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« April 2007 | Main | June 2007 »

Thursday, May 31 2007

Ivory Towers Vs. Fortified Classrooms

On the same week that Britain's University and College Union voted to boycott Israeli academic institutions, students at Sderot's Sapir College were cleared to resume classes--in fortified classrooms.

How You Can Help Sderot

Sderot businesses are on the verge of collapse. Here's one way you can support Sderot.

The Caption Said What?

Here's another curious photo-and-caption combo, courtesy AFP:


A Palestinian boy walks on the rubble of a destroyed building at a Hamas sports club following an Israeli air strike in Beit Hanun, northern Gaza Strip, 29 May 2007. Britain's largest trade union for academics voted Wednesday to back calls for a boycott of universities in Israel in protest at the nation's treatment of Palestinians.(AFP/File/Mahmud Hams)

It would be bad enough if editors of local dailies were to associate the air strike with the boycott and write a caption linking the two in the context of an article on the UK vote. But why did Hams himself choose to make such an association himself? A more accurate context, in this case, would be the Qassam rockets fired daily at Sderot and the western Negev.

Here's a similar example from earlier this month.

Another Israeli Qassam Victim Dies

Another Israeli Qassam victim died this morning of wounds from a Qassam attack last week. According to the Jerusalem Post:

Thirteen-year-old Chai Shalom suffered from cerebral palsy, and was deaf, mute, and confined in a wheel-chair. He was hospitalized after a rocket landed next to a bus transporting him and three other disabled children.

According to the report, all four children were wounded by the force of the blast.


Wednesday, May 30 2007

Useful Idiots: An Endangered Species, Part 2

Johnston_idLooks like the BBC didn't appreciate a recent column by the Wall Street Journal's Brett Stephens we blogged here. Stephens wondered if Beeb bias contributed to allowing Alan Johnston to remain in Gaza long after other western journalists left. Fran Unsworth responds on The Editors blog. But Tom Gross raises a variation of Stephens' theory:

Stephens’s view, however, is widely accepted among reporters covering the Middle East, including myself. It is common knowledge that Johnston, who was abducted in Gaza on March 12, was one of the most pro-Palestinian reporters in the region. However, sources tell me that some in Hamas may have felt that his reporting had become too pro-Fatah, which is one possible factor in his abduction by a Hamas-connected group, and also a possible reason why (despite the BBC’s repeated claims that the Hamas-led Palestinian Authority is doing everything in its power to secure Johnston’s release) in fact the Palestinian Authority has been doing next to nothing to help release the kidnapped BBC man.

Don't miss our Top 10 List of Parties Who Might Gain From Johnston's Kidnap.

Slinging Dirt Over Digs

32herodthegreatstoneWhat are the political implications of Israeli archeology and the discovery of what's believed to be the tomb of Herod the Great? And what do they have to do with Palestinian denial of the existence of two Jewish temples in Jerusalem? The LA Times gave op-ed space to Professor Walter Reich to explain:

In 1983, I saw how the unearthing of evidence of the Jewish past gives heart to some Israelis. While researching a book on the West Bank, I visited the Jewish settlement of Shiloh, in the northern West Bank. Archeologists were digging at the nearby site of ancient Shiloh, which in biblical times was the first capital of Israel. It was in Shiloh that, according to the Hebrew Bible, the Ark of the Covenant rested. Every evening the archeologists would display their finds. When they showed artifacts from the Israelite period, the settlers cheered; for them this was proof that they were now living in the ancient heart of the land of Israel.

Small wonder that archeological finds like these provoke many Palestinians to deny that such discoveries, and any other evidence of Jewish history in either Israel or the West Bank, have anything to do with Jews. After the recent announcement that Herod's tomb had been found, the Palestinian response was quick and sharp. A Palestinian official said the finding lacked scientific credibility and was driven by ideological motivations.

But this episode of archeological denial pales in comparison with the decades of denial in the case of Jerusalem's Temple Mount, which is known to Arabs as Haram al Sharif, or the Noble Sanctuary.

In 1930, when Britain administered the area, the Supreme Muslim Council in Jerusalem noted that the Temple Mount's "identity with the site of Solomon's Temple is beyond dispute." But at the Camp David summit in 2000, Yasser Arafat insisted that a Jewish temple had existed not on the Temple Mount but in Nablus. And an Arafat aide, Saeb Erekat, said, to President Clinton's amazement, "I don't believe there was a temple on top of the Haram, I really don't." Mahmoud Abbas, the current Palestinian Authority president, later agreed with Erekat, as did the mufti of Jerusalem. Arafat later went further and denied the temple existed anywhere in Israel, the West Bank or Gaza, including Nablus.

