31 May 2018

The truth behind Hamas and the Gaza protests

From the Sydney Morning Herald, 1 June 2018, by Mark Sofer*:

Image result for mark sofer ambassador

Hamas was proud to take responsibility this week for unleashing a barrage of 199 rockets and mortars directed at southern Israel; on houses, towns, villages, kindergartens and schools. For such is the nature of this dangerous Islamist movement which has controlled Gaza for 11 years and for whom the only aim is the publicly-avowed destruction of the Jewish state.

Hamas has dedicated almost the entirety of its resources to that single aim. The public relations campaign disseminated by its apologists brazenly blames the poverty of ordinary Gazans on Israel.

Indeed, Gazans are living in poverty but the reality should and could have been wildly different.

According to every serious international estimate, two-thirds of the income of Hamas ends up in the pocket of its military wing. 

Money that could and should have been used for building hospitals, roads, housing, electricity supply and basic needs is instead funneled into the manufacture of rockets and missiles and especially into the building of a network of terror tunnels whose only aim is the facilitation of entry of Hamas operatives into Israel for the purpose of kidnapping and murdering innocent Israelis. In the past few years alone, Israel has uncovered over 35 of these attack tunnels and it is presumed that a significant number remain undetected. Palestinian estimates emphasize that each tunnel costs just over 7.8 million Australian dollars.

On this basis, Hamas has squandered at least 300 million dollars for the sole objective of attacking Israelis, rather than for improving the lives of the civilians it controls. Undoubtedly there is poverty in Gaza, undoubtedly the ordinary Gazan deserves a better life, yet undoubtedly too the prioritization of the killing of Israelis over the welfare of its own people is what this extremist organization is all about.

It is in this vein that the violence of the past few weeks need be viewed. It was Jonathan Swift who famously wrote: “Falsehood flies, and truth comes limping after it, so that when men come to be undeceived, it is too late; the jest is over, and the tale hath had its effect”. A number of observers decided of their own volition that Israel fired indiscriminately on unarmed protesters desirous of a better life or at least upset at the opening of the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem.

The trouble is that not even Hamas claimed that the protests were peaceful, not even Hamas claimed that the protestors were unarmed, and not even Hamas claimed any connection whatsoever to the opening of the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem. 

On the contrary - it was Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar who proclaimed in April that the purpose of the rioting is to “tear down the border and tear their [Israelis] hearts from their bodies”.

It was the co-founder of Hamas Mahmoud Al-Zahhar who made no bones about stating publicly “when we talk about peaceful resistance we are deceiving the public… This is bolstered by military force and our security agencies”.

It was Hamas social media outlets which instructed rioters to “arm themselves with guns and knives with the aim of breaching the border”.

It was the Hamas leadership who called the riots “The March of the Return” – their own acknowledged euphemism for the replacement of the Jewish State by a Palestinian state on the same territory; at no stage did they refer to the violence as “The March Against the U.S. Embassy Opening”.

It was the Hamas leadership which actively encouraged and even paid the demonstrators to storm the border despite its complete understanding of the dire consequences. But most of all it was Hamas itself which openly boasted that well over 80% of the fatalities were its armed combatants and not innocent and peaceful demonstrators. All of this is widely documented, but conveniently ignored by so many.

There will be those who will react to this article with their usual skepticism and cynicism, but I state unequivocally – Israel bears no ill-will towards the people of Gaza and any casualty of an innocent person is truly tragic. At the same time, Israel bears much ill-will, and justifiably, towards Hamas and will defend itself vigorously against it.

The moment a Gazan leadership arises that places the good of Gazans as its sole priority, desists from terror, and cooperates with and recognizes Israel instead of violently confronting it, it will find an Israel ready to make every effort to enhance the lives of ordinary Gazans. In the spirit of the words of Golda Meir I reiterate that there will only be peace with the Palestinians when they love their children more than they hate Israel. We harbour no expectations whatsoever from the current leadership in Gaza.

*Mark Sofer is the Israeli Ambassador to Australia

30 May 2018

Breaking the Silence (Shovrim Shtika) Vilifies Israel Globally

From NGO Monitor, 28 May 2018:

BTS claims they want to effect change in the IDF, but instead peddle their tales of Jewish atrocities to anti-Israel groups in Europe and BDS supporting churches in the USA.
BtS allege IDF atrocities to anti-Israel groups and BDS supporters all over the world.

