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Media Backspin
« March 2004 | Main | May 2004 »

Friday, April 30 2004

Mideast press freedom

According to a new Freedom House study, "Freedom of the Press 2004: A Global Survey of Media Independence," of the 19 Middle Eastern and North African countries, only one, Israel, is rated "Free," with 90% of the countries in the region rated "Not Free."

The Middle East is the only region in the world with an average rating of "Not Free."

BBC Governors admit bias

As reported in today's British media:

The Governors' Programme Complaints Committee, the BBC's highest grievance body, has ruled valid complaints against a BBC TV programme which exaggerated the use of force by the IDF and claimed that the Israelis sought to destroy Palestinian history.

The programme, "Dan Cruickshank on the Road to Armageddon," was broadcast on BBC2 in June 2003 and attracted ten official complaints. In the programme, architecture expert Professor Cruickshank sought to examine the impact of centuries of conflict on [the region's] ancient heritage, but the committee admitted that it "failed to focus on affected Jewish sites, such as the destruction of ancient synagogues in the Jewish Quarter of the Old City in Jerusalem between 1949 and 1967."

In a statement released by the BBC, the Governors stated that the programme "fell short of the BBC's editorial requirements on impartiality", and that disparaging comments about Jewish settlers "did not consider that such speculation lay within the frame of reference of a programme about historical sites, or within Professor Cruickshank's field of experience."

(Hat tip: Tom Gross)

Info on 'Massacring Truth'

A number of people have written us requesting more information on the film Jenin: Massacring Truth.

Here's the purchase page from CanWest - scroll down to 'Global Video Specials'. The DVD version ($21.95) is available here, and the VHS ($19.95) here.

And speaking of videos debunking the Jenin 'massacre', we'll remind readers of the fake Palestinian funeral in Jenin, caught on video by the IDF.


Thursday, April 29 2004

Massacring Truth

[UPDATE: See the HR communique on this topic]

The new documentary film Jenin: Massacring Truth debuted on Canada's Global last night. The film addresses the international media's false, irresponsible reporting on the IDF incursion to Jenin in April, 2002.

Damian Penny saw the film and transcribes this exchange between Martin Himel and Dr. Tim Benson, head of the British editorial cartoonists' society which honoured the Independent's Sharon-eating-babies cartoon:

Himel: My question to you is, why, in all these paintings [sic] don't we see Sharon and Arafat eating babies?

Benson: Maybe Jews don't issue fatwas.

Continue reading "Massacring Truth"

'A real journalist'

Jerusalem Post's Khaled Abu Toameh, born in Tulkarem, is a unique voice of straightforward reporting from the West Bank and Gaza.

InContext reports from a talk Abu Toameh gave in Philadelphia on Tuesday. Excerpt:

Why is he working for a "right wing Israeli newspaper?" Abu Toameh says he's always asked. Because he's a "real journalist." In the PA, there are no real journalists, just mouthpieces for the thugocracy (my word, not his).

As for the foreign press, Abu Toameh shrugs. They see no evil and hear no evil when it comes to the behavior of the PA. He describes an incredible scene back in 2002 when he was covering an event at the mukata, Arafat's compound in Ramallah. With a crowd of international reporters standing around, two palestinian policemen brought a man out, threw him up against a wall and shot him -- right under the window of Arafat's office. When the reporters converged, the policeman seemed bewildered. It was just a simple execution, nothing to get excited about, he said. And no one did. In fact, according to Abu Toameh, no one else even mentioned it. But he did.

Continue reading "'A real journalist'"

Legality of targeted killing of terror leaders

Many of the news stories and editorials following the Yassin and Rantissi strikes denounced the Israeli actions (either directly or through prominent quotations) as 'extra-judicial' or 'illegal'.

Here are recent articles that outline the legality of such strikes under international law:

* Joshua Muravchik, National Review: given Hamas' genocidal ideology, the strikes are justified under the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Genocide.

* Trevor Asserson, Globes:

Extra judicial killing is governed by the legal codes of all Western democracies, and under international law by the Geneva conventions, the Charter of the United Nations, the Manual of the Red Cross and elsewhere. For example, Article 51 of the UN Charter embodies “the inherent right of individual or collective self-defense.” This includes a right to a pre-emptive strike where carried out in self-defence once an attack has occurred.

* Anne Bayefsky, National Review: justified due to Yassin and Rantissi's status as war combatants; Bayefsky also points out the egregious double standard at work in the United Nations vis-a-vis Israel's right to self-defense.

If your local paper published an editorial denouncing the Israeli actions as illegal, consider writing a letter to the editor based on the arguments of Muravchik, Asserson and Bayefsky.


Wednesday, April 28 2004

Not just Israel

Donald Rumsfeld is not happy with media coverage of Iraq:

There are two ways, I suppose, one could inform readers of the Geneva Convention stipulation against using places of worship to conduct military attacks. One might be a headline saying that Terrorists Attack Coalition Forces From Mosques. That would be one way to present the information.

