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Sunday, February 27, 2011

The capitalist call for communism

An overheated market let to a global financial melt-down, affectionately known as the GFC (Global Financial Crisis).   As the market crashed the major US banks turned to the government to rescue them.  The US government provided the largest "bail-out" in history because of the fear that the banks were "too big to fail". However, this resulted in the US government becoming the largest share-holder for many of the banks and of the US banking industry being nationalised.   This was described in an article by the New York Times published on 16 January 2009:

As stated in the NY Times article, the $700 billion bail-out called for the government to take control of the banks' investments, executive wages and share-holder dividends. Since that article was written, it has been revealed that the Federal Reserve bail-out was worth $9 trillion:

Of course a country such as the United States, which has so vociferously opposed communism would never allow the nationalisation of free market institutions such as banks... would they?

The lesson from the GFC is that unrestrained capitalism will result in disaster.   Globalised companies are only interested in profit, they are not interested in the service or product that they are supposed to deliver.  When globalised companies crash, they do so with global consequences. 

Yet, capitalists are constantly campaigning for the privatisation of traditional government services.  The GFC and the general increase in costs and decrease in services from profit driven companies show that there is a need for government control of essential services such as health, education, police, defence and public housing  Governments are less concerned with profit and are committed to delivering the service for the good of society.

Obviously there is a place for capitalism, but it must be tempered by responsible government controls in order to protect society in general.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Multi-culturalism: Tolerance, Acceptance or Integration?

Multi-culturalism has been criticised with claims that it doesn't work because of the intolerance of different races, nationalities and religions.  Opponents of multi-culturalism go on to state that we should embrace integration instead.  Most people who ascribe to this opinion do so because of their own intolerance.  Their idea of integration is for all other races, religions and nationalities to become the same as the host culture - namely theirs.

There are aspects of the host culture which will always be there and which everyone does integrate with. These aspects include protocols when shopping, working, catching public transport, obeying laws, interacting with each other in public places, enjoying national and local public holidays and so on.  That is as far as integration needs to go.  As a society we should be not criticising people for their cultural choices of clothes, food, worship, language.

The problem with integration is that it fails to accept the differences between other cultures.  The integration argument reduced Christmas to a season of generic greetings and phrases.  For instance, in Toronto a Christmas tree was described by the city council as a "holiday tree", other Councils replaced "Merry Christmas" signs with "Seasons Greetings" and used secular phrases rather than mention anything "Christian" in Christmas.  This was done because of a lack of acceptance of the differences between Christianity and other religions.  This secularisation of Christmas was seen as political correctness and was aimed at not offending other religions.  Yet, most people from other religions have no problem with Christian celebrations and will often join in. 

True political correctness would accept and celebrate the unique festivals and practices of Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism and so on.  This is why it is so important to protect and embrace multi-culturalism, not reduce it to a generic "integration" in which the distinctions and characteristics of cultures are ignored and not accepted.

Some critics of multi-culturalism claim that other cultures do not assimilate well and that they have different values and morals.  From the outset this argument is flawed.  All races, cultures and religions have high moral standards.  Every nation has laws to protect those standards.  There is not a religion or race today that condones violence or abuse.  On the other hand, every religion, including Christianity, every nation, including Australia, has individuals who violate the law.  It must be kept in mind that these are individuals and they are not indicative of any race, religion or nation.  The behaviour of individuals should not be used to judge the behaviour of all.

Multi-culturalism is not to be feared, it is to be protected and valued.  Instead we should fear any society or government which attacks multi-culturalism as they are the ones on the path to an intolerant, totalitarian state such as we saw under Hitler or the Taliban. Multi-culturalism is not about establishing an "us and them" society.  Multi-culturalism is not about creating multiple societies, it is about accepting that society is comprised of people from various cultures and that those cultures do have unique characteristics. We should not just tolerate those differences but acknowledge, accept and celebrate them.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Severe cyclones - a rising tide or just more hot air?

