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An Open Letter to Ross Burns

Dear Mr Burns

I read your article in The Australian.  I don’t suppose that your world view is going to change any more than mine.  But you are wrong.  Dead wrong.  The record needs to be set right, and with sufficient detail for the sake of your readers.

I normally commend the Australian for providing multiple perspectives, and in the process exposing odious and bigoted views such as yours.  However if the editorial policy of the Australian is in the interests of balance, then it must place one truth against another.  The moment that a truth is juxtaposed to a lie, then the net effect is neither balance or neutrality.  The Australian has further tarnished itself through its online site by running the feeds of AP and other foreign news agency reports that lack honesty, integrity, and balance. 

To rebut your shameful diatribe, I reproduce your article with some salient points that both you and your objective readers may wish to consider:

 “The ostensible purpose of this carnage is yet again the “elimination’’ of the rockets that seem to spring up again like daffodils after winter.”

What spring would that be Mr Burns?  The Arab Spring that has brought about tyranny across the Middle East?  The one that has ethnically cleansed much of the region from Christians and Jews (including the Gaza Strip)?  You are apparently a former Diplomat, but no longer, so maybe you can weasel past diplomatic doublespeak?  It is not an ostensible purpose to eliminate the Hamas rockets.  It is an absolute and unequivocal objective that must be achieved to secure the safety of Israel’s citizens by its Government. 

 “This time, the terrible loss of life in one split second on Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 may have softened the impact in Australia of the Gaza campaign but, as it drags on, more and more Australians are asking: “Why?”

Let me ask you this; if a Hamas rocket had hit a commercial airliner flying into Israel would that also have softened the impact of Australian sympathies with terrorists?  Did you read the statements from Hamas about how they would delight in such an attack?  They have the arsenal too, possibly stored under UN schools and hospitals.  Your comment implies that MH17 served as a smokesceen for coverage of Israel’s Protective Edge campaign.  What you should be asking is whether there is any distinction between terrorists in the Ukraine and terrorists in Gaza who have the insane capacity to fire a missile towards a passenger jet?

 “When Israel’s “right to defend” itself amounts to massive destruction of whole quarters of Gaza on a scale rivalling the destruction in Aleppo, it steps back from being counted as a country that respects the rules of conflict.”

Are you for real?  There are more than 2.8 million Syrian refugees in five neighboring countries, predicted to rise to 4 million by the end of 2014.  In Syria there have been 6.5 million people displaced.  Over 150,000 people dead.  Now think about Israel; if they had been undertaking mass and indiscriminate bombing of Gaza then tens of thousands would have died.  Of the odious death count that continues to be published, the victims include Gaza terrorists, combatants, their human shields, amongst some highly dubious figures of civilian casualties that have been evidenced on occasions to be fabricated.  Nonetheless, I alongside every supporter of Israel deeply mourn every loss of life, from either side of this conflict.  I am a father who can’t abide the idea, let alone the sight, of children of any race, religion or creed being hurt or killed. The imagery coming out of Gaza is horrific and heart wrenching.  But Hamas’ decision to create this devastating episode is being used to justify hateful, violent and vicious attacks on Jews around the world, including yours.  Further to this, I’m not sure how you can allege that Israel is stepping back from respecting the rules of conflict.  Several ceasefires have been agreed to by Israel and breached by Hamas.  You can see the efforts that Israel takes to clear areas prior to destroying terrorist infrastructure.  When you are engaged in a war on terror you have to honestly ask, which side is respecting the rules of conflict – the side that is engaging in terror, or the side that is attempting to prevent the murder of as many innocent civilians as possible?  If you cannot see this basic distinction I feel very sorry for you.  Simply take the Hamas Charter and the statements of their leaders and contrast this to the Israel Declaration of Independence and the broadcasts of Israeli Cabinet Ministers.  It is very clear what Hamas is attempting to achieve and very clear what Israel is trying to achieve.  If you think that Netanyahu and Assad are on the same scale of moral equivalence then you are nothing more than a terrorist sympathiser and enabler.

