Thursday, March 13, 2008


The Honourable Member for the Federal Seat of Wakefield was making his maiden speech in the House of Representatives as I entered the Public Gallery at around 11:40 am. The ALP's Nick Champion was speaking in front of an almost empty chamber made up initially of not more than a handful of MP's, mostly from his own party. There was hardly anyone there on the opposition benches when Champion began by thanking his family, friends, mentors, the party and the voters. He spoke of his aspirations for the future as part of the government and of how his early days working as a trolley pusher had guided him in his quest to look after the interests of the working men and women of his country. This was my first visit to Parliament, the first opportunity to listen to the democratic process in action and, despite the empty chamber, Nick Champion’s sincere words were uplifting and exciting. By the time he was finished, the place was filling up and by close to midday when Prime Minister's motion congratulating the State of Israel was being put to the floor, there were over 100 MP's in the House.

It was a fitting start to the day.

That was yesterday.

Today, the pace was somewhat less hectic. I had the Australian delivered to my room and found the letters section of interest. Following yesterday's Parliamentary Motion and the notorious Nakba Advertisement, it was not surprising that Israel came under the heading "Most Talked About". Here are the letters (with my emphasis):-

An island of civilisation in a sea of barbarism

A SURVEY of the 60 years of Israel’s existence shows that its conduct has not always been beyond reproach (which nation’s has?) and that the Palestinians have a case which deserves consideration.

The most extraordinary feature of Isreal’s history is that - surrounded by enemies dedicated to its destruction and the extermination of its inhabitants - it has not only survived but maintained a high standard of liberalism and democracy. In the context of the Middle East, Israel remains an island of civilisation in a sea of barbarism.

It would be interesting to know how many of the individuals and organisations in the anti-Israel advertisement in The Australian (12/3) have ever protested against the dictatorship, torture, sexism, racism, censorship, arbitrary imprisonment and denial of human rights rife among Israel’s opponents.

Bill James Bayswater, Vic

HELEN Cox expresses "deep regret, disappointment and a sense of betrayal" in relation to federal parliament’s honouring of Israel’s 60 years of independence (Letters, 12/3).

For reasons vastly different from hers, I share those sentiments: deep regret that modern Israel did not exist for the 6 million European Jews murdered by the Nazis while most of the rest of the world refused them sanctuary and looked the other way; and a sense of betrayal that Israel, despite being a beacon of enlightenment, egalitarianism and democracy in an area of repression, fundamentalism and black hatred, remains so isolated and misrepresented internationally. Australia is to be commended for its long-standing, principled and bipartisan support for the state of Israel.

Merv Morris East St Kilda, Vic

ANY blood that was spilt following Israel’s founding in 1948 was as a direct result of the invasion of the fledgling state by Arab armies intent on wiping it out. Unfortunately, this 60-year-old hatred lives on in the words and tone of Helen Cox and Margaret Millar’s letters (12/3).

Perhaps it is impossible to change the minds of some people whose mind has been made up, but I cannot help thinking that there might be some real moves to reconciliation if contributors such as these occasionally felt some compassion for the other side.

George Adamowicz Brighton, Vic

MY wife and I sponsor, through World Vision, a child living in Gaza. This is something we can do to show our sympathy for the suffering of the Palestinian people. Most of the land where the child’s family lives has been confiscated and what remains is restricted by regulation. Clean water is scarce and sanitation poor. We have been most anxious about the child’s safety.

The Australian’s editorial praising Israel and parliament’s congratulations on its 60 years of independence made no reference to the sufferings imposed on the Palestinian people by Israel’s powerful military forces.

We pray that the child we sponsor may grow up healthy and in peace, but we fear that this won’t happen as long as the US and its allies continue to praise Israel while portraying Palestinians as bad.

Vincent Matthews Forestville, NSW

HELEN Cox’s view that Israel was founded on the blood of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians is a strange warping of historical fact. Israel was founded on the ashes of millions who were executed in the Nazi Holocaust. Ms Cox might find it illuminating to reflect on how much better off the Palestinians would be if, over the last 60 years, they had shed their victimhood to develop a democratic government.

Mark Reid Doncaster, Vic

THE Australian Workers Union has written to the Histadrut, the umbrella body of the Israeli trade union movement, to congratulate them on their important role in the creation of the state of Israel 60 years ago.

The AWU wholeheartedly supports Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s initiative to have parliament offer Australia’s continuing goodwill and support to the people of Israel.

We are heartened by the fact that the Histadrut and the Palestinian General Federation of Trade Unions are working closely on a number of projects to improve the economic lot of the people of the West Bank.

Our union cannot understand those union leaders here in Australia, and Labor MPs who line up in support of Hamas. Hamas and Islamic Jihad have a history of hostility to labour unions. Palestinian union leaders have been assassinated and kidnapped by Hamas and Islamic Jihad, union leaders have seen their offices and homes burned down by these elements who are hostile to the creation of independent civil-society organisations.

