31 July 2013

Australia Arab Chamber of Commerce & Industry and the Australia-Israel Chamber of Commerce jointly support a seminar in Sydney

The Jerusalem Arbitration Center (JAC) held a seminar for members of Australia’s legal community hosted by Clayton Utz at its Sydney office on Tuesday 30 July.
The event was chaired by the Hon. James Spigelman AC QC and speakers included the President of the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) Israel, Major General (ret.) Oren Shachor and Head of Legal Team, ICC Palestine, Mazen E. Qupty. Alex Ryvchin, represented the Executive Council of Australian Jewry.

Go to this link to hear a radio report on the seminar  
The event was organised by Senior Associate, Adam Butt. The principal financial supporters were LEADR, the Pratt Foundation and Wainwright Ryan Eid Lawyers.
The event was jointly supported by the Australia Arab Chamber of Commerce & Industry and the Australia-Israel Chamber of Commerce. It is hoped that this will be the first of many events jointly supported by these bodies.
The JAC is an apolitical and impartial forum for the resolution of commercial disputes arising from Israeli-Palestinian business relations, and seeks to eliminate obstacles to further bilateral trade between Israelis and Palestinians. Significantly, it is a joint enterprise established by the Israeli and Palestinian divisions of the ICC and indicates the potential for constructive, meaningful co-operation between Israeli and Palestinian institutions.

Presently, bilateral trade between Israelis and Palestinians is in the region of nearly $5 billion per annum and the work of the JAC aims to create further opportunities for further economic engagement, prosperity and co-operation between Israelis and Palestinians.
Whilst political engagement between Israeli and Palestinian leaders is vital, it is economic co-operation that creates most of the opportunities for daily contact between ordinary Israelis and Palestinians. Such contact has the power to build greater mutual understanding, co-operation and friendship between Israelis and Palestinians. Ultimately, it is the people who must live together in peace, not just their leaders.

29 July 2013

1948 as told by those who lived it

From the Times of Israel, 1 July 2013, by Philippe Assouline*:

Robert F. Kennedy, martyred liberal icon, was a reporter for the Boston Post in 1948. He was sent in the spring of that year to Mandatory Palestine to cover the lead up to the British withdrawal. His dispatches are a fascinating glimpse back in time and invaluable historical records.  And yet they are also a testament to the ideological stagnation of the Arab world vis a vis Israel.
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Then, as now, Israelis saw themselves as fighting for survival against irrational enmity. Then as now, the Arab world abounded in hostility to the very idea of a Jewish presence in its midst which it justified by casting itself as the victim of Western conspiracies.  R.F.K.’s accounts and other primary sources would appear to vindicate Israel’s version of events. 
At the heart of Arab grievances against Zionism lay the claim that an indigenous people (the Palestinian Arabs) were ethnically cleansed by Zionist colonialists aided by the West. Zionists have long held that, though the Holy Land was not empty at the dawn of political Zionism, the Turkish backwater was in no way inhabited by a distinct people, nor did the Zionists ever adopt a policy of ethnic cleansing.
Kennedy in his first dispatch, puts the Arab claim (which was perhaps more controversial then) to rest almost as an afterthought:
The Jews point with pride to the fact that over 500,000 Arabs in the 12 years between 1932 and 1944came into Palestine to take advantage of living conditions existing in no other Arab state. This is the only country in the Near and Middle East where an Arab middle class is in existence.
Kennedy later interviewed many people on the ground, on both sides of the conflict, and found himself focusing on the struggle for Jerusalem. The ancient Jewish Quarter of the city had been besieged by Arab forces and almost cut off from the rest of the Jewish population centers, long before the British left Palestine in May of 1948. What Kennedy observed is rampant hatred of Jews – not merely Zionists – on the part of ordinary Jerusalem Arabs, i.e., their neighbours:
The Arabs living in the old city of Jerusalem have kept the age-old habit of procuring their water from the individual cisterns that exist in almost every home. The Jews being more “educated” (an Arab told me that this was their trouble and now the Jews were going to really pay for it) had a central water system installed with pipes bringing fresh hot and cold water. Unfortunately for them, the reservoir is situated in the mountains and it and the whole pipe line are controlled by the Arabs. The British would not let them cut the water off until after May 15th but an Arab told me they would not even do it then. First they would poison it.
Within the Old City of Jerusalem there exists a small community of orthodox Jews. They wanted no part of this fight but just wanted to be left alone with their wailing wall. Unfortunately for them, the Arabs are unkindly disposed toward any kind of Jew and their annihilation would now undoubtedly have been a fact had it not been that at the beginning of hostilities the Haganah moved several hundred well-equipped men into their quarter.
(Emphasis throughout is mine)
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Kennedy went on to recount how the Arabs had been arming volunteer fighters from as far as Pakistan and sending them into the borders of Mandatory Palestine long before May 1948, that is, under British noses. Once the war of ’48 started in earnest, after May 15 of that year, R.F.K. made the following observation that, 65 years on, remains an accurate description of the current impasse:
The die has long since been cast; the fight will take place. The Jews with their backs to the sea, fighting for their very homes, with 101 percent morale, will accept no compromise. On the other hand, the Arabs say:
‘We shall bring Moslem brigades from Pakistan, we shall lead a religious crusade for all loyal followers of Mohammed, we shall crush forever the invader. Whether it takes three months, three years, or 30, we will carry on the fight. Palestine will be Arab. We shall accept no compromise.’
In such a war, where people who have immutably refused partition also relish the thought of murdering thousands of innocents because they are Jews (a mere 3 years after Arab leaders supported the Nazis), expulsions are to be expected. Between suffering another genocide and expelling those who have attacked you to satisfy maximalist imperatives, the moral if unfortunate choice is undoubtedly the latter. And yet, if we are to trust first hand accounts over later renderings, the Palestinian Arabs who left overwhelmingly did so not compelled by Jewish forces. They left, rather, because of their own leaders and, by and large, without having ever seen a Jewish soldier.
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Refugees by choice 
Consider in support of this contention the recently released British intelligence archives from 1948:
The Arabs have suffered a series of overwhelming defeats… Jewish victories … have reduced Arab morale to zero and, following the cowardly example of their inept leaders, they are fleeing from the mixed areas in their thousands. It is now obvious that the only hope of regaining their position lies in the regular armies of the Arab states.”
One would expect an intelligence report by the British military about the 1948 war to at least mention expulsions which, we are told today by myriad activists, were rampant.  And yet there appears to not have been mention of such. On the contrary, the British report — and bear in mind that according to R.F.K. the British forces in Palestine were exceedingly hostile to Jews– mentions only flight fueled by hysteria, groupthink and “cowardice.” That is, the exact opposite of forced expulsion.
The Refugees Speak… “Mad Hattery” and Myth
Most compelling perhaps is a 1961 in-depth and extensive jewel of a piece on Palestinian Arab refugees by author and journalist Martha Gellhorn (wife of famed author Ernest Hemingway) for The Atlantic. Gellhorn travelled to numerous Arab states bordering Israel as well as to Israel itself in order to put a human face on what she called the “undifferentiated mass” of Palestinian Arab refugees. Her piece, though long, is a must-read study on the birth of anti-Israel propaganda, and the pathologies that fuel it:
Sitting in his neat office, with my guide, the principal of the school (a former member of the Palestinian police), and the camp leader, I listened to the first of what became an almost daily Mad Hatter conversation.
It went like this:
“The Arab countries invaded Israel in 1948 to save the Palestine Arabs from being massacred by the Jews.”
“Were there massacres? Where?”
“Oh, yes, everywhere. Terrible, terrible.”
“Then you must have lost many relatives and friends.”  This, being a tiresome deduction from a previous statement, is brushed aside without comment.
Indeed, Palestinian refugees interviewed by Gellhorn, time after time recounted tales of massacres and atrocities that could never, it seemed, be verified. Then as now, an echo chamber of myth and embellished tales of victimhood substituted for what ought to have been a sober look at the role of Arab leadership in bringing about the refugee crisis. Gellhorn paints a picture of widespread auto-indoctrination and an enforced orthodoxy of blame. To read the claims made by NGOs and Palestinian advocacy groups today is to notice that not much has changed at all. Today, as then, bien-pensants dogmatically cling to a version of events whereby outnumbered and outgunned Jewish forces were entirely to blame for the often destructive and foolish choices of Arab leadership, including the choice to wage genocidal war on nascent Israel.
The Last Vestiges of Journalistic Integrity and Professionalism?
The stark difference between today and the years following the Israeli War of Independence, however, is that journalists then were willing and even eager to challenge the accounts that they heard in order to ensure veracity. Coverage of the Middle East today is all too often a stale mix of cliché and condescension peddled as fact. It is an exceedingly rare thing to see a Palestinian account taken as anything less than the Gospel by today’s Western press.
Not so Gellhorn in 1961. Upon hearing tales of atrocities allegedly committed by the Jews of Jaffa against the city’s Arab inhabitants in 1948, Gellhorn reported the following:
Arab refugees tell many dissimilar versions of the Jaffa story, but the
puzzler is: where are the relatives of those who must have perished in the fury of high explosive the infallible witnesses? No one says he was loaded on a truck (or a boat) at gun point; no one describes being forced from his home by armed Jews; no one recalls the extra menace of enemy attacks, while in flight. The sight of the dead, the horrors of escape are exact, detailed memories never forgotten by those who had them. Surely Arabs would not forget or suppress such memories, if they, too, had them.
As for those Arabs who remained behind, they are still in Jaffa–3000 of them–living in peace, prosperity, and discontent, with their heirs and descendants.
Gellhorn eventually tired of the tales that she was hearing. When she arrived to Israel, at the end of her trip, she confronted an Israeli Arab who, being in Israel, was free to speak candidly. The conversation is telling of the banalized double standards and lack of accountability that characterize the anti-Israel mindset and stain too many diplomatic initiatives to this day:
“In 1947, the United Nations recommended the Partition of Palestine. … The Jews accepted this Partition plan; … Are we agreed so far?”
“It is right.”
“The Arab governments and the Palestinian Arabs rejected Partition absolutely. You wanted the whole country. There is no secret about this. The statements of the Arab representatives, in the UN are on record. The Arab governments never hid the fact that they started the war against Israel. But you, the Palestinian Arabs, agreed to this, you wanted it. And you thought, it seems to me very reasonably, that you would win and win quickly. It hardly seemed a gamble; it seemed a sure bet. You took the gamble and you lost. …”
“Yes.” It was too astonishing; at long last, East and West were in accord on the meaning of words.
“Now you say that you want to return to the past; you want Partition. …  Please answer me this, which is what I must, know. If the position were reversed, if the Jews had started the war and lost it, if you had won the war, would you now accept Partition? Would you give up part of the country and allow the 650,000 Jewish residents of Palestine -who had fled from the war–to come back?”
“Certainly not,” he said, without an instant’s hesitation. “But there would have been no Jewish refugees. They had no place to go. They would all be dead or in the sea.
Martha Gellhorn
Martha Gellhorn
The More Things Change…
It is interesting to note how, a mere 13 years after the end of the Holocaust, weaponized revisionism was already in vogue among some pro-Palestinian advocates. Specifically, the Holocaust – which Palestinian Arab leadership eagerly supported – was already then recast to serve as a cognitive tool against its Jewish victims. Gellerhorn reports being told, when mentioning the 6 million who were butchered:
Oh, that is all exaggerated. [Hitler] did not [kill 6 million Jews]. Besides, the Jews bluffed Hitler. They arranged in secret that he should kill a few of them–old ones, weak ones–to make the others emigrate to Palestine.
Greta Berlin, organizer of the 2010 Flotilla to Hamas was lambasted for peddling the same arguments last year. Indeed conflation of Zionism and Nazism has become ubiquitous among so many claiming to defend justice.
Having encountered similar attitudes over and over in Beirut, the Jordanian-Occupied West bank, Gaza and Israeli Arab villages, Gellhorn’s frustration turned to outrage. Her pithy observation of the unspoken rules of victimhood is a perfect encapsulation of the moral nuance that is lacking today in reports and histories of the Middle East:
It is hard to sorrow for those who only sorrow over themselves. It is difficult to pity the pitiless. To wring the heart past all doubt, those who cry aloud for justice must be innocent. They cannot have wished for a victorious rewarding war, blame everyone else for their defeat, and remain guiltless. Some of them may be unfortunate human beings… [b]ut a profound difference exists between victims of misfortune (there, but for the grace of God, go I) and victims of injustice.
Today, victimhood – however counterfeit – compels sympathy, even when it shouldn’t. And to compel sympathy is to be right. With respect to the Middle East, moral standing and moral choices no longer intersect in public consciousness.
Gellhorn presciently concluded that the West, when speaking to or about Palestinian Arabs, would “require[] non-Arabs to treat Arabs as if they were neurotic children, subject either to tantrums or to internal bleeding from spiritual wounds.” While her language is incendiary, it is a fact that today, the politically correct all too often hold Israel responsible for the Arabs’ self-inflicted wounds — to put it bluntly, as if Arabs are essentially not fully capable adults. To thus pity the Arab “other” regardless of his choices is an egregious, despicable form of Orientalism. To rob Arabs of their agency is nothing more than racism masquerading as compassion. To hold them to no standard at all is to despise them.
Indeed, what do the Palestinians have to show for 65 years of moral deflection, canonized exaggerations, and cultivated victimhood?
Philippe Assouline
*Philippe Assouline made aliyah from Montreal in 2010, after living in New York for too long. Philippe is obsessed with all things Israel and reggae. He is an avid ranter but since the birth of his son, his wife can no longer listen to him so he has started writing.