 “It is not enough to argue “Hamas started it” and not address the situation in which Hamas’s actions evolved: the cruel blockade of 1.8 million ­people, depriving them of normal life. Many are asking how many rocket caches are really being destroyed, as against children in cots or patients in hospital beds or boys playing on beaches. Is this really going to stop the next cache being produced?”

Did you see the photos of arms shipments being intercepted enroute from Iran to Gaza?  Did you ask how Hamas leaders have set up smuggling channels and made themselves into multimillionaires by taxing goods that enter Gaza?  Have you wondered why so much concrete and iron that was somehow not subject to your so called “cruel blockade” has managed to get into Gaza, and instead of being used to develop civil infrastructure has been used to develop terrorist infrastructure?   Maybe you haven’t seen the convoys of humanitarian aid that Israel ships into Gaza, at the very time that rockets fly back into Israel?  Maybe those children in cots and patients in hospitals are resting on top of Hamas control centres that store bombs and strategies to meme and murder?  Maybe those kids on the beach got killed by a Hamas rocket that missed its target?  And maybe, just maybe, a marine and land blockade will stop more bombs and missiles entering Gaza so that they then can’t be fired by terrorists at civilian populations?

 “This is Israel’s 27th punitive operation in Gaza in the past 11 years to have been graced with a codename by the Israel Defence Forces. Each time, evocative titles are devised: “Samson’s Pillars” or the current “Protective Edge”, not forgetting the chillingly appropriate “Operation Locked Kindergarten” in 2006.”

It’s very simple, Ross.  If Hamas had not fired more than 13,000 missiles into Israel since Israel unilaterally withdrew from Gaza, then it would not have to undertake military operations to eradicate the intolerable terrorist threat. 

By the way, you are possibly aware, as a former ambassador that when Israel left Gaza, several million dollars of donor funds were used to purchase greenhouses and farming infrastructure to create new industry for the Palestinian residents of Gaza.  Within a week it was vandalised and destroyed, along with Synagogues and religious sites.  Israel even removed its dead from Gaza to make it Judenrein, but that turned out not to be enough. 

 “The present campaign may be a self-preservation game for the right-wing, Likud-led government in Israel, which shows increasing signs of disintegration as its partners even further to the Right demand more casualties from their Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu.”

Believe what you would like, but Israel has never been more united as a nation, and even politically, than it is today.  It is a blatant misrepresentation to suggest the “Right” demand more casualties.  It is true that the “Right” want the IDF to finish the job of destroying terrorist infrastructure prior to retreating so as to avoid future terrorist attacks against Israel.  Sadly this is a war, and in war there are casualties.  If you really believe Israeli politicians are taking delight in civilian death or willing on further casualty then you are sadly anti-Semitic. Hamas on the other hand……

 “Under pressure from parties that believe in the “transfer” somewhere else (undefined) of all Arabs from the Mediterranean to the Jordan, Netanyahu is letting slip more and more of his real agenda. In commentaries in Hebrew, he has volunteered the bottom lines that led to the breakdown of the recent US-sponsored “peace process” and that probably now make any chance of a return to meaningful negotiations impossible.”

For a former diplomat, your skills are fairly ordinary.  It is very publically accessible information to see what peace offers were made, and what was rejected, and by whom, on multiple occasions. At any point in the last 70 years the Palestinians could have had their own state and lived in peace side-by-side with Israel. They simply have refused to do so. Repeatedly.  Facts aside, there are plenty of transcripts from Netanyahu that acknowledge the need for coexistence and peace, and not one that I can find that suggests an agenda of Palestinian population expulsion.  Bibi wants to offer self-determination and governance to the Palestinians when they are willing to accept the simple notion of co-existence.  Any return to negotiations is not possible in an environment where the PA (as representatives of the Palestinians) maintain their flat rejection to accept Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish State. 

“When responding to the pleas of the US, EU and Australia for a two-state solution, it is abundantly clear Netanyahu is thinking not of a Palestinian state in conventional UN terms, with a checklist of sovereign assets, but an apartheid-like “homeland”, with no contiguous territory, no meaningful frontiers and no capac­ity to refuse Israeli demands to send tanks rumbling through its population like a Sudetenland.”

