I thank the State Zionist Council of New South Wales for extending me the honour of being your guest speaker at this celebration of the Twenty Seventh Anniversary of Israeli Independence.
In that comparatively brief span since 14th May, 1948, there have been very few years in which those gathering to celebrate this day have been able to do so with any sense of tranquility. And 1975, unfortunately, is no exception. But before speaking, with you about some issues which, at this time, must be of concern to us, this positive message should be given. The despondency noted by so many visitors to Israel in 1974 has dissipated. My firm impression from an admittedly very brief stop-over there just a few weeks ago is that national morale
has recovered and that the Israeli people face the difficulties ahead at least with confidence in themselves. I say “in themselves” because I believe that substantially the traumatic processes of internal analysis and criticism which followed the Yom Kippur war have worked their way through in a constructive manner. Apart from the normal argumentation of a parliamentary democracy Israelis are now asking questions not so much of themselves as of the world. It is with the implications of some of those questions in general, and in particular with their manifestation in Australian affairs, that I wish to speak with you tonight.
Essentially Israel is asking this question:—is the world going to insist on the right of Israel to exist as a sovereign independent State? Or will the world increasingly succumb to an array of economic pressures, unremitting propaganda and attempts to weaken the American commitment which, in combination, will leave Israel friendless and expendable?
Perhaps as Australians we can best begin to examine the complexities of this basic question by considering how it has been reflected in our affairs in recent times. The pattern for the pressures of 1975 was first set by Mr. Hartley in an article in the Melbourne Herald (11th November, 1974) under the headline, “This Arab Voice Must be Heard”.
In this article Mr. Hartley exulted in the fact that two days later Yasser Arafat, Chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organisation, was to address the General Assembly of the United Nations in New York. In embracing totally the platform and practices of the P.L.O., Mr. Hartley argued for the obliteration of Israel:
“Israel is a huge ghetto founded on a monstrous injustice. It is not especially radical thinking to hold the view that the exclusive Jewish state should be replaced by a state containing virtues which Israel has never had and never could have: an open society, equality, political and religious pluralism, freedom, democracy and amity with its neighbours. Supporters of the Palestinians in particular and the Arab. nation in general should
never be cajoled into thinking that the P.L.O.’s alternative, which has been endorsed by liberal movements and thinkers throughout
the world, is unattainable. It is only in the interests of political Zionism to take such an attitude; it would be flatly against the interests of the Palestinians and the Arab nation to depart from that objective.”
The egregious banalities of this Hartley offering were, of course, quickly repudiated in the same column and I pause in respect of his contribution only to make this point. Mr. Hartley has an unrivalled capacity as a conscience-claimer. As an expert in the
conscience field he might perhaps explain how he can — as a matter of conscience — reconcile his fervent commitment to the obliteration of Israel with continued membership of the Australian Labor Party whose policy on Israel and the Middle-East, adopted in 1973, is quite clear:
“The situation in the Middle East remains the greatest threat to the peace of the world There can be no peace until the Arab States respect and recognise Israel’s Sovereignty and right to exist. Equally, there can be no peace until Israeli forces have withdrawn from occupied territories to secure and recognised boundaries and a just settlement of the refugee problem is achieved.”
Be that as it may, Arafat then performed in New York and in early 1975 the intended Australian scenario unfolded with an application via Mr. Hartley for visas for a P.L.O. delegation to visit this country. It is a matter of concern to Israel, rightly
I believe, that this application should have been refused only by the narrowest of Cabinet majorities. And it is as well that this matter be taken up at this point in some detail. For the burgeoning attempts to isolate Israel are, and will clearly continue to be, bound up in the tactic of portraying the P.L.O. as a reasonable political organisation with which it is appropriate, indeed highly desirable, to conduct dialogue. So let me explain
my position:— why I believe the Government decision to refuse entry visas was correct and why I believe the majority of Australians who clearly supported that decision are right.
The P.L.O. is an organisation dedicated to the obliteration of Israel. It is an organisation whose covenant asserts that armed struggle and terrorism is the only way of achieving that objective and which rejects the processes of political and diplomatic compromise. This is not some partisan interpretation but merely a factual statement reflecting the basic constitutional documents of the organisation. Let those facts speak for themselves. The P.L.O. was established in 1964 at the Summit Conference of Arab Governments and has remained financed by those governments since that tim ). In that year, the P.L.O. drew up the Palestinian Covenant’ which is the basic constitutional document enshrining its objectives, strategy and practices.