Cyclone Yasi has been dubbed the worst cyclone to ever hit Queensland. Certainly it would appear to be the largest delivering gale force winds over 600km with effects being felt over 2,000km from Cape Melville to Shoalwater Bay.  When it made land-fall at Mission Beach it had a central pressure of 930hpa and was packing winds of up to 300km/h.  However, Yasi certainly was not the worst cyclone to hit Queensland.

Firstly, keep in mind that cyclones are low air pressure systems. The lower the air pressure, the more dangerous the system.  Normal air pressure at sea level is around 1013hPa (hectoPascals). Cyclones generally form when the air pressure drops below 990hPa.  Lower pressure results in worse weather and generally higher wind speeds.

One of the most severe cyclones to hit Australia was Cyclone Mahina which struck on 4 March 1899. Between 300 and 400 people died.  Mahina struck with a storm surge of 13m at Bathurst Bay on Cape York Peninsula, travelling 5km inland and with witnesses claiming dolphins were found on rocks 14m above normal sea height.  Ships in the area recorded a central pressure of 914hPa.  Mahina is considered one of the most severe cyclones ever to strike Australia.

The year 1918 was particularly notable for Queensland with two Category 5 cyclones within weeks of each other.  The first one struck Mackay in January 1918 with a central pressure of 933hPa.  It reportedly struck with a 2.7m storm surge hitting the centre of Mackay.  There were 30 deaths recorded, most of whom drowned in the surge.  As with all cyclones, there came rain.  In this case 1411mm in 3 days which resulted in severe flooding of the Pioneer River in Mackay and the Fitzroy River in Rockhampton which peaked over 10m.

On 10 March 1918, what can only be described as a super-typhoon hit the Innisfail, Mission Beach, Clump Point area.  This cyclone is one of the most powerful storms to have hit Australia in recorded history.  It had a central pressure of less than 910hPa.  It is unknown what the wind speed was but it would almost certainly have been far greater than 300km/h.  It has been reported that 12 houses remained standing in Innisfail, which was a town of 3,500 people at the time.

By contrast, Cyclone Tracey which hit Darwin in 1974 had a central pressure of 950hPa with recorded gusts of 217km/h (before the weather instruments failed) although it is estimated wind speed reached 250km/h.  Cyclone Larry, a category 4 system when it crossed the Queensland coast near Innisfail in 2006, had a central pressure of 960hPa with a highest recorded wind gust of 294km/h at Bellenden Ker and estimated gusts around Innisfail of 240km/h.

In 1996 Western Australia was struck by Cyclone Olivia which has the dubious honour of recording the world's highest wind speed of 408km/h.  Average wind speed for this system however was not quite so intense, being around 260km/h.

Australia has been struck by hundreds of cyclones, many very destructive.   Whilst Yasi is the largest system we have seen in a century, it certainly is not unique to this part of the world. Yasi devastated homes, crops and infrastructure but thankfully without taking any lives.

The devastation from cyclones is not dependant on their strength and size alone, important factors include population, building standards, industry such as crops and mining, infrastructure in the affected area.  For instance the most deadly cyclone in the world was the Bhola Cyclone, a Category 3 with 185km/h winds and air pressure of 966hPa which struck East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) in 1970 and killed 500,000 people.

For comprehensive details of any of the Australian cyclones mentioned or others that have not been delved into, refer to the website of the Bureau of Meteorology (

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Israel - Superstition, Prophecy and Human Rights

Many people have an almost superstitious fear of criticising Israel for fear of being labelled anti-semitic or worse, for fear that God will punish them on account of misinterpreting biblical scripture. This superstition is allowing Israel to perpetuate gross human rights abuses against Palestine which would horrify the world if it was happening anywhere else.

There are two issues that I wish to address regarding Israel.

One is the belief by many Christians that the establishment of Israel in 1948 is biblically scriptural. Modern Israel was formed through the influence of the Zionist lobby who believed it to be the fulfillment of God's promise to Abraham and Isaac. Many Christians have accepted this without delving further into the scriptures and reading what God actually promised.

The second issue is the treatment of Palestinians by Israel and the blind acceptance of this by many western nations and Christians.  Israeli human rights violations are overlooked because many people believe that Israel is the fulfillment of God's promise and they believe that to criticise Israel is anti-semitic and a violation of scripture, incurring the wrath of God.


