Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council

Media Week - “Foreign Interests” fail; Human cannon fodder

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"Foreign Interests" fail

A series of articles in Fairfax newspapers focusing on the gifts and trips received by Australian Federal MPs offered sweeping and problematic generalisations on trips parliamentarians have made to Israel.

The initial story in the Age, Sydney Morning Herald and Canberra Times (30/8) by Stuart Washington and Tom Allard stated that "politicians are being serially wooed by foreign interests, with Israel and Israeli lobby groups giving politicians 44 fully or partly funded trips to Israel and other destinations disclosed in the past two years."

An Age editorial (31/8) used the same language, warning politicians against accepting "travel, accommodation or gifts" that risks "compromising their decisions as public representatives" saying these were apparently efforts to "influence political decision-makers by undemocratic means."

A feature (1/9) "sifting" the database identified "heavy influence from certain regions and certain companies. Israel and Taiwan - both facing challenges - are the biggest national supporters of trips by Australian politicians." The Sydney Morning Herald omitted the line about "challenges".

One problem with this coverage is that, examining the newspapers' online database accompanying the article, it is difficult to identify the 44 trips the newspapers claim MPs made to Israel. Our count is lower.

There is, however, a more serious, and potentially even offensive or insidious issue with the language used to describe the visits. Few, if any, of these visits were sponsored by "Israel" or even "Israeli lobby groups".

Overwhelmingly they were provided by Australian Jewish groups using Australian sponsorship (in the case of AIJAC's Rambam program, for instance, all funds and sponsorship is Australian).

No "foreign interests" were involved.

This is about Australian citizens with an interest in a particular foreign policy issue attempting to familiarise their political leaders about their concerns in the most effective way possible.

AIJAC's Rambam study program, for example, enables politicians to explore Middle East and Israeli political and social realities that cannot be appreciated by relying on media coverage alone.

Moreover, Fairfax journalists have also completed Rambam study programs and many will know that participants don't only engage the political spectrum in Israel but also visit the Palestinian Authority, including either Ramallah, Bethlehem and/or a refugee camp.

As a graduate of one of these visits, perhaps co-author Tom Allard should have shared this fact.

Human cannon fodder

Sydney Morning Herald/Age correspondent Ruth Pollard (28/8) wrote on the Israeli court case regarding the accidental death of Rachel Corrie.

Pollard described Corrie as a "peace activist" working "in southern Gaza with the pro-Palestinian International Solidarity Movement...on non-violent protests that involved acting as a human shield to prevent the Israel Defence Forces from bulldozing Palestinian homes."

In 2002, a year before Corrie died, Adam Shapiro and Huwaida Arraf - the founders of the International Solidarity Movement (ISM) - boasted that "The Palestinian resistance must take on a variety of characteristics, both non-violent and violent...Yes, people will get killed and injured" but these deaths are "no less noble than carrying out a suicide operation."

Hardly the words of those committed to peace, more the sentiments of a pro-terrorist movement in need of human cannon fodder, which helps explain why a few weeks after Corrie's death senior Islamic Jihad terrorist Shadi Sukiya was arrested whilst hiding in ISM's Jenin office. (A detailed backgrounder on ISM can be found on the website of NGO Monitor).

Furthermore, on the same day, the Age also featured a full-page profile of Corrie and her parents reprinted from the Guardian.

- Allon Lee

 

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