30 December 2013

Racist Dogma from University of Sydney's Jake Lynch

IT is easy now to forget - though some never will - that during the Nazi's rise to power, few universities distinguished themselves by taking a stand. Indeed, many hastened to prove their impeccable credentials and loyalty to the Reich by terminating the employment of Jewish academics.
The University of Sydney should be called to account for its acceptance of the racist dogma of its employee Jake Lynch, head of the Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies.
The action taken by Andrew Hamilton representing the Israeli legal action group Shurat HaDin deserves support, just as Lynch's academic boycott against Israel deserves the strongest condemnation.

Christina Faulk, Swinger Hill, ACT

THE problem for Israelis who stand up to anti-Israel zealots is that they're damned when they do and damned when they don't.
So I'm damned if I know whether or not the legal action being launched by the Israeli group Shurat HaDin against Sydney University academic Jake Lynch is strategically sound ("Lynch like 'publican denying blacks, Jews' ", 28-29/12). A win for Lynch would presumably embolden the zealots in the boycott, divestment and sanctions brigade, while a loss could well have the same effect, with all the added zest of a bogus martyrdom to be savoured and exploited.
Neither scenario would benefit the likes of Israeli academic Dan Avnon, whose treatment by Lynch seems to have sparked this legal action. It is the rock and the hard place syndrome with a vengeance.
Helen Jackson, Higgins, ACT

28 December 2013

Jake Lynch: "No Jews Allowed"

From The Australian, 28 Dec 2013, by Ean Higgins:

SYDNEY academic Jake Lynch's promotion of the boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign has discriminated against all Israelis in the same fashion as a pub owner hanging out a sign saying "No Jews or Blacks Allowed", the lawyer leading a lawsuit against him will argue.
Andrew Hamilton, representing the Israel-based legal action group Shurat HaDin, has submitted a sweeping statement of claim to the Federal Court alleging Professor Lynch has directly discriminated against academics, but also helped deprive all Israelis of cultural, educational, and professional opportunities.
In what is likely to be a landmark case revolving around conflicting interpretations of freedom of expression, Shurat HaDin will claim that Professor Lynch, by refusing to support a fellowship application by Israeli academic Dan Avnon, deprived him of his professional rights in an act of racial discrimination.
But Shurat HaDin's case will extend to claiming that all Israeli academics are adversely affected by the BDS policy of Professor Lynch, who is head of the Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies at the University of Sydney.
The statement of claim also says that, by calling for boycotts of Israel, Professor Lynch also contributes to the wider international boycott campaign that disadvantages owners of Israeli-related businesses and contributes towards Israelis being deprived of cultural opportunities such as seeing big acts ranging from Santana to Pink Floyd.
Shurat HaDin alleges two academics, who have joined the case as plaintiffs, have been adversely affected by Professor Lynch's policy, even though as yet they have not been the subject of specific actions.
Dr Leonard Hammer, of the Hebrew University, a human rights lawyer, and Dr Mordechai Kedar, of Bar Ilan University, an Arabic studies specialist, have regularly lectured overseas, including in Australia, Mr Hamilton told The Australian.
"They both are people who quite realistically may want to be a visiting scholar at the CPACS, where Lynch has implemented his boycott," Mr Hamilton said. "However, just as a sign on a bar saying 'No Jews or Blacks Allowed' discriminates against and disadvantages all Jews and blacks, even if they didn't even want to go into the bar, so Jake Lynch's BDS academic boycott discriminates and disadvantages all Israeli academics," he said.
In its Federal Court action, Shurat HaDin will not seek financial penalties, but orders that Professor Lynch renounce BDS and apologise for supporting it.

Professor Lynch is a vocal advocate of the international BDS campaign against Israel, which argues that Israeli government policies claimed to be illegal under international law discriminate against Palestinians.
He made headlines a year ago when Professor Avnon sought permission to use his name as a supporter for an exchange program visit under an agreement between Sydney University and the Hebrew University.
Professor Lynch turned down the request, citing his centre's support of BDS.
Professor Lynch has told The Australian he will vigorously fight the action. He will be represented by the high-profile barrister Stuart Littlemore QC. He strenuously denies he discriminated against Professor Avnon and points out he wrote him a polite letter saying that his work sounded interesting, but the centre had adopted a principled policy of boycotting Israeli academic institutions.
The Shurat HaDin's statement of claim alleges that as a result of Professor Lynch's actions "the number of suitable visiting academic placements for which Professor Dan Avnon could seek a funded academic fellowship at Sydney University has been restricted".
It claims it also had the effect of "impairing the recognition, enjoyment and exercise of Professor Dan Avnon's rights to education; freedom of association; freedom of expression; academic freedom, and work".
"The distinction, exclusion or restriction or preference was based on the fact that Professor Dan Avnon was a Jewish person of Israeli national or ethnic origin," the statement of claim alleges.
Shurat HaDin claims Professor Lynch has breached not only the Racial Discrimination Act, but also international conventions.
Professor Lynch told The Australian yesterday: "Shurat HaDin appear to forget when I was approached by Professor Dan Avnon it was to ask me for a favour. How I chose to respond to that request was a matter for my discretion. My decision to turn down his request had nothing to do with his religion or nationality. I reserve my right not to co-operate with schemes that provide for institutional links with Israeli universities, to which I object on principle."
Shurat HaDin's statement also says that in calling for a boycott of Israel Professor Lynch shares collective responsibility for the entire international BDS campaign and its consequences.
"The calls for boycott target the providers of cultural and sporting services with the effect of pressuring them to implement the boycott calls by refusing to perform in Israel and thus depriving Israeli consumers of access to their services," it says.
It says two of the applicants, David Hans Lange and Jonathan Rose, and their wives were "deprived of the opportunity to attend the local Israeli public performances of Elvis Costello" because a scheduled performance in 2010 for which they had tickets was cancelled "due to implementation of boycott calls".

Iraqi Christians face extinction

From The Australian, 28 Dec 2013, by Matteo Faggotto:

A nun joins children singing hymns outside St Joseph Cathedral in Ankawa, a Christian enclave on the outskirts of Erbil.
A nun joins children singing hymns outside St Joseph Cathedral in Ankawa, a Christian enclave on the outskirts of Erbil.

Christians celebrate Palm Sunday in the streets of Ankawa.
Christians celebrate Palm Sunday in the streets of Ankawa.

