28 February 2014

ABC Four Corners on Israel: Evil and deeply untrue

From THE AUSTRALIAN, 1 March, 2014, by Greg Sheridan:
Former Israeli army commander Yehuda Shaul, founder of the group Breaking the Silence, on
Former Israeli army commander Yehuda Shaul, founder of the group Breaking the Silence, on the ABC’s Four Corners report. Picture: Sylvie Le Clezio Source: News Limited
WE are living in a time of infamous lies against the state of Israel and the Jewish people. We are witnessing, even in Australia, a recrudescence of some of the oldest types of anti-Semitism. One of the worst recent examples of anti-Israel propaganda that led directly to anti-Semitic outbursts was the Four Corners episode Stone Cold Justice, purporting to be about treatment of Palestinian children in the West Bank.
...the Four Corners program was a disgrace, a crude piece of anti-Israel propaganda that revived some of the oldest anti-Semitic tropes. In the year 2014, are we really going to allege again, on the basis of the flimsiest non-evidence you could imagine, that Jewish soldiers systematically physically crucify innocent children? Is there a school of anti-Semitism 101 operating out there? Do you not think that before you would air an allegation like that, if you had any real sense of editorial responsibility, you would be 100 per cent sure that it was true; you would track down the people alleged to have done it and get their testimony? 
The Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council has produced exhaustive rebuttals of virtually all the allegations in this program and I recommend readers visit the AIJAC website. The whole program was full of uncorroborated and intensely unlikely allegations.
You could make the same kind of film about Australia if you didn’t find it necessary to prove any of your facts...
A week or two after the Four Corners program went to air, I attended a Catholic mass in a suburban church. The priest was preaching about forgiveness. Most examples he chose were taken from the news. One, he took from the Middle East. It concerned a heroic Palestinian whose family had been killed by Israel, but who still had the moral grandeur to forgive the Israelis. The priest said nothing else about the Middle East. So of all the malevolence and genuine evil in the Middle East, the only example the apiarist thought worth mentioning was a generic Israeli crime.
With 2000 years of Christian anti-Semitism behind him, the priest had no hesitation in presenting Israel as the killer of innocent families and the only question in the Middle East being one of the moral greatness of the Palestinians in forgiving the Israelis.
So this is what we’ve come to in 2014. The national broadcaster tells us that Jewish soldiers crucify innocent children and Christian clerics routinely portray Israel as the murderous oppressor of the Middle East. But these stereotypes are both evil, and deeply untrue. 
Over many trips to Israel, and many visits to neighbouring Middle East countries, I have come to the conclusion Israel has the best human rights and democratic institutions and civil society of any nation in the greater Middle East. More than that, I have tried hard to make my own investigations... Does the Israeli army routinely behave unreasonably?...
Israel is not perfect. Like every nation it makes mistakes, including moral mistakes. Undoubtedly, some of its soldiers have engaged in abuses. But over the years I have interviewed dozens, perhaps hundreds, of Israeli soldiers and former soldiers, many active on the Left of Israeli politics and harshly critical of their government. I have also interviewed many Palestinians. My net judgment is Israel’s army behaves with as much consideration for human rights and due process as any modern Western army - US, Australian or European - would do in similar circumstances....
The main obstacle to peace is that most of the Arab world will not accept the idea that Israel as a Jewish state has a right to exist and live in peace and security. The Four Corners program did nothing to enlighten the debate and led to a shocking outburst of rank anti-Semitism on ABC websites.
I really thought we were beyond that.

26 February 2014

The Apartheid Smear

From BICOM, London, 2014, by Professor Alan Johnson:

Israel is not an apartheid state
The allegation damages the peace process

  • ‘Apartheid’ is the term used to describe the racial segregation and discrimination that was violently enforced on black people by white minority governments in South Africa from 1948 to 1994.
  • The Apartheid Smear is the claim that Israel is an ‘apartheid state’ like South Africa was in those years. It is the intellectual foundation stone of ‘BDS’ – the effort by anti-Israel pressure groups to boycott, divest from and sanction Israel.
  • This pamphlet shows that this is factually wrong, malicious, politically polarising and damages the peace process...

The Truth Behind the Palestinian Water Libels

From BESA Center Perspectives Paper No. 238, 24 Feb 2014, by Prof. Haim Gvirtzman:

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: Water shortages in the Palestinian Authority are the result of Palestinian policies that deliberately waste water and destroy the regional water ecology. The Palestinians refuse to develop their own significant underground water resources, build a seawater desalination plant, fix massive leakage from their municipal water pipes, build sewage treatment plants, irrigate land with treated sewage effluents or modern water-saving devices, or bill their own citizens for consumer water usage, leading to enormous waste. At the same time, they drill illegally into Israel’s water resources, and send their sewage flowing into the valleys and streams of central Israel. In short, the Palestinian Authority is using water as a weapon against the State of Israel. It is not interested in practical solutions to solve the Palestinian people’s water shortages, but rather perpetuation of the shortages and the besmirching of Israel.

A significant public debate has been sparked by the assertion of European Parliament President Martin Schulz that the amount of water available to the average Israeli unfairly overwhelms the amount of water available to the average Palestinian. The main issue that should be discussed – and has not been sufficiently analyzed – is: What are the causes of Palestinian water supply problems?

