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« Canadian Media Coverage Deconstructed | Main | Coming Soon? Hamas' Media Massacre »

Monday, January 5 2009

Live Blogging: A Day in the Media War

Now that the ground campaign is underway, the media war's heating up. After seeing IsraellyCool liveblog the war and The Lede liveblog Mumbai, it's time to try my hand.

The difference is that I'm tracking media reaction, commentary and spin games more than raw news. Check this post for updates throughout the day.

6:59 p.m. Time to break after a day of liveblogging. I've developed a little tan after sitting bathed in the glow of my monitor all day. I might just do this again tomorrow. Ciao for now.

6:57 p.m. The Facebook group, I Support the Israel Defense Forces In Preventing Terror Attacks From Gaza has a whopping 48,877 members. Are you one of them?

6:52 p.m. Reading this Reuters dispatch from Gaza, it occured to me that Palestinian stringers like Nidal Al-Mughrabi would lose a lot more than their press credentials if they noted how Hamas rocket squads operate in civilian areas.

Andrewsullivan 6:34 p.m.

 Anyone understand Andrew Sullivan's take on proportional response?

As for his data points (if I understand his point correctly) thank heaven Qassams haven't succeeded in evening out the casualty rate "proportional" to what's going on in Gaza now.

6:26 p.m. Jerusalem Post picked up on QassamCount.

6:13 p.m. Australian journalist Jason Koutsoukis has close call with Qassam. Was he hanging out with Oakland Ross or any other journos?

6:04 p.m. Whether you love or hate this CNN headline depends on whether you read it as an lying or lying. A Freudian slip?

Doctor in Gaza: Patients 'lying everywhere'

5:56 p.m. In case you're wondering how I'm posting so quickly, Alex Margolin, HonestReporting's social media editor, is now assisting me with papers.

5:54 p.m. Whoa. al-Indy published something nice about Israel.

5:52 p.m. Put on your sunglasses before clicking on Time. Khaled Mashaal gets the glow treatment.

5:50 p.m.Time  Scott MacLeod needs to brush up on Mideast history.

Israel's failure to finalize a historic deal with Yasser Arafat's nationalist party, and refusal to even continue peace talks for seven years, made it inevitable that Israel would face continual conflict with Palestinians, with Hamas increasingly in the forefront.  It was just as inevitable that Israel's security operations would kill untold numbers of civilians, further inflame hatreds in the region and never bring lasting peace for Israel. 

Refusal to continue peace talks? There was a Declaration of Principles, the Hebron Accords, the Wye River Accords, Camp David II, the Sharm el-Sheikh agreement . . . . did I leave anything out?

Let's face it, Hamas bears responsibility for working in civilian areas, and as I noted at 1:09, Arabs have a remarkable hatred for each other; even if the Zionists were driven into the sea or sent back to Europe, the Arabs would slaughter each other anyway.

5:10 p.m. Oakland Ross, Toronto Star correspondent, visiting Sderot has a very close call with a Qassam rocket.

Then I realized the rocket had crashed within a very short distance – about 10 metres, it turned out – of where I'd been standing just two or three minutes earlier, when I had decided to turn back and return to my car.

I'd have been pummelled by shrapnel for sure – or worse.

I took another deep breath. That was really close.

5:02 p.m. I hope Barack Obama has a magic wand to solve the Israel-Palestinian conflict -- for James Carroll's sake.

4:58 p.m. Received an email with a link to this nasty Irish News cartoon from the poison pen of Ian Knox.


4:54 p.m. Expect Hamas to make the most of an Israeli "massacre." And if there is no massacre? Engineer it. Our latest communique just went live online.

4:25 p.m. Twitter spam is drowning out conversation about Gaza. The Ridiculant explains how and why, but not who (yet):

. . . somebody has recently set up a couple of automated Twitter feeds, which are simply searching Twitter for tweets containg the word 'love', and re-posting them with '#gaza' in place of 'love'. So, for example, when Twitterer katiesol mentions how much she loves the Randy Newman song 'You've Got A Friend In Me', it gets republished word-for-word by the Twitter bot Furttuna - except now she gazas the song, instead of loving it. The same for richardhiscutt, trying to tell British MP Tom Watson how cute his son looks in glasses (and the gazafied version). And so on.