Amended in 1968 by the National Palestinian Council, the supreme body of the P.L.O., and endorsed by that organisation at its meeting in Cairo in June 1974, it is binding on all constituent organisations of the P.L.O. which must declare their support for the Covenant. The following are some of the most relevant provisions of the Covenant:
The liberation of Palestine, from an Arab viewpoint, is a national
duty to drive the Zionist, imperialist invasion from the great Arab homeland and to pursue the Zionist presence from Palestine. Its
full responsibilities fall upon the Arab nation, peoples and governments, with the Palestinian Arab people at their head …
The Palestinian Arab people, in expressing itself through the armed Palestinian revolution, reject every solution that is a substitute for
a complete liberation of Palestine, and reject all plans that aim at
the settlement of the Palestine issue or its internationalisation. Article 9:
Armed struggle is the only way to liberate Palestine and is therefore a strategy and not tactics …
Commando action forms the nucleus of the popular Palestinian
war of liberation. This demands its promotion, extension and
protection, and the mobilization of all the means and scientific capacities of the Palestinians, their organisation and involvement in the armed Palestinian revolution, and cohesion in the national struggle among the various groups of the people of Palestine, and between them and the Arab masses, to guarantee the continuation of the revolution, its advancement and victory…”
“On the basis of the National Palestinian Covenant and the P.L.O.’s political plan as approved at the 11th Session (6-12th January, 1973), and in the belief that a just and lasting peace in the region is impossible without restoration of the full national rights of the Palestinian nation, and first and foremost the right of return and self-determination on the homeland’s entire soil, and after studying the political circumstances as they developed during the period
between its previous and its present session — the Council resolves as follows:
- The P.L.O. is fighting by every means and primarily by the armed struggle, to free the Palestinian land and establish a national, independent and fighting government over every part of the soil of Palestine to be freed. This calls for a considerable change in the balance of forces for the good of our nation and its struggle.
- The P.L.O. resists any plan for a Palestinian entity at the price of recognition, peace, secure boundaries, surrender of national rights and forfeiture of our nation’s prerogative of return and of self-determination in its homeland…”
Let it be quite clear that when the P.L.O. and their supporters, refer to Palestine they are not referring merely to the territories occupied by Israel after the 1967 Six Day War. They refer to every square centimetre of Israel. Article 19 of the Covenant says in these unequivocal terms:
“The partitioning of Palestine in 1947 and the establishment of Israel are fundamentally null and void, whatever time has elapsed…” And nobody who wished to understand the grim implications of this position could surely have been left in any doubt after the statement by the editor of Cairo’s Al-Ahram during the Yom Kippur War. Writing on the 19th October, 1973, Hassanein Heykal, recognised as being amongst the more authoritative Egyptian spokesmen, said:
“The issue is not just the liberation of the Arab territories occupied since 5th June, 1967, but strikes against the future of Israel more powerfully and in a more profound manner, although this is not obvious right now. This means that if the Arabs are able to liberate their territories occupied since 5th June, 1967 by force, what can prevent them in the next stage from liberating Palestine itself, by force?”
