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« July 2006 | Main | September 2006 »

Thursday, August 31 2006

Still Want to Buy a Used Car From Reuters?

A number of armored car manufacturers told Confederate Yankee that damage to the Reuters' vehicle in Gaza wasn't consistent with the alleged Israeli missile strike the news agency described. Does anyone still want to buy a used car from Reuters?


Wednesday, August 30 2006

Debunking IRA Comparisons

IraThe logic of legitimizing Hezbollah by comparing it to the Irish Republican Army was aptly debunked by Professor Oded Haklai in the Ottawa Citizen:

As the Canadian government rejected offhand the idea that Hezbollah should be removed from the terrorists list, it is worthwhile to examine the validity of the claims made by the opposition MPs. After all, like the IRA and Sinn Fein, Hezbollah has a political wing and a military wing. If the British government had not negotiated with the political wing, it is likely that the conflict in Northern Ireland would have continued.

And yet, there is a qualitative difference between the two cases that makes the comparison weak. The IRA was resisting the authority of the British government. It was fighting against "British occupation of Northern Ireland," so to speak. Its objective was to liberate Northern Ireland, not to destroy a neighbouring country.

Hezbollah is not resisting any foreign occupation of Lebanon, since Israel withdrew from Lebanon to the international border more than six years ago. If anything, this organization is allied with foreign elements (Syria and Iran) who meddle in internal Lebanese affairs.

See also Why Hamas Is Not Sinn Fein.

UPDATE Dec. 26, 2006: Hamas and IRA officials recently met. See Memri Blog for details.

Gone Fishing

Backspin's on leave today. We'll be back and blogging away tomorrow.


Tuesday, August 29 2006

'All the Makings Of A Hoax'

Fmdowner_1Australia's Foreign Minister, Alexander Downer (pictured), slammed media coverage of Lebanon, singling out Reuters' doctored photos and the recent ambulance incident. Wrote The Australian:

He accused "some of the world's most prestigious media outlets" of falling for a hoax in their reporting of an alleged aerial attack on a Lebanese Red Cross ambulance by Israel.

"After closer study of the images of the damage to the ambulance, it is beyond serious dispute that this episode has all the makings of a hoax," Mr Downer said.

"Yet some of the world's most prestigious media outlets, including some of those represented here today (Monday), ran that story as fact - unchallenged, unquestioned."....

A spokesman for Mr Downer said the media had failed to prove its case the ambulance had been struck by a missile.

HonestReporting Milestone

ComputerCharles Johnson of LGF once wrote:

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

So congrats to Michael in Australia who launched DishonestReporting. We don’t want to hear of any turf wars with our other stalker,

Red Cross Ambulance Libel Exposed

An alleged Israeli missile attack on Red Cross ambulances is exposed as a hoax. See the latest HonestReporting and HonestReporting UK communiques: Red Cross Ambulance Libel Exposed.

Want to Buy A Used Car From Reuters?

Reuters_7Jerusalem Post columnist Caroline Glick raises important questions about the Reuters' press vehicle allegedly hit by an Israeli missile earlier this week and the media's reaction:

Conveniently, the same day the PA released the men who its own forces had kidnapped, Reuters reported that the IDF had shot a missile at its press vehicle and wounded two cameramen - one from Reuters and one from Iranian World TV network - while they were en route to a battle taking place between IDF forces and Palestinian terrorists. Reuters, which is demanding an independent investigation into the attack, is portraying its cameraman Fadel Shada as an embattled hero who would do anything to bring the truth to the world.

Yet it is unclear why anyone should believe either Shana or Reuters. Shana told Reuters that as he was driving to the battle scene, "I suddenly saw fire and the doors of the jeep flew open." He claims to have been wounded by shrapnel in his hand and leg. These are minor injuries for someone whose vehicle was just hit by a missile.

But then, the photographs taken of his vehicle after the purported missile attack give no indication that the car was hit by anything. There is a gash on the roof. The hood is bent out of shape. But nothing seems to have been burned. Cars hit by missiles do not look like they have just been in a nasty accident. Cars hit by missiles are destroyed.

