Sunday, October 14, 2007

And Now For Something Completely Different

Only in Sydney:
Captions welcome.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Some Things Never Change

This article from the Jerusalem Post:

The IAF raid in Syria during September was planned for several months and was postponed a number of times due to heavy US pressure, ABC News quoted American officials as saying on Saturday

According to the report, Israel presented US officials with satellite imagery which clearly shows North Korean nuclear technology in a Syrian facility. According to a US source, Whitehouse [sic] officials were astonished by the imagery and by the fact US intelligence had not picked up on the facility previously.
The only astonishing thing is that the White House officials should be astonished by the lack of US intelligence. (For more on the CIA getting things hopelessly wrong on WMD, read Tim Weiner's Legacy of Ashes.)

"Israel tends to be very thorough about its intelligence coverage, particularly when it takes a major military step, so they would not have acted without data from several sources," said ABC News military consultant Tony Cordesman.
Knowing that Israel is going to get a disproportionate criticism regarding its "disproportionate actions", its intelligence has to be disproportionately watertight.

A different source told ABC News that Israel had planned the strike as early as July 14, and in confidential meetings with high ranking US officials, debated over the appropriate response. Several officials supported Israel's decision to strike, although others, led by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, firmly opposed it and offered to publicly condemn Syria for operating a nuclear facility instead.

Who could have guessed that the State Department would oppose military action. Make that 'any action'.

US officials who initially opposed the raid, according to ABC News, apparently feared the negative influence it might have over the whole region. Consequently, officials in Washington persuaded Israel to push back the raid, but in September Israel feared that information about the facility might be leaked to the press, and went ahead with the strike, despite objections by Washington.

Since when did knocking out nuclear capabilities in the hands of Middle Eastern dictators have a negative influence on the region?

So there we have it. Israel wants to defend itself from a gathering storm. It clears the intelligence and intended response with its strategic ally. In return, it gets incredulity from the CIA, astonishment from the White House, fears and opposition from State Department and possible leaks to the media.

Yet again, Israel has to go it alone.

Is this then a prelude to the showdown with Iran?

Sunday, September 23, 2007

The Logic of a Peanut Farmer

Apologies in advance to my peanut farmer readers out there for the generalisation.

Ex-President Jimmy Carter weighs in on the Iran threat to Israel, via this AP article posted on Google News:

Former President Jimmy Carter said Wednesday that it was almost inconceivable that Iran would "commit suicide" by launching missiles at Israel.
Like they would not attack their next-door neighbour Iraq during the 1980s.

Recall that this is the country that had keys made in Taiwan during the Iran-Iraq war for their own children to wear around their necks to open the gates of heaven as they marched across minefields to clear the way. (Read more about it here.)

Speaking at Emory University, Carter, who brokered the 1979 Camp David peace accord between Israel and Egypt, said Israel's superior military power and distance from Iran likely are enough to discourage an actual attack.

"Iran is quite distant from Israel," said Carter, 83. "I think it would be almost inconceivable that Iran would commit suicide by launching one or two missiles of any kind against the nation of Israel."

I was going to respond with this, but the Iranian deputy air force commander handled it for me.

Iran's deputy air force commander said Wednesday that Israel is within range of Iran's medium-range missiles and bombers and that Tehran would strike back if Israel "makes a silly mistake."

Need I say more. Err, yes, since Carter hasn't stopped digging:

Carter did not dismiss the idea that Iran might want to attack Israel, noting Iran's refusal to suspend uranium enrichment production despite two United Nations resolutions imposing sanctions on the country. Tehran insists its nuclear program is aimed at producing energy for civilian use but the U.S., its European allies and many others fear the program's real aim is to produce nuclear weapons.

"Obviously, we all hope we can do whatever we can to keep Iran from becoming a nuclear power," Carter said.

That is, do anything except that which involves a spine.

Carter said unease between Israel and Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank is a far greater threat to Israel's security than Iran.

In a game of Middle East scissors-paper-rock, I think a nuke beats a suicide vest, Jimmeny.

He criticized the Bush administration for not doing enough to broker peace in the region.

"Doing enough" here translates to "doing appeasement".