And so, one must ask, by what alleged processes of logical reasoning should an Australian Government, committed to the continued existence and integrity of an independent Israel, permit to enter this country representatives of an organisation totally dedicated to the destruction of that country and to the use of terrorism as the “nucleus” of its strategy to achieve that purpose? It is not as though we are dealing with some group and their national supporters which have been engaged in mere hypothetical dissertation. In the Yom Kippur War they have been associated with the latest of a series of attempts since the day of Israel’s foundation to destroy that country by direct and massive military action. And they have continuously given the world gruesome evidence of their total actual commitment to the tactic of terrorism. The bodies of Olympic athletes, airport bystanders, airline passengers and foreign diplomats have represented the terrible translation of the Covenant into practice. Yasser Arafat, so keen through the agency of Mr. Hartley, to send his representatives to Australia has been directly involved in this translation. Members of El Fatah, the organisation headed by Arafat, carried out the operation involving the murder of three diplomats at the Saudi Arabian Embassy in Khartoum on 11th March, 1973. Of this operation, an investigatory report in the Paris edition of International Herald Tribune on 5th April, 1973 said:
“Arafat was present in the operation centre when the message to kill the diplomats was sent and he personally congratulated the terrorists after the execution of the three diplomats — two Americans and a Belgian — was carried out”
And just six weeks ago this same constituent of the P.L.O., El Fatah, provided dramatic proof of its commitment to the
Covenant’s disavowal of non-military solutions to the Palestinian issue. In a deliberate and murderous attempt to sabotage the Kissinger-Sadat-Rabin shuttle diplomacy, El Fatah members raided the Hotel Savoy in Tel Aviv on 6th March bringing about the deaths of 18 people including innocent civilians. With this gallant blow for peace, Arafat was fully welcomed back into the embrace of those more doctrinally pure of his colleagues from the other terrorist organisations within the P.L.O. who had feared that
his appearance at the U.N. had given Arafat some taste for the peaceful processes of diplomacy. For had he not concluded his dramatic speech to the General Assembly on the 13th November with the cry: “Today I have come bearing an olive branch and a freedom-fighter’s gun. Do not let the olive branch fall from my hand. I repeat: do not let the olive branch fall from my hand.” In the carnage and the ruins of the Hotel Savoy there was no olive branch.
No, we are not talking about abstract ideologists, but about people who could not be more practically committed to the terms of their Covenant. And yet, it is seriously suggested that their representatives, still dedicated to the obliteration of Israel by acts of terrorism, should be allowed into Australia.
One argument advanced in support of their admission is that Australians should have the opportunity of hearing both sides of the Middle East debate. Ignore for these purposes the fact that there is no shortage of spokesmen in this country for the Palestinian point of view and that there is a veritable flood of propaganda available to advance their position. The basic fact is that in respect of no country other than Israel would we contemplate the admission of representatives of foreign organisations whose basic objective was the destruction by war and terrorism of that country where it was one with whom we had a continuous history of friendly relations and to whose continued existence we were totally committed within, and because of, the framework and processes of the United Nations. To give a specific example: would the Australian Government knowingly allow into this country representatives of Croatian organisations which openly advocated and practised the use of terrorism to dismember the State of Yugoslavia?’ If the roles could be changed, Australia would certainly regard as an unfriendly act the admission to another country of people committed to our destruction; just as in the realm of personal relations, one would not be expected to welcome into one’s home people who were committed to the obliteration by violence of one’s friends.
Because these conclusions are so obviously valid and recommend themselves to the great majority of the Australian people one has to ask: Is there some other consideration which is being used by the supporters of the P.L.O. to inflict their representatives divisively upon our community? And of course there is. As soon as the decision to refuse the entry visas became known, Australians were warned by the indigenous spokesmen of the P.L.O. that we would, as a result, seriously prejudice the possibility of good trading relationships with the increasingly prosperous Arab nations. Probably the most specific exposition of this argument was advanced in a letter to the Prime Minister, dated 3rd February, 1975, by a gentleman who has been extremely active in the Arab cause in this country — and who has himself circulated copies of the letter within the community. In the letter he said:
“… It is only in the last two years that real headway has been made in developing trade with the Middle East … Unfortunately, the recent refusal of the Palestinian delegation has caused intense reaction throughout the Arab world . . . In times of grave economic danger, which we are passing through today, with escalating unemployment throughout the community, it would be very unfortunate if the actions of the Government and Opposition endangered such promising business connections with the Arab World .. .
Mr. Whitlam, there would be great political and commercial gains to be made in the Arab world for any Australian state that would independently reverse its decision to invite the P.L.O. Maybe the Arabs have flown a kite to test whether Australia is really evenhanded regarding the Middle East situation . . . “
There are two things to be said about this contemptible reasoning–First, it is, in fact, wrong in its economic assessment. Like others the Arab nations will trade where and with whom they can trade to their best advantage. The Deputy Prime Minister, Dr. Cairns, has made it quite clear in his report on his recent Middle East visit that he was not inhibited in his commercial negotiations on Australia’s behalf by the Government’s decision on the proposed P.L.O. visit. Second, and infinitely more important, even if correct in its commercial assessment, the reasoning is founded in a miserable morality which I believe is objectionable to the overwhelming majority of Australians. In the period before the last war should we and other countries have refrained from making moral judgements about the Nazi and Fascist dictatorships because of fear of economic reprisals? Or should we now, for the same reason, forego making any judgements or forming any decisions relating to any actions of the Soviet bloc or of the United States? That is surely the road to political bankruptcy. I am sure it is a line of reasoning that would not be accepted by the Prime Minister or by members of Cabinet who, for what they may have regarded as other valid reasons, voted to allow the P.L.O. representatives to enter Australia.
