Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council

Media Week - Wild Woolcott; Bedouin Brouhaha; Sober Warning

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Wild Woolcott

Former DFAT head Richard Woolcott wrote a piece for the Age (11/11) critical of Australia's vote against Palestinian membership of UNESCO. Having spent more than half his article setting out the merits of Australia obtaining a seat on the UN Security Council, he then wrote, "In these circumstances, I find it both surprising and a decisive setback to our election prospects that the Prime Minister decided Australia should vote against the admission of Palestine to UNESCO." He continued, "Putting it bluntly, I consider that if we again vote against Palestinian 'statehood' when it comes to the General Assembly, we are most unlikely to be elected to the council. At worst we should abstain." Bizarrely, he then claimed, "I have never argued that we should change policies to secure a vote. What I have argued is that policies should be changed if they are ineffective or overdue for change." This would leave readers wondering why his article spent so long on the Security Council if it's not a consideration in our vote. In another seeming inconsistency, he admitted, "Statehood itself can only result from a negotiated settlement, as all sides know." That is exactly the reason why our government voted against the UNESCO motion - because giving the Palestinians statehood rights at the UN pre-empts and discourages negotiation.

Herald Sun columnist Alan Howe (7/11) had a more realistic view, referring to the UNESCO vote as "another UN farce," and continuing, "The truth is that it is a dangerous ploy by the Palestinians to try to get the UN to grant them nationhood. Palestine is not yet a nation - it rejected that opportunity in a generous offer made by Israel 11 years ago." He described the countries that voted against as "The noble nations that told the truth."

Bedouin Brouhaha

Ruth Pollard wrote a very one-sided piece for the Age and Sydney Morning Herald (5/11) referred to, "Israel's long-term goal of evicting between 30,000 and 40,000 indigenous Bedouin from their lands in the Negev Desert in order to create new Jewish settlements." The fact is that generally the Bedouin have no title to the land they claim, so it is not accurate to characterise it as "their land". The use of the word "settlement" is also misleading, as most readers would assume this means the land is outside Israel's 1967 borders. Referring to one man, she wrote, "And because his village is one of the many ‘unrecognised villages', there is no running water, electricity, social services or schools." If a group in Australia set up a village on unowned land without government authorization, our government wouldn't provide these amenities either. Israel is attempting to settle the Bedouin in recognised towns with these facilities.

Sober Warning

In the wake of the recent IAEA report confirming Iran is developing nuclear weapons, the Australian (10/11) editorialised, "In any country, such developments would be sobering. In one with the bellicose Iranian regime's appalling record on terrorism, crushing human rights, and seeking to wipe Israel off the map, it is deeply troubling."

Jamie Hyams

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