Stephen M. Flatow, a vice president of the Religious Zionists of America, is an attorney in New Jersey. He is the father of Alisa Flatow, who was murdered in an Iranian-sponsored Palestinian terrorist attack in 1995.
Australian foreign minister Julie Bishop announced this week that she is “concerned” about Israeli construction of homes within existing Judea-Samaria communities.
Well, I’m concerned, too. I’m concerned about Australia’s continuing mistreatment of its Indigenous people.
“There is a criminal silence around Australia’s treatment of its indigenous people,” according to veteran Australian journalist John Pilger, reporting last year on the “Fair Observer” website. Fair Observer is a group founded by UC-Berkeley professor Atul Singh and chaired by Ambassador Garry Grappo, a former U.S. envoy to Saudi Arabia and Oman.
Pilger offered troubling details about the plight of the Arrernte-Alyawarra people, who live in the ironically-named Utopia region of Australia. “Elderly indigenous people in the homelands [as those areas are called] had received no food from an aged care program funded by the Australian government,” according to Rosalie Kunnoth-Monks, an eyewitness cited by Pilger. She said “the community including children and the elderly go without food, often on a daily basis.”
Pilger recalled his own visit to that region, during which he met with a local physician, Dr. Janelle Trees, “whose indigenous patients lived within a few miles of $1,000-a-night tourist resorts.” Dr. Trees said malnutrition among the natives is “common,” and she recalled the case of a woman who had an infection that could have been easily remedied with a tablet, “but I couldn’t treat her because she didn’t have enough food to eat and [thus] could not ingest the tablet.”
According to Dr. Trees, “There’s asbestos in many Aboriginal homes, and when somebody gets a fiber of asbestos in their lungs and develops mesothelioma, [the government] doesn’t care. When the kids have chronic infections and end up adding to these incredible statistics of indigenous people dying of renal disease, and are vulnerable to world record rates of rheumatic heart disease, nothing is done. I ask myself: Why not?
Human rights groups seem to share my concern. According to Amnesty International’s most recent assessment, “Indigenous children [in Australia] were 24 times more likely to be detained [by the police] than non-Indigenous children,” and “Indigenous adults were 14 times more likely than non-Indigenous adults to be incarcerated, and deaths in custody continued.”
Human Rights Watch reports: “While indigenous Australians account for only 3 percent of Australia’s population, they account for 27 percent of Australia’s prison population. In part because they are disproportionately represented in the criminal justice system, indigenous Australians are more likely to face stigma and discrimination in employment.”
Moreover, according to Human Rights Watch, indigenous Australians “still on average live 10-12 years less than non-indigenous Australians, have an infant mortality rate almost two times higher, and continue to die at alarmingly high rates from treatable and preventable conditions such as diabetes and respiratory illnesses.”
Foreign Minister Bishop thinks Israeli construction undermines peace in the Middle East? Well, some of us think the mass incarceration of Indigenous children undermines peace in Australia.
Foreign Minister Bishop considers it appropriate to publicly chastise Israel’s domestic policies? I wonder how she would feel about Israel’s leaders publicly chastising her government’s treatment of the Indigenous people in “Utopia.”
Hopefully Ms. Bishop will temper her righteous indignation and give these issues a little more consideration before rushing to criticize Israel next time.