Australia/Israel Review

Noted and Quoted – October 2023

Sep 28, 2023 | AIJAC staff

Image: Shutterstock
Image: Shutterstock


Media reporting of Papua New Guinea (PNG) opening an embassy in the Israeli capital of Jerusalem focused on claims Port Moresby was lured to open it there via chequebook diplomacy and the lobbying of evangelical groups.

On ABC Radio “Pacific Beat” (Aug. 30), political scientist Steven Ratuva said, “evangelical movements in the Pacific [are] mushrooming” and because these Christian groups believe the Jewish state is at the “centre of the second coming of Christ,” “one of the winners… is Israel.”

Professor Ratuva also asserted Israel has adopted the playbook of China and Taiwan in using “chequebook diplomacy” to cultivate successful relations with Pacific leaders.

On Sept. 6, ABC Middle East correspondent Allyson Horn filed multiple reports on the embassy opening, which included quotes from far-left former Israeli diplomat Alon Liel, who expressed outrage that Israel is reportedly paying for the embassy’s initial running costs.

An AAP report on the Canberra Times website (Sept. 1) quoted an unnamed Israeli official saying PNG’s embassy “would have 200 square metres of floor space and could expect a discount of about 70 per cent on municipal property tax as part of a standing policy meant to draw embassies and corporations to Jerusalem… An assessment of a property of comparable size in the same building suggests PNG will pay a monthly rent of about $US20,000 ($A30,904).”

Both the AAP and Horn reports suggested that PNG’s decision to open an embassy in Jerusalem would negatively impact Palestinian aspirations for a future Palestinian state with its capital in east Jerusalem.

This is doubtful. PNG’s embassy is located in west Jerusalem, which is not only recognised as sovereign Israeli territory, but will remain part of Israel if and when a Palestinian state emerges, as everyone knows. Moreover, it is difficult to see how an embassy located anywhere in Jerusalem precludes the Palestinian goal of having a future capital in the eastern part of the city.


Moving violations

Some media reports continued to imply terror attacks against Israelis are a result of counterterrorism operations in Palestinian cities rather than the consequences of Palestinian Authority and Hamas incitement and offering of financial rewards to Palestinians who attack Jewish targets. 

An AP report in the Guardian Australia (Sept. 1) regarding a Palestinian terrorist who drove a truck into a group of pedestrians concluded by saying, “Palestinian assaults against Israelis have risen alongside Israel’s intensification of arrest raids in the West Bank since last spring.” 

Meanwhile, an AFP report in the Guardian Australia (Sept. 11) said “violence… has surged since early last year. At least 227 Palestinians have been killed so far this year in violent confrontations. The bloodshed has also seen 32 Israelis, a Ukrainian and an Italian killed over the same period, according to an AFP tally based on official sources on both sides. They include, on the Palestinian side, combatants as well as civilians and, on the Israeli side, three members of the Arab minority.” The report omitted the fact that nearly all the Israeli victims were civilians.


Recognise this? 

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’ antisemitic rant alleging that Hitler killed the Jews “only because they dealt with usury and money,” was cited by the Australian (Sept. 11), which argued it “should be a wake-up call to anyone who is sufficiently deluded to believe it would be a good idea for Australia to formally recognise a non-existent Palestinian state.” 

The paper chided world leaders who have “lionised” Abbas as “epitomis[ing] all that is worthy about Palestinian aspirations for statehood… as he seeks – and all too often gets – the formal diplomatic recognition that has been sought from countries like Australia.”


Positive and negative indicators

On ABC Radio National “Breakfast” (Sept. 12), the Australian-born former US Middle East envoy Martin Indyk said the sight of hundreds of thousands of Israelis protesting for 35 weeks against the Netanyahu Government’s controversial judicial reform agenda showed democracy remains strong in Israel.

Agreeing with ABC host Patricia Karvelas’ assessment that this is “one of the most extremist governments in Israeli history”, Indyk explained that Israeli PM Binyamin Netanyahu “was unable to [form] the normal coalition of centre and right-wing parties.” Instead, he “forged an alliance between the ultra-Orthodox and the ultra-nationalist religious parties” which has “made him hostage to the extremists that he’s brought into his Government.” 

He dismissed suggestions that Israel is “an apartheid state within its ‘67 borders where Arabs have the right to vote and under the law to be treated as equal citizens.” 

