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« July 2008 | Main | September 2008 »

Sunday, August 31 2008

Gaza Kids Training to Kill Jews

Dozens of children are being trained to fight for the Popular Resistance Committees, including the use of rifles and pistols. YNet News writes:

"I am learning how to fight the Jews and kill Jewish children," 11-year-old Muhammad told Ynet . . . .

This is Muhammad. Is your local paper reporting the Palestinian brainwashing?


New Vetting For Google Earth

Google_earth_3According to the Jerusalem Post, Google Earth will now filter items posted on its default map.

Key to the new layer are special algorithms that corroborate information received through one source with the other sources . . .

But it will also allow Google Earth to automatically corroborate any information received from users before displaying it on the default layer. Only information appearing in more than a single source will be displayed in this layer.

The company has not removed any layers or information. All layers, whether the massive Google Earth Community or small ones such as those showing a tourist's journey, local information in local languages or even historical maps, can still be displayed by choosing those layers in a menu sitting beside the map.

I imagine this will address the problem raised in July when Thameen Darby of Jenin dotted Palestinian villages on Google Earth with the words "Nakba--Palestinian catastrophe."

Related reading: Google Earth: A New Platform for Propaganda

Fatwa Permits Hacking Israeli, US Sites

From Memri:

. . . the Al-Azhar Fatwa Committee has issued a fatwa permitting the hacking of American and Israeli websites that harm Islam and Muslims, and also permitting damaging them, as part of "electronic jihad."

Would Gadi Evron call this an example of "online mob control?"


Thursday, August 28 2008

Will AP Suffer As Papers Turn Local? (Part 3)

If parts 1 and 2 were a coincidence, then Newsbusters found that three additional newspapers dropping AP coverage, and not only for financial reasons:

The agreement that the AP has with these papers is that if the AP does not send a reporter to a local story but the paper does, the AP can then take the local paper's story, do a rewrite, and sell it as its own. It appears that the AP is sending its reporters less and less and rewriting local paper's stories more often causing the print outlets to cry foul.

For its part, though, the AP is emerging stronger than ever by adapting to the electronic media on the double but it all goes to highlight the ever darkening future of print media as the news industry struggles to adjust to a changing world.

Newsbusters also links to a fascinating Wall St. Journal report from June that Ohio's eight largest newspapers are banding together together to form their own in-state co-operative, "which allows its members to sidestep the AP."

Definitely a trend worth watching.

Breaking the Gaza Blockade

An inconvenient truth for the Free Gaza movement.

UCU Bans Delich

UcuThe Jerusalem Post reports that the UCU has now banned Jenna Delich from posting on its site.

The internet service provider of Harry's Place, a popular British blog site which was one of the first to report on the incident, shut down the site on Wednesday.

It followed the advice circulated on the UCU list by Mike Cushman, a research fellow at the London School of Economics, active in the boycott of Israel campaign and one of the organizers of an event in London last month entitled "International resistance to Zionism: In solidarity with 60-plus years of Palestinian resistance to the founding of Israel."

He told Jenna Delich that he thought Harry's Place had "potentially libelled" her and advised her to contact the site's ISP.

Modernity Blog fears this could have a chilling effect on bloggers.

Putting the Buzz in Branding Israel

FlagHaskell Nussbaum says diapora Jews need to help create buzz for Israel's branding efforts, then reminds us how everyone can contribute:

Even without a formal "rebranding Israel" program, we all have a role to play to help Israel's image. It can be as simple as e-mailing a news story about a recent Israeli invention to a colleague, hanging a picture of beautiful Israeli art on our walls or helping our cities and towns twin with an Israeli town. The government is, belatedly, doing its part. We must lend it a hand.

Read the whole thing.


Wednesday, August 27 2008

Harry's Back In Place

Harry's Place is back online after Sheffield College lecturer Jenna Delich and Britain's University and College Union (UCU) engaged in a little suppression of free speech.

The controversy has it all: a threatened academic boycott of Israel, neo-Nazi sympathizing among UK higher education, and a heavy-handed response to a blogger exposing it all.

Details here and here.

UCU Silences Harry's Place

Harrys_placeJust learned that Harry's Place is down. Engage explains that Harry's Place exposed Jenna Delich, a lecturer at Sheffield College, as well as the UK's University and College Union (UCU). The UCU represents higher education lecturers, some of who have made much noise about boycotting Israeli academics in the past.

