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Confronting Islam

This is Solomon's much-trailled article (see comments to Latte with Noel, passim), as rejected by The Australian, Quadrant and the Governor General's essay competition. [BTW, Margo was invited by NoelHadjimichael to meet the finalists, and they agreed that Webdiary will publish the finalists' essays,with an introduction by Noel.] Read this piece in conjunction with David Curry's piece, published simultaneously.

by Solomon Wakeling

s.116 of the Australian Constitution Act [1] enshrines the principle of freedom of religion in to Australian society. To effect any regulation of religious symbols or dress in Australian schools would require a referendum. Referendums are costly and time-consuming and should not be attempted unless there is a reasonable prospect of success and if it is for an issue with substantial contemporary relevance. I will proceed to argue that this is such an issue.

It would be undiscerning to pretend that the issue here was anything other than Islam. Whilst the French precedent sought to ban all religious symbols [2], it was correctly construed as a specific attack on the Muslim people. Schools, especially public schools, ought to be free of religious indoctrination. They are public, secular places and students and teachers should be dressed accordingly. It would be as inappropriate for a student to be dressed poised for religious battle in a classroom, as it would be for ABC journalist Maxine McKew to wear a Che Guevera T-shirt, Justice Susan Crennan to wear a hammer and sickle on the lapel of her judicial robes, or for police officers to wear political insignia that idolises George W. Bush. Schools need to be sterilised of political classes so that all students may be treated equally and to feel equal.

The purpose of mandatory school uniforms in Australia is to create affordable clothing that equalises all students, whatever their background [3]. A laissez faire approach to dress in schools, as the United States has adopted, has a simple libertarian appeal but it would create envy, division and unwanted distinctions drawn between students. This issue does not arise where a student attends a private, religious school and is put in the same position as all the other students in the classroom. Students should come to the table bearing no encumbrances and be treated as individuals without the prejudice caused by other contingencies.

There is a real question as to whether the Muslim dress code known as Hijab is a religious or a cultural phenomenon. It is not worn by the majority of Muslims in the largest Islamic state in the world, Indonesia [4]. In many countries, especially Western countries such as Australia or the United States, or Westernised countries like Turkey [5], it is often customary not to wear it, or as in the case of Turkey, illegal. There is some controversy as to whether the Qu’ran actually requires such dress or whether it is enough to simply to dress modestly [6]. It is plausible that it evolved out of the necessity to adapt to desert climates, where the majority of Islamic countries reside. For the purposes of this essay, which specifically addresses the regulation of religious symbols, I will assume that the Hijab does have a religious significance. Arguably it is so recognised by the various groups who observe and exhibit it. [7]

Civil liberties are a double-edged sword. Freedom denotes freedom to engage in acts, as well as freedom from oppression, subordination or exploitation. It is tempting to follow the fashionable but facile example of Voltaire [8] and simply advocate for universal religious freedom. This is a safe, attractive and bland course which appeals to both civil libertarians and conservatives alike. This is a force that should neither be dismissed, under-estimated or ignored. There is a lot to be said for liberty and for the status quo. Such arguments must by necessity be stated in short-hand, cited almost as dogma or aphorism, then relinquished. They are not, by their nature, amenable to lengthy discourse. The US constitution holds such truths to be ‘self-evident’ [9]. Whilst I do not agree, I do recognise that there is a presumption in favour of liberty and that any dissent must be argued rigorously and passionately in a way that the civil libertarian argument does not. If I devote to much emphasis to the former argument it is perhaps as an attempt to redress this imbalance; It is to scorch earth that is nigh immune to being scorched.

The progressive and reform-oriented dictator, Ataturk [10], cited with approval by Peter Costello [11], long ago sought to regulate Islamic dress and implement a secular Islamic state in Turkey which still exists today. Such bold policies were typical of this much-revered statesman and act as a case study in the possibility that such actions will not lead to unrest, unpopularity or division, but to success and approval [12]. Such a policy is remarkable in an Islamic country and contrasts with the cowed, weak-kneed policies of the West.

The Muslim Hijab is an expression of female subjugation, which goes against the principle of gender equality as accepted in Australian society. Dress is not simply benign covering but may contain symbolic meaning. The fact that it is intended primarily to be a form of modest dress does not alter this symbolism. Banning symbols which are repugnant to our beliefs and which may cause offence or disturbance, such as a Nazi swastika or burning cross, is an acceptable and necessary part of regulating our civil society.

Islam is, of course, not in their league but it nevertheless has at its heart a belief system which is incompatible with Australian society and democracy. Other religions such as Judaism, Buddhism or Christianity, may be as Marx said the “opiate of the masses” [13] but they do not contain such noxious messages as those contained in fundamentalist Islam. Specific doctrines of those religions may be obnoxious to modern Australian values, such as the caste system of Hinduism [14], but this should not lead to the abolition of all such religious symbols as a whole. Regulation should stop at the point where the general overwhelms the specific obscenity. The Islamic belief in gender inequality [15], polygamy [16], the right to beat women for disobedience [17] or to confine them to their homes [18] is inimical to Australian values. The Hijab is an outward expression of this repression. We would not allow parents to force children to wear a sign that says: "I am inferior", "You are allowed to beat me", or "Confine me if I disbehave" - yet through the Hijab we allow children to be branded with the same, implicit message.

Such sentiments will inevitably lead to dreary accusations of illiberalism and even fascism. Yet this would, in effect, be a liberalising process. To remove the Hijab from the head of a child is to snip the cord of oppression imposed on that child by her parents. We are not dealing with consenting adults here but with those without the facility, maturity or circumstance necessary to make their own decisions. We do not allow parents to commit acts of physical or psychological abuse and the imposition of offensive symbols in the form of dress fits comfortably in to the latter category. It teaches young girls to be submissive and this should not be tolerated. Each child deserves to be strong and confident and not have regressive ideologies pushed on them from above, sapping their ability to use their own reason and placing them permanently in a position of inferiority.

F. Scott Fitzgerald once wrote that: “You must either think, or other have to others think for you and take power from you, pervert your natural tastes, civilise and sterilise you.” [19] Young Muslim women are taught not to think but to obey. Their tastes are thwarted and their personalities castrated, to fit in to an ancient, brutal and unnecessary mould. It is not possible to legislate against God in the minds of the public. The purpose of regulating religious clothing or symbols is not an attempt to wholly secularise the public or to implement mandatory atheism. It is to eradicate specific, offensive beliefs and practices, not to nullify the religion as a whole.

Islam, like all religions, is a broad church. In the past Islam was a progressive religion, giving rights to women that were not available under Christianity, such as the right to divorce [20]. Most of the rules were implemented not for the purpose of repression but to modify bad behaviour and abuse, toning it down and managing it. Islam can be seen as a form of harm minimisation. This is no longer good enough. Islam faces the dilemma of all textually based religions, that it must try to reconcile ancient beliefs with modern expectations.

Beyond the damaging effects on the individual children involved, there is a broader effect on Australian society. Outward displays of rebellion are a slap in the face to Australian society and increase the levels of discomfort, unease and concern amongst the Australian people. We do not allow the graffiti artist freedom to deface our public or private property and we should equally not allow Islam to deface our cultural landscape. To the eyes of conservative Australia, the Hijab is the ultimate graffiti. In the particular case of school-aged children, who are the innocent victims in this case, the level of unease is markedly increased. Much broo-ha-ha erupted over the decision of the French government to ban religious symbols [21], including Muslim head-scarves, in French schools. French opposition to the war in Iraq necessitated some kind of action to satiate the conservative section of the French public. Chirac spent his political capital on opposing the Iraq war and thus had to ‘payback’ the electorate in some other way. This is how politics works. In order to appease the conflicting desires of a heterogeneous populace, one must give with the left hand and take with the right.

Prime Minister John Howard took the obverse course to France in supporting the American invasion of Iraq but declining to implement any curtailment of religious freedom. This was the correct decision as it pertains to Australia’s interests. A moral stance against US aggression would have been fruitless in what was to increasingly reveal itself as an inevitable conflict. A close alliance with the United States is Australia’s single greatest economic, defensive and strategic asset. Europe has more to lose by a subversion of the United Nations as a body of actual and moral authority. Having positioned Australia so strongly in favour of America, we are now in a position to act as an ‘honest broker’ between the World’s two great super-powers, the United States and China [22]. Howard has achieved the remarkable diplomatic killing of being highly regarded in both the USA and China. This is what US president Nixon pioneered as triangular diplomacy, between the US, the former Soviet Union and Communist China [23]. Such a course requires significant concessions on the domestic front to be effective. If Nixon had not built a McCarthyist profile as an anti-communist, this would not have been possible. There is an old saying that has become almost an adage of political Machiavellianism: “Only Nixon can go to China.” [24]

Whilst the actions of Australia and France were variant, the source of the disquiet were the same: Muslim integration in to the respective societies. Howard has at no time moved to wind back Australia’s commitment to religious freedom but has regularly, if not ritually, made forceful critiques of Islam in Australia. He described the adoption of the full dress and head-gear of Islam as “confronting” [25]. It is to his eye, along with many of the Australian public, an aberration in the Australian panorama – and a cause for alarm. What is popular is not always right but it always has to be dealt with. Ignoring the issue would be disastrous. Public policy should be designed to ease tension rather than to exacerbate it but with one eye always fixed on what is right and just for the individual.

After advocating the banning of head-scarves in Australian schools, Liberal MP Bronwyn Bishop made the pertinent point that she received many emails thanking her and saying that they felt that now they could at least talk about this issue [26]. Hearing politicians voice the grievances of the electorate, whether or not they intend to act upon the issue, is a form of catharsis. It can drain away some of the built up tension that has previously remained unexpurgated. What a politician says is as much a question of public policy as what he or she does.

This is a universal issue and should subsequently be approached nationally. The issue should be determined by the Federal government, at the behest of the Australian public. The substantive issues are the same for public and private schools and so no distinction should be made. There is an issue of freedom of association but I would argue that this should not apply to mandatory, school-aged education. Private schools receive funding from the government, sometimes in excess of that given to public schools, and they are regulated just as strenuously [27]. These are not private corporations, exclusive clubs or associations and should not be treated as such. They serve a public function and should be administered with the public interest in mind.

The media has a public function and its role needs to be dealt with in the context of public policy. Even more than the government, it is the job of the media to manage these issues so that they are not inflamed or to make indelible marks on the public consciousness. The right-wing, conservative media is often falsely accused of attempting to influence and proselytise its agenda amongst an unsuspecting public. Far from wanting to control the thoughts of the electorate, the media acts as a conduit for mainstream opinion. It seeks to express and in doing so expunge the negative sentiment that develops from compulsory, politically correct silence. A newspaper like The Australian [28] seeks to civilise the reaction to Islam, giving expression to conservative sentiments in an intelligent and cogent way, so as to arm an inarticulate populace with the tools to defend their intuitive beliefs. It has an empowering and pedagogic function. People seek out media that reinforces their own beliefs. If there is no mainstream outlet for discontent, people will turn to alternative, underground sources, which may contain disturbing, extremist agendas. By keeping it within the bounds of the mainstream, the right-wing media is able to discipline and police these sentiments and not allow them to get out of control.

