Australia/Israel Review

Noted and Quoted – August 2016

Aug 10, 2016 | 


Vehicular man (and woman) slaughter

Many in the media noted the similarities between the horrific Islamist terror attack in Nice involving the use of a truck to kill more than 80 people and the use of vehicles in recent Palestinian terror tactics.

In the Australian (July 16), a Wall Street Journal report quoted former CIA agent Bruce Riedel saying, “we’ve seen similar vehicle attacks by individual Palestinians against Israelis, which have gotten enormous attention in jihadi circles, and al-Qaida has called for people to imitate them.”

In the same edition of the Australian, Australian Strategic Policy Institute Executive Director Peter Jennings noted that “Islamic State is not the only terror group to use vehicles as weapons. There have been a significant number of attacks in Israel. These have tended to involve vans or smaller passenger vehicles driven by Palestinians supporting Hamas. In 2008, a bulldozer was used in Jerusalem to kill three people and injure a dozen more.”

Also that day, the paper itself editorialised the same point noting that “vehicles have been used in other terrorist acts, normally to carry bombs. Palestinian militants have been using cars to run down Israeli civilians at bus stops on the West Bank.” (In fact, many of the attacks have been in Israel proper.)

Two days later in the Australian (July 18), Australian Strategic Policy Institute Deputy Director Anthony Bergin noted that “we’ve seen vehicles used in terror attacks before in China, US, Israel and Canada.”

Disappointingly, the Daily Telegraph cover (July 16) reporting the Nice attack listed a number of recent deadly terror attacks but did not include any against Israeli targets. However a report in that edition from Cindy Wockner noted that, “the use of trucks has long been a tactic employed as a weapon of terror by the Palestinians in Israel.”

Also in the Daily Telegraph (July 19), columnist Caroline Marcus wrote, “car-ramming has long been a favoured technique of Palestinian terrorists when slaughtering innocent Israeli citizens.”

The Australian Financial Review website (July 15) ran a Reuters story that noted, “vehicle attacks have been used by isolated members of militant groups in recent years, notably in Israel, as well as in Europe, though never to such devastating effect.” The report was published in the paper itself the following day without this paragraph.

Meanwhile, some did not highlight the Palestinian connection, including Fairfax’s Daniel Flitton who wrote that the “Nice attack is not unprecedented. A man in Canada rammed his car into two soldiers in October 2014 after spouting Islamist extremism,” Age/Sydney Morning Herald (July 16).

Reporting by numbers

SBS TV “Dateline” correspondent Brett Mason’s report (July 12) from Gaza marking the second anniversary of the 2014 Hamas-Israel war left much to be desired.

It was considerably less problematic than a similar recent effort by the ABC’s Sophie McNeill (see Media Microscope, AIR July 2016) but still cleaved to the predictable template that focuses mostly on suffering in Gaza, with not much context.

Mason offered a justification for focusing on suffering, saying, “I haven’t come here to speak to politicians or soldiers. This is a story about everyday families and how they cope in what some call ‘hell.'”

Hamas was at least accorded a greater focus than in McNeill’s story, including showing footage of, as Mason said, “Hamas brigades march[ing] down the street outside, I’m reminded that… conflict with Israel is always simmering,” followed by a fish seller shouting out at Hamas fighters “What’s up? Spying on us for Hamas?”

To his credit, Mason did tell viewers that Hamas was “wary of us filming in the port because it’s rumoured that weapons and contraband are often smuggled through here” and that the “violence was triggered in 2006. Hamas took power with an election promise to destroy neighbouring Israel.”

The report stated as fact a highly questionable claim from the UN that the Strip will be “unliveable” by 2020.

And while footage was shown of Palestinians living normal lives, including a farmer who set up a factory to grow mushrooms and an IT start-up company, the modern shopping centres and luxury houses that exist in Gaza were not shown.

The program ended with a caption stating “‘Dateline’ requested an interview with the Israeli government but they declined to appear on camera.”

Israel did however provide a written statement, which included invaluable information showing that the Strip is not “besieged”, as Mason had claimed, and that people and goods do enter and exit in fairly large numbers. Yet the story did not quote from the statement – an onscreen caption merely directed interested viewers to visit SBS’s website to read it.

Pay dirt

On ABC Radio “AM” (July 14), Sophie McNeill reported on the discovery of fresh Hamas terror tunnels leading from Gaza into Israel.

Host Kim Landers introduced the report saying the discovery is “raising fears that the militant group Hamas might be preparing for another conflict” which suggested, correctly, that it is actually acting as the instigator.

The report itself however was standard fare from McNeill who said the tunnels were “used during the 2014 war to attack Israeli military positions.” Although Israeli soldiers were attacked, some tunnels were clearly placed to facilitate attacking civilian settlements.

McNeill ended her report with a statement from Sabah Udar whose son died during the construction of one of the tunnels, saying, “If there was no occupation, our children wouldn’t do such a thing. Our young men don’t have any other ways to resist the occupation and to defend ourselves.”

