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Peace eludes Israel amid unrealistic expectations

Peace eludes Israel amid unrealistic expectations Author: Colin Rubenstein Categories: Israel, Op-eds, Palestinians    

Tony Walker is certain Israel's West Bank settlements are illegal. (Out on a limb over settlements, AFR 12-13 April). International law is far less certain. Many eminent experts have argued strongly that the claim they are illegal is based on an incorrect reading of Article 49 of the 4th Geneva Convention. These include Professor Julius Stone, who was professor of international law at Sydney University for 30 years, and former International Court of Justice president Stephen Schwebel.

Carr's reckless Israel view

Carr's reckless Israel view Author: Colin Rubenstein Categories: Australasia, Israel, Op-eds    

IN his interview on the ABC's 7.30 about his book Diary of a Foreign Minister, and in media yesterday, Bob Carr continues to makes various claims about what he refers to as the "Israel lobby" in Melbourne. From his comments, it is clear he is referring mainly to the Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council.

In short, he says we wielded "extraordinary influence" over the Office of the Prime Minister when Julia Gillard was prime minister, and expressed an "extreme right-wing Israeli view".

Carr's reckless claims do him no credit.

Scribblings: History of the Recognition Condition Author: Tzvi Fleischer Categories: International Jewry, Israel, Palestinians    

I've written before about the fallacy of media claims alleging that Israel's requirement that a peace treaty with the Palestinians recognise Israel as a "Jewish state" or "nation-state of the Jewish people" is a "new demand". Rather than something the current Netanyahu Government just thought up - possibly to thwart progress toward peace as is sometimes alleged - the idea was pushed during 2007 negotiating sessions by Tzipi Livni, then-Foreign Minister in the Olmert Government, according to the leaked Palestinian documents called the "Palestine papers".

AIR

Europa Europa: Pop-up Politics Author: Douglas Davis Categories: Europe, Israel, United Kingdom    

Europeans go to the polls in May to elect 751 members of the European Parliament for the next five years. Expect surprises. Not that the European Parliament carries much clout; clout is reserved for the army of unelected, unaccountable bureaucrats in Brussels and the sprinkling of political appointees.

The surprises will come from the pop-up political parties which are, first and foremost, opposed to the stifling embrace of the EU and which long for a return to the days when the European Project aimed to be simply a tariff-free trading bloc, without the accretions of monetary and political union, along with the slew of regulations and directives that now flow from Brussels.

Strange Bedfellows

Strange Bedfellows Author: Clarissa Sebag-Montefiore Categories: China, International Jewry, Israel    

"Do the Jews Really Control America?" asked one Chinese newsweekly headline in 2009. The factoids doled out in such articles and in books about Jews in China - for example: "The world's wealth is in Americans' pockets; Americans are in Jews' pockets" - would rightly be seen to be alarming in other contexts. But in China, where Jews are widely perceived as clever and accomplished, they are meant as compliments.

Down, but not yet out

Down, but not yet out Author: Dennis Ross Categories: Israel, Palestinians    

In 2013, US Secretary of State John Kerry looked at the Middle East, saw enormous upheaval, and judged that the last thing the United States needed was to add to this upheaval. In his view, as long as there was a certain level of stability between Israelis and Palestinians, Washington's task was to build upon it and make certain it was not lost. He also believed that his personal relations with the two leaders gave him the potential to produce an agreement.

Olmert's Folly

Olmert's Folly Author: Amotz Asa-El Categories: Israel    

During 47 years in the public eye, Ehud Olmert has spent more time in and around the court system than any other Israeli politician. 

Israel's twelfth Prime Minister had been repeatedly suspected, investigated and indicted for assorted corruption charges, only to end up cleared, though sometimes with a qualifying asterisk. On March 31, at age 68, his luck ran out, as a Magistrate's Court in Jerusalem convicted Olmert of taking NIS 500,000 (~A$156,000) as a bribe back when he was Mayor of Jerusalem.

Updates
All wet on West Bank water

All wet on West Bank water Author: Akiva Bigman Categories: Israel, Palestinians    

The issue of water rights in the West Bank is constantly raised in regard to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, appearing again and again in public discourse around the world. According to critics of Israel, the Jewish state selfishly exploits the area's water supplies and denies access to the local population. In doing so, the critics say, Israel is not only abandoning its responsibilities to the West Bank Palestinians, but ruthlessly and illegally abusing the natural resources of the occupied territory. 

Bob Carr's 'Israel lobby' claims inaccurate, bizarre

Bob Carr's 'Israel lobby' claims inaccurate, bizarre Author: Mark Leibler Categories: Australasia, Israel, Op-eds    

Bob Carr's interviews on Wednesday on the ABC's 7.30 and Lateline, spruiking the publication of his The Diary of a Foreign Minister, make various claims about what he refers to as the Melbourne "Israel lobby" exercising extraordinary influence over the office of prime minister Julia Gillard.

Referring to a meeting in April 2013, Carr says that I adopted a "how-dare-you" tone. For a former foreign minister to characterise a normal, cordial and frank exchange as potentially intimidatory is not only inaccurate but a little bizarre.

Statement on former Foreign Minister Carr's recent comments Categories: Australasia, Israel, Media Releases    

AIJAC has had good relations with former Foreign Minister Bob Carr over many years and are puzzled and disappointed by his strange claims that Australian foreign policy under the previous government was under the sway of the "extraordinary influence" of a Melbourne based pro-Israel lobby - apparently a reference primarily to AIJAC. It is frankly sad when an elected official imagines that disagreement with their policy position must stem from malicious influences.

An antisemitic answer to the question: How long is a piece of string?

An antisemitic answer to the question: How long is a piece of string? Author: Allon Lee Categories: Antisemitism, Australasia, Israel, Media/ Academia, United Kingdom, Updates    

A report last week by Barak Ben-Shem in the Times of Israel analysed an outbreak of antisemitic comments that followed an application by Jews to the local council in the small English town of Bushey, seeking permission to establish an "eruv". It recalled a similar occurrence in the Sydney suburb of St. Ives in 2010.

Peace process crisis/ Palestinians learning about the Holocaust?

Peace process crisis/ Palestinians learning about the Holocaust? Categories: Holocaust/ War Crimes, Israel, Palestinians, Updates    

This Update leads with the crisis in the peace process, with US Secretary of State John Kerry cancelling a planned trip to the Middle East after Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas signed applications for "Palestine" to join 15 international bodies in violation of the agreement underlying the deal to hold talks for nine months. This occurred after Israel failed to release a scheduled group of 26 Palestinian prisoners on March 29, arguing that Palestinians were not living up to their side of the deal by refusing to negotiate directly since November.

Media Week - Lyons in the Doogue house

Media Week - Lyons in the Doogue house Author: Allon Lee Categories: Israel, Media/ Academia, Middle East, Updates    

ABC Radio National's "Saturday Extra" (March 15) spotlighted the historic law passed by Israel's Knesset to phase out the national service exemption for thousands of ultra-Orthodox Jews.

Host Geraldine Doogue interviewed John Lyons, the Australian newspaper's Middle East correspondent, for his take on the issue.

 A reality check on "Breaking the Silence"

A reality check on "Breaking the Silence" Author: Sharyn Mittelman Categories: Israel, NGOs, Updates    

It is interesting to note that nearly all of the criticisms of "Breaking the Silence" (BTS) recently made by AIJAC and NGO Monitor were validated by a British journalist based on his own personal experiences with the group, and with no obvious agenda.

Jake Wallis Simons works as a feature writer for Britain's Telegraph newspaper, previously worked for the BBC, is a documentary filmaker and has also written three novels. He participated in tour with BTS while carrying out interviews and research for ‘Meet the Settlers', an in-depth Telegraph multimedia feature about Israeli settlements. In an article published in the UK Telegraph titled "Why are European powers (and Oxfam) funding a radical Israel Group?", Simons documents his experience with BTS.

Palestinian propaganda's "free kick" in Australian Parliament

Palestinian propaganda's "free kick" in Australian Parliament Author: Ahron Shapiro Categories: Australasia, Israel, Palestinians, Updates    

In remarks in federal Parliament on Monday, South Australian MP Tony Zappia, citing an unspecified report, claimed that "two teenage Palestinian soccer players were allegedly shot in the feet [by Israeli troops] to prevent them from ever playing soccer again."
In referencing this incident, Zappia stumbled across one of the most egregious and vile cases of anti-Israel propaganda in recent months, yet one which is most easily disprovable.

Editorial: Abbas' Moment of Truth Author: Colin Rubenstein Categories: Israel, Palestinians    

As US Secretary of State John Kerry's self-imposed nine-month deadline for Israeli-Palestinian negotiations approaches, evidence is growing that Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas' true objective may not be to strike a deal that would give his people a state, but rather to run away from such a pact and the difficult compromises it would entail.

Recognising Reality

Recognising Reality Author: BICOM Categories: Israel, Palestinians    

Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's position that a permanent status agreement resulting in a two state solution must include explicit Palestinian recognition of Israel as a Jewish state is rejected by Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas, and is a key point of contention in the peace process.

AIR
Peace and the Partnership Problem

Peace and the Partnership Problem Author: Ahron Shapiro Categories: Israel, Palestinians    

Khaled Abu Toameh, veteran Palestinian Affairs reporter for the Jerusalem Post and other major international media, told a group of AIJAC supporters in Melbourne on February 28 that current US-brokered peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians appeared almost certain to fail no matter what Israel says or does, principally because Israel's negotiating partner Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas lacks the credibility and mandate to implement any agreement.

Yaari: Coping Without a Peace Deal

Yaari: Coping Without a Peace Deal Author: Sharyn Mittelman Categories: Israel, Palestinians, Syria    

The Palestinian leadership will never agree to a Palestinian state on the 1967 lines and an end to the conflict with Israel unless all of its demands are met, but that does not mean Israel should not take the initiative towards a two-state outcome. That was a core message of renowned Israeli journalist, commentator and author Ehud Yaari who recently visited Australia as a guest of AIJAC. 

Herzog's Shadow Coalition

Herzog's Shadow Coalition Author: Amotz Asa-El Categories: Israel    

It was rare, strange, and bold. Faced with the coalition's resolve to pass three laws that are deeply disagreeable, each to a different part of the opposition, new Labor party chair and Opposition Leader Isaac Herzog led a boycott of the plenary votes which turned those bills into law. 

 

Confirmed: Construction in settlement outside major blocs very low

Confirmed: Construction in settlement outside major blocs very low Author: Ahron Shapiro Categories: Israel, Palestinians, Updates    

In a follow-up to my blog post from March 6 on the subject of the reality of construction in Israel's West Bank settlements, a new look at the numbers from former Bush Administration deputy national security advisor Elliott Abrams. Abrams' detailed figures confirm more definitely that, as I said, "housing construction within Israel's West Bank settlements under the Netanyahu government remains at some of the lowest levels in years". In fact, construction outside major settlement blocs - areas that Israel is expected to keep through mutually agreed land swaps in any potential peace agreement - was very low, and probably amounted to not more than a few hundred homes.

Moreover, even that extremely limited construction may no longer be taking place, now that Israeli media has reported on what appears to be a silent settlement freeze that has been put into effect outside of the settlement blocs.

Updates
Why Abbas looks unready to say "yes" to Kerry

Why Abbas looks unready to say "yes" to Kerry Categories: Israel, Palestinians, Updates    

PA President Mahmoud Abbas is due to visit Washington this weekend, following on from the visit last week by Israeli PM Binyamin Netanyahu. While reports say that Israel is prepared to say yes, with reservations to the "Framework agreement" on Israeli-Palestinian peace that US Secretary of State John Kerry is brokering, signs from Abbas have been less positive, with reports from Palestinian sources that Abbas "exploded with rage over the US Secretary’s proposals, and described them as 'insanity'" at a meeting in late February. He even gave a speech on March 6 to young Fatah activists which emphatically ruled out compromise on both the right of return or any recognition of Israel as a Jewish homeland (video here, transcript here.)

Lyons' angry roar hides lack of substance

Lyons' angry roar hides lack of substance Author: Allon Lee Categories: Anti-Zionism, Israel, Media/ Academia, Middle East, Palestinians, Updates    

In a nearly 1,100 word response to Greg Sheridan's dismissal of his "Four Corners" hatchet job on Israel, one might have expected John Lyons would have found space to answer the factual questions raised by his critics. Instead he preferred to attack Sheridan for relying on analysis by the Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council (AIJAC) that debunked many of Lyons' claims (Australian, March 8).

Letter: Two states our vision Author: Colin Rubenstein Categories: Australasia, Israel, Op-eds    

JOHN Lyons ("Distant ‘experts' choose to ignore Israeli realities", 8/3), did not address any of the substantive criticism levelled at his Four Corners program. Instead, he made new unsubstantiated allegations ­directed at critics.

AIJAC has consistently argued that a negotiated two-state settlement is the only path to genuine peace in the narrow strip of land between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean - thus fulfilling the desire of all parents there to give their children a secure and fulfilling future free from terrorism and war.

In Gaza, some NGOs place water politics over public health

In Gaza, some NGOs place water politics over public health Author: Ahron Shapiro Categories: Israel, Palestinians, Updates    

Gaza's water quality issues, due to years of overpumping from their coastal aquifers as well as other factors such as agricultural pollution, and sewage dumping, are well documented. However, efforts by some NGOs to implement what has been determined by experts to be the most effective solution - desalination - has been met by staunch opposition by some 30 Palestinian and pro-Palestinian organisations and NGOs. They made this clear in a position paper they issued on March 9 through the Palestinian water issue-focused NGO umbrella coalition EWASH. It's enlightening to examine their reasons for opposing desalination, in their own words.

AIPAC Policy Conference 2014 - Highlights and Controversies

AIPAC Policy Conference 2014 - Highlights and Controversies Author: Sharyn Mittelman Categories: America, Iran, Israel, Palestinians, Updates    

The annual AIPAC (America-Israel Public Affairs Committee) Policy Conference wrapped up on March 4, following an eventful three days with important statements made by US and Israeli leaders.

The conference came at a critical time for US-Israel relations, as US Secretary of State John Kerry is soon expected to announce a ‘framework' for continued Israeli and Palestinian negotiations, and after AIPAC's decision to withdraw its support for a new Iran-sanctions Bill, following strong pressure from the US Administration. The conference also came on the same day that US President Barack Obama had some strong words for Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in an interview with Bloomberg's Jeffrey Goldberg.

Not all doom and gloom in Hebron

Not all doom and gloom in Hebron Author: Michael Thurin Categories: Israel, Palestinians, Updates    

In a display that would leave anti-Israel proponents seething, Israeli media has captured an incident of Israeli-Palestinian harmony.

The Elder of Ziyon posted the following video on March 4, showing an IDF soldier giving two young Palestinian boys sandwiches in the West Bank town of Hebron. One of the boys spontaneously hugged the soldier and then cheekily replied "shukran" ("thank you" in Arabic) after receiving the gift.

Israel seizes an Iranian arms shipment to Hamas/ The Kerry Plan

Israel seizes an Iranian arms shipment to Hamas/ The Kerry Plan Categories: Iran, Israel, Palestinians, Updates    

On Wednesday, the Israeli Navy stopped a merchant vessel, the Klos-C, in the Red Sea. It was carrying advanced Syrian-made long-range surface to surface missiles allegedly bound for Gaza and sent there by Iran (all probably unknown to the crew). The IDF has released a detailed video explaining the origins and previous movements of the missiles, and another showing their discovery by Israeli soldiers in shipping containers supposedly carrying cement.

Settlement housing starts, by the numbers

Settlement housing starts, by the numbers Author: Ahron Shapiro Categories: Israel, Palestinians, Updates    

During an interview published on Sunday between Bloomberg's Jeffrey Goldberg and US President Barack Obama, the President made the allegation that "we have seen more aggressive [Israeli West Bank] settlement construction over the last couple years than we've seen in a very long time".

Then on Tuesday, the Australian news portal Yahoo7 published an AFP story headlined "West Bank settlement starts double in 2013: Israel". The wire story, apparently distributed without a byline, used newly released data from the Israeli Bureau of Statistics as the basis for a story that relied on comments from Obama, Palestinian official Jibril Rajub and Peace Now to promote a narrative that the construction is out of proportion to previous trends and imperils the possibility of creating a contiguous Palestinian state as part of a two-state peace outcome. 

Beyond the rhetoric, however, the real questions that must be asked are whether current construction in the settlements are actually at high levels, and does the character of construction taking place adversely affect the possibility of a viable Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement? In response to both questions, the evidence overwhelmingly says "no".

Video: Ehud Yaari on the Middle East

Video: Ehud Yaari on the Middle East Categories: Egypt, Israel, Middle East, Multimedia, Palestinians, Syria, Updates    

Ehud Yaari is a renowned veteran Israeli journalist, arguably Israel's most authoritative and influential foreign affairs analyst. He is a Middle East commentator for Israel's Channel 2 news, has written eight books on the Israeli-Arab conflict and has won top prizes for journalism in Israel.

He addressed AIJAC supporters in Melbourne on the regional turmoil surrounding Israel – including Syria, al-Qaeda, Egypt and the Palestinians – on February 23, 2014.

On Israel, Amnesty shoots first, asks questions later

On Israel, Amnesty shoots first, asks questions later Author: Ahron Shapiro Categories: Israel, NGOs, Palestinians, Updates    

On February 27, Amnesty International (AI) released a sensationalist report titled "Trigger Happy: Israel's use of excessive force in the West Bank".  This report, perhaps not surprisingly, is arguably biased against Israel. This is not because of the subject matter - it is certainly legitimate to examine the way the IDF uses force - but both in the way that it singles Israel out for intense scrutiny compared to other countries and because of the double standard AI has used against the IDF in determining what constitutes excessive force.

Another area where Israel is a world leader - Animal Rights

Another area where Israel is a world leader - Animal Rights Author: Sharyn Mittelman Categories: Israel, Updates    

It may surprise many to know that Israel is actually a world leader in animal rights law and this important issue continues to be championed by Israeli politicians on all sides of politics.  Israel implemented the Animal Welfare Law 20 years ago, and last January passed a revolutionary prohibition against importing animal-tested cosmetics, toiletries and detergents. Israel has also banned the production of Foie Gras (force feeding geese), and is on track to be the first country in the world to ban the sale of Foie Gras. In addition, the Knesset is currently debating legislating against recreational hunting and the sale of fur clothing.

AIR
In a poor sign for a two state solution, Palestinians refuse to pay for utilities services

In a poor sign for a two state solution, Palestinians refuse to pay for utilities services Author: Michael Thurin Categories: Israel, Palestinians, Updates    

AIJAC senior policy analyst Ahron Shapiro previously reported on Dec. 4 on the electricity and fuel crises in Gaza. Now a recent development is highlighting continuing difficulties in delivering utilities to Palestinians.

The Jerusalem District Electricity Company's (JDEC) has proposed to raise the price of electricity across the West Bank in response to the Palestinian Authority's refusal to repay millions of shekels of debt.

Talking Turkey

Talking Turkey Author: Amotz Asa-El Categories: Israel, Turkey    

After three-and-a-half years in the doldrums, Israeli-Turkish relations seem to be climbing the road to recovery, though that road appears no less bumpy than most other affairs in Turkey these days.

Israel's relations with the strongest country in the Middle East had generally been good, and at times even intimate, until last decade. When Recep Erdogan's religious government took office in 2003, it slowly began hammering at Turkish-Israeli relations, bringing them to full crisis in May 2010.

Essay: Liberte, Egalite, Fraternite, Israeli-style

Essay: Liberte, Egalite, Fraternite, Israeli-style Author: Joshua Muravchik Categories: Israel    

In a 2011 blog post titled "A Few Notes on WHAT IS LEFT (or Toward a Manifesto for Revolutionary Emancipation)," the prominent radical intellectual Richard Falk endeavoured to distill "what remains of the historic left" into a program of contemporary relevance. The starting point he proposed? "Support for the Palestinian Solidarity Movement."

This is not surprising, as Falk is the UN's Special Rapporteur on Palestine and a ferocious supporter of the Palestinian cause. But his views are not unusual. Falk was simply expressing what has been implicit among progressive academic associations, unions, churches, and human rights groups that single out Israel for censure or punishment. Championing the Palestinians and opposing Israel has become a touchstone, perhaps the touchstone, of the contemporary Left.

Media Microscope: Blurred Lyons Author: Allon Lee Categories: Israel, Media/ Academia    

"Stone Cold Justice", the one-sided collaboration between the Australian newspaper's Middle East correspondent John Lyons and ABC TV "Four Corners" program (Feb. 10) on Israel's treatment of Palestinian children - see pp.19-22 - saw Lyons do the rounds on TV, radio and in print to generate publicity for his claims.

The groundwork was prepared with an ABC video promo featuring a narrator ominously asking "are children the newest target in the Middle East's longest running conflict?"

Actually they are - but not the Palestinian children featured in the story.

Updates

Editorial: Sense and Sensationalism Author: Colin Rubenstein Categories: Australasia, Israel, Media/ Academia, Palestinians    

Last year, the Australian's Middle East correspondent John Lyons interviewed Israeli Foreign Ministry Spokesman Yigal Palmor on camera over the treatment of Palestinian minors arrested by the Israel Defence Forces for violent crime.

Asked about a critical report on the subject by UNICEF in March 2013, Palmor answered: "I have to say one thing that may come as a surprise to you. UNICEF did not write this report by themselves. They were assisted all along by Israeli lawyers, from the Military Attorney General, from the Ministry of Justice, from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, by Israeli civil servants who deal with this issue day by day and who want the situation to improve with the help of UNICEF."

Scribblings: Building up "Resistance" Author: Tzvi Fleischer Categories: Israel, NGOs, Palestinians    

In the past, Hamas, as rulers of Gaza, have repeatedly reacted strongly to reports the UN agency UNRWA (UN Relief and Works Agency), which runs almost half of the schools in Gaza, planned to teach students about the Holocaust as part of its "human rights" module. This was called a "crime against Palestinians" and even a "war crime" while the Holocaust was described as "a lie made up by the Zionists." (Indeed, even Palestinian teachers unaffiliated with Hamas working for UNRWA have said that they will never teach about the Holocaust.)

Target: Israel

Target: Israel Author: Matthew Levitt Categories: Islamic Extremism, Israel, Terrorism    

On January 22, Israeli officials announced that, several weeks before, they had disrupted what they described as an "advanced" al-Qaeda terrorist plot in Israel. Although al-Qaeda-inspired jihadists had targeted Israel before, this marked the first time that senior al-Qaeda leaders were directly involved in such plans.

Red Hot Injustice

Red Hot Injustice Author: Jamie Hyams and Ahron Shapiro Categories: Australasia, Israel, Media/ Academia, Palestinians, Updates    

The ABC's Four Corners, together with the Australian newspaper's Middle East correspondent John Lyons, produced a story, "Stone Cold Justice" about the alleged Israeli mistreatment of Palestinian minors it arrests in the West Bank. Their basic thesis is that Israel has a new policy of arresting Palestinian children in the West Bank in the middle of the night, then torturing them to create a culture of fear and to gather information to use against Palestinian non-violent resistance. This is categorically untrue.

Abbreviated version - Red Hot Injustice

Abbreviated version - Red Hot Injustice Author: Jamie Hyams and Ahron Shapiro Categories: Australasia, Israel, Media/ Academia, Palestinians    

This analysis is a shortened summary of a much longer and more detailed critique of the ABC Four Corners program in question - complete with full sourcing for all claims made in it - available on the AIJAC website. We urge anyone interested in the subject to view the full critique at www.aijac.org.au/news/article/red-hot-injustice

The ABC's "Four Corners", together with the Australian newspaper's Middle East correspondent John Lyons, produced a story, "Stone Cold Justice" about the alleged Israeli mistreatment of Palestinian minors it arrests in the West Bank. Their basic thesis is that Israel has a new policy of arresting Palestinian children in the West Bank in the middle of the night, then torturing them to create a culture of fear and to gather information to use against Palestinian non-violent resistance. This is categorically untrue.

Elements of the current Israeli-Palestinian peace process

Elements of the current Israeli-Palestinian peace process Categories: Israel, Palestinians, Updates    

This Update features three enlightening pieces on important elements of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process currently being mediated by US Secretary of State John Kerry. Kerry is currently trying to get both sides to sign up, albeit with reservations, to a US-written "Framework agreement" that would broadly outline the principles of peace before the current round of talks expire in early April - Israeli analyst Shlomo Brom discusses more of the detail here.

Carr's view on settlements is counter-productive

Carr's view on settlements is counter-productive Author: Mark Leibler Categories: Australasia, Israel, Op-eds, Palestinians    

BOB Carr ("West Bank settlements always illegal", February 11) has accused the Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council of directing "a furious effort at trying to block" his "routine criticism" of settlements while he was foreign minister, "as if this were more vital than advocating a two-state solution or opposing boycotts of Israel".

This accusation grossly misrepresents AIJAC's position...

"Stone Cold Sensationalism" from ABC's Four Corners

"Stone Cold Sensationalism" from ABC's Four Corners Author: Colin Rubenstein Categories: Australasia, Israel, Media/ Academia, Op-eds, Palestinians    

The ABC has done it again - this time in the massively promoted "Four Corners" program on Monday about Israeli treatment of children - created together with the Australian's Middle East correspondent John Lyons. Most of the allegations in the program about abuses of Palestinian minors during arrest and interrogation were just that - uncorroborated allegations, with no supporting evidence provided by the ABC or the Australian. While the story claimed that UNICEF "found" the allegations to be true, this is wrong - the UN agency merely "found" that these concerning allegations exist but did not investigate further.

When a journalist becomes a storyteller

When a journalist becomes a storyteller Author: Ahron Shapiro Categories: Anti-Zionism, Israel, Media/ Academia, Palestinians, Updates    

In an extended version of a viewpoint that originally appeared in the Australian Jewish News, AIJAC Policy Analyst Ahron Shapiro slams the ABC's latest Four Corners episode, "Stone Cold Justice". In the essay, Shapiro suggests Middle East correspondent John Lyons may have sacrificed basic principles of ethical journalism in order to create an unsubstantiated documentary script that fit a particular world view.

Three telling factual problems with 4Corners' "Stone Cold Justice"

Three telling factual problems with 4Corners' "Stone Cold Justice" Author: Tzvi Fleischer Categories: Israel, Media/ Academia, Palestinians, Updates    

AIJAC is currently researching and compiling a detailed critique of all the elements of the controversial ABC Four Corners documentary "Stone Cold Justice", made with John Lyons of the Australian, and aired on Monday (Feb.10). We hope this will be available shortly.  In the meantime, here are three examples of obviously inadequate fact-checking or failure to provide proper context in the documentary and the parallel article in the Australian by John Lyons last Saturday (Feb.8). Sadly, they seem to be typical of a larger pattern in a documentary that appears to have been much more about sensationalist point scoring than about the careful weighing of evidence or fair and balanced journalism.

Statement on Four Corners/The Australian report

Statement on Four Corners/The Australian report Categories: Australasia, Israel, Media Releases, Media/ Academia    

AIJAC is appalled by the intellectually weak and fundamentally misleading collaboration between the ABC and the Australian, "Stone Cold Justice", which aired on the February 10 edition of "4Corners".

The basic claim in this unbalanced and misleading quasi-documentary is that Israel has a new policy of deliberately targetting Palestinian children for judicial abuse and to intimidate them into acting against their own friends and families. Viewers were expected to abandon critical faculties and accept that every word spoken by Palestinians was true, despite a long documented history of Palestinian distortions and fabrications against Israel, and that every counter claim by Israelis should be dismissed. 

AIR
Woodside-Leviathan deal moves ahead in a milestone for Australia-Israel ties

Woodside-Leviathan deal moves ahead in a milestone for Australia-Israel ties Author: Michael Thurin Categories: Australasia, Israel, Updates    

AIJAC has previously reported on the proposed purchased by Australia's Woodside Petroleum of a share in Israel's Leviathan gas field development.

Finally after months of protracted negotiations, partners in Leviathan signing a new memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Woodside last Thursday, making it more likely than ever that the deal will go ahead. If it does, it will be a major milestone in Israeli-Australia relations, backed by governments on both sides.

Here is what you need to know about the deal and its implications.

Four Corners "Stone Cold Justice" - links to useful sources

Four Corners "Stone Cold Justice" - links to useful sources Author: Sharyn Mittelman Categories: Australasia, Israel, Media/ Academia, Palestinians, Updates    

On February 10 ABC "Four Corners" broadcast an episode titled "Stone Cold Justice", in cooperation with John Lyons from the Australian, which looked at Israel's policies regarding the treatment of Palestinian minors arrested in the West Bank.

While the episode raises important issues regarding the treatment of Palestinian minors, the ABC's report failed to provide adequate background and its approach was sensationalised and one-sided. In addition, Israel has already publicly committed to changing its practices as a UNICEF report in October 2013 confirmed, which the program only mentioned in passing.

We recommend that those interested in the problems with the ABC Four Corners report read the following sources...

Israeli home education system helps Australia's Indigenous children

Israeli home education system helps Australia's Indigenous children Author: Ahron Shapiro Categories: Australasia, Israel, Updates    

The Home Interaction Program for Parents and Youngsters (HIPPY), an Israeli designed early learning program which has been operating in Australia, federally funded and under licence by the Brotherhood of St. Laurence since 1998, is back in the news.

The federal government has announced its latest expansion of the program, which has been making strides in improving the education of Indigenous children.

Updates
Scarjo stands up for SodaStream's Palestinian workers

Scarjo stands up for SodaStream's Palestinian workers Author: Daniel Meyerowitz-Katz Categories: Anti-Zionism, Israel, Palestinians, Updates    

It is not unusual for Superbowl advertisements to spark controversy in America and around the world. This year, before it has even gone to air, an advert for SodaStream starring Scarlett "Scarjo" Johansson has caused considerable hysteria. ...

Ordinarily, a leading Hollywood actress appearing in a Superbowl advertisement to promote a company that sells machines to carbonate water would seem unremarkable. SodaStream, however, happens to be Israeli. ... After the BDS activists were riled up, it did not take long for Johansson's position as an ambassador for global charity Oxfam to be thrown into the spotlight....

US "Framework" for peace document on the way?

US "Framework" for peace document on the way? Categories: Israel, Palestinians, Updates    

Today's Update deals with reports that the US is only weeks away from issuing a "framework" document outlining broad principles for Israeli-Palestinian peace that it is hoped both sides can adopt with reservations.

We lead with a news report based on off-the-record briefings given by former Australian Martin Indyk, the American mediator, about the content of, and plans for, the "framework document." Indyk reportedly told US Jewish leaders in the phone hook-up that the document will be released within a few weeks and will contain few surprises for either side, because it is based on extensive consultations with them.

Editorial: Honouring Sharon's Legacy Author: Colin Rubenstein Categories: Australasia, Israel, Palestinians    

Former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, who passed away on January 11, will surely be remembered as one of Israel's greatest military and political leaders.

This is not because he was universally beloved - he was not - nor because his judgement was necessarily always superior - on the contrary, his various missteps are a matter of record.

Rather, Sharon earned his place in Israel's pantheon of leaders as a battle-tested man of action whose vigorous defence of Jewish national rights was only superseded by his desire for a lasting peace.

Scribblings: Erdogan's Dubious Friends

Scribblings: Erdogan's Dubious Friends Author: Tzvi Fleischer Categories: Israel, Palestinians, Terrorism, Turkey    

Here's a fascinating - and very telling - story from Turkey which has not really made it into the Australian media.

On Jan. 14, Turkish police staged a sweep in which they arrested 28 people alleged to be recruiting or otherwise working for al-Qaeda in raids across six provinces. Police also raided an office of the IHH, a Turkish Islamist NGO best known for coordinating the Mavi Marmara flotilla to Gaza in 2010.

Asia Watch: All the Trees in China Author: Michael Shannon Categories: China, Israel    

China's pivotal role in the world economy can hardly be overstated. Yet the economic giant is increasingly looking to one of the world's smallest nations for those essential ingredients of innovation and expertise - Israel, of course. And like every other country, Israel is very keen to tap the Chinese economic behemoth.

A top-level Chinese delegation recently visited the Jewish state and, according to a UPI report, an Israeli official observed: "They don't care about the Palestinian issue. They want to talk about three things: Israeli technology, Israeli technology and Israeli technology."

Larger Than Life

Larger Than Life Author: Amotz Asa-El Categories: Israel    

Every hero becomes a bore, wrote Ralph Waldo Emerson. The great essayist did not know of Ariel Sharon, who died in January at 85 after one of the stormiest public careers seen anywhere in recent memory. Even his passing - the outcome of an eight-year duel between a legendary warrior and the angel of death - appears to be without precedent among world leaders.

How Sharon the divider united Israelis

How Sharon the divider united Israelis Author: Yossi Klein Halevi Categories: Israel    

In the plaza before the Knesset, a thin line of mourners slowly passed the flag-covered coffin of Ariel Sharon. An old man in a long white beard and big black kippah saluted. Another old man brought a single rose. Yet another came wrapped in a giant Israeli flag. Among them were veterans of Sharon's commando Unit 101 from the 1950s, the armoured and infantry units he commanded in Sinai in 1967, the paratrooper brigade he led across the Suez Canal in 1973 to win the Yom Kippur War. The cold, depleted Jerusalem afternoon belonged to them.

Recasting the Sinai Triangle

Recasting the Sinai Triangle Author: Ehud Yaari Categories: Egypt, Islamic Extremism, Israel, Terrorism    

Over the past year, Israel and Egypt have used a little-known, legally permissible understanding - the Agreed Activities Mechanism - to bypass restrictions on the number and type of Egyptian forces permitted in much of the Sinai. As a result, considerable Egyptian army forces are now constantly deployed in central and eastern Sinai (Areas B and C of the peninsula, respectively), in a manner and scope never envisaged by the teams that negotiated the treaty more than three decades ago. Going forward, this new reality on the ground is unlikely to be reversed and is bound to have profound consequences for Egyptian-Israeli security cooperation, Cairo's ongoing counterterrorism campaign, and the fate of Hamas in the neighbouring Gaza Strip.

The Last Word: The Palestinian Haters

The Last Word: The Palestinian Haters Author: Jeremy Jones Categories: Israel    

Jerusalem is a very special city. Of great religious importance, it is often falsely represented as simply a fulcrum of conflict rather than as an inspirational source of compassion, wisdom and understanding.

It figures in the historic memory of a number of civilisations and cultures, but the episodes of conflict can overshadow the reality of a living, sometimes vibrant, sometimes less so, community of communities.

Israel PM's peacemaking efforts should be remembered

Israel PM's peacemaking efforts should be remembered Author: Ahron Shapiro Categories: Israel, Op-eds    

Ariel Sharon, the former Israeli general, Defence Minister and Prime Minister who died earlier this month, was one of the government officials who greeted then-Egyptian President Anwar Sadat on the tarmac during his famous visit to Israel in November 1977.

Sharing a smile and a handshake, Sadat ribbed Sharon, reminding him that he had unsuccessfully tried to catch him when he crossed the Suez Canal during the war of October 1973.

Sharon famously replied, "Now you can catch me as a friend."

Ariel Sharon, from warrior to peacemaker

Ariel Sharon, from warrior to peacemaker Author: Sharyn Mittelman Categories: Israel, Op-eds    

Israel's former prime minister Ariel Sharon passed away on January 11. Debate about his legacy will continue for years.

Views about it have already changed since he became incapacitated eight years ago, as today many on Israel's left praise his decision to dismantle the settlements in the Gaza Strip and parts of the West Bank he had helped sponsor, while on Israel's right, many mourn his ''mistakes'' as Hamas took hold of Gaza and used it to fire rockets into Israel.

AIR
There can't be peace without compromise between Israel and the Palestinians

There can't be peace without compromise between Israel and the Palestinians Author: Jamie Hyams Categories: Israel, Op-eds, Palestinians    

JOSEPH Wakim's metaphor of refugees taking over a home ("Australia must find balance on Palestinians," January 10) is all very nice, but completely irrelevant to the Israeli/Palestinian situation.

It falsely assumes that the Palestinians were there first and the Jews came later and forced them out and that Israel has never offered to share the land nor been subjected to violence.

The Legacy of Ariel Sharon

The Legacy of Ariel Sharon Categories: Israel, Updates    

This Update features three pieces reflecting on the legacy of former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, who died over the weekend after eight years in a coma.

We lead with Washington Institute for Near East Policy expert David Pollock. His article's main point is to explore how Sharon, the great warrior and larger than life figure known for his decisiveness, may have been the only Israeli leader who could carry out the Gaza disengagement of 2005. 

Bulldozer who guided Israel from centre

Bulldozer who guided Israel from centre Author: Ahron Shapiro Categories: Israel, Op-eds    

THE passing of Ariel Sharon, Israel's first truly centrist prime minister, is a watershed event in Israel's history, as he served in a unique capacity as the pivotal bridge between Israel's founding generation and political landscape and the mature and modern Israel of today.

Updates
Statement: Death of Ariel Sharon

Statement: Death of Ariel Sharon Categories: Israel, Media Releases    

Ariel Sharon was a towering figure throughout Israel's history and made powerful, unique contributions to the development of the Jewish State, both as an outstanding, heroic soldier and a transformative, respected - if at times controversial - political figure.

Boldness, bravery and capability were his hallmarks in both roles.

Signs of hope

Signs of hope Author: Sharyn Mittelman Categories: Israel, Palestinians, Updates    

Often when discussing the Arab-Israeli conflict, it is easy to despair, but if we search there are stories waiting to be told about every day people that give us hope and inspiration. Here are some of those stories....

Dam lies

Dam lies Author: Ahron Shapiro Categories: Anti-Zionism, Israel, Palestinians, Updates    

Gaza's Hamas government makes wild accusations against Israel all the time, but not all are as easily disproven as the latest one - their claim that Israel had "opened dams" along Gaza's border during the recent winter storm, flooding neighbourhoods and causing thousands of Palestinians to flee their homes.

Aspects of Peacemaking Categories: Israel, Palestinians, Updates    

This Update contains insightful new articles dealing with three different important issues that will have to be resolved in any Israeli-Palestinian final peace agreement - or even a "framework agreement" of the sort that US Secretary of State John Kerry is trying to broker by April. Specifically, it deals with the subjects of recognition of Israel as a homeland for the Jewish people, borders and settlements in the West Bank, and Palestinian refugees.

Editorial: Israel - “Lighthouse Nation” Author: Colin Rubenstein Categories: Israel    

It is well known that Israel, uniquely among all the world's countries, is frequently singled out for ridiculously unequal treatment in international bodies. This might give the impression that Israel is some type of international pariah nation, and this is certainly the impression that its enemies seek to convey.

However, the truth is that, despite problems including the continued inability to reach a secure and lasting peace with the Palestinians, Israel is an extraordinary democratic, economic and social success story with much to offer the rest of the world, and this reality is increasingly being recognised around the globe.

Scribblings: Nuclear Sophistry

Scribblings: Nuclear Sophistry Author: Tzvi Fleischer Categories: International Security, Iran, Israel    

When debating policy on Iran's illegal nuclear program, one argument that always gets raised is the supposed "double standard" of forcing Iran to give up its efforts to build nuclear weapons when Israel is believed to have nuclear weapons capabilities.

