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AIJAC's free email news service, Update from AIJAC features some of the the latest news, opinion and analysis on Israel, the Middle East and beyond. The format generally consists of editorial commentary on a topical issue, three feature articles sourced from a wide variety of international outlets and a selection of web links for further reading.

The Updates are issued usually every 2-3 days to registered subscribers and posted concurrently on the web. Of course, users may unsubscribe at any time.

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UNRWA employees incite terrorism - while their salaries are paid by Western donors

UNRWA employees incite terrorism - while their salaries are paid by Western donors Author: Sharyn Mittelman Categories: Israel, Palestinians, Updates    

Following recent terror attacks in Israel including the brutal murder of five people at a Har Nof synagogue in west Jerusalem, attention has been drawn to Palestinian incitement that includes fabrications, such as that the al Aqsa Mosque is under threat of Jewish "desecration" (see previous blog post). Many may be surprised to hear that even more extreme incitement is coming from several staff members, some in influential roles, who work at a UN agency, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, an organisation funded by Western countries including Australia.

Revival of demolitions as terror deterrent sparks Israeli debate

Revival of demolitions as terror deterrent sparks Israeli debate Author: Ahron Shapiro Categories: Israel, Palestinians, Updates    

The Israeli government's decision to demolish the homes of terrorists involved in the recent spate of terror attacks has been strongly criticised in the media.

Opinion on the policy is sharply divided in Israel, and it's true - as many journalists including the Australian Financial Review's Tony Walker here in Australia have noted - that in 2005, then-Chief of Staff (today Defence Minister) Moshe Ya'alon advised then-Defence Minister Shaul Mofaz to end the practice, after a committee established to evaluate the practice concluded that, in the words of Jerusalem Post reporter Margot Dudkevitch "failed to serve as a deterrent."

However, what most international journalists, including Walker, have failed to mention is that the report was not terribly conclusive. The committee actually did find that it worked in some cases - though it was believed its effectiveness was cancelled out by the resentment the policy spawned among other Palestinians.

AIR
The Jerusalem tinderbox in the wake of the Har Nof attack

The Jerusalem tinderbox in the wake of the Har Nof attack Categories: Israel, Palestinians, Terrorism, Updates    

Much is being written about the potentially explosive situation in Jerusalem in the wake of the bloody synagogue terror attack in the west Jerusalem neighbourhood of Har Nof on Tuesday, which left four rabbis and a Druze policeman dead. This Update features some particularly insightful contributions.

The first comes from noted Israeli author and intellectual Yossi Klein Halevi (who recently visited Australia). Halevi begins by comparing the reaction to the latest attack - cheered by large segments of Palestinian society - with the reaction in Israel to the comparable actions of the Jewish mass murderer Baruch Goldstein...

The Fictional basis of Carr’s Palestine pivot

The Fictional basis of Carr’s Palestine pivot Author: Gabrielle Debinski and Ahron Shapiro Categories: Australasia, Updates    

In a speech to the Australian Friends of Palestine Association, reproduced in part in the Australian, Bob Carr justifies his pivot on the Middle East by referring to "apartheid," one of many factual and wholly irrational errors in the claims he has made against Israel as part of his push for Australia to support unilateral declaration of a Palestinian state.

Mahmoud Abbas and the Jerusalem disturbances

Mahmoud Abbas and the Jerusalem disturbances Categories: Israel, Palestinians, Updates    

This Update contains material providing additional background to and analysis of the ongoing clashes in Jerusalem, which have led to several terror attacks, and left more Israelis dead from terrorism in the last month than in the past two years. The unrest has ostensibly been tied to claims about a supposed "threat" to the Temple Mount, holy to both Jews and Muslims, which houses the Al-Aqsa Mosque and Dome of the Rock. A good general summary of the situation was provided by Jamie Hyams in a blog earlier this week - this Update provides supplemental historical context and more up to date political analysis and background.

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Priest tells UN: Israel is the "only safe place" for Christians in the Middle East

Priest tells UN: Israel is the "only safe place" for Christians in the Middle East Author: Sharyn Mittelman Categories: Israel, Updates    

Today Christians are the most persecuted religious minority in the world, according to a new report by Catholic charity "Aid to the Church in Need". At the launch of the report, Prince Charles commented in a video message, "It is an indescribable tragedy that Christianity is now under such threat in the Middle East, an area where Christians have lived for 2,000 years and across which Islam spread in 700 AD, with people of different faiths living together peaceably for centuries."

At this time of suffering and persecution of Christian communities throughout the Middle East, Israel is the only country in the region where the Christian population is safe and growing. This important point was recently made in a powerful speech in Arabic to the UN Human Rights Council by Father Gabriel Naddaf, a Greek Orthodox priest from Nazareth.

US Mideast Policy and the Congressional Elections

US Mideast Policy and the Congressional Elections Categories: America, Israel, Middle East, Updates    

This Update features comment on how last week's US Congressional election - which saw the Republicans gain control of the Senate to add to their majority in the House of Representatives and made other major political gains - may affect US Middle East policy up until Nov. 2016, when a successor to US President Barack Obama will be elected.

Carr's tall tales on settlement growth just plain false

Carr's tall tales on settlement growth just plain false Author: Ahron Shapiro Categories: Israel, Palestinians, Updates    

In his op-ed in the Weekend Australian, "Why I'm now a friend of Palestine rather than Israel" (paywall restricted) the new patron of the Labor Friends of Palestine, former foreign minister Bob Carr, makes the claim that "they [Israel's settlements] have doubled in the past 54 months alone".

This claim appears to be unsubstantiated fiction that may serve no useful purpose except to promote two complete and utter falsehoods: that new settlements are being built; and that housing expansion for Jews in the West Bank is higher than historical averages.

Al-Aqsa, incitement and the car intifada

Al-Aqsa, incitement and the car intifada Author: Jamie Hyams Categories: Israel, Palestinians, Updates    

Some say that Israel may be in the grip of a "third intifada". While the first was characterised by civil disobedience, rioting and rock-throwing, and the second by large scale terrorism, most notable suicide bombing, this one has so far featured attacks by drivers ramming their cars into pedestrians, a far more difficult form of attack to prevent. Such an intifada would be disastrous for both Israelis and Palestinians, but at least some of the impetus for it appears to be coming from the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas himself.

Sinai jihadists pledge support to ISIS

Sinai jihadists pledge support to ISIS Author: Sharyn Mittelman Categories: Egypt, Islamic Extremism, Palestinians, Updates    

Terrorist activity in the Sinai Peninsula has escalated, and recently jihadist groups there have pledged their support to the ‘Islamic State'. In the worst assault in years, two attacks on Egyptian military positions in the Sinai on October 24 killed at least 33 Egyptian soldiers.  In response, Egypt declared a state of emergency, closed its Rafah border crossing with the Hamas controlled Gaza Strip, and decreed that it would demolish 800 homes along the Gaza border, displacing around 10,000 people, to create a 500 metre wide buffer zone with Gaza in order to prevent fighters and weapons streaming into Egypt.

Sorry, Tony: UNSC 242 says borders are negotiable

Sorry, Tony: UNSC 242 says borders are negotiable Author: Ahron Shapiro Categories: Israel, Palestinians, United Nations, Updates    

Tony Walker's recent column "First Principles in the Middle East" (AFR, October 25 - subscription required) resurrected a specious claim about UN Security Council Resolution 242 - the blueprint passed in November 1967 that created the land-for-peace formula for peace between Israel and its neighbours.

Walker claimed that the "Lack of the definite article ‘the' before the word ‘territories' has been misinterpreted by Israeli propagandists to argue [UNSC 242's call for Israeli withdrawal] does not extend to all territories occupied in 1967."

However, an examination of the stated intent of the resolution's drafters, the newspaper accounts of the time it was written and passed, and expert analysis shows that the real misinterpretation here is by Walker.

The Success of Islamist Propaganda

The Success of Islamist Propaganda Categories: Islamic Extremism, Middle East, Palestinians, Updates    

In the wake of a series of apparent Islamist "lone wolf" terror attacks in Canada and New York, this Update looks at the sophisticated media strategy that Islamist groups - and especially ISIS - are increasingly employing to further their cause and recruit volunteers and sympathisers. It also looks at Hamas' social media strategy during the recent Gaza conflict.

The reality TV test

The reality TV test Author: Gabrielle Debinski Categories: Israel, Middle East, Palestinians, Updates    

Furore erupted throughout the Arab world last week when the Saudi owned MBC TV network referred to "Israel" on a world map it showed on its popular TV program, Arab Idol, rather than using the name "Palestine". MBC was forced to issue an apology after it identified Israel as the country of origin of two female Arab Israeli contestants, Manal Moussa and Haitham Khalailah, both from villages in northern Israel. Almost immediately, fuming viewers took to social media to air their anger with what they referred to as the Saudi-TV network’s "serious offence."

The two women, aged 24 and 25 respectively, are the first Arab Israelis to ever participate in the singing competition, which launched its new season in mid-September. The reality TV show, based on the original British version of Pop Idol, boasts tens of millions of viewers and reportedly, is the most widely watched program across the entire Arab world.

US$5.4 Billion Pledged for Gaza

US$5.4 Billion Pledged for Gaza Categories: Middle East, Palestinians, Updates    

This Update deals with the international donors conference for Gaza that took place in Cairo on Sunday, and led to pledges of US$5.4 billion in money to be divided equally between Gaza reconstruction and the Palestinian Authority.

We lead with a critique of the likely effects of the conference from veteran Israeli Arab Affairs journalist Khaled Abu Toameh. Toameh argues that despite the promises to funnel the money through the Palestinian Authority (PA), the donors are nonetheless empowering Hamas, which will benefit politically from the money and be able to use its other resources to dig tunnels and rebuild weapons.

Givat Hamatos – the origins and significance of yet another settlement controversy

Givat Hamatos – the origins and significance of yet another settlement controversy Author: Gabrielle Debinski and Tzvi Fleischer Categories: America, Israel, Palestinians, Updates    

Media coverage of Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's meeting with US President Barack Obama at the White House on October 1, was largely dominated by concurrent statements from the White House and US State Department respectively, denouncing an Israeli decision to persevere with the planning of 2,610 housing units in the Givat Hamatos area in east Jerusalem.

This not only detracted from other important issues but also symbolised of dysfunctional and immune from basic factual reality the debate about Israeli settlements has become internationally.

Efforts to stop a Nuclear Iran coming to a bad end?

Efforts to stop a Nuclear Iran coming to a bad end? Categories: International Security, Iran, Updates    

This Update is devoted to some increasingly pessimistic prognoses that are appearing for the p5+1 (US, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany) nuclear talks with Iran that are scheduled to be completed by Nov. 25.

First up is Canadian-American author and columnist David Frum, who congratulates Iran's negotiators, arguing they have convincingly won the encounter with their American and allied counterparts, even though, as of last year, the cards seemed to all be in the Americans' hands as sanctions were having significant negative effects on the Iranian economy.

The significance of the Netanyahu-Modi meeting in New York

The significance of the Netanyahu-Modi meeting in New York Author: Sharyn Mittelman Categories: Asia, Israel, Updates    

Israel and India have been gradually developing closer ties since India's formal diplomatic recognition of Israel in 1992. Today Israel is one of the largest military suppliers to India, and Israeli agricultural technologies including drip irrigation are helping feed India's huge population. While trade and investment between Israel and India have flourished, and today is estimated around US$6 billion, (high level political contacts between Israel and India have frequently lagged behind. That is what made Israeli Prime Minister's Benjamin Netanyahu's meeting with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on September 28 in New York particularly significant.

AIR
Some take-out from Julia Gillard’s “My Story”

Some take-out from Julia Gillard’s “My Story” Author: AIJAC staff Categories: Australasia, Updates    

This week former Prime Minister Julia Gillard released her autobiography, My Story - detailing and justifying her experiences and decision-making during her three year and three day term as Prime Minister of Australia. It contains her personal account of Australia's developing relationship with the international community, the government's efforts to secure a seat on the UN Security Council and of her relationships with key government figures, among other things.

Abbas/Netanyahu Speeches at the UN

Abbas/Netanyahu Speeches at the UN Categories: Israel, Palestinians, Updates    

Over the past week, both Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli PM Binyamin Netanyahu spoke at the opening session of the UN General Assembly (their speeches are available in full here and here respectively). Abbas' speech was regarded almost universally in Israel as particularly confrontational - not only accusing Israel of planned "genocide" in Gaza and seeming to justify terrorism, but apparently declaring it "impossible" to return to negotiations -  and was even condemned by the US State Department as "counterproductive" and containing "offensive characterizations that were deeply disappointing". Netanayhu's speech - a useful summary of its key points is here -  responded in detail to Abbas on Gaza making it clear Hamas was to blame for the destruction and death in Gaza (and showed a photo of Palestinian kids playing around rocket launchers);  addressed the spread of Islamist extremism in the Middle East while especially warning of the threat of a nuclear Iran; and finally contained a new element - a call for a " “broader rapprochement” between Israel and the wider Arab world which might help faciliate a two-state peace. This Update deals with the implications of both speeches.

Terror apologist Yvonne Ridley given a free ride on the ABC

Terror apologist Yvonne Ridley given a free ride on the ABC Author: Gabrielle Debinski and Tzvi Fleischer Categories: Anti-Zionism, Antisemitism, Islamic Extremism, Israel, Media/ Academia, Middle East, Palestinians, Terrorism, Updates    

On September 26, controversial British Muslim convert and journalist, Yvonne Ridley, delivered an address at a radical Islamic conference in Melbourne. Promoting her ‘speaking tour' in Australia, the contentious Ridley, who converted to Islam in 2003 after she was kidnapped by the Taliban in Afghanistan in 2001, appeared on ABC Radio's "AM" program the following day. Ridley is well-known for her role as a former presenter and current frequent guest on Press TV, the Iranian government's English language station, notorious for its anti-Zionist, anti-Western propaganda, and for her apologetics - sometime sounding almost like justification - for Islamist and Arab terrorism.

Not that you would know any of this from the ABC interview itself.

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Hamas and the welfare of Gazans

Hamas and the welfare of Gazans Categories: Palestinians, Updates    

This Update, dealing with some realities of Gaza post-conflict, and especially Hamas' role in them, leads with an extraordinary collection of testimony from Gazans.

The testimony, collected by British-based Palestinian writer and commentator Mudar Zahran, comes from an impressive variety of anonymous individuals from different walks of life in Gaza explaining their experience of the recent conflict and the general situation of living under Hamas rule.

What really happened in the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks that broke down in April?

What really happened in the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks that broke down in April? Author: Allon Lee Categories: Israel, Middle East, Palestinians, Updates    

One of the most persistent myths, and one which was repeatedly hammered before, during and after the recent Gaza war by some supposedly knowledgeable commentators, was the accusation that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was ultimately to blame for the war's outbreak because he has stymied all efforts at establishing a Palestinian state.

Yet if one looks at the totality of the evidence the picture being painted of Israeli intransigence spoiling peace hopes does not hold water.

43 out of tens of thousands in 8200

43 out of tens of thousands in 8200 Author: Gabrielle Debinski Categories: Israel, Middle East, Palestinians, Updates    

The international media has been abuzz with stories about the petition letter signed by 43 reservists of the elite IDF intelligence unit 8200 on September 12. The letter, which is addressed to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, IDF General Chief of Staff, Benny Gantz and Military Intelligence Director, Major General Aviv Kochavi, states that the reservists refuse to continue service in the elite intelligence division, citing mistreatment and "extortion" of Palestinians under Israeli surveillance as the driving force behind their "moral" stance.

Abbas' new "peace plan"

Abbas' new "peace plan" Categories: Israel, Palestinians, Updates    

Last weekend, at a closed session of the Arab League Summit in Turkey, Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas reportedly announced his plan to move ahead with peace process with Israel, and had it endorsed by the Arab League. While the details have not been publicly announced, they have been leaked in various news reports and reportedly entail a plan that the UN Security Council would make Israel withdraw to the pre-1967 boundaries within three years - or else Israel would be brought before the International Criminal Court and security cooperation with the Palestinians ended - if agreement on a final peace is not reached between the parties during a nine-month negotiating process. The plan has reportedly been rejected by the US Administration. This Update deals with the difficulties of this plan, and the wider problem of Israeli-Palestinian peace making after the Gaza conflict.

A map essential to understanding Israel’s decision to declare 1000 acres of land in the Etzion bloc “state land”

A map essential to understanding Israel’s decision to declare 1000 acres of land in the Etzion bloc “state land” Author: Gabrielle Debinski Categories: Israel, Middle East, NGOs, Palestinians, Updates    

There has been fierce debate and confusion regarding the recent decision of Israel's civil administration to declare 988 acres of land in the West Bank Gush Etzion area as "state land." The decision, announced by the Israeli government on August 31, is reportedly the precursor for the expansion of the small Gva'ot settlement into a much larger town.

Almost immediately after making the pronouncement, the Israeli government came under fire from the US, the EU and the Palestinian Authority, with such condemnations reverberating throughout the international press. Yet, as Dr Tzvi Fleischer highlighted in an AIJAC blog post last week, much of the critique circulating in the press omits essential background information regarding where this land is and what this move actually means.

The truth about the Gaza war (hint: it's not what Ruth Pollard tells you)

The truth about the Gaza war (hint: it's not what Ruth Pollard tells you) Author: AIJAC staff Categories: Israel, Media/ Academia, Palestinians, Updates    

Over the past couple of months, readers of the Fairfax papers the Age, Sydney Morning Herald and Canberra Times have been subjected to Middle East correspondent Ruth Pollard's coverage of the Gaza conflict.

In our opinion, her general coverage – especially her feature article in the Saturday August 30 editions of the papers – has been full of misrepresentations, omissions and lack of context. The August 30 article appears intended to portray Israel as the villain, and the party that has come out of the conflict in the worst possible light, as compared to Hamas.

Below is the article, with our comments inserted where relevant.

Letter to the UN from two bereaved parents

Letter to the UN from two bereaved parents Author: Sharyn Mittelman Categories: Israel, Palestinians, Updates    

On August 22, Gila and Doron Tregerman suffered a tragic loss when their four-year old son, Daniel, was killed by a mortar round that allegedly was fired from next to a Gaza school. On September 3, the couple, who live in Kibbutz Nahal Oz, near the Gaza border, wrote an emotional and heartfelt letter to the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, calling on the UN to also investigate Hamas for its war crimes committed during the latest conflict. The letter concludes, "We do not seek the people responsible for our Daniel's death. We only wish your response and your voice against this crime and the crime Hamas committed against their own people."

Welcome to Sderot, a resilient town that won't be bowed

Welcome to Sderot, a resilient town that won't be bowed Author: Ahron Shapiro Categories: Israel, Updates    

A week after Hamas agreed to an Egyptian-brokered ceasefire plan, bringing an end to over two months of rocket attacks and drawing to a close Israel's 50-day Operation Protective Edge, life for residents of southern Israel is slowly returning to normal.

On Wednesday, AIJAC Policy Analyst Ahron Shapiro visited the border town of Sderot - which in this escalation, as in previous ones, was the target of massive amounts of rocket and mortar fire from Gaza - surveyed some of the damage caused by the war and spoke to some of the residents about the situation.

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What should be understood about Israel's controversial decision to zone 1000 acres as state land in the Etzion bloc

What should be understood about Israel's controversial decision to zone 1000 acres as state land in the Etzion bloc Author: Tzvi Fleischer Categories: Israel, Palestinians, Updates    

On August 31 Israel made a controversial decision, announcing that it would designate around 988 acres of land in the West Bank Gush Etzion region as "state land". According to reports, the decision will pave the way for the expansion of a small existing settlement known as Gva'ot into a much larger town. This has been controversial within Israel, with even Justice Minister Tzipi Livni criticising the move. However, some Australian media coverage of the issue has lacked basic context.

Some maps of Gaza, based on UN data, that everyone should see Author: Gabrielle Debinski Categories: Israel, Palestinians, United Nations, Updates    

On August 15, OCHA- the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, released its 100-page report called the “Gaza Crisis Atlas.” Its key findings should be essential reading for anyone interested in what happened in Gaza. While it seems doubtful that this is what was intended by OCHA – which has a reputation for pro-Palestinian activism – the data the UN supplies destroys a lot of myths and misconceptions about Israel’s military actions in Gaza.

 Erez crossing attack illustrates Hamas' attitude to its own civilians

Erez crossing attack illustrates Hamas' attitude to its own civilians Author: Or Avi-Guy Categories: Israel, Palestinians, Terrorism, Updates    

The Erez Crossing is perhaps the most important lifeline for the provision of medical aid to Palestinians in Gaza. Tragically, Hamas repeatedly launched mortars at the crossing during the recent Gaza conflict, in blatant disregard for the safely and well-being of Gazans, even those who are the most vulnerable- the sick or injured.

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The myth of the "siege" of Gaza

The myth of the "siege" of Gaza Author: Glen Falkenstein and Tzvi Fleischer Categories: Israel, Palestinians, Updates    

The whole notion of a "siege" of Gaza is a myth, even though mainstream media figures insist it is the key issue in the Gaza conflict. First of all, it is simply not true that Israel has been preventing humanitarian aid from entering Gaza up until now, as many seem to assume or imply. As a recent AIJAC post demonstrates, even throughout the Gaza conflict, the Kerem Shalom crossing from Israel into Gaza remained open and tens of thousands of tons of aid, food and medical supplies entered Gaza.

Three experienced journalists critique media coverage of Gaza

Three experienced journalists critique media coverage of Gaza Categories: Israel, Media/ Academia, Palestinians, Updates    

There has been much criticism of the media's performance during the recent Gaza conflict (where, happily, the ceasefire agreed to on Tuesday seems to be holding.) Examples from AIJAC include the Australian piece by Gabrielle Debinski, Tzvi Fleischer and Or Avi-Guy last month and Israeli academic Eytan Gilboa's piece in the latest edition of the Australia-Israel Review. This Update features detailed critiques of aspects of the media's performance by three senior, experienced journalists who appear to be in a good position to know what they are talking about - including two former Middle East correspondents for major international wire services. 

The prospects of the latest Gaza ceasefire

The prospects of the latest Gaza ceasefire Categories: Israel, Palestinians, Updates    

A new Gaza ceasefire, brokered by Egypt, came into effect last night at 7:00pm Israel time. Unlike all previous ceasefire, this one is indefinite in duration and many commentators are treating it as likely ending the Gaza conflict for the time being - although of course Hamas has broken numerous previous ceasefires. It is being celebrated in Gaza as a supposed victory. This Update deals with the terms of the ceasefire, evaluations of why Hamas agreed to a deal which looks very similar to previous offers they turned down, and what might happen from here.

The strange justice of William Schabas and the UNHRC

The strange justice of William Schabas and the UNHRC Author: Gabrielle Debinski Categories: Israel, Media/ Academia, Middle East, Terrorism, United Nations, Updates    

Many people, both within Israel and around the world, were unsurprised when the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) announced that it was launching a formal investigation into "possible war crimes" committed by Israel during Operation Protective Edge, which was launched on July 8 in response to incessant rocket fire from Hamas in the Gaza Strip into Israeli cities.

It did so in a resolution passed on July 23 which never mentions Hamas but declares Israel guilty, stating that the council "condemns in the strongest terms the widespread, systematic and gross violations of international human rights and fundamental freedoms arising from the Israeli military operations" in the occupied territories...

Gaza fighting resumes, what happens now?

Gaza fighting resumes, what happens now? Categories: Israel, Palestinians, Updates    

With Gaza fighting resuming on Tuesday when Hamas fired rockets after 8 days of agreed ceasefires, this Update is devoted to where matters might go from here.

First up is Israeli journalist Shmuel Rosner, who outlines 4 different scenarios about how this round of conflict might proceed and end. Among them are a ceasefire without negotiations, resumption of negotiations and a ceasefire, a renewed campaign of Israeli bombing and other military pressure and an escalation by Israel into a large-scale ground attack.

Fairfax doubles down on poorly informed and tendentious commentaries

Fairfax doubles down on poorly informed and tendentious commentaries Author: Ahron Shapiro Categories: Israel, Media/ Academia, Palestinians, Updates    

Peter George was the ABC's first Middle East correspondent, dating back to the 1980s. Yet by the looks of an op-ed that he wrote and was prominently published on August 6 in Fairfax' flagship papers - The Age, The Sydney Morning Herald and The Canberra Times, he is still living in the past - refusing to acknowledge the numerous concessions and policy risks Israel has taken since the 1993 Oslo Agreement towards reaching a peace agreement with the Palestinians, including under current Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, nor the shift in Israeli views since then, with clear public majorities and all major political parties supporting a two-state resolution.

Instead, George literally rewrites history in his op-ed, bizarrely seeming to blame Netanyahu for the security fence and unfairly portraying him as an impediment to Palestinian statehood.

Foreign Press Association condemns Hamas threats to journalists - and vindicates claims intimidation is affecting Gaza coverage

Foreign Press Association condemns Hamas threats to journalists - and vindicates claims intimidation is affecting Gaza coverage Author: Sharyn Mittelman Categories: Israel, Palestinians, Updates    

The Foreign Press Association has issued a strong condemnation of Hamas' harassment of foreign media in Gaza on August 11. It stated, "The FPA protests in the strongest terms the blatant, incessant, forceful and unorthodox methods employed by the Hamas authorities and their representatives against visiting international journalists in Gaza over the past month..."

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Israel continues to deliver humanitarian aid to Gaza, despite Hamas’ efforts

Israel continues to deliver humanitarian aid to Gaza, despite Hamas’ efforts Author: Gabrielle Debinski Categories: Israel, Middle East, Palestinians, Terrorism, Updates    

In recent weeks, the media has focused overwhelmingly on the ‘humanitarian crisis' developing in Gaza. Interestingly, neither the media nor the UN or other ‘human rights' groups - quick to condemn Israel for imposing a partial ‘blockade' on the Gaza Strip - have made any mention of the thousands of trucks of humanitarian aid that have continued to pour in from Israel. They continued coming even in the face of incessant Hamas rocket fire hitting Israeli towns and cities, and they continued coming even as Hamas attacked the border crossing itself.

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Gaza's border in a lasting ceasefire deal/ Hamas and the Media

Gaza's border in a lasting ceasefire deal/ Hamas and the Media Categories: Israel, Palestinians, Updates    

The three day ceasefire that has been in effect in Gaza since Tuesday morning ended a few hours ago, and sadly, Hamas has chosen to resume rocket fire, firing 11 rockets in the first hour. This seems to pretty much guarantee the recent Gaza war will resume and Gazans are reportedly fleeing the border area, though as of this writing, Israel had not yet started to respond. Before the ceasefire's expiration, Hamas refused calls to extend it despite an Israeli agreement to do so. Already, a few hours before the ceasefire ended, two rockets struck Israel from Gaza.

This Update focuses on what a long-term ceasefire deal might look like, and more specifically on what arrangements for Gaza's borders might make possible Gaza's demilitarisation, a key demand of Israel, backed by much of the international community, including many Arab states (Sharyn Mittelman had a great deal on the demilitarisation issue in a blog yesterday.)

The only long-term solution: demilitarise Gaza

The only long-term solution: demilitarise Gaza Author: Sharyn Mittelman Categories: Israel, Palestinians, Updates    

Attention is now focused on how a long-term solution can be reached to prevent a repeat of this Israel-Gaza conflict as well as the ones that had been played out before in 2012 and 2009. Israel believes that the answer is the demilitarisation of the Gaza Strip through diplomatic means in exchange for significant investment in reconstruction and the easing of border restrictions. The demilitarisation of Gaza is also supported by the EU, US, Canada and many Arab states.

Madly Yours – The truth about the media’s favourite Gaza doctor

Madly Yours – The truth about the media’s favourite Gaza doctor Author: Robert Ellenhorn Categories: Media/ Academia, Updates    

During the coverage of the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas, many officials, experts, and other personalities have been called on to offer reports, insights and analysis to the public. Unfortunately and puzzlingly, one such voice making its way into the media has been that of Norwegian doctor Mads Gilbert. So just who is Dr. Gilbert?

Crucial context and facts missing in media’s reporting on shelling of UN schools in Gaza

Crucial context and facts missing in media’s reporting on shelling of UN schools in Gaza Author: Gabrielle Debinski Categories: Israel, Palestinians, Updates    

“US ‘appalled’ by ‘disgraceful’ Israeli shelling of UN school,” “UN Chief calls attack ‘moral outrage’ and ‘criminal act’” as well as “Another UN school hit in Israeli bombing in Gaza” are just some of the hyperbolic headlines that have been attached to reports on Israel’s ‘supposed’ shelling of a UN school in Rafah, southern Gaza, on August 3.

The international media has been abuzz with this story of an apparent Israeli shelling of the UN school, which was reportedly being used to shelter 3,000 displaced Palestinians in Gaza.

The truth about the population density of Gaza and Hamas tactics

The truth about the population density of Gaza and Hamas tactics Author: Robert Ellenhorn Categories: Israel, Media/ Academia, Palestinians, Terrorism, Updates    

The piece by former ABC correspondent Peter George, published in three Fairfax papers today, The Age, Sydney Morning Herald and Canberra Times, is replete with misinformation, lack of knowledge, and dubious claims. This is not the place to confront all of them in detail, but one telling example is his repetition of an increasingly common but easily disproven myth - that Gaza is so densely populated, Hamas has no choice but to locate its military infrastructure and launch missiles from built up areas. 

Hundreds of Hamas Rockets Have Been Falling in Gaza

Hundreds of Hamas Rockets Have Been Falling in Gaza Author: Glen Falkenstein Categories: Israel, Terrorism, Updates    

Many commentators discussing the recent conflict in Gaza do not realise that Hamas' indiscriminate rocket fire has meant that residents of Gaza, as well as Israelis, have been affected by Hamas' aggression. A sizeable minority of all the rockets that terrorist groups launched from Gaza at Israel never make it - and instead land inside the crowded Gaza Strip, where they can frequently cause considerable damage, deaths and injuries.

Gaza ceasefires, a history

Gaza ceasefires, a history Author: Ahron Shapiro Categories: Israel, Palestinians, Updates    

Israel has just announced its acceptance of another 72-hour ceasefire to begin this morning, Israel time. Following yesterday's seven-hour humanitarian ceasefire announced by the IDF there have now been seven ceasefires the IDF has accepted in the current conflict. On the Hamas side, some of the ceasefires were accepted, some were rejected, but regardless, none have been respected by Hamas, which has continued to bombard Israel and carry out attacks during times the IDF has been holding its fire.

Lets take a look at some of those ceasefires, and their outcomes.

Foreign journalists in Gaza witness rockets fired from Shifa hospital and other civilian populated areas

Foreign journalists in Gaza witness rockets fired from Shifa hospital and other civilian populated areas Author: Gabrielle Debinski Categories: Israel, Palestinians, Updates    

Hamas' tactic of using civilians in Gaza as ‘human shields' by firing rockets from highly populated areas and institutions, and storing military assets in civilian buildings has been a central issue during debate over the current conflict between Israel and Hamas. While this has been the subject of some controversy, new reports from journalists should now lay to rest any doubts.

 What happened in Shujaiyeh?

What happened in Shujaiyeh? Author: Or Avi-Guy Categories: Israel, Palestinians, Terrorism, Updates    

Ruth Pollard's report from Gaza on the Age ("Israel calls up 16,000 reservists after school hit," 1 Aug.) was accompanied by a UN satellite image of Shujaiyeh. The image highlighted large areas of destroyed structures. However, reports in Israeli media about Shujaiyeh provide important insight and context about the scope of destruction.

So what did happen in Shujaiyeh?

Tunnels provide yet more evidence of Hamas’ use of ostensibly civilian buildings for military purposes

Tunnels provide yet more evidence of Hamas’ use of ostensibly civilian buildings for military purposes Author: Robert Ellenhorn Categories: Israel, Palestinians, Terrorism, Updates    

As the war in Gaza moves into its fourth week, additional information about Hamas' extensive network of underground tunnels is beginning to surface. One thing that has become increasingly clear is that, in keeping with Hamas practice, the entrances to many tunnels are located in clinics, homes, and mosques (Some evidence of this Hamas policy was discussed by Sharyn Mittelman in a previous post). Meanwhile my post yesterday contained additional video evidence of sniper fire and rocket storage at Gaza's al-Wafa hospital - which is also alleged to have contained a terror tunnel complete with fake IDF uniforms to carry out terror attacks.

A Demilitarised Gaza?/ Hamas' capabilities

A Demilitarised Gaza?/ Hamas' capabilities Categories: Israel, Palestinians, Updates    

With a 72-hour humanitarian ceasefire coming into effect in Gaza a couple of hours ago, along with plans to spend the three days on intensive efforts in Cairo to negotiate something more lasting, this Update focuses on the prospects and modalities of Israel's key demand for the conflict's outcome, Gaza's demilitarisation - a policy also supported in principle both by US President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry. It also includes some new valuable background material on Hamas' military capabilities and tactics in this conflict so far.

Videos and photos everyone should see if they want to understand the Gaza conflict Author: Robert Ellenhorn Categories: Israel, Multimedia, Updates    

Both footage released by the Israeli Defence Forces and reporting by other outlets in recent days have exposed plainly Hamas' strategy of firing and storing rockets in civilian areas - particularly schools, hospitals and mosques. Also coming to light through the release of video clips are the efforts Israel has tried to take in order to minimise civilian casualties.

AIR
The significance of France's violently antisemitic "protests"

The significance of France's violently antisemitic "protests" Author: Sharyn Mittelman Categories: Antisemitism, Europe, Updates    

While antisemitism has been rising in Europe for some time, it has been on full display at recent protests against Israel's military operation. France especially, has shown the extent to which these violent protests and other antisemitic actions - some of which resembled small pogroms directed at Jewish neighbourhoods - can make the lives of local Jewish communities deeply uncomfortable, perhaps untenable.

Hamas' Terror Tunnels: A Game Changer in “Operation Protective Edge”

Hamas' Terror Tunnels: A Game Changer in “Operation Protective Edge” Author: Glen Falkenstein Categories: Israel, Terrorism, Updates    

Since Israel began its ground operation in Gaza as part of "Operation Protective Edge," the extent of Hamas' tunnel network stretching from Gaza into Israel has quite literally been exposed by the IDF. The vast network was built by Hamas to enter Israel and carry out terror attacks, and its extent has reportedly shocked both Israeli security analysts and the general public. It has now become one of Israel's primary goals in the current conflict to see the tunnels found and destroyed.

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More evidence Gaza casualty figures are unreliable Author: Or Avi-Guy Categories: Israel, Palestinians, Terrorism, Updates    

My recent blog post pointed out how casualty data from Gaza is unreliable, noting that the Hamas-controlled Health Ministry is the main source of information about casualties in Gaza. In yet more evidence that commonly employed casualty claims are unreliable, it has now been shown that the al Jazeera casualty list includes numerous duplicate names.

Hamas’ other terror tactic: intimidating foreign journalists

Hamas’ other terror tactic: intimidating foreign journalists Author: Gabrielle Debinski Categories: Anti-Zionism, Israel, Media/ Academia, NGOs, Palestinians, Terrorism, Updates    

As the conflict between Israel and Hamas enters its third week, foreign journalists are increasingly flocking to the region, reporting from both Gaza and within Israel. In addition, more and more accounts of intimidation and abuse towards foreign journalists stationed in the Strip, both via social media as well as from Hamas operatives on the ground, are emerging.

In recent weeks several foreign journalists have released details of threats, intimidation and blackmail directed against them in the wake of their reporting on the reality as they see it in Gaza. Much of this abuse has stemmed from journalists' coverage of Hamas' tactic of firing rockets into Israel from civilian institutions or highly populated civilian areas. At the same time, reports relating to Hamas' use of Gaza's Shifa hospital - the largest and most important in the Gaza Strip - as a ‘hotbed' for storing weapons and launching rockets has also elicited intimidation from Hamas operatives in Gaza - as well as threats and abuse from pro-Palestinian advocates online.

Hamas’ targeting of Ben Gurion airport has large implications

Hamas’ targeting of Ben Gurion airport has large implications Author: Robert Ellenhorn Categories: Israel, Terrorism, Updates    

Reports emerged on Wednesday of a Hamas rocket, fired into Israel that landed within 2 kilometres or so of Israel's Ben Gurion International airport. This prompted a US Federal Aviation Association (FAA) ban on American based airlines flying to the airport just outside of Tel Aviv as well as the cancellation of flights by other international airlines. Air traffic to and from Israel was reduced almost exclusively to El-Al flights, which continued operating - leaving thousands of travellers stranded. While the FAA ban was lifted today, the closure has both immediate and longer-term implications.

