AP's Maggie Michael and the Washington Post's Ellen Knickmeyer went on the same Egyptian tour of the Gaza border to learn more about Egypt's efforts to counter smuggling.
"We can't stop all smuggling. We need more machines, we need double the number of border guards," Egyptian army Col. Amr Mamdouh told reporters during a rare tour of the border area Sunday.
"Anywhere you stamp your foot on the ground, you will find tunnels," he said.
But the Post writes:
Egyptian border guards have found about 75 percent fewer tunnels from the Gaza Strip since Hamas took control there, an indication of the radical Islamic group's broad success in reducing the smuggling of weapons and other contraband, a top Egyptian border official said Sunday.
Some advocate a liberal brand of Islamic politics that would support territorial compromise, while those with a strict interpretation of the Koran are attacking Hamas for straying too far by mixing religion and politics. But most agree that any challenge to Hamas must include a new spiritual formula.
Hamas took two busloads of journalists on a tour of the Gaza Strip. Stops included, among others, Gaza's Saraya prison, a Roman Catholic church, and the Rafah border crossing. We recommend AP coverage by Steve Gutkin.
The same day, Hamas moved against several pro-Fatah daily papers. The Jerusalem Post's Khaled Abu Toameh writes:
Palestinian journalists said thousands of copies from the three newspapers were seized by Hamas's paramilitary Executive Force on the Palestinian side of the Erez border crossing. The newspapers were taken aboard a truck to a Hamas security installation nearby in the town of Beit Hanan.
According to the journalists, six Palestinians working for the newspapers were detained by Hamas for questioning….
Islam Shahwan, spokesman for the Executive Force, announced that the move was aimed at sending a warning to the newspapers to stop inciting against his force and Hamas.
This isn't the first time Hamas has applied the good cop/bad cop routine to P.R.
Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez says he'll expel foreign critics. Might Israel take similar action against foreign NGOs like the International Solidarity Movement and the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions?
The Financial Times wonders if the flurry of peace activity is leading to Palestinian statehood or "interim statehood."
“They want to change the name of the Palestinian Authority to the Palestinian state,” said Hani al-Masri, a West Bank political analyst. “But it wouldn’t change anything on the ground. It would be a state under occupation.”
This is nothing more than a pre-packaged excuse to blame Israel should "interim statehood" fail as badly as the Palestinian Authority.
* Must read: Examining Gaza's increasing number of honor killings, Newsweek correspondent Kevin Peraino finds that Hamas, Fatah, and human rights groups are stymied by legal paralysis and public apathy. Will the killers of the three Juha sisters be brought to justice?
* Ex-jihadis are getting into print these days. AP talked with Ahmed al-Shayea, who is being "de-programmed" by Saudis after surviving a truck bombing he drove in Baghdad. And in an even more remarkable story, The Guardian reports that Sayid Imam al-Sharif is writing a widely-anticipated recantation of violent jihad that has Al-Qaida leaders worried:
No one is predicting that the book will stop suicide bombings in Iraq or Afghanistan, but interest is so intense that several Arabic newspapers are competing to buy the 100-page work, entitled: Advice Regarding the Conduct of Jihadist Action in Egypt and the World.
* The Boston Globe picked up on Sderot suffering, meeting teenagers who came to Massachusetts for a summer getaway. Reporter Steven Rosenberg discovered you can take the kids out of Sderot, but you can't take Sderot out of the kids:
The children began to cry and shake when they heard the thunder and saw the lightning during the camp dance. One girl fainted. Another hugged a counselor so hard that she dug her fingernails into the woman's back.
Everyone had the same thought: The boom from the sky was a Qassam rocket.
* See the NY Times Magazine, where an Iraqi fixer shares a fascinating first-person account of working for Western news services.
Will Mideast coverage on South African Broadcasting Corporation newscasts be more balanced?
That's the hope after officials from the South African Board of Jewish Deputies cut a deal with SABC news director Dr. Snuki Zikalala. It's Almost Supernatural explains:
In exchange for withdrawing the SAJBD’s complaint with the Independent Complaints Commission of South Africa (ICASA) over the blacklisting of Jewish journalist Paula Slier, Zikalala promised to ensure more balanced coverage on the Middle East. Thankfully the Freedom of Expression Institute (FXI) has stuck to its guns and is continuing with its complaint against the SABC and Zikalala.
The British Medical Journal ran a double page spread asking, "Should we consider boycotting Israeli academic institutions?" Opposing commentaries by Tom Hickey and Michael Baum hash the issue.
