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Wednesday, 16 March 1977
Page: 266

Mr COHEN (Robertson) -I doubt that there has been any area of government action in which Liberal-Country Party governments have been so consistently wrong as they have in the field of foreign affairs. Their track record is abysmal. What is worse, they have been wrong for the basest of motives, namely, their own political aggrandisement. They have consistently and persistently taken decisions in our relations with other countries that have sought to advance their own political fortunes in Australia, either in terms of playing on the prejudice of some sections of the Australian community or in terms of enhancing trade and profit. The question of morality has rarely entered into their deliberations.

Where they have not been completely wrong, they have been slow in recognising the changes that have been occurring throughout the world. They failed to recognise the aspirations of the subject peoples of the colonial empires in South East Asia and Africa. They backed the colonial powers and alienated the emergent nations. Every attempt at independence was seen as a communist plot and the more they supported the oppressors and exploiters the more they made certain the self-fulfilling prophecy of communist domination. Instead of supporting moderate national forces they threw in their lot with the rich landowners, the military and the gangsters who fawned on the colonial powers. Twentythree years of Australia being identified as the opponent of self-determination was finally put to rest by the advent of the Australian Labor Government armed with the best foreign policy this country has ever had.

The Liberals had been wrong about Indonesia, China, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, South Africa, Rhodesia and New Guinea. Now they show their immorality again with their attitudes towards East Timor and their absurd posturing in relation to the Indian Ocean. Mercifully President Carter has just pulled the rug out from under the feet of the Fraser Government by proposing that the Indian Ocean should be demilitarised. Whilst I find myself staggered at the Liberals ' neanderthal attitudes on many aspects of foreign policy and the tardiness with which they finally come to terms with reality, occasionally they get on the right track. I find myself generally in agreement with their views on the Middle East. However, I would like to see Australia playing a more constructive role in urging Arab nations to come to terms with Israel's right to exist.

It has never ceased to amaze me how little debate has occurred in this Parliament on the Middle East. It would be fair to say that since World War II it has remained one of the major trouble sports in the world and a potential source of World War III. During my 8 years in the House there have been numerous debates on South East Asia, Timor, South Africa, Rhodesia, Russia, China and a host of other countries. Yet there has never been a debate about the Middle East. There seems to me to be no obvious reason for the omission. More debate about the Middle East may lift the general level of debate throughout the nation which in recent years has been carried out at an incredibly low level. The debate is a slanging match between pro-Arab, proPalestine Liberation Organisation forces and Zionists in the language of 1948. One realises how absurd it is only when one goes to the Middle East. I would say in fairness to the Arabs and

Israelis that debate on this issue in their region is about 25 years ahead of debate in Australia. I am not talking about debate in the Parliament but debate in Australia generally.

I have never been quite able to understand the term 'even-handedness'. I do not know what it means because no one has ever explained it to me. It seems to me to mean that we do not say anything at all about the situation in the Middle East. I find this attitude staggering. We have a view on every other country and every other problem. I do not suggest that we need to be neutral. We have a view on South Africa and Rhodesia. We have a view about the cold war. But here the term 'even-handedness' means that we are not going to say anything. I have no objection to Australia chiding the Israelis if they are not doing the right thing or chiding the Arabs if they are not doing the right thing. I think it is in our interests to have a view and to say when we think the Arabs are wrong and when the Israelis are wrong.

I have been to the Middle East twice in the last 2 years. I am staggered- I suppose I am not staggered historically- at the lack of trust. I have been fortunate to have been able to speak to people from both sides. I think that the Israeli point is easily understandable. I do not have time to canvass the whole history of the Middle East because that would take at least an hour.

Mr Donald Cameron (GRIFFITH, QUEENSLAND) - Have you been to Egypt?

Mr COHEN -No, but I was able to speak to Egyptian politicians in Madrid during the recent Inter-Parliamentary Union Conference. I am not sure that I would be welcome in Egypt. However, I would be delighted to go if I was given the chance. As honourable members know, in 1948 the Arab countries refused to recognise the United Nations partition of 1947. There was a concerted attack by a number of Arab nations on the fledgling state of Israel. In the period between 1948 and 1956 there were constant and repeated attacks by the Fedayeen, which was the forerunner of today's PLO, upon the Israel moshavim and the kibbutzim. There was a buildup of Arab forces prior to 1956 in the Gaza and Sinai areas. There was a blockade in 1956 on the Gulf of Aqaba, which was preceded by the nationalisation of the Suez Canal. Of course, Israeli forces then moved into Sinai, routed the Egyptians, forced the lifting of the blockade of Aqaba, captured the town of Sharm el Sheikh, removed military bases at Gaza and Sinai and brought relative tranquility to the area.

Unfortunately the big powers claimed that they would guarantee the Israeli security and safeguard her right to free passage through the Suez Canal and into the Indian Ocean. Without access through the Gulf of Aqaba and of course Suez, Israel has to go right around Africa to get into the Indian Ocean. These guarantees, of course, turned out to be quite useless. The major powers simply were not able to guarantee these conditions and Israel was once again excluded from the use of the Suez Canal. In 1967, when it suited the Egyptians, the United Nations peacekeeping force was forced out overnight. It was told to get out and it went with its tail between its legs. Of course, for years prior to that there had been constant Arab rhetoric about its intention to destroy Israel, to push it into the sea. Rhetoric about the extermination of Israel was heard constantly and daily by the Israelis.

