We recently blogged Azmi Bishara’s fast-fizzling hopes of becoming a media darling at Israel’s expense. Although AFP reports 3,000 people demonstrated their support in Nazareth, Bishara’s going to be pushed off the front pages even more when the Winograd Commission releases its report in an hour from now.
Pondering Alan Johnston's captors, Palestinian writer Ramzy Baroud (pictured) broods over the million dollar question:
But how can we claim that they are not from amongst us? How can we claim that they don’t represent us if we lack the political will to confront them? And when Alan is freed, as he must, who will free us, Palestinians, from this destructive path on which we tread?
History's repeating itself in Gaza as gunmen entrench themselves in residential areas of Beit Hanoun. Civilians anticipating an IDF incursion are already fleeing. The Observer (UK) writes:
Militants were flooding into the border town of Beit Hanoun, building bunkers, stretching tarpaulins across streets to block Israeli reconnaissance drones and planting roadside bombs.
Daylight yesterday found the streets empty. Many residents had fled, knowing that the town is always the first stop for any Israeli invasion....
Residents said militants have shut off sections of Beit Hanoun on recent nights as they built defences and set up anti-tank rockets and planted roadside bombs, used so effectively last summer by Hizbollah.
We saw the same thing in Qana and Jenin and Gaza before: terrorists deliberately hunker down in civilian areas and MSM headlines scream Israeli massacre. Here we go again....
A feature by a New York Times reporter, Andrea Elliott, that this week was awarded a Pulitzer Prize has come under fire from critics because it did not mention that a murderer who committed a 1994 terrorist attack had been incited by a former imam at the Islamic Society of Bay Ridge, as well as for portraying a succeeding imam as moderate when he had praised the leader of Hamas and a female suicide bomber.
In 1994, Ari Halberstam was killed when Rashid Baz opened fire on a van carrying students across the Brooklyn Bridge. Read parts 12 and 3 of "An Imam in America," about Sheik Reda Shata. While Times Watch wondered about the series, L. Brent Bozell III wonders if the Pulitzer committee has it's own agenda.
In 2004, Malcolm Balen, for whom the report is named, exhaustively examined the BBC’s radio and TV coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. His report was never released to the public; however, Steven Sugar, a London lawyer, filed a Freedom of Information request. When the BBC refused, Sugar appealed to the Information Tribunal, which adjudicates FOI disputes. The tribunal ruled in Sugar’s favor, leading to a flood of FOI requests for the Balen Report (including one from HonestReporting).
According to the UK Press Gazette, the BBC has rejected 400 other FOI requests over an unspecified period of time.
The BBC is funded by a license fee and the public deserves to know what's contained in the report.
Newsweek features a puff piece on the Muslim Brotherhood. Reporter Stephen Glain astonishingly overlooks the failures of Hamas, the only Brotherhood affiliate to win power democratically:
This isn't your father's Muslim Brotherhood. It's still the world's oldest and largest Islamist movement. But as with Arshead himself, these days it's gone heavy on populism—and light on God. Known as the Ikhwan in Arabic, renowned for its conservative and often backward ways, it now counts women as members. Once wary of engaging in the parochial rough-and-tumble of politics, it increasingly collaborates with non-Muslim and even secular groups pushing for democratic reform. That "big tent" political pragmatism is now helping the Brotherhood move decisively into the Arab mainstream, scoring big election advances from Morocco to Egypt to Lebanon as the champion of the little man....
UPDATE APRIL 29: Want further food for thought? See the NY Times Magazine's lengthy dispatch from Cairo about the Brotherhood's Egyptian gains.
UPDATE MAY 2:Sandmonkey isn't the only Egyptian blogger recently making waves. The Christian Science Monitor spotlights the case of Abdel Moneim Mahmoud, who blogged for the Brotherhood before being arrested. The Brotherhood's online efforts are proving successful because of people like Mahmoud. In this regard, this certainly ain't your daddy's Brotherhood!
Having run afoul of the law, former Arab Knesset member Azmi Bishara (pictured) is trying to whip up world opinion against Israel. But don’t take our word for it. AFP writes:
"He will stay abroad to mobilise an Arab and international solidarity campaign to prepare to confront" the Israeli authorities, the secretary general of his National Democratic Assembly party, Awad Abdelfattah, told AFP.
