Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council

Media Microscope: On the Fault Line

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Jamie Hyams


Sadly, it seems there will always be those who, regardless of the true nature of tensions in the Middle East, and despite the plethora of evidence to the contrary, sheet all the blame home to Israel. Indeed, as David Burchell, writing in the Australian (Jan. 11), noted, “In all likelihood 2011 will see the apogee of Western Israel-loathing, eclipsing even the late 1960s and early 1970s, when Israel’s victories over the Arab armies led to the invention of an imaginary country, the Israeli Goliath bullying the Arab David, and to the invention of an imaginary people, the saintly and unstained Palestinians, who forever lie bereft by the side of the road waiting for their Good Samaritan.”

A prime example of this mentality is Gwynne Dyer, whose writing regularly appears in the Canberra Times. In the Dec. 27 Times, he claimed, “Nobody in authority will publicly admit that no Israeli government will take on the Jewish settlers in the West Bank and force through a ‘land for peace’ deal, or that there is no unified government for Israelis to talk to on the Palestinian side.” Israeli governments have in the past offered a Palestinian state in almost all of the West Bank, only to be rebuffed. It would actually be more accurate to say that, if the Palestinians were genuinely offering peace, no Israeli government would refuse it to retain the West Bank.

At least Dyer accepts that the split in the Palestinians is a problem, but the rest of the article absolved Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas of all blame for the current impasse, even though he refuses to even negotiate. For example, Dyer speculated that Netanyahu may have refused the deal for a further moratorium (which Netanyahu actually supported) “because he has always secretly opposed a land for peace deal with the Palestinians anyway.” And he portrayed Netanyahu’s insistence that the Palestinians recognise Israel as a Jewish state as simply a tactic to stymie negotiations.

In Australia, the darling of the hate Israel brigade is Antony Loewenstein, who on the ABC News 24 panel program, “The Drum” (Jan. 10), claimed, “Israel by its own actions is killing the two-state solution, in fact it’s killed it dead.” Totally ignoring all Israeli offers of a Palestinian state, Loewenstein described the peace process as “a dance to allow settlements to expand.”

Perhaps the ultimate expression of this mindset is to take part in a campaign of boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel, as NSW’s Greens dominated Marrickville Council has chosen to do. In an article explaining this decision on the “Drum Unleashed” on the ABC website, (Jan. 13) Fiona Byrne, Marrickville Mayor and Greens candidate for the state seat of Marrickville, paralleled Israel to Burma and to “the use of child labour in cocoa farms in the Ivory Coast.” Whether intentionally or otherwise, Byrne was honest enough to admit the move had nothing to do with encouraging peace, writing, “Council has not expressed an opinion about the future of Israel and whether Palestine should be a separate state. Rather, Council’s concern is Israel’s violation of the human rights of the Palestinian people, especially its blockade of Gaza and its establishment of illegal settlements on the West Bank.” Interestingly, she did not explain why Marrickville is not boycotting Egypt, whose blockade of Gaza is much more restrictive than Israel’s, nor Turkey, which settles its citizens in unrecognised northern Cyprus.

Fortunately, this decision attracted strong criticism, led by a perhaps unlikely source, federal government minister and local MP Anthony Albanese, founding secretary of the parliamentary friends of Palestine. He told Paul Maley of the Australian (Jan. 13) “As an advocate of peace in the Middle East which achieves justice for both Palestinians and Israelis we need sensible solutions and understanding, not counter-productive self-indulgence.” The following day, in the same paper, Mr. Albanese went further, writing in an opinion piece, “This ill thought-out attempt to challenge the state of Israel through a single local council in the inner west of Sydney is clumsy and counterproductive. I believe that engagement between peoples promotes understanding and tolerance… Any lasting resolution to the Middle East conflict cannot be at the expense of either Palestinians or Israelis. Surely contact and engagement between Palestinians and Israelis is a precondition for a peaceful settlement.”

James Morrow, in the Daily Telegraph (Jan. 13) pointed out, “Fatah, and indeed most of that part of the world with the exception of Israel, is not exactly committed to those values Greens share with normal people, including the right of women to dress how they choose and of homosexuals not to be executed.”

Nick Dyrenfurth, in the Australian (Jan. 21) commented, “We shall await with bated breath the Council’s replacement of Israeli-designed Google search engines, Intel processors and other technology.”

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