Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council

Media Week - Friendly advice; Immoral equivalence

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Friendly advice

When Australia's federal government decided to abstain and not oppose a UN vote to upgrade Palestinian representation, Foreign Minister Bob Carr justified the move explaining how "a good friend will share with his friend reservations about that friend's behaviour".

It would be interesting to know if Carr feels similarly after reading the Australian foreign editor Greg Sheridan's very public and eye watering critique of his and predecessor Kevin Rudd's attempts "to put more distance between Australia and Israel" (March 9). The take down was even more startling given Sheridan's acknowledgement that he is broadly admiring of both Carr and Rudd in most respects.

On Australia's UN abstention vote, Sheridan points out that the upgrade and tens of millions in increased Australian aid gave the Palestinians "something for nothing" and emboldens the Palestinian leadership "that the way to success doesn't involve compromise and negotiation. Instead the international community will do their job for them. It is a destructive syndrome."

Likewise, Carr's labelling in January of "all Israeli settlements as illegal" was "simplistic, reductionist, almost childish".

It jumbled together "Jewish suburbs of East Jerusalem...settlement blocks envisaged under every serious negotiation as staying with Israel", failed "to recognise...there has been no physical expansion of settlement[s] since 2004...settlements occupy less than 3 per cent of the West Bank...territory kept by Israel will be matched by land...from Israel proper and that settlements have never before been an obstacle to negotiations. Australia's position is also wrong in international law. Jordan, which formerly controlled the territory, is not the sovereign power and UN Security Council resolutions require a negotiated outcome."

In comparison, "China claims all of the South China Sea almost right up to the Philippines shore, yet Canberra maintains a strict neutrality. If Israel is a friend, why the gratuitous aggro?"

Sheridan identified the Carr/Rudd mindset as receptive to the "implausible notion Israel is at the heart of Middle East disputes and the West's troubles with Islam".

Yet, as Sheridan correctly observes, there is no connection between Israel and the Syrian "civil war...the bloodshed and polarisation in Egypt, the chaos in Libya, the murderous politics of Tunisia, the disintegration of Yemen, the overarching Sunni-Shia conflict, Pakistan's support for South Asian terror, Afghanistan's Taliban."

Immoral equivalence

In contrast, on March 7 the Australian's John Lyons offered a false analogy between Hamas' ban on female participation in Gaza's annual marathon and an incorrect claim that Israel had begun "operating segregated buses for Jews and Palestinians in the occupied West Bank."

But as AIJAC's Ahron Shapiro explained in a published letter two days later, "Every report on the subject -- including the Yedioth Ahronoth article quoted - has included reassurances from relevant Israeli ministries that Palestinians remain welcome to board any public bus they wish. This renders absurd his attempt to draw an equivalence between Hamas's discrimination against women in the Gaza marathon and Israel's supposedly ‘segregated buses' that aren't segregated at all, and have been welcomed by many of the Palestinians who travel to jobs in Israel that the new bus routes are intended to serve."

Allon Lee

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