Security forces harm and frighten children? What a wicked lie!
The documentary Stone Cold Justice was one of the most exciting events in Australia this year. From the responses, we have chosen the following:
1) The Australian: Evil and deeply untrue, the paper’s foreign editor has a fit of the vapours;
2) JWire: BTS responds to AIJAC, Yehuda Shaul asks why soldiers with experience should not speak out about it;
3) The Australian: Distant ‘experts’ choose to ignore Israeli realities, John Lyons asks why, when every country’s army is rightly examined, it’s antisemitism when Israel’s is in front of the camera;
4) AIJAC: Lyons’ angry roar hides lack of substance, Allon Lee explains why the vandal John Lyons does not count;
5) ABC: Stone Cold Justice, full transcript of the programme;
6) Notes and links, including link to the documentary, other reports on the maltreatment of Palestinian children and notes on AIJAC and Greg Sherida
A boy on his way to school in Hebron hurries past an exploding tear gas canister. From Stone Cold Justice
Evil and deeply untrue
By Greg Sheridan, The Australian
March 01, 2014
We are living in a time of infamous lies against the state of Israel and the Jewish people. We are witnessing, even in Australia, a recrudescence of some of the oldest types of anti-Semitism. One of the worst recent examples of anti-Israel propaganda that led directly to anti-Semitic outbursts was the Four Corners episode Stone Cold Justice, purporting to be about treatment of Palestinian children in the West Bank.
The program featured as a guest reporter John Lyons, of this newspaper. I have the greatest respect for John. He has produced some outstanding journalism in his time. In the article he wrote for this newspaper on February 8, he made some of the same allegations that were made on Four Corners. I found the allegations at best unproved and generally unconvincing.
However, the Four Corners program was a disgrace, a crude piece of anti-Israel propaganda that revived some of the oldest anti-Semitic tropes. In the year 2014, are we really going to allege again, on the basis of the flimsiest non-evidence you could imagine, that Jewish soldiers systematically physically crucify innocent children? Is there a school of anti-Semitism 101 operating out there? Do you not think that before you would air an allegation like that, if you had any real sense of editorial responsibility, you would be 100 per cent sure that it was true; you would track down the people alleged to have done it and get their testimony? The Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council has produced exhaustive rebuttals of virtually all the allegations in this program and I recommend readers visit the AIJAC website. The whole program was full of uncorroborated and intensely unlikely allegations.
You could make the same kind of film about Australia if you didn’t find it necessary to prove any of your facts. In the Four Corners program, the only Jewish settler interviewed was a religious extremist who said Palestinians must never have a state of their own and that God gave all the land to the Jews and that was it.
Yet the overwhelming majority of the Israeli population favours a two state solution. If you had even one ounce of responsibility in the way you treated these issues, and given their explosive, emotive nature, don’t you think some of that context might have been relevant? Isn’t there an obligation to convey the reality of the diversity of Jewish settlers in the West Bank?
An Israeli border policeman preparing a tear gas launcher to fire gas canisters at the boys protesting outside the Kedumim settlement
A week or two after the Four Corners program went to air, I attended a Catholic mass in a suburban church. The priest was preaching about forgiveness. Most examples he chose were taken from the news. One, he took from the Middle East. It concerned a heroic Palestinian whose family had been killed by Israel, but who still had the moral grandeur to forgive the Israelis. The priest said nothing else about the Middle East. So of all the malevolence and genuine evil in the Middle East, the only example the priest thought worth mentioning was a generic Israeli crime.
With 2000 years of Christian anti-Semitism behind him, the priest had no hesitation in presenting Israel as the killer of innocent families and the only question in the Middle East being one of the moral greatness of the Palestinians in forgiving the Israelis.
So this is what we’ve come to in 2014. The national broadcaster tells us that Jewish soldiers crucify innocent children and Christian clerics routinely portray Israel as the murderous oppressor of the Middle East. But these stereotypes are both evil, and deeply untrue. Over many trips to Israel, and many visits to neighbouring Middle East countries, I have come to the conclusion Israel has the best human rights and democratic institutions and civil society of any nation in the greater Middle East. More than that, I have tried hard to make my own investigations into two questions. Does the Israeli army routinely behave unreasonably? And what is the truth about the settlements?
Israel is not perfect. Like every nation it makes mistakes, including moral mistakes. Undoubtedly, some of its soldiers have engaged in abuses. But over the years I have interviewed dozens, perhaps hundreds, of Israeli soldiers and former soldiers, many active on the Left of Israeli politics and harshly critical of their government. I have also interviewed many Palestinians. My net judgment is Israel’s army behaves with as much consideration for human rights and due process as any modern Western army – US, Australian or European – would do in similar circumstances.
Then there is the question of Jewish settlements in the West Bank. Israel took control of the West Bank because it was attacked by Jordan in a war Israel fought for its very existence. Almost no one internationally had recognised Jordanian sovereignty over the West Bank and the land there is to be negotiated. The overwhelming consensus in Israel is that the vast majority of the West Bank, perhaps 95 per cent, will go to a Palestinian state with compensating land swaps from Israel proper. A few clusters of Jewish settlements will be retained by Israel.
Bob Carr, who I think was a very good foreign minister, recently argued all the settlements are illegal. Foreign Minister Julie Bishop disagrees. On this, Bishop is right and Carr wrong. The problem with discussion of the settlements is that it is so unsophisticated and typically lumps so many different communities together. If all settlements are illegal, that means the Jewish presence at the Wailing Wall in the old city of Jerusalem, access to which was denied to Jews when it was under Arab control, is illegal. It means that the historic Jewish quarter of the old city is also illegal. It means that every Jewish household anywhere in East Jerusalem is illegal.
It is worth noting, by the way, that Palestinians who live in East Jerusalem qualify for Israeli identity cards that allow them to live anywhere in Israel. Increasing numbers are buying apartments in West Jerusalem. But if all settlements are illegal then it is apparently illegal for Israelis, be they Jewish, Muslim or Christian, to buy in East Jerusalem.
I have spent many days visiting the settlements to try to find out what the people who live there are like. As foreign minister, Kevin Rudd told me the settlements occupied about 3 per cent of the West Bank. Since 2004, settlements have not been allowed to expand beyond existing borders. Very, very few settlers are like the sole woman interviewed on Four Corners. There are a lot of very orthodox Jews who live in settlements, but the ultra-orthodox do not serve in the Israeli army and are often not very nationalist at all. They live in settlements because it is cheap and they want to have their own neighbourhoods with very orthodox schools, cooking facilities, etc.