InteriorYet the glass on the windshield and the windows of Shana's vehicle isn't even shattered. In the photographs taken of Shana on the way to the hospital in Gaza, he lies on a stretcher, eyes closed, arm extended in full pieta mode. He is not visibly bleeding although there are some blood stains on his shirt, but then his undershirt is completely white.

I did not see these pictures in the media coverage of the purported IDF attack on the Reuters and Iranian cameramen. I saw them on Powerlineblog Web site. I did not see any questions raised from either the Israeli or the international media on the veracity of Shana's tale, which of course, provides a nice balance to the Centanni-Wiig hostage story.

Unfortunately, nothing Reuters does shocks us anymore. Anyone want to buy a used car from Reuters?

Lebanese TV Airs New Ron Arad Footage

Ron_aradA Lebanese TV station plans to broadcast a movie about Capt. Ron Arad including never-before-seen footage of the missing Israeli airman speaking to the camera. LBC, a Christian station also aired a trailer which can be seen on YNet News:

Ynet has learned that the videotape was apparently handed to the LBC network by the Shiite party in Lebanon, which was previously affiliated with Hizbullah. The tape did not come from Hizbullah itself, as the group is unlikely to have given the tape to Christian sympathizers.

Sources close to the Arad family told Ynet that the family identified the photo as authentic, but that they were uncertain as to its meaning.

Arad was captured by Shiite Amal in 1986 after bailing out of his plane over southern Lebanon.


Monday, August 28 2006

Appealing For Israel

Firefighting2The fighting may be over, but the aftermath continues. Emergency services and hospitals urgently need to restock medical supplies. Organizations that provided food and shelter for northern Israelis must pay off the costs incurred. Small businesses must get back on their feet. Damaged buildings must be repaired or rebuilt. And injured soldiers need time to recover before continuing on with their lives.

Here's a list of just some of the many organizations making a difference. (Organizations are listed in alphabetical order. Some links changed and others were updated since we last posted an appeal.) Please support their important work.

AACI Northern Seniors At Risk Project

A Package From Home

Amit Emergency Campaign For Israel

Ezer MiZion

Friends of the IDF

Friends of Israel Firefighters

HaifaHadassah Women's Zionist Organization of America

Haifa Emergency Campaign

International Christian Embassy Jerusalem Kids Under Fire Appeal

International Fellowship of Christians and Jews Israel Emergency Fund

Israel Free Loan Association

Jerusalem Fellowships Refugee Assistance

Keren Ezra L'Tzafon



Lev U'Neshama

Magen David Adom

Meir Panim

Migdal Ohr

Navah Emergency Fund

Idf4_1One Family Fund

ORT Emergency Campaign For Israel

Operation Security Blanket of the JNF

Rambam Hospital in Haifa

United Israel Appeal (Australia)

United Jewish Communities Crisis Fund (USA)

UJIA Solidarity Appeal (UK)

Western Galilee Hospital (in Nahariya)

WIZO Emergency Campaign>

Yad Eliezer North Campaign

Kiryat_shemonaYad Ezra VeShulamit

Yad Sarah


The Unlikely Critic

The Daily Telegraph notes an unlikely critic of Hezbollah:

The Mufti of Tyre, Sheikh Ali al-Amin, challenged Hizbollah's current status as heroes, said: "Neither Lebanon nor the Lebanese people have any connection to this war. The war was forced upon the country and the people."

See this related Memri dispatch.

Fox News, Shalit Kidnappings Linked

ShalitDid yesterday's release of two kidnapped Fox News journalists complicate efforts to free IDF Corp. Gilad Shalit (pictured), who continues to be be held in Gaza? Perhaps. Time reports:

Palestinian security sources close to the negotiators told TIME that the two Fox Newsmen — reporter Steve Centanni, 60, from Washington, D.C., and New Zealand cameraman Olaf Wiig, 36 — were kidnapped from Gaza to embarrass Haniyeh's government. The militants, who earlier identified themselves as members of the previously unknown Holy Jihad Brigades, were enraged with fellow Hamas militants because they too had joined in the daring capture on June 25th of Corp. Shalit, in which Palestinian gunmen tunneled under a wall and attacked an Israeli army post. But according to these security sources, the militant groups fell out after Hamas' military wing took control of Shalit and elbowed the other co-conspirators aside.

