Unholy War out of kilter

July 30, 2014 by J-Wire
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The Executive Council of Australian Jewry has complained to Channel 9’s “60 Minutes” producer  about factual errors in their production “Unholy War” which focused on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict screened last Sunday.

The Executive Producer

60 Minutes SHOW

Email: 60Minutes@nine.com.au

Dear Sir/Madam

Re: Program aired on Sunday 27 July 2014

Title: Unholy War

Reporter: Allison Langdon
Producer: Gareth Harvey

ECAJ President Robert Goot

ECAJ President Robert Goot

Our organization is the peak national body representing Jewish organizations and the Jewish community throughout Australia.

Whilst The “Unholy War” segment shown on 60 minutes on Sunday 27 July, might have been intended as a human interest story, focussing on the innocent victims caught up in the current fighting in Gaza, we and our State constituent bodies in New South Wales, Victoria, the ACT, Queensland, Western Australia and South Australia have received numerous complaints to the effect that the content of the above program lacked accuracy, fairness and balance.

The long-running conflicts between Israel and the Palestinians and between Israel and the wider Arab world are of course matters of wide public concern which are quite properly the subjects of intense media coverage. Palestinian political organizations have made no secret of the fact that they seek to harness that coverage whenever possible in support of their cause as a tactic in their long-term struggle against Israel’s existence.   This makes it all the more important for journalists to maintain the highest professional standards when reporting on any aspect of these conflicts.

Regrettably, there were some notable lapses in those standards in Sunday’s program. Whilst there were numerous factual errors and omissions, the most egregious of them cannot pass without comment.


“Palestinian militants”

Peter Wertheim

Peter Wertheim

Hamas, is proscribed as a terrorist organisation by the US, the UK, Canada, the EU and the Australian Government. At the outset of the segment, you chose to describe Hamas not as terrorists, but as “Palestinian militants”. Later, Hamas’ rocket attacks on Israel were described by you as “funnelling years of Palestinian frustration”.

Your viewers might at least have been informed, not only that Hamas is designated a terrorist organisation under Australian law and by other western democratic governments, but also that its Charter explicitly calls for the elimination of Israel by force and the removal (by extermination or expulsion) of its Jewish citizens (see for example the final part of Article 7). That fact alone would have given your viewers a totally different context for the “Unholy War”.

The rockets from Gaza were not, and have never been, a venting of “Palestinian frustration”.   These rockets have been fired indiscriminately at Israeli civilian population centres with the express aim of killing as many “Jews” (Hamas’s word) as possible and driving out the Jewish population. The same is true of the vast network of tunnels under residential areas extending into Israel.

The tunnels have been a major part of the story of the current fighting, but were completely omitted from the segment. Palestinian sources have recorded that 160 young Palestinian children have died in the construction of these tunnels. The hundreds of tons of concrete and other materials used in their construction were supposed to be used for civilian houses, schools and hospitals. 

“Trying to get rid of as many Palestinians as they can”

The Palestinian woman’s comments were not challenged in any way, nor was any alternative view sought from any Israeli.   Not a skerrick of evidence was put forward to support this outrageous falsehood about Israel’s intentions.   No mention was made of the unprecedented steps taken by the Israeli military to forewarn Palestinians of impending attacks, even to the point of prejudicing the military effectiveness of the operation, and thus to limit civilian casualties.   To our knowledge, no other army in the world takes such extensive precautions.

“After the murder of four teenagers this war was unstoppable”

In fact, Hamas rocket attacks against Israel preceded the discovery of the murder of three Israeli teenagers on 30 June 2014 and one Palestinian teenager two days later. There were more than 200 recorded Hamas rocket attacks on Israel between January 1 and June 30, 2014.   These attacks on Israeli civilians did not begin, but rather escalated, after the kidnapping of the three Israeli teenagers and before they were found murdered. It was only in response to those attacks and in defence of its citizens that Israel responded with air attacks targeted at the weapons, leadership and military infrastructure of Hamas.

“Extremists v extremists”

Your report painted the warring parties as “extremists on both sides”. That is also wrong. Hamas are much more than extremists. They are terrorists and, we repeat, have been designated as such by many western, democratic governments, including Australia’s. Some of the settlers either describe themselves as ‘extremists’ or might be so considered.

