Saturday, October 20, 2007

A world without Israel

From PMW, by Itamar Marcus and Barbara Crook - October 17, 2007:

Palestinian Authority TV visualizes a world without Israel: Shows map of Israel covered by Palestinian flag

As preparations for the American peace conference continue, the leaders of the Palestinian Authority have announced their demands for a future Palestinian state with an area of 6205 square kilometers. This would include the Gaza strip, the West Bank and East Jerusalem. However, the message they have conveyed to their people for years, and continue to convey on the eve of the conference, is that "Palestine" exists and it replaces all of Israel.

A clip broadcast by Fatah-controlled Palestinian television this week shows a map in which Israel is painted in the colors of the Palestinian flag, symbolizing Israel turned into a Palestinian state.

The description of all the state of Israel as "Palestine" is not coincidental and is part of a formal educational approach throughout the Palestinian Authority. This uniform message of a world without Israel is repeated in school books, children's programs, crossword puzzles, video clips, formal symbols, school and street names, etc. The picture painted for the Palestinian population, both verbally and visually, is of a world without Israel.

Indictment of Ahmadinejad

From The Australian, October 19, 2007, by Dore Gold [former Israel ambassador to the UN head of the Jerusalem Centre for Public Affairs]:

THE debate in Australia - kick-started by Opposition Leader Kevin Rudd last month - over the applicability of the genocide convention to the threats of mass murder made by Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is not only welcome. It is part of a larger global movement to find effective ways of stopping Iran from carrying out its declared plan to dominate its neighbours and wipe Israel off the map.

[The question now is : what will Howard/Downer do? - SL]

....The Australian Labor leader is not alone in criticising Ahmadinejad. In June, the US House of Representatives overwhelmingly adopted legislation (411-2) determining that Ahmadinejad's rhetoric did indeed violate the genocide convention.

Earlier in the year, Conservative and Labour members of the British House of Commons lent support to this idea, as did Nobel Peace Prize laureates David Trimble and Elie Wiesel.
It is important to recall that the genocide convention was really born in 1946 when the UN General Assembly first characterised genocide as a crime under international law.

As the horrors of the Holocaust sank into the conscience of the newly formed UN, this resolution evolved into a binding international treaty. The resulting convention, however, was conceived to punish the crime of genocide and to prevent genocide. To accomplish this goal, article three of the convention stated that "direct and public incitement to commit genocide" was a punishable act.....

Actions in Canada against Ahmadinejad are particularly interesting. Irwin Cotler, Canada's former attorney-general, undertook legal proceedings in Canada against Rwandan Hutus involved in incitement to genocide. According to Cotler, Ahmadinejad's rhetoric was "as direct and public, clear and compelling" a case of incitement to genocide as he had seen, even in comparison with the Rwandan case. He did not leave this as a rhetorical judgment alone.
A Canadian parliamentary committee adopted a motion by Cotler to refer Ahmadinejad's genocidal incitement to the UN Security Council to obtain action by the International Court of Justice in The Hague. Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper has also characterised Ahmadinejad's rhetoric as genocidal.

Ahmadinejad is testing the waters of international reaction with his threats to destroy Israel and his denial of the Holocaust. To threaten the use of force against a fellow UN member state is a blatant violation of the UN charter. Yet Ahmadinejad gets away with it. He even gets to address the UN General Assembly, as he did last month.

The failure of the international community to even register any serious complaint only whets his appetite. It becomes difficult for his rivals in Tehran to argue that he has gone too far or that he should accept full international inspection of the Iranian nuclear program. Thus this is not just a point of discussion for international legal experts but a matter affecting international security.

For at this point, Ahmadinejad has managed to use genocidal language with impunity.
Former UN secretary-general Kofi Annan has described the UN's past treatment of the Rwandan genocide as "our collective failure". The warning signs were present and even reported by UN officials, yet nothing was done. The same failure is being repeated in Darfur. In Rwanda, the preferred instrument for mass murder was the machete. In the case of Iran, it is a nuclear-tipped missile. The genocide convention is too important to just ignore.

