Four journos report on trip to Israel

February 3, 2012 Agencies
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More than 300 people in Sydney have heard four senior journalists report to the community on their impressions after participating in the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies’ Journalists Mission to Israel.

Joel Gibson, Yair Miller, Vic Alhadeff, Kylie Merritt, Brian Thomson and John Rolfe pic: Giselle Haber

The public meeting was held in the Saunders Hall, Central Synagogue, on Thursday night.

The journalists were Sydney Morning Herald opinion page editor Joel Gibson, Sky News Business Channel manager Kylie Merritt, Daily Telegraph News Director John Rolfe and SBS Television senior correspondent Brian Thomson.

All four expressed pessimism at the prospects for peace, but all four conveyed a deeper understanding of the complexities of the conflict and the need for the State of Israel.

Saying he had returned from the intensive trip “exhausted, exasperated and exhilarated”, Thomson said he “could not understand what it would be like to have had grandparents murdered in the Holocaust or to be persecuted for your beliefs”, but he did “understand he need for a Jewish homeland”. He also “seriously questions the viability of the two state solution”.

Rolfe hammered the Marrickville Council resolution to impose sanctions on Israeli products, particularly given that the policy had been adopted by people who had never visited Israel to see and learn for themselves.

Rolfe emphasized that it was Palestinian workers who would suffer most from a BDS (Boycott,
Divestment, Sanctions) policy.

Merritt and Gibson both expressed surprise at the depth of views they encountered in Israel, and also at the candour of the political and security leaders they met.  It was unusual to speak to politicians who answered questions so frankly, Merritt added.

Gibson also said the trip was “not propaganda”, but exposed the journalists to views across the spectrum. He had not returned either pro Israeli or pro Palestinian, but more informed.

The mission is supported by the JCA Haberman Kulawicz Fund. The journalists were accompanied by four colleagues who travelled as guests of AIJAC.