Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council

Noted and Quoted - March 2018

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Waters Fight

Columnist Rowan Dean attacked visiting rock legend Roger Waters for his high profile support for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign.

Dean denounced BDS as "insidious", noting that where it has "claimed victory such as with the 2015 closing of a SodaStream factory in the West Bank, it's the Palestinian workers and their families who have suffered serious economic deprivation, not the Israeli economy."

The factory "was the largest employer of Palestinian workers in the territories, with nearly 600 receiving the same salary, medical insurance and working conditions as Israelis do," Dean explained.

Dean accused Waters of "dabbling in anti-Semitism", citing the overt Jewish imagery that has run in his stage shows in recent years, including projecting "Stars of David juxtaposed with money signs."

Channel Ten "The Project" host Waleed Aly was also criticised by Dean for asking Waters soft questions over his BDS support, Courier Mail (Feb. 12).

An interview with Waters by Courier Mail reporter Daniel Johnson (Feb. 3) incorrectly characterised BDS as "a global campaign that agitates for equality for Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel."

The article quoted Waters denying he was antisemitic, but it is unclear whether he was asked why he only attacks Israel but is willing to perform in countries, including Russia, that are accused of gross human rights abuses.

Bombs away

There was heavy media coverage of an Iranian drone infiltrating Israel from Syria leading to a military confrontation on Feb. 10.

The better reports correctly led with the cause of the hostilities - the Iranian drone's incursion into Israeli airspace.

The Daily Telegraph and the Herald Sun (Feb. 12) both ran the same report - with the latter choosing the apt headline "Drone sparks air raids" - that accurately reflected the cause of the hostilities.

But other reports were more interested in emphasising Israel's reaction.

On Feb. 12, Fairfax's Sun-Herald headlined its report "Israel strikes targets in Syria." The opening paragraph stated that "the Israeli military says it has carried out a ‘large-scale attack' against Iranian targets in Syria." The cause for Israel's actions did not appear until the fourth paragraph.

The next day, as more detail emerged, Fairfax's Sydney Morning Herald and the Age also focused on Israel's response, running with the headline "Israel attacks after jet crashes," even though the drone infiltration was the event that caused Israel to attack Syrian targets, not the jet crashing.

The Guardian Australia (Feb.12) also wanted Israel to be the focus of attention, choosing to label its report "Israel launches ‘large-scale' attack in Syria after fighter jet crashes."

The West Australian's headline (Feb.12) was also ill-chosen, claiming that "Israeli raid risks raising wrath of Iran in Syria."

Wild and woeful

An online report (Feb. 5) on new revelations that Israel had been launching military strikes against armed Islamist groups in Egypt's Sinai with Egypt's permission, was woefully mis-titled as "After more than 100 air strikes against Egypt, Benjamin Netanyahu says Israel is ‘not bent on war'."

The story itself was factually accurate.

Aiding the Banned

An SBS TV "World News" report (Feb. 3) on the United States' adding Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh to its list of proscribed terrorists was characterised by factual inaccuracies and dubious claims.

Reporter Omar Dabbagh stated that "Hamas had ruled Gaza since 2007 in a de facto capacity until handing power to the Palestinian Authority in December."

This is incorrect. Hamas still governs Gaza today and no effective power handover occurred in December, despite agreements to this effect.

Dabbagh said Haniyeh is "seen as pragmatic and flexible in his attitude towards Israel."

No expert or source was offered to justify this description, probably because Haniyeh has a long and very public record of explicitly calling for Israel's destruction, advocating violent intifada over many years, promising never to recognise Israel, calling for the kidnapping of Israelis and advocating terrorism against Israelis and Jews.

Moreover, he was Hamas' prime minister in Gaza between 2006 and 2014 and at the very centre of power and decision making when the incessant firing of rockets at Israeli civilian populations precipitated wars in 2008, 2012 and 2014.

Although Dabbagh acknowledged that Hamas is "already considered a terror organisation by the United States for two decades," he should have said it is also a proscribed terror organisation in Australia.

The report then tried to suggest to viewers that the listing of Haniyeh was unwarranted by including an excerpt of a speech delivered by German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel in Israel saying, "the Americans are taking your side more clearly than ever before but is this really only a good thing? When I think of the likely consequences, I think this is more ambivalent."

Dabbagh then added, "ambivalence turning into animosity, as deteriorating relations between the US and Palestinians approach crisis point."

In fact, Gabriel made no mention either of the proscribing of Haniyeh nor of Hamas. Hamas is proscribed not only in Germany but by the European Union as well.


Cut off

ABC Middle East correspondent Sophie McNeill filed a 10-minute report for ABC TV "7.30" (Feb. 20) on Palestinian teenager Ahed Tamimi - arrested in December for kicking and hitting an Israeli soldier in the driveway of her house in Nabi Saleh on the West Bank, and several other charges.

