Stories The Media Ignores

….a selection of news stories which never made it into the mainstream international media…..

Arab columnists condemn Hamas for bringing suffering on the Palestinians

Several Arab commentators have fiercely criticised Hamas for its conduct in Gaza (see a review of these articles on MEMRI - - Special Dispatch 1829, dated 29 January 2008 ). Al-Arabiya TV Director Abd'al Al-Rahman Al-Rashed condemns Israel , but then he says: “What is the point of these rocket attacks… that increase the suffering of 1.5 million Palestinians, but do not cause Israel any military harm or induce it to make political concessions? Hamas rocket attacks amount to a suicide operation that sacrifices the security of all the residents of Gaza ….” (Al-Sharq al-Aswat, 21 January 2008 ). Palestinian journalist Nadia Ilabouni is highly critical of Israel , but she then writes: “What the Palestinians need is for Hamas to show some responsibility – even a little….. Before begging for compassion from the world, we had better have some compassion for ourselves, and protect ourselves from the tyranny and control of those who trade in blood – those who are not committed to the Palestinian cause, but are serving the agendas of external forces that have nothing to do with Palestinian interests… “ (Al-Sharq Al-Awsat 23 January 2008) [Beyond Images comment: the latter comment is almost certainly a reference to Iran ]

Palestinian groups' repeatedly abuse humanitarian aid to smuggle explosive material into Gaza

On several occasions in recent months, Israeli personnel have discovered explosive material hidden in humanitarian aid trucks coming into Gaza . On 13 January 2008 they found two tons of chemical substances hidden in a humanitarian aid truck. The Israelis said that it was enough to produce 500 rockets. The previous week the Israelis made a similar discovery (see Ha'aretz, 14 January 2008 ). These incidents follow the attempt by Palestinians in December 2007 to smuggle explosives into Gaza in bags marked as European Union aid. Israeli soldiers at a checkpoint discovered 6.5 tonnes of potassium nitrate in bags sent by the EU and marked ‘Sugar'. Potassium nitrate can be used to make explosives and power homemade rockets (Reuters, 29 December 2007 ).

Israeli medical services to civilian Palestinians in Gaza is on the increase

The number of Gaza Palestinians being treated for medical conditions of all sorts in Israel 's hospitals has increased significantly, despite the Hamas takeover of the Gaza Strip, and the barrage of rocket attacks. According to an Israeli report published on 13 January 2008 , in 2007 more than 7000 Palestinians were able to travel to hospitals in Israel and in the West Bank – an increase of 50% over the 2006 figure. Close to 8000 more Palestinians were allowed to accompany them (see Jerusalem Post, 14 January 2008 ). Israel officials commented that Israel took great risks in encouraging such visits, which had on numerous occasions been abused by Palestinian patients to attempt terrorist attacks on the Israeli hospitals or other targets (see Beyond Images Briefing 146 for an example).

Emergency heart operation is carried out for Gaza Palestinian child, by Israel 's ‘Save A Child's Heart'

Six month old Jamal from Gaza suffers from a very serious heart defect. On 16 January 2008 he was transferred from the Al-Awda hospital in Gaza to the Wolfson Medical Centre in Holon where Israeli surgeons operated upon him. The operation was hailed a success. (IRIN press release, UN Office for Humanitarian Affairs, 23 January 2008 ). The initiative is part of the Save A Child's Heart project (see ). For other projects by Save A Child's Heart see Beyond Images Briefing 204).

No evidence of Israeli use of uranium-tipped munitions

In October 2006 the Independent newspaper in the UK published a front page report, headlined ‘Mystery of Israel's Secret Uranium Bomb' and written by Robert Fisk, claiming that Israel had used uranium-tipped munitions during its war against Hezbollah of Summer 2006. The story was reported worldwide. Experts from the UN Environment Programme have since concluded that there was no evidence to support this claim (ABC Online, 8 November 2006 ). A panel of experts from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has now also stated that there was no evidence to support the original claim ( 27 February 2007 , as reported in Lebanon 's Daily Star newspaper). The UN and IAEA findings have hardly been reported anywhere.

Israeli Arab citizen briefly serves as the country's President

Israeli Druze MK Majallie Whbee briefly served as the country's President in February 2007, when acting President Dalia Itzik travelled to America . “This is a historic day because it is the first time that a person from the minorities has become the President of Israel” said Whbee. “The important thing for us is that it shows that we can be counterparts, citizens who have duties and rights, and that we are actually a democratic country…. My appointment is the answer to those who accuse Israel of being an apartheid state. Minorities have equal rights and we are part of the government, the state and the parliament….” (Totally Jewish website, 1 March 2007 )

Israel building a mini-mosque at Ben-Gurion

The Israeli Airport Authority (IAA) has announced plans to build a mini-mosque at Israel 's Ben Gurion International Airport . The mosque will provide facilities for keepers of the Muslim faith to purify their location, their body, and their clothes. The IAA has also introduced measures to help Arabic speaking travellers within the airport on a 24-hour-a-day basis (Jerusalem Post, 21 December 2006 ).

French Foreign Minister reverses his view on Israel 's security fence

France has historically been critical of Israel 's security fence. However, in October 2006 the French Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy stated that he had changed his view. “I have significantly evolved on the matter of the fence…. Although the wall was a moral and ethical problem for me, when I realised terror attacks were reduced by 80% in the areas where the wall was erected, I understood I didn't have the right to think that way…..” (reported in European Jewish press, 25 October 2006 )