Such an understanding of the media should be kept in mind before one is lambasted as a fascist; Sometimes we must bow down and wash the feet of our enemies, lest they leave footprints on our souls.


  1. Commonwealth of Australia Constitution Act 1900, extracted in Blackshield T, Australian Constitutional Law & Theory Commentary & Materials,3rd edition, Federation Press, 2002.
  2. Aiken K, Correspondents Report ABC Radio National
  3. For a contra argument see: Challita J, Religious expression in schools and rules
  4. It has however undergone a resurgence: Barker K, The Chicago Tribune 2004
  5. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Turkey
  6. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hijab
  7. Such a construction was used in the Church of Scientology v Woodward (1982) 154 CLR 25 case, in relation to religion generally.
  8. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Voltaire
  9. United States Constitution, extracted in http://www.usconstitution.net/
  10. http://www.ataturk.com/content/view/24/43/
  11. Koutsoukis J, The Age 2006
  12. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ataturk
  13. Marx K, Contribution to the Critique of Hegel's Philosophy of Right (1843)
  14. http://www.friesian.com/caste.htm
  15. The Quran 4:34, obtained from Project Gutenberg
  16. The Quran 4:3, obtained from Project Gutenberg
  17. The Quran 4:34, obtained from Project Gutenberg
  18. The Quran 4:15, obtained from Project Gutenberg
  19. Fitzgerald F. Scott, Tender is the night 1934, obtained from Project Gutenberg
  20. The Quran,, 2: 224-237, obtained from Project Gutenberg
  21. Aiken K, Correspondents Report ABC Radio National
  22. McKew M., Lateline 2005
  23. US Department of State
  24. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1972_Nixon_visit_to_China
  25. AAP, reprinted in The Age February 27 2006, 
  26. Yaxley L., The World Today ABC local radio 29 August 2005
  27. Burke K., The Sydney Morning Herald August 13 2004
  28. This Media Watch article is typical of such attacks: Janet Albrechtsen’s view

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In agreement

Will: I have to say that seasonal distractions meant I missed your post where we seem to be in some sort of agreement.

You said: To me, it's not so much that "America" is a beacon, but that the idea and the ideals behind America are beacons. This is how I interpreted David Curry's comment.

That could be the case but David would have to verify that is what he meant. But my impression is that this is not what is generally meant when the discussion of America as the 'leader of the free world' comes up.

I know there is much of value in American ideas and ideals and that Americans see them as the 'best' on offer in the modern world but I don't happen to think they are. I think there are many modern democracies which, by their nature, work more consistently and efficiently for the greater good of the people.

In addition, of course, American ideals are drawn from English, French and other European ideals and have merely been codified in written form by those who founded America as an independent nation.

I think the sense of 'leader' when applied to America has been that, as the most powerful of the democratic nations, it was the responsibility and task of America to provide the strongest protection to principles of democracy in order to safeguard them for those who already had them and to promote them for those who do not.

It is probably America's failure in this regard which is so troubling if not dangerous. But the other side of the coin is that when the US fails to 'lead' in any valid sense then it is no longer seen as a leader, and the rest of the Western world is then forced to defend those democratic principles themselves, both singly and as a unified body.

You said: But I argue that, more than most other nations, the foundations of American democracy contain self-correcting mechanisms which tend to pull US policy and actions away from excesses.

I agree with you partially. I don't happen to think that the foundations of American democracy are better able to self-correct than others simply because the American political system is mired in lobbying and money to a far greater degree than the UK or Australia for example.

But I do feel that American society has both the will and the ability to self-correct itself ultimately, although that self-correction may be slow in coming.

In some ways the US is less protected from excess because for a variety of reasons the population in general is not well informed about the world at large or America's role in it.

Take Iraq for example. I know a number of Americans who, as a matter of principle oppose this illegal and immoral war and I know they have always existed as a significant number in the US, but the reality is that public opinion is turning against the war now, not because suddenly principles have been discovered but because of the number of US soldiers who have died or been maimed.

I think other nations have not 'stepped up to the plate' as you put it because it has been too easy to let the US take the lead and the US has wanted to take the lead as a demonstration of power.

It cuts both ways. You can't demand others take part and then ignore them when they try to do so.

And For My Next Trick ...

Alright Craig and others. For reasons I won't go into, this exercise proved more diificult than I thought it would.

The exchange we were talking about on the other thread is here and begins with my comment posted on 7 December 2006 at 6.16 pm, in which I said, among other things:

The point Mike was making is clear and correct. It was you who chose to misinterpret it, as Mike has now explained.

and Craig responded on the base of the post:

Very interesting Geoff. How you've managed to know Mike has "now explained" when the 'explanatory' comment from Mike (shifting from "Yes Craig" to "Not quite ... I wasn't really" was not published before you submitted this comment of yours is very interesting. Coordinating your ad hom attacks on other diarists now are you? 

To which, among other things, he has now added from the other thread:

Geoff what puzzled me and what I'd asked a question about that evening (December 6, 2006) was how you had managed to know what Mike was going to write in a comment on that thread before it was published BUT after it had been submitted to us.

I thought it odd to receive a comment from you saying Mike had "now explained" something when the 'explanatory' comment from Mike was not published before you had submitted your comment saying he'd "now explained". 

Mike had written it and posted it to us, but we'd not yet published it. Yet somehow you knew what it said before you could have seen it.

Now I suppose you are all wondering how I pulled off this telepathetic feat without a telephone line. Quite simple really.

When I said what I said about Mike's comment, I was referring to an earlier comment of his that had been published. From memory it was probably this one posted by Mike at 4.01pm on December 7.

It was not a later comment by Mike that Craig erroneously assumed I was referring to  (probably this one at 6.11pm on the same day)  which had not been published and which therefore of course I had not seen before I posted.

Uri Geller eat your heart out.

Also, I reject Craig's characterisation of that exchange as "you and Mike were hammering one person in something akin to a tag-team bullying performance".

As can be seen from the thread there were a number of commenters involved in that exchange including Fiona, C Parsons, Jay, Will, Marek, Bob Wall and of course Craig himself.

But Craig can call me a bully if he likes. Afterall I've called him a protector of antisemites, ignorant racists and bigots (or something very similar).

One last thing. As it happens I do know where Mike Lyvers is. But I'm most hesitant to say. I really would prefer not to provoke another round of conspiracy speculation.

Craig R: Ok Geoff, so your statement that Mike had "now explained" referred to what you saw as an explanation in comment #57852 - subject:responses - rather than his explanation in comment #57862 - subject:Not quite right, Craig.

I'd seen comment #57862 in the queue submitted by Mike about 4 minutes before your comment #57863 (one was sitting above the other and both were pending publication). Erroneously (I now understand) I'd thought that you may have somehow seen or been told what was in #57862, so I posed the question about whether you two were coordinating attacks. My mistake, I know now.

And to clarify why I didn't see #57852 as the comment you referenced at the time Geoff, whilst accepting that you were referring to comment #57852 as you've now clarified, I've just re-read #57852 and still can't see that Mike had "now explained" at that stage. 

You see, in comment #57852 Mike wrote "Yes Craig, and if you read over the thread you would see why I did that." And that was in response to me pointing out he'd gone first down a path that a number of people were criticising another person for going down. So he was saying that yes he had gone down that path first.

So we can have differing opinion whether it was or wasn't "now explained" at that stage, but I accept that it was that post you were relying on as an explanation from Mike and apologise for the inference of tag-teaming. I'm sorry, Geoff. OK, with you?

El Salvador - Reagan's Vietnam

David Curry: "George Bush assumes his place in history as the worst ever President..."

I thought that was going to be Ronald Reagan. Now, instead, he's remembered for seeing through the 'Detente' sham and helping overthrow the Soviet Union.

Speaking of which, the Manly Art Gallery is hosting a retrospective of the works of '80s-era poster artist Michael Callaghan.

Anyone who lived in Sydney in the '80s would remember Michael's psuedo-Marxist posters which were utterly ubiquitous at the time.

As you enter the Gallery, the first poster you see is a mock newspaper front page with the headline 'El Salvador - Reagan's Vietnam'.

Lots of other clichés from the era, many being recycled now.

No wonder Herald art critic John MacDonald gave this exhibition such a glowing review, sarcastic old cynic that he is.



We all need to be beacons

David, good post. Having had a lull in my Christmas packing and had a few jobs dropped off the list because we have had rain, rain, rain, I have checked WD again.

You said: "But on a serious note, I think you're right about America recovering from this period of madness ... and once again provide a beacon to the world for human rights and decency."

Good comment and I feel the same except for the last line. Do you really think that the modern world needs any one nation to be a 'beacon' for human rights and decency?

Isn't it a bit patriarchal? I mean, we look to one nation to lead us when in a modern, civilized and democratic world, we organises through negotiation, discussion and consensus.

There is nothing particular about America, except its military power, which provides it with any greater ability to be a 'beacon' of any sort and surely we have a fairer, stronger and more compassionate world when we each take responsibilities as nations for what we do?

We all need to be beacons. When we give this responsibility to one nation, or to one person as happens in patriarchal and tribal societies ..... less developed societies .... then we make ourselves vulnerable because all our 'eggs' so to speak are in one basket.

I think the world in which we are now engaged and that which lies in the future, must be one where all nations are respected and all nations work together for a common good, not one where one nation because it has more bombs and guns than the rest, bullies and harasses the other to get its own way.

Re: We all need to be beacons

Roslyn Ross: "Do you really think that the modern world needs any one nation to be a 'beacon' for human rights and decency?

Isn't it a bit patriarchal? I mean, we look to one nation to lead us when in a modern, civilized and democratic world, we organises through negotiation, discussion and consensus."

I don't often agree with you, Roslyn, but on this point I'm with you.

To me, it's not so much that "America" is a beacon, but that the idea and the ideals behind America are beacons. This is how I interpreted David Curry's comment.

Like any nation-state, the United States of America has not always lived up to its ideals. But I argue that, more than most other nations, the foundations of American democracy contain self-correcting  mechanisms which tend to pull US policy and actions away from excesses. The recent Supreme Court decision in favor of Hamdan, and the November mid-term election result are two recent examples.

"When we give this responsibility to one nation .... then we make ourselves vulnerable ..."