As I said before, in the period 19S6 to 1957 thousands of raids took place upon Israeli border settlements. As a result many hundreds of Israelis were killed. When war broke out in 1967 and Egyptian forces threatened to crush Israel the Israelis were determined that this would never happen again. They were determined that never again would they have to face a situation as they did on the Golan Heights where Syrian guns were able to be turned daily onto the Israel kibbutzim and kill a farmer here and a school child there. They were not going to allow the PLO terrorist forces to come from Gaza which is only about 40 or 50 miles from Tel Aviv. They would not allow them to cross over and carry out terrorist activities. They were not going to allow the same sort of thing to happen on the west bank where some hundreds of thousands of Arabs lived and carried out terrorist activities against Israel.

I have spoken to members of a kibbutz on what was the old border. They told me of the frightening experience of 1 967 when they looked up in the morning and saw hundreds of Syrian tanks facing them a few hundred yards away from their families and children. They said to me that there was no way in the world that they were going to permit that sort of thing to happen again. Admittedly in this day of modern warfare maybe the distance between you and the enemy's guns does not mean a great deal. Perhaps it is easy for some people in Australia, who are thousands of miles away from this trouble spot, to pontificate. But we have to take into account the psychological effect that such a situation has on people who are sitting a few hundred yards away from guns trained on homes and families. It is something else again when one's wife and children are sitting in that home. It is easy for politicians or people outside of the political arena to say that Israel should do this or Israel should do that. But it is not their children or family who will be exterminated if war breaks out again and if terrorists are allowed to return to the same areas and continue to do the same things.

I think that we need to understand a number of things about Israel. It is a terribly tiny nation. On the basis of the pre- 1967 boundaries, in length it would probably run from Taree to Wollongong. Its maximum width would be no greater than from the New South Wales coast to Penrith or Katoomba to a minimum of 10 miles. The Israelis know that a concerted military thrust would cut it in half in half an hour. I believe that there is a fervent, desperate desire in Israel to come to peace with the Arabs. The Israelis know that they have more to gain from peace than have the Arabs; because the Israelis cannot afford to lose one war, whereas the Arabs could go on losing wars simply because of their numbers. The second thing that needs to be remembered is the small population of Israel-3 250 000, including the 250 000 Arabs. Then, of course, there is the national consciousness, which would take me hours to explain. So many Jews were killed during the last war- some 6 million- in what is called the holocaust. There is a lack of trust of the Arab nations and a hatred of the PLO and the tactics it has used, which have gone beyond what is normal warfare and a people's right to attempt to win back their rights, if that is what the Arabs think they are doing. They have gone as far as the murder of children, the murder of athletes and the blowing up of innocent civilians- people who often have had nothing to do with the thing, who are not Jewish, Israeli or whatever.

I find it fascinating to listen to the pro-Arab rhetoric of those who talk about Israel being a racist, imperialist, fascist, Zionist- they use the term ' Zionist' as an insult- and expansionist country. There are elements in Israel that are expansionist. Israel has its nuts, the same as we in Australia have. There is a full spectrum of political views from the extreme Right to the extreme Left. Some of them horrify me. I have talked to people of the extreme Right in Israel, and they are as nutty as a fruit cake. But they are not the government. They do not represent the general view of the present Labour Government, of the Likud which is the Opposition. So, to play up, as some people do, the odd statement by someone on the lunatic fringe as being the view of the

Israeli Government is like- I cannot think of a good analogy at the moment.

When I hear people talking about Israel denying the Palestinian people the right to selfdetermination I think of the countries about which they are talking- Syria, Egypt, Lebanon, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Libya, Iraq and Tunisia. Almost without exception they are totalitarian, authoritarian, one-party states, countries with military juntas or absolute monarchies. They have the gall, the temerity, to talk that way about Israel- a country which has all the civil rights and freedoms that we have in Australia. These countries have virtually no civil liberties. They do not allow the right to strike. Most of them do not have trade unions; or, if they have, they are tame cat unions set up by the government. They have no free elections, no freedom of association, no free Press. The rights of minorities in these countries are virtually nonexistent. I mention particularly the rights of the Jews who live in Syria and Iraq.

When I was in Israel I was able to meet and have talks with the communist mayor of Nazareth- a man who was elected in free elections but who is opposed to many of the things Israel has done, and he says so. He told me so during a public meeting. The mayor of Nablus is a pro-PLO mayor elected in free elections. As Bob Hawke has said: 'How bloody democratic can you get?' Israel allows the free election of people who oppose the government and people who say that they will destroy Israel. In Israel there was public debate about the rights of the Arabs. Some claimed that they were not getting the full rights, and maybe they were not; but there was a free debate at which the Prime Minister was on the podium and was cross-examined and attacked by Arabs. What a great thing it is that this should happen in a society and that there should be those freedoms. Those freedoms do not exist in many Arab countries. I can only hope that people in Australia will start to take a more intelligent attitude on this matter.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER -Order! The honourable member's time has expired.

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