J’accuse! – I Accuse!

Front page cover of the newspaper L’Aurore of Thursday 13 January 1898, with the letter J’accuse...!, written by Émile Zola about the Dreyfus affair. (Photo credit: Public domain/Wikipedia
Front page cover of the newspaper L’Aurore of Thursday 13 January 1898, with the letter J’accuse…!, written by Émile Zola about the Dreyfus affair. (Photo credit: Public domain/Wikipedia)

In 1898, as French-Jewish army officer Alfred Dreyfus languished behind bars in solitary confinement after a botched misrepresentation of justice that saw him court-martialed for treason on account of his Jewish background – preeminent novelist and playwright, Emile Zola sprung to his defense with his seminal and jarring letter of accusation, splashed on the front pages of influential Paris daily, L’Aurore.

J’accuse! – I Accuse!

Simple yet powerful, Zola laid bare the gross miscarriage of justice and incessant antisemitism sweeping the Republic that endangered the very tenets and democratic values that post-Napoleon France claimed to epitomize.

And now, mere days after terrorists, French citizens purporting to act in the name of Islam, killed 12 at the offices of Charlie Hebdo magazine and then an additional 4 at a Jewish supermarket, the durability of French, nay European democracy is once more coming into question.

But this was not an isolated event. The pressure cooker was boiling for a while, and it was only a matter of time before it burst:

Europe’s fast growing Muslim minority has alarmed politicians and laypeople across the continent; for their rigid and conspicuous refusal to integrate into society, for importing Islamic antisemitism and for exporting young and healthy men and women to man the Islamic State’s front lines in Syria and Iraq, among other things.

 Therefore, in the spirit of the times and less than a day after the end of last week’s terror spree, J’accuse – I accuse.

I accuse the the French government of completely failing its Jews.

Instead of beefing up security in heavily Jewish neighborhoods (especially in the wake of the 2012 Toulouse attack) and taking an effective hardline stance against extremist imams and suspected Islamist terrorists, France, like most of Europe, is paralyzed by overt political correctness and does not dare offend the religious sensibilities of its increasingly radicalized Muslim minority, even at the expense of the security of it’s own citizens.

If and when France’s 400,000 strong Jewish community dwindles to a handful in the coming years, the blame will rest first and foremost with the France’s leaders.

I accuse the media of shallow, populist reporting, pandering to soapified political correctness and a strikingly oblivious misrepresentations of the facts.

We have another 4 dead Jews whose blood is being wiped as we speak from the floor of the supermarket where they went to do pre-shabbat shopping. Killed of course, because they were Jews, and not because they drew an offensive picture of the prophet Muhammad.

Judging by the coverage of the attack, hidden behind titles such ‘kosher supermarket raid’ and ‘second siege’ one could assume that the perpetrators only had beef with the kosher food on sale at store – and not the Jews inside.

And indeed, Jewish blood could not be cheaper, when a slew of opinion articles posted in FP, US media outlets and the Guardian quickly rush to paint France’s 5 million strong Muslim ‘minority’ as the real victims in the entire story with pre-programmed knee-jerk condemnations of any perceived Islamaphobia that might result in the future.

Who are the victims? Who are the perpetrators?

I accuse France’s Muslim community, of not doing enough to distance themselves from the fundamentalists within their fold, and not doing enough to prevent the radicalization of their youth.

Of course, there does exist a hostile atmosphere against Europe’s Muslims. Some of it is unwarranted, and castigating individual Muslims for the actions of their co-coreligionists is wrong and hypocritical.

However it’s no coincidence that after attacking the Charlie Hebdo offices – a symbol of Western ideals and free speech – the terrorists went straight for a Jewish deli during its busiest hour.

As a community, Muslim laymen, leaders and figureheads must come out en-masse to condemn the actions of those who they claim have ‘hijacked’ the Islamic faith and those who kill in their name and in the name of their prophet.

For if they don’t, not only will their silence be deafening.

No, such silence can only be interpreted as tacit approval and thus, indirect culpability for the actions that we witness today – actions which will probably become more violent and spectacular in the coming years.

I accuse for all those whose blood cries out from the violence of the past few days, and for all those whose blood is yet to spilled in the name of radical Islam.

J’accuse.

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Jogging through an Arab village: losing my innocence

What happens when you are so deeply shocked to the core, that you fail to grasp everything occurring around you? When the realization of how close you came to injury or death finally dawns – and you wander about aimlessly in empty alleyways as a shell of your former self? When your existence blurs with survival, and the residual injections of adrenalin – produced in the heat of danger – begin to wear off? As you finally make it to safety, take a deep breath, and holding your sweaty head in your trembling hands, look up into the heavens with a gush of horror and excitement. Perhaps it was curiosity? Perhaps a desire to seek out a passing thrill or danger? With hindsight, it was probably naivety bordering on blatant ignorance.

