Wednesday, May 30, 2007


Outside the Crown Casino complex about fifty or so demonstrators are waving their anti-Israel placards replete with lies about the Jewish State. It's doubtful if more than one or two of them have been to Israel and they certainly do not appear to know or to care that, as they stand smugly in the cold night, half way around the world Palestinian rockets are being fired at an Israeli school. It's also doubtful whether the newspaper most of them read will mention it tomorrow morning.

Inside, 1,200 supporters of Israel listen to a Lebanese woman tell of how she and many fellow Christian Lebanese suffered at the hands of the PLO during the Civil War in her country.

"You should ignore it when they talk of Israeli Apartheid because it's not the truth!"

Outside, the small crowd hostile to the Prime Minister, John Howard waits for its prey but none of them will see him tonight. Howard has entered through a back door and the rabble have missed their opportunity to heckle the man. They content themselves by trying to impress the gamblers who leave the complex with empty pockets. They don't care either.

Inside, the Australian PM is awarded the Jerusalem Prize in honour of his life-long support for the Jewish State.

Outside, what is left of the protesters melts away into the night. As protests go, it's one big yawn. Some of these protesters are from a group called the "Socialist Alternative". I was told by one of these people last year that Hizbullah and Hamas were entitled to use force against Israel because it was "an occupier". More rubbish. Israel doesn't occupy either Lebanon or Gaza and besides, as Bradley Burston writes in Haaretz:-

"To argue that attacks on civilians are justified, is to declare those civilians to be sub-human."

Inside, one of the guests is explaining to another guest, a non-Jew, his concerns about how the events in the region are often misunderstood under the weight of misinformation in the media. Adon Emet is our guest writer today and this is his letter to a friend:

Dear friend,

Most Australians are not overly concerned with the Israel, Palestine conflict. After all, it's not directly relevant in our daily lives.

Yet the news coverage is at saturation point: every day another Middle East story bursts into the news cycle.

We follow the conflict between these ancient religions, between these cultures, these blood brothers like spectators at a prizefight.

The geographic, and historical centrality of the conflict thrusts itself into our consciousness, while the world's thirst for oil makes us keep a watchful eye on the conflict lest there be economic consequences for the world at large.

Although, for many, it is all too complicated, no one likes to admit that they are out of their depth. Some have come to believe that they do know something of this conflict, and some have come to hold strong opinions from these fragmentary reports.

We tell ourselves that in the understanding of this conflict we have an advantage - impartiality.

But if we were to truly examine our "impartiality" we might find that it is often a cover for ignorance. Those thousands of news "grabs" don't really give us a basis to understand events in this complex story.

How can we develop a balanced and fair opinion, if even news reporters allow their own opinions to influence their reports?

Sometimes the reasons for this are practical as language, security and logistics mean that the news service may co-opt locals to feed their correspondents, who then summarise this partisan material under their own by-line, other times reporters may have little historical background to the conflict, but owing to their youth and enthusiasm, they are posted on-site to the dangerous front line. The impression they glean there may be quite distorted. Certainly, the overview or evolution of a situation may be impossible to discern at the coalface.

A critical example:

In the June 1967 six-day war, believing Egypt President Nasser's false claims that his army was advancing on Tel Aviv (and against Israeli entreaties), King Hussein of Jordan launched an attack upon Israel to safeguard his share of the spoils in its anticipated annihilation.

It did not pan out as he anticipated. In the process, he opened the Jordanian front and the Jordanian army was resoundingly defeated.

This is how Israel acquired the West Bank and Jerusalem - formerly not a Palestinian State at all, but part of Jordan. In the aftermath, the Arab states met in Khartoum to discuss their next move. Rather than seeking peaceful resolution (as prescribed by the UN), they uttered the famous "three noes". No to peace, no to negotiation, and no to recognition of Israel. And that's where we are today - except that Israel unilaterally withdrew from Gaza (i.e. without any peace agreement - in the hope of stimulating peace) only to be met with hostility and a barrage of Kassam missiles and abductions.

How many times have we heard in the media that Israel conquered the West Bank without any reference to it being a defensive action - giving the false impression of aggression from Israel? As we approach the 40th anniversary of Israeli control of the West Bank it is well to remember that this territory was won in a defensive war, but I fancy that you will hear little of this in the forthcoming reportage, particularly from The Age, SBS and the ABC.

Yours sincerely,

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