in service of the
The Future for Palestinians, Israelis, and Peace in the Middle East
Following the Hamas attack of October 7 and the subsequent Israeli response, the ground has irrevocably shifted. There can be no going back to the previously prevailing status quo in which the Palestinians of Gaza suffer an endless blockade, the Palestinians of the West Bank face on-going rule through military occupation, and the people of East Jerusalem suffer continuing restriction and loss of identity.
It is clear Israel no longer wishes this situation to continue either. What is their solution? It has not been stated. But if intention can be interpreted from action, the solution will be devastating for Palestinians, a genocidal solution that must be totally rejected and resisted by an international community committed to the rule of law.
It is reasonably clear that without strong international diplomacy, it is Israel’s intention to force Palestinians in Gaza who survive the military onslaught, and death through sickness, out to the Egyptian held Sinai Peninsula.
In addition, many hundreds of Palestinians have been killed on the West Bank since October 7 either by armed settlers opportunistically seeking to push Palestinians off Palestinian land, or by Israeli military personnel who defend the actions of the illegal settlers. Thousands have become victims of ‘administrative detention’ facing incarceration without legal representation or hope of release. The situation is so bad that Palestinian mothers consider the death of their sons because of resistance, a matter of pride. Of course, occupation and denial of rights is going to be resisted. It is mealy mouthed of international leaders, including our own, to use Israel’s language, calling all Palestinian youngsters terrorists. You are not a terrorist for refusing to accept injustice. The real terrorists are Israeli settlers who flaunt their lifestyle on hills above impoverished Palestinians who face continued loss of land and property.
It is clear Israel intends to annex at least the whole of area C, having first removed Palestinians for whom this is their home.
Finally, it is clear Israel intends to integrate East Jerusalem with West Jerusalem, and systematically weaken and ultimately destroy the four distinct quarters of the Old City.
It is not sufficient simply to mouth support for a “Two-State solution”, it is necessary, through diplomacy, and if necessary economic sanction, to insist on an outcome that gives peace and hope to Israelis and Palestinians alike.
The international community, inclusive of Australia must make up its mind. It is meaningless to mouth support for a ‘two-state solution’ and do absolutely nothing about it. In fact, it is worse than meaningless. It is to “tut tut” and continue walking by on the other side of the road. It is in fact to be complicit in the misplacement of five million+ people (genocide) and to excuse the blatant flaunting of international law by a regime that makes no secret of its contempt for law and contempt for the human rights of a people whose only crime is to live in towns and villages they seek to occupy.
What was done on the 7th October was unconscionable. However, Hamas has won, they have achieved their objective, the world is now aware of the plight of Palestinians. The genie cannot be put back in the bottle.
Prime Minister Albanese and his government must find some backbone. It is not a matter of choosing between Palestinians and Israelis, it is a matter of choosing between light and darkness. At this midway point of his first term in office Albanese must find backbone in a range of fields, the Gaza crisis would be a good place to start.
There must be an immediate and unequivocal call for a permanent ceasefire. Hamas militants have presumably moved to the south of the strip where Palestinians have fled. 14,000 have already lost their lives. The world cannot allow another Rwanda and simply watch more untold loss of life.
An international peace keeping force must immediately move into the Gaza strip and be responsible for its further demilitarisation. A civilian contingent must supervise the distribution of aid, and over time, oversee the rebuilding of Gaza.
The Palestinian Authority, distrusted, even hated by most Palestinians, must be dismantled. For a short period of time a UN led authority must take care of the Palestinian territories. When stability and direction allows, Palestinians must be afforded free and fair elections.
The international community must force Israel to choose. Either it must agree to some form of federation in which all citizens of the region enjoy the same rights and freedoms, or it agrees to the establishment of a viable Palestinian State. One or the other must prevail. The international community possesses enough cards in its pack to force such an outcome. It is only a matter of will. Biden and Albanese cannot continue to sit on the fence, saying they support Israel, and they support a two-state solution, but do absolutely nothing to achieve it.
As I have already said, it is not a matter of choosing between peoples. It is a matter of choosing what is right. It is a matter of choosing a path that can lead to mutual peace and prosperity. It is a matter of choosing a path that does not accept one people to be more worthy than another.
During WW1 the allies sold the same camel three times. In the Balfour declaration they notionally sold Palestine to the Jewish community. In the Sykes/Picot agreement they divided the whole of the Middle East between Britain and France and in the MacMahon/Hussein correspondence which led to the Arab revolt against the Ottomans, they sold the land to the Arabs.
Following WW2, the newly created UN partitioned Palestine. Israel was created. Palestine awaits its recognition. That Australia has so far refused to grant such recognition while more than 140 nations have, is to fly in the face of the partition that Australia so warmly supported. In both the Balfour declaration and the partition, the creation of Israel was conditional on Palestinians being accorded freedom and respect of their culture and way of life.
