Australia/Israel Review


Noted and Quoted – April 2024

Mar 27, 2024 | AIJAC staff

Image: Shutterstock
Image: Shutterstock

Going in reverse

In the Daily Telegraph and Advertiser (March 20), AIJAC’s Colin Rubenstein called the Federal Government’s decision to unfreeze its funding for UNRWA a “serious error given the mounting evidence of UNRWA’s strong complicity with Hamas – the terrorist entity that has ruled the Gazan territory since 2007 and orchestrated the October 7 massacre.”

According to Dr Rubenstein, UNRWA undermines Australia’s bipartisan goal of a two-state peace outcome to the Israel-Palestinian conflict. 

“It is a refugee organisation that has developed and applied a unique set of conditions and policies applicable only to Palestinians. These conditions include… declaring anyone with refugee status can pass that status on to all descendants in perpetuity, even if they obtain citizenship of another country. This is the reason the number of Palestinian ‘refugees’ has exploded from about 700,000 in 1948 to almost 6 million today,” he wrote.

In the Daily Telegraph (March 19), Tim Blair scoffed at the Government’s statement that UNRWA is not a “terrorist organisation”, saying, “declining to offer a formal declaration of one’s terrorist inclinations is obviously good enough for our current government despite the UNRWA’s obvious terrorist sympathies.” 

In the same paper (March 16), Piers Akerman wrote that “The Albanese government… has now renewed funding to UNRWA, the… UN body which Hamas successfully infiltrated to the point that it installed a command base under an UNRWA office while UNRWA staff participated in the October 7 carnage. It may as well have handed the money to Hamas directly.”

On Feb. 29, the paper ran AIJAC policy analyst Alana Schetzer’s article on UNRWA, which noted that “In recent years, there have been many reports of UNRWA facilities found to contain weapons or other military infrastructure from terrorist groups; stories of UNRWA employees engaging in blatant antisemitism or incitement to violence; and scandals involving the teaching of antisemitism, incitement to violence and glorification of terrorism in materials used in UNRWA schools – which the European Parliament condemned in 2022 and 2023.”

 

ABC enThralled

The ABC couldn’t get enough of Israel-bashing American Jewish writer Nathan Thrall during his recent visit to Australia.

On ABC TV “Q&A” (March 4), Thrall accused “the US and its allies” of being “complicit” in “what is happening in Gaza right now” and predicted Israel would not defeat Hamas. 

Thrall put the onus of ending the war on the US which has the “leverage” because “those are US bombs that are being used in Gaza.”

Israel was blamed by Thrall for the violence in the conflict. He accused Israel of practising apartheid, calling it the “sole sovereign between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea” which oversees a “system of gross injustice” that has “lasted for more than half a century.” He had nothing to say about the Palestinian Authority’s appalling human rights record or the fact that its leaders have spent the past 25 years rejecting Israeli peace offers and invitations to negotiate.

On ABC Radio National “Blueprint for Living” (Feb. 29) Thrall placed all the onus on Israel to kickstart peace talks, saying it is “going to take a real momentous shift… from Israel’s allies… in Israeli public opinion and, in Israeli basic motivations.”

On ABC Radio National “Late Night Live” (Feb. 26), Thrall talked about how difficult and unfair life is for Palestinians who live in the area of Jerusalem beyond the security fence that stops terrorists crossing from the West Bank into Israel.

Of course, Thrall never explained that Palestinian terror during the Second Intifada forced Israel to reluctantly erect security fences, build bypass roads for Jewish and non-Jewish Israelis to use in the West Bank and install checkpoints.

Meanwhile, on March 12, “Late Night Live” devoted 35 minutes to far-left Israeli journalist Gideon Levy, who called for, amongst other things, a one-state solution. On Feb. 28, the program interviewed the director and the producer of a documentary about convicted Palestinian terrorist Marwan Barghouti who they billed as the Palestinian Nelson Mandela. The producer denied Barghouti was responsible for terror bombings against civilian targets and insisted that “you are allowed to resist an occupier.”

 

Miller time

Speaking to ABC Radio National “Drive” host Andy Park (March 1), veteran US State Department Middle East adviser Aaron David Miller cautioned that the Hamas-Israel war will end when “there has been a sufficient amount of pain inflicted on one or more of the parties.”  

Miller was clearly irked by Park’s persistent line of questioning predicated on the notion that the only way to end the war is for the Biden Administration to put pressure on Israel.

“In an existential conflict, in which both parties are trying to inflict grievous harm on the other, it’s the two parties that control… the trajectory of the conflict,” Miller said, adding that it “infantilises the parties” to “assume that some external force” will “swoop down” and “make it all better.” 

