Et tu, Bruce?…asks Jack Chrapot

December 6, 2015 by Jack Chrapot
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I first met Bruce Hearn McKinnon at a Melbourne Football Club supporters function where he was introduced as a mentor of its then exciting indigenous recruit Liam Jurrah.

Jack Chrapot

Jack Chrapot

A senior lecturer at the School of Management and Marketing at Deakin University, McKinnon was involved in the Collingwood Industrial Magpies, a group committed to reconciliation between black and white Australia which had a special relationship with remote Central Australian Aboriginal communities including Yuendumu which was Jurrah’s home.

The Collingwood Industrial Magpies were instrumental in steering Jurrah on his way to an extraordinary cultural journey where he was ultimately drafted by the Melbourne Demons to become an elite footballer in a short space of time despite the many hurdles faced by this extraordinarily talented young sportsman then in his early twenties.

Such was the dramatic rise of the young Walpiri warrior that by the end of his second season in the AFL, McKinnon wrote and published a book – The Liam Jurrah Story – which chronicled his odyssey from a remote settlement in the red centre of the country to AFL stardom.

Soon after the publication of the book, the AFL held the second of its International Cup series involving teams from all over the world including the Peace Team, a half-Israeli, half-Palestinian Australian football team formed to enable dialogue and friendship at grass-roots level between the people of two warring sides.

The Liam Jurrah book told of a parallel struggle between peoples and the way in which sport could act to effectively bring about reconciliation and mutual respect. I came up with the idea that if it worked for the folk from the remote, downtrodden indigenous parts of Central Australia then perhaps the story of Jurrah’s personal triumph could also inspire young Israelis and young Palestinians to continue to set the same example of tolerance to their peers?

I had been to Israel, had seen the work carried out at Israel’s Peres Center for Peace and its Palestinian counterpart, the Al Quds Association for Democracy and Dialogue, and watched the team train in Jaffa. Later, after they played for the second time as the Peace Team and after discussing my idea with one of its conveners, the late Henry Jolson, I set off to buy 26 copies of Bruce’s book – one for each of the players in the Peace Team – which was on sale at a Melbourne city book shop.

But I never made it to the bookstore. On my way down Bourke Street, I bumped into a fellow Demon fan and heard the bad news about Liam Jurrah; that he’d been involved in a machete attack on a relative in Alice Springs. Alcohol was involved. Things got worse with stories of drunkenness, violence against a partner and other women, more criminal charges and court appearances, disgrace and eventual banishment from the game at which he was so good. Melbourne stood with him to the bitter end which in his case was a prison cell.

The mentor vanished and, though I have no doubt he still stood by Liam through his dark times, I didn’t hear from or about him again until I read a very ill-advised and disjointed opinion piece which appeared on the Fairfax website in the wake of the recent Paris atrocities.

In “After the Paris attacks: How to confront this Islamo Fascist plague”,
McKinnon attacked what he described as “Islamo-Fascism”, claiming it was “the enemy of most Muslims around the world, who, after all, are its main victims, and we should stand with them in solidarity against these violent fanatics.” He argued that if you want to resolve this plague, a “bit of honesty and straight talking would be a good start”.

Fair enough, but McKinnon’s idea of honesty and straight talk is to blame it all on the West and to claim that the US and its allies “armed, trained and supported Osama bin Laden” during the Afghan wars, created ISIS when it overthrew Saddam Hussein and of course, that old furphy about not solving the Palestinian issue.

He is demonstrably wrong in his facts especially in the case of the conflict between Israel and the Arabs, where he managed to turn things completely on their head by forgetting that the original granddaddy of “Islamo-Fascism” was a Palestinian whose Moslem Brotherhood was the progenitor of Hamas which rejects the very existence of Israel and the right of the Jews to live in the land where their indigenous ties are unquestionable.


And if he understood the history of that conflict, he might want to question whether the failure to end it might have something to do with rejection of Israel by many Arab regimes in the past, including the Palestinian leadership. It was only a week ago that PA President Mahmoud Abbas confirmed he had refused outright a peace offer made by then Israeli PM Olmert in 2008. That’s not to mention earlier Israeli offers that would have ended the conflict and resulted in a Palestinian State long ago but they were also rejected without any counter offer.
Coming at a time when Israeli civilians are being attacked and killed by shooters, car rammers and knife wielding Islamists thanks to the incitement of the Palestinian political and religious leadership with their fantastic claims about the Jews and their “filthy feet” and welcoming every drop of blood spilled”, placing all of the blame on Israel or the West, is not only deceitful but to the extent that it also denies agency and free will on the part of the attackers, it demeans and insults the Palestinian people themselves.

Are they really automatons who can’t help themselves when they carry out these monstrous terrorist acts? By this measure, a terrorist atrocity whether on the 9/11 or Paris scale or on a constant daily basis as is happening today in Israel is either dismissed as excusable or accepted because the victims deserve all they get? “You reap what you sow”.

That’s not helpful and it’s not straight talking. The McKinnon piece provides us with no solutions because he ignores the things that the “Islamo Fascists” really want and the last thing they want is peaceful resolution to conflict.

Of all people, McKinnon should know that conflicts are best resolved through diplomacy, compromise, negotiation and mutual respect for one another and not by sticking a machete in someone’s head and then thinking about the consequences later while looking about for others to blame.

Jack Chrapot is a Melbourne lawyer and a member of the Executive of the Zionist Council of Victoria 

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