In other words, the message was that Hamas’ terror is an understandable reaction to occupation. However, Israel ended its occupation of Gaza in 2005 – something not pointed out.

A shorter version of McNeill’s report on ABC TV that night did not include the quote about occupation.

In your face incitement

On ABC TV News 24 “World” (July 13), Robyn Torok, an expert in terrorism and social media, doubted a US lawsuit brought by Israeli and US citizens to compel Facebook to block incitement would succeed but explained the critical role of social media in radicalisation and inciting terror.

Torok said, “Israel faces a very unique situation in that it is surrounded by regimes, by militia, by groups, by organisations that really don’t see Israel as a nation state. They don’t wish her well. They want her destruction, of the nation state, and of the people. And Hamas and other terror organisations readily use social media to advocate and to incite this violence against Israel which is a terrible situation for Israel.”

History hijacked

History writer Marea Donnelly’s feature on the 40th anniversary of the Israeli rescue mission of an Air France plane hijacked in Athens en route from Tel Aviv to Paris and diverted to Uganda by the Palestinian Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) ignored accepted history to include a fringe conspiracy theory suggesting it was all orchestrated by Israel.

According to Donnelly, “in 2007 Britain’s National Archives released a file suggesting Israel’s Security Service, the Shin Bet, had helped subversive agents in the PFLP stage the hijack. First secretary at the British Embassy in Paris, David Colvin, told superiors a contact in the Euro-Arab Parliamentary Association suggested the attack was designed to torpedo the rival Palestine Liberation Organisation’s standing in France, and prevent a perceived rapprochement between Americans and the PLO.”

As pro-Israel media watchdog “Camera” noted, in fact the British archive file in question begins with the statement that “It might be useful to record some of the theories which are circulating about the incident.” In other words, contrary to Donnelly, this was just a report of a conspiracy theory an anonymous contact put forward and its veracity was never supported by Colvin – nor by any other evidence that came to light in the extensive investigations of Entebbe that have occurred over the past 40 years, Daily Telegraph (June 27).

Don’t Assume

On ABC TV “Lateline” (July 21), host Tony Jones asked terrorism expert Greg Barton about the Islamic religious movement of US-based cleric Fethullah Gulen, which the Turkish Government has accused of involvement in the recent coup; “It is interesting to note though when it comes to the Gulenist movement, the Catholic Church, even some leading Zionists in the United States, have described the principles and teachings of Gulen as the antidote to fundamentalism. Is that an accurate assessment?”

Leaving aside the distasteful and bizarre use of “Zionist” instead of “pro-Israel supporters” or “Jews”, the inference that Israel and its supporters are antagonistic to all forms of Islam, betrays Jones’ lack of insight.

Unlike Israel and its Arab neighbours, Turkey and Israel have had diplomatic relations since 1949, with a very positive relationship over most of the years since, allowing for the free exchange of travel and contact between the two countries and their supporters.

Clark in the dark

Reflecting on the challenges posed by Islamist terror and radicalisation, Australian Financial Review (July 16) senior writer Andrew Clark said that “existing laws which prohibit Australians from fighting for non-aligned military forces – whether Islamic State, Hezbollah, the Kurdish Peshmerga, or the Israeli Army – must be enforced more tightly.”

Clark is just incorrect. Part 5.5 of the Commonwealth Criminal Code makes it illegal to join the terrorist groups he listed. Israel is a democratic ally of Australia whose army fights to defend its civilians.

The Criminal Code specifically states that it is not illegal for a person to serve “in any capacity in or with the armed forces of the government of a foreign country.”
Moreover, our intelligence services do not regard people who have served in Israel’s military as potential terrorist threats to Australia.

The ABC’s re-Tweet

Quality control was glaringly absent on ABC TV‘s “Q&A” (July 25) with two offensive viewer tweets with little relevance to the discussion broadcast on screen.

The first tweet stated, “I’d like to hear more Jewish leaders speaking up against the demonisation of Muslims.”

Australian Jewish leaders have condemned racism against Muslims on many occasions.

The second tweet said, “Any young radicals who join ISIS or Israel should not be allowed into Australia.” See the previous item for the appropriate response.

Blue news

An unidentified Sky News Australia host (July 12) introduced an interview with US Studies Centre analyst Tom Switzer on why US presidential candidates support Israel by asserting as true a series of extreme allegations against Israel that relied upon the highly prejudiced United Nations for their credibility.

According to the host, “More than $3 billion US tax dollars goes to…[Israel]…each year. Most of it ends up in the military coffers helping fund the acts so loudly decried by the rest of the world.

The United Nations has put forward 77 resolutions condemning Israeli actions, including illegally occupying Palestinian territories, blocking aid and cutting off water to Palestinian communities, killing Palestinians in custody, destroying the family homes of terror suspects, and carrying out missile strikes on civilian targets…Why are the candidates so keen to promote themselves as friends of Israel?”