Harry's Place recently publicized that Delich -- who continues to call for such a boycott -- posted a link to David Duke's web site on a UCU activist list. (No link here. Duke doesn't deserve any traffic from Backspin.) Engage explains:

Jenna Delich's emails on the activist list have already been subject to two formal complaints to the union. The UCU process judged that the evidence was not persuasive. Now the UCU is circulating links to David Duke’s website on behalf of Delich.

Engage further explains how the blog was taken down:

This follows the advice circulated by the UCU on the activists' list from Mike Cushman, who is one of the official leaders of the boycott campaign (BRICUP) within the union. He told Jenna Delich that he thought Harry's Place had "potentially libelled" her and he advised her to "contact hurryupharry’s ISP". One can only assume that he hoped that Harry's Place would be silenced in this way.

Thanks to the wonders of RSS feeds, Amused Cynicism was able to post Harry's last entry.

The Jerusalem Post has more background on the UCU controversy.

I'm confident Harry's Place will be back online soon. The UCU's moral blindness will only be a source of embarrassment for itself while uniting Jewish students. So much for the idea that pro-Israel groups silence dissent.

UPDATE Aug. 27: Further updated developments and links at Modernity Blog.

UPDATE Aug 27: Good news -- Harry's Place is back up. That being the case, it's worth seeing the post that started all the furor.

Hacking Hamas

From YNet News: Hamas web site breached by pro-Fatah hackers.

Related reading: Gadi Evron on Cyber Warfare

Will AP Suffer As Papers Turn Local? (Part 2)

Ap2It was gutsy move when the Idaho Falls Post-Register gave notice earlier this month to AP that it didn't intend to continue using the wire service's content.

Now a significantly larger paper -- the Minneapolis Star-Tribune -- is doing the same. David Brauer comments:

But these days, newspapers see their future as local and distinctive. Following that logic, it makes sense to hoard their unique content and pay less for wire-service dispatches that are now plastered everywhere on the web.

(Hat tip: Romenesko)


Tuesday, August 26 2008

August 26 Links

"Peace Activists" Threaten Me
Elder of Ziyon touches a nerve with the Free Gaza movement when he enters their song contest.

Hizbullah’s Role in Attacks On Coalition Forces in Iraq
Report details the "Lebanese" organization's extracurricular activities in the Global Jihad franchise.

Exoskeleton Suit Helps Paralyzed People Walk
Israel develops "something of a mix between the exoskeleton of a crustacean and the suit worn by comic hero Iron Man . . ."

Canadian TV's Dismal 'On Air' Correction

CityTV compounds an unforgiveable error with an substandard correction. Read more at HonestReporting's latest communique: Canadian TV's Dismal "On Air" Correction

Imitation: Flattery's Highest Form

StartribuneThe Minneapolis Star-Tribune's newly designed op-ed page is in blog format and looks nicely streamlined. Op-ed editor Scott Gillespie explains the concept.

Will other papers follow suit with more interactive opinion sections?

(Hat tip: Romenesko)

'Political Crimes'

According to The Guardian:

Around 9,000 Palestinians remain in jail for political crimes.

Most of the imprisoned Palestinians are held for murder, failed suicide bombings, stabbings, membership in terror organizations, possession of weapons and/or explosives, not to mention more "ordinary" crimes like car theft and counterfeiting. Does Al-Guardian consider all that "political" too?


Monday, August 25 2008

Blood Libels Okay 'In Context' Of Zionist Crimes

Australian Arabic Council chairman Roland Jabbour put his foot in his mouth defending Al-Manar TV broadcasts down under. Jabbour told The Age:

He said he would not call Jews the offspring of apes and pigs, but that in the context of "the crimes of the state of Israel" it was reasonable for al-Manar to do so and to portray Israeli rabbis as killing Christian children to use their blood in Passover meals.

Hezbollah's Al-Manar TV recently wrapped up a deal to rent an Indonesian satellite to broadcast to Australia, China, and Southeast Asia. Australia seeks to block the broadcasts.

