Australia/Israel Review

Noted and Quoted – April 2017

Apr 4, 2017 | 

The Business

Writer Alex Lockie offered Business Insider Australia (Feb. 19) readers a solid analysis of the benefit of its alliance with Israel for the US.

He wrote, “the US supports Israel in diplomatic and military matters not because of the strength of pro-Israel lobbies like the American Israeli [sic] Public Affairs Committee, or out of sympathy stemming from the events of World War II, but intelligence sharing” and shared values – meaning that “like the US, Israel has regular and open elections with peaceful transitions of power… in a region with failed and failing states.” Moreover, “unlike other US allies in NATO and the Pacific, the US has no forward-based troops in Israel” and much of the foreign aid money that Israel receives it “spends on US defence projects.”

However Lockie incorrectly claimed that Israel “knowingly attacked the USS Liberty” during the 1967 war.

Declassified US intelligence and numerous inquiries in both Israel and the US show that the incident happened because of a combination of poor communication and misidentification of the ship as Egyptian in the heat of battle.

Poison Pen

Fairfax chief correspondent Paul McGeough used Israeli PM Binyamin’s Netanyahu’s visit to Australia to attempt to put Israel in the same class as North Korea – claiming parallels between the failed 1997 poisoning assassination attempt on Hamas chief Khaled Meshal in neighbouring Jordan and the fatal poisoning last month in Malaysia of Kim Jong-nam, the half-brother of North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un.

McGeough, who wrote a book about the assassination attempt on Meshal and has since written several positive profiles of the Hamas leader, said Netanyahu’s “Singapore stopover was probably closer than he would have preferred to the scene of a crime that draws attention to Netanyahu’s membership of an oddball global fraternity.”

According to McGeough, the justification for the Meshal assassination attempt was that “Netanyahu was determined to avenge a recent series of bloody Hamas suicide attacks in Israel.”

Revenge had no role. As head of Hamas, Meshal was responsible for the terror group’s decision to destroy the peace process through attacks on Israeli civilians. No government with a mandate to protect its citizens would accept that a terror leader should be allowed to operate freely in a neighbouring, supposedly friendly country. There is no parallel with Kim Jong-nam, who has never been credibly accused of sponsoring or perpetrating violence, Sydney Morning Herald/The Age (Feb. 25).

Rocky Rick Kuhn

Far-left anti-Israel activist Rick Kuhn claimed Netanyahu’s visit was a “sign of desperation” and “isolation” by “apartheid Israel.”

Kuhn needs to lift his head out of the Green Left Weekly. Israel is not an apartheid state and for nearly two decades the creation of a Palestinian state has been official government policy.

Meanwhile, heads of state or their representatives from Asia, Africa, Europe and even Middle Eastern countries that do not share diplomatic relations with Israel are visiting Israel, or receiving reciprocal visits from Israeli government officials, in unprecedented numbers in recent years. 

He said, “Israel was established in 1948 on the basis of driving 700,000 Palestinians from their homes. That Israeli land grab, begun much earlier by Zionist colonists, has continued ever since.”

Israel was legally established following the end of the British Mandate over Palestine and in accordance with the 1947 UN Partition Plan to divide the territory into two states. No Palestinian would have lost their home if the Arabs had accepted partition rather than launching a genocidal war. Meanwhile, land owned by Jews in pre-Israel Palestine was legally purchased and paid for.

Kuhn claimed that “unlike about 138 other countries, Australia has refused to recognise the Palestinian Authority as the government of a Palestinian state.”

In fact, amongst democratic Western countries, only Sweden has recognised a Palestinian state, Canberra Times (Feb. 24).

Hawke’s flight

Australia-born US-based analyst Dr. Daniel Mandel asked why former Labor PM Bob Hawke who once propounded “the view that, should Israel ever be assaulted from territories it had ceded for peace, it should reoccupy them in perpetuity… Today… thinks Australia should recognise as a sovereign state the PA that has served as the base for… assaults” and disregarded Israeli offers of a state made in 2000 and 2008.

Mandel said the late Israeli PM Golda Meir, Hawke’s one-time friend, would be “profoundly dismayed” that he would swallow “whole” such “cynical” fabrications as the claim Hawke made that the 1947 UN Partition Plan awarded to the Jews the “Palestinians’ best cultivated land and cities,” when in fact the majority of the land it gave them was comprised of “the almost uninhabited Negev desert,” Australian (Feb. 24).

A Capital Idea

AIJAC’s Colin Rubenstein explored the murky history of why governments won’t recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, which long predates “Israel’s supposed occupation of the eastern half of the city.”
It is a legacy of “the UN Partition of 1947 which called… for Jerusalem to be an ‘international city’ under UN control,” he noted.

After the 1948 war, “it was thought by some diplomats that the old idea of an ‘international city’ might be revised in peace talks.” However, he noted that the “international city” was to last only ten years, “until a referendum of the majority Jewish residents could decide its future. So this idea passed its use-by date in 1958.”

