Australia/Israel Review

Noted and Quoted – December 2022

Nov 28, 2022 | AIJAC staff

Image: Shutterstock
Image: Shutterstock

Golly Ghosh

The Australian’s James Madden and Sophie Elsworth (Nov. 14) reported on ABC Managing Director David Anderson’s admission in Senate estimates that Fouad AbuGhosh, a long serving producer in the ABC’s Jerusalem bureau, had “absolute[ly] breach[ed]” the broadcaster’s social media policy, which “undermines his ability to impartially report from that region.”

Madden exposed AbuGhosh’s tweets in early September, including one claiming Zionists want to control and dominate the Middle East’s Arabs and another which referred to Israeli actions with “This is how the Nazis treated the Jews. Maybe it’s time for…!!!”

The article noted that Anderson told estimates the internal review into AbuGhosh’s social media activity was ongoing and he remained on staff. 

Later that day on Sky News’ “The Kenny Report”, Elsworth said “these investigations seem to take… a long time… Anderson admitted it’s difficult now for [AbuGhosh] to do his job and not have bias, given the… pretty offensive tweets that he was putting out there. So, the ABC doesn’t really have much of a social media policy… They don’t seem to enforce it.”


The best defence…

In the Australian (Oct. 27), veteran defence expert Duncan Lewis called on Australia to “take a lead from Israel with respect to maintaining cutting edge, sovereign development and enhancement of weapons systems.”

On Nov. 3 in the Australian, Lowy Institute Nonresident Fellow Alan Dupont warned that “we have no defence industry strategic plan or a funding model that meets our needs and provides a pathway to greater defence self-reliance. Israel and Sweden, both smaller than us, have built world-class defence industries.”


Silence is not golden

On (Nov. 16), AIJAC’s Oved Lobel argued that Australia’s inaction on Iranian domestic human rights abuses and total silence on Iran’s provision of weapons to Russia sent a dangerous message to China about Australia’s willingness to defend its principles.

While the US, UK, EU and Canada strongly condemned Iran for its role in Ukraine and imposed sanctions, “Australia…has not even condemned Iran, much less imposed sanctions,” Lobel wrote. 

Although Australia has strongly condemned Iran’s domestic crackdown against protesters, Lobel said “Australia has once again done nothing,” while “between Australia’s first official condemnation on September 27 and the most recent condemnation [in November], several… [other]… countries… imposed multiple tranches of sanctions against Iran.” 

Lobel wrote, “If Australia is unwilling to [join] its allies in punishing the brutal regime in Tehran, which is economically and militarily weak, politically isolated and geographically distant, why should anyone expect it would act decisively when the stakes are far higher,” such as with respect to China?


Feminism in action

In the Daily Telegraph and Courier Mail (Nov. 8), AIJAC’s Tammy Reznik explained how increasing restrictions on women since Iran’s hardline President Ebrahim Raisi took power last year had contributed to the prominent role of women in the ongoing protests in Iran.

These measures included greater enforcement of the Islamic dress code, and plans to use public surveillance technology to “track down women breaching hijab laws,” she said.

Meanwhile, the Herald Sun (Nov. 14) quoted Australian academic Kylie Moore-Gilbert, imprisoned by Iran for 800 days on false charges, reproaching the Australian Government for not taking “meaningful action to curb and punish the Iranian regime for its horrendous behaviour” against protesters. 

The previous day, News Corp papers reported Basketball Australia’s decision to cancel a scheduled Boomers trip to Iran for a Basketball World Cup qualifier, given the ongoing violence there.


Red Card to Qatar

In the Herald Sun and Courier Mail (Nov. 16), AIJAC’s Tzvi Fleischer exposed the anti-liberal side of Qatar, which is the FIFA World Cup 2022 host nation.

“Unlike the smooth words to foreigners, when speaking in Arabic, Doha routinely spreads messages of support for terrorism and for Islamist extremist groups, as well as messages of hate against both LGBTIQ+ people and Jews,” Dr Fleischer wrote.



The Sydney Morning Herald’s Nov. 12 editorial claimed that Australia’s “problems [in Asia] are partly the result of mistakes by the Morrison government, such as the decision in 2018 about moving Australia’s embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, which antagonised Muslim countries. Albanese acted correctly in reversing this decision last month, although he could have done it more diplomatically.”

The editorial’s choice of words suggested that the Morrison Government actually relocated Australia’s embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, or made a decision to do so, which is just wrong.

