Australia/Israel Review

Noted and Quoted – April 2016

Apr 5, 2016 | 



SBS reporter Rena Sarumpaet’s report on a series of multiple Palestinian terror attacks carried out on March 8 stated that “this latest flare up is a reminder of how paralysed peace talks are, critics citing a United States distracted by more immediate concerns such as Syria and IS.”

This is relativist nonsense that attempts to hold Israel, the US and the Palestinians as equally responsible for both the violence and the lack of peace talks, The Palestinian Authority’s (PA) Foreign Minister recently said the PA would “never” again directly negotiate with Israel, rejecting Israeli PM Binyamin Netanyahu’s repeated invitations to enter unconditional peace talks. Moreover, there is a direct correlation between terror and the relentless campaign of incitement and lies radiating out from Hamas and the Palestinian Authority, SBS TV (March 9).

Sweet and sour source 

In the Australian (March 9), a Wall Street Journal-sourced report on the likelihood of renewed peace talks was a mixed bag.

It correctly noted that, “lone-wolf Palestinian assailants have killed 30 Israeli civilians and soldiers in more than 300 attacks. More than 150 Palestinians, mostly attackers, have also been killed by Israeli security forces. Palestinian officials say the assailants are disenfranchised under occupation and see no way to a political solution. Israeli officials argue that incitement by Palestinian leaders is spurring youth to violence.”

But the story also claimed “Palestinian officials said they would welcome” renewed peace talks (they don’t), and repeat the myth that Israeli PM Binyamin Netanyahu said during last year’s election “he wouldn’t support a two-state solution… subsequently revers[ing]”. He actually said “I think that anyone who goes about establishing a Palestinian state today and vacating territory is giving attack territory to extremist Islam to be used against the state of Israel” – that is, he expressed reservations about instituting a two-state solution in the short-term.

Going ballistic

ABC reporter Iskhandar Razak offered a rather genteel description of the geopolitics behind the latest round of ballistic missiles fired by Iran, saying they “are designed to be able to hit Iran’s main critic in the region, Israel” and noted that the Revolutionary Guard answers to Supreme Leader Khamenei who “has had an antagonistic relationship with the US and is known to dislike Israel,” ABC TV “World” (March 9).

Election rejection

Ahead of Iranian parliamentary elections on Feb. 26, AIJAC’s Colin Rubenstein warned against the presumption that either the P5+1 nuclear deal or the electoral result would “lead to a shift in power toward ‘moderates’ and away from ‘hardliners’.”

“World powers have been so eager to implement the nuclear deal that they have all but ignored… signals and actions” that indicate Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei ” will not countenance any progressive changes in Iranian domestic politics or foreign policy.”

These include; “Khamenei’s tweet on February 15: ‘All problems root in the arrogant powers at the top of which is US and the Zionist regime is epitome of evil.’ In October, he banned all negotiations with the US, saying any contact might ‘open gates to their economic, cultural, political and security influence’. The regime has been signalling its intentions with actions as well; actions including an October ballistic missile test that violated a UN Security Council ban.”

Most troubling was the P5+1 having “downplayed the findings of the December report by the International Atomic Energy Agency that Iran had been lying for years about its nuclear weapons development work and that it was impossible to form a complete picture of Iran’s program because it has been destroying evidence and refusing to answer questions,” Herald Sun (Feb. 24).

Rob and Craig

Australian Jewish News publisher Robert Magid launched a withering attack on recently appointed Assistant Minister for Multicultural Affairs Craig Laundy, who is also co-chair of the Parliamentary Friends of Palestine.

Magid noted that in a Parliamentary speech in December 2014, Laundy had said the Palestinians have not had a “fair go” for “the last almost 60 years” and that “we hear the constant reference to the two-state solution… quite often, I believe, this is used as a line to hide behind; it does not get past that.”

Magid expressed frustration with the lack of “prognosis” in the speech, writing, “where do we go from here? Who is responsible for there not being a solution? This is a great opening for a detailed presentation of the issues. Tell it like it is, Craig. So what does Craig tell us? Nothing… Has he heard of the UN resolution of 1948 creating a Palestinian state, rejected by the Palestinians? The Oslo Accords? Camp David? Taba? Olmert’s proposal? All responded to by the Palestinians with: Reject.”

Magid also spurned Laundy’s claim that “If you look at the Middle East and the issues that we as a globe confront today, we can trace it back pretty much to this region some 60 or 70 years ago. Anyone who stands in this place and argues differently is not fair dinkum”. Magid responded, “The Vietnam War, the disintegration of the Soviet Union, the rise of China, North Korea going troppo, the European Union disintegrating, the two Iraq and the Afghanistan Wars, 9/11, the Madrid railway bombings, the Falklands War, London’s 7/7 bus and rail terrorism, the troubles in Northern Ireland, the disintegration of Syria, the spread of Islamism and many others are all attributable to the Israeli Palestinian conflict. Let’s add to that global warming, melanomas, the Mexican drug cartels, black holes colliding, bird flu, Y2K and the GFC.”