Older women in Ankawa, from where many Christians have fled.
Older women in Ankawa, from where many Christians have fled.

Christian youngsters participate in a service at St Joseph Cathedral.
Christian youngsters participate in a service at St Joseph Cathedral.

"THEY held me captive for five days, without food nor water, constantly beating me. One day I heard them coming down the basement where I was held.
"Suddenly, I felt a cold blade under my neck and someone told me, 'If you become a Muslim, we will not kill you.' "
Sitting on an armchair in the living room of his new house in Erbil, the capital of the Iraqi Kurdistan region, 63-year-old Rostom Sefarian suddenly stops his account, clearly struggling to hold back the tears filling his eyes. After gulping heavily for a few moments, he composes himself and continues, holding the cross he kept throughout his captivity.
"Once, they took [the cross] and put it inside a bottle full of pee while I was watching. 'Let this cross help you now,' they said, laughing."
It was July 2006 and Sefarian, an Armenian Christian living in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul, had been kidnapped by a group of Islamic fundamentalists while working in his grinding machines workshop. At that time he was just the latest victim in a series of abductions and killings of Iraqi Christians that continue today.
"They kept me constantly handcuffed and blindfolded. I just had a sack of charcoal as a pillow and a bottle for my physical needs," he says, sorrow darkening his face.
After five days Sefarian was released, when his family agreed to pay a hefty ransom of $US72,000.
It was the second time Sefarian had been kidnapped by one of the many armed groups active in Mosul, the first time being a one-day imprisonment in January 2005 that ended after his family paid $US12,000 to his captors.
His wife's cousin, also a Christian, was kidnapped on another occasion but was not lucky enough to survive: after three days, he was found dead by his family.
Today, Sefarian is one of the 35,000 Christian refugees from all over Iraq who have found shelter in Kurdistan, the autonomous northeastern part of Iraq and the only stable region of the country.
But what was once a haven for Christians is rapidly turning into the last departure point for the tens of thousands who feel they have no future in their home country.
The Christmas bombings in the Christian neighbourhood of Doura in Baghdad, which caused the death of 34 people last Wednesday, are just the latest in a series of attacks and problems Iraqi Christians have had to face.
Hampered by a lack of economic prospects, mixed with language and cultural barriers, and with no proper political protection, more and more Christians are leaving the region, abandoning Kurdistan, and Iraq, for good.
According to recent estimates, the Iraqi Christian population has shrunk to between 300,000 and 500,000 from a high of 1.3 million people in 1991, raising fears about the possible extinction of one of the most ancient Christian communities in the world.
A 2011 report by the International Organisation for Migration shows the number of displaced Christian families in the four northern governorates of Iraq (three of them in Kurdistan) decreased from 1350 to fewer than 500, while in the same year the UN High Commissioner for Refugees in neighbouring Turkey recorded an increase in Iraqi refugees, half of them (about 1700) Christians.
Divided into five different religious confessions that range from Catholic Chaldeans to Nestorians and Orthodox, Iraqi Christians are almost all ethnic Assyrians, a neo-Aramaic or Syriac-speaking population tracing its origins back to the ancient community that used to inhabit Mesopotamia more than 4000 years before Christ.
Evangelised during the first three centuries AD, Assyrians have embraced Christianity ever since, fiercely resisting the periodic attempts of Arabisation and Islamisation carried out by Arab and Ottoman rulers throughout the centuries.
Proudly calling themselves the original inhabitants of Iraq, Christians are now facing one of the toughest challenges to their existence: numbering just a few hundred thousand out of more than 30 million Iraqis, Christians have been politically sidelined in a country organised along sectarian and ethnic lines dominated by the far bigger Shia, Sunni and Kurdish communities.
"We are the weakest link in the Iraqi mosaic," explains Keldo Ramzi, the Christian secretary of the Chaldo-Assyrian Youth Union in Erbil.
"If anyone wants to send a message to the US, he targets Christians or bombs churches."
The worst attack happened in October 2010, when a series of suicide bombings hit the Our Lady of Salvation Church in Baghdad, causing the death of 58 people.
According to a recent report published by the Assyrian International News Agency, at least 71 churches have been attacked or bombed in Iraq since 2004. 
Itself home to a local Christian population numbering about 160,000, Kurdistan has long been a haven for Iraqi Christians.Thanks to its ethnic homogeneity and the political autonomy gained in 1991, the region has been able to avoid the daily bombings and sectarian killings that have ravaged Iraq since the 2003 US-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein.
Here, local authorities proudly boast, all religions are protected, according to the spirit of the new Iraqi constitution. "We respect Christians, and Christians respect us (Muslims)," declares Kamil Haji Ali, the Kurdistan Regional Government's Minister of Endowments and Religious Affairs.
But even if Christians can profess their faith in relative safety here, many, like Sefarian, claim their civil and economic rights are not respected. After selling his four-storey house in Mosul, in August 2006 the old man moved with his wife and son to Erbil, where he now rents a small apartment in Ankawa, a Christian enclave on the outskirts of the city.
But without a pension or other forms of assistance from the Iraqi government, Sefarian is forced to rely on his son's wages to survive.
"In Mosul, I was living like a king," he says, laughing bitterly as he casts a quick glance at the pictures of Christian saints and crosses adorning his living room. Here in Erbil he has to renew his residence permit every year, a procedure that includes finding a local sponsor and takes time and money.
"I can't find a job at my age. I don't speak (Kurdish) and don't have any means to survive."
While the region has registered an impressive economic boom driven by oil exploitation since 2003, many Christians claim to have experienced only the worst part of it. Houses in Ankawa have been sold to Muslims, contravening a "gentlemen's agreement" Christian politicians say was reached with the KRG to preserve the Christian identity of the area.
"They are building new, very expensive apartment towers that nobody here will be able to afford," claims Naurad Youssif, a 41-year-old Christian from Ankawa working at the local post office.
"Christians here are a poor community and those apartments will not be for us."
The fall of Saddam has not brought only problems, though. While under the previous regime Assyrians were assimilated to Arabs, the new Iraqi constitution recognises them as a distinctive ethnic group, allowing them to use Aramaic (instead of Arabic) in churches and schools for the first time in Iraqi history.
But the aftermath of the Arab Spring, with Islamist parties winning elections in Tunisia and Egypt, has not gone unnoticed here, raising more doubts about how a democratic Iraq may turn out for Christians.
"If political Islam will take control of the government here, I don't know what might happen to us in 50 years," says a worried Farouk Anna Atto, director of the Ankawa Syriac Heritage Museum, an exhibition illustrating the history of Assyrians.
Faced with a constant haemorrhage of people, some Assyrian parties are proposing to create an autonomous region in the Nineveh plains, an area of 4000sq km east of Mosul, where Christians could live as a majority and govern themselves. The project, which would create a Christian enclave in an oil-rich area whose control is still contested between Kurdistan and the Iraqi central government, has been already rejected by many Christians.
"It's a project the Catholic Church has always opposed," says 43-year-old Afnan de Jesus, an Arab Chaldean nun, originally from Mosul, who converted to Christianity.
"I think it would be very dangerous to live just among ourselves, isolated from the others," she adds, looking at the three other nuns sitting in the main room of their convent in Ankawa. The Little Sisters of Jesus, as the religious order is called, were forced to leave the Baghdad neighbourhood of Doura in 2006, after violence and killings had reached an unbearable level. Before 2003 Doura was home to more than 2000 Christian families; now only 150 remain.
Yet if the majority of local Christians seem resigned to choose between a life in exile and an uncomfortable existence here as second-class citizens, a young and active wing of the Christian population is trying to fight this passive mentality. Globalised and English-speaking, many Christian youngsters are employed by foreign companies working in Kurdistan, aware of their rights and willing to keep on living in Iraq, no matter what.
To do so, they are ready to break the nexus between religion and politics that, in their opinion, has created so many problems.
"If we reclaim our rights under the name of Christianity we will be very weak, because churches cannot interfere with governments," explains Savina Rafael Daoud, a 22-year-old Assyrian woman from Ankawa. Taking advantage of the overall good relationships between Kurds and Christians, some youngsters are willing to engage with the local society, something the Christian community has refrained from doing so far.
"Christians are not very brave here. Yes, there are problems to solve, but this doesn't mean we should leave this country," says Salim Kako, an Assyrian politician. "We cannot look for the shadow all our life.
"We have to go under the sun and fight for our rights."

