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Journo Speaks Out: No Free Speech in PA
I'm impressed that a newspaper outside of Israel has picked up on the story George Canavati. PA security forces incarcerated the Radio Bethlehem journalist for five days, because he dared to report on a power struggle between Mahmoud Abbas and Mohammed Dahlan.
Harriet Sherwood of The Guardian caught up with the just-released Canavati.
Asked if he believed the detention was intended to intimidate him, Canawati responded by twisting his ear between thumb and forefinger. "I didn't make a mistake [in my report]," he said. "I was professional to the true sense of the word. I will never take their pinch of ear into consideration."
The Palestinian Media Forum recently complained about other journalists detained by PA security forces. And a recent poll found that only 27 percent of the people in the West Bank believe they can criticize PA authorities without fear (down from 56 percent in 2007).
West Bank press freedom is an important story that hasn't broken into Big Media consciousness, and I'm glad Sherwood put it on the table. Read the whole story.
No Time For Israel: An In-Depth Analysis
When Time magazine published its September cover story, "Why Israel Doesn't Care About Peace," we were stunned by the article's fundamental misrepresentation of Israeli attitudes. We wondered whether that article was a one-time failure of objectivity or if it represented a prevalent bias in Time’s reporting on Israel.
So HonestReporting reviewed Time’s reporting on Israel over an entire year November 2009 – November 2010. Click the image below to see the long-term study.
Reuters Distributing Press Releases in Editorial Feed
For as long as newspapers have accepted money to publish advertisements, there tension between the employees responsible for content (editors and the newsroom staff) and the staffers with bottom line concerns (that would be the advertising staff).
Usually, potential conflicts of interests are on the level of something like a restaurant owner pushing for a nice review in the local paper where he's a regular advertiser. The restauranteur will typically contact his advertising account person, push for a story, and only to be rebuffed.
"I don't handle content. You'll have to take it up with the appropriate editor," is the firm-but-polite reply many an ad salesman has made for years.
Which brings us to Reuters. According to the IR Web Report, Reuters recently began sticking client press releases into its news feed.
One of the five principles states: “That Thomson Reuters shall supply unbiased and reliable news services to newspapers, news agencies, broadcasters and other media subscribers and to businesses governments, institutions, individuals and others with whom Thomson Reuters has or may have contracts.”
However, the Reuters news feed delivered to Yahoo! Finance now includes complete, unedited press releases from Thomson Reuters’ corporate clients in amongst Reuters news articles. Press releases of non-Thomson Reuters clients are not being distributed to Yahoo! Finance. The press release headlines are virtually indistinguishable from the newswire’s editorial content.
By breaking down the separation between the editorial and business aspects, Reuters has opened the door to public scrutiny of its clients and ownership too. I already get enough emails asking about one never-say-die urban legend which has it that Reuters is controlled by Arab corporate interests.
Read more, see the screengrabs, and judge for yourself.
Hat tip: @mickwe
NGO Implicates Hamas In Organ Trafficking
An NGO called EveryOne issued a statement denouncing abuses against Eritrean refugees in the Sinai.
EveryOne implicates Hamas operatives in kidnapping, organ harvesting, torture, rape and running a concentration camp, with help from Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood. More details at Physicians for Human Rights (PHR). Today's YNet News condenses it all.
Donald Bostrom won our 2009 Dishonest Reporter award for his shoddy look at allegations of Israeli organ harvesting. Do you think the Swedish journalist will be interested in what the African refugees told PHR about their experiences in the hands of Hamas?
Copy Editors Asleep At the Wheel
UPDATE December 29: Voice of America corrected the mistake. See VOA blogger Jessica Stahl's comment on this post.
* * *
Ali Akbar Siadat, an Iranian political prisoner, was hanged in Tehran's notorious Evin Prison, accused of spying for Israel. I don't know if Siadat was Jewish, but this Voice of America headline inexplicably thinks he was Israeli.
Wikileaks: Syria Orchestrated Mohammed Cartoons Riots
Arab rage over the 2006 Mohammed cartoons wasn't so spontaneous after all. This just in from Haaretz:
A US diplomatic cable published by Aftenposten said the Syrian premier had, "several days before the demonstrations, instructed the Grand Mufti Sheikh Hassoun to issue a strongly worded directive to the imams delivering Friday sermons in the mosques of Damascus."
The riots ended when Syria "felt that 'the message had been delivered'," the cable said, quoting a Sunni sheikh whose name was blacked out.
More than 100 people were killed in the flames of violence we now know were fanned by Syria.
The Holocaust's Boomerang Effect On Public Diplomacy
I was never comfortable with the way Israel has over-emphasized the connection between the Holocaust and the founding of the state. Benny Levy's compelling commentary in YNet News strikes a chord with me:
When President Obama asserted in his Cairo speech that the aspirations for a Jewish homeland originated in our undeniably tragic history, many around here were insulted. “Why did he say that? After all, we’re not here because of the Holocaust.” Yet Obama is not at fault. After all, the Holocaust is the narrative presented by Israel itself to its guests (and to its own sons.)
. . .
The custom of bringing Israel’s guests to Yad Vashem first carries a loud message. It creates the impression that the Holocaust is the reason and justification for the state’s existence; it places Israel on a podium of victimization, refugees, and the quest for a shelter.
However, Israel’s pillars were laid dozens of years before the Holocaust. Its cornerstone is the Zionist idea. Israel is first and foremost a national revival enterprise. Israel is first and foremost a national revival enterprise. Historian Barbara Tuchman once wrote that Israel is the only nation in the world “that is governing itself in the same territory, under the same name, and with the same religion and same language as it did 3,000 years ago."
