15 November 2018

Australia’s position on the Iran “nuclear deal” and Jerusalem

Statement on Australia’s position on the Iran “nuclear deal” and the prospect of formally recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel 

Our community wholeheartedly supports the prospect that the Australian government will review its position on the Iran “nuclear deal” and the prospect of formally recognising Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and relocating its embassy there. This would be congruent with fundamental Australian values, promote peace and serve our national interests.

Moving the Australian Embassy to West Jerusalem, inside the 1949 Armistice Line, in no way prejudices the outcome of future peace negotiations unless one entertains the prospect that Israel’s long-standing sovereignty in the city is to be removed. Recognising that this is no prospect at all in fact promotes the cause of peaceful co-existence in the region.

Our community overwhelmingly supports modern Zionism as the political movement for the self-determination of the Jewish people. The wider Australian community is also supportive of Israel as the national homeland of the Jewish people.

The intractable, century-long Arab-Israel conflict is regretfully perpetuated by an apparently persistent Arab ambition to destroy Israel as a Jewish nation, which they pursue by demands for a purported “right of return” to Israel within the 1949 Armistice Line, incitement to terrorism, and by paying stipends and pensions to convicted terrorists. (See Appendix 1 for further detail.) Objection to the Jerusalem move are motivated by the same destructive ambition. (See Appendix 2.)

Formal Australian recognition of the obvious fact that Jerusalem is the seat of Israel’s Parliament and all its national institutions recognises the continued existence of Israel as a Jewish nation. Until the Arab side reconciles itself to this, there is little hope of any resolution. Thus, such a move would support Arab-Israel peaceful co-existence. The US move in this direction is clearly intended to discourage continued Arab intransigence and refusal to negotiate. Australia should support it.
Some Arab and Muslim diplomats have criticised the prospect of Australia recognising Israel’s capital, and implied that bilateral relations and trade may be negatively affected. However, trade between the US and Arab and Muslim states, in the 8 months after the US announced in December 2017 that it would move its embassy to Jerusalem, have increased, not decreased. US exports to Egypt have increased by 93.7%, to Qatar by 85.5%, Morocco 22.9%, Lebanon, 16% and to Indonesia by 37.9%. Despite grandstanding and rhetoric by individual diplomats, nations continue to pursue their national interests.

Federal Trade Minister Simon Birmingham correctly pointed out that you “don’t… expect that two nations will always agree in terms of foreign policy positions as they relate to a third nation. But that shouldn’t get in the way of a strong bilateral relationship.”

And Greg Sheridan, in The Australia, 15 November 2018, also said: “Islamist politicians will not like any pro-Israel statement … some Indonesians will object to it. … so be it. It would be completely wretched, and damaging to our national interests, for the Morrison government to back away now from doing anything on the Jerusalem front.”

In relation to the Iran issue, Arab states will applaud Australian reconsideration of its support for the nuclear deal and any increased diplomatic efforts to contain Iranian hegemonic ambitions. It’s no secret that virtually all the Arab states are alarmed by the Iranian threat.

Finally, as the Australia-Israel & Jewish Affairs Council has pointed out: Australian reconsideration of both the Iran and Jerusalem issues will be well received by our most important strategic all: the USA – a critical national interest consideration at a time when Australian security and economic concerns vis-a-vis North Korea and China loom larger than ever.

Appendix 1 Arab Incitement to Terror
Arab terror attacks in Israel result from explicit calls by the Arab leaders to “spill blood.” Arab children have been taught to idolize the murder of Jews as a sacred value and to regard their own death in this “jihad” as the pinnacle of their aspirations.
The Palestinian Authority incites antisemitism, glorifies martyrdom and encourages terrorism, by awarding generous lifetime pensions to terrorists and their families, on a sliding scale – the more Jews they kill, the higher the pension.
An apprehended terrorist told interrogators in Israel last year: "I've accumulated large debts... I decided to do something serious, such as committing murder... and then my family will get money (i.e., from the PA) and will live comfortably... "
In June 2017, PA District Governor, Laila Ghannam, praised the "Martyrdom " of a 17-year-old terrorist who was shot and killed while throwing Molotov cocktails at Jewish civilians, praising the fact that rather than obtaining matriculation this summer, the terrorist "achieved the highest Martyrdom".
The PA’s incessant incitement perpetuates the conflict and grooms the next generation of terrorists by naming streets, public squares and even children's soccer tournaments after terrorists. In May 2017, the PA inaugurated the Martyr Dalal Mughrabi Center, named after a terrorist leader in the murder of 37 civilians including 12 children, in the Nablus district. In April 2017, Safa, the daughter of Abdallah Barghouti, a terrorist who prepared explosives for attacks in which 67 were murdered, read a letter to her father at her school assembly saying: "Father, I am very proud of you".
The apathy shown by the international community to this death-culture, and the unbalanced way subsequent violence is often treated by the international media is doing long-term, and possibly irrevocable, harm to the Arabs themselves, more than to anyone. Yet there is little international opposition to the exploitation of Arab children.

