Think Again – Peter Greste and the “Bilaam” syndrome.

This is written by my rabbi,  Elozer Gestetner from Coogee Synagogue, an Orthodox synagogue in Coogee, a beach-side suburb of Sydney.  The rabbi and his family are Chabad-Lubavitch and are representatives of the world wide Chabad Chassidic Movement..I think he has been our rabbi for 30 years now.

He writes something weekly for the member’s newsletter, always enlightening and I may well post more from him in the future.


It has not been a good week for the people of Israel. Yet again we bury our brothers and sons. It seemed to have hurt worse this time as over the last eighteen days we really got to intimately know the three boys Eyal Yifrach, Naftali Frenkel and Gilad Shaar.

What noble families they come from, no recriminations, no screaming and no calls for revenge, only a widespread pall of collective love and quiet silence.

As I stood together with our community at Moriah College at prayers there were mixed emotions, utter sadness, emptiness and aching void.

What a waste.

There was anger, but angry with whom?

What to do, when your adversary looses seemingly unblinkingly hundreds of thousands of their own by their own in Syria, Iraq, Nigeria, and Pakistan and all over the Muslim world?

They seem to condone child malnutrition and illiteracy.

There seems to be a tacit acceptance of gross abuse of human rights on a daily basis.

We are struggling with an adversary who seems to have vastly different cultural values of life, morals and the sheer beauty of the human spirit. I do not accept that it is only the minority. It is not. Leaders of the Arab world are silent on human kidnapping; this is not the first time that there has been a kidnapping.

The silence emanating from the Imams and religious leaders of the Arab world of incitement against Jews, Christians, women, Gays and whether Shiite or Sunni are deafening. The loud shouts of delight and joy in the streets of the West Bank at every Israeli misfortune are disturbing.

No, it is not anger that we feel. I think we collectively feel despair and emptiness, we feel alone. In this week’s Parsha of Balak, the oracle-wizard Bilaam is employed to curse and bring bad luck on the advancing Israelites in their sojourn through the desert towards the land of Canaan.

However Bilaam is unable to articulate the words of the spell. Instead of a shouting curse some beautiful poetry of blessings proceeds. He views the Israelites from the mountains and says

“How goodly are your tents Jacob, how beautiful are your sanctuaries Israel”

and then in the next line he says this;

“Behold Jacob, you are a nation that sits alone, not reckoned amongst the nations”.

But Bilaam is wrong; we are not alone, we are a member of the group of nation states of the world; we have equal rights in democratic countries and we feel at home in this great country of ours, Australia.

I think the Biblical interpretation of Bilaams words are this.

Bilaam besides being a lunatic-seer, was a member of the media pack who habitually paint Israel as being alone and a pariah state.

Bilaam was part of the media pack who repeatedly accuses Israel of being a terrorist nation, judging Israel unfairly and unjustly.

Bilaam was part of the media pack who in the name of freedom of speech, continually abuse the very law of anti discrimination and in particular section 18C of the anti discrimination act, that it is a crime to vilify, slander and malign on the basis of religion gender and ethnicity.

How ironic it is, that the bastion of freedom of speech, the media pack, are the ones that continually abuse the right of freedom of speech.

Australian journalist Peter Greste of Al-Jazeera and his colleagues stand inside the defendants cage during their trial.

Last week on learning of the 7 year jail sentence handed down to Peter Greste, I was genuinely sorry. I could not imagine a horrific jail term in Egypt. I sincerely hoped the Australian government would intervene and get a pardon for him.

This week I am not so sure. Peter Greste was a journalist for the Al Jazeera World News Network Service. The network presented a balanced view on the kidnapping, essentially blaming the victims. It makes sense, because as far as I know Al Jazeera is owned by the Qatar government which is ruled by the Emir of Qatar, Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, who is an absolute monarch.

Al Jazeera is a news service that does not under any circumstance permit a positive spin towards anything in Israel. It is a news service that institutionalizes censorship in its presentation of the news. It puts Rupert Murdoch’s ‘News of the World’ to shame. Al Jazeera is owned by the same mob that brought you the Qatar Soccer World Cup in 2022.

Now, how did that happen?

I am not about to judge Peter Greste, for all I know he needed a job and I heard that I could get a job as a writer with Al Jazeera if I took off my Yarmulke, tucked in my tzitzit and erased Israel from my passport.

