Friday, September 29, 2006

THE FAT LADY DOESN'T SING HERE ANY MORE

I pity the poor Germans.

They can't even get their usual fix of Mozart these days.

Read why here.

Fortunately, the paranoia hasn't completely killed off all entertainment for German theatre-goers. For a good laugh, they can still catch up with the satirical The Last Virgin, by Israeli playwright Tuvia Tenenbaum. The play which makes fun of suicide bombers and "mocks Arabs and Jews in equal measure" has received strong criticism from German Jews. I somehow doubt however, that the objections from the Jewish community are what caused the necessity for sniffer dogs to patrol the aisles before every performance and why no bags are allowed into the auditorium.

Speaking on the Mozart controversy Tenenbaum told The Times:

"What kind of message is this sending to the Arabs on the street? Frankly, it is a racist decision because it is tantamount to saying that all Arabs cannot wait to blow themselves up in Europe."

I think he might have something there!

Monday, September 25, 2006

A REPUTATION FOR NOT BLUFFING

Brian Whitaker of the Guardian reports on the victory speech of Hizbullah leader, Hassan Nasrallah who said in Beirut on Friday that his organisation "had recovered from its month-long war with Israel."

"WE STILL HAVE 20,000 ROCKETS," boasts Nasrallah in the article which was also reprinted in yesterday's Sunday Age.

Whitaker adds that "…[A]lthough Mr. Nasrallah's latest claim is impossible to verify, he has a reputation for not bluffing."

Of course.

The Guardian and the Age know full well that Nasrallah doesn't bluff and that he was certainly not bluffing when he made the following threat in his 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."

The fact that The Guardian and The Age were fully aware that this would-be mass murderer and advocate of genocide (not just against Israelis but against Jews in general) has "a reputation for not bluffing" did not prevent them from downplaying Nasrallah's existential threat and leading an orchestra of condemnation against Israel for defending itself (allegedly) in a disproportionate manner against this death cult's unprovoked attacks in July of this year.

The Guardian, the Melbourne Age and many in the Western media remain in a state of denial about Hizbullah. They continue to pretend that Israel was targetting civilians in Beirut and Southern Lebanon when they know full well that Hizbullah was embedded among the population in parts of the capital city, in the towns, the villages and in homes.

In denial about the fact that this death cult has no qualms about taking with it even its own people and, in fact, that it vicariously consigned one thousand of them to the Allah's garden as a result of its recent war on the Jews.

The Associated Press reporter Hamza Hendawi claims in LASTING QUIET RETURNS TO SOUTH LEBANON that the Hizbullah fighters have vanished in south Lebanon, melting back into the population. Rubbish, they were always part of the population and he knows it; we all know it and how can he be so sure about the "lasting quiet" if Nasrallah is boasting that he now has 20,000 missiles?

Why have so many in the west been captivated by Hizbullah?

Martin Amis said recently in (ironically) The Guardian :-

"It is painful to stop believing in the purity, and the sanity, of the underdog. It is painful to start believing in a cult of death, and in an enemy that wants its war to last for ever."

At least we know now that the enemy is not bluffing!

Friday, September 22, 2006

A LITTLE PEACE OF SANITY

This week's Cutting Edge programme on SBS was a documentary from Israel entitled "Little Peace of Mine" about an endearing Israeli youngster Nadav, who after witnessing a terrorist bombing in Jerusalem in 2002, decides to take matters into his own hands and forms his own movement "Peace for the Future" with the idea of bringing together Jewish children from West Jerusalem and Arab children from East Jerusalem.

Nadav wants to develop friendships between the children on both sides of the conflict in the region; not just to play games but also to establish the seeds for peace in the future.

Twelve year old Nadav puts his heart and soul into arranging a series of meetings with Palestinian children who he hopes are of the same mind. Things go well until they start discussing the nuts and bolts of politics and, at that point, the kids become like their grown up counterparts.

Mai, a charming 13 year old from East Jerusalem, suddenly morphs into Saeb Erekat while Nadav is on the back foot, forced to state that Sharon's visit to the Temple Mount was a "mistake". Of course, there's nothing much he can say when she raises the non-existent massacre in Jenin.

Welcome to the insane world of their parents' generation!

Although their group breaks apart, the friendship between Nadav and Mai continues and through Little Peace of Mine we witness the grim reality and hardship on both sides of the divide that give us both a glimmer of hope and a glimmer of despair in a region and in a world where sanity rarely prevails.

The farcical events of this week in the United Nations is a testament to the fact that it's still a mad, mad, mad world in which children are dying everywhere while grown ups posture in the halls of power in New York.

Against this backdrop, Jews everywhere will tonight celebrate the beginning of their new year. Usually, we express the hope to all - Jews and non Jews alike - for peace in the coming year. Nadav has reminded us how difficult it is to achieve that objective.

Notwithstanding this I want to express the wish that we should all taste a little sweetness and peace in the coming year.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

ANOTHER STORY

During the recent conflict in Lebanon there was much gnashing of teeth about the failure to implement United Nations Security Council Resolution No. 1559 which, inter alia, required the disarming and removal of all armed groups (other than the Lebanese Army) operating in Lebanon. Despite the resolution Hizbullah was allowed to build up a considerable armoury and presence in the country unchallenged by Lebanon and with the U.N. standing by idly before the militia ultimately attacked Israel on 12 July 2006 to start the five week long war.

That war claimed the lives of an unknown number of Lebanese and around 160 Israelis. I say "unknown" because Hizbullah has never issued its casualty list and the official number of 1,000 Lebanese dead hasn't been authenticated while the claim that the majority of them were "civilians" is dubious - but that's another story.

The reality is that, despite the fact that Israel was defending itself against a genocidal mass murderer who used his own people as human shields, it was Israel which attracted the ire of a certain politicians and media commentators. I dare say that this is because those people apply different standards to the Jewish state than they do to others - but that's another story.

Well here's another story and it's about another United Nations Security Council Resolution.

This one happens to be numbered 1556. Like 1559, it was passed about two years ago and called upon the disarming of an Arab militia:-

"The Security Council today, acting under Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter, demanded that the Government of the Sudan disarm the Janjaweed militias, apprehend and bring to justice its leaders and their associates who had incited and carried out violations of human rights and international humanitarian law, as well as other atrocities in the country’s Darfur region."

Again, like 1559, it was largely ignored by all concerned, the U.N. sat on its hands and the atrocities continued. We don't really know the actual death toll but a study by Scientific American.com recently concluded that the "number of dead in Darfur should be counted in the hundreds of thousands, not the tens of thousands that are often reported". That's probably, at least 400,000 in recent years.

Many of the muders committed by the Janjaweed militias were aided and abetted by Sudanese government troops. While U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan is concerned about the situation, which has also resulted in the dispacement of 2,000,000 civilians. he has been taking care not to offend the Sudanese government in the way he rushed to judgement to condemn Israel everytime an Israeli soldier sneezed in Lebanon.

And the media has been kind to the Sudanese government while the corpses pile up at a daily rate greater than its equivalent during the entire five week period of the war between Israel and Hizbullah.

