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April 27, 2015 / 8 Iyar, 5775
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A Tale Of Two Countries: America And Australia

Jerusalem can simply not accurately be termed "occupied" – for no modern-day country other than Israel was ever legally sovereign over it.
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Even as Israelis and Jews the world over engage in practically nothing other than prayer and whatever else they can do for the three Hamas-kidnapped teenagers, it appears that for the international political arena, it’s business as usual.

Two examples come to mind. U.S. State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki’s comments over the past few days on this painful issue can be summed up in one sentence: “We urge the sides to exercise restraint.” This, even as Israel knows it must do whatever it can before time runs out.

Ms. Psaki confirmed that one of the kidnapped boys – Naftali Frankel of Nof Ayalon – is an American citizen, but most she did not even take the trouble to learn his name. “I believe his name has been reported,” she said in a Wednesday press briefing, but “I don’t have it in front of me right now.”

Asked if the U.S. bears any responsibility for the kidnapping, given its support for the new Fatah-Hamas government, Psaki allowed that Hamas is a terrorist organization, but that “we do not believe that Hamas plays a role in the government.” After further “nudging” by reporters, she finally acknowledged that “if we again were to find that an entity that we work with does not abide by the [Quartet’s] principles, we would re-evaluate our support and relationship.”

The second example of business as usual concerns Australia’s stance on Jerusalem. As recently reported, Australia had announced it would no longer term eastern Jerusalem an “occupied” area. Foreign Minister Julia Bishop said she knew of no law rendering the Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria illegal, and other Australian politicians echoed these sentiments. Calling the communities “illegal” does not help the peace process, Liberal MP Wyatt Roy stated, and even more significantly, Attorney General George Brandis refused, even under strong questioning in the Senate, to say that eastern Jerusalem is ”occupied” by Israel.

Crystallizing the Australian stance was Prime Minister Tony Abbott, who did not hesitate to advise his American hosts this month that it would be advisable for them “not to use terms which suggest that matters have been prejudged.… The truth is they’re disputed territories.”

Abruptly, however, in the midst of the terrorist kidnap crisis, Australia “clarified” last week that actually its position on “the legal status of the Palestinian territories, including east Jerusalem,” had not changed. This was clearly the result of heavy pressure from Arab countries, including an implied threat of a boycott.

Foreign Minister Bishop met with Islamic and Arab national ambassadors, and said afterward that her country’s position is “consistent with relevant UN resolution adopted over many years, including UN Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338.” She also wrote that the idea of not referring to Jerusalem as occupied is “about nomenclature, and not a comment on the legal status of the Palestinian territories.”

Interestingly, rather than bemoan the apparent Arab success in influencing Australian policy, we might be encouraged that the Australian cave-in appears to be quite minor. If, as Minister Bishop explained, the Australian position is limited to “nomenclature,” and Australia makes sure not to refer to “occupied East Jerusalem,” supporters of a unified Jerusalem under Israeli sovereignty have reason to celebrate. For “nomenclature” is truly the name of the game. The choice of words used by the media and public officials in describing current events is critical on the public relations battlefield, as even occasional news consumers are well aware.

As evidence, note the strenuous efforts of Islamic terrorists to ensure that the world media refer to them merely as “militants.” They have been quite successful: A Google search of the term “ISIS militants” – referring to the soon-to-be conquerors of Iraq who have been described as more cruel than al Qaeda – brings up 4.37 million instances, nearly 50 times more than “ISIS terrorists.”

About the Author: Chaim Silberstein is president of Keep Jerusalem-Im Eshkachech and the Jerusalem Capital Development Fund. He was formerly a senior adviser to Israel's minister of tourism. Hillel Fendel, past senior editor at Israel National News/Arutz-7, is a veteran writer on Jerusalem affairs. Both have lived in Jerusalem and now reside in Beit El.


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