28 November 2016

Time to scrutinise foreign aid

From The Australian, 29 Nov 2016:

If the Israelis are right, the Australian taxpayer has been one of the biggest (unwitting) funders of the terror group Hamas in Gaza. The claim is that money given to World Vision for farms and other economic projects has been diverted to build a military base, tunnels and weapons for Hamas. The head of World Vision Gaza, Mohammad El Halabi, stands accused of funnelling $US43 million ($57.4m) to Hamas since infiltrating the charity in 2010. These are serious allegations. Australia gives aid money to the Palestinian Authority to encourage the economic development without which a two-state solution cannot be viable. It is a destructive fraud if those funds are used to bankroll terror.

There is much at stake. Through AusAID and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, the Australian government has been the world’s single biggest donor to World Vision in Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza, as we reported yesterday.

Tim Costello, chief executive of World Vision in August when charges were brought against Mr Halabi, stressed the agency’s work in Gaza was subject to “regular internal and independent audits”. This week, a spokeswoman for World Vision said it had “yet to see any substantive evidence to support the charges made by the Israeli authorities”. There is no suggestion that the World Vision hierarchy was aware of the alleged fraud. Even so, it was the correct step to suspend World Vision’s operations in Gaza and to put a freeze on funding from DFAT. The Israelis can answer for the integrity of their justice system but Australia must ensure that the DFAT review of Gaza funding is thorough and its results open to public scrutiny. The Australian allegations have a larger context. In June this year, a former British cabinet minister, Eric Pickles, complained that British financial assistance to the PA was being used to free up money to pay prisoners convicted of violent crime in the conflict with Israel. Last month, Britain suspended millions of pounds in financial aid to the PA pending an investigation into claims that money was ending up in the hands of terrorists.

The PA has received an estimated $US25 billion in financial aid from the US and other countries during the past two decades, according to Khaled Abu Toameh, a journalist writing for the Gatestone Institute. He argues that the failure of the US and Europe to hold Yasser Arafat accountable for this money encouraged the corruption that pushed Palestinians into the arms of Hamas. “Unless Western donors bang on the table and demand that the Palestinian Authority use their money to bring democracy to its people and prepare them for peace, the prospects of reviving any peace process in the Middle East will remain zero,” Abu Toameh says.

Israel’s Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely cites a 2015 report to the effect that per capita the PA receives the highest amount of foreign aid in the world. She says the PA budget for giving monthly stipends to terrorists and their families is roughly $US75m, representing 16 per cent of the annual foreign aid received. Rather than dedicate financial assistance to peaceful economic development, the PA prefers to spend it on terrorists, cross-border tunnels, and missiles to fire on Israel.

All this suggests that Australia should seize the opportunity provided by the World Vision affair to revisit the rationale of our payments to the PA, and be prepared to stop them altogether if the Palestinians cannot satisfy the most stringent conditions.

14 November 2016

Trump takes stock of the world

From The Australian Editorial, November 14, 2016:

... Donald Trump ....is so far showing a level of finesse that seemed unlikely during the election campaign. His early prioritising of Israel and the Middle East — woefully neglected by Barack Obama for so long — is a case in point. 

The protracted civil war in Syria, with its dire consequences for the growth of jihad terrorism and the opportunity it has handed Russia to gain regional strategic ascendancy, owes much to Mr Obama’s lackadaisical attitude and his unwillingness to assert US power.

His first nine calls to world leaders after his victory made his priorities clear. As well as Malcolm Turnbull, those called included key Middle East figures who have long been at loggerheads with Mr Obama — Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Egyptian president Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Saudi King Salman.

On the negative side, the last rites of the US-led Trans-Pacific Partnership have been announced. Asian leaders saw the pact as a vital sign of Washington’s commitment to the region. Its collapse, unfortunately, opens up new opportunities for China to expand its influence. Beijing, along with Australia, is a member of the alternative, 16-nation Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership.

At least Mr Trump has moved quickly to reassure regional nations, including South Korea, of continued backing. The first foreign leader he will meet will be Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe. It is also good that two Trump advisers have set out the president-elect’s “Peace Through Strength Vision for the Asia-Pacific”, borrowed from Ronald Reagan’s Cold War mantra.

The world will be watching his moves in Europe closely, after he cast protocol aside to welcome Britain’s UKIP Brexit leader Nigel Farage to Trump Towers....