Hamas, he said, benefits from the international community’s impatience with Israel as the death toll mounts in Gaza. However, he noted, “I wouldn’t even be having this conversation if Hamas hadn’t launched their terror surge on October 7.” 

 

Artless point scoring

For the second year in a row, the Advertiser (March 8) sharply criticised the guest list of Adelaide Writers Week, calling it “a pro-Palestinian cheer squad.”

The paper cited the inclusion of Tareq Baconi, who has “essentially give[n] the Hamas terror group a free pass on the atrocities it committed on October 7.”

Earlier (Feb. 24), Australian columnist Caroline Overington ripped into the festival organisers, saying, “They aren’t interested in trying to bring people together. The conflict in the Middle East is an absolute tragedy, and all they want to do is point score.” 

On March 2, the paper condemned pro-Palestinian activists who demanded WOMADelaide music festival organisers cancel reggae artist Ziggy Marley’s participation because he supports Israel. The editorial said, “South Australia has avoided the worst of the anti-Semitism experienced in the eastern states, but now faces growing attempts to invoke civil unrest… There is no place in Australian society for anti-Semitism.”

 

Giving Back

On March 6, News Corp columnist Jeff Kennett said when he was “Arts Minister and Premier of Victoria, I saw how much the health, education and arts sectors thrived from the philanthropic contribution of the Jewish community.”

But Kennett expressed “disappoint[ment] that our community, which has benefited from this generosity, is not standing up and saying that it is unacceptable our Melbourne Jewish community is feeling threatened by rising anti-Semitic sentiment as well as hostile and, on occasion, violent protests.”

Meanwhile, in the Age (March 6), AIJAC’s Rabbi Ralph Genende wrote of the “need to lower the heightened temperature of our discourse and reduce the outrage on social media. The intimidation of Jews and those who support them should be totally unacceptable for any civil society.”

 

River Dance

Debate continued over whether the popular pro-Palestinian chant “From the River to the Sea, Palestine will be free” means Israel’s destruction.

On March 14, the Advertiser reported that pro-Palestinian protesters in Adelaide vehemently denied this. The article quoted protest organiser Briana Symonds-Manne saying, “It’s about saying that Palestinians should be allowed to live in their homeland and the Israel-occupied territories should be freed from the siege.”

Symonds-Manne insisted the slogan was a call for a two-state solution but didn’t explain how.

On March 3, News Corp columnist James Campbell praised British PM Rishi Sunak’s speech condemning growing antisemitism. Campbell contrasted Sunak’s candour with how, “speakers at rallies [in Australia] praise Palestinian ‘martyrs’ while their crowds chant ‘From the river to the sea Palestine will be free’. And our leaders say little.” 

Herald Sun columnist Steve Price (March 2) criticised Victoria Police for “standing idly by allowing daily protests by pro-Palestinian mobs chanting anti-Jewish slogans waving banners like ‘from the river to the sea’ – a sentiment signifying their desire to obliterate Israel.” 

 

Rallying against antisemitism

Writing in the Advertiser (Feb. 20), Liberal Senator Hollie Hughes spoke of attending the “Never Again is Now” rally in Sydney held to show solidarity with the Australian Jewish community.

Senator Hughes wrote there have been “a slew of disturbing incidents against the Australian Jewish community… from death and bomb threats to verbal and physical abuse, racist signs, placards and graffiti… these incidents have exposed an undercurrent of anti-Semitism that exists on Australia’s shores… Jewish people deserve to feel as safe and as welcome in our nation as any other group.”

Earlier, rally organiser Mark Leach wrote in the Daily Telegraph (Feb. 14) of being chased by a pro-Palestinian mob through Sydney’s CBD in October because he dared to wave an Israeli flag. 

Reverend Leach said he felt compelled to organise the rally because “while the Jewish community is the primary target at the moment, as my experience showed… this hatred and persecution” won’t stop with them.

 

Mark of shame

Canberra Times columnist Mark Kenny (March 17) accused Western countries of having “double standards” for supposedly ignoring the International Court of Justice’s (ICJ) preliminary ruling that there could be a plausible case Israel is carrying out acts of genocide in Gaza, while freezing funds for UNRWA based on “unverified” claims 12 of its employees were involved in Hamas’ October 7 massacre. Of course, UNRWA has basically conceded these claims are accurate. 

Earlier (Feb. 18), Kenny naively asked why Western countries do not recognise a Palestinian state. Probably because they know such a state does not actually exist in law, and Palestinian leaders have refused generous Israeli offers to create one so recognition would reward their intransigence. Kenny also compared Israeli PM Netanyahu to Adolf Hitler.

