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Update – 23 July 2008

Dear Advocates, 

Almost three weeks after a Palestinian from East Jerusalem ploughed his bulldozer into buses and other vehicles in the crowded streets of Jerusalem killing three people and injuring over 40, a similar attack has been carried out, once again in Jerusalem.

Fortunately there were no fatalities this time, but at least 16 people were wounded. The attack was carried out on a street just minutes from the hotel where United States Democratic Presidential Candidate Barack Obama was due to arrive the same day. For the initial reports from Israeli media, click here and here. These two bulldozer incidents as well as the attack on Mercaz Harav Yeshiva mark a different kind of terror whereby the perpetrators came from East Jerusalem, and therefore carry an Israeli identity card, which allows them freedom to go undetected. This fact alone makes this kind of terror far more difficult to curb.

Our local papers have given the incident varying levels of coverage. The Australian carried a large story with a picture on the front of the “Worldwide” section entitled ‘Bulldozer welcome to Obama’. The Herald Sun only dedicated a tiny story to it in their print edition entitled ‘Copycat bulldozer attack’ but had a far more in-depth article entitled ‘16 injured in copycat bulldozer attack’ in the online edition. Not surprisingly, The Age only ran the story in the “News in Brief” Section, and placed the emphasis on the driver with the heading ‘Israel: Bulldozer driver shot’. This kind of reporting, even for the “News in Brief” section, is a reminder of the way in which the media turns the focus onto the perpetrators and not the victims when it comes to reports from the Middle East.

Interestingly, The Age has now put up the story online, but it is the identical AFP story published in the Herald Sun, and is entitled ‘Bulldozer driver shot dead in copycat Jerusalem attack’. Instead, Age correspondent Jason Koutsoukis filed a report on Obama’s visit entitled ‘Israel excited by Obama visit’ (the print edition contained the title ‘Israel excited by Obama visit, but still suspicious’). Please also read ‘No excuses, says visiting Obama about bulldozer terrorist’ from Haaretz.

It has now been a week since that black day in history when Ehud Goldwasser z”l and Eldad Regev z”l were returned in black coffins while on the other side of the border, convicted murderer/terrorist Samir Kuntar and others were welcomed as heroes. Since then, the families have buried their boys and the country has begun to deal with the events of the past week. For two very moving analyses please read ‘You won’t see me crying’ from Ynet and ‘When mistakes are worth making’ by Daniel Gordis.

I believe that in hard times, you see the best and worst of humanity. It is so unfortunate that in the darkest hours for Israel, we witness the worst of humanity in Lebanon with the Lebanese government declaring the day of the swap a national holiday to celebrate the “liberation of prisoners from the jails of the Israeli enemy and the return of the remains of martyrs.

Dressed in a Hezbollah military uniform (even though he was never a member of the terrorist movement), Samir Kuntar declared to Lebanon, and indeed to the world: “I haven’t even for one day regretted what I did… On the contrary, I remain committed to my political convictions.”

Shockingly, news reports and photos have also shown two U.N troops saluting trucks that carried some of the coffins of Hezbollah fighters that were also returned by Israel as a part of the exchange. The two troops operate under the auspices of the U.N Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL). UNIFIL was created in 1978 to restore international peace and security and assist the Lebanese Government in restoring its effective authority in the area. As a result of the Second Lebanon War in 2006 UN Resolution 1701 called for an increase of troops from 2,000 to 15,000. They are supposed to disarm Hezbollah in southern Lebanon and be an impartial buffer along the country’s border with Israel.

There does not seem to be anything impartial about saluting the coffins of terrorists. A UNIFIL spokesperson stated that “it is customary in most armies for military personnel in uniform to salute whenever a coffin passes in a procession… They were merely following this customary military tradition and saluted coffins draped in Lebanese national flags at their own initiative.” Whether it is customary or not, these soldiers should have been able to use their own judgement in this situation. Please read ‘Israel decries U.N. troops after peacekeepers salute dead Hezbollah terrorists’ from Fox News for more details.

Meanwhile, Israel’s partner for peace, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas released a statement congratulating the families of the “liberated prisoners”. For more information, click here.

Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh hailed Kuntar as “a great hero” and the whole process as a “victory” for Hezbollah. On the flipside, an independent Lebanon website called “Now Lebanon” have weighed up whether this was a victory for Hezbollah, publishing an article entitled “Was it worth it?” The article weighs up the net gains (the release of Samir Kuntar and four other Hezbollah terrorists plus the return of 199 bodies) against the “net losses”, with the losses far outweighing the gains. Please read Arab media mocks Hezbollah “victory” for the full list of “net losses” from the Lebanese side.

Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuri stated “today is a great victory for the resistance movements and to Hezbollah.” He continued, “It shows that the only successful way to free the prisoners is by kidnapping soldiers.” This mode of thought has been echoed by Hezbollah as well, with both organisations believing that if they continue to kidnap soldiers they will force Israel to continue complying with their outrageous demands.

In relation to the exchange Haniyeh also stated that “the Israelis should pay the price for the release of Gilad Shalit”, alluding to the fact that their asking price could go a lot higher considering Gilad Shalit is believed to be alive. An unconfirmed report has even stated that Israel would be willing to include jailed terrorist Marwan Barghouti among a list of 300 Palestinian prisoners in exchange for Shalit.

Seven soldiers that were recruited at the same time as Gilad Shalit were discharged from the army yesterday after formally completing their three years of mandatory service. They walked nine kilometres from the Bakum base in Tel Hashomer to the Defence Minister’s Bureau in Tel Aviv to present Ehud Barak, and Prime Minister Ehud Olmert with a letter regarding their comrade.

Under the title “We are being released today – when will he be?”  they declared, “We believed that should one hair on our heads be harmed, nothing would stop them from bringing us back home. Among us was a soldier named Gilad Shalit. He too trusted his commanders. He too believed that should he be captured, the State of Israel would not rest until he was reunited with his family.”

In regards to the prisoner exchange with Hezbollah they continue, “The next moral debt lies in a dark dungeon south from here… That debt is still alive, waiting hour after hour, day after day, to be redeemed. That debt has a face. It has a name – Gilad Shalit. Gilad has a mother and a father… and they cannot be given their son back in a casket.”

To read more of the letter, click here and to read more about the rally at the end of the march, click here.

Click here to see recently released Columbian hostage Ingrid Betancourt holding a placard with a photo of Gilad Shalit during a demonstration on Sunday urging an end to kidnappings. Thousands gathered near the Eiffel Tower to hear Betancourt as she declared “we want freedom for everyone”. 

The State Zionist Council has submitted an Opinion piece to the website OnlineOpinion regarding last week’s exchange which will appear in tomorrow’s edition. Please go to or to the SZC website tomorrow to read the piece by SZC President Dr. Danny Lamm. In the meantime, please read the Statement by Dr. Danny Lamm, released to the Press last week.

For those in Melbourne that have Channel 31, Peter Faris QC has a program and tonight Danny and journalist Greg Barns will be debating each other on Israel and Iran under the title of “Conflicts of Interest”. It will be on at 10:00pm and should be very interesting.

Best wishes, 

Emily Chrapot
Research Officer
State Zionist Council of Victoria
9272 5507