Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council

Media Week - Half-cocked; Nuclear handwringing; Off key; The value of values

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Half-cocked

In the Sun-Herald (30/12), Paul McGeough penned a long article devoted to offensively comparing pro-Israel voices concerned over President Barack Obama's possible nomination of former Republican Senator Chuck Hagel as his next Defence-Secretary to those Americans who defend their right to own guns in the aftermath of the Sandy Hook school massacre.

"If just a single bully works the neighbourhood, there's a good chance that his protection racket can hold up. But when another gangster fronts up on the same sidewalks, there's a risk that the locals will jack up. Maybe American politics is on the cusp of such a revolt...The usually influential gun lobby is being mocked for its absurd defence of the indefensible...Not exactly the time, you'd have thought, for others from the school of hardline lobbying to put their heads above the parapet. But such is the Israel lobby's campaign against the possible appointment of...Hagel...that its tactics are being likened to those of the National Rifle Association."

If McGeough looked beyond his own anti-Israel-centric "parapet" he would have reported that some American Armenians object to Hagel's candidacy because he previously opposed official US government recognition of the Armenian genocide. Likewise, some homosexual leaders are unhappy with Hagel because of comments he made in 1998 as a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee questioning appointing James Hormel as ambassador to Luxembourg, saying an "openly, aggressively gay" man should not represent the United States. Still others question whether Hagel has the experience or temperament for the job. Only conspiracy theorists obsessed with the Israel lobby are reducing Hagel to this one factor.

The Age/Sydney Morning Herald's Washington correspondent Nick O'Malley produced an analysis (9/1) which followed McGeough down the same rabbit hole, writing in the introduction that "the former Republican senator's enemies on the right had been busy for weeks traducing him as an anti-Semite and an appeaser."

In contrast, Ben Potter, the Australian Financial Review's (9/1) Washington correspondent, clearly reads more widely than his fellow Fairfax colleagues, noting that Hagel "has also come under attack from across the political spectrum for querying the suitability of an openly gay candidate for a top diplomatic post in the late 1990s."

Nuclear handwringing

Also in the Sun-Herald (30/12) Geoffrey Robertson QC acknowledged justifiable concern over Iran's nuclear weapons ambitions, noting that if successful "the ruling Mullahs will be invincible and proliferation will follow throughout the Middle East. Saudi Arabia is already negotiating 'off the peg' atom bombs from Pakistan and the Muslim Brotherhood has long had a policy to obtain nuclear weapons for Egypt. The UN has cancelled this month's long-awaited conference in Helsinki on the subject of 'a nuclear-free Middle East', for the very good reason that the Middle East will soon be nuclear-full."

Although "Israel and its allies are entitled to attack an enemy in self-defence", that can only happen "if an attack from that country is 'imminent'."

The solution? "Many states... plan to make the acquisition of nuclear weapons a crime against humanity... That would entitle the Security Council to authorise an attack on Iran or any other country outside the nine that already possess nuclear weapons to stop it from assembling a bomb. But this will have to be accompanied by a binding agreement between the nuclear-armed states gradually to reduce the number of nukes in their arsenals to zero and by the establishment of a powerful UN inspection agency to replace the toothless International Atomic Energy Agency, which cannot inspect suspicious facilities, in Iran or elsewhere, without the permission of the suspect state."

And in which hypothetical world was Robertson expecting this disarmament scenario to transpire? 

Off key

A half-hour program on ABC Radio's "Night Air" (9/12) entitled "Invisible Palestine" featured largely unidentified historic and contemporary sound grabs and reportage that amounted to a hodgepodge of distorted history that was irredeemably anti-Israel.

Presenter Brent Clough's introduction attempted to include a veneer of balance with the line that "We've all recently witnessed the awful convulsions in Gaza and in southern Israel".

But in dedicating the program to "those innocent victims of this war who, torn off from the West Bank, were stranded in Gaza in a state of siege and unable to leave or hide from the bombs and the drone attacks" the show's actual sympathy was clear.

Clough's brief history lesson also left much to be desired: "There are Palestinians, but there is no Palestine, at least, in modern geography there is no Palestine. Yet, in history, we know it did exist, mainly as a province of empires. The Egyptian, the Babylonian, the Roman, the Arab, the Ottoman. Its last incarnation was as a British mandate which came to an end with the birth of Israel in 1948. Descended from the Philistines, from which the word Palestine derives, the Canaanites and the Arabs, Palestinians have dwelt in this land since time immemorial. It is also the Holy Land, sacred to the peoples of the book, Jews, Christians and Muslims."

Griffith University academic Halim Rane sketched an unrecognisable version of history that in "1947, half the Palestinian population were driven from their homes and land. This resulted in Israel declaring its state."

Multiple references were made to the alleged cruelty of the security wall.

Unsurprisingly, the link between the need for the barrier's construction to prevent suicide bombers successfully crossing into Israel from the West Bank was obscured. In fact the program made the opposite case, with Tel Aviv Professor Gadi Algazi adamant security had "nothing to do with it".
 
The evident manipulation in the show was also unsurprising, given that the obsessive anti-Israel Cathy Peters was the program's producer. Peters is the former NSW Greens councillor who was instrumental in proposing the notorious BDS motion to Marrickville Council in 2010.

The value of values

 

In the Spectator Australia (8/12) Tim Smith excoriated the federal government for, essentially, showing a lack of values by not voting against the upgrade of the status of Palestinian representation at the UN.

"We don't like to assert moral absolutes anymore. Polite society suggests it's simplistic or gauche to speak in such terms of right and wrong, black and white, friend or foe. But you can't run semantic arguments of relativism with regard to Israel... As [Canadian Prime Minister Stephen] Harper said: ‘Israel is the only country in the world whose very existence is under attack and is consistently and conspicuously singled out for condemnation.' You either support Israel or you don't...Israel is the only true democracy in the Middle East. It is the only country where woman, gays and minorities are protected by law, whose people vote in free and fair elections, and where the rule of law is sovereign."

- Allon Lee

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