Tuesday, August 29, 2006


Hizbullah's head honcho in hiding Hassan Nasrallah has confessed that he wouldn't have ordered the kidnapping of the two Israeli soldiers that sparked the recent war had he known that Israel would react with such fury.

The confession made in a television interview has been publicized around the world in most major newspapers and media outlets. In today's Australian newspaper, reporter Martin Chulov NASRALLAH REGRET AT SEIZING TROOPS states that the interview is "widely seen as a bid to placate Lebanese who were hostile to the war and its consequences". He adds that "Nasrallah adopted an almost apologetic tone and pledged a long-term commitment to the ceasefire."

A big story but not enough for the "fair and balanced" Melbourne Age which appears to have ignored it altogether.

And here's another one from the weekend that the Age seems to have missed or considered not important enough to interest its readership:


The Associated Press article from a Sunni Muslim village in Southern Lebanon tells why Nasrallah is not the pin up boy in that particular neck of the woods.

" 'Why do you want to put up an image of someone who is killing us?' one man screamed as a mob of dozens waved their fists and thrust open palms toward Nasrallah supporters clutching posters of the bearded and bespectacled Hezbollah chief."

There are similar stories told in Christian and Druze villages around Southern Lebanon where Nasrallah and Hizbullah are despised for provoking the Israel reaction to their aggression and for the thuggish way in which they are holding their country to ransom.

But it's not news for the Melbourne Age whose Middle East chief Ed O'Loughlin seems to have slipped off the radar in the past week or so.

Then again, is it in the interests of an reporter who wants to continue producing "stories" from Southern Lebanon to denigrate the great heroic war hero of the Shia minority in Lebanon?

Thursday, August 24, 2006


The BBC almost takes the cake for fobbing off those who take the trouble to complain about its journalistic standards. It seems that this standard form e-mail is being sent off to those who questioned Orla Guerin's report from Southern Lebanon (to which I referred below in my article - The Circus Comes to Town in Southern Lebanon):-

"Thank you for your e-mail.

I appreciate that you felt a recent BBC News report from Orla Guerin was biased against Israel.

I should state that Orla Guerin's report on the 14th August from Bint Jbeil in Southern Lebanon made clear at the start that she was reporting on the perspective of Lebanese people returning home in their thousands.

She reported: "I haven't seen a single building that isn't damaged in some way. Many have been flattened. Many have been singed. This town has really been wiped out."

Orla did not say that every building had been wiped out. She was using an impressionistic phrase implying extreme damage which is justified by the scale of what she saw.

Nevertheless, I do acknowledge your concerns and will ensure that your comments on all matters are fully registered and made available to news editors and indeed senior management within the BBC. Feedback of this nature helps us when making decisions about future BBC programmes and services and your views will most certainly play a part in this process.

Thank you again for taking the time to contact us."

In other words, Orla Guerin and the BBC are not responsible for reporting on the conflict from any other perspective than the one they choose and you can now buzz off!

I said above "almost takes the cake" because the cake has been well and truly taken by the Melbourne Age communications director Nigel Henham who is quoted in the Australian Jewish News (25 August edition at p3) that his newspaper "stands by its reporting and coverage and the Middle East. Our coverage is accurate, fair and balanced."

He might have added that pigs can fly too!*

[*And I'm sure Age cartoonist Leunig is perfectly capable of providing a reasonable facsimile of that when he's not busy scrawling the sort of pictures that the Iranians would gleefully accept for their antiSemitic cartoon competitions!]

Tuesday, August 22, 2006


Why is the world frightened by Israeli bombs alone?

The French philosopher and writer André Glucksmann asked this question in an article which originally appeared in Le Figaro on August 8, 2006. It was translated and published in The New Republic under the title "THE JERUSALEM SYNDROME" [the article is available to subscribers only]

It begins:

"The outrage of so many outraged people outrages me. On the scales of world opinion, some Muslim corpses are light as a feather, and others weigh tons. Two measures, two weights. The daily terrorist attacks on civilians in Baghdad, killing 50 people or more, are checked off in reports under the heading of miscellaneous, while the bomb that took 28 lives in Qana is denounced as a crime against humanity. Only a few intellectuals like Bernard-Henri Lévy or Magdi Allam, editor of Corriere della Sera, find this surprising. Why do the 200,000 slaughtered Muslims of Darfur not arouse even half a quarter of the fury caused by 200 times fewer dead in Lebanon? Must we deduce that Muslims killed by other Muslims don't count - whether in the eyes of Muslim authorities or viewed through the bad conscience of the West? This conclusion has its weak spots, because if the Russian Army - Christian, and blessed by its popes - razes the capital of Chechen Muslims (Grozny, with 400,000 residents), killing tens of thousands of children in the process, this doesn't count, either. The U.N. Security Council does not hold meeting after meeting, and the Organization of Islamic States piously averts its eyes. From that, we may conclude that the world is appalled only when a Muslim is killed by Israelis."