In October 2018, during the campaign leading up to the Wentworth by-election, then PM Scott Morrison announced a review into the feasibility of changing Australia’s official position on Jerusalem. Morrison said, “the Government will carefully examine the arguments… we should consider recognising Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, without prejudice to its final boundaries, while acknowledging East Jerusalem as the expected capital of a future Palestinian state… [and] examine the merits of moving Australia’s embassy to West Jerusalem, in the context of our support for a two-state solution.”

In December 2018, after an extensive review process, Morrison announced that Australia would recognise west Jerusalem as Israel’s capital but that Australia’s embassy would remain in Tel Aviv for the foreseeable future. He also said Australia acknowledged Palestinian aspirations for a capital in east Jerusalem.

In October 2022, the Albanese Government announced it was reversing recognition of west Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. Given that no Embassy move had happened or was under consideration, there was no decision announced regarding the Embassy .

Moreover, the editorial’s insinuation that Asian countries all share the same position on foreign policy issues and demand Australia must do so too is absurd and, frankly, cringeworthy.


Cynics corner

On ABC Radio “PM” (Oct. 18), former Middle East correspondent and current ABC global affairs editor John Lyons insisted the Morrison Government’s announcement in the 2018 Wentworth by-election “was a cynical political move” while the reversal “re-establishes a sense of fairness and balance… What Donald Trump did and Scott Morrison, was hand to one side of a conflict, the ultimate prize without getting any concessions.”

When Trump recognised all of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in 2017, he said, “We are not taking a position on any final status issues, including the specific boundaries of the Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem or the resolution of contested borders. Those questions are up to the parties involved.”

Morrison’s recognition extended only to the western part that has been sovereign Israeli territory since 1949 and acknowledged Palestinians seek a state with a capital in east Jerusalem. Considering Israel regards all of Jerusalem as its capital, it is hard to see how Morrison’s limited endorsement of reality amounted to handing “to one side of a conflict, the ultimate prize.”


Baloney over Jerusalem

Lyons’ “analysis” on the issue on the ABC website (Oct. 23) exhibited the same factual flaws and bias that blighted his two anti-Israel books Balcony over Jerusalem and Dateline Jerusalem.

Echoing his radio appearance, Lyons’ analysis completely omitted to note that the Morrison Government did not recognise all of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, only the western half.

Despite outlaying 2,400 words, most of which were off topic and merely another opportunity for Lyons to attack Israel on numerous grounds, he was also unable to spare 30 words to inform readers that west Jerusalem has actually been Israel’s capital since 1950.

This omission was of a piece with Lyons’ general fudging of the timeline of the key events since Israel’s creation in 1948.

According to Lyons, “generation after generation…of leaders accepted the status of Jerusalem should not be unilaterally decided by Israel…To give the ultimate prize – Jerusalem – to one side was seen by most countries as reducing the chance of a permanent peace agreement…. by acknowledging Jerusalem as the capital of Israel most countries realised it would become harder to convince Israel to agree to end its occupation and form a Palestinian state, as was outlined by the UN in 1947.”

The 1947 UN Partition Plan proposed creating two states and stipulated Jerusalem should be under international administration. The Arabs refused to accept any element of the Partition Plan and went to war. This resulted in Jerusalem’s division, with the eastern part illegally occupied by Jordan until the 1967 war.

Despite the Partition Plan being effectively dead, Jerusalem divided and Arab leaders refusing to ever accept Israel’s existence, the UN General Assembly still insisted the city must be internationalised. This is the actual reason why Jerusalem was never recognised as Israel’s capital by most nations – not, as Lyons implies, because of the occupation of the West Bank, which began only after the 1967 war.

Lyons clumsily asserted that “One of the few things that would entice Israel back to the negotiating table is for the international community to recognise West Jerusalem as its capital. One of the few things that would entice the Palestinians back to the negotiating table is for the international community to recognise East Jerusalem as its capital.”

Israel does not need to be coaxed to negotiations. Every negotiating effort to end the conflict has been spiked by Palestinian leaders, including in 2000, 2001 and 2008 when they rejected Israeli proposals to create a Palestinian state that included a capital in east Jerusalem. Moreover, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has refused all Israeli offers to negotiate since he abandoned talks in 2014.

Other howlers include Lyons’ claim that “older members of the [Australian Jewish] community support Israel’s military occupation of the West Bank,” unlike the New Israel Fund (NIF) Australia “a centrist group” which supports a Palestinian state. NIF is a small, proudly left-of-centre group, while support for a two-state resolution including a Palestinian state is the consensus position of most of the “older” Jewish organisations. 