Before I progress too far into this blog, I want to address the issue of anti-Semitism. Firstly, Arabs and Jews whose ancestors were from the Holy Land, are both of the same Semitic race, both are descended from the same person, Abraham.  Anti-semitism is generally regarded as hatred of Jews, yet Judaism is a religion and religion has nothing to do with race, so has nothing to do with whether a person is a Semite. Criticism of a person or a nation's actions, particularly when they are mistreating others or committing crimes, is not racism, it is not hatred and therefore is certainly not anti-Semitic.  Most people who criticise Israel's treatment of Palestinians are not anti-Semitic and would criticise any nation who treats Israel in the manner that they have treated the Palestinians (for instance, they abhor the treatment that Jews (and other groups) suffered at the hands of Nazis).

Secondly, Semites existed in Sumer (acknowledged as the world's oldest civilisation), well before the formation of Israel.  A Semite includes both Jews and Arabs.  Therefore, favouring one of these groups over another is in itself anti-Semitic. 

Thirdly, the removal of Arabs from the term Semitic and only applying it to Jews is a gross example of anti-Semitism and borders on a form of genocide and ethnic cleansing through removal of identity. 

Fourthly, Arabs and Jews are both descended from Abraham so there is no anti-Semitism in defending Arabs or in criticising Jews, or vice versa. It would be anti-Semitic if the criticism was because of anti-Jewish or anti-Arab feelings, but the criticism I make in this article is not because of race or religion, it is because of human rights abuses and the use of religion to justify it.  I am not anti-Jewish and I am not anti-Arab.

Often Christians and Jews will quote scriptures such as Genesis 12:1-3 which states:

"Now the LORD had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father's house, unto a land that I will shew thee: And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing: And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed."

This verse is often used to condemn any criticism of Israel, yet Israel is not mentioned in the verse. God is speaking directly to Abraham as an individual (note verse 1), not to Israel. Therefore, criticism of Israel's behaviour toward Palestine will not incur God's wrath.  Besides, even if this verse was applied to Israel, criticism of Israel does not constitute cursing it.  There is a big difference between criticism and cursing.


Israel has made no secret of the fact that it is a Jewish state. It is not a state that is designed to be inclusive of other religious groups, including Muslims and Christians. The Israeli government considers Israel to be home to the entire Jewish diaspora. This means that any Jewish person who is not a citizen of Israel, is born and bred in other countries and whose ancestors were never from the Holy Land, can settle anywhere within Israel or the illegal settlements in the occupied territories and be given full Israeli citizenship and often receive financial incentives to do so. Other religious groups do not have this luxury.

In the late 19th century a group of Jews met and formed the Zionist movement whose purpose was to create a Jewish state. The Zionists considered a number of locations for this state including Uganda and Palestine. In 1948 the Jewish state of Israel was created through the partition of Palestine as mandated by United Nations Resolution 181. This Resolution mandated that Palestine be partitioned into both Arab and Jewish states. The Jewish League accepted the resolution whilst the Arab league rejected it. Since then numerous wars have been fought and ultimately Israel has obtained more and more Palestinian land than was first partitioned. Following the 1948 war that Israel and its Arab neighbours fought, the new borders became known as the "Green Line".

Israel has maintained military occupation of areas of Palestine including Gaza and the West Bank, which are well outside the Green Line, meaning that Israel is illegally occupying land that does not belong to it. Israel describes these areas as "disputed" whilst Palestine describes them as "occupied". Why the difference? Because if the areas are occupied by military forces then various articles of the Geneva Convention apply. These areas are not in dispute. These are areas that were clearly formed as part of Palestine as decreed by UN Resolution 181 and the Armistice Agreements of 1949. Therefore the presence of Israeli military forces is an occupation. This means that the creation of settlements in this area is illegal as described by the Fourth Geneva Convention which governs the treatment of people in an occupied territory. The Fourth Geneva Convention forbids an occupying force from relocating its' own people into the occupied territory and displacing the inhabitants of the territory. The destruction of Palestinian homes, confiscation of land and farms, the imprisonment of people on political grounds, the systemic torture and coercion of confessions and detention of children by Israel all violate international human rights obligations.