I agree with this point. But within this valid comment is an implicit admonition to other nations to "step up to the plate" (to use a well-worn Americanism) and take responsibility for a number of global and regional issues.

Examples: 1) Europe's failure to take action in a crisis on its own doorstep in the Balkans conflicts of the 1990s. It took a (reluctant) US to step in and intervene against Serbia on behalf of Balkan Muslims facing genocide. And don't forget in that case the US was reluctant to act militarily against Milosevic because there was no UN Security Council resolution. The French and Germans wanted action (under the NATO aegis), arguing that the threat of genocide overruled waiting for the UNSC to authorise attacks.

2) The current ongoing genocide in Darfur. Where's the Organisation of the Islamic Conference as Muslims face horrific atrocities within the borders of a Muslim country? Where's the Arab League? Where's the EU? When it comes to Darfur the US is doing exactly what everyone has been demanding it do. Sticking with diplomacy, avoiding unilateral action, letting the UN do its thing (which is nothing).

Except The Jooooos Of Course

I think the world in which we are now engaged and that which lies in the future, must be one where all nations are respected and all nations work together ... [my emphasis]

Sickening. Is it necessary to list even just some of the things that the author of this line has had to say about Israel? Again?

Probably. Given just a few of the things her protectors around here have had to say.  

Merry Christmas.

Richard: Merry Christmas to you too, Geoff 


The Ros Court has ruled!

Roslyn Ross: "Interestingly, one person who does 'know' far more than any of us is Major Mori and he certainly believes Hicks should be free."

Heaven forbid anyone should question a defence attorney. Just where are all our manners?

I have often wondered about all the time that could be saved by solely basing all prosecutions on the "vouching" of a defendant's attorney. These people no doubt go on to share good times, meals, a game of golf and all their most hidden and worldly secrets with their clients? If they trust them what could be possibly holding back others?

Just think if only the world would listen more closely to these people? How much could be saved in jail costs that are so full of totally innocent people? Damn it! Not one person should be there!!

Nothing wrong with what Mori's doing

What Mori "believes" or doesn't believe is completely irrelevant. Of course he's going to say his client is innocent!  And there's nothing wrong with that. He's doing his job advocating for his client. Mori was assigned this case, and he's doing his professional best to handle the case.

No matter what Hicks has done or not done, even he is entitled to a vigorous defence.

The problem is Hicks hasn't been charged with anything. And that's totally against the principles of American justice.

American Justice

Major Mori is an US Marine officer acting under orders. His very presence is evidence that Hicks is being treated with a measure of fairness and justice that would be a pipe dream for any prisoner of the groups or regimes to which Hicks has declared his allegiance.

Of course many have concerns about the processes and delays involved in these special cases,  including concerns about constitutionality and natural justice. But those are issues for Americans and American institutions, such as the US Supreme Court, Congress and The Presidency. I can see no good reason for Australians and others to have any concerns. The American media and public debate are as robust as ever,  the Supreme Court and the other courts have shown they are as independent as ever and the political system is as healthy as ever as demonstrated by the mid-term elections a few weeks ago. 

I say again Hicks is irrelevant. For my part, I would not care at all if he never saw this country again. Everything else are internal matters for the Americans and I for one have complete confidence that the US will emerge from these challenges with all its most noble traditions and institutions intact.

Satirical posts

Geoff – you’re obviously being ironic.  Good one. 

“His very presence is evidence that Hicks is being treated with a measure of fairness and justice that would be a pipe dream for any prisoner of the groups or regimes to which Hicks has declared his allegiance.” 

Nice satire of the moral relativism to which neo-cons are increasingly resorting. 

“I can see no good reason for Australians and others to have any concerns.” 

A crack-up!  In one sentence you’ve nailed

  1. the fact that Australian citizenship means nothing anymore (well, unless you’re trying to get into the country – then you’ve really gotta earn that little poster for your wall);
  2. the disregard the Howard Government has for quaint international conventions on human rights; and
  3. the blind faith Howard has in the Bush Administration - faith that has proven to be well-founded time and time again!

But on a serious note, I think you're right about America recovering from this period of madness.  I like to think that in a couple of years, when George Bush assumes his place in history as the worst ever President, Americans will look back with horror at extraordinary rendition, the suspension of the Geneva Convention, the sanctioning of torture, Guantanamo Bay etc. and once again provide a beacon to the world for human rights and decency. 

Bring Hicks home immediately - on principle

David Curry: "Hey CP, here's another reason to be gleeful about the treatment of David Hicks. To lose his mind - that'll learn him!"

Maybe I didn't make myself clear, David. I cannot wait for him to come home.

Apart from anything else, he can perhaps explain what was going through his mind when he joined the Lashkar-e-Toiba.

And in what sort of mental state you have to be to enjoy shooting hundreds of rounds of ammunition at people "legally" on behalf of a known terrorist organisation when both his own adopted homeland (Afghanistan? Pakistan? Who can say anymore?) and their country (India, was it?) were at peace.

Roslyn Ross: "What is most troubling in this day and age is how many people do not see that betraying principles in the case of one human being, or one nation, for whatever reasons, betrays them for every human being and all nations."

Excuse me, Roslyn? Don't you support Hamas?

Sentiments remain the same

David, yes, I realised after hitting Post that it was jerk not s....t. But the sentiments were the same so it matters not.

Anyway, the computer is about to be switched off for the next week and greater sanity calls.

See you in the New Year, cyber speaking.

Hicks of Kabul

Roslyn Ross: "His lawyer, Major Mori comes across as an admirable character and a defender of law and principles and he clearly does not see Hicks, and he does know him personally, as a pissant little shit."

Major Mori is empowered by the exact system you are complaining about.

Send Hicks to Afghanistan or India to face justice for any crimes committed. Being as nothing has happened in Australia an Australian Court is not the correct place to hear any of this.

Yeah and I think he is a pissant little shit as well. Any person planning on taking arms up against their own nation’s soldiers is a traitor and a pissant little shit.

Major Mori means we can take heart

Jay, Major Mori is indeed empowered by the same system which is responsible for Guantanamo and one can take heart that he does for it means the entire system is not corrupted, merely in the process of being corrupted by a US administration which has no respect for law, justice or human rights.

Major Mori is all the more admirable given the base nature of the American 'system' because it is indicative of his courage and firmness of mind when it comes to matters of law and principle.

As to David Hicks, you know nothing. None of us know anything. We have heard things but until and unless Hicks is tried and convicted in a credible court of law then he is innocent and any supposed evidence which exists is no more than accusation and even innuendo. That is what it means to be innocent until proven guilty.

When you judge someone who has not been charged or tried you do so upon the basis of ignorance and prejudice because you have no way of knowing the real truth of David Hicks .... just like the rest of us.

Interestingly, one person who does 'know' far more than any of us is Major Mori and he certainly believes Hicks should be free.

So who should we believe? People like yourself who know nothing and form opinions based on assumption and hearsay and what you read in the papers, or Major Mori, who has met Hicks, interviewed Hicks, studied the evidence against him and who has a well rounded appreciation for the events, the circumstances and the possibility of guilt?

Hicks is held by the Americans against whom he has committed no crime. The Afghans and Indians do not want him for any possible crimes and of course he has committed no crime against Australia.

Hicks is innocent until proven guilty and you know as well as I do, if the Americans had had a snowball's chance of hell in finding him guilty of any charges they would have done so.

The Court Of Multithink

Roslyn Ross:

When you judge someone who has not been charged or tried you do so upon the basis of ignorance and prejudice because you have no way of knowing the real truth of David Hicks .... just like the rest of us.

Is it really necessary for me to list here the names of people who Roslyn Ross has found guilty of war crimes, murder, terrorism and genocide? The number of times she has declared someone or something to be "illegal" or "criminal"?

What we have here is an example of multithink. The ability to keep three or more contradictory thoughts in one's head at the same time, each held with a conviction so certain that it is impossible to dispense with any. Everything that conforms with the overriding prejudice is true, even if inconsistent with one another. Everything that jars with that  prejudice is false. Contradiction is not just irrelevant. It does not even enter into the mental process.

George Orwell didn't know half of it.   

A firm opinion about David Hicks can be formed on what the man has said himself. You need go no further than what his supporters say, including his father,  to know all you need to know about David Hicks.  

It is about Hicks

Will, it is about David Hicks because he symbolises all the wrongs you talk about.

At core it is about principles but the focus on David Hicks reminds people of those principles which have been and which continue to be betrayed and those which may yet be betrayed.

By the way, have you met David Hicks? Do you know any of his family? Do you know anything of his life and his experiences other than what has been printed about his involvement with 'terrorist' groups?

What gives you the right to dismiss a human being, presuming that you have no personal knowledge of him at all, as a 'pissant little shit'?

Hicks may well be a damaged individual, he may well not be particularly bright, or he may be, I have not met him either and so do not know him personally either, but he is first and foremost an individual and a human being.

His lawyer, Major Mori comes across as an admirable character and a defender of law and principles and he clearly does not see Hicks, and he does know him personally, as a pissant little shit.

Personally, I don't think we have the right to categorize anyone in this way, particularly those about whom we know next to nothing.

Hicks is a pissant little shit to you because he was supposedly fighting on the wrong side whereas I suspect the Australian who went to fight for the Israelis and died would be in your eyes, a hero. Clearly however, that Australian could well be considered a pissant little shit by someone who saw with prejudiced eyes as you do, but saw from the other side.

At the end of  the day what you or anyone else believes about Hicks is irrelevant because what really matters here are principles. In a just world people are not imprisoned, tortured or punished for being stupid, misguided, ill informed or just silly little shits ..... they have to be charged and found guilty of some crime in a credible court of law before they can be imprisoned or punished.

That is why this is about Hicks for he is the 'hanger' upon which people of conscience can hang their case for justice and rule of law.

Whatever Hicks is he does not deserve what has happened to him.

It's Still Not About Hicks to Me

Roslyn Ross, I called Hicks a "pissant little jerk" based on his idiotic statements, and I stick by that characterisation. Hicks did not even clearly understand what he was involved in.

It is highly presumptuous of you to assume you know why I hold Hicks in such contempt.

It's not so much that he was fighting "for the wrong side," (though I am thoroughly opposed to everything the Taliban stand for), it's that he didn't even understand what or who he was fighting for, apparently. I can respect even an enemy who is fighting for what he sees as a principle worth fighting for. What was Hicks fighting for? What was Hicks doing hanging out with the Taliban? Seems he just liked playing with guns.

The 26-year-old Australian who died in Lebanon, Assaf Namer, was an Israeli citizen defending his country against an illegal attack by Hezbollah. He had returned to Israel to fulfill his national military service well before the Hezbollah attack on Israel. In fact, I think he was in the last couple months of active duty when Hezbollah started the war. Namer had made a conscious decision to fulfill his duty as an Israeli citizen. His father and his grandmother live near Haifa, which by the way was under attack from Hezbollah rockets. Namer was defending his home and family.

