26 June 2017

South Australian Labor "recognises Palestine"

From The Australian, 27 June 2017, by MICHAEL OWEN:

Former Labor frontbencher Tony Piccolo. Picture: Roger Wyman

Labor has used its parliamentary majority in South Australia to call for the recognition of “the state of Palestine alongside the state of ­Israel”, making it the only Australian legislative body to formally back Palestine statehood.

The motion ...calls on the Australian government to 
"recognise the state of Palestine (as we have recognised the state of ­Israel) and announce the conditions and time lines to achieve such recognition".
The resolution, put forward by dumped Labor frontbencher Tony Piccolo, also seeks confirmation that unless measures are taken, a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict will “vanish”. The non-binding motion also opposes continuation of Israeli settlement building. A similar motion will be raised in the upper house by the Greens.

Mr Piccolo...said Palestinians “have been the victims of dispossession for 70 years” and have “suffered under what could effectively be described as a military occupation for 50 years”.

Mr Piccolo was elected alongside Deputy Opposition Leader Vickie Chapman as co-convener of the Parliamentary Friends of Palestine, less than two years after the SA Parliamentary Friends of Israel was launched. Ms Chapman, a member of both groups, joined Liberal MPs in unsuccessfully moving to adjourn the motion, and later spoke against it.

She said parliament should be “looking at how we advance and ensure the management of this in a structured way that is not just going to cause further discourse”.

Liberal frontbencher Dan van Holst Pellekaan said most state MPs “do not have nearly enough information to make a genuinely informed decision on this issue, which has perplexed the international community for decades”.

...Anti-Defamation Commission chairman Dvir Abramovich slammed the motion as unhelpful, premature and harmful to chances for lasting reconciliation.

“With this one-sided and unconstructive motion, which turns reality inside out and which does not bother with the facts, the SA parliament has embraced long-time inaccuracies and misguided narratives,” Dr Abramovich said.

“Worse, the motion blames the Israeli government for the impasse, but fails to hold the Palestinian Authority responsible for their own obstructionist actions, particularly its continuous incitement and refusal to engage in ­bilateral talks.”

Federal Education Minister Simon Birmingham, a South Australian, said the motion showed the “warped priorities” of the Weatherill government as the state faced the nation’s highest jobless rate and a crippling energy crisis. “It’s beyond laughable that the Weatherill government ... thinks they know the pathway to Middle East peace,” he said.

08 June 2017

ABC backs anti-Semitic Al Jazeera after Gulf switches off Qatari propaganda channel

From The Australian, Cut & Paste, June 9, 2017:

Time for the ABC to turn off Al ­Jazeera? The Australian, yesterday:
Conservatives have called on the ABC to reconsider its two hours a day Al Jazeera content, labelling the Qatari-based news channel “Islamic propagandists”.

A whole sweep of Gulf nations are set to dump the Qatari news channel. BBC News online, yesterday:
Qatar’s Al Jazeera media network has undoubtedly put the tiny Gulf state on the international map. It is the showpiece of the oil and gas-rich ­nation’s efforts to turn its financial largesse into outsized global influence and visibility … But there are growing fears that the current diplomatic crisis in Qatar could place the high-profile network’s future in jeopardy.

One reason the ABC should never have had Al Jazeera on its news channel is its long history of anti-Semitism. ...August 6, 2008:
The Al Jazeera television station ­admitted Wednesday that its coverage of Israel’s release of convicted Lebanese terrorist Samir Kuntar violated the station’s own code of ethics. The admission came in response to a threat by Israel’s Government Press Office to boycott the satellite channel unless it apologised … The head of ­Israel’s Government Press Office said Al Jazeera would get only minimal services until it provided a “reasonable answer” about a program which featured a birthday party for Kuntar, who spent 29 years in an Israeli jail for a 1979 attack in which five Israelis were killed.

...Aunty is determined to stick with the viciously anti-Semitic channel. An ABC representative speaking to The Australian, yesterday:
Al Jazeera English is an award-­winning service with a strong presence in Europe.

Maybe it’s time they listened to Australia’s Jewish community instead. Australia/Israel and Jewish Affairs Council chief Colin Rubenstein on The Bolt Report, Wednesday:
I think that it’s entirely unacceptable that broadcasters in Australia, ­esp­ecially public-funded broad­cast­ers … are running Al Jazeera content … This is a station run by the rulers of Qatar who sponsor Islamism.

06 June 2017

A reply to the antisemitic former Anglican bishop of Canberra-Goulburn

From The Spectator, 30 May 2017, by Denis MacEoin:

In his recent article, ‘Capitalism, Anti-Semitism & The Judaeo-Christian Ethic’ the former Anglican bishop of Canberra-Goulburn and Australia Palestine Advocacy Network head George Browning presents what he describes as a “reflection into the heart of the modern State of Israel”...

Towards the end, Browning denies that his article is anti-Semitic: “Rather … I believe it to be supportive of the essential value upon which the culture of Judaism is founded – the practice of universal justice.”

Is Browning aware of the leading modern definition of anti-Semitism written by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) and recognised by some 32 countries? This definition, like others before it, includes several clauses that identify unfair, incorrect criticism of Israel, the world’s only Jewish state, or the setting of double standards for it as anti-Semitic. Browning’s article, as we shall see, falls without reserve into that definition. 

It is hard to understand how a man of his intelligence and deep involvement in Israeli-Palestinian matters should not know of or respect the IHRA definition or earlier, almost identical ones such as the original European EUMC and US State Department definitions. In order to make this clear, here are two clauses from the IHRA definition:

  • Denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, e.g., by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavour.
  • Applying double standards by requiring of it a behaviour not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation.

Now, let me turn to several statements made by Browning in the course of his article:
Universal justice appears to have become an unwelcome stranger in the land of Israel. Zionism’s compulsive identification with land, has replaced justice as its core value.
What on earth can he mean? Countries all round the world have high regard for their land. Patriotism is a common position for the Irish, the Scottish, the English, the French, the Italians, and dozens more. The Palestinians, to whom Browning is intensely loyal, talk about little else but their right to the land. But according to Browning, Jewish love of their ancestral land, a place to which Jews prayed to return for over two millennia, overturns the ancient Jewish love for justice in a way other nation’s love for their land and their self-determination within it, does not.

Just after that statement, Browning makes another:
The having, holding and conquering of land has seemingly become the arbiter of nationhood…
Does Browning know so little about history? Jews did not conquer the land of Israel: they were given it first through the League of Nations Mandate system, then the United Nations Partition resolution, and reinforced by UN resolutions 242 (1967) and 338 (1973), all through internationally-recognized and binding agreements. In 1947, the Palestinian Arabs rejected the offer of a second Palestinian state, and five Arab countries launched an offensive war to drive the Jews out. Although this war failed, the Palestinians lost Gaza to Egypt and the West Bank to Jordan. In 1967, fighting another defensive war, Israel forced Egypt and Jordan out, later made peace treaties with both countries, and in 2005 moved out of Gaza completely. Settlements within the West Bank, (originally the Jewish territories of Judea and Samaria) are legal under international law despite claims to the contrary and will be negotiated in exchanges of land, when and if the Palestinian leadership agrees to a peaceful resolution. Such offers were made in 1947, 1967, 2000, 2001, and 2008, but turned down by the Palestinians and their Arab allies every time.

Browning might do better to talk about the way Muslim Arabs originally took the Holy Land – by military conquest, alongside a series of worldwide conquests by Muslim forces in the seventh and later centuries. The only reason the Arabs insist on holding land is because of a ruling in jihad law that refuses to relinquish land once conquered. Is Browning actually aware of any of this, or is he just making things up as he goes along?

