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Media Backspin
« March 2006 | Main | May 2006 »

Sunday, April 30 2006

The Independent's Stars and Stripes

We weren’t surprised that Robert Fisk of The Independent weighed in on Mearsheimer and Walt’s Harvard paper on Israeli influence over American foreign policy. But we have to wonder about the accompanying visual which prominently appeared on the front page of Independent Extra, the paper’s regular supplement. What does this say about the paper’s view of the controversy?


(Hat tip: Harry’s Place)

Throwing Down the Gauntlet

Timesnews_1Columnist Stephen Black of the Hendersonville Times-News has a challenge for North Carolina-area Palestinian supporters:

I want to challenge our local defenders of Palestinian terrorism to come out publicly in the letters to the editor. Let them face the words of Hamas spokesmen and the Palestinian Interior Ministry when they said: "It was a legitimate response to Israeli aggression."

OK, the ball is in your court. Let us hear from you, you supporters of Hamas.

Suicide Bombers: A Closer Look

The London-based Arab daily, Asharq Alawsat, examined the situations of 15 Palestinian suicide bombers and concluded that poverty wasn’t an issue for any of them:

Interesting results of the research showed that economic hardship was not the motive behind most suicide bombers as the majority of the bombers belonged to relatively affluent families. Some of the bombers however did suffer financially. The majority of those who carried out such attacks were pursuing higher education and came from stable families. This indicates that it is difficult to link poverty and suicide-operations, as reality is far more complex.

How about a more obvious explanation, like Palestinian incitement?

(Hat tip: Daily Alert)

To Tell the Truce, Part Three

Qassam_hitSoccer Dad brings to our attention that Elder of Ziyon highlights Hamas’ attacks during the hudna with help from a database at the US Counterterrorism Center. See also To Tell the Truce parts One and Two.


Thursday, April 27 2006

Round Up the Usual Suspects

Our colleagues at HonestReporting Canada noted the following fact in this Toronto Star report. Correspondent Mitch Potter writes:

Egyptian officials have said little about an ongoing and at times draconian military campaign against extremist elements in Sinai in the wake of earlier bomb strikes at Taba and Sharm el-Sheik, including the arrest of as many as 4,000 men, mostly members of Sinai's tribal Bedouin population.

Can anyone imagine the media reaction if Israel were arrest 4,000 Palestinians in such a short time after a terror attack?

The Power of Words

The latest HonestReporting UK communique has just been published: The Power of Words.

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Please use the comments section below this entry for discussion of this topic.


Wednesday, April 26 2006

Headlines of the Day

We’re scratching our heads over this AFP headline:

Israel savages Iran leader on Holocaust Day

Contrast that with this headline in India’s International Reporter. Who should the word “savage” be applied to?

Iranian President vows to quit UN and wipe out Israel
Zahar's Bad Day

Haaretz picked up on an Itim report that Hamas Foreign Minister Mahmoud Zahar had $450,000 stolen from his hotel room during a fund-raising trip in Kuwait. But this snippet may be even more eye-opening. Will this point be reported in the Western media?

Itim also reported that an official at the Palestinian Finance Ministry has revealed that, despite its empty coffers, the PA has funded the trip for al-Zahar and his entourage.
FIFA Followup

Fifa_1The Federation Internationale de Football Association (FIFA), world soccer’s governing body, responded to our recent communiqué criticizing them and AP coverage of an Israeli missile strike on a Gaza soccer pitch. Many readers who wrote to FIFA received a response that only muddies the water further.

Continue reading "FIFA Followup"


Tuesday, April 25 2006

To Tell the Truce: Part Two

Arnold Roth, who founded Keren Malki, is in the process of documenting Palestinian terror attacks since the declaration of a cease-fire last year. See Roth's comment on a Backspin entry earlier today:

The distortions and half-truths carried in the media after the Passover bombing in Tel-Aviv were so annoying that I decided to compile my own list of the bombings, shootings, stabbings and terrorist attempts that have happened since the so-called truce of February 2005.

It's now online at

The plan is to update it as often as needed; probably daily, the way things are going.

Doing this caused me to compare the facts as I know them with the hopelessly inadequate attempts (especially those of Associated Press and Reuters) that were published everywhere in the last few days. The differences are shocking.