Winning the Media Battle, But Losing the War

Lauren_booth_ismail_haniyehHerb Keinon argues how Israel won the media battle with the Free Gaza Movement, but may have lost the war:

Jerusalem doesn't need to be too concerned that a precedent was set by letting the boat pass, because it made clear this was a one-time deal, and that it reserved the right to stop other boats if they tried to enter Gaza.

Rather, Israel needs to be worried that the country's enemies will see it is sorely afraid of bad press, and will fold on its principles to avoid a negative media event.

The danger now is not that the two Free Gaza boats will be followed by a flotilla of others bearing more humanitarian aid for Gazans, but rather that the method these protesters used - employing the media as an instrument to force Israel to buckle under - will be honed and adopted for more effective use later.

The misnomer is that "journalists" like Lauren Booth and Yvonne Ridley were engaged in "journalism." The fact is that they crossed a line from covering the story to becoming a part of it. Booth admitted as much:

"In this media war, it was impossible for them [Israel] to win because they have no case for what they are doing to your port and to your borders," Booth said.
How To Get a Pro-Israel Article on Digg's Front Page

All you need is a video of young guys doing cool things on wheels at high speed, with a techno music soundtrack. IsraelPlug explains why that's all necessary:

Most diggers find posts about how Israel is the root of all evil as digg-worthy, while anything that is either neutral or positive gets buried in the avalanche of articles being dugg at any one time.

Via Daled Amos.


Sunday, August 24 2008

Scrambled Signals

Signals_3The ISM blames Israeli "electronic piracy" for communication problems aboard the "Free Gaza" and "The Liberty." Israel denies jamming the boats' communication.

Here's my Top 10 List of Reasons for the ISM Communications Failure:

10. Hezbollah was testing its latest Iranian hardware on the hapless ISM.

9. Things got out of hand when Yvonne Ridley showed Zohan the Mighty some cool Russian jammers.

8. Dutch UNIFIL ships watching the water polo matches in Beijing.

7. Pirate radio stations.

6. Lauren Booth's electronic gear raised suspicions when she let slip that one of her best friends is an Israeli named Meir Dagan.

5. The BBC broadcasts from the Mideast with really strong signals.

4. Jeff Halper took drastic action when European activists wasted too much band-width watching Michael Phelps.

3. For what its worth, Palestinian activists across Canada are finding their garage doors jammed too.

2. UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown's motorcade happened to be in Gaza the exact moment communication failed.

1. A mysterious albino from the Vatican on board.

Showboaters Reach Gaza: Now What?

Gaza_boatsThe jubilation of the international "activists" who just arrived in Gaza will prove fleeting when it sinks in that leaving the strip is more complicated than arriving.

The International Solidarity Movement's two ships reached Gaza on Saturday after Israel permitted their entry to avoid a high seas media circus.

According to the Jerusalem Post, the ISM won't necessarily be allowed to leave via Israel:

Now that the group is in Gaza, the expectation in Jerusalem is that they will at some point ask Israel to let them into the country so they can fly back home, since it is unlikely they will want to sail back the way they came. No decision, however, has yet been made on whether they will be allowed into Israel.

Haaretz adds that leaving by sea creates other headaches:

Discussions will be held in the next few days on whether to stop the boats for inspection once they leave Gaza. Israeli officials are worried they might be used to smuggle wanted Palestinians out of the coastal strip. "They've got a reputation for protecting terrorists and acting as human shields," the political source said.

It would be a real show of solidarity if the showboaters -- including reporters Lauren Booth, Press TV's Yvonne Ridley, and Al-Jazeera's Ayash Daraj -- remained in Gaza. A gutsy move like that is fraught with not just danger but deflated egos. YNet News found many Palestinians let down by the ISM's arrival:

"However, once it turned out these boats contain too little food and mostly activists . . . some people left the beach disappointed."

So stay tuned. This could get even more interesting.

Related reading: Sailing Into a Publicity Stunt


Friday, August 22 2008

Moving Heaven and Google Earth

Persistence paid off and Google Earth agreed to take down a notation erroneously describing the Israeli town of Kiryat Yam as Arab Ghawarina.

