Take what pictures you will, so that you understand,
That which you never will:
How a stone from our land builds the ceiling of our sky.

- Mahmoud Darwish, “Passers between fleeting words”

Our house started shaking as I was in the middle of writing this article. After it stopped shaking, an Israeli missile hit a target elsewhere in the city. Given all of the shaking before that missile hit, the target is now probably flattened to the ground. A few minutes later, ambulance sirens filled the air. An eerie feeling of death filled the air we breathed for the past week.

For the second time in less than five years, Israel has launched a military offensive against the Gaza Strip and its 1.7 million civilians. “Pillar of Defence”, as they’ve named it, started with the assassination of Ahmed Jabari, the leader of Hamas’ military wing, and has since resulted in the killing of more than 130 Palestinians, the vast majority likely civilians, along with injuring over one thousand. History keeps repeating itself in this part of the world, and so does life and death.

A few days before the current Israeli attacks on Gaza started, the Abu Atta family witnessed their son Matar die and live again in less than two hours. Shocked at the brutal assassination of her 19-year-old son by the Israeli forces, his pregnant mother went into labour early, giving birth to a son she would now name Matar.

History repeats itself

After an F-16 launched a missile that resulted in the deaths of five children and four women from the al-Dalu family on November 19, Israel targeted yet another civilian house belonging to the Hijazi family. Two-year-old twin brothers Suhaib and Mohammed were killed, along with their parents Amna and Fuad.

Mohammed Hijazi was killed in Israel’s offensive on Gaza in 2009, and so it was that this Mohammed, killed yesterday - on November 20 - had been named after his late brother. There will be no third Mohammad, because Israel remembered to kill the parents this time.

Yet, Fuad Hijazi was also killed in Acre in 1930, along with Atta Ezzir and Mohammed Jamjoom, in what came to be known as “Red Tuesday”. Three of the most important martyrs in the history of the Palestinian struggle - Hijazi, Ezzir and Jamjoom - were publicly executed by the British mandate forces for protesting against Zionist infiltration into Palestine. Eighty-four years later, Fuad Hijazi will be mourned in Gaza after being killed by an army which the 1929 martyr - also named Fuad Hijazi - was protesting the establishment of.

In the previous stories, an obvious pattern is repeated. Palestinians create life and Israel is quick to kill it. Palestinians build and Israel is quick to destroy. Almost all of the buildings that were targeted by Israel in the 2008 to 2009 offensive on Gaza were retargeted this time and flattened to the ground (following the command of Ariel Sharon’s son).

The millions that were spent by different world powers on rebuilding Gaza, rehabilitating its homes, schools and hospitals, creating emergency and early recovery programmes, have all gone to waste.

The Israeli army is clearly following Israel’s deputy Prime Minister Eli Yishai’s wish to “... blow Gaza back to the Middle Ages, destroying all the infrastructure, including roads and water… The goal of the operation is to send Gaza to the Middle Ages”.

Indeed, very few politicians on Earth envision a future based on some barbaric historic era, except for Yishai - who clearly still belongs to the Middle Ages himself, along with his government. No government in the 21st century rotates between governing a people and brazenly occupying another. No government allocates state funds to teach racism and hatred to children and to put all that hatred to practice in the army.

But what, if anything, does Yishai know about Gaza in the Middle Ages? Gaza’s paramount geographic location has historically made it one of the region’s most important cities; Gaza’s ancient ports were long used before Alexandria was even founded.

Restore faith in humanity

In the Middle Ages, Gaza was home to countless treasures, including rich agriculture, pottery making and wool weaving, with exports along the famous Silk Road. In 1660, a French visitor compared Gaza’s baths and markets with those of Paris and noted that Arabic, Turkish and Greek were all spoken in the streets. Where was Israel then?

As I’m writing this article, the Israelis are dropping leaflets on Gaza asking its residents to evacuate from certain neighbourhoods. Gaza does not have any shelters like the ones in Isdud or Ashkelon, and even if it did, they will probably be deserted. But Palestinians seek no shelter. As the original inhabitants of this land, we only find security where we belong.

Israel, aware of that fact, will probably use the leaflets in defending itself in case more civilians are killed tonight (which they probably will, given Gaza’s high population density). Any civilians who get killed in the way are either “collateral damage” or human shields used by Hamas. We know the narrative by heart.

