28 April 2016


As I have said in previous postings, the AFL must have somewhere in the region of 800 to 1200 players and other attached personnel involved with all the teams around Australia.

It is impossible that there are no gay people involved with the sport.

Hollywood - yes, that Hollywood -  from its early days in the 1920s to the present day has remained homophobic and has gone to whatever it takes to stop public acknowledgement of gay and lesbian actors and ancilliary people around the place. No greater glaring example in Hollywood exists than the Rock Hudson story, but there are so many others. Rumour persists that if you are openly homosexual in Hollywood, well forget it, there is no future for you there.

However there are a few actors who have defied the threat and have been out and active in their support of anti-homophobia.

Back to AFL and where is even one token gay who is out in the public arena in any of the 17 or 18 team at present in the national game?

The AFL management have, for the last several years stated that they support the approach to anti-homophobia, but words speak louder than deeds and there is no change.

Let there be a gay team of AFL accepted in the code and then have the other teams make of it what they will. We will then see the whole problem out in the open!

22 April 2016


Ethnic Cleansing in Palestine: Home Demolitions on the Rise

According to the Israeli Committee against House Demolitions, an Israeli NGO, the Israeli government has demolished 28,000 Palestinian structures since the Occupation of the West Bank and Gaza began in 1967, resulting in the homelessness and suffering of untold numbers of people. There is little ambiguity about the morality of this form of ethnic cleansing, and even most Israeli legal scholars agree that it is in contravention of international law. Article 53 of the Fourth Geneva Convention states:

“Any destruction by the Occupying Power of real or personal property belonging individually or collectively to private persons, or to the State, or to other public authorities, or to social or cooperative organizations, is prohibited, except where such destruction is rendered absolutely necessary by military operations.”

The Occupation is approaching its 49th birthday, and over the years the international community has been sitting by and watching and occasionally issuing toothless condemnations of Israel’s behavior. There have been ebbs and flows in the rates of home demolitions, but the possibility of losing one’s home has nevertheless been a constant part of Palestinian life for generations now. In the year 2016, however, there has been a sharp and extremely disconcerting uptick in the pace of demolitions, as the first few months have seen a three-fold increase in such activity. On one day alone two weeks ago, April 6, the Israeli army demolished 54 structures in nine communities in the West Bank, displacing 124 people, including 60 children.
The Israeli authorities usually demolish Palestinian homes for one of three reasons – building without a proper permit, building in a location deemed unsuitable by the government, and collective punishment.

Improper building permits in Umm al-Kheir

One of the communities affected on April 6 was the small Bedouin village of Umm al-Kheir, located in the South Hebron hills, where the Israeli authorities demolished six structures, rendering 31 residents, nearly half of its population, including 19 children, homeless.

In a video posted on the village’s Facebook page, you can see yellow bulldozers leveling the frail tin shacks, as the presence of heavily armed soldiers ensures that there is minimal resistance. The residents look on, helpless, as their shelters are destroyed. A woman wearing a white hijab screams and gesticulates at the soldiers, but one of them pushes her away roughly. Other than that there is surprisingly little display of emotion on the part of the locals. One reason for that, perhaps, is that the people of Umm al-Kheir know that there is nothing they can do to prevent the occupation forces from achieving their goals. Another is that they have experienced all of this before – on many occasions.

The history of Umm al-Kheir is described in a 2011 report by the Israeli daily newspaper Haaretz. This small collection of homes was created after the ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians perpetrated by Zionist forces in the Nakba of 1948. These Bedouins were forced out of their homes in Arad at the border of the Negev and Judean deserts and settled here, not far from the town of Yatta, which was under Jordanian control at the time. They purchased the land from Yatta, and they lived, as they had for centuries, grazing their sheep. After the Occupation began in 1967, the residents of Umm al-Kheir once again found themselves under the authority of the Israelis, who largely left them alone until 1981, when the Israeli settlement of Carmel was created next to the village. As time went on, it became clear that the settlers’ thirst for land would not be quenched easily, and they began to harass the villagers, trying to convince them to leave Umm al-Kheir, an effort supported by the Israeli authorities, who issued one demolition order after the other. According to Rebuilding Alliance, an American NGO, the first demolition took place in 2008, followed by demolitions in 2010, 2011 and 2013. In the fall of 2014 the army came to the village to destroy six stone structures, and when the inhabitants took shelter in tents supplied by the International Committee of the Red Cross and others, the army soon returned to demolish them, as well. Small houses made of sheet metal were donated to replace the tents, and it was these structures that the Israeli authorities demolished on this occasion.