Many Arab commentators “get it” with respect to Hamas

Many Arab commentators “get it” with respect to Hamas Author: Robert Ellenhorn Categories: Israel, Media/ Academia, Palestinians, Updates    

In the past, whenever there was violence between Israel and the Palestinians or other Arab groups, the Arab media have generally been pretty uniform and predictable in denouncing whatever Israel is doing as an evil crime, and defending whatever the side fighting with Israel is doing as completely justifiable, even heroic. This seems to be changing in the current Gaza conflict.

In first interview Netanyahu explains to CNN’s Wolf Blitzer Israel’s war aims

In first interview Netanyahu explains to CNN’s Wolf Blitzer Israel’s war aims Author: Gabrielle Debinski Categories: America, Israel, Middle East, Palestinians, Terrorism, United Nations, Updates    

On July 20, Israel's Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, gave his first formal media interview since Israel launched ‘Operation Protective Edge' in response to incessant Hamas rocket fire just over two weeks ago.

The full interview can be viewed here.

Speaking to CNN reporter, Wolf Blitzer, Netanyahu talked extensively for almost fifteen minutes about the objectives of Israel's operation, which has seen over 40,000 Israeli soldiers and reservists called up to deter Hamas from continuously firing rockets at Israeli cities from what has become a terrorist enclave in the Gaza Strip.

Memo to ABC, SBS: Al-Jazeera has a conflict of interest

Memo to ABC, SBS: Al-Jazeera has a conflict of interest Author: Ahron Shapiro Categories: Gulf states, Israel, Palestinians, Updates    

The integrity of coverage of the current fighting between Hamas and Israel by Australia's national broadcaster, ABC, and its sister organisation SBS, has been compromised by their problematic and repeated use of reports by al-Jazeera, an organisation owned by the government of Qatar.

Biased against Israel in its coverage even at the best of times, al-Jazeera must be seen as having an egregious conflict of interest when it comes to the Israel-Hamas conflict, because Qatar is currently the biggest funding source for Hamas, and, together with Turkey, had been actively shilling a ceasefire plan that transparently serves Hamas' interests.

Why Gaza "civilian casualty" numbers should be taken with a grain of salt Author: Or Avi-Guy Categories: Israel, Palestinians, Terrorism, Updates    

One of the most often cited criticisms of Israeli military operations is the supposedly disproportionate civilian death toll, which is all too often based on unreliable or heavily biased sources.Several detailed analyses of the actual casualty figures confirm that it is clear that Israel is definitely not indicriminately targeting Gazans - despite the rhetoric one often hears about the Palestinian casualties.

The Tunnel Dilemma

The Tunnel Dilemma Categories: Israel, Palestinians, Updates    

Tonight’s Update focuses solely on Israel’s Operation Protective Edge in the wake of Israel's ground penetration into Gaza and, more specifically, the need to destroy the extensive Hamas tunnel network, snaking into Israel, that is at the heart of the Israeli incursion.

Proof positive that Hamas hiding military assets in civilian infrastructure - 20 rockets found in an UNRWA school

Proof positive that Hamas hiding military assets in civilian infrastructure - 20 rockets found in an UNRWA school Author: Sharyn Mittelman Categories: Israel, Palestinians, Updates    

While some commentators have been claiming that Hamas' placing of military assets in civilian areas can be explained by the small dense nature of the Gaza Strip, there is in fact overwhelming evidence that these claims are wrong. It is not simply a situation of Hamas fighters shooting rockets from in or near residential buildings but of Hamas using civilian infrastructure including hospitals, mosques and, even UN administered schools to hide or store its weaponry.  Just this Wesdnesday, rockets were found in a school in Gaza operated by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA).

Why Hamas does not want Gazans to heed Israel warnings

Why Hamas does not want Gazans to heed Israel warnings Author: Robert Ellenhorn Categories: Palestinians, Updates    

While many Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and other terror groups seek shelter in a network of fortified underground tunnels, the civilian population of Gaza is denied access to this shelter and is instead being encouraged to act as human shields against Israeli airstrikes intended to target terror infrastructure intentionally embedded in civilian areas.

AIR
How did the latest Gaza War start? Despite the claims of some, it is no mystery

How did the latest Gaza War start? Despite the claims of some, it is no mystery Author: Or Avi-Guy Categories: Israel, Media/ Academia, Palestinians, Terrorism, Updates    

Ruth Pollard, while reporting on operation "Protective Edge", claimed that "Any attempt to mark a starting point in the latest hostilities is a fraught process."
Apparently the obvious idea that this war was caused by Hamas' decision to shoot rockets at Israel in vastly greater numbers is one that some reporters are simply unwilling to consider.

Israel continues to try to provide humanitarian aid to Gaza, Hamas blocks it

Israel continues to try to provide humanitarian aid to Gaza, Hamas blocks it Author: Sharyn Mittelman Categories: Israel, Palestinians, Updates    

Hamas' disregard for the suffering of civilians can also be seen in its recent orders to deprive Gazans of Israeli humanitarian assistance. On Tuesday, Hamas closed the Erez border crossing into Israel, which stranded a group of around 20 Palestinians planning to travel to Israel for medical treatment.  Despite the current conflict, Israeli hospitals continue to regularly provide medical care to patients from Gaza and the West Bank.

Hamas and the Ceasefire Failure/Proportionality and Gaza

Hamas and the Ceasefire Failure/Proportionality and Gaza Categories: Israel, Palestinians, Updates    

With Hamas having rejected an Egyptian ceasefire deal on Tuesday (the full text of the proposal is here), even after Israel unilaterally ceased fire for several hours (some excellent coverage from Gaza of how Gazans felt about the ceasefire is here) this Update explores what Hamas is trying to achieve via its continued rejection of an end to the fighting. Plus, it also discusses the legally incorrect and counter-productive nature of the focus of so many in the media on the "disproportion" in this conflict between Israeli and Palestinian casualties.

Israel-Hamas hostilities prompt surge of antisemitic incidents

Israel-Hamas hostilities prompt surge of antisemitic incidents Author: Robert Ellenhorn Categories: Anti-Zionism, Antisemitism, Updates    

As has been the case in the past - amid hostilities between Israel and her enemies, attacks on Jews around the world have proliferated. Both physical attacks and blatantly antisemitic rhetoric at rallies and on social media have been evident - despite the routine claims by Israel's critics that they are targeting Israel and its policies, not Jews.

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Machinations over a Gaza ceasefire

Machinations over a Gaza ceasefire Author: Sharyn Mittelman Categories: Egypt, Israel, Palestinians, Updates    

As the fighting between Israel and Gaza continues into the seventh day, a ceasefire proposal brokered by Egypt is on the table and has been supported by both the US and Arab League. Israel has accepted the cease-fire proposal, but the proposal has been rejected by the armed wing of Hamas.

Al-Jazeera documentary scapegoats Israel for Egypt's problems

Al-Jazeera documentary scapegoats Israel for Egypt's problems Author: Ahron Shapiro Categories: Egypt, Israel, Media/ Academia, Updates    

Egypt has a domestic gas shortage, even though it continues to sit on decades worth of proven reserves. Industry analysts, as well as some of the world's top business publications, have made clear that the reason for this shortage has absolutely nothing to do with Israel, which only imported Egyptian gas through a pipeline over a period of about three years, in quantities that amounted to an infinitesimally small fraction of all Egyptian gas exports. Moreover, rather than being the source of Egypt's gas problem, Israel is today part of its solution, and is now coming to Egypt's aid to help ease its production shortfall and meet Cairo's contractual obligations to its trading partners.

In light of these facts, al-Jazeera has plumbed new depths of its historic bias against Israel with its release, with much fanfare, of a documentary on June 9, "Egypt's Lost Power", that blamed Israel for "ripping off the Egyptian people" through the purchase of low-priced Egyptian gas, further implying that this sale was responsible for creating Egypt's gas shortage. It also aired the allegation that Israel is now opportunistically seeking to profit from the crisis and using it as a "tool to screw" and subjugate the Egyptian people.

Israel's options for stopping Hamas' rockets

Israel's options for stopping Hamas' rockets Categories: Israel, Palestinians, Updates    

Today’s Update looks at Israel’s military and strategic options as “Operation Protective Edge” enters a fifth day. With Israeli air strikes targeting Hamas’ command and terror infrastructure in Gaza, rockets are still being fired deep into Israeli territory - including reports some fell close to Israel's nuclear reactor at Dimona. There are also reports that rockets have been fired into northern Israel from Lebanon.

Israel and Japan sign historic R&D agreement

Israel and Japan sign historic R&D agreement Author: Gabrielle Debinski Categories: Asia, China, India, Israel, Updates    

Japan's Minister for Economy, Trade and Industry, Toshimitsu Motegi, touched down in Israel on Sunday for an official visit, heading a delegation of senior members of his ministry as well as leading Japanese business people. The trip, which came about through an invitation from Prime Minister Netanyahu in the wake of his recent visit to Japan in May, is expected to further strengthen economic cooperation between the two countries. In an historic move, Minister Motegi and his Israeli counterpart, Minister for the Economy, Naftali Bennett, signed a research and development (R&D) collaboration agreement, which will make official a joint commitment to collaborate on R&D projects initiated by Israeli and Japanese businesses and research centres. The agreement will be put into practice by the Office of the Chief Scientist (OCS) under Israel's Ministry of Economy.

Hamas ramps up attacks as Israel launches “Operation Protective Edge”

Hamas ramps up attacks as Israel launches “Operation Protective Edge” Author: Robert Ellenhorn Categories: Israel, Palestinians, Updates    

Over 225 rockets and missiles have been fired into Israel from the Gaza Strip since Monday night. Red alert sirens sounded throughout the country as rockets reached as far north as Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and even Hadera- which is around 110 kilometres from Gaza. Israel's Iron Dome defence system shot down approximately 40 of these rockets.

After the kidnappings and murder

After the kidnappings and murder Categories: Israel, Palestinians, Updates    

Today’s Update looks at developments since the burial of Israeli teens Eyal Yifrach, Gil-ad Shaar, and Naftali Fraenkel, amid conflicting reports that Muhammed Abu Khudair, a 16-year-old Palestinian from east Jerusalem might have been murdered in an act of revenge (although other reports suggest criminal, not racist, motives). The murder has been roundly condemned overseas and in Israel, including by PM Benjamin Netanyahu. AIJAC’s statement of condemnation can be seen here. In Jerusalem, 1,000 people demonstrated against anti-Arab incitement, while hundreds of right-wing Jews and Arabs have rioted in Jerusalem.

UN report confirms Iranian arms smuggling

UN report confirms Iranian arms smuggling Author: Robert Ellenhorn Categories: Iran, United Nations, Updates    

Back in March, Israeli Special Forces succeeded in intercepting a ship in the Red Sea, which Israel claimed was transporting Iranian supplied weapons bound for Gaza. Israeli commandos boarded and took control of the "Klos-C" merchant ship about 1500 kilometres from Israel's border in the Red Sea. The ship was believed to have had an intended destination of Port Sudan. Dozens of missiles and other arms were found hidden amongst the cargo. The ship was subsequently towed to Eilat for a full inspection.

Hamas' undeniable terror trail

Hamas' undeniable terror trail Author: Ahron Shapiro Categories: Israel, Palestinians, Terrorism, Updates    

The discovery of the bodies of the three Israeli teenagers kidnapped and murdered by Hamas terrorists last night in Israel brought to a heartbreaking close the IDF's exhaustive search which began on June 13, some seven hours after they were taken while trying to make their way home from Gush Etzion by hitchhiking.

Some of the media's coverage of the kidnappings has been sceptical about Israel's claim that Hamas was responsible for the attack, however, a closer look at Hamas' own statements and actions shows that it is Hamas' denials that should be looked at sceptically.

Hamas seeks to inflame tension on two fronts

Hamas seeks to inflame tension on two fronts Author: Gabrielle Debinski Categories: Israel, Middle East, Palestinians, Terrorism, Updates    

The manhunt for the three Israeli youths missing since June 12 drew to a close last night as three bodies were found in an open field outside Hebron. The search for the abducted youths in the West Bank over the past two-and-a-half weeks has coincided with a dramatic escalation of tensions in Gaza, as terrorist groups in the Strip have stepped-up attacks on southern Israel. While Hamas has not claimed responsibility for the kidnapping and killing of the three teens; Eyal Yifrach, Gil-ad Shaer and Naftali Frankel, Prime Minister Netanyahu has stressed that Israel is certain that Hamas is responsible. 

AIR
Exposing the Palestinian sub-culture of hate and incitement

Exposing the Palestinian sub-culture of hate and incitement Categories: Israel, Palestinians, Terrorism, Updates    

Today’s Update looks at the destructive sub-culture in Palestinian society that legitimises hate for Israel and its people, and results in such all-too-familiar scenarios as the sickening kidnapping and murder of Israeli teenage boys, Eyal Yifrach, Gil-ad Shaar, and Naftali Fraenkel. The trio who went missing 18 days ago, are believed to have been merely trying to hitchhike from the West Bank back to Israel and were abducted and murdered by Hamas members. Their deaths followed months of intense incitement by Hamas for Israelis to be abducted.

Palestinian opinion poll: drifting away from a 2-state solution?

Palestinian opinion poll: drifting away from a 2-state solution? Author: Or Avi-Guy Categories: Palestinians, Updates    

A new poll shows a hardening of Palestinian public opinion regarding the peace process with Israel, and a sharp decline in support for the two-state solution. The poll was conducted among 1,200 West Bank and Gaza Strip Palestinian residents between 15-17 June. It is the first public opinion poll since the kidnapping crisis began.

Gaza's Fuel Woes

Gaza's Fuel Woes Author: Robert Ellenhorn Categories: Palestinians, Updates    

In the midst of an ongoing fuel crisis in March, Qatar agreed to donate the funds necessary to supply Gaza with fuel for three months. The Qatari fuel donation, valued around US$32 million which was part of wider Qatari support of Hamas ran out last week. The end of Qatari donated fuel- delivered by Israel through the Kerem Shalom crossing- spurred the closure of Gaza's only power plant, leaving Gaza's residents without sufficient electricity and subject to long periods of blackouts.

Iran and the Iraq Crisis

Iran and the Iraq Crisis Categories: International Security, Iran, Iraq, Updates    

The subject of this Update is the Iranian role in the crisis in Iraq - and the suggestions being made that the US and its allies share a common interest with Iran in protecting the Baghdad government from the attacks of the Sunni Islamist groups ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria), which has succeeded in overrunning so much of the country.

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Sensationalising 'settlement announcements'

Sensationalising 'settlement announcements' Author: Ahron Shapiro Categories: Israel, NGOs, Palestinians, Updates    

In my blog post from June 2, I showed how construction in Israel's West Bank settlements had slowed, but that the media had failed to report it.

This month, two pieces of commentary by former Bush Administration deputy national security advisor Elliott Abrams - who was the official in charge of monitoring Israel's settlement policies - reinforced some of the very same points I made.

The reality of Hamas-Fatah “unity”

The reality of Hamas-Fatah “unity” Author: Gabrielle Debinski Categories: Israel, Middle East, Palestinians, Updates    

It has become clear over recent days that the crisis created by the kidnapping of three Israeli teens is severely straining the Fatah-Hamas unity pact, signed in April, and implemented via a new "technocratic cabinet" earlier this month. A senior Fatah official was quoted as saying that if Hamas was responsible for the kidnapping, the unity deal will be "void". Meanwhile, Hamas and Fatah have been trading barbs about whether the Palestinian security forces should be helping find the missing teens.

Clinton reveals some vital peacemaking home truths

Clinton reveals some vital peacemaking home truths Author: Allon Lee Categories: Israel, Palestinians, Updates    

It has not received much coverage in Australia, but Hillary Clinton's new book "Hard Choices" chronicling her time as US Secretary of State in President Barack Obama's first administration, upends the oft-made assumption that Israeli-Palestinian peace talks were stillborn between 2009-2012 because of the stances of Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.

Australia's Jerusalem stance welcomed in Israel, Washington, mostly ignored in Arab world

Australia's Jerusalem stance welcomed in Israel, Washington, mostly ignored in Arab world Author: Ahron Shapiro Categories: Australasia, Israel, Middle East, Palestinians, Updates    

Attorney General George Brandis' and Foreign Minister Julie Bishop's recent terminological clarification - that the Abbott Government would not refer to east Jerusalem with any pejorative descriptor, and explicitly not "Occupied East Jerusalem" - was welcomed in the Israeli press but drew limited attention elsewhere, including, tellingly, in most Arab and Muslim countries.

Fatah Gloats: Kidnapping and Palestinian Discourse

Fatah Gloats: Kidnapping and Palestinian Discourse Author: Or Avi-Guy Categories: Israel, NGOs, Palestinians, Terrorism, Updates    

Immediately after reports emerged that three Israeli teens, Eyal Yifrach, Gil-Ad Shaer and Naftali Frenkel, had apparently been abducted last Friday, speculation began as to who was responsible, and where blame lay for this crime. There is one aspect though, in the background of this event, which also deserves our attention - the disturbing reaction of official outlets of the Palestinian Authority (PA), and the Fatah movement.

The Kidnapping of three Israeli Teens and the Fatah-Hamas Unity Deal Categories: Israel, Palestinians, Updates    

Israeli security forces are engaged in an operation to find three Israeli teenagers apparently kidnapped in the West Bank last Thursday night. Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu has said Israel has strong evidence Hamas was responsible and it is clear that Israeli security forces are engaging in a broader crackdown on Hamas in the West Bank, as well as searching for the three missing teens. This Update looks at both Israeli efforts and the implications for the Hamas-Fatah unity deal of the kidnapping and Israeli response.

Sweden: Surveying Antisemitic Attitudes

Sweden: Surveying Antisemitic Attitudes Author: Glen Falkenstein Categories: Antisemitism, Europe, Updates    

The recent survey on worldwide antisemitism conducted by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) labelled Sweden as one of the world's least antisemitic countries and as the least antisemitic country in Europe, with just 4% or those surveyed classified as having "antisemitic attitudes."

The Crisis in Iraq

The Crisis in Iraq Categories: Iraq, Islamic Extremism, Updates    

This Update is devoted to analysis of the crisis in Iraq, where this week an extremist Islamist group, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), took control of the second largest city, Mosul, and then moved to take other major towns, with the Iraqi Army apparently doing little to stop them. (The ISIS success is illustrated in maps here.) Moreover, reports say the ISIS not only captured major weapons stockpiles in the process, but as much as US$425 million from the Iraqi central bank and other banks in Mosul.

At crucial point in #AJtrial, al-Jazeera provokes Egypt

At crucial point in #AJtrial, al-Jazeera provokes Egypt Author: Ahron Shapiro Categories: Egypt, Media/ Academia, Middle East, Updates    

Many Australians have been following the lamentable plight of Peter Greste, the Australian journalist working for al-Jazeera who has been jailed along with two other al-Jazeera colleagues in Egypt since December on charges of conspiring with the banned Muslim Brotherhood to harm Egypt's reputation.

They should now be doubly worried about both their fate and about the judgment of al-Jazeera which published an inflammatory report this week alleging wrongdoing in Egypt's energy trade with Israel that could only serve to fan the flames of Egyptian anger against the Qatari-owned news organisation.

ABC breaks the silence on inanity

ABC breaks the silence on inanity Author: Ahron Shapiro Categories: Israel, Media/ Academia, NGOs, Palestinians, Updates    

ABC Newsradio Drive host Tracey Holmes is an accomplished journalist with Middle East experience. As such, it was puzzling that she would use the controversial NGO Breaking the Silence - an organisation dealing exclusively with IDF conduct in the West Bank - as her source for a lengthy interview regarding Australian policy towards east Jerusalem, a territory both she and her subject should be well aware is covered by Israeli law and not subject to military administration.

Modi and Israel: Both winners in the Indian election?

Modi and Israel: Both winners in the Indian election? Author: Glen Falkenstein Categories: India, Israel, Updates    

Last month saw the biggest electoral victory in India for 30 years. Narendra Modi, a proven state Minister and the face of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), ousted the Congress Party on the promise of major reforms to revive the Indian economy, despite controversy over his role in ethnic violence in Gujarat state in 2002. The victory and the record 66.38% voter turnout have been attributed to the ‘Modi effect' and widespread support for a candidate previously dismissed by many pundits.

Hamas still committed to Israel’s destruction, despite unity deal

Hamas still committed to Israel’s destruction, despite unity deal Author: Sharyn Mittelman Categories: Palestinians, Updates    

A new Palestinian unity government was sworn in on Monday, following an agreement struck between Fatah and Hamas on April 23 to end years of division. Israel is reportedly disappointed that the US has said it will work with the Palestinian unity government, despite the fact that Hamas is considered a terrorist group in the US, and remains committed to Israel's destruction through violent "resistance".

AIR
The new Palestinian Fatah-Hamas government

The new Palestinian Fatah-Hamas government Categories: Palestinians, Updates    

This Update deals with the establishment of a new "technocratic" Palestinian government  - agreed on by Fatah and Hamas and sworn in yesterday - following on from a unity deal reaced in late April. It probes the reasons for the agreement between bitter rivals Fatah and Hamas, the issues likely to come up between them, and the implications for hopes of progress toward peace.

Settlement housing starts slowing, yet media fails to report it

Settlement housing starts slowing, yet media fails to report it Author: Ahron Shapiro Categories: Israel, NGOs, Palestinians, Updates    

Israel's Central Bureau of Statistics released its quarterly statistics on housing starts on Thursday, a document which includes data on Israel's construction in its West Bank settlements. That report showed that construction is down 76.4 per cent from the same quarter in 2013.

The announcement marked the fourth straight quarter of decreases, and housing starts in the settlements are now at its second lowest point since Israel's unilateral construction freeze in 2010.

These facts have not been reported outside of Israel. Instead, foreign correspondents have unfailingly chosen to focus on alarmist reports issued by left-wing NGOs, especially Peace Now, over the same period which are based almost entirely on the misleading criteria of Israeli government "announcements" or the "promotion" of settlement plans to create an illusion that settlement growth was increasing. In fact, it demonstrably was not.

A short guide to the far-right parties elected to the European Parliament

A short guide to the far-right parties elected to the European Parliament Author: Sharyn Mittelman Categories: Europe, Far Right, Updates    

Far-right parties have made significant gains in the European Parliament election, including those with neo-Nazi affiliations. The election results came in on May 25, one day after the tragic shooting at a Jewish Museum in Brussels that killed four people, suspected to be a terrorist attack. Both have shaken but not surprised Jewish communities across Europe.

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Pope Francis in Israel and PA/ Far-right makes big gains in EU

Pope Francis in Israel and PA/ Far-right makes big gains in EU Categories: Europe, Interfaith Dialogue, Israel, Updates    

Today's Update features commentary on two significant events of the past few days - Pope Francis' important, but somewhat controversial,  three-day visit to Israel (here's the text of Pope Francis' speech on arrival in Israel) the Palestinian territories and Gaza, and the major gains in European elections by parties of the far-right, including France's Front National, to Greece's Golden Dawn, Hungary's Jobbik, and others.

Palestinian Journalists abet attack on Israeli journalists in West Bank

Palestinian Journalists abet attack on Israeli journalists in West Bank Author: Glen Falkenstein Categories: Anti-Zionism, Israel, Palestinians, Updates    

Journalists don't get off easy. As has been widely reported, Australian journalist Peter Greste has been detained and held in appalling conditions in Egypt since December on charges of allegedly defaming their government and having ties to the ousted Muslim Brotherhood. He is one of many journalists detained by the Egyptian government for doing his job and reporting the news.

Why the Brussels shooting came as no surprise to the Belgian Jewish community

Why the Brussels shooting came as no surprise to the Belgian Jewish community Author: Gabrielle Debinski Categories: Antisemitism, Europe, International Security, Updates    

The world was stunned on Saturday, May 24, as news poured in of a deadly attack at The Jewish Museum of Belgium in Brussels. A lone gunman stormed into the museum in the city centre and began shooting. Security camera footage and witness concur that the gunman picked out his victims with calm and focus, aiming specifically for the neck and face. The gunmen used an AK-47 to murder two museum staff members, Alexandre Strens and a French female volunteer whose name has not yet been released, and Israeli tourists Miri and Emanuel Riva. Miri, 53, and Emanuel, 54, have two teenage daughters in Israel.

"How dare you talk to one another!" The ‘Anti-Normalisation’ campaign continues to obstruct reconciliation in the Middle East

"How dare you talk to one another!" The ‘Anti-Normalisation’ campaign continues to obstruct reconciliation in the Middle East Author: Glen Falkenstein Categories: Anti-Zionism, Israel, NGOs, Palestinians, Updates    

What if someone told you that Israelis and Palestinians weren't fighting each other, but were fighting together, for peace and reconciliation. There are NGOs and individuals based in Israel and the Palestinian territories doing just that; working together to promote dialogue, co-operation and ultimately peaceful co-existence.

Fatah officials also embrace rejectionism following unity deal with Hamas

Fatah officials also embrace rejectionism following unity deal with Hamas Author: Or Avi-Guy Categories: Palestinians, Updates    

In a previous post, we documented the extremist rhetoric emanating from Hamas officials in the aftermath of the recent unity deal with Fatah, including their unwillingness to recognise Israel under any circumstance, or adhere to the Quartet’s conditions and renounce violence as a means to pursue their goals. Now it would appear that even within Fatah, officials are making disturbingly similar statements.

Rewriting history

Rewriting history Author: Ahron Shapiro Categories: Israel, Jordan, Media/ Academia, Palestinians, Updates    

Pro-Palestinian propagandists often allege that measures such as checkpoints and the Security Barrier are not necessary for security but are rather there merely to subjugate Palestinians. They also claim that Israel never seriously considered returning the land to Jordanian control or, alternatively, weighed the possibility of the creation of a Palestinian state. Such claims ignore mountains of evidence to the contrary - dating back to 1967, including the eyewitness accounts of journalists which form part of the historical record of the period.

Part two of a two-part blog.

Through the eyes of a dove: the truth about the early years of Israeli rule over the West Bank

Through the eyes of a dove: the truth about the early years of Israeli rule over the West Bank Author: Ahron Shapiro Categories: Israel, Media/ Academia, Palestinians, Updates    

As one of Israel's most highly respected legal scholars, columnists and politicians who spent his political career in parties left of Labor - and a fierce critic of Israeli West Bank settlements - Amnon Rubinstein has never been accused of sugarcoating his country's policies in the West Bank and Gaza.

This is why - as we approach 47th anniversary of the Six Day War next month - it is revealing to take a look back at some of Rubinstein's earlier writings on the subject - especially, his body of seven feature-length articles that he wrote for the New York Times between mid-1968 and mid-1973.

Part one of a two-part blog.

Where to now for Israeli-Palestinian peacemaking?

Where to now for Israeli-Palestinian peacemaking? Categories: Israel, Palestinians, Updates    

With the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks indefinitely suspended since the Fatah-Hamas deal in late April, this Update focuses on where the quest for peace might go from here.

First up is Dr. Robert Satloff, the executive director of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, who takes as his starting point a much-analysed speech at the Institute a few days ago by American Middle East mediator (and former Australian) Martin Indyk.

Brunei makes its Hollywood debut - Extreme Sharia spreads in Southeast Asia

Brunei makes its Hollywood debut - Extreme Sharia spreads in Southeast Asia Author: Glen Falkenstein Categories: Asia, Islamic Extremism, Updates    

It takes a lot to get noticed in Hollywood. Most dream of getting their names up there with the likes of Ellen DeGeneres and Jay Leno. Most, but not Hassanal Bolkiah, the Sultan of Brunei. In 2013 the Sultan proposed a new penal code in line with strict implementation of Islamic or ‘Sharia' law including harsh penalties such as stoning and amputation for offences including theft and homosexuality.

Hamas’ response to Palestinian unity deal: Urging kids to “shoot all the Jews”

Hamas’ response to Palestinian unity deal: Urging kids to “shoot all the Jews” Author: Or Avi-Guy Categories: Antisemitism, Israel, Palestinians, Terrorism, Updates    

After Fatah and Hamas announced a Palestinian national reconciliation deal , Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and other Fatah officials tried to argue that the deal means that Hamas would de facto recognise Israel, at least within pre-67' borders. It quickly became clear that Hamas had some very different ideas and views regarding the unity government, and very publicly contradicted the Fatah claims.

Israel at 66

Israel at 66 Categories: Israel, Updates    

Israel marked its Independence day (Yom Hatzmaut) on Tuesday, and as usual, the occasion sparked some navel gazing about where the Jewish State is today, 66 years after its foundation. This Update features some of the most interesting examples.

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Buzzwords and Blunders: John Kerry's 'Apartheid' Comment

Buzzwords and Blunders: John Kerry's 'Apartheid' Comment Author: Glen Falkenstein Categories: Israel, Palestinians, Updates    

US Secretary of State John Kerry warned a room of world leaders last Friday that Israel was in danger of becoming an Apartheid state, according to The Daily Beast. He reportedly said: “A two-state solution will be clearly underscored as the only real alternative. Because a unitary state winds up either being an apartheid state with second-class citizens—or it ends up being a state that destroys the capacity of Israel to be a Jewish state.”

Israeli strategic experts on the latest nuclear negotiations with Iran

Israeli strategic experts on the latest nuclear negotiations with Iran Categories: International Security, Iran, Updates    

This Updates offers analysis from three leading Israeli strategic experts on the state of the nuclear negotiations with Iran, its prospects over coming weeks, and especially the significance of reports that progress had been made on some aspects of a nuclear deal, such as the fate of the plutonium-producing Arak heavy-water reactor Iran is building.

The latest Fatah-Hamas deal

The latest Fatah-Hamas deal Categories: Palestinians, Updates    

Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah movement agreed to a unity deal with Hamas, which rules Gaza, last week - an agreement which appeared to rule out an extension of the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks whose scheduled end-date was Wednesday. This Update deals with the details, background, and implications of the deal, as well as the motivations of the players involved.

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Bob Carr's "slick" manipulation of the facts

Bob Carr's "slick" manipulation of the facts Author: Ahron Shapiro Categories: Lebanon, United Nations, Updates    

During an interview with Radio National's Fran Kelly on April 10, former Foreign Finister Bob Carr raised a previously unreported story involving a vote in the UN General Assembly involving Israel. Carr used the story in an attempt to bolster his claim that then-Prime Minister Julia Gillard had been influenced by Australia's pro-Israel lobbyists to stymie any criticism of Israel.

A fairer interpretation of the evidence and facts of the case, however, creates a different picture - one of a rogue foreign minister being reined in for attempting to unilaterally downgrade Australia's relationship with Israel, without any policy consultation, justification or coordination with his prime minister.

An antisemitic answer to the question: How long is a piece of string?

An antisemitic answer to the question: How long is a piece of string? Author: Allon Lee Categories: Antisemitism, Australasia, Israel, Media/ Academia, United Kingdom, Updates    

A report last week by Barak Ben-Shem in the Times of Israel analysed an outbreak of antisemitic comments that followed an application by Jews to the local council in the small English town of Bushey, seeking permission to establish an "eruv". It recalled a similar occurrence in the Sydney suburb of St. Ives in 2010.

Khamenei’s Holocaust denial exposes a larger problem of Iranian antisemitism

Khamenei’s Holocaust denial exposes a larger problem of Iranian antisemitism Author: Or Avi-Guy Categories: Antisemitism, Holocaust/ War Crimes, Iran, Updates    

"Holocaust is an event whose reality is uncertain and if it has happened, it's uncertain how it has happened" read a tweet on the Twitter account of Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. The Supreme Leader's comments are an important reminder of the real beliefs, ideology and objectives which underpin the Iranian regime.

Peace process crisis/ Palestinians learning about the Holocaust?

Peace process crisis/ Palestinians learning about the Holocaust? Categories: Holocaust/ War Crimes, Israel, Palestinians, Updates    

This Update leads with the crisis in the peace process, with US Secretary of State John Kerry cancelling a planned trip to the Middle East after Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas signed applications for "Palestine" to join 15 international bodies in violation of the agreement underlying the deal to hold talks for nine months. This occurred after Israel failed to release a scheduled group of 26 Palestinian prisoners on March 29, arguing that Palestinians were not living up to their side of the deal by refusing to negotiate directly since November.

Media Week - Lyons in the Doogue house

Media Week - Lyons in the Doogue house Author: Allon Lee Categories: Israel, Media/ Academia, Middle East, Updates    

ABC Radio National's "Saturday Extra" (March 15) spotlighted the historic law passed by Israel's Knesset to phase out the national service exemption for thousands of ultra-Orthodox Jews.

Host Geraldine Doogue interviewed John Lyons, the Australian newspaper's Middle East correspondent, for his take on the issue.

Three "noes" from Abbas?

Three "noes" from Abbas? Categories: Palestinians, Updates    

Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas met US President Obama last week. The meeting, which one Palestinian negotiator described as "difficult",  received relatively low-key coverage at the time, but later Israeli coverage, based on US Administation sources, suggests that Abbas was particularly negative and rejected three key elements of the US Secretary of State John Kerry's "framework agreement" for peace. Yesterday, Kerry met with Abbas in Amman to try to narrow the gaps, as the US scrambles to try to find a way to keep the talks alive after their scheduled end date in late April, with the PA placing new conditions on any such continuation. This Update looks at the state of play in the peace process in the wake of Abbas' apparent "three noes" in Washington.

 A reality check on "Breaking the Silence"

A reality check on "Breaking the Silence" Author: Sharyn Mittelman Categories: Israel, NGOs, Updates    

It is interesting to note that nearly all of the criticisms of "Breaking the Silence" (BTS) recently made by AIJAC and NGO Monitor were validated by a British journalist based on his own personal experiences with the group, and with no obvious agenda.

Jake Wallis Simons works as a feature writer for Britain's Telegraph newspaper, previously worked for the BBC, is a documentary filmaker and has also written three novels. He participated in tour with BTS while carrying out interviews and research for ‘Meet the Settlers', an in-depth Telegraph multimedia feature about Israeli settlements. In an article published in the UK Telegraph titled "Why are European powers (and Oxfam) funding a radical Israel Group?", Simons documents his experience with BTS.

Palestinian propaganda's "free kick" in Australian Parliament

Palestinian propaganda's "free kick" in Australian Parliament Author: Ahron Shapiro Categories: Australasia, Israel, Palestinians, Updates    

In remarks in federal Parliament on Monday, South Australian MP Tony Zappia, citing an unspecified report, claimed that "two teenage Palestinian soccer players were allegedly shot in the feet [by Israeli troops] to prevent them from ever playing soccer again."
In referencing this incident, Zappia stumbled across one of the most egregious and vile cases of anti-Israel propaganda in recent months, yet one which is most easily disprovable.

Exposure draft of the Freedom of Speech (Repeal of S. 18C) Bill 2014: Initial Analysis

Exposure draft of the Freedom of Speech (Repeal of S. 18C) Bill 2014: Initial Analysis Author: Daniel Meyerowitz-Katz Categories: Australasia, Updates    

Federal Attorney-General George Brandis has released an exposure draft of his proposed changes to section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act, which currently forbids doing an act done because of someone's ethnicity which is reasonably likely to 'offend, insult, humiliate or intimidate' that person, as well as section 18D, which provides public interest exemptions to 18C. The government has opened the draft to community consultation and called for submissions. Here is AIJAC's initial analysis of the legal implications of the exposure draft.

Statement on government's "exposure draft" of proposed changes to 18C

Statement on government's "exposure draft" of proposed changes to 18C Author: Colin Rubenstein Categories: Australasia, Far Right, Media Releases, Updates    

AIJAC is disappointed by the exposure draft of the Freedom of Speech (Repeal of S. 18C) Bill 2014 released by Attorney-General George Brandis today. In his bid to balance freedom of speech with the right of Australian citizens to go about their lives with dignity and free from racial harassment and vilification, it is our view that the Attorney-General has gone too far and failed to adequately safeguard the latter important rights and values...