Another might be to say: Mosques Targeted in Fallujah. That was the Los Angeles Times headline this morning.

That LA Times headline must sound familiar to anyone following coverage of Israel.

(Hat tip: Instapundit)

German Anti-semitism alert

David’s Medienkritik alerts us to this Anti-semitic video clip (req. RealPlayer) from NDR, a regional German public TV channel. The video is scheduled to be broadcast tomorrow night (Thurs., April 29) on the political satire program Extra3.

David says:

'You don't need to speak German to understand the message of the clip: awful Ariel Sharon suppresses the poor Palestinians. Now, that's the standard bias in the German media, so this by itself doesn't deserve special attention. But have a closer look at the scene with a Jew sitting laughing on the back of a Palestinian, and the one where a Jew stands next to a Palestinian who holds a sign "Doof" (Dumb):

How disturbing to see this coming from Germany, just 60 years after similar depictions of Jews (using their alleged intellectual superiority to exploit the simpleton) were used by Nazi propagada to produce the horrors of the death camps. This is a fine example of today's European anti-semitism masquerading as anti-Israel opinion.

NDR goes on to poke fun at religious jews:

Quote: "Look: there are a few settlement homes, erected before your very eyes. And just like that the dear Israelis with the funny curly sideburns moved in for the Palestinians. All was well..."

David continues: 'A couple of years ago this clip would not have been shown on German TV. Times are a-changing...

'Anti-semitism used to be a right-wing speciality in Germany. Yet, there aren't that many right-wing anti-semites left in Germany. However, anti-semitism of the left is healthy and active and can be studied in the context of "criticism" of Ariel Sharon and Israel's policies in the German media. It's a bias of the German media, not of the German people.'

ACTION ITEM: The "Rundfunkrat" is the supervisory board of the TV channel NDR. Chairman is Lutz Mohaupt. Send him your comments - politely. Remember, Mohaupt didn't produce this video:

(Hat tip: Max)

Molly Moore's hobgoblins

David Gerstman says that Washington Post Jerusalem correspondent Molly Moore can't escape 'the hobgoblins of her limited world view,' as illustrated in Moore's latest piece on Hamas:

Hamas in the eyes of Molly Moore is an invincible entity, able to respond to devastating blows immediately. I don't blame Israelis for being scared; past experience has shown that Hamas often retaliates for the killing of their leaders. But it doesn't usually happen right away. A reporter should know that. A reporter also might investigate whether Hamas might have been hurt by the killing of its charismatic leader. But Moore and her paper are too convinced that there's a cycle of violence. She needn't investigate further.

Tuesday, April 27 2004

Lileks on Arab Street

Minnesota humor columnist and clear-headed commentator James Lileks on the failed Al Qaeda mega-attack in Jordan:

This is just an odd story, for many reasons. It hasn’t gotten much play in the last week. It might not get play in the future because a confession in an Arab state often involves jumper cables.

The report says they intended to mix a combination of 71 lethal chemicals, which they said has never been done before, including blistering agents to cause third-degree burns, nerve gas and choking agents.

Continue reading "Lileks on Arab Street"

Mark Steyn on Erekat, Palestinian situation

The always-interesting Mark Steyn in UK's Telegraph, in response to Saeb Erekat's recent claim in the Washington Post that George Bush 'took his job':

But, if Bush did "take my job", it’s because Erekat is not up to it. For 10 years, the world has been trying to give a state to the Palestinians and the Palestinians keep tossing obstacles in their path. The latest innovation was a suicide-bomber arrested with explosives bearing HIV-infected blood, the thinking being that anyone who survived would get Aids. Unfortunately, the heat of the explosion kills the virus. But, in his combination of depravity and incompetence, the "Aids bomber" neatly encapsulates the present state of Palestinian "nationalism". The only way the Palestinians will get any kind of state is if Israel and America inflict it on them and eliminate such lethargic middle-men as Mr Erekat.

Read the whole thing.


Monday, April 26 2004

Classroom ready?

A followup to the HR communique on biased children's educational materials on the Mideast conflict:

'Classroom Ready News' is an educational resource used by schools throughout North America. The most recent weekly edition (.pdf file), designed for grades 8-10, is an overview of Hamas and the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. The anti-Israel angle is simply astounding:

When the state of Israel was created in 1948, Palestinians lost much of their land. Israel took even more territory in 1967, when Palestinian forces were humiliated in the Six Day War. For decades, Palestine has felt oppressed by Israel. In the early 1990s, Palestinian anger toward Israel began to take the form of suicide bombings, which were carried out mostly by members of a group named Hamas.

Don't miss the 'answers' at the end:

4. Define oppressed. To treat people in a cruel, unjust, and hard way.

You can tell they really know their stuff:

4.Who is the president of Israel? Ariel Sharon.

That must be news to Moshe Katsav. How depressing that these are the people who are educating North American children on the Mideast!

Comments to:

UPDATE: Classroom Ready has removed the article from their site. While they consider making changes (and, hopefully, responding to the criticism sent to them), here's a copy for your perusal.

