AP describes how Palestinian radio stations are fueling Gaza's civil war:
During two weeks of violence, Hamas' Aqsa Radio and Fatah's Radio Shabab enraptured listeners as they reported fierce clashes and angry marches, and gave air time for their respective leaders to abuse their opponents. Callers routinely incited loyalists against rivals.
On Radio Shabab, callers described Hamas gunmen as "child killers" — a reference to the drive-by shooting — or as "the mullahs" — a barbed jab at the Islamic group's close ties to Shiite Iran.
Hamas' Aqsa Radio rarely reported aggression by Hamas gunmen, despite deadly assaults on Fatah targets. The broadcasts regularly labeled opponents as "mercenary death squads" and "coup plotters."
One senior Hamas official called his rivals "Zionists" — a virtual death sentence in Gaza's militantly anti-Israel society. In another report, an Aqsa correspondent reported — falsely — that Fatah gunmen were firing at their own supporters in the southern town of Khan Younis.
"Radios play at incitement," said Daher. "There's no neutral radio in Gaza, it's all factional."
Reporters Sans Frontieres recently visited Gaza to examine the general security for journalists. A press release made some surprisingly strong comments – by RSF standards – about the general state of Palestinian journalism:
It is also vital that all Palestinian factions should quickly agree on a joint statement calling for both local and foreign journalists to be respected. The opening-up of the state-owned media - the news agency WAFA and the radio and TV broadcaster PBC - to all Palestinians regardless of their political affiliation are also essential conditions for improving press freedom.
Lastly, the creation of a regulatory body would help control the excesses of media used as propaganda outlets by certain factions. Professionalising the media and giving them a universally-recognised status would also help to combat the stigmatisation of journalists, who are often branded as “traitors to the nation” as soon as they try to stand back and put some distance between themselves and the political parties.
HonestReporting visits Sderot in the immediate aftermath of a Qassam missile attack which seriously wounded two teenage boys. Read the communique and watch a video message from Sderot here - Video Message From Sderot
WorldNetDaily reports that the US State Dept. declassified a document admitting it knew Yasser Arafat personally plotted and supervised a 1973 attack on the Saudi embassy in Sudan. US diplomats Ambassador Cleo Noel and Charge d'Affaires George Curtis Moore, along with Belgian diplomat Guy Eid were held hostage and executed. The document states:
The Khartoum operation was planned and carried out with the full knowledge and personal approval of Yasir Arafat Chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and the head of Fatah….
The terrorists extended their deadline three times, but when they became convinced that their demands would not be met and after they reportedly had received orders from Fatah headquarters in Beirut, they killed the two U.S. officials and the Belgian Charge. Thirty-four hours later, upon receipt of orders from Yasir Arafat to surrender, the terrorists released their other hostages unharmed and surrendered to Sudanese authorities.
In an update on Palestinian rocket fire, AFP writes:
Under a ceasefire agreed by Israel and militants on November 26, the Jewish state withdrew its forces from Gaza and militants were supposed to stop firing rockets.
Since then, more than 50 rockets have been fired into Israel, and one Palestinian has been killed and at least three wounded by Israeli fire in Gaza. But the truce has generally held amid hopes that it can help restart the dormant peace process.
Generally held? Just this morning, one rocket came “generally” close to a strategic site in Ashkelon.
The Jerusalem Post reports that Israel is considering allowing some fugitives from the Church of the Nativity siege to return to Bethlehem. But residents of the city aren't thrilled with return of the "heroes." An anonymous Christian businessman told the Post:
"These men were responsible for a spate of attacks on Christians, including extortion and confiscation of property."....
"I'm aware that most Christians living here are afraid to speak publicly about the issue, but the overwhelming majority was not unhappy when these thugs were deported from the city," he added. "Now some people here are once again worried because of the reports that they will return. They remember all the bad things that happened to the Christians when these gunmen were roaming the streets. People also remember how the gunmen mistreated the monks and nuns who were held hostage during the raid."