Further reading on the issue here.

UPDATE May 30: Et tu, Jordan?


Tuesday, May 29 2007

Jenin Comes to Lebanon

2002National Post columnist Jonathan Kay pulls no punches with some observations about the standoff at the Nahr el-Bared refugee camp:

Let's imagine what the world's reaction would be if the ongoing siege were taking place in Gaza or the West Bank instead of the Nahr al Bared refugee camp on the outskirts of Tripoli, Lebanon.

First of all, a flood of foreign journalists would descend on the camp to document Israel's cruelty and barbarism, and the story would remain front page news to this day. Al-Jazeera would be a 24/7 montage of grieving mothers swearing revenge on the Zionist butchers, and rumours would swirl of mass graves and poison gas. The Arab League, EU and United Nations would condemn Israeli aggression -- as would the editorial board of The New York Times. The Independent would dispatch Robert Fisk to embed with Fatah al-Islam. And the newspaper's cartoonist, Dave Brown, would produce another award-winning rendition of his signature theme: Jews eating Palestinian babies.

Actually, we don't need to speculate: What I have just written is exactly what happened when the Israeli army invaded the Jenin refugee camp to root out terrorists in April, 2002, a battle that was similar in scale to this month's siege at Nahr al Bared.

Read it all.

Mellowing With Age

UN official John Dugard spoke out on Israel's battle against Qassam rockets. Reuters writes:

"The indiscriminate firing of rockets into Sderot violates international humanitarian law. So does Israel's response as it fails to distinguish between civilians and combatants and is a disproportionate use of force," Dugard said in a statement.

If Israel's response to the rockets is "disproportionate," what adjective best describes the Lebanese army's siege of Nahr el-Bared? And more importantly, is Dugard's rare criticism of Palestinian terror a sign that he's mellowing with age?

Cartoons and Conspiracies

A poisonous pen scribbles in South Africa while an old canard resurfaces in Australia. See HonestReporting's latest communique: Cartoons and Conspiracies.

Business Day's Poison Pen

Today's Poison Pen award goes to Brandon Reynolds of South Africa's Business Day:


Memo to Reynolds: Hamas leaders openly admitted they wanted the rocket fire to draw an Israeli response that would unify Palestinians and put an end to their civil war. It's Almost Supernatural comments that the cartoon unfortunately "aptly illustrates the rancid brand of intellectual fashion that typifies large swaths of the South African media."


Monday, May 28 2007

Sderot Stories You Might Have Missed

* Haaretz describes a cruel irony related to Oshri Oz's death:

Twelve hours after meeting up with an old friend at a reunion of the Sea Scouts in Jaffa, Magen David Adom emergency services paramedic Avi Teiger ended up treating him for critical injuries after a Qassam rocket attack yesterday on Sderot.

The friend, Oshri Oz of Hod Hasharon, died of his wounds a short time later.

* See Israel21c to read how one Israeli-American mother finding strength in Sderot.

* Daily humanitarian efforts to save Palestinian children are proving risky for Magen David Adom. YNet News reports that Israeli paramedics transferring Gaza children to Israeli hospitals work under fire:

"We transfer patients from the Gaza Strip under fire on a daily basis," said Moshe Vaknin, deputy manager of Lachish region of MDA. "Last week, our medics continued to treat a patient while shells were fired at the terminal at Erez."

* Israel Radio is boosting its presence in Sderot with a new studio to be completed by the end of this week.

Click here and here for more Sderot stories you may have missed.

UK Media's Expatriate Games

Oshri Oz, Israel's latest Qassam rocket victim, was laid to rest. Meanwhile, Tom Gross wonders why the UK media hasn't noted the fact that his widow, Susanna, is a British ex-pat.

UNRWA Knew Camp Was Infiltrated, Did Nothing

Fatah_al_islamThe Washington Times blows the lid on the UNRWA, which runs the Nahr el-Bared refugee camp:

The U.N. agency that oversees the Nahr el-Bared refugee camp in northern Lebanon, the scene of three days of battles between Lebanese troops and Muslim militants, said yesterday it had been aware for months that heavily armed foreigners were moving into the Palestinian enclave but were helpless to stop them.

The extremists of Fatah Islam, who local reports say hail from Syria, Saudi Arabia, Yemen and Bangladesh, apparently entered the camp, just north of Tripoli, several months ago. They are thought to have arrived in a group, not individually.

Officials of the U.N. Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) could not say how a large band of foreigners carrying what has been described as mortars, rockets, explosive belts and other heavy weapons were able get past the Lebanese army soldiers stationed outside the camp.

