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Media Backspin

Thursday, January 20 2011

Backspin Has Moved

I'm thrilled to announce that Backspin has moved. You'll find the new improved Backspin incorporated in HonestReporting's totally revamped web site:

Be sure to update your blogroll, bookmarks, or RSS feed accordingly, and spread the word on Facebook, Twitter, etc.

I'm excited, because it's like blogging with a clean slate. See you there!


Throwing the Book At Ken Livingstone

KenLivingstone_PressTVHonestReporting once named Ken Livingstone the Lousiest Journalist Wannabe. The reason? This fawning interview with Hamas chief Khaled Mashaal in an edition of the New Statesman, which Red Ken was guest editing.

I guess it got someone's attention in Iran; the UK just discovered he's been hosting Epilogue, a weekly book review show on Iran's Press TV for several months.

Tellingly, the Evening Standard reports that the British public holds a very dim view of Livingstone's association with Iran:

The broadcaster was investigated last year by Ofcom after interviewing a jailed Newsweek journalist who was allegedly under extreme duress at the time in an interrogation room.

Mr Livingstone's appearances, reviewing books on the channel, put him at odds with senior Labour figures including party leader Ed Miliband, who called last month for the release of an Iranian woman sentenced to death by stoning after her alleged confession to her part in her husband's murder was shown on Press TV.

I was particularly impressed with Toby Young, who really throws the book at Livingstone:

Livingstone’s role on the channel is to present a book programme – ironic, considering the Iranian regime isn’t exactly known for its love of literature. This is the same regime, after all, whose spiritual leader sentenced a British author to death for having the temerity to write a work of fiction he disapproved of.

It's easy to understand why the Jewish community is outraged. Previous programs have included:

Zionist Israel And Apartheid South Africa

The Invention Of The Jewish People

Israel And The Clash Of Civilizations: Iraq, Iran And The Plan To Remake The Middle East

I'm sure Livingstone -- like Press TV's other faces, Galloway and Lauren Booth -- is quite reasonably paid by the mullahs.


Wednesday, January 19 2011

CNN Breathless Over Tunisian Tear Gas

You'll never see a video like this come from the West Bank.

A CNN film crew was caught up in some Tunisian tear gas. At around the 3:00 minute mark, photographer Mary Rogers poo-poos concern for her health, and even comments with a wry smile:

[The police] were sorry I was gassed, but hey, it's part of our job, uh, on occasion. These guys, the Tunisians, have some nasty stuff.

Can you imagine Western journos covering Bilin security fence protests breathlessly gushing for the IDF? Why is the world only uptight about tear gas when Israel is involved?

Nobody -- and I mean nobody -- dies from tear gas.

Prime Minister's Office Calls Time Out

TimeRon Dermer, one of Bibi's advisors, wrote an impressive letter to Time in response to the recent article, Israel's Rightward Lurch Scares Some Conservatives.

After addressing reporter Karl Vick's take on the Shin Bet, a possible oath of allegiance, an investigation into foreign funding of non-governmental organizations, odious calls on Jews to not rent property to Arabs, and other issues, Dermer adds:

Every decision in Israel is put under the microscope by one of world's largest foreign press contingents, the hundreds of human rights organizations and NGOs that operate freely here, a famously adversarial local press and most critically, by a vociferous parliamentary opposition.

A separate cover story claiming Israelis aren't interested in peace sparked HonestReporting readers to give Time and Vick the 2010 Dishonest Reporter award; it also triggered No Time For Israel: An In-Depth Analysis.

Pro-Israel Blogoff 2011: The Shortlist

Aussie Dave just announced the short list of participants for his Pro-Israel Blog-Off 2011.

The match-ups can be viewed in the table at the bottom of the official Blog-Off page.

Submissions will be pitted against each other; winners who advance -- based on reader votes and a panel-determined score -- will submit new material for another round of voting. The process continues till the final winner is chosen. You can't vote yet, but you can already keep up to date on the submitted blog entries, videos and podcasts (they're all here).

I'd love to enter, but my boss, HonestReporting CEO Joe Hyams, is one of the panelists, and we're sponsoring the winner's Apple iPad. I'm still managing to get by without an iPad . . .

No Mention of Israel or Palestine in Tourism Ad: Who Benefits?

