Monday, June 29, 2009

Gillard Gets a Gong

Surprise, surprise, Greg (Jerusalem Prize) Sheridan, one of Gillard's 40-strong entourage on her recent trip to Israel, has nothing but praise for her. As always, he's long on assertion, smear, and straw men, but short on evidence:-

"Gillard deserves particular praise for attending the [Australia Israel Leadership] forum, as she was subject to a nasty campaign from the Left to try to intimidate her out of going. The Left internationally is going through one of its periodic bouts of trying to isolate Israel. This is one of those demented moments where allegedly progressive opinion believe it's the height of creativity to engage the mullah dictatorship in Iran, as it steals elections and pursues nuclear weapons, but wrong to visit a democratic ally such as Israel. The Rudd government has stood four square against this nonsensical position, as demonstrated in Kevin Rudd's long telephone conversation with Israel's Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, earlier this week... Gillard also met Netanyahu and Israeli President Shimon Peres. Gillard's outlook on national security and international relations generally has matured and deepened enormously over the past few years. She certainly believes what she says. But there is also a good political dimension to what Gillard is doing. A Labour politician from the Left, she aspires one day to the prime ministership. The traditional doubt about the Left is that they tend to be anti-American or simply unreliable on national security. Gillard has given a series of speeches and performances that demonstrate she is 100% with Rudd in the mainstream Curtin-Hawke Labor tradition on the US alliance, the deployment of Australian forces overseas and indeed Israel and the Middle East." (Gillard prime ministerial in Israel, The Australian, 25/6/09)

The DPM, who didn't say boo about Israel's West Bank settlements in her "remarkably gracious address" (Sheridan's assessment) in Jerusalem, is now reportedly backing "the Obama administration's call for a freeze on Israeli settlement activity in the West Bank." (Stop settlements, Gillard urges, John Lyons, The Australian, 27/6/09) However, when "[a]sked what action should be taken if Israel did not halt settlements, she said: 'I believe what President Obama is calling for and what the the world is looking towards is having a real dialogue that leads to progress." Howzat for a mature and deep outlook on international affairs? Sooo mature, sooo deep!

Just imagine if Gillard had replied thus: 'The debate over Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories is often framed in terms of whether they should be 'frozen' or allowed to grow 'naturally'. But that is akin to asking whether a thief should be allowed to keep his ill-gotten gains or steal some more. It misses the most fundamental point. Under international law, all settlements on occupied territory are unlawful. And there is only one remedy: Israel should dismantle them, relocate the settlers within its recognized 1967 borders and compensate Palestinians for the losses the settlements have caused. Removing the settlements is mandated by the laws of the Geneva Convention, which state that military occupations are to be a temporary state of affairs and prohibit occupying powers from moving their populations into occupied territory. The intent is to foreclose an occupying power from later citing its population as 'facts on the ground' to claim the territory, something Israel has done in East Jerusalem and appears to want to do with much of the West Bank."*

Presumably, Sheridan would have denounced her as an immature and shallow product of the "demented Left." After all, Sheridan doesn't really have a problem with Israeli settlements: "Although I think Israel will be prepared to give up numerous settlements in the West Bank, I don't think [Gilot, Har Homa, Gush Etzion, Ma'ale Edumin, Ariel] will be given up under any circumstances. The stereotype of the Jewish settler... is of 'a beligerently bearded Jew with a knit skullcap on his head, a Bible in one hand and a rifle in the other'. It's a stereotype I didn't meet at all in any of these settlements, and not for want of trying, although of course I met only a fraction of the nearly 400,000 Jews who live beyond the 1967 lines... [T]he settlers I met lived where they did for a variety of reasons, mainly the lower cost of housing..." (Deep inside the plucky country, The Australian, 19/1/08)

[*Israel's settlements are on shaky ground, Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch,, 28/6/09)]

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