The discussion must be informed by the following basic facts:

  1. The Oslo agreements grant the Palestinians the right to draw 70 million cubic meters from the Eastern Mountain Aquifer (ground water reservoir). Yet this water resource is not currently being capitalized on by the Palestinians; the waters spill untapped underground into the Dead Sea. As per the Israeli-Palestinian agreement, some 40 sites were identified for drilling into this aquifer in the eastern Hebron hills region, and permits were granted to the Palestinians by the Israel-PA Joint Water Committee. Nevertheless, over the past 20 years, the Palestinians have drilled at just one-third of these sites, despite the fact that the international community has offered to finance the drilling of all sites. If the Palestinians were to drill and develop all these wells, they could have completely solved the existing water shortage in the Hebron hills region. But the Palestinians have preferred to drill wells on the Western Mountain Aquifer, the basin that provides groundwater to the State of Israel. Instead of solving the problem they have chosen to squabble with Israel.
  2. The Palestinians do not bother fixing water leaks in city pipes. Up to 33 percent of water in Palestinian cities is wasted through leakage. Upkeep on the Palestinians’ urban water infrastructure has been completely neglected. By comparison, leakage from Israeli municipal water pipes amount to only 10 percent of water usage.
  3. The Palestinians refuse to build water treatment plants, despite their obligation to do so under the Oslo agreement. Sewage flows out of Palestinian towns and villages directly into local streams, thereby polluting the environments and the aquifer and causing the spread of disease. Despite the fact that donor countries are willing to fully fund the building of treatment plants, the Palestinians have managed to avoid their obligations to build such facilities. (Only over the past two years has Israeli pressure moved the PA forward a bit on this matter.)
  4. The Palestinians absolutely refuse to irrigate their agricultural fields with treated sewage effluents. By comparison, more than half the agricultural fields in Israel are irrigated with treated waste water. Irrigating Palestinian agricultural fields with recycled water instead of fresh water would free up large amounts of water for home usage. This would greatly reduce the water shortage in many places.
  5. Some Palestinian farmers irrigate their fields by flooding, rather than with drip irrigation technology. Drip irrigation, as practiced in Israel, brings water directly to the root of each plant, thereby reducing water consumption by more than 50 percent. Flooding fields causes huge water evaporation and leads to great waste.
  6. The international community has offered to build a desalination plant for the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. The Palestinians have refused this gift. A desalination plant could completely solve the Gaza Strip’s water shortages. The Palestinians refuse to build this plant because they claim they have the right to access the fresh groundwater reservoir in Judea and Samaria, and they are prepared to suffer until they realize this dream. In the meanwhile, Gaza residents suffer from severe shortages of water.

These basic, undeniable facts are extremely important because they have wide-ranging consequences.
Today, the Palestinians consume some 200 million cubic meters of water per annum in Judea and Samaria. The Palestinians could easily raise that amount by at least 50 percent, without any additional assistance or allocation from the State of Israel. This would require several simple actions:
If the Palestinians were to begin drilling the Eastern Mountain Aquifer, at the sites already approved for drilling, they very quickly would secure an additional 50 million cubic meters of water per year.

  • If the Palestinians were to reduce urban water waste from 33 percent to 20 percent by fixing the main leaks in their urban water pipes (something that can be done without great effort), they would immediately benefit from 10 million additional cubic meters of water per annum.
  • If the Palestinians were to collect and treat their urban waste water, they would gain at least 30 million cubic meters of water a year. This would free up 30 million cubic meters (per annum) of fresh water, currently used for agriculture, for home usage. This would allow them both to improve their urban water supply and to expand agricultural lands.
  • If the Palestinians were to adopt drip irrigation technology, they would save 10 million cubic meters a year. This would allow them to expand their irrigated lands.
  • In the Gaza Strip, too, the Palestinians could easily double the amount of water available, without additional assistance from the State of Israel. If the Palestinians agreed to build a desalination plant on the Gaza coast (funded entirely by the international community), they would increase the amount of water available by 60 to 100 million cubic meters a year. If they fix leakages, treat and recycle sewage, and adopt drip irrigation, they would double their water allocation, as well.

Unfortunately, the Palestinian Authority’s deleterious policies – as evidenced in the six facts listed above – are a function of the Palestinian water war against Israel. There is no real Palestinian desire to solve water problems; they prefer to perpetuate the water problems in order to besmirch the State of Israel. They view water as a tool with which to bash Israel.
The warlike strategy adopted by the Palestinian Authority regarding water explains several additional realities.

  • Illegal drilling of wells: As of 2010, the Palestinians had drilled about 250 unauthorized wells into the Western and Northern Aquifers, in violation of the Oslo agreements. Since 2010 the number of unauthorized wells being dug has continued to rise at an alarming pace. This has caused a reduction in the natural discharge of water in the Beit Shean and Harod valleys, forcing Israeli farmers to reduce their agricultural plantings. Ultimately, the State of Israel has been forced to reduce its pumping at the Mountain aquifer from 500 million cubic meters per annum in 1967 to about 400 million cubic meters per annum today.
  • The Palestinians also steal water by pirate tapping into pipes belonging to Mekorot, Israel’s national water company. As a result, Mekorot’s ability to supply water to Israelis and Palestinians alike has been compromised. The stolen water is used mainly for agriculture, not for home usage.
  • Sustainable development: The PA purposefully flaunts the principle of “sustainable development” – a core standard of effective and modern economic management – in every way. Authorities that do not fix water leaks, do not collect and treat sewage, refuse to conserve water used for agriculture, and do not collect payment for water usage are in flagrant violation of this principle.

