Sunday, February 1, 2015

Junk Journalism at the Herald

Is it really too much to expect someone describing herself as a journalist to do some elementary research before pronouncing on the issue of Palestine/Israel?

Take the following, for example, from yesterday's Sydney Morning Herald:

"In Australia, there has been a marked increase in harassment of identifiably Jewish people in public. One consistent trend is a spike in attacks on Jewish communal buildings - and people - when conflict breaks out in the Middle East. The recent disputes in Gaza have underlined this. This suggests we have a particular responsibility to be careful when it comes to the discussion of Israeli-Palestinian conflicts." (Hate speech should be shut down, Julia Baird)

Frankly, any journalist who can reduce the near 100-year-old genocidal Zionist project in Palestine to the level of mere "disputes in Gaza" and "Israeli-Palestinian conflicts" brings discredit upon herself, upon her paper and upon her profession. For one so clueless to then go on and advise that "we have a particular responsibility to be careful when it comes to the discussion of Israeli-Palestinian conflicts," merely adds insult to injury.

The following bald assertions in the same opinion piece, moreover, raise the issue of just how much research, if any, went into her piece:

"In Sydney... Hitler placards and T-shirts were sported at rallies here and elsewhere as people chanted 'Jews, Jews to the gas'; swastikas were sprayed on buildings. Facebook pages identified Jewish people and provided their location to aid attackers."

Turning to my copy of the Executive Council of Australia Jewry's (ECAJ) 2014 Report on Antisemitism in Australia, I note that the section headed Leaflets, posters, stickers, other (pp 36-9) contains no reference whatever to Hitler placards or T-shirts. Likewise, there was no mention of the allegation regarding Facebook under that heading on p 34. Nor, for that matter, could I find any mention of the alleged anti-Semitic chant in the report. And as for that old, anti-Semitic standard, the swastika, the report records just 8 instances, only one of which appeared on a wall. (For the record, 5 were found scratched onto, variously, a lamp post, tram stop (x2), door frame and park bench, while the other 2 appeared at a skate park and on a whiteboard respectively.

It is still possible, of course, that Baird has relied on ECAJ's report for her assertions.

If so, however, she hasn't looked further than the lousy cartoon reproduced on page 2, which smears anti-Zionists as neo-Nazis who revere Hitler and chant 'Jews to the gas'. Surely, any informed journalist, after seeing the cartoon, would respond by consigning the report, in its entirety, to the rubbish bin on the grounds that ECAJ's real agenda has more to do with discrediting and silencing opposition to Israeli apartheid and genocide than with exposing genuine instances of anti-Semitism.

If she hasn't relied on the ECAJ cartoon, whence the above assertions?

Julia?  

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Zionist Lie Gets Makeover

Israeli human rights organisation B'Tselem has just issued its latest report, Black Flag: The legal & moral implications of the policy of attacking residential buildings in the Gaza Strip, Summer 2014, occasioned by last year's Israeli massacres the Gaza Strip (Operation Protective Edge - July-August), which resulted in the deaths of over 2,200 Palestinians (including hundreds of children) and the destruction of about 18,000 homes.

It focuses in part on that notorious Zionist talking point, namely that the Palestinian resistance uses civilians as a shield:

"[Israeli] officials eschewed responsibility for the immense harm to civilians, placing the blame squarely on the shoulders of Hamas. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said that Israel's 'security forces are doing everything in their power to avoid harming civilians and if innocents are hurt, it is because Hamas deliberately hides behind Palestinian civilians.'

"This argument is unacceptable. True Hamas... do not abide by IHL [international humanitarian law], nor do they purport to do so... Not only did Hamas fire at Israeli civilians and civilian targets, it did so from within the civilian population. Hamas operatives fired from sites located near civilian dwellings, concealed weapons and munitions inside them and dug tunnels under them.