For those of us who care about how Israel's case is presented, and about how the mainstream media keep getting it so wrong, doing this sort of comparison is very dis-spiriting. It highlights how they ignore deaths; they under-report threats; they fail entirely to capture the reality of a small state surrounded by existential danger of the most mortal kind.

Reuters Remembers Qana

This problem with the latest from Reuters lies in the caption, not the image. And no, it wasn't taken at one of Israel's Holocaust Remembrance Day events.


Lebanese children take part in a vigil in front of the United Nations House in Beirut, Lebanon April 18, 2006. The vigil was held to mark the 10th anniversary of an Israeli massacre in south Lebanon in which 101 people where killed when Israeli forces bombed a U.N. shelter in the village of Qana in 1996. REUTERS/Jamal Saidi

But as Soccer Dad responds:

What happened in Qana ten years was a tragedy. Or even an outrage. Residents of Israel, at the time had to flee their cities by the thousands due to shelling from Hezbollah. Hezbollah subject to no constraints by either their own morals or the UN was bombarding Israel with impunity. On April 18, 1996 Israel retaliated against a Hezbollah bombardment. What the IDF didn't know until it was too late was that the Hezbollah positions were in and around a UN compound. A number of Israel shells missed their target and hit a building into which 800 people had fled. Over 100 were killed.

(One of the charges against Israel was that it knew where it was shelling because a drone had been over the area prior to the shelling was shown to be false by an Israeli videotape of the drone. Still the charge persisted. The Israeli gunners were responding to mobile terrorists.)

Israel was blamed for a massacre. In fact the ineffectual UN troops were second to Hezbollah in culpability. But for Reuters, I guess that this blood libel was too good to pass up.

The reference to a massacre also appears in these other Reuters captions: 1, 2, and 3. At least AP and AFP put the word “massacre” in quote marks.

Expert: Don't Rule Out the Mossad

YNet News reports that retired Egyptian General Salah al-Din Salim isn’t ruling out Mossad involvement in last night’s terror attack in Dahab:

"The Mossad's ability to penetrate the Bedouins in Sinai is known," Salim said in an interview with al-Jazeera.

Egyptian media is renowned for expert analysts.

(Hat tip: Judith Apter Klinghoffer)

UPDATE 4/27: See this Memri video of a retired Egyptian security official making the same allegation.

To Tell the Truce

Abbas_3After Mahmoud Abbas told CNN he might dismiss the Hamas cabinet, AP reports that Hamas responded by threatening to end the cease fire arranged by Abbas last year. Unfortunately, AP incorrectly suggests that Israel is a party to that truce:

Hamas angrily rejected a warning by the moderate Palestinian president Monday that he could dismiss its month-old government, threatening to scrap a truce with Israel if he does.

As we pointed out in the past, the hudna is an internal Palestinian affair.

Never Again?

As Israelis mark Holocaust Remembrance Day, IDF soldiers nabbed a would-be suicide bomber on his way to Jerusalem this morning. According to YNet News, Israeli security officials are dealing with 76 terror warnings, including 20 specific alerts.


Monday, April 24 2006

AP's Alleged Militant

IsraellyCool wonders about the wording of the caption of this graphic AP photo. According to Haaretz, the Palestinians killed in Bethlehem had opened fire on Israeli soldiers during a chase.

To Err is Human...

Google_2We’re not sure how to describe the pro-Palestinian blog, KabobFest, but the automated Google News now considers it a legitimate news source. Some dubious Google News sources in the past included Jihad Unspun, National Vanguard, even the International Solidarity Movement.

Comments to

(Hat tip: Elder of Ziyon)

New Meaning to Job Security

In a Q&A with the Washington Post, Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora explained the job security of his boss, pro-Syrian president Emile Lahoud:

Do you think that the Syrians have threatened Lahoud? Could he quit, or would they kill him?

I think, personally, he is not the type to do that.

Could he do it?

I tend to think no.

They would kill him?

I don't want to use that term. He is not free to resign.

Lahoud's presidency was supposed to end in 2004, but was extended due to Syrian pressure.


