13 June 2018

"Racism dressed up as scholarship..."

From The Australian, 13 June 2018, by Paige Taylor:


Sandra Nasr: “crude prejudice and lack of scholarly rigour ..."

A Perth academic who criticised Israeli policies in a PhD eight years ago says she is the subject of sustained attempts to silence her on the topic of Palestinian human rights.

Sandra Nasr’s 2010 thesis is the subject of a complaint to the Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency by the president of the Jewish Community Council of Western Australia, Joan Hillman, who alleges it contains “improprieties”, citing “crude prejudice and lack of scholarly rigour of the thesis (as now attested to by three independent academic scholars); apparent conflicts of interest by the two examiners; and the university’s … placing the thesis under permanent embargo in 2010”.

Dr Nasr, a lecturer in politics and history at Notre Dame in Western Australia, said her thesis was passed in line with Curtin University’s PhD candidate admission and supervisor and examiner review processes. In it, she “critiqued Israeli policies and practices of occupation within the framework of critical state terrorism … These attacks on academic freedom are part of a sustained attempt to redefine criticism of Israel or Zionist ideology as anti-Semitism in order to silence those who would express concern regarding Palestinian human rights under Israeli occupation.”

The complaint is being dealt with 2½ years after Dr Nasr was criticised for a piece she wrote on the London School of Economics website that criticised Zionist ideology. [The matter was reported in WA Today and The Jewish Chronicle ]. The Britain-based Jewish Community Security Trust decried the article for “employing grotesque racist slanders against Judaism”.

A spokeswoman for the University of Notre Dame Australia said an investigation into the 2015 post was “internal and confidential” and the university would not be making further comment.

[At the time, the University stated that 
"The opinions and comments expressed by Dr Sandra Nasr were not endorsed or sanctioned by the University and do not, in any way, represent the views of The University of Notre Dame Australia... "The University expresses its disappointment and apologises that comments causing such offence have been associated with it.""Notre Dame is addressing this issue in accordance with its relevant processes and will not make any further comment ..."]
Yesterday, TEQSA confirmed it was reviewing the complaint about Dr Nasr’s PhD but its disclosure policy prevented it from making further comment.

Curtin University said it had “assessed the PhD thesis in accordance with university contemporary policy and supported, at the time, a request that the thesis be placed under embargo. Once the university was made aware Dr Nasr had made public presentations about the thesis topic and findings, the embargo was lifted.”

It did not comment on the ongoing complaint.

Executive Council of Australian Jewry chief executive Peter Wertheim said Curtin University had rewarded Dr Nasr with a PhD for derogatory generalisations about Jews and Judaism.
“No university that values its reputation would allow crude racism dressed up as scholarship to pass muster.”

11 June 2018

Oman’s Dangerous Double Game

From WSJ, June 10, 2018, by Jonathan Schanzer and  Nicole Salter:

The sultanate, a U.S. ally, seems to be helping Tehran wage a proxy war against Saudi Arabia in Yemen.


The Mutrah Corniche seafront in Muscat, Oman. 
PHOTO: CHRISTOPHER PIKE/BLOOMBERG NEWS

The Obama administration sought to help Iran cash in on the 2015 nuclear deal, a Republican-led Senate investigation revealed last week. The report also raises questions about the role played by Oman, a strategically located if little-known sultanate.

During the run-up to the deal, administration officials promised that Iran would never get access to the U.S. financial system. But Team Obama was desperate to ensure that Iran, a pariah in the banking community, saw some material benefits from the deal. Among other things, they sought to convert $5.7 billion of Iranian-held Omani rials, a decidedly illiquid currency, into euros.

The problem was that the rials first had to be converted into U.S. dollars. Under the sanctions regime, this required a license from the U.S. Treasury. According to the Senate report, Treasury issued the license, then asked two American banks to work with Bank Muscat to process the transactions. But the American banks balked, fearing the legal and reputational risks of doing business with Iran. Oman then resorted to buying small amounts of euros that it could transfer to Iran. It’s unclear if Iran has received all $5.7 billion.