Morally, the question is not that hard to address. Basically, unlike Iran, Israel is not a revanchist state seeking to control or subvert neighbouring states and spread its "revolution", nor is it the world's leading state-sponsor of terrorism, nor does it go around demanding neighbouring states be destroyed. 

Securing Peace

Securing Peace Author: Ron Ben Yishai Categories: Israel, Palestinians    

US Secretary of State John Kerry's meetings in Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA) over the second week of December - focussed on US proposals for security arrangements for a final agreement - were historic. That can be said without fear of overstatement and even without knowing all the details, because the security issue is the matter which has locked the current peace negotiations into a deadlock. It is also the matter that was most difficult to solve in the previous negotiations held in a bid to reach a permanent agreement.

Geneva: Beyond the Hype

Geneva: Beyond the Hype Author: Robert Satloff Categories: America, International Security, Iran, Israel    

The blockbuster nuclear deal reached early on the morning of Nov. 24 in Geneva between Iran and the US-led coalition is both less and more consequential than early reports suggested. And there is a good chance that its real value - whether it prevents Iran's nuclear ambitions or inadvertently opens the door to an Iranian bomb - may not be known until US President Barack Obama turns into the home stretch for his second term, after the 2014 midterms.

The Bedouin Conundrum

The Bedouin Conundrum Author: Amotz Asa-El Categories: Israel    

Nomadism, once a common way of life from Mongolia to America, is fast disappearing worldwide, and Israel is no exception. 

Known as Bedouins, Israel's nomads have largely abandoned the camels and tents that had been their hallmarks since the days when Abraham camped in Beersheva. The estimated 70,000 who roamed that same desert, the Negev, on the eve of Israel's establishment have since then more than trebled in number. But they have also gradually moved into permanent houses, shacks, and huts that make up to the improvised towns that now dot the highways between Beersheva and the Dead Sea.

Naftali Bennett: Israel's pivot to Asia

Naftali Bennett: Israel's pivot to Asia Author: Ahron Shapiro Categories: Asia, Australasia, Israel    

Go East. That's the catchphrase Naftali Bennett, Israel's Economics and Commerce Minister has chosen for his new initiative to shift Israel's strategic and trade focus away from its traditional Western European orientation and towards Asia, the Indian subcontinent and Oceania.

AIR
ABC, terrorists aren't soldiers

ABC, terrorists aren't soldiers Author: Ahron Shapiro Categories: Israel, Lebanon, Palestinians, Terrorism, Updates    

In a special year-end edition of ABC's Correspondents Report, host Elizabeth Jackson took her staff on the air with her for a "behind the scenes" look at the program and gave them a chance to discuss some of their favourite segments of the past year.

During the segment, Jackson recalled the most memorable report she heard in her seven years with the show. To her credit, it was a 2006 report by David Hardaker detailing a 1979 Palestinian terror attack on an Israeli family. Unfortunately, by erroneously describing the terrorist infiltrators as "soldiers", Jackson left listeners needlessly confused.

New Phase of Israeli-Palestinian Talks?/ The Media and Disinformation

New Phase of Israeli-Palestinian Talks?/ The Media and Disinformation Categories: Israel, Media/ Academia, Palestinians, Updates    

Today's Update deals with reports that, as US Secretary of State Kerry visits Israel yet again, the US is apparently preparing to change its currently low-key role in the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations and present a "framework agreement" setting out the broad outlines of a peace deal. It also contains an important article on an increasing willingness by both some journalists and others to recognise propaganda outfits as legitimate media outlets.

Updates
Cooperation with Israel on water could solve Arab water crises

Cooperation with Israel on water could solve Arab water crises Author: Sharyn Mittelman Categories: Israel, Palestinians, Updates    

Israel is a world leader in water technology, and has made itself effectively ‘drought proof' in a region suffering a severe water crisis, through its investment in areas such as desalination, waste water recycling and drip irrigation. Israel's achievements in water technology stand as a ready example of best practice for the Arab region and the Palestinians in particular.

Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop is a true supporter of peace in the Middle East

Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop is a true supporter of peace in the Middle East Author: Sharyn Mittelman Categories: Australasia, Israel, Op-eds, United Nations    

Australia's decision to change its position and abstain on two United Nations resolutions regarding settlements and the Geneva Convention was the act of a true supporter of Israeli-Palestinian peace. Explaining the decision to change the vote, a spokesman for Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said the shift ''reflected the government's concern that Middle East resolutions should be balanced'' and said: ''The government will not support resolutions which are one-sided and which pre-judge the outcome of final status negotiations between the two sides.''

The reality is that the UN's entrenched biases against Israel - reflecting the imbalance of power between one Jewish state versus 22 Arab states plus 56 majority Muslim states - have rendered it ineffective as a mediator. Arab states have long sought to use the UN to delegitimise Israel and seek an affirmation of the narrative about Israel being a usurper state existing on ''stolen'' Palestinian land.

Salafist terror spreads to the West Bank

Salafist terror spreads to the West Bank Author: Ahron Shapiro Categories: Islamic Extremism, Israel, Palestinians, Updates    

The deaths of three Palestinian terror suspects who had opened fire on Israeli troops sent to arrest them near Hebron on Tuesday was unfortunately not an altogether rare occurrence.

The decline in successful terror attacks in Israel and the West Bank in recent years has been widely attributed to the effectiveness of Israel's intelligence and security forces in capturing terrorists before they have a chance of executing deadly attacks. Occasionally, the suspects choose to attempt to kill the soldiers who come to arrest them, with unfortunate but predictable results.

However, the details of these suspects and several of their associates who had been arrested earlier without incident, was very unusual, as analysts noted this marked the first time Salafist Palestinians in the West Bank, allied ideologically with al-Qaeda, have been caught red-handed planning terror attacks.

A dangerous deal on Iran

A dangerous deal on Iran Author: Colin Rubenstein Categories: International Security, Iran, Israel, Op-eds    

The world is overwhelmingly united in agreeing on a number of points about the decades-old Iranian nuclear crisis. One is that Iran cannot be allowed to acquire nuclear weapons capabilities, in violation of both the nuclear non-proliferation treaty and six legally-binding United Nations Security Council resolutions. Furthermore, it is agreed that a diplomatic deal with Iran is by far the most preferred way to attain this end. And thirdly, everyone agrees, in words used both by United States Secretary of State John Kerry and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, that "a bad deal is worse than no deal."

Nonetheless, the interim deal reached in Geneva on Sunday appears to be likely to turn out to be just such a "bad deal" - or in the words of Netanyahu, a "historic mistake"

Is the EU inadvertently encouraging Israeli settlements?

Is the EU inadvertently encouraging Israeli settlements? Author: Daniel Meyerowitz-Katz Categories: Europe, Israel, Updates    

As Australia shifts its UN vote on Israeli settlements to one more befitting of its longstanding support for a negotiated two-state solution, the EU appears to be going in the opposite direction. In addition to undermining the EU's support for peace talks, this may even be inadvertently encouraging Israel to purposefully send Israeli citizens and businesses into the West Bank...

A Good Deal on Iran's Nukes? The Iranians certainly think so

A Good Deal on Iran's Nukes? The Iranians certainly think so Author: Or Avi-Guy Categories: Anti-Zionism, Iran, Israel, Middle East, Saudi Arabia, Updates    

When the delegates of the P5+1 convened in Geneva to finalise an interim agreement with Iran they were supposed to have one goal in mind - to stop Iran's nuclear program. 

So is the new interim deal a step towards "a future in which we can verify that Iran's nuclear program is peaceful and that it cannot build a nuclear weapon" as US President Obama put it?

The Iranians certainly don't seem to think so.

A Friendly Disagreement

A Friendly Disagreement Author: Amos Yadlin Categories: America, Iran, Israel    

The dispute between Israel and the United States on the Iranian nuclear challenge emerged this week from behind closed doors and became an open conflict waged on television.

Israel and the US share the strategic goal of preventing Iran's attainment of nuclear weapons. Both countries agree that only two forms of leverage can block Iran's dash to the bomb - economic sanctions and a credible military threat. However, Israel and the US diverge in their assessments as to the scope and timing for effective use of these levers. Consequently, there is a huge gap between them on how to reach the goal of stopping Iran's military nuclear program...

Rouhani: Ruse or Strategic Rethink?

Rouhani: Ruse or Strategic Rethink? Author: Yehonathan Tommer Categories: Iran, Israel    

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani had led an international charm offensive since his election in June. There is no doubt that his diplomatic style - and that of those he has chosen to work with him, especially soft-spoken Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif with his impeccable English - is a distinct contrast with the deliberately confrontational approach of previous President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad. This new approach had clearly underpinned the latest rounds of negotiations on the nuclear program in Geneva.

Reversal of Fortune

Reversal of Fortune Author: Amotz Asa-El Categories: Israel    

The reversal of fortune was swift. The Magistrate Court's unanimous acquittal of Avigdor Lieberman on charges of fraud and breach of trust instantaneously transformed Israel's most self-made politician from disempowered suspect to political magnet, compass, and pivot.

Even a UN interpreter has had enough with UN’s Israel bias

Even a UN interpreter has had enough with UN’s Israel bias Author: Or Avi-Guy Categories: Israel, United Nations, Updates    

A video of a UN interpreter caught on a hot mic criticising the UN obsession with Israel is going viral since it was uploaded last week. It occurred during a session of the Fourth Committee of the UN General Assembly, in which nine motions criticising Israel were passed. The blogosphere is abuzz, and commentators are congratulating the interpreter for a rare, and surprisingly candid, statement, even if it was never intended to be made public.

Israeli field hospital in the Philippines receives high praise

Israeli field hospital in the Philippines receives high praise Author: Sharyn Mittelman Categories: Asia, Israel, Updates    

To date, 12 babies have been born in the Israeli field hospital set up in the city of Bogo at the northern end of Cebu Island on November 14 to provide medical assistance to the Typhoon ravaged region. Typhoon Haiyan struck on November 8 and is estimated to have killed at least 4,000 people and left 600,000 homeless.

AIR
The truth behind the wrecking ball

The truth behind the wrecking ball Author: Ahron Shapiro Categories: Israel, Media/ Academia, Palestinians, Updates    

The Palestinian Authority-aligned news agency Ma'an is hardly ever used as the primary source for an article in major international outlets, and for good reason. They produce advocacy journalism for the Palestinian cause, and have a pattern of one-sided and sometimes wildly inaccurate, biased and misleading reporting.

On November 2, however, John Lyons did just that in a story for the Weekend Australian. The story, "New wave of demolitions in Jerusalem", was based on a story published online by Ma'an on October 31. In his story, Lyons uncritically parroted a claim by a Palestinian official that 200 buildings were threatened with demolition, potentially displacing 15,000 Palestinians.

Palestinian leaders praised prisoners’ crimes of murder

Palestinian leaders praised prisoners’ crimes of murder Author: Sharyn Mittelman Categories: Israel, Palestinians, Updates    

Last week Israel released an additional 26 Palestinian prisoners, as part of a deal made in July to encourage the Palestinians to return to negotiations with Israel. The prisoners were all convicted for murder before the 1993 Oslo Accords were signed, and were serving life sentences. Despite the horrific nature of their crimes, they received a hero's welcome upon their return to the West Bank and Gaza Strip as virtually all Palestinian prisoners do upon their release.

Updates
Egypt's future/ Israel's Bedouin policies

Egypt's future/ Israel's Bedouin policies Categories: Egypt, Israel, Updates    

This Update deals with the situation in Egypt - where the military government of General Abd el Fattah el-Sisi seems to be consolidating power as it continues its relentless crackdown on the deposed Muslim Brotherhood and has just placed former President Mohammed Morsi on trial. On a separate matter, it also includes some important information about the controversial policies in Israel to resolve long standing land and housing issues affecting Bedouin communities in the southern part of the country.

Hamas faces isolation and its own domestic "resistance" movement

Hamas faces isolation and its own domestic "resistance" movement Author: Allon Lee Categories: Israel, Middle East, Palestinians, Updates    

As the Palestinian Authority (PA) receives international plaudits for participating in peace talks with Israel and a domestic fillip for securing the release of a second batch of long-term Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails, Hamas, its Islamist rival in Gaza is at a low ebb, battling declining popular support and regional influence.

The deterioration in its fortunes is described in the Times of Israel by Avi Issacharoff who writes that "This isn't the same terror organization - it's now a movement more occupied with its survival as a ruling government."

Jerusalem Arabs being treated as political pawns

Jerusalem Arabs being treated as political pawns Author: Daniel Meyerowitz-Katz Categories: Israel, Palestinians, Updates    

As peace talks between the Israelis and the Palestinians continue, the status of Jerusalem remains one of the seemingly insurmountable obstacles to an agreement. ... The status of Jerusalem involves complex considerations of unity and division, and fiery debate on this issue has become a staple of Israeli politics. Many of these realities were brought to light in last week's municipal elections...

The Bibio File: From Dreams to Dilemmas

The Bibio File: From Dreams to Dilemmas Author: Elliot Abrams Categories: Israel    

If the history in Exodus was largely accurate, the characters were all fictional. It is against this backdrop that Yossi Klein Halevi's achievement in Like Dreamers stands out, for he too tells the story of modern Israel - in his case, from 1967 to the present day - from the point of view of a small group of archetypal characters. But his book is fact, not fiction, and his dramatis personae are all real.

The crimes of the latest batch of Palestinian prisoners released

The crimes of the latest batch of Palestinian prisoners released Author: Sharyn Mittelman Categories: Israel, Palestinians, Updates    

The crimes of the 26 Palestinian prisoners released today are shocking with all having committed murder including some who kidnapped and then axed, tortured or burned their victims to death. All were supposed to be serving life sentences for their crimes. Israel's agreement to free these prisoners is a strong reminder of the painful price Israel is willing to pay for the prospect of peace with the Palestinians.

Scribblings: The meaning of "Jihad" Author: Tzvi Fleischer Categories: Islamic Extremism, Israel, Palestinians    

Religion, any religion, can be a source of spiritual fulfilment and guidance for ethical behaviour or a mandate for fanaticism, intolerance and violence. (That includes Judaism - followers of the late Rabbi Meir Kahane are a good example of the latter.) As Prof. Efraim Inbar, a religious man as well as a distinguished academic scholar, put it during his recent visit to Melbourne, all religious traditions have to "pick their verses."

Whispered Compassion

Whispered Compassion Author: Debra Kamin Categories: Israel, Jordan, Syria    

Sultana is 23 years old and very hungry. She grew up in the suburbs east of Damascus, but when her house was firebombed by an airplane belonging to the Syrian regime, she fled the city in the night along with her husband and their five children.

Together, the group trekked south toward safety across the Jordanian border, adding their numbers to the hundreds of thousands of refugees who have swarmed this remote, impoverished corner of the Hashemite Kingdom while Syrian President Bashar Assad's reign of terror shows no signs of abating.

Requiem for a Revolutionary Rabbi

Requiem for a Revolutionary Rabbi Author: Amotz Asa-El Categories: Israel    

Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, sage, rebel and kingmaker, left this world at age 93 the way he conquered power: with a tour de force.

Followed to his resting place by more than half-a-million people on Oct. 7, apparently the largest gathering Jerusalem had seen since antiquity, Rabbi Yosef's religious stature and social impact are undeniable. What is less clear, and in fact now looms as Israeli politics' most significant riddle, is the future of his political creation, the Shas party.

Arafat NOT poisoned? Media yawns

Arafat NOT poisoned? Media yawns Author: Allon Lee Categories: Israel, Media/ Academia, Palestinians, Updates    

In a sane world, it would not be al-Jazeera's overblown boast on Saturday of supposed scientific confirmation for its 2012 'scoop' that Yasser Arafat might have been poisoned by polonium-210 which would have made headlines, but instead the revelation on Tuesday of genuinely new and apparently decisive information contradicting any such theory. That's when a senior Russia toxicologist who had access to testing of samples of Arafat's body tissues stated that, according to these definitive tests, Arafat "could not have died of polonium poisoning."

AIR
Bar-Ilan revisited, four years later

Bar-Ilan revisited, four years later Author: Allon Lee Categories: Anti-Zionism, Israel, Middle East, Palestinians, Updates    

On Monday, four-and-a-half years after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke at Bar-Ilan University's Begin-Sadat Centre for Strategic Studies and formally committed to the two-state formula, he returned to deliver a follow-up of sorts, that has been unfairly maligned in some quarters for being too hawkish.

Yet, for those with the time and inclination to read or listen to Netanyahu's words, the 2009 and 2013 talks are are actually mostly congruent. Indeed, elements of it appear to be an effort to simply re-emphasise key themes he struck in 2009...

The Yom Kippur War - 40 years on

The Yom Kippur War - 40 years on Author: Ahron Shapiro Categories: Egypt, Israel, Syria, Updates    

On October 6, 1973, as Israelis observed Yom Kippur - the holiest day in the Jewish calendar - the Egyptian and Syrian armies launched simultaneous surprise offensives against Israel across the ceasefire lines from the 1967 war.

Four decades later, the consequences and lessons of the 19-day war are still being analysed and debated. Meanwhile, once-classified information about the war from the archives of some of the principle players in the war, as well as their superpower patrons, are slowly coming to the surface, adding to our understanding of the events.

Today, AIJAC begins a three-part blog to commemorate the 40th anniversary of Israel's last major multi-front conventional war.

The first entry will examine recent stories about the war that might interest to our readers, including commentary about how the lessons of the Yom Kippur War are being applied to Israel's current security outlook.

An Israeli-Arab alliance on Iran?/ Cutting off US aid to Egypt

An Israeli-Arab alliance on Iran?/ Cutting off US aid to Egypt Categories: Egypt, Iran, Israel, Updates    

Today's update centres on the growing policy congruence, some say amounting almost to a tacit alliance, between Israel and various Sunni Arab states, especially Jordan, Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states - united by shared concerns about Iran and declining US regional influence. It also contains an analysis of the US Administration's decision to cut off most of its military aid to Egypt earlier this week.

Updates
Dealing with Iran's nuclear ambitions under its new president

Dealing with Iran's nuclear ambitions under its new president Categories: Iran, Israel, United Nations, Updates    

Today’s Update offers analysis of Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s powerful speech at the United Nations General Assembly overnight which came a day after his joint press conference with President Barack Obama where they offered a united front on the Iranian nuclear issue. In his address, Netanyahu reminded the world that Iran’s ambitions for nuclear weapons remains unchanged.

Describing Iran’s new so-called moderate President Hassan Rouhani as a “wolf in sheep’s clothing”, recounting Iran’s three decades of support for terrorism, and the regime’s deception in its pursuit of nuclear weapons, Netanyahu insisted economic sanctions must remain in place substantive concessions are offered by the regime. Netanyahu also promised that Israel would act alone if it meant preventing Iran gaining the bomb. To read and or watch the speech, click here.

Asia Watch: Race to the Bottom Author: Michael Shannon Categories: Asia, Israel    

A frequent complaint in Australian political commentary is that the level of debate here is pedestrian at best, especially at election time. Indeed, if hyperbole and distortion is the daily gruel of politics worldwide then it has a special flavour in Malaysia, where Israel is invoked on the slightest pretext to smear political opponents.

Israel anticipates some bad chemistry

Israel anticipates some bad chemistry Author: Amotz Asa-El Categories: Israel, Syria    

As the plot surrounding Syria's chemical weapons continued to thicken, Israelis of all walks crowded the narrow alleys leading to Jerusalem's Wailing Wall, where thousands were humming the season's ancient penitentiary prayers known as Selichot ("apologies").

News of the Russian-sponsored deal that would potentially end the international crisis non-violently broke three days ahead of the Day of Atonement, when Jews scrutinise their moral conduct over the past year, and vow to improve it in the next.

Essay: Time is on Israel's side

Essay: Time is on Israel's side Author: Efraim Inbar Categories: Israel    

The Jewish state has always attracted the attention of pundits and prognosticators. In recent years, a burgeoning literature of gloom that highlights Israel's imaginary or real flaws, and even questions its future, has emerged both within and outside the country...

But while continuous political prudence is recommended, Israel has so far been a great success story, and time seems to be on its side. A review of the balance of power between Israel and its foes, of the domestic characteristics affecting its national power - such as its economy, social cohesion, and political system - as well as its standing in the international community, validates this assessment.

The self-defeating Palestinian ‘anti-normalisation’ campaign

The self-defeating Palestinian ‘anti-normalisation’ campaign Author: Sharyn Mittelman Categories: Israel, Palestinians, Updates    

A culture of ‘anti-normalisation' has become so dominant, that even an upbeat article in Forbes ‘Peace Through Profits' by Richard Behar that praised and reported Israeli and Palestinian high-tech business cooperation led to a backlash. The reporter has been criticised by Palestinians featured in the report, with some saying they now fear harassment by extremists.

Three Anniversaries - Oslo, the Yom Kippur War and 9/11 Categories: Islamic Extremism, Israel, Palestinians, Terrorism, Updates    

This Update highlights the fact that we have just passed three important anniversaries in Middle Eastern and world history - the 20th anniversary of the original Oslo accords between Israel and the Palestinians (signed on Sept. 13, 1993), the 40th anniversary of the outbreak of the 1973 Middle East war, which began on Yom Kippur, 1973, and of course, the 12th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 World Trade Centre and Pentagon attacks in the US. We feature pieces discussing each of these anniversaries.

Letter: West Bank settlements are not ‘illegal' Author: Ahron Shapiro Categories: Israel, Updates    

On the issue of Israeli settlements, Tony Walker erroneously claimed that the US considers Israeli West Bank settlements "illegal". Yet he then correctly quoted US Secretary of State John Kerry saying that the US views them as "illegitimate"

New revelations about Israel's help for victims of Syrian civil war

New revelations about Israel's help for victims of Syrian civil war Author: Ahron Shapiro Categories: Israel, Syria, Updates    

As the US Congress debates authorising military strikes against Syria's Assad regime for allegedly using chemical weapons against its own people, a growing amount of media attention is now being paid to one of the encouraging stories coming out of the Syrian civil war - that is Israel's public and private contribution to relieving the humanitarian crisis.

This contribution has come in the form of aid shipments for refugees, as well as the treatment of Syrian war wounded in Israeli hospitals, including a field hospital on the Golan Heights that has been expressly built for the purpose.

Viewing Australia's election from Israel and elsewhere

Viewing Australia's election from Israel and elsewhere Author: Sharyn Mittelman Categories: Australasia, Israel, Updates    

In Australia we have a new government, following the Liberal/National Party's (‘the Coalition') sweeping election victory on September 7. While Australians have been heavily focused on the election campaign, its aftermath, and the effect of the change of government in terms of a number of domestic policy priorities, it is always interesting to see how Australia and our politics is viewed overseas.

AIR
Duplicate stories, multiple personalities

Duplicate stories, multiple personalities Author: Ahron Shapiro Categories: Israel, Media/ Academia, Palestinians, Terrorism, Updates    

It is common for two different newspapers in the same country to present a wire story on Israel in two different ways. In such a case, one version can be interpreted as being subtly more pro-Palestinian or more pro-Israel than the other.

It is rare, however, for such a discrepancy to surface on the same wire story that appeared twice in the same paper on the same day. Such a bizarre occurrence, however, happened last week in Christchurch, New Zealand, in the paper The Press.

Statement: AIJAC congratulates Tony Abbott and the Coalition on election victory, calls for bipartisan approach to Israel

Statement: AIJAC congratulates Tony Abbott and the Coalition on election victory, calls for bipartisan approach to Israel Categories: Australasia, Immigration/ Multiculturalism, Israel, Media Releases    

AIJAC congratulates Tony Abbott and the Coalition on their election victory. Prime Minister-elect Tony Abbott and Foreign Minister-elect Julie Bishop with their colleagues have been exceptional friends of Israel and the Jewish community in Opposition and we look forward to this steadfast support continuing in Government...

Syria: Israeli Views and Analysis

Syria: Israeli Views and Analysis Categories: Israel, Syria, Updates    

With intense debate still raging about Syria - especially in the wake of the decision by US President Obama to seek congressional approval on Sept. 9 before moving ahead with the possibility of US-led military strikes in response to the large-scale chemical weapons attack there - this Update brings together some Israeli expert perspectives on the situation.

Updates
Another ABC fact-checking fail: Gaza and Breast Cancer

Another ABC fact-checking fail: Gaza and Breast Cancer Author: Ahron Shapiro Categories: Israel, Palestinians, Updates    

Why does the ABC continue to improperly fact-check its stories about the Gaza Strip?

In her report for Newsline, "Charities raising breast cancer awareness in Gaza", the ABC's reporter/producer Rania Zaydan abandoned her critical faculties, offering up a story riddled with inaccuracies and baseless anti-Israel innuendo.

Syria burns as the UN turns its gaze to Israel

Syria burns as the UN turns its gaze to Israel Author: Daniel Meyerowitz-Katz Categories: Israel, Syria, United Nations, Updates    

As everyone digests the harrowing reports of nerve gas being used by the Syrian regime against its own people, and the US boosts its military posturing, one story that has seemingly been pushed to the side is the increasing irrelevance of the United Nations. ... After more than two years of dithering as Syria burns, the Security Council has patently failed in its mission to maintain international peace and security...

At the same time, UN activity has been continuing unabated over on Syria's south-western border. Earlier this month, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon addressed a model UN forum in Jerusalem. During his address, he reportedly made a rare admission of the unfair treatment which Israel receives...

The Face-Off

The Face-Off Categories: Antisemitism, Australasia, Immigration/ Multiculturalism, International Security, Iran, Israel    

In keeping with a long-standing pre-election tradition at the AIR, we sent a series of ten policy questions to the campaigns of both Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and Opposition Leader Tony Abbott to help inform our readers as they go to the polls on Sept. 7. The questions - designed to focus on political issues of special concern to the Australian Jewish community - deal with issues including Israel and the peace process, communal education, counter-terrorism and communal security, the Iranian nuclear crisis, multiculturalism, racial hatred laws and the vexed question of asylum seeker policy.

Scribblings: The Other Settlements Author: Tzvi Fleischer Categories: Antisemitism, Egypt, Israel    

As has become routine, there were widespread statements of condemnation from various international players after Israel announced in mid-August that it would be approving just over 2,000 new units in east Jerusalem neighbourhoods and certain large settlements. Never mind that every single one of these apartments, if built (and this will take at least a couple of years), will be in an area that will remain Israeli according to every serious peace proposal.

As Egypt bleeds

As Egypt bleeds Author: Amotz Asa-El Categories: Egypt, Israel    

"We must get possession of Egypt," wrote Napoleon two years before he sailed to Alexandria and marched on Cairo. More than two centuries later, Egypt's military leaders likely thought something similar as their soldiers opened fire on Islamist demonstrators, leaving Western diplomats alarmed, Egyptian liberals unperturbed, and Israeli policymakers scrambling to remap a rapidly changing Middle East.

The Cine File: In the World of Shadows

The Cine File: In the World of Shadows Author: Or Avi Guy Categories: Israel    

Watching all six living former heads of the Shin-Bet - Israel's internal security service - talking candidly, and even humbly, about their experiences during their service, there is no escaping the feeling that something very unusual and special is happening.

If for no other reason, this makes the film "The Gatekeepers" a true cinematic achievement. Getting six of the most influential men in Israel's security establishment - individuals generally far more used to being behind the scenes than in front of the camera - to talk openly about the most secretive, controversial and thorny issues they have faced is nothing short of extraordinary.

The real obstacles to Israeli-Palestinian peace

The real obstacles to Israeli-Palestinian peace Author: Sharyn Mittelman Categories: Israel, Op-eds, Palestinians    

A great deal has been said and misrepresented regarding Israel's recent announcement that it plans to build settlement units.  For example, Amin Saikal wrote in "Peace not on Israel's agenda" (16/8) that it was a "deliberate" attempt to "sabotage ‘current peace talks'".

However, such a response ignores US Secretary of State John Kerry's statement that Israel pre-warned the US and the Palestinians that there would be some building announced during the talks.

AIR
Media Week - Hand wringing over Iran; Tom after Tom

Media Week - Hand wringing over Iran; Tom after Tom Author: Allon Lee Categories: Iran, Israel, Media/ Academia, Palestinians, Updates    

Iran's new president, Hassan Rouhani, is a good guy the West can do business with according to an Age editorial (Aug 9).

Whilst it admitted that Rouhani was vetted by "Iran's overlords", that "he is not signalling capitulation on the issue that triggered sanctions - a uranium enrichment program that raises the spectre of Iran acquiring nuclear weapons", the paper still places its faith in his ability to make a deal because "he wants to resume talks 'with seriousness and without wasting time'".

However, as Rouhani himself noted in 2004 when he was Iran's main nuclear negotiator, time wasting with a smile is his forte - "While we were talking with the Europeans in Tehran, we were installing equipment in parts of the nuclear conversion facility in Isfahan. By creating a calm environment, we were able to complete the work there."

Notes from a journalist who has "been everywhere, man"

Notes from a journalist who has "been everywhere, man" Author: Sharyn Mittelman Categories: Israel, Palestinians, Updates    

Israeli journalist Boaz Bismuth has had a remarkable and fascinating career, having covered several war zones such as Lebanon, Iraq, Afghanistan and Kosovo and having managed to find ways, despite his Israeli nationality, to interview some of the world's most infamous leaders - Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad, Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi and former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Having visited 91 countries in his journalistic role, Bismuth is currently the Foreign News Editor and Senior Analyst at Israel Hayom, and prior to this role served as Israeli Ambassador to the Islamic majority state of Mauritania, from 2004 to 2008. At an August 13 journalist briefing, Bismuth discussed the latest round of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.

AIJAC statement responding to Foreign Minister Carr's legal claims on settlements

AIJAC statement responding to Foreign Minister Carr's legal claims on settlements Author: Colin Rubenstein Categories: Immigration/ Multiculturalism, Israel, Media Releases, Palestinians    

On Friday, August 9 , AIJAC put out a statement responding to controversial remarks on Israeli settlements by Foreign Minister Senator Bob Carr at Lakemba the previous day... A spokesperson for Senator Carr has now responded to criticisms of his remarks in a statement published on J-wire .... AIJAC has released the following statement in response to Senator Carr's latest comments...

Updates
Al-Jazeera’s Ramadan hypocrisy      

Al-Jazeera’s Ramadan hypocrisy       Author: Ahron Shapiro Categories: Israel, Palestinians, Updates    

In an article, al-Jazeera recasts the Israeli concession of allowing increasing numbers of Palestinians into Israel during the holiday in order to pray at the Al-Aqsa Mosque and visit relatives, as a "sinister" plot to funnel Palestinian holiday shopping shekels away from local Palestinian merchants and into Israeli coffers.

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

Media Week - Dense & density, Background checks please; Cycle of stupidity Author: Allon Lee Categories: Israel, Media/ Academia, Middle East, Palestinians, Updates    

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).

Israel quietly treats wounded Syrians

Israel quietly treats wounded Syrians Author: Sharyn Mittelman Categories: Israel, Syria, Updates    

It was recently revealed that Israel has been quietly providing medical assistance to around 100 victims of the Syrian civil war, who are in two hospitals in northern Israel as well as in a field hospital Israel established on the Golan Heights border. 

 The Importance of Mutual Recognition as a Parameter of Peace

The Importance of Mutual Recognition as a Parameter of Peace Author: Or Avi-Guy Categories: Israel, Palestinians, Updates    

As Israeli and Palestinian negotiating teams come together in Washington in an attempt to reignite serious peace talks, there is one issue which tends to be excluded from mainstream reporting and analysis of the prospect of resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. While core issues such as territorial compromise, refugees, Jerusalem and settlements often appear in the media, a central question for Israel, mutual recognition - including the recognition of Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people - is rarely mentioned.

Risks aplenty in minefield of Mid-East peace talks

Risks aplenty in minefield of Mid-East peace talks Author: Colin Rubenstein Categories: Israel, Op-eds, Palestinians    

ON Sunday, Israel's cabinet made the agonising decision to authorise the staggered release of 104 Palestinian prisoners - including notorious mass murderers convicted for acts of wanton terror - in order to satisfy a Palestinian precondition for peace talks that began this week in Washington.

The risky move underscores some of the perils accompanying US Secretary of State John Kerry's herculean efforts to reconvene negotiations which have substantively floundered since the Palestinians walked away from a generous, comprehensive peace offer from then-Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert in late 2008...

 

 Netanyahu and the Case for Peace Process Optimism

Netanyahu and the Case for Peace Process Optimism Categories: Israel, Palestinians, Updates    

With new Israeli-Palestinian peace talks under way in Washington after a three year hiaitus - though with very little information coming out of them about what is being discussed - there remain ample grounds for pessimism about their prospects, some of which were highlighted in the Australian recently by AIJAC editorial chairman Dr. Colin Rubenstein. 

This Update seeks to round out this picture by canvassing some of the arguments that are being put forward that there are reasons for hope that this time the talks could make significant progress - and focussing especially on the approach to the talks of Israeli PM Binyamin Netanyahu.

Statement: Israel's prisoner releases

Statement: Israel's prisoner releases Categories: Israel, Media Releases, Palestinians    

While obviously agonising, especially for the distraught families of the victims, the Israeli Government's decision for the staggered release of convicts involved in brutal acts of violence reflects the high priority it attaches to bringing the Palestinians back to the negotiating table and resuming peace talks - consistent with its claim it was acting "for the good of the country".

Editorial: To Washington, with realism Author: Colin Rubenstein Categories: Israel, Palestinians    

US Secretary of State John Kerry's announcement on July 19 that Israel and the Palestinians had reached an agreement that establishes a "basis" for the resumption of peace negotiations was certainly a very welcome development after almost five years without substantive peace talks. But this does not change the fact that a cloud of uncertainty surrounds where matters currently lie and where proposed negotiations go from here.

Scribblings: Abbas and Al-Aqsa Author: Tzvi Fleischer Categories: Israel, Palestinians    

There is an ongoing and to my view, generally inconclusive debate in Israel and among Israel watchers about the genuineness of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas as a peacemaker. It is certainly true that, in terms of his consistent opposition to violence and terrorism, he represents a major improvement over his predecessor Yasser Arafat. And some who have met him insist that he sincerely wants to reach a genuine and final peace deal that Israel can live with.

On the other hand, sceptical analysts can point to a lot of uncompromising statements in Arabic - honouring terrorists; engaging in apparent incitement; characterising Israel as an eternal, zero-sum enemy; and rejecting any Jewish historical connection to Palestine or Jerusalem. This is on top of behaviour vis-à-vis peace talks which seems to indicate an unwillingness - or perhaps political inability - to reach a final deal, or, for the past five years, even negotiate about one.

AIR
Back to the Table

Back to the Table Author: Amotz Asa-El Categories: Israel, Palestinians    

Two decades after the signing of the Oslo Accords, and half a decade after they last discussed peace, Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA) agreed to resume negotiations for a final-status agreement on July 19.

The deal, which followed US Secretary of State John Kerry's hectic shuttling between Jerusalem, Ramallah, and Amman, is an accomplishment for him, but for the protagonists themselves it is fraught with uncertainty, acrimony and risk.

The crimes of the prisoners to be released for ‘peace talks’

The crimes of the prisoners to be released for ‘peace talks’ Author: Sharyn Mittelman Categories: Israel, Palestinians, Updates    

For peace talks to resume between Israel and the Palestinians, the Palestinian Authority insisted on a number of preconditions, one of which was the release of Palestinian prisoners.  Israel's decision to release the prisoners is a good faith gesture that reflects the difficult price it is willing to pay for progress towards peace. That price can be seen more clearly when you look at the list of horrific crimes committed by the prisoners who are likely to be released.

Qanta Ahmed: BDS harms Israeli Arabs

Qanta Ahmed: BDS harms Israeli Arabs Author: Sharyn Mittelman Categories: Israel, Palestinians, Updates    

Following my previous blog post which looked at how the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement undermines peace-building efforts between Israelis and Palestinians and discriminates against Israeli Arabs, an article in Haaretz by Dr. Qanta Ahmed has exemplified this point.

Ahmed is a physician and author of Pakistani descent, and on her website describes herself as an "anti-Islamist Muslim". In her article "The poverty of boycotting Israel" she makes a scathing attack on the BDS movement for the harm caused by academic and cultural boycotts, and especially the damage potentially being done to the advancement of Israeli Arabs.

Peace talks set to resume?

Peace talks set to resume? Categories: Israel, Palestinians, Updates    

US Secretary of State John Kerry announced on Friday that Israel and the Palestinians had agreed on a "basis" to resume peace talks. Israel has reportedly agreed to release 85 Palestinian prisoners from the pro-Oslo period as part of the deal, but other details of this "basis for talks" remain unclear. But despite the announcement, and reported  expectations that negotiators from the two sides will arrive in Washington next week, new talks do not appear to be a completely done deal yet, with a number of Palestinian spokesmen saying that the deal is not finalised and obstacles to renewed talks still remain. Meanwhile, the Israeli government has welcomed this development in a cabinet statement.

Updates
Musicians come to Israel despite bullying of BDS

Musicians come to Israel despite bullying of BDS Author: Sharyn Mittelman Categories: Anti-Zionism, Israel, Updates    

Fourteen-time Grammy winner Alicia Keys is the latest musician to defy the ugly bullying and harassment from Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) activists and perform in Israel.

On July 4, Keys sang to a sold-out crowd in Tel Aviv, to promote peace through music. For one song, she was joined by popular Israeli musician Idan Raichel. Before performing her song "Listen to Your Heart," Keys reportedly told the audience: "People are always trying to tell us what's right for us and what isn't. Instead of listening to them, you should listen to your heart."

Other artists who have also recently defied BDS harassment and performed in Israel include Paul McCartney, Lady Gaga, the Red Hot Chilli Peppers, Black Eyed Peas, Missy Elliott, Alanis Morisette, Elton John, Leonard Cohen, Rhianna and Shakira.

Exposing anti-Israel myth making/Sinai security

Exposing anti-Israel myth making/Sinai security Categories: Egypt, Israel, Updates    

Today’s Update offers some valuable insights into the propaganda war waged against Israel by pro-Palestinian NGOs and the Palestinian Authority (PA), as well as a new piece on the situation in the Sinai from Ehud Yaari.

First, David Weinberg from the Begin-Sadat Centre for Strategic Studies comprehensively demolishes the wholly fictional accusation that Israel is denying adequate water supply to Palestinian cities and towns.

Media Week - Antony blowin’ steam; Do the math; Don’t bank on Barclay

Media Week - Antony blowin’ steam; Do the math; Don’t bank on Barclay Author: Allon Lee Categories: Anti-Zionism, Egypt, Israel, Media/ Academia, Middle East, Palestinians, Updates    

Channel Seven's "Weekend Sunrise" (July 7) featured the authors of a new book debating religion called "For God's Sake" which includes a Christian, an atheist, a Muslim and a Jew. The Christian, Muslim and atheist were committed believers.

The "Jew", however, was that well-known non-authority on Judaism, the self-described atheist and extreme anti-Zionist Antony Loewenstein.

Predictably, Loewenstein preferred to bash Israel rather than talk about Judaism.