WorldNetDaily talked to Jihad Jaara, a leader of nearly 100 Palestinian fugitives who holed up during the 2002 siege of the Church of the Nativity. If Jaara's name rings a bell, that's because NBC News reported in 2005 that Jaara was still masterminding terror attacks from his exile in Ireland.
The road to Mideast peace now runs through... Lebanon? AP quotes Italian PM Romano Prodi, who met with Lebanese leaders:
"If there is not a solution to the Lebanese problem, there will be no solution to the other problems in the Middle East," he said in English.
Israel-Iraq linkage theories take a further blow. McClatchy reports Iraqi Shiite insurgents are targeting Palestinians in Baghdad:
The attacks include kidnappings, mortar barrages, drive-by shootings and Palestinians forced from their homes. Palestinians and U.N. aid officials say Shiite militias are behind most of the attacks....
The widespread belief that Palestinians received more privileges than ordinary Iraqis drew resentment from both Shiites and fellow Sunnis. Immediately after the fall of the former regime, Iraqis pushed Palestinians out of some districts and took over their homes. Many Shiites branded the Palestinians "terrorists" and accused them of supporting or joining the then-nascent Sunni insurgency.
The Baltimore Sun looked at the headaches of Gaza’s approximately 3,000 Palestinian Christians:
But in the past year, their interfaith ties have been shaken by flare-ups of violence directed at Christians by some extremist groups and individuals. When a Dutch newspaper printed cartoons of the Prophet Mohammad earlier this year, sparking outrage among many Muslims, explosives were placed outside the meeting hall of a Baptist Bible study group and a group of Catholic nuns received death threats.
After Pope Benedict XVI's controversial speech about Islam in September, Gaza's 1,400-year-old Greek Orthodox church was hit by homemade explosives, keeping many worshipers away out of fear.
Since the election of the Islamic Hamas movement, some Christian women have begun covering their heads with scarves like their Muslim counterparts so they can better fit into Gaza's increasingly conservative society.
See also the Sunday Times, which describes how dwindling Christian communities throughout the Mideast are feeling the heat from Muslim neighbors.
To break the stalemate, Abbas took the more radical path of calling early elections, and the political showdown quickly degenerated into a spate of assassinations, tit-for-tat kidnappings and deadly clashes between Hamas militants and Fatah supporters.
A truly "radical" step would have been to clamp down on Hamas instead of inviting them to participate in the last elections. How would AFP have described that?
Highlighting Israeli checkpoints between Nazareth and Bethlehem an annual part of Xmas coverage. This year, The Guardian’s Rory McCarthy follows in the footsteps of reporters Stephen Farrell and Matthew Price.
2006 was the year of the blogosphere revolution. Backspin played its part while HonestReporting's Joe Hyams addressed the prestigious Herzliya Conference on Media as Theater of War, the Blogosphere, and the Global Battle for Civil Society. Read about it at HonestReporting's latest communique - The Blogosphere Revolution.
In The Guardian, Karma Nabulsi (pictured) argues that the PLO, not the Palestinian Authority, is “the only legitimate representative of the Palestinian people,” and that Israeli “coercion” for new elections should be resisted:
Mahmoud Abbas declared yesterday: "Let the people decide for themselves what they want." But there already is a national consensus: there must be Palestinian elections, not for a president of the Palestinian Authority, or for members of its legislative council, but for the Palestinian National Council, the institutional body that forms the sovereign base of the Palestine Liberation Organisation and is the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people....
What we are witnessing today is the horrific and inevitable outcome of a process of deliberate coercion, designed to force an occupied people to surrender their elected representatives. That this coercion is being carried out by the military occupier Israel and its neocon backers in the US administration is to be expected - and resisted.
The former PLO representative-turned Oxford wonk should know better. We said it in March and we’ll say it again:
1. Abbas' primary task as required by the road map was to dismantle the infrastructure of terror. Instead, Abbas asked Hamas to form a government.
