Weekend long read

1) In light of events in Jerusalem this past week (that have at the time of writing gone unreported by the BBC), a JCPA briefing on the subject of the incitement constructed around lies concerning Temple Mount provides useful background.

““Al-Aksa is in danger” is a classic libel that was embroidered in the first half of the twentieth century against the Jewish people, the Zionist movement, and, eventually, the State of Israel. The state and its institutions – so, in brief, the libel claims – are scheming and striving to destroy the mosques on the Temple Mount and build in their stead the Third Temple. The longer the libel lives, its delusive variants striking root, the more its blind and misled devotees proliferate. The libel is ramifying, taking hold of the academic, religious, and public discourse of the Arab, Palestinian, and Muslim world as if it were pure truth. Absurdly, it strikes at the Jewish people and the State of Israel precisely in the place where the Jewish state has made the most generous gesture, the greatest concession, ever made by one religion to another – on the Temple Mount, the holiest place of the Jewish people and only the third place in importance for the Muslim religion.”

2) At the Times of Israel, David Horovitz writes about the same story.

“It’s outrageous that in parts of the Muslim world, Israel is being castigated for installing metal detectors designed to boost security at the holiest place in the world for Jews and the third holiest for Muslims. Don’t they want security there?

It’s outrageous that many of those who are castigating Israel for ostensibly “changing the status quo” at the Temple Mount / Al-Aqsa Mosque compound are doing so without so much as mentioning the murderous attack that defiled the holy site and prompted the deployment of the metal detectors: On Friday, three Muslims — Israeli Arab Muslims — emerged from the compound, guns blazing, and shot dead two Border Police officers who were stationed on duty immediately outside. The two victims just so happened to be Druze — an Arabic-speaking monotheistic community incorporating many Islamic teachings. To put it really crudely then, Arabs killed Arabs at a holy place, the Jews are trying to ensure that it doesn’t happen again, and the Arab world is furious with the Jews about it.”

3) At ‘Point of No Return’ we learn of a proposed new museum in Jerusalem.

“An architect of Tunisian origin is behind a project to build a Museum to Jews from Arab Countries.  Jean-Loup Mordehai Msika explains why such a museum, in the heart of Jerusalem, is vital to inform visitors of the ancient roots of the Jewish people in the Middle East. The project, unveiled publicly for the first time on Point of No Return,  has the backing of  the coalition of associations of Jews from Arab countries in Israel and is now with the Jerusalem municipality for approval.” 

4) This week the IDF revealed details of its operations providing humanitarian aid to Syrians battling with the effects of the civil war in their country.

“Over four years ago, an injured Syrian came to the border asking for medical help from the IDF. Back then, there was no policy, just a commander’s on-the-spot decision to provide care to an injured civilian. Since then, the aid has continued on a near daily basis. In June 2016, as part of a decision to expand humanitarian aid efforts, the IDF Northern Command established the headquarters of Operation Good Neighbor.

The goal of Operation Good Neighbor is to provide humanitarian aid to as many people as possible while maintaining Israel’s policy of non-involvement in the conflict. The first activities coordinated by the headquarters took place in August 2016. Since then, there have been more than 110 aid operations of various kinds.”

Additional reporting on that subject can be found here, here and here.

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BBC Radio 4 documentary on Syrian patients in Israel

Over two years have passed since the BBC last reported on the topic of sick and wounded Syrians receiving medical treatment in Israel.

On March 19th BBC Radio 4 aired a half-hour long documentary titled “Tim Samuels’ Sleepover: Inside the Israeli Hospital“.

“Tim Samuels spends twenty-four hours immersed in an extraordinary medical scene – Israeli doctors tending to Syrians who have been smuggled over the border for life-saving treatment into a country Syria is technically still at war with.

In the Ziv hospital in the northern Israeli town of Safed, Tim follows two doctors on their rounds as they treat Syrians – both civilians and fighters – who have been seriously wounded in their country’s civil war. Unable to get proper medical attention at home, they are amongst several thousand Syrians who have headed to the border and into Israel for treatment. Tim meets a Syrian man shot during conflict; once his leg has been repaired he intends to head back to rejoin the fight.

