24 March 2016
Michael Keenan, Australia’s Minister for Justice and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for Counter Terrorism has told a meeting in Berlin that “newer and subtler forms of anti-Semitism can still be found”.
Keenan was speaking at the Inter-Parliamentary Coalition for Combatting Anti-Semitism Conference in Berlin.
In his address the Minister said that Australia has a long and proud history of racial, cultural, religious and ethnic diversity.
He said: “With one in four Australians being born overseas, our nation has one of the most culturally and linguistically diverse populations in the world.
But we still need to be vigilant to the emergence of ideologies or ideas that seek to divide us along the lines of race or other differences.
Anti-Semitism is far from being a new concept. It has a long and particularly dark history. It is a worldview that should have died and been consigned to history long ago but its resilience should continue to trouble us all.
We should also be mindful that anti-Semitism evolves. In the west you may no longer find many who would assert that Jewish people are racially inferior, and mainstream society overwhelmingly rejects outlandish conspiracy theories – but newer and subtler forms of anti-Semitism can still be found.
The extravagant attention given to the alleged human rights abuses in Israel while similar atrocities in other countries remain unheard of should ring alarm bells.
All countries here today are working to tackle this important issue and Australia is no exception.
Australia has a unique history, beginning with our native Indigenous population, British settlement and extensive immigration from a range of countries and cultures, many of which are represented here today.
Jewish people in particular have been a key part of Australia’s story as a nation since the days of European settlement. While the Jewish community in Australia is relatively small today, we find the Jewish people in roles of leadership, at the top of every walk of life.
While Australia does not face the same level of anti-Semitism as across many parts of the world, we share your concerns around racial hatred and hate speech.
The interconnectedness of our world means we are all touched by the effects of rising anti-Semitism and related movements of racial and religious hatred.
For example, migration flows across Europe are of huge concern for many of you here. We know that the public’s tolerance for cultural diversity improves when they are secure in the knowledge that borders are being managed appropriately.
Social media and technology can bring us together. Equally, it is making it far easier to spread messages of hate and totalitarian, violent ideology.
He added: “The Australian Government remains committed to ensuring that everyone has a right to free speech. However, the Australian Government does not condone any form of speech which incites hatred or violence.
As my fellow panel members have noted – combatting anti‑Semitism through effective legislative responses is of course a crucial role of Government in ensuring the protection and safety of its citizens.
Consistent with the London Declaration of this Coalition, the Australian Government has reaffirmed its commitment to the Genocide Convention.
In November 2015 the Australian Government introduced legislation into the Australian Parliament to criminalise the act of ‘advocating genocide’ to further strengthen Australia’s legal response to the ongoing threats in the community.
The offence will criminalise advocacy — that is, counselling, promoting, encouraging or urging — of genocide of national, ethnic, racial or religious groups in Australia.
The Australian Government firmly believes that the preaching of genocide is never the same as an expression of a radical political opinion. These laws mark the acceptable boundaries between free speech and preventing and disrupting intolerable and extreme hate speech.
Australia has also criminalised urging violence against individuals of groups on the basis of race, religion, national or ethnic origin.
Legislation is necessary, but it is just one part of the solution.
That is why the real change, the harder change, in tackling hate speech starts with relationships – we need what some commentators have called the ‘right mental infrastructure’.
Dr Michael Fullilove, an Australian political commentator at our Lowy Institute, has written that ‘reconciliation needs to get personal. It needs to be flesh and blood…it will be achieved at pubs, and clubs and football grounds as much as in debating chambers and at conventions.’
The Australian Government has committed $21.7 million over four years to combat hate speech, among other counter-terrorism measures, to limit the impact of extremist narratives on domestic audiences.
The Government is working with the Australian Human Rights Commission to support the National Anti‑Racism Partnership Strategy and its related public awareness campaign, Racism. It Stops With Me.
The Strategy and Campaign draws on the existing expertise on anti‑racism and multicultural matters across government and non‑government representatives. The high profile media campaign has successfully raised community awareness that all forms of racism are unacceptable in the Australian community.