But Ann Robinson argues that the BMJ isn't an appropriate venue for such debate:
There are so many forums in which the politics of the Middle East can be debated. I follow the spirited interchanges on Comment is free and read the varied opinions in the Guardian and other liberal newspapers, including the Israeli paper Ha'aretz which is often hypercritical of the Israeli government. I don't need the BMJ to inform me about the Middle East. In fact, it used to be nice to read something I knew would be about medicine, not politics....
There are a tonne of health inequalities on our doorstep. Health rationing of cancer drugs. Postcode rationing of fertility treatment. The health gaps between rich and poor, north and south, men and women. If the BMJ wants to become a political, campaigning magazine, let it shine the spotlight closer to home. Or is that less fun?
Hezbollah is training southern Lebanese locals to fight Israel. The Financial Times writes:
"We have twice as many people signing up for training this summer as before," said a senior Hizbollah official when asked about the movement's strength. After last year's war Hizbollah is putting more emphasis on training the local population in the villages and towns in the south. The goal is to have the inhabitants stay and fight rather than flee, as happened en masse during last year's war.
The organization isn't limiting its expertise to Lebanon either. According to Time, Hezbollah's also teaching in Iraq:
According to the People's Mujaheddin Organization of Iran (PMOI), a longtime opposition group to the regime in Tehran, as many as 500 Hizballah operatives are at work in Iraq training militiamen at the behest of Iran. The PMOI, which claims to have an extensive intelligence network in Iran and Iraq, says most of the Hizballah operatives in Iraq are serving as trainers or assistant trainers to the Mahdi Army, the Shi'ite militia of firebrand cleric Muqtada al-Sadr.
Brooks says the PMOI assessment seems plausible based on U.S. intelligence. "It wouldn't surprise me," Brooks said. "Evidence of their presence has been here for some time." Brooks said sophisticated kidnapping operations in Iraq and high-tech bombs of the kind Hizballah has been known to use in Lebanon are signs that the group is increasingly a part of the militia scene here.
To restore trust, the BBC wants to spend public money for "honesty courses." But the Evening Standard finds Parliament displeased:
Tory MP Philip Davies asked: "Is funding a training programme to tell your staff not to lie and cheat viewers a good use of licence-fee payers' money? Perhaps you need to look at your recruitment process if you have to train them on such fundamentals as not lying or cheating?"
But Mr Byford insisted the training programme, called Safeguarding Trust, was a good idea.
There's a fascinating disconnect between this AP headline and article. The headline?
Arab League in Jerusalem for 1st time
Not so fast. Correspondent Steve Weizman goes on to write:
An official at the league's Cairo headquarters, however, sought to play down the Jerusalem visit, saying it was not an official delegation.
Whether or not a delegation sent to Israel by the Arab League is in fact an Arab League delegation, the visit is part of a flurry of diplomatic efforts meant to restart Israeli-Palestinian peace talks after a seven-year lull.
The Arab League wants to have its cake and eat it too. If the initiative fails, the league will claim that the visiting Foreign Ministers were simply from Egypt and Jordan, states that already have normal relations with Israel. And if peace does develop, the league will surely take credit for the visit....
UPDATE July 26: Credit the Daily Telegraph with a more accurate perspective:
Although they were not an official delegation from the League, the visit highlighted a change of direction for the Arab body, which once advocated Israel's destruction.
Once again, the Washington Post gives a soapbox to terror. This time, in a religious issues section, Sheik Muhammed Hussein Fadlallah (pictured) gets the opportunity to spin jihad as "no different than any human and civilized concept of self-defense."
Fadlallah is one of Hezbollah's senior "spiritual leaders" and in the 80s , was the organization's most prominent spokesman. The Post/Newsweek describe him as "the leading Shi’ite Muslim Intellectual in Lebanon."
Backspin's on leave for the 9th of Av, which starts tonight. Fasting readers can take their mind off food by running a virtual falafel stand in the flash game Falafel King. We'll resume blogging on Wednesday.
The Economist pulls a puff piece on Zakaria Zubeidi (the "West Bank pimpernel"), the most prominent Al-Aqsa Brigades commanders to come in from the cold. All we know from this brief profile is that he threw some stones at soldiers and that his friends from a drama club were killed in street clashes.
We can't judge whether his agreement to cease terror attacks against Israel is sincere, but there's no reason to whitewash his bloody background. As YNet News once wrote:
Zubeidi’s al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades have claimed responsibility for more than 300 terror acts in the last five years.
In the Washington Post Hady Amr and Joel Samuels call for shared Israeli-Palestinian sovereignty over Jerusalem. The few examples of shared sovereignty's success hardly serve as a paradigm for sharing the city. But that doesn't dampen the ardor of the wonks:
And the most successful incarnations occurred in Europe during the 19th century when Germany and Belgium shared territory, and in an island chain in the South Pacific in the 20th (then the New Hebrides, a condominium between England and France; today, the independent nation of Vanuatu). What the success stories tell us is that, when properly conceived and thoughtfully implemented -- with buy-in from the sovereigns -- shared sovereignty can work.