Why Oman? Between 2012 and 2015, the country was the site for talks between Iran and the other parties to the nuclear agreement. The Obama administration lauded Oman’s contributions to the deal, but some of the sultanate’s neighbors view its policy toward Iran as too accommodating. The Omanis, less powerful and less oil-rich than other Gulf Arab states, have long argued they have no choice but to play peacemaker. But that doesn’t explain some of Oman’s recent behavior.

In 2016 Reuters reported that Iran was smuggling arms through Oman to the Houthi rebels fighting the Saudi-backed government in Yemen. The shipments allegedly included antiship missiles, surface-to-surface short-range missiles, small arms, explosives, and unmanned aerial vehicles. All shipments of weapons to the Houthis violate a 2015 United Nations Security Council arms embargo.

In March 2017, Conflict Armament Research, a U.K.-based nongovernmental organization, reported that UAVs used by the Houthis entered Yemen through Oman. In a January 2018 report, the Security Council’s panel of experts on Yemen asserted that a land route through Oman was the “most likely” explanation for how Burkan-2H missiles had arrived in Yemen. The second likeliest explanation, according to the report, was that Oman’s Salalah port was used as a transshipment point, due to its lax inspection protocols. Local Yemeni authorities also seized a pickup truck on May 9, 2017, at the border crossing with Oman. The truck contained $3.42 million in foreign currency and gold.

Perhaps most troubling, the Syrian airline Cham Wings began flying between Damascus, Syria, and Muscat, the Omani capital, in 2015. Treasury imposed sanctions on Cham Wings in 2016 for terrorism and arms proliferation. It’s possible that the airline has been bringing weapons, parts, personnel or cash into Oman from Syria for transshipment to Yemen. It isn’t clear why else this air bridge was established. As Treasury Undersecretary Sigal Mandelker recently observed, “People do not go on vacation in Syria.”

There is no evidence that Omani authorities directly engaged in illicit activities on behalf of Iran. But U.S. officials have conveyed their concerns to Omani authorities several times since 2016. The Saudis, Yemenis, Emiratis and Israelis have also expressed concerns. Omani officials emphatically deny that there is a problem at all.

While most Americans probably couldn’t point to Oman on a map, the country plays an important role in preserving U.S. interests in the Middle East. Oman has allowed the U.S. to use its military bases since 1980. The country is also crucial because Oman, along with Iran, controls the crucial oil-shipping lanes in the Strait of Hormuz.

President Trump has executed a near-total reversal of American policy toward Iran. Oman is in the unenviable position of having to adjust to this new reality. American officials should be sympathetic, but not if Muscat is turning a blind eye to Iranian weapons smuggling on its soil.


Mr. Schanzer, a former terrorism-finance analyst for the U.S. Department of the Treasury, is senior vice president at Foundation for Defense of Democracies, where Ms. Salter is a project manager and Oman analyst.

10 June 2018

Increasingly, in our Universities, anti-Semitism travels under the guise of pro-Palestinian activism.

From The Australian, 11 June 2018, by Jennifer Oriel:

...Being Mein Kampf-y is back in vogue and Jews amassed in their homeland are the primary target. Islamic regimes claim the moral high ground by criticising Israel for using disproportionate force to protect state borders while they quietly bankroll illegal armies of ­jihadis. The use of non-state ­actors in the place of legitimate ­armies means Islamic regimes can fund ­illegal wars while avoiding accountability under international law, at the UN and in the media.

The UN General Assembly will convene for an emergency session this week regarding Gaza. Some Arab states object to Israel defending its borders against Hamas militants. Recent attempts to damn Israel while exculpating terrorists have failed. But they have gained support from powerful countries such as China, whose government rails against colonialism as it colonises international waters.

