Noted and Quoted – August 2018

Noura Erekat: "Articulate new voice" for the Palestinians, same tired slogans

Context slow in coming 

Early morning viewers of ABC TV “News Live” (July 15) heard no context for Israel’s military operations in Gaza, with the host simply saying, “The Israeli military has launched a wave of air strikes against dozens of militant targets in the Gaza Strip… The Israeli military says its targets included a battalion headquarters and a training facility used by Hamas.”  The ABC TV 12pm news report was similarly short on detail. 

The flare up was caused by Hamas and other terror groups firing around 200 rockets and mortars at Israel on July 13 and 14 in response to Israel trying to prevent the launch of flaming kites from Gaza into Israel that have caused extensive environmental and economic damage.

On ABC TV “7pm News” that night, Sean Rubinsztein-Dunlop filed a report from Israel that made some headway towards informing viewers that Israel was “responding to renewed violence on its border and was targeting Hamas facilities” but still said Hamas claimed it fired rockets to “deter Israel from further attacks.” 

On ABC Radio “AM” (July 16), Rubinsztein-Dunlop’s follow-up report included the fact that two Palestinian teens were killed during an Israeli strike on a building site used as a Hamas training facility. 

Fairfax papers (July 16) picked the apt headline of “Ceasefire after Hamas rocket spree” for their report, which noted that Israel had given “advance warning” to residents of the high rise building it was going to strike. 

SBS TV “World News” (July 15) newsreader Lee Lin Chin’s introduction to their story correctly stated that Israel “launched dozens of airstrikes in response to rocket and mortar attacks from Gaza.”

 

Membership counts

An ABC TV Victoria “7pm News” (July 22) report of funerals for Palestinians killed in Israeli airstrikes saw newsreader Tamara Oudyn say, “life has returned to relative normality as a fragile truce holds in the Middle East. Funerals were held in Gaza for some of the four Palestinians who were killed in the latest round of Israeli airstrikes. Israel says the raids on Gaza were in response to the shooting death by Hamas of a 21-year-old staff sergeant.” 

The Israeli-Hamas conflict is one tiny corner of the Middle East and hardly its bloodiest. Also, three of the four Palestinians killed were acknowledged by Hamas as Hamas fighters, which should have been stated.

In contrast, SBS TV “World News” (July 21) newsreader Lee Lin Chin’s introduction to a report on the same incident noted, “four Palestinians were killed, three of them Hamas members.”

 

Border Dilemmas 

Media interest was piqued by the sight of dozens of civilians on the Syrian side of the Golan Heights seeking asylum in Israel.

ABC TV “News at Noon” newsreader Ros Childs (July 18) claimed Israeli soldiers had “threatened scores of desperate Syrian civilians” seeking sanctuary. Sean Rubinsztein-Dunlop’s accompanying report was less sensationalist, noting that Israeli soldiers told them to go back, saying “we don’t want to hurt you.” He noted the asylum-seekers were heading for both Israel and Jordan. His follow up story on July 19 noted that Israel refused the Syrians entry but “is providing humanitarian assistance.”

Fairfax newspapers’ (July 20) report of the same incident said Israeli soldiers had “shooed away” the asylum seekers. 

SBS TV “World” (July 18) reporter Philippa Carisbrooke’s story included Human Rights Watch Australia’s Elaine Pearson insisting that “they have nowhere to go. They are stuck between Israeli soldiers on one side who are threatening them and the shelling and the ongoing onslaught that is happening in Syria on the other side.” 

The report did not state that Syria has been formally at war with Israel since 1948. It did note that Israel has provided medical assistance to 3,000 Syrians in recent years.

 

Danby calls time

Melbourne Ports MP Michael Danby’s announcement that he will retire at the next federal election saw Australian Financial Review national affairs correspondent Angus Griggs write “the contradiction was that his support for the downtrodden and dispossessed of China, notably the Tibetans and Uighurs, didn’t extend to Palestinians living under Israeli occupation. ‘I can live with that contradiction,’ Danby tells AFR Weekend. ‘Yes, I’m critical of the Palestinians but that’s because of Hamas’ attachment to violence and the fact they won’t negotiate a [peace] deal.’”

There’s no contradiction because China has never offered the Tibetan national movement its own state. Successive Palestinian leaders have rejected numerous opportunities and offers to establish an independent state going back to the 1930s.

 

She Said

In Adelaide’s Advertiser (July 10), Adelaide Festival of Ideas director Greg Mackie highlighted its co-hosting of “the Edward Said Memorial Lecture, featuring Noura Erekat, an articulate new voice making the case for a two-state solution for Israel and Palestine.”

Did Erakat’s speech support a two-state solution? No, she made it perfectly clear she wants a one-state solution. 

