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« December 2004 | Main | February 2005 »

Monday, January 31 2005

Arafat theme park coming soon

The Toronto Star introduces us to Sakher Habash, executive director of the National Committee for Immortalizing the Symbol of the Immortal Leader Yasser Arafat:

The astonishingly fanciful title means he oversees a 50-person committee charged with reinventing the Mukata compound as a kind of Arafat theme park.

What exists today, he says, is just the beginning. Plans are being hatched for a mosque, a library and a national archive on the grounds of this former British police headquarters.

UN money transferred to Hamas front

The NY Sun reports that the UN transferred thousands of dollars to a charity affiliated with Hamas. In September, 2003, the UN Development Program transferred $6,000 to a bank account belonging to Jenin Zaka, which is part of a Hamas network of charities The UNDP then asked Jenin Zaka to return the money—because the money was actually intended for the Tul Karem Charity Committee, which is also affiliated with Hamas. Both were outlawed by Israel, which linked them to the Holy Land Foundation, another Hamas charity shut down by the U.S.

Arab media update

MEMRI TV has a clip from an Iranian show depicting Israelis surgically removing Palestinian children's eyes, while Wandering Jew posts a satirical look at Al-Jazeera's daily offerings.

The NY Times reports that due to US pressure on Qatar, the gulf state is looking to sell Al-Jazeera.

SMS 'Palestine', but not Israel

Verizon Wireless is one of the largest mobile phone providers in the US. If you want to send a text message via Verizon, you go to this page, which lists the countries they serve and access codes.

'Palestine' is listed as a country (though it isn't), and guess which Mideast democracy on the Eastern shore of the Mediterranean is not listed under 'I'?

Here's the page in 'map view', where it's even clearer that 'Palestine' -- including a flag! -- supplanted the State of Israel:


It seems Verizon has an arrangement with 'Palcell', a Palestinian cellular carrier, but none with any of the Israeli carriers. Curious...

UPDATE: Last April, Verizon Wireless responded to customer complaints about this very same issue, but with marketing material for its general international calling. See article from The Jewish Week (req. reg.).

That problem has been solved, but the text messaging material remains as is.

UPDATE, 2/14: Verizon has corrected the page we addressed here.


Sunday, January 30 2005

Bureau chiefs wanted

Journalists seem to be recognizing that it’s too risky to report in today’s war zones. Only two news services (Washington Post and Newsweek) have full time correspondents in Afghanistan. And the Post is trying, without success, to find a Baghdad bureau chief. Peter Jennings, currently in Baghdad, comments on the reluctance:

The anchors, who tend to have extra security, are acutely aware of the conditions. It is "deeply frustrating" for ABC's correspondents in Baghdad "to be trapped in the compound," Jennings says. He says he has heard talk on the street about bounties being offered in Sunni-controlled areas south of the capital: $1,000 for a Shiite, $2,000 for a journalist, $3,000 for a U.S. soldier. "It's very intimidating," he says.

(Hat tip: Romanesko)

Harry Potter killed, buried in Israel

Harrypotter_1Why are Harry Potter fans streaming to a Ramle cemetery in such numbers that the town is adding the site to its official tourist guide?

Corporal Harry Potter, a member of the Royal Worcestershire regiment, was killed 66 years ago during fighting in the southern West Bank town of Hebron and was subsequently laid to rest in a cemetery in the town of Ramle.

"Every day, tourists and visitors come wanting to see Harry's grave," the cemetery's custodian, Ibrahim Huri, told the paper.

(Hat tip: Daily Alert)

UN credits Israel

For once, the UN Security Council ruled in Israel’s favor, stating that the disputed Shabaa Farms in the Golan Heights belonged to Syria and not Lebanon. This means that—as far as the UN is concerned—Israel’s withdrawal from Lebanon in May, 2000 is complete. Hezbollah uses Shabaa Farms as a pretext to continue attacks on Israel. The Security Council also criticized Lebanon for not asserting control over its side of the border, and extended UNIFIL's mandate another six months.


Thursday, January 27 2005

Deep thoughts on Islamist murder

In The Guardian, cultural theorist Terry Eagleton pontificates on the meaning of the Islamist act of suicide bombing. His first maneuver is to simply deny the death cult, and blame the victims' society instead:

Like hunger strikers, suicide bombers are not necessarily in love with death. They kill themselves because they can see no other way of attaining justice; and the fact that they have to do so is part of the injustice.

Hmm.. did Eagleton miss the videotaped statement of the 'vanguard' Reem Reyashi, just before she killed four Israelis and herself in Gaza last year? Said Reem:

I always wanted to be the first woman who sacrifices her life for Allah. My joy will be complete when my body parts fly in all directions.