The Palestinian territories are so radicalised that Hamas governs Gaza. It is the foot soldiers of ­Islamist terror that you see running for Israel’s borders on the TV news at night. If the accompanying narration is anything to go by, we are supposed to be angry at Israel for gunning down the terrorists trying to invade it. What is the proposed alternative? Should the ­Israel Defence Forces lay down their arms and let the terrorists ­invade the only pluralistic democracy in the Middle East?

Israel was always going to be a risky venture. Theoretically, it ­secures a safe haven for Jews after centuries of persecution. However, their concentration in a small territory in a neighbourhood of ­Islamic states poses a significant threat.

Increasingly, anti-Semitism travels under the guise of pro-Palestinian activism. While it is possible to argue for the two-state solution and against Israeli policy without being anti-Semitic, it is dangerously naive to ignore the ­intent of Palestinian jihadis to enact the final solution by wiping Israel off the map.

Dangerously naive is the ­default position of progressive ­populists in relation to Israel. The alt-left champions jihadis while ­denouncing democracies. Many seem unaware of what they are ­defending when they criticise Israel’s national security measures.

Student activists [at the University of Sydneyhave struck another blow for tyranny by celebrating a female suicide bomber who killed Israelis. 

The AUJS has slammed the controversial cover.

The student women’s collective at the University of Sydney featured Hamida al-Taher on the front page of campus newspaper Honi Soit. The edition was dedicated to the struggle against “Israeli colonisation”. The collective described her as a martyr. One may reason that a young woman being used as a bomb for ­jihad is cause for condemnation, not celebration. But the sisterhood between jihadis and Western feminism is no place for reason.

See "University of Sydney Glorifies Terrorism" and "University of Sydney academics back Hamas" for further background.]

Jewish organisations have com­plained in recent months about a PhD thesis undertaken at Curtin University


Western Australian Sandra Nasr

Documents about the complaint were sent to me by the Executive Council of Australian Jewry. The president of the Jewish Community Council of Western Australia, Joan Hillman, has submitted a complaint to the Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency contending ­alleged
“improprieties — which collectively constitute a lack of ­integrity — in the award by Curtin University of a PhD for a thesis submitted by Sandra Nasr (now a lecturer at the University of Notre Dame, Fremantle) in 2010. Please note the following: 
  • crude prejudice and lack of scholarly rigour of the thesis (as now attested to by three independent academic scholars); 
  • apparent conflicts of interest by the two examiners; and 
  • the university’s action in covering up the matter by placing the thesis under permanent embargo in 2010, thus preventing its being reviewed and exposed until access was granted following an appeal to the Information Commissioner.”
To be clear, any assessment of the quality of Nasr’s academic work is a matter for the relevant university and regulatory bodies.

Peter Wertheim, the co-chief executive of ECAJ, said Nasr 
“first came to our attention in December 2015 when the London School of Economics published, and then removed and apologised for”, a post she had published. In the post, available as a Google cache, Nasr claims: “Zionism, the ideological project to secure a Jewish homeland, relies upon notions of separateness, superiority and entitle­ment.” Nasr contends the notions of superiority stem from religious texts and that the establishment of Israel relied on “terror tactics” to expel Palestinians, considered to be “inconvenient ‘non-people’ ”.
[See "London School of Economics removes ‘contemptible’ anti-Jewish blog posting by Western Australian academic" and "Notre Dame lecturer Sandra Nasr investigated over anti-semitic article" for further background.]

Wertheim objects to the “essen­tial contention that Judaism is an inherently racist religion” and Israel is a racist state that routinely violates international law.

Anti-Semitism is frequently presented as legitimate activism for Palestinian liberation. The next time you hear Israel’s nat­ional security measures described as disproportionate or excessive, imagine armies of jihadis storming Australian borders and how far you would go to stop them.