The posting by Thareen Darby (more on him here) prompted legal action by the Israeli municipality last year. The Cuban Revolution explains that Google backed down after an exchange of correspondence with the Zionist Organization of America:

Google agreed to remove the offending layer and historical notation. If you now input the town of Ghawarina into Google Earth you will be taken to the layer of “Not Arab Ghawarina”. The flag notation now reads:

“The 1880 Palestine Exploration Fund map designates a region by this name east of Acre. This area is populated with Israeli Arabs. The map does not have any towns here.“

Here are the before and after notations featured:



Moral of the story: People taking action can move heaven and Google Earth.

Related reading: Google Earth: A New Platform for Propaganda


Thursday, August 21 2008

Countering Canadian Media Canards

Skewed coverage and a botched correction on-air. See HonestReporting Canada's latest communique: Countering Canadian Media Canards

BBC Charity Funded Jihad Propaganda

The Times of London sums it all up:

The BBC’s Children in Need charity donated £20,000 to an organisation that funded the propaganda activities of the July 7 bombers, it has emerged.

How come I'm not surprised?

Australia Seeks to Block Al-Manar Broadcasts

Aussie_satelliteAustralia is trying to block Al-Manar broadcasts from Indonesia. Excellent coverage, well-rounded coverage in The Age. See also Andrew Bolt, who posted some videos of Al-Manar's violent kiddy programs.

The Washington Times explains why clamping down on Al-Manar doesn't contradict freedom of expression:

. . . the issue is not al Manar's role as a television station but its role in facilitating the activities of Hezbollah, an organization that has killed more Americans than every other terrorist group save al Qaeda.

"Any entity maintained by a terrorist group -- whether masquerading as a charity, a business or a media outlet -- is as culpable as the terrorist group itself," said Treasury Undersecretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Stuart Levey.

J-Bloggers Conference: The Day After

Kudos to Nefesh B'Nefesh for pulling off a successful first international Jewish bloggers conference. The conference room was packed, and I heard that more than 1,000 people who couldn't attend followed it online.

It's now the morning after, and although names and faces are already blurring, more importantly, I have a clearer sense of the niches filled by blogs as diverse as Oleh Girl, What War Zone, Treppenwitz, My Shrapnel, and Jewlicious, to name but a few.

I was reminded that there are no shortcuts to good blogging. Quality blogging means researching your subject well, writing (and rewriting), networking with other bloggers, constantly thinking of how you would blog a particular issue, and keeping up to date on constantly changing online trends, tools and technology.

That's a tall enough order if blogging is part of your work, which is my situation. I have a greater appreciation for the fact that most J-Bloggers blog as a hobby, juggling writing along with work and family.

Nefesh B'Nefesh invited bloggers to submit topics for discussion at next year's conference. I invite readers and fellow bloggers to start raising questions and topics in the comments section.


Wednesday, August 20 2008

Gadi Evron on Cyber Warfare

Gadi_evron2Cyber warfare is playing a significant part of the conflict between Russia and Georgia. To get a better understanding of cyber warfare and the threat it poses to Israel, MediaBackspin editor Pesach Benson talked to Gadi Evron.

Evron used to run security for the Israeli government ISP and was formerly founder and manager of the government's computer emergency response team (CERT). Last year, he assisted Estonia's CERT when Russian hackers attacked numerous Estonian sites. Evron also blogs on internet security issues at Circle ID.

What happened with Georgia?

Not too much, technically. They attacked the websites with Distributed Denial of Services that caused the sites to be unreachable or crash. They just flooded them. The main sites, around one or two dozen, were hosted by the Georgian government.

The disturbing thing about the incident with Georgia is that regular people attacked. You can run simple tools downloaded off the internet. The tools were advertised on Russian sites. All these people thought they could get involved in something that really bothered them. They thought -- due to patriotism, pride or any other motivation -- they could use these simple tools and feel involved.

What's at stake for Israel if hackers launch an organized, sustained attack?

Bank_online_2Any country out there faces a risk of online attack. The difference is whether the online attack is a smart one, attacking critical infrastructure. For example, Die Hard 4 was pretty realistic about the potential impact on air traffic control. That's a worst case scenario.

In Estonia's case, all their online banking, which is critical to their daily life, was targeted. In Georgia, the impact was more on the Georgia's visibility on the internet and their ability to communicate with the world.

What can you tell us about the hackers?

Whenever there's ethnic tension, like China-Taiwan or Russia-Georgia, or the Mohammed cartoons, people feel empowered on the internet. There are loosely affiliated ad hoc groups of people all over the place who launch these attacks. Of the hundreds of daily attacks, most aren't politically motivated. More like an issue of money or a grudge.

