Following the Australian’s desperate editorial on Saturday damning anybody who challenges Israeli policies, Associate Professor Bassam Dally, from The Australian Friends of Palestine Association, has issued an open to the paper’s editor, Chris Mitchell:
A Friend of Palestine is not an Enemy of Israel
Open Letter to Chris Mitchell
The editorial titled “A trip worth taking” on Saturday the 13th of June was written in anger and is full of hate. One wonders how the editor of The Australian newspaper knows about a letter writing campaign to Julia Gillard regarding her trip to Israel? Was it her office who wants some help from The Australian? Was the release of the AFOPA-CJPP Opinion Poll which has enraged the editor? Or was it at the request of the Zionist lobby?
Mr Mitchell, your editorial was meant to defend the trip but soon it became an attack at any one who dares to question the policies and actions of Israel. It is one thing to defend the trip and it is another to savage the citizens of conscience who want the Palestinians and the Israelis to reach a Just and lasting peace.
Those who criticise the trip are the same citizens who helped defeat apartheid South Africa and who kept the pressure on Indonesia to give the East Timorese their freedom. Your flurry of expletives is not justified nor warranted. I’m not sure who you had in mind when you described us as: “fanatics”, “loud lobbies with no interest in compromise”, “Israel’s opponents”, “Israel’s enemies”, “extremists and political amateurs”. Your outburst is a testament that our campaigns and mobilisation is making a difference. I’m sure you have received the media release showing that 28% of Australians support the Palestinian position as compared to 24% who support the Israeli position. Are you accusing 28% of the Australian people of being extremists, Israel enemies and political amateurs, Mr Mitchell?
Your editorial takes the role of journalists and newspapers to a different level. It seems that your role has become a defender of Israel and Zionism. Your outburst is by no means the first. Last year, you attacked a paid ad in your newspaper. Those same fanatics, extremists and political amateurs criticised the Prime Minister and the rest of the politicians who celebrated the 60th anniversary of the establishment of Israel while ignoring the plight of the Palestinians and the 4 million of them who are still refugees. Those signatories included clergy, unionists, federal court judges, academics, barristers and many, many concerned Australians. Malcolm Fraser also wrote an article in The Age supporting our request for acknowledgement of the suffering of the Palestinians. Is he also a political amateur, an extremist and a fanatic?
Mr Mitchell, you wrote that we have no intention to compromise. Well, I don’t compromise when it come to human rights; I don’t compromise when hundreds of children have been killed; I don’t compromise on issues of injustice and I don’t compromise when people are oppressed and humiliated on a daily basis. And nor should you.
Your newspaper has supported the war on Gaza and the killing of more than 1400 people, many innocent civilians. The Deputy Prime Minister failed to condemn the attack and the Foreign Minister can only say that “Australians are horrified by the death toll in Gaza”. Noteworthy, it is not the Government that is horrified, only the Australian people. We know, Mr Mitchell, that 42% of Australians thought that the attack on Gaza was not justified. We also know that Israel is under investigation for war crimes. Testimonies of Israeli soldiers reveal that many Gazans were shot at point blank range, women and children were executed by snipers and we all saw the footage of the UN school being attacked by the banned white phosphorous bombs. The UN is saying that those responsible will not be brought to justice because Israel is refusing to cooperate. Did your newspaper report an “outrage” over this? Do you support war crimes Mr Mitchell? Do you want them to be investigated and did you call on Israel to cooperate? Do you want the perpetrators to be brought to justice? And if not, why not?
I was quite surprised to see that you mixed the issue of the ACTU and the construction workers union with the issue of Israel-Palestine. Although Julia Gillard is the supposed link your intentions are quite clear. You despise us so much to want to mar our reputation with those accused of thuggery and bullying tactics among the unionists. Well, Mr Mitchell, we are lucky to live in Australia where people can see through such smearing tactics. They well know that we stand for human rights, for justice and for peace. We are neither fanatics, nor extremist and you are wrong to paint us as such.
You so passionately promote the two-state solution and assert that Gillard is there to promote this solution. Well, if that is the case how is it that the Australian Government and your newspaper are silent about the settlements and the apartheid wall which are the obstacle to the two-state solution? Why are you silent about Netanyahu’s rejection of the two-state solution? Do you really believe that Julia Gillard is going to press Israel on the settlements, or support the Arab Peace Initiative? Is she going to press Israel to allow humanitarian aid into the Gaza Strip or to left the blockade? I put it to you Mr Mitchell that Ms Gillard and her entourage are there to appease those who fund their election campaigns. I’m also sure that you know this as well as I do.
Ms Gillard’s trip is a PR exercise to try and improve Israel’s image among Australians. The Israeli foreign ministry has launched an aggressive campaign the day after its military assault on the Palestinians has stopped with the objective to improve Israel’s image in the eyes of the world. By taking part in this trip we are telling the Israeli government that we support your imprisonment of 4 million Palestinians, killing more than 1400 of their sons and daughters in 22 days, wounding thousands and causing more than $22 billions of damage. I put it to you Mr Mitchell, that Australia’s reputation will suffer through its association with Israel. We should not be proud of our association with a state that commits war crimes, a state that is in defiance of a plethora of UN resolutions and a state that ignores the will of the international community.
Finally, two years ago you have published a poll showing that there is equal support for the Israelis and for the Palestinians (~11% each). Our new poll, which was conducted by Roy Morgan, shows that many more Australians are educated about the conflict and that they don’t support your stand on the conflict. Australians are learning about the facts and they are becoming interested in finding a solution to the conflict and the Australian population is neither fanatic nor extremist. Your editorial policy is at odds with the trend in Australia and the rest of the world. If those who promote peace and justice are now accused of being extremists and fanatics don’t you think this is rather a reflection on the extent that your newspaper’s editorial policy has shifted to the right?
Dr Bassam Dally is a confounder and member of the executive of the Australian Friends of Palestine Association.