The Gaza strip and Crikey’s coverage:

Eric Lundberg writes
: Re. “Rundle: The comic tragedy of Gaza” (yesterday, item 2). I am a subscriber and enjoy your service. I know that the Gaza situation is terrible for anyone to witness. I do not protest at every instance of what I would describe as biased reporting about Israel. I think the cut and thrust of comment and reportage should usually be allowed to take its own course. However, your coverage yesterday really takes the cake.

A series of negative reports, some of the opinion pieces (e.g. Rundle) outlandish in their nature. The report on the banning of the Arab parties from running ignores easily available information (see Haaretz report) which indicates that the vote was virtually a protest vote as nobody expects the courts to allow the banning to proceed. Labor officially decided not to support the ban but their representative on the committee did in fact vote for it, causing a significant rift in this party. Part of the vibrant, colourful and healthy nature of Israeli politics.

Contrast this situation, where there is resort to independent courts by minority Arabs where they will receive justice, with the situation of Arabs in other Middle Eastern states. Not to mention the situation of Jews unfortunate enough to be stuck in Iran or Syria. The Arab parties will be able to run in the elections. In my view, it was a stupid and wrong to impose the “ban”, but it cannot really in all fairness be characterised as in your article without the background information.

Hamas is not a Palestinian nationalist party. To get a Palestinian state is not their reason for existence. Israel is more ready to do a deal now that it ever has been. This will involve Israel withdrawing from the West Bank and Gaza Jerusalem as a shared capital of both states I predict, in fact hope, that Obama will push Israel to the negotiating table on this basis. Israel has previously been prepared to do such a deal, and it will again. The overwhelming majority of Israelis would vote for it if they feel they can with reasonable safety.

By taking action, the parties supporting withdrawal from the West Bank demonstrate that they will not accept ongoing attacks from a future Palestinian state. They have shown that the consequence of acts of war will, in fact, be war. They have shown that they will take strong action, overwhelming action, to defend the Arab and Jewish citizens of Israel from incessant attacks. Hamas will never accept such a deal. And it will not happen while Israelis fear that the West Bank as well as Gaza can become rocket launching grounds. Parties wanting a state must show they can act as a state, which includes preventing acts of war like sending thousands of rockets raining down on your neighbour.

Israel did not want this war or incursion into Gaza. It has no territorial claim on Gaza. Your writers propose that the only reason it has happened is because of the forthcoming elections, without any real evidence to support such an assertion. Hamas bears the responsibility for the situation, and has rejected the proposed ceasefire.

Philip Dalidakis writes: As a long time Crikey subscriber, I have been quite surprised at the lack of objectivity in reporting on the Israeli Gazan conflict. So much so, that to the casual eye, you could be forgiven for thinking Crikey has seemingly become the mouth piece for terrorist organisation, Hamas!

Let’s look at yesterday’s offerings. There is the piece by Guy Rundle, asserting some wicked domestic conspiracy is at the heart of Israel’s defensive, and that Israel has now perpetrated a massacre (any deaths, Palestinian or Israeli are terrible, but the deaths can not and do not meet any such us of the definition in this case). Of course the best part of Guy’s contribution is that Israel must be guilty of something because it has taken her six years to say enough is enough in relation to the relentless rocket fire endured (Guy, you could be on your way to a Pulitzer with that mate but would you accept a prize named after a Jewish man?).

But that’s not all. We also have Jeff Sparrow’s great literary offering (“Apartheid in Israel” item 9), which is so out of left field it must have come out of the Socialist Left Weekly. Well tell me, Jeff, do you think Australian politicians en mass would allow any political party to be registered here or campaign in support of Jamaah Islamiah and their extremist terrorist doctrine because that is the moral equivalent?