In revenge, these militants, who belong to a splinter group of the late Yasser Arafat's Fatah movement, struck back by seizing the two journalists, these sources said.

Haniyeh was able to secure the journalists' freedom, but at a high price: he has agreed to give these armed extremists a role in deciding the fate of the Israeli soldier, these sources said. The kidnappers are more extreme in their approach to Israel (Prime Minister Haniyeh is a moderate within Hamas), and they will undoubtedly raise the ante for the release of the 18-year-old corporal, who is said to be in good shape even though his captors have so far refused to offer any proof he is still alive.

UPDATE: On a somewhat related note: Happy Birthday Gilad.

Hamas Soul Searching?

According to the Jerusalem Post, Ghazi Hamad, a senior Hamas spokesman, questions the direction that Gaza has taken since Israel left the strip last year:

Dismissing Israel's responsibility for the growing state of anarchy and lawlessness in the Gaza Strip, Hamad said it was time for the Palestinians to embark on a soul-searching process to see where they erred.

"We're always afraid to talk about our mistakes," he added. "We're used to blaming our mistakes on others. What is the relationship between the chaos, anarchy, lawlessness, indiscriminate murders, theft of land, family rivalries, transgression on public lands and unorganized traffic and the occupation? We are still trapped by the mentality of conspiracy theories - one that has limited our capability to think."

AP picked up on Hamad's criticisms. See also the LA Times for a better picture of Gaza's "law of the jungle."


Sunday, August 27 2006

UNIFIL's Strategic Press Releases

Unifil_1Lori Lowenthal Marcus blasts UNIFIL for providing Hezbollah with intelligence on IDF movements--through press releases posted on the peacekeepers' web site. Marcus writes in the Weekly Standard:

UNIFIL--the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon, a nearly 2,000-man blue-helmet contingent that has been present on the Lebanon-Israel border since 1978--is officially neutral. Yet, throughout the recent war, it posted on its website for all to see precise information about the movements of Israeli Defense Forces soldiers and the nature of their weaponry and materiel, even specifying the placement of IDF safety structures within hours of their construction. New information was sometimes only 30 minutes old when it was posted, and never more than 24 hours old.

Meanwhile, UNIFIL posted not a single item of specific intelligence regarding Hezbollah forces. Statements on the order of Hezbollah "fired rockets in large numbers from various locations" and Hezbollah's rockets "were fired in significantly larger numbers from various locations" are as precise as its coverage of the other side ever got....

Sure enough, a review of every single UNIFIL web posting during the war shows that, while UNIFIL was daily revealing the towns where Israeli soldiers were located, the positions from which they were firing, and when and how they had entered Lebanese territory, it never described Hezbollah movements or locations with any specificity whatsoever.

When it comes to Israel, leave it to UNIFIL to prove that the press release is mightier than the sword.

(Hat tip: LGF)

Lebanese Ambulance Incident: Followup

Now that Zombie picked apart Hezbollah disinformation and media coverage of The Red Cross Ambulance Incident, be sure to see Michelle Malkin's follows up.

Journalists 'Convert' to Islam

If a new hostage video released today is to be believed, Fox News reporter Steve Centanni and cameraman Olaf Wiig converted to Islam. Will Yvonne Ridley become their spiritual advisor? Developing....

UPDATE: AP now reports that Centanni and Wiig were released from captivity.

ACLU Defends Al-Manar Broadcaster

Almanar_2The FBI arrested Javed Iqbal, of Staten Island, for broadcasting Al-Manar TV from satellite dishes in his backyard. Al-Manar, run by Hezbollah, is on the State Department’s terror list.

The ACLU claims that prosecuting Iqbal is unconstitutional because the International Emergency Economic Powers Act makes an exception for news media. But earlier this year, the Washington Times argued that Al-Manar can't be considered a legitimate news service and is just culpable for terror as Hezbollah itself.

Who has a stronger argument?

'We Begged Them to Leave'

Bitter residents of Marwaheen, a Sunni village, blame Hezbollah for the destruction of their homes. AP reports:

When the war broke out, people said, Hezbollah fighters in civilian clothes entered the village and set up launchers to fire rockets south into Israel. The guerrillas moved the launchers around, putting one on top of a house that was subsequently destroyed, they said.

