Mystery of Palestinian student’s murder

This week: 1) More questions about Aiia Maasarwe’s murder; 2) Never trust the Nationals; 3) Julian Assange case goes global; 4) British Labour Jews against the witchhunt; 5) ASIO’s Pink Panther – and more

Mystery deepens over Palestinian student’s murder

Palestinian student Aiia Maasarwe was stalked and killed in Melbourne just after midnight on Wednesday, 16 January 2019. She had caught a tram from Melbourne’s CBD to travel home, getting off at Bundoora station.

On the previous evening, Tuesday, 15 January 2019, a woman named Aya was attacked by a male passenger while travelling on a tram from Melbourne’s CBD to the northern suburb of Bundoora.

The women named Aya and Aiia, pronounced “Aya”, both lived in Bundoora.

The woman named Aya fought off her attacker and arrived home safely. Aiia was not so lucky. She was attacked from behind moments after getting off the tram.

She was struck on the head with an iron bar, dragged into the bushes, beaten again, stripped, raped and then burned.

It was an uncanny set of circumstances: Aiia and Aya had same-sounding names. Both lived in Bundoora and both frequently travelled home from Melbourne’s CBD on a tram. They were “regulars”.

Tributes at the site of Aiia’s murder

Melbourne reporters tried to pursue Aya’s story but police were adamant that the consecutive tram events were NOT similar and that there was NO connection between them. As one reporter told me: “Police and government minders were determined to end any speculation that women students were being targeted by sex predators. Their whole emphasis was on protecting Melbourne’s reputation as a friendly city for overseas students.”

Who was Aya? Did she report the assault to police? What did their investigation reveal? What are the mathematical chances of two women, both named “Aya”, both overseas visa holders and both living in the same suburb, being attacked on consecutive nights in January 2019? Those questions remain unanswered.

Israeli Embassy responds

After 24 hours of media headlines and public grief, the Israeli Embassy in Canberra released a statement, not by the ambassador or a senior diplomat, but by the embassy’s “spokesperson”, Mrs Eman Amasha.

The embassy did not take the opportunity to acknowledge Aiia as a Palestinian Arab but maintained the fiction she was a Jewish Israeli.  The full statement, dated 17 January 2019, read: “With deep sadness we confirm that the body of Aiia Maasarwe, an Israeli citizen, was found in Melbourne on Wednesday.

“The Australian authorities are currently investigating the circumstances of her death. We have complete faith in the Victorian Police and have no doubt that they will leave no stone unturned in the search to bring the perpetrator to justice.

“We express our heartfelt condolences to Aiia’s family and stand ready to support them during this time as our Consul works to return her body home to Israel for burial.”

Israeli Embassy, Canberra

It appears that the embassy statement was released prior to the official identification of Aiia’s body by her father, Saeed Maasarwe. According to the Melbourne police, the body was still a “Jane Doe”, i.e. unnamed and unidentified, when the embassy used her name and claimed her as an Israeli citizen.

It may be a simple case of over-reach by the embassy which was under media pressure to issue a statement. However, the wording of the statement in respect of her true nationality was inexcusably inaccurate. Because the text of the embassy statement was approved by the Likud Government in Tel Aviv, it appears that it was not an error but a deliberate piece of diplomatic deception. Seasoned reporters call this embassy practice “media manipulation”: it is common practice by ALL embassies and not just China’s.

What the Palestinian mayor said

Mursi Abuch, Mayor of Baqa al-Gharbiya, condemned Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Reuven Rivlin for their silence over Aiia Maasarwe’s murder in Melbourne.

On Sunday, 19 January, 2019, four days after Aiia’s murder, he released an open letter saying that it was “deeply puzzling” that neither Netanyahu nor Rivlin had offered a message of condolence.

“Until now, days after the abominable murder and the extensive coverage of the tragic incident, we have not heard a single word or statement from any senior Israeli official – while Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has expressed emotional statements on this matter,” Mayor Abuch wrote.