While there is much to be critical of in the way Israel has handled some elements of the Palestinian question, our critique is no different from that of many others inside Israel, a nation with a vibrant civil and political life that allows for the equal participation of all its citizens.

Unfortunately the same democratic values are not upheld by the Palestinian leadership who have stood by and allowed corruption and thuggery to be the dominant language in the Palestinian territories.

Paul Howes National secretary, AWU Sydney, NSW

The good thing about staying at a hotel is that all the newspapers in the breakfast room are complimentary so I picked up both Fairfax papers and was treated to a slightly different version of the events I had witnessed with my own eyes the day before. The Melbourne Age report on the events in Parliament concentrated on Julia Irwin's snub of the PM for abstaining on the issue. There was no questioning of the fact that she represents an electorate where you might expect some pressure from the Arab and Muslim lobbies but that's Fairfax for you. The SMH featured three nasty letters including one from Australia's foremost apologist for the Islamist fascist movement Hamas but more of that later. I expected nothing less from Fairfax.

Then I discovered the Canberra Times, the local rag which understandably has a small circulation, is read mainly by public servants and, to quote my youngest child, it "truly sucks". I have finally discovered a reporter who makes Ed O'Loughlin look like an unrepentant Likudnik. His name is Ross Peake, he's their National Affairs Writer and an early candidate for Dishonest Reporter of the Year (although he has major competition from the BBC but more of that later as well). Peake's write up of the events of yesterday were truly mindboggling - PM snubbed from all sides over Israeli motion.

Peake's story wasn't about the motion at all. It was a story about the MP's who weren't there and he infers that their absence amounted to a "snub" for Prme Minister Rudd. I'm not so certain that the absence of the most far left and the most rabid right wing members of the House constitues a snub. They make up two of a House of 150. How does Peake know that the remaining absentees were "snubbing" the motion?

Yesterday was my first time inside Parliament House. However, it seems to me that the Chamber is rarely ever full when I watch it on television and for Peake to suggest that the absence of any MP's on either side was because they were snubbing the Israel motion is quite a stretch. I remained in the House for most of the day and it never appeared to be as full during the afternoon as it was for the midday motion. I suppose the absentees were "snubbing" those who were moving the various motions put for the remainder of the day. And when I left at 6:00 pm, there would have been about 140 "snubbers" outside the Chamber.

Now, as if that drivel wasn't enough I discovered from the same edition, that the Canberra Times has a cartoonist, Pope, who makes Ross Peake look like an unrepentant Likudnik. His obscene cartoon misrepresenting Jewish history and excusing as acts of despair the firing of rockets at Israeli civilians was vomitous.

And as if that wasn't enough, the Canberra Times also gave op-ed space to some Palestinians to turn what was left of the newspaper into an encyclopaedia of historic revisionism and lies. By the time I got through with that, I wasn't prepared to waste my time, even on the sports pages which is often the first part of a newspaper that I read. On what the national affairs writer, the cartoonist and the op ed writers had provided, I could fully have expected an item to the effect that Elvis Presley had just broken the world 100 metre sprint record and I wasn't ready for that.

I folded up the Canberra Times and consigned it to the waste bin where it joined what was left of my breakfast of scrambled eggs and reflected on yesterday's events. I thought of the Israel motion, the reception that followed and Nick Champion's maiden speech. I still think it was quite inspiring and probably the highlight of the young man's life so far. But had Ross Peake of the Canberra Times deigned to cover that speech, he would no doubt have reported how the newly elected Member for Wakefield was snubbed by all sides of the political divide. And that's how you define "dishonest reporting".


rooster magic said...

If Vincent Matthews and wife really do care about the child they sponsor and want it to "grow up healthy and in peace", then I humbly suggest that they stop dumping on the US and its allies including Israel and place the responsibility for the child's welfare where it truly belongs.

They should be urging Hamas to do something to stop Hamas from committing the war crime of firing missiles at Israeli civilians from under cover of residential areas of Gaza.

rooster magic said...

You also missed some of the letters -

Skewed version of history

THE parliamentary motion of support for Israel was passed unanimously and thus had the endorsement of both sides of politics.

Whether those who placed yesterday’s advertisement acknowledge it or not, most Australians simply do not accept its ludicrously skewed version of history.

No serious analysis of the dispossession of the Palestinians can ignore the open declaration of civil war against the country’s Jewish population by Palestinian leaders in November 1947, the invasion of the country by five Arab states in May 1948 or the gobbling up of the West Bank and Gaza Strip by Jordan and Egypt respectively during that war. Nor does the advertisement acknowledge the dispossession of an equal number of Jews in Arab countries from their homes and livelihoods after 1948.

