed General Sir Edmund Allenby to enter Jerusalem less than two months later. It is no wonder, then, that the leaders of Australia and New Zealand are proud to recall it.

For its part the City of Beersheba is certainly pulling out all the stops to the celebrate the occasion.  There's an exhibition of contemporary Australian art, a staging of Verdi's opera Nabucco, with its theme of a lost Jewish homeland, various official ceremonies and a recreation of the cavalry charge. There is even a memorial ceremony for the Turkish fallen at the city's monument of the Turkish soldiers.
A photograph once believed to depict the charge of the 4th Light Horse Brigade at Beersheba on October 31, 1917. It is ...
photograph once believed to depict the charge of the 4th Light Horse Brigade at Beersheba on October 31, 1917. It is now believed to have been taken by photographer Frank Hurley in February 1918.  Photo: Australian War Memorial
Only one group of people is missing. The city is marking, in its own words, the centenary of the liberation of Beersheba. So where is the mention of the grateful residents of the town in all the razzmatazz?

A perusal of the city's website isn't very enlightening.  It tells you that "the city as we know it today is relatively new and was only established at the beginning of the 20th century under the Ottoman Turkish rule". But it is silent - in English and in Hebrew - as to who was living there to be liberated back in 1917.

And of course there's nothing at all on the website in Arabic, Israel's other official language.  Which is rather incongruous, considering that in 1917 every single resident of the town spoke Arabic. The residents of Beersheba, including its mayor, were Bedouin and other Palestinians.  There had been some Arabic-speaking Jewish community members living in the town, but they had all left during the war.
The Bedouin had an extensive existence in Beersheba and its environs, and despite their live-and-let-live attitude were quite antagonistic towards the Ottoman Empire and its rule.  While there are no records that I could find of them welcoming the Anzacs, they probably thought a new empire couldn't be any worse.

Indeed, the British maintained many of the structures of governance. They kept the same courts and worked with Bedouin elders to resolve issues. The British continued to provide free education to Bedouin boys in Beersheba and even set up a school for girls. Bedouin youngsters travelled to other parts of Palestine and even abroad to study. The town had a small eight-bed hospital to which both Bedouin and British Mandate authorities contributed.

The British recognised the Bedouin land title system, even though the Bedouin had never bothered to register their own holdings under the Ottomans. While the Bedouin paid tax on their flocks and on their land, they refused to deal directly with the authorities as they suspected the registration would lead to them being conscripted into the Ottoman Empire's military. The British saw no point in changing the arrangements and even helped introduce modern agricultural techniques, including the use of tractors for ploughing.
Bedouin homes sit in front of an Israeli power plant at Wadi al-Naam, near Beersheba. 
Bedouin homes sit in front of an Israeli power plant at Wadi al-Naam, near Beersheba.  Photo: AP
The Bedouin did have some issues with British. Within days of the capture of Beersheba they became aware of the Balfour Declaration which "view[ed] with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people".

They strenuously objected to the sale of land to Jews who wanted to set up agricultural communities in the area. In 1938, at the height of the Arab Revolt in Palestine, Bedouin joined forces with other Palestinian rebels to briefly take Beersheba back from the colonial power.

If Beersheba's inhabitants had had a premonition that Balfour's declaration would have an adverse impact on them, it was finally realised almost 31 years later. On October 22, 1948, their town was captured again, this time by the Israel Defence Forces.  The consequences for the Bedouin were devastating.
Rifa al-Oqbi and her sons stand in front of their demolished home in the Bedouin village of al-Qrain in November 2011. Rifa al-Oqbi and her sons stand in front of their demolished home in the Bedouin village of al-Qrain in November 2011. Photo: Ruth Pollard
Sasson Bar-Zvi, military governor of the Negev from 1963 to 1968, told Ben-Gurion University historian and author Mansour Nasasra: "In the war people were exiled or left to many other places. By the end of the war the main Bedouin city of Beersheba was empty of Bedouin. No Bedouin, no Gaza businessmen, no shopkeepers, and not even any birds remained in the city. After the war had ended some new Jewish immigrants started to come to the city."

Since then, the Negev Bedouins' lot hasn't been a happy one, with many of their villages unrecognised by the Israeli authorities, meaning they are not connected to water or electricity or entitled to protection from rockets that may strike them from neighbouring Gaza or Sinai. In Beersheba itself their main presence was the famous Bedouin Market. Sadly earlier this year the city council decided to close it.
The Israeli government has made several attempts to deal with the issue of unrecognised villages and the lands for which the Bedouin claim the equivalent of Australia's native title. The various versions of the Prawer plan have all failed to recognise what the Bedouin demanded as a right: that the land was theirs and that their possession of it was good enough for the Jewish National Fund to accept and buy some of it before the state of Israel was created.

