Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council

Noted and Quoted - May 2017

YOU ARE IN: Home Page > Topics > Australasia

Low context Dyett

An SBS TV "World News" (March 30) report from Greg Dyett was marked by its lack of context.

Reporting on the March 29 Arab League summit in Jordan backing the 2002 Arab peace initiative, Dyett said it "calls for a complete Israeli withdrawal from Palestinian territories."

Viewers weren't told the plan demands that Israel accept it without negotiations, including effectively recognising a Palestinian right of return.

The report quoted Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas attacking Israeli settlements as an obstacle to peace, without acknowledging it was he who rejected peace offers in 2008, wasted a 10-month settlement building freeze in 2009/10 and walked out of 2014 peace talks early.

Dyett then told viewers "as the settlement building continues so too the attacks on Israeli civilians and security forces," highlighting a Palestinian shot dead whilst attempting a stabbing attack in east Jerusalem. Palestinian violence is fuelled principally by anti-Israel incitement, not settlements.

The report concluded with footage of an Israeli-organised conference at the UN against the BDS movement. Dyett said BDS "wants to punish Israel for its treatment of Palestinians in the occupied West Bank."

Actually, BDS is not limited to the West Bank, does not explicitly support a two-state solution but includes demands, such as an unlimited Palestinian right of return, that would effectively end Israel's existence.

The report included Nikki Haley, the new US Ambassador to the UN, calling to "boycott North Korea... sanction Iran [and] divest from Syria, not Israel."


Hail to the US' new UN rep

The Australian's Cameron Stewart (April 5), noted that Haley has "launched an assault on what she calls the ‘stale' UN culture, calling it out for its incessant ‘Israel bashing' and taking on China, Russia and North Korea more directly than the White House. She ... wants a big shake-up of peacekeeping operations she labels wasteful and inefficient... She has also declared the controversial UN Human Rights Council, which has human rights abusers such as China, Saudi Arabia and Cuba on it, to be ‘corrupt' with ‘bad actors' as members who protect themselves. Language like this is rarely heard in the staid corridors of the UN headquarters."


The Gorey details

The Canberra Times' Michael Gorey reported (March 29) on "Jewish, American, Australian" Canberra resident Judy Bamberger revelling in having successfully entered Israel without being arrested for advocating, in advance of her arrival, a boycott of Israeli settlement products which she claimed was in contravention of a new law aimed at foreign BDS activists.

In a published Canberra Times letter (March 10) Bamberger asked Israel to arrest her when she arrives on March 21. Unsurprisingly it didn't, given the law is largely symbolic, only allows for deportation, not arrest, and is aimed at leaders of the BDS movement, not self-important publicity seekers.

It was evident that to Bamberger, Palestinians are victims and not in the slightest way responsible for the lack of peace, with Gorey quoting her saying "I know they want the same things you and I want: security, safety, stability, hope."

Gorey's report did not include any dissenting opinion to Bamberger's, ending with his statement that "civil rights activists have said the new law violates democratic rights."

Yet no country allows foreigners an automatic right of entry, certainly not when visitors declare themselves essentially at war with the very existence of the country in question.

Israeli left-wing newspaper Haaretz's (March 22) report on Bamberger included the telling statement that "she believes in a two-state solution ‘for now, because it's what the Palestinians want'."

So, in Bamberger's moral universe only Palestinians can decide whether Israel deserves to exist or not?

Moreover, perhaps one shouldn't hold one's breath waiting for her to show real bravery by protesting in Ramallah or Gaza on the lack of elections or freedom of speech or gay rights under Palestinian self-rule, because hey, Palestinians don't appear to be clamouring for those things.


Making a meal of it

Visiting author Laila el-Haddad, who was born in Kuwait to Palestinian parents but grew up in Saudi Arabia, appeared on ABC TV "Lateline" (April 6) to plug her political cookbook The Gaza Kitchen and feed viewers a steady stream of propaganda.

El-Haddad said, "in response to the Palestinian elections in 2006, Israel, along with several other countries, slapped an economic blockade on the Palestinians. It targets the productive sector of Gaza" and claimed that it "sort of deliberately impoverished the population and has created a massive dependence on aid rations and aid handouts. Something like 85 per cent of the population is food insecure."

Revealingly, she added that it is "not necessarily... that food is scarce, but that it's inaccessible and had become prohibitively expensive."

Remarkably, Hamas, which has total control over Gaza, was never once mentioned by el-Haddad, nor was she asked any questions about it.

When Israel withdrew totally from Gaza in 2005, the Palestinians were given the chance to run their own affairs and build a civil society providing economic opportunities for their people.

A partial blockade was only implemented after the extreme anti-Israel terror group Hamas seized control of Gaza in a bloody coup in 2007 - not after the 2006 elections - and then began firing thousands of missiles at Israelis.