A court-imposed gag order on the police investigation was partially lifted, revealing that Bishara is suspected of transferring information to Hezbollah during the Second Lebanon War, maintaining contacts with an enemy agent, and money laundering. His claims of racism don’t hold water and distract from the question of Bishara’s conduct during the war and his unauthorized visit to Syria in September.
Before the gag order was lifted, Bishara chalked up one success with this headline in The Scotsman:
Arab-Israeli MP resigns over 'racist' climate
UPDATE April 26: According to the Jerusalem Post, support for Bishara globally and within his Israeli-Arab constituency is fizzling out:
Bishara hoped that his showdown with the Israeli justice system would turn him into an international martyr for Palestine. He might have bolstered his already high profile on the Arab satellite channels, but his "escape" has scarcely attracted more than fleeting attention from the Western press. "Let's face it," said a foreign journalist based in Jerusalem, "Nelson Mandela he's not."
One of Hezbollah's original founders tells Time magazine the terror group sold out to Iran years ago:
Twenty years on, Toufeili has evolved into one of the most outspoken — and unlikeliest — critics of Hizballah and its sponsors in Tehran, accusing both of corruption and of selling out the ideals of Iran's 1979 Islamic revolution. "Hizballah is no longer a real liberation force but just a tool for Iranian interests. Hizballah has become a very bad and corrupt organization," he said in an interview with TIME.
Harvard’s daily student paper, The Crimson, was on hand when a PLO representative spoke on campus. After the speech, reporter David Hausman quoted student reactions. Oddly enough, one of the students whose reaction he quoted was his own editor:
Nadia O. Gaber ’09, president of the Harvard Society of Arab Students and a Crimson editorial editor, said Safieh’s even-handed approach impressed her.
“He was so reasonable,” she said. “I think everyone in attendance really thought that he was an incredible speaker.”
Gaber's entitled to her views, but this clearly isn't the proper forum for an editor to express them. We also wonder about the reporter: Were there not enough students in the auditorium that Hausman needed to quote his own editor in the first place?
He pauses. “The BBC has cancelled my story out of a rather misplaced feeling for Alan Johnston. He is in a terrible situation. But my feeling is that, as journalists and writers, we support other journalists and writers by speaking freely. He is a hardcore news journalist. He wouldn’t want a bit of nancy censorship to support him."
After all the negative publicity Israel’s security fence received, editors should be blushing over the descriptions of a wall the US wanted to build around a Sunni enclave in Baghdad. Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki halted construction, but not before we spotted the following headlines.
Since last Remembrance Day, 233 members of Israel’s security forces were killed defending the state, including 119 who died in Lebanon. Among those who made the ultimate sacrifice was Sgt. Michael Levin (pictured), a Philadelphia native killed by Hezbollah gunfire in Aita al-Shaab. Today, Israeli TV airs A Hero in Heaven, a 45-minute documentary about Levin.
Jon Medved's thoughts on Levin's funeral are as apropos now as they were last August.
A Muslim gang stole land documents from the Bethlehem Magistrate’s court and “sold” Christian property to other Muslims. The Jerusalem Post's Khaled Abu Toameh reports:
A Christian businessman told the Post that most of the victims were Christian families living in the US and Latin America. "They are stealing our homes almost every day," he said. "We believe the suspects have been receiving help from some Palestinian security officers here."….
Ta'mari said one common method of land theft was as follows: Someone forges ownership of a piece of land and registers it under his name. Then an accomplice pretends he has illegally seized the land.
The first person sues the accomplice, using the forged documents. The court then rules in favor of the first person, turning him into the "legal" owner. The proceedings take place without the knowledge of the real owner, who usually lives abroad.
The report also refers to an interview last January when the town's Christians spoke out against the phenomenon.
Don't be surprised if France 24's web site scraps reader comments because of problems of anti-Semitism and political correctness. Anthony Grant explains:
This is happening in a climate of ambient anti-Semitism and political correctness that permits attacks against Jews to be carried out with more frequency than any nation that collaborated with the Nazis and claims to have atoned for it. There was the brutal torture and murder last year of Ilan Halimi, a young Parisian singled out because he was Jewish. He was reburied earlier this year in Israel. On March 31, another Jewish cemetery was desecrated, this time in the northern city of Lille. Neither event — the Halimi reburial or cemetery attack — was covered on France 24, in any language. How do I know that? I work there. The Web site, France24.com, receives so many anti-Semitic hate mails that the editors have considered eliminating user reactions to news items altogether.
