AP describes Hamas' latest suppression of the media:
Several Gaza journalists received anonymous overnight phone calls warning them not to cover upcoming events planned by the Fatah movement, fueling fears that the territory's Islamic Hamas rulers were trying to quash coverage of their rivals. . . .
The reporters asked that their names be withheld because they feared retribution from Hamas . . . .
Boston Globe columnists penned a few paragraphs on 2007's underreported stories. If you hold your nose for the first few words, H.D.S. Greenway is otherwise spot on.
We all know the Israel of wars, oppression, and precarious security, but what about Israel of the humming economy with 90 Israel-related companies on NASDAQ? What about Israeli films garnishing honors around the world: "Jellyfish" and "The Band's Visit" at Cannes, "Beaufort" in Berlin, "My Father My Lord" in Tribeca, "Sweet Mud" at Sundance, and "Aviva, My Love" in Shanghai?
What of Israeli solar power in California that has been saving 2 million barrels of oil annually for nearly 20 years? What of Arava Valley high-tech agriculture, with exports exceeding $100 million? Natafim, the drip irrigation system patented by Kibbutz Hatzerim, is now a multinational conglomerate selling millions of systems throughout the world. What of the Israel that is taking in Darfur refugees, and what of the first Israeli-initiated UN resolution, calling upon countries to share agricultural technology with developing countries, adopted overwhelmingly this month?
Collateral damage from Israeli targeted assassinations is at its lowest rate ever. Haaretz writes:
Reducing the number of civilian casualties in the attacks on Gaza was one of the first tasks Halutz's heir as IAF chief, Eliezer Shkedi, marked out for himself. The data improved commensurately. From a 1:1 ratio between killed terrorists and civilians in 2003 to a 1:28 ratio in late 2005. Several IAF mishaps in 2006 lowered the ratio to 1:10, but the current ratio is at its lowest ever more than 1:30.
Over at Power Line, Dan Diker says the Palestinians have given up on a two-state solution and are in "cruise control" for the sake of receiving foreign money:
However, this author’s four meetings this week with three of the region’s top Arab affairs experts and a senior Palestinian official reveal that the Palestinian’s have already jettisoned the idea of reaching a compromise with Israel and have already hit cruise control if only to collect on promises of eight billion dollars in international commitments.
I sat in a Tel Aviv meeting on Wednesday with a senior advisor to Mahmaoud Abbas who told a few of us Israelis in no uncertain terms. “PA leader Abbas’s hands are tied." He will not agree to anything less than a full Israeli withdrawal to the pre-1967 lines including Jerusalem. That means no Palestinian flexibility on their demands for full sovereignty over Jerusalem’s historic Old City and especially the holy Temple Mount. The Palestinian official added that the Palestinians are also not conceding their demand for the “right of return” of Palestinian refugees to Israel. The only flexibility is the possibility of a two percent land swap. Why such apparent intransigence already? Negotiations have barely started.
This apparent zero sum Palestinian game may explain why three of Israel’s leading experts and fellow colleagues on the Arab East told me flat out in separate meetings this week their assessment that the Palestinians have already given up on the two state solution.
Haaretz editor David Landau (pictured) confirmed he urged Condi Rice that the US needs to "rape" Israel for the sake of Mideast peace. The NY Jewish Week writes:
When contacted this week, Landau said the description was “inaccurate” and “a perversion of what I said.” He said his views had been delivered with “much more sophistication.”
But he added: “I did say that in general, Israel wants to be raped — I did use that word — by the U.S., and I myself have long felt Israel needed more vigorous U.S. intervention in the affairs of the Middle East.” . . . .
But Landau said he had no regrets and that, on the contrary, he was pleased . . .
Anyone familiar with Israel's diplomatic history will be aware that the worst fear of government after government was the prospect of the United States alone or in conjunction with another power, seeking to impose a settlement which would be to Israel's political detriment or compromise its vital security interests.
By any benchmark, Landau's behavior as an Israeli citizen would be deemed unacceptable.
