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Thursday, 25 October 1973
Page: 1501


Senator WHEELDON (Western Australia) - The situation prevailing in the Middle East at the present time is a tragic situation. It is a tragic situation for the people of Israel who find themselves in a small country of only some two million people, many of whom still bear the scars of the holocaust under the Nazi regime from 1933 to 1945, and many others of whom bear the scars of memory through knowing what has happened to their families as a result of racist, antisemitic persecution in many other parts of the world, fearful of their continued existence because they believe that they are surrounded by many millions of hostile neighbours who do not acknowledge the existence of their state. The situation is likewise a tragic situation for the Arabs who find that many hundreds of thousands of their people are refugees from the country of their birth, and that many hundreds of thousands of their people are now living in the most appalling conditions in refugee camps away from the homes in which they were born and away from the cities, towns and villages in which they grew up. They are people who have suffered humiliations and bombardments, not only by the Israelis but also by the British and the French in 1956. At the present time they have large areas of at least three of the neighbouring countries to Israel- the Arab Republic of Egypt, Syria and Jordan- occupied by Israeli troops.

I would like to say at the outset that I agree with the contention of the Israeli Government that one essential for peace in the Middle East is a recognition by the Arab states of the sovereignty of Israel and the right to existence of Israel. In fact, at the last Federal Conference of the Australian Labor Party I successfully moved a motion that the policy of the Australian Labor Party should include such a provision, which it now does. This is the policy of the Australian Government, namely, that it is essential for peace in the Middle East that there should be a discontinuance of the denial of the right to existence of Israel by the majority of Arab countries, and that the Arab countries should recognise that Israel is a state which does exist and which should continue to exist.

But that is not the same thing as laying down what the borders of Israel should be. The borders of Israel are matters of negotiation. The Israeli Government claims- this is the purport of the amendments proposed to us tonight by the Democratic Labor Party and by the Liberal Party- that there ought to be direct negotiations between Israel and the contending Arab powers. Coupled with this, one finds very frequently the most stringent, caustic observations by the Government of Israel and its supporters about the United Nations, what they describe as the failure of the United Nations and the unsatisfactory nature of the United Nations. They express a general desirability not to have the matter considered by the United Nations but rather by way of direct negotiation. This is an attitude on the part of the Government of Israel which the Australian Government does not support and which I, for myself, deplore. If there is one country in the world which ought to show some loyalty to the United Nations it is Israel, because Israel would not exist if it were not for the United Nations decision in 1.948. Israel is a country which was constituted by the United Nations. For Israel, of all countries, to say that the United Nations is an organisation which should be treated with contempt and that negotiations should take place outside of the authority of the United Nations is, I believe, most deplorable and something which I hope that no Australian Government would support.

The Israeli Government calls for direct negotiations between the parties. That is something which sounds attractive, but the consequence of any direct negotiations always has to be that one party is negotiating from a position of strength and another party is negotiating from a position of weakness. Surely the whole purpose of the painful construction of the United Nations is to remove situations whereby important decisions relating to world peace are resolved by negotiations in which one powerful country can talk te a weak neighbour. Decisions should be made on the basis of rational argument by disinterested parties, by a body which does not approach the question either from a position of strength or from a position of weakness but which tries to make a rational and humane a:sessment of the issues that are involved.

For that reason I believe that it is essential, however unsatisfactory the United Nations may have appeared to be- certainly the United Nations is no more unsatisfactory than its individual members; it is not something separate from the individual members of the United Nations- that there should be no decision on the problems which have occurred in the Middle East unless the discussions are under the auspices o ." the United Nations. If anything were to damage world peace- not just peace in the Middle East but world peace- it would be for the United Nations to say that it was incapable of resolving ti e problems in the Middle East. They are proble ins which, I believe correctly, it played a major part in the creating by the resolutions which led b the establishment of Israel. If the United >ations were to say: 'We carried resolutions w 11ch established Israel but we are incapable of keeping the peace now that disputes have broken out between Israel and its neighbours', I think lt at we could all say that: 'This is the end of the United Nations'. I do not think anybody, however critical he might be of the United Nations, would say that this would be desirable. Surely if there is to be lasting peace in the world it has to be achieved as a result of the sorts of negotiations which take place within the United Nations.

