The Day In Israel: Thurs Oct 15th, 2009

Cold turkey: Israel’s relations with Turkey are heading southward after a vehemently anti-Israel television program was shown prime time Tuesday evening on the state-run station TRT1, prompting Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman to register a protest with the Turkish envoy.

An inflammatory anti-Israeli television show in Turkey on Tuesday did what Ankara’s cancellation of Israeli participation in an international military exercise last week failed to do – lead the foreign ministry to call in Turkey’s envoy to register a protest.

Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman issued a statement Wednesday night announcing that the Turkish envoy would be summonsed to protest the “inciting” television program that appeared Tuesday evening on prime time on the popular state-run station TRT1.

In the first episode of a series on a Palestinian family living in the West Bank, IDF soldiers are variously seen killing a baby, a young girl, and lining up Palestinians to be shot before a firing squad.

Lieberman, currently holding meetings in Austria, issued a statement saying the airing of this show, on a government controlled station, represented the “gravest form of incitement.”

“This series, which has absolutely no connection to reality, and which presents IDF soldiers as murderers of innocent children, is not fit to be broadcast even in the most hostile countries, and certainly not in a country that has full diplomatic relations with Israel,” he said.

Since the start of the current diplomatic tension with Ankara, Israel has opted to take a very low profile, not wanting to exacerbate the situation with harsh public comments.

Tuesday’s airing of the television show – on top of the cancellation of Israel’s participation in the military exercise, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan harangue Monday accusing Israel of killing children with phosphorus bombs in Gaza, and the announcement of joint military manoeuvres with Syria – has now changed the situation.

To make matters even more complicated, Turkey – in the midst of all this tension – is not currently represented by an ambassador in Israel, as the previous ambassador left the country a few weeks ago, and his replacement has not yet arrived. Some diplomatic observers in Israel doubted this was a mere coincidence.

Here’s an example episode of the show. Although it’s in Turkish, you’ll still get the drift.

While this all seems to be happening at once, none of this should come as a surprise to those of you closely following the news this year. Remember this from January?

Of course, Turkey has still been more than willing to take our tourist dollars (at one point estimated at $300 million annually), and otherwise continue to trade with us where it benefits them.

Updates (Israel time; most recent at top)

11:18PM: As I mentioned earlier today (1:35PM update), Hollywood actress Mia Farrow planned on visiting Sderot, which she did. But while her visit to Gaza prompted her to comment on the trauma suffered by palestinian children who “deserve better”, her visit to Sderot elicted a rather different response.

She also appealed to Gazan militants to stop launching rockets onto Israel.

“On a personal note, I would like to ask the people of Gaza not to give the international community ammunition to view you in a negative way … If [rocket] offenses could stop then there would be more support, though I understand the impasse. I’m a mother of 14 children, I know about conflict.”

In other words, the rocket attacks should stop not because they could kill or and traumatize people, but because they do not serve the palestinian’s interests.

10:30PM: The UK has seemingly grown a pair.

8:20PM: The Jerusalem Post really might want to invest in better picture-caption technology. Not to mention better punctuation.

bad headline

[click image to enlarge]

Regarding the Hizbullah video (which does anything but refute the IDF video), since I posted my observations of the discrepancies between the videos, a reader has framed the issues as follows:

1. the hezbollah video was shot in broad daylight, whereas the IDF footage was taken at night, shortly after the blast occurred.

2. the position of the truck in the hezbollah version and the IDF video are not the same. in the hezbollah version the truck is backed up directly to the loading dock and there are two men shoving the debris into the back of the truck. in the IDF footage, the truck is parked a little bit away and there are at least 5 men carefully carrying the disputed object and loading it onto the truck.

3. In order for the Hezbollah video to disprove the IDF footage, their video has to be of the same event, which is impossible given points 1 and 2.

4. If it is not of the same event, and the Hezbollah video was shot the next day, then that does not disprove anything, since they could have shown up, and started clearing debris while filming themselves. This would also account for the presence of the Leb. Military and UNIFIL since Hezbollah gave them access to the explosion site several hours after the explosion, after they had removed various items.