The Independent’s Donald MacIntyre suggests that reporting from Gaza is now no different than reporting from Baghdad:
Since then, the John Ging kidnap attempt, the reports of gunmen entering the TV production offices in central Gaza City saying they were looking for more foreign journalists to kidnap, the sheer length of Mr Johnston's ordeal, have made the threat seem much more real. All of which underlines the brutal destructiveness of the kidnap to the Palestinian cause, just when it most needs support. And moving round Gaza City with even one vehicle containing armed Palestinian security men, as The Independent was persuaded to do this week, does not make for much productive journalism.
It's hardly surprising that foreign journalists abandoned the Gaza Strip Alan Johnston's kidnapping. One unintended consequence: dubious Palestinian stringers fill the info vacuum. The Jerusalem Post writes:
Despite widely publicizing Johnston's plight, not all the details on his kidnapping and, more crucially, on the group holding him - the Durmish clan - its demands and methods have been reported by the mainstream news organizations. In some cases, this has been to protect Johnston from any possible reprisal and, but also out of fear of future retribution when reporters return to Gaza.
McGregor-Wood denied there was any attempt to hide information....
In the absence of the foreign reporters, the news still getting out of Gaza is coming almost exclusively from Palestinian stringers. Some of the major organizations that in the past preferred to rely as little as possible on stringers have signed them on and equipped them with additional recording equipment. But using only stringer-produced material is problematic.
"The people who use the stringers have to sift their material very carefully," says Jay Bushinsky, a veteran member of the Foreign Press Association. "You have to be naive to believe that in a place like Gaza you can be a fair-minded reporter. They have a mission and they don't give anything detrimental to their leadership."
For more on the reliability of Palestinian stringers, see here and here.
A UN official calls on Israel to ease up on the detention of Palestinian children. AFP writes:
"Practically every child I met (in the Palestinian territories) was in detention or had met somebody who has been in detention, or whose brother has been in detention," UN special representative for children and armed conflict Radhika Coomaraswamy told reporters....
"This kind of detention practice is feeding the cycle of violence. I think children are getting very hard and bitter through this experience," she said following a visit to the Hasharon detention centre.
But as the Times of London, Reuters and the Globe & Mail have already documented, a lot of Palestinian kids look forward to being sent to an Israeli prison and deliberately get themselves arrested. Behind bars, they pursue an education, live well, and get street cred. Parents receive generous benefits from the PA, and some kids finishing their sentences find a way to return. The Times estimated that in the past two years, 200 Palestinian kids deliberately got themselves arrested.
We commiserate with the people really fueling what Coomaraswamy thinks is a cycle of violence: Israeli taxpayers.
See Zev Chafets for a counter-intuitive reaction to the NUJ boycott:
Israel, I believe, should not only respect the British boycott, but join it.
There are some journalists who - while prepared to forego Israeli dairy products and such - will find it difficult to break their habit of access to the story. The government of Israel can make this easier by removing temptation. It should ask all British correspondents stationed in Israel to leave, either by way of Ben Gurion Airport or, if they prefer, via Gaza.
And it should withhold visas and accreditation from members of the National Union of British Journalists (and the media companies that employ NUBJ members) until the journalists of Britain decide to resume at least the fiction of impartiality.
The X-Ray Project, a photography exhibit uses X-rays and CT scans from Jerusalem's Shaare Zedek Hospital and Hadassah Medical Center to explore the effects of terrorism on a civilian population. The exhibition is visiting American universities.
Another British journalist hangs his head in shame over the NUJ. See YNet News, where Chas Newkey Burden heaps scorn on the British media's view of Israel and describes some eye-opening experiences with editors and colleagues:
The evening after my return from Israel, I met up with some journalists for some drinks in the West End of London. I was again abused for my trip. Their hatred of Israel was matched only by their adoration of the Palestinians. One of them gushed: “Boy, those suicide bombers have got guts. I wish more people in the world had their courage.” Another of them erupted when I told him that most people in Israel wanted a peaceful settlement to the conflict.