Hey, it is well past time to choose. Albanese find your backbone. Stand up.
Apartheid and Antisemitism
An open letter to the Hon Julian Lesser MP.
First may I express my sincere condolence for Israeli lives lost in the shocking and brutal events of October 7 and express hope that Israeli hostages will soon return home safely. The attack by Hamas was inhumane and without warrant.
I write however to respond to your recent statements about antisemitism published in the weekend SMH, particularly linking antisemitism to criticism of Israel. I wrote to you recently to thank you from the bottom of my heart for your principled stand in promoting a Yes vote to the recent failed referendum. It was the right thing to do, but it took considerable courage and in the political field you have borne a heavy price. Amongst those of us who value integrity, you stood tall.
It is therefore with mixed feelings I respond to you. You quote one of my theological heroes, the late Chief Rabbi of Britain, Lord Jonathan Sacks, who is reported to have said “Jews used to be hated for their religion, then they were hated for their race and now they are hated for their state”. You apparently went on to say: ‘Antisemitism is the hatred that never dies – it just mutates over different generations”.
With the profoundest of respect, both you and Lord Sacks suffer from a blindness that seems also incapable of dying. Shocking discrimination suffered by Jews in the past does not give Israel a warrant to perpetually play the victim card or make victims of others. I wrote to Lord Sacks following the release of his otherwise excellent book – Not in God’s Name in which he asserted violence should never be exercised in the name of religion. He appropriately named violence perpetrated by most world religions, including shameful violence perpetrated by Christians, but failed to mention the violence perpetrated by Israel against Palestinians since 1948.
If you consider this statement to be provocative, unbalanced, or ‘antisemitic’ I can only assume you have never walked down the makeshift shopping street in Hebron, protected by pathetic hessian which catches hard refuse, but allows urine tossed from settlers above to fall on Palestinian produce, while Israeli soldiers laugh. I assume you have never been to the children’s military courts at which shackled young Palestinian, some still in primary school, are paraded in front of lawyers who provide them with a document in Hebrew, which they cannot read and expect them to sign. I asked the parents of one of these young boys what they would like me to tell Australia, they said “tell them we cannot breathe”. Most are there for throwing stones. Why do they throw stones? Because of the continued harassment they and their parents experience. I can only assume you have not attempted to negotiate the humiliating checkpoints the Palestinians have to negotiate every day.
I assume you have not been to the village of Nabi Saleh in Area C of the West Bank where one branch of the Tamimi family lives. This family have been designated terrorists, many have spent time in jail, including young Ahed. Why, because they object to their homes being destroyed and land confiscated. In return do they hate Jews or even the state of Israel, no, they simply want the opportunity to live as everyone else lives, not be forced to live under suppression where rights are not equal and lives constantly tormented.
Under these circumstances why is the word apartheid ‘antisemitic’? The word accurately describes the situation where one group of people have adequate water and others don’t: where one group is allowed to travel as they wish and the others can’t: where one group lives under civil law and the other under military law: where on Palestinian lands roads are built for illegal settlers that cannot be used by local Palestinians, where one group is referred to by members of the Knesset as animals, and the others are encouraged to believe it is their right to assume property that does not belong to them: where one group builds houses and lives in them and others live constantly under the threat of demolition.
You say anti-Zionism is a cover for antisemitism. Let me tell you why your view is wrong. The constant desire for Israel to expand beyond its accepted 1967 borders appears to be driven by a political, nationalistic ideology which the perpetrators describe as Zionism. Yasser Arafat agreed to the State of Israel based on the 1967 borders. The current Netanyahu government makes no secret of the fact that their version of Zionism forbids them to cede Palestinians the right to one inch of land between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean. If the nationalistic, colonialist ideology of Zionism cannot be singled out, the alternative is quite damning. The only other conclusion is that the state of Israel cannot exist without the continued suppression and ultimate annihilation of the Palestinian people. That is not a conclusion I personally wish to draw. I want to believe the state of Israel is at heart a genuine democracy with liberal values and commitment to live under international law. It is my contention that the State of Israel is corrupted by Zionism and is in the process of making itself a pariah state.
Israel has every right to defend its internationally recognized 1967 borders, but it has no right to defend the annexation of other lands or the perpetual siege of 2.3 million people.
This brings us to the current situation in Gaza.
Israel has essentially told Gazans to get out or die, a choice between expulsion and extermination, between ethnic cleansing and genocide – and while doing so has obliterated exit routes and fired on escaping convoys, leaving Gazans trapped. That the UN Health authority should speculate starvation is an immanent possibility speaks to this shocking inhumanity. The Israeli president along with previous Israeli prime ministers have said there are no civilians in Gaza.
