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Media Backspin
« March 2008 | Main | May 2008 »

Wednesday, April 30 2008

Carter Shills For Hamas

Carter2In the NY Times, no less:

Through more official consultations with these outlawed leaders, it may yet be possible to revive and expedite the stalemated peace talks between Israel and its neighbors. In the Middle East, as in Nepal, the path to peace lies in negotiation, not in isolation.

You can hear the chortles in Iran.

The Stench Spreads: Johann Hari's Stinking Op-Ed

Using a falsified quote and revisionist history, Hari compares Israel to excrement. Read more at HonestReporting's latest communique: The Stench Spreads: Johann Hari's Stinking Op-Ed


Tuesday, April 29 2008

Hamas Fuels the Fire

Jerusalem Post:

The head of the Palestinian Authority's gas agency confirmed Tuesday that Hamas gunmen had raided the Palestinian side of the Nahal Oz fuel terminal, stealing at least 60,000 liters of fuel meant for the Gaza power station in order to fill their own vehicles.

The Jerusalem Post reported Sunday that on at least four occasions over the past few weeks, Hamas militiamen confiscated trucks loaded with fuel as they were on their way from Nahal Oz to the city. Eyewitnesses said that the fuel supplies were taken to Hamas-controlled security installations throughout the city.

Bird's Eye View of the IAF

I can't help but like Bob Simon's look at the Israeli Air Force for 60 Minutes.

Cool footage of jets and choppers and an honest look at how pilots relate to flying over Gaza, the 1981 attack on Osirak, and the possibility it will have to attack Iran. Click below to watch.



Monday, April 28 2008

April 28 Links

Gaza's Teenage Tunnel Diggers
Digging tunnels is more profitable than staying in school.

Incompetent or Cruel
Aussie newspaper sees straight through Hamas' manufactured fuel crisis.

Real Reason Syrian Base Was Wiped Off the Map

Johann Hari's Stinking Op-Ed

Relying on a falsified quote and revisionist history, Hari compares Israel to excrement. See HonestReporting UK's latest communique: Johann Hari's Stinking Op-Ed


Sunday, April 27 2008

Passed Over: Shorts You May Have Missed

Some items from the Passover holiday period. See HonestReporting's latest communique: Passed Over: Shorts You May Have Missed.

Whose Druze Choose Jews?

Reuters perpetuates another misnomer:

Around 18,000 Israeli settlers live in the heights among 22,000 Druze who consider themselves Syrians.

Actually, Druze leaders slam extremists in their community who seek ties with Syria.

A Fast and Furious Pace: Hezbollah Gears Up

The Observer reports first-hand that Hezbollah is recruiting and training fighters at a fast and furious pace:

But what is becoming more obvious, even as Hizbollah tries to hide it, is that the group has embarked on an unprecedented build-up of men, equipment and bunker-building in preparation for the war that almost everyone - Lebanese and Israeli - considers inevitable. 'The villages in the south are empty of men,' said one international official. 'They are all gone, training in Bekaa, Syria and Iran.'

A trip by The Observer through villages in the Hizbollah heartland confirmed a conspicuous lack of fighting-age men. Visible were several new martyr posters, but unlike the traditional ones they portrayed anonymous, fresh-faced youngsters without military garb. According to locals, these are boys who have been killed accidentally in the latest wave of training in Iran. In the city of Tyre, too, posters showing young men killed in training exercises are cropping up.

Mitchell Prothero's dispatch ends on another sobering point: the possibility of Hezbollah fighters taking up arms against other Lebanese.

France 2 Rushes (18-Minute Version) YouTubed

The 18 minutes of raw footage France 2 screened in court last year were posted on YouTube.

The same person also posted what's billed as "the 10 seconds never shown by France 2."

Via Richard Landes, who saw the full 27 minutes of raw footage. His reaction:

Lots to see, even thought they cut out at least three of the most obvious fake scenes.

Related viewing: Blowing the Lid on New France2 Video, especially if it's difficult to understand what you're watching.