What is the history of the area? I think this is important. Israel was, in historical times, the home of the Jewish people who were dispersed throughout the world and who were very oftenir fact, more often than not- cruelly and abomir ably treated by the inhabitants and the govern.ments of those countries to which they went as refugees. After the passage of the years their former area in Palestine became settled and occupied by fellow Semites of the Jewish people, the Arabs, and they became an Arab community. In the 19th century the Zionist movement was fiormed, primarily with a religious-Jewish orien-tadon but arising out of the persecution of the J> wish people in central and more especially e: stern Europe. Some Jewish people- those who believed in retaining their ethnic and religious i< entity- came to the conclusion that there was no way in which they could continue to exist in the countries in which they were living, particularly countries such as Russia and Poland, and that the only way in which they could continue to exist was to fulfil the promises of the biblical prophets and return to Israel and re-establish the nation whose people had been dispersed so many centuries before. Small settlements were established in Palestine. They continued to be small settlements until the 1 920s and particularly the 1930s when Nazi persecution of the Jews reached such a peak that many thousandsprobably hundreds of thousands- of people who themselves would never have been Zionists or never would have wished to settle in Israel had there been a normal state of affairs in their previous home countries, were driven to move to Palestine, or Israel as it subsequently became known. This was the direct result of the persecutions to which they were subjected. Theirs was a tragic story. One can only feel sympathy for them.

I am one of those who supported the establishment of the state of Israel and still believe that it was correct that the state of Israel was constituted. Even if one were to argue that it was a mistake for the United Nations to decide some 25 years ago that Israel should be established as a state- even if one were to say that it should not have been done, despite the fact that the United States, the Soviet Union and practically every country in the world voted for the establishment of Israel- it is too late now to say that it was a mistake. It is like saying that it was a mistake that the Pilgrim Fathers went to the United States or Captain Phillip settled in Sydney. Israel is a fact; it does exist; it is a state and it is entitled to its independent existence.

Having said that it is a state which does exist and which is entitled to exist, there are certain other things- very important things- which have still to be said. For example, what is to happen to the Palestinian Arabs who, irrespective of whether their fears were justified- I know that it is argued by spokesmen for Israel that their fears were unjustified- left the country and became refugees? What is to happen to them? The argument is very frequently put by spokesmen for Israel that they are not being looked after by the Arab countries into which they fled and that the responsibility falls on those Arab countries to look after them. I would not deny that the Arab countries do have a moral responsibility to look after kinsmen of theirs who come into their nations as refugees. I suppose we have a responsibility to look after them, too. All human beings have a responsibility to. look after them. But surely the primary responsibility for making some restitution to them falls on the people who occupy their homes and their lands- the people who now constitute the state of Israel. I make no suggestion at the present time as to how the problem is to be resolved. But I do say that there is a real problem, a very burning problem, with many hundreds of thousands of Palestinian Arab refugees from Israel. In fact the Palestinian Arab refugees from Israel are now, in the Middle East, what the Jews of Russia and Poland were in the 19th century- dispossessed people living almost without sustenance, without hope and in desperation, knowing that their former country is now occupied by somebody else.

I do not believe it is any wonder- I do not say this is any sense of approbation- that as a consequence of this some amongst them have turned to extreme forms of violence, because that is what does happen when people are in the sort of situation in which the Jews of eastern Europe were in the 1 9th century and in which the Palestinian Arab refugees in the Middle East are today. When one is critical- I believe that one is entitled to be critical; that one ought to be critical; that one ought to deplore; and that one ought to do whatever one can to prevent actions of terrorism such as those we have seen perpetrated by .certain Arab organisations- one has to remember that this is something which seems to be almost a natural consequence of this sort of situation.

One has only to cast one's mind back 25-odd years to know that the allegations which are now being made against Arab terrorist organisations were then being made against the Zionist terrorist organisations Irgun Zvai Leumai and the Stern Gang, of which Senator Mulvihill has just reminded me. I think one has to acknowledge that Mr Menahen Beigin, one of the leaders of the Irgun Zvai Leumai is now a leading member of the Israeli Knesset. He is a man who was, if not directly at least indirectly, responsible for the assassination of Lord Moyne in Cairo and for the hanging of 3 British sergeants during the British mandate in Palestine. I am not condemning Menahen Beigin. I am not saying that he should not be a member of the Israeli Knesset. But I can well understand some non-terrorist Arab saying: Who is the former leader of the Irgun Zvai Leumi to be reproaching our people about terrorism?' 1 think it is quite false and quite improper for us to try to judge the situation in the Middle East by counting up who committed more acts of terrorism. Appalling as were the murders committed in Munich during the Olympic Games by an