The bishop next takes issue with three statements commonly made about Israel, summarily dismissing them one by one. First, Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East:
Hang on, no it is not. First of all, on who’s (sic) definition of democracy?  Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza are afforded no rights while Arabs in Israel have differing and reduced rights to their Jewish counterparts.
What unmitigated guff. What other democracies does Bishop Browning know of in the Middle East? Syria? Lebanon, under the control of the Iranian terrorist organisation Hizbullah? Turkey, under the increasingly authoritarian rule of President Erdogan? Egypt? Iraq? Saudi Arabia? Qatar? Yemen? Iran?

But Israel is a true democracy in which every adult citizen has the right to vote, to form or join a political party, and be elected to parliament. Arabs in Israel have exactly the same rights as citizens as Jews: they have political parties, they serve in the parliament (the Knesset), they serve as judges in Israeli courts, including the Supreme Court, they serve as diplomats, they are free to worship (whether they be Muslims or Christians), their places of worship are protected under the Law for the Protection of Holy Places. Unlike all other countries in the Middle East, women in Israel (Arabs or Jews) have the same right as men. Women in Saudi Arabia aren’t allowed to drive cars or go out without male escorts. In Israel, many women are fighter pilots. Not a true democracy?

As for the West Bank, Palestinians certainly have rights. Under the Oslo Accords, the region is divided in three: Area A (where there are no Israeli settlements) is under the full civil and security control of the Palestinian Authority (whose president, Mahmoud Abbas, is now in the undemocratic twelfth year of a 4-year term of office). Area B (also without Israeli settlements) is under joint Palestinian and Israeli control, and only Area C is under full Israeli control. The Israel security presence is there to defend Israeli civilians from the thousands of terrorist attacks that have been and are still being launched by Palestinians.

Israel is not a perfect democracy. Nor is Australia. Nor is the UK. Nor is the US. And so on. So why does Browning both lie about Israel and single it out above other democracies as not being a democracy? A majority of Israeli Arabs say they would rather live in Israel than elsewhere because they flourish well there.

The second statement Browning turns to is this: Israel is the only country in the Middle East that enables freedom of religion:
Well, no.  Israel claims to be a Jewish State.  By definition the statement excludes those who are not Jews. The idea of Jerusalem as an historical centre for Jews, Christians and Muslims alike is being constantly eroded.
This is an egregious lie. The fact that Israel is a Jewish state (or the Jewish state) no more impinges on freedom of religion there than being a Christian nation deters freedom of religion in the UK, Australia and elsewhere. All the countries around Israel and beyond define themselves as Muslim, and there is no religious freedom in any of them, in fact, minorities are routinely persecuted or worse: Baha’is in Iran, Copts in Egypt, Christians in the West Bank and Gaza suffer fierce discrimination and often murder.

Let me take the Baha’is as an example. They are the largest religious minority in Iran, yet they are persecuted, executed, imprisoned and more by the state. In Israel, they have their two holiest shrines, the seat of their international governing body, their international archives and other bodies. These and their world-famous gardens have won them status as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Israel allows them complete freedom. They are as much loved by the Jewish state as they are hated in their homeland. Elsewhere in the Middle East, Christian populations are being slaughtered and expelled in the hundreds of thousands. Israel is the only country in the region where the Christian population has increased year on year since the state’s foundation in 1948. Ahmadi Muslims, persecuted in Pakistan and other Islamic countries, live and worship freely in Israel. All the mosques and holy places of Israel’s Muslim communities are kept safe and secure by the country’s Law for the Protection of Holy Places. The Palestinians, whom Bishop Browning so adores – he is the President of the Palestine Advocacy Network – kill and persecute Christians, murder apostates from Islam, and teach their children in schools to hate Jews and aspire to kill them. The evidence for this is overwhelming. Has Bishop Browning ever set eyes on it?

Browning then says: Israel is the only country in the Middle East that lives by the rule of law:
Well, no, it does not.
Actually, it does. Certainly, it imprisons many Palestinians, but only Palestinians who have gone out to stab, shoot, ram, or bomb Israeli citizens (whether Jews or Arabs).

Back in Northern Ireland, we used to imprison people for crimes like that too. No one was ever imprisoned or interned without due process. Israel never executes its prisoners, even multiple murderers, and its jails are of a high standard in international terms. No one is imprisoned without an open and fair trial. In 1999, Israel’s Supreme Court banned even the use of moderate physical pressure on terrorist suspects. Israeli law is based on a series of Basic Laws that act as a constitution, and Israeli justice is open, transparent, and witnessed by international observers, journalists and international human rights bodies.

Here is a single example of Israeli openness. In 2010, Moshe Katsav, who was president of Israel from 2000 to 2007, was sentenced to seven years in prison on rape and sexual harassment charges. The presiding judge at the Supreme Court was one George Karra, a Christian Arab. But I forget, George Browning insists that Israeli Arabs have few rights.

Problems can indeed arise within the Israeli legal system. But the same applies to all other democracies with equal force. Why does Browning single Israel out and deny its basic lawfulness? There are remedies for miscarriages of justice, and parliament is empowered to reform specific pieces of legislation should they prove in need of it. In countries like Saudi Arabia that are ruled under sharia law, heads are lopped off, limbs amputated, adulterers and homosexuals stoned to death. Saudi Arabia now chairs the UN Human Rights Council’s section on women’s rights. Why doesn’t Bishop Browning focus on genuine cases of the abuse of law that harm innocent people? Why doesn’t he take his Arab friends to task for their blatant disregard for human rights?

And that mention of homosexuals reminds me that there are no laws in Israel against the rights of LGBT persons. In fact, Tel Aviv has a reputation as the friendliest city for male and female gay people in the world. Not a single Arab or Muslim country – including the PA territory and Gaza under Hamas – affords such rights even to the most limited degree. Come out as gay in Israel and you may be shown the way to the nearest gay bar. Do that in any Muslim state and you will be taken to the nearest high building and thrown from the roof.

In his response to that third statement, Browning also writes:
The occupying force protects the illegal settlers and not the Palestinian civil population. Essential services are provided to the illegal settlers and restricted or denied the Palestinians.
Here again, this is without context or explanation. Browning only knows one side of the story. Israel has handed a large swathe of the West Bank to Palestinian control. As for denial of essential services to the Palestinians, how does Browning explain the fact that Gaza, under viciously anti-Israel rule by terrorist group Hamas, has for many years received many thousands of truckloads of essential goods via the Kerem Shalom crossing with Israel: humanitarian aid continued to be sent in even while Hamas was firing thousands of rockets into Israel civilian centres in 2014 & 2015. The amount of water sent to Palestinian territories has increased from 5 million cubic meters per year to 10 million in an effort to combat the water crisis in the region. The Israel Electric Corporation has for years been supplying electricity to Gaza and the West Bank. The Palestinians often avoid paying, and currently owe the corporation about NIS 2 billion in debt.

Every year thousands of Palestinians from Gaza and the West Bank are treated free of charge in Israeli hospitals, including the families of Hamas and Fatah members. Likewise, children from Gaza, the West Bank, Jordan, Syria, and Iraq (many of them Kurdish), receive free heart surgery performed by Jewish surgeons from Israeli NGO ‘Save A Childs Heart’. Children from the latter countries are facilitated into Israel by ‘Shevet Achim’ a Christian NGO. Currently, hundreds of injured Syrians are treated in Israeli field hospitals. Internationally, the World Health Organization has named Israel the top country in the world for the field hospitals it builds in disaster zones, where Israel is a major player in providing aid. Special treatment for Jews alone? Really?