Switzer’s response focused on the US-Israel relationship, not the UN allegations.
The United Nations is not an impartial arbiter of truth.

Most UN resolutions on Israel are invariably a carbon copy of previous ones that rely for their existence on deceitful information provided by pro-Palestinian sources and enjoy easy passage courtesy of a majority-voting bloc of member states, many with shocking human rights records and many of whom openly want to see Israel destroyed.

A capital conspiracy

The Chilcot Inquiry into the former Blair Government’s decision to sign up to the Second Iraq War never mentioned Israel as one of the reasons for going to war. Yet the Canberra Times (July 8) apparently knows better, claiming in an editorial the real reason Iraq was invaded had “more to do with protecting Israel’s interests than in shutting down Saddam’s so-called terrorist links or preventing him from manufacturing crude weapons of mass destruction.”

This is a dangerously deluded conspiracy theory. In early 2002, then Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon actually warned the White House not to remove Saddam Hussein.

This was independently verified in 2007 by Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, the Chief-of-Staff to US Secretary of State Colin Powell in 2002, who said, “the Israelis were telling us Iraq is not the enemy – Iran is the enemy” and that “if you are going to destabilise the balance of power, do it against the main enemy.”

Even Fairfax chief correspondent Paul McGeough (July 8), who has a history of inserting Israel gratuitously into his articles, noted in his piece only that Chilcot stated that British intelligence saw Iran, North Korea and Libya as “greater threats than Iraq.”

French fatale

The day before the Nice attacks, NSW Jewish Board of Deputies Chief Executive Vic Alhadeff wrote of the increasing numbers of Jews deciding to leave France due to the rising incidence of antisemitism there over the past two decades.

According to Alhadeff, “A total of 851 anti-Semitic attacks were recorded last year – more than double the 423 of 2014 – with 80 per cent of incidents going unreported. Jews comprise 1 per cent of the French population, yet over half of the reported hate crimes in 2014 were anti-Semitic.

“Two key factors fuel this scenario – the increasing influence of the far-right National Front and resentment by immigrant and minority groups at the fact that they experience prejudice and struggle to integrate…The number of Jews emigrating from France has soared from an average of 2000 over the previous several years to 13,000 last year – the highest rate out of Europe – while Jews are reluctant to identify as such in public,” Australian Financial Review (July 14).

Beyond the pale

In the Australian (June 24), analyst Paul Monk rebuked governments for cosying up to Iran whilst “vicious anti-Semitism, Holocaust denial and virulent anti-Zionism” remain part of its “DNA”.

“The unpleasant truth,” Monk wrote, “is that Iran officially and unrepentantly continues to peddle pernicious and genocidal propaganda. That is the moral character of the regime.”

He cited the regime’s support of Iran’s infamous Holocaust cartoon competition where cartoonists are “invited to mock the Holocaust or the idea of the Holocaust, since leading figures in the regime have expressed scepticism as to whether it even occurred.”

The 2016 winning entry “was awarded to a cartoon that showed what very much looks like the entrance to Auschwitz sitting on top of a cash register that has $6 million in it. It was drawn by a French cartoonist notorious for his anti-Semitic views.”

Monk called the recent claim by Iran’s “smooth-tongued, US-educated Foreign Minister, Javad Zarif, [who] dances around the question of whether the Holocaust occurred or on what scale” that the competition is not controlled by his government a “barefaced lie”.

“Our goal must be not to avert our eyes and tell ourselves that they don’t do things like this cartoon competition, or they don’t really mean it, but to seek by all means within our power (limited though they are) to…push for change… when we seek to open channels of dialogue with Tehran… Julie Bishop, take note.”

Free Pass

Meanwhile, Wall Street Journal foreign affairs columnist Bret Stephens condemned the silence of the Obama Administration on Iran’s efforts to subvert the deal it signed on its nuclear program with the P5+1.

“For the past year it has developed a narrative – spoon fed to the reporters and editorial writers Ben Rhodes publicly mocks as dopes and dupes – that Iran has met all its obligations under the deal, and now deserves extra cookies in the form of access to US dollars, Boeing jets, US purchases of Iranian heavy water (thereby subsidising its nuclear program), and other concessions the administration last year promised congress it would never grant… The administration is now weighing whether to support Iran’s membership in the World Trade Organisation. That would neutralise a future president’s ability to impose sanctions on Iran, since WTO rules would allow Tehran to sue Washington for interfering with trade,” he wrote.

In contrast, Stephens noted, Germany’s domestic intelligence agency recently warned that “the illegal proliferation-sensitive procurement activities (by Iran) in Germany registered by the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution persisted in 2015 at what is, even by international standards, a quantitatively high level. This holds true in particular with regard to items which can be used in the field of nuclear technology,” Australian (July 13).



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