But it is surely unconscionable that the editor of one of Israel's most influential newspapers, which also appears in an English and global internet version, could urge an American Secretary of State to "rape" his own government. If ever there was a crossing of every red line in terms of propriety, national integrity, and civic responsibility, this extraordinary intervention tops the bill. This is surely not behaviour befitting the editor of a major newspaper.
According to the Daily Telegraph, Israel is now responsible for the lousy parenting of Palestinian mothers who have no problem dumping their own babies in the streets. Reporter Tim Butcher writes:
Babies have been abandoned to die on rubbish tips or in the street because the Israeli security wall that now hems in the West Bank city makes it difficult for distressed mothers to reach the Holy Family Children's Home.
Last but not least, 2007 was Backspin's most successful too. The addition of social networking, RSS feeds and more videos brought the blog into the world of Web 2.0. The upgrade paid off with more traffic, comments, and posts being picked up by other blogs than in any other year.
Pre-Recorded Church Bells For Gaza's Cowed Christians
The BBC's Katya Adler sees how Gaza's Christians are faring this holiday season. Though the bulk of the article deals with Father Manawel Musallam's politically correct comments, the final paragraphs speak volumes:
As the crowded church was belting out hallelujahs, I stepped into the church courtyard for some fresh air.
The Muslim call to prayer was beginning to echo from the myriad of mosques all around.
I thought how this reflected the situation in Gaza in Christmas 2007 - that while the muezzin were on loudspeaker, the church bells here are played from a cassette tape.
A nervous young nun adjusted the volume - loud enough to peel through the church but not to penetrate its walls - it might risk offending Muslim Gazans passing by.
An Israeli soldier tackles a Palestinian protester dressed as Santa Claus or Father Christmas during at a protest against Israel's separation barrier in the village of Umm Salamunah near the biblical West Bank town of Bethlehem. Israeli guards beat five demonstrators during the protest on Friday, organisers said.
• 70% saw Palestinians as the underdog
• But only 53% were more supportive of the Palestinians
• There was a little more sympathy toward the Palestinians (3.77 vs. 3.73)
When Israel was portrayed as small on the map:
• 62.1% saw Israel as the underdog
• But 76.7% were more supportive of Israel
• There was more sympathy towards Israel (4.00 vs. 3.30)--especially compared to Palestinians when they were perceived as the underdog.
Apparently being the underdog isn't everything--terrorism and corruption does seem to take a toll. The study also concluded that opinions about Israel and the Palestinians were "malleable," which may mean that the damage done by Israel's lackluster attempt at Hasbarah may not be permanent.
But the irony behind a painting of an Israeli soldier checking a donkey's identity papers -- a jab at the Jewish state's strict security measures -- was lost on some locals, who found it offensive and painted over it.
"We're humans here, not donkeys. This is insulting. I'm glad it was painted over," said restaurant owner Nasri Canavati. Comparing someone to a donkey in Palestinian society is like calling them an idiot.
Hamas is broadcasting daily radio programming from the Temple Mount. WorldNetDaily writes:
But today, Hamas' Al Aqsa Radio broadcast services from the Temple Mount from 5 a.m. Jerusalem time until 8:20 a.m. During the program, a Hamas official announced the group's station would exclusively broadcast services from the Al Aqsa Mosque every day.
Hamas would not say how it coordinated today's broadcast, but Palestinian security sources said the stream was fully coordinated with the Waqf, the Islamic custodians of the Temple Mount.
In September, Islamic Jihad managed to broadcast from the Temple Mount too.
Al-Qaida's no. 2 man Ayman al-Zawahri is eager to take media questions. AP writes:
The statement, first posted Sunday, invites "individuals, agencies and all media" to submit written questions for al-Zawahri by sending them to the Islamic Web forums where Al-Sahab traditionally posts its messages.
Al-Sahab asked the forums to send it the questions "by the letter, with no changes or substitutions, no matter whether they agree or disagree (with the question)."
It said it would take questions until Jan. 16 . . . .
