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Media Backspin
« November 2006 | Main | January 2007 »

Sunday, December 31 2006

'Radios Play At Incitement'

Radio_1AP describes how Palestinian radio stations are fueling Gaza's civil war:

During two weeks of violence, Hamas' Aqsa Radio and Fatah's Radio Shabab enraptured listeners as they reported fierce clashes and angry marches, and gave air time for their respective leaders to abuse their opponents. Callers routinely incited loyalists against rivals.

On Radio Shabab, callers described Hamas gunmen as "child killers" — a reference to the drive-by shooting — or as "the mullahs" — a barbed jab at the Islamic group's close ties to Shiite Iran.

Hamas' Aqsa Radio rarely reported aggression by Hamas gunmen, despite deadly assaults on Fatah targets. The broadcasts regularly labeled opponents as "mercenary death squads" and "coup plotters."

One senior Hamas official called his rivals "Zionists" — a virtual death sentence in Gaza's militantly anti-Israel society. In another report, an Aqsa correspondent reported — falsely — that Fatah gunmen were firing at their own supporters in the southern town of Khan Younis.

"Radios play at incitement," said Daher. "There's no neutral radio in Gaza, it's all factional."

Seen it, done it, been there.

(Illustration from Gates of Vienna)

PA Journalism and the RSF

RsfReporters Sans Frontieres recently visited Gaza to examine the general security for journalists. A press release made some surprisingly strong comments – by RSF standards – about the general state of Palestinian journalism:

It is also vital that all Palestinian factions should quickly agree on a joint statement calling for both local and foreign journalists to be respected. The opening-up of the state-owned media - the news agency WAFA and the radio and TV broadcaster PBC - to all Palestinians regardless of their political affiliation are also essential conditions for improving press freedom.

Lastly, the creation of a regulatory body would help control the excesses of media used as propaganda outlets by certain factions. Professionalising the media and giving them a universally-recognised status would also help to combat the stigmatisation of journalists, who are often branded as “traitors to the nation” as soon as they try to stand back and put some distance between themselves and the political parties.

Read RSF’s full report (pdf format).


Friday, December 29 2006

Recommended Reading

* The SF Chronicle examines the effects of war on Israeli kids.

* Michael Totten is blogging in Lebanon.

* India's Hinudstan Times reports that Hamas is befriending Lashkar-e-Taiba and Hizb-ul-Mujahideen. The two Pakistan-based groups are linked to Al-Qaida and responsible for a lot of terrorism in India.

* The Memri Blog describes the latest controversial video game sweeping the Arab world. The object: kill Israeli soldiers:

"'The game gives young Muslims and Arabs a chance to see themselves in the role of good guys, which will help bolster self-esteem,' said 31-year-old Radwan Kasmiya, the author of Under Siege...

* The Jerusalem Post reports Hezbollah is paying Palestinian terrorists to launch rockets at Israel.


Thursday, December 28 2006

Video Message From Sderot

HonestReporting visits Sderot in the immediate aftermath of a Qassam missile attack which seriously wounded two teenage boys. Read the communique and watch a video message from Sderot here - Video Message From Sderot

Following Up on Herzliya

The blogosphere is taking note. Pajamas Media picked up on IsraellyCool's podcast interview with HonestReporting's Joe Hyams in Herzliya. Other media monitors and bloggers interviewed include Richard Fernandez, Michael Totten, Martin Solomon, and Richard Landes. Click below to launch the podcast.



Wednesday, December 27 2006

With Full Knowledge

Arafat_5WorldNetDaily reports that the US State Dept. declassified a document admitting it knew Yasser Arafat personally plotted and supervised a 1973 attack on the Saudi embassy in Sudan. US diplomats Ambassador Cleo Noel and Charge d'Affaires George Curtis Moore, along with Belgian diplomat Guy Eid were held hostage and executed. The document states:

The Khartoum operation was planned and carried out with the full knowledge and personal approval of Yasir Arafat Chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and the head of Fatah….