Which brings us to another dirty little secret about the Palestinians: most West Bank and Gaza residents and businesses do not pay the PA for the water they use, in either their homes or fields. There are simply no water meters on pumping wells and no water meters at the entry to most homes, so it is impossible for the PA to measure the amount of money owed by individual consumers. This, of course, leads to widespread water waste. People who don’t pay for their water usage have no motivation to conserve.
Reliance on Israel: The Palestinians purchase about 50 million cubic meters of water from Israel’s Mekorot water company each year, but the Palestinian Authority does not pay for this water directly. Rather, the State of Israel pays Mekorot, and then deducts the costs of the water from the customs and tax monies that Israel collects on behalf of the Palestinian Authority at Israeli ports. However, it must be noted that the Palestinian Authority pays Mekorot for just 80 percent of the actual cost of the water it consumes. Negotiations to raise water prices have dragged on for more than 10 years, and Israel has given up many times.
Because the water market is administered in an opaque fashion, the Israeli consumer effectively subsidizes the Palestinian consumer. The average Israeli pays approximately 10 shekels per cubic meter of water. About 0.2 shekels of that fee goes to subsidize the water provided to the Palestinians below cost.
The sum total of the situation described above is that the Palestinian Authority is using water as a weapon against the State of Israel. It is more interested in reducing the amount of water available to Israel, polluting natural reservoirs, harming Israeli farmers, and sullying Israel’s reputation around the world than truly solving water problems for the Palestinian people. The Palestinians are not interested in practical solutions to address shortages; rather, they seek to perpetuate the shortages, and to blame the State of Israel.
Unfortunately, President Schulz’s Knesset address, with its seemingly-straightforward but baseless accusations against Israel, suggests that the PA is succeeding in this effort to befuddle international observers and besmirch Israel.
Beyond the conclusion reached above, it is worthwhile to consider a broader perspective on the water situation in the Middle East. The Palestinians live in the shadow of the State of Israel, a world superpower in terms of water technologies. Consequently, the Palestinians enjoy a relative Garden of Eden. Only in Israel, in the West Bank, and in Gulf States does sufficient, safe, drinkable tap water exist in 96 percent of households. Residents in almost every other country in the region suffer from terrible water shortages.
In Amman, the Jordanian capital, water is supplied to private homes just once every two weeks. In Syria, agricultural fields in the Euphrates Valley are drying up due to the upstream diversion of water by the Turks. In recent years (before the “Arab Spring” began), about three million farmers migrated from the Euphrates Valley to the outskirts of Damascus because their lands had dried up. In Damascus, too, the water running in the river beds, which used for drinking, is mixed with sewage. In Iraq, agricultural fields are drying up because waters upstream on the Euphrates and Tigris rivers are being diverted by the Turks. There too, millions of farmers lost their lands. In Egypt, enormous amounts of water are lost due to flood irrigation. The Nile provides 30 times more water than Israel’s annual usage and Egypt’s population is just 10 times greater than Israel. Therefore, we would expect to see a water surplus. Nevertheless, Egypt suffers from severe hunger and thirst due to severe wastage of water. In North Africa too, there are insufferable water shortages.
By contrast, the State of Israel creates artificial water (desalinated seawater and recycled sewage) and behaves frugally and effectively, and as a result there is no shortage of water, despite having experienced many years of drought. Furthermore, the State of Israel is a net exporter of water! Israel supplies 55 million cubic meters of water each year to Jordan, and sells 50 million cubic meters to the Palestinians.
In the future, if and when peace is achieved, and cooperation is truly desired by the Palestinians – which they do not currently seek – the State of Israel will be ready and able to assist its neighbors in overcoming their water shortages.
Prof. Haim Gvirtzman is a professor of hydrology at the Institute of Earth Sciences at the Hebrew University and a member of the Israel Water Authority Council. He is also a long-time advisor of the Israel-PA Joint Water Committee. He authored the BESA Center’s groundbreaking 2012 study on Israel-Palestinian water issues.
BESA Center Perspectives Papers are published through the generosity of the Greg Rosshandler Family
Click here for a PDF version of this article
(Photo Credit: Wikimedia)

Four Corners producer - wrong again on antisemitic comments

On Saturday, the Weekend Australian ran an op-ed by Julie Nathan from the Executive Council of Australian Jewry. Nathan's piece concerned vicious anti-Jewish bigotry which has appeared on the Facebook page of ABC's Four Corners in the discussions surrounding the 'Stone Cold Justice' episode by the Australian's Middle East Correspondent John Lyons.
In that episode, Lyons focussed on the treatment of Palestinian minors in the West Bank by the Israeli criminal justice system. As a piece of journalism, the documentary was quite problematic; but separate to the many issues regarding its content (for AIJAC's breakdown see here and here), a whole set of questions were raised by the antisemitism it sparked on the Four Corners Facebook page -- including some additional ones relating to the ABC's credibility and accountability.
In her article, Nathan detailed a number of comments on the page which were overtly and indisputably antisemitic -- referring not to Israeli policies or even Israelis, but to "Jews" --and clearly in breach of the ABC's editorial policies. As Nathan pointed out:
Some of the comments were deleted or edited by ABC moderators. However, many anti-Semitic comments have remained online for more than a week, spewing forth the gamut of traditional anti-Semitic themes.