Israel constructed a number of walls inside the occupied territories ostensibly to protect themselves from Palestinian suicide bombers. However, these walls do not separate Israel and Palestinian territories, but instead run deep within Palestine and separate Palestinians from each other, from their workplaces, businesses, farms and from hospitals and schools. These walls are nothing less than apartheid. Apartheid was never God's intention when he promised Abraham that the land would belong to his descendants; the descendants of both Ishmael and Isaac: Jews, Muslims, Christians. In fact, in the context of Genesis 15 the great nation of Abraham includes the descendants of Ishmael and Isaac which does not limit this promise to Jews or Israel. However, God then made two separate promises regarding nationhood. One was to Abraham's son, Ishmael and the other to his son, Isaac.

Ishmael was born as a result of Abraham and Sarah not trusting God to fulfil his promise (which was for them to have a child even though Sarah was barren). Abraham then slept with the maid and Ishmael was born. Some years later, Sarah became pregnant and gave birth to Isaac, a fulfillment of God's promise. Ironically, the creation of Israel in 1948 is a result of Jews not trusting in God to keep His promise to rebuild Jerusalem (the promise referred to a spiritual place, not a physical place). It has been 2,000 years since the Jews rejected Jesus as the Messiah even though He was promised by God throughout their scriptures. Now the promise of a new Jerusalem which is spiritual and a promise for all Christians and Jews is being hastened through the agitation of Zionists with no regard for scriptural principles such as "love your neighbour as yourself".

Ironically, the Zionist Movement's push to create Israel in order to fulfil the promise of God to Israel regarding the restoration of Jerusalem, is no different to Abraham and Sarah deciding that God needed a little help when he promised them a son. They forced the promise by using the maid as a surrogate because Sarah was barren. In the case of Israel, the Zionist Movement used the UN. Both incidents show a lack of trust in God to fulfil His promises and both incidents put the responsibility for delivering God's promises in the hands of man.

1. Is Modern Israel a fulfilment of scripture?

God's promise to Abraham included the land from the Nile to the Euphrates (as described in Genesis 15:18 - "In the same day the LORD made a covenant with Abram, saying, Unto thy seed have I given this land, from the river of Egypt unto the great river, the river Euphrates". Whilst Abraham's descendants include both Ishmael and Isaac, the promise was to be fulfilled through Isaac, not Ishmael as stated in Genesis 21:12 - "And God said unto Abraham, Let it not be grievous in thy sight because of the lad, and because of thy bondwoman; in all that Sarah hath said unto thee, hearken unto her voice; for in Isaac shall thy seed be called."

Whilst many people remember the promise to Isaac, many forget the promise made to Ishmael in Genesis 17:20 - "And as for Ishmael, I have heard thee: Behold, I have blessed him, and will make him fruitful, and will multiply him exceedingly; twelve princes shall he beget, and I will make him a great nation." These were Old Testament promises which were fulfilled.

In 70AD the temple in Jerusalem was destroyed and this marked the downfall of the nation of Israel. Numerous scriptures refer to the rebuilding of the temple and the restoration of Israel. However, they are referring to a time after the return of Jesus which is obviously a reconciliation of all people of the world as evidenced in Acts 15:15-17 "And with this the words of the prophets agree, just as it is written: After this I will return And will rebuild the tabernacle of David, which has fallen down; I will rebuild its ruins, And I will set it up; So that the rest of mankind may seek the LORD, Even all the Gentiles who are called by My name, Says the LORD who does all these things".

The creation of Israel in 1948 was at the behest of Zionists who misrepresented the promise God gave to Abraham and tried to hasten God's blessing upon the nation of the Israel. However, all of the scriptures of the bible point to a spiritual restoration of Jerusalem not a physical one, and a curse on Israel for rejecting the Messiah. Since the coming of Jesus, all Christians are now considered spiritual Jews.

