21 December 2017

Zentai evades justice

Hungarian-born Karoly (Charles) Zentai, is accused of detaining and beating to death Peter Balasz, an 18-year-old Jewish youth, and throwing his body in the Danube River in Nazi-occupied Budapest in November 1944.
In 2012, Australia’s High Court ruled that the Australian government could not order Zentai's extradition to Hungary to face a criminal trial, because the offence of "war crime" did not exist under Hungary's laws in 1944. The decision was widely criticized as a triumph of narrow legalism over substantive justice. Dissenting judge Dyson Heydon said that the Court’s decision was an "extremely technical one", given that Zentai was wanted for "beating a Jew to death in Budapest in 1944".
A 2006 US-government commissioned report accused Australia of having "an ambivalent" attitude to hunting Nazi war criminals , and a "lack of the requisite political will". The Zentai case confirms this assessment. Zentai died in Western Australia on 13 December 2017, without ever facing trial.
No accused Nazi war criminal has ever been punished in Australia. The US, Canada and the UK all have a far better record than Australia in bringing war criminals to justice, extraditing them and stripping them of citizenship.
Over the years Australia has accepted as citizens accused war criminals not only from World War II but also from the former Yugoslavia, Rwanda, Afghanistan, Indonesia and Cambodia. They blend in seamlessly with the rest of Australian society. Exploiting our tolerance and naivety, they walk freely among us and our children.
Forgiveness can be a powerful healing sentiment in the appropriate circumstances, but not when the wrongdoer seeks no forgiveness, shows no remorse and does everything possible to evade justice.

16 November 2017

The Australia–Israel Be’er Sheva Dialogue: round three

From ASPI, 14 Nov 2017, by Anthony Bergin:

On 1 November, ASPI and the Begin–Sadat Centre for Strategic Studies met in Tel Aviv, Israel, at the third Be’er Sheva Dialogue to build on the work initiated at the first round, held in Israel in 2015, and the second meeting, held in Sydney last year.

The ASPI–BESA dialogue brings together experienced voices from Australia and Israel to share perspectives and analyses on common security challenges, while reflecting more broadly on the outlook for the relationship between the two countries.

Having participated in all three dialogues, I think it’s fair to say that the Be’er Sheva Dialogue (named after the 1917 battle in which the Australian Light Horse fought) has grown in stature. That’s evidenced by the number of high-level Australian and Israeli participants across government, parliament (from both sides of Australian politics), academia, think tanks, industry, the military and the intelligence communities. A number of Australian and Israeli delegates commented that the increasing maturity of the dialogue means there’s now a greater candour and depth to the discussions.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull addressed this year’s dialogue. His audience also included many supporters of the Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council, who’d made the journey to Beersheba to attend the commemoration of the centenary of the famous charge of the 4th Light Horse Brigade to capture the town on 31 October 1917.

Turnbull saluted the achievements that the dialogue had accomplished in a short time, identifying areas of collaboration in defence between Australia and Israel for their mutual benefit. The prime minister’s visit to Israel culminated in the signing of a memorandum of understanding on defence industry cooperation.

Australia and Israel also agreed during Turnbull’s visit that our respective defence officials will now hold annual discussions on strategic and security priorities. To date, there have been almost no high-level military exchanges between the two countries. There’ll also be a track 1.5 cyber dialogue held in Australia next year. These positive measures were suggested at the earlier Be’er Sheva dialogues and were set out in a joint paper produced last year by ASPI and BESA.

We’ve always been seen as friendly by Israel, although it’s rarely been a major focus of policy efforts in Jerusalem. While there’s a mutual recognition of shared values, there hasn’t been sufficient recognition given by either state to how each contributes to the other’s national interests. What both countries are now discovering through high-level visits and track 1.5 dialogues, such as the Be’er Sheva Dialogue, is that there are also lots of opportunities to enhance bilateral cooperation.

