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On being anti-Zionist

By Dave Riley

I think I went to my first anti-Zionist/pro Palestine event in 1971. Activists would gather in Lebanese House -- a restaurant in Russell Street Melbourne -- and plan the occasional protest.

During this time too, between national tours by Sol Salbe I got hooked up with another anti-Zionist from Israel -- Benjamin Merhav -- and used to go to evenings to have debates with young "left" Zionists who aggressively pushed their ranio-ed literature and the poems of Leonard Cohen.

Yes, Cohen was aggressively pro Israel in the seventies and was a hero of these" left" Zionists.

One very cold April night in 1972 I "picketed' the Israeli embassy in Canberra. Me, this Benjamin Merhav, and two supervising coppers on the shoulder of , what really was, a suburban street.

Palestine was hardly a big issue, even in those youth radicalisation days.

In the eighties the Palestine Human Rights Campaign and the local PLO rep at the time, Ali Kazak, fostered a network of committees and published an excellent newspaper occasionally -- Free Palestine (edited by David Spratt & Franz Tinnerman).

And I tell you now: being anti-Zionist was hard going. It was a cause celebre primarily for the far left, but outside of ourselves and some left members of the Arab community it wasn't a 'popular' cause -- not with the member for Wills and Tel Aviv as prime minister -- R.J.Hawke.

So we lefties come from a tradition of several decades worth of comprehending "the issues". There's been a lot of thought gone into understanding the flaws in such arguments as"Israel's right to exist" and "the two state solution."

But there's been nothing like this -- nothing like this national and world wide explosion of support for the Palestinians.

Yesterday's London protest (see item in video panel above) affirms that I think. This is the anti war sentiment that exploded in 2003, coming up for air again, but now focused on an issue that has always been there, always festered -- only now so stark under the weight of this cynical slaughter.

Even the similar carnage in Lebanon back in 2006 didn't register so strongly as these protests now record. (And the 1982 invasion that expelled the PLO from Beirut seemed almost a sideshow in the way it was not related to here beyond we few.)

So something has happened...

Even when commentators, some on the liberal left, seek to blame Hamas for the situation as equally as they now accuse Israel -- it comes across as grossly inappropriate, skewed and, I guess, rather obscene.

Surely no one deserves this! (Yes, not even the Hamas bogeymen!)

The Zionist axis has changed. Some hard facts are sinking in.

In one sense the promise of the First Intifada (1987–1993) , sidelined and undermined by the US led Gulf War in 1991 -- has risen again among these hundreds dead and the world is divided and polarized in a way the Palestinians have not achieved before.

But guys, you hardly know the story. Take it from me. When you've been in anti Zionist mode as long as I (and I don't mean that I'm especially good at being anti-Zionist or being pro-Palestine) the real story and the real history is horrifying.

Zionism is a wonderful exercise in real Politick surrounded by gorgeous spin. It's a horrific 20th century tale that is complicated by imperialist opportunism neatly packaged as a lush idealism.

My favorite line from Palestinian poem says it all:
They have changed the Jordan's course
And sown the desert with spears.

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