Appalling: AJDS Settlement Boycott

Joint statement from Philip Chester, President, Zionist Federation of Australia and Sam Tatarka President of the Zionist Council of Victoria:

The Zionist movement in Australia is appalled by the Australian Jewish Democratic Society’s campaign which encourages people not to buy products produced in Israeli communities beyond the Green Line.  The idea that a Jewish organisation that purports to be a part of our community supports (even a part of) the insidious campaign of delegitimisation being waged by Israel’s enemies is not only repugnant and immoral but also unfathomable.

The leaders said:  “Campaigns that work to deepen the divide rather than encouraging mutual respect and recognition delay rather than hasten the true and lasting peace for which we all hope.”
Continue reading »

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Advocacy Update: US President Barack Obama Visits Israel

25 March 2013

After much hype in the Israeli public and press, President Obama’s first visit to Israel since becoming President ended on Friday afternoon, having spent around 52 hours in the country.

It all began on Wednesday afternoon, with a ceremony as the President’s airplane, Air Force One, touched down at Ben Gurion airport. There, he was officially welcomed by President Shimon Peres and Prime Minister Netanyahu, both of who he greeted warmly, as one would greet an old friend. After both national anthems were sung, President Obama was taken around to shake hands and meet local religious leaders from all denominations and all of Israel’s newly sworn in MKs. Following this President Peres addressed the crowd, followed by PM Netanyahu and President Obama.

He began with some Hebrew, “tov lihiyot shuv ba’aretz”, which loosely translated means “it’s good to be back in the country”, Continue reading »

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AUKMIN reaction

22 January 2013

Philip Chester, ZFA PresidentThe Zionist Federation of Australia endorses Australian and British foreign affairs chiefs’ statement of support of a two-state solution, and, consistent with this statement, calls on the Palestinian leadership to return to the negotiating table with Israel rather than continue its unilateral steps in order to avoid dealing with Israel.

The status of Israeli settlements is still to be determined under international law; however, if the Palestinians are prepared to negotiate without preconditions, the settlements will be an issue to be resolved.

Philip Chester
President, Zionist Federation of Australia Continue reading »

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ZFA President: Fairfax wrong about IDF

Statement by Philip Chester, Zionist Federation of Australia President

Philip Chester, ZFA President

Ruth Pollard’s story on the alleged actions of the IDF in Monday’s Fairfax newspapers included a litany of allegations against unnamed Israeli soldiers, with no substantiation beyond the anonymous whistleblowers’ claims. Rather than providing sound investigative journalism, the article relied on unnamed sources, hearsay and propaganda in a flagrantly one-sided piece. In a perverse irony, Pollard has inverted the reality where Palestinian leadership indoctrinate their children to hate and to take up arms against Israelis, blatantly use children and innocent civilians as human shields and in doing so presents a fable where Israel’s curtailing of violence is tantamount to abuse of children.

Breaking the Silence purports to expose the misdeeds of Israeli soldiers. The IDF operates under a comprehensive code of ethics, which all soldiers understand and there is a clear and established process for dealing with incidents where the code has been breached. As with any army and as in any “hot” conflict, there are, from time to time, situations in which individual soldiers breach the code. Where this occurs, the soldiers face the discipline of the military authorities and often extremely severe consequences of their actions. Indeed, in April of this year, an IDF Lieutenant Colonel was dismissed from his position for striking a protester with the butt of his rifle. As Defence Minister Ehud Barak said at the time: “Completing missions and maintaining IDF norms and ethics are not mutually exclusive.”

Where minors perpetrate attacks by throwing stones or Molotov cocktails, the IDF is obliged to protect Israel’s citizens and stop them. Wherever such deterrence breaches behavioural and ethical codes, the soldier would be subject to punishments as determined by the established legal military process.

It is indeed a tragedy that Palestinian children are indoctrinated and trained in violence against Israel – a crime which must be laid squarely at the feet of their leaders.

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Inconvenient truth is a lack of innocent victims

Op-ed, published in The Australian online, 18 May 2012

Link to the Australian (pay wall applies)

By Philip Chester, President of the Zionist Federation of Australia

ON Passover night 2002, the perpetrators of one of the most barbaric terrorist attacks in Israel’s history killed 30 and injured 140 people who were enjoying the traditional Passover meal.

These same perpetrators chose to draw attention to their agenda by a hunger strike that ended on Tuesday after 28 days. Those they killed lie in their graves and have no choices.

Izzat Abdulhadi (“Israeli system ignores hunger for freedom”, The Australian, May 15) presents a dishonest picture of the hunger strike by Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails. He cites unsubstantiated examples of horrific treatment of prisoners but fails to refer to the fact that all prisoners are treated in accordance with all relevant international conventions. All prisoners, including those who were striking, receive medical supervision and care. In addition, all prisoners are entitled to legal counsel of their choice, to freely practise their religion and to accept visits by representatives of the Red Cross.

