"A senator who travelled to Israel free of charge on a Jewish-sponsored study program has lashed out against claims by a former Australian ambassador to Israel, who said that such trips for federal MPs offered a 'sanitised' view of the conflict and possibly tainted Australia's foreign policy in favour of Israel. Senator Glenn Sterle from Western Australia, who visited Israel in March 2007 as part of the Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council (AIJAC) Rambam fellowship program, said he took personal offence at the comments made by former Australian ambassador to Israel Ross Burns this week. 'We're not absolute idiots. We're mature enough to make our own decisions', Sterle told The AJN. Although he didn't visit the Palestinian towns of Ramallah or Bethlehem on the trip, Sterle contended the mission's itinerary wasn't heavily biased towards Israel. 'I met Palestinian journalists and we heard their side of the story. It was balanced. There's no doubt about that." (Senator lashes out at claims MPs trips to Israel 'sanitised', The Australian Jewish News 17/4/09)
Palestinian journalists? -Ah, yes, I remember them well. Let's see... Give me a minute. Their names are on the tip of my tongue... Balanced? - Absolutely, not a shadow of a doubt... at least until the 18th of January this year when...
The 18th of January? Remember that day? The serried ranks of bomb-belted Palestinian babies, clutching Made-in-Iran inter-continental ballistic missiles in their grubby (but chubby) little hands, were on the verge of wiping Sderot off the map. Well, that was what finally tipped the balance for Senator Sterle. Initially, torn between the Palestinian side of the story and the Israeli, both of which had been fixed in perfect balance in his mind ever since his 2007 AIJAC rambamming, he was plunged in an agony of indecision on that day over the Pros & Cons of the Rockets from Gaza. But, seeing that Israel's heavily armed PR offensive was faultering, and that Sderot, a city he had grown to love (having visited it not once, but twice!), was about to fall to the Sons of Amalek, he thought to himself, 'Strewth! I'm not an absolute idiot. I'm mature enough to make my own decisions'. And you know what? He did. 'To hell with balance', he cried. 'This is Israel's hour of need!' And he made his way, unbidden and unaided, to the Israel solidarity rally organized by the Jewish Community Council of Western Australia (JCCWA) and the State Zionist Council at Perth Hebrew Congregation on January 18.
There he rubbed shoulders with "about 1500 Western Australian Jews, along with local politicians and Israeli diplomats" and heard a JCCWA spokesman declare, in chilling tones, that the "war in Gaza was 'part of a regional and global conflict with militant Islamism, headquartered in Iran'." (WA rallies behind Israel, AJN, 22/1/09) At that, he was persuaded to take the microphone in his trembling hand and say a few words. Well, we don't have a transcript or anything, but here's how 'Sandy' at Perth.Indymedia.org reported him:
"Senator Glenn Sterle had visited Sderot twice and empathised with the town's distress caused by living under siege and the constant threat of rocket attacks. He expressed his feeling from meeting dozens of Israelis that the nation genuinely seeks peace." (WA expresses solidarity with Israel, 24/1/09)
And here's how Jewgleperth.com* reported him:
"Senator Glenn Sterle in particular spoke of the education programs that Itamar Marcus of Palestinian Media Watch had shown them, and how young children are being brought up with images and messages of hate." (Perth expresses solidarity with Israel, 18/1/09)
[* I was particularly impressed with this comment on the Jewgleperth report from one, Matisiyahu. It gives you a real insight into the psyche of the always humble, thoroughly decent, and genuinely peace-seeking Israeli: "Matisiyahu is back!!!!! Have been busy in Gaza remodelling. Turns out the UN buildings are being used for more than just aid distribution but let's not waste space talking about things we already know. Met a nice guy in a tunnel recently who muttered something about wanting to be a martyr so he could have his 72 virgins blah blah blah. He got his wish. I think the saying is be careful what you ask for because you may just get it." What a mensch!]