Sydney Festival has been hijacked by an unwelcome group of militants spruiking baseless propaganda, writes Warren Mundine.

Warren Mundine
The Daily Telegraph
January 13, 2022

The world has just gone through Christmas, the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ for Christians, and Hanukkah for Jews.

It was the celebration of liberation from oppression, freedom of worship and finding light in the darkest of times.

Ironic that both celebrate hope, a guiding or finding light in the darkest of times.

I say ironic because The Sydney Festival has been hit, through no fault of its own, by the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, known as BDS, because it accepted entertainers and money from Israel.

The Sydney Festival is a major arts festival in Australia’s largest city and was established in 1977.

It is a celebration of Sydney and what it has to offer, with programs featuring local and international artists covering contemporary and classical music, dance, circus, drama, visual arts and artist talks and discussions.

The festival brings together more than half a million people to enjoy these festivities in a show of peaceful harmony where people of different backgrounds can meet and see the best of each other through the arts.

The attempted hijack of the festival by the BDS-biased political campaign goes against all that the festive season and the Sydney Festival stands for — hope, a guiding light in the time of darkness; and family, the bringing together of people in a peaceful setting to appreciate the arts; and meeting and learning from each other.

The reason I say BDS is a biased political campaign is because it spreads one-sided misinformation. For instance, the idea that the State of Israel is colonisation is laughable if it wasn’t so dangerous.

It’s a false narrative, as if Jews are not from the Middle East, thus delegitimising Jewish claim of a homeland.

Jews have lived in the current borders of Israel and the Middle East for thousands of years. Any study of history will show you that Jews come from the Middle East and have always lived in the Middle East.

The idea that Israel is an apartheid state is absurd and insulting to people who have lived under an apartheid system.

The evidence doesn’t back the apartheid narrative. Israeli’s defence forces, public life (including members of the Knesset and government), judges, restaurants, towns, markets are a sea of multicultural, multiethnic and multi-religious communities, gay rights, the rule of law and of democratic society with regular elections like Australia.

The idea that Israel is the problem doesn’t stack up with the facts either.

One only look at the depopulation of Jews and Christians throughout the Middle East and North Africa over the years and ask the single question, “why is that so?”

Watch the famous video of a UN Human Rights Commission session – where Hillel Neuer, executive director of UN Watch, asked Arab and North African countries who once had once substantial Jewish populations to answer the simple question “Where are your Jews?”.

Watch it and you’ll get your answer. They had none.

Gays are in the same boat as Jews and Christians in these countries.

The attack levelled at Israel that it is a warmonger and invading force has no evidence. In fact, the opposite. Israel has never invaded nor attacked anyone without being attacked or threatened first, from its modern birth in 1948 to rockets from Gaza in recent times.

Israel has always sought peace and harmony with its neighbours.

The Egyptian-Israel peace agreement where Israel withdrew from the Sinai Peninsula and pulled the Jewish settlements out. The Jordanian-Israel peace agreement. The withdrawal of the Jewish population from Gaza. The Camp David Accord that brought Palestinian governance to the Gaza Strip and West Bank at the cost of the life of Israel’s Prime Minister, Yitzhak Rabin who brokered the accord.

The peace offer that was rejected by the Palestinians during Bill Clinton’s presidency. Clinton blamed its failure on Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat. Clinton asked both parties to negotiate within set parameters on disputed issues or walk away. Israel agreed, offering Gaza and 97 per cent of the West Bank. Arafat refused.

Clinton suggested Arafat “couldn’t make the final jump from revolutionary to statesman”.

And, in recent years, the recognition of Israel through agreements with Bahrain, Morocco, Sudan, and United Arab Emirates.

All the while, Israel’s opponents call for the destruction of Israel with the chant, “From the Mountains to the Sea”.

Make no mistake. They have made it very clear they will not be satisfied until Israel — and its indigenous population — are eradicated.

Israelis, Palestinians, Australia, the world needs the full support of events like the Sydney Festival to bring people together, not drive them apart.

Nyunggai Warren Mundine is an author, media commentator and director of the CIS Indigenous Forum