Catching Up on Carter, Hamas and the WashPost

Last week, the Washington Post gave op-ed space to Hamas strongman Mahmoud Zahar. To the paper's credit, a staff-ed the same day explained that they were holding their noses.

But it may not be that simple. If the paper compensated Zahar for the commentary, the Post would possibly be afoul of federal laws prohibiting money transactions to designated terror organizations, says Steve Emerson (via LGF). The Post pays a minimum $200 fee for op-eds; various factors can increase the amount. According to Emerson, the Post refuses to confirm what, if anything, it paid for the commentary.

I hoped ombudsman Deborah Howell would expand on the controversy. Instead, last week's column addressed unrelated issues of Israel coverage raised by our colleagues at Camera. Today's column deals with sports blogging.

HR Canada Launches French Monitoring Unit

Can_queb_flagsHonestReporting Canada is pleased to announce the launch of a Montreal office and expansion of its monitoring efforts to include French-language Canadian media coverage of Israel. Read more about it in English or French.

Paul Agoston will oversee operations in Montreal. Paul joins HR Canada with over 10 years of marketing and communications experience. To contact Paul, please email

Catching Up on Recommended Reading

As I catch up on reading and emails after a week off, I'll probably add more articles to this list over the course of the day.

How Do You Navigate News From the Middle East?
Sderot and Gaza "in context."

Iran Leads Battle to Bar Jewish Group From Forum
Warming up for Durban II.

Zawahri: Hezbollah Started Rumor that Israel Planned 9/11
Confirms Sunnis are capable of blowing up WTC.

Double Standard Exists With Israel and Jews
Chance encounter with a photojournalist leads to startling revelation.

NYT's Top Editor Suggests 'Some Resemblance' Between Israel and South African Apartheid
Bill Keller wrote a book about Nelson Mandela . . . .

Hizbullah Expands Communications Network
Allegedly "legitimate Lebanese political party" now able to tap conversations by citizens and authorities.

Sounds of Music In a City More Crowded Than Gaza
With 7,000 people per square km, Tel Aviv has higher population density than Gaza (via Daled Amos)

Egypt Builds A Wall
Fencing out Palestinians isn't apartheid when done by Arabs, right?

Saudi Blogger Freed
CNN says dissident blogger Fouad Al-Farhan released from prison.


Friday, April 18 2008

Happy Passover

Passover_2Backspin's on leave for the week, but we'll be back and blogging away on Sunday, April 27. Happy Passover to all our readers.


Thursday, April 17 2008

In Harm's Way: Cameraman Films Own Death

Fadel_shana1Reuters cameraman Fadel Shana (pictured) unexpectedly filmed his own death while covering fighting between Israelis forces and Palestinian gunmen in Gaza. We extend our condolences to Shana's family and Reuters on this unfortunate tragedy.

Reuters top editor, David Schlesinger, called for an IDF inquiry into the incident. He also acknowledged in a memo:

We know, of course, that journalism is a dangerous business. We know, of course, that we rush into danger when others rush away. We know, of course, that accidents happen.

Although Shana's vehicle was clearly marked as TV, Palestinian terrorists have abused press markings to launch attacks, such as last June.

To what extent are journalists in combat zones culpable for putting themselves in harm's way? Post your comments below.

Terror Awards Revoked

Following up on yesterday's communique, today's Jerusalem Post reports that Mahmoud Abbas informed Israel that the awards for two Palestinian terrorists were withdrawn.


Wednesday, April 16 2008

April 16 Links

J'lem-Based Journalist Wins Parliamentary Seat
Jewish journalist, author, terrorism expert and unconscious fascist Fiamma Nirenstein propelled into Italian parliament.

Soccer 1, Jimmy Carter 0
Lisa Goldman says lack of media interest in Carter's visit reflects Israeli apathy toward peace initiatives and self-appointed peace makers.

Iran Slams "Google Plot"
There's a gulf between Google Earth and Iran.

Selling Terror
Madison Avenue meets the Bekaa Valley.