Even recognised Bedouin townships are at a disadvantage. There is a huge amount of arnona (local government rates) being paid by the Defence Ministry and other entities for their substantial land holdings in the Negev. Invariably these taxes are paid to Jewish municipalities rather than Bedouin ones, even when the Bedouin municipality is far closer.

New Zealand's progressive new PM might well be hesitant about a cornucopia of commemorative events all ignoring a section of the region's citizenry. But her newly installed Foreign Minister Winston Peters, a Maori politician, or even Dame Patsy, long an advocate for diversity, would find similar challenges if they looked hard enough.

Imagine accompanying Turnbull to the launch of a new nippers program on an Israeli beach.  What would happen if, sensitive to issues of diversity, a New Zealand representative asked about nippers belonging to the local Arab minority? After all, according to Israel Hayom, the newspaper with the largest circulation in the country, an Arab child was 50 per cent more likely to drown in Israel's latest May-to-October swimming season than a Jewish one.

What might happen if that representative were told that the nippers course so far runs in Hebrew only, making it next to impossible for Arab kids to participate?

Best not to go there.


We are not in quite the same situation as the letter-writer below.  

While we own the house we are living in,the neighbours live in a house owned by the Victorian Department of Housing.

These are two villa units, numbers one and two, and the one at the front of the driveway is unit 1. We are the second one along the driveway, unit 2.

Unit 1, the public housing unit, is administered by an organisation which used to be called North East Housing, and it is now called Home, Haven, Safe.

As far as we were able to ascertain, the house was called transitional housing, the purpose of which was to provide temporary housing, often for people who had suffered from domestic violence, and it was to be temporary until more suitable premises could be found for the tenant.  

We have, in the 17years since we have been living in the house, been fortunate to have had some people living there, some with children, some without, who have been friendly, kind and helpful to the two of us who are now two old males aged 95 and 91. 

We do not own a car, and the current tenants have,in the year since they have been living there, owned one, two and three cars. Each house has a single garage and there are notices at the front and middle of the driveway stating that there is to be no parking in the driveway at any time.


Letter in The Age - 24 OCTOBER 2017:

Legal black hole

I was listening on ABC News Radio and found that it was broadcasting a federal parliamentary debate about White Ribbon Day.  It struck a strong chord with me.

I am a 77-year-old woman in poor health living alone and I am planning to leave my own home that I love to escape from verbal and psychological abuse from my elderly male neighbour.

He has been vandalising my garden with poisons and cutting implements for the past 14 years.  Each time he sees me outside the  house the shouting and threats begin again.  I have talked to the local police and Seniors Rights who both  say there is nothing they or I can do to protect myself from this constant bullying and intimidation.

I see a big hole in the laws surrounding violence towards women.  If I was living on my neighbour's side of the fence his behaviour would be called domestic violence, but as his neighbour rather than his wife I am totally unprotected.

I also believe that if I was a strong healthy young male rather than an old woman it would not be happening at all.

Name and address supplied

08 October 2017


Michael Danby is obsessed with the Israel Narrative!

Labor MP Michael Danby used taxpayer funds for ad attacking ABC journalist Sophie McNeill

The Age 041017
Adam Gartrell

A federal Labor MP has admitted he charged taxpayers to take out an ad attacking an ABC journalist.
Melbourne backbencher Michael Danby took out the ad in Australian Jewish News, which suggested ABC foreign correspondent Sophie McNeill had "double standards" when reporting on Israel and Palestine.
The ad, which features two men praying at the Western Wall in Jerusalem, claims McNeill filed "no report" on three Jewish Israelis who were stabbed to death in July while celebrating Shabbat.
The ABC has since rubbished those claims, pointing out in a statement that McNeill "gave due prominence" to the fatal stabbings and filed reports for TV, radio and the national broadcaster's website.

Labor MP Michael Danby has taken out an ad in Australian Jewish News criticising the ABC's Sophie McNeill. Photo: Twitter
"The coverage included graphic accounts of the attack from witnesses and first responders," the statement reads.

"This advertisement is part of a pattern of inaccurate and highly inappropriate personal attacks on Ms McNeill by Mr Danby. The ABC has complete confidence in the professionalism of Ms McNeill. Despite unprecedented scrutiny and obvious pre-judgement by Mr Danby and others, her work has been demonstrably accurate and impartial."

