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Issue No. 136 17 May 2002  
E D I T O R I A L

Modern Labour
Unveiling his 'modern Labor' pitch in the Budget in Reply, Opposition leader Simon Crean seemed very 1950s – when 'modern' was good in itself, like spray-cans, zippers and uncomfortable furniture.

F E A T U R E S

Interview: Licking the Wounds
Elder statesman Neville Wran expands on his review into Labor's performance at the last federal election.

Industrial: The Accidental Tourist
Standing on a picket line, just metres from the sleaziest part of Kings Cross, was not what Cheshire chemist David Lui had in mind when he was saving for his trip of a lifetime.

Unions: Stars And Stripes
Fly the flag, beat the war drum and screw the old, the sick and the poor – Peter Costello’s budget aims to emulate the worst aspects of American politics argues Noel Hester.

International: The Un-Promised Land
Andrew Casey lifts the lid on a little-known campaign to establish a Jewish homeland in the Kimberleys.

History: Mate Against Mate
Neale Towart trawls the records to recount some of the more acrimonious ALP State Conference debates.

Politics: Reith's Gong
Peter Reith's medal from the HR Nicholls Society overlooks a number of lamentable aspects about his character as Stuart Mackenzie reports.

Poetry: You've Got a Friend
A friend is someone who protects you, but in an interesting twist the Federal budget has redefined the notion of 'protection' by adding the word 'from'.

Review: War on Terror: Now Showing
Arnold Schwarznegger's latest flick Collateral Damage is spooky for many reasons, writes Tara de Boehmler.

Satire: Burmese Regime Makes Genuine Commitment To Pretence Of Change
The government of Myanmar (Burma) released democratic opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi today after a year and a half of house arrest.

N E W S

 Solidarity In The Post To East Timor

 Joy Wins For All Workers

 Workers Call Abbott On Democracy Bluff

 Wran Tells MPs: Talk to Unions

 Family First on Conference Agenda

 Cole Commission Declares Paper War

 Yarra Workers Thank Australia

 Budget Attacks Retirement Incomes

 PSA Challenges Carr’s Secrecy Shield

 Election Talk Aint Cheap

 Hotel Bosses Back Down On Pay

 Welfare Staff Strike Out At Harrassment

 Della Ups DIR Inspectorate

 Fake Notes Expose Government as Tax Cheat

 Labor Faces Acid Test on Asylum Seekers

 New Project Encourages Cultural Exchanges

 Bush’s Western Saharan War And Oil Deal

 Activists Notebook

C O L U M N S

The Soapbox
Border Solidarity
The Australian Workers Union's Bill Shorten explains why he drew a line in the cement in support of the CSL Yarra crew

The Locker Room
The Dangerous Life Of A Hot Dog Seller
Phil Doyle ruminates on the virtues of processed meats in the world of elite sports.

Bosswatch
The Bottom Line
Peter Costello wasn't the only one flaunting a budget deficit this week, as Rupert Murdoch announced the largest corporate write-down on record.

Postcard
East Timor Appeals For Help
At midnight on Sunday 19 May, the UN mandate in East Timor comes to an end and East Timor becomes a new independent nation.

Week in Review
The Spin Cycle
Budget week brings that much spin you half expect to see Shane Warne wheeled out as a spokesman on health, economics, or whatever else the combatants are blabbing about. Jim Marr lifts the covers.

L E T T E R S
 Gangsta Rap
 More May Day Hate Mail
 What Women Want
 Chucking a Wobbly
 Is Caustic Costello the Despot of Despair?
 East Timor: Independent Or Mendicant?
WHAT YOU CAN DO
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International

The Un-Promised Land


Andrew Casey lifts the lid on a little-known campaign to establish a Jewish homeland in the Kimberleys.
 

*******************

He was the first People's Commissar for Justice after the Russian Revolution - a close comrade of V.I.Lenin - but they fell out and he escaped the Soviet Union just as the secret police were about to arrest him.

Two decades later he was gazing over the landscape of the Kimberley region of Western Australia - and promoting a new ideal, a new utopia - a homeland for the Jews in these far distant and isolated lands.

I.N. Steinberg had split from the Zionists and was promoting Territorialism - and for this vision he had the enthusiastic support of the ACTU, the NSW Labor Council and rank-and-file members of Perth unions and the Labor Party.

For many years in the late 30s and early 40s the London-based Isaac Steinberg was a regular visitor to Australia, trying to get the gates open to allow refugees to escape from the growing menace of Hitler's Nazis.