Writing in the Australian (Feb. 19), academic Ramesh Thakur criticised the ICJ ruling, arguing Israel had demonstrated it had no genocidal intent.

Thakur wrote, “The 15 majority judges have contributed to normalising the Hamas standard of mass atrocities [and] encouraged future bad-faith abuses of international judicial processes by politically motivated governments. Should the court return a final verdict of not guilty after years of litigation, it will be too late to repair the damage.”

 

Leser is lesser

Calling for a ceasefire in the Israel-Hamas war, writer David Leser’s Age/Sydney Morning Herald (March 5) article seemed to hold everyone but the Islamist terror group responsible for the failure to reach one.

Leser wrote, “I spent nights thinking about those people with deadened hearts and the governments – our own included – who had failed to call for a ceasefire in Gaza and then suspended payments to UNRWA, the main provider of aid to the stricken region, after Israel had accused a dozen of its staff members of involvement in the October 7 slaughter.”

World leaders understand that Hamas needs to be sufficiently degraded before a permanent ceasefire can be enforced or else it will simply regroup and carry out further massacres.

He also claimed, “Jewish people” had not condemned “an Israeli government so utterly hijacked by right-wing extremists, messianic radicals, hooligan settlers and a morally bankrupt prime minister.” 

 

Parke Avenue

Melissa Parke’s interview with Nine Newspaper’s Latika Bourke (March 2) proved the former federal Labor MP is the hard-line anti-Israel activist her critics have always claimed her to be.

Parke admitted that “Palestine [w]as the primary issue… she cared about as an MP.”

Bourke said Parke told her that “Hamas’ attack, which, while not justified, was not unprovoked as it occurred within the context of a decades-long occupation.”

Parke also refused to label Hamas – a proscribed terrorist organisation in Australia – “extremist,” because “there are different wings of Hamas. There’s a political wing, there’s a social wing.” 

 

No choice

On the Australian’s website (March 15), AIJAC Executive Director Colin Rubenstein explained Israel needs to implement its planned operation in Gaza’s southern city of Rafah.

Dr Rubenstein wrote, “In addition to being Hamas’ final bastion, Rafah, along the Egyptian border, is also the key to preventing Hamas from continuing to siphon off aid flows into Gaza, and rearming through cross-border tunnels.”

He also challenged “the mantra” that 1.2 million Palestinian refugees in Rafah “have no safe place left to go,” explaining “the IDF has put forward plans for large numbers of tent encampments to be set up for Rafah’s refugees along the Gazan coastline, with aid from the US, and some Gulf States.”

Furthermore, without Hamas’ removal from power in Gaza, there is no feasible path towards a two-state peace, he argued.

 

Watch out

ABC TV “Media Watch” – which has a long history of anti-Israel bias and dislike for News Corp – overreached in its claim that the public broadcaster was the only news organisation covering both sides equally in the current war.

Relying on an analysis from academic Susan Carland for the Islamophobia Register, Media Watch host Paul Barry (Feb. 19) said it proved that the Australian and Nine News “all humanised Israeli victims but not Palestinians.”

Barry said the Australian had failed in “spectacular fashion”, Nine Newspapers was “not too bad” and praised Al Jazeera’s coverage. 

But as the Australian’s James Madden noted on Feb. 21, when he contacted Dr Carland, she said her study “should not be taken as a definitive analysis of Australian media bias against Palestinians” because the research was limited to only Instagram posts of six organisations and excluded what was on other platforms.

Madden quoted AIJAC’s Colin Rubenstein saying “It’s no surprise that an ABC program like Media Watch finds The Australian’s coverage of the Israel/Hamas war to be appalling, given that much of the ABC seems to think the story of the war should be told overwhelmingly from a Palestinian perspective. It’s also predictable that Media Watch neglected to mention failings by much of the Australian media to the detriment of Israel, such as the failures to cover the links between journalists and Hamas, or UNRWA and Hamas, (stories) that were highlighted by The Australian.” Media Watch denied it had misused Carland’s report.

 

If only

An article in Nine Newspapers by former AP journalist Dan Perry and former Israeli government adviser Gilead Sher (March 18) called for a ceasefire to be followed by a reformed Palestinian Authority (PA) taking control of Gaza, and a resumption of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.

They claimed this would create “pressure… on Hamas to surrender” and if it doesn’t then “Israel will be allowed to finish off the group… with international legitimacy restored.

Perry and Sher claimed Israeli PM Netanyahu only opposes such plans because “he fears extreme right parties will bring down his coalition.”

Yet most Israelis would question such a plan, not least because Perry and Sher’s claims about it are unrealistic fantasy – there is no chance Hamas is going to surrender because Israel offered to turn Gaza over to the PA, and there is no chance Israel would be allowed to resume its war against Hamas after such an offer, either. Furthermore, the PA has shown no interest in returning to peace talks since Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas abandoned them in 2014.

