Federal Ministers go to Palestine

Dear all

Attached are answers that have been provided to me by a former Australian Ambassador to Israel in response to questions that have been put to him by a third party.

This is in relation to the Record number of (Australian) pollies for Israel article that has been in the Australian media.


David Forde
Labor 4A Just Palestine

November 2010

Why does it require a 17- person delegation of Federal Ministers, Opposition frontbenchers and MPs to visit Israel to discuss the bilateral relationship. Does this leadership exchange really suggest our relations with Israel are as important and complex as our relations with the only other country to warrant such treatment, the United States?

There is no detectable reason why 17 politicians should find the time especially when a new Government faces so many challenges to the task of putting an action program into place to travel so far for an exercise that is basically content-less.

The bilateral relations with Israel do not need such intensive discussion every year or so.

They largely tick along by themselves. Israel is not a major trade partner and the cultural side of things is minor in scale and largely the work of the organizer, Mr. Dadon, himself. Sadly, this is another indication of the major political parties being spooked by pressure from the Israel lobby to provide another political gesture of support for Israel at a time when its Government is largely being cold-shouldered by the rest of the Western world. Its particularly inappropriate given that Israel is dragging its feet over peace talks and providing another stumbling block to the whole idea of reconciliation with the Arabs of its own community by its introduction of an oath of allegiance from non-Jews to a Jewish State.

The Australian gesture is a curious move, well out of step with all other Western countries. Factors which might have required Australian to be more circumspect in its support for Israel at the moment include:

  • the recent abuse of Australian passports by Israels intelligence service, Mossad,
  • the lack of any resolution of the Australian Governments stated demand for an explanation/apology
  • the continued defiance of international norms by Israels building of settlements in territory recognized by Australia as occupied under international law, and
  • The obvious reluctance of the present Israeli Government to engage in any meaningful peace moves except on terms that would require the abandonment of UN resolutions adopted over the last 43 years.

Do such visits organized by private interests but which take on an agenda flowing through to our wider bilateral relations have any implications for our international interests?

Parallel or non-state organizations increasingly set the agenda in relations with Israel. This is unhealthy in such a delicate environment. Instead of relations following the norms related to the overall priorities of government (eg with due regard to the signals Australia is sending to the Arab and Islamic world) Australia is allowing lobby interests to partly fund and set up programs that inevitably colour how our interests are pursued. This limits Australias capacity to be playing a helpful role in peace-making between Israelis and the Arab states including Palestine. By agreeing to conduct bilateral relations through lobby groups, the suspicion is also aroused that the level of funding through various channels for the activities of political parties is setting the agenda.

Should public funds be used to co-finance such lobby-designed events?

If public funds are being used as part-funding for the travel of Ministers, Front-benchers, MPs and an ABC journalist as part of this lobby-related visit, this would be a serious infringement of Westminster principles of not mixing Government and private interests. At the least, the norms of a parliamentary democracy would require the visit to be controlled by Australias Embassy and respect Australias overall interests in the region.

What opportunities will participants have to see the Palestinian perspective on events, in accordance with the balance Australian Governments have traditionally professed?

A balanced picture seems doubtful.

It used to be traditional for visiting politicians also to include an equivalent number of Palestinian contacts in East Jerusalem and Ramallah. For this reason, such visits were coordinated through the Embassy in Tel Aviv and the Australian Representative in Ramallah.

This seems to occur rarely since the late stages of the Howard Government, including Kevin Rudds period as Opposition Foreign Affairs Spokesman, and during his subsequent Prime Ministership. This is out of kilter with the practice of other parliamentary democracies and gives the strong impression that Australia has abandoned any attempt at a balanced policy. It would be interesting to know if any contacts are being sought in Ramallah, Gaza or East Jerusalem and whether such interlocutors are being given equal time.

A visit to some of the most egregious stretches of the wall Israel has built, largely on Palestinian land, would also be instructive. Any agreement by Australian MPs or Ministers to meet Israeli officials in East Jerusalem or the West Bank would also represent defiance of long-standing Cabinet decisions to acknowledge the legalities of the occupied status of such territories and the consequent international norms on not recognizing the permanent statues of such occupation. Its particularly distressing that the ABC is contributing to these events.

They already have two correspondents in Jerusalem who could cover any significant outcomes. Sending a third, heavyweight political commentator from Canberra gives the event itself an authority is does not deserve as news.

How will this visit help Australia’s goal of supporting a two-state solution?

