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“It’s easier to fool people than convince them they’ve been fooled” Mark Twain

Around 2 weeks ago I was in Israel for the UK/Israel/Australia Dialogue in Jerusalem. Whenever my wife and I are there, our custom is to always visit my brother’s in-laws – the Galpers. Dr Galper is a twice-retired, doctor of geriatric medicine who worked at the Barzilai hospital in Ashkelon. He is much beloved in the city of some 120,000 people. Ziko and Blima are a hospitable couple, now in their 80s.

Quietly, stoically, they stay in their home despite the entreaties of friends to take some refuge further North.  Amanda and I thought it would be cowardly not to follow our normal custom of visiting them, regardless of the war and constant missile attacks on Ashkelon.  Their experiences reminded me of the stories of my late father in law who told me of WW11 in England. He endured the Blitz in London, patiently sitting it out in an Anderson Shelter.

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The Hon Michael Danby
Federal Member for Melbourne Ports
Shadow Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Opposition
Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for the Arts

“It’s easier to fool people than convince them they’ve been fooled” Mark Twain

Around 2 weeks ago I was in Israel for the UK/Israel/Australia Dialogue in Jerusalem. Whenever my wife and I are there, our custom is to always visit my brother’s in-laws – the Galpers. Dr Galper is a twice-retired, doctor of geriatric medicine who worked at the Barzilai hospital in Ashkelon. He is much beloved in the city of some 120,000 people. Ziko and Blima are a hospitable couple, now in their 80s. Quietly, stoically, they stay in their home despite the entreaties of friends to take some refuge further North.  Amanda and I thought it would be cowardly not to follow our normal custom of visiting them, regardless of the war and constant missile attacks on Ashkelon.  Their experiences reminded me of the stories of my late father in law who told me of WW11 in England. He endured the Blitz in London, patiently sitting it out in an Anderson Shelter.

Damage to a house in Ashkelon caused by a rocket. 28 August

Sure enough, as soon as we got to their house in Ashkelon, Red Alert, the powerful air raid siren, sounded over the city. Snowy the dog went straight to the safe room. The dog, like most others pets in the South of Israel, is on tranquilisers, not just as a result of the previous 27 days, but as a result of unceasing and unreported missile attacks on Sderot and Ashkelon over the last 8 years since Israel withdrew entirely from Gaza. Sderot has the only fortified child-care centre in the world.

During the 27 days of continuous missile attacks and occasional days since, when Hamas broke 5 ceasefires, sirens sounded sometimes 6-7 times a day in Ashkelon, population 120,000. Iron Dome missile defence is miraculously effective, most of the time, although 250 meters either side of our family’s house has been hit over the last year. A similar situation affects Ashdod, 15 km further north, where 220,000 people live, or East in Beersheva where 200,000 people live. Altogether 5 million Israelis are still in the range of Hamas’ unguided missiles, which if not successfully shot down by Iron Dome, might land anywhere in populated centres. At least 65 heavy Fajr 5 or M-75 rockets were aimed at Tel Aviv. Even more powerful M-302 missiles, provided by Iran, have reached places even further north to the edge of Israel’s northern-most major city, Haifa. ‘Kippat Barzel’ (Iron Dome) shoots 2 missiles at the heavier Hamas rockets, and is successful in 90% of cases.

The system calibrates whether a Hamas rocket is going to land in an unpopulated area, Kippat Barzel only responds if the Hamas rocket would have hit a population centre. Kippat Barzel only works, however, when coupled with civic defence and an informed population who seek cover in shelters or safe rooms. This effective defence meant many Western journalists were nonchalant about the safety of Israelis under missile attack. Understandably most of the 5 million Israeli civilians were not as casual. South Korea is thinking about buying Iron Dome. Let’s hope that if they do, Kim Jong Un doesn’t imitate a Hamas official who told Jane’s Defence Weekly (16/7/14): “We try to deceive the Iron Dome by firing dozens of rockets at the same time and from different places towards different targets, which will distract its detection system”. Let us hope the Jihadists don’t try the same tactics if Australia or any other country in conflict with them. After all, the tactics of suicide bombing were first pioneered against the Israelis before the Jihadists thought of the wider application in London, Boston or New York. It’s best to have good relations with Muslim neighbours like Indonesia.  Our case is enhanced by being out of missile range because of our immense geography.

Iron Dome missiles intercepting Hamas rockets

Salving the macabre need for proportionality of the post-modernist mindset, with demands of equal bloodletting, should not impact our developing struggle with the Caliphate. It seemed sometimes that it doesn’t matter who breaks ceasefires or one side being an open democratic society and the other being a gay and women-hating regime of cutthroats. Only of a mixture of the technological miracle of Iron Dome and the weary, democratic stoicism of Israelis trudging to their shelters saves lives.
Strangely in Australia, as far as I am able to discover, no editor has published such a map. It was a strange war. There are almost no pictures of Hamas soldiers or missile launches from civilian sights (a topic I’ll return to).