Dominic Pansford of the Press Gazette, a UK media journal, lays out why the NUJ's shameful boycott doesn't represent the majority of the union's members, nor any mainstream element of British journalism:
It was a motion driven mainly by activists drawn from the far left of the union – a group whose influence at ADM far outweighs their strength in the membership as a whole. While the far left fringe add much to the strength of the union with their activism and enthusiasm, it is this kind of political posturing which still puts many journalists off joining the NUJ.
Times of London columnist Michael Gove explains why he quit the NUJ after nearly 20 years:
This boycott is not of a repressive state that outlaws free expression (of which, sadly, there are still too many) but of one of the few states in the Middle East with a proper free press: Israel.
The NUJ exists to defend, among other virtues, freedom of speech. That virtue is better defended in Israel than in any other nation of the Middle East and it comes under assault daily from forces driven by fanaticism.
Now is a time, for all sorts of reasons, for showing solidarity with those defending democracy in that region, not for passing on the other side of the road. So, with no little sadness, I feel that I have to leave.
YNet News columnist Alex Fishman offers a fascinating explanation why the Palestinians are dragging their feet on a prisoner swap for Gilad Shalit (pictured):
In Hamas' view, Gilad Shalit has turned into an "insurance policy" against an Israeli invasion of the Gaza Strip. The group estimates that the invasion would have already taken place had Shalit not been held in a Gaza hideout....
Moreover, Shalit also serves as a personal insurance policy for the kidnappers themselves, headed by Ahmad Jabari, who heads Hamas' military wing. Meanwhile, as long as they hold Shalit, they are the center of attention and see pilgrimages by VIPs from the Palestinian Authority, Egypt, and the international community. They are starting to like it.
If Fishman's assessment is correct, what does that say about Alan Johnston's predicament?
Digging in the heels is a defensive posture. Sticking a foot in one's mouth is not. Trying to explain the National Union of Journalist's boycott, a spokesman inexplicably justified the kidnapping of Alan Johnston. Tim Gopsill told the Jerusalem Post:
Gopsill blamed the Palestinian economic situation for Johnston's kidnapping. "Taking Alan Johnston [captive]," he said, "demonstrates the Palestinians' desperate way of drawing attention to their problems."
That might explain why the Post also reports:
Most British correspondents working in Israel and the Palestinian Authority are not members of the NUJ.
Meanwhile, Harry's Place obtained a copy of the NUJ's more official "explanation." This snippet (emphasis added) suggests a nasty quid pro quo -- sell out Israel for Johnston's freedom:
The call for the boycott in part related it to the kidnap of Alan Johnston. The Palestinian journalists union has given huge support to the campaign for his release - holding demonstrations and strikes against the Palestinian authority to demand more action from them. We work closely with the Palestinian union through the International Federation of Journalists and the boycott call was a gesture of support for the Palestinian people - notably those suffering in the siege of Gaza, the community Alan Johnston has been so keen to help through his reporting.
A demonstration of journalists supporting Alan Johnston got ugly when police cracked down outside Gaza's parliament building. AP writes:
About 200 journalists had gathered outside the building, seeking information about Johnston. When journalists tried to enter parliament to talk to lawmakers about the case, the guards violently pushed them back and barred them from entering.
What is The Age’s correspondent Ed O’Loughlin trying to accomplish with this snippet about the search for Alan Johnston?
No foreign journalist or aid worker has been harmed by Palestinian militants since the uprising against Israel that began in October 2000, although several have been killed or wounded by Israeli forces.
Jaime Razuri, Emilio Morenatti Steve Centanni, Olaf Wiig, Caroline Laurent, Alfred Yaghobzadeh, Yong Tae-young, Mohamed Ouathi, Dion Nissenbaum, Adam Pletts, James Bennett, Riad Ali, and Josh Hammer weren’t physically harmed, but their freedom was physically restricted for hours or days. Why does O'Loughlin whitewash their ordeals?
In the guise of respectable speculation, British journalist Alan Hart casts aspersion on Israel for Alan Johnston's disappearance:
There is a case for saying (repeat a case) that the party with most to gain from Alan Johnston's permanent disappearance was Israel. It would not be the first time that Israeli agents had dressed as Arabs to make a hit.
If Alan Johnston is dead, it's my hope that the BBC at executive management level will rise above its fear of offending Zionism too much and allow its reporters (Frank Gardner and Jeremy Bowen are second to none) to make a full, thorough and honest investigation.
