Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council

Media Week - Lyons on a map; Low on logic

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Reporting on Ehud Olmert's conviction on bribery charges, John Lyons noted the former Israeli PM's efforts to reach peace with the Palestinians (Australian, April 1).

Yet Lyons' recent "Stone Cold Justice" documentary on ABC TV's "Four Corners" ignored Israeli offers of Palestinian statehood. Lyons wrote:

Olmert has been a favourite political figure for many in the Israeli political centre. Over the past year he has been a frequent critic of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who he argues has not done enough to reach a peace deal. Olmert famously presented Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas with a map of a potential Palestinian state. While many on the Right claim Mr Abbas rejected the offer, Olmert told The Australian: ‘He (Abbas) didn't say yes and he didn't say no.' Soon after presenting the map he became entangled in legal problems, resigning as prime minister in 2008 to fight the corruption.

So there you have it. Netanyahu gets the obligatory swipe - even though he implemented a 10 month settlement building freeze in 2009/10, something Olmert never did; released over 1,000 Palestinian prisoners to free kidnapped Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit - which Olmert refused to authorise; - and, to sustain peace talks for the past nine months, agreed to release a further 100+ Palestinian prisoners.

In contrast, Lyons basically implicitly absolved Abbas of any responsibility for missing an opportunity for a state in 2008.

As for that "map", significant though it was, during Ehud Barak's peace efforts in 2000 at Camp David and the follow up talks in early 2001, there were maps to explain his outline for a Palestinian state that were only marginally different to Olmert's offer.

And as Israeli journalist Avi Isacharoff revealed last May, when Olmert presented his detailed map to Abbas on September 16, 2008, the next day's meeting was cancelled because Abbas suddenly remembered a meeting he needed to attend in Jordan. And the two never met to talk peace again, even though Olmert remained in office for another six months. But for Lyons, Abbas' extended silence does not mean Olmert's offer was rejected!

Low on logic

ABC TV's panel discussion show "The Drum" (March 27) saw Antony Loewenstein oppose the Jewish communal leadership's support for existing federal racial discrimination legislation.

Whilst correctly noting that "the majority of Jewish voices essentially say that these laws have stopped racial hatred...and therefore the law should stay in place," without a skerrick of evidence, he maintained that "these are people who often politically are on the side of the Liberal party but don't like the laws being changed."

Predictably he accused the Jewish community of hypocrisy, claiming "they believe in free speech when it suits their agenda. On a lot of issues like Israel, Palestine, and BDS, boycotts, they actually want those views to be suppressed."

Amazingly, Loewenstein cannot fathom his own hypocrisy in demanding an absolute right to free speech whilst campaigning for a boycott of Israelis and Israeli scholars!

What Loewenstein misinterprets as censorship is merely the mainstream Jewish community opposing his extremist views or rejecting his attempts to exaggerate the support they receive.

- Allon Lee

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