Views on Egypt, Israeli-Palestinian peace talks and Turkey Categories: Egypt, Israel, Palestinians, Turkey, Updates    

Today’s Update looks at the ongoing developments in Egypt; the attempts to coax the Palestinian Authority back to the negotiating table; and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Erdogan’s increasingly offensive statements.

First, top Israeli media commentator and analyst Ehud Yaari - who enjoys some of the best contacts in the Middle East - talks to the Britain Israel Communications & Research Centre on the outlook for Egypt, Hamas and Israel. Yaari explains that Israel’s main challenge relates to the freedom of movement enjoyed by armed jihadists in the vast and largely lawless Sinai Peninsula.

Talking about peace talks

Talking about peace talks Categories: Israel, Palestinians, Updates    

With US Secretary of State John Kerry currently visiting Israel as part of an ongoing quest to restart substantive peace talks between Jerusalem and Ramallah that have been in mothballs since 2008, today’s Update looks at why the chances of talks resuming or leading to a deal are unlikely.

Return to sender

Return to sender Author: Ahron Shapiro Categories: Australasia, Israel, Palestinians, Updates    

A kerfuffle raised by Australian Palestinian activists over Australia Post's recent joint issue stamp with Israel offers a teachable moment about the nature of Palestinian activism Down Under.

The incident offers yet more evidence that there is nothing pro-peace about these activists, who often claim to be acting in support of Palestinian self-determination, but place far more importance on fulfilling their fantasy of delegitimising Israel and erasing the country politically in a way their armed comrades in the Middle East have never succeeded in doing so on a battlefield.

The Beijing Express

The Beijing Express Author: Yehonathan Tommer Categories: China, Israel    

Israel can be China's ‘junior partner,' Netanyahu proposed to his Chinese hosts. Israel's innovative technologies can be utilised in development regions of China, and Israel can utilise Chinese manufacturing capabilities and management skills in large scale development projects, he said. Both sides see areas of synergy and complementarity.

The Cine File: Meeting the Other

The Cine File: Meeting the Other Author: Sharyn Mittelman Categories: Israel, Palestinians    

The film is told in French, English, Hebrew and Arabic and is wonderfully brought to life by excellent actors. The cast and crew included Israelis and Palestinians who reportedly had an input into the screenplay to enhance its authenticity. The movie is also shot on location in Israel and the West Bank, showcasing and contrasting the modern vibrancy of Tel Aviv with the cultural traditions of Palestinian communities in the West Bank.

AIR
Essay: A Textbook Case

Essay: A Textbook Case Author: Adi Schwartz Categories: Israel, Palestinians    

For years, the Palestinian Authority (PA) has been accused of inciting violence by promoting the delegitimisation of Israel and its people and, in some cases, even outright antisemitism, in its education system. According to both Israeli and third-party observers, the PA was ingraining future generations with a worldview that essentially prevented any long-term commitment to peace (let alone coexistence). So it was no surprise that a US State Department-funded study called Victims of Our Own Narratives? Portrayal of the "Other" in Israeli and Palestinian School Books, published in February, sparked a firestorm that leapt from the otherwise parochial world of education policy straight into the headlines of newspapers around the world.

Palestinian prisoners and the betrayal of the Human Rights regime

Palestinian prisoners and the betrayal of the Human Rights regime Author: Or Avi-Guy Categories: Israel, Palestinians, United Nations, Updates    

On May 27, during the 23rd session of the Un Human Rights Council in Geneva, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay delivered her opening statement. While counting what she views as the most severe human rights abuses in the world she predictably listed Israel, this time for its treatment of Palestinian prisoners. It seems that no speech before the Human Rights Council would be complete without mentioning Israel.

Soccer Championship gives Israel chance to show off diversity and multiculturalism

Soccer Championship gives Israel chance to show off diversity and multiculturalism Author: Jeni Willenzik Categories: Europe, Immigration/ Multiculturalism, Israel, Palestinians    

Over the past two weeks, Israel hosted the UEFA Under-21 Soccer Championships, one of Israel's biggest sporting events in history. In spite of protests and accusations before the event, Israel rose to the challenge, displaying the Jewish state's demonstrated ability to bring together people of various races, religions, and nationalities.

Updates
UNHRC's Richard Falk in hot water again - this time for using his official position to attack an NGO critical of him

UNHRC's Richard Falk in hot water again - this time for using his official position to attack an NGO critical of him Author: Jeni Willenzik Categories: Israel, NGOs, United Nations    

In the latest controversy at the United Nations Human Rights Council (HRC), UN Special Rapporteur Richard Falk used an official UN report meant to highlight injustices in the Palestinian territories to condemn an NGO critical of him. In the report, Falk blamed UN Watch, an NGO founded to monitor the performance of the UN against its charter, for discrediting his arguments and issuing criticism to UN diplomats and officials.

Media Week - Moaning Mona

Media Week - Moaning Mona Author: Allon Lee Categories: Egypt, Israel, Media/ Academia, Middle East, NGOs, Palestinians, Updates    

Speaking to SBS Radio's Ron Sutton (June 5), Dr Mona El Farra, head of the health committee for the Red Crescent for Gaza Strip, blamed Israel and to a lesser extent, Egypt, for a litany of health problems in Gaza.

SBS's website noted that El Farra held a meeting with Australian Foreign Minister Bob Carr and no doubt plied him with her propaganda.

Which is a pity, because she would do better to demand the world hold Hamas and the Palestinian Authority to account for their woeful and negligent governance...

Waze and means: The tactical and strategic failure of BDS

Waze and means: The tactical and strategic failure of BDS Author: Ahron Shapiro Categories: Antisemitism, Israel, Palestinians, Updates    

The cult-like and self-aggrandising Boycott, Diverstment and Sanctions (BDS) anti-Israel campaign suffered another embarrassing setback this month when Facebook and Google wooed the Israeli content-savvy phone GPS app company Waze.

Meanwhile, the Israeli company SodaStream's unfettered growth continues to expose just how ineffective BDS really is.

Finally, the annual BDS conference once again exposed the movement as fringe, extremist and hostile to peace.

Lifesaver and Model of Coexistence, yet still Condemned: The Israeli Health System

Lifesaver and Model of Coexistence, yet still Condemned: The Israeli Health System Author: Or Avi-Guy Categories: Israel, Palestinians, Syria, Updates    

It would be fair to say that the Israeli health system has been a unique success story - a model of humanitarian considerations trumping politics, as well as providing benefits both to neighbours such as the Palestinians living under their own health systems and Syrians, and offering unique medical innovations whose benefits are felt worldwide. It's just a pity that it is politics which largely prevents this success story being recognised - and where possible, emulated.

The Six Day War and the changing face of journalism: The view from Australia

The Six Day War and the changing face of journalism: The view from Australia Author: Ahron Shapiro Categories: Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Middle East, Palestinians, Reference, Syria, Updates    

The recent passing of the Associated Press' acclaimed journalist Hal McClure at the age of 92 coincides closely with the event that brought him his greatest fame - his coverage of the 1967 Six Day War, which began 46 years ago yesterday.

His passing is yet another reminder of a bygone era when a journalist took pride in reporting the news, rather than acting as a partisan advocate for or against the newsmakers themselves.

Before refecting on that, however, the anniversary of the Six Day War offers us an opportunity to review some of the coverage of the war at the time in two of Australia's leading newspapers - the Sydney Morning Herald and the Age.

Media Week - Birds of a feather; Trigger-happy headliners; Down the memory hole

Media Week - Birds of a feather; Trigger-happy headliners; Down the memory hole Author: Allon Lee Categories: Israel, Lebanon, Media/ Academia, Middle East, Palestinians, Syria, Updates    

SBS TV's "Dateline" program (May 21) travelled to Greece to look at the worrying rise in the Neo-Nazi Golden Dawn movement which has used the economic crisis there to increase its Parliamentary representation through scapegoating Jews, foreigners, homosexuals and other rival political groupings.

Whilst it is clear that Golden Dawn mirrors its behaviour on the intimidatory tactics of fascism, Golden Dawn MP Ilias Panayotaros told Evan Williams that they take inspiration from Hezbollah, which has cannily attracted supporters over the years through the provision of social services.

As Panayotaros explained, "Golden Dawn wants to become and will become like the Hezbollah in Lebanon which in effect is a second government which helps even its poorest citizen and over time Golden Dawn will do more for our fellow citizens."

But that, of course, doesn't tell the full story. It's a pity that Williams did not follow up on the Hezbollah angle, and point out how it is not only a proscribed terrorist organisation in many countries but actually controls the Lebanese government.

Some forms of criticism of Israel can indeed be antisemitic

Some forms of criticism of Israel can indeed be antisemitic Author: Ahron Shapiro Categories: Antisemitism, Israel, Op-eds    

It is incumbent upon world governments to take a leadership role in rejecting antisemitism in their own countries. That is why parliamentarians from around Australia - from Prime Minister Julia Gillard, members of her government, members of the Opposition and now a growing number of lawmakers down to the state level - deserve praise for recently adding their names to the London Declaration on Combating Antisemitism.

The problem with blaming it all on the settlements

The problem with blaming it all on the settlements Author: Or Avi-Guy Categories: Israel, Palestinians, Updates    

US Secretary of State John Kerry had just concluded yet another visit to the Middle East. On his agenda were visits to Oman and Jordan to discuss the horrific Syrian civil war, and day and a half in Israel and Ramallah to continue his ongoing - but still unsuccessful - effort to reignite direct Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations. His plane barely took off before some commentators started putting forward an old but very flawed theme - ‘it is all because of settlements'.

Media Week - One sided conversation

Media Week - One sided conversation Author: Allon Lee Categories: Anti-Zionism, Israel, Media/ Academia, Middle East, Palestinians, Updates    

The Conversation is a website funded by Australian universities and the Federal government for academics and post-grad students to share the fruits of their enquiring minds.

Unfortunately, where the topic of Israel is concerned the Conversation is fast devolving into an outlet for a great deal of slothful, partisan and just plain stupid analysis.

Israeli technology in India

Israeli technology in India Author: Sharyn Mittelman Categories: India, Israel, Updates    

One of Israel's most important economic relationships is with India and this continues to grow, with trade now around US$5 billion annually (excluding defence, which is reportedly very substantial). Furthermore, Jerusalem and New Delhi are currently negotiating a free trade agreement that is expected to lift trade to US$15 billion. But such cooperation is not confined to trade - Israeli technology is also assisting India's development in areas of food supply, clean water and training.

Editorial: 'Start-up Nation' comes to Asia Author: Colin Rubenstein Categories: Asia, Israel    

The welcome mat put out for Netanyahu in Beijing is part of a growing trend across East, South and Southeast Asia. Israel's reputation as the "start-up nation" - a dynamic economy centred on hi-tech, innovation and entrepreneurship - is causing regional leaders to sit up and take notice. And for their part, Israeli leaders - long heavily focused on the US and Europe - are starting to make the Asian region a new priority.  

AIR

Scribblings: Tortured Logic Author: Tzvi Fleischer Categories: Antisemitism, Israel, Palestinians    

Readers of the Australian media will recall several instances of reports highlighting NGO claims that Israel engages in "torture" of Palestinian prisoners. What they will not likely have heard is that there are far more credible allegations of torture on a large scale against Palestinian security forces in both the West Bank and Gaza. Moreover, the worst of the cases on the Palestinian side appear to be genuine torture as most people would understand it - which is not necessarily the case with many of the Israeli cases alleged.

Conflicted Loyalties

Conflicted Loyalties Author: Andrew Friedman Categories: Israel, Syria    

More recently, however, the town has gained notoriety in Israel - some would say the town has become infamous - because of its proximity to the international border with Syria, and to the civil war that has ravaged that country for more than two years. The fighting is clearly audible from Majdal Shams, with the sound of explosions filling the air from the east almost every day.

Russia, China and the Middle East

Russia, China and the Middle East Author: Amotz Asa-El Categories: China, Israel, Russia    

The era of bad feeling that once governed Israel's relations with the eastern superpowers has been over for nearly a quarter-of-a-century.

Having exchanged ambassadors in the aftermath of the Cold War with both Moscow and Beijing, the Jewish State's trade with the two has since grown exponentially, as China became a major client of Israeli technology and Russia a major supplier of Israel's oil.

The Biblio File: Zionism, Peace and Illusion

The Biblio File: Zionism, Peace and Illusion Author: Paul Monk Categories: Israel    

Tyler's preoccupations are those of J Street and the Israeli revisionist historians. He is out to prove a point. Pinto looks at Israel through multiple, often unfamiliar lenses and is rich in humane sympathies. Tyler finds excuses again and again for Arab terrorism, while excoriating Israeli counter-measures "brutal".

Updates

Media Microscope: The Fading X-Factor Author: Allon Lee Categories: Australasia, Israel, Media/ Academia    

And so the Prisoner X story came full circle, with ABC "Foreign Correspondent" reporter Trevor Bormann on May 7 following up on his February 12 expose that Melbourne-born Ben Zygier was Israel's mysterious "Prisoner X".

After the original broadcast, it appeared that Bormann's scoop had been largely superannuated when former Fairfax Middle East correspondent Jason Koutsoukis stepped forward to share his interactions with Zygier in the months leading up to his arrest.

Israeli-Palestinian Peace Proposals, Past and Present

Israeli-Palestinian Peace Proposals, Past and Present Categories: Israel, Palestinians, Updates    

Today's Update features some new revelations concerning an old Israeli-Palestinian peace proposal - the Olmert offer of 2008 - as well as the revised Arab League Peace plan, as brought to Washington by the Qatari Foreign Minister early this month.

First is a scoop offering new details on the 2008 Olmert peace proposal to the Palestinians, with details obtained in part from Olmert himself, as written up by Haaretz's highly-regarded Palestinian affairs reporter Avi Issacharoff  and published in The Tower, a new online magazine.

Asia ahead in courting hi-tech Israel

Asia ahead in courting hi-tech Israel Author: Colin Rubenstein Categories: Asia, Israel, Op-eds    

ISRAELI Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's recent visit to China was revealing. Despite Chinese criticism of alleged Israeli airstrikes on arms shipments in Syria, Beijing arranged a program that strongly hinted it regards Netanyahu as an important visitor.

A vote of confidence in Israel from Warren Buffett

A vote of confidence in Israel from Warren Buffett Author: Or Avi-Guy Categories: Israel, Updates    

Israeli industry has received another vote of confidence, this time from near-legendary American business mogul and philanthropist Warren Buffett, the chairman and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway.

Buffett recently completed the acquisition of the last 20% of the Israeli company Iscar (IMC) for US$2 billion - twice the value of the shares offered during the first stage of the transaction in 2006.

West Bank crossings and checkpoints explained

West Bank crossings and checkpoints explained Author: Sharyn Mittelman Categories: Israel, Palestinians, Updates    

West Bank crossings and checkpoints exist to protect Israeli civilians from terrorist attacks and they have been highly successful in doing so.  However, in recent years as security conditions have improved, Israel has greatly eased security restrictions in the West Bank, removing most checkpoints and streamlining procedures at both the remaining checkpoints and border crossings.

The Israel Defence Force has posted an information page "Reality check: The truth behind crossings in Judea and Samaria", which further explains what checkpoints and crossings are, why they exist, and especially, how they work - including the process for West Bank residents to obtain a permit to enter Israel.

Media Week - A sprinkle of BDS;  Minority report

Media Week - A sprinkle of BDS; Minority report Author: Allon Lee Categories: Anti-Zionism, Israel, Media/ Academia, Middle East, Palestinians, Syria, Terrorism, Updates    

In a bizarre move, the hardcopy edition of the Daily Telegraph failed to run any coverage before or after a BDS protest on April 30 at the University of NSW against a planned Max Brenner outlet set to open on campus in June.

However, in the paper's "They Said It" section (May 1) which highlights quotes of the day, this appeared:

"‘These brigades have committed war crimes against Palestinians in Gaza and are involved in Israel's continual ethnic cleansing of Palestine. Students and staff of conscience demand that the Max Brenner be shut down! We don't want companies that endorse the apartheid state of Israel and it's apartheid practices.' A Facebook page set up by UNSW students opposes a campus chocolate shop."

Red lines and calculated risks for Israel in Syria

Red lines and calculated risks for Israel in Syria Author: Ahron Shapiro Categories: Israel, Syria, Updates    

A pair of apparent Israeli cruise missile strikes on Syrian military targets this month brought with it near-unanimous public criticism from the regime of Bashar Assad, Syrian rebels and opposition groups, and Arab and Islamist countries in the region (although scattered Syrian opposition voices were quietly observed supporting the move).

While both Israeli and Syrian officials were reluctant to discuss details, it appears that, like a previous strike on January 30, these strikes were intended to enforce a red line Israel had laid out to Syria against the transfer of advanced weaponry to Hezbollah - reportedly in this case the highly-accurate Fatah-110 missile, which could pinpoint targets over most of Israel.

ANZAC day in Israel

ANZAC day in Israel Author: Or Avi-Guy Categories: Australasia, Israel, Updates    

The ANZAC Day memorial ceremony at the Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery on Mount Scopus, Jerusalem saw an unusually high turnout last week. The respectful, yet modest, annual commemoration traditionally gathers, and caters to, mostly official Australian and New-Zealand representatives and diplomats from their Embassies, expatriates and the occasional tourist from "Down Under".

Media Week - So near, and yet so far; Justified fears;  Shalom Salam; Justice done; Conspiracy-land; Howe's that

Media Week - So near, and yet so far; Justified fears; Shalom Salam; Justice done; Conspiracy-land; Howe's that Author: Allon Lee Categories: Anti-Zionism, Iran, Islamic Extremism, Israel, Media/ Academia, Middle East, Palestinians    

On Fairfax's "Daily Life" site (April 23) Ruby Hamad, who has previously penned some ill-informed and one-sided pieces on Israel, presented a sober account of the escalating restrictions imposed by Hamas on Gazans.

Unfortunately her explanation for Gaza's economic difficulties was entirely predictable...

Scribblings: Israel's Emotional Rollercoaster Author: Tzvi Fleischer Categories: Israel, Palestinians    

One of the most interesting and original aspects of Israeli national culture has been the coupling of Israel's Independence Day, Yom Haatzmaut, with the memorial day for victims of war and terrorism, Yom Hazikaron. Yom Hazikaron, is the 4th of Iyyar in the Jewish calendar, one day before Yom Haatzmaut, the 5th of Iyyar. These fell on April 15 and April 16, respectively, this year.

AIR
A 65-Year Miracle?

A 65-Year Miracle? Author: Isi Leibler Categories: Israel    

Like a phoenix rising from the ashes, an ingathering of the exiles took place with Jews from all over the globe flocking to find haven in the newly established Jewish state. There, against all odds, they bonded together into a melting pot of Shoah survivors, refugees fleeing persecution in Arab countries, Jews escaping from the underdeveloped societies like Ethiopia, discriminated Jews from the former Soviet Union, and others undergoing oppression - and succeeded in creating one of the most vibrant and resilient societies in the world.

Yair Lapid's Moment of Truth

Yair Lapid's Moment of Truth Author: Amotz Asa-El Categories: Israel    

Experts agree that the Israeli economy, while suffering no major illness, is nonetheless in need of some bitter preventive treatment if it is to avoid serious ailments down the road. At the heart of the situation that Finance Minister Yair Lapid inherited yawns a 4.2%-of-GDP budget deficit, the result of unplanned defence spending in the face of the Iranian threat, as well as expanded social spending following street protests back in 2011.

Israel talks Turkey

Israel talks Turkey Author: Yehonathan Tommer Categories: Israel, Turkey    

During his visit to Israel in March, US President Barack Obama arranged a dramatic telephone call on March 22 between Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Erdogan. Netanyahu spoke of Israel's "regret for certain operational errors" in the commando assault on the Mavi Marmara. Compensation, he said, would be paid to each of the nine families of the victims killed on the flotilla. The two leaders ostensibly undertook to put their acrimonious three-year-old dispute behind them and normalise relations.

The Biblio File: Scholarshipwreck Author: Jeremy Jones Categories: Australasia, Israel, Media/ Academia, Palestinians    

Did you know that "the Israel-Palestine conflict" is "the central factor in Islam-West relations"? Not one of a number of factors, not an element of a larger, multi-faceted engagement, but "the" central factor?

Readers of the latest volume in Australia's "Islamic Studies Series" are presented with this "fact" as an attempt to justify a thin book on "Making Australian Foreign Policy in Israel-Palestine" being published as part of its catalogue.

Updates

Media Microscope: A week of weak coverage Author: Allon Lee Categories: Australasia, Israel, Media/ Academia, Palestinians    

The death of convicted Palestinian terrorist Maysara Abu-Hamdiya from throat cancer in an Israeli jail on April 2 amid Palestinian accusations that he did not receive adequate treatment prompted rocket fire from Gaza and violent demonstrations in the West Bank.

Coverage of these clashes unfortunately followed a familiar pattern of focussing primarily on Palestinian claims against Israel and on Israeli actions against Palestinians.

Margaret and Edith and Immanuel

Margaret and Edith and Immanuel Author: Douglas Davis Categories: Israel, United Kingdom    

Transcending sentiment and pragmatic impulses was Thatcher's hard-nosed perception that the qualities of the Jewish community coincided precisely with her own aspirational vision for Britain: self-help and hard work, ambition and endeavour, enterprise, personal responsibility and social justice.

A sixty-five year miracle?

A sixty-five year miracle? Author: Sharyn Mittelman Categories: Israel, Updates    

Today, Israel celebrates the 65th anniversary of its independence (Yom Haatzmaut).

On 14 May 1948, the day in which the British Mandate over Palestine expired, the Jewish People's Council gathered at the Tel Aviv Museum, and David Ben Gurion who became Israel's first Prime Minister, read out the State of Israel's Declaration of Independence.

On that day, the Jewish ‘hope' to be a free people in their ancient homeland became a reality - recalling the famous words of Theodore Herzl, considered the father of modern political Zionism, who said, "If you will it, it is no dream."


Baroness Margaret Thatcher, Israel and the Jewish people


Baroness Margaret Thatcher, Israel and the Jewish people Author: Talia Katz Categories: International Jewry, Israel, United Kingdom, Updates    

Thatcher's reputation as the "Iron Lady" reflected her self-proclaimed status as a conviction politician, and this is echoed in the eulogies delivered following her death. Though her legacy has divided opinion, when it came to Israel and the Jewish people, she is remembered for her strong, supportive and effective foreign policy credentials, and her dedication to fighting antisemitism in all its guises.

As a member of Parliament, representing a large Jewish constituency, and as Britain's longest serving PM in over a hundred years, Thatcher was widely recognised as both a true friend and strong ally to the Jewish people and to the State of Israel.

Another unsuccessful round of Iran talks/ Israel gets gas

Another unsuccessful round of Iran talks/ Israel gets gas Categories: International Security, Iran, Israel, Updates    

The latest round of talks over Iran's nuclear program ended on the weekend with a meeting in Almaty, Kazakhistan, which concluded with little substantive progress and no agreement even about when talks might resume. Moreover, despite Iranian claims to have presented an offer in the latest talks, participants say it was actually, "some interesting, but not fully explained, general comments on our ideas" and an "apparent return to debating modalities for negotiations " rather than any substantive proposal. Iran then followed up the end of the talks by announcing the opening of two new uranium mines and a yellowcake (uranium oxide) factory. This Update deals with the talks and the current state of the Iranian nuclear crisis. 

Media Week - No experience necessary?; Flotilla details sink; McGeough shrugs; Doubting Thomas; One among the pack; Relationships advice

Media Week - No experience necessary?; Flotilla details sink; McGeough shrugs; Doubting Thomas; One among the pack; Relationships advice Author: Allon Lee Categories: Anti-Zionism, Israel, Media/ Academia, Palestinians, Turkey, Updates    

Ahead of PM Julia Gillard's cabinet reshuffle Michael Danby's name was touted in the Age and Sydney Morning Herald (March 25) as a potential foreign affairs parliamentary secretary (in the end he got the gig for the Arts instead).

Danby of course has excellent foreign policy credentials...Unfortunately, unlike the five other MPs profiled whose professional experience was touched upon, Danby's only qualification appears to be that he is a "staunch supporter of Israel", according to the Fairfax papers.

Obama, Israel and the "Jewish Lobby"

Obama, Israel and the "Jewish Lobby" Author: Talia Katz Categories: America, Antisemitism, Israel, Updates    

Barack Obama's first visit to Israel as President last month has been widely analysed in the context of the Israel-Palestinian peace process and in terms of other regional security concerns, with a particular focus on the sometimes rocky relationship he shares with Israeli PM Benyamin Netanyahu. However, both Obama and some of Australia's less-informed commentators chose to emphasise what the visit tells us about the overall Israel-US relationship, above and beyond any personal issues between individuals. 

But despite the President's eloquence, some media commentators and pundits outdid themselves in attempting to use the visit to push the ugly but increasing well-worn argument that it is only because of the undue and often insidious impact of the "Israel Lobby" (or more crudely the "Jewish Lobby") that the US has the policy positions that it does on Israel, and the US-Israel alliance endures. Some go as far as to suggest that Israel somehow has direct control over the American government.

Change drives Israel coalition

Change drives Israel coalition Author: Or Avi-Guy Categories: America, Israel, Op-eds    

The new Israeli coalition government - sworn in after weeks of negotiations only two days before the US President' arrival - was indeed an achievement, and one the President should be able to appreciate. Just as Obama was elected on a platform of "hope and change" an appropriate way to describe the new Israeli coalition would be as "the coalition for change".

Editorial: This Year in Jerusalem Author: Colin Rubenstein Categories: America, Israel    

US President Barack Obama's first visit to Israel as President will be remembered for many highlights, but none perhaps more important to the Jewish people than one simple paragraph he delivered in his remarks upon his arrival.

"I know that in stepping foot on this land, I walk with you on the historic homeland of the Jewish people," the President said. "More than 3,000 years ago, the Jewish people lived here, tended the land here, prayed to God here. And after centuries of exile and persecution, unparalleled in the history of man, the founding of the Jewish State of Israel was... a redemption unlike any in history."

Scribblings: Time to retire the "Demographic Threat" Author: Tzvi Fleischer Categories: Anti-Zionism, Israel, Palestinians    

Many well-meaning pundits and politicians seem to base their whole approach to the Middle East peace process on a single "fact" - namely, that if a two-state solution is not reached soon then "Arabs living under Israeli control" will outnumber Jews, thus either destroying Israel's democratic character or else turning it into a majority Arab state.

Guess what? This "fact" - postulating an imminent "demographic threat" to Israel and a two-state outcome - is simply wrong...

Europa Europa: Riding the Tiger Author: Douglas Davis Categories: Europe, Israel, Terrorism    

Did the leaders of the European Union rise up in their wrath to condemn Hezbollah for taking - and plotting to take - Israeli lives on European territory? Did they, like the United States and others, declare Hezbollah to be an illegal terrorist organisation? Like hell they did.

AIR
Bibi's Third Government

Bibi's Third Government Author: Amotz Asa-El Categories: Israel    

It took six weeks to hatch, and it is probably not quite the baby Binyamin Netanyahu had in mind when he called January's early election. Yet the coalition with which he is embarking on his third premiership - sworn in on March 18 - looks likely to prove the most reformist.

The Case for Peace Process Optimism

The Case for Peace Process Optimism Author: Steven Rosen Categories: America, Israel, Palestinians    

I think the world is headed towards a surprise. I think the United States and Israel are converging on a fresh initiative towards the Palestinians. I don't think this is merely being imposed on Netanyahu from the outside - I think this is what he wants.

Essay: A Lapse into Seriousness

Essay: A Lapse into Seriousness Author: Daniel Meyerowitz-Katz Categories: Israel, Palestinians, United Nations    

Few outside of certain circles would be aware that a draft of the report by the UN's Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (‘OHCHR') to the UN Human Rights Council (‘HRC') on last year's Gaza conflict was released in March.

Any report that the HRC releases on Israel should immediately arouse suspicion - it is not without reason that Israel is currently refusing to participate in any of the HRC's functions.

Media Microscope: Intelligence Scared Author: Allon Lee Categories: Australasia, Israel, Media/ Academia    

The tragic death of Australian-Israeli citizen Ben Zygier continued to play out in the media long past the initial revelations on February 14, and much coverage contained speculation on whether Australian Jews could feel warmly toward Israel and remain loyal to Australia.

Updates
The Last Word: A Fantasy Visit to Israel

The Last Word: A Fantasy Visit to Israel Author: Gil Troy Categories: America, Israel    

"I'd love to sit at a cafe and just hang out," President Barack Obama told Israel's Channel 2 on March 14. Obama confessed: "Sometimes I have this fantasy that I can put on a disguise and wear a fake mustache." He mused about wandering Tel Aviv and meeting university students casually. In that spirit, I offer an alternative itinerary for his recent Israel trip.

Evaluating President Obama's Israel visit

Evaluating President Obama's Israel visit Categories: America, Israel, Updates    

US President Obama ended his visit to Israel and the Palestinian terrorities on Friday, going on to Jordan and then returning home.

His major statements in Israel were his speech on arrival, his media conference with Israeli PM Netanyahu, his media conference with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, and his major speech to Israeli students in Jerusalem Thursday night (video is available here). All are worth reading in their entirety, if you have the time. For those who don't, AIJAC analyst Sharyn Mittelman offered a preliminary evaluation on Friday, while this Update is devoted to further evaluations of their cumulative effect, along with President Obama's other major stops in Israel and the West Bank.

Media Week - One-Way Traffic

Media Week - One-Way Traffic Author: Allon Lee Categories: Israel, Media/ Academia, Middle East, Palestinians, United Nations, Updates    

It is one of the seminal images that appeared over and over again in the early stages of last November's Second Gaza-Israel war. 
 
Distraught Palestinian father Jihad Masharawi, holding the dead body of his 11-month-old son, Omar, who was reported to have been the victim of an Israeli rocket hitting the family home.
 
Except on March 6 2013, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights announced that its investigation into the circumstances of Omar's death suggests he was most likely a victim of a rocket fired by Hamas or one of its affiliates that fell short.
 
So, yes, in a very real sense, Omar was a symbol - a tragic victim of the callous indifference of the so-called Palestinian resistance movement that is based in, and operates from, built up civilian areas in Gaza.

Obama wins hearts and minds in Israel

Obama wins hearts and minds in Israel Author: Sharyn Mittelman Categories: America, Iran, Israel, Palestinians, Updates    

US President Barack Obama's trip to Israel and the Palestinian Territories has been vitally important - and apparently highly successful. In only three short days Obama seems to have been able to address core issues that appeared to be straining the US-Israel relationship and press ‘reset'.

Obama will have to drive parties hard to achieve progress

Obama will have to drive parties hard to achieve progress Author: Colin Rubenstein Categories: America, Israel, Op-eds    

Obama will find many fresh faces in [Netanyahu's] government - and also some new opportunities to push forward towards peace with all of Israel's neighbours, especially the Palestinians. He will also find a government likely very concerned about pressing regional issues - especially the Iranian nuclear threat and the Syrian civil war - but also one interested in achieving the maximum policy co-ordination possible with Washington on these issues.

The new Israeli coalition in a nutshell

The new Israeli coalition in a nutshell Author: Talia Katz Categories: America, Israel, Palestinians, Updates    

After six weeks of haggling, Israel's thirty-third Knesset was reported on Wednesday to include 22 cabinet ministers (down from 30 in the previous cabinet) and several deputy ministers from the 68-strong coalition of Likud-Beiteinu, Yesh Atid (There is a Future), HaBait Yehudit (The Jewish Home) and HaTnua (The Movement) The new government is due to be sworn in on Monday, and there are already signs that its agenda will be administered with pragmatism.

Media Week - Friendly advice; Immoral equivalence

Media Week - Friendly advice; Immoral equivalence Author: Allon Lee Categories: Anti-Zionism, Israel, Media/ Academia, Palestinians, Updates    

When Australia's federal government decided to abstain and not oppose a UN vote to upgrade Palestinian representation, Foreign Minister Bob Carr justified the move explaining how "a good friend will share with his friend reservations about that friend's behaviour".

It would be interesting to know if Carr feels similarly after reading the Australian foreign editor Greg Sheridan's very public and eye watering critique of his and predecessor Kevin Rudd's attempts "to put more distance between Australia and Israel" (March 9).

The take down was even more startling given Sheridan's acknowledgement that he is broadly admiring of both Carr and Rudd in most respects.

 Israel offers positive water policy example to the region - the Palestinians, sadly, offer the opposite

Israel offers positive water policy example to the region - the Palestinians, sadly, offer the opposite Author: Or Avi-Guy Categories: Israel, Jordan, Palestinians, Updates    

Through resource management, innovation and planning, the Israeli water authorities ... have now beaten the intense drought which has gripped the country for several years. Now, the Israeli example stands ready to help others in the region to do the same. Unfortunately, not everyone is ready to take advantage of this opportunity.

AIR
AIPAC: Looking for signs regarding the Obama Administration's second term agenda

AIPAC: Looking for signs regarding the Obama Administration's second term agenda Author: Sharyn Mittelman Categories: America, Iran, Israel, Updates    

This year's annual AIPAC Policy Conference attracted more than 13,000 delegates, and heard from an array of speakers including Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu (via satellite), Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak, US Vice President Joe Biden, Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird, US House Leader Eric Cantor (R) and US Senator John McCain (R).

A this year's conference observers attempted to gauge the Obama Administration's possible policies and preferences for the next four years - regarding US-Israel relations, efforts to advance the two state solution, the so-called "Arab Spring", and particularly regarding Iran's nuclear program

Myth and reality regarding US-Israel relations

Myth and reality regarding US-Israel relations Author: Talia Katz Categories: America, Israel, Updates    

The controversy stirred up during the confirmation hearing of US Senator Chuck Hagel, now appointed Secretary of Defense on Feb. 26, has once again opened debate on the relationship between the US and Israel. More to the point, it has prompted detractors to call into question the role of the "Israel Lobby", and push their claim that this lobby is somehow forcing the US to act against its own interests by maintaining close cooperation with Israel.

Jewish disloyalty: The myth that just won't die

Jewish disloyalty: The myth that just won't die Author: Daniel Meyerowitz-Katz Categories: Australasia, Immigration/ Multiculturalism, Israel, Op-eds    

Public debate in Australia has taken on a dark and worrying tone over the past few weeks. Recent revelations about the disturbing circumstances surrounding the death of Australian-Israeli Ben Zygier raised a spectre of racial hatred that most Jewish-Australians had hoped would have been left behind in the middle of the last century.

Updates
How the Turkish Prime Minister condemned himself by calling Zionism a ‘crime against humanity’

How the Turkish Prime Minister condemned himself by calling Zionism a ‘crime against humanity’ Author: Sharyn Mittelman Categories: Israel, Turkey, United Nations, Updates    

Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan on March 1 offensively equated Zionism to racism and fascism at the "Fifth Alliance of Civilizations Forum" in Vienna. During the forum, Erdoğan reportedly stated: "Just like Zionism, anti-Semitism and fascism, it becomes unavoidable that Islamophobia must be regarded as a crime against humanity."

Erdogan's decision to refer to Zionism, which is the foundation of the Jewish state and the movement of Jewish self-determination, as a "crime against humanity" is inflammatory, wrong and dangerous.

West Bank Unrest

West Bank Unrest Categories: Israel, Palestinians, Updates    

This Update features three pieces providing background to the growing - though still limited - West Bank demonstrations. While presented by Australian media as primarily the result of the death in Israeli custody of Arafat Jaradat on Saturday, and Palestinian claims he was tortured, this ignores the fact that demonstrations were already escalating last week, amid PA calls for the release of prisoners and threats of a new "Intifada". As all three of the pieces in this Update make clear, the death of Arafat Jaradat has simply become the latest justification for a campaign of demonstrations already being encouraged by the Palestinian Authority.

Scribblings: HRW - No Facts Required

Scribblings: HRW - No Facts Required Author: Tzvi Fleischer Categories: Australasia, Israel, Middle East    

There is a great deal we don't know or that is pure speculation about the tragic story of Ben Zygier/Prisoner X.

But here is one thing we absolutely do know about this saga - the NGO Human Rights Watch again demonstrated that it does not need any confirmed facts whatsoever to condemn Israel.

The original ABC-TV "Foreign Correspondent" story on Feb. 12 which revealed Ben Zygier as the alleged Prisoner X quoted Bill van Esveld of Human Rights Watch extensively.

AIR New Zealand: Israel votes, NZ Watches

AIR New Zealand: Israel votes, NZ Watches Author: Miriam Bell Categories: Australasia, Israel    

Jumping to hasty assessments can often be a mistake but, sometimes, looking further into those same assessments can lead to interesting discoveries. When first asked to write a column about coverage of the recent Israeli elections in New Zealand I said, without too much thought, "there wasn't much". Yet my research on the topic very quickly showed that assumption was, in fact, not correct.

A Pilgrim's Progress

A Pilgrim's Progress Author: Amotz Asa-El Categories: America, Israel, Middle East    

Judging by his first State of the Union address since his reelection, US President Barack Obama will focus in his second term on domestic issues - from the deficit, defence spending, and neglected bridges to the minimum wage, gun control and trade relations.

After all this, there was very little time left in his speech for foreign affairs. Israel was only mentioned once and the Palestinians were not mentioned at all. Then again, several days earlier the White House had announced that Obama would be arriving in Israel on March 20 for a three-day visit that will include a sortie to Ramallah, and be followed by a visit to Jordan.

Nothing Personal: The US-Israeli relationship

Nothing Personal: The US-Israeli relationship Author: Andrew Friedman Categories: America, International Security, Israel    

AIR correspondent Andrew Friedman caught up with Professor Eytan Gilboa, Director of the School of Communications at the Begin-Sadat (BESA) Centre for Strategic Studies at Bar-Ilan University and an expert on US-Israel relations, for an exclusive briefing about the presidential visit, the state of US-Israel ties and how these relate to general US policy in the Middle East.

The Attraction of Yair Lapid

The Attraction of Yair Lapid Author: Yossi Klein Halevi Categories: Israel    

When Yair Lapid's father, the well-known journalist and politician Tommy Lapid, was on his deathbed, he said to his son: "I'm leaving you the State of Israel."

Tommy, a Holocaust survivor, meant that metaphorically; the generation of survivors was entrusting the gift of a Jewish state to its children. But with the rise of Yair Lapid, head of Yesh Atid ("There is a Future"), which emerged from nowhere to become Israel's second-largest party in the election of Jan. 22, Yair's "inheritance" could become literal. More than any other politician aside from Prime Minister Netanyahu himself, Yair may now determine the next phase of Israeli politics.

Myths and Facts about "Prisoner X"

Myths and Facts about "Prisoner X" Author: Isi Leibler Categories: Australasia, Israel    

As a former head of the Australian Jewish community and now resident in Israel, I was bombarded with endless calls from the Israeli and global media soliciting comment on Ben Zygier, the Australian who committed suicide while in solitary confinement in an Israeli prison.