Why do this? Obviously, it's an attempt to drown out the natural conversation about the events in Gaza. Who might be behind it? It could be a supporter of either side (and while instinct might suggest that you'd lean towards someone with a pro-Israel stance, some on the Palestinian side have also shown a fondness for pranks), it could be a random troll or griefer doing it for the lulz, or it could even be an official (albeit clandestine) part of the ongoing propaganda war.

3:49 p.m. Over at Pajamas Media, the author of Explaining Hitler says comparing Hamas to Nazis is an insult to the Nazis.

Even if you're not inclined to agree, Ron Rosenbaum's argument why Hamas is worse is compelling food for thought.

3:38 p.m. A very welcome dose of optimism from the Wall St. Journal:

We don't agree with those who claim that Israel faces only two bad options: either a limited campaign that scores a tactical victory while allowing Hamas to survive as a military force; or a return to the full-scale occupation that Israel abandoned in 2005. Israel could re-occupy some parts of Gaza, this time without Israeli settlements to defend. More realistically, given Israel's domestic reluctance for such a presence, it could fight long enough to eliminate Hamas as a military threat, then announce a policy that every rocket fired at Israel in the future would be met by a "proportionate" airstrike or other reprisal. This would allow Israel to claim military victory in the short term, while creating a deterrent going forward.

Twitter_icon 3:29 p.m. Excellent IICC report on Palestinian rocket fire in 2008, via QassamCount, one of my favorite Twitterers. Are you following QassamCount?

3:19 p.m. An Aussie echo: John Lyons sounds like John Bolton, but not as assertive. The Australian also pairs off commentaries by Joseph Wakim and Colin Rubinstein.

3:06 p.m. Almost forgot to check my emails periodically. Too many well-meaning people add me to nice mailing lists, and the cumulative effect clogs up the inbox. I saw online somewhere that there's no such thing as information overload, just bad filtering. Message to me: unclog the inbox and update the email filters later.

Most interesting thing was a message from Israel Matzav. Like Simon Plosker, he didn't think the chronological order was working.

2:55 p.m. The Financial Times raises an interesting point:

In the public relations war, Hamas has largely relied on others to make its case, although this often means belittling the significance of the rocket attacks that represent its main claim to be leading resistance against Israel. Politically it has put itself into a position where a ceasefire will be seen as a defeat, because this will require accepting that it must stop firing rockets.

2:51 p.m. British MP Michael Fabricant sees red over the Beeb's coverage of Gaza. Melanie Phillips fills in more info. Glad I don't pay a British TV license fee.

Doh 2:46 p.m. Simon Plosker just instant-messaged me to say its more effective to put the most recent stuff at the top, just like individual blog postings. Just fixed it, but why didn't I think of that before? D'oh!

2:25 p.m. Just finished reading Max Boot -- in a nutshell, he explains why Israel won't heed Michael Lerner's advice, which I posted at 11:25 a.m.

2:17 p.m. Gaza sources are a very slippery slope for this dispatch in The Scotsman. Is it me, or does correspondent Ben Lynfield rely too much on Ewa Jasiewicz and another activist from the International Solidarity Movement?

2:07 p.m. Reporter Orly Halpern talked to Palestinians with foreign passports as they left Gaza. One confirmed that Hamas operates in civilian areas:

The fighting has taken place near her house, she said. Hamas fighters “come into the neighbourhood and they shoot rockets.”

Nasrallah 1:37 p.m. One way to gauge Israeli deterrence: Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah's shooting off nothing more than his mouth.

1:28 p.m. William Kristol's more optimistic than the Washington Post.

1:19 p.m. John Bolton's modest proposal -- that Egypt should administer Gaza and Jordan the West Bank -- won't score him points with the Arab street.

 1:09 p.m. Bruce Anderson's trite commentary:

As long as Israel occupies the West Bank, Palestine will be the Arab world's sore tooth. It will also be the Arabs' excuse for their failure to make political, social and economic progress.

But as Robert Satloff, Daled Amos, and Mindelle Jacobs point out, the Arabs will continue killing each other anyway.

12:56 p.m. Michael Totten articulates a very important point:

If Israeli Air Force pilots were trying to kill civilians -- if they were the war criminals they're accused of being all over the world -- they'd kill a lot more than 0.8 people per air strike.

12:33 p.m. Dion Nissenbaum, I sympathize, but here's why Israel is placing unfortunate, but necessary restrictions on press coverage.