31 May 2018

The truth behind Hamas and the Gaza protests

From the Sydney Morning Herald, 1 June 2018, by Mark Sofer*:

Image result for mark sofer ambassador

Hamas was proud to take responsibility this week for unleashing a barrage of 199 rockets and mortars directed at southern Israel; on houses, towns, villages, kindergartens and schools. For such is the nature of this dangerous Islamist movement which has controlled Gaza for 11 years and for whom the only aim is the publicly-avowed destruction of the Jewish state.

Hamas has dedicated almost the entirety of its resources to that single aim. The public relations campaign disseminated by its apologists brazenly blames the poverty of ordinary Gazans on Israel.

Indeed, Gazans are living in poverty but the reality should and could have been wildly different.

According to every serious international estimate, two-thirds of the income of Hamas ends up in the pocket of its military wing. 

Money that could and should have been used for building hospitals, roads, housing, electricity supply and basic needs is instead funneled into the manufacture of rockets and missiles and especially into the building of a network of terror tunnels whose only aim is the facilitation of entry of Hamas operatives into Israel for the purpose of kidnapping and murdering innocent Israelis. In the past few years alone, Israel has uncovered over 35 of these attack tunnels and it is presumed that a significant number remain undetected. Palestinian estimates emphasize that each tunnel costs just over 7.8 million Australian dollars.

On this basis, Hamas has squandered at least 300 million dollars for the sole objective of attacking Israelis, rather than for improving the lives of the civilians it controls. Undoubtedly there is poverty in Gaza, undoubtedly the ordinary Gazan deserves a better life, yet undoubtedly too the prioritization of the killing of Israelis over the welfare of its own people is what this extremist organization is all about.

It is in this vein that the violence of the past few weeks need be viewed. It was Jonathan Swift who famously wrote: “Falsehood flies, and truth comes limping after it, so that when men come to be undeceived, it is too late; the jest is over, and the tale hath had its effect”. A number of observers decided of their own volition that Israel fired indiscriminately on unarmed protesters desirous of a better life or at least upset at the opening of the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem.

The trouble is that not even Hamas claimed that the protests were peaceful, not even Hamas claimed that the protestors were unarmed, and not even Hamas claimed any connection whatsoever to the opening of the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem. 

On the contrary - it was Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar who proclaimed in April that the purpose of the rioting is to “tear down the border and tear their [Israelis] hearts from their bodies”.

It was the co-founder of Hamas Mahmoud Al-Zahhar who made no bones about stating publicly “when we talk about peaceful resistance we are deceiving the public… This is bolstered by military force and our security agencies”.

It was Hamas social media outlets which instructed rioters to “arm themselves with guns and knives with the aim of breaching the border”.

It was the Hamas leadership who called the riots “The March of the Return” – their own acknowledged euphemism for the replacement of the Jewish State by a Palestinian state on the same territory; at no stage did they refer to the violence as “The March Against the U.S. Embassy Opening”.

It was the Hamas leadership which actively encouraged and even paid the demonstrators to storm the border despite its complete understanding of the dire consequences. But most of all it was Hamas itself which openly boasted that well over 80% of the fatalities were its armed combatants and not innocent and peaceful demonstrators. All of this is widely documented, but conveniently ignored by so many.

There will be those who will react to this article with their usual skepticism and cynicism, but I state unequivocally – Israel bears no ill-will towards the people of Gaza and any casualty of an innocent person is truly tragic. At the same time, Israel bears much ill-will, and justifiably, towards Hamas and will defend itself vigorously against it.

The moment a Gazan leadership arises that places the good of Gazans as its sole priority, desists from terror, and cooperates with and recognizes Israel instead of violently confronting it, it will find an Israel ready to make every effort to enhance the lives of ordinary Gazans. In the spirit of the words of Golda Meir I reiterate that there will only be peace with the Palestinians when they love their children more than they hate Israel. We harbour no expectations whatsoever from the current leadership in Gaza.

