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Credit: Illustration: Matt Golding
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Penny Wong is effectively siding with Hamas by claiming Israel should immediately agree to a ceasefire in the conflict (“Wong’s attempts at nuance could strand Australia”, 14/11). She said that this is needed because Israel is attacking hospitals. Israel is not targeting hospitals.
She should clearly insist that Hamas and Arab countries, including Iran, immediately cease their ridiculous claims that Israel has no right to exist. She should also demand that Iran immediately stop supplying military weapons to Hamas in Gaza as they are apparently all being stored in the underground tunnels, some of which have been found to be under hospitals, schools, mosques and children’s playgrounds.
If Israel is attacked it will need to defend itself. Anti-Israel groups can claim that Israel’s defence of itself is a form of “collective punishment” of Palestinians, but if there is any doubt about Israel’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, the calls for the “collective destruction” of Israel from its neighbours will continue. Neither Israel, nor any other country, would ever tolerate such a situation.
Coke Tomyn, Camberwell
What’s the world coming to when intelligent, articulate people such as Penny Wong can offer sage and even-handed advice over a distressing issue and face criticism for it?
Phil Alexander, Eltham
Moral grounds shaky
The Gazan health ministry says the Al Shifa “hospital’s last generator ran out of fuel on Saturday, leading to the deaths of three premature babies and four other patients” (“Palestinians deny Israel is saving babies”, 14/11), while Peter Hartcher writes that “Israel … is better than Hamas” and has a “higher moral authority” (“Why the ‘c’ word is so difficult”, Comment). However, in a conflict where the actions of Hartcher’s preferred good guys are leading to the deaths of premature babies, neither side has any moral standing.
The killing needs to stop. A ceasefire should be called and perpetrators on either side be investigated by the International Criminal Court for war crimes.
Peter Martina, Warrnambool
No safe grounds
Bombing civilians is appalling, lamentable and rightly condemned by all upright nations, except, of course, when it’s us that is doing the bombing. “We” (the euro-West) bombed seven kinds of hell out of Japan, Germany, England, Vietnam, Cambodia and Iraq when we thought it necessary.
So yes, let’s help stop the carnage as soon as possible, but let’s not pretend we have some high moral ground to stand on when it comes to protecting civilian populations in times of war.
Lawrence Pope, Carlton North
We need to try something new
Continuous, and total, Israeli control of Palestinian life and economy, in the West Bank and Gaza since 1967, has failed both Palestinians and Israelis and is now horrifying the rest of the world. A solution to the chronic conflict needs Palestinians to accept that Israel is here to stay, while Israel must take its foot off the throat of Palestinians, including stopping illegal settlements and taking Palestinian property and land. The formation of a democratic and independent Palestinian state must be allowed, without future domination or interference from Israel.
Realistically, during any such process, an international peacekeeping force could be required to guarantee security and the keeping of the peace for both Israelis and Palestinians. In the absence of a Palestinian state, there is also a one-state solution between Palestinians and Israelis. Whatever the solution, the deadlock between Israelis and Palestinians needs to be broken.
Malcolm McDonald, Burwood
Hate is rising
I write this as a proud Australian and a proud Jew, and the granddaughter of Holocaust survivors who attempted to reach the shores of Israel on the famous Exodus ship in 1947. It has been well documented that the Exodus ship symbolised the struggle of the Jewish refugees to reach their homeland. The refusal of the British Mandate to allow Jewish refugees safe passage to Israel ultimately led the world to recognise the need for a Jewish state. I have never before been more acutely aware of this need.
The age-old antisemitic hate is now rising up around the world cloaked as anti-Zionism, and we must not allow it to fester. Although I believe in the goodness of most Australians of all backgrounds, I cling to the notion that never again will Jews be turned away when seeking refuge from antisemitic atrocities if needed.
I am looking to all Australians to ensure there is never a repeat of the atrocities that have been committed against Jews throughout our history. While Palestinians also deserve to live in dignity, Israel is facing an existential threat from terror, and Australia must continue to support its right to exist as a Jewish homeland.
Keren Zelwer, St Kilda East
Desperate people do desperate things, and while the Hamas incursion into towns along the border with Gaza on October 7 may have been the action of a desperate people, it was nevertheless an abhorrent action by the Hamas militants. Notwithstanding, the retaliation by the Israelis appears driven by revenge, with little actual justice for the people who directly suffered at the hands of the Hamas militants.
