Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council

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What really happened in the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks that broke down in April?
Mahmoud Abbas and Benjamin Netanyahu

What really happened in the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks that broke down in April? Author: Allon Lee Categories: Israel, Middle East, Palestinians, Updates    

One of the most persistent myths, and one which was repeatedly hammered before, during and after the recent Gaza war by some supposedly knowledgeable commentators, was the accusation that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was ultimately to blame for the war's outbreak because he has stymied all efforts at establishing a Palestinian state.

Yet if one looks at the totality of the evidence the picture being painted of Israeli intransigence spoiling peace hopes does not hold water.

Abbas' new "peace plan"

Abbas' new "peace plan" Categories: Israel, Palestinians, Updates    

Last weekend, at a closed session of the Arab League Summit in Turkey, Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas reportedly announced his plan to move ahead with peace process with Israel, and had it endorsed by the Arab League. While the details have not been publicly announced, they have been leaked in various news reports and reportedly entail a plan that the UN Security Council would make Israel withdraw to the pre-1967 boundaries within three years - or else Israel would be brought before the International Criminal Court and security cooperation with the Palestinians ended - if agreement on a final peace is not reached between the parties during a nine-month negotiating process. The plan has reportedly been rejected by the US Administration. This Update deals with the difficulties of this plan, and the wider problem of Israeli-Palestinian peace making after the Gaza conflict.

Letter to the UN from two bereaved parents

Letter to the UN from two bereaved parents Author: Sharyn Mittelman Categories: Israel, Palestinians, Updates    

On August 22, Gila and Doron Tregerman suffered a tragic loss when their four-year old son, Daniel, was killed by a mortar round that allegedly was fired from next to a Gaza school. On September 3, the couple, who live in Kibbutz Nahal Oz, near the Gaza border, wrote an emotional and heartfelt letter to the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, calling on the UN to also investigate Hamas for its war crimes committed during the latest conflict. The letter concludes, "We do not seek the people responsible for our Daniel's death. We only wish your response and your voice against this crime and the crime Hamas committed against their own people."

The truth about the Gaza war (hint: it's not what Ruth Pollard tells you)

The truth about the Gaza war (hint: it's not what Ruth Pollard tells you) Author: AIJAC staff Categories: Israel, Media/ Academia, Palestinians, Updates    

Over the past couple of months, readers of the Fairfax papers the Age, Sydney Morning Herald and Canberra Times have been subjected to Middle East correspondent Ruth Pollard's coverage of the Gaza conflict.

In our opinion, her general coverage – especially her feature article in the Saturday August 30 editions of the papers – has been full of misrepresentations, omissions and lack of context. The August 30 article appears intended to portray Israel as the villain, and the party that has come out of the conflict in the worst possible light, as compared to Hamas.

Below is the article, with our comments inserted where relevant.

What should be understood about Israel's controversial decision to zone 1000 acres as state land in the Etzion bloc

What should be understood about Israel's controversial decision to zone 1000 acres as state land in the Etzion bloc Author: Tzvi Fleischer Categories: Israel, Palestinians, Updates    

On August 31 Israel made a controversial decision, announcing that it would designate around 988 acres of land in the West Bank Gush Etzion region as "state land". According to reports, the decision will pave the way for the expansion of a small existing settlement known as Gva'ot into a much larger town. This has been controversial within Israel, with even Justice Minister Tzipi Livni criticising the move. However, some Australian media coverage of the issue has lacked basic context.

Letter: Apology falls short Author: Jamie Hyams Categories: Israel, Op-eds, Palestinians    

In her belated apology for the use of photos of dead children from the Syrian conflict to represent purported Israeli slaughter in Gaza (29 August), Sonja Karkar of Australians for Palestine claims the statistics alone tell the story. There is no question that large numbers of civilians, including children, have been killed in Gaza, and this is a tragedy. However, the oft-quoted statistics are also very dubious. They come from Gaza health authorities, under the control of Hamas, which has a clear interest in exaggerating the civilian numbers, and are passed on to UN agencies.