They also could not explain why militias of young Palestinian men who provide security and gather intelligence throughout Nahr el-Bared and other Palestinian areas allowed foreign fighters to settle there.

The UN agency runs 58 refugee camps throughout the Mideast, including one in Jenin. Anything going on at the other camps we should know about?

The Independent's Disingenuous Headline

Why does The Independent's online edition change its headline to accuse Israel of launching an "illegal" war? Read HonestReporting UK's latest communique: The Independent's Disingenuous Headline


Sunday, May 27 2007

Great Moments in Bungled Headlines

It isn't often a headline can be botched on so many levels, but one British paper managed to do just that. This weekend's bungled headline award goes to The Independent:

Secret memo shows Israel knew Six Day War was illegal

A) You have to read the article to find out that the secret memo in question only discusses the legality of Israeli settlements, not the war itself.

B) You have to read well into Donald Macintyre's report to find out that the memo was discovered a year ago.

C) You have to read other sites for a better understanding of why the memo in question was so hotly disputed. See these links: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, and this last one in pdf format.

D) Last but not least, you have to read The Independent's print version to see a completely different headline.


Qassams Kill Another Israeli

In Sderot, YNet News reports that a 36-year Israeli male was killed when a Qassam hit a car he was sitting in. The man managed to get out of the car and take a few steps before collapsing.

Here's a complete list of other Qassam fatalities.

UPDATE May 27: The man was identified as Oshri Oz. According to the Jerusalem Post, Oz is survived by two children and a wife in advanced stages of pregnancy. Hamas claims responsibility for the attack.

UPDATE May 27: Here's a picture of Oz from YNet News:

Don't Call It A Massacre

Joshua Gleis wants to know why the MSM isn't calling Nahr al-Bared a "massacre." We certainly sympathize with the need to tackle terrorists, but we have to wonder if there's a faint whiff of double standards at play.

Here's one possible answer to Gleis' point.

UPDATE May 27: Can anyone imagine the LA Times writing a staff-ed like this during the height of Jeningrad?

Useful Idiots: An Endangered Species

Johnston_idThe Wall Street Journal's Bret Stephens wonders why the BBC allowed Alan Johnston to stay in Gaza long after it was no longer safe for foreign journalists. He suggests Johnston's usefulness to the Palestinians came to an end as chaos laid bare uglier truths that don't fit into the Beeb's world view:

Still, whatever the benefits of staying on the right side of the Palestinian powers-that-be, they have begun to wane. For years, the BBC had invariably covered Palestinian affairs within the context of Israel's occupation--the core truth from which all manifestations of conflict supposedly derived. Developments within Gaza following Israel's withdrawal showed the hollowness of that analysis. Domestic Palestinian politics, it turned out, were shot through with their own discontents, contradictions and divisions, not just between Hamas and Fatah but between scores of clans, gangs, factions and personalities. Opposition to Israel helped in some ways to mute this reality, but it could not suppress it....

Later, the BBC might ask itself whether its own failures of prudence and judgment put its reporter's life in jeopardy.


Saturday, May 26 2007

Daily Telegraph's Editors Run For Cover

A Daily Telegraph update on the Lebanese army's siege of the Nahr el-Bared refugee camp featured the following photographs together with this caption:


Palestinians race for shelter while peering over their shoulders at an Israeli missile [circled]. A cloud of dust rises after the bomb explodes

Shocked that the Lebanese army is getting weapons from Israel? We were. But even more shocking is that the photo has absolutely nothing to do with Lebanon. Here's the real caption:

Nusseirat Refugee Camp, -: Palestinians runs for cover as a missile fired by the Israeli military is seen nearly hitting its target during an Israeli air strike on Hamas' Executive Force building in the Nusseirat refugee camp in the centre of the Gaza strip, 25 May 2007. Warplanes pounded the Gaza Strip for a ninth day today as Palestinians continued to fire rockets into Israel despite a call from Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas for a truce. EDS: NOTE RECROP HMS09. AFP PHOTO/MAHMUD HAMS (Photo credit should read MAHMUD HAMS/AFP/Getty Images)

Technically, the Telegraph's caption isn't inaccurate. But placing it with a report about a different refugee camp suggests a very different story.

Similar incidents at the NY Times and Time unfairly damaged other photojournalists' reputations. Credit Hams with a great shot and a fair caption. How did Daily Telegraph editors botch this?

Write to


Friday, May 25 2007

Rocket Reporting You Haven't Seen

The MSM isn't describing what kind of impact the Qassam barrages are having on Israel. Here are some stories from the Israeli press you haven't seen.

