Sunday Telegraph columnist Miranda Devine has just been to Israel "as a guest of the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies." In Roadmap to peace heads down a dead end, she reports back.
Since Miranda has called for feedback on her report and provided her email address, MERC decided to take up her invitation and address a number of questions to her. It is my sincere hope that she will respond to these questions so that I can share her answers with my readers. (Can I just say, at this point, that I found her column last week, on the subject of men and children, and the moral panic surrounding them, eminently sensible.):
"In Israel last week, two rusty old keys... served as symbols of a conflict that appears to be without end... One key belonged to a Jewish man gassed in a Nazi death camp. It represents all that was lost by the 6 million victims of Hitler's Final Solution and is the key to understanding the great Jewish diaspora's need for a homeland... The other rusty key is a 10 metre sculpture in... Aida refugee camp in Bethlehem, constructed as a memorial of what the Palestinians call 'The Catastrophe' of 1948... People in the camp carry keys to the houses their grandparents were forced to leave in 1948."
Miranda, do you believe that what the Nazis did to European Jewry excuses the Palestinians being forced out of their homes and off their lands by Zionist forces in 1948? Are you aware that the Zionist colonisation of Palestine, facilitated by the British, began in earnest decades before the Holocaust? Do you think it conceivable that the Zionist leadership in Palestine may have been more interested in exploiting the suffering of European Jews to win the numbers necessary to carve out and maintain a Jewish state in Palestine than in rescuing European Jewry? Do you know how many German Jews chose to go to Palestine in the 30s as distinct from other places such as the US? Are you aware of Zionist efforts after the war to coerce Jewish displaced persons to go to Palestine rather than other places such as the US? And, more broadly, and in line with your statement about "the great Jewish diaspora's need for a homeland", do you seriously believe that Vic Alhadeff is sufficiently at risk in Australia such that Israel needs to be maintained as an exclusive, alternative home for him while millions of Palestinian refugees, driven out in 1948, are denied the right to return to their homes and lands?
"... the Iranian backed militant group Hamas, is committed to the destruction of the Jewish state..." Why do you you choose to frame your reference to Hamas this way when (I assume) you know that Hamas was democratically elected in January 2006? And if you do insist on framing it this way, why, in the interest of objective reporting, is there no reference in your text to the US-backed right-wing Likud Party committed (according to its charter) to no Palestinian state west of the Jordan?
You quote Moche [sic] Ya'alon as saying, "In Oslo we gave and gave and gave. [But] we didn't give land for peace. We gave land for rockets."
Did this strike you as a bit of a stretch given that the West Bank and Gaza Strip have been under Israeli occupation since 1967, meaning that the Israelis have had plenty of time to get out of the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT) if they'd really wanted to? Also, do you think perhaps that if they were ever really serious about ending the occupation, they would never have begun colonising the OPT in the first place?
Ya'alon again: "We want our allies in the West to understand - when the Palestinians are willing to recognise our right to exist, they will be ready to address our security needs."
Does this strike you as a reasonable demand from an Occupying Power? (That is, the Palestinians, who live either in Israeli-imposed exile or under Israeli occupation, have not only to recognise Israel's right to exist as a Jewish state, thus conceding their inalienable right under international law to return to their homes in pre-1967 Israel, but to guarantee Israel's security needs as well.)
"Ya'alon... proposes a long-term 'performance-based process' with the Palestinians, which includes education reform to instill 'an attitude of peace and reconciliation with the Jewish people'. It is impossible to negotiate with people who have been educated 'since kindergarten to wear explosive belts'."
Did it cross your mind, as a savvy reporter, when you heard this that Ya'alon would say literally anything to hold on to the OPT?
Finally, some more general questions if you don't mind. Who paid for your trip? Were other journalists present? If so, who? Do you believe that such sponsored trips by journalists and/or politicians are ethical? What lines, if any, do you believe need to be drawn here? What preparation, by way of reading/research, did you undertake for this trip? What books on the Middlle East conflict have you read?
Looking forward to hearing from you, Miranda.