There may have been a time when the Jews were considered God's chosen people, however, everyone now has the opportunity to be part of God's chosen people through Christ. This is summed up in Galatians 3:29 - "And if ye be Christ's, then are ye Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise."

Romans 2:28-29 - "For he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh: But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God."

As for favouring one group of people over another, Acts 10:34 states "... God is no respecter of persons" and Romans 10:12 states "For there is no difference between the Jew and Gentile: the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him."

Christ is the fulfillment of the restoration of Israel - this prophecy has nothing to do with the physical establishment of a Jewish state.

2. Human rights violations by Israel

Instead of following the scriptures of the bible, Zionists forced the creation of the modern state of Israel and then proceeded to displace the inhabitants of the land. They have violated many UN resolutions regarding human rights, their construction of the "wall" has created a system of apartheid which separates Palestinian farmers from their farms, separates Palestinians from health care and education, deprives Palestinians of the ability to provide for themselves and deprives them of easy access to hospitals, resulting in many Palestinians dying from preventable causes. When the government of Israel committed human rights violations, the prophets openly condemned them. For instance 2 Kings 6:22 says "Thou shalt not smite them: wouldest thou smite those whom thou hast taken captive with thy sword and with thy bow? set bread and water before them, that they may eat and drink, and go to their master".

2 Chronicles 28:9-15 (of particular note are the following verses, 11 and 15): "Now hear me therefore, and deliver the captives again, which ye have taken captive of your brethren: for the fierce wrath of the LORD is upon you. And the men which were expressed by name rose up, and took the captives, and with the spoil clothed all that were naked among them, and arrayed them, and shod them, and gave them to eat and to drink, and anointed them, and carried all the feeble of them upon asses, and brought them to Jericho, the city of palm trees, to their brethren: then they returned to Samaria."

Nehemiah 5:11 in reference to the King of Israel taking the people's land and exacting usury from them through mortgaging of their lands, vineyards and houses: "Restore, I pray you, to them, even this day, their lands, their vineyards, their oliveyards, and their houses, also the hundredth part of the money, and of the corn, the wine, and the oil, that ye exact of them."

Jeremiah 34:15-17: "And ye were now turned, and had done right in my sight, in proclaiming liberty every man to his neighbour; and ye had made a covenant before me in the house which is called by my name: But ye turned and polluted my name, and caused every man his servant, and every man his handmaid, whom he had set at liberty at their pleasure, to return, and brought them into subjection, to be unto you for servants and for handmaids. Therefore thus saith the LORD; Ye have not hearkened unto me, in proclaiming liberty, every one to his brother, and every man to his neighbour: behold, I proclaim a liberty for you, saith the LORD, to the sword, to the pestilence, and to the famine; and I will make you to be removed into all the kingdoms of the earth."

Amos 2:6-7: "Thus saith the LORD; For three transgressions of Israel, and for four, I will not turn away the punishment thereof; because they sold the righteous for silver, and the poor for a pair of shoes; That pant after the dust of the earth on the head of the poor, and turn aside the way of the meek: and a man and his father will go in unto the same maid, to profane my holy name: And they lay themselves down upon clothes laid to pledge by every altar, and they drink the wine of the condemned in the house of their god."

The treatment of Palestinians by Israelis is tantamount to ethnic cleansing, under UN definitions it amounts to genocide. Below is an extract from Article 2 of the Convention on the Punishment and Prevention of the Crime of Genocide:

In the present Convention, genocide means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such:

(a) Killing members of the group;
(b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
(c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;
(d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;
(e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.