That's just the start.

It's well worth the read.

Sunday, August 20, 2006


The BBC’s Head of Newsgathering Fran Unsworth has issued a report on censorship and reporting restrictions imposed by the warring parties in the conflict in Lebanon and has come out of it reasonably happy and contented with its reportage over the past month. After discussing Israeli censorship rules, she quotes correspondent Jim Muir on whether any restrictions were imposed by Hizbullah :

"There have basically been no restrictions on reporting as such - there's been no pressure in any direction with regard to anything we actually say, indeed very little interaction of any sort. There was however an issue at the beginning of the conflict over the live broadcast of pictures of rockets going out from locations visible from our live camera position. We were visited by Hezbollah representatives and told that by showing the exact location of firing we were endangering civilian lives, and that our equipment would be confiscated."

Well, er ... basically no restrictions? That's not what many other news agencies had to say:

CNN's Anderson Cooper and Nic Robertson and CBS's Elizabeth Palmer are among the many who confirm that Hizbullah allowed reporters to see what they wanted them to see. Says Cooper on Hizbullah, "... they clearly want the story of civilian casualties out. That is their — what they're heavily pushing, to the point where on this tour I was on, they were just making stuff up."

Now why would they want to make "stuff up" about those civilian casualties?

Let's go back to Muir's statement as reported by Unsworth because it's worth repeating in bold:

"We were visited by Hezbollah representatives and told that by showing the exact location of firing we were endangering civilian lives."

This can only mean what most of us knew all of the time – that Hizbullah bases itself in populated civilain areas in order to protect itself from the IDF and further that it uses this cover to enable later accusations against the Israelis for firing on civilians (human shields) when they do attack the sources of Hizbullah’s deadly rocket fire.

The advice Hizbullah gave to Muir is of itself proof that Hizbullah was committing war crimes.

This should have been one of the stories of the war.

It wasn't!

The Chinese military strategist Sun Tzu teaches that the essence of war is controlling people's perceptions. In dutifully following Hizbullah’s demands and failing to report on them at the time, the BBC not only acted dishonourably in shaping the perceptions of its viewers on this war, it also played a part in covering up Hizbullah's war crime.

Unsworth's report is a searing indictment on the BBC’s standards.

[For the record, the Geneva Conventions say:

"Protocol Additional to the Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949, and relating to the Protection of Victims of International Armed Conflicts (Protocol I), 8 June 1977Art 51. - Protection of the civilian population

7. The presence or movements of the civilian population or individual civilians shall not be used to render certain points or areas immune from military operations, in particular in attempts to shield military objectives from attacks or to shield, favour or impede military operations. The Parties to the conflict shall not direct the movement of the civilian population or individual civilians in order to attempt to shield military objectives from attacks or to shield military operations."]

Friday, August 18, 2006


The BBC's Orla Guerin was at her very best this week when she took her viewers on a post war whistle stop tour around the devastated towns and villages of Southern Lebanon.

In hysterical tones she announced to all and sundry that Hizbullah had beaten one of the most powerful armies in the world with nothing more than their own bare hands and the odd antiquated anti-tank gun mounted on a jeep, an example of which she conveniently found sitting in the middle of one battered village. She made no comment about the fact that said weapon might have been utilised by Hizbullah in the middle of what was a heavily populated civilian area therefore constituting a war crime on its part.

Instead of pausing to consider this vexing issue, Guerin moved onward around Southern Lebanon meeting returning refugees, some of them delighted to find their homes intact and praising the militia men for defending them from the once mighty IDF.

Never mind that they might never have had to leave in the first place -

(a) had their government disarmed Hizbullah as required by the U.N or

(b) had Hizbullah not started it all by attacking Israel.

Here and there, scurrying about and looking furtively over their shoulders, she glimpsed the odd nervous and camera shy Hizbullah fighters worried that Israeli snipers were still operating in the area. I got the distinct impression that this was the first "victorious" army in the history of warfare to come out of battle looking so utterly confused, bedraggled, frightened, disorganized and shell-shocked and I'm not counting any of the troops depicted in some of those appalling old Bob Hope "Road To" movies for the purposes of this discussion.