A teenage girl who was in Marwaheen for the first three days of the war said she saw a Hezbollah fighter set up a rocket launcher with a timer on a nearby hillside, then run to the other side of the village near her home, taking refuge between civilian houses.

Streaks of red crossed the sky as the launcher fired a volley into Israel, and minutes later Israel returned fire and huge explosions tore through the launch site, she said.

"We begged them to leave," the girl said, declining to be quoted by name because she feared retribution from Hezbollah. "We told them, 'Get out! We have children here. We don't want anybody to get hurt.' But they ignored us."....

A few blocks away, people pointed out a destroyed house that they said was a Hezbollah weapons depot. The roof of the stone building had collapsed onto a pile of rubble, from which peeked rocket-propelled grenades, mortar tubes and a dark green box that apparently once stored ammunition.

"Nobody knew they were using our houses to store weapons. We were surprised to find them" after the war, said Wassim Abdallah, 24. "How could they keep weapons in the middle of all these civilian houses?"

See also Lebanese Christians have a bone to pick with Hezbollah.

A Racist State?

ImagesSee the Wall Street Journal where Professor David Bernstein wonders why Israel is the only country condemned for basing citizenship on ethnic descent:

... the more interesting question is why the question of basing citizenship (in part) of ethnic descent only calls the right of Israel to exist into question.

My correspondent was unaware of any other countries that have an overt ethnic identity, but, judging by immigration laws, there are quite a few, and with a few exceptions (Armenia and Germany), their discriminatory immigration policies exist, unlike Israel's, without any justification resulting from persecution of that group.

For example, according to Wikipedia: "Japanese citizenship is conferred jus sanguinis, and monolingual Japanese-speaking minorities often reside in Japan for generations under permanent residency status without acquiring citizenship in their country of birth." Why does Japan have the right to exist as a Japanese state? Has this question ever been asked?

(Hat tip: Daily Alert)

UK Moslem Denounces Hezbollah

In the Times of London, British Moslem writer Ziauddin Sardar cautions his co-religionists about being deceived by Hezbollah's charity work and recent conflict with Israel:

But these positive aspects of Hezbollah should not distract us from understanding its overall goal: to create a faith-based state in Lebanon.

This is where Hezbollah and I part company. If recent Muslim history is anything to go by, the so-called Islamic states, where Islam controls all aspects of citizens’ lives, have been a disaster.....

So Hezbollah’s success against Israel, its charitable works and its emphasis on living by the Koran should not blind British Muslims to its overall goal. An authoritarian, theocratic state will actually undermine all the good it does and stands for.

Why aren't we seeing more commentaries like this from the Moslem community?


Thursday, August 24 2006

Why Hezbollah Will Delay Reconstruction

ConstructionYou read the reports that Hezbollah is heavily involved in reconstructing southern Lebanon. You thought their effort and efficiency mean an end to the conflict. After all, rebuilding homes that will be destroyed is senseless. But The Independent 's Robert Fisk notes some sobering info:

… Hizbollah has encouraged its Shia population to rent homes in Khalde, south of Beirut, since it intends to delay its entire city construction project for a year - because of its conviction that the ceasefire will break down and that another Israeli-Hizbollah war will only wreck newly built homes.
Gaza Kidnap Bucks Trends

McClatchy Papers notes that the abduction of two Fox News journalists bucks all the patterns of previous media kidnappings:

Until now, virtually all of the abductions were motivated by personal, not political, aims. Some kidnappers, such as those who held a McClatchy Newspapers reporter and freelance photographer for eight hours last fall, sought jobs with the Palestinian security services. Others demanded freedom for relatives held in Palestinian jails.

The Holy Jihad Brigades is the first group to make this type of political demand….

The statement itself was also unusual for Gaza. It repeatedly cited the Quran and denounced Western and Arab governments for their policies toward the Palestinians.

The video's release came amid new warnings that militant groups in the Gaza Strip were planning to kidnap Western journalists. Earlier this week, the BBC temporarily pulled its Gaza City-based reporter, Alan Johnston, out of the area after receiving what it believed to be reliable information that militants were targeting British journalists.

