Jewish News report on debate: Fraser weighs into Hamas debate 14Oct09 October 20, 2009

by Peter Kohn – The Australian Jewish News – 14 October 2009

Former prime minister Malcolm Fraser speaks during the Monash debate. Photo: Peter Haskin

Former prime minister Malcolm Fraser speaks during the Monash debate. Photo: Peter Haskin

SHOULD the West engage Hamas? If ever there was an explosive debating topic, this was it.

The Monash Association of Debaters chose the proposition for its annual Vice-Chancellor’s Debate on October 14 featuring six debaters including former prime minister Malcolm Fraser, federal MP for Isaacs Mark Dreyfus and Zionist Council of Victoria president Dr Danny Lamm.

Knitted kippahs mixed with keffiyehs in a crowd nudging 1000, spilling into the aisles of a lecture theatre and adjoining foyer.

To the obvious relief of Monash vice-chancellor Professor Ed Byrne, the debaters remained civil, respected time limits and shook hands and chatted with opponents after the 90-minute debate.

Fraser, a vocal proponent of a Hamas dialogue, said that talking to Hamas is “not showing weakness, but strength”, while establishing preconditions “is a sign of significant weakness”.

He also slammed “the expansion of settlements”, which “does raise some questions about Israel’s ultimate intentions”.

Dr Lamm stressed Fraser was “a longtime friend” of Israel, but said the elder statesman was wrong on Hamas. A “win-win solution” involves a Jewish and Palestinian state, but Hamas wants “no place for Israel, no place for Jews”.

Dreyfus detailed Hamas’ record of repression against trade unionists and dissidents. And he condemned the kidnapping and detention of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit.

Editor’s note:  It is interesting that our public advocate Michael Shaik did not rate a mention when he gave the strongest argument for the affirmative position and received numerous rounds of applause from the audience during his presentation.  Courtesy would also have demanded that the other two speakers, Debra Smith (affirmative) and Tim Jeffries (negative) be mentioned in this report.

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