Well-spoken suits like Mark Regev will never win a media message juxtaposed with dead or maimed civilian casualties in Gaza.  Australians’ perspective would have been enhanced if we knew that when Tel Aviv or any other town was attacked, any number of times, on any given day, hospital patients, including emergency patients, expectant mothers and newborns were expected to gather in the stairwells of multistorey hospitals. Newborns were scooped up and held by infant nurses. Every building over 3 storeys meant people didn’t have the 40 seconds and had to seek shelter in the stairwells.

Mothers & maternity ward staff hold newborn babies in a stairwell to shelter from an incoming rocket alert in an Israeli hospital

You must not use the lift. It takes more than 40 seconds to get, as I know from personal experience, from the third storey of a building down to the basement shelter. In Bat Yam (population 130, 175), Ashdod (208,479), Netivot (28,000), Kiryat Malachi (20,600) or Yavneh (48,000), the more humble towns of working class and middle class in the South, citizens often live in apartment buildings about 6 storeys high. These buildings have elevators, but imagine how the elderly on the 4th, 5th, 6th or 7th floors felt when red Alert went off. On a freeway, the instruction was to “just drive”. But people on regular roads caught in a highway had to lie with their hands in their heads in the gutter or run under the awnings of local buildings.  Hamas’ missiles pose a real and present danger to Israeli lives, and that’s why, however strong public support for a 2 –state compromise (nearly 80%), while there was seemingly, counter-intuitively, nearly universal support for Operation Protective Edge and the Netenyahu coalition, with its small L liberal allies Livny and its biggest coalition party (led by the George Clooney lookalike) Yair Lapid.

It is surprising that none of these balancing images were caught by either the Age or the Australian, although the ABC, in particular Matt Brown, made some effort to explain the human side of the Israeli situation.

Former editor of The Age, Michael Gawenda, reflected on the reporting of the Gaza conflict and raised questions that everyone who has followed the story in Australia must hear.
Gawenda asked:

Why for instance, do reporters never declare the serious Hamas-imposed limitations they work under in Gaza?

‘Why do we never ever see a Hamas military commander being interviewed..’? Why, in the constant flow of images of death, soul-searing images, do we never see Hamas rockets being fired, some of which fall within Gaza and in some cases, have killed people? Why is there no reporting of the summary execution by Hamas of Gazans accused of being collaborators? Or the alleged shooting by Hamas gunmen of protesters calling for an end to the conflict?


Hamas militants kill suspected collaborators with Israel in public execution

It does raise serious questions over the balance of the reporting when here in Australia we see a total absence of images or pictures of Hamas fighters. Both Indian Television and France 24 telecast footage of Hamas missile launches from civilian areas. CNN and the BBC both broadcast the NDTV footage. It seems our ABC did not.

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France 24 inadvertently filmed this Hamas missile launch from a civilian area

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Qatar, which finances Al Jazeera, is also the main financier of Hamas (or as the Egyptian TV puts it “the owner of Hamas”). Policymakers have to face the fact that Qatar’s irresponsible financing of Islamic Extremism is not just a problem for the Israelis. Al Jazeera published a post-conflict list where it is clear that a high proportion of casualties were male. The BBC and The New York Times have further broken this down by arguing that an analysis of the causality list shows that 33% of the killed were males aged 20-29, although they are but 10% of the populace. These macabre calculations showed, according to former British officer commanding in Afghanistan, Colonel Richard Kemp, that 50% of those killed in the fighting were what the Western Media called Hamas militants (they’re terrorists if they kill Australian or English civilians). It’s important to highlight that in this conflict the civilian causality ratio was comparatively low.

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In Afghanistan the ratio was 3-1 and in Iraq 4-1. I don’t want to pursue this issue further, however, as the death of one innocent person is bad enough, except to say that it is no wonder that Hamas’ support amongst the Palestinian population according to Pew Research, was but 11% prior to this conflict, and will remain very low despite their control of Gaza. Perhaps the most infamous claim of that 27-day conflict came from Moussa Abu Marzouk, the deputy head of Hamas’s political bureau, who said “what are 200 martyrs compared to lifting the siege?”

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Egyptian TV hosts display their disdain for the actions of Hamas leaders, poking fun at Khaled Mashaal’s waging jihad in Gaza from his Qatari hotel gym

Let’s return to what John Lyons called the genesis of this conflict. Firstly, every serious Israeli and Jewish leader throughout the world strongly condemned what appeared to be a revenge attack on Palestinian boy Muhamad Abu Khdeir.