'Kingdom Culture' conference 27th - 28th August

Time is ticking and the highly anticipated 'Kingdom Culture' conference at Subiaco Church of Christ, on the evenings of Tuesday the 27th and Wednesday the 28th of August, is looming fast!

Such a quality conference, featuring Ps Peter Tsukahira and Steve Carpenter, both coming all the way from Israel, is a rarity in our city.  Please see the brochure below for their bios and for further info about this conference.

Organiser, Carmel Friends Inc. urges you not to miss this one.  Tickets are limited.

Contact Craig Beech for details of how to register:
0419 899 363


28 July 2013

New Australian Ambassador to israel is Australia's youngest

"People should see it as a vote of confidence – young ambassadors who have a future will remain friends of Israel," Dave Sharma, 37, tells Post.

Dave Sharma. Photo: Courtesy Australian Embassy

... Australia’s ambassador- designate to Israel Dave Sharma, who at 37, is the youngest ambassador on Australia’s diplomatic circuit... and his wife, Rachel, and their three daughters aged six, four and three months, arrived in Israel in June.
... Although he is a career diplomat who has served in other postings abroad, most recently in Washington, this is his first ambassadorial post. Sharma is the third-consecutive envoy from Australia, following James Larsen and Andrea Faulkner, who will be an ambassador for the first time in Israel.
Sharma said this is indicative of the importance that Canberra attaches to its relations with Israel. “People should see it as a vote of confidence. It says something if you’re sending relatively young ambassadors who have a future ahead of them and will remain friends of Israel for years to come,” he said.

