Letters published in The Australian on 17 March re PM’s motion honouring Israel’s independence
Celebrations overlook the plight of Palestinians
THE legal propriety of the November 1947 UN General Assembly vote that prompted Palestine’s dismemberment is still controversial. The sea of darkness to which you refer in your editorial ("An island of hope in a sea of darkness”, 15-16/3) is a direct outcome of that vote and the hostility engendered as the overwhelming majority of the native population became dispossessed. Contemporary Israel is born out of ethnic cleansing and remains both unapologetic and unreformed. Her intransigence perpetuates indigenous dispossession, has promoted extremist reaction and denies a still native majority the self-determination that is its due according to the UN Charter.
I RESIGNED from my union today because I refuse to be part of an organisation that supports an advertisement that backs terrorism (12/3). A union is about protecting the rights of workers, not backing terrorists in the Middle East. They can do so at their own expense, not at mine. And not in my name.
IN its coverage of Israeli/Palestinian issues, The Australian continues to represent both views, while not constantly looking to find an equivalence between them. Yet an obvious downside of the right to free press is that opinions can be published without any factual justification. Moammar Mashni (Letters, 15-16/3) writes that in Israel expressing an opinion is met with artillery fire and collective punishment. Israel is a country which tolerates members of its own parliament refusing to condemn even a home-grown terrorist. Israel is a country which continues to select Israel-Arab football players to represent the national team despite the fact that they refuse to sing the national anthem. Israel is a country where laws protecting civil rights are so expansive that the mourning tent celebrating the courage of the latest terrorist cannot be removed from the streets of its capital city. Israel is the world leader in civil rights. Which begs the question: How would Washington, London or Canberra, let alone Cairo, Beirut or Damascus have responded to these challenges?
Caulfield Nth, Vic
IRRESPECTIVE of what your correspondents with contrasting views have argued, none of them could possibly deny that from the moment Palestinians stop killing Israelis, not a single Palestinian would have to die in this conflict. Any indignation about civilian casualties on Palestinian side is therefore disingenuous.
Clifton Beach, Qld
I DON’T know Helen Cox’s motivation (Letters 15-16/3), but her passion for justice appears midirected. Israel, unlike, say, Hamas, does not make any claim to the whole of biblical Israel, or even the whole of mandate Palestine - three-quarters of which now forms Jordan.
Israeli Arabs live unmolested, with parliamentary representation, in Israel. For them to live in peace in Palestinian areas all they need do is stop attacking Israel.
MORTALITY statistics from the UN population division, UNICEF, medical literature and other sources enable estimates of the annual risk of death for various groups.
The risk from US-Israeli actions is vastly greater than that to Westerners from Muslim-origin non-state terrorism.
The annual risk of violent death from Muslim-origin non-state terrorism over the past 40 years has been 0.03 per 100,000 for Western civilians, 0.03 per 100,000 for US civilians and 1 in 100,000 for Israelis.
The annual risk of actively or passively caused death from Occupier state terrorism has been 320 per 100,000 for Occupied Palestinians (1967-2008), about 1000 per 100,000 for Occupied Iraqis (2003-2008) and about 3000 per 100,000 for Occupied Afghans (2001-2008). The annual risk of death is 2200 per 100,000 for Indigenous Australians, 2700 per 100,000 for Occupied Iraqi infants and 6700 per 100,000 for Occupied Afghan infants and was 10,200 per 100,000 for Australian prisoners of war of the Japanese and 17,000 per 100,000 for Jews in Nazi-occupied Europe in World War II.
Dr Gideon Polya
ISRAEL’S ambassador to Australia, Yuval Rotem (Inquirer, 15-16/3) should not push his luck. Australians don’t like being taken for granted.
Diplomats need to keep a weather eye open and even Mr Rotem should have picked up some pointed hints this week in the federal parliament; the number of those celebrating Israel’s statehood anniversary has clearly and noticeably thinned.