The terrorists extended their deadline three times, but when they became convinced that their demands would not be met and after they reportedly had received orders from Fatah headquarters in Beirut, they killed the two U.S. officials and the Belgian Charge. Thirty-four hours later, upon receipt of orders from Yasir Arafat to surrender, the terrorists released their other hostages unharmed and surrendered to Sudanese authorities.

Arafat won a Nobel Peace Prize 21 years after Khartoum. Real kudos go to everyone who tenaciously pressed the controversial issue.

A 'Supposed' Cease-Fire

Qassam_1We were impressed with Steve Erlanger's healthy dose of cynicism in the way he qualified the Israeli-Palestinian cease-fire. The NY Times reporter wrote in this update:

Since a supposed cease-fire was agreed to on Nov. 26 between the Palestinians and Israel, more than 55 Qassams have been fired from Gaza….

See AFP's opposing spin.


Tuesday, December 26 2006

'The Truce Has Generally Held'

In an update on Palestinian rocket fire, AFP writes:

Under a ceasefire agreed by Israel and militants on November 26, the Jewish state withdrew its forces from Gaza and militants were supposed to stop firing rockets.

Since then, more than 50 rockets have been fired into Israel, and one Palestinian has been killed and at least three wounded by Israeli fire in Gaza. But the truce has generally held amid hopes that it can help restart the dormant peace process.

Generally held? Just this morning, one rocket came “generally” close to a strategic site in Ashkelon.

UPDATE Dec. 26: See Elder of Ziyon's calendar of rocket fire.

UPDATE Dec. 26: Two Sderot teens were severely injured by a rocket tonight. One of the boys, Matan Cohen, escaped death in two previous Qassam salvos.

Bethlehem - Abusing the Christmas Story

The media employs seasonal religious symbolism to attack Israel. See HonestReporting's latest communique: Bethlehem - Abusing the Christmas Story.

O Brittle Town of Bethlehem

Church2002The Jerusalem Post reports that Israel is considering allowing some fugitives from the Church of the Nativity siege to return to Bethlehem. But residents of the city aren't thrilled with return of the "heroes." An anonymous Christian businessman told the Post:

"These men were responsible for a spate of attacks on Christians, including extortion and confiscation of property."....

"I'm aware that most Christians living here are afraid to speak publicly about the issue, but the overwhelming majority was not unhappy when these thugs were deported from the city," he added. "Now some people here are once again worried because of the reports that they will return. They remember all the bad things that happened to the Christians when these gunmen were roaming the streets. People also remember how the gunmen mistreated the monks and nuns who were held hostage during the raid."


Monday, December 25 2006

Revisiting the Church Siege

WorldNetDaily talked to Jihad Jaara, a leader of nearly 100 Palestinian fugitives who holed up during the 2002 siege of the Church of the Nativity. If Jaara's name rings a bell, that's because NBC News reported in 2005 that Jaara was still masterminding terror attacks from his exile in Ireland.

Mideast Dominos: A Falling Theory

DominoThe road to Mideast peace now runs through... Lebanon? AP quotes Italian PM Romano Prodi, who met with Lebanese leaders:

"If there is not a solution to the Lebanese problem, there will be no solution to the other problems in the Middle East," he said in English.

Israel-Iraq linkage theories take a further blow. McClatchy reports Iraqi Shiite insurgents are targeting Palestinians in Baghdad:

The attacks include kidnappings, mortar barrages, drive-by shootings and Palestinians forced from their homes. Palestinians and U.N. aid officials say Shiite militias are behind most of the attacks....

The widespread belief that Palestinians received more privileges than ordinary Iraqis drew resentment from both Shiites and fellow Sunnis. Immediately after the fall of the former regime, Iraqis pushed Palestinians out of some districts and took over their homes. Many Shiites branded the Palestinians "terrorists" and accused them of supporting or joining the then-nascent Sunni insurgency.


Sunday, December 24 2006

The Independent's "Palestinian Marys"

Johann Hari employs religious symbolism to represent pregnant Palestinian women. See HonestReporting-UK's latest critique: The Independent's "Palestinian Marys".