What was Hicks defending? Is he an Afghan citizen? A Muslim?

To compare Assaf Namer to David Hicks is ridiculous.

On the other hand, I thoroughly respect Major Mori, who I think is handling Hicks' case in a very principled and professional manner.

It's Not At All About The Pissant Little Shit

Roslyn Ross:

What gives you the right to dismiss a human being, presuming that you have no personal knowledge of him at all, as a 'pissant little shit'?

Would you mind sparing us the crudity and foul language please Roslyn Ross? It is unnecessary and blatantly untruthful. Will Howard did not call Hicks a "pissant little shit". He called the pissant little shit a "pissant little jerk"

The idea that Bush is ready to throw all that away for a pissant little jerk like Hicks ...

David C: hey everybody, let's drop the scatological word association and lift the level of debate, already! 

The barbarism of sensory deprivation

The reality is that Hicks is also innocent under US law or he would have been charged. If there was clear evidence of his guilt or complicity then the US would not have had to set up a facility which runs contrary to international law and the Geneva Convention and it would not need to create a military legal environment under which to try the inmates.

The British got their people back and found there was no case to hold against them and so they were released. It would be the same for Hicks in Australia. This is not because there are not adequate laws to treat such cases but because there is no case against any of these people.

Sheer logic suggests that if the Americans had any sort of case which was credible in a court of law then these inmates would have been charged and put on trial long ago ..... think of the PR success that would have been. But they have not been put on trial because the Americans do not have a case and so they have been seeking to put them in front of a contrived military tribunal which would give them the results they cannot get in a court of law.

Tragically a lot of those in Guantanamo were 'sold' to the Americans or picked up in general sweeps but of course, hubris being what it is and ego being the nature of things the Americans believe they 'need' their prisoners, even if they are not guilty, to 'make the point' that they are doing something in their farcical war on terror.

Hicks as an Australian citizen deserves to be protected by the Australian government. That is a right he shares with every one of us regardless of his guilt or innocence.

The case in Vietnam was very different because there guilt was established and defined through a legal system. Hicks remains innocent because he has not been charged or tried.

The culpability of the Australian government in his treatment is reprehensible.

In fact the Americans, in time, will be called to account for the egregious human rights abuses they have perpetrated.

It does not matter what crime a human being commits: no-one deserves to be tortured every day, all day, by the insidious process of sensory deprivation .... the end result of which is to derange the individual. Perhaps only the truly insane at Guantanamo can be forced to admit to crimes they have not committed.

The barbarism of blocking out all sight, sound and touch is shocking beyond belief.

Australians and Americans would be outraged if this were done to any of our citizens and yet they expect the world at large to respect us for doing it to others. There is an irony is there not that we are enraged when the 'enemy' cuts off someone's head, but are perfectly happy to 'cut off prisoner's heads' with the barbarity of sensory deprivation .... a deprivation which is day in day out, week in week out and year in year out and which 'kills' the mind. It is a worse kind of death and my hope is that those responsible for Guantanamo end up in prison themselves in the future. Not that I would wish them, as prisoners, to be treated with anything but compassion, but punished they should be.

At last, an expert opinion

While I have not bothered to read this latest contribution from Roslyn Ross, just from the Subject, I am prepared to accept that, on this issue, she is a definitive expert.   Could you now please get her to stop it?

Around and around.

We have dealt with the David Hicks issue on numerous occasions and yet some people still make statements that are not supported by facts. So here are a few items to help clarify the issue:

Devika Howell

The Government has consistently claimed that there is no basis upon which Hicks can be tried here. Asked in September whether Hicks could be returned to Australia, the Prime Minister, John Howard, responded, "That is an unrealistic proposition. If [Hicks] is brought back to Australia, [he goes] free because there is no crime under Australian law with which [he] can be charged."

This is incorrect. Hicks has been brought before the commission on three charges: conspiracy to commit war crimes, attempted murder by an unprivileged belligerent and aiding the enemy.

Military Commission Instruction No.2, which sets out the elements of these crimes, states that all "crimes and elements derive from the law of armed conflict, a body of law that is sometimes referred to as the law of war".

The laws of war are essentially found in the four Geneva Conventions and two Additional Protocols. Far from being separate from Australian law, these conventions have formed a part of it since 1957, when they were incorporated into domestic law by the Geneva Conventions Act.

This act vested jurisdiction in state supreme courts to hear offences against the Geneva Conventions and Additional Protocol I. Even the conspiracy to commit terrorism, forming part of the first count with which Hicks is charged, falls under this act. One of the elements of the offence of terrorism in Military Instruction No. 2 is that the act of terrorism "was associated with armed conflict".

Terrorist acts committed as part of an armed conflict are covered by the Geneva Conventions, and therefore Australian law.

The fact that the Government has consistently denied the possibility of trying David Hicks before an Australian court is a remarkable error. As a result, three years after he was first detained at Guantanamo Bay, Hicks, an Australian national, stands charged before a US military commission in Cuba.

The first report of the independent observer for the Law Council of Australia found that "as a matter of fundamental principle of criminal justice, these proceedings are [and will continue to be] flawed and that a fair trial of David Hicks in the military commission is virtually impossible".

There has been a court decision.

The Pentagon will submit for congressional approval a $125 million plan to build a compound at Guantánamo to house, among others, terrorism suspects to be tried there, in the first American war-crimes trials since World War II. Many of the prisoners already at Guantánamo have been locked up there since 2002.

In view of the greatly expanded definition of "enemy combatants" in the Military Commissions Act of 2006, which George W. Bush signed in October, the Pentagon would be well advised to greatly increase the number of cells in the new compound. Under the new law, the president can designate as "an enemy combatant" any noncitizen picked up anywhere in the world, even permanent legal alien residents here.

These newly imprisoned "enemy combatants" will include not only those engaged in direct hostilities against the United States, but also loosely defined "supporters" of the enemy.

Passionately arguing against this legislation on the Senate floor, Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont claimed, "This provision would perpetuate the indefinite detention of hundreds of individuals . . . without any recourse to justice whatever. . . . This is un-American!"

In June 2006, the Supreme Court (Hamdan v. Rumsfeld) clearly told the president that American treatment of prisoners, and not only at Guantánamo, had violated Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions, to which this country is a signatory. But the conditions of their confinement, as well, contradict our own War Crimes Act of 1996 because of "grave breaches" of the Geneva Conventions in our prisons at Guantánamo and elsewhere. Senator Leahy got it right. Our interrogation of detainees has been un-American since 2002, and the harm is now going to be compounded under the new Military Commissions Act.

In the Hamdan case, the Supreme Court told President Bush and his fellow un-Americans in the administration that the sentences of all our prisoners, including "unlawful enemy combatants," must be handed down "by a regularly constituted court" that "provides all the judicial guarantees recognized as indispensable by civilized peoples."

Moreover, ruled the Supreme Court, Common Article 3 prohibits "at any time and in any place whatsoever . . . violence to life and person . . . murder of all kinds, mutilation, cruel treatment and torture, and outrages upon personal dignity—in particular, humiliating and degrading treatment."

Here is an opinion by a group of Australian jurists. 30pp .pdf document.

Was easy enough to Google up these few items. Lots more can be found.


It's not about Hicks

To me, the issue is not David Hicks, it's the threat to the  whole structure of the US system of justice and Constitutionally-guaranteed rights to due process.

From what I've read about David Hicks, he's a clueless moron who was seduced by the adventure of playing with guns in an exotic place, and bought into some bigoted ideology he didn't understand.

It's a bit hard to tell at this point just what Hicks did or did not do in Afghanistan, or whether he broke any US or Australian laws. He hasn't been charged. He hasn't been arraigned. He hasn't been indicted. And he sure as hell hasn't been tried in a properly-constituted court of law - military or civilian.

The Supreme Court has spoken: what the Bush Admin. is doing at Gitmo is unconstitutional. The Military Commissions Act, passed in response to the June SC decision, appears to be another way to get around the SC decision. I would not be at all surprised if this Act is challenged in the US Federal courts, if it hasn't already been.

The President takes an oath to uphold the Constitution. The whole thing; not just the bits he likes. Over two centuries of carefully-constructed jurisprudence has gone into the US justice system. A lot of smart people arguing and debating over it, not to mention the framers who came up with a pretty damn good system to start.

The idea that Bush is ready to throw all that away for a pissant little jerk like Hicks just shits me.

Hicks the lucky

Richard Tonkin, why can't Hicks be sent to Afganistan? That is where he committed the crimes was it not?

I read here time and time again how Australia does not run the world and neither does the US. Yet when somebody faces Egyptian justice or for that matter possible justice in Afganistan, everyone wants a say.

Send him to Afganistan and let justice take its course. If he is found innocent he still has a passport does he not?

He has not broken Australian law because none of the crimes committed where in Australia. He should face the justice of the nation he has violated.

Hicks, a pity he must live with himself

Hicks should have been caught, tried and shot in the field as a civilian combatant. A totally legal course of action.

Since this proper course of action has not taken place he should be sent to Afganistan to face trial for his crimes. The call to bring him home shows the contempt many here hold for the systems of justice they do not call their own.

I read a story Hicks was about to commit suicide. I doubted it because as a traitor he may have found at least a small part of honour. That is not the principle Hicks and people like him work off.

No doubt he will live to be a hundred.

Howard gutless on Hicks

Jay White, our esteemed PM reiterated the problem recently when he explained that if Hicks was brought home there would be no charge existiant in the law statutes of the time that he could be brought to court for .

The situation is a blatant f#*?!-up  that the Bush mob never thought would go this far,  and should be ended.  Johnny's problem that Hicks can't be convicted serves as exoneration.  If he wants to win back a few of the votes he's lost to Rudd then he should bring Hicks home.   Then u nder Hicks' innocence under Australian law the PM should set him free..

That should swing the balance in his favour.

In this case though, Howard won't have the guts to do the most sensible (and vote grabbing) act that he could do this week.  Maybe it's because he hasn't the power to do so.


Criminals Abroad

The only reason why Hicks can not be charged under Australian law is he committed his terrible crimes against foreign nationals, while in the employ of foreign organisations in foreign countries. Therefore he was outside Australian criminal jurisdiction at the time.

This does not exonerate him.

Every Australian tourist or traveller  is repeatedly warned that while they are abroad they are subject to the authority of others. We couldn't do much for a nervous young Australian caught on his way home while in transit at Singapore Airport. There are literally hundreds of Australians rotting in foreign jails, waiting for "due process" or after having received it.  I am yet to see a cogent argument why a known terrorist operative warrants some kind of special case.