25 December 2013

Under Muslim rule, Christianity is threatened with extinction, but it thrives and grows in Israel

The following letter sent to the editor of the West Australian newspaper has, to date, not been published:
In “Christians abandon birthplace of belief” (The West, 24 Dec 2013), Palestinians reportedly blame Israeli checkpoints and settlements for the mass exodus of Christians from Bethlehem. However Bethlehem is ruled by the Palestinian Authority, which is responsible for its residents’ safety. Yet since the Palestinian Authority took over the city, Bethlehem’s Christians have been exposed to intimidation, beatings, land theft, firebombing of churches, denial of employment, torture, kidnappings, forced marriages between Christian women and Muslim men, and extortions.
The Bethlehem exodus is but part of an ongoing Christian exodus from the Arab world including from Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Egypt. Christian Copts, for example, in Egypt suffer the same Muslim persecution as Christians in Bethlehem.
There is one important exception in the Middle East where Christians actually are growing in numbers: Israel. In 1948, when Israel gained independence, there were 34,000 Christians in Israel. Today, that number has grown to about 150,000.
In fact, under Muslim rule, Christianity is threatened with extinction, but it thrives and grows in the Jewish state.Regards... 

‘We were in a craze to see blood’


Court releases testimonies of Palestinians who were involved in the brutal Ramallah lynching of two IDF soldiers in 2000

Aziz Salha waving his bloody hands after the lynch of 2 IDF reservists in Ramallah in 2000
(photo credit: screen capture, YouTube)
The Jerusalem District Court published Tuesday the testimonies of a number of Palestinian citizens who were involved in the brutal lynching of two IDF reservists, Yossi Avrahami and Vadim Nurzhitz, in Ramallah over 13 years ago....

The murders of Avrahami and Nurzhitz occurred at the start of the Second Intifada at the Palestinian Authority’s Ramallah police station, where the two were taken after they accidentally entered the West Bank city. A crowd of rioters stormed the building and the soldiers were beaten and stabbed to death. The mob then dragged the soldiers’ mutilated bodies to al-Manara Square in the center of Ramallah.

“We were in a craze to see blood. I entered the room… I saw an Israeli soldier sprawled on the floor in front of the door,” said 32-year-old Aziz Salha, one of the participants in the attack. “I came closer to him and saw a knife lodged in his back, near his right shoulder. I removed the knife and stabbed him in the back two or three times… while others in the room continued to kick him. I put my hand over his mouth and the other on his shoulder, in order to strangle him.”
During the lynching of the soldiers, Salha was filmed by an Italian TV crew waving his bloodstained hands fervently, cheering and inciting the crowed that gathered at the scene. The disturbing image is deeply rooted in the memory of many Israelis and later became a symbol of the horrifying attack.
“I saw that my hands were drenched with blood, and so was my shirt,” Saleh continued. “So I went over to the window and I waved my hands at the people who were in the courtyard.”
Salha was arrested by Israel in 2001 and sentenced to life imprisonment, but was released in the Gilad Shalit prisoner exchange deal in 2011.
Raed Sheikh, a Palestinian police officer who admitted to participating in the lynching as well, said he had beaten one of the Israeli soldiers with a metal rod.
“I took an iron pipe, about 25 centimeters long, and went to the room where the two reservists were placed,” Sheikh said.“I saw the Russian soldier alive and on his feet. I approached him with the pipe in my hand and I hit him across his body… five times, and his head. The soldier began making a grunting noise… I hit the soldier with pipe while others attacked him.”
In 2012, two Ramallah residents, Ibrahim Taufik Maadi, 51, and Yasser Ibrahim Mohammed Hatab, 40, were arrested after confessing to their involvement in the murders of Avrahami and Nurzhitz.
The two suspects were charged at the Judea Military Court

23 December 2013

REJECTED: academic boycott of Israeli universities

From Washington Post 23 Dec 2013, by Valerie Strauss:

Dozens of American colleges and universities are rejecting an academic boycott of Israeli universities recently approved by the academic American Studies Association... And a few schools said they are withdrawing from the organization.
The association’s membership — or, rather, 66.05 percent of the 1,252 votes that came in from the group’s 5,000 members — approved the boycott last week over the objections of numerous former presidents of the organization and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, who angered activists by saying that he does not support a boycott of Israel ...
Schools including Johns Hopkins, Harvard, Yale, Cornell, Princeton and Boston universities and the Universities of Pennsylvania, Connecticut and Texas at Austin  and others have slammed the boycott, issuing statements similar to one by Harvard President Drew Faust that said that 
academic boycotts “subvert the academic freedoms and values necessary to the free flow of ideas, which is the lifeblood of the worldwide community of scholars.”
Penn State University at Harrisburg and Brandeis University have said they are withdrawing their memberships from the American Studies Association, and other schools are considering doing the same thing. In addition, two major associations of institutions of higher education, the Association of American Universities and the Association of American University Professors, have issued statements rejecting the boycott....