In response, the Executive Producer of Four Corners, Sue Spencer, wrote into the Australian on Monday to say just how offended she had been -- not by the racist material published on her page, but by Nathan's article exposing it. Spencer first claimed that the ABC's social media moderator had been especially vigilant:
In the lead-up to and in the wake of the broadcast of Stone Cold Justice, the social media moderator paid heightened attention to comments made on the program's Facebook page. It is not possible to pre-moderate comments on Facebook. However, all that is possible is done to ensure that offensive posts are deleted as soon as possible.
This occurred when any unsavoury, anti-Semitic or offensive comments were made. In such cases, the contributors were also banned from commenting on the page.

Spencer then flatly denied that comments had been left on the page without being deleted, before saying how offended she was by Nathan's allegations and stopping just short of accusing Nathan of lying:
The article also states that "many anti-Semitic comments have remained online for more than a week". This is incorrect, as moderating has occurred on a daily basis since the broadcast.
If you visit the Four Corners Facebook site today, you will find a mixed and very robust debate about the issues raised in the report. What you will not find is anything that incites hatred or breaches the ABC's editorial policies. To suggest that the ABC moderator is lax in tolerating racism is not supported by the facts and is offensive.
Given that Spencer chose to categorically deny any lax moderating on behalf of the ABC, it would perhaps have occurred to her to make sure that the comments which Nathan mentioned were no longer on the Facebook page. Not so, it appears. Not only were many of the comments mentioned by Nathan still up when the letter was published, they are still on the Facebook page as this is being written, two days later. Yet no one seems to have noticed, and Spencer's claims have not been corrected or even questioned in the Australian.

No room for doubt
In her article, Nathan mentioned a post saying "Judaism is increasingly looking like a very ugly religion hiding behind a false conception of god."As of today, that very comment from Ian Joyner has been on the Facebook page for more than two weeks:
Nathan also noted the comments which compared Israelis to Nazi Germany, observing that:
By any academic standard, such comparisons are historically ludicrous. These comments do not seek to engage in debate or analysis but only to demonise Jews and Israelis, and to minimise, justify or excuse the suffering and mass murder of Jews during the Holocaust, a standard technique for assuaging or blocking out any sense of guilt.
Glancing over at the Four Corners page, it did not take long to find Dave Scott intimating that Israel was worse than the Nazis, and Richard Doumani making a comparison between "Zionists" and Nazis, but throwing the word "Jews" in as well to avoid any doubt:
Another example of antisemitic comments which Nathan brought up were ones employing the theme of, "You Jews of all people should know better". This morning on the Four Corners page were two separate comments to that effect from Brad Burke, saying that Jews cannot call themselves God's chosen people and are going to hell; and one comment from Kate Hayes, saying that God did not expect such "disgraceful" and "blasphemous" behaviour "of the Jewish [sic]":
Nathan also mentioned comments propagating "the age-old calumny about a 'world Jewish conspiracy'." There were plenty of those to be found too, such as this post from Tim Bradford talking about Rupert Murdoch's "Zionist puppet masters", which was particularly ironic given that the Four Corners episode was made by an employee of Murdoch's flagship Australian newspaper:
Other comments still up this morning did not necessarily fall under the categories mentioned by Nathan but nevertheless contained overt or implied anti-Jewish racism. For instance, Gary Wilson opined about what "the Jews" should realise and then wished shame on them for good measure. 

Fact-check failure
When explaining why it was "not possible" that antisemitic comments had remained on the page for over ten days, Spencer mentioned that "moderating has occurred on a daily basis", and that those comments should have been deleted by the moderator. On the strength of those two facts, she apparently felt comfortable categorically denying that the comments were there.
There was a step missing in her reasoning. It would occur to most people that if the moderators were supposed to delete the comments, but a national newspaper prints a claim that the comments are still there, then perhaps the moderators have not been adequately performing their job. The obvious step to take would be to check the facts before deciding how to respond to the allegations.
Spencer's disregard for the facts in this instance appears to be reflective of the ABC's attitude to the Four Corners episode. In both cases, there was a severe lack of fact-checking and a refusal to second-guess ABC colleagues. The denial in this case was perhaps even more embarrassing as the falsity of Spencer's claims could be ascertained by simply visiting the Four Corners Facebook page and scrolling down.

The fact that she apparently did not do so is troubling. The staff at our national broadcaster can and should do better.

22 February 2014

ABC has a case to answer for allowing anti-Semitic comments to remain online

From The Australian 22 Feb 2014, by Julie Nathan:

THE airing of Stone Cold Justice on ABC1’s Four Corners on February 10 elicited, predictably, numerous expressions of raw anti-Jewish hatred, notably on the ABC’s Facebook page.
The program made many claims, most of them uncorroborated, about Israel’s alleged treatment of Palestinian minors in the West Bank and omitted vital context, including Unicef’s acknowledgment that the Israelis have been working closely with it to deal with real problems that have been identified.
The purpose of this article is not to critique the program itself, which has already been done by others, but to highlight the toxic nature of many of the responses to the heart-wrenching scenes portrayed in the program and the accompanying commentary.
Four Corners created six posts related to the program. These posts elicited more than 470 comments. About 100 of these comments were overtly anti-Jewish in one way or another. Several comments referred to Jews as a cancer and called for Hitler to return.
Some of the comments were deleted or edited by ABC moderators. However, many anti-Semitic comments have remained online for more than a week, spewing forth the gamut of traditional anti-Semitic themes.
Old and new religious anti-Semitism found expression in comments such as: “Orthodox Judaism is a cult that represses women and brainwashes children and has no place in the 21 century”; “Judaism is increasingly looking like a very ugly religion hiding behind a false conception of god”; “the Synagogue of Satan”; “(Jesus) was sent 2b crucified by the Jewish officials ... !”; and “God (sent) his Son to Earth to sort out Judaism.”
Other posts compared Israel with Nazi Germany: “The Israeli (sic) are acting like modern day Nazis”; “are no better than what Hitler’s army did”; “A gas chamber away from Nazis - the persecuted becoming the persecutors!”
Israel was accused of committing “genocide against the Palestinians” and “a holocaust against the Paelstinians (sic)”; “It is only a matter of time before Israel implements it’s (sic) final solution.”
By any academic standard, such comparisons are historically ludicrous. These comments do not seek to engage in debate or analysis but only to demonise Jews and Israelis, and to minimise, justify or excuse the suffering and mass murder of Jews during the Holocaust, a standard technique for assuaging or blocking out any sense of guilt.
A more subtle technique for achieving the same outcome was use of the theme “You Jews of all people should know better”.
Some examples: “Very disturbing and sad that this can be done to children and their families by people who should know better, people who have survived the holocaust and know what it feels like to have pain and suffering inflicted on them!”; “I thought they of all people would not do this”; “You’d think the Jews would have more empathy.”
As observed by non-Jewish writer Chas Newkey-Burden: “Let us strip the ‘they of all people’ argument down to its very basics: gentiles telling Jews that we killed six million of your people and that as a result it is you, not us, who have lessons to learn; that it is you, not us, who need to clean up your act. It is an argument of atrocious, spiteful insanity. Do not accept it; turn it back on those who offer it. For it is us, not you, who should know better.”
A fourth theme was the age-old calumny about a “world Jewish conspiracy”.
Examples included: “With all the Jewish politicians in the American congress & all the banks own by Zionist interests ... the media is owned by the wealthy jew/americans”; “The world is owned by these fascists and that is why they have a blank cheque!!”; “Support for Israel in the West has been managed via media control, blackmail and bribery”; “A story of oppression that has been going on for 65+ years, which the Jewry has been able to keep under wraps through various means of media control.”
These comments reprise the falsehoods contained in the proven forgery and fabrication known as The Protocols of the Elders of Zion.
Online comments of this nature, usually by people sheltering within the coward’s castle of anonymity, are depressingly familiar.
Less easy to explain is the decision of ABC moderators to permit such racist comments to remain on its Facebook page.
Is there a line to be drawn between the factually selective and emotive content of Stone Cold Justice and the laxity of the ABC’s moderators on Facebook in tolerating racism from those responding to the program? The ABC has a case to answer.

21 February 2014

Church Leaders Reject Boycotts

Delegates from Presbyterian Church, which formerly endorsed boycotts, change their minds after seeing Soda Stream factory.

A delegation of 14 leaders from the Presbyterian clergy, a church that in the past supported boycotting Israeli products manufactured in Judea and Samaria (Shomron), arrived last week to visit Israel.
The visit was organized by the America-Israel Friendship League (AIFL); the delegates' goal was to discover Israel personally and to better understand the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Representatives from the Presbyterian Church, which has an estimated six million followers, visited the Soda Stream factory which is located in Maaleh Adumim, east of Jerusalem. They spoke to representatives from the management and several employees.
While some United States-based religious groups, such as Evangelicals and Mormons, are known for their support of Israel, the Presbyterian Church has historically been critical of Israel, and has even supported boycotts of Israeli products such as “Ahava” and “Dkalim”.
In 2012, over 100 mainstream American Jewish organizations accused the Presbyterian Church's Israel Palestine Mission Network (IPMN) of promoting anti-Semitic and anti-Zionist propaganda. Among other things, the IPMN had published a cartoon suggesting Jewish control of American policy.
In early 2014, the IPMN released a congregational study guide, titled "Zionism Unsettled," claiming that the Israel-Palestinian Arab conflict is fueled by a "pathology inherent in Zionism." The controversial guide prompted church leaders to release a statement saying that IPMN "speaks to the church and not for the church."

Delegates: Soda Stream good for peace
Soda Stream factory, located in Maale Adumim, employs 1300 employees; 500 are Palestinian Arabs from Judea and Samaria, 450 are Israeli Arabs and Jews. The company sees its factory as an oasis of peace.
The company recently found itself the focus of controversy as actress Scarlett Johansson came under fire for signing on to advertise Soda Stream products.

The Presbyterian delegates told representatives from Soda Stream that the visit to the factory strengthened their belief that the location of the factory enhances the business as well as the interpersonal relations between the Israelis and Palestinians and that they will express their support of Israel to the church administration and followers.

Ruby Shamir, Executive Director of AIFL Israel, stated, 
"These days when there are many voices calling to boycott Israel both in the business and academia regions, it is crucial to bring leaders and influential figures to change these ideas and to help form a positive and supportive opinion about Israel. This is yet another step towards the mission of the AIFL which is to strengthen the relationships between the American and Israeli people."
AIFL is dedicated to promoting and strengthening the relationship between the people of the United States and Israel. It frequently sends delegations to Israel to meet Israelis and visit religious, cultural and archeological sites.

Past delegations have included State Attorney’s General, business leaders, scholars, third year law school students, school superintendents, professors of law and Middle Eastern studies.

20 February 2014


...Scarlett Johansson and I ... are both alumni of Oxfam, ...[and] have both shared the Oxfam Moment.