02 November 2016

Launching a new chapter in Australia–Israel relations

From The Strategist (ADPI), 31 Oct 2016, by Anthony Bergin:

Photo by James Francis (Frank) Hurley. Australian War Memorial B01619.

In conjunction with the Begin-Sadat Center of Strategic Studies [BESA], the Australian Strategic Policy Institute [ASPI] has released a new report, 
The Wattle and the Olive: A new chapter in Australia and Israel working together. 
The cover photo of the report (and above) by official Australian war photographer in both world wars, Frank Hurley, was carefully chosen: it’s an iconic picture of an Australian Light Horse regiment marching up to the old city of Jerusalem, in the wake of the surrender of the Ottoman forces in December 1917.

The Australian Light Horse’s battlefield prowess in Palestine during WW1 helped lay the groundwork for the eventual creation of the modern Jewish state. Jerusalem symbolises the modern Jewish state. The cover picture brings both together.

The study looks at what strategic interests Australia and Israel have in common and what each side can bring to the relationship across traditional and non-traditional security realms. It examines the strategic rationale for a stronger working relationship, rather than just relying on the common values both states share.

There’s really no country in Middle East whose interests are more closely aligned to Australia than Israel. In particular it’s a bulwark against violent extremism in the region. Unfortunately in Australia there’s a tendency to see Israel purely through the lens of Palestinian issue and the peace process. The ASPI-BESA study wanted to get away from that prism.

The report highlights areas cooperation where interests are aligned, like countering terrorism and counter proliferation. Cyber security is another obvious area. Israel is very advanced in cyber deterrence. It’s probably subject to more cyberattacks than any other country.

The report’s key message is that Australia and Israel can cooperate in strategic affairs to the benefit of both countries. Israel should be seen as strong middle income country: it qualified to join the OECD, the top industrial countries group, six years ago, so the idea of ‘tiny’ Israel is rather out of date.

Let me just pick three areas to highlight for bilateral cooperation—one in hard, traditional security and two in the soft, non-traditional security space.

In traditional security, there’s been almost no high-level military exchanges between the two countries. Israel doesn’t have a uniformed military attaché in Canberra (although it’s posted a Ministry of Defense civilian). The Australian military attaché to Israel is based in Ankara, Turkey.

Both the ADF and the Israel Defense Forces would benefit from enhanced cooperation: both operate American equipment and both states’ militaries have invested heavily in world-class technology.

Israel has proven to be a prime source of effective counterterrorism and counterinsurgency tactics, techniques and procedures. On Australia’s side, there’s been unprecedented growth in its special forces’ capability. Israel, whose military doctrine is based on self-reliance, can learn from Australia’s experience in operating as part of military coalitions.

Israel has experience in urban warfare and the development of unmanned aerial systems for intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance and combat. It has expertise in countering improvised explosive devices, an area where Australia also has considerable expertise, and is a global pacesetter in active measures for armoured vehicle protection, defence against short-range rocket threats, and the techniques and procedures of robotics. Israel has also developed a range of capabilities for battlefield intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance and advanced munitions.

Both countries’ militaries are focused on how to incorporate cyber capabilities into their military operations. Both countries are near to major choke-points along maritime oil and trade routes, making naval affairs an important component in their national strategies. In air power, both countries intend to acquire the F-35A variant of the Joint Strike Fighter. As two operators of the same variant, there might be potential for collaboration: in the technical domain, that’s most likely to occur in the broader community of international operators of the F-35A.

The RAAF is developing its expertise in the use of unmanned aerial systems. There’s much Australia can learn from Israel’s pioneering extensive development and operational deployment of unmanned aerial vehicles. Starting in 2017, Israel and Australia should look to develop a strategic dialogue involving senior uniformed and civilian defence personnel. The dialogue should look at strategic thinking, military-to-military cooperation, US alliance issues, cybersecurity and defence industry cooperation.

In the area of soft security, societal resilience is an obvious area for information sharing: Israel has been hit with terror and rockets while still preserving social capital. As a country that’s endured decades of conflict and terror, yet still managed to build a flourishing economy and vibrant democracy, Israel offers insights into individual and societal resilience.

Water management is another area where we can share expertise. Israel is a world leader in dryland farming, drip irrigation and waste water recycling. This is an obvious area for cooperation in international development programs in the Asia–Pacific and Africa, one that will support Australian foreign policy objectives.

