AP coverage of the Winograd report continues the MSM’s tricky casualty figures:
The commission did not pull punches in describing the failures of Olmert's government during the 34-day conflict that, according to official figures from both sides, killed between 1,035 and 1,191 Lebanese civilians and combatants, in addition to 119 Israeli soldiers and 40 civilians.
Lebanese civilians and combatants are reported in a single figure while the Israeli numbers presented as two separate figures. That's probably because Hezbollah successfully blurred the line between civilians and combatants. But AP can't say that, can they?
The Gaza border breach is prompting Israel to send animal vaccines to Gaza. Haaretz explains why:
Israeli authorities fear that along with the new influx of livestock will come a wave of diseases not indigenous to Gaza, among them foot-and-mouth disease and the avian flu that are known to exist in Egypt. Because of the proximity between Gaza's population to Israeli towns, the diseases could easily spread into Israel.
See Robin Shepherd's take on the Winograd report, Gaza, and Israel's critics:
Yesterday's publication of the Winograd report into Israel's prosecution of the 2006 campaign against Hezbollah in Lebanon provides a new opportunity for commentators to demonstrate their capacity for sober, balanced analysis. They will note the criticisms directed against Ehud Olmert, Israel's Prime Minister, while lauding the report as a display of democratic accountability unthinkable in any other country in the Middle East. Never failing to see the bigger picture, they will carefully weigh the options faced by a democracy under fire from some of the dangerous people on the planet.
The Independent's Mark Steel is unhappy with MSM coverage of the Palestinian shopping spree. How did we get by without him?
The problem for the media is that people escaping for bread, diesel and fags are spoiling Israel's strategy, so that can't be celebrated, as that would appear biased. It's as if, after Comic Relief night, the BBC had to have an evening in favour of starvation in the interests of being neutral.
And yet by every account it's a classic feelgood story. It's even a marvellous example of religious unity, as Hamas have followed the lesson of Moses by leading people out of danger through Egypt.
Steel's analogy: Hamas as Moses and -- by implication -- Israelis as latter day Pharoahs, utterly fails.
• Egypt enslaved the Jews. Steel's Israeli pharoahs disengaged from Gaza.
• The enslaved Jews posed no security threat to their Egyptian taskmasters. The Palestinians fire rockets daily at their Israeli "taskmasters."
• The Jews left Egypt, someone else's homeland, for freedom in their own homeland. The Palestinians are already in Gaza, and they've governed themselves since 2005.
Will Charlton Heston play Mahmoud Zahar in the movie too?
It's nice to see this Wall St. Journal correction after an update on Qassam fire reported that "Tel Aviv responded with air and ground fire . . ."
The recent decision to respond to Gaza militants firing rockets into southern Israel was made by the Israeli government in Jerusalem. A World-Wide item Friday incorrectly said the response was from Tel Aviv, which is where Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak had met with some of his military leaders.
As a reader pointed out to the WSJ, the original wording reinforces the belief that Jerusalem is not the legitimate capital of Israel.
Columnist Les Kinsolving wonders about the MSM's lack of interest in Jewish refugees from Arab countries:
Before the return of President Bush from his trip to the Middle East, I asked about this of Deputy White House Press Secretary Tony Fratto at the daily news briefing:
QUESTION: The top of Page 1 of the Washington Post reported from Jerusalem the president saying the Palestinian refugees in 1948 should receive compensation for loss of homes, when they fled or were forced to flee during the establishment of the state of the Israel. And my question: Is there any record of anyone asking the president about the 870,000 Jews who at that time were forcibly expelled from their homes in 10 Arab countries and have never been compensated for the lost property?
FRATTO: I'm not aware of the president having been asked that question.
QUESTION: And do you have an answer to it, since I'm raising it?
FRATTO: I'm not aware of the – you asked if I knew if the president has been asked, and I told you I'm not aware that he has or hasn't.
QUESTION: Nobody's asked. All right.
FRATTO: Not that I'm aware of.
That begs the question as to why among all the U.S. reporters who accompanied Bush to the Middle East, none of them, reportedly, asked the president any questions about this issue.
You don't need to be a math genius to figure out that if Gaza has a population of 1.5 million, as the authors also note, then 680,000 tons of flour a day come out to almost half a ton of flour per Gazan, per day.
What other half-baked stats are the MSM accepting as canon?
The biggest irony of Karma Nabulsi's paean to George Habash is that the real fight for Palestinian leadership is between the Islamists and the young secularists:
. . . this revolutionary of a bygone area, founder of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, virtuoso rhetorician, with his charismatic grin, perpetual cigarette and black leather jacket . . .
