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Update – 22 December 2011

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Posted by Emily Gian on 22 December 2011 at 3:43pm:

It has been a really big year of highs and lows for Israel, so I thought I would take this time to reflect on the year that was in Israel.

The year got off to a rocky start with conspiracy theories about the Mossad using animals such a sharks and vultures to spy, and we were concerned that 2011 might be the year of the anti-Israel conspiracy theory.

Early in the year we saw a growing trend of Latin American countries declaring that they recognised a free Palestinian within the 1967 borders, as a result of an aggressive campaign by the Palestine Authority to push through unilateral independence. We were reminded that the future Palestinian state that PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas envisioned was completely void of Jews as he declared in late 2010, “we have frankly said, and always will say: if there is an independent Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital, we won’t agree to the presence of one Israeli in it” (see more). This set the tone for what was to come in September, when Abbas intended to take his unilateral independence declaration straight to the United Nations. 

On 11 March, as I spent a quiet Shabbat with my family in Tel Aviv, a number of lives were shattered in the West Bank settlement of Itamar when five members of the Fogel family were brutally murdered while they slept including three children, the youngest of whom was just 3 months old. One can only wonder how anyone could have so much hatred in their hearts that they could kill defenceless children. The Palestine Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas sought to implicate Thai workers in the crime. When this turned out to be a blatant lie and the Palestinian murderers confessed to the crime, all we got from Abbas was silence.

In the same month, the IDF intercepted a cargo vessel en route to Egypt which had 50 tons of Iranian weaponry. None of the media outlets seemed to make the connection between weaponry being smuggled in to Gaza when a Grad rocket was fired from Gaza into Israel just a few days later. And on the same day that Grads were falling in the south of Israel, Jerusalemites were given a flashback to the post-Oslo era when a bomb exploded next to a bus near the Jerusalem Convention centre killing one and wounding 50 others. Not surprisingly, our local media did not pick up on many of these stories (see more). 

Following Operation Cast Lead (December 2008-January 2009) a fact-finding mission was set up by the UN to investigate, headed by Judge Richard Goldstone. In September 2009, the Goldstone Report was released. While the Israelis and the Palestinians were both accused of actions amounting to war crimes, the report was particularly critical of Israel’s role (see more). Jump forward to April 2011, the Washington Post published in article by Richard Goldstone with his declaration that “if I had known then what I know now, the Goldstone Report would have been a different document”. Goldstone’s attempt to step away from his own report raised serious doubt about the report, but the damage had already been done (see more). Interestingly, Richard Goldstone, who was a judge in apartheid South Africa, also published an article in the New York Times in late October entitled ‘Israel and the Apartheid Slander’. What a difference a few years can make for the Judge. However, for others, the slanders still continue.  

Another issue which continued to fester was the issue of the racist anti-Israel BDS campaign. Back in January, the Marrickville Council in NSW adopt a complete boycott of Israel. By April, the Australian had published a report stating that the proposed boycott of Israeli goods would cost ratepayers at least $3.7 million to cater for the replacement of Hewlett-Packard computers, Holden cars and changing water-disposal services. Highlighting the sheer hypocrisy of the campaign, the Mayor at the time, Fiona Byrne, stated that “the boycott, divestments and sanctions movement is growing around the world because it can be adapted for local circumstance and that is what can be done in Marrickville”. In plain language, Byrne and others of her ilk would like to be able to pick and choose what they boycott (see more) although they stopped short of boycotting most of the world’s worst serial abusers including the Syrian regime which was butchering its own civilians. Thankfully, Byrne’s bid for election to State Parliament failed and she is no longer Mayor of Marrickville. This month, the NSW Greens also abandoned their official support for the BDS campaign.

In early May we saw the death of Osama Bin Laden, and while many of the leaders of the Western world praised the United States for the removal of the 9/11 mastermind, Ismail Haniyeh, head of the Hamas administration in Gaza declared, “we condemn the assassination and the killing of an Arab holy warrior. We ask God to offer him mercy with the true believers and the martyrs”. These statements came at the same time as Fatah and Hamas were attempting to sign a unity deal. While the United States expressed outrage at the statements, nobody saw it fit to make any connection between Hamas’ praise of bin Laden and their worthiness for consideration as a serious partner for peace (see more). Despite this there is no shortage of apologists around the world for this despicable regime.

