A coalition of Christians has written to the Albanese government to protest its decision to officially recognise Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and Gaza as Occupied Palestinian Territories, reversing the policy of previous coalition governments. Foreign Minister Senator Penny Wong has asserted that around 150 Jewish settlements in those areas are illegal. Israel-based Christian journalist and commentator Stan Goodenough who’s known as the Jerusalem Watchman told Vision Radio that’s wrong.
“It was a very determined statement that the Australian official position on the question of land ownership in the Biblical land of Israel, the historical land of Israel, would be to support the Palestinian claim to the centre of that land for a state of Palestine by recognising that that land is not the Jewish heritage, it is not Jewish Aboriginal land, which it is. Whichever way you look at it, whether it’s Biblical or whether it’s archaeological or historical, the Australian Government has decided that that land is no longer Jewish and is actually Palestinian land which is occupied by Israel. And that’s a hostile move,” Mr. Goodenough explained.
He notes that the world’s holiest city Jerusalem is also considered as Palestinian land by Australia: “It’s not just any part of Jerusalem that is now occupied Palestinian territory, according to the Australian government. But it is in fact the heart of Jerusalem, which includes the mountain known as Mount Moriah, the mountain of the Lord, the Temple Mount, as it’s called; the Western Wall; the whole of the Old City of Jerusalem; and the Mount of Olives, where Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, where Jesus came down on a donkey and was welcomed as the King of Israel by the people of Jerusalem.”
“It has always been, by the way, a united city since David made it his capital 3,000 years ago. Jerusalem has never been a divided city for those thousands of years, except for 19 short years when half of it was occupied by Jordan. None of it has ever been Palestinian owned. None of it has ever been part of a Palestinian country or state. It is, in fact, the nerve centre of Judaism. It is the biblical heart and the faith heart of the Jewish people that Penny Wong has now decided is no longer Jewish property.”
Historically, Australian governments have offered strong bipartisan support for Israel. Mr. Goodenough notes: “Penny Wong’s predecessor sometime back, Julie Bishop, the Foreign Minister in the Abbott administration, caused waves internationally when she said Australia does not believe that Jewish settlements are illegal under international law. That position was based on fact because these communities are not illegal under international law. Penny Wong is completely wrong, both historically and legally, even as far as the charter of the United Nations goes. So she’s talking nonsense. There are half a million people living in towns and cities across Judea and Samaria and parts of Jerusalem, living their lives in what they believe with some justification, is their ancestral homeland. Penny Wong and her boss would now support the idea that these people should be evicted en masse. The position of the Albanese government on this is wrong from top to bottom.”
Mr. Goodenough said it’s ironic that Senator Wong said the Australian government had engaged with the Israeli ambassador on the issue because “it remained a committed friend of Israel.” The journalist observed: “The word friend is very easy to kind of wave around. Friendship is not taking the side of one militant group against another. Friendship is not delegitimising people who actually have a more solid claim to their land than indigenous Australians have to theirs. Friendship is not in any way strengthening or supporting those who day and night are out to wipe out the Jews who live in their midst.”
The journalist pointed to this year’s spike in random killings of Jews across Israel, Judea and Samaria. “This blood lust after the Jewish people is fomented by the Palestinian Authority, which Penny Wong and Anthony Albanese want to see Australia aligned with. What kind of friendship is this?” An article for the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C. writes: “Australian Jewish groups do not believe Australia can simultaneously rebalance its policy and remain a strong ally to Israel.”
The Christian groups widely circulated their letter to the government, expressing consternation at the policy shift which has “aligned Australia with Israel’s avowed enemies” The change in policy came ahead of this month’s national conference of the Labor Party where it was feared the ALP would officially recognise a ‘State of Palestine’ which did not happen.
In their letter, around 30 organisations representing “hundreds of thousands of Australian Christians” under the banner of the Southern Cross Alliance for Israel” (SCAFI), said they were “dismayed” by the policy change and urged the government “to reconsider and correct” its policy.
They claimed the term Occupied Palestinian Territory “wrongfully implies that Israel has no legal title in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria or Jerusalem, and that Gaza is occupied by Israel. It suggests that any Jewish presence in places where Jews have lived for thousands of years such as the Jewish Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem where Judaism’s most sacred, ancient and holy site, the Kotel and the Temple Mount are situated, is ‘illegal,’ simply because Jordanian forces ethnically ‘cleansed’ it of Jews between 1948 and 1967.”
The authors recognised that Judea and Samaria, which are often referred to as the West Bank “can be described as disputed territory because Israel gained control of it in a defensive war and relinquishing all control would pose an existential threat to Israel. For Australia to prejudice peace negotiations by unilaterally declaring borders in a disputed territory is absurd and will only entrench Arab intransigence. We respectfully urge you to reconsider and to correct this government policy,” they concluded.
SCAFI later expressed relief that the Labor Party national conference did not make any “further hostile policy” pronouncements. “This is the first National Conference since 2015, where there has not been a further move towards unilateral recognition of a Palestinian state,” the Christian coalition noted, adding: “We thank those delegates who have maintained their steadfast support for truth, the Israel-Australia alliance and democratic values in the face of considerable pressure from anti-Israel activists.”
Mr. Goodenough applauded the actions of the Australian Christians. “It may not have changed the mind of anyone in the ALP, but it spoke loudly and clear to other Christians and to the Jewish community in Australia, which is increasingly feeling under siege and fearful of the direction this government is taking concerning Israel because it has a direct impact on anti-Semitism in Australia as well. So the Christian voice was, I’m sure, very widely welcomed.”
Click below to listen to the full interview with Stan Goodenough about Australia’s change of policy on Israel.