Betrayal of the civilized world

David:  Good post but I don't think you will get through to CP or any of those who are quite happy to betray basic principles of justice, law and human rights with complete disregard, or a failure to comprehend the reality that if you betray principles in one case then you betray them in all cases.

Hicks, Habib and all those in Guantanamo Bay and Abu Ghraib and  any of those imprisoned and tortured in the name of the 'war on terror'  are all of us ...... they represent everyone who may at one time or another wish to be considered innocent until proven guilty, heard in a just court of law, or treated with compassion and decency ..... despite their crime should such crimes be proven.

That is what justice is about. That is what human rights are about. That is what rule of law is about. That is what democracy is about and the principles have nothing to do with individuals per se:, not their crimes, their personalities, their activities or their intent .... the principles are about a just and ordered world and when we betray them we doom those who follow us to injustice, lawlessness, malicious bestial cruelty, tyranny and a world less civilized than the one we inherited.

What is most troubling in this day and age is how many people do not see that betraying principles in the case of one human being, or one nation, for whatever reasons, betrays them for every human being and all nations.

The US, once seen as a leader of the free world, has betrayed not only itself, but the world at large. So too have its allies, the UK and Australia, who once might also have been seen as guardians of justice, democracy and human rights.

Now they are all seen as invaders, occupiers, torturers and betrayers of the civilized world.

Extradite him to the scene of the crime

David Curry: "As for going on the record, where do you stand, for example, on the admission of evidence obtained under torture?  Is that acceptable to you?"

David, it's no more acceptable than what Hicks freely admits to in his gloating letter to his dad. That he enjoyed shooting hundreds of rounds at people across a national border in peace time while in the employ of a terrorist organisation.

As for the principles of the people defending Hicks's rights, they conspicuously include individuals (including some on this blog) who have absolutely no qualms about advertising their support for the so-called "resistance" militias machine-gunning and bombing their way around Bagdhad's schools and Red Crescent offices. And Hamas.

So much for their principles.

If I had my way Hicks would have been dealt with in a court of law long ago - in Kabul. Or India.

That would have been fairly quick and to the point, wouldn't it?

In fact, it's my guess that Hicks could have been dealt with by a military tribunal now if it wasn't for the almost endless attempts employed by his representation (and those of other Guantanamo prisoners) to evade or delay the process.

Representation provided by , somewhat ironically, his captors.

Anyway, the moral high ground is going to be oddly populated when Hicks finally gets to stand at its pinnacle with Mamdouh Habib and all the others fighting for justice in his name, hey?

I cannot wait.

To give them an idea of what they're all in for, here's an interesting insight provided by one of Hicks's own cell mates...

"He probably has more in common with the Southern rednecks of south Alabama than he has with any of the detainees in Guantanamo. He doesn't speak Arabic. I don't think he is a devout Muslim. In fact, he doesn't practise Islam at all as far as I know. I certainly never saw him practise Islam."

A Southern redneck?

Hey, I wonder if Timothy McVeigh would have got Kerry Nettles's vote, too?


CP - Reasons to be gleeful, part 3

Hey CP, here's another reason to be gleeful about the treatment of David Hicks.   To lose his mind - that'll learn him!

From Port Arthur 1860 to Guantanamo Bay 2006, it's not that far. 

CP - Learning from the greatest generation

So if I understand you correctly, CP, because David Hicks resembles a Southern redneck the human rights we are supposed to believe in don't apply?

I recall a story of an American POW in World War II at the time of Japanese surrender, recounted in Prisoners of the Japanese: POWs of World War II in the Pacific, by Gavin Daws. As you’re aware, Allied POWs under the Japanese were treated abominably. They were worked like slaves, savagely beaten, denied medical care, kept in squalid conditions, and fed starvation rations. They had plenty of reasons to detest their captors, and who would blame them?

When the Japanese surrendered their rifles to the prisoners at the end of the war, the American POW was overcome with rage and started to beat one of the guards to the ground, intending to exact his long-anticipated revenge. As the Japanese soldier cowered from his blows the American suddenly stopped himself. ‘If I kill this man, I’ve become just like them,’ (I’m paraphrasing) he thought to himself, 'and we're better than that'.

He left the man alone.

You once claimed on Webdiary that people like this American soldier were part of the greatest generation. They certainly deserve our utmost respect.

By not only sanctioning but encouraging the torture of prisoners captured on the battlefield, and suspending basic human rights, and using spurious legal arguments to suspend the Geneva Convention, George Bush - and John Howard, through his complicity on David Hicks and Mamdouh Habib - have betrayed that generation.

We’re supposed to be better than that.

Big welcome home for David Hicks. I cannot wait.

Angela Ryan on David Hicks: "After 9 months of solitary confinement and four years as well in a cage for committing no crime on the books."

In August 2000 Hicks told his father of his time training with the Islamist terrorist group Lashkar-e-Toiba on the Pakistan side of the Kashmir line of control:

"Every night there is an exchange of fire. I got to fire hundreds of rounds … There are not many countries in the world where a tourist … can go and stay with the army and shoot across the border at its enemy, legally."

Shoot across the border?

At what? People?

For Lashkar-e-Toiba? Legally? In 2000?

You mean, David was shooting "hundreds of rounds" at people on, what? The Indian side of the border?

You are right, Angela.

Hicks will get no justice with the Americans - they won't send him back to Afghanistan or India to face trial for that sort of thing.

Despite his admissions.

Anyway, I cannot wait till he's released and comes home (to Australia that is, not Afghanistan).

I'm hoping his supporters greet him at the airport.

Maybe Kerry Nettle will run on to the tarmac and give him a big hug?

Perhaps a group photo for the media of David with Terry Hicks, Mamdouh Habib and Bob Brown together?

Something for them all to be proud of.

When Mamdouh visited a North Shore "peace" collective after he got out, he got a standing ovation. That was before he ran the Sydney marathon, even.

I'm hoping David does speaking tours.

He can tell us about his work to defeat "Western-Jewish domination is finished, so we live under Muslim law again".

I'm hoping he's cheered wildly.

In public. On camera. So there's absolutely no denying it later.

C Parsons and principles

C Parsons – it obviously suits your conception of ‘the left’ to assume that everybody who thinks some important principles of justice have been abandoned over David Hicks must love the guy.  It’s wrong – a straw man argument and a useful device for avoiding the real issues. 

As for going on the record, where do you stand, for example, on the admission of evidence obtained under torture?  Is that acceptable to you? 

Where do you stand on extraordinary rendition, the process under which Mamdouh Habib was snuck into Egypt for six months of torture under the aegis of the CIA?  (And remember: this is about principles, not whether you or I like Habib).

And speaking of going on the record, and not being able to deny things, recall that Philip Ruddock tacitly condoned extraordinary rendition – and therefore torture - by admitting, on camera, that he wasn’t going to ask any questions of the US about what happened to Habib in Egypt, or what might be done to avoid it happening again.  A fine moment in Australian history. 

Do you share Ruddock’s view that the Australian Government should turn a blind to the torture of Australian citizens, as long as there is the slightest suspicion that they may have been involved in terrorism? 

For the record, CP, would you not be in the slightest bit perturbed if you saw images of Australian POWs being paraded around with bags over their heads, wearing goggles and earmuffs to block out all sensory information?  Would it not bother you if Australian POWs were subject to waterboarding, months in solitary confinement, and sleep deprivation? 

Because that’s the thing about justice, CP: its principles are not supposed to be optional for people you don’t like.  (Lawyers, please correct me if I’m wrong). 

Or do you think double standards are perfectly acceptable? 

Based on previous experience, CP, I suspect you’ll dodge all of these questions.  You’ll go back to quoting from Hicks’ diary and gleefully describing imaginary scenes of adulation for Hicks.  As always, you’ll completely avoid engaging in any discussion about the principles involved here. 


Womens' Rights

Can you imagine Roslyn Ross's behaviour had this happened in Israel and she thought she could get away with claiming that somehow the Joooos were involved.

A hitherto unknown group calling itself the Just Swords of Islam issued a warning to Palestinian women in the Gaza Strip over the weekend that they must wear the hijab or face being targeted by the group's members.

In pamphlets distributed in various parts of the Gaza Strip, the group also claimed responsibility for attacks on 12 Internet cafes over the past few days.


The group said its followers last week threw acid at the face of a young woman who was dressed "immodestly" in the center of Gaza City. They also destroyed a car belonging to a young man who was playing his radio tape too loudly.

Addressing female students, the group said: "We will have no mercy on any woman who violates the traditions of Islam and who also hang out in Internet cafes."

Instead not a peep from Roslyn Ross. Other than the usual slanders of Israel of course. The only place in the Middle East where women enjoy full civil rights, full and equal employment rights, affirmative action programs and legal protection from discrimination.

What is that word I'm searching for? Hypocrisy? Duplicity? Dishonesty? Bigotry? 

I know. Perhaps I was just "overlooking context".

Will you overlook context

Will, you overlook the context in which my post was made. The statement was made by Mike that Israeli women have more equal rights than any other nation on earth and I merely demonstrated that patently they do not. And that's only looking at discrimination in regard to marriage.

I would make the distinction that my comment relates only to Mike's claim and does not represent a general position in regard to the role of religion in marriage in Israel. I am sure it is being discussed. I hope it is being discussed, but, in the meantime, I have discounted Mike's rather ridiculous claim.

PS about that Andrea Dworkin -

Roslyn do you agree with Andrea that all men are rapists??

Roslyn, imitation is the sincerest form of....

Again, my statement was a parody of numerous hyperbolic statements of yours, such as referring to Israel's occupation of the West Bank (a result of the 1967 attempt of Arabs to destroy Israel) as "the most brutal occupation of the last century" etc. which were patently ridiculous over-the-top claims.

Perhaps irony is not one of your strong points. In any case, if you want to be serious about it, women's rights in Israel certainly go leagues beyond that in any other country in the region, which is indisputable. And you can bet Hamas' goal of a strict Islamic state would not do Palestinian Arab women any favours. So in the name of women's rights, which side are you on again?

Worth reading

At this point in the discussion I recommend David Aaronovitch's article and the readers' discussion at Timesonline. Also Johann Hari's 'If Israel, America and Europe break Hamas, they may finish up with something worse". His article on feminism in Gaza linked to on the same page is well worthwhile too for those who like me find little to cheer  about coming out of the news on the Middle East.

Pahoff's Hammer

Mr. Pahoff, speaking of Rabbi Cohen: "Of course the man is an idiot. It is possible he is something worse."

I believe he is something worse. I'm moderately tolerant of religious people in general and quite intolerant of Bible/Torah/Koran thumpers across the board. What I find completely despicable, however, is when somebody like Rabbi Cohen claims that the ultimate reason for the Holocaust was that God allowed it. The obvious inference being that the Jews deserved it in some way for displeasing God.

