24 September 2017

The ABC and SBS need to drop their love affair with Al Jazeera

by Colin Rubenstein (An edited version of this piece appeared in Sydney's Daily Telegraph on Friday, Sept. 22)

The Qatari run and owned Al Jazeera TV News network has itself been much in the news of late – and not for positive reasons. Yet ABC and SBS continue to use Al Jazeera stories as a prominent  part of their own foreign news coverage.

One focus of the recent Saudi-led ultimatums to Qatar has been Al Jazeera. Their demands to Qatar have included that Doha either shut down Al Jazeera or at least stop “acts of incitement and all forms of expression which spread, incite, promote or justify hatred and violence,” including incitement at al-Jazeera

While the four countries  leading the Qatar boycott campaign, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, are hardly bastions of human rights or democracy, when it comes to al-Jazeera’s history of incitement and promoting extremism, they have a  compelling  point.

Al Jazeera consistently promotes the Qatari government’s pro-Muslim Brotherhood agenda, and even materially helps those aligned with it by providing them free communications equipment, according to Mohamed Fahmy, former Bureau Chief for Al Jazeera in Egypt.

Fahmy revealed that Al Jazeera smuggled US$50,000 worth of satellite communication equipment to Al-Qaeda-aligned Syrian rebels, and argues this represents a larger pattern whereby the network’s political goals have put its journalists at risk. Fahmy says
“I believe Al Jazeera’s irresponsible approach to newsgathering contributed to the killing and jailing of the network’s journalists by repressive governments and extremist groups.”
Fahmy was arrested. in Cairo  alongside Australian fellow journalist  Peter Greste in late 2013 for the tenor of their reporting shortly after Qatar joined an Accord with Saudi Arabia and Cairo vowing not to support extremist organisations.

According to Fahmy, the chairman of Al Jazeera, despite knowing about the Accords, failed to warn the journalists about the potential consequences of their reporting. In Fahmy’s words,
“we three journalists committed no crime – Al Jazeera did.”
This was only compounded by Al Jazeera airing incendiary reports attacking the Egyptian government during the journalists’ incarceration and trial.

Peter Greste himself stated that
“from watching some of Al Jazeera’s Arabic coverage and the coverage of Al Jazeera’s Egyptian channel Mubasher (Misr) … politically they seemed quite aligned with the Brotherhood.”
 Al Jazeera staff deny it, but the network in fact routinely criticises  regimes with whom the Qatari government has a gripe – yet never the actions of the authoritarian Qatar government which floods the network with funds.

And there is ample evidence from inside the network that Qatari-appointed editors are telling journalists to cover stories in ways Qatar prefers.

Thus, it  was revealed in 2015 that the editor of Al Jazeera English had encouraged staff to push the line that the horrifying Al-Qaeda-inspired murders at the offices of the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in Paris were a “clash of extremist fringes” – with the journalists as bad as their murderers.

Similarly, an Al Jazeera America journalist says reporters were instructed by their editors to attack Israel in their reports.

Al Jazeera has often criticized co-operation between the Palestinian Authority and Israel – pushing the line of extremist group Hamas, which Qatar backs.

On Israel, Al Jazeera has frequently made irresponsible claims:

  • in 2015, accusing Israel of opening dams in the south of the country to  flood parts of the Gaza Strip. In actual fact there were no such dams in southern Israel.
  • In June, when three terrorists shot and killed two policemen near Jerusalem’s Temple Mount only to flee and eventually be shot and killed, Al Jazeera initially reported the incident as “at least three Palestinians killed in shooting in Jerusalem’s Old City.”
  • It later helped stoke the subsequent two weeks of Palestinian-initiated violence over the Temple Mount by airing incendiary and false claims that Israeli security cameras would allow Israeli authorities to see the naked bodies of Muslim worshippers through their clothes.
  • Al Jazeera recently referred to Haifa, a city in the pre-1967 borders of Israel ,as in “northern occupied Palestine".
  • Most recently, Al Jazeera aired a “documentary” based largely on the claims of Elena Zakusilo, a Ukrainian Jewish woman who claimed on a local television game show that she served in a combat role in the IDF, including being forced by the IDF to murder innocent children. Elementary checking showed she had never had done anything more than voluntary administrative tasks in the IDF.
  • An Al Jazeera reporter in Israel, Elias Karam, recently told a Muslim Brotherhood TV channel that he views his journalism as “resistance” to “occupation.”
  • Most infamously, in 2008, the network hosted an on-air party for recently released Lebanese terrorist Samir Kuntar, treating him as a hero. Kuntar had infiltrated Israel in 1978, and killed four people, including smashing the head of a four year old girl and shooting dead her father.

Australia's  taxpayer-funded television networks – with their statutory obligation of fairness and balance - simply have no business regurgitating  Middle East coverage from this network. They appear to do so, in part, because they can re-use its stories cheaply or for free. But there is simply no excuse for outsourcing their obligations to Australian taxpayers to what is effectively the lavishly-funded communications arm of the authoritarian, extremist-supporting Qatar government.

*Dr. Colin Rubenstein  is Executive Director of the Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council. Previously, he taught Middle East politics at Monash University for many years.

17 September 2017

Israel-bashers in the ALP

The following anti-Israel resolution was proposed to the WA Sate Labor conference by Senator Sue Lines, and thankfully, defeated.

Sue Lines

Text of Senator Sue Lines' defeated resolution:

The WA Labor State Conference notes:
Australia has consistently supported a two state solution to the Israel/Palestine conflict;
Israel is an independent and sovereign state while the Palestinians remain stateless;
Palestinians, like other human beings, have the right to their own state and their own nationality. Institutions such as the UN, World Bank and IMF have affirmed their readiness for statehood;
Israeli Prime Minister Banjamin Netanyahu was re-elected on a platform stating ‘there would be no Palestinian State’ , consistent with the Likud Charter;
The Israeli Government has continually sabotaged peace talks sponsored by the United States by announcing the building of more Israeli settlements on occupied Palestinian land needed for a viable Palestinian State;
Israeli settlements – which have been found to be illegal under international law by the International Court of Justice, the UN Security Council and General Assembly and the high contracting parties to the Geneva Conventions – are designed and strategically placed to prevent a Palestinian state from ever being established;
22 years of negotiations since the Oslo accords have produced no agreement while the Israeli Government has continued to build illegal settlements on Palestinian land and has subjected millions of Palestinians to living in abject conditions and persistently denied basic dignity and human rights under military occupation;
That if Australia’s long-standing commitment to a two-state solution is genuine and meaningful we should join the majority of the worlds nations in the UN – 135 out of 193 (70%) – and recognised Palestine as a nation state;
That a just peace can be achieved in accordance with the relevant United Nations resolutions and international and humanitarian law.
In light of the above, WA Labor calls upon the Australian Federal Labor party and the ALP National conference to support the recognition of a Palestinian state and declare unequivocally that the next Federal Labor government will:
Recognise Palestine as a sovereign nation state based on the 1967 borders;
Condemn the continuation of illegal Israeli settlements on Palestinian land

Other Labor proponents of this Israel-bashing obsession include:

Bob Carr

Tony Burke

Jason Claire

Wendy Turner

12 September 2017

The New Israel Fund - Vilifying Israel, Again

A board member of the New Israel Fund Australia recently appeared on the ABC's Q&A with a "Dorothy Dix" question for Israeli opposition Member of Knesset Merav Michaeli - a question critical of "Mr Binayamin Netanyahu's nationalist government" policies on foreign-funded NGOs, and implying that Israel's democracy is under threat.

The Israeli-government policy that he criticised, and encouraged Merav Michaeli to criticise, doesn't "shut down" the voice of any NGOs. It simply demands that NGOs that receive substantial funding from foreign sources must declare those sources.