Apartheid like?  A little provocative that, isn’t it Ross?  An analogues and dangerous term?  I guess Bibi’s acceptance of a peace proposal for a Palestinian state with a contiguous territorial link across its territory (including Gaza) doesn’t count in your analysis.  That aside, it was Abbas who put forward a vision of a Palestinian State free of any Jewish presence, which if you think about it is kind of more than just apartheid. It’s a bit like the Jew-free Gaza that we were told would bring calm.  Israel is no Czechoslovakia, and removing its capacity for defensive control means removing its very existence.  “Rumbling through it’s population like a Sudetenland”?  Is that a subtle analogy that you are trying to convey?  Do you think perhaps this may conjure up an image that Israel is to be considered the new Nazi regime, rolling over sovereign territory?  Not nice, Ross.  In fact Ross, its a bit insulting, an historically abhorrent comparison.  But don’t come out and say it too bluntly or it might just sound outrageously anti-Semitic. 

“Is the world, once ready enough to respruik Israel’s war cry of its “right to defend” itself, increasingly uneasy in its grudging support or silent tolerance of these operations?  Are the lobbyists with deep pockets suddenly finding it harder to get attention?”

The answer to the first question is no.  The leaders and parliaments of the USA (net of its Commander in Chief), Canada, Australia, NZ, all Western Countries have unequivocally asserted Israeli’s right to defence. Tony Abbot did so as recently as today.  This week the US Senate voted unanimously (97-0) to support Israel’s right to defend itself.   

As for your second question, forgive me for accusing you of being an anti-Semite, but all those allusions to the rich Jews who control the media is a canard that you just couldn’t resist to include in your article, wasn’t it?

“Is it now dawning on our politicians that, with one of the world’s biggest armed forces against a puny enemy with largely homemade weapons, Israel may be overdoing it?”

Hey buddy, this is starting to get nasty.  Hamas, with its Iranian and Qatar based funding alliances and multi-billion dollar enterprise is not what I would call puny.  And here is a picture of some of the weapons that Israel intercepted enroute from Iran to Gaza:

And here is a link to the weapons discovered around UNRWA schools.  Do these look homemade to you?  Would you like to have one of these (or several thousand of these) fired into your city? 

“Automatic backing of Israel is less adequate as a default position. Israel is losing its place in the world with each campaign. When Israel is at the point where it rules over more people of Arab background than those who present themselves as Jews (thus entitled to the full rights of citizenship), it inevitably loses a basic qualification as a democracy.”

Um, a few statistics.  Population of Israel is 8.2 million.  Of this 75% are Jewish.  Population of Gaza, about 1.6 million.  Population of other PA territories, about 2 million.  Given the Israeli birthrate exceeds the Palestinian birthrate there is no demographic time bomb as you suggest.

 “Already, the body politic of ­Israel supports structures enshrined in 42 basic laws that are openly discriminatory. It also flouts agreements enshrined not only in the UN but in the framework of the rules of international behaviour that nations have entrenched going back to the Hague Conventions 115 years ago.”

Israel is a Jewish nation.  It has laws that assist it to grow as a Jewish nation state.  The only Jewish nation in the world (there are dozens of Muslim and Christian countries).  These laws do not discriminate or deny opportunity to non-Jews.  If they did you would have to ask why about twenty percent of the students at Israeli universities, no less than 30% at Haifa university, are Arabs. There are Arab professors and lecturers mixing with their Israeli colleagues. That doesn’t sound like it is openly discriminatory to me? What about Arabs serving in senior roles in Israel’s justice system, Arabs having elected members in the Parliament, Arabs in Israel’s military? Sounds very discriminatory, doesn’t it? Israel has a rule of law, a democracy, and an openly moral and tolerant culture that surpasses any other country in the region. It its well within the framework of international behavior. Hamas on the other hand, is a terrorist organization that murders its own people. Not really a Hague convention.