Indeed, plenty of Western journalists assume that Jewish connections to the Holy Land began only date back to 1917, 1948, even 1967.
There are connections between the Holocaust and Israel's founding. But years of over-emphasis are having a boomerang effect on Israel's public diplomacy.
Read the whole article.
Post-Christmas Morning In Silwan
After seeing this AFP/Getty photo (via IsraellyCool), my first impression was that the photographer in the foreground was likely to get hit by a recoiling slingshot strap. Such is post-Christmas in Silwan.
But on closer look, the slingshot seems too small; the other kid clutching a rock in the background looks more likely to hit any Israeli policemen. At least the mask is an age-appropriate size.
A photographer take photos of Palestinian youth using a slingshot during minor clashes which erupt in the East Jerusalem's Silwan neighborhood on December 26, 2010, as Israeli police increased security in the area to avoid clashes following a municipality order to evict a Palestinian family from their house.
What kind of deliveries is Santa making in eastern Jerusalem?
Knesset Saves Foreign Journos From the Tax Man
The Knesset's allowing foreign journalists to keep their tax breaks.
According to the The Jerusalem Post, Treasury proposals were defeated primarily by Knesset ministers from an impressive spectrum of parties: MKs Nahman Shai (Kadima), Shelly Yacimovich (Labor), Tourism Minister Stas Meseznikov (Israel Beiteinu), Ze’ev Elkin (Likud) and MK Zevulun Orlev (Habayit Hayehudi).
Hebrew language papers also jumped in against the changes, as did Uri Helman, the new director of the Government Press Office.
Foreign journalists currently pay a flat rate tax of 25 percent for their first three years in Israel; afterwards, they pay the same taxes as every one else. Treasury officials wanted to end the special treatment.
But the drama and principles behind the opposing viewpoints were over-rated. Only 23 journalists would've been effected by the proposed changes. So we're not talking about tons of money for the government coffers; the likelihood of news agencies leaving Jerusalem to set up shop in Ramallah or Amman was near zero.
I do wonder, though, if the press corps will give these politicos and their parties some kind of kid-glove treatment. I hope not . . .
December 23 Links
> Hamas’s Charmless PR Offensive
The Boston Globe sees right through a Hamas PR campaign first described by AP
> Iran Recruiting Nuclear Scientists For Weapons Program
Former diplomat admits he personally recruited foreigners to achieve nuclear bomb capability and increase ballistic missile range.
> Assange Promises Info on Mabhouh, Lebanon War
Also denies rumors of Wikileaks deals with the the Mossad.
Dishonest Reporter Award 2010
It's our annual recognition of the most skewed and biased 2010 coverage of the Mideast conflict.
HonestReporting readers showed they have a long memory of the year's coverage of Israel. Who did they choose? See Dishonest Reporter Award 2010.
What Palestinian Public and Pundits Tell the Press
The LA Times picks up on a poll which finds that most Palestinians don't feel free to publicly criticize the Fatah and Hamas authorities they live under.
According to the study, by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research (PSR):
Findings also point out to a significant and continued deterioration in public perception of the level of freedoms enjoyed by citizens in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip since the split between these two areas in June 2007. For example, belief that citizens can criticize the authorities in the West Bank without fear retreated from 56% in September 2007 to 27% in this poll. Similarly a retreat occurred in the belief that citizens can criticize the authorities in the Gaza Strip without fear from 52% to 19% during the same period.
The Times also note the spillover effect on Palestinian press freedom:
Fear of criticizing the authority or reporting on something that would upset it prompted Palestinian journalists in the West Bank and Gaza Strip to exercise self censorship, which some organizations said limits creativity and hinders development of the Palestinian media.
Another "option" for Palestinians is to tell reporters what the ruling authorities want to hear. It's sad enough when the man on the street can't talk freely, but it's even more disturbing when more "talking heads" -- the academics, politicians, journalists, activists presented by Big Media as being more authoritative -- also don't tell the truth. Just yesterday, Memri flagged a clip of one such pundit, Al-Quds al-Arabi editor Abd Al-Bari Atwan, saying it's okay to say one thing in Arabic and another in English for Western audiences.
If his name rings a bell, it's because the London-based Atwan, who makes frequent appearances on BBC, CNN, and Sky News, once told Lebanese TV, "If the Iranian missiles strike Israel, by Allah, I will go to Trafalgar Square and dance with delight," which I'm sure caused no consternation in Ramallah or Gaza City.
It's not always possible to tell if a man on the street is telling you the truth, but reporters can and do mention the context: that people are afraid to speak the freely. Perhaps it's time to apply the same disclaimer to the MSM's regular go-to wonks from Fatahstan and Hamastan.
MSM Still Using Casualty Figures Hamas Conceded Were Wrong
AFP picks up on the latest IDF air strike on a Gaza rocket squad. This background snippet is woefully off:
The strike was one of the most deadly since Israel's 22-day war against Gaza's Hamas rulers, dubbed Operation Cast Lead, which began at the end of December 2008 and cost the lives of 1,400 Palestinians, most of them civilians, and 13 Israelis, 10 of them soldiers.
Odd. Hamas already confirmed the civilian casualty figures had been inflated all along.
Palestinian Media Watch Still Gamed By YouTube
Dr Andre Oboler (http://www.oboler.com) is the Director of the Community Internet Engagement Project at the Zionist Federation of Australia. He is global expert in social media and internet based antisemitism. HonestReporting asked him to bring our readers up to speed on the developing YouTube / PMW revelations.
On Sunday, YouTube acted to close a channel on their service run by Palestinian Media Watch. The explanation YouTube gave related to a video from 2006, originally taken from Hamas’s website, which shows a suicide terrorist says his goodbyes and boasting he will soon drink the blood of Jews.