Laundy’s statement that “The things discussed in this chamber should not be influenced by the power of the lobby; they should be influenced by what is right” also received short shrift from Magid, who said  “Which lobby? The LGBTIQ lobby? They are certainly one of the most powerful lobbies around. What have they to do with it? No, can’t be them. The Farmer’s Lobby? Nope. Who then? I believe Craig is referring to the ‘Elders of Zion’. The Jewish lobby,” Spectator Australia (March 12).

Day of the Triffitt

Academic Mark Triffitt complained that, “across the world, a new type of democracy is taking shape – one barely worthy of the name. This is the era of barricade democracy.”

The practical expression of this is the actual or proposed building of walls to prevent transiting of people, he wrote.
One of the examples he offered to back his argument was that of Israel which “is constructing a 700 km wall to encircle the Palestinian West Bank and insulate itself from what it sees as a deeply alien culture.”

Israel began constructing a security barrier, the vast majority of which is a fence with sensors designed to detect movement, in 2004 at the height of the Second Intifada to prevent the passage of suicide bombers into Israel from areas under the control of the Palestinian Authority at a time when there were numerous suicide bombings occurring monthly in shops, cafes, and on public transport. Before this violence, Israelis regularly visited Arab areas to shop and eat, and West Bank Palestinians also came into Israel in fairly large numbers. Moreover, 20% of Israelis are Arabs. Israel hardly set out to insulate itself from an “alien culture” – unless by that he means a culture which incited, planned, and rewarded the murder of Israeli civilians on an very large scale, Age (March 14).


Columnist Tony Boyd reported on the recent visit to Australia by Isaac Ben-Israel, who helped formulate Israel’s national cyber policy, and discussed R&D trends in that field.

Dispelling the perception that Israel rides roughshod over its citizens’ privacy to defend national security, Boyd wrote that Ben-Israel said, “Israel had learned the lessons of the Edward Snowden affair in the United States. Snowden was an employee of the National Security Agency. He released thousands of documents revealing the NSA had been spying on its own citizens. Ben-Israel says the NSA was set up to catch terrorists but could not resist the temptation to read the content running through the network. Ben-Israel admits it is very hard to catch the ‘bad guys’ without reading the private information in the network but it was clear from the US Congress’s reaction to the Snowden incident that this was not acceptable.”

Ben-Israel was given a mandate by “Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu to construct a civilian cyber space defence system. It is under construction now in Beersheba… It is called the National Cyber Authority and it will not make the same mistake as the NSA in relation to breach of privacy. Suspicious data movements will be watched and flagged within the system and acted upon without breaching personal privacy,” Australian Financial Review (March 10).

BS and BDS

Jewel Topsfield’s report of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation meeting in Indonesia calling for the boycott of Israeli products made in settlements in the West Bank included some common misconceptions about the goals of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement (BDS).

BDS does not merely call “for the end of Israel’s occupation of Palestinian land,” as Topsfield wrote.

In fact, its various manifestos make absolutely no mention of a two-state solution but demand that the five million descendants of the original Palestinian refugees created during the Arab war of 1948 should have the right to live in Israel, which would mean the end of the Jewish state.

As BDS co-founder Omar Barghouti explained to Yale University students in 2013, “If the refugees were to return, you would not have a two-state solution, you’d have a Palestine next to a Palestine.”

In the online version of the story, Topsfield stated that the initiative for the meeting arose at the request of “Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas following violence in the Occupied Territories after access was restricted to al-Aqsa mosque.”

The restrictions were only imposed after, not before, Palestinian violence broke out when Israeli security forces uncovered Islamist groups hoarding bombs and other material to be used for violence in the Temple Mount plaza.
The online version included a sensible quote from Zuhairi Misrawi, of the Islamic organisation Nahdlatul Ulama, questioning the boycott, saying that, “OIC countries would be better to use diplomatic channels to solve the Israel-Palestine issue,” Age/Sydney Morning Herald (March 8).

An educational experience

ABC Middle East correspondent Sophie McNeill’s output is prolific, but in the 10 months since she started the gig, it is difficult to recall any stories reporting on the scandals and myriad human rights abuses within Palestinian society.
The closest we got was a story in July 2015 when McNeill reported on ISIS’s growing presence in Gaza – and managed to almost paint Hamas as moderate.