Peter Greste however was part of that Bilaam media pack who remained silent and allowed Israel to feel alone. He aided and abetted in the excommunication of Israel and it being portrayed as a pariah state in exile, alone and friendless. He fell into the Bilaam mistake of

“This is a nation that dwells alone”

As we all felt this week, there is nothing worse, than that empty feeling of being alone. Worse, when you feel let down by good people; worse still when friends break loyalty. We expected more from good people like Peter Greste. I don’t wish Peter Greste any evil. In fact I still wish that he will win his freedom speedily, but what did he expect when working and reporting for Al Jazeera; because what he reports and witnesses now from his prison cell is exactly what he reported about Israel from the comfort of his news-studio.

Yahrzeit_candleI did not understand why I could not sing the Hatikvah last Wednesday night, the first night of shiva for the boys. I usually passionately shout out the words with tears, yet Wednesday night my lips were dry and throat parched and not a word could I utter. Perhaps on reflection I was saddened by the Bilaam syndrome and left speechless, for there is nothing so lonesome and drear as a media pack baying with the self righteous assuredness of freedom of speech.

As always l’chaim and see you in shule .


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  1. Peter Greste,is a naive fool and he got what he deserved. What did he think when taking the job at al jazeera that he was working for the J Post in Israel a civilised country . This fool took a job with an Arab organisation and then went naively to Egypt thinking these guys play by Queensberry rules.

    I hope Greste thinks about all the crap he and his fellow journalists have written about Israel and Jews for the next seven years and wished the hell he was reporting out of Israel and not in some backward failed Arab state like Egypt

    • Michael, I don’t agree that Peter Greste was naive. He would have known exactly what he was doing, and the ideology of Al Jazeera. He was not some young newcomer, but a seasoned journalist.

      Many journalists are lefties, and follow the distinctly anti-Israel, even anti-Semitic agenda seen in most elite newspapers. They work for media like The Age in Australia, The New York Times etc, and their stock in trade is attacking Israel and keeping quiet about atrocities committed by Islamists.

      Sadly, Greste will be bolstered during his time in prison by those who think he’s a hero, and if he reflects at all about what he has written, it won’t be to feel contrite about the crap he’s written about Israel.

  2. A very interesting and thought-provoking article. I agree that Peter Greste enabled the delegitimisation of Israel. Therefore, I have little sympathy for him. He would have known what Al Jazeera stood for.
    A few years back, Middle East Forum wrote about “The Two Faces of Al-Jazeera”
    Make no mistake, this news channel is an apologist for Islamists and Osama Bin Laden was their poster boy. Even Judea Pearl, a leftie, warned against legitimizing Al Jazeera, saying. “Their unconditional support of Hamas’s terror in Gaza, the Hezbollah takeover in Lebanon, and the Syrian and Iranian regimes betrays any illusion that democracy and human rights are on Al Jazeera’s agenda; weakening the West is their first priority.”

  3. What’s the bet Greste converts to Islam!

  4. This Posting of the Coogee Synagogue Rabbi made for interesting, if not revealing reading…for myself at least.

    To touch on Peter Greste as he did was for me timely….given that until the past day or two, I had not heard one word of public disclosure to the censuring contrary in respect of Peter Greste.

    During the past three weeks, I have had on occasions needed to defend the laudable reputation of the Balibo Five, who a number of leftist, apologising commentators had attempted to compare Peter Greste with.

    The Balibo Five; one of who was a very close friend of mine, were of the old school of journalism, genuine…if not idealists, yet never of the quisling brigade of Journalists of this era who float their submissions within a stew of their personal ideological direction.

    They lost their lives in the forlorn hope that what they were exposing in Timor-Leste…at the hands of the murderous Indonesian invasion, would be for some goodly purpose, i.e. freedom and democracy.

    Peter Greste could never hope to stand in the furtherest shadow of those five….though actually six, when their Dili based cohort; who was also murdered, is examined in a side by side comparison.

    Greste would have been in no doubt that his Qatar based employer, and part time financier of the Muslim Brotherhood, Al Jazeera, were, have been and will remain as the premier vanguard of Middle East pandemonium and Islamist expansion

  5. ……..I don’t wish the man any further inconvenience or hardship, beyond saying that Peter Greste will have quite a long while to think about the folly of his professional decision to join with what is effectively an organisation who provides the intellectual iron to a cult like mentality that desires to destroy civilised humanity.