Eagleton then likens suicide terrorists to their actual victims:

It is possible to act in a way that makes your death inevitable without actually desiring it. Those who leapt from the World Trade Centre to avoid being incinerated were not seeking death, even though there was no way they could have avoided it.

He goes on to analyze the phenomenon as the supreme act of human rebellion, on par with the great heroic figures from western literature:

Like the traditional tragic hero, the suicide bomber rises above his own destruction by the very resolution with which he embraces it.

Muhammad Atta was the modern-day Romeo, you see.

Eagleton never bothers addressing the fact that the Islamist suicide bomber murders others along the way, other than reflecting that commuter bus terrorism has 'a smack of avant garde theatre' to it.

How ironic that Eagleton, one of the foremost practitioners of postmodern theory, is unable to allow the cultural 'other' to define his reality for himself, but rather feels compelled to project his own, western humanist personality upon the death-happy Islamist.

Comments to the Guardian:


Wednesday, January 26 2005

British media and anti-semitism

In today's HR communique, we noted the recent Israeli government report on a dramatic rise in anti-semitic acts in Great Britain, and the statement of Natan Sharansky that the British media is directly to blame for this growing problem.

Sharansky specifically named The Guardian, BBC and The Independent as worthy of criticism. The Guardian reported the accusation, as did The Independent. Nothing yet from the Beeb on this matter, but in a related matter, BBC Jerusalem bureau deputy chief Simon Wilson is being refused re-entry to Israel for participating in an illegal interview with Mordechai Vanunu. The videotaped Vanunu interview was smuggled out of Israel, in defiance of Israeli law.


Tuesday, January 25 2005

Cat power

BulldozerpaHey, are those Caterpillar bulldozers the Palestinian Authority is using to destroy illegal buildings in Gaza?

Wonder what the 'Boycott Caterpillar' folks -- in the US and the Arab world -- have to say about this...

Proving the past

Michael Freund and Aluf Benn point out that Abbas' effectiveness in curbing terrorist violence over the past week demonstrates that Arafat never lacked the ability to do so himself -- he lacked the will. Says Benn:

Abbas's recent actions against terrorism prove that his predecessor, Yasser Arafat, indeed led the armed intifada and supported attacks against Israel. Arafat enjoyed greater political power and legitimacy than Abbas, and the PA security forces were better organized early in the conflict than they are now. Yet Arafat never took even the minimal steps that Abbas has now taken.

Yet the media were always ready to accept Arafat's claim, for years, that the terrorists were 'out of his control.'

Rewriting 1948

(Via Israpundit:)

The last paragraph of an AP report on the UN commemoration of the Holocaust reads as follows:

The United Nations was created in the wake of World War II. It voted soon after, in 1947, to carve out two countries in Palestine, one Jewish, the other Arab, but the Palestinians' share was lost in the 1948 Mideast war with parts divvied up among Israel, Jordan and Egypt.

In re-writing history, AP forget that the Arabs in the former Palestine rejected the UN partition plan and opted for a war of aggression, together with the surrounding Arab countries. And thus, the statement "the Palestinians' share was lost in the 1948 Mideast war" is wrong on commission - there was no "Palestinians' share" because there were no "Palestinians"; and wrong on omission - forgetting the Arab war of aggression, which was waged with the proclaimed aim of destroying the Jews in the former Palestine. Would one say that "the Germans' share of East Prussia was lost in World War II" without noting the Nazi war of aggression? Why do the Arabs get an exemption from historical facts?


Monday, January 24 2005

Recommended reading

* In the (Indiana) Journal and Courier, Purdue professor Louis Rene Beres rejects the 'cycle of violence' narrative:

There is no "cycle of violence" in this conflict, only ritualistic murders of Jewish civilians followed by essential Israeli measures of self-defense. Imitating past practice, Hamas and its sister terror organizations always argue that they are merely "retaliating" for Israel's prior assassinations of lead terrorists, as if to say that: 1. a constituted democratic state and an outlawed terrorist gang are of equivalent legal stature; and, 2. terrorist leaders and defenseless civilians are equally permissible targets. Yet, even in the shadow world of Arab/Islamic terror, there are palpably meaningful differences between criminality and law enforcement.

* Tim Blair critiques a WashPo article on Iraq that might just as well have come from the West Bank.

* Malcolm Hoenlein questions the media-driven FBI investigation of AIPAC.

* The Jewish Week reports a new project -- 'Brand Israel' -- intended to project a positive image of Israel, outside of the Palestinian conflict.