Here's our own Top 10 List of Parties Who Might Gain From Johnston's Kidnap:
6. The royal family knew in advance Prince William and Kate Middleton were on the rocks and foresaw a public opinion disaster. UK coverage of the royal breakup dovetailed too nicely with conveniently timed rumors of Johnston’s execution.
5. Robert Fisk. Why not? He already wrote he'd beat up himself and any other Westerner he could find.
4. French intelligence clearly gave Michael Moore advance notice of Al-Qaida’s plotting. Why wasn’t Moore in the World Trade Center filming Fahrenheit 9/11 that fateful day?
3. If (repeat, if) a professional rivalry between Alan Hart and Alan Johnston went too far, Hart himself would certainly gain.
One thing’s for sure: it is not going to make life any easier for journalists anywhere in the world. In the current international climate, where journalists’ lives are often at threat despite their own views or neutrality, it is absolutely fundamental that the union does nothing to worsen the situation. We need to strive to maintain our objectivity when reporting and although we have a personal right to express our own views, this does not extend to the union doing the same. We are working together to protect journalists – not to endanger them.
There is another problem with this specific case. As one member mentioned, the union will ineluctably be seen by some as anti-Semitic because of this particular stance against Israel which, despite being a ridiculous misconception, is also one that needs to be taken into account. Not least because such individuals can quite rightly ask, ‘why target Israel? Why not persecute other states with bad records internationally?’ And the union has no answer.
Unable to find anyone willing to broadcast their programs to US viewers, Al-Jazeera-English is bypassing cable and satellite companies for a You Tube channel. The NY Times writes:
The YouTube channel will run segments from such Al Jazeera English shows as “Frost Over the World” with David Frost; “Inside Iraq,” billed as a weekly debate program offering opinions from guests on Iraq; and “Riz Khan,” a former BBC and CNN journalist who now works for Al Jazeera, along with new material produced exclusively for the venture, like “Political Bytes” featuring the network’s United Nations correspondent, Mark Seddon. It plans to add 10 to 15 new clips each week.
A radical move? Hardly. CBS, BBC, France 24-English, the NBA, Warner Brothers, VH1, March of Dimes, Tony Blair, all the presidential candidates and, of course, Paris Hilton, already have similar branded channels on YouTube.
Life in the Palestinian Authority seems to look good compared to the slums of Rio de Janeiro. Describing the bloodshed in the city's favelas, or shantytowns, the Washington Post writes:
The favelas are statistically the most violent sections of Rio, a city where the number of juvenile deaths attributed to violence far exceeds that of many war zones. From 2002 through 2006, 729 Israeli and Palestinian minors were killed as a result of the violence in Israel and the occupied territories, according to B'Tselem, an Israeli human rights group. During the same period in Rio de Janeiro, 1,857 minors were reported murdered, according to the Institute of Public Security, a state research center.
It's not likely any Brazilian youths will be shot in front of TV camera crews. So don't expect the MSM to confer on anyone the poster boy status currently enjoyed by Mohammed Dura.
A previously unknown group linked to Al-Qaida claims it executed Alan Johnston. The Jerusalem Post reports that PA officials are checking into the claim, but doubt the credibility. Developing....
UPDATE April 16:Haaretz writes that the PA discredited the claims "as an attempt to put pressure on the PA," adding:
Nonetheless, Palestinian journalists on Sunday expressed concern that Sunday's email announcement indicates Johnston may have been hurt during the abduction, and that now the kidnappers are looking for grounds for his murder.
The Alan Johnston affair just got messier. His captors demand the release of Sajida Mubarak al-Rishawi, an Iraqi woman whose bomb belt failed to detonate during a suicide bombing at an Amman hotel in 2005. The Sunday Times writes:
Any link to Rishawi’s case would suggest that the kidnappers were more than mere criminals seeking a ransom, as some analysts have speculated. Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the late former leader of Al-Qaeda in Iraq, claimed he was behind the bombing in which she took part.
Britain is still smarting from the capture of 15 sailors by Iranian forces. Judging from UK outrage over last month’s Daniele Mastrogiacomo affair — five imprisoned Taliban terrorists were released in exchange for the abducted Italian journalist — efforts to secure Johnston’s release will sorely test the BBC.