Monthly Archives: April 2015


Foco Nuevo – May Day Special – 1st May

This gallery contains 5 photos.

  Celebrate the International Day of the Worker in song! FOCO NUEVO: May Day Special Friday, 1 May 2015, 8.00 p.m. Kurilpa Hall 174 Boundary Street West End Combined Unions Choir / Rebecca Wright/ Something to Sing About / Jumping … Continue reading


Israeli bombs on Gaza : Saudi bombs on Yemen

This gallery contains 2 photos.


Cutting us down … again

26 April 2015 Nyoongar Tent Embassy Dancers

Municipal and state authorities are moving against Sovereign Tent Embassies again … they started in Perth in March 2012, they moved against the Brisbane Aboriginal Sovereign Embassy in Musgrave Park in May 2012. Within hours of gaining government in Quensland, Campbell-Newman ordered in 250 armed police and 32 people were arrested  … and its happening again, at The Block in Redfern and now, only a few hours ago, at Perth’s  Heirisson Island Nyoongar tent embassy.

But we will resist … keep the fire burning!

Ian Curr
April 2015

Here is the news just in from Perth.

Arrests as police remove tents at Perth’s Heirisson Island Aboriginal protest [Updated 26 minutes ago]

Dozens of riot police and City of Perth rangers have again moved into dismantle an Aboriginal camp at Heirisson Island, set up in response to the State Government’s plan to close remote communities.

Officers began dismantling the camp just after 11:00 am, pulling down tents and issuing move on notices.

The tents, as well as residents’ belongings, were confiscated.

Today’s 30 April 2015 arrest at tent embassy on Heirisson Island

There were angry scenes as a man and two women were arrested, and several others were issued with move on notices.

Activist Gerry Georgatos said there had been 41 tents on the island last night, housing about 100 people including several family groups.

He said the protest was about homelessness, as well as the closure of remote communities.

“This is an indictment on the city of Perth,” he said.

“Heirisson Island was a homeless friendly safe space.

“There were 41 tents pitched there, there were a lot of large families who would otherwise be vulnerable on the streets.”

Police pushed me hard: elder
Aboriginal elder Mingli Wanjurri Nungala said she was pushed hard by police.

“We saw the police coming, there seemed to be 100 or more, all the vans came, and they came in riot stuff … and they went to pull the tents down,” she said.

“One police woman was trying to push me away, and then suddenly, this big policeman came like a bull and grabbed me by my shoulder.

“They’re the violent ones, they are the criminals.

“I don’t want our people hurt, it’s wrong.

sacred fire

Sacred fire, Musgrave Park, Brisbane

“This is our land – when I was a young girl I used to come prawning along here.”

The camp was set up early last month in protest at plans to close up to 150 Aboriginal communities, judged by the Government to be unsustainable.

Police and the City of Perth removed camping equipment from the site last month, but the camp has gradually reassembled since then.

Premier Colin Barnett said last year the State Government could no longer continue to service remote communities.

The Commonwealth provided funding for about two thirds of the state’s Aboriginal settlements with the WA Government funding the balance.

But the Commonwealth has withdrawn its funding, and is handing over responsibility to the State Government over the next two years.

aboriginal tent embassy on heirisson island

Police moved against aboriginal tent embassy on Heirisson island March 22, 2012

Sovereign grannies in Canberra 2015

Sovereign grannies in Canberra 2015

Rank and file worker in illegal detention

Union members call for his immediate release.
On 15 October 2014, at the order of the Public Guardian and Public Trustee, Ross You cannot trust the public trusteeTaylor was abducted from his family home at Sunnybank.

Those that took Ross have a motto: ‘Protecting the rights of vulnerable Queenslanders‘.

Ross Taylor was a meatworker and former member of the Australasian Meat Industry Employees’ Union (AMIEU). Ross worked hard to live in his own home where he had resided since 1978. His wife Ellen passed away in 2003 and an unscrupulous accountant defrauded Ross of his house.

The Public Trustee refused to take action to recover the property. Under the orders of Peter Carne, ALP associate of former Premiers, Goss, Beattie and Bligh, a Queen’s Counsel applied to the Supreme Court that no further action be taken against fraudsters who had stolen Ross’s life savings.

Ross Taylor had funded the West End Community Centre, AHIMSA house. As a result of fraud, the community centre came under the control of the Public Trustee who permitted the building to be sold for $970K when the aboriginal community through Sam Watson had offered market value of $2.5M. ·

We call upon workers and their unions to demand that the Attorney General, as minister responsible, order his immediate release.

 For further information contact
Bernie Neville – Ph (07) 3300 1405 or mob 0437 439 754 email:

Anzacs behaving badly: Scott McIntyre and contested history

Sacked for tweeting remarks about Anzacs that are considered “inappropriate” and “disrespectful”? Let me try and put SBS sports journalist Scott McIntyre’s tweets in historical perspective. Over the Anzac Day weekend, McIntyre was fired from SBS for a series of tweets about the grimmer aspects of Australian military history.


Click to enlarge

We know the Anzacs could get up to mischief. That was part of their image even during the first world war. Take my grandfather, for example. Frederick George Fazey joined the Australian Imperial Force (AIF) in 1918, but it was only when I looked up his records in the National Archives in Canberra that I discovered he was “apprehended” in London, and fined four days pay before being sent to the Western Front.

That was a story he never told the family, but his transgression is excusable, and seemingly innocent. He was a boy after all, only 16 or 17, and no doubt wanted to experience a bit of life before being sent to a place where there was a good chance of being killed or maimed.

Less excusable and far less innocent, even with the knowledge of hindsight, is the behaviour of the Anzacs stationed in Egypt before being shipped to Gallipoli. There the men treated the locals in an overtly racist manner.

One soldier, Victor Ault, wrote about how “we thrash the black fellows with whips … Every nigger who is impudent to a soldier gets a hiding … I can’t say how many I’ve belted and knocked out.”

EPA/Diego Azubel

On Good Friday 1915, things got out of hand. Around 2,500 Anzacs rioted in the Wazza district of Cairo, sacking and setting fire to brothels, terrifying the locals, and clashing with military police who tried to intervene. These were no angels. Between 12% and 15% of the AIF had contracted venereal disease.

The battle of the Wazza, as it was dubbed, was not the only riot that took place. Others followed. Drinking and whoring, leaving bills unpaid, threatening, bullying and beating locals because they were “niggers”, and generally behaving in ways that we now condemn our sportsmen for behaving was standard fair for these boys who had money, were far away from home, and had no one to control them.

All this is well known to historians, but clearly less well known to the public. There is an obvious disconnect between what historians know and what the popular perception of our past is. It is this disconnect that has jarred with some in the public and led to McIntyre’s sacking.

It is difficult if not impossible for historians to overturn popular myths. Myths are popular because they represent stories we want to hear; they feed into the collective psyche. Anzacs behaving badly is not something we want to acknowledge.

The “summary executions” tweet (below) made by McIntyre is a case in point. Most people are familiar with the Japanese treatment of Allied POWs, but Australian soldiers killed Japanese prisoners in Papua, including on at least one occasion wounded Japanese soldiers in hospital.

Take the 1943 diary entry of Eddie Stanton, an Australian posted to Goodenough Island off Papua New Guinea. “Japanese are still being shot all over the place,” he wrote. “The necessity for capturing them has ceased to worry anyone. From now on, Nippo survivors are just so much machine-gun practice. Too many of our soldiers are tied up guarding them.”

This was tit-for-tat killing. Anzac and American troops systematically shot Japanese prisoners in the Pacific, in part because it was expedient to do so, in part out of revenge after being witness to what the Japanese were capable of, and in part because there was so much racial hatred. The Pacific theatre was a racialised war in which atrocities were committed on both sides.

It is naïve to expect men to kill and die for their country, to live through the horrors of a particularly barbaric war, and to come out the other end unscathed. Hence McIntyre’s tweet that Anzacs raped – among others – Japanese women.

Listen to the testimony from an Australian officer, Allan Clifton, who acted as interpreter in Japan in 1946:

I stood beside a bed in hospital. On it lay a girl, unconscious, her long, black hair in wild tumult on the pillow. A doctor and two nurses were working to revive her. An hour before she had been raped by 20 soldiers. We found her where they had left her, on a piece of waste land. The hospital was in Hiroshima. The girl was Japanese. The soldiers were Australians.

The moaning and wailing had ceased and she was quiet now. The tortured tension on her face had slipped away, and the soft brown skin was smooth and unwrinkled, stained with tears like the face of a child that has cried herself to sleep.

Every invading army, regardless of the side they are on, regardless of the war, rapes. The Allies raped in France and the Philippines, in Italy and Japan. According to American historian Bob Lilly’s estimate, between 14,000 and 17,000 women were raped by American military personnel in Europe between 1942 and 1945.

