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Update – 30 July 2008

Dear Advocates, 

Today’s Age is running a story by correspondent Jason Koutsoukis entitled ‘Hamas and Fatah torture prisoners: watchdog’, regarding two reports from Human Rights groups condemning Hamas and Fatah for “the systematic use of arrests, torture and ill treatment against their political opponents”. This article (along with an article published on Monday entitled ‘Hamas arrests rivals after deadly bomb attacks’) seems to mark a turning point for The Age, who have ignored a whole raft of human rights abuses that have been occurring for years in both the West Bank and Gaza Strip except where the blame can be somehow sheeted home against the Israelis. Over the years, numerous offences, ranging from the outright murder of innocent Israeli civilians to incitement against Jews and even the teaching of hatred and racism in schools and on children’s’ television programmes seem to have largely escaped the attention of this newspaper’s Middle East correspondents.

Finally, we are seeing the exposure of such issues as torture in Palestinian prisons which is an important turning point after several years of a total lack of balance in this area during former correspondent Ed O’Loughlin’s time at the paper. Please also read ‘Report: Torture Widespread in Palestinian Jails’ from ABC (in the United States).

Last week I wrote to you about Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh’s statements that “the Israelis should pay the price for the release of Gilad Shalit”. His assessment was that if Israel was willing to pay such an enormous price for the bodies of Ehud Goldwasser z”l and Eldad Regev z”l, then Hamas would up the price for Gilad Shalit, who is believed to be alive and is being held by Hamas in the Gaza Strip. This week it would seem that the plot has thickened, with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas stating that he will dismantle the PA if Israel releases senior Hamas politicians. With Fatah in control of the West Bank and Hamas in control of Gaza following a violent coup in 2007, the release of certain members of Hamas could strengthen Hamas in the West Bank. Click here to read more.

Israel and Hamas brokered a ceasefire which has now been in effect for just over a month. Some of the conditions of the ceasefire included a cessation of terrorism from the Gaza Strip, a cessation of IDF counter-activities and the opening of crossings between the Gaza Strip and Israel. Negotiations regarding Gilad Shalit were deferred to a later time. Please read ‘One month into the lull in the fighting: an interim report’ from Terrorism Info.

Yesterday’s Australian contained a story that in the print edition was entitled ‘Palestinians win land back from barrier’, referring to a decision by Israeli courts to dismantle and reroute a part of the Security Fence that was deemed to have been cutting off Palestinian landowners from their farms. The court decision is a clear demonstration of the fact there are processes available within the Israeli legal system to protect all sides on the vexed problems inherent in the necessity of having a barrier to protect Israeli civilians from terrorist activities on the other side.

The online offering ‘Palestinians win land back from wall’ does not show the accompanying picture that appeared in the print edition featuring a young Palestinian boy holding a slingshot under the caption: “Protest: A Young Palestinian hurls a stone with a slingshot at Israeli troops during a demonstration against the barrier in the village of Nilin, in the West Bank”. These constant images of the “David and Goliath” style battle with the Palestinians are unnecessary and counter-productive, particularly when the image has no real relevance to the article itself, as in the case here. For those that have little time to delve into an article, and instead merely rely on headlines and images, this particular aspect of the way in which the article was presented managed to blur the picture. 

Now onto a positive news item, especially for lovers of Tel Aviv!

In one of his novels A.B Yehoshua wrote of Tel Aviv that “Zionism began with men who left Jerusalem for the coastal swamps”. It was David Ben Gurion who once said, “We will know we have become a normal country when Jewish thieves and Jewish prostitutes conduct their business in Hebrew”. I was reminded of these two quotes after reading the following article entitled ‘Seizing the Day in Tel Aviv’, which appear last week in the New York Times. It delves into the intricacies and contradictions into what makes Tel Aviv such a unique city without the backdrop of thousands of years worth of history that we find in Jerusalem. 

The SZC together with the Australian Friends of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem will be hosting a breakfast briefing session with Professor Alfred Tovias, who is the Director of the Leonard Davis Institute for International Relations at Hebrew University. He will be speaking on the topic “Thinking Ahead – Israel’s future relations with the European Union”. The session will be held on Thursday 7 August 2008, 7:45am-9:00am at Beth Weizmann Community Centre. For more details, click here.

Best Wishes,

Emily Chrapot
Research Officer
State Zionist Council of Victoria
9272 5507