But the Government of Israel supports a permanent solution to the conflict based on the internationally-endorsed principle of ‘two States for two peoples’. Israel thus does not support the concept of greater Israel favoured by some of the settler movement. The Government of Israel cannot be regarded as extremist. It is acting reasonably to defend its citizens from rocket attacks from Gaza. It is Hamas which rejects the ‘two State’ principle and which seeks to establish a greater Palestine that would include all of the territory of Israel. In the circumstances, to describe the “Unholy war” as between extremists, is completely erroneous and grossly misleading. At its heart it has nothing to do with settlers, the settlements, or the occupation. None of these matters were mentioned in the segment.

 “Israel was carved out of the Palestinian territories of the West Bank and Gaza”

This is a ludicrous claim which reveals an appalling ignorance of the relevant history.   Israel was created in May 1948, after the UN had voted in 1947 to endorse the creation of a Jewish state and an Arab state in the land. The State that was established in 1948 excluded the West Bank and Gaza. Between 1948 and 1967 the whole of the West Bank and Gaza were occupied and controlled by Jordan and Egypt respectively.

In fact, Israel was not carved out of any Palestinian territory. There has never been a Palestinian state at any time in recorded history. Both the Jewish state and the Arab state that were envisaged by the UN were to be ‘carved out’ of the defunct Ottoman Empire.

It is also noteworthy that the Arab nations did not accept the UN vote. They launched full-scale military attacks on Israel – and the territory intended for a Palestinian State – in 1948, and they attacked Israel again in 1967 and 1973.   It was only after, and as a direct result of, the 1967 war that the West Bank and Gaza Strip were occupied by Israel. Numerous offers have been made by Israel to relinquish those areas in exchange for true peace. Each offer has been rejected. In 2005, Israel unilaterally withdrew completely from Gaza. The response from Hamas was unrelenting rocket attacks against Israel itself.

 The “separation wall” and “segregated roads”

Israel’s security barrier was constructed by the Israeli Government for the sole purpose of defending its citizens from terrorist attacks including those of suicide bombers. More than 95% of the barrier consists of a wire fence. Only small parts of the barrier consist of a concrete wall, and the wall sections are located at points at which Palestinian snipers previously fired at Israeli civilians, and those sections have now successfully put an end to these sniper attacks.

In Australia, even though we are surrounded by vast oceans, all national governments have placed a high value on border protection. Surely Israel is entitled to impose border protections when it is surrounded by such hostility on its border, without being accused of being “apartheid-like”.

Some roads on the West Bank are reserved for Israelis – Jewish and Arab Israelis – but only for reasons of security against sniper and other attacks and not because of any “apartheid-like” racial separation. 


We too deeply deplore the loss of innocent life and the casualties in the Gaza conflict, but in reporting those losses, it does not assist to misinform your viewers as to the relevant background and factual context, nor to completely fail to provide a mainstream (rather than marginal, extremist) Israeli viewpoint, to provide balance in your report. The advertising for the program promised to provide ‘both sides’ of the conflict. At times, however, the program presented the Israeli side only in caricature and did not allow the mainstream centrist Israeli view to have its voice.

We would hope that your journalists take seriously their professional Code of Ethics which relevantly provides:

“Report and interpret honestly, striving for accuracy, fairness and disclosure of all essential facts. Do not suppress relevant available facts, or give distorting emphasis. Do your utmost to give a fair opportunity for reply.”

We trust that future coverage of the conflict by 60 Minutes will adhere more strictly to these principles.

Yours sincerely

Robert Goot SC AM                                     Peter Wertheim AM

President                                                       Executive Director



3 Responses to “Unholy War out of kilter”
  1. Liat says:

    Cynthia, Without meaning disrespect to you, I must state that your sentiments are fantasy and not helpful to the ongoing conflict in any way. Nobody sees the plight of the Gazan children as ‘fake’ – their tears are real, as are their dead bodies. You do not seem to take into account though, the advantage Hamas makes of this situation with its own people, poisoning the world view with their focus on it and their rhetoric, while they contribute to their people’s demise themselves with their intransigent and relentless intent of annihilating the Jews of Israel and taking the land for themselves, no matter the cost … no matter how many of their children die in the process. Just as their trained teenage suicide bombers died for their cause, these children of all ages die due to their decision-making.
    That Jews in the Diaspora could use their influence to make sure that we all participate in a peaceful solution is almost a ridiculous thing to say, in that it is meaningless in its generality, so distanced from reality as to be sentimental in the worst possible way. Can you not understand that there is no possibility of peace while the Palestinians do not even recognise the State of Israel and call for the death of Jews, educate their children to hate Jews in order to propagate the situation for future generations to come? There is nobody to negotiate with, therefore we must fight for our lives.
    I certainly don’t intend to lambast you for what you write – it’s an act of courage to commit your words to this posting and I can sense your sincerity – however, I urge you to confront the real problem that exists and must be acted upon and resist giving in to the despair war creates.

