Media Week – So near, and yet so far; Justified fears; Shalom Salam; Justice done; Conspiracy-land; Howe’s that

Media Week - So near
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So near, and yet so far

On Fairfax‘s “Daily Life” site (April 23) Ruby Hamad, who has previously penned some ill-informed and one-sided pieces on Israel, presented a sober account of the escalating restrictions imposed by Hamas on Gazans.

Unfortunately her explanation for Gaza’s economic difficulties was entirely predictable: “This relentless politicisation of Islam is a cruel blow to the people of Gaza who have struggled under an Israeli sea, land and air blockade for more than six years. Israeli sanctions have limited Gaza’s access to medical, food and building supplies. The United Nations, which has frequently criticised the blockade, refers to Gaza as ‘an open air prison’, and has repeatedly warned of a dire humanitarian crisis.”

But there are two pink elephants unacknowledged by Hamad. The reason for the limited blockade was Hamas’ unreconstructed commitment to destroy Israel and its refusal to renounce violence, demonstrated by the ten thousand plus rockets fired from Gaza at Israeli civilian targets.

Second, Hamad doesn’t mention that Gaza shares a land border with Egypt – now run by its Muslim Brotherhood allies.

Besides which, there has never been a humanitarian crisis in Gaza, something UN officials have acknowledged. Israel always ensured that adequate food and medicines entered Gaza. Until recently, Israel supplied Gaza with most of its electricity. Indeed, a lengthy energy crisis in Gaza in 2012 was caused by Hamas’ refusal to pay Egypt market rates.

The CIA World Factbook exposes the lie that situation in Gaza is “dire”, with a life expectancy of 74 years – higher than in neighbouring Egypt and way above the world average of 67 years.

Occasionally these truths will out. In April 2011, Mathilde Redmatn, the deputy director of the Red Cross in the Gaza Strip admitted: “There is no humanitarian crisis in Gaza. If you go to the supermarket, there are products. There are restaurants and a nice beach.”

Or take this June 2011 Reuters story where Mahmoud Daher, the Gaza office director of the World Health Organisation, explained that shortages of medicines resulted from “a failure by the Palestinian authorities to pay suppliers on time and a lack of cooperation between health authorities in the West Bank and Gaza.”

Justified fears

Charles Richardson in Crikey (April 16) wrote that Israel does not want Iran to gain nuclear weapons because they would act as a “deterrent…against future Israeli action”.

Sorry, but Israel does not fancy a regime that not only calls for its destruction but funds and trains Hamas and Hezbollah to possess the kind of weapon that could actually make this nightmare a reality.

As even the former so-called moderate Iranian president Ali Rafsanjani explained it in December 2001, “the use of even one nuclear bomb inside Israel will destroy everything. However, it will only harm the Islamic world.”

Furthermore, as Wikileaks showed, fear of a nuclear weapons equipped Iran is not the preserve of only Israel and the US. Most of the Middle East’s Arab leaders are frantically worried and preparing to develop their own deterrent, threatening a regional nuclear arms race.

Shalom Salam

An Australian (April 16) editorial linked the resignation of internationally respected Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad with the Palestinian Authority’s “folly” in pursuing an upgrade of its status at the UN last November:

The US, EU and Israel felt confident doing business with him… Mr Fayyad has quit, undone by political intrigue that has cynically used the dire state of the Palestinian economy to undermine him. The economic mess is not Mr Fayyad’s fault, however; it is largely the consequence of the UN’s overwhelming vote in favour of recognising Palestinian statehood, an outcome Mr Abbas was warned about. Israel, as it said it would, has been refusing to give the PA the $100 million a month it collects for it in taxes. The US has cut back aid. Mr Fayyad was unenthusiastic about the UN bid. He warned that it was a symbolic gesture that would bring risks with no benefit… As prime minister, his was a voice of reason and common sense. No wonder the Hamas terrorist thugs in Gaza are celebrating his removal. He was a bulwark against their extremism and ambitions. Mr Fayyad’s resignation is a big blow to prospects for resumed negotiations. It is a pity more countries, including Australia, didn’t foresee the consequences and do more to block Mr Abbas at the UN.