However, he said, even though Palestinians on the West Bank have “their own self-government…the situation in the West Bank approaches an apartheid-like system” where “settlers… enjoy rights as Israeli citizens, and Palestinians don’t enjoy rights at all.”

The solution, he said, is “to find a way to end the occupation” but conceded that Palestinian terrorism makes that difficult.

Indyk knows full well that under the rules of belligerent occupation, Israel is legally obligated to apply a military justice system to the West Bank. Moreover, the overwhelming majority of Palestinians are under the rule of either Hamas in Gaza or the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank, neither of which are noted for respecting basic human rights.

On Sept. 8, Guardian Australia correspondent Chris McGreal said, “successive Israeli governments have fought back against accusations of apartheid by characterising them as antisemitic out of concern the charge will fuel a boycott movement or open the way to prosecutions under international laws against apartheid.”

Israeli governments have opposed the apartheid accusations because they are a slur used to delegitimise Israel’s existence and falsely blame the Jewish state for the lack of a Palestinian state’s existence, when it is Palestinian leaders who have consistently rejected all plans to create one. 


Iran Late?

On SBS Radio “World News” (Sept. 13), Foreign Minister Penny Wong defended the Albanese Government against accusations that Australia lags behind other countries in sanctioning Iran for its appalling human rights record.

Senator Wong said, “This Government… has taken stronger action than any Australian government ever has… In fact… this is the fourth tranche. We’ve also worked with the international community to remove Iran from the Committee for the Status for Women at the United Nations. Australia co-sponsored a resolution of the Human Rights Committee establishing an independent inquiry, and… I have written to states and territories, asking them to cease… engag[ing] with Iranian entities.”

Asked why Australia opposes listing Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) as a terrorist organisation, Senator Wong said, “we don’t believe that is the most strategic approach… [our] approach…[is]…to continue to utilise our sanctions framework and multilateral forums to ensure that pressure is put on Iran.”

Meanwhile, an article on the ABC website by inhouse reporters Nassim Khadem and Olivia Ralph (Sept. 16) quoted Iranian-American activist Nazanin Boniadi criticising Australia’s failure to designate the IRGC as a terror group as “send[ing] the wrong message.” Australian academic Kylie Moore-Gilbert – who was imprisoned as a hostage by Iran on trumped-up spying charges for more than 800 days – was quoted saying that if Australia could list “Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza as terror groups,” then the Government’s refusal to list the IRGC “is a bit of a cop out.”

On Sept. 10, a report on Channel Nine’s “60 Minutes” included Minister for Home Affairs Clare O’Neil acknowledging Iranian foreign agents are boldly stalking and harassing Australian citizens that the regime perceives as a threat to its interests. 


Backroom deals

Amid growing prospects for a Saudi-Israeli peace deal, a Wall Street Journal analysis in the Australian (Aug. 31) noted that the Palestinian Authority is working with Riyadh to extract concessions from Israel – in contrast to its response in 2020 when it accused Abraham Accord signatories Bahrain and the UAE of treason.

An unnamed Palestinian quoted in the article explained “It’s much easier to bypass the Palestinians when you call the Saudis backstabbers… It’s more difficult when you co-operate.”


Miller time 

Speaking to ABC Radio National “Breakfast” (Sept. 6), former US State Department Middle East negotiator Aaron David Miller cautioned the Biden Administration “to be very careful about the price that we’re prepared to pay for” normalisation between Israel and Saudi Arabia.

A deal would reward Israeli PM Binyamin Netanyahu, he said, who is not only “on trial” but is “acquiescing in efforts by ministers within his Government to undermine Israeli democracy and pursue policies on the West Bank that will be tantamount to annexing it in all but name.”

Miller was also highly critical of Saudi rulers, who “[are] serial human rights abusers far too close to the Chinese… even for this Administration’s liking.”

Moreover, they are making exorbitant demands, he said, including “an ironclad… commitment [that] if… attacked… the US [will]… come to the… defence of the kingdom… I think that kind of commitment is a bridge way too far. The Saudis don’t have a security problem with respect to a land invasion… presumably by Iran, which I think is highly unlikely. They’re vulnerable with respect to… missiles. And there I think the United States can certainly… thicken its defence cooperation.” 


More than just symbolic

In the Herald Sun (Aug. 29), Rabbi Gabi Kaltmann called the passage of legislation in Victoria banning displays of the Nazi salute a “win for a more tolerant and inclusive society for so many who feel the horrors of Nazism personally.”

Rabbi Kaltmann explained that “In 2023, outside of an educational setting, there is no reason for using a Nazi salute other than to spread hate and anti-Semitism.” 