And that is not counting the Pacific. Australians may not have behaved as badly as the Russians in Germany, but thousands of Japanese women were raped in the years after the war, some of them by Australian and New Zealand soldiers who made up the British Commonwealth Occupation Force in Japan.

As for Hiroshima, as well as Nagasaki, we think that a combined total of the number of civilian deaths was a little under 100,000. This was comparable to the Allied bombing of Dresden in February 1945 and of Tokyo in March 1945, which led to the deaths of, roughly, around 25,000 and 97,000 civilians respectively.

Was the Allied bombing of civilians a war crime? Some respected historians, among them Donald Bloxham, professor of modern history at the University of Edinburgh, would argue that it was.

Historically speaking then, McIntyre is not all that far off the mark, but he has been sacrificed on the altar of populist outrage. I try to teach my students to see the world differently, to think differently, to always question accepted opinion and then, when necessary, to speak out.

The decision made by the managing director of SBS is disappointing. Are journalists, academics and public figures only ever to tell people what they want to hear?

The response to McIntyre’s tweets is a demonstration that the popular perception of Anzac is completely out of step with the historical reality – but his remarks are also timely. We should not forget that war is never a one-sided affair in which our boys are squeaky-clean heroes and their boys murdering, raping villains.

War brings out the worst (as well as the best) in people. Some Anzacs were neither heroes nor particularly likeable characters – and some behaved little better than thugs and hooligans. I certainly would not have wanted to meet some of them in the back alleys of Cairo in 1915 after they had been on the piss all night.

But in the atmosphere of nationalistic chest-beating that surrounds the Anzac commemorations, there are not likely to be too many dissenting voices.

Philip Dwyer

Professor, Director of the Centre for the History of Violence, School of Humanities and Social Science at University of Newcastle

Indigenous protest seeking ‘frontier wars’ recognition shut down by police, say organisers

Image of protesters at a Anzac Day Frontier Wars March. (Facebook)

Aboriginal protesters are angry after being prevented from following the Anzac Day parade in Canberra.

Police stopped a group of more than 50 indigenous people and supporters joining marchers at the national service while waving flags, beating sticks and chanting “shame”.

The group had a banner reading: “Lest we forget the frontier wars”.

Organiser Michael Anderson later said they wanted to march up Anzac Parade and lay a wreath to recognise indigenous people killed when Europeans settled Australia.

He said indigenous people had previously been allowed to hold similar commemorations and accused police of displaying “overt racism” on Saturday.

More than 2000 people marched in the official national service parade in front of dignitaries, including Governor-General Peter Cosgrove and acting prime minister Warren Truss.

See also Amy McGuire’s report in NM …


17 Group: The other side of excellence – some ugly realities of neoliberal university education

The next meeting of the 17 Group will be held on Wednesday the 6th of May at 7 pm in unit 6 at 20 Drury St, West End. The topic will be: “The other side of excellence – some ugly … Continue reading


Vanguard: May Day Special Issue

Public sector workers fight for job security Balikatan: US leads ‘allies’ in war preparations When wharfies said no to fascism What’s behind the oil price drop? US military expansion tramples on Australia Organisation is the … Continue reading

Academic boycott of Israel

The principle of ‘academic freedom’ and the obligations of higher learning
institutions: An examination of the arguments surrounding the academic boycott
of Israel

Samah at teach-in

Samah Sabawi speaking at QUT Brisbane (circa 2010)

Abstract: Inspired by the anti-apartheid struggle in South Africa, the Palestinian campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) issued a call in 2004 urging academics and cultural workers around the world to boycott ‘all Israeli academic and cultural institutions’ in support of the Palestinian people’s struggle ‘to end Israel‘s occupation, colonization and system of apartheid’ (PACBI 2009). In the years that followed, the movement for an academic boycott of Israel rattled universities around the world. Jonathan Hahn, Executive Editor, Los Angeles Review of Books called it ‘one of the major geopolitical, civil rights issues of our time’ (Hahn 2014). The debate around academic boycott often centres around the concept of ‘academic freedom’ on one side and the ‘ethical’ and ‘moral’ obligations of higher learning institutions on the other. Those opposing the boycott claim it infringes on the basic principle of academic freedom; the free exchange of ideas across national and international divides and the right of scholars to share their views without discrimination based on their national origin or ethnicity (Fish 2013). Advocates for the boycott argue that all freedoms are essentially linked and are therefore not absolute, and as such, the value of academic freedom cannot be seen apart from other human rights such as the right to education, the right to equality, the right to live free of discrimination, freedom of speech, freedom of thought and freedom of political affiliation (Barghouthi 2013). This essay will explore the debate surrounding the academic boycott of Israel, especially the principle of ‘academic freedom’ and the perceived roles and responsibilities of academic institutions in relation to controversial ‘moral’ and ‘ethical’ issues.

The Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) Worker Solidarity - Arab Unity - Palestinian Victory
In 2003, the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) adopted a resolution during its tenth Emergency Special Session to seek an advisory opinion from the International Court of Justice (ICJ) on the ‘legal consequences arising from the construction of the wall being built by Israel inside the Palestinian Territory’ in relation to the Fourth Geneva Convention and ‘relevant Security Council and General Assembly resolutions’ (ICJ 2004). Article 92 of the UN Charter describes the ICJ as ‘the principal judicial organ of the United Nations’, making it the highest judicial authority in the world. Responding to the request by the UNGA, the ICJ voted fourteen to one calling the construction of the wall by Israel inside the Palestinian Territory ‘contrary to international law’ and reminding the member states of the UNGA that they are ‘under an obligation not to recognize the illegal situation resulting from the construction of the wall’ (ICJ 2004). In doing so, the world’s top court advised the international community that it is obligated under international law not to normalize Israel’s occupation of Palestinian land and not to recognize the route of the wall, which cuts deep into Palestinian territory as the de facto border of Palestinian areas. The ICJ advisory opinion also reminded all States that are party to the Fourth Geneva Convention of their obligation to respect the Charter and international law and to ‘ensure compliance by Israel with international humanitarian law as embodied in that Convention’ (ICJ 2004).
Palestinians hoped that this powerful and clear advisory opinion from a high reputable world body, the ICJ, would compel action by the international community and lead them to pressure Israel to freeze its building of the wall in and around Palestinian communities and to stop the expansion of settlements. But this scenario never materialized and business continued as usual with Israel building its wall and its settlements and the International community who were advised of the illegality of this action, looking the other way.
A year after the ICJ issued its advisory opinion, Palestinian civil society held a flurry of meetings to discuss possible next steps. The result of these meetings was a statement that would trigger a global movement, calling on the people of the world to apply Boycott Divestments and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel until Israel complies with its obligations under International Humanitarian Law (IHL) toward the Palestinian people (BDS Movement 2005). More than 170 groups representing the full spectrum of Palestinian civil society including unions, NGOs, agricultural groups, faith groups and political parties endorsed the statement which referred to the ICJ advisory opinion as one being added to the countless UN declarations and resolutions calling on Israel to comply with international law and/or highlighting its violations of it, but lacking the mechanism needed to force Israel into compliance. The statement echoed the widespread thinking of Palestinian civil society that they were at a critical point in their struggle where they needed practical tactics that would succeed where world governments have failed.
Modelled on the South African struggle to end apartheid, the 2004 BDS call became the impetus of the birth of a Palestinian lead non-violent civil resistance grass roots movement based on international law and the universal declarations of human rights. The stated aim of this movement is to empower people around the globe regardless of their ethnicity, faith or nationality, to become active participants in the Palestinian struggle to: end the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land, demand full equality for Palestinians who hold Israeli citizenships, and call on Israel to comply with its obligations under international law toward the Palestinian refugees’ right of return (BDS movement 2004).
The Palestinian Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) is a critical component within the BDS movement. In ten years since its formation, this campaign made significant headway. In 2013, a group of 20 leading academics, including Noam Chomsky, successfully convinced world-renowned theoretical physicist, Professor Stephen Hawking, to boycott an Israeli conference hosted by Israeli president Shimon Peres in Jerusalem, prompting Hawking to pull out citing support for the academic boycott (Rose & Rose 2013).
Also of significance last year were several milestone votes passed in support of boycott by major academic bodies and student unions around the world. Most notable was the vote by the 5,000 members American Studies Association (ASA) in favour of the boycott, making the ASA one of three American scholarly groups to support academic boycott, the other two are the elected council for the Native American and Indigenous Studies Association and the Association for Asian American Studies (Inside Higher Ed 2014). The UK campaign for academic boycott also drew attention last year when the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) passed a motion supporting action by the International Union Of Architects to suspend the Israeli Association of United Architects (IAUA) from its world body (Sherwood 2014).
According to the PACBI website, the movement to boycott Israel has also been gaining strength and scoring ‘victories’ by successfully passing divestment resolutions and motions on university campuses around the world (PACBI 2014). This past year motions in favour of boycott were passed at the University of Michigan-Dearborn, the University of New Mexico, Columbia University and Barnard College, King’s College London, the University of Southampton, Sussex University, the university of Sheffield, Ryerson University, York University, The University of Windsor the National University of Galway amongst many others (PACBI 2014).

