Ed: 39: August/2014
If you've been following global reporting out of Israel recently, you know that, on July 2, a Palestinian youth was burned alive after three young Israeli yeshiva students were found murdered two days earlier, as the demons of nationalism and violence have plunged the bearded zealots on both sides into a grim whirl of death and bereavement.
Renowned Israeli author and commentator Yossi Klein Halevi spoke with AIJAC on July 23 to discuss Israel's mounting challenges as it continues its operation against Hamas to stop rocket attacks, and grapples with a failing peace process.
With the decision on July 22 by most airlines to suspend services to Tel Aviv, the stakes of Israel's military confrontation with Hamas were taken to an unprecedented level.
With the termination of this vital lifeline for Israel, no longer can it be claimed, even by those most cynical of Israel, that the missile defence system Iron Dome - as revolutionary and life-saving as it is - has neutralised Hamas' rocket threat and obviated the need for Israel to use force to respond to Hamas' rocket strikes.
Such arguments were always weak.
It is far from scientific, but the quality of local television and radio coverage of the latest Hamas-Israel war seemed to dip when it relied upon foreign news services.
Two reports from Jeremy Bowen, a long time senior BBC reporter, were yet further reminders of why his anti-Israel reporting has long generated controversy.
In Nigeria, on July 19, the Boko Haram terror group reportedly took the town of Damboa, gunned down everyone they saw and burned most of the town to the ground. At least 100 people were killed - but the death toll may actually be considerably higher. Know about that one?
Further, more than 15,000 people were displaced over a few days around July 19-20 by Boko Haram attacks. It is estimated that at least 2,000 civilians have been killed in Boko Haram attacks this year.
Of course none of these tragic situations lessens the suffering of Gazans, or are themselves, a justification for Israel's action there (however, there are ample others).
In a march through Sydney streets which I had the misfortune to encounter, I saw children waving banners which both accused Jews of being as bad as Nazis and implying the Nazis were not so bad after all, observed Greens and Labor Party activists associating with placards and slogans supporting Hezbollah and Islamic Jihad, witnessed a Christian clergyman and self-described Jews walking in front of placards asserting that Islam will one day triumph over all non-believers and heard vocal calls for an existential battle which would end Jews once and for all.
Escalation was quick. What began with the abduction on June 12 of three Jewish teenagers, and the discovery of their bodies on June 30, resulted in the arrests of Hamas activists throughout the West Bank and intensified rocket barrages from Gaza on Israel - while Jewish extremists kidnapped and murdered a Palestinian boy on July 1, thus unleashing riots in east Jerusalem.
Unlike in the past, the latest escalation of violence between Hamas and Israel is not another tactical and limited round. It is instead part of a new strategic direction taken by Hamas in an effort to capitalise on the circumstances created by the July 2 murder of a Palestinian youth, apparently by Jewish extremists, in Jerusalem. In so doing, Hamas intended to create a meaningful change in its difficult geopolitical, economic, and intra-Palestinian position.
Ismail Haniyeh, the Hamas Prime Minister, delivered a revealing speech on March 23, 2014, in which he stressed the strategic importance of the Hamas attack tunnels, which, he argued, have changed the balance of power with Israel, when taken together with his organisation's military build-up. In the meantime, the IDF's war against the tunnels continues. On July 21, IDF forces thwarted another terror attack after two groups of Hamas operatives (numbering about ten) infiltrated from Gaza to Israel through a tunnel, apparently on their way to carry out a mass casualty attack at Kibbutz Erez and/or Kibbutz Nir Am.
Col. Richard Kemp is a former commander of British Forces in Afghanistan and one of the most highly decorated and respected officers in the British army. He has spent over 30 years fighting terrorism in the UK and around the world, including serving in overseas missions with NATO and the United Nations, commanding troops in Northern Ireland, Bosnia, and Macedonia, and participating in the Gulf War.
That makes him amply qualified to comment on the current hostilities between Israel and Hamas, which entered a new phase with an Israeli ground incursion into Gaza on July 18.