Israel’s reputation globally may have been irrevocably damaged. Australia has benefited enormously from the efforts of Jewish migrants and their descendants, such as Sir Isaac Isaacs, the prominent politician and judge who was the first Australian-born governor-general. It would seem prudent for Benjamin Netanyahu and his government to reflect on what damage the actions of the Israel Defence Forces in Gaza will cause to Jewish people around the world.
Barry James, Lilydale
The loudest voice
While politicians cause many wars, at home they foment conflict for electoral advantage. The latest is the Coalition outrage at young people planning to protest over the current tragedy in the Middle East (“Students plan strike to support Palestine”, 14/11). Parents, teachers, doctors and counsellors are best placed to help young people deal with issues like this. Too often, the least qualified – politicians – are the loudest voice.
Leave families alone. Parents can work with their children to decide whether to protest or go to school. Or does the Coalition not respect the ability and rights of Australian parents?
Andrew Taylor, Merricks Beach
I’m not in love
What a strange time to have “fallen in love” with our country, Gary Newman (“Australians are too modest, our nation is much greater than America,” 11/11). As a 70-year-old historian and retired Australian history teacher, I’ve never been so out of love with it.
I’m in shock and grief at the calamity that has recently befallen the nation when we denied recognition to First Nations people and refused their request for partnership. This historical event is the greatest fissure in our national narrative since Whitlam’s Dismissal, and its significance and opprobrium will only grow with time. The lack of commentary on the impact of the No result is worrying. I fear another festering Great Australian Silence.
There is much still unsaid about the result of the referendum. We can’t just move on. The country feels alienated, and we from each other. We will never “reach for greatness” while this remains unexamined.
Gillian Upton, Balaclava
Chorus of noes
Nick Bryant’s rejection of the Coalition’s parochial “Airbus Albo” jibe is well made (“Who would want to clip his wings?” 14/11). More broadly speaking, the jibe speaks to the maddeningly reflexive politicking of Peter Dutton’s shadow cabinet. The latter’s unrelenting negativism debases the national discourse. Nuance and bipartisanship have gone missing. ALP strategists must already be compiling video takes of the opposition leader and his shadow ministers uttering “no” to any initiative from the federal government.
When even the ultimately professional and ethical Foreign Minister, Penny Wong, is being attacked for providing a measured international humanitarian legal perspective on the fraught Gaza situation, it is time for an obtuse federal opposition to take a good hard look at itself.
Jon McMillan, Mount Eliza
“Airbus Albo” belittling? Surely it’s more belittling – and patronising – when political officials of another nation refer to the prime minister as a “handsome boy”? On the other hand, “witty” mockery of our pollies traditionally comes with the terrain.
Remember “Little Johnny Howard”, “Scotty from marketing”, “The mad monk”, “Mr Harbourside Mansion”, “Ju-liar”, “The Silver Bodgie”, “Krudd” and so on? Anyway, let’s get with the times. “Airbus Albo” has been superseded by “Absenteesi”.
Deborah Morrison, Malvern East
MP of principle
For decades Russell Broadbent has irritated Liberal leaders John Howard, Tony Abbott, Scott Morrison and Peter Dutton, and his party’s head office, driven by a principled advocacy of a more humane approach to refugees and an abhorrence of racism.
I disagreed profoundly with him on some issues and we had robust discussions about COVID vaccines and the Voice. Once politicians had friendships across the divide, but this is now a rarity in an increasingly toxic and weaponised public life. So I salute Broadbent and encourage him not to fade away.
Barry Jones, Melbourne
Australia is unlike countries with nuclear power: we just don’t have it, and consequently don’t have the already established industry to build on. Those who propose it risk diverting and distracting from the urgent, war-footing need to decarbonise. In May, opposition energy and climate spokesperson Ted O’Brien described NuScale’s small modular reactor (SMR) technology as an example of “a burgeoning nuclear industry for next-generation technology”… “NuScale’s integrated reactors offer exceptional flexibility with modulars making for simple expansion. Its first build will be in Idaho in 2029.” Not only has this project collapsed, it has consumed $US930 million taxpayer dollars.