There is much more that could and should be said. Hamas was guilty of appalling inhumanity, but these shocking crimes seem overtaken by the deaths of 10,000 Palestinians and counting. The State of Israel’s greatest challenge is to demonstrate to the world that its existence is not dependent upon crushing Palestinians and that the State of Israel wishes all Palestinians to have the same rights of religion, culture, employment, travel etc. that are enjoyed by Israeli citizens.
Massacre of the Innocents
The UN is calling the Israel-Hamas war a ‘graveyard of children’…. an adult conflict, in which the young are suffering most. What we see on our TV screens every night is impossible to watch. Did Netanyahu see the young lad who had just carried the decapitated body of his friend from the rubble. If so, what did he think? He almost certainly thought the same as Natali Bennet the former Israeli prime minister who said to a reporter on Sky News: “Are you seriously asking me about Palestinian civilians? What is wrong with you? We’re fighting Nazis”.
In other words, there are no civilians, there are no innocents, all Palestinians, including children, are the antithesis of us, all deserve and need to be exterminated. In fact, in this logic, there is no entity that can be called Palestine, there are no peoples to be called Palestinians. This is not just the slaughter of innocents, it is the annihilation of innocence, it is the breeding ground of the next generation of retributive violence and of lives lived out of pure hatred.
It is past time that truths were stated with utmost clarity.
It is this solution that the US, Australia and all Israel’s ‘friends’ must insist on, and if refused, must activate all economic and diplomatic levers at their disposal to achieve.
Netanyahu invokes Genocide.
Prime Minsters Howard, Rudd, Gillard, Abbott, Turnbull, and Morrison have signed a statement drafted for them by the Zionist Federation of Australia in support of Israel. In doing so, were they aware that on Sunday, in launching the ground offensive into Gaza, Netanyahu invoked a genocidal precedent for his war on Gaza?
In describing this stage of Israel’s war, a “holy mission” he said: “You must remember what Amalek has done to you, says our Holy Bible”. His words reference a text which goes on to read: "Now go and smite Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and spare them not; but slay both man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and ass," (1 Samuel 15:3).
This statement frighteningly tells you all you need to know about the mindset and intention of Israel’s vengeful Prime Minister, and of the future that lies ahead for all Palestinians in the lands of their birth. What on earth possessed these six former prime ministers to lend support in terms drafted by the Zionist Federation of Australia. This is the political and nationalistic advocacy group that seeks possession of all these ancient lands. It is tragically consistent with their stated goals, not religiously, but politically and nationalistically driven. It is amongst the most aggressive and war like of all Hebrew sacred texts. They would do well to dwell on the writings of their ancient prophets who, in consistently condemning the words and actions of ancient Israel’s political leaders, call for peace, justice, and mercy; but no, these modern-day political power players seek justification in historical behaviours that their prophets condemn.
A little more about the Amalekites. According to Hebrew scripture and genealogy, they are descendants of Esau, the elder son of Isaac who had his birthright stolen by the younger, Jacob. So, they are genealogically related to Hebrews, to use contemporary language, they were Semites, like their Hebrew cousins. The similarities with today are obvious. Palestinians are also Semites. Language used by members of the Knesset who have referred to Palestinians as animals, dogs, less than human, is on the extreme end of ‘antisemitism’. Palestinians suffer cruelly from ‘antisemitic’ language uttered by Israeli leadership, which in turn encourages violence against them by the wider Israeli population. Most particularly this violence emanates from Israeli zealots who occupy the illegal settlements on the West Bank. Many Palestinians on the West Bank have lost their lives since October 7. Let there be consistency in the West’s condemnation of real antisemitism, not use it as a weapon to protect racist Israeli action from criticism.
There is another similarity. Amalekites appear not to have been a settled people such as the Edomites or even Canaanites, but nomads who grazed across lands, giving the impression the lands were not occupied. Although skirmishes with the Amalekites apparently occurred in the Negeb under Moses’ leadership prior to the occupation of Canaan, major confrontation occurred following Israel’s settlement. The catalyst would almost certainly have been loss of their grazing lands. You see the picture, in similar vein, Palestinian lands were never ‘unoccupied’ as the Israeli narrative claims; they were home to a living, thriving culture and people.
Amongst all Semitic peoples there is a strong sense of clean and unclean, what is permitted or not permitted. We understand these ideas through the words Kosher and Halal. In biblical Hebrew what is kosher, or clean, must be protected from what is unclean or foreign. Something unclean soils what is clean. What is unclean is not redeemed by what is clean. In the confrontation between Saul and the Amalekites, the Amalekites are declared ‘haram’ and must be destroyed, not simply as pay back for past incursions, but because their very presence is a threat. Saul is commanded to destroy them completely. On his return, he is asked by Samuel if he has completed the task. He claimed he has. Samuel asks: “what then is the bleating of sheep I hear in my ears?” In other words, the spoils Saul brought back, have the capacity to despoil the Hebrew kingdom. The text suggests this oversight, in not completing the full extent of genocide, was the reason he lost the kingship.