Meanwhile, the Daily Telegraph considers the possibility that the Holy Jihad Brigades is connected to Al-Qaida.

The Red Cross Ambulance Incident

Zombie picks apart Hezbollah disinformation and media coverage in a thorough look at The Red Cross Ambulance Incident.

A Controversial Tour

Kofi_annanKofi Annan’s packing his bags for an extensive Mideast trip to raise support for Lebanese peacekeeping efforts. While controversial stops in Syria and Iran are being worked out, the Secretary General would do well to add India to his itinerary. AFP reports that Indian defense officials are considering withdrawing their contingent of 775 soldiers from Southern Lebanon.

Hezbollah Throws Its Weight Around

Hezbollah’s already throwing its weight around, telling Tony Blair he’s not welcome in Lebanon during an upcoming Mideast trip. Quoting Ghaleb Abu Zeynab, a member of the organization's politburo, the Times of London reports:

A senior member of Hezbollah’s politburo has told The Times that Mr Blair should stay away from the country because he was “up to his ears in the blood of Lebanese women and children”.

British officials are confident that Mr Blair would be welcomed by the government of Fouad Siniora, the Prime Minister. But Hezbollah, which has emerged as the real force in the country, has stepped up its attack on Britain in recent days and Mr Blair would risk an angry reception from its supporters if he visits the country....

[Blair] now faces a serious dilemma. He can travel to Lebanon and risk facing a hostile reception, or he can bypass Lebanon and restrict his visit to Israel and the Palestinian territories. He would then face the charge that his peace mission has avoided the very country at the centre of the conflict.


Wednesday, August 23 2006

Journalist Abductors Make Demand

KidnapA previously unheard of group called the Holy Jihad Brigades claims responsibility for abducting Fox correspondent Steve Centanni and cameraman Olaf Wiig in Gaza According to Reuters, the group

demanded the United States release "Muslim prisoners" within 72 hours.

"Release what you have, and we will release what we have," the "Holy Jihad Brigades" said in a statement obtained by Reuters.

Christians Refuse Hezbollah Aid

In a rare piece of journalism, the Sydney Morning Herald quotes Lebanese Christians unhappy with Hezbollah’s “victory” coming at their expense:

Hezbollah is dispensing up to $US12,000 ($16,000) to people who have lost property in the war, but Mr Hasrouni says he will not accept it. "We don't want to be indebted to Hezbollah," he said.

Residents who fled the town during the war returned to find bloodstains on their couches, or dirty handtowels where Hezbollah fighters had used their toilets, Mr Hasrouni said, adding that although many locals did not support this war, they could not stop it. Three years ago Hezbollah seized his olive groves for military purposes. He could do nothing.

"I do not like Hezbollah," said Mr Hasrouni, who still is afraid to visit his groves.

"I am disappointed with this war because Israel didn't really do the job … And I really don't believe anyone could disarm Hezbollah."

Sourcing Quotes the Pilger Way

John Pilger's attack on Tony Blair resorts to fabricated quotes to demonise Israel. See the latest HonestReporting UK critique: Sourcing Quotes the Pilger Way.

One Fatwa's Terrorist

AlazharAFP reports two conflicting fatwas issued by Egyptian clerics with implications for the way editors use (or don’t use) the word terror:

On the eve of last week's truce in the month-long war between Israel and Hezbollah, cleric Safwat al-Higazi issued an edict calling on worshippers to kill "any Zionist anywhere in wartime"….

Higazi later limited the edict to Israeli Jews, whom he said were all reservists in the army and therefore legitimate targets....

Al-Azhar mosque (pictured), the leading theological authority for many Sunni Muslims, had to step in with a counter-fatwa and banned Higazi from preaching at Friday prayers.

"Killing Jews on the Egyptian territory would be a terrorist act," said the edict, issued three days after Higazi's.

AFP adds that the Al-Azhar fatwa “said nothing about killing Jews in other countries.” Would Reuters honcho Stephen Jukes say one fatwa’s freedom figher is another fatwa’s terrorist?