It is sour grapes for O’Brien to now cite setbacks in Siemens or SunCable. Wind and solar are not new or experimental technologies like SMR. He should be thankful the government did not plan, as he and Peter Dutton promised to do, a leap into a now-failed exercise.
Fiona Colin, Malvern East
While some have been upset that Matthew Bach’s description of “selfish rich geriatrics holding back the Libs” could be referring to them, I prefer to think it highlights the seriously rich geriatrics, those in charge of the media, mining and other industries, and behind the scenes in Advance Australia. On that basis, I think it’s a good statement. Not for a moment did I imagine it pointed to the comfortably well off, who are able to manage their own lives but are not generally selfish.
Barbara Darvall, Caulfield North
Something in the way
Well said, Christopher Bantick (“Theatre audiences must get their act together”, 14/11), but you left out another unwelcome audience intrusion. Recently at a ballet performance, I sat behind a woman with an enormous topknot that I could not see over or around. Luckily, there was a spare seat next to me that I moved to.
At the interval, I realised I wasn’t as badly off as the people must have been who were sitting behind or even near the woman with the oversize padded headband covered in large sparkling jewels that the dancers’ costumes were no match for.
Heather Barker, Albert Park
Methinks Christopher Bantick doth protest too much. Audience participation has always been a feature of the theatre and the concert hall, at least since Shakespeare’s day. Concerts and cinemas and theatres are for communal enjoyment of the production, not an individual pleasure. If you want to listen to a concert uninterrupted by the occasional unwrapping of a cough lolly, do it through the Australian Digital Concert Hall, in the comfort of your own home. Stream a film or a play, or buy a book and stay home.
Neville Nicholls, Viewbank
To the left, or right
As a pedestrian, I always walk at the left edge of the path and turn and look before crossing the path – it is courtesy and self-preservation to do so. If pedestrians would keep left as a matter of habit, many issues would never arise. As a cyclist, I am a repeat user of my cycle bell (Letters, 14/11). I ring the bell from far enough away to be able to assess if it has been heard and so can repeat/slow down and still avoid any issues with pedestrians. I nearly always thank them as I pass.
Despite this, there are issues with some pedestrians — like the ones who go right while their dog on a lead goes left, or one I experienced walking on the left side of the path with his dog and his colleague to his right. The colleague moved left on the bell, the other did nothing for a few seconds, then moved to the right side dragging the dog to the middle leaving nothing but emergency braking and an involuntary exclamation. His excuse: “I was too close, and on country roads you walk on the right side.”
Laurie Comerford, Chelsea
AND ANOTHER THING
Credit: Illustration: Matt Golding
I’m very grateful to all the kind bell-ringers. Unfortunately I don’t always hear high-pitched sounds. It is time bells were replaced by something that makes a deeper sound.
Andy Hannah, Macleod
What use is a bell or a bull horn when both walker and cyclist are listening to Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture, the finale – clarion and cannons? It’s the AirPods’ fault.
Margaret Skeen, Point Lonsdale
Like car horns, bell rings can be loaded with inflection, from a cheery Roadrunner “Beep! Beep!” through to an aggressive honk. People generally will respond in kind.
Emma Borghesi, Rye
Students who are planning to attend the Palestine rally are informed, intelligent and concerned about the crisis. It’s an insult to call them political pawns.
Mary Fenelon, Doncaster East
Perhaps if the organisers of the pro-Palestinian protests could guarantee they won’t be used to incite antisemitism (including calls for the destruction of Israel), and call for the release of Israeli hostages, I’ll accept the bona-fide intentions of the protests.
Henry Herzog, St Kilda East
Instead of debating whether it is genocide, or something a bit similar, get Israel to stop doing it.
Anastasios Moralis, Ormond
If the hard hearts of the Middle East conflict can’t be moved by the sight and sound of children being harmed, then nothing will change.
Matthew Hamilton, Kew
Well said, Penny Wong. Once again the voice of reason.
Dean Virgin, Strathmore
To your correspondent (Letters, 14/11), it’s still a wonderful world, it’s just some of the people in it that are terrible.
Peter Houston, Lancefield
I’m a bit confused by Optus’ original claim the cause of its outage was too complicated to explain? We’re now told that an upgrade caused safety switches to shut down the system. Basically, the fuse blew.
Dennis Fitzgerald, Box Hill
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