5. The IDF video shot shortly after the explosion shows Hezbollah cordoning off the area, loading items which could be a missile onto a truck and then driving the trucks 4km away to a known Hezbollah arms depot in another village. After they were done clearing the house, they let UNIFIl and the Leb Military enter the area.

6. a couple of questions:
-If they were not clearing the area of weapons, why would they have sealed off the area?
-why would they have transfered the objects (whatever they may have been) to known weapons depot?
-and why would they have gone through the trouble of making this video when it is so blatantly proves nothing?

8:08PM: Hillel Neuer of UN Watch is liveblogging the UNHRC emergency session on the Goldstone Report on Twitter.

5:45PM: Today’s Worst-refutation-of-an-Israeli-claim award goes to Hizbullah*, who have claimed that the IDF footage showing Hizbullah terrorists closing down the area around the warehouse in which an explosion occurred, driving in two trucks and removing weaponry from the site, is a fabrication. They have then proceeded to release their own video showing what they claim to be the true events surrounding the site of the explosion – just a few guys loading a door on to a truck in front of the building.

The website of Hezbollah’s al-Manar television channel reported Thursday that the supposed missile in the IDF footage  of weapons being smuggled out of a Hezbollah activist’s residence where an explosion  occurred earlier this week is nothing more than a metal door being taken out to the garbage.

The site claimed that the door successfully threw off the sophisticated, top-of-the-line espionage equipment used by the Israel Air Force.

On Wednesday, the Israeli military released footage it said was shot by one of its drones in the area of the explosion. It said the grainy, black and white video shows Hezbollah members sealing off the explosion site, recovering rockets from the home and driving them away in two covered trucks.

Hezbollah slammed the video as a “fabrication” by Israel and broadcast its own video on Thursday depicting what it said were the true events around the blast.

The video, aired on Hezbollah’s al-Manar TV and other local stations, shows two persons loading what appears to be a steel garage door onto a white covered pickup truck in front of the building where the blast allegedly occurred.

The video, which showed no actual aftermath of the blast, also shows two uniformed UN peacekeeper and a Lebanese soldier standing nearby as the pickup is being loaded. The UN mission did not immediately comment on the Hezbollah video.

“The random explosion that occurred in Tayr Filsay in south Lebanon that made a stir in some of the Arab and Western media has returned to its natural proportions despite efforts made by the Zionist enemy to exploit it in its repeated claims that Lebanon and Hezbollah are violating Resolution 1701,” wrote the al-Manar website.

The website posed the question: “What were the Israeli spy planes doing in the skies of Tayr Filsay when they shot the pictures that the occupation’s leadership was not ashamed of publishing in the media outlets, some of whom rushed to adopt the Israeli position and to exaggerate the event, speaking of casualties, wounded, and mass destruction?”

According to the website, “The inflation is fundamentally unfounded, the Israeli footage is fundamentally unfounded, and whoever builds on this lie is also unfounded.”

The website issued criticism that “without any investigation or pre-examinatino, the television stations were quick to broadcast news flashes on the screens of Lebanese, especially those who live in the south of the country, and to publish a shower of items about casualties, wounded, and destruction.”

According to the article, tensions were only high the night the story broke, but that in the morning it became clear that only a small explosion took place that caused only light damage and no casualties.

“In the Israeli footage that was released, two people are seen transferring something from the site of the location. According to the Israelis, this is a missile, but in the footage itself, one can clearly see that the people are moving quickly and carrying something light, which cannot logically be a missile,” wrote the website.

Of course, Hizbullah do not explain:

  • Why they filmed the apparently mundane task of carrying a door to a truck
  • Why their footage was taken during the day, while the IDF footage was taken at night
  • Why the building in their footage shows no signs of damage
  • Why the events in their video do not match those of the IDF’s aerial footage (such as different movements of people, different position of vehicles, absence of a car parked in front of the truck as shown in the Hizbullah video)

* The Turkish television producer comes in a close second

5:06PM: Believe it or not, Iranian and Israeli officials reportedly met and engaged in serious discussions on nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament last month. And it took an Aussie to help make it happen.

Australia has helped accomplish the seemingly impossible – bringing Israel and Iran into the same room for high-level talks on nuclear weapons.

