In a recent article on the ABC Ethics and Religion site, ECAJ, the Executive Council of Australian Jewry, takes a swipe at me and APAN (Australia Palestine Advocacy Network) for being anti-Semitic, but more significantly nails its own colours to the mast when it describes APAN as an ‘Anti-Israel’ network. The only inference one can draw from this statement is that from the ECAJ perspective, to support the rights of Palestinians is necessarily to be opposed to Israel.
It is hard to exaggerate the significance of this self revelation from the Israeli lobby which has considerable influence within Australian politics. You will remember that Australia was recently the only major country in the world to declare its support for Israel following the UN Security Council resolution which condemned the continuous erection of Settlements on the West Bank, inclusive of East Jerusalem. APAN has long condemned the building of these Settlements which are constructed at the expense of Palestinian land, Palestinian homes and Palestinians hopes. The continuous building of these Settlements has made hopes for a two-state solution forlorn. What can never be accepted would be the illusion of two states. This would be the case if what remained of Palestine were to be a series of non-contiguous islands of Palestinian population corralled into non-sustainable, non self-governable pockets of dense population, stripped of the dignity of realistic nationhood.
Because it fails to condemn settlement constructions the Australian government is supporting them by stealth. By default therefore it is supporting the eventuality of one State. The Australian government constantly applauds Israel as the ‘only liberal democracy in the Middle East”. To be genuinely a liberal democracy the rights of all residents have to be equal. This is not the case within Israel and it is far from the case on the West Bank where the advantages and privileges of the settlers, privileges taken by force at the expense of the Palestinians, are protected by the Israeli army against the Palestinian civilian population. APAN vigorously advocates for the rights of Palestinians on an equal basis to the rights of Israelis.
APAN does not oppose Israel. APAN along with many in the Jewish community, both within Israel and in the Diaspora, longs for an Israel that is a beacon of genuine liberal democracy, where the rights of all are equally respected and upheld.
This year will be the centenary of the Balfour declaration. Much will be written about this historic statement and its place in the history of the establishment of the Jewish State. I simply want to point out here that this declaration, which expresses commitment to a Jewish State in Palestine, does so only as long as the rights of the indigenous population are protected and upheld. This is what APAN stands for.
The statement of the Executive Council of Australian Jewry seems to imply that Israel has to trample on the rights of others in order to exist, otherwise why would it say that those who speak for the rights of others speak against Israel.
I therefore contend that APAN has a higher expectation for Israel than the Executive Council of Australian Jewry. I contend that Israel can and should exist without trampling on others, indeed, because of its many strengths, it can and should be a loved and respected neighbour that others would like to emulate. At the moment it is sadly many worlds away from this reality.