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Antagonizing Palestinians, Australia's linguistic blunder snowballs

By       Message Nicola Nasser       (Page 1 of 5 pages)     Permalink

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Reacting to antagonized Palestinian snowballing protests to her government's decision on June 5 to reverse a 47-year-old bipartisan consensus on describing eastern Jerusalem as "occupied," Foreign Minister Julie Bishop on June 13 denied any "change in the Australian government's position."

On June 5, Australian Attorney-General George Brandis in a statement said: ''The description of East Jerusalem as 'Occupied East Jerusalem' is a term freighted with pejorative implications, which is neither appropriate nor useful.''

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The new Australian terminology provoked Jordan, the third-largest importer of Australian sheep in the Middle East, to summon Australia's charge d'affaires, John Feakes, to convey its "concern" because "The Australian government's decision violates international law and resolutions that consider east Jerusalem as an integral part of all Palestinian territories occupied in 1967."

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Similarly, the Australian Representative in Ramallah, Tom Wilson, was summoned by the Palestinian Ministry of Foreign Affairs to convey "deep concern" because Brandis' remarks "contradict all international resolutions." They requested "official clarification."

Bishop's "no change" statement came in response. It was followed on June 14 by Prime Minister Tony Abbott who said, while on a trip to North America, that his government had made only a "terminological clarification."

Australia still "strongly" supports the "two-state solution" and "there has been no change in policy -- absolutely no change in policy," Abbot said, but at the same time confirmed that, "We absolutely refuse to refer to occupied East Jerusalem."

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Abbot two days earlier stated that the OccupiedPalestinianTerritories (OPT) are in truth "disputed territories."

Canberra is showing no signs of backing down. Australian ambassador to Israel, Dave Sharma, on June 11 said Brandis' reasoning could lead his government to similar official linguistic change on the West Bank.

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*Nicola Nasser is a veteran Arab journalist in Kuwait, Jordan, UAE and Palestine. He is based in Ramallah, West Bank of the Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories.

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