And here is something Bishop Browning might like to think hard about. In 2005, a young woman from Gaza, Wafa al-Biss, was taken to Israel’s Sokota Hospital, where she received over several months treatment for severe burns suffered in a domestic fire. When released, she was given permission to return regularly for outpatient treatment. Not long after, she arrived at the Eretz Crossing carrying a bomb strapped to her leg, which had been given to her by the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade. She had been told to explode it in the hospital in the same unit that had saved her life, with instructions to kill as many children as possible.

Al-Biss is only one among hundreds if not thousands of Palestinians who have tried to smuggle guns, knives, suicide vests and bombs into Israel. Should anyone be surprised if Israel uses checkpoints and other security measures to save both Israeli and Arab lives? In the wave of terror that has continued for the past two years, Palestinians, including children, have used knives, scissors, and machetes to stab Jews and cars to ram and kill pedestrians or police. Palestinians suffer from the security this demands, by having to wait in queues at checkpoints or searches. That is regrettable, but hardly a reason to condemn Israel. Or would the good bishop prefer to see all this security abandoned so that killers could come onto Israeli streets and take an ever-growing toll of innocent Israeli lives?

What Browning fails to realise is that the Palestinian narrative, and the wider Arab and Muslim demand that Israel must be wiped out, is not a Christian narrative. It is an Islamic narrative based on the ruling that any territory once conquered by jihad (such as Syria, then a Christian country, invaded in 634-35) may never be allowed to pass out of Muslim hands. That is what drives the Palestinian and wider Islamic demand for the creation of a vast Palestinian state that will replace Israel (even though there is already one Palestinian state: Jordan). Why does a Christian cleric prefer a Muslim understanding of affairs to an understanding of why, from Old Testament times on, Jews have linked their worship of God to the land they believe God gave them? For a Christian, Islamic law should have no standing whatever. But Jesus was a Jew who worshipped in the Temple in Jerusalem and would be, if he returned, dismayed to learn that the Temple Mount is occupied by two Islamic buildings and that Jews are forbidden to go there or to pray there.

George Browning appears to be interested in neither justice nor peace. He wants to deny the Jewish people the right to live on the only land they have ever possessed, their sole refuge from another Holocaust (a Holocaust that Browning’s Palestinian friends daily threaten to repeat), the sole haven of democracy and Judeo-Christian values in a troubled and disintegrating Middle East.

As Christianity declines across the globe and the forces of Islam gain strength, the day may yet come when Browning and his followers turn their eyes to Israel as a model of human achievement and a promise for the future. And perhaps as a refuge for their co-religionists in a region of death and destruction.

*Dr Denis MacEoin is a British analyst and writer, former senior lecturer in Arabic and Islamic Studies, specialising in Shi’ism, Shaykhism, Babism and Baha’i, a former senior editor and Fellow at Middle East Quarterly and currently a Distinguished Senior Fellow at New York’s Gatestone Institute.

31 May 2017

Australia and Israel Should Develop Closer Ties in Defense and Foreign Affairs

From BESA Center October 31, 2016:

Australia and Israel should develop closer relations in defense and foreign affairs, according to experts from the two countries.

Dr. Anthony Bergin of the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI) and Prof. Efraim Inbar of the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies have co-authored a report which considers common strategic interests between the two counties, including cooperation on security matters.

They recommend that Australia should upgrade military and diplomatic relations with Israel to tap into its expertise in counter-terrorism, hi-tech weapons systems, and cyber security. They also suggest that Canberra could help Israel enhance the diplomatic progress it already has made in Asia.

The report, The Wattle and The Olive: A New Chapter in Australia and Israel Working Together, suggests that Australia and Israel move towards a regular and sustained dialogue of foreign and defense ministers.

It argues that while Australia and Israel are strong supporters of each other and celebrate their shared political values, there is a lack of understanding on both sides of their shared strategic interests.
“While there’s a mutual recognition of shared values and a reasonably close bilateral working relationship, there hasn’t been sufficient recognition given by either state to how each contributes to the other’s national interests. As a result, there’s a lot of rhetoric from both sides about the relationship, but not a lot of substance … the relationship is in many ways underachieving.”
The authors believe Australia should not view Israel primarily through the lens of the Palestinian issue. They believe that an enhanced relationship with Israel would not damage Australia’s standing in the Arab or Muslim world.
“Arab countries are quietly getting closer to Israel because of the rise of Iran in the region and because of the fear of radical Islam. There is no evidence that Australia’s relationship with Israel has in any way hindered its defense relations with Arab countries, its defense engagement in Southeast Asia or the Pacific, its international efforts to counter terrorism and proliferation, or the ability of the Australian Defense Force to operate in Afghanistan and Iraq.”
The report was produced for the second Beer Sheba Dialogue, being held today in Sydney. The dialogue brings together politicians, think tank leaders, strategic analysts, former senior officials, diplomats and former senior military figures from Australia and Israel. Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies associates Prof. Efraim Inbar, and Generals Yaakov Amidror and Gershon Hacohen, are participating in the talks.

Download a PDF of the 56-page report. It is also available on the ASPI website.

09 May 2017

Young NT men prepare to travel to Israel to honour Indigenous soldiers

 From NITV News 9 MAY 2017, by Elliana Lawford:

Ethan Kantawara, 18, Johannes Kantawara, 15, and Stanley Kenny, 16, are travelling to Israel to honour Indigenous Light Horsemen that served in WW1. (Elliana Lawford, NITV)

Three young Aboriginal men from a remote community in Central Australia are planning to travel across the world to honour Indigenous Light Horsemen who served in the First World War.

The young Hermannsburg riders recently rode 127 kilometres through the Central Australian desert on wild brumbies to honour Indigenous war veterans in the Alice Springs Anzac Day Parade.

Now they're raising funds to travel to Israel to represent Indigenous soldiers in the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Beersheba in October.

“I feel really proud, it’s so exciting,” one of the riders, 18-year-old Ethan Kantawara said.

Hermannsburg students travel to Israel to honour Indigenous Light Horsemen.
18-year-old Ethan Kantawara is proud to represent the 'forgotten' Indigenous Light Horsemen.

Ethan is heading to Israel with his 15-year-old brother, Johannes Kantawara, and 16-year-old friend, Stanley Kenny.

The three young Ntaria men were invited to take part in the trip by the Australian Light Horse Association, after displaying excellent leadership in their local community horse riding program.

The riders' trainer, Chris Barr, said the young men are honoured to be representing Aboriginal Light Horsemen.

“They will be leading one of the parades over there that the Indigenous Light Horsemen were involved in and I think it's just a huge honour for these young men,” Chris Barr said.

The students need to raise $30,000 for the trip, with tickets for the ride costing up to $10,930 per person.

They have set up a GoFundMe page in a bid to raise the money.

"The Indigenous soldiers that went over there weren't really recognised, so ... we really want to get them over there," Mr Barr said.

Hermannsburg students travel to Israel to honour Indigenous Light Horsemen.
Stanley Kenny, 16, and Johannes Kantawara, 15, rode 127 kilometres through the desert on wild brumbies to participate in the Alice Springs Anzac Day Parade.

The Battle of Beersheba is considered to be one of the last cavalry charges in military history.

During this year’s 100th anniversary re-enactment, the riders will follow the same route through the desert from Shellal to Beersheba that the Australian Light Horse took back in 1917.