One doesn't have to be a Marxist to measure the enormity of his contribution, nor be devoted to a purist understanding of politics to appreciate the value of his extraordinary force.
The only people enjoying this eulogy are a handful of stodgy and increasingly irrelevent old men in Mahmoud Abbas' Muqata headquarters.
The only items missing from Paul Martin's BBC dispatch are the bits that would reveal that this report was originally filed in November -- around the time of the Annapolis summit. See the same reporter's dispatch published in the Washington Times.
The primary difference between the two versions: the BBC tacks onto the end a few comments from an Israeli police official and an unidentified mother whose son was killed in a rocket attack.
The fact that the Times' article was syndicated by World News & Features is irrelevant. The BBC's January 26 date suggests that Martin's encounter with Palestinian rocketeer Abu Haroun was recent. Its pure laziness on the BBC's part.
• Why is the BBC regurgitating old stories with a new date? Could they not be bothered to update their coverage?
• Why is the Beeb seemingly ready with fresh content when it comes to negative coverage of Israel?
• What other so-called "original" stories are the Beeb rehashing?
• Is this the kind of journalism that deserves to be supported by public license fee money?
When Hamas was trying to score media points with a self-induced blackout, Time magazine bought in. Here's the photo (by Reuters) in question:
Here was the caption Time first published:
Blackout: The Israeli embargo has left the Gaza Strip without electricity. The Palestinian Parliament was forced to meet by candlelight on Tuesday night.
Unfortunately, there was one small problem: The meeting took place during the day. As we already blogged, Hamas closed the curtains, the candles were lit, and only then was the press invited into the room. Moreover, Reuters' original caption didn't indicate that the meeting took place at night:
Palestinian lawmakers attend a parliament session in candlelight during a power cut in Gaza January 22, 2008. Israel agreed to allow some fuel, medicine and food into the Hamas-run Gaza Strip on Tuesday, at least temporarily easing a blockade that has plunged much of the territory into darkness and sparked international protests. REUTERS/Mohammed Salem (GAZA)
Time has since changed the caption:
The Israeli embargo has left the Gaza Strip without electricity. To emphasize its plight the Palestinian Parliament met by candlelight on Tuesday.
The Palestinians admitted days ago the assault on the wall was planned for weeks. Now, the Globe & Mail reports that the wall's destruction wasn't originally supposed to even break the blockade:
Abu Uday, a 23-year-old member of the al-Qassam Brigades, the military wing of Hamas, said in an interview yesterday that the initial reason they weakened the border fence was to ambush Israeli tanks if and when they ever moved to reoccupy southern Gaza.
So how can AP spin the border breach as a spontaneous reaction to the cycle of Israeli-Palestinian violence?
The current border crisis developed at breathtaking speed, typical of Gaza's volatility.
It started last week with what Israel says was the inadvertent killing of a son of Gaza strongman Mahmoud Zahar in an Israeli arrest raid. Hamas retaliated with rocket barrages on Israel, and Israel struck back by sealing Gaza hermetically and cutting off fuel shipments. Several days later, Gaza militants blew down the border wall with Egypt, effectively ending the Israeli blockade, which had been tacitly backed by Egypt.
Nobody topples an international border fence with "breathtaking speed."
The wall fell after a nearly week-long Israeli blockade of fuel and humanitarian aid into Gaza, a response to a week of heavy qassam rocket attacks on Israeli towns after Israeli air strikes killed the son of a senior Hamas leader and 18 other people.
Amir Mizroch describes in detail how Hamas won the P.R. battle over the fuel "crisis." He doesn't pull punches with the Israeli government's P.R. efforts:
. . . a classic example not only of Israeli bureaucratic buffoonery, but a sad indication that not much has been learned and implemented since the Second Lebanon War exposed how dire the need is for a unified communications apparatus as a tool in fighting modern wars. . . .
What is obvious is that Hamas was thinking on its feet, being proactive, initiating campaigns tailor-made for powerful media images and taking full advantage of the opportunities that presented themselves.
Egyptian security forces caught 20 Palestinians in Sinai overnight Saturday in possession of explosives and electronic devices which would have enabled them to listen in to the Egyptian forces' communications networks.
But it's Israel's fault:
During a debate in the Egyptian Parliament in Cairo on Saturday night, several parliamentarians said that Israel was behind the crisis since it wanted to settle the Gazans in Sinai.
The BBC fended off another challenge from lawyer Steven Sugar, who continues to push for the Balen Report's public release. Three judges upheld a lower court's ruling that the report is exempt from the Freedom of Information Act.
