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The Conversation is a website funded by Australian universities and the Federal government for academics and post-grad students to share the fruits of their enquiring minds.

Unfortunately, where the topic of Israel is concerned the Conversation is fast devolving into an outlet for a great deal of slothful, partisan and just plain stupid analysis.

Surely a nadir has been reached with a piece from Lori Allen - a lecturer at the prestigious Cambridge University, no less - who argued on May 24 that Israeli "settlements are at the heart of the conflict" and "the main obstacle to peace".

How can an honest academic committed to the truth make reference to "US senator George Mitchell in 2001 called on the government of Israel to ‘freeze all settlement activity, including the ‘natural growth' of existing settlements' as a means to rebuild confidence and restart peace negotiations", but neglect to acknowledge Netanyahu's good will gesture in 2010 of a 10-months settlements building freeze that was rebuffed by the Palestinian Authority?

Nor did she point out the offers of statehood that Israel made in 2000, 2001 or 2008 that were rejected or the withdrawal from Gaza in 2005?

Maybe the proposals weren't acceptable to the Palestinians but it behoves Allen not to pretend that Israel has not repeatedly committed itself to a Palestinian state, land swaps, and removing settlements for peace

Later, it became abundantly clear why none of this was relevant, Allen's ostensible over the top claims about settlements are simply a fig leaf exposing something else:

The ever-expanding colonial enterprise has been at the core of Israel's existence as a state and at the heart of Zionist nationalist identity since it developed more than a century ago.

The corollary of Allen's statement is that the Zionists didn't merely steal the land from the Palestinians in 1967 but all the way back. In other words, Tel Aviv, which was established in 1909, is an illegal settlement.

Therefore, Zionism is not about the legal right of Jews to self-determination in the place where they became a people.

Never mind that Zionism existed well before the British and French subdivided the modern Middle East after 1917, thereby creating national identities and countries that had never existed before.

And who has allegedly been by Israel's side all the way through? The United States, which Allen claims has been "an enabler of the Israeli colonial project."

The upshot is "this is destroying Palestinians' faith in the international community, the human rights system, and the US".

Yes, the poor Palestinians - where PA President Mahmoud Abbas' term of office expired in January 2009, and Hamas rules in Gaza through a coup since 2007, and where Palestinian bodies report more than 50 cases per month of alleged torture by Palestinian security forces - are in danger of losing "faith" in the human rights system.

This sort of juvenilia should embarrass any self-respecting undergraduate student, and the Conversation has diminished its reputation in running it.

Allon Lee

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