Netanyahu has invoked this narrative to justify his ‘mission’. But he is not alone in claiming authority from this and similar narratives. The settlers who in their hundreds of thousands illegally occupy Palestinian territories treat this ‘historical’ narrative as the foundation for their actions. The new speaker of the US congress, a right-wing evangelical, Christian gives unconditional support for Israel because he sees in this narrative the working of God. Does one group’s sacred text override international law, and international compacts of acceptable behaviour? Does Israel have the right to occupy land, drive out those who have lived there for generations, keep 2.2 million Gazans in an open prison, many in view of the land and homes they used to occupy, and refuse to give Palestinians the same rights as other citizens, because of a 3000-year-old narrative?
Christians also need to answer an equally important question. Do we believe ‘biblical’ text in its minutiae wields such power and authority, because it is biblical text, that it overrides contemporary understandings of truth and moral judgement.
Modern day Israel is not a continuation of the northern nation state of the same name that disappeared and was absorbed into the Assyrian Empire in 720 BC. Nor is it a continuation of the southern State called Judah which disappeared in 586 BC absorbed into the Babylonian Empire. On the other hand, it is true that Jewish people have cultural, religious, and ancestral ties, along with many other peoples, with this land for 3000 years.
Modern Day Israel was not created by fiat of the Divine. It was created through an act of partition by the United Nations in 1948. This partition was infamously preceded by the Balfour Declaration of 1917. That Palestinians were not jumping for joy in being told from afar they were about to lose 50% of their ancestral lands, is not surprising. In fact, they have lost 78%. Apparently, Israel considers 78% to be insufficient.
You six prime minsters who have signed a statement prepared for you by those who demand not 78% but 100%, will you issue another statement which clearly articulates the state of play which you believe should exist post the ‘war’, setting out your moral and legal arguments to support what you think should be the ‘new normal’?
Albanese must deliver a strong Message to Biden
Prime Minister Albanese has an obligation to engage President Biden in a conversation on Gaza. Australia cannot and must not stay in lock step with Israel. If US support for Israel is written in concrete, no matter how Israel behaves, or what inhumanity it inflicts on an imprisoned people, it is Australia’s duty to deliver a message of dire warning to the US on what this will lead to.
On the surface, the Prime Minister’s visit to Washington, contains few challenges. The AUKUS deal is touted as the most significant. (Bizarre, especially for baby boomers or older Australians, most of whom will be dead before the then redundant submarines arrive). Of greater importance should be a conversation about war and what ‘winning it’ might look like. When Rishi Sunak, the British Prime Minister visited Netanyahu, he expressed the hope Israel would ‘win’ the war.
There are currently two wars being waged in the Middle East, both focused on the outcome of conflict between Israel and the Palestinians of the Gaza strip. The first and most shocking is military conflict. The second, less obvious, but far more significant in long-term outcomes, is the war for moral ascendancy upon which trust, respect, honour, and future alliances will be built. That Israel will win the first is guaranteed, it is backed and armed by the US and has its own nuclear arsenal. But it is far from guaranteed that it will win the second. Indeed, current indications are that it will lose this, the more important contest.
Prime Minister Albanese has an obligation to engage President Biden in this conversation. Australia cannot and must not stay in lock step with Israel, if US support for Israel is written in concrete, no matter how Israel behaves, or what inhumanity it inflicts on an imprisoned people.
There can be no sugar-coating the barbaric atrocities committed against Israeli civilians on 7th October. However, by continuing to prosecute the politics of the conflict through the question; “what do you expect Israel to do, what alternative does it have”, is to condemn barbarism on one side and excuse it on another. More than half the 2+ million Palestinians in Gaza have lived under a total blockade, in the most crowded and impoverished conditions on earth for their entire life. If it is right to ask; what is Israel supposed to do, is it not equally appropriate to ask, “what are the Gazans supposed to do?” Or equally, Palestinians on the West Bank, inclusive of East Jerusalem, have endured brutality and dehumanising activity from colonialist occupiers for decades, (dozens have been killed or arrested since October 7), is it not also appropriate to ask: “what are they supposed to do?”
There are no winners in war, only losers, as Afghanistan, Vietnam, Iraq, and the Gulf amply illustrate. Before engaging in war, the responder to a bloodied nose must ask, what do we envisage the landscape to be like post the conflict? The US and its allies clearly did not ask this question in Iraq or Afghanistan. Albanese needs to put pressure on Biden to make Israel answer this question, prior to giving unconditional support. Even then, support should be tempered by the likelihood, or not, of the stated outcome being a reality.
