ECAJ on the A-G’s statement on East Jerusalem

June 6, 2014 by  
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The Executive Council of Australian Jewry (ECAJ) has defended the Federal government’s statement that “the description of East Jerusalem as ‘Occupied East Jerusalem’ is a
term freighted with pejorative implications, which is neither appropriate nor useful.”

Peter Wertheim

Peter Wertheim

The Executive Director of the ECAJ, Peter Wertheim, said: “The Federal government is simply being realistic. Jerusalem has not been a divided city since 1967 and it would be both wrong and impractical to try to turn back the clock and force a re-division.
The fact that the United Nations routinely refers to parts of Jerusalem as “occupied” by Israel does not make such language sacrosanct. On the contrary, the UN Secretary- General, Ban Ki Moon, and his predecessor, Kofi Annan, among many others, are on record as criticising UN bodies for their obsessive anti-Israel bias.
Between 1948 and 1967, Jordan controlled and even purported to annex the West Bank and east Jerusalem. It had acquired these territories in a clear-cut war of aggression, yet the territories were not designated as “occupied”. It is hypocritical to use this language simply because Israel is in control, especially as Israel’s control results from a war of self-defence in 1967.
The Australian government is correct in stating that the Israelis and Palestinians themselves have agreed that the final status of Jerusalem is to be worked out through direct negotiations, and that the use of loaded language by others, which pre-judges the issue, serves no constructive purpose. ”

The following is exactly what Attorney-General Senator George Brandis had to say

Senator George Brandis

Senator George Brandis

“You will recall when the Committee adjourned last night there had been a number of questions and exchanges in particular between Senator Rhiannon and me concerning the description of East Jerusalem.  I’ve had a conversation with the Foreign Minister and I want to make a short statement to the Committee with her authority.

Australia supports a peaceful solution to the dispute between Israel and the Palestinian people, which recognises the right of Israel to exist peacefully within secure borders and also recognises the aspiration to statehood of the Palestinian people.

The description of areas which are the subject of negotiations in the course of the peace process by reference to historical events is unhelpful.

The description of East Jerusalem as “Occupied East Jerusalem” is a term freighted with pejorative implications, which is neither appropriate nor useful.

It should not and will not be the practice of the Australian Government to describe areas of negotiations in such judgmental language.”

The Australia/Israel and Jewish Affairs Council has  welcomed the Australian Government’s decision, announced by Attorney-General George Brandis on Wednesday, to refrain from using the pejorative and unhelpful word “occupied” to refer to east Jerusalem. It called on all sincere supporters of a genuine two-state outcome to likewise support using terminology which does not prejudge the outcome of negotiations and thus encourages compromise and serious diplomatic engagement between the parties. 

Dr Colin Rubenstein

Dr Colin Rubenstein

AIJAC Executive Director Dr. Colin Rubenstein AM, said, “The government’s decision to revise the language it uses to refer to east Jerusalem is very welcome precisely because it is helpful toward achieving a two-state resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict – a goal shared by a bipartisan consensus of Australia’s political leaders, as well as by AIJAC. The only way to achieve a genuine and lasting two-state resolution is through direct negotiations between the parties. Language which prejudges the key issues in dispute – such as describing the land in question as ‘occupied’ and thus presumably the property of one side to which the other has no claim – does not contribute to either the renewal of negotiations, or to their success when they do reconvene. 

“Moreover”, he added, “as a matter of reality, the land in question is best-described as Israeli-administered territory whose legal status is in dispute. It should not be described as ‘occupied Palestinian land’, despite a frequent tendency to do so in our media, because no sovereign Palestinian state has ever existed, and, in international law, the term ‘occupation’ refers to the sovereign territory of one state controlled by another. Israel actually has a strong claim to the land in question under the San Remo Convention and League of Nations Mandates on 1920 and 1922 respectively.” 

“A Palestinian state encompassing most of the West Bank and Gaza should absolutely be the end result of a two-state peace agreement – but prejudging the issues in dispute encourages an ongoing Palestinian refusal to make the compromises essential for such an outcome to come about. This is especially true at a time when the Palestinian Authority appears to be walking away from negotiations, joining together with unreconstructed terrorist group Hamas and focusing its efforts on a futile and destructive attempt to try to gain statehood without a peace agreement via the UN and other international organisations.” He concluded: “We therefore call on all those who sincerely want a two-state peace to support the Government’s efforts to use accurate, neutral language which encourages negotiations and compromise, rather than language which prejudges vital issues in dispute and thus helps contribute to intransigence and other unhelpful behaviour.”

The Organisation of Rabbis of Australasia (ORA)  has also welcomed the Australian Government’s decision, announced by Attorney-General George Brandis.

ORA President Rabbi Meir Shlomo Kluwgant said that one of the key  objectives of ORA is “to promote the centrality of the land of Israel and Jerusalem, its eternal and undivided capital, to Jewish life. This move  by the Australian Government sends a strong message that in supporting  a negotiated outcome for peace in the region, it is important to work with the facts and to steer clear of distorted and inflammatory  language that undermines the true nature of the matters at hand.

“As we pray for peace in the Holy Land, for peace with our neighbours in the region and a true and lasting peace for all of humanity, it is encouraging to know that here, in Australia, our Government has  demonstrated a true grasp of the realities in the Middle East.  ORA applauds this stance of courageous leadership that the Government has taken in this matter”, said Rabbi Kluwgant

Comments

One Response to “ECAJ on the A-G’s statement on East Jerusalem”
  1. David Samson says:

    Australia could display some real courage by moving its embassy to Jerusalem.

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