Not only does this paint a picture of a vicious and vengeful God, but it sheets home some of the blame to the Jews themselves. We see this kind of shit happening on a lesser level when abused children are blamed for encouraging the abuse (Remember Peter Holingworth and cover-up of the sexual abuse by an Anglican priest?)

With such a mindset, how on earth can a people grow and reach their ultimate potential? How can one go forward with confidence when one's 'spiritual leaders' are warning that God is ready to crush you at His nearest convenience?

You further said: "It of course has nothing to do with the Rabbi's religiosity, Marek Bage. That you have suggested this as a possibility tells me something about you."

Bang Bang, Pahoff's Hammer. I think you misunderstood the word 'religiosity' for 'religion'. As indicated above I have a big problem with Rabbi Cohen's religiosity. That is to say, I don't like the quality, in this case excessive and fundamentalist, of his religious devotion.

You further said: "The attendance of a handful of representatives of this tiny fringe sect, as guests of and fully sponsored by the Tehran regime, is irrelevant. It means nothing at all other than to provide the Roslyn Ross's of this world with a hook to deflect attention from the ugly truth of modern Iran. Apparently you as well."

Bang Bang, Pahoff's Hammer. The attendance of said people is part of the ugly truth of modern Iran. The fact that you would rather sweep it under the carpet or denounce somebody for mentioning it is meaningful.

Bang Bang, Pahoff's Hammer. The 'apparently you as well' portion of the above quote is interesting. You seem to be having a go at me for making a reference to Will Howard's link to the Human Rights Watch page on Iran. Perhaps you're angry because I, Mr. Howard and HRW are trying to deflect attention from the ugly truth of modern Iran by highlighting the actual truth. Or maybe you're angry because my mentioning the Kurds, Baha'i and ethnic Arabs diminishes the plight of Persian Jews.

To a man holding a hammer, everything looks like a nail.

Mr. Parsons speaking about the fatwa issued to protect Persian Jews and Christians: "Oh Goody. Maybe someone should point this out to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad."

I think he knows about it. I'm sure it pisses him off no end. In fact, I reckon the Mullahs rue the day this fatwa was ever made. It was probably done in a fit of triumphal magnanimity when Kohmeini returned from exile in Paris. And now they have to live with.

It's my understanding that a fatwa can only be rescinded by an higher or equal authority to the issuer. That puts 'Madman Dentinhead' in a bit of a quandary since he is an avowed acolyte of the Ayatollah Kohmeini and there has since been no recognition of a person of greater authority.

I predict that the Mullahs will have another 'conference' wherein they'll look into matters of religious leadership and try to establish a council of Mullahs with the ability to trump the prognostications of individual spiritual leaders. Such an outcome would result in the ultimate power grab because it would allow them to re- write any inconvenient religious directives. Wouldn't that be fun.

Pahoff's Hammer

"I believe he is something worse ... "

You will get no argument from me, Marek Bage.

 "I think you misunderstood the word 'religiosity' for 'religion'. As indicated above I have a big problem with Rabbi Cohen's religiosity. That is to say, I don't like the quality, in this case excessive and fundamentalist, of his religious devotion."

I prefer not to go there, Marek Bage. In this case, as in many others, it is a question of what came first. The idiocy? Or the perverse religiosity? I believe it is the former. 

 "Perhaps you're angry because I, Mr. Howard and HRW are trying to deflect attention from the ugly truth of modern Iran by highlighting the actual truth."

No that's not it.

"Or maybe you're angry because my mentioning the Kurds, Baha'i and ethnic Arabs diminishes the plight of Persian Jews."

No, that's not  it either.

"The attendance of said people is part of the ugly truth of modern Iran. The fact that you would rather sweep it under the carpet or denounce somebody for mentioning it is meaningful."

A little warmer. But still way off the mark.

"To a man holding a hammer, everything looks like a nail."

Not quite, Marek Bage. But warmer still.

If only I had a hammer. (Youtube Music Video)

<Letter to B'nai B'rith

Letter in The Age. 17 December 2006.

The blame game

“Ted Lapkin's commentary on the Arab penchant to blame everyone else for their misfortune (10/12) has a relevance to present-day Iraq that is telling, and the simplistic conclusions of the Iraq Study Group* make me question the pervasive notion that it is all America's fault that the Iraqis are presently slaughtering each other.

Putting the motives and mechanics of the US-led invasion of Iraq aside, given that it occurred,[!] who then should assume most of the responsibility for the daily bloodshed that is now raging? The Americans? Or as a result of the freedom they now have, is it not incumbent on Iraqis to bear some of the responsibility for choosing to slide into civil war rather than seize the opportunity to create a functioning society?

“The media have fostered an automatic association of all the anarchy in Iraq with the US-led invasion, ignoring the propensity for violence that seems inherent in the Arab culture in that part of the world.

“By constantly blaming the US and the West for their own failings, the Arabs devalue any contribution they have to make in the modern world.

“ALAN FREEDMAN, East St Kilda”


Simplistic? For God’s sake, they had to bring it down to My Pet Goat level for the intellectually challenged bloke in the White House, Alan!

Alan Freedman’s remark about “the propensity for violence that seems inherent in the Arab culture in that part of the world” is grossly anti-Semitic, isn’t it?

Could somebody let B’nai B’rith know, please? They’re very big on this sort of thing. Or are Arabs non-Semites all of a sudden?


Footnote: my italics, not The Age’s, by the way. Just to highlight Freedman’s nasty bit of guttersnipe propaganda.

Go for it kiddies! And for God’s sake, bring the Shadow Minister for Jewish Affairs, Mr Danby, and the entire Apostrophe Association with you, bomblets and bunkerbusters fully charged. In fact, bring Alexander too, if you can drag his head out of D*ck Cheney’s buttock cleft.

XXXXX and all love
Frère Jihad Jacques OAM née Woodforde™

reply to Jacques Woodforde

[Disclaimer: this is how I imagine B'nai B'rith might reply to Jacques Woodforde]

Dear Mr. Woodforde,

Thank you for your letter to B'nai B'rith. As you may or may not be aware, we are a large charitable organisation with many branches and activities including Australia/New Zealand.

But since your letter seemed to concern anti-semitism, it has been directed to the Anti-Defamation League or ADL and its affiliate in Australia/New Zealand the Anti-Defamation Commission.

Though the ADL and ADC are Jewish-based organisations, we are concerned not only with anti-Semitism but with all forms of bigotry and hate. As the ADC's aims statement notes, the ADC seeks to:

    * maintain an effective monitoring and response function to combat all bigotry, racism and prejudice
    * employ the instruments of research, fact finding, education and law to counter racism and prejudice
    * develop and disseminate appropriate educational and publicity material
    * build bridges of understanding and friendship among racial, religious and ethnic groups.

We understand and share your concerns that suggesting "propensity for violence [seems] "inherent in the Arab culture" only tends to exacerbate the hate and bigtory already unjustifiably directed at Arabs. It is not our position that a "propensity for violence" is "inherent" in any culture.

Please note that neither Mr. Lapkin's essay nor Mr. Freedman's letter represent the official position of B'nai B'rith. You may have assumed from Mr. Freedman's surname and address that he is Jewish and further assumed that he is connected to our organisation. Mr. Freedman may well be Jewish, but our Jewdar™ has not picked up the usual telltale signs of Jewishness, such as horns protruding from the skull, or inordinate influence in the global finance, media, and entertainment industries.

We do agree with Mr. Lapkin and with Mr. Freedman that not all the problems of the Arab world, especially the violence in Iraq, can be blamed on Israel.  We agree that Arabs in Palestine and Iraq do bear some reponsibility for their own fates, and do have some constructive and non-violent options available to them to fulfill their rightful aspirations to peace and national self-determination. We certainly deplore the incitement and bigotry against Israel and Jews in general that pervade may official Arab media outlets, just as we deplore anti-Arab and anti-Muslim bigotry in the West, Israel, or anywhere else.  But we do not see these problems as stemming from some "inherent" fault in Arab or any other culture.  We support peaceful settlement of the violence in Iraq and in Israel-Palestine as worthy goals in and of themselves, as a reading of the material on our website will attest.

We have criticised the Iraq Study Group Report for its linkage of the Israel-Palestine conflict to the conflict in Iraq; on this point we agree with Mr. Lapkin. Our position paper on the Iraq Study Group report notes:

"The conflict between Israel and the Arabs does need resolving - no party to the conflict has emphasized this more than Israel. But this conflict needs to be addressed in its own context and within its own timeframe, not in relation to policy imperatives in Iraq."

Finally, a note on the origin of the term "Anti-Semitism." Though you correctly point out that in anthropological and linguistic terms, Arabs are considered "semitic," the term "anti-Semitism" is used specifically to refer to hatred against Jews. It was coined by a German commentator named Wilhelm Marr in 1879, who used the word "Antisemitismus" in a book entitled "The Way to Victory of Germanicism over Judaism." In Marr's usage the word meant hatred of Jews (in German "Judenhass"). Marr used the term "antisemitism" to give Jew-hatred a respectable gloss of "rationality" and "scientific" credibility. In practice this term is used to describe prejudice or hostility towards Jews as an ethnic or religious group, or as a "racial" group in the usage of Nazis and other racist bigots.

Thank you for expressing your concerns and giving us the opportunity to clarify our message of tolerance and acceptance.

B'nai B'rith

And Your Point Is ...?

What the hell has this got to do with B'nai Brith?

Or Michael Danby?


Alan Freedman’s remark about “the propensity for violence that seems inherent in the Arab culture in that part of the world” is grossly anti-Semitic, isn’t it?



No civil marriage or divorce in Israel ... some equality

Mike: You need to study context and distinction. My comments were made in the context of a reply to Syd and the distinction is between a general comment made in regard to all religions and specific criticisms of a country and its religious prejudices.

You said: Then why support the side of extreme misogyny and Islamofascist fundamentalism against the modern democratic state of Israel,

Because that is not the issue. For one I do not support Islamic misogyny instead of Israel which purports to be a modern democratic state.

I support principles of law, human rights, justice, equality and democracy.

Israel fails as a modern state because it has laws, religiously derived, which are prejudicial and backward in regard to non-Jews and to women.

Israel also fails as a democratic state because it treats Jews in ways which are preferential compared to non-Jews. Israel also fails as a democratic state because it is an Occupier, because it is a brutal occupier and because it is still a coloniser.

None of these actions are that of a democratic state let alone a modern one.

I condemn misogyny where I find it. I condemn religious discrimination where I find it whether it be in an Islamic State or a Jewish State.

You said: where women have more equal rights than in any other nation on earth?