 


In Parliament

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese (ALP, Grayndler) asked by Kylea Tink (Ind., North Sydney) when the Government would reinstate UNRWA funding – Feb. 28 – “We suspended the additional funding to UNRWA whilst allegations were being dealt with… because that is the principled and right thing to do.”

Deputy Prime Minister Richard Marles (ALP, Corio), Foreign Minister Senator Penny Wong (ALP, SA) and Minister for International Development Pat Conroy (ALP, Shortland) Joint Media Release – March 15 – “Australia will lift its temporary pause on funding for… (UNRWA), following steps to strengthen the integrity of UNRWA operations.”

On Feb. 26 and March 18, Greens Leader Adam Bandt (Melbourne) moved two motions to suspend standing orders to debate a motion that condemns Israel and “calls on the Government to end its support for… Israel’s invasion of Gaza” while Greens Foreign Affairs Spokesperson Senator Jordon Steele-John moved similar motions in the Senate.

Max Chandler-Mather (Greens, Griffith) – Feb. 26 – “There is an engineered famine… 10,000 children… have been murdered by the Israeli genocidal actions in Gaza.” 

Adam Bandt – March 18 – “The Israeli government… is not even letting aid in.”

Andrew Wallace (Lib., Fisher) – March 18 – “It is irrefutable that Hamas are using Palestinian civilians as human shields… because they know that they will garner support from the international community.”

Shadow Foreign Minister Senator Simon Birmingham (Lib., SA) – Feb. 26 – “Hamas doesn’t just target, kill and brutalise Israeli citizens… but is also shameless in its use of Palestinians and residents of Gaza as human shields.”

Senator Steele-John – March 18 – “The children of Gaza are being starved to death by the policies of… Israel.” 

Senator Lidia Thorpe (Ind., Vic.) – March 18 – “It’s been 163 days of genocidal horrors and barbaric destruction brought upon innocent children, women, queers, men, the elderly, animals and trees.”

All the Greens motions were defeated with only the Greens and independents Andrew Wilkie and Helen Haines in support in the House and Greens and Thorpe in support in the Senate. 

Senator Paul Scarr (Lib., QLD) – Feb. 27 – “It is unacceptable that children going to schools in Australia should be suffering from vile antisemitic attacks.”

Assistant Minister for Indigenous Australians Senator Malarndirri McCarthy (ALP, NT) – Feb. 27 – “The price of defeating Hamas cannot be the continuous suffering of all Palestinian civilians. Some wars are just a cover for genocide.”

Julian Hill (ALP, Bruce) – Feb. 27 – “Mass starvation is not a proportionate response to Hamas’ horror show.” 

Shadow Assistant Foreign Affairs Minister Senator Claire Chandler (Lib., Tas.) – Feb. 27 – “It is the terrorist organisation Hamas that is responsible for the death and conflict in Gaza.” 

Scott Morrison (Lib., Cook) Valedictory speech – Feb. 27 – “There can be no equivocation on where we stand as a representative democracy when another [Israel], who has been such a great friend of Australia, is under attack. There also can be no equivocation in calling out the antisemitism that has now occurred in this country, to our shame.”

Senator David Shoebridge (Greens, NSW) – Feb. 28 – “[Israeli defence company] Elbit is using the brutal assault on Palestinians to sell its weapons, actively experimenting on – and then working with the Israeli military to celebrate – how effectively they kill Palestinians.”

Senator Andrew Bragg (Lib., NSW) – Feb. 28 – “If Israel were not to defend itself against this threat, there would not be a Jewish state.” 

Deputy Greens Leader Senator Mehreen Faruqi (NSW) – Feb. 28 – “Israel is deliberately starving Palestinians.” 

Shadow Minister for Indigenous Australians Senator Jacinta Nampijinpa Price (CLP, NT) – Feb. 28 – “the troubling increase in antisemitism in our nation… saddens me that this sort of hatred has been perpetuated and, in some horrible cases, accepted.”

Elizabeth Watson-Brown (Greens, Ryan) – March 18 – “12,000 children have been murdered by Israel… Labor is complicit in this genocide.” 

Anne Stanley (ALP, Werriwa) – March 18 – “There are tonnes of supplies sitting at crossings being denied access by the Israeli government.”

Senator Dave Sharma (Lib., NSW) First Speech – March 20 – “Australia must insist that a durable peace in the Middle East is only possible with the removal of Hamas… the Australian Jewish community [is] being made to feel unwelcome in their own country… This is utterly unacceptable.” 

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