The blockade targets items with the potential to assist Hamas' terror activities, not "the productive sector of Gaza".


Traveller narrows the mind

Elsewhere, the Age/Sun Herald "Traveller" section (April 16) ran a tiny item from Joudi Kalla's "Palestine on a plate" cookbook about a dish called Rummaniyeh. The article stated that the dish was from Yaffa, Palestine.

But as one reader noted in a letter published in the section on April 23, "the last time I was in Jaffa it was in Israel at the southern tip of Tel Aviv. I believe, unless your editors know something the rest of the world has not yet caught up with, it is still to be found there."


Propaganda captioned

A European Press Agency picture caption stated that "Palestinian boys play soccer during sunset in the Khan Younis refugee camp in the southern Gaza Strip. With high rates of unemployment and lack of work opportunities in Gaza, an increasing number of families are descending into poverty after the past 10 years of the Gaza siege and after three Israeli wars against the Gaza Strip."

Gaza is not under siege but a limited blockade enforced by Israel and Egypt. The economic difficulties are directly linked to Hamas' decision to pursue a terrorist agenda against Israel, rather than act as a responsible government by investing in its people's future. Moreover, Israel has not launched wars against "Gaza" but only Hamas' military machine, Shepparton News (April 24).


Vacuous headline

Fairfax's metropolitan dailies (April 16) ran the bloodless headline "UK woman killed in Jerusalem" to describe the vicious stabbing murder of British exchange student Hannah Bladon by a Palestinian man, who was arrested after the crime.

Despite his capture alive, the Washington Post sourced report included a gratuitous paragraph stating that "Israel has been accused internationally of being too heavy handed in response to [terror] attacks... Israel says most of the Palestinians killed were trying to carry out attacks against Israeli civilians, soldiers or police officers."

Indeed, no one raised the same complaint when similar terror attacks were carried out in the West, such as the recent London and Paris attacks, and the perpetrators were shot dead in the act or whilst resisting being apprehended.


Persian factual gulf

A Herald Sun history page on "Ancient Persia" (March 29) said that the enlightened King Cyrus was credited with "capturing the city of Babylon... 539 BC, freeing its Jews and allowing them to return to Palestine."

Palestine was not a name used to describe the ancient Jewish state until 130 CE, when the Roman Emperor Hadrian implemented a policy of deliberately erasing the Jewish character of the area. He opted to name it after the Philistines who disappeared from history centuries earlier.


Sign of the times

The Cairns Post (April 25) showed moral leadership in condemning local business owner Mark Bryce for a sign outside his shop which said "No Israelis served here" and for turning away an Israeli tourist.

"I don't like your country's government, so you can't shop in my store. What bizarre logic... Mr Bryce says the sign and his decision were not racist, but an act of political defiance in solidarity with the Palestinian people. This is, of course, ridiculous - the policy had the consequence of racially discriminating against Mohr Wenger, the Israeli tourist who was told she wouldn't be served. For all Mr Bryce knew, Ms Wenger could have been vehemently opposed to her government's actions in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, but she was discriminated against all the same. Like Israel's Likud party, Australia's Government is far from perfect, and there are plenty at home and around the world who are deeply disturbed by how it treats asylum seekers on Manus Island and Nauru. I suspect Mr Bryce did not consider how he might feel if, upon walking into a piercing store in Israel, an overzealous activist owner declined to serve him based on our government's refugee policy."


Seyit ain't so

Ahead of the Turkish referendum that would allow Turkish President Recep Erdogan to consolidate judicial, legislative and executive power under his effective control, Forum on Australia's Islamic Relations Director Kuranda Seyit accused Europe of being "slow to embrace Erdogan's legitimate rise to power."

Seyit implied that the EU should grant Turkey membership because if it doesn't it will "driv[e] Erdogan further into the arms of autocratic nations like Russia and China... and it could create more tension in the region between old foes Iran and tentative allies Israel. The lack of a strong US-Turkish relationship will mean Turkey could go rogue and have more influence over smaller neighbouring countries such as Syria, Lebanon and interfere in Israel's conflict with Palestine. Also, it could exert more influence in Islamic nations such as Somalia, Libya, Yemen or Syria and speak up for the beleaguered Muslim Rohingya minority in Myanmar. But these are all hypotheticals."

Erdogan's foreign policy has exhibited most of these hallmarks for years.

From early 2009 to 2015, Erdogan was increasingly hostile to Israel, causing problems for it by supporting Hamas' activities in Gaza.

Relations were restored to a more even keel as the Arab Spring turned bloody, and his plans to lead the Arab world proved fruitless, with Erdogan having to acknowledge that Israel's political stability and economic power meant he could not ignore it as an important and dependable ally, Sydney Morning Herald (April 18).


Nom de plume non plussed

Sydney Institute Director Gerard Henderson's weekly "Media Watch Dog" column chided Fairfax correspondent Latika Bourke over her April 21 article on controversial author Helen Dale.

