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Media Backspin
« April 2004 | Main | June 2004 »

Monday, May 31 2004

The Same Old Song

tobinJonathon Tobin of Philadelphia's Jewish Exponent notes that the moment the US started running into trouble in Iraq, the Jewish members of Bush's inner circle became scapegoats:

It is a rule of thumb that has been tried and tested many times over the last 2,000 years. When things go bad, blame the Jews. So it can hardly be termed a surprise that the problems that have arisen for the United States in Iraq have led some of the conflict’s fiercest critics to trot out the same bag of tired tricks. When in doubt, they always turn to the familiar refrain of thinly and not-so-thinly veiled canards directed at Israel and the Jews.

Some recent examples: BusinessWeek, Sen. Fritz Hollings (it's Perle, Wolfowitz and Krauthammer's fault -- Bush hoped that "spreading democracy in the Mideast to secure Israel would take the Jewish vote from the Democrats"), and Gen. Anthony Zinni on 60 Minutes. Then there are those who claim the lack of Israeli concessions to Palestinians doomed the Iraq mission: Anthony Cordesman in the Baltimore Sun ("the United States must abandon the surrealist illusions of those neoconservatives who have done so much to undermine U.S. interests") and Zinni as quoted by the NY Times Nicholas Kristoff, in Kristoff's recent anti-Sharon screed.

Haaretz also addresses this issue today:

...certain members of the U.S. Jewish community are beginning to feel a little uncomfortable.

"The fact is that this claim is out there," says the national director of the Anti-Defamation League, Abraham Foxman, on the charge that the Jews and supporters of Israel were the ones who pushed the U.S. into the war. "We were pointed out at the beginning, and it's easier to blame us when things go bad," he adds.

Here's what Foxman means by 'pointed out at the beginning' of the war.

UPDATE Via Judith Weiss: It's happening in Greece, too.

BBC's Mideast policeman


While the Israeli foreign ministry is again furious with the BBC,Haaretz has an article on Malcolm Balen, the BBC's ombudsmen for Mideast matters. Good background on the groundswell of complaints that brought the Beeb to appoint Balen, and a definition of Balen's role:

"I am not here as an extra layer of editorial supervision on a minute by minute, day-to-day basis. What I do is a long-term editorial review, and by definition, the review is retrospective, rather than a look at day-to-day output. The truth is, in any editorial job, you are so tied up with your program and deadline, that you simply do not have the time to stand back and look at the coverage as a whole," says Balen.

"Nobody has the time in a journalistic job to trace the course of a single story in an organization as large as the BBC, which is what I was appointed to do. I can concentrate on a single story and look at all sorts of angles and aspects. I can join the dots together, [determine] what the coverage feels like, what the tone is like - crucially, what the content is like, what the balance is like."

Continue reading "BBC's Mideast policeman"

MSNBC photo flop

MSNBC decided this photo should dominate the entire lead section of an an article that has absolutely nothing to do with last week's Gaza incursion:

A Palestinian man carried his mattresses away from a house destroyed Thursday by Israeli forces in the Brazil neighborhood in the Rafah refugee camp. Khalil Hamra / AP

News photos accompanying articles should illustrate something central to the story. Why did the MSNBC editor choose this image -- from last week -- for a wire report that is entirely about Israeli cabinet debate?!

Comments to:

[Here's a screen-capture of the MSNBC page.]

Okrent: Institutional reporting failures

okrentIn a column reviewing the NY Times' faulty coverage of WMDs in Iraq, Times' Public Editor Daniel Okrent outlines a number of 'institutional' problems that plague news reporting:

* The Hunger for Scoops
* Front Page Syndrome
* Hit-and-run Journalism
* Coddling Sources
* End-run Editing

While all five of these problems exist also in reporting on Israel, Okrent's 'Coddling Sources' seems most clearly relevant:

There is nothing more toxic to responsible journalism than an anonymous source. There is often nothing more necessary, too; crucial stories might never see print if a name had to be attached to every piece of information. But a newspaper has an obligation to convince readers why it believes the sources it does not identify are telling the truth. That automatic editor defense, "We're not confirming what he says, we're just reporting it," may apply to the statements of people speaking on the record. For anonymous sources, it's worse than no defense. It's a license granted to liars.

The contract between a reporter and an unnamed source - the offer of information in return for anonymity - is properly a binding one. But I believe that a source who turns out to have lied has breached that contract, and can fairly be exposed.

Indeed. So why is Saeb Erekat, a named source who turned out to be baldly lying about Jenin, still considered a reputable spokesman by news outlets? Why were unnamed Palestinian sources granted broad legitimacy regarding the supposed Gaza 'massacre' on May 19 (which turned out to be nothing of the sort)? And when was the last time an unnamed Palestinian source who 'breached the contract' of truth was exposed for this in follow-up stories?

Analyst Joshua Muravchik makes a similar point in his book, Covering the Intifada: How the Media Reported the Palestinian Uprising:

Journalists seem to follow a canon that says when two sides are fighting, it is their obligation to report equally and with equal credence what is said by each. But the quality of the information provided by the two sides in this conflict is highly asymmetrical. By this I mean simply that the Palestinians repeatedly lie. It starts with Arafat and goes down to his many deputies. It seems even to interviews, such as the Jenin resident who claimed [falsely] to have watched Israel bury ten bodies under a building.

Given this, media objectivity cannot be achieved in this conflict by simply quoting Palestinian officials or local 'eyewitnesses,' unchallenged. Okrent would seem to agree.


Sunday, May 30 2004

Foreign Ministry vs. BBC, round 2

As the BBC plans to air a new Vanunu interview tonight, the Israeli Foreign Ministry lashes out again against the Beeb:

Foreign Ministry officials charge that the BBC is a "communications organization whose goal is to undermine the legitimacy of the state of Israel. It promotes hostile coverage of Israel... and the Vanunu affair proves that the BBC is a communications entity which shows complete disregard for journalistic standards and ethics. Their journalistic culture can be compared to that of media outlets in Arab states, or in the Palestinian Authority."

