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How Mike Carlton got it wrong

Philip Dalidakis shares his thoughts on Mike Carlton's take on Gaza.

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Mike Carlton’s malevolent agenda

Philip Dalidakis, commentator for Sky News and ABC News writes: Israel is a small and isolated western democracy surrounded by undemocratic states and terrorist-controlled territories. Israel is not beyond criticism, nor do I lightly accuse people of anti-Semitism. It is not anti-Semitic to criticise Israel, but it is if you don’t hold other regimes and conflicts to the same standard.

Mike Carlton’s article on the Gaza ceasefire fails this test. It drips with hatred towards Israel, and towards those who support Israel — which includes the overwhelming majority of Australian Jews, as well as both major political parties. It is also typically nasty. It was not Carlton’s views that got him in to trouble with the Sydney Morning Herald, but his response to people who challenged him, including myself who he labelled an “abusive fuckwit” (he may be a sound judge of character but in this case the evidence did not support his claim).

More importantly, his article is full of false assertions and dishonest arguments. He says that Israel’s “stated aim” was to achieve “crushing military and economic dominance of the Palestinian people.” Israel never stated any such aim. Israel’s stated aim was to stop Hamas firing rockets at Israel’s cities. That aim has now been achieved, and with Hamas stopping its rocket fire Israel has ceased responding.

Carlton cites the number of deaths in Gaza as evidence for the assertion (made openly in his July column) that Israel is waging a “war of terror on the entire Gaza population … Call it genocide, call it ethnic cleansing: the aim is to kill Arabs.” The facts refute this claim. Israel conducted well over 5000 air strikes against targets in Gaza. The official death toll is about 2000. Does anyone seriously suppose that if Israel’s sole aim was to “kill Arabs”, it would have been so incompetent at doing so? Israel could have bombed Gaza to rubble and killed tens of thousands of Arabs if that had been its aim.

But it wasn’t. Israel’s aim was to destroy Hamas’ rocket sites and tunnels. Israel attempted to minimise casualties, Hamas attempted to maximise them. It deliberately placed its launch sites in built-up areas, next to schools, hospitals and mosques, so that more people would be killed. As the Hamas Charter says: “death for the sake of Allah is the loftiest of [our] wishes.” Captured Hamas documents prove that this was a deliberate strategy, designed to persuade the gullible and the malevolent (Mike Carlton is both) that Hamas is somehow an injured innocent in this conflict.

This conflict was entirely of Hamas’ making. Hamas seized power in Gaza in 2007, murdered its political opponents, imposed a fascistic regime on the people, then turned Gaza into a base for waging war on Israel. This year alone Hamas has fired more than 3000 missiles into Israel, every one of them intended to kill Israeli civilians.

It’s true that few Israelis were killed by Hamas’ rockets. That’s because Israel, unlike Hamas, cares about the lives of its citizens and has spent fortunes on shelters, sirens and anti-missile systems. That does not in any way deny Israel the right to take action to stop these attacks.

Carlton draws an elaborate analogy between this conflict and the Vietnam War. The analogy is a false one. The US was not fighting a war of self-defence in Vietnam. North Vietnam was not firing rockets at American cities. The US could afford to abandon Vietnam to its fate when public support for the war collapsed. Israel has no such luxury, and the Israeli public knows that. Polls showed over 90% of Jewish Israelis supported the campaign against Gaza.

Carlton’s trump card is the letter to the New York Times condemning Israel and signed by 40 Holocaust survivors. He obviously doesn’t know much about Jewish demographics. There are about 120,000 Holocaust survivors still alive in the US, and probably twice that number in Israel. The vast majority of them support Israel’s right to exist and to defend itself. Even here in Melbourne, I could get more than 40 Holocaust survivors to sign a statement of support for Israel in a morning. They would tell Carlton, if he had the nerve to ask them, “Never again will Jews be denied the right to defend themselves.”

It suits Mike Carlton’s malevolent agenda to suggest that anyone who supports Israel’s actions belongs to a “powerful and sophisticated Likud lobby.” This is nonsense. I am a Labor party member and a Labor candidate for the coming Victorian state election. If I was an Israeli, I would not vote for Likud. I would vote for the Israeli Labor Party — a progressive party which fully supported the campaign in Gaza.

I support a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict, and I oppose the expansion of settlements in the West Bank as counter-productive. But I also oppose people hiding behind the cloak of “proportionality” to deny Israel the right to defend itself while giving a free pass to proscribed terrorist organisations such as Hamas.

That is anti-Semitism.

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26 comments

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26 thoughts on “How Mike Carlton got it wrong

  1. Mike R

    While agreeing with 95% of the above article, I am not sure whether an abject failure of the sincerity test, that is ignoring or minimizing the resultant mayhem of any conflict that does not involve Israel, is necessarily a gold standard marker for anti-Semitism.

    The failure of such a test could also (or instead) be characterized as hypocritical and a delusional ideological byproduct of the extremes of the left or the right. It is often hard to distinguish between these extremes as they purloin the rhetoric of each other.

    Whether anti-Semitism is the major driving force usually requires further evidence. I am more charitable than many others as I believe most of the hostile comments in Crikey are of a shared delusional nature rather than the anti-Semitic variety. Maybe I am too naïve.

    There are of course obvious exceptions ( will not name names, but just Google “Crikey” and the “Protocols of the Elders of Zion” and you will get the idea).

    I think each case should be judged on its merits rather than using anti-Semitism as generic label .

    Likewise I think the propensity of Carlton and his acolytes in Crikey to use generic labels to abuse those who disagree with them serve no purpose other than to inflame debate. In particular the use of labels such as Likkudnik, pissant, Jewish bigot, Kaffelatsch ( I gather this is this supposed to be a reference to Café latte drinking Jews, if so, he sounds awfully like Alan Jones ) etc. has demeaned any standing Mike Carlton had as a journalist.

    It is also sad that he has done a disservice to rational debate which is in such short supply when it comes to the Middle-East.

  2. Brand Arie

    D.wrote: “It is not anti-semitic to criticise Israel, but it is if you don’t hold other regimes and conflicts to the same standard”

    his argument is often encountered and thoroughly false. Why? For two main reasons:

    1.Israel presents itself as part of the Western world (the only democracy in the Middle East etc.). This self image is by and large accepted by the West. It enjoys several advantages in consequence: in preferential trade deals, in the supply of advanced weaponry, in intelligence sharing etc. But if it is part of the West it is more open to critique (within the West) than an Asian or African country mistreating minorities. This is not because what happens there is necessarily less awful but because we have less responsibility for it.

    2. In addition: the evil of Israel’s actions has to be brought to the fore more forcefully than is the case with evil elsewhere, even within the Western world, because Israel has, as no other transgressing nation, a world wide claque that seeks to defend it, to cover up its crimes and to tell us, in short, that black is white. What the Singhalese did to the Tamils in Sri Lanka is a horrific crime but there has been no battalion of defenders in Western parliaments and media telling us that the Singhalese were quite justified in doing it. Otherwise with Israel. The deception practiced in its defence is an outrage in itself. People gag at this mendacious stuff being rammed down their throats. Critique is a natural and necessary reaction to it.

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