Palestinian rhetoric and the rejection of recognition of Israel as a Jewish homeland

Palestinian rhetoric and the rejection of recognition of Israel as a Jewish homeland Author: Or Avi-Guy Categories: Anti-Zionism, Antisemitism, Palestinians, Updates    

The question of Palestinian recognition of Israel as a Jewish state is now at the centre of the public debate about the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. While Israeli officials and expert commentators have explained the logic behind Netanyahu's pursuit of Palestinian recognition of a Jewish state, the opposite question was too rarely posed to the Palestinians- why not?

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Confirmed: Construction in settlement outside major blocs very low

Confirmed: Construction in settlement outside major blocs very low Author: Ahron Shapiro Categories: Israel, Palestinians, Updates    

In a follow-up to my blog post from March 6 on the subject of the reality of construction in Israel's West Bank settlements, a new look at the numbers from former Bush Administration deputy national security advisor Elliott Abrams. Abrams' detailed figures confirm more definitely that, as I said, "housing construction within Israel's West Bank settlements under the Netanyahu government remains at some of the lowest levels in years". In fact, construction outside major settlement blocs - areas that Israel is expected to keep through mutually agreed land swaps in any potential peace agreement - was very low, and probably amounted to not more than a few hundred homes.

Moreover, even that extremely limited construction may no longer be taking place, now that Israeli media has reported on what appears to be a silent settlement freeze that has been put into effect outside of the settlement blocs.

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Why Abbas looks unready to say "yes" to Kerry

Why Abbas looks unready to say "yes" to Kerry Categories: Israel, Palestinians, Updates    

PA President Mahmoud Abbas is due to visit Washington this weekend, following on from the visit last week by Israeli PM Binyamin Netanyahu. While reports say that Israel is prepared to say yes, with reservations to the "Framework agreement" on Israeli-Palestinian peace that US Secretary of State John Kerry is brokering, signs from Abbas have been less positive, with reports from Palestinian sources that Abbas "exploded with rage over the US Secretary’s proposals, and described them as 'insanity'" at a meeting in late February. He even gave a speech on March 6 to young Fatah activists which emphatically ruled out compromise on both the right of return or any recognition of Israel as a Jewish homeland (video here, transcript here.)

Lyons' angry roar hides lack of substance

Lyons' angry roar hides lack of substance Author: Allon Lee Categories: Anti-Zionism, Israel, Media/ Academia, Middle East, Palestinians, Updates    

In a nearly 1,100 word response to Greg Sheridan's dismissal of his "Four Corners" hatchet job on Israel, one might have expected John Lyons would have found space to answer the factual questions raised by his critics. Instead he preferred to attack Sheridan for relying on analysis by the Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council (AIJAC) that debunked many of Lyons' claims (Australian, March 8).

In Gaza, some NGOs place water politics over public health

In Gaza, some NGOs place water politics over public health Author: Ahron Shapiro Categories: Israel, Palestinians, Updates    

Gaza's water quality issues, due to years of overpumping from their coastal aquifers as well as other factors such as agricultural pollution, and sewage dumping, are well documented. However, efforts by some NGOs to implement what has been determined by experts to be the most effective solution - desalination - has been met by staunch opposition by some 30 Palestinian and pro-Palestinian organisations and NGOs. They made this clear in a position paper they issued on March 9 through the Palestinian water issue-focused NGO umbrella coalition EWASH. It's enlightening to examine their reasons for opposing desalination, in their own words.

AIPAC Policy Conference 2014 - Highlights and Controversies

AIPAC Policy Conference 2014 - Highlights and Controversies Author: Sharyn Mittelman Categories: America, Iran, Israel, Palestinians, Updates    

The annual AIPAC (America-Israel Public Affairs Committee) Policy Conference wrapped up on March 4, following an eventful three days with important statements made by US and Israeli leaders.

The conference came at a critical time for US-Israel relations, as US Secretary of State John Kerry is soon expected to announce a ‘framework' for continued Israeli and Palestinian negotiations, and after AIPAC's decision to withdraw its support for a new Iran-sanctions Bill, following strong pressure from the US Administration. The conference also came on the same day that US President Barack Obama had some strong words for Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in an interview with Bloomberg's Jeffrey Goldberg.

Not all doom and gloom in Hebron

Not all doom and gloom in Hebron Author: Michael Thurin Categories: Israel, Palestinians, Updates    

In a display that would leave anti-Israel proponents seething, Israeli media has captured an incident of Israeli-Palestinian harmony.

The Elder of Ziyon posted the following video on March 4, showing an IDF soldier giving two young Palestinian boys sandwiches in the West Bank town of Hebron. One of the boys spontaneously hugged the soldier and then cheekily replied "shukran" ("thank you" in Arabic) after receiving the gift.

Israel seizes an Iranian arms shipment to Hamas/ The Kerry Plan

Israel seizes an Iranian arms shipment to Hamas/ The Kerry Plan Categories: Iran, Israel, Palestinians, Updates    

On Wednesday, the Israeli Navy stopped a merchant vessel, the Klos-C, in the Red Sea. It was carrying advanced Syrian-made long-range surface to surface missiles allegedly bound for Gaza and sent there by Iran (all probably unknown to the crew). The IDF has released a detailed video explaining the origins and previous movements of the missiles, and another showing their discovery by Israeli soldiers in shipping containers supposedly carrying cement.

Settlement housing starts, by the numbers

Settlement housing starts, by the numbers Author: Ahron Shapiro Categories: Israel, Palestinians, Updates    

During an interview published on Sunday between Bloomberg's Jeffrey Goldberg and US President Barack Obama, the President made the allegation that "we have seen more aggressive [Israeli West Bank] settlement construction over the last couple years than we've seen in a very long time".

Then on Tuesday, the Australian news portal Yahoo7 published an AFP story headlined "West Bank settlement starts double in 2013: Israel". The wire story, apparently distributed without a byline, used newly released data from the Israeli Bureau of Statistics as the basis for a story that relied on comments from Obama, Palestinian official Jibril Rajub and Peace Now to promote a narrative that the construction is out of proportion to previous trends and imperils the possibility of creating a contiguous Palestinian state as part of a two-state peace outcome. 

Beyond the rhetoric, however, the real questions that must be asked are whether current construction in the settlements are actually at high levels, and does the character of construction taking place adversely affect the possibility of a viable Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement? In response to both questions, the evidence overwhelmingly says "no".

Video: Ehud Yaari on the Middle East

Video: Ehud Yaari on the Middle East Categories: Egypt, Israel, Middle East, Multimedia, Palestinians, Syria, Updates    

Ehud Yaari is a renowned veteran Israeli journalist, arguably Israel's most authoritative and influential foreign affairs analyst. He is a Middle East commentator for Israel's Channel 2 news, has written eight books on the Israeli-Arab conflict and has won top prizes for journalism in Israel.

He addressed AIJAC supporters in Melbourne on the regional turmoil surrounding Israel – including Syria, al-Qaeda, Egypt and the Palestinians – on February 23, 2014.

The Syrian Conundrum

The Syrian Conundrum Categories: International Security, Syria, Updates    

In the wake of the complete failure of the Geneva 2 talks in late February to make any progress toward an agreement that would end the Syrian civil war, journalists, columnists and academic experts have been exploring what foreign policy options now exist to try and change that ugly situation there. This Update incorporates some of their thoughts and advice. 

On Israel, Amnesty shoots first, asks questions later

On Israel, Amnesty shoots first, asks questions later Author: Ahron Shapiro Categories: Israel, NGOs, Palestinians, Updates    

On February 27, Amnesty International (AI) released a sensationalist report titled "Trigger Happy: Israel's use of excessive force in the West Bank".  This report, perhaps not surprisingly, is arguably biased against Israel. This is not because of the subject matter - it is certainly legitimate to examine the way the IDF uses force - but both in the way that it singles Israel out for intense scrutiny compared to other countries and because of the double standard AI has used against the IDF in determining what constitutes excessive force.

Another area where Israel is a world leader - Animal Rights

Another area where Israel is a world leader - Animal Rights Author: Sharyn Mittelman Categories: Israel, Updates    

It may surprise many to know that Israel is actually a world leader in animal rights law and this important issue continues to be championed by Israeli politicians on all sides of politics.  Israel implemented the Animal Welfare Law 20 years ago, and last January passed a revolutionary prohibition against importing animal-tested cosmetics, toiletries and detergents. Israel has also banned the production of Foie Gras (force feeding geese), and is on track to be the first country in the world to ban the sale of Foie Gras. In addition, the Knesset is currently debating legislating against recreational hunting and the sale of fur clothing.

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In a poor sign for a two state solution, Palestinians refuse to pay for utilities services

In a poor sign for a two state solution, Palestinians refuse to pay for utilities services Author: Michael Thurin Categories: Israel, Palestinians, Updates    

AIJAC senior policy analyst Ahron Shapiro previously reported on Dec. 4 on the electricity and fuel crises in Gaza. Now a recent development is highlighting continuing difficulties in delivering utilities to Palestinians.

The Jerusalem District Electricity Company's (JDEC) has proposed to raise the price of electricity across the West Bank in response to the Palestinian Authority's refusal to repay millions of shekels of debt.

Red Hot Injustice

Red Hot Injustice Author: Jamie Hyams and Ahron Shapiro Categories: Australasia, Israel, Media/ Academia, Palestinians, Updates    

The ABC's Four Corners, together with the Australian newspaper's Middle East correspondent John Lyons, produced a story, "Stone Cold Justice" about the alleged Israeli mistreatment of Palestinian minors it arrests in the West Bank. Their basic thesis is that Israel has a new policy of arresting Palestinian children in the West Bank in the middle of the night, then torturing them to create a culture of fear and to gather information to use against Palestinian non-violent resistance. This is categorically untrue.

Elements of the current Israeli-Palestinian peace process

Elements of the current Israeli-Palestinian peace process Categories: Israel, Palestinians, Updates    

This Update features three enlightening pieces on important elements of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process currently being mediated by US Secretary of State John Kerry. Kerry is currently trying to get both sides to sign up, albeit with reservations, to a US-written "Framework agreement" that would broadly outline the principles of peace before the current round of talks expire in early April - Israeli analyst Shlomo Brom discusses more of the detail here.

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Proven performance - PA system of incentives for terrorism shown to work

Proven performance - PA system of incentives for terrorism shown to work Author: Ahron Shapiro Categories: Palestinians, Updates    

In my blog post from December 10, I attempted to shine a spotlight on the financial benefits showered upon Palestinians convicted of attacking Israelis - including monthly stipends while in prison and high-paying jobs upon release. I pointed out that essentially, the Palestinian Authority (PA) was encouraging and incentivising Palestinians to commit acts of terrorism. Now, here's a case that exemplifies it.

When a journalist becomes a storyteller

When a journalist becomes a storyteller Author: Ahron Shapiro Categories: Anti-Zionism, Israel, Media/ Academia, Palestinians, Updates    

In an extended version of a viewpoint that originally appeared in the Australian Jewish News, AIJAC Policy Analyst Ahron Shapiro slams the ABC's latest Four Corners episode, "Stone Cold Justice". In the essay, Shapiro suggests Middle East correspondent John Lyons may have sacrificed basic principles of ethical journalism in order to create an unsubstantiated documentary script that fit a particular world view.

Three telling factual problems with 4Corners' "Stone Cold Justice"

Three telling factual problems with 4Corners' "Stone Cold Justice" Author: Tzvi Fleischer Categories: Israel, Media/ Academia, Palestinians, Updates    

AIJAC is currently researching and compiling a detailed critique of all the elements of the controversial ABC Four Corners documentary "Stone Cold Justice", made with John Lyons of the Australian, and aired on Monday (Feb.10). We hope this will be available shortly.  In the meantime, here are three examples of obviously inadequate fact-checking or failure to provide proper context in the documentary and the parallel article in the Australian by John Lyons last Saturday (Feb.8). Sadly, they seem to be typical of a larger pattern in a documentary that appears to have been much more about sensationalist point scoring than about the careful weighing of evidence or fair and balanced journalism.

Woodside-Leviathan deal moves ahead in a milestone for Australia-Israel ties

Woodside-Leviathan deal moves ahead in a milestone for Australia-Israel ties Author: Michael Thurin Categories: Australasia, Israel, Updates    

AIJAC has previously reported on the proposed purchased by Australia's Woodside Petroleum of a share in Israel's Leviathan gas field development.

Finally after months of protracted negotiations, partners in Leviathan signing a new memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Woodside last Thursday, making it more likely than ever that the deal will go ahead. If it does, it will be a major milestone in Israeli-Australia relations, backed by governments on both sides.

Here is what you need to know about the deal and its implications.

Four Corners "Stone Cold Justice" - links to useful sources

Four Corners "Stone Cold Justice" - links to useful sources Author: Sharyn Mittelman Categories: Australasia, Israel, Media/ Academia, Palestinians, Updates    

On February 10 ABC "Four Corners" broadcast an episode titled "Stone Cold Justice", in cooperation with John Lyons from the Australian, which looked at Israel's policies regarding the treatment of Palestinian minors arrested in the West Bank.

While the episode raises important issues regarding the treatment of Palestinian minors, the ABC's report failed to provide adequate background and its approach was sensationalised and one-sided. In addition, Israel has already publicly committed to changing its practices as a UNICEF report in October 2013 confirmed, which the program only mentioned in passing.

We recommend that those interested in the problems with the ABC Four Corners report read the following sources...

Syria chemical weapons deal in difficulties

Syria chemical weapons deal in difficulties Categories: Syria, Updates    

This Update is focussed on growing signs the Russia-brokered deal signed between Syria and the West last September may be faltering - after the Geneva conference on Syria last week failed to achieve any substantive progress. It also includes other material on the Syrian foreign policy problem.

We lead with a Washington Post editorial, complete with links, remonstrating with policymakers to do more about Syrian stalling on meeting its chemical weapons obligations.

Ehud Yaari to speak in Melbourne and Sydney

Ehud Yaari to speak in Melbourne and Sydney Categories: Events, Updates    

AIJAC is proud to present upcoming speaking appearances in Melbourne and Sydney by Israel's most authoritative and influential foreign affairs analyst, Ehud Yaari.

Yaari is a veteran Middle East commentator for Israel's Channel 2 news, has written eight books on the Israeli-Arab conflict and has won top prizes for journalism in Israel.

"Anti-Establishment" French marchers call for “Jews out of France”

"Anti-Establishment" French marchers call for “Jews out of France” Author: Sharyn Mittelman Categories: Asia, Europe, Updates    

On January 26 protesters marched in Paris chanting "Jews out of France".  Many of the protesters can be seen giving the "quenelle", an inverted Nazi salute invented and popularised by the comedian/ political activist Dieudonne M'bala M'bala who has been convicted several times for inciting antisemitism.  The march raises serious concerns about the popularisation of antisemitism in France by Dieudonne.

Israeli home education system helps Australia's Indigenous children

Israeli home education system helps Australia's Indigenous children Author: Ahron Shapiro Categories: Australasia, Israel, Updates    

The Home Interaction Program for Parents and Youngsters (HIPPY), an Israeli designed early learning program which has been operating in Australia, federally funded and under licence by the Brotherhood of St. Laurence since 1998, is back in the news.

The federal government has announced its latest expansion of the program, which has been making strides in improving the education of Indigenous children.

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Scarjo stands up for SodaStream's Palestinian workers

Scarjo stands up for SodaStream's Palestinian workers Author: Daniel Meyerowitz-Katz Categories: Anti-Zionism, Israel, Palestinians, Updates    

It is not unusual for Superbowl advertisements to spark controversy in America and around the world. This year, before it has even gone to air, an advert for SodaStream starring Scarlett "Scarjo" Johansson has caused considerable hysteria. ...

Ordinarily, a leading Hollywood actress appearing in a Superbowl advertisement to promote a company that sells machines to carbonate water would seem unremarkable. SodaStream, however, happens to be Israeli. ... After the BDS activists were riled up, it did not take long for Johansson's position as an ambassador for global charity Oxfam to be thrown into the spotlight....

US "Framework" for peace document on the way?

US "Framework" for peace document on the way? Categories: Israel, Palestinians, Updates    

Today's Update deals with reports that the US is only weeks away from issuing a "framework" document outlining broad principles for Israeli-Palestinian peace that it is hoped both sides can adopt with reservations.

We lead with a news report based on off-the-record briefings given by former Australian Martin Indyk, the American mediator, about the content of, and plans for, the "framework document." Indyk reportedly told US Jewish leaders in the phone hook-up that the document will be released within a few weeks and will contain few surprises for either side, because it is based on extensive consultations with them.

Iran and the State of the Union

Iran and the State of the Union Categories: America, Iran, Syria, Updates    

Today’s Update looks at some initial reactions to US President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address, which he delivered before Congress earlier today. (The full text of the President’s remarks can be found here.)

Of particular interest to our readers would be two issues Obama touched on during his speech with regard to foreign policy. First, his succinct but important comments about the current negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians – where he implicitly backed Israel’s demand to be recognised as a Jewish state. Secondly, Obama vigorously defended his interim agreement with Iran as a peaceful step towards defusing its rogue nuclear program, warning Congress that he would veto any legislation for new sanctions during the interim period.

Yarmouk - A real case of Palestinians living "under siege"

Yarmouk - A real case of Palestinians living "under siege" Author: Or Avi-Guy Categories: Palestinians, Syria, Updates    

The civil war in Syria has created a humanitarian crisis on a huge scale. Yet some aspects of that catastrophe have received little media attention. For instance, the reported intentional, cruel and cynical blocking of the provision of urgently needed humanitarian aid is one such aspect. Now another issue deserving of international attention, but not receiving it, has become apparent - the starvation of Palestinian refugees in Syria, most notably in the Yarmouk camp on the edge of Damascus.

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UN strikes expose Palestinian internal tensions

UN strikes expose Palestinian internal tensions Author: Daniel Meyerowitz-Katz Categories: Palestinians, United Nations, Updates    

To those who follow events in the West Bank, the reports coming out of the "refugee camps" administered by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) would sound quite familiar. ...

Indeed, the image of the refugees throwing stones at police and receiving tear gas in response has to some extent defined Israeli/Palestinian relations at least since the eruption of the First Intifada in 1987.

This incident however, has one caveat. ... The police who were firing tear gas at, and apparently lobbing rocks back at, the protestors were Palestinian Authority police.

Interim Iranian nuclear deal coming into effect

Interim Iranian nuclear deal coming into effect Categories: International Security, Iran, Updates    

Last weekend, Iran and the P5+1 (US, UK, France, China, Russia and Germany) reportedly reached agreement on technical arrangements to implement the interim "Joint Plan of Action"  agreed on in Geneva in November to limit Iran's nuclear work for six months in exchange for limited sanctions relief. While the details of the technical arrangements and timetable have not yet been released, and Iran says there is an informal 30-page document that has been agreed to, the actual Joint Plan of Action is now to go into effect from Monday, Jan. 20.

The Legacy of Ariel Sharon

The Legacy of Ariel Sharon Categories: Israel, Updates    

This Update features three pieces reflecting on the legacy of former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, who died over the weekend after eight years in a coma.

We lead with Washington Institute for Near East Policy expert David Pollock. His article's main point is to explore how Sharon, the great warrior and larger than life figure known for his decisiveness, may have been the only Israeli leader who could carry out the Gaza disengagement of 2005. 

Signs of hope

Signs of hope Author: Sharyn Mittelman Categories: Israel, Palestinians, Updates    

Often when discussing the Arab-Israeli conflict, it is easy to despair, but if we search there are stories waiting to be told about every day people that give us hope and inspiration. Here are some of those stories....

Dam lies

Dam lies Author: Ahron Shapiro Categories: Anti-Zionism, Israel, Palestinians, Updates    

Gaza's Hamas government makes wild accusations against Israel all the time, but not all are as easily disproven as the latest one - their claim that Israel had "opened dams" along Gaza's border during the recent winter storm, flooding neighbourhoods and causing thousands of Palestinians to flee their homes.

New "moderate" President Rouhani distracts from the dismal - and not improving - human rights situation in Iran

New "moderate" President Rouhani distracts from the dismal - and not improving - human rights situation in Iran Author: Or Avi-Guy Categories: Iran, Updates    

To the naïve observer, it might look as if Iran's relations with the international community, and especially the West, are on the right track. In the wake of this agreement and the larger "charm offensive" by Rouhani, some appear to be prematurely optimistic. A glance at Iran's horrific human rights record under President Rouhani reveals that the much-talked "moderation" and "democratization" at this point remain wishful thinking.

Aspects of Peacemaking Categories: Israel, Palestinians, Updates    

This Update contains insightful new articles dealing with three different important issues that will have to be resolved in any Israeli-Palestinian final peace agreement - or even a "framework agreement" of the sort that US Secretary of State John Kerry is trying to broker by April. Specifically, it deals with the subjects of recognition of Israel as a homeland for the Jewish people, borders and settlements in the West Bank, and Palestinian refugees.

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Video: Dr. Matthew Levitt on Hezbollah's global reach

Video: Dr. Matthew Levitt on Hezbollah's global reach Categories: Iran, Lebanon, Multimedia, Terrorism, Updates    

Dr. Matthew Levitt is Director of The Washington Institute for Near East Policy's Stein Program on Counterterrorism and Intelligence; and a former analyst and adviser on counterterrorism to the US Department of the Treasury, the State Department and the FBI.

He addressed AIJAC supporters in Melbourne on Hezbollah's global reach and the Iranian threat on December 9, 2013.

ABC, terrorists aren't soldiers

ABC, terrorists aren't soldiers Author: Ahron Shapiro Categories: Israel, Lebanon, Palestinians, Terrorism, Updates    

In a special year-end edition of ABC's Correspondents Report, host Elizabeth Jackson took her staff on the air with her for a "behind the scenes" look at the program and gave them a chance to discuss some of their favourite segments of the past year.

During the segment, Jackson recalled the most memorable report she heard in her seven years with the show. To her credit, it was a 2006 report by David Hardaker detailing a 1979 Palestinian terror attack on an Israeli family. Unfortunately, by erroneously describing the terrorist infiltrators as "soldiers", Jackson left listeners needlessly confused.

Lee Rhiannon's sin of omission

Lee Rhiannon's sin of omission Author: Ahron Shapiro Categories: Australasia, Palestinians, Updates    

Greens spokesperson for Animal Welfare Senator Lee Rhiannon has never missed an opportunity to name countries that import live Australian cattle, especially when cases of abuse arise, and often right in the headline of her media releases and tweets.

It's more than a little curious then, that when the abuse case occurred in the Gaza Strip, as what happened in the most recent incident reported in the Australian press on Thursday, Senator Rhiannon not only omitted the location where the abuse took place in the headline, but conspicuously failed to mention it once in her entire 277-word media release, on her Facebook page, or in any of her tweets on the subject that we've seen - despite the fact that she called the abuse "the worst we've seen yet".

New Phase of Israeli-Palestinian Talks?/ The Media and Disinformation

New Phase of Israeli-Palestinian Talks?/ The Media and Disinformation Categories: Israel, Media/ Academia, Palestinians, Updates    

Today's Update deals with reports that, as US Secretary of State Kerry visits Israel yet again, the US is apparently preparing to change its currently low-key role in the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations and present a "framework agreement" setting out the broad outlines of a peace deal. It also contains an important article on an increasing willingness by both some journalists and others to recognise propaganda outfits as legitimate media outlets.

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The UN effectively gives up on Syria

The UN effectively gives up on Syria Author: Or Avi-Guy Categories: Syria, United Nations, Updates    

Ever get the feeling that, after years of paralysis and stalemate, the international community have given up on resolving the crisis in Syria? The UN General Assembly (UNGA) 68th session has just wrapped up while UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon has announced that a Peace Conference for Syria will take place in Geneva in January, so this is an opportune time to assess the international community's role in promoting a return to peace in that troubled country.

Cooperation with Israel on water could solve Arab water crises

Cooperation with Israel on water could solve Arab water crises Author: Sharyn Mittelman Categories: Israel, Palestinians, Updates    

Israel is a world leader in water technology, and has made itself effectively ‘drought proof' in a region suffering a severe water crisis, through its investment in areas such as desalination, waste water recycling and drip irrigation. Israel's achievements in water technology stand as a ready example of best practice for the Arab region and the Palestinians in particular.

Implementation issues with interim Iran nuclear deal

Implementation issues with interim Iran nuclear deal Categories: International Security, Iran, Updates    

This Update deals with some new revelations about potential delays and other problems with implementing the Geneva interim agreement with Iran reached the Sunday before last - with a US spokesperson acknowledging last week that the agreement is not yet in effect for either party and will not be until further negotiations on technical aspects of it are completed. These technical talks are scheduled to begin next week.  Interestingly, Elliot Abrams of the Council on Foreign Relations raised this possibility - that the deal was not yet a finalised, binding agreement -  in the aftermath of the Geneva breakthrough.

Salafist terror spreads to the West Bank

Salafist terror spreads to the West Bank Author: Ahron Shapiro Categories: Islamic Extremism, Israel, Palestinians, Updates    

The deaths of three Palestinian terror suspects who had opened fire on Israeli troops sent to arrest them near Hebron on Tuesday was unfortunately not an altogether rare occurrence.

The decline in successful terror attacks in Israel and the West Bank in recent years has been widely attributed to the effectiveness of Israel's intelligence and security forces in capturing terrorists before they have a chance of executing deadly attacks. Occasionally, the suspects choose to attempt to kill the soldiers who come to arrest them, with unfortunate but predictable results.

However, the details of these suspects and several of their associates who had been arrested earlier without incident, was very unusual, as analysts noted this marked the first time Salafist Palestinians in the West Bank, allied ideologically with al-Qaeda, have been caught red-handed planning terror attacks.

Hamas in difficulties/ Saudi Arabia and the Iran nuclear deal

Hamas in difficulties/ Saudi Arabia and the Iran nuclear deal Categories: Iran, Palestinians, Saudi Arabia, Updates    

This Update features two pieces on Hamas' increasingly difficult situation in Gaza. It also includes an analysis, following up on the last Update, on the Saudi Arabian reaction to the interim nuclear deal signed with Iran last weekend.

First up is Israeli counter-terror specialist Ely Karmon on Hamas' increasingly isolated situation internationally and domestic difficulties within their Gaza fiefdom. He notes that the fall of the Muslim Brotherhood regime in Egypt and the subsequent all-out efforts of the Egyptian army to close down smuggling into Gaza from Sinai have not only left Hamas in shock but also affected Hamas' internal regime in Gaza.

Is the EU inadvertently encouraging Israeli settlements?

Is the EU inadvertently encouraging Israeli settlements? Author: Daniel Meyerowitz-Katz Categories: Europe, Israel, Updates    

As Australia shifts its UN vote on Israeli settlements to one more befitting of its longstanding support for a negotiated two-state solution, the EU appears to be going in the opposite direction. In addition to undermining the EU's support for peace talks, this may even be inadvertently encouraging Israel to purposefully send Israeli citizens and businesses into the West Bank...

A Good Deal on Iran's Nukes? The Iranians certainly think so

A Good Deal on Iran's Nukes? The Iranians certainly think so Author: Or Avi-Guy Categories: Anti-Zionism, Iran, Israel, Middle East, Saudi Arabia, Updates    

When the delegates of the P5+1 convened in Geneva to finalise an interim agreement with Iran they were supposed to have one goal in mind - to stop Iran's nuclear program. 

So is the new interim deal a step towards "a future in which we can verify that Iran's nuclear program is peaceful and that it cannot build a nuclear weapon" as US President Obama put it?

The Iranians certainly don't seem to think so.

Evaluating the Interim Nuclear Deal with Iran

Evaluating the Interim Nuclear Deal with Iran Categories: International Security, Iran, Middle East, Updates    

This Update is devoted to analysis of the detail and implications of the interim nuclear deal reached by the P5+1 states (US, UK, France, Russia, China and Germany) and Iran in Geneva on Sunday. (The actual agreement text is here, a White House "fact sheet" on the details is here, and some reporting about the agreement's provision is here.) Israeli leaders, meanwhile, have been lining up to make it clear that they are not happy with the deal.

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Hamas-Fatah dispute causes major Gaza blackouts - why no coverage?

Hamas-Fatah dispute causes major Gaza blackouts - why no coverage? Author: Sharyn Mittelman Categories: Palestinians, Updates    

A dispute between Hamas and the Fatah-controlled Palestinian Authority (PA) over the price of fuel has resulted in Hamas shutting down the Gaza Strip's power plant, which has left Gazans with blackouts lasting between 12 to 18 hours a day. It has also caused a sanitation crisis, with raw sewage flooding the streets of a southern Gaza City neighborhood after a pump station flooded.

This dire situation is getting almost no coverage in Australia - though you could bet if Israel was responsible, it would likely be major news.

Even a UN interpreter has had enough with UN’s Israel bias

Even a UN interpreter has had enough with UN’s Israel bias Author: Or Avi-Guy Categories: Israel, United Nations, Updates    

A video of a UN interpreter caught on a hot mic criticising the UN obsession with Israel is going viral since it was uploaded last week. It occurred during a session of the Fourth Committee of the UN General Assembly, in which nine motions criticising Israel were passed. The blogosphere is abuzz, and commentators are congratulating the interpreter for a rare, and surprisingly candid, statement, even if it was never intended to be made public.

Israeli field hospital in the Philippines receives high praise

Israeli field hospital in the Philippines receives high praise Author: Sharyn Mittelman Categories: Asia, Israel, Updates    

To date, 12 babies have been born in the Israeli field hospital set up in the city of Bogo at the northern end of Cebu Island on November 14 to provide medical assistance to the Typhoon ravaged region. Typhoon Haiyan struck on November 8 and is estimated to have killed at least 4,000 people and left 600,000 homeless.

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One woman’s story illustrates some Gaza realities

One woman’s story illustrates some Gaza realities Author: Or Avi-Guy Categories: Palestinians, Updates    

Sara Rogers' story sounds like the plot of a Hollywood blockbuster. While living in New Mexico she met Hatem Abu Taha. Hatem proposed three days after they met, and they went on to get married and have three kids together. Then the plot thickened: in 2001, when Sara was pregnant with their fourth child, Hatem decided they should all visit his family, in Rafah in the Gaza Strip. Upon arrival, Sara was forced to stay in Gaza, trapped in her husband's family home for four years, until she finally managed to escape with her children across border to Israel, and then back to the US.

Now living in Boston, she recounts her story, and her experiences shatter some of the most prevalent misperceptions about the Gaza Strip

Almost a nuclear deal in Geneva?

Almost a nuclear deal in Geneva? Categories: International Security, Iran, Updates    

As readers are probably aware, in last weeks Geneva talks between the "P5+1" (US, UK, France, Russia, China and Germany) and Iran, the parties at one point appeared close to an interim agreement, with Foreign Ministers flying in to join the talks, but then broke up without reaching one. While France publicly objected to elements of the deal initially, and were blamed by Iran for the talks failure, the reasons the talks ended without agreement was because the Iranians walked away from the terms on offer according to the diplomats involved.  Talks are set to resume on Nov. 20, with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu and other senior Israeli officials making it amply clear that the Israeli government is not at all happy with the terms being discussed (Netanyahu's comments on the subject on US television are here.) This Update deals with analysis of the reported proposed terms of the Geneva "deal" and where the negotiators can go from here.

The truth behind the wrecking ball

The truth behind the wrecking ball Author: Ahron Shapiro Categories: Israel, Media/ Academia, Palestinians, Updates    

The Palestinian Authority-aligned news agency Ma'an is hardly ever used as the primary source for an article in major international outlets, and for good reason. They produce advocacy journalism for the Palestinian cause, and have a pattern of one-sided and sometimes wildly inaccurate, biased and misleading reporting.

On November 2, however, John Lyons did just that in a story for the Weekend Australian. The story, "New wave of demolitions in Jerusalem", was based on a story published online by Ma'an on October 31. In his story, Lyons uncritically parroted a claim by a Palestinian official that 200 buildings were threatened with demolition, potentially displacing 15,000 Palestinians.

Palestinian leaders praised prisoners’ crimes of murder

Palestinian leaders praised prisoners’ crimes of murder Author: Sharyn Mittelman Categories: Israel, Palestinians, Updates    

Last week Israel released an additional 26 Palestinian prisoners, as part of a deal made in July to encourage the Palestinians to return to negotiations with Israel. The prisoners were all convicted for murder before the 1993 Oslo Accords were signed, and were serving life sentences. Despite the horrific nature of their crimes, they received a hero's welcome upon their return to the West Bank and Gaza Strip as virtually all Palestinian prisoners do upon their release.

Tennis, anyone? Oh, wait, not if you’re Israeli, says BDS

Tennis, anyone? Oh, wait, not if you’re Israeli, says BDS Author: Or Avi-Guy Categories: Tunisia, Updates    

When the Tunisian tennis federation ordered the country's no. 1 player, Malik Jaziri, not to play against Israeli tennis player Amir Weintraub in the Tashkent Challenger tournament quarter final last month, they probably failed to predict the full implications of their discriminatory decision. Not only has this decision jeopardised Jaziri's ranking and career, it has also led the International Tennis Federation to ban Tunisia from the Davis Cup for a year, in a move that can be seen as a strong message against the BDS (boycott, divestment, sanctions) movement.

Egypt's future/ Israel's Bedouin policies

Egypt's future/ Israel's Bedouin policies Categories: Egypt, Israel, Updates    

This Update deals with the situation in Egypt - where the military government of General Abd el Fattah el-Sisi seems to be consolidating power as it continues its relentless crackdown on the deposed Muslim Brotherhood and has just placed former President Mohammed Morsi on trial. On a separate matter, it also includes some important information about the controversial policies in Israel to resolve long standing land and housing issues affecting Bedouin communities in the southern part of the country.

Hamas faces isolation and its own domestic "resistance" movement

Hamas faces isolation and its own domestic "resistance" movement Author: Allon Lee Categories: Israel, Middle East, Palestinians, Updates    

As the Palestinian Authority (PA) receives international plaudits for participating in peace talks with Israel and a domestic fillip for securing the release of a second batch of long-term Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails, Hamas, its Islamist rival in Gaza is at a low ebb, battling declining popular support and regional influence.

The deterioration in its fortunes is described in the Times of Israel by Avi Issacharoff who writes that "This isn't the same terror organization - it's now a movement more occupied with its survival as a ruling government."

Changing US Mideast Policy/ More on Negotiating with Iran

Changing US Mideast Policy/ More on Negotiating with Iran Categories: America, Iran, Middle East, Updates    

The US Administration has announced a new more "modest" approach to the Middle East, heralded first by President Barack Obama in a speech at the UN last month, and laid out in more detail by National Security Advisor Susan Rice in interviews over the weekend. The new policy focuses primarily on three issues - the Iranian nuclear program, Israeli-Palestinian peacemaking and Syria. This Update includes analysis of the significance and prospects of this new policy - as a well as a new discussion of the Iranian negotiations from three senior, veteran American policy experts.

Jerusalem Arabs being treated as political pawns

Jerusalem Arabs being treated as political pawns Author: Daniel Meyerowitz-Katz Categories: Israel, Palestinians, Updates    

As peace talks between the Israelis and the Palestinians continue, the status of Jerusalem remains one of the seemingly insurmountable obstacles to an agreement. ... The status of Jerusalem involves complex considerations of unity and division, and fiery debate on this issue has become a staple of Israeli politics. Many of these realities were brought to light in last week's municipal elections...

The crimes of the latest batch of Palestinian prisoners released

The crimes of the latest batch of Palestinian prisoners released Author: Sharyn Mittelman Categories: Israel, Palestinians, Updates    

The crimes of the 26 Palestinian prisoners released today are shocking with all having committed murder including some who kidnapped and then axed, tortured or burned their victims to death. All were supposed to be serving life sentences for their crimes. Israel's agreement to free these prisoners is a strong reminder of the painful price Israel is willing to pay for the prospect of peace with the Palestinians.

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The Yom Kippur War: Australian controversies of 1973

The Yom Kippur War: Australian controversies of 1973 Author: Ahron Shapiro Categories: Australasia, Egypt, Media/ Academia, Syria, United Nations, Updates    

This blog, the last instalment of a three-part series on the 40th anniversary of the Yom Kippur War, uses original Australian source material to obtain some insights into the Australian government's controversial response to the war at the time, as well as the persuasive but ultimately futile arguments used by Israel's supporters to convince Canberra to improve its response. Finally, the blog concludes with some observations about how the Australian coverage of the Yom Kippur War can tell us something about the way the Australian media views Israel today.