Essay: Peace Studies War

Essay: Peace Studies War Author: Greg Rose Categories: Anti-Zionism, Antisemitism, Israel    

What is an academic and cultural boycott of Israel intended to achieve? The purported reason for launching a universal boycott of Israeli academics is their country's alleged breaches of international law. Supposedly, the smarting academics will help turn around Israeli policy... Of course, those Israeli academics who are smarting will tend to do the opposite, to fight back like the rest of us when pushed against the wall. The academic boycott will never be effective in its supposed objective of changing Israeli policies.

The death of Ben Zygier - Excerpts of the report issued by the investigating magistrate

The death of Ben Zygier - Excerpts of the report issued by the investigating magistrate Author: Or Avi-Guy Categories: Israel, Updates    

Readers following the extensive media coverage of the case of Australian-Israeli man Ben Zygier - who died in an Israeli prison in 2010 - will be aware that last week the Israeli courts allowed the publication of a redacted version of the report issued by the Rishon Lezion Magistrates court following the hearings held to investigate Zygier's death. Here is a verbatim translation of key excerpts from the report.

Israel's Oscar nominees tell us something about Israeli society

Israel's Oscar nominees tell us something about Israeli society Author: Or Avi-Guy Categories: Israel, Updates    

There are two Israeli films among the nominees for the 2013 Academy Award for best Documentary; Dror Moreh's "The Gatekeepers" and Emad Burnat and Guy Davidi's "5 Broken Cameras".

There is more to this story than the success of a small and modestly-resourced Israeli film industry, and that is its role in the public discourse about Israel and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and how this role reflects the pluralistic nature of Israeli society, and its democratic institutions.

Obama trip to focus on Iran/Syria

Obama trip to focus on Iran/Syria Author: Colin Rubenstein Categories: America, International Security, Iran, Israel, Op-eds, Syria    

North Korea's latest nuclear test has again brought into focus the growing urgency of stopping the nuclear weapons program of another country on the road to nuclear weapons capability - Iran. The rapidly closing window of opportunity to either persuade Iran to change course or, if all else fails, disable its nuclear facilities by force, is the backdrop for US President Barack Obama's visit to Israel next month.

AIR

Israel's official statement on "Prisoner X" Categories: Australasia, Israel, Updates    

AIJAC has obviously been following closely the reporting and speculation - both in Australia and Israel - concerning the case of "Prisoner X" who died in 2010 in an Israeli prison, and is alleged to have been Melbourne-born Australian-Israeli dual citizen Ben Zygier.

While we can add little to what is already in the media, and have no wish to further burden the bereaved Zygier family, below in full is the translation prepared by Haaretz of the Israeli government statement on Prisoner X released on Wednesday, which has not yet been published here, and we believe sheds some light on aspects of the case which have not gotten sufficient attention.

Egypt's chaos/ West Bank realities

Egypt's chaos/ West Bank realities Categories: Egypt, Israel, Palestinians, Updates    

This Update features two pieces related to the increasing street violence in Egypt, and the Muslim Brotherhood-led government's response to it, plus an important piece on the sad reality behind the Palestinian Authority's state building efforts in the West Bank, led by Prime Minister Salam Fayyad.

 Off Sides: What media stories about the Beitar Jerusalem controversy miss about Israeli soccer

Off Sides: What media stories about the Beitar Jerusalem controversy miss about Israeli soccer Author: Or Avi-Guy Categories: Israel, Updates    

Lately, racism in soccer made headlines after a decision by the management of the Israeli soccer club Beitar Jerusalem to introduce two new players to the team, both Chechen Muslims. Some stories in the Australian media implied that Beitar Jerusalem is a racist club and that somehow this reflects racism in Israeli society at large. This kind of commentary shows a poor understanding of Beitar Jerusalem fans and the club's history, and misrepresents both Israeli soccer history and Israeli society.

Palestinian Activist: Gaza's real problem is too much high quality food

Palestinian Activist: Gaza's real problem is too much high quality food Author: Talia Katz Categories: Israel, Palestinians, Updates    

Gaza is under siege and Gazans are struggling to get in basic items to feed their families, right? You might think so if you follow most of the coverage and comment and you see on the Gaza situation, but it is actually far from the reality. Don't take my word for it - read the Al-Monitor article by Rana Baker, who lives and studies in Gaza and writes for the vehemently and violently anti-Israel website Electronic Intifada.

Updates
Turkel Report  II - Israel earns praise from Australian expert for inquiry into international law obligations

Turkel Report II - Israel earns praise from Australian expert for inquiry into international law obligations Author: Sharyn Mittelman Categories: Israel, Updates    

Around two weeks after the May 31, 2010 flotilla incident aboard the Mavi Marmara, when Israel's enforcement of its naval blockade on the coast of the Gaza Strip led to the deaths of nine Turkish activists, Israel established an independent public commission of inquiry to examine whether it complied with its obligations under international law. This was known as the Turkel Commission, after Jacob Turkel, the retired judge who served as its Chairman.

On Feb. 6, Israel received the Second Report of the Turkel Commission evaluating the manner in which Israel examines and investigates allegations that it has violated the laws of armed conflict. This report is also intended to be proactive - looking at ways to improve Israel's future ability to handle allegations about violations of the laws of war.

Israel's crop of fresh political faces

Israel's crop of fresh political faces Author: Or Avi-Guy Categories: Israel, Updates    

This past Tuesday, February 5, the 19th Knesset, Israel's parliament, convened for its inaugural session in Jerusalem, and all 120 members pledged their allegiance to the State. The composition of the new Knesset can reveal, and for some affirm, a change in priorities in the national agenda among the Israeli public.

Media Week - Sensible on Syria; Lazy lines; Neither doom nor gloom

Media Week - Sensible on Syria; Lazy lines; Neither doom nor gloom Author: Allon Lee Categories: Anti-Zionism, Israel, Media/ Academia, Palestinians, Updates    

Israel's attack on a Syrian weapons convoy generated considerable interest on ABC Radio.

Radio National's "Breakfast" (1/2) spoke to Ehud Yaari via telephone in Israel.

Yaari told Fran Kelly that Israel attacked a convoy carrying weapons that would give Hezbollah capabilities such as the "Yakhont coast-to-sea missiles that could threaten, for example, the Israeli gas exploration in the eastern Mediterranean."

He also said that the Assad regime accused anti-government Islamist rebels in Syria of co-responsibility for the Israeli attack, "a collusion, which does not exist, of course."

Mr. Obama goes to Jerusalem

Mr. Obama goes to Jerusalem Categories: America, Israel, Updates    

US President Barack Obama has now announced that he will be visiting Israel in March, after coming under some criticism for failing to do so during his first term in office. Details on the visit and what US officials hope will accomplish are reported here. (It is worth noting the White House has been clear that a new peace plan is not part of their agenda.) This Update looks at some of the issues likely be raised during the Presidential visit, or to affect it.

Burgas findings reveal Australian involved and puts EU under pressure to ban Hezbollah

Burgas findings reveal Australian involved and puts EU under pressure to ban Hezbollah Author: Sharyn Mittelman Categories: Australasia, Europe, Israel, Terrorism, Updates    

Following Bulgaria's findings that Hezbollah was involved in the 18 July 2012 terrorist attack in Burgas that killed six people - five Israeli tourists and a local Bulgarian bus driver, the European Union (EU) is now under increasing pressure to list Hezbollah as a terrorist organisation.

Providing an update on its findings into the investigation of the bus bombing, Bulgarian Interior Minister Tsvetan Tsvetanov said: "There is data showing the financing and connection between Hezbollah and the two suspects..." and that "the two suspects with Canadian and Australian passports had been living in Lebanon, one since 2006 and the other since 2010."

Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei's mission "To set Israel on fire"

Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei's mission "To set Israel on fire" Author: Talia Katz Categories: Australasia, Iran, Islamic Extremism, Israel, Media/ Academia, Updates    

The principle argument being made by opponents of strong action against Iran's nuclear program is that Iran is a "rational" actor, whose regime values survival above all else and a nuclear Iran can be contained just as the Soviet Union was during the Cold War.

Now a new report offers yet more evidence to doubt whether Iran's "rationality" is so obvious and assured. And the report concerns not the loud-mouthed Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, but the man everyone agrees has ultimate control over Iran's nuclear program, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Israel refuses to participate in UN "human rights" farce

Israel refuses to participate in UN "human rights" farce Author: Daniel Meyerowitz-Katz Categories: Iran, Israel, Libya, Syria, United Nations, Updates    

Israel has been making headlines recently for its failure to show-up to its "Universal Periodic Review" ("UPR") session at the United Nations Human Rights Council ("HRC") and for refusing to cooperate with a recent "fact-finding mission" into settlements in the West Bank. ...

Sadly, it appears that the reforms to the UN Human Rights Commission and its re-branding as the "Human Rights Council" have had little effect...

Briefing on the Problematic UN Human Rights Council Report on Israeli Settlements

Briefing on the Problematic UN Human Rights Council Report on Israeli Settlements Author: Daniel Meyerowitz-Katz Categories: Israel, United Nations, Updates    

Earlier today, this blog noted that Israel has been boycotting the United Nations Human Rights Council due to the Council's habitual singling-out of Israel for unfair, unwarranted, and utterly biased criticism.

A report on settlements in the West Bank, the commission of which spurred Israel's decision to cease cooperation with the Council, has just been released. Sadly, the Report entirely vindicates Israel's position on the matter.

Below is an itemised critique of the Report, highlighting numerous examples of errors and misinformation...

Media Week - Inane Faine; Spot the difference; Out of sync

Media Week - Inane Faine; Spot the difference; Out of sync Author: Allon Lee Categories: Israel, Media/ Academia, Middle East, Palestinians, Updates    

ABC Radio's Melbourne host Jon Faine (23/1) should hang his head in shame for his line of questioning to Prime Minister Julia Gillard on the results of the Israeli election.

Even though the evidence showed the opposite, Faine claimed that "the Coalition likely to be elected in the new Knesset in Israel looks like it is going to oppose the peace process."

Egypt's Islamist Spring/More UN hypocrisy

Egypt's Islamist Spring/More UN hypocrisy Categories: Egypt, Islamic Extremism, Israel, United Nations, Updates    

Two years after the Arab Spring erupted in the Middle East, sweeping away long standing governments and leaders, the biggest winners are unquestionably the Islamists, particularly in Egypt. Today's Update considers the strategic outlook. To the north of Israel, Syria is roiling in the blood of 60,000 dead as the Assad regime and Islamist rebels clash. To the south of Israel, Egypt’s streets are once more filling up with protesters as the Muslim Brotherhood boldly exposes its antisemitic and anti-democratic colours at breakneck speed, while its offshoot in Gaza is approaching its sixth year of rule.

Israeli elections: the doomsday merchants proven wrong

Israeli elections: the doomsday merchants proven wrong Author: Or Avi-Guy Categories: Israel, Op-eds    

The dust is settling after the election in Israel, and the efforts to establish a stable coalition are well underway. Prior to the election, concerns were raised in the global media and the blogosphere, about the rise of the so-called ultra-nationalist religious right in Israeli politics.

Doomsday-esque predictions about a right wing coalition dominated by the ruling party Likud-Beitenu along with Ha-Bayit Ha-Yehudi (the Jewish Home) and the ultra-Orthodox parties prematurely eulogised the two-state solution, warning against settlement expansion and supposed Israeli reluctance to negotiate.

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Netanyahu needs friends for action

Netanyahu needs friends for action Author: Colin Rubenstein Categories: Israel, Op-eds    

This week's election in Israel has produced a legislature with broad ethnic, gender and ideological diversity, demonstrating yet again the strength and vitality of the Middle East's first genuine democracy.

Under its proportional representation system, no party in Israeli history has ever received enough seats in the 120-member Knesset (Parliament) to govern on its own and negotiations have commenced to determine the make-up of the coalition government.

After Israel’'s elections, –where to now?

After Israel’'s elections, –where to now? Categories: Israel, Updates    

With all the ballots counted and the horse-trading beginning to see which parties will join what will almost certainly be a Netanyahu-led governing coalition, today’'s update looks at what it means for the moribund peace process.

First up, Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz reveals his initiative last December to convince Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to restart peace talks.

Editorial: After the Ballot, the Hard Part Author: Colin Rubenstein Categories: Australasia, Israel, Palestinians    

The ballots have been counted for Israel's 19th Knesset, and Israelis have demonstrated once again why the Middle East's first genuine democracy is still the most mature and successful - a country where every citizen, regardless of gender, ethnicity, religion or political persuasion has an equal opportunity to decide the nation's future.

Updates
Scribblings: The "Intimidation" Implication

Scribblings: The "Intimidation" Implication Author: Tzvi Fleischer Categories: America, Israel    

One of the issues that has been raised in the US controversy over the nomination of former Senator Chuck Hagel as US Defence Secretary is some comments he made in an interview in 2006 that "the Jewish lobby intimidates a lot of people up here [in Washington]."

Now in fact, the opposition to Hagel's appointment is related to many more issues than his stances on either Israel or the so-called "Jewish Lobby" - not that you'd know it from most of the coverage of the controversy in Australia. Other sources of opposition include the general disdain and dislike for Hagel among most of his former Republican colleagues, a preference of many Democrats for a Democrat to get the job, remarks about gays which have led to accusations of homophobia, complaints about his temperament, conservative views on abortion, and a generally idiosyncratic approach to most foreign policy issues, including his consistent past opposition to even sanctions on Iran.

Bibi's Coalition Calculations

Bibi's Coalition Calculations Author: David Makovsky Categories: Israel    

Anyone who was expecting to know the agenda of Israel's new government on the morning of January 23 was likely to be sorely disappointed, and not only because it will likely take weeks before we know the Knesset's exact composition. Few overarching debates on policy have materialised during this election campaign. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu did not seem to be seeking any new mandate for action, despite being widely expected to win in most surveys with his right-of-centre bloc retaining 65 of 120 seats, a slight drop from previous polls. It is curious that an incumbent, who understands the rough and tumble of policy fights, is not seeking a public mandate for specific policies.

The Appeal of Naftali Bennett

The Appeal of Naftali Bennett Author: Andrew Friedman Categories: Israel    

In many ways, Naftali Bennett is a study in contrasts. He is an unapologetic supporter of Israel's right to settle the open spaces of Judea and Samaria, but he makes his home in Ra'anana, a leafy, upscale town just north of Tel Aviv. He believes Israel should annex Area C, the section of the territories that is home to nearly all Israelis who live over the Green Line, but he also says Israelis must take care not to settle on privately owned Palestinian land. Officially, he is the chairman of an Orthodox party, but his election list features an attractive secular woman. He is a hi-tech millionaire, but he believes fervently that the country must do more so that middle class Israelis can make ends meet at the end of the month.

The Sinai Powderkeg

The Sinai Powderkeg Author: Ehud Yaari Categories: Egypt, Israel    

Egypt is the country that counts [in the Middle East]. I lived for years in Egypt but I cannot tell you - and the same goes for my friends in Egypt and I have many - whether Mr. Morsi, the President, sees himself as the ‘Mr. Morsi elected to be President' or as the errand boy of the Muslim Brotherhood. My inclination so far is to suspect that he has been tamed by the Muslim Brotherhood movement. When you look at the room allocation in the Presidential Palace in northern Cairo you will see that next door to the President are the rooms allocated for the old party thugs of the Muslim Brotherhood. I'm not sure the President is calling the shots.

Making sense of Israel's election results

Making sense of Israel's election results Author: Talia Katz Categories: Israel, Updates    

Contrary to predictions prior to the election by many that Israeli politics is increasingly right-wing, with 99 per cent of the vote already counted the Knesset's character is looking decidedly centrist, with an almost even split predicted in early television exit polling.

The Decline of the Generals

The Decline of the Generals Author: Amotz Asa-El Categories: Israel    

For more than half a century, retired generals have checkered Israel's political scene, and at certain critical junctures even dominated it and shaped the country's course.

Fifty-five years after newly retired Chief-of-Staff Moshe Dayan was appointed as Minister for Agriculture, the trend may be finally drawing to a close.

AIJAC comments on Carr/Hague AUKMIN 2013 Communique

AIJAC comments on Carr/Hague AUKMIN 2013 Communique Author: Colin Rubenstein Categories: Australasia, Israel, Media Releases, Middle East, Palestinians, United Kingdom, Updates    

On Friday January 18 at the close of the Australia-UK Ministerial Consultations (AUKMIN) conference in Perth, Foreign Minister the Hon Senator Bob Carr and UK Foreign Secretary William Hague released a joint statement on the Middle East peace process, condemning Israel's settlements as "illegal under international law".

AIJAC released the following media statement to the press in response on Friday 18 January.

Right turn for Israel?/ An Insider on Iran's nuclear plans

Right turn for Israel?/ An Insider on Iran's nuclear plans Categories: Iran, Israel, Updates    

The theme of most Australian media coverage of the Israeli election taking place tonight, Australia time, is that Israel seems to be shifting towards the right. This Update contains two attempts to challenge this conventional wisdom - as well as a unique eyewitness report from an Iranian regime insider about Iran's nuclear plans.

Insights into the Israeli election campaign

Insights into the Israeli election campaign Categories: Israel, Updates    

Today's Update features three articles on aspects of the Israeli election campaign - and especially devoted to correcting some myths about the campaign and its likely outcome.

First up is Barry Rubin, commenting on some strange features of the election campaign, but also the exaggerated claims being made about Israel moving toward the right. He notes that current PM Binyamin Netanyahu's opponents appear to be doing a poor job of challenging him, relying too much on American political consultants, fighting amongst themselves, and boxing themselves into a corner by ruling out involvement in a Netanyahu coalition.

‘Undecided' voters key to the Knesset

‘Undecided' voters key to the Knesset Author: Ahron Shapiro Categories: Israel, Op-eds    

Predicting the outcome of Israeli elections is always tricky, but especially this year, as we witness a late surge by charismatic businessman Naftali Bennett's Jewish Home party, which is drawing some support away from Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's Likud Beitenu list.

Meanwhile, the strength of Centre-left and Left-wing parties has been obscured by the large number of undecided voters - almost one in three, according to a recent poll.

 

Video: Ehud Yaari Q & A

Video: Ehud Yaari Q & A Categories: Iran, Israel, Multimedia    

Ehud Yaari, addressed an Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council (AIJAC) luncheon in Melbourne on Monday 14 January 2013. This is the Q & A session following his main address on Israeli and Middle East issues.

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Video: Ehud Yaari on Israel and the Middle East

Video: Ehud Yaari on Israel and the Middle East Categories: Egypt, Iran, Israel, Multimedia, Palestinians, Syria    

Ehud Yaari addressed an AIJAC luncheon on Monday 14 January 2013 on the following topics:

  • Australia and Israel, including Woodside's successful bid for developing Israel's gas reserves
  • Israel's elections
  • Egypt and challenges for the region
  • Syria
  • Israel, the Palestinians and the Two-State outcome
  • Iran's march towards nuclear weapons capability and American and Israeli strategy

Media Week - Half-cocked; Nuclear handwringing; Off key; The value of values

Media Week - Half-cocked; Nuclear handwringing; Off key; The value of values Author: Allon Lee Categories: America, Anti-Zionism, Iran, Israel, Media/ Academia, Updates    

In the Sun-Herald (30/12), Paul McGeough penned a long article devoted to offensively comparing pro-Israel voices concerned over President Barack Obama's possible nomination of former Republican Senator Chuck Hagel as his next Defence-Secretary to those Americans who defend their right to own guns in the aftermath of the Sandy Hook school massacre.

Settlements - International Law and the physical and political realities

Settlements - International Law and the physical and political realities Categories: Israel, Palestinians, Updates    

This Update features some information and argument related to the always contentious issue of Israeli West Bank settlements.

First up is noted Israeli international law expert Alan Baker looking at the arguments about the legality of the settlements. He summarises the case that they are legal in the most concise way I have yet seen. He also has a strong discussion of the relationship between the settlement question and the Oslo accords, noting that the Palestinian demand for a settlement freeze as a precondition for talks is actually a violation of Oslo, just as the recent UN decision to upgrade Palestinian status to a "non-member state" was.

Updates
Israel’s Blockade and Construction Materials for Gaza

Israel’s Blockade and Construction Materials for Gaza Author: Tzvi Fleischer Categories: Israel, Media/ Academia, Palestinians, Updates    

Everyone knows that, while Israel has eased its blockade of Hamas-ruled Gaza, it is still blocking the import of almost all construction materials, arguing they can be used for military purposes, right?

You would certainly think so if you read the Australian and New Zealand press coverage of a recent deal between Israel and Egypt to allow 20 trucks worth of construction material into Gaza this week... But it is just not true that Israel has banned construction materials entering into Gaza...

Technology and the Gaza War/ Taking Iran at their word

Technology and the Gaza War/ Taking Iran at their word Categories: Iran, Israel, Palestinians, Updates    

This Update includes two pieces analysing some of the innovations in military technology and tactics which affected the Gaza conflict/Operation "Pillar of Defence", which occurred in November.

First up is an evaluation by Dr. Uzi Rubin, the father of Israel's missile defence program, discussing both Israel's Iron Dome missile and rocket defence system, and the innovations in rocket design and use on the Hamas side of the Gaza conflict.

Washington Post points out: Settlements are not the main barrier to peace

Washington Post points out: Settlements are not the main barrier to peace Author: Sharyn Mittelman Categories: Israel, United Nations, Updates    

Israel received strong international criticism when it announced its plans to build homes in the West Bank and east Jerusalem, in response to the Palestinian unilateral move to obtain ‘observer state' status at the UN General Assembly.

The Washington Post has responded to the wave of international criticism in an editorial on January 2 by noting that such criticism is "counterproductive because it reinforces two mistaken but widely held notions: that the settlements are the principal obstacle to a deal and that further construction will make a Palestinian state impossible."

Setting Things Straight

Setting Things Straight Author: Alan Baker Categories: Israel, Palestinians, United Nations    

Now that the dust has settled on the Palestinian UN upgrade bid; now that Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas has received his applause and kudos from the UN Plenary, from the Europeans, and from many Israelis as the hero and saviour of the Palestinian people; now that the UN General Assembly has returned to its regular and wasteful agenda of repetitive, pointless, and inane resolutions; now that some Israeli legal and non-legal commentators are already forecasting that Israeli leaders, officials, officers, and settlers are about to be put on trial before the International Criminal Court (ICC) for war crimes and crimes against humanity; now that Palestinian lawyers are busy preparing their criminal charges against Israel - now it is perhaps the time to place things in their correct proportion, without misleading exaggeration, imaginative embellishment, wishful thinking, and false predictions.

Iron Dome: A true game changer?

Iron Dome: A true game changer? Author: Mitch Ginsburg Categories: Israel    

Iron Dome is a hero and a comfort for the residents of the south, who, after years of facing rocket fire without protection feel, at last, that they are being taken into account. The anti-rocket system was developed in record time and performs a task that many felt was unfeasible - locating, tracking and intercepting Hamas's rockets in a matter of seconds. During "Operation Pillar of Defence", the missiles intercepted 86.3% of the 421 rockets fired toward populated areas in Israel.

Lessons in Israeli-Palestinian reality from two Middle East experts

Lessons in Israeli-Palestinian reality from two Middle East experts Author: Sharyn Mittelman Categories: America, Israel, Palestinians, Updates    

The Washington Institute for Near East Policy awarded its 2012 Scholar-Statesmen Award to Dennis Ross and Elliott Abrams on December 6. Ross served as special Middle East negotiator to President Clinton and Iran policy adviser to President Obama, and is currently counsellor to the Washington Institute. Abrams, served as Deputy National Security Advisor in the George W. Bush Administration, and is currently a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations.

In a post-award panel discussion, Ross and Abrams reflected on their careers in foreign policy and provided insights into the challenges of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Iran's nuclear program and the 'Arab Spring'.

Editorial: A Wrong Turn Author: Colin Rubenstein Categories: Israel, Palestinians, United Nations    

The United Nations General Assembly vote on November 29, upgrading the Palestinian mission at the UN to the status of an "observer state" was a unilateral move which violated a core tenet of the Oslo Accords, stipulating that neither party would attempt to unilaterally change the legal status of the West Bank and Gaza.

While the UN vote may lack the authority to effect such change, it's clear that Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas is hoping to use the vote as a political crowbar in order to pry away the West from their allegiance to the principles set in place by the vastly more weighty UN Security Council Resolution 242 of 1967.

Scribblings: What Palestinians want Author: Tzvi Fleischer Categories: Israel, Palestinians    

Hamas leader Khaled Meshal made international headlines on Dec. 7 when he made a particularly uncompromising speech in Gaza promising never to recognise Israel and to liberate all of Palestine "from the river to the sea" via armed "resistance".

It's worth specifically parsing what he had to say about why all of Palestine must be liberated by armed violence. He said "Palestine - from the [Jordan] River to the [Mediterranean] Sea, from its north to its south - is our land, our right, and our homeland. There will be no relinquishing or forsaking even an inch or small part of it... Palestine was, continues to be, and will remain Arab and Islamic... Palestine belongs to us and to nobody else."

Asia Watch: Two Tracks

Asia Watch: Two Tracks Author: Michael Shannon Categories: Asia, Israel    

Indonesia's public stance towards Israel - established by a long precedent - is still characterised by loud, almost ritualistic denunciations and rejections, yet equally established is the precedent of pragmatic, private flirtations, including the constant stream of tourists and visits by influential journalists and powerbrokers.

Bibi in Poll Position

Bibi in Poll Position Author: Amotz Asa-El Categories: Israel    

Israel has, in its 65 years, seen some major electoral upsets, most memorably Benjamin Netanyahu's defeat of Shimon Peres in 1996, and Menachem Begin's rise to power in 1977.

No one is expecting a comparable upset in the general election scheduled for Jan. 22. As things currently appear, the main struggles are within the centre-left, while the premiership itself is almost universally predicted to be retained handily by Netanyahu. Unless something drastic happens and current polls prove obsolete, Netanyahu will be re-elected with something close to twice as many votes as Labor and its leader, Shelly Yachimovich.

The state of Israeli/Palestinian relations

The state of Israeli/Palestinian relations Categories: Israel, Palestinians, Updates    

This Update deals with three pieces of analysis on the state of Israeli-Palestinian relations in the wake of the UN  vote on "non-member state" status and other recent events.

First up is noted Israeli academic analyst and former UN Ambassador Dore Gold, offering some advice on Israeli diplomacy in the wake of the UN vote. He notes that, despite hints to the contrary prior to the UN vote, there is no sign that the Palestinian Authority (PA) is at all prepared to drop its preconditions and resume peace negotiations with Israel - and indeed the long-standing pre-conditions for talks have now been publicly re-affirmed by PA President Abbas.

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John Howard comments on Israel, the Middle East

John Howard comments on Israel, the Middle East Categories: Australasia, Events, Israel, Speeches    

The former Prime Minister John Howard spoke at a dinner in Sydney conferring upon him AIJAC's Distinguished Leadership Award, attended by 280 supporters on November 29.

He was introduced by AIJAC National Chairman Mark Leibler at the function MC'ed by AIJAC's NSW Chairman Barry Smorgon, received his award from Frank Lowy and a vote of thanks from AIJAC Executive Director Dr Colin Rubenstein.

Journalist or terrorist? Why choose when you can be both!

Journalist or terrorist? Why choose when you can be both! Author: Or Avi-Guy Categories: Israel, Palestinians, Terrorism, Updates    

Recently it has been reported that the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) sent a letter to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, blaming Israel for allegedly targeting Palestinian journalists during operation "Pillar of Defence" in the Gaza Strip. New York Times journalist David Carr went even further, as he accused Israel of intentionally targeting journalists.

Two main issues are mixed up in the story. Firstly, the use of journalists and press as human shields for terrorist activity, further endangering journalists reporting from conflict zones. And secondly, terrorists' use of journalist status to cover up for their violent activities.

The aftermath of the PA UN bid and the debate over Israeli building in settlements Categories: Australasia, Israel, Palestinians, United Nations, Updates    

This Update deals with the aftermath of the UN vote to upgrade Palestine to "non-member state" status last week, the Israeli response in terms of announcements of preparations to build new housing units in east Jerusalem and settlements, and the strong reaction this decision has promoted from many foreign governments, including Australia's.

Updates

Carr's hectoring won't change Middle East Author: Colin Rubenstein Categories: Australasia, Israel, Op-eds    

It is simply not true that Israel is ''continuously expanding Jewish settlements'' and ''creeping towards the de facto creation of a Greater Israel that swallows up the Palestinians and their land'' as Peter Hartcher and many of the Labor figures he spoke to for his story on Australia's vote on the Palestinian bid to be a ''non-member state'' at the UN seem to believe (''Right call sees Israel on the outer'', December 4).

Australia’s Woodside Petroleum goes to Israel

Australia’s Woodside Petroleum goes to Israel Author: Sharyn Mittelman Categories: Australasia, Israel, Lebanon, Turkey, Updates    

Australia's biggest oil and gas firm, Woodside Petroleum has announced it is buying a 30 percent share, valued up to $2.5 billion, in Israel's Leviathan natural gas field.

Israel, a nation once thought to be devoid of natural resources in recent years has found vast amounts of natural gas deep under its Mediterranean waters.  The gas finding may not only make Israel energy self-sufficient for decades but also a world leader in energy exports - including possibly to Europe and Asia.

The Woodside deal also highlights the changing political and economic ramifications of the new gas fields in the East Mediterranean.

Foreign Minister's focus on Israeli settlements "misplaced" and "counter-productive"

Foreign Minister's focus on Israeli settlements "misplaced" and "counter-productive" Categories: Australasia, Israel, Media Releases    

The Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council (AIJAC) today labelled the intense focus on the issue of Israeli settlements by Foreign Minister Bob Carr "misplaced", "disproportionate" and "counter-productive."

AIJAC Executive Director Dr. Colin Rubenstein AM stated " Foreign Minister Bob Carr's decision to publicly rebuke Israel's Ambassador to Australia based on the contention that construction in settlements constitutes a major obstacle to progress toward a two-state solution is severely misplaced."

Hillary Clinton on Palestinian missed opportunities for statehood

Hillary Clinton on Palestinian missed opportunities for statehood Author: Sharyn Mittelman Categories: America, Israel, Palestinians, Updates    

US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton was honoured at the Saban Forum in Washington on November 30, where she delivered an insightful speech on the challenges confronting the Middle East and Israel in particular. It's worth reviewing because Clinton offered a number of insights and historical reminders that anyone seeking to unravel the Middle East Gordian knot should understand.

E-1: Beyond the myths and hype

E-1: Beyond the myths and hype Author: Ahron Shapiro Categories: Israel, Palestinians, Updates    

An international furore has arisen over Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's decision to move forward with the long-stalled planning of a new Jewish neighbourhood in the area between Jerusalem and Ma'ale Adumim known by the name E-1. Construction on the project itself would not begin for, at the earliest, one or two years, and would require additional political approvals...

Beyond the exaggerated rhetoric, however, evidence shows that the reality of the E-1 plan, which was originally developed by the Rabin government in the early 1990s, is far less sinister than these reports would suggest.

Palestine's spurious UN bid relied on some unsavoury supporters

Palestine's spurious UN bid relied on some unsavoury supporters Author: Daniel Meyerowitz-Katz Categories: Israel, Op-eds, Palestinians, Sudan, United Nations    

"Mr President: independence, freedom, the right to self-determination; these are principles that have been enshrined in the United Nations Charter." Those words were spoken by Daffa Alla Elhag Ali Osman, the Sudanese Ambassador to the UN as he introduced the draft resolution at the General Assembly to recognise the non-member state of Palestine.

Nothing could better signify the absolute farce taking place before the representatives of the international community than the government of Sudan pontificating about justice and human rights. As Osman spoke, the government that he represents was busy waging a brutal campaign to deny the Nuba people the rights to independence, freedom and self-determination.

Tel Aviv bus bomb terror suspect - a case of "family reunification terrorism"

Tel Aviv bus bomb terror suspect - a case of "family reunification terrorism" Author: Sharyn Mittelman Categories: Israel, Terrorism, Updates    

Israel has now arrested suspects responsible for the Tel Aviv bus bomb attack on November 21 that injured 28 people, three seriously.

One suspect is an Israeli-Arab formerly from the West Bank who obtained Israeli citizenship on reunification grounds.  Therefore, this latest terrorist attack has again put the spotlight on how family reunification laws can be exploited by terrorists to gain entry into Israel to commit their crimes.

UN vote on PA upgrade to "non-member state" status

UN vote on PA upgrade to "non-member state" status Categories: Israel, Palestinians, United Nations, Updates    

The Palestinians introduced a much-anticipated resolution giving "Palestine" a status of "non-member state" at the UN General Assembly on Monday.  A vote is expected today, New York time, which is Friday here, and the Australian Government's decision to abstain has been much in the news given that Prime Minister Julia Gilliard was reportedly forced by cabinet and caucus colleagues to abandon her own preference to vote "no". This Update is devoted to analysis of the significance and likely effect of the resolution - which is widely expected to pass easily.

More Hamas incitement to genocide

More Hamas incitement to genocide Author: Sharyn Mittelman Categories: Antisemitism, Israel, Updates    

The Hamas Charter of 1988 calls for the destruction of Israel, and includes rampant antisemitism and genocidal incitement. However, Hamas' use of genocidal rhetoric is not confined to its Charter and continues today. For example, Palestinian Media Watch reported that during the latest Israel-Gaza conflict, Hamas' al-Aqsa TV station aired calls to kills Jews, such as "Killing Jews is worship that draws us close to Allah".

Palestine's future lies in negotiations with Israel, not UN

Palestine's future lies in negotiations with Israel, not UN Author: Mark Leibler Categories: Israel, Op-eds, Palestinians    

BARRING a last-minute change of heart, tomorrow the UN General Assembly will vote on upgrading Palestine's representation in the forum to the status of non-member "observer state".

On these pages, former foreign minister Gareth Evans (November 24) encouraged Washington, and by implication Australia, to support the measure.

Evans notes, correctly, that the resolution will certainly pass, given the automatic pro-Palestinian majority in the General Assembly, and that it contains little extreme language.

Yet no matter how you sugar-coat it, this resolution is a poison pill for the peace process. It should not be supported by any country that supports the creation of an independent Palestinian state living in peace alongside a secure Israel.

Editorial: A Tactical Success Author: Colin Rubenstein Categories: Israel, Palestinians    

Israel's eight-day "Operation Pillar of Defence", which ended with a ceasefire agreement on November 21, was a limited operation with a primary objective - to staunch the flow of rockets launched from Gaza and landing on southern Israel's cities and villages.

Some 764 rockets had struck Israel from the beginning of this year until the onset of the operation, 150 in the four days before the operation commenced. A further 1,506 rockets struck Israel during the operation itself, bringing the year's total to more than 2,200.

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Scribblings: Body Counts and Proportionality Author: Tzvi Fleischer Categories: Antisemitism, Israel, Palestinians    

In the recent Gaza conflict, as in 2008-2009, the media was obsessed with "disproportionate" body counts - the fact that more Palestinians were dying than Israelis. Such counts of course, have nothing to do with the actual international law principle of "proportionality", which says that the damage from military attacks must not exceed "the direct military advantage anticipated." That is, anticipated non-military damage and casualties must be proportionate to a legitimate military goal. Nothing to do with relative casualty counts.

The Rockets of November

The Rockets of November Author: Amotz Asa-El Categories: Israel, Palestinians    

Tel Aviv tends to revel in its image as a bastion of hedonism and frivolity that defies Middle Eastern tensions, but as autumn's seagulls overflew its fishermen's piers the city received a stark reminder of where it is situated.

As sirens ululated across the cosmopolitan metropolis, sending thousands running for cover, Tel Aviv's elegant boardwalk absorbed what it had last heard in 1991, when Saddam Hussein lobbed Soviet-made Scud missiles in its direction. Saddam and his supplier are now long gone, but the urge to target Israel is alive and well, and it now produced a week-long military conflict whose military, political, and diplomatic repercussions will become apparent in upcoming months.

How Gaza Changes the Mideast Game

How Gaza Changes the Mideast Game Author: Lee Smith Categories: Egypt, Israel, Middle East, Palestinians    

In mid-November, Israel embarked on "Operation Pillar of Defence", the second time it's gone to war against Hamas in the past four years. The proximate cause of this campaign, according to Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak, was "the incessant rounds of artillery rockets and mortars into the heart of our southern communities." But that rationale was surely coupled with a build-up in Hamas' weapons arsenal - including the Iranian-made Fajr-5 missile, capable of striking Tel Aviv, and Kornet anti-tank missiles, one of which was fired on an IDF jeep and injured four soldiers on Nov. 10.

Media Microscope: Media War Winners and Losers Author: Allon Lee Categories: Australasia, Israel, Media/ Academia    

Unlike the result of the latest round of intense Hamas-Israel engagement, the winners and losers in Australian media coverage of the conflict were obvious.

After spending a week somewhere in the Gaza Strip, Fairfax Middle East reporter Ruth Pollard appears to have ended her coverage of the war the way she started it - framing reports decidedly tilted with sympathy toward the Palestinian perspective, while openly sceptical of Israeli claims.

Updates
The Last Word: Racism and Misrepresentations

The Last Word: Racism and Misrepresentations Author: Jeremy Jones Categories: Antisemitism, Asia, Holocaust/ War Crimes, Israel    

The setting was the "Fourth World Peace Forum", an initiative of a major Indonesian Islamic group and a Malaysian NGO whose leader promoted the philosophy of Confucius, in the Indonesian city of Bogor.

The discussion began when I was asked about my recent visit to Poland, and within a few sentences, the topic was how an area which was once the home to tens of thousands of Jewish people now counted precisely one Jewish person in its population.

The group who were listening were all from Asia, were Muslim and Hindu, and had only a cursory knowledge of Nazism and the Shoah.

Hamas the real villain in attacks on friends and foe

Hamas the real villain in attacks on friends and foe Author: Sharyn Mittelman Categories: Israel, Op-eds, Palestinians    

Now the terms of a ceasefire have been agreed upon, Israel hopes this means the rockets from the Gaza Strip will stop, despite the fact rockets have already been fired into Israel from Gaza since the ceasefire came into effect.

But, when a ceasefire was negotiated between Israel and Hamas in 2009, it did not bring an end to rocket attacks on Israel from Gaza. In fact, even before this conflict hundreds of rockets were launched at southern Israel this year alone, disrupting and terrifying the lives of Israelis who had to flee to bomb shelters on a regular basis.

Did the current round of violence start because of the death of a 13-year-old boy on November 8?

Did the current round of violence start because of the death of a 13-year-old boy on November 8? Author: Or Avi-Guy Categories: Israel, Palestinians, Terrorism, Updates    

In the first few days of the current escalation in Southern Israel and Gaza (which hopefully may now be coming to an end) most of the media reported that the violence escalated after a Kornet anti-tank missile was launched at an Israeli military jeep on November 10, injuring four soldiers. The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) took responsibility for the attack. Shortly afterwards, a barrage of dozens of rockets aimed at Israeli cities and towns was launched from Gaza.

Perhaps the 10 days that have passed since that incident has blurred the memory of some reporters. Some media reports are now framed around the assumption that this whole thing began on the 14 with the strike on Jabari. And even more bizarrely, other reporter and commentators are stating or implying that it was the death of 13-year-old Hamid Younis Abu Dika on Nov. 8 near Khan Younis that sparked the current round of violence.