With the Palestinian Authority President, Mahmoud Abbas, himself labelling the Jerusalem expansion plan as “ethnic cleansing” (15-16/3), Israel’s Foreign Minister, Tzipi Livni, picked the wrong week to describe the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as “the sexiest conflict on the world”.
Letter on PM’s motion honouring Israel sent to Australian media on 13 March 2008
Wednesday’s motion in Parliament delivered by PM Kevin Rudd, honouring Israel was truly a historical event. Never before has a state been lauded in such a manner given it undeniably chequered past. The people of Israel and Jews around the world would no doubt be proud of their nation’s achievements. But if we are to be true to ourselves, then we must accept that for all of the bells and whistles that were attached to the motion and the dinner in the Mural Hall that followed, we most certainly must recognise the abhorrent dispossession of the 750,000 or more Palestinians that ensued as a result of the creation of Israel. My late Father was one of those who were driven from his homeland 60 years ago in May. Many letters and opinions have been expressed, probably the worst of which was that ASIO now has a “hit-list”. In a real democracy, like Australia, one can freely express his or her opinion without the fear of retribution. Sadly, the same cannot be said of Israel, where expressing your opposition is met with artillery fire and collective punishment. I am proud to have had my name on that list along with hundreds of other informed Australians who said: “Not in our name.”
LIKE most Australians, I unreservedly support Israel and celebrate its 60 years of democratic statehood.
The Jewish people have the deepest imaginable claims to the land of Israel. After thousands of years in the land which is now Israel they were defeated, displaced and dispersed by the Romans.
During 2000 years of exile - an exile that saw them facing brutal persecutions because of their religious commitment - the Jewish people maintained a total commitment to the land of Israel, and they continued to weep over the destruction of their temples and their displacement from the land they loved.
Modern Zionism saw Jews returning to the land that was central to their religion and to their identity as Jews. They returned as sons and daughters returning home, not as colonial aggressors. The rebirth of Israel as a modern democratic nation is one of the greatest epic and inspirational stories in world history. It is a rebirth that was sanctioned by the world community through the UN. That Israel continues to survive as a bastion of democracy in a troubled region is cause for celebration.
Dr Bill Anderson
School of Historical Studies
University of Melbourne, Vic
ONCE again The Australian has taken a one-eyed stance on Israel. Your editorial (12/3) cites the terrible shooting of eight young students in Jerusalem but at no stage mentions the fact that the previous week Israel had killed 27 Palestinian children in Gaza in four days, including 20-day-old Amira Abu Aser. Your editorial also fails to mention that more than 300 Palestinians have been killed by Israel since the so-called Annapolis peace conference or that Israel has been carrying out illegal collective punishment against 1.5 million Palestinians in Gaza since October last year.
As for the statement that Israelis never engage in barbaric displays of celebration when Palestinians are murdered, your editor should take a trip to Hebron where the grave of mass murderer Baruch Goldstein is located. Goldstein shot dead 29 Palestinians at prayer in 1994 and is celebrated each year as a hero by Israel’s religious right-wing.
THE propaganda war against Israel continues with the advertisement (12/3) attacking federal parliament’s support. Most notable is the setting up of a website and the attempt to promote the concept of al-Nakba (Catastrophe) of 1948 as a counterweight to the Holocaust (Shoah) that involved the extermination of 6 million Jews by the Nazis.
The objectives of this strategy are, first, to relativise the horrendous tragedy suffered by the Jews and make it seem no greater than that allegedly suffered by the Palestinians at the hands of Israel; second, to displace the Holocaust and make it appear that Palestinians have suffered a greater tragedy. The goal, pursued by many Muslim leaders, is to deny that the Holocaust happened.
It is, therefore, quite disturbing to see that a number of prominent Australians have attached their names to the advertisement and indicated support for the falsehoods it contains. In particular, it makes the ridiculous claim that Israel has poisoned the West’s relations with the whole of the Arab and Muslim world. One would have thought that the Muslims that regularly carry out terrorist attacks across the globe are capable of doing that without any help from Israel.
