Tuesday, January 06, 2009

A good day to be an Australian

It's always a good day to be an Australian but some days feel better than others and the day just gone by was one of those. That thought came to me while I was reading the official transcript of a Prime Ministerial press conference. Anyone who reads government press releases probably belongs to the legion of the lost, if not the legion of the damned, so my only excuse is that I don't do it very often. But with the situation in the Middle East being at such a turning point at the moment it makes all of us who admire and support the heroic nation of Israel (as heroic in restraint as they are in action) unusually anxious to monitor relevant events. And Australian Prime Ministers of both parties have a track record of firm support for Israel.

Before I found the remarks of Prime Minister Rudd on Israel, however, I also found some other remarks by him in his press conference that also pleased me greatly. In the sidebar of some of my blogs, you will find a statement that I have had there for some time. I repeat it below:
As well as being an academic, I am an army man and I am pleased and proud to say that I have worn my country's uniform. Although my service in the Australian army was chiefly noted for its un-notability, I DID join voluntarily in the Vietnam era, I DID reach the rank of Sergeant, and I DID volunteer for a posting in Vietnam. So I think I may be forgiven for saying something that most army men think but which most don't say because they think it is too obvious: The profession of arms is the noblest profession of all because it is the only profession where you offer to lay down your life in performing your duties. Our men fought so that people could say and think what they like but I myself always treat military men with great respect -- respect which in my view is simply their due.

I am conscious that the concept of a military career as a high calling would not be endorsed by all and the concept that a military man wears the uniform of his country would also be seen as objectionable by some. The Left, in particular, would generally mock both ideas. So I was pleased that the Center-Left Prime Minister of Australia endorsed both ideas. From the transcript:
I am deeply saddened to learn of the death of an Australian soldier in Afghanistan. This brave soldier, wearing the uniform of Australia died the field of duty wearing his nation's uniform and wearing it with pride. On behalf of the Government, I extend my condolences to his family and to his friends and to his loved ones. Our prayers and those of the entire nation are with his family and his friends and his loved ones on this most tragic of days....

I've said before that there is no higher calling for any Australian than to wear the uniform of Australia. And on a difficult and tragic day such as today, we are reminded of the cost of wearing that uniform - and that is to ultimately surrender your life for your country. And that is what has happened.

Hear hear!

But now back to Israel: Mr. Rudd and his deputy have both made a point of always mentioning the rockets raining down on southern Israel every time they mention the conflict. Today was no exception:
Australia is deeply concerned by continued violence in Gaza and in Southern Israel. Australia recognises Israel's right to self-defence, while we call on all parties to avoid any actions which result in unnecessary suffering or increased suffering on the part of innocent civilians. The escalation in the conflict, following the incursion by Israeli ground forces, underlines the absolute importance of bringing about an effective diplomatic solution.

Any solution, any diplomatic solution, must find a way of bringing a halt to rocket attacks against Israel by the terrorist organisation Hamas. Any diplomatic solution much also bring about a halt of arms shipments into Gaza.

Furthermore any diplomatic solution must form part of a longer term compact involving Israel and Palestine, based on a two-State solution.

Mr Rudd has a reputation for speaking gobbledegook at times but I think his words above are plain enough.

And from the Conservative side of Australian politics: The Melbourne Jewish community held a rally on Sunday supporting Israel's obligation and responsibility to protect and defend her citizens. Below is a speech given to that rally by coalition Senator Mitch Fifield:
Firstly can I congratulate you all for coming out on a Sunday to stand up for your beliefs. I was talking to Malcolm Turnbull [Leader of Opposition] on the phone just before the rally and he asked me to convey to you all his very best wishes.

Israel is under attack. Not from the Palestinian people. Not from the Palestinian Authority. But from Hamas. A group known by many names. But we here today know exactly what they are. They are extremists. They are terrorists. And Israel has every right to defend itself against them.

Today is a rally in support of Israel. But today is also a rally for her neighbours and the right of all to live in peace. Today we rally for democracy. We rally for freedom. We rally for the rule of law. It is important that we remind the international community that Israel is being attacked from within the borders of a territory that it did not occupy. That Israel is being attacked from within a territory over which it makes no claim.

Hamas in Gaza cannot claim to have been resisting an occupier. Let us remember that Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005. Despite this, Israel has come under attack on an almost daily basis from rockets fired by terrorists linked to Hamas. More than 3,000 rockets in 2008 alone.

Hamas care nothing for civilian populations on either side of the border. Hamas fire missiles randomly at population centres in Israel. Hamas intentionally puts the residents of Gaza in danger by hiding weapons in civilian areas. But if you listen to some commentators you could be forgiven for thinking that Hamas was some sort of benevolent religious organisation - a kind of Salvation Army with weapons. The truth is that Hamas seeks neither peace nor prosperity for Gazans.

Some believe that Israel, as the stronger military entity, should just sit back and absorb the rockets, the casualties and the deaths. That somehow every nation except Israel has the right to defend itself in line with Article 51 of the UN Charter. What lies behind such a view is the belief that Israel doesn't have a right to exist and deserves whatever it gets. The State of Israel has the right to defend herself. But more than that, the Government of Israel has an obligation to protect its citizens. To fail to do so would be a dereliction of its duty.

We should mourn all civilian deaths on both sides and hope and pray for a quick resolution to this crisis. The objective should be a sustained end to hostilities. What should not be accepted, however, is a one way ceasefire that just leads to further attacks on Israel. The rockets must stop. Israel's right to exist in peace with its neighbours must be accepted. Israel is a beacon of hope and liberty in the Middle East. It is a great and robust democracy. The people of Israel are free and always will be. And Australia will stand by them.

I am most pleased to be so well represented by Australia's political leadership in the matters discussed above.

And I think that is all that I want to say here today. Shalom.


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The Big Lie of the late 20th century was that Nazism was Rightist. It was in fact typical of the Leftism of its day. It was only to the Right of Stalin's Communism. The very word "Nazi" is a German abbreviation for "National Socialist" (Nationalsozialist) and the full name of Hitler's political party (translated) was "The National Socialist German Workers' Party" (In German: Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei)


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