"Given this reality, the issue at hand is what conclusions policymakers may draw from it. The prime minister's statements indicate he believes that Hamas and the [Israeli] military share the responsibility to take precautions. Yet this interpretation is designed to block, a priori, any allegations that Israel breached IHL provisions. Accepting it would mean that there are no restrictions whatsoever on Israeli action and that whatever method it chooses to respond to Hamas operations is legitimate, no matter how horrifying the consequences. This interpretation is unreasonable, unlawful, and renders meaningless the principle that IHL violations committed by one party do not release the other party from its obligations toward the civilian population and civilian objects."

IOW, whatever Hamas does or doesn't do, cannot be used as an excuse by the Israelis for slaughtering Palestinian civilians.

You'll note that the charge leveled at Hamas by B'Tselem, at least with respect to Palestinian civilians and their homes, is simply that its "operatives fired from sites located near civilian dwellings, concealed weapons and munitions inside them and dug tunnels under them."

I've already dealt with the question of whether, in resisting Israel's overwhelming military aggression, they could have done otherwise (and whether the Israeli occupation forces can be similarly accused), in another post: Israeli Militarism (4/9/14).

This post, however, was prompted by the following extraordinary revelation that somehow managed to escape B'Tselem's attention:

"During the conflict, thousands of children were forcibly herded by Hamas as human shields around its rocket launch sites. Like Israeli children taken to shelters, post-traumatic stress levels are high, with estimates that up to 90% of the Palestinian child population suffers from traumatic symptoms." (Hadassah's healing vision, Peter Kohn, The Australian Jewish News, 23/1/15)

Heard that one before? Not only has the basic Israeli 'human shield' talking point been outrageously sexed up, but the AJN has slyly balanced genuine Palestinian suffering with the faux Israeli variety. This smacks of desperation. Could it be that no one's listening to the old plain Jane lie anymore?

But there's more in this instance. This blatant shot at blaming the victim for his suffering, followed by the gratuitous suggestion of an equivalent suffering on the part of the perpetrator, comes bang in the middle of a piece showcasing a rather dubious project:

"Gazan children traumatised in last year's war will benefit from a landmark joint venture between Hadassah Australia and aid agency World Vision to advance Hadassah's Project Rozana,* boosting critical medical services in the Palestinian territories." This will reportedly involve cooperation in "training Palestinian child psychologists to treat children suffering post-traumatic stress after the Gaza war," and forging closer links between World Vision Australia and Jerusalem's Hadassah Hospital.

Quite how this joint venture will manage to shrug off the charge that it is exploiting the same traumatised Palestinian kids to burnish Israel's tarnished image abroad is anyone's guess.

World Vision's CEO, Tim Costello, is quoted thus:

"Costello said World Vision Australia has trained around 8,000 Palestinian mothers to recognise symptoms of 'psycho-social trauma' in their children. 'Hadassah is the foremost hospital in Jerusalem and their expertise in dealing with these issues, along with medical issues, is a natural fit for us.' But the high-profile advocate on social issues said another vital aspect of the venture will be to foster better understanding between Israelis and Palestinians. 'We cannot solve the political issues but we do know that starting with children's dreams and their rights on both sides is profoundly important'."

Of course we can't solve the political issues - unless we first speak out about them.

Children's dreams and rights on both sides? Is the man serious? Is he not aware that Zionism's wet dream - a Palestine without Palestinians - is the very stuff of Palestinian nightmares? Rhetorical question, of course.

Just to inject an air of reality here, I'll leave you with two summaries of findings from another recent report on Israeli savagery in Gaza, No Safe Place, by Physicians for Human Rights-Israel and Gaza's Al Mezan Center for Human Rights.