One Foreign Ministry source said the ministry will now reevaluate Israel's relations with the BBC. For five months, leading up to November 2003, Israel boycotted the BBC.

The Foreign Ministry is furious about what it regards as the BBC's shirking of responsibility for an interview with former nuclear technician Mordechai Vanunu, who was convicted of treason and recently released from prison. An exclusive interview with Vanunu is to be broadcast by the BBC this evening (and there was a report about the interview this morning in The Sunday Times).

"The BBC baldly lied to us after Vanunu's release," says the ministry official. "It lied when it denied having any connection with the apartment which was about to be rented for him in Jaffa. [Journalist Peter] Hounam worked for the BBC, and they are simply lying on this matter."


Friday, May 28 2004

Worth reading today

* The Independent has an interview with an Al Aqsa Brigades leader who openly admits Yassir Arafat's involvement in his group's terrorism:

While on the subject of the PLO chairman, what about his periodic condemnations of murders carried out by Palestinian militants? "It's a tactic," says Zubeidi. About this at least, he and the Israelis, who hold Arafat's Fatah directly responsible for financing the Brigades, appear to agree.

Also, the Independent apparently agrees with Hamas et al that Israeli settlers shouldn't be considered civilians:

"He declines to discuss how many Israeli deaths he has been personally responsible for since then, or the details of the many operations the faction has conducted from Jenin against civilians, soldiers and settlers"

(Hat tip: Alvin D.)

* (Via YNet) Report: Iran Establishes Suicide Bomber Unit to Strike Israel

Iranian intelligence has established a unit charged with recruiting suicide bombers to be sent to Israel, Iraq, and Lebanon, the London-based Arab newspaper Al-Sharq Al-Awsat reported Friday. The newspaper received a video cassette of the speech of a senior Iranian intelligence official speaking to students at al-Hussein University, where Revolutionary Guards are trained. In it, he warns that Iran has the capability to strike the U.S. and other Western countries: "We've looked at 29 sensitive sites in the West and we know how to hit them."

* Missile Defense for El Al Fleet

Next month, El Al will begin equipping all of its planes with an anti-missile system called "Flight Guard" - the first airline in the world to use such a system. Within seconds of a missile being detected, an onboard computer releases flares, fired at different angles to act as a diversion. The system is completely automated because a missile attack could happen before the pilots could react.

* Moshe Arens on The Gaza Paradox

* 'Arabs, too, are losing patience with Arafat' - via IHT

* Washington Times editorial on 'Gaza's Future'

By launching a robust military campaign to destroy weapons-smuggling tunnels along the border separating Gaza and Egypt, Sharon seeks to prevent a situation in which Israel is perceived as being weak. But the most critical reason for the campaign (which is likely to be repeated in the months ahead, whether settlements remain in Gaza or not) is to deny the terrorists the ability to smuggle long-range weapons into Gaza for use against nearby Israeli cities.

Israel's failure to do that before withdrawing from Lebanon has resulted in Hizballah being able to deploy missiles capable of reaching Haifa, an area where much of Israel's industrial capacity is located. Sharon is understandably determined to prevent Hizballah and its friends from doing this in the south.


Thursday, May 27 2004

Terrorists' use of UN ambulances

unambulancePeter Hansen of the UNWRA asked today for an apology from Israeli Defence Minister Mofaz for what Hansen called "damaging and baseless allegations" that Palestinians used UN-supplied ambulances to spirit away Israeli soldiers' body parts two weeks ago.

Well, this intelligence site says

Reuters has a video cassette of pictures taken during the Israeli army operation in the Zeitun quarter of Gaza City on May 11, 2004. It shows armed Palestinians using UNRWA ambulances to transport terrorists and possibly also remains of fallen Israeli soldiers.

How about making that video public, Reuters? [UPDATE: Here it is, thanks to Access Middle East]

Also, Israel's Channel 10 aired pictures of armed Palestinians using UNRWA ambulances to flee undercover (see the damning still shot above).

And Haaretz reports:

Israeli police have uncovered a network that smuggled PA officers, including members of Arafat's elite Force 17 personal protection unit, into Israel in fake ambulances, and may also have smuggled terrorists into Israel using the same method. Police recently arrested an Arab with Israeli citizenship suspected of posing as an ambulance driver and illegally bringing into Israel dozens of Palestinians disguised as sick patients. The "patients" were hooked up to medical devices inside the ambulances and presented forged documents at Israeli checkpoints. Police recently raided a warehouse near Jerusalem in which commercial vehicles were transformed into ambulances.

For more background on Palestinians' use of ambulances for terror, see this and this from the Foreign Ministry.

UPDATE: Police Seize 2 Fake Palestinian Ambulances

Perils of US micromanagement

In Maariv (Hebrew ed.) on Tuesday:

Prior to becoming Head of Central Command at the end of 2002, Gen. Moshe Kaplinsky served as military secretary to Prime Minister Sharon.

During a meeting with an American delegation, the U.S. requested the removal of an IDF checkpoint and, despite its concerns, the prime minister's office agreed.

A few hours later a suicide bomber passed through the abandoned checkpoint and committed an attack that resulted in many casualties.

At the next meeting with the Americans, Uri Shani, then the prime minister's bureau chief, and Kaplinsky explained how the attack happened.

Kaplinsky was asked, "Are you accusing us here of responsibility for this attack in which people were killed?"

Kaplinsky pounded on the table and said: "Yes. That's exactly what I'm accusing you of."

Bloggers - force for change

Good article in Online Journalism Review on the impact of blog critics such as BackSpin upon big media. Reporter Mark Glaser reviews a number of recent cases of blogs successfully critiquing major newspapers, and Jay Rosen tries to put it in perspective:

"What's clear from these cases is that news organizations will have to interact with bloggers who have hold of something newsy," he said. "And there's no doubt bloggers can break stories and will do more of that in the future ... The larger effects may be on bloggers' credibility among journalists."
NY Times: slanted coverage of WMDs

The New York Times issued a mea culpa on questionable reporting from Iraq -- specifically, articles from over a year ago that played up 'Saddam had WMD' sources. The Times editorial admits the paper "was not as rigorous as it should have been" and that "we wish we had been more aggressive in re-examining the claims as new evidence emerged -- or failed to emerge."