More than 100 riders will be embarking on the ride, and several of them are Indigenous.

The trip’s leader, Barry Rodgers OAM, an Australian Light Horse Association Director, said it’s about “righting a wrong”.

“We didn’t look after our Indigenous diggers well when they came back [from the war]. They served us nobly, particularly in the desert, and when they came home they were just sent back to the bush and weren’t given soldier settlement blocks or recognition,” Barry Rodgers OAM said.

“This is an attempt to try and redress that wrong, and give due recognition that is well overdue,” he said.

“It’s also an opportunity for all Australians to be proud of what these men did.”

Hermannsburg students travel to Israel to honour Indigenous Light Horsemen.
Barry Rodgers OAM and Stanley Kenny lay a wreath together at the Alice Springs Anzac Day Service.

Barry Rodgers said the three young riders from Hermannsburg were especially fitting participants for the Beersheba re-enactment.

“I remember a very special occasion putting a uniform on one of the young lads and he was a very shy and retiring young fella, but when he put the Light Horse uniform on his shoulders went back and a sparkle came into his eyes, it was almost like a spiritual experience, like he was connecting with something in his past that was bigger than himself,” he said.

“It’s a very significant trip that’s gone beyond expectations.”

The Centralian Light Horse Troop leader, Wangkangurru man Raymond Finn, will also be travelling to Israel.

His great-grandfather, Arrernte drover Jack Ludgate, served in the 3rd Light Horse Regiment and fought at Gallipoli.

Raymond has been fighting for the recognition of Aboriginal war veterans for many years.

“I’m very proud to now be going over to Israel represent our forebears,” Raymond Finn told NITV.

Hermannsburg students travel to Israel to honour Indigenous Light Horsemen.
Raymond Finn honours Indigenous soldiers at the Alice Springs Anzac Day Service.

The young Hermannsburg riders will be leading a parade at the restored Turkish Railway Station at Semakh, where a strategic battle took place.

Raymond said they are “the leaders of their community”.

“I think these three guys will represent their community well and it’ll make them feel proud as leaders, I'm honoured to be taking them over.”

Hermannsburg students travel to Israel to honour Indigenous Light Horsemen.
Johannes Kantawara, 15, takes his horses for a drink after a long ride through the Central Australian desert.

Follow this link to watch the young Hermannsburg riders on their 127 kilometre journey through the desert on wild brumbies to honour Indigenous war veterans.

06 March 2017

Jews are the first peoples of Israel – with a right to exist

From the AFR, 7 March 2017, by Nyunggai Warren Mundine:

Yasser Arafat and Bill Clinton: within a hair's breadth of peace. 

Benjamin Netanyahu's visit to Australia was significant, both historically – the first visit by an Israeli Prime Minister – and for the future Australia-Israel relationship.

The relationship is founded on a strong base. Australia helped create Israel. In 1917 Australian soldiers helped defeat the Ottoman Empire's 400-year occupation of Palestine. Two days later Britain declared support for a Jewish national home there. In 1922 the League of Nations approved the Mandate for Palestine, appointing Britain mandatory power and tasking it with creating a Jewish state. This took 25 years, the UN adopting a partition plan for a Jewish state and an Arab state in 1947. Represented by former Labor leader "Doc" Evatt, Australia chaired the UN committee and cast the first General Assembly vote.

So I was disappointed that, during Netanyahu's visit, Labor luminaries Bob Hawke, Kevin Rudd and Gareth Evans called on Australia to formally recognise a Palestinian state. Symbolic recognition of a state when none exists is a hollow gesture that doesn't confront the elephant in the room: Palestinian leadership doesn't really support a two-state solution. Likewise, most Arab nations. They won't recognise Israel's right to exist.

The partition plan was a compromise in the face of Arab opposition to a Jewish state. Jews accepted the partition. Arabs didn't, wanting an Arab state only. Arab nations immediately invaded Israel. Israel won that war, gaining territory. Arab nations invaded Israel again unsuccessfully in 1967. Israel again gained territory, including East Jerusalem and the West Bank (from Jordan) and Gaza and the Sinai Peninsula (from Egypt). Israel offered to return everything except East Jerusalem in exchange for recognition. Arab leaders refused, resolving instead to assist Arabs in those territories to resist Israel.

Withdrawal from Gaza
Since 1967 Israel has been under constant threat, surrounded by countries who would drive it off the face of the earth. It invaded South Lebanon in response to attacks, withdrawing in 2000 only to experience hundreds more terrorist attacks from that region.

In 1978 Israel returned Sinai to Egypt in exchange for peace. All Israeli settlements were removed and Egypt recognised the State of Israel.

In 2005 Israel unilaterally withdrew from Gaza, removing all settlements and handing control to the Palestinian Authority (PA). Gaza fell to Hamas who pursued its objective of destroying Israel. So Israel blockaded Gaza, allowing only humanitarian aid. Under Hamas, manufacturing and agriculture collapsed, unemployment rose to global highs and the economy fell into ruins. Gaza could have industry, trade and people commuting to Israel for work. Instead its people dig tunnels, plan suicide bombings and fire rockets.

Today the West Bank is administered in three areas. Area A, where most Palestinians live, has PA civil and security control. Area B has PA civil control and Israeli security control. Area C, where most Israeli settlements are, has Israeli civil and security control. Israelis and Palestinians live, work and do business together in and between Israel and the West Bank. But Israel restricts movement if required to manage security threats. These threats are encouraged by the PA who rewards Palestinians for attacking Israeli citizens with generous monthly payments. Last year, a Palestinian man killed a 13-year old Israeli girl in her bed. He was shot dead. Fatah (the PA's governing party) declared him a martyr. His mother called him a "hero". His family now receive monthly payments.

Sending the wrong signal
During Bill Clinton's presidency, Israel and the PA came within a hair's breadth of peace. Clinton blamed its failure on Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat. Clinton asked both parties to negotiate within set parameters on disputed issues or walk away. Israel agreed, offering Gaza and 97 per cent of the West Bank. Arafat refused. Clinton suggested Arafat "couldn't make the final jump from revolutionary to statesman". Arafat's actions support this. By always wearing military uniform, he sent the message he believed in military victory, not a peace pact.

Clinton said the main hold-outs were the right of return (allowing Palestinian refugees since 1948 and their descendants to move to Israel) and Israeli control of the Western Wall. Palestinian demands on these issues reflect a refusal to recognise a Jewish state. The Palestinian leadership believes the right of return will make Israel an Arab state by flooding it with Palestinians. Ceding Jewish claims to Jerusalem means acknowledging Jews' ancient and continuing presence there, contradicting Arab propaganda that Jews are interlopers in Israel, not its first peoples who lived there for millennia before Arab colonisation.

Sinai, Gaza and the West Bank demonstrate peace won't happen unless both sides agree and Israel's right to exist is respected.

The Palestinian leadership baulks at supporting a Jewish state. This intransigence has repeatedly stood in the way of statehood and weakened the Palestinian position. If not overcome, there will never be a Palestinian state. Israel has twice ceded settlements and land but will never cede its right to exist. Politicians shouldn't expect it to.

Nyunggai Warren Mundine AO is Chairman and Managing Director of Nyungga Black Group

23 February 2017

Kim Beazley weighes into the growing ALP rift

From The Australian, February 24, 2017, PAUL MALEY:

Former Labor leader  within the party over the Middle East, saying Palestinian leaders have become “very comfortable’’ applying moral pressure on Israel but have not undertaken the hard decisions necessary to reach a lasting peace.