Arafat NOT poisoned? Media yawns

Arafat NOT poisoned? Media yawns Author: Allon Lee Categories: Israel, Media/ Academia, Palestinians, Updates    

In a sane world, it would not be al-Jazeera's overblown boast on Saturday of supposed scientific confirmation for its 2012 'scoop' that Yasser Arafat might have been poisoned by polonium-210 which would have made headlines, but instead the revelation on Tuesday of genuinely new and apparently decisive information contradicting any such theory. That's when a senior Russia toxicologist who had access to testing of samples of Arafat's body tissues stated that, according to these definitive tests, Arafat "could not have died of polonium poisoning."

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Toward a viable Iran nuclear deal

Toward a viable Iran nuclear deal Categories: International Security, Iran, Updates    

A round of talks in Geneva about Iran's nuclear program Tuesday and Wednesday ended with the Western powers reporting some progress, and plans made for additional talks early next month  after Iran gave a Powerpoint presentation whose exact content is unknown but which Iran described as a roadmap for resolving the nuclear issue. This Update looks at where the P5+1 powers (US, UK, France, China, Russia and Germany) meeting with Iran should be looking to go from here.

The Yom Kippur War in Australian editorials and analysis

The Yom Kippur War in Australian editorials and analysis Author: Ahron Shapiro Categories: America, Australasia, Egypt, Media/ Academia, Middle East, Palestinians, Syria, United Nations, Updates    

In June, AIJAC took a look back at the coverage of the Six Day War of 1967 in two major Australian newspapers, the Age of Melbourne and the Sydney Morning Herald. Now, in commemoration of the 40th anniversary of the Yom Kippur War, we open the archives once again to look at the coverage of that war in Australia, this time expanding the scope of our research to include the Australian, as well as touching upon the coverage of the Canberra Times, and the Melbourne Herald.

As a much longer war, there is more to take in, so the retrospective will be split into two parts. This blog will discuss the editorials and some of the in-house analysis of the period, while the second will revisit some of the on-the-spot coverage by the newspapers' foreign correspondents covering the war. Finally, similar to our blog from June, we'll conclude by weighing some of the key contextual facts of the Israeli-Arab conflict that were widely understood by journalists at the time but are largely absent from the narrative in the news today.

Syria and the extremist rebels/ Hamas' latest terror tunnel

Syria and the extremist rebels/ Hamas' latest terror tunnel Categories: Islamic Extremism, Palestinians, Syria, Updates    

This edition of Updates from AIJAC focuses on the reality of growing Islamist extremism among Syrian rebels, the reasons this happened and what can be done, if anything, to increase the role of more moderate groups. It also focuses on the implication of the discovery of a new tunnel from Gaza into Israel, apparently designed to facilitate kidnappings or other terror attacks inside Israel.

Bar-Ilan revisited, four years later

Bar-Ilan revisited, four years later Author: Allon Lee Categories: Anti-Zionism, Israel, Middle East, Palestinians, Updates    

On Monday, four-and-a-half years after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke at Bar-Ilan University's Begin-Sadat Centre for Strategic Studies and formally committed to the two-state formula, he returned to deliver a follow-up of sorts, that has been unfairly maligned in some quarters for being too hawkish.

Yet, for those with the time and inclination to read or listen to Netanyahu's words, the 2009 and 2013 talks are are actually mostly congruent. Indeed, elements of it appear to be an effort to simply re-emphasise key themes he struck in 2009...

The Yom Kippur War - 40 years on

The Yom Kippur War - 40 years on Author: Ahron Shapiro Categories: Egypt, Israel, Syria, Updates    

On October 6, 1973, as Israelis observed Yom Kippur - the holiest day in the Jewish calendar - the Egyptian and Syrian armies launched simultaneous surprise offensives against Israel across the ceasefire lines from the 1967 war.

Four decades later, the consequences and lessons of the 19-day war are still being analysed and debated. Meanwhile, once-classified information about the war from the archives of some of the principle players in the war, as well as their superpower patrons, are slowly coming to the surface, adding to our understanding of the events.

Today, AIJAC begins a three-part blog to commemorate the 40th anniversary of Israel's last major multi-front conventional war.

The first entry will examine recent stories about the war that might interest to our readers, including commentary about how the lessons of the Yom Kippur War are being applied to Israel's current security outlook.

An Israeli-Arab alliance on Iran?/ Cutting off US aid to Egypt

An Israeli-Arab alliance on Iran?/ Cutting off US aid to Egypt Categories: Egypt, Iran, Israel, Updates    

Today's update centres on the growing policy congruence, some say amounting almost to a tacit alliance, between Israel and various Sunni Arab states, especially Jordan, Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states - united by shared concerns about Iran and declining US regional influence. It also contains an analysis of the US Administration's decision to cut off most of its military aid to Egypt earlier this week.

Looking beyond Rouhani's charm offensive

Looking beyond Rouhani's charm offensive Author: Sharyn Mittelman Categories: Iran, Updates    

Since Iranian President Hassan Rouhani came to power in June, he has led a charm offensive aimed at breaking the coordinated Western front of sanctions and diplomatic isolation designed to halt Iran's clandestine nuclear program - which the International Atomic Energy Agency and others believe appears geared towards developing nuclear weapons capability.  This charm offensive has been so successful that online readers of the Guardian voted Rouhani as most deserving to be awarded this year's Nobel Peace Prize, leading with a staggering 76 percent of the vote as of Thursday.

The regional decline of the Muslim Brotherhood?

The regional decline of the Muslim Brotherhood? Categories: Egypt, Islamic Extremism, Jordan, Middle East, Tunisia, Updates    

This Update deals with increasing signs across the Middle East that - independently of the overthrow of the Egyptian government by the military in July -  the Muslim Brotherhood, the parent organisation for all modern Islamists, is on the skids. If this trend persists, it would be a major reversal of what once seemed to be the primary direction of the "Arab Spring" instability which has been rocking the region since late 2010 - and seemed previously to be mostly benefiting Islamists.

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The UN Resolution on Syria’s Chemical Weapons

The UN Resolution on Syria’s Chemical Weapons Author: Sharyn Mittelman Categories: Syria, United Nations, Updates    

On 27 September the UN Security Council unanimously adopted Resolution 2118 that demands the eradication of Syria's chemical weapons by mid-2014.  While the Resolution is a welcome development because it has high potential to significantly reduce Syria's stockpile of chemical weapons, it is important to consider the costs of the Resolution.

Overview of Developments in Gaza and the West Bank

Overview of Developments in Gaza and the West Bank Categories: Palestinians, Updates    

Today’s Update focuses on the Israeli-Palestinian situation and highlights a number of important happenings that have taken a back seat while the mainstream media lavishes attention upon Iranian President Hassan Rouhani.

First, Khaled Abu Toameh analyses Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’ speech at the United Nations General Assembly. Abu Toameh criticises Abbas for devoting the bulk of his speech to attacking Israel and only Israel, whilst ignoring the suffering, slaughter and expulsion of Palestinians in neighbouring Arab countries such as Syria, Lebanon and Egypt. 

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Dealing with Iran's nuclear ambitions under its new president

Dealing with Iran's nuclear ambitions under its new president Categories: Iran, Israel, United Nations, Updates    

Today’s Update offers analysis of Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s powerful speech at the United Nations General Assembly overnight which came a day after his joint press conference with President Barack Obama where they offered a united front on the Iranian nuclear issue. In his address, Netanyahu reminded the world that Iran’s ambitions for nuclear weapons remains unchanged.

Describing Iran’s new so-called moderate President Hassan Rouhani as a “wolf in sheep’s clothing”, recounting Iran’s three decades of support for terrorism, and the regime’s deception in its pursuit of nuclear weapons, Netanyahu insisted economic sanctions must remain in place substantive concessions are offered by the regime. Netanyahu also promised that Israel would act alone if it meant preventing Iran gaining the bomb. To read and or watch the speech, click here.

New US-Iran nuclear talks at the UN

New US-Iran nuclear talks at the UN Categories: International Security, Iran, United Nations, Updates    

Reports say that US Secretary of State John Kerry will meet his Iranian counter-part at the UN this week to discuss a nuclear weapons deal. The Iranians reportedly vetoed a meeting between Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and US President Obama following their respective speeches to the UN General Assembly (the full text of President Obama's speech is here.) This Update looks at the background to both these talks and the recent Iranian charm offensive under new President Rouhani, what to be wary of in any such talks, and what end result the US should seek to achieve in any nuclear deal.

The self-defeating Palestinian ‘anti-normalisation’ campaign

The self-defeating Palestinian ‘anti-normalisation’ campaign Author: Sharyn Mittelman Categories: Israel, Palestinians, Updates    

A culture of ‘anti-normalisation' has become so dominant, that even an upbeat article in Forbes ‘Peace Through Profits' by Richard Behar that praised and reported Israeli and Palestinian high-tech business cooperation led to a backlash. The reporter has been criticised by Palestinians featured in the report, with some saying they now fear harassment by extremists.

Tax dollars bring 9/11 "truther" and other extremists to ANU anti-Israel fest

Tax dollars bring 9/11 "truther" and other extremists to ANU anti-Israel fest Author: Daniel Meyerowitz-Katz Categories: Anti-Zionism, Antisemitism, Australasia, Media/ Academia, Updates    

The Australian National University has come under fire for hosting a conference purporting to focus on "Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territories". ... Academics are, no doubt, free to invite whomever they choose to present on any issue and to air any views they see fit. Just because someone is free to take a course of action, however, does not mean that doing so is necessarily the right idea. ... political activism is not an appropriate use of government money...

Three Anniversaries - Oslo, the Yom Kippur War and 9/11 Categories: Islamic Extremism, Israel, Palestinians, Terrorism, Updates    

This Update highlights the fact that we have just passed three important anniversaries in Middle Eastern and world history - the 20th anniversary of the original Oslo accords between Israel and the Palestinians (signed on Sept. 13, 1993), the 40th anniversary of the outbreak of the 1973 Middle East war, which began on Yom Kippur, 1973, and of course, the 12th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 World Trade Centre and Pentagon attacks in the US. We feature pieces discussing each of these anniversaries.

A chemical weapons "deal" on Syria?

A chemical weapons "deal" on Syria? Categories: International Security, Syria, Updates    

This Update deals with the latest surprise development in the Syria debate - with US President Obama delaying the Congressional vote to authorise the use of force against Syria as a punishment for chemical weapons use in the wake of a Russian proposal - based on a seemingly off-hand remark from US Secretary of State John Kerry - for a deal to place Syrian chemical weapons under international control. (The text of Obama's speech on Tuesday, both making a strong case for action against Syria and asking for a delay in voting to pursue the Russian proposal is here.)

Letter: West Bank settlements are not ‘illegal' Author: Ahron Shapiro Categories: Israel, Updates    

On the issue of Israeli settlements, Tony Walker erroneously claimed that the US considers Israeli West Bank settlements "illegal". Yet he then correctly quoted US Secretary of State John Kerry saying that the US views them as "illegitimate"

New revelations about Israel's help for victims of Syrian civil war

New revelations about Israel's help for victims of Syrian civil war Author: Ahron Shapiro Categories: Israel, Syria, Updates    

As the US Congress debates authorising military strikes against Syria's Assad regime for allegedly using chemical weapons against its own people, a growing amount of media attention is now being paid to one of the encouraging stories coming out of the Syrian civil war - that is Israel's public and private contribution to relieving the humanitarian crisis.

This contribution has come in the form of aid shipments for refugees, as well as the treatment of Syrian war wounded in Israeli hospitals, including a field hospital on the Golan Heights that has been expressly built for the purpose.

Viewing Australia's election from Israel and elsewhere

Viewing Australia's election from Israel and elsewhere Author: Sharyn Mittelman Categories: Australasia, Israel, Updates    

In Australia we have a new government, following the Liberal/National Party's (‘the Coalition') sweeping election victory on September 7. While Australians have been heavily focused on the election campaign, its aftermath, and the effect of the change of government in terms of a number of domestic policy priorities, it is always interesting to see how Australia and our politics is viewed overseas.

Duplicate stories, multiple personalities

Duplicate stories, multiple personalities Author: Ahron Shapiro Categories: Israel, Media/ Academia, Palestinians, Terrorism, Updates    

It is common for two different newspapers in the same country to present a wire story on Israel in two different ways. In such a case, one version can be interpreted as being subtly more pro-Palestinian or more pro-Israel than the other.

It is rare, however, for such a discrepancy to surface on the same wire story that appeared twice in the same paper on the same day. Such a bizarre occurrence, however, happened last week in Christchurch, New Zealand, in the paper The Press.

Syria: Israeli Views and Analysis

Syria: Israeli Views and Analysis Categories: Israel, Syria, Updates    

With intense debate still raging about Syria - especially in the wake of the decision by US President Obama to seek congressional approval on Sept. 9 before moving ahead with the possibility of US-led military strikes in response to the large-scale chemical weapons attack there - this Update brings together some Israeli expert perspectives on the situation.

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A noted Arab journalist reveals the biases of al-Jazeera English

A noted Arab journalist reveals the biases of al-Jazeera English Author: Or Avi-Guy Categories: Media/ Academia, Middle East, Updates    

Claims that al-Jazeera, the Qatari-based media outlet, is biased would hardly be considered news to those who follow Middle East media coverage. Al-Jazeera in Arabic has been preaching anti-Jewish, anti-Israel and anti-Western "analysis" masked as journalism for a while now, and is facing criticism around the world, often from its own former employees. Al Jazeera in English has attempted to be more subtle in the way it slants its reporting and thus distance itself from the obvious advocacy of its Arabic counterpart.

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Another ABC fact-checking fail: Gaza and Breast Cancer

Another ABC fact-checking fail: Gaza and Breast Cancer Author: Ahron Shapiro Categories: Israel, Palestinians, Updates    

Why does the ABC continue to improperly fact-check its stories about the Gaza Strip?

In her report for Newsline, "Charities raising breast cancer awareness in Gaza", the ABC's reporter/producer Rania Zaydan abandoned her critical faculties, offering up a story riddled with inaccuracies and baseless anti-Israel innuendo.

A strike on Syria? And if so, what sort and with what consequences?

A strike on Syria? And if so, what sort and with what consequences? Categories: America, International Security, Syria, Updates    

This update deals with the apparent likelihood that the US will soon lead some form of military strikes against the Syrian regime in the wake of what appears to be a large-scale, confirmed chemical weapon attack at East Ghouta and other Damascus suburbs, and increasing reports that intelligence has confirmed that the Syrian regime was responsible (Good reports on the ugly details of that attack come from the New York Times and Der Speigel, while reports on the intelligence are here, here, here and here.) With US President Obama saying he still hasn't made up his mind what to do, it focuses on the form such an attack might or should take, and the consequences of the various options reportedly being considered.

Syria burns as the UN turns its gaze to Israel

Syria burns as the UN turns its gaze to Israel Author: Daniel Meyerowitz-Katz Categories: Israel, Syria, United Nations, Updates    

As everyone digests the harrowing reports of nerve gas being used by the Syrian regime against its own people, and the US boosts its military posturing, one story that has seemingly been pushed to the side is the increasing irrelevance of the United Nations. ... After more than two years of dithering as Syria burns, the Security Council has patently failed in its mission to maintain international peace and security...

At the same time, UN activity has been continuing unabated over on Syria's south-western border. Earlier this month, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon addressed a model UN forum in Jerusalem. During his address, he reportedly made a rare admission of the unfair treatment which Israel receives...

The Egypt Policy Dilemma

The Egypt Policy Dilemma Categories: Egypt, Updates    

This Update discusses the major policy dilemmas posed for Western leaders - and especially the US - by the situation in Egypt in the wake of the bloody crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood and its supporters by the military government there over the past week and a half.

First up is Harvard University's Chuck Freilich, formerly deputy national-security adviser in Israel, who says that Egypt today places US policymakers where they least like to be - caught in a conflict between US values and US interests.

Media Week - Hand wringing over Iran; Tom after Tom

Media Week - Hand wringing over Iran; Tom after Tom Author: Allon Lee Categories: Iran, Israel, Media/ Academia, Palestinians, Updates    

Iran's new president, Hassan Rouhani, is a good guy the West can do business with according to an Age editorial (Aug 9).

Whilst it admitted that Rouhani was vetted by "Iran's overlords", that "he is not signalling capitulation on the issue that triggered sanctions - a uranium enrichment program that raises the spectre of Iran acquiring nuclear weapons", the paper still places its faith in his ability to make a deal because "he wants to resume talks 'with seriousness and without wasting time'".

However, as Rouhani himself noted in 2004 when he was Iran's main nuclear negotiator, time wasting with a smile is his forte - "While we were talking with the Europeans in Tehran, we were installing equipment in parts of the nuclear conversion facility in Isfahan. By creating a calm environment, we were able to complete the work there."

Notes from a journalist who has "been everywhere, man"

Notes from a journalist who has "been everywhere, man" Author: Sharyn Mittelman Categories: Israel, Palestinians, Updates    

Israeli journalist Boaz Bismuth has had a remarkable and fascinating career, having covered several war zones such as Lebanon, Iraq, Afghanistan and Kosovo and having managed to find ways, despite his Israeli nationality, to interview some of the world's most infamous leaders - Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad, Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi and former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Having visited 91 countries in his journalistic role, Bismuth is currently the Foreign News Editor and Senior Analyst at Israel Hayom, and prior to this role served as Israeli Ambassador to the Islamic majority state of Mauritania, from 2004 to 2008. At an August 13 journalist briefing, Bismuth discussed the latest round of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.

Whither Egypt?

Whither Egypt? Categories: Egypt, Updates    

The tense, confused and often violent situation in Egypt took as significant turn for the worse Wednesday with an army crackdown on sit-in protests supporting ousted Muslim Brotherhood President Mohammed Morsi which seems to have reportedly left hundreds dead. While it is too early for much serious analysis of the latest major escalation in the bloodshed in Egypt (though Michael Ryan of the Jamestown Foundation has had made one early attempt), this Update is devoted to the pieces looking at the divided and stalemated politics of Egypt since the military overthrew Morsi  last month, and the difficulty of identifying a reasonable way forward.

Al-Jazeera’s Ramadan hypocrisy      

Al-Jazeera’s Ramadan hypocrisy       Author: Ahron Shapiro Categories: Israel, Palestinians, Updates    

In an article, al-Jazeera recasts the Israeli concession of allowing increasing numbers of Palestinians into Israel during the holiday in order to pray at the Al-Aqsa Mosque and visit relatives, as a "sinister" plot to funnel Palestinian holiday shopping shekels away from local Palestinian merchants and into Israeli coffers.

AIR
An Al-Qaeda Resurgence? / Iraq Deteriorates

An Al-Qaeda Resurgence? / Iraq Deteriorates Categories: Afghanistan/ Pakistan, Africa, Iraq, Terrorism, Updates    

This Update discusses the apparent resurgence of al-Qaeda after 22 US diplomatic missions across the Middle East were forced to close due to intelligence of a serious al-Qaeda plot allegedly originating in Yemen and ordered by al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri. It goes on to discuss the deteriorating situation in Iraq - in part due to al-Qaeda's increasing efforts there....

Media Week - Dense & density, Background checks please; Cycle of stupidity

Media Week - Dense & density, Background checks please; Cycle of stupidity Author: Allon Lee Categories: Israel, Media/ Academia, Middle East, Palestinians, Updates    

ABC "Radio National" host Phillip Adams (July 23) introduced an interview with Dr. Mona El Farra, who works for the Red Crescent in Gaza, with the fallacious claim that "the Gaza Strip...[is] the most populated strip of land in the world. Yes, the most populated strip of land on Earth!"

In fact, it's not even close to being the most densely populated area of land in the world.

According to the CIA World Fact Book (2008), there are 4,603 people per square kilometre in Gaza. This is positively roomy compared to Calcutta (24,718), Paris (20,246), Athens (20,235), Singapore (6,816) or even nearby Tel Aviv (7,524) and Jerusalem (6,045).

Negotiating with Iran under Rouhani

Negotiating with Iran under Rouhani Categories: Iran, Islamic Extremism, Updates    

New Iranian President Hassan Rouhani was inaugurated earlier this week amid much speculation about whether his presidency will also inaugurate a new round of diplomacy over nuclear issues with the West. This Update deals with the realities and pitfalls likely to present themselves as the possibility of renewed talks is debated.

Israel quietly treats wounded Syrians

Israel quietly treats wounded Syrians Author: Sharyn Mittelman Categories: Israel, Syria, Updates    

It was recently revealed that Israel has been quietly providing medical assistance to around 100 victims of the Syrian civil war, who are in two hospitals in northern Israel as well as in a field hospital Israel established on the Golan Heights border. 

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 The Importance of Mutual Recognition as a Parameter of Peace

The Importance of Mutual Recognition as a Parameter of Peace Author: Or Avi-Guy Categories: Israel, Palestinians, Updates    

As Israeli and Palestinian negotiating teams come together in Washington in an attempt to reignite serious peace talks, there is one issue which tends to be excluded from mainstream reporting and analysis of the prospect of resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. While core issues such as territorial compromise, refugees, Jerusalem and settlements often appear in the media, a central question for Israel, mutual recognition - including the recognition of Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people - is rarely mentioned.

 Netanyahu and the Case for Peace Process Optimism

Netanyahu and the Case for Peace Process Optimism Categories: Israel, Palestinians, Updates    

With new Israeli-Palestinian peace talks under way in Washington after a three year hiaitus - though with very little information coming out of them about what is being discussed - there remain ample grounds for pessimism about their prospects, some of which were highlighted in the Australian recently by AIJAC editorial chairman Dr. Colin Rubenstein. 

This Update seeks to round out this picture by canvassing some of the arguments that are being put forward that there are reasons for hope that this time the talks could make significant progress - and focussing especially on the approach to the talks of Israeli PM Binyamin Netanyahu.

The crimes of the prisoners to be released for ‘peace talks’

The crimes of the prisoners to be released for ‘peace talks’ Author: Sharyn Mittelman Categories: Israel, Palestinians, Updates    

For peace talks to resume between Israel and the Palestinians, the Palestinian Authority insisted on a number of preconditions, one of which was the release of Palestinian prisoners.  Israel's decision to release the prisoners is a good faith gesture that reflects the difficult price it is willing to pay for progress towards peace. That price can be seen more clearly when you look at the list of horrific crimes committed by the prisoners who are likely to be released.

Qanta Ahmed: BDS harms Israeli Arabs

Qanta Ahmed: BDS harms Israeli Arabs Author: Sharyn Mittelman Categories: Israel, Palestinians, Updates    

Following my previous blog post which looked at how the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement undermines peace-building efforts between Israelis and Palestinians and discriminates against Israeli Arabs, an article in Haaretz by Dr. Qanta Ahmed has exemplified this point.

Ahmed is a physician and author of Pakistani descent, and on her website describes herself as an "anti-Islamist Muslim". In her article "The poverty of boycotting Israel" she makes a scathing attack on the BDS movement for the harm caused by academic and cultural boycotts, and especially the damage potentially being done to the advancement of Israeli Arabs.

The EU's Partial Hezbollah Ban

The EU's Partial Hezbollah Ban Categories: Europe, Lebanon, Terrorism, Updates    

On Monday, the European Union agreed, after months of debate and negotiation, to ban the "military wing" of the Lebanese terror group Hezbollah (Australia, of course, similarly bans only Hezbollah's "External Security Organisation"). This Update focuses on the background and implications of this decision - as well as the wisdom of banning only the "military wing", rather than the whole organisation.

TV Holiday Specials, Middle East-style

TV Holiday Specials, Middle East-style Author: Or Avi-Guy Categories: Anti-Zionism, Antisemitism, Egypt, NGOs, Palestinians, Updates    

When watching holiday specials on TV, even cold-hearted cynics often find it hard not to get swept away by the wholesome feel-good and uplifting messages about the importance of family and friends and the meaning of the "holiday spirit" - saccharine and sentimental as these messages might be. In recent years across the Arab and Muslim world, TV holiday specials have gained popularity, especially during the holy month of Ramadan.

Unfortunately, the messages of some of these programs are less about the holiday spirit, and more about hateful incitement. The new series, "Khaybar", airing this year is a prime example. A "prime time" example, even.

Peace talks set to resume?

Peace talks set to resume? Categories: Israel, Palestinians, Updates    

US Secretary of State John Kerry announced on Friday that Israel and the Palestinians had agreed on a "basis" to resume peace talks. Israel has reportedly agreed to release 85 Palestinian prisoners from the pro-Oslo period as part of the deal, but other details of this "basis for talks" remain unclear. But despite the announcement, and reported  expectations that negotiators from the two sides will arrive in Washington next week, new talks do not appear to be a completely done deal yet, with a number of Palestinian spokesmen saying that the deal is not finalised and obstacles to renewed talks still remain. Meanwhile, the Israeli government has welcomed this development in a cabinet statement.

Islamism after the Fall of Morsi

Islamism after the Fall of Morsi Categories: Egypt, Islamic Extremism, Middle East, Turkey, Updates    

This Update looks at the future of the Islamist political movement, especially in Egypt, in the wake of the overthrow of the Muslim Brotherhood-led Morsi government there early this month. It also includes an analysis of the state of Islamist politics in another important nation - drawing conclusions about Turkey's Erdogan goverment based on its handling of the recent unrest in that country.

AIR
Al-Jazeera biases spark backlash in Egypt

Al-Jazeera biases spark backlash in Egypt Author: Jeni Willenzik Categories: Egypt, Gulf states, Media/ Academia, Middle East, Updates    

Al-Jazeera has been subject to a significant backlash as a result of its alleged favouring of the Muslim Brotherhood in its reporting on Egypt's recent crisis. Since Egyptian Army Commander Abdul Fatah al-Sisi declared that the Egyptian constitution was being suspended on July 3, 22 of al-Jazeera's staff members have resigned in response to what they consider to be its "biased editorial policy" in covering the events.

Additionally, al-Jazeera reporters were forced out of an Egyptian news conference to the sound of chanting by other journalists, while threatening leaflets were dropped near the al-Jazeera offices in Cairo displaying graphic images and slogans such as, "A bullet may kill a man, but a lying camera kills a nation." 

Musicians come to Israel despite bullying of BDS

Musicians come to Israel despite bullying of BDS Author: Sharyn Mittelman Categories: Anti-Zionism, Israel, Updates    

Fourteen-time Grammy winner Alicia Keys is the latest musician to defy the ugly bullying and harassment from Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) activists and perform in Israel.

On July 4, Keys sang to a sold-out crowd in Tel Aviv, to promote peace through music. For one song, she was joined by popular Israeli musician Idan Raichel. Before performing her song "Listen to Your Heart," Keys reportedly told the audience: "People are always trying to tell us what's right for us and what isn't. Instead of listening to them, you should listen to your heart."

Other artists who have also recently defied BDS harassment and performed in Israel include Paul McCartney, Lady Gaga, the Red Hot Chilli Peppers, Black Eyed Peas, Missy Elliott, Alanis Morisette, Elton John, Leonard Cohen, Rhianna and Shakira.

Exposing anti-Israel myth making/Sinai security

Exposing anti-Israel myth making/Sinai security Categories: Egypt, Israel, Updates    

Today’s Update offers some valuable insights into the propaganda war waged against Israel by pro-Palestinian NGOs and the Palestinian Authority (PA), as well as a new piece on the situation in the Sinai from Ehud Yaari.

First, David Weinberg from the Begin-Sadat Centre for Strategic Studies comprehensively demolishes the wholly fictional accusation that Israel is denying adequate water supply to Palestinian cities and towns.

Media Week - Antony blowin’ steam; Do the math; Don’t bank on Barclay

Media Week - Antony blowin’ steam; Do the math; Don’t bank on Barclay Author: Allon Lee Categories: Anti-Zionism, Egypt, Israel, Media/ Academia, Middle East, Palestinians, Updates    

Channel Seven's "Weekend Sunrise" (July 7) featured the authors of a new book debating religion called "For God's Sake" which includes a Christian, an atheist, a Muslim and a Jew. The Christian, Muslim and atheist were committed believers.

The "Jew", however, was that well-known non-authority on Judaism, the self-described atheist and extreme anti-Zionist Antony Loewenstein.

Predictably, Loewenstein preferred to bash Israel rather than talk about Judaism.

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Views on Egypt, Israeli-Palestinian peace talks and Turkey Categories: Egypt, Israel, Palestinians, Turkey, Updates    

Today’s Update looks at the ongoing developments in Egypt; the attempts to coax the Palestinian Authority back to the negotiating table; and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Erdogan’s increasingly offensive statements.

First, top Israeli media commentator and analyst Ehud Yaari - who enjoys some of the best contacts in the Middle East - talks to the Britain Israel Communications & Research Centre on the outlook for Egypt, Hamas and Israel. Yaari explains that Israel’s main challenge relates to the freedom of movement enjoyed by armed jihadists in the vast and largely lawless Sinai Peninsula.

Amnesty International focusing on the wrong protesters

Amnesty International focusing on the wrong protesters Author: Or Avi-Guy Categories: NGOs, Palestinians, Updates    

Amnesty International has it hands full in the Middle East at the best of times, and now it seems that they are busier still. Yet Amnesty still finds the time to deal with... the so-called "bullying and judicial harassment" faced by one Palestinian "rights activist", Nariman Tamimi. Yes, 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.

Egypt –on the brink or a new beginning?

Egypt –on the brink or a new beginning? Categories: Egypt, Updates    

Today’s Update follows up on yesterday’'s by offering some of the most interesting analyses of the momentous changes in Egypt.

First, Daniel Pipes worries that the Egyptian army was premature in removing President Mohammed Morsi from office. He argues “that the quick military removal of the Muslim Brotherhood government will exonerate Islamists” with history showing that popular support for utopian movements really ebbs before the realities of radicalism are truly absorbed.

Revolution in Egypt, again

Revolution in Egypt, again Categories: Egypt, Updates    

Today’s update looks at the Egyptian army’s suspension of the constitution and removal of the country’s first democratically elected President, the Muslim Brotherhood’s Mohammed Morsi. The army moved after Morsi failed to meet its demand to de-escalate the wave of anti-government demonstrations that had swept much of the country. For a brief explanation of what comes next, Frank Spano from the Investigative Project looks at the Egyptian army’s appointment of Adly Mansour as transitional leader until elections can be held. Mansour is the Chief Justice of the Egyptian Supreme Constitutional Court.

Talking about peace talks

Talking about peace talks Categories: Israel, Palestinians, Updates    

With US Secretary of State John Kerry currently visiting Israel as part of an ongoing quest to restart substantive peace talks between Jerusalem and Ramallah that have been in mothballs since 2008, today’s Update looks at why the chances of talks resuming or leading to a deal are unlikely.

Egypt on the Edge/Qatar's New Emir

Egypt on the Edge/Qatar's New Emir Categories: Egypt, Gulf states, Updates    

This Update features two pieces on the increasingly volatile situation in Muslim Brotherhood-ruled Egypt, with a breakdown of state authority, a worsening economic crisis, and a major uptick in mass opposition protests scheduled for June 30 - and perhaps the possibility of military intervention looming. And it also includes some analysis of the succession of a new Emir in Qatar - a country which has played an increasingly important role in much of the Middle East upheaval of the past two and a half years.

Return to sender

Return to sender Author: Ahron Shapiro Categories: Australasia, Israel, Palestinians, Updates    

A kerfuffle raised by Australian Palestinian activists over Australia Post's recent joint issue stamp with Israel offers a teachable moment about the nature of Palestinian activism Down Under.

The incident offers yet more evidence that there is nothing pro-peace about these activists, who often claim to be acting in support of Palestinian self-determination, but place far more importance on fulfilling their fantasy of delegitimising Israel and erasing the country politically in a way their armed comrades in the Middle East have never succeeded in doing so on a battlefield.

Palestinian prisoners and the betrayal of the Human Rights regime

Palestinian prisoners and the betrayal of the Human Rights regime Author: Or Avi-Guy Categories: Israel, Palestinians, United Nations, Updates    

On May 27, during the 23rd session of the Un Human Rights Council in Geneva, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay delivered her opening statement. While counting what she views as the most severe human rights abuses in the world she predictably listed Israel, this time for its treatment of Palestinian prisoners. It seems that no speech before the Human Rights Council would be complete without mentioning Israel.

Iranian President-elect Hassan Rouhani

Iranian President-elect Hassan Rouhani Categories: Iran, Updates    

This Update is devoted to analyses of the impact of the surprise election of Hassan Rouhani (spellings in English are currently varying widely across international media), the most "moderate" of the eight candidates permitted to run in the Iranian Presidential election.

AIR
The Iranian Presidential poll

The Iranian Presidential poll Categories: Iran, Updates    

With Iranians going to the polls today to "choose" a new president (though of course only one from among the small minority of candidates approved by the clerical establishment - and even then, vote-rigging may well occur) this Update is our guide to the candidates, the significance of the election, and its possible effects on the crisis over Iran's illegal nuclear efforts.

Media Week - Moaning Mona

Media Week - Moaning Mona Author: Allon Lee Categories: Egypt, Israel, Media/ Academia, Middle East, NGOs, Palestinians, Updates    

Speaking to SBS Radio's Ron Sutton (June 5), Dr Mona El Farra, head of the health committee for the Red Crescent for Gaza Strip, blamed Israel and to a lesser extent, Egypt, for a litany of health problems in Gaza.

SBS's website noted that El Farra held a meeting with Australian Foreign Minister Bob Carr and no doubt plied him with her propaganda.

Which is a pity, because she would do better to demand the world hold Hamas and the Palestinian Authority to account for their woeful and negligent governance...

Incitement watch: BDS group harasses synagogue-goers in the US while Arabic media sees Jewish plots everywhere

Incitement watch: BDS group harasses synagogue-goers in the US while Arabic media sees Jewish plots everywhere Author: Daniel Meyerowitz-Katz Categories: Antisemitism, Egypt, Islamic Extremism, Middle East, Updates    

Speaking at the annual Global Forum of the American Jewish Committee earlier this month, the US State Department's Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism, Ira Forman, noted the worrying global rise in anti-Jewish sentiment around the world...

The latest incident to be exposed internationally comes from CU-Divest, a pro-BDS group at the University of Colorado in the US...

Whilst Western anti-Israel extremists frequently dabble with various anti-Jewish slogans and themes, there is one particularly vicious Arabic chant that is heard with an alarming regularity at anti-Israel protests with a more Islamist bent...

Waze and means: The tactical and strategic failure of BDS

Waze and means: The tactical and strategic failure of BDS Author: Ahron Shapiro Categories: Antisemitism, Israel, Palestinians, Updates    

The cult-like and self-aggrandising Boycott, Diverstment and Sanctions (BDS) anti-Israel campaign suffered another embarrassing setback this month when Facebook and Google wooed the Israeli content-savvy phone GPS app company Waze.

Meanwhile, the Israeli company SodaStream's unfettered growth continues to expose just how ineffective BDS really is.

Finally, the annual BDS conference once again exposed the movement as fringe, extremist and hostile to peace.

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Lifesaver and Model of Coexistence, yet still Condemned: The Israeli Health System

Lifesaver and Model of Coexistence, yet still Condemned: The Israeli Health System Author: Or Avi-Guy Categories: Israel, Palestinians, Syria, Updates    

It would be fair to say that the Israeli health system has been a unique success story - a model of humanitarian considerations trumping politics, as well as providing benefits both to neighbours such as the Palestinians living under their own health systems and Syrians, and offering unique medical innovations whose benefits are felt worldwide. It's just a pity that it is politics which largely prevents this success story being recognised - and where possible, emulated.

The Six Day War and the changing face of journalism: The view from Australia

The Six Day War and the changing face of journalism: The view from Australia Author: Ahron Shapiro Categories: Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Middle East, Palestinians, Reference, Syria, Updates    

The recent passing of the Associated Press' acclaimed journalist Hal McClure at the age of 92 coincides closely with the event that brought him his greatest fame - his coverage of the 1967 Six Day War, which began 46 years ago yesterday.

His passing is yet another reminder of a bygone era when a journalist took pride in reporting the news, rather than acting as a partisan advocate for or against the newsmakers themselves.

Before refecting on that, however, the anniversary of the Six Day War offers us an opportunity to review some of the coverage of the war at the time in two of Australia's leading newspapers - the Sydney Morning Herald and the Age.

