17 May 2018

“ISRAEL-PALESTINE DEBATE: IS PEACE POSSIBLE?”


by Steve Lieblich, 18 May 2018:

Image may contain: 7 people, including Moshe Yehuda Bernstein, Alex Ryvchin and Navit Shchigel, people smiling, text

Sherry Sufi, Policy Chairman, Liberal Party of Australia (WA Division) organized this debate and discussion at All Saints' College, Bull Creek WA on 17 May 2018. It was a truly admirable effort to arrange the opportunity for such a civil conversation, with the following six eminent panelists.

Dr Moshe Bernstein, an Israeli American academic who undertook extensive training in Rabbinic Studies in Israel, fluent in Hebrew, Arabic, French, German, Chinese and English.
Alex Ryvchin, current Co-CEO of Australia’s peak Jewish representative body the Executive Council of Australian Jewry (ECAJ). His recent book The Anti-Israel Agenda: Inside the Political War on the Jewish State has been internationally acclaimed.
Navit Shchigel , an Israeli Australian educator, activist and an Executive Member of the State Zionist Council of Western Australia, fluent in Hebrew and English.
Noura Mansour, an academic and activist from the city of Acre, with a Bachelors in Political Science and Education and a Masters in International Relations from the University of Haifa, fluent in Arabic, Hebrew, French, Korean and English.
Samah Sabawi, an award winning author, playwright, poet, a Victoria University PhD candidate and an Adviser at the Al-Shabaka think tank, fluent in Arabic and English.
Dr George Hatoum, a Board Member of the Australia Palestine Advocacy Network (APAN), a medical doctor who runs a Family Medical practice in Bankstown NSW with his wife, fluent in Arabic and English.

Sherry’s initiative was enthusiastically received, with over 500 invitees registering to attend, and filling the very-well-appointed, state-of-the-art theatre in the All Saints' College Centre for Performing Arts.

Sherry introduced the event and showed two video messages of encouragement from Liberal Party Parliamentarians.

Each team leader (Alex and Noura) was invited to present a 10-minute introduction.

Alex, in his characteristic eloquence, concisely summarized Jewish history and connection to the land, and then suggested a 5-point process for achieving peace, which included recognition of the Jewish People’s right to a sovereign Jewish nation and the dismantling of Hamas.

Noura used her introductory comments to portray a very personal, emotive narrative. She reviewed her family’s history in the Haifa area, portraying her grandparents lives as filled with harmony and coexistence with Jews and Christians, until the “Nakba” when Palestinians were allegedly expelled from their homes, loaded on boats and pushed out to sea... She suggested that peace must be based on truth and justice. We later discovered what she meant by that.

Then Sherry proceeded directly to Q&A.

Regretfully, as the discussion proceeded, I increasingly gained the impression that the Arab side of the debate is trapped in its pursuit of an all-or-nothing mission, and so peace is NOT possible until that changes.

The Arab team on the panel spent their time repeating the same claims that the PA and Australian so-called “Friends of Palestine” have repeated ad nauseum, that:
  • The so-called “Palestinians” are descended from the ancient Canaanites from which Joshua took the land for the Jewish People
  • “Palestinian” roots in the area go back 10,000 years (despite the fact that the UNRWA definition of a "Palestinian refugee" is someone who lived in Israel from 1946, and lost their home in the 1948-9 war AND their descendents for ever after).
  •  Zionism and Judaism are separate concepts ("good Jews"are not Zionists)
  • Zionism is contrary to Jewish Rabbinic law (because some Rabbis denounced the early political Zionism)
  •  Ashkenazy Jews may not really be Jews 
  • Zionists always planned to forcibly expel Arabs and steal Arab land and homes
  • Israel is an apartheid state
  • Israel’s migration policy is racist because it favours Jews
  • Gaza is an Israeli prison for the Arabs there
  • Israel is engaged in state terrorism, such as murdering the “peaceful protestors” in Gaza this week, or shooting innocent Arabs who just tried to stab a few Jews
  • “the occupation” is the root of all evil – it’s the cause of the flagrant wastage and corruption in the application of foreign aid to the Arabs, and of the dwindling population of Christians in PA-administered territories
The truly critical show-stopper, which palpably extinguished any hope that peace is possible at this time, came when Alex pressed Noura to explain what she meant in seeking “peace with justice”.  She clarified that she means that 6 million alleged descendants of the Arabs displaced from their homes in 1948-9 (most of whom were born outside Israel and have never set foot there) must be allowed to settle in Israel, claim their ancestors’ homes and the full rights of citizens. In her emotive and sentimental manner, she reminisced that her grandmother died outside Israel with the key to her Haifa apartment around her neck. I wonder how I would behave today, if I had worn a key around my neck all my life as a reminder of the Polish farm from which my grandfather was forcibly expelled in 1939?