One would think, given the word "proportionality" became a media buzzword when Israel retaliated to Hizbullah's 34 day long missile attacks on its civilians, that the media might catch on to what's happening over there. So far however, it hasn't come near to matching it on a word for word basis let alone in proportion to the death and suffering being meted out by the Arab militias on the helpless people of Darfur.

Why can't the Melbourne Age for instance, open its hearts to the victims and send its Middle East correspondent Ed O'Loughlin to the region again, but this time for the duration of the conflict as it did when he was sent to Lebanon?

Judging by this report from Associated Press, there is a lot of room for him to exercise his fertile imagination:-

SUDAN BLAMES ISRAEL AND JEWS FOR MANY OF ITS WOES

This is what Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir told a news conference on the sidelines of a ministerial U.N. General Assembly session after making the outrageous claim that most of its problems were due to Israel and that the West wanted to dismember his country in order to help the Jewish state:-

"The main purpose is the security of Israel. Any state in the region should be weakened, dismembered in order to protect the Israelis, to guarantee the Israeli security," he said.

Asked about Sunday's rallies Darfur peace rallies from Rwanda to San Francisco, Bashir said they were "invariably organized by Zionist Jewish organizations."

On second thoughts - that may not be another story after all.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

GRANTING AMNESTY [PART TWO]

I read the Amnesty International report on Hizbullah and wondered how Israel’s enemies in the media would deal with the findings. How would those who focussed obsessively throughout the war on damning Israel at every opportunity react to the news that AI was condemning Hizbullah’s own conduct.

Would the Melbourne Age Middle East Bureau Chief, Ed O'Loughlin leave the story alone as he does with a number of others that throw a bad light on Israel's enemies or would he somehow try to turn this story around to make the Israelis look bad?

The headline AMNESTY DAMNS HEZBOLLAH ATTACKS was fair enough and he did make a promising start by presenting the facts in his opening two paragraphs but then he reverted to type and used the remaining space available in an attempt to balance the story by accusing Israel of equivalent moral bad behaviour.

In order to achieve his own peculiar brand of "balance" O’Loughlin employs journalistic sleight of hand to compare AI's report on Hizbullah's deliberate attacks on non-combattants with AI's earlier report on Israel's attacks on Lebanese property.

Consider this:-

"Amnesty and several other human rights groups have already accused Israel of war crimes over an air and artillery bombardment that Amnesty said killed ‘some 1,000’ Lebanese civilians. "

The impression given to me by this is that Israel is guilty of the same violations of international humanitarian law that AI levels at Hizbullah - that of deliberately setting out to target civilians i.e. there is equivalence between the alleged war crimes of Hizbullah and the alleged war crimes of Israel.

But is that what the AI report on Israel said?

AI did not accuse the IDF of deliberately targeting civilians. It claimed Israeli attacks on civilian infrastructure were contrary to humanitarian law but it did not explain the basis upon which it categorised them as such. Legal experts however argue AI's conclusions were not just bad law but an attempt to invent new law without any basis.

What does international law really say?

The 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 population7.

"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."

AI did not deal with the question whether Hizbullah was in breach of humanitarian law by deliberately embedding itself and stockpiling dangerous military weapons among civilians and, in some cases, allowing them to be in possession of these weapons. Nor has AI yet investigated what steps Hizbullah took, if any, to assist in the evacuation of women and children from the civilian areas it turned into war zones.

If you're looking for clear and unambiguous war crimes, these are the areas which should be attracting the attention of our politicians and our media. Hizbullah protests it did nothing of the sort but it has a problem - genuine photographic evidence exists (as distinct from some of the stuff Reuters and others rely upon) to prove that Hizbullah set itself up among civilians in Beirut and in Southern Lebanon.

This raises the very vexing question as to why Hizbullah put its own people in harm's way in the conduct of its war against the Israeli people and, in many ways, it's one of the fundamental stories of the war.

AI left the question and the answer for another day but it will be of interest to see whether it eventually conducts the promised investigation. And if it does, whether the likes of O’Loughlin continue to use dubious methods to demonise Israel at every opportunity irrespective of the findings.

Of course, there is a double-standard at work in the Melbourne Age where you have to look really hard to find condemnation of Sudan which has allowed militias to murder hundreds of thousands of non-Arabs in recent years or the victims of Muslim violence in a dozen other places on this earth or of Tamils by Sri Lanka's air force for that matter. Only the Jewish state is subjected to this sort of onslaught in the media, only the Jewish state's enemies get such a free ride from them.

************************************************************

O'Loughlin also referred in his article to claims that Israel used cluster bombs and other weapons which some deem illegal but whose legality has not yet been addressed by internal lawmakers. He cited a report from Israel's left wing Haaretz newspaper and I am encouraged that he is at least turning to Israel's free press for a story rather than relying on dubious sources from elsewhere in the region whose accuracy and credibility are less than reliable.

Monday, September 18, 2006

GRANTING AMNESTY [PART ONE]

One of the first things I did in my initial orientation week as a wide eyed new student at university was to join Amnesty International. I was attracted by the objectives and vision of an organisation that sought to enable every person in the world to enjoy all of the human rights enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other international human rights standards.

I’m not sure why but, despite my early enthusiasm, I don't believe I ever did anything for the cause either that year or ever again. Indeed, I allowed my membership of this and most of the other clubs I had joined (folk music, athletics and Papua New Guinea – please don’t even ask why?) to lapse.

I continued to actively support progressive causes, marched in the anti Vietnam War moratoriums, rallied against Apartheid, supported the rights of our indigenous people, graduated, married and became middle aged and even updated my collection of Dylan albums.

Once in a while I would read of some good deeds of Amnesty International and various other human rights groups and non government organisations. I nodded in appreciation and donated to their causes. That was until Durban 2002 when I came to the realisation that something had gone amiss in the world of the good people. Most of them had gone blind and stupid. "Stuff them," I thought.

Last week, AI belatedly published a report accusing the terror group Hizbullah of serious violations of international humanitarian law, amounting to war crimes for targeting Israeli citizens, killing 43 of them, wounding hundred of others and causing hundred of thousands to evacuate their homes with their rocket attacks during the 34-day Israel-Lebanon war (read the report here).

The report accused the Shiite militant group of deliberately failing to distinguish between civilian and military targets, and of wrongfully seeking to justify its barrage by claiming to be retaliating for Israel's attacks on Lebanese civilians.

Could there be anything more blindingly obvious than that?

What made the report so belated was that AI had already issued a report on Israel's attacks on Lebanese infrastructure during the war and concluded that such attacks on roads, bridges and other installations which were shared by Lebanese civilians and Hizbullah was a “war crime” (read that report here).

The problem with this analysis was that, as Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz pointed out, AI was acting very creatively by inventing a new war crime with which to charge Israel. In Amnesty Int'l redefines 'war crimes', Dershowitz quotes another law professor David Bernstein who said that "if attacking the civilian infrastructure is a war crime, then modern warfare is entirely impermissible, and terrorists have a free hand in attacking democracies and hiding from retaliation among civilians. Terrorists become de facto immune from any consequences for their atrocities."