* Love and rockets: The Jerusalem Post describes how two couples from Sderot managed to tie the knot:

But last Friday, Kobi began to worry that the Kassam barrages would scare away the guests.

His worst fears were confirmed 48 hours later, when a rocket made a direct hit on the Fauna Restaurant's wood structure, starting a fire that burned it to the ground.

But the bride and groom were not deterred.

* Exploding Qassams torched 65 acres of wheat fields on Kibbutz Nir-Am just when it was time to begin the harvest. According to YNet News, dozens of acres of wheat fields throughout the western Negev have also gone up in flames; farmers are rushing to harvest what they can before more damage is done.

* Haaretz discovered Sderot's matriculation rate jumped to 67 percent despite the barrage:

She said the only assistance offered to test-takers was extra time if a rocket struck during the exam.

Click here for more Sderot stories you may have missed.


Thursday, May 24 2007

Boycott Boomerang

ProfessorThe Guardian reports that a Nobel laureate cancelled plans to visit a British university in part because of the National Union of Journalists' boycott of Israel. Professor Steven Weinberg (pictured) was to give a talk on particle physics at the Imperial College this July:

In the letter, the professor said his decision was triggered by an agreement by the National Union of Journalists at its national conference to boycott Israeli products.

He wrote: "I know that some will say that these boycotts are directed only against Israel, rather than generally against Jews.

"But given the history of the attacks on Israel and the oppressiveness and aggressiveness of other countries in the Middle East and elsewhere, boycotting Israel indicated a moral blindness for which it is hard to find any explanation other than anti-semitism."

Professor Weinberg, who currently teaches at the University of Texas, received the 1979 Nobel Prize for his research on electromagnetic interaction between elementary particles.

UPDATE May 25: Professor Weinberg discussed his decision with Haaretz.

Sderot: Still Under Fire

Sderot continues to suffer as a woman loses her life to a Qassam missile. See HonestReporting's latest communique: Sderot: Still Under Fire.

C4 Docs Provoke Critical Responses

Channel 4's "Battle for the Holy Land" documentaries cause concern. See HonestReporting-UK's latest communique: C4 Docs Provoke Critical Responses.

Dissecting the AI Report

Amnesty_intlProfessor Gerald Steinberg of NGO-Monitor dissects Amnesty International's report for 2006. He found a lot of flaws:

This study, which also includes a qualitative section focusing on the language used in reports, shows that Amnesty singled out Israel for condemnation to a far greater extent than Iran, Sudan, Saudi Arabia, Libya, Syria, Egypt, and other chronic abusers of human rights. This evidence of a clear political agenda is consistent with other studies and examples of Amnesty International's bias and lack of credibility.

See also Steinberg's related commentary in the NY Sun.

Meanwhile, the Daily Telegraph reports that the British government is also protesting the report, which "devoted more space to Britain than Burma or Zimbabwe." At least Amnesty doesn't blame Israel for Zimbabwe's crisis.

UPDATE June 4: Steinberg's pressing the case, calling on Amnesty's Israel branch to resign. He was quoted in YNet News:

.... the Israeli branch's participation "in this campaign undermines the basis of universal human rights."
Al-Qaida's Insidious Inroads

Fatah_al_islamTime's Robert Baer describes how Al-Qaida is making in-roads among the Palestinians in Gaza and abroad. Even Fatah leaders are recruiting for global jihad:

Spend time in any Palestinian refugee camp in Lebanon and you quickly understand that Osama bin Laden is a symbol of resistance. In the run-up to the Iraq war TIME Beirut correspondent Nick Blanford and I visited 'Ayn al-Hilweh, a Palestinian camp outside of Sidon. Two things struck me. A fundamentalist Sunni group, Usbat al-Islam, occupied half the camp, which we didn't enter because we probably wouldn't have made it back out. And, two, the Fatah commander was already recruiting fighters to go to Iraq to fight the occupation. Both sides were signed up for the jihad.

Gaza is a mirror image of what is happening in Lebanon. Last year, Israelis have told me, Qaeda was growing like a fungus there, with both mainline Fatah and Hamas losing followers to it. In Gaza you could see the place was seething. But frankly the notion of bin Laden taking over sounded like propaganda to me. Now, though, watching the growing chaos, and with the kidnapping of a BBC journalist, I think the Israelis were right.

Read the whole article.

AP Discovers Terror, PLO Fights It

AP finally discovers terror:

Lebanon: A haven for terror?

Correspondent Sally Buzbee writes:

This week's fighting at a Palestinian camp raises the ominous prospect that parts of Lebanon could become out-of-control havens for terrorists training to attack the West.