Mervyn F. Bendle
School of Arts and Social Sciences
James Cook University
TO those defenders of the right of Israel to exist at any price maybe they would be kind enough to answer two questions. First, what did the Palestinian people have to do with the Holocaust? Second, would the Jewish people have quietly accepted without a fight the UN telling them to vacate land they occupied if it was them and not Palestinians who had to make way for a Palestinian state?
There would be very few people who would deny what happened to the Jews in World War II was a crime against humanity. However, to continue to use the Holocaust to justify the displacement of another people to make way for the Jewish state is not right.
CONGRATULATIONS to federal Labor MP Julia Irwin for her courageous stand opposing the bipartisan motion. It is a disgrace that our Government and Opposition should choose to honour a country that is in breach of the Geneva convention in its treatment of Palestinians, and that is in breach of UN resolutions requiring it to withdraw from lands stolen from the Palestinian people.
I COMMEND federal parliament for its continued bipartisan support of Israel, the only democratic country in the Middle East.
Survivors of the Holocaust know the real meaning of ethnic cleansing and genocide.
To compare Israel’s actions in defence of its citizens against daily attacks by a hostile neighbour with Nazi Germany policies of extermination - as that advertisement does - is to completely misunderstand the nature of the Holocaust. It is frankly anti-semitic and disrespectful of the 6 million Jews murdered by the Nazis for no other reason than that they were Jewish.
Dr George Foster
Australian Association of Jewish Holocaust
Survivors and Descendants
An island of civilisation in a sea of barbarism
MOST TALKED ABOUT - ISRAEL
A SURVEY of the 60 years of Israel’s existence shows that its conduct has not always been beyond reproach (which nation’s has?) and that the Palestinians have a case which deserves consideration.
The most extraordinary feature of Isreal’s history is that - surrounded by enemies dedicated to its destruction and the extermination of its inhabitants - it has not only survived but maintained a high standard of liberalism and democracy. In the context of the Middle East, Israel remains an island of civilisation in a sea of barbarism.
It would be interesting to know how many of the individuals and organisations in the anti-Israel advertisement in The Australian (12/3) have ever protested against the dictatorship, torture, sexism, racism, censorship, arbitrary imprisonment and denial of human rights rife among Israel’s opponents.
HELEN Cox expresses “deep regret, disappointment and a sense of betrayal’’ in relation to federal parliament’s honouring of Israel’s 60 years of independence (Letters, 12/3).
For reasons vastly different from hers, I share those sentiments: deep regret that modern Israel did not exist for the 6 million European Jews murdered by the Nazis while most of the rest of the world refused them sanctuary and looked the other way; and a sense of betrayal that Israel, despite being a beacon of enlightenment, egalitarianism and democracy in an area of repression, fundamentalism and black hatred, remains so isolated and misrepresented internationally. Australia is to be commended for its long-standing, principled and bipartisan support for the state of Israel.
East St Kilda, Vic
ANY blood that was spilt following Israel’s founding in 1948 was as a direct result of the invasion of the fledgling state by Arab armies intent on wiping it out. Unfortunately, this 60-year-old hatred lives on in the words and tone of Helen Cox and Margaret Millar’s letters (12/3).
Perhaps it is impossible to change the minds of some people whose mind has been made up, but I cannot help thinking that there might be some real moves to reconciliation if contributors such as these occasionally felt some compassion for the other side.
MY wife and I sponsor, through World Vision, a child living in Gaza. This is something we can do to show our sympathy for the suffering of the Palestinian people. Most of the land where the child’s family lives has been confiscated and what remains is restricted by regulation. Clean water is scarce and sanitation poor. We have been most anxious about the child’s safety.
The Australian’s editorial praising Israel and parliament’s congratulations on its 60 years of independence made no reference to the sufferings imposed on the Palestinian people by Israel’s powerful military forces.
We pray that the child we sponsor may grow up healthy and in peace, but we fear that this won’t happen as long as the US and its allies continue to praise Israel while portraying Palestinians as bad.