We know a power vacuum is the worst possible outcome. Killing the Palestinian equivalent of Osama Bin Laden is doable, but removing the reason for Hamas from a people given no hope, no future, no humanity is the task that Israel clearly has no stomach to undertake. But it is the task that Biden and Albanese should be committed to, and which they should talk about in Washington.
Does Israel think it is going to run Gaza indefinitely with military oversight when it completes its military ambitions, as it does the West Bank? Or does it think it can push 2+ million people across the border into Egypt, living in a huge Sinai situated artificial tent city with little hope, meaning, or future?
Albanese needs to tell Biden to tell Israel that if it genuinely wants peace for its people and respect in the international community it must choose between two options. Either it must immediately agree to and deliver a meaningful two-state solution with illegal Israeli settlers in Palestine provided the option of staying in Palestine or returning to Israel; or under UN supervision, the whole area must become integrated, walls and barriers must come down, and equal rights afforded to all regardless of religion, ethnicity, or culture. There is no other just alternative to these choices.
It is irresponsible and cowardly for Albanese or Biden to support the superior power with blooded nose, and not address the rapidly increasing injustices suffered by 5+ million people since 1948. The arrangements that have given rise to these injustices were made by US and European powers for reasons of their own self-interest; in the process they have failed to deliver or enforce an acceptable outcome for Palestinians. Australia was amongst the first to recognise Israel. Palestinians have been waiting 70 years.
Joe Biden and Anthony Albanese, you have plenty to talk about, that is if you are genuinely interested in peace with justice and if you seek to lead nations that aspire to civility. As history demonstrates ‘civilisation’, like love in personal affairs can never to be taken for granted, but should receive fresh commitment every day.
Shocking attack on Anglican owned hospital in Gaza
“I don’t believe in the God you don’t believe in either”
The explosion on Tuesday at the al-Ahli al-Arabi hospital, also known as the Baptist hospital, which killed hundreds of already traumatized civilians must be investigated as a war crime. While Israel claims, as it has in similar circumstance in the past, that Hamas was responsible through a misfunctioning rocket, there is no evidence that this is the case. It is almost certainly the result of an Israeli strike, intended or not.
I want to respond to this outrage through the words of a weeping Israeli citizen who lost his child in the brutal Hamas attack on a kibbutz “I am sorry, I can no longer believe in God anymore”.
This is the hub of the matter. While this is not in the traditional sense a religious conflict, the facts of the matter are that when an illegal settler is asked by what authority he dares to push Palestinians off their land and resume it for himself, he holds up a Bible and says: “this is the authority”.
There would be no conflict if the illegal assumption of Palestinian land, property and rights was not occurring.
There would be no conflict if Gaza was not permanently and crushingly blockaded.
There would be no conflict if the most right-wing government in Israel’s history was not in provocative and suppressive power.
There would be no conflict if the promise of the Oslo agreement of Palestinian nationhood on 22 percent of original Palestine with East Jerusalem as its capital had been delivered within the promised five-year time frame.
There would be no conflict if the UN sponsored partition of Palestine on a roughly 50/50 percentage basis was enforced in the years following 1945.
There would be no conflict if the conservative/religious right which dominates American politics did not back Israel on the basis that God gave Israel all the land and that Jesus will return when they control it all from the river to the sea.
Hamas’ attack on October 7 was barbaric and must be unconditionally condemned. But it is simply untrue that it was without provocation.
I weep equally for Jews and Palestinians who have lost the lives of their loved ones. I support entirely the kibbutz citizen who poured out his disbelief. I absolutely do not believe in the God you no longer believe in.
Let us assume for a moment there is God, I fervently believe this to be the case. This God must surely behave consistently and equally, not simply with all humans, but with the whole created order. If any have a particular place, it can only be in service of the order that this God intends for the whole created order. It is simply not credible to believe that one group of people is given divine right to a piece of land that allows them through acts of apartheid, even genocide, to exclude others.
The Bible is reasonably clear about the order that God intends. Justice, mercy, righteousness, humility, hospitality, care of the vulnerable, treating the stranger in your midst as one of your own, are all clearly set out, not simply in the New Testament, but throughout the writings of the Old Testament prophets. To paraphrase Amos: “I hate I despise your religious practice, but let justice roll down like a river and righteousness like an everlasting stream”. Or Micah: “What does the lord your God require of you, but to do justice love mercy and walk humbly with your God”.
Zionism, Israeli government policy, is a political movement, but it is a political movement that relies on a quasi-religious historical assumption. Zionism is not the same as Judaism. The world at large has been immensely blessed by Judaism and by Jewish people. Jewish people have, and do, push well above their weight in many fields of human endeavour, including humanitarian fields.
Zionism and Zionistic propositions do not represent Judaism. I am proud that Judaism lies at the very foundation of Christianity. But I abhor activity in the name of religion which brings pain and suffering through injustice and oppression.