Age Journalist Ruth Pollard and The Australian’s John Lyons have questioned Mr Netenyahu’s claim that Hamas was responsible for the murders of the 3 Israeli teenagers. Given the prominence they gave the alleged bad faith of the Israeli Government, they strangely missed the follow up. Indeed, Mahmoud Qawasmeh was the Hamas official in Gaza who helped organise and fund the operation that ended up killing the three Israeli teenagers. Mahmoud Qawasmeh was assisted by his brothers Hussam (arrested) and Marwan Qawasmeh as well as another man named Amer Abu Aisheh. Qawasmeh was one of the 1000 prisoners exchanged in 2011 for Gilad Shalit while serving a twenty year sentence.


On the left: Marwan Qawasmeh and Amer Abu Aisheh. On the right: kidnapped teens Naftali Fraenkel, Gilad Shaar and Eyal Yifrah – their murders sparked the current conflict

Paul Monk, the former senior intelligence analyst argued that these five considerations that are indispensable to thinking clearly about the Israeli incursion into Gaza.

He said the death and injury of women and children is almost invariably one tragic consequence of war. That’s one of the reasons most of us find war abhorrent. He made comparisons with justifiable civilian deaths resulting from Allied bombing in WW11. But that was a conflict fought without the immediacy of television. Such “Just Wars” were also fought before the Belgian Nazi Paul de Man invented the doctrine of post-modernism, which is so pervasive amongst our educated classes, especially Western journalists.

Sadly, in my view the Economist and editor of the Foreign Policy website and Mr Rothkopf are right, “Israel lost the War in Gaza”. If one looks at the coverage of Gaza and the predictable reaction of the UN and its dictator dominated Human Rights Council. Rothkopf, has said:  ‘though Israel is winning the battle, it is struggling in the war for world opinion… There is no Iron Dome that can protect Israel from images like that … [the images] of four boys on a beach’, apparently killed by Israeli naval gunfire. Regardless of any loaded UN inquiry, I have received assurances from the highest level of Israeli authority that there will be a thorough investigation into this. That too is a lesson of confrontation with Jihadist violence. Our own high civic, law-based standards cannot and must not be compromised.

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No Western Society, however just its cause, can prosecute conflict where TV and Twitter almost pornographically report civilian casualties. If our SAS killed, as they have, innocent civilians in the course of authorised military operations against the Taliban or AQ, how long would the Australian public permit military engagement if the ABC or Foreign networks were to name and picture every infant or woman who died in every firefight or drone attack.


Iron Dome (kippat barzel) Missile Defence System

Opposition & Labor leader Isaac Herzog says Israel’s’ actions in #Gaza have been “reasonable, focused, restrained”. pic.twitter.com/MbGFIml6p2

— Dave Sharma (@AusAmbIsrael) August 1, 2014

Second, Monk insists on understanding the context of the conflict. When Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005, Sharon offered the Palestinian leaders a deal: make peace and develop Gaza into a thriving entrepot. Fatah was ousted by Hamas in a brutal coup, the Israeli offer was spurned. Hamas is not in the business of negotiating for any kind of viable settlement with Israel. Its charter is the destruction of Israel by any means available. Now there is a prospect of United moderate Sunnis led by Egypt including the PA, Saudi and Jordan supervising Gaza supervising some political process after a permanent ceasefire. Political strategy must follow the military strategy. Confronting the caliphate or Islamic State we have to leverage local actors whether they be the Egyptian state or ‘Sunni tribes’

Third, the so-called “peace process” with regard to Israel and the Palestinian Arabs centres on calls for a “two state solution”. This has been on offer since the 1937 Peel Commission and the 1948 UN Division of Palestine.  It was offered by Barak & Clinton to Arafat in Camp David 2000, by Olmert to Abbas in 2008 and was on offer in the negotiations that just failed.

Hamas bears many of the characteristics that are also prevalent in the Islamic State. It is the Caliphate writ small. The same lack of economic opportunity, the same longing for Jihadist medievalism, the same inability to make democratic or economic progress that characterises the wider Middle East. That is Hamas’s legacy to Gaza. Extremist violence in Syria or savage repression (with 16,000 dead and now the new horrors of Iraq) is the system that prevails throughout the Middle East. So it means that the bell that tolls for the Israeli confronting Hamas tolls for us. The whole world, including and especially Australia who has 200 fanatics like Khaled “severed head” Sharrouf fighting with the Jihadis, faces risk of mass casualty attacks if fanatics return or self-generate.  Israelis simply can’t comprehend the hatred for them in the West. They see themselves and think they are at the coalface of the fight between 6th Century barbarianism and advanced capitalist democracy.