“We won't leave you alone until we have quenched our thirst with your blood, and our children's thirst with your blood.” He says. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dSftYIGH6-w)
A day later, after coverage by myself in Jerusalem Post, and by Melanie Phillips in the Spectator, as well as an increasing volume of outrage on blogs and via Twitter, the PMW channel was reinstated, but the viewing counts seem conspicuously low.
The most viewed video was only up to 13,363 views. This was particularly odd when there are Palestinian Media Watch videos like “Gaza flotilla participants invoked killing of Jews” with over 200,000 views. It seems searching for “by palwatch” (no quotes) gives far better results than viewing the channel. In short the channel is now broken as a result of YouTube’s intervention.
The good news is that of the six complaints again Palestinian Media Watch, four of them have now been reversed. You can now, once again, see "Hamas suicide terrorist farewell video: Palestinians drink the blood of Jews," "PA cleric: Kill Jews, Allah will make Muslims masters over Jews," and "Hamas suicide farewell video: Jews monkeys and pigs; Maidens reward for killing Jews."
Three videos remain blocked. "Farewell video before suicide attack of Hamas suicide bomber Adham Ahmad Hujyla Abu Jandal" (formerly at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZYdTudQhWM4), "Hamas TV teaches kids to kill Jews" formerly at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jwN2M6ZIIRU), and "Jews are a virus like Aids" (formerly at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QYaGl3KjPUw).
YouTube still needs to fix the indexing problem, and review their earlier mistakes. It seems only the most recent complaints have been reviewed and found to be invalid. The good news is that it seems this is a systematic flaw in Google’s system, not something they intended to do. But the problem is occurring with other pro-Israel accounts.
It seems someone, or some group of new media anti-Israel activists, are gaming the system. They are taking advantage of YouTube’s automated and semi-automated systems to push their agenda slowly through the system. First one complaint, then a second... until eventually the goal is achieved and the channel itself is shut down. Until YouTube can improve the system, and recognise when people are trying to “trick” the system into doing what they want, rather than what it is intended to do, we all have a serious problem. This isn’t helped when YouTube’s manual override is broken and leaves those who have been targeted in a worse position then they were to start with.
For now, YouTube need to find the accounts that are causing these problems and deactivate them. This problem is far greater than Palestinian Media Watch, though the damage done to them must be fixed, and an apology wouldn’t hurt either.
The Demise of Delicious and the Consolidation of Social Media
HonestReporting's social media editor, Alex Margolin, contributes occasional posts on social media issues. He oversees HonestReporting on Facebook.
When social media sites began to gain traction on the Internet around 2006, it was unclear which ones would emerge as the leaders of the pack and which would be consigned to support roles in Internet culture.
By now, the winners have emerged. Facebook and Twitter have become virtually synonymous with social networking. The losers, however, have been much harder to pinpoint, since many social media sites have carved out their own niches on the Internet and continue to draw large numbers of users.
Last week, however, we witnessed one of the first major casualties. Social media pioneer Delicious, which allowed people to “bookmark” their favorite websites and find others who liked the same bookmarks, will be shut down by Internet giant Yahoo, which acquired the site in 2005.
The demise of Delicious (originally spelled del.icio.us) essentially slams the door on the first age of social media. The first sites in the Web 2.0 era, which empowered users to create content on websites they did not own, essentially sought to crowdsource the massive number of Internet users to organize the web so that the best content could gain an audience.
Sites such as Digg and Reddit allowed people to post their favorite online content and let users vote on it. The content that received the most “diggs” was placed on the sites’ front pages – and exposure to their massive readership. Stumbleupon let people “stumble” through content others had tagged by subject.
Delicious took a different approach, allowing people to bookmark sites as they would on their own computers, except the Delicious bookmarks would be visible to the public. The site would also show who else bookmarked the same articles, and what else those users found of interest. The result was a novel way to share content and build communities around common interests.
While Digg and Delicious both gained millions of users, they pale in comparison to the hundreds of millions who use Facebook, which also allows people to share their favorite content as well as to connect with people in many other ways. As social media emerged from the margins of society to the mainstream, niche sites failed to keep pace. Although many content sharing sites maintain large and vibrant communities, they have little impact on the evolving Internet culture.
And now, with Delicious closing its doors, it is time to recognize that an era has ended. As Facebook and Twitter set the pace of social media, some of the groundbreakers are feeling the heat. Delicious may be one of the first to fall. Who will be next?
Previously in Alex's series: Has Social Media Become Part of the Media Establishment?
Going to a fence protest dressed up as Santa is guaranteed to get you photographed.
Now what would it take for a picture of St. Nick protesting PA corruption or Hamas authoritarianism to hit the wires?
A Palestinian man dressed in a Santa Claus outfit and holding a Palestinian flag protests behind Israeli soldiers during a weekly demonstration against Israel's separation barrier in the West Bank village of Maasarah, near Bethlehem, Friday, Dec. 17, 2010. Israel says the barrier is necessary for security while Palestinians call it a land grab. (AP/Nasser Shiyoukhi)
Has Social Media Become Part of the Media Establishment?
HonestReporting's social media editor, Alex Margolin, contributes occasional posts on social media issues. He oversees HonestReporting on Facebook.
At the end of 2009, many media prognosticators predicted that 2010 would be the year social media would finally lose its outsider status and become part of “The Media” at large.
Did it happen? Well, people still refer to social media as something separate from the rest of media, but the signs indicate that the predictions weren't far from reality.
Look at the New York Times as a case-in-point. The paper of record began 2010 having recently hired a social media editor, Jennifer Preston, to serve as an advocate for social media among the Time’s staff and the public.
