Economical with the context
The Australian (May 20) ran two articles from the Economist magazine looking at the 50th anniversary of the Six Day War with a subtext that accused Israelis of living the good life whilst Palestinians suffer.
According to the main article, “the war awakened Palestinian irredentism and Israeli zealotry, and added the intractable power of religion to the forces of nationalism… Israelis have grown rich, which makes the misery of Palestinians all the more disturbing.”
Although the main article noted that Israelis wrongly expected the Arabs would sue for peace in 1967, bizarrely nowhere was there any background given to the war’s origins as a defensive war for Israel or the fact that Israeli offers to negotiate the return of the territories immediately in exchange for peace were formally rebuffed.
Although the 2000 Camp David talks were mentioned in passing, PLO chief Yasser Arafat’s central role in rejecting then Israeli PM Ehud Barak’s offers of a state and deliberate launching the terror of the Second Intifada were a mere footnote. Also absent were the procrastination and rejectionist tactics of current Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
A false analogy was also suggested between extremists on both sides attempting to derail efforts for peace.
Since 1999, all Israeli prime ministers have unambiguously backed a Palestinian state. Moreover, Israeli leaders have withdrawn from disputed territory, including Netanyahu in the 1990s and Ariel Sharon in 2005.
ABC Middle East correspondent Sophie McNeill seemed to echo this theme – comfortable Israelis happy to let Palestinians suffer – in an online analysis (May 22) that relied largely on International Crisis Group analyst Nathan Thrall.
McNeill wrote that Thrall said that despite recent Palestinian terror against Israeli civilians “the status quo suited Israel more than it did the Palestinians” and the fact “‘we are in the 50th year of the Israeli occupation of the West Bank,'” is the proof.
The reality is that the ongoing occupation is due to the contradictory policies of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas – who demands a state but has either refused to enter peace talks, ended such peace talks as soon as possible or, in his own words, rejected peace offers “out of hand”.
McNeill wrote that Thrall said the main impediment to peace is that the “discrepancy in power between Palestinians and Israelis was so great that the Palestinians on their own could not create ‘costs’ that were great enough for Israel to withdraw from all of the West Bank.”
Presumably Thrall and McNeill know that 1,000 plus dead Israelis were the transactional “cost” of the second intifada – which followed only months after then Israeli PM Ehud Barak’s unprecedented offer in 2000 of a Palestinian state that would include sharing Jerusalem’s Old City and evacuating settlements, amongst other significant concessions.
McNeill’s report on ABC Radio “AM” (May 23) during US President Donald Trump’s visit to Israel had her saying, “Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu used the opportunity to remind President Trump Israel has strict conditions for any such deal.”
And what were his “strict conditions”?
Netanyahu was heard to say that “the peace we seek is a genuine and durable one in which the Jewish state is recognised, security remains in Israel’s hands and the conflict ends once and for all.”
In other words, for McNeill, it appears the entirely reasonable expectation that a two-state deal requires genuine and final peace, security arrangements and recognition of Israel as the Jewish homeland are evidence of a hardline position.
Kindness and Conspiracy
ABC Radio National “Correspondents Report” (May 20) ran McNeill’s interview with Australian Israeli paediatrician Michael Harari who heads Israel’s humanitarian program at Ziv Hospital which has treated thousands of Syrians wounded in the civil war.
While highlighting the genuine humanitarianism underpinning the program, McNeill still managed to throw in an observation that “the patients’ stay in Israel is just temporary. The country has not taken in any of the five million Syrian refugees that are now spread throughout the region.” This ignores that fact that there is no evidence the Syrians treated in Israel requested long-term asylum there or wished to stay.
This story prompted numerous conspiracy theories about how Israel and ISIS are secretly working together in the comments posted on the ABC Facebook page.
Extolling the virtues of a one-state solution on ABC Radio National “Saturday Extra” (May 6), Israeli novelist and left-wing extremist Nir Baram trotted out a litany of propaganda completely disconnected from reality.
He said, “the settlements in the West Bank, most of them are immoveable…and the idea that the Palestinians will accept a state that basically [has] a lot of settlements… is ridiculous.”
Actually previous Israeli offers of a Palestinian state have acknowledged that many small settlements will be evacuated. And why is it ridiculous to expect a future Palestinian state to accept some Jewish residents in settlements, given that Israel has a large Arab minority?
Baram seemed to endorse an unlimited Palestinian “right of return” to Israel from where 700,000 Palestinians were, he said, “deported”.
The overwhelming majority were not deported but fled the fighting.
He said ordinary Palestinians hate the Palestinian Authority which “they think… collaborated with Israel and doesn’t deliver anything.”
Is it Israel’s fault the democratically elected Authority was run as a kleptocracy that benefited a corrupt few, mirroring most other governments in the Middle East?