... Sharma barely had time to unpack his suitcases after his arrival, when he was told that he must attend the Presidential Facing Tomorrow conference in Jerusalem.
Not long afterward, Sharma hosted a dinner for a delegation from Woodside Petroleum.
Woodside is Australia’s largest independent oil and gas company, and one of the world’s leading operators, producing an average of 900,000 barrels of oil a day.
Woodside’s 30 percent stake in the Leviathan gas field west of Haifa has hit rocky ground, but if things sort themselves out and Woodside puts its flag on the site, Sharma is more than optimistic that other Australian energy companies will invest in Israel. The government recently cut the share of the gas due to be exported, likely reducing the liquefied natural gas exports Woodside will operate.
Sharma came into early contact with people from the Israel office of the Zionist Federation of Australia when he attended the launch in Ra’anana of a partnership between Telfed, the representative organ of the Zionist Federation of South Africa, and the ZFA, which have joined forces in providing services to aid new immigrants from South Africa and Australia.
He also hosted a reception for an Australian Trade Mission on Science Innovation and Technology headed by Peter Ryan who is the deputy premier and minister for state development in the State of Victoria.
Keen on archeology and ancient history, Sharma was delighted to take a look at the archeological digs in Gath where two Australian teams from Macquarie and Melbourne Universities are among the excavators.
In Jerusalem, he did the tour of the Hebrew University campus on Mount Scopus, where many facilities have been donated by Australian Friends of the Hebrew University.
Sharma hosted a reception for members of the Australian delegation to the Maccabiah Games. Like other Australian ambassadors before him, he participated in a memorial service for the four Australians killed in the bridge disaster in the 1997 Maccabiah Games.
He attended the opening of the current 19th Maccabiah Games.
Sharma is an all-round sportsman – a runner, swimmer, tennis player, golfer, cycler and soccer player.
When asked if he plays Australian Rules football, he reminded his interviewer that he’s from Sydney, not Melbourne, and that his games are rugby and soccer.
Among the essential tasks that he has set himself during his tour of duty is to broaden Israel’s profile in Australia, because most Australians get their impressions of Israel from the media, and the general public perception of Israel is that of a country in conflict and turmoil, always on the brink of war.
Sharma wants to make Australians aware of antiquities, tourist attractions and the impact of Israel’s scientific and technological research on commerce and medicine.
He is less concerned about giving Israelis a more rounded picture of Australia, because quite a few Israelis spend up to a year in Australia after their army service.
Given that it is the 11thlargest donor toward humanitarian needs in the Palestinian Authority, Australia would like to be more involved in the peace process, said Sharma.
As far as bilateral relations with Israel are concerned, he wants to encourage greater sharing of know-how in that the Australians have much experience with regulation, taxation, management and environmental issues related to gas and oil exploration that it could share with Israel, while Israel is much stronger than Australia in innovation and entrepreneurship.
Another thing he hopes to do is to revive Australia Day (January 26) get-togethers.
He has never understood why Australia Day is not an open house celebration by Australian embassies abroad.
Sharma cannot fathom why ANZAC Day is commemorated in Israel each year, yet there is no Australia Day celebration.
But first he has to focus on Australia’s upcoming federal elections on Saturday, September 14. Voting is compulsory in Australia, and religiously observant Jews or people who may be out of the country on Election Day have the option of casting postal votes.
Early in-person voting will be conducted at the Australian Embassy starting on September 2. Postal voting applications are available at the embassy. There are approximately 10,000 to 11,000 Australian citizens in Israel, but Sharma does not know how many have voting rights. Australians living abroad must have an address in Australia and pay taxes in Australia if they want to apply to be enrolled on electoral voting lists.
When an ambassador is appointed, it occasionally gets a media mention in the country of origin and in the prospective host country. In Sharma’s case, it was also reported with fanfare in the Indian press because his father is Indian, and because Sharma is only the second Australian of Indian background to be appointed an ambassador.
Reports at home and abroad also emphasized his age.
When asked why all this is such a big deal, he explained that while Australia is a successful migrant country, immigrants tend to succeed in the private sector but it takes much longer for them to succeed in politics and the diplomatic service, which are still dominated by people of Anglo background.
His mother is third or fourth generation Australian with a mix of Scots, Prussian and Irish blood.
The most frequent question that Sharma has been asked since arriving in Israel is whether his wife, Rachel, is Jewish. The answer is no. She merely has a biblical name.


25 July 2013

Trade Unions Linking Israel & Palestine spread the word about what's really happening in Israel

From an email from Eric Lee, Trade Unions Linking Israel & Palestine (TULIP), 22 July 2013:

In some countries, and in some unions, it's become commonplace to talk about "Israeli apartheid" and to call for unions to break ties with Israeli trade unions.
Some Israel-haters go so far as to say that there are no real unions in Israel.
The reality is that Israeli workers -- Jewish and Arab -- are involved every day in the same kinds of struggles as trade unionists everywhere else in the world. Their unions are often on the front lines of the fight for social justice, equality and peace.
Please help me spread the word about what's really happening in Israel and Palestine.
Share this message with your fellow union members. Encourage them to get onto our mailing list here: http://www.tuliponline.org/?page_id=4212
Here are some news stories from the last two weeks that we reported on the TULIP website:

Thank you
Eric Lee

22 July 2013

Israel Film Festival 2013: 21-28 August

Birdbrained fact-checking at the ABC

An ABC interview with the Australian organisers behind the building of a park in Gaza took a bizarre and embarrassing turn last month, when an outlandish and demonstrably false claim made during the interview was later employed to promote the interview on the ABC website.
During the June 7 interview, pro-Palestinian humanitarian aid advocate Moira Kelly, one of the founders of the "Global Gardens of Peace", told ABC News Breakfast hosts Michael Rowland and Beverly O'Connor that "there are no birds in Gaza" - a claim so shocking on face value that O'Connor repeated it back to her, yet she did not actually question its authenticity.
One might have been tempted to simply let such a nonsensical claim go, yet this became more difficult after ABC decided to draw further attention to it when it posted the interview their website under the heading "Peace garden to bring birds back to Gaza" along with the following description:
A new garden dubbed 'The Garden of Hope' is set to bring a sense of peace and serenity to the war torn Gaza Strip. It's said that no birds inhabit the region but it's hoped the garden will provide a habitat for them to return.
It is hard to imagine how ABC news staff could have not caught Kelly's blatant exaggeration and even felt free to put the ABC's imprimatur on the claim by including it in the story summary. Yet even the most cursory investigation would have confirmed that the Gaza Strip, like its neighbour Israel, is literally teeming with avian life.
Type "birds in Gaza Strip" into Google and the very second response you get, in terms of relevance (the first being a Wikipedia article) is a bird checklist by the World Bird Database which lists 171 species of birds in the Gaza Strip.
The third most relevant response is a scholarly paper from 2011 by Dr. Abdel Fattah N. Abd Rabou from the Department of Biology at the Islamic University of Gaza.
The paper, "Notes on Some Palestinian Bird Fauna Existing in the Zoological Gardens of the Gaza Strip" focuses mainly on birds in captivity in the Strip. However, the paper also includes a survey of the natural bird life in the area.
Writes Dr. Abd Rabou:
The Gaza Strip, which is located at the southern portion of the Palestine coast along the Mediterranean Sea, is blessed with a considerable number of bird fauna including terrestrial and aquatic forms. Dense concentration of birds occurs over the Gaza Strip during spring and autumn migration seasons [5, 6]. It is worth mentioning that wetlands, including the wetland ecosystem of Wadi Gaza, are considered as very productive ecosystems, having rich bird fauna. They provide bird fauna with all necessary requirements such as shelter, protection, food and breeding, resting and roosting places ... etc [7-13].
It should be noted that, in spite of the abundance of bird life in the Strip, the biologist does identify threats to the bird population. It's worth mentioning here that none of them have anything to do with the conflict with Israel, but rather suggest an indictment of internal Palestinian mismanagement of ecological issues.
In autumn, scores of fine nets are erected each year along the Gaza coastline to illegally catch migratory birds such as the Common Quail Coturnix coturnix [1, 9, 10]. In addition to poaching and hunting, urbanization and residential creeping, ecosystem alteration and destruction, environmental pollution and the extensive and intensive use of pesticides impose real threats on birdlife in the Gaza Strip.
What about visual evidence to support the existence of a healthy bird population in Gaza? There is tons. Take, just for one example, this photo essay by Palestinian photographer Abed Rahim Khatib from April 2012. Flocks of birds literally fill his lens.
Khatib's caption:
Migratory birds in the spring season also come from all over the world and pass in the skies of the Gaza Strip.
Given the abundance of evidence to be found regarding the proliferation of birds in Gaza, there is no need to belabour the point.
Summing up, this blog post should not be construed as some sort of objection to the building of a park in Gaza. On the contrary, one should only hope that Gazan children of the future should enjoy a plethora of wholesome recreational pursuits in parks rather than the Hamas paramilitary "summer camps" and hateful indoctrination and incitement against Jews and Israel they are currently exposed to.
Furthermore, there is no disputing that any trees in a new park will provide additional perches for birds traversing the area and this is undoubtedly a positive (although from the pictures of the park site, it seems that the land that was given to Kelly for the park is not actually situated in a densely populated neighbourhood).
At the same time, though, one can only wonder why Rowland and O'Connor failed to ask Kelly why Hamas, which rules Gaza, chooses to pour its money into building offensive weapon capabilities against Israel instead of building and supporting its own parks.
But more importantly, ABC goofed by giving Kelly a license to exaggerate claims about conditions in Gaza as a fundraising and propaganda tool. Even before the construction of this park, Gaza most certainly did, and continues to have, trees, bird life as well as green spaces (even some lavish ones, like the Dolphin Water Park and Resort which opened in April, compensating for another one which Hamas destroyed in 2010).
Kelly and the ABC effectively conspired to distort the reality on the ground in the interests of manufacturing sympathy for a doubtlessly worthwhile project. But when Australia's public broadcaster uncritically promotes such storytelling, it is acting counter to the principles of ethical journalism, and its own charter.
While this incident is, of course, peripheral to the more substantive issues of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, for ABC's journalists and editors to "parrot" the bizarre notion that Gaza is devoid of birdlife without anyone along the way bothering to exercise the most basic level of fact-checking is indeed troubling.
It raises the question of what other fact-checking, if any, is employed by the ABC regarding news items originating in Palestinian controlled areas on more important subjects.

"The approach taken by the EU is ham-fisted and potentially counter-productive..."

From the Executive Council of Australian Jewry, 21 July 2013:
The Executive Council of Australian Jewry (ECAJ) has warmly welcomed the announcement of an agreement being reached for resuming direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.