But when a 7-year-old child carries his 2-year-old brother after their parents were killed by Israel, and when a one-year-old baby tries to play with his dead 8-year-old sister, you are left to question the little faith you have in humanity. Meanwhile in Israel, the Jerusalem Post shamelessly features articles about pets feeling anxious every time the bomb sirens go off.

And our faith in humanity will not be restored if countries of the world vow more money for rebuilding Gaza. It will only be restored once the world starts looking at our cause with its brains and not with its donations, in which case, no donations will be required.

The fact that the Gaza Strip is still besieged by Israel from land, sea and air, should mean that we are still under occupation and under the responsibility of the Israeli government. If Israel argues otherwise, saying that we arenot under Israeli occupation, then it should relinquish its control of our borders and leave us to handle our own business. But as long as Israel keeps us imprisoned in an enclave of ambiguity, the world will keep paying and Israel will keep destroying.

On a final note, I would like to prepare the international community for another Israeli argument that they will likely be hearing in a couple of years, when today’s children become the leaders of future Palestine. “We have no peace partners in Palestine,” you will hear every Israeli leader say. When you hear that, I want you to think of the 350 Palestinian children who were injured by Israel during the last six days, the orphaned boy carrying his baby brother and the baby boy trying to play with his dead sister.

Yasmeen El Khoudary is a Palestinian living in Gaza, working towards preserving Gaza’s cultural heritage and history. She blogs at

Read the original on Al Jazeera news HERE:

• Robert Rands, Citizen, Hobart: Dear Alan Howe, Herald Sun executive editor

I am surprised that the editor of an important Australian newspaper would publish an editorial like “Don’t smile if things on Gaza go back to normal”

But the fact that you have done so helps me better understand the recent racist incident on a Melbourne bus, where four French tourists were abused and terrified, simply for singing a song in a foreign language.

Editorials like yours, “words of wisdom” from someone who is expected to behave as a responsible opinion leader, are given credence by people whose judgement is even poorer than yours appears to be, and may be used to justify racial abuse and vilification here in Australia.

Has it ever occurred to you that the words you have written below do absolutely nothing toward resolution of the Israel-Palestine conflict?

Either it hasn’t occurred to you, in which case I wonder how someone with such a blinkered intellect ever became the editor of a major Melbourne newspaper, or it has (and I won’t go there).

Below your editorial, you will find an article by Richard Falk.  Mr Falk’s insightful analysis is a positive contribution to public understanding of the current crisis.


Robert Rands

Hobart, Tasmania

Don’t smile if things on Gaza go back to normal

by: Alan Howe
From: Herald Sun November 26, 2012 12:00AM

ACCORDING to reports yesterday, Gaza is “getting back to normal”. That’s bad news.
..Normal for Gaza and the insane Hamas terrorists for which its inhabitants voted is the undying ambition to “obliterate” Israel.

Hamas wishes to kill every man, woman and child in Israel. Its brand of Islamism is quite extreme, even by depressing regional standards.

Hamas operatives - you couldn’t call its hierarchy “leadership” - are a sub-species proving hard to eliminate, but is at least fenced off and kept apart from the rest of us.

That is what Israel has done on our behalf.

Trouble-making Gazans are not just Israel’s problem; that little territory is the Iranian-sponsored frontline of radical Islam’s war on the West. They resent us for our wealth, education and tolerance.

If radical Islam lays down its weapons, there would be peace; should Israel ever lay down its weapons, there will be genocide.

According to Hamas - more cunning and manipulative these days - innocent Israelis are an occupying enemy that must be eliminated.

It said so on Friday.

Just short of eight million people live in Israel, about 80 per cent of them Jewish, meaning there are about six million Jews to be harvested in any full-on destruction of that state.

Interesting figure, six million. It should ring bells with anyone familiar with the history of the 20th century. Alarm bells.

Now they say we have a ceasefire between Israel and Gaza. I suspect not. A ceasefire is where you commit yourself not to fire on your enemy.

There is no way Gazans will be able to resist doing that. They’ve been unable to in the past, and their spokesman at the weekend sounded quite excited that their newly acquired longer-range missiles could reach the suburbs of Tel Aviv.

This time they even bombed Jerusalem. It’s not only home to many Arabs, but the Dome of the Rock, the foundation stone of the Muslim religion. What next? Mecca?

