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Update – 26 August 2008

Dear Advocates, 

Last Thursday the Australian media broke the news that the Hezbollah television station, Al-Manar, is being broadcast into Australia via an Indonesian satellite company, Indosat. The station, which promotes a rabidly anti-Israel and anti-western ideology, had previously been banned in Australia. Please read, ‘Hezbollah TV ‘live’ in Australia’ from the Age for more information.

The issue came to the boil the following day with an article entitled ‘Jam ‘terror TV’ broadcasts, says group’. The article asserts that when asked to comment on the issue, Australian Arabic Council chairman Roland Jabbour had said that ‘he would not call Jews the offspring of apes and pigs, but that in the context of the “crimes of the state of Israel” it was reasonable for al-Manar to do so and to portray Israeli rabbis as killing Christian children to use their blood in Passover meals’.

This kind of language, reasoning and justification is dangerous not only because of its strong anti-Israel character but because it calls on centuries-old slander relating to the blood libel. Please read a statement released by State Zionist Council of Victoria President Danny Lamm entitled ‘Broadcast of terrorist Hezbollah al-Manar is not about freedom of speech and must be stopped’, which also has background on the station and video clip examples of the programs. An abridged version of this statement was sent to the media. The issue also made the Israeli press with the article ‘Australia seeks block on Hizbullah TV from Indonesia’ which appeared on Ynet last Thursday.

Letters for and against the broadcasting have appeared in the paper three days in a row (22 August, 25 August, and 26 August ) which means that the issue is probably dead in media terms, but members of our community should still be urging those that have control to stand out against al-Manar and its broadcasting on televisions in Australia.

Another issue is our media at the moment is that of the two boats carrying international Human Rights activists, whose aim was to challenge “Israeli restrictions on Palestinian movement and access to basic services” by trying to dock their ships in Gaza. Please read ‘Peace ships break through Israel’s blockade of Gaza’ and ‘Israel to allow protest boats’ from the last two editions of the Age.

The protest did not get quite the media attention that the organisers would have liked, perhaps because in the end Israel let them through without the stand-off they were hoping for. While they are trying to draw attention to the “lock-down” of the Gaza Strip, they often fail to give the full picture.

For example, they ignore the constant stream of humanitarian aide that is permitted to flow into the area. They ignore the fact that leadership of the Gaza Strip was challenged in a bloody coup which saw Hamas taking full control of the area while remaining committed to rocket and mortar attacks on Israeli communities. They also ignore that fact that the Israel Navy has exclusive responsibility for the safety and security of the maritime zones off the coast of Gaza in accordance with the Interim Agreement between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

On another note, yesterday morning, at 9:00am Israeli time, Israel released 198 Palestinian prisoners from Israeli jails as a goodwill gesture to PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas. Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni stated that “when Israel releases prisoners only to those who exert force against us, it conveys the message that we give in to the pressures of force and abduction. This is a message of weakness. Releasing prisoners only to Hamas strengthens Hamas. The release of prisoners to pragmatic elements as part of a process of negotiation conveys the message that those who negotiate with Israel can gain through dialogue.” For more information please read, ‘Behind the Headlines: Israeli Release of Palestinian Prisoners’ from the MFA website.

Shortly after the release, during a welcoming ceremony in Ramallah, Abbas stated “there is no doubt that we seek peace and we are trying to seek our goals – and there won’t be peace without the release of all prisoners”. For more information, click here. Time will only tell what will come out of this.

Just for another perspective on the issue, I came across the following article by Miki Goldwasser, the mother of Ehud Goldwasser z”l, entitled ‘No more gestures’ from a few weeks ago. She questioned why it is Israel that is always making the gestures and was critical that the government was making humanitarian gestures while Aviva Shalit (mother of kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit) has to cope with “her own son… held in cellars of horror”. She also questions why the Israelis are never recipients of goodwill gestures such as negotiations for Shalit’s release.

Just a reminder about our upcoming INTERNATIVE & PRACTICAL ISRAEL ADVOCACY WORKSHOP on Monday 1 September with DAVID OLESKER who is the Director of the Jerusalem Centre for Communications and Advocacy training. David brings an entertaining mixture of humour and activism training to his interactive and practical presentations. Last year’s advocacy workshop with Frank Luntz was very successful and this year’s presentation will be the perfect follow up. Please join us at 8pm at Beth Weizmann Community Centre.

Click here for the flyer
Click here to read more about David Olesker

Best wishes,

Emily Chrapot
Research Officer
State Zionist Council of Victoria
9272 5507