Mideast Christians Feel the Heat

MangersquareThe Baltimore Sun looked at the headaches of Gaza’s approximately 3,000 Palestinian Christians:

But in the past year, their interfaith ties have been shaken by flare-ups of violence directed at Christians by some extremist groups and individuals. When a Dutch newspaper printed cartoons of the Prophet Mohammad earlier this year, sparking outrage among many Muslims, explosives were placed outside the meeting hall of a Baptist Bible study group and a group of Catholic nuns received death threats.

After Pope Benedict XVI's controversial speech about Islam in September, Gaza's 1,400-year-old Greek Orthodox church was hit by homemade explosives, keeping many worshipers away out of fear.

Since the election of the Islamic Hamas movement, some Christian women have begun covering their heads with scarves like their Muslim counterparts so they can better fit into Gaza's increasingly conservative society.

See also the Sunday Times, which describes how dwindling Christian communities throughout the Mideast are feeling the heat from Muslim neighbors.

Cease-Fire Watch

Since the Israeli-Palestinian cease fire went into effect, 51 rockets have been launched from Gaza.


Friday, December 22 2006

'Similar Historical Injustices'

Abc_3The Campus Watch blog caught ABC News analyst/consultant Professor Fawaz Gerges comparing the Holocaust to the "tragedies of the Palestinians." Speaking on NPR, Professor Gerges said:

I really believe that both the Jews and the Palestinians, basically, are, have suffered from similar historical injustices.

Did Gerges mean "historical injustices" like Oslo and the Gaza disengagement?


Thursday, December 21 2006

AFP, Abbas and The 'Radical Path'

Has Mahmoud Abbas gone radical? AFP suggests so:

To break the stalemate, Abbas took the more radical path of calling early elections, and the political showdown quickly degenerated into a spate of assassinations, tit-for-tat kidnappings and deadly clashes between Hamas militants and Fatah supporters.

A truly "radical" step would have been to clamp down on Hamas instead of inviting them to participate in the last elections. How would AFP have described that?


FootstepsHighlighting Israeli checkpoints between Nazareth and Bethlehem an annual part of Xmas coverage. This year, The Guardian’s Rory McCarthy follows in the footsteps of reporters Stephen Farrell and Matthew Price.

Haroon Siddiqui Strikes Again

The Toronto Star writer continues using his column as a soapbox for criticizing Israel. See HonestReporting-Canada's latest communique: Haroon Siddiqui Strikes Again

UPDATE Dec. 28: See Headlines & Deadlines for Siddiqui's response to criticism from Toronto Sun columnist Lorrie Goldstein.


Wednesday, December 20 2006

Headline Of the Day

How did the BBC come up with this headline?

Gaza truce holds despite violence
The Blogosphere Revolution

2006 was the year of the blogosphere revolution. Backspin played its part while HonestReporting's Joe Hyams addressed the prestigious Herzliya Conference on Media as Theater of War, the Blogosphere, and the Global Battle for Civil Society. Read about it at HonestReporting's latest communique - The Blogosphere Revolution.

The Editor's Picks

Here's a selection of some of 2006's best articles. Their relevancy and hyperlinks endure.

* Stephen Black challenges apologists for Palestinian terror.

* Targeted killings: an eye-opening behind the scenes look.

* See Wafa Sultan's stunning Al-Jazeera interview, courtesy Memri.

* Listing Hezbollah’s Al-Manar TV station as a terror organization doesn’t contradict free expression. Here's why.

* Al-Jazeera's chief editor discusses his personal biases against Israel.

* Meet Ishmael Khaldi, Israel’s first Bedouin (and Muslim) foreign diplomat.


Tuesday, December 19 2006

Palestinian Democracy: Warts and All

NabulsiIn The Guardian, Karma Nabulsi (pictured) argues that the PLO, not the Palestinian Authority, is “the only legitimate representative of the Palestinian people,” and that Israeli “coercion” for new elections should be resisted:

Mahmoud Abbas declared yesterday: "Let the people decide for themselves what they want." But there already is a national consensus: there must be Palestinian elections, not for a president of the Palestinian Authority, or for members of its legislative council, but for the Palestinian National Council, the institutional body that forms the sovereign base of the Palestine Liberation Organisation and is the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people....