I believe the right position for Australia to adopt on this issue is quite clear and can best be explained in terms of the argument most commonly advanced in favour of admitting these people. That argument essentially rests upon the Australian concept of a “fair go”. In other words, it is argued that the Israelis are free to come and put their position so, in our language, “It’s only fair to give the other bloke a go “. The superficial attraction of that argument disappears as soon as their purposes and practices directed towards the destruction of Israel are known. We should, in terms of the “fair go” concept, be saying this to the P.L.O.: You recognise the right of Israel to exist and your representatives will then, and only then, be free to enter our country. It is not a “fair go” when countries totalling more than 100 million people are trying to engulf and destroy a country of three million.
This is self-evidently true. We should say so and should do nothing which would shake the morale of those three million under such threat.
One of the questions being asked by Israel, and indeed by most people interested in this area, concerns the position of America. Will the U.S. continue its total commitment to the integrity of Israel? Or will the pressure of recent events, most particularly developments in Indo-China, weaken this commitment, perhaps even to the point which would put in issue Israel’s ability to survive? In one sense the question has a particular relevance for Australians because of our role in Vietnam alongside America. I offer the opinion that the U.S. commitment to Israel will not significantly diminish. I believe Americans are capable of drawing clear distinctions between policies and commitments which should be inviolable and others which are not. No country, any more than any individual, is incapable of error.
This is true of the United States. I happen to believe, and have believed from the outset, that the military intervention of that country and subsequently our own in South-East Asia was wrong. We had no moral commitment to the succession of corrupt and totally unrepresentative regimes that were involved, nor could the self-interest of the United States or Australia be seen to be identified with keeping those regimes or their ilk in power. To say this is not to welcome the awful bloodiness and misery represented in the inevitable collapse we are now witnessing of those U.S. policies and commitments in that area. Nevertheless, those of us who believe they were wrong should not refrain from expressing that view because of some fear that such criticism will drive the United States into a new isolation-ism which would imperil the viability of Israel. Certainly, there will be disillusionment within the United States at this collapse which has occurred. Few framers of policy would view with equanimity the devastatingly pointless waste of billions of dollars and hundreds of thousands of casualties. I believe such disillusionment will not, however, lead to a pervasive despair. The United States will continue to see their own self-interests involved in what happens in the Middle-East. But more importantly than this there will not, I believe, be any diminution in the perception of these men and the great body of American people of their moral commit-ment to Israel’s integrity. There is all the difference in the world between, on the one hand, those rotten regimes of Indo-China whose leaders, having had others to do their dying for them, now flee with the wealth they have raped and diverted from others into a luxurious exile and, on the other hand, Israel the only parliamentary democracy amongst the disputants in the Middle-East. It is a difference, I repeat, which will continue to be perceived. We who are friends of Israel best assist her by emphasising that difference and not, as I fear there is a tendency to do in some quarters, by lamenting the collapse of U.S. policies in Indo-China and equating in any way at all the interests of America in that area with her entirely correct commitment to the integrity of Israel.
Israel also asks the question of the world today — what is it that you expect us to do to achieve peace in our area, the tinder-box which could set the whole world alight with the flames of war? With good reason, they ask the world in the context of that question to understand what to some may appear as their intransingency on the issue of the return of the “occupied territories”. These territories have a relevance for Israel only in terms of her quest for security. There is a simplistic tendency for some people outside of Israel to argue: you didn’t have these territories before 1967, they are not rightfully yours and therefore you should now hand them back so that there can be peace in the area and we in the rest of the world will also be able to feel more secure. The trouble with this line of reasoning is that it should be clear beyond doubt that the Arab States and the P.L.O. are not talking about peace with Israel but peace without Israel. Heykal’s October 1973 statement was quite specific and it is merely one of many which reflect this purpose of the Palestinian Covenant. President Assad of Syria broadcasting during the Yom Kippur war on 16th October, 1973 similarly said:”Our forces will continue to pursue the enemy and strike at him . . . until we restore our position in our occupied land. After that we shall continue until we liberate the whole land.”
