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| February 2007 »
Relative Calm, Gaza Style
Judging from these funny headlines, the media can't decide what to make of the Palestinian truce. For that matter, neither can we:
Killing opens Gaza truce
Palestinian truce, but killing goes on
Palestinian truce holds despite attacks
Hamas, Fatah declare new cease-fire; fighting continues
Cease-Fire Holding in Gaza, More or Less
Those headlines might explain this one:
Mideast press sceptical of Palestinian truce
Imitation: Flattery's Highest Form
Now that there's a truce, you might be wondering about those "humiliating checkpoints." Wonder no more.
Palestinian Hamas security members stop a car as a boy sits on the roof at a checkpoint in Gaza City, Monday, Jan. 29, 2007. Hamas and Fatah gunmen battled each other across the Gaza Strip early Monday, attacking security compounds, knocking out an electrical transformer and kidnapping several local commanders in some of the most extensive factional fighting in recent weeks. The latest round of violence, which began Thursday, has so far left 30 people dead. (AP Photo/Adel Hana)
Headline writers at The Independent prove to be masters of understatement:
Hamas fails to condemn Eilat bomb that killed three
You have to read the article to find out that Hamas actually justified the attack:
Hamas, which controls the Palestinian Authority, notably refrained from condemning the bombing, with one of its Gaza spokesmen, Fawzi Barhoum, calling it a "natural response" to Israeli military policies in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, as well as its boycott of the authority. " So long as there is occupation, resistance is legitimate," he said.
What does this beauty of a headline say about USA Today, and what does it say about Hamas and Fatah?
Hamas, Fatah declare new cease-fire; fighting continues
(Hat tip: Boker Tov Boulder)
BBC Under Fire
Is the BBC "justifying" terror? See the latest critique from HonestReporting-UK: BBC Under Fire.
SMH's O'Mitted Context
In the middle of this report from Eilat, the Sydney Morning Herald’s Ed O’Loughlin writes:
Yesterday's attack ends a long period of quiet within Israel. According to the Israeli human rights group B'tshelem, killings of Israeli citizens in the occupied territories and Israel reached a low of 23 last year, including six soldiers. In the same period the number of Palestinians killed by Israeli forces rose to 660, B'tshelem found, half of them non-combatants and 141 of these minors.
O'Loughlin omits any context for the disparity of casualties so we'll provide it.
Please Bomb Us
In his blog, Palestinian journalist Fadi Abu Sada (pictured) begs Israel to bomb Gaza and spare civilians the ravages of civil war:
Israel poising to respond on Eilat attack, it could be by the aerial bombardment and artillery, or perhaps they will try to assassinate Palestinian resistance leaders, what a ironically, we really want that to happen quickly, it might be the only solution to stop the bloody fighting between brothers in the Gaza Strip....
We can no longer regret anything, what is happening already killed every emotion, we will not regret if we got more pain, and if Israel attack houses in Gaza and attempted to target the leaders of the Palestinian resistance, that this would be the only solution to stop the fighting.
The great tragedy would be that Israel did not do what we hope, I do not know where cycle of blood and revenge ongoing will lead us, no one even responded to the appeals of citizens to go down to the streets in an attempt to stop the bloodshed, and this confirms the loss of the sense of anything.
Abu Saba is the director of the Palestine News Network.
Bungled Headline Of The Day
Today's bungled headline is courtesy the Regina Leader-Post:
Israel on the brink of civil war
You have to read the article to find out that Gaza and Lebanon are on the brink of civil war.
UPDATE Jan. 30: HonestReporting-Canada secured a correction from the paper, but the bungled headline still appears online.
Spinning Eilat Terror
Does the very last paragraph of BBC coverage lend justification for today's terror in Eilat?
The last suicide attack was at a Tel Aviv restaurant, killing 10 people. Hundreds of Palestinians have been killed by Israeli forces in that time, mainly in the Gaza Strip.
Fauxtography: What Goes Around Comes Around
Seeing how well fauxtography worked against Israel, the Lebanese are now using doctored photos against each other. Lebanese blogger Jeha’s Nail shows how Christian politician Michel Aoun uses a doctored photo to score political points.