Perhaps Carter suggests Bush take a leaf out of Clinton's songsheet with an Oslo reprise and offer up Israel on a plate to Arafat's terror successors, Hamas?

This Is How You Do It, Hans Blix

This from Jerusalem Post:

Soldiers from an elite Israeli unit captured nuclear material originating in North Korea from a secret Syrian military installation before IAF jets bombed it, a report by Britain's Sunday Times wrote Saturday night, quoting "informed sources in Washington and Jerusalem."

According to the sources quoted by the report, the alleged IAF attack was sanctioned by the US on September 6, after the Americans were given proof that the material was indeed nuclear related.

The sources confirmed that the materials were tested after they were taken from Syria and were found to be of North Korean origin, which raised concerns that Syria may have been trying to come into possession of nuclear arms.

The report said that the commandos, from the legendary General Staff's Reconnaissance Unit (Sayeret Matkal), may have been disguised in Syrian army uniforms. It also stated that Defense Minister Ehud Barak, who used to head the unit, personally oversaw the operation.

Israeli sources admitted that special forces had been accruing intelligence in Syria for several months, the report said, adding that evidence that North Koreans were at the site was presented to President George Bush during the summer.

Somewhat more effective than waiting at the front gate, while they drive the material out the back gate.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Credit Where Credit is Due

Readers of this blog know well that the ABC is monitored closely for its coverage of Israel and the conflicts in which it is embroiled.

So credit should go to David Hardaker - ABC's Middle East Correspondent. Hardaker has written an article called The art of Middle Eastern conspiracy theories.

It begins:

The reporter's job is to get the facts. Sounds simple enough, but try doing that in the Middle East.
It sounds like the start of an apologist's refrain for all the inaccuracies - inaccuracies that coincidentally appear in ABC's articles, but not in those of Jerusalem Post or Ha'aretz.

However, the article soon reveals a more honest streak:

Recently there has been a re-run of an old theory that Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat died not because he was a naturally ailing 75-year-old, but because he was poisoned.

The claims come from no less an authority that Mr Arafat's personal physician of 18 years, Dr Ashraf Kurdi.

The trouble is, the doctor has brought forth not an ounce of proof. All he has is a heap of suspicion about why he was not allowed to see Mr Arafat when the old leader was on his deathbed in Paris three years ago.

But Dr Kurdi is far from alone. Most Palestinians simply assume the poisoning story to be indisputably the truth, and that of course it is Israel's secret service, Mossad, that did the job.

The "Arafat was poisoned" story is but the latest in a long line of lurid conspiracy theories in the Middle East. In some ways, it is its own art form.

The editor must have been asleep at the wheel. How else to explain how this one got through?

Sunday, August 26, 2007

The Missing Wing

This ABC news article is over a week old, but it was interesting to observe (emphasis added):

Netanyahu re-elected head of Israel's Likud

Israel's former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been re-elected leader of Likud, cementing his grip on the main right-wing opposition party currently running ahead in opinion polls.
Likud = right-wing. Everybody clear?
Mr Netanyahu won 73.2 per cent of the vote, while his extreme right-wing challenger Moshe Feiglin gained 23.4 per cent and the little known third candidate Danny Danon 3.4 per cent, official results showed.
Feiglin = extreme right-wing. All clear on that one?
At present Bibi, as Mr Netanyahu is known in Israel, and Likud are topping opinion polls, capitalising on a slide in ratings of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's centrist Kadima because of last year's inconclusive war in Lebanon and a string of scandals involving senior government officials.
Kadima = centrist.

Looks like a pattern now: we get an adjective to describe the political slant of every Israeli political party.
Mr Netanyahu is the public's first choice to be Israel's next prime minister - 36 per cent favoured him in a recent opinion poll, compared with 8 per cent for Mr Olmert and 22 per cent for formerpPremier [sic] and current Defence Minister Ehud Barak of Labour.
Labour = ?

Aren't we missing a wing here, ABC?

I Hope I Am Wrong

In mid-September, General Petraeus will report back to the US Congress on the progress -or lack thereof - in Iraq, using a number of benchmarks.

At least one consideration is the state of security and level of terrorist violence in Iraq.