...His comments put him at odds with former Labor prime ministers Kevin Rudd and Bob Hawke, in whose cabinet Mr Beazley served as defence minister, after the two former leaders called for the formal recognition of Palestine.

The comments, which came just days before Mr Netanyahu’s arrival, prompted a slap-down by the Israeli Prime Minister, who questioned the kind of state that might come into being.
“What kind of state will it be that they are advocating? A state that calls for Israel’s destruction? ...A state whose territory will be used immediately for radical Islam?’’
...Mr Beazley argued that the weight of political pressure on Israel to recognise a Palestinian state had made it easier for Palestinian leaders to skirt difficult questions. “Their prestige is embellished by the support other countries give them and this removes incentives to reach an agreement,’’ he said.

The push inside Labor to extend formal diplomatic recognition to the Palestinians will come to a head at the next national conference.

Mr Shorten’s preference to adhere to Labor’s existing position, which withholds diplomatic recognition until a two-state solution is reached, is almost certain to be overturned.

Former Labor foreign minister Bob Carr, who has advocated to shift Labor’s policy toward a more pro-Palestinian line, said Mr Shorten would be rolled on the issue.


Friday, 24 February 2017

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian today met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to bolster technology ties between the two ‘Startup States’.

Following the meeting, Ms Berejiklian announced that a groundbreaking knowledgesharing program, which saw eight NSW fintech startups travel to the Austrade Tel Aviv Landing Pad in 2016, would continue in 2017.

Ms Berejiklian said the program’s continuation was a “win-win for both NSW and Israel”.
“Israel leads the world in startup innovation and NSW leads the way here at home so
we are ideally matched to collaborate,” Ms Berejiklian said.
“In 2017 NSW will send a second delegation of NSW startups to Tel Aviv to be mentored by Israel’s experts, meet investors and then bring what they learn back to NSW – Australia’s ‘Startup State’.
“I was delighted today to discuss our important relationship with Prime Minister Netanyahu who this week spoke of his desire to strengthen business ties and trade links between our nations.”
In 2016 the NSW Government signed an agreement with Israel to collaborate on joint research and development projects, as well as establish formal partnerships between businesses and universities

Labor’s jihad on Israel a disgrace

From the Herald Sun, February 22, 2017, by Andrew Bolt:

THERE is a simple and sinister reason Labor is now attacking Israel. 

It’s after Muslim votes.

Every federal seat with big Muslim minorities except Reid is now held by Labor, most in western Sydney.

And it shows. Labor’s NSW branch in particular is now leading a push to overturn Labor policy and formally recognise Palestine as a state, despite the refusal of Palestinian leaders to make peace with Israel.

That push is backed by Labor “elders” 

  • Bob Hawke
  • Gareth Evans
  • Bob Carr and 
  • Kevin Rudd, who also needs the support of Arab nations for a good United Nations job.

For Labor to push so hard to reward the Palestinians makes no moral sense — and is dangerous.

What exactly is the nature of this country it wants to recognise?

The Palestinian Authority’s president is Mahmoud Abbas, who 12 years ago was voted into the job for four years. That’s right: there hasn’t been an election since.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. Picture: AFP

That’s in part because a key part of this “nation” — the populous Gaza Strip — is actually run by the Islamist Hamas party. These guys not only hate Abbas but Jews as well. In fact, their official charter calls for jihad to destroy Israel.

“Our struggle against the Jews is extremely wide-ranging and grave,” it states, declaring it “strives to raise the banner of Allah over every inch of Palestine” and quoting the Koranic passage foretelling when “Muslims will fight the Jews and kill them”.

Labor thinks we should recognise a country represented by the unelected and the jihad-preaching?

Why? There is only one rational explanation, other than the Left’s yearning for the tribal and the primitive as it retreats from freedom.

It’s the numbers. Australia has only 100,000 Jews, many of whom vote for Labor anyway. But it has 500,000 Muslims, many in key marginal seats, and those votes need wooing.

Muslim imams are already playing politics with those numbers.

Right now in Western Australia, seven prominent imams have distributed a flyer in mosques arguing “the ideal result for Muslims in this state election is a Labor victory with as many Greens … to counter the presence of Pauline Hanson’s One Nation”.

This is not the first political intervention by Muslim leaders.

Three years ago, Australia’s Grand Mufti, Dr Ibrahim Abu Mohammed, threatened to punish federal Labor in western Sydney if it picked union leader Paul Howes for the Senate.

Bob Carr led MPs in a successful revolt against then prime minister Julia Gillard when she wanted Australia to abstain from a vote to give Palestine observer status at the United Nations.

The mufti accused Howes of a “blind bias for Israel” and warned Labor would lose the Muslim vote mustered for it at the last election if it picked him. It worked. Howes lost.

Bob Carr, one of the Labor “elders” not being supportive of Israel, has long urged Labor to follow this Muslim vote.

As foreign affairs minister in 2012, he led MPs in a successful revolt against prime minister Julia Gillard when she wanted Australia to abstain from a vote to give Palestine observer status at the United Nations.

As The Australian reported: “Cabinet ministers began to complain there was no real explanation for the position, arguing … many Labor seats were affected by Middle Eastern populations … ”

Troy Bramston, a former Labor speechwriter, reported the same thing: “Carr stood in Gillard’s office and told her, eyeball to eyeball, to change her mind or she faced a humiliating defeat ...

“Critically, there is the growing Muslim and Christian makeup of several key western Sydney Labor seats … Some sections of the party suggest Victorian Labor is too close to the Israel lobby and does not fully understand the underlying changes in Sydney’s outer suburbs.”

Three years ago, Australia’s Grand Mufti, Dr Ibrahim Abu Mohammed, threatened to punish federal Labor in Western Sydney if it picked union leader Paul Howes for the Senate.

It is no accident that NSW Labor MPs are more hostile to Israel than the Victorian ones, notably Gillard and now Labor leader Bill Shorten. NSW is where the big Muslim minorities are, and they have forced some MPs into taking astonishing positions.

Take Labor frontbencher Tony Burke, the member for Watson, where Muslims make up 20 per cent of voters. Three years ago Burke gave a speech at a fundraiser for the Australia Palestine Advocacy Network in which he accused Israel of “trashing” the drinking water of Palestinians. He then added:
“For those who are political advocates within Palestine itself, I will never know the bravery that comes with putting your life on the line and at risk, in engaging in politics in different ways.”
Pardon? Who are these death-defying “people engaging the politics in different ways”?

Something in Labor has broken when a senior Labor politician praises what listeners would assume are terrorists and jihadists.

What’s broken are Labor’s values — its commitment to democracy and peace above tyranny and terror.

Its anti-Israel jihad is a disgrace.

22 February 2017

Ambassador Dave Sharma should be praised, not attacked.