This one touches on the unimaginable scale of psychological trauma among Palestinians in Gaza:

"The majority of the 68 patients interviewed suffered insomnia, flashbacks, nightmares, screaming, loss of appetite, weight loss, depression and unstable emotional states. Doctors and nurses said that the trauma they saw was not just from the attacks, displacement, threats of joblessness and poverty, but also the sense of total isolation from the rest of the world. Those interviewed said that Gaza's dire situation affects individuals' life choices, like whether or not to get married and have children." (Investigators: Israel fired on Gaza civilians carrying white flags, Charlotte Silver, electronicintifada.net, 28/1/15)

And here's the other. Maybe Costello and his opposite number in Hadassah Australia, Ron Finkel (described in a November 2007 Zionist Council of Victoria press release as "a longstanding advocate for Israel and Zionism since his student days in the 1970s when he served as President of AUJS") could explain how they envision Hadassah Hospital dealing with the Palestinian survivors (?) of these hellish devices:

"Flechette munitions (which doctors reported surgically removing from the faces of children); 'explosive barrel' bombs... that were made to be used to clear mines, but were dropped on civilians; what are suspected to be DIME weapons, leading to 'unusual burns' and 'unusual amputations,' with 'charred' black skin that did not smell like burning flesh and black 'tattooing' around cauterization-like stumps of amputees; weapons that left 'computer chips' with Sony markings embedded as shrapnel in people's bodies'; and 'a gas of unknown type,' a white-colored substance with a 'sewage-like' smell' that burned skin and caused respiratory problems and could be seen and smelled from 500 meters away"? (Independent investigation details Israel's deliberate targeting of civilians in Gaza, Ben Norton, mondoweiss.net, 29/1/15)

[*On Project Rozana, see my 9/6/13 post Palwashing.]

Thursday, January 29, 2015

MSM Journalism 101

"Five civilians and two soldiers were killed when rebels fired a barrage of rockets and mortar rounds at central Damascus, a monitoring group says. The rebel attacks came two days after they threatened to retaliate for air raids by the Syrian regime against an opposition-held area on the capital's edge." (Seven die in Damascus as rebels retaliate, AFP/The Australian, 27/1/15)

In Syria, government air raids always come first, whereas in Gaza, Palestinian rockets always come first.

Got it?

Et Tu, Greg?

We live in interesting times.

Greg Sheridan, Tony Abbott's Partner In Crime (Monash U, 1977*) and Suppository of All Wisdom, the foreign editor of Murdoch's Australian and (self-styled) Most Influential Foreign Affairs Analyst in Australia, is now pointing the bone at his erstwhile (?) bosom buddy:

"Giving Prince Philip an Australian knighthood is the worst decision of Tony Abbott's prime ministership." (A decision both dumb & dumber, 28/1/15)

What? Worse than last year's horror budget? Worse than Operation Sovereign Borders? Worse than...

But I digress:

"It is wrong in principle... There is no place for knights and dames in Australian honours... They correspond to no Australian social reality. They have no general acceptance or broad legitimacy within Australia."

Et tu, Greg?

Of course, if only Abbott had knighted Netanyahu instead, or - like Sheridan (2007) - had received Israel's Jerusalem Prize, Sheridan would be heaping praise on him, and justifying it on the grounds that 'it corresponds perfectly to Australia's current foreign affairs reality.'

[*See my 13/9/12 post Greg & Tony Do Monash 1.]

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

The Glass Wall

Back in August last year, journalist and writer Tim Robertson couldn't help but notice something missing in Morry Schwartz's Saturday Paper:

"There's been high praise for the Saturday Paper... the paper's commentary is insightful and well-informed: it has a stable of some of Australia's best writers... and it's a welcome addition to the Fairfax/News Ltd duopoly that's been one of the great scourges of Australian democracy... Nonetheless, the Saturday Paper's coverage of Israel's assault on Gaza has been conspicuously, well, non-existent. As the death toll rises and more atrocities are committed, the Saturday Paper's pages remain, to date, devoid of any comment. One might consider this highly unusual. After all, it's long been left to independent Left-wing media to support the Palestinian cause in the face of the grossly more powerful Israeli state and its supporters here in Australia. But for long-time readers of The Monthly, which, like the Saturday Paper, is published by Morry Schwartz, the coverage might not come as such a shock. (Mr Schwartz also publishes Black Inc. and the Quarterly Essay.)" (Excerpt from Palestine & the Saturday Paper, overland.org.au, 1/8/14)