Defining the Parameters of ‘Academic Freedom’



In 1966, a history professor at Rutgers University made a controversial statement. Eugene Genovese declared he does not ‘fear or regret the impending Vietcong victory in Vietnam’ and that he in fact ‘welcomes’ such victory (Genovese, cited in Black 2007, p 483). His statement prompted a huge controversy as academics and pundits deliberated on what society should deem permissible speech within the boundary of academic freedom.
President Richard Nixon weighed in on this argument in his address at Rochester University stating that ‘academic freedom should protect the right of a professor or student to advocate Marxism, socialism, communism, or any other minority viewpoint — no matter how distasteful to the majority’ (Nixon, cited in Black 2007, p. 483). Nixon’s support for the right to freedom of speech was within clear limitation, drawing the line at ‘favouring an American opponent in a shooting war’ (Black, 2007, p.483). But many academics disagreed with Nixon’s line giving their support to Genovese’s right to express freely his viewpoint with no limitation. This case became known as an important landmark in the fight for academic freedom. Many argue that the fact that Genovese survived and did not lose his job at the university was an indication that the space for freedom of thought and expression in academic institutions in the US was in fact expanded. Conrad Black argued that it was after the Genovese Affair that college professors began to believe that they could voice criticism ‘with various aspects of American society’ without fear of suffering any consequences as a result (Black 2007, p 483).
While the Genovese affair may have highlighted one side of academic freedom; the freedom to express dissent, the right of academics to speak freely on all matters of interest is still being negotiated on campuses around the world. Marcy Jane Knopf-Newman is Associate Professor of English at An Najah University in Palestine. She believes there is ‘censorship’ within academic institutions, that lead to least two professors, Dr. Norman Finkelstein of DePaul University and Joseph Massad of Columbia University, to suffer grave consequences and lose their jobs for criticizing Israel in their research (Knopf-Newman 2008). Knopf-Newman calls on academics to rethink the notion of ‘academic freedom’ and see it more as ‘a privilege rather than a right’ in order to foster a constructive debate within academic institutions and to promote a healthy environment to conduct research freely.
Some academics have insisted this is precisely why they oppose the boycotts. They claim that boycotts against Israel will create an unhealthy environment that could stifle the process of free research. American literary theorist and legal scholar, Stanley Fish, argues that ‘academic freedom’ is about ensuring that scholars are able to pursue their research freely and that the academic boycott against Israel hinders this process (Fish 2013). But According to Palestinian academic and founder of the Palestinian Campaign for the Cultural and Academic Boycott of Israel (PACBI) Omar Barghouthi, there is nothing that stops Israeli scholars from pursuing or publishing their research, teaching or participating in international forums as long as these activities are not linked to Israeli institutions, all that the boycotts do is cause them the ‘inconvenience’ of finding independent funding ‘instead of relying on Israeli state or institutional funding’ (Barghouthi 2014). This is reinforced within the guidelines of the campaign for academic boycott published on the PACBI website (2009) which states that individual academics in Israel who still wish to work with Palestinians are welcome to do so, so long as they work on projects not funded by an Israeli institution with the purpose of normalizing Israel’s policies of occupation. It was also made clear when the American Studies Association voted to join the academic boycott. The ASA’s president Curtis Marez, highlighted the fact that the boycott was ‘limited to institutions and their official representatives’ and does not ‘target individual academics’ (Marez cited in Hanley 2014). In fact, the ASA also announced its plans to bring Israeli and Palestinian scholars together at its national convention in 2014 (Hanley 2014).
Regardless of how it may or may not impact individual academics, Stanley Fish still opposes the boycott on the ground that the doctrine of ‘academic freedom’ does not give scholars the right to be ‘watching out for human rights violations and taking steps to stop them’ as he believes that this falls outside of the charge of ‘the academy’ and ‘the doctrine of academic freedom’ (2013). Stanely Fish expresses a common view in academia, one that sees the definition of academic freedom as limited and as separate in its scope from human rights and social issues that take place outside the walls of higher learning institutions. Such common view may explain the silence of Israeli academics who have for a long time acted as bystanders to the conflict. Author Neve Gordon (2014) offers a vivid account of his days as student of philosophy in Israel’s Hebrew University on Mount Scopus in the late 1980s. Gordon describes sitting in class while the first Palestinian uprising was raging in the streets in Arab East Jerusalem, he remembers hearing gun shots and seeing the clouds of tear gas in the valley below where the Israeli army tried to crush the unarmed protesters with brutal force. Gordon summed up the scene in one sentence. ‘While the Palestinians fought for their liberation, we continued our classes on Immanuel Kant, John Stuart Mill, and G.E. Moore’ (Gordon 2014).
The Role of Israeli Academic Institutions 031010_0741_Palestinian1.jpg
There are those who argue that academics do not have sufficient political power to instigate this kind of change. Rodin & Yudkin (2011) are amongst these voices who believe that academics are not as ‘critical to the survival of regimes’ like others in ‘trade, armaments and finance’ and therefore cannot pressure the regime into changing. They argue that the boycott will only impede the scientific progress and research capacity of higher learning institutions, as it did in South Africa, where they claim the academic boycott did not have a role in ending apartheid but contributed to the ‘backwardness’ of South Africa’s academic institutions (Rodin & Yudkin 2011).
There are many who would disagree with this logic and argue that it ignores the role of academic institutions both in Israel today, and in South Africa during the apartheid era. Salim Vally, a Professor of Education at the University of Witwatersand in South Africa, insists that universities in South Africa ‘played a critical role in reproducing the structural inequalities and injustices that were found in that society’ (Vally, cited in Knopft-Newman 2008).
Supporters of the academic boycott agree. They believe that Israeli academic institutions ‘either benefit from, or participate in, Israeli government actions that violate Palestinian rights’ (Bisharat 2008). They offer many examples of the deep ties between Israel’s military establishment and its academic institutions. Tel Aviv University, is built in part on land belonging to a Palestinian village once destroyed by Israel in 1948, it plays a significant role in developing technological support for the Israeli military and arms industry and is home to the Institute for National Security Studies, a military planning centre (PACBI 2012). Israel’s leading institute for scientific research, Technion is known for designing military weapons and for its partnership with Israel’s largest private weapons manufacturer, Elbit Systems (PACBI 2012). Hebrew University in Jerusalem expands over 800 acres of illegally acquired land that belongs to private Palestinian owners (Bisharat 2008). Bar Ilan University has set up a campus inside an illegal settlement in the West Bank (Gordon 2014). Haifa University sponsors scholarships for army veterans and in 2010 won an Israeli army tender to train students at the army’s College for National Security for MA studies (PACBI 2012).
Based on these links, an argument can be made that the academic support for the ‘ideological apparatus’ in apartheid South Africa also exists today within Israel’s higher learning institutions (Vally, cited in Knopft-Newman 2008). This renders the argument made by Rodin & Yudkin (2011) in regards to the lack of power academic institutions have as inaccurate. Israel’s academic institutions are powerful as they provide the state with the science, the military training, the weapons, and the strategic know-how that in effect maintains the regime. This makes Israel’s academic institutions an effective target for pressure and for change.