[See commentary on this from WashPost, Editor and Publisher.]

We certainly hope the Times will apply the same standards to its coverage of the Israel/Palestinian conflict -- specifically, to Palestinian sources who regularly take foreign correspondents to the cleaners. The Times' Jerusalem bureau chief James Bennet should have some input on this one.

The silent majority?

Mexican-American Jew Daniel Lubetzky and Palestinian Mohammad Darawshe from Nazareth conducted a massive survey of 23,000 Palestinians and 17,000 Israelis, and found that that seventy-six percent of both populations favour a two-state settlement, liberal democracy, minority rights, and mutual recognition:

Lubetzky and Darawshe admitted to frustration over a lack of media attention to their project. "Good news doesn't sell," Lubetzky said. "We do not produce blood, therefore it is not so exciting."

Continue reading "The silent majority?"

Arabs for Israel

Here's a unique new site that came to our attention: Arabs for Israel

From 'Who are we?':

* We can support the State of Israel and the Jewish religion and still treasure our Arab and Islamic culture.

* The existence of the State of Israel is a fact that should be accepted by the Arab world.

* Israel is a legitimate state that is not a threat but an asset in the Middle East.

Imagine that! Now let's hope this site/organization becomes 1/10th as vocal as Israeli peace groups.

British journalist Hounam arrested

Peter HounamVia Maariv:

Sunday Times reporter Peter Hounam has been detained this evening (Wednesday) in Jerusalem and taken in for questioning, apparently on suspicion of committing security offences.

Following his arrest, Hounam was brought to the Jerusalem Magistrate's Court and interrogated in the presence of a General Security Service (GSS) representative. Subsequently, he was taken for questioning at a GSS facility in the capital.

Hounam was the journalist who first exposed the Vanunu nuclear espionage affair in the British media. Upon Vanunu's recent release from prison, after serving an 18-year sentence for treason, Hounam arrived in Israel and leased a luxury apartment in Jaffa for the nuclear spy, on behalf of the BBC network.

Meanwhile, a publication ban has been issued by the court on the offences attributed to Hounam.

So we don't know yet what they have on Hounam... Here's our post on the BBC's Jaffa apartment for Vanunu, a report the Beeb vehemently denied.

Haaretz adds:

Among others, Hounam was banned from meeting Vanunu, who has been living in a church in East Jerusalem since his release.

So it could be that Hounam broke this ban while working on his film documentary of Vanunu's release, and the GSS ('Shabak') wants to know what Vanunu told him - JPost thinks so:

Hounam was reportedly questioned by Shin Bet officials concerning a television interview he did with Vanunu shortly after his release last month. The interview was for several hours, sources said.

According to sources, Hounam, a British citizen, was trying to smuggle the videotapes of the interview out of the country, thus bypassing the military censor.

Stay tuned...


Tuesday, May 25 2004

IDF briefing on Rafah


The following is a summary of the briefing held today by the GOC southern command, Maj. Gen. Dan Harel, regarding the operation in Rafah.

On Wednesday, May 12, 2004, an IDF force traveling along the Israeli- Egyptian border came under heavy gunfire and anti tank missiles launched from Rafah.

An APC carrying IDF soldiers exploded and as a result five soldiers were killed.

During the two days after this incident, rescue teams were operating in the area of the incident in order to locate the bodies' remains and to bring their friends for appropriate burial. During the whole operation the forces were under heavy fire from inside the houses. As a result of these guns fire, which came from 60-70 meters from the border and didn't stop for a single moment, another two IDF soldiers were killed.

Continue reading "IDF briefing on Rafah"

Media buying Palestinian lies

IDF Chief of Staff Moshe Yaalon says what HonestReporting indicated twice during the past week: the world media bought into Palestinian lies during the operation in Gaza:

Responding to criticism from abroad and from within Israel about the IDF's humanitarian record in the Gaza Strip during Operation Rainbow, chief of staff Lt.-Gen. Moshe Ya'alon told ynet Monday that the army had taken into account the need to deal with humanitarian issues.

"Our problem is not with the situation at hand," Ya'alon continued, "but with the lies that are being disseminated by Palesitnians and organizations like UNWRA that tell about homeless people that left 1650 homes."

"Of course, when an operation like this takes place, people are going to abandon their homes. But we did not destroy 1650 home in this operation. The last number I received was 12."

"The houses they show on TV are ruins that accumulated over 3 years. Where were the reporters all that time," Ya'alon asked. "Houses have been destroyed, but this was not our choice. I can't help it that they use houses to dig tunnels from, to shoot at troops from. These houses will be destroyed."

See also this from Haaretz about how Israel struggles in the media war.


Monday, May 24 2004

Berkeley Intifada

The East Bay Express has a long article on speech and hatred at UC Berkeley, which was once a great center of openness. Excerpt:

As campus police assembled at the entrance to the hall and prepared to open its doors, a kaffiyeh-clad protester hoisted a placard that read: "What is going on in Palestine today cannot be justified by any moral code of conduct." The quote was attributed to Mahatma "Ghandi" in 1938, albeit a decade before there was an Israel. A silver-haired man, older than most in the crowd, burst out of the line to confront him.

"Do you know what it's like to be on a bus, and to see that bus blow up and see heads roll down the street?" the older man shouted, arms wild at his sides. "I've seen it -- in Israel."

The sign-bearer stood firm. "Well, they should have been killed," he yelled, his voice rising. "They should have been killed! They should have been killed because it wasn't their land! They should have been killed and it should have been more."

"You don't know history," the older man yelled. "You don't know anything."

The protester gave as good as he got: "You can leave. Get your ass out of here and back to Israel."