Jlem Zalmi's Weblog notes an Israeli tourism ad appearing in the Daily Mail that never mentions Israel.

Funny thing is, the ad doesn't mention Palestine either.

The ad includes a link directing you to Riviera Travel, which has some kind of affiliation with the Daily Mail. You don't see the words "Israel" or "Palestine" there either, though there is one reference to "the Holyland."

Strange as it sounds, it's hard to blame the tour company or the paper for not mentioning either side. Britain's Advertising Standards Authority is twisted in knots trying to figure out how to advertise Israel and Palestinian tourism. It's a convoluted situation because:

  • The ASA ruled last year that ads can't suggest that the Western Wall is in Israel.
  • The ASA's also trying to figure out what to do after receiving complaints about a PA-sponsored ad which never mentions Israel, and states "Palestine lies between the Mediterranean Coast the Jordan River.

Bottom line: the waters are so muddied with doubt, the tourist industry's afraid to mention either Israel or Palestine. Now who do you think benefits more from that?


Tuesday, January 18 2011

LA Times Stringer Peddles Israel Lobby Trash

Latimes_logoOver-stretched Western news services rely heavily on arrangements with Palestinian free-lance writers and photographers who know the West Bank: the terrain, the language, the people, the mores. For better or for worse, Big Media coverage of the West Bank would grind to a halt without stringers.

One such writer on my radar is LA Times stringer Maher Abukhater. Calling for greater EU political involvement in the peace process is fair enough. But Abukhater's out of bounds when he writes in today's Daily Star of Beirut:

Unlike the U.S. (which has a policy of blind support for Israel for various reasons but mainly due to control by the pro-Israel lobby of the U.S. Congress that as a result ties the hands of the White House), Europe has actually adopted policies toward the Middle East far more advanced than those of the United States . . .

Thus, Palestinians share part of the blame for keeping Europe away because of their mistaken belief that only the U.S. can deliver Israel. But with the U.S. administration’s hands tied because of the strength of the pro-Israel lobby in Washington, neither has the U.S. been able to deliver and Palestinians have been left alone in the cold.

Let's get a few things straight.

1. US Jews, like all Americans, are entitled to lobby their elected leaders on whatever issues concern them, whether we're talking about, for example, health care reform, tuition vouchers, the environment, etc. That's Democracy 101.

2. The US public strongly identifies with Israel because of so many common values: life, liberty, equality, democracy, freedom of speech, accountability, and more. You don't find those values in the Palestinian Authority.

3. To say a group of Jews is capable of controlling Congress and tying the White House's hands to the extent Abukhater describes is, at best, small-minded ignorance, and at worst, anti-Semitic conspiracy-mongering.

4. HonestReporting has exposed how How Palestinian Fixers Manipulate Their Media Bosses and taint Western news coverage. See also The Influence of Palestinian Stringers on Foreign News Reporting.

Abukhater's entitled to his views. But a major US daily like the LA Times shouldn't rely on any journalist who peddles such trash.


Insights Into West Bank Mosque Incites

CNN looks into PA efforts to rein in the invective and incitement of Palestinian preachers. I credit reporter Kevin Flowers for drawing attention to the problem, but there's a nuance he doesn't make clear enough.

As the Washington Post reported a month ago, the PA crackdown is more about undercutting Hamas influence over West Bank mosques than about messages like Destroy Israel for Allah. Watch and judge for yourself.

Sheikh Hamed Bitawi, one cleric banned from preaching, told Flowers "Myself and the other imams, we incite against the Israeli occupation."


Monday, January 17 2011

Near Lynch Is MSM Paydirt

UPDATE: Jan. 19:An astute reader just emailed wondering why AFP caption assumes the driver's a "settler."

Do the photographer and the AFP photo desk believe that living on the wrong side of the Green Line mitigates this ugly attack?

* * *

Once again, Silwan stone throwers and Palestinian photographers ambushed an Israeli car. A lynch like this means paydirt for all the photographers clearly visible in the second image. After all, "if it bleeds, it leads."

Did the photojournalists expect anything else to happen to the next Israeli car to come along?