 Through calling for restraint, the Australian government largely ignores the fact an end to the encaging of Gaza is fundamental to a resolution of the issue. Sitting back with folded arms is no longer a viable response.  Israel needs to learn from countries such as Australia that it has gone too far and soon may not have a way back.”

 Israel learns a lot from Australia.  And Australia can learn a lot from Israel, before it too finds that it has gone too far and may not have a way back!  The fundamental resolution to this issue that Israel faces as a military necessity, is to eliminate a terrorist threat.  When Hamas does not threaten Israeli lives, there is no need to flush out the source of terror.   What Israel understands is that there is no such a thing as a “proportionate” response to these vicious murderers, they mean every word of what they say, and they have repeatedly stated their goal to enforce sharia law.  Radical Islam has also stated the same goal for our Country – yes sharia law to Australia is their objective and if we don’t learn from Israel then we put our freedom at risk too.  We already have jihadists marching in our streets.

The fundamental issue is the Hamas abuse of power, including the abuse of the women and children of Gaza. Have you seen how they treat their children as human shields?  

Mr Burns, I am pleased that you are well credentialed as a former Ambassador of Israel to Australia.  It means you are possibly more informed than most and it means that your prejudice should be exposed as even more disturbing.  You are right at home on the board of the Australia Palestine Advocacy Network.  You Sir, are part of the problem, not part of the solution.  Given the tone and lack of honesty in your article, I believe that you are an apologist for terrorists and a blight on the good name of our wonderful country.

I submit in response to your article that Israel has no choice but to attack Hamas and remove its terrorist infrastructure, whilst doing as much as possible not to risk the lives of its soldiers, or the civilian population of Gaza.  All this is necessary, because, surprisingly the diplomatic mechanisms of which you are so familiar and integrally involved with have failed to reach a peace agreement with a terrorist organisation, that happens to be run by kleptomaniacs and homicidal maniacs.  Hamas is regarded by our Government as a terrorist organisation.  It still continues to applaud the murder of Israeli children.  You may wish to consider the very real possibility that Israel’s incursion into Gaza might possibly be due to the terrorists and not because the Israeli Government “demand more casualties” as you so disgracefully suggest.

On behalf of the Jewish people, I condemn your analysis and invite you to travel to Hamas to talk reasonably to their leaders about the framework of the rules of international behaviour.

2 thoughts on “An Open Letter to Ross Burns

  1. From Rav Yoni (repost) Three soldiers – Matan Gottlieb, Omer Chai and Guy Algaranti – were killed yesterday in Khan Yunes. They went to answer a distress call made by Palestinian children who were apparently trapped in some building. The building, however, was rigged to explode, and when the soldiers went in to help them they triggered the bomb, the building exploded and the soldiers were killed.
    The world says we’re not humane. The world says we don’t care about civilians on the other side. The world thinks we attack indiscriminately.
    Great, keep jabberin away, World. Wouldn’t want you to be confused by the facts or anything…

  2. Bret Stephens (Wall St. Journal ) has a few bones to pick with Big Media’s use of Palestinian casualties. Here’s one:

    Consider the media obsession with the body count. According to a daily tally in the New York Times, NYT +2.19% as of July 27 the war in Gaza had claimed 1,023 Palestinian lives as against 46 Israelis. How does the Times keep such an accurate count of Palestinian deaths? A footnote discloses “Palestinian death tallies are provided by the Palestinian Health Ministry and the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.”

    OK. So who runs the Palestinian Health Ministry in Gaza? Hamas does. As for the U.N., it gets its data mainly from two Palestinian agitprop NGOs, one of which, the Palestinian Center for Human Rights, offers the remarkably precise statistic that, as of July 27, exactly 82% of deaths in Gaza have been civilians. Curiously, during the 2008-09 Gaza war, the center also reported an 82% civilian casualty rate.

    When minutely exact statistics are provided in chaotic circumstances, it suggests the statistics are garbage. When a news organisation relies—without clarification—on data provided by a bureaucratic organ of a terrorist organisation, there’s something wrong there, too.

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