The directors of the Simon Wiesenthal Center got op-ed space in the LA Times to take issue with that paper's decision to publish a commentary by Hamas official Mousa Abu Marzook:
Let's be clear: This issue is not about giving ink to Hamas' views. Their statements and actions deserve real-time coverage, just the way the statements and actions of Hitler and Stalin received coverage by the most prestigious newspapers in the world's most important democracy. But such people do not deserve the status of a sagely byline, because that destroys the distinction between honorable men and women bound by basic principles of humanity and the despots and terrorists eager to destroy those values.
If the criteria is simply because "it is an important story," then would the editors have welcomed articles by Auschwitz's Dr. Josef Mengele justifying his gruesome medical experiments, or by the Virginia Tech killer explaining why he committed mass murder? Of course, newspapers have the right and responsibility to inform their readers about dictators and purveyors of terror. But they don't have the right to bestow editorial credibility on those bent on genocide.
Lebanese opposition leader Michel Aoun launched his own news channel, OTV. Ya Libnan writes:
Many analysts expect this channel to be used by General Aoun to promote his presidential aspirations and his political party. It is expected to be a biased source of information for the opposition like Al Manar (Hezbollah channel) and NBN (Nabih Berri news channel).
The PA ambassador to the UK, Manuel Hassassian, appearing on 18 Doughty Street, manages to stick his foot in his mouth several times. In this clip, he tells host Donal Blaney that rocket attacks on Israel are justified.
In this clip, Hassassian insists that footage of Palestinians celebrating 9/11 was faked by Israel.
It's beyond us how Israel managed to get Palestinians in eastern Jerusalem to cooperate with The Guardian and even Fox News for this footage:
* The Daily Telegraph reports that several retired world leaders are forming a group called "The Elders" to fight global problems. The brain trust includes critics of Israel like Jimmy Carter, Desmond Tutu, Mary Robinson, Kofi Annan and Nelson Mandela. With a name like that, we'd be remiss not to note Elder of Ziyon's reaction.
* Canada's CTV investigates Hamas' human rights violations.
* The Congressional Human Rights Caucus will hold a special hearing on the hundreds of thousands of Jews who fled Arab countries. With a hat tip to Daled Amos, American Thinker writes:
Under the proposed legislation, the US president would be required to instruct all official representatives of the United States that "explicit reference to Palestinian refugees be matched by a similar explicit reference to Jewish and other refugees, as a matter of law and equity."
* Business Week's Jon Fine predicts the SF Chronicle will be the first major daily to stop the presses forever and only publish online.
It's bad enough when MSM coverage describes Qassam rockets as crude. But BBC bureau chief takes coverage to a new low by calling Hezbollah's rockets "low tech."
The mighty Israeli army, one of the most technologically advanced forces in the world, had been unable to stop Lebanese guerrilla fighters from Hezbollah firing low-tech missiles into the north of their country.
Low tech? Here's why we don't see Hezbollah as a "low tech" outfit: 1, 2, 3, and 4.
The BBC features a pictorial series of the security fence taken over several years. The shots are by Kai Wiedenhofer. A few years ago, Wiedenhofer got into some trouble when photos ostensibly of the West Bank security fence turned out to be images of a different security fence along Israel's border with Egypt.
None of the photos in the Wiedenhofer's BBC pictorial reflect the fact that most of the security fence is actually chain link, like the Reuters photo (pictured left).
Jordan's King Abdullah's visiting Canada, where one of his messages (see this Globe & Mail interview, where he talks about "connecting the dots") is that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the root of all other Mideast conflicts. Edmonton Sun columnist Mindelle Jacobs disagrees with what's also referred to as the "domino theory":
Without peace between Israelis and Palestinians, there could be decades more violence around the world, he warned. Little of the terrorism afflicting the planet has anything to do with Israel, however. Muslims are slaughtering Muslims - and whoever else gets in the way - in a number of countries, and Jews aren't on the agenda.
In fact, the glee with which Sunni extremists are murdering Shiites in Iraq suggests they hate their fellow Muslims much more than they hate Jews. Even Sunnis aren't safe. Last month, a suicide bomber blew himself up in a Baghdad hotel, killing 13 people, including four moderate Sunni tribal chiefs.
Sunni terrorists are also blowing up mosques and killing Iraqi troops and police officers in a bid to start a civil war. No doubt, there are some who will find a way to blame this Muslim vs. Muslim bloodletting on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
In Afghanistan, a suicide bomber recently killed 35 police instructors and wounded more than 50. It's hard to imagine, though, that he had Palestinians on his mind when he boarded the bus with explosives strapped to his chest.