Thoughts on this from David Bernstein:

One thing I've noticed is that the Muslim/Palestinian/Campus Left (an odd alliance, to say the least) has managed to make the words "Zionism" and "Zionist" into epithets, so much so that people don't even know what the word means, they just know it's something bad. More than once I've seen Jewish students quoted as saying things like "I support Israel's right to exist with secure borders as a Jewish state, but I'm not a Zionist."

So let's get things straight: Zionism is the term that describes the movement for a Jewish state in the "Land of Israel"--the area that was once a sovereign Jewish state, but over almost two millenia had been controlled by various other nationalities, including Europeans (Great Britain and also briefly and in part during the Crusades), Mamluks, Romans, Arabs, and Turks. Zionists are those who believe in Zionism.

Nowadays, to say one is a Zionist means nothing more than that one supports the right of Israel to exist as a Jewish state. One could be a liberal Zionist, who wants Israel to withdraw from the territories and achieve full equality for its Arab citizens, or one can be an illiberal Zionist, and support a vision of "Greater Israel" with a suppressed Arab minority. One can be a secular Zionist, or a religious Zionist. There are Christian Zionists, and even a few Muslim Zionists.

Both full texts are worthwhile.

We've arrived

LGF's Charles Johnson says 'You haven’t arrived until you have your very own stalker moonbat with a blog, issuing semi-literate "criticisms."'

So HonestReporting has apparently arrived.


Sunday, May 23 2004

History of Rafiah

Good historical background on the whole Rafiah mess from analyst Elliot Chodoff. (Sign up here for Chodoff's and Yisrael Neeman's free email newsletter.):

Rafiah Tunnel Vision

By Elliot Chodoff

The vehemence of the worldwide condemnation of Israel for the IDF operation into Rafiah this week surprised even some veteran Israeli commentators. The UN Security Council resolution, the US abstention, President Bush’s statement that the operation did not serve Israel’s security interests, along with condemnations from European and other world leaders, fueled a media-led debate over the wisdom of the scope of Operation Rainbow, as the Rafiah incursion has been dubbed by the IDF.

Continue reading "History of Rafiah"

What would we do without experts?

Dave Copeland, a columnist at the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, pulls back the curtain on journalists' use of 'experts' in news reports. James Taranto, are you listening?

Because most in-the-trench reporters aren't allowed to think for themselves, they rely on "experts" who can state their pre-determined opinion for them (don't buy into all this objectivity crap; fairness is the only ideal any human can be held accountable for, and that's difficult enough as it is).

Where do they find these experts? They go to ProfNet where they can connect with flaks who will earn their salary by getting their client mentioned on TV or in print. As a service to readers of, I'm starting a new feature where I'll be posting actual ProfNet queries from actual journalists. This is your chance to read the news before it's news!

PA funnelling weapons

Another IDF statement you probably won't see in your local paper today:

Palestinian Authority police are transferring weapons to terrorist organizations in the Gaza Strip to assist in their fight against the Israeli army, according to a senior official quoted on Army Radio Sunday.

tunnelsSee also these IDF presentations (.pdf) on the chief reason for the IDF Gaza mission, the Rafah smuggling tunnels: Weapons Smuggling through the Rafah Tunnels (1.3 megs), and Rafah: A Weapons Factory and Gateway (1.3 megs)

PA vs. James Bennet

NY Times reporter James Bennet makes his living presenting Israeli vs. Palestinian claims on the truth. Now everyone will have to weigh Bennet's vs. the Palestinians' account of what happened to him outside a Gaza hospital on Thursday:

Palestinian Authority officials and journalists denied over the weekend that Palestinians in Rafah had tried to kidnap New York Times correspondent James Bennet.

Bennet said he was talking on a cell phone at about 9:30 p.m. on Wednesday night when a stranger approached him, smiled, offered a handshake and said, "Welcome." The stranger then grabbed Bennet's hand, while another man tried to force him into a Mercedes Benz that appeared at the curb. The men did not appear to be armed, he said.

Bennet said he tried to fight off the assailants and screamed for help. PA policemen stationed at the hospital arrived almost immediately and attempted to pull him away from the abductors. "It turned into a big scrum," he said. The assailants got into the car and fled. Bennet said his shirt was ripped, but that he was not hurt...

Zakariya Talmas, a senior member of the Palestinian Journalists' Syndicate in the Gaza Strip, described Bennet's claim as "baseless." He said that the syndicate looked into the case and discovered that there had been no attempt to kidnap the journalist. The gunmen only wanted to check his identity, Talmas added.

As you always insisted, Mr. Bennet, there are two sides to every story. 'One man's kidnapper is another man's ID-checker'?

This episode should serve as an object lesson to foreign correspondents, who routinely quote dubious Palestinian sources to 'balance out' their reports. It will be interesting to see if Mr. Bennet, in future stories, grants legitimacy to the very PA figures who are now telling him his own harrowing ordeal was 'baseless.'

Another Jenin

This weekend confirmed that Palestinian propaganda efforts have succeeded in turning the ongoing IDF operation in southern Gaza into another version of the infamous 'Jenin massacre' lie of 2002, which was characterized by manipulation of photos, statistics, sources of fire and identity of the dead. Consider:

* House demolitions: The IDF says that since the beginning of Operation Rainbow, a total of five houses have been demolished, all structures used by terrorists to shoot at troops or detonate bombs. So what about those pictures? IDF spokesman Brig.-Gen. Shmuel Zakai:

almost all of the footage broadcast by the Palestinians to the world were of houses demolished during the past three and a half years, and not recently.

"They recycled old footage in order to generate international pressure in an attempt to prevent the operation from taking place or minimize it as much as possible," said Zakai.

Case in point: '1,100 Palestinian Gaza Homes Destroyed in 10 Days' Did the UNRWA once again get taken for a ride by the Palestinian propagandists? Let's see:

Municipal officials said at least 43 homes were demolished and dozens more damaged in the camp this week. The army said five houses were destroyed after they were used as cover by militants to attack troops.