Palestinian children walk warily past settlers’ outposts to go to schoool. Attacks on them are so frequent that many have an army escort. From Stone Cold Justice
But most of the people I met in big, mainstream settlements like Gush Etzion and Maale Audumin, which are very close to Israel proper, were moderate, national religious types. The Jewish connection to the land historically certainly meant something to them, but they tended to vote for mainstream centre-right parties and live peaceably enough with their Palestinian neighbours. (Indeed, some 25,000 Palestinians work on settlements.) These settlers don’t make for very exciting TV interviews because they are so reasonable and unremarkable.
An Israeli friend put it to me that perhaps 50 per cent of settlers are basically non-ideological, and lived in settlements because they can get a house much more cheaply than in Israel proper. Maybe 30 per cent to 40 per cent are moderate orthodox or national religious, mainstream, attached to the land, patriotic, pretty pragmatic. Perhaps 10 per cent (of settlers, not of Israelis overall) are intensely ideological and believe all the land should stay with the Jews. And perhaps 1 per cent or less are genuinely extremist and some of them genuinely violent. That certainly accords with what I have observed over years of visits.
There are also outposts or settlements in the West Bank that are illegal under Israeli law. All serious Israeli negotiations involve the principle of repatriating a significant number of settlers back to Israel proper or to settlements Israel is definitely going to keep. Typically, the number of such postulated returns varies from 50,000 to 90,000.
Aspects of Israel’s settlement policy have been very ill-advised. But I know that settlements are not the main obstacle to peace. The main obstacle to peace is that most of the Arab world will not accept the idea that Israel as a Jewish state has a right to exist and live in peace and security. The Four Corners program did nothing to enlighten the debate and led to a shocking outburst of rank anti-Semitism on ABC websites.
I really thought we were beyond that.
The ABC Four Corners on the treatment of Palestinian children by the IDF was addressed by The Australia/Israel and Jewish Affairs Council. The leader of Israeli advocacy group Breaking the Silence responds…
By Yehuda Shaul, Jwire
March 19, 2014
Yehuda Shaul in Hebron. Photo by Quique Kierzenbaum
I have been a member of Breaking the Silence since its founding in 2004. The organization has grown steadily since into what it is today: nearly 1000 combat soldiers breaking the silence about their service in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. The stories we tell are not easy to hear, we understand that. But the choice our audience has to make is whether to sincerely listen to us, as veterans, or to begin mudslinging while turning a blind eye to the reality. It saddens me that Jamie Hyams and Ahron Shapiro of the Australia/Israel Jewish Affairs Council (AIJAC) have chosen the latter by slandering our role in ABC’s “Four Corners” program about children’s rights in the Occupied Territories.
As an organization, Breaking the Silence has a policy of avoiding responses to each and every unfounded smear against us by groups that simply copy and paste the misinformation promulgated by the extremist right-wing organization, NGO Monitor. It is unfortunate that AIJAC has stooped to NGO Monitor’s reckless tactics, which never cease to remind us of the dark days of 1950’s McCarthyism. Yet for the sake of the Australian public, we believe AIJAC’s attack allows us the opportunity to set the record straight.
Hyams and Shapiro begin vilifying our work by claiming that we publish “anonymous testimony… that generally can’t be verified.” We invite AIJAC to view the 700 publicly accessible videos of our members who have agreed to reveal their identity. There are many more who have gone public in other ways – to newspapers and in conferences, for example. We also remind AIJAC that each of our testimonies undergoes a rigorous verification process where we crosscheck testimonies with one another and with sources on the ground. As responsible veterans, we also pass every testimony we publish through an official IDF censor to ensure we don’t reveal state secrets. For the record, to this day not a single one of our testimonies has been shown to be false.
In Israel today, the norm is for soldiers to avoid speaking about what we did during our service in the territories. Our fear stems not from the threat of a potential lawsuit, but from the social stigma our society places upon those who tell the ugly truth. Does AIJAC not recognize that they are reinforcing this paradigm? Whether or not they appreciate what we have to say, we demand AIJAC respect our choice and right to speak out as veterans.
In AIJAC’s article, Hyams and Shapiro go on to claim that Breaking the Silence “publish[es] the bulk of [our] material in English, rather than Hebrew.” Neither, however, had the lucidity to simply count the testimonies available on our website – for which there are over 1,800 in Hebrew and just 500 in English. Although our work is primarily conducted in Hebrew, we believe it is our imperative to publish in English as well because the wider public has a right to receive information from people that were on the ground rather than from secondhand sources passing on distorted versions of events.
Hyams and Shapiro continue spreading misinformation by referring to our hundreds of soldier testimonies as “hardly amount[ing] to human rights abuses.” If they had only taken the time to look through them, they would have been privy to soldiers detailing assassinations, house demolitions, and the use of Palestinian civilians as human shields, to name but a few examples. I am not sure whether Hyams and Shapiro are unaware of these testimonies or whether they are genuinely asking their readers to believe that such acts are merely instances “that may have made soldiers uncomfortable” rather than severe human rights violations.
Instead of dealing with the facts, AIJAC prefers to perpetuate NGO Monitor’s smears about us receiving donations from foreign sources. It is unclear why they have chosen this stale slander when Haaretz has reported that more than half of the contributions to Israeli politicians of all stars and stripes in the last campaign have come from overseas. Does AIJAC take issue with Benjamin Netanyahu’s patriotism? Because 97% of his most recent campaign budget came from outside of Israel. By the way, it is important to note that AIJAC does not make its own funding sources publicly available, in stark contrast with Breaking the Silence’s policy of transparency. We are tremendously proud of our donors. Is AIJAC proud of theirs?
In addition, Hyams and Shapiro take issue with me saying during the ABC program that “when [soldiers] see settlers attacking a Palestinian, our orders are not to intervene.” As a former Israeli combat commander, I believe I know a little more about both the orders I received from my superiors and the orders I personally gave to my soldiers. We have countless soldier testimonies, from varied units stationed all over the West Bank, which have shared the exact same sentiment. I direct AIJAC to the media section of our website where they can find plenty of recent evidence for the lack of IDF intervention (1) (2) (3) and law enforcement (1) (2) (3) with regard to settler attacks on Palestinians. [The numbers are linked to testimonies by individual soldiers, in Hebrew with English subtitles.]
Hyams and Shapiro go on to suggest that settler violence is not a routine occurrence, but rather that the ABC program “cherry-picked from incidents going back several years.” This is a preposterous assertion that could only come from individuals completely unfamiliar with everyday life in the Occupied Territories. It only takes a peek through a recent UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) report to see that a group of armed Israeli settlers from Yitzhar beat Palestinian farmers with pipes, a middle-aged Palestinian and his 6-year-old son were stoned, and over 150 young olive trees were uprooted just the other week. This is tamer than usual – with an average of 6 incidents of settler violence each week resulting in civilian casualties or property damage so far in 2014 and 8 each week the year prior. Reports suggest that such attacks have largely gone unpunished. The truth is that settler violence is the norm in the territories, day in and day out.