The gunman, actually a member of Hezbollah, was photographed in Kfar Chima last year. If he looks familiar, it’s because Time magazine outraged readers with a badly fumbled caption. (See Lightstalkers for more details on the photo originally taken by Bruno Stevens.)
Here's Aoun appearing on Hezbollah's Al-Manar TV with the doctored photo.
What goes around comes around.
(Hat tip: Michael Totten)
UPDATE Feb. 2: Photographer Bruno Stevens corrects the record on this post with the following comment:
I would like to comment that the "Hezbollah gunman" part of the picture above is NOT one of my images, eventhough it must have been taken at the same location (Kfar Chima) and a the same moment (July 17, 2006 at around 3PM) by one of the other 3 or 4 photographers present.
Please correct the post accordingly, thank you.
Blog On! - Media Responds to HR Critiques
Reuters and the BBC respond to recent criticism. See our latest communique: Blog On! - Media Responds to HR Critiques
'Winning Means Controlling the Streets'
According to a number of Palestinian wonks interviewed by the Christian Science Monitor, Gaza’s civil war will only get worse:
"We are going from bad to worse. I'm not optimistic that the fighting will stop by this weekend. It will take a few weeks more," says Nashat Aqtash, a former media consultant to Hamas. "They are taking the long way, and are fighting to win. Winning means controlling the streets" or losing power altogether.
And McClatchy describes the literal tribalization of Palestinian society.
Suicide Bomber Strikes Eilat
A suicide bomber in Eilat this morning killed three and injured another person. Islamic Jihad and the Al-Aqsa Brigades both claim responsibility. Developing....
UPDATE Jan. 29: Hamas defends the attack as "legitimate resistance." See AP coverage.
A Soldier's Story
Michael Totten interviews an Israeli soldier who fought in Lebanon last year. Must-read description of IDF and Hezbollah tactics.
Foreign Bureaus, Diversity of Views Shrinking
Is print news coverage of the Mideast being concentrated into the hands of fewer papers? It sure seems that way. Last week, the Boston Globe announced it was closing all its foreign bureaus, including its office in Israel. Now, the Jerusalem Post reports that the Philadelphia Inquirer made a similar decision, and the Baltimore Sun is expected to do the same. Newsday already joined the trend.
All are cutting costs and shoring up local coverage. But what will the effects be? American Journalism Review's Sherry Ricchiardi raised one red flag:
Many news organizations rushed reporters from far-flung locales to the Middle East when fighting erupted between Israel and Hezbollah. But there’s no substitute for coverage by correspondents based in a region and knowledgeable about its history and culture.
And Inquirer columnist Trudy Rubin commented:
The new mantra in the media industry is that mid-size papers must go local, local, local to grow circulation. Readers who want more foreign news can go to the Web. As The Inquirer's publisher, Brian Tierney, told Washington Post media critic Howard Kurtz: "I can get what's going on in Iraq online. What I can't get is what's happening in this region."...
Those that comment on foreign affairs also depend on mainstream media for their information. With more newspapers closing foreign bureaus, will we soon depend on a shrinking pool of foreign correspondents to inform the whole country? Or will most Americans come to view the world through the prism of partisan bloggers who don't feel the need for facts?....
As this coverage shrinks, Americans' ability to assess government actions abroad will also shrink.
Will the foreign bureaus be missed? Post your comments below.
UPDATE Jan. 29: See also Washington Post columnist Fred Hiatt's take on vanishing foreign correspondents.
UPDATE Jan. 29: Soccer Dad dissents.
One Year After Hamas’ Election Win
On the anniversary of Hamas’ election victory, The Guardian’s Rory McCarthy writes:
At times Hamas leaders have tried to appear conciliatory. Although Hamas took part in the capture of an Israeli soldier on the Gaza border and was involved in fighting in the five months of Israeli military action in Gaza last year and the rocket launches into Israel, there was a long Hamas ceasefire and there has been no Hamas suicide bombing inside Israel since August 2004.
Terror attacks are down, but the stats don't reflect any softening on Hamas' part. If Hamas wanted to be "conciliatory," they could start by releasing Gilad Shalit, recognizing Israel, renouncing terror and honoring previous peace agreements.