Anti-Israeli campaigns using Breaking the Silence

  • In June 19, 2016, the Turkish news website “Anadolu”, repeated the allegations citing “Israeli anti-occupation organization ‘Breaking the Silence’” and added a blood-libel claiming that a “rabbi call[s] to poison West Bank water”. PA president Mahmoud Abbas repeated these allegations in a speech to the European Union Parliament (June 23, 2016), but retracted them number of days afterwards. BtS did not retract its allegation regarding a poisoned water cistern, but claimed that the incident was the result of mistranslation. (This issue was highlighted in a column by Ben-Dror Yemini)
  • The report of the UN Commission of Inquiry (COI) on the 2014 Gaza War, headed first by William Schabas and then by Mary McGowan Davis after the former’s resignation over his undisclosed paid work for the PLO, quotes extensively from anonymous testimonies of Breaking the Silence. After the report was published, Hamas terror organization published a press release where it claims that “the report ignores the explicit confessions on war crimes the Israeli soldiers and officers made during and after the aggression, in which they stated they had received direct instructions to target civilians. Many soldiers affiliated to the Israeli organization of ‘Breaking the Silence’ confirmed such Israeli orders.”
  • During an explicit anti-Israel demonstration in Dublin in June 2014, Mr. Richard Boyd Barrett a member of the Irish Parliament said: “[The state of Israel] was born in blood it was born in racism… it was born in apartheid…. there is no two sides. There is Israeli, terrorist, apartheid regime ruthlessly cruelly, murderously killing innocent civilians…we had former Israeli soldiers for Breaking the Silence, came in to us on the door last week, everybody should read their book so we understand that everything Israel does is absolutely, deliberately murderous, these were the people who’ve did it and they’ve documented how they were ordered to kill, to intimidate innocent people and they were told specifically by their commanders to attack innocent people…”.

Examples of International Activity

  • Scotland – In October 2015, a BtS representative gave a number of lectures in Scotland, among them to the friends of Palestine in the SNP party and to the NGO “Medical Aid for Palestinians”. The first supports the “right of return” and BDS, and the second was involved in antisemitic campaigns.
  • The cultural center in Zurich hosted an event, June 4 –14, 2015, featuring the BtS photo exhibition, as well as demonizing “testimonies.” The event was sponsored by the Swiss Foreign Ministry, the Municipality of Zurich, and several church groups that are active in delegitimization campaigns against Israel.
  • The European Union parliament – In May 2015, BtS former CEO, Dana Golan (it remains unclear as to what exact position she currently holds in the NGO) lectured to the left parties’ coalition (GEU/NGL) in the EU. This coalition supports a full boycott of the state of Israel and has also met Omar Barghuti, a leader of BDS campaigns.
  • Held an October 21, 2013 presentation at the virulently anti-Israel and antisemitic UN Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, at which the Palestinian deputy representative to the UN asked BtS “to do more speaking engagements, particularly in the United States.” The presentation first aired in the official Iranian TV channel under the title “Israeli War Crimes”.
  • South Africa – In 2013, BtS representative participated in an event with the NGO “Open Shuada Street“, a well-known BDS supporter. In 2016, Open Shuhada Street stressed that it is still supports the BDS campaign, exactly as in the past.

Breaking The Silence "undoubtedly contributes to the global demonisation of Israel and help Israel's enemies...."

The following are AIJAC's responses to a series of question put to them by the Australian Jewish News with regard to the controversial Israeli group "Breaking the Silence", whose Executive Director, Avner Gvaryahu, will be visiting Australia shortly. They appeared in the Australian Jewish News on May 31.

Breaking the Silence activist regaling a German audience in Berlin in 2012 with tales of Jewish atrocities.
Breaking the Silence activist regaling an attentive German audience in Berlin with tales of Jewish atrocities.
1. Does Breaking The Silence contribute to the global demonisation of Israel and help Israel's enemies? If they have genuine grievances, is there another way they could deal with them?

Undoubtedly, it does [contribute to the global demonisation of Israel and help Israel's enemies]. We have seen countless individuals and organizations that reject Israel's right to exist exploit the output of Breaking the Silence (BTS) to further that goal.

According to the BTS website, the "goal at Breaking the Silence is to end the occupation, not to improve it or make it more humane".

When you look at BTS through that prism, you realize that their "grievance" is not about incidents of questionable IDF behaviour. If it were, they would bring these cases to Israel's authoritative military channels. Their actual grievance is with the "occupation". BTS's collection of anonymous testimonies that portray IDF conduct in an immoral light are simply a means towards that end.