Last year, the Knesset passed a law that requiring NGOs that receive more than half their funding from abroad – including from European governments – to disclose it prominently in official reports. The law requires groups to declare they are reliant on foreign funding in all dealings with officials, and on TV, newspapers, billboards and online.

What's "undemocratic" about that?

The NIF has for many years funded NGOs, like Breaking the Silence, B’Tselem, Peace Now and Yesh Din, which are active in campaigns that portray Israel as a racist, apartheid state (demonization); undermine Israel’s right to exist (de-legitimization); accuse Israel of war crimes (lawfare); and promote boycotts, divestment and sanctions (BDS), aimed at destroying Israel as a Jewish nation.

Those NGOs are also funded by European governments and they collaborate with interests outside Israel in these demonization, de-legitimization, lawfare and BDS campaigns. The UK Observer reported last year that the NIF received funds from a George-Soros-funded NGO to promote Palestinian-Authority lawfare and BDS. Tower magazine also reports that NIF-funded NGOs “…cooperate with international partners hostile to Israel... [focussing] primarily on international audiences …in France, Norway, Netherlands, the UK, and the U.S.”

We all have the right to express an opinion about Israeli policies. But only citizens of Israel have the democratic right, at the ballot box, to determine those policies, which will affect their well-being and their safety against daily mortal threats.

It’s a harmful sham for the NIF to put opposition MK Merav Michaeli in a position, here in Australia, that claims to defend Israel’s democracy while it funds NGOs attempting to undemocratically impose the will of foreign interests on Israel from outside the nation.

Shovrim Shtika (“Breaking the Silence”)  is an example number of an NIF-supported NGO which is also supported by several European funders who made their grants CONDITIONAL on the NGO obtaining a minimum number of negative “testimonies.”

This means that Shovrim Shtika is an organization that represents its foreign donors’ interests, not those of Israel.

A document obtained from the IsraeliRegistrar of Non-Profits shows how the British Embassy in Tel Aviv, the Dutch church-based aid organization ICCO (primarily funded by the Dutch government), and Oxfam Great Britain (funded by the British government) required Breaking the Silence to obtain negative testimonies to qualify for funding.

The Israeli government policies that the NIF representative criticized on Q&A, requires Shovrim Shtika to DECLARE its sources of funds... to be transparent about its funding - that's all. WHAT is wrong with that?

Isi Leibler said on J-Wire, last year:
“...I would urge anybody who has the interest of Israel at heart not to have anything to do with New Israel Fund. It is an organization which is sponsoring enemies of the Jewish people, which is sponsoring groups which are reviling and demonizing the Jewish people. It is sponsoring groups within Israel which are undermining the Zionist vision, and all I can say is you can just look at the list of where their donations go to some of these organizations. It's quite frightening.
Never mind that they may give some other money to social welfare. The fact is, this organization is a pernicious organization. It has been disowned by large sections of the community, and believe me, it's not McCarthyism. It's just outright people are disgusted with an organization that pours money into organizations which, for example, participated in the Goldstone report. They were the first ones to go and accuse Israel of war crimes and all sorts of horrible things, and they are sponsoring organizations which stood  to promote this sort of nonsense today.
I would say to you, any Australians who are committed to the Jewish people, you're not doing the Jewish people or Israel a favor by sponsoring this organization, which, as I say, whatever it may do on the side, you can do it directly....”

11 September 2017

Bipartisan, pro-Israel resolution of the Australian House of Representatives

From Hansard:

Mr ROBERT (Fadden) (11:11): I move:
That this House:
(1) supports the right of Israel to defend its citizens against terrorist attacks by organisations or by individuals;
(2) calls on the Palestinian Authority to cease incitement of its population to attack Israel and Israelis;
(3) further calls on the Palestinian Authority to take seriously the task of educating its people on the options, process and potential for peace;
(4) urges the Palestinian Authority to abide by the Oslo Accords and specifically to cease attacking Israel in an unfounded manner in international forums;
(5) further urges the Israel and the Palestinian Authority to return to negotiations in good faith and without preconditions;
(6) acknowledges and affirms the Jewish connection to the Jewish holy sites in Jerusalem and elsewhere in Israel; and
(7) condemns the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions movement as inherently anti-Semitic and calls on all Australian political parties and institutions to disavow it.

The road to peace for Israel is long and it's hard and it shouldn't be. Israel is the only free democracy in the Middle East. It's the only country that guarantees, respects and lives by the great liberal democratic principles of freedom of speech, of expression of gathering, of protests and all the norms we take for granted. Israel is the light in, at times, a dark place. You would think that peace would flow seamlessly from this. Unfortunately, this is not the case, and there remains too much opposition and oppression against Israel, not only in parts of Australia but also across elements of the international community.
Accordingly, as the chairman of the Australian Parliamentary Israel Allies Caucus, I place this motion unequivocally before the House of Representatives of the Australian parliament to affirm that we in this parliament support the right of Israel to defend its citizens against terrorist attacks by organisations or by individuals. We call on the Palestinian Authority to cease incitement of its population to attack Israel and Israelis. We further call on the Palestinian Authority to take seriously the task of educating its people on the options, process and potential for peace. We urge the Palestinian Authority to abide by the Oslo accords and, specifically, to cease attacking Israel in an unfounded manner in international forums. We urge the Israeli and Palestinian Authorities to return to negotiations in good faith and without preconditions. We acknowledge and affirm the Jewish connection to the Jewish holy sites in Jerusalem and elsewhere in Israel, we condemn unequivocally and unilaterally the Boycott, Divestments and Sanctions movement as inherently anti-Semitic, and we call on all Australian political parties and institutions to disavow it.

My considered view is that peace could be achieved relatively quickly if goodwill prevailed across the Middle East, but I fear that there are many obstacles to peace remaining, and the main obstacle is Palestinian intransience, an intransience I have witnessed firsthand and can speak to with some authority. The last 17 years have seen numerous efforts at peace. It's a matter of historical fact that in 2008 then Israeli PM Ehud Olmert made Palestinian Authority President Abbas a generous offer of a Palestinian state in all of Gaza and most of West Bank with land from inside Israel's pre-1967 borders to compensate for the rest so that ,after the land swaps, the Palestinians would receive the equivalent of 100 per cent of West Bank. There was to be a Palestinian capital in East Jerusalem, shared sovereignty over the city's holy sites, and compensation for Palestinian refugees and their descendants with a very limited right for some of them to settle in Israel. As Abbas has recently confirmed, he rejected this offer out of hand. This was a far more generous offer than the one in 2000-01 where, with the involvement of Bill Clinton, peace offers to the Palestinians were again refused without even a counter-offer. Instead, Yasser Arafat launched his Intifada which saw a wave of terrorism take the lives of over 1,000 Israelis, and was only ended by Israeli security measures including checkpoints and the security barrier.

Furthermore, in 2005 Israel withdrew from the Gaza strip as a continuance of the process of engagement. Since then, Palestinians in Gaza have fired more than 10,000 rockets and mortars into Israel and have used vast amounts of international aid to construct elaborate tunnels from Gaza into Israel to facilitate planned mass terrorist attacks on the Israeli community. Israel has been forced to fight three wars to temporarily stop the rockets and destroy the tunnels. If the Palestinian Authority believe this is a road to peace, they are sorely mistaken.