He put a lot of effort into lobbying unions, church groups and other community groups to back his vision of tens of thousands of Jews settling in an area just west of Wyndham in the Kimberley region - straddling the WA and NT border .

Before Steinberg a Yiddish poet and essayist Melech Ravitch visited the Northern Territory in the 1930s to investigate the region as a Jewish haven - collecting data on topography and climate he promoted a bigger number than Steinberg, suggesting the area could accommodate a million Jewish refugees.

Jewish Territorialism V Zionism

Jewish Territorialism had been a small, but competing, political ideology to Zionism since the end of the 19th century, led by Israel Zangwill - whose novels about the desperate lives of East-End London Jews was on a par with Charles Dickens's memorable novels.

Zangwill and the Territorialists had reservations about settling Jews in Palestine pointing out the disagreeable " facts of geography and history which Zionists have always refused to look in the face."

It is one of the great ' what ifs' of history - what would have happened if, instead of settling in Palestine, Australia had given the green light to this project and put aside a huge swathe of territory and created a Jewish state on our continent - much like the Mormon ' state' of Utah.

Today the campaign to create a Jewish territory in the north of WA is a forgotten footnote in history but in the late 30s and early 40s it was a much debated issue with editorials in newspapers, debates in union halls and state and federal parliament.

While The Canberra Time, The Age, Truth and the Sydney Morning Herald editorialised against Jewish migration and the settling of large populations of Jews in the Kimberley the Labor paper, the Australian Worker came out strongly behind the project.

Generous working class contribution to fighting Nazis

In an editorial the Australian Worker the project as " a generous working-class contribution toward the solution of the terrible refugee problem which Nazi persecution has created in Europe."

When Steinberg first arrived in Fremantle in 1939 his political pedigree was a source of fascination.

Letters of introduction from British Labour MPs Ernest Bevin and Clement Atlee meant he was quickly accepted, and invited to address Labor Party branch meetings and trade union members across Perth about his project for the Kimberleys.

The Labor newspaper the Westralian Worker hailed him as a man of strong Labor convictions.

" The presence of Dr Steinberg in Australia brings closer to us the persecutions now being suffered by the Jews in totalitarian countries and his mission is one to which it is impossible to remain indifferent," the Westralian Worker said.

Revolutionary Pedigree

The left-wing trade unions were quite enamoured of Isaac Steinberg's revolutionary pedigree. Union leaders attacked anti-Semitism as a tool of class oppression and urged the Government to bring in more refugees.

Steinberg was delighted with this response and returned the compliments announcing that he saw the workers and working class institutions as Australia's backbone and regarded their support as crucial to his success.

He met with union and Labor Party members wherever he could - including the then leader of the Federal opposition, John Curtin - and he wrote back to his supporters in Europe: 'I think we can now say with certainty that the workers of Perth are with us."

Visiting the east Steinberg was invited to address various ACTU and State TLC meetings in both Melbourne and Sydney. He got enthusiastic support from union leasers as he explained that the settlements would be run as a co-operative communal economy and serve as a refuge to those fleeing fascism.

The ACTU officially endorsed the scheme in 1940 and the TLCs around Australia passed resolutions approving it.

The then NSW Labor Council secretary, R.A. King, described the project as ' a haven for the victims of Fascist ferocity'

ACTU President Percy Clarey - in an early example of support for multiculturalism - wrote to Steinberg in London reassuring him that there would be no restrictions on the settlement's cultural autonomy, religious affairs or language - be it Yiddish or Hebrew.

But by 1944 the conservative government in Canberra had rejected the project and the idea died with the outbreak of war - and the creation of Israel in 1949.

However even after Israel was created Steinberg tried once more - unsuccessfully - approaching the newly re-elected Robert Menzies in 1950.

But Menzies replied that the idea ran contrary to his government's policy of assimilation aimed at achieving " the ideal of one Australian family of peoples, devoid of foreign communities."

A former industrial reporter for The Melbourne Age, Leon Gettler, wrote in 1993 a short history of this attempt to create a Jewish homeland in the Kimberleys.

The Fremantle Arts Centre Press published An Unpromised Land.

When Gettler presented copies of his history to the then ACTU President, Martin Ferguson, and the then ACTU Secretary, Bill Kelty, they were taken by surprise at the role the ACTU and trade unions had played in this byway of Jewish history.

The source for most of this article came from Leon Gettler's book.


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