He accused Israelis of not “caring about moral question[s], they care about the survival of Israel and all this propaganda.”
Apparently, it is immoral for Israelis to care about the survival of their country.
The one concession Baram made to the mainstream Israeli perspective was saying that the Palestinians need to recognise the refugee problem was created because the Arab side did not accept the UN Partition Plan dividing the land into two states.
The Hunger Games
The Palestinian prisoners’ strike has received minimal media coverage, which is probably good considering most of what has appeared uncritically regurgitated pro-Palestinian propaganda.
An AFP article on SBS’s website (10 May) described hunger strike leader Marwan Barghouti as “a senior member of Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas’s Fatah party and a highly popular figure among Palestinian… serving five life sentences over his role in the second Palestinian intifada.”
Barghouti was convicted in a civilian court of organising terror attacks that murdered five Israelis.
The most outrageous claim made was that “some 850,000 Palestinians have been incarcerated since the Israel’s occupation of their territories 50 years ago, Palestinian leaders say.”
This figure is simply not credible, and has been comprehensively debunked in the past.
As one analyst explained in 2009, when the figure “incarcerated” claimed was 750,000, this means that, since 1967, “there were, on the average, over 23,000 new prisoners a year… or 500 a week… Even during the height of the intifada, the number of… prisoners [held] never reached 10,000…”
Even if you make ridiculous assumptions, such as that each prisoner is detained for only a single year and arrested only once, and use the unusually high imprisonment rate of the Intifada years, you still end up with under 200,000 prisoners in total.
Hungry for nuance
Fairfax correspondent Farid Farid’s story (15 May) on the strike was hagiography masquerading as reporting.
It included nothing about the internal Palestinian political manoeuvrings behind Barghouti launching the hunger strike which virtually all analysts have acknowledged.
The report stated there are 6,500 Palestinians held in Israeli jails and over “400 children detained” without noting that these juveniles, mostly 16 and 17 year olds, were there for committing acts of terror or violence.
To give some perspective on that stat, in 2012-13 in Victoria, with a population of 5.4 million, 29,198 juveniles were processed for alleged crimes, with 10,937 of those arrested. Each year, Britain arrests 200,000 juveniles.
A longer online version quoted academic Mikko Joronen saying that “the law for Palestinian children is different than for Israeli children.”
Farid did not explain that as the occupying power, Israel is legally obliged to apply military law and not civilian law to Palestinians on the West Bank.
Joronen added that “stone throwing… is considered in Israeli military law as a serious security violation which can carry a sentence of up to 20 years.”
Stone throwing has killed and seriously injured Israelis and only those convicted of such crimes would receive anything like the maximum sentence.
Barghouti’s lawyer got the last word, calling for “legal pressure on Israel” because “‘after 50 years of occupation – it is time to free the Palestinian people and release their prisoners.'”
No counter opinions were included to puncture the propaganda bubble.
Opening the Barns door
ABC personality Yassmin Abdel-Magied, whose Anzac Day tweet saying “Lest. We. Forget. (Manus, Nauru, Syria, Palestine)” upset many people, was praised in the Hobart Mercury (May 1) by veteran anti-Israel commentator Greg Barns.
Barns called her a “hero” for reminding “us that true liberty and freedom requires us to reflect on where we can do a good deal better” and said her critics are motivated to respond because she is a “woman of dark skin and of Muslim faith”.
Barns ignored the fact that in 2015, SBS sacked white male reporter Scott McIntyre for offensive tweets he made on Anzac Day.
Barns also commended Abdel-Magied because “she said let’s remember the Palestinians, the millions of people without a homeland because Australia supports the apartheid state of Israel and the human rights abusers who populate its current government.”
Barns’ claims, particularly in portraying the Palestinians as helpless victims of a non-existent Israeli apartheid, are breathtakingly feeble.
Israeli Arabs enjoy equal rights and are represented across the length and breadth of Israeli society.
Meanwhile, all Palestinians in Gaza and more than 95% of those who live on the West Bank are ruled by their own democratically-elected governments, albeit under a leadership that has chosen not to hold parliamentary elections since 2006.
Furthermore, said leaders have chosen to repeatedly reject statehood when it was offered to them in exchange for peace.
Also on May 1, News Corp columnist Andrew Bolt criticised Mohamed El-Mouehly, President of the Halal Certification Authority, for defending Abdel-Magied’s claims and adding his own, including attacking white Australians for not caring about Muslims.
Bolt said that “El-Mouehly then ranted about Jews, claiming the West had joined the Syrian war to ‘protect Israel’, where Jews not only ‘dispossessed’ Muslims but ‘torture them, imprison them and there (sic) children, treat them like animals who have no soul.'”
In the Herald Sun (May 1), Iranian-born Australian columnist Rita Panahi exposed the selective outrage that makes up the world view of Abdel-Magied, Barns and El-Mouehly.
