Australia/Israel Review

Noted and Quoted – February 2023

Jan 29, 2023 | AIJAC staff

Image: Shutterstock
Image: Shutterstock

A uniform response?

NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet’s admission that he wore a Nazi costume to his 21st birthday party 20 years ago was greeted with a mix of shock, dismay and forgiveness by members of the Jewish community. 

AIJAC’s Jeremy Jones was interviewed by Sky News and Radio 2GB. On ABC Radio National “Breakfast” (Jan. 13), he suggested Australians take the opportunity to consider the persistence of antisemitism, asking, “What can go so wrong that there can be people who think it’s somehow normal to make fun of genocide? How is it normal that people can accept crazy, anti-Jewish conspiracy theories? How is it that people can live in many cities amongst people who’ve survived terrible abuses of human rights, yet not be conscious that they have a responsibility just as a moral human being to do something about it?”

On News Corp’s website (Jan. 13), AIJAC’s Colin Rubenstein wrote, “no one is accusing Perrottet of having acted out of racist motives, and we welcome and give him full credit for his heartfelt apology. However, the fact that a clearly intelligent young man made such an appalling choice, attempting to be seen as entertaining by trivialising what is widely and rightly regarded as the depth of human evil and atrocity, is still highly disappointing.”

An earlier op-ed on antisemitism by Dr Rubenstein in the Australian (Dec. 19) had argued that recent high-profile episodes of antisemitism show that “the oldest hatred… simply never left,” while “today those who harbour anti-Semitic beliefs are becoming much less inhibited in shamelessly expressing and acting on them.”

On ABC NewsRadio (Jan. 13), former NSW Jewish Board of Deputies CEO Vic Alhadeff said, “we do teach about the Holocaust, but obviously the quality and effectiveness… need[s] to be revisited… survey after survey… has uncovered the fact that an inordinate number of people have never heard of the Holocaust.”

Later that day, independent NSW state candidate Karen Freyer, whose father is a Holocaust survivor, counselled on ABC NewsRadio, “we’ve got to… remember that Perrottet has… apologised… it’s a reminder of how important it is that we fight antisemitism.”


Political fall out

The response by the political class to the controversy was more varied.

NSW Labor Opposition leader Chris Minns’ response, “It was obviously a big mistake that he made at that time. I think it’s important to acknowledge that he’s apologised for it,” garnered plaudits for his restraint.

In contrast to Minns, on Jan. 17 the media reported former NSW Premier Bob Carr’s aggressive comments on social media, including, “I learnt Nazis were genocidal racists through history at a state high school… With a private school and heaps of privilege how did young Perrottet miss out? Verdict: he is now unelectable.”

The Daily Telegraph (Jan. 13) reported that Perrottet was called a hypocrite for having previously criticised Labor MP Julia Finn and former NSW Legislative Councillor Shaoquett Moselmane for addressing a pro-Palestinian rally in 2017 festooned with posters smearing Israel as Nazi Germany. 

The paper’s columnist Joe Hildebrand suggested the next day the test for these things is “was there malice on the part of the… perpetrator?”

The most bizarre report appeared on the 6pm bulletin of Nine News Sydney (Jan. 13) which decided in its wisdom to ask Jews for Jesus to comment on Perrottet’s admission.


The “I’s” have it

In the Spectator Australia (Jan. 7), academic and former UN official Ramesh Thakur, who has a long history of harsh criticism of Israel, spruiked the benefits of closer ties between the Jewish state and India.

Thakur insisted that “[t]here is no history of hostility towards or attacks on Jewish communities living in India,” and “India and Israel share the predicament and policy dilemmas of facing the threat of serial terror attacks planned, organised and launched from neighbouring territories.” 

Yet, despite these overlaps, “India did not establish full ambassadorial relations until 1992,” Thakur explained, which was “rooted in pre-independence sympathy for the Arabs by the Congress Party, a perception of Israel as a settlement imposed upon Palestinians by outgoing colonial powers, the many Arab votes at the UN against the solitary Israeli vote, an attempt to undercut Arab support to Pakistan, and deference to the sentiments of the sizeable minority of Indian Muslims.”

Remarkably, given Thakur’s past withering criticism directed at Israel during its 2014 war with Hamas, he said that “after the 2008 Mumbai attacks, India persisted in condemning ‘the ongoing incursion into Gaza by Israeli ground and other forces’ to take military action against Hamas. Discreet silence might have better served its long-term interests.”


Murky claims

The Mercury (Dec. 4) reported on a special ceremony held by Israel’s Ambassador to Australia Amir Maimon in Canberra to honour former Tasmanian Liberal Senator Eric Abetz’s decades of “courageous and unwavering advocacy for the values… shared by our two countries.”