Gaza: How we got here and how it might end

Gaza: How we got here and how it might end Categories: Israel, Palestinians, Updates    

This Update offers more top-flight analysis of how the Gaza conflict got to this point - with more than 1150 rocket hits on Israel since Wednesday (on top of the 150 in the few days before that) and over 1400 Israeli strikes on terror targets in Gaza - and what the end of the conflict might look like. (Report now say a deal on a ceasefire being negotiated in Cairo might be close to completion, with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton now in the region to try to assist in a ceasefire deal.) Good constant updates on what is going on militarily are being provided by the IDF's website.

Human rights NGOs, and their half-hearted, belated, and weasel-worded condemnations of rocket attacks

Human rights NGOs, and their half-hearted, belated, and weasel-worded condemnations of rocket attacks Author: Or Avi-Guy Categories: Israel, NGOs, Palestinians, Terrorism, Updates    

Human rights organisations are supposed to advance a universal approach, according to which every person in entitled to certain rights and liberties, based simply on his or her humanity. The most basic of these rights is the right to life. Yet time after time those very same organisations prove that some humans - those from groups they personally identify or sympathise with - have more rights than others. Most recently, this double-standard was evident in the response by various human rights organisations to the ongoing rocket and mortar attacks from Gaza on Israeli cities and towns. In between 'code red' sirens, you could almost hear the silence of human rights organisations.

Propaganda, lies and the Gaza conflict

Propaganda, lies and the Gaza conflict Author: Sharyn Mittelman Categories: Israel, Media/ Academia, Palestinians, Updates    

The conflict between Israel and Hamas is also being played out in the media including social media, with Hamas and anti-Israel activists attempting to demonise Israel with false accusations.

The latest fabrication exposed concerns the tragic death of four-year-old Mahmoud Sadallah from Gaza - whose picture made international headlines when his body was cradled by the Egyptian Prime Minister. News agencies including CNN wrongly reported that the child was killed by Israeli missile fire. However, it has now been revealed that he was killed by a Palestinian rocket fired from within Gaza that did not reach Israeli territory.

Bi-partisan support in Australia for Israel’s right to defend itself from rocket attacks

Bi-partisan support in Australia for Israel’s right to defend itself from rocket attacks Author: Sharyn Mittelman Categories: America, Australasia, Israel, United Kingdom, Updates    

As ‘Operation Pillar of Defence' enters its third day, rockets have gone from shelling southern Israel to threatening Tel Aviv - placing millions of Israelis in range of rocket attack. To date the Iron Dome missile defence system has intercepted 130 rockets, but some 300 rockets and mortars have landed in Israeli territory and three Israelis have been killed - Itzik Amsalem, Aharon Smadja and Mira Scharf who was pregnant.

In Australia, the Government and Coalition have expressed bi-partisan support for Israel's right to defend itself from rocket attacks fired from the Gaza Strip.

The US, Canada and UK have also expressed their support for Israel and condemned Hamas for the latest escalation.

Operation Amud Anan ("Pillar of Defence")

Operation Amud Anan ("Pillar of Defence") Categories: Egypt, Israel, Palestinians, Updates    

Following on from Daniel Meyerowitz Katz's news roundup yesterday, this Update looks at the reasons for and the possible trajectory of the current round of violence sparked by Gaza rockets, which the IDF has dubbed Operation Amud Anan ("Pillar of Defence").

Since the targeted killing of Hamas' military commander in Gaza on Wednesday, there are now reported to have been around 340 strikes by Israel on targets in Gaza - reportedly killing 15 Palestinians (it is unclear how many are combatants versus civilians) - and 305 rockets fired into Israel, killing three civilians, including a pregnant woman. This also included perhaps four rocket attacks on the Tel Aviv area - the first since the 1991 Gulf War - which fortunately caused no damage or injuries. Israel claims to have neutralised most of Hamas' medium range Iranian-made Fajr-5 missiles capable of hitting Tel Aviv in its initial strikes.

Military operation in Gaza: News round-up

Military operation in Gaza: News round-up Author: Daniel Meyerowitz-Katz Categories: Israel, Palestinians, Updates    

Last night's Update dealt with the escalating violence between Israel and Hamas over Israel's border with Gaza, and included a number of analyses predicting that if the constant rocket fire on southern Israel did not cease, Israel would launch a large-scale military operation to destroy terrorist infrastructure there associated with Hamas and other violent groups.

The operation was actually launched very shortly after. This post rounds-up all of the important information that has been coming out since the Israeli airstrikes began...

Gaza powder keg flares up again

Gaza powder keg flares up again Categories: Israel, Palestinians, Updates    

This Update deals with the latest major outbreak of violence from Gaza - resulting in more than 140 rocket hits on Israel since Saturday, a number of Israeli retaliatory strike on Gaza targets, and rocket attacks still occurring as of a few hours ago, despite claims of an Egyptian-brokered ceasefire. Details of the rockets and the injuries that they have caused are summed up in this pdf document prepared by Israeli security officials.

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Younger Israeli Arabs see engagement, not hostility, as path to equality

Younger Israeli Arabs see engagement, not hostility, as path to equality Author: Daniel Meyerowitz-Katz Categories: Israel, Palestinians, Updates    

Earlier this year, I was standing at the top of a ridge in the Wadi Ara Valley in Israel, overlooking the Arab settlement of Arara. I was with representatives from Givat Haviva, an Israeli-Arab reconciliation organisation. In the town below, I was told, lived a man who represented a new trend within Israel's Arab citizenry.

On reaching 18, some form of national service is mandatory for non-ultra-Orthodox Jews in Israel, but Arabs are exempt from the requirement. As a rule, members of the Druze and Bedoin communities voluntarily serve in the Israeli Defence Forces, however the vast majority of Israel's Arab population refuses even non-military national service...

Scribblings: Jewish "Jim Crow" in Algeria Author: Tzvi Fleischer Categories: Antisemitism, Israel, Middle East    

Regular readers of this column will know that I have frequently collected evidence here as to the historical state of Jewish communities in Arab lands in the years prior to Israel's establishment. I do this because one very frequently hears claims about the historical situations of these communities which amount to, if not exactly myth, at least to gross over-simplification.

The claim one hears is that in the absence of both Zionism and the import of European-style antisemitism - that is, before the late 19th century - the Jews of the Middle East were relatively free from persecution or race hatred, and thus, overall, in a pretty acceptable situation. The kernel of truth to this claim is the reality that in the Middle Ages, the Jews of the Middle East probably were better off than those in Europe. We know this because Jews voted with their feet - they were much more likely to flee persecution in Europe to Middle Eastern lands than the reverse.

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Deconstruction Zone: Hanan Ashrawi and the Other Refugees

Deconstruction Zone: Hanan Ashrawi and the Other Refugees Author: Or Avi-Guy Categories: Israel, Middle East    

Well-known Palestinian spokeswoman Hanan Ashrawi made headlines in Australia in 2003 when she was controversially awarded the Sydney Peace Prize. Now she has been in the headlines again with an article published in a number of Arab media outlets in late August insisting that "the claim that Jews who migrated to Israel, which is supposed to be their homeland, are ‘refugees' who were uprooted from their homelands... is a form of deception and delusion."

New term likely for Bibi, but on what terms?

New term likely for Bibi, but on what terms? Author: Amotz Asa-El Categories: Israel    

Though it was the first parliament in which the main opposition party was larger than the ruling party, Israel's outgoing Knesset will have served a full four years - the first since the 1980s to have done so - by the time the 19th Knesset is elected on January 22.

Not only did the Knesset prove durable, the six-party coalition Binyamin Netanyahu cobbled together proved stable, and faced no serious crisis. Even Labor's split in January 2011, in the aftermath of which Defence Minister Ehud Barak lost more than half his Knesset faction, proved meaningless from the coalition's viewpoint.

Foreign Policy Ideology and Reality

Foreign Policy Ideology and Reality Author: Gil Troy Categories: America, Israel, Middle East    

Despite the testy foreign policy debate between President Barack Obama and challenger Mitt Romney of Oct. 23, it is difficult to assess any candidate's foreign policy ideology - let alone how that candidate will act as president. Predicting how a president will function in foreign affairs is as reliable as guessing how first-time parents will act when their children become teenagers - lovely theories succumb to tumultuous unforeseen squalls.

Obama, Romney, Bibi and Iran Author: Ahron Shapiro Categories: America, Iran, Israel    

Where must the line be drawn regarding Iran's dangerous and illegal nuclear weapons program? At what point should the very strongest measures, including the possibility of military strikes, be implemented in order to derail it?

This is the question at the heart of a subtle yet significant disparity in diplomatic language regarding the Iranian nuclear threat. It divides Israel from the US, but it is also one of the few concrete differences in foreign policy between US President Barack Obama and his Republican challenger Mitt Romney.

"Palestine" as a "State" of Mind

"Palestine" as a "State" of Mind Author: Daniel Meyerowitz-Katz Categories: Israel, Palestinians, United Nations    

Last year, Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas went to the UN Security Council (UNSC), attempting to have "Palestine" admitted to the UN as a member state. It soon became clear, however, that the Council was not going to approve the bid, as "Palestine" does not yet meet the criteria for statehood.

Israel poll misleads Author: Colin Rubenstein Categories: Israel, Media/ Academia, Op-eds    

As anyone acquainted with Israel and its people can attest, the conclusions of the poll of Israelis reported on in the Herald seem puzzling (''Poll finds Jewish Israeli support for segregation'', October 25). However, detailed scrutiny of the poll data and questions reveals that, in fact, the poll itself is methodologically questionable, and the interpretation being placed on its data even more so.

As in every other country with minorities, social gaps and some discrimination exist in Israel. But the government, high court and civil society are achieving much to reduce both...

Haaretz issues clarification on controversial poll articles

Haaretz issues clarification on controversial poll articles Author: Sharyn Mittelman Categories: Israel, Updates    

Last week AIJAC published a blog post, taking a critical look at Gideon Levy's article in Haaretz which published a report on a very misleading poll with the original title "Survey: Most Israeli Jews would support apartheid regime in Israel".

Haaretz has now published a clarification in the print edition of its newspaper in Hebrew regretting the title of Levy's report. Further, in a new article Levy himself admits that the headline of the report was "misleading", and apologises for an incorrect claim in his analysis of the poll, in his attempt to "fix a few mistakes".

A misleading and flawed poll sparks "apartheid" claims

A misleading and flawed poll sparks "apartheid" claims Author: Sharyn Mittelman Categories: Israel, Updates    

This week Gideon Levy of Haaretz published an article on the results of a very misleading and flawed poll with the title "Survey: Most Israeli Jews would support apartheid regime in Israel" on October 24.

As a result of the Haaretz publicity, false reports that Israeli Jews support apartheid, made damaging headlines around the world, including in Australia.

The headlines were concerning, but once people were able to access the polling data, it became clear that not only was the poll's methodology questionable, but the analysis being presented of the poll data was both distorted and politically skewed.

The truth about Israeli-Arabs and Israel's 'national priority areas'

The truth about Israeli-Arabs and Israel's 'national priority areas' Author: Or Avi-Guy Categories: Israel, Updates    

Earlier this week it was reported in the Age that visiting Israeli Human rights activist Hagai El-Ad, executive director of the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) had, at a public meeting, expressed concerns that "the very idea of equality under the law for all citizens in Israel is increasingly under threat." To back up this claim, El-Ad asserted, according to the article, that Arab citizens of Israel were discriminated against by the Israeli government when it drew the map of "national priority areas." El-Ad's description of civil rights in Israel, and in this case the rights of Arab citizens, is grossly misleading.

AIJAC congratulates Australian Government on emphatic UN Security Council success

AIJAC congratulates Australian Government on emphatic UN Security Council success Categories: Australasia, Israel, Media Releases, United Nations    

The Australia/Israel and Jewish Affairs Council (AIJAC) today welcomed the election of Australia to a two-year temporary seat on the United Nations Security Council in New York overnight, and congratulated the Australian Government on achieving this outcome.

AIJAC National Chairman Mark Leibler stated, "AIJAC welcomes a successful end to Australia's long-fought efforts to gain a temporary seat on the UN Security Council. We also congratulate the Australian Government - especially Prime Minister Julia Gillard, Foreign Minister Bob Carr, his deputy Richard Marles, and all the professionals who worked diligently to achieve this very happy outcome so emphatically. Our success is well-deserved - as a middle-level, principled, democratic nation and good global citizen, we won the respect and ultimately the support of others internationally, on our own merits and without compromising our support for Israel."

Media Week - Shalit - the Fairfax directors’ cut; Christians in Israel – the gospel truth; Headline misfire.

Media Week - Shalit - the Fairfax directors’ cut; Christians in Israel – the gospel truth; Headline misfire. Author: Allon Lee Categories: Israel, Media/ Academia, Middle East, Palestinians, Updates    

As a matter of course newspapers make changes to stories. Some of these can be spelling or cuts for length.

But a number of questionable alterations were made to a story from the New York Times' Middle East correspondent Isabel Kershner that appeared in Fairfax papers noting Gilad Shalit's first major interview.

Women suffering across the Middle East - except  in Israel

Women suffering across the Middle East - except in Israel Author: Sharyn Mittelman Categories: Israel, Updates    

While women are suffering from extremism throughout the Middle East, Israel remains an exception where all women, regardless of race, religion or ethnicity, enjoy equality before the law, and despite some shortcomings, the most substantial social equality in the region, comparable to virtually any country in the world. Israel's Declaration of Independence grants "all Israel's inhabitants equality of social and political rights irrespective of religion, race or gender."

This significant point is sadly often lost in the headlines about Israel. But one Israeli-Arab woman, Boshra Khalaila is trying to draw attention to this important issue, as she travels around the world as an advocate for Israel.

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Sketching out a red line for stopping Iran's nuclear program

Sketching out a red line for stopping Iran's nuclear program Categories: Iran, Israel, Palestinians, United Nations, Updates    

This Update takes us to New York, at the 67th session of the United Nations General Assembly. Taking centre stage is a headline grabbing speech by Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu following the predictably defiant, caustic and offensive anti-Israel speech by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Meanwhile, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas once again announced a renewed effort to upgrade the status of the Palestinian Authority at the UN to non-member observer state. The gathering also offered US President Barack Obama an opportunity to speak out on US foreign policy ahead of November elections, while Egypt’s President Mohammed Morsi had his first turn at a UN podium. Finally, for Australia, this session was fraught with import, with Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s speech before the plenum culminating her government’s intensive effort to secure Australia’s first temporary seat on the UN Security Council since the 1980s.

Editorial: Leadership Failures Author: Colin Rubenstein Categories: Israel, Palestinians    

What do the Palestinian Authority's (PA) deep-seated economic problems have in common with its unstinting hostility towards Israel and reluctance to work towards resolving the conflict?

They are each symptomatic of a failure of Palestinian leadership. And, if you feel a sense of déjà vu over the PA's intention to circumvent the peace process by again seeking to upgrade its status at the United Nations, you may also appreciate the repetitive character of these failures. Those who fail to learn from their past mistakes are doomed to repeat them.

Bibi, Barack and Iran

Bibi, Barack and Iran Author: Amotz Asa-El Categories: America, Iran, Israel    

In the spirit of September's Jewish New Year and Day of Atonement, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's Iranian policy has become a focus of the season's soul-searching.

A lot has happened since Netanyahu's return to the Premiership, two months after Barack Obama landed in the White House. What his predecessors saw as an international problem whose treatment should be led by the United States, Netanyahu aired loudly in high-exposure forums like the United Nations General Assembly, the US Congress, and the AIPAC policy conference.

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The Cine File: The Camera Does Lie

The Cine File: The Camera Does Lie Author: Or Avi-Guy Categories: Israel, Palestinians    

There is no doubt that "5 Broken Cameras" is a moving, emotional and powerful film. It tries to deal with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict by telling the story of one Palestinian town, Bil'in, which became a symbol of what the film describes as the non-violent resistance against the security fence. In the film, Bil'in is presented as a metaphor for "Palestine", while the security fence is cast as "the occupation". This is achieved via a sophisticated, almost subtle, technique - focusing on one very personal story of a man, Emad Burnat, the film's co-director, a self-proclaimed Palach [farmer], journalist and now filmmaker, along with his youngest son, Gibreel, who was born around the time the construction of the fence had begun.

Media Week - And they called it Pappe love; Randa does the rounds

Media Week - And they called it Pappe love; Randa does the rounds Author: Allon Lee Categories: Anti-Zionism, Australasia, Islamic Extremism, Israel, Palestinians, Terrorism, Updates    

Anti-Zionist historian Ilan Pappe told Geraldine Doogue on ABC Radio National's "Breakfast" program  (17/9) that the "mainstream Zionist leadership from the very beginning understood that... they could not have a Jewish state as long as the Palestinians remained in Palestine".

The fact is that the mainstream Zionist leadership accepted and still accepts partitioning the disputed territory into Jewish and Arab states - in 1922 (when Jordan was created), 1937, 1947, 2000, and 2008.

Moreover, Zionist documents have always discussed the expectation that the Jewish state would have a non-Jewish minority.

Media Week - Sound off; Clear as mud

Media Week - Sound off; Clear as mud Author: Allon Lee Categories: Anti-Zionism, Israel, Media/ Academia, NGOs, Palestinians, United Nations, Updates    

ABC Radio National's "360documentaries" series (9/9) featured a 50-minute program from Australian anti-Zionist activist Peter Slezak with interviews he recorded on a recent trip to Gaza and the West Bank.

The program's producer was Cathy Peters - the Marrickville Councillor from the NSW Greens party who was instrumental in proposing the notorious BDS motion in 2010.

Despite this pedigree, ABC presenter Kirsti Melville meekly introduced Slezak as a "Jewish writer and commentator" without mentioning his activism.

The program itself is the equivalent of "the best of the worse of the anti-Israel" NGO and UN brigade featuring the usual array of one-sided claims. Neither Hamas nor any Palestinian violence was so much as mentioned.

 Hanan Ashrawi and the attempt to write Jewish refugees out of history

Hanan Ashrawi and the attempt to write Jewish refugees out of history Author: Sharyn Mittelman Categories: Israel, Palestinians, Updates    

Hanan Ashrawi has caused controversy by recently writing in an article intended for an Arabic-speaking audience that there were no Jewish refugees from Arab countries. She wrote, "the emigration of Jews was a voluntary act that was influenced by factors of pressure and temptation by Zionist movements and the Jewish Agency." Ashrawi explained that: "If Israel is their homeland, then they are not ‘refugees;' they are emigrants who returned either voluntarily or due to a political decision."

However, Ashwrawi is clearly ignoring history for political reasons. In 1945, there were more than 870,000 Jews living in the various Arab states, some communities dated back 2,500 years. From the 1940s onwards many of these Jews were persecuted, their property and belongings confiscated and in some countries they were expelled - including Egypt, Libya and Algeria.

Carr gives Middle East process a shot in the arm

Carr gives Middle East process a shot in the arm Author: Colin Rubenstein Categories: Australasia, Israel, Op-eds, Palestinians    

During his recent visit to Israel and the Palestinian Authority, Australia's Foreign Minister Bob Carr showed true statesmanship by giving the moribund Middle East peace process a shot in the arm.

Stressing the need to ''bring the two parties together'', Carr met with Israeli and Palestinian leaders in Jerusalem and Ramallah, nudging the Palestinian Authority back towards the negotiating table and emphasising the need for a two-state solution for Israelis and Palestinians negotiated directly between themselves.

Media Week - Newton’s gravity-free zone; Village idiots; Exceptionally bad

Media Week - Newton’s gravity-free zone; Village idiots; Exceptionally bad Author: Allon Lee Categories: Anti-Zionism, Holocaust/ War Crimes, Israel, Media/ Academia, Palestinians, Updates    

Australian Palestine Advocacy Network vice-president Robert Newton offered up a series of red herrings in the Canberra Times (21/8) to justify why "Unless Israel stops the illegal construction of settlements in the West Bank there will be no resumption of negotiations which have been stalled since December 2010".

Between 1993 and 2009 the Palestinian Authority (PA) did not insist on a settlements building freeze as a precondition to peace talks.

Israel and the "other Olympics"

Israel and the "other Olympics" Author: Sharyn Mittelman Categories: Israel, Updates    

Israel may not have picked up a medal at the London Olympic games, but it is a little known truth that when it comes to the Paralympic games - Israel is a superstar.

Since the Paralympic games began, Israel has won 334 medals, including 113 gold, and those numbers are expected to grow at the London 2012 Paralympic games. The national medal total ranks Israel 13th overall in the history of the Games.

"Breaking the Silence" - Creating headlines with the same old controversial material

"Breaking the Silence" - Creating headlines with the same old controversial material Author: Ahron Shapiro Categories: Israel, NGOs, Palestinians, Updates    

An anthology of stories by former IDF soldiers regarding the treatment of Palestinian children in the West Bank and Gaza assembled by the controversial left-wing Israeli NGO Breaking the Silence has drawn the attention of Yediot Ahronot in Israel, the UK's Guardian and Independent, Iran's PressTV, as well as News Limited's John Lyons and Fairfax' Ruth Pollard here in the Australian press - but few other journalists worldwide.

This isn't really surprising, as there is evidently little new information contained in the report, which is essentially a repackaging of some 30 self-styled "testimonies" cherry picked from the organisation's 850-case archives (collected gradually over the past seven years) in an attempt to portray the IDF as systematic abusers of Palestinian children.

The truth (and lies) behind Rachel Corrie's death

The truth (and lies) behind Rachel Corrie's death Author: Daniel Meyerowitz-Katz Categories: Israel, Media/ Academia, Palestinians, Updates    

Yesterday, Israeli Judge Oded Gershon of the District Court of Haifa handed down his verdict in the civil case between the State of Israel and the parents of a young American woman killed in Gaza in 2003, acquitting the State on all counts. The circumstances surrounding the death of then 23-year-old Rachel Corrie are well known, however there has been a long-standing dispute regarding some key facts. 

Corrie's parents had claimed that the IDF either deliberately killed Corrie or was guilty of gross negligence. Judge Gershom dismissed the claim on the grounds that the IDF could not be liable for civil damages that occurred in a 'war zone' during the course of armed conflict.

Nevertheless, he went on to...

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Media Week - Burns' lukewarm analysis; Some get it, others don’t; Justice denied

Media Week - Burns' lukewarm analysis; Some get it, others don’t; Justice denied Author: Allon Lee Categories: Holocaust/ War Crimes, Iran, Israel, Media/ Academia, Updates    

Former US diplomat Nicholas Burns argued that a diplomatic solution will only arise when America "create[s] a direct channel between Washington and Tehran and begin[s] an extended one-on-one negotiation with all issues on the table...To be successful, however, the US must be ready to compromise by offering imaginative proposals that would permit Iran civil nuclear power but deny it a nuclear weapon."

A Brazilian-Turkish deal in May 2011 offering Iran medium-enriched uranium for medical research came unstuck when Iran started putting impossible conditions on any such deal, Sydney Morning Herald (Aug. 17).

Decision Point

Decision Point Author: Michael Herzog Categories: Iran, Israel    

Israelis agree that Iran's nuclear program must be stopped, and their debate regarding a strike's cost-effectiveness, urgency, and impact on relations with the United States is coming to a head.

With the heat of the summer has come an unprecedented flare-up in Israel's public debate on whether and when to unilaterally strike the advancing Iranian nuclear program.

The view from Jerusalem

The view from Jerusalem Author: John Hannah Categories: Iran, Israel    

I recently returned from a trip to Israel. I met with a handful of very senior foreign policy and defence officials, but did not speak with any member of the “Forum of Eight” – Israel’s security cabinet that is responsible for key decisions concerning war and peace. With that important caveat, I thought I’d share several random impressions...

Living with Big Brother

Living with Big Brother Author: Amotz Asa-El Categories: Egypt, Israel    

In a typical Middle Eastern dynamic, what began with a hail of bullets soon produced political casualties, diplomatic fog, and strategic perplexity.

The physical fire originally erupted near the Rafah border crossing between the Sinai Desert and the Gaza Strip, when presumably Islamist terrorists ambushed and killed 16 Egyptian soldiers while they were breaking the Ramadan fast.

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Essay: Unexplored Possibilities

Essay: Unexplored Possibilities Author: Andrea Nadel Categories: Asia, Israel    

The current growing economic, political and military strength of numerous Asian countries has led observers to refer to the "Asian Century," and the world has taken notice. Indonesia exemplifies Asia's ascendancy: as the world's most populous Muslim-majority nation, it has experienced significant economic growth in recent years and has been lauded as a model for successful democratisation in an Islamic context since the end of dictatorship in 1998. Increasing engagement is occurring between Indonesia and Western countries, and enhanced ties between Jerusalem and Jakarta also have the potential to generate mutually beneficial advantages.

Media Week - Time out;  Growth is good; A quote without foundations

Media Week - Time out; Growth is good; A quote without foundations Author: Allon Lee Categories: Anti-Zionism, Israel, Media/ Academia, Palestinians, Updates    

Time's Karl Vick (13/8) offered a simplistic account of the effect of the growing population of ultra-Orthodox Jews in Jerusalem.

Vick implied that Jewish control over Jerusalem since 1967 has been bad for Christians and Muslims: "Millions visit the Holy City each year. Most are pilgrims to the signal sites of Christianity, though Muslims gather at their own great shrine above the Western Wall. Neither, however, are terribly welcome as residents. Since 1967, Jerusalem has become a resolutely Jewish city."

Except that Jerusalem has been a majority Jewish city since the 1850s. Furthermore the 68,000 Palestinians living there in 1967 have quadrupled to 288,000 in 2012, with Palestinian Arabs now making up 37% of Jerusalem's residents, compared to 25.8% in 1967.

Israel's deliberations on Iran military strike

Israel's deliberations on Iran military strike Categories: Iran, Israel, Updates    

This Update deals with the currently very intense discussion in Israel about the possibility of a military strike on Iran's nuclear program, as sparked by reports in the Israeli press last week that said that PM Binyamin Netanyahu and Defence Minister Ehud Barak were close to making a decision and were pushing for military action as soon as this October.

First up is an interview on the significance of the Israeli debates from veteran American Middle East diplomat Dennis Ross. He argues that the latest moves by Barak and Netanyahu are intended both to prepare international opinion, but more importantly, Israeli public opinion, for the reality that a strike may become necessary fairly soon.

On 20th anniversary of ties, Israel and India embark on second honeymoon

On 20th anniversary of ties, Israel and India embark on second honeymoon Author: Ahron Shapiro Categories: India, Israel, Updates    

As India and Israel celebrate their 20th anniversary of diplomatic ties this year, the number of cooperative ventures between the countries are expanding at an accelerating pace.

This week, Israel and India entered a fifth round of talks towards the creation of a much-anticipated free trade agreement.

Meanwhile, on July 31, Israel's Consul General in India Orna Sagiv spoke before a large audience in Bangalore ahead of Israel's opening next month of a Indian consulate in the city - India's third most populous - joining Israel's other consulate in India's most populous city, Mumbai, and its embassy in New Delhi.

Will they? Won't they? The ongoing Israeli/American Iran question

Will they? Won't they? The ongoing Israeli/American Iran question Author: Daniel Meyerowitz-Katz Categories: America, Iran, Israel, Updates    

An Israeli strike on Iran has been "imminent" for about two years now and commentators everywhere seem to be vacilating between alarm and dismissal. The volume of announcements, alleged leaks to the media, and public disagreement between various Israeli and US officials is leaving almost everyone scratching their heads over what is really going on.

The truth, as Elliott Abrams points out, is really anyone's guess...

Media Week - Low Blows; Acres of coverage; and Small steps and megabytes

Media Week - Low Blows; Acres of coverage; and Small steps and megabytes Author: Allon Lee Categories: Australasia, Israel, Media/ Academia, Updates    

Anti-Zionist writer Antony Loewenstein advanced his dream of a one-state solution on the Conversation (30/7).

Loewenstein wrote that for Israel the "occupation is a God-given right to populate land", and claimed that the recent Levy Commission had "found that its decades-long occupation of Palestinian land wasn't an occupation at all. The report granted quasi-legal justification for illegally moving Jews into the West Bank."

The report did not endorse unlimited settlement building. It confirmed that legally the West Bank is disputed territory since no sovereign state was established there when the British left in May 1948, and various decisions by international bodies grant Israel legal rights in the West Bank.  And, as the report noted, since 1967 Israel has adopted a "pragmatic approach" in the hope of encouraging peace negotiations about the future of the "the territories".

Shameful rejection betrays the Olympic ideal

Shameful rejection betrays the Olympic ideal Author: Sharyn Mittelman Categories: Israel, Op-eds, Terrorism    

The London Olympic opening ceremony should have commemorated the 40th anniversary of the murder of 11 Israeli Olympic athletes, killed by the Palestinian terrorist group ''Black September'' at the 1972 Munich Olympics. Shamefully it did not. An official Olympic commemoration was rejected despite a global petition to hold a minute's silence at the opening ceremony to remember the Munich victims, a campaign supported by world leaders including Prime Minister Gillard and Opposition Leader Tony Abbott, and numerous national parliaments, including Australia's.

The Sinai Vacuum

The Sinai Vacuum Categories: Egypt, Islamic Extremism, Israel, Updates    

This Update is dedicated to the implications of the latest large-scale attack from Sinai into Israel on Sunday, which left 16 Egyptian soldiers dead, but caused no casualties in Israel. A good introduction to the news about the attack and its immediate aftermath appeared in Sharyn Mittleman's "Fresh Air" blog post on Tuesday - this Update will focus on the wider Sinai problem of a power vacuum increasingly being filled by violent extremist groups highlighted by this latest attack.

Israel’s own Parade of Nations on display in its multicultural Olympic delegation

Israel’s own Parade of Nations on display in its multicultural Olympic delegation Author: Andrea Nadel Categories: Israel, Middle East, Updates    

As Israel's 37-member delegation to the 2012 London Olympic Games finishes its first week of competition, the country's feisty athleticism is not the only thing on display. Nearly half of Israel's delegates were born outside of Israel and came there as olim from all corners of the globe, from South America, Africa, the former Soviet Union and North America. The delegation's diversity reflects Israel's own multiculturalism and presents an image of the country that belies the misconceptions that delude so many of its detractors.

AIR
Ben Gurion review offers up some home truths

Ben Gurion review offers up some home truths Author: Or Avi-Guy Categories: Israel, Updates    

The latest edition of Quadrant magazine featured a book review by Daryl McCann of Ben-Gurion: A Political Life (Schocken Books, 2011), which is highly recommended not only for what it says about the book, but because it explains clearly some truths and some long-forgotten facts about the origins of the Arab-Israel conflict that everyone should understand.

In Israel, Romney seeks to differentiate himself from Obama

In Israel, Romney seeks to differentiate himself from Obama Author: Ahron Shapiro Categories: America, Israel, Updates    

Mitt Romney, the presumptive Republican nominee in this November's US presidential race, made the most of a visit to Israel on Sunday, creating daylight - not between the US and Israel under a future Romney Administration, but rather - between his views and attitudes towards Israel and its neighbours and those of the current Obama Administration.

Updates
Olympic opening ceremony reveals hypocrisy of the IOC refusal to honour Munich massacre victims

Olympic opening ceremony reveals hypocrisy of the IOC refusal to honour Munich massacre victims Author: Sharyn Mittelman Categories: Israel, Terrorism, Updates    

As expected, the Olympic opening ceremony was held on July 28 without a minute's silence to honour the memory of the eleven Israeli athletes, who were brutally murdered by members of the Palestinian terrorist group ‘Black September' forty years ago at the Munich Olympics.

However, many were disgusted by the International Olympic Committee's (IOC) refusal to agree to such a tribute and provided their own remembrance of Munich. In support of the cause, during the American broadcast, Bob Costas silenced his microphone for five seconds to honour the Munich victims. In another show of solidarity, some 30 members of the Italian Olympic delegation held a moment of silence at the entrance to the Israeli delegation's residential compound in London.

Editorial: Ignoring the Obvious Author: Colin Rubenstein Categories: Iran, Israel, Terrorism    

The explosion that ripped through a tour bus full of Israeli tourists in the seaside resort of Burgas, Bulgaria on July 18, killing six people - including a pregnant woman - was only the latest in a series of terror attacks perpetrated against Israelis abroad over the past decades.

Unfortunately, despite the Herculean efforts of Israel's intelligence services, it will likely not be the last. However, it is not too late for the world to learn a crucial lesson from the atrocity, the internalisation of which might potentially prevent a catastrophe of a far greater magnitude.

Scribblings: Goodbye Gaza

Scribblings: Goodbye Gaza Author: Tzvi Fleischer Categories: Egypt, Israel, Palestinians    

There is little doubt that the victory of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt's presidential and parliamentary elections has been a major setback for Israel's foreign and security policy. It is too early to tell how bad this setback is - much will depend on how much control over Egypt's foreign and defence affairs the Muslim Brotherhood succeeds in wresting from the military, and how much the Brotherhood chooses to focus on consolidating its internal power versus courting popularity and distracting the public from domestic problems by sparking crises with Israel. But at the very least it is possible to say that the situation will not be an improvement.

Except perhaps in one respect, and it concerns Gaza.

Law and Peace

Law and Peace Author: Dore Gold Categories: Israel, Palestinians    

In January 2012, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Yaakov Neeman, the Justice Minister, turned to former Israeli Supreme Court Justice Edmond Levy to head a panel of legal experts that would look into questions of land ownership in the West Bank. The initiative came about when it was discovered that a housing project in the settlement of Beit El, north of Jerusalem, had been built years earlier on Palestinian private land, and the government decided to adhere to the judgment of the Supreme Court to have the Israeli building project removed. The panel was intended to study how Israeli decision-making had been made in the past and what could be done to avoid such situations in the future.

What the "Levy Report" actually says Author: Daniel Meyerowitz-Katz Categories: Israel, Palestinians    

The "Levy Report" (officially the "Commission to Examine the Status of Building in Judea and Samaria", led by retired Supreme Court judge Edmond Levy) had been released in Israel for barely two hours when critics began accusing it of "undermining Israeli democracy" and signifying the "final death blow" to the peace process. (So many "final death blows" seem to have struck the peace process over the past decade that I can only conclude that it is continually reanimating in some form of undead state, only to be killed again by yet another announcement or report released by one party or another.)

Israel's Draft Re-draft

Israel's Draft Re-draft Author: Amotz Asa-El Categories: Israel    

The break-up in July of Israel's broad coalition in a dispute over how to reshape the place of the ultra-Orthodox in Israeli society will not change the fact that ultimately, this troubled relationship's future will be markedly different from its past.

The Secret behind India-Israel ties

The Secret behind India-Israel ties Author: Andrea Nadel Categories: India, Israel    

Dr. P.R. Kumaraswamy, Professor with the Centre for West Asian Studies at Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi, India, spoke to community members at an AIJAC event on July 16 about India's relations with Israel.

Professor Kumaraswamy, who has made Israel the focus of his academic career since 1982, noted that while India recognised Israel in 1950 and privately expressed interest in establishing diplomatic ties in 1952, it took four decades before formal ties were established in 1992. India's decision to establish relations when it did was a response to the changing global realities ushered in with the end of the Cold War. "Normalisation [with Israel] was an Indian message to the outside world: ‘The world has changed, the Cold War has ended, [and] I am reacting to the world with a significant measure.'" Furthermore, he noted, India recognised that for any country with a serious interest in promoting Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, normal relations with Israel are a necessity.

The Biblio File: 'Arik, King of Israel'

The Biblio File: 'Arik, King of Israel' Author: Paul Monk Categories: Israel    

Since suffering a crippling stroke on 4 January 2006, Ariel Sharon has lain in a persistent vegetative state beyond hope of recovery. It truncated his prime ministership without ending his life, which lingers on in an irreparably broken condition. This is a mournful last stage in the life of so active a man; one of the true giants in the modern history of Israel. He was the protégé of David Ben Gurion, who gave the young Ariel Scheinermann the Hebraic name ‘Sharon'. He fought or led in every one of Israel's wars: 1948, 1956, 1967, 1973, 1982, right up to the second intifada of 2000 which catapulted him into the prime ministership. And he arranged the strategic withdrawal from Gaza in 2005 in a fruitless quest for peace.

Continued IOC refusal to remember Munich darkens tomorrow’s Olympic Opening Ceremony

Continued IOC refusal to remember Munich darkens tomorrow’s Olympic Opening Ceremony Author: Andrea Nadel Categories: Europe, Israel, Middle East, Palestinians, Terrorism, Updates    

Despite calls from the victims' families and world leaders across the globe, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) will reportedly not honour the memory of the 11 Israeli Olympians and one West German police officer murdered by Palestinian terrorists at the 1972 Olympics in Munich at the opening ceremony for the London games tomorrow.

Bulgaria attack underscores the absurdity of Israel's exclusion from new Counterterrorism Forum

Bulgaria attack underscores the absurdity of Israel's exclusion from new Counterterrorism Forum Author: Or Avi-Guy Categories: Israel, Terrorism, Updates    

Kochava and Yitzhak Shriki were supposed to be celebrating right now. They recently found out that after years of fertility treatments their greatest wish was being granted - 44-year-old Kochava was finally pregnant with their first child. They were on their way to a short summer vacation in Burgas, Bulgaria. A few hours later, the Shriki's dream has turned into a horrible nightmare when a suicide bomber exploded near a Bulgarian airport, right next to tourist buses packed with Israelis on their way from the airport to their hotels. Seven people were killed, five of them Israeli. One of them was Kochava.

Media Week - Remembering Shamir; Grave doubts; Over the top

Media Week - Remembering Shamir; Grave doubts; Over the top Author: Allon Lee Categories: Australasia, Israel, Media/ Academia, Palestinians, Terrorism, Updates    

Ruth Pollard in the Age and Sydney Morning Herald (2/7) asserted that former Israeli PM Yitzhak Shamir's "most criticised decision...was to undermine the 1987 agreement on Palestine reached by his foreign minister Shimon Peres and Jordan's King Hussein".

Contrary to Pollard's implication, the agreement would not have created an independent Palestine but seen a resumption of Jordanian rule over the West Bank.

AIR
Administrative detention: facts and figures

Administrative detention: facts and figures Author: Daniel Meyerowitz-Katz Categories: Australasia, Israel, Op-eds, Palestinians    

A petition calling on Australian Jews to denounce Israel's administrative detention policy has apparently been circulating for some weeks without attracting much attention. The handful of signatories, including most of the regular anti-Israel crowd, claim that "the Palestinian prisoners' hunger strike" highlights the policy - not seeming to have realised that a deal to end the strike had been reached more than a month before the petition was launched.

Dr. P R Kumaraswamy talks on the history of India-Israel relations [audio]

Dr. P R Kumaraswamy talks on the history of India-Israel relations [audio] Categories: India, Israel, Multimedia, Updates    

Dr. P R Kumaraswamy talks about the history of India-Israel relations, as part of an AIJAC Breakfast lecture held in Melbourne on July 16.