If that wasn’t enough (and with no counter articles appearing) we also have Stephen Keim SC writing about a Richard Falk report for that wonderful and righteous body, the UN Human Rights Council (“Richard Falk reports to the UN Human Rights Council” item 12). Well, any body that continually condemns Israel, but at the same time only expresses concern about Sudan (anyone remember Darfur — and Guy, that by the way is a massacre) really has trouble with credibility.

Now maybe, just maybe, Crikey will aim to balance such one sided reporting of the conflict and if you do, you could start with the following two articles: Amir Taheri, The Times, a critical analysis of Hamas and its role in the conflict, and one from Anne Bayesfsky, NY Daily News, on the UN’s hypocrisy.

Suzanne Herzog writes: It is almost pointless trying to convince one-sided Israel-Baiters like Guy Rundle. But in the hope that there are some Crikey readers out there who want to understand Rundle’s point about “Israel tolerating [7000 missiles] over the last six years”. The difference is in the missile technology now used by Hamas that prompted the Israeli action, since Hamas broke the ceasefire. The missiles they are now shooting are Military-grade missiles (most likely received from Iran).

These Missiles, called the Grad, Mr Rundle, now have the ability to hit Ashkelon (pop. 108,900), Ashdod (207,000), and Beer Sheva (531,000). Israel probably shouldn’t have tolerated the Qassams that have a more limited range, which have hit the working Class towns of Sderot (pop 24,000) and Netivot. (24,000), over the last year.

To people like Rundle, and other one-eyed opponents of Israel, the fact that altogether some 900,000 Israelis in southern Israel have to live within 15 to 45 seconds of Air Raid Shelters, obviously means little. The constructive alternative to Rundle’s world-view, which seems to want to fight or encourage Hamas to fight to the last Palestinian, is to support negotiations and a two-state solution. That is why people welcomed (Former Israeli Prime Minister) Ariel Sharon’s unilateral withdrawal from Gaza. That is why genuine supporters of peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians supported Olmert, Livni and Barak’s negotiations with the Palestinian Authority and their opposition to new settlements in the disputed territories.

A Kadimah-Livni Government has pledged the removal of most Israelis from most settlements in the territories, by contrast Hamas has not only pledged the elimination of Israel, but is opposed to a Palestinian State! Hamas, like other groups, (officially categorised as terrorist) by the Australian government, Laskhar a’-Toba and Jemmah Islamiah struggle toward the Islamist totalitarian dream of an Islamic Caliphate, stretching form Algeria to Indonesia.

Anyone looking fairly at the two sides will see through Rundle’s obfuscations which cannot disguise the fundamentally different goals of Hamas and Israel in this conflict. Most Australians will continue to support, as we have, an Israeli (Jewish State), living Peacefully alongside a Palestinian (Arab) State.

Seán Marshall writes: Both David Hand and Roger Mika’s take (yesterday, comments) on the genesis of the Israeli Gaza massacre, please see the extract below from the Statement of the UN Special Raporteur for the Palestinian Territories occupied since 1967 for presentation to the Special Session of the Human Rights Council on the situation in the Gaza strip, 9 January 2009:

The Israeli military campaign was also justified by Israeli leaders as an “inevitable” and “unavoidable” response to the persistence of the rocket attacks. Here again it is important to examine the factual setting of Israel’s justifications, which go to the reasonableness of such action and its defensive character.

Most accounts of the temporary ceasefire indicate that it was a major Israeli use of lethal force on November 4, 2008 that brought the ceasefire to a de facto end, leading directly to increased frequency of rocket fire from Gaza. It is also relevant that Hamas repeatedly offered to extend the ceasefire, even up to ten years, provided that Israel would lift the blockade. These diplomatic possibilities were, as far as can be assessed, not explored by Israel, although admittedly complicated by the contested legal status of Hamas as the de facto representative of the Gazan population.

This has legal relevance, as a cardinal principle of the UN Charter is to make recourse to force a matter of last resort, making it obligatory for Israel to rely in good faith on nonviolent means to end rocket attacks.