Feigning outrage that Palestinians in east Jerusalem cannot vote, Lyons then conceded, “they don’t want to become Israeli citizens if that part of the city – East Jerusalem – becomes the capital of a state of Palestine. They are Palestinian and would rather be Palestinians than Israelis.”

Wrong. Numerous surveys show most east Jerusalem Palestinians would prefer to be Israeli citizens in any final peace deal.

Regurgitating crude and false Palestinian propaganda, Lyons also claimed Israel has arrested 770,000 Palestinians since 1967. This would amount to 14,000 new individuals arrested year-on-year – a ludicrous figure. 


Tahmer than Lyons

In contrast to John Lyons, SBS reporter Rayane Tahmer’s Oct. 19 online “explainer” at least accurately explained that the Morrison Government “limited Australia’s recognition to West Jerusalem and kept the embassy in Tel Aviv until a peace agreement was achieved.”

However, like Lyons, Tahmer decided an “explainer” did not need to inform SBS readers that west Jerusalem has been Israel’s capital since 1950.

A signatory of the #dobetteronpalestine open letter from May 2021, which called for the media to prioritise the Palestinian narrative, Tahmer claimed that “the status of Jerusalem is understood to be a significant obstacle in reaching a two-state solution.” Yet this is belied by the fact that past Israeli governments have repeatedly offered to share the city with Palestinians as part of a peace deal.


Reality expurgated 

PhD candidate Reb Halabi’s op-ed on the ABC “Religion & Ethics” website (Oct. 28) correctly noted the Morrison Government recognised west Jerusalem as Israel’s capital but then oddly praised the Albanese Government’s reversal, saying, “the Labor government’s decision means that Palestinians can feel supported in their claim to at least part of Jerusalem in some future two-state solution.”

The Morrison Government acknowledgement of Palestinian aspirations for a state with its capital in east Jerusalem did exactly that!

The piece claimed that, “I have recently returned from Jerusalem. The angst on the cobbled streets of the Old City was palpable. Israel has gone to extraordinary lengths to expurgate Palestinians from their sight: barbed wire, high walls and checkpoints make movement for them almost impossible.”

Anyone who has visited Jerusalem’s Old City, Hebrew University, or Hadassah Hospital, or travelled on the light rail there, knows Palestinian Jerusalemites are absolutely not “expurgated from sight”.


Reality recognised

There was pushback against the substance of the decision to reverse recognition of west Jerusalem.

On Oct. 20, the Herald Sun accused the Labor party of using “ambiguous” language before the May 2022 election on whether it would revoke recognition of west Jerusalem. It noted that the US Biden Administration has retained its predecessor’s recognition of Jerusalem and opined “Australia recognising Israel’s right to West Jerusalem is hardly counter to any hope for peace and that two-state solution.”

On Oct. 25, News Corp columnist Joe Hildebrand, who recently visited Israel on an AIJAC study tour, agreed that the “initial recognition of West Jerusalem by the Morrison government was…ham-fisted and clearly geared towards the Wentworth by-election,” before adding that, “just because Morrison might have recognised West Jerusalem for the wrong reasons doesn’t make it wrong.”

On Sky News’ website (Oct. 22), Liberal Party member Sherry Sufi accused Foreign Minister Penny Wong of misrepresenting the former Government’s actual position on recognition of Jerusalem, calling her announcement “confusing and provocative.”


Majority doesn’t always rule

On Nov. 11, Guardian Australia’s Daniel Hurst, whose initial inquiries led to the Albanese Government reversing recognition of west Jerusalem, reported that the Australia Palestine Advocacy Network (APAN) was calling for Palestine to be recognised as a state as per Labor’s national platform.

Hurst quoted APAN president Nasser Mashni saying, “The easiest and simplest step this government can take to join the majority of the world’s nations and support a peaceful resolution.”

On Oct. 22, Nine Newspapers’ Matthew Knott’s long feature on recognising Palestine noted that, “Currently, 138 of the United Nations’ 193 member states recognise Palestine as a state – a list that includes almost every country in Africa, South America and Asia. Australia is among the countries that do not, alongside the United States, Britain, France, Germany, Japan, New Zealand and others.” As Knott hinted but did not quite say, the only Western democracy that recognises “Palestine” is Sweden – and most of the other 138 countries who recognise “Palestine” are ex-Communist and non-aligned nations which did so during the Cold War as part of superpower competition.

On ABC TV “Insiders” (Oct. 23), host David Speers said “I think [the Government’s] position [on recognition of Palestine] is to consult on this and take that step if it’s regarded as a positive step towards a resolution of the conflict,” but doubted the Government would “rush”.


