The Palestine Holocaust

Community lashes SBS over 'one-sided' documentary


By Peter Kohn, The Australian Jewish News, 4 October 2002

Community leaders have condemned an anti-Israel documentary on the plight of Palestinians to be screened by SBS this week and what they see as the broadcaster's continued one-sided coverage of the Israel-Palestine conflict. 

In Palestine Is Still The Issue (SBS, Tuesday, October 8, 8.30 pm) British-Based Australian journalist John Pilger visits the West Bank interviewing Jews and Palestinians.

A preview video of the documentary sent by SBS to the Australian Jewish News was accompanied by an SBS press release that appeared to concur with Mr Pilger's views and failed to indicate that the documentary is controversial.

However, the acting head of SBS Television, Rod Webb, told the AJN the channel did not endorse the views of Mr Pilger and the release was the work of "overzealous publicists". The head of SBS publicity, Mike Field, later called the AJN to apologise.

The British film portrays Israel's occupation of the West Bank as a land grab without a compelling security motive, casts suicide bombing as acts of desperation and paints West Bank settlements as oases of middle-class comfort in a sea of Palestinian squalor.

When it aired on Britain's ITV only hours after the end of Yom Kippur it prompted a barrage of criticism from communal bodies.

Even Michael Green, chairman of the Carlton Group which runs ITV said in an interview with Britain's Jewish Chronicle last week the program was "one-sided".

"[It] is a tragedy for Israel so far as accuracy is concerned," he said, adding that a program offering the Israeli view was being considered.

Acting president of the Executive Council of Australian Jewry Diane Shteinman was part of a delegation of Jewish leaders who met Mr Webb and senior SBS executives this week to voice their concerns.

She said Mr Webb argued that SBS coverage was balanced over the whole of its Middle East programming and he did not see the need for balance within an individual program.

'It's an argument I can't accept. TV is an instant medium and people are affected by what they see in one program," she said.

Ms Shteinman urged members of the community to contact SBS in their capital city to let their views be known.

President of the Zionist Federation of Australia Dr Ron Weiser said it "should be seen not as a documentary but as one person's crusade."

Dr Weiser said the absence of a complaints tribunal within SBS, unlike the ABC, allowed the network to continue its one-sided coverage of Middle East events.

"It's quite odd that a government-funded broadcaster can do whatever it wishes without any ability to seriously follow up any complaints."

Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council executive director Dr Colin Rubenstein echoed Dr Weiser's call for a complaints tribunal.

But Mr Webb denied SBS has no proper complaints procedure and said it was the channel's policy to "take note" of phone complaints and respond to every letter within 60 days or the complaint could be handed over to the Australian Broadcasting Tribunal.

Dr Rubenstein said Mr Pilger simply rewrote history to read as if Israel was not attacked in 1948 or 1967 or that peace offers had never been made at Camp David and Taba in 2000. "All that's left is a distorted presentation of Israel as a willing, brutal, sadistic occupier, replete with factual and historical errors."

Mr Webb denied suggestions that the documentary was factually wrong and said the conflict's history was subject to claims and counterclaims. This is in contrast to the Carlton Group's Michael Green who told the Chronicle that "it was factually incorrect, historically incorrect."

Mr Webb said SBS was committed to airing all sides of the conflict, citing a recently screened German documentary on the Palestinian boy killed at the start of the intifada, which refuted Palestinian claims that he was killed by Israelis.

He said it drew a strong backlash from Australian Muslims, as would an interview with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon scheduled to be aired shortly.



Adelaide Institute Comment: What's this, Dr Rubenstein? You say Israel was attacked in 1948? Have you forgotten what the Zionists did to those who lived in Palestine prior to the Zionist invasion? Terrorism beget terrorism.




Editorial: Pilger's lack of context. The Australian Jewish News, 4 October 2002

The most damning aspect of John Pilger's latest documentary is its appalling lack of context and balance. Due to screen on SBS Television on October 8, Palestine Is Still The Issue, is a hard-hitting foray into the hardships of Palestinians living under Israeli occupation.

A revisit to territory Pilger covered in a documentary of the same title 25 years ago, the camera contrasts modern Israel settlements and their lush vegetation with squalid Palestinian villages where water is scarce.

It lingers over damage done to Palestinian homes during Israel's recent anti-terrorism offensive, and suggests a comparison with apartheid South Africa, with certain roads reserved for a handful of Israeli settlers while Palestinians are obliged to wait for hours — sometimes sleeping in their cars overnight — in order to get through a military roadblock.

Pilger buttresses his message by interviewing  an Israeli soldier who now refuses to serve, an Israeli academic and an Israeli father whose seven-year-old daughter was recently murdered by a terrorist.

"It's not that Pilger is wrong in what he says or shows, it's just that context and balance are glaringly absent.