The run began as any other: a friend and I together on a light jog taking a winding path outside the kibbutz – past pastoral fields and rolling hills, with the Carmel foothills gently bequeathing a long shadow across the fertile valley. A couple of kilometers south of the Kibbutz lies an Arab village, that I regarded with curiosity from the moment my eyes met its distinct mosque and box-shaped houses. Many of the Kibbutznikim regard the village with dismissal or they simply ignore it. High crime rates, nationalism and political factors have almost severed the connection between the Arab town and the Kibbutz. “Lock your doors as night” we were told from the get go – as there is a very really risk of theft from our southern neighbours. “When I was your age, I used to go to that village often and fraternize with the locals, but today there is nothing there. Nothing” another veteran Kibbutz member mentioned to me. But still, curiousity had me ensnared, and I was constantly itching to go the one place that I could not (or should not). The Arab town that I could see from the road had become the apple tree in the garden of Eden, and I was Adam.

I often wonder why I have this innate desire to explore and meet the unknown: the stranger, the ones seen and not heard – the Arab in a Jewish society. True that as Palestinian nationalism and Muslim incitement take hold in Israel’s Arab localities, the Jewish and Arab populations move farther apart. However I always had this constant urge to reach out and understand, to talk to and to empathize, with those who are considered marginalized, oppressed or simply ‘different’ – and the media certainly typecasts the Arabs here as such. Or perhaps it was simply the novelty of meeting someone outside my national bubble.

As we continued southward, we chanced upon the entrance to the village – which was in fact an unintended consequence of our exploratory habits and the long, slow jogs we take as preparation for the IDF. Already the idiosyncratic Arab architecture, the smell of open sewerage and the loose garbage prepared us for a momentary trip backward along the socio-economic scale. Ok, so the Arabs here are underprivileged, they live in a tribal mentality, and every house has a satellite dish pointed toward Qatar. But – there is a large Israeli flag waving at the entrance to the village, and Hebrew writing beneath the advertisements in Arabic. “This village must be “Sababa” (cool in Israeli slang), so Yalla (lets go in slang)” I motioned to my friend as we tentatively scaled the potholes and unused construction materials.

Moving ever deeper into the heart of the village, we began passing the residents who apparently viewed us as threatening, or with surprise. Immediately, a group of youth from the school yard poured into the street, and gathered around the spectacle of two white, skinny, Jews aimlessly jogging through – waving “Ahalan wa-Sahalan” like idiots and handing out friendly nods to the pensive and eerily quiet locals. At this point I realised that this was not the best idea in the world. But the thought still lingered in my mind: We are all human. We are made of the same flesh and blood. The parochialisms that seperate us are merely nebulous political slogans heard in the media – and that hold no bearing in the real world. Peace is possible. Jew and Arab – coexistence as the subtle gesture of passing through a friendly village.

But alas it was not to be. Up until now, the Israeli-Arab conflict existed as a faraway history channel/newspaper fantasy that I visited occasionally when reading inflamed talkbacks on online op-eds. As we continued running, teenagers began gathering beside the steps of the houses – whispering and staring with suspicion. Then suddenly – a moment that I will not forget – a lone rock flew past my head and landed on the pavement beside me. We continued running – pretending to ignore or not to notice – or rather not to believe. “We are friendly. We understand you. We are cousins” I thought to myself as I watched the growing crowd. There could be no way that this tacit mantra of mine could shatter so quickly. But shatter it did, as the second stone came flying past with increased accuracy and intensity. And then the third – and the fourth.

I glanced at the opposite sidewalk momentarily to see a group of kids selecting stones the ground, whilst another stood by – a large rock already in his hand – in preparation for us to jog past. And then it came: the sucker-punch. The blow that placed a large dent on my very being and sent a shiver down my spine. “Al Yahud!” (“The Jew!” in Arabic) the boy shouted in a high pitched macho voice his finger pointed at us in defiance – a brazen gesture as subtle as the kiss of death, marking us for kill as if we weren’t conspicuous enough already. For a split second, we locked eyes – nothing longer than what it takes for a fly to pat its wings, or for pebble to cast a ripple across a calm lake. And what I saw had me perplexed: I saw a burning hatred in his eyes that I could not fathom. At this moment, my perception of ‘the stranger’ shattered for eternity, as I, a survivor of my own sheer ignorance and stupidity, write these shock-tainted words. My adrenalin gland immediately secreted its precious juice, and like a stalked gazelle with black bulbousy eyes noticing the lion erupting from the bushes – my survival instincts kicked into action and I began sprinting together with my jogging partner down the fateful street. The sudden increase in speed meant that the rock narrowly missed its target – us, and flew past like a dragonfly in slow motion.