Meanwhile, a silly Canberra Times (April 15) headline reported Fayyad’s decision as “Palestinian resignation blow to US”, suggesting that his exit would have greater significance for US interests than Palestinian – at best, a highly debatable contention.

Justice done

A report in the Age/Canberra Times/Sydney Morning Herald (April 16) on the findings of Israel’s Military Advocate General’s Corps investigation into civilian Palestinian deaths in Gaza caused by the Israel Defence Forces operations during last November’s eight day second Gaza War noted that “in most cases, it said the deaths were the result of unintended damage, operational errors or mistaken identities.”

Unfortunately, the original LA Times report, which itself omitted some vital context, such as the fact that Israel had to contend with Hamas fighters firing from within civilian areas, was edited for Fairfax readers.

For example, the included fact that “the Israeli report also exonerated its military in the Nov. 14 killing of an 11-month-old Gaza baby and two adult relatives” had an omitted follow up sentence noting that “the U.N. Office of High Commissioner for Human Rights said the three Gazans were probably killed by an errant Palestinian rocket that fell short of Israel.”

Sadly, Fairfax papers also did not cover the April 11 Human Rights Watch statement that Hamas had “not even begun a promised investigation more than four months after gunmen killed seven Palestinian prisoners accused of collaboration with Israel.”

In what looks like a bit of a trend, Fairfax readers would need to consult the personal Twitter account of its Middle East correspondent Ruth Pollard to learn this. 

Conspiracy-land

Five weeks after the Australian‘s John Lyons (April 13) reported on a UNICEF critique of Israel’s military detention policies when dealing with Palestinian minors, Lyons revisited the topic to advance a bizarre claim.

Offering little in the way of evidence, Lyons wrote that “an investigation…suggested that UNICEF had caved in to pressure from Israel or self-censored” because “while UNICEF found Israel had engaged in actions that fitted its definition of torture, the report avoided using that word in its findings.”

In other words, because a UN report had failed to incorporate Lyons’ preferred terminology there must be some kind of a conspiracy!

Furthermore, Lyons seemed affronted that UNICEF “praised Israel for its dialogue about the system under which Palestinian children from the age of 12 are tried by Israeli soldiers” and implemented some of its recommendations. Isn’t that the point of a (probably highly expensive) report?

It appears that Lyons is determined to find fault with any improvements Israel makes as it tries to juggle respecting human rights with addressing the potentially life-threatening activities of Palestinian youth who are not only intent on perpetrating violence but are often encouraged to do so by their leaders, media, and education system.

Unfortunately, this side of the equation rarely, if ever, seems to perturb Lyons.

For example, Lyons did not report on Israeli toddler Adele Biton who is still in hospital after being critically injured when her family’s car crashed after being hit by a stone thrown by Palestinians on March 14. Her mother and two older sisters, ages 4 and 5, were also injured. Five Palestinian minors were arrested over the attack.

Howe’s that

Herald Sun columnist Alan Howe (April 13) nominated envy as the catalyst for many of the world’s international conflicts, particularly the hostility directed towards Israel from its neighbours and North Korea’s ongoing belligerence towards its southern counterpart:

Next month, it will be 65 years since Israel was declared a state by David Ben-Gurion. Things weren’t promising for the fledgling nation surrounded by hostile neighbours: it had almost no natural resources, inadequate water and little arable land. Its founders probably knew from the outset the wars would come…These days, grumpy neighbours still battle with the concept of Israel’s existence. While Israelis – among them more than 1.5 million voting Arabs, the world’s luckiest and most liberated – have built their cities, turned granite into green with imaginative dry-land farming, and cherished education as the best way to advance their country, their resentful neighbours have looked on not in wonder, but in anger. It’s envy. While Israel has developed one of the world’s most advanced economies, its GDP has grown to $32,351. That’s the same as South Korea. The Palestinian equivalent is $1924. That’s the same as North Korea. If I lived in North Korea, I’d pray for change. If I lived in Palestine, I’d vote for it. If I wanted it.

– Allon Lee