In defence of Ambassador Dave Sharma

On February 7, Australia-based online news site Crikey asked the question "Does DFAT support Israeli settlements?" The short piece essentially attacks Australia's Ambassador to Israel, Dave Sharma, for "his support for the Israeli Government" and for "working with a group that actively promotes the key threat [which is settlements according to the article] to the two-state solution".
This response was sent to Crikey on February 17, but has not been published.
The arguments presented can be debunked with relative ease. For example, early on the piece asserts that the two-state solution is "dead in the water thanks to incessant Israeli building on occupied land, illegal under the Geneva convention":
  • As can be found here, settlements take up less than two per cent of the West Bank and no new settlements have been built since 1999. In fact, Israel has laws that forbid geographic expansion of settlements. 
  • Peace Watch's Lior Amihai said in a 2014 interview, in which he was extremely critical of settlements, that despite them a two-state outcome "is very possible".
  • International law academic Prof Eugene Kontorovich, in a study of Article 49(6) of the Convention as it is applied around the world concluded that "the reaction to [Israel's] West Bank settlements and interpretation of 49(6) generally applied is ‘entirely anomalous'." 
The piece then cites the fact Sharma organised a workshop on trends, challenges and scenarios on Israel's northern border in conjunction with US-based organisation The Israel Project (TIP):
"TIP is a strong supporter of Israeli settlements and has commissioned consultants to test the best ways to convince Americans to back them. TIP even attacked outgoing secretary of state John Kerry for his anodyne statement in support of a two-state solution."
In reality, TIP is not a strong supporter of settlements at all, but merely asked one question about settlements among many in a 2009 study about what language to use when discussing the many complex issues surrounding Israel , the Palestinians and the wider Middle East.
Presumably the second assertion relates to Kerry's speech of December 2016, which TIP did indeed criticise. However, TIP did not criticise Kerry for supporting a two-state outcome, but rather the lack of balance in his speech, his support for the highly flawed UNSC Resolution 2334 and his insistence that the settlements, and not Palestinian intransigence, rejectionism and incitement, are the primary obstacle to a resolution.
Perhaps most concerning is Sharma is being attacked for doing his job, and doing it very well. Why wouldn't an ambassador want his staff to be kept fully abreast of challenges and developments in the country in which they serve?
After all, Article 3 of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations lists, among other things, a function of a diplomatic mission as "ascertaining by all lawful means conditions and developments in the receiving State". Is a workshop on trends, challenges and scenarios on Israel's northern border not fulfilling this criteria exactly? As for the assertion of Sharma's "support for the Israeli Government", another function of a diplomatic mission, according to the convention, is "promoting friendly relations between the sending State and the receiving State, and developing their economic, cultural and scientific relations".
Sharma's proactive approach and out-of-the-box thinking are a big reason why he's been such a successful ambassador. Some of his highlights are:
  • Using sport, entertainment and hi-tech to celebrate the relationship and strengthen links between Australia and Israel.
  • Attending a Digital Diplomacy conference to both contribute his ideas and to enhance his own knowledge of the sphere.
  • Creating a regular program for ambassadors from smaller countries in Asia and the Pacific to meet with senior Israeli political and judicial figures.
  • Taking an interest in Israel's hi-tech success and what lessons can be learned to boost Australia's own innovation sector.
  • Organising the first oil and gas conference of its kind in Israel.
  • Taking his team for lunch at Tel Aviv's Sarona Market as a show of solidarity the day after a Palestinian terrorist shot four people there.
Indeed, when Sharma's tenure as Ambassador finishes up in June, his successor will have a hard act to follow, such has been the diligence with which Sharma has done his job.
Let's be clear - Sharma's role is to carry out the policy of the elected government in Canberra - that policy is to promote the growth of friendly relations with Israel, and also to work towards an eventual two-state Israeli Palestinian peace resolution. The writer of the Crikey attack may believe that it should be Australian policy to have nothing to do with the current Israeli government and to boycott anyone who is not explicitly and publicly anti-settlement, but that is simply not Australia's current policy. Further it is not Sharma's role as a public servant to implement the policy preferred by a blogger at Crikey, but that of the government he represents. And he has done that extremely well. 

It is simply immoral to personally attack public servants for carrying out the policy of their elected government, even if one disagrees with it.
Ambassador Sharma should be praised, not attacked.

21 February 2017

Recognize ...what, exactly?

From The Australian, 22 Feb 2017, by STEPHEN FITZPATRICK:

Benjamin Netanyahu and Malcolm Turnbull at Admiralty House in Kirribilli. 
Picture: Toby Zerna

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has challenged Bob Hawke and Kevin Rudd to define what they mean by Palestinian statehood, saying a “terrorist state” would be the likely outcome unless Israel retained full control of military security in the territories.
“I prefer not to deal with labels but with substance, but I have a simple question for both former prime ministers: what kind of state will it be?” Mr Netanyahu said after meeting with Malcolm Turnbull at Kirribilli House in Sydney.
Mr Rudd this morning called for the federal Opposition to make recognition of Palestinian statehood Labor policy, following similar calls from Mr Hawke and other ALP luminaries.
“A state which calls for Israel’s destruction? A state whose territories will be used for radical Islam? Israel already gave up Gaza to the Palestinian Authority and this became a terrorist state.
“Secondly, we know that in the realities of the Middle East, if Israel does not ensure the security (of Palestine) then that state will become another bastion of radical Islam. We have to make sure the Palestinians recognise the Jewish state, and we have to ensure Israel has responsibility for security over all the territories.”...
Mr Netanyahu said, however, that he sensed a “change” in the region, with many Arab nations now realising they must also face the “malignant forces … radical forces that seek to take all of humanity back to a dark age”.

On a negotiated two-state solution in Israel, Mr Turnbull said it appeared possible that “perhaps the moons are aligning for the parties to come back to the table, but it takes two to tango”....

Welcome, PM Netanyahu!

From The Australian, 22 Feb 2017, by Malcolm Turnbull, the Prime Minister of Australia:

Our friendship is as old as the state of Israel itself.

Australia was the first country to vote in favour of the 1947 UN partition resolution adopted by the General Assembly, which led to the establishment of Israel in 1948. Following the vote, Israeli representative Abba Eban acknowledged Australia’s contribution: “The manner in which you steered to a vote this second historic resolution … the warmth and eloquence with which you welcomed Israel into the family of nations, have earned for you the undying gratitude of our people.”

The key role Australia played in ensuring the security and prosperity of the Jewish people should be a source of pride for us all.

This week our friendship will take a historic step forward. For the first time, a serving Israeli prime minister will visit Australia. The government is honoured to host Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Our peoples are bound together first and foremost by the values we share — a mutual commitment to freedom, democracy and the rule of law.

And as a majority Christian nation, we share the rich cultural inheritance of the Bible, its stories and values a foundation and a context for our history, our literature, our imagination.

And we could not imagine modern Australia, the most successful multicultural society in the world, without the brilliance and the enterprise of our almost 120,000-strong Jewish-Australian community.

To paraphrase the great Shimon Peres, Australia and Israel understand the value of creativity and innovation. Together our scientists and businesspeople are partners in every field of technology. Australia is vast, Israel is tiny. But both are short of water and we lead the world in making every drop count so that deserts can bloom.

I’m particularly keen to discuss with Prime Minister Netanyahu the progress of our “landing pad” in Tel Aviv — the second of five innovation hubs to be established globally — which is helping Australian entrepreneurs make the connections they need to link into Israel’s world-class start-up and innovation ecosystem.

While in Australia, Prime Minister Netanyahu and I will oversee the signing of an air services agreement to enhance air links; explore opportunities for greater collaboration in cyberspace; commit to negotiations on an agreement on science and technology co-operation; and announce a declaration of intent to create a fully operational and commercial farm around Wagga Wagga. The new facilities will provide Australian farmers with an opportunity to benefit from world-leading Israeli dairy and agricultural technology.

Israel is a miraculous nation. It has flourished despite invasion, conflict and an almost complete lack of natural resources, other than the determination and genius of its people.

And yet in a region racked by war, it succeeds as the sole liberal democracy, a world leader in every field of science and technology, its culture of innovation the envy of the world.