The debate, in microcosm, summarized the situation of the macrocosm, quite accurately. The Jewish panelists attempted to reason with the audience on a way forward to achieve peaceful coexistence. The Arab panelists sought to score points and “defeat” the Jewish arguments. The Arabs rated verbal, poetic and symbolic victories more highly than any substantive progress towards peaceful reconciliation.

Noura and her well-educated colleagues must see that their unattainable dream predicated on a fake “right of return” for fake “refugees” means the demographic destruction of Israel as a homeland for the Jewish People. By persisting with this all-or-nothing mission and their narrative of insatiable victimhood, peace is impossible. If the only choice they offer, in response to the outstretched hand of peace, is a win-lose choice, then they will lose. Why do they persist?

So, IS PEACE POSSIBLE? Yeah, sure. One day....

Post Script: I had the following two questions prepared, for the Q&A session.

Question 1 -  I was afforded the opportunity to ask this:
20% of Israel’s citizens are Arab Muslims with the same legal rights as any other citizen. However, virtually all Jews have been expelled from Israel’s neighbouring Arab nations and the PA demands territory totally cleansed of Jews for its prospective new Arab state.
Is true peace possible while Jews are rejected as a minority of permanent residents in Arab nations?

Alex suggested that we should ignore Arab antisemitism and just make peace. George denied the facts (the audience expressed shock and amusement).

Question 2 – This question remains un-asked and un-answered.
Muslim nations from Morocco to Pakistan and from Turkey to Yemen, encompassing some half a billion people, are in turmoil, often including horrific violence and mass deaths, from sectarian rivalries and proxy wars by tyrannical hegemons. The Arabs neighbouring Israel also have deadly internal rivalries, between the PA, Hamas and probably also elements of ISIS, Al Qaida, Jabhat al-Nusra and others.
How can we promote and be assured of peace between Israel and these few million Arabs, when they have no peace amongst themselves, and when whoever promises anything to Israel today could be assassinated by his own compatriots tomorrow?


Ambassador should have attended Jerusalem embassy opening

From The Australian, 17 May 2018 (comments from readers are also included below):