Already, some have suggested that al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) will try a Tet Offensive tactic, possibly in the form of a mega-suicide attack. The intention would be to sway public opinion in the US that the military should be withdrawn.

In this context, comes this article from Reuters:

Thousands of Shi'ite pilgrims set off for Iraq's holy city of Kerbala on Sunday, demonstrating their political power but aware of the threat of bomb attacks ahead of one of Shi'ite Islam's holiest days.
I hope I am wrong, but the timing is ominous.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

How Cool Is This?

Invited to guest blog at Israellycool for this week, an initial contribution based on Dore Gold's opinion piece.

How cool? Israellycool.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Blood Libel is Quicker Than Mortar

The ABC recently reported on their news website the following article:

Two children killed in Gaza blast

Posted Tue Aug 7, 2007 6:23pm AEST

Two Palestinian children have been killed in the northern Gaza Strip after an Israeli shell they were playing with exploded, witnesses and medics said.

Siblings Wissam and Hala Kafarne, eight and six years old respectively, died when the shell exploded inside their house in the northern town of Beit Hanun, near the border with Israel, they said.
The article then morphs into a curious description of the evacuation of Israelis from Hebron using the term "ultra-nationalists" to describe the protestors. Such a term is never used by the ABC to describe any Palestinians from Fatah, but that is another story.

At the bottom of the article it is credited to AFP, Agence France Presse, the news wire service.

So for the ABC, it is an open and shut case. The Palestinian witnesses and medics, upon whom the ABC have always relied for accurate descriptions of water poisoned by Israelis, Zionist death rays and the like, can now categorically and instantly tell incoming the origin of an explosive package. These witnesses and medics have incredible talent in forensics.

The ABC has no reason to be skeptical of this instance of the blood libel: Israeli weapons kill Palestinian children. The only twist this time is that it was an unexploded shell that tragically became "exploded", rather than say a soldier aiming at an innocent child in the midst of a battle with terrorists, as Israeli soldiers are want to do when trying to defend themselves. According to the ABC.

Jerusalem Post, on the other hand, were not so quick to jump to conclusions when reporting the incident:
Witnesses said a group of children stumbled upon a homemade rocket or a mortar shell and began playing with it.


No Palestinian group blamed the IDF for the explosion.
The "homemade rocket" and lack of blame on IDF by Palestinians seems to missing from the ABC version of the story. How bizarre.

It gets better.

Ha'aretz now have more information in an updated version of events in their coverage:
Qassam rocket fired at Israel kills two children in Gaza Strip

A Qassam rocket fired by Palestinian militants struck the northern Gaza Strip on Tuesday, killing an eight-year-old boy and his six-year-old sister, and injuring five other children.

The rocket, fired at Israel, fell short and hit the children's house in the village of Beit Lahiya. No group claimed responsibility.


The Associated Press had earlier quoted witnesses as saying the blast was the result of the children playing with a homemade rocket or a mortar shell that they had stumbled upon. It is not uncommon for Qassam rockets fired at Israel to land inside the Gaza Strip.
There was doubt about the source of the explosion from the outset, but not in the ABC's version.

When the doubt was cleared, it was entirely the opposite of what the ABC originally reported.

Palestinian "militants" caused the death of their own children, but
the ABC, along with their news wire of choice, AFP, have reported the incident 180 degrees out of sync with the facts. And have not corrected it.

What started most likely as an error in reporting - due in part to an anti-Israel pro-Palestinian lens - has now become a wilful distortion of the truth in their failure to amend the falsehoods.

The ABC have been quicker to spread a blood libel than the speed of an incoming Israeli mortar shell. A shell that never was.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Power Points

Powerline is an impressive blog run by three very switched-on American lawyers: John Hinderaker, Scott Johnson and Paul Mirengoff.

A recent posting titled Israel: The outside story comes from Scott who recently returned from a visit there.

Obviously taken with the country, Scott writes:

Israel is a vibrant country without peer in ways that Americans would appreciate if they were aware of them. Yet as a result of Israel's depiction in the mainstream media, Israel's image in the United States and elsewhere inverts reality. Given the war we are in and Israel's status as one of America's crucial allies, it is important that we begin to get the story straight. Let me take just a few examples that occur to me as I reflect on our visit to Israel this week.
Scott then lists four points - four "images" of Israel through the mainstream media lens - and responds to each of them by providing the reality.