Australia is uniquely positioned to take a stand based on principle over Iran's repeated statements on the destruction of Israel. Moreover, by leading the defence of international law, Australia could also enhance international security, as the Iranians come to realise that a coalition of states can emerge that will not stand for the rhetoric of mass murder.

For a full report on this issue see "Referral of Iranian President Ahmadinejad on the Charge of Incitement to Commit Genocide" (1M pdf file download)

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

That road does not lead to peace

From The Age on-line, October 17 2007, by Colin Rubenstein [posted here in full]:

VISITING British-Palestinian intellectual Ghada Karmi referred frequently to Middle East peace in her recent article, ("Israel's power is roadblock to peace in the Middle East", The Age Opinion, 10/10) but also perfectly illustrated one reason why achieving a viable and lasting Israeli-Palestinian peace has been so hard.

Dr Karmi's peace is not peace as most people understand it - agreements and arrangements to recognise and implement the basic rights of both parties, and peacefully settle disagreements. What she actually seeks, as she has made clear numerous times, is "peace through victory" - whereby it is agreed that all of Palestine is Palestinian land to which Jews have no claim.

Unfortunately, this view remains all too common among Palestinian intellectuals, and a major barrier to viable peace.

Karmi ostensibly argued that supposed Israeli obstreperousness and power is preventing a two state solution, and therefore a one-state solution is the only viable option.

Much of her argument is based on false premises and exaggeration - her claim that Israel has never made a peace offer, ignoring Camp David and Taba in 2000-2001, is just one example. But her bigger problem is that she is on record repeatedly opposing any two-state solution that leaves Israel in existence.

Even before the Oslo process collapsed in 2000, Karni wrote in a 1999 paper that "a two-state solution ... would have been unstable and ultimately unacceptable to the Palestinians because ... it would have set the seal of approval on the Zionist claim to Palestine as the exclusive land of the Jews which no Palestinian has ever accepted". In 2002, she argued that any two state solution was fundamentally "unequal" and therefore could not resolve the "Palestinian sense of injustice". In 2004, she wrote of Israel's "inevitable absorption into the Arab world" by demographic means.

She is also against an Israeli-Palestinian "binational" state because, she has repeatedly said, Palestinians cannot co-exist with "Zionism". In Perth last Monday, she reportedly told the audience that when her one-state solution is implemented, she expects most of the Jews to go back to Europe.

One should therefore not take seriously Karmi's rhetoric about the Arab peace plan and Israel's supposed refusal to accept it (actually, Israel has said it is happy to start negotiations about the plan). She has repeatedly made clear she opposes any such plan for a two-state resolution unless it contained a legally unprecedented absolute "right of return" to Israel, not the future Palestinian state, for 5 million or so descendants of refugees from the 1948 war. This would quickly turn Israel into a majority Arab state, as Karmi would likely concede and applaud.

Karmi did correctly say that the outline of the resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is now apparent. However, it follows more or less the parameters for a two-state solution laid down in the Camp David and Clinton initiatives from 2000, whose fundamental premise Karmi rejects - two states for two peoples.

Karmi's rejectionism is hardly unique, unfortunately. Hamas, which controls Gaza, offers an Islamic variant on her view that the only solution is Israel's eradication. Moreover, Salman Abu Sitta, a prominent Palestinian activist on refugee issues, wrote last week to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas demanding he reject "mutual recognition - Israel as the national homeland for the Jews and, on what's left of the land, Palestine as the national homeland of the Palestinians".

Happily, recent polls apparently show most Palestinians are prepared to support the only kind of two-state resolution that can work. Similarly, polls of Israelis have consistently shown for years a large majority for such a deal if the outcome is real peace. This is also the current Government's policy.