Despite being apparently hammered by their foe, the Israelis did make a fair fist of destroying everything else according to Guerin as she marched into Bint Jbeil acting as if she was the first journalist to arrive in town since the fighting began (not so because I'd already witnessed a similarly stage managed production on another cable news network two or three days earlier).

The camera panned to the scene of destruction and an excited Guerin coughed her heart out –

"We've been walking for a few minutes now. The damage here is absolutely incredible."

"I haven't seen a single building that isn't damaged in some way. Many have been flattened, many have been singed. This town has really been wiped out."

The thing is Britain's Channel 4 was also on hand in the same place and its reporter told a slightly different story. In fact it was different enough to lead some to claim that Guerin lied about the extent of the damage. That story is told on the blogsite DRINKING FROM HOME.

The author has a point but the possibility also exists that Guerin wasn't so much telling downright untruths but rather that she was a being a bit careless or "hard and loose" with the facts which is a little more in line with the way the BBC conducts itself these days.

Orla positively salivated as she went on and on and on ...:

"...for three weeks it (Israel) tried to take this town. It failed (pause for effect) and it DESTROYED it" ... "the international community may well ask how Israel can explain all this in the name of fighting Hizbullah (delivered with deep animus and contempt)."

There is, of course, an obvious explanation but Orla has no interest whatsoever in permitting the Israelis a right of reply in response to her accusations. She's simply too busy wailing her indignation at them banshee like as she directs her bile straight at the cameraman.

My problem is not so much with what Guerin tells her viewers as she traipses through Bint Jbeil, carrying on darkly about the destruction she sees all around her (not entirely all around her because she doesn't have eyes at the back of head and therefore apparently can't see the part of the town that weren't damaged).

That's bad enough but my real problem is more with what she doesn't tell her viewers.

Such as the reason why the Israelis were fighting in Bint Jbeil; that the conflict was unprovoked and was initiated by Hizbullah, that in the early days of the fighting, hundreds of katyushas were fired from there indiscriminately towards populated areas of Northern Israel, and that these rockets killed and terrified Israeli civilians – Jew and Arab alike. That the IDF took the hard option and risked the lives of its own soldiers to minimise non-combatant casualties and used house to house combat to root out an entrenched enemy dug in to the middle of the civilian population.

Not surprisingly in view of her history in this region, there was no hysteria from Guerin about the loss of life on the Israeli side, not even for Hizbullah's Arab victims over there including the two little Israeli Arab boys from Nazareth aged 3 and 9 who were murdered by katyushas probably fired from Bint Jbeil and whose parents received an apology of sorts from its leader Hassan Nasrallah who called them "martyrs" (but no apology of course from this racist to the families of the Jewish victims).

And no mention from Guerin about what Hizbullah has been doing in Bint Jbeil and elsewhere throughout Southern Lebanon for the past six years that prompted Israel's reaction to what was not only an act of racism but also a shocking crime against humanity.

It is for this that Orla Guerin deserves all of the condemnation that she's getting and more for her shameful report.

Thursday, August 17, 2006


Two interesting articles have appeared in the LA Times in the context of the media and the war in Lebanon. Both are well worth reading.

In War, the Small Screen, and the Big Picture Frida Ghitis writes:

"In 1942, the British Royal Air Force, later joined by the U.S., began a massive campaign of carpet-bombing German cities to keep the Nazis from winning the war. Live images would have sent chills through TV audiences. Civilians died by the tens of thousands. If today's technology had existed then, would the populations of Britain and the U.S. have demanded an end to the bombing? Would TV have helped Hitler win the war?

"And what if we had seen pictures of the bombing of Berlin, Cologne and Dresden, but not of Auschwitz?"

Also in the LA Times, Kim Murphy quotes Lebanese officials who confirm that Israel's bombing in Lebanon during its recent war with Hizbullah focused on Shiite areas of Southern Lebanon and the Beirut suburbs:

"Although roads and bridges have been hit all over the capital, most of the damage in Beirut has been limited to a single square mile of the southern suburbs: The neighborhoods of Bir Abed and Hrat Hreik. An almost daily barrage of missiles, bombs and gunship artillery has systematically removed Hezbollah's headquarters, its schools, clinics, sports centers and homes, along with the homes of thousands of civilians who live nearby."

Read the whole story here

If we believe the narrative that Murphy provides in this article, then perhaps it's true that Israel was really targetting Hizbullah strongholds rather than indiscriminately destroying the whole of Lebanon - which was the message many media reports from the region were sending.