Dr. Kumaraswamy is a Professor with the Centre for West Asian Studies at Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi, India. He has studied Israel since 1982 and is the author of India's Israel Policy, published by Columbia University Press in 2010.

Updates
The Levy Committee, "Occupation" and Settlements

The Levy Committee, "Occupation" and Settlements Categories: Israel, Updates    

This Update deals with the implications of the Levy Committee report into settlements and outposts set up by Israel's Netanyahu Government. Its three legal expert members, led by a retired Israeli Supreme Court judge, found that the law of belligerent occupation "as set out in the relevant international conventions cannot be considered applicable to the West Bank" and that therefore settlements are not illegal, as is so often claimed in international discourse. The report has sparked some controversy both in Israel and internationally. (A translation of the conclusions and recommendations of the committee can be downloaded here.)

Media Week - Delusional on Damascus; Major doubts; Holey claptrap

Media Week - Delusional on Damascus; Major doubts; Holey claptrap Author: Allon Lee Categories: Israel, Media/ Academia, Palestinians, Syria, Updates    

Joseph Wakim revealed on ABC "Unleashed" (27/6) the true cause of internecine violence that has roiled Syria since February 2011 and blackened the good name of the Assad dictatorship:

There is nothing civil about the war in Syria - it is a proxy war to protect Israel from a nuclear Iran. This was confirmed when Israel's defence minister Ehud Barak declared that toppling Assad 'will be a major blow to the radical axis [Iran] ... It's the only kind of outpost of the Iranian influence in the Arab world ... and it will weaken dramatically both Hezbollah in Lebanon, and Hamas and Islamic Jihad in Gaza'.

But this hardly amounts to a smoking gun for proving Israel is fomenting civil war in which more than 13,000 people have been killed; more a desperation to blame shift onto the usual scapegoat.

Obituary: Yitzhak Shamir 1915-2012

Obituary: Yitzhak Shamir 1915-2012 Author: Colin Rubenstein Categories: Israel, Op-eds    

The passing of former Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir, aged 96, marks the departure of the last of the founding generation of Jewish leaders who devoted themselves to establishing, nurturing and securing a flourishing Jewish state.

Steadfast, modest, dour, lacking the charisma, wealth and powerful friends of some of Israel's later premiers, he was in some ways the antithesis of a politician. He played a straight bat in his single-minded goal of serving the security and welfare interests of the Jewish state as he saw them, and became one of Israel's longest serving prime ministers.

Experts: Radioactive residues on Arafat's clothing no proof of poisoning

Experts: Radioactive residues on Arafat's clothing no proof of poisoning Author: Ahron Shapiro Categories: Israel, Palestinians, Updates    

After the media excitement over the allegation polonium poisoning might have caused Yasser Arafat's death in 2004, some sober and cogent analysis is debunking the thrust of the al-Jazeera report - that the radioactive levels that were reportedly found recently on Arafat's personal effects, could have come from Arafat himself.

Dr. Ely Karmon, of the Interdisciplinary Centre, Herzliya's Institute for Counterterrorism, a specialist in chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear terrorism, told the Jerusalem Post on Thursday that the half-life of the substance would make it impossible for polonium to have been discovered at such high levels after eight years.

IMF denies Israel’s request for loan to help struggling PA

IMF denies Israel’s request for loan to help struggling PA Author: Andrea Nadel Categories: Israel, Palestinians, Updates    

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has denied Israel’s request for a loan to assist the cash-strapped Palestinian Authority (PA). Conflicting numbers have been reported regarding the precise amount of the loan that Israel requested, with some news outlets reporting that it was for US $1 billion and others reporting that it was for US $100 million. Regardless of the exact amount, Israel’s request highlights not only its interest in preventing the collapse of the Palestinian economy but also the precariousness of the funding situation the PA currently faces thanks to a global economic downturn that has decreased the ability of donor countries worldwide to make good on their funding promises.

Putin's Israel visit showcases diplomacy's strengths and limitations

Putin's Israel visit showcases diplomacy's strengths and limitations Author: Ahron Shapiro Categories: Iran, Israel, Palestinians, Russia, Syria, Updates    

Russian President Vladimir Putin's visit to Israel last week, as part of a larger Middle East tour by the newly re-elected leader, is seen by analysts as a productive diplomatic exercise between the two countries.

At the same time, analysts agree, the visit demonstrated the limits of diplomacy in persuading Russia to change its policies regarding matters of key national interest to Jerusalem, especially regarding Iran and Syria.

Romney plans trip to Israel

Romney plans trip to Israel Author: Ahron Shapiro Categories: America, Israel, Updates    

Mitt Romney, the presumptive US Republican presidential nominee, will be visiting Israel in the near future, the New York Times reported on Tuesday.

According to the story, Romney is expected to meet with Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and President Shimon Peres, Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, the US Ambassador Daniel Shapiro and members of the Israeli Opposition.

Romney's itinerary does not include a meeting with PA President Mahmoud Abbas, according to the Times.

A visit to Israel is becoming almost customary for US presidential candidates in an election season.

Muslim Brotherhood leader: Liberating Jerusalem and Palestine should be "sole goal"

Muslim Brotherhood leader: Liberating Jerusalem and Palestine should be "sole goal" Author: Allon Lee Categories: Egypt, Islamic Extremism, Israel, Palestinians, Updates    

A June 14 speech by the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood's leader Mohammed Badie in which he dreams of a Muslim leadership ready to make the liberation of Palestine and Jerusalem "the sole goal" does not engender hope the world's leading Sunni Islamist organisation is ready to moderate its extremist positions now that it's candidate has won the country's presidency.

In the speech, Badie, who selected Mohammed Mursi to run for the Egyptian presidency, says:

"How happy would be the Muslims if all Muslim rulers made the Palestinian cause a pivotal issue, around which Muslims, rulers and the ruled, would line up [and ally to make] the sole goal for all of them the recovery of al Aqsa Mosque, freeing it from the filth of the Zionists, and imposing Muslim rule throughout beloved Palestine."

 Media Week - Waterlogged; Horse and cart reporting; Simplistic moralising

Media Week - Waterlogged; Horse and cart reporting; Simplistic moralising Author: Allon Lee Categories: Israel, Media/ Academia, Middle East, Palestinians, Updates    

Age/Sydney Morning Herald (June 23) Middle East correspodent Ruth Pollard reported on an NGO study claiming that Gaza drinking water is "too contaminated", "never in continuous supply because of daily power shortages," and the infrastructure distributing it is in disrepair because Gazans have lived under an "Israel-imposed military blockade for five years."

Nowhere in the article was Hamas mentioned, which is astounding given that it has been the sole governing authority in Gaza since 2007 and has been effectively at war with Israel while doing little for its own population's welfare or water needs.

Furthermore, she ignored or was unaware of IDF reports documenting at least 27 water and sewage purification projects in place in Gaza - all of them facilitated by Israel, and not a single one funded by Hamas.

Scribblings: The Other Problem with the Muslim Brotherhood Author: Tzvi Fleischer Categories: Egypt, Islamic Extremism, Israel, Palestinians    

There are a lot of things to worry about following the victory of the Muslim Brotherhood's Muhammad Morsi in the Egyptian Presidential election. The Brotherhood is of course effectively the parent organisation and model for all radical Sunni Islamist groups - from al-Qaeda, through Hamas, to Somalia's al-Shabaab, Nigeria's murderous Boko Haram and Indonesia's Jemaah Islamiyah. It also comes with a worldview which places absolutely no intrinsic value on democracy - to them, democracy is tactically valuable only as long as it helps achieve Islamist ends and the moment other ways of doing so appear to be better, it becomes an obstacle to be eradicated. Even if the Brotherhood allows relatively free elections to continue, its theocratic worldview makes it unlikely to encourage the development of the free public square which is essential for genuine democracy to flourish.

Essay: Legal Blindness

Essay: Legal Blindness Author: Daniel Meyerowitz-Katz Categories: Israel, Palestinians    

Since Australian Foreign Minister Bob Carr announced on May 28 that he would be increasing funding to the UN Relief and Works Association for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA), there has been a great deal of focus on the true nature of UNRWA and its activities.

UNRWA is the single biggest influence on the current situation of Palestinian refugees (or more correctly, ‘Palestine refugees'), which itself is perhaps the most serious outstanding issue in the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. The Palestinians insist that the millions of descendants of Palestinians who fled the 1947-1948 war have a "right" to return to what is now Israel. This would mean, in effect, the destruction of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state. For this reason, it is a condition that no conceivable Israeli government could accept, but on which Palestinians refuse to compromise.

AIR
Out of Africa

Out of Africa Author: Yehonathan Tommer Categories: Africa, Immigration/ Multiculturalism, Israel    

Compared to the revolutionary upheavals in the Arab states, the Jewish state is a haven of political stability, domestic quiet and economic prosperity. And while it involves a hazardous, overland desert journey fraught with Bedouin marauders and human traffickers, Israel's largely unfenced Negev border with the Egyptian Sinai has nonetheless seen between 1,000 to 2,000 foot-weary, traumatised Africans crossing into Israel each month over the past few years.

However, entries are expected to fall dramatically when the 247-kilometre-long fence being constructed along the Sinai border is completed by the end of 2012, according to Israeli PM Binyamin Netanyahu.

Israel looks to Asia's next generation

Israel looks to Asia's next generation Author: Yehonathan Tommer Categories: Asia, Israel    

In recent years, Israel has been coming to sees its future as increasingly linked with Asia. This fact is underscored by changing strategic realities, the region's influential emergent economies, and American and European woes in an unresolved global financial crisis. Three of the world's largest economies (Japan, India and China) are Asian, and four out of every seven persons on this planet live in Asia.

The Jerusalem-based Israel-Asia Centre (IAC), established in 2009, aims to promote a shared future, "investing in the next generation of leaders in Israel-Asia relations, by building dynamic networks to maximise their continued engagement and cooperation."

Motion for one minute’s silence unanimously passed in Australian Parliament

Motion for one minute’s silence unanimously passed in Australian Parliament Author: Sharyn Mittelman Categories: Australasia, Israel, Terrorism, Updates    

A motion calling upon the International Olympic Committee to observe a minute's silence at next month's London Olympics for the 11 Israelis killed in the 1972 Munich massacre, has today been unanimously passed in the House of Representatives.

The motion was moved by Paul Fletcher (Bradfield, Lib.) and seconded by the Josh Frydenberg (Kooyong, Lib.).

Israeli music builds bridges

Israeli music builds bridges Author: Andrea Nadel and Tzvi Fleischer Categories: Israel, Middle East, Op-eds    

Anti-Israel activists have been sponsoring intense campaigns of intimidation, emotional blackmail and misinformation to encourage prominent musicians to boycott Israel by not performing there, as reported on June 4 ("Stars under fire for concerts in Israel").

These activists claim that they are acting in the name of peace, but in reality what they are actually doing is precisely the opposite. They are participating in a new version of a decades-old effort to reject any co-existence with Israel.

What's even more ludicrous and hypocritical about efforts to culturally boycott Israel is that they ignore a compelling reality of today's Middle East. Even as activists in Western states demand that artists refuse to have any association with Israel, the opposite is actually happening in the Middle East.

There, despite decades of boycotts, people from Turkey to Iran are embracing the works of Israeli musicians in increasing numbers, often at great personal risk.

Updates
This week in Parliament - Fletcher calls for one minute’s silence at London Olympics, and Danby criticises ABC's alleged media bias on Israel

This week in Parliament - Fletcher calls for one minute’s silence at London Olympics, and Danby criticises ABC's alleged media bias on Israel Author: Sharyn Mittelman Categories: Australasia, Israel, Media/ Academia, Updates    

As discussed in my previous blog post, prominent Australian political leaders, including the Prime Minister and Opposition Leader, signed a petition calling for one minute's silence at the London Olympics to honour the victims of the 1972 Munich massacre, joining a growing international chorus on the subject. Now Paul Fletcher (Bradfield, Lib.) on June 19 in the House of Representatives gave notice for a motion on this issue.

Meanwhile on June 18, Michael Danby (Melbourne Ports, ALP) made a speech in the House of Representatives criticising the ABC's alleged media bias, particularly against Israel, as well as the ABC's "laughably labelled ‘complaints procedure'".

Egypt's Uncertain Post-Election Future

Egypt's Uncertain Post-Election Future Categories: Egypt, Israel, Updates    

This Update deals with the aftermath of events in Egypt over the weekend - both the run-off presidential election (which the Muslim Brotherhood's Muhammed Morsi claims to have narrowly won, though his opponent, Ahmed Shafiq, makes the same claim, but election authorities are reviewing appeals and it is not clear when an official announcement will be made ), and the military's announcement of a temporary constitutional arrangement which effectively strips the Presidency of most of its power.

Media Week - Antisemitic poster boys; Radio daze; Go Canada

Media Week - Antisemitic poster boys; Radio daze; Go Canada Author: Allon Lee Categories: Anti-Zionism, Antisemitism, Israel, Media/ Academia, Middle East, Palestinians, Updates    

A Sydney Morning Herald story (16/6) on the Egyptian Supreme Court overturning a ban on the presidential candidacy of former Mubarak-era Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq featured a picture of a male protester holding a poster of Shafiq covered in at least five Star of Davids.

The paper's accompanying caption stated: "Hatred....protesters hold a defaced poster of presidential candidate Ahmed Shafiq". Perhaps "Stereotypical antisemitism that is a feature of Egyptian political discourse" might have been a more apt description.

Thailand, Israel defence ties highlight Jerusalem's increasing focus on Asia

Thailand, Israel defence ties highlight Jerusalem's increasing focus on Asia Author: Ahron Shapiro Categories: Asia, Australasia, Israel, Updates    

Ties between Israel and Thailand increased last week following a visit to Israel by Thai Defence Minister Sukumpol Suwanatat, which culminated in the signing of an intelligence pact between the two countries.

According to the report in the print edition of Friday's Bangkok Post, Thai and Israeli defence ministries have signed a non-disclosure agreement over classified information on intelligence, military and security.

"The agreement is part of the two countries' cooperation on security issues. We also agreed to exchange information on anti-terrorism operations,'' Sukumpol told the paper.

According to the story, a Thai military source added that Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak offered his mine-clearing and other military technology to the Thai Defence Ministry to help Thailand cope with ongoing violence in the country's south.

The visit came in the wake of a terror explosion in Bangkok on February 14 which wounded five people. The bombers, reportedly linked to Hezbollah, allegedly intended to attack Israeli diplomats in the city.

The blindness behind the NGO petition to end the Gaza blockade

The blindness behind the NGO petition to end the Gaza blockade Author: Sharyn Mittelman Categories: Israel, NGOs, Palestinians, United Nations, Updates    

Fifty international charities and UN agencies have made a joint media appeal to lift the blockade of the Gaza Strip. Some of the charities that have signed the petition have Australian branches including: Amnesty International, Oxfam, Care International, War Child and HelpAge International.  The petition states:

"For over five years in Gaza, more than 1.6 million people have been under blockade in violation of international law. More than half of these people are children. We the undersigned say with one voice: 'end the blockade now'".

The petition appears to overlook a number of key issues which are discussed in this blog post.

Hamas: We're responsible for major new outbreak of rocket attacks

Hamas: We're responsible for major new outbreak of rocket attacks Author: Ahron Shapiro Categories: Israel, Palestinians, Terrorism, Updates    

Dozens of rockets have been launched from Gaza into Israel during a new outbreak of fighting this week. Also, in a new twist, Hamas has taken responsibility for the attacks, rather than merely passively permitting other groups such as Islamic Jihad to launch rockets from its territory - a policy that had been in place for the past year.

Why worry about Syria when you can pick on Israel?

Why worry about Syria when you can pick on Israel? Author: Daniel Meyerowitz-Katz Categories: Australasia, Israel, Op-eds, Palestinians, Syria    

In a famous incident on an episode of ABC's QandA, almost exactly one year ago, comedian Sandy Gutman (aka Austen Tayshus) berated Greens Senator Lee Rhiannon for her defence of the NSW Greens’ decision to adopt a boycott of Israel.

The implementation of this boycott policy in Greens-controlled Marrickville Council had caused a huge PR disaster for the Greens and probably cost them the State seat of Marickville in the then-recent NSW elections. Referring to Rhiannon’s support for the 2010 "flotilla to Gaza", Gutman said to her:

Can I just ask you why you’re so obsessed with Israel? Why not, say, North Korea or China or Somalia or Cuba or any other country… In fact, why don’t you send a flotilla to Syria? Because Syria has now murdered 1100 people of its own citizens. Why aren’t you on – why aren’t you on that flotilla? That’s what I want to understand.

Peres awarded US medal, says honour belongs to all Israelis

Peres awarded US medal, says honour belongs to all Israelis Author: Sharyn Mittelman Categories: America, Israel, Updates    

Israeli President Shimon Peres' ability to foster positive relationships with the West, and in particular the United States was very much on display in Washington on June 13 when he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom - the highest civilian award the United States government can bestow upon an individual. In a gala dinner held in Washington in Peres' honour, US President Barack Obama praised the Israeli President's legacy and efforts on behalf of peace.

Obama said of Peres, "In him we see the essence of Israel itself... an indomitable spirit that will not be denied."

Canada joins call for minute's silence to honour victims of Munich massacre

Canada joins call for minute's silence to honour victims of Munich massacre Author: Sharyn Mittelman Categories: Australasia, Israel, Updates    

Following my previous blog post on the subject, the campaign to have a minute's silence at the upcoming Olympic Games in memory of the massacre of Israeli athletes at the Munich games 40 years ago appears to be gathering steam internationally.

Senior Australian leaders including both the Prime Minister and Opposition Leader, and now the Canadian Parliament have joined in the call, despite the International Olympic Committee (IOC) having already rejected an appeal by the Israeli government in May.

The big lie, redux

The big lie, redux Author: Ahron Shapiro Categories: Anti-Zionism, Israel, Palestinians, Updates    

In 1985, following the murder of wheelchair-bound Leon Klinghoffer by Palestinian terrorists aboard the cruise ship Achille Lauro, Palestine Liberation Organisation Foreign Secretary Farouq Qaddumi famously denied responsibility for the attack, suggesting that perhaps his terminally ill wife had killed her husband for insurance money.

This unique brand of chutzpah resurfaced again this week.

AIR
Russian President to visit Israel in June

Russian President to visit Israel in June Author: Sharyn Mittelman Categories: Iran, Israel, Russia, Syria, Updates    

Despite Israel and Russia holding strongly divergent views on key Middle East issues - the violence in Syria, Iran's nuclear program and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict - Israel and Russia have against the odds managed to retain good relations since the end of the Cold War.

Russian President Vladimir Putin was quoted last year saying: "Israel is, in fact, a special state to us. It is practically a Russian-speaking country..."

Russia's ‘friendliness' has been made even clearer with Putin's decision to visit Israel and the Palestinian territories in late June. It will be Putin's first visit to Israel since 2005.

Addressing Israel's Arab-integration problem

Addressing Israel's Arab-integration problem Author: Daniel Meyerowitz-Katz Categories: Israel, Updates    

When Israel's largest opposition party, Kadima, joined the ruling coalition, a great deal of attention went to the impending non-renewal of the "Tal Law" -- the law exempting Israel's Haredi (ultra-orthodox) communities from compulsory national service. Another side of the deal between Kadima and the government did not receive quite as much attention: in addition to Haredim, the proposed replacement for the Tal Law also requires that Israel's Arab citizens participate in the national service program. This involves numerous options, including charity work within their own communities.

Israeli Arabs make-up around 20% of the Israeli population and Haredim make-up 10%. While the two communities may seem completely different on the surface, in many ways they are very similar...

The secrets of Israeli happiness and longevity

The secrets of Israeli happiness and longevity Author: Andrea Nadel Categories: Israel, Middle East, Updates    

Think of Israel, and, for many, the first images that come to mind are of endless conflict, war and the constant struggle to survive against impossible odds. The sum of its external and internal challenges combined might easily lead one to believe that Israel is a very unhappy society in which to live. The reality, however, is actually far sunnier. Based on findings in a recent Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) report on life satisfaction in the developed world, Israel was recently declared the 6th happiest country on Earth.

"Personnel is Policy": Amnesty International and Israel

"Personnel is Policy": Amnesty International and Israel Author: Or Avi-Guy Categories: Anti-Zionism, Israel, NGOs, Updates    

It is no secret that Israel has been receiving "special" attention and treatment from several human rights organisations, which is expressed not only by the disproportional scope of research efforts dedicated to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but also in strong biases and double standards when it comes to evaluating claims about Israel and its policies.

Now, it has been revealed that a "giant" among international human rights NGOs, Amnesty International, apparently has 'personnel issues' - which may explain some of Amnesty's recent reports and statements on Israel, such as the controversial new report about administrative detention and Palestinian prisoners' hunger strikes called "Starved of Justice: Palestinians detained without trial by Israel".

Updates
Only way ahead is through talking

Only way ahead is through talking Author: Sharyn Mittleman Categories: Israel, Op-eds, Palestinians    

In his recent article, Robert Newton of the Australia Palestine Advocacy Network offered Australian Foreign Minister Bob Carr ("Carr should press Obama on peace for Israel and Palestine", June 4) some poor advice on moving forward with the Israeli-Palestinian Peace negotiations.

Newton suggests that Israel alone is wholly to blame for the current ‘impasse' in Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, ignoring the element of Palestinian responsibility for perpetuating the conflict which has been all too apparent in the events of recent months. He neglects to tell readers that Israel has been continually stating that it seeks the "immediate resumption of peace talks without any preconditions whatsoever", but it is the Palestinian Authority that is refusing to talk with Israel, and has been doing so, with a few minor exceptions, over the past three years.

Melbourne protest against Israel Independence function provokes backlash

Melbourne protest against Israel Independence function provokes backlash Author: Sharyn Mittelman Categories: Australasia, Israel, Updates    

On Tuesday night a belated Israel independence celebration was held at the Windsor Hotel. Students for Palestine decided to target the event, and staged a protest outside the hotel. The protest has been described as ‘ugly', with protestors burning an effigy of the Victorian Premier Ted Baillieu for supporting ‘apartheid' and calls for the destruction of Israel as the protestors chanted "From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free."

Despite the noise created by the protest, the celebration continued inside the Windsor with around 300 guests - including leaders in the Jewish community, Premier Baillieu, Leader of the opposition Daniel Andrews, Israeli Ambassador to Australia Yuval Rotem and other diplomats.  In addition, approximately 50 Liberal Party, ALP and Nations Members of Parliament were escorted by the police to the Windsor Hotel through the noisy throng of protestors to attend the event. The police are to be commended for their professionalism and effective crowd control.

The next day speeches were made in the Victorian Parliament affirming support for the State of Israel and praising the police response to the protest.

The ABC and UNRWA

The ABC and UNRWA Author: Allon Lee Categories: Israel, Media/ Academia, Palestinians, United Nations, Updates    

ABC radio's "World Today" reported on the growing recognition that the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) may actually be perpetuating the ongoing Palestinian refugee issue (see AIJAC's update from June 6 2012 for more on the issue).

Unfortunately, a serious issue suffered from the not-so-subtle insinuation that the enterprise is essentially a right-wing plot to deprive aid to Palestinians rather than a question of who should rightfully be deemed a Palestinian refugee and how it might just be hampering solving the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

Israeli musicians transcend political divides to connect with Middle Eastern fans

Israeli musicians transcend political divides to connect with Middle Eastern fans Author: Andrea Nadel Categories: Anti-Zionism, Iran, Israel, Libya, Middle East, Syria, Turkey, Updates    

Boycotting and isolating Israel culturally, economically, and politically has long been one of the goals of many of Israel’s neighbours in the Middle East, and more recently, of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement. It is revealing, then, that growing numbers of people throughout the Middle East are themselves disobeying the call of the anti-normalisation and BDS movements by listening to music by Israeli artists.

Israeli defence relationships in Asia... and Australia

Israeli defence relationships in Asia... and Australia Author: Ahron Shapiro Categories: Asia, Australasia, India, International Security, Israel, Updates    

The influential trade publication Defence Review Asia has reported strong growth for Israeli weapons system sales to a number of Asian and Australasian countries, including right here in Australia.

The story, which was published on Sunday, focused on burgeoning trade between Israel and India, but also looked at deals with Singapore and South Korea, among others.

Media Week - BDS is anti-peace; Worrying findings; Sandstorm on the horizon?

Media Week - BDS is anti-peace; Worrying findings; Sandstorm on the horizon? Author: Allon Lee Categories: Anti-Zionism, Antisemitism, Australasia, Egypt, Israel, Media/ Academia, Palestinians, Updates    

In the Australian (25/5) academic Philip Mendes analysed the conceptual and practical flaws underpinning the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement noting that it "is a by-product of the second Palestinian intifada and the collapse of the Oslo peace process.... It is essentially war by other means...and intended to coerce Israel into surrendering to Palestinian demands".

The myth of Israeli backing for Assad

The myth of Israeli backing for Assad Author: Ahron Shapiro Categories: Israel, Syria, Updates    

A myth seems to have developed in some circles that Israel is either backing the Assad regime in Syria, or at the least, is somehow impeding international action against it, supposedly out of fear of what may follow.

Israel returns bodies of 91 Palestinians, in goodwill gesture

Israel returns bodies of 91 Palestinians, in goodwill gesture Author: Sharyn Mittelman Categories: Israel, Palestinians, Updates    

In a move intended to encourage the Palestinians to return to peace negotiations, Israel returned the remains of 91 Palestinians on May 31, most of whom were killed while carrying out attacks against Israelis.

Israeli government spokesman Mark Regev said:

"We hope that this humanitarian gesture will serve both as a confidence-building measure and help get the peace process back on track... Israel is ready for the immediate resumption of peace talks without any preconditions whatsoever."

Editorial: End of the Camp David era? Author: Colin Rubenstein Categories: Egypt, Israel    

Israel's new national unity government - one of the country's broadest coalitions on record - will have its work cut out in the months ahead. Domestically, in addition to the need to re-write the rules on military service for the ultra-Orthodox minority, and promised efforts to implement overdue political reforms, last year's controversies over social equity issues are also likely to resurface.

Internationally, the problem of how to deal with Iran looms over everything else, representing perhaps the most significant existential threat Israel has faced in more than a generation.

But almost as important will be adapting to the changing and unsettled situation in Egypt, as it continues its political revolution following the ouster of Hosni Mubarak last year.

Scribblings: Hamas "Hudna" offer revealed Author: Tzvi Fleischer Categories: Israel, Palestinians    

A lot of international commentators have been taken in by Hamas claims to be ready to accept a Palestinian state on the pre-1967 borders as part of a deal with Israel (though most commentators gloss over the fact that Hamas always also demands a Palestinian "right of return" - which would lead to Israel's demographic destruction.) And Hamas has made enough ambiguous noises about accepting the results of a referendum of all Palestinians on a peace deal that some have rushed to argue that Hamas will agree to a permanent two-state peace if such a referendum can be passed.

But Hamas' deputy political leader Moussa Abu Marzouk made it very clear in an interview with the New York-based Forward published on April 27 that Hamas is saying nothing of the kind. He did say that any Israel-Palestinian agreement must be ratified by a referendum, stating "All of the Palestinians should vote about this." But he was explicit that even if such a referendum passes, it will still be merely a temporary ceasefire - a hudna in Arabic - to Hamas. He said "When we reach the agreement, our point of view is, it's a hudna." Abu Marzouk went on to mention ten years as an appropriate time frame for such a ceasefire.

AIR
A Toxic Brew in Sinai

A Toxic Brew in Sinai Author: Evelyn Gordon Categories: Egypt, Israel    

To grasp how badly the security situation in Sinai has deteriorated, one fact suffices: Israel now receives as many intelligence warnings about Sinai-based terror plots as it does about terror from Gaza.

This, obviously, is of great concern to Israel. But it should also concern the international community because, unlike terror from the West Bank or Gaza, which, despite periodic Israeli counter-offensives, has never drawn other Arab countries into the conflict, Sinai-based terror could easily end up starting a war between Israel and Egypt.

Big Government, Israeli-style

Big Government, Israeli-style Author: Amotz Asa-El Categories: Israel    

In one of the strangest about-faces ever seen in its politics, the Jewish State woke up Tuesday, May 8 with the main Opposition party, Kadima, joining the Government, after the country had gone to bed the previous night with an early-election bill already in the process of being legislated.

The new broad government, whose backing by 94 of 120 lawmakers makes it the second largest in Israeli history (in 1969 Golda Meir headed a coalition of 102 MKs), is a result of momentary circumstances, but it may have longer-term implications.

Our misguided boycotters

Our misguided boycotters Author: Daniel Meyerowitz-Katz Categories: Israel, Op-eds, Palestinians    

Peter Beinart's call for a boycott of Israelis in the West Bank opposes the policy advice of almost everyone involved in the debate on the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. Similarly, the choice of my friend and former colleague in AUJS, Liam Getreu, to adopt Beinart's policy has place Liam at-odds with everyone in Australian Jewry bar the handful who fall far enough to the fringe of the political spectrum that they would consider a boycott, but are not quite ready to boycott Israel in its entirety.

 Israeli leaders condemn violent riot

Israeli leaders condemn violent riot Author: Sharyn Mittelman Categories: Israel, Updates    

What started as a protest of some 1,000 people in Tel Aviv's Hatikva neighbourhood on May 23 calling for the deportation of unauthorised African migrants to Israel, turned violent as demonstrators attacked African passersby while others lit garbage cans on fire and smashed car windows. Israeli police arrested 17 people during the protest.

The violence and incitement to violence by some speakers has been condemned by Israel's highest leaders, and many Israelis have taken to the streets to protest against the racist riot.

Updates
Striking prisoners are no Gandhi-esque resisters

Striking prisoners are no Gandhi-esque resisters Author: Daniel Meyerowitz-Katz Categories: Israel, Op-eds, Palestinians    

Before the deal that ended it last week, the recent Palestinian prisoners' hunger strike in Israeli prisons was being presented as some kind of grand, Gandhi-esque "resistance" movement, pitting peaceful Palestinian "political prisoners" against cruel Israelis. This is certainly the impression that Randa Abdel-Fattah attempted to give in her recent piece on the subject.

As with many claims in the sadly still-unresolved Arab-Israel conflict, this general narrative is little more than a propaganda exercise, aimed at winning undeserved sympathy for people who are far from innocent.

Iranian Commander: Iran seeks “full annihilation of Israel"

Iranian Commander: Iran seeks “full annihilation of Israel" Author: Sharyn Mittelman Categories: Iran, Israel, Updates    

Following up my previous AIJAC blog post regarding former Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar's revelations that the Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei told him in 2000 that "Israel must be burned to the ground" and forecasting an Iranian war to achieve this end, the Chief of Staff of the Iranian Armed Forces Major General Hassan Firouzabadi has also agreed that Iran's goal is to "annihilate" Israel.

More on Israel's growing ties with China

More on Israel's growing ties with China Author: Ahron Shapiro Categories: China, Israel, Updates    

In a quick followup to Sharyn Mittelman's recent blog on the growing numbers of international students who are coming to study in Israel and learn how Israelis innovate, the China Daily is the latest newspaper to run a story about this phenomenon, highlighting that China's growing ties with Israel are becoming more public within China and that more Chinese are starting to sit up and take notice of the benefits of the relationship.

Iran really, not rhetorically, wants to destroy Israel,  Supreme Leader told Spanish PM

Iran really, not rhetorically, wants to destroy Israel, Supreme Leader told Spanish PM Author: Sharyn Mittelman Categories: Europe, Iran, Israel, Updates    

Former Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar has revealed that the Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei unequivocally expressed to him, personally, his intention to destroy Israel, not politically but militarily and via Iranian military action.

Aznar told a crowd in Jerusalem on May 16: "In a private discussion we held in Tehran in October of 2000, Ali Khamenei told me that Israel must be burned to the ground and made to disappear from the face of the Earth."

The former Spanish Prime Minister also said that Khamenei told him "Iran's war against the United States and Israel is inevitable."

Media Week - Go figure; Bergs of a feather; Inclement comparison; Total fiction

Media Week - Go figure; Bergs of a feather; Inclement comparison; Total fiction Author: Allon Lee Categories: Iran, Israel, Media/ Academia, Middle East, Palestinians, Updates    

Go figure

An unattributed Age story (12/5) on Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails stated that a "fifth of all Palestinians living under occupation - some 700,00 people - have served time in Israeli jails, according to activist groups."

Although the article did not include the origin of the claim of 700,000, it is a number pushed by the Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association, a Palestinian NGO, and is not credible.

Israel as a teacher of innovation

Israel as a teacher of innovation Author: Sharyn Mittelman Categories: Australasia, Israel, Updates    

People from around the world are traveling to Israel to learn from its innovation and economic success.

Israel's President Shimon Peres recently told a visiting Australian delegation that included Financial Services Minister Bill Shorten, that part of the secret to Israel's economic success was that Israel had to use its brainpower to carve out a living, "We had nothing and that was our luck," Peres said. Peres also told the group that he wanted Israel to become "the Silicon Valley of the Middle East."

Is any deal better than no deal on Iran's nukes?

Is any deal better than no deal on Iran's nukes? Categories: International Security, Iran, Israel, Updates    

This Update features three pieces on the nuclear talks with Iran, scheduled to resume next week after a five week hiaitus - two of them focusing on the dangers of any agreement which does not adequately block Iran's ability to quickly build nuclear weapons whenever a decision to do so is reached.

First up is Iran scholar and recent visitor to Australia Emanuele Ottolenghi, who looks at some history related to the Iranian nuclear program to make the case that an agreement that does not take account of Iran's past weaponisation achievements will leave Iran able to build nuclear weapons.

Israel's Models as Role Models

Israel's Models as Role Models Author: Sharyn Mittelman Categories: Israel, Updates    

Israel is the first country to formally legislate a ban against underweight models. The legislation also bans use of models who 'look underweight', and creators of ads must disclose whether they used Photoshop or graphics programs to manipulate images to make the models look slimmer.

Media Week - Unbelievable, because it's wrong!; New Blood; Not so popular front

Media Week - Unbelievable, because it's wrong!; New Blood; Not so popular front Author: Allon Lee Categories: Anti-Zionism, Australasia, Israel, Media/ Academia, Middle East, Palestinians, Terrorism, Updates    

The Australian's John Lyons (5/5) reported on an Israeli law passed during the Second Intifada in 2003 designed to prevent terrorists exploiting family reunion laws to enter Israel.

This has meant Israeli Arab Taiseer Khatib's wife, Lana, who is from Jenin on the West Bank, can only stay in Israel on a temporary residency visa, something Khatib denounces as "beyond apartheid".

The newspaper offensively headlined the piece Living under the cloud of Israel's cruel apartheid implying this was a statement of fact rather than Taiseer Khatib's opinion. The online edition has since rectified this error.

Israel's Political "Big Bang"

Israel's Political "Big Bang" Categories: Israel, Updates    

This Update follows up on Ahron Shapiro's blog post yesterday on Israeli PM Netanyahu's shock move on Tuesday night to cancel planned elections and instead form a National Unity government with Opposition Leader Shaul Mofaz.

First up to provide a general perspective on the move is Israeli political scientist Prof. Gerald Steinberg, who argues that the broad political base Netanyahu has created for himself provides a platform to deal with a series of major challenges facing Israel. He stresses the immediate trigger for the move was the court-ordered need to re-write the "Tal Law", dealing with deferral of military service for Israel's Ultra-Orthodox minority - which seemed insoluble within the confines of the existing coalition.

Jewish refugees - Addressing historical injustice as a key to reconciliation

Jewish refugees - Addressing historical injustice as a key to reconciliation Author: Or Avi-Guy Categories: Egypt, Israel, Middle East, Palestinians, Syria, Updates    

Palestinian refugees and the claims made of "right of return" for them have long been a major issue within the debate over a 'just solution' to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The claimed "right of return'" is still seen as a core obstacle to overcome in any future peace negotiations. Yet the refugees question is even more complex. Palestinian refugees actually represent the smaller of the two refugees groups created by the regional conflict between the Arab countries and Israel - the larger group being Jewish refugees from Arab and Muslim countries.

The voices of these Jewish refugees, sadly, have hardly ever been heard or are generally too quickly dismissed. Listening to these voices could potentially shed light and new perspectives not only on the refugees question, but also on the nature and history of the regional context of the conflict. It might even promote reconciliation.

AIR
Olympic Disdain

Olympic Disdain Author: Sharyn Mittelman Categories: Israel, Terrorism, Updates    

This year marks forty years since the ‘Munich Massacre' - when during the 1972 Munich Olympics, Palestinian terrorists disguised as athletes attacked the dormitory housing the Israeli delegation and took Israeli athletes, coaches and officials hostages.  By the end of the ordeal, the terrorists had killed eleven Israelis and a German police officer.

For the past four decades, families of the victims have repeatedly sought to persuade the International Olympic Committee to incorporate a minute of silence during the opening ceremonies of the games to commemorate the Munich Massacre.  This year the IOC has again rejected their request.

Planned early election cancelled, National Unity government forming

Planned early election cancelled, National Unity government forming Author: Ahron Shapiro Categories: Israel, Updates    

The last-minute decision overnight by Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and newly-elected Kadima leader Shaul Mofaz to create a national unity government and avert early elections planned for Sept. 4 came as a surprise to both most Israelis and most observers of Israeli politics. Yet in retrospect, it was a move that made a lot of sense for both leaders.

Egypt's Islamist Presidential Candidates/ Benzion and Binyamin Netanyahu

Egypt's Islamist Presidential Candidates/ Benzion and Binyamin Netanyahu Categories: Egypt, Islamic Extremism, Israel, Updates    

This Update contains two valuable pieces on the candidates for the highly important Egyptian Presidential  election (Barry Rubin had an excellent analysis of just how important here), as well as one of the many interesting pieces being written about the legacy of Benzion Netanyahu, the father of Israeli PM Binyamin Netanyahu, who died last week age 102.

Updates
Israel Heads to the Polls: Is an Iran strike now off the table?

Israel Heads to the Polls: Is an Iran strike now off the table? Author: Ahron Shapiro Categories: Israel, Updates    

Israel was abuzz this week with news that Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu had decided to set a date for early elections. While the official announcement is still days away, government sources reported the likely date of elections to be September 4...

Netanyahu, who is on pace to be Israel's longest serving Prime Minister since Ben Gurion and has benefited from a dearth of political challengers during his term, is seen by poll-watchers as having little to fear from early elections. Latest polling figures show that if the elections were held today, Netanyahu would be a shoo-in, with 48 percent of Israelis preferring Netanyahu stay on as prime minister...

With Netanyahu's re-election bid deemed likely, the more immediate question being asked is what impact, if any, the decision to hold early elections will have on Israel's strategy vis-à-vis Iran.

From anti-Zionist to Zionist

From anti-Zionist to Zionist Author: Sharyn Mittelman Categories: Anti-Zionism, Israel, Updates    

It is often fascinating to hear true stories from people about how their once fierce hatred for the State of Israel came to be questioned for one reason or another - such as a trip to Israel, a book/research or a meeting with an Israeli - leading them re-evaluate their preconceived ideas.