Read the post in full by clicking here.

It's well worth it.

UPDATE: Pajamas Media must read this blog. They picked it up too and posted about it.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Should Mainstream Media Reflect Reality?

Is this something that has been shown on your ABC, SBS or commercial TV station?

Is this something that has been reported in your newspaper? On the mainstream media news websites?

Should it be?

(Hat tip: Dan L)

Sunday, July 29, 2007

One Year On. Lest We Forget.

Just over a year ago, Israeli soldier Gilad Schalit was kidnapped from within the borders of Israel. Hamas were responsible for the kidnapping of Schalit by digging a tunnel under the border between Gaza and Israel and encroaching Israel's sovereign territory in an unprovoked attack.

Not long after, and in similar circumstances, Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev were kidnapped by Hizballah inside Israel's internationally recognised borders near Lebanon.

Israel did what it could to rescue these young men, which escalated to the point of going to war with Hamas in Gaza and Hizballah in Lebanon

Nothing has been heard from them for over a year. The Red Cross has not been given access to them. No word for their family and friends to provide any comfort. Let alone the fact that kidnapping soldiers from sovereign terrority in an unprovoked attack contravenes the laws of war.

This blog has mentioned the three kidnapped soldiers a number of times, including here, here and here.

This morning, in central Sydney, New South Wales, Australia, a rally was held by the Sydney Jewish Community to remember these three young men, and to demand their release.

People initially gathered in Martin Place.

A poster for each kidnapped soldier: Udi (Goldwasser) and Eldad (Regev).

One for Gilad (Schalit).

And also remembering the many other kidnapped Israelis over the last twenty-five years.

Soon after, the rally group - probably around one thousand in number - made their way down Macquarie Street towards Hyde Park.

Plenty of signs all with a common message. The soldiers should be set free.

Not sure about this one.

Peace as an end, yes. As a means, not until it is offered and committed to first by Israel's neighbours.

Am Yisrael Chai!

Images evoke thoughts of the crossing of the Red Sea.

The police kindly parted the sea of cars and traffic, since Moses wasn't available.

Video of the rally attendees entering Hyde Park.

More signs.

Assembling in Hyde Park.

In front of the podium, adorned with the signs carried from Martin Place.

Yet more signs. This one making it real just how long these men have been held hostage simply because of someone else's hatred.

Plenty of the lay leaders of the community were there. Jeremy Jones, former president of ECAJ.

Ron Wiseman (Vice President of the State Zionist Council of NSW) opened the proceedings.

The Australian flag always stands proudly and prominently at such rallies.

And so does the Israeli flag.

Religious leaders were also there, including Rabbi Benzion Milecki.

Recognition was given to religious leaders of other non-Jewish communities later in the rally, to the sound of a very appreciative audience.

A Zionist Youth Council representative spoke in more depth about Gilad Schalit, a shy yet determined man who didn't have to join a combat unit due to a low health profile but wanted to do his part in defending the country.

She is probably around the same age as Gilad.

The Australian Union of Jewish Students representative told the crowd more about Ehud Goldwasser, and his family and friends who impatiently wait for his return. And his love of pets, including two cats and a stray dog.

A representative from one of the Jewish day schools spoke about Eldad Regev. A confident young man who is accomplished in more than one sport.

These short speeches probably personalised the kidnapped men more than any of the mainstream media have done collectively in the previous twelve months.

The crowds' thoughts were on the three young men.

And their prayers.

Waverley Mayor George Newhouse gave an excellent, thought-provoking speech.

Here's a video excerpt from this speech:

George went on to contrast the efforts of the Western world to obtain the release of BBC journalist Alan Johnston with the silence about these three men.

Next was Anthony Roberts, MP for Lane Cove and Parliamentary Secretary to the NSW Opposition Leader.

A video excerpt from this speech.

He gave a strong speech, re-affirming the bipartisan support to the State of Israel, and the demands by all Australians for the men to be returned.

The crowd sang O'se Shalom Bim'romav.

Sung in solidarity and comfort with others.