All I was concerned with at this point was survival – getting out of the village alive. We quickly took a right and ran downhill toward the swamps, swerving around a bend to ensure that we weren’t be followed, or that the growing mob wouldn’t spot us helplessly searching for an exit. Continuing along a stream, we managed to pass the final houses toward the village outskirts and the beach – a refuge in the cool blue waters of the Mediterranean. We both stared at each other – excited and shocked at the same time – at the realization of how close we came. None of the adults bothered to stop the kids throwing rocks – perhaps they too were willing to participate in the spectacle. The boy’s high pitched battle cry “Al-Yahud!” echoed in my mind as I buried my hand into my hands and caught my breath. A wry ‘Welcome to the middle east’ cynically scrawled across the sky.

Why do we need a Jewish state? Because when we are defenseless or unarmed, we go like sheep to the gas chambers. When we are armed and united, we are in control of our destiny – and not subject to the will of others. This is perhaps my most blatant firsthand experience of anti-semitism – or rather ‘hatred of the Israeli’ – where Israel always represents the Jew. These were the first few thoughts going through my mind as we both made it to safety. I don’t hate the Arabs. I don’t feel any enmity towards them. I understand that most of them, just like us, only want to live their life – a source of income, a house, a wife, kids and a car. Politics and national divides doesn’t concern the everyman. So why aren’t my feelings reciprocated by the other side? The Arabs in this village are Israeli citizens. We’re not talking about Jenin or Ramallah here. We’re talking about an Israeli Arab town. The parents of the teenagers who missed their chance at hitting a Jew all vote in Israeli elections. They are all entitled to an Israeli passport, with the right to travel abroad. They have access to Israeli healthcare and can travel the length of the country freely. So why is there such animosity toward us simmering beneath the surface?

It is very easy for me to forgive the kids who threw rocks as just ‘kids’ – because they don’t know any better (despite the fact that a rock from a Kid can kill, just like a rock from an adult). The kids can’t tell right from wrong. But I cannot forgive their society that incites and blames Jews for all their problems. I cannot forgive their parents – or the bystanders on those streets that quietly supported our near-lynch. It is true that there is a a passive, unconscious discrimination against Arabs in Israeli society – in the sense that they have bleaker job prospects, or that they are subject to the media’s utmost scrutiny. But this is not tantamount to hatred or anything similar – and hatred is exactly what they felt toward me as I passed through the village.

As I write these words now –  and as the shock, excitement, revulsion and terror slowly seep back into my adrenalin gland – I am left with one overall feeling: sadness. Sadness that I have lost my innocence, and that I have become awakened to such a world. A world outside the cosy confines of the Melbourne bubble, outside the confines of Jewish Israel – where tribalism, honour killings and unchecked violence are the modes of day to day life. A culture that engenders hatred in children, and strikes fear into the weak and elderly. I am sad that my hopes for peace here one day, have diminished, and have been replaced by skepticism and pessimism. For in a land that consumes its inhabitants, and in a world where you have to fight to survive – learning the lesson that as Jew, I will always be hated and hunted has never been more important.

7 reasons why North Korea suddenly attacked

Lots of rumours circulating about the possibility of all out war in Korea, following the first artillery attack in the area since the guns fell quiet in 1953. The question is: What does North Korea have to gain out of all of this?

Other than the obvious answer which is: ‘nothing’, here is a brief and incomplete list on North Korea’s motives:

1. Internal struggles within the KWP in the lead up to Kim Jong-un’s ascendancy to power.

http://news.smh.com.au/breaking-news-world/nkoreas-attack-to-bolster-heir-seoul-20101124-1879v.html

The North was aiming “to brandish heir apparent Kim Jong-Un’s military prowess, strengthen internal unity and vent internal discontent toward the outside”, the premier told the National Assembly.

2. A clever ruse to restart multi-lateral peace talks

http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3988549,00.html

A spokesman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry, Hong Lei, also told a news conference that both sides of the Korean peninsula should “do more to contribute to peace”, and said it was imperative to return to six-party talks aimed at ending North Korea’s nuclear weapons program. (Reuters)

3. A bid by successor Kim Jong-un to ‘prove himself’ as the next leader of North Korea

http://edition.cnn.com/2010/WORLD/asiapcf/11/24/north.korea.attack.analysis/

“The first reason for this attack is the instability of Kim Jong Un. That is the fundamental reason. Constant military tensions help him to keep the support of his military, and to unite the North Korean people.”

4. North Korean soldiers felt legitimately threatened by a routine South Korean training exercise

http://www.newsy.com/videos/analysis-north-south-korea-exchange-artillery-fire/

“They were firing as a routine firing exercise and they were firing to the west and to the south, not in the direction of the North Korea mainland. It is important to point out, at least according to the South Koreans, this was a firing exercise, not live fire.”

5. A bid for attention

http://www.foxnews.com/world/2010/11/23/analysis-attack-north-korean-bid-attention/

Two weeks ago, Seoul basked in the limelight of hosting more than 30 world leaders for the Group of 20 summit in what was seen as the country’s diplomatic debut. Next week, South Korea will make its case for the right to hold the 2022 World Cup. But a rising South Korea does not sit well with its poorer northern neighbor. Once the richer of the two Koreas, the North has suffered over the years from the loss of Soviet aid, economic mismanagement and natural disasters that destroyed its precious few resources.