Media Week - Birds of a feather; Trigger-happy headliners; Down the memory hole

Media Week - Birds of a feather; Trigger-happy headliners; Down the memory hole Author: Allon Lee Categories: Israel, Lebanon, Media/ Academia, Middle East, Palestinians, Syria, Updates    

SBS TV's "Dateline" program (May 21) travelled to Greece to look at the worrying rise in the Neo-Nazi Golden Dawn movement which has used the economic crisis there to increase its Parliamentary representation through scapegoating Jews, foreigners, homosexuals and other rival political groupings.

Whilst it is clear that Golden Dawn mirrors its behaviour on the intimidatory tactics of fascism, Golden Dawn MP Ilias Panayotaros told Evan Williams that they take inspiration from Hezbollah, which has cannily attracted supporters over the years through the provision of social services.

As Panayotaros explained, "Golden Dawn wants to become and will become like the Hezbollah in Lebanon which in effect is a second government which helps even its poorest citizen and over time Golden Dawn will do more for our fellow citizens."

But that, of course, doesn't tell the full story. It's a pity that Williams did not follow up on the Hezbollah angle, and point out how it is not only a proscribed terrorist organisation in many countries but actually controls the Lebanese government.

More on the Australian Greens and the London Declaration against Antisemitism

More on the Australian Greens and the London Declaration against Antisemitism Author: Daniel Meyerowitz-Katz Categories: Antisemitism, Australasia, Updates    

Last week, this blog reported the refusal of NSW Greens MLCs David Shoebridge and John Kaye to sign the London Declaration on Combating Antisemitism, as well as their self-serving and disingenuous justification for rejecting the document.

It would be remiss of us to leave the story there. ... Especially encouraging was the decision by Jeremy Buckingham--a colleague of Shoebridge and Kaye in the NSW Upper House--to sign the Declaration, and thereby demonstrate that the NSW Greens party is not united against the principles in the Declaration.

Federal Greens Leader Christine Milne also issued a very welcome statement....

Australian FM right to raise concerns about the plight of Mideast Christians

Australian FM right to raise concerns about the plight of Mideast Christians Author: Sharyn Mittelman Categories: Egypt, Middle East, Syria, Updates    

Yesterday, Greg Sheridan noted in the Australian that Foreign Minister Bob Carr "expresses concern about the treatment of Christians and other minorities in the region", and said "The Foreign Minister is right to make this point and it is a sad commentary about political correctness in much of the West that almost no one raises a voice in defence of the increasingly beleaguered Christians of the Middle East."

Both Carr and Sheridan are correct. The sad reality is that Christians across the Middle East face an uncertain future, and their situation seems to be deteroriating rapidly.

The increasing perils of peacekeeping for Australia and others

The increasing perils of peacekeeping for Australia and others Author: Ahron Shapiro Categories: Australasia, Egypt, Lebanon, Syria, United Nations, Updates    

The unrest in the Arab world commonly mislabelled as the "Arab Spring" has put a strain on United Nations and other peacekeeping forces in the region.

Peacekeeping troops - in which Australia currently and historically has played a role - have limited options for defence available to them according to their mandate, are intended to observe, liaise and act as a buffer between armies.

However, regional non-state actors filling a vacuum created from the weakened national authority in countries affected by the unrest have been increasingly taking advantage of the limitations of the peacekeepers by opportunistically using them as soft targets, bargaining chips and even human shields.

The problem with blaming it all on the settlements

The problem with blaming it all on the settlements Author: Or Avi-Guy Categories: Israel, Palestinians, Updates    

US Secretary of State John Kerry had just concluded yet another visit to the Middle East. On his agenda were visits to Oman and Jordan to discuss the horrific Syrian civil war, and day and a half in Israel and Ramallah to continue his ongoing - but still unsuccessful - effort to reignite direct Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations. His plane barely took off before some commentators started putting forward an old but very flawed theme - ‘it is all because of settlements'.

Hezbollah and the Syrian Civil War

Hezbollah and the Syrian Civil War Categories: Lebanon, Syria, Updates    

This Update deals with the aftermath of Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah's very public announcement last week that Hezbollah was essentially completely dedicated to fighting "all out" on the side of the Assad regime in the Syrian civil war, following widespread reports that large numbers of Hezbollah fighters have been involved in the extended battle for the strategic Syrian town of Qusayr - plus what this means for Syria, Lebanon and the region.

Media Week - One sided conversation

Media Week - One sided conversation Author: Allon Lee Categories: Anti-Zionism, Israel, Media/ Academia, Middle East, Palestinians, Updates    

The Conversation is a website funded by Australian universities and the Federal government for academics and post-grad students to share the fruits of their enquiring minds.

Unfortunately, where the topic of Israel is concerned the Conversation is fast devolving into an outlet for a great deal of slothful, partisan and just plain stupid analysis.

Israeli technology in India

Israeli technology in India Author: Sharyn Mittelman Categories: India, Israel, Updates    

One of Israel's most important economic relationships is with India and this continues to grow, with trade now around US$5 billion annually (excluding defence, which is reportedly very substantial). Furthermore, Jerusalem and New Delhi are currently negotiating a free trade agreement that is expected to lift trade to US$15 billion. But such cooperation is not confined to trade - Israeli technology is also assisting India's development in areas of food supply, clean water and training.

NSW Greens MPs oppose antisemites who don't mention Israel

NSW Greens MPs oppose antisemites who don't mention Israel Author: Daniel Meyerowitz-Katz Categories: Anti-Zionism, Antisemitism, Australasia, Updates    

In an extremely positive development in Australian politics, recent weeks have seen hundreds of Australian parliamentarians signing the London Declaration on Antisemitism...

Not all, however, support the Declaration. Two parliamentarians who have vocally opposed signing it are NSW Greens leader David Shoebridge, and his colleague in the NSW Legislative Council, John Kaye--who is Jewish by birth, if not by practice.

The two MLCs have written a post on New Matilda explaining their position. If that piece is a true reflection of their views on the subject, they seem to fundamentally misunderstand the substance of the Declaration.

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Statement on BDS and publicly-funded bodies Categories: Anti-Zionism, Australasia, Media Releases, Updates    

An article in Saturday's Australian "Libs to cut funding for anti-Israel activists" (May 25) - discussing recent debates about publicly-funded bodies engaging in Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions against Israel - briefly quoted from a longer statement from AIJAC Executive Director Dr. Colin Rubenstein on the subject. As the brief quote in that piece did not and could not fully represent AIJAC's position, here is AIJAC's statement on the subject in full...

French decision sheds light on legality of West Bank settlements

French decision sheds light on legality of West Bank settlements Author: Daniel Meyerowitz-Katz Categories: United Nations, Updates    

On 23 March this year, the Versaille Court of Appeal in France delivered a very significant judgment in a case brought by the Association France-Palestine Solidarité (France-Palestine Solidarity Association, or 'AFPS') and joined by the Palestine Liberation Organisation ('PLO'), against French companies Societé Alstom and Veolia Transport. The ruling sparked some debate within the Jewish media and -- more recently -- the international law blogosphere, but seemed to pass by the rest of the world largely unnoticed. Yet it was the first significant decision in a domestic court on many issues of international law that have been hotly debated for years, and the results may be important in the development of international law....

Israeli-Palestinian Peace Proposals, Past and Present

Israeli-Palestinian Peace Proposals, Past and Present Categories: Israel, Palestinians, Updates    

Today's Update features some new revelations concerning an old Israeli-Palestinian peace proposal - the Olmert offer of 2008 - as well as the revised Arab League Peace plan, as brought to Washington by the Qatari Foreign Minister early this month.

First is a scoop offering new details on the 2008 Olmert peace proposal to the Palestinians, with details obtained in part from Olmert himself, as written up by Haaretz's highly-regarded Palestinian affairs reporter Avi Issacharoff  and published in The Tower, a new online magazine.

A Teen's Life in Gaza - Terrorism training, with beatings for anyone sporting "cool" haircuts or skinny jeans

A Teen's Life in Gaza - Terrorism training, with beatings for anyone sporting "cool" haircuts or skinny jeans Author: Or Avi-Guy Categories: Islamic Extremism, Palestinians, Terrorism, Updates    

Much of the attention regarding Israeli-Palestinian peace prospects have been focused on "hard" policy issues. Yet over-emphasising "hard" policy questions means that crucial precursors for both making peace and for the long term sustainability of any peace agreement end up being overlooked.

One such crucial aspect is the willingness of each side's general public to view the other side as a legitimate entity, and to engage in interaction with it by peaceful means. This is a key element in building stable and lasting peace. such a change in perceptions starts with education.

Education in the Palestinian territories has long been a major source of concern for analysts and commentators, who emphasised the dangers of ‘teaching hate,' and thus perpetuating the conflict. Nowhere is this ‘teaching hate' trend more troubling than in Gaza.

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Iranian Election dramas/ Western Apologists for Iran

Iranian Election dramas/ Western Apologists for Iran Categories: Iran, Updates    

Western governments will be closely observing the Iranian election process in the leading up to the Presidential poll on June 14 in the hopes that the outcome may encourage a change that will allow a diplomatic resolution to the impasse over Iran's nuclear program - though of course, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei is actually the key decisionmaker and is unaffected by the poll. The contest - which looked likely to be dominated by conservative Khamanei loyalists - was on May 11 rocked by the last minute entry of two candidates; former President Rafsanjani, and a top aide to current President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad named Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei. The next drama will be the decision of a clerical body called the Guardianship Council about which of the candidates are allowed to run - it has reportedly already ruled that all of the 30 registered female candidates are disqualified by virtue of their gender - and is expected to issue a ruling shortly, though there will likely be a further round of appeals.

A vote of confidence in Israel from Warren Buffett

A vote of confidence in Israel from Warren Buffett Author: Or Avi-Guy Categories: Israel, Updates    

Israeli industry has received another vote of confidence, this time from near-legendary American business mogul and philanthropist Warren Buffett, the chairman and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway.

Buffett recently completed the acquisition of the last 20% of the Israeli company Iscar (IMC) for US$2 billion - twice the value of the shares offered during the first stage of the transaction in 2006.

West Bank crossings and checkpoints explained

West Bank crossings and checkpoints explained Author: Sharyn Mittelman Categories: Israel, Palestinians, Updates    

West Bank crossings and checkpoints exist to protect Israeli civilians from terrorist attacks and they have been highly successful in doing so.  However, in recent years as security conditions have improved, Israel has greatly eased security restrictions in the West Bank, removing most checkpoints and streamlining procedures at both the remaining checkpoints and border crossings.

The Israel Defence Force has posted an information page "Reality check: The truth behind crossings in Judea and Samaria", which further explains what checkpoints and crossings are, why they exist, and especially, how they work - including the process for West Bank residents to obtain a permit to enter Israel.

Media Week - A sprinkle of BDS;  Minority report

Media Week - A sprinkle of BDS; Minority report Author: Allon Lee Categories: Anti-Zionism, Israel, Media/ Academia, Middle East, Palestinians, Syria, Terrorism, Updates    

In a bizarre move, the hardcopy edition of the Daily Telegraph failed to run any coverage before or after a BDS protest on April 30 at the University of NSW against a planned Max Brenner outlet set to open on campus in June.

However, in the paper's "They Said It" section (May 1) which highlights quotes of the day, this appeared:

"‘These brigades have committed war crimes against Palestinians in Gaza and are involved in Israel's continual ethnic cleansing of Palestine. Students and staff of conscience demand that the Max Brenner be shut down! We don't want companies that endorse the apartheid state of Israel and it's apartheid practices.' A Facebook page set up by UNSW students opposes a campus chocolate shop."

Red lines and calculated risks for Israel in Syria

Red lines and calculated risks for Israel in Syria Author: Ahron Shapiro Categories: Israel, Syria, Updates    

A pair of apparent Israeli cruise missile strikes on Syrian military targets this month brought with it near-unanimous public criticism from the regime of Bashar Assad, Syrian rebels and opposition groups, and Arab and Islamist countries in the region (although scattered Syrian opposition voices were quietly observed supporting the move).

While both Israeli and Syrian officials were reluctant to discuss details, it appears that, like a previous strike on January 30, these strikes were intended to enforce a red line Israel had laid out to Syria against the transfer of advanced weaponry to Hezbollah - reportedly in this case the highly-accurate Fatah-110 missile, which could pinpoint targets over most of Israel.

Fayyad and the problem of Palestinian leadership

Fayyad and the problem of Palestinian leadership Categories: Palestinians, Updates    

Today's Update deals with the aftermath of a candid interview recently "allegedly" given to the New York Times by Salam Fayyad - the Palestinian Authority PM who resigned last month but is still in office in an interim role - and especially what it says about the problematic state and policies of the Palestinian leadership. The nature of this problem is partly highlighted by the word "allegedly" in the previous sentence, because Fayyad is now denying having given the interview at all, calling the whole story a " forgery that carries political dimensions with the goal of causing damage and fomenting strife."

Iran: Sanctions and the Risk of Breakout

Iran: Sanctions and the Risk of Breakout Categories: International Security, Iran, Updates    

This Update features two important articles on the state of play regarding the Iranian nuclear standoff - one looking at the effectiveness of current sanctions and another examining Iran's calculations, and especially what considerations might lead Teheran to stage a nuclear breakout. It also contains an important article on the growing and increasingly controversial role being played by the small country of Qatar in various Middle East conflicts and issues.

AIR
Pro-BDS Facebook page descends into bigot versus bigot hate-fest

Pro-BDS Facebook page descends into bigot versus bigot hate-fest Author: Daniel Meyerowitz-Katz Categories: Anti-Zionism, Antisemitism, Australasia, Updates    

Earlier this week, AIJAC reported the vile anti-Jewish hate-speech that appeared on the Facebok event page for an anti-Israel rally opposing the opening of a Max Brenner outlet at the University of NSW...

Consequently, the dynamic on the page was transformed ... it seems that the page has been overrun by semi-literate keyboard warriors with axes to grind...

ANZAC day in Israel

ANZAC day in Israel Author: Or Avi-Guy Categories: Australasia, Israel, Updates    

The ANZAC Day memorial ceremony at the Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery on Mount Scopus, Jerusalem saw an unusually high turnout last week. The respectful, yet modest, annual commemoration traditionally gathers, and caters to, mostly official Australian and New-Zealand representatives and diplomats from their Embassies, expatriates and the occasional tourist from "Down Under".

The millionaires of Gaza

The millionaires of Gaza Author: Sharyn Mittelman Categories: Palestinians, Updates    

While many Gazans struggle with poverty like many people across the Middle East, one may be surprised to find that there is another side to Gaza's economy - a booming property development industry supported by the smuggling trade that is estimated to have made a thousand millionaires in the last five years. In fact, property prices for luxury villas and apartments in elite Gaza areas like El Remal are reportedly on par with London and New York. 

This certainly came as a surprise to television presenter Seyi Rhodes, who filmed the documentary "Unreported World: Gaza's property ladder" which aired on the UK's Channel 4 on April 26.

'Sue me Jew' part 2: hate-speech off campus and online?

'Sue me Jew' part 2: hate-speech off campus and online? Author: Daniel Meyerowitz-Katz Categories: Anti-Zionism, Antisemitism, Australasia, Media/ Academia, Updates    

On Monday, AIJAC reported on the first two days of vicious anti-Jewish hate-speech on the Facebook page for an anti-Israel rally held this afternoon at the University of New South Wales ('UNSW') to protest the opening of a Max Brenner chocolate shop...

Thankfully, the event saw little identifiable antisemitism -- although those present were likely 'on their best behaviour' due to the significant media presence. Nevertheless, the real story remains the Facebook page. Below is a continuation of yesterday's account...

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'Sue me Jew': horrific hate-speech by Australian students on anti-Israel Facebook page

'Sue me Jew': horrific hate-speech by Australian students on anti-Israel Facebook page Author: Daniel Meyerowitz-Katz Categories: Anti-Zionism, Antisemitism, Australasia, Updates    

Student activism in NSW seems to be taking a dark turn.

For those who follow this blog, it would not be especially surprising to hear that the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions against Israel ('BDS') movement is steeped in antisemitism. ...

In recent days, students at the University of New South Wales ('UNSW') have seen perhaps the most publicly explicit example of this phenomenon to rear its ugly head on Australian shores. A bizarre collective of Muslim students, students from the extreme left, prominent Muslim community leader Rebecca Kay, and "Jihad Sheila" Raisah Douglas, have come together...

Syria and Chemical Weapons/ Hezbollah in trouble?

Syria and Chemical Weapons/ Hezbollah in trouble? Categories: Lebanon, Syria, Updates    

With Israeli military intelligence concluding that Syria has been using chemical weapons against rebels - joining more equivocal claims by Britain and France - and now US intelligence sources largely agreeing, there are growing calls for the US to rethink its low-key policy on Syria - given that US President Obama last year said such use would be a "red line" which would change the American "calculus." This update contains discussion of the possibility and its implications.

Five extreme reactions to the Boston Bombings

Five extreme reactions to the Boston Bombings Author: Daniel Meyerowitz-Katz Categories: Antisemitism, Egypt, Islamic Extremism, Terrorism, United Nations, Updates    

The confusion after the bombing of the Boston Marathon last week saw a number of reactions that were 'colourful' to say the least. Australians will be familiar with radio broadcaster Alan Jones' claim that the perpetrators were most likely "left-wing radical students", as well as Bob Ellis' rather bizarre speculation that "it seems to me likely that this was not al-Qaeda or a lone madman ... but more likely, much more likely, the NRA."

The most shocking reactions, however, did not come from Australians. Be it an unnerving sense of vindication or an incomprehensible conspiracy theory, AIJAC has compiled five of the most 'out-there' responses to the awful carnage that took place.

Boston Marathon bombing: Israel-trained medical team responds, extremists spread conspiracy theories

Boston Marathon bombing: Israel-trained medical team responds, extremists spread conspiracy theories Author: Sharyn Mittelman Categories: America, Antisemitism, Terrorism, Updates    

Australians woke up yesterday morning to the shocking news that two bombs had exploded in the streets near the finish line of the Boston Marathon and had killed three people - Martin Richard an eight-year-old boy who was cheering on his father in the marathon, Krystle Campbell a 29-year-old woman described by her mother as having a "heart of gold", and a Chinese woman who was a student at Boston University. More than 183 people have been hospitalised, 13 people have had their limbs amputated, and 24 are in a critical condition.

After Salam Fayyad

After Salam Fayyad Categories: Palestinians, Updates    

As readers are probably aware, Palestinian Authority PM Salam Fayyad  - widely seen internationally as a competent, efficient and moderate state-builder - submitted his resignation on Saturday and had it accepted by President Mahmoud Abbas. This Update is devoted to analysis of how Fayyad's resignation came about, and the implications of this change for the future of the Palestinian Authority (PA) and Israeli-Palestinian relations.

Palestinian polls and arriving at the two state resolution, which "everbody knows" is the answer

Palestinian polls and arriving at the two state resolution, which "everbody knows" is the answer Author: Or Avi-Guy Categories: Palestinians, Updates    

There is a re-appearing assumption that "everybody knows" the general outline of a future two-state peace accord between Israel and the Palestinians, that both peoples support the idea, and that it is only distrust and the politics and limitations of the leaders of both sides that prevents it from coming about.

But what do Palestinians really think about the "everybody knows" peace deal? Well, there's good news and bad news.

A sixty-five year miracle?

A sixty-five year miracle? Author: Sharyn Mittelman Categories: Israel, Updates    

Today, Israel celebrates the 65th anniversary of its independence (Yom Haatzmaut).

On 14 May 1948, the day in which the British Mandate over Palestine expired, the Jewish People's Council gathered at the Tel Aviv Museum, and David Ben Gurion who became Israel's first Prime Minister, read out the State of Israel's Declaration of Independence.

On that day, the Jewish ‘hope' to be a free people in their ancient homeland became a reality - recalling the famous words of Theodore Herzl, considered the father of modern political Zionism, who said, "If you will it, it is no dream."


Baroness Margaret Thatcher, Israel and the Jewish people


Baroness Margaret Thatcher, Israel and the Jewish people Author: Talia Katz Categories: International Jewry, Israel, United Kingdom, Updates    

Thatcher's reputation as the "Iron Lady" reflected her self-proclaimed status as a conviction politician, and this is echoed in the eulogies delivered following her death. Though her legacy has divided opinion, when it came to Israel and the Jewish people, she is remembered for her strong, supportive and effective foreign policy credentials, and her dedication to fighting antisemitism in all its guises.

As a member of Parliament, representing a large Jewish constituency, and as Britain's longest serving PM in over a hundred years, Thatcher was widely recognised as both a true friend and strong ally to the Jewish people and to the State of Israel.

Another unsuccessful round of Iran talks/ Israel gets gas

Another unsuccessful round of Iran talks/ Israel gets gas Categories: International Security, Iran, Israel, Updates    

The latest round of talks over Iran's nuclear program ended on the weekend with a meeting in Almaty, Kazakhistan, which concluded with little substantive progress and no agreement even about when talks might resume. Moreover, despite Iranian claims to have presented an offer in the latest talks, participants say it was actually, "some interesting, but not fully explained, general comments on our ideas" and an "apparent return to debating modalities for negotiations " rather than any substantive proposal. Iran then followed up the end of the talks by announcing the opening of two new uranium mines and a yellowcake (uranium oxide) factory. This Update deals with the talks and the current state of the Iranian nuclear crisis. 

Bassem Youssef and Egypt's Future Course

Bassem Youssef and Egypt's Future Course Categories: Egypt, Updates    

This Update deals with growing signs that political and economic problems in Egypt may be coming to a head - problems which have been highlighted in the media primarily in the wake of the prosecution for various political "crimes" of Egyptian comedian Bassem Youssef. It also features some analysis of the recent secret leadership elections within Hamas.

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Media Week - No experience necessary?; Flotilla details sink; McGeough shrugs; Doubting Thomas; One among the pack; Relationships advice

Media Week - No experience necessary?; Flotilla details sink; McGeough shrugs; Doubting Thomas; One among the pack; Relationships advice Author: Allon Lee Categories: Anti-Zionism, Israel, Media/ Academia, Palestinians, Turkey, Updates    

Ahead of PM Julia Gillard's cabinet reshuffle Michael Danby's name was touted in the Age and Sydney Morning Herald (March 25) as a potential foreign affairs parliamentary secretary (in the end he got the gig for the Arts instead).

Danby of course has excellent foreign policy credentials...Unfortunately, unlike the five other MPs profiled whose professional experience was touched upon, Danby's only qualification appears to be that he is a "staunch supporter of Israel", according to the Fairfax papers.

Obama, Israel and the "Jewish Lobby"

Obama, Israel and the "Jewish Lobby" Author: Talia Katz Categories: America, Antisemitism, Israel, Updates    

Barack Obama's first visit to Israel as President last month has been widely analysed in the context of the Israel-Palestinian peace process and in terms of other regional security concerns, with a particular focus on the sometimes rocky relationship he shares with Israeli PM Benyamin Netanyahu. However, both Obama and some of Australia's less-informed commentators chose to emphasise what the visit tells us about the overall Israel-US relationship, above and beyond any personal issues between individuals. 

But despite the President's eloquence, some media commentators and pundits outdid themselves in attempting to use the visit to push the ugly but increasing well-worn argument that it is only because of the undue and often insidious impact of the "Israel Lobby" (or more crudely the "Jewish Lobby") that the US has the policy positions that it does on Israel, and the US-Israel alliance endures. Some go as far as to suggest that Israel somehow has direct control over the American government.

Blood libel surfaces at Hanan Ashrawi's MIFTAH organisation

Blood libel surfaces at Hanan Ashrawi's MIFTAH organisation Author: Sharyn Mittelman Categories: Antisemitism, NGOs, Palestinians, Updates    

The Jewish people recently celebrated the festival of Passover, which recounts the Jewish exodus from Egypt. In the Middle East, this festival often leads to new outbreaks of the ugly antisemitic lie of blood libel - the claim that Jews use the blood of non-Jews to make Passover Matzah.  This year a particularly concerning case of blood libel promotion occurred in an article by Jordanian writer Nawaf al-Zaru published on the Arabic website of MIFTAH, an NGO founded in 1998 by Hanan Ashrawi, a member of the Palestinian Legislative Council, who still plays a senior role there.

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Evaluating President Obama's Israel visit

Evaluating President Obama's Israel visit Categories: America, Israel, Updates    

US President Obama ended his visit to Israel and the Palestinian terrorities on Friday, going on to Jordan and then returning home.

His major statements in Israel were his speech on arrival, his media conference with Israeli PM Netanyahu, his media conference with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, and his major speech to Israeli students in Jerusalem Thursday night (video is available here). All are worth reading in their entirety, if you have the time. For those who don't, AIJAC analyst Sharyn Mittelman offered a preliminary evaluation on Friday, while this Update is devoted to further evaluations of their cumulative effect, along with President Obama's other major stops in Israel and the West Bank.

Media Week - One-Way Traffic

Media Week - One-Way Traffic Author: Allon Lee Categories: Israel, Media/ Academia, Middle East, Palestinians, United Nations, Updates    

It is one of the seminal images that appeared over and over again in the early stages of last November's Second Gaza-Israel war. 
 
Distraught Palestinian father Jihad Masharawi, holding the dead body of his 11-month-old son, Omar, who was reported to have been the victim of an Israeli rocket hitting the family home.
 
Except on March 6 2013, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights announced that its investigation into the circumstances of Omar's death suggests he was most likely a victim of a rocket fired by Hamas or one of its affiliates that fell short.
 
So, yes, in a very real sense, Omar was a symbol - a tragic victim of the callous indifference of the so-called Palestinian resistance movement that is based in, and operates from, built up civilian areas in Gaza.

Obama wins hearts and minds in Israel

Obama wins hearts and minds in Israel Author: Sharyn Mittelman Categories: America, Iran, Israel, Palestinians, Updates    

US President Barack Obama's trip to Israel and the Palestinian Territories has been vitally important - and apparently highly successful. In only three short days Obama seems to have been able to address core issues that appeared to be straining the US-Israel relationship and press ‘reset'.

Hamas "moderates" don't accept Israel

Hamas "moderates" don't accept Israel Author: Ahron Shapiro Categories: Palestinians, Updates    

Following the Israeli elections and just ahead of US President Barack Obama's first visit to Israel, last Tuesday The New Republic published a lengthy feature examining the current state of the peace process, penned by Ben Birnbaum.

In part, the essay "The end of the two-state solution: Why the window is closing on Middle-East peace", looked at the prospective problem of Fatah uniting with the terror group Hamas, which remains in sole control of Gaza and maintains considerable support among the population in the West Bank.

The new Israeli coalition in a nutshell

The new Israeli coalition in a nutshell Author: Talia Katz Categories: America, Israel, Palestinians, Updates    

After six weeks of haggling, Israel's thirty-third Knesset was reported on Wednesday to include 22 cabinet ministers (down from 30 in the previous cabinet) and several deputy ministers from the 68-strong coalition of Likud-Beiteinu, Yesh Atid (There is a Future), HaBait Yehudit (The Jewish Home) and HaTnua (The Movement) The new government is due to be sworn in on Monday, and there are already signs that its agenda will be administered with pragmatism.

Iran's antisemitic partnerships

Iran's antisemitic partnerships Author: Or Avi-Guy Categories: Antisemitism, Europe, Far Right, Iran, Updates    

Iran finds it hard to make friends these days. And now, another "blow"- Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chavez, one of Iran strongest allies in the global arena, passed away.

Interestingly, the Iranians have formed an unholy alliance with none other than the Hungarian ultra-nationalist rising power - the Jobbik party.

Media Week - Friendly advice; Immoral equivalence

Media Week - Friendly advice; Immoral equivalence Author: Allon Lee Categories: Anti-Zionism, Israel, Media/ Academia, Palestinians, Updates    

When Australia's federal government decided to abstain and not oppose a UN vote to upgrade Palestinian representation, Foreign Minister Bob Carr justified the move explaining how "a good friend will share with his friend reservations about that friend's behaviour".

It would be interesting to know if Carr feels similarly after reading the Australian foreign editor Greg Sheridan's very public and eye watering critique of his and predecessor Kevin Rudd's attempts "to put more distance between Australia and Israel" (March 9).

The take down was even more startling given Sheridan's acknowledgement that he is broadly admiring of both Carr and Rudd in most respects.

Australians for Palestine's graphic prejudice

Australians for Palestine's graphic prejudice Author: Daniel Meyerowitz-Katz Categories: Anti-Zionism, Antisemitism, Australasia, Holocaust/ War Crimes, Updates    

In Australia and elsewhere, proponents of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions ('BDS') campaign against Israel consistently claim that the campaign is about human rights and has no racial element. ... Yet time and again, leading BDS figures are exposed for supporting various neo-Nazi and/or Islamist thinkers because of what those thinkers say about Jews. ... The degree to which casual antisemitism has become acceptable in the pro-BDS discourse is probably what led to Australians for Palestine ('AfP') deciding that this was an appropriate image to use on their website...

The Economist discusses al-Jazeera’s biases

The Economist discusses al-Jazeera’s biases Author: Sharyn Mittelman Categories: Media/ Academia, Updates    

Al-Jazeera's credibility as an editorially independent news provider is increasingly under the spotlight.  AIJAC has previously blogged about growing concerns that al-Jazeera, owned by Qatar, is being used by Qatar to promote its foreign policy interests - in particular the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood and Sunni Islamism generally. There have also been a number of reports of journalists resigning from al-Jazeera citing its lack of editorial independence.

Now even the venerable Economist has endorsed these concerns in its piece "The Muslim Brotherhood: It's hard being in charge". The article notes that despite the early success of the Muslim Brotherhood in the beginning of the ‘Arab Spring', the Brotherhood's popularity is now falling, and with it, the popularity of a key sponsor - al-Jazeera.

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 Israel offers positive water policy example to the region - the Palestinians, sadly, offer the opposite

Israel offers positive water policy example to the region - the Palestinians, sadly, offer the opposite Author: Or Avi-Guy Categories: Israel, Jordan, Palestinians, Updates    

Through resource management, innovation and planning, the Israeli water authorities ... have now beaten the intense drought which has gripped the country for several years. Now, the Israeli example stands ready to help others in the region to do the same. Unfortunately, not everyone is ready to take advantage of this opportunity.

AIPAC: Looking for signs regarding the Obama Administration's second term agenda

AIPAC: Looking for signs regarding the Obama Administration's second term agenda Author: Sharyn Mittelman Categories: America, Iran, Israel, Updates    

This year's annual AIPAC Policy Conference attracted more than 13,000 delegates, and heard from an array of speakers including Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu (via satellite), Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak, US Vice President Joe Biden, Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird, US House Leader Eric Cantor (R) and US Senator John McCain (R).

A this year's conference observers attempted to gauge the Obama Administration's possible policies and preferences for the next four years - regarding US-Israel relations, efforts to advance the two state solution, the so-called "Arab Spring", and particularly regarding Iran's nuclear program

The 'segregated buses' canard

The 'segregated buses' canard Author: Ahron Shapiro Categories: Palestinians, Updates    

How did the story about a goodwill gesture by Israel in the form of increased Palestinian employment inside Israel, combined with another goodwill gesture of improved bus service for some of these workers, became twisted into another story of Israeli "injustice" against Palestinians? 

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Why Hugo Chavez will not be missed by Venezuela's Jews

Why Hugo Chavez will not be missed by Venezuela's Jews Author: Daniel Meyerowitz-Katz Categories: America, Antisemitism, Updates    

The numerous obituaries and eulogies being written for the recently deceased Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez all seem to agree on one thing: the man was polarising.

One group that was driven relentlessly towards the hostile pole is Venezuela's Jews. In addition to his generally poor rights record, Chavez had an ugly and long-standing habit of fostering enmity towards the Jewish community of Venezuela for his own political advantage...

Palestinian prisoner issue plagued by selective reporting

Palestinian prisoner issue plagued by selective reporting Author: Ahron Shapiro Categories: Palestinians, Terrorism, Updates    

Who are Samer Issawi and Ayman Sharawneh, the hunger-striking Palestinian prisoners that have become the latest "cause célèbre" for pro-Palestinian activists?

(See our update on how the prisoner issue appears to be a deliberate pretext for creating unrest in an effort to push the Palestinian agenda prior to US President Barack Obama's visit to the region later this month).

Unfortunately, many recent news reports on the pair have neglected to report on the background of terror activity of these and other Palestinian prisoners. In doing so, the media has omitted crucial information to give perspective and balance to their coverage on a very contentious issue.

After the Almaty nuclear talks

After the Almaty nuclear talks Categories: International Security, Iran, Updates    

In the P5+1 nuclear talks with Iran last week, it was agreed to hold two additional meetings - a technical meeting in March and full political talks in early April - after the P5+1 powers softened their demands of Iran and offered greater incentives for agreeing to an interim agreement to ease concerns about the Iranian nuclear program. This Update looks at what can be concluded from the session about the state of efforts to prevent Iran from illegally constructing nuclear weapons.

Love letter to Hamas - Paul McGeough's front-page profiles of Khaled Meshal

Love letter to Hamas - Paul McGeough's front-page profiles of Khaled Meshal Author: Sharyn Mittelman Categories: Australasia, Palestinians, Updates    

The Age and Sydney Morning Herald on Saturday dedicated their front pages to a profile of Hamas leader Khaled Meshal - interviewed in Qatar by Fairfax senior journalist Paul McGeough. There were also a number of subsequent articles on Meshal by McGeough over the weekend in those papers.

McGeough's articles over the weekend with photos to match, provided a glorified picture of Meshal - painting him as a resistance leader capable of moderating but also an ‘every man' - a grandfather who plays with his grandchidren, a man who plays table-tennis and goes to the gym. McGeough does not detail Meshal's reported funding and organising of terrorist attacks on innocent Israelis.

 Foxes guarding the Human Rights henhouses: A UN tradition continues

Foxes guarding the Human Rights henhouses: A UN tradition continues Author: Or Avi-Guy Categories: Africa, Iran, Sudan, Syria, United Nations, Updates    

UN agencies dedicated to the promotion of human rights, mandated with the protection of the world's most vulnerable and marginalised populations, have long been subject to widespread criticism for their politicization, hypocrisy, and anti-Israel bias. Over and over again, the UNHRC has proven to be plagued with the same problems which haunted its predecessor - most notably appointing egregious human rights violators to high-profile leadership positions.

Myth and reality regarding US-Israel relations

Myth and reality regarding US-Israel relations Author: Talia Katz Categories: America, Israel, Updates    

The controversy stirred up during the confirmation hearing of US Senator Chuck Hagel, now appointed Secretary of Defense on Feb. 26, has once again opened debate on the relationship between the US and Israel. More to the point, it has prompted detractors to call into question the role of the "Israel Lobby", and push their claim that this lobby is somehow forcing the US to act against its own interests by maintaining close cooperation with Israel.

How the Turkish Prime Minister condemned himself by calling Zionism a ‘crime against humanity’

How the Turkish Prime Minister condemned himself by calling Zionism a ‘crime against humanity’ Author: Sharyn Mittelman Categories: Israel, Turkey, United Nations, Updates    

Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan on March 1 offensively equated Zionism to racism and fascism at the "Fifth Alliance of Civilizations Forum" in Vienna. During the forum, Erdoğan reportedly stated: "Just like Zionism, anti-Semitism and fascism, it becomes unavoidable that Islamophobia must be regarded as a crime against humanity."

Erdogan's decision to refer to Zionism, which is the foundation of the Jewish state and the movement of Jewish self-determination, as a "crime against humanity" is inflammatory, wrong and dangerous.

West Bank Unrest

West Bank Unrest Categories: Israel, Palestinians, Updates    

This Update features three pieces providing background to the growing - though still limited - West Bank demonstrations. While presented by Australian media as primarily the result of the death in Israeli custody of Arafat Jaradat on Saturday, and Palestinian claims he was tortured, this ignores the fact that demonstrations were already escalating last week, amid PA calls for the release of prisoners and threats of a new "Intifada". As all three of the pieces in this Update make clear, the death of Arafat Jaradat has simply become the latest justification for a campaign of demonstrations already being encouraged by the Palestinian Authority.

The death of Ben Zygier - Excerpts of the report issued by the investigating magistrate

The death of Ben Zygier - Excerpts of the report issued by the investigating magistrate Author: Or Avi-Guy Categories: Israel, Updates    

Readers following the extensive media coverage of the case of Australian-Israeli man Ben Zygier - who died in an Israeli prison in 2010 - will be aware that last week the Israeli courts allowed the publication of a redacted version of the report issued by the Rishon Lezion Magistrates court following the hearings held to investigate Zygier's death. Here is a verbatim translation of key excerpts from the report.