It is crucially important that the world understands the perspective which these facts create for the people and leadership of Israel. We in the rest of the world can afford the luxury of sitting back and recommending the return of the territories and convince ourselves that we thereby act as men both of goodwill and commonsense. The actions and the words of Arab spokesmen have convinced the Israelis that, to hand back the territories at this point and without binding pledges guaranteeing her security Israel would be, to use the language of Heykal, simply participating in “the first stage” of her own total liquidation. I fail, utterly, to understand how any person of goodwill and corn – nonsense can expect Israel to act in that way without such pledges. On four occasions now, States surrounding Israel have either launched or prepared to launch military attacks which have led to wars threatening her survival. On the first three of those occasions those attacks were made, or prepared for, from areas now comprised within the occupied territories. On the last occasion, the Yom Kippur war, the destruction of Israel would have been highly probable if it had not been in possession of these territories. It does not seem to require an avid commitment to the cause of Israel to understand in these circumstances a reluctance on that country’s part blithely to hand back these territories in the absence of effective pledges. It must come as a special irony to Israel that the country which is the predominant supplier of arms and equipment to those States bent upon Israel’s destruction, the Soviet Union, acquired in the process of defending itself against attack in the Second World War 272,500 square miles of territory with a population two and a half times as large as Jordan,
Lebanon, Syria and Iraq combined. And the irony must by com-plete for Israelis if they recall that Pravda, on 2nd September, 1964 justified the Soviet acquisition of territory in these terms: “A people which has been attacked, has defended itself, and wins the war is bound in sacred duty to establish in perpetuity a political situation which will ensure the liquidation of the sources of aggression. It is entitled to maintain this state of affairs as long as the danger of aggression does not cease. A nation which has attained security at the cost of numerous victims will never agree to the restoration of previous borders. No territories are to be returned as long as the danger of aggression prevails.” Not only does the danger of aggression against Israel still prevail. Leading Arab spokesmen, as I have already pointed out,have asserted that this very return of the territories would be regarded as the first stage of Israel’s destruction. It is legitimate to be working and arguing for the return of territories by Israel. The great body of Israeli people and their leadership realize that ultimately this will be an indispensable part of a resolution of the conflict in the area. But as individuals, and as a country, we should understand the basic fear on the part of Israel which is, after all based simply upon believing that their Arab opponents tell the truth. We should be bending every endeavour to see that there is obtained from the relevant Arab States and the P.L.O. an unequivocal recognition of Israel’s right to exist with appropriate international guarantees being provided to back up such recognition.
In this context, and only in this context, Israel could be expected to, and I believe would, return territories occupied in 1967. It has been pointed out that in the course of the Second World War, two out of every five Jews on this earth were slaughtered for no other reason than that they were Jews. This was to be Hitler’s “final solution for the Jewish problem “. The world attempted some redemption of that crime by allowing the return of the people to the Land —by enabling the creation of Israel. This, strangely enough, was best put, in the United Nations debate in 1947 which led to this creation of Israel, by Andrei Gromyko, the representative of the Soviet: “It will be unjust if we do not take accont of this aspiration of the Jews to a state of their own and if we deny t • the Jews the right to realise this aspiration. The denial of this t to the Jewish people cannot be justified, especially if we take into account everything that the Jewish people under-went during t Second World War.”
There are people tod who have a final solution for the problem of the Middle East — th destruction of Israel. Time may be the great healer but it must n•t be allowed to become the great eraser. For just as surely as the wo d, which stood by and allowed the holocaust of Hitler to develop, was guilty so would the world be guilty which allowed the destruction of Israel — Israel, itself a redemption and representing the greatest dreams and aspirations of the Jewish people. There could be no redemption of that crime.
As I said when speaking with many of you last year, it would perhaps be more comfortable not to say these things. But, even more than then, I believe them to be true. And, even more than then, I am concerned that the failure of the world to perceive their truth could possibly engulf us all in the disaster of nuclear conflict — the ultimate holocaust. Israel is asking these questions of the world which created it. Australia was significantly involved in that creation. I trust that all men and women of goodwill will play their part in ensuring that Australia now helps to contribute the right answers so that Israel, all people in the area including the Palestinians, and the world as a whole may have the oppor-tunity of living in a meaningful peace.