By the end of the year, the Times eliminated the position, saying social media was a shared responsibility among all staff. Preston, the soon-to-be former social media editor, said she believes everyone at the paper must work together to create more engagement with the public.
“Social media can’t belong to one person; it needs to be part of everyone’s job,” Preston said. “It has to be integrated into the existing editorial process and production process. I’m convinced that’s the only way we’re going to crack the engagement nut.”
By eliminating the position, the paper essentially acknowledges that there is no longer a need to push social media as a separate entity from its primary output, that social media channels have become part and parcel of delivering the timely news at the New York Times.
That may not be the full integration people predicted a year ago, but it’s a big sign that the integration is well underway. Maybe by the end of 2011, there will be one entity known as "the media" and it will refer to the New York Times and Facebook as valuable sources of information.
Previously in Alex's series: 2 Lessons from Hamas’s Facebook Fail
Australians Reward Shoddy Journalism
See HonestReporting's latest communiques:
• Biased and one-sided reporting of the Gaza flotilla earns one journalist a prestigious award despite the holes in his winning entry: Australians Reward Shoddy Journalism
• Why does the founder of Hezbollah deserve a fawning obituary in Time's People of the Year? Time Magazine's Fond Farewell to a Terrorist
• More than 200 participants joined a top lineup of speakers at HonestReporting's Jerusalem Conference. Find out who said what. First HR Conference: Be a History Maker and Not a Bystander
HonestReporting on Rusty Mike Radio
I'm listening to Simon Plosker on Rusty Mike Radio. They're discussing various Israel issues, as well as HonestReporting's conference.
Be sure to download the podcast and listen.
Israeli Treasury Hits Journos In Their Pockets
I wasn't aware of this, but foreign reporters in Israel get a tax-exemption for their first three years in the country. Treasury officials are likely to change that. Dominic Waghorn of Sky News makes a compelling case against changing the regulations.
He points out it would cause many reporters to move their base of of operations to Ramallah or Amman, and also spark more parachute journalism.
Instead of paying a flat rate of 25 percent for their first three years here, they will have the same deal as Israelis. It will make the government an extra few hundred thousand shekels a year . . .
What Israel needs to avoid at all costs is foreign paratroopers – journalists who land in the country for a few days, armed with a clutch of Wikipedia articles and the book they read on the plane.
You cannot ‘wing it’ if you want to report on this part of the world, although many try to get away with it. More often than not, when they do they take sides, because they think it helps them report the story better. Black and white is easier to communicate, but as we all know, the truth is usually in between.
Israel's one of the most heavily reported countries in the world, so one way or another, the Western press will continue covering developments. And foreign bureaus are disappearing anyway.
But I'm also concerned that the shrinking pool of foreign journalists in Israel will concentrate information among fewer people, which fertilizes the ground for media groupthink.
Time's Fond Farewell For Fadlallah
It's that time of the year when magazines wish a "fond farewell" to the VIPs and celebrities who died in 2010. Mine are primarily for Leslie Nielsen, Gary Coleman and George Steinbrenner.
But the way Time magazine frames its two-paragraph obituary for Hezbollah's Ayatollah Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah is off the deep end. The man's final fatwa before dying authorized suicide bombers.
Here's a more appropo 14-character headline: Good Riddance.
A penny for Octavia Nasr's thoughts . . .
Lebanese Apartheid Against Palestinians: By the Numbers
It's been known for years that Lebanon treats Palestinian refugees like dirt. A new study by the American University of Beirut and the UNRWA confirms the effects of "Lebanese apartheid."
The Daily Star and an AUB press release summarize the key findings:
425,000: Palestinian refugees registered as living in Lebanon.
260,000 - 270,000: Refugees actually living in Lebanon.
56 percent: Refugee jobless rate.
53,000: Refugees considered to have stable employment.
66.4: Percentage of refugees living on less than $6.00/day.
4.5: Average size of refugee family.
$700: Average monthly income for a refugee family.
35: Percentage of Lebanese nationals living below poverty line.
6: Percentage of Palestinians enrolled in Lebanese universities.
20: Percentage of Lebanese enrolled in Lebanese universities.
65: Percentage of refugees lacking a grade-9 education.
The full study is expected to be released at the end of the year. But here's the Daily Star's spoiler:
A large amount of blame is being placed on the perceived lack of opportunities, limited by state restrictions requiring Palestinians to obtain work permits and which, in spite of recent relaxations, still exclude Palestinians from certain professions, such as medicine.
Lebanon recently expanded job opportunities for Palestinians, but refugees were skeptical.
But it's only apartheid when Israel is accused of systematically limiting Palestinian job opportunities, right?
> Bethlehem Tourism Swells as Violence Ebbs
A record year for Bethlehem tourism, and the Christmas surge is still to come.
> Stuxnet Virus Set Back Iran’s Nuclear Program By Two Years
Expert says the damage, without any fatalities, was more effective than a military strike.
> West Bank Shows There Is a Military Solution to Terror
"What produced this victory was the grunt work of counterterrorism: intelligence, arrests, interrogations, military operations, and, above all, enough boots on the ground long enough to make this possible."
> Jerusalem Marathon Runs Into Politics
Only in Israel . . .
Radio Canada: 'Israel Bears No Resemblance to Iran and Sudan'
It should be obvious that Israel has nothing in common with Iran and Sudan, but it wasn't the case with Radio-Canada's Simon Durivage.
Durivage apologized for inapporpriately equating the countries after HonestReporting Canada readers took action.
More importantly than the apology, however, the Radio-Canada ombudsman's review (pdf format) sets an important precedent:
"Radio-Canada acknowledged that it was inappropriate to use Iran and Sudan as examples to illustrate the dangers of Canada's unconditional support for Israel."