Apart from the few courageous voices that were always prepared to speak out and provide a different narrative.

"Beirut, all the rest of Beirut, 95% of Beirut, lives and breathes better than a fortnight ago. All those who have not sided with terrorism know they have strictly nothing to fear from the Israeli planes, on the contrary! One example: last night the restaurant where I went to eat was jammed full and I had to wait until 9:30 pm to get a table. Everyone was smiling, relaxed, but no one filmed them: a strange destruction of Beirut, is it not?"

This is the narrative that Hizbullah and its friends didn't want the world to know about so they hid it away on the blank pages - read it here now.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006


"Every man's death diminishes me, for I am involved in mankind." - John Donne

Such is the way of the world that although United Nations Security Council Resolution No 1701 was passed unanimously and subsequently accepted by both Lebanon and Israel, there is some doubt as to whether it will ever be fully implemented.

It is still early but at least the cease-fire remains in effect. The civilian populations of both nations are slowly beginning to return to their every day lives. Lebanese troops are preparing to move in to replace the IDF in Southern Lebanon along with a beefed up U.N. force. Across Lebanon and Israel there is hope that we might soon see the end of one of the most destructive foreign occupations of modern times - that of Lebanon by Hizbullah in its capacity as proxy for Syria and Iran.

Predictably, the wolves are bickering about who won but the posturing of both sides merely papers over the fact that there is no true victory in a war between neighbours.

This will not prevent Hassan Nasrallah from boasting to his supporters that he has managed to achieve a "strategic victory" nor will it deter those of his media cheerleaders who have no compunction about using smoke and mirrors to manipulate a narrative of this conflict in order to paint Hizbullah as a fierce and victorious "resistance" force.

One can only wonder however, what Hizbullah was resisting on July 12 when it cast the first stone?

If there really was nothing to resist in the first place then Hizbullah's talk of victory in the face of such a high cost in terms of the lives of its own men (whose numbers are never disclosed) as well as those of ordinary Lebanese and the considerable devastation of two countries should trouble all of us because its leader has shown himself to be a person who is not at all involved in mankind.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006


The following article was sent to me by a young Jewish student who has noticed bias against Israel in certain parts of the media and is concerned enough to express her feelings:-

"As a Jewish student living in Melbourne, who must open the paper every morning and face the anti-Israel propaganda that surrounds the conflict in the Middle East, I find it hard to just sit idly by.

Yes, the facts are there – innocent people lost their lives as result of the actions of both sides - but how long can we excuse the ignorance of the public in assuming this is all it should come down to? Unfortunately, this fact alone is sufficient enough for the public to consider themselves informed and educated enough to place their judgment.

The media exhibits self-control within its own agenda. Not all the facts are reported nor can all sources be trusted. I find it alarming, that in the 21st century where we are blessed with freedoms of all sorts, including that of thought and expression, that people continue to sit back passively and soak up the bias of the media.

The war in the Middle East is not only about Lebanon and the Lebanese. It's interesting that public opinion considers it irrelevant that this war is at least two-sided. It seems to me that how the conflict began and what preceded it has also been conveniently forgotten or ignored.

For years now, Israeli citizens have been the victims of random suicide bombings throughout the country. These attacks have usually targeted innocent civilians. Why has this been forgotten?

The Israeli Defence Force (IDF) took action against Hezbollah to defend Israel following the killing and abduction of Israeli soldiers on Israeli soil and the continuing bombardment of Northern Israeli towns. Why has this been forgotten?

I think that people need to look at the basic philosophies of each side of the conflict. Hezbollah is an internationally recognized terrorist group whose officially stated aim is to destroy the state of Israel. Hezbollah uses Lebanese civilians as human shields with no regard for fellow Arabs in Israel or Lebanon. Of the civilians killed in Israel, 40% have been Israeli Arabs.

Israel regards human life as precious. Israel protects its citizens, sending them warnings before a rocket falls and where possible allowing them to evacuate and secure themselves in bomb shelters. Hezbollah allow citizens of Southern Lebanon to be sacrificed in the name of a solid piece of propaganda. Given this, would you feel protected under the rule of Hezbollah?

The conflict of the Middle East has roots right back to the establishment of Israel in 1948. Israel wants the fighting to stop but it will not give up its land and the rights of its citizens. Hezbollah is committed to continue attacking until Israel is destroyed. Even now with the UN resolution for a ceasefire, the solution seems unimaginable.