He refers to the massive Israeli incursion into the West Bank in April  — which did happen  — yet omits to inform viewers that in March 125 Israelis were blown up by suicide bombers, including 29 in the Pesach massacre, precipitating the incursion.

He refers to Palestinians being forced to flee their homes during Israel's War of Independence  — which did happen — yet does not regard it worthy of mention that five Arab armies attacked Israel within hours of its declaration of independence, with Arab countries  urging Palestinians to flee and assuring them that they would return victorious. 

He describes former prime minister Menachem Begin as a terrorist, citing the destruction of a wing of the King David Hotel  — which did happen  — yet omits tomentio0n that it housed the British Army headquarters.

Pilger's up-front message is correct: the Palestinians are suffering under the occupation, their daily lives are heavily constrained by the military presence, human tragedies occur as a result and a Palestinian state needs to be established.

It is the subliminal message  — delivered by the lack of context and balance  — which is offensive, implying that it is overwhelmingly Israel which is the problem and effectively absolving  the Palestinians of their role in the impasse.

Ultimately, the issue is a humanitarian tragedy that needs to be resolved as quickly as humanly possible. By unjustly apportioning blame, however, Pilger does little more than inflame emotions.



Adelaide Institute comment: Balance? And this from a Zionist mindset that is currently out to exterminate the Palestinians?  This mindset also gloatingly welcomed the 17 September 2002 Federal Court of Australia judgment against Fredrick Töben that effectively gags him on matters 'Holocaust'. Zionists and balance?




The Issue is Pilger

The Australian Jewish News, 4 October 2002

The media watchdog, compiled the following rebuttal to John Pilger's documentary Palestine Is Still The Issue, which will screen this week.

  Referring to Israel's War of Independence (following Arab refusal to accept the UN Partition Plan), Pilger's documentary stated: "In 1948 the Arab world rose up when Palestinians were forced to flee from their homes in a blitz of fear and terror." Pilger suggests the five-nation Arab attack was in response to Israel's aggression

•  The Six-Day War is described similarly: "In 1967 Palestinians were forced to flee again when Israel occupied the West Bank and Gaza Strip, describing it as an act of self-defence." Pilger insists that 1967 was an Israeli fantasy about Arabs wanting to destroy it.

•  Operation Defensive Shield is portrayed as a deliberate attempt to vandalise and destroy Palestinian culture, no mention is made of the wave of suicide bombings that forced Israel to defend itself.

•  Pilger suggests Israel systematically murders Palestinians, claiming that 90 per cent of Palestinians killed are civilians. In fact, scholarly studies show that in the last two years of violence, 39 per cent  of Palestinian deaths are "non-combatant" and 79 per cent of Israeli deaths are "non-combatant".

•  Pilger claims that the checkpoints have destroyed the Palestinian economy, ignoring the fact that violence against Israelis forced the loss of thousands of Palestinian jobs. Pilger also omits mention of the damage of the Palestinian economy due to corruption of Palestinian Authority officials; Arafat's personal wealth has been estimated at $US 1.3 billion.

•  Pilger interviews an Arab couple who claim their newborn baby died due to IDF  harassment at a checkpoint. The woman says: "This is how they treat all Palestinians. I'm sorry to say this, but they would rather help an animal than an Arab." Pilger offers  no counter-claim, and declares such a story is "typical of the everyday treatment of the Palestinians".

•  Pilger characterises the 1948 refugee issue as "ethnic cleansing". It is historical fact that most Arabs were persuaded to leave by Arab leaders who promised to destroy Israel. Time (May 3, 1948) reported that "the mass evacuation, prompted partly by fear, partly by orders of Arab leaders, left the Arab quarters of Haifa a ghost city ..."     

•  Pilger omits mentioning the equal number of Jewish refugees who fled Arab countries and settled in Israel. He also omits that in the 1880s there was no native Palestinian population ... except in about five per cent of "Palestine". Most Arabs immigrated to "Palestine" after the Zionist pioneers worked to cultivate land legally bought from absentee landlords.

•  Pilger compares Israel's treatment of Arabs to apartheid South Africa. He fails to note that Arabs living under Israeli rule enjoy far greater freedom of speech and the press than to Arabs living under the PI, and that the first Middle East country to grant Arab women the right to vote was Israel. Nor does Pilger mention how in much of the Arab world, Jews and other non-Muslim are treated as second-class citizens.

•  Pilger categorises at least three Israeli prime ministers as "terrorists": Menachem Begin, citing the Irgun's blowing-up of the King David Hotel; Yitzhak Shamir, citing his involvement in the Stern Gang; and Ariel Sharon citing his indirect involvement in the Sabra and Shatilla massacre.