Jewish settlers driving their car are stoned by masked Palestinian youths as they drive through the Arab east Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan on 14 January 2011. No injuries were reported. (AFP/Getty Images)


Palestinians throw stones at an Israeli-owned vehicle in the predominantly Palestinian neighbourhood of Silwan in East Jerusalem January 14, 2011. A spokesperson for the Israeli police said that security forces came to the neighbourhood after Palestinian youths threw stones at the vehicle, breaking the windows but causing no injures. (Reuters/Amar Awwad)
Evening Links

• Following Tunisian unrest, Salam Fayyad invited reporters over to reassure international donors the Palestinian street that the PA economy is doing just fine, thank you very much:

The message he wanted to send to 2.5 million Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip was that economic conditions were good in spite of reports on the rise in consumer prices and relatively high unemployment and poverty figures.

Foreign donations account for a whopping 60 percent of the PA's GNP; Fayyad and his fans have some 'splaining to do.

• The Society of Professional Journalists did the right thing and abolished the lifetime achievement award named after Helen Thomas.

• It was wrong for the Prime Minister's security detail to ask an Al-Jazeera reporter to remove her bra at a press event, and I'm glad Netanyahu's office apologized. But if you're still wondering, What the heck were those guards thinking? Harriet Sherwood sheds more light than I wanted to know:

Apparently the under-wiring messes up their metal detectors.

• A slick video -- sponsored by the Pakistani army -- about Pakistan's war against Islamic insurgents is due to air in Pakistan. A few soldiers will even become celebrities. Can you imagine the world's sneering reaction if the Israeli army sponsored a similar project?

• Russian scientists working in Bushehr fear a "Chernobyl-like" problem as Iran rushes to launch the site. Should I sleep better?


Thursday, January 13 2011

Simon Plosker Discusses World Media and Israel

HonestReporting's managing editor, Simon Plosker, discussed the controversy of Jawaher Abu Rahma's death, as well as HonestReporting's new web site, which we hope to unveil any day now.

Click on Rusty Mike Radio to listen.

When Palestinian Doublespeak Flies Under the Media Radar

Check out this new video from my colleagues at HonestReporting Canada. The "peace" messages Abbas gives to Western and Palestinian audiences don't match up. But the media doesn't get it.


Wednesday, January 12 2011

I'm With Diab

Simri_diabDoes the Shin Bet need to take security precautions for the prime minister at media functions, like last yesterday's press conference?

Unfortunately, yes.

Was the prime minister's message -- primarily about the need for tougher international sanctions against Iran -- important?


But let's get real.

With all due respect to the Prime Minister's office, I wouldn't let anybody's security detail "touch my junk" for the privilege of covering a press conference.

Longtime readers know I have plenty of gripes with Al-Jazeera and the Foreign Press Association.

Not today, however.

Najwan Simri Diab, an Israeli citizen and a veteran journalist with Government Press Office credentials opted to walk away rather than remove her bra for a female security guard. Good for her.

I'm with Diab.

Diplomat Slams NY Times' Paean In the Rear

Al-AkhbarFormer US diplomat Jeffrey Feltman slams a NY Times profile of Al Akhbar, a newspaper published by Hezbollah.

Feltman, who was the US ambassador to Lebanon, writes in this letter to the editor:

Sadly, Al Akhbar is less maverick and far less heroic than your article suggests. Al Akhbar will no more criticize Hezbollah’s secretary general, Hassan Nasrallah, than Syria’s state-run Tishreen newspaper would question the president of Syria, Bashar al-Assad.

One of the curiosities I discovered as ambassador to Lebanon was the number of Western journalists, academics and nongovernmental representatives who, while enjoying the fine wines and nightlife of Beirut, romanticized Hezbollah and its associates like Al Akhbar as somehow the authentic voices of the oppressed Lebanese masses.

Michael Totten adds this important point:

I wish I could say it’s bizarre that a vastly superior and more professional newspaper such as the New York Times would find anything at all nice to say about a crude rag in a semi-democratic country that actually does have decent newspapers, but this is typical of a scandalously large percentage of Western reporters who parachute into or set up shop in Beirut.