Australian @MichaelDanbyMP has published this advertisement in @aus_jewishnews regarding @Sophiemcneill double standards reporting on Israel pic.twitter.com/9aUt02gYqq
— Arsen Ostrovsky (@Ostrov_A) September 30, 2017
Mr Danby admitted he had used a "small amount" from his taxpayer-funded electoral allowances to take out the "discounted ad".

"We have advertised far more extensively over the past year on penalty rates, marriage equality, the NBN, unfair federal infrastructure spending allocation to Victoria, Human Rights and apportion our expenditure to cover all interests in Melbourne Ports. All advertising from my office meets parliamentary guidelines," Mr Danby told Fairfax Media.

He said contrary to the ABC's claims, Ms McNeill did not mention the Jewish Soloman family by name or give them the same prominence and treatment she gave the Palestinian Shamasneh family.
Paul Murphy, the chief executive of the Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance, also defended McNeill's coverage.

"Sophie McNeill won two Walkleys last year for her work," he said. "The criticism from Michael Danby is ludicrous and offensive."

It is not the first time the MP for Melbourne Ports has criticised McNeill's reporting. In the past, he has called her an "advocacy journalist" on social media and has claimed she is obsessed with the "Palestinian narrative".

20 September 2017


 I am nearly 91 years old and I have read a great deal since I started reading at the age of 5 or 6.

During the subsequent 85 years I have read things which are interesting and educational and enlightening, and I have read a great many things which were just for entertainment.

Some of what I have read has been ridiculous and full of nonsense and just plain stupid.

The inside and outside of this leaflet contains some of the most absurd, nonsensical, homophobic rubbish that I have ever looked at and, believe me, that is saying something.

All of this nonsense is because the Australian parliament is so full of stupid and ignorant people that we are left with a political vacuum which allows this bullshit to be perpetrated on a public who don't understand what it is all about and who absorb a great deal of the crap these people spout as if it was gospel, whereas it is all untrue and perpetuates stereotype and falsity from start to finish.

How long before people begin to understand that they are being taken for a ride by unprincipled and are of hypocritical so-called religious "persuasions" who are ignorant, evil, malicious and don't even know what they are talking about.

This is the sort of trash that people were afraid would happen if this sort of campaign went ahead, and it is no doubt what the Australian prime minister hoped would happen.

Whatever happened to human rights in Australia?

Hopefully it will have consequences.

19 September 2017


We  discovered that Unit 1 at 12 Murphy Grove, Preston, Vic 3072, belonged to the Department of Health and Human Services of the Victorian State government some time after we had bought unit 2 and moved into it in February 2001.

Unit 1 is what is called transitional housing which we are given to understand is so that the tenants who are placed there are in some sort of emergency situation and are to be in this transitional housing unit for a limited period of time, until more suitable accommodation can be found for them.

The property is supposed to be managed by an organisation called Loddon Mallee Housing Services, trading as Haven; Home, Safe whose address is 52-56 Mary Street, Preston, Vic 3072, phone number 03 9479 0731.

At the moment, 19 September 2017, the Tenancy and Property Manager is Susan Hallorina. (email: susan.hallorina@hhs.org.au and web address http://www.havenhomesafe.org.au)

The two units are what I believe are called villa units and unit 1 is the front one and faces onto the street, Murphy Grove.

This has had, as far as we can make out, 13 different tenants or groups of tenants, with differing numbers of people each time, some being adults only, some being women with children who have been in situations of domestic violence, some have been migrants and some whose circumstances we have not been able to find any details about.

The tenants who have lived there have been good, bad, and impossible, and the reason that I am writing this blog is that the current tenants fall into the impossible category.

I notice that in the web pages of Haven; Home, Safe, there is no mention of how this organisation explores the needs of the neighbours of the housing they manage, so that people like us seem to have no recourse to the people who are thrust upon us and we have no support.

My only recourse is to publicly expose the ugly side of what is happening to us at the moment and hope that some organisation acts on this mess and helps to calm our situation down somewhat.

Don't hold your breath!

Attached hereto are some illustrative photos with more to come when possible.

It should also be noted that the people in unit 1 seem to be in possession of 3 cars.

Notices at the entrance to 12 Murphy Grove and outside unit 2 about No Parking in the driveway seem to have been not noticed by the tenants of unit 1 until at least two complaints were made to the organisation supposedly looking after unit 1. There is still the occasional vehicle parked in the driveway.

Darebin Council do not seem to have been in any hurry to get the residents of unit 1 to remove this junk from the pavement outside 12 Murphy Grove.


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Preston, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
90 years old, political gay activist, hosting two web sites, one personal: http://www.red-jos.net one shared with my partner, 94-year-old Ken Lovett: http://www.josken.net and also this blog. The blog now has an alphabetical index: http://www.red-jos.net/alpha3.htm