And on that subject, just over a year after the first flotilla, in early July activists attempted to set sail to Gaza once again. A few of the ships were damaged and the Australian media was more than willing to publish stories without the slightest scrap of evidence suggesting that it was Israel that sabotaged the ships (see more). Most of the media ignored the fact that in late May, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon issued a statement expressing “his belief that assistance and goods destined to Gaza should be channelled through legitimate crossings and established channels”. He also “called on all Governments concerned to use their influence to discourage such flotillas, which carry the potential to escalate into a violent conflict… flotillas were not helpful in resolving the basic economic problems in Gaza”. 

The flop that was the Flotilla 2 was followed by what pro-Palestinian activists dubbed the “flytilla”, where they planned to fly into Israel on commercial flights and to publicly announce the intention to reach the Palestinian Authority administered territories. Those that did make it through were immediately detained and were given 24 hours to apply through the proper channels to visit the West Bank. The flotilla and flytilla incidents exposed how these activists were not really in it for humanitarian reasons and the money spent to travel either by boat or plane, on lawyers, bail and associated expenses would have been better spent giving direct donations to those they really felt needed the aid (see more). 

July also saw the beginning of the social justice protests in Israel where tents were erected all around Israel in protest to the high cost of living. At the height of the protests, over 400,000 Israelis took to the streets. One blog mentioned that in terms of percentage of the population, the equivalent in the USA would be 22 million protesters and in the UK, 4 million. Later in the year, social justice protests would take place all over the world, from Europe to the USA and even here in Australia, but while those became unruly and violent, Israel’s citizens managed to do it peacefully in a way that ignited the whole country. 

In August, while Israelis were still sleeping in tents all over Israel, terrorism hit Eilat when a terrorist gunman opened fire on two Israeli buses. A private vehicle travelling on the same road was attacked by an anti-tank missile. In an instant, a while family was killed and the death toll rose to eight (see more). 

By the time September rolled around, I thought very little could surprise me, until I heard PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas’ address to the United Nations General Assembly on 23 September. There he declared, “I come before you today from the Holy Land, the land of Palestine, the land of divine messages, ascension of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) and the birthplace of Jesus Christ (peace be upon him), to speak on behalf of the Palestinian people in the homeland and in the Diaspora…” To deny any historical Jewish connect to the land of Israel and Jerusalem simply goes beyond belief, but Abbas got away with that and at lot more at the United Nations that weekend, as he took his bid to make Palestine the 194th member of the United Nations right to the Security Council. And still, there are apologists around the world and in the media for Abbas’ regime.

At the same time, Prime Minister Netanyahu also addressed the General Assembly, and turning to Abbas he declared, “In two and a half years, we met in Jerusalem only once… If you wish, I’ll come to Ramallah. Actually, I have a better suggestion. We’ve both just flown thousands of miles to New York. Now we’re in the same city. We’re in the same building. So let’s meet here today in the United Nations… If we genuinely want peace, what is there to stop us from meeting today and beginning the negotiations?” This meeting never happened and in the meantime, the Quartet (which consists of the EU, the UN, the US and Russia) released a statement outlining a potential peace deal that could be solved by 2012 which would see comprehensive proposals within three months on territory and security, and substantial progress within six months (see more). As we sit here in late December, we can see that this too did not eventuate. 

By early October, we had seen the two extremes of Israeli society. The low point of the first week of October was attacks on three mosques in an Upper Galilee Bedouin village carried out by religious Israeli extremists. This hateful attack was carried out with the graffiti “price tag”, and these attacks have continued through the rest of the year, and the issue was covered again in my update last week. The attacks were appalling, but they were a reminder that in Israel, just like in any other country, there are citizens who take the law into their own hands, and we must trust that the nation has a justice system in which no crime goes unpunished. 

In the same week, the news came that Israeli scientist Dan Shechtman had won the 2011 Nobel Prize for Chemistry. He joins nine other Israelis that have won Nobel Prizes in the areas of Peace, Literature, Economics and Chemistry. It was a reminder of the remarkable success story of Israel (see more). 