A moving speech from former soldier and Hineni Shaliach, Chagay Meyer.

Chagay served in the same location alongside the unit that lost Gilad. He saw Gilad's kitbag on the bunk bed and wondered how the unit and all soldiers could go on. The answer came from an officer: because of what all my fellow soldiers and Israelis would do if I was in the same situation as Gilad.

Former Zionist Federation of Australia president Ron Weiser, now on the board of governors for the Jewish Agency, spoke next.

Ron made a powerful case for the outrage Israelis and Jews around the world should feel about the kidnappings, and our determination to demand their release, and the defense of the State of Israel.

The rally closed with a prayer in Hebrew and English given by the Habonim Shaliach and Vice President of the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies respectively.

And the two national anthems, sung by a young Australian Jew.

Here's an excerpt of the Australian national anthem being sung by the crowd.

And the Israeli national anthem.

May these three men - along with the other missing Israelis - be returned to their families soon.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

When Is An Occupation Not Newsworthy?

According to the ABC, when Syria occupies Lebanese land.

This article from Bret Stephens in Opinion Journal:

As of this minute, Syria occupies at least 177 square miles of Lebanese soil. That you are now reading about it for the first time is as much a scandal as the occupation itself.

The news comes by way of a fact-finding survey of the Lebanese-Syrian border just produced by the International Lebanese Committee for U.N. Security Council Resolution 1559, an American NGO that has consultative status with the U.N. Because of the sensitivity of the subject, the authors have requested anonymity and have circulated the report only among select government officials and journalists. But its findings cannot be ignored.

In meticulous detail--supplemented by photographs, satellite images, archival material and Lebanese military maps predating Syria's 1976 invasion (used as a basis of comparison with Syria's current positions)--the authors describe precisely where and how Lebanon has been infiltrated.
Near the conclusion, Stephens opines:
It would also be nice to see the media report this story as sedulously as it has the controversy of the Shebaa Farms.
So how does our ABC stack up as one of the media?

A search of their website for the term Shebaa Farms yields 24 articles.

The ABC's Lebanon articles do not mention anything to do with Syria's occupation of 4% of Lebanon's sovereign land.

Looks to me like a 24-0 drubbing.

Perhaps the ABC doesn't necessarily report NGO declarations?

That rule doesn't seem to apply when it's an NGO declaration smearing Israel:
Israel, Lebanon 'ignoring war crimes'

Two major human rights groups say Israel and Lebanon have failed to act on war crimes committed during the war that broke out a year ago.

In scathing reports, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have both called for an arms embargo on Israel and the Hezbollah Islamist guerrillas until steps are taken to ensure human rights violations are not repeated.
Set aside the fact that the ABC confusingly interchange Hizballah with Lebanon in the article.

It does appear that an inconsistent set of rules apply to what the ABC considers newsworthy.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Hamas Justice Needed or Already Delivered?

In one of those "you couldn't make this up" situations, check out the two most recent palestinian-territories news articles on the ABC News website:

Hamas creates 'judicial committee' in Gaza

Islamist movement Hamas has announced the formation of a judicial committee whose work will be to administer justice in the Gaza Strip, which they took over last month.

Hamas' Executive Force militia spokesman Islam Shahwan says the committee was formed to "overcome the paralysis in the judicial system since the June 15 takeover".


It was not immediately clear whether the committee will base its procedures and rulings on existing Palestinian legislation, employ Islamic law, or use a mix of both.

'Tortured' bodies found in Gaza

Medics say the bodies of three women bearing signs of torture have been found in a street in the central Gaza Strip.
Will Hamas 'justice' get to work in punishing the perpetrators of this barbaric act or is the fox guarding the chicken coop?

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Double Crossing Standards

Melanie Phillips takes up where this blog left off in an earlier posting concerning Gaza and the crossings.

Her lengthy posting is titled Guns and Butter, which discusses the looming humanitarian disaster awaiting Gaza supposedly because Israel is not allowing food through the crossings.

For those with a long enough memory, this warning of a looming humanitarian disaster comes on the heels of prior warnings of looming humanitarian disasters in Gaza.