The problem remains making such a resolution a reality, as both sides attempt to hammer out an agreement on principles for a final peace settlement in preparation for the Annapolis meeting on the Middle East scheduled for the end of November. Mahmoud Abbas no longer controls Gaza, and his hold on the West Bank is shaky. Even if he can gain public support for a deal, it is unclear he could implement it in the face of violent opposition from rejectionist groups backed by outside parties such as Syria and Iran. Meanwhile, not only is Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert politically weak domestically, Israel would be foolish to try and implement any deal requiring security risks and serious concessions while it remains unclear that Abbas can prevent the rejectionist groups from exploiting concessions to escalate terrorism.Progress will not be easy, but it is worth continuing to make the attempt, because for the sake of both peoples, peace is urgently needed. Rhetoric aside, to demand that the conflict continue until Israel agrees to knowingly surrender any Jewish identity, as Karmi and many other Palestinian intellectuals do, is to condemn both peoples to decades more violence and horror, and has nothing to do with peace.

Colin Rubenstein is executive director of the Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council. Previously, he taught Middle East politics at Monash University for many years.

The Muslim Brotherhood shows its true colors

From the Christian Science Monitor, October 12, 2007, by By Mohamed Elmenshawy [my emphasis added - SL]:

The [Muslim Brotherhood]'s latest thinking reveals a troubling agenda.

Washington - If Iran's Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini were alive today, he would celebrate the expansion of his Islamist vision. As evidenced by the latest version of the Muslim Brotherhood's recently released political party platform, the late Iranian leader's dream of spreading the ideology of Islamic revolution is gaining ground in Egypt, the largest Sunni Arab country.

The draft .... program that it outlines doesn't herald the democratic values the Brotherhood has claimed to hold in previous public statements and addresses. Instead, it calls for the adoption of a "Civic Islamic State."

Perhaps the most alarming feature of the draft platform is the call to create a Majlis Ulama, or Council of Islamic Scholars, that could end up being elected by Islamic clerics, not through free and fair elections. Reminiscent of Iran's Guardian Council, this undemocratically selected body could have the power vested by the state to veto any and all legislation passed by the Egyptian parliament and approved by the president that is not compatible with Islamic sharia law.

The Muslim Brotherhood, established in 1928 by Hassan al-Banna, has been outlawed by the Egyptian government since 1954. Today, it packages itself as a moderate organization, and its members hold 88 seats (about a fifth) in the Egyptian parliament as independents. Many Egyptians have long sympathized with the Muslim Brotherhood in its struggle against an increasingly authoritarian regime. It was hard not to feel for the banned organization when its members faced the harsh treatment of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak's military tribunals.

Still, having gone since 1928 without releasing any official party platform, the Muslim Brotherhood has escaped an honest and critical review – until now. In publishing this draft, it missed a golden opportunity to prove its pro-democratic stance.

The Muslim Brotherhood should have looked to Turkey as a model for how to integrate Islam into a secular system...The Brotherhood's consistent call for a purely Islamic state can only mean the marginalization of secular opposition voices.

Also alarming is that the draft document would discriminate on the grounds of gender and religion by denying women and members of Egypt's Christian Coptic community the right to run for presidential office.

The rise to power of a Muslim Brotherhood based on this new party platform could spell disaster for Egypt's already tenuous relations with Israel.... the Brotherhood would not recognize the "Zionist entity" or "unjust" international treaties, in reference to the peace treaty signed with Israel in 1979.

Many people used to believe that the Muslim Brotherhood was simply a political movement using religion to gain support and present itself in contrast to the ruling National Democratic Party, but now it appears that the inverse is true. The Muslim Brotherhood is a religious movement using politics to spread its values and beliefs.

In the wake of 9/11, many analysts have called on the American administration and policymakers to engage with so-called moderate Islamists in the Arab world. While engagement is necessary, and greater diplomatic efforts should be encouraged, the Brotherhood's dangerous political platform should be questioned. Before opening a dialogue with any group – even one that has renounced violence, as the Brotherhood has – there needs to be an examination as to whether a political organization that categorically denies equality on the basis of religion and gender can be lauded as moderate, and whether engagement can lead to positive political reform and democratization.

