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The Day In Israel: Wed July 8th, 2009

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Egyptian sources have said that negotiations on a deal for the return of kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit will resume in the coming days where they were left off during the Olmert administration.

I assume these are not the same Egyptian sources who a week-and-a-half ago claimed Shalit’s transfer to Egypt was imminent.

Updates (Israel time; most recent at top)

11:36PM: Here is video of an interview between an Irishman called Vincent Browne and some guests including Free Gaza terror supporter Mairead Maguire.

This would have to be one of the most infuriating interviews I have ever seen.

It is a long interview, but if you have the time and the stomach, it is a revealing look at the extent of outright bias in the media. In particular, look out for the following:

  • The interviewer Vincent Browne, who shouts at the pro-Israel guests and denies Israel’s right to exist.  He is the most biased interviewer I have seen in quite a while. And that is saying a lot.
  • Maguire showing her support for terrorists (for example, at around 13:20, she says “While Hamas was trying to keep their young militants working for peace, Israel was planning a war…”)
  • Maguire showing her ignorance (for example, at around 13:50, the Israeli Ambassador asks Maguire  if she visited Sderot. She responds “No, but I have been to Jerusalem”)
  • Ed O’Loughlin, the other anti-Israel guest, also agreeing with Hamas’ positions (for example, at around 15:50, he states incredulously that Hamas would have to recognize Israel as a Jewish state. As if he agrees that this is a manifestly unreasonable thing).

My blood is still boiling.

6:25PM: A few days ago, ABC Australia had this report from Middle East Correspondent Anne Barker regarding the actions of a misbehaving minority within the “ultra-Orthodox” community (I hate the term, but am using it so you know to which community I am referring).

Reporter feels mob’s hate in the Holy City

The ABC’s Middle East correspondent Anne Barker became caught in violent street protests involving ultra-Orthodox Jews in Jerusalem at the weekend. This is her graphic account of her ordeal.

As a journalist I’ve covered more than my share of protests. Political protests in Canberra. Unions protesting for better conditions. Angry, loud protests against governments, or against perceived abuses of human rights.

I’ve been at violent rallies in East Timor. I’ve had rocks and metal darts thrown my way. I’ve come up against riot police.

But I have to admit no protest – indeed no story in my career – has distressed me in the way I was distressed at a protest in Jerusalem on Saturday involving several hundred ultra-Orthodox Jews.

This particular protest has been going on for weeks.

Orthodox Jews are angry at the local council’s decision to open a municipal carpark on Saturdays – or Shabbat, the day of rest for Jews.

It’s a day when Jews are not supposed to do anything resembling work, which can include something as simple as flicking a switch, turning on a light or driving.

So even opening a simple carpark to accommodate the increasing number of tourists visiting Jerusalem’s Old City is highly offensive to Orthodox Jews because it’s seen as a desecration of the Shabbat, by encouraging people to drive.

I was aware that earlier protests had erupted into violence on previous weekends – Orthodox Jews throwing rocks at police, or setting rubbish bins alight, even throwing dirty nappies or rotting rubbish at anyone they perceive to be desecrating the Shabbat.

But I never expected their anger would be directed at me.

I was mindful I would need to dress conservatively and keep out of harm’s way. But I made my mistake when I parked the car and started walking towards the protest, not fully sure which street was which.

By the time I realised I’d come up the wrong street it was too late.

I suddenly found myself in the thick of the protest – in the midst of hundreds of ultra-Orthodox Jews in their long coats and sable-fur hats.

They might be supremely religious, but their behaviour – to me – was far from charitable or benevolent.

As the protest became noisier and the crowd began yelling, I took my recorder and microphone out of my bag to record the sound.

Suddenly the crowd turned on me, screaming in my face. Dozens of angry men began spitting on me.

Spit like rain

I found myself herded against a brick wall as they kept on spitting – on my face, my hair, my clothes, my arms.

It was like rain, coming at me from all directions – hitting my recorder, my bag, my shoes, even my glasses.

Big gobs of spit landed on me like heavy raindrops. I could even smell it as it fell on my face.

Somewhere behind me – I didn’t see him – a man on a stairway either kicked me in the head or knocked something heavy against me.

I wasn’t even sure why the mob was angry with me. Was it because I was a journalist? Or a woman? Because I wasn’t Jewish in an Orthodox area? Was I not dressed conservatively enough?

In fact, I was later told, it was because using a tape-recorder is itself a desecration of the Shabbat even though I’m not Jewish and don’t observe the Sabbath.

It was lucky that I don’t speak Yiddish. At least I was spared the knowledge of whatever filth they were screaming at me.

As I tried to get away I found myself up against the line of riot police blocking the crowd from going any further.


Israeli police in their flak jackets and helmets, with rifles and shields, were yelling just as loudly back at the protesting crowd.