You have to be kidding right? You clearly have never been to Israel, had Israeli friends (even secular), worked with Israeli colleagues, been in Israeli homes or looked closely at Judaism as a religion and the power that religion has over everyday life in Israel.

Excerpt: In Israel, there are separate religious courts that are Christian, Muslim, Druze, and Jewish. Essentially, women from each group are subject to the authority of the most ancient systems of religious misogyny.

In 1953 a law was passed bringing all Jews under the jurisdiction of the religious courts for everything having to do with "personal status." In the religious courts, women, along with children, the mentally deficient, the insane, and convicted criminals, cannot testify. A woman cannot be a witness or, needless to say, a judge. A woman cannot sign a document. This could be an obstacle to equality.

Under Jewish law, the husband is the master; the woman belongs to him, what with being one of his ribs to begin with; her duty is to have children--preferably with plenty of physical pain; well, you remember the Old Testament. You've read the Book. You've seen the movie. What you haven't done is live it. In Israel, Jewish women do.

The husband has the sole right to grant a divorce; it is an unimpeachable right. A woman has no such right and no recourse. She has to live with an adulterous husband until he throws her out (after which her prospects aren't too good); if she commits adultery, he can just get rid of her (after which her prospects are worse). She has to live with a batterer until he's done with her. If she leaves, she will be homeless, poor, stigmatized, displaced, an outcast, in internal exile in the Promised Land.

If she leaves without formal permission from the religious courts, she can be judged a "rebellious wife," an actual legal category of women in Israel without, of course, any male analogue. A "rebellious wife" will lose custody of her children and any rights to financial support. There are an estimated 10,000 agunot--"chained women"--whose husbands will not grant them divorces. Some are prisoners; some are fugitives; none have basic rights of citizenship or personhood.

And in this fantasyland of yours where women have more equal rights than anywhere in the world comes this 2006 report about the reality:

Excerpt: JERUSALEM – It's been nearly three years since Ariela Dadon began trying to divorce her abusive husband. But she can't gain her freedom or the right to remarry because her estranged husband has refused to grant her a get, a Jewish divorce writ that can only be given by a man to his wife - never the other way around.

"We and others who are denied a get are like prisoners who can't get a pardon," says Ms. Dadon, who is raising two small children while she puts herself through graduate school in accounting.

She also makes endless visits to religious courts in a bid to get the judges to force her husband's hand. The catch: He won't do so unless she forfeits child support, among other demands.

Groups such as Mevoi Satum, a nongovernmental organization whose name means "Dead End," says there are thousands of women here like Dadon. While rights groups have lobbied for it, neither civil marriage nor divorce exist in Israel.

You said: There is indeed separation of church and state in Israel, where the majority of the population are secular in orientation and not particularly religious,

If there were a separation of 'church' and State in Israel then the place would not close down for Shabbat. Everything is affected by Shabbat even international hotels.... lifts, food, communication ..... and all because of religious belief. And neither would rabbinical courts be recognized as part of the State of Israel's judiciary.

Excerpt: In fact, the state of Israel is predicated on racism and religious exclusivity. Consider Israel's 1950 law of return, which allows any person "born to a Jewish mother," or one "who converts to Judaism and who is not a member of another religion," to immigrate to Israel. "The fourth basic law is Israel's status law, which gives Israel's citizens with 'Jewish nationality' certain rights and privileges which are denied to Israel's citizens with 'Arab nationality,'" writes Shaw J. Dallal. "Chief among these rights is the ownership or use of the very land which was expropriated from the Palestinians."

But it's not simply Arabs who are discriminated against in Israel, but all Gentiles.

I had personally witnessed an ultra-religious Jew refuse to allow his phone to be used on the Sabbath in order to call an ambulance for a non-Jew who happened to collapse in his Jerusalem neighborhood," writes Israel Shahak, a Hebrew University professor. The Rabbinical Court of Jerusalem ruled that the man had acted properly.

You said: and where Muslims and Christians can practice their religions freely and without difficulty.

I think you live in fantasyland.

From the Washington Report on Middle Eastern Affairs:

What is it that the rest of the world sees when it looks at Israel that Washington doesn’t? Other nations note that Israel has no constitution. But it has a body of what are called “Basic Laws” that serve the purpose of a constitution. Among these laws are a number of statutes that enshrine exclusive rights for Jews above all other religions and peoples living in the state.

Civil Marriage in Israel

"You need to study context and distinction."

- Roslyn Ross, December 16, 2006, 2:21pm

In particular you need to study the context in which the Israeli family law system works, and to learn the distinctions among different branches of Judaism.

You are correct that there is no such thing as "civil marriage," as such, in Israel.

In areas of personal or family law (marriage, divorce, etc.) religious courts have jurisdiction over each faith community. There are Islamic, Druze, and Christian religious courts with jurisdiction over their own communities in these legal areas. In all other areas of course civil law still applies. Civil marriage as such is not recognised, as you correctly point out. There is a significant move to introduce the option of civil union or at least to break the monopoly of the Orthodox rabbis for Jewish family matters, and to allow the rabbis of other branches of Judaism (e.g. Reform, Conservative) to have authority at least over their own members.

For many non-observant Israeli Jews, one way around this is to go overseas (e.g. the Israeli consulate in Cyprus) and get married in a civil ceremony outside Israel, as the marriage will be recognised legally in Israel.

For an overview of this system see this source. Note that family law in Israel is still based on the system set up by the Ottomans before WWI.

There's a raging debate going on right now among Israeli and Disapora Jews about the monopoly of the Orthodox rabbis on authority over marriage (and Jewish immigration issues as well). Marriage for Israeli Arabs is governed by Islamic, Druze, or Christian religious courts so they do not have to deal with the "Orthodox versus Reform" issue.

There are, however, efforts underway to reform this system (scroll down to "Civil Union" Law).

a few questions, of detail, comments, and greetings, and Worm

Ah Will, good to have someone here with all the info at their fingertips. Friends were bemoaning the other day that Reform marriages were not even recognised in Israel, and the Knesset was debating, or a bill was introduced -I forget which- that would exclude converts from the Law of Return facilities (at the same time bemoaning immigration / emigration stats, huh).  Now wouldn't that peeve Rupert?

Any idea how that all played out, especially with the more radical nasties in power now?

And a further question, how does the marriage law in Israel deal with marriage between two of different religions? You seem to have said there is no legality available to them, are there then defacto laws?Here such unions tend to go "civil" or one converts. Can a Jewish Israeli bring their spouse to Israel to live if they are not Jewish? Are there any limits upon where they can live or work? Are Palestinian Israelis allowed in the army like the limited role of bedhouins?  Can a non-Jewish Israeli live anywhere in Israel and work in any field?

Here in our land of freedom and generally secular society it smacks of obscene labelling and listing, control to have one's identity card mark one of a particular religion, even if one does not even identify with that religion. What does a card say if a Jewish Israeli converts to Christianity?

Are the schools mixed or are the children divided according to religion or ethnicity? Are there actual laws about working/selling on Saturday or is it up to one's own choice?

And a final question, why was there such reluctance initially, and until only the last few years, to call Israel: the Jewish State of Israel, was it sensitivity to the orthodox, or some other ideological reason relating to those founders who were more secular in leanings from the start or other reason?

Also, just as a BTW, if you have only been here since John Winston Howard (as distinct from Mr Howard - ex conservative leader, UK; Will Howard - defender; or John Howard the alleged Brisbane terrorist bomber) has been in power,  then you may not be aware of how lovely our society used to be. Or how to spell those-who-live-next-door who made such a famous TV hit.  I do think spelling should be included in our new test,j ust as there is a spelling test in the USA test.  It emphasizes the final resistance to materialistic simplification of all culture to a set of golden arches and the variable and hunted itemised monetary value upon which all is judged.

I do wish more Americans would dig back into the Founding Father's words of wisdom and values, and other's since, like Eisenhower,  and have a long hard look at what is happening to their nation, especially since Hollywood has interpreted and taught their history and values for them over the last 80 years or so. It's plain to the rest of the world.

Anyway, there are others that I can ask the above questions of, but you, Will, seem to be a reliable source, the Horse's mouth as they say. Not the sort of questions to tactfully ask one's friends, bit like some Christian questions one could ask some but never get over the asking.

Also, what do you think of Coles and other places using the Israeli Star for Christmas decorations?  My friends here recently from Israel found it obscene and blamed the tentacles of the ubiquitous "Christian Zionists" whom they seem to be quite nervous about, but I doubt they have any such reach and bet it was just bad taste. I wonder what Lebanese Christians here think of it after "that" summer holiday season?   Did you catch this interview with Worm about it-highly offensive to all I reckon?

Is this a popular stance in the administration, that Israel lost the war?

"Yes, there is no doubt. It's not something one can argue about it. There is a lot of anger at Israel."


"I know this will annoy many of your readers… But the anger is over the fact that Israel did not fight against the Syrians. Instead of Israel fighting against Hizbullah, many parts of the American administration believe that Israel should have fought against the real enemy, which is Syria and not Hizbullah."


"They hoped Israel would do it. You cannot come to another country and order it to launch a war, but there was hope, and more than hope, that Israel would do the right thing. It would have served both the American and Israeli interests.

"The neocons are responsible for the fact that Israel got a lot of time and space… They believed that Israel should be allowed to win. A great part of it was the thought that Israel should fight against the real enemy, the one backing Hizbullah. It was obvious that it is impossible to fight directly against Iran, but the thought was that its strategic and important ally should be hit.".

Great idea, but sure, where does Syria hit back, and then Iran? With friends like that in Washington, who needs Islamofascist terrorists?
Did the administration expect Israel to attack Syria?
What caused the anger?



ps happy holidays, happy hannuka, spin d, dance and sing and much  gelt and happy Christmas to all.  Jesus' reducing of the commandments to just two are worth some consideration on a daily basis. Most religions seem to have those two. One should always add "obey your mother" and beware the lawyers' fee in divorce action.

US citizenship test etc.

"I do think spelling should be included in our new test, just as there is a spelling test in the USA test."

- Angela Ryan, December 19, 2006 - 12:17am

Here are some sample questions from the US INS citizenship test. No indication here of any spelling criteria.

"....Hollywood has interpreted and taught [Americans'] history and values for them over the last 80 years or so. It's plain to the rest of the world."

Did Hollywood "teach" you that the US citizenship exam included a spelling test?

"what do you think of Coles and other places using the Israeli Star for Christmas decorations?"

I have seen some stars in Xmas decorations done in the shape of the Star of David, but I thought they were just an alternative way to show a star shape. I didn't think it had anything to do with the State of Israel or Judaism or Christian Zionists.