Abbas: A "Moderate" Honoring Terrorists

Why does the media continue to refer to the Palestinian leadership as "moderate"? Read more at HonestReporting's latest communique: Abbas: A "Moderate" Honoring Terrorists

It's Lonely Supporting Israel on Campus

TexasIn today's Jerusalem Post, Ilana Diamond describes the travails of campus hasbara, where Palestinian supporters outnumber Israel's supporters. She also grapples with the effects of the MSM's mantra, "If it bleeds, it leads."

Nor can these relatively few speakers compete with the onslaught of weekly posters put up around campus with pictures of bloodied Palestinian children, body bags, and misquoted statements from Israeli officials seeming to suggest that Palestinians are asking for it. For some reason - perhaps the way the media covers the conflict - many college students seem to be more skeptical of pro-Israel speakers than anti-Israel ones . . . .

It is extremely hard to fight fire with fire and remain respectable. The images the pro-Palestinian groups put onto posters are deplorable. Texans for Israel will try to avoid the pity ploy, but on today's college campuses it seems that that's what it takes to gain support for a cause. A group has to be loud, crude, over the top, and gut wrenching for their message to be heard. Simply showing the positive side to a cause no longer captures attention.

Pro-Israel activists can talk up the positives of Israel until we are blue in the face, but until someone sees Israelis as victims, they will just ignore our message.

Read the whole thing.


Tuesday, April 15 2008

Misrepresenting A Source

Conal_urquhart1Towards the end of this Washington Post dispatch from Gaza, correspondent Griff Witte writes:

"For a Gazan youngster, the question is what do you want to be when you grow up," said Conal Urquhart, a U.N. humanitarian affairs officer based in Gaza. "Your options are very limited."

Interesting source considering Urquhart (pictured) isn't a UN employee but a reporter for The Guardian.

This isn't the first time Urquhart was linked to a misrepresented source. Just last October, there was a problem with the way he referred to Jeff Halper.

As press corps colleagues, Witte certainly knew Urquhart's a journalist. How'd this happen?

Comments to

Israel 60: The Demonization Begins

As Israel gears up to celebrate, the demonization campaign prepares to escalate. Read more at HonestReporting's latest communique: Israel 60: The Demonization Begins

Al-Jazeera Backpedaling?

Livni_sheikhhamadForeign Minister Tzipi Livni's successful vist to Qatar, where the news network is based, puts Al-Jazeera in a very uncomfortable spot. Haaretz explains why:

Meanwhile, the network omitted any reference to Monday's meeting at the Qatar conference between Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and the Emir of Qatar Hamad bin Khalifa. It did, however, report on Livni's meeting with her counterpart from Oman.

Qatar's national television network aired photos of the meeting between Livni and the Qatari head of state.

While in Doha, Livni shook hands with Qatar's Emir, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani. In addition to running Qatar, Sheikh Hamad bankrolled Al-Jazeera's launch to an estimated tune of $150 million. (Livni met with Al-Jazeera's management.)

So what is Al-Jazeera to do if its principal patrons are warming to Israel? Haaretz adds:

The Qatar-based television network Al-Jazeera has agreed to discuss its coverage of the Israeli-Arab conflict with Israel, after Israel decided to embargo the media outlet, claiming its reports were biased.

Related reading: Israel Blacklists Al-Jazeera

April 15 Links

UN Expert? No, a Conspiracy Crank
Just look at who regards Richard Falk as an "expert." See also Oliver Kamm's observations.

Israel's Life Beyond the Headlines

Jimmy's World
An alternative itinerary for the Carter Mideast Tour '08.

A Palestinian Civil War in Lebanon?
Is the US arming Palestinian refugees in Lebanon?

How Iranians Are Avoiding Sanctions
Ordinary Iranians prove how easy it is to sidestep international sanctions and move money overseas.

Perils of Internet Apathy

YoutubeThe American Jewish Committee is hosting a video competition called MyIsrael. With related groups on Facebook and YouTube, Avigail Sugarman learned the hard way that hatred of Israel on these sites can't be ignored. I'll just skip to the moral of the story:

YouTube has become a primary vehicle for the exchange of ideas and the formation of public opinion. In this instance, however, its power - with a tentacle-like reach and an astounding speed of dissemination - was wielded to spread hateful anti-Israel messages . . . .