"We express our sincere hope that a just and enduring peace can be reached between Israel and the Palestinians on the basis of the principle of two States for two peoples", said ECAJ President, Dr Danny Lamm. "We note with appreciation that the Australian Government’s policy statements have consistently affirmed this principle, and have urged the parties to return to direct negotiations without preconditions," Dr Lamm said.

Dr Lamm was also highly critical of new guidelines published by the European Union concerning the eligibility of Israeli entities which operate beyond the Green Line to benefit from grants, prizes and financial instruments funded by the EU.

"It is not the place of the EU or anyone else to try to pre-empt the resolution of final status issues such as borders and settlements which the parties themselves have previously agreed can only be resolved by them in direct negotiations", Dr Lamm said.
"The approach taken by the EU is ham-fisted and potentially counter-productive. It sends out the utterly unrealistic message that only the Israelis, and not the Palestinians, will need to make painful compromises to achieve peace".

Where has the billions of PA aid gone?

From an email from Simon McIlwaine, Anglican Friends of Israel:
Anglican Friends of Israel Membership Director Fran Waddams was invited to be one of a group of leaders of pro-Israel Christian organisations on a recent fact finding trip to Israel organised by the Jewish Leadership Council.  The group was briefed by top civil servants and Israeli government officials as well as having the opportunity to meet Arab Israelis and Palestinian Christians.
Particularly moving was the welcome given by young soldiers of the IDF stationed near Gaza, who usually meet Christians who are insensitive to their delicate, dangerous mission, and whose objective is often to make their difficult lives even more difficult.  It was quite a different experience for them to meet Christians who supported their mission and appreciated their courage and cheerfulness.
Sderot was an eye-opener.  Reading about the beleaguered town is one thing.  It is quite another to walk its streets calculating whether there the 15 seconds after the warning siren goes off will be enough to reach the nearest bomb shelter.
Fran was invited to write an article about her experience after her return to the UK, and she has done this in the form of an open letter to Archbishop Justin Welby, whose own visit to the Holy Land took place only days after the group left Israel. 

[That letter is reproduced in the JPost and below]

Simon McIlwaine, Anglican Friends of Israel

From JPost, 13 July 2013, by FRAN WADDAMS:

The Palestinian Authority has received billions of dollars in aid. Where, exactly, has this money gone?            
Archbishop of Canterbury in Jerusalem, June 27, 2013.
Archbishop of Canterbury in Jerusalem, June 27, 2013. Photo: REUTERS
The Jewish Leadership Council of the UK recently led a group of leaders from several Christian organizations to Israel and the Palestinian territories.
This group had the opportunity to meet with and question Israeli officials, citizens and clergy.
Fran Waddams of Anglican Friends of Israel, one of the organizations represented on the trip, responds to a report by the archbishop of Canterbury on his visit to the Holy Land which took place a few days later.
An open letter to the Archbishop of Canterbury by FRAN WADDAMS
Dear Archbishop Justin,
I toured the Holy Land, together with Christian leaders of other organizations, on a visit organized by the UK Jewish Leadership Council just a few days before you last month, and read your reflections on your own visit to the region wondering whether you would be as attentive and impartial as you were at a meeting a few years ago at which I spoke and you were chair.
It’s heartening that you support the rights of all people in the region “to peace, security, and justice.”
The issues you touch on also arose on our three days of visits and meetings with Israelis, both Jewish and Arab, and Palestinians, and some questions sprang to mind as I read your piece.
You were shocked at the contrast between west Jerusalem and Ramallah.
Next time you visit, would you ask Palestinian leaders why there is such a contrast? The Palestinian Authority has received billions of dollars in aid. Where, exactly, has this money gone? It doesn’t appear to have gone into infrastructure, public buildings and utilities, nor created Palestinian jobs nor gone onto Palestinian tables. It might really help our understanding if we knew the answers to this question.
Palestinians may find passing through IDF checkpoints inconvenient, or even humiliating.
But air travelers of every nationality accept the indignity of intrusive security searches, understanding that there are those who would blow airliners out of the sky if measures were not taken to stop them.
Israel’s security fence and checkpoints exist for the same reason. They were put into place only after dozens of murders and hundreds of mutilations caused by Palestinian suicide bombers who drove unhindered into Israel to carry out their missions. Several people loaded with explosives have been stopped at checkpoints over the years. Every week the Israel Defense Forces intercepts weapons and explosives and prevents indiscriminate death and mutilation of Palestinians and Israelis alike. Israel’s security measures save lives.
One young Palestinian woman has written that “most Palestinian Christians and peace loving Muslims acknowledge (privately) that the wall was built as a direct response to suicide bombers from within the Palestinian community.”
However unwilling the Ecumenical Accompaniers Programme for Palestine and Israel (EAPPI) is to believe it, it is a fact that the number of terror attacks, which reached epidemic proportions by 2003, has dwindled to almost nothing.
Like us, you were alarmed by the danger with which the citizens of Sderot live daily. It’s one thing to read dispassionately the few reports that appear in the UK media, quite another to be on the spot, wondering whether the nearest bomb shelter (at every bus stop) could be reached within the 15 seconds between the Red Alert and the missile exploding. The morning after our visit, terrorists were lobbing missiles toward Israel.
They missed this time. But missing was not the intention, and it didn’t stop Sderot’s parents having to make agonizing decisions on whether they had time to get all their children to shelter in time.
Then we met young IDF soldiers, amazed that British Christians wanted to show appreciation for their dangerous work. Most Christians they encounter are scrutinizing their behavior for faults as they work at checkpoints or try to prevent violence at demonstrations.
These Christians seem indifferent to the dangers they face as they try to distinguish between peaceful Palestinians and those smuggling explosives or weapons.
Finally we had the privilege of visiting Baptist Pastor Naim Khoury in Bethlehem. Brought up to believe that the Jewish Scriptures were irrelevant, he began to read them for himself as a 17 year old. He has discovered that the whole Bible is God’s Word, not just the New Testament and as a result insists that Palestinian Christians are obliged to love all their neighbors, Muslim and Jew.
He also learned that God has given the Jewish people a right to live in the Holy Land. Pastor Khoury does not endorse all that the Israeli government does. Nevertheless, he insists that Jews’ right to live unhindered on the land promised to them by the God is clearly set out in the Bible.
As a result of his courage, Pastor Khoury is shunned by fellow Christians, his church has had its right to conduct official marriages and baptisms withdrawn by the Palestinian Authority, his church has been bombed 14 times, and he was once shot. Nevertheless, his Arab congregation numbers in the hundreds, the largest in the Territories. What an irony.
The conflict between Israel and the Palestinians is complex.
It is about land and it is about justice. And your question is excellent – what constitutes a “just solution.” There are many voices that you won’t hear by sticking to “official” channels. The truths told by the “other voices” are out there, but so often those voices have to be sought out.
They’re worth listening to.
They really are.