But the most glaring example of AIJAC’s complete disconnect from the reality on the ground is their allegation that The Australian’s reporter John Lyons contradicts me in discussing the army’s escorting of children in the South Hebron Hills. If they were only aware of the context leading up to the state ordering the military escort, they would know that this is a case of the exception that proves the rule.
The story of the military escort begins with the Palestinian children of the South Hebron Hills, some as young as 8-years-old, walking from their village of Tuba to a school in neighboring at-Tuwani. Settlers from the nearby outpost, called “Ma’on Farm,” launched attacks on these children – often perpetrated by masked men using clubs and chains. In 2005, children were ceaselessly harassed and assaulted; in one instance, four children were evacuated to a nearby hospital for medical treatment. These attacks on children must be placed in the context of the 70 violent acts by settlers recorded that year, including stoning Palestinians shepherds, poisoning their water cisterns and grazing fields, wounding and killing their livestock, and burning their crops.
The army ignored these events, even when Israeli and international activists began likewise becoming the victims of this brutality in their attempt to protect the children with their own bodies. Influential Israeli public figures began drawing attention to the phenomenon after hearing about a spree of nearly a dozen attacks on children during the span of just one month in April-May of 2006. It is only because of this intense public pressure that the case saw a massive intervention by Israeli Members of Knesset, which forced the army to escort the children. The pressure to maintain the escort continues even today.
It is important to note that the army escort has not stopped settler attacks on Palestinian children, since the assailants have now began targeting the soldiers as well. AIJAC is invited to read one of our testimonies from a soldier who served in the battalion required to escort the children in 2006. He describes how a settler gang stoned the soldiers, one of them losing his consciousness after being hit, and yet not a single soul was even brought in for investigation. By the way, although the law was not enforced on the settler, IDF soldiers were reprimanded for firing a warning shot in attempt to stop the settlers from stoning the children.
As an Israeli patriot and a former IDF soldier, I understand that the truth is a bitter pill to swallow. I understand that looking in the mirror and seeing the society you dearly love act so brutishly is painful. I understand that you do not want to believe what happens on a day-to-day basis in the Occupied Territories. Neither did we. But now we have broken our silence. It is time for you – AIJAC – to hear us out, rather than taking NGO Monitor’s hand and doing your best to silence us.
Yehuda Shaul served as an infantry soldier and commander in the IDF between March 2001 and March 2004. He is the founder of “Breaking the Silence.”
Soldiers with rifles and tear gas grenades face a group of boys with stones near the settlement of Kedumim, in the West Bank. From Stone Cold Justice
By John Lyons, The Australian
March 08, 2014
So a priest at a church Greg Sheridan attended in Melbourne said something possibly anti-Semitic, and somehow ABC1’s Four Corners and I are responsible?
It’s not even certain the priest watched the Four Corners program on Israel’s treatment of Palestinian children. But it sounds as if he didn’t need anyone to stoke his anti-Semitism – Sheridan said he spoke as someone “with 2000 years of Christian anti-Semitism behind him”.
Sadly, this is the level to which discussion about Israel has sunk.
Last Saturday, Sheridan said a program I reported for Four Corners was “a crude piece of anti-Israel propaganda that revived some of the oldest anti-Semitic tropes”.
Why can journalists put the Australian Army or federal police or US Army through the ringer, but if we investigate the most powerful army in the Middle East it’s anti-Semitism?
As a correspondent in Jerusalem my job is to report through Australian eyes. What the Israeli army does to Palestinian children systematically – such as taking a 12-year-old from his home at 2am and denying access to a lawyer or parent – would be illegal in Australia .
Four Corners showed how Israel enforces two legal systems in the West Bank, one for Jews and one for Palestinians.
For “exhaustive rebuttals”, Sheridan recommended the Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council run by Colin Rubenstein, also based in Melbourne.
By Allon Lee, AIJAC
March 13, 2014
In a nearly 1,100 word response to Greg Sheridan’s dismissal of his “Four Corners” hatchet job on Israel, one might have expected John Lyons would have found space to answer the factual questions raised by his critics. Instead he preferred to attack Sheridan for relying on analysis by the Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council (AIJAC) that debunked many of Lyons’ claims (Australian, March 8).
These analyses, which appeared in the Australian newspaper, the Australian Jewish News, the Australia/Israel Review and AIJAC’s website, exposed Lyons’ catalogue of misreporting, half-reporting, obfuscations and sensationalising.
Lyons insisted the analyses could not be trusted because AIJAC is “a privately funded lobby group with extremely hardline positions on Israel.”
If “hardline” in Lyons’ worldview means supporting a negotiated two-state resolution, then AIJAC pleads guilty.
Obtusely, Lyons attacked Sheridan, “find[ing] it breathtaking that a journalist would recommend a private lobby group for a rebuttal of journalism.”
In other words, after 2,500 years, Western traditions of logic and evidence have run their course and intellectual arguments should be decided solely on the basis of who makes them, rather than their substance.
Of course, Lyons’ own reports relied on such shadowy organisations as “Breaking the Silence” that provided largely anonymous “evidence” that cannot be investigated to charge Israel with systemic and widespread mistreatment of Palestinian minors.
Lyons also attempted to discredit both AIJAC and Sheridan, not for the critiques of his “Four Corners” report, but for “repeat[ing] AIJAC’s claim about settlements not growing – year after year AIJAC says this while construction booms… Israeli statistics show settler housing more than doubled last year, and in the first half of 2011 grew 660 per cent. Outposts are also surging – these are illegal under Israeli law, yet Israel tolerates them.”
Again, Lyons overreaches. First, AIJAC never said there was no growth in settlement housing, only no new settlements and no expansion in the boundaries of existing settlements. Secondly, the 2011 leap Lyons cherry picked was the result of the end of the Netanyahu Government’s unprecedented ten-month settlement building freeze intended as a good will gesture to kickstart peace talks.
In fact, overall, during the past five years the Netanyahu Government has built far fewer homes in the settlements than recent predecessors.
As Evelyn Gordon explained last week on the Commentary blog, between 2009 and 2013 “housing starts in the settlements averaged 1,443 a year… That’s less than the 1,702 a year they averaged under Ehud Olmert in 2006-08… It’s also less than the 1,652 per year they averaged under Ariel Sharon in 2001-05… And it’s far less than under Ehud Barak, who is also internationally acclaimed as a peacemaker… One single year under Barak, 2000, produced more housing starts in the settlements (4,683) than the entire first four years of Netanyahu’s term (4,679).”