Hamas does not have under its jurisdiction all the Gazans bent on murder; there are radical groups “freelancing” in the campaign to kill off the Jew.

“If radical Islam lays down its weapons, there would be peace; should Israel ever lay down its weapons, there will be genocide.
”It was Gaza that started this fight - as always - with its relentless shelling of its successful neighbour. While Israel used dry-land farming techniques to go from granite to green and a first-world economy, Gaza just goes green. With envy.

For too many Gazans, poking Israel in the eye is a sport. And, to use a sporting analogy, they know that any conflict with their patient but often tested neighbour always ends up in a percentage-boosting win for Israel.

The dead this time numbered 162 in Gaza and eight in Israel.

Each side is reported to have fired off about the same number of rockets - 1500 - Gaza clearly lobbing them mostly out of bounds. Gaza knew it would lose. They meant to. Indeed, they tanked. It was to take attention away from the manner Hamas deals with the poor people trapped in its orbit and to seek wider sympathy from a world that too often misses the details that tell the real story.

The death count hardly bothers Islamists. These are people who happily strap bombs to children and send them off to blow up innocents.

Nonetheless, their self-loathing sank to new depths last week. It was a very Middle Eastern moment, even if, in its wanton horror, it struck at the heart of those of us who too often take civilisation for granted: six men are executed in Gaza as alleged spies, but the body of one is dragged behind a motorcycle through the streets.

Sometimes, for the Arabs seeking a caliphate to rule their lives - and everybody else’s - by order of the Koran, even death is not enough.

SO NOW there is a document signed by both parties against the familiar backdrop of blood, smoke, rubble and defeat.

I don’t believe a letter of it.

What’s worse, I reckon this eight-day conflict may have been the first of a series of diversions from the main game: a big bomb in another Israel-hating nation nearby.

It could be that Hamas is out to distract Israel with more regular responses to its constant bombardment, forcing them to exhaust their Iron Dome anti-missile budget and to erode the confidence of the Israeli people.

Right now, much credit for this ceasefire is being given to radical Egyptian leader Mohammed Morsi, but that ignores the intense lobbying for a peace deal from US President Barack Obama.

I wonder what Mr Morsi will do when some young Gazans - tired of waiting for martyrdom - fire off a new barrage of rockets into southern Israel soon.

Morsi likes to portray himself as the acceptable face of the Muslim Brotherhood, if there is such a thing.

One of its intellectual leaders, also sometimes portrayed as moderate, is Yusuf al-Qaradawi. His thoughts on the matter are clear and were broadcast on Al Jazeera and translated by the Middle East Media Research Institute in 2009: “Oh Allah, take this oppressive, Jewish Zionist band of people. Oh Allah, do not spare a single one of them. Oh Allah, count their numbers and kill them, down to the very last one.”

Later, he added: “Throughout history, Allah has imposed upon the (Jews) people who would punish them. The last punishment was carried out by Hitler.”

Ring a bell now?

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Alan Howe is Herald Sun executive editor

One perspective:

The Gaza Ceasefire: An Early Assessment

by Richard Falk  

The Gaza Ceasefire, unlike a similar ceasefire achieved after Operation Cast Lead four years ago, is an event that has a likely significance far beyond ending the violence after eight days of murderous attacks. It is just possible that it will be looked back upon as a turning point in the long struggle between Israel and Palestine. Many have talked about ‘the fog of war,’ but it pales besides the ‘the fog of truce making,’ and in our media-infected air, the outcomes along with conjectures about the future are already being spun in all possible directions. Supporters of every position give their own spin, and then proclaim ‘victory.’ But as with the violent phases of the conflict, it is clarifying to distinguish the more persuasive contentions and interpretations from those that are less persuasive. What follows is one such attempt at such clarification.

It remains too soon to tell whether the ceasefire will hold for very long, and if it does, whether its central provisions will be implemented in good faith. At this early moment, the prospects are not promising. Israel has already used excessive violence to disperse Palestinian civilians who gathered on the Gaza side of the border, with a few straying across into Israel, to celebrate what they thought was their new freedom now to venture close to the border. This so-called ‘no-go-area’ was decreed by Israel after its 2005 ‘disengagement’ has been a killing field where 213, including 17 children and 154 uninvolved, had lost their lives according to Israeli human rights organizations. Israeli security forces, after firing warning shots, killed one Palestinian civilian and wounded another 20 others with live ammunition. The Israeli explanation was that it had given warnings, and since there had been no agreement on new ground rules implementing the ceasefire, the old regime of control was still in place. It is notable that Hamas protested, but at this point has made no moves to cancel the ceasefire or to retaliate violently, but the situation remains tense, fragile, and subject to change.