Writing in the Spectator Australia (Sept. 2), Kel Richards lamented the results of a recent survey showing that “64 percent of Jewish students say they’ve experienced antisemitism on Australian university campuses and that most of the hate is coming from the progressive side of politics, including the left-wing of the Labor party.”

On July 23, Age education reporter Nicole Precel wrote of the antisemitism she experienced while studying at school in Melbourne 20 years ago.

“At school I had coins tossed at my feet, in the anticipation that as a Jew I’d stingily pick them up and pocket them. I was careful whom I told about my real identity – to certain people I classed Shabbat as ‘Friday night dinner’. I’d pretend I had plans on Saturday mornings instead of disclosing the real reason: that I was actually going to synagogue to prepare for my Bat Mitzvah. This as a 12-year-old girl,” Precel wrote.


An unfunny thing happened…

On Aug. 25, Nine Newspapers’ “Lunch with” columnist Caitlin Fitzsimmons profiled visiting British Jewish comedian David Baddiel, author of Jews Don’t Count and The God Desire. 

The main topic of discussion was the prevalence of antisemitism on the left. Baddiel said, “Progressives have a blind spot about anti-Semitism – they don’t recognise it as racism, or they downgrade it compared with other racism in the belief that Jewish people are white, rich and powerful.” Fitzsimmons reported Baddiel is frustrated when progressives respond to Jews highlighting instances of antisemitism, by saying “but what about Israel (or Palestine)?”

She wrote that Baddiel told her that, being British, he “feels no more connection to Israel than any other foreign country, and says he should not have to answer for its politics.”

On Sky News “Outsiders” (Sept. 17), Israeli writer, actor and activist Noa Tishby explained that millennia-old “tropes” associated with antisemitism are now deployed against Israel by “the extreme left”. 

Tishby explained “you basically take everything that they say about Israel, so vilification, demonisation, calling Israel a bloodthirsty country. That’s literally a trope that we’ve been hearing for 1,500 years. So, the Jews are bloodthirsty people. They’re killing little children. They’re killing Palestinian children… And to some extent, they’re using Israel as an excuse for antisemitism.”


Citizen watch

Commentator Gerard Henderson’s Media Watch Dog column (Sept. 17) took on the Jewish and anti-Zionist British actor Miriam Margolyes for telling ABC Radio National “Breakfast” (Sept. 13) that “nobody likes Jews” in Australia.

Henderson countered that “sure, there is a degree of anti-Semitism in Australia – but far less than in some similar societies. Moreover, the Jewish Australian population – which currently stands at only 100,000 – has been remarkably successful. For example, Josh Frydenberg was treasurer in the previous Coalition government and Mark Dreyfus is attorney-general in the current Labor government… Which raises the question – if Ms Margolyes believes Australia is so… replete with anti-Semitism, why did she choose to take up Australian citizenship?”



An Al Jazeera sourced video ‘report’ (Sept. 1) hosted on the websites of News Corp newspapers about a 14-year-old Palestinian terrorist who was shot dead while carrying out a stabbing attack at a light rail station in Jerusalem amounted to little more than one-sided, emotive anti-Israel propaganda and incitement.

The item was given the provocative headline of “Israeli settlers cheer after police shoot dead unarmed teenager at Jerusalem rail station.” 

The script asserted that, “This is the moment Israeli bystanders cheer the killing of a 14-year-old who was shot dead by police at a light rail station in Jerusalem. Authorities say Khaled Samer al-Za’neen had tried to stab a settler. The Palestinian news agency Wafa says settlers had assaulted the teenager. Video shows the wounded boy on the ground. Witnesses say he was unarmed when he was shot at close range and authorities refused to allow medics to treat him as he bled to death.”

Practically none of this was true, as an AFP report – appropriately headlined “Teenage attacker shot dead after Jerusalem stabbing: police” – elsewhere on News Corp websites showed.

The AFP report stated that, “A border police officer who was travelling in a tram saw the attack as it happened and took action, the police said. He ‘promptly disembarked from the train and fired’, hitting the suspect, they said.”

The injured man was 25 and had been stabbed in the back, the article noted.

Al Jazeera’s claim the terrorist was assaulted on the train by “settlers” was not reported by any credible media outlet. Likewise, the claim that al-Za’neen was shot dead in cold blood is belied by all the available evidence. The characterisation of all Jews at the station as “settlers” is also Al Jazeera’s blatant attempt to portray them as illegitimate.