Why the over-reporting of Israel?

In today's communique to subscribers, we ask for feedback on the question: Why does Israel receive such disproportionate media interest?

Is it the convergence of three major world religions in Jerusalem? Is it the fact that Israel is a Jewish nation? Or is it something else entirely?

Please share your thoughts on this matter in comments below.

[To receive HR communiques by email, just signup above.]

Intimidation of Palestinian journalists

This plague continues:

Unidentified gunmen broke the arms of Palestinian news photographer Jamal Arouri in Ramallah on Thursday night, in the latest attack on a journalist in the Palestinian Authority-controlled territories.

Arouri, 38, who also works for PA daily Al-Ayyam, said two masked men carrying pistols pounced on him as he walked out of his car in front of his house and clubbed him, breaking both his arms...

"I have been on this job for 14 years and never been through such an experience," said Arouri. "I have no enemies... This is the first time in my life that somebody has attacked me."

AFP Jerusalem bureau chief Christian Chaise said there was no discernible motive for the beating. "We are at a total loss," he said. "We have no explanation."

Friedman misrepresents Beirut

Stephen Green at VodkaPundit corrects Tom Friedman's representation of Beirut in Friedman's latest column.


Sunday, April 25 2004

Arafat Among the Ruins

In today's New York Times Magazine feature Arafat Among the Ruins, David Reiff brings us up-to-date on the Rais' situation, from the perspective of Palestinians. Among his collection of anecdotes, it's remarkable that Reiff brings absolutely no evidence of Arafat's financial corruption, stating instead that

while accusations about shady financial dealings have dogged [Arafat's wife Suha] (a French prosecutor is reported to be investigating some of these charges), just as they dog the Palestinian Authority, no one accuses Arafat of personal corruption. To the contrary, his personal habits are reported to be Spartan in the extreme.

No one accuses Arafat of personal corruption? Hard to believe Palestinians are unaware of the mountain of evidence that Arafat has funnelled millions of dollars to his personal accounts over the years. Did he miss Arafat vs. LeBron? Why does Reiff choose to ignore this aspect of Arafat's profile?

One gem is revealed here -- Arafat is into Bible codes. Who knew?

Worth reading today

* PLO 'Foreign Minister' Farouk Kaddoumi admits the PLO never changed their official charter calling for Israel's destruction.

* Report: How Israel Found Rantissi (Jerusalem Post)

Israel managed to find and kill Abdel Aziz Rantisi by placing one of his bodyguards under surveillance, Israel TV Channel 2 reported Monday. Rantisi was dressed in disguise as an old man wearing an Arab cloak and headdress.

Also, Israeli Border Police head Cmdr. David Zur said Saturday that Israel has agents within the very leadership of Hamas.

* On an Irish talkshow, journalist Robert Fisk explodes when challenged on his allegation that a 'massacre' occured in Jenin in 2002. Fisk loses it when his Jenin lie is called a 'blood libel'. [7.7 meg VIDEO] More on this at SharkBlog, LGF.

* Haaretz columnist Zvi Bar'el weighs in on the Hamas-PA struggle:

Sharon's disengagement plan has compelled the PA and Hamas to try to find a way to share control. Hamas believes the time has come to establish a joint leadership. "The era of discourse between those issuing commands and those following orders is over," wrote Rifat Nasif, a Hamas member from Tulkarm, on the movement's website. Hamas has referred to the PLO as "a representative" of the Palestinian people and not "the sole representative."

* Greg Myre of the New York Times has an article on Hamas, and see 'Hamas after Rantisi' by Meir Litvak of the Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies/Tel Aviv University (MS Word document).

Holocaust 'joke' at Rutgers

The Rutgers University student humor magazine 'The Medium' ran this loathsome 'joke' on its cover to mark Holocaust Remembrance Week:

See this Google search for articles on the response of local and international Jewish groups, the Rutgers administration, and the editors of the publication.

Here's the Rutgers president's statement on the cartoon.


Friday, April 23 2004

Doubting Thomas

David Gerstman fisks a strange Tom Friedman outburst on the Sharon Plan from Sunday's New York Times.

Pastrami at The Nation

The Nation has an article on Sharon, 'Pastrami & Champagne', that begins with this quote:

Three decades ago Winston Churchill's grandson asked Ariel Sharon how Israel should deal with the Palestinians. "We'll make a pastrami sandwich out of them," he replied. "We'll insert a strip of Jewish settlements in between the Palestinians, and then another strip of Jewish settlements right across the West Bank, so that in twenty-five years' time, neither the United Nations nor the United States, nobody, will be able to tear it apart."

Mission accomplished. On April 14 in Washington, Sharon unwrapped his pastrami sandwich and received George W. Bush's seal of approval.

This highly questionable Sharon quotation (Churchill's grandson?) appears on anti-Semitic sites all over the web. We challenge The Nation, a respected American opinion journal, to provide some proof that Sharon actually uttered these words. (Hat tip: Robert M.)