These warnings were given by various interested parties (Hamas, UN staff, NGOs, fellow travellers) blaming Israeli actions. For example, 'the occupation', checkpoints, boycotting Hamas after their election win, last summer's conflict after Corporal Gilad Schalit's kidnapping
to name a few.

Phillips really hits it out of the park (that's 'a six' for Aussies and Brits, and 'a home run' for Americans) about halfway through her piece:
So while Gazans are reportedly starving in a humanitarian crisis (caused by the fact that they themselves are preventing the arrival of food and essential supplies) they are nevertheless managing to supply themselves at the same time with ‘import’ dimensions of weapons with which to murder Israelis (and each other). And how are they managing to do this, since the crossing point from Israel is shut? Why, across the other border with Egypt (despite the fact that that crossing point is also officially shut). So if they can import the means to kill people from Egypt, why can’t they import the means to feed them by the same route? Why aren’t Mr Erlanger, the York Times, the UN and all the rest of them demanding that Egypt ensure that essential supplies go through? Why isn’t Egypt being accused of turning Gaza into a ‘prison’?
With that in mind, how timely is it to see Ha'aretz report the words of the one and only Palestinian spinmeister Saab Erekat:
Palestine Liberation Organization chief negotiator Saeb Erekat said over the weekend that all options must be examined for resolving the issue of thousands of Palestinians stranded on the Egyptian side of the Rafah crossing.


Erekat said he personally asked Egypt's Assistant Intelligence Chief Mohammed Ibrahim to reopen the crossing, saying his request was denied on the grounds that Egypt cannot reopen the crossing without Israel's consent.
Erekat blames Egypt. Egypt blames Israel. Nothing unusual so far.

Until one reads the next couple of paragraphs:
On Tuesday, however, Haaretz reported that Palestinian sources said PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas asked Israel and Egypt to prevent the movement of people from Egypt to the Gaza Strip through the Rafah border crossing, after Hamas' mid-June takeover of the coastal strip.

The sources said that Abbas said if the crossing is opened, Hamas will be able to let in thousands of people without supervision into Gaza - including activists who could strengthen the group, which rival Abbas' Fatah movement.
So for Hamas, weapons to kill Jews trumps food for its own people.

Whereas for Abbas, stopping Hamas trumps food and his own people.

But for the UN, the New York Times and Australia's ABC, it still remains Israel's fault.

Why Terrorism Works - Part 1

Via Little Green Footballs, this Jerusalem Post article:

Former US Secretary of State Colin Powell said Thursday the international diplomatic Quartet on the Middle East should find some way to talk to Hamas.

“I don’t think you can just cast them into outer darkness and try to find a solution to the problems of the region without taking to account the standing that Hamas has in the Palestinian community,” Powell said in a radio interview.

He said Hamas, which controls Gaza, is not going away and enjoys considerable support among the Palestinian people.

“They won an election that we insisted upon having,” Powell said. “And so, as unpleasant a group they may be and as distasteful as I find some of their positions, I think through some means, the Middle East Quartet ... or through some means Hamas has to be engaged.

Terrorism works, because the will of the West does not outlast that of the terrorists.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Terrorism Deterrence?

Via Tim Blair's website, brutal methods employed by British prisoners:

LONDON (Reuters) - A man serving 30 years in jail for planning "dirty bomb" attacks in Britain and plotting to blow up U.S. financial institutions has been scarred for life after an attack in prison, his lawyer said on Monday.

Dhiren Barot, 35, considered by British and U.S. officials to be one of al Qaeda's most senior operatives in Europe after admitting conspiracy to murder last year, suffered a "horrific assault" last Friday, according to his lawyer Muddassar Arani.

She said a prisoner at the maximum security Frankland Prison in Durham had thrown boiling water on Barot's back which had led to a "physical punch up". Later while attending to his burns, another inmate poured boiling oil over his head.

"Eesa (Dhiren) Barot has suffered various burns to his hands, forehead, head, neck and back. Eesa Barot as a result of the boiling oil having been poured over him has lost all of his hair," Arani said in a statement.

"Barot is suffering from extensive pain and has been scarred for the rest of his life."

Crude and unlawful. But probably more effective than ordering cabinet ministers to not utter two words in the same sentence.

Makes Gitmo seem like a holiday camp.