In one respect, however, McCarthy's correct. When it comes to Hamas conciliation -- whether with Israel or Fatah -- appearances matter more than substance.
Bethlehem Christians Break Silence
Bethlehem Christians break the silence and openly complain about persecution by their Muslim neighbors. Jerusalem Post reporter Khaled Abu Toamheh writes:
But following an increase in attacks on Christian-owned property in the city over the past few months, some Christians are no longer afraid to talk about the ultra-sensitive issue. And they are talking openly about leaving the city.
"The situation is very dangerous," said Samir Qumsiyeh, owner of the Beit Sahur-based private Al-Mahd (Nativity) TV station. "I believe that 15 years from now there will be no Christians left in Bethlehem. Then you will need a torch to find a Christian here. This is a very sad situation."
Qumsiyeh, one of the few Christians willing to speak about the harsh conditions of their community, has been the subject of numerous death threats. His house was recently attacked with fire-bombs, but no one was hurt.
Qumsiyeh said he has documented more than 160 incidents of attacks on Christians in the area in recent years.
Incidents include land theft, fire bombings and death threats. Christians say their complaints to the Palestinian Authority have fallen on deaf ears.
Reuters' Editor Responds
Chief editor David Schlesinger responded to our recent concerns with Reuters' calendar. Thanks to the power of blogs and readers taking action, we feel our message got through to the news service's powers that be. Of course, we'll continue monitoring Reuters' coverage.
Legal Beagle Dogs BBC
Steven Sugar’s fight to get the BBC to publicly release the Balen Report is going all the way to the top. The European Jewish Press reports that the High Court will hear arguments on whether the BBC is obligated to make the report public under the Freedom of Information Act.
In 2004, Malcolm Balen, for whom the report is named, exhaustively examined the BBC’s radio and TV coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. His report was never released to the public; however, Sugar, a London lawyer, filed a request under FOI. When the BBC refused, Sugar appealed to the Information Tribunal, which adjudicates FOI disputes. The tribunal ruled in Sugar’s favor, leading to a flood of FOI requests for the Balen Report (including one from HonestReporting).
The BBC is funded by a license fee and the public deserves to know what's contained in the report.
High Court proceedings begin March 27.
According to a recent Daily Telegraph report, Shiite militias in Iraq have threatened to kill Palestinian refugees who don’t leave the country. Yesterday saw 30 Palestinians abducted. Despite the developments, Malaysian Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi told a London think-tank (reported by the Malaysian national news agency Bernama):
He said Palestine remained the "single most powerful factor" dividing them and much of the roots of the conflict and instability in the Middle East, including international terrorism, would disappear if the issue was resolved justly and equitably.
Sunnis, Shiites, Kurds, Turks, Iranians, Iraqis and Syrians have been at each other’s throats long before the state of Israel became independent. A peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians won't change that.
UPDATE Jan. 24: See Joseph Farah's simpler theory about the root causes of terror.
UPDATE Jan. 25: The Washington Post picked up on the Palestinian-Iraqi woes. How does Prime Minister Abdullah explain this?
Mortar shells regularly crash down on the squalid cinder-block Baladiyat compound, the largest settlement of Palestinians in Iraq, with an estimated population of 4,000 to 7,000. In November and December, guerrillas staged at least six organized attacks on the area. On Dec. 13, three hours of mortar attacks killed as many as 11 people, the U.N. report said.
Lessons From the IRA
In his latest column, The Guardian’s Jonathan Freedland calls on Israel to engage Hamas, comparing the Palestinian terror group to the IRA:
In the end, it comes down to how you view peace processes. Do you believe that the enemy is only fit to take part in a negotiation once it has changed, or that the very act of taking part can change the enemy? The Israeli government believes the former. After the transformation of the IRA in the decade or more of Good Friday talks - from swearing it would never decommission a bullet to standing down its forces - I believe the latter.
Memo to Freedland: The IRA could afford to be flexible. It never dedicated itself to the destruction of neighboring Britain.
