ABC Australia – where a little knowledge is a dangerous thing

On Sunday, 23 October, 2022, John Lyons, the ABC’s global affairs editor posted what was termed an analysis of the Albanese Labor government’s decision to reverse the previous Liberal Morrison government’s decision recognising Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

Aside from the one-sided emotional positioning of less informed readers which comes with stacking an argument, Lyons’ central argument was that FM Wong’s reversal of the Morrison government’s decision to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital was that it was “wrong” because it put Australia “at odds with most countries around the world.”

Arguably, Lyons is suggesting that doing the wrong thing by Israel as a sovereign nation is OK because denying Israel and its Jews legitimacy to choose its own capital is OK because most other countries have said it is not an issue to deny them that right.

In support of this unusual reasoning he cites Israel’s own website, “….Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs states that on November 29, 1947, the UN General Assembly voted on resolution 181 to adopt a plan to partition what was then called the British Mandate into two states – one Jewish and one Arab.

The website states – correctly — that under this plan the Jerusalem-Bethlehem region would be “an enclave under international administration.” There it is on Israel’s own official website (emphasis added)– under the agreement on which Israel was established Jerusalem was to be “an enclave under international administration,” not the capital.”

Lyons then ends that section of information by stating that “…Penny Wong’s (Australia’s FM) position is consistent with Resolution 181…” before outlining a personal interpretation of a vague consensus in what he terms the “international community” not consonant with international law, as well as stating “facts” such as opining that the UN created Israel.

It didn’t, and Lyons’ similarly flawed attribution that FM Wong’s position in the recent policy change was “consistent with Resolution 181” is inaccurate in the extreme.

What the UN, successor to a prior League of Nations ruling based on the San Remo Conference, did do was recommend partitioning what was left of the original Mandate – western Palestine – into two new states, one Jewish and one Arab. Jerusalem and its surrounding villages were to be temporarily classified as an international zone belonging to neither polity.

What resulted was Resolution 181 [known also as the 1947 Partition Plan], a non- binding recommendation to partition Palestine, whose implementation hinged on acceptance by both parties – Arabs and Jews.

What Lyons conveniently does not mention is the fact that while the Jews accepted the terms of partition, the Arab nations, including Egypt, Syria, Iraq, and Saudi Arabia denounced the plan on the General Assembly floor and voted as a bloc against Resolution 181 promising to defy its implementation by force, and that the Arab states were firmly committed only to the goal of a unitary Arab state in British Mandate Palestine.

Never once does Lyon refer to, or mention, this finding as documented by UNSCOP officials presented as early as their Aug 1947 report in Geneva, before the State of Israel was declared 15 May 1948

What Lyons does also not do is explain briefly to the readership, as an ABC global affairs analyst, where, in recorded history, there has been even one instance where a putative polity declares war on a legal sovereign neighbouring state, loses that war (and two further wars), and then demands a return to the status quo ante.

However, to give Lyons his due, in half a sentence he quotes only the Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs own statement that  “…any Palestinian state can only be established through compromise and mutual recognition.”

Lyons presents that as a sufficient condition, in support of his opinion that FM Penny Wong did the right thing legally by Israel, and thereby implies, by omission, that the Arabs (now Palestinians) did, in fact, comply with, recognise and compromise on the same Resolution 181 that Lyons only partially quotes from.

What Lyons does not mention is that Resolution 181, in paragraph C, called on the Security Council to:

“Determine as a threat to the peace, breach of the peace or act of aggression, in accordance with Article 39 of the Charter, any attempt to alter by force the settlement envisaged by this resolution.”

The Resolution was well aware of the fact that the ones who sought to alter the settlement envisioned in Resolution 181 by force, were the Arabs (now Palestinians) who threatened bloodshed if the United Nations was to adopt the Resolution.

In fact, the United Nations Palestine Commission. First Monthly Progress Report to the Security Council. A/AC.21/7, reported in January 29, 1948, four months before Israel declared independence in May of that year, “The [British] Government of Palestine fear that…the United Nations Commission will mean little or nothing to the Arabs in Palestine, (Note: No mention of a “Palestinian people”…) to whom the killing of Jews now transcends all other considerations.”

In an October 2011 interview with current PA leader Mahmoud Abbas, Dan Williams, writing for Reuters, records that Abbas, in response to Williams suggestion that the reason for the continuing Arab Israeli conflict was Jewish leaders’ acceptance of the plan and its rejection by the Arabs, ascribed historical fault on the Arab side: “I know, I know. It was our mistake. It was our mistake. It was an Arab mistake as a whole. But do they punish us for this mistake (for) 64 years?”

A fair question by any standard.

However, that plaintive query is contextualised by the October 10, 2022 interview with Mayadeen TV (Lebanon) where the Secretary-General of the Islamic Jihad Movement, Ziad Al-Nakhalah, a terror group currently partially responsible for violent unrest in Jerusalem and the West Bank, and an entity Abbas is either unwilling or unable to control, stated that “We do not wish the resistance to remain confined to the West Bank. We view Palestine of the pre-1948 borders the same way as we view the West Bank. It is all Palestine and this land in its entirety belongs to the Palestinian people. “

This does little for Lyons’ selective quoting of Resolution 181 minus the “analysis”. He does make a vague reference to an “international community” which he says “guaranteed” rights to two sides.