Academic Collaboration and Dialogue palestine_blue-sky-over-bethlehem
There are those who believe change is more likely to come through dialogue and collaboration than through boycotts. They argue that boycotts are counterproductive. They weaken academics who ‘are often among the most liberal voices within their society’ and interfere with their ability ‘to oppose the abuses that may have given rise to calls for a boycott’ (Rodin & Yudkin 2011). But as Vally (Cited in Knopft-Newman 2008) argues, even those considered ‘liberal’ academics and institutions, still have close ties to the state, receiving funding and in return providing the ‘scientific, commercial, and intellectual bases’ that enables the state to function. Other academics like George Bisharat (2008) argue that while there are some liberal Israeli academics that do voice criticism of Israeli policy, a greater majority of them don’t. Instead they provide Israel with the state of the art ‘expertise in demography, psychology, strategic studies, history, anthropology, and other fields that have assisted the state in its control of Palestinian populations’ (Bisharat 2008).
The late Israeli academic Tanya Reinhart, former professor of linguistics at Tel-Aviv University highlighted the collective silence on the part of Israel’s academia when it comes to the way Israel sabotages Palestinian education. Reinhart was frustrated by the fact that not one Israeli university ever passed a resolution protesting Israel’s assault on Palestinian education and academic freedom. She argued that when there are ‘extreme situations of violations of human rights and moral principles’ if an academic institution remains silent, than‘ it collaborates with the oppressing system’ (Reinhart 2003).
According to a report by the United Nations Scientific and Cultural organization (UNISCO 2010) during the winter of 2008-09, Israel bombed and totally destroyed six Palestinian university buildings and ten schools, partially damaged 16 Palestinian university buildings and 262 schools, killed 250 Palestinian students and 15 teachers and injured 656 Palestinian students and 19 teachers. This prompted evolutionary Israeli biologist Eva Jablonka of Tel Aviv University to campaign with some of her colleagues to issue a statement defending Palestinian academic freedom. Of the 9,000 Israeli academics asked to sign this petition, only a handful of 400 responded (Fisch et al 2009).
Still, despite this history of scarce opposition within Israel’s academia to the violations of the basic human rights of Palestinians, Rodin & Yudkin (2011) insist that cross collaboration, not boycott, between people who are in conflict with one another will provide for ‘an impetus to, the breakdown of hostility’, because they believe boycotting only isolates the state or the organization that is being boycotted and inadvertently locks it out of reasoned discussion that may inspire change. This position is often echoed by Israeli and other academics who oppose the boycott. The Dean of the faculty of humanities and social sciences at Ben Gurion University David Newman warned that the boycotts threaten to destroy ‘one of the very few spaces left where Israelis and Palestinians actually do come together’ (Newman, cited in Booth & Sherwood 2013).
But how significant and how effective is this space in reality? There are very few Palestinians who still believe in the virtue of collaboration and dialogue with Israel (Kalman 2014). One of them is Palestinian academic Mohammed S. Dajani, the director of the American studies at Al-Quds University in East Jerusalem. Dajani holds the view that what Palestinians need is ‘more dialogue with the other’ and he blames the persistence of the occupation on a lack of trust between Palestinians and Jews (Dajani, cited in Kalman 2014). But Dajani’s views are not shared by the majority of Palestinians who since the outbreak of the second intifada in 2000, suspended all joint projects with Israeli institutions (Kalman 2014).
There was a time when a great number of Palestinian academics did engage with Israelis in countless dialogue initiatives, which sprung in the aftermath of the announcement of the Oslo peace process in 1993, so many they became known as the ‘peace industry’ (Giacaman 2009). Omar Barghouthi (cited in Mustafa 2009) founding member of PACBI, spoke of the opportunities that were given to those who participated in this ‘industry’, such as financial gains, trips to Europe and accommodation in fancy hotels, but in the end, he argues, none of those initiatives produced any results on the ground because they were ‘morally flawed’ as they were based on ‘the false premise’ that the reason the conflict persists is ‘mutual hatred’ and therefore all that was needed to end it is ‘therapy or dialogue between those two equivalent, symmetric, warring parties’ (Barghouthi, cited in Mustafa 2009).
For a great many Palestinians, the conflict is not between two people who ‘hate’ each other and need to build measurements of ‘trust’ as Dijani proposes (Dijani, cited in Kalman 2014), but is a colonial conflict between an occupied people and those who occupy them. They resist simply because the Israeli settlements continue to expand on their land, they continue to lose resources to Israel’s occupation including minerals and water, they suffer under the military occupation of Israel which interferes with every aspect of their daily lives, they are denied basic rights including the right to citizenship and they, like others before them throughout history, refuse to exist within a system that discriminates against them. For those advocating for the rights of Palestinians to live free of such oppression and discrimination, learning the lessons of history is crucial. They believe that change didn’t happen in South Africa ‘through academic dialogue’; it happened when the people of the world united in ‘ protest, resistance, and an international boycott’ (Lubin 2013).

Stifling Academic Debate in the name of ‘Academic Freedom’

amber dances the dabke at opening night of palestinian days film festival1

Amber dances the dabke at opening night of palestinian days film festival – Brisbane

While the campaign for academic boycott grows, the pressure from the political right also grows as opposition to the boycott tries to align the definition of ‘academic freedom’ with democratic liberal values that need to be ‘balanced’ and regulated (Buttler 2006). Various legislative and institutional initiatives have been proposed to either enforce a ban on academics or academic institutions who support boycotting Israel, or to make it expensive for them to do so by threatening to cut off their funding. Judith Buttler (2006) warns, these initiatives confine the definitions of democratic ideals within a limited realm of what these groups view as ‘balanced’, leading to anti-democratic surveillance and regulations.
In the United States, Maryland state Senate and House committee hearings are currently deliberating an anti-boycott legislation bill that would ‘prohibit spending public funds for travel or membership fees on academic groups that boycott Israel’ (Kane 2014). The primary target of this legislation will be the American Studies Association because it has voted in favour of the academic boycott. The American Studies department at the University of Maryland is one of many academic institutes that pays annual fees to the ASA, and through that, their names lend it creditability and legitimacy which the anti boycott campaign wants to ensure is eradicated.
Delinda C. Hanley (2014), news editor of the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs detailed in an article just how the pro Israel group Stand With Us along with pro Israel college alumni and donors launched a campaign to pressure US college presidents to take a stand against the ASA, withdraw their membership and publicly denounce the organization. According to Hanley, 134 members of the House of Representatives in the US denounced the ASA vote, and a New York State Senator introduced new legislation that would ban funding to any academic institute that is affiliated with the ASA. This mounting pressure has caused more than 200 university presidents to condemn the ASA vote without seeking input from members of their faculty. Stephen Joel Trachtenberg, president emeritus of George Washington University explained that the presidents were eager to put a stop to the academic boycott ‘while it’s still in its’ infancy’ (Trachtenberg, cited in Hanley 2014).
The tactic of silencing debate was evident when even though the British Medical Journal (BMJ) voted against the boycott, they were still subjected to attacks by pro Israel groups. According to the editor of the BMJ, Fiona Godlee, the overwhelming responses the BMJ received were not focused on the merit of the boycotts or academic freedom; rather they were mostly critical of ‘allowing the debate to take place’ (Godlee 2007). In other words, those who spoke against the academic boycott while often citing ‘academic freedom’ were the ones most determined to silence the academic debate on this issue. So much so, they accused anyone of allowing the debate to take place of being on the side of boycott, Godlee observes this ‘assumption of an alignment with one side of the argument’ just because you allow a debate to take place, does not happen when debating any other issue (Godlee 2007).
Rodin & Yudkin (2011) suggest another form of control to move the choice of boycott away from individuals and even institutions and hand it over to an outside authority who can decide who is boycottable and who is not. They argue that applying boycott should be based on a ‘most severe first’ criteria to be decided by an independent authority. In other words, only those who sit on top of a list of ‘moral evils’ in some type of ‘ordinal ranking of gravity’ should be boycotted. A special institutional authority should be created according to Rodin &Yudkin (2011) to decide which cases are on top of this moral gravity list. Such institutional authority ‘would gain its legitimacy from operating procedures designed to ensure its impartiality, fairness and epistemic reliability’ (Rodin & Yudkin 2011). This suggestion may be appealing for advocates of Israel who have for long objected to the academic and other forms of boycott using the line of defence that Israel is not the worst human rights offender in the world, so why singly it out?

Hysteria and False Allegations palestine book 1
George Bisharat (2008) observes that whenever this discourse begins to take place, the focus shifts away from Israel’s violations and zooms in on the possible motives of those who are supposedly singling it out, accusing them of anti-Semitism and hypocrisy. For example, syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer asserted that the ASA’s decision was not based on anything to do with human rights and everything to do with anti-Semitism (Krauthammer, cited in Hanley 2014).
As for the idea of ‘worst first’, Bisharat (2008) argues that this was never before a criteria for boycott, if it were, the Pol Pot regime would have been a better candidate for boycott than apartheid South Africa. Bisharat explains that boycott would not have worked with Cambodia because its ties to the West were not strong enough to make a boycott effective, the same could not be said of South Africa during its apartheid era, or Israel today. He points to how important Israel’s image is to the west and how deep its ties run with western culture and economy, to make the case that this is why boycott against Israel can be very effective to pressure it to cease its violations of Palestinian human rights.
Unfortunately, much of the public discussion about the academic boycott and its impact on ‘academic freedom’ is at times riddled with dishonest allegations that have given way to the rise of hysterics and fear mongering within the public sphere. For example, the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) voted against a boycott Israel resolution that was previously passed by the British Association of University Teachers (AUT) based on their belief that boycotts cause damage ‘to the ideals of academic freedom’ because they exclude ‘conscientious Israeli academics and intellectuals opposed to their states colonial and racist policies’ (AAUP in Butler 2006). This would make sense if the resolution they opposed didn’t specifically target two Israeli institutions of higher learning and not individual Israeli academics. But as Butler (2006) notes the AAUP association acted on the basis of a false allegation that those calling for boycott have in fact made up lists of academics to boycott, even though the only lists that do exist according to Butler, are the black lists questioning the integrity of academics who are critical of Israel. Those lists were drafted by pro-Israel groups lead by David Horowitz, Daniel Pipes, Campus Watch, and the online journal FrontPage, and are posted on the Internet (Butler 2006).