In a stinging attack on the “rancid stain on humanity” that is Saudi Arabia, Panahi questioned why it is a member of the UN Human Rights Council and another UN body “charged with advancing the rights of women”, which is “akin to selecting a known paedophile to run the police’s child safety unit.”
As Panahi wrote, “it’s preposterous that a country that beheads people with the same gusto as Islamic State for ‘crimes’ such as atheism, apostasy, blasphemy, idolatry, sodomy and sorcery, as well as condemning millions of women to a miserable existence as subservient slaves, is lecturing the world on human rights.”
Columnist Hal G.P. Colebatch condemned the millions of dollars in funding the German Government gives NGOs that are highly critical of Israel.
Using material from Israeli organisation NGO Monitor, Colebatch wrote, “German federal funding is allocated to, among others, organisations that promote anti-Israel BDS (boycott, divestment, and sanctions) campaigns aimed at destroying Israel’s economy and legitimacy, and ‘lawfare’ campaigns (using law to silence critics), anti-Zionism, a ‘one-state’ (ie. Jew-free) vision and outright violence.”
Groups receiving funding include domestic Israeli outfits such as Breaking the Silence and B’Tselem. Palestinian beneficiaries include Al-Haq, which has “alleged ties to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, a designated terrorist organisation by the EU, US, Canada, and Israel.”
Also on the German payroll is a project dedicated to “‘strengthening non-violent initiatives’ [that] involved the Palestinian NGO Popular Struggle Coordination Committees. Despite the name, PSCC board member Manal Tamimi has promoted terrorism, violence, and virulent anti-Semitic rhetoric and imagery, as well as using Nazi and Holocaust rhetoric on her Twitter account,” Spectator Australia (May 6).
Comments by former Australian PM Julia Gillard that Israeli settlement construction might interfere with peacemaking efforts were seized on by former foreign minister Bob Carr for his not unusual mischief making.
The Australian‘s Rosie Lewis (May 18), reported that Carr, who was Gillard’s foreign minister, said “essentially she was saying their remorseless settlement expansion is burying the prospect of a two-state solution.” Lewis reported he said “it was now inevitable she would…‘support a policy change to recognise a state of Palestine’.”
Carr also claimed that 60% of the Israeli cabinet are on record “saying there will never, ever be a Palestinian state.” This misleading claim comes from counting the number of cabinet members who have ever, in their decades-long careers, said they opposed a Palestinian state. Only 12 of the current Knesset’s 120 members belong to a party ideologically opposed to Palestinian statehood under any circumstances.
Gillard was critical of settlements, but unlike Carr who seems to believe that the Palestinian leadership can do no wrong, she recognised certain incontestable truths, saying, “I believe that to enable a meaningful peace process, leaders in Gaza, in Teheran, indeed around the world, must forever end the ugly and hateful speech that denounces Israel’s right to exist. It is key to peace that Israel is acknowledged by all as a Jewish State and democracy.”
Columnist Brian Toohey described Iran’s nuclear program as a “non-problem” the US should focus less attention on, insisting it had been solved in 2015 “when Iran entered into a verifiable agreement to dismantle its program.”
He maintained that the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action is working well and US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was wrong to claim the nuclear deal has failed “to achieve the objective of a non-nuclear Iran”, and to accuse Iran of “continu[ing] to threaten the US and the rest of the world” or call it a “leading state sponsor of terrorism”.
He said Iran only supports two Shi’ite terror groups, Hezbollah which is fighting on the side of the Assad regime in Syria and “Kataib Hezbollah, a paramilitary force actually fighting against IS in Iraq.”
This is not correct. The latest US State Department report on terrorism says Iran also backs Hamas, Palestine Islamic Jihad, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command, and Bahraini Shi’ite militants, and it also harbours al-Qaeda members, and more generally, uses the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Qods Force “for cultivating and supporting terrorists abroad.”
The real threat the US should focus on are terrorist organisations “inspired by the Wahhabi form of Islam that Saudi Arabia exports,” Toohey insisted, Australian Financial Review (April 26).
By contrast, Times (UK) columnist Roger Boyes warned Iran’s nuclear program is not genuinely suspended and the regime is committed to exporting its revolutionary Islamist agenda.
The US, he wrote, must counter Iranian’s hegemonic ambitions by “arming Saudi Arabia” because Iran cannot “be allowed to emerge as the victor in Syria, that its military adventurism is causing havoc in the region and that its nuclear deal is storing up problems for the next decade.”
“Under the ‘sunset clause’ of the nuclear restraint accord with Tehran, it will be free to develop unlimited numbers of advanced centrifuges after 2030. Even if it does not cheat in the coming years, it will by then be a short skip from a nuclear bomb,” he wrote, Australian (May 18).