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Update – 20 December 2012

Posted by Emily Gian on 20 December 2012 at 7:10pm:

As we approach the end of December, we usually take the opportunity to reflect on the past twelve months and the year that was. For supporters of Israel, it has been a difficult year in terms of the dealing with some segments of the media and in terms of the security of the people.

Unfortunately, it is easy to focus on the negatives. Reflecting back over the past year, we have covered a range of issues that have made this year a difficult one such as:

• Operation Pillar of Defence;

• Hamas celebrating 25 years;

• The successful bid by the Palestinian Authority to upgrade their status at the United Nations;

• The IOC refusal to commemorate the 11 Israeli athletes murdered at the Munich Olympics in 1972;

• The murders and attempted murders of Jews and Israelis, whether it be in France or in Bulgaria, Georgia or India for the simple reason that they are Jewish;

Then we have the media’s incredible obsession with Israel, which continued on relentlessly throughout the year. Foreign correspondents, commentators and yes, even cartoonists involved with the fourth estate, most notably from Fairfax Media, seem to have an almost neurotic fixation about every action of Israel, while routinely overlooking and ignoring daily atrocities happening in countries such as Syria or Sudan.

If Palestinian children are murdered by Syrian troops inside a refugee camp in Damascus, the only thing we hear from these people is the sound of yawning but if Israel eliminates a mass murderer who has spent his life planning to kill Jews and orchestrating the bombing of civilian areas, there is such outrage that it even leaves some local cartoonists frothing at the mouth in horror.

There is little that can be done about some who are ignorant about the conflicts raging in the region and who are not prepared to educate themselves about the real facts and the issues involved. Sometimes, we get so bogged down with this negativity, that we forget that Israel is an amazing and dynamic country; a place far above and beyond the headlines of the World News pages.

So as we finish off our year, I thought it would be a nice to remind you of some of the incredible stories that have come out of Israel in the last few months.

In the area of medicine, a team of Israeli doctors have come up with a way to treat breast cancer patients without surgery using a technique that would destroy the tumour by turning it into a ball of ice. If successful, it could also be used to treat kidney, prostate and liver cancer (see more).

Meanwhile, researchers at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem are discovering more about what takes place during the development of neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, Epilepsy, ALS and Huntington’s diseases, which could lead to new treatments of these diseases (see more).

Israel has been a leader in technology for a while now and it has been validated by tech giant Google, who have launched ‘Campus Tel Aviv’ that will help over 100 Israeli start-ups a year. Click here to read about five Israeli start-ups you may not have heard about before. Prime Minister Netanyahu, who attended the launch a few weeks again declared, “the world is flying fast… and we’re leading the way” (see more).

Just a few days later, the British government announced that it was appointing a special technology ambassador to Israel. It is the only country in the world to do so in Israel. Impressively, British Prime Minister David Cameron made the announcement of the ambassador, declaring that the UK “wants to work much more closely with Israel on innovation and technology. That’s why a year ago we launched the UK-Israel tech hub at our embassy to link up with UK Israel Business, the Israeli Embassy here in London and countless talented young people in both our countries” (see more).

Talking about innovation you should read this story about a revolutionary new seed treatment from the Israeli company ‘Morflora’ which could improve the world’s agricultural output without worrying about genetic engineering.

Have you heard about Salih Manasra, an Israeli-Arab who came up with a way to create a solar-based fuel source specially suited for poor industrialized nations? It was an idea with so much innovation that it won him a prestigious EU grant for his company’s work. Or perhaps Dr. Zohar Komargodski who was recently awarded the New Horizons Physics Prize of $100,000 for his research involved quantum theory.

It is possible that at the same moment that Hamas rockets were aimed at Israel’s South, the Ben Gurion University in the Negev was signing an agreement with the African country of Botswana to establish a science and technology university there that would focus on desert conditions.

And while we are on the subject of helping other nations with Israeli expertise in certain areas, have you read about the way Israel is helping countries such as India with their urban water management? Israel has long been a leader in water technology and innovation, offering expertise all over the world and signing agreements even in the developed world with countries such as Australia and more recently, Canada.

Strengthening Israel’s relationship with firm-ally Canada even further is a new pact between the two countries to work together on international development and aid projects.

Meanwhile Israel’s Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz has announced that Israel’s economy is on track to grow faster in 2013 and 2014 than initial predictions had shown. In addition, Israel has posted an account surplus of $800 million in the third quarter of 2012. Fantastic news in a time and an area where entire nations find themselves on the brink of bankruptcy.

