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Update – 19 December 2008

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Dear Advocates,

On 19 June 2008, Israel and Hamas agreed on an Egyptian-brokered truce that was due to last for six months. While the number of rockets and mortar shells fired into Israel significantly dropped, the last week has brought with it a barrage of rocket fire from the other side of the border. Today – 19 December – at 6am Israeli time (3pm ESDT) the lull will officially expire.

Yesterday Hamas official Ayman Taha stated, “The calm, which was reached with Egyptian sponsorship on June 19 and expires on December 19, is finished because the enemy did not abide by its obligations… The calm is over.”

In response, Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor said, “We would like it to continue. If Hamas chooses violence over the cease-fire, rocket shooting over the possibility of improving the situation in Gaza, then one must as oneself whether Hamas has the best interests of its people in mind or whether there are foreign interests that are involved.” Please read, ‘Israel: We hold Hamas responsible for any future Gaza violence’.

The Israelis have said that they will not accept any sort of sporadic rocket fire, and nor should they. A senior defence official has stated, “We will only accept quiet like there was before the operation in November… Sporadic fire of several Kassams a day is unacceptable and will lead up to a collision course with Hamas”.

In the meantime, legal expert Ahaz Benari has weighed in on any sort of response by the Israelis by stating that according to law, “artillery fire is permissible only in relatively open areas… Artillery fire at urban areas is problematic; if the assessment is that the chance that the shell will hit the launchers is relatively low, while the risk that many civilians will be hurt is substantial.”

Now, I certainly do not agree with firing at population centres either, even though in most cases these terrorists set themselves up in populated areas for this very reason, but I want to know where the law comes into it when rockets are constantly being fired in Israeli towns from Gaza. Israel should be accountable for her actions and should uphold the rule of law. But where are the legal experts in Gaza and why are they not speaking up about citizens upholding the law? For more information, please read ‘Jurists tell Barak: Don’t shell Gaza population centres’ from Haaretz.

Please take the time to view this very touching clip about children in Sderot, who are at the frontline of the rocket fire from Gaza. The video shows the children playing happily in the playground when all of a sudden they hear the “Colour Red” siren, which gives them 15 seconds to find shelter. To see the clip, click here. For statistics on rockets into Sderot, click here

In the meantime, sources close to Hamas say that they may eventually renew the lull arrangement but that they would first try to extract extra concessions from Israel. For more information, click here.

Perhaps if Israel agrees to a new agreement with Hamas they should also extract an extra “concession”; the release of Gilad Shalit. In the last talks six months ago both parties agreed to begin the lull and then talk about Gilad’s release; these serious talks never happened. Please read this analysis from Ynet entitled ‘The Gilad Shalit fiasco’. While it is critical of the Israeli government’s inaction on the issue, it does raise some interesting points about Israel’s tactics in negotiations and setting agendas. 

For a story that you will not read about in the Australian media please read ‘The Israel security forces in Jerusalem detained two Hamas operatives carrying Israeli IDs, preventing them from abducting a border guard and carrying out other terrorist attacks’ from Terrorism Info.

Another issue that has arisen in the past few days is Israel’s expulsion of Richard Falk, the United Nations Human Rights Council’s special rapporteur for the Palestinian territories. Falk has compared Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians to Nazi atrocities and is constantly critical of Israel, while ignoring any wrong-doing on the Palestinian side. Please read ‘U.N. Rights Investigator Expelled by Israel’ from the NY Times. Please also read ‘UN Human Rights chief slams Israel for expelling envoy Richard Falk’ from Haaretz. 

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs released a statement defending the decision stating that the mandate “ignores all human rights violations by Palestinians, either against Israelis or against other Palestinians. Thus, the rapporteur, is prevented from considering, even if he wanted to, the issue of Human Rights violations.” It continued, “In the case of Prof. Richard Falk, beyond the imbalance in his mandate, the bias is further exacerbated by the highly politicized views of the rapporteur himself, in legitimizing Hamas terrorism and drawing shameful comparisons to the Holocaust. For the full statement, click here.

The Zionist Council of Victoria has set up a special Election 09 section on our website in the lead-up to the February 10 elections in Israel. It will constantly be updated with background, analysis, links, advocacy and special features. Click here to read the first blog entitled “Nero’s FiddleManiacs” by “Chovev Zion” and feel free to comment. If you come across any information or interesting facts over the summer regarding the election, please email moderator@zionismvictoria.org.au .

As the ZCV office will be closing today and not reopening until Monday 12 January, I would like to take the time now to wish you all a Chag Chanukah Sameach. When you light your Chanukah candles this year, please dedicate one candle to Gilad Shalit in a show of solidarity and to show that we have not turned out the lights of hope that Gilad will soon be free. To read more about the worldwide Chanukah campaign for Gilad Shalit, click here.

Best wishes,
Emily.

Emily Chrapot
Research Officer
Zionist Council of Victoria
9272 5507