Warts And All
With the indictment of President Moshe Katzav, the MSM has also spotlighted an array of corruption investigations against other Israeli leaders. We were struck by a comprehensive, informative and fair report in yesterday’s Philadelphia Inquirer (written before the attorney general’s announcement).
Mulling the Mailbag
Frustrated that your letters to the editor aren't being published? The National Post shares its perspective with excellent tips from the people who read select the letters. We see a lot of CCed letters too, so believe us -- this is worth reading. Some of the more noteworthy tips:
- Your letter will be edited You could very well be the world's best writer, but be assured that your carefully selected prose will be fine-tuned by Post staff -- and probably shortened -- in the interests of clarity and space. Don't take it personally, but instead consider it a learning experience for the next missive you send in.....
- Tell us who you are Be sure to provide your full name, phone number and address. This crucial information is needed not only for verification, but in case we need to contact you about editing changes. And no, we will not publish letters with your name withheld, except in extraordinary circumstances that have to be arranged beforehand with our editorial staff.....
- We need exclusivity Don't send your letter to numerous media outlets, thinking that will increase its chance of publication. That only achieves quite the opposite effect. Letters editors across the land, seeing the note is not unique to their paper, will just delete it.
Read the full article.
(Hat tip: Headlines & Deadlines)
UPDATE Jan. 30: Hmmmm. A SF Chronicle blogger is now podcasting selected phone calls from readers in a feature called "Correct Me If I'm Wrong."
UPDATE Jan. 30: Gary Kamiya of Salon ponders the way "massive online feedback" effects writers.
The Terror Label
With Lebanon now paralyzed, Hezbollah has been accused of "terror" by no less than Lebanese Premier Fouad Saniora. Naharnet writes:
"It appears as if the opposition is trying to interrupt people's lives, intimidate and terrorize them," he said.
Michael Totten, who is now doing some excellent blogging in the troubled country, comments:
He may be over-reacting a bit with the t-word in this context, but it's telling because he used to call them a "resistance" movement instead of terrorists. Those days are gone.
See our colleagues at Camera for a timeline of more than 20 years of Hezbollah terror. What took Saniora so long to reach that conclusion?
Bias and Boycotts
The Norway Post reports that imports from Israel increased 15 percent despite a boycott led by the country’s Socialist Left Party.
Could the Norwegian media have anything to do with this? When one Norwegian province voted to boycott Israeli products in 2005, journalist Kgell Arild Nilsin attributed it to biased reporting. Any readers in Norway care to comment?
(Hat tip: Daily Alert)
UPDATE Jan. 23: Norwegian blogger Jan Haugland of Secular Blasphemy comments:
This bias has undoubtedly contributed to the echo chamber mentality where socialists believed this was something they would make people go along with, and also that the campaign gathered at least some lip service. It's just hard to fool all the people all the time.
(Hat tip: mail from Soccer Dad)
A blast damaged the Gaza offices of Al-Arabiya TV. According to AP, the Dubai-based network had received threats from Hamas supporters unhappy with the way it recently quoted Ismail Haniyeh.
We prefer respectfully written letters to the editor. See here and here for tips.
Heads Roll at Reuters?
Reuters' Editor-in-Chief finally responds to the "Fauxtography" affair. See HonestReporting's latest communique: Heads Roll at Reuters?
Terror At AP
When it comes to terror groups like Hamas and Islamic Jihad, AP identifies their members as "militants." Who is the word terror reserved for? In this case, Israelis. See this AP report:
Israeli Jew Charged in Terror Plan
JERUSALEM -- Asaf Ben-David, an Israeli Jew, is facing charges of conspiring to carry out a terror attack with a wanted Palestinian militant -- his brother.
The Jew is involved in a "terror plan," which makes him a "terrorist." His brother, an Islamic Jihad fugitive killed by the IDF last month, is a "militant." What kind of skewed decision making led the AP to label one a terrorist and the other a militant?
Ben-David converted to Judaism and became an Israeli citizen in the 1990s.
Temple Mount Digging: The Real Dirt
The Islamic Movement accuses Israel of digging under the Temple Mount. YNet News writes:
Sheikh Salah and his movement dramatically issue similar messages every few months.
Seen it, done it, blogged it.
Are You An Israel Junkie?