It must be noted that AI hasn’t finished with the conflict yet and wants to look into all aspects of human rights abuses resulting from this war.

And so it should, starting with how Hizbullah began preparing for this conflict on the day Israel left every square inch of Lebanese territory according to the United Nations; how Hizbullah was permitted for six years by its Lebanese hosts to bring 13,000 missiles and other assorted lethal weaponry into the country, how it built a terrorist infrastructure inside populated areas among hospitals schools and around UN outposts and thereby turned Lebanon into what was to become a war zone, how from time to time it provoked attacks on Israelis and eventually without provocation launched around 60 katyusha rockets on populated areas in Israel to create a diversion for the killing of eight Israeli soldiers and the abduction of another two soldiers on Israeli soil.

And when AI is through with that, perhaps it might also consider the role of Syria and Iran in using Hizbullah as its proxies and the Lebanese and Israel people as its hostages in this war.

FOOTNOTE:

The latest AI report states:-

"This briefing does not address Israeli charges that Hizbullah used the civilian population as a cover for its military activities and that it must therefore be held responsible for the harm caused to civilians by Israeli attacks. Specifically, Israel accuses Hizbullah of having bases in tunnels and other facilities within towns and villages; of storing Katyusha rockets and other weapons there; of firing Katyusha rockets from close proximity to civilian houses; and of having prevented civilians from fleeing their villages.

Hizbullah denies any policy of endangering civilians and accuses Israel of deliberating targeting civilians in Lebanon. Hizbullah officials deny that their fighters launched Katyusha rockets into Israel from populated areas or that they stored their rockets in such areas. They acknowledge that other weapons and facilities are present in towns and villages and argue that they are needed for their fighters to defend their communities against Israeli attacks. Hizbullah strongly denies that it prevented civilians from fleeing.

Amnesty International is conducting further research into these issues and intends to address them separately. It will also be addressing the issue of attacks by Israeli forces that Israel says were directly aimed at Hizbullah fighters and their bases and resulted in heavy civilian casualties, and the impact of such attacks on civilians in Lebanon."

Sunday, September 17, 2006

LOVE MEANS HAVING TO SAY YOU'RE SORRY

There was more trouble in the West Bank yesterday as an angry group of Palestinians opened fire inside a Nablus church to express their anger at the speech made by Pope Benedict XVI in his academic lecture at Regensburg University last week.

The Pope's intention was to spread the word of love throughout the world in these difficult times and was a renunciation of violence in the name of religion. Some folks in the Muslim world however, interpreted things differently and regarded it as an invitation to violence between religions and as a consequence churches are being desecrated in several places across the globe. Leading the charge were those inside the Palestine Authority areas governed by the Islamic party Hamas.

Of course, the AFP which carried the report was careful not to associate Hamas or any of the known terror organisations operating in the area with the vandalism.

In fact, according to AFP "no casualties or damage were reported in the incidents". Which is rather strange given that the report also says that in "one incident, gunmen opened fire inside an empty Catholic church after the building's entrance door was burnt down." One can only suppose that the church won't be making an insurance claim for repair of the bullet holes and the burnt down entrance door because it wasn't really damaged at all.

Still, intimidation gets you everywhere these days and, as the above article concludes "The Vatican issued a statement Saturday saying that the Pope was 'extremely sorry' for the offence his comments had caused."

Some would call it "saying sorry" but I call it "damage control".

I wish the Pope and his flock lots of luck!

Saturday, September 16, 2006

SHE STOOD WITH US

There are victims of the Holocaust who to this very day will deny that there were some good people in this world who stood with them in those six years when they had to endure the savagery and barbarism of the Nazis.

I used to hear my father say that often and have never been able to entirely convince him otherwise although he has softened his stance in his later years.

There are two reasons for this.

The first was a scene from an American documentary entitled "The Last Klezmer" in which a Jewish musician who remained in Poland after the war was shown returning to his native town after spending most of his adult life in Warsaw. The scene in question was one of the local gentile women weeping at a memorial to the Jews who had lived among them and who had perished at the hands of the Germans.

The second was an article I read with him that was written by Oriana Fallaci, a brilliant journalist who joined Italy's anti-fascist resistance as a teenager during World War Two, was a fearless war correspondent, covered wars in Vietnam, the Middle East, and Latin America, was shot and beaten in 1968 during student demonstrations in Mexico, interviewed world leaders and terrorists and, later in life took a strong and brave stand against Islamic terrorism.

Oriana Fallaci died yesterday, aged 77.

She wrote the article entitled I STAND WITH ISRAEL: I STAND WITH THE JEWS in late 2002 and it originally appeared in the Italian daily newspaper, Corriere della Sera.

I read the article at my father's house. During the reading, it felt as if every word was rising up and speaking for itself with a special kind of passion. When joined together the words told us that there really were men and women of goodwill on the face of this earth who were not prepared to abandon our people; not then and not now.

Oriana Fallaci stood with us. She is no longer on this earth but will be remembered by my people forever.

May she rest in peace.

"I find it shameful that in Italy there should be a procession of individuals dressed as suicide bombers who spew vile abuse at Israel, hold up photographs of Israeli leaders on whose foreheads they have drawn the swastika, incite people to hate the Jews. And who, in order to see Jews once again in the extermination camps, in the gas chambers, in the ovens of Dachau and Mauthausen and Buchenwald and Bergen-Belsen et cetera, would sell their own mother to a harem." - Oriana Fallaci.

WHERE GUNMEN DRIVE SPORTS CARS

The headline says GUNMEN KILL FIVE PEOPLE IN GAZA CITY ATTACK and the story's about the death of five Palestinians but it will remain only on the blank pages because the said gunmen were also Palestinians and not Israelis. There will be no photographs of swarming bystanders around the vehicle in tomorrow's newspaper, no wild scenes from funerals on your television screen and the media in this country will continue to fail to inform you that more Palestinians die these days from the violence inflicted by their own than at the hands of the Jews defending themselves against terror.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

WHEN IT SUITS THEM

The blog Drinking from Home has an excellent piece on the BBC's JEREMY BOWEN, one of many in the media who like to have it both ways when reporting from the strife torn Middle East.

Considering what Bowen is now telling us in his latest reports from Southern Lebanon, it's abundantly clear that Israel never really targeted civilians and it was telling the truth when it said it was going after Hizbullah which was callously using its own people as human shields while mounting attacks on the people of Northern Israel.

We knew that anyway but it's good to hear it from the mouths of Hizbullah apologists even if it's a tad late and they're not prepared to directly admit that this is exactly what happened!

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

AN OPEN DOOR SLAMS SHUT!

The Guardian's readers' editor Ian Mayes whose newspaper was one of many involved in the Red Cross Ambulance Hoax has undertaken an examination of the story in OPEN DOOR.

