Thursday, August 07, 2014

The war in Gaza has generated outspoken antisemitism in Australia

“Zionist scum” daubed on the wall of a Jewish school in Perth. A Jewish man in Melbourne beaten up in the street while wearing a T-shirt with Hebrew writing.

As shocking as these incidents are, they have been the only “attacks” on the Jewish community in Australia since the launch of Operation Protective Edge.

Yes, there have been the pro-Palestinian rallies through our major cities where thousands march decrying Israel, while brandishing banners and placards that equate the Jewish State’s actions with those of the Nazis.

But while the community remains on high alert and fearful of the worst, Australia so far has been spared the anti-Semitic violence and vandalism witnessed on the streets of Europe.

That said, there is a considerable air of disquiet and unease, resulting from relentless assaults on Israel in the media.

What many consider the worst examples emerged last weekend with a segment on Channel Nine’s current affairs program Sixty Minutes titled “Unholy War” presented by Allison Langdon, and a column by veteran journalist Mike Carlton published in The Sydney Morning Herald and on the website of its fellow Fairfax newspaper in Melbourne The Age.

To say they were unbalanced in their coverage of the conflict is an understatement.

To use a word such pundits are so fond of using in the context of condemning Israel, they were downright disproportionate, laying blame solely at the feet of Israel.

Did either Langdon or Carlton mention Hamas’s stated commitment to the destruction of Israel or the terrorist atrocities and rocket attacks that predate this current conflict and have precipitated every conflict in recent years including this one? No

Did either of them mention the disengagement from Gaza and the various offers of West Bank land for peace that could and should have laid the foundations for a Palestinian State? No

Did they mention Israel’s documented attempts to minimize civilian casualties as opposed to Hamas’s documented use of human shields, its policy of firing from residential areas and storing armaments in schools? No

Did Langdon, when musing on the security barrier, care to inform viewers that it had been built to prevent the suicide bombings that had claimed hundreds of lives – and that it had succeeded? No.

In fact, her broadcast was textbook Israel bashing right from the get-go. She interviewed relatives of murdered Palestinian teen Muhammed Khdeir. But rather than interview the relatives of any of the three murdered Israeli teens Gil-ad Sha’ar, Naftali Fraenkel or Eyal Yifrah – or indeed the relatives of any victims of Palestinian terror – she interviewed two right-wing settlers, from the “All this land is ours” extreme.

For good measure, Langdon also interviewed a left-winger to confirm how rotten the Israeli state is in its treatment of the Palestinians.

Any interviews with extremist Palestinians who call for Israel’s destruction? Of course not. Because then it might seem Israelis genuinely have something to worry about, and that the victims of Israel’s aggression might not all be quite the innocents that the program is seeking to make out?

Throw in words like “apartheid” and some highly dubious historical comment about Israel being “carved out” between two Palestinian territories, and this shoddy piece of journalism hit its target.

Carlton’s column, however, was altogether more insidious. Vitriolic in its condemnation of Israel, not only were words such as “genocide,” “ethnic cleansing” and “fascism” used, but the author went on to say these “atrocities” were being “committed by a people with a proud liberal tradition of scholarship and culture, who hold the Warsaw Ghetto and the six million dead of the Holocaust at the centre of their race memory.”

This was no longer just a venomous swipe at Israel in a mainstream newspaper, this was about “a people” and “a race” – a people and a race who should know better because of what they themselves went through. In short, they should know better, and they are no better … than the Nazis.

Throw in a cartoon of a big-nosed, bespectacled man wearing a kippah and sitting in an armchair with a Star of David on the back – pressing a remote control that detonates an explosion in Gaza – and in a country which hosts the highest number of Holocaust survivors outside of Israel, it’s little wonder that many in the community were reminded of the caricatures of Jews they’d seen in Der Sturmer.

Responding to the TV broadcast and the column, this week The Australian Jewish News took the unprecedented step of publishing its editorial column on the front page of the paper. Under the headline “Media Disgrace,” The AJN called on its readers to cancel their subscriptions to Fairfax.

“Shame on those Australian journalists who are fanning the flames of hatred against Jews and Israel,” the paper declared. “Shame on 60 Minutes. Even greater shame on Fairfax.

And noting the alarming rise of anti-Semitism overseas and the incidents that have occurred on these shores, the paper reflected, “In these troubled times it behoves our media to act both responsibly and with integrity, not to stir the pot.”