The People of both Israel and Lebanon have suffered greatly. Israel cannot afford to lose and the entire region cannot afford to give in to terror. Surely everyone agrees that peace and security is a right of all nations and people. Now my advice to you is that before you slam Israel, you should ask yourself, is there any fairness in supporting the idea that Israel, the Jewish nation, has no right to exist?"

- Judith

Thanks Judith. Anybody want to guess where the bias is coming from?

Monday, August 14, 2006


I don't know why but the photograph above made me think of
Bob Dylan's song "Man of Peace" from his 1983 album "Infidels".

These are the opening lines:-

Look out your window, baby, there's a scene you'd like to catch,
The band is playing "Dixie," a man got his hand outstretched.
Could be the Fuhrer
Could be the local priest.
You know sometimes
Satan comes as a man of peace.


There is a controversy raging around the world over the distribution by Reuters of doctored photographs from Lebanon which exaggerate the damage done to Beirut by Israel's bombing strikes against Hizbullah targets.

This storm has now extended to allegations that many other photographs distributed by agencies have been deliberately faked or staged for effect while others still have been incorrectly labeled — again to achieve greater effect in the propaganda part of the ongoing conflict. The staging includes the choreographing of bodies being unearthed and directions being given to emergency workers to place them in such a way as to emphasize the death and suffering in the war in Lebanon.

Heaven knows that war is bad enough but things have reached the positively ghoulish stage when, for propaganda purposes, dead children are used as props for photographs or when a rescue worker is shown in one picture walking around in the same rubble in which he was previously shown lying prone and described as a "dead body".



Most of our local newspapers have, for some reason, shied away from the controversy but Melbourne Age reporter Ed O'Loughlin has managed to get in on the "dead men walking" act - this time to revive one of the jazz world's greatest icons in his story entitled "TEMPLE SURVIVED QUAKES, BUT CAN IT SURVIVE THE WAR?".

O'Loughlin was writing about the Baalbek festival, which "was to start on July 13 with shows by Deep Purple and Dizzy Gillespie and an opening-night comeback performance by legendary Lebanese diva Fairouz."

Sadly, although it was the war that put an end to this year's Baalbek festival, natural causes took care of Dizzy years ago. Gillespie, who would have turned 89 in October this year, passed away on 6 January 1993 and was therefore not available to attend the festival in person. Indeed, had he appeared on stage, his comeback would have clearly overshadowed that of Ms. Fairouz.

It's comforting to know therefore, that the ubiquitous former Reuters photographer Adnan Hajj would almost certainly have been on hand and ready to give the task of putting the legendary trumpeter back into the picture his best shot.

As for O'Loughlin, his Fairfax biop, once described him as "lazy" which probably accounts for his lousy skills in the area of research of which this recent gaffe is just one of many examples at his newspaper.

Sunday, August 13, 2006


The headline in today's Melbourne Sunday Age screams out:


The article accompanying the headline suggests that Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is deliberately delaying his cabinet's vote on the UN brokered ceasefire agreement and has taken this "risky gambit to allow time for the Israeli army to make last-minute gains on the battlefield".

The authors claim that the "the delay appears likely to cause anger on the world stage".

The inference is that those nasty Israelis are acting in a sneaky and underhanded manner (again). Perhaps like Shylock in Shakespeare's Merchant of Venice?

Just for the record, Israel is a Jewish State, the U.N. vote on the ceasefire plan took place just in time for the Jewish sabbath and Israel's cabinet was always going to meet today Sunday.

That fact could be a less conspiratorial reason for the delay and one which doesn't sound all that unreasonable to me after Hizbullah inspired Lebanese objections to the original draft held the vote back for almost a week.

More information that the media appears to have left on its blank pages.


The Israeli cabinet duly met as planned on Sunday and voted to accept the U.N. ceasefire plan. Secretary General Koffi Annan had already announced that he had spoken to both the Israeli and Lebanese PM's and they had agreed that hostilities would cease at 05:00GMT on Monday 14 August. Even Hizbullah leader Hassan Nasrallah has given his word that his organisation accepts the ceasefire.

The suggestion in the Sunday Age that Israel was delaying acceptance of the cessation of hostilities was clearly misguided and designed to further inflame anti-Israel sentiment.

But will the Sunday Age apologise and publish a retraction?

Yes, but only on the blank pages.


On the subject of "delay" the Jerusalem Post reports that the Lebanese cabinet has delayed a vital meeting to discuss the implementation of the ceasefire.