Despite these achievements and the breadth of our relationship, many view Israel exclusively through the lens of its conflict with the Palestinians. They demand that the government take the side of those in the international community who seek to chastise Israel — and it alone — for the continuing failure of the peace process. In a speech to the UN General Assembly in 2015, Prime Minister Netanyahu pointed out that in the preceding 12 months, the General Assembly had adopted 20 resolutions critical of Israel, compared to just one in response to the war in Syria, which has resulted in more than 250,000 killed and millions driven from their homes.

My government will not support one-sided resolutions criticising Israel of the kind recently adopted by the UN Security Council and we deplore the boycott campaigns designed to delegitimise the Jewish state.

At the same time, we recognise that Israel and the Palestinians need to come to a settlement and we support a directly negotiated two-state solution so that Palestinians will have their own state and the people of Israel can be secure within agreed borders.

We believe that with so many other larger, more destructive and intractable disputes in the Middle East, this is a time when Israeli and Palestinian leaders, supported by the global community, should return to the negotiating table and work towards a solution that upholds the rights of both peoples to live side by side in peace and security.

Australian Labor divided on support for Israel

From The Australian, 22 Feb 2017, by ROSIE LEWIS, JAMES MADDEN:

...On the morning Mr Netanyahu arrived in Sydney, marking the first time a sitting Israeli prime minister has visited Australia, the former Labor PM [Kevin Rudd] called for his party to change its policy for a two-state solution at its national conference next year.

...The remarks come amid a growing divide within the Labor Party... Mr Rudd, ...with Labor’s former prime minister Bob Hawke and former foreign ministers Bob Carr and Gareth Evans have advocated a change in foreign policy and recognition of a Palestinian state...

Benjamin Netanyahu and wife Sara arrive in Sydney. 
Picture: AAP

...To coincide with the arrival of the Israeli leader, Mr Turnbull today launched a blistering broadside at the United Nations, accusing it of bias against Israel, noting the UN had adopted 20 resolutions critical of Israel between 2014 and 2015 when only one resolution was issued in response to the Syrian war.

“My government will not support one-sided resolutions criticising Israel of the kind recently adopted by the UN Security Council and we deplore the boycott campaigns designed to de-legitimise the Jewish state,” he wrote in an opinion piece published by The Australian today.

Mr Netanyahu will also meet Labor leader Bill Shorten this week. The Opposition Leader yesterday reaffirmed his support for s two-state solution.

Several other Labor luminaries, though, including ex-Prime Minister Bob Hawke, and former foreign ministers Bob Carr and Gareth Evans, have recently called for a change in ALP foreign policy to recognise a state of Palestine.

20 February 2017

Mr Netanyahu deserves a warm welcome to Australia.

From The Australian EDITORIAL, February 21, 2017:

...Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s arrival tomorrow has prompted demands for Australian recognition of a Palestinian state. Kevin Rudd is the latest Labor figure to join the clamour, adding to the calls by Bob Hawke, Gareth Evans, Bob Carr and others for the Turnbull government to overturn its firm stand against unilateral recognition without a negotiated peace accord between the Israelis and Palestinians.

Mr Rudd’s argument that... the moment has come to recognise Palestine is unconvincing. So is his contention that because 137 states at the UN have recognised Palestine as a state, it is “time for Australia to draw a line in the sand”. German Chancellor Angel Merkel says recognition would do nothing to advance an issue that must be resolved between the two sides.

Recognition would add to the delusions of Palestinian leaders that they can achieve statehood through the back door, using the UN as a conduit. Proponents of recognition overlook the reality that Palestine lacks the most fundamental prerequisites of statehood, including defined borders, which can be achieved only through a negotiated settlement with Israel — not shuffling documents around the UN.

Malcolm Turnbull and Foreign Minister Julie Bishop are right in rejecting demands for Australian recognition. Doing so would reinforce the Palestinians’ past rejections of generous peace terms (in 2000, 2001 and 2008) and their refusal to return to the negotiating table. It would merely add another country to the list of those fostering the Palestinians’ absurd belief that they can achieve statehood without negotiating with the Israelis.

Donald Trump’s stated willingness to accept either a two-state or a one-state solution has injected a new element into the issue.

Rightly, Ms Bishop has committed Australia to supporting “an outcome that would see Israelis and Palestinians living side by side, within internationally recognised borders, in a peaceful and stable environment”. 

Mr Netanyahu is vital to hopes of achieving that goal. He deserves a warm welcome to Australia.

Will Australian Labor Adopt the Fake "Palestine" narrative?

21 Feb 2017, by Steve Lieblich:
There are reports that the Australian Labor Party is moving towards a policy to recognise a new "Palestinian" Arab state somewhere near Israel.

How will it help ANYONE to "recognise" a fake national identity and create yet another failed, brutal Islamic terrorist entity? (Look at what happened in Gaza.)
In the 2000 years that Palestine was ruled by foreign empires, including the 400 years of Ottoman rule, there was never a Palestinian-Arab movement for self-determination. Even when Israel declared an independent Jewish state, opposition to it was seen as a pan-Arab movement, and the 1948-9 war was waged against Israel by the Arab League. 
The PLO was first formed in the 1960s, at which time its manifesto explicitly renounced any ambitions to self-determination in Gaza and Judea/Samaria (the "West Bank"), which were then ruled by Egypt and Jordan. The only land they wanted to "liberate" was the land ruled by Jews (inside the 1948-9 Armistice Line). 
Since 1967, the PLO manifesto was altered, and they now claim the additional land, which they previously renounced but is now controlled by Jews, as their "ancient homeland" ... 
The entire narrative of Palestinian nationhood is a fiction, a tool to destroy Jewish self-determination, rather than an ambition for Palestinian-Arab self-determination.

From The Australian, February 21, 2017, by ROSIE LEWIS:

Bob Carr and Bob Hawke ...“beating up” Israel. 
Picture: Stephen Cooper

Labor MP Michael Danby has accused party “heroes” Bob Carr, Gareth Evans and Bob Hawke of “provoking” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ahead of his Australian visit, questioning why they don’t also “beat up on China”.

The former Labor foreign ministers and prime ministers, including Kevin Rudd, have advocated a change in foreign policy and recognition of a Palestinian state as Mr Netanyahu, the first sitting Israeli PM to visit Australia, prepares to meet with Malcolm Turnbull and Bill Shorten this week.

Mr Danby ... declared the men “never raise their heads to power” as he warned against “hyperventilating” over the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
“I might say to all of the heroes who are beating up on a country, a democratic country ... why don’t they beat up on China when the Chinese president comes to Australia?”...
“Oppression of the Tibetans or the Uighurs is far worse than what’s happening to the Palestinians when some Israelis build houses 20 metres or 100 metres or a mile across the Green Line.
“Where is Bob Carr, Gareth Evans and Bob Hawke when the terrible things that are happening in Tibet are discussed? They never raise their heads, they never raise their heads to power. They want to try and provoke the Israeli Prime Minister and upset relations between him and the Labor Party prior to Netanyuhu’s visit.” ...

20 January 2017

AIJAC's submission to the Federal Parliamentary Inquiry into Freedom of Speech and article 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act

Friday 20 January 2017

AIJAC's submission to the Australian Federal Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights Inquiry into Freedom of Speech in Australia - including into the operation of Part IIA of the Racial Discrimination Act 1975 (Cth) (RDA) (including ss. 18C and 18D) and the complaints-handling procedures of the Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) - has now been published by the Parliamentary Committee.

The submission can be downloaded in full here.