Israeli “separation” wall running through eastern Baqa al-Gharbiya

Although Israel considered itself “an egalitarian state for all its citizens”, it did not apply to Aiia.

“We believe that the failure to publish any information in the [local] media, and the lack of concern for the publication of even a short story, is a serious, shameful and embarrassing failure for the State of Israel.

“The silence of the Israeli Government about the collective personal story of Baqa al-Gharbiya’s daughter is more than outrageous, and your silence is deafening. We hope that you will correct the negative omission in a proper and appropriate manner about this tragic event,” he concluded.

Netanyahu’s neglect of the Maasarwe family’s tragedy was unfathomable. Normally, Netanyahu had an unstoppable urge to dramatise and exaggerate the violent murder of an Israeli. Local reporters joked that no one should stand between Netanyahu and a TV camera because he would trample them underfoot. Why did he ignore Aiia’s murder? Was it racism or something else?

Aiia Maasarwe never felt safe in Melbourne

The Melbourne tragedy deepened when Ms Noor Maasarwe said her sister “never felt safe” while walking home to the north Melbourne suburb where she lived.

She told Australia’s Channel 9 News that Aiia had developed a personal security system. She would call either her (Noor) or another sister, Ruba, while she walked from the tram station to her home.

Aiia Maasarwe (left) with her three sisters before leaving Palestine

Three sisters, Noor, Aiia and Ruba, put in a place a security system to operate during her Melbourne stay. By pre-arrangement the sisters would be in phone contact when Aiia was walking home. It is called FaceTiming and not unusual in the Palestinian community where parents stay up late to receive calls from their children to be reassured that they are coming home safely and have not been randomly arrested or shot by vigilantes, police or soldiers.

Interviewed by The Guardian’s Gay Alcorn after Herrmann was locked up, Noor Maasarwe said: “I don’t know if I will come back here, especially to Melbourne. It’s a mixed feeling. I had goosebumps when we landed because she landed here; this is the last land where she lived.”

Are Victoria’s Police “among the best in the world”?

Former Labor leader Bill Shorten may think that the Victorian Police are among the best in the world, but it is not a view shared by the majority of Victorians. Indeed, most citizens regard the police with a high degree of fear or derision. This societal opinion was formed in the 19th century when the fledging force was notorious for brutality, corruption and breathtaking incompetence. So much so, that during the capture, trial and execution of bushranger Ned Kelly, public opinion overwhelmingly supported the outlaw. Over the years, the public’s anti-cop attitude has only hardened despite strenuous efforts to give the boys in blue a people-friendly makeover.

When police said that Aiia Maasarwe’s murder was “random and opportunistic” it was greeted with disbelief and ridicule. There was nothing “random” about Aiia’s killer: he had targeted her, stalked her and planned her brutal rape and execution down to the very last detail.

How Israel orchestrated media bias

The New Arab, a pro-Palestinian publication, furiously condemned the orchestrated confusion over Aiia’s Palestinian nationality in an article headlined: “Australian media is erasing murdered Palestinian student’s heritage”. A false narrative was created by newspaper headlines such as: “Melbourne community mourns murder of Israeli student”, “Hundreds mourn murdered Israeli exchange student Aiia Maasarwe” and “Israeli student on video call with sister when attacked”.

Saeed Maasarwe: message of peace

Her father Saeed Maasarwe was aggrieved by the false reporting in Australia which was echoed overseas as well. “First, we are all human beings. Then we are Muslim. Then we are Arab. Then we are Palestinian. Having Israeli passports is the result of our political situation, but our identity is Palestinian. Whatever they call me, I know in our hearts we are Palestinian.”

The New Arab commented: “In erasing Aiia’s Palestinian identity from the story of her death, it would appear that the erasure of Palestinian existence remains standard media operating procedure.