Before this incident, I believed that the debate on YouTube was secondary; we could turn a blind eye to anti-Israel expressions on the Internet, but make sure to step in when it came to the academy or the New York Times. What I learned last week was that sitting out the debate in this case will mean that those who hate Israel will define the debate for anyone who types "Israel" into a search. If we are too slow in recognizing this new front, we will lose the chance to impact these discussions and ultimately turn the tide.

Read the whole article.


Monday, April 14 2008

Coming Attractions, Part 2

Hagana_sassaAdd Bill Slavick to our list of "coming attractions" for Israel's 60th Independence Day. He writes in the Bangor Daily News:

Only President Truman’s support of the partition, giving the 30 percent Jewish minority governance of most of Palestine, accounted for the United Nations’ approval. Yet, when Israel launched its long-planned systematic ethnic cleansing of Palestinians from their ancestral homes and Truman demanded that they cease and allow refugees to return home, Israeli operatives assassinated a U.N. mediator and brushed off Truman — Israel needed more land for its security. Israel’s ethnic cleansing of 800,000 Palestinians violated U.N. charter articles.

Mitch Bard describes more accurately what really happened in 1948.

What Fuel Crisis?


Western officials confirmed Israeli statements that some two days' supply of gasoline and diesel were lying untapped in tanks in Gaza.

'Nuff said.


Sunday, April 13 2008

Coming Attractions

Last year's 40th anniversary of the Six-Day War brought out plenty of criticism of Israeli "occupation." As we get closer to Israel's 60th anniversary of independence, we're going to see more regurgitated pablum questioning Israel's legitimacy.

Edith Garwood's an example of the coming attractions. She writes in the Charlotte Observer:

Archives show armed Jewish militias expelled Arabs using home demolitions, massacres, rape, beatings, bombings and widespread threats of terror . . . .

The Israeli occupation of Palestinian territory, rocket fire into Israel, illegal settlement growth, checkpoints, suicide bombers, the crippled Palestinian economy, The Wall, and the lack of adequate access to medicine, food and clean water require attention, but are only outgrowths of the root problem -- the ethnic cleansing of Palestine.


Tarnished With a Brush of Walt, Mearsheimer

Alexandria_synagogueThe House of Representatives recently passed a non-binding resolution recognizing Jewish refugees from Arab countries for the first time.

So why is an eminently sensible and just issue tarnished by The Economist with the brush of Walt and Mearsheimer?

But the fact that a resolution of doubtful value even to Israel's government, let alone American foreign policy, passed with bipartisan support shows once more the power of the pro-Israel lobby in Washington. The lobby's critics often complain that it represents not Israel but the Israeli right wing.

Why can't The Economist admit that this expression -- however symbolic and toothless -- passed because the long-overdue recognition of Jewish refugees makes sense in and of itself?

Point of No Return also responds to The Economist.

AFP's Tough Justice

AFP breaks out the violins for Palestinian kids caught up in Israeli military courts.

But papers like the Times of London, Reuters, and the Globe & Mail have already noted that the kids look forward to Israeli imprisonment and deliberately get themselves arrested. For Palestinian youngsters, life behind bars means:

• pursuing an education

• living well

• getting street cred

Oh yeah, parents receive monthly PA benefits too.


Thursday, April 10 2008

Red Ronnie Strikes Again

Ronnie_kasrilsRonnie Kasrils is raising another stink in South Africa. The country's Intelligence Minister penned a commentary in the Johannesburg Star rehashing discredited slurs of Israeli "massacres" in Deir Yassin, Sabra and Shatilla, and Jenin.

The article was subsequently republished in the Cape Argus. Both papers consider Kasrils' propaganda as "premium content" for subscribers which means you have to pay for the privilege of reading it.

It's Almost Supernatural fisked Kasrils and has further follow up.