The official reason for the demolition of the buildings in Umm al-Kheir was that the locals did not have the proper building permits. Israel refers to the Oslo II accords, which give it the power to control construction in Area C, the part of the West Bank over which it has complete control. Speaking to Al Jazeera in September of 2015, the spokesman for the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories stated that “in accordance with the interim agreements signed by Israel and the Palestinian Authority and recognized by the international community, every construction in [Area] C requires the approval of the authorities.”

On the surface this statement seems relatively innocuous, but because of the difficulty Palestinians have in securing building permits, it has far-reaching consequences. In June of 2015, +972 Magazine, a left-leaning news blog, reported that only 1% of land in Area C is designated for Palestinian construction, and that 94% of Palestinian applications for building permits are denied. According to B’Tselem, an Israeli NGO, of the 1,640 applications for permits to build in Area C that were submitted by Palestinians between 2009 and 2012, only 37 were approved. The disparity between the amount of land allocated to settlers and that zoned for Palestinians is enormous. According to a report by the United Nations’ Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) from 2015, more than 13 times as much land is approved for a settler as for a Palestinian – about 790 square meters per settler, and 60 square meters per Palestinian. Thus, pressure from settler land grabs as well as the Palestinians’ increasing population leaves the latter no choice, especially in areas of high-density population, such as East Jerusalem. They have to build without the proper permit. It is then only a matter of time before the bulldozers appear.

The bulldozers visit Khirbet Tana in the firing zone

Khirbet Tana lies in the north, not far from the city of Nablus, and it suffered a fate similar to that of Umm al-Kheir a day later. The bulldozers came and demolished 34 structures, which displaced 69 Palestinians, including 29 children. 2016 has been a terrible year for the people of this small hamlet, as this was the fourth visit paid to them by the Israelis during the last two months. According to a statement released by OCHA, many of the destroyed buildings had been provided by relief agencies, including a school. In this case the buildings were destroyed not because of improper permits but rather because the village is located in a firing zone.

A firing zone is an area designated by the Israelis to be used only for military exercises. According to OCHA, 18% of the West Bank falls into this category. The immorality of removing civilian populations from their lands for the purpose of military training is obvious, but what’s worse is that over 80% of firing zones are not actually used for this purpose. In 2014, Colonel Einav Shalev, a senior IDF officer, admitted during a session of the ‘Judea and Samaria Affairs’ subcommittee of the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee that the designation of some Palestinian areas as firing zones is a ruse to expel Palestinians.

Some Palestinian structures are demolished because of their location, even if they do not lie in a firing zone. A homeowner in Idhna, a village near Hebron, told me when I visited in 2014 she was informed that her home was demolished because it lay too close to the Apartheid Wall, the separation barrier Israel has been building since 2002. Her neighbor had it worse. She was not given any reason at all for the destruction of her home.

Punitive home demolitions

A week before the destruction in Umm al-Keir and Khirbat Tana, in the middle of the night of March 31, the army demolished part of the house of the family of Ihab Maswada, who had been killed in December after he used a knife to attack a settler in Hebron. Soldiers had threatened to destroy the house a few days after the stabbing, but the demolition order did not come until recently.

A member of the family told Ma’an News, a Palestinian news service, that the soldiers gave the family ten minutes to evacuate the house. Afterwards, Maswada’s mother said they “fired a stun grenade inside the house and left the house laughing.”