Teaching moments

In the Daily Telegraph (Oct. 25), the Australia Israel Labor Dialogue’s Adam Slonim condemned a virulent anti-Israel resolution recently passed by the National Tertiary Education Union “whose terms evoked classical tropes of hostility towards the Jewish people.”

Slonim wrote, “A fanatical form of anti-Zionist fundamentalism is a blind spot among the hard left because [the] Israel-Palestine narrative is about the powerful (read: Jewish people) getting their comeuppance. Israel, as a supposedly Western nation (no matter that half its Jewish population are Arab, North African and Persian Jews forced to leave their homelands following the 1948 war of independence), has been turned into an exclusivist, racist, colonialist, supremacist entity oppressing and occupying innocents.”

On Nov. 9, the ABC’s website reported veteran Adelaide-based Jewish communal leader Norm Schueler’s frustration that Victoria Police did not charge a man who made Nazi salutes at Schueler and expressed a desire for all Jewish people to be killed when he visited Melbourne in late September.


In Parliament

Andrew Wilkie (Ind., Clark) – Nov. 10 – “The [UN Special Rapporteur] report even suggested that Israel’s actions could constitute apartheid. Mind you, this term still doesn’t capture the inherent complexities and consequences of the illegal occupation of Palestine. It’s time for Australia and the world to scale-up our response to this horrific situation… we must also recognise Palestine, call for Israeli accountability in international courts and compel Israel to allow Palestinians to have the most basic of rights: self-determination.”

Maria Vamvakinou – (ALP, Calwell) – Nov. 8 – congratulating Melissa Parke for winning the “Jerusalem Peace Prize” awarded by the Australia Palestine Advocacy Network: “… it recognises the inspirational and extraordinary contributions and devoted efforts of Australians seeking to work alongside Palestinians in their quest for justice.”

Tony Zappia (ALP, Makin) – Nov. 10 – also congratulating Parke: “Melissa… saw first-hand the daily hardships, violence and repression of Palestinian people and the ruthless incursion of Israeli settlements into their land. Almost daily, new reports of violations against Palestinian people are exposed, and all too often the victims are children.” 

Senator Hollie Hughes (Lib., NSW) – Nov. 8 – questioning the ABC in a Senate Estimates hearing: “…Mr AbuGhosh’s personal Twitter account… identifies him as an ABC producer, and it actually demonstrates him showing extreme racist and antisemitic views about Israelis… he uses social media to promote crazy anti-Israel conspiracy theories… what was the result of that review that the ABC undertook in relation to the social media activity of Fouad AbuGosh?”

Keith Wolahan (Lib., Menzies) – Nov. 9 – “Iranian Australians are pleading with us to follow the lead of the United Kingdom, Canada and the EU and impose sanctions against a regime which has violated the rights of Iranian women. Beyond words of support and condemnation, what action does the Government intend to take?”

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese (ALP, Grayndler) – answering Mr Wolahan’s question: “I have, as well as the Foreign Minister, expressed my abhorrence at the actions of the Iranian regime in clamping down on the rights of women… The Labor Government will continue to work with our allies, including in multilateral forums such as the United Nations… I acknowledge the enormous hurt that Iranian people, but Iranian women in particular, are feeling… watching this clampdown on human rights in Iran for things that we… take for granted…. we’ll continue to speak out. We’ll continue to vote in any forums in which Australia has a presence to ensure that the people of Iran – who are showing great courage in standing up for their human rights – know that Australia, as always and in a bipartisan way, is friends of all those who stand up for their individual rights…”

Opposition Leader Peter Dutton (Lib., Dickson) – on the same question: “The scenes and the reporting are horrific, and the treatment of women is completely unacceptable… The Coalition will support any actions the Government takes, even if it means an economic consequence for our country…. a very clear, significant, tangible message needs to be sent that this type of behaviour is abhorrent, unacceptable in any society, and completely against the values of our country.”

Shadow Attorney-General and Shadow Minister for Indigenous Australians Julian Leeser (Lib., Berowra), Jerome Laxale (ALP, Bennelong), Senator Marielle Smith (ALP, SA), Shadow Assistant Minister for Foreign Affairs Senator Claire Chandler (Lib., Tas), Tony Zappia (ALP, Makin), Sophie Scamps (Ind., Mackellar), Keith Wolahan (Lib., Menzies) and Senator Nick McKim (Greens, Tas.) also all made speeches between Oct. 25 and Nov. 8 condemning the human rights abuses in Iran. 


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