Arab organisation, I do not find them any more appalling than the murders that took place in Beirut only recently of the leaders of the Palestinian Liberation Organisation. I cannot say it is disgraceful to murder the Israeli athletes, which it is; but that somehow it is different, it is not, so bad, to murder one of the leading Arab poets" in his own home in Beirut or to capture a man in his home city of Beirut and take him to Israel and, by a most extraordinary distortion of any judicial process, charge him with belonging to an illegal organisation when the organisation was legal in the country in which he lived but illegal in Israel.

To bring him to Israel and charge him with being a member of an illegal organisation, which is what is being done at the present time, would be parallel to someone from South Africa coming to Australia, kidnapping a member of the South African Defence and Aid Fund and taking him to Johannesburg and trying him for being a member of an illegal organisation when the organisation to which he belonged was perfectly legal in this country. So I do not think we ought to discuss the question on the basis of who committed the acts of terrorism. What I think we have to do is try to resolve a very difficult problem. For this reason 1 believe that the approach of the Government and, I think, in general terms the approach of the amendment which has been foreshadowed by Senator Sim, are attempt's to do this by saying that we should have an evenhanded policy. What contribution can Australia possibly make to the settlement of this dispute and what possible assistance can we give to the Australian who is at present sitting as Chairman of the Security Council in resolving these difficulties if, before we even start to discuss them, we say the Arabs are right and the Israelis are wrong, or vice versa.


Senator Little - The United Nations observer said that.


Senator WHEELDON -Senator Little said that the United Nations observer said something. I do not care what the United Nations observer said. I am asking how we can have our representative act as Chairman of the Security Council- how on earth we can make any contribution to the resolution of these difficulties- if we do no adopt an even-handed attitude. Senator Little would like us to make an heroic declaration in Canberra condemning, I take it, the Arab states, the Soviet Union and anybody else who happened to be connected with the Middle East position, and then to withdraw from the proceedings and take no further part in them, because that would be the consequence. Australia is not a major power with any military influence in the area. The only influence we can possibly hope to exercise in the area in order to achieve peace is to approach the matter as an evenhanded country which does not have any vested interests and which is trying to resolve the question in the light of morality and justice. To turn up at the United Nations and say: 'Before we get to you we would like to tell you that we have already found one side guilty and the other side not guilty 'is tantamount to saying: 'We intend to wash our hands of the whole affair'.


Senator Little - We are not saying that.


Senator WHEELDON -That is in fact what the Democratic Labor Party's motion says. I would say at the same time that it seems to be quite absurd for the Senate to say that it is going to condemn the Soviet Union for selling or providing arms to the Arab countries. We can condemn the Soviet Union for providing arms to the Arab countries only if we condemn the United States for providing arms to Israel because there has been a two-sided traffic going on. It is not as if Israel is manufacturing its own arms and the Arab countries are getting their arms from the Soviet Union. What has happened is that there has been a conflict of interest between the Soviet Union and the United States with the Soviet Union supporting certain Arab countries and the United States supporting Israel. I am not condemning anybody for that. I am not saying that either the United States or the Soviet Union is acting maliciously or endeavouring to create havoc or harm. I am not saying that either is doing anything other than what it conscientiously believes to be correct. But it would certainly be absurd to say that we should condemn those people who are giving material assistance to one side and, at the same time, not saying anything at all about the actions of the other major power which is giving material assistance to the other side. I believe that this would be quite foolish, quite wrong and quite damaging to our position.

The proposition which is before the Chair- the motion which has been moved by Senator Kane and amended by Senator Byrne- is that we should condemn Syria and the Arab Republic of Egypt for their attack on Israel. I believe that this is not a proposition which holds water. Those areas into which the Arab Republic of Egypt and Syria moved their troops are areas which are legally part of Egypt and Syria. They did not invade Israel.