Organizers of the four-day Herzliya Conference are making all the speeches available streamed live and also on demand. See the web site for a schedule of all the featured political officials, military brass, wonks and pundits. You're not a true Israel junkie unless computer monitor radiation leaves your eyes glowing in the dark at the end of conference.
BBC's Selective Voices
Jeremy Bowen produces an unbalanced report for the BBC's Radio 4 Today program. Listen to the full recording at HonestReporting UK's latest communique - BBC's Selective Voices
Construction Jihad Fizzles Under Politics
After grandiose promises of Construction Jihad last year, Hezbollah is now dragging its feet on commitments to rebuild in Bint Jbeil and other areas of southern Lebanon. One home-owner told the NY Times:
"They told us everything was going to be rebuilt soon,” Mr. Seyed said Tuesday, speaking of town leaders. “They’re not doing anything now. We want to build but they won’t let us. They promise to pay us, but they don’t. All we want is our homes back and they won’t even let us have them!”
It's all about politics.
Worst Use of Props: The BBC Responds
We received the following email from Steve Herrmann, editor of the BBC News web site. Herrmann was responding to our Dishonest Reporter Awards 2006 in which we singled out a Martin Asser report for "Worst Use of Props." Asser was covering the return of Lebanese civilians to homes in Bint Jbeil after the Israel-Hezbollah war. (See the original blog entry here.)
We would like to correct your allegation of dishonest reporting by BBC journalist Martin Asser in your list of "2006 Dishonest Reporter of the Year Awards". It is completely false to say the boy was used as a "prop" in the photograph (which was taken by BBC News photographer Phil Coomes). The truth is that Asser and Coomes witnessed - and honestly reported - a scene repeated countless times whenever photojournalists are at work: bystanders get in the shot and pose, either of their own accord or encouraged by others - in this case their elders.
The article draws attention to and graphically illustrates an important aspect of the conflict - the dangers to returning inhabitants of places like Bint Jbeil at the time, in an area littered with unexploded ordnance. Your inclusion of it in a list of notorious occasions of misleading picture captions and manipulated photographs is itself utterly wrong and disingenuous. Ironically, it may have been Asser's candour in explaining the boy's presence in the published photograph that alerted those looking for examples of "fauxtography" in the BBC's coverage of the Lebanon conflict.
We do appreciate Asser's candor noting that the boy was pushed. The info that Herrmann adds--which Asser didn't mention in his report--is that 1) the child was pushed next to the unexploded shell by village elders, and 2) that this occurred repeatedly in other situations.
While HonestReporting didn't mention who specifically pushed the boy, Herrmann strengthens the essential point of this particular award. It was only due to the presence of photographer Coomes that the boy was pushed--simply to create a photo-op. Coomes surely had plenty of other unstaged photos of people returning to their homes and looking at the shells. In our view, publishing this particular photo makes the BBC complicit in the Lebanese photo-op.
Did HonestReporting overreact? Is the BBC complicit? Are the ethics of journalism at play clear-cut or gray? Post your comments below.
'Journalists Have Become Easy Prey'
The Jerusalem Post's Khaled Abu Toameh updates the latest on the Hamas-Fatah battle over the PA media. There's been a spike in press intimidation over the past few days, and the Palestinian Journalists Syndicate wants to hold an emergency conference. One unidentified Palestinian editor told the Post:
"Journalists have become easy prey and we are fed up with the situation."
Reuters Photo Editor Dismissed
Following up on the fauxtography scandal, Reuters' blog notes that an unidentified photo editor was recently dismissed. Chief editor David Schlesinger wrote:
We were not satisfied with the degree of oversight that we had that allowed these two images to slip through. We have tightened procedures, taken appropriate disciplinary action and appointed one of our most experienced editors to supervise photo operations in the Middle East.
(Hat tip: LGF)
Blog On Break
Backspin's on break. We'll be back and blogging away as usual on Sunday. In the meantime, enjoy this photo of the Kinneret and some thoughts by W.H. Davies.
