Ed: 37: September/2012
I recently returned from a trip to Israel. I met with a handful of very senior foreign policy and defence officials, but did not speak with any member of the “Forum of Eight” – Israel’s security cabinet that is responsible for key decisions concerning war and peace. With that important caveat, I thought I’d share several random impressions...
Our society is founded on principles of civility, tolerance and the opportunity for all people, regardless of religion or racial or ethnic origins, to contribute to their maximum potential. This is why it is of fundamental concern when Australia's laws against public expressions of racial hatred are being targeted by some for dilution or even repeal.
The federal Racial Hatred Act came into effect in 1996. This law was, and still is, an important response to damaging racist behaviour that frequently targets groups within the Australian community, such as Aborigines, Asians, Jews, Africans, various Muslim communities and others.
The key provisions on racial hatred were incorporated into the 1975 Racial Discrimination Act. Its section 18C now prohibits an action that is "reasonably likely, in all the circumstances, to offend, insult, humiliate or intimidate another person or group of people" and which is done because of their race, colour, or national or ethnic origin, as being a breach of that person or group's civil rights.
It is very disappointing to read reports that Australia has announced it plans to send two senior Australian diplomats to Teheran to participate as "guests" in the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) conference there from August 26 through 31. This forum is being exploited by the Iranian regime to gain support for its non-existent "right" to enrich uranium, and to erode the increasing isolation Iran has experienced as sanctions mount because of its defiance of the UN Security Council and International Atomic Energy Agency over its illegal nuclear weapons program. Moreover, it is highly likely that the conference will be used by the Iranian regime to promote their unconscionable efforts to demand Israel's destruction - following on from President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's August 17 claim that "The Zionist regime and the Zionists are a cancerous tumour" which must be "excised," as well as various other antisemitic and Holocaust denying rants.
Israelis agree that Iran's nuclear program must be stopped, and their debate regarding a strike's cost-effectiveness, urgency, and impact on relations with the United States is coming to a head.
With the heat of the summer has come an unprecedented flare-up in Israel's public debate on whether and when to unilaterally strike the advancing Iranian nuclear program.
In a typical Middle Eastern dynamic, what began with a hail of bullets soon produced political casualties, diplomatic fog, and strategic perplexity.
The physical fire originally erupted near the Rafah border crossing between the Sinai Desert and the Gaza Strip, when presumably Islamist terrorists ambushed and killed 16 Egyptian soldiers while they were breaking the Ramadan fast.
There is a strong case for saying that the Fatah-led Palestinian national movement, as we have known it from the late '60s onward, is fading from the scene.
But while, in practical terms, the Palestinian national movement is an increasing irrelevance, the symbolic cause of Palestine nevertheless retains great emotional appeal both for the Muslim world as a whole and for a wide spectrum of Western leftists. The result is that a new, loose, global, Islamist-led movement is emerging in its stead to carry the Palestinian banner.
The current growing economic, political and military strength of numerous Asian countries has led observers to refer to the "Asian Century," and the world has taken notice. Indonesia exemplifies Asia's ascendancy: as the world's most populous Muslim-majority nation, it has experienced significant economic growth in recent years and has been lauded as a model for successful democratisation in an Islamic context since the end of dictatorship in 1998. Increasing engagement is occurring between Indonesia and Western countries, and enhanced ties between Jerusalem and Jakarta also have the potential to generate mutually beneficial advantages.
This month, Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi, acting on behalf of the Muslim Brotherhood, offered a stunning display of the political adage that one "should never allow a good crisis to go to waste".
It was a tectonic shift. August started with Mubarak's cronies running the Supreme Council of Armed Forces (SCAF), having severely restricted the powers of the Morsi Presidency, but ended up with Morsi assuming full executive and legislative control, with neither constitution nor legislature to check his power.
Tragically, with a series of trials ending without prosecutions, with Nazi murderers avoiding trials due to infirmity or old age, with each and every tactic used to avoid and delay prosecution or extradition, no person who came to Australia has borne punitive consequences.
With the decision in August by the High Court of Australia to prevent extradition to Hungary of Charles Zentai, the eyes of all concerned with the fate of criminals against humanity were turned towards Australia.