And speaking to ABC TV “Mornings” host Joe O’Brien (July 17), Erakat became an apologist for Hamas, attributing all suffering in Gaza to Israel and seeming to suggest that Hamas was justified in firing rockets because that’s the only time the media pays attention to the situation in Gaza. She praised Hamas for being the “primary source” of education and health care in Gaza prior to 2006 and attacked the world community for abandoning Gaza (despite the Palestinians receiving more aid per capita than any other people). 

Her vision was a series of slogans that amounted to a one-state solution – end the “siege”, “dismantle an apartheid regime”, “work towards settler decolonisation”, and “allow Palestinian refugees to return” because “Palestinians want to live alongside and with their Jewish brethren.”

 

The wisdom of fools 

On ABC Radio National “Religion and Ethics” (June 27), visiting Israeli novelist Assaf Gavron revealed yet again that too many who insist Israel must end its control of the West Bank rely on rewriting history. 

Gavron said that Israel is “not making any attempts whatsoever to try and sit down and have a conversation and try to renew the negotiations for peace or anything like that.”

ABC host Andrew West said that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas “doesn’t appear to be the most constructive partner does he?” 

Gavron replied that “actually he is a very moderate, relatively a very moderate leader…I think we had a chance with him. I think it’s probably over because he’s ill and old… we could have had a chance with him but it’s gone.”

Abbas was offered a Palestinian state in 2008 but refused to meet with Israeli PM Ehud Olmert again after the offer was made. In 2014, Abbas ended negotiations with the Netanyahu government when hard choices were required.

 

Withdrawal backed

The Australian (June 21) supported the Trump Administration decision to withdraw from the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC), calling it a “rogues’ gallery” with 14 of the 47 members “ranked as ‘not free’ by Freedom House.” 

The editorial noted discussing Israel is a permanent agenda item and the UNHRC has condemned Israel 78 times, whilst Syria, where 500,000 people have been slaughtered, has only been sanctioned 29 times.

In the same edition, Australian foreign editor Greg Sheridan called the US withdrawal “perfectly justified” but advised Australia, which is in its first year of a three year term on the council, to stay put given “we expended an absurd amount of diplomatic effort to get elected, as though this were some kind of distinction for our nation, to sit alongside the worst human rights abusers in the world and pass fatuous resolutions serving their political agendas.” 

The Australian Financial Review’s Andrew Tillett noted (June 21) that Australia voted in May against a one-sided anti-Israel resolution on the recent Gaza border riots. He also quoted AIJAC’s Colin Rubenstein saying, “we welcome Foreign Minister Julie Bishop’s statement that Australia will continue to push for effective and meaningful reform of the troubled body and her ongoing efforts in this regard.”

 

The ABC of UNHRC

Assessing the Trump Administration’s decision to withdraw from the UNHRC, ABC chief foreign correspondent Philip Williams noted that the Council regularly issues “highly critical reviews of Israel” and the “‘harassment’…was coming from members like Saudi Arabia, Iran, China, Russia and Vietnam – hardly beacons of human rights.” 

Williams said the withdrawal follows the “US decision to move its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, fuelling the protests in Gaza that saw over 100 people shot dead by Israeli soldiers.”

Actually, the protests were planned by Hamas well before the embassy announcement and were intended to overshadow Israel’s 70th anniversary, while the vast majority of those killed were affiliated with Hamas and other terror groups, ABC online (June 21).

Meanwhile, the ABC’s habit of re-writing Hamas’ rhetoric and goals to be more moderate was evident in a July 21 online article on terrorism that listed groups proscribed in Australia and claimed “Two Palestinian groups, Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, have been designated for their continued resistance against Israeli occupation.” The groups are designated for ongoing acts of terror with the ultimate goal of destroying Israel, something they boast of all the time. It has nothing to do with “resistance”.

 

We are not amused

ABC reporter Lisa Millar’s ABC TV “7pm News” (June 26) report of Prince William’s historic visit to Israel (along with the Palestinian Authority and Jordan) included some dubious claims.

Millar repeated the nonsense that “the US decision to move its embassy to Jerusalem sparked clashes that resulted in 60 Palestinian deaths.” 

Palestine Solidarity Campaign director Ben Jamal criticised the visit, saying “what is absolutely crucial is that he is not put into a position where as a member of the royal family he is seen to normalise human rights abuses and the violation of international law by Israel.”

But violations by the Palestinian Authority which include no democratic elections since 2005, arbitrary arrests of government critics and torture are okay?

 

Terror feeder

The Daily Telegraph’s Sharri Markson (June 28) revealed how Ahmed Abdullah Al Adine, a senior leader of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) recently killed in riots in Gaza, was also the Gaza project coordinator for Palestinian charity MA’AN Development Centre which receives Australian taxpayer funds via the aid organisation Union Aid Abroad – APHEDA.

Markson noted that the PFLP is a proscribed terrorist group in the US, Europe and Canada due to its involvement in plane hijackings, assassinations and suicide bombings and is on Australia’s “consolidated” list of organisations subject to financial sanctions as a result of security threats. 