“The media is entirely guilty of mischaracterising the distribution of power in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and thereby confusing the occupied with the occupier and the oppressed with the oppressor in the minds of Western audiences. In placing Aiia’s passport before her Palestinian identity, the media simply reinforces the false notion that the Israelis are the perpetual victims.”

Mystery message on Herrmann’s Facebook account

As Aiia’s friends and reporters dug deeper into the life of Codey Herrmann they discovered that he went under the rap alias of McCodez. He had two identities – one in real time and a fake one online.

On 8 January 2019 he posted this eerie message on his Facebook page:

“International girl of mystery, you knows [sic] who you are” 

Who could he possibly be referring to? Was it Aiia, as many of her friends believe? If they are right, how did he know she had arrived in Melbourne a few months earlier to start an exchange programme at La Trobe? Who told him? And why?


Codey Herrmann in a photo he posted on Facebook shortly before his arrest


Billboard commemorating Aiia outside her home town of Baqa al-Gharbiya

NSW Nationals not to be trusted … ever

In the State seat of Tweed in far northern NSW the Nationals are bulldozing virgin farmland to erect infrastructure. Meanwhile in State Parliament in Sydney they are passing Right to Farm legislation and boasting of their credibility as the protectors of farmlands.

In fact, the truth is the very opposite. NSW Nationals stand exposed as land thieves and farmland vandals.

In the Tweed constituency the Nationals are working hand-in-glove with the giant Bob Ell group to use open cut mining equipment to flatten bushland, wet land and precious animal habitat. Queensland Liberals and Nationals from the LNP and the White Shoe (Powder?) Brigade from the Gold Coast are cheering them on. Their aim is to make the Tweed Coast to Byron Bay into a high-rise tourist attraction: the vision is Florida, Miami, the Bahamas and other tax havens for wealthy crooks and cheap part-time labour.

Prime agricultural land being cleared for development in Tweed Shire

When countries all over the world have decided that protecting the natural environment is far preferable to vandalising it, the NSW Nationals are going the other way.

Under the cover of a State of Emergency, the Nationals are spending the last days of Parliament to implement legislation to bring “law and order” to the bush. Civil liberties and the right to protest have been trashed by successive Bills which are backed by mining interests and water thieves. Reporters from the mainstream media are running around like headless chooks following every piece of quackery that private vested interests can invent. The mining and water thieves now want taxpayers to give them heaps of cash to rebuild their farms. I suggest they all start paying tax before any bail-out is considered.

From Israel’s daily newspaper Haaretz

“Britain’s Labour Party reiterated in an election policy manifesto its intention to stop selling weapons to Israel if it comes to power. The reference to Israel was in a document detailing the party’s foreign and defence policies. ’We will immediately suspend the sale of arms to Saudi Arabia for use in Yemen and to Israel for arms used in violation of the human rights of Palestinian civilians, and conduct a root-and-branch reform of our arms exports regime so ministers can never again turn a blind eye to British-made weapons being used to target innocent civilians,’ the document stated.”

Does anyone expect Australia’s Labor Party under Anthony Albanese to follow suit? I agree with flower girl Eliza Doolittle who ended Act III of Pygmalion with the immortal words, “Not bloody likely.”

Julian Assange case goes global

Julian Assange’s case is no longer a marginal issue. It has become mainstream across the world. The exception is his homeland, Australia, where the media and politicians continue to duck and dive and do nothing.

But where are the church leaders, mainly men with a handful women, who claim to represent the views of god? Where is it stated in any of the holy books, Bible, Koran, Torah etc, that “thou shalt take away a person’s travel permit, lock him/her up and render him unto the Great Satan to be thrown in jail for the rest of his/her life “?

The “Free Julian Assange Petition” has now attracted 215,001 signatures and is heading for a record 300,000. In Australia copies of the petition have been sent to Prime Minister Scott Morrison, Foreign Minister Marise Payne, all Senators and MPs, US President Donald Trump, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, all members of the House of Commons and the House of Lords and Queen Elizabeth II.