Conclusion Return to Palestine
During the rise of the anti-apartheid movement which lead to the fall of the apartheid regime in South Africa, it became clear that many around the world believed that ‘academic freedom’ could not be privileged above all other values. This was expressed in the overwhelming support of the anti-apartheid boycott movement and the 1980 UN General Assembly Resolution (A/RES/35/206E: 98th plenary meeting) which called on states to ‘take steps to prevent all cultural, academic, sports, and other exchanges with the racist regime of South Africa’.
Palestinian civil society, in its call for the non-violent resistance strategy of BDS, including the call for an academic boycott, has shown that Palestinians have learned from the lessons of history. The onus is now on Academics and academic institutions to also draw from the lessons of history and to ensure that a healthy space is provided for a constructive public discourse on this issue; a discourse that must take into consideration both the context of past and present civil rights struggles, as well as the harsh realities that Palestinians endure every day under Israel’s military occupation. For a growing number of academics and academic institutions, it is clear that the moral obligation to refuse ‘free academic interchange’ with those who violate, or are part of a system that violates the human rights of others far outweighs the principle of ‘academic freedom’.

Samah Sabawi

Barghouthi, O 2014, ‘On academic freedom and the BDS movement’, The Nation 14 December. Last viewed 30 March 2014.
BDS Movement 2005. Palestinian Civil Society Call for BDS. Last viewed 06 May 2014.
Bisharat, G 2008, ‘Pensée 2: Egregious Abuses Warrant a Boycott’, International Journal of Middle East Studies, vol. 40, no. 2, pp. 191-192.
Black, C 2007, Richard M. Nixon: A Life in Full, McClelland & Stewart Ltd Public Affairs, US
Booth, R & Sherwood, H 2013, ‘Noam Chomsky helped lobby Stephen Hawking to stage Israel boycott’, The Guardian 11 May. Last viewed 3 April 2014.­israel-boycott
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‘Editorial: Academic Boycott’, 2007, Philosophy, vol. 82, no. 321, pp. 377-377.
Fisch, M. Falk, R. Jablonka, E. Gissis, S. 2009, Academic freedom for whom?
Fish, S 2013, ‘Academic Freedom Against Itself: Boycotting Israeli Universities’, The New York Times 28 October. Last viewed 30 March 2014,­itself-boycotting-israeli-universities/?_php=true&_type=blogs&_r=0
Giacaman, F 2009, ‘Can We Talk? The Middle East Peace Industry’, The Electronic Intifada 20 August. Last viewed 12 May 2014,
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Gordon, N 2014, ‘In Their Silence, Israeli Academics Collude With Occupation’, The Chronicle Review 2 June. Last viewed 1 June 2014.­Silence-Israeli/146815/?cid=at&utm_source=at&utm_medium=en
Hahn, J 2014, ‘Academic Activism: Israelis, Palestinians, and the Ethics of Boycott’, Los Angeles Reveiew of Books 16 March. Last viewed 15 May 2014,
Hanley, DC 2014, ‘Critics of Israeli University Boycott Need to Go Back to School’, The Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, vol. 33, no. 2, pp. 19-19,31.
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International Court of Justice 2004. Legal Consequences of the Construction of a Wall in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. Last viewed 18 April 2014. http://www.icj­
Kalman, M 2014, ‘Palestinian Scholars Generally Approve Academic Boycott of Israel’, The Chronicle of Higher Education 8 January. Last viewed 3 April 2014.
Kane, A 2014, ‘Battle over Maryland’s anti-boycott Israel bill heats up’, Mondoweiss 9 March. Last viewed 23 April 2014,­boycott.html
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Reinhart, T 2003, ‘Academic boycott: in support of Paris VI’, Electronic Intifada 4 February. Last viewed 20 May 2014.­boycott-support-paris-vi/4387
RODIN, D & YUDKIN, M 2011, ‘Academic Boycott’, Journal of Political Philosophy, vol. 19, no. 4, pp. 465-485.
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May Day March

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Brisbane Labour Day March & Family Fun Day 2015 Come celebrate the achievements of working people past and present by marching with your union this Labour Day – Sunday May 3 2015. The march will commence on the corner of … Continue reading


Abbott government links black funding to support for constitutional reform

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If you talk to anyone supportive of constitutional reform, they will tell you that there is general acceptance across Australia – including Indigenous Australia – of proposals to recognise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders in the constitution.If you mention it to the body tasked with drumming up awareness – the government-backed and funded Recognise – they’ll go further, claiming the “vast majority” of Australians are behind them. They proclaim that recent polls found “almost 7 out of 10 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people supported constitutional reform”. Continue reading


Foco Nuevo: Our May Day Special!

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FOCO NUEVO OUR MAY DAY SPECIAL! Come and celebrate the International Day of the Workers in song! COMBINED UNIONS CHOIR SUE WIGHTON & REBECCA WRIGHT SOMETHING TO SING ABOUT JUMPING FENCES Friday May 1 8.00 p.m. Kurilpa Hall 174 Boundary … Continue reading

Mythology of War

Am I a spy in the land of the living,
 that I should deliver men to Death?
 Brother, the password and the plans of our city
 are safe with me; never through me Shall you be overcome.
         -  Edna St Vincent Millay Conscientious Objector

[PShift Broadcast (4ZZZ fm 102.1) on 24 April 2015, Andy presents a show about war and resistance to it. Listen to program at

With the ANZAC celebrations in full flight 100 years after Australians invaded Turkey, Andy looks to the point of war.  In an interview with historian, David Stephens, from Honest History website they discuss the mythology and commercialisation of ANZAC. David Stevens compares the importance of Gallipoli with that of the frontier wars, the roles played by women and trade unions in our history. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Musgrave park – Camp Dundali.

Andy interviews Wayne Wharton about Camp Dundalli at Musgrave Park from Friday 24 April till 25 April 2015. Remembering the Frontier Wars – about invading another people’s country. Australian government spending $300M celebrating one day. Wayne Wharton argues that there should be monument to first nations people. Everyone welcome. Campfires. and going to Anzac ceremony at 4.30 am.

Listen to program @

Mary Rattenbury – Peace speaks to our sad old world
Andrew Kennedy – Murder or suicide
RedGum – I was only 19 (by John Schuman)
The Pogues – The band played waltzing matilda
Utah Phillips – The trooper’s lament
Edna St Vincent Millay – Conscientious objector – see poem below.
Warumpi Band – Secret war

Body Count Poem about war
Edna St Vincent Millay Conscientious Objector

I shall die, but
that is all that I shall do for Death.
I hear him leading his horse out of the stall;
I hear the clatter on the barn-floor.
He is in haste; he has business in Cuba,
business in the Balkans, many calls to make this morning.
But I will not hold the bridle
while he clinches the girth.
And he may mount by himself:
I will not give him a leg up.

Though he flick my shoulders with his whip,
I will not tell him which way the fox ran.
With his hoof on my breast, I will not tell him where
the black boy hides in the swamp.
I shall die, but that is all that I shall do for Death;
I am not on his pay-roll.

I will not tell him the whereabout of my friends
nor of my enemies either.
Though he promise me much,
I will not map him the route to any man’s door.
Am I a spy in the land of the living,
that I should deliver men to Death?
Brother, the password and the plans of our city
are safe with me; never through me Shall you be overcome.



White cops, Black victims – Perth is to Western Australia, what Birmingham was to Alabama

by Gerry Georgatos April 24th, 2015 Image – Desiré Mallet One in 13 of Western Australia’s Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander adult males are in prison today. From a racialised lens this is the world’s highest jailing rate. But before … Continue reading

Seven Years Past: Australian parliament passes military takeover bills of Aboriginal Communities

Several Aboriginal communities in Australia’s Northern Territory (NT) took a stand against the police-military takeover of their towns last month as the Labor opposition joined with the Howard government in ramming the legislation through the Senate.On August 17, the parliament’s upper house passed the 500-page package of five bills without any amendment, after a farcical one-day committee inquiry. The previous week, Labor helped push the blatantly racist and anti-democratic bills through the House of Representatives in less than nine hours.

