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Update – 21 January 2009

Dear All,

Most of you would know by now about Michael Backman’s appalling and vile diatribe in the Business section of Saturday’s Age entitled ‘Israelis are living high on US expense account’ (print edition: ‘Israel must learn to live with its neighbours’). The piece was removed from the online edition on Monday and an ‘apology’ subsequently appeared on page 2 of Tuesday’s print edition stating that the article was published “in error”. This joint-statement was issued by the ZCV and the JCCV and I will not add too much more other than that while I have been extremely critical of the Age over recent years because of its unbalanced coverage of the Middle East, the publication of this inexcusable piece of anti-Semitism has brought the paper to an even lower ebb.

The Australian has been on the ball in covering this issue. Please read ‘Jews slam ‘racist’ newspaper article’ and ‘the song remains the same: it’s all the fault of Israel’, both from yesterday’s paper. Caroline Overington, a two-time winner of the Walkley Award and a senior writer with the Australian posted ‘The Jews are to blame’ on her Australian Blog. Please also read today’s offerings: ‘Paper’s apology over anti-Semitic article ‘inadequate’, ‘Broadsheet no place for narrow minds’ an Op-Ed by Michael Ronaldson and the Editorial ‘Apologists for evil’.

The world section of our local papers was dominated today with articles about President Barack Obama’s inauguration, while at the same time the Age is reporting that it was a quiet day in Israel with “no reports of shooting or rockets for the first time since Israel launched its massive assault on Gaza on December 27”. Nevertheless, eight mortar shells were fired in the direction of southern Israel, but due to malfunction these actually landed within Palestinian areas (see more). Despite a unilateral ceasefire declared by Israel and a separate one-week ceasefire declared by Hamas, terrorists have also fired at Israeli troops in two separate incidents (see more).

While the Australian printed an Abraham Rabinovich peace entitled ‘Israel rushes to exit Gaza Strip before inauguration’, the Age has run with a week old story entitled ‘Israeli use of white phosphorus ‘undeniable’: Amnesty’. According to reports from last week, the International Red Cross had already declared that Israel had in fact used white phosphorus, but that it does not appear that it was used in an illegal way. The IDF stated that “it wishes to reiterate that it uses weapons in compliance with international law, which strictly observing that they be used in accordance with the type of combat and its characteristics” (see more). Please also read ‘Phosphorus weapons – the ICRC’s view’. Perhaps if the Age would like to continue delivering week old news it could at least present all of the facts given the length of time available to research it.

One story that is not being told in The Age or in the western media is that of the hijacking yesterday by Hamas of Jordanian aid trucks. This aid was intended for UNRWA, but instead Hamas gunmen fired shots and demanded the material went to Hamas run stores. The initial article came from Jordan’s Petra News Agency and appeared in Arabic. When the article finally appeared in English in the Palestinian Ma’an News, the fact that the gunmen were from Hamas was somehow omitted. The lack of interest from the media is puzzling given wide coverage following an alleged attack by the Israelis on a U.N aid truck just over a week ago when UN official Chris Gunness had a lot to say about what he thought were Israel’s actions. The interest in that story waned at about the same time it was revealed that Hamas was responsible for that attack.  It sometimes seems that if blame cannot be laid on the doorstep of Israel, then what is the point of even mentioning a story such as this?

Speaking of UNRWA, I came across this very thought-provoking piece entitled ‘The “Youth Bulge” Phenomenon’ by Gunnar Heinsohn. His essay delves into the way in which UNWRA is perpetuating the problem of Palestinian refugees in Gaza. He states that through UNRWA, “the West pays for food, schools, medicine and housing, while Muslim nations help out with the military hardware. Unrestrained by such necessities as having to earn a living, the young have plenty of time on their hands for digging tunnels, smuggling, assembling missiles and firing 4,500 of them at Israel since 2006”. Heinsohn does what others have failed in terms of actually providing suggestions for a solution.

Last Sunday an emergency treatment centre was opened at the Erez Crossing to treat civilians from Gaza. According the MFA “this initiative is part of the Israeli government’s humanitarian effort to assist the civilian population of Gaza, coordinated by Minister [of Welfare and Social Services Isaac] Herzog” (see more). Unfortunately, according to a report entitled ‘Gazans stay away from medical clinic’ from Jerusalem Post, the clinic has not been so successful. Tony Laurance, acting head of the World Health Organization’s office in Gaza and the West Bank, has stated that he doubts “Palestinians would be allowed by their leaders to access the clinic”.

Finally, I have had a number of queries on issues of the morality of those involved in combat, civilian casualties and the laws of war including the issue of proportionality and the IDF’s conduct of the war. I direct you to an objective article entitled ‘Weighing Crimes and Ethics in the Fog of Urban Warfare’ from the New York Times (a publication that is not always friendly to Israel). The second item is a video clip from the BBC (of all places), BBC: Former British Army Colonel Richard Kemp Discusses IDF Gaza Ops’. I hope that both items can be of assistance when considering the difficult issues raised during the fighting of an asymmetric war and of the IDF’s conduct in Gaza.

The Zionist Council of Victoria is running a briefing session and workshop called “Answering the tough questions about Israel’s Operation Cast Lead” tonight (Wednesday 21 January) at Beth Weizmann Community Centre at 7:30pm.

*** Be updated on the current situation in southern Israel & Gaza
*** Understand main messages regarding Israel’s position & actions
*** Confront & tackle issues raised on talkback radio, TV & in printmedia
*** Get skills and tools required to answer pointed questions

Click here for more details. There is no charge for the event. So I can get an idea of the numbers coming, please email me by clicking here.

Best wishes,

Emily Chrapot
Research Officer
Zionist Council of Victoria
9272 5507