Lyons concluded that “Obama told Israelis their occupation was unfair” but again left out of his reckoning the three offers made but rejected by the Palestinian Authority that would have ended that occupation.
Meanwhile, over at J-Wire, readers might be interested in a hard hitting analysis of John Lyons’ output courtesy of Isi Leibler, the veteran Australian and international Jewish leader who now lives in Israel.
Transcript of ABC programme
Reported by John Lyons and presented by Kerry O’Brien,
February 10, 2014
KERRY O’BRIEN, PRESENTER: A New generation of hatred in the making, welcome to Four Corners.
Imagine in a major Australian city or in any other civilised society, regular late nigh raids on family homes by heavily armed soldiers to take away children in blindfolds and handcuffs for interrogations. Imagine a military prison where the inmates include children as young as 12, in shackles. Such is the distortion of life in a region of broken peace plans and deeply imbedded hostilities between 2.5 million Palestinians and 350,000 Israeli settlers after more than 40 years of military occupation.
A UNICEF report last year found that Palestinian children had been threatened under interrogation by Israeli security forces with death, physical violence, solitary confinement and sexual assault against themselves or a family member while demanding confessions for alleged offences, most commonly stone throwing. UNICEF estimates that over the past decade an average of 700 children a year have been detained, interrogated and processed through Israel’s military court.
In tonight’s story a joint investigation by Four Corners and The Australian newspaper, outlines the way justice is practiced with regard to the children of the West Bank. The reporter is The Australian’s Middle East correspondent, John Lyons.
JOHN LYONS, REPORTER: A peaceful evening in a small Palestinian village. A 14 year-old-boy and his family sleep.
(Sound of car driving up a drive way at night, a knock on the front door of a house)
JOHN LYONS: Suddenly, the night is shattered.
The Israeli army is making a raid. Their target is the boy who they claim has thrown stones at them.
His mother recalls that moment.
QSAI ZAMARA’S MOTHER, NAHAWAND: Every soldier stood at the door of a room. I was telling them ‘What do you want with him?’ He said ‘Shut up woman.’ And they started hitting him and pulling him out of bed. We told them he needs to get dressed, so I gave him a jacket to wear but the soldier started making fun and started laughing. ‘Here give me the jacket, I’ll wear it’, he told me.
JOHN LYONS: Qsai Zamara insists he’s done nothing wrong, but this begins an 18 day nightmare.
QSAI ZAMARA: There was this big machine with all the electric wires in it, connected to the electricity. He wanted to give me electric shock with it. He would throw me on the ground and hit me, things like that. He also had a whip with a hose which he hit me with.
JOHN LYONS: At the age of 15 the life of this boy was also turned upside down.
FATHI MAHFOUZ: I didn’t run away because I knew I didn’t do anything. They opened fire and hit me with three or four rubber bullets. I was also hit with a gas canister.
JOHN LYONS: Fathi Mahfouz would spend the next 82 days in prison – beginning with an interrogation.
FATHI MAHFOUZ: They were holding electric batons and they hit me with them. One of the officers lifted up his mask. They all had charcoal on their faces and their eyes were black. He would talk to me and frown at me to scare me and he hit me. He gave me electric shocks.
(Footage of an interrogation)
JOHN LYONS: As a 14-year-old Islam Dar Ayyoub has also come up against Israel’s security services.
ISLAM DAR AYYOUB: He told me ‘Here, sign this paper.’ I told him ‘It’s in Hebrew and I can’t read Hebrew. Can you read it to me?’ He said ‘It’s for your release. You need to sign it.’ After I signed it at the court. I was surprised to find out it was a confession paper.
(Sound of crowd arguing as boys are arrested)
JOHN LYONS: These boys are part of the new frontline in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
They’re among the 700 Palestinian children brought each year before Israel’s military court.
GERARD HORTON, MILITARY COURT WATCH: You never know when there’s going to be the bang on the door in the middle of the night and soldiers are going to demand that you bring out your children and one of them is taken away.
JOHN LYONS: Onto this frontline has walked Australian lawyer Gerard Horton.
He left his practice as a commercial law barrister in Sydney six years ago and is now leading a campaign to end a system under which Palestinian children have fewer rights than Israeli children – including being subjected to night-time arrests by heavily-armed soldiers.
GERARD HORTON: That has a paralysing effect on whole communities, and it’s that fear and intimidation that makes this system work so effectively well with relatively few soldiers on the ground and so it also makes it quite a cost-effective occupation.
YIGAL PALMOR, ISRAEL INTERNATIONAL SPOKESMAN: Let me say this very clearly. There is no such policy. A policy to create fear? There is no such thing. The only policy is to maintain law and order, that’s all. If there’s no violence, there’s no law enforcement.
VOX POP: The president of the United States.
(Music and crowd cheering as Barack Obama takes the stage)
JOHN LYONS: But US president Barack Obama told Israelis last year that this problem will not resolve itself.
PRESIDENT OBAMA: Put yourself in their shoes; look at the world through their eyes. It is not fair that a Palestinian child cannot grow up in a state of their own, living their entire lives with the presence of a foreign army that controls the movement of not just those young people, but their parents and their grandparents every single day.
JOHN LYONS: However, leaders of Israel’s settler movement like Daniella Weiss do not agree.
DANIELLA WEISS, LEADER, SETTLER MOVEMENT: We came to a land where there were other people living, but this land was promised to the Jewish nation by god. All the other people who live here will accept Jewish sovereignty in the Promised Land. This is the only way I see it, so those who accept it live nicely. Those who do not accept it encounter confrontations.
JOHN LYONS: Those confrontations occur mostly near settlements.
In 1967 Israel began occupying the West Bank, which is also known as the Palestinian territories.
Since then settlements, widely regarded as illegal under international law, have come to dominate the West Bank.
Israel insists they are not illegal.
GERARD HORTON: So take a situation involving two children in the West Bank throwing stones, one a Palestinian child, one an Israeli child living in the settlements. The Palestinian child will be prosecuted in a military jurisdiction with far fewer rights and protections, whereas his Israeli counterpart, living sometimes 500 metres away, will be prosecuted in a juvenile justice system which meets international standards and complies, is a sort of system you would expected in any western-style democracy.
LT. COL. MAURICE HIRSH: It is without question very problematic when you see that there are possibly very young children being arrested at in the early hours of the morning.
JOHN LYONS: Lieutenant Colonel Maurice Hirsh is the Israeli army officer who oversees prosecutions at the military court.
