Update – 3 September 2009

Posted by Emily Chrapot on Thursday 3 September at 11:25am:

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Last week I wrote about the libellous article in Sweden’s Aftonbladet newspaper, which accused IDF officers of snatching young men from the West Bank and Gaza Strip in the dark of the night, only to be returned a few days later with missing organs. The articles author Donald Bostrom has admitted in an interview that “it’s not up to me to have any evidence; I’m not convinced even that it happened. And the interesting thing is that no one, not even the Palestinian families, told me that the army took the organs from their sons”.

I would suggest to Mr. Bostrom that if the accused was any other than the Jewish State then this fantasy story would never have even seen the light of day. As a journalist reporting on a story condemning the actions of a sovereign state, it is entirely up to him to have some evidence with which to back up a story. At the very least, it is his responsibility to check the facts before airing such a dirty story coming from people who clearly might have had every reason to show Israel and the Jewish people in such a negative light. If he was not even convinced that it happened, why write about it in the first place?

Many believe that had we all just ignored the story, it would have simply faded away, and with the Israeli government getting involved, more attention has been drawn to these ridiculous claims. Others believe that the issue has now been railroaded, and instead of this being an issue of libel, it has become an issue of freedom of speech. Others still believe that it is our duty to refute these claims and make a fuss, because if even one person reads the story and believes it, then the damage has been done. To read more about the aftermath of the issue, click here.

It is my belief, perhaps only in hindsight, that the best track would have been to condemn the nonsense but instead of drawing more attention to the issue, present a different side of the organ donation story.

Let’s look at a story covered in the Jerusalem Post by Jonny Paul about a young man named Yoni Jesner, who was killed at age 19 in a suicide bombing on a bus in Tel Aviv in 2002. His family agreed to donate his kidney’s, which eventually went to seven-year old Yasmin Abu Ramila, a Palestinian girl who had been waiting for two years for a transplant. Yoni’s brother said, “the family is very proud that out of this tragic situation and Yoni’s death that we were able and Yoni was able to give to others. I think the most important principle here is that life was given to another human being” (see more).

In the meantime, Age correspondent Jason Koutsoukis seems to be working on the assumption that if you find a “story” then it’s worthwhile bleating on about it day in, day out and forgetting about any other issue emanating from his region. His exposés on Jewish settlements in the West Bank now feature in the Age on almost a daily basis and has assumed so much importance that it even has a new logo:

Koutsoukis appears to have an “in” with Israel’s “Peace Now” movement which has a political agenda to expose the issue of the settlements as if they were the only impediments to peace between Israel and the Arabs. It must be said that there are stories that need to be told within the West Bank and Koutsoukis’s story in Monday’s Age, entitled ‘Farmers’ struggle to harvest beset by a faceless menace’ exposes an abhorrent element of Israeli society. Settlers from Yizhar in the West Bank have taken it upon themselves to descend upon Palestinian farms and destroy them by either cutting down their crops, or in more horrific cases, set them on fire, throw petrol bombs on sheds and poison trees with chemicals. Such actions are outrageous, improper and completely counter-productive to any hope of future co-existence. To carry out these attacks in packs with masks on is simply cowardly. Theirs is not the cause of Zionism.

However, in his coverage of the issue, Koutsoukis seems to presenting two sides of the same story and the Age do not need to beat it out with a stick day after day in different forms. Please read the opening story in the sequence ‘Settlers stake out a life on conflict’s edge’, which appeared in Saturday’s Age, and reads like a scene out of the script of M. Night Shyamalan’s thriller The Village. The full page spread on that day also included Koutsoukis’ second offering entitled ‘Dulled by age and infirmity, extremist rabbi’s fire burns on’ and Ethan Bronner’s ‘Elder statesmen praise protesters’.  On Tuesday Koutsoukis offered up two more: ‘Settler burden weighs on Israel’ and ‘Weary minds of the West Bank’.

Meanwhile, Palestinian violence, threats, extremism and murder are routinely ignored in the Age’s coverage so that the Israelis are painted as the bad guys by virtue of their association with the minority being a small group of extremist settlers, while the Palestinians are the good guys because their far more extreme and larger groups of terrorists and their enablers are constantly ignored by this newspaper. Further, the many good deeds of Israel and the Jews in the region are being ignored in this pattern of attacking one side at all costs. This is not a Hollywood blockbuster. The region needs solutions, not good guys and bad guys.

At some point in time, Prime Minister Netanyahu, or perhaps his successor, will have to make some difficult decisions about dismantling and withdrawing from certain areas but we cannot be continually forced to believe that this is the sole issue that is holding back the Israelis and the Palestinians from reaching a lasting peace deal.

We even heard reports last week that President Barak Obama would be willing to take a firmer stance on the Iranian nuclear threat in exchange for Israel freezing construction in the settlements (see more). Now the safety of the free world, which will also suffer the dire consequences of a nuclear Iran, is hinging on a deal on the settlements? Such a mode of thinking does a disservice to Israelis and Palestinians. Such exposés by Koutsoukis does a disservice to those of us here in Australia, who need to be given a far bigger picture of the situation. In any event, we all saw what happened when every last settlement was dismantled in Gaza in 2005, and despite our high hopes it was not a lasting peace between the two sides. Unless lasting peace means ongoing firing of rockets, smuggling of weapons and a bloody takeover by Hamas.

Mr. Koutsoukis, if you are having trouble finding new stories to cover, perhaps I can help you out a little?

For example, perhaps you can tell us Australians why Hamas is shooting down an apparent UN plan to teach children in the Gaza Strip about the Holocaust? Apparently, Hamas believes that one of the worst genocides in modern history is no more than “a lie invented by the Zionists”. Luckily for Hamas, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), which educates some 200,000 Palestinian children in Gaza, are going by the old adage, “don’t mention the war” and currently the Holocaust is not in the curriculum (see more).

But if, Mr. Koutsoukis, you would prefer not to paint Hamas into the Holocaust-denying corner that they belong, perhaps you would like to report on this latest scientific story that has come out of Israel about a sensor that can detect lung cancer in a patient’s breath and may offer a diagnosis before tumors show up on an ex-ray (see more). Considering lung cancer is the leading cause of death due to cancer in Australia and more than 7,000 Australians die from lung cancer each year, you would think a story such as this would be important. It was newsworthy enough for this Ballarat online publication but I guess good news stories just simply do not sell papers.

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01 – Sally:

What a shame The Age has resorted to such pathetic “journalism” – used to be a good read!

02 – Paul:

Netanyahu is never going to do anything about the settlements, we all know that. Even in the time that Barak was PM, settlements expanded. If Netanyahu is telling the US that he will agree to freezing some settlement expansion then he is probably doing exactly what we accuse Arab leaders of doing all the time – saying one thing in English to the West and another thing in Arabic in the Mosques.