Robertson went on to quote John Van Tiggelen, former editor of the Saturday Paper and now staff writer at The Monthly, speaking at the June 2014 Wordstorm Festival in Darwin. (Since Robertson's original quote is highly edited, I've reproduced the Van Tiggelen quote below more fully):

"I have to be careful here because I still get most of my wage from The Monthly. But, um, it's very different from Fairfax. I have to be honest here and say that at Fairfax, at the Good Weekend writing the long features, I never experienced political interference... Whereas when you work at a small publication, and it doesn't matter whether it's Graeme Wood at The Global Mail or Morry Schwartz... at The Monthly, you work very closely with a publisher and things do get spiked and you have raving rows about what goes through and what doesn't. And there are certain glass walls set up by the publisher that you can't go outside of. And we were talking about it beforehand with Antony [Loewenstein] - one of those is Palestine. [The Monthly's] seen as a left-wing publication but the publisher is very right-wing on Israel. He's Jewish, um, and he's very much to the Benjamin Netanyahu end of politics. So you can't touch it. We just don't touch it. There's just a glass wall goes around it." (abc.net.au/tv/bigideas, 25/6/14)

Robertson concludes correctly that the editorial regime which prevails at the Saturday Paper (and by extension at Schwartz's other publications such as The Monthly and the Quarterly Essay) "is no different to the Murdoch press' universal support for the Iraq War (though the scale is smaller): top-down, institutionalised censorship based on the political beliefs of one individual," adding that "It's fundamentally undemocratic and undermines the whole notion of a free press."

But that's not all - apart from being destructive of journalism per se, the erection of glass walls (and the phenomenon of self-censorship that accompanies it) leaves the consumer of that journalism in something of a quandary.

Take, for example, the following passage from Van Tiggelen's admiring profile of Labor's Tanya Plibersek in The Monthly of November 2014:

"If deputy leaders didn't get to choose their portfolios, foreign affairs might have eluded Plibersek. Her reputation has been built on tackling social issues, such as homelessness, domestic violence and discrimination. More significantly, she is of the Left, a faction less inclined to bipartisanship (and, specifically, to pro-Israel views) than the portfolio generally demands. Back in 2002, in an otherwise sharply argued speech dismantling the case for the 2003 invasion of Iraq, Plibersek described Israel as a 'rogue state' for its flouting of UN resolutions. She also called its then prime minister, Ariel Sharon, a war criminal. Today, though, you'd be hard-pressed to find a crack between the Government and the Opposition on security or Middle East policy. Plibersek has long recanted her comments on Israel and appears to be in lock step with the foreign minister, Julie Bishop, on the matter of Australia's renewed military engagement in Iraq."

Take that highlighted bit. I may be wrong but Van Tiggelen seems to be suggesting that, but for the references in the speech to Israel, the speech was fine. And yet he makes no attempt to explain why those references are in any way problematic. More importantly, what about his failure to probe the issue and circumstances of Plibersek's recantation of those references, surely a matter that goes to the very heart of Plibersek's intellectual and moral courage? I mean, isn't that what any journalist worth his salt would do? Could Van Tiggelen be self-censoring or Schwartz red-penciling?  Who is really speaking here, Van Tiggelen or Schwartz? See the problem?

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Who Needs Kafka?

"Yesterday I had an idea for a short story to explain the unrelenting insanity of the occupation for ordinary Palestinians. Tell me what you think.

"In my story, there is a Palestinian family, let's call them the Jaabaris, and they live next to a Jewish settlement, let's call it Kiryat Arba, close to Hebron deep in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.

"One day the settlers decide to build a synagogue on the family's private land in an effort to force them off.

"This family decide to stand their ground. Sadly, they have no way to stop the takeover of land that has been in their family for generations other than by appealing to the Israeli legal system. They petition the Israeli Supreme Court to order the synagogue demolished.

"In the courtroom, the settlers argue that the land is not under Kiryat Arba's control - it's private Palestinian property - and therefore it is outside the court's jurisdiction. The judges have no right to issue a ruling in this case, they claim.