On the basis of its own reporter's claim of there being "no doubt that the ambulances had been subjected to a recent attack consistent with what had been reported", the reports of Martin Chulov and Sarah Smiles of The Australian and The Melbourne Age respectively (both of which have been demolished elsewhere including on this blog) and the statement of a Red Cross spokesperson that he had "seen the ambulances and saw no reason to question that they had been subjected to an attack" has concluded -

"The zombietime version invites the conclusion that the Lebanese Red Cross conspired in an elaborate anti-Israel propaganda plot to dupe the world's media. I do not think that is proven at all."

Yeah right.

In fact, it's the original report on the damaged ambulances and the claim that it was caused by an Israeli air strike that has never been proven.

Mayes quotes an Israeli military spokesman as follows:-

"We had advised the civilian populations and other organisations like the UN and the Red Cross that it was a dangerous area and any movement had to be coordinated with the Israeli army. We don't know for sure if those two ambulances were hit by Israeli fire. We cannot confirm or not confirm.

"All we know is that we don't know of any incident when Israeli missiles would have hit a vehicle marked as being a vehicle from the Red Cross. We don't recognise hitting any Red Cross vehicles on that date in particular."

The Guardian version therefore invites the conclusion that Israeli military is not telling the truth about the incident and instead the Guardian is prepared to rely on the veracity of reports based upon statements made by at least one eyewitness who is a proven liar - THE AMBULANCE CHASERS [PART THREE].

All this proves is that, like the Australian and the Melbourne Age, the Guardian is more concerned with protection the reputation of its reporters than it is with uncovering the truth.

CREDIT WHERE IT'S DUE

I've taken a few pot shots recently at Age reporter Sarah Smiles so I want to give her some credit for a recent article of hers entitled What now, Lebanon? Stresses and strains show in a country divided which appeared in the Melbourne Age at the weekend.

Smiles describes the desperation and strain on some of the various peoples who make up the Lebanese nation. Without doubt many of them - particularly the non-Shia majority - have suffered greatly from the recent war. It's clear also that not all of them are prepared to blame Israel alone for their suffering. In fact, most of them understand that Israel's bombing campaign was directed primarily at Hizbullah's strongholds in the Shi'ite areas and that their real problem now is to withstand the threats, intimidation and thuggery of Hizbullah which continues to hold their nation to ransom after instigating its war on the people of Israel in July 2006 and which promises to put an end to their Cedar Revolution.

Smiles' article is most welcome but it would have been even more welcome if the Age accompanied it with a look at the stresses and strains which Hizbullah's war imposed on its other victim - Israel which had to endure 34 days of non stop firing of missiles targeting its civilian population in the north. In most circles, this is regarded as a crime against humanity but the Age has seemed extremely reluctant to tell its readers about it!

Indeed, one of the precious few articles published in the Age which viewed the war from the Israeli side was an opinion piece from Ted Lapkin which appeared in the Sunday Age on 3 September, 2006 entitled Hezbollah's new battle at home.

Its inclusion was refreshing because the Age narrative has consistently highlighted the suffering of the Lebanese people including negative claims made about Israel's conduct of the war, many of which emanated from dubious sources and were later proven to be fabrications. It was refreshing therefore to read a clear and cogent assessment of the fall out from the war from a different source - for once!

This didn't prevent a couple of Brunswick boofheads (I won't bother to give these obnoxious fools the credit of a link) from repeating and inventing their own unsubstantiated slanders against Israel while objecting in this week's Sunday Age letter's section to the Lapkin article.

One even asked "why on earth did you publish it?" and accusing Israel's response to Hizbullah's actions (which are clearly war crimes) as "barbaric".

It bears repeating that never in recent history has there been a war like this. For almost seven weeks Hizbullah fired constantly on civilian targets and its leader Hassan Nasrallah uttered racist threats against the Jews of Israel. There is no question at all that his behaviour is barbaric and constitutes a crime against humanity and yet the question is asked why the Age published an opinion piece that contained a balanced assessment of the fall out from the war in Lebanon.

Why indeed?

Perhaps it was done to inform readers of a different viewpoint on the Middle East which is more than the boofheads could do to explain as to why they objected to the newspaper publishing an opinion that differed with theirs.

Friday, September 08, 2006

THE LOEWENSTEIN SYNDROME

The following is an article by a guest contributor, Ronald Green, author of 13 ESL books who lives in Ramat Hasharon, Israel. His cousin, Antony Loewenstein stayed with Ronald at his home in Israel last year while doing research for his controversial book "My Israel Question". The Blank Pages of the Age recommends that you don't waste your money buying the book and will let you know why in an article to appear shortly. You can reach your own conclusion as to how our guest would like you to spend your money...

THE LOEWENSTEIN SYNDROME by Ronald Green

The recently published book "My Israel Question" by Antony Loewenstein is an auspicious event - for the author, obviously, but perhaps more so for the rest of us. It is not the book itself that is important, since any book endorsed by John Pilger and Robert Fisk will not leave any surprises as to its contents. And in case we are in any doubt, the front cover showing a temporary Star of David about to dissipate in a pristine blue sky leaves very little to the imagination as to the author's wishful thinking.

But it is a good time to ask WHY? Not about Pilger and Fisk, for we have been dealing with their ilk for as long as there were Jews in the world. The question is: Why is Loewenstein the way he is? How did a Jewish boy, whose grandparents escaped from Germany in the 30's and who grew up in a warm Jewish house in Melbourne become obsessed with turning against his past? Loewenstein, after all, was always aware of the centrality of Jerusalem to the Jewish people, and long before "Zionist" became a dirty word for him, he read about yearnings for the return to Zion countless times in his prayer book. Did this only child take teenage revolt so far as to turn over all the tables and cross every red line? And what is he still proving?

It is serious to label someone a racist. Loewenstein is a racist. In that he is not unique, of course. The phenomenon is interesting in his case not only because it is something of which he accuses others (very common among the righteous left), but because his racism manifests itself in a self-loathing that finds its outlet in his obsessive ravings against Israel, Israelis, Zionists and assorted other Jews.

Every Jewish community has its Loewenstein, some have even a number of those suffering from the Loewenstein Syndrome.

What is the Loewenstein Syndrome and what distinguishes it from your common or garden racist? A racist is generally defined as a person with a prejudiced belief that one race is superior to others. A Loewenstein Syndrome sufferer is a person with a prejudiced and obsessive belief that his race is inferior to others; "inferior" in this case means more evil, more inherently wicked than others. Since it is obsessive, there is virtually nothing the sufferer won't do in order to prove that he is right.

In the Loewenstein Syndrome, Israel cannot do anything right or be condoned for any behaviour whatsoever, even in defence of its very life, because the country was born in original sin. The very fact of Israel's existence is an affront. It's not a matter of withdrawing to pre-67 lines, for example, for even that comes with provisos that mean dismantling of the Jewish state.