"Bourke reports that author Helen Dale (nee Darville), who was for a time Helen Demidenko, is about to have her 1995 Miles Franklin Award book The Hand That Signed the Paper republished. Writing in the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age on 27 June 1995, Gerard Henderson described The Hand That Signed The Paper as a ‘loathsome book'. Demidenko, as she then was, maintained that her novel was ‘not unhistorical'. But it was replete with errors... The essential problem is that the book had an anti-semitic tone - since the author ran the inaccurate line that the Bolsheviks, who came to power in what became the Soviet Union in 1917, were primarily Jewish. Some were - but virtually all the Jewish Bolsheviks were purged by Joe Stalin soon after he came to power in Moscow. Demidenko's line was that there was a causal connection between Stalin's forced famine in Ukraine in the early 1930s and that part of the Nazi Holocaust which was carried out in Ukraine in the early 1940s. In other words, the Holocaust was revenge for the role of Bolshevik Jews in the famine. This was absolute tosh. The two events are not related."

Henderson added that "unfortunately Latika Bourke commits a not dissimilar howler" by writing that the book "tells the story of a Ukrainian family who sided with the Nazis against Bolshevik Jews in World War II."

He noted that "what occurred in the Ukraine in the early 1940s was not a conflict between ‘the Nazis' and the ‘Bolshevik Jews'. This repeats the loathsome error in Helen D's original work," Australian online (April 21).


Slurring words

Senator David Leyonhjelm penned a bizarre op-ed in which he accused ethnic groups of backing Section 18C to protect themselves from having to integrate into Australia.

According to Leyonhjelm, "while we occasionally hear half-hearted claims that minorities require special protection from hurt feelings, the main driver of opposition is the political clout of these groups... The debate over S18C is much greater than free speech. It is in fact a fight for the votes of people who have different values from those of traditional Australia. Instead of embracing the values of their adopted country, these ethnic, religious and immigrant representatives want Australia to become more like the countries they left behind." He also claimed "many Jews want to suppress Holocaust denialism."

There is little evidence to support his claim that "these groups" harbour opinions wildly divergent from the mainstream and are trying to change Australian society to reflect their former countries. And it is just not true, as Leyonhjelm implied, that Australia has a political tradition of complete free speech unfettered by any restrictions - the only country that has anything like such a value is the US.

Further, in 20 years of 18C's existence, a total of two denialists have been subject to an 18C complaint. In one case, the denialist letterboxed homes with Holocaust denial literature that included outrageous fabrications against Jews, that could engender ill will towards them from their fellow citizens and which no person should have to endure.

18C is there to stop the harassment and intimidation of people based upon race or ethnicity. In that way, it is no different from the many other laws that regulate unfettered free speech and protect a person's right not to be intimidated, Australian Financial Review (March 31).


Beirut Blues

Writing in the Australian (April 24), retired Major General Jim Molan warned that in addition to its patronage of the Assad regime in neighbouring Syria, Iran plays a spoiler role in Lebanon through its proxy Hezbollah.

Molan noted that Hezbollah "controls Lebanese leadership and Lebanese policies" and "requires compliance by the government with Hezbollah's policies and it demands and receives direct and indirect support from Lebanese institutions and infrastructure."

He pointed out that control over the Lebanese Government explains why Hezbollah can act with impudence near the Israeli border in southern Lebanon and flout UN Security Council Resolution 1701, which was passed after the Second Lebanon war in 2006 to explicitly prohibit it being there as a military force.

"The security situation on the southern border with Israel... is quiet because Hezbollah wants it that way at present. Hezbollah is busy in Syria in its Iranian proxy role, and is not yet perfectly ready for another fight with Israel," he wrote.

He reported Iran provides 80 per cent of Hezbollah's annual $US 1 billion budget and has supplied it with 100,000 sophisticated rockets targeting Israel. In return Hezbollah has sent thousands of fighters to defend the Assad regime and gained invaluable battlefield experience.

If Iran orders an attack on Israel, Hamas in Gaza is "highly likely to join in because it, too, is funded by Iran" and Israel's response will ensure it takes Lebanon a decade to recover.


A Raw Deal

Also in the Australian (April 19), Israeli MK and well-known historian Michael Oren counselled the Trump Administration to focus on the flaws of the Obama Administration's 2015 nuclear deal with Iran, which was a temporary, not permanent, agreement.

"Unlike Damascus and Pyongyang, which are permanently barred from acquiring weapons of mass destruction, Tehran can look forward to building them swiftly and legitimately in the late 2020s," he warned.

Thus, in exchange for a temporary agreement that suspends, not deactivates its nuclear program, Iran stands to receive billions in sanctions relief.

Oren insisted that UN sanctions on Iran that are still active must be strongly enforced.

Most recent items in: Australasia