Pro-Arab and pro-Israel hackers have been attacking unaffiliated web sites like banks, newspapers, an art site, etc. They'll target a site for no reason other than it's Israeli and it's vulnerable.

The Estonian attacks were more organized than Georgia. It was like online rioting. We saw clear signs of organization, but we'll never be able to definitively prove it was an ad hoc attack or a pre-planned state-sponsored attack.

I can definitely see how in the future, people will use the blogosphere to incite people to hack and online mob control. Someone in the future could potentially seed this info on the blogosphere and use it as a form of mob control.

How much would it cost someone to sponsor a hacker with the necessary equipment?

The cost is minimal and the time isn't demanding. Anyone can be involved.

What lessons can be learned from all this?

Hacker05_2Instant response is critical. You can't prevent bad things from happening, but once things happen, you can be judged on how you respond and bring things back to normality.

The second thing is that the internet is global. You can be attacked from all over the world. Many computers have been compromised by Trojans and botnets and can be used in global attacks. A computer infected with a botnet anywhere in the world can be controlled by a hacker without the owner's knowledge. If you control 100 or one million infected computers, you have an army. You can issue a command and these computers will do what you want. This shows the importance of international cooperation.

And let's consider one thing. The internet is perfect for plausible deniability. Let's say your computer is used to hack into your neighbor's and causes damage. Is it your responsibility or the hacker's? Proving evidence in courts is mind boggling because it's so hard to know.

If two countries are at war, is it legal for citizens acting on their own to attack the enemy country's web sites?

That's uncharted territory. Some countries have very clear computer legislation. If you attack or steal knowledge, you're liable. But law enforcement has to be interested in such action and be able to trace the action and meet the burden of proof.

Now let's say you could prove that a state-sponsored attack took place, how would you treat it? Is it grounds for war? On the internet, you may know who your enemies, rivals and opponents are, but you likely won't have a clue is attacking you.

Should hackers be treated as enemy combatants?

I'd consider him a criminal. Enemy combatant's a loaded term with many different meanings.

Georgia's national websites were relocated to Google Blogger, while individuals used Twitter to share updates on the fighting. What does this say about the role of social media in warfare?

Mikheil_saakashvili_2I'm not a media expert. But it makes sense that whenever there's warfare, aggressors would try to control the flow of info, and the internet is a natural extension of that. It's the newest most advanced form of communication we have.

What can Israel learn from Georgia's efforts to get its P.R. message out to the world in the face of all the hackings?

Georgia and Russia fought a media war, and they are experts. The whole media warfare has been extreme. If you go back and forth between American and Russian news sites, you can't tell who is telling the truth. There's possible evidence that Georgia lied about some of what happened to keep the media on its side.

One thing we can learn from Georgia and Russia is their ability to explain their situation and launch extensive PR campaigns. That's what we lack and we've been clearly shown how the masters do it.

Are pro-Israel web sites outside of Israel also vulnerable?

There are web sites outside of Israel that have been hacked but I can't think of any off the top of my head.

What is Israel doing to protect the integrity of its internet infrastructure?

I have no idea. The government is my former employer. You'll have to ask them.

What precautions can Jewish web sites take?

They should start by putting security into their equation. Making sure their systems are updated, their software is updated and know their vulnerabilities. Anything that can protect against regular hackers will protect against hackers with motives. But the most important thing is to keep the operating systems and the programs up to date and other basic security practices.

The Guardian's Disappointing Response

The Guardian digs itself a deeper hole over promoting a Hamas terror site. See HonestReporting's latest communique: The Guardian's Disappointing Response.


Tuesday, August 19 2008

Will AP Suffer As Papers Turn Local?

ApThe publisher of the Idaho Falls Post Register gave AP notice of his intention to drop the wire service. Editor & Publisher explains that publisher Roger Plothow's falling out was over AP's rate structure:

“I’ll put my cards on the table -- I’m not sure how we’re going to pull this off. While the AP’s value to us has been severely diminished over the years, it still does provide a handful of services that we haven’t been able to find elsewhere -- yet. I’m betting, however, that it’s only a matter of time. More likely, we’ll use that time to become essentially 100 percent local, which is probably where we’re headed eventually anyway.” . . . .