Sunday, January 23 2005

Lipmann's lessons

Writing in The Spectator, Anthony Lipmann uses the 60th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz death camp to compare the IDF to the Nazis:

‘What would I have done?’ I ask myself. ‘What should I be doing now? What am I doing for those being persecuted today — among them the Palestinians, who are suffering at the hands of Jews? But for a turn of fate, could I have been a Nazi too?....

When on 27 January I take my mother’s arm — tattoo number A-25466 — I will think not just of the crematoria and the cattle trucks but of Darfur, Rwanda, Zimbabwe, Jenin, Fallujah. I will pray that each of us who is born of suffering becomes also the end-post for it. If the survivors and their descendants do not lead the way, who will?

This little band of 600 has a terrible responsibility — to live well in the name of those who did not live and to discourage the building of walls and bulldozing of villages. Even more than this, they — and all Jews — need to be the voice of conscience that will prevent Israel from adopting the mantle of oppressor, and to reject the label ‘anti-Semite’ for those who speak out against Israel’s policies in the occupied territories.

UPDATE: See Mark Steyn and Caroline Glick on this Lippman article.

(Hat tip: Melanie Phillips, who responds: "At any time this would be disgusting stuff. As a piece marking the liberation of Auschwitz, it is obscene.")

'Go back to Germany!'

What was supposed to be a peaceful Bay Area rally protesting Palestinian terror got a little ugly when the shell of Egged bus 19 arrived at Berkeley's Martin Luther King Jr. Park. Organizers faced a counter-demonstration by Palestinian supporters, some of whom, according to the SF Chronicle, didn't share in the spirit of the gathering:

"Two, four, six, eight, we are martyrs, we can't wait,'' chanted the group, most of whom wore kaffiyehs -- the cloth headdress closely associated with Palestinian militants. Some drove around the park, their faces covered, waving Palestinian flags.

Click here for a video (Quicktime) of the pro-Palestinian crowd shouting to the Jewish supporters of Israel, "Go back to Germany!"

AP coverage here.


Thursday, January 20 2005

Crying wolf

Haaretz writes that Magen David Adom’s Ashdod hotline has received a flood of phone calls from Palestinians in the Gaza Strip who curse the dispatcher or file false reports of accidents.

According to figures released by MDA, there were 450 such calls in 2004. Many of the false reports were of terror attacks in the Ashdod region or multi-casualty road accidents. In one case, MDA declared a multi-casualty accident when an anonymous call was received - apparently from a Jewish caller - saying that toxic chemicals had been spilled at the Kanot junction. By the time the report was found to be false, 22 ambulances had been sent to the scene.

In another case, a report was received that a busload of children had overturned on the main Tel Aviv-Ashdod highway, automatically forcing MDA to declare a high alert.

With a worst-case scenario of ambulances on a wild goose chase while real victims suffer, the MDA is installing a system to screen out crank calls.

(Hat tip: Daily Alert)

Deadly child's play

YounggunsA Palestinian boy with a toy gun among a group of children throwing stones at IDF soldiers was shot and killed. According to Haaretz, the soldiers said they fired at a gunman, who then disappeared. The IDF is investigating the possibility that the gunman escaped while the youngster was hit.

Coverage of this unfortunate death needs to reflect the broader context of Palestinian children being used as cover for Palestinian militants, and their exposure to incitement to kill. For more background, see 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 and 9, and these reports from Operation SICK 1, 2, 3, and 4. Developing....

Palestinians stranded by PA

Physicians for Human Rights-Israel accuses the Palestinian Authority of refusing to allow critically ill patients to enter Egypt, and of deliberately stranding them in order to exploit their difficulties for propaganda.

Physicians for Human Rights-Israel is suprised and dismayed to discover that the Palestinian Authority is barring these patients from leaving the Gaza Strip for political reasons. PHR-Israel strongly protests using patients for political goals, and fighting political struggles at the expense of these people.

Physicians for Human Rights-Israel calls upon the Palestinian Authority to immediately change its policy and allow for these patients to leave the Gaza Strip so that they may receive the medical treatment they require.

According to the Jerusalem Post, the marooned Palestinians include a cancer patient and a man waiting for a liver transplant. Which makes us wonder about the credibility of coverage of a similar incident last July.

Basic (media) training

SoldierThe Raleigh News & Observer reports that US soldiers receive mandatory “media training” before being deployed in Iraq. Training includes briefings by public-affairs specialists, a power point presentation, and “talking points” cards to help soldiers respond to embedded reporters.

Military public affairs officers say the idea isn't to "spin" reporters. Rather, the goal is to familiarize troops with a duty that has become almost routine.

"The media is just another element of what we call the battlefield environment," said Maj. Jason Johnston, a Pentagon spokesman for the Marine Corps.