BTS distorts the reality of the IDF by collecting only critical and unsubstantiated stories.

Listening to BTS, you'd never see the full picture about the situation in the West Bank - that 90 percent of the Palestinians live in Area A, under full Palestinian Authority administrative and security control and don't even encounter the IDF for the most part.

If their grievance is with the occupation and not about IDF behaviour, they could join any number of political movements inside of Israel and change policy through the ballot box. They know, however, that most Israelis see the IDF's presence in parts of the West Bank as a necessity for security, so long as the Palestinians remain either unwilling or unable to accept a peace agreement based on several previous Israeli offers.

BTS's reliance on foreign-based funding and emphasis on English PR materials suggests they know they can't achieve their ends democratically and are pursuing a strategy of building largely external diplomatic pressure against Israel to withdraw from the West Bank. Of course, Israel's enemies who view the entire country as "occupied territory" are more than happy to use BTS's materials to further their own goal of delegitimisation.

2. There are several, well documented examples of the IDF and other authorities taking disciplinary action or bringing charges against soldiers who have not acted as they should eg Elor Azaria. Do these channels work and if so what reasons can you think of for BTS not using them?

Avner Gvaryahu told BBC's Hard Talk that he wasn't there to criticize the IDF saying, "I don't think that's what I do. What I do is I criticize the mission the IDF got [sic] to carry out and in that sense, the problem that soldiers are facing has to do with the decisions of the government."

I think when you take Gvaryahu's words together with the aforementioned statement from the FAQ [Frequently asked questions] section of the BTS website, you realise that BTS isn't in the business of holding rogue soldiers to account. As they themselves say, their only business is "ending the occupation". According to this logic, prosecuting soldiers for mistreatment of Palestinians would be unhelpful to BTS's core mission.
3. Are BTS really ‘breaking the silence'? While what they say may make for uncomfortable listening, is anyone censoring them or stopping them expressing their views recounting their experiences?

No, of course they aren't. Israel is a free society. Most Israelis serve in the army regardless of their politics and, not surprisingly, the ones who are opposed to Israel's presence in the West Bank are uncomfortable with serving in these areas. They have always made their feelings known inside of Israel and elsewhere. 

The concept of Breaking the Silence itself is based on a falsehood that they are exposing sinister secrets that Israelis hide from the world. Unfortunately, the international media has often fallen for this dishonest gimmick.
4. To the best of your knowledge, does BTS debate settlers publicly?

You would have to direct that question to them, but I don't know if it really matters one way or the other.
5. Colonel Richard Kemp and other military experts have regularly hailed the IDF as the most moral army in the world, stressing that no any other army in history has been as careful to avoid civilian deaths. How do the Colonel's observations, made regularly at the United Nations and to other international organisations, tally with what we hear from BTS?

The description of the IDF as the most moral army in the world is commonly misunderstood. It has been used against the IDF whenever a soldier, like Azaria, whom you mentioned, acts in a manner that brings dishonour to the uniform. The IDF, like every army in the world, makes mistakes and has some bad apples. The world in general, including the security challenges that Israel faces, does not function in hypothetical absolutes but shades of grey.

What Colonel Kemp and others really mean when they say the IDF is the most moral in the world, is the fact that the IDF is second to none in ensuring that its military objectives are planned and executed in the most moral and legally sound manner. 

Many military experts have commended Israel for it, while recognising that the IDF has to hold itself to such a high standard because it is also the most scrutinised army in the world. It's a double standard, but the IDF has met the challenge, and I think that is something Israel can take pride in.

Breaking the Silence claims to not be anti-IDF but anti-occupation, but their modus operandi, collecting unsubstantiated allegations and crowing about them as though they had exposed state secrets, drags the reputation of the IDF through the mud.
6. Would you regard BTS activists as traitors?

No, and let's not turn them into martyrs. They are simply very misguided and contributing to distorted world opinion of Israel.
7. Please give your interpretation of 'moral equivalence'.

Moral equivalence is something we see often. It is frequently seen when journalists discuss Palestinian terrorism. They don't feel comfortable addressing it on its own merits and so drag settlements into the same sentence, when of course killing innocent people cannot be compared to land disputes. Despotic or terrorist aggressors as we see now in Gaza and those who justifiably defend against them are not the same ,they are not morally equivalent.
8. Do members of IDF units from which BTS have drawn testimonies, refute those testimonies? And is there an issue with the anonymity surrounding many of those who give testimony via BTS?