Sunday, April 23 2006

A Brief History At Time

Tel Aviv served as Israel’s temporary capital until the Knesset relocated to Jerusalem in December, 1949. But nobody told Time magazine:

Tel Aviv has suspended monthly payments of approximately $50 million in tax revenues, and won't talk to Hamas until it halts all attacks on Israel — including those by other factions.
America's (and Iran's) Most Wanted

MughniyahImad Mughniyeh (pictured) is a very wanted person. Besides being one of the FBI’s most-wanted terrorists, he is now wanted in a very different way by Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The Times of London explains why:

US officials and Israel intelligence sources believe Imad Mugniyeh, the Lebanese commander of Hezbollah’s overseas operations, has taken charge of plotting Iran’s retaliation against western targets should President George W Bush order a strike on Iranian nuclear sites….

Now in his mid-forties, Mugniyeh is reported to have travelled with Ahmadinejad in January this year from Tehran to Damascus, where the Iranian president met leaders of Hezbollah, Islamic Jihad and Hamas.

The Times also adds:

Elite Iranian army officers who arrived in south Lebanon this month have taken command of thousands of rockets aimed at cities across Israel. They are believed to have been given control of the missiles by Hezbollah to deter possible Israeli attacks against Iran’s nuclear facilities.
Hamas' Defense of Terror

The latest HonestReporting communique has just been published: Hamas' Defense of Terror

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Why the Y

YmcaThe Jerusalem Post reports that Hamas is involved in efforts to shut down one of Kalkiliya’s few Christian institutions:

Islamic religious leaders in this city have signed a petition calling on the new Hamas cabinet to shut down the local YMCA under the pretext that it is involved in "missionary activities." The Hamas-controlled municipality has expressed its support for the call.

The campaign against the YMCA began earlier this week when arsonists set fire to some of its offices.

Counterterrorism Cooperation

American-Israeli counter-terrorism efforts may become deeper. The JTA reports on the latest legislation under Congressional consideration:

The bill creates a new office and grant program in the Homeland Security Department that would foster cooperation between research and development communities in the United States and countries like Israel. Also mentioned are the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and Singapore.

Thursday, April 20 2006

Pulitzer Update

For readers following the Pulitzer Prize, a moving photo essay of the Gaza pullout by LA Times photographers Carolyn Cole and Brian Vander Brug was runner up for breaking news photography. First prize went to Dallas Morning News photos of Hurricane Katrina’s aftermath. See the full list of Pulitzer nominees and winners.


Jewish settlers from Gush Katif look out the windows of a bus taking them toward a different life at the Kissufim Crossing just outside the Green Line in Gaza. (Brian Vander Brug / LAT) Aug. 17, 2005
Free Press, Free Axe-Grinding

AxeGood news and bad news from Palestinian media. First the good news: the Fatah-dominated press hounds Hamas at every turn, giving Palestinians a chance to see real criticism of their government. The bad news is that the Fatah-dominated press clearly has it’s own axe to grind. AP reports:

"The Palestinian media is clearly biased against Hamas," complained Mahmoud Ramahi of Hamas, secretary-general of the Palestinian parliament. "What they are doing is not monitoring or criticizing. What they are doing is inciting against Hamas, in the interest of Fatah."

Pro-Fatah journalists say they are giving equal treatment to all politicians and that Hamas is simply frustrated because it cannot control the media….

Hamas has started trying to exert more influence over local media. The Hamas information minister, Youssef Rizka, recently urged Palestinian journalists not to use what he said were Western terms, such as terrorism, to describe Palestinian attacks against Israel.

Despite the problems, the situation is arguably an improvement from the days when Yasser Arafat repressed media criticism of his regime.

'In Whose Name They Choose To Speak'

This snippet from a Times of London leader on the Tel Aviv bombing has us scratching our heads in curiousity:

[Israel] should seek to target the political and “military” representatives of Hamas rather than the Palestinian population in whose name they choose to speak and to endorse appalling violence.

How accurate is the Times’ assertion that Hamas doesn’t really speak for the Palestinians? The BBC’s Alan Johnston had no problem finding Palestinians supporting the bombing:

And a food stand owner, Talat Hejazi, described his reaction to the news of the blast in Tel Aviv: "I was very happy because of all these blows on us all the time. Let them feel it for once. Let them retaliate - we will sacrifice ourselves."

Overwhelmingly people spoke in those terms.