On the 12th of October we were woken to the news that a deal had been struck for the release of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit after five years in terrorist Hamas captivity. 1,027 Palestinians were to be released from Israeli prisons, many that had Israeli blood on their hands. The deal took place in two parts, with Gilad being released on the 18th of October along with 477 Palestinian prisoners. Just a few days ago, the second stage of the deal went through and the remaining 550 prisoners were released. I have written extensively on my elation of Gilad coming home after 5 years of campaigning for his release, and I am so glad that this chapter in his life is over. In the meantime, just a few days ago, PA Chairman Abbas continued his campaign of glorifying terrorists by meeting with 11 terrorists that were deported to Turkey as part of the first stage of the deal. 

The final week in October saw an escalation in the number of rockets fired from Gaza into Israel, putting one million Israelis in the firing line. Terrorist group Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility for the attacks and released footage of their terrorists firing rockets from a portable rocket launched installed on the back of a pick-up truck. Prime Minister Netanyahu sent out a direct warning to Hamas, Islamic Jihad and all other organisations “not to test our determination to actualise the two principles” which were “kill or be killed” and “he who harms you should bear the blood on his head” (see more). 

In late November, as we celebrated 64 years since the passing of UN Resolution 181, Lebanon celebrated by firing rockets from Southern Lebanon in to Israel, in direct violation of UN Resolution 1701. The Australian media responded with some very poor reporting on the situation (see more). 

At the same time, the Australian media ran a story of a UN report that found that 250 children had been killed by Bashar al-Assad’s brutal regime in Syria since March. Interestingly, just a week before, a story emerged about UNESCO’s executive board (which among other countries includes the US, France and the UK) unanimously elected Syria to a pair of committees, one that deals directly with human rights issues. At the time I wondered whether a country is more qualified to discuss human rights matters when they are constantly violating the human rights of their own people. 

Last week I reported that Hamas, with its genocidal Covenant, had celebrated its 24th year anniversary. Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh boasted that they would “liberate Jerusalem and Aksa Mosque very soon”. Hamas also boasted some terrible figures from its 24 years of existence – Hamas has killed 1,365 Israelis, wounded 6,411 others, carried out 1,117 terrorist attacks and have fired 11,093 rockets and missiles at Israel (see more).  

Fatah and Hamas met in Cairo a few days ago and attempted to reconcile for the 5th or 6th time this year (I have lost count of the exact amount). PA Chairman Abbas declared, “We laid down the basis for an eventual agreement. Firstly, Hamas has come around on the following points: peace and calm must be established in Gaza as in the West Bank; resistance must be population-based and not with weapons – frankly, this was a point we agreed on; the solution is a state based on the 1967 borders – there again Hamas agreed”. What a difference a week can make in the life of Ismail Haniyeh. But I would not be cracking upon the champagne just yet, and I would be careful before trusting anything Hamas has to say. 

Today’s news that UNESCO is funding a Palestinian magazine that glorifies Hitler bears sad testimony to the way in which the ugly nature of the anti Semitism espoused by the Palestine Authority’s propaganda machine has prospered in 2011 and made the attainment of peace in the region an ever more distant prospect. But do not hold your breath waiting to read about this in tomorrow’s Age – I don’t believe this sort of news is particularly palatable to its foreign editors. It would seem that the editor’s of the Age in general would much prefer to run with stories with very little factual information, such as yesterday’s article by Daniel Flitton, entitled ‘Israeli relations warm as intelligence returns’. I am concerned that the Age accidentally omitted a paragraph or two that actually contained facts, because I cannot find any within the piece that went to print!

To end on a positive note, the year has been filled with wonderful success stories from Israel, from the development of revolutionary new treatment for cancer by Israeli scientists which could be applied to 90% of cancers, to a story just this week that technology giant Apple will establish its first R&D centre outside of the US in Israel, and that they also purchased Israel’s Anobit (a company that develops flash storage technology) for up to $500 million! Such achievements show how much Israel has to contribute to the world and shows just how ridiculous the BDS movement is. But hey, do not let me stop you from continuing your crusade against life-saving medical treatments. So just turn off your iPhones, iPads and personal computers, dear BDS movement, and let us focus on finding ways to bring the Israelis and the Palestinians closer, not further apart. 

It has been a huge year where we have seen the fall (in a number of ways) of many tyrants and dictators. We have celebrated the highest of highs in Israel, and they have been contrasted by the lowest of lows. Here is hoping that 2012 brings us a lot more to celebrate.

The ZCV office will be closed from tomorrow and reopens on 9 January 2012. 

Wishing you all well over the festive season!

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