A pair of wonks got op-ed space in the Christian Science Monitor urging Israel and the West to deal with Hamas. You can recognize the legitimate result of an election, but that doesn't mean you have to work with a government whose stated aim is your destruction.
And why are Palestinian voters continually excused for voting Hamas when they knew exactly what it stood for -- whether they agreed with it or not?
Memri blog picked up on this cartoon published in Jordan's Al-Dustour. The sign in the foreground simply says "Nahr el-Bared Refugee Camp." Had the Arab media criticized Hezbollah for using human shields last year, perhaps Fatah-al-Islam wouldn't feel emboldened to do the same thing.
First the BBC allowed anti-Semitic comments to be posted on their Radio 5 site. Following public outcry, the Beeb's moderators took the comment offline, explaining that "a member of our Moderation Team has referred it to the Hosts for a decision as to whether it contravenes the House rules in some way."
Apparently, the comment by Iron Naz wasn't anti-Semitic enough for the Moderation Team. Message 62 is back online:
Zionism is a racist ideology where jews are given supremacy over all other races and faiths.
This is found in the Talmud.
There is a law called Baba Mezia which allows jews to lie as long as its to non-jews. many pro jewish supporters will cringe at this being exposed because they know it exists, yet they keep quiet about it, hey frip, jla and co
The Law of Baba Mezia!! Tsk tsk tsk! Its in the Talmud
The British public pays for these so-called moderators through the license fee.
UPDATE 6:32 p.m.: While we're on the subject of moderating comments for anti-Semitism, see Oliver Kamm's criticisms of The Guardian's Comment is Free section:
I am close to being an absolutist on free speech. I do not, however, consider that defending someone's right to utter pernicious sentiments obligates you to provide the vehicle by which he may do so. I can see no benefit either to The Guardian or to the quality of public debate in CiF's providing a bulletin board for antsemitic cranks and sundry flat-earthers, and cordially invite CiF's editors to reflect further on what they have created.
Rinat Malkes managed to file articles one and two of a three part series from Lebanon for YNet News and Brazil's O Globo by concealing her Israeli background.
Meanwhile, Lisa Goldman, who also concealed her Israeli background to enter Lebanon, issued this challenge to Al-Jazeera and Hezbollah's Al-Manar TV after they tried to use her coverage for Pajamas Media to score their own points. See Goldman's blog, On the Face for more.
UPDATE July 17: Malkes' third and final dispatch is on today's YNet News.
According to the LA Times, Hamas is walking an "ideological tightrope" between pragmatists and radicals:
The wider challenge for Hamas is whether it can, or even wishes to, rein in independent Islamist groups seeking to impose Sharia law that would limit other religions and force women to wear hijabs or head scarves. These organizations have made Hamas, which has overwhelming support here and is viewed by the West as a dangerous political movement, appear less threatening in the spectrum of Islamic voices.
This is exactly the kind of position in which Yasser Arafat expertly portrayed himself. But not Mahmoud Abbas.
The Daily Telegraph picks up on NGO criticisms that Israel's closure of the Gaza Strip violates international law. But as Jerusalem Post columnist Jonathan Rosenblum wrote recently:
It is time we recognize, to paraphrase Voltaire on the Holy Roman Empire, that "customary international humanitarian law" is neither customary, nor law, nor humanitarian. It is not customary because it is not based on the actual behavior of nations past or present....
Its "rules" were not enacted by any international governmental body to which sovereign nation-states ceded the right to legislate. Nor are they even embodied in reciprocal treaty obligations entered into by sovereign states. They are nothing more than "rules" derived from declarative statements made by any and everybody - from various tinpot dictators and tyrants to Human Rights Watch - on what they think international law should be; and presto, according to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), it is....
In responding to claims that Israel has violated CIHL, our recourse must be to elementary logic and an examination of the actual conduct of nations. Just as the US Constitution is not a "suicide pact," neither is international law. Until human rights advocates tell us what we can do to protect our cities from missiles and our citizens from suicide bombers, CIHL has no claim on our attention.
While Alan Johnston was finally set free, Gilad Shalit, Ehud Goldwasser and and Eldad Regev remain in captivity, having been taken hostage last summer. A full-page advert calling for their release is appearing in Monday's Times and Tuesday's Evening Standard. Click here to view the advert online in PDF format.
Only by adding your voice in protest to the United Nations and the leaders of the free world, will enough pressure be exerted to ensure their safe release. Please visit www.FreeTheThree.co.uk and register your support.
One Alan Johnston is out, the others are still counting on us.