What we are witnessing today is the horrific and inevitable outcome of a process of deliberate coercion, designed to force an occupied people to surrender their elected representatives. That this coercion is being carried out by the military occupier Israel and its neocon backers in the US administration is to be expected - and resisted.

The former PLO representative-turned Oxford wonk should know better. We said it in March and we’ll say it again:

1. Abbas' primary task as required by the road map was to dismantle the infrastructure of terror. Instead, Abbas asked Hamas to form a government.

2. The PLO isn't the "sole representative" of the Palestinian people. The overwhelming number of Palestinians voted for Hamas -- which never joined the more secular PLO. Even during the pre-Oslo years, the Tunisia-based PLO nearly faded into obscurity while Israel dealt with local Palestinians on the ground.

3. Mahmoud Abbas’ legitimacy stems from his position as popularly elected President of the Palestinian Authority. He was only chosen as PLO chairman by cadres of the member organizations after Yasser Arafat died. The Palestinians need democracy, and they also need to live with the consequences of their choice of votes. The PA is the democratic and legitimate representative of the Palestinians, who have elected Hamas -- warts and all.

Israel, Iraq and The Domino Theory

In the Washington Post, Robert Satloff makes a compelling case against linking Israel and Iraq:

With more than 3,000 Palestinian and 1,000 Israeli fatalities, the bloodshed in the subsequent three years was the worst in the history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Yet the regional impact was virtually zero.

Not one Arab state threatened to fight alongside the Palestinians, and none even came to their aid militarily; indeed, only faraway Iran tried to send weapons. The Arab "street" did not rise in protest. Neither Jordan nor Egypt severed its peace treaty with Israel, and no Arab state faced significant protests. The conflict -- certainly a horrible experience for Israelis and Palestinians -- was contained.


Monday, December 18 2006

HonestReporting at Herzliya

HerzliyaIn Herzliya, HonestReporting CEO Joe Hyams (pictured) addresses the conference: The Media As Theater of War, the Blogosphere, and the Global Battle for Civil Society.

Discussing Qana, Hyams introduced the concept of "Golden Hour" messaging in the aftermath of a crisis. He asserted that there's no need to wait for official positions re-framing an already raging debate. More effective is to have confidence in taking the initiative, even if something went wrong. Doing so can mitigate the trap of defending consequences, without any consideration of initial intent.

See also the conference’s recommended reading.

Bethlehem's 'Creeping Islamic Fundamentalism'

NativityT'is the season to blame Israel for the Christian community's exodus from Bethlehem and the rest of the West Bank. But the Daily Mail gets the story right:

The town's Christian population has dwindled from more than 85 per cent in 1948 to 12 per cent of its 60,000 inhabitants in 2006.

There are reports of religious persecution, in the form of murders, beatings and land grabs....

The sense of a creeping Islamic fundamentalism is all around in Bethlehem.

Read Elizabeth Day's full report.


Sunday, December 17 2006

Improper Nouns

Someone at the Sunday Observer thinks “occupied territories” is a proper noun, capitalized and all:

The increasingly violent power struggle in the Occupied Territories edged closer to civil war yesterday….

An editorial in today's Sunday Telegraph makes the same mistake. Does terminology matter?

An Arrested Development

The words at the bottom of the screen said "Palestinian P.M. Arrested." Yet when Kate Wheeler of Canada's CTV interviewed Middle East Bureau Chief Janis Mackey Frayer about Ismail Haniyeh's attempt to smuggle $35 million in cash into Gaza, it was clear that no such arrest was made.


Frayer accurately reported that a deal was reached allowing Haniyeh to enter Gaza while the suitcases of money would be transferred directly to the PA treasury. To add to the Prime Minister's woes, he received a too-close-for-comfort 21-gun salute from unidentified gunmen trying to kill him. Responding to HonestReporting-Canada, CTV apologized for the error.

(Hat tip: Headlines & Deadlines)


Thursday, December 14 2006

Al-Jazeera's Blow to BBC

The Guardian reports that Israeli satellite provider, Yes TV, dropped BBC World for Al-Jazeera English:

Although BBC World will still be available in Israel via cable, it will lose around 50% of its audience in the country as a result of being dropped by Yes.