Israel's Oscar nominees tell us something about Israeli society

Israel's Oscar nominees tell us something about Israeli society Author: Or Avi-Guy Categories: Israel, Updates    

There are two Israeli films among the nominees for the 2013 Academy Award for best Documentary; Dror Moreh's "The Gatekeepers" and Emad Burnat and Guy Davidi's "5 Broken Cameras".

There is more to this story than the success of a small and modestly-resourced Israeli film industry, and that is its role in the public discourse about Israel and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and how this role reflects the pluralistic nature of Israeli society, and its democratic institutions.

Preparing for the Next Round of Iran Talks

Preparing for the Next Round of Iran Talks Categories: International Security, Iran, Updates    

A new round of P5+1 (meaning the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany) nuclear talks with Iran, the first since July of last year, is scheduled for next Tuesday, Feb. 26, in Kazakhstan. There are reports that Iran will be presented with a "substantial and serious offer" from the P5+1 to halt the more worrying enrichment activity - but expectations seems generally modest. Meanwhile, the International Atomic Energy Agency says Iran this week began installing much quicker second generation centrifuges. This Update offers some background to the talks and explores some of the reasons few expect a significant breakthrough.

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North Korea and Iran/ The PA's democracy deficit

North Korea and Iran/ The PA's democracy deficit Categories: Asia, International Security, Iran, Palestinians, Updates    

Following the North Korean nuclear bomb test earlier this week, and the failure of the latest International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) meeting with Iran, this Update discusses the potential implications for the ongoing problems of preventing Iran from gaining nuclear weapons capabilities.

First up is an editorial on the subject from the Jerusalem Post, which notes that at the very least, the North Korean test was a morale-booster for Teheran.

Hamas' housing demolitions met with deafening silence

Hamas' housing demolitions met with deafening silence Author: Ahron Shapiro Categories: Europe, NGOs, Palestinians, United Nations, Updates    

Are NGOs imposing a double standard when it comes the demolition of Palestinian houses?

That is the question that Elliott Abrams asked Wednesday on his blog on the Council of Foreign Relations' website.

On Tuesday, the Palestinian news website Ma'an reported that Hamas was moving ahead with plans to demolish 75 homes belonging to the Abu Amrah clan in the al-Rimal neighbourhood of Gaza. The Hamas government claims the homes were built illegally. The family is protesting the move, and resisting relocation.

Israel's official statement on "Prisoner X" Categories: Australasia, Israel, Updates    

AIJAC has obviously been following closely the reporting and speculation - both in Australia and Israel - concerning the case of "Prisoner X" who died in 2010 in an Israeli prison, and is alleged to have been Melbourne-born Australian-Israeli dual citizen Ben Zygier.

While we can add little to what is already in the media, and have no wish to further burden the bereaved Zygier family, below in full is the translation prepared by Haaretz of the Israeli government statement on Prisoner X released on Wednesday, which has not yet been published here, and we believe sheds some light on aspects of the case which have not gotten sufficient attention.

Egypt's chaos/ West Bank realities

Egypt's chaos/ West Bank realities Categories: Egypt, Israel, Palestinians, Updates    

This Update features two pieces related to the increasing street violence in Egypt, and the Muslim Brotherhood-led government's response to it, plus an important piece on the sad reality behind the Palestinian Authority's state building efforts in the West Bank, led by Prime Minister Salam Fayyad.

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 Off Sides: What media stories about the Beitar Jerusalem controversy miss about Israeli soccer

Off Sides: What media stories about the Beitar Jerusalem controversy miss about Israeli soccer Author: Or Avi-Guy Categories: Israel, Updates    

Lately, racism in soccer made headlines after a decision by the management of the Israeli soccer club Beitar Jerusalem to introduce two new players to the team, both Chechen Muslims. Some stories in the Australian media implied that Beitar Jerusalem is a racist club and that somehow this reflects racism in Israeli society at large. This kind of commentary shows a poor understanding of Beitar Jerusalem fans and the club's history, and misrepresents both Israeli soccer history and Israeli society.

Palestinian Activist: Gaza's real problem is too much high quality food

Palestinian Activist: Gaza's real problem is too much high quality food Author: Talia Katz Categories: Israel, Palestinians, Updates    

Gaza is under siege and Gazans are struggling to get in basic items to feed their families, right? You might think so if you follow most of the coverage and comment and you see on the Gaza situation, but it is actually far from the reality. Don't take my word for it - read the Al-Monitor article by Rana Baker, who lives and studies in Gaza and writes for the vehemently and violently anti-Israel website Electronic Intifada.

The Truth about Iraq WMD "Lies"

The Truth about Iraq WMD "Lies" Author: Talia Katz Categories: America, Iraq, Media/ Academia, Middle East, United Kingdom, Updates    

The release of The Art of Betrayal, by Gordon Corera, the highly-regarded veteran BBC journalist, should, if our media indeed has the commitment to truth which it constantly proclaims, rightfully see the last decade of often conspiratorial rhetoric about the 2003 war in Iraq fade to reveal a different and more complex and nuanced reality.

Turkel Report  II - Israel earns praise from Australian expert for inquiry into international law obligations

Turkel Report II - Israel earns praise from Australian expert for inquiry into international law obligations Author: Sharyn Mittelman Categories: Israel, Updates    

Around two weeks after the May 31, 2010 flotilla incident aboard the Mavi Marmara, when Israel's enforcement of its naval blockade on the coast of the Gaza Strip led to the deaths of nine Turkish activists, Israel established an independent public commission of inquiry to examine whether it complied with its obligations under international law. This was known as the Turkel Commission, after Jacob Turkel, the retired judge who served as its Chairman.

On Feb. 6, Israel received the Second Report of the Turkel Commission evaluating the manner in which Israel examines and investigates allegations that it has violated the laws of armed conflict. This report is also intended to be proactive - looking at ways to improve Israel's future ability to handle allegations about violations of the laws of war.

Israel's crop of fresh political faces

Israel's crop of fresh political faces Author: Or Avi-Guy Categories: Israel, Updates    

This past Tuesday, February 5, the 19th Knesset, Israel's parliament, convened for its inaugural session in Jerusalem, and all 120 members pledged their allegiance to the State. The composition of the new Knesset can reveal, and for some affirm, a change in priorities in the national agenda among the Israeli public.

Media Week - Sensible on Syria; Lazy lines; Neither doom nor gloom

Media Week - Sensible on Syria; Lazy lines; Neither doom nor gloom Author: Allon Lee Categories: Anti-Zionism, Israel, Media/ Academia, Palestinians, Updates    

Israel's attack on a Syrian weapons convoy generated considerable interest on ABC Radio.

Radio National's "Breakfast" (1/2) spoke to Ehud Yaari via telephone in Israel.

Yaari told Fran Kelly that Israel attacked a convoy carrying weapons that would give Hezbollah capabilities such as the "Yakhont coast-to-sea missiles that could threaten, for example, the Israeli gas exploration in the eastern Mediterranean."

He also said that the Assad regime accused anti-government Islamist rebels in Syria of co-responsibility for the Israeli attack, "a collusion, which does not exist, of course."

Mr. Obama goes to Jerusalem

Mr. Obama goes to Jerusalem Categories: America, Israel, Updates    

US President Barack Obama has now announced that he will be visiting Israel in March, after coming under some criticism for failing to do so during his first term in office. Details on the visit and what US officials hope will accomplish are reported here. (It is worth noting the White House has been clear that a new peace plan is not part of their agenda.) This Update looks at some of the issues likely be raised during the Presidential visit, or to affect it.

Melbourne newspaper readers left in the dark about alleged Aussie Hezbollah terrorist

Melbourne newspaper readers left in the dark about alleged Aussie Hezbollah terrorist Author: Allon Lee Categories: Media/ Academia, Updates    

The revelation that an Australian passport holder was allegedly involved in last year's bus bombing coordinated by Hezbollah which killed five Israeli tourists in Bulgaria understandably garnered much local media coverage. In addition to numerous radio and TV reports, news briefs in yesterday's newspapers were followed up with more extensive reports today.

Except, bizarrely, there was no mention of the allegation by Bulgarian authorities in the hard copy editions of the national Australian Financial Review (AFR) or in either of Melbourne's two daily newspapers - the Age and Herald Sun.

Burgas findings reveal Australian involved and puts EU under pressure to ban Hezbollah

Burgas findings reveal Australian involved and puts EU under pressure to ban Hezbollah Author: Sharyn Mittelman Categories: Australasia, Europe, Israel, Terrorism, Updates    

Following Bulgaria's findings that Hezbollah was involved in the 18 July 2012 terrorist attack in Burgas that killed six people - five Israeli tourists and a local Bulgarian bus driver, the European Union (EU) is now under increasing pressure to list Hezbollah as a terrorist organisation.

Providing an update on its findings into the investigation of the bus bombing, Bulgarian Interior Minister Tsvetan Tsvetanov said: "There is data showing the financing and connection between Hezbollah and the two suspects..." and that "the two suspects with Canadian and Australian passports had been living in Lebanon, one since 2006 and the other since 2010."

An Australian Hezbollah terrorist? No great surprise

An Australian Hezbollah terrorist? No great surprise Author: Ahron Shapiro Categories: Europe, International Security, Islamic Extremism, Terrorism, Updates    

Revelations by Bulgarian investigators that one of the suspects in last July's terrorist bombing of a bus carrying an Israeli tour group near the airport in Burgas, Bulgaria last July was both a Hezbollah operative and an Australian national should unfortunately not come as any great surprise.

Those who have closely followed the operations of Iran's terror proxy in southeast Asia and Australasia in recent years know that its presence in the region is substantial, and that Australia is regularly listed as one of the countries in which Hezbollah operates.

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Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei's mission "To set Israel on fire"

Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei's mission "To set Israel on fire" Author: Talia Katz Categories: Australasia, Iran, Islamic Extremism, Israel, Media/ Academia, Updates    

The principle argument being made by opponents of strong action against Iran's nuclear program is that Iran is a "rational" actor, whose regime values survival above all else and a nuclear Iran can be contained just as the Soviet Union was during the Cold War.

Now a new report offers yet more evidence to doubt whether Iran's "rationality" is so obvious and assured. And the report concerns not the loud-mouthed Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, but the man everyone agrees has ultimate control over Iran's nuclear program, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Israel refuses to participate in UN "human rights" farce

Israel refuses to participate in UN "human rights" farce Author: Daniel Meyerowitz-Katz Categories: Iran, Israel, Libya, Syria, United Nations, Updates    

Israel has been making headlines recently for its failure to show-up to its "Universal Periodic Review" ("UPR") session at the United Nations Human Rights Council ("HRC") and for refusing to cooperate with a recent "fact-finding mission" into settlements in the West Bank. ...

Sadly, it appears that the reforms to the UN Human Rights Commission and its re-branding as the "Human Rights Council" have had little effect...

Briefing on the Problematic UN Human Rights Council Report on Israeli Settlements

Briefing on the Problematic UN Human Rights Council Report on Israeli Settlements Author: Daniel Meyerowitz-Katz Categories: Israel, United Nations, Updates    

Earlier today, this blog noted that Israel has been boycotting the United Nations Human Rights Council due to the Council's habitual singling-out of Israel for unfair, unwarranted, and utterly biased criticism.

A report on settlements in the West Bank, the commission of which spurred Israel's decision to cease cooperation with the Council, has just been released. Sadly, the Report entirely vindicates Israel's position on the matter.

Below is an itemised critique of the Report, highlighting numerous examples of errors and misinformation...

ABC interviews offer informed perspectives on Syria weapons strike

ABC interviews offer informed perspectives on Syria weapons strike Author: Ahron Shapiro Categories: Lebanon, Syria, Terrorism, Updates    

In the aftermath of reports of an Israeli attack on a Syrian weapons convoy, ABC Radio carried two interviews on Friday worthy of special notice.

On Radio National's Breakfast program, Fran Kelly spoke with Israeli Channel 2's esteemed journalist and analyst Ehud Yaari, who of course recently visited Australia and spoke at an AIJAC function, video available here

Hours later, on The World Today, Simon Santow interviewed former CIA operative Robert Baer.

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Media Week - Inane Faine; Spot the difference; Out of sync

Media Week - Inane Faine; Spot the difference; Out of sync Author: Allon Lee Categories: Israel, Media/ Academia, Middle East, Palestinians, Updates    

ABC Radio's Melbourne host Jon Faine (23/1) should hang his head in shame for his line of questioning to Prime Minister Julia Gillard on the results of the Israeli election.

Even though the evidence showed the opposite, Faine claimed that "the Coalition likely to be elected in the new Knesset in Israel looks like it is going to oppose the peace process."

International Holocaust Remembrance Day Misused and Abused

International Holocaust Remembrance Day Misused and Abused Author: Sharyn Mittelman Categories: Antisemitism, Egypt, Europe, Holocaust/ War Crimes, Updates    

Increasingly January 27, ‘International Holocaust Remembrance Day' is being misused and abused. This year was no exception with three prominent cases: Gerald Scarfe's cartoon in the Sunday Times; former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's comments praising Italy's former fascist dictator Benito Mussolini who was allied with Hitler's Nazi Germany; and most concerning were the outrageous comments made by Fathi Shihab-Eddim, a senior figure close to Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi who chose January 27 to deny the Holocaust.

Egypt's Islamist Spring/More UN hypocrisy

Egypt's Islamist Spring/More UN hypocrisy Categories: Egypt, Islamic Extremism, Israel, United Nations, Updates    

Two years after the Arab Spring erupted in the Middle East, sweeping away long standing governments and leaders, the biggest winners are unquestionably the Islamists, particularly in Egypt. Today's Update considers the strategic outlook. To the north of Israel, Syria is roiling in the blood of 60,000 dead as the Assad regime and Islamist rebels clash. To the south of Israel, Egypt’s streets are once more filling up with protesters as the Muslim Brotherhood boldly exposes its antisemitic and anti-democratic colours at breakneck speed, while its offshoot in Gaza is approaching its sixth year of rule.

After Israel’'s elections, –where to now?

After Israel’'s elections, –where to now? Categories: Israel, Updates    

With all the ballots counted and the horse-trading beginning to see which parties will join what will almost certainly be a Netanyahu-led governing coalition, today’'s update looks at what it means for the moribund peace process.

First up, Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz reveals his initiative last December to convince Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to restart peace talks.

Making sense of Israel's election results

Making sense of Israel's election results Author: Talia Katz Categories: Israel, Updates    

Contrary to predictions prior to the election by many that Israeli politics is increasingly right-wing, with 99 per cent of the vote already counted the Knesset's character is looking decidedly centrist, with an almost even split predicted in early television exit polling.

Right turn for Israel?/ An Insider on Iran's nuclear plans

Right turn for Israel?/ An Insider on Iran's nuclear plans Categories: Iran, Israel, Updates    

The theme of most Australian media coverage of the Israeli election taking place tonight, Australia time, is that Israel seems to be shifting towards the right. This Update contains two attempts to challenge this conventional wisdom - as well as a unique eyewitness report from an Iranian regime insider about Iran's nuclear plans.

AIJAC comments on Carr/Hague AUKMIN 2013 Communique

AIJAC comments on Carr/Hague AUKMIN 2013 Communique Author: Colin Rubenstein Categories: Australasia, Israel, Media Releases, Middle East, Palestinians, United Kingdom, Updates    

On Friday January 18 at the close of the Australia-UK Ministerial Consultations (AUKMIN) conference in Perth, Foreign Minister the Hon Senator Bob Carr and UK Foreign Secretary William Hague released a joint statement on the Middle East peace process, condemning Israel's settlements as "illegal under international law".

AIJAC released the following media statement to the press in response on Friday 18 January.

Insights into the Israeli election campaign

Insights into the Israeli election campaign Categories: Israel, Updates    

Today's Update features three articles on aspects of the Israeli election campaign - and especially devoted to correcting some myths about the campaign and its likely outcome.

First up is Barry Rubin, commenting on some strange features of the election campaign, but also the exaggerated claims being made about Israel moving toward the right. He notes that current PM Binyamin Netanyahu's opponents appear to be doing a poor job of challenging him, relying too much on American political consultants, fighting amongst themselves, and boxing themselves into a corner by ruling out involvement in a Netanyahu coalition.

Abbas goes Radical

Abbas goes Radical Author: Or Avi-Guy Categories: Palestinians, Updates    

In a speech on January 4, marking the occasion of the anniversary of Fatah's establishment, Mahmoud Abbas, Palestinian Authority President and leader of both the PLO and the Fatah movement, expressed a political vision about the aspirations for the future of Palestinians.

The speech was described by leading Israeli analysts as espousing "a radical political doctrine" expressed "using extremist rhetoric" that "may have marked a turning point in the relations between the Palestinian Authority president and the State of Israel".

Breaking through the silence on the plight of Middle Eastern Christians

Breaking through the silence on the plight of Middle Eastern Christians Author: Ahron Shapiro Categories: Islamic Extremism, Palestinians, Updates    

Up to 100 million Christians are facing persecution globally, mostly by Islamic extremists, and especially in the Middle East and African regions, according to a new report by the Christian NGO Open Doors.

According to the organisation, of the top 10 countries on their list - North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia, Maldives, Mali, Iran, Yemen and Eritrea - eight are majority Muslim states threatened by Islamic extremism, with North Korea and Eritrea being the sole exceptions.

The report puts a spotlight on the underreported plight of minority Christians worldwide, particularly in the Islamist-dominated Middle East, where the number of Christians relative to the global Christian population has plunged to less than one percent. This is in contrast to a century ago, when the Middle East was home to 20 percent of the world's Christians.

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Media Week - Half-cocked; Nuclear handwringing; Off key; The value of values

Media Week - Half-cocked; Nuclear handwringing; Off key; The value of values Author: Allon Lee Categories: America, Anti-Zionism, Iran, Israel, Media/ Academia, Updates    

In the Sun-Herald (30/12), Paul McGeough penned a long article devoted to offensively comparing pro-Israel voices concerned over President Barack Obama's possible nomination of former Republican Senator Chuck Hagel as his next Defence-Secretary to those Americans who defend their right to own guns in the aftermath of the Sandy Hook school massacre.

Iran's war on human rights

Iran's war on human rights Author: Sharyn Mittelman Categories: Iran, Updates    

Following the Iranian regime's violent crackdown on Iranians who protested the June 2009 election result, Iran's repression continued against anyone deemed to be a supporter of the ‘velvet revolution'.  As a result, citizens who dare to speak out against Iran's violation of human rights including lawyers, journalists, bloggers have been arrested and often tortured. While this issue has mostly faded from global attention, the death while in custody of a 35-year-old Iranian activist blogger Sattar Beheshti in November 2012 has put this issue back in the headlines.

Settlements - International Law and the physical and political realities

Settlements - International Law and the physical and political realities Categories: Israel, Palestinians, Updates    

This Update features some information and argument related to the always contentious issue of Israeli West Bank settlements.

First up is noted Israeli international law expert Alan Baker looking at the arguments about the legality of the settlements. He summarises the case that they are legal in the most concise way I have yet seen. He also has a strong discussion of the relationship between the settlement question and the Oslo accords, noting that the Palestinian demand for a settlement freeze as a precondition for talks is actually a violation of Oslo, just as the recent UN decision to upgrade Palestinian status to a "non-member state" was.

More questions about al-Jazeera as it purchases a network to create US subsidiary

More questions about al-Jazeera as it purchases a network to create US subsidiary Author: Sharyn Mittelman Categories: Gulf states, Media/ Academia, Updates    

Al Jazeera TV, located in and financed by Qatar and owned by Qatar's ruling al-Thani family, has just bought the struggling US left leaning channel Current TV, founded by Al Gore in 2005. This will allow al-Jazeera to have access to millions more US homes.  Al-Jazeera reportedly plans to create a new channel, "Aljazeera America," instead of using its existing English-language channel.  However, this announcement has called attention to growing claims that al-Jazeera is being used a propaganda tool for Qatari foreign policy interests.

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Leader of Australian Islamist extremist group calls for world conquest through jihad

Leader of Australian Islamist extremist group calls for world conquest through jihad Author: Daniel Meyerowitz-Katz Categories: Australasia, Islamic Extremism, Updates    

The notorious Islamist organisation Hizb-Ut Tahrir ('HUT') openly avows an ideology whose ultimate goal is to transform the entire world into an Islamic state. Despite being linked to a number of terrorist attacks -- most notably the '7/7 bombings' in London -- the group is generally careful to avoid being portrayed as pro-violence.

For example, the profile of local Australian spokesperson Uthman Badar on ABC's The Drum (for which he is an occasional contributor) describes the group as...

Israel’s Blockade and Construction Materials for Gaza

Israel’s Blockade and Construction Materials for Gaza Author: Tzvi Fleischer Categories: Israel, Media/ Academia, Palestinians, Updates    

Everyone knows that, while Israel has eased its blockade of Hamas-ruled Gaza, it is still blocking the import of almost all construction materials, arguing they can be used for military purposes, right?

You would certainly think so if you read the Australian and New Zealand press coverage of a recent deal between Israel and Egypt to allow 20 trucks worth of construction material into Gaza this week... But it is just not true that Israel has banned construction materials entering into Gaza...

Technology and the Gaza War/ Taking Iran at their word

Technology and the Gaza War/ Taking Iran at their word Categories: Iran, Israel, Palestinians, Updates    

This Update includes two pieces analysing some of the innovations in military technology and tactics which affected the Gaza conflict/Operation "Pillar of Defence", which occurred in November.

First up is an evaluation by Dr. Uzi Rubin, the father of Israel's missile defence program, discussing both Israel's Iron Dome missile and rocket defence system, and the innovations in rocket design and use on the Hamas side of the Gaza conflict.

Washington Post points out: Settlements are not the main barrier to peace

Washington Post points out: Settlements are not the main barrier to peace Author: Sharyn Mittelman Categories: Israel, United Nations, Updates    

Israel received strong international criticism when it announced its plans to build homes in the West Bank and east Jerusalem, in response to the Palestinian unilateral move to obtain ‘observer state' status at the UN General Assembly.

The Washington Post has responded to the wave of international criticism in an editorial on January 2 by noting that such criticism is "counterproductive because it reinforces two mistaken but widely held notions: that the settlements are the principal obstacle to a deal and that further construction will make a Palestinian state impossible."

Hamas over-reporting civilian casualties in Gaza, again

Hamas over-reporting civilian casualties in Gaza, again Author: Daniel Meyerowitz-Katz Categories: Media/ Academia, Palestinians, United Nations, Updates    

The most heartbreaking consequence of any conflict is the unavoidable toll taken on the local civilian population. Sadly, in the hyper-politicised realm of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, these events seem unable to remain mere tragedies. Instead, each civilian killed takes on the additional mantle of a propaganda point scored in the conflict of public opinion.

This leads to the unfortunate tactic that Hamas and other Gaza-based groups seem to have adopted of cynically exploiting international sympathy...

Planning for the Next Phase of the Syrian Civil War/ After Abbas

Planning for the Next Phase of the Syrian Civil War/ After Abbas Categories: Palestinians, Syria, Updates    

This Update features two good pieces on the pitfalls in the upcoming phase of the Syrian civil war, especially in terms of US policy.

First up, repeat visitor to rebel-held regions of Syria Jonathan Spyer discusses the recent US decision to recognise the Syrian National Coalition (SNC), recently formed in Qatar, as the rightful Syrian government in waiting. Spyer argues that this decision appears to be a part of a larger strategy he feels is misguided, namely working with Muslim Brotherhood Islamists against the more extreme Salafists.

Iranian state TV blames Israel for Sandy Hook school shooting

Iranian state TV blames Israel for Sandy Hook school shooting Author: Sharyn Mittelman Categories: Antisemitism, Iran, Updates    

Iranian state run media, PressTV, may have surpassed itself this time airing the outrageous views of Michael Harris who blamed Israel for a number of mass shootings in America, including the tragic shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School that killed 26 people, including twenty children, two of whom were Jewish. Harris also blamed ‘Israeli death squads' for other recent shootings, including the Arizona shooting of Gabrielle Giffords, the Aurora ‘Batman' shooting, and the Breivik massacre in Norway.

Lessons in Israeli-Palestinian reality from two Middle East experts

Lessons in Israeli-Palestinian reality from two Middle East experts Author: Sharyn Mittelman Categories: America, Israel, Palestinians, Updates    

The Washington Institute for Near East Policy awarded its 2012 Scholar-Statesmen Award to Dennis Ross and Elliott Abrams on December 6. Ross served as special Middle East negotiator to President Clinton and Iran policy adviser to President Obama, and is currently counsellor to the Washington Institute. Abrams, served as Deputy National Security Advisor in the George W. Bush Administration, and is currently a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations.

In a post-award panel discussion, Ross and Abrams reflected on their careers in foreign policy and provided insights into the challenges of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Iran's nuclear program and the 'Arab Spring'.

The state of Israeli/Palestinian relations

The state of Israeli/Palestinian relations Categories: Israel, Palestinians, Updates    

This Update deals with three pieces of analysis on the state of Israeli-Palestinian relations in the wake of the UN  vote on "non-member state" status and other recent events.

First up is noted Israeli academic analyst and former UN Ambassador Dore Gold, offering some advice on Israeli diplomacy in the wake of the UN vote. He notes that, despite hints to the contrary prior to the UN vote, there is no sign that the Palestinian Authority (PA) is at all prepared to drop its preconditions and resume peace negotiations with Israel - and indeed the long-standing pre-conditions for talks have now been publicly re-affirmed by PA President Abbas.

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Getting inside the head of Khaled Meshal

Getting inside the head of Khaled Meshal Author: Or Avi-Guy Categories: Islamic Extremism, Palestinians, Terrorism, Updates    

December 7th was a big day for Khaled Meshal, head of Hamas political bureau. Hamas marked its 25th anniversary, and on the occasion Meshal made his first ever visit to Gaza, which was not only a personal experience, but also his opportunity for a political resurrection.

In his speech, Meshal proved once again that he is just as committed to the "resistance" and "liberation" of Palestine as the most extreme voices. He also proved that not much has changed in the 25 years since Hamas first emerged, with its hateful, antisemitic charter and the call for the annihilation of Israel.

Journalist or terrorist? Why choose when you can be both!

Journalist or terrorist? Why choose when you can be both! Author: Or Avi-Guy Categories: Israel, Palestinians, Terrorism, Updates    

Recently it has been reported that the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) sent a letter to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, blaming Israel for allegedly targeting Palestinian journalists during operation "Pillar of Defence" in the Gaza Strip. New York Times journalist David Carr went even further, as he accused Israel of intentionally targeting journalists.

Two main issues are mixed up in the story. Firstly, the use of journalists and press as human shields for terrorist activity, further endangering journalists reporting from conflict zones. And secondly, terrorists' use of journalist status to cover up for their violent activities.

UN discusses Syrian conflict for an hour, spends five hours condemning Israel

UN discusses Syrian conflict for an hour, spends five hours condemning Israel Author: Daniel Meyerowitz-Katz Categories: Syria, United Nations, Updates    

After the current conflict in Syria had commenced, observations quickly began piling-up that it was receiving noticeably less coverage than it would if it were taking place just over Syria's eastern border in Israeli territory ... Occasionally, something comes up that really illustrates the extent to which the international community treats the mass murder in Syria as completely insignificant in comparison to even the most marginal allegations against Israel.

A perfect example is the recent UN General Assembly ('GA') discussion on Syria -- the first since last August -- as depicted in...

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Egyptian opposition leaders to be investigated for bizarre ‘Zionist plot’

Egyptian opposition leaders to be investigated for bizarre ‘Zionist plot’ Author: Sharyn Mittelman Categories: Egypt, Updates    

On December 5 Egyptian Prosecutor General Talaat Ibrahim Abdallah - who was just appointed by Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi a few days ago - referred for investigation a complaint accusing three former presidential candidates - Mohammed ElBaradei, Hamdein Sabahy and Amr Moussa of engaging in a "Zionist plot" of espionage and sedition to overthrow the Morsi government.

The aftermath of the PA UN bid and the debate over Israeli building in settlements Categories: Australasia, Israel, Palestinians, United Nations, Updates    

This Update deals with the aftermath of the UN vote to upgrade Palestine to "non-member state" status last week, the Israeli response in terms of announcements of preparations to build new housing units in east Jerusalem and settlements, and the strong reaction this decision has promoted from many foreign governments, including Australia's.

Australia’s Woodside Petroleum goes to Israel

Australia’s Woodside Petroleum goes to Israel Author: Sharyn Mittelman Categories: Australasia, Israel, Lebanon, Turkey, Updates    

Australia's biggest oil and gas firm, Woodside Petroleum has announced it is buying a 30 percent share, valued up to $2.5 billion, in Israel's Leviathan natural gas field.

Israel, a nation once thought to be devoid of natural resources in recent years has found vast amounts of natural gas deep under its Mediterranean waters.  The gas finding may not only make Israel energy self-sufficient for decades but also a world leader in energy exports - including possibly to Europe and Asia.

The Woodside deal also highlights the changing political and economic ramifications of the new gas fields in the East Mediterranean.

Egypt's new Islamist constitution

Egypt's new Islamist constitution Categories: Egypt, Updates    

On Friday, following an all night session, Egypt's constitutional assembly rushed through a new constitution, which was promptly approved by Muslim Brotherhood President Mohammed Morsi, and will be put to a referendum on Dec. 15. The rushed constitutional process follows increasing political unrest there after Morsi published on Nov. 22 a decree giving himself near absolute powers, not subject to judicial review, to take measures he judges necessary " to protect the country and the goals of the revolution." But the unrest shows little sign of ending anytime soon.

Hillary Clinton on Palestinian missed opportunities for statehood

Hillary Clinton on Palestinian missed opportunities for statehood Author: Sharyn Mittelman Categories: America, Israel, Palestinians, Updates    

US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton was honoured at the Saban Forum in Washington on November 30, where she delivered an insightful speech on the challenges confronting the Middle East and Israel in particular. It's worth reviewing because Clinton offered a number of insights and historical reminders that anyone seeking to unravel the Middle East Gordian knot should understand.

E-1: Beyond the myths and hype

E-1: Beyond the myths and hype Author: Ahron Shapiro Categories: Israel, Palestinians, Updates    

An international furore has arisen over Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's decision to move forward with the long-stalled planning of a new Jewish neighbourhood in the area between Jerusalem and Ma'ale Adumim known by the name E-1. Construction on the project itself would not begin for, at the earliest, one or two years, and would require additional political approvals...

Beyond the exaggerated rhetoric, however, evidence shows that the reality of the E-1 plan, which was originally developed by the Rabin government in the early 1990s, is far less sinister than these reports would suggest.

What Palestinians think they have achieved from passage of the UN "Non-member state" resolution

What Palestinians think they have achieved from passage of the UN "Non-member state" resolution Author: Ahron Shapiro Categories: Palestinians, United Nations, Updates    

Western countries that abstained or voted for the United Nations General Assembly resolution on Thursday upgrading the Palestinian representation in the UN to that of a non-member state have depicted their decision as a vote in favour of a negotiated peace between Israel and the Palestinians and a two-state solution.

However, Palestinian officials have been telling their own people that the vote was a substantive step towards forced Israeli capitulation, not compromise. Significantly, Palestinian officials say they intend to argue that their increased recognition of statehood automatically entitles them to massive political dividends, including a presumption of final borders.

Tel Aviv bus bomb terror suspect - a case of "family reunification terrorism"

Tel Aviv bus bomb terror suspect - a case of "family reunification terrorism" Author: Sharyn Mittelman Categories: Israel, Terrorism, Updates    

Israel has now arrested suspects responsible for the Tel Aviv bus bomb attack on November 21 that injured 28 people, three seriously.

One suspect is an Israeli-Arab formerly from the West Bank who obtained Israeli citizenship on reunification grounds.  Therefore, this latest terrorist attack has again put the spotlight on how family reunification laws can be exploited by terrorists to gain entry into Israel to commit their crimes.

UN vote on PA upgrade to "non-member state" status

UN vote on PA upgrade to "non-member state" status Categories: Israel, Palestinians, United Nations, Updates    

The Palestinians introduced a much-anticipated resolution giving "Palestine" a status of "non-member state" at the UN General Assembly on Monday.  A vote is expected today, New York time, which is Friday here, and the Australian Government's decision to abstain has been much in the news given that Prime Minister Julia Gilliard was reportedly forced by cabinet and caucus colleagues to abandon her own preference to vote "no". This Update is devoted to analysis of the significance and likely effect of the resolution - which is widely expected to pass easily.

More Hamas incitement to genocide

More Hamas incitement to genocide Author: Sharyn Mittelman Categories: Antisemitism, Israel, Updates    

The Hamas Charter of 1988 calls for the destruction of Israel, and includes rampant antisemitism and genocidal incitement. However, Hamas' use of genocidal rhetoric is not confined to its Charter and continues today. For example, Palestinian Media Watch reported that during the latest Israel-Gaza conflict, Hamas' al-Aqsa TV station aired calls to kills Jews, such as "Killing Jews is worship that draws us close to Allah".

Remember Syria?

Remember Syria? Author: Ahron Shapiro Categories: Palestinians, Syria, Updates    

From the moment Israel's Operation Pillar of Defence began last week, news of Syrian President Bashar Assad's bloody suppression of the rebellion against his rule was pushed down the news page, and in some cases knocked out of the paper entirely.

This, in spite of the fact that more Syrians than Palestinians were killed over the same period and that the death toll in Assad's crackdown is approaching 40,000 - many times more than the total number of Palestinians killed during fighting with Israel in decades of conflict.

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Did the current round of violence start because of the death of a 13-year-old boy on November 8?

Did the current round of violence start because of the death of a 13-year-old boy on November 8? Author: Or Avi-Guy Categories: Israel, Palestinians, Terrorism, Updates    

In the first few days of the current escalation in Southern Israel and Gaza (which hopefully may now be coming to an end) most of the media reported that the violence escalated after a Kornet anti-tank missile was launched at an Israeli military jeep on November 10, injuring four soldiers. The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) took responsibility for the attack. Shortly afterwards, a barrage of dozens of rockets aimed at Israeli cities and towns was launched from Gaza.

Perhaps the 10 days that have passed since that incident has blurred the memory of some reporters. Some media reports are now framed around the assumption that this whole thing began on the 14 with the strike on Jabari. And even more bizarrely, other reporter and commentators are stating or implying that it was the death of 13-year-old Hamid Younis Abu Dika on Nov. 8 near Khan Younis that sparked the current round of violence.

Gaza: How we got here and how it might end

Gaza: How we got here and how it might end Categories: Israel, Palestinians, Updates    

This Update offers more top-flight analysis of how the Gaza conflict got to this point - with more than 1150 rocket hits on Israel since Wednesday (on top of the 150 in the few days before that) and over 1400 Israeli strikes on terror targets in Gaza - and what the end of the conflict might look like. (Report now say a deal on a ceasefire being negotiated in Cairo might be close to completion, with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton now in the region to try to assist in a ceasefire deal.) Good constant updates on what is going on militarily are being provided by the IDF's website.

Human rights NGOs, and their half-hearted, belated, and weasel-worded condemnations of rocket attacks

Human rights NGOs, and their half-hearted, belated, and weasel-worded condemnations of rocket attacks Author: Or Avi-Guy Categories: Israel, NGOs, Palestinians, Terrorism, Updates    

Human rights organisations are supposed to advance a universal approach, according to which every person in entitled to certain rights and liberties, based simply on his or her humanity. The most basic of these rights is the right to life. Yet time after time those very same organisations prove that some humans - those from groups they personally identify or sympathise with - have more rights than others. Most recently, this double-standard was evident in the response by various human rights organisations to the ongoing rocket and mortar attacks from Gaza on Israeli cities and towns. In between 'code red' sirens, you could almost hear the silence of human rights organisations.

Rockets from civilian areas: Hamas and Islamic Jihad are fooling no one

Rockets from civilian areas: Hamas and Islamic Jihad are fooling no one Author: Daniel Meyerowitz-Katz Categories: Palestinians, Updates    

The most unfortunate consequence of any war is that innocent people are invariably caught in the crossfire. The current conflict in Gaza is no exception, as can be seen by the tragic deaths of members of the Dallu family on Sunday from what appears to have been an erroneous airstrike on the part of the Israelis. The IDF were trying to target Hamas commander Yihya Abayo and, for reasons still unclear, hit the nearby Dallu household instead. The incident is currently under investigation.

