Australia/Israel Review

Noted and Quoted – October 2017

Oct 16, 2017 | 

Noted and Quoted - October 2017
Robert Fisk: Typically opinionated and ill-informed

Rundle’s Grumble

The Section 44 constitutional imbroglio affecting federal MPs prompted far left writer Guy Rundle to question the status of Jewish MPs.

According to Rundle, “one issue has remained undiscussed and unexamined: whether any potential of breach arises for a number of MPs due to Israel’s ‘right of return’, which is offered to Jewish-descended people and their spouses. The reason? Politics.”

Rundle argued that if an entitlement to apply for citizenship falls under Section 44, then the right of return might too.

He quoted Israel’s 1950 Law of Return that offers citizenship “to every Jew who has expressed his desire to settle in Israel.”

Despite quoting a number of Jewish MPs and constitutional experts who argued that a right to apply for citizenship does not mean a breach of Section 44, Rundle was more interested in baiting Jewish MPs to publicly renounce the right to apply for Israeli citizenship before claiming “such a public renunciation would be a political disaster.”

He attacked Melbourne Ports Labor MP Michael Danby “as one MP who thought” PM Kevin Rudd overreacted in 2010 by expelling Israeli embassy staff in Canberra over the use of forged Australian passports in the assassination of a Hamas operative in Dubai – and implied that this raised the “question of dual loyalties” unless Danby had renounced his “right of return.”

Actually, then Opposition Foreign Affairs Spokesperson Julie Bishop said the expulsion was made to “curry favour within the Arab community” and “it would be naive to think that Israel is the only country in the world that has used forged passports, including Australian passports, for security operations.”

Rundle also claimed the right of return could be used by Australian MPs to evade prosecution for crimes “related to their MP status,” Crikey (Sept 4).

Sydney University academic Mary Crock, quoted by Rundle to suggest the right of return might be a problem under Section 44, subsequently told the Australian Jewish News (Sept.7) the Crikey article was wrong to suggest Jewish MPs should be concerned because “‘the right of return is a right to apply for citizenship, not a right of citizenship… There is no doubt in my mind that they would not be caught by this.'”

Not fit for publication

The Age amended its website to remove a silly descriptor in a story (Sept. 13) about a “Make Victoria Safe Again” rally co-organised by right-wing fringe Jewish activist Avi Ben Yemini. The article stated he owns a series of “pro-Zionist gyms”.

Media monitor organisation “Honest Reporting” said it asked the paper “what exactly is a ‘pro-Zionist gym?’…Perhaps he teaches Krav Maga, a form of Israeli self-defence in his gyms. Would a gym be labelled pro-Thai if kick boxing were taught there?”

Ignoble awards

Condemnation of Burmese leader Aung San Suu Kyi for not doing enough to stop the persecution of Rohingya Muslims prompted the Australian’s “Jake the Insider” to bell the cat on other Nobel Peace Prize winners.

This included, “leader of the Palestinian Liberation Organisation, Yasser Arafat… Apparently being an architect of the Black September terrorist organisation which wreaked mayhem around the world, including at the 1972 Munich Olympics where 11 members of the Israeli Olympic team and one German police officer were murdered was seen as no handicap,” Australian online (Sept. 15).

Night Tremors

It was a meeting of minds when ABC Radio “Nightlife” host Philip Clark (Sept. 14) gave the Australian newspaper’s former Middle East correspondent John Lyons yet another opportunity to spruik his controversial memoir, Balcony Over Jerusalem.

Clark introduced Lyons by saying, “his new memoir… records his impression of life in a part of the world that seems to be at the centre of so much of the world’s discontent.”

The 500,000 killed in Syria over the last six years – which has nothing to do with Israel – might disagree.

As in other media appearances, Lyons maintained that he went to Israel with a “very open mind” but that “over the six years we started to see things that most people don’t get to see and it changed my view.”

This seems disingenuous. His book suggests he went to Israel loaded up with a pre-conceived agenda.

Listeners heard Lyons’ highly selective summary of the past 70 years which omitted the Palestinian Arab refusal to accept the UN Partition Plan in 1947 giving them a state. He gave no context to the 1967 war when the West Bank fell under Israeli control, nor Israel’s immediate post-war offer rejected by the Arabs to accept the land for peace formula or even the offers made in 2000/01 and 2008.

Lyons accused Israel of arbitrary control over Palestinian access to water and made a big issue of the apparently 101 kinds of permits available to Palestinians on the West Bank for entering Israel and Jerusalem.

In fact, water access is affected by the Palestinian Authority’s lack of infrastructure maintenance and refusal to cooperate with Israel, and Palestinians today get a larger share of water than they received before Israel captured the West Bank in 1967, and more than was agreed under Oslo.

The permit system only matters to Palestinians who want to work or visit Israel and even the left-wing Haaretz newspaper has reported on its effectiveness in preventing terrorism.