It is clear from Loewenstein's writings that Israel is some sort of aberration as far as he is concerned. His book (as stated on its website) mentions that "Israel asserts the right of the Jewish state to exist". Note the wording: not that Israel has the right to exist, but that Israel asserts it has that right. But Loewenstein also has his humanitarian side, as attested by Sarah Smiles in WILLING TO CRITIQUE ISRAEL (The Melbourne Age – 20 August, 2006), who informs us that "while he supports Israel's right to exist" (thanks; we also support Loewenstein's right to exist, but we don't think we need to state it as if it is a great concession), he has a problem with the concept of a Jewish state.

Strangely - but not so when we take into account the Loewenstein Syndrome - he does not have a problem with the concept of Islamic states.

A symptom of the Loewenstein Syndrome, one that is soothing for the sufferer, is the simplicity of the world's problems as seen through his eyes. So here we have Loewenstein's definition and example of racism:

"If an Israeli marries a Palestinian from the Occupied Territories - they can't have the same rights of citizenship," says Loewenstein."That's racism, pure and simple." (Sarah Smiles, ibid)

Loewenstein needs to pass on that simple message to countries in Europe, for example, where marriage to a non-citizen does not grant automatic citizenship. Racists all?

And so Haifa being bombed is not as bad as Beirut being bombed. And we all know who started the last war, don't we? This is Loewenstein's take on it:

"At base, this war has never been about the retrieval of the Hizbollah-abducted Israeli soldiers. That was just the trigger. Washington's key proxy in the Middle East is attempting to decapitate the two nations not under Western control, Syria and Iran, and in the process prove to the Arab world that any military conflict with Israel will result in overwhelming force against its people." (Courier Mail, 7 August 2006).

Note the subtle last few words, where Israel's action always results in overwhelming force against innocent people.

Of course Israel always breaks international law, as far as Loewenstein is concerned. But what about when it doesn't? Loewenstein, never one to let facts come in his way, says:

"Nasrallah has become a symbol of Muslim pride, a man unafraid to stand up to Israeli aggression." (Courier Mail, 7 August 2006).

Loewenstein, who quotes UN resolutions with alacrity, does not, this time, mention that Israel withdrew to UN-recognised borders. How does he define "aggression" when it comes to Israel? Obviously the way Hizbollah does: Israel's very existence.

"Total victory, as outlined by Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, is impossible to achieve because Israel is fighting an opponent that was born to challenge Israel's provocations."

Which provocations, one wonders, are those?

Although those with Loewenstein Syndrome don't necessarily have to be particularly intelligent, they do suffer from the illusion that they can fool all the people all of the time, so that even when they are unable to deny what is being said by Israel's enemies, they can mitigate it through sleight of hand. Even when Loewenstein cannot ignore Iran's president calling for Israel to be wiped off the map and a denial of the Holocaust to boot, he does call the remarks "both unacceptable and repulsive" ("Spinning us to war in Iran" - Znet, March 8, 2006), only to immediately question why wiping Israel off the map would be genocide.

"Rather than focusing on leaders who have actually caused death and destruction - take Bush, Blair and Howard in Iraq and the estimated toll of over 100,000 dead - the Jewish group wanted the world to focus on a country that poses no direct threat to anybody."

Leaving aside Loewenstein's canard that it was Bush, Blair and Howard who killed 100,000 people and not Muslims killing Muslims, he states that Iran "is a country that poses no direct threat to anybody", i.e. the same country that he had quoted a few sentences earlier as "calling for Israel to be wiped off the map." It gets even more muddled. A few sentences later Loewenstein has Iran merely as a "perceived threat to the Jewish state" and that "Israeli generals and politicians know Iran is not a serious threat", but two sentences further on tells us that "Iranian influence now stretches through Iraq, through the Kurdistan region into Turkey, a weak Syria and through into Lebanon's Hezbollah-dominated south, on Israel's border. Iran's reach also extends into the Arabian peninsula through Shiite communities scattered in the Persian Gulf countries." This is not just bad writing, unacceptable even for a first-year undergraduate, but a lame, albeit clumsy attempt to deny the obvious.

Racism and demonisation go together, and George Orwell would have been proud of Antony Loewenstein. It is interesting how the word Zionism has gradually and relentlessly been given an evil connotation. Like Pavlov's dog and the bell, if you hear the juxtaposition of Zionism and Nazism enough times, people will have a knee-jerk reaction to Zionism even when mentioned on its own. How evil does "the Zionist state" sound when used by Loewenstein! Almost as odious is "The Jewish state". And there is, of course, the "Zionist lobby" in the USA, in Australia, in fact everywhere. This is not anti-Semitism, of course, but anti-Zionism.

Those with Loewenstein Syndrome don't multi-task. They can only concentrate on their one obsession: the evil that is Israel. Nothing taking place in the world is as bad as what Israel does. Not Darfur, not Ethiopia, not Chechenya, not massacres in Sri Lanka, not China's suppression of Tibet.

In "THE JERUSALEM SYNDROME" , Andre Glucksmann asks: "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?" Where was the Organization of Islamic States when the Russian Army razed the capital of Chechnian Muslims (Grosny, with 400,000 residents) killing tens of thousands of children in the process. More to the point: Where was Loewenstein? He has an excuse: the Syndrome, which cause him to be horrified only when a Muslim is killed by Israelis. We should also ask why Palestinian refugees are relentlessly kept where they - physically by the Arabs and spiritually in the world's gaze by the Loewenstein Syndromers. Jewish refugees from Arab countries in the '40s and '50s? Not important. Whose fault must it be that Arab refugees have been left to rot in camps for 58 years? The Jews, of course. Sorry, the Zionists that support the original sin that is Israel.

The most heinous of acts by those with Loewenstein Syndrome is the insidious and relentless subliminal message that the misfortunes of the world are due to Israel's existence. As Glucksman puts it:

"As long as four million Israelis and as many Palestinians are facing off against one another, 300 million Arabs and 1.5 billion Muslims are condemned to live in hate, bloody slaughter and desperation. And the rosier version:We just need peace in Jerusalem to put out the fires in Tehran, Karachi, Khartoum and Baghdad and to set the course for universal harmony."

Just as the Germans wrote at their rallies in the '30s "Die Juden sind unserer Ungl├╝ck" (The Jews are our misfortune), so the world is led to believe that every bad thing that has happened and is happening, from the deadly Khomeini Revolution, the bloody Baathist dictatorships in Syria and Iraq, the decade of Islamic terrorism in Algeria, the Taliban in Afghanistan, none would have occurred if it hadn't been for the founding of the Zionist state. The conclusion is that if only Israel were to disappear, there would be peace on earth with all living in harmony.

For those who have Loewenstein Syndrome, Israel is guilty. It is guilty if it defends itself, it is guilty if it builds a wall to stop suicide bombers killing its children, it is guilty because it is. It is guilty because it exists.

Those with Loewenstein Syndrome do not threaten Israel and neither do they threaten Zionist organizations. The problem is not ours. The problem is theirs.

WILBUR'S FOOTNOTE:

The ubiquitous Sarah Smiles, whose article is referred to above, certainly gets around. In recent months she's been to Lebanon twice chasing ambulances and on top of that, is one of the Age's literary writers covering young Antony in a section of the Age headed "BOOK REVIEWS".