Rubenstein noted that Israel is unique in not being able to choose its own capital, notwithstanding the fact that west Jerusalem is recognised as sovereign, not occupied, territory and such recognition would not at all preclude the eastern part becoming the capital of a future Palestinian state, Australian (Feb. 13).

Meanwhile, on Mar. 18, the “Superquiz” in the Herald Sun, gave “Jerusalem” as the answer to the question “What is the capital of Israel?”

Writing’s on the Wall

Artist Sary Zananiri and academic Idan Ben-Barak questioned the phenomenon of “solidarity tourism” whereby “progressive, left-leaning Westerners travel to Palestine to identify with the struggle and get an authentic ‘occupation experience’.” They suggested “British artist Banksy’s new ‘Walled Off Hotel’ offering a view of the West Bank barrier wall in Bethlehem [as] the latest example of this trend.”

The pair seemed to imply that only Palestinians can live genuine, authentic lives in the Holy Land, while accusing the West of “fetishis[ing] ‘Israel/Palestine'”.

The pair derided Christian pilgrims who have visited “through the ages… trying to capture a sense of the land as it was in biblical times” and relegated the centuries-old phenomenon of Jewish pilgrimage to only recent times, saying, “since the creation of Israel, Jewish tourists have joined them, seeking to experience an ancient Jewish past interwoven with the present-day Zionist state,” Age/SMH (Mar. 18).

The Jennine Massacre

Meanwhile, Australian reporter Jennine Khalik, who has a history of pro-Palestinian activism, filed a feature in the Arts section on visiting Palestinian singer Oday al-Khatib that seemed to be largely about Palestinian victimhood, rather than al-Khatib.

Khalik stated as fact that Israeli settlements are “deemed illegal under international law”, called the security fence Israel built to stop Palestinian terrorists attacking Israelis the “segregation wall” and described al-Khatib as “one of millions of stateless Palestinian refugees in the world, many of whom are descendants of those who were exiled or fled in 1948 when militant forces sought to remove Palestinians from the land to create the state of Israel.” Sorry, but it was Palestinian and Arab terror against Jews and rejection of partition that primarily led to the displacement of Palestinians.

The article was full of wild and context-free claims, such as the “Palestinians have access to only 13 per cent of aquifers in the West Bank, for example, while Israelis get 87 per cent, according to the UN Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Cuts to water supplies by Israeli authorities are commonplace” and “last year 6,440 Palestinians were arrested, including 1,332 children,” Australian (Mar. 16).


Out of Saikal

ANU’s Distinguished Professor Amin Saikal certainly distinguished himself, but for all the wrong reasons.

Debating AIJAC’s Jamie Hyams on ABC TV “The Drum” (Feb. 22), Saikal claimed that the only UN resolution Israel has ever really accepted is “the one which recommended the partition of Palestine. Ever since…Israel has done everything possible not to give any credit to any of the UN resolutions… which could possibly result in a peaceful resolution of the conflict.”

But as Hyams noted, the UN partition plan was rejected by the Arab states and Israel has accepted UN Resolution 242 passed after the end of the Six Day War,which requires Israel to withdraw from territory in exchange for peace, and “Israel three times has offered the Palestinians a state under that formulation and the Palestinians have refused.”


Kidding around

ABC TV current affairs program for children “Behind the News” (Feb. 28) marked the visit of Israeli PM Binyamin Netanyahu with a dumbed down history that might have left young viewers with the impression that Jews are mainly responsible for the Arab-Israeli conflict.

“Before 1948, there was no Israel. All this area was known as Palestine and it was under the control of Britain… Around the time of the Second World War, Jewish people were treated horribly. More than six million were killed and thousands fled to Palestine. Some decided to set up their own Jewish country in the place their ancestors lived and a place they believed was promised to them by God. But the area’s also sacred to Muslims and Christians, and the people who were already living there were afraid they would lose their homes.”

In other words, according to the ABC, thousands of Jews suddenly descended on and took control of the country of Palestine in the 1940s. Jews have an unbroken 3,500 year link with the territory that became a geographic and political entity called “Palestine” only after WWI with the specific purpose of facilitating the Jewish people’s historic right to settle there – and were there in large numbers well before the Holocaust. Moreover, the early Zionists were overwhelmingly secular and did not act based on “promises” from “God”.  

Well suited

Maybe “Behind the News” should have consulted analyst Dr. Keith Suter who gave a highly informative interview on ABC Radio “Overnights” with Rod Quinn (Feb. 24).

Suter called the Palestinian-Israeli conflict “just one small subset of the turmoil that is going on in the Middle East at the moment. You’ve got the bigger issues of Sunni and Shia etc. So that whole region is very unstable and I think will remain unstable for a very long time.” Quinn said Israel had nothing to do with the Iran-Iraq war and the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait.

Suter noted that the Arabs in Palestine rejected the British proposal to divide mandatory Palestine into two states in the 1930s and the 1947 UN Partition Plan and that Israel won control over the West Bank and east Jerusalem after being attacked by Arab countries.

Ranter Abdel-Fattah

ABC host Stan Grant moderated a debate between AIJAC’s Mark Leibler and pro-Palestinian activist Randa Abdel-Fattah who came with a long list of maximalist positions.