The reason for this home demolition was clearly punitive, although the authorities prefer to use the term deterrent. Israel claims that a potential terrorist would think twice before mounting an attack if he knew that his family’s home would be destroyed as a consequence. There have been several studies questioning this point of view. For example, Israeli journalists Amos Harel and Avi Isacharoff reported in their book The Seventh War that there was no evidence that punitive home demolitions were effective as a deterrent. In fact, the reports show that the number of violent attacks following the implementation of the policy actually increased. In 2005, an Israeli military committee examined the issue, as well, and arrived at the same conclusion.

Shortly thereafter, the government of Israel heeded the committee’s recommendations, and, except in a small number of cases, the practice of punitive home demolitions was discontinued until 2014, when it was resumed with the destruction of the homes of the suspected kidnappers of three settler teenagers.

While the end result in each of the three above-mentioned cases is the same – homeless Palestinians – they illustrate the three main categories of justification that the forces of occupation provide for destroying the homes of Palestinians. But the real motive behind the demolitions is much more nefarious. As Hanna Issa, a Palestinian international law expert, explained to Al Jazeera:

“The idea behind this is to prevent these lands from being transferred to the Palestinians under a final status agreement. The short-term agenda is to clear the areas [near] settlements -of any inhabitants and to confiscate land for more settlements and for expanding the Israeli [separation] wall.”

Home demolitions on the rise

OCHA reports that during the years 2012-2015, an average of 50 homes were demolished in the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem every month. So far this year, the army has destroyed 539 structures, a rate that is more than three times higher. In all of 2015, 453 buildings were demolished, so the sharp surge in this kind of activity is an extremely recent phenomenon. The reasons for this sudden increase are unclear.

Is it simply a result of the shift to the right of the views of Israeli society vis-à-vis the Palestinians? Or are the Israelis beginning to feel the pressure of the efforts, such as the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, of some sectors of the international community to call into question Israel’s policies? In this case, might they believe they have to consolidate as much control and seize as much land as possible before an agreement is forced upon them? Perhaps it is a combination of these factors.

One thing that is clear is that the Israelis are getting impatient. There are currently 11,000 buildings in Area C that have been slated for demolition but as of now are still standing. Recently Major-General Yoav Mordechai, the coordinator of the government’s activities in the West Bank, appeared before a subcommittee in the Israeli parliament to answer questions about the slow pace of demolitions, and he claimed that he was doing all he could. Some right-wing members of the government had accused him of unfairly singling out structures in the illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank, but he quickly dispelled this notion.

“I want to state unequivocally that enforcement is more severe towards the Palestinians,” Al-Jazeera quoted him as telling the officials.

 What about the future?

As far-right Israeli NGO’s such as Regavim send their drones over the West Bank in search of suspicious Palestinian construction, one wonders what this latest increase in ethnic cleansing means for the long-term future of the Palestinians. Perhaps it will lead to an intensification of the international community’s efforts to call Israel to account for its illegal and immoral activities. In the short term, though, it appears that its only consequence will be to make life more difficult for the Palestinians.
Richard Hardigan is a university professor in the United States.

20 April 2016


Nauru, Suicide and Punishment

It sounds tedious, but the point is no less awful. Nauru has ceased being a country, a state of any worth. It has assumed value as only one thing: a (non)processing centre for asylum seekers and refugees Australia does not want. A camp designed for criminalising rather than exempting; for condemning rather than assessing, has become the cruellest exemplar of modern treatment and disposition to the refugee.