Australia's ambassador to Israel, Chris Cannan, was on personal leave during the opening celebrations of the US Jerusalem embassy.
Australia's ambassador to Israel, Chris Cannan, was on personal leave during the opening celebrations of the US Jerusalem embassy.
Australia’s foreign affairs department has said the country’s ambassador to Israel could not attend an event celebrating the opening of the new US embassy in Jerusalem as he was on personal leave.
“The Minister did not instruct the Ambassador with regard to his travel. The ambassador was on personal leave,” a department of foreign affairs spokeswoman said.
The Australian understands the ambassador, Chris Cannan, received the invitation in the days before the event on May 8, but had pre-planned personal leave on the day of the diplomatic reception on May 13 and was out of the country.
The explanation comes after prominent Jewish community leaders — traditional supporters of the Coalition’s stance on Israel — hit out at the government over his absence.
While Australia has been one of Israel’s biggest backers on the international stage, Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said Mr Cannan, was not in the country at the time.
All 86 countries with diplomatic representation in Israel were invited to the event, according to Israel’s Foreign Ministry. Thirty-two countries said they would ­attend, but only Austria, Hungary, the Czech Republic and Romania attended from the EU.The Australian understands no official was sent in his place. Government sources said the invitation was for the envoy only.
At a separate event diplomats were not invited to, US President Donald Trump’s daughter Ivanka Trump officially opened the new US embassy on Monday.
Jewish community leader Danny Lam, the head of the Zionist Federation of Australia, said the Ambassador’s absence was “disappointing”.
“It’s very disappointing that only four Western nations attended. Australia could have been there,” Dr Lam told The Australian.
Colin Rubenstein, executive director of the Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council, said the US decision to move its embassy to Jerusalem was a “very good one”.
“Certainly it’s a little disappointing that Australia couldn’t attend the opening ceremony,” Mr Rubenstein said. “It’s claimed the ambassador was not able to attend. I’m not sure if he was away or had other commitments.”
Former longtime Australian ambassador to Israel Dave Sharma told The Australian it would be the right diplomatic decision not to send the ambassador as it would have contradicted Australian policy on Jerusalem by appearing to agree with the US move. “It would have been a policy statement to send him and a shift of policy. If they haven’t made that shift it doesn’t make sense to send him,” he said.
He added that Australia was otherwise one of Israel’s closest supporters at the UN.
Alex Ryvchin, co-CEO of the Executive Council of Australian Jewry, said Israel had “no better friend than Australia” and “even the best of friends will disagree from time to time”.
Labor’s Melbourne Ports MP Michael Danby said the move not to send the ambassador was “weak”.
Following Mr Trump’s move to shift the US diplomatic base to Jerusalem, Liberal backbenchers have stepped up calls for Australia to move its embassy to West Jerusalem or to recognise Jerusalem as the capital. Andrew Hastie, Victorian senator James Paterson, Tony Abbott and Eric Abetz have all called for the move.
Ms Bishop and Malcolm Turnbull — who represent electorates with large Jewish populations — have maintained a two-way line, blaming Hamas and urging ­restraint by Israel.
Ms Bishop said Palestinian protesters were being “incited by Hamas”. “Hamas must know that if they encourage protesters to cross into Israeli territory, there will be a ­response,” Ms Bishop said.
“Likewise, the Israeli Defence Force is carrying out Israel’s right to self-defence but it must be proportionate and there must not be an excessive use of force.”
Palestinians are mourning the deaths of at least 60 people by Israeli forces — including eight-month-old Leila al-Ghandour — following Monday’s clashes that wounded at least 2700.
Danny Lamm is president of the Zionist Federation of Australia.
Danny Lamm is president of the Zionist Federation of Australia.

