turning corners?

Whilst having been too caught up in other things to express my thoughts here, there have been many issues that have occupied my grey matter. In recent times (days, weeks), there have been a number of reports in the press on two that give me some hope: the Israel-Palestine issue and that of the situation in Australia regarding the lack of respect and recognition afforded First Peoples, particularly in regard to the ‘National Holiday’ on January 26 known as Australia Day. Coverage of the former will most certainly continue, more-so given the change in the US stance on the issue post-Obama’s inauguration. I really hope coverage will continue and increase on the latter until respect and recognition fosters enough political will to change the date.

For me, mainstream press coverage of the Israel-Palestine issue has turned a corner, embodying more critical reflection on the actions of the Israeli military and more consideration to the suffering of the Palestinian populace. Whilst not explicitly addressing that, under International law, Palestine has the right to defend itself from an invader (i.e. Israel), there is recognition that Israel is an aggressor to a significant degree. There has also been some attention to illegal Israeli settlements and reference to Israel’s non-compliance with the 1947 UN Plan (something most people are not aware of). Whilst the coverage could be much better, that such issues are being discussed assists in increasing awareness of the issue. It already appears that there is a shift in public sentiment, with more compassion being shown to Palestinian casualties of Israeli aggression. A question that is always asked is whether the media precedes (i.e. shapes) or follows such sentiments, generally. It will be interesting to see, given Obama‘s recent comments about the dispute—specifically in regard to the humanitarian crisis in Palestine—how the US media responds. The reactions of Fox and other conservative outlets will be noteworthy.

In Australia, January 26 has passed again, with a large number of people enjoying a day off work under the banner of Australia Day. Since the bicentenary of the arrival of the First Fleet in 1988, First Peoples’ voices about the inappropriateness of a national holiday that commemorates the invasion of Australia have increased in frequency and recognition. The decision in the Mabo case, whilst still problematic, further fostered such dissent and added more ‘legitimacy’. It was, however, the awarding of Australian of the Year for 2009 to Mick Dodson. In making his acceptance speech, he specifically called for the date of the National holiday to be changed. Whilst the initial mainstream backlash was predictable, and I am certain right-wing shock jocks will continue to play the nationalist-racist card, for many in Australia this would have been the first time they were exposed to the reasons why First Peoples have protested. What Mick Dodson has done has started the essential conversation—something whites should have already done on their own…

How long it will take for public opinion to shape political change—on both fronts—I am unsure of. That the conversation has begun in the wider public arena is where I find hope. I hope my optimism if somewhat founded?

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