". . . by erroneously associating Israel with Iran and Sudan, Simon Durivage did not adhere to one of the central principles of CBC/Radio-Canada's Journalistic Standards and Practices, that of accuracy."
"Associating Israel with Iran and Sudan in this way constituted a journalistic error."
It's now on the record that drawing moral equivalence between Israel and rogue states like Iran, Sudan (add North Korea and Cuba to the list too) is inappropriate journalism.
See HonestReporting Canada for the relevant videos, links and info.
Reuters Fails On Failed Terror
Reuters lists a few failed "militant" attacks in the last decade. Care to guess what two items are missing?
Firstly, the word "terror" doesn't appear anywhere. No surprise there. After 9/11, Reuters news chief Stephen Jukes wrote to his staff that
We all know that one man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter and that Reuters upholds the principle that we do not use the word terrorist . . .
Also missing are freedom attacks terror attacks against Israel. This fact box isn't all-encompassing content, and failed attacks don't stick in our memory the sadly "successful" ones do. But Israel was and continues to be uniquely targeted.
The single most memorable failed terror attack against Israel was an attempt to blow up the Pi Glilot fuel depot near Tel Aviv. A bomb attached to a tanker truck was detonated by remote control, but an automatic sprinkler system and workers put out the fire, averting a catastrophic fireball. The NY Times wrote:
Another driver, Yaakov Karp, who was fueling his truck nearby, said it was lucky they were filling up with diesel fuel rather than gasoline, which is more volatile. Officials at the depot, named Pi Glilot, also said it was fortunate that the explosion did not take place near the above-ground fuel tanks, which sometimes hold as much as 3,000 tons of fuel. An explosion there could have set off a fireball destroying life and property over a wide area. A disaster drill at the depot three years ago called for the evacuation of 20,000 people in a radius of more than a mile.
Failed terror attacks only reflect an inability to cause harm, not a lack of intent. Try telling that to Reuters. We all know that one man's editor is another man's useful idiot.
'Not Quite the Affront to the Hard-Up American Taxpayer'
I had a hard time articulating what bothered me about Tom Friedman's take on the White House's incentives for a settlement freeze.
Whether or not you agree with the US offer, Jeffrey Golderg's take on Friedman strikes a chord on one important point:
One small note, or not so small -- Tom tends to frame the recent (and generally-speaking unwise) American offer of $3 billion in F-35 Joint Strike Fighters in exchange for a 90-day extension of the settlement freeze as a gift America could not afford to give. But he doesn't mention that military aid to Israel, even heavily subsidized military aid (and to other countries, of course) is a form of stimulus spending, since that $3 billion was going to be used to buy American-made products. You would not look at $3 billion in jet fighters as a costly giveaway if you happened to be one of the thousands of people building those planes. This doesn't change the fact that the offer was shortsighted (really, what were American negotiators thinking?) But it wasn't quite the affront to the hard-up American taxpayer that Friedman makes it out to be.
December 13 Links
> Iran Hardliners Threaten to Ruin Jewish Shrine
Queen Esther's tomb to be destroyed if Israel damages the Al-Aqsa mosque, say Islamist students.
> Wikileaks: Israel Offered to Cease Overflights for US Intel
Turns out the US was overflying Lebanese airspace too.
> The UN's 9/11 Insult
Why convene Durban III in NY next September? "To rub salt in the city’s wounds, to dance on the city’s graves."
> Krav-Maga: Israeli Self-Defense Goes Global
Krav-maga's international trendiness worries Israeli purists.
> Retreating From the World
What happened to all the foreign bureaus, and how does international news reach your local paper?
Stephen Colbert and the Mossad Shark Conspiracy
Stephen Colbert's too smart for the Mossad.
Hamas Freeloads Off Red Cross Jerusalem HQ
Three Hamas MPs are freeloading at a Red Cross office in eastern Jerusalem. The Jerusalem Post writes:
During their time at the Red Cross, the politicians have held regular Friday prayer services attended by large crowds of Jerusalem residents; greeted visiting dignitaries, including former American president Jimmy Carter and a Jordanian envoy; and held photo ops with various local Arab notables. Literature supporting their cause has been distributed from the Red Cross compound, and large signs with the legislators’ faces adorn the side of the building.
A Red Cross spokesman told the paper there's no safe haven and police can come arrest Ahmad Attoun, Khaled Abu- Arafa and Muhammad Totah anytime. But how does the IRC explain this?
The Red Cross has provided the politicians with a room inside the building where they can sleep and keep their belongings, a bathroom, electricity for their large protest tent, and a water cooler, it is understood . . .
Do you really think the Red Cross would give me the same privileges if I just showed up and refused to leave?
The real chutzpah is that even as Hamas enjoys the health organization's largesse, it still allows no Red Cross access to Gilad Shalit.
AP Stringer Calls Abbas's Bluff
UPDATE 1:25 p.m. I just spotted Maan News reporting a PA gag order on coverage.
Many Palestinian editors and journalists have been warned against making any public reference to the power struggle between President Mahmoud Abbas and Fatah leader Muhamad Dahlan, an Israeli newspaper reported Sunday.
The story in question is by the Jerusalem Post's Khaled Abu Toameh. I hope AP gives Mohammed Daraghmeh sufficient cover.
* * *
AP's Mohammed Daraghmeh examines the touchy question of who would succeed Mahmoud Abbas, should the PA president resign or become incapacitated.
The story's long overdue, and the PA chairman has threatened to quit so many times (Daled Amos lists them all) that this sort of article was bound to happen.