Three experienced journalists critique media coverage of Gaza

Three experienced journalists critique media coverage of Gaza Categories: Israel, Media/ Academia, Palestinians, Updates    

There has been much criticism of the media's performance during the recent Gaza conflict (where, happily, the ceasefire agreed to on Tuesday seems to be holding.) Examples from AIJAC include the Australian piece by Gabrielle Debinski, Tzvi Fleischer and Or Avi-Guy last month and Israeli academic Eytan Gilboa's piece in the latest edition of the Australia-Israel Review. This Update features detailed critiques of aspects of the media's performance by three senior, experienced journalists who appear to be in a good position to know what they are talking about - including two former Middle East correspondents for major international wire services. 

The myth of the "siege" of Gaza
Trucks carrying goods to Gaza

The myth of the "siege" of Gaza Author: Glen Falkenstein and Tzvi Fleischer Categories: Israel, Palestinians, Updates    

The whole notion of a "siege" of Gaza is a myth, even though mainstream media figures insist it is the key issue in the Gaza conflict. First of all, it is simply not true that Israel has been preventing humanitarian aid from entering Gaza up until now, as many seem to assume or imply. As a recent AIJAC post demonstrates, even throughout the Gaza conflict, the Kerem Shalom crossing from Israel into Gaza remained open and tens of thousands of tons of aid, food and medical supplies entered Gaza.

 Erez crossing attack illustrates Hamas' attitude to its own civilians

Erez crossing attack illustrates Hamas' attitude to its own civilians Author: Or Avi-Guy Categories: Israel, Palestinians, Terrorism, Updates    

The Erez Crossing is perhaps the most important lifeline for the provision of medical aid to Palestinians in Gaza. Tragically, Hamas repeatedly launched mortars at the crossing during the recent Gaza conflict, in blatant disregard for the safely and well-being of Gazans, even those who are the most vulnerable- the sick or injured.

Some maps of Gaza, based on UN data, that everyone should see Author: Gabrielle Debinski Categories: Israel, Palestinians, United Nations, Updates    

On August 15, OCHA- the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, released its 100-page report called the “Gaza Crisis Atlas.” Its key findings should be essential reading for anyone interested in what happened in Gaza. While it seems doubtful that this is what was intended by OCHA – which has a reputation for pro-Palestinian activism – the data the UN supplies destroys a lot of myths and misconceptions about Israel’s military actions in Gaza.

The prospects of the latest Gaza ceasefire

The prospects of the latest Gaza ceasefire Categories: Israel, Palestinians, Updates    

A new Gaza ceasefire, brokered by Egypt, came into effect last night at 7:00pm Israel time. Unlike all previous ceasefire, this one is indefinite in duration and many commentators are treating it as likely ending the Gaza conflict for the time being - although of course Hamas has broken numerous previous ceasefires. It is being celebrated in Gaza as a supposed victory. This Update deals with the terms of the ceasefire, evaluations of why Hamas agreed to a deal which looks very similar to previous offers they turned down, and what might happen from here.

Letter: Ignoring the facts on Israel-Palestine issue Author: Allon Lee Categories: Israel, Op-eds, Palestinians    

David Rothkopf is deluding himself if he thinks that it is only Israeli intransigence that has prevented the establishment of a Palestinian state ("A High Price", Review, August 22).

An in-depth report by Ben Birnbaum in the New Republic on the recent failure of US Secretary of State John Kerry's peace initiative showed that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had agreed to accept the US formula of a Palestinian state based on pre-1967 boundaries with minor, mutually agreed, land swaps.

The strange justice of William Schabas and the UNHRC

The strange justice of William Schabas and the UNHRC Author: Gabrielle Debinski Categories: Israel, Media/ Academia, Middle East, Terrorism, United Nations, Updates    

Many people, both within Israel and around the world, were unsurprised when the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) announced that it was launching a formal investigation into "possible war crimes" committed by Israel during Operation Protective Edge, which was launched on July 8 in response to incessant rocket fire from Hamas in the Gaza Strip into Israeli cities.

It did so in a resolution passed on July 23 which never mentions Hamas but declares Israel guilty, stating that the council "condemns in the strongest terms the widespread, systematic and gross violations of international human rights and fundamental freedoms arising from the Israeli military operations" in the occupied territories...

The Last Word: Health Report
On sale in a Sydney Islamic bookshop

The Last Word: Health Report Author: Jeremy Jones Categories: Antisemitism, Australasia    

When Sheikh Tajeddine El Hilaly delivered a public address in Sydney in 1988 accusing Jews of unimaginable evils, responses came loudly and clearly. Government leaders, senior bureaucrats, journalists and religious figures had no hesitation in declaring his speech repulsive, repugnant and unacceptable.

