Librarian Threatened to Stop Palestinian Exhibit

 

    NEWS FROM A CHILLED LIBRARY: In Australia, in Leichhardt

 

1848Terra Nullius:  Leichhardt, Ludwig, was a white (East) German explorer.  Born, in what was then Prussia, in 1813.  He came to Australia in 1842 and “explored” parts of what is now Queensland and the Northern Territory.  At the time, and until recently, the entire Australian continent was considered “Terra Nullius” – a place without people.  Those, who have been living here since “the beginning” – also called Ab Origines – were disconsidered.  Dissed.  For sure Australia didn’t belong to them.

Leichhardt apparently shot “blacks”, when necessary.  This then, and for some time thereafter, was common practice.  Ludwig disappeared on his third exploration, in 1848.   Perhaps killed by the then terrorists – i.e. Aborigines.

Much (rivers, plants, mountains..)  and many (places) in Australia are named, then, and now, Leichhardt.   If he did shoot some people, this is rarely mentioned.

2007:  Palestine, Israel:  Hebron:  One such place called after Ludwig Leichhardt is an Inner Sydney Suburb.  This Leichhardt has a quite proud lefty tradition, and – lefties read –  a big library.  Leichhardt Council has – since 2007 –  been agonising about a possible “twinning” with the Palestinian/Israeli town of Hebron.  Agonising, for opinions about this action are divided.   Some are against such twinning.  Palestinians, some say, can be considered dangerous.  Terrorists.   Others, such as the Friends of Hebron, are for.

2008: Chilling the Leichhardt Library:  The Friends of Hebron wanted to organise an exhibition in the Library.  About Hebron and the Nakba to time with the 60th Anniversary in May 2008.  After many months of negotiations, -  At the last minute another group, a Jewish community group:  the Inner West Chavera – also asked to also have an exhibition about ? Hebron, or the anniversary of Israel ?- this was OK’d 

 

On Thursday afternoon, 8 May 2008, the Friends of Hebron put up their exhibition.  Panels, many photos – some by Leichhardt residents visiting Hebron, some Palestinian folk-lore artefacts ceramics and costumes.  They were told they could only have half the expected space, to leave space for the Havera’s exhibition (which has not yet been sighted).   Chief Librarian Marylin Taylor inspected, asked that one Hebron caption – that Palestinians had been “driven from their homes”  be removed, as too divisive, troubling.    Replaced by “displaced”.   It was.  At 8 pm Librarian Taylor inspected the exhibition, found it fine. 

 

The Big Chill:   Even before the exhibits had been mounted two officers of the New South Wales “anti-Terrorist Squad” – one being from a newly created “Citizens Contact Unit” (apparently part of the anti-Terrorist Squad) – visited Library Manager  Taylor.   According to a first statement by the Librarian, these “men in black” told her to “vet” the exhibition and ensure that there was “nothing inflammatory”.   Subsequently Marylin Taylor has refused all comments. Witnesses have described her as "scared out of her wits".

Assistant NSW Chief Police Commissioner Peter Dean, later, to the media:  “We (Police) only visited the Exhibition, the Library, to contact the Friends of Hebron”.  We did not want to censor the contents.”

Murky and Curious.  Several Friends of Hebron spent Thursday afternoon and evening at the Library.  They knew and know nothing of any attempt by the anti-Terrorist Squad to “contact” them. 

Clear however:  Friday morning – early – the Mayor and “top level” Leichhardt administrators met at the library.   Without any discussion with Friends of Hebron the exhibition was dismantled and locked away before members of the public could see them.  It could, so various spokespersons for Leichhardt council, have “endangered staff and/or public.”  In any case, it has now been judged unfit for viewing by the public.   Whatever reasons the Anti-Terrorist Squad, its bosses, now give for their visit, its CHILLING EFFECT has been very clear:

For now, there is,: NO EXHIBITION CONCERNING HEBRON AND THE NAKBA IN THE LEICHHARDT LIBRARY.  The Friends of Hebron are making plans to bring the Palestinian story to the citizens of Leichhardt and free speech to the Leichhardt Municipal Council (maybe somewhere else ?)

 

Some relevant ps’s:

1/   1945-1950: “Zionists” then were considered – by the Australian governments – undesirable, dangerous, immigrants.  Just as Communists.  Terrorists.  After all “Zionists”, such as future Israeli prime ministers as Menachem Begin, had been blowing up and hanging British soldiers, in Palestine.   However, at that time the Australian government did accept and encourage the immigration of many anti-semitic, fascist, murderers, supporters of the Nazis, from the Baltic countries and the Balkans.  Jews then were not “in”.

2/   2007:   Then Prime Minister J. Howard (now to be forgotten as quickly as possible):  sends condolences to the family of an Australian killed fighting in the Israeli army in Lebanon.  Says this was not only OK, but praiseworthy.   I ask Howard if – neutral – he would OK fighting on the other side ?  Spokesman Ben:  “No, that would be illegal, for the other side, Hezbollah, is a criminal organisation.”  I ask: “What about an Australian fighting in the Lebanese army ?”  Ben:  “We’ll get back to you”.   I’m still waiting.  Howard is gone, Ben probably too..

3/  October/December 2007:  Jessica Moore, editor of the Wollongong University Student Association (WUSA) Monthly – is accused of supporting terrorist organisation Hamas.  According to the anti-terrorist squad, or Wollongong Police, she had organised a meeting for Hamas in October.  Puzzled, she checks her notes.  She had not organised nothing.  Anything.  She had covered a University meeting – not about Hamas.  Not even Humus.  But “Homos”.   Meeting protesting against (abovementioned) J Howards’ stopping Canberra ACT government allowing gay (i.e. “Homo” – sexual) marriages.  It needed much effort to get her off the “terrorist” list.

 

And, just to close (for the moment): back to

November 1934:   A – then small – anti-war, anti-fascist, movement invites famous Czech author Egon Erwin Kisch to come, speak, at its Melbourne Congress.  About Hitler, fascism.   The German government disapproves, tells Canberra.  Menzies et al are given job of stopping this rat-bag (terrorist supporter, he denies the Communists burned the Reichstag) from insulting a friendly government.  (He says Hitler, Goering, did it).  Kisch is triply barred from Australia.  The second bar was a dictation test in Scottish Gaelic.  He failed and was declared a prohibited immigrant.  Given a six-month jail sentence.  Freed on appeal.  Later wrote book “Australian Landfall”.  Says (truly):  “Had they not made this fuss, I’d have spoken to 248 already convinced (plus 2 police from the Red-Squad, perhaps the parent of today’s anti-terror unit ?) Australians.  Thanks to their efforts, half a million people heard me, about Hitler.   Useful.”

Leichhardt library has, we hope, some Kisch’s books. 

And, I wonder:  would an exhibition about Aborigines being forcefully dispossessed – a bit because of Ludwig’s efforts ? – be allowed ?  Or too divisive  ?

303030

1068 words