Plothow also called his $114,000 assessment for 2009 “the worst value for anything we purchase, since we use so little of what we’re paying for.”

AP provides papers too much material to make for a simple separation. In the not-too distant past, before anyone ever heard of blogs or citizen journalism, such a move would've been virtually unthinkable. The Post-Register's move is worth watching.

(Hat tip: Romenesko)

Sailing Into a Publicity Stunt

The Free Gaza Movement's voyage is no "humanitarian mission." See HonestReporting UK's latest communique: Sailing Into a Publicity Stunt.

This Is Collective Punishment?

Israel Sends Truckfuls of Money to Gaza.


Monday, August 18 2008

BBC License Fee: By the Numbers

TvA poll of British TV viewers about the BBC license fee found the following:

37 Percentage of people who feel the license fee is an inappropriate funding mechanism.

41 Percentage of people agreeing that the licence fee is an "appropriate" funding mechanism.

41 Percentage of people who don't feel the license fee "ensures the provision of distinctive programming not available elsewhere."

47 Percentage of people who feel the license fee is not good value for their money.

£47.00 Annual license fee for one black and white TV.

£139.50 Annual license fee for one color TV.

£1,000 Fine paid for not having a validly licensed TV.

"Thousands of pounds" License fee money spent by the BBC to cover up the Balen report.

£3.37 billion The BBC's annual license fee revenue.

Sources: The Guardian, TV Licensing, The Sunday Telegraph

Hope Sprouts in Jenin

An Australian reporter visting Jenin discovers that when there's no terror, Israel actually leaves the Palestinians alone.

Imagine that.


Sunday, August 17 2008

Exploiting the Language of 'Collective Punishment'

See Sean Gannon's excellent point-by-point rebuttal of the "collective punishment" criticism frequently leveled against Israel.

(Hat tip: Solomonia)

Continue reading "Exploiting the Language of 'Collective Punishment'"

Inside A Gaza Rocket Factory

CNN scored an inside visit to a Popular Resistance Committee rocket factory that's not exactly observing the truce with Israel.

Activist's Allegation Presented as Fact

A Kingston paper presents an activist's claim as factual; a subsequent clarification further muddied the water. See HonestReporting Canada's latest communique: Activist's Allegation Presented as Fact.

Who Cares About Shebaa Farms?

The Washington Post makes revelation about the Syrian-Lebanese border with significant implications for the conflicting claims over Shebaa Farms:

The border remained unmarked following Syria and Lebanon's independence from France in the 1940s, but the issue took on greater importance amid a dispute over Shebaa Farms, which abuts Israel, Lebanon and Syria. Israel has occupied the slice of land since the 1967 Middle East war.

Israel seized the land from Syria in 1967. With Syrian support, Lebanon claims the land as its own. But in 2000, UN cartographers backed Israel, certifying that Israel's withdrawal from Lebanon was complete.

So the parcel of land (also known as Har Dov) held by Israel and wedged along the borders of the Golan Heights and Lebanon is:

A) Lebanese

B) Syrian

C) A Hezbollah pretext

D) Who cares?


Friday, August 15 2008

How I Became a Cyber Soldier

080814_tech_cyberwartnIf "grass roots" Arab hackers are as motivated as their busy Russian counterparts, then Israeli cyber security experts have their work cut out.

Which is why Evgeny Morozov is a must-read. He joined the digital war against Georgia with zero hacking experience and no initial knowledge of how to "enlist." Why?

I had a much simpler research objective: to test how much damage someone like me, who is quite aloof from the Kremlin physically and politically, could inflict upon Georgia's Web infrastructure, acting entirely on my own and using only a laptop and an Internet connection.

Turns out that flooding Georgian sites and making your own "e-Molotov cocktail" isn't so complicated. After shedding light on the hackers' modus operandi, Morozov's conclusion is simply chilling:

In less than an hour, I had become an Internet soldier. I didn't receive any calls from Kremlin operatives; nor did I have to buy a Web server or modify my computer in any significant way. If what I was doing was cyberwarfare, I have some concerns about the number of child soldiers who may just find it too fun and accessible to resist.

Read it all.

Al-Jazeera: We Never Apologized for Quntar Party

Al-Jazeera's deputy editor now denies that the station apologized for recently throwing Samir Quntar an obsequious birthday party.