Clark’s views were equally ill conceived, claiming as fact that settlements have made a two-state solution impossible. Lyons agreed, saying, “physically it’s almost impossible”.

Lyons claimed that Gaza is “the only place I know… where… children being born now… are smaller than the boys and girls being born 15 or 20 years ago.”

Yet, according to the World Bank 2011 report, “in terms of indicators of early childhood nutrition, WB&G [West Bank and Gaza] is an outstanding performer. Among children under the age of 5, only 11.5 percent suffer from stunting (low height for age) and a mere 1.4 percent from wasting (low weight for height). In the average middle income country, 3 out of 10 children are stunted, i.e. more than three times the figure for WB&G.”

He accused organisations like AIJAC which send delegations to Israel of not letting participants see the realities of the Palestinians. This is untrue – delegates visit Palestinians in their own cities, and speak to Palestinian spokespeople.

Clark expressed astonishment that 16% of Israelis speak Russian and claimed that Israel has “deliberately encouraged this because the flow of… Jews… coming to Israel has slowed. They need to find people willing to come there from somewhere and they’ve found them in Russia.”

News flash, it has been over two decades since the vast majority of the one million Jews arrived in Israel from the former Soviet Union – where they were oppressed for 70 years for being Jewish.

Lyons blamed the Russians for contributing to a lack of peace, highlighting Moldovan born Israeli politician Avigdor Lieberman, even though he supports a two-state solution in principle.

He said 3 million Palestinians on the West Bank are under occupation. However, more than 95% of West Bank Palestinians have been ruled by their own leadership for more than two decades.

And Lyons claimed that 700,000 Palestinians have been through the Israeli military courts.

This is simply a false and repeatedly debunked Palestinian propaganda claim – completely impossible if one looks at basic statistics on how many actual prisoners have been through the Israeli court system on an annual basis.

Al Jazeera’s agenda

AIJAC’s Colin Rubenstein questioned taxpayer-funded broadcasters SBS and ABC continuing to rely on the Qatari royal family owned and run Al Jazeera network – which frequently disseminates wild claims that contribute to inciting anti-Israel animus.

He wrote, “in 2015, it accused Israel of opening dams in the south of the country to flood parts of the Gaza Strip. In fact there are no such dams in southern Israel.”

More recently, in June 2017, an attack where three terrorists were shot dead after they themselves had shot and killed two Israeli policemen near Jerusalem’s Temple Mount saw Al Jazeera “initially report the incident as ‘at least three Palestinians killed in shooting in Jerusalem’s Old City.'”

It subsequently aired “incendiary and false claims that Israeli security cameras [on the Temple Mount] would allow Israeli authorities to see the naked bodies of Muslim worshippers through their clothes,” Daily Telegraph (Sep. 22).

Explosive allies

AIJAC’s Shmuel Levin spotlighted North Korea’s close relationship with Iran – “one country…standing beside the renegade regime, as it always has.”

“Iranian officials religiously attend North Korean ballistic missile test launches and maintain a presence at their nuclear test sites…and the two co-operate on nuclear technology,” he wrote, with Iran’s missiles modelled on North Korea’s. He also noted intelligence reports indicating “the two worked together on developing a miniaturised nuclear implosion device”, Australian (Sep. 13).

Monumental hypocrisy

Rowan Dean called out Labor MPs who support removing statues of British explorers and settlers because they potentially offend indigenous Australians, but don’t respect indigenous Jewish ties with Israel.

Dean said, they “are all saying ‘let’s not whitewash history, we’ve got to remember who the First Nations were… people who came along later, they don’t deserve to put their monuments over the original history.’ Why does that same principle not apply… to Israel and Palestine? Why do the left… wish to whitewash the history of the Jews in that part of the world?”

Dean showed a map of ancient Israel and another map of modern Israel, explaining it was the “domain of countless Jewish tribes thousands of years ago. Yet, the Labor party, Anthony Albanese, Tony Burke and the ridiculous Bob Carr would have you say there is a nation called Palestine that sits on top of this that we should be recognising…” SkyNews “Outsiders” (Sept. 3).


ABC Middle East correspondent Sophie McNeill’s report on a Palestinian family’s eviction from an east Jerusalem home they have lived in for decades was presented as an act of racist disenfranchisement after Israel’s Supreme Court recognised the prior-title of the original Jewish owners who were forced to flee by Jordanian forces in the 1948 war.

McNeill correctly pointed out that only Jews can reclaim abandoned property but did not explain that they have to be the original owners and that Palestinians who can show they were living in these contested properties before 1968 are “protected tenants” and not subject to eviction if they pay minimal rent. The family in question, the Shamasnehs, could not prove that they lived there any earlier than 1972, despite having claimed to be there since 1964, and had stopped paying rent.

Israeli Foreign Affairs official Emmanuel Nahson explained that the Jewish owners could prove title ownership but wasn’t asked to justify why Palestinians cannot also reclaim property lost in 1948.