McNeill made sure that a semblance of balance was included, but the vital point that the "occupation" continues because the Palestinian Authority refuses to accept offers of a state or even negotiate was absent.

Controversially, video footage of Tamimi recorded right after her confrontation and disseminated on social media, was edited.

Tamimi was quoted saying "Trump has declared the decision and they have to take responsibility for whatever their reaction is whether it's stabbing attacks, or suicide attacks, or stone throwing."

Her lawyer, Gaby Lasky, is then quoted saying, "She is not saying people should act in that manner or bring stabbing people or making terrorist attacks. There are some people who want to read into the video what they want but that's not what it says."

However, viewers were denied Tamimi's statement in full which did not end on "stone throwing" but continued on to state that "everyone must do things so we can unite this way so we can get our message across in the required way, and get this result, that is the liberation of Palestine, Allah willing."

In other words, viewers were deprived of the fuller picture which strongly suggests that she was actually endorsing and calling for terror, just as Israel has alleged and which Lasky denied.

McNeill implied Tamimi will not receive a fair trial, saying that "the Israeli military court system has a 99.7% conviction rate". This is a meaningless statistic. For example, data from the NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research shows that from 2012-16 the average conviction rate for all offences was 89% and as high as 94% for illicit drugs. In Japan, a democratic nation with a very good human rights record, the criminal justice system has a conviction rate that exceeds 99%.

Juvenile claims

SkyNews host Danica De Giorgo's attempt (Jan. 15) to elicit sensible responses about Ahed Tamimi from Amnesty International Australia spokesperson Diana Sayed proved futile, with the latter determined to spout propagandistic talking points and false assertions about international law.

Sayed said Tamimi's detention was an "abrogation" of her right not to be detained under the "Convention on the Rights of the Child" and claimed it was unacceptable that a further 350 Palestinian children are in detention.

This is just a misrepresentation of international law, which nowhere forbids detention or imprisonment of minors, only saying it should be a last resort. Every country in the world detains and imprisons juveniles where necessary. In Australia, according to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 964 juveniles aged 10 to 17 were in detention on an average night in the 2017 June quarter. Of these, 64% were in detention awaiting sentencing.

Tamimi's detention itself was described variously by Sayed as "discriminatory" and "excessive use of force."

She also denied Tamimi had done anything wrong in assaulting soldiers because she was "unarmed".

Sayed attacked Israel for trying Palestinian minors in military courts as another abrogation of international law. In fact, international law requires that Israel, as the occupying power, apply military law to the West Bank. Even so, Israel has established special juvenile military courts with full legal representation for accused Palestinians, which do not exist even for minors in Israel.

Asked if Tamimi's parents were exploiting their daughter, Sayed said she "couldn't comment on that," claiming yet again, falsely, that detaining a 16-year-old is inherently illegal.

Sayed was, of course, more than happy to comment and praise the cause for which Tamimi was protesting but refused to comments on Israel's claim - backed up by extensive and readily available video evidence - that her family has groomed her over many years to escalate her repeated confrontations with Israeli soldiers.

That she has done so time after time and not been arrested, assaulted or shot by Israeli soldiers actually is good evidence that Israel security forces are generally as restrained as possible in their use of force, particularly where minors are concerned.

Money ill spent

The US Trump Administration has decided to make cuts to foreign aid funding, including holding back money that goes to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), dedicated solely to assisting Palestinians, but long criticised as politicised and acting as an effective barrier to a two-state peace.

Guardian Australia (Feb. 12) ran a report by Middle East correspondent Peter Beaumont which made no effort to explain the rationale behind the move other than as an example of US President Trump's penchant for rewarding or punishing the US's interlocutors. The only opinions quoted were from those critical of aid cuts.

Elsewhere, discussing the outsized influence of the left in Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT), former Ambassador Mark Higgie questioned Australia's aid to the Palestinian Authority, writing, "Most Australians would be aghast that about $44 million of their taxes will be paid this financial year for aid projects in the Palestinian territories, while the Palestinian Authority managed to find $US347m last year for payments to convicted terrorists and their families under its ‘martyr payments policy', thus encouraging terrorism. The US House of Representatives in December unanimously passed the Taylor Force Act, which would link continued US aid to the Palestinian Authority ceasing such payments. But the Australian Government, advised by DFAT, continues to resist any such linkage," Australian (Feb. 17)/ Spectator Australia (Feb. 10).

A lethal legacy

US analyst Michael Rubin questioned whether Australia's commitment in 2012 to give UNRWA A$90 million over five years for education and health services was value for money.

He contrasted UNRWA with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) which deals with the world's non-Palestinian refugees, explaining that "UNRWA was meant to be temporary, leaving UNHCR alone to take over the refugee mission. In a 1951 report to the UN General Assembly, UNRWA recommended, ‘There must be a firm goal of terminating relief operations. Sustained relief operations inevitably contain the germ of human deterioration.' But Arab states and Palestinians themselves refused resettlement, choosing instead to use UNRWA as a weapon in a broader diplomatic battle."