Days ago, Abbas got things rolling, saying he'd quit and dismantle the PA without another settlement freeze. Khaled Abu Toameh then raised the issue of succession, noting Abbas's frosty relations with younger generation Fatah leaders Mohammed Dahlan, Nasser al-Qidwa, and Ahmed Qurei. That led to a spat in the pages of the PA's Wafa News service, which AP describes from there.
Other possible contenders in the conversation are Marwan Barghouti, Saeb Erekat, Jibril Rajoub and Salam Fayyad.
Abbas's only leverage s to garner world sympathy with threatened resignations. But instead of feeling the world's love, the PA chairman and the rest of the West Bank are reading a story in the world's most extensive wire service -- by a Palestinian stringer, no less -- cautiously boosting Abbas's political rivals.
It's almost as if AP called Abbas's bluff. Might this be the last time he threatens to quit?
3 Reasons Why Paul McGeough's Flotilla Coverage Doesn't Deserve Prestigious Award
Sydney Morning Herald correpsondent Paul McGeough was aboard Challenger One, some 150 meters away from the Mavi Marmara when the Israeli navy intercepted the Gaza flotilla.
Now, his account of the incident has earned him a prestigious Walkley Award, the Australian equivalent of a Pulitzer Prize. The honor disturbs me for three reasons.
Two of the reasons deal with points of contention McGeough was in a unique position to clarify for history's first draft -- but he instead muddied the waters. The third reason has more to do with the language of his dispatch.
1. McGeough failed to shed light on the flotilla's radical Islamic organizers.
Most prominent among the convoy's organizers was the IHH, a radical Islamic relief fund based in Turkey. As Malam points out, the IHH is linked to Hamas,and "supported jihadist terrorist networks in Bosnia, Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and Chechnya." It is also has ties to Turkey's ruling party.
What did McGeough say about the organizers? Not much:
The flotilla drew on funds from NGOs in Turkey, Malaysia, Ireland, Algeria, Kuwait, Greece and Sweden.
With the paper's considerable resources, McGeough and his editors could have and should have been aware of the IHH's background before the correspondent even made his travel plans. If indeed they knew, it was irresponsible to not disclose this.
2. The flotilla was not a "humanitarian convoy."
The convoy's humanitarian veneer masked a political agenda to provoke an embarrassing confrontation with Israel. Some of the people aboard the ships were specifically recruited to attack Israeli soldiers. Among the items found aboard were bullet-proof vests, night vision equipment and rifle scopes, saws, knives, gas masks and slingshots.
McGeough missed it.
If the critique ended here, you could reasonably conclude that McGeough was either sloppy,simply had the bad luck of being on the wrong boat while one of 2010's biggest stories unfolded meters away. But then there's my third concern.
3. Inflammatory language suggests sympathy for the flotilla.
This particular snippet rightly outraged the Jewish community, and called into question McGeough's impartiality:
Then, the tightening noose. Sneaking up and around every boat, there were bullet-shaped hulks which soon became impossible to hide as the moonlight made fluorescent tubes of their roiling wakes. First one, then two and maybe four could be seen sneaking in from the rear.
They hunted like hyenas – moving up and ahead on the flanks; pushing in, then peeling away; and finally, lagging before lunging.
Lest we forget, here's the headline, which sets a tone for the rest of the story:
Prayers, Tear Gas, and Terror
If there's terror, it's because there are terrorists. That's McGeough and the SMH's subtle, most damning stab at Israel.
You can't expect journalists to write be-all end-all stories. The descriptive language of his own voice suggests McGeough saw exactly what he wanted to see.
And that's not worthy of the honor conferred by the Walkley Foundation's award.
Turkish Premier is a Zionist Tool
Turkish PM Erdogan is a Zionist tool, according to the country's former premier. Necmettin Erbakan, told The Zaman:
The soured relationship with Israel and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's tough line with the Jewish state are all part of a façade to deceive the Turkish public, former Prime Minister Necmettin Erbakan has claimed.
In an exclusive interview with Today's Zaman at his house in Balgat, Ankara, the 84-year-old leader of the Felicity Party (SP) criticized the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party), saying it is in the hands of the worldwide Zionist movement. He implied that the rise of the AK Party was helped by the international Jewish conspiracy and vowed that he will fight back to stem the Zionist grip on the neck of Turkey.
That's far more creative than Turkish claims that Israel engineered the Wikileaks, or the sillier Mossad shark attacks now pervading Arab chatter.
Shattered Lens: Part 3 - Putting Palestinians Behind Bars
What could be more symbolic of suffering and mistreatment than the image of small children behind bars? Particularly in reference to Gaza, which is regularly portrayed as a vast "open air prison."
HonestReporting looks at how the wire services use bars in their images to promote the Palestinian narrative of suffering and the impression of Palestinians as "prisoners" of Israeli brutality.
Shattered Lens: Part 3 - Putting Palestinians Behind Bars
Wikileaks: Syrian Human Shields Protect Hezbollah Facilities
The latest Wikileaks revelation comes from NaharNet:
If rockets were to rain down on Israeli civilians in Tel Aviv, Israel would still have powerful incentives, as it did in 2006, to keep Syria out of the conflict, but it might also face compelling reasons for targeting Hizbullah facilities in Syria, some of which are in and around populated areas," said the diplomat in the leaked cable, which is titled "Is now the time to raise Hizbullah with Syria?"
Good of Hezbollah to outsource their human shield corps to innocent Syrian civilians. During the Second Lebanon War, Australia's Sunday Herald-Sun published photos outing Hezbollah's suburban warriors.