Where in the world did the UN get the 1,100 figure from, if even the Palestinian officials claim only 43 homes destroyed?! And in terms of numbers of people made homeless, how do 43 homes translate into 1650 homeless (UN claims)? That's 38 people per home!

* Death of 3-year old girl on Saturday:

"The Palestinians lodged a complaint with the district liaison office, but to our knowledge and according to initial findings no soldiers shot in the vicinity where the girl was located," a military official said.

But AP reports, 'Child Shot in Gaza As Incursion Continues' -- suggesting IDF culpability.

* No reports on IDF humanitarian efforts in Rafah

Write your own Friedman column!

friedmancaricatureThe New York Observer has the latest Tom Friedman parody:

Write your own Thomas Friedman column!

1. Choose your title to intrigue the reader through its internal conflict:

a. War and Peas
b. Osama, Boulevardier
c. Big Problems, Little Women

2. Include a dateline from a remote location, preferably dangerous, unmistakably Muslim:

a. Mecca, Saudi Arabia
b. Islamabad, Pakistan
c. Mohammedville, Trinidad

Read the whole thing. For those who appreciate this, here's another good Friedman parody. For those who don't, here's a glowing profile of Mr. Friedman from Slate.

Meanwhile, Friedman today asks where all those suicide bombers in Iraq came from:

I don't buy it myself, but one can plausibly argue that 37 years of Israeli occupation of the West Bank have made Palestinians so crazy that scores of them would have volunteered for suicide bombing missions over the last few years.

He doesn't 'buy it', but he rents the canard long enough to spread it in his broadly-read column. More:

Whoever "they" are, they seem to be getting more and more sophisticated. What's worse is that these people are utter nihilists. At least Hamas has a stated political goal of ridding Palestine of all Jews and setting up an Islamic state there. It even offers social services. The people running the suicide operations in Iraq, whether they are working independently or are just one organization, don't even claim credit, let alone make any demands. They just want to ensure that America fails to produce anything decent in Iraq and they are ready to sacrifice all Iraqis for that end.

So Hamas is 'understandable' because they are genocidal, but the Iraqi terrorists (who so far are only targeting US troops and their Iraqi appointees - not civilians) defy Friedman's understanding. The cognitive dissonance is mind-numbing.

BBC tunnel-searching report

intunnelThe BBC has provided a service to the public (!) with this photo-report on IDF forces searching for weapons-smuggling tunnels in Gaza:

In pictures - searching for Gaza's tunnels

The soldier pictured in #5, #8, and #9, Captain Aviv Hakani, was killed on 12 May in the line of duty.

Important posts at LGF

gazatunnel* Why Israel is in Gaza

* Syrian sermons in English

* Media not interested in truth


Saturday, May 22 2004

IDF humanitarian care in Rafah

Released today by the IDF to the press, but unlikely to hit your local papers:


Humanitarian assistance during the IDF operation in Rafah.

During IDF operation in Rafah which began on May 18, 2004, the IDF enhanced its humanitarian assistance through its district coordination offices. These offices were instructed to assist with all requests put forward by Palestinians in order to ease the situation of the civilian population.

· During the operation 70 ambulances, more than 40 trucks loaded with food, water, medical supplies, mattresses and blankets flowed into the combat zone.

· 490 oxygen tanks were delivered to hospitals in Gaza.

Although the IDF coordination office offered to treat the wounded in Israeli hospitals, the Palestinians declined and only two of the wounded were transported to Israeli hospitals for further medical care.

In spite of the heavy fighting, forces were designated for the opening of safe passages for ambulances in order to evacuate the wounded. In addition, the IDF continues to operate the humanitarian hotline through the DCOs which was opened during the activity and continues to facilitate the requests and grievances put forward by the Palestinians.

Due to intensive fighting and the fact the Palestinians rigged the roads and alleys with explosive devices; heavy damage was inflicted to the civilian infrastructure in the area. The IDF facilitated Palestinian professional teams to attend to the electricity, sewage and water systems.

7 recommended books; 3 book reviews

(Via Tom Gross) The first five books deal with anti-Semitism, the Israeli-Palestinian dispute, and in some cases media coverage. All these books have been published in recent weeks. The other two books are new biographies of Yasser Arafat published last fall.


1. "Those Who Forget the Past: The Question of Anti-Semitism," edited by Ron Rosenbaum (Published today by Random House.) This book includes essays and reportage by Paul Berman, David Brooks, Bernard Lewis, David Mamet, Philip Roth, Amos Oz, Frank Rich, Simon Schama, Marie Brenner, Edward Said, Melanie Philips, Barbara Amiel, and some 35 others.

Continue reading "7 recommended books; 3 book reviews"


Friday, May 21 2004

More Arab prisoner abuse

Another damning report of Arab prisoner abuse:

ARAB prisoners beaten and tortured, innocent bystanders killed by gunfire - another damning human rights report.

But the difference this time is that the violence is being perpetrated not by coalition forces in Iraq, but by the Palestinian Authority, and the victims are its own people.

The report, partly funded by the Finnish government, claims Palestinian cities are in a state of near anarchy, with people on the payroll of Yasser Arafat’s Palestinian Authority (PA) blamed for 90 per cent of gangland violence.

It highlights numerous incidents of torture of prisoners and refers to the killing of civilians in gunbattles between Palestinian factions.

It is another blow for Mr Arafat’s organisation, which was recently accused of misusing £134 million of European Union funds. Mr Arafat was accused of signing cheques to people linked with terrorist activity.

Wonder how much play this one will get in the Western media...?


Thursday, May 20 2004

Media role in Iraq war

A former US Army officer comments on the media's role in emasculating the US effort in Iraq:

The media is often referred to off-handedly as a strategic factor. But we still don't fully appreciate its fatal power. Conditioned by the relative objectivity and ultimate respect for facts of the U.S. media, we fail to understand that, even in Europe, the media has become little more than a tool of propaganda.