On Aug. 29, News Corp websites ran another Al Jazeera propaganda video report about a small group of protesters in San Francisco accusing Google of enabling Israeli apartheid. The report simply amplified their claims without including any countering voices.


Mansour in the Middle

An SBS TV “News in Arabic” (Sept. 1) report of a series of Palestinian terrorist attacks in Jerusalem, included footage of remarks by Israeli Arab Ra’am party leader Mansour Abbas criticising the Israeli Government. 

Mansour said, “People here are shouting at this negligent and ineffective government. It is also a message to the Arab community as a whole that violence and crime have emerged, and we cannot live with it nor surrender to it.” 

Unfortunately, this was highly misleading – Abbas’ commentary had nothing to do with Palestinian terror attacks against Israel. It was made at a demonstration in Haifa on Aug. 31 to protest the increasing criminal violence and murder within the Arab sector in Israel, and the inability of Israeli police to stop it. 

A “News in Arabic” report (Sept. 6) of a talk by former Foreign Minister Bob Carr at a pro-Palestinian symposium held at Sydney University’s Great Hall failed to provide any balance to his stridently anti-Israel remarks. It did note that some symposium participants walked out in protest at Carr’s comments that Australia does not support anti-Israel violence, which he said was self-defeating because “any attack on bus stations in Israel will lead to a strong [military] response.”


In Parliament

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese (ALP, Grayndler) Jewish New Year message – Sept. 14 – “I’m delighted to send Australian Jewish communities my best wishes for a happy, sweet and successful new year… The long and important Jewish presence in Australia is a story that lifts us all up with pride in our diversity. The quiet reflection, prayers, time with friends and family, and symbolic meals provide lessons for all Australians about the importance of community and forgiveness.”

Opposition Leader Peter Dutton (Lib., Dickson) Jewish New Year message – Sept. 14 – “On behalf of the Coalition, I extend my warmest wishes to Australia’s 100,000-strong Jewish community as you welcome the New Year… In a world where people of the Jewish faith continue to contend with discrimination and adversity, I offer my support as an enduring friend of Israel and pledge to stand with you in the mutual and noble endeavour of seeking a brighter future for all Jewish people.”

Senator Raff Ciccone (ALP, Vic.) – Sept. 14 – “With one in five Jewish students staying away from university campuses to avoid antisemitism, it is incumbent on our universities to act and do more… Seventy-six per cent of respondents to the survey said they would be more confident in the university complaints system and procedures if they adopted a definition of antisemitism…. that would be a very good place to start. I stand in solidarity with the Jewish community and the students against the scourge of antisemitism in this country, particularly at our universities. I call on parliamentarians to do the same thing.”

Senator Dean Smith (Lib., WA) – Sept. 12 – “Senators and members should be alarmed when the Australian Union of Jewish Students finds it necessary to come to our national parliament to talk about the terrible and unacceptable experiences of Jewish students on university campuses across Australia… In a free and vibrant country like ours it’s beholden on all of us, every group of us and every multicultural community, to stand up against antisemitism.”

Josh Burns (ALP, Macnamara) – Sept. 11 – “I… speak about the Australian Jewish University Experience Survey… and the results of the survey are truly shocking. The results showed more than 50 per cent of Jewish university students hide their identity on campus, that 64 per cent have experienced some form of antisemitism on campus… These results are alarming. No student should have to go to university fearful for their identity. We need to do something about it so we have a better future for these students.”

Michelle Ananda-Rajah (ALP, Higgins) – Sept. 4 – “With university still split on whether to adopt the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism, it is no surprise that reporting of antisemitic abuse on campus remains so low. The process is onerous, and university responses are consistently poor. When Jewish students avoid self-disclosure due to fear, it only compounds the problem.” 

Senator Fatima Payman (ALP, WA) – Sept. 12 – “We should not accept that Palestinian families in the West Bank live under military occupation or that children are prosecuted in military courts without fundamental trial rights and protection… I’m proud that this government recognises the rights of both Palestine and Israel to exist as two states with secure and recognised borders.”

James Stevens (Lib., Sturt) – Sept. 4 – “Frankly, [antisemitism] is where the hard left and the hard right basically fuse together, and the hard left have some pretty appalling views when it comes to antisemitism and the state of Israel… Antisemitism has always been seen as one of the most significant attributes of hard right-wing extremism and anywhere in our society where we see it we should always… call it out.”


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