Nahal Oz: A Case Study in Flawed Reporting

An examination of UK media's coverage of a terror attack reveals glaring deficiencies. See HonestReporting UK's latest communique: Nahal Oz: A Case Study in Flawed Reporting

Detailing Hamas Arms Buildup

NY Times correspondent Ethan Bronner gives an impressive amount of ink to a study by the Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center detailng in depth Hamas' arms buildup.

Say What?

Can anyone explain this muddled AFP sentence?

Hamas did not claim the border attack but its armed wing said it fired three homemade rockets at the crossing after the battle, the first time it has claimed an attack on Israel since the beginning of March.

Wednesday, April 9 2008

Anonymous Comments, Anonymous Sources

AnonymousAP polled editors and readers about the credibility of online media.

The one divergence of opinion between the two: Editors overwhelmingly feel that requiring readers to disclose their identities before posting comments supports good journalism. Readers were split on the question.

Come to think of it, online media credibility could also be strengthened by less reliance on anonymous news sources.

Post comments below, whoever you are.

(Hat tip: Romenesko)

Irish Eyes Watching Israel

Heads up on a new blog taking on the Irish media coverage of the Mideast and other hasbara issues: Watching Israel.

Outsourcing Foreign Coverage

While we're talking about shrinking foreign bureaus and a smaller pool of correspondents covering world affairs, CBS News is discussing outsourcing some of its coverage to CNN. The NY Times writes:

Broadly speaking, the executives described conversations about reducing CBS’s news-gathering capacity while keeping its frontline personalities, like Katie Couric, the CBS Evening News anchor, and paying a fee to CNN to buy the cable network’s news feeds.

Another possibility, these people said, would be for CBS to keep its correspondents in certain regions but pair them with CNN crews.

But, these people cautioned, no deal was imminent.

There's a lot to be said for collaborative effort. Pooling resources can improve efficiency and give journalists opportunities to learn new ideas from each other. The flip side: reinforced groupthink among the press corps.

AFP Sources Say, Part 2

The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights confirmed that a Palestinian boy was killed by an errant Palestinian mortar, and not by IDF tank fire.

If you listen carefully, you can hear AFP rushing to correct its coverage . . .

Related reading: Sources Say . . .

(Hat tip: Elder of Ziyon)


Tuesday, April 8 2008

Sympathize With Google

Abu_trikaLesson of the day: Before accusing Israel of censoring Google, first rule out the possibility of lousy search engine optimization.

(Hat tip: The Useful Idiot)

Email This Update

Email_icon_3We just upgraded our new "Email This" function. It works online with Feedburner and doesn't require your computer to use Outlook.

Now it's easier than ever to share your favorite Backspin posts with everyone.


Monday, April 7 2008

Success: Times Acknowledges Photo Gaffe

HR subscribers secure a correction and acknowledgment. See HonestReporting's latest communique: Success: Times Acknowledges Photo Gaffe.

The World According to Newspapers

Is there such thing as over-coverage? In the past, we noted web sites quantifying how much coverage various counties receive.

Now Nicolas Kayser-Bril and Gilles Bruno mapped the countries covered by newspapers in 2007. As they explain in the Online Journalism Blog, countries in the maps they developed swell as they receive more media coverage. This study isn't about Israel specifically but about the MSM's priorities. Click on the different newspapers below to compare the foreign coverage and see how bloated Israel is each time.

Kayser-Bril makes two conclusions:

First, traditional newspapers are highly selective in their coverage of world news . . . .

Second, we see that web-only outlets do not offer such a different view of the world. That makes sense, considering the narrowing of the news agenda on the web that was described in the Project for Excellence in Journalism’s latest report. Their lack of resources forces them to contract their scope. Smaller issues are better covered by the blogosphere, which seems unbeatable at providing niche news.

What does this mean for Israel? Most Western newspapers have been cutting back on foreign bureaus, leaving international coverage primarily to wire services and reports originally published in the small number of large dailies that can afford to maintain a bureau in Israel.

Despite the cutbacks, the sheer volume of reports remains at a very high level. Does this mean that a small pool of journalists wields undue influence over the way the world perceives the Israeli-Arab conflict?

