Australian politicians in lock step with pro-Israeli forces over Adelaide FestivalFeb 25, 2023
It’s quite remarkable how quickly Australian politicians and ministers fell in lock step with pro-Israeli forces trying to sabotage the Adelaide Festival because I and Mohammad El-Kurd refuse to be silent on more than seven decades of systematic Israeli terrorism against us. The fact that some people think our words are too harsh means they either do not know the full extent of Israel’s daily barbarity and apartheid, or they do and support it, writes Susan Abulhawa in an interview with Pearls and Irritations.
Q: Next month, you will be presenting at the Adelaide Writers’ Festival. Australia has recently been host to a debate about foreign influence in Australia. Concern has been raised over Chinese lobbying efforts and new laws on foreign interference have been introduced by parliament in an attempt to stop those efforts. From your vantage point is Australia a nation free from foreign influence? Or do we still have some work to do.
In the US, domestic politics and foreign policy are heavily influenced by the Israeli lobby. A book by professors John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt wrote an excellent primer on the extent of Israel’s meddling and control over US politics. It’s called THE ISRAEL LOBBY, if anyone is interested.
As I don’t live in Australia and am not sufficiently versed in your domestic politics, I cannot answer whether this sort of political meddling is the same for you.
I will say, however, that it’s quite remarkable how quickly your politicians and ministers fell in lock step with pro-Israeli forces trying to sabotage the Adelaide Festival because I and Mohammad [El-Kurd] refuse to be silent on more than seven decades of systematic Israeli terrorism against us. The fact that some people think our words are too harsh means they either do not know the full extent of Israel’s daily barbarity and apartheid, or they do and support it.
Q: Australia’s new Labor government last year voted in the UNGA against requesting an ICJ advisory opinion on the legality of Israeli settlements. In that context, do you have any comment on the current situation in Palestine and the silence from the rest of the world?
Palestinians are a besieged, occupied, and terrorised population of principally unarmed civilians trying to resist Israel’s ongoing colonisation and ethnic cleansing of Palestine. We have no recourse, no other place to take our pain and grievances except rare international bodies, all of which are essentially toothless. Israel’s well-documented past and ongoing war crimes and crimes against humanity have made it hard for the ICJ to continue ignoring, and now the court has solicited legal analyses from vested parties and member nations. If Israel had nothing to hide, they shouldn’t be afraid. But the facts are not in their favor. The ICJ is not a place where their sensational headlines and fairytale propaganda will work as well as it does in popular western media. It’s a pity that Australia has chosen to back an Apartheid settler colonial state engaged in some of the most heinous and systematic contemporary human rights abuses. History will show them to have stood on the wrong side. Of that I have no doubt.
Q: Yesterday marked the anniversary of the invasion of Ukraine by Russian forces. Do you have any thoughts on the media coverage of the Ukraine war? In your view, what could have been done to prevent the conflict? What are the primary barriers to Ukraine and Russia now reaching a ceasefire or peace settlement?
As you know, I have been critical of Ukraine’s right wing government, as many Ukrainians are, too. But we don’t hear from the opposition in western media, in part because Zelensky’s regime banned, assassinated, shut down, or otherwise silenced internal opposition. This war concerns me greatly, as it should all citizens of the world, as the repercussions are global. As a US citizen, it is my duty to examine our role in this war, which goes back to the dissolution of the USSR and broken promises made to Mikhail Gorbachev not to expand NATO eastward. We know the US was involved in the overthrow of the democratically elected Ukrainian government of Viktor Yanukovych in 2014 to replace him with the current right wing government. We know from Angela Merkel that the US and NATO never intended to honor the Minsk agreements. Rather, as she admitted, Minsk was meant to buy time for Ukraine to rearm and prepare for a confrontation with Russia. We also know (ironically from Naftali Bennett) that the US and other western powers blocked a peace agreement that both Ukraine and Russia had agreed to in 2022.
That said, my criticism of Zelensky does not absolve Russia. The fact is that I disdain hero worship of politicians as we see happening with Zelensky. I do not idolise politicians, nor do I love them. So the claims that I am a cheerleader for Putin are sensational fabrications. It is simply that I do not need to see the world in absolute terms in order to make sense of reality. The popular black and white or good and evil framing applied to this war is dangerous reductionism that perpetuates and feeds the war machine.
I have been very critical of Mahmoud Abbas, and was even more critical of Yasser Arafat during his time. No one ever accused me of spreading Zionist propaganda. Leaders have a responsibility to first and foremost protect their people. Zelensky failed on this most basic premise and the world deserves to know how and why. Australians should have the right to hear different narratives and viewpoints, particularly views about this war that are shared by huge swaths of humanity, primarily in the Global South, who make up the majority of the world.
Q: Large parts of Syria were devastated by a 7.8 magnitude earthquake that struck the region in early February. Have neighboring countries and the international community in your view adequately responded to Syria’s need for humanitarian assistance and disaster recovery?
The devastation in Syria is unimaginable. It is worth noting that Israel took the opportunity to bomb Syria as the country was reeling from deaths in the tens of thousands, trying desperately to dig survivors out of the rubble.
Susan Abulhawa will be appearing at the Adelaide Writers’ Festival panel on Sovereignty and Solidarity, Thursday 9 March, 12pm.
Susan Abulhawa’s debut novel, Mornings in Jenin, was translated into 30 languages and is considered a classic in Palestinian literature. Her most recent, Against the Loveless World, was lauded as a “masterpiece.”
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