HELEN Cox’s view that Israel was founded on the blood of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians is a strange warping of historical fact. Israel was founded on the ashes of millions who were executed in the Nazi Holocaust. Ms Cox might find it illuminating to reflect on how much better off the Palestinians would be if, over the last 60 years, they had shed their victimhood to develop a democratic government.
THE Australian Workers Union has written to the Histadrut, the umbrella body of the Israeli trade union movement, to congratulate them on their important role in the creation of the state of Israel 60 years ago.
The AWU wholeheartedly supports Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s initiative to have parliament offer Australia’s continuing goodwill and support to the people of Israel.
We are heartened by the fact that the Histadrut and the Palestinian General Federation of Trade Unions are working closely on a number of projects to improve the economic lot of the people of the West Bank.
Our union cannot understand those union leaders here in Australia, and Labor MPs who line up in support of Hamas. Hamas and Islamic Jihad have a history of hostility to labour unions. Palestinian union leaders have been assassinated and kidnapped by Hamas and Islamic Jihad, union leaders have seen their offices and homes burned down by these elements who are hostile to the creation of independent civil-society organisations.
While there is much to be critical of in the way Israel has handled some elements of the Palestinian question, our critique is no different from that of many others inside Israel, a nation with a vibrant civil and political life that allows for the equal participation of all its citizens.
Unfortunately the same democratic values are not upheld by the Palestinian leadership who have stood by and allowed corruption and thuggery to be the dominant language in the Palestinian territories.
Palestinian approach led to their own misfortune
THOSE Australian Palestinians and their supporters who felt the need to advertise their continuing prejudice towards Israel in The Australian (12/3) need to come to terms with reality.
Israel was created as a result of the UN vote of November 1947 which partitioned the British mandate territory of Palestine into two states: Jewish and Arab. Unfortunately, the Palestinians and neighbouring Arab states rejected this decision, and attempted to drown Israel at birth.
The Palestinian refugee tragedy that ensued was a direct by-product of that decision to go to war. That all-or-nothing approach has got the Palestinians nowhere.
Today the priority for both Israelis and Palestinians is to achieve a compromise two-state solution that will ensure the security of Israel, and the establishment of an independent state in the West Bank and Gaza for the Palestinians. Peace and reconciliation will require significant concessions on both sides.
Those of us who live in far-off Australia have a responsibility to support negotiations between the Israeli Government and the Palestinian Authority that will hopefully lead to conflict resolution, rather than fanning the fires of further violence and hatred.
Dr Philip Mendes
Professor Douglas Kirsner
Monash University, Vic
AS I turned to page 7 yesterday I was amazed to see an advertisement attacking Israel.
The most surprising thing was the very inaccurate historical description of the events of 1948.
What was not mentioned was the UN vote in favour of the establishment of the state of Israel alongside a Palestinian state in November 1947. Also not mentioned was the Palestinian rejection of the UN vote and the subsequent invasion of Israel by surrounding Arab nations with the stated intention of ``pushing its population into the sea’’.
Palestinian citizens of Israel and Israeli Arabs have been elected to Israel’s parliament. Israeli Arab citizens, just like Israeli Jewish citizens, have full voting rights. It is important for us here in democratic Australia to know that Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East and deserves our support for its right of continued existence as a nation.
Bentleigh East, Vic
Skewed version of history
THE parliamentary motion of support for Israel was passed unanimously and thus had the endorsement of both sides of politics.
Whether those who placed yesterday’s advertisement acknowledge it or not, most Australians simply do not accept its ludicrously skewed version of history.
No serious analysis of the dispossession of the Palestinians can ignore the open declaration of civil war against the country’s Jewish population by Palestinian leaders in November 1947, the invasion of the country by five Arab states in May 1948 or the gobbling up of the West Bank and Gaza Strip by Jordan and Egypt respectively during that war. Nor does the advertisement acknowledge the dispossession of an equal number of Jews in Arab countries from their homes and livelihoods after 1948.
Unlike the Palestinians, their dispossession did not take place during a life and death struggle in wartime. And unlike the Palestinians, they were not deliberately kept in refugee camps for decades to be used as pawns to serve the political agendas of their leaders and the educated fools in the West who support them.