The result of animalising humans has predictable outcomes. Disturbance and desperation is sowed. In June 2015, news emerged from the Nauru detention centre of “suicide pacts” made by various individuals. According to Natasha Blucher, a social worker engaged at the centre, “There was a single adult female… there was a group of teenage girls, there was a group of fathers, there was a group of mothers.”[1]

Along with fellow social worker, Michelle Groeneveld, reports were made about conditions of profound dehumanisation. Inmates, noted Blucher, tended to be identified by their boat IDs. In other cases, a grotesque overfamiliarity was exhibited by camp guards keen for sexual quarry and congress. “They would say things like, ‘hey baby, come and sit on my knee’.” The overall strategy in this environment, argues Blucher, is one of conscious cruelty, one of not wanting to extend the hand of comfort.

The response by officials in Canberra was to sack such figures as Blucher and Groeneveld, both having been in the employ of Save the Children. Their dismissals constituted a form of retribution against those deemed allies of the refugees. Such eye-witnesses to camp cruelty had been nuisances from the start. Their removal was done with purpose.

Another tactic has also been used of late to crush the refugee spirit. In one particular case, an individual was charged for having attempted suicide. A statement from the Nauru government of April 12 revealed the dark, even anachronistic absurdity:

“Noting that the charge is uncommon but nonetheless remains a criminal offence, the defendant pled guilty after being charged with Attempted Suicide contrary to section 312 of the Criminal Code 1899 following a disturbance at Nibok Lodge on January 21, 2016.”[2]

The language of the document is brutally directed against deterrence, using an old law to enforce a modern yet primeval circumstance. The term “refugee” is mentioned in the headline, only to vanish before suggestions of opportunistic criminality. “Written submissions were made by the Prosecutor to impose a custodial sentence of between one and two months to deter other would-be-offenders who resort to self-harm to avoid lawful actions against them or to get what they want.”

Attempts at suicide are thereby treated as undermining, and destabilising weapons. This conforms, at least, to a notable historical trend: the efforts by authorities to punish the individual who dared resort to taking away the living essence of oneself.

To keep one’s life going in circumstances of cruelty would be the greatest achievement of State, church or authority. To have that person take his or her life would be an admission of defeat on the part of those keen to possess, and control, that life.

By no means was this always the case. Histories on suicide show an array of social reactions to the phenomenon of taking one’s own life. The response of those in European antiquity were less inclined to abhor the act. The taking of poison, be it via medical means or that of an animal (a snake being popular), are dominant motifs, often encouraged by powers and authorities.

The modern response to tendencies to suicide in the Nauru detention centre is to render it pathological, to make it a product of psychic disturbance deemed inherent in the “manipulative” refugee. You are not permitted to take your life – that would be an indulgence, an exaggeration of circumstances.

The steps were already being taken by State authorities in the nineteenth and then twentieth century, periods which saw the entire medicalization of suicide as a form of degeneracy. This did not go unchallenged, with French sociologist Émile Durkheim suggesting that acts of suicide had to be seen as social facts, conditions initiated by environment and history. His 1897 study was notable in suggesting four types of suicide, with fatalistic self-murder the outcome of circumstances of extreme regulation and discipline.

The march of the medical brigade on this was, however, irrepressible. The person willing to take his own life was deemed sick, a disturbance to be monitored and controlled. The mental asylum in due course met the refugee asylum, and in the modern detention centre we see titanic encounters between the forces that control life, and the autonomy of the inmates themselves.

Such ruptures in life are not seen as the torturous circumstances of privatised security, rapacious guards, and Australian governments keen to reduce humanity to refuse that just might turn suicidal. Suicide, attempted or otherwise, remains one of the last frontiers of human freedom.


[1] http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-06-29/desperate-nauru-refugees-formed-‘suicide-pacts’:-social-worker/6581906
[2] https://pbs.twimg.com/media/CgCwOt8UsAIs5Jb.jpg

Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge. He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne. Email: bkampmark@gmail.com

10 April 2016


Trump and Clinton: Censoring the Unpalatable

A virulent if familiar censorship is about to descend on the US election campaign. As the cartoon brute, Donald Trump, seems almost certain to win the Republican Party’s nomination, Hillary Clinton is being ordained both as the “women’s candidate” and the champion of American liberalism in its heroic struggle with the Evil One.