A common theme among these personal accounts is that prior to their individual journey that led them to learn more about Israel, they had not been exposed to positive information about Israel or Jews, and felt a sense of betrayal when they learnt the ‘truth' about Israel. Often their newly formed pro-Israel perspectives were not welcome in their home communities, and yet they are dedicated to speaking out in support of Israel.

Muslim stigma on visiting Jerusalem waning?

Muslim stigma on visiting Jerusalem waning? Author: Daniel Meyerowitz-Katz Categories: Egypt, Islamic Extremism, Israel, Palestinians, Updates    

In what was was considered another sign of the rapidly deteriorating ties between Israel and Egypt, a visit to Jerusalem by Egyptian Grand Mufti Ali Gomaa -- accompanying Jordanian officials -- caused outrage in Egypt's new Islamist-dominated Parliament last week. The Parliament demanded Gomaa's resignation for behaviour that risked "normalising" relations with Israel.

Despite Gomaa's statements that the visit was unofficial and that it took place under the supervision of the Jordanian authorities, the visit angered those opposed to normalizing relations with Israel.

Parliament Speaker Saad al-Katatny read out...

 

IDF chief's views on Iran misrepresented

IDF chief's views on Iran misrepresented Author: Ahron Shapiro Categories: Iran, Israel, Updates    

A number of major news outlets, including ABC news here in Australia, have been reporting on the Yom Ha-atzmaut interview with Israeli Chief of General Staff Benny Gantz that appeared in Ha'aretz this week.

Unfortunately, most of these reports have taken the IDF chief's words out of context and in doing so, changed their meaning as well as their significance.

The crisis of bad journalism: why Lateline guest is being ridiculed everywhere

The crisis of bad journalism: why Lateline guest is being ridiculed everywhere Author: Daniel Meyerowitz-Katz Categories: America, International Jewry, Israel, Media/ Academia, Updates    

Last night, ABC Lateline featured an interview by Emma Alberici of former New Republic editor Peter Beinart. Beinart has been a figure of much controversy lately due to his new book The Crisis of Zionism -- an extension of his 2009 essay 'The Failure of the American Jewish Establishment' in the New York Review of Books -- in which he makes the case that the Jewish community in America is taking an incorrect line on Israel and provides his own perspective on how the Israeli/Palestinian conflict ought to be addressed.

The book provoked a litany of responses from across the political spectrum, with almost every senior figure in the American foreign policy world deriding or distancing themselves from his contribution. As a result, there is a very substantial body of work from which to draw in order to evaluate every point that he makes. In general, most experts agree that Beinart is largely well-intentioned and does genuinely want the best for Israel, however he is at the same time hopelessly naive and heavily encumbered by a lack of serious research on the topic. His views are those of...

Hamas interview reveals no hint of moderation

Hamas interview reveals no hint of moderation Author: Ahron Shapiro Categories: Islamic Extremism, Israel, Palestinians, Updates    

Give him credit for his candour. In an extensive interview with the Forward published on April 19, Mousa Abu Marzook, Deputy Director of Hamas' political bureau and the group's second-highest-ranking official, told the Jewish newspaper that Hamas would not respect a peace treaty with Israel signed by the Palestinian Authority, even if the agreement was endorsed by a referendum of all Palestinians, as Hamas has always demanded.

Moreover, Abu Marzook vowed that Hamas would never recognise Israel. The most Hamas would consider would be a ceasefire agreement, he said.

Editorial: Last Chance Diplomacy Author: Colin Rubenstein Categories: International Security, Iran, Israel    

Following a period of increased international sanctions against Iran over its nuclear program, the P5+1 nudged Iran back to the negotiating table on April 13. The two-day talks, held in Istanbul, yielded little but an agreement to resume talks in five weeks time, on May 23 in Baghdad.

Whether you agree with Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's assessment that Iran had been given a "freebie", or US President Barack Obama's description of the latest talks as an "opportunity for us to negotiate and see if Iran comes to the table in good faith," the fact remains that despite the sanctions and these negotiations, Iran's nuclear enrichment and development continues apace in defiance of the unequivocal Western and UN policy to prevent Iran acquiring nuclear weapons.

Scribblings: Israel and the Shoah

Scribblings: Israel and the Shoah Author: Tzvi Fleischer Categories: Holocaust/ War Crimes, Israel    

Debate about Israel often leads back to the Shoah, the World War II Nazi Holocaust. The Holocaust is of course a constant background for many Jews both in Israel and out - an horrific presence, but also an important source of shared experience, and nation building, as well as the ultimate argument for the belief that Jews need self-determination in their own state, i.e. Zionism.

But the Shoah is also increasingly being invoked by Israel's critics...

General Opposition Encountered

General Opposition Encountered Author: Amotz Asa-El Categories: Israel    

Livni, with her well-to-do background, is history, at least as a prime ministerial contender. Humbly-born Mofaz, on the other hand, emerged from his sweeping victory as a force to reckon with, a battle-tested general who, while an underdog, can be counted on to fight for the premiership tooth and nail.

 Yom Ha’atzmaut

Yom Ha’atzmaut Author: Sharyn Mittelman Categories: Israel, Updates    

On Thursday, Israel will turn 64. It therefore seems appropriate to reflect on some of the remarkable achievements this small country has racked up in that relatively short time.

Little Israel, a third the size of Tasmania, is now a global leader in technology, especially in cleantech. Without plentiful natural resources such as water and oil, from its humble beginnings Israel has been required to pursue creative ingenuity - and many believe this is the secret behind the incredible achievements of ‘Start Up' Israel...

Netanyahu on Gunter Grass and Iran

Netanyahu on Gunter Grass and Iran Author: Ahron Shapiro Categories: Antisemitism, Holocaust/ War Crimes, Iran, Israel, Updates    

The Iranian nuclear question, Yom Hashoah and the controversy surrounding a recent poem by Gunter Grass, were the backdrop for a recent long interview Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu gave to the German newspaper Welt am Sontag.

In the interview, published on April 22, Netanyahu explained to the German audience what offended Israel most about Grass' poem "What Must be Said" - which depicted Israel as a potentially genocidal aggressor against Iran. Under questioning, the Prime Minister also defended his positions on the risks of a nuclear-armed Iran.

Later in the interview, he rebuffed claims that the continued existence of West Bank settlements are harming the prospects of peace with the Palestinians...

ANZAC Day and Yom Ha-Zikaron

ANZAC Day and Yom Ha-Zikaron Author: Or Avi-Guy Categories: Israel    

On the morning of April 25 people all around Australia will decorate their lapels with red poppies as they commemorate ANZAC Day. At the same time (give or take a few time zones) a much smaller nation, both demographically and geographically, will commemorate its own memorial day, as this year ANZAC Day falls on the same day as the Israeli Yom Ha-Zikaron (Israel's "Fallen Soldiers and Victims of Terrorism Remembrance Day"). In Israel, lapels will be decorated instead with red everlasting flowers (commonly known as 'Blood of the Maccabees' flowers).

AIR
Abbas' letter to Netanyahu/ Netanyahu on Iran, settlements and other issues

Abbas' letter to Netanyahu/ Netanyahu on Iran, settlements and other issues Categories: Iran, Israel, Palestinians, Updates    

This Update features some analysis of the aftermath of the meeting between Israeli PM Binyamin Netanyahu and Palestinian negotiators last week, where he was given a letter from Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas. Also included is a long but informative interview in which Netanyahu discusses several recent controversies in a German newspaper.

First Iran meeting/ Netanyahu and Fayyad meet to exchange letters

First Iran meeting/ Netanyahu and Fayyad meet to exchange letters Categories: International Security, Iran, Israel, Palestinians, Updates    

This Update deals with the "P5+1" talks with Iran that occurred on Saturday - with reports suggesting little diplomatic progress accomplished beyond agreement to another meeting in five weeks in Baghdad. On a separate issue, it also contains a look a the significance of the planned meeting tonight between Israeli PM Netanyahu and Palestinian PM Salam Fayyad to present a letter outlining the Palestinian position.

The Truth About Settlement Growth

The Truth About Settlement Growth Author: Sharyn Mittelman Categories: Israel, Palestinians, Updates    

During a recent CNN interview, former Israeli Prime Minister and current Defence Minister of Israel, Ehud Barak noted that the all too common perception of an historically high rate of settlement expansion taking place is just wrong - not a single new settlement has been built under the current Netanyahu government. Barak also notes that construction in settlements is actually currently occurring at a slower rate than under previous Israeli governments.

Easter in Jerusalem

Easter in Jerusalem Author: Sharyn Mittelman Categories: Israel, Palestinians, Updates    

Each year thousands of Christians make their way to Jerusalem to celebrate Easter. Israel's Tourism Ministry expects 125,000 visitors during Holy Week and 300,000 throughout April.

Over the weekend as Catholics and Anglicans celebrated Easter, there were media reports that claimed many Palestinian Christians were being denied entry into Jerusalem for their pilgrimage, claims which Israel strongly denies.

Updates
Israel's silence on Syria isn't a conspiracy

Israel's silence on Syria isn't a conspiracy Author: Ahron Shapiro Categories: Israel, Op-eds, Syria    

The question has arisen over Israel's position on the appalling situation in Syria, where the lives of over 9,000 civilians have been claimed in a crackdown on protesters and an insurrection by opposition groups.

Some commentators have unfairly interpreted the Israeli government's comparative silence over the bloodshed compared to other regional and Western countries as cold indifference, others as calculated.

Bizarrely and contradictorily, Israel has been criticised by some commentators for wanting to keep the current government in place and by others for seeking to topple it.

Passover reminds that slavery is not just ancient history

Passover reminds that slavery is not just ancient history Author: Daniel Meyerowitz-Katz Categories: Australasia, International Jewry, Israel, Op-eds, Sudan    

On Friday night, while the Christian world is celebrating Good Friday and the rest of Australia is celebrating a four-day weekend, the Jewish community in Australia will be holding the annual Passover seder, marking the beginning of the week of Passover.

The story of the children of Israel's escape from Egypt is well-known - there was even an animated movie about it - yet Jews are called upon to recount the Exodus each year in its entirety as if it were we who had left slavery in Egypt towards freedom in the Promised Land.

Media Week - Which lobby?, A wolf in wolf's clothing, Take a hike

Media Week - Which lobby?, A wolf in wolf's clothing, Take a hike Author: Allon Lee Categories: Israel, Media/ Academia, Middle East, NGOs, Palestinians, Updates    

In its first story since December 2011 looking at Iran's nuclear program, ABC TV "7.30" (21/3) reporter Michael Brissenden described the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) as "the most powerful Jewish lobby group in the United States". This may surprise the many non-Jews who attended AIPAC's recent annual conference, including pro-Israel Latinos, African-Americans and Christian delegates.

Israel's new Opposition leader

Israel's new Opposition leader Author: Ahron Shapiro Categories: Israel, Updates    

The triumph of Shaul Mofaz, a former Israel Defence Forces Chief of Staff and Defence Minister (for a bio of Mofaz see here) over former Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni in the Kadima party primaries this week has sparked a flurry of commentary and reactions inside Israel.

Widely noted by pundits was Mofaz's poor name recognition abroad. That, together with Kadima's weakened stature in the face of centrist challenges by the revamped Labour party and Yair Lapid's newly-launched party, has put a damper on analysis over Mofaz's win outside the region.

Aussie ex-pat brings Murray-Darling spirit to Israelis, Palestinians and Jordanians

Aussie ex-pat brings Murray-Darling spirit to Israelis, Palestinians and Jordanians Author: Daniel Meyerowitz-Katz Categories: Australasia, Israel, Jordan, Palestinians, Updates    

On a family rip back to Australia, Gidon Bromberg, an Australian environmental activist now living in Israel, picked up a copy of Chris Hammer's book The River: A Journey Through The Murray-Darling. Bromberg was inspired by Hammer's description of the process that led to the Federal Government passing legislation in 2007 to protect the river basin; so inspired, in fact, that he decided to bring Hammer to Israel and attempt to replicate the feat and help the long-suffering Jordan River.

Bromberg has written about this in today's Jerusalem Post...

Europa Europa: Keeping the Faith Author: Douglas Davis Categories: Europe, Israel, Palestinians    

The "Israel Apartheid Week" festival continues to excite students on campuses across Europe (forget those pesky events in Syria, Yemen, Egypt and Iran). But while Apartheid Week has come and gone for another year, the BDS campaign - Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions - plods relentlessly on. Why has the Jewish state, the only liberal democracy in the region, become the obsessive focus of vilification, demonisation and delegitimisation? Why is it considered so uniquely evil - a "racist, genocidal state," in the words of one of the leading Israel Apartheid Week celebrants in London?

Southern Exposure

Southern Exposure Author: Amotz Asa-El Categories: Israel, Palestinians    

After a week of intermittent barrages of mortars, rockets, and missiles, relative quiet befell southwestern Israel, in bizarre synchrony with a blessed winter's belated departure.

The weather has been one happy story in Israel this year. After seven years of drought, the skies opened up and by early March, the Water Authority reported that overall rainfall for this year had already exceeded by more than 10% the annual average. 

New Delhi Dalliance

New Delhi Dalliance Author: Yehonathan Tommer Categories: India, Israel    

Twenty years after establishing full diplomatic relations, India has formed a cordial network of Israeli bilateral ties aimed primarily at upgrading India's technological prowess, economic prospects, and military capabilities. These ties are based on converging strategic interests cemented by diverse cultural exchanges. They run on a separate, though contiguous track, from India's relations with the Arab and Muslim world - which are driven primarily by the need to secure vital energy resources in the Persian Gulf and defend India against Islamic terrorist groups.

Israel and US debate Red Lines on Iran

Israel and US debate Red Lines on Iran Author: Michael Herzog Categories: America, Iran, Israel    

The March 5 summit between US President Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu marked an important milestone in the US-Israeli decision-making process on Iran's nuclear program. The meeting helped clarify positions and narrow gaps, yet significant differences remain to be addressed in the coming months.

The facts and the hearsay on Israel

The facts and the hearsay on Israel Author: Ahron Shapiro Categories: Israel, Op-eds, Palestinians, Terrorism    

Terror sponsorship has been around for as long as terrorism.

It's a phenomenon that has been widely recognised, which allows a group to use terrorism as a tool while insulating themselves from direct responsibility. As an added benefit, in some cases it allows for additional logistical possibilities in planning a terror attack.

Naturally, nobody should be fooled: a terror sponsor who provides planning and support for a terror attack is as responsible as those who are sent to pull the trigger.

 UN Commission on the Status of Women singles out Israel for condemnation

UN Commission on the Status of Women singles out Israel for condemnation Author: Sharyn Mittelman Categories: Anti-Zionism, Egypt, Iran, Israel, Palestinians, Syria, United Nations, Updates    

The United Nations' Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) has done it again - in its annual session it condemned only one country - Israel, while ignoring the human rights violations of women around the world, including especially the current crisis in Syria - where women are being raped and murdered...

Want to avoid a strike on Iran? Then keep threatening to strike Iran

Want to avoid a strike on Iran? Then keep threatening to strike Iran Author: Daniel Meyerowitz-Katz Categories: Iran, Israel, Updates    

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has recently been the subject of much criticism because of what some see as an unnecessarily militaristic attitude regarding Iran, arguing that his statements indicate a clear gung-ho -- even warmongering -- attitude. The reality may actually be the very opposite.

Israel is believed to have previously taken-out two different nuclear programs: Iraq's in 1981 and Syria's in 2007. I say "believed to have" because Israel has never officially admitted to the second one; indeed, no Israeli public official ever even recognised that Syria had a nuclear program and in neither case was there any prior warning (in fact, prior to the strike on Syria's secret reactor in 2007...

AIR
More on Israel-China relations

More on Israel-China relations Author: Ahron Shapiro Categories: China, Israel, Updates    

Burgeoning relations between Israel and China has been the focus of considerable attention in recent months, including from us here at AIJAC (see here and here)

Now Israeli journalist Oren Kessler has written a new piece which is a must read for anyone interested in this subject - it's entitled "Shalom, Beijing" and appears in the American publication Foreign Policy this week.

 

Another child's death falsely blamed on Israel as leaked emails reveal Assad's scapegoating

Another child's death falsely blamed on Israel as leaked emails reveal Assad's scapegoating Author: Daniel Meyerowitz-Katz Categories: Iran, Israel, Media/ Academia, Palestinians, Syria, Updates    

Just days after being exposed for fraudulently blaming the accidental death of a 15-year-old boy on an "Israeli airstrike", Hamas officials have again attempted to implicate Israel in the death of a Gaza youth -- this time, seven-year-old Baraka al-Mughrabi. Just after Mughrabi passed-away last night, reports started emerging that he had been killed by an Israeli strike.

Not long after, however, these remarks were retracted as the truth of his death emerged...

False reports about the death of 15-year-old Gaza boy - and other internet falsehoods about the Gaza situation

False reports about the death of 15-year-old Gaza boy - and other internet falsehoods about the Gaza situation Author: Daniel Meyerowitz-Katz Categories: Israel, Media/ Academia, Palestinians, Updates    

The Kony2012 campaign was not the only viral campaign in recent days that spread some dubious information. A number of allegations of Israeli targeting of civilians that surface over the past few days have been outed as downright lies.

The most glaring example is the death of 15-year-old Nayif Shaaban Qarmout, who was killed in northern Gaza on Monday. The first reports emerged from Palestinian Authority-controlled media outlet Ma'an News, citing unnamed "witnesses" who attested that the boy was hit by an Israeli airstrike.

The claim caught the eye of the Israeli military, who were understandably confused, given that they had not launched any airstrikes on northern Gaza during the time that he was killed. An AFP reporter confirmed that there did not appear to be any evidence of an airstrike in the area, but the dead boy did seem to have been killed by an explosive device, albeit apparently one that he himself was carrying...

Media Week - Foreign advice; A word to the wise; and SMH's headlining act

Media Week - Foreign advice; A word to the wise; and SMH's headlining act Author: Allon Lee Categories: Israel, Media/ Academia, Updates    

Former Foreign Minister Gareth Evans was quick out of the blocks to suggest Kevin Rudd's successor should still make the case for Australia winning a temporary UN Security Council seat in 2013/14.

"It will certainly be almost impossible if we paint ourselves into a tiny minority corner on the Palestinian statehood issue, should that come to a vote in the General Assembly before October," Evans wrote (Age, 1/3).

However, last October, Australia, the United States, Canada, Czech Republic, Germany, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Palau, Panama, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Sweden, and Vanuatu all voted against admitting the non-existent state of Palestine to UNESCO as a full member state. A further 52 countries abstained from voting.

 

Updates
The Latest Gaza Flare-Up

The Latest Gaza Flare-Up Categories: Israel, Palestinians, Updates    

This Update deals with background to and details of the intensive flare-up over the weekend around Gaza, which saw over 200 rockets fired into southern Israel from Gaza (sending up to 1 million Israelis into bomb shelters) and Israel staging numerous counter-attacks at terrorist targets and rocket sites which reportedly killed around 25 Palestinians, all but three of them armed combatants, according to Israel. The violence was triggered on Friday when Israel assassinated Zuhair al-Qaissi, the leader of the Popular Resistance Committees (PRC), and an assistant, who Israel said were planning attacks into Israel from Sinai...

Peace through falsehood

Peace through falsehood Author: Allon Lee Categories: Israel, Palestinians, Terrorism, Updates    

Context is king and without it the most outrageous slurs can be given legitimacy.

Unfortunately, some pro-Palestinian activists are prone to only offer facts in isolation to give their false allegations the air of authenticity and aid the ongoing campaign to delegitimise Israel.

The most recent example of this appeared on Tuesday in an op-ed hosted on the ABC "Unleashed" website from Professor Stuart Rees called "Palestine matters, not Gillard-Rudd soapies"...

Obama and Bibi and Iran

Obama and Bibi and Iran Categories: America, Iran, Israel, Updates    

The past few days saw an intense period of discussion about the Iranian nuclear crisis in Washington involving both US President Obama, and visiting Israeli PM Binyamin Netanyahu. The three focal points of analysis were Obama's Speech to the America-Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) on Sunday (video here), the subsequent meeting between the two leaders on Monday and their public statement following the meeting, and Netanyahu's Speech to AIPAC on Monday evening (video here). We recommend reading all three original texts, and provide analysis of the context of all three below.

Reactions to Obama's AIPAC Speech

Reactions to Obama's AIPAC Speech Author: Sharyn Mittelman Categories: America, Iran, Israel, Updates    

On March 4, US President Barack Obama delivered a speech to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee's (AIPAC) annual policy conference. In his speech Obama emphasised his strong support for the State of Israel, and policy on Iran.

This blog post looks at a variety of resposes to the speech.

Arab commentators: Syria far worse than Israel, but treated more softly

Arab commentators: Syria far worse than Israel, but treated more softly Author: Ahron Shapiro Categories: Israel, Media/ Academia, Palestinians, Syria, Updates    

As official estimates of Syrian civilians killed in the Assad regime's bloody crackdown climb steadily past the 7,500 mark, a couple of recent Op-Eds in the Arab media have compared the Arab world's strong outrage to Israeli military actions in the West Bank, Gaza and southern Lebanon to their muted response to Syrian slaughter of their own people.

Putting aside the moral inequality of such a comparison (the pieces make no effort to differentiate the defensive nature of Israeli military campaigns from the cold-blooded ruthlessness of the Syrian dictatorial regime suppressing dissent from its own citizens) the pieces nevertheless mark a significant break from the traditional narrative in Arab media that the Palestinians are the region's principal human rights victims...

The SMH’s quest to downplay the Iranian nuclear program

The SMH’s quest to downplay the Iranian nuclear program Author: Allon Lee Categories: Anti-Zionism, Australasia, International Security, Iran, Israel, Media/ Academia, Updates    

Seldom has there been such a brazen attempt to pass off pantomime as intelligent debate.

Saturday's edition of the Sydney Morning Herald's (SMH) weekly "The Question" section - which canvasses the opinions of four experts with presumed standing on a specific issue - addressed the topic of "Is the West destined for war with Iran? Deepening distrust is fuelling a new round of sabre-rattling."

A fair enough subject for discussion, however, the range of views left a lot to be desired...

Inside Hamas/ Israel's Iran dilemma

Inside Hamas/ Israel's Iran dilemma Categories: Iran, Israel, Palestinians, Updates    

This Update features two new and penetrating analyses of the ructions and political disagreements currently roiling Hamas, as well as an important new expression of Israel's dilemmas vis-a-vis Iran's nuclear program in the lead up to Israeli PM Netanyahu's trip to Washington next week.

First up is the always excellently informed top Israeli journalist, Ehud Yaari, sorting out the power struggles within Hamas. Yaari says that the once unassailable Hamas political leader Khaled Meshaal now seems to be in deep trouble, cut off from a base of operations and with increasingly public denunciations of his policies from within Hamas' senior ranks...

Wikileaks' Assange using faux intelligence to bait journalists?

Wikileaks' Assange using faux intelligence to bait journalists? Author: Daniel Meyerowitz-Katz Categories: Israel, Media/ Academia, Updates    

On Monday, Wikileaks began releasing an alleged 5 million emails stolen by "hacktivist" group Anonymous from geo-political consulting firm Stratfor. The sensationalist title that Wikileaks gave the material -- The Global Intelligence Files -- as well as the statement announcing the release attempt to make the released emails out to be top-secret information from some sort of clandestine "private CIA".

The Stratfor emails reveal a company that cultivates close ties with US government agencies and employs former US government staff. It is preparing the 3-year Forecast for the Commandant of the US Marine Corps, and it trains US marines and "other government intelligence agencies" in "becoming government Stratfors"...

Israel wows Coalition lawmakers

Israel wows Coalition lawmakers Author: Gareth Nurunsky Categories: Australasia, Israel, Media Releases    

SIX federal Coalition MPs who recently returned from Israel said they were full of praise for Israel's achievements, more understanding of its challenges and ready to spread the word.

Bradfield MP Paul Fletcher, Tasmanian Senator David Bushby, Paterson MP Bob Baldwin, South Australian Senator David Fawcett, Brisbane MP Teresa Gambaro and Cowan MP Luke Simpkins all travelled as part of the Australia/Israel and Jewish Affairs Council's Rambam program.

Are the ultra-Orthodox poised to take over Israel?

Are the ultra-Orthodox poised to take over Israel? Author: Ahron Shapiro Categories: Antisemitism, Israel, Updates    

What's wrong with being religious in Israel? Nothing at all - though there is of course much controversy in Israel at the moment over the exemption from the draft for most ultra-Orthodox young men following a Supreme Court ruling last week, and other issues, including views on women's rights.

But these controversies, and the debates surrounding them, have led to the size and influence of Israel's ultra-Orthodox population sometimes being exaggerated in the media in order to make spurious comparisons between Israeli society and dogmatic Islamic states such as Iran or Saudi Arabia. So some firm facts are needed.

AIR

Editorial: Abbas' Unfortunate Choice Author: Colin Rubenstein Categories: Israel, Palestinians    

Recently, detailed accounts were published in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz of the January round of Israeli-Palestinian "negotiations about negotiating" held in Amman, Jordan.

According to the Haaretz account, Israeli negotiators offered a somewhat vague but important statement of the principles which would underly a peace agreement to include a Palestinian state in the vast majority of the West Bank plus Gaza - one which Haaretz described as "similar, if not identical to that which was presented by [then Foreign Minister] Tzipi Livni during the negotiations that took place in 2008 after the Annapolis Conference."

Scribblings: From the Jews to the Copts in Egypt

Scribblings: From the Jews to the Copts in Egypt Author: Tzvi Fleischer Categories: Egypt, Islamic Extremism, Israel    

In December, I wrote on AIJAC's "Fresh AIR" blog (available on-line at www.aijac.org.au/news/article/antisemitism-in-the-middle-east-in-1835) about a 19th century book that had been rediscovered which shed a great deal of light on the situation of Jews in the Arab Middle East in the 1830s - before Zionism became an issue, and before there was significant European influence on those societies. I noted that the book in question, An Account of the Manners and Customs of the Modern Egyptians, by Edward William Lane and Edward Stanley Poole, based on numerous visits to Egypt, countered common but erroneous beliefs that the Middle East was largely free from significant antisemitism or large-scale persecution of Jews before these influences.

Trojan Horse or Force Multiplier?

Trojan Horse or Force Multiplier? Author: Jonathan D. Halevi Categories: Israel, Palestinians    

On February 6, 2012, Palestinian Authority (PA) Chairman Mahmoud Abbas and Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal signed a new agreement to create a Palestinian national unity government for the West Bank and Gaza.

The Doha Declaration, like previous Fatah-Hamas agreements, emphasises the need to implement the agreements between the sides - once again demonstrating the difficulty of achieving institutional unity in the Palestinian arena in light of Hamas' declared ambition to assume senior status in representing the Palestinian people. The two sides will have to show great creativity to overcome the many obstacles facing the holding of elections, from unifying the separate civilian and security institutions in the West Bank and Gaza, to budget allocations.

Stuck in the Middle

Stuck in the Middle Author: Amotz Asa-El Categories: Israel    

Half-a-decade after it won its first and last general election, Israel's political centre is scrambling for a future in a rapidly changing ideological landscape.

At the heart of the jockeying is a three-way contest over the leadership of the main Israeli opposition party, Kadima, and the emergence of a new rival to the party for the middle of the road voter.

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The Last Word: Seeing is Disbelieving

The Last Word: Seeing is Disbelieving Author: Jeremy Jones Categories: Israel    

A few weeks ago I was sitting in a Muslim-owned café in an east Jerusalem suburb, discussing the complexities of Middle Eastern affairs with a Greek Orthodox Palestinian nationalist.

Hours earlier, I had met with a young, American-born Jewish woman, a high achiever academically who seemed to have the world at her feet in the USA or Europe. She spoke of her decision, as an independent young adult, to emigrate to Israel, where she is currently going through basic military training.

Politicians report on Israel visit

Politicians report on Israel visit Author: Henry Benjamin Categories: Australasia, Israel, Media Releases    

The Australia/Israel and Jewish Affairs Council has hosted a meeting in Sydney at which three Australian members of Parliament told of their experiences on a recent visit to Israel.

Liberal Bob Baldwin member for Paterson near Newcastle, Shadow Minister for Regional Development and Shadow Minister for Tourism, Liberal Teresa Gambaro represents Brisbane and is the Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for International Assistance and Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for Citizenship and Settlement and Tasmanian Liberal Senator David Bushby spent a week in Israel as guests of the Rambam Program which has in its ten years has hosted more than 500 journalists, politicians, youth leaders, union leaders and clergy on specially guided tours of the Holy Land.

The three politicians formed part of a group of six members of Federal Parliament.

Investors find their fortunes in Israeli, Palestinian stock markets

Investors find their fortunes in Israeli, Palestinian stock markets Author: Ahron Shapiro Categories: Israel, Palestinians, Updates    

While peacemaking visionaries talk about a future Israeli-Palestinian peace dividend - the concept that peace between Israelis and Palestinians will usher in a new era of mutual prosperity - the two peoples aren't waiting, as both Israeli and Palestinian stock markets continue to impress.

On February 20, the financial news organisation Bloomberg named Israel's stock market number one in the world in its Riskless Return Ranking - a measure of the safest investments for investors over the past decade...

Feckless Palestinian leadership fuels unnecessary suffering in Gaza

Feckless Palestinian leadership fuels unnecessary suffering in Gaza Author: Allon Lee Categories: Anti-Zionism, Israel, Palestinians, Updates    

Did you hear the one about the shipments of fuel from Egypt to Gaza stopped by Hamas because they refused to let them pass through the Israeli crossing at Rafah?

No? Well, that's because stories of Palestinian suffering caused by Hamas and Fatah rarely make the grade in most Australian and Western newsrooms. It's a case of news editors saying: "No Israel angle? Then there's nothing to see here folks"...

Cyprus and Israel: Perennial wallflowers share a dance

Cyprus and Israel: Perennial wallflowers share a dance Author: Ahron Shapiro Categories: Israel, Middle East, Updates    

Binyamin Netanyahu's meeting with Cypriot President Demetris Christofias in Nicosia on February 16 - the first for any Israeli Prime Minister - was not only historic, but likely strategically important for the futures of both Mediterranean countries, which are finding in recent years an increasing number of shared interests.

Once, such a visit would have been difficult to imagine. While Netanyahu said during his visit that warming ties between Israel and Cyprus was a reflection of the "natural relationship" between the two countries, Cyprus and Israel have never been as close as they are now...

The psychology of Iran's rulers and their nuclear plans

The psychology of Iran's rulers and their nuclear plans Categories: International Security, Iran, Israel, Updates    

This Update includes two new pieces by experts attempting to explain how Teheran views the current nuclear standoff - a vital piece of the puzzle if policies are to be implemented to influence the behaviour of Iran's leaders.

First up is Ray Takeyh of the US Council on Foreign Relations, who points out that the primary reason the leaders of the Iranian regime believe they need nuclear weapons is because, for historical reasons, they both see themselves as the "natural hegemons" of the region, and are a revolutionary regime, whose purpose is to export their revolution to other countries...

Fisking Four Corners: getting the facts straight on Syria, Israel and Iran

Fisking Four Corners: getting the facts straight on Syria, Israel and Iran Author: Daniel Meyerowitz-Katz Categories: America, Iran, Israel, Media/ Academia, Syria, Updates    

Last night, ABC's Four Corners program focussed on the uprising in Syria. The program mostly featured a British Channel Four documentary on the Assad regime's systematic torture of Syrian opposition-members, including children, which gave a shocking insight into the events besetting Syrians opposed to their government's policies. The program ended, however, with host Kerry O'Brien interviewing notorious Middle-East correspondent Robert Fisk for 15 minutes in which Fisk was essentially given a pedestal to promulgate his views unchallenged...

Sticks and stones

Sticks and stones Author: Daniel Meyerowitz-Katz Categories: Israel, Op-eds, Palestinians    

The large crash sounded like something very big and heavy had fallen, hard - at least for those of us at the front of the bus. One friend at the back had grabbed his girlfriend and gone for cover, the loud bang and shattering glass made him think of a gunshot. Thankfully, we were not under fire. We were, however, under attack.

We were 13 Australian students on a tour through Arab East Jerusalem, there to learn about the situation in which the local population finds itself. Our bus was a clearly marked tour bus (albeit from an Israeli company) of a kind that is hardly rare in one of the world's most popular cities for tourists. We had nothing at all to identify us as anything other than Western tourists and, at that moment, we were between stops and not even paying much attention to our surroundings. What, then, motivated a local youth with an impressive arm to hurtle rocks at us as we drove past?

A political storm over Israel in Malaysia

A political storm over Israel in Malaysia Author: Michael Shannon Categories: Asia, Israel, Palestinians, Updates    

A political storm in Malaysia over controversial remarks by opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim's on Israel has not yet come to a close.

Back in January, a war of words erupted between Anwar and several top government officials, including his former mentor Dr. Mahathir Mohammed, regarding Malaysia's policy on Israel - a raw nerve among the country's Muslim-majority population...

Angelic Arabs and murderous Jews add up to televisual propaganda

Angelic Arabs and murderous Jews add up to televisual propaganda Author: Jamie Hyams & Tzvi Fleischer Categories: Israel, Media/ Academia, Op-eds, Palestinians    

PROPAGANDA comes in many forms. The British/French mini-series, The Promise, recently shown over four consecutive Sundays on SBS TV, is a particularly insidious example. It tells the story of a British girl, Erin, just out of school, who stays with the family of her closest friend in Israel during the second intifada.

She has taken the diary of her grandfather Len, who served as a British soldier in mandate Palestine from 1945 to 1948, so the action switches between the British battling the treacherous Jews in the 1940s and the brutal Israelis oppressing the Palestinians today.

Israeli Embassy attacks - What do they mean?

Israeli Embassy attacks - What do they mean? Author: Sharyn Mittelman Categories: Iran, Israel, Terrorism, Updates    

As was widely reported, Israeli embassy personnel were attacked in Georgia and India yesterday.

In the first attack, Tal Yehoshua-Koren, the wife of an Israeli Defense Ministry official and an employee of the embassy in India was wounded when a bomb exploded in her car.  In the second attack, an embassy staffer in Tbilisi discovered a bomb underneath his car as he was driving to the embassy.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accused Iran of being responsible for the attacks, which occurred one day after the fourth anniversary of the killing of a senior Hezbollah official, Imad Mughniyeh. Both Hezbollah and Iran have blamed Israel for Mughniyeh's assassination, and Hezbollah has repeatedly sworn revenge.

This blog post recommends analysis on what these attacks could mean...

AIR
Antisemitism should be shunned in Australia (and elsewhere)

Antisemitism should be shunned in Australia (and elsewhere) Author: Daniel Meyerowitz-Katz Categories: Anti-Zionism, Antisemitism, Israel, Media/ Academia, Updates    

The Australian Financial Review today ran an article from last month's Atlantic by Robert Kaplan, which was originally published under the headling 'Why John J. Mearsheimer Is Right (About Some Things)' but republished as 'Great Power Politics'. As revealed by the headline, the piece largely praises University of Chicago political scientist John Mearsheimer, focusing on his self-dubbed "offensive realist" take on China. Mearsheimer, however, is a rather dubious acadamic, particularly for his record of fomenting antisemitism in mainstream discourse, but also for his generally biased and factually questionable material.

Kaplan does acknowledge Mearsheimer's most notorious work, the much maligned 2006 essay and 2007 book The Israel Lobby and US Foreign Policy that he co-authored with Harvard professor Steven Walt, as well as his recent endorsement of the abhorrent Gil Atzmon. Kaplan, however, glosses-over these controversies as "tragedies" that threaten to "obscure" his otherwise important work...

The plight of Venezuela’s Jewish community

The plight of Venezuela’s Jewish community Author: Allon Lee Categories: America, Antisemitism, International Jewry, Israel, Updates    

Venezuelan Supremo Hugo Chavez often accuses Israel of committing genocide against the Palestinians.

And so voluminous is the Chavez definition of the term that it is a surprise he has failed to notice that half of his own country's 200-year-old Jewish community has disappeared since he assumed power in 1998. But then the evaporation of this patriotic, productive, and loyal group is largely a consequence of Chavez's hostile policies and rhetoric...

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Israel and the Iranian nuclear issue

Israel and the Iranian nuclear issue Categories: Iran, Israel, Updates    

Last week, Israel Defence Minister Ehud Barak spoke at the annual Davos Forum, and told listeners that tough sanctions on Iran may be too late because Iran was " drifting into what we call an immunity zone where practically no surgical [military operation] could block them." Israeli concern over Iran's nuclear program is clearly reaching a crescendo. So an article by veteran Israeli security correspondent Ronen Bergman in last weekend's New York Times magazine on Israeli thinking on the possibility of a limited military strike to delay the project has gained considerable attention.

When propaganda masquerades as fact

When propaganda masquerades as fact Author: Allon Lee Categories: Anti-Zionism, Israel, Media/ Academia, NGOs, Palestinians, United Nations, Updates    

To its great discredit, the Melbourne Age has republished a Guardian newspaper feature that alleges mistreatment by the Israeli judicial system of West Bank Palestinian youths detained on suspicion of terrorism.

As a previous AIJAC blog post revealed, many allegations of Palestinian children being tortured, kept in solitary confinement, denied legal representation, and forced to confess to crimes they didn’t commit, rely on half-truths, manipulation of facts and figures and unsubstantiated claims by anti-Israel organisations.

That is, organisations with anti-Israel political agendas that extend beyond the remit of the specific goals they profess to be concerned with and into areas of delegitimising the Jewish state.

Media Week - McDonald's harm; Palestinian racing story the pits; Highly speculative speculation Author: Allon Lee Categories: Australasia, Israel, Media/ Academia, Updates    

The Sydney Morning Herald's Hamish McDonald (Jan. 21) came away from a recent visit to Israel with the view that the country's "old liberality" is being whittled away by the right and the ultra-orthodox.

The latter, he wrote, "are 20 per cent of the population, breeding three times faster than more secular Jews." In fact the ultra-orthodox are 11 per cent of the Jewish population. He also wrote that they "are spilling out into the lands occupied since 1967, whittling down the territory held out to the Palestinians for their future state."

Wrong again. Settlements themselves take up no more than 1-2 per cent of the West Bank, a fact Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat accepted as true last November 3 on Arabic Radio As-Shams...

Palestinian-Israeli relationship: the good, the not-always-so-bad and the ever-ugly

Palestinian-Israeli relationship: the good, the not-always-so-bad and the ever-ugly Author: Daniel Meyerowitz-Katz Categories: Israel, Palestinians, Updates    

Two news stories emerged today, both reporting positive steps forward in the relationship between Israelis and Palestinians. The first of these concerns an online conference being held by a group called YaLa-Young Leaders, designed to bring people together from both sides and have a productive conversation about the conflict, hoping to form some genuine reconciliation efforts.

As Kel Si Loos reported in the Miami Herald, the group has been attracting a large number of members from the Middle East and...

Editorial: The Asian Connection Author: Colin Rubenstein Categories: Asia, Israel    

As Netanyahu attempted to point out, the assumption that Israel is becoming more isolated in recent years makes sense only if one's focus is mainly on a segment of opinion in Western Europe - ignoring the US, Eastern Europe and Israel's renewal of old ties in Sub-Saharan African. But a most important part of the real world, and an area of major opportunity for Israel, is in South, Southeast and East Asia.