Reporters Without Borders finally condemned the attack on an Israeli TV crew working at Kibbutz Ein Hashlosha adjacent to the Gaza border. The crew from Israel's Channel 2 was shot at by a sniper firing from Gaza.
Along one teeming road in the Egyptian part of Rafah, a Hamas security official who had been stranded on Egypt's side of the border since June -- fearing arrest by Israel during a crossing if he tried to return -- met his mother and sisters in the surging crowd. "Eight months I haven't seen him!" his mother exclaimed after a flurry of hugging and kissing.
The man excused himself for not talking. "I'm on the wanted list," he explained.
Egypt has been hoisted with its own petard, and it is really quite enjoyable to see from a strategic perspective. Hamas probably blew up the border fence with explosives that Egypt allowed it to smuggle into Gaza. Heh.
Daily Telegraph reporter Tim Butcher gets too curious about one man's shopping spree:
Fertiliser, broken down into half bags for lugging through the many tunnels that arms smugglers normally use for delivery into Gaza, was to be seen as it was manhandled overland.
It was white, oily, crystalline and a dab on the tongue left a sharp, burning sensation.
In most countries fertiliser has a perfectly innocent function but in Gaza militants use it to make explosive.
"Hey, hey, hey," shouted a man as I took a photograph of a pile of fertiliser half bags.
His aggressive tone jarred with the mood the crowd as he grabbed my camera lens firmly.
Those Palestinians unfortunate enough to live in camps in Lebanon, for example, are not utterly deprived of rights, and dependent on UN aid, because of Israeli policy alone. Pan-Arab policy also dictates that the Palestinians should live in absolute hardship, lest they decide to play into the hands of Israel, by abandoning the struggle and quietly assimilating and getting on with their lives. . . .
[Hamas] sees the suffering of Gazans as a tool in the fight for international attention, and a necessary component of the only war it can really afford to wage – the propaganda war.
This staff-ed shows the Washington Post sees right through Hamas' PR games:
Hamas took advantage of the blockade first by arranging for sympathetic Arab media to document the "humanitarian crisis," then by daring Egypt to use force against Palestinian civilians portrayed as Israel's victims. Its ultimate goal, stated publicly yesterday by Damascus-based leader Khaled Meshal, is to force Egypt to permanently reopen the border in cooperation with Hamas; that would greatly diminish Israel's ability to respond to rocket attacks with economic sanctions, and it would undermine the rival Palestinian leadership of Mahmoud Abbas.
On at least two occasions this week, Hamas staged scenes of darkness as part of its campaign to end the political and economic sanctions against the Gaza Strip, Palestinian journalists said Wednesday.
In the first case, journalists who were invited to cover the Hamas government meeting were surprised to see Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh and his ministers sitting around a table with burning candles.
In the second case on Tuesday, journalists noticed that Hamas legislators who were meeting in Gaza City also sat in front of burning candles.
But some of the journalists noticed that there was actually no need for the candles because both meetings were being held in daylight.
"They had closed the curtains in the rooms to create the impression that Hamas leaders were also suffering as a result of the power stoppage," one journalist told The Jerusalem Post. "It was obvious that the whole thing was staged."
Hamas is just as capable of causing the widespread blackouts for the same reason.
Indeed, so ready was Al-Jazeera with live coverage of candle-bearing Palestinian children and immediate reaction from across the Arab world, that Israeli officials said Tuesday they strongly suspect the Arab news network had coordinated its coverage in advance with the Hamas leadership.
"They were so prepared, it's hard to believe they didn't know this was going to happen," said the official. "Although it's already dark in Gaza by 6 p.m., they waited two hours to shut their generator down so that the lights going out in Gaza could be carried live on Al-Jazeeera during prime-time viewing."
The charge of pre-coordination was strongly denied by Al-Jazeera bureau chief Walied al-Omary.
Who would suspect Al-Jazeera of having an agenda with Israel?
McClatchy News correspondent Dion Nissenbaum explains why that Gaza border wall was destroyed so easily:
They had apparently been planning the attack for weeks. With the knowledge of locals, militants had spent weeks methodically using blow torches to cut along the bottom of the 30-foot-tall corrugated iron wall along the Egyptian border.
Before dawn on Wednesday, militants blew holes in the adjacent concrete slabs and then toppled the iron wall.
The breach wasn't a spontaneous event. As I pointed out earlier today, the timing of this comes too soon after Gaza's blackouts. A coincidence?
