According to her profile at womenofaustralia.info, the ABC's Monica Attard is the holder of "five Walkley Awards including a Gold Walkley for Excellence in Journalism." We are also told that she believes that "the journalist should not set out to provoke interviewees, but at times there is a moral obligation to speak out." Since leaving ABC's Media Watch, Attard has been interviewing the movers & shakers on Radio National's Sunday Profile.
Interviewing Israel's Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon and Australia's Deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard on 2/7/09 was evidently not one of those occasions that entailed "a moral obligation to speak out." No, more a time to go with the Zionist PR flow washing over the ABC these days.
Attard's introduction set the tone for the interviews: Israel's inexorable 61-year old colonial project of swallowing the land of Palestine while spitting out its indigenous inhabitants was described as a "dispute." Hamas, not Israel's occupation and colonization of Palestine, was "the sticking point." Its "habit of firing rocket missiles [!!!] into Israel... a practice which caused a dramatic and bloody response from Israel earlier this year," was the main game, with not a peep about Israel's sadistic throttling of the Gaza Ghetto. And then, of course, the obligatory reference to Iran, which "leaves Israel feeling very nervous indeed." How very solicitous. What followed was predictably tame:-
Ayalon's risible statement that "we do not interfere with other countries' domestic issues" passed without comment from Attard. As did his hypocritical references to the Iranian elections: "an issue of freedom and human rights"; "I do hope there's no bloodshed"; Iran should abide by "international norms." Ditto for Ayalon's equally hypocritical reference to Iran's alleged "illegal nuclear activities."
Asked about Gillard's trip to Israel, Ayalon cooed these now familiar sweet nothings: "We see Australia not only as a sister democracy, but as a very good friend and ally which has historic ties here in Israel. There were Australian soldiers... that participated in... liberating the land of Israel from the Ottoman Empire during World War I. [!!!] They were again here in World War II. We have very good trade relations and are really kindred spirits in many, many ways when it comes to the rule of law, democratic values, ethics. You also had come to a barren land and made it bloom, [!!!] so the relations are very good and we were very happy and pleased and delighted to have here the Deputy Prime Minister of Australia, and the more visits the better, and we also intend to reciprocate with visits in Australia as well." Neither his liberties with history, nor his humbug, elicited so much as a groan from Attard, allegedly "one of Australia's most respected news and current affairs journalists (womenofaustralia.info).
"There are some things we don't have in common," Attard finally piped up, referring merely to Gillard's parroting of Obama's call for a "freeze" on Israeli settlements. The former Israeli Ambassador to Washington was more than a match for her though: "We understand, but friends may agree to disagree." And then, having touched on that Incarnation of Evil and Insuperable Impediment to Lasting Peace in the Middle East, Hamas, came this gobsmackingly gormless question from Our Lady of the Walkleys: "Can you accept Hamas having a role in a Palestinian government in return for more settlements?" Think about it.
"Was there any discussion of military cooperation between us?" Attard asked. The otherwise fluent Israeli pollywaffle sounded lost for words: "No, but... we... you know... as like-minded states in many areas of course... that we will always share everything that we can and we will continue with that." Share what? she neglected to ask. "Was an international peace-keeping force discussed?" she did. "We're not there yet," replied Ayalon. Yet? she didn't ask.
A particularly bizarre question arose in the context of Attard's reference to Ayalon's chairmanship of "an organisation dedicated to increasing the number of immigrants to Israel." Referring to Jews who live outside Israel as a "diaspora," Attard asked, "Would you consider helping Australian Jews move to Israel considering that Australia has the highest proportion of Jews outside Israel?" Were they perhaps in some kind of danger that only Attard could divine? Apparently, the distinct possibility that Australia's Jewish community might actually consider Australia their real home seems to have eluded her. Ayalon, of course, didn't miss a beat. "Australia could be a very great place for us to work," he chirped.
At that, it was Gillard's turn. "How did the idea of a settlement freeze go down with the Israeli leadership," Attard asked her: "I don't think that they were surprised by Australia's position. Our foreign minister Stephen Smith had made it well known. Clearly, for the Israeli government... this is a difficult issue. What the prime minister would say is that he does agree with the need to halt the further development of new settlements, but he would seek to continue to have natural growth within current Israeli settlements, whereas the Americans have made it very clear that they're talking about a halt on all settlement activity. The Australian view is that we do need to see a halt if we are going to have a peace process and dialogue in the Middle East that leads to a two-state solution... and it only makes the striking of that agreement more complicated if we continue to see settlement activity..."
Asked about possible "obstacles" in the way of such a scenario, Gillard proceded to tie herself in knots: "I walked away from my conversation with the Israeli prime minister believing there was a real preparedness for a genuine discussion. He genuinely wants to step forward and engage in a discussion about peace. He has obviously made his predispositions as the prime minister of the nation clear, but he's also said he's prepared to participate in a discussion with the Palestinian leadership with no preconditions." This was apparently too hard for Our Lady of the Walkleys to unravel, and so the contradiction inherent in Netanyahu having "predispositions" (no Palestinian army, no Palestinian control over airspace, no sharing of Jerusalem, no right of return for Palestinian refugees, Palestinian recognition of Israel as an ethnocracy), but "no preconditions," was left dangling.
Past this point, Gillard started sounding like Ayalon himself. When asked if the Australian government could see itself dealing with Hamas, she positively took the words right out of his mouth: Hamas was a "terrorist organization" that needed to "renounce violence." If images of Israeli state terror rose before her eyes, the Walkley Winner remained mum.
She did, however, raise the issue of Amnesty International's recent accusation of Israeli war crimes in Gaza (See Amnesty accuses Israel over Gaza, Jason Koutsoukis, SMH, 3/7/09). Gillard, continuing to channel Ayalon, responded: "We do need to remember this was an Israeli response to continued rocket attacks out of Gaza into Israeli civilian areas." And when asked about Israel's "level of force," Gillard-Ayalon was quick to assert "Israel's need to defend its people," before adding that "we've continued to express concerns about the humanitarian circumstances of the Palestinian people." And to whom in Israel did you express these concerns, and with what result? Attard didn't bother asking.