Meanwhile, AFP reports that the PLO is also joining Lebanon's war on terror:

Sultan Abu Aynain, the Lebanon head for Fatah, the main component of the PLO, told AFP his fighters could become involved in the battle against Fatah al-Islam.

"I believe we must eliminate this curse ourselves and all options, including military, are in my opinion open," he said.

What does all this say about Arab rage?

Sparse Funeral Coverage

Wondering about the sparse coverage of Shirel Friedman's funeral in Sderot? The Jerusalem Post notes:

Friedman, 32, is survived by her parents and two older brothers, who requested that press not attend her funeral.
Misery Loves Company

A Lebanese blogger believes a lot of his countrymen are now shunning Al-Jazeera. Beirut Spring's probably on to something:

What Mr. Azzam -and many like him in my non-scientific sample of around 50 people- was referring to is Aljazeera’s portrayal of the Lebanese army as a ruthless aggressor, and its insinuation that it’s acting like the Americans and Israelis. Aljazeera gave high exposure to civilian casualties, and minimized coverage of the cause of the fighting, namely, the unprovoked and deliberate attack by the terrorists on the Lebanese army.

To add insult to injury, Aljazeera refers to the shelling targets as “what the Lebanese Army says are militant hideouts,” casting doubt on our military’s judgment the same way it does when it says “Israel bombed what is says are hamas weapon factories.”


Tuesday, May 22 2007

Sderot Speaks

As we get ready to celebrate the holiday of Shavuot, our thoughts go out to Sderot. In this video, the residents describe for themselves the fear and uncertainty of their lives. Backspin's on leave for the holiday; we'll be blogging as usual on Thursday. Happy Shavuot to our readers.

(Hat tip for the video: IsraelPolitik)

Lebanese Army's Proportionate Response

So far, 70 people have been killed in the Lebanese Army shelling of the Nahr el-Bared refugee camp in Tripoli. The crisis began when an Islamist group, Fatah-al-Islam, raided a bank stealing thousands of dollars, killing three soldiers in the process.

Imagine what the Lebanese Army would do if, say, Fatah-al-Islam kidnapped soldiers and fired hundreds of rockets at Tripoli.


Smoke bellows from heavy shelling by the Lebanese army, at the Palestinian refugee camp of Nahr el-Bared, during a clashes with fighters from the Fatah Islam militant group, in the northen city of Tripoli, Monday May 21, 2007. Lebanese troops tightened a siege of a Palestinian refugee camp Monday where a shadowy group suspected of ties to al-Qaida was holed up, pounding the camp with artillery a day after the worst eruption of violence since the end of the country's 1975-90 civil war.(AP Photo/Hussein Malla)

Nahr el-Bared is administered by the UNRWA.

BBC At It Again

Stephen Pollard reacts to some woeful BBC weekend coverage.

The Assassination That Wasn't

Assessing how Israel might change how it deals with Hamas, the Christian Science Monitor correspondent Joshua Mitnick incorrectly writes:

An unsuccessful assassination attempt on Hamas parliament member Khalil al-Hayya – an attack that killed at least eight people on Sunday – was intended to escalate Israel's response to missile fire from Gaza.

But as other news services like the Washington Post reported:

But Israeli military officials said Haya was not the intended target. They said Israeli aircraft fired on a "terrorist cell" in the Sharjiya neighborhood where Haya lives. Israeli officials said one of the men killed was Sameh Ferwanah, 28, a senior Hamas military official from Gaza who has been involved in rocket and shooting attacks on Israel. The name appeared on the list of dead provided by Palestinian medical officials.
Magic Kingdom Responds to Hamas... Sort Of

Disney CEO Robert Iger gave a reaction to Hamas' mousecapades. Unfortunately, the tepid response was so long in coming AP's headline focused -- and legitimately so -- on the Magic Kingdom's delayed reaction.

Disney explains reaction to Hamas show

Let down at the LA Times?


Monday, May 21 2007

Qassam Strike Kills Woman

It was only a matter of time. A 35-year-old woman in Sderot was killed standing next to a car hit by a Qassam. She died en route to the hospital. Haaretz reports that EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana was meeting with Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni in the town at the time. Neither were harmed. Other Israelis killed by Qassams:

Afik Zehavi, age 4, killed June 28, 2004 in Sderot

Mordechai Yosefov, 49, killed June 28, 2004 in Sderot

Dorit Aniso, age 2, killed Sept. 29, 2004 in Sderot

Yuval Abebah, age 4, killed Sept. 29, 2004 in Sderot

Ella Abukasis, age 17, died on Jan. 21, 2005 of injuries sustained in a Jan. 15 rocket attack on Sderot

Dana Galkovitch, age 22, killed July 14, 2005 in rocket strike on Kibbutz Netiv Ha'asara

Two Beduins, Salam Ziadin and son Khalid, age 16, killed March 28, 2006 when they tried to handle an unexploded Qassam near Nachal Oz. It was initially thought that the two were killed by a stray IDF shell. Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility. Photos unavailable.