19 July 2013

Who else is being injured by the vilification of Israel?

From JCPA:
"...The systematic exploitation of international humanitarian law by "Palestinians" comes at the expense of others in need. It erodes the credibility of UN bodies. And it MUST come to an end."

11 July 2013

Amnesty International - still keen to vilify Israel

Amnesty International has it hands full in the Middle East at the best of times, and now it seems that they are busier still; Egypt is experiencing unrest and mass protests which has led to casualties, as well as a surge in sexual harassment of women, and Syria is still enthralled in its brutal civil war with refugees pouring into neighbouring countries.
Even with such urgent and severe crises, Amnesty still finds the time to deal with... the so-called "bullying and judicial harassment" faced by one Palestinian "rights activist", Nariman Tamimi.
...to Amnesty it seems that a Palestinian woman facing trial for entering a closed military zone during the weekly protests in Nabi Saleh is as much of a human rights violation and an injustice as the killing of protesters in Turkey and Egypt.
Every Friday, in Nabi Saleh demonstrations are held by local Palestinians and activists in a similar fashion to the demonstrations held previously in Bil'in. Part of the ritual in these demonstrations is to intentionally provoke Israeli soldiers, and then document their response. For that purpose, dozens of cameramen and photographers are present at each demonstration. The most infamous case of such provocation in Nabi Saleh took place late last year, when a picture of young An'd Tamimi, Nariman's daughter, confronting a soldier was circulated online and in the global media (see AIJAC's blog post on the incident).
On June 28 Nariman was arrested, along with another protester, for this kind of provocation, when she entered an area which was closed off by the military. She was released on bail and while she awaits trial she was temporarily forbidden from participating in the Friday demonstrations. This requirement by the court that she will stay in the family home between 9am to 5pm on Friday until her trial date was described as a "partial house arrest"- well, very partial, considering the fact that it is only meant to keep her temporarily from events in which she repeatedly breaks the law and confronts soldiers, at least until her most recent actions are brought to court. It does not seem that to prevent a repeat offender (Nariman was arrested in the past for intentionally clashing with soldiers) from participating in the very activity during which they break the law is such a draconian measure. But in the eyes of Amnesty it is: 
"Amnesty International has accused the Israeli authorities of bullying and judicial harassment of Nariman Tamimi, a Palestinian rights activist who was placed under partial house arrest today to prevent her taking part in peaceful protests while she awaits trial next week.
'This is an unrelenting campaign of harassment, the latest in a litany of human rights violations against Nariman Tamimi, her family, and her fellow villagers. These arbitrary restrictions should be lifted immediately and the charges should be dropped,' said Philip Luther, Amnesty International's Middle East and North Africa Program Director.
'They have been denied the basic human right to peacefully protest over land illegally seized by Israeli settlers, and the Israeli judiciary has used spurious legal tools to punish them for exercising their basic human right to peaceful protest,' said Philip Luther."
But Luther's description is misleading- no one denied the villagers' and activists' right to peacefully protest. The only thing that was denied was the entry of Nariman to a closed military zone. Once she broke the law and confronted the soldiers she was arrested. Not for peacefully protesting. Other protesters who did not try to break into that area were not arrested, and this Friday demonstrations took place as usual. Does Luther think that the "human right to peacefully protest" includes a right to break the law and not face charges and legal consequences?
The Tamimi family is prominent in organising the weekly demonstrations in Nabi Saleh, and in the "resistance" to Israel more broadly. Her husband Bassam is one of the main organisers of the protests, as are Naji and Bilal Tamimi. Amnesty International is making them into non-violent resistance heroes, but this is a political stand by Amnesty. It might be framed in the language of human rights, but when someone breaks the law, is brought to court and the only sanction they face until the trial date is to not participate in the very action in which they broke the law in the first place, the excuse of human rights violation is pretty flimsy. The people at Amnesty International must know that, they deal with the daily casualties of protests elsewhere in the region- when the right to protest is truly being repressed, it does not end with individual arrests, bail money and a court date, while the demonstrations themselves continue as usual.
The Tamimi family story is not simply about a family from Nabi Saleh that peacefully responds to what they perceive as violations of their rights. While Nariman brags about the "non-violent" and "peaceful" nature of the demonstrations, in interviews she has stated that throwing rocks is considered "non-violent" in her eyes. The fact that these stones are often aimed at civilians and have caused death and injuries, does not seem to concern her:
"Nonviolent resistance is mostly verbal; we respond back with words, but if a stone was the response or comeback then that doesn't mean it is a weapon. It is more of a message than a weapon. [...] throwing rocks at the soldiers is more of a retaliatory symbolic message."
Nariman's war might be predominantly a propaganda war- staging conflict between Palestinians civilians, including young children, with soldiers to defame the Israeli Defence Forces, and Israel. But it does not stop there. The kind of actions she is supporting can escalate to violent action. This happened in Nariman's own family - her husband Bassam's nephew, Nizar Tamimi, served a life sentence after murdering an Israeli settler in the early 1990s. His cousin Ahlam Tamimi, is infamous for her involvement in helping to carry out the Sbarro restaurant suicide bombing in 2001, as well as other terror attacks, and was sentenced to 16 consecutive life sentences. She holds the dubious title of the first female member of Hamas' "military wing." Both were released from prison in the Shalit prisoner swap deal, and after meeting in prison, they were engaged at the time of their release. Both are very popular in Nabi Saleh and upon their release celebrations were held in the village. Is glorification of terrorism also a form of "non violent resistance"?
Human rights organisations who criticise Israel for temporarily preventing a woman who is awaiting trial from participating in the same activity during which she broke the law are undermining the cause of human rights and draining the term of any substance (see AIJAC's previous blog post about the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights). Any soccer fan that is disruptive during a match would receive similar treatment and could be removed from the stadium until his or her case is heard in court. This is especially the case when considering the regional context. How could anyone take Amnesty's condemnations about deaths in protests in Turkey, about sexual harassment in Tahrir Square or about the disintegration of Syria into chaos seriously, if they use the same language to describe Nariman Tamimi's case?