The legislation specifically overrides the 1975 Racial Discrimination Act, allowing it to target indigenous people, and gives Indigenous Affairs Minister Mal Brough dictatorial powers to remove elected bodies and take direct control of every aspect of life in more than 73 indigenous townships and camps.

Under the guise of moving urgently to protect children from sexual abuse, the government is imposing unprecedented measures. These include imprisonment for possessing alcohol or pornography, sexual health checks for children, the seizure of communal land titles and the removal of the permit system, which allows local indigenous councils to exclude people from their areas. Presently 82 percent of the NT prison population and 96 percent of the juveniles held in detention are aboriginal.

The legislation abolishes employment programs and slashes welfare entitlements. Half of all welfare and family support payments will be “quarantined”, that is, converted into vouchers to be used for food and clothing, generally in government-run shops. The cut-off will be extended to 100 percent if children do not attend school or are deemed “neglected”. These welfare cuts will be extended nationally, starting with 50 percent quarantining for all parents whose children are judged to be at risk.

On August 14, the Yirrkala community in north-east Arnhem Land became the first to expel a government survey team of public servants, police and military personnel. Residents said they were sick and tired of answering the same questions and demanded to speak directly to Minister Brough. Yirrkala Council coordinator Adrian Rota said people were angry and frustrated that the survey team had not consulted with local authorities, and were unable to provide any information about the legislation.

On the same day, Banduk Marika, a nationally acclaimed artist and Yirrkala community leader, published an opinion piece in the Sydney Morning Herald condemning the government intervention. She stressed that it had nothing to do with protecting children. “What gives this government the right to say that we are not allowed to control our future, our lives, our families and who comes into our country?” she asked. “We will not be treated as though we have no rights.”

Marika referred to the previous struggles of the Yirrkala people, who 33 years ago submitted a bark petition to parliament after the conservative Menzies government signed their land away for mining. “Like our elders before us, we will continue to stand up for what is right and fair. Don’t use our children as an excuse for stealing this land away from us.”

Pointing to the racist nature of the legislation, she wrote: “The government is now trying to say that the land, community councils and the permit system are also part of the reason for child abuse. But this is a lie. Has any non-aboriginal council ever been taken over by the government because of child abuse occurring in its area? Has anybody in non-indigenous Australia had their land taken away because of child abuse in their community? I don’t think so.”

On August 15, in the central Australian town of Alice Springs, more than 300 people demonstrated outside the Northern Territory Taskforce headquarters and the office of the NT Chief Minister Clare Martin, burning a copy of the legislation.

The rally was organised by a number of Aboriginal organisations, including Tangentyere Council, which represents 18 town camps on the outskirts of Alice Springs. The council runs a range of services, such as managing the housing, collecting garbage, distributing the mail, patrolling the camps to avert violence, feeding and washing the old people, running a safe house for children, providing financial services and marketing the work of artists.

The rally was addressed by William Tilmouth, the chief executive of Tangentyere Council, Pat Turner, the chief executive of National Indigenous Television, David Ross of the Central Land Council and Neville Perkins from the Institute for Aboriginal Development. Representatives spoke from Mount Nancy camp and Larapinta town camp.

Tilmouth denounced leading Aboriginal figures for backing the Howard government’s takeover. He likened Sue Gordon, chair of the government’s NT taskforce, and Noel Pearson of the Cape York Policy Institute to indigenous members of the early mounted police force in Queensland, who had cold-bloodedly shot Aborigines. “The Queensland mounted police have taken their role again, in the voice of Noel Pearson and Sue Gordon,” he said.

Likewise, Tilmouth condemned Warren Mundine, the immediate past federal president of the Labor Party, who had endorsed the legislation as “positively” discriminatory. “Warren Mundine should know better. He knows nothing about our culture; he knows nothing about the way we live. Those people should hang their heads in shame.”

Pat Turner described the intervention as nothing more than a “short-term, cynical, electoral stunt”. She said there was not one reference in the 500 pages of legislation to ensuring the “safety of the women and children in our communities”. She pointed to the government’s appointment of business managers who would disregard the elected councils and brush them aside. “This is the final nail in the coffin of self-determination for Aboriginal people,” she said.

In a media release that morning, the Tangentyere council slammed the legislation as the most “racist” and “retrograde” ever considered by parliament. It said the government had failed to address any of the 99 recommendations of the “Little Children is Sacred” report on child sex abuse in the NT. Moreover, Labor and the party’s leader, Kevin Rudd, had betrayed Aboriginal people.

Vital services slashed

Tangentyere residents and many others throughout the NT fear that their councils will be taken out of their hands and outside administrators appointed, leaving them powerless. Under the legislation, the minister can terminate any land rights, title or other interests at any time, and the government can lease and sublease the land without monetary compensation. Having taken possession, the government can exclude anyone from the land, because the terms of leases are at the minister’s discretion. In the town camps of Alice Springs, people fear they may be evicted.

Already, Tangentyere has been stripped of Community Development Employment Project (CDEP) subsidies worth $98,000, immediately affecting the staffing of aged and community services. The “old peoples service,” which has been providing support for elderly people for nearly 30 years, faces cuts to weekend services.

The abolition of CDEP threatens at least 7,000 jobs across the NT, varying from land management to working at health clinics and art and craft centres. Hundreds of jobs could be axed in the arts sector, where artists and art advisors are supported through CDEP. The new measures could force artists to deal directly with the private market, creating the conditions for even more poorly-paid artists to produce works that fetch high prices in distant art galleries.

This is just one example of how free-market measures will force Aboriginal workers into cheap labour jobs and training schemes. A recent report from the Centre of Aboriginal Economic and Policy Research warned that the scrapping of CDEP would drive up unemployment levels in remote communities to disastrous levels. Minister Brough admitted that “non-viable” remote communities would be starved of funds and basic services, leaving their members no choice but to drift into the towns in search of work.

Since the Howard government announced its intervention two months ago, government intervention teams have visited at least 66 of the 73 designated communities. In all, 18 extra police have been deployed and eight government business mangers appointed to oversee 13 remote communities. More than 850 children have had health checks. While some have been diagnosed with ear, throat and skin infections, no cases of sexual assault have been reported.

Ironically, one of the communities left out of the government’s intervention is Elliott, where, according to the Little Children are Sacred report, serious alcohol and sexual abuse problems abound. Brough’s junior minister, Community Services Minister Nigel Scullion, said the government had not intended to exclude Elliott; it only happened because the community was not on Aboriginal land.

Addressing the National Press Club on August 15, Brough confirmed the land grab and free-market agenda behind the intervention. The minister declared that recognition of land rights had resulted in the impoverishment of Aboriginal people. Claiming that communal title and “collectivism” had failed, he called for the opening up of the land to private ownership to provide “economic opportunity”. This will allow mining companies, cattle station operators, tourism entrepreneurs and real estate developers to exploit the most valuable sites for private profit.

Brough also emphasised that the “welfare reform” measures would apply across Australia, confirming that the second objective of the NT intervention, after the land grab, was to use indigenous people as a testing ground for a wider assault on the working class.

“Trying to break down our culture”

After the rally at Alice Springs, the WSWS spoke to Walter Shaw—one of the speakers from Mount Nancy town camp and a member of Tangentyere Council—about the background and thrust of the federal intervention.

“This year was supposed to be a celebratory and commemorative year for Aboriginal people with 40 years since the 1967 referendum [in favour of basic civic rights for Aboriginal people] and 50 years of NAIDOC [National Aboriginal and Islander Day of Celebration] but now we are standing up here fighting for our future existence.

“We are angry that the Labor Party has let us down both nationally and within our own territory. We have relied on Labor for years to have some empathy and sympathy for our cause. Now we don’t know whom to turn to.

“Over the past year, Brough has hit a brick wall in the NT with subleasing agreements. Brough wanted us to hand over the land and the housing stock to the NT government for some money for infrastructure.

“At Tangentyere Council we took a staunch position. We negotiated and talked with them but we stood up to this government. They said they would allocate $60 million for infrastructure if we handed over the land. We desperately needed the money for housing and services but we stood up for principle. It was never about money; it was about principles. A lot of the town campers were terrified that if the NT took control, there would be mass evictions. The NT government does not have a great track record in housing Aboriginal people. Some of the camps sit on prime real estate.

“The town campers try to live a semi-cultural existence and we did not want that taken away. Sometimes we cook bush tucker in our backyards and the NT housing department will not allow these cultural practices to continue. The camps have a close connection to many of the people in the remote communities through language, kinship and marriage. For the people in remote areas, Alice Springs is a service centre and at the camp we have an open door policy for Aboriginals who come to Alice Springs.

“For years we have been neglected by governments. Aboriginal people have always tried to keep a strong sense of communal culture and our connection to the land, despite 200 years of oppression. Brough says that our communalism and collectivism have failed. Howard and Brough are trying to break down our culture and put the final nail in the coffin. We have had problems because none of our communities had been properly funded or resourced. We have always raised the problems but it has fallen on deaf ears.