Fatima Slutzker, age 57, killed Nov. 15, 2006

Yaakov Yaakobov, age 43, killed Nov. 21, 2006 in Sderot

UPDATE May 22: Last night's victim, Shirel Friedman, was laid to rest in Sderot today.

UPDATE May 28: Cheers to IsraellyCool found a photo of Shirel Friedman at El Rejunte.


Qassam Strike Caught On Film

A security camera caught a Qassam hitting a Sderot gas station:

Pulpit Bullies

The fire and brimstone usually reserved for Israel and the US is turning inwards. Palestinian preachers are now turning their invective against Fatah, and worshippers are responding—against the preachers. The Jerusalem Post’s Khaled Abu Toameh describes recent scenes in several mosques:

The preachers have also been denouncing Abbas and his top aides in Fatah as a bunch of corrupt infidels who are conspiring with the US and Israel against Islam.

The tension reached its peak on Friday, when thousands of worshipers stormed out of mosques after the preachers launched scathing attacks on Fatah.

In the town of Deir el-Balah in the southern Gaza Strip, preacher Maher Huli was forced to run away from a local mosque after being attacked by dozens of worshipers.

Huli enraged many mosque-goers after declaring that all the PA and Fatah members who were killed in the clashes with Hamas would "end up in hell.”


Sunday, May 20 2007

Gun Barrel Politics

WestbankfuneralCorrespondent Mitchell Prothero of The Observer has an unusual take on Gaza's security breakdown:

Al-Qawasmeh had been selected as a neutral choice to lead Gaza's security forces but his neutrality also meant he lacked any gunmen of his own, thus making it impossible for him to exercise any authority over Gaza's many different semi-official armed factions.

So this is what Gaza has sunk to: The main qualification for Palestinian leadership is the number of gunmen you command.

Poll: Should Johnston Be Killed?

The Memri blog discovered an Islamic web site polling readers on the following question about Alan Johnston:

"Are you in favor of killing [kidnapped BBC correspondent in Gaza Alan] Johnston immediately if the Crusaders fail to comply with [his] kidnappers' demands?"

UPDATE May 23: According to Newsbusters, 95.45 of the people responding to the poll voted for Johnston's death. But take the results with a grain of salt. Only 22 people bothered voting.

Re-Examining Hezbollah History

HezbollahAn eyewitness to Hezbollah's 1982 founding paints a different picture of the group's origins than the MSM's conventional wisdom. Hussain Abdul-Hussain writes in the Baltimore Sun:

This was an Islamic republic in formation. Hezbollah's slogan at the time was "the Islamic Revolution in Lebanon." But the Syrian regime was in control of most of Lebanon, including Baalbek, and was unwilling to see an Iranian seed sprout in its backyard. Syria therefore inspired its loyalist Shiite group, Amal, to wage battles against Hezbollah, and these continued until the conclusion of the Lebanese civil war in 1990, when Iran and Syria reached a deal over the role of the party. According to the deal, Hezbollah would be allowed to maintain its arms, but its role would be limited to "resistance."

Hezbollah became a joint Iranian-Syrian venture and turned its slogan into "the Islamic Resistance in Lebanon." Hezbollah was also integrated into the Lebanese political fabric. Later, it would win a parliamentary bloc and gain a say in all of the nation's affairs.

Its history was rewritten. Today, most academics have it that Hezbollah was founded in Beirut in 1985 as a resistance movement against Israeli occupation of southern Lebanon. The truth is that Hezbollah was founded in Baalbek in 1982 as the nucleus of a hoped-for Islamic republic in Lebanon.

Hezbollah is often depicted as having stayed away from the Lebanese civil war, which is also a fallacy. The truth is that Hezbollah clashed with Amal, the Lebanese Communist Party and the Syrian Social Nationalist Party during the war.

The history of Hezbollah and its intentions for Lebanon should be reexamined.

Sderot Stories You Haven't Seen

Here are some stories from the Israeli papers you probably haven't seen in the MSM.

* The Jerusalem Post examines residents' survival skills and visits the town's three-man fire crew.

* YNet News profiles Boaz Shabo, one of Sderot's very special volunteer ambulance drivers. Shabo lost half his family in a 2002 terror attack:

"Helping others gives me strength," he says.

* According to Haaretz, Qassams have caused 65 million shekels in damages to industry; police are gearing up for a barrage on Ashkelon.

