Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council

Noted and Quoted - November 2016

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Correcting the record

Following an AIJAC complaint, Channel 9 demonstrated its commitment to editorial standards by altering an unprofessional and inaccurate online story (Sept. 19) about a foiled terrorist stabbing in Israel.

The story's headline - "Palestinian ‘executed' after Israeli checkpoint knife attack" - inverted the attacker and the victim and suggested the terrorist was killed in cold blood.

The story used the vehemently anti-Israel NGO International Solidarity Movement as a source, without explaining what it is.

The report also contained factual inaccuracies about a different attack including claims two Palestinian assailants were killed (only one was), and the implication no Israelis were hurt (three teenage boys were) and a reference to the victims as "illegal settlers".

Nine amended the headline to acknowledge that "executed" is an allegation by the attacker's family, the International Solidarity Movement is now identified as pro-Palestinian, the factual errors are corrected, and rather than referring to "illegal settlers", the story now says the assailants "rammed a car into a bus stop used by Israelis in the occupied West Bank."


Playing fair

A story reporting Palestinian terrorist Musbah Abu Sbeih's murder of two Israelis and wounding of several others in Jerusalem on October 10 gave Fairfax readers a rare opportunity to experience balance and context in this area.

Washington Post correspondent Ruth Eglash's story was given the factually accurate headline "Israelis shot dead during rampage by Palestinian."

Eglash probed the role of incitement in fomenting terror, writing:

"In a recent article about extremist activity among Palestinians in occupied East Jerusalem, Shaul Bartal, a former major in the Israeli military and lecturer in Middle Eastern studies, cited the assailant's Facebook page, on which he displayed clear support for Hamas, the Islamist movement which administers the Palestinian population in the Gaza Strip. Hamas is viewed by Israel and the US as a terrorist organisation.

"Immediately after the attack, Hamas released a statement saying that it mourned the death of its ‘son' and called his attack in Jerusalem ‘heroic'."

The report, however, omitted to mention that the Palestinian Authority also encourages incitement and had praised Abu Sbeih as a "martyr", Age/Canberra Times/Sydney Morning Herald (Oct.11).


McNeill's hospital pass

A TV report from ABC Middle East correspondent Sophie McNeill included her two favourite tropes when covering Israel - the blockade of Gaza and Palestinian suffering.

Returning to the issue of Palestinians needing to leave Hamas-run Gaza to access medical treatment (see AIR July 2016), McNeill presented the ultimate victims, Palestinian children with cancer.

McNeill introduced her story saying that "almost 10 years after Israel and Egypt imposed a blockade on Gaza, medical facilities in the Hamas militant-ruled strip have significantly deteriorated."

The "blockade" doesn't affect medical supplies. Any deterioration is the result of PA-Hamas mismanagement and Hamas' sick priorities, which have seen hundreds of millions of dollars squandered on arms and terror tunnels, instead of being spent on hospital infrastructure.

In the next breath, McNeill contradicted herself by adding, "Now, an increasing number of Palestinian patients are forced to travel to Israel or to the Palestinian West Bank to receive their treatment. But to exit Gaza, you need permission from the Israeli authorities."

This is simply untrue - Palestinians can and do come and go from Gaza via Egypt without requiring any permission from Israel.

The story looked at the alleged difficulty of people in Gaza who are under 45 and care for Palestinian children wanting to obtain permits to enter Israel to accompany them for medical treatment there or elsewhere.

McNeill said, "In 2012, 83 per cent of permit applications for patients' companions were approved. In July 2016, only 57.5 per cent were approved."

This is extremely misleading. The report McNeill appears to rely on has likely conflated companion requests for children and all patient companion requests for patients of all ages. But it's also misleading even if this statistic referred only to companion requests for children. If one parent's permit was refused, say, on security grounds but that refusal was then followed by the other parent's request being accepted, that could result in a 50% approval rate.

The most relevant statistic, then, is the one that McNeill did not share - what percentage of children are accompanied by their parents or other close relatives for their hospital stay? It's obviously higher than 57.5%, but how much higher is unknown and McNeill didn't say, ABC TV "Lateline" (Sept. 21).


Goers to the extreme

ABC radio personality and veteran anti-Israel propagandist Peter Goers hit a new low in his weekly Adelaide Sunday Mail newspaper column (Oct.9) recounting a recent trip to Israel.

Goers accused Israel of "perfecting" South African apartheid, said Israeli soldiers are "trigger happy" and that "Israel is guns and Moses. Israel is one long persecution of Palestinians."

Unable to find anything to recommend in Israel, Goers was especially vitriolic towards the Pratt Foundation's Park of the Australian Soldier in Beer Sheva (a city he called "the ugliest place I've ever seen") and claimed the cemetery where Australian soldiers from the Light Horse Brigade are buried was full of rubbish.

This was all Goers needed to allege that "Israelis pay Australia a lot of lip service" but really "couldn't care less" and give him an opening to write, "I salute the forbearance of the Palestinians and commit myself afresh to their noble cause. Inshallah".