Watch the party video -- no apology necessary for that.

Reuters and 'The Stresses of the Battlefield'

Fadel_shanaReuters is upset that an IDF report cleared soldiers who fired a shell that killed photographer Fadel Shana (pictured). Editor David Schlesinger writes:

Said the report: “Two persons were spotted leaving the vehicle, carrying a large black object. The black object was placed on a tripod above a dirt mound, and directed at the tank…. The tank crew reported the spotting to its superiors. The latter authorized firing a tank shell at the characters, in light of the genuine suspicion that the object mounted on the tripod and directed at the tank was an anti-tank missile or mortar, a suspicion consistent with the characteristics of that day’s hostilities…”

I do understand the stresses of the battlefield.

I do understand that wars are horribly dangerous – Reuters has had close calls in Georgia; colleagues from other organizations have been killed.

I do not understand the deliberate decision to fire on the basis of suspicion and uncertainty.

Shana's death is indeed a tragedy and Schlesinger is correct to treat as such. But it's difficult to say that the Reuters editor really understands the stresses of the battlefield.

A tank crew that spends too much time trying to verify whether it's looking at a tripod-mounted camera or anti-tank rocket launcher jeopardizes itself, conceding the initiative to "the unknown other." Israel Matzav posted some photos showing that anti-tank weaponry like this Milan sometimes do resemble video equipment.


Could the IDF tank crew have done a better job of distinguishing between a TV crew and an anti-tank squad at a distance of 1.4 km? Perhaps.

But the ambiguity, as unfortunate as it was, leads into the second reason Schlesinger doesn't appear to understand the stress of battle, Gaza style. Kevin Williamson aptly points out:

The fact that rarely has any attention called to it is that it is precisely the Palestinians, and not the Israelis, who have endangered civilians by cowering among them and by using civilian institutions, such as hospitals and schools, as armories. Terrorists use civilians as human shields, and that makes life more dangerous for everybody, including that unfortunate Reuters photographer.

Terrorists impersonating news crews also endanger real journalists like Shana, but I'm not aware of Reuters speaking out against that.


Thursday, August 14 2008

Indonesia and Al-Manar: Business is Business

Despite American protests, Hezbollah's Al-Manar TV is renting an Indonesian satellite to broadcast to China, Southeast Asia, and Australia. According to AP, Indonesian communications officials are treating the matter as a simple business to business deal.


Wednesday, August 13 2008

'A Sickening Reminder'

The photo was taken in Lebanon. Ever see a BBC caption describe an Israeli bus bombing like this?


War on the Cyber Front

Cyber_warfareA number of news sites picked up on Russian cyber attacks on Georgian websites which started as the invasion began. According to the Christian Science Monitor:

In an Internet first, Georgia's Ministry of Foreign Affairs reopened its site on Google's free Blogger network and gave reporters a Gmail address to reach the National Security Council.

But the NY Times explains why the damage wasn't worse:

Cyberattacks have far less impact on such a country than they might on a more Internet-dependent nation, like Israel, Estonia or the United States, where vital services like transportation, power and banking are tied to the Internet.

A likely modus operandi described by Tech News World could be adopted by Arab hackers targeting Israeli sites:

The problem for Georgia and outside observers is that the recent cyber attacks follow a pattern established by suspected Russian criminals who specialize in organized online crime.

"They've done that before," James Lewis, senior fellow for technology policy at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, told TechNewsWorld. "It's a nice trade for everybody. The criminals get a little protection, the Russian government gets to have something happen without having their fingerprints on it. That's the assumption. Like Estonia, we don't have links to the Russian government, but it's not a fluke where we magically have this happen when a shooting war starts."

Related reading: Hacking Back

The Guardian: Promoting Online Terror

The Guardian's website includes the Hamas "military wing" on its "Useful links". See HonestReporting's latest communique: The Guardian: Promoting Online Terror.

Mahmoud Darwish's Cushy Exile

DarwishReacting to a Financial Times obituary written by reporter Tobias Buck, Martin Peretz notes the following:

Quite naturally, Buck makes much of Darwish being a poet of exile. I don't think going into exile, particularly if your life is not threatened at home, is either a brave act or an exemplary act. But I do understand why living in Paris--as a revolutionary poet, no less--would be more satisfying than casting your lot with the crude insurgents in Ramallah. After all, Mrs. Arafat also chose Paris over Ramallah.