More than 360 organisations across Australia have signed up to support and promote the Campaign to date.
The Australian Government has also established the Australian Multicultural Council to advise Ministers. The Council’s advice focuses on building stronger and more cohesive communities and promoting stronger intercultural and interfaith understanding. This advice assists government’s policies to harness the economic and social benefits of Australia’s culturally diverse population.
Legal responses are necessary but are just one part of the solution to tackle anti-Semitism and other forms of hate speech and intolerance.
Political leadership is crucial in setting the tone for the debate. Governments need to show leadership by promoting a narrative of commitment to shared democratic societal values. Equally, we must show respect for cultural diversity, to combat and prevent racial and religious hatred.”
21 March 2016
The Liberal Party’s youngest-ever senator, James Paterson, wants to scrap the “unbalanced and skewed” national curriculum, move Australia’s Israeli embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and reintroduce the commonwealth debt ceiling to crack down on intergenerational debt.
Senator Paterson urged Australia to “do more” to show its solidarity with Israel, which he said was “not just a beacon of liberal democracy in a seat of despotism in its own region” but a “prosperous, tolerant, harmonious and creative country in the toughest of circumstances”.
“The Israeli government have demonstrated time and time again they are the best custodians for the religious and historical sites that are of significance to people of many faiths,” he said.
“It would be a symbolic, but important, step for Australia to formally recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital city and to move our embassy there.”...
16 March 2016
[Notre Dame University, Fremantle Campus has conducted a formal investigation] after an article [that] one of its lecturers published, was heavily condemned as slanderous and racist.
Posted to The London School of Economics and Political Science website on December 3, Dr Sandra Nasr's article infers Palestinians living in Israel are treated as 'non-human' by Jewish people who subscribe to an ideology or superiority, separateness and entitlement.
The UK-based Jewish Community Security Trust has slammed the article, claiming it was false, offensive and "had no place" in the academic world.
"The post attacks Israel by employing grotesque racist slanders against Judaism," it said.
"The post even includes a link to a holocaust denial website called VHO and specifically to an article by Roger Garaudy, a holocaust denier who was convicted in France of denying the holocaust and fined £20,000."
The University of Notre Dame Australia, where Dr Nasr is a lecturer in Middle East and human rights politics at the Fremantle campus, said in a statement on Friday that it did not endorse comments made in the article.
"The opinions and comments expressed by Dr Sandra Nasr were not endorsed or sanctioned by the University and do not, in any way, represent the views of The University of Notre Dame Australia..." ...
"The University expresses its disappointment and apologises that comments causing such offence have been associated with it."
"Notre Dame is addressing this issue in accordance with its relevant processes and will not make any further comment until these have been duly followed."
The article has since been removed from The London School of Economics and Political Science's website.
Excerpts from ...[Sandra Nasr's] post:
"By framing 'the other' as non-human or less-human, the abhorrent practices of subjugation - including torture, collective punishment, extrajudicial assassination - are viewed, and presented, as legitimate and even necessary...The Israeli military frequently adopt the historical language of their own oppression, threatening to gas Palestinians until they die if they throw stones..." ...
Dr Nasr is on leave from the university and was unable to be reached for comment.
13 March 2016
Julie Bishop (L) and Tanya Plibersek
Julie Bishop has lashed her opposition counterpart, Tanya Plibersek, accusing her of hypocrisy over her “hysterical campaign of misinformation” about the government’s approach to Iran.
After Ms Plibersek last week accused the Foreign Minister of turning “a blind eye” to Iran’s human rights abuses and anti-Israel rhetoric, Ms Bishop today noted Ms Plibersek’s own comments describing Israel as a “rogue state” and its then prime minister Ariel Sharon as a “war criminal”.
Amid discussions with Iran over the repatriation of rejected asylum-seekers, Ms Plibersek supported diplomatic engagement with Tehran but warned it was an “oppressive” regime that often “tramples the human rights” of reformers.