CBC's Sour Note
Headlines & Deadlines caught some rather surprising CBC coverage. Correspondent Ben Gilbert filed a report on CBC Radio's program The World at Six profiling "Hezbollah and the music of resistance" featuring the terror organization's choir. See the Headlines & Deadlines critique here. And click below to listen to the full CBC report. It isn't music to our ears.
Comments to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Another Perspective, Or Jihad TV?
In the NY Times, Professor Judea Pearl wonders about the effects of Al-Jazeera's English broadcasts:
Still, with the growing number of social misfits in society, and the growing confusion between “information” and deception in the news media, the danger of fueling combustible anger in some viewers cannot be ignored, especially when pumped subliminally by well-respected Western anchors.
Let’s face it: when a terrorist attack is described as a “martyrdom” in a thick Middle Eastern accent, it can be dismissed by Americans as a peculiarity of cultural differences. But imagine the effect of the word if spoken in David Frost’s cultured British tones. This is why, even if Al Jazeera English waters down its alarmist content, it should still be seen as a potential threat: it will bestow respectability upon the practices of its parent network in Qatar, which continues, among other things, to broadcast Sheik Qaradawi’s teachings.
Judea Pearl is the father of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl (pictured), who was kidnapped and later beheaded in Pakistan in 2002.
Egypt Airs Insurgent TV, Part 2
We recently wondered why Nilesat, Egypt's government-controlled satellite company, is airing Al-Qaida's Al-Zawraa TV. Now, the Christian Science Monitor reports that Egypt may be using the Al-Zawraa to stoke regional tensions between Shiite and Sunni Moslems. Correspondent Sandra Gauch writes:
Mr. Pintak says Egypt's decision to keep Al Zawraa on the air plays into the Sunni-Shiite cold war that has descended on the region, caused largely by sectarian bloodshed in Iraq and Iran's nuclear ambitions. In essence, he says, it's a show of support for fellow Sunnis.
American officials have reportedly called the station "utterly offensive," saying that closing it down is a priority.
But one Egyptian government official, who asked to remain anonymous, reiterated Nilesat's stand that the station remains on air purely for commercial reasons. "We're merely a carrier of this station. We're not producing it. This is a straightforward business deal," he says, adding that, "none of us would reject the principle of freedom of speech and broadcasting for everyone."
Egypt has a history, though, of arresting bloggers and journalists and violently dispersing protests critical of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak's government.
Last year, Egypt received more than $ 1 billion in US aid.
UPDATE Jan. 21: The NY Times picked up on the controversy.
UPDATE Jan. 22: The Washington Post picked up on the controversy, noting this defense from Nilesat:
Amin Basyouni, board chairman of Cairo-based Nilesat, said no government had asked him to cancel al-Zawraa. "We never interfere with content on any channel from any country in the world," he said. "We are like an airline. Passengers go on board. We never ask them, 'Why are you going to London or Paris?' "
Barbers, BBC, Bowen and Bias
What do barbershops, the BBC and Mideast editor Jeremy Bowen have to do with one another? Everything. See how Times of London columnist Daniel Finkelstein ties them all together.
Which "stumbling block" is most glaringly omitted from this Times of London editorial?
A. Gilad Shalit
B. Gilad Shalit
C. Gilad Shalit
D. All of the above
Haaretz reports that two years of secret talks between Israel and Syria resulted in a draft understanding between the two countries. See here for background info. According to Haaretz, the plan's centerpiece is a park along Lake Kinneret covering a significant portion of the Golan Heights, which will be demilitarized. Israel would also retain water rights. Captured in 1967, Israel annexed the Golan in 1981. Developing.....
UPDATE: No delay in government denials: Israel or Syria.
Iran: A Threat to Israel and the World
Iran has made clear that its objective is the destruction of Israel. Even worse, it is relentlessly pursing the means to achieve this objective. Read and comment on HonestReporting's Special Report on Iran.
'Like Having Your Wallet Emptied'
In the Sunday Telegraph, Charles Moore rails against the license fee supporting the BBC. Here’s why:
Virtually every single attitude can be predicted. This week, a new year memo by the BBC's Middle-East Editor, Jeremy Bowen, was leaked. He described the situation in Palestine as "the death of hope, caused by a cocktail of Israel's military activities, land expropriation and settlement-building – and the financial sanctions imposed on a Hamas-led government".