  2. As a mother and grandmother, with dear friends living in Israel whose young men and women are probably in the IDF, I write this comment with deep heartbreak and sorrow, and knowing full well that my words will be lambasted by my fellow Jews within Australia and elsewhere.
    So I am taking risk, however, I cannot believe all the media reporting is that one sided and that the young children crying and suffering injuries I have seen are ‘fakes’. So with that said I loathe and despise those within Israel and Hamas who deem it acceptable that innocent young lives are being destroyed or the usual remark ‘collateral damage’.
    Even if the children in Gaza do survive, the hatred they will carry within their hearts for the rest of their lives will never leave them. Hamas will have even more recruits and suicide bombers for their despicable ideology.
    As a fervent Zionist in my younger years and one of the original members of the Group for Soviet Jewry, and having experienced anti-Semitism from a young age, I well remember the days of the end of WWII and seeing the first newsreels of the concentration camps, I was 8 years old.
    When hatred is ‘fertilised’ by more deaths there will never be peace, on either side, however, that said, in any vicious situation, some one has to make the first move, it happened in Cyprus in the 1970, and it had happened in Northern Ireland, the scale was certainly not the same, but the carnage was real.
    Surely as Jews in the Diaspora, we must use our influence not by saying who is right and who is wrong, but making sure that we all participate in a peaceful solution, no matter what the odds are.
    Alternatively all of us throughout the world are going to be eventually involved in a much greater bloodier conflict which no one will be able to stop. May the Good Lord have mercy on all of us!

    • Cynthia, all those videos you have watched, and the media emphasis on them, reflect and funnel Hamas claims. Hamas is a cult of death, and rejoices in it, using its own people and children as cannon fodder — so it is less than nothing to them to murder truth as well. Some of those horrendous videos have been found to emanate from the Syria conflict, not the Israel-Gaza one at all. Others relate to the Operation Cast Lead, now re-furbished as anti-Israel propaganda in the current conflict. Even regarding the true videos, no terrorist young men are ever shown; it is always only about children. The Hamas leaders have instructed media that all victims must be described as “civilians, and especially as innocent civilians.” Non-innocent people used as human shields must never be described as such. The journalists in Gaza have been threatened with death if they deviate from Hamas objectives, so they obediently parrot the Hamas claims as truth — until they leave Gaza, when they have been interviewed by Israeli journalists as confirming Israel’s claims about responsibility and Hamas use of human shields. How many of those children, and other casualties, were caused by the at least 10% of the 2,000 rockets shot from Gaza that fall short inside Gaza, are never mentioned nor even estimated — it is always Israel’s fault. How many are protesters, shot as “Israeli collaborators,” we are also not told — they too are amongst the “innocent civilians killed by Israeli missiles.”

      In fact, children casualties in the Gaza conflict remain one-third their percentage of the Gazan population. Only 20% of casualties are women. Over all, 80% of Gazan casualties are males, including a small number of children and elderly, but overwhelmingly males of fighting age, with high spikes in the twenties. In short, most of these “civilians” are terrorist militants killed in battle. Actual militants killed according to the IDF number about 800, and this conforms to other statistical analyses. The most recent UN estimate of total confirmed Gazan dead is around 1,160 (not the 1,670 figure given by the Gazan Ministry of Health, which almost all media sources trust implicitly as gospel truth, despite evidence of frequent double or even triple listing of the same names). Even aside from the IDF estimate, statistical analysts have concluded that 60% of the dead were terrorist militants killed in action, and only 40% are “civilians.” This would make the civilian ratio similar to the one in the Gaza Cast Lead campaign of 08-09, and the lowest in world history relating to counter-terrorist, counter-insurgency operations.

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