The pot though has been stirred. And our front page is now itself making the news with various media outlets reporting on our call to action

Does Carlton have any remorse for fanning the flames?  His Tweet on it says it all: “read it, and thought it the usual febrile froth from the Likkud lobby. Ho hum. Didn’t mind at all.”

Let’s just pray that those who read his column think it’s just “febrile froth” from a ranting columnist. Otherwise the vandalism at the Jewish school in Perth and the attack on the Jewish man in Melbourne may simply be the precursors to far more and far worse acts of anti-Semitism in the days and weeks to come.


Mike Carlton, abusive SMH columnist, used the same ugly language which the left abhors

Carlton has always been a hate-filled extreme Leftist.  Abuse is his modus operandi

FORGET Mike Carlton’s original Israel piece, which contained some insightful commentary on how Israel’s centre right government has shifted the political goalposts, thus cajoling many moderate Israelis to support the Gaza madness.

Forget, if you can, the cartoon that accompanied his column, which was inexcusable in its imagery which evoked the way Jews were portrayed during the Nazi era.

The issue at stake here is not whether fallen Fairfax columnist Mike Carlton was right or wrong about Israel. The only issue is that he has been deemed to have responded inappropriately to readers on email and social media, unleashing all sorts of put-downs and expletives.

On this issue, his bosses were clear.  “You just can’t do that,” Fairfax business publisher Sean Aylmer said on radio. The language was “not acceptable in the workplace.  “No one has the right to treat readers that way.”

Sydney Morning Herald editor-in-chief Darren Goodsir was equally blunt in his official statement.  “I have become aware that Mike Carlton has corresponded with some Herald readers and letter writers using inappropriate and offensive language. This behaviour is completely unacceptable,” he said.

In response to Fairfax management’s words, Carlton took the classic schoolyard “they did it first” defence.

The thing to remember about Carlton’s tone is that he is on the political left. This is the same side of political opinion which for years has campaigned for moderation and sensitivity in language. Many on the left reckon that the old adage of “sticks and stones may break my bones but names will never hurt me” doesn’t always apply.

They have a point too. In fact they’re spot on. Sometimes, names really can hurt. That’s why the left has for many years made a big thing of encouraging, nay DEMANDING, the use of sensitive language in relation to women, the disabled, minorities and others.

We, the largely politically unaligned majority, have sometimes lampooned such language as “political correctness”. But overall, we play along because we’re reasonable people. You want us to call a “waitress” a “wait person” or refer to the “blind” as “visually impaired”? Fine. More than happy.

But Carlton has been the opposite of sensitive with his language. Again, this is not about Israel. This is about decency, about not vilifying others with words as weapons.

What really rankles with this drama today is the people lining up on social media to support him. Effectively they’re saying “hey, no one has the right to use insulting language, unless of course they’re my good mate Mike”.

There’s more, much more, and the outpouring of support for Carlton is all the worse given the timing. Many decent Australians are today rejoicing at the repealing of proposed changes to section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act.

Federal Attorney General George Brandis had planned to make it effectively easier to insult people. He was going to remove the wording that says you can’t “offend, insult, humiliate or intimidate others because of the race, colour or national or ethnic origin”.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott clearly decided it was too hard to get all that through the Senate, and that his time might be better served, you know, governing the country and all that.

So great news, Australia. You are still most definitely NOT allowed to “offend, insult, humiliate or intimidate others because of their race, colour or national or ethnic origin”. The law remains intact. So does good old Aussie decency. Offensive behaviour shall be frowned upon. Unless your name is Mike.

It’s perhaps with that in mind that Fairfax bosses today suspended Carlton (who then resigned).

What’s less clear is how the people who so wholeheartedly support the Racial Discrimination Act also support this foul-mouthed, abusive former Fairfax journalist.

As you read this, Carlton is already receiving job offers on social media from a raft of people whose print and/or online publications wouldn’t dream of insulting and abusing strangers. Why the double standard? It doesn’t even begin to make sense.


Tony Abbott says proposed Racial Discrimination Act changes won’t be revived

Mike Carlton should be charged under it

TONY Abbott has ruled out reviving incendiary reforms to the Racial Discrimination Act, as Andrew Bolt warned Jewish leaders would ultimately regret opposing the Prime Minister’s agenda.