Comments to The Nation: click here

(See New York Times' public editor Daniel Okrent's recent comments on accuracy in opinion pieces.)

Note also that an advertisement for (convicted) Holocaust denier Roger Garaudy's book 'The Founding Myths of Israel', including a web address for the despicable Institute of Historical Review, appears on p. 58 of the current issue of The Nation. See Blue Octavo Notebooks for comments on this.

UPDATE: Blue Octavo editor writes: 'Winston Churchill's grandson gave a talk at the National Press Club in October 2001 during which he recounts the alleged anecdote. (Here, at minute 52) The Nation's description makes this sound alot more solid than that.

The Nation writes: 'Our source is Geoffrey Aronson, a Washington-based expert on settlements from the Foundation for Middle East Peace'


Thursday, April 22 2004

Tommy Lapid on BBC's Hardtalk

Israeli Justice Minister Tommy Lapid withstood a hostile interview (more like an antagonistic assault) on BBC World's HardTalk today. Lapid stood up well to host Tim Sebastian on the following issues: Rantissi, Yassin, disengagement, Vanunu, American support to Sharon, and the disapproval of the international community for the Israeli policy of target assassinations.
It's well worth watching: (req. RealPlayer) HardTalk interview with Lapid

Near the very end Lapid realizes what's happening and says to Sebastian, "Israel's reputation is exposed to suffering from people like you...You are trying to hurt Israel's reputation as much as possible...Mr. Sebastian, I was in your profession longer than you are deliberately trying to create an anti-Israel are more understanding toward the Palestinians."

(Hat tip: Irene H.)

Sebastian also recently interviewed Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal -- available here in text. An excerpt:

Continue reading "Tommy Lapid on BBC's Hardtalk"

All the (Arab) Rage

We've just released a new communique to HonestReporting subscribers, critiquing the media's overemphasis on Arab emotion: Occupied by Arab Rage

To receive HR communiques by email, the moment they're released, just sign up above.

Here's another in the wave of articles on Arab rage: Palestinians Blame Plight on US, Israel (AP)

Mohammed Domeh was relaxing on his living room sofa, watching the TV news when he heard the fateful words: President Bush was flatly ruling out the return of Palestinians such as himself to what is now Israel.

"When I heard what Bush had to say — and I am saying this as a Palestinian intellectual — I wished I could wear an explosive belt around my waist and blow myself up in front of Bush," said Domeh, 44.

Such anti-American rage, from an otherwise mild-spoken, middle-class Palestinian writer, is being echoed around the Arab world at a volume some say is unprecedented.

No mention whatsoever of the more constructive Palestinian responses outlined in our communique. Are the news agencies more interested in projecting conflict/drama than they are in telling the whole story?


Wednesday, April 21 2004

Reuters journalist responds to criticism

Reuters reporter Jeffrey Heller has responded to HonestReporting's critique of Heller's recent articles. (Joining his parents, who also wrote us regarding it.)

Tue, 20 Apr 2004


Thank you for your comments on my Washington-datelined article.

I am sorry you misconstrued my use of the phrase "flaunt in the face of opponents". I had no intention of portraying Prime Minister Sharon as a caricatured, vindictive figure, as you suggested. Remember the Brannif Airlines commercial of 1969 ? "If you've got it, flaunt it?" It was meant in that spirit, following what was hailed in Israel as a major diplomatic triumph by the Israeli leader. But it's our job as journalists to keep it simple, and if you couldn't understand it, then perhaps I could have said it better.

Continue reading "Reuters journalist responds to criticism"

CNN snoopers

JPost reports that a CNN camera crew went a little too far in culling material for a Vanunu story:

Police, acting on a tip from security sources, detained a CNN television crew Tuesday filming near the restricted Dimona reactor deep in the Negev.

The crew were taken to the Dimona police station and questioned why they had been filming in an area clearly marked was a military area and photography was forbidden. Police confiscated their video film and it was sent to security officials for examination. The CNN crew was then dismissed with their equipment.

This isn't the first time:

CNN has a history of violating Israel censorship.

It was taken off the air temporarily during the 1991 Gulf War when it revealed the location of Scud rocket impacts, information that could help launchers adjust subsequent missile strikes.

Culture of Terror

The NY Times reports on a Hezbollah TV game show, "The Mission," which glorifies terror and is aired on Al-Manar. One US official dubs it "Name Your Favorite Terrorist."

Speaking of the culture of terror, Reuters reports on a Palestinian DJ who spins tunes for Hamas rallies.

BBC rents flat for Vanunu

The Israeli financial paper Globes is reporting (in Hebrew, req. reg.) that the BBC has rented a luxury apartment in Jaffa for Mordechai Vanunu, the Israeli atomic spy who is due to be released from prison today. The rent: $4,750 per month. Paid for by British TV viewers.

Globes states:

At this point, it's not clear what BBC is receiving in return for the payment of Vanunu's apartment, but one could assume that BBC will receive a TV interview with him.

Stay tuned.