margaret
The pro Israeli lobby in Australia must decide if their primary alleigence is to Australia or Israel.
Australia has made clear it will not be moving our embassy to Jerusalem and has condemned Israels unneccessary killing of Palestinian protestors.
Peace in Israel will occur with a two state solution and that has been severely set back by Trumps irresponsible move of the US embassy.
Criticising the actions of the current Israeli government is not anti semitic in the same way as criticising the actions of the Chinese government is not anti Chinese racism.
Avatar for Mervyn
Mervyn
@margaret Your point that criticism of Israel is not anti-Semitic is well made and valid, albeit superfluous. 
Trump's moving the US Embassy to Jerusalem has not set the peace process back one single iota. The only two parties in the peace process - Israel and Palestine - are the only two parties that can make any peace process succeed, or fail. Nothing external has any real effect.
I seem to recall that whilst there is no move at this time for Australia to move its embassy to Jerusalem, an opportunity exists to follow the exemplary lead of the USA in this regard and settle the outstanding issue of Jerusalem being the recognised capital of Israel once and for all, and move our embassy to Jerusalem.
Your call for the pro Israeli lobby to choose allegiance is simplistic and disingenuous. It is unbelievably doubtful that any of the Australian individuals named in this article have anything but the best interests of Australia at heart.
For the record, in context to the Israeli embassy issue, I am of the opinion that Australia 
would do well to move our embassy to Jerusalem with immediate effect, not only as a sign of support for the USA in this regard, but more importantly as a clear sign that Australia recognises Israel's claim that Jerusalem has always been its capital for thousands of years.
Does my opinion shift my allegiance to Israel as I disagree with our government's current position on our Israeli embassy?
Avatar for ALLAN
ALLAN
No need to decide.   Their only loyalty is to Israel, they only live in Australia. 
Avatar for ALLAN
ALLAN
Of course it is racist to criticise a racist who believes their race and only their race was chosen by god.
Avatar for ALLAN
ALLAN
Australia may recognise West Jerusalem as Israels capital just as it may recognise East Al Quds as Palestine's capital.     The best time would be when Australia can recognise both simultaneously.
Avatar for P
P
'The pro Israeli lobby in Australia must decide if their primary alleigence is to Australia or Israel.'
Do you say that about the pro-'Palestinian', pro-CCP or pro-Russian lobbies here?
No?
Avatar for P
P
'...only their race was chosen by god.' 
But you criticize only one of them & ignore the others.
That is the racist bit.
Avatar for jayess
jayess
@margaret You say that Australia has condemned unnecessary killing of Palestinian protesters. Only by those who are na├»ve enough to believe Hamas propaganda. The fatalities are claimed by Hamas and, of course, we know their reputation for honesty. Anyone with military training would know that, acting as an aid to civil power in the case of riot, the principle is to shoot the leaders directing the rioters. The death of a boy that occurred is a direct result of Hamas using children as a shield.
Avatar for Rodger
Rodger
I agree with Labor’s Melbourne Ports MP Michael Danby said the move not to send the ­ambassador was “weak”.
I say that Julie Bishop and Malcom should hang their heads in shame and should also express an apology to our strong and reliable friend, the US, as well as to Israel.
I wonder what advice DFAT gave to Ms Bishop and whether it orchestrated the absence of our ambassador to Israel before advising the minister on the US invitation?
Avatar for Sandra
Sandra
@Rodger  Australia has moved so close to Communism in the past couple of years that it really doesn't matter anymore.  I thought I would never see the day but I am seeing it now.
Avatar for B R
B R
Bishop wouldn't want to upset the middle east Muslims. Doesn't matter about upsetting our major allies by snubbing them publically.
Avatar for Brendan
Brendan
@B R It would be easier to list the countries who WOULD respond in the way Isrsel is responding. countries like Syria, Egypt, Burma more recently. wake up! Netenyahu is a gangster and fast becoming an international joke. Trumps support for him is more about Obama than his support for Israel.
Avatar for FrankB
FrankB
@Brendan @B R If  your profile photo is Kim Jong Un's father, which it looks like, then it's most appropriate.
Avatar for Ian
Ian
Israel is behaving atrociously and has so far ignored its obligations in respect of a two state solution. The ugly truth is the Palestinians were ethnically cleansed from Israel. Things were made infinitely worse by the rabid attitudes of Jewish Russian immigrants, few of whom seem to understand what they are doing is what Germany did to Jews. I hear the claims that Israel is a democracy. But that resolves nothing if those in power are moral pygmies. The assassination of a true Israeli leader who was prepared to talk and reach out was the watershed moment for Israel. It has all gone downhill since then.
Avatar for Dale
Dale
@Ian  Tell me one country that would accept, the actions taking place on it's border. Israel has and is reacting with restraint, this is nothing more than a terrorist organisation using people for it's own ends. They are little more than Hama cannon fodder. 
Avatar for Ian
Ian
@Ian Please don't confuse me with the above Ian-Our ambassador should have been there. 
Avatar for PAUL
PAUL
@Dale @Ian Let us stop this pretence Israel was defending its border because in reality its border extends past the Gaza ghetto and out to sea. The Israelis control the air, land and sea space surrounding Gaza. The Israeli navy prevents Palestinians going too far out to sea and also blockades anyone getting in. The Israelis in reality were acting as prison guards and preventing a mass breakout from the world's largest open air prison. No other civilised country in the world would be able to get away with that and it is shameful that so many otherwise decent Australians find it so easy to justify mass slaughter. Kind Regards. Paul
Avatar for Steve
Steve
@Ian Probably a good time to get your history book out before you make blatant statements. Israel ha continually offered a two state solution and EVERY time rejected by the Palestinians. Clinton brokered a deal at Camp David and Israel agreed to divide the land 50/50. Yasser Arafat declined he was a very rich man through handouts by the international community he stood to lose too much. There are over 600 millionaires in Gaza who were once poor. After sucking on the welfare teat they own luxurious condominiums overseas some own $50m jets. Hamas leaders own Billions. Hey take what is destined for the poor, tell the punters if they die that is the only assured way to paradise and then the family gets a welfare benefit from their death. Look into it.
Avatar for ALLAN
ALLAN
Australia does not allow dual nationals to sit in our parliament in case they represent a foreign power.    But that does not prevent a member of parliament representing a foreign power.  Australia also allows organisations such as the Zionist Federation of Australia, the Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council and Executive Council of Australian Jewry to represent a foreign power.   It is vital for our country's independence that our politicians resist these representatives of foreign powers.
Avatar for Meyer
Meyer
@ALLAN Why to you bring Bob Carr's status as a wholly owned vassal of Chinese Communist Party into this issue? 
Avatar for Cecil
Cecil
Yes well, Jews here are standing in the way of proper curtailment/eradication of certain Islamic practices, for fear attention will fall on Jews.
Bad.
Avatar for FrankB
FrankB
@Cecil Dog whistle by a bigot but allowed to pass. Up your game the Australian - get an adult to supervise the interns - even the 60 year old one.
Avatar for Dwight
Dwight
They undoubtedly thought themselves clever by absenting the ambassador from the country.
Avatar for Rex
Rex
One foot either side of the barb wire fence.
Avatar for Sandra
Sandra
@Rex  One word is missing in this country and it's called 'courage'.  Our armed forces have it, but our political leadership does not.
Avatar for Steven
Steven
jerusalem is the new capital for israel. get over it.
Avatar for Meg
Meg
Jerusalem is actually the old capital of the Jews and was for thousands of years, well before the Arabs appeared on the scene claiming it as their own.
Avatar for Allan
Allan
Pure and utter fear of reprisals. Pathetic.
Avatar for Mike from Tomago
Mike from Tomago
The only beacon for democracy in the Middle East and Australia doesn't stand proudly to defend it. Another Turnbull/Bishop faux pas. When will the Government stand up for democracy. 
Avatar for P
P
Yup.  A choice between a civilized liberal & democratic culture...or a barbarian one.
It's not hard.
Avatar for gej
gej
They are cowered you the thought of a home based Islamic backlash.
Avatar for Argus
Argus
The Nazis made an art form out of murdering protesters and dissidents, and the Russians and Chinese are doing it now.
Avatar for LynZip
LynZip
@Paul this is very precious and utterly exposes your bias. More pertinently directed at China and their murder of unarmed students at Tiananmen Square massacre. These were violent protests after rockets had been fired into Israel and Hamas organised riots were attempting to breach the border into Israel. How about you go and face them and show us how it is done instead of making subjective judgements. The Palestinian rioters were trying to breach the Israeli border, not the other way around and as usual and strangely conveniently, someone is always being carried in front of every photo.
Avatar for Peter
Peter
If anti semitism is on the rise around the world , I wonder why?c
Avatar for Sandy
Sandy
@Peter So, criticising the actions of Israel's army equates to anti-semitism? Give it a rest, Pete.
Avatar for P
P
When the actions of the 'victims' are ignored or their organizers blatant propaganda is accepted at face value...yes.