“Our rally was the launching of the fight against the government that will be ongoing.”

By Susan Allan
3 September 2007

See Also:
Australian government wages two-year vilification campaign to justify takeover of Mutitjulu
[21 August 2007]
Australian government rams bills through parliament to take over Aboriginal communities
[8 August 2007]
Aboriginal people condemn police-military intervention in Northern Territory
[18 July 2007]
Australia: Protests against Howard’s takeover of Aboriginal communities
[13 July 2007]
Australian government imposes military-police regime on Aborigines
[23 June 2007]

Join the dots between Gallipoli and the Armenian genocide

[Publisher’s Note: In reading the article below be mindful that all aspects of this history are disputed … here are Australians celebrating their version of Gallipoli to the exclusion of others. Read the comments in the conversation … many are interesting, some show how far away we are from the real horrors of going into wars wearing blinkers. One thing is sure, you will not hear the current Australian Treasurer, Joe Hockey, talking of the Armenian genocide on TV even though his family were Armenian (and Palestinian). Joe Hockey’s fellow cabinet members just do not want to know about what happened despite his attempts to reveal the nature of the genocide in his autobiography. Australia’s Foreign Minister Julie Bishop recently asserted, “We do not, however, recognize these events as ‘genocide.’”  —  Ian Curr, April 2015]

In 1915 and 1916, the Ottoman Armenians were destroyed as an organised community and more than one million of their number were killed – just as the Allies’ failed invasion of Gallipoli took place.

Livestock wagon with Armenians in the Summer or Autumn 1915. Historisches Institut der Deutschen Bank, Frankfurt.

This week marks the centenary not only of the Gallipoli campaign, but – today – of the Armenian genocide. The destruction of the Armenians coincided with the planned Allied attack against the Ottoman capital, Istanbul.

For the Young Turk Committee of Union and Progress (CUP) at the reins of the Ottoman Empire, Spring 1915 was a watershed moment. Together with its defence of the Dardanelles, this conspiratorial group of right-wing revolutionaries made its war “total” in a way that Europe did not know before the second world war.

In 1915 and 1916, the Ottoman Armenians were destroyed as an organised community, while more than half of them, around one million people, were killed. After the Allies had failed in its naval breakthrough through the Isthmus on March 18 1915, they launched a landing on the Gallipoli peninsula, east of the Dardanelles, on April 25.

This occurred just a few hours after the Ottoman minister of the interior, Mehmed Talat, the CUP’s strong man, issued orders to destroy his fellow Ottoman Armenians. Even if the Ottoman Empire eventually lost the war, which it had considerably prolonged by joining it, the CUP achieved its minimal war goal: exclusive Muslim power in Asia Minor by destroying the Armenians.

Its Kemalist successors, most of them former CUP members, built the Republic of Turkey in a “cleansed” Asia Minor. Like Mehmed Talat, Kemalists exalted Gallipoli as a victory of Muslim Anatolia against imperialist invasion. For them, it paved the way to a successful nation-state.

For the pioneer of the UN Genocide Convention of 1948, Raphael Lemkin, the suffering:

of the Armenian men, women, and children thrown into the Euphrates River or massacred on the way to Der-el-Zor […] prepared the way for the adoption for the Genocide Convention by the United Nations.

Lemkin based his work on what Armenians and Jews experienced during the two world wars.

Why genocide?

Genocide was a means of total war. For the CUP, the war served both to secure a sovereign and safe home for Muslims in Asia Minor (its minimal, “existential” goal), and to restore and expand the Empire (its maximal war goal).

Many leading members of the CUP hailed from the Balkans, once part of the Ottoman Empire, but which had been lost during the Balkan Wars in 1912–1913. In 1913, triggered by the loss of Macedonia, the CUP established a dictatorial regime and redefined what it understood as a nation.

The CUP was already unwilling to share power equally with Ottoman non-Turks and non-Muslims before the constitutional revolution of 1908, but after the loss of Macedonia (divided among Greece, Serbia and Bulgaria), leading members of the CUP embarked on defining the Empire as a Turkish nation in which only Muslims could be successfully assimilated. Asia Minor was to become the Turk’s Homeland (Türk Yurdu).

In this new and more exclusive vision of the Empire, Ottoman Christians were seen as aliens and acting as a fifth column. In June 1914, for example, the CUP expelled about 150,000 Greek Orthodox Christians from the Aegean coast and settled Muslim refugees from the Balkans in their houses.

The CUP, looking through Social Darwinist “Macedonian glasses”, then turned to another topical conflict of the late Ottoman world – the ‘Armenian question’ in the eastern provinces.

The European powers had instituted article 61 of the Berlin Treaty (1878) in an effort to safeguard a secure future for Armenians with their Muslim neighbours through reform. The Ottoman government belatedly signed the Reform Agreement on 8 February 1914. By that time, however, the Agreement was at odds with the CUP’s exclusive outlook on its core land and its co-optation with anti-constitutional forces in the region.

In a time of peace, the Reform Agreement might have worked.

Europe in crisis and the Armenians

What changed the situation was the crisis of European diplomacy in July 1914 and the German Kaiser’s order to accept a CUP request for a war alliance.

Germany’s paramount goal was military victory. When the CUP consequently annulled the Reform Agreement, Germany did not protest. The highly influential German military mission in Istanbul contributed to a comprehensive mobilisation of Ottoman forces and pressed for Ottoman military action according to the terms of the alliance signed on August 2 1914.

Once the overstretched Ottoman forces went on the offensive, however, they began to lose. The failure of the Allied naval assault on March 18 1915 in the Dardanelles saved the CUP and instilled in it the audacity to achieve its minimal war goal in a radical way: by doing away with the Armenians.

Talat Pasha felt confident in both a successful Ottoman-German defence of the capital and a window of opportunity in the shadow of this effort directed at the Armenians.

On April 24 1915, he ordered the arrest and deportation of Armenian intellectuals in Constantinople – and then began to target the Armenians as a whole after he had implemented regional anti-Armenian measures and disarmed Armenians serving in the army.

Evidently, Ottoman Armenians could not share the CUP’s notion of a Turk Homeland (Türk Yurdu).

From the Autumn of 1914, Armenians became deeply worried by Islamist and Turkish war propaganda and the CUP’s obstruction of the Reform Agreement. Several thousand young men had joined the Russian army, but for others the future looked bleak. One can sense the exasperation and frustration of Armenian voices during those early months of the war, but still hoped on German help.

Hopes set on Germany were misplaced. The Armenians were alone, except the asylum offered by Alevi and Yezidi Kurdish neighbourhoods, a number of Muslim families and some support given by American and Swiss missionaries on the spot.

Armenian refugees from Musa Dagh on the deck of one of the French ships, September 1915. Unknown/Wikimedia Commons

In a few places, Armenians organised resistance. The most prominent was the resistance on Musa Dagh, a mountain in the Turkish province of Hatay, that later gave birth to a novel by Franz Werfel, a contemporary Austrian writer. His book was translated into Yiddish and avidly read in Jewish ghettos during the second world war.

An organised destruction

The destruction of the Armenians ordered by Talat Pasha took place in several phases.

He first ordered the arrest, torture and murder of Armenian leaders, beginning on the night of April 24.

In a second step, he organised the removal of the Armenian people to Syria. He began in the eastern provinces where elderly men, boys and other men not serving in the army were massacred before removal.

At several places en route, mass killing included women and children. Rape was systematic. Removal from Western Asia Minor as well as Thrace started in July 1915, and included the displacement of men that partly took place by train.

The second phase of genocide concerned the survivors of deportation who starved to death in camps in the Syrian desert.

About 150,000 Armenians were formally Islamised, resettled in the south and were thus saved by Kemal Pasha, the military governor of Syria. Apart from that, any attempts at resettlement were frustrated. In August 1916, more than 100,000 survivors of starvation and renewed forced marches to the southeast, including children, and were killed east of the Euphrates next to Dair az-Zor. These were scenes of indescribable horror.

In guise of a conclusion, a question that’s being asked elsewhere today: Can the Allies’ failed invasion of Gallipoli be honestly commemorated without remembering the Armenian genocide?

Hans-Lukas Kieser will be speaking at the Australasian Association for European History (AAEH) XXIV Biennial Conference, War, Violence, Aftermaths: Europe and the Wider World, to be held in Newcastle, from July 14-17 2015. Details here.


  1. Hans-Lukas Kieser

    Australian Research Council Future Fellow at University of Newcastle

Disclosure Statement

Hans-Lukas Kieser receives funding from the Australian Research Council.