International Solidarity Movement Exposed

ISM Malam put together one heckuva investigation into the International Solidarity Movement. It drew several conclusions, this one being what I thought was most signficant:

The concept of "non-violence" as opposed to the ISM's justification of a Palestinian "armed struggle:" In its internal documents, on its website and in statements made by its senior figures and activists, the ISM continually stresses that it is in favor of non-violence. The media often call its activists "peace activists." While ISM activists do not directly participate in terrorist attacks against Israel, both in its manuals and in statements its senior figures have justified the Palestinian's armed campaign, even at the height of the Palestinian suicide bombing attacks (during the second intifada). In addition, an analysis of ISM activities on the ground showed that ISM activists sheltered a Palestinian Islamic Jihad operative involved in suicide bombing and shooting attacks, and in laying IEDs. They also hindered IDF counterterrorism activities, including the detonation of an explosives laboratory where bombs used in suicide bombing attacks were made.

One out-take doesn't do justice to this meaty report. Read the whole thing.

Memo to EU Consuls: Eastern Jerusalem Palestinians Want Israeli Citizenship

A poll of Palestinians living in eastern Jerusalem finds that an awful lot of them would like to have Israeli citizenship.

See the detailed results at the Pechter Mideast Polls, as well as Jackson Diehl, who discusses the numbers. An estimated 270,000 Palestinians live in eastern Jerusalem. Here's a vertical rundown:

• "30 percent said they would prefer to be citizens of Palestine in a two-state solution . . ."

• "35 percent said they would choose Israeli citizenship . . ."

• "Forty percent said they would consider moving to another neighborhood in order to become a citizen of Israel rather than Palestine . . ."

• ". . . 54 percent said that if their neighborhood were assigned to Israel, they would not move to Palestine."

Diehl's response:

The reasons for these attitudes are pretty understandable, even healthy. Arabs say they prefer Israel's jobs, schools, health care and welfare benefits to those of a Palestinian state -- and their nationalism is not strong enough for them to set aside these advantages in order to live in an Arab country. The East Jerusalemites don't much love Israel -- they say they suffer from discrimination. But they seem to like what it has to offer.

Somebody notify the meddling EU diplomats who want to step up their own involvement in eastern Jerusalem affairs.

UPDATE 12:55 p.m: Shortly after posting this, I spotted a related AP dispatch: Some Jerusalem Palestinians taking Israeli citizenship to protect welfare, residency rights:

The numbers of those who have applied for Israeli citizenship are still small — only hundreds per year. But in recent years, there has been a steady increase.

Over the past five years, about 3,000 Palestinians applied for Israeli citizenship, and about 2,300 received it, according to the Israeli Interior Ministry. The number of Palestinians granted Israeli citizenship has increased each year during that time, from 147 in 2006 to 690 in 2010.

Interior Ministry spokeswoman Sabine Hadad said about 13,000 of east Jerusalem's Arab residents, or roughly 5 percent, now hold Israeli citizenship.

Though the numbers are meager compared with the total 260,000 Palestinians who live in east Jerusalem, they may indicate an undercurrent of concern about their future.


Tuesday, January 11 2011

Evening Reading

• A remarkably articulate "big picture" look at conspiracy theories targeting That Convenient Scapegoat, Israel

• Imagine if Mexico started naming streets after Jared Loughner. Well, Ramallah's naming more streets after terrorists.

• Israel's Ministry of Foreign Affairs is on strike. Try sleeping better after reading this:

Some of the damage being caused by the strike is invisible, like in the intelligence department, for example. Disruption of diplomatic mail means sensitive materials are either compromised by regular mail, or just never sent to intelligence personnel abroad.

• Gotta love Globes' take on Bibi's pay stub posted on Facebook. A very Israeli reaction . . .

Great Moments in Medical Peer Review at The Lancet

Investigative journalist Brian Deer exposed a big fraud at The Lancet. It turns out that a 1998 article linking autism to the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine -- already debunked -- was actually based on fraudulent research.

We're talking about discrepancies, irregularities, even falsified data which, till now, were never questioned.

So much for peer review.

Reminds me of The Lancet's special issue devoted to the so-called "best peer reviewed abstracts" from a meeting of the 2nd Lancet-Palestinian Health Alliance Conference last July.

Shouldn't material submitted by Palestinian and left-wing medical professionals known for their animus towards Israel also be more rigorously scrutinized by The Lancet?

Lancet, heal thyself . . .

Tear Gas or A Palestinian Smokescreen?