Continue reading "Media role in Iraq war"

Forthcoming HR report

An HonestReporting critique of media coverage of yesterday's Rafah disaster, versus coverage of the Iraqi wedding-party incident, is forthcoming.

To receive it in your inbox, just sign up above.

UPDATE: It's now online here.

Palestinians try to kidnap NY Times reporter

This was buried at the very end of a long NY Times report from Jerusalem bureau chief James Bennet:

In a highly unusual incident, at least three Palestinian men attempted to kidnap this reporter here Wednesday night. The reporter, who had identified himself at Al Najar hospital as an American, was speaking on a cellular telephone in the street in front of the hospital when a stranger approached offering a handshake, a smile and the word, "Welcome."

When the reporter took his hand, the stranger and another man grabbed him and attempted to shove him into an aging Mercedes sedan that pulled up, its rear door open. A struggle and cries for help brought Palestinian police officers at the hospital running, and after a further struggle, the men jumped in the car and disappeared.

Anger at Americans has been building here for three years over the Bush administration's perceived tilt toward Israel, the occupation of Iraq and, most recently, images of prisoner abuse in Iraq. An American might also be considered valuable for use in bargaining with Israel.

Why does Bennet immediately try to rationalize his own attempted kidnapping? Reminds us an awful lot of Newsweek's Joshua Hammer, who was also kidnapped in Gaza, then became strangely sympathetic toward his own captors. And Robert Fisk's affection for his Afghani assailants. Detect a pattern?

And wasn't this worthy of alot more attention than it received?! A separate story, at least?

(Hat tip: Josh Harvey)

UPDATE: The Times printed a Reuters column on the incident, which likewise found it necessary to explain that Palestinians are mad at Americans because of US support of Israel.

Media's loss of credibility

An essential post from Instapundit on the 'seismic' loss of credibility among mainstream journalists. Glenn Reynolds:

I think the trend is too bad -- I'd much rather have trusted and trustworthy mainstream journalism than the reverse -- but, frankly, the loss of credibility is well-earned, as pretty much any blog reader knows.

Case in point: Our post yesterday that included the IDF's version of events on the Rafah disaster was linked by Andrew Sullivan. Thousands of new readers poured into BackSpin, receiving the essential information that was missing on their evening news.


Wednesday, May 19 2004

Rafah headline distortions

The IDF has stated that its forces did not fire directly upon Palestinians in Rafah today. Palestinians dispute this. Whose side in this dispute have these ostensibly neutral news outlets adopted, as illustrated by their headlines?

Guardian: 'Israelis Fire on Rafah Protest'

AFP: '10 Palestinians killed as Israeli army fires on protest against bloody raid'

Reuters: 'Israeli Forces Fire on Crowd in Gaza, Killing 10'

BBC: 'Israelis Fire on Crowds in Gaza'

MSNBC: 'Israelis Fire on Protestors; 10 Reported Dead'

Washington Post: 'Israeli Attack on Gaza Protest Kills at Least 12'

Independent: 'Eight Killed as Israel Fires on Rafah Crowd'

Australian Broadcasting Network: 'Israelis Fire on Crowds in Gaza' (ABC headline to wire service story)

Photo and IDF statement on Gaza incident

With media reports downplaying the Israeli army's version of today's Gaza incident, here's some balance...

gazadisasterThis is the IDF statement to the press, and an aerial photograph of the scene of today's event, which caused the death of at least 9 Palestinians (click on picture for much larger version):


Today's incident in Rafah is a very grave incident and the IDF expresses deep sorrow over the loss of civilian lives.

At no point in this incident was intentional fire opened in the direction of civilians.

A large procession of several hundreds demonstrators, among them gunmen, organized by the Palestinian Authority, left central Rafah along the main road towards IDF forces in Tel-Sultan.

As the crowd, with the gunmen among them, drew near IDF forces, a warning fire of a single missile was fired from a helicopter into an open area, not towards the demonstrators.

In addition, flares were fired in the air to deter the crowd and to prevent endangering the demonstrators. As this did not deter the crowd and they continued to converge on the troops, machine gun fire was opened towards a wall of an abandoned structure along the side of the road and then four tank shells were fired at this abandoned structure.

It is possible that the causalities were a result of the tank fire on the abandoned structure. The details of the incident continue to be investigated.

It should be mentioned that the scene of the incident is an area of combat and an area of frequent exchanges of fire. The road has been rigged with explosive charges planted by the Palestinians. The IDF has not yet cleared the road of these explosives.

At this stage it is difficult to determine the cause of the civilian casualties. The incident is being investigated thoroughly at this time.

The IDF has approached the Palestinians and offered medical assistance, including the evacuation of the casualties to Israeli hospitals.

Arafat's official website

MEMRI brings our attention to the official website of Prisedent [sic] Yassir Arafat, complete with pictures and a historical profile.

Our favorite section is a page on Arafat's 'daily chores':

"Daily Working Hours: Colleagues of Mr. President say that he finds utter pleasure in pursuing all his people's issues all day long and part of the night, in normal days. Hardly can he find time for his family and comfort.

Continue reading "Arafat's official website"

Maariv catches CNN

Maariv International took on the role of media monitor last night ,catching CNN when they suggested -- in flashing red letters -- that over 10,000 Palestinians have been made homeless in the past few days. CNN adjusted their report later on, and by 9PM were accurately quoting UN figures:

During the 9 pm (Israel time ) news broadcast, they reported that 13,000 Palestinians had lost their homes as a result of military activities since the outbreak of the Intifada in September 2000.

Tuesday, May 18 2004

WashPo misreads Sharon plan

Today's Washington Post staff editorial begins:

A month after promising President Bush that Israel would withdraw all of its troops and settlers from the Gaza Strip, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon is overseeing the largest military operation there in years -- yet another of the unpleasant surprises he has delivered to the administration as it struggles with a major crisis in Iraq.