Not at all. By signaling now a close understanding with just one side and implicitly supporting its positions by a lack of overt commentary on its defiance of international norms, Australia is contributing to Israels defiance of international norms

See Response to Canadian BDS campaign


7 thoughts on “Federal Ministers go to Palestine

  1. 7th November 2010
    Chris Ulhmann
    GPO Box 9994
    Sydney 2001

    Good morning Chris

    I watch and enjoy ABC24. In fact I rarely switch channels. I can always catch up with “The IT Crowd” on line.

    It is with interest that I note you have been included in the upcoming rather large entourage going to Israel in December. Do you have any concerns when lobby interests fund such trips? Perhaps their intention being to influence how those on the trip see things. After all everyone on board is very powerful in either politics or media. I suppose no public money is allowed to go into trips like this. Something to do with it being counter to Westminster principals to entangle private with government interests. You would know more than I about those sorts of things and we amongst the great unwashed are kept in the dark on how funding these things works anyway.

    I strongly doubt you will be able to do a William Hague and duck off to talk to Palestinian activists involved in the popular and non-violent struggle against Jewish settlements and “The Wall” which you would be well aware fails to follow the Green Line. I don’t know if you have seen the DVD “Life in Occupied Palestine” by Jewish American activist Anna Baltzer. One of the most vivid moments is her depiction of “The Wall” in exactly the same spot. From the Palestinian side it is depressingly high and ugly. From the Israeli side (your upcoming perspective) is it undulating soil planted with trees sweeping up to a barely visible fence line.

    William Hague may have been compelled to go AWAL on his recent trip after reading recent comments by Filippo Grandi (who you know is UNRWA Commissioner General). “It is a matter of deep concern that Palestinians who have already endured extreme suffering of various kinds including multiple episodes of large scale displacement should remain subject to the humiliation of the kind inflicted by forced evictions and home demolitions”

    In his comments I believe he was referring to Sheik Jarrah area in occupied East Jerusalem but the comments could apply to many places. Displacement has grave immediate and long term physical, social, economic and emotional impact on families and communities. It deprives families of their main asset and flows on to disruption in livelihood with resultant poverty. The impact is worse on children who suffer post traumatic stress disorder, depression, anxiety and reduced academic achievement. Doesn’t auger well as a basis for a future sovereign Palestinian State. Maybe that’s the intention of the occupiers do you think?
    Anyway, I hope you enjoy the trip and I will be keeping an eye out for any bias in reporting on my favourite channel after you get back.

    Safe travelling.

  2. NSW Parliamentary Friends of Palestine just returned from an equal and opposite tour. Wouldnt it be great if, instead of taking sides and demonizing each other, parliamentarians went on tours organized by cooperative moderate Pal-Isr Orgs like Onevoice, the Arava Institute, Comet, kids peace sports camps to name a few

  3. loewdabulla says:

    froma friend who was recently in Israel:

    “I have recently witnessed two things on Israeli reality television that have reinforced my vision of the open and diverse society that is Israel.

    My first story centres on the new version of Israeli Masterchef, which, much like the Australian version, showcases the top Israeli cooks from around the country, albeit with a little bit more hummus. Among the twelve contestants is Moussa Abu Saris, an Israeli Arab who hails from Jaffa. Moussa is a guide for youth at risk and he uses cooking as one of the ways to help kids break out from the cycle of crime. So far he has brought an array of home-style dishes learnt from his mother’s kitchen which has wowed the judges and the audience.

    Moussa’s presence on the show is not a publicity stunt. In fact, no fuss has been made at all of the fact that he is an Arab; he is just another Israeli citizen trying his luck on the show (and this is not the first time with Arab contestants faring well on Big Brother and Israeli idol, just to name a few). Watching him on the show resonates with me and this is particularly so because I viewed the programme on exactly the same weekend as those seeking to delegitimise Israel came together in Melbourne to find new ways to punish what they view as “racist, apartheid Israel”.

    The deligitimisers who raise this false accusation are possibly unaware of people like Moussa and to my mind, it is they who live in that world of unreality.

    They might be delusional or they might simply not be aware of PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas’ vision for the future state of Palestine which is one in which no Jew can ever be a contestant on a Palestine version of Masterchef. If they are aware of the vision, then it should be abundantly clear they don’t really care or even know what “apartheid” means. Certainly, our local media is not in a hurry to inform them of Abbas’ clearly stated vision of a juhdenrein Palestine or of the intolerance and hatred at official levels and within the society he governs in the West Bank and I am not even starting to address the oppressive, totalitarian regime in Gaza whose misdeeds are not only repressed by the media on a daily basis but which finds misguided support from some media groupies whose entire world view is one of unreality.

