By Dr. Vacy Vlazna
On President Ramos-Horta’s online magazine (1) is posted a piece by Amira Arnon, ambassador of Israel to Timor-Leste, in which she makes the outrageous statement that Timor-Leste and Israel have ‘a lot in common’.
There is a Hebrew expression ‘hasbara’ meaning ‘propaganda’ i.e. lies. Apart from Arnon’s extolling of Timor-Leste’s beauty, her insulting comparison of Timor-Leste’s and Israel’s struggles for independence is pure hasbara –
"The first thing that comes to my mind is that both countries, Israel and Timor-Leste, have a lot in common. Both are small countries which fought for their independence and sacrificed best of their people for a national redemption."
As a career diplomat, Arnon, has probably been put on notice to salvage Israel’s decaying reputation as a humane democracy. Quite the challenge for Israel’s diplomatic Hasbarats given Israel’s indisputable documented apartheid policies, war crimes and crimes against humanity. Hence her silver tongue flicks away like flies unpalatable facts to stop the rot and to snare another vote for Israel against the Palestinian proposal for statehood in September.
The fact is, Timor-Leste’s long struggle for independence from the brutal Indonesian occupation is not Israel’s but Palestine’s story.
Like Timor, the land of Palestine was violently occupied with the go-ahead by the international community. More than 500 Palestinian villages were destroyed by Israeli militias with 750,000 Palestinian refugees dispossessed of their homes and with no right of return to this day.
Daily, Palestinian children, youth, mothers, fathers are subjected to violence, killings, humiliation, checkpoints, incarceration, the theft of their land and livelihoods at the hands of the Israeli Occupation Forces. Timorese blood and dignity was likewise shed.
Israeli colonial settlers, akin to the masses of Indonesian transmigrants that flooded East Timor, reinforce the injustice and illegality of Israel’s occupation and apartheid system.
Just as Timor was systematically shut off from the world, the West Bank and to a worse degree, Gaza are vast prisons where Israelis control Palestinian land and sea borders and airspace and within Palestinians survive in desperation, trauma and poverty.
To remind the world of Timor-Leste’s resistance to the illegal Indonesian occupation, its intrepid Falantil guerrillas maintained a 24 year armed struggle for independence. Similarly poorly armed Hamas and Fatah resistance fighters face off one of the largest best-equipped armies in the world.
Perhaps in the vein of remembered resistance, Ramos-Horta commented,
“I also believe that demonizing the Hamas or Hezbollah and declaring them "terrorists" is far too simplistic and unwise. The reality is that Hamas and Hezbollah have not been involved in terrorist activities outside the region. One well-known "terrorist", Yasser Arafat, signed the now forgotten Oslo Peace Accord and was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1994 along with Shimon Peres and the late Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin.” (2)
Furthermore it is impossible to see the lot that Israel has in common with Timor-Leste. Timor is not a nuclear military power, it is not a rogue nation that is in contempt of UN resolutions calling for peace, it is not an apartheid state; it is not an illegal occupier; it is not a viscous god playing with the lives and deaths of nearly six million souls.
As with Indonesia’s 27th province , the USA, Australia, UK and EU turn their backs from the human tragedy that is occupied Palestine and permit Israel’s impunity to commit war crimes and crimes against humanity.
The international betrayals of the Timorese and Palestinians are all the more obscene in the brave light of Timorese and Palestinian support of the Allies in WWII. Australian 2/2 and 2/4 Commandoes have testified that they owe their lives to the help of Timorese who were killed in their thousands as retribution by the occupying Japanese power. And it is on the record that "The British had enlisted 6,000 Palestinian Arabs during the Second World War and 1,700 Palestinian Arabs were recruited into the Trans-Jordanian Frontier Force or T.J.F.F." (3)
Arnon’s hasbara disrespects the Truth of Palestinian suffering, dishonours the Truth of Palestinian courage and rights and exploits Timor-Leste’s history.
– Dr. Vacy Vlazna is Coordinator of Justice for Palestine Matters. She was Human Rights Advisor to the GAM team in the second round of the Acheh peace talks, Helsinki, February 2005 and was coordinator of the East Timor Justice Lobby as well as serving in East Timor with UNAMET and UNTAET from 1999-2001.
(1) Amira Arnon, "A Lot in Common", Magazine, Presidência da Rep