Friday, October 9, 2015

PETER RODGERS: High time Australia told Israel a few home truths

Dear friends,
on rare occassions the pro-Zionist Murdoch press runs an occassional article or op-ed criticising Israel. This one of them. This article is by a former Australian Ambassador to Israel, Peter Rodgers.

However, no doubt we expect The Australian to also publish, as it always does, a slew of pro-Israel articles from Zionist writers and Zionist organisations to counter anything they publish that may be construed as "anti-Israel"

In solidarity, Kim


High time Australia told Israel a few home truths

In September 2000, Israel’s opposition leader at the time, Ariel Sharon, visited the Haram al-Sharif in ­Jerusalem, a site of intense religious significance for Muslims and Jews (as the Temple Mount). 

Sharon’s purpose was entirely political — a statement that a Likud government would never cede control of the area to the ­Palestinians. The visit helped ­trigger the second Palestinian uprising. When it ended, about 6000 people lay dead, more than 80 per cent of them Palestinian.

Fast forward to 2015. As Israelis celebrated the Jewish New Year in September, Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel led a group of the Likud Young Guard up the Haram al-Sharif, their self-proclaimed goal to “assert Jewish sovereignty” over the area. Palestinians, not surprisingly, reacted with suspicion, hostility and, in some cases, violence. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu threatened a “harsh offensive” in return, demonstrating once more that there is no greater double standard in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict than the issue of violence. Israel uses violence against Palestinians as a matter of course. It expects Palestinian quiescence and acts indignantly when this is not forthcoming.

For years Palestinians were told to eschew violence or forget about a state of their own. Then in the lead-up to the Israeli general election last March, Netanyahu categorically buried any prospect of that. As respected Israeli journalist Gideon Levy wrote on Monday, “Israel has consistently proven to the Palestinians that quiet will be met only with an intensification of the occupation, settlement expansion, more home demolitions, more mass arrests.”

Citing a horrific firebombing in late July in the West Bank, Levy asked how Palestinians could remain quiet “when the Dawabsheh family is burnt alive in Duma and no one is arrested or brought to trial by Israel, while Defence Minister Moshe Yaalon boasts that Israel knows who perpetrated that shocking crime but, to safeguard its intelligence network, will not arrest them?”

Bereft of any other vision Israel’s only goal appears to be conflict “management”. Prominent Palestinian leader Hanan Ashrawi wrote recently that this year Israeli forces carried out more than 3000 raids on West Bank cities and villages, killed more than 30 Palestinians and imprisoned another 3500. And in the past 10 years Israeli settlers mounted more than 11,000 attacks on ­Palestinian civilians.

Late last month, Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas told the UN General Assembly that the Palestinians would no longer abide by the 1993 Oslo Accords. These provided the flimsy scaffold for negotiation of Palestinian statehood. What was remarkable about Abbas’s speech was that it took so many years for him to make it. Oslo’s corpse had long lain in the morgue. All Abbas did was to invite a public viewing.

With depressingly familiar hype, Netanyahu slammed Abbas’s UN speech for its alleged deceit and incitement. He urged Abbas to accept the offer “to hold direct negotiations with Israel without preconditions”. That was a good one coming from a prime minister whose own preconditions include no Palestinian state ever, who plays godfather to the settlement movement, and who has now deemed it reasonable to use live ammunition against rock-throwing Palestinians.

Australia has long been susceptible to the line that the Palestinians are not ready for statehood. The Turnbull government, with seven others (including tiny island states such as the Marshall Islands, Palau and Tuvalu), opposed the raising of the Palestinian flag at the UN. The opposition is not much better. The ALP conference last July decided at last to discuss possible recognition of a Palestinian state if there were “no progress in the next round of the peace process”. As if there were a peace process or the faintest prospect of one.

Australian governments have often spoken proudly of their friendship with Israel.

It’s high time that friendship was put in the service of peace by telling Israel a few home truths about the Gordian knot that is ­occupation and violence.

Peter Rodgers is a former Australian ambassador to Israel, a member of the Australian Palestinian Advocacy Network, and the author of two books on the Middle East.

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