In a way, that’s hardly surprising. Both countries face challenges from Islamist extremism. Both countries’ militaries are focused on how to incorporate cyber capabilities into military operations. Both countries operate American equipment and both are close to major choke-points along maritime oil and trade routes, making maritime security an important component of national strategic policy. In air power, both countries have acquired the F-35.

Delegates to the 2017 Be’er Sheva Dialogue exchanged views on regional challenges in the Indo-Pacific, the Middle East and Eastern Mediterranean, terrorism, cybersecurity, maritime strategy (Israel is highly dependent on sea commerce and has significant offshore energy resources), defence industry cooperation, strategic policy under President Donald Trump, and hybrid warfare strategies.

On the cyber and innovation agenda, it was evident that Australia can learn a number of lessons from the Israeli cybersecurity success story, particularly in start-ups and skills development. But we need to be mindful that the Israeli experience may not directly translate to Australia: much of Israel’s success stems from compulsory military service and the unique cybersecurity skills nursery that the Israeli Defence Force provides.

In an interesting aside, one delegate noted that Australia is benefiting from Israeli technology in our almond industry. Significant investments here are safeguarded by Israeli sensors in orchards that tell what the trees need, such as water and fertiliser, making this an unusual cybersecurity issue.

Areas noted for possible future joint exploration were how both sides can counter the soft-power threats to liberal democracies and how to leverage social media monitoring for indicators of radicalisation or intended terrorist acts. It was also clear from our discussions that there are prospects for further joint exchanges on how we can share experiences of hybrid threats and what they mean for the battle space, as well trends in military innovation, specifically unmanned aerial vehicles, force protection and missile defence. There was a strong interest in sharing lessons on how to protect the gas industry at sea.

Australia and Israel should identify the conditions for closer practical collaboration in cyber industries with security applications. Israeli government agencies work closely with their cyber industry. Australia can learn a lot from the Israelis on how to build trust and achieve a common purpose between government and the private sector.

The discussions about China, particularly on critical infrastructure investment in Israel (China is building key Israeli ports and Chinese military vessels have visited Haifa), suggest there’s an opportunity for greater exploration between the two nations on the role of China and foreign investment.

In defence, consideration might be given to undertaking a small-scale joint Australia–Israel military exercise in the coming year in an area of mutual interest. The announcement of defence exchange between officials is very positive, and consideration should be given in the near future to having a regular ministerial-level dialogue.

On international policy, our discussions showed that there’s potential for looking beyond bilateralism and mapping possible structures for discreet multi-party consultations (for example, with India, which Israel is forging closer relations with).

The third Be’er Sheva Dialogue again underlined how each state can contribute to the other’s security interests.

03 November 2017

Australia-Israel: "OUR UNBREAKABLE BOND"

From The Australian, 31 Oct 2017, by The Hon Malcolm Turnbull MP, Prime Minister of Australia:

Brigadier General Granville de Laune Ryrie leads the 2nd Australian Light Horse Brigade across the desert at Esdud on the Philistine Plain in 1918

THE CHARGE of the Australian Light Horse at Beersheba has inspired Australians for generations.

The veterans of the charge re-enacted it in Charles Chauvel’s 1940 movie Forty Thousand Horsemen—a confidence booster for a beleaguered nation at war.

As a young boy at boarding school in the early ’60s I watched it again and again—we all imagined ourselves spurring our horses through the Ottoman fire, leaping across the trenches and onward to victory.

Where so many armies had marched and charged before, it was one of the last great cavalry charges, an act of bravery that has echoed through the century since; an against-the-odds victory that broke the Ottoman lines and spurred the Allied forces on to Jerusalem.

The charge itself was an astonishing achievement. At dusk on October 31, 1917, Brigadier General William Grant gave the 800 Australians of the 4th Light Horse Brigade their orders: “Men, you’re fighting for water. Use your bayonets as swords. I wish you the best of luck.”

