Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council

Media Week - Saikal of nonsense returns; Holey history; Hamas-free TV

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Saikal of nonsense returns

In the Canberra Times (Dec. 6), ANU Professor Amin Saikal resorted to factual distortions to frame Israel as a belligerent preventing peace.

He claimed that US Secretary of State John Kerry failed to "persuade" Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu "to change his hardline policy actions by freezing settlement expansion in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, or to negotiate with the Palestinian Authority in good faith for a lasting settlement."

In fact, in July, Martin Indyk, the US Middle East envoy, said of the recent negotiations that Netanyahu was "sweating bullets to find a way to reach an agreement," whereas "we tried to get [Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas] to the zone of possible agreement but...he had shut down."

Moreover, attempting to extend peace talks, Netanyahu offered to release a further 400 Palestinian prisoners and implement a limited slow down in settlement construction, but to no avail.

Saikal ignored how the recent Gaza war began, when Hamas refused to stop firing hundreds of rockets into Israel, and he accused Israel of "kill[ing] 2000 people" (apparently none of them were combatants) and without any evidence claimed it "virtually levelled an already destitute Gaza".

In the Canberra Times on Dec. 15, Saikal acknowledged Western countries "have reason to be concerned" about "hot-headed young Muslim citizens who have gone to fight for" Islamic State, but then alleged double standards because Western countries have no "qualms" over their Jewish citizens serving in the "Israeli security forces" and then returning home.

Maybe because there is no evidence that returning Western Jews are a terrorist threat!

Holey history

A long and partly informative audio feature on ABC Radio National's "Rear Vision" (Nov. 30) into the history of the Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif was weakened by significant omissions on the unbroken Jewish link with the site.

Host Annabelle Quince claimed that "Herod's Temple was destroyed by the Romans in 70 AD and the Jews were banished from Jerusalem. For the next 600 years the area of the Temple Mount was laid to waste." She also claimed that after "the Arab conquest, they were allowed to return."

There is evidence that sacrifices continued in the area until the failed Bar Kochba revolt in 132-35 CE and in the 200s/300s Jews prayed on the site. In 363 CE, the Emperor Julian promised to help rebuild the Temple but his death stopped all construction work. In 438, the Roman Empress Eudocia agreed to let Jews pray on the Mount, drawing more than 100,000 to Jerusalem for Sukkot that year (violent Christian opposition quickly ended the practice). In 614, as a reward for 30,000 Babylonian Jewish soldiers helping the Persian Empire to conquer Palestine, a Jewish governor was appointed and reinstated sacrificial service on the Temple Mount.

The piece ended with guest Jerome Murphy O'Connor claiming that with a standoff over the site between Muslims and Jews, "one cannot see...any possible compromise solution". Except that Israeli Prime Ministers Ehud Barak in 2000-01 and Ehud Olmert in 2008, when negotiating a Palestinian state, offered to share Jerusalem and grant sovereignty over the Muslim holy sites to the Palestinians with some international oversight.

Hamas-free TV

It would seem that the ABC has a code of practice for when and where Palestinian terror groups can be mentioned.

A "special report" on ABC TV 7pm "News" (Nov. 30) saw Hayden Cooper "back in Gaza to get to the bottom of one incident. The death of a seven-year-old girl in an Israeli air strike" in the al-Shati refugee camp.

Except the report offered nothing new to help viewers understand the incident in which Aseel al-Bakri died.

The al-Bakri family may or may not have been the victims of an Israeli operational error, but, despite Mohammed al-Bakri's denial of "any links with militant groups," according to blogger Elder of Ziyon, the strike on the al-Bakri home also killed Islamic Jihad fighter Ibrahim al-Misharawi.

Moreover, aside from a pro-forma request for comment from the Israeli Defence Forces, Cooper only wanted to convey the family's suffering. We saw family members clambering over the remains of their home, lamenting the death of family members whilst sharing their emotional and physical injuries.

On camera, Hamas' urban warfare and human shield tactics, which caused the inevitable injuries and deaths of Palestinian civilians, were not mentioned. That was left for an article by Cooper on the ABC's website. Here, miraculously, readers could learn that Hamas is "back on the streets... These men were nowhere to be seen during the war, instead hiding underground as their foot soldiers above fired rockets."

Why was none of this mentioned on TV?

Allon Lee

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