“The Foreign Minister has been … so prepared to turn a blind eye to the anti-American rhetoric of the Iranian government, the anti-Israeli rhetoric of the Iranian government, to the human rights abuses, where people are locked up for their sexuality, for following a religion that’s not approved of by the regime, and most particularly, for political organisation against an oppressive government,” she said on Friday.
Ms Plibersek’s comments came ahead of a visit to Canberra this week by Iranian foreign minister Javad Zarif, and followed revelations in The Australian that the frigate HMAS Darwin had on February 27 intercepted illicit arms apparently originating from Iran and bound for rebels in Yemen.
Ms Bishop today returned fire over Ms Plibersek’s “hysterical campaign of misinformation”, saying she frequently raised human rights concerns with Iran and she “certainly won’t stand for any anti-Israel rhetoric”.
“Tanya Plibersek … was encouraging us to engage with Iran back in the Ahmadinejad days and she was very critical of Israel and called Israel a rogue state and one of their prime ministers a war criminal, so I don’t think Labor’s in any position to lecture me or the Coalition on how to conduct diplomatic relations that are in Australia’s national interests...Foreign Minister Zarif is coming to Australia and this is an opportunity for me to raise directly with him some of the concerns we have about Iran’s conduct globally, but it’s also an opportunity to discuss areas of common interest.
“We both have troops fighting in Syria and Iraq, Australia has a number of Iranians who are claiming to be refugees and if they have no legal basis for being in Australia they should return to Iran, and now that sanctions have been lifted from Iran by countries around the world I wouldn’t want to ensure that Australian businesses have every opportunity to conduct trade and investment activities with Iran.”
Ms Plibersek today repeated her call for Ms Bishop to outline her Iran policy to parliament, explaining “what engagement Australia will have with Iran, and for what outcome”.
Earlier this year, Ms Plibersek cautioned against assuming the recent nuclear deal with Iran would transform the Islamic republic into a “responsible actor”.
“In opposition, Julie Bishop criticised low-level efforts to engage Iran diplomatically. In 2012, Ms Bishop said she had ‘concerns about (Iran’s) nuclear program’, that its leaders continued ‘to make bellicose statements with regard to Israel’, and that ‘the regime (had) been an active sponsor of terrorist organisations around the world’,” Ms Plibersek said at the time.
“It will continue to act in ways domestically and regionally that Australians find disagreeable, and we must not be naïve about the intentions of Iran’s government and religious leaders.”
Ms Plibersek has previously recanted her 2003 comments about Israel and Sharon, telling The Australian in 2011 that she spoke “injudiciously”.
As an opposition backbencher in 2003, Ms Plibersek said: “I can think of a rogue state which consistently ignores UN resolutions whose ruler is a war criminal — it is called Israel and the war criminal is Ariel Sharon.”
As Israel’s defence minister, Sharon was held [indirectly] responsible for [preventing] the massacre of at least 800 Palestinian men, women and children at the refugee camps Sabra and Shatila in 1982 after Israel’s invasion of Lebanon. An Israeli inquiry said he had not taken “appropriate measures to prevent bloodshed” after Christian Phalangist militia allied with Israel were allowed to enter the camps.
11 March 2016
On present behaviour, and on all possible interpretations of its many clear public statements, the Iranian government has absolutely no intention of becoming a responsible international player.
Foreign Minister Julie Bishop is deluded if she thinks otherwise and is in danger of squandering a good deal of her integrity as a political leader through her political embrace of Iran.
Since the Iran-US nuclear deal, there is no sign at all that the hardline, revolutionary regime in Tehran has changed its behaviour or approach, fundamentally or superficially.
As Bishop is singing the praises of Iran’s allegedly new disposition, we find that it has just conducted a series of ballistic missile launches in breach of UN Security Council resolutions.
An Australian ship has recently intercepted an illegal arms shipment bound for Yemen, probably to the Houthi faction, supplied by Iran.
Tehran remains the chief sponsor of Hezbollah in Lebanon and Syria.
Under Australian law, and under much international law, Hezbollah is a designated terrorist organisation.
The hate-filled, anti-American, anti-Israel and frequently anti-Semitic rhetoric of the Iranian leadership continues unabashed.