She insisted that peace will come when Israel “compl[ies] with United Nations resolutions, it needs to stop the illegal occupation. It needs to stop the illegal building of settlements. It needs to deliver restitution to Palestinian refugees who were expelled from their homes. It needs to stop the illegal apartheid wall.”

Abdel-Fattah dismissed Hamas’ 10,000 rockets fired from Gaza as a byproduct of an “illegal siege of Gaza.” There is no siege but a blockade recognised as legal by the UN – which was imposed after Hamas started firing rockets at Israel.

She claimed Israel is based on the “Zionist myth” of “a land without a people for a people without a land”. That slogan was in fact never part of mainstream Zionist discourse.

Growing ever more vociferous, she claimed Palestinians owned “92 per cent” of Palestine in 1948 when 700,000 Palestinians were “expelled at gunpoint” and insisted the Arabs did not have to recognise Israel’s existence then or in 1967 when there were no settlements.

Leibler dismissed her claims. He said most of Palestine was the equivalent of crown land and noted that Israel has offered to share Jerusalem, “land swaps to compensate for the major settlement bloc where 80 per cent of the Jews in the West Bank live… but what they’re not prepared to compromise on… is their security,” ABC online (Feb. 24).

Elsewhere, ABC Radio National “Rear Vision” (Mar. 12) felt compelled to run a whole 28-minute program on whether Australian PM Malcolm Turnbull was justified in saying Israel is the only true democracy in the Middle East. Of course, instead of comparing Israel’s democratic credentials to its neighbours or mentioning the findings of independent arbiters like Freedom House, the program focused on whether calling itself a Jewish state means it cannot be a democracy.

The program included five “experts”, with only one strongly supporting classifying Israel as a democracy. Most extreme were Haneen Zoabi, an extreme anti-Israel activist who is an Israeli MP, and British activist/writer Ben White, who is notorious for attacking Israel as the ultimate racist state and insisting Palestinian human rights, democracy and the rule of law would flourish if only Israel didn’t exist.

Carr Wrecker

On SkyNews (Feb. 25), the Labor party’s pro-Palestinian activist-in-chief Bob Carr exposed the dog whistling underpinning his push for Australia to recognise a Palestinian state.

“I was in western Sydney yesterday addressing a combined branch meeting on this matter, I’ve got to say the Labor party rank and file viewed Netanyahu and his policy; and they understand what settlements are and they understand what they are doing as quite repugnant,” Carr said.

He also showed his skill at making ahistorical statements sound plausible.

“[Netanyahu] should behave like… [former Israeli PM Ehud] Olmert who drew a line on a map and was about to give it to [Palestinian President Mahmoud] Abbas… I recall a conversation in a Jerusalem restaurant… where Arafat ended up asking the waiter to bring in a street directory and he showed [Henry] Kissinger how” to draw the “boundaries” for a Palestinian state.

The 2000-01 negotiations failed, as did the 2008 effort, through the intransigence of Arafat and his successor Abbas, respectively. Abbas avoided resuming talks after Olmert offered him “boundaries”.

Carr falsely claimed that “hardliners” in 2007 “invented” the condition that Palestinians recognise Israel as a Jewish state to “make progress towards a two-state solution impossible”. He absurdly said “no other country… requires nations that recognise it take account of its internal religious character.” Recognition is of the homeland of the Jewish people, Bob, not Judaism. 

And as former US moderator Dennis Ross has pointed out, such recognition was raised during the 2000 negotiations and is the basis of the 1947 UN Partition Plan which explicitly called for the establishment of a “Jewish state”! 

Carr also fudged the threat from Hamas, dubiously arguing that the Palestinian Authority has accepted a demilitarised Palestinian state and earlier on claiming that “Israel could re-enter that country any time it saw a threat to itself”. And if Hamas doesn’t play nice? 

He also incorrectly claimed Netanyahu has “announce[d] thousands of new settlements” since President Trump’s inauguration. 

First Principles

Nyunggai Warren Mundine, prominent Aboriginal leader and former ALP President, provided a stark contrast to Carr.

Writing in the Australian Financial Review (March. 7), Mundine called the Palestinian state “a hollow gesture” and said the “Palestinian leadership doesn’t really support a two-state solution” because “they won’t recognise Israel’s right to exist.”

He quoted former US President Bill Clinton blaming the failure of the 2000 talks on Arafat who “‘couldn’t make the final jump from revolutionary to statesman’.”

The talks failed on “the right of return (allowing Palestinian refugees since 1948 and their descendants to move to Israel) and Israeli control of the Western Wall. Palestinian demands on these issues reflect a refusal to recognise a Jewish state. The Palestinian leadership believes the right of return will make Israel an Arab state by flooding it with Palestinians. Ceding Jewish claims to Jerusalem means acknowledging Jews’ ancient and continuing presence there, contradicting Arab propaganda that Jews are interlopers in Israel, not its first peoples who lived there for millennia before Arab colonisation,” he wrote.



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