Further Reply to Greg Sheridan (Jerusalem Prize)
By Sonja Karkar
Yesterday, I received what I consider an unsatisfactory reply from Greg Sheridan of “The Australian” to my email asking him to reconsider accepting the Zionist Jerusalem Prize being awarded to him on 15 May – a most calamitous day in 1948 when a newly-created Israel forcibly expelled some 750,000 Palestinians from their homes, their lands and their country to make way for a Jewish state in all of historic Palestine. This project has been relentlessly pursued by Israel and its supporters to this day.
I believe that Mr Sheridan’s “reasons” for accepting the prize warranted the following detailed response, particularly since he is a journalist of influence and has a responsibility to the Australian public to report fairly on an issue that has serious political implications for the Middle East region and the rest of the world.
Please take the time to write to Mr Sheridan voicing your own concerns about him accepting such a prize. His email address is [email protected] and you may wish to also cc it to the Editor-in-Chief, Chris Mitchell – [email protected]
2 May 2007
Dear Mr Sheridan,
Your response to my email which asks you to reconsider your acceptance of the Zionist Jerusalem Prize is concerning, although not surprising. It is very clear that you either did not read or preferred not to accept my reasons for making the request. Since your newspaper bills you as “the most influential foreign affairs analyst in Australian journalism”, I believe that the matter is serious enough to reply to each point raised in your email.
The statement made by the President of the NSW State Zionist Council, Frank Levy was very clear: “The prize is awarded to someone who fosters and supports the state of Israel and its ideologies, the concept of the Jewish homeland and the Jewish community, particularly in Australia.” You say he was mistaken in suggesting that you support any particular “ideologies”, but in accepting the prize, you accept those who sponsor it and the reasons for it. According to the World Zionist Organisation, “the Jerusalem Prize is sponsored by Israel’s Department for Zionist Activities and is awarded by Zionist Federations to outstanding personalities, Jewish and non-Jewish, who have demonstrated exceptional support for Israel, Jerusalem and the Zionist cause.”
You say that you are committed “to telling the truth” about countries “with as much information as possible and making judgements on the basis of humane and civilised values”, but I suggest with regard to Israel, your investigative instincts have let you down. I am not sure how much more information you need to suspect that something is rotten in the state of Israel, but a journalist more than most would be wanting to know what lies behind the massive concrete Wall going up. One does not even have to venture inside the Israeli-occupied West Bank or Gaza. Any judgment made according to “humane and civilised values” would have to take into account the mass of human misery being imprisoned in a security solution that has long since been debunked. And that very human mass deserves at the very least a fair hearing according to your values.
There is nothing wrong with receiving a prize from any country that wishes to reward you for excellence in journalism, but there is everything wrong with accepting a prize that rewards you for supporting and promoting a foreign racist state that is rooted in an exclusivist ideology. As I said in my previous email, that is not consistent with our Australian values. And any of the “distinguished” recipients to whom you refer would have had to identify with what Israel represents. In particular, I am thinking of our current Foreign Minister Alexander Downer: it is no secret that Mr Downer proudly said he wears “Israel as a badge of honour”.
If you have “at times been critical of Israeli Government policies”, you are obviously not critical now and that is the crux of the problem with you accepting the prize as an analyst of foreign affairs. Israel’s crimes against humanity are blatantly obvious and so are those who ignore the injustices being perpetrated in the Israeli-occupied Palestinian Territories and even against Palestinian citizens within Israel itself. I would have expected a man of your journalistic skills to at least ask what information you should obtain on which you could then make a judgement based on “humane and civilised values”. By any reckoning, the truth about Israel’s brutal occupation would be immediately apparent.
You say that you support Israel’s right to exist in peace behind secure borders. The problem is that no one knows what those borders are because Israel is the only country in the world that refuses to define them. Israel shifts them daily as it continues to steal land from the Palestinians and illegally expands the Jewish settlements deep inside the West Bank. Furthermore, Israel’s peaceful intentions are a myth. This was well and truly exposed to the world when Israel mercilessly attacked Lebanon and Gaza last year. The onus is on Israel to stop its aggression and finally end its occupation and colonisation of Palestinian land. Until then, peace will be as elusive for Israel as it is for the Palestinians whose right to exist in peace and freedom within the internationally-accepted pre-June 1967 borders has been continually violated by Israel. As long as journalists like you do not expose this Israel, millions of Palestinians will remain prisoners of a brutal and illegal Occupying Power intent on pursuing its colonial enterprise. You do journalism in Australia a great disservice by not calling Israel to account.
I hope that you will do me the courtesy of reading this email in its entirety and give me your reasons for allowing a Zionist lobby group to hold sway over what should be your better judgment based on “humane and civilised values”.
Women for Palestine
PO Box 2099
Mobile: 0401 100 147
Sonja Karkar is a member of the Deir Yassin Remembered Board of Advisers.