10 July 2013

See Israel with Bridges for Peace

You've Read The Book - Now See The Land!

Just four months and you could be on your way to the amazing land of Israel...

Our end-of-year "Standing With Israel" tour group will leave Sydney on 28 October, returning on 16 November - that's 16 full days in Israel! You will see so much and enjoy all kinds of fascinating experiences - like walking the length of the 530-metre Hezekiah's Tunnel built to safeguard Jerusalem's water supply, an exhilarating adventure as our last tour group [left] can testify! Contact us now (see below) for your application pack.

Click here to download a detailed itinerary of this eye-opening and life-changing tour

Are You Ready for an exhilarating experience with other young adults on our next Israel tour?

In January 2014 young adults from all over the world will fly to Israel and enjoy a truly life-changing experience, walking in the footsteps of Jesus, learning about the incredible land of Israel, and connecting with the people of this land. If you are looking for something very different during the January holiday, give us a call and we will fill you in on the details.

Click here, then under "video", for a short Zealous 8:2 adventure tour clip

PO Box 1785, Buderim,
Queensland 4556, Australia

Phone - 61 7 54794229
Phone - 1800 000 661
Fax - 61 7 54792210
Click here to email us

09 July 2013

VISIT ISRAEL with the Australia-Israel Chamber of Commerce - November 2013

COMPLIMENTARY INFORMATION BRIEFING SESSION - Tuesday 30 July 12-2pm at the Chamber of Commerce & Industry WA
AICC Australia-Israel Chamber of Commerce(WA) Inc invites you to participate in our Mission to Israel scheduled for Thursday 28 November to Wednesday 4 December 2013.

The AICC has been organizing Missions to Israel for over 20 years, during which there have been over 40 separate group missions of varying sizes. They are always presented in the context of a historical, cultural, industrial and policy perspective and as such, I am confident the mission will provide you and other delegates with a memorable, stimulating and meaningful experience and above all, linkages to generate real business opportunities.

Next Steps:
If you wish to discuss any aspect of the mission, kindly contact John Cluer on 0419 938 480, or if you would like to receive the full Mission Brochure and Expression of Interest e-mail:  diane@aicc.org.au

Complimentary Information Briefing Session will be held from 12 to 2pm in the Chamber of Commerce & Industry (CCIWA) Function Centre, 180 Hay Street East Perth. This session will be attended by Mr Paul Israel, from our Tel Aviv office.  The purpose of the session is to answer your questions, clarify all elements of the mission and to hear from the delegates who have been on our missions.

To register : RSVP to Diane at diane@aicc.org.au or call 0402 344 352.  If you cannot attend this briefing, please indicate your interest by informing Diane and we will contact you.