Concentrating on the contradiction

Written 14/3/2002 not published

At 8.25 am the Parliamentary and News Station of the ABC reported that the Israeli Army had ordered its troops to stop inscribing numbers on the arms of the 1000 plus Palestinian prisoners it had seized when it invaded refugee camps on the West Bank. The decision to stop the practice was inspired by an Israeli Member of Parliament who reminded the Army that the practice of inscribing numbers on the body of detainees was reminiscent of Nazi Germany.

At 8.30 am on the ABC Radio National Religion Report, Jeremy Jones – a leading member of the Australian Jewish community  -was arguing that Australians, when referring to the detention centres in which Australia holds asylum seekers, should not refer to them as concentration camps because such terminology evoked images of Nazi concentration camps. He was not at all phased when reminded by the ABC presenter that the term concentration camps was first used in the British Parliament to describe the detention of Boer women and children by Lord Kitchener during the Boer War in 1901.

Tyranny wherever it occurs must be resisted. Ideological commitment has the capacity often to blind us to the things our governments do in our name. Semantic quibbles are a distraction. The Australian Government’s holding of asylum seekers behind razor wire in concentration camps in remote parts of this country is a crime against humanity.