Appendix 2 The Muslim Claim to Jerusalem
In relation to the Jerusalem issue, it is instructive to review an essay by historian Daniel Pipes, published in 2001 about the history of Muslim "interest" in the holy city. The following is from the conclusion. (The link for the full essay is https://www.meforum.org/articles/other/the-muslim-claim-to-jerusalem.)
“...Politics, not religious sensibility, has fueled the Muslim attachment to Jerusalem for nearly fourteen centuries; what the historian Bernard Wasserstein has written about the growth of Muslim feeling in the course of the Countercrusade applies through the centuries: ‘often in the history of Jerusalem, heightened religious fervour may be explained in large part by political necessity.’
“This pattern has three main implications.
“First, Jerusalem will never be more than a secondary city for Muslims; ‘belief in the sanctity of Jerusalem... cannot be said to have been widely diffused nor deeply rooted in Islam.’
“Second, the Muslim interest lies not so much in controlling Jerusalem as it does in denying control over the city to anyone else.
“Third, the Islamic connection to the city is weaker than the Jewish one because it arises as much from transitory and mundane considerations as from the immutable claims of faith...
“In modern times, some scholars have come to the same conclusion: ‘Jerusalem plays for the Jewish people the same role that Mecca has for Muslims,’ writes Abdul Hadi Palazzi, director of the Cultural Institute of the Italian Islamic Community...”

13 November 2018

Australians do support recognising Jerusalem

The brouhaha that followed the federal government’s announcement that Australia will consider moving Australia’s Israeli embassy to Jerusalem continues to sputter along. Immediately following the announcement the ABC reported, correctly, that Indonesia’s Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi had expressed concerns about the announcement to Marise Payne. But the ABC also jumped the gun and reported, incorrectly, that Indonesia was considering putting the proposed Indonesia Australia Comprehensive Economic Partnership on hold. The latter proposition was swiftly and emphatically denied by Indonesian Trade Minister Enggartiasto Lukito who confirmed that the deal remains on track to be signed this year. The deal is as much in Indonesia’s interests as Australia’s.
Whilst the Palestinian cause is a highly emotive one within the 56 states of the Organisation of Islamic Co-operation, including Indonesia and Malaysia, none of these states has a record of putting its concerns for the Palestinians ahead of its own national interests. States rarely place sentiment above their national interests.  The Indonesian Trade Minister’s statements should not have come as a surprise.
A second tack taken by critics of the announcement was given voice by the Palestinian Authority’s envoy to Australia, Izzat Abdulhadi, who claimed that moving the Australian Embassy to Jerusalem would be ‘contrary to international law’ and would thus make Australia ‘an international pariah’. To support the claim, Palestinian spokespeople frequently cite UN Security Council Resolution 478 which they say is a decision binding on all States under Article 25 of the UN Charter. However, 478 only applies to action taken by Israel to assert its sovereignty ‘in the Palestinian and other Arab territories occupied since June 1967, including Jerusalem’. Israel’s government precinct is located in the western part of the city, which has been part of Israel’s sovereign territory since 1948. It is not located in the part of Jerusalem ‘occupied [by Israel] since June 1967’. The US Embassy is located in the western part of the city, as would any other embassy, including ours.
A third criticism was the assertion that most Australians are opposed to moving our embassy in Israel to Jerusalem. A Roy Morgan SMS survey undertaken on December 14-15, 2017 was dusted off to support this claim. It asked the question: Do you support or oppose President Trump’s recent decision to declare Jerusalem the capital of Israel? The survey found 76 per cent of Australians opposed the Trump announcement and 24 per cent supported it. Implausibly, there were no ‘Don’t know’s.

The wording of the question suffered from several defects. It linked recognising Jerusalem as Israel’s capital with Trump, who on any view is a polarising personality. It also mis-characterised Trump’s decision. Trump did not ‘declare’ Jerusalem to be the capital of Israel; the US recognised it as already being Israel’s capital.

There is no way of knowing which of those who answered ‘No’ did so because they did not like Trump personally, or were put off by the controversy, or were misled into believing that Trump was ‘declaring’ Jerusalem to be Israel’s capital, rather than because they were opposed in principle to recognising the reality that Israel’s seat of government has for decades been in Jerusalem.
Israel’s parliament, ministerial offices, Supreme Court, President’s residence and PM’s residence have all been located in the western part of Jerusalem since the early days of the state. This is not part of the area that Israel captured during the 1967 war and is not designated by the UN as ‘Occupied Palestinian Territory’. It is not a part of the city that has been the subject of negotiations for a two-state outcome. Locating an embassy in the uncontested western part of Jerusalem would in no way pre-judge the future status of the contested eastern part of the city captured by Israel in 1967. It is ironic that some of those who argue against a unilateral embassy move on the false premise that it would pre-judge a permanent status issue in the Israel-Palestinian conflict, namely the future status of the eastern part of Jerusalem, are the very people seeking to commit Labor at its National Conference in December to extend unilateral recognition to a Palestinian state. That move would necessarily pre-judge a whole raft of issues, including east Jerusalem.
My organisation, the Executive Council of Australian Jewry, was keen to test the veracity of the Roy Morgan survey. We commissioned YouGov/Galaxy to conduct a poll asking: In 1949, Israel designated Jerusalem to be its capital city, and has its parliament there. Do you think Australia should recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel? The survey was conducted in February among 1,205 Australians. The demographic distribution of the sample as between age, gender, marital/parental status, geographical location, income level and educational attainment reflected the results of the 2016 census as published by the ABS. The margin of error was plus or minus 2.9 per cent.

