13 July 2014

Why Do "Good People" Hate Asylum Seekers?

As the government sank to new lows in its treatment of asylum seekers this week, disappearing people and returning others fleeing persecution and torture to the countries they'd been escaping, the reactions of horror and disgust from caring Australians have been matched by vitriol and fury from the right. Right wingers and Liberal voters are flooding comment sections and the Facebook pages of groups such as the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre.

But why? Why do conservatives, RWers and Liberal voters - who would otherwise think of themselves as good, caring people - hate asylum seekers so much? Why do they feel the need to spew their venom on online sites dedicated to helping and supporting asylum seekers?

Because it's cognitive dissonance. They have to.

Conservatives, unable to acknowledge the government's abhorrent treatment of asylum seekers and still sleep at night, instead demonise the asylum seekers themselves and those who support them. They react with fury when called ignorant even though their position requires relying on distortions, half-truths and outright lies; they likewise deny being racist, despite that the government's response to undocumented arrivals is entirely and disproportionately focused on the brown people who arrive by boat rather than the white people who arrive on planes. They spout meaningless platitudes such as "we have to look after our own first" to prove their compassion when I'm sure none of them have marched in the streets against the punitive federal budget which will unfairly target the most disadvantaged in our society, making poverty worse; when the punitive measures towards asylum seekers cost far more than community processing ever would; when even if the issue of asylum seekers vanished overnight it would not suddenly free up funds for the struggling community sector, which is being starved by the same governments that promise to "stop the boats". (Incidentally, all my years of working in refuges for homeless women and young people, all my welfare studies, I've never actually met someone working at the coalface of welfare provision who supports these harsh anti-asylum measures). And they drone on and on about "deaths at sea", as though people who can't escape (or worse, are sent back to torture) are any less dead than those who drown.

And they sure do have a bizarre fetish for orderly queues.

But the right need to ignore the suffering of these people who come here seeking our help in order to maintain their views of themselves as just good people. If only they'd consider the alternative - to look at the facts and seek a more compassionate solution.

01 July 2014

Were The Deaths of the Israeli Boys An Inside Job?

When I heard the missing Israeli teenagers Eyal Yifrach, Gilad Shaar, and Naftali Frankel, missing since June 10, had been found, apparently murdered, in the West Bank, my heart sank. First at the tragic loss of these young lives, the anguish of their parents. No matter the political situation, innocent teenagers on the way home from school do not deserve to be dragged into the conflict and slaughtered.

But also, I was dismayed to imagine Israel's inevitable reaction to the news. Already, the drums of war are sounding as Israel vows revenge; hawk Benjamin Netanyahu has declared "Hamas is responsible and Hamas will pay"; rocket strikes have begun already and the Israeli Defence Force has blown up the homes of the suspected kidnappers - despite that Hamas has not as yet taken responsibility and there is no direct evidence pointing to any one organisation. But whoever committed this crime, they must have known Israeli retaliation would be swift and devastating. Surely any Palestinian committing this act would have to realise that it would lead to dire consequences for his countryman? You would have to be incredibly stupid...or Israeli.

Did Israel coordinate this murder as a cover for all out assault on the West Bank?

Such action is not unprecedented. In 2010, Mossad agents stole the identities of 23 Israeli dual nationals - including a pregnant Australian woman living in Israel - to carry out the assasination of of Palestinian militant Mahmoud Al-Mabhouh in Dubai. Israeli security agencies has shown they have no problem throwing its own citizens under the bus to carry out security operations, putting all those whose identities it stole at risk when travelling internationally for the rest of their lives. Would Israeli forces hesitate in directly murdering their own citizens as a justification for military action?

An obvious question is why they'd feel the need to. Israel's recent history has proved that they are quite comfortable acting without international approval, simply stating "Israel has a right to defend itself" to shut down all debate. So perhaps these murders were carried out - if indeed it was an inside job - not to allay international opinion, but domestic. Moderates who decry attacks on the West Bank in ordinary times are far less likely to do so if it's their kids being slaughtered. Everyone in Israel is scared and angry and as the saying goes, "when you have them by the balls, their hearts and minds will follow".  

I'm not saying this was the work of Mossad or the IDF. I'm just saying that it all raises some pretty interesting questions about who stood to benefit from these deaths and why.