The text reads in part: “Julian Assange has suffered enough. It’s time to end this geo-political madness. The man’s an Australian. He’s not American. He wasn’t in the US when he spoke about war crimes. Put simply, he must be allowed to return to Australia.”

Judge Emma Arbuthnot: conflict of interests

In a major development, South African investigative journalists have compiled a startling report on London’s Chief Magistrate, Judge Arbuthnot, who denied Assange bail and sent him to prison.

Judge Arbuthnot sat on the Assange case despite judicial and defence submissions that she should recuse herself. Her subsequent handling of his case has been called “a perversion of the course of justice” because damaging conflicts of interest were not disclosed.

Phillip Adams wrote in his open letter: “Julian Assange’s reputation in the press as pedalled by some political leaders has been rubbished beyond belief. Ridiculous claims that he is not a journalist when he is arguably the most awarded journalist of this time in history. As a British Tory Cabinet Minister noted on 6 April 2019, we will ‘stand together to make it an international taboo of the highest order to murder, arrest or detain journalists just for doing their job’.”

Item updated 8 December 2019

British Labour Jews hit back at witchhunt

In Britain, Labour Party members have become sick and tired of the Israel Embassy and its hirelings claiming that their party and its leader, Jeremy Corbyn, are anti-semitic. They’ve written a fine letter which The Guardian has been obliged to publish – but just try finding it on the paper’s website! You’ll need a map, sextant and compass. Written mainly by Jews, the letter said:

Film director Ken Loach: signatory to the letter

“We have long had serious concerns about the lack of impartiality and accuracy in the reporting of allegations of anti-semitism against Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Party. The recent report by the Media Reform Coalition examining coverage of Labour’s revised code of conduct shows that we are right to be concerned.

“The research examined over 250 articles and broadcast news segments and found over 90 examples of misleading and inaccurate reporting. In relation to the IHRA definition of anti-semitism that was at the heart of the dispute, the research found evidence of ‘overwhelming source imbalance’ in which critics of Labour’s code of conduct dominated coverage, with nearly 50% of Guardian reports, for example, failing to include any quotes from those the code or critiquing the IHRA definition. Moreover, key contextual facts about the IHRS definition – for example, that it has only been formally adopted by eight countries (and only six of the IHRA member States) – were consistently excluded.

“The researchers conclude these were not occasional lapses in judgment but ‘systematic reporting failures’ that served to weaken the Labour leadership and to bolster its opponents within and outside the party.

“It is, of course, entirely appropriate and necessary for our major news outlets to report on the horrors of anti-semitism, but wrong to present it as an issue specific to the Labour Party. In covering the allegations that Labour is now ‘institutionally anti-semitic’, there have been inaccuracies, clear distortions, revealing omissions across our most popular media platforms. We believe that significant parts of the UK media have failed their audiences by producing flawed reports that have contributed to an undeserved witchhunt against the Labour leader and misdirected public attention away from anti-semitism elsewhere, including on the far right, which is ascendant in much of Europe.”

Signed: Prof Noam Chomsky, Brian Eno, Francesca Martinez, Yanis Varoufakis, Ken Loach, Raoul Martinez, Justin Schlosberg Birkbeck, University of London, Prof Des Freedman Goldsmiths, University of London, Prof Imogen Tyler Lancaster University, Prof Aeron Davis Goldsmiths, University of London, Prof Annabelle Sreberny SOAS, University of London, Prof Greg Philo University of Glasgow, Prof Natalie Fenton Goldsmiths, University of London, Prof David Miller Bristol University, Prof David  Hesmondhalgh University of Leeds, Prof James Curran Goldsmiths, University of London, Prof Julian Petley Brunel University
Stephen Cushion Cardiff University, Jason Hickel Goldsmiths, University of London, Einar Thorsen Bournemouth University, Mike Berry Cardiff University, Tom Mills Aston University, Jenny Manson Jewish Voice for Labour, Leah Levane Jewish Voice for Labour, Lindsey German Stop the War Coalition, Mike Cushman Free Speech on Israel, Glyn Secker Jewish Voice for Labour

ASIO’s Pink Panther

ASIO director-general Mike Burgess has made a sensational discovery: foreign governments have spies operating from their Canberra embassies! What an security breakthrough!