Al Adine was celebrated as a “martyred comrade”, Markson noted, and his “grand funeral…attended by at least a dozen PFLP terrorists” who were heavily armed and wearing balaclavas.

The story noted that APHEDA issued a media release on May 15 saying it “is particularly sad to report that a colleague working with the MA’AN Development Centre, our partner organisation in Gaza, was killed during the protests.”

The report said Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop ordered a “full audit of Australian government funding, to ensure no misuse of our funds through Union Aid Abroad,” which has received over A$21 million from Australian taxpayers.

  

Big mouth

The Australian (July 10), reported on the undiplomatic response by senior Palestinian Authority (PA) adviser Nabil Shaath on an Arabic television program to the Australian Government’s July 2 announcement that it would redirect A$10 million in aid from the Palestinian Authority to UN humanitarian programs to avoid the money potentially being used to reward imprisoned terrorists or their families.

The report noted that the PA “had paid stipends, known as ‘martyr payments’, of up to $US3,500 (A$4,600) a month to families of those killed or jailed by Israeli authorities” and quoted Foreign Minister Julie Bishop’s statement that “Any assistance provided by the Palestine Liberation Organisation to those convicted of politically motivated violence is an affront to Australian values, and undermines the prospect of meaningful peace between Israel and the Palestinians.”

Shaath said this act of fiscal and moral probity “greatly angered” him and “the truth is [Australia] are worthy of being spat on. You (Australians) are the servants of the US… We do not want to declare war on Australia. But… sometimes there is insolence that is impossible (to accept). I don’t want your $10 million.”

 

Iran dealings

In the Australian (July 6), AIJAC’s Colin Rubenstein outlined the growing pressure on Iran’s Islamist regime following the Trump Administration’s withdrawal from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) in May in an attempt to renegotiate the agreement’s flaws.

According to Rubenstein, “renewed US sanctions haven’t even begun, yet their mere anticipation is having a domino effect across the Iranian economy.” 

Concurrently, ordinary Iranians including from “the regime’s conservative heartland” have taken to the streets, he wrote, some “chant[ing] ‘Palestine and Syria are reasons for our misery’, and ‘not Gaza, not Lebanon, my life only for Iran’,” in protest against the “corrupt and oppressive government” which has not focused on economic relief at home but, spent “an estimated $US16 billion… annually on exporting terrorism and its war efforts in Syria.”

He called for Australia to accept that the JCPOA had failed to restrain Iran’s foreign adventures and put only limited constraints on its capacity to develop nuclear weapons.

The Australian (July 17) subsequently reported on more secrets from Iran’s nuclear archive that Israeli agents spirited away from a Teheran warehouse in January.

The trove revealed “warhead designs, for which Israel said Iran had got unspecified foreign assistance; the operation of a secret explosives-testing facility that international inspectors had long sought in vain; and a scramble by Iranian officials to keep their nuclear program alive after international inspectors concluded it had been suspended.” 

 

Sum of its parts

Israeli analyst Mordechai Kedar said Iran’s regime is facing growing internal social pressure, because Iran’s population is only 60% Persian, “while the rest are Azeris, Kurds, Balouchis, Arabs, Turkmen, Kashkais, Louris and tens of other smaller ethnic groups.”

Although 90% belong to “Shia Islam” “all these parts of the population have little in common, the awareness of nationhood is weak and, as a result, the state is always under threat of breaking apart,” Australian (July 17).

 

Loose change

SBS TV “World News” (June 26) reporter Ben Terry claimed that unrest in June in Iran is “the second time in seven months economic protests have broken out in Iran but these are the biggest in the capital since 2012. Back then international sanctions were crippling its economy and protests ultimately led to a change in government.”

The 2012 change in government happened because hard line former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s term in office ended, not because of protests. His successor, current President Hassan Rouhani, may speak in softer tones, but like all political aspirants in Iran he was vetted by the Council of Guardians selected by Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, meaning that in substance the government’s policies largely remain unchanged.

 

Off the Lesh

Institute of Public Affairs research fellow Matthew Lesh revealed leaked emails showing an insidious attempt at Macquarie University to boycott a planned upcoming talk by Israeli cybersecurity expert Avi Shavit.

Lesh said, “the boycott of Shavit is bigotry, pure and simple. It is judging someone based on their nationality and religion, not as an individual. Shavit, who identifies as left-wing, was speaking about a technology issue, cybersecurity, not about Israel or Gaza.”

The “rejection of Shavit shows how groupthink develops in practice. Across the emails multiple academics announced their joining of the boycott, signalling their virtuous behaviour… congratulating each other for the self-righteous non-attendance.” Lesh argued this is a threat to “the entire academic process – how can you claim to be a ‘university’ when you are no longer open to debate in the pursuit of truth?” Spectator Australia (June 30).