2. The PLO isn't the "sole representative" of the Palestinian people. The overwhelming number of Palestinians voted for Hamas -- which never joined the more secular PLO. Even during the pre-Oslo years, the Tunisia-based PLO nearly faded into obscurity while Israel dealt with local Palestinians on the ground.
3. Mahmoud Abbas’ legitimacy stems from his position as popularly elected President of the Palestinian Authority. He was only chosen as PLO chairman by cadres of the member organizations after Yasser Arafat died. The Palestinians need democracy, and they also need to live with the consequences of their choice of votes. The PA is the democratic and legitimate representative of the Palestinians, who have elected Hamas -- warts and all.
In the Washington Post, Robert Satloff makes a compelling case against linking Israel and Iraq:
With more than 3,000 Palestinian and 1,000 Israeli fatalities, the bloodshed in the subsequent three years was the worst in the history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Yet the regional impact was virtually zero.
Not one Arab state threatened to fight alongside the Palestinians, and none even came to their aid militarily; indeed, only faraway Iran tried to send weapons. The Arab "street" did not rise in protest. Neither Jordan nor Egypt severed its peace treaty with Israel, and no Arab state faced significant protests. The conflict -- certainly a horrible experience for Israelis and Palestinians -- was contained.
In Herzliya, HonestReporting CEO Joe Hyams (pictured) addresses the conference: The Media As Theater of War, the Blogosphere, and the Global Battle for Civil Society.
Discussing Qana, Hyams introduced the concept of "Golden Hour" messaging in the aftermath of a crisis. He asserted that there's no need to wait for official positions re-framing an already raging debate. More effective is to have confidence in taking the initiative, even if something went wrong. Doing so can mitigate the trap of defending consequences, without any consideration of initial intent.
The words at the bottom of the screen said "Palestinian P.M. Arrested." Yet when Kate Wheeler of Canada's CTV interviewed Middle East Bureau Chief Janis Mackey Frayer about Ismail Haniyeh's attempt to smuggle $35 million in cash into Gaza, it was clear that no such arrest was made.
Frayer accurately reported that a deal was reached allowing Haniyeh to enter Gaza while the suitcases of money would be transferred directly to the PA treasury. To add to the Prime Minister's woes, he received a too-close-for-comfort 21-gun salute from unidentified gunmen trying to kill him. Responding to HonestReporting-Canada, CTV apologized for the error.
We see it year after year: MSM exaggerates Israeli responsibility for Bethlehem's muted Xmas cheer and under-reports anti-Christian violence by the Palestinians. One case in point -- Reuters:
Life in Bethlehem, the birthplace of Jesus, has grown steadily worse over the past six years as Israel has ratcheted up security, erecting dozens of military checkpoints across the West Bank and building a steel and concrete barrier.
Tourists and religious pilgrims, the major contributor to Bethlehem's economy, have stayed away in ever increasing numbers, while residents of the city have found it much harder to get to nearby cities like Jerusalem to work. Unemployment is now estimated at around 65 percent, city workers say.
What really gives headaches to West Bank Christian communities like Bethlehem? Unfortunate developments such as these: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, and 7.
The LA Times reports the latest horror from Gaza. Imagine the headlines if Israel were responsible for an attack like this:
Three young sons of a senior Palestinian intelligence officer and their driver were killed today by gunmen on a street crowded with schoolchildren in an attack that could ignite fighting between Palestinian factions.
Witnesses said at least two gunmen emerged from a car and opened fire with Kalashnikov rifles after blocking the vehicle carrying the children of intelligence officer Baha Balousheh, a loyalist of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.
The boys, ages 6, 7 and 9, died along with their 25-year-old driver. At least four bystanders were wounded in the 6:15 a.m. attack, hospital officials said.