Putting aside the precariousness of the current situation and the accompanying uncertainties, it remains useful to look at the process by which the ceasefire was brought about, how this sheds light on the changing dynamics of the conflict itself, as well as discloses some underlying shifts in the regional and global balances of forces.

First of all, the role and outlook of the Arab governments was far more pro-active than in past interludes of intensified Israel/Palestine violence. During attacks several leading foreign ministers from the region visited Gaza and were received by the Hamas governing authorities, thus undermining the Israeli policy of isolating Hamas and excluding it from participation in diplomacy affecting the Palestinian people. Egypt played the critical role in brokering the agreement, and despite the Muslim Brotherhood affiliation of its leaders. Mohammed Morsi, the Egyptian President, emerged as the key diplomatic figure in the process and widely praised by the West for his ‘pragmatism.’ This can be understood as recognition of Morsi’s capability as a statesman to address the concerns of both sides without intruding his own pro-Palestinian outlook. Indeed, the auspices of this brokered agreement inverted what Americans have brought to the table in past negotiations, a pretension of balance, a reality of partisanship.

Secondly, the text of the agreement implicitly acknowledged Hamas as the governing authority of Gaza, and thereby gives it, at least temporarily, a greatly enhanced status among Palestinians, regionally, and internationally. Its claim to be a (not the) legitimate representative of the Palestinian people has now become plausible, making Hamas a political actor that has for the moment been brought in from the terrorist cold. While Hamas is almost certain to remain formally ‘a terrorist organization’ in the eyes of Israel, the United States, and Europe, throughout this just concluded feverish effort to establish a ceasefire, Hamas was treated as if ‘a political actor’ with sovereign authority to speak on behalf of the people living in Gaza. Such a move represents a potential sea change, depending on whether there is an effort to build on the momentum achieved or a return to the futile and embittering Israeli/U.S. policy of excluding Hamas from diplomatic channels by insisting that no contact with a terrorist organization is permissible or politically acceptable. Correspondingly, the Palestinian Authority, and its leader, Mahmoud Abbas, have been for the moment awkwardly sidelined, overshadowed, and made to appear irrelevant in the midst of this latest terrible ordeal affecting the Palestinian people. It is puzzling why such an impression was fostered by the approach taken by all the diplomatic players.

Thirdly, Israel accepted as integral conditions of the ceasefire two sets of obligations toward the people of Gaza that it would never have agreed to before it launched its Pillar of Defense Operation: (1) agreeing not to engage in “incursions and targeting of individuals” and (2) agreeing to meet so as to arrange for the “opening the crossings and facilitating the movements of people and the transfer of goods, and refraining from restricting residents free movement, and targeting residents in border areas.” If implemented in good faith by Israel, this means the end of targeted assassinations and it requires the lifting of the blockade that has tormented Gaza for more than five years. These are major setbacks for the Israeli policy, although Hamas is obligated to stop sending rockets from its territory. The political acceptance by Tel Aviv of a prohibition on targeted assassinations, if respected, renounces a favorite tactic of Israeli governments for many years, which although generally regarded as illegal was still frequently relied upon by Israel with impunity. Indeed, the most dramatic precipitating event in the recent controversial unfolding crisis timeline was the killing of Ahmed al-Jabari on 14 November, a military/political leader of Hamas, who at the very time was negotiating a truce relating to cross-border violence. Unraveling the competing claims of acting defensively should at least acknowledge this complexity that makes polemical the contention that only one side is responsible. The Obama administration, with its usual deference to Tel Aviv, misleading told the story of the sustained violence as if only Israel was entitled to claim a defensive prerogative.