For those looking for a shorter summary of AIJAC's recommendations and arguments, here is the Executive Summary of the submission:

This document is the submission by the Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council (AIJAC) to the Australian Federal Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights Inquiry into Freedom of Speech in Australia - including into the operation of Part IIA of the Racial Discrimination Act 1975 (Cth) (RDA) (including ss. 18C and 18D) and the complaints-handling procedures of the Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) under this section.

In it, it is argued:
• That, while freedom of expression is both a vital civil right and an essential precondition of liberal democracy, it is nowhere in the world completely unfettered and absolute, such that it must supersede all other rights, and override all other forms of public interest. Indeed, we identify at least nine broad ways, besides racial vilification, in which state or federal legislation already limit, prohibit or render unlawful expression in many forms and contexts.

• That, since the passage of Part IIA of the Racial Discrimination Act 1975 in 1995, we have witnessed both more circumspection and less harm by openly racist groups in Australia, and a series of legal and societal achievements which have clearly benefitted the well-being of minority groups in Australian, including the Jewish community, as well as the social cohesion of Australian society as a whole.

• That not only is the availability of legal redress against extreme or pervasive racial vilification essential to maintaining the right of Australians to live their lives free from harassment and intimidation, it actually helps serve to protect the right to freedom of expression for members of vulnerable minority groups.

• That arguments by some individuals and groups that the wording of 18C - and specifically the inclusion of the words "offend" and "insult" - creates a subjective "hurt feelings" test which is allegedly uniquely threatening to the right to freedom of speech are simply wrong as a matter of law. Furthermore, this language is similar to that used across considerable existing state and federal legislation and the practice across many liberal democracies around the world.
• That claims that 18C is stifling Australian public debate around major issues of public concern are simply incorrect - with those who make this claim unable to offer a single reasonable and valid example of a case where the law made it impossible for exponents to express a sincere viewpoint in any significant public debate. The examples that are typically offered, we argue, actually demonstrate the opposite.

• That while there have been controversies - and apparent genuine mistakes - with regard to the process of administering 18C by the Australian Human Rights Commission in a small number of recent cases, we argue that these cases do not indicate any problems with the wording of 18C per se. Moreover, there is no reason to believe that this law is any more burdensome on the parties than other similar laws - and in fact the opposite may be the case. Nonetheless, AIJAC acknowledges that improvements to the process of administering 18C might be desirable, and suggests minor reform measures which might achieve some streamlining of the law's administration.

10 January 2017

Block to Israeli-Palestinian peace remains the same as in 1967

From The Australian, January 7, 2017, by Gerard Henderson:

...The UN Security Council’s Resolution 2334, carried on December 23 with the US abstaining, is related to the Arab-Israeli War that ran between June 5 and June 10, 1967.

The resolution condemns “all measures aimed at altering the demographic composition, character and status of the Palestinian Territory occupied since 1967, including East Jerusalem”.

Australia appears to be the only Western democracy to indicate that it does not agree with the passing of the resolution. New Zealand was one of the sponsors of the motion.

In fact, there was no such entity as a “Palestinian Territory” in 1967. Following the creation of the State of Israel by the UN in 1948, the land between Israel and the Jordan River was controlled by Jordan. Jordan did not give independence to Palestinians before the Six-Day War. Large parts of the West Bank are administered by the Palestinian Authority.

Like many monumental events, the history of the Six-Day War is contested.

The conflict is well summarised, in a balanced way, by Eugene Rogan in The Arabs: A History. The Arab nations at the time did not recognise Israel’s right to exist, referring to the nation merely as the “Zionist entity”.

In 1967, Egypt’s leader Gamal Abdel Nasser decided to amass forces in the Sinai near the Israeli border. Subsequently Egypt closed the Strait of Tiran to oil tankers, plus all Israeli shipping, bound for Eilat. This was interpreted by Israel as an act of war and it moved against Egypt and its allies in a pre-emptive strike.

In a stunning military victory, Israel took the Sinai Peninsula and the Gaza Strip from Egypt plus the West Bank (including East Jerusalem) from Jordan along with the Golan Heights from Syria. In the early 1980s, Israel completely withdrew from the Sinai and in 2005 unilaterally moved out of the Gaza Strip.

Resolution 2334 effectively calls for the restoration of Israel’s boundaries as they were on June 4, 1967. This would require Israel to relinquish all of East Jerusalem, including the historic Jewish quarter of the Old City and the Western Wall, which is regarded by Jews as Judaism’s holiest place.

Moreover, as anyone familiar with the topology of the area well understands, it is far from clear that Israel is defendable on its "1967 borders" [not borders at all, but the 1949 armistice line]

The Security Council Resolution 242, passed in 1967, envisaged that any peace settlement that led to a two-state solution, namely the State of Israel and a Palestinian state, would involve land swaps between the established nation and any newly established nation.

For years, the left-wing academics who dominate the social science departments in Australian universities have called for Australia to adopt an independent foreign policy. By this they mean that Australia should be independent of our traditional allies the US and Britain.

Right now, Australia has never been more independent in so far as foreign policy is concerned.

Malcolm Turnbull and Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop have indicated that Australia would not have supported Resolution 2334 if it had been on the Security Council. As Bishop put it, “In voting at the UN, the Coalition government has consistently not supported one-sided resolutions targeting Israel.”

Fair enough. But this puts Australia at odds not only with Britain (which supported the motion) but also the US.

Needless to say, such a stance has not won the Turnbull government much appreciation among the left intelligentsia. For example, on ABC’s News Breakfast program on Tuesday, Deakin University senior lecturer Scott Burchill criticised Australia for defying what he termed “the international consensus” on this issue.

Certainly the US’s Middle East policy will change when Donald Trump succeeds Barack Obama as president on January 20. However, it is likely that the Turnbull government’s approach would have been the same if Hillary Clinton had prevailed last November.

Australia’s position that Israelis have a right to live within secure borders goes all the way back to Ben Chifley’s Labor government, which was in office in 1948 when Israel came into existence. It has been the policy of prime ministers such as Robert Menzies, Malcolm Fraser, Bob Hawke, Kevin Rudd, Julia Gillard and John Howard.

Former prime minister Tony Abbott created some attention when, in an article in The Spectator Australia, he was seen by some as supporting Trump’s commitment that the US will move its embassy from Tel Aviv (inside Israel’s 1967 borders) to Jerusalem.

Presumably the president-elect meant West Jerusalem (which is also within Israel’s 1967 borders).
In fact, Abbott’s position is more nuanced than has been reported. He wrote that a way “for Australia to demonstrate its unswerving support for Israel, as the Middle East’s only liberal, pluralist democracy, might be to join any move by the Trump administration to move its embassy to Jerusalem”. That’s all.

It’s possible, in this instance, Trump will do as he says. However, there is a long list of contemporary American leaders who have made such a commitment at various stages of their careers, including Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, Hillary Clinton, and John McCain. Even Barack Obama acknowledged in 2008 that Jerusalem was the capital of Israel.

As Muslim commentator Maajid Nawaz, who opposes Israeli settlements in the West Bank, wrote recently:
“Israel is not the biggest problem in the Middle East by a long shot.” 
There is Iran, Syria and Libya along with the religious civil war between Sunni and Shia Muslims and more besides.

Resolution 2334 is likely to prove counter-productive in so far as the creation of a two-state solution is concerned since it will inflame Palestinian hopes and Israeli resistance. 

The essential block to peace between Israel and the relatively new entity the Palestinian Authority remains as it was a half-century ago: namely, the reluctance of many Arabs to acknowledge Israel’s right to exist.

Gerard Henderson is executive director of the Sydney Institute.