20 December 2013

Israeli Ambassador at WA State Parliament House

His Excellency Shmuel Ben-Shmuel was received by a delegation of the WA Parliamentary Friends of Israel at Parliament House earlier this week.

Pictured (L to R)
  • Peter Abetz MLA, Member for Southern River
  • Steve Lieblich
  • Hon. Michael Sutherland MLASpeaker of the Legislative Assembly
  • His Excellency Shmuel Ben-Shmuel (in the Speaker's Chair)
  • Hon.Kate Doust MLCDeputy Leader of the Opposition in the Legislative Council; Shadow Minister for Industrial Relations; Commerce; Small Business; Trade; Electoral Affairs
  • Graeme Lienert APM, Asst Commissionner of Police (retired)
  • John Schaffer

19 December 2013

Guess Who’s Valedictorian at Israel’s Top Medical School?

From IsraelSeen.com, July 19, 2013, by Zach Pontz:


This year’s valedictorian at the Technion University, known as “the MIT of Israel,” would likely displease those intent on framing Israel in the most unflattering of terms, writes Diana Bletter for The Huffington Post.

That’s because the Valedictorian is an Islamic woman named Mais Ali-Saleh who grew up in a small Arab village outside of Nazareth, in Israel’s Galilee.

Ali-Selah not only disproves claims made by Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movements, that Israel is an apartheid state and that its academic institutions should be boycotted, but she put it best when she said, 
“An academic boycott of Israel is a passive move, and it doesn’t achieve any of its purported objectives.”

Ali-Selah’s success almost didn’t happen. After her first class at the Technion, in Haifa, northern Israel, she was ready to call it quits. Though she had studied Hebrew from elementary school through high school, her grasp of the language was tenuous at best, having spoken mostly Arabic while growing up.
However, she decided to persevere, and is currently doing an Obstetrics/Gynecology residency at Carmel Hospital in Haifa. She decided to take on the field, despite its demanding hours, because she knew that many Arab women are more comfortable going to a female doctor rather than a male.
On trips to Europe, Ali-Selah said that people she met were surprised to learn that Israeli Arabs studied engineering and medicine in Israel, and that they lived among Jews. She points to this lack of awareness as helping to perpetuate the falsehood—strengthened by BDS and Boycotters like Roger Waters — that Israel is an apartheid state –which denies a fundamental truth: Arabs, and in particular Arab women, have more freedom, liberties and academic opportunities in Israel than in any Arab country.
Rather than an academic boycott – which negatively impacts researchers who want to disseminate knowledge rather than restrict it – Ali-Selah suggests a more active stance: encouraging academic life within the Palestinian Authority, strengthening academic ties with Palestinian universities, and  planning joint research projects with Palestinian scientists.
Furthermore, Ali-Selah says that those interested in advancing the cause of peace in the Middle East should focus their energies on supporting more of Israel’s success stories like her own, and pressuring Arab countries to emulate Israel’s academic freedoms and democracy.

Universities quit American Studies Association over Israel boycott

Two US academic institutions withdrew their membership in the American Studies Association this week, after the national body endorsed a boycott of Israeli academic institutions earlier this month, with its members approving the measure on Monday.
Penn State Harrisburg was the first university to announce a break with the ASA on Tuesday, with Brandeis University following suit Wednesday.
Penn State’s Dr. Simon J. Bronner, chairman of the American Studies department, announced that his school was dropping its institutional affiliation, saying the ASA’s boycott measure would “curtail academic freedom.”
“The withdrawal of institutional membership by our program and others allows us to be independent of the political and ideological resolutions issued by the ASA and concentrate on building American Studies scholarship with our faculty, students, and staff,” Bronner added in a statement.
A similar message was posted on Brandeis’s American Studies program homepage.
“We view the recent vote by the membership to affirm an academic boycott of Israel as a politicization of the discipline and a rebuke to the kind of open inquiry that a scholarly association should foster.“We remain committed to the discipline of American Studies but we can no longer support an organization that has rejected two of the core principles of American culture– freedom of association and expression,” the statement read.
The ASA’s boycott has not gone unnoticed by lawmakers.
On Wednesday, Congressman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) released a statement blasting the decision, which he said “applies a deeply offensive double standard.”
Nadler said that the ASA had “embraced an approach that is anathema to our desire for Israelis and Palestinians to co-exist in peace and security...” ...

...Earlier this week, Congressman Eliot Engel (D-NY) also criticized the vote.

...The Anti-Defamation League called the vote to endorse the boycott “manifestly unjust.”
“This shameful, morally bankrupt and intellectually dishonest attack on academic freedom by the American Studies Association should be soundly condemned by all who are committed to the ideal that open exchange of ideas is the most effective way to achieve change,” said National Director Abraham Foxman in a statement...

*Rebecca Shimoni Stoil, Stuart Winer, Raphael Ahren and JTA contributed to this report.

17 December 2013

Respect for Amnesty International is long gone

From J-Wire, December 16, 2013 by J-Wire Staff:             
Read on for article
Amnesty International Australia has been accused of allowing its Facebook page to be used as a medium for grossly racist and bigoted posted comments.

From Amnesty's web site
From Amnesty’s web site

In response to an Amnesty petition against Israeli settlements, one comment from “Kath Kim”, which continues to appear on Amnesty Australia’s Facebook page after five days, reads “May god send another Hitler and rid the world from the cancer called the Jews”.