As shots rang out, children on the street, which is lined with several schools, dropped to the ground or fled screaming, witnesses said.
Credit reporter Pierre Heumann with pushing Sheikh on questions we'd like to ask about the editor's personal biases as a native of Nablus, suicide bombings, Iraq, the network's new English channel, and more.
The new United Nations Human Rights Council spends little time talking about genuine human rights abuses because it is too busy attacking Israel. Read the latest HonestReporting Special Report and comment here.
The report says that there were many such examples, and that Hezbollah has been preparing for such an engagement for years, embedding its fighters and their weapons in the Shiite villages of southern Lebanon. When Hezbollah fired its rockets from those areas, Israel faced a choice of attacking, and possibly causing civilian casualties, or refraining from shooting because of the risk, the report said.
Elias Hanna, a retired Lebanese Army general, said of the Israeli allegations, “Of course there are hidden invisible tunnels, bunkers of missile launchers, bunkers of explosive charges amongst civilians.”
* The San Francisco Chronicle profiles Israel’s first Bedouin (and Muslim) foreign diplomat, consul Ishmael Khaldi. The 35-year-old Khaldi will work in Israel's San Francisco consulate.
* Haaretz’s Amos Harel ponders UNIFIL’s future if Hezbollah takes over Lebanon.
* Abu Yousef, a senior member of Force-17, told WorldNetDaily that American guns provided to bolster Mahmoud Abbas would eventually be used to kill Jews and “fight Israeli occupation.” Yousef knows: he's also a member of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades.
See The Observer (UK) and the JTA for diametrically opposite takes on what drives Palestinian suicide bombers. The Observer examined the granny bomber, while the JTA featured a new film, "Suicide Killers: Paradise Is Hell," by Pierre Rehov.
For a change, here’s some responsible journalism from Reuters. Despite what the locals say about the siege of the Beit Hanoun's al-Nasser mosque, reporter Luke Baker keeps focused on the fact that the gunmen themselves were responsible for the mosque’s destruction:
The army decided that since the mosque was being used for military purposes it was no longer protected under the rules of conflict. Commanders sent in armoured bulldozers to knock down its ancient walls, which dated to the 13th century….
Asked whether gunmen had used the shrine for protection as they fought Israeli troops, Kafarneh and his friends sitting on plastic chairs around him are quiet and then dismissive.
"There were gunmen, yes. But they weren't inside the mosque. They were nearby, in the buildings. Look, the buildings and the mosque are all together here," said one as the others nodded.
On the day of the stand-off, Hamas, the Islamic militant group that runs the Palestinian government, said itself that dozens of its gunmen were holed up inside…..
Very few are willing to link the actions of the militants to the destruction of the building, even though it's very unlikely it would have been targeted if gunmen weren't hiding inside.
Next year it will add some Arabic programming to the English-language channel. It has named a Frenchwoman, Agnès Levallois, to oversee the Arabic service to make sure journalists don't say “martyr” when they should say “terrorist”, as Mr de Pouzilhac puts it.
The second trial related to France 2 TV's Mohammed Dura footage ended abruptly when a judge threw out the state-owned TV's lawsuit. France 2 and reporter Charles Enderlin sued Pierre Lurcat for defamation for questioning the veracity of the footage. Pajamas Media's Nidra Poller reports that the case was dismissed on purely technical grounds:
Judging that France 2 did not provide proof for the allegation that Pierre Lurçat is the director of the site on which the incriminated statements were published [League de Défense Juïve], the court rejected the plaintiff’s case without further consideration.... Maître David Dassa-Le-Deist, delighted by the terms of the judgment, notes that his client has endured six years of legal harassment from a plaintiff that used Wikipedia to establish the chain of responsibility….
In the first trial, Philippe Karsenty was found guilty and ordered to pay one symbolic euro in damages to both Enderlin and France 2. The trial of the third defendant, Charles Gouz, has not begun yet. See Richard Landes for more details.