Egypt is in desperate need of new political blood. With the dictatorial nature of Mr. Mubarak's 26-year rule and the recent sentencing of several editors in chief, the Egyptian people want a viable alternative. But the Muslim Brotherhood's new platform dispels the hope that it could be the lifeline Egypt needs to start becoming a true liberal democracy.

The Egyptian people, lacking a vibrant and diverse political arena, are left to choose between the devil they know and the devil they are now beginning to know.

Mohamed Elmenshawy is editor in chief of Taqrir Washington and Arab Insight, a project of the World Security Institute in Washington, D.C.

Some Palestinians prefer life in Israel

From Tuesday's Globe and Mail, October 16, 2000, by MARK MACKINNON:

In East Jerusalem, residents say they would fight a handover to Abbas regime

JERUSALEM ...mayor of Ras Hamis, a Palestinian neighbourhood on the eastern fringe of this divided city, says that he can't think of a worse fate for him and his constituents than being handed over to the weak and ineffective Palestinian Authority right now.

"If there was a referendum here, no one would vote to join the Palestinian Authority," Mr. Gheit said, smoking a water pipe as he whiled away the afternoon watching Lebanese music videos. "We will not accept it. There would be another intifada [uprising] to defend ourselves from the PA."

In comments that are likely to stir fierce debate on both sides, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert suggested yesterday that Israel could relinquish several Arab areas on the periphery of East Jerusalem.....

Those who live in the neighbourhoods Mr. Olmert spoke of handing over are ... worried that Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas, who is seen as weak and desperate for an achievement after losing control of the Gaza Strip to the Islamist Hamas movement, will accept the offer. They dislike the idea of their neighbourhoods, which are generally more prosperous than other parts of the West Bank, being absorbed into the chaotic Palestinian territories.

Mr. Gheit, with two posters of "the martyr Saddam Hussein" hanging over his cash register, can hardly be called an admirer of the Jewish state. But he says that an already difficult life would get worse if those living in Ras Hamis and the adjoining Shuafat refugee camp were suddenly no longer able to work in Israel, or use its publicly funded health system.

The 53-year-old said he'd be happy to one day live in a properly independent Palestinian state, but not one that looks anything like the corruption-racked and violence-prone areas that are split between the warring Hamas and Fatah factions. "I don't believe in these factions. I only believe in putting bread on the table for my children. I fight only for them. At least in Israel, there's law."....

Mr. Olmert is also under pressure from the United States to make concessions ahead of a peace conference that President George W. Bush is scheduled to host next month. However, hopes are fading fast for the November peace conference and Israel's Haaretz newspaper reported that it was likely to be postponed.

Annapolis conference doomed

From Ynet News, 16/10/07, by Yitzhak Benhorin:

WASHINGTON – In a rare display of bipartisanship, members of Israel's Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee from both sides of the political spectrum declared the upcoming Annapolis peace conference doomed.

The unanimous opinion was voiced by four leading MKs currently visiting Washington for a series of high-ranking meetings prior to the conference......

Following the meeting with Jeffrey, MK Yossi Beilin (Meretz) said that the Americans were "creating a situation wherein failure in Annapolis may lead to disaster. It would have been possible for bilateral talks between Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to continue. If after seven years of no negotiations at all, this summit fails – it could truly bring about catastrophe.

Failure, Beilin said, would also spell out the end of Abbas' rule and "give an unbelievable boost to Hamas' strength."....

'We can't ignore what happened in Gaza'
Meanwhile MK Yuval Steinitz (Likud) said he was also concerned about a possible deterioration of the situation after Annapolis. The US is ignoring the reality on the ground, he said, adding that a non-viable agreement would be worse than no agreement at all.

He warned against "signing an agreement with Abbas on Judea and Samaria while ignoring everything that has happened in Gaza over the last two years – we gave up everything and got an Iranian-backed Palestinian army in return."

