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Implications For Israel’s Supporters



26 August 2011

Implications For Israel’s Supporters

We read in the Sun-Herald (Naked Eye, 14 August) that “war has broken out over an idea to revive the NSW Parliamentary Friends of Israel group.”

Barry O’Farrell [NSW Premier] has been accused of attempting to ‘politicise’ the group with even Israel Ambassador Yuval Rotem monitoring the stink from Canberra,” we are informed. Others mentioned in this scuffle, all competing to get some glory, are Labor MP Walt Secord and Liberal MP for Vaucluse, Gabrielle Upton.

These three (excluding Ambassador Rotem) are presumably well educated, well informed people. We have elected them to look after our affairs of state in a relatively well-functioning democracy. We expect them to make the best decisions, based on the best information, in the best interests of the people of NSW. (Actually, Mr Secord was not elected to anything; he was parachuted into Parliament by the right wing of the ALP.)

The facts of Israel’s occupation of Palestinian land and of Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians are easily accessible and widely known, despite the valiant efforts of people like Ambassador Rotem to distort or bury the truth of Israel’s behaviour for nearly a century. (The deceptions and occupation started in 1917.)

Assuming our three politicians have done their homework and have made a well-informed decision to revive the NSW Parliamentary Friends of Israel, they will be aware of many facts similar to the following, published in The Weekend Australian 13 August, and written by John Lyons, that newspaper’s Middle East correspondent, Area C feels the effects of Israel’s power:

• Area C amounts to 60 per cent of the West Bank. Israel has complete power over it.

• Israel has just authorised 1600 new apartments in East Jerusalem, with another 2700 to follow.

• This damages hopes of kick-starting the peace process.

• The international community argues all Israeli settlements are illegal (see Article 49 of Fourth Geneva Convention).

• The majority of these settlements break Israel’s own laws, according to an Israeli Defence Ministry audit.

• The audit said about 75 per cent of construction had been without, or contrary to, required Israeli permits.

• More than 30 per cent of settlements have been built on privately owned Palestinian land.

• Israel has stripped 140,000 Palestinians (and their children) of their residency rights.

• Israeli settlers kill Palestinian villagers’ animals, or steal them, then attempt to charge for feeding them.

• Israel rarely approves Palestinian building permits because “it is a military zone”.

• Of the few approved homes for villagers many are not allowed to have a roof.

• Villagers’ water tanks are refused because it is “a historical area.”

• Many more Palestinian homes are demolished by Israel than are approved for construction.

• Palestinians are expected to pay for the bulldozers doing the demolitions.

This is just a snapshot of the conditions in which Palestinians are forced to live, conditions that have been getting steadily worse since at least 1967. Countless organisations and individuals, many of them Jewish, have published massive amounts of information detailing the inhumane treatment inflicted on the Palestinians, either by Israel directly or organisations acting with Israel’s complicit approval. Many of these details are disputed by supporters of Israel, usually with spurious argument or irrelevant facts (see below).

Mr O’Farrell, Mr Secord and Ms Upton – and all other supporters of Israel – will be well aware of this mistreatment. Yet they are competing to support the perpetrators of this continuing injustice. So, what is going on?

Two simple “thought experiments” might clarify this puzzle:

ONE: Let these three, and any other supporters of Israel who care to volunteer, imagine they are cooped up in Gaza and the West Bank in conditions similar to today’s Palestinians. Would they still see the justice of Israel’s actions? Would they still believe Israel deserved their support?

TWO: Let them imagine that the Israelis are cooped up in Gaza and the West Bank, having been humiliated and oppressed over 40 years by some Arab regime. Would they expect these Israelis to see the justice of the Arab regime’s actions? Would they still believe the Arab regime deserved their sympathy and support?

Our guess is the answers to these four questions would be “no”. In other words their reasoning is based not on what is being done, but on who is doing it. This is clearly illogical, or racist, thinking. And if these people are claiming to act in the cause of humanity and international justice and they have assessed all the evidence, their decisions show their thinking has been warped by spurious argument or irrelevant (often unstated) facts.

So here is another thought experiment we ordinary people can apply to our political leaders and opinion makers, including journalists: If someone is a supporter of Israel, he or she is prone to making bad judgments in other matters entirely unconnected with the Middle East – because they have shown how easily they can be deceived by flawed argument. This test might not be infallible but it is worth a try, and a little scepticism never goes astray.

For a beautiful example of spurious argument and irrelevant facts we are grateful to Mr Vic Alhadeff, CEO of the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies, who informs us (SMH Letters, 10 August) that “the last six Israeli Prime Ministers, including the present one, have declared support for a Palestinian state.” This might be true. The important word here is “declared” – while declaring their support for a Palestinian state they have always fought against it. In short, they are liars, a fact of which Mr Alhadeff must be well aware, unless he is very stupid. Or maybe he rests assured that his audience has already been stupefied by warped argument.

The convenience of silence is as evil as the greatest crime.

– Yuval Rotem, Israel’s ambassador to Australia, Parliament House, Melbourne, 2 December 2008


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