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Israel: Australia as cheerleader « Previous | |Next »
May 8, 2007

Ross Burns, a former Australian ambassador to a number of Middle East countries (Israel, Lebanon, Syria), has some interesting comments to make in The Australian about Australia's support for Israel's foreign policy in the light of the Winograd report into the conduct of the Olmert Israeli Government in the 2006 Lebanon war.

Brookes.jpg
Peter Brookes

Burns says:

The question for Australia, though, is what do we achieve by a cheerleading posture that takes no account of rights and wrongs, let alone the practicalities of Israel's capacity to achieve its objectives? The "he (Hezbollah) hit me (Israel) first" line not only lacks sophistication in such a high-stakes theatre as the Middle East but as Winograd has shown, it is beside the point.

The Foreign Minister, Alexander Downer, in taking his cues from Republican Washington, has become a stalking horse for the Rightwing Likud position; one that is based on the continued existence of the settlements in the occupied territories, a united Jerusalem and only one state west of the Jordan.

Australia's current policy on the Middle East is not based on Australia's national interests. Burns adds that:

The other lesson for distant Australia is that the conflict brought into the open the extent of Australia's uncritical stance on wider Middle East issues......Fortunately, Israel has a more robust capacity to encourage deep self-criticism and policy reappraisal. But it won't be well-served by its friends if they maintain a policy of cheerleading for reckless ventures that are only likely to inflict on the Middle East a new wave of extremism. If Israel can have a vigorous debate on its options, Australia can have one on its policy. Our relations with the Middle East, for example, should have many dimensions. The Government's belief that it can say anything in relation to Israel and ignore the consequences for our profile in the Arab and wider Islamic world is not a healthy assumption.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 6:33 AM | | Comments (4)
Comments

Comments

The Palestinian-bashing thing took off big time after the ill-considered attack by a PLO splinter group on Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympics of the early seventies, along with hijacking of aircraft. Although, of course, the "Exodus" syndrome in Lobby-controlled Hollywood has been round since way earlier, after ww2.
But the sunglass-wearing, towell-headed, swarthy and bearded (sounds like Quiggin!) sub machinegunner has become a staple of Western media mythologising, so necessary for alibiing western policy in the mid east, at the same time providing electorally-resonant mythological material for spinners to scare the punters for conservatives at elections. This has also enabled anti democratic security and censorship legislation, to further jeopardise democracy in the West.
The rest is just "collateral damage".

Paul,
you are probably right about the media images and their effects.

I see that Colin Rubenstein, the director of the Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council, has an op-ed in the Australia on the interim Winograd report. He says:

The release of a preliminary report by the Winograd commission into Israel's conduct of last year's Hezbollah-Israel war has commanded global attention.Israel's Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, along with Olmert's Defence Minister and former military chief of staff, were heavily criticised for setting objectives that were impossible to achieve and for moving too quickly without adequate planning.Despite roundly criticising the decision-makers' actions, the report doesn't criticise their decision to wage war against Hezbollah.

That's not the issue. Sure Hizbollah provoked the 2nd Lebanese by capturing two Israeli soldiers on the Lebanese-Israel border, but Israel's response - so totally out of proportion to the provocation. It resulted in the deaths of 1,400 Lebanese civilians, due to the Israeli air force systematically destroying the major infrastructure of Lebanon.

The Israeli government repeatedly claimed it was trying to avoid civilian casualties whilst its aircraft blasting men, women and children to pieces in Lebanon.

Downer was a cheerleader for a war to defeat Hizbollah. Israel even decided to prolong and expand the invasion during the weekend after the UN peace deal was agreed in New York.

While we are on the subject of "provocation", let's not forget the escalating violence, particularly from israel, in Gaza and West Bank prior to the Lebanese invasion.
To me, if there is any "provocation" to be considered, let's start with the brutal efforts (since Arafat, say,) to utterly demolish Palestine as a functioning entity and break the spirits of the long-suffering Palestinians.
Sorry, the more I watch the goings on that part of the world the more I see shades of a re-run of Gruppenfuhrer Jurgen Stroop's demolish of the Warsaw ghetto in 1943. The only diffence is that it has been the Israelis riding tanks in against trapped civilians.

Paul,
yes it is surpising how the brutality of the Israeli occupation is rarely mentioned in Australia. All we hear about is the security of Israel, its right to exist and Hezbollah on Israel's northern border and Hamas in Gaza being terrorist groups run by Iran and Syria.

The solution (circuit breaker) in the Middle East is no longer to contain the Hezbollah threat. It is for Iran to be cut down to size by the brute power of the United States – preferably before Teheran acquires the bomb.

This kind of thinking runs all through this recent update from the AIJAC entitled Beyond Winograd: The Larger Security Issues.