I hadn't seen the interview about neocons wanting Israel to hit Syria. The Wurmsers are entitled to their opinion, I suppose, that Israel should have attacked Syria in summer '06. Personally I think that would have been a stupid thing to do. Peretz, Olmert, and the rest of the Israeli political and military leadership apparently thought so too, and left Syria alone. They wisely (IMHO) chose to defend Israel by focusing only on the proximal aggressor - Hezbollah forces in Lebanon.

"Jesus' reducing of the commandments to just two are worth some consideration on a daily basis."

Hillel the Elder (active in the first Century BCE) had already reduced them to just one:

"That which is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow. That is the whole Torah; the rest is the explanation; go and learn."

Angela's Answers

Angela Ryan, those are quite a few questions. I'll try to deal with as many of them as I can (for some I simply don't know the answer and perhaps another contributor will chime in). But here goes.

"Knesset was debating, or a bill was introduced -I forget which- that would exclude converts from the Law of Return facilities."

I don't know about this particular bill. The issue in Israel is not about excluding converts (to Judaism) from the Law of Return, but converts who did not undergo their conversion to Judaism under the supervision of Orthodox rabbis. This monopoly of the Orthodox rabbinate is what is being hotly debated in Israel.

"Now wouldn't that peeve Rupert?"

I don't know which Rupert you mean (Murdoch?), or why it would peeve any Rupert. So please explain.

"Any idea how that all played out, especially with the more radical nasties in power now?"

No. And I don't know which "radical nasties" you mean. The government of Israel at the moment is a unity/coalition government composed mainly of a mixed Kadima and Labour cabinet. If you consider Olmert, Peretz, Livni, and Peres to be "radical nasties" then I wonder who you'd consider moderates.

"... how does the marriage law in Israel deal with marriage between two of different religions?"

There's no "marriage law" as I understand it except those within the faith commuities. Religious tribunals have jurisdiction over family law matters such as marriage and divorce.

"... are there then defacto laws?"

I don't know.

"Can a Jewish Israeli bring their spouse to Israel to live if they are not Jewish?"


"Are there any limits upon where they can live or work?"

None that I'm aware of.

"Are Palestinian Israelis allowed in the army like the limited role of bedhouins?"

Israeli Arabs can serve in the IDF, but are not required to, and there are some Arab members of the IDF. There's talk of changing this as well; or at least requiring everyone including Arabs to fulfill some form of national service even if non-military. I don't know about any "limited role" for bedouins (there are bedouins in the IDF). Are you perhaps thinking of the Druze? Israeli Druze are required to serve in the IDF.

"Can a non-Jewish Israeli live anywhere in Israel and work in any field?"

Well I suppose a non-Jew might have a tough time getting a job as a rabbi. There aren't legal restrictions on where people can live in Israel or what fields they can work in (again AFAIK). There are religious communities where a non-Jew might have a hard time fitting in socially.

"What does a card say if a Jewish Israeli converts to Christianity?"

Nothing. The Israeli ID card or "Teudat Zehut" does not indicate religion as such. The cards used to indicate "nationality" but don't anymore (as of last year). The "nationality" of Israeli Jews used to be indicated as "Jewish" instead of Israeli. That's changed now, and the only clue to whether a cardholder is Jewish or not is to see if their date of birth is given as a Hebrew date as well as a Gregorian date.

"Are the schools mixed or are the children divided according to religion or ethnicity?"

Not in state schools. There are parochial schools of course for Muslims, Christians and Jews alike.

"Are there actual laws about working/selling on Saturday or is it up to one's own choice?"

At the moment there are no national laws about this, but it's a point of debate in Israel (should Jewish observances such as the Sabbath or Kashrut be codifed into national law?) and a Knesset committee has been holding hearings on it. Haaretz had a story a few months ago about debate over a proposed Shabbat (Sabbath) Law in the Knesset, noting that shopping is a big pastime for Israelis and it would be tough to imagine stores being closed on Shabbat. In this sense the debate is like that over Saturday and Sunday shopping here in Australia (when I moved here to Tasmania there was no Sunday shopping) in that it pits small shop owners against big retail outlets.

"... why was there such reluctance initially, and until only the last few years, to call Israel: the Jewish State of Israel?"

I don't know what you mean by "reluctance."

The Declaration of Independence of the State of Israel, issued on May 14, 1948, asserts " the natural right of the Jewish people to be masters of their own fate, like all other nations, in their own sovereign State."

It goes on to say:

"we, members of the People's Council, representatives of the Jewish community of Eretz-Israel and of the Zionist movement, are here assembled on the day of the termination of the British Mandate over Eretz-Israel and, by virtue of our natural and historic right and on the strength of the resolution of the United Nations General Assembly, hereby declare the establishment of a Jewish state in Eretz-Israel, to be known as the State of Israel."

The phrase "Jewish State" appears five times in the declaration.

Angela, you note "if you have only been here since John Winston Howard ... has been in power, then you may not be aware of how lovely our society used to be."

Howard was elected the month after I moved to Australia. So essentially he's the only Prime Minister I've really experienced. Our (Australian) society is lovely now, as far as I'm concerned. Like any society, it could be better.

"I do think spelling should be included in our new test, just as there is a spelling test in the USA test. It emphasizes the final resistance to materialistic simplification of all culture to a set of golden arches and the variable and hunted itemised monetary value upon which all is judged."

Well I wasn't aware there was a spelling test as part of the US citizenship test. But then again, I've never taken a US citizenship test so I wouldn't really know. As for including spelling in an Australian test, I guess you're talking about Australian vs. US usage. e.g. "Neighbours" versus "Neighbors." Personally, I tend to switch from US to Aussie usage and back again often. Partly it's because I write some documents that require the US usage and some that require the Aussie (which is really British after all) usage. I try to remember which "audience" I'm writing for but often forget. What spelling has to do with materialism I don't know. I'm sure you'll enlighten us.

No change this decade? David Hicks to all.

Thanks Will, very informative. Kind of you.

Yes and Bar mit'svah was as an adult. Friend's rel was there.

Nasties is as nasties does. Would not have included that list prior to the Leb war either. But anyways was talking of Lieberman et al. Ethnic cleansers, IMHO,  have no place in any civilised nation's parliament.

Yes, marked down for U in colour in English test.

Yes I am proud to speak and spell the Queen's English.

Our society is still the best place in the world to live (no one accuses me of hyperbole...), except if one lives in Melbourne of course...

But Will, what a change! To go from California (I think you said that ages ago?) to Tasmania to live!  Good for skin cancer; bad for MS.

No changes in our lands? Here where one endangers one's credibility.

Well, ,as an American you may have missed some of the subtly of change, like being at war, being a terrorist target, having working conditions stripped, having freedoms stripped, having rights stripped, a fear campaign, a vilification campaign of minority groups, out pricing higher education, property bubbles fuelling huge personal debt spent on crappy consumerist drivel imported rather than capital improvements............ heck, you're right it is is like that in the US now anyways too, and seeing obscene multinational business influence upon our nation's leaders in the so called privatisation that Keating /Hawke started. They have all been discussed at huge length eslewhere here.  Oh, I missed the fuel tax on airline tickets, that really miffs me more than anything today.

Neither of our nations are the land of the free anymore. But still better than anywhere else, for this moment as long as all keep to the program and that may change as we become the nuclear waste dump for the Globalised World Corp.

No change this decade? 

Guess that is what David is still in Git Bay for. He symbolises all that has gone wrong and changed. After 9 months of solitary confinement and four years as well in a cage for committing no crime on the books.  Yep that about symbolises it all, along with the two nation's concerned response. None.

Glass half empty or half full? Life under Howard.

Come on, Angela, David Hicks was guarding a tank, for God’s sake!  If that’s not a war crime I don’t know what is.  And let’s not forget the original attempted murder charge.  He didn’t get lumped in with the ‘worst of the worst’ for nothing, now did he?

Has anybody else seen The Road to Guantanamo?  If even half the film is accurate - and much of it corresponds to photos we’ve all seen and other accounts - Howard should be damn proud of what he’s allowed to happen to David Hicks.  Hicks will probably be a basket case by the time they try him, much like Jose Padilla. 

Oh well, serves him right, I guess, in Howard’s brave new world.  If you’re not one of us, you’re one of them, and if you’re one of them, hoo boy, watch out! 

Principles - out the door, everything has to go! 

Angela, hard to top your post for a succinct summary of what’s changed under Howard.  Like you, I love living in Australia but I’m one of the black armband brigade.  Will’s rosy view of Australia – and Will, you’re right, it’s a great country - makes me think of Howard’s conception of 1950s Australia.  It was a great time if you weren’t an Aborigine, a woman, or a non-white immigrant. 

Australia’s a great place now, too – but it’s probably not exactly paradise for the refugees I know who lost four years of their lives in Baxter and now live in the permanent limbo of a TPV.  It’s not quite perfect, I suspect, for the growing number of people on AWAs who are now required to give four weeks notice of any leave, including leave for looking after their own sick children.  It’s not a rose garden for Aborigines, who can still be beaten to death in a police cell with impunity.  And there just may be one or two Muslims in Australia who don’t feel relaxed and comfortable.  

Ah, but I’m sounding like a glass-half-empty kind of guy, aren’t I?  I don’t mean to be churlish, Will, and btw I enjoy your posts.  Despite its sham, drudgery and broken dreams etc etc … 

Anyway, I hope all ‘diarists have a really great Christmas (religious or otherwise) and New Year, and drive very carefully.  Come back all refreshed so we can dive back into the fray and figure out how to unf**k the world. 

Changes - some good some bad

Angela Ryan: "what a change! To go from California ... to Tasmania to live!"

Actually from NY (just outside NYC). But yes, a big change!

 "No changes in our lands?"

Er - well I didn't say that. I just said our societies (US and Aus.) are still good ones to live in. That's taking into account the changes, for the better and for the worse, over the past ten years.

I happen to agree with you about Hicks. I think the Bush Administration's attempts to trample on Constitutional guarantees of due process, as symbolised by Gitmo Bay, are the most dangerous legacy of this Presidency. Hicks and the other Gitmo Bay detainees should either be properly charged with something or released.

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Recent Comments

David Roffey: {whimper} in Not with a bang ... 12 weeks 6 days ago
Jenny Hume: So long mate in Not with a bang ... 12 weeks 6 days ago
Fiona Reynolds: Reds (under beds?) in Not with a bang ... 13 weeks 1 day ago
Justin Obodie: Why not, with a bang? in Not with a bang ... 13 weeks 1 day ago
Fiona Reynolds: Dear Albatross in Not with a bang ... 13 weeks 1 day ago
Michael Talbot-Wilson: Good luck in Not with a bang ... 13 weeks 1 day ago
Fiona Reynolds: Goodnight and good luck in Not with a bang ... 13 weeks 3 days ago
Margo Kingston: bye, babe in Not with a bang ... 13 weeks 6 days ago