Nothing sinister there, we hope?

Friday, August 11, 2006


The Melbourne Age cartoonist Michael Leunig is often vilified in my neck of the woods for taking the other side in Israel's ongoing war of survival against the forces that are dedicated to wiping it off the map and to killing Jews.

The wrong side.

After all, Leunig is the man whose work was gleefully accepted earlier in the year by the Iranian madmen for their blatantly anti-Semitic cartoon propaganda fest, a person who awoke one night and strolled out into the hills and dales surrounding his farmhouse and found the hand of god guiding him, a person who through his cartoons portrayed the mass murderer Sheik Yassin, the planner of 60 suicide bombings and co-author of the Hamas Charter which calls on his people to "kill the Jews", as a kindly old man in a wheelchair and who more recently falsely claimed that Israel deliberately targets civilians when in reality it attacks bloodthirsty terrorists (and his blood libel was published in the Age in a different form on consecutive days as if telling the lie once wasn't enough)!

Well, they might vilify him, call him an anti-Semite or just a plain sicko but I won't have a bar of that! I say this is a man who is capable of producing brilliant work that shows not only his funny side but also that he can be a very deep thinker when it comes to matters political.

Take his latest work of art which appeared yesterday in The Age.

This cartoon classic depicts a person sitting in front of his television set and the words coming from the screen say, "Israel is using collective punishment against the Lebanese…"

The little person must be one of them Zionists because he becomes visibly upset at this and screams at his TV set:

"Bias! What about some balance! … jerk!"

As if on cue, the commentator adds:

"… and to balance this and give the other side of the picture:

Israel is using collective punishment against the Palestinians as well."

Now that's not only knee slapping, hilarious humour but it's a brilliant and accurate depiction of how The Age and its staff deal with any accusation of bias that might be leveled at it in the context of this conflict.

With total and utter contempt for the Jews!

Leunig answers the charge that the media is not balanced by "balancing" the claim that the Lebanese are being collectively punished by Israel with the claim that the Palestinians are being collectively punished by Israel.

Fine. That's his opinion and he's entitled to it.

However, Hizbullah and Hamas, who surely have something to do with the ongoing war in this region and who initiated the latest rounds of violence, are nowhere to be seen in Leunig's picture even though both are dedicated to wiping out Israel and to the killing of Jews.

Nor do we see the Syrians or genocide threatening Iranians who have armed the terrorists to the hilt – terrorists that don't baulk at the prospect of attacking innocent civilians and killing them in cold blood.

Nor the million people who live in northern Israel and who have been under attack from Hizbullah's rockets for the past month.

Nor the entire Israeli population that has lived for six years with the threat of suicide bombers, snipers and knife-wielding fanatics.

These people are not on the Age's radar and certainly not on that of Leunig. In their world, the only practitioner of "collective punishment" in the region is an Israel that lacks humanity - not the terrorists whose inhuman acts and vile, murderous traits they carefully airbrush out of existence.

The terrorists are nowhere to be seen...

... except on those blank pages that have been conveniently hidden away from everybody's view.

Thursday, August 10, 2006


There is a story from the Holocaust and it goes like this –

In the darkest despair of a Nazi concentration camp, an old Jew is constantly praying so a fellow inmate asks him why he occupies his time in this way. The old man replies that he is praying because he wants to thank his god.

His companion is both shocked and puzzled and asks the question "why?"

After all, hadn't the Germans murdered his wife and children, hadn't they deprived him of his home and belongings and hadn't they made his life miserable to the point where his existence lacked any semblance of dignity? Why the need to thank his god?

The old man answered,

"I'm thanking god because he didn’t make me like them!"

A simple story and one that has a moral which, I regret to add, is not necessarily borne out by the history of my people. Our Bible is full of tales of bloodthirsty wars fought in the name of the same god and even as I write today, there are battles being fought and questions raised about whether they are just and whether the manner of their prosecution is fair and in accordance with "international humanitarian law".

Some commentators find it easy to level the accusation but have difficulty in understanding that what they consider to be "law" might not even exist at all in the context of the current war in Lebanon - a war that is so different from other wars of the past.