6. An attempt to coax South Korea into all out war

Most analysts consider this highly unlikely, but perhaps ol’ Kim is going senile and has unfinished delusion of grandeur?
Kim Jong Il and the Gang of Four know that all-out war would be suicidal, but they have learned over the decades that provocations have few downsides. Even after the sinking of the Cheonan, trade with South Korea remained steady, while that with China increased.

7. Pure unpredictable impulse

This is the wild-card explanation. Perhaps the reasons for this flare up will never be known – simply the whim and caprice of an aging, emotionally unstable dictator. In the same way a child playing a video-game commits virtual ‘crimes’ including declaring war for no particular reason – the leaders of North Korea may be simply toying with war, without fully realizing the implications of their actions.

Victorian state elections 2010: Underwhelming. The Greens cash in on voter apathy.

Today was supposed to be a momentous occasion in my life. Having recently turned 18, I was able for the first time to exercise my democratic right to vote, and to finally take the future of Victoria into my own hands and make a difference – if at least by one vote. Needless to say, the Victorian state elections have been painfully underwhelming and drop-dead-boring to follow. In my previous post on the 2010 Federal elections, I noted that there is no longer any passion in politics: same boring ads, same staged debates, same cliched speeches masked over with fancy promises and sweet nothings. Politicians are in slumber mode, and the electorate wearily shows up to the voting station once more – feeling numb and expecting nothing at all. In many ways, these elections are similar to the recent Federal elections, in that they have been exceptionally uninspiring – except in the case of state elections, nobody really cares anyway.

One thing that I’ve found odd (someone please explain this to me), is that the Greens are so fashionable. Not politically of course. Their policies carry little substance. I’m talking about Green’s supporters and the way they dress.  It’s as if they’ve realized that no sane person would vote for a haphazard party, hastily put together on a vague idea of “saving the planet”, so they resort to Mac-style tactics by appealing to the lowest common denominator: looking ‘cool’ appealing to the smug, hipster demographic. That’s right, if you’re an artist, in a band or you buy your jeans from a grocery store, chances are you fit the Greenie stereotype.

At the polling station, I was met by the usual crowd of party-fanatics handing out as many fliers as possible, in the hopes that they could win me over in the last minute. There was something different about the Greens supporter. Let’s just say off the record, that not even that attractive 20-something Greenie girl, waiting for me at the entrance with short-shorts and a handful of glittering ‘eye-candy’ fliers, could get me to vote for The Greens. If this is what I think it is, then it is: Desperation. If they can’t win you over logically because of sound policies, then they go for “plan b”: trendiness.

That’s not to say that the two major parties, Liberal and Labor ran anything resembling a campaign either. The only admirable thing I can say, is that, scare tactics and campaign smearing have been at a minimum. Perhaps that’s because neither party has the budget to launch a successful smear campaign – or they just didn’t have the imagination to make anything up. No-wonder then, that voter apathy is skyrocketing and becoming the norm. At times like these, a quote by Elie Wiesel comes to mind:

“The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference.
The opposite of art is not ugliness, it’s indifference.
The opposite of faith is not heresy, it’s indifference.
And the opposite of life is not death, it’s indifference”

click to enlarge

Indifference is what many people feel in regards to politics today. The only way to get voters’ attention is with novelty: “Provide me with a revelation of TigerWoods-esque proportions, or leave me alone to play golf”. In a world dominated by political-correctness (pun intended) and a clinical dissociation between the leaders and the people, no wonder people are thronging to vote for the Greens. At least they seem ‘alternative’, and hey, it makes you feel good about saving the environment! Now stand aside as I park my hummer and guzzle a can of coke that 12 Chinese children died to make. But what have the Greens really got going for them? Well nothing. And here’s the election flier they hand out at polling booths to prove it:

There are so many things wrong with this flier, that it practically embodies what is bad with politics today. Firstly, the slogans “Your vote is powerful” and “Because who you vote for matters”, is the kind of crap I’d expect to hear dished out of a Nivea hair ad: “because you’re worth it”. These slogans lack any context as to why we should vote Greens, and leaves a glaring question unanswered: does my vote still matter if I don’t vote Green? Perhaps, you’re “powerful” enough to make that decision on your own – without having fake Green guilt shoved down your throat by misguided friends. But they’ll have you know – that they’re very capable at branding you as a right-wing bible-belt fascist if you don’t agree with them.

The list of their policies is even more ludicrous. They represent an over-simplified summary of nothingness, and I kept thinking to myself: this must’ve been a project given to Grade 5 kids, because there is no way this was written by an adult. These are simply milk-n-cookies feel good goals that you would come up with, if you posed the following question to a primary school: “What can make Victoria better?”. So unless you can be bothered reading through their flier, their policies are essentially:

Water: Save more water!

