Fair use of the right of reply

The Perth Voice is a free newspaper that is delivered to about 40,000 homes in Perth’s inner northern suburbs. 

The paper is an important check and balance in the limited market of Perth media, and is generally informative and newsworthy.  Full credit to the editor who has, over the past few months, run a series of articles about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and presented both sides of the discussion with plenty of airspace.  

It could be cynically suggested that the summer months, when Local Government shuts shop, is a quiet news time for community news publications, as they feed off the ineptness of Councils for most of their news coverage.  This creates the opportunity to take some other issues and give them a good run.  However, it would appear that in this case the paper has taken a genuine interest in local perspectives on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and has provided exceptional balance of coverage.  Let’s hope that continues.

In its edition of Saturday 23 January, a reply to an article by the JCCWA’s Steve Leiblich appeared, scripted by the WA Friends of Palestine.  To the uninformed reader the article woud be “the other side of the arguement” where the article by Mr Leiblich is deconstructed, and rebutted.  However, those who are more acutely aware of the nature and veractiy of Palestinian propaganda, the article is a textbook example of where the right of reply does not equate to balance.  Put more simply, there is truth, and there are lies, and giving equal airspace to both is not balance of opinion.  When two truths come head to head, we have a discussion.  When malicious allegations and loaded terminology are used to invent a truth, then credibility is extended to a lie.  I refer to the use of words such as “ethnic cleansing” “aparthied” “massacre” “brutal occupation” and “criminal” as allegations against Israel that are totally out of line and far from the reality of circumstance.   

The article by the WA Friends of Palestine simply dismisses the Jewish connection to the land of Israel, calling it irrelevant and without foundation.  This itself shows how pointless it is in trying to establish dialogue and negotitation with Palestinian advocates.  From the leadership of the Palestinian Authority, through to their academic supporters and activists all over the world, the continued denial of the Jewish historic and national ties to Israel as a Jewish homeland is an insurmountable obstacle.  It is also revisionist history, a denial of an irrefutable truth.

The Voice article also takes opinion and presents it as fact.  There is one glaring example of this.  The article claims that there is “no argument about the illegality and immorality of Israel’s occupation”.  This is patently wrong.  

Let’s examine this from a factual viewpoint.  The West Bank cannot be considered legally “occupied” by Israel when it was never recognised as sovereign territory before 1967.  Jordan’s annexation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem in 1948 was never legally recognised (Britain and Pakistan were the only exceptions to this) and Jordan today makes no claim to the area.

The boundaries of the “West Bank” barely preceded the establishment of the State of Israel. They were first defined in 1947 through an armstice agreement.  This ended when Israel declared independence in 1948 and was simultaneously attacked by five Arab armies. In terms of international law, between 1948 and 1967 this territory was terra nullius, or “land belonging to no one” over which sovereignty may be acquired through occupation. The real fact is that since Jordan, the prior holder of the West Bank and East Jerusalem had seized that territory unlawfully in 1948, Israel which subsequently took that territory in the lawful exercise of self-defence in 1967, has better title to it.

It was after the war in 1967, when Jewish people started returning to their historic heartland in the West Bank, or Judea and Samaria, as the territory had been known around the world for 2,000 years until the Jordanians renamed it, the issue of settlements arose.

Contrary to some beliefs there has never been a Palestinian State. Despite being under Islamic control for hundreds of years, Jerusalem was only ever a capital city of the two Jewish Commonwealths which preceded the modern Jewish State.  It was neglected throughout the Ottoman empire and the many other controlling authorities that preceeded it, regarded as nothing more than wasteland.

Supporters of the modern State of Israel should not waver when faced with the abusive and offensive Palestinian propaganda.  It should be exposed for what it is – an uncompromising campaign towards a world that no longer holds a Jewish State.  Israel, which exercises its right to self defence has the regrettable necessity to restrict Palestinian movement for the sake of the own security.  If the lives of its citizens were not threatened by terrorism then no such restrictions would be necessary.  However at the moment the sheer concept of co-existence remains beyond the lexicon and common decency of Palestinians.  In such an environment Israel owes nothing in the way of concessions.  No other country would tolerate the level of threat and violence that is thrust upon Israel by a population.  No other population would neglect the opportunities extended to it for political self-determination in the way that the Palestinian Authority has, out of the unwavering position that Israel simply cannot exist.

The WA Friends of Palestine article perpetuates an historic lie, and uses the pretext of occupation to deny Israel’s legitimacy to its sovereign right to be a Jewish State.  It also ignores the reality that Palestinians are the instigators of terrorism, not the victims of an occupation.  Israel has demonstrated time and time again that the occupation would end tomorrow if its security was genuinely guaranteed, and its right to exist was unequivocally supported by the Palestinian’s.  Sadly, coexistance cannot be achevied while one side refuses the basic right of existance to the other. 

As far as editorial license is concerned, the Perth Voice is doing the right thing by its readers.  However these perspectives need to be recognised for what they are.  This is not “apples compared to apples”.  This is history, compared to revisionist history.  This is truth compared to a lie.  This is the freedom compared to subjugation of national self-determination for both peoples.  The people of Perth need to be informed enough to recognise that there is no legitimacy extended to the comparison between two positions when one of those positions is a falsehood.

The WA Friends of Palestine need to swallow a reality pill.  They, along with their Palestinian nationalists need to realise that Israel will not commit national suicide, and that Israel would happily extend a hand of friendship and prosperity to Palestinians and all Arab peoples, should it be extended genuine peace.  It’s about time that the WA Friends of Palestine stopped their malicious and deconstructive attempts to delegitimize Israel using the language of hate.  Maybe then, we will have some common ground and something we can talk about.

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