•  Pilger claims that "for much of their resistance, the Palestinians have fought back courageously with slingshots". He omits reference to the Hebron riots of 1929 when 29 Jews were slaughtered. or the period 1951-55, when more than 3000 attacks were launched against Israeli civilians, resulting in the deaths of 922 Israelis were murdered by Palestinian terrorists.

•  Pilger complains that Israel is heavily supplied by America, but omits that America gives billions to Arab countries.

• For his final thrust, Pilger employs the canard of suggesting that Israel's battle against Palestinian terror is akin to Hitler's treatment of the Jews. The conclusion, to paraphrase Pilger, is that the world stood silent during the Holocaust —will they stay silent again?"

•   Scant effort was made to provide context, Israeli perspective or explanation, with Professor Ilan Pappe used as a token Israeli historian.

Pappe is far from objective, having run for the Knesset on the Communist Party ticket. 



Another View of Israeli Conquest of Palestine

From Adelaide Institute Newsletter May 2002 No 159



By Richard Hornung, Adelaide, 21 March 2002

The present turmoil in the Middle East is a daily spectacle on TV screens throughout the world. Millions are reeling under the impact of the news and the images of violence and terror. There are some older folk for whom it has an all too familiar ring, to the point of the somewhat cynical reaction: What’s new?

Take the Swabian Templers . This almost unknown group of former Palestine residents from southern Germany had its terrible brush with the terror that was rife in pre-Israel Palestine. The Templers had for religious reasons emigrated from their native Swabia - the area now called Baden Württemberg - during the last decades of the 19th Century. The ‘Holy Land’ was their choice of place for practising what they believed to be genuine Christianity in contrast to the repression they had experienced under the perceived fossilised Protestantism of their homeland at the time.

Two and a half generations, and many hardships later, they had built excellent lives for themselves in seven settlements in various parts of Palestine. The Templers, tough and resourceful Swabians with the typical work ethic of that stock, had introduced progressive practical methods in many fields. Just one example: Irrigation bores (water was usually found 30 meters below the surface) and water pumps operated by Deutz motors. This made possible the considerable extent of orange groves, from which the famous ‘Jaffa’ oranges were exported to many parts of the world. Irrigation, of course, revolutionised agriculture for all other products of this dry land. Old Palestinian Arabs have not forgotten, and their ongoing gratitude to the Templers is quite touching.

Two wars twice transformed the Templers’ status into that of prisoners of war of HM the King of England, and after 1945, they  became personae non gratae: Enemy status German nationals in the midst of the fierce Arab/Israeli conflict erupting into war after the fighting had stopped in Europe. This was the period leading up to the collapse of the British mandate in 1948. It was a time of daily shootings, bombings, killings, savagery and terror, which also did not spare the British .

The secretary of the Templers was Gotthilf Wagner, a man in his late forties, de facto the leader, very energetic, stubborn and unafraid of the ‘authorities’, which were not that clearly defined, making negotiation particularly difficult. He was also one of the very few fluent English speakers of the group. In his view the Templers had earned the right to be guaranteed a future preferably where they were, but if not, then somewhere else in the British Empire with just and fair compensation in terms of real estate values of the possessions that would have to be relinquished. His negotiations involved discussions with the British, the Zionists, the Arabs -  with all of whom he stuck to his guns being convinced of the justification of the line he had adopted.

This was the time when he began to receive anonymous phone calls, messages to the effect that “We” will make certain that he would never see his grandchildren in Australia again. In 1941, large numbers of younger Templers and their wives and children had been shipped on the Queen Elizabeth to Australia, which brought about the tearing apart of many families. This set the stage for the eventual emigration to Australia of the bulk of the Templers.

The warning Gotthilf Wagner had received subsequently turned out to be a bomb explosion in the Sarona community hall, one of the Templer settlements near Tel Aviv, where he was presiding over the meeting of elders. A major mess with many dead bodies would have been the outcome had the meeting for that day not been postponed by 20 minutes or so, a mere non-routine coincidence. I never found out why the meeting had been postponed.

Then, on the morning of 22 March 1946, Wagner, drove with two others, one of them his sister Frida, from the inland settlement Wilhelma near Lydda, now Bene Atarot near Lod, to nearby Jaffa. [Wilhema was named not after the German Kaiser but after the king of Württemberg a part of Germany that still had a king until the end of World War One]

On this business trip unrest was all around: tensions, daily killings, mutual atrocities between Jews and Arabs and occasionally involving the British - who found all this increasingly beyond their control. Once more: What’s new? Gotthilf’s wife, Lina, had pleaded with her husband not to go this once because she had frightening dreams about him - all very much like Calpurnia of ‘Ides of March’ fame.