It could be said, if one wanted to make this sort of point, with just as much justice that what happened as far as the battle around the Suez

Canal was concerned was that the Egyptian Government decided to move some of its armed forces from one part of Egypt to another and was prevented from doing so by Israeli aggression. One could just as easily say that. In fact one could say that with quite complete justice because Israel itself admits that the Golan Heights area in Syria which it now occupies, and the Sinai peninsula, are parts respectively of Syria and of Egypt and not parts of Israel. They were taken by force by Israel in 1 967 for whatever reasons it may have had for making a pre-emptive strike on the basis of what they guessed or thought might happen. They were the ones who committed a specific act of military aggression against Syria and Egypt. They invaded Syria and Egypt in 1967. Whatever they thought may have been going to happen the fact is that it was the Israeli troops who moved into Syria and Egypt. I will not condemn the Israelis for that. There may well have been good reasons in their judgment for doing so. It may well be that if I had been in their position I would have wanted to do and would have decided to do precisely the same thing. But the fact remains that that is what happened. They moved into Syria and Egypt, and occupied Syrian and Egyptian territory. They are continuing to occupy it not only by force and illegally but also in direct contravention to a decision of the United Nations, the organisation which created Israel. That is the precise position at the present time.

Israel illegally and by force occupied some of the territory of their neighbours contrary to a decision of the United Nations. I do not believe that in those circumstances, whatever sympathy one can have for Israel, one can turn round and say: We are going to condemn the Egyptians and Syrians for trying to move into their own territory'. If, for example, some other country were to have attacked Australia in 1967 and occupied the northern part of Queensland, and the United Nations had carried a resolution saying that that country should withdraw its troops from Australia, and in 1973 we sent our troops back into that part of Queensland which was occupied by that foreign power, would we accept a proposition which said that we were guilty of aggression? Guilty of aggression against whom? Why cannot the Egyptian Army go onto the Sinai peninsula? Why cannot the Syrian Army go onto the Golan Heights? One is part of Egypt and the other is part of Syria. I concede the point that has been made, and it is a very valid point, that Israel has a great deal to fear. Above all things they have to fear the attitudes adopted by governments in a number of Arab countries. Certainly the treatment of Jewish minorities in a number of Arab countries is of such a nature as would inspire any Israeli to have the utmost fear of what could be done to him. Certainly the treatment of the Jewish population in Baghdad by successive Iraqi governments has been one of the most disgraceful episodes this century. Although the position of the Jewish population in Egypt has certainly not been as bad, that likewise has not been anything which would lead one to have a great deal of faith in the sort of treatment -


Senator Little - What has been the circumstances of any Arab population in Israel?


Senator WHEELDON - I will come to that later. No one could do anything but deplore the treatment of the Jewish minorities in the great majority of, if not all, Arab countries. Certainly the Arabs do not come into these negotiations with clean hands as is shown by their own attitude. But what we are faced with is a conflict which could well lead to a third world war because not only are the people of these countries involved, not only are their territories involved but also questions of the utmost strategic and economic importance to the major powers of the world are involved. There are matters which prevail in those countries which would certainly encourage any power to take much more interest in the disputes which are taking place in the Middle East than probably in any other part of the world.

First of all there is the strategic geographical position of the area. Although over recent years geographical positions have not been as important as they once were, there is still considerable importance in the geographical position of the area in dispute. Probably even more important is the economic situation in regard to the world supply of oil coming from those areas. So it seems that if there is to be any worsening of the tension and conflict in those areas what we are faced with is a real possibility of a major world war involving the major powers. Although the major powers are confronting each other over the present dispute between Israel and her Arab neighbours the fact remains that the settlement is not one which in the end can be made by the major powers. It is one which can be made only as the result of a just settlement between the Arabs and Israelis. I believe that there are certain essential points to be recognised. The first of them is that the Arab countries all recognise that Israel is a State with its independent right of existence and, having recognised that, that there must be negotiations as to where the borders of

Israel and the Arab countries are to be. Insofar as it is possible to do this, satisfactory arrangements then need to be made for the rehabilitation, compensation or re-settlement of the Arab refugees from Israel.

It seems to me that these are not matters which ought to be left to the parties which are directly involved to negotiate when their negotiations will be largely subject to which of them thinks that for the time being it has the strength. These are questions which can be resolved only by all countries of the world through the United Nations, and the most valuable contribution which our country can make is not to be condemning any of the parties involved in the dispute or their friends and supporters but by strengthening the United Nations, by seeing that this country plays a significant and impartial role within the United Nations. That is precisely the policy which this Government has laid down and for that reason I support the amendment moved by Senator Willesee.







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