LT. COL. MAURICE HIRSH: It’s unfortunately an operational necessity because of the widespread, widespread disturbance of the peace that that occur when once we try to carry out the arrest during the day and the reluctance of the Palestinian population to co-operate a priori with the law enforcement agencies.
(Street sounds of Hebron)
JOHN LYONS: To understand Israel’s two different legal systems it helps to come to Hebron – the largest Palestinian city in the West Bank.
Here 800 Israeli settlers live in the centre of Hebron surrounded by 180,000 Palestinians.
This used to be a thriving Palestinian market. The effect of Israel’s occupation is obvious – now it’s a ghost town.
Israeli soldiers will not allow Palestinians to walk along these streets.
(Sound of Israeli soldier)
Palestinians say they’ve been forced out and many buildings taken over by the settlers protected by soldiers.
This Palestinian man wants to walk along this street.
PALESTINIAN: I am from Hebron. I can or cannot?
SOLDIER: You cannot.
PALESTINIAN: The first time I visited here I could.
SOLDIER: No you can’t.
JOHN LYONS: Can I just ask why, why can’t the Palestinians walk this way?
SOLDIER: This is the order I got.
(John Lyons talking to Palestinian)
JOHN LYONS: As a Palestinian why can’t you walk there?
PALESTINIAN: I asked him that I want to pass to go to the cemetery to visit my father’s grave. He said you cannot.
JOHN LYONS: I just find it interesting that we as foreigners and I as an Australian can walk there, but you two are Palestinians in the largest Palestinian city in the West Bank and you cannot walk.
When we visited Hebron it was early morning – many Palestinian children were walking to school.
Suddenly we heard tear gas being fired, the Israeli army told us in response to stone throwing.
We couldn’t confirm this, but we saw these Israeli police assembling. Then they fired tear gas towards the children.
(Sound of alarms and tear gas bombs)
JOHN LYONS: We could see no provocation from the children who were trying to avoid the gas.
The teachers said tear gas was fired here almost every day.
TEACHER: Every day is like this.
JOHN LYONS: And why do you think the Israelis do it?
TEACHER: They do it to protect their settlements. But we want to study with our children. In the last week we took three kids to the hospital from the gas.
(John Lyons walks up to police)
JOHN LYONS: Hi how are you? Do you speak English?
We approached the police.
We are from Australian television…
POLICE 2: We cannot talk with you.
JOHN LYONS: But can I just ask one thing? Excuse me, we’ve just been standing here now. Why did you fire the tear gas towards those children going to school?
POLICE 2: We can’t talk to you. We cannot talk to you. Thank you.
JOHN LYONS: No but they appear to be children going to school normally, can I ask you why you fired this and the other tear gas at them?
(Sound of crowd yelling as boys are arrested)
JOHN LYONS: Hebron has long been a flash point.
What occurs openly here – one law for Israelis, one for Palestinians – is typical of the West Bank, according to Yehuda Shaul, who served here as an Israeli army commander.
YEHUDA SHAUL, FORMER ISRAELI COMMANDER: The DNA of the military occupation that we see in Hebron we see all over the West Bank.
JOHN LYONS: Yehuda Shaul founded Breaking the Silence – 950 current and former Israeli combat soldiers trying to end human rights abuses.
YEHUDA SHAUL: I’ve NEVER broken into houses in the middle of the night in Jerusalem and tore apart apartments. But in Hebron where I served for 14 months 24/7 that’s what we’ve done, in order to make our presence felt.
(Soldiers talking to crowd)
JOHN LYONS: Last July one case shocked many.
JOHN LYONS: On the streets of Hebron five-year-old Wadi’a Mawadeh was picked up by soldiers. An Israeli settler had claimed that he had thrown a stone at him.
His friend tried to help.
DIA QAFEESHEH, WADI’A’S FRIEND: I kept holding his hand but the soldiers pulled him away from me and pushed me against the door.
(Wadi’a crying as he is led to soldiers car)
DIA QAFEESHEH: I said ‘Don’t be scared, I’m with you.’ He was hugging me from fear. I was upset, I had tears in my eyes but stopped myself from crying and kept holding him and hugging him.
WADI’A MAWADEH: I was playing and then a car came. The man said I threw a stone at the car. The Jewish man went and told them I threw a stone at him.
JOHN LYONS: The boy is taken by six soldiers. He was released after two hours.
One settler, making one allegation, is able to activate this level of military intervention against a five-year-old.
When his father intervenes, he is blindfolded.
SHAUQI MAWADEH, WADI’A’S UNCLE: Even though they all know us, they know we are residents of this area. They do this because this is their way of forcing us away. That’s their work.
JOHN LYONS: [Talking to Wadi’a] When you see an Israeli soldier in the street what do you think?
WADI’A MASWADEH: I’m scared of them.
JOHN LYONS: And what happened when they took you to the van? What happened?
WADI’A MASWADEH: I was crying.
YEHUDA SHAUL: Look from my service, I don’t actually remember children. I have some memories of Palestinian children when you burst into houses in the middle of the night and children start to cry or whatever, but these are the vague memories I have from my service, because just the idea that there is children and adults is not an idea that you have there. Okay, when you are in uniform it’s them and us.
GABY LASKY, ISRAELI LAWYER: I want people to think what they would do if their five-year-old child was being taken by an occupier’s army, even by your local police.
JOHN LYONS: Gaby Lasky is a prominent Israeli lawyer who defends Palestinians.
GABY LASKY: If a five-year-old was being held by an authority that is not you, you would do anything in order to try to get your child back. Military courts are the long arm of the occupation. We’re not talking about courts of justice; we are talking about courts of occupation.
YEHUDA SHAUL: Look, I grew up believing that our actions as a military in the occupied territories are here to protect Israel from terrorism. What I’ve learned from my three years of service and nine years of activism and Breaking the Silence, after reading testimonies of over 950 soldiers, is that the main story here is about maintaining our absolute military control over Palestinians.
JOHN LYONS: Palestinians say the soldiers are working in concert with the settlers.
(Soldiers pushing crowds away as they fight amongst each other)
JOHN LYONS: This vision shot by a Swedish documentary maker shows settlers attacking Palestinian children while soldiers stand by.
PALESTINIAN WOMAN: You see? You see?
SOLDER 3: I see. There’s nothing we can do.
PALESTINIAN GIRL: I see, I see…
SOLDIER 3: Ok.
JOHN LYONS: And here a settler fires live ammunition – hitting a Palestinian youth in the side of the head. Again, soldiers stand by.
YEHUDA SHAUL: When we see settlers attacking a Palestinian, our orders are not to intervene.