Wikileaks: Al-Manar TV Shareholders Targeted for Sanctions
The US embassy in Beirut recommended financial sanctions on 38 shareholders in Hezbollah's Al-Manar TV station. The Daily Star writes:
“Designating them now will reinforce our efforts to discredit Hizbullah and its institutions and deny Hizbullah supporters access to financing that goes through US institutions,” the cable said. “Moreover, the publicity that will greet designation will make other Lebanese think twice about being involved in Hizbullah-connected institutions. Some people may even become more cautious about appearing on Al-Manar programming, for fear of designation.”
It's a gutsy cable, but what about the free speech issue raised by Hezbollah's apologists?
As one US official told the Washington Times in 2006:
"Any entity maintained by a terrorist group -- whether masquerading as a charity, a business or a media outlet -- is as culpable as the terrorist group itself," said Treasury Undersecretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Stuart Levey.
PA Journalists Support Western Wall 'Study': Why It Matters
The Jerusalem Post's Khaled Abu Toameh reports that the Palestinian Journalists Syndicate has expressed its support for the PA's "study" denying any Jewish ties to the Western Wall.
The journalists’ syndicate, which is controlled by Fatah, rejected US and Israeli protests over the “scientific study.” . . . .
The syndicate added that Israel’s position toward the document “exposed its false claim to be democratic.”
Why does the syndicate's support matter? Its members are the very Palestinian stringers who write the articles you read about recent Western Wall developments.
The study claims, among other things, that the Western Wall is an integral part of the Al-Aqsa mosque, and that Jews never worshipped there the 1917 Balfour Declaration.
It was removed from the web site of the PA Ministy of Information, but resurfaced online at Wafa, the PA's official news service.
Anti-Israel Diatribe in Teachers Federation Magazine
An anti-Israel diatribe published in the B.C. Teachers Federation Magazine inflames tensions, misleads peers, and brings prospects for peace to a dead-end.
See HonestReporting Canada's latest critique: Anti-Israel Diatribe in Teachers Federation Magazine
Just When You Thought It Was Safe to Go Into the Water
I thought Israeli policy was to neither confirm nor deny alleged Mossad shark attacks. I'm willing to make an exception here:
Shark attacks not linked to Mossad says Israel
Meanwhile, Dominic Waghorn of Sky News points out:
Throwing up preposterous theories is not the only sign Egypt is panicking over the shark attacks.
Authorities seem to be relying on good old fashioned press obstruction too.
Colleagues in Cairo tell me they have been denied permission from the government to travel to Sharm to report on the shark.
Sharks, The Mossad and The Scotsman Make for Sexy Headlines
UPDATE 1:55 pm: See HonestReporting UK's response to the Scotsman:
Egyptian Shark Attack: Jews Not Jaws?
* * *
Newspapers are always treating wire articles as pulp content. It's accepted practice for editors to trim down stories and change headlines because of space limitations.
But once in awhile, I compare the original story with what was printed in a local paper, and wonder, Why did someone edit like this?
Case in point: Reuters, The Scotsman, and a deadly Red Sea shark attack.
Here we have an otherwise ordinary Reuters dispatch by Mohamed Zaki.
Now see what The Scotsman did:
Mentioning Mossad along with sharks makes for a pretty sexy headline, but why does The Scotsman give unwarranted credibility to one official's anti-Semitic allegation with a headline like that?
Shattered Lens: Part 2 - Abusing Sport for Propaganda
In the second part of our major study of of how Reuters, AP and AFP/Getty misuse imagery to distort coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, we look at how the wire services cynically exploited the 2010 soccer World Cup to produce negative images of Israel.
Shattered Lens: Part 2 - Abusing Sport for Propaganda
Wikileaks: Al Jazeera a 'Bargaining Tool' of Qatari Foreign Policy
Here's a State Dept cable in The Guardian suggesting that Al Jazeera is a tool of the Qatari government.
We expect the trend in favor of using Al Jazeera as an informal tool of GOQ foreign policy to continue undiminished . . .
Over the coming 36 months - in a trend that has held steady over the past three off-sites - the regional Al Jazeera Arabic news channel will continue to be an instrument of Qatari influence, and continue to be an expression, however uncoordinated, of the nation's foreign policy. Qatar will continue to use Al Jazeera as a bargaining tool to repair relationships with other countries, particularly those soured by Al Jazeera's broadcasts, including the United States.
In a separate cable, US ambassador, Joseph LeBaron assesses:
Al-Jazeera's ability to influence public opinion throughout the region is a substantial source of leverage for Qatar, one which it is unlikely to relinquish. Moreover, the network can also be used as a chip to improve relations. For example, al-Jazeera's more favourable coverage of Saudi Arabia's royal family has facilitated Qatari-Saudi reconciliation over the past year . . .
Despite GOQ protestations to the contrary, al-Jazeera remains one of Qatar's most valuable political and diplomatic tools.
See further coverage here.
The network's credibility requires an outraged denial, so Al Jazeera has already rejected the cable.
Compared to other Arab state-controlled news agencies, Al Jazeera's product is more polished, its relationship with the ruling elites more sophisticated. But when you get right down to it, the Arab world has zero history of free press and in that regard, Al Jazeera is no different. A government leash is still a leash.
The Observer Gets With The Program . . .
The Observer boggles the mind. Describing Iran's nuclear weapons drive as an "energy programme" is as myopic as calling the Wikileaks info dump a "crowdsourcing event."
Spoiler alert: The people behind this increasingly sinister campaign most likely work for a secretive Israeli organization whose name begins with an M and rhymes with Possad.
2 Lessons from Hamas’s Facebook Fail
HonestReporting's social media editor, Alex Margolin, contributes occasional posts on social media issues. He oversees HonestReporting on Facebook.
Last week, Hamas (or someone claiming to speak for the terror group) launched an English language Facebook Page for the al Qassam Brigades – Hamas Military Wing. Within days, the group was spotted by Aussie Dave and others, who urged people to “report” the group to Facebook’s administrators.
