I am going on leave for a short period of time, after having worked at the Zionist Council of Victoria and the Zionist Federation of Australia for almost ten years. Over the past week, I have reflected on the media’s attitude towards Israel and how little has changed in that time.
The most glaring example is of course the Middle East Correspondent at Fairfax. My time here has been bookended by Ed O’Loughlin and Ruth Pollard, with Jason Koutsoukis and special reports from Paul McGeough thrown into the mix. I ought to thank them for the amount of writing material they have all provided me over time (including my two-part piece for Honest Reporting which can be found here and here).
During my Undergraduate degree at the University of Melbourne I took a course that looked at the way pictures and images can be used as a representation of history. My case study was the image of the handshake between Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin z”l and Chairman of the Palestinian Authority Yasser Arafat on the White House Lawn following the signing of the Oslo Peace Accords in September 1993. My central argument was that while the handshake was indeed historic, much was going on behind the handshake and that picture could never be a true representation of history.
Since that time, there have been many images, both positive and negative, that have defined a specific period in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Perhaps one of the most enduring images of the Second Intifada was the image of a young Palestinian boy and his father, who were caught in crossfire between Palestinian soldiers and Israeli soldiers. The images, taken from a very edited video clip that was filmed by Palestinian cameraman Talal Abu Rahma and narrated by France 2’s Charles Enderlin (who was nowhere near Gaza at the time), were dispatched worldwide, spurring international outrage directed at the IDF.
At the time, and over the past 12 ½ years since, various stories have come out about the incident, raising considerable doubt as to what actually happened, who actually fired the bullet that killed the child, and even whether he was actually still alive at the end of the clip. And yet the events surrounding that day in September 2000 have been used by Israel’s detractors over the years to justify some of the worst acts of terrorism, anti-Semitism and delegitimisation of Israel. More recent examples of this include members of flotilla in 2010, who cited the al-Dura case as their reason for getting involved, and Toulouse murdered Mohamed Merah, who justified his killing spree as a way to avenge the death of the Palestinian boy.
For background information, videos, articles and other evidence relating to this issue please visit http://aldurah.com/ – the most clear and concise resource I have come across in all of my years covering this issue.
Just two weeks ago, an Israeli Governmental report was released regarding the incident. The committee found that on review of the raw footage, the final scenes showed the boy still alive, and that there is reason to believe that the two were not struck by bullets at all. Moreover, it is highly doubtful that the bullet holes in the vicinity of the two could have come from the Israeli position. The conclusion was that “the France 2 report’s central claims and accusations had no basis in the material which the station had in its possession at the time… There is no evidence that the IDF was in any way responsible for causing any of the alleged injuries to Jamal [the father] or the boy” (see more).
Despite the fact that this issue has dragged out for over 12 years, Prime Minister Netanyahu declared “it is important to focus on this incident – which has slandered Israel’s reputation. This is a manifestation of the ongoing, mendacious campaign to delegitimise Israel. There is only one way to counter lies, and that is through the truth. Only the truth can prevail over lies”.
I wholeheartedly agree with the Prime Minister on the idea of truth and lies. On these very pages, I have referred to a quote (first brought to my attention by another contributor) from the novel The Kite Runner: “When you tell a lie, you steal someone’s right to the truth”.
The lies that have been continually perpetuated in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict have been detrimental to the cause of peace. Unfortunately, even after all of these years, the truth has not set Israelis, or the Palestinians free. And this most recent example just seems futile.
In the meantime, not a single day goes by without examples of human kindness on the part of Israelis towards their neighbours, even though these stories never make their way into our local papers. To give some recent examples, this week it was announced that Israel’s Hadassah Hospital has joined with an Australian Christian group to treat Palestinian children. Last week, a four year old Syrian child underwent open heart surgery at the Wolfson Medical Centre in the Israeli town of Holon. She was airlifted from a refugee camp in Jordan and officials refused to release her family name for fear of reprisals from Syrian extremists. More than eighty thousand others have died during the course of the civil war in Syria including hundreds of Palestinian refugees caught up in the fighting. Thousands more have been injured. Many of the wounded have been treated in Israeli hospitals but you would not read about it in the local media.
Still, the BDS campaigns persist in this country and elsewhere, with barely a peep about the cruelty and degradation caused by the butcher in Syria, his allies in Hezbollah, the rebel forces and various extremists. I am half expecting Professor Stuart Rees to award a Peace Prize to one of the leading participants in that filthy war.
Meanwhile, Israeli and Palestinian business people are urging their leaders to persevere with the two-state solution. They understand the divisiveness and hatred engendered by the protagonists of BDS.
We have also seen the BDS campaign spill over to sport, which is not surprising given BDS campaigners would do anything to attempt to link Israel to apartheid South Africa, where sport boycotts were some of the most successful boycotts. Israel is hosting the UEFA Under-21 Football Tournament in June, so a small group of activists in Britain has decided to market a “Boycott Apartheid Israel” t-shirt. The campaign has gained few friends. Not among competing nations, and certainly not from members of the host country’s squad, which includes names like Ahad Azam, Taleb Twatha, Maouran Kabah, Mohammed Kalibat and Moanes Dabour. Makes you wonder what BDS really stands for.
This will be my last update for a while as I am going on maternity leave. I leave you in the very capable hands of Gabrielle Debinski, who will be starting next week. Her email address is email@example.com
Thank you all for reading my updates over the last decade and I will be in touch on the flip side.
Media and Advocacy Director
Zionist Federation of Australia