“ANOTHER Israel-bashing headline”, “a flagrantly one-sided piece” and “threadbare and unsubstantiated allegations”.
Just a handful of comments from community leaders and the Israeli embassy this week following the extensive coverage in the Australian media of a report issued by Israeli veterans group Breaking The Silence (BTS) about the treatment of Palestinian children at the hands of the IDF.
According to an article in The Australian, testimony from former soldiers portrayed “a culture of violence and abuse”. Incidents cited in that paper, as well as The Age and Sydney Morning Herald, included the use of children as human shields, a case where a child had a gun put in his mouth, ambushing a boy holding a Molotov cocktail and blowing his leg off, and beating youngsters who wouldn’t sing Hatikvah.
Responding to the claims, a spokesperson for the Israeli embassy in Canberra said, “The IDF and the Israeli government take any alleged transgressions seriously. If any acts conducted by soldiers breach legal, moral or ethical norms, they are subject to stringent investigation and prosecution by the appropriate authorities.
“Bearing in mind the fact that some NGOs elect not to fully exercise their rights by approaching the Israeli Supreme Court proves that it is not justice they are looking for, but another Israel-bashing headline.”
Dr Colin Rubenstein, executive director of the Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council, also noted that BTS had often been criticised for failing to cooperate with the IDF in investigating alleged wrongdoings, suggesting “the organisation exists primarily to malign the reputation of the IDF on human rights, rather than improve its performance”.
Zionist Federation of Australia president Philip Chester claimed “rather than providing sound investigative journalism, the article [in the Fairfax press] relied on unnamed sources, hearsay and propaganda”.
President of the Executive Council of Australian Jewry Dr Danny Lamm contrasted the front page coverage of “crude propaganda” in the Fairfax press accompanied by photos of crying children without “detailed explanation or context” with coverage of “a genuine and substantiated report about a massacre of approximately 300 civilians by the Assad regime in Syria the previous day, [which] was relegated to a minor story on page 7 of the Herald”.
The impact of the BTS story, he lamented, would leave many Australians “with the false, indeed ridiculous, impression that the IDF is a serious abuser of children’s rights, indeed the most serious abuser of such rights in the Middle East”.