Read the whole thing.


Tuesday, August 12 2008

Good News From Al-Hurra

Point of No Return notes that Al-Hurra, the US-sponsored Arabic-language news channel is showing a 22 part series on Iraqi Jews. The significance is summed up by Wameeth, an Iraqi blogger:

What is unique about these reports is that they are the first of their kind, as no Arabic or Iraqi station had refered to the subject of Iraqi Jews ever, the Iraqi Jews are one of the most sensitive topics in Iraq . . .

Welcome news after all the headaches Al-Hurra caused in recent months.

The Guardian's Terror Link

There's links to terror and then there are hyperlinks to terror. On The Guardian's Israel and the Palestinian territories page, the paper has decided to include in its list of "Useful Links" a web site labeled "Hamas military wing".

Clicking the link takes you to an English language site calling itself "The Ezzedeen Al Qassam Brigades Information Office." I'm not linking to this so-called Info Office precisely because it is a terror site. Here's a screen grab.


And here's a screen grab of the Hamas web site The Guardian considers useful:


This Hamas "armed wing" is listed on the UK Home Office's Proscribed Terrorist Organizations. So in addition to making the paper arguably culpable for Hamas' incitement, The Guardian's link may be illegal.

Legal issues aside, just who is Hamas' web site "useful" to? How can The Guardian make a statement that Hamas -- which introduced suicide bombings to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and brainwashes children for martyrdom -- has any equivalence to the other organizations whose links are also listed?

Please send your respectfully written comments to readers' editor Siobhain Butterworth at

Gaza Town Yearns For Previous Israeli Presence

Mawassi's not your typical Gaza village.

Four Lessons From the Russian Invasion

Ossetia31. Invading a neighboring territory during the Olympics doesn't mean you're off the MSM's radar, but it doesn't hurt.

Unlike the World Cup and Israel's invasion of Gaza after Gilad Shalit's kidnapping, news services are stretched trying to cover Iraq, Iran and the presidential race.

2. According to Russian diplomacy, when Lebanese civilians are killed by the IDF, "the disproportionate use of force by Israel, which causes suffering to the civilian population, can be neither understood nor justified . . . ."

But when Georgian civilians are killed by the Russian army, there's a different message:

"Our goal was not to harm civilians, and to the best of my knowledge, we only hit military installations. But like they say, war is war – and it could be that civilians were hurt, this also happens in Israel's military operations in Gaza, for example. Unfortunately, in ethnic conflicts there are no winners, only losers."

3. Daled Amos raises what he admits is a sketchy concern about photoshopped images coming from Georgia, but his final point is no less important:

But this may be what armed conflicts are coming to: anticipating the bad publicity not only with outright denial--but with a technical defense trying to undercut the media report itself.

Welcome to War 2.0

4. Georgia's not crawling with journalists like Gaza, Beijing, or Frederick, MD. The Western media was caught flat-footed by the Russian invasion. Is the MSM familiar with the historical forces? Probably not.

Even worse, parachute journalism ain't what it used to be.

So if you see any insightful reports or commentary on the Georgia conflict, please post links in the comments section.


Monday, August 11 2008

Execution For Editor Advocating Israeli Ties?

Choudhury2The Jerusalem Post reports that the trial of a pro-Israel Bangladeshi editor, Salah Choudhury, is underway. Charged with sedition, Choudhury faces the possibility of capital punishment for advocating ties with Israel.

Choudhury, a Muslim, was arrested in November, 2003 as he was preparing to leave Bangladesh for Israel, where he intended to speak on Jewish-Muslim co-existence.

Imagine the MSM's hue and cry if Israel put an Islamic editor on trial for capital charges. So where's the coverage of Choudhury?

August 11 Links

Hezbollah's Global Reach
Hezbollah and Iran leave far-flung fingerprints in Nigeria and Venezuela.

NewspupArab Nationalism's Skewed Priorities

Tunnels to Egypt Keep Hamas in Business
"Usage fees" add up.

Journalists "Hack" Journalists at Web Security Conference
Was incident a well-intentioned effort to educate, or simply bad manners?

Scholarships for Terror


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