An offending comment
An offending comment

Another comment is from “Yani Haigh” and reads “That lot have been making up stories about their suffering for 5,000 years.  The whole Jewish cult is based on stories about how they are the most suffering ‘people’ on the planet”. Further posted comments from the same person mistranslate, misrepresent and denigrate the Talmud.  Some of these comments also continue to appear on the AI Oz Facebook page after five days.
Other posted comments denigrate Muslims and Arabs.
ECAJ Executive Director, Peter Wertheim, has slated Amnesty Australia for “its laxity in failing to properly monitor and moderate the comments posted on its Facebook page”.
“It is a very poor reflection on Amnesty Australia, as an organisation that professes to be dedicated to advancing human rights, that it is allowing its Facebook page to be used as a medium for inciting racism and even genocide”, Wertheim said. “Amnesty Australia has failed in its responsibility to be pro-active and check for, and weed out, grossly racist comments within a short time after they are posted, and not leave them up on their Facebook page for days at a time.”

“Amnesty Australia also needs to face up to the troubling question of what it is about the content of its Facebook page, and the general political line it takes, that makes racists and bigots feel that it provides them with a sympathetic home.  There was once a time when Amnesty was widely respected because it focused solely on freeing prisoners of conscience, regardless of politics, but those days are long gone”.

16 December 2013

Lee Rhiannon's pathological hatred surfaces again


...During a typically vitriolic and hateful speech in the Senate earlier this month, [Greens senator Lee] Rhiannon urged Australia "to cease military co-operation and trade with Israel ... ".
...Rhiannon justifies this call on the basis that Israel perpetuates war and conflict to battle-test its weapons for "public marketing by the Israeli arms industry" as a means of boosting its sale of weapons to countries like Australia.
In her latest allegations, one detects a near pathological aversion to the Jewish state.
...nowhere does she recognise that Israel has a very real and genuine need to defend itself. Nor does she entertain the idea that the Israeli army could have any legitimate defence function whatsoever.
...While presented as a pacifist's rebuke to militarism, Rhiannon's argument is steeped in double standards. If she opposes militarism in all its forms, why is Israel the only country with which Australia should sever military ties? If indeed her message is one of peace and demilitarisation, one could have expected her to start by calling for the disarming of a state less vulnerable than Israel.
There is also an uncomfortable inconsistency between Rhiannon's assault on Israel's means of defence and her history of support for the Soviet Union, which built and maintained an empire through force and coercion and whose arms exports had a uniquely deleterious impact on the world, not least in the Middle East. In the 1980s, shortly after Rhiannon led solidarity delegations to the Soviet Union, Moscow was responsible for 34 per cent of the world's arms trade, and supplied such states as Libya, Syria and Iraq.
...Rhiannon's ...image of the Jew as a war profiteer, conspirator and driven solely by money is steeped in anti-Jewish tradition .... Senator Rhiannon and her peers in the anti-Israel movement should recognise that advancing Palestinian rights does not need the denial of Israel's right to exist as a national home for the Jewish people.
*Alexander Ryvchin is the public affairs officer at the Executive Council of Australian Jewry.

12 December 2013

BBC to audit the ABC's bias. Good grief!

From The Australian, December 12, 2013, by Greg Sheridan, Foreign Editor
THE ABC is lucky to have Jim Spigelman as its chairman. Distinguished, plausible, generally well-liked, he is the most convincing face the ABC can present.
Yet his defence of the ABC yesterday concerning revelations of Australian intelligence intercepts of Indonesian politicians was woefully unconvincing.
Surely it is almost beyond parody that the ABC intends to prove it is not biased in its news and current affairs by appointing a BBC journalist to conduct an audit.
The BBC? Good grief.
Interestingly, Spigelman did concede that episodes of bias occur in ABC news and current affairs, but he claims the problem is not systemic. That, frankly, is ridiculous.
Surely no one seriously contests that the culture across almost all ABC radio and TV programs remotely concerned with politics is centre-left and beyond.
If not, perhaps Spigelman could point to the two hours a night of national radio broadcasts by a centre-right figure to match Phillip Adams. Or he might inform us of the centre-right presenter of Media Watch to match all the centre-left presenters? Or the centre-right equivalent of Jonathan Green and all the others. The question of the ABC's political culture is relevant to the spy story because in justifying the ABC's partnership with left-wing British newspaper The Guardian and its Australian website, and the ABC's decision to publish unredacted intelligence documents on its own news website, the ABC made foolish and offensive arguments.
For example, ABC managing director Mark Scott equated the story to the revelations a few years ago that officials of the AWB allegedly had paid kickbacks to Saddam Hussein's regime in Iraq to secure wheat sales. And the ABC's director of news, Kate Torney, characterised the story as being about an "abuse of power" by Australian intelligence agencies.
In a fascinating piece in last Saturday's Weekend Financial Review, Christopher Joye quoted an unnamed but "very senior" Australian defence official as saying:
"The ABC continues to report that routine and lawful Australian Signals Directorate operations are a scandal. One of the most significant outcomes of Snowden in Australia might be the delegitimisation of the ABC and a growing consensus to reform the organisation."

...there is a real debate to be had about the ABC's handling of this acutely sensitive national security story. But that debate certainly won't be had on the ABC or in most of Fairfax. For that, we are the poorer.

Australia Israel Labor Dialogue

From the Australia Israel Labor Dialogue, 5 December 2013 :
Nathan Lambert, Hilik Bar MK and Michael Borowick at the Israel launch of AILD

Israel Launch of AILD

The Israel launch of Australia Israel Labor Dialogue took place last month in Israel. AILD aims to promote a dialogue between two Labor parties that have helped define the characters of their respective countries. The new group was launched by Hilik Bar, a Labour member of the Israeli Parliament and the Secretary General of the Israeli Labour Party and Nathan Lambert, a National Assistant Secretary of the Australian Labor Party.

The launch took place during the 4th trade union mission of Australians organised by Trade Unions Linking Israel and Palestine (TULIP), and was attended by members of the youth wing of the Israeli Labour Party.

Launching the new group, both Bar and Lambert spoke the common ideals of the two parties, their shared history, and the many challenges they have in common.

The Australian launch of AILD is expected to take place in August 2014.

Blind Hostility of some Trade Unionists to Israel Obscures the Successes of Israeli Unions

From Eric Lee's Blog, 9 Dec 2013:

This article appears in German in Jungle World with the headline “Per SMS zum Arbeitskampf”.