Following the election of Benjamin Netanyahu as Israeli Prime Minister, Israel's effort for peace continued. In 2009, he instituted a 10-month total moratorium on the building of houses in the settlements. This would mean, of course, that young adults in settlements who wanted to move out of home were forced to move right away from their communities, from their families. It was, however, a confidence-building measure designed to encourage negotiations. Again, Abbas refused to talk for nine months and then only agreed in the last month to continue the moratorium.
In 2013 and 2014, Netanyahu yet again tried again with further confidence-building measure. He agreed to release in four quarterly instalments Palestinian prisoners who were in Israeli jails for murdering Israelis. Unfortunately, the talks did not prove fruitful. Martin Indyk, the US negotiator, said:
Netanyahu moved to the zone of possible agreement. I saw him sweating bullets to find a way to reach an agreement.
He added:
We tried to get Abu Mazen to the zone of possible agreement but we were surprised to learn he had shut down. We were ready to go beyond policy positions the U.S. had taken on the core issues to bridge the gaps and resolve it, and therefore there was something in it for him – and he didn’t answer us. Abbas [effectively] checked out of the talks in mid-February.
The talks ultimately failed when Abbas decided that he would instead seek a unity government with the terror organisation Hamas, something which is not acceptable to Israel and much of the international community. Netanyahu has continued on several occasions to re-affirm his support for a Palestinian state and offered to meet and negotiate anywhere, at any time, without pre-conditions. Abbas, unfortunately, has failed to take up the offer.

So the question has to be asked: why is there this intransigence by the Palestinian Authority? There are many reasons. Could it be that a peace deal would actually mean a genuine acceptance of Israel's right to exist, including an undertaking that there would be no further claims against Israel and that the refugees and millions of their descendants—also regarded as refugees, under a definition unique only to Palestinians—could settle in the new Palestinian state but there would be no right of return to Israel?

What we as legislators have to accept is that governments have a responsibility to deliver peace, security and the basis for prosperity for their people. This is what this motion calls on the Palestinian Authority to do; it calls on them to responsibly govern. Since negotiations last broke down, in 2014, the Palestinians have now pursued a strategy of using various international organisations, from the UN down, to put pressure on Israel and have sought to gain recognition of their state from as many governments and bodies as possible. In this way, they hope to avoid having to make the compromise necessary for a genuine peace and to be awarded their state in a way that enables them to continue to make claims against Israel, including the right to return. This is recipe not for peace but for continuing conflict.
At the same time, the Palestinian Authority has continued to incite and encourage terrorism against Israel. This has included the Palestinians calling for Israeli blood to be shed to defend the Temple Mount from non-existent Israeli plans to, apparently, change the status quo. This particular call led to the car and knife attacks which have killed over 40 Israelis since late 2015 and wounded hundreds of others. At other times, the incitement and encouragement is more general but just as pernicious—such as awarding generous lifetime pensions to terrorists captured by Israel or to the families of terrorists who are killed, and naming streets, facilities and even children's soccer tournaments after terrorists. I have personally witnessed the faces of suicide bombers displayed from multiple streetlights within the Palestinian territory as a form of acknowledgement—in the same way that we acknowledge events or amazing achievements in Australia by hanging faces or flags from our streetlights. This is not taking the Palestinian people on a journey to accepting peace. This is entrenching the intransigence and the horrible status quo.

Supporting the unilateral recognition of a Palestinian state just encourages these destructive Palestinian tactics. As long as they are able to believe that they just need to keep doing more of the same to achieve a state, without any concession of Israel's right to exist, they will continue to do so. What is needed for peace is for the international community to make it clear to the Palestinians that they must cease their intransigence and support for terrorism if they wish to advance their cause, whilst making it clear also to Israel that it will be supported as long as it continues to negotiate in good faith.
Some cite settlements as a main obstacle to peace. While the settlements are certainly one of the more important issues that need to be resolved, they are not an obstacle. Even Palestinian leaders have admitted they occupy less than two per cent of the land in the West Bank. Since 2003 there have not been any new settlements established, although a new one has recently been announced to replace one that's being dismantled, and those that exist have not been expanded beyond their existing geographic boundaries. Furthermore, most growth in the settlement populations have been in settlements that it is generally accepted Israel will keep as part of land swaps in any peace agreement. Thus, it is simply incorrect to say that the growth in settlements is in any way compromising the chance of a two-state peace. The settlements did not prevent Israel making its generous offers of Palestinian statehood in 2000 and 2001 and again in 2008.

The so-called boycott, divestment and sanctions movement is completely and utterly condemned as inherently anti-Semitic, and I call on all Australian political parties and institutions to disavow it immediately. There are challenges all over the world, but it's only to Israel that such racist hatred is directed. Charles Krauthammer writes well when he says:
And don't tell me this is merely about Zionism. The ruse is transparent. Israel is the world's only Jewish state. To apply to the state of the Jews a double standard that you apply to none other, to judge one people in a way you judge no other, to single out that one people for condemnation and isolation — is to engage in a gross act of discrimination.

This motion calls on all parties to return to the negotiating table, and I encourage them to do so.
The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Mr Rob Mitchell ): Is the motion seconded?

Mr DANBY (Melbourne Ports) (11:21): I second the motion and I congratulate the member for Fadden on moving this resolution. The issue of Israel defending its citizens against terrorist attacks by individuals or organisations would seem to be self-evidently sensible, but it affects the safety of people around the world because, of course, we all know that defending our populations against terrorism is indivisible in these days. The jihadist threat that is around the world doesn't exist just in Marseille or in parts of Marawi in the Philippines. It exists all over the world, and we need to confront it wherever it exists. Of course, from the point of view of equality and fairness, if a third of car rammings in the world are in Israel, we need to know this. It's a shame we don't, but the pioneering of jihadist violence against publics around the world often begins in Israel. What happens there is of great relevance all around the world.

We've seen the Palestinian Authority continue inciting its population over the last 10 years, a period where there should have been negotiations. Most people don't understand what that means. These jihadists terrorists are not unique in their methods. The car rammings, the stabbings et cetera that we've seen—we saw a terrible one recently where at a Sabbath Friday evening meal an 18-year-old terrorist came into the house of a person who was having a ceremony for the welcoming of their grandson and stabbed three of the family to death. The odious thing about this, as the member for Fadden pointed out, is that the Palestinian Authority pays incentives, usually from international relief funds that they get, to people and their families who are involved in these things. If they get killed, the family gets the pension. If not, they do. It's estimated that a third of the PA's budget is spent on these odious pensions to terrorists or their families. And of course this only encourages—incentivises—people to do these kinds of things. It's an absolute shame.
This resolution also has an important point about acknowledging the Jewish connection with the holy sites in Jerusalem and elsewhere in Israel. Recently UNESCO, to its eternal shame, classified the Old City of Jerusalem as a Muslim site only. For the great city of Jerusalem we have to respect all of the great Abrahamic religions: Judaism, Christianity and Islam. History doesn't change because of a bunch of countries that make these ridiculous decisions in Geneva. The Temple Mount in Jerusalem existed 600 years before the forming of Islam. So it's absolutely and self-evidently crazy for UNESCO to decree the city which Christianity and Judaism have as their holy city as a solely Islamic city without acknowledging the affinity which that place existed with long before those days.

Let me conclude with some points on the BDS. The founder of the BDS, Omar Barghouti, makes it very clear that the aim of this program is not—not—to change this or that Israeli policy. He makes it clear that the aim of the BDS is to replace, to eliminate, Israel 'from the river to the sea', as the extremists say. So this is not only aesthetically revolting and politically revolting; we have in the leaflets of this BDS movement that Estee Lauder and Vidal Sassoon should be boycotted. What do Estee Lauder and Vidal Sassoon have in common with a political campaign against Israel? They don't have anything in common with it. They're Jewish firms that are international. Both happen to be in the cosmetic area.

It's outrageous. It's a perpetuation of the 1930s for this movement to continue that kind of behaviour. I pay tribute to some of my colleagues, Wayne Swan, Kevin Rudd, Premier Andrews and David Feeney, who all joined me at anti-BDS sit-ins at the chocolate shops all around Australia, and Max Brenner. (Time expired)

Mr TIM WILSON (Goldstein) (11:26): I would like to begin by thanking Stuart Robert, the member for Fadden, for bringing this motion to the attention of the House, and particularly for standing up for the rights and freedoms of the state of Israel, which have too often been ignored in this place.
The reality is that as a nation we have allies: allies who stand with us through thick and thin and whom we should reciprocate with. Israel is one of those states that should continue to enjoy the support of this country and this government and will continue to do so. My only hope is that we can say the same at some future point, should there be another government of a different political persuasion, because the reality is that we know there is not the same commitment as often sits on this side of the House. Every member of this side of the House believes strongly in the right of Israel to exist, to exist freely, to exist without threat or intimidation and to be able to provide a homeland for the Jewish people. I can say, as a member of this House with an electorate which has a very high percentage of the Jewish community in Melbourne, that my position is resolute and uncompromising.

