Update – 12 December 2008

Dear Advocates, 

Last week’s news from Israel was dominated by events in Hebron. At the centre of the controversy was a house in Hebron allegedly purchased from a Palestinian man by a wealthy US businessman. The courts are now in the process of deciding the legal status of the ownership of the house. In the meantime, the Ministry of Defence decided that for the safety of all involved, those inside the house should be evacuated until the legal status is confirmed. This is when violence ensued and the situation was destabilised. For more information, click here.

Without going into the specifics of the situation, it is clear that in a democracy, no citizen has the right to take the law into their own hands. Those who live in and cherish a civilised and democratic society need to have faith in the rule of law.

Last week Prime Minister Ehud Olmert ‘made it clear that the Government will not allow any elements whatsoever to harm democracy and the rule of law, and added that any attempt by violent elements to attack the Palestinian population and cause unrest in Judea and Samaria will be met with a sharp and immediate response by the security establishment”. Government spokesman Mark Regev also stated, “Israel is a country where the rule of law prevails. It is not a country of vigilantes”.

In the meantime, rockets continue to fall in Southern Israel. Since 4 November, when the lull was seriously breached and violence broke out, 109 rockets and 97 shells have been fired at Israel. Meanwhile, the ceasefire is due to officially “expire” on 19 December. For more information on the events of the past week please read ‘News of Terrorism and the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict (December 2-9, 2008’ from Terrorism Info. In a follow up to boats such as the Free Palestine boat that has now docked in Gaza three times, this information page also has a section on attempts to establish a continuous maritime supply line to the Gaza Strip including a table of past and planned sea voyages to the Gaza Strip.

Yesterday marked Gilad Shalit’s 900th day in captivity. What is 900 days?

I can put that period of time into personal terms because I have nephew who was born in northern Israel on the second day of the Second Lebanon War (19 days after Gilad was abducted) while his parents were visiting family there. On the day of his brit, there were sirens as Hezbollah rockets were fired at the area where they lived. My brother, his wife and their family returned home safely and I have watched my little nephew grow and enter into his terrible twos and in all that time, Gilad Shalit has remained in captivity: his plight should not be forgotten.

Meanwhile, Minister of Foreign Affairs Tzipi Livni made some statements yesterday which enraged many. Speaking to high school students marking Gilad’s time in captivity Livni stated, “The thought that I can free Gilad and am not doing it is a horrible thought. We all want Gilad to come back home, but part of the willingness to fight is the understanding that we don’t have any other choice. There is always a risk of casualties, and it’s not always possible to bring everyone back home.”

Though history perhaps has shown us that she is correct, it may have been unnecessary for her to comment in that way while most are holding on to the hope that Gilad will return safely home. To read more, click here.

Meanwhile, without giving a mouthpiece to Hamas, Mahmoud Zahar, a Hamas official, has said that Gilad Shalit could be released in a single day if Israel could “gather the courage” for a deal to be implemented. Please read ‘Hamas official: Shalit could be freed in a day if Israel were brave enough’ from Haaretz. Hamas spokespeople make it sound so easy but they usually neglect to mention that Hamas’ demands include the release of 450 prisoners of their choice plus another 500 that Israel can choose. They never mention that the many of these prisoners are brutal murderers with Israeli blood on their hands.

On the other hand is a story about Esther Wachsman, whose son Nachshon Wachsman, was kidnapped by Hamas and subsequently murdered during a commando rescue mission in 1994. Mrs Wachsman has told Prime Minister Olmert that she supports releasing the prisoners that played a part in her son’s death. She said, “I told [Olmert] that I cannot sleep at night… That I am speaking as a mother and not an objective citizen. I cannot imagine what it is like to know how bad things are for your son for 900 days… If Gilad comes home, give them my son’s murderer. I give up on the murderer of my son. My Nachshon will forgive me.” To read more about this painful story, click here.

On Monday a delegation of 70 Italians, including 24 members of the Italian Parliament, visited Sderot with a letter addressed to Gilad. They were hoping that the Red Cross could hand the letter to him. Rossana Boldi, President of the Committee on European Affairs and a representative for the group stated that “Israel has a right to exist in security… and Gilad Shalit has every right to return home”. For more information, click here.

On 10 December UN Watch (an organisation dedicated to monitoring the UN and promoting Human Rights) presented a report to the UN entitled ‘Eleanor’s Dream: 1948 to 2008: The State of Human Rights at the United Nations’ which is a scorecard and report on the UN Human Rights Council. UN Watch Executive Director Hillel Neuer presented the document stating “Sixty years after the founding vision of Eleanor Roosevelt, Rene Cassin and Charles Malik, the United Nations human rights system as a whole finds itself in a state of crisis.” To read more, click here.

Speaking of the United Nations, I received an interesting report this morning from Palestinian Media Watch entitled ‘PA historical distortion: UN did not offer Arabs a state in 1947’. Dr. Ahmad Subh, Deputy Minister in the PA Ministry of Foreign Affairs declared “The International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People on November 29 was not picked coincidentally, that’s the anniversary of the [1947 UN] Partition Plan… In 1977, the UN General Assembly decided to restore the Palestinian people’s esteem, following the historic injustice which happened in 1947 when a ‘birth certificate’ was offered to one state instead of two states.” To drive the point home he concluded, “One state [Israel] was permitted to be established, while the Palestinian state was not permitted to be established.” To see the clip, click here.

Finally, for those that communicate with friends and family on the other side of the world, it could get a lot cheaper thanks to a new invention called iSkoot. Developed by an Israeli company, iSkoot allows users to hook into the Skype network from their mobile phones, making long distance calls to other Skype users around the world for the price of a local call. To read more, click here

Best wishes,

Emily Chrapot
Research Officer
Zionist Council of Victoria
9272 5507