"The court disagrees and says the land is under Kiryat Arba's control - ie the judges treat it as part of Israel - and therefore the court can issue a ruling. The judges' verdict is a triumph for justice: the synagogue should be demolished.

"However, now that the settlers have a piece of paper with the court's decision stating that the land belongs to Kiryat Arba, they can bill the Palestinian family for years of arrears on property taxes amounting to $22,000 - more than the family earns in several years. If they don't pay, the settlers will seize the land and sell it.

"Heads the Jaabaris lose; tails they lose too. That's Israeli occupier's justice.

"What do you think? Have I gone a bit too far? Too crazy to be credible?

"Or have I simply plagiarised this story from the Times of Israel, where exactly this has happened to the Jaabari family?" (Occupier's justice: heads & tails you lose, Jonathan Cook, jonathan-cook.net/blog/ 23/1/15)

Monday, January 26, 2015

Australia Day Awards 2015

If you were thrilled by the award of a knighthood to Phil the Greek (aka Prince Philip), you'll be over the moon at the award of a Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) to Sam the Zionist (aka Sam Salcman):

"For service to the community through a range of organisations:

"Senior Vice-president, Zionist Council of Victoria (ZCV) (formerly the State Zionist Council of Victoria) 15 years; Executive Member 1972-2010. ZCV Delegate to the Jewish Community Council of Victoria (formerly the Jewish Board of Deputies) since 1973.

"Member of the Executive of the Jewish Board of Deputies as Chair of the Overseas Jewry Committee, 4 years.

"National Secretary, Zionist Federation of Australia (ZFA), 6 years; Executive 1974-2012 and since 2014.

"Honorary Treasurer, Executive Council of Australian Jewry (ECAJ) 1992-1995 and 2000-2007; Honorary Life Member of ECAJ since 2008; Chairman, Overseas Jewry Committee, now known as the Australian Committee for Soviet Jewry (part of ECAJ) 1982-1990.

"Treasurer, Lamm Jewish Library of Australia Board (formerly Makor library) 1994-2003.

"Honorary Treasurer, Australian Reform Zionist Association (ARZA) 2003-2007.

"Vice-Chair, Australia Arava Partnership Committee since 2013 and Committee Member since 1998.

"Founding Member, Australian Friends of Labour Israel (Victoria), 1974; Vice-Chair, 1976-1997.

"Member, Australia-Israel Chamber of Commerce Victoria since 1985.

"Secretary, Victorian ALF Foreign Affairs Committee 1976-1980; Member 1975-1982.

"Member, CPA Australia since 1984.

"Foundation Member, Institute of Certified Management Accountants since 1980; Chartered Tax Advisor, Taxation Institute of Australia since 2012.

"Member, Governance Institute of Australia since 1989.

"Recipient, Community Recognition Award, Jewish Community Council of Victoria, 2009.

"Recipient, Jerusalem Prize, Zionist Council of Victoria and Zionist Federation of Australia and World Zionist Organisation, 2003." (Australia Day Awards 2015, jwire.com.au, 26/1/15)

Reading through the above, I found myself wondering whether the Zionist Federation of Australia had nominated Sam for the above award. Wondering thus, I recalled the ZFA's recent (5/12/14) gripe about the 2014 Walkley Awards for journalists.

Railing against awards going to Middle East correspondents Paul McGeough and Ruth Pollard (Fairfax), and John Lyons (News Corpse), the ZFA griped that "Perhaps the only sure-fire way to win a Walkley these days is by spouting Palestinian propaganda and making sure you only tell half the story." (zfa.com.au)

The ZFA's gripe was titled:

How to win a Walkley Award - Step 1: Become Middle East Correspondent, Step 2: Write incessantly against Israel.

But would I be so churlish as to detract from Sam's considerable achievements by titling this particular post:

How to win an Australia Day Award - Step 1: Become a Zionist lobbyist, Step 2: Campaign incessantly against Palestine?

No way!

Still looking for an Australia Day 2015 award to a Palestinian lobbyist...