Steinitz accused the US of "playing with fire when it comes to Jerusalem. It's difficult enough as it is to control the city, there are constant attempts to turn the Temple Mount into ground zero for all religious wars. Israeli control over East Jerusalem is the only thing preventing a bloodbath and religious war that could ignite the entire Muslim world.

"If Annapolis fails it would be bad. If Annapolis succeeds we fear that once against Israel will give up everything and receive nothing in return." ....

Israel submits Holocaust education bill to UNESCO

From JPost, Oct 16, 2007, by MARISSA LEVY :

More than 60 years after the Holocaust, the [Israel] Foreign Ministry is working to keep the Nazi genocide at the forefront of international consciousness.

The ministry submitted a resolution to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization this week calling for the creation of a UNESCO-sponsored curriculum to teach students around the world about the Holocaust and its role in history.

The Holocaust Remembrance resolution...aims to preserve the memory of the Holocaust while preventing its denial. ... "It's not just about memorials and ceremonies. [UNESCO] will take it further, to schools and research institutions around the world."

UNESCO will vote on the draft resolution at its 34th General Conference, which started Tuesday and runs through November 3. According to the ministry, 70 countries from every continent, including one Arab state, support the bill. .... the ministry expected the initiative to be ratified by the end of the month.

The Holocaust Remembrance resolution is part of an ongoing campaign by the ministry to keep the memory of the Holocaust alive through association with the UN and its multilateral institutions. In 2005, the UN established International Holocaust Memorial Day on January 27, the anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz death camp. In 2006, the international body passed a resolution condemning Holocaust denial....

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

And What Do We Get?

From GLORIA, October 14, 2007, by Barry Rubin:

The Israeli-Palestinian peace process is about to be the topic of an international summit and optimism is breaking out all over.
A breakthrough to comprehensive peace, however, is very unlikely. Hamas controls the Gaza Strip; the Palestinian Authority (PA)-Fatah leader, Mahmoud Abbas, is weak; Fatah is still overwhelmingly radical and has not conducted the internal debate—much less public education effort—necessary for a change of policy.
At the same time, however, a situation breeding persistent crisis and violence won’t go away. It is important to try to prevent the conflict from growing worse, including a possible Hamas takeover on the West Bank or full-scale war. If this is a long-term stalemate it need be structured in a way conducive to greater stability. And if it is possible to move even a bit toward building an eventual peace that is a good thing.
So the immediate question is whether intensive Israel-PA talks and the summit meeting can keep the mess from getting worse or even help bring some modest improvement.
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert stated, "We must give negotiations a chance. Israel has excellent excuses to justify stagnation in the talks. I don't mean to look for excuses. I'm determined to give a chance to a meaningful diplomatic process….”

Or, in other words, even though we have every reason not to negotiate with an unstable regime that cannot meet commitments, we’re willing to try in hopes that it could work. That makes sense, albeit with reservations expressed below.

Olmert explained, "The current Palestinian leadership is not a terrorist leadership. [Abbas] and Prime Minister Salam Fayyad are committed to all the agreements signed with Israel, and I believe that they want to move ahead together with us…."
Olmert chose his words carefully. Abbas and Fayyad want peace and would like to keep their agreements. But he would find it hard to provide any more names to that list. Most Fatah leaders don’t think that way. And even those who “want” to advance probably cannot and will not do so. They may not personally promote terrorism but do little to stop it, even failing to curb the extremism of official PA-controlled media.
Is it worth trying talks? Yes. Aside from showing the world Israel’s peaceful intentions there might be small successes. The level of conflict could be lowered, PA-Fatah preserved, international help obtained, Arab states brought into deeper engagement.

Yet in almost all this discussion, debate, international policymaking, and media coverage there is a missing element. There’s lots of talk about what Palestinians want, and what Israel might or should give, in negotiations. But there is virtually nothing said about what Israel should get for running these risks and making these concessions.