So it was a shock to hear McNeill’s story on the Palestinian Authority cracking down on teachers protesting in their thousands against the scuppering of a promised pay increase.

“PM” host Peter Lloyd said, “the heavy-handed approach… has raised concerns about dissent being tolerated within PA run areas,” as though it was formerly a bastion of human rights!

According to McNeill, “PA security forces were reported to have removed teachers from buses and threatened to confiscate their identity cards. Buses carrying teachers were turned back while witnesses told local media that Palestinian police officers threatened to revoke the licences of taxi drivers who carried teachers to the demonstration… Last week some of the teachers allegedly involved in organising the strike were arrested and held for two days. The ABC understands that many of the strike organisers are now so fearful of being detained they have gone underground and are refusing to talk.”

Analyst Grant Rumley from the Foundation for the Defence of Democracies was quoted saying that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has “attack[ed] labour union heads, he’s attacked members of civil society, he’s arrested dissenters, he’s arrested journalists, he’s arrested people for Facebook posts and now it seems that teachers are also on the dock.”

Now was that so difficult?

In fact, according to a Tweet by Israeli Arab veteran journalist Khaled Abu Toameh, “In 2015 Palestinian Authority arrested 35 journalists and rights activists, 476 university students and 67 teachers/academics.”

McNeill follows Abu Toameh on Twitter, but didn’t include these statistics in her report, ABC Radio “PM” (Feb. 26).

Answering Syria’s SOS

ABC Radio 774 “Evenings” host Lindy Burns (Feb. 23) spoke to Dr. Michael Harari, formerly of Melbourne’s Royal Children’s Hospital, who now lives in northern Israel and works at Ziv Hospital in Safed. At Ziv, he has been treating children injured in the Syrian civil war for the past five years, and told Burns nothing had prepared him to “treat victims of war”.

He said victims who have suffered blast injuries are “a shocking sight and it sticks in my throat just talking about it… maybe because you see the deliberate hand of other human beings.”

Explaining that the Syrian patients “occupy four or five per cent of our hospital beds” but take up about “50 per cent of intensive care beds” and have “repeated visits to theatre,” Harari said, “the community in [Israel’s] north to a person… has rallied” by donating clothes, food and money.

“Neutral” stance comes up Trumps

American Palestinian commentator Ray Hanania told ABC News Radio (March 3) that American Muslims should back Republican presidential aspirant Donald Trump and ignore his call to ban Muslims from entering the country because “on the issue of negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians… he said he would be neutral.”

According to Hanania, Trump’s neutrality call was “not a strategic statement if you’re trying to win votes in the United States. The Arabs don’t vote in this country as much as the pro-Israel community… He said he’d be neutral. That’s unprecedented in a presidential race in this country because in all the past presidential elections the debate has been which candidate is going to be more pro-Israel. That’s always been the argument, the battle, who’s more pro-Israel and that person would usually win… If I were Muslim I would say okay, I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt on the immigration/terrorism issue because that neutral statement is so significant. He’s worth giving a chance.”

While Americans overwhelmingly want Washington to actively back Israel’s security in principle, there is little evidence to show the issue decides elections. Furthermore, Hanania seemed ignorant that the inconsistent Trump has also said he is “totally pro-Israel” and that Netanyahu is a “a good friend”.

Biffo by Richo

In his regular column former Labor powerbroker Graham Richardson advised NSW Labor MP Shaoquett Moselmane to drop his lawsuit against the Australian’s Sharri Markson for an opinion piece that Moselmane claims smeared him as an antisemite.

Richardson made it pretty clear that his sympathies lie with the Palestinians, essentially reducing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to a dispute between an Israeli cabinet that “contains a majority opposed to a two-state solution” (it doesn’t) and Hamas whose “constitution… demands the destruction of… Israel”, but he agreed that Moselmane had used harsh language “to describe what could be called ‘the Jewish lobby'” in a speech to the NSW Parliament in 2013.

As Richardson recounted, Moselmane used parliamentary privilege to say, “I accept the right of people to express their views, even when they are wrong, naive, ill-informed, indoctrinated and blinded by the power of a lobby group that is cancerous and malicious and seeks to deny, misinform and scaremonger.”

In response, Markson had accused Moselmane of broadcasting this anti-Semitic sentiment within the walls of the NSW Parliament.”

Richardson wrote, “words like ‘cancerous’ and ‘malicious’ are not used gently or moderately. In my view, if you use that kind of language, then you should not be too surprised that someone may respond in the way Markson did.”

Although Richardson defended Markson as “tenacious and fearless” and a “good advertisement for modern journalism” he said he “didn’t agree with much of her column” but added MPs should be guided by the principle “You gives it, you takes it and you don’t… grumble,” Australian (March 4).



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