Letter to Editor, The Australian

Oct 6, 2011

in response to article by Greg Sheridan

Greg Sheridan’s (6/10/11) baulking at Kevin Rudd’s criticism of Israel’s reinforces the outlook that we can only be friends with Israel if we never criticise its actions.  This is clearly a restrictive foreign policy position, and one that Australia should be moving away from.

In the midst of delicate negotiations at the UN, Israel’s announcement of its intention to build a further 1,100 housing units in the West Bank must be seen at the least as provocative.  Settlements are clearly a key issue in negotiations, as they represent Israel continuing to ‘claim’ more land, even while negotiations continue.   Israel doubled the settlers living in the West Bank during the Oslo accords, and the number continues to increase.

Gilo is half-way between Jerusalem and Bethlehem, and fits precisely into the Israeli strategy to divide Palestinians from one another and from Jerusalem.

It comes as no surprise that Palestine is questioning the efficacy of bilateral negotiations and asking for the involvement of the whole international community through the UN.

Sheridan suggests that Australia responded too strongly to Australian passports being forged and used in an assassination attempt.  I wonder what Israel must do before it is agreed we can say ‘too far’?

Australia must be willing to listen to Palestinian perspectives as well as Israeli ones if we are to have a balanced foreign policy.  In this regard we welcome Fraser and the many other prominent Australians who have supported the Palestinian bid for Statehoood (https://apan.org.au/wp-content/uploads/Statement-on-Recognition-of-Palestinian-Statehood_v4.pdf).

Rev James Barr
Australia Palestine Advocacy Network