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Update – 5 May 2009

Dear All,

The Age never seems to disappoint when it comes to reporting on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. This weekend, the Israeli Air Force bombed five tunnel systems used smuggle in arms and other goods from Egypt into Gaza. Two Palestinians were killed in the incident. The bombing of the tunnels was a response to the firing by Palestinian terrorists of Kassam rockets into the western Negev. Since the end of Operation Cast Lead (which was undertaken in the first place because of incessant rocket fire into Israeli civilian areas), it is believed that significant quantities of arms have been smuggled through the tunnels and that Hamas has now received long-range rockets capable of striking central Israel (see more).

Both the Age and the Australian have reported on the incident, though as often happens, the Age used an AFP report which attempted to flip the conflict on its head again. The article entitled ‘Israel kills two in air raids aimed at Gaza’s tunnels’ concedes almost as a side note that ‘militants have fired about 200 rockets at Israel’ but ends that this followed “Israel’s onslaught against the impoverished territory in December and January”. Clearly the Age and AFP agencies do not see any connection at all between these smuggling tunnels and the 200 rockets fired in three months. The articles also plays the old numbers game declaring “Palestinian sources say the Gaza War left more than 1400 Palestinian [sic] dead. Thirteen Israelis were killed during the conflict”. It does not however, make mention of the fact that the figures provided by Palestinian sources have been the subject of much controversy and have been discredited by Israeli figures which name most of the victims and identify which of them were members of Hamas and other terror organistations (see more).

The Australian gives a more balanced view and additionally provides detail of another incident that occurred in the West Bank as tensions grow between Israeli settlers and Palestinian villagers. The article points out that two Israeli soldiers on leave attempted to assist a group of settlers to enter into a Palestinian village and fired shots. It then points out that “Israeli army units quickly arrived and arrested the two soldiers for illegal use of firearms” (see more). It would have been interesting to read how the AFP would have treated the story and one can imagine that the part about the arrest of the two soldiers might not have found its way into the article.

Last week, as Israel celebrated 61 years of Independence, its supposed partner in peace, Palestine Authority chairman Mahmoud Abbas declared “I say this clearly: I do not accept the Jewish State, call it what you will”, at a preliminary conference of the Palestinian Youth Parliament (see more). These statements came in response to U.S envoy to the Middle East, George Mitchell’s statement that he “reiterated… that U.S policy favours, with respect to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, a two-state solution which will have a Palestinian state living in peace alongside the Jewish State of Israel” (see more).

Prominent PA spokespeople were making declarations that the Israeli requirement that the Palestinians recognise Israel as a Jewish state was “unacceptable”, some even before Abbas came forward with his views on the matter.

Perhaps unable to hold back Abbas stated: “As for the Jewish state, we say ‘the State of Israel’. You Israelis are free [to do as you wish], call it as you please, but I will not accept [the definition of Israel as a Jewish state]. This issue was discussed at length in Washington [i.e., during the Annapolis summit] and we told them [i.e., the Israelis]: We are only saying ‘the State of Israel’, and you are free to call it [as you please]” (see more). When the Age reported on this last week, it painted a picture of a “defiant” President (see more) without indicating the fundamental importance of the fact that not only Israel describes itself as a Jewish State but that this was the basis of the United Nations Partition Plan of 1947 which in turn, underpins subsequent peace initiatives between Israel and the Palestinians. As a side note, the Australian has published an article today entitled ‘Israel commits to two-state solution’, a story that is conspicuously missing from the Age.

I came across an interesting report on an article that appeared in the Palestinian newspaper “Felesteen” by Mustafa al-Sawaf entitled “John Ging and the Destruction of the [UN] Aid Agency [UNRWA]”. The article argues that UNRWA chief John Ging follows his own political agenda, which is opposed to that of the “resistance”. The article asserts “this man wants to corrupt the values of this institution. By promoting that corruption, he is defiling a conservative, clean society” (see more). Really?

While reading this report it occurred to me how we seem to see things from a different perspective. I too have problems with the UNWRA. I too believe that it is a corrupt agency that is perpetuating the problem of Palestinian refugees in Gaza. I too believe that the UNWRA follows its own political agenda. And yet, I seem to be coming at this situation from the exact opposite perspective from Mustafa al-Sawaf.

Finally, I would like to end by informing you of a very exciting function. The bestselling book “The Case for Israel” by prominent lawyer Alan Dershowitz has been made into a new documentary of the same title. The Zionist Council of Victoria together with the Zionist Federation of Australia and the NSW State Zionist Council has acquired the Australian rights to screen the film.

The Australian Premier will be held at:
Classic Cinema – Gordon St, Elsternwick
Thursday 14 May 2009, 7:00pm.

The screening will be followed by a panel discussion featuring Rabbi James Kennard and Idan Dershowitz.

Tickets are $15 each and due to the limited size of the cinema, I strongly recommend pre-bookings. To pre-book your ticket, please email me or phone 9272 5507. For the flyer and a preview of the film, click here. I look forward to seeing you there!

Best wishes,

Emily Chrapot
Israel Advocacy Analyst
Zionist Council of Victoria
9272 5507