Fourthly, the role of the United States, while still significant, was considerably downsized by these other factors, especially by the need to allow Egypt to play the main role as arbiter. Such a need was partly, no doubt, a consequence of Washington’s dysfunctional insistence of continuing to avoid any direct contact with Hamas officials. This Egyptian prominence suggests a trend toward the regionalization of Middle East diplomacy that diminishes the importance and seriously erodes the legitimacy of extra-regional interference. This is bad news for the Israelis and for the United States. Turkey, a state with bad relations with Israel, also played a significant role in defusing the escalating crisis.

There exists a revealing gap between the U.S. insistence all along that Israel’s use of force was fully justified because every country has the right to defend itself and the ceasefire text that placed restrictions on future violence as being applicable to both sides. After the ceasefire, the United States needs to make a defining choice: either continue its role as Israel’s unconditional enabler or itself adopt a more ‘pragmatic’ approach to the conflict in the manner of Morsi. If the United States remains primarily an enabler, its diplomatic role is likely to diminish rapidly, but if it decides to adopt a balanced approach, even if quietly, it might still be able to take the lead in establishing a real peace process that is sensitive to the rights of both sides under international law. To make such a shift credible, President Obama would have to make a major speech to the American people at some point explaining why it is necessary to choose between partisanship and diplomacy in reshaping its future relationship to the conflict. However sensible such a shift would be both for American foreign policy and the stability of the Middle East, it is highly unlikely to happen. There is nothing in Obama’s resume that suggests a willingness to go to the people to circumvent the dysfunctional outlook of special interest groups that have dominated the way the U.S. Congress and the media present the conflict.

Fifthly, the United Nations was made to appear almost irrelevant, despite the presence of the Secretary General in the region during the diplomatic endgame. Ban Ki Moon did not help matters by seeming to echo the sentiments coming from Washington, calling attention almost exclusively to Israeli defensive rights. The UN could provide more neutral auspices for future negotiations if it were to disentangle itself from Western geopolitics. To do this would probably require withdrawing from participation in the Quartet, and pledging a commitment to a sustaining and just peace for both peoples. As with United States, it is highly unlikely that the UN will make such a move, at least not without prior authorization from Washington. As with Obama, there is nothing in the performance to date of Ban Ki Moon as Secretary General that suggests either the willingness or the capacity to act independently when the geopolitical stakes are high.

Sixthly, the immediate aftermath of the ceasefire was a call from the Gaza streets for Palestinian unity, symbolized by the presence of Palestinian Authority, Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine flags all flying in harmonious co-existence. As the New York Times commented, “a rainbow not visible here in years.” If Palestinian unity holds, and becomes a practical reality by being implemented at governmental levels, it could alter the political landscape in a fundamental manner. To take hold it would require open and free elections throughout Occupied Palestine. If this narrative were to unfold, it might make the ceasefire to be perceived as much more than a temporary tense truce, but as a new beginning in the long march toward Palestinian justice.

All in all, the outcome of Operation Pillar of Defense was a resounding defeat for Israel in at least three respects: despite the incessant pounding of Gaza for eight days and the threat of a ground invasion, Hamas did not give in to Israeli demands for a unilateral ceasefire; the military capabilities of Gaza rockets exhibited a far greater capacity than in the past to inflict damage throughout the whole of Israel including Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, which suggests that in any future recurrence of major violence the military capabilities at the disposal of Gaza will become even greater; and the Israeli politics of promoting the Palestinian Authority as the only legitimate representative of the Palestinian people while refusing to deal with Hamas was dealt a heavy, possibly fatal, blow.

There is one chilling slant being given by Israeli officials to this attack on Gaza. It is brazenly being described as ‘a war game’ designed to rehearse for an impending attack on Iran. In the words of Israel’s ambassador to the United States, Michael Oren, “Israel was not confronting Gaza, but Iran.” Considering that at least 160 Gazans were killed, 1000 wounded, and many more traumatized, this is, or should be, a shocking admission of a declared intent to commit crimes against humanity. It should at least prompt the UN Human Rights Council to appoint a fact-finding mission to assess the allegations of criminal conduct during the military attack. In effect, the situation demands a Goldstone 2 report, but this time with the political will to follow through, assuming that incriminating findings are reported.If the HRC does not initiate such a process, as seems a near certainty at this point, the responsibility and the opportunity is a challenge to civil society organizations committed to peace and justice. Given the tactics and disproportionate levels of violence, it would be a fresh abuse of those who died and were injured, to fail to assess this behavior from the perspective of international criminal law.