One of the main messages is that talking to journalists is smart, not just because it paints an accurate picture of the military but also because it's an opportunity. There was a gentle subtext to the course: Soldiers should dwell on the positive.

(Hat tip:


Wednesday, January 19 2005

Al-Qaida emancipates women

Al-Khansa is simply not your typical women’s magazine. The online magazine is produced by Al-Qaida to encourage women to martyr themselves, and it came to the attention of Gnosis, a review published by SISDE, the Italian secret service.

"This is a turning point in the project planning of international terrorist networks, which until now, unlike in the Palestinian intifada or in Chechen nationalist extremism, were limited to the exclusive employment of men in operations," the SISDE analysts said.

But, the Italian spy review said, it is not clear whether al Qaeda's call to arms for women represents "female emancipation," or rather "a tactic to involve all components of the [Islamic community] in the global jihad."

Al-Khansa’s advice for women?

A female militant must also "be content with what is strictly necessary, sending televisions and air conditioners to be burned." She should offer her own money for the cause and know how to shoot and "how to carry munitions on her shoulder," the Web site said.

(Hat tip: Daily Alert)

UNRWA director leaves post

As part of a UN reform effort, Peter Hansen, director of the United Nations Relief and Work Agency (UNRWA) will step down from his position in March. Hansen’s leadership allowed members of Hamas on the agency's payroll and saw terrorists use its ambulances.


Tuesday, January 18 2005

AFP's moonlighting reporters

Afp_1Palestinian journalists working for the Agence France-Presse have other interesting pursuits that call into question the objectivity of their coverage. According to the Jerusalem Post, Majida al-Batsh (who left AFP to run for PLO chairman) also worked for an official PA paper. Another, Adel Zanoun, continues to work for PA-funded radio.

The story of candidate Batsh, who wound up withdrawing her candidacy weeks ahead of the vote, highlights many concerns about the identity and political affiliation of several Palestinian journalists employed by international news organizations and TV networks to cover the Palestinian issue. It also underlines concerns about the credibility of much foreign news coverage in general in regard to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

In addition to her work at the French news agency, Batsh was also a reporter for the PA's official organ, Al-Ayyam. In other words, she was also on the PA's payroll, since the Ramallah-based newspaper was established and is financed by the PA. Al-Ayyam's editor, Akram Haniyeh, has been listed as an adviser to Yasser Arafat.

But Batsh was not the only journalist at AFP who was working simultaneously for the PA. One of the agency's correspondents in the Gaza Strip is Adel Zanoun, who also happens to be the chief reporter in the area for the PA's Voice of Palestine radio station.

The Post goes on to name other reporters with possible conflicts of interest, including AP's Muhammad Daraghmeh (who also works for Al-Ayyam) and CNN producer Sawsan Ghosheh (who is closely associated with Hanan Ashrawi). Nor is the problem limited to Daraghmeh and Ghosheh. An unidentified journalist told the Post:

"I also know of cases where former security prisoners have been hired as journalists and fixers for major news organizations, including American networks. Can you imagine what the reactions would be if they hired an Israeli who had been in jail for one reason or another?"
Director admits Jenin film inaccurate

WorldNetDaily reports that Muhammed Bakri, who wrote and directed “Jenin Jenin,” admitted that his film received funding from the Palestinian Authority, and that much of his information about alleged atrocities was inaccurate, sometimes constructed by "artistic choice."

But Bakri, in a deposition obtained by WND, admitted he "believed" selected witnesses but didn't check the information they provided.

"I believed the things that I've been told. What I did not believe was not included in the film," said Bakri.

When asked about a scene in which it is implied Israeli troops ran over civilians, Bakri admitted to constructing the footage himself as an "artistic choice." He also answered "no" when asked if he believed "that during the operation in Jenin, the Israeli soldiers killed people indiscriminately."

In perhaps the most explosive element of the deposition, Bakri admitted his documentary, which was screened in theaters around the world, was financed in part by the Palestinian Authority. He said Yasser Abed Rabu, Palestinian minister of culture and information and a member of former PLO leader Yasser Arafat's executive committee, "covered a part of the film expenses."

Five IDF soldiers, whose images appear in the film, filed a lawsuit against Bakri. 52 Palestinians and 23 Israelis were killed fighting in the refugee camp in April, 2002.

(Hat tip: LGF)


Monday, January 17 2005

Mixed messages

Is the latest surge of Palestinian terror intended to “send a message” to Mahmoud Abbas? Or is it an effort to make Israel’s disengagement appear to be under fire? BBC correspondents certainly haven’t decided. Here’s the Beeb’s initial spin after last week's attack on the Karni crossing:

But our correspondent says groups like Hamas are very keen to portray the Israeli withdrawal as a retreat under fire.