So what does "the law" say a nation like Israel should do when threatened by Hizbullah, a citizen state within a state, backed by two sovereign nations in Syria and Iran (whose leader calls or its destruction and ironically denies the Holocaust), a coalition partner in the Lebanese Government, a movement that has been designated a terrorist organisation and one which in spite of a United Nations Security Council resolution has not been disarmed but to the contrary has armed itself to the teeth and is pointing an estimated 13,000 missiles directly at civilian populations without a care as to whether the targets are Jewish, Moslem, Christian or Druze? What should it do when Hizbullah violates Israeli sovereignty, kills Israeli soldiers and abducts others and then shells non-combatants deep within the Jewish state? What should it do when this enemy embeds itself in a cowardly manner among its own civilian populations and which uses residential areas to store munitions and to fire them at their targets?

The "law" gives Israel the right to do that which is the prerogative of every other sovereign state. It is entitled to defend itself and to do so by fighting back to deal with the threat posed by its enemy. And if one believes the words the enemy uses, that threat is existential. Just as Hitler's aim was to destroy the Jews, the Hizbullah leader Hassan Nasrallah wants to do exactly the same thing as he clearly stated in a 2002 interview with Lebanon’s Daily Star,

"If they [the Jews] all gather in Israel, it will save us the trouble of going after them world wide."

These are the words of an enemy that is fighting a racist war of extermination: an enemy that apologises to the parents of two Arab children killed in the Israeli city of Nazareth and calls their sons "martyrs" but expresses no regret whatsoever at the deaths of the Jewish civilians it kills.

Therefore, if Israel needs to bomb airports, roads, installations, supply depots and buildings that might be considered vital to enemy conduct of the war it is entitled to do so and given the strength of its fire power, the civilian death count after almost four weeks of such fighting (estimated in the hundreds, not thousands) however regrettable and sad, can in no way be considered excessive or disproportionate. Not in circumstances, where Israel is fighting an enemy that actually forces civilians (and United Nations peacekeepers) to remain in dangerous locations specifically so they can be used as human shields and where no differentiation is made between genuine civilian casualty numbers and those of the terrorists who wear civilian clothing most of the time. In those circumstances, the placing of non-combatants in harm's way by Hizbullah does not make Israel responsible for them. It can only do its best to minimise harm, the fault for which lies clearly with Hizbullah.

Israel's critics will often ignore its legal right to defend itself and point to the destruction caused by its forces as proof that it has defended itself far too stridently. But how does this compare with the damage and devastation inflicted by other armies in other wars?

This question inevitably brings us back to the time and the place of the old Jew languishing in that Nazi concentration camp but the focus of the story is moved a few miles away to the beautiful German city of Dresden.

The date is 13 February 1945. The Allied forces have combined in a bid to save themselves from Hitler and his beasts (dare it not be said that they were there to save Jews and others being brutally persecuted by the Nazis!) and on this day, 773 British RAF bombers will rain fire on the city. This action will be followed up in the coming two days by 527 bombing sorties from the USAAF and as a result, Dresden will be totally destroyed. As a result, at least 35,000 Germans, mostly civilians will be killed. Incinerated. Burnt alive.

In the months to come, other German cities and towns will be bombed and there will be more civilian casualties. Half a year later and half way across the world, American pilots will drop two atomic bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and an estimated 100,000 civilians will die as a result.

What did men and women of goodwill around the world feel at the time about such actions which, after all, brought the six year long Second World War to such an abrupt end; this war that took millions of lives including six million of my own people and which to this day haunts not only the survivors but their next generation and the next?

Is it possible that they might have considered the firebombing and the unleashing of nuclear weaponry, er … a trifle disproportionate or excessive?

Some might argue that the Second World War is ancient history when talking of how nations should react to violence and terrorism within civilian areas. So how has this concept of proportionality fared in more "modern" times?

I can take you through countless examples and will start with the United Nations firing missiles and 20mm cannon on a crowd of Somali militiamen and local civilians who were being used as human shields in Mogadishu in 1993. This resulted in 100 deaths. This is the same U.N. whose current Secretary General, Kofi Annan,was swiftly to rebuke Israel for its "apparent deliberate targeting" of four of his personnel who died at Kheam a fortnight ago. Having denounced the Israelis Annan thought it might be a good idea to have an investigation into what had actually taken place!

The investigation will no doubt consider the words of the Canadian peacekeeper who died in the U.N. outpost and who emailed his former U.N. commander telling him that Hizbollah was using the U.N. outpost as a shield for attacks on Israel. And it will no doubt take into account Annan's sentiments when he described the Indonesian guerrilla encampments from which they attacked East Timor in 2001 saying that the "blurred lines between the civilian and militia character of camps expose civilians inside to the risk of attack by opposing forces where camps are perceived to serve as launching pads for renewed fighting." The world is indeed fortunate to have a U.N. to protect it from murderous militias. Just ask the dead of the Balkans and Rwanda in the 1990's and the dead in Darfur today!