This was facilitated, he explained, by ensuring that "UNRWA alone bestows refugee status upon subsequent generations. Therefore, even though only about 10,000 of the approximately 700,000 Palestinian refugees from 1948 are still alive, UNRWA counts more than five million today."

He also accused UNRWA of using textbooks that preach incitement, employing teachers who moonlight as Hamas terrorists and permitting UNRWA schools to be used as weapons depots.

Australia, he recommended, should push for the UNHCR to take over UNRWA's responsibilities and for Palestinians living in Gaza and the West Bank to no longer "be considered refugee[s], but rather settled," Daily Telegraph (Feb. 9).

Play acting

Patrick McDonald's profile of visiting Palestinian director Amir Nizar Zuabi in the Adelaide Advertiser (Feb. 10) was the usual exercise in portraying Israel as bad and the Palestinian Authority and Hamas as innocent victims.

Describing one of the two plays being performed at the Adelaide Festival, Zuabi claimed most of Palestine was ethnically cleansed in 1948.

The article omitted to note that Arabs were displaced because of a war started by their leaders and neighbouring countries after having rejected a peace plan that would have given them their own state.

Further, the majority of Arabs left of their own choice out of either fear or on being advised to do so by their leaders. Many others of course remained.

Holocaust abuse

The Executive Council of Australian Jewry's Alex Ryvchin warned that the memory of the Holocaust and its victims is being abused for dubious political purposes.

Ryvchin attacked Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas' antisemitism in a recent speech in Ramallah smearing the "six million Jews [who] preferred to be killed by the Nazis in Europe rather than leave for Israel." Ryvchin noted the Jews were trapped in Nazi-occupied Europe and were unable to leave. In fact, prior to the war's outbreak, under pressure from Palestinian Arabs, the British Mandatory powers ruling Palestine placed heavy restrictions on Jews wanting to find sanctuary there.

Ryvchin also noted the extraordinary letter sent on Jan. 22 by Dr M. Al Issa, the Secretary-General of the Muslim World League, a Saudi-based Islamic organisation, to the director of the US Holocaust Memorial Museum, expressing "great sympathy with the victims of the Holocaust" and calling the Holocaust, an "incident that shook humanity to the core, and created an event whose horrors could not be denied or underrated by any fair-minded or peace-loving person."

Given "the prevalence of both Holocaust denial and glorification in the Islamic world," Ryvchin wrote, "the significance of the letter cannot be understated" but "one suspects that for the Saudis, just as for... Abbas, the Holocaust is not a crime of unimaginable scale and barbarism, rather, it is something expendable, malleable, a literary device through which to signal virtues and stigmatise opponents," Spectator Australia (Feb. 10).

Modern crimes

Elsewhere, marking International Holocaust Day, columnist Rowan Dean lamented the resurgence in antisemitism "helped along by governments and even supranational bodies such as the European Union and the United Nations... The Iranians have vowed to wipe Israel, home of the Jews, off the face of the map...Iran even sponsors a Holocaust denial cartoon competition to mock the dead. Plenty of Arab or Islamist entities are committed to ridding the Middle East of Jews. On the weekend, a Palestinian official claimed all the land ‘between the river and the sea,' as a Palestinian state free of Jews. By definition, this means wholesale deportation of Jews from their homes," Courier Mail (Jan. 29).

The following day the Australian condemned a new Polish law that would "criminal[ise] any reference to ‘Polish death camps' during World War II."

The paper said, "Jewish anger over the Polish move is understandable. Israel's Yad Vashem Holocaust Remembrance Centre...reflects the fear that the new law will ‘have a chilling effect on debating history, banning freedom of expression and opening a window to Holocaust denial'. After what it suffered under the Nazis, Poland must not allow this to happen."


Fully charged

Famed Israeli Start-Up Nation co-author Saul Singer advised Australia to take the "spirit of audacity and innovation" that the nation showed during the Charge of the Light Horse brigade during World War I and apply it to modern economic demands.

A member of the Innovation and Science Australia board, Singer wrote, "The Light Horse brigade was not equipped for trench warfare, yet they charged for six kilometres over open ground straight into - and over - the entrenched Turkish line. Using tactics invented on the spot, ANZAC cavalry overcame a larger force, paving the way for the fall of Jerusalem, the surrender of Turkey, the defeat of Germany, and the end of World War I... As an Israeli on the ISA board, it struck me that Australia, like Israel, began as a startup that, with just scrappiness and a dream, became a modern, prosperous nation."

Acquiring cutting-edge technology is the "easy part" - it is "leadership and imagination" that will "distinguish leading countries from the followers", he said, Australian Financial Review (Jan. 31).


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