Since the allegedly moderate President Hasan Rowhani came into office in Iran, more than 100 members of the minority Baha’i faith have been imprisoned under continuing policies of religious persecution.
“Death to America” remains the standard slogan for government-sponsored demonstrations. If this is our Foreign Minister’s definition of a normal and responsible nation, I would hate to see what she classes as abnormal.
Bishop has been a very successful and effective foreign minister and has rightly won much praise for her role on the international stage.
But her cosying up to one of the worst dictatorships in the contemporary world is at odds with her core political values and inconsistent with many things she has said in the past.
She seems to have fallen for the Barack Obama theory of failed diplomacy — that by being charming to the mullahs, Western leaders can convert them into moderates.
10 March 2016
...Iran test-fired ballistic missiles designed to be able to hit Israel ...a "blatant violation" of the nuclear agreement reached between Iran and Western powers last July.
In a photo provided by Iran's Fars News Agency Wednesday, a Qadr H long-range missile is seen being fired by Iran's Revolutionary Guards
|Photo credit: AP
08 March 2016
The West Australian understands the Foreign Minister’s negotiations with Javad Zarif are well advanced, powered by Iran’s determination to improve its economic and diplomatic relationship with the West in the wake of last year’s international nuclear deal.
Iran has been one of the biggest source countries for boat people arrivals in Australia but Tehran has long refused to accept involuntary returnees. This has left almost 9000 Iranian asylum seekers in limbo.
While about 400 are in detention on Nauru and Manus Island, the rest are on the mainland, mostly living in the community.
Under the repatriation agreement, Australia would demand guarantees from Iran that returnees would not be persecuted or punished.
In 2013, Ms Bishop’s Labor predecessor Bob Carr said the Iranian boat arrivals were “economic migrants” who were “overwhelmingly” middle class and from majority ethnic and religious groups.
Officials believe the lifting of sanctions has improved job and business opportunities for Iranians in their homeland.
Australia’s negotiations with Iran, spurred by Ms Bishop’s visit to Tehran last year, will pave the way for reciprocal agreements for student exchanges and new arrangements for holiday and work visas.
“We are looking to engage with Iran in a number of ways that will advantage Australian business but still maintain sanctions and our concerns on areas where we disagree with Iran,” Ms Bishop toldThe West Australian .
“It’s in Australia’s interests to engage more with Iran, as other countries are doing. We’ve made that clear to our friends in Israel.”
Economic and financial sanctions against Iran were lifted last year but Australia has maintained restrictions on the transfer of nuclear proliferation-sensitive goods and weapons. Some Iranian individuals and entities also remain blacklisted.
Ms Bishop will introduce Dr Zarif to Trade Minister Steve Ciobo, Trade Envoy Andrew Robb, Immigration Minister Peter Dutton and, diary permitting, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull when he comes to Canberra on Tuesday.
A big priority is to get Australian businesses into Iran as soon as possible, given that the US and European nations have flocked to Iran for economic opportunities since the signing of the so-called P5+1 nuclear deal with Iran.
Global attention is focused on Iran, not just to see whether it will be a responsible and constructive regional player but because of its role as a key player in the pursuit of a political solution of the Syrian crisis.
In a move unthinkable several years ago, Dr Zarif and Ms Bishop last year agreed to share intelligence on tracking Australians fighting with Islamic State during her visit in April last year.
While in Canberra Dr Zarif will give a speech at the Australian National University highlighting the role Iran can play in combating terror groups including Islamic State.
ANU Centre for Arab and Islamic Studies director Professor Amin Saikal believed Dr Zarif’s visit was the first by an Iranian foreign minister in more than two decades.
06 March 2016
Israel today has few genuine friends willing to stand up and defend the Jewish state and counter the many nations that apply bias and double standards in ongoing harassment.
Australia, an important Western middle power, has a track record of friendship dating back to the State of Israel’s birth that, with the exception of a few minor blips, would place it among the Jewish state’s most consistent and loyal friends.