On the children’s ward, a mother who has brought her son for treatment describes how her trip to Israel must remain a secret – or she fears she could be killed when they return. On the Syrian border, Tim sees two badly wounded fighters smuggled into Israel by the IDF as they are rushed to Ziv for emergency attention.

In the hospital – staffed by Jewish, Muslim and Druze medics – the doctors talk about the psychological toll of treating the war wounded. A hospital social worker describes waking up repeatedly through the night at home to check that his young son wasn’t injured. The doctors at Ziv say they hope their work is at least a sliver of humanity in a dark region.

Tim explores what motivations might underpin Israel’s assistance to those coming from enemy territory – and how such an unusual situation, even by Middle Eastern standards, has come about.”

Although at times his search for alleged ulterior motives is over dominant and listeners were not informed that the Ziv hospital is just one of several institutions in Israel treating Syrian patients , Tim Samuels has managed to produce an interesting and objective report on a topic the BBC has not covered for quite some time.

 

Weekend long read

1) As noted at the Tower, the Guardian’s Martin Chulov recently published an interesting article about a particular outcome of the war in Syria. Weekend Read

“Iran is repopulating Syrian territory from Damascus to Homs with Shiites families from elsewhere in Syria, Lebanon, and Iraq, turning the area into “zones of influence” that Iran “can directly control and use to advance broader interests,” The Guardian reported earlier this month. […]

Lebanese officials have been paying close attention to what they say has been a systematic destruction of Land Registry offices in areas coming under Assad’s control. It has been confirmed that these offices have been burned in the cities of Zabadani, Darayya, Homs, and Qusayr, meaning that residents who fled cannot prove ownership of their homes.

Abu Mazen Darkoush, a former Free Syrian Army commander, said that after many neighborhoods in Homs were cleansed of their residents, families who returned were refused entry into their homes by officials who cited their lack of proof of ownership.”

2) The Times of Israel has a report on some of the Israeli organisations helping Syrian civilians afflicted by the war in their country.

“In one month, an online crowdfunding campaign, “Just Beyond the Border,” has raised over $350,000 to bring much-needed emergency aid to the children of Syria — more than double its original aim.

The campaign’s title reflects the ideology behind it: that Israelis simply cannot ignore the horrors taking place in neighboring Syria.

Speaking to The Times of Israel recently, Yoav Yeivin, one of the lead organizers of the campaign who is also a Jerusalem city council member for the Hitorerut/Wake-Up Jerusalem movement, said he was inspired by his Holocaust survivor grandmother.

“I was raised with the understanding that apathy could be lethal,” he said.”

3) Although nearly two years have passed since the BBC last reported on the topic, the story of Syrian patients receiving treatment from the IDF and in Israeli hospitals continues – as Reuters recently reported.

“It happens nearly every night. After dark, the Syrian wounded come to known locations on the Israel-Syria front in the Golan Heights, driven by desperation to seek help from an enemy army.

Israeli soldiers on lookout or patrol spot them waiting by the fence and whisk them away to a rear position where army medics soon arrive, according to army officials operating in the Golan Heights.”

4) Israel’s Channel 10 recently reported another development regarding Israeli aid to Syrians.

“Israel is to grant refugee status to 100 orphaned Syrian refugee children, in line with a decision by Interior Minister Aryeh Deri on Wednesday.

According to Channel 10, the children will receive temporary resident status and become permanent residents after four years, and be able to remain in Israel for their entire lives.

Channel 10 said that the children will be integrated into Arab Israeli families. Furthermore, any of the children’s immediate relatives will also be considered for refugee status.

The government made the final decision on the future of the refugees and will now liaise with the relevant international organizations to bring the orphans into the country.”

BBC News passes up on an unusual Middle East story

Eighteen months have passed since the BBC last reported on the topic of the sick and wounded Syrians receiving medical care in Israel and so its audiences may not be aware of the fact that the provision of that humanitarian aid continues.

