Editorial, April 1, 2011

BDS, bombs and rock ‘n’roll

THEY say politics makes strange bedfellows, but surely there could be no more incongruous couple than the two gentlemen about to be featured in this week’s editorial. Like one of those ever popular reality TV shows where fading celebrities from contrasting walks of life are brought together for a common purpose, we present the most unlikely pairing since Arnold Schwarzenegger and Danny DeVito in the movie Twins, namely, ageing rock star Gene Simmons and leader of The Greens, Bob Brown.

In the past few days, both the Kiss frontman and The Greens frontman have made pronouncements on the issue of the global Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel. While the former labelled those backing BDS as “fools”, the latter seemed to concur that it was a foolish policy to espouse, giving the drubbing one of its key advocates suffered at the ballot box.

The electoral plight of Marrickville Mayor Fiona Byrne will no doubt give a much-needed fillip to those who feared that the public at large was being sucked in by all the anti-Israel propaganda foisted on it by a less than partial press, biased broadcasters and ill-informed, or indeed ill-intentioned, activists.

For once, common sense has prevailed, and for that we must be grateful. But certainly not complacent. True, the man and woman on the streets of Marrickville have had their say; true, the Senate has taken the council to task; true, the new NSW Government has stated its opposition to the BDS resolution; true, Brown says The Greens will have to reflect very seriously on the message sent to them by the voters; and true, Simmons has told fellow musicians, “The countries they should be boycotting are the same countries that the populations are rebelling.”

But for all the positives in recent days, we must not forget that this week across Australia, and indeed across the globe, marked Israel Apartheid Week. And while students the world over railed against so-called human rights abuses by the Jewish State, conveniently omitting to mention either its status as a democracy or the horrific terror attacks in Itamar, Jerusalem and on the Gaza border, shameful media outlets likewise played down the true nature of these tragic assaults.

While it is understandable that the Japan earthquake and tsunami disaster and the US-led airstrikes on Libya would dominate world news of late, it’s difficult to shake the feeling that there is an underlying lack of interest in the press to aggressively report news that would portray Israel in a sympathetic light.

The boycott backlash is encouraging, but the delegitimisation campaign continues.

Furthermore, news this week that Fatah and Hamas are once again working to unify under a single government worries those who believe that Hamas could emerge as the dominant partner in the merger, and bring its deadly rocket-lobbing show up the road to the West Bank.

There, too, nearly as troubling, is the niggling fear that Hamas could regain power and legitimacy in the Palestinian Authority, and world leaders would choose to look the other way and continue their push towards a creation of a Palestinian state regardless.

Worry and fear are natural and understandable human tendencies, but so are determination and perseverance.

Such was the teachable moment that occurred in Jerusalem last Friday – just two days after the fatal terror bombing and less than a week after Israel absorbed its latest severe mortar and rocket barrage – when 10,000 runners took to the streets in the capital’s first annual marathon.

Thousands of Jerusalem residents, along with other Israelis and foreign participants, charged up the hills and down the valleys in a course that wound around the city.

In every neighbourhood that the runners passed, spectators cheered and doused the runners with encouragement.

Many of the athletes were raising money for charities, and at the race’s start and finish, an atmosphere of exuberant celebration prevailed.

The Jerusalem Marathon embodied the indefatigable Israeli spirit that one cannot help but admire. While elsewhere in the Middle East people are rising up against their persecutors, in Israel, people are rising up against the terror, the hatred and the bloodshed, and wearing their determination across their chests like a runner’s vest for all to see.

They are Israelis. They have settled in for the long run, and they will not give up.

And neither will we. True to the spirit of Gene Simmons, we would do well to heed the words of his Kiss classic Crazy Crazy Nights when we next sing Hatikvah: “They try to tell us we don’t belong, that’s alright, we’re millions strong; this is my music, it makes me proud, these are my people and this is my crowd.”