In the end, the heart of this debate and this issue is whether we, as a nation, stand for enlarging the freedom of all people to live their lives in safety and peace. There are many other debates where we take a very similar position and should continue to do so. Having visited Jerusalem myself, I have seen the consequences firsthand of what happens when some people seek to deny that liberty and that peace—particularly some of the efforts of the Palestinian authorities and those who support them to deceive the public, or to make misrepresentations or to create misunderstanding about what actually occurs, particularly under the state of Israel.
In fact, on one of my visits to Israel many years ago, we were given a briefing about the activities of Palestinian Media Watch. This organisation scrutinised Palestinian media in particular and how they sought to misrepresent information to build a perception of victimhood that was not always in accordance with reality. Sometimes these examples can bring a certain degree of scepticism. I myself, being a first-time visitor, brought scepticism to some of the claims that were presented to me until we went to Bethlehem. We went to a refugee camp to speak directly to Palestinians about some of the challenges that they faced.
While we were there, we saw a group of young children throwing rocks at IDF soldiers. This eventually escalated to the point where the IDF tear gassed. I can say that I can tick off being tear gassed by the IDF on my bucket list. That's not a point of humour: it's just a point of reality, and anybody else who has been tear gassed will know that it's not a particularly pleasant experience. But the critical point came afterwards. What we saw were misrepresentations in the Palestinian media that we were attacked by the IDF. That was not true. In fact, they were provoked by those who were encouraged to throw rocks and commit violence against IDF soldiers, who then acted to defend themselves. This is just one of many examples where we see misrepresentations to try to build a sense of sympathy with the Palestinian cause—which I think many people have, but it should be rooted in facts and reality.

I have previously spoken in this chamber about my frustration with the conduct of UNESCO in trying to deny and erase from history the connection between Jewish people and the Temple Mount. If you look at the effort made by some people who want to disconnect that relationship, it amounts to a cultural genocide of people's past and their connection, and we should not be ashamed or afraid to call it out. I acknowledge the select number of members opposite who are prepared to do that for making the same principle. As somebody who has Armenian heritage and knows exactly what it means to have had not just an actual genocide but a cultural genocide against their people, I say we must remain determined always to stand up against these measures, because it's not just about erasing people; the intention is to erase people's memory and legacy and the culture and traditions that inform them and continue to inform their future.

Finally, in giving my support very strongly to this motion, I want to reflect on the ongoing discussion about whether our embassy should be based in Jerusalem. As a proud supporter of Israel, a proud supporter of recognising Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and a proud Australian, I can see no reason that we should not be able to relocate our embassy to Jerusalem, on the basis that it is safe for Australians..

Mr DICK (Oxley) (11:31): I thank the member for Fadden for raising this important issue in the parliament today. Israel and Australia as we know, have had warm relations and strong economic ties due to our strong people-to-people links and our commercial relationship. The trade between our two nations is worth around $1.2 billion. We cooperate internationally with Israel in many fields, including international development assistance. Importantly, this includes Australian international development assistance in Gaza and the West Bank, which supports human development, institution building and economic growth, which is so critical for peace in that region.

As a new member of this place, I rise today to add my support as a strong supporter of Israel and, of course, as a strong supporter of the two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. As we know, former Labor leader HV 'Doc' Evatt, as President of the United Nations General Assembly from 1948 to 1949, was prominent in the negotiations that led to the creation of Israel. Evatt wrote in his memoirs:
I regard the establishment of Israel as a great victory of the United Nations.
Earlier this year I had the pleasure of visiting Israel as part of a delegation alongside other new members of this place. It was an honour to visit and be guided by experts through a series of in-depth meetings alongside parliamentary colleagues, officials, academics, union and community leaders, and other Israeli and Palestinian representatives.
This year represents the 100th anniversary since British politician Arthur Balfour, later Lord Balfour, presented a declaration of the British government stating the case for the Jewish homeland. 2017 is also the 90th anniversary of the Zionist Federation of Australia, and I'd like to welcome and acknowledge those with us today in the gallery, including ZFA President Dr Danny Lamm, Secretary Mr Sam Tatarka, former President Dr Ron Weiser, and my good friend the President of the State Zionist Council of Queensland chair, Mr Tony Leverton, who are with us today.
Many people in our party and indeed across this chamber, like many people across the world, care deeply about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and are concerned about the ongoing conflict. The starting point of the conflict between Israel and Palestine is self-determination for Jews in Israel and for Palestinians in Palestine. Acceptance of the rights of both peoples, indigenous to the same land, means the only way forward must be for the two parties to negotiate an agreed outcome, recognising both peoples' links to the land and especially the Jewish people's 3,000-year ties to Jerusalem. In my opinion, unilateral recognition does nothing to aid negotiation. Indeed, it only hardens the positions of those in conflict. For all those of us who hold true to the values of the rule of law and negotiated resolution of disputes, there can no place for terrorism in achieving statehood for the Palestinians. The march to statehood for Palestinians, as it does for Israeli Jews, includes preparing their population for peace, acceptance of the two states living side by side in peace and recognition of the holy places of Jewish, Christian and Islamic history in the area. It means free trade unions in the region, a free media and free speech, and the rights of people of all genders and religious persuasions to live freely and without fear.

I note that the member for Fadden spoke of the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions movement. Labor rejects the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions campaign against Israel, and I add my voice to rejecting the BDS campaign.
I recognise that both Israelis and Palestinians will need to make hard concessions, but conflict is not winner take all. Those who seek Israel's destruction give terrible, false hope to Palestinians. That is the lesson of so many years of wars fought between Israel and its neighbours. We seek the day when the legitimate rights and aspirations of both Jews and Palestinians to live side by side in peace will come. That can and must come from both sides negotiating directly. Two peoples in one land takes discussion and dialogue.
Labor, whether in government or in opposition, will continue to work with the parties within the conflicts, our allies and the wider international community to achieve a peaceful resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Alongside my Labor colleagues, we remain committed to peace in that region. I particularly acknowledge the good work and advocacy, over many years, of my good friend the member for Melbourne Ports, Michael Danby. I salute all of the work he has done for many years, and I welcome the opportunity to enter the debate today.

Mr IRONS (Swan) (11:36): I rise today in support of the motion put forward by the member for Fadden in respect of Israel's right to defend its citizens against terrorist attacks. I am reminded that Australia has had a long involvement with Israel. On 31 October, it will be the 100th anniversary of the charge of the Light Horse Brigade which led to the liberation of Jerusalem in December 1917. It shows that Australia has had a long involvement.

It is a pleasure to support the member for Fadden and the work he has done in this space for a very long time. Ever since we entered the parliament in 2007—and I am sure he did it before that—he has been a strong supporter of the state of Israel and very vocal and committed in his beliefs. I would also like to acknowledge the member for Melbourne Ports, who has been a consistent advocate and supporter for the state of Israel. I know that during the time I have been in parliament he has never shied away from making his thoughts and ideas known about that particular issue. I would also like to thank the member for Fadden for his passionate speech on this issue, which I know he holds very close to his heart.

Like all conflicts, the issues surrounding that of Palestine and Israel are complex. I strongly support the member for Fadden's calls for Israeli and Palestinian authorities to return to negotiations in good faith and without preconditions. Peace is the goal. I'm sure the member for Fadden and the member for Eden-Monaro, both of whom have served in our military forces, more than anyone, understand the pursuit of peace because they know how bad war can be. Congratulations to those two gentlemen. I am guessing the member for Eden-Monaro will be speaking on this?