One of the patients arriving at the border earlier this year presented a particular challenge to the medical teams.

“The girl arrived at Rambam Medical Center in Haifa in recent weeks with very serious wounds that she received after finding herself caught in a firefight between rival militias […]

Some two weeks after she arrived at the hospital, after her wounds had nearly healed, Rambam doctors discovered the young girl had cancer.

They refused to release her, insisting that they could not let her cancer go untreated. […]

And so a search began for a bone marrow donor, a search that led to a relative living in a Middle Eastern country designated an “enemy state” under Israeli law, a designation that prevented the relative from entering Israel.

It was at this point that Israel’s security services stepped in, mounting a secret operation in the enemy country that helped smuggle the relative out of that country and into Israel.”

Rambam

Photo credit: Rambam hospital

The treatment was successful and this week the little girl was discharged from hospital.

“Rambam Health Care Campus has treated 140 Syrian civilians, men, women and children over the past three years. However, the departure, yesterday, of a six-year-old girl, “B”, was especially emotional for everyone.  Wearing a white dress, white shoes, and a little silver crown, “B” was the guest of honor at a farewell party held by an entire department, where Jews, Muslims, Christians, and Druze stood together with tears in their eyes, surrounding her with love and concern for the future that awaits her. […]

After all the parting messages, some of which were painstakingly read in Arabic by Jewish doctors and nurses, the mother asked to read her own thank you wishes. In a small voice, she said “I would lie if I said that I expected the kind of humanity I discovered here. I am grateful for your care and sensitivity; may God protect you. And we will always remember what you did for us.””

To date, BBC audiences have not been told this unusual story.

Don’t try this at home: BBC driving directions show basic ME geography fail

On February 16th the BBC broadcast and published several reports by Paul Adams on various platforms – all of them telling the story of a Syrian man who received medical treatment in one of Israel’s hospitals.Adams report 1

On the BBC News website’s Middle East page readers found a report titled “Israeli hospital rebuilds injured Syrian man’s face“. On the same page a filmed report – also broadcast on television news programmes – appeared under the headline “Syria war victim given new jaw in Israel” and two additional filmed reports (here and here) were also available. An item on the same topic appeared in the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour’ (from 17:38 here) and a version of that audio report was also promoted separately on Twitter.

In several of the otherwise largely reasonable reports Adams tells BBC audiences that:

“Syrian patients started arriving in Israel soon after the war began. They’re now a common sight in hospitals like Rambam.”

In fact, whilst the uprising in Syria began in March 2011, it was only almost two years later – at the beginning of 2013 – that the first of the wounded arrived on the Israeli-Syrian border. Since then, thousands of Syrians have been treated in Israel – although the BBC’s coverage of the topic has been sparse (see related articles below) and these are the first reports on the subject since November 2013. That makes it all the more unfortunate that Adams’ extensive reporting did not also inform audiences about other aspects of the story such as the existence of an IDF field hospital in the Golan Heights and the fact that the cost of the treatment for thousands of Syrians there and in civilian hospitals (over 33 million shekels the latter establishments alone as of October 2014) is borne by the Israeli tax-payer.Adams report 2

Adams’ reports all inform audiences that his interviewee was scared when he found himself in Israel and that for all the Syrian patients arriving in Israel “it’s a journey into the unknown”. He does not, however, approach the topic of the Syrian state-sponsored propaganda which was the root cause of their views of Israel before they saw it for themselves.

In the audio report Adams tells listeners:

“Well, if you drive about an hour and a half west from Haifa, you come to this place: the wind-swept Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.”

Of course if you drive about an hour and a half west from Haifa (or even a lot less), you’ll actually end up in the Mediterranean Sea: the Golan Heights are to the east/north-east of Haifa.

Related Articles:

BBC throws mud over repatriation of Syrians

BBC Arabic reports on Syrian patients in Israeli hospitals – but not in Arabic

At last: an accurate and impartial BBC report on Syrian patients in Israel

Northern exposure: what the BBC isn’t reporting about the Israel-Syria border