The cavalry began with a trot, accelerated to a canter and then to a gallop across 6km of open country outside Beersheba, under ferocious fire from well-entrenched Ottoman defenders.
Trooper Edward Dengate recorded the desperate charge. “We spurred our horses… the bullets got thicker… three or four horses came down, others with no riders on kept going, the saddles splashed with blood.”

Brutal hand-to-hand combat followed and 31 Australians were killed. But the 4th Light Horse Brigade prevailed. They had defeated an Ottoman force five times their size, and taken Beersheba and its vital water supply with it.

Just weeks later, the Australians marched with General Allenby into Jerusalem, while in London the Balfour Declaration was signed, paving the way for the creation of the modern state of Israel.

A century on, the city of Be’er Sheva is an oasis of technology and great practical ideas—a shining example of the best attributes of Israel and the Israeli people—ingenuity, resilience, and hard work.

Today, Australia and Israel share these values. We have an unbreakable bond that is only getting stronger. As we honour the memory and sacrifice of the Anzacs of 1917, we are determined to strengthen the ties between our two nations in 2017, and in the years to come.

Lest we forget.

14 October 2017

ABC’s hubris laid bare

From The Australian, October 14, 2017, by GREG SHERIDAN:

...Michael Danby, the federal Labor member for Melbourne Ports, has been feeling some moral indignation about the ABC’s coverage of Israel.

... Danby is not a single-issue politician but is a strong supporter of Israel who believes the ABC does not report the nation fairly.

Frankly, no one could seriously contest that proposition.

...Danby took two ads in The Australian Jewish News over a couple of weeks to complain about the treatment of Israel by the ABC’s Sophie McNeill.

The ABC’s Media Watch summarised one ad. It said: 
“The nub of Danby’s complaint is that two recent stories by McNeill received very different coverage. The eviction of a Palestinian family last month after a court returned their home to Jewish ownership scored a two-minute feature on the midday news.
“But the stabbing to death of three members of a Jewish family in July did not receive such personal treatment and was reported only in the context of a surge of violence in which four Palestinians were also killed. They did not get feature treatment either. So, is that bias? Or part of a pattern?”

It is honest of Media Watch to pose the question that way. Let me answer it: Yes, it is a pattern, and yes, it is bias.

The ABC is consistently biased against Israel in a similar way to the BBC and for similar reasons. The overwhelming majority of ABC reporters and general broadcast commentators share a fairly narrow spectrum of world view, ranging from the middle left of Labor to the green left.

This is why the ABC finds it so difficult to come to grips with, or even understand, the complaints this kind of bias generates.

Within their world view these ABC broadcasters mostly behave professionally, and in the field often with heroic distinction. But in that world view, as has been well established in countless books and studies, Israel represents, entirely falsely in my view, Western colonialism, militarism and racism.

This gives reporters and producers an instinct never to represent Israel sympathetically. Jewish Israeli civilians (even victims of terrorism) are almost never portrayed sympathetically on the ABC, unless they are abusing their government or society. Then they are moral heroes.

To humanise an innocent Jewish Israeli grandfather or child brutally murdered in their home by a terrorist seems somehow or other to be supportive of Israel, so it is rarely done.

Danby in his ads was responding to this profound emotional truth. 

The ABC’s response to Danby’s criticisms is dismaying. It exhibits bullying, hubris and unchecked power.

But first a word on McNeill. It is the case that she had a record, before her appointment as a correspondent, of pro-Palestinian activism. It is entirely legitimate for critics of her journalism to point to that history. It’s also entirely legitimate to criticise journalists. This may shock you, dear reader, but there have been occasions when I myself have been criticised, even indeed on the ABC, meaning the criticism came from taxpayers’ money.

ABC broadcasters sometimes darkly refer to “dossiers” that have been compiled on McNeill, as though this involved nefarious access to ASIO files. What they mean by dossiers is articles and footage that McNeill herself has produced. In other words, judging a journalist by their output.

Quelle horreur — surely only the Elders of Zion could plot such fiendish stratagems!