See HonestReporting's latest critiques:

• Why does the media not show the same skepticism towards Palestinian libels as it does towards official Israeli statements? Tear Gas Or Palestinian Smokescreen? NY Times Takes Sides Against IDF

• Since when were tourists able to visit Jerusalem in a state of Palestine stretching from the Med to the River Jordan? "Travel Palestine" Tourism Ad Erases Israel

Helen Thomas Lifetime Achievement Award's Half-Life


Looks like the Society of Professional Journalists' lifetime achievement award named for Helen Thomas is about to hit the dustbin of history.

The SPJ's executive committee recommended retiring the award. The board of directors will make a final decision within the next 10 days.

The viral video of Thomas telling Jews to "get the hell out of Palestine," triggered protests to the SPJ, but the West Wing veteran crossed the line in December when she decided to dig in her heels in Detroit, defiantly declaring, "But it was worth it, to speak the truth."

Good riddance.

Your Daily Dose of PA Spokesman Idiocy

Palestinian cabinet spokesman Ghassan Khatib on the death of Jawaher Abu-Rahma:

"There is only one message conveyed by them and this is that the case was a typical one of tear gas inhalation."

Typical? How is that possible when death from tear gas is virtually unknown?


Monday, January 10 2011

Melanie Phillips: Blunt Talk

Melanie Phillips was on Israeli TV, discussing Israel's public diplomacy, and other issues. All I can say is, Wow.

I'm not surprised. At a recent HonestReporting conference, her keynote speech had bloggers buzzing.


Sunday, January 9 2011

Sky News Raises a Stink in Bilin

UPDATE Jan. 9, 1:05 pm: Here's an IDF video of the incident. Doesn't look symbolic to me, and Waghorn's description of people throwing stones strikes me as under-stated, to say the least.

* * *

Smelly_skunk Friday marked the first Bilin fence protest since the day Jawaher Abu Rahma died. Sky News crew was on hand, and Dominic Waghorn's account stinks worse than his film crew, who were doused with The Skunk, one of the IDF's non-lethal forms of crowd control (more on that in a minute).

I don't agree with Waghorn's take on the nature of the protest, or his assessment of the IDF's non-lethal crowd-control measures. These four snippets highlight why:

Snippet 1.

Every week alongwith Israeli and international supporters, villagers symbolically march to the fence to try and reach their land beyond.

Symbolic? These protestors show up to exploit the news services, provoke the army, and -- if the opportunity presents itself -- damage the fence. For that matter, why not suggest that the Israeli crowd control measures are also symbolic?

Snippet 2.

I have interviewed the man who created Skunk, but never seen it used in anger before. He has succeeded in making yeast generate proteins producing a stench smelling somewhere between dead bodies and excrement.

Is Waghorn insinuating that the soldiers using The Skunk are controlled more by their emotions than by rules of engagement?

Snippet 3.

The protestors then started throwing stones, despite pleas from others to keep the protest non violent. And the Israelis resorted to more and more tear gas, fired from some distance forcing a general retreat of protestors back towards Bilin ending their protest.

What's missing from this is that the Palestinians were throwing "more and more" rocks before the tear gas escalated.

Snippet 4.

But in essence, in Bilin the Israeli army sprays people with filth . . .

Waghorn described this as yeast proteins just two snippets ago!

I suspect Waghorn's sour feelings have more to do with being doused by The Skunk too:

We ran with them but the overwhelming stench caught up with us. Unfortunately for Pete, our cameraman, he caught a drenching . . .

We drove back to the office. We all kept our gas masks on because of the smell, raising eyebrows at traffic lights.

Unfortunately for Waghorn, the army's bouncing blue balls -- which he witnessed in October -- probably wouldn't have broken up the protest as effectively.


Thursday, January 6 2011

The 2011 Pro-Israel Blog-Off

If you film videos, record podcasts or write blog posts and you care about Israel, heads up. IsraellyCool's organizing the 2011 Pro-Israel Blog-off, a showcase of the best Israel advocacy online.

HonestReporting's a sponsor, which means I can't enter (big sigh), but you can. Aussie Dave explains the contest in a nutshell:

Bloggers are invited to submit one ”pro-Israel” entry, whether it be a blog post, podcast, or video no older than 1 month. Then each week, I will pit submissions against each other. The winner, decided by a combination of reader votes and panel-determined score, moves to the next round, where they will submit a new entry to compete against another first round winner. The process continues until we get to two finalists competing for an Apple iPad.

Check out the contest rules, meet the judges, start preparing your material, and good luck!


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