Nevertheless, there is overwhelming evidence that the human toll that the war is taking is being exacerbated substantially by the tactics that Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad ('PIJ'), and other Gaza militant groups are employing...

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Propaganda, lies and the Gaza conflict

Propaganda, lies and the Gaza conflict Author: Sharyn Mittelman Categories: Israel, Media/ Academia, Palestinians, Updates    

The conflict between Israel and Hamas is also being played out in the media including social media, with Hamas and anti-Israel activists attempting to demonise Israel with false accusations.

The latest fabrication exposed concerns the tragic death of four-year-old Mahmoud Sadallah from Gaza - whose picture made international headlines when his body was cradled by the Egyptian Prime Minister. News agencies including CNN wrongly reported that the child was killed by Israeli missile fire. However, it has now been revealed that he was killed by a Palestinian rocket fired from within Gaza that did not reach Israeli territory.

Bi-partisan support in Australia for Israel’s right to defend itself from rocket attacks

Bi-partisan support in Australia for Israel’s right to defend itself from rocket attacks Author: Sharyn Mittelman Categories: America, Australasia, Israel, United Kingdom, Updates    

As ‘Operation Pillar of Defence' enters its third day, rockets have gone from shelling southern Israel to threatening Tel Aviv - placing millions of Israelis in range of rocket attack. To date the Iron Dome missile defence system has intercepted 130 rockets, but some 300 rockets and mortars have landed in Israeli territory and three Israelis have been killed - Itzik Amsalem, Aharon Smadja and Mira Scharf who was pregnant.

In Australia, the Government and Coalition have expressed bi-partisan support for Israel's right to defend itself from rocket attacks fired from the Gaza Strip.

The US, Canada and UK have also expressed their support for Israel and condemned Hamas for the latest escalation.

Operation Amud Anan ("Pillar of Defence")

Operation Amud Anan ("Pillar of Defence") Categories: Egypt, Israel, Palestinians, Updates    

Following on from Daniel Meyerowitz Katz's news roundup yesterday, this Update looks at the reasons for and the possible trajectory of the current round of violence sparked by Gaza rockets, which the IDF has dubbed Operation Amud Anan ("Pillar of Defence").

Since the targeted killing of Hamas' military commander in Gaza on Wednesday, there are now reported to have been around 340 strikes by Israel on targets in Gaza - reportedly killing 15 Palestinians (it is unclear how many are combatants versus civilians) - and 305 rockets fired into Israel, killing three civilians, including a pregnant woman. This also included perhaps four rocket attacks on the Tel Aviv area - the first since the 1991 Gulf War - which fortunately caused no damage or injuries. Israel claims to have neutralised most of Hamas' medium range Iranian-made Fajr-5 missiles capable of hitting Tel Aviv in its initial strikes.

Military operation in Gaza: News round-up

Military operation in Gaza: News round-up Author: Daniel Meyerowitz-Katz Categories: Israel, Palestinians, Updates    

Last night's Update dealt with the escalating violence between Israel and Hamas over Israel's border with Gaza, and included a number of analyses predicting that if the constant rocket fire on southern Israel did not cease, Israel would launch a large-scale military operation to destroy terrorist infrastructure there associated with Hamas and other violent groups.

The operation was actually launched very shortly after. This post rounds-up all of the important information that has been coming out since the Israeli airstrikes began...

Major human rights abusers again elected to UN Human Rights Council

Major human rights abusers again elected to UN Human Rights Council Author: Sharyn Mittelman Categories: United Nations, Updates    

On Monday the UN General Assembly elected 18 countries to serve on the United Nations Human Rights Council. Sadly, as is the usual pattern, at least six of those elected are major human rights abusers who do not meet the criteria the UN itself set for membership of the Council.

"Pakistan, Venezuela, Kazakhstan, Cote d'Ivoire, Ethiopia, Gabon, and UAE systematically violate the human rights of their own citizens," said UN Watch Executive Director Hillel Neuer, "and they have consistently voted the wrong way on U.N. initiatives to protect the human rights of others."

Gaza powder keg flares up again

Gaza powder keg flares up again Categories: Israel, Palestinians, Updates    

This Update deals with the latest major outbreak of violence from Gaza - resulting in more than 140 rocket hits on Israel since Saturday, a number of Israeli retaliatory strike on Gaza targets, and rocket attacks still occurring as of a few hours ago, despite claims of an Egyptian-brokered ceasefire. Details of the rockets and the injuries that they have caused are summed up in this pdf document prepared by Israeli security officials.

 Video shows children determined to provoke in Palestinian propaganda war

Video shows children determined to provoke in Palestinian propaganda war Author: Or Avi-Guy Categories: Palestinians, Updates    

The West-Bank village of Nabi Saleh has become a battleground for local Palestinians and international activists. But this is no ordinary battleground, it is a battleground in a propaganda war. Based on what could now be called the "Bil'in model", every Friday a supposedly "non-violent" demonstration takes place, in which protesters intentionally confront and clash with Israeli soldiers in front of dozens of photographers, who document the soldiers' every move. The most disturbing aspect of these staged demonstrations is the involvement of Palestinian children in the weekly "production". A new video shows just how far Palestinian children are prompted to go in this effort to provoke a reaction by Israeli soldiers that can be used for propaganda purposes.

In Arafat exhumation, Abbas digging for dirt to use against Israel

In Arafat exhumation, Abbas digging for dirt to use against Israel Author: Ahron Shapiro Categories: Palestinians, Updates    

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas says he is determined to go forward with an exhumation of the remains of Yasser Arafat for forensic tests following a controversial investigation by al Jazeera earlier this year. 

According to reports, French investigators, Swiss experts and a Russian government team will take part in the probe following the November 26 exhumation of the former Palestinian leader, who died in France in 2004.

The original al Jazeera documentary on the subject, which reignited the controversy over Arafat's death, was shown here in Australia for the first time on free-to-air channel ABC 24 this week.

UNRWA’s double standards in Syria

UNRWA’s double standards in Syria Author: Sharyn Mittelman Categories: NGOs, Palestinians, Syria, Updates    

Five UNRWA employees have been killed in the Syrian conflict and shells have hit and damaged both an UNRWA health centre and an UNRWA school. However, UNRWA has only issued weak statements deploring the deaths and calling for "all sides must refrain from conducting the conflict in civilian areas..." This significantly contrasts with the condemnations and calls for war-crimes investigations that occurred when an Israeli shell struck outside an UNRWA school during the 2009 Gaza conflict. Analysts Asaf Romirowsky and Alex Joffe explore UNRWA's obvious "double standards".

Palestinians finally submit draft statehood request: analysis and implications

Palestinians finally submit draft statehood request: analysis and implications Author: Daniel Meyerowitz-Katz Categories: Palestinians, United Nations, Updates    

Last night, the long-awaited Draft Resolution for the Palestinian UN statehood bid was filed by the Permanent Observer Mission of Palestine. The Draft's most substantive point is the request to alter Palestine's status in the UN General Assembly (UNGA). This is contained in the third paragraph, which reads that...

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Palestinians killed in Syria receive little attention

Palestinians killed in Syria receive little attention Author: Sharyn Mittelman Categories: Palestinians, Syria, Updates    

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad once painted himself and his father as the champion of the Palestinian cause. But now the situation appears to have changed, as Assad's army reportedly fired on the Palestinian refugee camp Yarmouk killing 20 on November 4, raided Hamas offices and there are fears of mass Palestinian deportations from Syria.

Over 400 Palestinians have been killed in the Syrian civil war, with little to no coverage by the Australian media. The self-proclaimed Palestinian advocates have also been all-but silent.

The Middle East in President Obama's Second Term

The Middle East in President Obama's Second Term Categories: America, Middle East, Updates    

With the US election finally decided on Tuesday, and President Barack Obama returned to office reasonably comfortably, this Update looks at his Middle East challenges over the next four years.

An excellent starting place is the Washington Institute for Near East Policy forum on the subject, held yesterday, which is available for online viewing here (no transcript yet available).

Younger Israeli Arabs see engagement, not hostility, as path to equality

Younger Israeli Arabs see engagement, not hostility, as path to equality Author: Daniel Meyerowitz-Katz Categories: Israel, Palestinians, Updates    

Earlier this year, I was standing at the top of a ridge in the Wadi Ara Valley in Israel, overlooking the Arab settlement of Arara. I was with representatives from Givat Haviva, an Israeli-Arab reconciliation organisation. In the town below, I was told, lived a man who represented a new trend within Israel's Arab citizenry.

On reaching 18, some form of national service is mandatory for non-ultra-Orthodox Jews in Israel, but Arabs are exempt from the requirement. As a rule, members of the Druze and Bedoin communities voluntarily serve in the Israeli Defence Forces, however the vast majority of Israel's Arab population refuses even non-military national service...

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Reports show Turkish democracy - held up as a regional model - is under threat at home

Reports show Turkish democracy - held up as a regional model - is under threat at home Author: Or Avi-Guy Categories: Antisemitism, Turkey, Updates    

As Islamist parties and groups gain power in countries such as Egypt, Tunisia and Libya in the aftermath of the upheavals in the Middle East, and with growing chaos and uncertainty in neighbouring Syria, Turkey has been seen by many analysts as a model for balancing political Islam and democracy. But in this debate about whether the "Turkish model" can be exported and successfully implemented in other countries in the region, the many flaws of the Turkish democracy have often been ignored, overlooked or downplayed. Some concerning new reports from Turkey suggest that, rather than regarding Ankara as a possible model to be exported, the question that should be asked is whether democracy will survive even within Turkey itself.

Europe and the New Antisemitism/ Lebanon heading for a Civil War?

Europe and the New Antisemitism/ Lebanon heading for a Civil War? Categories: Anti-Zionism, Antisemitism, Europe, Lebanon, Updates    

This Update contains two pieces from leading intellectuals dealing with the rise of "new" forms of antisemitism - forms where anti-Zionism is mixed with antisemitic beliefs and tropes - with a special focus on Europe. In addition, it includes a piece re-considering conventional wisdom on where Lebanon is heading in the wake of the assassination of intelligence chief Wissam al-Hassan two weeks ago.

New Huawei allegations - Iranian partner breaching US sanctions

New Huawei allegations - Iranian partner breaching US sanctions Author: Sharyn Mittelman Categories: Australasia, China, Updates    

There are new allegations regarding the Chinese telecommunication company Huawei, with Reuters reporting that an Iranian partner of Huawei, Soda Gostar Persian Vista, last year tried to sell embargoed American antenna equipment to an Iranian firm.

This latest report of breaching US sanctions, may further undermine Huawei's concerted efforts to improve its image in Australia, following an Australian government decision in March this year to block Huawei from bidding on its National Broadband Network (NBN) due to national security risks.

Malaysia's obsession with Jews, love affair with Hitler

Malaysia's obsession with Jews, love affair with Hitler Author: Or Avi-Guy Categories: Anti-Zionism, Antisemitism, Asia, Updates    

Often, in the aftermath of antisemitic attacks on Jewish communities, hateful and apologetic claims are somtimes made that the victim was in fact the instigator of hatred and provoked the attackers. However, there are cases that undermine this premise - at times it seems that amazingly there can be antisemitism without Jews. Malaysia is a case in point.

Haaretz issues clarification on controversial poll articles

Haaretz issues clarification on controversial poll articles Author: Sharyn Mittelman Categories: Israel, Updates    

Last week AIJAC published a blog post, taking a critical look at Gideon Levy's article in Haaretz which published a report on a very misleading poll with the original title "Survey: Most Israeli Jews would support apartheid regime in Israel".

Haaretz has now published a clarification in the print edition of its newspaper in Hebrew regretting the title of Levy's report. Further, in a new article Levy himself admits that the headline of the report was "misleading", and apologises for an incorrect claim in his analysis of the poll, in his attempt to "fix a few mistakes".

A misleading and flawed poll sparks "apartheid" claims

A misleading and flawed poll sparks "apartheid" claims Author: Sharyn Mittelman Categories: Israel, Updates    

This week Gideon Levy of Haaretz published an article on the results of a very misleading and flawed poll with the title "Survey: Most Israeli Jews would support apartheid regime in Israel" on October 24.

As a result of the Haaretz publicity, false reports that Israeli Jews support apartheid, made damaging headlines around the world, including in Australia.

The headlines were concerning, but once people were able to access the polling data, it became clear that not only was the poll's methodology questionable, but the analysis being presented of the poll data was both distorted and politically skewed.

Hamas and the latest rocket barrage

Hamas and the latest rocket barrage Categories: Gulf states, Palestinians, Updates    

Southern Israel suffered through an intense rocket barrage from Gaza earlier this week, with more than 80 rockets fired in a 24-hour period, before an Egyptian-brokered ceasefire took hold yesterday. Hamas has been itself taking credit for many of the rocket launches, a break with its behaviour over most of the past year. This Update explores why, and whether the visit to Gaza by the Emir of Qatar Sheikh Hamad al-Thani, the first by any Arab leader since Hamas took power there in 2007, had anything to do with it.

The truth about Israeli-Arabs and Israel's 'national priority areas'

The truth about Israeli-Arabs and Israel's 'national priority areas' Author: Or Avi-Guy Categories: Israel, Updates    

Earlier this week it was reported in the Age that visiting Israeli Human rights activist Hagai El-Ad, executive director of the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) had, at a public meeting, expressed concerns that "the very idea of equality under the law for all citizens in Israel is increasingly under threat." To back up this claim, El-Ad asserted, according to the article, that Arab citizens of Israel were discriminated against by the Israeli government when it drew the map of "national priority areas." El-Ad's description of civil rights in Israel, and in this case the rights of Arab citizens, is grossly misleading.

Iran Sanctions bite, but will Teheran shift course?

Iran Sanctions bite, but will Teheran shift course? Categories: Iran, Updates    

There is growing evidence over recent weeks that the Iranian economy is in serious trouble, in no small part due to the international sanctions imposed because of Teheran's illegal  nuclear program,  - with a major plunge in the value of the Rial, Iran's currency, down at least 80% this year; signs some ordinary Iranians are starting to panic over the economic situation;  and even unrest from demonstrators angry about the economic situation, and currency dealers who have been the victim of a government crackdown designed to arrest the plunge. Even the International Atomic Energy Agency says the sanctions are starting to have a major effect on oil exports.

Media Week - Shalit - the Fairfax directors’ cut; Christians in Israel – the gospel truth; Headline misfire.

Media Week - Shalit - the Fairfax directors’ cut; Christians in Israel – the gospel truth; Headline misfire. Author: Allon Lee Categories: Israel, Media/ Academia, Middle East, Palestinians, Updates    

As a matter of course newspapers make changes to stories. Some of these can be spelling or cuts for length.

But a number of questionable alterations were made to a story from the New York Times' Middle East correspondent Isabel Kershner that appeared in Fairfax papers noting Gilad Shalit's first major interview.

Women suffering across the Middle East - except  in Israel

Women suffering across the Middle East - except in Israel Author: Sharyn Mittelman Categories: Israel, Updates    

While women are suffering from extremism throughout the Middle East, Israel remains an exception where all women, regardless of race, religion or ethnicity, enjoy equality before the law, and despite some shortcomings, the most substantial social equality in the region, comparable to virtually any country in the world. Israel's Declaration of Independence grants "all Israel's inhabitants equality of social and political rights irrespective of religion, race or gender."

This significant point is sadly often lost in the headlines about Israel. But one Israeli-Arab woman, Boshra Khalaila is trying to draw attention to this important issue, as she travels around the world as an advocate for Israel.

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Australian anti-Israel activists must distance themselves from neo-Nazi sympathisers

Australian anti-Israel activists must distance themselves from neo-Nazi sympathisers Author: Daniel Meyerowitz-Katz Categories: Anti-Zionism, Antisemitism, Australasia, Far Right, NGOs, Updates    

A group supported by a cross-section of Australia's anti-Israel movement has been revealed to be pedalling overt antisemitic propaganda.

On 1 October, Jewish Agency for Israel employee Avi Mayer stumbled across an alarming tweet by the Free Gaza Movement ('FGM'), the principal organisers of the infamous 'Free Gaza Flotilla' in 2010, and several other flotillas to Gaza. The tweet said 'Zionists operated the concentration camps and helped murder millions of innocent Jews', and linked to...

Turkey and the Syrian Civil War

Turkey and the Syrian Civil War Categories: Syria, Turkey, Updates    

This Update focuses on analysis of the growing tension between Turkey and Syria, in the wake of a series of confrontational incidents, including Turkish shelling of Syrian territory in response to a Syrian shell which struck Turkey, an earlier incident involving Syrian fire on a Turkish warplane, and most recently, Turkey forcing down a civilian  plane claimed to be illegally smuggling Russian arms to Syria.

Study weighs economic cost of a nuclear Iran

Study weighs economic cost of a nuclear Iran Author: Ahron Shapiro Categories: Iran, Updates    

Many analysts have expressed concern about the potential costs, economic and otherwise, of a military strike to stop Iran's nuclear program - and rightly so. However, it is also important to take into account the heavy economic costs associated with inaction that would allow Iran to achieve nuclear capabilities.

Antisemitism in France still trending upward

Antisemitism in France still trending upward Author: Sharyn Mittelman Categories: Antisemitism, Europe, Terrorism, Updates    

The last two months have seen a wave of disturbing antisemitic attacks in France, including a grenade exploding in a kosher store. French antisemitism is even sweeping the ‘Twitter-sphere', where this week's top trending words on French language tweets was the hashtag #unbonjuif, which in English means "a good Jew". This led thousands of Twitter users to enter what the French daily Le Monde called "a competition of anti-Semitic jokes."  Meanwhile, DNA from the grenade attack led French police to conduct raids across France which uncovered a dangerous terror network of home grown radical Islamists with bomb making material and weapons that were planning their next attack.

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Huawei: US Congress, Canada backs Australian government claims that Chinese company is a security risk

Huawei: US Congress, Canada backs Australian government claims that Chinese company is a security risk Author: Sharyn Mittelman Categories: America, Australasia, China, Updates    

In March this year the Australian government decided to block Chinese telecommunications company Huawei from bidding on the National Broadband Network (NBN) due to security risks.  Recently Canada stated its intention to exclude Huawei from helping it build a secure Canadian government communications network, due to security risks. Now a report by the US Congress on Huawei released on October 8 appears to support Australia and Canada's security concerns.

10th Anniversary of the Bali Bombings

10th Anniversary of the Bali Bombings Author: Sharyn Mittelman Categories: Asia, Australasia, Terrorism, Updates    

Today marks ten years since the ‘Bali Bombings', which tragically killed 202 people, including 88 Australians and 38 Indonesians, and injured more than 240.

For many Australians, the memory of the Bali bombings are now part of our collective national consciousness, an acute awareness of the evil of terrorism in its ability to destroy innocent lives indiscriminately - both those who were murdered without reason and those who have been grieving for their loved ones ever since.

The UN's forgotten policy of resettling Palestinian Refugees

The UN's forgotten policy of resettling Palestinian Refugees Author: Daniel Meyerowitz-Katz Categories: Palestinians, United Nations, Updates    

The issue of Palestinian refugees is arguably the single largest impediment to peace between Israelis and Palestinians. None of the other 'final status issues' -- borders, security, and sovereignty over Jerusalem -- seem to leave such a gulf between the positions of the two parties that a compromise is difficult to imagine. Yet, as new research demonstrates, the refugee situation could have been solved very early on.

The solution to the borders issue is relatively clear: Israel will hold on to the major population blocs in the West Bank in exchange for equivalent land from Israel proper. Similarly, current security cooperation between Israel and the Palestinian Authority ('PA') has already gone most of the way towards resolving this issue. Jerusalem is a little more contentious, however there are several proposals that could be adopted...

Dr. Tal Becker's Australian media

Dr. Tal Becker's Australian media Author: Anthony Orkin Categories: Multimedia, Updates    

Australian-born Israeli peace negotiator Dr. Tal Becker received extensive media coverage on his recent visit to Australia.

Here are links to some recordings from his interviews and events.

Egypt's changing landscape

Egypt's changing landscape Categories: Egypt, Updates    

Egypt is back in the spotlight in this Update, which covers some important new developments in Cairo, the Sinai, and beyond that deserve closer attention. In Egypt after his US visit and speech at the United Nations last month, President Mohamed Morsi held his first interview with state-run media - a soft-hitting, pandering piece which many Egyptians said reminded them eerily of the way Egyptian media once presented Hosni Mubarak. Yet all is not well in Cairo, as the Muslim Brotherhood continues to reshape the country in its image. This week, for example, as Egypt’s new Constitution nears completion, many Egyptian women are up in arms over an erosion of women’s rights in the current draft. Meanwhile, a top advisor to Morsi has reiterated a call for revising Egypt’s Peace Treaty with Israel to allow for the removal of UN peacekeeping forces from the Sinai buffer zone with Israel – and fill the vacuum with Egyptian troops.

A failure in media reporting fuels Jewish conspiracy theories

A failure in media reporting fuels Jewish conspiracy theories Author: Sharyn Mittelman Categories: Antisemitism, Updates    

When news first broke about violent Muslim protests in response to the film ‘The Innocence of Muslims', significant media outlets failed any test of reliability by reporting that the film's producer was Sam Bacile an Israeli/Jew who funded the film with help of ‘100 Jewish donors'.  It would later be revealed that Sam Bacile was not a real person; neither was he Jewish or Israeli, but rather Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, a Coptic Christian, and the "100 Jewish donors," was also a lie.

Rather than apologise for wrongful reporting, much of the media simply moved on to the next story. Nevertheless, the damage was done. And as a result it will feed into the hands of extremists and conspiracy theorists around the world.

Sketching out a red line for stopping Iran's nuclear program

Sketching out a red line for stopping Iran's nuclear program Categories: Iran, Israel, Palestinians, United Nations, Updates    

This Update takes us to New York, at the 67th session of the United Nations General Assembly. Taking centre stage is a headline grabbing speech by Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu following the predictably defiant, caustic and offensive anti-Israel speech by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Meanwhile, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas once again announced a renewed effort to upgrade the status of the Palestinian Authority at the UN to non-member observer state. The gathering also offered US President Barack Obama an opportunity to speak out on US foreign policy ahead of November elections, while Egypt’s President Mohammed Morsi had his first turn at a UN podium. Finally, for Australia, this session was fraught with import, with Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s speech before the plenum culminating her government’s intensive effort to secure Australia’s first temporary seat on the UN Security Council since the 1980s.

Hamas admits: Gaza is not occupied, nor under siege

Hamas admits: Gaza is not occupied, nor under siege Author: Or Avi-Guy Categories: Palestinians, Updates    

The summer of 2005 was especially hot in Israel, but not just because of the high temperatures and Middle-Eastern climate. That summer the heat was political, as Israel withdrew from the Gaza Strip. It wasn't long before Hamas took over the strip. The showers of rockets into Israel proper never stopped.

Seven years later, Mahmoud al-Zahar, co-founder of Hamas finally admitted the obvious. In a recent (18.9.2012) interview to the Palestinian Ma'an News Agency he declared that "Gaza is free of occupation."

Media Week - And they called it Pappe love; Randa does the rounds

Media Week - And they called it Pappe love; Randa does the rounds Author: Allon Lee Categories: Anti-Zionism, Australasia, Islamic Extremism, Israel, Palestinians, Terrorism, Updates    

Anti-Zionist historian Ilan Pappe told Geraldine Doogue on ABC Radio National's "Breakfast" program  (17/9) that the "mainstream Zionist leadership from the very beginning understood that... they could not have a Jewish state as long as the Palestinians remained in Palestine".

The fact is that the mainstream Zionist leadership accepted and still accepts partitioning the disputed territory into Jewish and Arab states - in 1922 (when Jordan was created), 1937, 1947, 2000, and 2008.

Moreover, Zionist documents have always discussed the expectation that the Jewish state would have a non-Jewish minority.

The wider context of the violence sparked by an anti-Islamic film

The wider context of the violence sparked by an anti-Islamic film Categories: Islamic Extremism, Middle East, Updates    

It has been a week of often violent protests worldwide (including some in Australia's region  as well as in Australia), leaving dead at least 30 demonstrators and the four American diplomatic staff in Libya,  and sparked, ostensibly, by an amateurish and offensive trailer for a movie about the prophet Muhammed posted on YouTube. This Update looks at the wider context of such reactions to an ugly and bigoted but insignificant movie clip.

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Media Week - Sound off; Clear as mud

Media Week - Sound off; Clear as mud Author: Allon Lee Categories: Anti-Zionism, Israel, Media/ Academia, NGOs, Palestinians, United Nations, Updates    

ABC Radio National's "360documentaries" series (9/9) featured a 50-minute program from Australian anti-Zionist activist Peter Slezak with interviews he recorded on a recent trip to Gaza and the West Bank.

The program's producer was Cathy Peters - the Marrickville Councillor from the NSW Greens party who was instrumental in proposing the notorious BDS motion in 2010.

Despite this pedigree, ABC presenter Kirsti Melville meekly introduced Slezak as a "Jewish writer and commentator" without mentioning his activism.

The program itself is the equivalent of "the best of the worse of the anti-Israel" NGO and UN brigade featuring the usual array of one-sided claims. Neither Hamas nor any Palestinian violence was so much as mentioned.

Attacks on the US Diplomatic Missions in Cairo and Benghazi

Attacks on the US Diplomatic Missions in Cairo and Benghazi Categories: America, Egypt, Islamic Extremism, Libya, Updates    

This Updates deals with the implications of yesterday's mob attack on the US Embassy in Cairo  (see video here) and the armed attack of the US Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, which left US Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans dead. While these attacks have been reported as a response to a crude and objectionable anti-Islam film "Innocence of Muslims" made by some Americans and previewed on Youtube, there is growing evidence that the Cairo demonstration was scheduled for Sept. 11 weeks ago to call for the release of the blind Sheikh Omar abdel Rahman, convicted for his role in the first World Trade Centre bombing. Meanwhile US officials say the Libya attack looks like it was also pre-planned, (see also here), possibly by an al-Qaeda-linked group, before the film issue ever surfaced.

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UNWRA, Hamas and the plight of refugees

UNWRA, Hamas and the plight of refugees Author: Daniel Meyerowitz-Katz Categories: Palestinians, United Nations, Updates    

Israel came under some criticism lately when Israeli authorities were refusing to allow entry to a group of Eritrean asylum seekers stuck at the Egyptian border. The Israelis eventually relented after one week and permitted some of the asylum seekers to cross the border.

One of the most prominent critics of this incident was William Tall, the local representative from the UN High Commission for Refugees ('UNHCR'), one of the two UN bodies tasked with catering to the world's refugee populations.

The other body is, of course, the UN Relief and Works Agency For Palestine Refugees -- which regularly goes by the acronym 'UNRWA'.

The omission of the 'FPR' from the acronym makes it sound as though UNRWA were simply another arm of the UN, rather than an organisation established soleley to cater to one population. Unfortunately, the 'FPR' is a part of UNRWA's name and mandate, which must be glaringly apparent for the unfortunate Africans who attempt to find refuge in Israel...

Canada severs diplomatic ties with Iran, calling Teheran "the most significant threat to global peace"

Canada severs diplomatic ties with Iran, calling Teheran "the most significant threat to global peace" Author: Or Avi-Guy Categories: Iran, Updates    

Canada announced on Friday (7/9/2012) that it is closing down its embassy in Iran, and has also expelled all Iranian diplomats from the country. "Canada has closed it's embassy in Iran, effective immediately, and declared persona non grata all remaining Iranian diplomats in Canada," states Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird in a press release, which later further explains that "Diplomatic relations between Canada and Iran have been suspended. All Canadian diplomatic staff have left Iran, and Iranian diplomats in Ottawa have been instructed to leave within five days."

 Hanan Ashrawi and the attempt to write Jewish refugees out of history

Hanan Ashrawi and the attempt to write Jewish refugees out of history Author: Sharyn Mittelman Categories: Israel, Palestinians, Updates    

Hanan Ashrawi has caused controversy by recently writing in an article intended for an Arabic-speaking audience that there were no Jewish refugees from Arab countries. She wrote, "the emigration of Jews was a voluntary act that was influenced by factors of pressure and temptation by Zionist movements and the Jewish Agency." Ashrawi explained that: "If Israel is their homeland, then they are not ‘refugees;' they are emigrants who returned either voluntarily or due to a political decision."

However, Ashwrawi is clearly ignoring history for political reasons. In 1945, there were more than 870,000 Jews living in the various Arab states, some communities dated back 2,500 years. From the 1940s onwards many of these Jews were persecuted, their property and belongings confiscated and in some countries they were expelled - including Egypt, Libya and Algeria.

Palestinian NGO muddies the waters with Dead Sea claims

Palestinian NGO muddies the waters with Dead Sea claims Author: Ahron Shapiro Categories: Anti-Zionism, NGOs, Palestinians, Updates    

Mud-slinging allegations by the Palestinian NGO Al-Haq that Israel had committed "war crimes" by purportedly allowing the Israeli Dead Sea cosmetics company Ahava to "plunder" Dead Sea resources inside the West Bank became the focus of a controversial article by Fairfax's Middle East correspondent Ruth Pollard this week.

In the September 4 article "Cosmetics firm accused of plundering Dead Sea", Pollard regurgitated uncritically allegations from the Palestinian group that Ahava has been using materials in its products supposedly excavated from an undisclosed mining site in the jurisdiction of the Megilot Regional Council, where Ahava maintains a factory and outlet store.

PA unable to afford electricity but still pay terrorists six times the average Palestinian wage

PA unable to afford electricity but still pay terrorists six times the average Palestinian wage Author: Daniel Meyerowitz-Katz Categories: Palestinians, Updates    

With the cost of living skyrocketing as falling revenues forces the Palestinian Authority ('PA') to stop paying salaries to its employees, the PA is struggling to hold onto what legitimacy it has left amongst its people. In spite of this, the PA is reportedly increasing the money it pays in support of terrorists who have murdered innocent Israelis.

This blog has been following the PA's escalating financial crisis as foreign aid donations have dwindled over the past few years. We have also been following the repeated attacks on the pipeline through the Sinai that used to supply Israel with natural gas from Egypt and the Egyptians' eventual decision to unilaterally call-off the trade agreement.

It seems that these two issues are now coming to a head...

The latest IAEA report and Iran as a "threshold" state

The latest IAEA report and Iran as a "threshold" state Categories: International Security, Iran, Updates    

This Update looks at the latest International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) report on Iran's nuclear program, as well as other important aspects of the debate about what to do about Iran's nuclear program.

First up, noted American strategic analyst Anthony Cordesman summarises the key elements of the IAEA report, quoting from the report extensively to do so. He notes that Iran has refused to cooperate with the IAEA on the Parchin site suspected of being used for explosives testing for the nuclear program, has strongly increased its stockpile of both low enriched uranium and uranium enriched to 20% (well on the way to weapons grade) plus the UN has seen signs of even higher levels of enrichment...

Forty years later, new revelations on the Munich massacre

Forty years later, new revelations on the Munich massacre Author: Sharyn Mittelman Categories: Europe, Terrorism, Updates    

Today marks forty years since the Munich massacre - when eleven Israeli Olympic athletes, coaches and officials, as well as a German police officer, were killed at the 1972 Munich Olympic Games by Palestinian terrorist group Black September. This tragedy has recently been given renewed attention following the International Olympic Committee's (IOC) defiance of an international campaign to hold a minute's silence to remember those killed at this year's London Olympic's opening and closing ceremonies.

Four decades later and the many unanswered questions about the attack has fuelled rumours, criticism and conspiracy theories.  Now Germany and Israel have recently released once classified documents that shed new light on some of these questions.

Media Week - Newton’s gravity-free zone; Village idiots; Exceptionally bad

Media Week - Newton’s gravity-free zone; Village idiots; Exceptionally bad Author: Allon Lee Categories: Anti-Zionism, Holocaust/ War Crimes, Israel, Media/ Academia, Palestinians, Updates    

Australian Palestine Advocacy Network vice-president Robert Newton offered up a series of red herrings in the Canberra Times (21/8) to justify why "Unless Israel stops the illegal construction of settlements in the West Bank there will be no resumption of negotiations which have been stalled since December 2010".

Between 1993 and 2009 the Palestinian Authority (PA) did not insist on a settlements building freeze as a precondition to peace talks.

Israel and the "other Olympics"

Israel and the "other Olympics" Author: Sharyn Mittelman Categories: Israel, Updates    

Israel may not have picked up a medal at the London Olympic games, but it is a little known truth that when it comes to the Paralympic games - Israel is a superstar.

Since the Paralympic games began, Israel has won 334 medals, including 113 gold, and those numbers are expected to grow at the London 2012 Paralympic games. The national medal total ranks Israel 13th overall in the history of the Games.

The State of the Syrian Civil War/ The Plight of Mideast Christians

The State of the Syrian Civil War/ The Plight of Mideast Christians Categories: Islamic Extremism, Middle East, Syria, Updates    

This Update contains two pieces on the state of the civil war in Syria, where rebel efforts over recent weeks to gain footholds in Damascus and Aleppo, the two largest cities, appear to be being pushed back by the regime.

First up is a report from Aleppo courtesy of the Economist, which makes it clear that many, both inside and outside Syria, are now arguing that the rebel move into Aleppo was an over-reach by rebel forces - and was not well-received by residents of the city. The story also discusses at length the problems of lack of unity in rebel forces, with no overall command even of the brigade attacking Aleppo...

"Breaking the Silence" - Creating headlines with the same old controversial material

"Breaking the Silence" - Creating headlines with the same old controversial material Author: Ahron Shapiro Categories: Israel, NGOs, Palestinians, Updates    

An anthology of stories by former IDF soldiers regarding the treatment of Palestinian children in the West Bank and Gaza assembled by the controversial left-wing Israeli NGO Breaking the Silence has drawn the attention of Yediot Ahronot in Israel, the UK's Guardian and Independent, Iran's PressTV, as well as News Limited's John Lyons and Fairfax' Ruth Pollard here in the Australian press - but few other journalists worldwide.

This isn't really surprising, as there is evidently little new information contained in the report, which is essentially a repackaging of some 30 self-styled "testimonies" cherry picked from the organisation's 850-case archives (collected gradually over the past seven years) in an attempt to portray the IDF as systematic abusers of Palestinian children.

AIR
Antisemitism going up, not down, in France following Toulouse attack

Antisemitism going up, not down, in France following Toulouse attack Author: Sharyn Mittelman Categories: Antisemitism, Europe, Terrorism, Updates    

France's Jewish communities are deeply concerned by the rise in antisemitic incidents since last March's deadly shootings of a seven-year-old girl, and a Rabbi and his two children at the entrance to a Jewish school in Toulouse by radical Islamist Mohammed Merah.

One might expect that following the Toulouse attack, condemned by all political leaders and societal elites, it would inspire greater reflection and tolerance towards Jews. However the opposite appears to be occurring. Professor of Sociology at the University of Paris Shmuel Trigano said, "There is a before - and after-Merah... Despite the widespread condemnation of the killings, there was, among certain people in France, a desire to see this type of violence continue."

The truth (and lies) behind Rachel Corrie's death

The truth (and lies) behind Rachel Corrie's death Author: Daniel Meyerowitz-Katz Categories: Israel, Media/ Academia, Palestinians, Updates    

Yesterday, Israeli Judge Oded Gershon of the District Court of Haifa handed down his verdict in the civil case between the State of Israel and the parents of a young American woman killed in Gaza in 2003, acquitting the State on all counts. The circumstances surrounding the death of then 23-year-old Rachel Corrie are well known, however there has been a long-standing dispute regarding some key facts. 

Corrie's parents had claimed that the IDF either deliberately killed Corrie or was guilty of gross negligence. Judge Gershom dismissed the claim on the grounds that the IDF could not be liable for civil damages that occurred in a 'war zone' during the course of armed conflict.

Nevertheless, he went on to...

Media Week - Burns' lukewarm analysis; Some get it, others don’t; Justice denied

Media Week - Burns' lukewarm analysis; Some get it, others don’t; Justice denied Author: Allon Lee Categories: Holocaust/ War Crimes, Iran, Israel, Media/ Academia, Updates    

Former US diplomat Nicholas Burns argued that a diplomatic solution will only arise when America "create[s] a direct channel between Washington and Tehran and begin[s] an extended one-on-one negotiation with all issues on the table...To be successful, however, the US must be ready to compromise by offering imaginative proposals that would permit Iran civil nuclear power but deny it a nuclear weapon."