Will this article be called antisemitic – of course it will. Should it be? Of course not. I hope with some humility this article is being written and read in the spirit of the prophets we Christians and Jews share, again paraphrasing “I care nothing for any of your religions, but let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an everlasting stream”.
Conservative Christians say No to Indigenous Voice
“Christians for Equality has been launched to promote reconciliation and recognition and to prevent Australia’s constitution from being used as a lever for anti-Christian ideology.”
The Shelton-led group has urged Christians to vote against the voice, alleging it would enshrine Indigenous Australians as “forever victims”.
In an online pamphlet, it claims voting yes would instead “embed Indigenous spirituality into the constitution”.
“It will create an ‘us’ versus ‘them’ mentality leading to resentment,” the group’s pamphlet reads.
Lyle Shelton, previous leader of the Australian Christian Lobby and now a politician aspirant on the extreme right, heads Christians for Equality – a new network that seems to be more about politics than faith.
It is hard not to despair when such ignorance and stupidity is voiced by a person who seeks respect, even authority, as a Christian spokesperson.
First, Mr Shelton is ignorant of the faith he claims to espouse. The earliest biblical name for God is the ‘God who listens’, words uttered by Hagar. Hagar, Sarah’s handmaid, went on to name her son Ismael which is a combination of the Hebrew words for ‘God’ and ‘listen’. Prayer has at its roots belief that God listens, a truth that is reinforced both in the words and rhythms of Jesus’ life. We Christians believe the nature of God is to be imaged and followed in what it means to be human. We are to respect one another through listening. Those who are strong are called upon to listen to those who are weak. Those who have authority are called upon to listen to those who are affected by that authority. It is sadly the case that very few Australians know an indigenous person, their views about First Nations people being second hand and coloured by the prejudice of the person providing the insight. The voice is a generous invitation to recent comers to hear indigenous people with no requirement or obligation, other than to respond with common humanity. In being the human face of God, Christ shows us what it is to be human.
Second, Mr Shelton and presumably those who rally around him, show total ignorance of indigenous spirituality and culture. Therse is nothing in indigenous spirituality that threatens Christianity. Unlike Mr Shelton’s Christianity, indigenous spirituality is not best understood through dogma. It is best understood through relationships. Relationship with the land. Relationship with language group. Relationship with elders. Relationship through songlines. Relationship with the past, present and future through story telling. Mr Shelton’s spirituality leads to ownership, individual rights and possession. Indigenous spirituality leads its people to understand what it means to be owned – by the land and the obligations and responsibilities that flow from it. Indigenous spirituality leads their people away from individual rights and privileges to communal responsibility and belonging. Rather than indigenous spirituality being somehow in conflict with Christian belief, there is much within indigenous understanding that will enhance and deepen Christian belief.
Third, Mr Shelton is ignorant of the Australian constitution. The Constitution was founded on racist attitudes, reflecting the prevailing views of the time. If it were being written today it would reflect very different views and address different concerns. It is simply nonsense to suggest embedding the proposed voice in the constitution will give one group of people an advantage over other Australians or cause division. It will do what should have been done 100+ years ago, acknowledge the pre-existence of peoples and cultures on this land. Such recognition assumes a voice needs to be heard, not only for the sake of First Nations peoples but for the sake of all who have since arrived.
It needs to be said that opposition to the referendum at its most base, is fear that somehow the voice will cost other Australians. Rather like opposition to action on climate change, failure to respond with good because it might cost something is hardly a trait that someone who espouses Christianity should be proud of.
What is playing out on the border of Gaza and Israel is awful. Loss of civilian life is inexcusable and must be condemned.
Unsurprisingly, and understandably, Biden, Albanese, Trudeau and other Western leaders have condemned the Hamas attack in the strongest possible terms. But is that all they are going to do – double down behind Israel in responding to Palestinians as vicious terrorists who need to be taught a lesson, or worse, eliminated?
My question to Biden, Albanese Trudeau and others is what do you want Palestinians to do? For those who live in the Gaza strip do you want them to be for ever caged animals; living in the most incarcerated and impoverished conditions in the world with no hope for countless generations of what we consider to be normal life? Are they to live forever with no employment for their children? What do you expect those young adults to do, behave meekly with no anger?
And those on the West Bank, what do you want them to do? Do you want them to meekly accept their lot. What is their lot? It is to have their land arbitrarily confiscated to serve illegal settlements of armed migrants with ideological views that exclude Palestinians from ordinary human rights. It is to be corralled into smaller and smaller areas. It is to be systematically removed from area C, approximately 70 percent of the West Bank. It is to live forever in a cramped refugee camp called Jenin. It is to live in Hebron and be daily intimidated by illegal settlers and permanently blocked from the main shopping street. It is to negotiate endless security checks for no reason other than to be humiliated. It is to access below standard water supplies while illegal settlers water their lawns and wash their cars. It is to have identity papers that restrict access even to parts of their own Palestinian Territories. It is to have no access to Jews only roads that crisscross Palestinian Territories.