Yet when Ariel Sharon ordered the IDF to clamp down on Qassam rocket fire, notice how the BBC spin changed.

But the BBC's James Reynolds in Jerusalem says Mr Sharon's latest move may complicate Mr Abbas' tactic of trying to reach a ceasefire through negotiation and persuasion.

Militant factions have indicated they will only stop attacks if Israel does the same.

Rather than rely on speculating correspondents, the NY Times went straight to the source of the deadly terror.

A Hamas spokesman in Gaza, Sami Abu Zuhri, said that the Karni attack was "a message to the Israeli enemy, definitely not to Abu Mazen."

Sunday, January 16 2005

Palestinian child abuse

Hamaswithkids1Take a look at Getty Images' pool photos for today to understand why so many Palestinian children have been killed during armed conflict -- they are free to go right up to the legitimate IDF targets, armed men and weaponry: Photo 1, Photo 2

The Guardian responds to HR

The Guardian's reader's editor, Ian Mayes, comments on our critique of a recent Guardian article, noting that a pro-Palestinian group also critiqued the article:

A report on the foreign news pages of the Guardian on January 5, headed "Seven children die in crossfire as Israelis target suspected militants", drew complaints from pro-Israeli and pro-Palestinian email lobbies. The Guardian report, although not unflawed, was, in my opinion, substantially accurate and fair.

The complaints from the pro-Israeli side came predominantly, but not entirely, from the lobby.

Mayes was willing to concede one small point to our critique:

The use of the term "Israeli positions" in the Guardian report, to describe the apparent target of the Palestinian mortar attack, was too vague in the context and too suggestive of a purely military target, which the lack of an immediate counter suggested there was not. The Guardian journalist said it is an area where settlements and military positions stand side by side. He added that the graphic television coverage in Israel, and the silence of the IDF, suggest that his report was accurate.
New name, old spin

Media coverage of the Palestinian attack on the Karni Crossing features a new twist on an old distortion. The LA Times writes:

The Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, which is loosely affiliated with Abbas' Fatah movement, said that more than 200 pounds of explosives were detonated.

Although Mahmoud Abbas has replaced Yasser Arafat as Fatah leader, even during Arafat’s lifetime senior Palestinians acknowledged quite frankly that the Al-Aqsa Brigade-Fatah link was anything but "loose."

Unfortunately, the mishandled reporting from the Karni Crossing wasn't limited to the LA Times. Coverage in Reuters , Chicago Tribune, BBC, AFP, AP, CBC, The Independent, and the Daily Telegraph also misrepresented the direct and ongoing bond between the Al-Aqsa Brigade and Fatah. As we previously stated:

This is not merely a semantic matter. The close ties that bond the Fatah-led PA to terrorist groups are the fundamental problem that prevents progress toward peaceful reconciliation.

Thursday, January 13 2005

The Re-cycled Distortion

The latest HonestReporting communique has just been released: 'The Re-cycled Distortion'

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Please use the comments section below for discussion of this communique.

NPR's "Compassion Fatigue"

NprJeffrey Dvorkin, National Public Radio's ombudsman, suggests that some news outlets are starting to avoid coverage of the Mideast because they're tired of being "battered" by media monitors on both sides:

Most ombudsmen can attest that coverage of this subject draws constant allegations of bias. Anecdotally, I am told that some news organizations are now so battered that they tend to avoid the story as much as possible. Some of my colleagues at other news organizations say they report the story only when the outrages from one side or the other are too appalling to ignore.

At the same time, listeners and readers complain that the Palestinian-Israeli conflict gets too much coverage. They admit to "compassion fatigue" from weighing the claims and counter-claims of the two sides, and from following the reports of journalists who generally are unable or unwilling to determine which side has the high moral ground.

Cartoonists' Take on Abbas

Daryl Cagle’s site has a nice roundup of cartoons about Abbas and the Palestinian elections. Some of them are pretty feisty too.

What's in a Name?

The Jerusalem Post reports that the two names of the Palestinian president-elect are causing confusion and protocol headaches, then notes the possibility that Mahmoud Abbas will drop his nom de guerre, Abu Mazen. The Post writes:

"Mr. Abu Mazen" would sound to an Arab ear what "Mr. Dubya" would sound like to an American if Bush’s nickname were used….

Now we understand why Palestinian prime minister Ahmed Qorei and Abu Ala are never seen together!


Wednesday, January 12 2005

From Russia With Love

Media reports are picking up on the Moscow-based daily, Kommersant which says Syria is trying to purchase from Russia missile systems capable of reaching nearly all of Israel. Developing…

Run vs. Walk?