Last month, Oxfam announced that Scarlett Johansson’s support for an Israeli company operating in a Jewish settlement was incompatible with her continued role as an Oxfam Ambassador. She was faced with a stark choice: continue her association with Oxfam or support SodaStream...Ms Johansson chose SodaStream.
...When I arrived in London, a deracinated refugee from apartheid South Africa, poor in cash but rich in far-left ideology, I was ripe for a job at Oxfam. I moved to Oxford and settled into Oxfam’s one-person press office, effectively the spokesman of the organisation. ...It helped that I did not think of myself as a Jew, and no one else did either.
My South African credentials offered instant access to far-left circles in Oxford, but it bothered me that my new-found comrades, mostly at the university, liberally peppered our conversations with casual, gratuitous anti-Semitism. The Jews, it seemed, were at the root of the world’s ills.
But my Oxfam Moment came one summer’s evening when a senior Oxfam executive invited me to dinner at his sumptuous home in the rolling Oxfordshire countryside. He was cultured, brilliant and cool. Every inch the top Foreign Office diplomat, which had indeed been his previous calling. Before dinner, he suggested we take drinks on the lawn. As an afterthought, he asked the butler to bring out his portable radio so that we could listen to the news. It was, after all, the first day of the Six Day War.
The BBC faithfully reported claims by the Israelis that they had destroyed the air forces of Egypt and Syria on the ground. Then, the newsreader intoned the Arab claims that they had inflicted extensive damage on the Israeli army; that Egyptian tanks were advancing; that they were now 25 kilometres from Tel Aviv.
My urbane host lost his cultivated cool. His elderly body shot into the air, fists pumping at the skies: 
‘Now the Jews are going to get it... Now they’re going to get it.’ 
Remember, Israel occupied no territories, nor had it constructed a single settlement. There could be only one explanation for his jubilation: the prospect of Israel’s imminent destruction
When he recovered his composure, he raised his glass and beamed at me: ‘Wonderful news. Simply wonderful.’ I stared back, shocked, not knowing how to respond. To my shame, I said nothing.
His reaction was more or less typical of the culture I encountered among the loony left, which perceived Jews as arrogant and pushy, while it regarded determined Palestinian displacement as principled and heroic. My own displacement – from the far-left and Oxfam – was now more or less complete.
But the madness of the Sixties never went away. On the contrary, it triumphed. The past half-century has witnessed Europe’s traditional sources of authority – political and church leaders – in full retreat, ceding the moral high ground to bunch of unelected, unaccountable NGOs, like Oxfam, which place themselves on the side of the angels. They set the agenda now.

I doubt whether Oxfam would have been much exercised if SodaStream was owned by, say, Jordanians, Egyptians or Saudis. Rather, I believe, they have chosen to invest a large chunk of their resources in advocating a boycott of the company because it is Jewish.  Haven’t we heard that before, too?

Israel trials a new approach with children suspected of stone throwing and other crimes

From THE AUSTRALIAN Editorial, FEBRUARY 21, 2014:

ISRAEL, the only functioning democracy in the Middle East, has acted wisely in its decision to replace night-time arrests of Palestinian children suspected of stone throwing and other crimes on the West Bank with a system of summonses. The practice of night-time arrests was highlighted in a recent investigation by The Australian’s Middle East correspondent John Lyons and the ABC’s Four Corners program.

The reporting drew an angry response from some Israeli supporters in Australia. But discussion in Israel shows the nation’s leaders, army and commentators understand the benefits of the change.

Israel’s chief military prosecutor for the West Bank, Lieutenant Colonel Maurice Hirsch, told The Jerusalem Post on Tuesday the new program, if successful, would provide “tremendous gains in saving people from operational dangers and minimising future claims of abuse”. Every arrest was dangerous, at best. And avoiding the arrest of Palestinian minors at night would negate “misleading claims of widespread, systematic and institutionalised mistreatment” [emphasis added - SL]. The change could also help Israeli officials avoid being brought before the International Criminal Court as a result of a deliberate campaign of misunderstanding.

To the army’s credit, it wants to make the changes work. And it is keeping “an open mind” about whether Palestinian suspects will turn up for questioning when summonsed. If they fail to do so it will underline the need for sterner measures to be resumed.

Night-time arrests of minors have been conducted only among Palestinian suspects on the occupied West Bank, not among Israel’s 1.7 million Arab and Palestinian citizens, who share the same rights as Jewish citizens. Night arrests were preferred because of the likelihood of violent demonstrations during the day.

Justifiably, Israel has no intention of compromising on security when stone-throwing and other offences by minors are a significant problem on the West Bank. As Colin Rubenstein, executive director of the Australia/Israel and Jewish Affairs Council wrote last week, many of the 700 Palestinian minors arrested annually in Israel are involved in shootings, bomb plots and murder, as well as stone-throwing, that has killed at least 12 Israelis over recent decades and injured many more.