Health: More money for health!

Education: Make it better!

Public transport: Put more buses on the road!

Climate Change: DUH!

At least The Liberal party were respectable enough to give out a no-nonsense, one-sided simple flier. Because unlike the Greens, they realise that they have no need to appeal to uninformed constituents in a last-ditch scramble for votes:

Labor wasn’t exceptionally terrible either. At least they can vouch on John Brumby’s good record and that killer automatic smile with nothing behind it:

The one thing that all the fliers shared in common? They were each printed on “100% recycled fibre” and certified as “Carbon Neutral” and “Greenhouse friendly!” Wait: did they just steal the Green’s “green” message? Nope – because if  The Greens get the votes, they’ll be sure to put a “Carbon tax” on everything imaginable: next election, you’ll be paying to see each flier, and you’ll feel guilty about it as well.

According to an article in the Australian:

The acceleration in the Greens vote, he says, is being driven more by instinct than specific issues: “It goes across a range. At one end it is almost apathy: ‘What have I got to lose?’, ‘I’ve tried the other two, they are just going to be more of the same, so why don’t I try these other guys?

All the major parties ran underwhelming campaigns, and The Greens are standing on the side, looking trendy and snatching up votes, not based on the party’s merit – but simply the fact that they’re a ‘change’ and they represent an idealized version of what most kids hope to emulate. Well here’s one teenager in the key ‘Youth Demographic’ (18-24) that is bucking the trend. By voting for one of the major parties, I might be voting for crap – but at least it’s the kind of crap that I’m familiar with.

The “Zionist entity”: conquering the world one postage stamp at a time

What is the single most destructive, oppressive and dangerous force in the entire world? That’s easy: “The Zionist entity.” After hours of procrastination on Al Jazeera and surfing through UN general assembly speeches on Youtube, I came to the conclusion that the name of this vague, evil force, “The Zionist Entity” – is an entity so dangerous and awe inspiring, that one can only mention it using “inverted commas”. Whilst simply mentioning this term evokes horror and rage in the hearts of faithful mujahadeen everywhere, intoning “The Zionist Entity” is not enough to achieve the desired effect. One must pile on adjective after adjective to ensure that if you haven’t experienced your ‘hit-in-the-back-of-the-head-with-a-sledgehammer’ moment, you will be able to recite every synonym of ‘deformed, evil, bastard entity, despicable, deranged, batshit crazy and disgusting’ without a Thesaurus.

But to some, even giving “The Zionist entity” a name, gives it the legitimacy and the attention that it does not deserve. So the next time you attend a terror-fest rally on the streets of Gaza city, make sure that you are well equipped with the many variants to describe ‘the so-called government of the so-called state.’ Indeed, to those that find out that the “Zionist entity” actually exists – and has a name (it is known colloquially by infidels as “Israel” a.k.a The “Jewish” state), it might come down as a bit of a shock, with symptoms including denial, anger, rage and eventually uncontrolled explosions in Tel Aviv kindergartens and buses.

Even Hezbollah has caught on to the trend on it’s official website, because apparently, typing out “The Zionist entity” every second sentence is too cumbersome and tiring – even for a Lebanese dhimmi with a gun to his head. According to the latest piece of propaganda verifiable evidence nicely littered with a touch of irony and scare quotes:

The list seemed to be part of a growing effort by activists, both in “Israel” and abroad, to pursue the pressing of war crime charges under the principle of universal jurisdiction against “Israeli” soldiers who participated in the attack. The three-week offensive launched by “Israel” in December 2008 resulted in the killings of about 1,400 Gazans. The disclosure of the troops’ details also appeared to expose the “Israeli” military’s growing difficulty in restricting such information from being revealed in the internet era, despite the army’s technology-savvy image. Data such as soldiers’ home addresses is not typically readily available to the public in “Israel”.

The term “Israel” was reported only 24 times in this piece, which is a pretty weak effort for Hezzbollah, considering that it managed to kill twice that number of innocent civilians in the Second Lebanon War. This article also bespeaks a tacit ‘understanding’ between those who realize that Israel exists, but that religiously, ideologically and ideally it doesn’t (wink-wink-nudge-nudge), which can often lead to confusing debates at Palestinian reconciliation meetings (“Isra-what?” I thought we were discussing *cue evil laugh* “The Zionist entity”).

Indeed, all of this innuendo not only confuses the faithful everywhere, but it can also cause major international relations slip ups. The sea surrounding “The Zionist Entity” has mysteriously become a graveyard for peace-loving humanitarian flotillas, because well, – it doesn’t appear on any maps. It turns outIHH was trying to deliver aid to the needy ‘people of Gaza’ who are being oppressed by an entity that doesn’t actually exist according to them.