Prison in Israel is not a hotel. It is not a hotel in any country on Earth. High-security prisoners with multiple convictions for terrorism and murder should not have expectations of luxury accommodation. Nevertheless, Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails are entitled to make purchases at a canteen, to receive newspapers, keep books and personal electronic items and have access to numerous television channels. They went on their hunger strike demanding among other things an entitlement to pursue academic studies and access to additional television channels.

Only six out of the 1600 hunger strikers are administrative detainees. Administrative detention is a preventive measure used against those involved in terrorist activities by democratic countries around the world, including the US and Britain.

No Palestinian has been detained over political activity alone – the only cause for administrative detention is participation in terrorist activity. The application of administrative detention against those who pose a danger to public security in the West Bank is legal under international law. The application of Israeli military law to West Bank offenders is legitimate and in fact to apply Israeli civilian law in the West Bank would be opposed by the Palestinians as a de facto annexation of the West Bank.

These so-called “non-violent protests” have come from prisoners convicted of horrendous crimes, including multiple murders and terrorist attacks on Israeli civilians of all faiths.

The majority of the hunger strikers were known to have blood on their hands. Among the leaders of the hunger strike are a number of particularly notorious murderers. Abbas a-Sayyidm and Muhanned Sharrim are Hamas terrorists serving 35 and 29 life sentences respectively for the attack on the Netanya Park Hotel.

The inconvenient truth is that the Palestinian hunger strikers are not innocent victims, but calculating terrorists, using hunger strikes as a tool to stir up public, political and media pressure on Israel from within their prison cells. For its part, the Palestinian leadership seeks to take advantage of the hunger strike to deepen a crisis with Israel. A senior member in the Palestinian authority, Ziad Abu-In, threatened that a violent third intifada might break out if the prisoners’ demands were not met. The military wing of Fatah warned of a “return to the military option” if their demands were not met, in effect more of the same violence in Israeli hotels, cafes and on buses.

The prisoners had free choice in deciding whether to accept food or receive medical treatment. Having chosen to end the strike, the prisoners will continue to be medically monitored to ensure their return to health.

The agreement signed by the prisoners commits them to “refrain from all activity that constitutes practical support for terrorism, including recruiting people for terrorist activity, guidance, financing, co-ordinating among recruits, aiding recruits, etc”.

It is of greatest concern that in the midst of celebrating the agreement to end the hunger strike, a Palestinian demonstration in Jerusalem has called for the abduction of Israeli soldiers to secure the release of Palestinian prisoners. This brings into focus the vast differences between the treatment of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails, whose protests for more comfortable conditions are heard worldwide, and the treatment of Israeli prisoners such as Gilad Shalit who was held for more than five years by Hamas, kidnapped and incarcerated without trial, access to Red Cross representatives or communication with the outside world. In return for Shalit’s release, Israel freed 1027 terrorists.

Notwithstanding Israel’s obligation and entitlement to protect its citizens from terrorists intent on its destruction, it still accords even the most violent Palestinian prisoners the basic human rights to which they are entitled.

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StandWithUs/ZFA/AZYC Israel advocacy seminar immerses shnat

Gap-year participants in Israel engage with plethora of experts during the 3-day “Israel in Focus-Australia” advocacy seminar

Geo-strategic tour with Miri Eisin overlooking Jerusalem

They came to Israel out of both curiosity and love. For most of them, their love has only increased as they have known Israel through multiple experiences by volunteering, studying, learning, meeting new people, talking Hebrew, eating, and, for 58 young Australians, becoming advocates to speak in support of Israel in a world that many many fear is becoming increasingly vitriolic toward the Jewish homeland.

On 15-17 April, 58 participants from shnat underwent the first part of “Israel in Focus-Australia,” an advocacy seminar sponsored and organised by StandWithUs, Zionist Federation of Australia (ZFA) and Australasian Zionist Youth Council (AZYC). The 58 participants came from the long-term gap year programs Israel by Choice, AUJS Aviv and Australian Zionist youth movement shnat programs (Betar, Bnei Akiva, Habonim Dror, Hineni and Netzer).

“I don’t think that even the most optimistic of us expected such a great success,” said ZFA Israel Programs Director Yigal Sela. “We were very fortunate for the quality, dedication and hard work not only from the organisations and speakers who planned and led the seminars, but also from the participants. This wouldn’t have been possible without so many people, most especially the leadership of Michelle Rojas-Tal from StandWithUs and Reuben Bolaffi of AZYC in supporting the ZFA. Moreover, we couldn’t have asked for a better calibre of young advocates: They have unbelievable enthusiasm, energy, thoughtfulness and intelligence, all of which augurs well for the Australian Jewish community. Coming from different groups, they compose a cosmopolitan force to defend Israel in different places and for different audiences.”

In all, 12 expert speakers informed the participants about a wide range of issues, including a brief history of Israel territory and maps, multiple inside views of Palestinian society, a geo-strategic tour of Jerusalem, international legal issues. Speakers included McGill University Professor Gil Troy; Ministry of Foreign Affairs legal expert Sarah Weiss-Maudi; former Israeli spokeswoman and retired Col. Miri Eisin; and Prime Minister’s Spokesman Mark Regev, who is originally from Australia.