I don't know if others are quite as pedantic as I am but I was impressed with the lady's versatility until the following paragrah from her warm and fuzzy piece on the lad caught my eye (as I mentioned above, I'll have more to say later):-

"While Loewenstein's book has been criticised for historical inaccuricies and for being far too pro-Arab, he has nonetheless triggered a debate in Australia about Israel and the control of discourse of the Arab-Israeli conflict."

WHO'S ON FIRST?

I've always maintained that nobody really wins wars such as the one recently fought out between Israel and Hizbullah in Lebanon but I've been scratching my head for weeks over Hizbullah's boasts about how it miraculously defeated the region's strongest army and how its brave warriors (or what's now left of them) are now an inspiration for the entire Muslim world.

There was certainly no doubt in the mind of the Economist's leader writer that Hassan Nasrallah emerged the victor although the rationale for this conclusion was somewhat obtuse in NASRALLAH WINS THE WAR (The Economist August 19th 2006). Interestingly, the internet version carried a different headline banner for its internet version HIZBULLAH'S SHALLOW VICTORY :-

"Hassan Nasrallah and Ehud Olmert both say they won. But in asymmetrical warfare, the test of victory is asymmetrical too. Israel's prime minister set himself an absurd aim—the complete demolition of Hizbullah's power in Lebanon—and failed to achieve it. The shrewder Mr. Nasrallah said victory would consist merely of surviving, and Hizbullah, however battered, did survive."

An interesting interpretation but, as with most aspects of the violent history of this region, it's a touch delusional.

This is the sort of stuff that a little league coach would tell his eight year old kids. You know, "the objective is to have lots of fun and let's just ignore what the scoreboard says". That's an eminently reasonable approach when you're dealing with juveniles and trying to teach them how to enjoy their sport but war isn't sport.

Further, The Economist view is a touch confusing if not misleading, especially when you try to come to grips with the fact that the coach of the winning team was so shrewd that he spent the entire game hiding in a cave, that the grandstand is now a pile of rubble and that his first and second base, the pitcher and the catcher have gone missing. The only consolation is that the umpire's on his side and the team's sponsor (the local newspaper) is giving his performance some glowing reports!

But coming back to the war, I'd like to draw to your attention two interesting articles that might throw some light on the subject of who really won what?

The first is by IDF reservist Dan Gordon writing in the Jewish World Review - HOW ISRAEL WON ON THE BATTLEFIELD AGAINST HEZBALLAH AND LOST IN THE MEDIA AND WHY IT'S IMPORTANT TO AMERICA

"This is not a group of loosely affiliated cells of would-be hijackers or suicide bombers. Hezballah is a terrorist army, trained like an army, organized like an army, funded and equipped like an army, with one glaring difference. The main use of its arsenal was terror aimed at Israel's civilian population while hiding behind Lebanon's civilian population. Its intent was to cause maximum civilian casualties amongst both. This was not by accident. This was by design. This was Hezballah's war, planned and prepared for six years, funded by close to a billion dollars by Iran, aided by Syria."

Later, he says:-

"Every part of their war plan except the manipulation of the media failed."

And here's the punch line -

"There was, of course one other indispensable element to their war plan; the centering of their offensive capability against Israel's civilian population within Lebanon's civilian population. Much has been made in the Western press of Hezballah's benign social services function in Lebanon, of the hospitals and schools it has built. Almost no notice however has been paid to the large numbers of these hospitals and schools which were built over its military bunkers and rocket launching sites.

This was perhaps both the most cynical and barbaric disregard for innocent civilian lives of all of Hezballah's and Iran's strategic choices. It was also the most successful. It was predicated not on its knowledge of its enemy (Israel) but its true genius lay in its knowledge of the press. The calculus was simple: launch a rocket from within a civilian population; if you kill Jews that's a victory. If the Jews hit back and in so doing kill Lebanese civilians, that's a victory. If they don't hit back because they're afraid to hit civilians, that's a victory. Now repeat the process until you kill so many Jews they have to hit back and in so doing kill more Lebanese civilians. That's the ultimate victory, because they know that in striking just those chords exactly what music the press will play."

And the Media gives the game to Hizbullah at the end of the ninth inning. Man of the match is a player wearing a green helmet!

The second article is from Emanuele Ottolenghi EVERYTHING YOU KNOW ABOUT THE RECENT MIDEAST WAR IS WRONG - DEBUNKING WAR MYTHS.

Nobody does a better job of debunking some of the many myths that have arisen from the recent Middle East War than Mr. Ottolenghi who concludes with these words:-

"What of Lebanon? Amidst the ruins of Beirut, the rubble of the bridges over the Litani, and the craters punctuating the highways, what does Nasrallah do? He proclaims victory. What does Lebanese prime minister Fouad Siniora do? He cries in front of the cameras, praises Hezbollah, and clings on to the myths of victory even as evidence of defeat is all around. They do not set up independent commissions, and they do not summon generals, politicians, and clerics, demanding they take responsibility. The last time an Arab country had its own commission of inquiry about a military defeat was in Iraq, in 1949. That precedent will remain the exception. Lebanon will not inquire now into how a foreign agent, having taken over half the country and infiltrated the government at all levels, dragged it into someone else’s war. It will do away with the need to understand what went wrong by proclaiming victory. So that when war returns, the 'shattered myth' will rise again, as reality catches up with the myths of Arab rhetoric."

And sadly ... that folks is the ball game for now.

When will they ever learn?

Thursday, September 07, 2006

THE AMBULANCE CHASERS [PART THREE]

The Zombie website has been updated to include a substantial rebuttal of the weak attempts by The Australian and The Melbourne Age to wriggle out of their involvements in THE RED CROSS AMBULANCE HOAX.

Martin Chulov of The Australian, the lightweight Sarah Smiles of the Age and the even lighter weight Jo Chandler of the same newspaper have been left looking very shabby indeed after the Zombie update delivered a knock out blow to their journalistic performances.

And while he was at it, a couple of other issues were highlighted including these:-

* One of the early criticisms of the reporting on the hoax was the claim that Israel had accepted responsibility for the alleged attack. Smiles herself confirms that this is not true:-

An Israeli army spokesman told The Age yesterday that the army had not yet established what happened and the incident was under investigation.

"We were in a war," the spokesman said.

"It takes time to find out exactly what happened and whose fault it was and why. We are not saying it was an accident or that we take responsibility. We only say that the incident in question occurred in an area used to fire hundreds of rockets into Israel … The army warned the population in the area to stay clear of rocket launching sites because we intended to operate there against activity by Hezbollah terrorists."

* There seems to be a proclivity among some journalists to characterise reports based on what they perceive to be the politics of the author. The best way to answer criticism is to label that person as a "right winger" and bingo, his or her arguments are worthless!

Zombie's response:-

I am not "right-wing," despite what zombietime's detractors may want to think. If exposing extremism and political bias makes me a "right-winger," then the term has lost all meaning. I support progressive liberal democracy; if anything, groups like Hezbollah should be considered "right-wing" according to the traditional meaning of the term.

