Floating Life 4/06 ~ 11/07

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Archive for the ‘Israel’ Category

Ancient history

tut What now must be ancient history itself is the fact that I taught Ancient History for the HSC, almost twenty years ago. The last gig was particularly fascinating because it was at a Jewish school and involved teaching the history of New Kingdom Egypt and of the Kingdom period of Israel, that last slightly ticklish in that context. I asked the Rabbi for some pointers and he referred me to a book written by an American Lutheran!

However, I maintain an amateur interest, unlike one of the Ancient History teachers at The Mine who is a real Egyptologist. So I was fascinated by the story in today’s Sydney Morning Herald about the face of Tutankhamen, as reconstructed on the right. That really leaps time, doesn’t it?

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Written by Neil

November 5, 2007 at 10:47 am

My South Sydney Herald piece

Inside the Whale

Former ABC Middle East correspondent Mark Willacy doesn’t just take you into the news or even behind the news. He takes you under the news – and I for one wanted to scream. Not at Willacy, but at the leaders of this world…

Mark Willacy will be at Politics in the Pub on Friday 23 November from 6 pm to 7.45 at the Gaelic Club, Level 1, 64 Devonshire St., Surry Hills (across from Chalmers St exit and Devonshire St tunnel at Central Station). Parking is usually available in side streets. Afterwards you may have dinner at the Royal Exhibition Hotel across the road.

Imagine this. “The 17-year-old was just a torso and a head. His legs had been blown away, and his stomach had been peeled open. He looked like the android from the movie Aliens after the alien queen has torn him in two with her stabbing, serrated tail.”

This was a suicide bomber. It is the first scene to confront Mark Willacy as he takes up his appointment as ABC correspondent in Jerusalem in 2002. It is the first paragraph in his recently published The View from the Valley of Hell: Four Years in the Middle East (Macmillan Australia 2007 $35rrp). Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Neil

November 2, 2007 at 6:33 am

Finished my journalism

Yesterday’s draft was acceptable to my editors. This morning I ran it by Mark Willacy himself and got some additional material and updates. He is now with The 7.30 Report*.


In conversation last year with Richard Fidler on Local ABC Queensland the following emerged:

Generally, those reporting on Middle East conflicts are encumbered with accusations of bias. Mark explains to Richard how he approached his assignments. He says, “I think what I’ve tried to do is show the impact of conflict on non-combatants, people who are drawn into the conflict. Whether it’s an Israeli going to work on a bus, or a Palestinian child on his way to school who gets hurt or killed for just doing what they’re doing. It’s something I’ve always tried to do is humanise this story, because people hear and their eyes glaze over and they think, ‘here we go more misery from the middle east’, and that’s a fair reaction so what you have to do is humanise the story.” Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Neil

October 23, 2007 at 10:29 am

Something that has come my way…

I find myself willacyneeding to read The View from the Valley of Hell (Pan Macmillan 2007) at short order, not that I am complaining. Currently working on ABC-TV’s Landline, Mark Willacy was the ABC’s Middle East correspondent from 2002 to 2006, based in Jerusalem.

His apartment sat perched over the Hinnon Valley, the Biblical Valley of Hell, a fact that seemed aptly symbolic given that his tour in the Middle East saw him observe first-hand some of the most dramatic and violent events of the 21st century – from the second Palestinian Intifada to the US invasion of Iraq and the vicious insurgency that followed.

His account of these four turbulent years is personal, informed and utterly riveting. From the horror of witnessing the results of suicide bombings first-hand, to clandestine interviews with some of the Middle East’s most-wanted terrorist leaders, to surreal cricket matches played behind concrete blast walls and fortifications in Baghdad, Mark captures the human dimension of the Middle East’s tragedies, revealing what it really means to live through events we only read as news stories…

Between July 2002 and July 2006, Mark reported from Israel, the Palestinian Territories, Iraq, Syria, Jordan, Morocco, Iran, Lebanon, Turkey, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and the Persian Gulf (onboard HMAS Melbourne and HMAS Kanimbla).

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Written by Neil

October 18, 2007 at 9:00 pm

The march of folly and the guns of war

Yes, I have appropriated and adapted two of Barbara Tuchman’s famous 20th century histories to create that title, because they are so sadly apt in the current world climate. First, let me get a disclaimer (or several) out of the way: I am opposed to suicide bombing especially when it targets innocent people going about their everyday lives — I call that murder, and a particularly vile kind of murder at that. Second, I do not for one moment believe that there is a war against Islam. That is a paranoid religious interpretation put with often unhelpful consequences on conflicts and tensions that arise for much more mundane reasons. Angry Muslims should have a bit more faith in God’s ability to look after himself. No-one is in the slightest bit interested in Muslim countries or Muslim minorities in other countries unless they happen to be sitting on or near a very large oil reserve. I will come back to that in a moment. Third, the state of Israel is the most destabilising factor in the Middle East, and I say that as, in general, a supporter of Israel. But it should never have been allowed to settle Gaza and the West Bank. Fourth, much of the talk of democracy in the Middle East is open to criticism on the grounds of hypocrisy, as democratic choices that go the “wrong” way are vigorously rejected: Gaza (in vile dehumanising Newspeak — resist this worst abuse of human language with every fibre of your being — now an “enemy entity” like a microbe or a cancer cell or It Came From Outer Space) and Iran are two cases in point. Finally, I am not a great admirer of the current Iranian regime.

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Written by Neil

September 20, 2007 at 9:15 am

Soul-searching in Australian Jewish community

The recent controversy within the Australian Jewish community over the State of Israel and its policies is not new. I can recall such discussions back in 1988-89 when I was working within the Jewish and local Israeli communities, but they did tend to keep such discussion “in-house”. Now the discussion, triggered by a group of eminent Australian left-wing Jews, has spilled into the public arena. See Backlash against dissident petition.
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Visiting Israeli fascist’s advice spurned?

I have been deliberately offensive about the recent remarks of the Hebrew University’s Professor Raphael Israeli in Australia, as they are reported in today’s Sydney Morning Herald story Jewish group spurns race row academic. (BTW, multicultural Australia shines through the by-line “Chee Chee Leung and Mark Metherell”, don’t you think?) Imagine if someone suggested a “critical mass of Jews” could have dire consequences for a country, but then didn’t someone once suggest that?

The Australia-Israel & Jewish Affairs Council yesterday announced it had cancelled plans to co-host public appearances by Professor Raphael Israeli in Australia. “AIJAC is very concerned by Professor Israeli’s implication that the Muslim community as a whole is a threat or a danger,” said its executive director, Dr Colin Rubenstein. “His comments are both unacceptable and unhelpful, and AIJAC cannot be associated with them.”
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