“We’re really excited about this seminar because it is an important part of their time in Israel and a very important part when they come back to Australia as well,” said AZYC Chairperson Reuben Bolaffi. “The skills and knowledge they are learning on this seminar are invaluable as bogrim of the movement: Being in a youth movement and having ideologies, they know what it’s like to believe in something and stand up for what they believe. When they come back to Australia they will be confronted by the BDS [Boycott and Divestment Sanctions] and de-legitimisation of Israel. The seminar really gives them an opportunity to learn how to respond, and we’re very proud and excited for them to learn.”

During the second round of “Israel in Focus-Australia,” which is scheduled for May (IBC and Aviv) and September (AZYC), the young advocates will be trained to respond to specific types of groups and claims made about Israel.

“We are delighted to partner with the Zionist Federation of Australia and the Australasian Zionist Youth Council to bring this seminar to the Australian community,” said Michelle Rojas-Tal, StandWithUs’s Director of Diaspora Education. “My greatest passion for teaching comes from the overwhelming emotion I receive when I am able to teach, learn and share with a new group of talented and dedicated young adults, and it was a pleasure getting to know all of the participants over the three days they were here, and I look forward to continuing my work with them in the next seminar.”

Click for more photos

Group photo with Mark Regev

Photo captions
1. Col. (retired) Miri Eisin explains the Jerusalem separation line during the “Israel in Focus-Australia” Geo-strategic Walk.
2. Participants from “Israel in Focus-Australia,” advocacy seminar in Israel, with Prime Minister’s Spokesman Mark Regev.

Click for more photos

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Grazia (thanks) for nothing

Is distorting Israel the latest hot fashion?

We’re angry at Grazia’s gratuitous misrepresentation of Israel in its latest issue.

If you are as angry at Grazia’s as we are, we encourage you to let Grazia know.

Grazia (thanks) for nothingIn the 20 February 2012 issue, the “Big Fashion Double Issue,” on page 26, among a spread of photographs of children’s rooms from around the world, a girl from the West Bank is featured. The pictures come from a photography book “Where Children Sleep,” by James Mollison, and Grazia shows eight children and their bedroom, from a book that is 120 pages.

What is shocking here isn’t the art; it’s about the presentation and the editing – the choices that Grazia made.

Its rhetoric is editorialising and sensationalist, whereas the photograph book editor – as far as we can tell because we don’t have access to the original source – is more subdued and just tells facts.

Grazia’s caption (emphasis added by us to highlight the rhetorical devices Grazia used):
“Douha, 10, shares this tiny bedroom in a Palestinian refugee camp in Hebron, near Jerusalem with her five sisters (she has 11 siblings in total). Her life has been severely affected by the conflict between Palestine and Israel; her brother Mohammed killed himself and 23 civilians in a suicide bomb attack in 1996. The family home was destroyed by the brutal Israeli military as a result.

And here is the what we suppose is the original caption:
Douha, 10, lives with her parents and 11 siblings in a Palestinian refugee camp in Hebron, in the West Bank. She shares a room with her five sisters. Douha attends a school 10 minutes’ walk away and wants to be a paediatrician. Her brother, Mohammed, killed himself and 23 civilians in a suicide attack against the Israelis in 1996. Afterwards the Israeli military destroyed the family home. Douha has a poster of Mohammed on her wall.

Yes, the Palestinian girl in the picture doesn’t have a very large room, and she has a very sad look in her portrait. But so do most of the other children in the book, which had seed money from “Save the Children,” an international charity to help disadvantaged children. So there was a purpose to the photographs when the photographer started – to show the sad state of poor children’s beds across the world.

Certainly, the Palestinian girl is not the best off, but she’s not the worst off, by far. And Grazia doesn’t editorialise as much on any other caption.

Other things of note:
The original book of photos was released in September 2010, yet Grazia chooses now to highlight it as one of This Week’s Top 10 stories, as if this is new.

Both the original caption and, obviously, the Grazia caption downplay the brother Mohammed’s suicide bombing. For instance, we don’t know who died and where he bombed people, such as if it killed any children who would otherwise have had their bedroom been possible subjects for the photographer. Meanwhile, we are incredibly disappointed that after murdering 23 civilians, Mohammed is viewed heroically by his family that a mosaic of him smiling, proudly and smugly holding guns are in a prominent poster in the middler of his sisters’ room.

This is art, not journalism. They are in a documentary style, but they are also representing a certain viewpoint. The portraits of the children and their bedrooms and both posed, and the bedrooms framed and cropped in order to invoke the perspective of the photographer.

Much of Israel advocacy of the news focuses on newspapers, but this magazine is more dangerous. According to the company, Grazia has a circulation of 55,000 and readership of 170,000. Newspapers are thrown away, but this can circulate around a doctor’s office for two years or more. Grazia is part of a large conglomerate in Australia, and it is part of a large network of international magazines of the same title. There is no way to know who is responsible for this or how wide it is. This is something we are worried about, and we hope you might be able to help us keep track of it.

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