While he had his apologists, better known for their antagonism towards Jews than for their concern with the reputation or welfare of Muslims, the overwhelming reaction was to assert that he had embarrassed himself and his office as a religious leader.

Media Microscope: "F" for Fairfax Author: Allon Lee Categories: Australasia, Israel, Media/ Academia, Palestinians    

The perception that Fairfax's metropolitan newspapers and associated websites were glaringly biased against Israel over the course of the Gaza war to date has left many of their pro-Israel readers annoyed.

A significant factor in this irritiation was the reporting of Middle East correspondent Ruth Pollard, whose work appeared to focus largely on civilian deaths and injuries in Gaza, frequently seemed to suggest that most were deliberate, and appeared to uncritically accept Palestinian statistics and claims when reporting.

The Cine File: Tragedy and Divided Loyalties

The Cine File: Tragedy and Divided Loyalties Author: Sharyn Mittelman & Or Avi-Guy Categories: Israel, Palestinians    

Bethlehem is not a typical film about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Instead, its Israeli director Yuval Adler and screenwriter Ali Waked, an Arab journalist, have created a nuanced and complex portrait of divided loyalties that takes it beyond the news headlines.

Praised in some quarters - including an award in Venice, first prize at the Haifa Film Festival and six Ophir Awards (Israel's national film awards) - it has also received criticism from the likes of far-left Israeli columnist Gideon Levy of Haaretz for being too apolitical.

Qatar's dangerous game

Qatar's dangerous game Author: Kobi Michael & Yoel Guzansky Categories: Gulf states, Middle East    

Qatar's support for Hamas and the vehement opposition by Israel, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia to the US attempt to let Qatar play a role in the efforts to achieve a ceasefire in the Gaza Strip have stirred the debate about Qatar's conduct in the regional and international arenas and its position, influence, and ambition. The longstanding support by the tiny and very wealthy emirate for rogue elements in the Middle East and the use it makes of al-Jazeera, its popular and influential broadcasting station, reveal its negative, even dangerous effect on the region's stability and security.

War crimes in Gaza?

War crimes in Gaza? Author: David Knoll Categories: Israel, Palestinians    

Riad Malki, the Palestinian Foreign Minister, reportedly has approached International Criminal Court officials in the Hague to discuss "putting Israel in the dock on war crimes charges". The Palestinian plan reportedly is to "join the ICC and set a war crimes investigation in motion to be one of the bargaining chips on the table in Cairo." A strange way to proceed, but given the need to shift the focus away from the real cause of the human suffering in Gaza, an understandable political tactic.

Tunnel Vision

Tunnel Vision Author: Robert Ellenhorn Categories: Israel, Palestinians    

Since Israel's unilateral withdrawal from Gaza in 2005, and the subsequent take over of the strip in a violent coup by Hamas in 2007, Israel has faced an evolving threat from the coastal enclave. For most of that period, Israel's primary security and strategic concern in regards to Gaza was preventing the build-up of Hamas' rocket arsenal and finding suitable defence measures to protect Israeli civilians from the persistent rocket fire emanating from Gaza... However, the most recent bout of Israel-Hamas fighting has indicated that Israel is now confronted with new strategic considerations in regards to Gaza - primarily the threat of Hamas' terror tunnels.


The Media Failure in Gaza Author: Eytan Gilboa Categories: Israel, Media/ Academia, Palestinians    

The media is the main source of information about damage to infrastructure and casualties, especially civilian. Western media coverage of Operation Protective Edge in Gaza has been marred by an anti-Israeli bias and professional and ethical failures.

Hamas left eyeless in Gaza

Hamas left eyeless in Gaza Author: Amotz Asa-El Categories: Israel, Palestinians    

Named by the IDF Operation Protective Edge, successor to Pillar of Defence in 2012 and Cast Lead of 2008-09, the fighting had yet to produce a ceasefire by mid-August - and on the night of 19 August it resumed, when rockets were fired from Gaza several hours ahead of an extended five-day ceasefire's expiration, and Israel responded by bombing Hamas targets. Yet the violence that raged between July 8 and August 7 seems to have peaked while some new military, political, and diplomatic facts were emerging through the scattering battle fog.