The results paint a very different picture to the published Roy Morgan findings. A key finding of the YouGov survey was that when the question of Jerusalem was framed as one of whether to ‘recognise’ (rather than ‘declare’) Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, and was asked without mentioning Trump or the US, Australians supported recognition by a margin of almost two to one (40 to 21 per cent).  Based on party preference, those supporting recognition outnumbered those against in every group except the Greens.
My organisation, the peak representative body of the Jewish community, has long supported recognising the reality that Jerusalem is Israel’s capital and moving the embassy there. Of course Jerusalem strikes an emotional chord for all Jews. It has been our people’s spiritual and political capital since the dawn of the Iron Age 3,000 years ago. 
But we also believe it is in Australia’s interests, and the interests of peoples of the Middle East, for western nations to back the region’s only real democracy, instead of cravenly yielding to threats of retaliation or, worse still, conjuring up the spectre of threats which don’t exist
The announcement of the Australian government that it is open to considering whether Australia’s embassy in Israel should be moved to Jerusalem was made four days before the highly-significant by-election for the Federal seat of Wentworth. The timing of the announcement led to a storm of criticism. 
Yet when the issue of recognising Jerusalem as Israel’s capital is considered on its merits, without being accompanied by the hoopla of Australian (or US) domestic politics, the idea enjoys far more support than opposition. Its time will come.

06 November 2018

On the Pittsburgh Synagogue Massacre

by Keith Buxton, on behalf of the Australian pro-Israel Christian community [Minor adaptation of message by Eric Malloy, Bridges for Peace Canada (used with permission)]:

Image result for keith buxton

As millions of Australians mourn the tragic deaths at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, we re-affirm our support and friendship and will continue to do all within our power to educate and act in support of our Jewish friends and the nation of Israel. We will continue to challenge and educate Australians who hold beliefs and take actions that are antisemitic in nature. As families mourn the loss and injury of loved ones, I recall the words of the Psalmist:
But I trust in you, O Lord; I say, ‘You are my God.’ My times are in your hand; rescue me from the hand of my enemies and from my persecutors! Be strong, and let your heart take courage, all you who wait for the Lord! (Psalm 31:14, 15, 24)
Antisemitic words and actions are on the rise in Australia. Most of this evil is perpetrated by far left or far right groups, organisations, and individuals, and by radical Islamists. Political, religious, business, academic, and social leaders are bombarded by lobbyists who are biased against or in outright opposition to Israel and the Jewish people. Many Australian colleges and universities welcome incendiary speakers and educators who spew hate for Israel and Jews, yet refuse to permit pro-Israel speakers and educators to be heard. Some so-called Christian denominations have consciously decided to join the Israel hate-fest and are a discredit to their Christian faith and the Bible that informs it. This hypocrisy fuels antisemites, Holocaust deniers, and radicals. Actions like the Tree of Life Synagogue tragedy are in large part rooted in these and other related factors. I appeal to Australian lawmakers, interpreters, and enforcers to take decisive action before it’s too late.

Members of Parliament and other political leaders have the responsibility to address these evils, to legislate against them, and to enforce that legislation. In many cases, simply enforcing the existing legislation would help stem the tide. Those who participate in BDS and hate need a wake-up call. Clear-minded Australians will not tolerate it. Those who falsely claim “human rights” abuses need to be confronted and have their “story” debunked. Australian politicians need to sift through the rhetoric and stand firm on truth and true justice - not the injustice falsely peddled as justice. Prime Minister Scott Morrison needs to continue to take a lead on this, to do what is right because it is right, to reject voices that support antisemitic or anti-Israel libels and violence, and to be on the right side of history.
MPs who are being lobbied need to fact-check. They need to be informed by reliable sources and to be reminded of self-evident, easily confirmed facts. Those who promote libels need to be identified and exposed for their lies. Those who falsely accuse Israel of apartheid need to observe the obvious: Israel is a free and liberal democracy, and it is many of her neighbours that actually practice racial segregation - against Jews. This is vividly evident with the Palestinian Authority who wants their version of “history” and national aspiration to be respected while denying the Jews theirs. Worse yet, many seemingly intelligent Australian and world leaders act as if this is acceptable. Those who protest by boycotting Israel in Australian institutions and society need to reconsider whether there is any wisdom in boycotting the source of vast breakthroughs in technology, medicine, education, agriculture, defence, emergency response, and human aid, not to mention giving medical treatment to victims of civil conflicts in Syria and Lebanon.

Supporting Israel does not mean demonstrating hate for other nations and people-groups in the region. It’s time for people and organizations to get off the Israel hate-wagon and dialogue in a civil manner. Then maybe some of the fuel for these barbaric incidents would be gone. That sounds like a fair request.