This is drivel, of course; Hillary Clinton leaves a trail of blood and suffering around the world and a clear record of exploitation and greed in her own country. To say so, however, is becoming intolerable in the land of free speech.

The 2008 presidential campaign of Barack Obama should have alerted even the most dewy-eyed. Obama based his “hope” campaign almost entirely on the fact of an African-American aspiring to lead the land of slavery. He was also “antiwar”.

Obama was never antiwar. On the contrary, like all American presidents, he was pro-war. He had voted for George W. Bush’s funding of the slaughter in Iraq and he was planning to escalate the invasion of Afghanistan. In the weeks before he took the presidential oath, he secretly approved an Israeli assault on Gaza, the massacre known as Operation Cast Lead. He promised to close the concentration camp at Guantanamo and did not. He pledged to help make the world “free from nuclear weapons” and did the opposite.

As a new kind of marketing manager for the status quo, the unctuous Obama was an inspired choice. Even at the end of his blood-spattered presidency, with his signature drones spreading infinitely more terror and death around the world than that ignited by jihadists in Paris and Brussels, Obama is fawned on as “cool” (the Guardian).

On March 23, CounterPunch published my article, “A World War has Begun: Break the Silence”.  As has been my practice for years, I then syndicated the piece across an international network, including Truthout.com, the liberal American website.  Truthout publishes some important journalism, not least Dahr Jamail’s outstanding corporate exposes.

Truthout rejected the piece because, said an editor, it had appeared on CounterPunch and had broken “guidelines”.  I replied that this had never been a problem over many years and I knew of no guidelines.

My recalcitrance was then given another meaning. The article was reprieved provided I submitted to a “review” and agreed to changes and deletions made by Truthout’s “editorial committee”. The result was the softening and censoring of my criticism of Hillary Clinton, and the distancing of her from Trump. The following was cut:
Trump is a media hate figure. That alone should arouse our scepticism. Trump’s views on migration are grotesque, but no more grotesque than David Cameron. It is not Trump who is the Great Deporter from the United States, but the Nobel Peace Prize winner Barack Obama … The danger to the rest of us is not Trump, but Hillary Clinton. She is no maverick. She embodies the resilience and violence of a system … As presidential election day draws near, Clinton will be hailed as the first female president, regardless of her crimes and lies– just as Barack Obama was lauded as the first black president and liberals swallowed his nonsense about “hope”.
The “editorial committee” clearly wanted me to water down my argument that Clinton represented a proven extreme danger to the world.  Like all censorship, this was unacceptable. Maya Schenwar, who runs Truthout, wrote to me that my unwillingness to submit my work to a “process of revision” meant she had to take it off her “publication docket”.  Such is the gatekeeper’s way with words.

At the root of this episode is an enduring unsayable. This is the need, the compulsion, of many liberals in the United States to embrace a leader from within a system that is demonstrably imperial and violent. Like Obama’s “hope”, Clinton’s gender is no more than a suitable facade.

This is an historical urge. In his 1859 essay “On Liberty,” to which modern liberals seem to pay unflagging homage, John Stuart Mill described the power of empire. “Despotism is a legitimate mode of government in dealing with barbarians,” he wrote, “provided the end be their improvement, and the means justified by actually effecting that end.” The “barbarians” were large sections of humanity of whom “implicit obedience” was required.

“It’s a nice and convenient myth that liberals are the peacemakers and conservatives the warmongers,” wrote the British historian Hywel Williams in 2001, “but the imperialism of the liberal way may be more dangerous because of its open ended nature – its conviction that it represents a superior form of life [while denying its] self righteous fanaticism.” He had in mind a speech by Tony Blair in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, in which Blair promised to “reorder this world around us” according to his “moral values”. The carnage of a million dead in Iraq was the result.