Or, as Bob Dylan put it, "Oh, no, no I've been through this movie before!” The PA-Fatah demands are clear: An independent Palestinian state with capital in east Jerusalem and borders on the 1948-1967 era ceasefire lines. All Palestinian refugees and their descendants must be allowed to live in Israel; all Palestinian prisoners, no matter how many Israeli civilians they deliberately murdered, released.
We know all this already. The return idea is unacceptable and this won’t change. It is a sign of Palestinian insincerity since the goal is to wipe Israel off the map. If Palestinians want a state of their own they would insist the refugees settle there. Prisoners might be released only if it is certain they will not return to terrorism either because a Palestinian government allowed it or even encouraged them to do so.
Israel is ready to accept an independent state. There is debate about east Jerusalem and the 1967 lines but a solution could be found. For example, in 2000 Israel’s government offered most of east Jerusalem and almost all the West Bank, with territorial swaps to make up for any land annexed by Israel.

But what does the Palestinian side offer Israel? That is very unclear. What does “peace” mean? A full end of the conflict? An energetic will to stop anti-Israel incitement and cross-border terrorism? And what of Hamas? The following points are what the Palestinian side must give. None of them are too onerous, especially compared to the rewards they would get:
The conflict would be ended. Over. Finished.
  • Palestinian refugees would be resettled in Palestine.
  • The PA-Fatah-PLO would energetically work to bring Arab states into the peace arrangement.
  • Palestine would block terrorist attacks from its territory on Israel by force if needed and stop the systematic incitement of hatred, certainly on the official level, against Israel.
  • No foreign troops would be permitted on Palestine’s territory.

There also has to be serious international recognition, safeguards, and guarantees for the risks Israel is taking. Israel is negotiating with people who have no control over much of the territory or people on whose behalf they speak.
Hamas will reject any agreement and do everything possible to wreck it, including killing PA leaders and launching terrorist attacks to force Fatah to guard Israel’s borders or throw away the agreement. Israel is negotiating with people who have no control over much of the territory or people on whose behalf they speak.
Beyond this, if Hamas were to take over the West Bank or any Palestinian state, it would immediately restart the conflict, using Israeli concessions to be more deadly.
And there’s more bad news If Abbas and Fayyad made a deal along the above lines—or ones even better for the Palestinians—all the supporters of Hamas and smaller radical groups plus up to half or more of Fatah itself would denounce them as traitors and reject the agreement.

Focusing only on what Israel must give and ignoring the other side of the equation is a formula for continuing conflict.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

America’s Role in Addressing Outstanding Holocaust Issues

The US House [of Representatives] Committee on Foreign Affairs, Subcommittee on Europe, held a hearing on Wednesday, October 03, 2007 entitled "America’s Role in Addressing Outstanding Holocaust Issues"

Follow the links below to review the Hearing Notice, addresses by The Honorable Robert Wexler , The Honorable J. Christian Kennedy, Mr. Gideon Taylor, Mr. Jack Rubin, Mr. Sidney Zabludoff, and Mr. Alex Moskovic.

Of particular interest is the testimony of Mr. Jehuda Evron, the president of the Holocaust Restitution Committee, the leading international body advocating for restitution of Holocaust-era seized properties in Poland. To this day, Poland is the only country in Eastern Europe that has no private property restitution legislation.

The Holocaust Restitution Committee represents 3,000 Holocaust survivors from all over the world who lost their entire families and whose assets were stolen by the Nazis. After the war, those assets were not returned but were nationalized by the Communist regime. Before World War II, 3.3 million Jews lived in Poland, which was 10 percent of the country’s population.

Jehuda Evron testified before the Helsinki Commission and the European Union Parliament in Brussels on this issue and his organization has filed a class action lawsuit against Poland in the U.S. Courts and there is a pending lawsuit filed by one of its members at the EU Court in Strasbourg.

Hat-tip to Jakob L. and Allgenerations, Inc., a non profit resource for Holocaust Survivors,their descendants, Holocaust related museums and organizations, historians, educators, authors, filmmakers and other concerned and interested individuals, for alerting us to this hearing.