Unlike the Palestinians, their dispossession did not take place during a life and death struggle in wartime. And unlike the Palestinians, they were not deliberately kept in refugee camps for decades to be used as pawns to serve the political agendas of their leaders and the educated fools in the West who support them.

Peter Wertheim
Darling Point, NSW

Inaccurate advertisement

As I turned to page 7 yesterday I was amazed to see an advertisement attacking Israel. The most surprising thing was the very inaccurate historical description of the events of 1948. What was not mentioned was the UN vote in favour of the establishment of the state of Israel alongside a Palestinian state in November 1947.

Also not mentioned was the Palestinian rejection of the UN vote and the subsequent invasion of Israel by surrounding Arab nations with the stated intention of “pushing its population into the sea”.

Palestinian citizens of Israel and Israeli Arabs have been elected to Israel’s parliament. Israeli Arab citizens, just like Israeli Jewish citizens, have full voting rights. It is important for us here in democratic Australia to know that Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East and deserves our support for its right of continued existence as a nation.

James Johnson; Bentleigh East, Vic

Palestinian approach led to their own misfortune

THOSE Australian Palestinians and their supporters who felt the need to advertise their continuing prejudice towards Israel in The Australian (12/3) need to come to terms with reality.

Israel was created as a result of the UN vote of November 1947 which partitioned the British mandate territory of Palestine into two states: Jewish and Arab. Unfortunately, the Palestinians and neighbouring Arab states rejected this decision, and attempted to drown Israel at birth.

The Palestinian refugee tragedy that ensued was a direct by-product of that decision to go to war. That all-or-nothing approach has got the Palestinians nowhere.
Today the priority for both Israelis and Palestinians is to achieve a compromise two-state solution that will ensure the security of Israel, and the establishment of an independent state in the West Bank and Gaza for the Palestinians. Peace and reconciliation will require significant concessions on both sides.

Those of us who live in far-off Australia have a responsibility to support negotiations between the Israeli Government and the Palestinian Authority that will hopefully lead to conflict resolution, rather than fanning the fires of further violence and hatred.

Dr Philip Mendes
Professor Douglas Kirsner
Monash University, Vic

Too much fiction

THE fawning adulation heaped on Israel by our parliament is strange given the circumstances of Israel’s creation.

When the British took Palestine from the Turks in 1917, Palestine had been Arab for 1300 years. Jews formed only 9 per cent of the population. Most of these were recently arrived Zionist settlers from Eastern Europe. Even at this early stage, the Palestinians were alarmed by a Zionist intention to achieve a Jewish majority in Palestine, take over the country and, if necessary, transfer the Palestinians out.

By 1947, despite large-scale Jewish immigration from Europe, Jews still only formed one-third of the population (650,000 Jews to 1.3 million Palestinians).

However, the UN plan to partition Palestine into an Arab and a Jewish state gave the Jews 54 per cent of the country, even though they only owned 6 per cent of its land.

The Palestinians were being asked to accept the partition of their country for the benefit of a minority of recently arrived foreigners. Not surprisingly, they refused.

In the war that followed, these European Jewish settlers attacked and occupied areas allocated to the proposed Palestinian state, ethnically cleansed 750,000 Palestinians, massacred thousands more, and committed widespread acts of looting and rape.

They then destroyed 385 Palestinian towns and villages and shot Palestinians who attempted to return to their homes. Only the intervention of the Arab armies prevented the Jewish takeover of all of Palestine in 1948.

This is all documented by Israeli historians. Unfortunately, our MPs appear to have read too many Israeli handouts and Leon Uris novels.

Paul Dixon
Fraser, ACT

rooster magic said...

How appropriate for the sub editor to give Paul Dixon's effort the heading "Too much fiction".

The allegation of rape is interesting. Not long ago some far left idiot wrote a thesis alleging that the fact that there was almost no incidence of rape by IDF soldiers meant that the zionists were racist. Really, you can't have it both ways unless you're a rabid Jew hater these days.

Wilbur Post said...

Thanks and welcome Rooster. I'm sorry I missed them.

Ron said...

How strange that any history that is not pro-Arab is considered "Zionist popaganda", or as Paul Dixon puts it: "Israeli handouts and Leon Uris novels." It is also interesting that "the facts" espoused by Dixon and his like-minded mavens do not include small tidbits such as the fact that the partition of Palestine was according to population, so that the Jews were given land in which they were the majority (and in many cases where Jews had ALWAYS lived, such as in Hebron). Another unimportant point not mentioned by the "real historians" is that "the war that followed" was an attack by the surrounding Arab armies on that tiny land (actually three non-contiguous pieces).

Does Paul Dixon believe that we are all idiots and that if they repeat the same lies over and over, that eventually they will be accepted as truth?