*Mark Sofer is the Israeli Ambassador to Australia

30 May 2018

Breaking the Silence (Shovrim Shtika) Vilifies Israel Globally

From NGO Monitor, 28 May 2018:

BTS claims they want to effect change in the IDF, but instead peddle their tales of Jewish atrocities to anti-Israel groups in Europe and BDS supporting churches in the USA.
BtS allege IDF atrocities to anti-Israel groups and BDS supporters all over the world.

Anti-Israeli campaigns using Breaking the Silence

  • In June 19, 2016, the Turkish news website “Anadolu”, repeated the allegations citing “Israeli anti-occupation organization ‘Breaking the Silence’” and added a blood-libel claiming that a “rabbi call[s] to poison West Bank water”. PA president Mahmoud Abbas repeated these allegations in a speech to the European Union Parliament (June 23, 2016), but retracted them number of days afterwards. BtS did not retract its allegation regarding a poisoned water cistern, but claimed that the incident was the result of mistranslation. (This issue was highlighted in a column by Ben-Dror Yemini)
  • The report of the UN Commission of Inquiry (COI) on the 2014 Gaza War, headed first by William Schabas and then by Mary McGowan Davis after the former’s resignation over his undisclosed paid work for the PLO, quotes extensively from anonymous testimonies of Breaking the Silence. After the report was published, Hamas terror organization published a press release where it claims that “the report ignores the explicit confessions on war crimes the Israeli soldiers and officers made during and after the aggression, in which they stated they had received direct instructions to target civilians. Many soldiers affiliated to the Israeli organization of ‘Breaking the Silence’ confirmed such Israeli orders.”
  • During an explicit anti-Israel demonstration in Dublin in June 2014, Mr. Richard Boyd Barrett a member of the Irish Parliament said: “[The state of Israel] was born in blood it was born in racism… it was born in apartheid…. there is no two sides. There is Israeli, terrorist, apartheid regime ruthlessly cruelly, murderously killing innocent civilians…we had former Israeli soldiers for Breaking the Silence, came in to us on the door last week, everybody should read their book so we understand that everything Israel does is absolutely, deliberately murderous, these were the people who’ve did it and they’ve documented how they were ordered to kill, to intimidate innocent people and they were told specifically by their commanders to attack innocent people…”.

Examples of International Activity

  • Scotland – In October 2015, a BtS representative gave a number of lectures in Scotland, among them to the friends of Palestine in the SNP party and to the NGO “Medical Aid for Palestinians”. The first supports the “right of return” and BDS, and the second was involved in antisemitic campaigns.
  • The cultural center in Zurich hosted an event, June 4 –14, 2015, featuring the BtS photo exhibition, as well as demonizing “testimonies.” The event was sponsored by the Swiss Foreign Ministry, the Municipality of Zurich, and several church groups that are active in delegitimization campaigns against Israel.
  • The European Union parliament – In May 2015, BtS former CEO, Dana Golan (it remains unclear as to what exact position she currently holds in the NGO) lectured to the left parties’ coalition (GEU/NGL) in the EU. This coalition supports a full boycott of the state of Israel and has also met Omar Barghuti, a leader of BDS campaigns.
  • Held an October 21, 2013 presentation at the virulently anti-Israel and antisemitic UN Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, at which the Palestinian deputy representative to the UN asked BtS “to do more speaking engagements, particularly in the United States.” The presentation first aired in the official Iranian TV channel under the title “Israeli War Crimes”.
  • South Africa – In 2013, BtS representative participated in an event with the NGO “Open Shuada Street“, a well-known BDS supporter. In 2016, Open Shuhada Street stressed that it is still supports the BDS campaign, exactly as in the past.

Breaking The Silence "undoubtedly contributes to the global demonisation of Israel and help Israel's enemies...."

The following are AIJAC's responses to a series of question put to them by the Australian Jewish News with regard to the controversial Israeli group "Breaking the Silence", whose Executive Director, Avner Gvaryahu, will be visiting Australia shortly. They appeared in the Australian Jewish News on May 31.

Breaking the Silence activist regaling a German audience in Berlin in 2012 with tales of Jewish atrocities.
Breaking the Silence activist regaling an attentive German audience in Berlin with tales of Jewish atrocities.
 