In a published letter (Oct. 16) the Executive Council of Australian Jewry's Peter Wertheim said he attended the Park of the Australian Soldier's opening in 2008, which included "hundreds of Israelis and Australians [and] the Heads of State of both countries, the event was marked by tremendous affection between the two peoples, and enormous pride in our shared history."

Moreover, he wrote, Goers was "shockingly dishonest" in claiming that "‘trigger-happy Israeli soldiers" shot an "unarmed Palestinian child" because he was "in reality a youth with a knife who was attacking Israelis."


Bending to propaganda

In a similar vein to Goers, was Mary Ann Elliott's review of US writer Ben Ehrenreich's memoir, The Way to the Spring, of his three years in the West Bank with the notorious Tamimi clan.

Elliott enthused that the book shows the "processes of colonial settlement... subjugating an indigenous people" and regurgitated Ehrenreich's assertion that checkpoints, walls, prisons and permits are nothing more than "a giant humiliation machine... for the production of human despair."

According to Elliot, "who can blame them for resisting when every other avenue is closed? Equating ‘Palestinian' with ‘terrorist', thanks to the media, has eroded sympathy for their plight. It's also a blanket term used by the occupying military to justify killings of ordinary men, women and children. In exchange for little boys throwing rocks in defence of their homes, live bullets, land grabs and house raids are commonplace," The Chronicle (Oct. 13).

But as AIJAC's Allon Lee pointed out in a published letter, Ehrenreich does not support Israel's right to exist and the memoir is "blatant agitprop" which "romanticis[es]" the Tamimi family who "public[ly] support...deadly suicide bombings. Indeed, Nariman Tamimi's... Facebook posts include graphic instructions on how best to lethally stab Jews."

He also pointed out that, since 2000, the Palestinian leadership has rejected three Israeli offers of a state - the last in 2008 included the equivalent of 100% of the West Bank, Gaza and a share of east Jerusalem, The Chronicle (Oct. 20).


Carl's bilge

Former Swedish Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Carl Bildt seemed to be stuck in an ideological time warp in an op-ed spouting ill-informed nonsense about the Israel-Palestinian conflict.

According to Bildt, "despite all of the Middle East's other - and seemingly bigger - problems, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the linchpin issue that will determine whether the region's future will be one of peace and prosperity."

Ignoring the 400,000 deaths in Syria; the collapse of Iraq, Libya and Yemen; and the empowering of Iran, it is the failure to resolve this conflict that "will also help define US President Barack Obama's foreign policy legacy," Bildt insisted.

Even more delusional was Bildt's assertion that during President Barack Obama's first term, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu tried to "derail any meaningful peace efforts".

Mere months after Obama assumed office, Netanyahu publicly committed himself to the two-state formula for peace. At Obama's request he implemented an unprecedented 10-month settlements building freeze in the West Bank as a gesture for peace but to no avail.

Bildt offered no justification for his demand that UN Security Council Resolution 242, which links Israeli territorial withdrawals with Arab states agreeing to make peace, be revoked, except for the wild claim that "Netanyahu will certainly object to any new parameters that undermine his own increasingly apparent vision of a Greater Israel from the Mediterranean to the Jordan River."

In the seven years since Netanyahu regained the prime ministership, construction in Israeli settlements has actually been carried out at a lower rate than under all his recent predecessors, while the portion of West Bank land taken up with settlements has not significantly expanded, and remains well under 2%, Australian (Sept. 16).


Naval gazing

Israel's interception of a boat of all-female activists from the Freedom Flotilla Coalition that attempted to break the Gaza naval blockade made waves largely because the vessel's captain was Tasmanian resident Madeleine Habib.

Australian reporter Jennine Khalik's online story (Oct. 7) implied the naval blockade of Gaza was illegal, because the boat was "intercepted in international waters... once they entered what Israel deems a ‘military exclusion zone'."

But as the UN's 2011 Palmer Report found, Hamas' declaration of war and acts of terrorism legally entitle Israel to enforce a naval blockade, including in international waters.

Khalik listed two of the more high profile activists onboard, but overlooked such humanitarians as Jordan-based Ola Abed who is one of the people behind the video game "Gaza Man", in which players shoot as many Israelis as they can, with extra points given for headshots.

Others onboard included Muslim Brotherhood supporter Norsham Abu Bakr, who accused the Mossad of orchestrating the recent Munich and Nice terrorist attacks, and Canadian Wendy Goldsmith, who has featured as a guest on conspiracy theorist Kevin Barrett's "Truth Jihad" radio show, which promotes the idea that Israel was behind 9/11 and other attacks.

Khalik's report noted that nine activists were killed during Israel's military raid on a 2010 flotilla to Gaza but omitted to note they belonged to IHH, a radical Turkish Islamist group, and were killed when 40 of them attacked Israeli soldiers with baseball bats, steel bars, and other weapons.

Although Khalik noted that Egypt also enforces a blockade, she said it started "following the election of Hamas" in 2007. It was Hamas' dramatic increase in rockets fired from Gaza that prompted the need for the blockade.