Sydney jihadi Khaled Sharrouf. Sharrouf posted pictures of himself and his son (pictured) on Twitter

While it does not appear that Hamas and ISIS have formal links, Hamas does say its goals are sublimated to Islamic rule and Sharia law, even as their far-left allies parrots their slogan “from the River Jordan to the sea”.  Hamas has more localised goals, but ISIS sees itself as the global successor to Al Qaeda. Caliph Bagdadi when released from US custody in Iraq, insolently told his captors, “we will meet again in New York.’  There are important commonalities between them: the use of violence and intimidation to implement a reactionary version of Islam that persecutes women, minorities and other religions.

ISIS’s vicious persecution of minority religious and ethnic groups, such as Kurds, Yazidis, Christians and Shi’its has rightfully horrified the world. Hamas’s charter is essentially a call for genocide in a similar mould. Hamas’s charter states that:

The Day of Judgment will not come until Muslims fight the Jews (killing the Jews), when the Jews will hide behind stones and trees. The stones and trees will say ‘O Muslims, O Abdulla, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him.”

Australian political historian Paul Kelly argues that the image of the Jihadi’s son holding up a severed is an iconic game changer. Sooner or later, we, like the Israeli’s, will be confronted about what to do about such barbarity and how to confront it.

The words by Gazan Catholic Archbishop Alexios , who is leading the very small Gazan Christian minority, echo’s the same persecution and fear faced by Iraqi Yazidis and Christians under a radical Islamic rule. Archbishop Alexios said in an interview with the Christian Broadcasting Network that “Islam is the rule of this place and whatever Hamas says we must obey or face consequences,” Alexios was filmed with a reporter describing how Hamas used the roof of his church to fire rockets at Israel.

Paul Monk’s gloomy conclusion is “there is no way to punish Hamas for its relentless provocations without inflicting at least some harm on Arab civilians. Those are the harsh realities of the situation. If you do not take them into account, you will not be able to hold an informed or responsible conversation on the subject. Pity, partisan anger and frustration don’t suffice”. (Read more)

When I see demonstrations three times in a month, one with over 50,000 people in London, 200,000 in Capetown, a violent attack on the Israeli Film Festival likely tonight, when I see Sydney school children terrorised on buses, Orthodox Rabbis beaten up in Perth shopping malls, I can’t help but think that something strange, even evil is afoot, even in our blessed peaceful country Australia. Thank heavens, as we engage with fighting ISIS in Iraq there is no pompous, venerable like BBC’s John Snow, spluttering with rage to shout down at a US or Kurdish version of Paul Mark Regev.

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Israel is for geographic reasons on the forefront in the resistance against radical Islam. It is on the forefront against indiscriminate attacks against innocent civilians in the name of radical religious ideology. The previous month of battle between Israel and Hamas has demonstrated the likely attacks on innocent civilians that may confront Western society, in the immediate future.

One perspective is George Gilder’s in The Israel Test when he said Israel has become a “crucial battlefield for freedom”. Those who support modernity will surely support Israel he says, because Israel is a “leader of human civilisation, technological progress, and scientific advance”.

Douglas Murray of UK’s Henry Jackson Society said yesterday in the Spectator:

“Of course, one line of argument claims that if we just left all these places alone then none of this would come to us. But we left the Balkans alone and created one generation of jihadists. Then we didn’t leave Afghanistan and Iraq alone — and created another generation of jihadists. Now we have very much left Syria alone — and lo and behold, we seem to have created another jihadist generation. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t, apparently. Yet remarkably few people seem to realise that this isn’t really about us”. Read more

Paul Monk, Paul Kelly and Archbishop Alexios

In 2005 Israel unilaterally withdrew from Gaza. What we have seen subsequently is multiple conflicts between Hamas and Israel and Hamas and more moderate Palestinian people. Hamas, much like those fighting under the banner of the Islamic State, have only one political method and that is armed violence. Sooner or later this violence in the name of radical Islam will fall on other Western lands. We will all need the stoic and united response I witnessed in Israel, Australian’s will realise that throughout this conflict they have not been given the full picture and that sitting back and letting the rockets rain upon civilians is simply not an option that any democratic and civilised country would be willing to tolerate. Equally we need to keep working for and arguing for diplomatic solutions; reasonable and rational political compromises that avoid war and conflict. Never should it be clearer to Australian why our top foreign policy goal should be continuing good relations with the most populous Muslim state in the world – Indonesia. (Read more)

We need to do this even in the face of irrationality on the other side if for no other reason than to maintain the internal cohesion and amity of our societies.

Correction: The German Minister for Foreign Development criticised Qatar, apparently these views are not officially endorsed by the German Government.