On Dec. 22, the paper ran a crude and factually-challenged article by Palestinian Tasmanian-based academic and activist Dr Adel Yousif, who attacked Abetz for supporting Israel which he said is guilty of “ongoing ethnic cleansing of Palestinians” – a false claim which is easily refuted by the demographic realities on the ground. 

Yousif’s claim that the Palestinian national cause is analogous to “the fight of the indigenous people of South Africa against apartheid” is a baseless trope used to delegitimise Israel’s right to exist by claiming Jews are really settler colonialists, not a people indigenous to the area.


Clearing the air

In response, the Mercury ran AIJAC’s Jamie Hyams’ letter (Dec. 28) which said, “It is appropriate that Adel Yousif’s vitriolic hate-filled propaganda piece was titled ‘Struggle between justice and violence’…because whenever the Palestinians have been offered what most would regard as justice, they have chosen violence… they have responded to the many Israeli peace initiatives, including offers of statehood, with outright refusal at best, and often terrorism. The measures Yousif mischaracterises as racist, such as the security barrier and permits, are to keep suicide bombers out of Israel.” 

A letter by Abetz run in the paper on Jan. 2 said Yousif’s article was an example of “the relentless repetition of anti-Israel propaganda quoting other anti-Israel propagandists,” adding that, “until the Palestinian Authority is willing to [accept Israel’s right to exist], peace talks are doomed to fail.” 


Taki Christmas message

Spectator Australia contributor Taki’s pre-Christmas column (Dec. 10) included a new entry in his long record of questionable comments about Jews, the Holocaust and Israel.

Taki – the pen name of Panagiotis Theodoracopulos – lamented the West’s loss of faith in Christianity, asking, “Has mankind seen a worse century than the 20th?” and cited WWI and WWII.

Taki indulged in some outrageous moral relativism, saying, “Add to that Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians and appropriation of their lands, and that greatest of crimes, committed against the Jews by the Nazis.” 

In 1998, Taki was widely condemned for saying Jews “traffic… in the Holocaust” and their “constant harping on about the Germans seems to be motivated by profit.”


Christmas Cracker

In Nine Newspapers (Dec. 26), former Liberal Senator George Brandis warned that Christians in 144 countries, including especially in North Africa and the Middle East, face persecution. However, Brandis noted that “the one Middle East country in which Christians are still safe is Israel, the region’s only liberal democracy.” 

The Canberra Times (Dec. 26) reported that for the first time since the COVID lockdowns ended, thousands of Christian tourists visited Bethlehem to celebrate Christmas. The article ended by stating that “present-day reality was visible at Manger Square as banners showing photos of Palestinian prisoner Nasser Abu Hamid were prominently displayed. The veteran prisoner died of cancer last week in an Israeli prison clinic after spending 20 years behind bars for his conviction in the deaths of seven Israelis.”


Obit for a Terrorist

An obituary in the Australian (Jan. 7) by Alan Howe stated that Hamid “was convicted of murdering seven people and of attempting to murder 12 others. It is believed he killed many more.” 

Hamid, Howe wrote, was “a leading member of the Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, a group listed by Australia’s attorney-general 20 years ago as a terrorist organisation. The Brigades run rampant in the Palestinian territories, threatening journalists, killing ‘collaborators’ and sometimes politicians, and planning attacks on Israel, including some of the deadliest: a bomb at a bar mitzvah gathering in 2002 that killed 12; the Tel Aviv bus station massacre the following year that claimed 25; and three attacks the year after that claimed 33 lives.”


French Connection

Media reporting of Israel’s expulsion to France of convicted Palestinian terrorist Salah Hamouri was a mixed bag.

The Guardian Australia (Dec. 19) seemed to downplay the seriousness of Hamouri’s record, headlining its report “Israel deports Palestinian-French human rights lawyer Salah Hamouri.” Noting that Israel accused Hamouri of ongoing membership of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, which “is classified by Israel and its western allies as a terror group,” the report obliquely said, “he was previously detained by Israel between 2005 and 2011 after being accused of attempting to assassinate Sephardi rabbi Ovadia Yossef” and released in 2011 as part of a prisoner exchange.

By contrast, SBS TV “News in Arabic” and the ABC website (Dec. 19) accurately noted that Hamouri was “convicted”, not detained. 

