NSWJBD-Honest Reporting Advocacy Mission – Day 7
Twenty people – mostly members of Sydney’s Jewish community, plus a number of West Australians and Americans – are currently participating in the inaugural NSW Jewish Board of Deputies-HonestReporting Advocacy Mission in Israel – Day Seven from Julie Nathan.
After yesterday’s exciting tour to the Golan, today was one of many lectures with a diverse array of speakers.
The day began early to beat the peak hour traffic from Jerusalem to Tel Aviv. We visited the kibbutz of Sh’fayim near Herziliya. This kibbutz houses the MASHAV program, Israel’s Agency for International Development Cooperation, an initiative of the Israeli ministry of Affairs and The Agriculture Ministry. This program teaches primary industry experts from 140 countries including East Timor, Palestine, Peru, Oman. This gave us an excellent opportunity to see Israel’s outreach and assistance to the world. This is not something we hear enough about.
Our group then travelled to the Herzilya Interdisciplinary Centre for lectures by two experts. Dr Boaz Ganor gave a talk on the Arab Spring and its implications for Israel, the region, and the world. Dr Ganor also focused on the latest war with Gaza, and the various strategies and tactics that come into play for Israel to deal with threats from Gaza. Dr Jonathan Fine lectured on religious based and secular based terrorism, highlighting aspects of Islamist terrorism that many Westerners prefer to overlook. It was enlightening to receive such expert knowledge and it gave us all much to digest.
Returning to Jerusalem, we arrived at Honest Reporting’s MediaCentral for lunch and more speakers. Yoav Peck, from Shalom Achshav (Peace Now) gave the perspective of the Israeli left. As we have heard this week much of the left in Israel has shifted towards the centre but Yoav was quite explicit in his views, stating that if only we gave the Palestinians a state terrorism against Israel would virtually disappear. He acknowledged that his views are those of a small minority in Israel today. Despite the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza in 2005 he considered Gaza as still occupied by Israel, and he did not respond to questions relating to the fact that Gazans are free to enter and leave Gaza via Israeli and Egyptian crossings. It was disappointing that he would not directly answer many of the questions put to him.
The next speaker was Prof. Yitzchak Galnoor. He discussed the successes and failures of Israeli democracy, the successes including the integration of many ethnic groups, and the failures including a lack of confidence in the strength of its democracy by some Israelis. He also spoke about some legislative issues in that regard such as the legislation requiring disclosure of funding of Israeli NGO’s who receive money from other countries.
The last speaker for the day was Aryeh Green, Director of MediaCentral. Aryeh discussed specific examples of media bias and the responses by him and the team at MediaCentral. The central focus and objective of MediaCentral is to assist journalists to accurately portray the situation on the ground in Israel and the territories. Aryeh stated several times that “accuracy of reporting is Israel’s best ally”. He explained some of Israel’s failings in the media war and how the Palestinian /Arab side was 30 years ahead of Israel in dealing with the media. It is these failings that MediaCentral are attempting to address.
The day finished with dinner at Sheyan, a kosher Chinese restaurant built in to the historic windmill in Rechavia. Overall, the day was one of diverse speakers from various disciplines and political positions. It was an intense and incredibly informative and interesting series of lectures.
Julie Nathan is a TAI graduate and the research officer of the Executive Council of Australia Jewry (ECAJ)