These developments will themselves be affected by the pervasive uncertainties that make it likely that the ceasefire will be a short truce rather than a dramatic turn from violence to diplomacy. Will the parties respect the ceasefire? Israel has often in the past made international commitments that are later completely abandoned, as has been the case with dismantling the numerous ‘outposts’ (that is, ‘settlements’ unlawful even under Israeli law) or in relation to the commitment to settle the ‘final status’ issues associated with the Oslo Framework within five years. It is not encouraging that Israeli officials are already cynically whispering to the media that they agreed to nothing “beyond the immediate cessation of hostilities.” The undertakings of the text are thus being minimized as ‘talking points’ rather than agreed commitments that lack only specific mechanisms for their implementation. If Israel refuses to give effect to the agreed stoppage of targeted assassinations and does not move to end the blockade in good faith, it will not be surprising to see the rockets flying again.

The Palestinian Authority is poised to regain some of its lost ground by seeking recognition by the UN General Assembly of its status as ‘a non-member state’ on November 29, 2013, a move being fiercely resisted by Tel Aviv and Washington. It is probably too much to expect a softening of this diplomacy. Any claim of Palestinian statehood, even if only of symbolic significance, seems to threaten deeply Israel’s hypocritical posture of agreeing to the creation of a Palestinian state in the abstract while doing everything in its power to oppose any Palestinian efforts to claim statehood.

Such speculations must be conditioned by the realization that as the clock ticks the international consensus solution to the conflict, an independent sovereign Palestine, is fast slipping out of the realm of the feasible, if it has not already done so. The situation of prolonged occupation has altered the demography of Occupied Palestinian and raised the expectations of most Israelis. With as many 600,000 unlawful settlers in the West Bank and Jerusalem no foreseeable Israeli government would survive if it agreed to any conflict-resolving arrangement that required even a small percentage of those settlers to leave. In contrast, on the Palestinian side no arrangement would be sustainable without the substantial reversal of the settlement phenomenon. So long as this 1000 pound gorilla strides freely along the corridors of diplomacy, attaining a genuine peace based on the international consensus of two states for two peoples seems an exercise in wishful thinking.

At the same time, history has shown us over and over again that ‘the impossible’ happens, impossible in the sense that it is an outcome that informed observers rejected as ‘possible’ before it surprised them by happening. It happened when European colonialism was defeated, and again when the Soviet internal and external empire suddenly disintegrated, and then when the apartheid regime was voluntarily dissolved. Sadly, the Palestinian destiny continues to be entrapped in such a foreclosed imaginary, and yet as we have learned from history the struggles of oppressed peoples can on achieve the unforeseeable. It is just barely possible that this latest display of Palestinian sumud (steadfastness) in the face of Pillar of Defense, together with the post-2011 increased responsiveness of the governments of Israel’s neighbors to the wishes of its their own citizenry, will give rise to a sequence of events that alters the equations of regional and global power enough finally to give peace a chance.

Richard Falk | November 24, 2012 at 11:24 am

• Alan Howe’s reply and Robert Rands reply to the reply:

Dear Mr Howe,

Thank you for your reply.

While I appreciate the impact a visit to Israel and Palestine may have had upon your world view, I do not think your experiences in Israel and Gaza justify the lines you, as a professional journalist, have written.

I would like you to consider two sentences; one a quote of your text and the other very similar, but with a few word substitutions:

(1) “Hamas wishes to kill every man, woman and child in Israel. Its brand of Islamism is quite extreme, even by depressing regional standards”
(2) “Israel wishes to kill every man, woman and child in Gaza. Its brand of nationalism is quite extreme, even by depressing regional standards”

It seems to me that both statements are equally and unacceptably general, and that neither contributes toward the resolution of the Israel-Gaza conflict, even in a place that is physically distant from the conflict, as we are in Australia.

When I Googled the phrase “kill every man, woman and child”, the first 14 returns either cited references directly from the Old Testament of the Holy Bible, or else referred to the Bible or a bible.  What then, is the appropriate context of this phrase?  I do not believe it is appropriate in either of the two sentences I have asked you to consider. 

If you can bear to do so, then I’m sure you can examine your editorial and find further examples, where words identifying belligerent parties in the Israel-Gaza conflict can be juxtaposed.  Here is what I expect you may hear:  hatred, racism, intolerance of “the enemy” and intolerance by “the enemy”.  In a word, propaganda.