I understand there is an organisation called Reservists on Duty which collects testimonies of the sort you describe.

As I've said, BTS's anonymous testimonies are inherently questionable and there is no justification for it. This anonymity serves BTS in two ways - it makes it next to impossible to fact-check claims while adding to the group's "mystique" that it is somehow exposing something taboo.
9. Right-wing groups are highly critical and scathing of Breaking the Silence. Is their condemnation justified? Do members of BTS have any reason to fear speaking out?

There is such a concept as giving something "too much oxygen". If criticism of a group is over the top, it is actually counterproductive, putting them in the spotlight and letting them play the victim card. I don't think that anyone who knows Israel and has spent time there would buy the idea that anyone there would be afraid to speak out on virtually anything.
10. Does Australian media coverage of the conflict lack nuance? Are the views presented either blindly pro-Israeli or blindly pro-Palestinian?

Unfortunately, much of the coverage of the conflict is overly simplistic, lacks content. and context, and buys into the narrative of Israel's detractors. In relation to coverage featuring bias and misleading or factually incorrect stories, part of what we do at AIJAC is file complaints over such stories and publish comment in the Australia/Israel Review and on our website and social media platforms to compensate for such deficiencies, There are some honourable exceptions of course. AIJAC's Rambam study program can claim some credit for that, as we've brought dozens of top journalists to Israel over the years to assess the situation for themselves.
11. In Gaza, Hamas terrorists do not wear uniforms or identify themselves in any way. They store weaponry in mosques, hospitals and schools and cynically use civilians as human shields. Surely the blame for every single death on the Gaza border security should be laid squarely at the feet of Hamas?

As a rule, this proposition is absolutely correct. Israel has a right to defend its border with Gaza - a territory controlled by a terror group - and every single Gazan knows not to approach the fence. That said, I would caution against extending that generalisation beyond the fence, since there is always the possibility of operational mistakes. This is precisely why the IDF rigorously investigates every problematic incident.
12. Last April's "testimony" by BTS spokesperson Dean Issacharof was conclusively exposed as fraudulent by the office of the Israeli State Attorney General, Avichai Mandelblit. Why, therefore, should any other statement by BTS not be viewed with a high degree of caution and scepticism?

I'm not sure you have the most recent information. Back in December, the Attorney General's office was considering reopening that case. To my knowledge, that investigation is still ongoing.

Regardless, that case calls attention to the fact that BTS, in general, does not cooperate with the IDF.

AIJAC's own dealings with BTS makes us very sceptical of their credibility. For example, in 2014, shortly after then-Attorney General George Brandis said that he would no longer refer to east Jerusalem as occupied, Avner Gvaryahu himself, representing BTS, was interviewed by ABC Newsradio. Gvaryahu was asked about east Jerusalem and responded: "Go on our website and you [sic] put [into the website's search box] east Jerusalem. You'll see the stories popping up and you'll see that the reality there is definitely not the same reality I live in while speaking to you in Tel Aviv with freedom".

AIJAC analysts followed his advice, searched the BTS testimonies and discovered none about east Jerusalem whatsoever at that time. This makes sense because Jerusalem is considered part of Israel and is not patrolled by the IDF, but rather the police. But rather than admit this, Gvaryahu spouted complete nonsense, apparently hoping to drive traffic to the BTS website on false pretences.
13. The Breaking The Silence FaceBook page opines: "Our right to security does not permit the bloodshed of thousands of demonstrators shot with live ammunition." Quite apart from the gross exaggeration as to the numbers shot and the false characterisation of those shot as simply "demonstrators", why should Israel's right to security not indeed permit defensive measures, including, if necessary, lethal defensive measures, given that Hamas has clearly and unambiguously stated their intention to murder innocent Israeli civilians if they infiltrate Israeli territory?

One criteria for being recognised as a nation is that you can defend your borders. Israel has a right and duty to defend its internationally recognised borders from an invading force. When the IDF used live fire, my understanding is that it was as a last resort to prevent a mass incursion - which would have almost certainly resulted in mass casualties from both sides.
14. Is it understandable that those who've joined Breaking The Silence will have received some backlash?

I think it is understandable. 