12:26 p.m. I wonder if anyone's going to top this for polemics. Mondli Makhanya, an editor at the Sunday Times of Johannesburg writes:

Israel’s response to the “provocation” amounted to a steroid-pumped heavyweight boxer arriving to fight an anaemic midget armed with steel-lined boxing gloves.

Israel’s response to these attacks was, as always, wanton destruction of everything that lay before it.

It's Almost Supernatural gives Makhanya a fuller fisking. Here's one snippet worth keeping in mind:

It’s no surprise that the benighted Sunday Times editor, Mondli Makhanya, has come out with such a polemical editorial. Makhanya was a delegate on last year’s haughtily entitled “SA Human Rights Delegation” to Israel. After the trip, Makhanya described Israel as evil. Actually, the record will show that even before his trip to Israel he had already referred to Israel as “evil” in the context of an editorial on Robert Mugabe!

12:13 p.m. I wouldn't expect this heartwarming video of Israelis and Palestinians working together to save a baby to be published at the E&P Pub, which is the blog of Editor & Publisher. A welcome surprise.

Amanpour 12:02 p.m. Noah Pollak corrects Christiane Amanpour, via Camera Snapshots.

On CNN a few moments ago, Christiane Amanpour, in the midst of an otherwise completely warped report on the Gaza war, said that over the past year only two Israelis were killed by Hamas rocket fire. Her point in the segment was to insinuate that Israel is overreacting to Hamas attacks that have been largely harmless. In order to do that, she had to abstain from mentioning important facts and context, such as that Hamas’ attacks in 2008 more than doubled — to 3,278 — from the 2007 number.

11:59 a.m. LA Times correspondent Ashraf Khalil blogging is more interested in plugging Arab media than blogging news. As a former editor I worked with used to tell me, "The stories aren't in the office. They're out there!"

11:51 a.m. Need break from UK papers; shifting gears to see some blogs. Richard Landes is fed up -- the BBC interviewed pop diva and emerging celebrity Mideast analyst Annie Lennox.

11:44 a.m. If he weren't commenting from the comfort of the UK, I wonder how Gary Younge would view Operation Cast Lead if he lived, say, in Sderot for the past seven years.

11:37 a.m. This staff-ed in The Guardian (UK readers call 'em leaders) misses one very crucial point: bad things happen when well-armed terrorists hide among civilians in densely populated areas. Can't the editors who wrote this at least acknowledge Hamas culpability?

If you're wondering about the speed of these updates, it's because our UK site editor, Simon Plosker, went through the British media and emailed me a bunch of links.

11:29 a.m. Phew. The Times balances Lerner with Lior Lotan of the Herzliya-based ICT.

11:25 a.m. What's gotten into Michael Lerner?

Hamas had respected the previously negotiated ceasefire except when Israel used it as cover to make assassination raids. Hamas argued that these raids were hardly a manifestation of a ceasefire, and so as symbolic protest it would allow the release of rocket fire (usually hitting no targets).

Lerner also wants to reverse the disengagement (?)

Yet Israel, as the militarily superior power, ought to take the first steps: implementing a massive Marshall Plan in Gaza and in the West Bank to end poverty and unemployment, rebuild infrastructure and encourage investment . . .

11:15 a.m. Fisk's being Fisk again.

But the last time Israel played this game – in Jenin in 2000 – it was a disaster. Prevented from seeing the truth with their own eyes, reporters quoted Palestinians who claimed there had been a massacre by Israeli soldiers – and Israel spent years denying it. In fact, there was a massacre, but not on the scale that it was originally reported.

Fisk's colleague, Phil Reeves debunked the massacre charge.

11:03 a.m. Fares Akram, The Independent's Palestinian stringer is mourning the death of his father killed in an Israeli airstrike in Beit Lahiya.

My grief carries no desire for revenge, which I know to be always in vain. But, in truth, as a grieving son, I am finding it hard to distinguish between what the Israelis call terrorists and the Israeli pilots and tank crews who are invading Gaza. What is the difference between the pilot who blew my father to pieces and the militant who fires a small rocket? I have no answers but, just as I am to become a father, I have lost my father.

It isn't appropriate to address this now. Akram's grief is too raw. My condolences to his family on the tragic loss.



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Frankly I couldn't care less about Fares Akram's grief or his father.

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