Australian governments not only befriended Israel but played important and, to a large extent, unknown roles in other Jewish issues. These included the struggle for Soviet Jewry, the campaign to rescind the infamous U.N. “Zionism is racism” resolution and discreet initiatives that helped to pave the way for diplomatic relations between Israel and India and China.
The current government, headed by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, occupies a similar position of genuine friendship toward Israel as that held by Canada until recently, under former Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
Last month, President Reuven Rivlin announced a five-day state visit to Canberra, Melbourne and Sydney scheduled to commence on March 13. It was to have been the first visit to Australia by an Israeli president in over a decade.
Despite the short notice and the fact that requests from other foreign leaders had been postponed, the Australians went out of their way to lay out the red carpet for the visit. The Australian Governor General Peter Cosgrove canceled an overseas trip in order to host Rivlin, and Turnbull not only committed to hosting the president at a state dinner but also organized a luncheon in Canberra to which several hundred people were invited, including all federal parliamentarians.
Two weeks before the event, Rivlin informed the Australians that he was obliged to cancel the trip in order to fly to Moscow to see President Vladimir Putin.
The Australian Broadcasting Corporation reported that, not surprisingly, Australian government officials were offended and infuriated at the cancellation as a large amount of effort was invested into organizing events and dates were rescheduled to accommodate the president, only for Rivlin to cancel “for a better offer. … People feel angry and taken for granted. … The ABC understands Australian officials were left wondering whether their efforts as one of Israel’s closest allies were appreciated by Tel Aviv.”
Rivlin deflected much of the criticism by suggesting that the decision was taken only after consultations with the Foreign Ministry and the Prime Minister’s Office. These government offices purportedly decided that, in consideration of sensitive developments in the region, Rivlin’s meeting with Putin had important defense implications that demanded priority over what was to be primarily a ceremonial visit to Australia.
I am not privy to the background of Rivlin’s scheduled visit to Moscow and time may well demonstrate that the meeting with Putin was critical. But I am dubious. Surely the meeting could have been postponed for a week. Had this been Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, it would have made sense. But Rivlin is a ceremonial figure, a head of state with no executive authority. And I am not demeaning our president when I suggest that his political sophistication is surely unlikely to make a great impact on a tough leader like Putin.
Israel has undoubtedly offended one of its closest allies. Rivlin has announced that his visit was “postponed,” not canceled, but with impending elections, it is highly unlikely that the Australians will be able or inclined to reschedule a visit during the coming calendar year.
Australia must not be taken for granted. Its longstanding friendship with Israel dates back to troops serving in Palestine in both world wars. Since 1948, when Australian Labor Party leader Dr. H. V. Evatt served as U.N. General Assembly president at the time the Jewish state was created, with only two brief exceptions, a bipartisan policy of friendship toward Israel has applied irrespective of which government was in office.
The timing of this slight could not have been worse. Over the past year, former Labor Party Foreign Minister Bob Carr, who virtually overnight became rabidly anti-Israeli in the previous government, led a concerted drive to persuade his party to reverse its even-handed policy on Israel. At the annual Labor conference last month, his efforts were overwhelmingly defeated.
Why is it that a country so geographically distant has maintained such a longstanding warm relationship with Israel?
Although possibly biased by having served for many years as the head of the Australian Jewish community, I feel confident in asserting that much of the credit for the supportive government and evenhanded opposition approach to Israel can be credited to the passionately Zionist Jewish community -- which is deeply embarrassed by the last-minute Rivlin cancellation.
The genesis of the Jewish community dates from the end of the 18th century, when Jews were among the first convicts deported from England to Australia. It was a declining and rapidly assimilating community until World War II, when it was reinvigorated by Jews fleeing Nazi persecution and survivors from the concentration camps. Indeed, Australia’s Jewish community absorbed proportionately more Holocaust survivors than any other Jewish community aside from Israel.
Jewish cultural and religious life developed dramatically. The immigrants created an impressive network of Jewish day schools, ranging from secular Zionist to Chabad, from Reform to Modern Orthodox and even a Bundist school, which catered for most Jewish youngsters.
