'Were They Spokes?'
'Were They Spokes?'
Herald on Sunday July 24 2011
John B McCormick
Chairman Hawkes Bay Branch
New Zealand Friends of Israeli Assn Inc
Here is a "perfectly reasonable explanation you haven't heard yet.
THe fact is that the 3 young Israeli's who died on February 22 in Christchurch and those travelling with them were just plain tourists. There is nothing unusal in young Israeli's coming here they have been doing it for years. So much so that last year on his visit to Israel Foreign Minister Murray McCully announced the setting up of a work scheme allowing New Zealander's and Israeli's to work in each others country.
As far as passports are concerned my children travel with 2 passports, Australian and New Zealand. Mr Guy Jordan Has confirmed that both he and Mr Ofer Mizrahi had 2 passports each. Israeli and one each from european countries that there grandparents came from. Its no big deal to have more than one passport in New Zealand, Australia or Israel.
The first of 3 big earthquakes on February 22 happened at 12.51 am and the Third at 2 50pm. Our media were quick off the mark reporting the events that day, we were listening to radio at work and heard the first news by 1 20pm, from then it grew. by 3pm the world media would have known.
Diplomats would have had plenty of time to advise their governments before the close of business that Tuesday. By 8pm New Zealand time Netanyahu would have been having his breakfast and heard about it on his radio news if officials had not already woken him earlier with the information.
With Christchurch airport closed that Tuesday afternoon the Israeli Consul flew to Dunedin where he hired a car and drove though the night to Christchurch arriving in the early hours of Wednesday February 23. There were thought to be 174 Israeli's in the Quake zone and the Consul was to remain in Christchurch until all had been located and found to be safe. As we know 3 died in 2 locations. The Consul arranged that day for the friends of Mr Mizrahi to leave the city and fly to Wellington. They went on an air force plane with other foreign nationals and Red Cross evacuees. Ambassador Tzur met them in Wellington and amongst other things they were interviewed by police. Nothing suspicious was found by our police and they then took another flight to Auckland where later they flew home via Asia. It would be an understatement to say they were under stress and with the van in the red zone there was nothing much they could do. They could not be with their friend so they did what I would want my children to do and went home. No body was whipped out of the country in 12 hours.
It is also standard practise for an Israeli Embassy to deploy its consul in this manner and for him to remain on station till the job is complete.
Mr Mizrahi's body was not removed from their van until Saturday February 26.
The day after Mr Jordan and the others flew home the Ambassador went to Christchurch on his first of several visits over time since the quake. The first couple of trips were to help the consul. He was not the only Head of Mission to go to Christchurch. I recall the British High Commissioner was interviewed on TV news while in Christchurch leading her team.
Our Government encourages travellers to register there travel plans on the Ministry of Foreign Affairs website. Don't you think Israel would do something similar? By doing so it would have an idea where its citizens are?
Mr Netanyahu was one of many leaders to call John Key to offer condolences and offer help. Leaders from Australia, Japan, the US and the UK are just some. That it took 4 calls to get to Mr key is nothing unusal. Mr Key excepted Mr Netanyahu's condolences and offer of a Victim Identification Forensic team. when they arrived they went to Burnham army camp and worked with the other teams of New Zealanders and offshore experts.
As far as the private search and rescue team is concerned. The Ambassador said in the Southland Times interview with Mr Tulett published on Wednesday July 20 that often Israeli parents reacted that way and hired there own rescue team. He also said that such action was demanded by some Israeli insurance companies. Israel has hugh experience in USAR work with teams being required at a moments notice after terrorist attacks in Israel. They have sent teams to quakes in Turkey, Greece, Armenia and Mexico. In Japan this year they sent a Hospital and staff. In Haiti last year they sent a hospital with 200 staff as well as a USAR team which featured on TV finding a victim alive sometime after most thought that not possible. Both were deployed with equipment in 48 hours to Haiti. That a team could mobilise quickly in minutes or hours with what equipment they could get on a commercial flight and get here in 24 hours or so should not be surprising. Quick reaction is quite normal. When their services were declined they went home. They never got into the CBD red zone at all.
I will make one comment about the 2004 spy 'kerfuffel'. During the time we had troops based in Malaya and Singapore as part of the 5 power defence arrangement there was an incident in the early 70's when Australian Intelligence were caught using one of our passports. They were caught by our own people operating in the same area. The incident was hushed up of course but it did make the papers for a short time. Of course the Czars of Russia were the real experts at this sort of thing. So what's new!!
35 years ago early one late June morning Air France Flight 139 left Tel Aviv airport just before 9am bound for Athens then Paris. It stopped in Athens to refuel and to pick up passengers from asia. Within minutes of take off from Athens its radio went silent and it failed to make the routine calls. This alerted Israeli security who immediately alerted Prime Minister Rabin who was holding his usual sunday cabinet meeting of a plane with a large number of Israeli passengers was not doing the normal things. As time went on and things did not improve they came to the conclusion that the Airbus had been hijacked, which it had. By 1 30pm Rabin had formed a cabinet crisis committee which over the next week was to plan the rescue of 103 Jewish hostages held by Arab and German terrorists. They planned and carried out a 5000 mile round trip using 3 hercules transport with troops , one full of fuel and two 707's which were set up as hospitals and a command centre. With the help of Kenya the rescue of the Entebbe hostages was an outstanding success. Israel suffered one dead soldier, the younger brother of Prime Minister Netanyahu. The mission was completed on July 4 1976.
Yes Israel does look after its people with gilt-edged service. Each embassy is a team of people who know how to operate in times of crisis. Not one sparrow or backpacker will fall without the Prime Minister knowing about it and doing what he can.