I agree and wish somebody should tell the Melbourne Age the same thing. The poor old Age should have taken note of the pasting that Chulov and the Australian were getting over their feeble attempt to explain their questionable role in the Red Cross Ambulance Hoax fiasco. It surely must be regretting the fact that it enlisted Smiles and Chandler who only succeeded in botching things up more badly than Chulov.

Still, I guess it was necessary for the Age to jump in because so many of its reports on the conflicts in the Middle East contain information given reporters by anonymous Palestinian and Lebanese sources. Unfortunatley, even when it's proven time and time again that these sources are unreliable, the Age will continue to use them and the truth will continue to buried in its blank pages.

THE PROFILE OF A DEATH THREAT

Just to prove how tough things are for Jews these days, there is an extraordinary story in the Jerusalem Post about an Orthodox Jew who was removed from a Canadian flight last week for praying. Yes, a Jew with a beard praying was enough to intimidate his fellow passengers and, as a result, Air Canada Jazz officials kicked him off the plane.

Jews are being kicked off and ticked off everywhere for behaving badly.

It was only last week at the Melbourne Writers Festival the Palestinian Advocate Julian Burnside QC reportedly opened his talk with statement to the effect that he had received two death threats in his life and one of them came from a "Jew".

I'd don't know what sort of Jew he was talking about but I somehow doubt he was threatened by a Jew like his anti-Zionist friend Mr. Loewenstein. But then I also doubt that he was referring to one of the great majority of law abiding peace loving Jews of the world including the poor Hasidic fellow who missed his flight out of Montreal, or for that matter, even by a Yiddishe boobbe who might possibly have wanted to suffocate him by feeding him with an oversized matzoh ball.

But still, I'm curious as to why Burnside decided it was necessary for him to start proceedings in this way.

I say "curious" because one of the subjects for discussion was the State of Israel and its people who have throughout its history and, even before it was born as a nation, been the recipients (and victims) of some pretty serious death threats.

Where do you start with the list of death threats against these people?

Jews in the region were being threatened in the 1920's, a decade that ended with the massacre of more than 60 Jews in Hebron (1929). Then there was the spiritual leader of the Palestinians in the 30's and 40's, Haj Amin Husseini, who sat down with Adolph Hitler in Berlin to help plot his final solution for the Jews.

Later, on the day after the State of Israel declared itself an independent nation (14 May, 1948) and the troops of five Arab States attacked the nascent Jewish state, the head of the Arab League, Azzam Pasha uttered the following death threat:

"This will be a war of extermination and a momentous massacre which will be spoken of like the Mongolian massacres and the Crusades".

Further death threats against Israel came from Egyptian President Gamal Abdul Nasser when he warned of a war of extermination against the Jewish State in the prelude to the Six Day War of 1967, and in the Palestine National Covenant and the charters of the Palestinian terrorist groups which threaten to wipe out Israel.

Indeed, the flow of death threats against Israel and the Jews both within and without the country has continued unabated right through to recent statements from the Iranian leadership and those of their Hizbullah puppet in Lebanon. Nasrallah's language is very clear:-

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

The Hamas Charter is nothing more than a formal death threat against not only Israel but the Jewish people collectively. Article 7 of the Charter incorporates the words of the Prophet, Allah who said:

"The Day of Judgement will not come about until Moslems fight the Jews (killing the Jews), when the Jew will hide behind stones and trees. The stones and trees will say O Moslems, O Abdulla, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him. Only the Gharkad tree, (evidently a certain kind of tree) would not do that because it is one of the trees of the Jews. (related by al-Bukhari and Moslem). "

This is the constitution of the party elected in January to lead the Palestinian people who Burnside QC so vigorously defends and who finds it necessary to invoke a death threat from an anonymous "Jew" in order to do so.

What makes it all the more curious to me is that while Jews are thrown off passenger flights and other Jews are being accused of making death threats which are never carried out, people are meeting violent deaths in many places all over the globe and, as much as some would like to blame Israel and the Jews, they will have to look to others to find the real perpetrators of the killings.

Which is all so very unfortunate for Mr. Burnside QC, isn't it?

THE EXTRAORDINARY IGNORANCE OF MR. ED

Ed O'Loughlin of the Melbourne Age is back in Jerusalem after completing his tour of Beirut and yesterday brought his latest piece, UNEASY ALLIANCE BRINGS HOPE in which he reports that "rival Palestinian factions are about to form a unity government in the hope of ending a crippling international aid embargo, while Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has signalled a fresh willingness to talk to the Palestinians."

O'Loughlin bases his report and an interview given to the Guardian newspaper in which the Palestinian PM Ismail Haniyeh said that a proposed coalition between Hamas and Fatah would be based on the so-called "prisoners' document", a political manifesto drawn up by senior Palestinian prisoners which calls for an independent Palestinian state in the territories occupied by Israel since 1967.

O'Loughlin informs us that "some see this platform as a de facto recognition by Hamas of Israel's existence, since it moves away from the Islamic militant group's official aim of destroying the Jewish state."

Of course, some others see it entirely differently including a number of Hamas spokespeople and indeed, as O'Loughlin himself adds later that "… nor was there any sign that Hamas was prepared to explicitly recognise Israel's right to exist".

At least he got the motivation for the unity government right. It's a clear attempt to overcome the international community's aid embargo while the PA is run by an organisation set on Israel's destruction. The problem is that even after a coalition is formed the PA will still be run by a bunch of terrorists but it might be enough to break down the embargo given the lack of principles held by some of the players concerned.

What O'Loughlin clearly doesn't get right - and never has - is the claim that Kadimah under Israeli PM Ehud Olmert has never been willing to negotiate with the Palestinians.

"Mr. Olmert was yesterday reported to have told a parliamentary committee that his Government was keen to explore talks with the Palestinians, a possible shift from his previous insistence that Israel would impose its own interim Palestinian solution."

The claim that this represents a shift in Olmert's position is patently false.

Olmert has always said he would pursue negotiations first and only if they failed to take place would unilateral action be taken.

The following article from PEACEWATCH deals with both of the matters covered above and show how O'Loughlin's slant on things is, as usual, somewhat misleading if not an example of his outright ignorance on the politics of the region.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

A LITTLE BIT OF SOUL SEARCHING

The Palestinian people have lived in chaos for far too long and as long as they have lived in this state, Israel has been blamed.

Here's a different take on the situation in Gaza and it comes from a Palestinian government spokesperson and Hamas official who criticizes chaos, violence in Gaza but adds that Israel's "occupation" can't be blamed for all of his people's problems and calls on Palestinians to admit to mistakes they have made in the past.

This article about SOUL SEARCHING IN HAMAS is one that you'll definitely not find in your edition of tomorrow's Melbourne Age (other than in the blank pages of course!).

Monday, September 04, 2006

PALESTINIAN TEACHERS STRIKE HURTS BOY

A nice Associated Press headline for a story about your typical union dispute on the West Bank -

PALESTINIAN TEACHERS' STRIKE HURTS BOY

The story is even more interesting than the headline.

