Anything to keep the occupation out of the headlines

Following the Australian’s article on the weekend about the Australian government’s impending trip to Israel, today’s paper publishes the following responses:

The anti-Israel bigotry to which you refer in the editorial defending Julia Gillard’s visit to Israel (“A trip worth taking”, 13-14/6) is vividly illustrated in Amnesty International’s recently released annual global report.

The survey devotes the same amount of space to criticising Israel as it does to China and Iran, and more than it allocates to Saudi Arabia, Syria, North Korea, Myanmar, Pakistan, Vietnam, Cuba and Zimbabwe.

Israel is far from perfect, but the degree of liberalism and democracy which it maintains, while living with constant threats of liquidation from its neighbours in the region, is little short of miraculous.
Bill James
Bayswater, Vic

My heart sank to its lowest level in years when I read your report of Deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s plan to lead a delegation to Israel (“Gillard defiant on Israel”, 13-14/6). Then I became afflicted with all the symptoms of swine flu and nausea on reading your editorial “A trip worth taking”.

Gillard leading an an Australian Israel Leadership Forum is a betrayal of President Obama’s peace process and the ALP’s anti-racism policies.

It will further confirm to the people of Asia and Africa and Muslims all around the world that racism is found not only among some of the thugs in the streets of Melbourne and Sydney who beat up Indian students to steal their meagre wages, but also among some parliamentarians who rule this country.

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, since winning the election 18 months ago, has not uttered a single word to promote peace in the Israel-Palestine conflict. In fact, Gillard supported Israel’s invasion of Gaza last January and failed to censure its use of war planes, cluster bombs and white phosphorus bombs.

These are not the signs of a peace-loving Labor government.
Bill Mathew
Parkville, Vic

Your editorial avoided the most critical issue—how will Australia’s international relations benefit from such a demonstration of support for Israel? There are obvious advantages for Israel, but, I suggest, none for Australia. Our closest neighbours to the north, Indonesia and Malaysia, will be most unimpressed. Prime Minister Rudd’s efforts to win Australia a seat on the UN Security Council will hardly be enhanced by the trip.

The Netanyahu government is facing major challenges following worldwide reaction to Israel’s military action against Gaza in late December and early January. UN agencies have accused Israel of war crimes and abuse of human rights in its Gaza offensive.

Why the Australian Deputy Prime Minister with portfolio responsibilities for industrial relations and education should get involved in Middle East politics at this sensitive time needs to be explained.

Our trade with Israel is relatively minor. Seven other countries in the Middle East have more important trade relations with Australia than does Israel. Concern about this visit extends far beyond what your editorial describes as fanatics.
Vincent Matthews
Forestville, NSW

Most Australians would never have heard of the “eminent Australians” protesting about Julia Gillard leading a delegation to Israel. Of course we will hear no such protests when the Deputy Prime Minister meets the Iran-supported Palestinian Authority that calls for the destruction of Israel.
Mick Whybrow
Birkdale, Qld

One is no longer shocked by anti-Israel statements and actions or demands, such as those of “170 eminent Australians”. Anti-Zionism has become so widespread and politically correct, and is often so extreme and so divorced from political and historic reality, that one suspects it masks even more dangerous and more ancient hatreds—calls to boycott Jews have a long, ignominious and deadly, indeed genocidal, history.

Full marks to Deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard on her principled stance on this issue.

Israel has always welcomed visitors. It is confident that it has nothing to hide and believes that when people visit Israel and see for themselves the country and vibrant democracy that Israel is, the problems that it faces and the way that it addresses these problems, they will become supporters of Israel—or at least more balanced and fair in any criticisms.

The Jewish people are by far the oldest indigenous people of the land of Israel, their historic, religious and cultural links to Israel are—or at least should be—beyond question. It is also a fact that Israel is the only true democracy in the Middle East.

If these “eminent” Australians (I can think of other descriptions) wish to sheet home blame for the recent conflict in Gaza they would be better to direct their ire toward Hamas, which has made no secret of its commitment to destroy Israel and which, by its unrelenting rocket attacks on Israel, caused the conflict in Gaza.

To understand the recent Israeli defensive campaign in Gaza we have to recognise that Hamas are not Palestinian nationalists, the Hamas charter calls not only for the complete destruction of Israel, but the creation of a pan-Arab sharia law caliphate throughout the Middle East.

So should we boycott Israel, a legitimate democratic state, in favour of a Taliban style terrorist organisation? One would hope that the answer is obvious.
Bill Anderson
Surrey Hills, Vic

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