* Allison Kaplan Sommer captured the prevailing mood in this dispatch for Pajamas Media.

Bureau Chief Refuses to Name Captors

AbudhabiThe Gaza bureau chief for Abu Dhabi TV, Abdel-Salam Abu Askar, was kidnapped, interrogated and then released after several hours over the weekend. The network and his colleagues blamed Hamas, but Askar, who is Palestinian, curiously refuses to point fingers. Reuters writes:

The bureau chief of the United Arab Emirates' Abu Dhabi TV in Gaza, abducted briefly by Palestinian gunmen on Friday, refused to identify his captors after the television station blamed Islamist group Hamas.

"Those who abducted me are known but I do not wish to say who they are on air," Abdel-Salam Abu Askar told the television channel in a telephone interview after his release.

Abu Dhabi TV had blamed the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas for the abduction, a charge denied by a Hamas official in Gaza.

"The Hamas movement abducted the Abu Dhabi television bureau chief in Gaza," an Abu Dhabi TV news anchor said earlier….

A colleague at the television's Gaza bureau, who gave his name as Nael, told Reuters earlier that an "Executive Force jeep dropped Askar off in the street". The Executive Force is a Hamas militia.

Nael said Abu Askar had called the office on his mobile telephone to report he had been stopped at a checkpoint set up by the Hamas militia which has been battling Fatah rivals this week.

A spokesman for Hamas denied involvement.

What do cowed Palestinian journalists know about Alan Johnston that isn't being reported?


Friday, May 18 2007

Strategy of Implosion

Idf_gazaYesterday, we wondered whether Israel had obligations to re-occupy the Palestinian areas in the event of the Palestinian Authority's collapse. Today's Jerusalem Post suggests that Hamas is deliberately trying to engineer the collapse of the PA in order to draw Israel back into a long-term occupation that would eventually lead to Israel's own collapse:

But at the same time, said Gidi Grinstein, head of the Tel Aviv-based Reut think tank, certain factions inside Palestinian society were not interested in the two-state solution. They were, he said Thursday, interested in drawing Israel back into Gaza, perpetuating Israeli occupation, believing that this would lead to Israel's collapse from within.

In a paper Reut published last November, Grinstein wrote that the aim of this strategy "is to establish one Palestinian/Arab/Islamic state in place of Israel through actions that will bring about Israel's internal collapse as a state."

According to this strategy, "the occupation accelerates Israel's implosion and therefore should be sustained. Either way, the Hamas government in and of itself serves the 'Strategy of Implosion' because it creates a political deadlock, deepens the Palestinian crisis of representation, and erodes the PA's capacity to govern."

Grinstein, who was an adviser to Ehud Barak when Barak served as prime minister, said that the collapse of the PA - a situation of "non-governance there" - was bad for Israel. "We will have no one to talk to, and too many people to shoot at," he said.

"There are groups, Palestinian and Muslim Arabs, who are beginning to question whether their immediate goal should really be to try to push Israel out of the West Bank, and who are saying that the continuation of the occupation may accelerate Israel's implosion," he said....

Because of some of the Palestinian factions' desire that Israel remain an occupying force, the threat of the IDF moving back into Gaza is a hollow one. That's what they want, Grinstein said.


Thursday, May 17 2007

Buried By the Media: Watch Sderot Under Attack

The media fails to do justice to the suffering of Sderot. Read HonestReporting's latest communique: Buried By the Media: Watch Sderot Under Attack

UPDATE May 20: The YouTube video this communique originally linked to was taken down and subsequently reposted with a different link here.

Al-Qaida Overture For Johnston?

QatadaBritish officials are in contact with Sheik Abu Qatada (pictured) an imprisoned cleric linked to Al-Qaida, to gain the release of Alan Johnston. AP writes:

The British government is in talks with a man once known as Osama bin Laden's spiritual ambassador in Europe in an attempt to secure the release of kidnapped BBC correspondent Alan Johnston, the Foreign Office said Thursday.

"We have been in discussion with Abu Qatada via his lawyer with regards to making an appeal for his release," said a Foreign Office spokeswoman speaking on condition of anonymity in line with government policy....

"I announce my full readiness to go on a trip to Gaza, with a delegation from BBC, to meet with the brothers, the abductors, concerning the release of the journalist Alan Johnson," Qatada wrote in a letter sent to the Islamic Observatory Center.

A recent tape from Johnston's kidnappers demanded Qatada's release.

Editors Asleep On the Job

GuardianIn The Guardian's update on Qassam shellings, reporter Mark Tran inexplicably writes:

The rocket attacks, which caused no reported injuries, were interpreted by some as a Hamas attempt to broaden the internal conflict....