Dr Mike Kelly: Yes.

Mr IRONS: Thank you. In 2005, Israel withdrew from the Gaza Strip with the intention that Palestinians would be able to set-up a peaceful autonomous region within Israel. The expected flow-on effects of this were that it would lead to further withdrawal from the West Bank. Instead, the Palestinians retaliated with rocket and mortar fire, and the situation was further exacerbated when Hamas took over the Gaza Strip after a coup in 2007. Ten years on, Palestine has sought to use international organisations such as the United Nations to put pressure on Israel and to gain recognition of their state from as many government and non-governmental bodies as possible. In doing so, Palestine has avoided the need to compromise in the path to long-term and genuine peace whilst continuing to voice claims against Israel, particularly the claim to the right of return. As the member for Fadden has noted, this is not a recipe for peace but has continued to cause friction and encourage further conflict. In a speech to the United Nations General Assembly in 2015, Prime Minister Netanyahu noted 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 people killed or driven from their homes.

I would like to expand on this for the benefit of the chamber: the world has been shocked by the number of people displaced because of the conflict in Syria and Iraq. The brutality of the Assad regime and the Islamic extremists are an enormous threat to security within the region and to the safety of civilian populations. We have heard of indiscriminate violence, slaughter of innocent and unarmed civilians and continued persecutions of religious groups.

On the other side of the world, the decisions of the North Korean military regime are deeply concerning. I encourage all states to consider their paths and move towards a peaceful future, which is what this motion that the member for Fadden has brought to the House is about. I echo the sentiments of the Prime Minister, from earlier this year, in saying that the coalition government will not support one-sided resolutions criticising Israel of the kind recently adopted by the UN Security Council. We deplore the boycott campaigns designed to delegitimise the Jewish state. The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions—BDS—movement encourages conflict, allows for the persecution of civilians and is in no way an effective strategy to achieve peace within the region. In an article attacking the BDS campaign, Charles Krauthammer writes:
And don't tell me this is merely about Zionism. The ruse is transparent. Israel is the world's only Jewish state. To apply to the state of the Jews a double standard that you apply to none other, to judge one people in a way you judge no other, to single out that one people for condemnation and isolation—is to engage in a gross act of discrimination.
And discrimination against Jews has a name. It's called anti-Semitism.
It's a privilege to support the member for Fadden in his motion for peace.

Dr MIKE KELLY (Eden-Monaro) (11:41): I'm proud to be able speak in support of this motion, because it does reflect the unwavering support of both the coalition and Labor for the survival of Israel and its ability to live within secure and peaceful borders and for the legitimate aspirations of the Palestinian people for a state of their own. The honourable member referred to the centenary of Beersheba coming up. A number of us, from both sides of parliament, will be attending that ceremony. It will be a chance to, once again, highlight the relationship in two world wars between our soldiers and the Jewish community, who carefully looked after them. They provided welfare services, and members of my own family, in both world wars, benefited greatly from that. And it helped inform the policy of the Labor government, post-Second World War, to be a midwife to the creation of the state.

Creating the two-state solution requires being open-minded and keeping open eyes about the issues involved here. We have to acknowledge the issues and the impediments to achieving that outcome that exist on the Palestinian side. When I had the Middle East desk in strategy group, when I was still in the Army, I convinced the Howard government to send an Australian Army officer over to the Palestinian Authority to help build its security sector, as part of US General Ward's team. That was coming along reasonably well, until the 2006 elections when Hamas took control of the Gaza Strip. In 2007, as was mentioned, Hamas totally ousted any democratic form of institution that we were working on there or that existed, and we had to end that relationship because of our problems with Hamas.

This really highlights what is at the heart of those impediments. No democratic government in the Western world should have any business supporting an entity like Hamas, who routinely execute gay and lesbian men and women by throwing them off buildings, who have not had an election since 2006—in fact, we're 11 years into the four-year term of Mahmoud Abbas at the present time—and who repress free trade unions, routinely execute opponents and really oppress women in the Gaza Strip. No woman in Australia would have a good time living in the Gaza Strip as it exists at the present time.
We also have widespread corruption in the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank, which is really corrosive and undermining of their ability to set up governance institutions. So, when we talk about whether or not we should recognise a Palestinian state, we should understand that, under international law, their ability to do that does not exist at the present time because of the division between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority. There's no ability for them to enter into international agreements that will be binding on the territories. Obviously, we need to have fresh elections. We need to maintain leverage in affording recognition to ensure that those key areas that we have grievances with over their human rights abuses should be addressed. These are genuine and real impediments.

Of course, there could have been a Palestinian state if the Arab leadership of the region had accepted the Partition Plan in 1947, all the way through to 1967. After 1967 it would have been possible had the surrounding neighbours accepted Israel's offer to hand back the territories, but, of course, the famous three noes—no peace, no recognition, no negotiation—were issued. There could have been a Palestinian state, as the member for Fadden highlighted, had there been acceptance of the offers on the table by Ehud Barak and Ehud Olmert and, as has come to light most recently, by Senator John Kerry even.
So it has been the Palestinian leadership that has really done a disservice to the long-suffering Palestinian people. Our efforts should be directed at helping to build their capability to become a state, to overcome these impediments and to govern and to overcome their human rights issues.

I also fully endorse the Labor Party and coalition stance against the BDS campaign. It is, essentially, an anti-Semitic campaign. It carries dark resonance of the thirties, when they were out there daubing stars of David on business shopfront windows and the numerus clausus era in the universities of the age, when the number of Jews was limited or Jews were excluded from university education altogether. Universities, of all places, should be places where open and free debate should be conducted. It's been quite disgusting how many activities have been conducted to prevent free speech and to prevent the engagement, discussion and dialogue that should be essential to moving the peace process in the Middle East forward.

I urge support for this motion. I urge support for the state of Israel in its ongoing battle against the forces of evil and terrorism. We're engaged in the very same struggle. We are locked in those same trenches with our friends of Israel. We need also to advance the cause of peace.

Debate adjourned.

31 August 2017

It’s time our embassy was relocated to Jerusalem

A message from Bridges for Peace, Christians for Israel and ICEJ, and Christian Friends of Israel Communities, 20 July 2017:

Over the last twelve months a series of meetings has been held at which Australian pro-Israel Christians have focused on the important ways in which we can express pro-actively our support of Israel, especially in these days when there is virulent international condemnation of a nation that is so tiny, yet huge in the heart and purposes of God. 

As the United Nations continues to demonstrate its at times bizarre irrelevance and hostility in matters relating to Israel, 2017 is shaping to be a critical, historic and indeed prophetic year for Australia - and Aussies - to be seen as strong and dependable in standing shoulder to shoulder with Israel.
This year is significant for its many anniversaries for the Jewish world: 120 years since the first Zionist Congress; 100 years since the Charge of the Light Horse Brigade in Be’er-sheva; 100 years since the Balfour Declaration; 70 years since the UN partition vote; and 50 years since the miraculous Six Day War and the reunification of Jerusalem.

Those of us who are Christian supporters of Israel now have a unique opportunity to reaffirm our unwavering commitment to stand with Israel and the Jewish people, building on the first ever visit - yes, in 2017 - by a sitting Israeli Prime Minister to Australia, when Benjamin Netanyahu came to Sydney in February.

A smaller core group of leaders has met twice this year, and not surprisingly our focus has been on Jerusalem, the eternal and undivided capital of Israel.  Sadly, Australia’s official position on the status of Jerusalem has been in keeping with that of the rest of the world, which is overwhelmingly anti-Israel and continues to withhold recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.  It is time to end the double standard where Israel is the only country that does not get to choose its own capital. 