Since the 1980s, the Jewish community has been augmented by Russians and large numbers of South Africans, the latter financially independent and rapidly assuming important communal leadership roles.
Since the late 1940s, Jewish leaders invested enormous efforts toward promoting the case for Israel at the political level, not hesitating to confront governments they considered were displaying bias or double standards. This all-encompassing Jewish passion for Israel was the critical factor leading to the current bipartisan pro-Israel orientation of the mainstream political parties.
Today there is unfortunately a discernible change beyond the parliamentary framework. Australian trade unions, traditionally bastions of support for Israel, now endorse anti-Israeli boycotts. Anti-Israeli activity at universities is escalating and encouraged by the Green movement and a number of Jewish academics. Anti-Zionist Jewish splinter groups have emerged, although in contrast to the U.S., they are marginalized from the mainstream.
Notwithstanding these emerging challenges, if there were more Jewish communities like Australia, the future of Diaspora Jewry would be far more secure.
The Jewish community is united under the umbrella of the Executive Council of Australian Jewry. The Australia-Israel and Jewish Affairs Council, the community’s Israel advocacy organization, the counterpart of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, operates at an extraordinarily high professional level and could serve as a model for other Jewish communities to emulate. The Australia-Israel Chamber of Commerce is the most popular and efficient chamber in the country.
But Israel cannot afford to take its few genuine friends for granted and irrespective of the circumstances, Rivlin’s last minute cancellation of his state visit casts a blemish on Israel’s relationship with Australia. Our government must bend over backward to compensate for the insult. Despite the massive pressures facing Netanyahu, he would do well to commit himself to a visit Down Under after the Australian elections.
03 March 2016
... the Opposition is now forcing the Government to a public inquiry before the Senate Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade References Committee.
The reason for the inquiry is because no public consultation was undertaken when Ms Bishop suspended sanctions against Iran, and Ms Bishop has refused to engage Parliament or her critics in a debate on her Iran or wider Middle East policy, despite repeated calls by myself and Opposition Deputy Leader and Foreign Affairs Spokesperson Tanya Plibersek for her to do so.
Yesterday news articles about the call for a Senate inquiry were in The Australian and the Australian Jewish News. ...
Remember, Iran still has an aggressive regional policy and has thousands of troops besieging the Syrian city of Aleppo. Iran conducted ballistic missile tests in October and December last year. Iran ran a competition of cartoonists mocking the Holocaust just this November in Tehran. Previously under any Labor government, Australia would have condemned any of these official Iranian activities. Since the signing of the nuclear deal, Ms Bishop has remained silent.
...Iranian leaders have continued their calls for Israel’s destruction, and their support for Iran’s aggressive regional policy.
For instance, in September last year, Islamic Revolution Guard Corps’ top commander in Tehran province, Brigadier General Mohsen Kazzemeini said, "...they (the US and the Zionists) should know that the Islamic Revolution will continue enhancing its preparedness until it overthrows Israel and liberates Palestine."
"And we will continue defending not just our own country, but also all the oppressed people of the world, specially those countries that are standing on the forefront of confrontation with the Zionists," continued the General.
In relevant remarks in 2014, Supreme Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei said, "Only way to solve this problem is full annihilation and destruction of the Zionist regime... The armed resistance by the Palestinians is the only way to confront Israel," Ayatollah Khamenei said addressing a group of Iranian university students in Tehran at the time.
On 24 February this year, the Iranian Ambassador to Lebanon announced that Iran would give $7000 to the family of each Palestinian killed in a stabbing or other attack as part of the ‘stabbing intifada’
And on 11 February, Iran’s Islamic Revolution Day, General Yahya Rahim Safavi, advisor to Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, said: "America is the Iranian nation's No. 1 enemy. America's hands are drenched in the blood of the martyrs of the Iranian, Iraqi, Syrian, and Palestinian nations. Some try to depict the enemy as a friend, and are unaware of the deceptions and plots of the arrogance [i.e. the U.S.] against the Iranian nation, as well as the plans of the enemies…"