Other grievances which require urgent international aid include: cigarettes tainted with pig blood, chimps running amok, and the Zionist sex gum of death:

GAZA CITY (AFP) — Hamas suspects that Israeli intelligence services are supplying its Gaza Strip stronghold with chewing gum that boosts the sex drive in order to “corrupt the young,” an official said on Tuesday.

Postage stamps: the root cause of the conflict?

Whilst “The entity’s” list of crimes are numerous: (defying the Accounting entity principle is considered by Accountants as the worst), the term “The Zionist entity” has it’s roots in the burgeoning Arab nationalist movement of the 20s, in which Arab leaders refused to recognize a Jewish state anywhere in the Middle East: not even the “size of a postage stamp.” In a twist of irony, Israel’s current landmass of 20770 square kilometers, although the size of tiny New Jersey, can still fit 8.31 quadrillion postage stamps (400 postage stamps per square meter x 1sq km x20770). That means that “Israel” has a success rate of 8308000000000%: pretty impressive for any “entity”.

According to many in the Arab world, the terms “Zionist” and “Jew” are interchangeable. So when it comes to post-Khartoum recognition of the “so-called”, “Jewish” state, one wonders what all the fuss is about? Efraim Karsh hits the nail on the head with his analysis:

“This pervasive denigration of Jews has been accompanied by a systematic denial of the Jewish state’s legitimacy by both the PA and the PLO. Israel is often referred to by the pejorative phrase, ‘the Zionist entity.’ Israel is glaringly absent from Palestinian maps, which portray its territory as part of a ‘Greater Palestine,’ from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean.”

So the “Zionist Entity” is a byproduct of the lunatic hallucinations of cave-dwelling, turban-clad, Osamas – reliving their delusions of grandeur with a video camera and a loyal fan-base of robot jihadists – meekly awaiting 72 prizes in heaven. Because in reality, Zionism has been tainted to the extent that it is no longer considered a movement to return the Jewish people to their homeland, but a pejorative to describe everything that is bad in the Arab world. How long before the term ‘Zionist’ is dropped from the “The Zionist entity” – so that one day they will wail “The entity!” and everyone will know what the hell they’re talking about. It seems like “The entity” is here to stay, and many will have a hard time reconciling this fact with their warped worldview. In the mean time, those living inside “the Entity” go on with their lives, living, breathing and building: one postage stamp at a time.

Short story: Tossing destiny

(Written for the Glen Eira Short story Award 2010)

A tender tear ran down the little girl’s cheek. Her angelic eyes staring deeply into his soul.

“Why did I have to die?” She asks naively, innocently, like a little girl asking her mother why the sky is blue, or the grass is green.

Lying in wait since midnight, the sniper breathed a sigh of relief and welcomed the first crack of dawn. A cloud of his warm breath effused like a silhouette against the pink sky and then disappeared into the heavens. Camouflaged with leaves, only the protrusion of a shiny, high-powered rifle betrayed his seemingly inconspicuous physique. Patience had been wearing thin over the arduous, solitary hours of silent nightfall and the sniper was eager to finish the job and disappear into the desert.

Gently centring the lens onto the window of a mud-brick house, the sniper brought himself to attention and focused every fibre of his body into a singular mantra-like awareness. A passing mosquito, the distant rustle of faraway apple orchards. Every tiny movement and every minute sound was detected in this impulsive state of absolute tension. Suddenly, his target appeared in the crosshairs through the lattices of his kitchen window in the mud-brick house. Having returned from morning prayers, the bearded figure clothed in desert attire served himself breakfast, completely unaware of his impending fate. Stealthily, the sniper retrieved a clear photograph of his target to ensure there would be no case of mistaken identity. There was indeed no doubt that the sought terrorist in the image was this bearded man eating his breakfast in the crosshairs of the rifle. Sufficiently pleased at the ease of identifying his objective, the sniper returned his gaze to the eyepiece, and wrapped his index figure around the enticing contour of the trigger.

Without warning, more figures suddenly appeared in the window. The entire family chanced up for breakfast at this untimely moment. But the sight of young children tugging at their mother, broke the sniper’s passive indifference to the impending execution, and transformed him into an active moral accomplice. No longer, in his mind, was he a neutral mercenary pulling the trigger at somebody else’s moral expense. The act of killing the father in full view of his children carried unforseen ramifications. With this sudden realization, the sniper jerked away from the eyepiece, as the first beads of sweat formed in his brow. He closed his eyes.

Her eternal stare burned him from within. The guilt was unbearable. Her lightly tanned face, her perfect smile. He didn’t know her name, but she accompanied him on every job, every mission, and every nightmare. He opened his eyes.

The dilemma erupted into a full-scale war in the sniper’s mind. The fundamentalist mass-murderer with no compunction would not have afforded him such hesitation had their roles been reversed. A powerhouse of terrorism erased from the earth. Countless lives saved. Planned suicide bombing aborted – all with the single thankless act of squeezing the trigger.

