National Security

Transcript | Sky News Sharri | 05 June 2024

June 5, 2024

Wednesday 05 June 2024
Interview on Sky News Sharri
Subjects: the ABC's lack of interest in anti-Semitism, Albanese’s shocking anti-Israel past

SHARRI MARKSON: Shadow Home Affairs Minister James Paterson joins me now, along with Australia, Israel, and Jewish Affairs Council Executive Director Colin Rubenstein. Welcome to you both. Look, James, I mean, we make this point over and over again. The Albanese government has no control over what happens in the Middle East, but they can control what happens on our street, so they can influence it. That is one of the most shocking things I've seen, Paul Barry over on the ABC criticising us at Sky for covering the anti-Semitism crisis. Shouldn't he be examining why the ABC hasn't covered it in any in-depth way?

JAMES PATERSON: Sharri, I thought it was a very bold call by Paul Barry and the ABC to attack Sky News for being too focused and too concerned about anti-Semitism, which has reached an unprecedented crisis in our country over the last eight months. With bodies like the Executive Council of Australian Jewry track a 700% increase in anti-Semitism, when Victoria Police report that massive increases in anti-Semitic incidents, ten times in the frequency of anti-Islamic incidents, I think we should all be concerned about that and we should all be focused on it. But the ABC has shown a lack of curiosity, a lack of interest and a lack of concern about this issue. In fact, the most tangible thing they've done on this issue in the last few months is to produce a documentary on the Antony Loewenstein, a Jewish anti-Zionist activist in Australia - not focusing on the mainstream and broadly representative Jewish community who are deeply concerned about what's happening in our country. When we have Holocaust survivors say they've never felt less safe in their own country, in Australia, that's a national disgrace and the fact our national broadcaster is so uninterested in that is a great shame to them.

MARKSON: Absolutely and well said. Colin Rubenstein. We've been reporting here on Sky and even left wing media outlet Crikey has been reporting about how Anthony Albanese, in his early parliamentary career in the year 2000, joined pro-Palestinian protesters at a rally in Sydney, where Israeli and American flags were burned. Do you think his history as a Palestinian activist has prevented him from calling out some of the aggression and violence that we've seen at protests around the country and, and from taking a stronger position on anti-Semitism?

COLIN RUBENSTEIN: Well, Sharri, thanks for having me on. I mean, the Prime Minister's history is no secret. You've developed it, as have others, and the Prime Minister himself today said again, he has been a longstanding, passionate supporter of the Palestinians and, meeting with Arafat in the 90s. I don't think that's, original sin. Many people met with Arafat during the Oslo process in the hope that the Palestinians would actually move forward and accept the reality of Israel and the two state outcome. Of course, the great tragedy is, as we saw in the explosion of the intifada, the rejection of the Barak and President Clinton initiatives for a two state outcome. We saw the Palestinians lurch towards continued extremism, wanting their own state, not alongside Israel in peace, but instead of Israel, which has remained a continuing problem ever since. Rejecting the peace offers the two state outcomes that have been offered repeatedly by Israeli leaders, be it Prime Minister Olmert, Prime Minister Netanyahu. So the pity is that while the Prime Minister has mellowed somewhat over the years, he opposes the BDS. He accepts the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism, which is criticism of Israel is legitimate, comparing Israel to Nazi Germany. Well, wishing for the elimination of Israel from the river to the sea, and an Intifada is inappropriate. He accepts those positions, but I don't know that he's understood the realities of the situation over the last two decades that the reason that we don't get the two state outcome is the continuing extremism and the Palestinians, and the need for him to focus on that rather than giving free kicks, to the Palestinians in terms of possible recognition, which will only reinforce that extremism, rather than encourage the moderation that is essential for moving forward to a resolution.

MARKSON: Let's bring James Paterson back in. James, so earlier in the evening, I revealed that Albanese met with, the late Palestinian president Yasser Arafat in 1998, in an all expenses paid sponsored trip by the PLO. He didn't meet with Israeli leaders on the same trip. Two years later, he then joined pro-Palestinian protests during the second Intifada, when there were terrorist attacks against Israelis. Innocents were killed. Albanese joined those protests. Flags were burned. What's your reaction to these revelations?

PATERSON: Well, Sharri, I can't say I'm very surprised that a Prime Minister, who only a few years ago thought it was appropriate to post selfies with an avowed anti-Semite in Jeremy Corbyn, has been palling around with and indeed worshipping Yasser Arafat and taking all expenses paid trips by the Palestine Liberation Organisation to visit the Middle East. And I want to be fair to him and say yes, he met Yasser Arafat in 1998. It was before the Second Intifada. Except Sharri, as you've demonstrated in your program, Anthony Albanese views didn't change after the Second Intifada. In fact, if anything, they just got worse. They hardened even further. And let's remember what the Second Intifada was and what it involved. A 15 year old Australian citizen, Malki Roth, was at a pizza restaurant in Tel Aviv, minding her own business when a Palestinian terrorist walked in and blew himself up, blew her up and 14 other innocent people. That's what the Second Intifada was. And yet, in response to the Second Intifada, Anthony Albanese thought that the right thing to do was to turn up to rallies where they burned Israeli flags and American flags, where he indulged some of the extremists in the pro-Palestinian movement in this country. And he's done it ever since. And I said on your program on Monday night, he's the most anti-Israel prime minister we've ever had. I don't say that lightly. I think it's well supported by evidence. And you've just provided further evidence of it tonight.

MARKSON: Just a quick follow up there before I go back to Colin, how do you think this has impacted on his leadership in Australia since October 7th?

PATERSON: Well on the one hand, I think a lot of Australians assume he's a weak Prime Minister, and he's terrified of the Greens political party. And that's why he's been unable to unequivocally condemn anti-Semitism on its own without linking it to Islamophobia or on other issues. But actually, I think he has a deep seated sympathy for the Palestinian cause, which goes far beyond a genuine humanitarian sympathy for Palestinian people, which we should all have, and really goes into, anti-Israel bias and hatred. And I think that is reflected over a long period of time. Some of his statements in the House of Representatives have been filled with bile, have been shockingly biased against Israel, have been totally unbalanced, and I think that has really impacted his ability to stand strong as Prime Minister against a moral crisis in our own country of anti-Semitism.

MARKSON: Look, we've also seen Penny Wong just this week refuse to rule out supporting a Palestinian state, even if Hamas still played some role in the governing of Gaza. Colin, what's your reaction to this?

RUBENSTEIN: Well, it's a complete contradiction in and her position and the government's position. On the one hand, they realise Hamas is a banned terrorist organisation, an extreme organisation that engaged in the worst sort of terrorism in recent history, the greatest massacre of Jews since the Holocaust. It's abhorrent, as the Prime Minister said today, and they shouldn't have a role in the future. And on the other hand, they're referring to the possibility of early recognition of a Palestinian, voting for that UN resolution three weeks ago and previous statements to that effect. It represents a complete contradiction that Hamas will continue to be governing in Gaza and calling for a permanent cease fire. So there's a lack of moral clarity, and there's a lack of recognition of what the facts are. Early recognition of Palestinians won't increase the possibility of moving towards reconciliation. It simply reinforces terrorism and rewards terrorism. And that's the tragedy in the current situation I think, it's totally counterproductive to moving towards some sort of reasonable resolution.

MARKSON: All right. We're out of time. James Paterson, Colin Rubenstein.


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