    Al Jazeera Arabic…Al Jazeera English… in the very exact same!

    As for the remainder of the Rabbi’s posting…I agree with it in it’s entirety…beyond the faint suggestion that all anger has drained out of the good Rabbi’s spirit. As hard as it is to live on a knife’s edge, Israel and Jewish folk must never loose their rage…anger, more so in this day and age, and at this time in their overall history…as lamentably as that is their plight, for I personally believe that promised time is and will come to Israel, though undoubtedly at a human cost. (I don’t wish to appear as telling someone anything…least all those Jewish…just a proffered opinion)

  6. I find the implication in the article and the hysterical comments that followed, namely that those who are not in full support of Israel deserve anything they get, outrageous and shameful.

    • No one said any such thing.

    • Leon Poddebsky

      Michael, your hysterical, self-righteous outburst indicates that you read the article too hastily to comprehend its tenor, and that you are unaware that the official policy of Al Jazeera is that the Jewish People have no right to national independence in the Jewish National Home.

      All employees of that network are expected by their employer to propagate its editorial line and to report accordingly.

      Don’t forget that the owner of Al Jazeera is not an enlightened democracy-loving entrepreneur; on the contrary.

      The article clearly sympathises with the unfortunate individual who has been imprisoned, but not with his employer, who is a mortal enemy of Israel and the Jewish People.

    • Michael Jaku,

      Looking at a situation objectively never amoounts to being hysterical.
      Perhaps you should study the facts, and look again at the history of Al Jazeera’s reporting, also the country it is based in, and come to a realistic conclusion.

  7. I think the fact these foolish western journalists that go running to Al Jazeera owned by a country which have appalling Human Rights record shows that people like Greste have no Moral fibre , nothing to do with Israel .
    It just shows that guys like Greste are both morally corrupt and naive.

    • By the way Michael Jaku the term ‘outrageous and shameful’ is best described of the behaviour of the Egyptians don’t you think?
      It is obvious where you are coming from>

    • It would be interesting to see what Peter Greste wrote that led to his conviction.

      I just looked up his bio and judging by who his previous employers are, I’d hazard a guess as to his line of thought.

      Apart from Al Jazeera, he’s worked for the BBC, CNN,Reuters and a company which is an affiliate of the Associated Press.


  8. Don’t forget that the late Sir David Frost used to be a presenter on AlJazeera, and he was always very fair and accommodating when interviewing Mark Regev. In my admittedly somewhat limited experience at looking at AlJazeera, it came across as more balanced than the BBC. The real bias and bile against Israel, I’m told, is on the Arabic-language programming of AlJazeera, where the true face of AlJazeera is apparently revealed.

    • That was Sir David Frost.

      I know what biased one-sided reporting they did during the Marrickville Council fiasco and the BDS actions in Newtown. The reporter Rihab Charida was a shocker. The police arrested her once.

  9. The trouble with Progressive Jews is they are too generous with their Compassion , if only they allocated a bit more for their fellow Jews in Israel no matter what side of Politics they are on.

    • Michael, they’re not that generous with their compassion towards ‘settlers’ or those they regard as right-wing Jews i.e. anyone who’s not prepared to draw a moral equivalence between how Israel acts and how the PA/Hamas acts.

  10. comments below about a Benny Morris interview by Frost is he friend or Foe ?
    BTw at the risk of stereo typing Hillary , journalists are generally arabist by nature and any UK journalist likely to be pro Israel or even fair and balanced on the topic unlikely to go and work for a Muslim Brotherhood TV Channel ……

    In a few brief questions posed to Morris, Frost reveals a hardened and fixed position about Israeli culpability which simply cannot wrap its mind around the fact that Palestinian Arab malevolence towards Israel – and a refusal to accept the legitimacy of a Jewish state – represents a profound obstacle to achieving genuine peace.

    While watching the interview, you will observe Frost dismiss (as a minor “academic detail”) Morris’ concern that PA leaders (and the broader Arab world) have never recognized the legitimacy of a Jewish state in the region. You will also see the veteran British journalist suggest that Palestinian/Arab intransigence and rejectionism pale in comparison to the real problem preventing peace – the settlements.

    While it would have been helpful had Morris raised the issues of Palestinian antisemitism and the glorification of terrorism, my guess is that Frost would not have been moved by even the most egregious examples of these phenomena.

  11. ** sorry that was meant to read’ UK’ journalists are generally arabist by nature >>>>