It's all about these masked militants who shot and wounded a 12-year-old boy during a politically charged Palestinian teachers' strike but there are wider-reaching political issues at play.

I'm fascinated at the way the AP editors phrased the headline. It's almost as if there's a total ban over there on any headline that might suggest that Palestinians are capable of violently harming their own let alone anyone else!

AMBULANCE CHASERS [PART TWO]

The ambulance chasers in the media might have gotten away with the Red Ambulance hoax – in Australia at least – were it not for Australia's Foreign Minister, Alexander Downer who delivered a speech to Australian publishers on Monday 28 August 2006 highlighting the Hizbullah propaganda campaign of media manipulation.

Australia’s only national newspaper, The Australian, which had generally been applauded for its non-partisan news reporting on the Lebanon conflict but criticised by some for its pro-Israel editorial stand sent reporter Martin Chulov on an errand to check out his story which originally appeared on 26 July.

This was an unfortunate decision as it would surely have been more appropriate to send someone other than the original reporter to review the story if the objective was to determine whether he and the Australian newspaper were the victims of a fraud as alleged.

The result of Chulov's "investigation" was a pathetically self-serving piece that appeared on 31 August 2006 DOWNER'S UNFOUNDED FAITH IN THE INTERNET. The Australian backed up its reporter with an editorial RED CROSS ROCKET SNARES DOWNER that fully supported Chulov's "findings" and claimed that its reporter stood by his original account.

Chulov does nothing of the sort. He deals only with a portion of the hoax allegations, some of his explanations simply do not make sense and part of his original narrative has been altered dramatically.

Chulov explains that he visited the scene with photographer Stewart Innes on 24 July and they inspected both ambulances, "whose mangled roofs were not rusting at the time". He adds that by the time the photos used to mount the case for the ambulance hoax were taken, "rust had appeared. But this is entirely normal in Lebanon's sultry summer climate, where humidity on the coast does not drop below 70 per cent."

Unfortunately, Chulov fails to present photographic evidence of the roof without rust even though his photographer was there with him. A picture would have been worth a thousand words here but the only photographs we have are those taken a few hours later of an ambulance roof that had suddenly and magically become infested with rust. The problem with this is that while visitors to this part of the world might agree that it's humid around the coast, it never rains there in July and there's very little dew about either - not in the late morning or early afternoon. The sudden rust story simply doesn't sit well anyone who has experienced local conditions in this part of the world.

The ambulances are not the only things that have undergone sudden changes. When Chulov revisits the scene the Apache Helicopter of the original version has mysteriously transmogrified into an "unmanned Israeli-made drone". The sudden change might deal with the criticism that an Apache would most likely have vaporised the ambulances in question as well as their occupants but not with the puzzling question as to why they were riddled by bullets of three different calibres.

Chulov goes back to the original source of part of his story, the ambulance driver, Qaseem Shalin who is now telling a totally different story to that published in Chulov’s original article. Shalin was no longer in the ambulance at the time. Now, the ambulance was stationary and not moving. Now, he was protected from the blast because he was "outside lifting the rear lamp".

Oh, for heaven’s sake. Haven't any of these people read Sir Walter Scott?

"Oh what a tangled web we weave
When first we practice to deceive." (Marmion, 1808).

Shalin is a liar, Chulov swallowed his story whole and inadvertently added another chapter in the story of the media's disgraceful reporting of the conflict between Israel and Hizbullah. Little wonder that the media's credibility on the events in Lebanon is in tatters.

I applaud the Australian for at least making seeking to investigate the story but in doing so it shot itself in the foot. Still, one can fully expect someone in the media to revisit the scene very soon to seek assistance from Mr. Shalin as to how to sheet home the blame on the Israelis for that damage as well!

Sunday, September 03, 2006

AMBULANCE CHASERS [PART ONE]

They say that the lowest rung on the legal fraternity's food chain is occupied by the "ambulance chasers", a contingent of low life lawyers who obtain clients by persuading accident victims to sue for damages. They get their name because they prey on ambulance victims and, as such, are looked upon as virtual outcasts by the legal community at large.

I believe the same thing can be said of certain elements that inhabit the media's lowest levels. There are those who, in their haste to find a grisly news story would believe almost anything and then write about it - especially in the context of the Middle East conflict and especially if the story happens to paint Israel in a poor light.

Recently, it appears that a whole swag of these folk fell hook, line and sinker for a number of the Hizbullah propaganda frauds perpetrated during the recent conflict in Lebanon. One of them was undoubtedly "The Red Cross Ambulance Incident."

Less than two weeks into the fighting in Lebanon, Megan Stack reported in the "fair and balanced" Melbourne Age on the tribulations of Lebanese medics whose ambulances came under deliberate attack from Israeli missiles. The article AGONIES ANEW FOR TEAM ON THE SIDE OF THE ANGELS appeared on July 26, 2006 and featured a photograph of a damaged red cross ambulance which was accompanied by the caption, "Under fire: missile damage on the clearly marked ambulances, hit while caring for injured in the town of Qana." The Australian’s Martin Chulov also reported from Tyre on the same day, CIVILIANS KILLED AS ISRAELIS TARGET AMBULANCES. Chulov praised the driver of one of the ambulances, a Mr. Qasin Shalin who escaped with "light injuries" as one of "the orange-clad men of Lebanon's Red Cross, who have come to be known as the country's bravest civil servants".

To me, the ambulance story just didn't look or feel right. Would the Israelis really attack civilian ambulances for target practice? Or was something else behind this story? After all, there have been many stories of how Palestinian terror groups have misused Red Cross ambulances to ferry suicide bombers and weapons around Gaza and the West Bank in recent years. Perhaps the Israelis had become aware that Hizbullah was moving munitons around in some of these ambulances or perhaps it simply wanted to achieve a propaganda advantage in the west - easily gained by the flashing visions of Israeli damage to a vehicle carrying the symbol of the red cross?

An internet blogger who analysed the incident then came up with a number of findings that suggest the whole story was a hoax, that it was legitimised by a media that was eager and willing to believe the lie without questioning any of its puzzling aspects and that the enemies of Israel used the "fallout" from the incident to apply diplomatic pressure on Israel and to alter the course of the war. THE RED CROSS AMBULANCE INCIDENT

The report concluded that the ambulance in the picture was not struck by a missile on or about 23 July 2006. The hole in the roof was more likely caused by the removal beforehand of the ambulance's siren, the rust around that hole is indicative of damage caused long ago, there is no evidence that the ambulance was damaged by fire and that the injury to a man who lost part of his leg was in not caused by a missile strike. The report added that the testimony of Red Cross workers in the area was not neutral but most likely inspired by a desire to push Hizbullah's propaganda cause.

I wondered at the time, whether any of the ambulance chasers in the media would examine the report and other evidence exposing some of the other false stories told during the war and whether they are prepared to admit that they were wrong. I knew of course that the Melbourne Age would give it short shrift and that I didn’t have to hold my breath wondering on that score but I was surprised at how The Australian dealt with the story …[To be continued]