UPDATE: Globes is now reporting (at same link) that BBC intended to rent the place for Vanunu, but that Vanunu turned them down after the story hit the press. See BBC's denial of the whole thing in comments below.

Over-reporting of Israel, part 2

Here's a cool page that represents in graphic format the content of the GoogleNews aggregator: NewsMap

The more stories about the given topic, the larger it appears on this page. Note the disproportionate prominence of Israel coverage. As of this posting, the topic 'Sharon Vows to Continue Strikes' simply dominates the world news.

In this post we noted a similar online project from a Harvard researcher, and offered some thoughts about what it means for Israel, and for anti-Israel media bias.

BBC scare quotes

From BBC coverage of a Simon Wiesenthal Center report:

The net is being used by racist and "terrorist" groups trying to recruit new members and spread their message...

Jewish human rights group The Simon Wiesenthal Center monitors 4,000 websites used by racist, "terrorist" and other extremist organisations. It has been tracking such hate sites for about nine years.

The latest report shows how important the net has become to these extremists, which includes racists, "terrorist" groups and homophobic organisations, and details the way that the groups use websites to spread their messages.

William Sjostrom at Atlantic Blog asks:

Any speculation why terrorist is put in scare quotes, but not racist? I mean, if the terrorist apologists are allowed to say that one man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter, then why aren't the racists allowed to say that one man's racist is another man's anti-genetic modification campaigner? Does al-Qaeda have to blow up a BBC studio to end their ideological fantasies?

Why doesn't the BBC put scare quotes around hate (one man's hate is another man's "expressive anger") and homophobic (one man's homophobe is another man's "pro-Darwinian exponent")? Is it which words elicit giggles at their cocktail parties? A pox on the BBC.

Comments to BBC:


Tuesday, April 20 2004

Thomas needs history lesson

Stefan Sharkansky takes syndicated columnist Helen Thomas to task for this statement in her column today:

If President Bush wants to give land away, there is always his 1,600-acre ranch at Crawford, Texas.

But he has no right to endorse the Israeli claim to the captured or settled property on the West Bank that belongs to the Palestinians.

Asks Sharkansky, 'Where was Helen during the illegal occupation of the West Bank by Jordan?

'And what would she have to say about this?'

Hamas' bloody record

While the Guardian extols the late Rantisi's moderation, IMRA has compiled a list of the terror attacks Hamas perpetrated in the past 3 1/2 years: A Chronology of Terrorist Attacks Carried out by Hamas Since September 2000

Rebuttal from Reuters journalist's parents

The parents of Reuters journalist Jeffrey Heller sent HonestReporting a rebuttal of the HonestReporting critique of Heller's recent dispatches.

UPDATE 4/21: Jeffrey Heller himself also wrote us a letter, which is reprinted here.

April 16, 2004


Dear Honest Reporting,

Let's get right to it. We do have an agenda and a score to settle with you.

We advise you up front that we are the proud parents of Jeffrey Heller, the Reuters journalist, you so severely criticize in your Honest Reporting Communique dated 15 April, 2004. Your article was forwarded to us by some friends and relatives.

No less than you, we too are annoyed and disgusted by the bias and distortions displayed by Reuters, the BBC and other media on so many occasions. That being said , we'll relate to your critique point by point, editorializing as you did, as we go along. Since we are not professional journalists we are permitted to do so.

Continue reading "Rebuttal from Reuters journalist's parents"


Monday, April 19 2004

Europe's role in disengagement

Mark Heller in the New York Times says now's the time for the Europeans to step up and really help the Palestinians - to buy the Gaza settlements, before Israel destroys them on the way out:

Many other questions remain as well, particularly concerning what will be done with the settlements once Israel evacuates them. That uncertainty, though, may provide an opportunity for united Europe, at last, to do something truly constructive on the Israeli-Palestinian issue: buy the settlements and operate them in the service of Palestinians. If there is one eternal question in Europe's search for a common foreign policy, it is surely, "What should be Europe's role in the Arab-Israeli peace process?" For years, the response has been twofold: to underwrite the budget of the Palestinian Authority and to posture.

An interesting proposal indeed.

Disturbing cartoons

A couple of editorial cartoons in flag-motif that emerged after Bush's support for the Sharon plan:

From the Berkeley Daily Planet:

And from syndicated cartoonist John Sherffius - the caption is 'Sharon Establishes Another Settlement':

Holocaust Memorial Day

Today is Holocaust Memorial Day.
Jerusalem Post has an article that discusses 'Holocaust inversion' in the media -- portrayal of Jews as Nazi-like persecutors of Palestinian Arabs:

The demonization of Jews has historically included accusations of deicide, religious infanticide, blood lust, and – post World War II – Nazi-like behavior. Some present-day cartoons reflect classic 21st-century caricatures of key anti-Semitic motifs.

The cartoons, appearing in mainstream papers in different European countries, also demonstrate how acceptable anti-Semitism has again become in European society.

Read the whole thing. The author ends with a call for greater understanding of the methodology of this phenomenon.