1. Does Breaking The Silence contribute to the global demonisation of Israel and help Israel's enemies? If they have genuine grievances, is there another way they could deal with them?

Undoubtedly, it does [contribute to the global demonisation of Israel and help Israel's enemies]. We have seen countless individuals and organizations that reject Israel's right to exist exploit the output of Breaking the Silence (BTS) to further that goal.

According to the BTS website, the "goal at Breaking the Silence is to end the occupation, not to improve it or make it more humane".

When you look at BTS through that prism, you realize that their "grievance" is not about incidents of questionable IDF behaviour. If it were, they would bring these cases to Israel's authoritative military channels. Their actual grievance is with the "occupation". BTS's collection of anonymous testimonies that portray IDF conduct in an immoral light are simply a means towards that end.


BTS distorts the reality of the IDF by collecting only critical and unsubstantiated stories.

Listening to BTS, you'd never see the full picture about the situation in the West Bank - that 90 percent of the Palestinians live in Area A, under full Palestinian Authority administrative and security control and don't even encounter the IDF for the most part.


If their grievance is with the occupation and not about IDF behaviour, they could join any number of political movements inside of Israel and change policy through the ballot box. They know, however, that most Israelis see the IDF's presence in parts of the West Bank as a necessity for security, so long as the Palestinians remain either unwilling or unable to accept a peace agreement based on several previous Israeli offers.

BTS's reliance on foreign-based funding and emphasis on English PR materials suggests they know they can't achieve their ends democratically and are pursuing a strategy of building largely external diplomatic pressure against Israel to withdraw from the West Bank. Of course, Israel's enemies who view the entire country as "occupied territory" are more than happy to use BTS's materials to further their own goal of delegitimisation.

2. There are several, well documented examples of the IDF and other authorities taking disciplinary action or bringing charges against soldiers who have not acted as they should eg Elor Azaria. Do these channels work and if so what reasons can you think of for BTS not using them?


Avner Gvaryahu told BBC's Hard Talk that he wasn't there to criticize the IDF saying, "I don't think that's what I do. What I do is I criticize the mission the IDF got [sic] to carry out and in that sense, the problem that soldiers are facing has to do with the decisions of the government."

I think when you take Gvaryahu's words together with the aforementioned statement from the FAQ [Frequently asked questions] section of the BTS website, you realise that BTS isn't in the business of holding rogue soldiers to account. As they themselves say, their only business is "ending the occupation". According to this logic, prosecuting soldiers for mistreatment of Palestinians would be unhelpful to BTS's core mission.
 
3. Are BTS really ‘breaking the silence'? While what they say may make for uncomfortable listening, is anyone censoring them or stopping them expressing their views recounting their experiences?

No, of course they aren't. Israel is a free society. Most Israelis serve in the army regardless of their politics and, not surprisingly, the ones who are opposed to Israel's presence in the West Bank are uncomfortable with serving in these areas. They have always made their feelings known inside of Israel and elsewhere. 

The concept of Breaking the Silence itself is based on a falsehood that they are exposing sinister secrets that Israelis hide from the world. Unfortunately, the international media has often fallen for this dishonest gimmick.
 
4. To the best of your knowledge, does BTS debate settlers publicly?

You would have to direct that question to them, but I don't know if it really matters one way or the other.
 
5. Colonel Richard Kemp and other military experts have regularly hailed the IDF as the most moral army in the world, stressing that no any other army in history has been as careful to avoid civilian deaths. How do the Colonel's observations, made regularly at the United Nations and to other international organisations, tally with what we hear from BTS?

The description of the IDF as the most moral army in the world is commonly misunderstood. It has been used against the IDF whenever a soldier, like Azaria, whom you mentioned, acts in a manner that brings dishonour to the uniform. The IDF, like every army in the world, makes mistakes and has some bad apples. The world in general, including the security challenges that Israel faces, does not function in hypothetical absolutes but shades of grey.