Give the man credit for creativity. We'd like to know what questions you'd like to ask al-Zawahri if given the opportunity. Post your questions in the comments section.
Although the international community has pledged almost $9 billion to support the Palestinians since 1993 through similar pledge-fests, less than half the amount of money promised actually materialized, according to a Palestinian source who asked not to be named. The delinquents include members of the Arab League as well as Japan and Italy, the source said.
Many countries do not fulfill pledges that they make at such conferences. Egypt and other Arab countries are known for pledging funds to the Palestinian Authority that they do not deliver.
• The Independent questions the effectiveness of any plan that doesn’t include Gaza:
"What is the point of institution-building if there is no Palestinian unity?" said a European diplomat. "It's not Northern Ireland, whatever Tony Blair says. Building a Palestinian state without Gaza would be a colossal waste of money."
The only way to undermine Hamas is not by channeling billions of dollars to the PA leadership, but by offering the Palestinians a better alternative to the Islamist movement. In order for Fatah to regain the confidence of the Palestinian public, it needs to reform itself and pave the way for new faces.
According to Goldman, the police are also investigating Ron Ben-Yishai and Tzur Shehaf. Ben-Yishai was the first journalist to reach Deir Ezzor, where Israeli struck a Syrian facility thought to be associated with nuclear weapons. Shehaf wrote about a trip to Lebanon for a Hebrew travel magazine.
In a Washington Post commentary about Palestinian refugees in Lebanon, a self-styled wonk named Nir Rosen (pictured) describes the War of Independence as "ethnic cleansing."
The rights of the Palestinian refugees have been ignored for six decades by a world that has wished them away. But the Middle East will never know peace or stability until they are granted justice. In 1948-49, around the conflict that Israelis refer to as their War of Independence and that Palestinians call the Catastrophe, some 750,000 Palestinians were ethnically cleansed to make way for the creation of the Jewish state. In 1967, during the Six-Day War, 400,000 Palestinians were expelled by the Israeli military, according to Amnesty International.
During the first two years of the second intifada, more than 400 shooting attacks were unleashed on the Jerusalem neighborhood of Gilo and its 40,000 residents from the nearby Arab town of Beit Jala. Although the town was predominantly Christian, Beit Jala was infiltrated by Fatah's Tanzim gunmen who shot at Gilo, hoping for Israeli retaliation against the local residents. Gilo residents began to evacuate. Belatedly the Israeli government provided cement barriers and bullet-proof glass to protect the Jerusalem neighborhood's residents.
IGNORING the fact that the neighborhood consisted of major apartment complexes, schools and shopping centers, much of the world press condoned the attacks on the "Israeli settlement," as if it were some temporary military camp. The British press was quick to claim that Gilo was "illegal under international law." Reuters' correspondent Christine Hauser tried to show that it was the Arab town of Beit Jala under Israeli attack by describing the piles of brass bullet shells collected by the Palestinian locals, not realizing that spent casings are found at the source of the shooting, not the target. The media distortion was so great that in 2001 CNN issued a memorandum to its staff stating that "We refer to Gilo as a 'Jewish neighborhood on the outskirts of Jerusalem'... We don't refer to it as a settlement." . . . .
Somewhere in the Palestinian Authority's security forces, or Fatah's al-Aksa Brigade, or Hamas, or Islamic Jihad, military commanders are planning their attack on Har Homa, probably from neighboring Bethlehem. Snipers, mortars and Kassam rockets will be the order of battle.
Philippe Karsenty, who is appealing his 2006 defamation conviction—for declaring on his Media-Ratings site that the al Dura news report was a blatant fake—obtained medical records proving that Jamal’s wounds were treated by an Israeli surgeon in 1994. Now the surgeon, Yehuda David, has confirmed this information on a December 12 newscast on Israel’s Arutz 10 TV.
Watch the Arutz 10 report in Hebrew. The Metula News Agency translated it into French. We're not aware of an English translation yet.
For background reading, see HonestReporting's timeline of the al-Dura controversy.