The prophecies of Zechariah were written around 2500 years ago, predicting a future day when the world’s focus would be on Jerusalem, when “all nations of the earth are gathered against it” (Zechariah 12:3) - as we consistently see whenever the United Nations meets.  The warning to the nations in verse 9 is equally clear.  As we consider the geo-political and spiritual aspects of current ongoing Middle East hostilities, I have no doubt that the time-frame of this prophecy is upon us.

As I write, the battle is being joined over the Temple Mount in Jerusalem and the right of Jews even to pray at their holiest site.  The recent UNESCO resolutions denying the Jewish heritage of Jerusalem and Hebron, the burial ground of Israel’s “fathers and mothers”, have found a deeply troubling echo in former Foreign Minister Bob Carr’s obsessive and incomprehensible slamming of Israel for, amongst other things, "Judaising" the "great Arab city" of Jerusalem.

I encourage you to pray
Psalm 55:9 over this situation and any others that would speak and murmur against Israel from our cities, especially Canberra: Destroy, O Lord, and divide their tongues, For I have seen violence and strife in the city.”  And praise God for the motion from the Victorian Liberal State Council with a sheer absolute majority to strongly support the relocation of our Australian embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

I want now to focus on the recently raised petition to the Australian Senate requesting our Parliament to do just that - to relocate our embassy to Jerusalem, thereby demonstrating our 100 years of mateship with Israel.  This is a bold and exciting initiative that we strongly believe is of the Lord.  We are receiving growing endorsement for this endeavour from Jewish organisations in Australia and are delighted with their positive and affirming response.

The relocation of embassies to their capital city Jerusalem is a paramount matter for the government of Israel - an issue all of Israel, and Jews everywhere, long to see addressed.  Should the Australian government initiate such a move for its own embassy rather than in response to an Israeli request, it would reinforce immeasurably the existing strong friendship between the two nations and be an unmistakable demonstration of  Australia’s standing before God as a “sheep nation” (Matthew 25:31-46).

You are urged to read carefully both the petition covering letter and the petition itself, and if you agree with it add your name, address and signature.  You can then play your part in helping others to sign by downloading multiple copies of the blank petition and seeking many, many other signatures so that we have a real impact upon our parliament and our nation.  And don’t forget to write individually to your local Senator and local Member of the Federal House of Representatives in support of the petition. 
Please also send the covering letter and the petition on to your own contacts and networks, encouraging everyone to do just what you have done.  Those of us who will be in Beer-sheva on the very significant date of 31 October 2017 will also seek signatures from the thousands of Australians who will be gathering there for the commemorative events associated with the 100th anniversary of the Light Horse charge.  The latest date for the petitions to be received is 11 November, which being Armistice Day will surely resonate well with many folk.

The petition responses will be carefully reviewed and collated before being taken to Canberra for presentation in Parliament around the beginning of December.  How very timely that would be if on 1 December President Donald Trump chose not to sign the waiver delaying for another six months the relocation of the US embassy to Jerusalem.  Something to pray into, for sure!

As Christian supporters of Israel, may we never forget what God has said in 1 Samuel 2:30 - “Those who honor Me I will honor, and those who despise Me shall be lightly esteemed.”  May we all be among those whom God will indeed honour and bless as we stand with and bless Israel, and in so doing honour our God who declared in Genesis 12:3 that He will bless those who bless Abraham and his offspring through Isaac, the Jewish people.

Keith Buxton
Principal Petitioner

29 August 2017

UK Labour set to ditch call to recognise Palestinian state and criticism of "illegal" settlements

From the Jewish Chronicle, August 25, 2017, by Lee Harpin:

The [UK] Labour party is set to ditch demands for the “immediate” recognition of a Palestinian state along with any criticism of “illegal” Israeli settlements in policies due to be debated at its annual conference next month.

Draft text to be put before the party’s national policy forum in Brighton reiterates support for a two-state solution in the region and avoids any direct criticism of Israel.

...The policy, which is expected to be heavily criticised by anti-Zionist groups within the party, reads:
“In Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories, Labour is committed to a comprehensive peace based on a two-state solution: a secure Israel alongside a secure and viable state of Palestine.”
...Despite attempts by supporters of the hard-left Momentum group to establish explicit anti-Israel policies in Labour branches across the country, party leaders have largely devoted their attention to domestic issues.

Shadow Foreign Secretary Emily Thornberry
Shadow Foreign Secretary Emily Thornberry

Emily Thornberry, the Shadow Foreign Secretary, delivered a carefully worded speech during a Commons debate on Israel and the Palestinians last month, which seemed to suggest a new desire for the party to take a more balanced position.

Ahead of the general election, Labour faced criticism over its biased draft manifesto stance on Israel and the Palestinians. The initial version, focusing on Israeli actions and making no mention of Palestinian terrorism, led to a row in the Shadow Cabinet and the final manifesto made clear the party would call for “an end to rocket and terror attacks”. But it also pledged a Labour government would “immediately recognise the state of Palestine”.

Video: Dr. Eran Lerman at the Sydney Institute

29 August 2017

Israeli strategic analyst Dr. Eran Lerman's recent talk at the Sydney Institute was broadcast on Sky News' A-PAC channel.

He discusses Israel's situation in an ever-changing Middle East.
Click here to view (58 minutes)

28 August 2017

WA Labor votes to back Palestinian state

From The Australian, 29 August 2017, by Troy Bramston:

Federal Labor’s current position reiterates support for a ‘two-state solution’ for Israel and Palestine.
West Australian Labor has ­become the fifth branch of the party to support recognition of a Palestinian state without con­ditions, caveats or qualifications.
This all but ensures the next ­national conference will urge a Labor government to recognise such a state. The motion, adopted by the state conference on Sunday, “supported the recognition and right of Israel and Palestine to exist within secure and recognised borders” but added unequivocally that it “urges the next Labor government to recognise Palestine”.
The resolution, initially moved by senator Sue Lines but amended by state MP Stephen Price, mirrored that adopted by the NSW Labor conference last month.
It represents a different position to Labor leader Bill Shorten, and his Victorian Labor right faction, who are likely to have to ­accept a significant change in Labor’s position in support of a Palestinian state without stating that recognition should be part of a two-state peace process.
Federal Labor’s current position reiterates support for a “two-state solution” and states that a future government is ­required only to consult with “like-minded” nations before taking the step of formally recognising a Palestinian state. That position will be ­challenged at next year’s national conference.
Former Queensland Labor vice-president Wendy Turner told The Australian that the West Australian conference was another “strong signal” to federal Labor, following the NSW, Queensland and ACT conferences last month, and Tasmania earlier this year. “It now means that we are hopeful of getting a new resolution nat­ionally that recognises Palestine and will be acted upon by a Shorten government,” she said.
...Steve Lieblich of the Jewish Community Council of Western Australia said support for a non-viable state was effectively rewarding terrorism.
“The whole concept of recognising Palestine is part of a global campaign trying to destroy Israel,” he said. “It will only prolong the conflict. I don’t believe Labor is ­really thinking this through.”...

27 August 2017

The moron fringe of Labor sticks its ill-informed nose in, again

The WA State Labor resolution today, on the prospective recognition of a new Arab Palestinian state, like similar State Labor resolutions before it, is an ill-informed, irrelevant, ignorable intrusion into the politics of the Eastern Mediterranean. 

Thankfully, the well-informed, principled members of the Party, like Senator Glenn Sterle, Tim Hammond, Simon Millman, and others, persuaded the conference to reject a virulently anti-Israel resolution proposed by the wackos - one which would have served no-one's interests but the terrorists of the region (especially not those of the Palestinian Arabs)

There, we have a region aflame with murderous conflict: 
  • 700,00 Syrians have been slaughtered by their own government in a disintegrated Syria; 
  • Libya and Iraq have also disintegrated; Turkey and Qatar spread poisonous Muslim-Brotherhood ideology through the media and the barrels of guns; 
  • Iran pursues its genocidal, hegemonic agenda, with the threat of nuclear arms, from the Gulf to the Mediterranean
... and the moron fringe of WA Labor, against the interests of the hapless, impoverished Arabs of Palestine, choose to exacerbate and prolong their unnecessary conflict by toying with the possibility of rewarding terrorism and Islamist totalitarianism with the recognition of the Australian Labor Party.... it would be funny if it wasn’t so sad....