In early November, Ofer Eini announced the end of his 8-year stint as the head of Israel’s national trade union center, the Histadrut.
The end of the “Eini era” is a good moment to reflect upon some of the extraordinary successes the Histadrut has had in the last couple of years, particularly in organizing workers previously thought of as “unorganizable”.
That these successes are largely unknown outside of Israel is due to the blind hostility shown by some trade unionists to the Jewish state – a hostility that extends to the Israeli trade union movement.
The Histadrut has made extraordinary progress in its organizing campaigns recently by using audacious tactics in the workplace, getting labour laws changed, and using new technology effectively.
The result has been that unlike unions in many other industrialized countries, the Israeli labour movement is growing.
They began the year with union recognition at the mobile phone carrier Pelephone. This victory followed four months of struggle that culminated in a historic decision by Israel’s national labour court which ruled that an employer cannot intervene in the right of its employees to form a union.
They repeated this success in April with Cellcom, another large mobile phone carrier. Hundreds of new members were signed up, initially in a secret campaign and then openly.
Cellular telephone companies have been very difficult targets for unions in some other countries, as evidenced by the campaigns being waged by American unions to organize German-owned T-Mobile, or the struggle Britain’s unions have had with Virgin Media.
The Histadrut’s successes were not confined to the high-tech sector.
In June, the Histadrut’s youth arm announced that it recruited over 7,000 young workers at McDonald’s. In most countries, unions struggle to successfully organize McDonald’s workers – or workers in any other fast food chain.
In late October, the Histadrut announced a “lightning campaign” to sign up one third of the employees of Migdal Insurance on a single day. The campaign followed on the successful unionization earlier this year of Clal insurance. One reporter said the organizing drive “began to acquire the form of a full-scale military campaign.”
“There is no place where we are not active. We came organized and with the goal of winning,” a Histadrut source said. “D-Day was set for today, and all Migdal employees received an SMS and link to a website to join the Histadrut digitally … Activists from the union and employees are distributing brochures as we speak, calling on the employees to enter the special Facebook page set up for the unionization.”
At the same time, the Histadrut launched a 6.5 million shekel (1.36 million Euro) television ad campaign to promote union membership.
The Manufacturers’ Association condemned the planned ad campaign as “wretched timing” — not specifying when precisely was a good time, in their view, to promote union membership.
But Ofer Eini defended the plan: “It is precisely at this time that unionization of employees is needed, especially at a time of vilification of organized labor.”
Few unions outside of Israel will be aware of any of these successes in part because of the reluctance to engage with the Jewish state.
But another problem is that the Histadrut itself makes almost no effort to share its successes with the outside world, and instead focusses its very limited international activity at attempting to block anti-Israel resolutions at union congresses.
It’s very rare for a Histadrut representative at international trade union events to speak about anything other than the conflict with the Palestinians. But when they do – as happened at a global food workers congress in 2011 – they may find themselves facing an audience that is far less hostile.

11 December 2013

His Excellency Ambassador Shmuel Ben-Shmuel presents his credentials

On the morning of Tuesday 3 December 2013, His Excellency Ambassador Shmuel Ben-Shmuel visited Government House and presented Her Excellency The Honourable Quentin Bryce AC CVO, Governor General of the Commonwealth of Australia, with Letters of Credence from President Shimon Peres accrediting him as Ambassador of Israel to Australia.

The presentation and acceptance of credentials is the final formal step in the appointment of the career diplomat as Ambassador of Israel to Australia and Head of Mission in Canberra. Ambassador Ben-Shmuel arrived in Australia on the 16th of October and replaces Ambassador Yuval Rotem, who served in Canberra from 2007-2013.

The ceremony was attended dignitaries from Government House, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, and the Embassy of Israel.

His Excellency Ben-Shmuel said "Relations between Australia and Israel are moving from strength to strength. I look forward to building upon a strong and impressive base to something even greater".

Ambassador Ben-Shmuel is expected to present his credentials as Non-Resident Ambassador to the Heads of State of Fiji and Papua New Guinea shortly.

01 December 2013

Israel's Technion is developing The Operating Room of the Future

From Insightec Web Site, 21 Jan 2013:

InSightec® is a pioneer and global leader in Focused Ultrasound Surgery, and pioneers its use for a non-invasive treatment that may offer therapeutic alternatives to invasive surgery to millions of patients with serious diseases around the globe.

Click below to see an interview with Technion alumni Dr. Kobi Vortman, Founder and President and Baruch Avruch, Vice President of Operations of InSightec.

Follow this link to learn more about Technion.

30 November 2013

Israel's First Food Tech Accelerator

...The Boston-based accelerator MassChallenge is partnering with Israel’s Strauss group to launch a food-focused accelerator program based in Israel. The program, drawing on Strauss’s food expertise and MassChallenge’s experience in nurturing young companies and ideas, plans to accept entrepreneurs from around the world with food-tech related ideas or startups, and help turn those ideas into full-fledged businesses.
...Accelerators help entrepreneurs with ideas or early-stage startups launch full-fledged businesses more quickly than they would without outside assistance. Help could come in the form of advisers, access to potential customers and to regulators, and funding, among others.
The food tech sector is underrepresented among startup companies, and part of the idea behind the program is to change that, says Amir Eldad, MassChallenge’s lead partner for international expansion.
There are two main benefits to the project, he explains. One is drawing more entrepreneurs and technologies to the Strauss Group in particular and the food sector in general. The other is to help craft Israel as a powerhouse in food technology with a global reach,” he says.
Strauss, for its part, is looking for an innovative way to compete against even larger multinationals such as Nestle, explains Dagan Eshel, innovation manager at Strauss and head of Alphastrauss, Strauss’ center for nurturing food technology.
We thought, what is our competitive advantage? And the first thought that came to our mind is, we are Israeli...There is no Silicon Valley for food. No one until now thought that food is a big enough arena… for making a food tech industry...” ...
Hundreds if not thousands of food-related technologies are already in development in Israel, but there’s no one connecting the dots, pulling the entrepreneurs together and giving them the support that the high-tech industry has...
“Outside of the U.S., Israel is the place where there is a complete and very strong entrepreneurial ecosystem,” says Eldad. ...
The project will take a broad approach to food technology. Food production goes beyond the food itself, explains Eshel — it necessitates technologies that touch on infrastructure, raw ingredients, packaging and more, he notes. As an example of the type of innovation he hopes to see in the accelerator program, he cites the example of a medical technology startup whose product could be used to identify foreign items in food.
The technologies developed by the accelerator won’t directly benefit either MassChallenge or Strauss. MassChallenge charges only a small fee for registration and takes no equity from participants, notes Eldad, while Eshel says his company is looking toward the long term.
“We want to create a community,” says Eshel.” We are looking 10 years into the future. If we could accelerate this community of food tech, it would be good for you, good for Israel and good for Strauss.”