As mentioned above, the majority of Israelis would see BTS as an organisation that seeks to demonise Israel to the international community, and does so in ethically dubious ways. In addition, most Israelis are justifiably proud of their armed forces, not to mention serving in them and having family serving, so they would resent an organisation they see as unfairly denigrating the IDF.
15. As far as you are aware, do Breaking The Silence report allegations it raises to Israel's Military Attorney General [MAG]?

You should ask the IDF MAG's office, but since the BTS website has an FAQ question that reads "Why don't you work with the army to try and improve the system?", our understanding is generally they do not.

Dr. Colin Rubenstein AM is the Executive Director of AIJAC.

22 May 2018

UNHRC resolution predetermined Israel's guilt

From AIJAC, May 22, 2018:

AIJAC applauds the principled stand the Australian Government took in opposing the one-sidedly anti-Israel resolution to set up an inquiry into the violence in Gaza at the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) last week. We also commend Prime Minister Turnbull for exposing Hamas as the instigator of the violence while reiterating Israel’s right to self-defence and secure borders.

Australia can hold its head high as the only member state along with the US to oppose this biased and counter-productive resolution whose language predetermined Israeli guilt before any investigation was even begun. At a time when Israel’s borders are at risk from Iran and its proxies, including Hamas, it is unfortunate that world bodies, including the UNHRC, single out Israel as the aggressor whilst avoiding any mention of Hamas or its activities. The Government promised not to support one-sided resolutions when it recently joined the Council and we commend the Government for keeping its promise.

We are however disappointed at the comments by Labor MP Anthony Albanese on ABC television on Sunday morning. His characterisation of recent events in Gaza where he placed responsibility squarely on Israel and chastised the Government for its principled and pragmatic approach at the UN Human Rights Council is concerning. He fell into the trap of pre-determining the results of any investigation by insinuating that Israel used disproportionate force  - as well as incorrectly accusing Israel of expanding settlements in Gaza where no settlements exist. We trust that Labor Party leader Bill Shorten and his parliamentary colleagues will pursue a genuinely constructive approach, recognising some of the real obstacles to a final lasting peace in the lead-up to the Labor National Conference in July.

Mark Leibler AC, National Chairman
Dr. Colin Rubenstein AM, Executive Director

It’s too late to reform the ABC

From The Australian, 23 May 2018, by Janet Albrechtsen:

Illustration: Eric Lobbecke
Illustration: Eric Lobbecke

There are unfortunate parallels between the UN Human Rights Council and the Australian Broad­casting Corporation.

Both have lofty ambitions, the former to promote human rights and expose abuses, the latter to represent Australian voices and deliver quality news. Both suffer from an intractable culture of bias that works against them fulfilling their charter.

So it was with yawning predictability that ABC’s premier Sunday political show, Insiders, went “straight to the politics” as host Barrie Cassidy said during a panel chat to deride Australia’s decision to vote against a UNHRC resolution to launch an inquiry into the deaths of almost 60 Palestinians in Gaza last week. In fact, the resolution went much, much further than that, but more on that later.

Cassidy kicked off discussion with this: “There are 47 organisations on this Human Rights Commission. Two opposed the ­inquiry — two of them. Who are they, Karen?”

“The United States and Australia were the only two countries, Barrie, to oppose this resolution in the HRC,” said Karen Middleton, from The Saturday Paper. “Australia’s campaigned to get on to the HRC for a couple of years, and it seems in order to vote no.”

Then it was the turn of Fairfax’s David Crowe: “If Theresa May’s government can abstain, surely that would be an option for Australia to abstain. Britain, Germany and Japan all abstaining, that’s certainly a legitimate option.”

“Absolutely. You wonder why we’re on the council,” added ­Middleton.

For bias and shallow analysis, it’s hard to go past three people all miffed that Australia voted no to a resolution from a UNHRC with a core prejudice against Israel. Gerard Henderson was the token conservative.

Notice the constant outnumbering of any conservative voice on the ABC? This makes a mockery of its charter that the ABC should reflect the diversity of Australian voices. Instead, our ABC keeps breaking its end of the $1 billion deal it gets from tax­payers to abide by its charter.

Given that Insiders didn’t provide informed and fair analysis of the UNHRC and the resolution last Friday, let’s do it here.

First, some background on the successor to the UN Commission on Human Rights, a body so cor­rupted by anti-Western bias that UN aficionados said it needed ­reforming.