The meeting took place with little public fanfare in the Egyptian capital, Cairo, last month as part of the International Commission on Nuclear Non-proliferation and Disarmament, an expert panel assembled by Prime Minister Kevin Rudd to help rid the world of nuclear arms.

Coming only days after Tehran revealed it had secretly constructed a uranium enrichment plant, participants said there was a ”very robust exchange” between the Israeli and Iranian officials.

—-

While careful not to claim any breakthrough at the talks, sources have told The Age both sides engaged in ”serious discussions” and canvassed the idea of a nuclear-weapons-free zone in the Middle East.

Contact between Israeli and Iranian officials is sporadic and only takes place at international forums – no formal meetings between the two countries have occurred since the 1979 Iranian revolution.

Officials from Egypt, Jordan, Turkey and other regional countries also took part in the three-day meeting and it is believed the talks floated an idea for a further regional conference – possibly hosted by United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon – to outline the broad aims of a treaty to create a Middle East nuclear-free zone.

Similar ideas have stalled in the past over the long-running Israeli-Palestinian conflict and questions of security guarantees for Israel. But last month’s talks in Egypt attempted to skirt such obstacles by focusing on proposals to safeguard any fissile material in the region that could potentially be used for nuclear weapons.

Iran’s senior envoy to the meeting was its ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency, Ali Asghar Soltanieh.

Israel sent the director of the Israel Atomic Energy Commission, Merav Zafary-Odiz. Israel’s former foreign affairs minister, Shlomo Ben-Ami, was also at the meeting in a non-official role.

The high-level representatives are believed to have impressed regional diplomats who observed the proceedings.

3:32PM: And back to being really confused. The Ynet report on the Turkish television producer’s response also suggests he is claiming the soldiers being depicted are not Israeli.

He added, “The uniforms are not IDF uniforms, they only look similar. The Turkish and American militaries have uniforms like that as well.”

At the start of each episode it is clearly stated that it is not a true story, but a fictional one. Cobanoglu said, “Clearly it must be real enough for the viewer, but these are not the same uniforms. It is very important that I stress that we love the people in Israel. We love the Israelis.

“We know that Israel didn’t do these things, but there are small groups who did things like this sometimes, they killed children and things like that. We made the series about them, not about Israel directly,” he said.

So the question is which “small groups” did these things?

I was about to provide my answer but then I noticed someone else beat me to it.

TRT1’s television producer Saljuk Trubanulad responded to the allegations mentioned in the previous post about their show.

“The show is not about IDF soldiers, we also wrote this in a warning that appeared on the screen at the beginning of the program,”

The first episode is the story of a “Palestinian” family living in the West Bank.

Ah-huh. So exactly which army is it in the West Bank? The Jordanians?

“…this show isn’t about Israeli soldiers but rather about a specific group that is responsible for all the murders.”

And who might that group be?

“These soldiers are not Israelis, we know the Israeli public does not justify the operation. It’s just a small group of soldiers who murdered Muhammad al-Dura, the Palestinian boy.”

Well now he’s making sense. The riddle is unraveling.

Mohammed al-Dura was killed by Palestinian soldiers.

Saljuk says he’s not talking about Israeli soldiers.

And we know that the only other soldiers in the West Bank are “Palestinian” soldiers.

The only logical conclusion is that these are Palestinian soldiers in the show massacring their own people.

That does make sense when you put his words in the right context.

2:55PM: Ok, this report dealing with the last item makes more sense than the Jpost report.

2:38PM: Turkish gobbledegook: The Turkish television producer of the anti-Israel TV drama has responded by saying the soldiers depicted in the show are not Israeli soldiers.

At least that is what I think  he is saying. See if you can make any sense of this.

In an interview full of contradictions, Turkish television producer Saljuk Trubanulad, whose anti-Israeli TV drama led Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman to summon the Turkish envoy for a meeting, told Israel Radio on Thursday that the soldiers depicted in the drama “are not Israeli soldiers” and stressed that all of the program’s staff love the Israeli people.

“The show is not about IDF soldiers, we also wrote this in a warning that appeared on the screen at the beginning of the program,” the Turkish producer said.