French court fines boycott-Israel activists for discrimination

Judge imposes $1,300-penalty, and a suspended jail sentence, on 12 members of BDS group

Illustrative photo of supporters of a boycott against Israel protest in Melbourne, Australia, in 2010. (Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
Illustrative photo of supporters of a boycott against Israel protest in Melbourne, Australia, in 2010. (Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
A French court imposed a $1,300 fine on members of an anti-Israel group who called on supermarket shoppers to boycott Israeli products.
The Court of Appeals of Colmar near Strasbourg fined each of the group’s 12 members individually on Wednesday for their participation in a pro-boycott activity in 2009-2010, which the court qualified as “provocation to discrimination.” The court also gave the activists a suspended jail sentence, according to a report by the CRIF umbrella group of French Jewish communities.
The ruling reversed a 2012 verdict by the Correctional Tribunal of Mulhouse, which found the defendants not guilty. Prosecutors filed the appeal, CRIF said in a statement.
The actions for which the defendants were sentenced took place in 2009 in a supermarket in Mulhouse and again in 2010. Some of the defendants received a double fine for each action, CRIF reported.
The perpetrators were sentenced in accordance with strict anti-discrimination laws, including one passed by the French parliament in 2003 known as the Lellouche Law, after the lawmaker who drafted it, Pierre Lellouche.
In September, seven activists were given a $650 fine for a similar action in 2010 in a supermarket in Alençon...

Our ABC: a stultifying and intellectually unadventurous conformity to enforce a billion dollars' worth of narrow, left-wing ideology

From: The Australian, November 30, 2013, by: Greg Sheridan:
Spy story shows ABC at its left-wing worst
THE ABC emerges from the Indonesian spy scandal a diminished organisation, morally compromised and journalistically discredited. The problem is not that the ABC published stories which contained confidential national security information. Every decent media organisation does that from time to time.         
The problem is actually the reverse. The ABC did not behave as a credible media organisation.
Credible media organisations do not act as the handmaidens of competitor news organisations to amplify and dramatise their competitors' scoops. They may well report on those scoops, but the ABC did something altogether different.
It emerges as an organisation lacking effective accountability and with a leadership that is hopelessly confused and amateurish about how to behave when dealing with serious national security issues. It also emerges as an organisation effectively driven by a specific, narrow ideological worldview, and by the obsessions which emanate from that ideology.
The ABC presents itself as the beacon of courageous journalism in Australia. The problem with this episode is not only that it involved absolutely no courage. It also involved absolutely no journalism.
When the ABC first announced on air the scoop that the Australian Defence Signals Directorate in 2009 tapped the phone of Indonesia's President, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, his wife and some of his senior associates, it presented this scoop as coming in substantial part from an ABC investigation.
But this investigation consisted of nothing more than giving the Guardian website its email address so the Guardian could send it the documents.
The Guardian newspaper in Britain has received a vast trove of secret intelligence documents stolen by Edward Snowden from the US National Security Agency. Snowden was a contractor for the NSA who worked as a systems administrator. The documents he stole represent one of the greatest assaults on Western intelligence in modern history. They are savagely damaging to the interests of the US and of its allies. They are particularly damaging to Australia. And The Guardian is apparently sorting through this vast amount of material and passing the Australian-related documents to the Guardian website in Australia.
What the ABC has decided to do has nothing to do with journalism as conventionally understood. Instead the ABC has decided to turn itself into the Australian broadcast arm of the Snowden/Guardian axis, to use every relevant part of its vast government-funded resources to promote The Guardian's scoop. This is not an act of journalism. This is an act of ideological commitment. It is an act of propaganda.
People could very easily die as a direct result of the ABC's decision. This is not inevitable, nor even the most likely outcome. But it is a serious possibility.
How so?
First, if the Indonesians seriously cut back on their efforts to disrupt people-smuggling, it is almost inevitable that a lot more boats will leave Indonesia for Australia. We know a proportion of those boats will sink and their sad human cargo drown at sea. We know 1100 people or more have perished that way already.
Second, if the Indonesians suspend the intimate counter-terrorist co-operation they have had with Australia, especially with the Australian Federal Police, it is more likely some terrorist plots will not be intercepted and will instead be successful. Nearly 100 Australians have died in terrorist attacks in Indonesia in the past 12 years. Many Indonesians have similarly died. Anyone with any familiarity with this field knows Australian co-operation with Indonesia has been central to uncovering plots, tracking terrorists and securing convictions. ABC commentators were among the many who, after the Bali bombings, denounced as an intelligence failure the inability of Australian authorities to predict these events.
A third way people could die is this. The political atmosphere created by these revelations makes it harder for an Indonesian president to exercise clemency for Australians on death row in Indonesia, by no means impossible, but more difficult. This is very grim, but it is true.
These are hard realities and a full comprehension of all their implications informs any serious journalist dealing with national security revelations.
Nonetheless, in general we are prepared to risk even the loss of life in the interests of a free media. That is the sort of hard but correct decision democratic societies make. But the ABC did not act as part of the free media.
It presumably is no coincidence that The Guardian's scoop fits so perfectly into the ABC's distorted, ideological world view.
We know this from the comments of the ABC managing director, Mark Scott, and those of Kate Torney, director of ABC News.
Scott and Torney have indicated their view that they have exposed a scandal, that the intelligence leaks reveal something wrong and reprehensible by Australia, akin to a criminal conspiracy.
This is monumentally wrong, and an unnecessary position to take in defence of publishing confidential material. But you have to believe the core ABC ideology is that there is something inherently wicked about Australian intelligence activities.
In fact all Australian intelligence agencies operate under specific legislation. They are extremely careful to operate within Australian law.
Here are some of Scott's remarks justifying the ABC's actions to a Senate estimates committee:
"There are a number of questions raised by this material. One is the nature and extent of intelligence activities undertaken by Australia. A second one is how those intelligence activities and the information gleaned is shared - and then how secure that information is."
Scott had a clear disposition to regard what the ABC had revealed as scandalous. He further commented: "(US) Senator Kerry said that the intelligence activities had reached too far and that some of that activity was on automatic pilot because the technology was there."
So far this is the sort of mild left liberalism, ABC ideology-lite, which Scott specialises in.
He then went on, however, to make a bizarre comparison:
"Yes, I appreciate that the release of some of this material might be embarrassing and that the release of some of this material may cause some difficulties in the Australia-Indonesia relationship in the short term. But, to draw a parallel with another story, the reporting that was done on the activities of the Australian Wheat Board certainly caused embarrassment and damage to Australia in the short term. But I think we would say that that reporting was absolutely in the public interest - and it was probably also in the national interest in the long term."
This is truly a grotesque thing for Scott to say. The AWB story centred on allegations that Australian officials had paid bribes or kickbacks to the regime of Saddam Hussein in Iraq to secure commercial advantage. There is not the slightest, remotest comparison to the lawful activities of Australian intelligence agencies.
This is a tremendous insult to the dedicated men and women of the Australian intelligence services.
Not only that, it gives a clue to the kind of sub-Noam Chomsky, John Pilger, Guardian ideology which permeates so much ABC discussion. Though seldom made specific, this ideology holds that the very nature of Western societies and especially state power structures is somehow immoral or inherently to be opposed.
The way the ABC has behaved on this story has shocked many non-partisan national security officials in Australia. The ABC refused to redact the majority of the material which the intelligence agencies asked it to in the interests of national security. Any serious national security journalist has written or broadcast stories the government of the day is unhappy about. I certainly have, many times. But responsible journalists are also normally willing to leave unpublished the elements which will hurt the national interest most.
The ABC's decision to publish on its website so many original DSD slides is a case in point. Many times a media outlet writes or broadcasts a story quoting such documents without publishing them.
But the rank enthusiasm of the ABC in this story suggests it will go to great lengths to prosecute its endless war against the dark forces of conservative Australia.