What about the fact that Israel has actually left Gaza, that Palestinians have misappropriated aid, that "militants" (as the BBC likes to call them) have murdered Israelis, or that a Hamas-led government with Western money might not be a very good thing? Is nothing the fault of Palestinian leaders? ...
As someone who is rather more pro-American than pro-EU, pro-Israel than pro-Palestinian, pro-tax cuts than pro-higher public spending, and a lot more pro-Britain than pro-its enemies, I don't like underwriting a religion I don't believe in. It's like being frogmarched into the pew, preached at against your will and then having your wallet emptied.
Bypassing the Road Map?
This AP analysis says that the idea of sketching the basic outline of a Palestinian state is to bolster the moderates, even though the road map’s first step is to dismantle Palestinian terror:
Jumping straight to final status talks would be a departure from the 2003 U.S.-backed "road map" peace plan, which calls for dismantling terror groups, freezing Israeli settlement activity and creating a provisional Palestinian state before a final accord.
Abbas is in no position to dismantle Hamas, which controls the Palestinian Cabinet and parliament. Israel is pressing ahead with West Bank settlement construction, approving a new one just last month. And the Palestinians reject a provisional state, believing it would enable Israel to grab much of the West Bank.
With the road map all but dead, the Palestinians are leading calls to bypass it.
Is it time to consider bypassing the road map?
Now He's Just 'Relative' Moderate
Speaking at a Fatah anniversary rally in Ramallah, PA chairman Mahmoud Abbas called on Palestinians to aim their guns at Israel rather than at each other. The Jerusalem Post reports:
"When Fatah was established, it was accused of treason and we were chased in every place," Abbas told the crowd. "But with the will and determination of its sons, Fatah has and will continue. We will not give up our principles and we have said that rifles should be directed against the occupation."
Appealing to Palestinians to avoid civil war, Abbas said: "We are all one people regardless of differences of opinion. My top priority is to preserve national unity, because Palestinian infighting and blood are a red line that must not be crossed."
Defending his call to use weapons against Israel, he added: "We have a legitimate right to direct our guns against Israeli occupation. It is forbidden to use these guns against Palestinians. The occupation has perpetrated brutal attacks in Jenin, Beit Hanun and Ramallah."
As LGF points out, the media's "moderate" label given to Abbas is meaningless.
UPDATE: WorldNetDaily also picked up on this.
Terror 2006: By the Numbers
McClatchy examines the statistics of terror faced by Israel in 2006. The conclusion:
Israel's summer war with Hezbollah in the north and small rocket attacks from the Gaza Strip in the south have overshadowed a striking reality: Fewer Israeli civilians died in Palestinian attacks in 2006 than in any year since the Palestinian uprising began in 2000.
Successful suicide bombings came to a near halt with "only" two successful attacks in which 11 people were killed. The decreased terror has more to do with the success of the security fence than with Palestinian goodwill. The IDF arrested 187 Palestinians potential suicide bombers. Read the full article.
Hamas' Unreality Check
Has Hamas moderated its views or has the media jumped to conclusions? See HonestReporting's latest communique: Hamas' Unreality Check.
After seeing Khaled Meshaal's interview with Reuters yesterday, we predicted some papers would spin the Hamas leader's vague comments as a significant change. Sure enough, the Times of London writes:
The hardline leader of Hamas, the militant Palestinian group, accepted the existence of Israel yesterday....
Bear in mind Hamas spokesman Ghazi Hamad told Haaretz that Reuters distorted Meshaal's words.
Tea Leaf Reports Coming Soon
In an interview with Reuters, Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal (pictured) said "Hamas acknowledges the existence of Israel" but refuses to grant formal recognition or change its charter which calls for Israel's destruction.
It seems like every time a senior Hamas official speaks on record about recognizing Israel and amending the charter, the comments are vague enough to mean nothing, but still generate reports of a "sea change" like this one from last June.
How will the media spin the interview? Let the tea leaf reports begin.
UPDATE Jan. 11: It didn't take long -- barely one hour after the interview was published, a Hamas spokesman told Haaretz that Meshaal's words were distorted. See the Q&A.