Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council

Media Week - Lyons – 11, Pollard – 1; Tony talks, facts walk; Bruce the goose; A bit of a downer

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Lyons - 11, Pollard - 1

In a story for the Age/Canberra Times/Sydney Morning Herald (21/1) on Israeli Arab voters Ruth Pollard spoke to the controversial anti-Zionist Israeli MK Haneen Zoabi - an interview best described as softer than cashmere.

Pollard claimed Zoabi is "facing the almost impossible task of persuading a disillusioned and demoralised Arab electorate to vote" despite noting that "less than 50 per cent" will vote. This figure doesn't seem too shocking, especially considering all the anti-Israel sentiment expressed by Arab MKs - as a comparison, the turnout in the 2012 US Presidential vote was 58.9. In the end, Israeli Arab turnout was 56 per cent, which was an increase of three per cent on 2009, and the first increase since 2001.

Zoabi, Pollard writes "understands why people from her community may be unwilling to vote. 'Apathy, disappointment, [the idea that] we will change nothing...We need to develop another political struggle, for example civil disobedience, while we are also using our voice inside the Knesset."

The kind of "civil disobedience" that saw her participate in the Gaza flotilla in which "Nine people were killed when Israeli commandos stormed the lead ship - the Mavi Marmara."

The nine dead were among the 40 peace activists wielding metal bars, slingshots, chains and knives who attacked the Israeli commandos, but never mind.

Pollard writes that "a lack of housing, overcrowded schools and discrimination in all walks of life dominate the lives of those [Zoabi] represents."

Clearly the half million Israelis who protested in 2011 over the cost of living suggests that all Israelis suffer housing problems and overcrowding. But when Israeli Arabs experience privation it must be because of discrimination. Nevermind that statistics show that Israeli ultra-Orthodox families are financially worse off than Israeli Arabs.

Zoabi also complained about the "Admissions Committee Law" which allows communities built on state land to reject applicants who "do not suit the lifestyle and social fabric of the community", which "effectively denies Arab citizens the right to live on the majority of the land in Israel."

The law does not specifically apply to Arabs and it certainly does not apply to the majority of the land in Israel. It enables small communities of 400 families or less to form committees to vet new residents and thereby maintain their lifestyle and culture. Normal racial discrimination laws apply, and these committees reject Jews too.

In contrast, the Australian's John Lyons (21/1) also went on the hustings and interviewed eight Israeli Arab voters and three Arab MKs from different parties.

Fish-seller Fayez Najmi, 35, complained to Lyons that "the present crop of Arab politicians do not address local problems" while Arab MK Sheik Ibrahim Sarsur said "Our community is not interested in high strategic policies...We decided the priority is local issues: infrastructure, education, health, sport services."

In a comment that could apply to Australian Greens, former Olmert minister Galeb Magadle said, "There's a big difference between an Arab party that decides that forever it will be in opposition and a party that wants to be in the government."

Hadash MK Afou Eghbaria opposed "a city such as Umm al-Fahm, whose population is 100 per cent Arab...becom[ing] part of Palestine in return for some Jewish settlements being included in Israel." Eghbaria cited healthcare as one key reason, saying, "Every person in Israel can get health services, which is a wonderful thing."

Tony talks, facts walk

Australian Financial Review international editor Tony Walker expressed sympathy (12/1) for Time magazine's assertion that "2012 [w]as the ‘Year of the Israeli Settlement' during which construction quintupled".

Walker also claimed that "Jewish opinion in the US tends to be more liberal - certainly more sophisticated - than its Australian equivalent".

Less sophisticated because Australian Jews won't let myths about settlements obscure the truth?

For example, Netanyahu Government settlement building approvals are lower than under previous governments. Or, since 2003/04 no new settlements have been built, all expansion has occurred only within existing settlements which anyhow cover less than two per cent of the West Bank and don't affect the viability of a Palestinian state.

Of the article's 845 words only a dozen referred to the Palestinians' responsibility for the lack of peace, criticising them for "indulg[ing] persistently in what might be termed hate speech".

Bruce the goose

In the Canberra Times (11/1), former diplomat Bruce Haigh's list of substantive topics the UN Security Council will find on its plate in 2013 icluded Israel which he claimed has a "visceral hatred of Hamas, apparently precluding negotiations".

"Visceral hatred", Mr Haigh?

Israel has repeatedly said it will negotiate with Hamas when it renounces violence, recognises Israel and commits to respect agreements signed by the Palestinian Authority.

In contrast, Khaled Meshal - Hamas' political chief - espoused his clearly inclusive and conciliatory views towards peaceful coexistence with Israel at a rally in Gaza last December commemorating the 25th anniversary of Hamas' founding, saying:

Palestine - from the [Jordan] River to the [Mediterranean] Sea, from its north to its south - is our land, our right, and our homeland. There will be no relinquishing or forsaking even an inch or small part of it...Palestine was, continues to be, and will remain Arab and Islamic....Since Palestine belongs to us...we must never recognize the legitimacy of the Israeli occupation of it. The occupation is illegitimate, and therefore, Israel is illegitimate, and will remain so throughout the passage of time....The liberation of Palestine - all of Palestine - is a duty, a right, a goal, and a purpose....Jihad and armed resistance are the proper and true path to liberation and to the restoration of our rights, along with all other forms of struggle - through politics, through diplomacy, through the masses, and through legal channels. All these forms of struggle, however, are worthless without resistance...Politics are born from the womb of resistance. The true statesman is born from the womb of the rifle and the missile.

A bit of a downer

In the Adelaide Advertiser (14/1) former Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer predicted that Israeli-Palestinian peace is not likely to eventuate in 2013 - blaming the lack of "political support for a two-state negotiated solution" on the Palestinian side.

This reality, he argued, makes "issues like the Jewish settlements on the West Bank, the right of return of Palestinian refugees and where you would actually delineate the border between the two states... fade in significance. Lack of agreement becomes an excuse not to make a deal, not the reason a deal can't be done."

Allon Lee

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