Can someone please tell Burgess that foreign spies have been crawling around Australia since the 19th century. Spying activity increased in the first half of the 20th century and went into over-drive during the anti-communist Cold War.

Today the technology has changed but the spies are active day and night at the US, UK, Russian, Japanese, Chinese and Israeli embassies. Other embassies are at it too – France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Indian and Singapore. They “own” MPs and “guide” Australia’s foreign policy, war spending and diplomatic alliances. Why aren’t any of them named, shamed and kicked out of the country? Maybe it’s because everyone is doing it.

For instance, Australian embassies abroad have spy units as well. Aussie sleuths are collecting information from secret sources and paying them handsomely for their information.

Why do the ABC and Fairfax Media  and Canberra “think tanks” continue to stress China’s espionage without mentioning all the other spy nations? And why do they ignore the fact that Australia is doing precisely the same thing?

The latest spy story, explored on 60 Minutes, claimed a 32-year-old Chinese national named Nick Zhao was found dead in a Melbourne hotel room after planning to tell ASIO about his Beijing-funded plan to become a spy in Federal Parliament.

The network produced ASIO’s Mike Burgess to claim: “Hostile foreign intelligence activity continues to pose a real threat to our nation and its security. ASIO will continue to confront and counter foreign interference and espionage in Australia.”

But what if Nick Zhao was pressured by ASIO to invent his story and took his own life when he couldn’t face the consequences? This is the second time in six months that a Chinese mainlander living in Australia has taken his own life after being heavied by ASIO to become an informer. The name of the first was Dr Leo Liao, a mining engineer graduate from the University of NSW.

But politicians and the media were not asking questions. They were accepting ASIO’s cock-and-bull story with wild enthusiasm, especially Scott Morrison, Josh Frydenberg, Andrew Hastie, Peter Dutton and Pauline Hanson. Labor’s Anthony Albanese, Penny Wong and Tanya Plibersek went along with it as well.

I’ve included a photograph of Mike Burgess so you can make up your own mind about ASIO’s latest tale. Would you believe this man?

ASIO chief Mike Burgess

Quote of the Week

Big states are rude and nasty but that does not mean you can afford [not???] to deal with them, whether it be the United States or China.

  • Paul Keating, former Prime Minister of Australia

Memorable Quote from the Past

There is a real, not unfounded fear, that he (Prime Minister Ehud Olmert) will make decisions based on his own interests of political survivability rather than the national interests.

  • Benjamin Netanyahu in 2008 calling for the resignation of former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert who was embroiled in a corruption investigation. With the Supreme Court ordering Netanyahu to face corruption charges, Ayman Odeh, leader of the Arab community’s Joint List party – a coalition of Balal, Hadash, Ta’al and the United Arab List, the third largest group in the Knesset – said this week: “The day Netanyahu pays for his criminal actions is when we can begin to mend the damage he has caused. The racism and hate he spread will not disappear with him going to prison; it is up to Jews and Arabs to build a just and equal society.”


  1. More good writing – would that you were in the national parliament – unaligned I mean – a sort of George Galloway voice of truth – all your analyses of events major and minor – honest – and with the kind of background knowledge and understanding that brings with it trustworthiness!