Time: Israel 'bluffed' vs. US

Time Magazine claims to have a scoop on the recent Israeli/US negotiations:

[Sharon] threatened to cancel his trip to Washington if Bush's statement didn't explicitly support his stand on the refugee issue. Late on April 11, his top negotiator, Dov Weissglass, called Secretary of State Colin Powell and said negotiations had reached an impasse. Weissglass said Sharon, due to leave for Washington within hours, would cancel his trip if the matter wasn't resolved. "I can't solve the language right now," Powell told Weissglass, according to a top aide, "but I give you my word ... we'll work something out." What Powell apparently didn't know was that the Israeli team was bluffing: the original, vague language on refugees was all Sharon really needed for political cover. "That would have been enough," says a senior Likud Cabinet member.

Did this proof of 'bluffing' come from the unnamed 'senior Likud Cabinet member'? That's left deliberately unclear. In any case, it's quite an accusation to make without providing a source.

Comments to:

Essential George Will

Outstanding column by George Will today that should not be missed in the frenzy surrounding the Rantisi strike. Will recognizes that Bush's support of Sharon's plan is simply an accurate reading of UN Resolution 242 that recognized the right of every state in the region to "secure and recognized boundaries," which Israel's 1967 borders were not:

Palestinian spokesmen, denouncing the new U.S. position, speak not of the 1949 armistice lines but "the 1967 borders." It is not in the interest of the Palestinian Authority to have the world reminded -- being willfully forgetful, it needs much reminding -- that Israel's 1967 borders were accidents of the military facts on the ground 18 years before that.

Bush, by emphasizing 1949 rather than 1967, reminds those who forever say "Israel is being provocative" that for 56 years -- since Israel's founding in May 1948 -- the problem has been that, to Israel's enemies, Israel's being is provocative. Hostility to Israel predated 1967 and would not be cured by a return to 1967 realities.

Will also makes a point emphasized in last week's HR communique:

Wednesday's policy flowed ineluctably from Bush's June 24, 2002, pronouncement that the first prerequisite for progress is for the Palestinian people to produce "regime change": "I call upon the Palestinian people to elect new leaders, leaders not compromised by terror." That prerequisite being unattainable, Sharon has chosen unilateral disengagement -- the fence -- and a long wait for the time when, in Bush's words, "the Palestinian people have new leaders, new institutions and new security arrangements."

Read the whole article (req. reg.), and send it on to your local editor as an important articulation of the historical facts.


Sunday, April 18 2004

Lionizing Rantisi

The (UK) Observer has a Rantissi obituary that urges readers to remember the Hamas leader's softer side:

The man who loved the Palestinian children so much that he admitted openly that he was prepared to slaughter Israeli infants to guarantee the future of their Palestinian counterparts - and could see no contradiction...

He spoke hate, and ordered the suicide bombers into Israel. But, despite speaking of driving the Jews into the sea, he knew that a negotiated settlement was inevitable, that neither his organisation nor the other militias could defeat Israel.

His organisation had the influence and discipline to deliver a real settlement as well as carnage…

Despite his strident voice, Rantissi, like Yassin, would often hint that he regarded the armed struggle against the Israelis as more negotiable than his sermons and speeches might have suggested, believing that violence was an essential tool to Palestinian liberation...

For while Hamas has proved the catalyst for the some of the most fervently anti-Israeli feelings in the Palestinian areas, it has often provided the most subtly thought out.

Love of children, subtlety, discipline, reasonable negotiation...these are the memories the Observer has of Abdel Aziz Rantissi (they also happen to be the most valued traits of the Observer's English readership). How's this for subtlety:

"We knew that Bush is the enemy of God, the enemy of Islam and Muslims. America declared war against God. Sharon declared war against God and God declared war against America, Bush and Sharon. ... The war of God continues against them, and I can see the victory coming up from the land of Palestine by the hand of Hamas." - Rantisi, 3/28/04

Saturday, April 17 2004

Rantisi strike coverage

The IDF killed Hamas leader Abdel Aziz al-Rantissi tonight.

Here's the first item of absurd coverage, two sentences into the main BBC report (screen captured):

The [IDF] attack came hours after a suicide bomber killed himself and an Israeli soldier at the Erez checkpoint just north of Gaza city.

The BBC's Peter Greste in Gaza City says people are speculating that the attack was in response to the suicide bombing.

Right...the IDF suddenly decided to target mass murderer Rantisi, a couple of hours before.

Reuters, meanwhile, has decided that Rantisi's interior decorating is an essential part of this breaking story:

With Rantissi filling the role of Hamas spokesman, camera crews from around the world have trooped to his modestly furnished living room to hear him issue vows of revenge, often in calm, even tones, for Israel's killing of militants.

But then there's Jerusalem NewsWire's take:

Israel executed the blood-soaked Yassin less than one month ago as the venerated terror chief left a Gaza mosque.

At the time, Rantisi vowed to "open the gates of hell" in response.

