Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council

Media Week - It's not all right; Church and Hate

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It's not all right

On August 29, the Age, Canberra Times and Sydney Morning Herald websites ran a Washington Post report about the controversial Palestinian village of Susiya in Area C of the West Bank - that is the area under full Israeli control, with relatively few Palestinian residents.

The Israeli courts have ordered the village demolished, accepting arguments that it its residents are squatters and have illegally built there.

The report further stated that, "the Israeli government right now wants to formally annex Area C in the West Bank."

There is no Israeli government move or discussion to annex Area C.

A complaint by pro-Israel media organisation Honest Reporting prompted the Post to amend the story to now say the "Israeli right", not the government, wants to annex Area C.

This is an improvement but still an oversimplification.

Only Naftali Bennett's right wing "Jewish Home", which has 8 out of the 61 seats in the Israeli governing coalition, officially calls for annexing Area C.

So, even the changed version unfairly characterises all of the right.

After the error was brought to the attention of Fairfax, the organisation to its credit excised the complete sentence from its various websites, so there is no reference to the Israeli Government or the Israeli right wanting to annex Area C.

Instead, Fairfax substituted a new sentence to the online report so it now more accurately reflects the reality of the support for annexation of Area C:

Israeli Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel, whose far-right Jewish Home party has strong support from settlers, has recently called on the government to formally annex Area C, where 200 Jewish settlements are located, saying that a two-state solution is unworkable.

Additionally, a shorter version that was published in the hardcopy of the Age, Canberra Times and Sydney Morning Herald on Aug. 30 had omitted the original paragraph claiming that the Israeli Government wanted to annex Area C.

However, unique to the local online report was the insertion of a reference to Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop's upcoming visit to Israel and a phrase noting she has questioned whether settlements are illegal.

On this flimsy basis the online story was given the loaded headline, "As Julie Bishop prepares to visit the Holy Land, one village tells whole story."

Church and hate

Spectator Australia columnist Hal Colebatch (Aug. 27) condemned the "demonisation and isolation of Israel" by churches, particularly those considered progressive, including here in Australia, as "one of the nastiest perversions of Christianity...today."

He condemned Australian churches, including sections of the Uniting Church, "which attack Israel ceaselessly, but say virtually nothing about the murderous intolerance of the Islamic countries and societies or Islamic terrorism in the West."

He said an online Uniting Church "prayer for peace" calls for the boycott of products from "illegal Israeli Settlements".

Meanwhile, a World Council of Churches book on Christian and Muslim dialogue "demands the West ‘abandon its pro-Israel attitude'". The Council's latest campaign promotes allegations Israel is stealing the "'Palestinians water'", which Colebatch dismissed as "bear[ing]... resemblance to the medieval anti-Semitic libel of Jews poisoning water".

Having visited Israel and the West Bank, Colebatch endorsed the assessment that "backward agricultural methods, wastage, and failure to provide adequate infrastructure" and the "question of how far the Palestinian Arabs' own leaders are responsible for keeping their own people as ‘victims' for international propaganda", are the more likely reasons for water shortages.

According to Colebatch, "progressive churches are losing membership hand-over-fist, in Australia, America and Europe, [whilst] the demographically young, and very often pro-Israel, evangelical churches, are flourishing."

The formation of the Australia-Israel Association in WA in 2014, held at an evangelical church, drew an overflow crowd, he wrote.

- Allon Lee

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