Is this appropriate text for an editorial by the chief editor of an influential newspaper?  I thought journalists were supposed to maintain objectivity in their reporting, and I always look forward to impartiality and balance in their editorialising. 

Do you really think your editorial meets my modest standard?
You also have written

“Now they say we have a ceasefire between Israel and Gaza. I suspect not. A ceasefire is where you commit yourself not to fire on your enemy.

There is no way Gazans will be able to resist doing that. They’ve been unable to in the past, and their spokesman at the weekend sounded quite excited that their newly acquired longer-range missiles could reach the suburbs of Tel Aviv.”

Mr Howe, you have conflated Gazans with the fraction of Hamas members and others who are directly involved in ordering or engaging in combat. 

The population of Gaza is discussed in the attached pdf, published by The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East

Table 9b on page 21 gives the age distribution of Gazans in 2007.  At that time,  about half of the population of Gaza was under the age of 16.  In roughly rounded figures, about 700,000 children.  Time has marched forward 5 years, so let’s say 500,000 children is a satisfactory estimate.

Are you really saying that there is no way these 500,000 children will be able to resist “firing on the enemy”?  Are you saying these 500,000 children are willingly and knowingly represented by your un-named “Hamas spokesman”?  Of course not.  But that’s how your text reads, and on reflection, I think you may better understand why I am disappointed in your poor editorial judgement.

Robert Rands
Hobart, Tasmania

——- Original Message——-
From: Howe, Alan
To: Robert Rands
Sent: Monday, November 26, 2012 8:39 AM
Subject: RE: Mr Howe,Your editorial shows poor judgement

Good morning, Mr Rands

I am sorry, but I have been to Israel, spoken to the leadership in Ramallah, and visited Gaza and all I can say is that Mr Falk places mush greater confidence in the goodwill of Egypt and the Muslim Brotherhood than I do.

The Brotherhood may be playing politics now, and indulging in the international limelight for a moment, but, as I have written at length before, Sayyid Qutb was an evil man and founded an evil organisation.

One day it might set the world on fire.

Best wishes


Dear Mr Howe,

Thank you for your reply.  I was not suggesting that you made up any fictitious Hamas spokesman.

I am interested in your statement that

“Israel wishes to kill only those that threaten it – and I am happy for them to use my passport in order to carry out extra-judicial assassinations.”

Do you consider your willingness to provide “Israel” your passport, in such justifiable circumstances as you may imagine, to be an act of civil disobedience?

I have not read “The Flight of the Intellectuals”, but if you can see your way to loaning me your copy, I look forward to receiving it in the post.

Robert Rands


Dear Mr Howe,

Thank you for your reply.

I’ll have a look for “Flight of the Intellectuals” at the Tas Uni bookshop.

In your email below, you have accused me, stating “You were indeed suggesting I had invented a Hamas spokesman”

Suggestions are in the eye of the beholder, it seems.  A similar misunderstanding arose regarding your statement that
“Israel wishes to kill only those that threaten it – and I am happy for them to use my passport in order to carry out extra-judicial assassinations.”
You have cleared up one misunderstanding that arose between us, by stating that
“I didn’t say I’d “provide” my Australian passport. I said I’d be happy for them to use it. The Israelis have sometimes faked genuine passport holders’ papers to carry out work to secure their safety.”

I hope you will accept another misunderstanding as being cleared up, when I state that I was not intentionally suggesting that you had invented a Hamas spokesman.  The quotation marks I used were to indicate generality, not to imply falsehood.

Regarding Media Watch, the email address is in my CC line, as has been the case on my prior emails: .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

My concern remains, that your editorial, “Don’t smile if things on Gaza go back to normal” does absolutely nothing toward resolution of the Israel-Palestine conflict.
You make partisan statements, like “Hamas wishes to kill every man, woman and child in Israel. Its brand of Islamism is quite extreme, even by depressing regional standards.”
While statements like these may accurately reflect your personal beliefs, my personal belief is that they express gross generalities that mainly serve to incite prejudice, and do not belong in the editorial column of an influential Australian newspaper.. 

If you believe such statements are somehow helpful to your readers, or helpful toward resolving the Israel-Gaza conflict, then you are welcome to argue your case.

Robert Rands
Hobart, Tasmania