Australia/Israel Review

Media Microscope: Recognition factor

Jan 5, 2018 | Allon Lee

Media Week - Foreign advice; A word to the wise; and SMH's headlining act

Although President Trump’s Jerusalem announcement was frequently met in the mainstream media with a version of “Chicken Little”, rational analyses were not completely missing in action.

Ahead of the announcement, the Australian said (Dec. 6) the “real barrier to peace talks is the Palestinian leaders’ refusal… to recognise Israel’s right to exist.” On Dec. 11, the Australian cautioned Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erekat that “a single state” is “unrealisable” citing Israel’s founding father, David Ben-Gurion’s 1949 declaration, “The people who faithfully honoured for 2,500 years the oath sworn by the Rivers of Babylon not to forget Jerusalem… this people will never reconcile itself with separation from Jerusalem.”

Lawyer and Liberal party activist Kate Ashmor said Australia should back Trump, asking, “Why is the capital city of every other country in the world recognised but not Israel’s?” (Australian, Dec.7).

Australian columnist Jennifer Oriel said (Dec. 11) “much of the global media has… misrepresent[ed] the most important part of Trump’s Jerusalem statement where he calls for peace and the two-state solution.”

In the same edition, Dave Sharma, immediate past Australian Ambassador to Israel, showed how Israel’s control over Jerusalem followed Arab aggression in ’48 and ’67. He condemned “deny[ing] the legitimacy of the Jewish people’s connection to Jerusalem” and said, “Trump’s disruptive announcement could help… lay the groundwork for genuine progress.”

AIJAC’s Colin Rubenstein told ABC Radio Melbourne host Jon Faine (Dec. 7) “it’s a wake up call that the peace process and the recognition of Jerusalem can’t be hijacked by this deliberate strategy of not negotiating and pursuing a strategy of delegitimising Israel.” Rubenstein also told Dominique Schwartz on ABC Radio “PM” (Dec. 8) that the announcement “rectified an historic wrong” and, noting that the Jewish connection to Jerusalem goes back 3,000 years, he pointed out that “apart from the Crusader kingdom, the only time it has been a capital is when it has been ruled by Jews.”

Rowan Dean praised Trump’s announcement saying, “Jerusalem is as sacred to the Jews as Uluru is to Aborigines…yet the corrupt and anti-Semitic United Nations keeps trying to deny this absolute truth” (Daily Telegraph, Dec. 11).

Academic Ameer Ali said Trump would not have made the announcement without Saudi Arabia’s “tacit approval” (West Australian, Dec. 8).

The Lowy Institute’s Anthony Bubalo correctly noted that, “when you chew through the declaration, it is not as substantial as it appears. It changes nothing on the ground, nor does it actually preclude some part of Jerusalem becoming the capital of a future Palestinian state,” Australian Financial Review (Dec. 11).

On ABC Radio “World Today” (Dec. 11), Palestinian spokeswoman Hanan Ashrawi told Steve Cannane the US had disqualified itself as a peace broker. Cannane asked in response, “when you consider that Barack Obama has previously said that he thought Jerusalem was the capital of Israel, President George W. Bush said he wanted to move the embassy to Jerusalem – why didn’t they disqualify themselves?”

In an ABC TV News 24 (Dec. 6) debate, ANU academic Amin Saikal compared recognition to the 2003 US invasion of Iraq, which Executive Council of Australian Jewry’s (ECAJ) Peter Wertheim said was “nonsense”.

Other nuanced analysis heard on ABC TV and Radio came courtesy of former Israeli Ambassador Alan Baker, and visiting AIJAC guest counter terrorism expert Matt Levitt.

Opposition to the announcement ranged all over the ideological spectrum.

An Age/Sydney Morning Herald (Dec. 8) editorial opposed recognition, backing “negotiations a[s] the only way forward”.

New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman said Trump should have done more to make the announcement look less one-sided such as insisting that Israel stop building “outside the settlement blocs that everyone expects to be part of Israel in any two-state solution” (Canberra Times/Sydney Morning Herald, Dec. 9).

Normally cautious academic Greg Barton criticised the announcement, saying it was Trump “play[ing] to his base…the Christian Right” (Courier Mail, Dec. 8).

Courier Mail (Dec.7) national affairs editor Dennis Atkins accused Netanyahu’s Government of pursuing “quasi apartheid allowing Palestinian homes to be confiscated and bulldozed.” Only homes that are built illegally in Jerusalem or areas under full Israeli control in the West Bank are demolished. Or should the normal planning rules applicable in Brisbane be suspended for Palestinians?

News Ltd’s Charles Miranda (Dec. 9) quoted academic Shahram Akbarzadeh disapproving of Israel’s administration of Jerusalem compared to earlier periods. So Jordan did not destroy the Old City’s Jewish Quarter and ban Jews visiting the Western Wall after 1948?


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