Quality journalism is all about balance and harmony. At The Australian we believe that our feature articles on the Middle East conflict should contain the perfect balance of Israeli settler pain with Palestinian inconvenience:
"Two baby boys, one Jewish and one Palestinian; two men, one Jewish and one Palestinian. Four lives that have never intersected but this week were all touched by one relentless tragedy, the Middle East conflict." (Peace hostage to old hatreds, John Lyons, 2/10/10)
Muhammed Abu Shara, 1, an asthma sufferer, died after inhaling Israeli tear gas after "clashes" between Israeli police and Palestinian demonstrators following the murder of a Palestinian man by a settler in East Jerusalem's Silwan district. However, "Three days later another baby became a victim."
Yeah? You mean he's dead too?
Well, not quite, but remember we've got a magic formula going here: "Sharon Zucker and his wife Neta, 9 months pregnant, were driving near their settlement. A car drove next to them and opened fire. They survived and drove to the nearest hospital, where a boy was born. The baby survived, but what a way to enter the world."
"Then there are the 2 adults. the first is Atta Jaber, a Palestinian whose farm is opposite the Jewish settlement of Kiryat Arba, which adjoins Hebron and is home to some hardline settlers... Jaber says his family has farmed this land for 7 generations but lately settlers have been attacking with the aim, he believes, of forcing him out. He says they have pulled out his crops and begun arriving at 5am, trying to break in. 'They yell, 'You are a thief, this is Israeli state land, this belongs to Abraham and Moses', he says."
Poor man. "But the settlers point to violence against them, such as the recent drive-by killings."
Oh yes, drive-by killings followed by driving the natives off their land, or is it the other way around? It's all so terribly confusing, John! Old hatreds indeed. Stretching back to time immemorial, no doubt. Lost in the proverbial mists of time... I'll just pop it into the too-hard basket, shall I?
"Under international law, all Jewish settlements on occupied territory are illegal. Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention says: 'The occuping power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own population into the territories it occupies'."
Enough said? Definitely not: "Israel insists the settlements are legal."
Man, that's sooo beautifully yin and yang! And the second victim of this relentless tragedy whose orgins go back to the Flintstones?
"Born in the US as David Axelrod, he changed his name to David Ha'Ivri, or David the Hebrew. As director of the Shomron Liaison Office, Ha'Ivri has become a spokesman [a Mark Regev?] for settlers and has travelled to Australia** and elsewhere to enlist support for them. As I stand with him watching a ceremony he has organised to mark the end of the freeze, he looks anything but a victim. He doesn't have to endure 5am intimidation from settlers."
Er, John, could it be he doesn't look like a victim because he isn't? Just asking.
"But his home is in doubt. He lives in a small settlement, and if Israel signs an agreement with the Palestinians, Ha'Ivri will probably have to leave."
Shucks. Definitely a victim. Like the Zucker baby.
"So life goes on in the West Bank. The only common ground is the disputed [!] rocky and sandy ground we're standing on, which has absorbed so much blood and may absorb much more yet."
What a tragedy! So, John, you a betting man? Whose blood do you reckon that stony ground's going to absorb, Jaber's or Ha'Ivri's? What's that? Both? Oh, yes, the formula...
[*"Ha'Ivri was in Australia as a guest of Australian Friends of Gush Katif & the Shomron - a small organization that encourages Jewish people to settle across the biblical land of Israel, and which strongly opposed the disengagement from Gaza. During Ha'Ivri's visit, he met community leaders, journalists and Melbourne Ports MP Michael Danby." (Another side of the debate, The Australian Jewish News, 2/11/09)]
PS (10/10/10): In its AJN 'Media Week' column of 8/10/10, taking issue with Lyons' piece, AIJAC's Jamie Hyams writes, "Article 49 only applies to the forced transfer of population, such as the Nazis perpetrated, and therefore has not been breached by Israel." Don't you just love Zionist lawyering? In The Case for Palestine: An International Law Perspective (1990), John Quigley writes, "The Geneva Convention requires an occupying power to change the existing order as little as possible during its tenure... To [Israel's claim that its settlement policy in the occupied territories doesn't breach Article 49] it was replied that Israel funded the settlements and that it had used the IDF to establish many of them. One particular use was that the government placed many recent immigrants in the settlements." (pp 177-178)