I can also take you through many instances of Muslim v Muslim slaughter starting with the treatment by Jordan's King Hussein in razing the PLO headquarters and other targets inside two refugee camps near his capital, Amman in September 1970 right through to present day atrocities involving Kurds, Shias and Sunnis in Iraq. We can visit the Chechen capital of Grozny where Russia set the example killing more than 100,000 people, mostly civilians when it levelled the city in the 1990's, to Yugoslavia where NATO's attack in 1999 left at least 500, mostly civilians, dead and left most of that country's infrastructure in ruins. Why not go to the Ivory Coast where the French were so upset by the accidental killing of nine soldiers that they wiped out the entire Ivorian air force, took control of the country’s airport and killed 27 civilian protesters? And I've only just taken you to the tip of the iceberg.

The point is that war's a real bitch but it's even bitchier when the aggressor party wants to commit genocide as Hizbullah and Iran have clearly and expressly indicated they wish to do with Israel. Now that’s a breach of "international law" for you – a direct violation of the international genocide treaty's prohibition of "direct and public incitement to commit genocide."

And that leaves the Israelis with two choices. They can be like the non Arab black minority of Darfur that relies on a U.N. Security Council Resolution (#1556) which calls for the Sudanese government to disarm and disband the Arab Janjaweed militias. This resolution, passed almost two years ago, has been largely ignored by the Sudanese as has U.N. SR #1559.which requires Hizbollah to be disarmed by Lebanon.

The other alternative for the Israelis is to do what international law principally allows them to do - defend themselves.

Of course, that's not easy when the enemy melts into the civilian infrastructure so that it can be found in every town, in every street and in almost every house and your own actions are being scrutinised by armchair experts sitting in the comfort of suburban homes whose basements are full of gym equipment and golf clubs rather than missile launchers.


Still the condemnation of Israel for defending its men, women and children against the unprovoked aggression of Hizbullah continues to roll in with certain elements in the media finding Israel at fault for everything while subjecting it to completely different standards of scrutiny to any other nation under attack.

The hypocrisy is stunning.

Israel is vilified in articles, photographs, cartoons and letters to editors while its side of the story often remains untold or misrepresented.

There have long been those journalists - even in the mainstream media - who have had no compunction about selectively providing their own slanted narratives to suit their particular political agendas but which fail to give proper context to Israel's conflict with its neighbours. This might be acceptable when commentators are expressing an opinion but not when they are supposed to be reporting on the news - especially about a conflict where the good and the bad are often blurred.

So we see reporters who are quick to rush to judgement against Israel with bold headlined stories but when it's proven that they were mistaken, the retraction is contained in barely a paragraph, hidden away or not made at all.

And in this conflict things have just gotten worse!

We are now seeing a number of scandals exposed over the internet where reporters, cameramen and others are prepared to fabricate news events or to embellish them in such a way that the Israeli is seen in the worse possible light.

So the consumers of the "news" are not receiving the full picture and the truth is not making it anywhere near to the public arena because so many segments of the news are no longer told truthfully and honestly and in some cases, not at all.

These untold segments of the news are what I call, "the blank pages".

There are many stories of this war that can only be found on the "blank pages". Take the story of the battle for Bint Jbeil.

Bint Jbeil normally houses a population of several thousand and was, until a fortnight ago, an Hizbullah stronghold from which rockets were being fired with regularity at Israeli citizens a few miles across the international border with Lebanon. The IDF could have adopted the Allied tactics used against Dresden and unleashed a firestorm against the Hizbullah fighters and its citizens but instead, it first dropped leaflets warning the residents of the impending battle and then adopted an approach that involved house-to-house fighting at close quarters, a tactic which resulted in a toll of nine Israeli lives. One commentator compared the number of Israeli deaths proportionally to the equivalent of 350 deaths of United States soldiers – all in just one day. Of course, the town is now partially destroyed, the Hizbollah death toll was much greater than that of Israel and intermittent fighting continues to take place but the number of civilian casualties in Bint Jbeil was limited to a handful despite the major battle which took place there.

Stories like Bint Jbeil as told on the blank pages of the world’s newspapers in real life act to distinguish the just from the unjust – the good from the evil. Above all, they are what leads us to be thankful that we weren't made like Hassan Nasrallah, his Hizbullah fighters and their cheerleaders, supporters and sympathisers throughout the world.

Thankful that we weren't made like them.