And if you live in East Jerusalem, it is to be constantly harassed, intimidated and to live under the threat of your home being confiscated.
Biden, Albanese Trudeau and others, you are partly responsible for this outrage of violence by not doing your duty in holding Israel to account. Peace is never possible while gross injustice prevails. Peace flows from justice, not the other way around. You find it easy to hold Palestinians to account and no doubt you will continue to do so. But what are you going to do in holding Israel to account?
We can only tremble as we await the dreadful revenge Israel will inflict upon the Palestinian people. It will be swift, and it will be unremittingly merciless. What will you all do in response to this?
The only redeeming feature possible is that Israel will take direct control of Gaza and in turn the international community will treat the whole area from the river to the sea as a single unit demanding a form of governance that gives equal respect and opportunity to all its citizens in mattes of religion, language, culture, economic opportunity and human rights. If this were to happen, then yes there would be peace.
Biden, Albanese and Trudeau, you have the honour of leading nations that were all founded on a Christian tradition of respect, inclusiveness, and a bias towards support and advocacy for the weak and vulnerable. You will negate that tradition if you give unquestioned support to the strong and their suppression of the weak.
The seduction of misinformation
“Elon Musk's X has disabled a feature that lets users report misinformation about elections”.
While not surprising, this disturbing piece of news illustrates more than anything the absolute madness of the contemporary world, described in the presidential speech by António Guterres at the UN Assembly on September 21 in the following terms:
“I am here to sound the alarm: The world must wake up. We are on the edge of an abyss — and moving in the wrong direction…. We face the greatest cascade of crises in our lifetimes…
A surge of mistrust and misinformation is polarizing people and paralyzing societies…
This is a moral indictment of the state of our world. It is an obscenity.
We passed the science test. But we are getting an F in Ethics….
The recent report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change was a code red for humanity. COVID and the climate crisis have exposed profound fragilities as societies and as a planet…
Yet instead of humility in the face of these epic challenges, we see hubris.
Instead of the path of solidarity, we are on a dead end to destruction.
At the same time, another disease is spreading in our world today: a malady of mistrust.”
At all times in our lives, we rely on trustworthy information to inform decision making. Trust is life’s most indispensable ingredient. We do not live isolated lives, whether we are prepared to acknowledge it or not, we are community beings. Even the most informed of us have limited expertise across a wide range of topics and skills necessary for basic daily living. We rely, consciously or unconsciously, on an army of others. When information becomes unreliable and trust disappears, choosing, even in service of self-interest, let alone ethically, becomes impossible. The harmonious functioning of society becomes impaired and more likely - fractured. (Britain’s Brexit debacle is a good example of choices being made based on fabricated information).
Increasingly, social media is becoming the platform of choice for information, whether it be local gossip, or information that has the potential to change national and international affairs.
We know that what passes for news often has a twitter feed as its source. Trump was banned from the use of twitter because of his false and very damaging claims. Now it is apparently the case that this significant component of social media does not consider falsehood or truth to be worthy of monitoring. Apparently, freedom of speech ‘trumps’ all other considerations.
Elon Musk is reported to be concerned about the fractured nature of American society, yet he is determined to set himself up as the greatest contributor to this fracture.
I have just returned from my first roster in support of the Yes vote at the local early polling station. While 90% of voters understandably wanted to avoid contact with either Yes or No supporters, some did stop to encourage or heckle. I must confess I find it incomprehensible that anyone could vote no. However, having listened to the heckling, it is obvious that misinformation designed to instil fear or embolden prejudice has done its work in many.
I am one of the growing number of citizens who fear for the future of democracy. Democracy is utterly dependent on citizens being provided with trustworthy information upon which they can make their choices. When false is given the same value as true, we no longer live in a society that can claim democratic identity. Part of the difficulty is the principle that both sides, or all sides, of a case need to be given equal time. This is an admirable ideal if falsehood can be readily separated from truth. However, in circumstances which we appear now to have entered in which no such demarcation is considered appropriate, then such principle is no longer desirable. The best example relates to climate change. Science has been settled for decades and if anything, prognostications based on science have been too timid. In reality there is no alternative scientific case to be put, and yet ‘climate deniers’ are still given airtime.
At the polling booth a friend came with signs in support of the No vote. He justified his actions on the basis that he believes in democracy. The No vote propaganda states the referendum Voice divides Australia and Austalians. The opposite is true. The inequality that currently besets indigenous Australians and causes economic and social division is the very thing the referendum seeks to overcome. Democracy is not served when misinformation leads good people to vote for the very thing they would otherwise have wished to overcome.