UPDATE Jan. 24: A Palestinian guard told the Times of London he saw people surreptitiously working to undermine the wall "for months."
Asked whether he had reported it to the government, he replied: "It was the government that was doing this. Who would I report it to?"
A Palestinian journalist also confirmed for Nissenbaum that Hamas was behind the breach:
Freelance Palestinian journalist Zuhair Najar said he was in Rafah a week ago working on a story about the network of smuggling tunnels under the border (used to get weapons in and militants out) when he saw militants doing some work on the iron fence. . . .
The militants, who Najar said were with Hamas, told him they were preparing to repel any possible Israeli attack.
But now it is clear that it was part of a long, well-organized plan to bring down the wall and break the Israeli economic siege.
Time magazine's Tim McGirk explains the media's impact on how the Gaza fuel "crisis" is playing out:
Still, the international outcry over Israel's ban of fuel shipments to Gaza — spurred on by TV footage of Palestinian children huddled in the darkness and hospitals struggling to treat medical emergencies — prompted Defense Minister Ehud Barak on Monday to lift the fuel ban, and allow in medicine, supplies of cooking gas and a week's supply of fuel to run the power plant that feeds electricity to hospitals and sewage and water pumping stations.
Israeli officials grumble that they have been outfoxed by the PR machine of Hamas, and that they are being held to a double standard: While Israel is scolded by the United Nations for inflicting "collective punishment" on Gaza, Israelis say that Palestinian militants have no qualms about ignoring international condemnation and targeting Israeli civilians with their badly aimed homemade rockets. (Gaza militants fired over a hundred rockets during the past week, but miraculously no Israelis were killed.)
Jerusalem Mayor Uri Lupolianski has given the okay for the construction of 7,300 new homes in occupied Arab east Jerusalem . . . .
• As Dore Gold explains, repeated references to “occupation” serve Palestinian interests by justifying terror, leave no room for territorial compromise, and deny Israeli claims to the land. “Disputed” would be a more neutral term.
• The term “Arab” implies that parts of Jerusalem are inherently “Arab.”
At least AFP didn't capitalize the word "east," which would suggest a proper noun and a municipal entity existing independently of the city known as Jerusalem.
Boston Globe columnist H.D.S. Greenway peddles the old myth that Hezbollah was created to simply resist Israel's presence in southern Lebanon:
The Israeli invasion of Lebanon spawned a far more dangerous and implacable foe than the PLO had ever been. Hezbollah is an organization that had not previously existed, and would never have existed had it not been for Israel's occupation.
This leader in The Independent argues that Israel has a responsibility "as an occupying power" to provide water and fuel to Gaza:
The Geneva Conventions stipulate that occupying powers have an obligation to supply utilities such as water and power to occupied populations.
Israel has attempted to get around this by arguing that it is no longer bound by the law governing the administration of occupied territories because it withdrew its troops from Gaza in 2005. But that is thoroughly unconvincing. Israel still controls Gaza's borders, airspace and territorial waters. It may have begun referring to the Strip as a "hostile entity", but this is plainly an area still under Israeli control.
But Erik Schechter points out in today's Jerusalem Post why Israel can't be considered Gaza's occupier:
First, despite Gisha's lavish praise of hi-tech weapons, they do not keep public order, pick up the trash, or perform any other government task. Nor is our well-stocked army in any position to quickly reassert Israeli rule in Gaza. That's why, after 1,000 or so Palestinian rocket attacks, we have not reconquered the place. . . .
A second, equally crucial point raised by Gisha is the nature of the territories. True, the Oslo Accords did hold them to be one political entity, but since the Hamas takeover of the Strip in June 2007, they are no longer so.
Schechter was addressing a Gisha report (pdf format) making similar arguments as The Independent.
The fuel crisis is a PR victory for Hamas. The Jerusalem Post’s Khaled Abu Toameh explains why:
Some of PA President Mahmoud Abbas's top aides were convinced that the countdown to Hamas's collapse would begin immediately after large parts of the Gaza Strip were plunged into darkness Sunday night.
But the PA leaders were in for an unpleasant surprise.
Instead of seeing anti-Hamas demonstrators, the PA officials in the Mukata presidential compound got televised footage of children and women holding candles in the dark streets of Gaza City.
Al-Jazeera and other Arab TV networks carried live coverage of the peaceful protesters, many of whom blamed not only Israel, but the PA government and the rest of the Arab countries for their plight.
The pictures coming out of the Gaza Strip were so damning for the PA that some of its representatives accused Al-Jazeera of serving Hamas's interests and inciting against Abbas.