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#################### Geoff Seidner
FORMER foreign minister Bob Carr has just become patron of Labor Friends of Palestine. Writing for us at the weekend, Mr Carr revealed he’d had an epiphany on Israel. He argued that the nation had “gone from secular to religious”. As well, Mr Carr claimed that fanatics in Israel’s government were promoting “apartheid”, fostering one set of racially based laws for the Jewish minority and an inferior set for the Palestinian majority. As pleas for attention go, this was both spectacular and pitiful. For someone who has had an abiding interest in international affairs, is a boastful student of history and, with Bob Hawke, launched Labor Friends of Israel in 1977, something is wrong and seriously out of kilter.
If this were only a random display of relevance deprivation syndrome by Mr Carr in his dotage it would be sad. But the one-time premier of NSW is a consummate operator, with an eye for a headline and a nose for mischief. We cannot say what is in his heart, but his analysis is deeply flawed and deserves to be exposed. In some ways Mr Carr is falling into the Left’s posture trap of late that has seen Labor MP Melissa Parke in lock step with the ratbags of the sorry boycott, divestment and sanctions cavalcade that lays the blame for the ills of the Middle East on Israel. On the other flank, of course, are the rabid Holocaust deniers. It’s an ugly pincer movement that is trying to assault not just a vibrant democracy but the only functioning one in that troubled region.
Far from being a polity of fanatics, Israel is a pluralist, if sometimes rowdy and passionate, state that does not discriminate against Palestinians; its laws are ethnically blind. An incendiary term such as apartheid does Mr Carr no credit, drawing a parallel between two systems, histories and struggles that are unrelated. Palestinians have lived well in Israel and have enjoyed all the rights of normal citizenship. Some have pointed to the dividing wall on the West Bank as an act of hostility, but Israel has an obligation to protect its children from the clear and present threat of attack. No one wants to see atrocities such as car bombs at school bus stops, but this is the grim reality for Israelis.
Mr Carr wrote that the kibbutz was once the symbol of Israel, now it is the settlement. He will recall that in good faith Israel withdrew from some settlements in 2005, handing Gaza to the Palestinians. This did not improve life for Palestinians. Rather, it gave Hamas a handy site to launch its rockets at Israel. Like our major political parties, The Australian supports a two-state solution in the Middle East. But it is not going to happen when one side works in tandem with a terrorist group that wants to wipe Israel from the face of the planet. It is a matter of deep shame that the Palestinian people have been used by militants as human shields and are seen as expendable for an extremist cause; ordinary Palestinians, too, have been poorly served by their politicians. In truth, their cause has gone backwards. They have been on the cusp of progress often, only for hope to be extinguished. In the first Oslo Accord in 1993, Israel offered Palestinians a generous deal; this was repeated, in various forms, in 2000, 2005 and 2008. Foolishly, these olive branches were rejected or met with hostility. A homeland has slipped beyond the reach of Palestinians. Mr Carr is not naive; he knows history and politics. Once a prominent friend, he has done Israel — and the cause of lasting peace — a disservice.