ThompsonwalkisraelintoseaEditorial cartoonist Mike Thompson of the Detroit Free Press describes Israel's fears with the 'new age' of Abu Mazen: click here to see full-sized cartoon

Today's recommended reading

* Former PA media advisor Samir Rantisi writes in the SF Chronicle that the Palestinians lack a common vision, leadership, and pulls no punches calling the intifada 'another nakba':

Even today, the focus seems to be on how to maintain the 4-year-old militant Intifada, a militancy that has not only brought about human tragedies, but in every sense of the word amounts to another nakba (cataclysm) in 50 years of our history.

* Daniel Pipes asks 'Which way will Abbas go?'

* Joseph Joffe in Foreign Policy invites readers to

Imagine that Israel never existed. Would the economic malaise and political repression that drive angry young men to become suicide bombers vanish? Would the Palestinians have an independent state? Would the United States, freed of its burdensome ally, suddenly find itself beloved throughout the Muslim world? Wishful thinking. Far from creating tensions, Israel actually contains more antagonisms than it causes.

* David Gerstman fisks NY Times and WashPo editorials on the Palestinian elections, with a revealing look back at WashPo comments after Arafat's election victory in '96.

* The LA Times followed up on the French ban on Al-Manar. The Hezbollah TV station isn’t the only problematic source of vitriolic broadcasting:

Radio Mediterranee's owner denied that his Arab-oriented station espoused anti-Semitism. He blasted the government for shutting down Al Manar and alleged the move resulted from pressure by Israel, which he referred to as a "criminal entity" and "the Zionist entity."

* The Christian Science Monitor notes that Abbas and Israel have different ideas on what it means to move against terror. Already, Mahmoud Abbas says a cease fire leading to an end to terror is sufficient, while Israel maintains that terror groups must be eliminated. But when push comes to shove, which way will world opinion go?


Tuesday, January 11 2005

Status of Arab-Israeli women

ArabwomenvoteBay-area pro-Israel activists BlueStarPR published a poster recognizing the fact that Israel, unlike most Arab nations, grants the vote to Arab women.

They received a harsh response from one Arlene Eisen, published as the lead story ('This Poster Lies') in the San Francisco Bayview, the city's award-winning African American paper.

BlueStarPR responds with talking points.

NGOs Hamper Reconciliation

Gerald Steinberg of NGO Monitor argues that instead of being part of the solution to the Mideast conflict, non-governmental organizations actually hamper the possibility of Israeli-Palestinian reconciliation:

With their multi-million-dollar (and euro) budgets, superpowers such as Human Rights Watch (HRW), Amnesty International, Christian Aid, Oxfam, and dozens of smaller allied groups in the region have contributed to incitement to terrorism--when they should support reconciliation. Their activities amplify Palestinian rhetoric that labels Israel as an "apartheid regime", and Jews as "imperialists" and "colonialists", while whitewashing terror and condemning the Israel defensive actions.

In contrast to their PR images as peace-makers, the one-sided approach boosts the most radical Palestinians and undermines moderate voices. The double standards by which HRW and Amnesty excuse non-state terrorism as being outside the framework of international law, while using terms such as "war crimes" to condemn Israeli defensive actions, help to fuel violence.

Last year, one Danish NGO called Rebellion even gave $8,500 to the PFLP shortly before the terror group sent a 16-year old boy for a suicide attack in Tel Aviv. Although the bombing left three Israelis dead and dozens injured, Rebellion regrettably insisted it had no regrets.

(Hat tip: Daily Alert)

A Closer Look at the Security Fence

SecurityfenceCheers to Tim Collie of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel for a balanced, in-depth series of reports on Israel’s security fence. As opposed to the imbalanced and spurious reporting we’ve noted here, here, here, and here, the Sun-Sentinel acknowledges that the fence has reduced terror by 80 percent, and portrays residents of West Bank settlements with a genuine human touch. The paper then follows up with a staff-editorial urging Israel not to prematurely dismantle the fence.

One thing Israel should not do, despite a plea from Abbas, is dismantle the security barrier it has been building to separate itself from the Palestinians of the West Bank. The structure has sharply reduced attacks against Israeli civilians. Eventually it should come down, but only after a peace that everyone can trust is achieved.

Click here to send feedback to the Sun-Sentinel.

Chicago Daily Herald apologizes

It's not often the correction page makes for heartfelt reading. But the Chicago Daily Herald apologized for botching a look back at people who died in 2004, after they lumped Hamas founder Ahmed Yassin and Achille Lauro mastermind Abu Abbas together with others under the headline, “Enriched Our Lives.”

