Ed: 39: September/2014
As a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas is hammered out, much talk is heard about aid packages for Gaza, as though none previously existed. The refrain is heard that Gazans are living in a teeming, open-air prison. Repeated endlessly by those under obligation to know the facts, the myth has it that Gaza is...
Riad Malki, the Palestinian Foreign Minister, reportedly has approached International Criminal Court officials in the Hague to discuss "putting Israel in the dock on war crimes charges". The Palestinian plan reportedly is to "join the ICC and set a war crimes investigation in motion to be one of the bargaining chips on the table in Cairo." A strange way to proceed, but given the need to shift the focus away from the real cause of the human suffering in Gaza, an understandable political tactic.
Qatar's support for Hamas and the vehement opposition by Israel, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia to the US attempt to let Qatar play a role in the efforts to achieve a ceasefire in the Gaza Strip have stirred the debate about Qatar's conduct in the regional and international arenas and its position, influence, and ambition. The longstanding support by the tiny and very wealthy emirate for rogue elements in the Middle East and the use it makes of al-Jazeera, its popular and influential broadcasting station, reveal its negative, even dangerous effect on the region's stability and security.
Bethlehem is not a typical film about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Instead, its Israeli director Yuval Adler and screenwriter Ali Waked, an Arab journalist, have created a nuanced and complex portrait of divided loyalties that takes it beyond the news headlines.
Praised in some quarters - including an award in Venice, first prize at the Haifa Film Festival and six Ophir Awards (Israel's national film awards) - it has also received criticism from the likes of far-left Israeli columnist Gideon Levy of Haaretz for being too apolitical.
The perception that Fairfax's metropolitan newspapers and associated websites were glaringly biased against Israel over the course of the Gaza war to date has left many of their pro-Israel readers annoyed.
A significant factor in this irritiation was the reporting of Middle East correspondent Ruth Pollard, whose work appeared to focus largely on civilian deaths and injuries in Gaza, frequently seemed to suggest that most were deliberate, and appeared to uncritically accept Palestinian statistics and claims when reporting.
When Sheikh Tajeddine El Hilaly delivered a public address in Sydney in 1988 accusing Jews of unimaginable evils, responses came loudly and clearly. Government leaders, senior bureaucrats, journalists and religious figures had no hesitation in declaring his speech repulsive, repugnant and unacceptable.
While he had his apologists, better known for their antagonism towards Jews than for their concern with the reputation or welfare of Muslims, the overwhelming reaction was to assert that he had embarrassed himself and his office as a religious leader.
While the conflict between Hamas and Israel begins to resemble a protracted war of attrition, the unhelpful and dysfunctional role that most of the United Nations' organs have played in the unfolding drama is becoming clearer. Like so many times before, when dealing with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the UN has not been part of the solution, but rather part of the problem.
Since Israel's unilateral withdrawal from Gaza in 2005, and the subsequent take over of the strip in a violent coup by Hamas in 2007, Israel has faced an evolving threat from the coastal enclave. For most of that period, Israel's primary security and strategic concern in regards to Gaza was preventing the build-up of Hamas' rocket arsenal and finding suitable defence measures to protect Israeli civilians from the persistent rocket fire emanating from Gaza... However, the most recent bout of Israel-Hamas fighting has indicated that Israel is now confronted with new strategic considerations in regards to Gaza - primarily the threat of Hamas' terror tunnels.
There have been a lot of costs to the over-the-top reaction among many commentators, activists and political leaders to the undoubtedly tragic situation in Gaza over recent weeks. The inability of so many to view the confronting and emotive images coming out of Gaza with some perspective is something likely to cause a series of severe negative consequences - and not just for Israel.
Named by the IDF Operation Protective Edge, successor to Pillar of Defence in 2012 and Cast Lead of 2008-09, the fighting had yet to produce a ceasefire by mid-August - and on the night of 19 August it resumed, when rockets were fired from Gaza several hours ahead of an extended five-day ceasefire's expiration, and Israel responded by bombing Hamas targets. Yet the violence that raged between July 8 and August 7 seems to have peaked while some new military, political, and diplomatic facts were emerging through the scattering battle fog.