And while you may imagine that Israel’s security woes may have put a slight damper on the tourism industry, 2.7 million tourists have entered Israel (and stayed for more than one night), a figure that is up 3% from the same period last year. As it is officially the season to be jolly, 75,000 more tourists will visit Israel during the Christmas period with 25,000 of them being Christian pilgrims.

Among those entering Israel this year has been some very famous faces including Madonna, the Red Hot Chilli Peppers and the cast of Homeland (those following season two may have noticed the striking resemblance between downtown Beirut and Jaffa!).

From all aspects of society, Israel has so much to offer to the world and so much for us to be proud of. But I am not naïve and I know that as there has been in the past year, there will be many challenges that face Israel in the year ahead.

Back in September when Prime Minister Netanyahu addressed the United Nations he stated, “the relevant question is not when Iran will get the bomb. The relevant question is at what stage we can no longer stop Iran from getting the bomb” (see more). It would seem that time in fast approaching. David Horovitz of The Times of Israel writes, “2013 represents the moment of truth on Iran. The year the Iranians pass the point of no return in their drive to the bomb. Or the year, one way or another, they are dissuaded”. One can only hope that reason and sanity prevails to stop the madness.

A little closer to Israel, we have a Palestinian leadership in Gaza that believe that “Palestinian is ours from the [Jordan] river to the [Mediterranean] sea and from the south to the north… There will be no concession on an inch of the land… Jihad and armed resistance are the right and real way to liberate Palestine and restore our rights” (see more). Most worryingly? A poll conducted this month by the Arab World Research and Development centre shows that 88% of those surveyed “believed that the result of Operation Pillar of Defence proved that armed struggle is the best means of achieving Palestinian independence” (see more). Another 89% say their view of Hamas has improved (see more).

And even closer, as Israeli general elections approach, the latest news from the election front is the Israeli-Arab MK Hanin Zoabi has been banned by the Central Elections Committee from running in the elections. MK Zoabi’s participation in the 2010 Flotilla, where she was actually aboard the Mavi Marmara, was cited as a reason, as she was undermining the State and its institutions (see more). The Supreme Court is most likely to overturn the decision and her supporters within Israel state that “A strong democracy is tested by its ability to contain opinions, even if they are different or hurtful”. 

Now MK Zoabi is entitled to her opinions, but in Israel there is a little something called “The Basic Laws of the Knesset”. An Amendment to Article 7 states that “a candidates’ list shall not participate in elections to the Knesset if its objects or actions, expressly or by implication, include one of the following: 1. Negation of the existence of the State of Israel as state of the Jewish people; 2. Negation of the democratic character of the state; 3. Incitement to racism”.

Aside from Zoabi’s active participation in the Flotilla, there was an instance following a Palestinian anti-missile attack on an Israeli school bus last year, which resulted in the death of an Israeli teenager, where she stated, “If you don’t want them to fire at you, then the Israeli public should take to the streets and protest against the Gaza siege. Until that happens, you shouldn’t be surprised by such things… I hope the Palestinians launch a massive popular resistance, one that is political and strategic, like the First Intifada” (see more). Could you honestly imagine this coming from an elected member of any other government in the civilised world? She should consider herself lucky that she is not sitting in jail for treason, or something similar. 

One of the biggest battles is the war with an anti-Israel media. Honest Reporting has released their 2012 Dishonest Reporting Awards, and to the shock of no one, our very own Michael Leunig fittingly received the ‘Poison Pen’ award for that despicable cartoon that compared Israel to the Nazis. Fortunately community leaders, non-Jewish commentators and bloggers capably put Leunig back in the dark and ugly place where his handiwork belongs.

On a visit to Australia over a year ago, one of my favourite Israeli authors Amos Oz said that he was waiting for the day when Israel does not occupy the front pages of the World News but the cultural pages, the literary pages and the architectural pages of the paper. With all that Israel has accomplished, it is hard to imagine why this is not the case already. My wish for 2013 is that despite the many obstacles that she faces, that Israel continues to thrive and continues to imagine, grow, create and explore in a way that can only help the rest of the world.

This will be my last piece before we head off on our summer break. I will return to the office on 21 January 2013 just in time for one of my favourite times of the year – Israeli elections! With politicians changing parties more often than footballers change teams, new parties popping up all over the place, and alliances being made and broken, it is shaping up to be a very interesting election.

In the meantime, have a wonderful break and I look forward to hearing from you in the New Year!

Best wishes and happy holidays,

Emily

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