What Colonel Kemp and others really mean when they say the IDF is the most moral in the world, is the fact that the IDF is second to none in ensuring that its military objectives are planned and executed in the most moral and legally sound manner. 

Many military experts have commended Israel for it, while recognising that the IDF has to hold itself to such a high standard because it is also the most scrutinised army in the world. It's a double standard, but the IDF has met the challenge, and I think that is something Israel can take pride in.

Breaking the Silence claims to not be anti-IDF but anti-occupation, but their modus operandi, collecting unsubstantiated allegations and crowing about them as though they had exposed state secrets, drags the reputation of the IDF through the mud.
 
6. Would you regard BTS activists as traitors?

No, and let's not turn them into martyrs. They are simply very misguided and contributing to distorted world opinion of Israel.
 
7. Please give your interpretation of 'moral equivalence'.

Moral equivalence is something we see often. It is frequently seen when journalists discuss Palestinian terrorism. They don't feel comfortable addressing it on its own merits and so drag settlements into the same sentence, when of course killing innocent people cannot be compared to land disputes. Despotic or terrorist aggressors as we see now in Gaza and those who justifiably defend against them are not the same ,they are not morally equivalent.
 
8. Do members of IDF units from which BTS have drawn testimonies, refute those testimonies? And is there an issue with the anonymity surrounding many of those who give testimony via BTS?

I understand there is an organisation called Reservists on Duty which collects testimonies of the sort you describe.

As I've said, BTS's anonymous testimonies are inherently questionable and there is no justification for it. This anonymity serves BTS in two ways - it makes it next to impossible to fact-check claims while adding to the group's "mystique" that it is somehow exposing something taboo.
 
9. Right-wing groups are highly critical and scathing of Breaking the Silence. Is their condemnation justified? Do members of BTS have any reason to fear speaking out?

There is such a concept as giving something "too much oxygen". If criticism of a group is over the top, it is actually counterproductive, putting them in the spotlight and letting them play the victim card. I don't think that anyone who knows Israel and has spent time there would buy the idea that anyone there would be afraid to speak out on virtually anything.
 
10. Does Australian media coverage of the conflict lack nuance? Are the views presented either blindly pro-Israeli or blindly pro-Palestinian?

Unfortunately, much of the coverage of the conflict is overly simplistic, lacks content. and context, and buys into the narrative of Israel's detractors. In relation to coverage featuring bias and misleading or factually incorrect stories, part of what we do at AIJAC is file complaints over such stories and publish comment in the Australia/Israel Review and on our website and social media platforms to compensate for such deficiencies, There are some honourable exceptions of course. AIJAC's Rambam study program can claim some credit for that, as we've brought dozens of top journalists to Israel over the years to assess the situation for themselves.
 
11. In Gaza, Hamas terrorists do not wear uniforms or identify themselves in any way. They store weaponry in mosques, hospitals and schools and cynically use civilians as human shields. Surely the blame for every single death on the Gaza border security should be laid squarely at the feet of Hamas?

As a rule, this proposition is absolutely correct. Israel has a right to defend its border with Gaza - a territory controlled by a terror group - and every single Gazan knows not to approach the fence. That said, I would caution against extending that generalisation beyond the fence, since there is always the possibility of operational mistakes. This is precisely why the IDF rigorously investigates every problematic incident.
 
12. Last April's "testimony" by BTS spokesperson Dean Issacharof was conclusively exposed as fraudulent by the office of the Israeli State Attorney General, Avichai Mandelblit. Why, therefore, should any other statement by BTS not be viewed with a high degree of caution and scepticism?

I'm not sure you have the most recent information. Back in December, the Attorney General's office was considering reopening that case. To my knowledge, that investigation is still ongoing.

Regardless, that case calls attention to the fact that BTS, in general, does not cooperate with the IDF.