But the Trains Run on Time

Nice JTA dispatch from Gaza, which finds Hamas is getting Gaza's proverbial trains to run on time and delivering greater public security -- at the expense of personal freedoms and human rights.


Sunday, April 6 2008

April 6 Links

What Happens When the Shoe's on the Other Foot?
The only way to air the suffering of Sderot's residents over NY airwaves is to equate Israel's right to self-defense with Hamas' right to strike Israel.

"Marching Toward Total Ruin"
Zakariya Zubeidi confirms intifada was masterminded by Arafat.

Not Just Gaza: Fatah Loses Its Grip in Lebanon
Refugees turn their backs on Fatah. Does it deserve a place at the negotiating table?

In Web World of 24/7 Stress, Writers Blog Till They Drop
People are literally blogging themselves to death.

Haifa-Based US Defense Contractor Most Ethical
Elbit Systems' ethics and compliance initiatives are "hallmark."

German News Service Pays Arabs to Riot

Hussein_siyamIsrael National News was there when Hussein Siyam, the Arab mukhtar, or elder of Silwan, briefed journalists on nearby Israeli excavations in Ir David and related Palestinian disturbances:

“A German news company recruits activists here and gives them money to make problems in order to report on them,” he claimed.

A German journalist, also at the Mukhtar’s home, told his colleagues that the claim seemed a bit “Middle Eastern” to him, but he conceded that local Arabs were hired by foreign agencies – conceivably able to get the news fastest because they are involved in producing it.

The report didn't specify the name of the news service.

Sources Say . . .

Which headline (and its sources) to believe?

Israeli Fire Kills Gaza Farmer

Palestinian Rocket Accidentally Kills Local Farmer in Gaza

Times Credits HonestReporting

Sally Baker of the Times of London credits HonestReporting with forcing a correction in the T2 section. Baker writes:

It is always bad practice to publish an old photograph and allow readers to think it might be a recent one; against the background of the Middle East it is doubly so, and we were in error. Still, at one point on Monday afternoon the e-mails were landing in the letters inbox at the rate of almost 500 an hour, preventing anything else from getting through, so we had some comeuppance.

Thursday, April 3 2008

The Times Corrects Photo Caption

Times2photo_jeninIn response to our recent communique, the Times of London issued the following correction:

Correction: In the caption to the Judah Passow portrait of a Palestinian boy in times2 on Monday, we should have made clear that the picture was taken in 2002 and that both the image and the caption form part of an exhibition, Shattered Dreams, now showing at the Host Gallery, London EC1.

Times2, where both the photo and the correction appeared, is only available in the paper's print edition or by email subscription.

April 3 Links

Iranian Mortars Fired at Israel
Faster, more destructive than Qassams.

Don't Push Hamas to the Table
Lebanese journalist says engaging Hamas raises too many questions.

Tourism Ministry Promotes Only 'Positive Images' of Israel
Someone in the Prime Minister's office posted Mercaz massacre videos 1, 2, and 3 on YouTube, but tourism officials say they're counterproductive. Who's right?

In Sderot, Terrorism the Rule, Not the Exception
Sderot Mayor Eli Moyal visits Yale tonight.

Blowing the Lid on New France2 Video

At the recent closing arguments of the Mohammed al-Dura trial, France 2 screened a special video presentation about what happened at the Netzarim Junction on the fateful day.

But that presentation, which Charles Enderlin recently posted online, unfortunately relies on the same kind of staged footage as the original al-Dura video did. Professor Richard Landes blows the lid on this disingenuous video.

The France2 presentation's in French, of course, but even if you mute the sound, you'll easily understand what Enderlin wants the images to convey.

Mohammed al Dura. Les Images - Ma-Tvideo France2
Mohammed al Dura. Les Images - Ma-Tvideo France2

Mohammed al Dura. Les Images - Ma-Tvideo France2
Images presentees devant la cour d'appel de Paris le 27 fevrier 2008

Landes dissects the footage brilliantly:

Dear Ayman . . .

After inviting the public to send questions a few months ago, Al-Qaida's Ayman al-Zawahri began what's billed as a first series of answers.


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