22 August 2017

Deconstructing a fake "Friend of Palestine"

Mike Khizam op-ed in Adelaide Advertiser: A Deconstruction

Gareth Narunsky

Tuesday 22 August 2017
In an online op-ed for the Adelaide Advertiser on Friday 11 August, AIJAC guest Dr Eran Lerman congratulated the South Australian Legislative Council for rightly calling for a negotiated outcome between Israel and the Palestinian Authority prior to a Palestinian state being recognised.
Presumably in response to this, Australian Friends of Palestine Association executive officer Mike Khizam had his own piece published on the Advertiser's website on Monday 14 August.
While Dr Lerman used nuance and reason to make his point, Khizam relied on anti-Israel canards, missing context and blatant mistruths to press his own misinformed views.
There is much wrong with the piece, but I will focus on a few key issues:
The new motion effectively supports business as usual for Israel and its fifty year occupation of the Palestinian territories. It only supports recognition at the end of negotiations; at the end of a currently non-existent peace process.
The peace process at the moment is most definitely stalled, but whose fault is this? Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu frequently repeats an open invitation for Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to come to the negotiating table without preconditions.
In 2008, then Israeli Prime Minister Ehud made Abbas an unprecedented final status offer, which gave Palestinians land equivalent to all of the West Bank and Gaza after land swaps and included the painful concession of giving up Jerusalem's Old City to international control. He told Abbas, "it will be 50 years before there will be another Israeli prime minister that will offer you what I am offering you now. Don't miss this opportunity". Abbas never responded. Recently, Abbas described his response to that offer in an interview with the following words, "I rejected it out of hand."
In 2010, the United States requested a 10-month settlement construction freeze to coax Abbas to the table; he waited nine months before entering negotiations, and even then only wanted to discuss extending the freeze.
Martin Indyk, Chief US negotiator during the 2014 negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, told The Atlantic in July 2014: "I saw him [Netanyahu] sweating bullets to find a way to reach an agreement." But Abbas simply walked away.
Hence it is Abbas who refuses to negotiate in good faith, and it is Abbas who walked away from negotiations in 2008, 2010 and 2014. Similarly, his predecessor Yasser Arafat rejected Ehud Barak's offers in 2000 and 2001. So if the peace process is stalled, it certainly isn't Israel's fault. Yet Mike Khizam wants to reward the Palestinian Authority for its consistent intransigence and refusal to negotiate in good faith.
Recognition is designed to help force the Israelis to engage in genuine negotiations and to stop activities, like settlement building on Palestinian land, that undermine the possibility of peace.
The Israelis are not shunning negotiations and as for settlement building undermining the possibility of peace, as we have demonstrated here, settlements take up 2% of the West Bank's land no new settlements have been built since 1999. Furthermore, construction that has occurred In the last eight years under the Netanyahu government, always within existing settlement boundaries, has in fact barely kept up with natural population growth.
Regarding "settlement building on Palestinian land", under the Oslo Accords, there are no restrictions on Israel building in Area C of the West Bank. Article 5, Section 3 of the Accords, which specifies what will be discussed during permanent status negotiations, makes it clear that the future of the settlements would be resolved only through direct negotiations between the two parties. Furthermore, it is generally accepted - even by the Palestinians - that under a future agreement, Israel would retain the main settlement blocs of Maale Adumim, Gush Etzion and Ariel, compensating the Palestinians with land swaps.
Even Peace Watch's Lior Amihai said in a 2014 interview that despite settlements, "if the parties were to reach an agreement today then the two-state solution is very possible."
Our recognition of Palestine does not impose peace on Israel.
It is hard to disagree, recognising Palestine doesn't impose peace on anyone. On the contrary, it attempts to give the Palestinians statehood without any obligation to make peace. With no expectations placed upon the Palestinians, it leaves Mahmoud Abbas and the Palestinian Authority thinking they are free to continue on a path of intransigence, rejectionism and incitement against Israel. We have seen the results of such a path, most recently in Halamish where three members of the Salomon family were brutally murdered in their home by a Palestinian terrorist whose actions were a direct result of such incitement. Furthermore, this murderer will now receive a US $3120 monthly salary as a reward from the Palestinian Authority.
Mike, you're right. Recognising Palestine certainly doesn't impose peace.
[Israel] has been doing this for fifty years.
Khizam would have readers believe it's all Israel's fault that there has been no solution to the conflict over the last 50 years. Never mind that Israel tried to return Gaza and the West Bank to the Arab world immediately after capturing them in 1967, only to be met with the infamous "three no's" from the Arab World - no peace with Israel, no recognition of Israel and no negotiations with Israel.
Time and time again since the Oslo Accords, Israel has sought to settle the dispute once and for all. Arafat rejected offers in 2000 and 2001, Abbas rejected the offer in 2008, refused to negotiate in 2010 and the 2014 negotiations were shuttered before there was a chance for real progress. Israel's total unilateral withdrawal from Gaza in 2005 was met with rockets and terror tunnels rather than peace.
It is only when the Palestinians own up to their own failings, renounce incitement and terror, accept that Israel is here to stay and return to negotiations in good faith, that there can be progress towards real peace.
Palestinians are desperate for peace, for normality, for security, and for a future for their children.
I don't doubt everyday Palestinians are indeed desperate for these things. But their leadership clearly is not. This is a leadership that spreads incitement and rejectionism among its people, through PA-controlled media, children's television programs and in schools. As above, it is a leadership that pays salaries to terrorists and their families. The same leadership recently named a children's camp after a terrorist who murdered 37 people.
And this is a leadership who, when offered in 2008 a peace deal giving them everything they claim to desire, reacted by, in the words of PA President Abbas, rejecting it "out of hand."
If the Palestinian Authority truly wanted a future for its people, it would have long ago turned its efforts towards building a state for them instead of extending every effort to delegitimise, incite against and demonise the Jewish one.
In 1948 they lost 78 per cent of their country to the new state of Israel...
Palestine was not and has never been a country. The name "Palestine" is not Arabic; it was given to the area by Hadrian in 135 AD after the conquest of Judea. Over the centuries various foreign empires - from the Byzantines to the Umayyads to the Crusaders to the Mamaluks - claimed control over the geographical area that was only occasionally known as Palestine, but never anything resembling a state or other autonomous entity.
After it was liberated from Ottoman rule, the British ruled over what they called the Palestine Mandate (which also included what is now Jordan) from 1920 until 1948. During this time there were two competing national movements - the Zionist movement of the Palestinian Jews (who were then known merely as "Palestinians") and that of the Arabs (now known as "Palestinians"), but it belonged to neither.
Palestinians could have had most of the good land from that area if they agreed to partition in 1947 (the Jewish state was given slightly more territory under than plane but most of it was in the almost uninhabited Negev desert) and created a Palestinian state for the first time in history. Instead they rejected it. Now, Khazim implies, they only want the remaining 22% - but they were offered the equivalent of that in 2008 and couldn't bring themselves to say yes.
... and were denied self- determination in their own homeland because they were Muslims and Christians.
This is possibly the most vile canard of all, with not a shred of truth to it. The Palestinian Arabs were not denied self-determination "because they were Muslims and Christians". On the contrary, they rejected self-determination for themselves if it meant having to accept self-determination for the Jews.
United Nations Resolution 181, also known as the partition plan, proposed to divide what was left of the Palestine Mandate into separate states for the Jews and Arabs. Though it was far less than what they had been hoping for, the Jews agreed. The Arabs rejected it, and upon the declaration of the Jewish state, five Arab armies launched a war aimed at annihilating it. These are facts of history which even Israel's harshest critics accept.
For Mike Khizam to instead allege that the Palestinians were denied self-determination "because they were Muslims and Christians" is a complete and utter fiction and a vicious calumny. It takes a mere five-second google search to expose this libel for what it is.