Some of the subjects, like NFL star-turned-soldier Pat Tillman, indeed were virtuous and, as the headline said, "enriched our lives." Others, though, like actor Robert Pastorelli, were famous primarily for accomplishments in the arts, science, business or sports. And some - two in particular - were simply evil. Abul Abbas was a renowned terrorist, whose misdeeds included orchestrating the hijacking of the Achille Lauro cruise ship in 1985 and pushing a wheelchair-bound passenger into the sea. Sheik Ahmed Yassin, a founder of the Mideast terrorist group Hamas, organized and financed acts of brutality that killed and maimed hundreds, perhaps thousands, of innocent civilians. That Abbas and Yassin died is significant, but only in the most tortured reading of history could they be considered to have made a positive contribution to mankind; indeed, they set back the cause of world peace.

Yet there they were, right up there with Nobel-winning DNA researcher Francis Crick and 13-year-old poet Matti Stepanek and a headline declaring "their dramatic legacies live on." Reasonable people had to scratch their heads. We looked silly and intellectually sloppy. Surely no reputable newspaper would include Abbas and Yassin among the most honorable people to die during the year….

This mistake never should have been made in the first place, and once made, it should have been caught somewhere along the way before it was published. In fact, we constantly catch and prevent serious mistakes - not all of this caliber, but potentially embarrassing nonetheless. We are disturbed, frustrated and embarrassed that we missed this one.

Yet, there it is. There is no rational explanation for it or an acceptable excuse. All we can say is we are sorry for the mistake and the offense we implied, we recognize how serious it was and we are rededicated to the kind of work that won't allow such a thing to happen again. We know an apology doesn't make it all better, but we hope it at least shows the depth of our regret and the sincerity of our commitment.

The Daily Herald's apology demonstrates that individuals writing letters to the editor can indeed make a difference.

President Abbas - A New Era?

We've just released a new communique: 'President Abbas - A New Era?'

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Please use the comments below for discussion of this communique.


Monday, January 10 2005

Scoring a success with Reuters

TemplemountWe were pleasantly surprised to see this explanation of the Temple Mount in Reuters coverage:

What Jews call Temple Mount, Judaism's holiest site where ancient temples stood, is known to Muslims as al-Haram al-Sharif with the al-Aqsa Mosque, Islam's third most sacred site.

The explanation fairly refers to the Jewish claim to the Jerusalem holy site, and doesn’t confuse it with a nearby Western Wall, which is not Judaism’s holiest site.

We’ve seen more than enough fumbled descriptions of holy sites, and have continually urged HR subscribers respond on this matter. It's good to know that protest has had some effect.

Media Intimidation Continues

While attention was directed toward the Palestinian elections, Jerusalem Post reports that the Aksa Martyrs' Brigades kidnapped two Spanish reporters in Gaza; PA security officials negotiated their release.


A couple editorial cartoons seem to capture the Abbas two-step:

* Mike Keefe, Denver Post.

* Steve Greenberg, Ventura, CA.


Sunday, January 9 2005

Barghouti's Busy Day

Barghouti_1When Mustafa Barghouti (pictured left) arrived at the Temple Mount on Friday, ostensibly to pray at the Al-Aqsa Mosque, the Palestinian presidential candidate was instead turned away by Israeli police in front of dozens of journalists. How did the press know where and when Barghouti would arrive? Donald Macintyre of The Independent explains how Barghouti cynically orchestrated the event for the media:

If you are an opposition Palestinian presidential candidate, being manhandled by three plainclothes Israeli policemen into an unmarked white pick-up as you attempt to attend Friday prayers at the Al-Aqsa Mosque, as Mr Barghouti was yesterday, is the stuff of television pictures money can't buy.

Mr Barghouti, a 50-year-old academic, former communist and human-rights activist, may not be quite as charismatic as his very distant imprisoned relative Marwan, the missing candidate in the campaign which culminates in the election of a new Palestinian president tomorrow. But he knows a lot about how to use the media in a modern political campaign.

We were therefore told in plenty of time that Mr Barghouti would make his way down from the Mount of Olives to the Lion's Gate to the Old City; so of course we were there in time to hear the Israeli policemen ask for orders on his walkie-talkie….

Fortunately for Barghouti, BBC reporter Martin Asser was more gullible.

"One Big Ordnance Dump"

The LA Times reports that all the weapons seized in Fallouja made the city “one big ordnance dump" on a scale far surpassing other combat zones:

Dailey, who has spent 15 of his 23 years as a Marine in the explosive ordnance disposal unit, served in the 1991 Persian Gulf War and in missions in Somalia and Kosovo. Somalia, he said, was packed with explosives. "It was an EOD technicians' playground."

But nothing compares with Iraq, particularly Fallouja, in terms of the amount, diversity and lethal capacity of ordnance in the hands of insurgents. "This one takes the cake," Dailey said.