He does not, however, refer once to international law. This international law was where fundamental elements that were set, at first, to avoid a conflict between Arab and Jew and then to resolve the Arab Israeli conflict: San Remo Conference decisions, 1920; League of Nations decision, 1922; and the UN Charter, Article 80, 1945.

Nor does he refer to the fact that after the League of Nations was dissolved, the various international guarantees it had conferred were explicitly preserved in that same Article 80 of the UN Charter which stated that nothing in the charter shall be construed “to alter in any manner the rights whatsoever of any states or any peoples or the terms of existing international instruments to which Members of the United Nations may respectively be parties.” Nor did the 1947 Partition Plan revoke this guarantee: It was adopted by the General Assembly, which under the UN’s own rules means it was nonbinding. It could have become a binding international treaty had both Jews and Arabs accepted it, but in fact, the Arabs rejected it.

As Howard Grief succinctly explained: “Article 80 of that Charter (the Charter is an international treaty) stated that this provision of international law Jewish rights to Palestine and the Land of Israel were not to be altered in any way unless there had been an intervening trusteeship agreement between the states or parties concerned, which would have converted the Mandate into a trusteeship or trust territory.

The only period of time such an agreement could have been concluded  under Chapter 12 of the UN Charter was during the three-year period from October 24, 1945, the date the Charter entered into force after appropriate ratifications, until May 14-15, 1948, the date the Mandate expired and the State of Israel was proclaimed.

Since no agreement of this type was made during this relevant three-year period, in which Jewish rights to all of Palestine may conceivably have been altered had Palestine been converted into a trust territory, those Jewish rights that had existed under the Mandate remained in full force and effect, to which the UN is still committed by Article 80 to uphold.”

In blatantly barracking for the Labour Party’s anti-Israel agenda, as well as highlighting irrelevancies, Lyons does not even begin to engage with the sorts of issues that any objective analyst would have raised as part of a balanced analysis despite him stating that “…the main [issue] being that in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict there are two sides.”

Nor does he ever refer to the fact that the 1947 Partition Plan could have become a binding international treaty had both Jews and Arabs accepted it, where, while, in fact, the Jews did accept it, the Arabs not only rejected it, rendered the status of Jerusalem as a separate entity entirely moot by going to war, but then belatedly demanded a return to the status quo ante, something Lyons analyses as eminently reasonable.

To bolster any semblance of objective analysis as the ABC’s global affairs editor, Lyons needs to acknowledge that the Arabs (now Palestinians) never intended to honour either the recognition of a Jewish state per international law and UN resolutions, nor accept the internationality of Jerusalem as a Corpus Separatum per the Partition Plan.

Yet, and in Lyons’ own triumphant words in a context he didn’t particularly envisage, “…There it is on Israel’s own official website….”

In his analysis John Lyons gives his opinion that he favours a 2 state solution.

However, as Dr Martin Sherman accurately stated on Oct 21, 2022, “Little analytical acumen is needed to grasp that a Palestinian state will comprise a multi-dimensional threat to Israel. Whether one considers height, width, length, or depth, such a state would entail existential dangers for Israel…..Support for a Palestinian state between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea is driven either by malice or by ignorance: Either malice reflecting a desire to gravely undermine Israel’s national security and/or the personal safety of its citizens; or ignorance reflecting a gross lack of knowledge and/or appreciation of the consequences that such a state would have for Israel.”

Without putting too fine a point on it, Sherman then quotes Zaki Abbas: ”In a 2009 article, headlined “Palestinian Official Says Two-state Solution Will Destroy Israel,” the Palestinian Ambassador to Lebanon and member of Fatah’s Central Committee, Zaki Abbas, candidly asserted: “With the two-state solution… Israel will collapse… What will become of all the sacrifices they made – just to be told to leave? … The Jews consider Judea and Samaria to be their historic dream. If the Jews leave those places, the Zionist idea will begin to collapse. It will regress of its own accord. Then we will move forward.”

With regard to Sherman’s comment of malice vs ignorance for supporters of the 2 state solution in the present political climate, and, indeed, in light of the historic Arab refusal to accept Resolution 181, I do not make a case for either malice or ignorance with regard to Mr Lyons or even that he advocates for Israel’s “collapse” per Mr Abbas.

What I do make a case for is Lyons’ apparent inability to bring to bear a broader and balanced political acumen as befits a global affairs editor, as to why the resolution he quotes from the Israeli MEF’s own website (in acceptance of partition) has not resulted in 2 states for two peoples.

Ignoring the elephant in the room changes a purported analysis to a party political broadcast, arguably written specifically for a less well informed reading public.

In the end, Lyons’ personal slant on the decision of the Albanese Labor government to “un-recognise” Jerusalem as Israel’s capital is possibly best summed up in the comment a wag sent me a few days ago: “The whole world knows that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel; but does the whole world realise that Canberra, not Sydney is the capital of Australia?”

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