The Conversation is currently running a series looking at the history and nature of violence.
See also:
100 years on Australia’s still out of step on the Armenian genocide


Not with a bang but a whimper: The End of the Mining Boom and the next Budget

Not with a bang but a whimper: The End of the Mining Boom and the next Budget.

MAY 15 : Al Nakba Brisbane Anniversary – Vigil & March

May 15th 1948 marks the day over 750,000 Palestinians were expelled from their homes and made refugees.

In 1948, the establishment of the Israeli state in Palestine through violent ethnic cleansing not only forced Palestinians from their homes, but also led to massacres of indigenous populations and the destruction of villages.

Following expulsion, some Palestinians moved to the West Bank or Gaza Strip, whilst others chose neighbouring Arab countries such as Lebanon, Jordan and Syria. The Palestinian refugees fleed their homes thinking they would be back within a few weeks, they did not know that 67 years on, they are still waiting for their internationally recognised right to return.

After 67 years we have not forgotten this right of return, we have not forgotten the bloodshed, and we certainly have not forgotten Palestine.

Join us to commemorate 67 years since the Nakba (catastrophe) befell not only Palestinians but humanity as a whole, May 15th, 5:30PM King George Square.

Supported by Brisbane Aboriginal-Sovereign Embassy (BASE).

For more information contact: Brett on 0488 741761 or Emad on 0424264750


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Canberra: Lest We Forget the Frontier Wars Anzac Day March 2015

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Silent War in Syria

“(The US) has exercised a quite clinical manipulation of power worldwide while masquerading as a force for universal good. It’s a brilliant, even witty, highly successful act of hypnosis.” – Harold Pinter, playwright in his 2005 Nobel Prize acceptance speech.


It says ‘US and ISIS in the Middle East’

[Publisher’s Note: There should be more discussion about Australia’s support for the war against the Syrian people.

In the terrible fighting in the Damascus suburb of Yarmouk, the Palestinian leadership have stopped assisting ISIS and al-Nusra and started cooperating with the Syrian Arab Army – but again, except for Hamas who are still fighting for the Qataris and the terrorists.]

Here are some excerpts from and interview with Virginia State Senator Richard Black with Pravda RU about a solution for Syria:

(Quote:) The first step is for the U.S. to stop arming and training terrorists to invade Syria – a neutral, nonbelligerent nation. All nations attacking Syria are doing so in clear violation of the Law of War. The war in Syria would have been nothing but a minor uprising had other nations not thrown gasoline on the fire. It is in everyone’s interest to end the war in Syria and restore peace to the Mideast.

Our (the US) policy of “regime change” has been a disaster of historic proportions. Nothing good has come from it. Whether, Kosovo, Iraq, Libya or Syria, people die when international elites play games of war with neutral countries.(Unquote)

(Quote:) The so-called “moderate rebels” whom we are training often slip quickly into the ranks of ISIS and al Nusra – the Syrian branch of al Qaeda. They have become one of the most powerful and threatening armies on earth. We must recognize the danger that our actions pose toward all stable countries.

The U.S. actually pays the salaries of the mercenaries we call “moderates.”

it says:

it says: “ISIS is the only authorised agent of the CIA in the Middle East…. For contract contact CIA and payment in US $”

We must cut American funding for all mercenaries in Syria. Western nations conducting the air war against ISIS should request permission from Syria whenever they overfly its sovereign territory. They should start coordinating air actions with Syrian forces–who are the most powerful enemies of ISIS. If ISIS were attacked with a coordinated air-ground campaign, they could be rolled back much more quickly.

But this can only be done by cooperating with Syria.

We should provide intelligence and material support to Syrian forces.

The U.S. must stop transferring advanced arms to ISIS, al Qaeda and al Nusra through third parties like Saudi Arabia.

This is happening today and it is a criminal violation, just as though we sent the weapons directly to the terrorists.(Unquote)


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The war we didn’t notice

Another thoughtful article from Andy about war …


Years ago, when I was involved in much less activism than I am today, I used to play footy with a number of guys who were in the Australian army. One of these guys missed a chunk of the season when he had to go to Afghanistan on service. When he got back, I asked him what it had been like over there. He told me he didn’t want to talk about it.

I instantly realised what a stupid question it was. Of course he didn’t want to talk about it! I was genuinely interested in what the situation was like in Afghanistan, but I had asked him as if he was getting back from a holiday, completely ignorant of the trauma and mental struggle that a soldier in a warzone has to deal with.

I still cringe when I recall that moment, but I also think that in that…

View original post 1,075 more words

Thousands in Gaza plan int’l protest: It’s impossible to live here


Rally in Queen’s Park, Brisbane, 2009

[Publisher’s Note: The people of Gaza have lived under siege for 8 years. While government and corporations are glorifying the ANZAC myth, Israeli & Egyptian governments are waging a silent war against the people or Gaza. Australians fought near Gaza in World War II, the Palestinians were their allies yet we will hear nothing of the dirty war being waged now from Australian governments and corporate media.]

A group of young activists in Gaza are organizing an international day of solidarity to protest against the impossible conditions and human rights violations created by Israel’s and Egypt’s siege, the occupation, internal Palestinian conflicts and poverty.

Palestinians drive through a destroyed quarter of Al Shaaf neighborhood, in Al Tuffah, east of Gaza City, March 21, 2015.

“Life in Gaza has always been hard. But after Israel’s last attack it became impossible to live here. The problems became worse and the conditions deteriorated to the point that it is no longer possible to live humanely — and nobody cares,” Sajida Alhaj, 21, says in a Skype interview.

Alhaj is part of a group of young activists in Gaza that last month published a call for a mass protest in the Strip on April 29, demanding an end to the siege, the occupation and the human and civil rights abuses that accompany them.

The activists are calling on anyone who believes in freedom, justice and equality, the world over, to join them and organize parallel protests in their own countries, to express solidarity and to recognize their suffering.“The situation in Gaza is disastrous,” she says. “We are calling on people to support Gaza by demonstrating in front of the Israeli and Egyptian embassies in every country, and force them to open the borders and break the siege — let building materials in to allow rebuilding, and let sick people out for medical treatment.”

Alhaj is a student and Palestinian refugee who lives in the central Gaza Nusirat Camp. In the past, the activist group she is a part of has mostly worked with women, children and the wounded in Gaza. Now, they are trying to unite the entire Strip.

“This action is our answer to the siege under which we live,” she explains. There are more and more human rights violations each year, and there is no sign that anything is getting better, she adds.

When you walk down the street, she explains, you see one house standing and one house in rubble, one after another, on and on. In order to reach her university every morning, Alhaj says she must “walk between homes damaged in the war, to walk through places where people were killed.”

“And all that to reach my damaged university just to meet with my professors who haven’t been paid for political reasons,” she adds.

The idea behind the protest in Gaza is to get everyone onto the streets, to fill the central squares, with people of all affiliations and ages, decrying the problems from which Gaza suffers: the occupation, the siege, internal conflicts, the lack of electricity, poverty, holdups in rebuilding after the war, unemployment and a deteriorating education system.

The activists say they have gotten the various Palestinian factions on board and received permission from the authorities in Gaza. So far, over 12,000 people have joined their Facebook page.

Elizabeth Tanboura stands with three of her daughters: Sundos, Malak, and Marwa (right), in front of their destroyed home in Beit Lahiya, Gaza Strip, March 19, 2015. Elizabth's husband, Radad, and their children Ahmed (15) and Amna (13), were killed during an Israeli attack on August 25, 2014. Two other boys survived because they were not in the house at the time of the attack.

A group of Israeli women has already answered the call to action and is organizing a solidarity demonstration in Tel Aviv on the same day as the Gaza protest.

“It is important that there is a protest in Israel,” Alhaj says. “It is important that people in Gaza know that there are people in Israel who care about us and who oppose the occupation, who are calling to lift the siege and open the borders.” Such solidarity gives hope, she adds.

A Palestinian walks during a storm in one of the destroyed quarter of Shujayea, east of Gaza city, February 11, 2015. Anne Paq /

Activists from Costa Rica and Chile have also organized similar events. The Palestinian organizers in Gaza are calling on people in the United States and Europe to join them and organize events in additional cities.

Israelis — and people worldwide — are only interested in Gaza when rockets are flying, says Esther Rapoport one of the organizers of the protest in Tel Aviv.

To Rapoport, the young activists and organizers in Gaza are inspiring. “They are not giving up their belief in humanity, including the humanity of Israelis who care about them. They are willing to work in cooperation with us — something that shouldn’t be taken for granted — and to call on us to act. Let’s not disappoint them.”

By Yael Marom

Yael Marom is Just Vision’s public engagement manager in Israel and a co-editor of Local Call, where this article was originally published in Hebrew.

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