A Brazilian-Turkish deal in May 2011 offering Iran medium-enriched uranium for medical research came unstuck when Iran started putting impossible conditions on any such deal, Sydney Morning Herald (Aug. 17).

Mob violence, human rights and Pakistan's blasphemy laws

Mob violence, human rights and Pakistan's blasphemy laws Author: Or Avi-Guy Categories: Afghanistan/ Pakistan, Islamic Extremism, Updates    

Rimsha Masih, a 12-year-old Christian Pakistani girl has been jailed for allegedly desecrating Holy Scripture, after a local cleric claimed that she burnt pages of Noorani Qaida, a children's textbook about the Koran.

On closer examination, it appears likely that putting the girl, and her mother, behind bars is claimed to be for their own protection. The case draws a sad picture in which one of the most severe implications of the blasphemy laws is "mob justice."

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Media Week - Time out;  Growth is good; A quote without foundations

Media Week - Time out; Growth is good; A quote without foundations Author: Allon Lee Categories: Anti-Zionism, Israel, Media/ Academia, Palestinians, Updates    

Time's Karl Vick (13/8) offered a simplistic account of the effect of the growing population of ultra-Orthodox Jews in Jerusalem.

Vick implied that Jewish control over Jerusalem since 1967 has been bad for Christians and Muslims: "Millions visit the Holy City each year. Most are pilgrims to the signal sites of Christianity, though Muslims gather at their own great shrine above the Western Wall. Neither, however, are terribly welcome as residents. Since 1967, Jerusalem has become a resolutely Jewish city."

Except that Jerusalem has been a majority Jewish city since the 1850s. Furthermore the 68,000 Palestinians living there in 1967 have quadrupled to 288,000 in 2012, with Palestinian Arabs now making up 37% of Jerusalem's residents, compared to 25.8% in 1967.

Iran's NAM Extravaganza/ Al-Qaeda in Syria Categories: Iran, Islamic Extremism, Syria, Updates    

Next week, Iran is set to become the president of the 118-nation Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), and host a six day Summit of the NAM in Teheran. As Golnaz Esfandiari of Radio Free Europe has reported, Teheran is going all out in an effort to use the Summit to attempt to " shed its image as a global pariah" and " gain much-needed support to counter Western pressure over its controversial nuclear program." Meanwhile, despite urgings from the US, Israel and others not to participate, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon has announced he will attend the Summit. This Update looks at the implications of the Summit for the NAM, the UN, and especially efforts to maintain international pressure on Iran to halt its illegal nuclear weapons program.

Incitement watch: Saudi cleric's Blood Libel and PA honours terrorists while forbidding Jews from praying at holy site

Incitement watch: Saudi cleric's Blood Libel and PA honours terrorists while forbidding Jews from praying at holy site Author: Daniel Meyerowitz-Katz Categories: Antisemitism, Islamic Extremism, Palestinians, Updates    

The Times of Israel reported an official statement from the Palestinian Authority on Tuesday accusing Israel of "incitement". The source of the alleged incitement was a call from opposition MK Aryeh Eldad, from the hard-line National Union party, demanding that Jews be permitted to pray on the Temple Mount/al-Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem.

In an ironic twist, this statement was reported on the same day as reports emerged of a new mausoleum that the PA is building to honour the eight terrorists responsible for an attack on an Israeli hotel in 1975, which resulted in the deaths of eight civilian hostages and three Israeli soldiers...

Israel's deliberations on Iran military strike

Israel's deliberations on Iran military strike Categories: Iran, Israel, Updates    

This Update deals with the currently very intense discussion in Israel about the possibility of a military strike on Iran's nuclear program, as sparked by reports in the Israeli press last week that said that PM Binyamin Netanyahu and Defence Minister Ehud Barak were close to making a decision and were pushing for military action as soon as this October.

First up is an interview on the significance of the Israeli debates from veteran American Middle East diplomat Dennis Ross. He argues that the latest moves by Barak and Netanyahu are intended both to prepare international opinion, but more importantly, Israeli public opinion, for the reality that a strike may become necessary fairly soon.

On 20th anniversary of ties, Israel and India embark on second honeymoon

On 20th anniversary of ties, Israel and India embark on second honeymoon Author: Ahron Shapiro Categories: India, Israel, Updates    

As India and Israel celebrate their 20th anniversary of diplomatic ties this year, the number of cooperative ventures between the countries are expanding at an accelerating pace.

This week, Israel and India entered a fifth round of talks towards the creation of a much-anticipated free trade agreement.

Meanwhile, on July 31, Israel's Consul General in India Orna Sagiv spoke before a large audience in Bangalore ahead of Israel's opening next month of a Indian consulate in the city - India's third most populous - joining Israel's other consulate in India's most populous city, Mumbai, and its embassy in New Delhi.

Will they? Won't they? The ongoing Israeli/American Iran question

Will they? Won't they? The ongoing Israeli/American Iran question Author: Daniel Meyerowitz-Katz Categories: America, Iran, Israel, Updates    

An Israeli strike on Iran has been "imminent" for about two years now and commentators everywhere seem to be vacilating between alarm and dismissal. The volume of announcements, alleged leaks to the media, and public disagreement between various Israeli and US officials is leaving almost everyone scratching their heads over what is really going on.

The truth, as Elliott Abrams points out, is really anyone's guess...

Media Week - Low Blows; Acres of coverage; and Small steps and megabytes

Media Week - Low Blows; Acres of coverage; and Small steps and megabytes Author: Allon Lee Categories: Australasia, Israel, Media/ Academia, Updates    

Anti-Zionist writer Antony Loewenstein advanced his dream of a one-state solution on the Conversation (30/7).

Loewenstein wrote that for Israel the "occupation is a God-given right to populate land", and claimed that the recent Levy Commission had "found that its decades-long occupation of Palestinian land wasn't an occupation at all. The report granted quasi-legal justification for illegally moving Jews into the West Bank."

The report did not endorse unlimited settlement building. It confirmed that legally the West Bank is disputed territory since no sovereign state was established there when the British left in May 1948, and various decisions by international bodies grant Israel legal rights in the West Bank.  And, as the report noted, since 1967 Israel has adopted a "pragmatic approach" in the hope of encouraging peace negotiations about the future of the "the territories".

Syria's Civil War after PM's Defection

Syria's Civil War after PM's Defection Categories: Syria, Updates    

The defection of Syria's Prime Minister, Riad Hijab, to Jordan and the rebel side earlier this week - the latest in a string of high profile defections from the regime - has raised speculation that the bloody civil war there has turned a corner. This Update focuses on analysis of where things now stand in Syria, and how the changing situation might affect Western policy calculations.

First up is an argument for changing policies in the wake of the latest developments in Syria in an editorial from the Washington Post. The paper notes the defection of Mr. Hijab and also an International Crisis Group report which makes it clear, correctly, that the regime is long past agreeing to compromise or agreeing to a "managed transition - while the longer the civil war goes on the less likely a democratic and pluralist government will follow.

What we can learn from Ahmadinejad's "400 years of Zionism"

What we can learn from Ahmadinejad's "400 years of Zionism" Author: Or Avi-Guy Categories: Anti-Zionism, Antisemitism, Iran, Palestinians, Updates    

The Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA, 2.8.2012), published some statements by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad made last Wednesday night in a meeting in Teheran with ambassadors and diplomats from Muslim countries . These reveal that while the Iranians love to claim they are only critical of Israel and "Zionism", and have nothing against Jews per se, the Iranians in fact simply and transparently use the word "Zionism" to paper over dangerously antisemitic views directed against Jews generally.

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The Sinai Vacuum

The Sinai Vacuum Categories: Egypt, Islamic Extremism, Israel, Updates    

This Update is dedicated to the implications of the latest large-scale attack from Sinai into Israel on Sunday, which left 16 Egyptian soldiers dead, but caused no casualties in Israel. A good introduction to the news about the attack and its immediate aftermath appeared in Sharyn Mittleman's "Fresh Air" blog post on Tuesday - this Update will focus on the wider Sinai problem of a power vacuum increasingly being filled by violent extremist groups highlighted by this latest attack.

Film Review: Last Dance

Film Review: Last Dance Author: Daniel Meyerowitz-Katz Categories: Anti-Zionism, Antisemitism, Australasia, Updates    

Last Dance director David Pulbrook was obviously cognisant that a movie about the Israeli/Palestinian conflict would necessitate negotiating a moral and political minefield. Tellingly, he stressed in numerous interviews that "we were careful not to take sides and worked closely with Palestinian and Jewish communities to ensure a balanced point of view".

He also went to some length to downplay the political significance of the film, telling the Australian Jewish News' Danny Gocs that "[t]he film is more about humanity and motherly love than the politically volatile issue between Israelis and Palestinians."

His efforts to engage with the Jewish and Muslim communities in Australia are laudable, as were his attempts to create a human drama from an inhuman conflict. His characterisation, however, missed the mark...

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Israel’s own Parade of Nations on display in its multicultural Olympic delegation

Israel’s own Parade of Nations on display in its multicultural Olympic delegation Author: Andrea Nadel Categories: Israel, Middle East, Updates    

As Israel's 37-member delegation to the 2012 London Olympic Games finishes its first week of competition, the country's feisty athleticism is not the only thing on display. Nearly half of Israel's delegates were born outside of Israel and came there as olim from all corners of the globe, from South America, Africa, the former Soviet Union and North America. The delegation's diversity reflects Israel's own multiculturalism and presents an image of the country that belies the misconceptions that delude so many of its detractors.

The Future of Fatah / Preventing military conflict with Iran

The Future of Fatah / Preventing military conflict with Iran Categories: Iran, Palestinians, Updates    

This Update features two pieces of analysis which discuss worrying signs for the secular nationalist Fatah movement that dominates the Palestinian Authority -  emanating from both current Middle East trends, as well as developments in the West Bank itself.

First up is academic expert and recent visitor to Australia Dr. Jonathan Spyer, who sees the entire Palestinian nationalist movement as looking very vulnerable to the Islamist trends which are eclipsing Arab nationalist regimes across the Middle East.

Ben Gurion review offers up some home truths

Ben Gurion review offers up some home truths Author: Or Avi-Guy Categories: Israel, Updates    

The latest edition of Quadrant magazine featured a book review by Daryl McCann of Ben-Gurion: A Political Life (Schocken Books, 2011), which is highly recommended not only for what it says about the book, but because it explains clearly some truths and some long-forgotten facts about the origins of the Arab-Israel conflict that everyone should understand.

In Israel, Romney seeks to differentiate himself from Obama

In Israel, Romney seeks to differentiate himself from Obama Author: Ahron Shapiro Categories: America, Israel, Updates    

Mitt Romney, the presumptive Republican nominee in this November's US presidential race, made the most of a visit to Israel on Sunday, creating daylight - not between the US and Israel under a future Romney Administration, but rather - between his views and attitudes towards Israel and its neighbours and those of the current Obama Administration.

Incitement watch: Hamas denies Holocaust and Israeli-Arab Parliamentarian supports Burgas bombing

Incitement watch: Hamas denies Holocaust and Israeli-Arab Parliamentarian supports Burgas bombing Author: Daniel Meyerowitz-Katz Categories: Antisemitism, Holocaust/ War Crimes, Palestinians, Updates    

When Hamas is criticised for its antisemitic and genocidal rhetoric, the common trend is to refer to its 1988 charter, which repeats traditional antisemitic conspiracy theories, specifically cites notorious antisemitic propaganda document 'The Protocols of the Elders of Zion', and contains some explicit calls to murder Jews. In return, apologists for Hamas have alleged that the charter is no longer a relevant document and accused Hamas detractors of using the document deceptively to demonise an innocent organisation.

Unfortunately, repeated statements from Hamas indicate that the spirit of the charter pervades the organisation to this day. A recent episode concerning Palestinian Authority (PA) official Ziad Al-Bandak is a case in point...

Olympic opening ceremony reveals hypocrisy of the IOC refusal to honour Munich massacre victims

Olympic opening ceremony reveals hypocrisy of the IOC refusal to honour Munich massacre victims Author: Sharyn Mittelman Categories: Israel, Terrorism, Updates    

As expected, the Olympic opening ceremony was held on July 28 without a minute's silence to honour the memory of the eleven Israeli athletes, who were brutally murdered by members of the Palestinian terrorist group ‘Black September' forty years ago at the Munich Olympics.

However, many were disgusted by the International Olympic Committee's (IOC) refusal to agree to such a tribute and provided their own remembrance of Munich. In support of the cause, during the American broadcast, Bob Costas silenced his microphone for five seconds to honour the Munich victims. In another show of solidarity, some 30 members of the Italian Olympic delegation held a moment of silence at the entrance to the Israeli delegation's residential compound in London.

Continued IOC refusal to remember Munich darkens tomorrow’s Olympic Opening Ceremony

Continued IOC refusal to remember Munich darkens tomorrow’s Olympic Opening Ceremony Author: Andrea Nadel Categories: Europe, Israel, Middle East, Palestinians, Terrorism, Updates    

Despite calls from the victims' families and world leaders across the globe, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) will reportedly not honour the memory of the 11 Israeli Olympians and one West German police officer murdered by Palestinian terrorists at the 1972 Olympics in Munich at the opening ceremony for the London games tomorrow.

Christians in Gaza face an uncertain future

Christians in Gaza face an uncertain future Author: Sharyn Mittelman Categories: Palestinians, Updates    

The plight of Christians in the Hamas controlled Gaza Strip has recently been in the spotlight following allegations by the Orthodox Christian Church, that a group of armed Islamists kidnapped five Christian Palestinians and forced them to convert to Islam.

On July 16, hundreds of Christians staged a rare protest in Gaza's main church, demanding the return of members of their community. A solidarity protest was held at the same time in Bethlehem on the plaza of the Church of Nativity.

Hamas on the Rise in the "Islamist Spring"?

Hamas on the Rise in the "Islamist Spring"? Categories: Middle East, Palestinians, Updates    

This Update features pieces covering the rising regional and financial clout of the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas as a result of the changes re-shaping the Middle East over the past eighteen months in what is sometimes called the "Arab Spring."

First up is noted American Palestinian Affairs analyst Jonathan Schanzer, who focuses on the financial signs of Hamas' growing clout compared to the Palestinian Authority (PA). He notes that while the PA is effectively broke, Hamas is riding high financially thanks to growing support from two new benefactors - Qatar and Turkey - despite the weakening of Hamas' ties to traditional patrons Syria and Iran.

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Bulgaria attack underscores the absurdity of Israel's exclusion from new Counterterrorism Forum

Bulgaria attack underscores the absurdity of Israel's exclusion from new Counterterrorism Forum Author: Or Avi-Guy Categories: Israel, Terrorism, Updates    

Kochava and Yitzhak Shriki were supposed to be celebrating right now. They recently found out that after years of fertility treatments their greatest wish was being granted - 44-year-old Kochava was finally pregnant with their first child. They were on their way to a short summer vacation in Burgas, Bulgaria. A few hours later, the Shriki's dream has turned into a horrible nightmare when a suicide bomber exploded near a Bulgarian airport, right next to tourist buses packed with Israelis on their way from the airport to their hotels. Seven people were killed, five of them Israeli. One of them was Kochava.

Incitement watch: popular Egyptian comedy show, "I hate the Jews to death!"

Incitement watch: popular Egyptian comedy show, "I hate the Jews to death!" Author: Daniel Meyerowitz-Katz Categories: Antisemitism, Egypt, Updates    

In his book The Flight of The Intellectuals, Paul Berman noted a pivotal point in Arab antisemitism during the WWII-era alliance between Adolf Hitler and Haj Amin al-Husseini, the Grand Mufti of Palestine. One of Husseini's greatest "achievements" was to take Nazi anti-Jewish tropes and not only translate them into Arabic, but to put them in terms that made sense to the Muslim Arab population in the Middle East.

Decades later and the depth and degree of antisemitism in mainstream Arab discourse has become extremely confronting. A quick glance over all of our posts tagged with "antisemitism" will show how common this phenomenon really is, and for those of us who watch constantly see this material, the volume is unfortunately enough that we become a little desensitised to it.

That said, there will be times when anyone will be jolted out of their complacency. For this writer, the below video did the job...

A new phase of the Syrian civil war?/ Countering Iran's "3D"s

A new phase of the Syrian civil war?/ Countering Iran's "3D"s Categories: Iran, Syria, Updates    

This Update features some additional material on the changing situation in Syria following the bomb blast there on Wednesday which killed and wounded several leading regime figures.

First up is noted Middle East scholar Fouad Ajami, who looks at the ethnic reality of the Syrian state behind the recent killings and the current stage of the civil war. Ajami stresses that the Assad regime remains rooted in the Alawite minority, and the latest killing of some key regime players - two important Alawite commanders, and the much-less important Christian defence minister -  illustrates how this regime has brought this minority both spoils and peril.

Libya, Post-Election/ Tide Turning in Syria?

Libya, Post-Election/ Tide Turning in Syria? Categories: Libya, Syria, Updates    

This Update focuses primarily on the aftermath of the election in Libya earlier this month, but also looks at the apparent turn of battle in Syria, with rebel forces now engaging in extended battles with the regime in Damascus and a suicide bombing overnight killing several key regime figures - including the Defence Minister and President Assad's brother-in-law - and wounding others, including the Intelligence Chief and Interior Minister.

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Media Week - Remembering Shamir; Grave doubts; Over the top

Media Week - Remembering Shamir; Grave doubts; Over the top Author: Allon Lee Categories: Australasia, Israel, Media/ Academia, Palestinians, Terrorism, Updates    

Ruth Pollard in the Age and Sydney Morning Herald (2/7) asserted that former Israeli PM Yitzhak Shamir's "most criticised decision...was to undermine the 1987 agreement on Palestine reached by his foreign minister Shimon Peres and Jordan's King Hussein".

Contrary to Pollard's implication, the agreement would not have created an independent Palestine but seen a resumption of Jordanian rule over the West Bank.

Pew Survey of Middle East reveals complex and sometimes conflicted feelings about democracy

Pew Survey of Middle East reveals complex and sometimes conflicted feelings about democracy Author: Andrea Nadel Categories: Afghanistan/ Pakistan, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Middle East, Tunisia, Turkey, Updates    

The Pew Research Centre's Global Attitudes Project has just released the results of surveys it conducted throughout the Middle East in the wake of the "Arab Spring." The surveys reveal some interesting insights about attitudes in the Middle East in the wake of the recent uprisings, including how Middle Easterners weigh democracy, Islamism, economic strength and political stability in their own societies.

Dr. P R Kumaraswamy talks on the history of India-Israel relations [audio]

Dr. P R Kumaraswamy talks on the history of India-Israel relations [audio] Categories: India, Israel, Multimedia, Updates    

Dr. P R Kumaraswamy talks about the history of India-Israel relations, as part of an AIJAC Breakfast lecture held in Melbourne on July 16.

Dr. Kumaraswamy is a Professor with the Centre for West Asian Studies at Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi, India. He has studied Israel since 1982 and is the author of India's Israel Policy, published by Columbia University Press in 2010.

Sanctions and Nuclear Negotiations with Iran

Sanctions and Nuclear Negotiations with Iran Categories: International Security, Iran, Updates    

Today's Update features some new, valuable pieces on various aspects of the nuclear negotiations with Iran.

First up, Michael Makovsky and Blaise Misztal of the Bipartisan Policy Institute, a US thinktank, strongly argue against meeting Iran's demand in the negotiations that its "right to enrich uranium" should be acknowledged. Looking at the text of the Nuclear Non-Proiliferation Treaty, they document that the treaty grants no such right, and moreover, Iran has violate  the conditions the treaty sets out in order to receive "the right to peaceful use of nuclear energy".

The Levy Committee, "Occupation" and Settlements

The Levy Committee, "Occupation" and Settlements Categories: Israel, Updates    

This Update deals with the implications of the Levy Committee report into settlements and outposts set up by Israel's Netanyahu Government. Its three legal expert members, led by a retired Israeli Supreme Court judge, found that the law of belligerent occupation "as set out in the relevant international conventions cannot be considered applicable to the West Bank" and that therefore settlements are not illegal, as is so often claimed in international discourse. The report has sparked some controversy both in Israel and internationally. (A translation of the conclusions and recommendations of the committee can be downloaded here.)

Media Week - Delusional on Damascus; Major doubts; Holey claptrap

Media Week - Delusional on Damascus; Major doubts; Holey claptrap Author: Allon Lee Categories: Israel, Media/ Academia, Palestinians, Syria, Updates    

Joseph Wakim revealed on ABC "Unleashed" (27/6) the true cause of internecine violence that has roiled Syria since February 2011 and blackened the good name of the Assad dictatorship:

There is nothing civil about the war in Syria - it is a proxy war to protect Israel from a nuclear Iran. This was confirmed when Israel's defence minister Ehud Barak declared that toppling Assad 'will be a major blow to the radical axis [Iran] ... It's the only kind of outpost of the Iranian influence in the Arab world ... and it will weaken dramatically both Hezbollah in Lebanon, and Hamas and Islamic Jihad in Gaza'.

But this hardly amounts to a smoking gun for proving Israel is fomenting civil war in which more than 13,000 people have been killed; more a desperation to blame shift onto the usual scapegoat.

Iran sanctions/ Strife in the Syrian opposition

Iran sanctions/ Strife in the Syrian opposition Categories: Iran, Syria, Updates    

On Wednesday, there was a "technical" meeting connected with the P5+1/Iran nuclear talks - the upshot of which seems to be that it looks likely high level talks will resume. Meanwhile, Iran has responded to the imposition of new European sanctions by threatening to block the Strait of Hormuz. This Update has some new entries concerning the sanctions regime on Iran. In addition, it includes new analysis of the struggle between Islamists and other forces in the Syrian opposition as the Syrian civil war continues to develop.

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Experts: Radioactive residues on Arafat's clothing no proof of poisoning

Experts: Radioactive residues on Arafat's clothing no proof of poisoning Author: Ahron Shapiro Categories: Israel, Palestinians, Updates    

After the media excitement over the allegation polonium poisoning might have caused Yasser Arafat's death in 2004, some sober and cogent analysis is debunking the thrust of the al-Jazeera report - that the radioactive levels that were reportedly found recently on Arafat's personal effects, could have come from Arafat himself.

Dr. Ely Karmon, of the Interdisciplinary Centre, Herzliya's Institute for Counterterrorism, a specialist in chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear terrorism, told the Jerusalem Post on Thursday that the half-life of the substance would make it impossible for polonium to have been discovered at such high levels after eight years.

IMF denies Israel’s request for loan to help struggling PA

IMF denies Israel’s request for loan to help struggling PA Author: Andrea Nadel Categories: Israel, Palestinians, Updates    

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has denied Israel’s request for a loan to assist the cash-strapped Palestinian Authority (PA). Conflicting numbers have been reported regarding the precise amount of the loan that Israel requested, with some news outlets reporting that it was for US $1 billion and others reporting that it was for US $100 million. Regardless of the exact amount, Israel’s request highlights not only its interest in preventing the collapse of the Palestinian economy but also the precariousness of the funding situation the PA currently faces thanks to a global economic downturn that has decreased the ability of donor countries worldwide to make good on their funding promises.

UNESCO bucks own experts to pass Palestinian "emergency measure"

UNESCO bucks own experts to pass Palestinian "emergency measure" Author: Or Avi-Guy Categories: Palestinians, United Nations, Updates    

Last Friday at the 36th meeting of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) World Heritage Committee, held in St. Petersburg, the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem was added to UNESCO's World Heritage List as an endangered heritage site, registered under the location "Palestine."

You may be thinking "Another pro-Palestinian vote at the UN, so what else is new?" But the baffling and telling part of the story is not simply that the motion passed, but that it passed despite the better judgment of UNESCO's own advisory body and secretariat, and even against the wishes of the church's own custodians.

Putin's Israel visit showcases diplomacy's strengths and limitations

Putin's Israel visit showcases diplomacy's strengths and limitations Author: Ahron Shapiro Categories: Iran, Israel, Palestinians, Russia, Syria, Updates    

Russian President Vladimir Putin's visit to Israel last week, as part of a larger Middle East tour by the newly re-elected leader, is seen by analysts as a productive diplomatic exercise between the two countries.

At the same time, analysts agree, the visit demonstrated the limits of diplomacy in persuading Russia to change its policies regarding matters of key national interest to Jerusalem, especially regarding Iran and Syria.

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Romney plans trip to Israel

Romney plans trip to Israel Author: Ahron Shapiro Categories: America, Israel, Updates    

Mitt Romney, the presumptive US Republican presidential nominee, will be visiting Israel in the near future, the New York Times reported on Tuesday.

According to the story, Romney is expected to meet with Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and President Shimon Peres, Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, the US Ambassador Daniel Shapiro and members of the Israeli Opposition.

Romney's itinerary does not include a meeting with PA President Mahmoud Abbas, according to the Times.

A visit to Israel is becoming almost customary for US presidential candidates in an election season.

Muslim Brotherhood leader: Liberating Jerusalem and Palestine should be "sole goal"

Muslim Brotherhood leader: Liberating Jerusalem and Palestine should be "sole goal" Author: Allon Lee Categories: Egypt, Islamic Extremism, Israel, Palestinians, Updates    

A June 14 speech by the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood's leader Mohammed Badie in which he dreams of a Muslim leadership ready to make the liberation of Palestine and Jerusalem "the sole goal" does not engender hope the world's leading Sunni Islamist organisation is ready to moderate its extremist positions now that it's candidate has won the country's presidency.

In the speech, Badie, who selected Mohammed Mursi to run for the Egyptian presidency, says:

"How happy would be the Muslims if all Muslim rulers made the Palestinian cause a pivotal issue, around which Muslims, rulers and the ruled, would line up [and ally to make] the sole goal for all of them the recovery of al Aqsa Mosque, freeing it from the filth of the Zionists, and imposing Muslim rule throughout beloved Palestine."

 Media Week - Waterlogged; Horse and cart reporting; Simplistic moralising

Media Week - Waterlogged; Horse and cart reporting; Simplistic moralising Author: Allon Lee Categories: Israel, Media/ Academia, Middle East, Palestinians, Updates    

Age/Sydney Morning Herald (June 23) Middle East correspodent Ruth Pollard reported on an NGO study claiming that Gaza drinking water is "too contaminated", "never in continuous supply because of daily power shortages," and the infrastructure distributing it is in disrepair because Gazans have lived under an "Israel-imposed military blockade for five years."

Nowhere in the article was Hamas mentioned, which is astounding given that it has been the sole governing authority in Gaza since 2007 and has been effectively at war with Israel while doing little for its own population's welfare or water needs.

Furthermore, she ignored or was unaware of IDF reports documenting at least 27 water and sewage purification projects in place in Gaza - all of them facilitated by Israel, and not a single one funded by Hamas.

BBC admits bias in its “Arab Spring,” Itamar coverage

BBC admits bias in its “Arab Spring,” Itamar coverage Author: Andrea Nadel Categories: Media/ Academia, Middle East, Updates    

In a rare admission this week of what many who follow the organization have long observed, the British Broadcasting Corporation admitted that significant aspects of its coverage of the "Arab Spring" uprisings had been biased. They have also apologised, albeit somewhat half-heartedly, for a failure to report one of the most heinous terror attacks in recent years against Israelis.

Egypt under a Muslim Brotherhood President

Egypt under a Muslim Brotherhood President Categories: Egypt, Updates    

This Update focuses on new analysis from noted experts on the likely trajectory of Egypt under its new President, Muhammed Morsi from the Muslim Brotherhood.

First is Eric Trager, the expert on Egyptian domestic politics for the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, who discusses whether the democratic election victory of the Brotherhood means that it will now behave as a democratic party. Trager discusses considerable evidence of undemocratic behaviour by the Brotherhood and their supporters during the lead-up to the election, including signals that the Brotherhood intended to fight for a Morsi victory by any means necessary if he failed to win.

Motion for one minute’s silence unanimously passed in Australian Parliament

Motion for one minute’s silence unanimously passed in Australian Parliament Author: Sharyn Mittelman Categories: Australasia, Israel, Terrorism, Updates    

A motion calling upon the International Olympic Committee to observe a minute's silence at next month's London Olympics for the 11 Israelis killed in the 1972 Munich massacre, has today been unanimously passed in the House of Representatives.

The motion was moved by Paul Fletcher (Bradfield, Lib.) and seconded by the Josh Frydenberg (Kooyong, Lib.).

Declassified documents from '67 show Israel's willingness to trade land for peace

Declassified documents from '67 show Israel's willingness to trade land for peace Author: Ahron Shapiro Categories: Egypt, Jordan, Palestinians, Syria, United Nations, Updates    

Did Israel's government covet the land it captured as part of the defensive war of June 1967, which ended with Israeli forces in control of the Sinai Peninsula, Golan Heights, West Bank and Gaza?

For the most part, not at all, according to 200 pages of newly declassified transcripts from cabinet and committee meetings in the days following the war, released by Israel's National Archive this month.

Iran nuclear talks go nowhere/ Iran and Syria

Iran nuclear talks go nowhere/ Iran and Syria Categories: International Security, Iran, Syria, Updates    

As readers are probably aware, the third round of "P5+1" talks with Iran over its nuclear program took place on Monday and Tuesday of this week in Moscow and ended not only with no sign of an agreement, but without any clear plans for further high-level talks. This Update deals with what happened in Moscow and the implications of the talks' failure.

First up, Barak Ravid of Haaretz receives some insights into the exact nature of  the discussions from an anonyomous participating diplomat. He says that the Western states attempted to correct an Iranian belief that they were interested in a deal at any cost, while the Iranians were vague and unhelpful in discussing plans to limit their enrichment of uranium to 20% - which is, in terms of technical difficulty, almost bomb grade - and refused to discuss the fate of the secretly-built underground Fordo enrichment complex at all.

This week in Parliament - Fletcher calls for one minute’s silence at London Olympics, and Danby criticises ABC's alleged media bias on Israel

This week in Parliament - Fletcher calls for one minute’s silence at London Olympics, and Danby criticises ABC's alleged media bias on Israel Author: Sharyn Mittelman Categories: Australasia, Israel, Media/ Academia, Updates    

As discussed in my previous blog post, prominent Australian political leaders, including the Prime Minister and Opposition Leader, signed a petition calling for one minute's silence at the London Olympics to honour the victims of the 1972 Munich massacre, joining a growing international chorus on the subject. Now Paul Fletcher (Bradfield, Lib.) on June 19 in the House of Representatives gave notice for a motion on this issue.

Meanwhile on June 18, Michael Danby (Melbourne Ports, ALP) made a speech in the House of Representatives criticising the ABC's alleged media bias, particularly against Israel, as well as the ABC's "laughably labelled ‘complaints procedure'".

Egypt's Uncertain Post-Election Future

Egypt's Uncertain Post-Election Future Categories: Egypt, Israel, Updates    

This Update deals with the aftermath of events in Egypt over the weekend - both the run-off presidential election (which the Muslim Brotherhood's Muhammed Morsi claims to have narrowly won, though his opponent, Ahmed Shafiq, makes the same claim, but election authorities are reviewing appeals and it is not clear when an official announcement will be made ), and the military's announcement of a temporary constitutional arrangement which effectively strips the Presidency of most of its power.

Media Week - Antisemitic poster boys; Radio daze; Go Canada

Media Week - Antisemitic poster boys; Radio daze; Go Canada Author: Allon Lee Categories: Anti-Zionism, Antisemitism, Israel, Media/ Academia, Middle East, Palestinians, Updates    

A Sydney Morning Herald story (16/6) on the Egyptian Supreme Court overturning a ban on the presidential candidacy of former Mubarak-era Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq featured a picture of a male protester holding a poster of Shafiq covered in at least five Star of Davids.

The paper's accompanying caption stated: "Hatred....protesters hold a defaced poster of presidential candidate Ahmed Shafiq". Perhaps "Stereotypical antisemitism that is a feature of Egyptian political discourse" might have been a more apt description.

AIR
Thailand, Israel defence ties highlight Jerusalem's increasing focus on Asia

Thailand, Israel defence ties highlight Jerusalem's increasing focus on Asia Author: Ahron Shapiro Categories: Asia, Australasia, Israel, Updates    

Ties between Israel and Thailand increased last week following a visit to Israel by Thai Defence Minister Sukumpol Suwanatat, which culminated in the signing of an intelligence pact between the two countries.

According to the report in the print edition of Friday's Bangkok Post, Thai and Israeli defence ministries have signed a non-disclosure agreement over classified information on intelligence, military and security.

"The agreement is part of the two countries' cooperation on security issues. We also agreed to exchange information on anti-terrorism operations,'' Sukumpol told the paper.

According to the story, a Thai military source added that Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak offered his mine-clearing and other military technology to the Thai Defence Ministry to help Thailand cope with ongoing violence in the country's south.

The visit came in the wake of a terror explosion in Bangkok on February 14 which wounded five people. The bombers, reportedly linked to Hezbollah, allegedly intended to attack Israeli diplomats in the city.

The blindness behind the NGO petition to end the Gaza blockade

The blindness behind the NGO petition to end the Gaza blockade Author: Sharyn Mittelman Categories: Israel, NGOs, Palestinians, United Nations, Updates    

Fifty international charities and UN agencies have made a joint media appeal to lift the blockade of the Gaza Strip. Some of the charities that have signed the petition have Australian branches including: Amnesty International, Oxfam, Care International, War Child and HelpAge International.  The petition states:

"For over five years in Gaza, more than 1.6 million people have been under blockade in violation of international law. More than half of these people are children. We the undersigned say with one voice: 'end the blockade now'".

The petition appears to overlook a number of key issues which are discussed in this blog post.

Amnesty's response to atrocities in Syria: "International community must act"... with yet more empty words

Amnesty's response to atrocities in Syria: "International community must act"... with yet more empty words Author: Or Avi-Guy Categories: NGOs, Syria, Updates    

After more than a year of brutal repression of anti-regime protest, the atrocities against civilians in Syria keep reaching new heights. Growing attention to the bloodshed and violence in that country by the international community and human rights organisations, even if tragically belated, could have been a hopeful sign that something might finally be done to put an end to the bloodshed. In reality, however, no such steps appear to be in sight.

Hamas: We're responsible for major new outbreak of rocket attacks

Hamas: We're responsible for major new outbreak of rocket attacks Author: Ahron Shapiro Categories: Israel, Palestinians, Terrorism, Updates    

Dozens of rockets have been launched from Gaza into Israel during a new outbreak of fighting this week. Also, in a new twist, Hamas has taken responsibility for the attacks, rather than merely passively permitting other groups such as Islamic Jihad to launch rockets from its territory - a policy that had been in place for the past year.

App
Women and Tahrir Square – from a symbol of freedom to a reality of fear

Women and Tahrir Square – from a symbol of freedom to a reality of fear Author: Or Avi-Guy Categories: Egypt, Updates    

What happens when small groups of Egyptian women (escorted by men) gather in Tahrir Square to protest against the alarming and widespread phenomenon of sexual harassment in post-Mubarak Egypt? They get groped, sexually assaulted and violently attacked by a mob of thugs, until eventually rescued by other groups of men who come to their aid.

Peres awarded US medal, says honour belongs to all Israelis

Peres awarded US medal, says honour belongs to all Israelis Author: Sharyn Mittelman Categories: America, Israel, Updates    

Israeli President Shimon Peres' ability to foster positive relationships with the West, and in particular the United States was very much on display in Washington on June 13 when he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom - the highest civilian award the United States government can bestow upon an individual. In a gala dinner held in Washington in Peres' honour, US President Barack Obama praised the Israeli President's legacy and efforts on behalf of peace.

Obama said of Peres, "In him we see the essence of Israel itself... an indomitable spirit that will not be denied."

Hugo Chávez's antisemitic re-election strategy

Hugo Chávez's antisemitic re-election strategy Author: Andrea Nadel Categories: America, Anti-Zionism, Antisemitism, International Jewry, Updates    

Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez's hatred of Israel is no secret. His despotic regime's alliances with countries hostile to Israel, most prominently Iran, are also no secret. Less well known has been the devastating toll that his regime's overt embrace of antisemitic rhetoric and policies has had on the Venezuelan Jewish community - though AIJAC's Allon Lee blogged on this in February. Now, as the ailing strongman takes on Henrique Capriles in Venezuela's presidential election campaign, he is again resorting to antisemiti