In fact, Sharon never planned, nor promised Bush, a full withdrawal of 'all Israeli troops and settlers from the Gaza Strip.' Sharon's official disengagement plan, delivered to Mr. Bush, explicitly states that

Israel will withdraw from the Gaza Strip, including all the existing Israeli settlements, and will redeploy in territory outside of the Strip. The withdrawal excludes a military presence in the area along the border area between the Gaza Strip and Egypt called 'The Philadelphia Corridor' as will be detailed later.

So the area where the most intense fighting is occurring right now -- Rafah and the Philadelphia corridor -- was never part of the Sharon pullout plan.

Washington Post editors, like many journalists recently, are confusing two separate matters: (1) the possibility of abandoning Gaza settlements, and (2) military action against Gazan terrorists. The first is a matter of public debate in Israel, but the great majority of those who support removing the settlements still recognize the ongoing need to fight Hamas et al in Gaza, and prevent the importing of terrorist weaponry from Egypt.

Comments to:

WashPo columnist Richard Cohen makes the same mistake today:

Most Israelis -- maybe as much as 70 percent, the polls tell us -- favor a pullout. Yet their sons die for another moment or two in a place no one but the most zealous of settlers wants. It's tragic. It's criminal.

Comments to:

Scale of values

The IDF commander in charge of Gaza forces, Col. Eyal Eisenberg, shares this piece of information that did not make it into your local paper:

I haven’t told this to anyone but in the midst of this operation, we assisted a baby being born and evacuated an elderly woman who was injured and summoned a local ambulance for her. Terrorists ran and fired from behind the ambulance. Therefore, I do not want to make any comparison between our scale of values and theirs.

If my soldiers can assist a Palestinian woman giving birth when six of their comrades have been blown to bits in the street but, at the same time, they fire at us from behind an ambulance, you must understand that we [and the Palestinians] are at opposite ends of the scales of values.


Monday, May 17 2004

Pack journalism award

...goes today to Reuters, the BBC, the Globe&Mail, and The Scotsman, who all used the exact same quote from the Rafah home of one Abaed al-Majid Abu Shamala:

"I don't know what to take. I will start with clothes or the refrigerator or the television," said Abed al-Majid Abu Shamala, 52, preparing to leave a four-storey building.

Hmmm....did all four journalists just happen to be there at the moment Shamala said this, or was there a little dramatic quote-sharing going on?

Security fence, diligence are working

Josh Harvey has a important chart showing how Israel's security fence, coupled with aggressive anti-terror measures and increased diligence, have thwarted the great majority of attempted terrorist attacks for the past two years.


Sunday, May 16 2004

CBC 'addressing anti-Israel bias'

Toronto Star has a followup on the CBC's apology for a highly biased Neil Macdonald report, critiqued by HonestReporting:

CBC News is re-working its practices to avoid any future journalistic "mistakes" that may give its audiences the impression it has an "anti-Israel bias."

The changes stem from a report by Washington correspondent — and former Middle East bureau chief — Neil Macdonald on the May 4 edition of The National.

The report provoked criticism from CBC watchdog groups, as well as organizations that monitor the media for what they deem to be an anti-Israel bias.

"Viewers have every right to expect more from The National and CBC News," said editor-in-chief Tony Burman in a statement yesterday. "More care should have been taken on this story, and — as of this week — we have modified our editorial processes and procedures to ensure that this situation is never repeated."

A positive step. But the CBC will not discipline Macdonald.

Friedman: Settlers = Shiite butchers

NY Times' Tom Friedman today:

Question: What do the Shiite extremist leader Moktada al-Sadr and his Mahdi Army have in common with the extremist Jewish settlers in Israel? Answer: More than you'd think. Both movements combine religious messianism, and a willingness to sacrifice their followers and others for absolutist visions, along with a certain disdain for man-made laws, as opposed to those from God. The big question in both Iraq and Israel today is also similar: Will the silent majorities in both countries finally turn against these extremist minorities to save their future?

Friedman has long drawn outrageous comparisons between Israeli settlers and Palestinian terrorists, but he breaks new ground by bringing American victims into his twisted equation.

Al-Sadr leads an armed movement attempting to drive Americans from Iraq by killing as many US soldiers as possible; the settler community has never been characterized by violence (let alone 'sacrificing themselves'), large sections of that community are not following a messianic vision, and even the messianists have demonstrated a willingness to succomb to the Israeli majority should it come to that.

Friedman goes on to quote a highly disingenuous column by Haaretz's Ari Shavit:

The young guys of Givati [an Israeli army unit] who were blown up with their armored personnel carrier on Tuesday in Gaza differ from all of their comrades who have been killed there since September 2000. They differ, because they are no longer the victims of extremist Islam. They are no longer the victims of Arafat's insanity. They are the victims of the settlement enterprise.

Whatever one's opinion on the 'settlement enterprise', last week's deaths cannot possibly be attributed to it. Even under Sharon's disengagement plan, the IDF would still act against terrorist cells in Gaza -- the sort of missions that both groups of fallen soldiers from last week were taking part in.

Comments to:

Admitting press errors

The UK's Mirror published this front page after it became clear they had published fake photos of prisoner abuse in Iraq:

Our question is, where was this front page after the monumental Jenin 'massacre' hoax of 2002, which took in the entire British press??

AP apologizes for Arafat

Yassir Arafat made this statement to Palestinians on national TV Saturday:

"Find what strength you have to terrorize your enemy and the enemy of God."

The Associated Press informs readers how to understand Arafat's call to terror:

Arafat, whom Israel accuses of supporting militant groups, did not appear to be calling for new attacks on Israel. The passage in the Quran refers to the early Muslims' wars against pagans and is frequently invoked by Islamic leaders today to encourage strength in times of conflict.

'To encourage strength' via 'terrorizing your enemy'? Yes, that has indeed been the modus operandi of Islamic leaders. But AP would have readers believe the 'terrorize' part was just some kind of detached, metaphorical rhetoric. What context is this reporter living in?! Is this PA apologist Saeb Arekat speaking, or an Associated Press reporter?!