Right now the relationship between the two states is underachieving. The Wattle and the Olive suggests that both countries use next year’s centenary of the battle of Be’er Sheva, and the centenary of the Balfour Declaration that led to the creation of the modern state of Israel, to revitalise the relationship.

We can transform our longstanding friendship by opening a new chapter in our relations through deepening existing areas of cooperation and catalysing new ones, such as defence cooperation.
Our two countries will need to be as bold as the 4th Light Horse Brigade at Be’er Sheva if we’re to succeed in forging a new strategic partnership.

25 October 2016

Julie Bishop slams the recent UNESCO decision

20 Oct 2016:

Australia's Foreign Minister has slammed the recent UNESCO decision entitled "Occupied Palestine" in a letter to the Exceutive Council of Australian Jewry.

Minister Julie Bishop wrote that she was "dismayed and disappointed that this draft decision was adopted by the UNESCO Executive Board... The text is highly politicised, unbalanced and provocative, and reflects poorly on UNESCO...."

Follow this link to see the entire letter.

21 October 2016

Senator Roberts, conspiracy theorist, "enjoyed close friendships with Jewish people"

From The Australian, 22 Oct 2016, by Robert Guilliatt:

One Nation senator Malcolm Roberts has rejected calls from Jewish leaders that he repudiate the work of an anti-­Semitic ­author he has cited to support his claim that a “cabal” of inter­national bankers is trying to ­create a socialist global government.
The B’nai B’rith Anti-Defamation Commission and the Australia/Israel And Jewish ­Affairs Council have demanded Senator Roberts dissociate himself from the writings of ­Eustace Mullins, an American anti-Semite who claimed that inter­national banks and the US Federal Reserve were part of a Jewish conspiracy to introduce global socialism.
Senator Roberts has cited Mullins’s 1952 book The Secrets Of The Federal Reserve as a primary source for his claim that international banks are part of a “tight-knit secret group” using climate change to usher in a new world order. The senator wrote widely on the issue in his previous role as project ­director of the climate-sceptic group The Galileo Movement.
Senator Roberts ... said: “I object completely to the stupidity of trying to link me with anti-Semitism,’’ adding that he enjoyed close friendships with Jewish people and had a high regard for the Jewish community.
The chairman of B’nai B’rith, Dvir Abramovich, said he was disappointed that Senator Roberts was defending the work of Mullins, a virulent racist who had called Jews parasites, praised Hitler and described the Federal Reserve as “the high Jewish bank”.
Peter Wertheim, the executive director of the Executive Council of Australian Jewry, said ...Senator Roberts['] ... beliefs about banks contained echoes of Jewish conspiracy theories from a century ago.

14 October 2016

Di Natale attacks Peres

October 14, 2016 by J-Wire Staff

The leader of the Greens Senator Richard Di Natale has told the Australian senate his views of the political life of Shimon Peres, a former Israeli president who died recently at 93.

Richard di Natale

Richard di Natale

Di Natale said: “Leaving aside the astonishing hypocrisy of the coalition, who have consistently denied leave on foreign policy motions and yet seek to introduce one today, it is important to put on the record that Shimon Peres has been described as an architect of Israel’s nuclear weapons program, which to this day remains outside the scrutiny of the International Atomic Energy Agency; that he was the father of the settler movement, which involves the confiscation of large swathes of Palestinian land; and that in 1996 he oversaw Operation Grapes of Wrath, which involved the death of 154 civilians in Lebanon and involved the shelling of a United Nations compound, which killed 106 sheltering civilians. While he was awarded a Nobel peace prize in 1994, members of that committee have expressed regret that the prize could not be recalled on the basis of the actions that followed.”

Federal Labor MP Michael Danby has slammed Di Natale’s remarks saying: “Yesterday in the Senate, the leader of the green political party Richard Di Natale, to his shame, denigrated the recently deceased President of Israel, Shimon Peres. Danby said “the Green Party boss again showed his total insensitivity and his hatred of a Jewish State”

Michael Danby

Michael Danby

“It was unprecedented for the head of a political party to attack the recently deceased head of state who was known for values of peace and reconciliation with which the fake Green party ostensibly identifies.” Di Natale’s attack on Peres came after a non-partisan resolution in the senate lauding Peres’ lifetime achievements. The Green Party’s hypocrisy in criticizing Shimon Peres shows once again why any Australian Jewish citizen cannot support that extremist political party that singles out Israel for disdain. Not a word about Peres’ moves for reconciliation between Israelis and Palestinian, his support for a two state solution and his futuristic moves to engage Israel with the Arab world through technology and science were even noted by the deeply ignorant leader of the Australian Green Party that has long left environmentalism behind as its main concern and replaced it with extremist attacks on Israel and the West. Danby said “Di Natale attacked Peres’ role 50 years ago in Israel acquiring nuclear technology – a failsafe for the Jewish State given the near extermination of the Jewish people during the Shoah which was understood by most reasonable people.” In his Senate attack Di Natalie cited other partisans who said Peres’ noble peace prize should have been cancelled because of a military operation in Lebanon when he was leader just after Rabin’s murder.