    The second cue we can take from reality television is Israel’s latest season of “Dancing with the Stars”, which put Israel into the world headlines and the gossip pages for an entirely new reason. This season features a world-first for the world-wide franchise with two females paired together for the show. The “star” is Gili Shem Tov, an openly gay sportscaster from Israeli television and her professional partner, Dorit Milman was happy to be a part of it. Dorit declared, “Everyone knows that Israel has a lot of extremes… When we go on primetime TV as a couple, we’re showing everyone can love everyone. It’s about respecting the way of life of other people, even if it’s not your way of life”. ”

    What pitiful, soulless creatures you Jewhaters are.

  4. loewdabulla says:

    BTW, I note David Forde’s curious emphasis in his little hate screed. So if other Western countries are excluding Irael, Australia should just go along with them regardless ofits own interests?

    David Forde must be a lemming of the highest order if he thinks he can taunt Australian politicians with this kind of stuff. hate-filled conformist much?

    OI would remind MR Forde that the reason that many Wetsren Countries are against Israel is because they did a deal with the Arabs about forty years ago to stop supporting Israel for cheap Arab oil.

    There is nothing moral about it- they did it because UK and Europe are in the habit of hating Jews and because Europe is such a pissweak place they’d rather give up their identity to Arabs than stand their ground.
    Supporting the palestinians at israel’s expense was also part of the deal, as was flooding Europe with Muslims welfare suckers.
    David Forde is a laughable Jewhating creep.

  5. loewdabulla says:

    BTW, David Forde – Gaza is a Sharia State. Can’t wait for your undefground liberation m ovement for the gays, the honour killings, the Fatah Hamas torture fests.
    And those ambulances Hamas stole from the Gaza hospitals, painted black and used as mobile torture chambers for people who they wanted to er “discipline.” I suppose you’re quite all right with that, after all those poor little PalestinianMuslims, they ONLY have the HIGHEST rate of funding in the WORLD …

    and the Israelis keep giving them free medical care, free electricity, water, thousands of tons of aid, all while trying to protect their own kids, women and men from Hamas psycopaths and Forde-type psycopaths.

    have you thought of getting a job, David, rather than an obsession?

  6. You go, brother. Never knew a Loewedabull could smell so sweet!
    David Forde’s organisation should be called Labor Just 4 Palestine and 4geddabout justice for Israel.

  7. I must congratulate David Forde on a balanced analysis of the asymmetry in Australia’s political dealings with Israel and Palestine. Far from being a ‘Jew hater’, which is certainly not evidenced from what David has written, perhaps instead he could be perceived as ‘Palestinocentric’ which, given the Australian cultural institution of the ‘fair go’ and the championing of the underdog is a characteristic of an egalitarian democratic and pluralist society.

    One would hope that Australian foreign policy would reflect that but there is one small problem that is shared with Tibet namely, Palestine is not yet a state/country and thus is denied much diplomatic status and recognition. China is similar to Israel in its appalling human rights record and in a similar way the status of Tibet’s leader in exile is restricted by the Chinese government’s insistence that Tibet is part of China and not a sovereign nation in its own right. While there are obvious differences it is easy to see why Israel maintains the status quo and pays only lip service to the peace process. So long as Palestine is denied sovereignty Israel continues to absorb its territory gradually becoming a series of isolated suburbs in Judea and Samaria under a strict military dictatorship.

    What is disgraceful, is that our government – that is to say the people of Australia – is a signatory to many treaties and resolutions ending and outlawing colonialism and thus have an obligation as a member of the international community to uphold those ideals and stand by the UN Charter’s first principle of the “right to the self determination of peoples”.

    The people of Palestine have that right. If our elected representatives refuse to abide by international law we should punish them at the polls.

    If Noam Chomsky is right in saying “Politics is the shadow cast by big business” then the only response to political intransigence and bribery is to engage the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign against Israel. By individually participating in this project each one of us can help in applying negative economic pressure on Israel to conform to international law.

    It is also very important to ignore Zionist propagandists such as Loedabulla who, hiding behind a pseudonym, is spreading mischievous untruths and making ad hominem attacks on those individuals commenting on this and other web sites who are keen to see the application of standards of international fairness to the people of Palestine.

    David Forde is presenting a talk in Byron Bay on Wednesday December 1st at 6pm at the Byron Bay Community Centre. I would like to invite those interested in gaining a first hand account of the reality of life for many Palestinian refugees to attend – details here:

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