On the other hand, no child should witness the murder of their parent. The sight of their father’s lifeless body bleeding onto the kitchen floor would burn an indelible scar on their hearts, fuelling the seeds of revenge for generations to come.

The humanity and compassion pumped their way through the sniper’s veins, intensifying with each deafening heartbeat. Pulling the trigger was never a problem in other situations. No regrets. Yet this was somehow different. At all other times ethical concern seemed to evade him. Why did it bother him so much now?

He always fired the gun with the regret of stepping on an ant or killing a mosquito – perfect executions, a stream of pay-checks and no moral cost.

An uncanny feeling swept through his body – he wanted to wash his hands. For some reason, his inconvenient conscience parked itself in the driveway of duty and his fingers turned to stone. For all he cared the person in line with the barrel of the gun could be anybody, but the innocent children made him squirm.

Children, child, her. Her faced seemed blurry and out of focus. Her fixed gaze carried no expectation, just a melancholy aura. No regrets. Oh how he regretted that day. If only to turn back time. Not to shoot. To pack up, leave, come back the next day. He could imagine her cheerful, smiling – a lingering fantasy that consoled him as he wondered about her life-cut-short. Maybe learning how to read today, giggling around a skipping rope, dreaming about her life tomorrow. Their paths never crossing.

The opening rays of sunshine bounced back and forth between his face and the makeshift costume of leaves. With every minute that the sun rose higher in the pristine Mediterranean sky, the sniper’s chances of escape decreased. Facing capture in these areas meant certain death – together with a little memento of your beheading posted on Al Jazeera for the world to see. Staring at the terrorist’s family, the sniper developed an eerie myopia, clouding his vision and returning him to another place and time. He imagined his own children back home – the grief they would face at discovering their father flanked by masked mujahedeen on the six o’clock news. It sent a shudder down his spine.

Why is one life better than the next? Will there be one grieving family by day’s end, or none? Who decides who lives and who dies? There were no easy answers, but the sniper knew that the outcome rested in his stony fingers. In another world, his target could’ve been waiting in line with him at a university canteen. His heavy beard but a point of conversation in a multicultural society. His children, attending the same kindergarten and both their wives together organizing a community theatrette. Life, unfortunately had other plans. Destiny had engaged them to cross at this pivotal moment: The sniper contemplating his life in a pastoral orchard, the distant smells of the souq beckoning him to return here on his real visa. The bearded man, eating breakfast with his family, before sending teenagers like his own, to their deaths in suicide attacks. With their inescapable fates, they were wed in unholy matrimony, the 18mm bullets determining whether death do them part. An innate, primal desire to escape and return to his family strangled the sniper’s every decision, but his duty obligated a complete and thorough execution. Shutting his eyes, he asked for a decision.

Just the girl, staring back at him again, and a light sheet of salty water skipping in her eyes.

Looking back on it, it was like every other assassination. Another mundane job. The wear of routine – set up, lie in wait, finish it off, and get out ASAP. He never countered on that little girl running in front of his target. How he longed to know her name, to meet her on the street and plead for forgiveness. . .

Having the life sucked out of his grey eyes, the sniper had made a resolution. Either he would abandon his profession, pack up and disappear into the sprawl of orchards, leaving his target to die another day – or he would go above and beyond his duty, killing the terrorist together with his entire family. Both these options seemed most humane – if there was in fact any humanity in his line of work. Either way, those children would not suffer as orphans – their souls slowly incinerating with the obsession for revenge. But either way the sniper’s integrity was forfeit. Every future death his target authorizes would stain his conscience, every time he would close his eyes, his target’s children will join the little girl to forever haunt his dreams.

Fate had presented him with a decision he was incapable of making. As fiery daggers fell from the sweltering morning sky, the sniper arrived at his unbearable decision. Retrieving a coin from his back pocket, he had resolved to leave the day’s bloody business to chance. With heads, the bearded figure finishing his breakfast would continue his day, completely unaware of how close he came to death. With tails, he and his entire family would be liquidated.

The sniper tossed the coin into the air for what seemed to last an eternity. Fate and destiny had no power over chance, and the coin seemed to absolve the sniper of his impending ‘sin’. Like the petals of a rose gracefully descending toward the ground, the coin silently returned to the muddy Earth and disappeared amongst the symphony of leaves and shrubbery that conveniently concealed the sniper’s ambush position.

Shedding a brief tear, a camouflaged figure covered in bushes whispered a brief prayer of atonement. If only for the high powered rifle aimed at a mud-brick house in the distance, he would be invisible.