In the first episode of a series on a Palestinian family living in the West Bank, which appeared Tuesday evening on prime time on the government-controlled station TRT1, IDF soldiers are seen killing a baby and a young girl, and lining up Palestinians to be shot before a firing squad.

In Thursday’s interview, Trubanulad stressed that “all of our staff loves the Israeli people, that is, this show isn’t about Israeli soldiers but rather about a specific group that is responsible for all the murders. We love the Israeli people.”

“These soldiers are not Israelis, we know the Israeli public does not justify the operation. It’s just a small group of soldiers who murdered Muhammad al-Dura, the Palestinian boy,” he explained, referring to a 12-year-old Palestinian boy whose footage cowering next to his father during a firefight and then slumping dead became the symbol of Palestinian suffering in the early days of the Second Intifada, despite it being entirely unclear that the cause of the child’s death was indeed IDF bullets.

“These are not Israeli soldiers, their uniforms aren’t Israeli uniforms. It’s a small group that killed all the people and all the children. We say this group is not of Israeli soldiers, neither [those shown murdering citizens] in Gaza nor in Beirut,” he told the radio station.

He went on to stress that the production team based the screenplay on historical facts. “We sent our script to Israel, we checked it,” he said.

I’m still scratching my head.

1:35PM: Actress Mia Farrow has commented on her trip to Gaza.

US actress and outspoken human rights activist Mia Farrow said on Thursday that children living in blockaded, impoverished and war-wracked Gaza Strip deserve a better life.

“The children appear traumatised,” Farrow told a media conference in the Palestinian enclave on the second and final day of a visit as goodwill ambassador for the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF).

“The teachers say that when they hear a loud noise they (the children) look to the sky and cry out and weep. They don’t know what the future holds,” she told the joint media conference with Egyptian actor Mahmoud Kabil, also a UNICEF ambassador.

“They deserve better,” she said.

Of course, when the children are pictured next to palestinian terrorists firing weapons in the vicinity, they never seem to be crying and weeping. Nor when they hear of successful terror attacks (it is hard to cry with a mouth full of candy).

Meanwhile, it looks like I was wrong and Farrow does intend to visit Sderot after all.

Later on Thursday Farrow was due to visit the Israeli town of Sderot, which for years has borne the brunt of Gaza militant rocket fire.

12:58PM: Turkey has continued it nastiness towards Israel with news it intends to impose a heavy fine on Israel  if we do not deliver 10 unmanned drones by the end of the year, and take us to the International Court of Commercial Arbitration if there is any further delay.

In other litigation-related news, Hamas is threatening to prosecute PA President Mahmoud Abbas for his “smear campaign” against them, as well as his actions during Operation Cast Lead.

“We demand Abu Mazen name those he claims hid,” said al-Zahar. “I want him to say exactly where he thinks we ran to. This man must stop trying to spread his lies, especially now that the Goldstone fiasco has been exposed, now that the Israelis exposed him as the one who wanted to prolong the war in the Strip. That is why he chooses to slam us instead of apologizing.”

6:10AM: Headline of the day:

China voices deep concern over humanitarian situation in Gaza

The irony is delicious.

6:02AM: Here’s a report about a Muslim student protest at the University of Kentucky against former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, who was speaking there.

Notice the bizarre ending to the report.

5:50PM: Head Hamashole Ismail Haniyeh continues to use the Goldstone report for propaganda purposes, contrasting his “government’s” reaction to that of Israel.

Speaking at a sit-in protest in Gaza organized by victims and families of victims of Israel’s war on Gaza last winter, Haniyeh explained, “If there is a concern about how the report will affect the peoples’ right to resistance vis-à-vis the Goldstone report, that in no way means we have withdrawn our support for the document in general.”

Haniyeh said de facto government personnel would offer up their total support to the Goldstone report mission, “offering all we can to convict the Israeli occupation.” The Hamas leader also said he hoped Israeli leaders would be held accountable at the International Criminal Court.

“We are for a serious, national effort ahead of dealing with this document and implementing its recommendations,” he said, comparing the de facto government’s reaction with the Israeli position.

Hamas, like Israel, understands clearly that the report is good for terrorists who use their people as human shields, and bad for those fighting them.

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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