I found them something of a reassurance against the angry, spitting mob.

I was allowed through, away from the main protest, although there were still Orthodox Jews on the other side, some of whom also yelled at me, in English, to take my recorder away.

Normally I should have stayed on the sidelines to watch the protest develop.

But when you’ve suffered the humiliation and degradation of being spat on so many times – and you’re covered in other people’s spit – it’s not easy to put it to the back of your mind and get on with the job.

I left down a side street and walked the long way back to the car, struggling to hold back the tears.

This report has prompted friend of Israellycool and occasional correspondent Dr Sam to write the following to ABC’s complaint officer.

Attention: Complaints Officer

I wish to make a complaint against Anne Barker in relation to the story submitted:

The ABC editorial guidelines call for Respect both in section 2 of the guidelines as well as section 10.2.2. (c). I assert that these guidelines were not properly followed. I also assert that Ms Barker did not adhere to balance or partisan reporting as required by the guide.

The journalist asserts that she felt “degraded and humiliated” making me question how she could have maintained objectivity in the face of this very personalised response where she “struggled to hold back tears”. She says this is the worst protest she has witnessed, although ABC footage does not support this evidently hyperbolic assertion. It is also astonishing to use this kind of language in the absence of any physical injuries when she says she has been to violent rallies.

The journalist does not understand what the protesters are saying to her but tells her audience that it is “filth”. In one version of the story she submitted, she informs readers of her pre-existing mindset to the police who apparently protected her saying of them “For once I found them something of a reassurance against the angry, spitting mob.” This kind of gratuitous and ugly biased sentiment makes it very clear that the journalist has a pre-existing negative mindset.

Apart from the clear exaggeration that is evident throughout, the issue of respect, as identified in the guidelines is seriously violated. Ms Barker makes it clear that she was aware, a priori, that the Orthodox Jewish protesters would find desecration of the Sabbath to be offensive, yet she goes on and does just that, making herself the story, rather than the protest over a carpark. It is either a lack of cultural awareness or, as Ms Barker is the regional journalist and suggests that she is aware of the rules of the Sabbath, a deliberate provocation. I doubt the ABC would enter a Mosque carrying a pig or wear a piss-Christ t-shirt at the Vatican. The provocation of religious Jews on the Sabbath is a well-worn path, made famous by former ABC journalist Richard Carlton, makes for good entertainment but his highly disrespectful of the Jewish faith and predictably serves to create unflattering stereotypes.

To make matters worse, she asks rhetorical questions in the piece to give the listener the notion that she may be hated because she was not Jewish, a woman or a journalist. This devise seeks to attribute bigoted views to the protesters despite the fact that they were not articulated. This is highly disrespectful to a group that is part of a recognized religion.

I would also ask the ABC why versions of this story were modified in 2 critical areas. In one submitted report, Ms Barker claims to have not captured any audio of the protest, yet audio is broadcast. Could you please clarify whether she did or did not capture audio and if she did not, what audio was used? Also in reference to the Israeli police, in one version of the report she only says ” I found them something of a reassurance against the angry, spitting mob.” But in another, as above, gives an entirely different meaning. Could you please inform me if the journalist has a pre-conceived negative view of her host country and if this is the case, how she can continue to report from Israel in an unbiased and measured manner.

4:25PM: Another cool discovery.

A team of researchers from the University of Haifa have stumbled upon a rare desert plant living in Israel’s mountainous Negev desert, which can irrigate itself.

The plant, desert rhubarb Rheum palaestinum, was first classified by a local botanist about 70 years ago. It has adapted to harsh desert climates by developing specially designed leaves – broad and with grooves and channels – to funnel even the slightest bit of rainwater directly to its roots.

It is the only known plant of its kind in the world, and could teach science – and people – new ways for maximizing water distribution in agriculture, especially in extremely arid regions. Locals say it is found only in Israel and nearby Jordan.

The Rheum palaestinum is not to be confused with other types of “palestinian” that irrigate themselves.

6:10AM: Here is Hamas MP and cleric Yunis Al-Astal reassuring us that his organization would be willing to live side-by-side with Israel in peace and security, and that Hamas has nothing against Jews per se.

As Chief Hamashole Ismail Haniyeh has claimed:

We do not have any feelings of animosity toward Jews.

At least we can understand how Jimmy Carter found common ground with them.

About the author

Picture of David Lange

David Lange

A law school graduate, David Lange transitioned from work in the oil and hi-tech industries into fulltime Israel advocacy. He is a respected commentator and Middle East analyst who has often been cited by the mainstream media
Picture of David Lange

David Lange

A law school graduate, David Lange transitioned from work in the oil and hi-tech industries into fulltime Israel advocacy. He is a respected commentator and Middle East analyst who has often been cited by the mainstream media
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