Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council

Media Week - Rinse Saikal; Notes and Stones; Seriously Silly

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Rinse Saikal

According to ANU's Professor Amin Saikal in the Canberra Times (Aug. 22), "upon assuming the presidency, Obama...had to deal with a hostile Republican-dominated Congress, where Israel's interests have repeatedly trumped those of the United States. As a result, he...has backed away from securing a resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as a means to demonstrate that the US is a dispassionate and unbiased player in the region."

Saikal is betraying his usual inability to comprehend that US support for Israel might conceivably be based on principle and shared interests.

History shows that Obama managed to convince a sceptical Israel to accept several policies and positions that he insisted were necessary preconditions for peace talks. These include Israeli PM Binyamin Netanyahu's 2009 Bar-Ilan speech backing a Palestinian state, a 10-month settlements building freeze in 2009-10, and a goodwill release of Palestinian prisoners in 2013-14.

History also shows that despite Israel's concessions for peace, the Palestinian Authority resisted talks and then cut them short at the point actual compromises needed to be made.

Moreover, the past five years of chaos in the Middle East have disproved once and for all the shallow idea that US support for Israel has hampered its own national interests. If anything, Israel has proved itself the one island of stability in the region that the US can depend upon.

Notes and Stones

Former Sydney Great Synagogue Chief Rabbi Raymond Apple discussed the Western Wall, one of Judaism's holiest sites, from a spiritual perspective on the ABC's "Religion & Ethics" website (Aug. 23).

"Countless visitors bring their own private prayers and requests to the ancient stones. Not all are certain what the word ‘God' means to them. But everyone... senses the Divine Presence in this place. It is customary to place a folded scrap of paper in the Wall's crevices" and "ask for Divine support and intervention."

Rabbi Apple advised against "leav[ing] everything to God. To ask Him to do all the work is to abdicate. As Rav Kook says, it also diminishes the One who created so much talent in each of His creatures. At the same time, don't try to do it all yourself and leave nothing to Him. That's just arrogance. Ask for His help," .

Seriously Silly

A segment on ABC Radio National "Life Matters" from producer Amal Awad (Aug. 22), looking at the challenges of being an "Arab-Muslim-Australian - Palestinian-Muslim-Australian", included her stating in all seriousness that Palestine is "a nation the world likes to pretend is non-existent but it exists."

Seriously? The Palestinians are the only "nation" with their own dedicated United Nations aid agency, plus three other official UN bodies dedicated to their cause - and every year the UN General Assembly passes 20-odd pro-Palestinian UN resolutions. Meanwhile, the number of media organisations based in Israel - there primarily to cover the conflict with the Palestinians - is far in excess of any other comparable conflict zone in the world.

Kurds, Tibetans, Western Saharans, Basques, Tamils - any other group striving for independence would do almost anything for the attention the Palestinians receive.

- Allon Lee

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