The group was promptly removed, causing the al Qassam Brigades to lament online that “Facebook administration proves that it is a real cheap tool biased for the Zionist occupation in Palestine.”
While Facebook’s banning of a group that is blacklisted as a terror group by the State Department may not seem like a big story, there are at least two elements that are worth highlighting.
1. We can't expect Facebook to police itself.
With over 500 million members, half of whom sign in daily, Aussie Dave’s advice to press the “report page” button at the bottom of the Hamas Page was right on the money. Facebook, like YouTube, Google, and others, relies on users to flag inappropriate content.
Sites like YouTube, which gets many hours of uploads every minute of the day, generally move quickly to remove inappropriate content, but someone needs to bring the content to YouTube’s attention. And more complaints will probably bring about quicker action, so don’t assume someone else will flag something. If you see it, “report” it.
2. Hamas clearly recognizes the importance of Facebook in its effort to win support and followers.
In the battle for hearts and minds, go where the target audience goes. Today, there is no doubt that Facebook has become a central meeting place for people of all ages, races, and virtually all nationalities.
Facebook is also one of the most viral platforms on the Internet today. The site makes it extraordinarily easy to share information in any form, helping it spread from network to network quickly and efficiently. Since the average Favcebook user has 130 “friends” and no two people have the same friends, every someone reposts something he or she saw on Facebook, it reaches a whole new audience.
Just like the pro-Israel community, Hamas is fighting to win support from people who do not have strong views on the Middle East conflict. Since Hamas clearly sees English speaking Facebook users as a target audience, Israel’s supporters should make every effort to ensure that their pro-Israel message is heard on Facebook.
Maybe next time Hamas attempts to start a group, it won’t be stopped so quickly.
Previously in Alex's series: The Internet Ain't "Public Domain"
PA 'Study' Denying Jewish Ties to Western Wall Back Online
The PA "study" denying Jewish ties to the Western Wall is back online -- on the website of the authority's official Wafa News agency. The Jerusalem Post's Khaled Abu Toameh explains:
By publishing the document on Wafa’s website, the official mouthpiece of the PLO and the PA, the authority has sent a message that its has officially endorsed its findings.
It was only a few days that the study was removed from the web site of the PA's Ministry of Information, following US condemnation.
The paper, prepared by Al-Mutawakel Taha, a senior Information Ministry official claims, among other things:
- The Western Wall, constitutes Waqf property owned by an Algerian- Moroccan Muslim family.
- There isn’t one stone in the wall that belongs to the era of King Solomon.
- Jews never used the site for worship until the Balfour Declaration of 1917.
Helen's Being Helen Again
Yes, she "apologized" for saying that Jews should "get the hell out of Palestine" and to Go home . . . To Poland, Germany…and America and everywhere else."
But Helen Thomas proved her apology was utterly worthless. Speaking in Dearborn, Thomas told the Detroit Free Press:
The Free Press asked her about her comments, which critics have said were anti-Israel.
"I paid the price for that," said Thomas, a longtime White House correspondent. "But it was worth it, to speak the truth."
Thomas also said in a speech that day:
"We are owned by propagandists against the Arabs. There's no question about that. Congress, the White House, and Hollywood, Wall Street, are owned by the Zionists. No question in my opinion. They put their money where there mouth is . . . We're being pushed into a wrong direction in every way."
UPDATE 12:50 pm: Heads up to Yid With Lid for obtaining and posting the video.
Shattered Lens - Photo Bias Exposed in the Wire Services
Images have unprecedented power to mold public opinion. And the three international wire services -- AP, Reuters, and AFP/Getty Images -- have a central role in presenting images from Israel and the Palestinian territories to the world.
Until now, however, nobody has commissioned a study to examine the imagery produced by the wire services for identifiable trends that may indicate bias.
To find out if Israel is being treated fairly by the wire services, HonestReporting embarked on a three-month in-depth study of how Israel is portrayed by all three wires. Read the first part on the Gaza flotilla and see what we found.
Shattered Lens - Photo Bias Exposed in the Wire Services
Julian Assange, Zionist Neocon?
UPDATE 10:42 a.m: The world's really turned upside down. Israeli ambassador Ron Prosor got a standing ovation-- at Oxford Union?
* * *
In an interview with Time, Julian Assange uses Benjamin Netanyahu to defend Wikileaks:
And we can see the Israeli Prime Minister [Benjamin] Netanyahu coming out with a very interesting statement that leaders should speak in public like they do in private whenever they can. He believes that the result of this publication, which makes the sentiments of many privately held beliefs public, are promising a pretty good [indecipherable] will lead to some kind of increase in the peace process in the Middle East and particularly in relation to Iran.
Assange later called Bibi a "sophisticated politician."
Lest we get carried away, Assange's colleague, James Ball told the Daily Telegraph that there are a lot more cables yet to be released about Israel, the Vatican, North Korea and other regions. No telling what kind of revelations they hold.
But if you listen carefully, you can almost hear Robert Fisk sobbing in his beer.
Quebec Newspaper Calls for Boycott of Israel
p>A Quebec newspaper promotes a long list of malicious lies about Israel while calling for a boycott of the Jewish State.
See HonestReporting Canada's latest media critique: Quebec Newspaper Calls for Boycott of Israel
Israel In the Light
I'm busy with other things, so I'm switching gears today. Chanuka -- tonight -- is the festival of light, so here's a selection of eight Israeli photos on Flickr making amazing use of light.
2. Night Shift
4. Pursuit of Light
5. Before Dawn
6. Dov Navon
7. The Last of the Day
8. Ramon Crater