NSWJBD/Honest Reporting Israel Mission Day 6
Day 6 of our Mission saw us off in the bus to Honest Reporting Headquarters – Jerusalem Israel, where Simon Plosker, Managing Editor, gave us a crash course in ‘Understanding Media Bias’.
From: Mission member Rachel Murphy
This NGO, started in 2000 seeded by Aish HaTorah but is today a wholly independent organisation and fully privately funded with no links to Aish. It issn apolitical NGO set up to counter the disproportionate amount of media attention this small country gets versus its neighbours. Generally stories seem to be published on the following basis: “if it bleeds, it leads”. Palestinians, who have no freedom of the press themselves, have learnt quickly how to get coverage in the foreign press. Stories of Israel’s humanitarian aid to Haiti, Philippines, Japan and other crisis centres, get far less coverage.
We then met Dr Harvey Belik, Director of Budo for Peace.
Very soon he was capably giving us an overview of “Israel’s Image Abroad – Humanitarian & Peace Work”, including the history of the region – particularly as it concerns Eritreans, Moslem and Christian refugees from Darfur & Sudan, and Ethiopian Jews. In many cases, persecution, kidnapping and torture seem to be the norm – to the Jihadi militias in Sudan and Sinai it’s a business. This was scary stuff.
Israel reaches out with humanitarian gestures to all victims of terror, as well as victims of natural disasters. Dr Belik recounted his personal experience as a doctor treating victims of the Haiti earthquake in field hospitals set up by the Israel Defence Force – real stories of crush injuries, fractures, infectious diseases, psychosocial trauma, and the methods used to treat them, including counselling and art therapy. Israel also set up a clinic and school there which are now permanent. We were moved and inspired by the selfless generosity and dedication displayed by this man, and so many other Israeli professionals who go to farflung corners of the world to help people in need – breaking down the barriers of hatred and the demonisation of Israel.
After lunch on the rooftop deck, we met with Nitsana Darshun-Leitner from Shurat Hadin (Israel Law Centre) whose very apt logo is “Bankrupting Terrorism, One Lawsuit at a Time”.
She opened dramatically reminding us that last week (while we were in Israel!) a 19-yr-old soldier sleeping on a bus was killed by a 16-yr-old Palestinian. Not long before that a baby in a crib was knifed to death and a two year old sustained head injuries from ‘stones’ thrown at a car.
The Arab Bank is the biggest bank in the Arab world with US$30bn in assets, offering rewards to the families of suicide bombers – knowingly and intentionally. Shurat HaDin representing 50 families – victims of terror – has frozen $450M of assets in the US as a result of lawsuits against the Arab Bank. The lawsuit they filed for the families of the Sbarro Pizzeria massacre sent shock waves throughout the Arab world. No world bank funds terror any more as a result – and this causes the terrorists a lot of damage – they need the money to fund their activities, not least of which is paying the terrorists. As Nitsana said, “they are now learning there’s a price for Jewish blood”.
In a typically jampacked schedule, we then heard from Gerald Steinberg, President of NGO Monitor, on “NGO’s, Human Rights, and the Demonization of Israel”
NGO Monitor is apolitical, and monitors approximately 1500 NGO’s, many of which are actually funded by governments (ie, quasi NGO’s ) – some US$200m per year comes from governments hostile to Israel. Oxfam receives $528M, Amnesty International $230M, Human Rights Watch $45M. Gerald Steinberg described the “halo effect” , eg, when Amnesty says “it” happened, it becomes truth – and gets reported on CNN, BBC, the New York Times. For example, using the word “massacre” repeatedly to describe a conflict, results in UN condemnation, then progresses to urban myth. Once it gets to that stage, it’s almost impossible to counter.
Our last (formal) speaker for the day was Gil Hoffman, Political Editor of The Jerusalem Post, speaking directly from the Knesset on the political scene.
Trying to summarise the three A4 pages of notes I took on this subject has proven a nightmare. The first page of notes dealt almost entirely with Iran, the underlying message being that Israel has been betrayed by the world again but we do have a new ally from surprising quarters: Saudi Arabia. Netanyahu says it’s a bad deal. The rest we already know.
Gil Hoffman gave us an exhaustive summary of the positions of power in the Arab world and beyond … it doesn’t look much better than it ever did, but Israel sits quietly in the background while basically the Arab world is in turmoil. One thing is for sure: we have a better relationship now with Egypt than we have since the times of Moses! The Moslem Brotherhood has done our job for us in destroying 100s of tunnels between Egypt and Gaza, thereby destroying 100s of millions of dollars in black market trade.
As always though, there will be more urgency for Israel to make concessions in the current peace talks. The question is, will we have to give up land and bring Iran closer to our borders? Israel has been taking a lot of steps in the past few months, to prevent war.
Gil closed with a summary of some of the social issues plaguing Israel back home. He really did cover an extraordinary number of issues in the hour allotted to him, and we left with a very full and detailed picture of life in a day at the Knesset!
After a short break to catch our breath, it was off to one of the most amazing dinners we’d had yet .. a night at Spoons in the artists quarter established by Moses Montefiore, just outside the walls of the Old City, where we were treated to a 5-course meal to tantalise the taste buds of the most diehard food critic. Our guest was the Australian Ambassador to Israel, the very gracious David Sharma. It was a venue, a meal, and an evening to remember for a long time to come!