Prisoners' Document Dead and Buried

According to the Jerusalem Post, Mahmoud Abbas has given up on a Hamas-Fatah unity government. The PA president is now trying to put together a government of academics, technocrats and independent figures:

Another official said former PA finance minister Salaam Fayad, head of the independent Third Way List, was being touted as a possible candidate to head the new government. Hanan Ashrawi may be given the Foreign Ministry, while Nasr Youssef, the former interior minister, may return to his job, he added.

This closes the chapter on the Prisoners' Document, which formed the basis of months of fruitless national unity talks.


Tuesday, August 22 2006

'More Raw and Public Than Ever'

Hezbollah2If this dispatch accurately reflects Lebanese dissatisfaction with Hezbollah, we have to wonder why only reporters from McClatchy Papers (formerly Knight-Ridder) take any significant note of the grumbling:

In Lebanon's latest war-ravaged landscape, age-old tensions that were never properly addressed are more raw and public than ever. Many Christians grumble aloud that Israel should have "finished the job." Sunni Muslims are caught between satisfaction at seeing Israel taken down a notch and the terror of being sidelined by Hezbollah, an Iranian-bankrolled Shiite Muslim force. Shiites, who form the backbone of Hezbollah's support base, were the conflict's biggest victims, losing relatives, homes and jobs.

Many Lebanese from all backgrounds fear that Hezbollah, now the most powerful political and military force in the country, will inch back to its early goal of establishing Islamic rule over Lebanon.

Misbah Ahdab, a Sunni legislator from the ruling parliamentary bloc, said Hezbollah was creating "a parallel system" instead of making overtures to back the central government. Fear of angering Hezbollah is keeping many politicians silent, he said, even though they fret privately over the future of a country led by a militant Islamist group.

It's totally ridiculous to begin rebuilding again when it's going to be destroyed in two years," he said.

See also this in-depth McClatchy report detailing how Hezbollah built itself up in lots of small incremental steps.

Law and Disorder

Abbas_5The Jerusalem Post reports that PA president Mahmoud Abbas was forced to cancel a campaign against Qassam rockets after the rocketmen refused to cooperate. Feel free to note discomforting parallels from this recent report in The Guardian.

Covering the Conflict in the North

The latest HonestReporting communique has just been published. Covering the Conflict in the North.

Sign up above to receive HonestReporting communiques in your inbox.

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

One For the Camera

It's bad enough when photo journalists stage photo opportunities, but now the BBC has taken matters to a new twisted level--endangering kids for the sake of a photo.


Reporter Martin Asser explains:

When Um Ali Mihdi returned to her home in the southern Lebanese city of Bint Jbeil two days ago, she found a 1,000lb (450kg) Israeli bomb lying unexploded in her living room.

The shell is huge, bigger than the young boy pushed forward to stand reluctantly next to it while we get our cameras out and record the scene for posterity.

(Hat tip: USS Neverdock)


Monday, August 21 2006

CNN Responds

CNN responds to a recent commentary by YNet News columnist Yaakov Lappin criticizing the network's coverage:

... it dismays us that out of the 118 Israeli- focused reports on CNN and more than 40 one-on-one interviews with Israeli spokespersons in just 31 days, Yaakov Lappin chose just a single report to base his eccentric critique of CNN’s coverage of the Israeli/Lebanese conflict.
'An Impressionistic Phrase'

Bbcjoke2People who wrote the BBC complaining about Orla Guerin's coverage from Bint Jbeil received the following reply:

Thank you for your e-mail.

I appreciate that you felt a recent BBC News report from Orla Guerin was biased against Israel.

I should state that Orla Guerin's report on the 14th August from Bint Jbeil in Southern Lebanon made clear at the start that she was reporting on the perspective of Lebanese people returning home in their thousands.

She reported: "I haven't seen a single building that isn't damaged in some way. Many have been flattened. Many have been singed. This town has really been wiped out."

Orla did not say that every building had been wiped out. She was using an impressionistic phrase implying extreme damage which is justified by the scale of what she saw.

Nevertheless, I do acknowledge your concerns and will ensure that your comments on all matters are fully registered and made available to news editors and indeed senior management within the BBC. Feedback of this nature helps us when making decisions about future BBC programmes and services and your views will most certainly play a part in this process.

