Sensible Jew; More on Goldstone

Sensible Jew says that there was a gathering of Jewish communal leaders with Age editor Paul Ramadge. He spoke, then questions were puto him:

In short, every single question I heard, bar one, had the same tenor, and essentially the same content: there was an aggrieved and somewhat aggressive framing of everything that was put to Ramadge. Indeed, these were hardly questions at all. They were long winded statements about the unassailable rectitude of Israeli actions, and the unconscionable bias of The Age reporters.

At the conclusion of each audience member’s “question,” vigorous clapping and heartfelt words of support from other members of the public flowed through the room.

Throughout it all, I marvelled at Ramadge’s ability to keep his cool, remain unfailingly polite, and low key. Regardless of his merits as an editor, he certainly exhibited advanced skills in keeping his head, when all about them were losing theirs.

Very few in the audience seemed to appreciate that Ramadge had not been compelled by a court order to appear before them. The style of questions leapt over the line from adversarial to outright inquisitorial.

The self-righteousness in the room mingled with an uglier undertone of strength-in-numbers.

This was on starkest display when a member of the Australian Jewish Democratic Society posed his question.

Unlike everyone before him, he sought to praise The Age’s Israel coverage.

Like most people in the room, I strongly disagreed with his point of view; however, I was appalled at the general response to him from the audience.

There were loud heckles and jeers, regular cries of, “Sit Down,” and a broad-based attempt to prevent him from speaking at all.

Can you imagine? The radical Age. This is the JCCV – Melbourne’s JBD.

Jonathan Cook takes on the issue of the Goldstone report. He analyses the issue primarily from the framework of the openly reported blackmail about the telephone company.

In particular, Israel warned it would renege on a commitment to allot radio frequencies to allow Wataniya, a mobile phone provider, to begin operations this month in the West Bank. The telecommunications industry is the bedrock of the Palestinian economy, with the current monopoly company, PalTel, accounting for half the worth of the Palestinian stock exchange.

The collapse of the Wataniya deal would have cost the Palestinian Authority hundreds of millions of dollars in penalties, blocked massive investment in the local economy and jeopardised about 2,500 jobs.

Wataniya’s planned launch earlier this year had to be pushed back and the company has threatened to pull out of the deal if the new October 15 deadline is missed. If it does, the Palestinian Authority will have to repay $140m in licensing fees and could be liable for hundreds of millions more that Wataniya has invested in building 350 communication masts across the West Bank.

According to Who Profits?, an Israeli organisation that investigates links between Israel and international companies in exploiting the occupied territories, Israel has a vested interest in limiting the success of the Palestinian mobile phone industry and protecting its control over extensive parts of the West Bank it wants for Jewish settlement.

The only existing Palestinian operator, Jawwal, a subsidiary of PalTel, has been blocked from building communications infrastructure in the so-called Area C of the West Bank, comprising 60 per cent of the territory, which is designated under full Israeli control.

Instead, four Israeli companies – Cellcom, Orange, Pelephone and Mirs – have built an extensive network of antennas and transmission stations for Jewish settlers in Area C. Mirs, a subsidiary of Motorola Israel, also has an exclusive licence to provide cellular services to the Israeli military.

Typically, Palestinians travelling outside the major population areas of the West Bank find a limited or non-existent Jawwal service and therefore have to rely on the Israeli companies.

A World Bank report last year found that as much as 45 per cent of the Palestinian mobile phone market may be in the hands of the Israeli companies. In violation of the Oslo Accords, these firms do not pay taxes to the PA for their commercial activity, losing the Palestinian treasury revenues of up to $60m a year.

Israeli companies also rake off additional surcharges on connections made by Palestinians using Jawwal, including calls between mobile phones and landlines, between the West Bank and Gaza and many within Area C, and international calls.


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