Two sides to every story

Debbie Sleigh, Rose Bay

Warren Kennedy’s letter (August 16) is full of factual errors.

He dismisses the Israel-Palestine peace negotiations and Israel’s offers to the Palestinians as ‘a sham’.

On 27 January 2001, following the peace negotiations at Taba in Egypt, during which US president Clinton’s bridging proposals were considered by Israel and Palestine, the Israeli and Palestinian delegations issued a joint statement stating: ‘The sides declare that they have never been closer to reaching an agreement and it is thus our shared belief that the remaining gaps could be bridged’.

Kennedy also elides the relevant history. The original recommendation that there be two states for two peoples was made by the UN General Assembly in November 1947, and was supported by more than a two-thirds majority of states, including Australia. It was the Jewish side that accepted the recommendation. The Arab League and the Palestinian leadership not only rejected the recommendation but also declared and initiated a war against the Jewish population of the country in order to prevent its implementation.

People now forget that the partition plan itself did not require the displacement of anyone. It was the Arab-initiated war to prevent partition that led to the displacement of 711,000 Palestinians and 820,000 Jews in Arab countries from their homes

While settlements remain one of the basic issues of the conflict, they are not the core issue. In 2005, Israel unilaterally withdrew its military forces and civilians from the Gaza Strip, dismantling all 21 settlements there. Yet terror activities from Gaza escalated further after Hamas won elections in 2006 and then staged a bloody coup against Fatah and seized executive power in mid-2007, effectively taking complete control of the territory.

Hamas leaders have publicly acknowledged that Gaza is no longer occupied by Israel and is under Palestinian self-rule. Gazans are subject to their own laws. They are not subject to Israeli law in any way.

Kennedy points to the pollution of drinking water within Gaza, but fails to identify the causes – untreated sewage, owing to the incompetence and mis-rule of Hamas, and high salinity levels.  Far from there being a ‘siege’ of Gaza, an average of 1,000 trucks per day carry supplies into Gaza via Israel each week, including drinking water, plus further truckloads each day carrying fuel.

Kennedy is also silent about the steady flow of Gazans, including family members of Hamas leaders, who seek and obtain medical and hospital treatment in Israel. Nor does he mention the number of Palestinian men and women who have fled the West Bank and Gaza to seek refuge in Israel after they have been outed as gay, a capital offence in Palestinian society, or because they are women rape victims who have ‘shamed’ their families and fear that they will be killed by a male relative in an ‘honour’ killing.

Finally, Kennedy gives a very one-sided account of Israel’s action against a 15-year-old Palestinian youth who he portrays falsely as an innocent victim. He may not remember, by comparison, that 15-year-old Farhad Mohammad, who murdered police employee Curtis Chen at random in a terrorist attack at Parramatta in 2015, was shot dead by Australian police at the scene. I don’t recall any human-rights groups complaining that Australian police had carried out an extrajudicial killing of a ‘child’, and had used excessive force. It’s easy to judge others half a world away by impossibly stringent standards, but much harder to live up to them at home.

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