(Children walking along road)
JOHN LYONS: Palestinian children face danger on two fronts – night arrests from the army and violence from settlers.
To get to school each day these children need to walk past this settler outpost.
Attacks from settlers have become so bad that the army escorts the children. But school has finished early and the army has not turned up.
Today, the children are on their own.
Their only protection is this Israeli volunteer, who hopes by carrying a camera he will deter settlers.
JOHN LYONS: How do you feel? You’re a Jewish Israeli. How do you feel about this?
GUY BUTAVIA: I can’t describe this in words. Because I feel myself partly a Holocaust survivor, because my grandfather was a Holocaust survivor. He was partisan. He ran away for a few years and all his family died in the Holocaust and I don’t get it how, how for one who made, who is suffering from all those stuff, we became people that are making other people suffering for our bad behaviour. It breaks me, it really breaks me.
JOHN LYONS: But the suffering is on both sides.
Three-year-old Adele Biton has brain damage and may never recover.
ADVA BITON, ADELE’S MOTHER: Eight months ago I was driving back from my parents’ home, back to my home in Yakir, when Palestinian terrorists threw large building stones on my car. The stones, the building stones, hit Adele’s head and also caused me to bump into a truck. We fighting together to get her back to life. I know, I don’t think it’s fair for her to sleep here in the bed and don’t do things like children her age. It’s not fair.
JOHN LYONS: When someone throws stones or blocks, building blocks, whether they’re Palestinian or Jewish, do you think it should be the same law for both?
ADVA BITON: For both because we need to highlight the words, stones kills, stones kills.
LT. COL MAURICE HIRSH: Her three-year-old child is basically is still in hospital and it’s unlikely that she will recover from that event. That is terrorism.
JOHN LYONS: Lieutenant Colonel Maurice Hirsh says arrests have been made following the attack.
LT. COL MAURICE HIRSH : We’re now dealing with five minors who threw stones at some 20-odd cars on a fast road at night time, they stood as a group at the side of the road and pounded the passing cars with stones. They hit, they hit a number of cars on the way.
GERARD HORTON: If you throw a stone at a vehicle travelling at 70 kilometres an hour, that can kill, there’s no question it can be very dangerous. And that’s why I think it’s so important to look at the evidence. The evidence collected by the Israeli organisation, B’Tselem, shows that since November 2000 four people have been killed in the West Bank from people throwing stones at vehicles – one was a Palestinian, three were Israeli settlers, two of those were infants.
JOHN LYONS: While stone throwing can indeed be serious, critics say it’s been used as a catch all charge to arrest Palestinian children.
When Qsai Zamara was woken by soldiers at 2am he had no idea what was ahead of him.
QSAI ZAMARA: They started kicking me with their boots on my stomach and slapping me. They pulled me up with my shirt and dragged me out of bed.
SALWA DUAIBIS, CENTRE FOR WOMEN (WCLAC): He saw soldiers in his bedroom, which was a very frightening experience for him. One of the soldiers kicked him with his boot, he grabbed him from his t-shirt, pulled him out of bed and dragged him outside. Qusai watched his father totally helpless, his mother crying and shouting unable to do anything, and his younger siblings, his sisters totally devastated by what was going on.
JOHN LYONS: Qsai was taken by military vehicle to an interrogation centre.
QSAI ZAMARA: All the way he was hitting me. He didn’t let me use the toilet or sleep or eat. I was kept standing. I wasn’t allowed to move. Every time I did anything, he’d hit me.
SALWA DUAIBIS: Qsai wanted to know what the interrogator wanted him to confess to and he said I want you to confess to throwing stones. And he said how do you expect me to confess to something I didn’t do. And then the interrogator got very upset and he actually slapped him with a piece of plastic hose that he had and threatened to electrocute him.
QSAI ZAMARA: He started swearing at me and hitting me. He said ‘Either confess or we will beat you up and bring your parents, beat them up too and break their bones.”
JOHN LYONS: Finally, Qsai gave in.
QSAI ZAMARA : It went on for about two hours until I confessed. I told him ‘Yes, I threw stones’. He said okay. He brought some papers and took me to his office, he typed something on the computer, got some papers and told me to sign them. I asked what the papers were, he said ‘They’re your confessions’. God knows what he’d written, but he’d written other things about me. He had written that I had hit a settler and her daughter.
NAHAWAND ZAMARA, QSAI’S MOTHER: If I could’ve laid my hands on a soldier at the time, I would’ve strangled him, killed him.
JOHN LYONS: After the arrests children are brought to facilities such as this, which dot the West Bank and are used by the army and police to imprison and interrogate.
Threats are often made at these centres.
GERARD HORTON: You’ll be subjected to violence if you don’t confess, you will be detained for an extended period of time if you don’t confess. Again, the intelligence is usually very good, so the interrogator will know if that child’s father has a work permit, for example, to work inside Israel. If that’s the case, the threats sometimes are of the nature of we will revoke your father’s work permit unless you confess.
(John Lyons talking to Fathi Mahfouz)
JOHN LYONS: Could you show me what happened to you?
When Fathi Mahfouz was returning home he came across confrontations between the army and youths.
He says he was not involved but was taken away for 82 days.
He was just 15.
FATHI MAHFOUZ: Because I didn’t confess, he sent me to a room that has a cross in it and hung me on it. I was standing on the tips of my toes, and all my weight was on the handcuffs and my toes. I was hung and he kept hitting me.
GERARD HORTON: The interrogator started yelling at him and then what Fathi says is that he was then placed on some sort of wooden device on the wall, similar in shape to a cross, although it had two legs. He says that his legs were shackled to this wooden structure. His hands were shackled to this structure and he was left there for several hours.
FATHI MAHFOUZ: Because of all the shaking, a piece of wood snapped. And he kept hitting me. He would ask me ‘Don’t you want to confess?’ I would say ‘I won’t confess to something I didn’t do.’ But he said ‘Yes, you did things’. I said I didn’t and he kept hitting me.
JOHN LYONS: Fathi says after five hours he was taken down from the structure.
FATHI MAHFOUZ: I was in pain. Then white foam started coming out of my mouth. Two men came and took me to first aid. Then my chest was cramped. I couldn’t breathe. They took me to the same area I was in, to the same building, there was this small clinic. He took me in and asked me ‘Where’s the pain?’, then he’d press on it and hit it, and make fun of me.
JOHN LYONS: From his experience interviewing hundreds of Palestinians children, Gerard Horton says one interrogator stands out.
GERARD HORTON: This particular interrogator specialises in threatening children with rape and he makes very specific allegations. He will name someone who apparently is waiting outside the interrogation room who will, if the child doesn’t confess, will come in and rape that child.