Thank you again for taking the time to contact us.

Watch Guerin's report, read our critique, and judge for yourself whether the BBC's reply holds water.

UK Media's 'Snatched-Body Zombies'

BurchillJulie Burchill (pictured) doesn't pull punches. Reacting to UK media criticism of Israel's response to Hezbollah, the British journalist writes:

But I say thank the Lord for the Jews, fighting the war for freedom in the front line. And I’d far prefer them to be angry, aggressive and alive than meek, mild and dead. That’s what makes me and a minority like me feel so much like strangers in our own country, now more than ever.

I’ve always loved being a journalist, but now even that feels weird, as though I’m living among a bunch of snatched-body zombies who look like my colleagues but believe and say the most inhuman, evil things.

See the full commentary in the London Jewish Chronicle.

'Made In Britain'

The Times of London reports that British-made night vision kits were found in Hezbollah bunkers. It's believed that the equipment was originally sold to Iran in 2003 to help fight drug smuggling. The Times writes:

One set of the equipment was found by Israeli forces in the southern Lebanon village of Mis-a-Jebel on August 10, in a house belonging to a 60-year-old man whose four sons are all Hezbollah fighters.

One was described as a Thermo-vision 1000 LR system with a serial number 155010, part number 193960. Other equipment, including radios also thought to be British, and sophisticated recording and monitoring devices, were found....

Lieutenant-Colonel Olivier Radowicz, an Israeli commander, said: “The night-vision unit was used to observe the movement of troops. You can also record what you are watching. Then it is connected to a computer. You can obtain a perfect intelligence picture in real time. It is then connected to firing systems.”

Did the equipment fly out of Prestwick Airport?

UPDATE Aug. 28: The Scotsman reports British authorities determined that the equipment was neither military grade, nor part of a consignment delivered to Iran in 2003.


Sunday, August 20 2006

French Waffling

France_2Staff-eds in the Washington Post, the Times of London, LA Times, and the Sunday Times blast French waffling over peacekeepers for Lebanon. So does the Chicago Tribune, which writes:

But the UN forces can and must be expected to help stop the shipments of arms from Iran and Syria. That will allow the Lebanese government time to work out a political solution that could lead to Hezbollah's laying down its weapons. That's the best path to peace in Lebanon. It will take a Herculean effort by the Lebanese government--and a strong assist from the world.

UN dickering and dithering for weeks or months over rules of engagement will destabilize the region. The earlier UN peacekeeping force in Lebanon was ineffective. If this new incarnation is to be any better, it will need to find its ... what's the French word for "backbone"?

Funny Money Rebuilds Lebanon?

CounterfeitBlogger Snapped Shot wonders if Hezbollah’s largesse for rebuilding Lebanon is backed by counterfeit dollars.


Premeditated Meditations, Part 2

Writing in the New Statesman, John Pilger thinks he’s Seymour Hersh on steroids.


Friday, August 18 2006

Don't Try This At Home

See The People's Cube for all the fun Photoshoppers are having with "Fatima."



Thursday, August 17 2006

Photoshopping Hezbollah

Akron Beacon-Journal cartoonist Chip Bok looks at Hezbollah in a different perspective:


Competing With Hezbollah

This NY Times staff-ed worries about Hezbollah filling a leadership vacuum in southern Lebanon. The paper calls on the US to provide aid to the country to offset Hezbollah's influence in the reconstruction:

Promises, even the best-intentioned, can’t compete with the visible aid Hezbollah is already delivering, in some cases house to house. Washington’s pledges must be quickly translated into tangible on-the-ground help or Hezbollah will clinch the battle for Lebanese hearts and minds even before the peacekeepers arrive. The American aid bureaucracy proved that it can move quickly after the Asian tsunami of 2004. The same sense of urgency needs to be brought to bear now.

The LA Times reports that Uncle Sam is trying to do just that.

BBC's Orla Exposed

The BBC's Orla Guerin is caught attempting to exaggerate the level of damage in a Lebanese village. Check out the latest HonestReporting UK communique: BBC's Orla Exposed.