Interesting how AP feels compelled to bring historical context into its reporting only when it's necessary to soften up a clear Islamist call for murder.

Comments to:

UPDATE: CBS had the same line.

A missing colon

On Friday the IDF found Palestinians using a United Nations ambulance to hide away the body parts of fallen IDF soldiers. Check out the Reuters headline:

Israel Gunmen Used UN Ambulances to Carry Remains

An accurate colon after 'Israel' would have made all the difference...

Comments to:

(Hat tip: Michael D.)


Friday, May 14 2004

New NYT Jerusalem bureau chief

From NY Post:

Steven Erlanger is out as cultural czar at the New York Times, and is being reassigned as Jerusalem bureau chief. Jonathan Landman, one of the few heroes in the Jayson Blair scandal, was made cultural news editor in his place.

Continue reading "New NYT Jerusalem bureau chief"


Thursday, May 13 2004

CBC Watch

Canada's National Post has started a column called 'CBC Watch'. This inaugural edition critiques the Neil Macdonald segment that we ran a communique on earlier this week. In it, Macdonald lent a prominent voice to a Israeli-conspiracy nut by the name of Eugene Bird:

Mr. Bird's implication -- that Israeli agents are secretly controlling American intelligence gathering operations in Iraq -- is fantasy, of course. But as Mr. MacDonald has shown in the past, he is receptive to such theories. In 2002, recall, he speculated on-air about whether Hezbollah -- recognized in Canada and other civilized nations as a terrorist group -- was not a "national liberation movement" unfairly smeared by Israel's supporters. And last summer, in a report from Washington, he opined that America's Jews, religious Christians and neo-conservatives -- Mr. Bush's "natural constituency" -- "detest" the peace process; as opposed to the U.S. Arab lobby, which, he told viewers, supports peace "unconditionally."...

When Mr. MacDonald was posted in the Middle East, the CBC was rightly criticized for the anti-Israeli tone of his reporting. When he was transferred to Washington last year, it was expected he would no longer have an outlet for this overt bias. But Mr. MacDonald seems intent on smearing Israel wherever he is stationed. If CBC executives are interested in providing Canadians with balanced news, they should seriously consider whether this is a reporter they want on their staff.

Worth reading today

* Profiles of the five fallen Israeli soldiers from yesterday.

* Zev Schiff asks if the two Gaza attacks that claimed 11 IDF lives were 'random incidents, or an operational flaw?'

* Erick Stakelbeck says the Nick Berg murder had 'nothing to do with Abu Ghraib, and everything to do with the barbaric, pathologically anti-Western nature of militant Islam.':

As more lurid details and photographs emerge revealing the treatment of Iraqi prisoners, the words "Abu Ghraib" will no doubt become the latest bogus excuse for Islamic terrorists to carry out attacks against non-Muslims, following previous favorites like the Jenin "massacre," the U.S. invasions of Afghanistan, and Iraq and the always-reliable Spanish reconquista of Al-Andalus.

* The UNRWA has asked Palestinians to stop using ambulances to ferry terrorists and weapons. According to the Jerusalem Post, an ambulance crew was forced to drive a wounded gunman to a Gaza hospital along with two of his armed colleagues.

* Angela Bertz asks Kofi Annan and other world diplomats: Where were you after the Hatuel murders?!

Not one of you has, or had, the moral conscience to come out and condemn this horrendous and despicable act. It was carried out by people trained and heavily brainwashed in barbarism. The same people that you think deserve millions of dollars in aid and their own state.

* Beheaded American Nicholas Berg was arrested by Iraqis as a spy 'because of his Jewish name.' More below.

* 'In Arab World, Press Coverage of Beheading Varies Widely' - NY Times

Most newspapers across the Middle East treated the gruesome videotape as front-page news, though generally secondary to stories about the deaths of six Israeli soldiers in the Gaza Strip.

But in Egypt, Al Akhbar, a semiofficial daily, tucked a 10-line news agency report into its inside pages, while another leading daily, Al Ahram, ignored the news altogether.

The Syrian papers also ignored the killing, though President Bush's announcement of sanctions against Damascus received blanket coverage. A Kuwaiti paper, Al Siyassah al Kuwaitia ran a front-page story with a photograph of one of the militants holding up Mr. Berg's head.

* Pepperdine's Bruce Herschensohn says it's a fight for survival -- pull out all the stops:

The only subject worthy of our national attention and the only pursuit that should be acceptable is total victory — no matter if others are offended or even destroyed. I know this kind of thinking is not considered acceptable in 2004. But we better accept it — and quickly.

* The Pentagon is worried the Saudis will treat their multi-billion-dollar purchase of US jets like a Mideast construction project -- halted payments at the whim of the buyer:

"The Saudis have been known to stop paying suppliers in mid-stream because they've changed their minds. Such a prospect appears more likely than ever."
Boston Globe headlines

HonestReporting subscriber Andy S. compares Boston Globe headlines from Tuesday:

Item 1: A militant Islamic website showed footage of a group of hooded Arab terrorists killing an American man they had captured, then holding up his severed head for the camera.

Headline - Boston Globe - May 12, 2004: "American Beheaded in Video"

Item 2: In the Gaza Strip, Palestinian terrorists blew up an armored personnel carrier, killing the six Israeli soldiers inside. They then collected the Israelis' flesh and body parts and ran off. Television footage later showed Palestinians sitting around a table with the severed head of an Israeli soldier in the center of it.

Headline - Boston Globe - May 12, 2004: "Ambush in Gaza City Puts Remains of Israelis At Issue"

Andy adds: Initial results show this could very well get the SECOND PLACE award for Lamest Headline in Journalism History -- after "Jolted by Fatal Bus Blast, Israel Vows to Seize Land" -Boston Globe, June 19, 2002


Wednesday, May 12 2004

New HR communique

We've released a new HonestReporting communique on Cox News' coverage of yesterday's parading of IDF body parts in Gaza: Burying the Distinctions

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