Features Australia

A diplomatic error

19 May 2018

9:00 AM

19 May 2018

9:00 AM

An ancient Bedouin proverb says ‘I, against my brothers. I and my brothers against my cousins. I and my brothers and my cousins against the world.’

The proverb determines the amount of loyalty one should show in facing an existential danger. The meaning is clearly this; if one faces danger, one should put aside conflicts with people to whom you’re close so that together you can face the external danger. Yet this phrase is a tacit acceptance of the law of the jungle.

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop and Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull must have had this ancient Arab saying in mind when they decided that Australia should boycott the ceremony for the recent opening of the United States embassy in Jerusalem.

By its failure to attend the American celebration for their new embassy, Australia’s government was tacitly saying that despite 70 years of existence as the modern State of Israel’s official capital, our government still didn’t recognise Jerusalem as the Jewish nation’s seat of government. And it was denying the three and a half thousand years – a thousand years before the birth of Jesus – that Jerusalem has been the home and heartbeat of Israel and its people.

Jerusalem is identified 669 times by name in the Old Testament, yet it isn’t mentioned even once in Islam’s Koran.

It’s also true that since the rise of Islam in 632AD, Jerusalem has rarely been mentioned, either as a religious or social issue, among Islamic nations, except when its legitimacy is contested – for example, in the time of the Crusades, and since 1948 when the State of Israel was voted into existence by the United Nations.

Our government’s craven absence from the ceremony to open the American embassy is more of a mistake than Australia being on the wrong side of history. Most other countries also refused to attend the ceremony. Yet their absence continued to feed Arab rejectionism of Israel as a legitimate nation state, and added fuel to the burning fire which inflames Palestinian demands for the delegitimisation of Israel’s right to exist.

Take this one step further, and we’ve already seen the results… the legitimisation of Palestinian violence in Gaza.

Such violent rejectionism, leading to conflict and death on the borders, is led in no small part by the President of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, a Holocaust denier, who is a key figure in the incitement of mob violence and terrorism. It was Abbas who declared recently that Jerusalem is a Palestinian, Arab, Islamic and Christian city, and that Israel’s and the Jewish people’s presence is illegitimate. And this, despite the fact that there has been a continuous Jewish presence in the city since the time of the biblical King David, and that for thousands of years, since the Roman occupation and diaspora, three times every day, Jews throughout the world have turned towards Jerusalem in their prayers saying, ‘to next year in Jerusalem’.

Julie Bishop’s refusal to allow Australian diplomats to attend the opening of the American embassy (which follows her shameful abstention at the UN in 2017 on the same issue) is a diplomatic error. And sits in stark contrast to our support for Israel on other issues, including opposing all anti-Israel resolutions at the UN Human Rights Council this year.

Where, for instance, was Australia’s condemnation of Iran’s recent rocket assault against Israel’s northern territory? And why has there been a refusal to support America’s withdrawal from the non-proliferation agreement, when Iran continues to be the world’s major financial sponsor of international terrorism, using its sudden influx of funds since sanctions were lifted to create greater havoc in Lebanon, Iraq and Syria?

Iran has become Israel’s greatest existential threat. Since the 1990’s, it has sent vast amounts of money to the terrorist organisation, Hamas. Indeed, it’s known that in the 1990’s, Iran paid Hamas for results, meaning that the more successful suicide bombings the organisation conducted, the more money they received.

Article 19 of the charter which established Hamas states unequivocally, ‘There shall be no recognition of the legitimacy of the Zionist entity. Whatever has befallen the land of Palestine in terms of occupation, settlement building, Judaisation or changes to its features or falsification of facts, is illegitimate. Rights never lapse.’ So there’s hardly any point in trying to negotiate with a terrorist entity which refuses to accept the existence of its enemy.

International sanctions damaged Iran’s economy, yet despite a plunging standard of living, and mass dissent by its people against the theocracy of the mullahs, Iran kept funding Arab terrorism against the West.

Since the 2015 nuclear agreement instigated by President Obama, the Iranian funds held in escrow have been released, and large sums have been pumped into Gaza, Syria and Iraq, and much of the money received by Gaza is used to support its terrorism against Israel. And this, despite the desperate state of impoverishment of the Palestinian people it is supposed to be governing.

Shi’ite Iran poses such a threat to the Sunni Arab nations of the Middle East, that Saudi Arabia and other countries in the Persian Gulf have been negotiating alliances with Israel and America to counteract the threats posed by Iran.

All of this makes Australia’s absence from the celebrations of America’s new Embassy in Jerusalem even more at odds with the reality of Israel’s situation.

Israel is the Middle East’s only democracy, guaranteeing rights for all of its citizens… Jews, Arabs and Christians. It is a world leader in arts, sciences, and technology. In the past one hundred years Jews have transformed the land from a malarial barren swampland into a thriving, bountiful land.

It is the United Nations refugee agency, UNWRA, the largest employer of Palestinians, as well as Arab neighbours, who have continued to keep the Palestinians trapped in refugee camps. Yet the 800,000 Jews expelled by Arab governments from their ancestral homes in 1948, when Israel was voted into being, have all been resettled in Israel and their families have contributed to the phenomenal growth of the country.

America’s move of its embassy to Jerusalem was a recognition of reality, not an assault against Palestinian rights. A pity our government refuses to accept reality.

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