The Independent's Youthful Activist

Hammed_1For many people, youth activism raises images of teens involved in organizations ranging from Students Against Drunk Driving to the Boy Scouts. But for The Independent, youth activism includes blowing up Israelis in Tel Aviv:

A youthful Islamic Jihad activist blew himself up outside a crowded falafel bar in Tel Aviv yesterday, killing at least nine civilians and wounding about 50.

"Terrorism" is the correct term to describe politically motivated attacks that don't differentiate between civilian and military targets and are designed to create a sense of terror in the minds of the general public. Describing suicide bombers as “activists” only lends a degree of legitimacy to their deadly attacks.

Pattern Recognition

The Jerusalem Post reports that Israel will revoke the residency rights of four Hamas legislators who live in eastern Jerusalem. The four, including Mohammed Abu Tir, currently receive Israeli social benefits, which include payments from the National Insurance Institute for health care. Meanwhile, YNet News notes that Hamas plans to fight the effort in Israeli courts.

The Camera Doesn't Lie, Does It?

Covering the family of 16-year-old suicide bomber Samir Hammad (pictured), Times of London reporter Stephen Farrell makes an interesting observation:

Within hours of his death Hammad was a fully accessorised “martyr”, complete with farewell video, posters and heroic slogans. Sitting on the few cushions remaining in the small hilltop house his mother Samya, 42, complied with photographers who clamoured for her to pose with a poster, but the house was unadorned with militant propaganda.

What does that say about the photos such as this one by Reuters?



Wednesday, April 12 2006

The AP Reinforces FIFA's Bias

The latest HonestReporting communique has just been published: The AP Reinforces FIFA's Bias

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Tuesday, April 11 2006

British Medical Journal's Faulty Prescription

The latest HonestReporting UK communique has just been published: British Medical Journal's Faulty Prescription.

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Please use the comments section below this entry for discussion of this topic.


Sunday, April 9 2006

We'll Be Back After Passover

Happy_passoverBackspin will resume blogging after Passover. We wish our readers a happy holiday.

SMH Rocket Science

Home_made_rocketEd O’Loughlin of the Sydney Morning Herald breaks two rules in this snippet about the Gaza rocket wars:

Since Israel withdrew its troops and settlers from the Gaza Strip last year the conflict here has resolved itself into a tit-for-tat cycle of long-range barrages. With no local Israelis left to shoot at, the Palestinian militant factions - with the general exception of the ruling party, Hamas - have repeatedly violated last year's self-imposed ceasefire by launching hundreds of crude home-made "Kassam" rockets across the border into Israel.

The effect? O’Loughlin minimizes the escalating the conflict by describing a morally equivalent tit-for-tat cycle of violence and then making light of the rocket’s danger by emphasizing the so-called home-made crudeness. If O'Loughlin wants to a better example of a home-made rocket, Time magazine honored Robert Goddard (pictured) as one of the most important people of the century.


Thursday, April 6 2006

"Homemade" Rockets

The latest HonestReporting communique has just been published: "Homemade" Rockets
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Tuesday, April 4 2006

Peter Schrank's Wailing Wall

Does Peter Schrank of The Independent have any tears to shed for the more than 1,100 Israelis killed as a result of Palestinian terror since Sept. 2000?


Terrorist Money Funnel Shut Down

Money_2New York’s D.A. shut down a $3 billion pipeline funneling money from to Mideast terror groups via an undisclosed Manhattan bank. The NY Post writes:

Evidence developed in the course of a three-year probe, which has already resulted in charges against other New York-based financial institutions, revealed that about $3 billion that flowed through the account over a two-year period was going to terror groups Hamas, al Qaeda and Hezbollah, Morgenthau said.

(Hat tip: Daily Alert)

$5 Million Up for Grabs

Abdel Karim Koka, one of the founders of Gaza’s Popular Resistance Committee, was killed as he passed a booby trapped car. In addition to rocket and roadside bomb attacks, the Jerusalem Post reports that Koka was directly linked to two especially high profile attacks. One of the attacks carried a $5 million reward. The Post writes:

Koka, according to sources in the Gaza Strip, was responsible for the 2003 roadside attack on a US diplomatic convoy in the northern Gaza Strip in which three Americans were killed. The sources said Koka, who survived three attempts on his life by Israel in recent months, carried out the attack at the request of top PA and Fatah leaders, who were interested in getting rid of him to conceal their role in the scheme.