Anti-Israel activist Vivienne Porzsolt was quoted claiming Gaza is "blockaded because the people elected the Hamas government, which is not accepted by Israel, the US, and the rest of the quartet."

The report concluded with Khalik stating, "the Israeli government, opposed to Hamas, has said if it lifts the blockade it would allow Hamas fighters to smuggle weapons."

It's Hamas' commitment to destroy Israel and ongoing terrorism that is the reason for the blockade, not mere "opposition" to Hamas. A highly edited and unproblematic version appeared in the paper itself the next day.


Flotilla Fiesta

Fairfax's "Daily Life" website story (Oct. 18) on Habib by Daisy Dumas followed a similar trajectory.

Dumas called the blockade "contentious", characterised those killed in 2010 as "members" of "six civilian ships" and implied the latest crew's lives were potentially under threat, writing that Habib was "challenged" with "ensuring the protection of her passengers".

Dumas said Habib is "aware" critics see the mission as "a futile effort against the might of Israel and its allies," but quoted Habib insisting that, "unless there is ongoing [protest], there will never be any freedom for the people of Gaza."

Given the report failed to mention Hamas, the genocidal, anti-women, gay-hating, Christian-persecuting group that has run Gaza for nine years, it is hardly surprising Dumas did not ask why Habib does not target the true cause of Gaza's suffering.

The Hobart Mercury's Patrick Billings (Oct. 8) said the group behind the boat wanted to "raise awareness of what it labels Israel's illegal siege against occupied Gaza."

Since Israel has no control over the shared Egyptian/Gaza border, there cannot be a siege, which, ipso facto, would require total Israeli oversight. Further, Israel does not occupy Gaza, which requires on the ground control under international law.

Billings' follow-up report two days later quoted a 2015 UN report that claimed Gaza could be uninhabitable by 2020 thanks to the blockade and military conflict.

Gaza will not be uninhabitable by 2020. Thousands of trucks carry aid and goods into the Strip every week. It is Hamas' choice whether the territory thrives or languishes.


Video Drama

ABC TV Tasmania's "7pm News" (Oct. 7) led with the story and included a pre-recorded video released on social media of Habib asking people to contact the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and government to demand her immediate release. The report also noted that members of rock group "Pink Floyd" were backing the activists. The story did not offer any alternative views.

Elsewhere, SBS reporter Brianna Roberts' online report (Oct. 6) included the basic context some other stories omitted, including that "Israel and Egypt imposed a blockade on Gaza after the Hamas militant group seized power in 2007... Israel says the restrictions are needed to prevent Hamas from importing weapons, and says it has eased the blockade to allow more goods into the territory. It considers Hamas, an armed group sworn to Israel's destruction, a terrorist group, and the sides have fought three wars since the Hamas takeover."


Heat on Hate preacher

SBS TV "World News" (Oct. 6) noted the cancellation by Australian organisers of the local speaking tour of visiting antisemitic Pakistani scholar Muhammad Raza Saqib Mustafai.

Manny Tsigas' report included footage of Mustafai in 2012 saying, "All the world's problems are because of the Jews and only when they are wiped out, the world would be purified."

Pakistan's High Commissioner to Australia, Naela Chohan said, "it's causing damage to humanity. Islamic traditions have so much in common with Jews that you cannot say anything as irresponsible as that."

AIJAC's Jeremy Jones, said, "It's very good when there are people who are going to stand up and say the Muslim hearts and the Muslim minds we want to shape are about tolerance and inclusion and opposed to racism and antisemitism."


Icon Not

Columnist Rowan Dean mocked the recent passage of a resolution by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) that recognises the Temple Mount and the Western Wall in Jerusalem solely as Muslim holy sites and omits any reference to their centrality for Jews and Judaism.

Dean wrote, "in a major victory for the United Nations and the freedom-loving, peace-loving, sharia-dominated democracies of the world [UNESCO]...passed a resolution sponsored by a majority of peace-loving Islamic states that denies any Jewish connection whatsoever to a range of Jewish icons. These include the Temple Mount, the Western Wall in Jerusalem, Jerusalem itself, the Holy City of King David, the Temple of Solomon, the Dead Sea Scrolls, the Psalms of David, the Valley of Death, Goliath's old stomping ground, a leather sling with a pebble in it, that bit of the Red Sea which parted so Moses could cut through it, a large pillar of salt in the middle of the desert somewhere, some bullrushes on the Nile, ten plagues, a burned bush, two stone tablets, Bob Dylan...Seinfeld series 1 to 9... Mel Brooks...New York, the Upper West Side, South Brooklyn, the Bronx, Woody Allen, all of Woody Allen's movies but particularly Annie Hall and Hannah and Her Sisters, Intel processors, Steven Spielberg, jeans, Fiddler on the Roof, bagels... the raid on Entebbe, Leonard Bernstein, Barbra Streisand, lipstick, Albert Einstein (full list of Jewish icons with absolutely no connection whatsoever to the perfidious Jews available from antisemites@unesco.isis)," Australian Financial Review (Oct. 15).

 

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