18 February 2014

Israel: "...only one side here is mainly made up of grown-ups"

I’m currently in Israel as part of a press delegation ...Today we went on a walking tour around Jerusalem’s Old City, including the Temple Mount and the Western Wall, got a briefing from the local police, visited the city’s main market for lunch and conversation with a fascinating Israeli musician and activist, then visited Yad Vashem, which as you should know is Israel’s official Holocaust memorial. There’s little I could write about the latter that wouldn’t sound trite and inadequate, but we did have the good fortune to be there at the same time as a large group of young IDF soldiers in full uniform, which could scarcely be more apposite; Israel’s army side by side with the reason Israel needs an army.
It’s the Temple Mount and the rest of the Old City I want to talk about in this first dispatch, because I simply can’t get over the strangeness of the place. Here you have three of the world’s great religions almost literally on top of one another. In the Christian sector, passionate – sometimes violent – disputes take place over which denomination gets to use which carefully delineated area of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, including whether a particular step outside it counts as a step or a raised piece of floor. If a militant atheist wanted to write a vicious sketch about the absurdity of religion, they’d never dare come up with this.
But even if you don’t believe in God ...it’s hard not to be a little humbled by the place.  ...Christians, Muslims and Jews from all over the world come to Jerusalem just to walk where people much like them have for thousands of years, for much the same reasons....
The Temple Mount is something else. As we walked through the only entrance permitted to non-Muslims – more on this in a bit – and I took in my surroundings, I thought: “This is what it’s all about? This is what so many have killed and died for?” Not that it’s a letdown, far from it. The Dome of the Rock is an extraordinary thing – say what you like about Islam, it has nice buildings – and the sense of history is overpowering.
But it’s still just a piece of land. It’s a nice piece of land, mind you, but land nonetheless. Yet this meagre 35 acres is easily the most contentious issue in one of the world’s most intractable conflicts. Even as the grand divine architecture represents the best of humanity, our dark and irrational side is inescapable wherever you look.
Not that I mean to suggest perfect symmetry between the two main parties to this dispute, in the lazy “pox-on-both-your-houses” way some adopt towards the Arab-Israeli conflict. For one thing, the Temple Mount is indisputably the holiest place in Judaism, the centrepiece of the entire religion. It’s an important place for Muslims too, of course, but it’s their third holiest site, after Mecca and Medina.
You’d think this might give Jews a narrow first claim on the place, especially since they were there first. Instead, they must pray at the last surviving wall of the destroyed Second Temple while Muslims enjoy exclusive rights to the Mount itself. Non-Muslims can visit, but only at certain times and through the one entrance, and they absolutely can’t pray under any circumstances; if one of the officers of the Islamic waqf that manages the place sees your lips move in prayer, you’ll be unceremoniously asked to leave.
Or even if they don’t, in fact. My party had agreed to reconvene on one side of the Dome at 10:15am; at about 10:08, as I was wandering around near the meeting place, one of the officials – one part cop to two parts bouncer – shouted “Hello?” in my direction. It is my lifelong habit to assume nobody’s ever talking to me, so it took me a minute to realise he was. He indicated in limited but functional English, along with appropriate gestures, that I and other evident non-Muslims in the vicinity had to leave. It’s as if they knew I needed something to write about.
After a brief moment’s panic, I found the rest of our group and we asked our leader why this was happening, since it hadn’t been announced in advance. He had no idea. Nobody did. They just decided it was Muslim-only hour and that was that.
A bit odd, you might think, but it is their prerogative. But why is it? Israel has sovereignty over the land, conquered it in a defensive war and the Jewish connection to the site predates the Islamic one by many centuries. The simple truth is, even the merest hint of a challenge to the Islamic hegemony on the Mount is met with extreme outrage and, usually, violence. Israel, wanting a quiet life as much as is possible under the circumstances, therefore complies.
Overall, it’s hard to come away without the feeling that only one side here is mainly made up of grown-ups.

10 February 2014

ABC Four Corners: clunky journalism or malicious distortion??

A Compliant has been lodged with the ABC by Lee, about the Four Corners program, 10 Feb 2014: 'Stone Cold Justice', as follows: 

The Four Corners report 'Stone Cold Justice' was an incredibly one sided & biased piece of reporting. 

The story romanticised and heroized the Palestinian perpetrators. It is they – not the Israeli dead and injured – who are presented as the victims, "provoked by the situation," forced into this type of "futile" hobby, only to be arrested and incarcerated by fierce, powerful Israeli soldiers.
Stone throwing Palestinians were glorified as "pushback against Israel," a "rite of passage," and an "honored act of defiance." Its violent results were played down, whitewashed.

What about 5-month old Yehuda Shoham whose skull was crushed by stones hurled at his car and who died after a six day struggle for life in 2001?

What about 3-year-old Adele Biton who spent four months in the intensive care unit of a hospital fighting for her life and is now confined at a rehabilitation hospital, relearning how to eat, talk and walk after Palestinian rocks struck her mother's car this past March?

What about 1-year-old Yonatan Palmer and his 25-year old father who were killed in September 2011 when their car was struck in a Palestinian stone attack? 

Lyons repeatedly laments the cruel arbitrary arrest of "Palestinian children." But who are the Palestinian children to which he refers? 16 year olds? Any person below the age of 18? 

It is hard to believe that of the 700 + Palestinian youth to which Lyons refers, a majority are five and six year olds. The emotive images suggest the children are very young however most of those arrested for crimes are predominantly youths aged 17 and 18. They are engaged in serious terrorist activity and carry out the same heinous crimes as those Palestinians who are legal adults.

The question that needs to be raised unequivocally is why are Palestinian 'children' in the streets throwing stones rather than in school?

Indeed, it is not the Israeli justice system that plays Palestinian youth as pawns, but rather Hamas, the PA and the Palestinian leadership that recruit their own youths as puppets in their game of armed conflict. 

Palestinians know the deadly repercussions of rock throwing and the potential legal implications. Yet, they continue to exploit their children in their own violent pursuits rather than foster sentiments of mutual coexistence.

By the same token children as young as five are recruited as 'assistants' for suicide bombings and other terrorist attacks that have killed many innocent civilians. Unfortunately, Lyons ignores the dilemma of the Israeli courts to deal with the very challenging problems posed by Palestinian "child terrorists."