The Canberra Times’ report the next day was headlined “Israel deports Palestinian activist”, and said,“the expulsion… underscores the fragile status of Palestinians in Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem, where most hold revocable residency rights but are not Israeli citizens,” which is a mixture of hyperbole and factual error. As other reports noted, 340,000 Palestinians have residency in the city, almost never lose that status if they remain residents of the city and are entitled to apply for Israeli citizenship if they wish.

SBS TV “World News” (Dec. 19) was uncharacteristically one-sided. Its report made Hamouri appear unjustly victimised by omitting details, including his conviction and imprisonment.


A Rare Sight

Also on Dec. 19, SBS TV “World News” shone a rare light on discontent in Gaza towards Hamas, whose leadership was accused of causing eight young Palestinians who fled to seek a better life in Europe to tragically drown. 

SBS reporter Felicity Davey said, “grieving families [are] also voicing rare public criticism of Hamas,” and included one Palestinian saying, “what do we see in Gaza? We only see oppression. There is nothing in Gaza but oppression. They are suffocating young people, so they flee because… they are being suffocated.”

Nine Newspapers led with the story on their world pages the next day. The report noted, “residents are usually quick to blame Israel for the difficult conditions. But increasingly, families have begun to complain about Hamas’ leadership, citing the high taxes, its heavy-handed rule and a growing stream of leaders, including its supreme leader Ismail Haniyeh, who have moved abroad to more comfortable places with their families.”

Albeit only on its website, on Jan. 6 the ABC also ran a lengthy AP story focusing on Palestinian anger in Gaza at the roll call of senior Hamas officials who now live comfortable lives elsewhere.


No joy

Normal transmission resumed at the ABC one day later, as Middle East correspondent Tom Joyner’s report on ABC TV News24 (Jan. 7) repeated accusations that Israel has blocked requests to let shipments into Gaza “for eight different kinds of x-ray machine and spare parts… needed to care for thousands of patients.”

Joyner reported Israeli fears that “Hamas fighters will use medical equipment for military purposes” and said Egypt and Israel have blockaded Gaza for the past 15 years. 

But then he nonsensically added, “meaning Israel has had control over not only what goods and supplies can get into Gaza, but also who can come and go.”

In fact, Egypt and Gaza share a border totally independent of Israel through which people and goods can pass – but apparently ABC viewers don’t need to know that.


A lawyer unto himself

Tom Joyner made a series of dubious legal claims in his Jan. 2 report on ABC TV “The World on the UN General Assembly vote to ask the International Court of Justice for a ruling on the legality of Israel’s occupation of the West Bank. 

Joyner called Israel’s occupation of the West Bank “the longest running in modern history,” which is questionable. 

He said the UN motion “passed 87 to 26, with more than 50 countries abstaining and much of the West opposing it, including the UK, US and Australia.”

“Those settlements”, Joyner said, “are widely seen as a violation of international law… a central part of [new Israeli PM Binyamin Netanyahu’s] election platform was expanding Israeli settlements inside the West Bank, which is Palestinian territory…in a video address, Mr. Netanyahu made the false claim that the land belonged to Israel.”

Given the UN has asked the ICJ for a ruling on the legality of Israel’s occupation, it seems Joyner asserted his own opinion as fact.

In the Daily Telegraph (Jan. 11), AIJAC’s Justin Amler exposed the UN General Assembly’s unrelenting anti-Israel bias, writing, “Since 2015, there have been 140 resolutions passed condemning Israel, compared to just 68 for the rest of the world combined. In the past year alone, [it] condemned Israel 15 times, compared to 13 resolutions for the other 191 UN member states – including such human rights exemplars as Russia, China, Myanmar, North Korea and Syria.”


On activist duty in Hebron

BBC correspondent Tom Bateman’s report on SBS TV “World News” (Dec. 23) ostensibly showing how settlers in Hebron are making life intolerable for Palestinians was a textbook example of journalists regurgitating propaganda from Palestinian sources to create stories.

Bateman interviewed Yasser Abu Markhiya, who claimed he and his family are frequently intimidated by settlers, when right on cue, one arrived outside the house. Bateman said the settler told the family to leave and appeared to kick out at Markhiya.

Palestinian activist Badee Dwaik appeared and said on camera that Israeli soldiers protect the settlers, a point Bateman repeated.

But viewers never learned why the settler came to the house, suggesting that someone tipped him off that activists and a BBC film crew were present.

The report also failed to explain that the Palestinian Authority controls the vast majority of Hebron and that settlers are restricted to a small section of the city – which is precisely where activists bring compliant journalists to propagandise. 


Foul play

In the Daily Telegraph (Dec. 21), AIJAC’s Judy Maynard detailed Qatar’s underhanded tactics in the recent FIFA World Cup to encourage hostility towards Israel, a country it refuses to recognise.