Instead, there was just a name change in 2006. Since then, the UNHRC has convened 22 urgent sessions with the following tally: eight on Israel, five on Syria, two on Myanmar, one on Central African Republic, one on Libya, one on Ivory Coast, one on Democratic Republic of Congo, one on Sudan, one on Burundi, one on South Sudan and zero urgent sessions to consider issues on China, Iran, North Korea, Turkey, Venezuela, Yemen or Zimbabwe.

Since its creation, the UNHRC has condemned Israel in more than 70 resolutions — almost more than the rest of the world combined. The anti-Israel bias is still so firmly entrenched, the council has only one permanent agenda item aimed at one country, Item No 7, dedicated to “human rights abuses by Israel”.

A democrat needs a hazmat suit to enter this place safely, which may explain why the Israeli Prime Minister has sug­gested another name change: “The Council for Resolutions Against the Only Democracy in the Middle East.”

Last Friday’s resolution is part of a long history of anti-Israel bias detached from facts and fairness. Australia’s Foreign Minister Julie Bishop pointed out in her statement that Australia voted against the council’s commission of ­inquiry because the resolution’s language prejudges the outcome of the inquiry.

Nowhere among its 800-plus words does the resolution mention the role of Hamas. And note to Cassidy: the inquiry’s geographical mandate stretches ­beyond the Gaza border with ­Israel to the entire Gaza Strip, the West Bank and parts of Jerusalem — and it covers an unlimited time period.

Bishop said she supported an ­independent and impartial investigation — but this is neither. The resolution overreaches, presumes the outcome and continues to embed anti-Israeli bias at the UN.

Australia’s “no” vote was the only principled position. Malcolm Turnbull ­deserves credit for his quick and honourable response, as does Bishop.

Abstaining was the coward’s option, a disappointing choice by Britain and Germany given their serious reservations about the council’s resolution.

Australia stood firm, opposing the determined bias at the UNHRC and among its members, who routinely and deliberately omit facts in an effort to demonise and isolate Israel.

Hamas’s intention was crystal clear when ­orchestrating tens of thousands of Palestinians to head to the border between Gaza and Israel. Hamas’s leader in Gaza, Yahya Sinwar, said: “We will take down the border and tear out their hearts from their bodies.”

Which country would allow its border to be breached with threats of such violence?

Hamas co-founder Mahmoud al-Zahar admitted that Hamas was engaged in a “deception” when describing the protests as peaceful to the public. Protesters intent on tearing down the border fence brought knives, grenades, fire kites, guns and other explosive devices to the area ­because Hamas instructed them to do so. Hamas published maps on social media showing protesters nearby Israeli communities for when the fence was breached. ­

Israel sent out flyers and social media messages warning civilians not to get caught up in the violence instigated by Hamas.

Hamas official Salah Bardawil ­admitted that 50 of the 62 people killed were members of the terrorist organisation.

Just as terrible suffering by ­civilians in Gaza has been insti­gated by Hamas trying to demonise Israel in the eyes of the international community, that bloody day in Gaza last week was caused by Hamas for the same purpose. And it worked: the UNHRC mentioned only Israel in its long­winded resolution.

Australia joined the UNHRC with a view to reforming the body, including getting rid of Item 7, which separates Israel from the rest of the world as an abuser of human rights. To that end, Australia voted against each of five council resolutions under Item 7 in March last year.

Reforming the UNHRC is a noble sentiment. But the sheer weight of its bias is a reminder that good intentions, if they can’t ­deliver good outcomes, count for nought. Over more than a decade, the council has shown ­itself unreformable. And last week was more of the same, when only two countries stood for facts and fair-minded principle: the US and Australia.

Shame on Labor, then, for signalling it would have voted in favour of the UNHRC’s kangaroo court of inquiry.

On Insiders ­Anthony Albanese revealed what’s wrong with growing sections of the ALP. He was ­either clueless or deliberately misrepresented facts when he said that “ongoing expansion of (Israeli) settlements” in the West Bank and Gaza undermine a two-state solution. In fact, Israel ­withdrew every last soldier and settler from Gaza in 2005. Sadly, Cassidy was not the person to correct that error.

I joined the ABC board in 2005 with a similarly naive hope that the national broadcaster could be reformed to meet its fine mandate. Alas, it suffers a similarly ­entrenched and biased culture as the UNHRC. Given that both ­institutions are unreformable, it raises the question: why bother with them at all?

17 May 2018


by Steve Lieblich, 18 May 2018:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Then Sherry proceeded directly to Q&A.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ambassador should have attended Jerusalem embassy opening

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

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

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

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