McNeill ended her report by saying, “200,000 Israeli Jews now live in east Jerusalem in settlement homes considered illegal under international law.” What that has to do with this case is unclear. Or is McNeill suggesting that Jews uniquely have no right to live or own any property in east Jerusalem? ABC TV “World” (Sept. 6).

One track mind

An SBS TV “Dateline” (Aug. 29) profile of an all-female Palestinian racing car team nicknamed the “Speed Sisters” focused on the challenges of living in the Jenin refugee camp, with no surprise about who’s to blame.

Driver Marah Zahalka said, “Jenin has been through really hard times. For a period we lived under a 24-hour curfew. The army only allowed us two hours to shop for bread and water. It was really tough.”

From 1996 to 2000, the West Bank experienced 10% annual economic growth, which plummeted after violence broke out in 2000 as a result of the decision of Yasser Arafat to launch the self-destructive Second Intifada.

By April 2002, at the height of the Second Intifada, Jenin was known as the suicide bomber capital of the West Bank. A strict curfew was imposed for less than two weeks while Israeli forces went in to neutralise the terrorist infrastructure.

The report didn’t include these salient points.

Tellingly, Marah’s mother says, “The plan was to build a new house or buy a new car. Khaled decided to buy Marah a new car, so we put off the house for another year.”

Not exactly an option one expects to hear available to refugee camp residents. But then as many who have seen Palestinian refugee camps know, they are hardly shanty towns.

Regardless, the Palestinian Authority has run Jenin for the past 21 years and refuses to shut the camps down.

Fisky business

Visiting Beirut-based British correspondent Robert Fisk was typically opinionated and ill-informed on Melbourne ABC Radio 774 “Conversation Hour” (Sept. 4).

According to Fisk, “when I go to Israel… I have the habit as most Westerners do who want to believe that Israel is a good state, of going to talk to Israelis who share my point of view. So I go and talk to leftist liberal Israelis… and I think ‘this is the Israel I believe in’… But when I take the bus from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and I talk to people on that bus about the Palestinians, it is not necessarily the Israel I want to believe in.”

Wow, so Fisk damns a nation of eight million people based on a bus ride.

Host Jon Faine’s suggestion that Israel’s democracy serves as a role model set Fisk off.

“As long as Israel steals land from Arabs, which it does, for Jews and Jews only, which is the problem… It is going down the line of apartheid.” Israel must, Fisk said, “either give Arabs the vote, in which case it will no longer be Israel or it does not, in which case it becomes a South African apartheid state.”

Fisk heatedly insisted a Palestinian state will not arise “because Israel will never permit it.” Faine interjected maybe there will be a Palestinian state in the future because “it’s not just up to the Israelis, it’s also up to the Palestinians… who are in charge of deciding their destiny as anybody else.”

Fisk maintained that the Palestinians “will not be given a chance of having a state” by Israel.

So Israeli offers of a Palestinian state in 2000, 2001 and 2008 never happened, Robert?

Repeat offender

Troy Bramston’s report (Australian, Aug. 29) on the Western Australian Labor Party conference passing a resolution urging recognition of a Palestinian state was marinated in questionable claims.

Bramston claimed the resolution “support[s] recognition of a Palestinian state without conditions, caveats or qualifications.”

He said it “represents a different position to Labor leader Bill Shorten, and his Victorian Labor right faction, who are likely to have to accept a significant change in Labor’s position in support of a Palestinian state without stating that recognition should be part of a two-state peace process.”

Yet this contradicts the very section of the motion that Bramston himself quoted, which stated that the party “supported the recognition and right of Israel and Palestine to exist within secure and recognised borders.”

Bramston also did not explain that the WA motion, like an earlier NSW motion, is significantly different from what former Foreign Minister Bob Carr wanted, which included no reference to “the recognition and right of Israel and Palestine to exist within secure and recognised borders.”

The paper’s Victorian edition included an extra paragraph noting the pro-recognition camp recommends Australian recognition for Palestine because “more than 130 other nations” do.

True, but of Western democracies, only Sweden has formally recognised Palestine. The rest understand that unilateral recognition rewards and entrenches Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ rejectionist stance.

Gaza film strip

ABC Radio Triple J “News” (Aug. 27) reported that “the residents of the Palestinian territory of Gaza have been able to go to the cinema for the first time in more than 30 years. For one night only the Samer [cinema] in Gaza City hosted a special screening of a film about Palestinians in Israeli prisons.”

That was it. No context, nothing. Given the film’s subject matter and the long time inclination of ABC reports to blame Israel for Gaza’s woes, the casual listener might have thought the Jewish state was also somehow responsible for Gaza’s cinemas remaining shuttered.

In 1987, a fire at a Gaza cinema, widely believed to be the work of Islamist arsonists, frightened other cinema owners into shutting down their premises. By 1995 no functioning cinemas remained. There have, however, been the occasional film festivals run in rented halls.




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