Torney was in some ways even more revealing than Scott. In connection with the Indonesian spy story she wrote:
"It is rare that any story about potential abuse of power fails to result in repercussions and damage to reputations and relationships. It is easy to forget that it is the original act that is the problem and not the fact that it was brought to light."
So there you have it. Australian intelligence activities directed at Indonesia, activities which have surely saved Australian and indeed Indonesian lives, are, without any specific supporting analysis, an "abuse of power".
Torney's undergraduate leftism is so egregious, and yet apparently all unconscious, that it leads her to a statement so ridiculous you can barely imagine an adult making it.
Every considerable nation in the world maintains intelligence services. Virtually all of them direct some intelligence gathering at foreign targets. Absolutely all of this would be embarrassing if made public.
It is absolutely not "the original act" which causes the problem, but the "fact that it was brought to light".
Torney's apparent view, that Western and specifically Australian intelligence activities constitute an abuse of power, is in fact the corporate ABC view.
If the ABC brought such matters to light through its own journalistic efforts it would probably be forgivable corporate and journalistic egotism for it to highlight this.
But in this case the ABC was acting for a foreign, anti-Western axis of a committed left-wing newspaper and an espionage traitor.
It is unclear why Australian taxpayers need to pay $1.1 billion of their money to support these activities.
The ABC is a public broadcaster, financed by taxes paid by all Australians. Half those Australians, more or less, vote centre Right, and half, more or less, vote centre Left.
But the ABC's worldview runs entirely from centre Left to far Left.
The ABC does vigorously criticise both the Labor Party and the Coalition, though very seldom the Greens. But as Gerard Henderson has pointed out with devastating force, it criticises both sides of Australian politics from the Left.
Take almost any contentious contemporary issue. Asylum-seekers is a good one. I have never heard an ABC presenter ask a politician a question based on the premise that too many illegal immigrants are coming to Australia by boat and that this will have deleterious effects on Australia. ABC presenters ask many tough questions on this issue, but always from the point of view that tough policies to stop boats are inhumane, and morally objectionable. Yet the vast majority of Australians vote for parties which support such tough policies.
The same is true of climate change, where former ABC chairman Maurice Newman has accused the ABC of group-think.
It is not that every ABC commentator needs to reflect the majority Australian view, but the fact that none of them does that signifies the problem of the narrow, orthodox, ideological worldview which governs virtually the whole of the ABC.
This also has expression in those outside commentators the ABC chooses to make stars. David Marr is the ABC ideal. He has worked at Fairfax, the ABC itself and now The Guardian. He is a committed man of the Left who hates conservative views and conservative Australia. Yet every pamphlet he writes is treated as a new book of holy scripture by the ABC. His scabrous pamphlet on Tony Abbott, replete with factual errors, earned him a worshipful interview with Emma Alberici on Lateline.
This week when the Abbott government criticised China for provocative actions in the East China Sea, the ABC went to its favourite strategic commentator, Hugh White, not only for its national radio current affairs flagship, PM, but for Lateline as well.
White suits the ABC because in his view everything is America's fault and Canberra's mistake is to align itself too closely with Washington. But in the whole of Australia is there really only one strategic commentator the ABC can find?
The same thing applies with Tim Flannery and all the other ABC pets.
Because the ABC spends hundreds of millions of dollars of taxpayer money on current affairs TV and radio, it naturally dominates this area. It is impossible for a commercial organisation, which must make a profit, to contest that space.
Now the ABC's move into online publishing is further corrupting its proper role in two main ways. First, it is again providing unfair competition to everybody else. It is plain socialism for the government to run a business in competition with existing private businesses. By its nature the government engages in predatory pricing and tends towards monopoly.
And second, the online space encourages all ABC personalities to become opinion writers, which further diminishes the tiny residual discipline in the ABC about fairness, impartiality, or the distinction between fact and opinion, or between the normal restraints which should apply to any activity conducted with taxpayers' money.
The ABC's dominance in Australia does not aid diversity of views. It fosters a stultifying and intellectually unadventurous conformity.
One question out of the Indonesian spy scandal is whether the ABC intends to continue as the propaganda arm of the Snowden/Guardian axis.
Another is whether we taxpayers are wisely using our money to enforce a billion dollars' worth of conformist, narrow, left-wing ideology.