In the war of ideas, we operate under huge handicaps. Our adversaries
attract sympathy as underdogs, yet carry enormous economic and political clout
and effectively control international institutions like the UN. In addition,
they have hijacked NGOs purportedly promoting human rights, yet are at the
forefront of racist campaigns to demonize and delegitimize us. It is disgraceful
that many western journalists collaborate with them.
consistently maintained a staunch bipartisan friendship with the Jewish state
since its creation. Under the current Labor government headed by Julia
Gillard, it remains, like the United States and Canada, one of the few countries
where Israel still gets a fair hearing.
On November 26, John Lyons, the
accredited Jerusalem reporter for The Australian
, the leading national daily,
wrote a 3,000 word feature lambasting alleged inhumane Israeli treatment of
Although The Australian
has a consistent record of
being fair and open-minded in relation to Israel, this was a classic compendium
of anti-Israeli vilification, reminiscent of the wildest distortions and
fabrications contained in the Goldstone report.
The sources attributed
were the usual Israeli demonizers – B’Tselem, Public Committee against Torture
in Israel, Yesh Din, and in particular the organization Defense for Children
International (DCI), represented by Australian lawyer Gerald Horton. Lyons also
interviewed a spokesman for “Breaking the Silence,” the discredited group which
paved the way and actively collaborated with the Goldstone Committee, providing
“evidence” which, after investigation, proved to be largely unsubstantiated and
was even significantly repudiated by Goldstone himself.
Lyons, who the
IDF provided with unfettered access to closed courts, portrayed youngsters in
shackles and weeping mothers observing swift justice by “brutal” Israeli
military authorities. He described IDF courts as a “Guantanamo Bay for
He quoted at length from DCI’s Horton, who referred to “385 sworn
affidavits” alleging the worst imaginable atrocities, including beatings,
torture, intimidating children with savage dogs, electric shock treatment and
every conceivable horror. He even referred to an “interrogator from Gush Etzion”
who specialized in threatening children with rape.
If only a tiny
proportion of these allegations contained a kernel of truth, we would have good
reason to be concerned. But as in previous horror stories, I have every
confidence that the evidence is based on testimony which will once again prove
to be overwhelmingly false. We need only refer to the Muhammad Dura fraud, the
Jenin “massacre,” the Goldstone allegations of “deliberate” targeting of
civilians in Gaza and other charges leveled against us, that months later, were
shown to have been outright lies.
Not surprisingly, the marathon feature
by Lyons created a considerable stir in Australia.
leaders and pro-Israel activists promptly requested the Israeli embassy respond
with information for rebuttals from the Army, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs or
the Prime Minister’s Office. Direct representations were also made to Jerusalem.
For weeks, they were told that the authorities were reviewing the matter but no
reply was forthcoming. One unofficial response idiotically suggested that the
best approach to such a hostile article was to ignore it and it would blow
On December 17, the failure to respond resulted in a second article
by Lyons, regurgitating what he had written previously, informing readers that
Australia’s Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd was deeply concerned over the report and
had instructed Australia’s diplomatic representatives to initiate a formal
inquiry with the Israeli authorities. It is common knowledge that Rudd is
personally keen to distance Australia from Israel in order to curry Arab votes
for Australia’s candidacy for a UN Security Council seat. But he would not have
had credible grounds for initiating such an inquiry had the Israeli authorities
provided a meaningful response.
Only following the Australian decision to
investigate the matter did the IDF spokesperson belatedly issue a bland legal
statement, outlining the reasons why in this context the custody of minors did
not violate international law.
It may be difficult for those living in
Western countries to comprehend the concept of jailing children for throwing
stones. However, stone throwing has emerged as a staple component of terrorism
and to some extent a wretched form of identity for Palestinian youth.
should also be appreciated that stones are hurled equally at innocent Israeli
civilians and at soldiers, and in addition to maiming and scarring, have proven
to be lethal. Only recently, Asher Palmer and his one-yearold son died after a
stone smashed the windshield of his car.
Yet despite this, the reality is
that as a deterrent, only a tiny proportion of stone throwers are being
prosecuted. Otherwise, the Israeli jails would be overflowing with
The issue is additionally complicated because children in Israel
are not tried under the same laws that apply to territories over the green line
which, not having been annexed to Israel, operate under Jordanian and British
Any Israeli official with a modicum of political
sensitivity should have stressed that child terrorism represents one of the most
reprehensible aspects of the Palestinian culture of death and
From kindergarten, Palestinian children are brainwashed into
becoming martyrs by killing Jews in order to fulfill their Islamic obligation to
expunge Jewish sovereignty from the region. Aside from continuously being
employed as human shields, they are frequently exploited as suicide
The monstrous massacre of the Fogel family in March, which
included the beheading of an infant, was perpetrated by a Palestinian family
group which included a minor.
But what is both incomprehensible and
disgraceful is that as of yet the IDF response has still failed to repudiate the
real source of concern – the outrageous lies and defamations concerning the
torture of minors.
The response to the libels contained in Lyons’ article
should have pointed out that many of the NGOs demonizing Israel are the same
ones which provided “testimonies” about Israeli atrocities and war crimes to the
Goldstone Committee which were subsequently demonstrated to be
They should also have asked why Lyons did not query the
failure of the defamers to raise these accusations in the appropriate Israeli
tribunals such as the Supreme Court which even has a controversial record among
Israelis for intervening in IDF-related matters.
What is wrong with the
IDF, Foreign Ministry and Prime Minister’s Office? Do they really believe that
they can ignore such vile accusations in the mainstream media of a friendly
country? Their deafening silence even led to an editorial in the local Jewish
weekly, the Australian Jewish News
, foolishly asking whether “God forbid,” the
“country we cherish” enabled “the torture of children.”
If this is how
our senior military and government offices deal with such issues, it is high
time to demand accountability.
It is the Prime Minister’s Office which
carries the ultimate responsibility for ensuring that such matters are
efficiently handled. Binyamin Netanyahu, more than most politicians, has a
genuine grasp of the crucial importance of the war of ideas. If his office is
not fulfilling its obligations in this area, he must, as a matter of urgency,
personally intervene to guarantee that government information offices are
staffed by personnel who are sufficiently competent to confront such issues in a
skilled and professional manner.The writer’s website can be viewed at
www.wordfromjerusalem.com. He can be reached at