JOHN LYONS: The Australian lawyer found one boy’s testimony particularly disturbing.
GERARD HORTON: What he says happened is somebody then put some food, he thinks it was bread, on top of his head and then the dog was brought over and made to eat the food off his head. He was terrified by this experience. He could hear the dog next to him drooling all over him. He was fearful that he was going to be bitten at any moment. Then someone put food, he was dressed but someone put food on his genitals and the dog was then made to eat the food off that part of his trousers.
JOHN LYONS: After interrogation children are brought here for trial – Ofer Military Prison, near Jerusalem. The army would not let Four Corners film inside.
I’ve been behind these walls three times. I saw children shuffling across the courtyard, handcuffed and shackled. Some hearings lasted sixty seconds. I saw one boy shout the name of his prison so his mother would know where he was being held. I saw the judge convict some children without even once looking at them. Through it all, what I saw a conveyor belt of convicted child.
GERARD HORTON: I think perhaps to give you some indication of how efficient, from a military perspective, this system is, according to the military courts own records, their annual report, the courts have a conviction rate of around 99.74 per cent.
(People and children yelling)
JOHN LYONS: Typically, a Palestinian boy convicted of throwing stones will be sentenced to about three months imprisonment.
The United Nation’s children’s agency, UNICEF, last year released a scathing report on Israel’s system.
It found that Palestinian children had been threatened with death, physical violence, solitary confinement and sexual assault against themselves or a family member.
GERARD HORTON: The report found that that ill treatment was widespread, systematic and institutionalised throughout the system from the moment that the child was arrested right up until the sentencing process.
YIGAL PALMOR: The natural reaction is that this is an intolerable – these are intolerable cases, and that I would like my authorities to do their utmost to make sure that this will not be repeated and that this will change. And I believe that this is precisely what we are doing.
JOHN LYONS: Last month, under pressure from human rights groups, Israel stopped a longstanding practice of keeping children overnight in outdoor cages. Children had been kept freezing in the cages during snowstorms.
While Israel appears to be making concessions, others argue this disguises a harsher reality.
Four Corners has learnt that the Israeli security services now have a new strategy.
They bring Palestinian children as young as 12 to massive interrogation facilities like this one.
The security services are now targeting the children as a way of gathering information on their villages, including asking them about their neighbours and family.
GABY LASKY: I can see a pattern that Israel’s hasn’t been able to put down the non-violent movement in the occupied territories through violent means. So the best way to do that is by incriminating those leaders, and the easiest way to do that, to achieve, to get those incriminations is by arresting children which are the weakest link,
JOHN LYONS: So they’re using children to gather intelligence?
GABY LASKY: One hundred per cent.
JOHN LYONS: Islam Dar Ayyoub was 14 when Israeli soldiers arrived at his house at 2am.
IQBAL DAR AYYOUB, ISLAM’S MOTHER: We were asleep, two in the morning. They were banging on the door in a very violent manner. We opened the door. ‘Move! Move!’ Their weapons were aimed at us. I said ‘But why? Tell me what it is? What has this child done?’ ‘Shut up’, hitting me and his sister and father, then took us inside and closed the door with the teargas and stun grenades.
(Soldier knocking on door)
JOHN LYONS: Islam’s arrest was part of practice by the Israeli army known as “mapping”. Palestinian children are now regularly woken up at night, photographed and questioned about which bed they sleep in.
(Soldiers inside family home questioning family members)
JOHN LYONS: This video shows Islam, on the right, and his brother being photographed by Israeli soldiers after being woken up.
GABY LASKY: What the army has done is that they have come to all the houses in the village and asked for the children in the house to show them where they sleep. They take pictures of the child, they ask for their ID numbers and they map them.
JOHN LYONS: Three days after mapping this house the army returns in a night-time raid and arrests Islam.
(Police running after boy as women yells)
JOHN LYONS: Later, police come for Islam’s nine-year-old brother, Karim.
(Police arresting Karim and putting him in a van)
GABY LASKY: He was nine-years-old I think when he was first arrested, Karim, which is completely unacceptable, even to the army authorities.
JOHN LYONS: Islam’s interrogation was filmed.
(Footage of interrogation room)
INTERROGATOR: And this is the guy from your statement, the one in charge?
JOHN LYONS: It quickly becomes clear that what the authorities really want is information about the leaders of the non-violent protest movement in the town, including Bassem Tamimi.
INTERROGATOR: And who is this other guy?
ISLAM: That’s Uncle Bassem.
INTERROGATOR: Uncle Bassem.
JOHN LYONS: Enormous pressure can be applied during these interrogations.
GERARD HORTON: You tell the child you can be released today if you just from time to time provide us with a little bit of information about who the trouble-makers in the village are. Or sometimes there’s offers of money, generally not a great deal of money, but the child can be offered money, mobile phone, threatened sometimes.
INTERROGATOR: Do you know who this guy is? Who is he?
ISLAM: I’ve seen his face, I’ve seen him a lot.
NADER ABU AMSHA, DIRECTOR, YMCA REHABILITATION PROGRAM: They are trying to know information about the village and about the life of people, the families, the attitudes, the attitudes of the community and all of these. And the most vicious and the most horrible thing to push people to collaborate as collaborators with occupiers, to put them under the stick and carrot process. If you reject this, if you are refusing this you will be punished, you will, you will stay longer in prison.
So this kind of converting a child who’s not responsible on his act to be a collaborator is not just helping in information gathering for the Israelis, it’s breaking this child forever.
ISLAM DAR AYYOUB: I confessed that I threw stones and told them about who threw stones, but the interrogator said ‘We want you to say that, we want you to say these names.’
YIGAL PALMOR: There has to be a pattern because the interrogators will want to gather information about possible violence emerging from a certain area or from certain people. And I think that’s perfectly legitimate to ask people who are arrested for being involved in violent actions, to ask them where they come from, why they have been involved in such violent actions, who sent them and whether there are more people coming from the same place with the same intent.
JOHN LYONS: Bassem Tamimi rejects the violence supported by his cousin Ahlam Tamimi, who in 2001 masterminded a terror attack in Jerusalem.
BASSEM TAMIMI: We reject all type of terrorists around the world. We are against harming the human being life for any reason, but we are struggling for our right to live in peace and to build a state of peace for everyone and we ask our enemy to remove the occupation.
(Daniella Weiss pointing at a map)
JOHN LYONS: But this will never happen, according to Daniella Weiss, a founder of the settler movement.
In the 1970s Daniella Weiss would regularly meet Ariel Sharon, then minister for agriculture, to plan settlements so no Palestinian state could emerge.
You and Ariel Sharon were determined there would not be a Palestinian state?