Blair’s crimes are not unusual. Since 1945, some 69 countries — more than a third of the membership of the United Nations – have suffered some or all of the following. They have been invaded, their governments overthrown, their popular movements suppressed, their elections subverted and their people bombed. The historian Mark Curtis estimates the death toll in the millions. With the demise of the European empires, this has been the project of the liberal flame carrier, the “exceptional” United States, whose celebrated “progressive” president, John F Kennedy, according to new research, authorised the bombing of Moscow during the Cuban crisis in 1962.

“If we have to use force,” said Madeleine Albright, US secretary of state in the liberal administration of Bill Clinton and today a passionate campaigner for his wife, “it is because we are America. We are the indispensable nation. We stand tall. We see further into the future.”

One of Hillary Clinton’s most searing crimes was the destruction of Libya in 2011. At her urging, and with American logistical support, NATO, launched 9,700 “strike sorties” against Libya, according to its own records, of which more than a third were aimed at civilian targets. They included missiles with uranium warheads. See the photographs of the rubble of Misurata and Sirte, and the mass graves identified by the Red Cross. Read the UNICEF report on the children killed, “most [of them] under the age of ten”.

In Anglo-American scholarship, followed slavishly by the liberal media on both sides of the Atlantic, influential theorists known as “liberal realists” have long taught that liberal imperialists – a term they never use – are the world’s peace brokers and crisis managers, rather than the cause of a crisis. They have taken the humanity out of the study of nations and congealed it with a jargon that serves warmongering power. Laying out whole nations for autopsy, they have identified “failed states” (nations difficult to exploit) and “rogue states” (nations resistant to western dominance).

Whether or not the targeted regime is a democracy or dictatorship is irrelevant. In the Middle East, western liberalism’s collaborators have long been extremist Islamists, lately al-Qaeda, while cynical notions of democracy and human rights serve as rhetorical cover for conquest and mayhem — as in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Syria, Yemen, Haiti, Honduras. See the record of those good liberals Bill and Hillary Clinton. Theirs is a standard to which Trump can only aspire.

A Response from Truthout and a Letter from Truthout’s publisher.

Dear Jeffrey,
I’m writing in response to Counterpunch’s publication of a highly misleading and factually inaccurate article by John Pilger today regarding Truthout and our editor-in-chief Maya Schenwar, “Trump and Clinton: Censoring the Unpalatable“.

The idea that Truthout is stifling criticism of Hillary Clinton holds no water, and this takes very little time to verify – I’ve appended below a few of the many uncompromisingly critical articles we’ve published about her.

John Pilger’s history of excellent journalism is without question. However, the reality of this situation is that each and every writer who submits work to Truthout for publication or republication need to work with our editors, and treat them with some basic professional courtesy. That did not happen in this case.

It has long been Truthout’s policy that for articles to be featured as Truthout originals, they need to either be exclusive content or to be very substantially revised and rewritten versions of content that has appeared elsewhere. This was communicated to John Pilger, and his refusal to acknowledge this or to engage in civil discussion with our editors led to our decision not to republish this piece.

As Pilger states, the article had already been published elsewhere. Calling the decision not to run it again censorship is inaccurate – Truthout makes judgment calls as to what to republish every day, and a decision not to republish an article does not mean we are damning that piece by implication, let alone censoring it. Calling the decision politically-motivated censorship stemming from a desire to protect Hillary Clinton is wildly, maliciously inaccurate and easily demonstrable as false.

This article is a misrepresentation of Truthout, a misrepresentation of Maya Schenwar, and a misrepresentation of what “censorship” entails that does a disservice to the concept. It calls Counterpunch’s credibility into question for as long as this story remains on your site in its current form.

With thanks for your prompt attention to this matter,
Joe Macaré
Publisher, Truthout

John Pilger can be reached through his website: www.johnpilger.com


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Preston, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
90 years old, political gay activist, hosting two web sites, one personal: http://www.red-jos.net one shared with my partner, 94-year-old Ken Lovett: http://www.josken.net and also this blog. The blog now has an alphabetical index: http://www.red-jos.net/alpha3.htm