Tonight those gates opened for him.


Thursday, April 15 2004

NY Times and WashPost on Bush/Sharon

David Adesnik at OxBlog critiques NY Times and WashPost coverage of yesterday's Bush statement:

No question about it, this morning's Bush-Sharon press-conference is the top story of the day. But why, exactly? If you get your news from the WaPo or NYT, the answer to that question is far from self-evident.

Adesnik nicely boils down the day's events, with perspective beyond the media coverage:

By staking out a clear position in advance of final-status talks, Bush is essentially saying that important aspects of Israel's demands are simply non-negotiable. If the Palestinians negotiators accept those demands, they will now come across as giving in to American pressure rather than compromising in the name of peace. Thus, if you think that only a negotiated accord can end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, then Bush and Sharon really have thrown a wrench in the works. Clearly, that is the premise on which the NYT and WaPo correspondents are operating.

But there is another premise out there which also deserves a fair hearing: that a negotiated settlement is no longer possible and that Israel simply has to find the best way to let go of the occupied territories. That is why Sharon wants to pull out of Gaza. That is why he is building a massive wall to separate Israel from the West Bank. While one can argue that good fences don't make good neighbors, a strong majority of Israeli voters have taken Sharon's side on this one.

The whole thing is worth a read.

The backlash

Heavy media coverage today of Palestinian anger at President Bush's support for Sharon's disengagement plan. Many journalists are far from neutral on this -- consider this sentence from a Reuters report:

Sharon will fly home on Thursday armed with what he came to Washington for -- U.S. "guarantees" he can flaunt in the face of opponents of his proposal.

'Flaunt in the face of opponents'?! A neutral report would never portray a democratic national leader in such a derogatory manner.

Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qurie, seeing the sum of all his people's fears realized, immediately denounced the statement as unacceptable.

'The sum of all [Palestinians'] fears'?! Hyperbole at its worst. This was a setback to the PA, but the loss of US support for the 'right of return' and American acceptance of large blocks of Israeli settlements are certainly not the 'sum of all Palestinian fears.'

The article is by the same Jeffrey Heller mentioned in the blog entry below...

Comments to Reuters: click here

Reuters wrong on Likud

From a Reuters article yesterday by Jeffrey Heller:

Sharon, who in the late 1970s emerged as the architect of a plan to vastly expand the settlements, heads a right-wing party that views the West Bank as part of the Biblical territories of Judea and Samaria, given by God to the Jews.

Actually, Likud is a secular party that recognizes an 'unassailable Jewish right' to the West Bank, but not due to divine mandate.

The official Likud platform describes the party's position this way:

The Jewish communities in Judea, Samaria and Gaza are the realization of Zionist values. Settlement of the land is a clear expression of the unassailable right of the Jewish people to the Land of Israel and constitutes an important asset in the defense of the vital interests of the State of Israel. The Likud will continue to strengthen and develop these communities and will prevent their uprooting.

Even the full, Hebrew version of the Likud party platform lacks any mention of the land 'given by God to the Jews.'

As stated in the platform, Likud tends to value West Bank settlements for their strategic, defense-based value, rather than any spiritual value.

Reuters should issue an immediate correction.

Send comments to: or use Reuters' online editorial feedback form.

Monitor for Reuters corrections here.


Wednesday, April 14 2004

Public cynical about news business

From Boston Globe:

At a time when public distrust of the news media appears to be at a dangerously high level, there is evidence of a deep and fundamental disagreement between those who produce news and those who consume it.

Although most journalists believe quality and values are vital elements of their work and see themselves as providing an important civic function, the reading and viewing public seems to think of journalism as a bottom-line-driven enterprise populated by the ethically challenged. Last month, the Washington-based Project for Excellence in Journalism released a wide-ranging study -- "The State of the News Media 2004" -- that concluded that a key factor in journalism's sagging image is "a disconnection between the public and the news media over motive."

"Journalists believe they are working in the public interest, and are trying to be fair and independent in that cause," the survey found. "The public thinks these journalists are either lying or deluding themselves. The public believes that news organizations are operating largely to make money, and that the journalists who work for these organizations are primarily motivated by professional ambition and self-interest."

'Ethically challenged' - great term! Perhaps studies like this will push journalists to continue some of the important self-critique that's come in the wake of the plagarism scandals, and undeniable bias in Mideast coverage.

Junking the Road Map?

Today's HonestReporting communique on media coverage of Ariel Sharon's Washington visit is now posted on our site: Junking the Road Map?

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Palestinian deaths at hands of Palestinians

Another aspect of the oft-distorted death counts in the conflict -- from Haaretz:

Over 11% of Palestinians killed since September 2000 died at the hands of other Palestinians, according to a report by the Jerusalem-based Palestinian Human Rights Monitoring Group (PHRMG), headed by Bassem Eid. The report states that 297 Palestinians were killed by other Palestinians.