Avatar for LynZip
LynZip
@Sandy he didn’t identify the article as giving rise to antisemitism. The rise of anti-semitism world-wide is a fact due to the high rate of Muslim immigration into western democracies. Approximately 1 million Jews have been expelled from Arab countries over the last 6 decades or left in fear of their lives. This is not in response to just Muslim immigration but any migrant who holds age old hostility and hatred towards others in our community. Don’t divide our nation into tribes- enjoy living in a peaceful nation and hope a man who specialises in class, minority and gender divisions do not become PM.
Avatar for dexxter
dexxter
Turnbull and Bishop have no courage. Votes in western Sydney mean more to them than doing what's right.
Avatar for Sandra
Sandra
@dexxter  Votes in Western Sydney mean more to Turnbull than votes in his own electorate.  He is a disgrace.
Avatar for Mike
Mike
@dexxter  Agreed, good move. The distinction between foreign policy and domestic policy can be blurred when considered electorally feasible. Many countries abstain on votes for their own policies. If in doubt, no need to scream and shout, just fudge it. Insist on giving different messages to different audiences and tell them what they want to hear. Don't get yourself cornered on policies if it is obvious that they will not garner support.
Avatar for Wayne
Wayne
If those prominent leaders put the same effort into pushing for Malka Liefer's extradition from Israel to face the courts here, I may take an interest in what they say. Meantime this was an American event and it served no purpose to press peoples hot or cold buttons either way.
Avatar for Cassandra
Cassandra
@Wayne Excuse me.  As a member of the Jewish community I can attest that our leaders and our community as a whole are putting a lot of effort into getting Malka Leifer extradited back to this country.  Extradition from any country is a convoluted process and takes time. Meanwhile back to the article...it would have been nice for Australia to have shown some backbone and attended the event.