'Constructive Ambiguity'

BluehelmetAccording to AP, international peacekeeping efforts in Lebanon are getting bogged down by terminology:

"They call it `constructive ambiguity,'" one ex-U.N. official, Timur Goksel, said disparagingly of vague passages in Resolution 1701....

Questions focus on a paragraph deep in the lengthy document, in which the council authorizes the strengthened U.N. force "to take all necessary action" to, among other things, ensure no "hostile activities" take place in its zone, and to "protect civilians."

"What constitutes `hostile activities'?" asked Tufts University's Johnstone, a one-time U.N. peacekeeping official who edits an annual journal on peace operations....

The specialists say distinguishing between defensive and offensive Israeli actions could prove difficult - if Hezbollah, for example, is detected building up arms in a village.

One Irish blogger, Big Ulsterman, summed up the problem of "constructive ambiguity" a few years ago:

Beautiful, eh? Two statements which aren't in conflict with each other in any way: two sides of the same coin, the same logic expressed differently - and presented in a way each audience just wanted to lap up. Slurp.

Trouble is, as well as being conveyors of meaning, the same words can also impose limitations - but of course in the world of constructive ambiguity the words have to be so emotive, so tempting, so desirable as to blind the hearer to the steel fence being erected around him. The abhorrent thing about constructive ambiguity is its deliberate manipulation. Indeed, the very phrase itself has been crafted to sound upbeat and wholesome. Desirable even.

If the UN peacekeepers are deliberately keeping the definition of "hostile activity" muddied, can we expect the media -- still ambiguous over the word "terror" -- to accurately convey what's happening in southern Lebanon?


Wednesday, August 16 2006

Meet Mike Thorson

Beirut2The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel caught up with Mike Thorson. The Wisconsin graphic artist and part owner of a tool company first tipped off LGF about Reuters' doctored image of Beirut:

Looking closely at the photography, he saw an odd pattern in the thick, black clouds of smoke rising from the bombed area. He recognized the effect, a bit of Adobe Photoshop magic called cloning.

To clone, you simply click on part of a picture, then paste an exact copy of that part somewhere else on the photo. Thorson recognized the effect because he'd used it. Sometimes he'd worked on catalog photographs of the tools his company distributes. Sometimes, on close inspection, he would find on the photograph a speck of dust, a piece of dirt, a hair or some other imperfection. By cloning, he could replace the imperfection with a clean image.

The photo on the Yahoo site was different, though. It was supposed to be journalism.

The moral of the story: individuals can make a difference and hold the big media accountable.

Test Your Knowledge

With so many distorted graphic images coming out of Lebanon, we took a look back at some recent and not-so-recent examples of reality-twisting photos. Test your knowledge with HonestReporting's quiz. Can you separate the fact from the fiction?

Targeted Bombardment

Now that the fighting appears to be over, we're starting to see that Israeli air-strikes on Beirut were limited to specific areas. We were impressed by a map produced by the Times of London:


But don't take the Times' word for it. See what the Lebanese officials involved with reconstruction had to say about Israeli airstrikes here.

An Expanding Sphere of Influence

Nasrallah_2The NY Times reports that Hassan Nasrallah and Iran are using reconstruction efforts to quietly deepen their influence over Lebanon:

Nehme Y. Tohme, a member of Parliament from the anti-Syrian reform bloc and the country’s minister for the displaced, said he had been told by Hezbollah officials that when the shooting stopped, Iran would provide Hezbollah with an “unlimited budget” for reconstruction....

Hezbollah’s reputation as an efficient grass-roots social service network — as opposed to the Lebanese government, regarded by many here as sleek men in suits doing well — was in evidence everywhere. Young men with walkie-talkies and clipboards were in the battered Shiite neighborhoods on the southern edge of Bint Jbail, taking notes on the extent of the damage.

Blowing the Whistle On Orla Guerin

Drinking From Home blows the whistle on BBC's Orla Guerin. She and Channel 4's Alex Thomson visited the same areas of Bint Jbail, but inexplicably, offer different descriptions of the destruction there. Our suggestion: first check out Drinking From Home's critique, then watch the Guerin and Thomson reports and judge for yourself.


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