Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council

Media Week - Dense & density, Background checks please; Cycle of stupidity

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Dense and density

ABC "Radio National" host Phillip Adams (July 23) introduced an interview with Dr. Mona El Farra, who works for the Red Crescent in Gaza, with the fallacious claim that "the Gaza Strip...[is] the most populated strip of land in the world. Yes, the most populated strip of land on Earth!"

In fact, it's not even close to being the most densely populated area of land in the world.

According to the CIA World Fact Book (2008), there are 4,603 people per square kilometre in Gaza. This is positively roomy compared to Calcutta (24,718), Paris (20,246), Athens (20,235), Singapore (6,816) or even nearby Tel Aviv (7,524) and Jerusalem (6,045).

An earlier Media Week column dealt with some of Dr. El Farra's dubious claims on water and health-related issues she shared on SBS Radio and can be read here.

Background checks please

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's decision to appoint his confidante Yitzhak Molcho as one of Israel's negotiators along with former Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni was reported by William Booth in Fairfax papers (July 30) as a "check on Ms Livni's authority as lead negotiator" because Molcho is "a lawyer who has acted for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his family."

This presumption is most unfair to both Livni and Molcho.

Molcho's career as an Israeli peace negotiator dates back to June 1996 during Netanyahu's first stint as prime minister. Molcho eventually helped negotiate the 1998 Wye River Memorandum under which Netanyahu committed to withdraw from West Bank land.

Cycle of stupidity

Another individual who really needs do their homework is Amin Saikal, the director of the Australian National University's Centre for Arab and Islamic Studies, who penned an article for the Canberra Times (August 1) riddled with wild claims.

Despite asserting that he has "observed the Israeli-Palestinian conflict over a long period" clearly Saikal has never heard of the two offers of statehood Israel made in 2000 and then in 2008, since, according to him the Oslo peace process died because "Israel refused to give up its policy of building Jewish settlements on Palestinian land and to acknowledge for the Palestinians what it has cherished for itself: independence, freedom, security and prosperity".

Furthermore, Saikal's interpretation of Hamas' opposition to peace talks, which "assumed governance of the Strip in 2007" (an interesting way to describe a violent and bloody coup) was patronisingly naïve. According to him, Hamas "has rejected the resumption of peace talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority on the grounds that the latter does not represent all of the Palestinian people," not because it opposes Israel's existence.

A few paragraphs on, Saikal contradicted himself, claiming that "Hamas remains excluded from the talks because in the eyes of Israel and its supporters it is a terrorist organisation". Saikal needs to make up his mind - either Hamas opposes negotiations or Israel refuses to negotiate with Hamas! (Hint: It's the former).

Saikal also claimed that Netanyahu has "always opposed" the principle of ''land for peace''. Leaving aside Netanyahu's repeated commitment to the two-state formula, in 1997 he actually handed control over large parts of Hebron to the Palestinian Authority, and as mentioned above, in 1998 he signed and committed Israel to territorial withdrawals from the West Bank under the Wye River Memorandum.

- Allon Lee

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