However the Executive Council of Australian Jewry immediately hit back, claiming free speech had become “more frank and robust” since the controversial section 18C — which makes it an offence to offend, insult or humiliate someone on the basis of their ethnicity — was introduced.

The Prime Minister yesterday announced the decision to cut the government’s losses, abandoning proposed changes to race hate laws after a co-ordinated and sustained campaign against the free speech amendments that left the Coalition battered in ethnically diverse communities, particularly in western Sydney.

Mr Abbott conceded the proposed changes had become “a needless complication” in the government’s relationship with ethnic minorities, especially in the Islamic community, as he called for national unity to combat terrorism.

Mr Abbott had promised to repeal section 18C after the law was successfully used in 2011 against Bolt, a News Corp Australia columnist.

Bolt last night lashed Mr Abbott for breaching the election commitment.

“He’s saying to make the people who might feel picked on by the terrorism measures — which referred obviously to the jihadists, Muslims, people from the Middle East, they’ll feel picked on — he’s going to drop 18C so they’ll feel less picked on or feel more defended,” he told Sydney radio 2GB.

“But wait; don’t we need a frank debate — more frank than it’s been so far — into how the Islamic culture, the Muslim culture, people from different certain Muslim countries in the Middle East, how they integrate here?

“The Jewish leaders now should look very, very deeply into their souls at what they have helped wrought and ask themselves, are you seriously safer now as a result?”

Peter Wertheim, executive director of the Executive Council of Australian Jewry, said he understood Bolt’s disappointment but rejected that section 18C had restricted free speech.

“If anything, public debate in Australia has become even more frank and robust. The law does not make race a taboo subject,” Mr Wertheim said.  “There is no issue, and no side of the argument on any issue, that is off limits. There is no matter of public interest that cannot be fully explored without denigrating people because of their race.”

Mr Abbott called Bolt yesterday ahead of the announcement to tell him the reforms were “off the table”.

Mr Abbott, when asked if the reforms were only “off the table for now”, told ABC Radio: “No, no. It’s off the table. It’s off the table. It’s gone. It’s disappeared.”

Human Rights Commissioner Tim Wilson, a civil libertarian appointed by the Abbott government, also criticised the government’s decision to abandon the changes.

“Politicians shouldn’t be worried about critics; they should actually be interested in creating the structures and frameworks in our society so that people’s human rights can be protected, not appeasing to groups just because it makes their life easier,” Mr Wilson told ABC Radio.

“The whole basis of human rights is to protect people against the majority group, so when there are a lot of people organised in favour of censorship that is not a justification to silence people.”


Tough terror laws target jihadis

SECURITY laws will be tough­ened to prevent a surge in domestic attacks from jihadists being “radicalised and militarised” in overseas conflicts, as Tony Abbott embarks on the biggest expansion of counter-terrorism powers in more than a decade.

Federal agencies will gain $630 million, as well as stronger powers to arrest Australians who return from foreign conflicts, in a controversial move that drops the presumption of innocence when prosecutors seek convictions and jail terms.

The government will also expand its ability to suspend passports to prevent suspects from leaving the country when they ­appear set on suicide attacks or joining terrorist groups.

Amid growing concerns over Australian jihadists boasting of their crimes in Iraq and Syria, and urging others to do the same at home, the Prime Minister called for “national unity” to back the tougher laws. But the reforms sparked fears last night of an invasion of personal privacy from laws that would force internet providers and phone companies to keep every record of a customer’s phone and web use for at least two years.

A political challenge appears certain as some crossbench senators warn against giving more money and power to national ­security agencies while the Greens reject the data collection laws and Labor reserves its position.

Redefining his government’s priorities, Mr Abbott dumped a divisive reform to racial discrimination laws in the name of building support from ethnic communities who were angry at the prospect of softer protections against racism.

“I want the communities of our country to be our friend, not our critic. I want to work with the communities of our country as Team Australia here,” he said.

The Prime Minister also warned of a big rise in the number of suspects who could attempt a “mass casualty” attack on home soil given there are now five times as many Australians fighting with terror groups in Syria and Iraq as there were in Afghanistan in the past.

Of about 30 Australians who fought with terrorists in Afghanistan, 25 returned home and two thirds of that group were later involved in domestic terrorism, the government said.