In his somewhat gruff manner, Wagner had brushed it all aside saying “Allah ma na” -  God is with us – and although he wasn’t a Muslim, many Templers were less reticent, less inhibited when using the Arab tongue in which some were as fluent as the native speakers. After he had driven off in the car, Frida observed two motorbike riders following the car at some distance. Close to the outskirts of Jaffa, in front of a cast iron bridge over the wadi (creek) called Audje, built by Gotthilf’s foster father Georg Wagner in an earlier time, a car across the whole road blocked their way. Two obviously seasoned killers jumped forward at the slowing car from behind a bush, each pumped a bullet into his head and disappeared on their motorbikes. The deed took less than a minute. Gotthilf was almost instantly dead, trying to frame a word resembling ‘Ende’ – the end - and turning off the motor as an already automatic reflex action. Frida, in inexpressible panic, tried to mop up the blood pouring out of the fatal wounds.

By the afternoon of that day Wagner’s body was returned to Wilhelma. The entire community, and later all Templers, were stunned, speechless, feeling that  time had stood still, and wondering who and what would come next. They certainly felt that the end of their time in that area had come in one form or other. There was no one remotely capable of guiding them through that impossibly chaotic time on the same conviction that Wagner had done, of toughing it out with those in power.

And so it was the beginning of the end of the almost three generation long life of these Swabians in their ‘Holy Land’. After yet another atrocity committed by a contingent of the Haganah two years later most of them became displaced persons, as they were called then, refugees to Australia via tent camp in Cyprus. This roughly coincided with the end of the British mandate in the spring of 1948.                 

How do I come to know this sub-story of the then terror that prevailed in the Middle East?

I was a 13-year-old boy in the Templer community and I was Gotthilf’s nephew and he was my mother’s cousin. Gotthilf had been raised by the man who had built the bridge, and had introduced the irrigation system mentioned above, Georg Wagner, my mother’s father. Gotthilf had lost his own parents in a typhus epidemic when he was a boy. My brother, Hans, and I both knew Onkel Gotthilf particularly well, were extremely fond and admiring of him, appreciated his generosity, his sense of humour and his general ability to have fun. He taught me to swim in the midst of going through hell in his daily struggles, while the terror encroached upon him in the manner related above. None of this ever showed in the man. He goaded me on in the water finding it difficult not to laugh outright at my grimacing face, and through his hilarity and confidence in himself and in life I very quickly lost all water shyness. Gotthilf was a positive personality and a role model.

Like me, many people puzzled over the need to kill this man. It had nothing to do with the strife in Europe. Wagner was a deeply convinced anti- Nazi. It had a lot to do with the all too familiar use of terror as a political weapon. No one felt safe after the killing, all stared at an abyss from that date to early 1948, until the moment when the English former troop ship Empire Comfort crammed full with Templers beyond passenger capacity was leaving full steam towards Cyprus. It was departing Haifa harbour, a city in which the former Templer settlement was conquered by the Haganah on the very day the ship berthed to collect the Templers from the two northern settlements inland from Haifa. In my memory it remains as a day of ceaseless gun and mortar fire, of bullets flying and feelings of unrelieved tension, despair about the future in the older folk and an almost zombi- like stare on many faces.

The impression is persistent that the intention was to terrorise and to create a situation where those so terrorised simply leave if they still can, ‘on their own volition’, situations well known to hundreds of thousands of hapless Arab Palestinians to this day.

I was also asked why the murder of Gotthilf Wagner is so unknown. Firstly, it is well known to all the Templers, and it is recorded in the Templer chronicle titled Uns rief das Heilige Land, of which an English translation exists. 

Beyond that, however, I must ask: Does anyone know much about Andernach or Kreuznach or the huge exodus of 15 million Germans who were made to comply with Stalin’s policy of shifting Poland hundreds of kilometers west. Or the brutal liquidation of the entire nation of Volga- Germans? The World War Two bombing inferno seems also be largely unknown or ‘un-remembered’ even in Germany; and Hiroshima, while a household name, is not that well known today.

I believe it has to do with the fact that we simply cannot strike out in fresh and positive new life’s directions dwelling on ‘knowing’ all these dreadful things. Besides, one of the great findings of modern psychology is: What you fill your mind with at one end comes out in the form of action: achievement or non-achievement, fulfillment or frustration, dreams-come-true or nightmares-come-true at the other end of existence where irrevocable FACTS are made. There is much more to this approach than meets the eye. The positive side of it tends to be adopted by those who are productively involved with the present and with an active sense of and a longing for a worthwhile future.

The other one is useful for those who believe in REVENGE, which is the road to NOWHERE. For example: The Middle East, then and now, the Holy Land being transformed into hell on earth and similarly bushed* America, US!* as little competent to do something constructive about it as was the dying British Empire in 1945-48.  (* Puns intended)





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