Maynard said Qatar cracked down on political displays for most causes but “symbols associated with the Palestinian cause [were] allowed to feature prominently… Qatari state-owned anti-Israel media organisation Al Jazeera even celebrated the platform that Qatar 2022 provided the Palestinians ‘to make their flag prominent.’”

Maynard said, “disturbingly, it has been alleged that Qatar has been providing Iran with the names of Israelis visiting the country for the tournament.”


At the Corps

In the Australian (Jan. 11), AIJAC’s Oved Lobel warned that Britain and Germany are poised to proscribe Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) as a terrorist organisation and Australia should “begin laying the [legal] groundwork to follow suit.” He detailed the IRGC’s international reach, saying the “IRGC directly and indirectly, via Hezbollah, has demonstrable links to Australia.” 

On the Australian website (Jan. 10), US-based foreign policy expert Walter Russell Mead suggested 15 years of US Administrations signalling a wish to withdraw from the Middle East has empowered “regional actors [to] feel free to make more decisions that Washington dislikes.”

“The price” to regain influence, he said, is what it has been for the past 15 years. A resolute and effective US policy to disrupt Iran’s ability to threaten its Arab neighbours… combined with measures to ensure that Israel and its friends can, if all else fails, take military action to block Tehran’s nuclear program.”


Out of Parliament

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese (ALP, Grayndler) Chanukah message – Dec. 15 – “The festival of Chanukah is a powerful story about the strength of the Jewish faith and the heroism of the few over the many. The Jewish people have celebrated Chanukah for more than 2,100 years. This year we will again join you in celebrating this triumph over religious persecution and the power of hope in even the darkest times. At a time of resurgent antisemitism around the world, the story of Chanukah becomes more important. It is an opportunity for us to redouble our efforts to reject and denounce antisemitism while we embrace your rightful place in the fabric of our multicultural society… As we light the Chanukah menorah this year, I reiterate that I will continue to work to ensure Australia is always a place where you can proudly practice your faith and where Jewish communities are respected for your connectedness and devotion.”

Opposition Leader Peter Dutton (Lib., Dickson) Chanukah message – Dec. 18 – “On behalf of the Coalition, I wish Australia’s 100,000-strong Jewish community a very Happy Chanukah… Today, as we regrettably witness a resurgence of antisemitism, the historical origins of Chanukah are a reminder that we must stand up for our democratic liberties, particularly freedom of religious association and freedom of speech. Conversely, our silence will be a signal to the intolerant that their intolerance is tolerated. I thank the Jewish Australian community for your contributions to our nation this year in so many fields of endeavour. I wish you and your families a Happy Chanukah.”

Foreign Minister Senator Penny Wong (ALP, SA) Media release announcing the appointment of Dr Ralph King as Australia’s new Ambassador to Israel – Dec. 20 – “Relations between Australia and Israel are close and longstanding… The modern-day relationship is sustained by a history of strong personal connections and by the large and vibrant Jewish community in Australia. Our practical cooperation, including in the fields of security, defence and cyber, continues to deepen. The economic relationship similarly continues to grow, with particular focus on innovation and technology. Next year marks the 75th anniversary of the creation of the State of Israel, and Australia and Israel will celebrate 75 years of bilateral relations in 2024. Dr King is a senior career officer with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. He has previously served overseas as Head of Mission in Riyadh, Cairo and Kuwait and as Deputy Head of Mission in Hanoi. I thank outgoing Ambassador Paul Griffiths for his contributions to advancing Australia’s interests in Israel since 2020.” 

Greens Foreign Affairs Spokesperson Senator Jordon Steele-John (Greens, WA) Twitter – Jan. 16 – “The Australian Government must implement harsher sanctions, they must designate the #IRGC [Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps] as a terrorist organisation, and they must be louder against Iran’s death sentences.” 

Shadow Assistant Minister for Foreign Affairs Senator Claire Chandler (Lib., Tas.) quoted in the Australian – Jan. 12 – “Other nations have been forthright in acknowledging this threat and open with the public about IRGC actions targeting their citizens. Australia’s government has not, and that should change. Officials in the UK and EU are moving towards proscribing the IRGC as a terrorist organisation and the Australian government should be taking the same path.”

Dr Monique Ryan (Ind., Kooyong) Twitter – Jan. 10 – “It’s heartbreaking that young people exercising their right to freedom of expression are being beaten, tortured and killed by the Iranian regime. We need to declare the IRGC a terrorist organisation and expel family members of the IRGC from Australia.”


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