Could free market competition among Al-Jazeera, CNN, BBC and France 24 somehow lead to improved coverage?


Wednesday, December 13 2006

Blame Israel: T'is the Season

Bethlehem_2We see it year after year: MSM exaggerates Israeli responsibility for Bethlehem's muted Xmas cheer and under-reports anti-Christian violence by the Palestinians. One case in point -- Reuters:

Life in Bethlehem, the birthplace of Jesus, has grown steadily worse over the past six years as Israel has ratcheted up security, erecting dozens of military checkpoints across the West Bank and building a steel and concrete barrier.

Tourists and religious pilgrims, the major contributor to Bethlehem's economy, have stayed away in ever increasing numbers, while residents of the city have found it much harder to get to nearby cities like Jerusalem to work. Unemployment is now estimated at around 65 percent, city workers say.

What really gives headaches to West Bank Christian communities like Bethlehem? Unfortunate developments such as these: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, and 7.

Not So Civil War

Gaza_4At some point, internal violence crosses the line and becomes a civil war. How can we judge when a change of terminology is warranted? MSM is changing on Iraq. Has Gaza reached that point too?


Tuesday, December 12 2006

A Tit-For-Tat Civil War

While readers of the British press might understand Gaza's internal violence as tetchy, today's Boston Globe describes Gaza's civil war as “tit-for-tat” instead:

Both sides have engaged in tit-for-tat strikes, including several assassinations and attempted killings of top security officials in Gaza.

Ultimately, terms like "tit-for-tat" and "cycle of violence" shortchange readers. Here's why.

Eye to Eye

Guardian_5Former President Jimmy Carter got op-ed space in The Guardian to defend his book. Why is Carter defending his book in the UK, and why this specific paper?

Loud and Clear

Did the UN Human Rights Council get the message loud and clear?


Monday, December 11 2006

2006 Dishonest Reporter of the Year Award

Dishonestaward2006See HonestReporting's sixth annual recognition of the most skewed and biased coverage of the Mideast conflict: 2006 Dishonest Reporter of the Year Award.

And be sure to listen to HonestReporting's staff talking about some of the year's best and worst media from on our premier podcast. For technical information on how to listen, click here.

UPDATE: Thanks, Pajamas Media and LGF, for picking up on the award.

Imagine the Headlines

The LA Times reports the latest horror from Gaza. Imagine the headlines if Israel were responsible for an attack like this:

Three young sons of a senior Palestinian intelligence officer and their driver were killed today by gunmen on a street crowded with schoolchildren in an attack that could ignite fighting between Palestinian factions.

Witnesses said at least two gunmen emerged from a car and opened fire with Kalashnikov rifles after blocking the vehicle carrying the children of intelligence officer Baha Balousheh, a loyalist of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

The boys, ages 6, 7 and 9, died along with their 25-year-old driver. At least four bystanders were wounded in the 6:15 a.m. attack, hospital officials said.

As shots rang out, children on the street, which is lined with several schools, dropped to the ground or fled screaming, witnesses said.


Sunday, December 10 2006

Al-Jazeera Editor Speaks Out

Editor_1Die Weltwoche, a Swiss weekly spoke with Al-Jazeera Editor-in-Chief Ahmed Sheikh (pictured) in Doha. World Politics Watch translated the interview into English.

Credit reporter Pierre Heumann with pushing Sheikh on questions we'd like to ask about the editor's personal biases as a native of Nablus, suicide bombings, Iraq, the network's new English channel, and more.

Continue reading "Al-Jazeera Editor Speaks Out"


Friday, December 8 2006

Special Report: The New U.N. Human Rights Council

The new United Nations Human Rights Council spends little time talking about genuine human rights abuses because it is too busy attacking Israel. Read the latest HonestReporting Special Report and comment here.


Wednesday, December 6 2006

Carter's Book: Presidential Pulp

The former US President's new book causes controversy. See the latest HonestReporting communique: Carter's Book: Presidential Pulp.