Danby said, “None of the green party had made such violent denunciations over the hundreds of thousands of civilians murdered in Syria, again emphasising their blinded hypocrisy.” He continued, “This small rotten speech is an insight into the mentality of this group and shows yet again why it was so important to defeat them in Melbourne Ports and elsewhere at the recent election

Danby concluded: “Young people who have been attracted to the Green party’s faux environmentalism should see their environmental policies as merely a cover for a hateful attack on Israel’s widely mourned President. Although the Greens party may have begun with a strong environmental idealistic focus, this shameful speech shows once again that the Green party has today morphed into a party of far left extremists who are unfit for the support of those with any idealism.”

The Australia/Israel and Jewish Affairs Council executive director Dr Colin Rubenstein commented: “With his interjection during the condolence motion for Shimon Peres, Richard Di Natale has put his pathetic misunderstanding of world affairs on show and disgraced his office as leader of an Australian political party.

Di Natale showed his utter disregard for Israel’s need for security in a fraught environment and chose to completely ignore Shimon Peres’ many celebrated achievements as a peacemaker.

It says volumes about the schism between The Greens and decency that representatives of 70 nations attended Shimon Peres’ funeral and genuine political leaders lined up to praise him.”

The Executive Council of Australian Jewry president Robert Goot and executive director Peter Wertheim issued a joint statement saying: “The late Shimon Peres was a world-renowned statesman, as was attested to by the eloquent eulogies at his funeral by most of the world’s leading political figures, including Barack Obama and Bill Clinton.

Shimon Peres’s passing also created a rare moment of warmth and civility between the Israeli and Palestinian leaders, which is further testament to the greatness of Peres and his ability to unify, both in life and in death.

Unlike Palestinian leader, Mahmoud Abbas, who said Peres’s death is ‘a heavy loss for all humanity and for peace in the region’, Senator di Natale could find not a single positive thing to say on Peres’s passing. The Senator’s graceless criticisms  of Shimon Peres shortly after his passing reflect poorly on himself and the Australian Greens, and suggest that their leader is a political captive of the extremists in his party.”

10 October 2016

The Australian’s Khalik spins women’s flotilla report

Tuesday 11 October 2016

On October 7, 2016, The Australian featured a report by Jennine Khalik about the recent interception of a boat of anti-Israel activists attempting to reach Gaza –“Israel picks up boat captained by Tasmanian out to break Gaza blockade”.

While the printed edition of the paper contained a shorter and straight report on the events, the longer online version was highly problematic. It lacks context and is rife with inaccuracies and omissions. We will examine those, but first the question must be asked why Khalik was assigned the story in the first place. Surely the editors of The Australian, a publication that is usually nuanced and balanced on matters relating to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, would have thought to assign this story to a journalist who hadn’t previously declared the following on the ABC’s Q and A program:

“I am of Palestinian descent. My parents, grandparents and great grandparents were refugees. The state of Israel was established on the ethnic cleansing of Palestine and displacement of three-quarters of Palestinians in 1948. Palestinians since have been subjected to apartheid, a military occupation and the continued confiscation and dispossession of their land and resources. How can we confront the popular pro-Israel narrative that it is a democracy?”

On to the issues with the story then:

Israel’s navy has intercepted a boat captained by a Tasmanian woman attempting to break the blockade on Gaza.
The Women’s Boat to Gaza, with 13 women on board including Hobart local and professional sailor Madeleine Habib, was intercepted in international waters this morning once they entered what Israel deems a “military exclusion zone” 100 nautical miles within the blockaded Gaza Strip.

Khalik omits here that the United Nations Palmer Report, the result of an investigation into the 2010 Mavi Marmara incident in which nine Turkish militants were killed while trying to attack Israeli forces who boarded their ship as it was attempting to reach Gaza, found that Israel has every right to enforce its military blockade of Gaza in international waters. The omission of this piece of context falsely paints Israel as an aggressive and rogue state with no regard to international norms.