“If we see anything like the same ratios in respect of people coming back from Syria and Iraq, the potential for terrorism in this country has substantially increased,” Mr Abbott warned.

“The numbers of people who might potentially need to be ­closely monitored have substantially increased. And that’s why we do need this carefully judged but proportionate increase in the resources available to our security and intelligence agencies.”

The Prime Minister acknowledged that he could need Labor support to get the reforms through parliament and said he had offered a briefing to the opposition to outline the changes.

Bill Shorten said there was “no doubt” the nation’s security agencies needed the right powers but he signalled a political dispute ahead on the “data retention” laws in the light of intense criticism from free speech advocates.

“There is no doubt that our ­security agencies need the right powers to keep Australia safe, so the principle of supporting and building our national security is a bipartisan principle,” he said.

“But Labor also respects the concerns about people’s privacy. It is most important that in the pursuit of national security, that we make sure that we respect the concerns of not treating ordinary Australians as criminals. There is great complexity in maintaining and storing information about 23 million Australians and we need to ensure that we get the balance right between making sure that we have strong national ­security and the rights of our citizens to their legitimate privacy.”

The data retention plan also sparked concerns within the government about whether cabinet ministers were fully consulted on the changes before they were leaked to the media.

The Institute of Public Affairs attacked the proposal as a ­“repressive and expensive” way for the government to monitor its own citizens.

A bill to expand the powers of the national security agencies is already before parliament but the new reforms will be included in a new bill, the Counter Terrorism Foreign Fighters Act, which will be introduced at the end of this month or early next month.

The data retention laws will be the third tranche of the changes and will be finalised after talks with industry. Widening the net in future investigations, the government will amend the definition of terrorist activity to include the promotion and encouragement of terrorism. It will also enable the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation spy agency to keep using questioning and detention powers after they are due to expire in July 2016.

The Australian Federal Police will be able to keep using control orders and preventative detention orders beyond December next year, when those powers were meant to expire. AFP powers to search suspects and seize evidence will also be extended. A critical change is the proposal to lower the burden of proof when people enter Australia after travelling to areas where terrorist groups are active. The change would effectively assume the guilt of someone returning from places such as Iraq and Syria, putting the onus of proof on the individual to convince authorities they were there for humanitarian or family reasons.

Mr Abbott said the changes were needed because of the difficulty of finding proof when an Australian was involved in “unspeakable” crimes overseas.


Moree Solar Farm Puts Big Solar in Big Sky Country

PM Abbott plans to scrap the Australian Renewable Energy Agency. The sooner he gets it done the better

The Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) today announced $101.7 million of support for Moree Solar Farm, which upon completion will be one of the largest solar plants in Australia.

ARENA CEO Ivor Frischknecht congratulated renewable energy company Fotowatio Renewable Ventures (FRV) who are set to begin construction on the project shortly.

"Moree Solar Farm will be the first large-scale solar plant in Australia to use a single-axis horizontal tracking system, where panels follow the sun across the sky to capture sunlight and maximise power output," Mr Frischknecht said. "The 56MWac (70MWp) farm will produce enough electricity to power the equivalent of 15,000 average New South Wales homes."

Mr Frischknecht said the Moree community would benefit from the project and had been keen supporters, along with the Moree Plains Shire Council, for several years. "The $164 million Moree Solar Farm will benefit the local economy and will also deliver an estimated 130 local jobs during the construction phase over 2014-2016.

"More than 50 locations around Australia were investigated before the developers selected the site 10 kilometres out of Moree in NSW's northern wheat belt, an area known as 'big sky country'. The location benefits from high levels of solar radiation and also allows the solar farm to connect to the national electricity grid."

Mr Frischknecht said the project, which is also being supported by the Clean Energy Finance Corporation, would aim to demonstrate that large-scale solar power plants can be constructed and operated within Australia's major electricity grids.

"ARENA will work with FRV to share the valuable knowledge gained in delivering the Moree Solar Farm with the rest of the industry," Mr Frischknecht said. "We recognise reducing early mover disadvantage and supporting the transfer of information will help advance development of more utility scale solar plants in Australia."

Moree Solar Farm is a solar flagship project ARENA inherited when it was established in July 2012. Last week another former flagship project supported by ARENA reached a major milestone when the first of approximately 1.35 million panels were installed at AGL's large-scale solar plant in Nyngan, NSW.


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