DANIELLA WEISS: With our many talks with Ariel Sharon, and with my work with Ariel Sharon, there was a clear understanding, a very clear planning of spreading the communities, the Jewish communities in the way that there will be no option for a Palestinian state in Judea and Samaria.
JOHN LYONS: Despite international condemnation, settlement growth is surging.
If a Palestinian child said to you what is the hope for me, for my future, to have my own state, what would you say to that child?
DANIELLA WEISS: This land was promised to the Jews by god and all of it. It’s true that in the course of history Arabs came to this area from all over, but the promise of god is more important than the changes in history and the political changes. That is why you have to put it deep, deep into your mind, that you do not have any chance whatsoever in any point of history, neither you nor any of your offspring to ever have an independent state of your own here.
JOHN LYONS: For five-year-old Wadi’a Mawadeh and his friend Dia Qafeesheh there seems little hope.
Do you feel safer in your home in bed at night?
WADI’A MAWADEH: I feel scared.
JOHN LYONS: Do you want to stay living in Hebron?
WADI’A MAWADEH: I want to leave.
JOHN LYONS: You want to leave? Where do you want go to?
WADI’A MAWADEH: Amman.
DIA QAFEESHEH: All they want are the houses. An officer held me and told me ‘Five years and you’ll be out of the houses. Your houses have been sold. You have no houses.’
SALWA DUAIBIS: This is how these communities are torn apart. In the middle of the night when no-one is watching and it is done one family at a time, one house at a time, and it’s systematic and relentless.
(Family sitting at dinner table as the mother looks after them)
JOHN LYONS: The system is devastating families.
ZAMARA NAHAWAND: The time they came and knocked on our door, until now, I still daily wake up at the same time.
IQBAL DAR AROUB, ISLAM’S MOTHER: When I went into the court… [crying] sorry, even now the sound of chains that my son, my baby was shackled in, the sound of the chain clanking, clanking, even now it still rings in my ears.
JOHN LYONS: The boys are clearly traumatised.
FATHI MAHFOUZ : I used to trust anyone. But when I got out of jail I stopped trusting my friends.
ISLAM DAR AYYOUB: I just like to stay awake, just in case they come back to take me.
(Group of boys standing together and yelling out)
NADER ABU AMSHA: Sometimes you feel that these kids will be lost forever, so our work with them is to help these kids get rid of the psychological impact which might destroy the lives and which might lead them to whatever extreme you can imagine.
JOHN LYONS: This long conflict between Israelis and Palestinians is one of cycles and revenge.
Today, Israel is strong.
But what happens when this generation of Palestinian children comes of age?
KERRY O’BRIEN: Israeli authorities have responded to some of the recommendations made in UNICEF’s report; ‘Children in Israeli Military Detention’. They have agreed to pilot two areas in the West Bank where children are issued with summons rather than being arrested at home at night. To date, this pilot hasn’t begun.
Notes and links
You can watch Stone Cold Justice, 45 mins, on Youtube by clicking here. The programme was made by ABC’s Four Corners.
UNICEF report: Children in Israeli Military Detention, 2013
How the IDF shrinks Palestinian children through fear, imprisonment and ditching the law, Military Court Watch, 2013
Why Israeli ‘security’ forces target Palestinian children (this posting includes many links to other reports on the abuse of children by the Israeli military
Breaking the Silence The organisation of current and former soldiers which gathers testimony from the soldiers and posts news and videos.
About AIJAC, from their website
AIJAC endeavours to highlight and counteract instances of anti-Israel bias and misinformation in the Australian media and the wider public debate. This is a huge ongoing task, undertaken both within AIJAC’s own publications and the mainstream media.
See our regular blogs on these issues on this website as well as the “Media Microscope” column in Australia/Israel Review.
In the wake of the challenge presented by the September 11 and further terrorist atrocities, AIJAC supported the US-led coalition in the war against violent Islamism, including the campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq. This also extends to the threat that violent Islamism poses within Western societies.
The growth of Islamic extremism in Asia also constitutes an important issue not only for all Australians, but Israel and the Australian Jewish community in particular. AIJAC maintains strong contacts with regional experts in this field, including Prof. Zachary Abuza and Dr. Greg Barton.
For ongoing regional coverage, also read the monthly Asia Watch column in Australia/Israel Review as well as articles by regional experts.
Racial and Religious Intolerance
AIJAC seeks to defend and promote efforts to further Australia’s development as a tolerant and harmonious multicultural society.
Often acting in concert with other ethnic community organisations, AIJAC has exposed instances of racism and antisemitism in Australia and has lobbied governments to develop legislative and educative measures to counteract the pernicious effects of racism. Jeremy Jones writes regularly in Australia/Israel Review on issues of antisemitism in Australia.
AIJAC has highlighted and campaigned against the international scourge of Holocaust Denial and those who have sought to deny or distort the history of the Nazi Holocaust – the greatest single tragedy to afflict the Jewish people.
AIJAC was also active in the international campaign to incorporate Israel’s Magen David Adom under the umbrella of the International Red Cross, correcting an anomally that lasted several decades.
Internet racism is a growing area of concern for international Jewry. Through research and published articles, AIJAC has joined international efforts to counter the unfettered proliferation of racist and antisemitic material on the internet.
War Crimes Justice
For British readers, from Wikipedia,
Greg Sheridan is a conservative Australian foreign affairs journalist and commentator. He is the foreign editor of The Australian newspaper.
In journalist John Pilger’s book Hidden Agendas, Sheridan was accused of being a “reliable ally” of the Suharto dictatorship while serving as the foreign editor of The Australian. In particular, Pilger noted Sheridan’s defense of Indonesia following the Clinton administration’s critique of Suharto’s human rights records, as well as the Australian Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee following its confirmation of the Santa Cruz Massacre. Sheridan stated that “even genuine victims frequently concoct stories”. He was a vocal critic of Prime Minister John Howard’s intervention in East Timor in 1999, and during 2006 called for the removal of Mari Alkatiri as Prime Minister of that country.
Sheridan is also a supporter of the Australian government’s anti-terror legislation and argues the deportation from Australia of American leftist activist Scott Parkin was well founded. He has also argued in support of the notion that George W. Bush will be judged one of the great presidents of the United States. Consequently he argued in favor of the conservative candidate in the 2008 campaign, John McCain, and turned his disappointment on Barack Obama’s victory into a denial of the “Noam Chomsky-John Pilger-Phillip Adams” view of the USA.
In reference to the 2011 Egyptian protests, Sheridan wrote that “What is happening in Egypt and across Arab North Africa more generally represents a distinct new phase in the existential crisis of Arab civilisation.”