Anti-Semitic remarks exposed in Pratt probe

From JTA, 11/10/07 by Dan Goldberg:

SYDNEY (JTA) investigation into a major price-fixing scandal involving a Jewish mogul exposed a blatantly anti-Semitic exchange between two high-ranking business executives.

The transcript of remarks by two former executives of Amcor, one of the world’s biggest packaging companies, is among the evidence collected by a corporate watchdog group against ... Visy Industries. Pratt has admitted that Visy illegally colluded with its main rival, Amcor, in a price-fixing scheme between 2000 and 2004.

According to the transcript, recorded in 2002 and published Tuesday by The Age newspaper, Amcor’s former managing director of Australasia operations, Peter Brown, was discussing Pratt’s company with his colleague, senior executive Jim Hodgson, when Brown allegedly said: “You know what the Jews are like. No wonder they own half the world.”

Hodgson apparently replied: “And you wonder why, ah, Hitler wanted to stitch them up, too.” Hodgson then said of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict: “That whole thing is about oil, isn't it? And the New York Jewish lobby.”

The executive officer of Australia’s B’nai B’rith Anti-Defamation Commission, Manny Waks, told JTA that his group “views with great concern these blatant and vile anti-Semitic comments being spewed from mouths of high-ranking business officials.” Waks demanded an apology, saying, “It is outrageous that in these times the Jewish community should be subjected to this kind of abuse by bigots and racists.”

On Thursday, Amcor CEO Ken MacKenzie apologized for the remarks. “The comments, made by these individuals, who were dismissed from Amcor in 2004 for unacceptable behavior, are appalling and have no place within our company,” he said in a statement. “I sincerely apologize for any distress they may have caused.”

After years of denial, the man dubbed Australia’s “cardboard king” apologized this week for the price-fixing scheme and admitted that his company’s executives had “erred.” The case involving Pratt was scheduled to be heard in Australia’s Federal Court next week, but as a result of an out-of-court settlement pending court approval, Pratt probably will avoid a drawn-out legal case in the episode, which has generated headlines around the globe. Pratt is expected to face fines of up to $[US]36 million -- a record for Australia. Visy has a sister company in the United States run by Pratt’s son Anthony.

In another Jewish twist to the story, the head of the corporate watchdog group that hounded Pratt is another Jewish powerbroker, former president of the Jewish National Fund in Melbourne Graeme Samuel. Samuel has led the crusade against packaging cartels, pitting himself against Pratt in a battle that has fascinated Melbourne’s tightly knit community of 45,000 Jews.

The anti-Semitic exchange exposed during the investigation rankled Australia’s Jewish communal leaders. “It is not simply the anti-Semitic nature of these comments that Australian Jews find so distressing, but also their thoughtless, clich├ęd stupidity and lack of concern about whom they might wound,” said the president of the Executive Council of Australian Jewry, Grahame Leonard.

Pratt, Australia’s third-wealthiest man, is worth an estimated $4.9 billion, according to Business Review Weekly’s annual rich list. His charity fund, The Pratt Foundation, gives away more than $11 million a year, much of it to Jewish causes in Australia and charities in Israel. Despite the record fine expected against him, Pratt has vowed that it will not affect his philanthropy.

Pratt was awarded Australia’s highest honor in 1998 for services to the business community and philanthropy. Earlier this year, he and his wife Jeanne were awarded the prestigious Woodrow Wilson Award for Corporate Citizenship for their philanthropic work. Last month, Pratt’s U.S. company, based in Georgia and with more than 3,000 employees in 26 states, pledged to invest $1 billion over 10 years in recycling initiatives.

Born in Poland in 1934, Pratt fled Poland with his parents on the eve of the war. He has said that despite his wealth he feels he is an outsider in the Melbourne establishment because he is Jewish. He recently told a weekend magazine here that he believes there is an undercurrent of anti-Semitism in Australia.