Israeli acts against Palestinians have included:
  • attacking civilian areas with military aircraft resulting in thousands of innocent deaths;
  • ethnic cleansing by the forcible removal of Palestinians following the 1948 and 1967 wars and denying the refugees from returning to their own lands;
  • denying Palestinians permission to enter through check-points when they require medical attention, including when they are in the midst of child-birth. Numerous babies have died as a result of their mothers being unable to reach hospital because of Israeli soldiers preventing them driving there and preventing ambulances from reaching the mothers or the hospitals;
  • building a wall which separates Palestinians from medical centres, from their own farms, from their jobs, from schools;
  • preventing children from obtaining an education by not allowing them through check-points;
  • forced relocation of Palestinians to other parts of the country and then preventing them from visiting families. For instance, many Palestinians have been relocated from the West Bank to Gaza and then with the travel restrictions in place are unable to visit their families;
  • unlawful detention without charge; and
  • unlawful seizing of land from Palestinians who legally own the land and property. This includes allowing non-Israeli citizens allowed to illegally settle on Palestinian land simply because they are Jewish. This is a violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention which states in Article 49:  Individual or mass forcible transfers, as well as deportations of protected persons from occupied territory to the territory of the Occupying Power or to that of any other country, occupied or not, are prohibited, regardless of their motive. The Occupying Power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies.

Israel has breached or been the recipient of over 200 UN resolutions, including:

  • 252 relating to annexation of parts of Jerusalem;
  • 446 relating to the establishment of Jewish settlements on Palestinian land, in violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention;
  • 497 relating to the annexation of the Golan Heights;
  • 694 which deplores Israel's deportation of Palestinians and calls on it to ensure their safe and immediate return;
  • destruction of houses and when the houses are rebuilt, destroying them again; and
  • denying building materials, food and water to Palestinians.

The UN resolutions are available online.  For resolutions accepted by the UN Human Rights Council refer to:

For resolutions accepted by the UN Economic and Social Committee:  (Note that the most recent refers to the economic and social repercussions of the Israeli occupation).

For resolutions accepted by the UN Security Council:

For resolutions accepted by the UN General Assembly:

As much as Israel wishes to claim that there is no such thing as "occupied" Palestine, even the UN and the International Court of Justice (ICJ) refer to it as "occupied Palestininian Territories" or OPT as evidenced in many of the resolutions above and the following report to the UN:

In some instances, Palestinians have responded violently and Israel uses this to justify the above human rights abuses. Considering that their land was forcibly and violently taken from them some Palestinians would argue that these are acts of self-defence. It is a fine line when western nations justify pre-emptive strikes against sovereign nations which at times has resulted in the bombing of civilian areas but then condemn Palestinians for fighting for their land and livelihood regardless of whether they attacked civilians or military personnel. I do not condone suicide bombing or any other violent attack against Israel by Palestinians or any other nation, people group or individual. Similarly, I do not condone pre-emptive strikes against any nation as this leads the world down a very slippery slope. The west might support pre-emptive strikes by the USA but would be horrified if North Korea or Iran decided to launch pre-emptive strikes because they feel threatened by nations such as the USA, Japan, Israel and so on.

Putting the above scriptures into the context of the remainder of the Bible, the Koran and the Jewish texts, peace, neighbourly love, compassion, are all elements of the life that God wants lived and demands to be lived by His followers.


Numerous other people groups throughout the world have been displaced over the years, does this mean that they should also be given land and allowed to forcibly displace the inhabitants? For instance, various indigenous groups have now been given land rights in their countries. What sort of reaction would there be if these indigenous groups were allowed to remove the citizens of their countries and confine them to small areas, restricting their movements? Yet the world is accepting this practice in Israel.

Israel must end the oppression of Palestinians, there must be a peaceful co-existence between Palestine and Israel, whether this be through a two-state solution or an integrated, democratic model that gives equal rights for all citizens of Israel and Palestine with one government that has representation from all groups regardless of religion, or any other solution which sees Jews and Palestinians living in harmony.

All people have a right to exist without fear of persecution or displacement.

The issues in Israel and Palestine have little to do with religion and everything to do with basic human rights.

Governments, in particular those in the west who have traditionally supported Israel, need to speak up for the values that they claim to cherish in their own countries. Criticism of Israel is NOT anti-Semitism and the world should not be cowered into silence through fear of that accusation. People are dying and being treated terribly in Palestine as a direct result of Israeli persecution.


Take action by:

  • writing to your own politicians and to Israeli politicians;
  • educate yourself! If you don't believe what I've written, then please do your own research; and
  • spread the word - to family, friends, fellow church/mosque/temple members.

Peace and good-will to ALL people!