Yet an AP report also picked up by The Guardian's web site writes:

More than 20 rockets were fired on the town on Wednesday, wounding two people. The attacks came a day after rockets injured five other residents and destroyed several homes in the town - along with any remnant of a sense of security here.

Only one of these reports was published in The Guardian's print edition. Care to guess which one?

(Hat tip: Tom Gross)

A “Narcissist and Patronizing Mesmerization”

NusseibehEfraim Karsh slams Palestinian academic Professor Sari Nusseibeh (pictured). Reviewing Nusseibeh’s latest book in the NY Sun, Karsh writes:

I was particularly taken aback when Mr. Nusseibeh, even then widely considered the epitome of Palestinian moderation and a staunch proponent of Arab-Jewish coexistence, turned out to be the most extreme member of the group. Dismissing out of hand the two-state solution — Israel and a Palestinian state in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip — he instead sang the praise of the ‘one-state paradigm’ — a standard catchphrase for Israel’s destruction — demanding the incorporation of the West Bank and Gaza population into the Jewish state as full-fledged citizens, to be followed by the refugees from the neighboring Arab states and beyond.

In subsequent years, Mr. Nusseibeh continued to pay lip service to the two-state solution and consistently questioned the very legitimacy of the state with which he ostensibly wished to make peace. On a few occasions he even let the mask drop, unveiling his true agenda. In the late 1990s, for example, he told an old Oxford friend that ‘one day, in the near or further future, all this [ Israel and Palestine] will be one binational state. It’s just a question of how we get there.’….

It is also a corollary of the narcissist and patronizing mesmerization among educated westerners with the ‘noble savage’ in general, and the westernized native in particular. With his posh Jerusalem high school education, his Oxford and Harvard degrees, and impeccable western demeanor, Mr. Nusseibeh, like cultured Arabs and Muslims before him, represents the ultimate product of the ‘white man’s civilizing mission,’ a contemporary replica of George Antonius, the Cambridge-educated Syrian political activist who was the toast of British chattering classes in Palestine and beyond during the 1930s.

The MSM certainly likes to portray Nusseibeh as a moderate. Karsh was reviewing Nusseibeh’s latest book, Once Upon a Country: A Palestinian Life.

(Hat tip: Melanie Phillips)

Where's the Money? Part 2

Money_down_drain_2When yesterday's Haaretz reported that the Palestinian Authority received $900 million in foreign aid despite the world's boycott of Hamas, we wondered, Where's the Money? Today's Financial Times sheds some light:

The European Union, traditionally the PA’s biggest donor, has so far declined to lift a ban on paying aid directly to the finance ministry. Mr Fayyad has moved to circumvent it by encouraging donors to pay into a Palestine Liberation Organisation account that he controls. The PLO is not subject to the sanctions.

Foreign aid to the Palestinians is only palatable if you don't ask to many questions about the different accounts, who controls them, and possible conflicts of interest.

Re-Occupy Gaza? Much Obliged

TankAn analysis in today's Haaretz indicates that Palestinians would like Israel to re-occupy Gaza and end the civil war:

The Gazans are repeating one clear message: only Israeli occupation will save them. There is no other solution on the horizon.

And yesterday, a NY Times assessing the possible collapse of the Palestinian Authority asserted:

This would be a troubling outcome for Israel, which still retains legal responsibility over the Palestinian territories, including Gaza, as the occupying power, and would find itself again having to police them.

Let's separate the questions.

1. Should Israel resume administering the Palestinian areas?

2. Is the Times correct? Does Israel have an actual obligation here? Are readers aware of any links addressing this question?

UPDATE May 18: Is all this really part of a deliberate Palestinian strategy of implosion?

Journalists Under Fire

The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns yesterday's fighting that left journalists trapped in a Gaza media building for several hours. This CPJ alert fills in more details than other news reports we've seen so far:

Shahdi al-Kashif, managing editor of Ramattan, told CPJ the clashes broke out around 6 p.m. local time. About 40 journalists in the Shawa and Hosari Tower congregated in Ramattan’s offices on the ninth floor, he said, adding that the building sustained extensive damage and vehicles belonging to the journalists were destroyed. In a subsequent telephone interview, al-Kashif told CPJ that the clashes had subsided by midnight and journalists had returned to their offices.
Happy Birthday Alan Johnston

According to the BBC petition, birthday cards can be addressed to the World Affairs Unit, Room 410SE, BBC Bush House, The Strand, London WC2B 4PH, UK.

Be sure to check EU laws on birthday cards and avoid controversy. Johnston turns 45.


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