Closing his eyes, he took a deep breath, and imagined the little girl with angelic eyes – now a young woman, smiling back at him

2010 Australian election guide (written before the election)

In Soviet Russia, an air conditioner is called a politician because it makes a lot noise, but it doesn’t work very well. Keeping a close eye on the Australian federal elections makes one squirm – because there is a tangible sense that the people running for the ballot are by and large politicians rather than leaders. (Politics: “Poli” a Latin word meaning “many”; and “tics” meaning “bloodsucking creatures”).

Catchphrases like “working families”, “the Australian people”, and “for our future” have become so redundant this election, that they no longer make an impact. So if the speeches won’t swing you, here, gratis, is a brief election guide of the contenders, and my bets for the winner. [written prior to the election]

Labor: So Keating dumped Hawke, and Julia dumped Kevin. As the tribulations of our intimate relationships, so too are the chronicles of the Labour party and the extended trade union family. The party has experienced 3 traumatic splits (1917, 1931 and 1955) which debilitated it and kept it out of office for many years. In a stunning victory, Kevin 07, toppled Johnny “go for growth” Howard, and since then he and his party have been spending like mad to get the economy squeaky clean. That is, until he was kindly ‘let go’ a couple of months ago. It turns out that the public wasn’t actually asking for insulation or school halls – just a solution to housing unaffordability, unsecure borders, and an economy over-reliant on the transient mining boom [thanks China!]. Under Ms. Gillard’s helm, the party is trying to do what the Liberals should’ve done with Costello – use a fresh face to win the election (and scream “work choices” loud enough so that everyone can hear). Whilst Australia under the Labour Government has successfully weathered the global financial crisis, the question must be asked: Is it sustainable to throw billions of dollars at your problems to wish them away? Maybe, although the last time I tried I was grounded for weeks. My odds: $2.30

The Liberals: The underdog in this election, the Liberal party seeks to confuse everybody, because the only thing liberal (small ‘l’) about it, is Tony Abbot’s lycra bike short-shorts. Often termed as “fiscally responsible”, “economically conservative”, “financially sound”, or any other two word variant comprised of the aforementioned synonyms, this party has the policies and the know-how – just not the leader. From popular sentiment, Malcolm Turnbull and Julie Bishop form the ultimate political dream-team to lead our country into the nebulous future – perhaps the elephant in the room for the Liberal party. These guys tick all the boxes – internal democratic debate and dissent, strong foreign policy and a business minds – but it turns out that voters judge a book by it’s cover and vote for the person running the party, and not the party itself. Thus, there is a chance that the Liberals may languish in the opposition for another term, simply because Mr Abbot is portrayed rather negatively by the media. Let’s just say that his personality doesn’t particularly effervesce with charisma, emotion or politically correct opinions. It’ll be a close one, but Labour hasn’t particularly screwed up the country, and the Liberals are still waiting on that winning team. M

y odds: $2.50

The Greens: These guys appear green on the outside, but really exude a bloody socialist red buried deep within – contributing to the flight from rationality that plagues our society. And I’m not just talking about their illogical polices or complete lack of economic understanding – the main problem with this party is primarily ideological, as it goes with left-wing politics in general. For the record, most of the so-called “environmentally friendly” policies are simply attempts at furthering government control and impeding economic progress. The solution to global warming is not neo-luddism, apocalyptic scaremongering or carbon trading schemes – the solution is alternative energy – after all, you guys aren’t really ready to give up your tv, transport, refrigeration, computers [and yes facebook too], or pay more for them either. Without the green veneer, this party is simply a latent attempt at Trotskyism – and that means that every greeny is just as equal as the last one, comrade! Too bad they’re predicted to become our third major party, mostly thanks to the army of 30 something, latte-sipping bohemians on Flinders Lane. My odds: $4.30

Family First: Brother and Sisters of Australia, can you hear me? Can I get an ‘Mhmm’? A concoction of grassroots evangelical fundamentalism and a vague political attempt to legislate based on family values, this party may alienate everyone left of the centre right on the political spectrum. In fact, the only thing these guys are putting first is a copy of the St. James bible, a gun and an insistence that all debates be conversed through glosollalia. Jokes aside, this party advocates banning abortion, banning euthanasia, and banning everything on the internet that doesn’t conform to their narrow ‘moral standards’. The law of the political jungle states that if you ban too many popular things, then you’re basically banning any hope of making it to the lower house. Of course, you can always fall back on the pure, unadulterated love from your family, and die hard supporters in Midwestern United States. My odds: $6.70

It seems that this election, the important issues such as the war in Afghanistan, the failures of the Capitalist system, and our reliance on China are not discussed – not only because both sides of politics hold similar views on these matters, but more for fear that open, unregulated debate will expose the personal views of the debaters, and maybe a controversial headline on the front page of The Age. Ultimately, the Liberals are likely to regain a few seats, particularly because people are becoming disenfranchised by state labour parties. Labour though is in for a close victory, mostly because after preference deals with the Greens, they’ll have enough seats for a majority in parliament. There is also an acute possibility of hung parliament – and perhaps come this election, it may be better to leave it that way.