Among the 13 woman on the boat were 1976 Nobel Peace laureate from Northern Ireland, Mairead Maguire, and retired US army colonel Ann Wright.

Respected and celebrated members of society. But who were their shipmates that Khalik chose to leave out?
  • Jordan-based Ola Abed is one of the people behind the video game Gaza Man, in which players shoot as many Israelis as they can, with extra points given for headshots
  • Malaysian Norsham Abu Bakr is a supporter of the Muslim Brotherhood who has accused the Mossad of being behind recent terrorist attacks in Munich and Nice
  • Canadian Wendy Goldsmith  has featured as a guest on conspiracy theorist Kevin Barrett’s Truth Jihad radio show, which promotes the idea that Israel was behind 9/11 and other attacks
  • Also Malaysian, Fauzia Hasan has called to ban Sisters in Islam, a Muslim women’s group working for gender equality.

In 2010, nine activists were killed during Israel’s military raid on a flotilla to Gaza in international waters on the Turkish ship MV Mavi Marmara, which led to a breakdown in diplomatic ties between Israel and Turkey.

Khalik leaves out the much needed context – that the Israeli soldiers were attacked with baseball bats, steel bars, and live fire, and acted in self-defence – to leave the impression Israel was the aggressor. Also, as above, the UN Palmer Report found Israel was in its rights to intercept the Mavi Marmara in international waters.

Gaza, which is inhabited by over 1.9 million Palestinians, is under a land, air and sea blockade enforced by Israel and Egypt since 2007, following the election of Hamas.

Khalik’s vague description here may leave the reader understanding that Israel’s military blockade was imposed merely in reaction to an election. Israel did not commence its blockade until a year later, when Hamas seized control of Gaza in a violent coup that saw many opposition Fatah members murdered, and then increased the frequency of its rocket fire aimed at Israeli civilians. The blockade is intended to stop arms and military material falling into the Hamas’ hands.

United Nations officials have continually called for the blockade to be lifted, and have said conditions are deteriorating in Gaza.

There may well be UN officials who have called for this but the UN’s own Palmer report has found the blockade to be legal. Khalik also joins two separate elements in this sentence to give the impression the blockade is the reason conditions might be deteriorating in Gaza. If conditions are so bad, why did Hamas release a video recently portraying Gaza as a paradise, featuring beautiful mosques, modern apartment buildings and shopping centres, and glittering beaches? And if they are, Khalik completely absolves Hamas itself of any responsibility. The same Hamas that diverts cement and other building materials meant for civilian projects to its military infrastructure, that faces allegations of diverting international aid money into its own coffers, and commits systematic human rights violations such as suppressing free speech, executing citizens suspected of “collaborating” with Israel and using Palestinians as human shields.

Vivienne Porzsolt, who was on a flotilla to Gaza in 2011 with former Greens parliamentarian Sylvia Hale, said the boat to Gaza belonged to a “long line of efforts to break the illegal blockade of Gaza”.

Khalik uses Vivienne Porzsolt’s quote to repeat the false claim that the blockade is illegal, a falsehood that we’ve already pointed out is at odds with the Palmer Report. It is also questionable why Porzsolt is the only Australian source quoted. She has a long history of anti-Israel activism, including participating in rallies, speaking at events and supporting the anti-Israel boycott movement. In a 2010 speech at a rally following the Mavi Marmara incident, she called the activists who attacked the Israeli forces “brave”.

“Gaza blockaded because the people elected the Hamas government, which is not accepted by Israel, the US, and the rest of the quartet,” Ms Porzsolt said.

Also as above, the blockade was imposed not to punish the Palestinian people for voting for Hamas, but to limit weapons reaching the terror group after it increased its rocket fire at Israeli civilians in 2007. But why not repeat this blatant inaccuracy?

The Israeli government, opposed to Hamas, has said if it lifts the blockade it would allow Hamas fighters to smuggle weapons.

Finally the last line of the story actually addresses the real reason for the blockade. But it’s not all hunky-dory. Khalik says the Israeli government is opposed to Hamas. She doesn’t tell the reader why this is so, but we will. Hamas, a genocidal terrorist organisation, is sworn to the destruction of Israel, advocates the murder of Jews and is constantly trying its hardest to achieve both. That little tid-bit might explain Israel’s opposition some.