There are indications that when the Iraqi economy was in near-collapse, ordnance became a kind of currency, with civilians being paid with grenades or rockets, which could then be bartered for food and other goods.

Combat troops said it was not uncommon to find homes with entire rooms used as warehouses for ordnance, much like an American home might have a spare room with athletic equipment or housecleaning tools.

To put this in perspective, the Swedish Rescue Services Agency required a mere six months to clean the UN-run Jenin refugee camp of unexploded ordnance and ammunition—at a cost of $391,000.

Israeli Nukes Caused Tsunami

BombIt was a matter of time, of course, before Israel was blamed for the South Asian tsunami. The Jerusalem Post notes that an Egyptian magazine called Al-Osboa says the tragedy was caused by an Israel-India nuclear experiment. But wait... Al-Jazeera had a far more likely suggestion -- aliens trying to correct a wobble in the Earth’s rotation were responsible.


Friday, January 7 2005

A Dovish Campaign?

After examining Mahmoud Abbas’ track record, Charles Krauthammer wonders if the expected winner of the Palestinian elections really intends to make peace or continue Yasser Arafat's path:

What of Abbas's vaunted opposition to violence? On Jan. 2 he tells Hamas terrorists firing rockets that maim and kill Jewish villagers within Israel, "This is not the time for this kind of act." This is an interesting "renunciation" of terrorism: Not today, boys; perhaps later, when the time is right. Which was exactly Arafat's utilitarian approach to terrorism throughout the Oslo decade….

Have we learned nothing? In the Middle East, words are actions. Never more so than in an election campaign in which your words define your platform and establish your mandate. Abbas is running practically unopposed, and yet, on the question of both ends and means, he chooses to run as Yasser Arafat.

But judging from this headline, AFP has no such doubts:

Abbas winds up dovish campaign amid last-minute snags to Palestinian vote


Thursday, January 6 2005

Notes from the Campaign Trail

With Sunday’s Palestinian presidential elections coming up, we were struck by the highlights and lowlights of media coverage.

* AP reports that many Palestinians living in East Jerusalem will not participate in Sunday’s election, fearful of jeopardizing Israeli health care and unemployment benefits.

* The Washington Post reports on the suprising success of Islamic candidates in local elections in the town of Obeidiyeh. The mayor and seven of the 11 town council members have links to Hamas.

* A Palestinian rocket hit the Nahal Oz army base inside Israel, wounding 12 soldiers. Reuters spun the attack as nothing more than an internal political challenge to Mahmoud Abbas. The headline? Gaza Militants Defy Abbas with Surge of Attacks

* The New York Times and Jerusalem Post feature interviews with Palestinian gunmen who insist they’ll continue attacks against Israel after the elections.

* According to Bloomberg News, the IDF has info that Palestinian terrorists will try to disrupt Sunday’s voting and blame Israel. What isn't Israel blamed for?

Soldiers Sue Jenin Filmmaker

MohammedbakriWorldNetDaily reports that five IDF soldiers filed a lawsuit against Mohammed Bakri (pictured left), who produced "Jenin, Jenin," a video documentary purporting to expose Israeli excesses in the Jenin refugee camp during military operations in April, 2002. WND explains the suit:

The documentary doesn't show footage of the alleged atrocities, but in some scenes, faces of the soldiers now suing Bakri were superimposed over "eyewitness testimony," and it was indicated they had committed "war crimes.”

Spurious massacre charges prompted Canadian reporter Martin Himel to investigate for himself what happened in Jenin. The result was Himel's “Jenin: Massacring the Truth.” If the UN and The Independent could admit there was no massacre, maybe Bakri can too.

Quote of the day

"I don't even know who the candidates are other than Abu Mazen, let alone this Gere," Gaza soap factory worker Manar an-Najar, to Reuters.

(He was refering to Richard.)

Address to Presbyterian congregation

Rabbi Jonathan Miller of Birmingham, AL deliverered a powerful talk to a local Presbyterian group regarding the recent decision of that church to divest from Israel:

I know that most of you disagree with this Overture of divestment from your national organization. I am not here to holler at you or scream or carry on. Most of you agree with me anyway. Instead, I am here for you to hear what it is like to be me, to be a member of my people. I want you to understand the pain I feel when my homeland, which has never known a single day of peace or acceptance in the world of nations, which has had to defend itself against the hatred of fanatical enemies, is declared as a legitimate target by the people who are my friends, my co-lovers, and my colleagues in making the world better and more just and more Godly. I want you to understand my abandonment and my loneliness. That’s all. Just understand what it feels like to be me and my people, to lose our friends, to have to fight alone.

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