Tuesday, December 5 2006

Explosive Charges

Declassified IDF photos, videos and prisoner interrogations prove Hezbollah fired rockets from civilian areas and used Lebanese civilians as human shields. A study based on the newly released info was produced by the Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center at the Center for Special Studies and translated into English by the American Jewish Congress. (Read the full study.) The NY Times, which received an advance copy of the study writes:

The report says that there were many such examples, and that Hezbollah has been preparing for such an engagement for years, embedding its fighters and their weapons in the Shiite villages of southern Lebanon. When Hezbollah fired its rockets from those areas, Israel faced a choice of attacking, and possibly causing civilian casualties, or refraining from shooting because of the risk, the report said.

Elias Hanna, a retired Lebanese Army general, said of the Israeli allegations, “Of course there are hidden invisible tunnels, bunkers of missile launchers, bunkers of explosive charges amongst civilians.”

Be sure to see this accompanying NY Times video:



Monday, December 4 2006

Recommended Reading

* The San Francisco Chronicle profiles Israel’s first Bedouin (and Muslim) foreign diplomat, consul Ishmael Khaldi. The 35-year-old Khaldi will work in Israel's San Francisco consulate.

* Haaretz’s Amos Harel ponders UNIFIL’s future if Hezbollah takes over Lebanon.

* Abu Yousef, a senior member of Force-17, told WorldNetDaily that American guns provided to bolster Mahmoud Abbas would eventually be used to kill Jews and “fight Israeli occupation.” Yousef knows: he's also a member of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades.


Sunday, December 3 2006

Suicide Bombers: Whose Take?

See The Observer (UK) and the JTA for diametrically opposite takes on what drives Palestinian suicide bombers. The Observer examined the granny bomber, while the JTA featured a new film, "Suicide Killers: Paradise Is Hell," by Pierre Rehov.

Where Credit Is Due

Reuters_8For a change, here’s some responsible journalism from Reuters. Despite what the locals say about the siege of the Beit Hanoun's al-Nasser mosque, reporter Luke Baker keeps focused on the fact that the gunmen themselves were responsible for the mosque’s destruction:

The army decided that since the mosque was being used for military purposes it was no longer protected under the rules of conflict. Commanders sent in armoured bulldozers to knock down its ancient walls, which dated to the 13th century….

Asked whether gunmen had used the shrine for protection as they fought Israeli troops, Kafarneh and his friends sitting on plastic chairs around him are quiet and then dismissive.

"There were gunmen, yes. But they weren't inside the mosque. They were nearby, in the buildings. Look, the buildings and the mosque are all together here," said one as the others nodded.

On the day of the stand-off, Hamas, the Islamic militant group that runs the Palestinian government, said itself that dozens of its gunmen were holed up inside…..

Very few are willing to link the actions of the militants to the destruction of the building, even though it's very unlikely it would have been targeted if gunmen weren't hiding inside.

An Interesting Job Description

France24The Economist notes an interesting job description at France 24:

Next year it will add some Arabic programming to the English-language channel. It has named a Frenchwoman, Agnès Levallois, to oversee the Arabic service to make sure journalists don't say “martyr” when they should say “terrorist”, as Mr de Pouzilhac puts it.
France 2 Loses Second Dura Trial

Dura_1The second trial related to France 2 TV's Mohammed Dura footage ended abruptly when a judge threw out the state-owned TV's lawsuit. France 2 and reporter Charles Enderlin sued Pierre Lurcat for defamation for questioning the veracity of the footage. Pajamas Media's Nidra Poller reports that the case was dismissed on purely technical grounds:

Judging that France 2 did not provide proof for the allegation that Pierre Lurçat is the director of the site on which the incriminated statements were published [League de Défense Juïve], the court rejected the plaintiff’s case without further consideration.... Maître David Dassa-Le-Deist, delighted by the terms of the judgment, notes that his client has endured six years of legal harassment from a plaintiff that used Wikipedia to establish the chain of responsibility….

In the first trial, Philippe Karsenty was found guilty and ordered to pay one symbolic euro in damages to both Enderlin and France 2. The trial of the third defendant, Charles Gouz, has not begun yet. See Richard Landes for more details.


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