AIJAC's own dealings with BTS makes us very sceptical of their credibility. For example, in 2014, shortly after then-Attorney General George Brandis said that he would no longer refer to east Jerusalem as occupied, Avner Gvaryahu himself, representing BTS, was interviewed by ABC Newsradio. Gvaryahu was asked about east Jerusalem and responded: "Go on our website and you [sic] put [into the website's search box] east Jerusalem. You'll see the stories popping up and you'll see that the reality there is definitely not the same reality I live in while speaking to you in Tel Aviv with freedom".

AIJAC analysts followed his advice, searched the BTS testimonies and discovered none about east Jerusalem whatsoever at that time. This makes sense because Jerusalem is considered part of Israel and is not patrolled by the IDF, but rather the police. But rather than admit this, Gvaryahu spouted complete nonsense, apparently hoping to drive traffic to the BTS website on false pretences.
 
13. The Breaking The Silence FaceBook page opines: "Our right to security does not permit the bloodshed of thousands of demonstrators shot with live ammunition." Quite apart from the gross exaggeration as to the numbers shot and the false characterisation of those shot as simply "demonstrators", why should Israel's right to security not indeed permit defensive measures, including, if necessary, lethal defensive measures, given that Hamas has clearly and unambiguously stated their intention to murder innocent Israeli civilians if they infiltrate Israeli territory?

One criteria for being recognised as a nation is that you can defend your borders. Israel has a right and duty to defend its internationally recognised borders from an invading force. When the IDF used live fire, my understanding is that it was as a last resort to prevent a mass incursion - which would have almost certainly resulted in mass casualties from both sides.
 
14. Is it understandable that those who've joined Breaking The Silence will have received some backlash?

I think it is understandable. 

As mentioned above, the majority of Israelis would see BTS as an organisation that seeks to demonise Israel to the international community, and does so in ethically dubious ways. In addition, most Israelis are justifiably proud of their armed forces, not to mention serving in them and having family serving, so they would resent an organisation they see as unfairly denigrating the IDF.
 
15. As far as you are aware, do Breaking The Silence report allegations it raises to Israel's Military Attorney General [MAG]?

You should ask the IDF MAG's office, but since the BTS website has an FAQ question that reads "Why don't you work with the army to try and improve the system?", our understanding is generally they do not.

Dr. Colin Rubenstein AM is the Executive Director of AIJAC.


22 May 2018

UNHRC resolution predetermined Israel's guilt

From AIJAC, May 22, 2018:

AIJAC applauds the principled stand the Australian Government took in opposing the one-sidedly anti-Israel resolution to set up an inquiry into the violence in Gaza at the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) last week. We also commend Prime Minister Turnbull for exposing Hamas as the instigator of the violence while reiterating Israel’s right to self-defence and secure borders.

Australia can hold its head high as the only member state along with the US to oppose this biased and counter-productive resolution whose language predetermined Israeli guilt before any investigation was even begun. At a time when Israel’s borders are at risk from Iran and its proxies, including Hamas, it is unfortunate that world bodies, including the UNHRC, single out Israel as the aggressor whilst avoiding any mention of Hamas or its activities. The Government promised not to support one-sided resolutions when it recently joined the Council and we commend the Government for keeping its promise.

We are however disappointed at the comments by Labor MP Anthony Albanese on ABC television on Sunday morning. His characterisation of recent events in Gaza where he placed responsibility squarely on Israel and chastised the Government for its principled and pragmatic approach at the UN Human Rights Council is concerning. He fell into the trap of pre-determining the results of any investigation by insinuating that Israel used disproportionate force  - as well as incorrectly accusing Israel of expanding settlements in Gaza where no settlements exist. We trust that Labor Party leader Bill Shorten and his parliamentary colleagues will pursue a genuinely constructive approach, recognising some of the real obstacles to a final lasting peace in the lead-up to the Labor National Conference in July.

Mark Leibler AC, National Chairman
Dr. Colin Rubenstein AM, Executive Director