There is no easy solution to a problem that appears to be accelerating in its potential to undermine civil society as we know it. Autocrats depend on their version of truth becoming the prevailing narrative. They are jealous to protect access to, and manipulation of, platforms like twitter and TikTok. We are painfully aware of the capacity of autocratic regimes to infiltrate communication platforms. It is hardly surprising that Trump prefers the company of autocrats to the company of democratically inclined allies.
Clearly, governments like our own are reluctant to impose restrictions on media platforms for fear of censorship accusations. However, misinformation is a far greater threat to our civil, democratic society than military invasion is ever likely to be. A foreign power does not have to invade us to control us.
Long before nuclear powered submarines arrive in 30 years’ time, we have the capacity to be controlled by malign ideas and powers simply because we are too lazy to be careful about the sources of information that feed us.
Professor Lynore Gaia responds to Fair Australia
What follows is a heartfelt message from Professor Lynore Gaia, a First Nations Ambassador at the Australian Centre for Christianity and Culture in Canberra and Professor of Nursing at James Cook University. ‘No’ may have the current momentum, but that is because we have been seduced by the basest of emotions – fear, and have been deceived by wilful disinformation. The truth lies where Lynore’s heart leads us. Listen to what she has to say.
“I’m stepping out in my vulnerability and saying what is on my heart - hoping my words reaches your heart. I have not said a lot about the upcoming Referendum on the Voice to Parliament. But I saw this just now and want to respond, and this is a long post. But please take the time to read and reflect.
If you are not sure of what the Voice is, then the way to get informed is to do your research so that you are informed. We don’t need to see all the structure of the legislation, that is the job of Parliament when Yes is given when we sit at the table together and begin the dialogue of how it will be.
I am voting YES because of the following dot points;
1. Yes - From my Christian faith - for me, the Voice is about God making a way in our nation to come together for the much-needed work of justice and healing of the people and the land, for a better way for this nation. What does God require of us - Micah 6:8 “What does the Lord require to act justly, and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God”.
Christian family and friends lift your eyes up to God and ask what is God’s thinking and purpose in all of this? Use your heart through prayer as you inform yourself to decide and not rely on the head knowledge of others that say what you have to do. Don’t let doubt and fear lead you, but let faith lead you.
2. Yes - from a health professional perspective. I am coming up to 50 years of being in the Australian nursing and midwifery profession. The gap in Indigenous health is not getting better, in fact it is getting worse. Having a Voice enshrined in the constitution makes a way for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to have a seat at the table where law makers make laws and programs for us. A Yes from Australia means we can and will be part of the development of solutions bringing our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander knowledge and skills to the highest level of government where law makers and program development can be informed by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. We see our problems and we want to be genuinely included in finding the solution through partnership and respect.
3. Yes - from my personal Bwgcolman perspective, as an Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander woman from Palm Island. I was born in a community that was established by the Qld Government as a prison settlement for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Our ‘Old People’ always talked about justice and building a life for us, they fought for their voices to be heard by government over the generations to be given a ‘fair go’ by government, to have self-determination and to live with dignity making a better life for our community and the generations to come. I want the same for my community and grandchildren who will grow up on Palm Island.
4. Yes - If you are a new Australian that has made this nation your home, then please know you are welcome to share this land with the oldest nations of First Australians - I ask that you reflect on your lived experience of why you have come to a better place for you and your family? Vote Yes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to be acknowledged in the Australian Constitution and the Voice to enshrined, so that we can have a say in making Australia a better place for First Peoples, for me and my family - which also means a better place for all Australians.
5. Vote Yes, because it is the right thing and fair thing to do to bring healing to Australia that is so needed for us all. Vote Yes, because it is the right thing to restore dignity to a people group who have had dignity stripped from our lives since 1788. Vote Yes, to give me and my people a Voice to speak to government about our heart and knowledge. Our collective voice was made silent and taken away from us making us a people of ‘Vox nullius’ (no voice) in 1788 - Vote Yes, to overturn that … just like ‘terra nullius’ was overturned, and the law now says we Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people were here and living our lives before the First Fleet landed. Vote Yes so that the law can say, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people were here first living our lives and we had a strong voice as well, a whole people - let our voices be heard again!
Finally, we stand on the precipice of great change for Australia - a time where we can all experience fairness and celebrate our rich diversity of cultures living on this land. Will you take up the invitation to walk with us, … with me, an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander woman with all my hopes and dreams for my people in this country. Will you partner with us for “A better Australia’
… Let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream. Amos 5:24
Even if you don’t know all the facts say YES ! … step out in faith for justice and hope, trust your heart to make a way to build together and not be separated by the fear and doubt.
Give Mob … Give me and my Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Mob a fair go on October 14th. #voteyes #VoiceToParliament #Yes #HeartIssue.”