Deconstruction Zone: The sky is not falling in Israel

Deconstruction Zone: The sky is not falling in Israel Author: Gerald Steinberg Categories: Israel    

Judging from media reports, Israel might appear to be in the midst of a radical and violent political and religious polarisation. "Hilltop youth" from the settlements are seen allegedly burning mosques, as well as attacking "peace activists" and even Israel Defence Force officers. Haredi (ultra-Orthodox) men are shown assaulting secular women in segregated buses and even on sidewalks, and members of Israel's democratically elected Knesset are portrayed as waging war against the courts and civil society.

Europa Europa: Eyes Wide Shut Author: Douglas Davis Categories: Europe, Israel, Palestinians    

When Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas swung through Europe in January he was feted by European leaders for pursuing the two-state formula, while obloquy was, as usual, heaped on Israel - if not for settlements then for roadblocks or water or the wall or the tunnel or the occupation or, most recently, for being niggardly about handing out citizenship on demand to Palestinians... the list goes on.

Back to the table?

Back to the table? Author: BICOM Categories: Israel, Palestinians, Quartet    

Lead Israeli negotiator Yitzhak Molcho met with his Palestinian counterpart Saeb Erekat in Amman on January 9 for the second time in as many weeks, with the aim of restarting direct peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians. These were the first direct contacts between the parties since the breakdown of peace talks in September 2010.

A little girl, a major storm

A little girl, a major storm Author: Amotz Asa-El Categories: Israel    

While the rest of the world was following American military retreats, European economic meltdowns, and Middle Eastern bloodbaths, Israel was agog over one eight-year-old girl's five-minute walk to school every morning.

Frail, bespectacled, and shy, Naama Margolese appeared on TV and said she refused to go to her school in the town of Beit-Shemesh after local ultra-Orthodox men spat and shouted "prostitute" at her while she walked the short distance from her home to school. Though she is religiously Orthodox, and wears a skirt and long sleeves, her standards of modesty did not meet those of her attackers.

Israel's Chinese Puzzle

Israel's Chinese Puzzle Author: Yehonathan Tommer Categories: China, Iran, Israel    

Over the past 10 to 15 years, China has become a rising power in the Middle East, rivalling the United States and Russia for strategic influence.

Its presence in the region rests squarely on a strategic relationship with Iran, and friendly, interlocking relations with Arab oil states to ensure a constant flow of energy resources to fuel China's insatiable economy, and to contain separatist movements among its Muslim Uighur Turkic ethnic minority in Xinjiang province, northwestern China.

Scribblings: Al-Jazeera in Australia Author: Tzvi Fleischer Categories: Gulf states, Israel, Media/ Academia, Middle East    

This month's AIR cover story deals with the myths and realities of al-Jazeera televison, the Qatari network that undoubtedly helped to bring about the "Arab Spring" and re-shape the Middle East political and media environment over the past decade. And in its English language incarnation, it has been moving out of the Middle East into the wider world for a number of years now.

As the cover story demonstrates, while it's clear that the English language version of the channel does not contain the blatant radical political agenda that the channel often features in its Arabic incarnation, it is also apparent that, even in English, it is not simply another public broadcaster.

Iran "not developing a bomb" clarification

Iran "not developing a bomb" clarification Author: Daniel Meyerowitz-Katz Categories: America, Iran, Israel, Updates    

Earlier in the week, Overland editor Jeff Sparrow interpreted remarks from US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta that Iran is not trying to develop a "nuclear weapon", but a "nuclear capability" to mean that Iran's nuclear program is entirely legal. While Sparrow was using this quote to help support a perverse conspiracy theory involving Israel, for reasons unknown, trying to dupe the rest of the world into punishing Iran, Panetta is not the only official to have stated that Iran is not developing a nuclear weapon. In fact, Panetta himself has made it clear that Iran could have a nuclear weapon within a year, were it to make the decision to build one. Furthermore, Reuters reported yesterday that Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak said something similar, albeit in more detail...

AIR
International Parliamentary Union apologises for Hamas invitation

International Parliamentary Union apologises for Hamas invitation Author: Daniel Meyerowitz-Katz Categories: Israel, NGOs, Palestinians, Updates    

According to a recent AP report, after facing criticism from Israeli Knesset members for hosting two Hamas MPs at its recent conference, the International Parliamentary Union (IPU) has reportedly apologised to Israel.

Israel objected because the militant group has killed hundreds of Israelis in attacks over the years. Hamas is considered a terrorist group by the EU. and U.S.

The union's secretary-general, Anders Johnsson...

On the danger of being a human rights activist in Gaza

On the danger of being a human rights activist in Gaza Author: Allon Lee Categories: Islamic Extremism, Israel, Palestinians, Updates    

It is lucky that freedom of speech is not the main selling point for Palestinian statehood because the stabbing of a human rights activist in Gaza who dared criticise the Hamas government and resistance groups would undermine the enterprise’s bona fides.

Mahmud Abu Rahma, international relations director at the al Mezan Centre for Human Rights, was “stabbed multiple times by several masked attackers on Friday evening”, according to an AFP report.

Back to the negotiating table?

Back to the negotiating table? Categories: Israel, Palestinians, Updates    

The last two weeks have seen two meetings in Amman Jordan between Israeli and Palestinian representatives, in what are being called "preparatory talks", but are the first direct public contacts between the two sides since 2010. (Some more details on the latest rounds of talks are reported here, here and here.)

A good backgrounder from BICOM on both the significance of the talks and the political factors influencing them is first up. It puts the meetings in the context of the Quartet efforts to restart talks and significant pressure on the Palestinian side to renew negotiations, and discusses what is known about the contents of the two meetings.

What does Hamas really believe?

What does Hamas really believe? Author: Sharyn Mittelman Categories: Israel, Palestinians, Updates    

Recently Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas claimed that Khaled Meshaal, the Hamas leader in Damascus, agreed during reconciliation talks between Fatah and Hamas on December 22, that "there will be no military resistance" and also agreed that "the permanent solution is on the ‘67 borders." Abbas and Meshaal also agreed to a new temporary leadership for the PLO, for the first time in tandem with Hamas and Islamic Jihad.

However, it is unclear both the extent to which Meshaal accepts what Abbas said they agreed to and more importantly, whether Meshaal is speaking for Hamas - as many in Hamas have openly denied this new strategy, suggesting a rift between the Hamas leadership in Syria and the Gaza strip.

Updates
Palestinian rights activist confirms Hamas puts terror bases in civilian areas

Palestinian rights activist confirms Hamas puts terror bases in civilian areas Author: Allon Lee Categories: Israel, Middle East, Palestinians, Terrorism, United Nations    

A Palestinian human rights activist has inadvertently confirmed what Israel has always insisted, that terrorist groups live, train, operate and run riot throughout the Gaza Strip's residential neighbourhoods.

In a piece written for the Palestinian website Maan, Gaza human rights activist Mahmoud Abu Rahma reveals that the "resistance movements" are so entrenched and widespread in residential areas that civilians are suffering frequent injuries because of their activities.

 

 Israel – a leader in disaster planning

Israel – a leader in disaster planning Author: Sharyn Mittelman Categories: Israel, Updates    

Israel has assumed the unwanted role as a world leader in developing medical technology and planning to prepare for disasters, and its innovations are being studied and disseminated to other countries to save lives.

In one example, American politician Gabrielle Giffords was shot in the head and almost killed a year ago, but an Israeli-made bandage is credited with stopping her bleeding. Today she is alive and on the road to recovery.

Dr. John Cohn, a Professor of medicine and assistant professor of pediatrics at Thomas Jefferson University, recently wrote about his visit to Israeli medical centres to learn about their medical disaster management plans on a program now in its eighth year run by the Disaster Management Division of Israel's Ministry of Health...

Naama brings into focus the debate about gender and religion in Israel

Naama brings into focus the debate about gender and religion in Israel Author: Sharyn Mittelman Categories: Israel, Updates    

The issue of public gender discrimination and harassment in Israel has received significant media coverage both in Israel and abroad.

It began with recent controversies over women singing in a ceremony for the Israeli army, which was boycotted by religious soldiers, and the informal gender segregation on some buses in ultra-Orthodox (haredi) areas. (See a previous blog post on these issues.)

It has now been compounded by an interview with an eight year old Orthodox girl from Beit Shemesh, Naama Margolis, who was visibly shaken when she talked about her fear of walking to school due to the harassment she has been subjected to by some ultra-Orthodox Jews who have insulted and harrassed her for being dressed ‘immodestly'.

Naama said: "When I walk to school in the morning, I used to get a tummy ache because I was so scared that they were going to stand and start yelling and spitting".

The harassment that Naama experienced has rightfully been strongly condemned by both Israeli political and religious leaders.

The Media is the Message

The Media is the Message Author: Tzvi Fleischer Categories: Israel, Media/ Academia, Palestinians, Updates    

A young Italian journalist named Ruben Salvadori has prepared a film about how he and other photojournalists reporting from the West Bank not only report what they see but help to create the clashes and dramatic scenes which helps them sell photographs...

Enhancing Israel-Asia relations

Enhancing Israel-Asia relations Author: Colin Rubenstein Categories: Asia, Israel, Op-eds    

Israeli President Shimon Peres's groundbreaking visit to Vietnam in November with a delegation of more than 60 prominent Israelis, including two government ministers and leading figures in finance, industry, agriculture and defense was a landmark event. The delegation was given a rousing welcome, including a dinner with all the members of the Vietnamese government in which Peres's hosts surprised him with a group of Vietnamese singers who had prepared renditions of Israeli songs in excellent Hebrew.

Don't throw stones!

Don't throw stones! Categories: Israel, Palestinians, Updates    

Two recent stories in the Australian newspaper by Middle East correspondent John Lyons - "Stone cold justice" (Weekend Australian Magazine, Nov. 26) http://tinyurl.com/6puavp9 and "Rudd seeks action on torture allegations involving Palestinian children" (Australian, Dec. 17) http://tinyurl.com/6rdzqjr - have generated a degree of controversy about Israel's judicial treatment of Palestinian minors in the West Bank accused of using stones and rocks as weapons.

On Dec. 3, the Australian published an opinion piece from NGO Monitor's Gerald Steinberg that provides context for the treatment of Palestinian minors and largely disputes the substance of the claims made in Lyons' stories. Steinberg's article can be read here - http://tinyurl.com/7m6j3wf...

Media Week - Unpromising Author: Jamie Hyams Categories: Israel, Media/ Academia, Updates    

In recent "Media Week" columns, I have reviewed the first three episodes of the British/French drama, "The Promise", shown on SBS TV. This series has been characterised throughout by rampant and crudely propagandistic political messages directed against Israel and Jews and selective, distorted portrayals of history, and it really hit its straps in the final episode (18/12).

Editorial: The Perils of Self-Deception Author: Colin Rubenstein Categories: Antisemitism, Egypt, Islamic Extremism, Israel    

The US Ambassador to Belgium, Howard Gutman, addressing a conference on antisemitism on November 30, controversially insisted that Muslim "hatred and indeed sometimes... violence directed at Jews generally [is] a result of the continuing tensions between Israel and the Palestinian territories" and should therefore not be seen as the same thing as "real" antisemitism. He went on to insist that a Mideast peace deal would see a "huge reduction of this form of labeled ‘antisemitism'."

Scribblings: Judaising Jerusalem?

Scribblings: Judaising Jerusalem? Author: Tzvi Fleischer Categories: Israel, NGOs, Palestinians    

Both Palestinian groups and pro-Palestinian Non-Government Organisations (NGOs) often accuse Israel of seeking to "Judaise" Jerusalem. For instance, following their admission to the UN cultural organisation UNESCO in October, one of the things the Palestinian Authority said they wanted to do was sue Israel in international forums for supposedly "systematically destroying and forging Arab and Islamic culture in Jerusalem." Similarly, at a controversial rally in Cairo on November 25 at which there was also recitation of a hadith [saying attributed to the Prophet Muhammad] about killing all Jews, Sheikh Dr. Ahmed al-Tayeb, the head of al-Azhar University, proclaimed, "we shall not allow the Zionists to Judaise al-Quds (Jerusalem)."

Shelly-Shocked

Shelly-Shocked Author: Amotz Asa-El Categories: Israel    

A decade after it last held power, and some two generations after losing its hegemonic sway over Israeli politics - the rehabilitation of Israel's Labor party seems finally underway.

The election in September of Shelly (Rachel) Yachimovich as Labor Chairperson, the eighth election of a party leader since the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin in 1995, appears to reflect an ideological reckoning and a strategic reorientation that, in due course, may well bear electoral fruit.

AIR
Why can’t Israelis and Palestinians “get back to the damn table”?

Why can’t Israelis and Palestinians “get back to the damn table”? Author: Tzvi Fleischer Categories: Israel, Palestinians, Updates    

There has been much written about the impasse in restarting Israeli-Palestinian negotiations in recent years. Most recently, US Secretary of Defence Leon Panetta sparked controversy at the Brookings Institute on Dec. 2 when, following a speech, he was asked about what steps Israel "should take now" to move toward peace and replied "Just get to the damn table."

 Israel, gender and Iran

Israel, gender and Iran Author: Sharyn Mittelman Categories: Israel, Updates    

Recently the issue of public female discrimination in Israel has received significant media attention following recent controversies including over women singing in a ceremony for the Israeli army which was boycotted by religious soldiers, and the informal gender segregation on some buses in Ultra orthodox (haredi) areas. According to one stream of ultra-Orthodox tradition men should not listen to women sing. More commonly, Ultra-orthodox men attempt to avoid mingling with women who are not members of their family.

While any form of alleged public gender discrimination must be condemned and addressed, the incidents have been unfairly exaggerated as reflecting a general problem in all of Israeli society...

When the media becomes the story

When the media becomes the story Author: Allon Lee Categories: Anti-Zionism, Israel, Media/ Academia, Middle East, Palestinians, Updates    

It wasn't even close. In fact it was a "landslide". That is how pro-Israel media watchdog Honest Reporting describes its decision to bestow the Guardian newspaper the 2011 "Dishonest Reporting Award" for its relentless anti-Israel coverage.

Readers of Fairfax newspapers will be familiar with the Guardian's news stories and one-sided selection of opinion pieces via their regular appearance in the Age, Sydney Morning Herald and the Canberra Times.

Media Microscope: Unpromising Author: Jamie Hyams Categories: Australasia, Israel, Media/ Academia, Palestinians    

SBS TV showed a four-part drama, "The Promise", from Britain's Channel 4 and France's Canal+ and Arte France, which was characterised by rampant and crudely propagandistic political messages directed against Israel and Jews, selective, distorted portrayals of historical events, and the sanitising of Arab behaviour throughout the past seven decades.

Updates
Is Israeli democracy under threat?

Is Israeli democracy under threat? Categories: Israel, Updates    

This Update deals with some claims being made that Israeli democracy is supposedly eroding or under threat as the result of a variety of controversial legislative changes being discussed in Israel, as well as certain recent controversies concerning the treatment of women by sectors of the ultra-religious community in Israeli society.

First up is American law professor and civil libertarian Alan Dershowitz, who makes it clear that the intense arguments he witnessed while recently visiting Israel over the issues in question actually make it very clear that Israel is a vibrant democracy under no threat.

Media Week - Serial Offender; Bad Move; White Wash

Media Week - Serial Offender; Bad Move; White Wash Author: Jamie Hyams Categories: Australasia, Israel, Media/ Academia, Updates    

Episode three of "The Promise" (11/12) sees British Mandate soldier Len, who has had his platoon raided and soldiers shot, has been caught in the King David Hotel bombing and has been shot on the street, kidnapped with two colleagues and held in a hole for 15 days, until he is released and his colleagues hanged. He must be the unluckiest soldier in the British army. In the present day, Len's grand-daughter Erin takes a Palestinian to the house, where he very pointedly asks her friend's parents where they are from "originally" and the mother begrudgingly tells him Hungary. She visits Hebron where she hears an Israeli tell a group, "You'll notice most of the streets around here are deserted. It's known as the sterile zone. Why? To make room for 500 Jewish settlers who have no right to be here under international law, almost the entire Palestinian population of Hebron has been moved out." This is a gross exaggeration and ignores the ancient history of Hebron's Jewish community, and its religious significance.

Egypt's Salafists/ The Forgotten Refugees

Egypt's Salafists/ The Forgotten Refugees Categories: Egypt, Islamic Extremism, Israel, Updates    

This Update features two pieces on one of the unpleasant surprises to come out of the first round of the Egyptian elections last week, the unexpectedly strong showing of the hyper-Islamist Al-Nour Salafist parties, who got 24.4% of the vote, second behind the also Islamist Muslim Brotherhood with 36%. Both reports are from analysts currently on the ground in Cairo.

Washington Institute scholar Eric Trager describes his own encounters with Salafist candidates and activists, as well as locals who support them. He finds them viewed by locals as honest, even saintly, despite the fact that they seem to have considerable inexplicable money for their campaign and it is unclear where this came from.

Media Week - Unpromising Start; Solar Flares; Court Out Author: Jamie Hyams Categories: Australasia, Israel, Media/ Academia, Updates    

SBS TV is showing a four-part drama, “The Promise”. The series, from Britain’s Channel 4 and France’s Canal+ and Arte France, has been widely criticised for its rampant bias against Jews and Israel. The first episode (27/11) introduced the main character, Erin, an 18-year-old English girl who stays with a rich Israeli family. She has the diary of her grandfather Len who served with the British troops in Palestine immediately after World War II, so the story switches between the British battling the treacherous Jews and the Israelis oppressing the Palestinians.

 

Relocation of Bedouin misrepresented by Sherwood

Relocation of Bedouin misrepresented by Sherwood Author: Sharyn Mittelman Categories: Israel, Palestinians, Updates    

Today both the Age and Sydney Morning Herald published an article by Harriet Sherwood regarding Israel's plans to relocate the Jahalin Bedouin from their camps on land which they do not own to a permanent Bedouin town.

The article, originally published in the Guardian does not provide a balanced understanding of the issues at hand. The Bedouin are living on land to which they have no legal title that has been within the municipal boundaries of Ma'aleh Adumim since 1977. Relocation has been periodically discussed with the Bedouin since the 1980s...

"Fisking" Hugh White on Iran

"Fisking" Hugh White on Iran Author: Tzvi Fleischer Categories: Iran, Israel, Media/ Academia, Updates    

Oft-quoted Australian "strategic analyst" Hugh White had a piece in The Age yesterday day on the Iranian nuclear crisis which betrayed such a lack of serious and logical strategic thought, so many shallow and glib yet ill-informed assumptions, that it seemed to be simply begging for a thorough "fisking" (Urban Dictionary definition: "The word is derived from articles written by Robert Fisk that were easily refuted, and refers to a point-by-point debunking of lies and/or idiocies.") Here's my effort.

Responses to gay Israel slur

Responses to gay Israel slur Author: Daniel Meyerowitz-Katz Categories: Anti-Zionism, Antisemitism, Iran, Islamic Extremism, Israel, Palestinians, United Nations, Updates    

Following on from this post concerning an accusation of Israel supposedly "pinkwashing" its public image by spruiking its record on gay rights to hide alleged injustices, a number of gay writers have penned scathing responses in the Jewish and international media.

Writing in the Forward, Jay Michaelson gives a critique of the piece by Sarah Schulman in the New York Times that began the whole kerfuffle...

 The 1947 UN Partition Plan mis-remembered by the UN

The 1947 UN Partition Plan mis-remembered by the UN Author: Sharyn Mittelman Categories: Israel, Palestinians, United Nations, Updates    

On 29 November 64 years ago, the UN General Assembly voted on the partition plan, and the United Nations General Assembly Resolution 181 was adopted by a vote of 33 to 13, recommending the establishment of two states - Arab and Jewish. The Jews accepted the partition plan, the Arabs did not and five Arab states went to war with Israel.

However, November 29, is not called ‘Israel day' but rather the ‘International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People'. Marking this day at the UN was a General Assembly resolution on the "Question of Palestine" which condemned Israel, pre-empted the results of final status negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians and failed to acknowledge Israel's legitimate security rights, amongst other concerning features of the resolution.

In response to the UN resolution, Ron Prosor, UN Representative to Israel delivered a stirring speech that condemned the UN's consistent attack on Israel and outlined the real reasons that have so far prevented peace...

“The Promise”

“The Promise” Author: Tzvi Fleischer Categories: International Jewry, Israel, Media/ Academia, Middle East, Palestinians, Updates    

On Sunday night, SBS-TV screened the first of four episodes of a controversial British historical drama set in pre-state and contemporary Israel, entitled "The Promise". When it was screened in Britain by Channel 4 in February, it led to an official letter of complaint by the Board of Deputies of British Jews, as well as strong critiques from Booker prize winning novelist Howard Jacobson, noted British academic expert on the Holocaust David Cesarani, and others....

I include below some of the critiques of "The Promise" from Britain for the benefit of Australian audiences.

Editorial: What Needs to be Done Author: Colin Rubenstein Categories: International Security, Iran, Israel    

Speaking to CNN recently, Israel's Defence Minister Ehud Barak posed a terrifying scenario:

"Who would have come to rescue Kuwait when it was taken by Saddam Hussein 20 years ago, if Saddam could have said credibly enough that he has three or four crude nuclear devices?"

The answer of course, is that no one would have acted. In all likelihood, Iraq would still be in control of Kuwait and all its oil wealth today and Saddam would still likely be in power.

Deconstruction Zone: NGO No-Go Areas? Author: Daniel Meyerowitz-Katz Categories: Israel, NGOs    

Watching the debate, both in Israel and elsewhere, surrounding the proposed new NGO (Non-Government Organisation) laws in the Knesset, it is hard not to be struck by the hyperbole being employed. Some Israelis, primarily from the political left, are railing about "threats to the very foundation of Israel's democracy" whereas others, mainly on the right, are decrying the "diplomatic warfare being waged by foreign governments against Israel". Looking past this rhetoric, however, the two proposed laws as discussed below are neither revolutionary nor unreasonable. In fact, they are in many ways following the example of other democratic countries, Australia included.

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Europa Europa: The Party is Over Author: Douglas Davis Categories: Europe, Israel, Middle East, Saudi Arabia    

Europe is peering into the abyss.

And the crisis is far from over. Indeed, it is likely to intensify in 2012 as financial contagion spreads from Ireland, Greece, Portugal, Spain and Italy to France, which holds large quantities of Italian debt, and then to Britain, which is exposed to substantial French debt. Italy, whose debt approaches A$3 trillion, has pushed realistic hopes of rescue beyond reach.

Just as dangerous, the financial crisis is accompanied by social and political upheaval. Already, two European governments - Papandreou's Greece and Berlusconi's Italy - have been swept away on tides of unsustainable debt. Their places have been taken by unelected technocrats. More heads may roll. More unelected governments may be on the way.

 

Israel's Nuclear Nightmares

Israel's Nuclear Nightmares Author: Amotz Asa-El Categories: Iran, Israel    

"Something like this might really happen," warned the narrator of the 1959 comedy "The Mouse that Roared" while a nuclear explosion was displayed in the background. And then, before proceeding to the story about a remote duchy that saves itself from bankruptcy by stealing a doomsday bomb, the narrator explained: "We thought we should put you in the proper mood."

Faced with a steadily maturing Iranian nuclear program, Israel has long been in the proper mood, but its consequent efforts to convince the world that "something like this might happen" have so far registered partial success at best.

 

Arab Spring or Islamist Surge?

Arab Spring or Islamist Surge? Author: Benny Morris Categories: Egypt, Israel, Middle East, Palestinians, Tunisia    

Rioting in Tunisia and Egypt in early 2011 unleashed a tidal wave of unrest across the Arab world that was soon designated the "Arab Spring." Enthusiasts in the West hailed a new birth of freedom for a giant slice of humanity that has been living in despotic darkness for centuries. But historians in 50 or a hundred years may well point to the 1979 events in Teheran - the Islamist revolution that toppled the Shah - as the real trigger of this so-called "spring" (which is looking more and more like a deep, forbidding winter). And the Islamist Hamas victory in the Palestinian general elections of 2006 and that organisation's armed takeover of the Gaza Strip the following year probably signified further milestones on the same path.

An Exodus from Sinai

An Exodus from Sinai Author: Sharyn Mittelman Categories: Egypt, Israel, Sudan, Updates    

The Sinai is not only a haven for terrorists, but it also a centre of people and organ smuggling.

The depth of the lawlessness was recently captured in CNN documentary "Death in the Desert", which reported on unimaginable violence experienced by Africans who cross the Sinai in the desperate attempt to make it to Israel.

Africans particularly from Sudan, Ethiopia and Eritrea fleeing their local hardships pay Bedouin tribes in the border area between Sudan and Egypt around $2,000 to be smuggled into Israel. But these smugglers often imprison and blackmail the helpless refugees or sell them to other Sinai Bedouin, who do the same, rather than fulfilling the deal.  If the Africans cannot pay the ransom, and sometimes even if they do pay, they are enslaved, raped, tortured and killed.

Updates
"Pinkwashing" pejorative wiping tolerance away

"Pinkwashing" pejorative wiping tolerance away Author: Daniel Meyerowitz-Katz Categories: Anti-Zionism, Gulf states, Islamic Extremism, Israel, Multimedia, Palestinians, Updates    

Fast becoming a viral sensation, a new YouTube video (below) shows two Spanish men "photobombing" an al-Jazeera broadcast by engaging in a long, passionate kiss in frame as the reporter is talking. 

The irony of the video is that while the two were supposedly making a point about marriage equality in Spain, they happened to do so on a state-owned network from a country in which homosexuality is punishable by lashings and imprisonment. Indeed, a report from the UN High Commission for Refugees has this to say on homosexuality in Qatar:

Homosexual behavior is illegal [in Qatar]. Islamic laws against homosexuality are applied. [In Qatari society], homosexuality is taboo. There is no visible social support for gay and lesbian rights.

On the topic of homosexuality in the Middle East, Sarah Shulman has written in the New York Times on the prominence of the gay community in Israel and Israeli officials speaking out against the intolerance shown to homosexuals in...

Media Week - Wild Woolcott; Bedouin Brouhaha; Sober Warning

Media Week - Wild Woolcott; Bedouin Brouhaha; Sober Warning Author: Jamie Hyams Categories: Australasia, Iran, Israel, Media/ Academia, Palestinians, Updates    

Former DFAT head Richard Woolcott wrote a piece for the Age (11/11) critical of Australia's vote against Palestinian membership of UNESCO. Having spent more than half his article setting out the merits of Australia obtaining a seat on the UN Security Council, he then wrote, "In these circumstances, I find it both surprising and a decisive setback to our election prospects that the Prime Minister decided Australia should vote against the admission of Palestine to UNESCO."

Freedom to print falsehoods

Freedom to print falsehoods Author: Allon Lee Categories: Israel, Media/ Academia, Palestinians, Updates    

A media stunt by a group of Palestinians trying to falsely tar Israel as an apartheid state not only caused some in the fourth estate to fall hook, line and sinker but to abrogate basic journalistic standards.

Six Palestinians called The West Bank Freedom Riders cynically tried to lay claim to the legacy and imagery of African Americans who fought against segregation in the 1950s/60s in the United States by "proving" they are banned from using Israeli public buses to cross over from the West Bank into Jerusalem.

But an analysis by Simon Plosker from Honest Reporting of the claims made by the six "Freedom Riders" and the media coverage shows the absurdity of the stunt and how easily it could be proved as dishonest propaganda.

Only one path can lead to two states

Only one path can lead to two states Author: Mark Leibler Categories: Australasia, Israel, Op-eds, Palestinians, United Nations    

Australians should be proud of the fact that our Prime Minister and Foreign Minister have consistently and publicly supported, with bipartisan agreement, a genuine, negotiated two-state resolution to the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. This is why Australia wisely voted against the admission of Palestine to UNESCO and why Australia should vote against Palestinian 'statehood' if and when it comes to the United Nations General Assembly.

EU Funding of Israeli NGOs: More than for all the rest of the Middle East

EU Funding of Israeli NGOs: More than for all the rest of the Middle East Author: Tzvi Fleischer Categories: Europe, Israel, NGOs, Updates    

Following up on the post Tuesday concerning controversial Israeli proposals to limit or tax foreign government funding to "political' Non-Governmental Organisations in Israel, a Jerusalem Post editorial on the subject has an interesting fact that may help explain why some Israelis are so concerned about the issue:

...European governments spend more on left-wing NGOs operating in Israel - between $75 million and $100m. a year - than their total contributions to nonprofit human rights groups in other Middle East countries, according to NGO Monitor.

Is limiting foreign government funding of Israeli NGOs "undemocratic"?

Is limiting foreign government funding of Israeli NGOs "undemocratic"? Author: Tzvi Fleischer Categories: Europe, Israel, NGOs, Updates    

There has been some controversy in Israel over a proposal coming out of Israel's Ministerial Committee for Legislation which would limit or tax the ability of foreign governments or international bodies like the UN to fund Israeli NGOs...

American law professor David Bernstein has an excellent post challenging the idea that such a law (and it is by no means clear that such a law can get through the Knesset, Israel's parliament, or what its provisions would be if it did) would be undemocratic...

UNESCO: Palestine -  in, Freedom of Speech - out

UNESCO: Palestine - in, Freedom of Speech - out Author: Or Avi-Guy Categories: Israel, Media/ Academia, Palestinians, United Nations, Updates    

Eric Falt, assistant director general for external relations and public information at the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), has issued an official letter of protest from UNESCO's director general, Irina Bokova regarding a cartoon which UNESCO claimed constituted incitement.

This could have been an encouraging sign that UNESCO is finally acting against incitement, racism and specifically antisemitism prevalent in Arab and Muslim media, especially in the state-sponsored press. However, the cartoon that so inflamed UNESCO officials was published in Haaretz, an Israeli independent newspaper, which is protected under Israel's laws regarding freedom of the press. Moreover, the only incitement that seemed to concern UNESCO is incitement against UNESCO.

Iran responds to IAEA by threatening to destroy Israel... again + Australia feels the fallout

Iran responds to IAEA by threatening to destroy Israel... again + Australia feels the fallout Author: Daniel Meyerowitz-Katz Categories: America, International Security, Iran, Israel, United Nations, Updates    

As outlined in yesterday's update, the UN's atomic energy watchdog has just released a report that just falls short of definitively stating that Iran has a nuclear weapons program - seemingly the closest that the UN ever comes to an unequivocal condemnation of a country that is not Israel. The report has emerged amid rumours that Israel is gearing-up for an attack on Iran and is busy soliciting support from allies in the UK and the US.

Predictably, Iran did not respond with steps to assure the international community that its nuclear program is peaceful, but instead blamed an American conspiracy and then threatened to destroy Israel.

Iran denies the allegations and says the evidence used by the U.N. nuclear watchdog was fabricated by the United States and its allies. It has insisted that its nuclear program is aimed only at generating electricity and ensuring an independent fuel supply for its nuclear power plants.

... "If smoke columns rise from our nuclear facilities, then this scenario could happen in other areas," said Brig. Gen. Massoud Jazayeri, deputy chief of staff of the Iranian armed forces. "The Dimona station in Israel is the easiest...

Media Week - Culture Wars; A Grandstanding Seat; Rice Revelations

Media Week - Culture Wars; A Grandstanding Seat; Rice Revelations Author: Jamie Hyams Categories: Australasia, Israel, Media/ Academia, Updates    

Writing in the Australian (4/11) in support of the decision by UNESCO to grant membership to the Palestinians, Izzat Abdulhadi, head of the General Delegation of Palestine to Australia, claimed, "Israeli occupation has not seen the protection and preservation of these riches. Israeli occupation has seen deliberate neglect, damage and the ongoing seizure of Palestine's cultural heritage and territory as its own, violently and with impunity, excluding the interests and rights of all others. Yet Australia voted no to Palestinian membership of UNESCO, preferring, it would seem, the theft and destruction of Palestine's and the world's heritage and saying no to peace." By contrast, he claimed, "Palestine is committed to the protection and preservation of these treasures." The track record shows the opposite to be the case.

Is Bibi getting a bad rap?

Is Bibi getting a bad rap? Author: Tzvi Fleischer Categories: Israel, Updates    

As readers may have seen reported, a private conversation between US President Barack Obama and French President Nicolas Sarkozy at Cannes last week was accidentally overhead by reporters. In it, the two were talking rather unflatteringly about Israeli PM Binyamin Netanyahu. According to the reports, Sarkozy said of Netanyahu "I can't stand him anymore, he's a liar" while Obama responded, "You may be sick of him, but me, I have to deal with him every day."

This story has sparked a fair amount of comment from various quarters concerning what it says about the relationship between Obama and Netanyahu (which all informed observers already knew was hardly notable for its warmth), and the wider US-Israel relationship.

Has Iran run down the nuclear clock?

Has Iran run down the nuclear clock? Author: Allon Lee Categories: America, International Security, Iran, Israel, Middle East, Updates    

A new International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) report due to be released tomorrow is believed to contain compelling evidence that Iran is now at the end stage of its nuclear research program and is actively working on weaponisation technologies.

Ahead of the report's scheduled release we present a range of reading that predicts what the report will likely detail, where the effort to contain Iran's nuclear weapons program is at and whether the time has come to move from economic sanctions to military options.

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Tutu spars with Goldstone over kangaroo court

Tutu spars with Goldstone over kangaroo court Author: Daniel Meyerowitz-Katz Categories: Anti-Zionism, Israel, Updates    

Richard Goldstone's op-ed in the New York Times earlier this week explaining why the claim that Israel is an "apartheid state" is baseless was primarily targeted against the so-called "Russell Tribunal on Palestine", due to take place this weekend in Cape Town, which will allegedly "examine whether Israel's practices against the Palestinians is in breach of the prohibition on apartheid under International Law."

One particularly pernicious and enduring canard that is surfacing again is that Israel pursues "apartheid" policies. In Cape Town starting on Saturday, a London-based nongovernmental organization called the Russell Tribunal on Palestine will hold a "hearing" on whether Israel is guilty of the crime of apartheid. It is not a "tribunal." The "evidence" is going to be one-sided and the members of the "jury" are critics whose harsh views of Israel are well known.

Goldstone seems to have struck a chord with some of the Tribunal's organisers - Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Michael Mansfield have responded to Goldstone in the pages of the Guardian, defending the decision that the Tribunal has yet to officially consider...

Another flotilla stunt on its way!

Another flotilla stunt on its way! Author: Sharyn Mittelman Categories: Israel, Palestinians, Updates    

On Wednesday a flotilla of two ships - the Canadian ship Tahrir and the Irish ship Saoirse quietly left a Turkish port with the aim to breach the Gaza blockade by Friday.

News of this latest flotilla "Freedom Waves to Gaza" was kept secret until the ships reached international waters.

According to the organisers, the 27 activists on board came from Australia, Canada, Ireland and the United States, and included Palestinians and at least one Israeli Arab citizen.

 

The Palestinians and UNESCO/ An Attack on Iran? Categories: Iran, Israel, Palestinians, United Nations, Updates    

This Update features two comments on the vote by the UN Educational, Social and Culture Organisation (UNESCO) to admit "Palestine" as a full member on Monday, a measure opposed by the Australia (see AIJAC's media release on the Australian vote here).  It also contains some comments on reports originating in the Israeli press alleging that the Israeli Government is stepping up preparations for a possible military strike on Iran's nuclear program.

Media Week - Centre for Conflict; Panning partisan posturing; ‘Imbalanced' article Author: Jamie Hyams Categories: Australasia, Israel, Media/ Academia, Updates    

Jake Lynch, Director of the Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies at the University of Sydney, criticised his university for holding a research forum between Israelis and Australians. He told Imre Salusinszky, "The university risks sustaining reputational damage if the forum goes ahead. It risks being seen as condoning the complicity by Israeli universities in Israel's breaches of international law and indirectly raises problems with the university's social inclusion policy" (Australian, 25/10). Salusinszky reported that, in a letter to the university's Deputy Vice Chancellor, Lynch "says the forum is contrary to the university's social inclusion policy, which requires it to reach out to students in western Sydney. He says most Muslim students live in the west and feel ‘a sense of resentment and alienation resulting from the predominance of pro-Israeli voices in Australia's political and media discourses'." Lynch, who is also an executive member of the Sydney Peace Foundation, which awards the Sydney Peace Prize, seems to have a very skewed notion of what peace actually entails.

Updates
Sudden jump in odds on Iran attack

Sudden jump in odds on Iran attack Author: Daniel Meyerowitz-Katz Categories: America, Iran, Israel, Palestinians, Terrorism, United Kingdom, Updates    

A whole series of events last night made an attack on Iran's nuclear facilities suddenly seem far closer than had previously been the case. After a week of speculation in the Israeli press, Haaretz reported yesterday that the Prime Minister and Defence Minister are trying to gain cabinet support for a strike.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak are trying to muster a majority in the cabinet in favor of military action against Iran, a senior Israeli official has said. According to the official, there is a "small advantage" in the cabinet for the opponents of such an attack.

Netanyahu and Barak recently persuaded Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, who previously objected to attacking Iran, to support such a move.

This report coincided with the test-firing of a new long-range Israeli missile, which could be capable of reaching targets in Iran...

 Israel – a strategic asset for the US... and Australia

Israel – a strategic asset for the US... and Australia Author: Sharyn Mittelman Categories: America, Israel, Updates    

The US-Israel alliance has come under increasing strain in recent time with both academics and US policy makers suggesting that the alliance has become more of a liability than an asset for US national interests. For instance, the infamous Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer based their whole "Israel Lobby" slander on the assumption that being associated with Israel was obviously and unequivocally bad for the US, and only some undemocratic and vaguely nefarious lobby could possible explain the continuing US alliance with Israel, as noted Middle East scholar Martin Kramer analysed and debunked brilliantly a few years ago.

However, a new report released by the Washington Institute for Near East Policy "Israel: A Strategic Asset for the United States" (‘the report'), does even more to refute this trend in analysis and instead argues that US policy makers should acknowledge that the US-Israel alliance strongly serves US national interests in several important ways.

Goldstone assaults 'Apartheid Slander'

Goldstone assaults 'Apartheid Slander' Author: Sharyn Mittelman Categories: Israel, NGOs, Palestinians, United Nations, Updates    

South African Judge Richard Goldstone has written an op-ed in this New York Times on 31 October condemning the false allegation that Israel is an ‘apartheid' state. He writes:

"The charge that Israel is an apartheid state is a false and malicious one that precludes, rather than promotes, peace and harmony."

This is the same Goldstone who did a great deal of damage to Israel by lending his name to the biased UN fact-finding mission into the Gaza conflict in 2009 which condemned Israel for deliberately killing civilians and war crimes while all but ignoring the Palestinian rocket attacks into Israel.

Goldstone later recanted his support for the report after realising that much of the information relied upon in the ‘Goldstone Report' was not credible and biased. In an op-ed in the Washington Post in April this year he stated, "if I had known then what I know now, the Goldstone Report would have been a different document."