Around 750,000 people, then half of the Palestinian population were ethnically cleansed.
Another slanderous fabrication. There was an attempt to ethnically cleanse a people from the land, however it was the Arabs trying to ethnically cleanse the Jews. But according to Khizam's version of events, the 1948 War of Independence, in which Israel fought for its very survival, never happened. It is true that up to 750,000 Palestinian Arabs left their homes during that war, for a variety of reasons - so did many Jewish residents. But to completely leave out any mention of the defensive war the fledgling State of Israel was fighting, and to say the Palestinians were "ethnically cleansed", is intentionally misleading.
Khizam also seems to choose which refugees he shows concern for. There is no mention of the 850,000 Jewish refugees who were expelled or forced to flee from Arab nations in the decades following Israel's establishment.
Over twenty years ago the Palestinian leadership made peace with Israel and accepted the loss of 78 per cent of their country.
Despite signing the Oslo Accords, the Palestinians have neither made peace with Israel nor accepted its existence within its internationally recognised borders (what he calls "78 per cent of their country", a country which I've already pointed out never existed).
The very Palestinian leader who put pen to paper on the Accords, then Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat, commanded the Second Intifada, in which over a thousand Israeli civilians lost their lives in suicide bombings and other terror attacks - not something you do to people you've made peace with.
As for recognising Israel, political expediency may have seen the PLO "talk the talk" prior to the Oslo Accords, but the Palestinian leadership in practice does not "walk the walk" and continues to act contrary to this recognition. Official PA maps regularly omit any reference to Israel, the PA continues to deny Jewish history in Jerusalem and Palestinian school textbooks demonise Israel as "an evil entity that should be annihilated".
And they keep saying no to offers that would give them their state.
All the while Israel takes more and more of Palestine...
We've already pointed out earlier in this document that no new settlements have been built since 1999; nor have the geographical boundaries of existing settlements expanded. It is simply untrue that the settlement footprint in the West Bank is expanding.
Israel must either give the Palestinians their freedom or give them the vote.
If Khizam is genuinely concerned about Palestinian freedom and voting rights, his anger is being seriously misdirected. Around 98 per cent of Palestinians live under either Palestinian Authority or Hamas rule. Their freedoms are indeed severely restricted - by their own leaders.
Mahmoud Abbas is now in his 12th year of a four year term and no parliamentary elections have been held since 2006. In the Palestinian Authority, freedom of speech and freedom of the press are virtually non-existent. Palestinians living in Gaza face a similar or worse situation under Hamas. So Palestinians should indeed be given a vote - by their own leaders.
Even if Israel withdrew tomorrow to the 1967 borders, turning over the entire West Bank to the PA (presumably what Khizam means by giving Palestinians "their freedom"), Palestinians would not have their freedom. In fact, the 300,000-odd Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem, who currently enjoy residency of Israel, would experience a severe drop in their freedoms.
Israel is on the wrong side of history in so far as it pursues colonial expansion and constructs a new apartheid state in the occupied territories.
"Colonial" and "apartheid" seem to be two popular buzzwords used by anti-Israel activists. The former is used to suggest a foreign people came to a land in which they had no ties and displaced the local people - a gross fallacy. The ties of the Jewish people to the land of Israel can be proven beyond doubt. Or Avi-Guy says it best:
"Once Israel is falsely depicted as a ‘colonial enterprise,' instead of the result of long struggle for self-determination for the Jewish people (who came not just from Europe, but rather from all over the world - including many who are indigenous to the Middle East region), one can pretty much be certain that we are not talking about settlements, human rights or peace anymore ... too often the settlements are merely a distraction, when the real objection is to ‘Zionist national identity,' and its political manifestation - Israel - alone of all the national identities in the world."
As for the "apartheid" allegation, this too is patently false. Justice Richard Goldstone, who wrote and then retracted the infamous Goldstone Report after Operation Cast Lead in 2009, wrote in a New York Times op-ed:
"The charge that Israel is an apartheid state is a false and malicious one that precludes, rather than promotes, peace and harmony.
"The situation in the West Bank is more complex. But here too there is no intent to maintain ‘an institutionalized regime of systematic oppression and domination by one racial group.' This is a critical distinction, even if Israel acts oppressively toward Palestinians there. South Africa's enforced racial separation was intended to permanently benefit the white minority, to the detriment of other races. By contrast, Israel has agreed in concept to the existence of a Palestinian state in Gaza and almost all of the West Bank, and is calling for the Palestinians to negotiate the parameters.
"But until there is a two-state peace, or at least as long as Israel's citizens remain under threat of attacks from the West Bank and Gaza, Israel will see roadblocks and similar measures as necessary for self-defence, even as Palestinians feel oppressed."
Israel has successfully pursued a strategy of sidelining the UN, international law and its obligations under agreements it has signed.
First to the UN. The Palestinians, along with many of Israel's detractors, have pursued a strategy of demonising and delegitimising Israel at the UN, which seems all too happy to accommodate their behaviour. The Palestinians have pursued a unilateral strategy at the UN to avoid negotiations with Israel and more recently within UNESCO to see absurd resolutions spirited through denying Jewish history and legitimacy at some of Judaism's holiest sites.
As for international law, no official legal body has made a definitive ruling on its application in the West Bank. Even the highly politicised and flawed UNSC Resolution 2334, which calls settlements a flagrant violation of international law, according to UN Watch, is lawless "because it purports to state a legal conclusion which it is unqualified to do and which is incorrect".
In fact, as Ambassador Alan Baker - who participated in the negotiation and drafting of the Oslo Accords - argues, Israel is well within its rights under international law to have a presence in the lands it took from Jordan in 1967 and even the settlements which are on state land (not the illegal outposts) are legitimate under international law. This is not to say the Palestinians have no right to a negotiated sovereignty over parts of the West Bank in the future, but as Amb Baker quite correctly points out:
"Even the Palestinians themselves, in the Oslo agreement that they signed with Israel, acknowledge the fact that the ultimate permanent status of the territory is to be determined by negotiations. Therefore, even the Palestinians accept the fact that this is not Palestinian territory, it's disputed territory whose status is yet to be settled."
Which segues us nicely to the point of who is actually sticking to the agreements they have signed - hint: it's not the Palestinians. The Palestinian Authority is obligated under the accords to recognise Israel, and while it did this in English to the world, it tells its population something very different in Arabic and in the maps schoolchildren study in PA schools. It is obligated not to incite against Israel yet as discussed earlier in this piece incitement, including by PA President Mahmoud Abbas himself, is rife, not to mention the financial rewards the PA dishes out to terrorists and their families. The Palestinian Authority is obligated not to seek unilateral actions, yet this has been its sole strategy for the past five years as it continues to avoid negotiations.
[Israel] continues to fight any sign of support for the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people...
Israel does not fight "any sign of support for the legitimate rights of Palestinians". Israel does fight demonisation and delegitimisation, such as that promoted by the anti-Israel boycott movement. Sadly, the purveyors of this hate like to package it as support for Palestinian rights, but you never hear them speaking up for the rights of Palestinians in Lebanon, Jordan or Syria. Nor do they bring up the autocratic PA or brutal Hamas regime who curb Palestinian rights in the West Bank and Gaza respectively.
Only when Israel can be blamed, demonised or delegitimised are the rights of the Palestinian people suddenly important.
The problem is that views such as Mike Khizam's are one of the reasons the Palestinian Authority continues its intransigence, rejectionism and incitement. It is only when the Palestinians own up to their own failings, renounce incitement and terror, accept that Israel is here to stay and return to negotiations in good faith, that there can be progress towards real two-state peace.