Darling Point, NSW
HELEN Cox (Letters, 12/3) says that Israel was built on the blood of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians.
Without wanting to condone or minimise Palestinian suffering, it is more to the point to say that Israel was built on the blood of the Holocaust millions.
It seems that anti-semitism is the only form of racism that is not only acceptable, but positively fashionable, and looks likely to remain so all the time the Israelis stubbornly refuse to be blown to bits by suicide bombers.
Dr Philip Cole
Too much fiction
THE fawning adulation heaped on Israel by our parliament is strange given the circumstances of Israel’s creation.
When the British took Palestine from the Turks in 1917, Palestine had been Arab for 1300 years. Jews formed only 9 per cent of the population. Most of these were recently arrived Zionist settlers from Eastern Europe. Even at this early stage, the Palestinians were alarmed by a Zionist intention to achieve a Jewish majority in Palestine, take over the country and, if necessary, transfer the Palestinians out.
By 1947, despite large-scale Jewish immigration from Europe, Jews still only formed one-third of the population (650,000 Jews to 1.3 million Palestinians). However, the UN plan to partition Palestine into an Arab and a Jewish state gave the Jews 54 per cent of the country, even though they only owned 6 per cent of its land.
The Palestinians were being asked to accept the partition of their country for the benefit of a minority of recently arrived foreigners. Not surprisingly, they refused.
In the war that followed, these European Jewish settlers attacked and occupied areas allocated to the proposed Palestinian state, ethnically cleansed 750,000 Palestinians, massacred thousands more, and committed widespread acts of looting and rape.
They then destroyed 385 Palestinian towns and villages and shot Palestinians who attempted to return to their homes. Only the intervention of the Arab armies prevented the Jewish takeover of all of Palestine in 1948.
This is all documented by Israeli historians. Unfortunately, our MPs appear to have read too many Israeli handouts and Leon Uris novels.
Hamas insists on violence
I AM deeply disturbed by the advertiser’s wrongful accusation of racism and ethnic cleansing occurring in Israel.
Nothing could be further from the truth. The advertiser’s comments are disgusting and offensive. Israel does all it can to limit civilian casualties. Her opponents fight from within residential areas in order to cause civilian casualties.
I am also concerned at the advertiser’s questioning of the establishment of the state of Israel calling it a catastrophe. Israel was formed by UN charter and it is the land Jews were expelled from at least 2000 years before Palestinians arrived.
Israel has always tried to make peace. If Hamas laid down its arms and sat at a table, peace could be made and the lives of thousands could be improved overnight.
But instead, Hamas insists on violence and the never-ending circle of violence continues. You don’t see celebrations of Palestinian deaths on the streets of Israel.
St Ives, NSW
A list for ASIO to mull over
IF that rather rabid advertisement on the alleged genocide in Palestine did nothing else, it would certainly have provided some more grist to ASIO’s mill.
Most of the usual suspects are there, of course, and a sprinkling of clergy with not enough to do.
I was surprised to see the Communist Party of Australia listed, but whatever this bunch of troublemakers claim, of two things I am certain. First, that the Jews are entitled to their state. The Palestinian Arabs have no mortgage on justice. Israel belongs to the Jewish people as it always has.
Second, there was no genocide. It is as simple as that and no amount of emotional shouting will make it so.
Palestinians had no choice
YOUR editorial (12/3) flies in the face of history by asserting that the Zionist colonisers and occupiers of Palestine are the real victims of the Middle East conflict.
Protected by British bayonets, the Zionist movement came to the Middle East with the purpose of carving a Jewish state out of as much of Palestine as it could get away with. The Palestinians, as non-Jews, were guilty of one thing only - being in the way. Like every people faced by a colonial invader they were given no other choice but to resist their dispossession or acquiesce in it.
For a country that continues to profit from the exile of millions of stateless Palestinian refugees, and the brutal occupation of the rest, to be congratulated on its 60th anniversary by the federal Government is unconscionable.