See also:

● The HonestReporting communique Skewing the Death Tolls

An Engineered Tragedy by the International Policy Institute for Counter-Terrorism (ICT)

'The Intra-fada: An analysis of Internal Palestinian Violence'

Arafat authorized attack on US convoy

Middle East Newsline reports evidence that Yassir Arafat personally OK'ed the attack on a US convoy that killed three Americans:

The United States has determined that Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat approved an attack on a U.S. embassy convoy in which three Americans were killed in 2003.

U.S. diplomatic sources said a U.S. investigation into the bombing of the embassy convoy in the Gaza Strip in October 2003 pointed to a clear role by Arafat. The sources said Arafat granted approval to a plan to strike U.S. interests in PA areas.

Arafat, the sources said, did not draft or approve any details for a Palestinian attack. But they said Arafat agreed to a proposal relayed by a high-level aide for the Palestinians to “pass a message” to the United States.

So far UPI is the only major wire agency to cover this story.


Tuesday, April 13 2004

Disinformation campaign in Iraq?

Belmont Club found three separate articles from Iraq correspondents who were all

1) taken captive by Iraqi mujahideen,
2) brought to a picturesque locale,
3) given food and made privvy to inside information, then
4) granted a surprising release on the condition they tell the world 'the truth.'

See the blog for a side-by-side comparison of the articles from the New York Times and UK's Daily Telegraph. Then read the third article, from Canada's Globe and Mail.

The Belmont Club editor says

This sounds like a disinformation operation targeting journalists. Maybe their captors went to the same school.

Reminds us of another journalist taken captive by terrorists, Newsweek's Joshua Hammer.

Challenging online jihadists

HonestReporting has challenged the legitimacy of online radical Islamic 'news' sites like JihadUnspun and Al Jazeera.

Aaron Weisburd at Internet Haganah takes another approach with such sites - he gets them shut down (over 420 so far) by notifying their ISP hosts of the nature of their content. A good article on Internet Haganah from IPS yesterday:

Haganah’s dogged persistence has made it the bane of Islamist websites, discussion forums and chat rooms. In forums on Islamist sites, posters urge Muslim hackers to attack the Haganah web site.

”Anything that can be done to attack a site has been done to attack us,” said Weisburd. ”Not that it’s done much good. At this point, efforts to organise e-jihad against us simply become another avenue for gathering information on the jihadists themselves.”

Weisburd is currently pursuing, a website that seeks to educate Arab children on the history and merits of self-sacrifice. Run by Hamas, the site uses cartoons and bedtime stories to stress the glory of death while fighting in the Intifada.

”The children of stones are the heroes of today and tomorrow,” reads one caption.

Read the whole article.

Meanwhile, AFP reports that Gen. John Abizaid, the head of US Central Command, is criticizing Al-Jazeera and Al-Arabiya coverage that portrays American security operations as "purposely targeting civilians." Where have we heard this before?

'Relative calm' watch

Israeli security forces thwarted at least ten intended Palestinian terror attacks over the past week's Passover holiday. Among them:

-- A woman from the Balata refugee camp caught cheating on her husband was going to carry out a suicide bombing in Tel Aviv to 'restore her honor.' (This motivation is becoming a pattern.)

-- Fatah/Tanzim terrorists planned an attack that would include AIDS-infected blood in the bomb to infect survivors of their bombing.

-- Hamas, Jihad and the Tanzim planned a triple-bombing in a major Israeli city.


Sunday, April 11 2004

Burying Yassin's Ghost

Military analyst Elliot Chodoff says the Israeli public's behavior this past holiday week indicates that Palestinian terror has lost:

When Hamas founder Sheikh Ahmed Yassin was killed by an Israeli missile, the criticism of the action was heavily seasoned with warnings that this would simply lead to another, heightened, round of Middle East violence. According to this logic, Hamas would now really, really try to launch terrorist attacks against Israel, in revenge for Yassin’s death, as opposed to the mere dozens it was attempting during the quiet period preceding his elimination.

Coupled naturally with the dire warnings were admonitions that travel to and in Israel had now become impossibly dangerous, so much so that a Spanish basketball team chose to forfeit a critical game rather than risk their lives coming to play in Tel Aviv.

We argued at the time that it was all a lot of nonsense. Terrorism would not increase, as the terrorist organizations were already operating at their full operational potential and attacks were being prevented by successful operations by the IDF and other security agencies. While the possibility of a successful attack remains a reality today, with the certainty that it will be attributed to the killing of Yassin, the fact remains that there has been no major terrorist success in the three weeks since Yassin was killed.

Continue reading "Burying Yassin's Ghost"


Thursday, April 8 2004

More misrepresentation of key surveys

In yesterday's HonestReporting communique, we mentioned the distortion of the survey results from the EU's Manifestations of Antisemitism in the EU 2002-2003, which was done to downplay the Muslim perpetrators of most European Antisemitism.

Daniel Pipes has found a similarly egregious case of survey sponsors distorting results, and again with the subject matter being Islamic radicalism. This time, it's Muslim opinions in the United States, and the media played right along with the distortion. Read Pipes' short article here.


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