In fact I would advise them to read the whole thing and realise the full savagery of the current Israeli actions. Exactly what else should the elected representatives of the Palestinian people in Gaza be doing other than publicising the effects of this mass murder? Maybe they should say nothing or uncritically parrot anything Tzipi Livni says — oh silly me that is what most of the world’s media is doing anyway.

Jackie French writes: Am I naive in assuming that the Gaza strike was timed for the Bush/Obama interregnum? And that after a nod and a wink during his visit to Israel last year, Obama will negotiate a cease fire in his first few weeks in office, giving to PR kudos to both himself and the Israeli government?

Joe the Plumber:

Justin Templer writes: Re. “Video of the Day“. The video clip of Joe the Plumber in Israel cuts to the heart of the Gaza tragedy — and at the heart is the lethal embolism, Joe the Plumber. The man who told the press “…you don’t want my opinion on foreign policy. I know just enough to probably to be dangerous” (sic).

This dangerous man, with his passion for Israel, represents the average voter in America — as John McCain said to an Ohio crowd “You’re all Joe the Plumber.” And the average voter chooses the President, including the enthusiastically anticipated Obama.

To paraphrase Monty Python, Obama “is not the Messiah, he is just a politician”. A politician who needs Joe the Plumber more than he needs justice and peace in Gaza — or in any other part of the world. Expect no miracles.

Wes Pryor writes: We have known for years what Joe the Plumber has recently figured out. Half the reporters only know half the story half the time. But the other half of the journalists, ipso facto, know the other half of the story half the time, and balance is complete. This leaves a full left over for opinions, editorial and advertising.

We recently got a new half, called blogs. Maybe now we will have a final half, rounding out the double-speak; tradespersons who should bugger off home and plumb.

Climate change:

Tom Swann writes: Re. “Leading climate scientists call for an emergency ‘Plan B’” (yesterday, item 8). No one should deny that global climate sustainability will require radically changing global patterns of forestry. But unfortunately that’s quickly becoming beside the point.

Glikson, in other essays, frequently emphasises the role of photosynthesis as a naturally occurring form of sequestration. In fact, photosynthesis is not the only naturally occurring process of carbon sequestration. Moreover, rates of sequestration via some processes will increase with increases in the CO2, global temperatures and other variables — though the contribution may be offset by other factors, such as increased fires.

Glikson’s contention here, however, seems to be that such forms of sequestration are far too slow to bring us back from the looming tipping points. To put it another way, at some point we will be so close to these tipping points that no politically plausible action will be able to bring global emissions down to equal or less than the net rate of sequestration. This social-climactic tipping point is the one we really should be worried about.

In my nihilistic moments I find it hard to imagine it being many years more before futility in the face of these social tipping points, which for all we know may already have flown past us, becomes a morbidly accepted part of our social reality. Such futility will, of course, bring such tipping points about. Maybe Rudd is privately already long down that path?

The Constitution:

John Mahon writes: In response to the question from Alex Chiddy (yesterday, comments), the 1999 Referendum was intended to change the Constitution slightly, but was misrepresented by the monarchists as attempt to alter radically the Constitution in a manner which was dangerous.

The Constitution does not use the term “Head of State” but the only possible meaning of the Constitution is that the Queen is the head of state and the Governor General must be appointed, and dismissed, by the Queen [albeit, in practice, on the recommendation of the Prime Minister].

The Governor General, in reality, does not seek the Queen’s approval before exercising any of the powers of the Governor General. The insult to Australian nationhood arises from the need to have the Queen appoint the Governor General.

Fibre optic cables:

David Griffin writes: In reply to Ross Copeland (yesterday, comments). Fibre optic cables only run to your friendly local telephone exchange. Even the proposed fibre to the node network would only bring optic fibre to a box a street or two from your house. After that it’s the trusty copper wire (or wireless, maybe) which brings the interwebs to your house.

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Peter Fray

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