    I was checking references last night when I was suddenly in the middle of your travels in the Kalamata/Mani region of Greece – the Peloponnese – back in 2012. My wife and I were first there in 1988 – to visit Australian writer friend Gillian BOURAS – then living just north in the little village of Arfara – author of A Foreign Wife and quite a number of other reflective books subsequently. The 1986 earthquake which had devastated the city was much in evidence – whole walls fallen away from apartments – rooms open/abandoned – one hopes without injury – still with furniture exposed too – thousands living in container housing on the edge of the city near the railway station but maybe 20,000 gone elsewhere. We enjoyed Easter – Xristos aneiste – firecrackers thrown in amongst us as at mid-night we joined in the lighting of candles coming out of the church on the Marine Parade and the subsequent procession. I spoke by phone with British author Sheelagh KANELLI (The Nets, The Mani, etc) and my wife and I took the bus to Kardamyli and walked back up to the gate to Patrick L Fermor’s house (and no further)! Pilgrimage to that entrance-way sufficient. We ate at a waterside eatery – and enjoyed the retsina I had come to enjoy in late December of 1972 when I first entered Europe in Athens – flying from Australia via a number of brief stopovers (Manila, Hong Kong, Bangkok and finally at Lod Airport). And in that late 1972 Athens – first trying octopus (οκτοποδι – ιτανε καλο!). Anyway – one day trip we took by local bus was around to the Koroni headland on the opposite side of the bay from The Mani peninsular – an old Crusaders Fort/Castle – and the birthplace of the husband of my then Marrickville doctor – multilingual Dorothea KOUTSOUBOS (herself born Greek in Roumania – educated at Sofia in Bulgaria – part of her WWII era childhood in Poland – excellent). We went back two years ago – to visit Gillian – this time by beautiful high speed coach and expressway/motorway road (as different to almost 30 years earlier as possible – then a rickety old bus from Athens crammed with all manner of folk and chickens in baskets – the return a little narrow gauge railway – we admired wild fuchsias in the high country alongside the tracks as we slowly climbed – Judas tree in purple bloom declaring Easter at every point – we were dazzled. And coffees prepared in briki – the traditional way. In the meantime and just a few short years before the 2017 October visit – I’d been in communication with poet, playwright, writer and academic David Mason – who had lived in Kardymili some years – a neighbour – and befriended by “Paddy” Fermor and his wife. David’s present wife is from Tasmania – and as he finishes up his academic posting in Wyoming (from Bellingham in WA state just below the Canadian border down from Vancouver) he and his wife have already over the past couple of years established their base south from Hobart. You would loveLudlow – his verse-novel/account of the Ludlow Massacre – a workers/labour coal mining uprising against the corporate masters in an attempt at justice in Colorado in 1914. (One critic compares its power to that in Steinbeck’s In Dubious Battle! His memoir account of his love for Greece and of living in the Mani is in his collection of essays: News from the Village (2010). Gillian now lives at/in Parelia Vegas – on the south-eastern corner of the city as the highway begins its switch south to the Mani.

    My war-damaged step-father was evacuated from Kalamata administrative centre of Messenia – along with fellow Australians and other allied forces when the rout of the German Army turned back against them – at the end of April, 1941 – being taken to Crete then Egypt/Palestine.

    We have much affection for this place – as did you from your reports back in mid-2012!

    We lived for a time on a houseboat moored along with others on the Thames Embankment: 106 Cheyne Walk (now variously Chelsea Reach/Turner’s Reach) – I feel sure you would have known characters living in that location – or on the street side – during your time in London. We were there August and October of 1976 – my brother outfitting the interior of the houseboat then named “Stella Maris” and owned by journalist Jackie Williams – born Anglesey Wales – French/English bilingual – living lengthy periods in Paris – she had a deux chevaux with little dashboard level/attached gear shift – it loved leaning over on cornering.

  2. And no, I’d be very disinclined to trust the smooth pink purse-mouthed Mike Burgess! Thanks for the photo…I get the point…

  3. Alex, I’d be very interested if you would – in a future UPdate in the ‘Come the Revolution’ Weekly Notebook series – give more details as you understand them of Australia’s spying activity.

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