Koka's group was also responsible for the assassination of General Musa Arafat, commander of the PA's Military Intelligence and a cousin of former PA chairman Yasser Arafat, who was killed last summer in Gaza City.

Angry Palestinians believe Mohammed Dahlan was responsible for Koka’s death. Might he or anyone else now try to collect the $5 million reward offered by the US?


Sunday, April 2 2006

Toeing the Parity Line

Toronto Star columnist Haroon Siddiqui equates Hamas and Kadima:

Israel and the U.S. had stopped dealing with Yasser Arafat because he lacked democratic legitimacy but they, and Canada, won't talk to Hamas, which has a bigger mandate from its electorate than does Kadima from the Israeli voters and the Conservatives from Canadians.

How quickly would Siddiqui denounce Kadima if the party were to organize it’s own independent "armed wing," abrogate previous agreements and call for the destruction of Palestinians?

Abbas' Red Carpet Treatment

It's Almost Supernatural raises a number of must-read points about Mahmoud Abbas’ state visit, which -- not coincidentally -- concluded with a courtesy call on Nelson Mandela.

'The Most Angry Denunciations'

LrbLondon Review of Books editor Mary Kay Wilmers is lashing out at critics of her decision to publish The Israel Lobby and US Foreign Policy. And all we can do is scratch our heads in wonder. Peter Beaumont of The Observer writes:

Wilmers believes, too, that the most angry denunciations of anti-Semitism - while designed to serve the purpose of censorship by those attempting to forestall criticism of Israel - may actually encourage anti-Semitism in the long run.

'It serves a purpose. No one wants to be thought of as anti-Semitic because it is thought of as worse than anything else, although it is not worse being anti-Semitic than being anti-black or Islamophobic.

'Really, one of the most upsetting things is the way it can contribute to anti-Semitism in the long run just by making so many constant appeals and preventing useful criticism of Israel. No one can say Israel's posture does not contribute to anti-Semitism, yet charges of anti-Semitism are used to justify that policy.'

Does anyone understand what Wilmers (or Beaumont, for that matter) are trying to say?

Journalists Spread Bird Flu?

Birdflu_3Israeli officials are considering the possibility that the outbreak of bird flu is being spread by journalists. AFP explains:

Israel suspects journalists, particularly press photographers, of being behind the spread of deadly bird flu in the Jewish state, an agriculture ministry official told Agence France-Presse.

"It's one of our working hypotheses," the official said, asking not be identified.

"Bird flu can be transmitted on clothing, footwear, the wheels of cars and even on cameras," the official added.

"The journalists who came to cover the outbreak then went back to homes and offices across the country.

"Even if the required protective measures were taken, it is impossible to disinfect photographic equipment without damaging it."

Of course, Arab theories about the outbreak also abound.

Arab Hypocrisy Continues

The hypocrisy of Arab protests against the Danish cartoons continues. See this ADL review of the Arab media’s portrayal of Israel and Jews since the beginning of 2006. Nothing has changed. The following cartoon from Qatar’s Al-Watan, is captioned “Bird Flu in Israel.”


Reversing Roles

Are Fatah and Hamas reversing roles now? The Jerusalem Post explains why Fatah’s Al-Aqsa Brigades carried out last week’s suicide bombing in Kedumim:

While Fatah, the long dominant Palestinian party, has never completely abstained from terror activity and has been involved particularly in Kassam rocket attacks in Gaza, Thursday's suicide attack, officials said, was the first perpetrated by a Fatah affiliate since a February 2005 Palestinian cease-fire.

Fatah and Hamas, officials warned over the weekend, seem to have switched roles. While newly-installed Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh called on its gunmen to stop marching around Gaza with weapons, Samir Masharawi - a senior Gaza-based Fatah figure - rejected the call. Hamas, a security official said, was trying to at least outwardly show itself as reforming and that it has cut back its terror activity in an attempt to establish itself as a non-violent government.

But Fatah, officials warned, might have other plans. With the disengagement from the Gaza Strip this past summer hailed as the result of terrorism, Fatah terrorists might be thinking that suicide attacks are the group's ticket back into office.


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