Given all that is happening in the Middle East at the moment, especially in Syria [where 10,000 children have been killed, along with 130,000 adults; and where over 8 million civilians have been rendered homeless], one must wonder why the show choose to air a story about a situation which is already being handled by the international community and the relevant country with great concern and at the outmost seriousness, instead of airing a real exposé regarding the human rights condition anywhere else in the Middle East.

This is clunky journalism at best, malicious distortion at worst.



“The ‘4 Corners’ program [broadcast on the evening of 10 Feb 2014] highlighted a number of disturbing issues, which the Israeli government appears clearly to treat seriously. Israel has publicly committed itself to changing the way it deals with very young Palestinian minors who are caught throwing rocks and engaging in other potentially dangerous actions, often encouraged by their elders.

“However the program paid insufficient attention to the very real difficulties faced by those who have the job of maintaining law and order and to the suffering on both sides. 

“The situation is obviously very difficult, and as the Israeli government has publicly acknowledged – problematic with room for improvement. However, it is important to bear in mind a number of important issues, including:

“First, it is international law, not religious claims, nor discrimination, that requires Israel to treat Palestinian minors in the West Bank in accordance with the legal system in place there for non Israeli residents. Extending Israeli law to those non Israeli residents of the West Bank, would almost certainly be condemned as tantamount to annexation and therefore a violation of international law. That, of course, does not excuse what Yigal Palmor described as ‘intolerable cases’.

“Second, as the program acknowledged, stone-throwing is potentially lethal and frequently results in grave injuries. As the mother of Israeli toddler, Adele Biton said – ‘stones kill’.

“Third, as UNICEF’s most recent (October 2013) report noted, Israel has co-operated with UNICEF and has made significant improvements.  Indeed Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor has said: ‘Israel will study the conclusions and will work to implement them through ongoing cooperation with UNICEF, whose work we value and respect’."

“The issues highlighted by the program illustrate the urgent need for the current negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians, to bear fruit and for the leaders on both sides to have the courage to make the hard compromises necessary to achieve a comprehensive peace.”

08 February 2014

Jewish settlement is legal from the River to the Sea

From Canberra Times, 3 Feb 2014, by Daniel Mandel:
Julie Bishop had some sensible things to say in Jerusalem, as she broke ranks from a cosy, normally unexamined international consensus: the idea that, by permitting Jewish residence in the West Bank, Israel is violating international law.
Asked if she agrees Jewish communities located beyond the Arab/Israeli 1949 armistice lines are illegal, Bishop replied: 
"I would like to see which international law has declared them illegal."
Her reply has drawn attacks from perfervid Palestinian spokesmen - such as Palestinian Authority veteran official Saeb Erekat - who cite Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention. But what does Article 49 actually say?
Drafted to outlaw the horrors of Nazi mass deportations, Article 49 prohibits "individual or mass forcible transfers, as well as deportations of protected persons from occupied territory to the territory of the occupying power or to that of any other country, occupied or not". It ordains that "the occupying power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies."
''Transfer'' is not rigorously defined in international law, but it has an accepted meaning: it entails some form of compulsion. Yet Palestinians are not being deported from the West Bank to another territory. Nor are Jews being deported from Israel to the West Bank; they are moving of their own free will.
The West Bank, illegally seized by Jordan in 1948, captured by Israel following Jordanian attack in 1967, is unallocated territory under international law. Only Israeli annexation or an Arab/Israeli agreement could alter its status - neither of which have occurred. In short, Article 49 has no bearing on the situation, as it deals solely with sovereign territories.
The original international decision at the 1920 San Remo Conference earmarking this territory for Jewish settlement has never been superseded by an internationally binding agreement. 
The 1947 UN partition plan, which sought to create Arab and Jewish states, could have been such an agreement, but it was rejected by the Arab powers and Palestinian Arabs. Being a UN General Assembly resolution, the plan had no legal force of its own.
In contrast, the 1993 Oslo Accords do possess legal force, but as these contain no prohibition on the existence and growth of these Jewish communities, Jewish rights remain unimpaired. Whatever one's view of the conflict, all should be able to agree on this. Yet Erekat denies it, even though the Palestinian Authority he represents signed the agreements.
He cited two other legal sources: the 2004 International Court of Justice (ICJ) advisory opinion, and the 1998 Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. He didn't mention that the ICJ opinion was advisory and therefore non-binding, nor the perversion of legal norms by which it arrived at its conclusion - the ICJ opted to spuriously invest a General Assembly resolution with the authority for a legal determination of this kind.
The Rome Statute, which Erekat says makes Jewish settlement illegal, says nothing about Israel or the territories in question. It reiterates the Fourth Geneva Convention's prohibition on transfer of populations. It seemingly widens the scope of ''transfer'', by adding "directly or indirectly", but if compulsion is the touchstone, these qualifiers change little. But even if they did, some 40 countries, including free societies such as India, Israel and the US, have either declined to sign or to ratify the Treaty, making its application here nugatory.
Erekat is also incorrect to assert that the Abbott government's position represents an aberration. While differing from her predecessor, Bob Carr, Bishop's position is consistent with Australia's historic bipartisan stand.
Bishop was right to dismiss the notion that Jewish residence in the West Bank is illegal as the flat-earth assertion that it is. Inasmuch as this fiction inflames Palestinian ambitions to delegitimise Israel and uproot hundreds of thousands of Jews, it presents a profound obstacle to peace settlement.