The ABC issued a kind of papal document beatifying McNeill and condemning Danby’s criticism as “highly inappropriate”. McNeill herself issued a bizarre statement demanding Danby be censored. She said: “If using taxpayer dollars to print false claims about a journalist is allowed within parliamentary guidelines, then clearly they need to change.”

Just take a step back and look at the larger picture. Danby, who almost never appears on the ABC, has paid for critical but not remotely abusive ads, the basic accuracy of which is attested by the ABC’s Media Watch, in small-circulation newspapers that might reach 20,000 readers. In response he is attacked, mocked, vilified and condemned in many ABC news programs and by numerous ABC commentators to a cumulative audience in the hundreds of thousands if not millions.

Surely even in the ABC someone must see this is a kind of parody of free speech.

It’s more like the Chinese Communist Party discovering an enemy of the state preaching in a home church and simultaneously denouncing him in People’s Daily, Global Times and the Xinhua News Agency (irony alert, that sentence consciously involves exaggeration, don’t pretend to take it literally).

The ABC did the same thing a couple of years ago when a Jewish old folks’ home withdrew an invitation to the actress Miriam Margolyes to read from an anti-Israel play. All over the country the ABC beat this story to death as a crime against free speech.

Naturally the nursing home didn’t want to debate Margolyes, so she was given uncritical interviews, with no attempt to provide a balancing voice, to a cumulative audience in the hundreds of thousands to berate Israel and defame the Jewish community.

Oi vey!

The implication is always that Jewish criticism of the ABC over Israel is somehow sinister. Two questions: what penalty has any ABC producer or broadcaster ever paid for this criticism? Answer: none. Therefore it is really not too sinister. And is not even the ABC aware of the true, astonishing weirdness of a body that gets more than $1 billion of taxpayers’ money each year trying not to answer criticism but to declare it “inappropriate”?

A more sophisticated broadcaster would have interviewed Danby at length about his criticisms, even if the interview was robust or Danby’s views were answered by somebody else.

The worst part of this saga is that Bill Shorten gave in to ABC pressure and admonished his colleague.

Full disclosure: I have known Danby for more than 40 years, and admired him all that time. He is exactly the kind of person we need in parliament — passionate, fiercely independent, brave as a lion, taken up with human rights concerns in China, Tibet, North Korea, Darfur — a genuine internationalist of which there are almost none in Canberra.

In taking on the colossus of the ABC, Danby spoke truth to power. Good on him.

08 October 2017

The ABC's Sophie McNeill’s Bias

From The Hon. Michael Danby, Member ofr Melbourne Ports, 18 Sept 2017:

Once again ABC Jerusalem correspondent Sophie McNeill has proven to be inconsistent and ignorant in her reporting and handling of news coming out of Israel.

Ms McNeill was passionate in her twitter, play-by-play commentary, of the eviction of the Palestinian Shamesneh family from the East Jerusalem house they had been living in for 50 years. Her emotional plea failed to mention that the Shamesneh’s were squatters in a house that had been vacated during mass evictions, under the Jordanian occupation of East Jerusalem prior to the Six Day War of 1967.

But what of her treatment some days earlier of the tragedy of the Israeli Salomon family who were stabbed to death in their home at their Shabbat dinner table? By contrast with her sympathy for Palestinian family Ms McNeil made only passing reference to the Salomons, without mentioning them by name, as settlers in “occupied territories” Sadly, the death of the three Salomon family members who were gathered around the Shabbat dinner table to celebrate the birth of grandson Yosef, the newest member of the family, is seemingly not news worthy to Ms McNeill. But the Palestinian family, who had to shift are worth a segment on “7.30”

This is an example of the style of Ms McNeill’s reporting. Like her hero John Pilger she dehumanises the side she does not favour by failing to report crucial information about them. She always elevates the Palestinian narrative. This consistent pattern of bias is hard to identify by her editors or ABC views who may not be aware of on the ground events in relation to each other.

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