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Media Backspin
« September 2008 | Main | November 2008 »

Thursday, October 30 2008

E-Palestine or Intifada 2.0?

Says Time:

Sociologists call the movement "e-Palestine": a feeling of nationhood cultivated online by young members of the fractured diaspora, some living in the confines of the occupied territories; others born and raised in exile and connected to Palestine at a remove of several generations. With the internet domain suffix ".ps," this young online community has acquired a kind of international recognition that the physical Palestine can only aspire to.

The web's just a tool. How the Palestinians use it, for better or for worse, is up to them.
Mark Your Calendars

Israeli national elections scheduled for February 10. Fasten your seatbelts . . .

Descent Into Durban 2

The latest on the UN's anti-racism debacle. See HonestReporting's latest communique: Descent Into Durban 2.

Gaza Tunnels: By the Numbers

750 Tunnels registered with the Rafah town council.

€2,000 Tax per tunnel, per year.

$100,000 Cost to dig one functional tunnel (includes bribes).

$25,000 Average monthly profit of tunnel owner.

20 Pipelines already laid, carrying diesel fuel, gasoline, etc.

(Source: Der Spiegel)

Behind The Scenes at Durban II


The groundwork for much of what's going to happen at next year's Durban II conference is quietly being laid out by a UN committee chaired by Libya and includes Iran, Pakistan, and Cuba as vice-chairs. That committee recently released a provisional blueprint.

Incredibly enough, National Post columnist Jonathan Kay sifted through the 88-page document:

But faced with a slow news day, I decided to take a crack.

Four hours later, I don't recommend the exercise. The five-part "Draft Outcome Document" contains 88 pages and 646 provisions. Most of it consists of boilerplate repetition of the same small handful of themes (encapsulated well in this UN Watch report): (1) Racism is everywhere, (2) The fault for this lies with the West, because of its "genocidal" legacy of slavery and colonization, (3) "Islamophobia" and discrimination against "people of African descent" are especially prevalent and pernicious, and (4) Israel is a blight upon nations (Paragraphs 114-117 of Section 1, for instance, are dedicated exclusively to bashing the Jewish state. No other country comes in for singling out in the whole document). In many cases, whole paragraphs are repeated several times over (such as a lengthy Jimmy Carteresque screed about Israel promoting "a new kind of apartheid").

Don't miss Kay's fascinating post-script:

In response to my blog post, I got this interesting message from a UN insider:

The reason the text is contradictory is that the UN facilitators at this stage just pasted in elements of the texts submitted by both the EU as well as the anti-democratic blocs. So at this stage it’s a hodge-podge, all subject to negotiation. Expect that much of the good stuff will be excised, certainly anything that’s a jab at the violators. The references to tribal violence (African), non-Western slave trade (Arab), reference to the ICC (Sudanese genocide) — all of that will be yanked out. Similarly, the far more prevalent offensive material will be softened. Yet given the constellation of bloc power, far more of the poison than the perfume will remain. And in the end, in whatever proportions the combination turns out, it will be no less inedible.

So there you have it: All the surprisingly enlightened stuff will probably end up on the cutting room floor. Let's revisit this prediction in a few months and see if it bears out . . .

Hillel Neuer of UN Watch also reacts to the Durban II draft, calling it "even worse than 2001." That original gathering degenerated into such an ugly affair, HonestReporting found traditionally anti-Israel publications joined in the near-universal condemnation.

Israel and Canada already decided to boycott Durban II. Yesterday, Denmark's foreign minister threatened to do the same.

Does Web Surfing Alter the Brain?

Brain UCLA neuroscientist Gary Small says heavy internet and text messaging use can actually alter the brain:

He said a study of 24 adults as they used the Web found that experienced Internet users showed double the activity in areas of the brain that control decision-making and complex reasoning as Internet beginners.
For better or for worse, Small elaborates on what this might mean for those of us spending a lot of time online:
  • "has made brains more adept at filtering information and making snap decisions"
  • "can accelerate learning and boost creativity"
  • "can create Internet addicts whose only friends are virtual"
  • "has sparked a dramatic rise in Attention Deficit Disorder diagnoses"
Small's advice on how to save yourself from becoming an ADD-suffering brainiac:
It means taking time to cut back on technology, like having a family dinner, to find a balance. It is important to understand how technology is affecting our lives and our brains and take control of it.

Wednesday, October 29 2008

Tunnels Undermine Rafah Cemetery

Excessive tunnel digging under Rafah cemetery combined with heavy rains leaves the martyrs resting in pieces. All the dirt at Elder of Ziyon.

Israel Branding Buzz Counterproductive?


A fair question from Robert Fulford:

But even if rebranding is policy, should it be done so openly? The Israelis keep giving interviews about it. This results in solemn conversation on CBC Radio's The Current or a Toronto Star headline about Israel trying to "buff its image." So far the only visible results are YouTube items headed "Hot Israel" with good-looking women wearing bikinis on a Tel Aviv beach.
Here are three reasons the buzz over Israel's branding campaign may be counterproductive:
  1. The process of the campaign upstages the campaign itself.
  2. Publicity risks raising skepticism before the launch of the campaign.
  3. Countries like Egypt, Tanzania and Ireland have launched branding campaigns in recent years with little fanfare. Rather than talk about what you're doing, "just do it."
On the other hand, as Haskell Nussbaum points out:
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.
What's the right balance?
Christian Science Monitor Goes Web-Only

Sign of the times: Editor & Publisher reports that the Christian Science Monitor to stop daily print edition next year and operate only online.

The paper's circulation of 50,000 makes it the largest daily to jump to web-only. The print edition will be cease in April, 2009.

Related reading: "I Feel Like I'm Working For the Titanic"

MSM Appeasing Islamofascism

Dry Bones is tired of the Western journalists appeasing Islamofascists.


Yaakov Kirschen's point also applies to BBC head Mark Thompson, who justified the Beeb's kid-glove treatment of Islam in the UK, saying:

There’s no reason why any religion should be immune from discussion, but I don’t want to say that all religions are the same. To be a minority I think puts a slightly different outlook on it.

Mike McNally's reaction to Thompson also applies to the Western journalists:

The fact is that the BBC’s deference to Islam has very little to do with its “minority” status in the UK or the lack of integration on the part of its followers. The real reasons are fear and political correctness.

BBC executives don’t want their heads cut off or their homes burnt down any more than the rest of us do. Program-makers don’t have a problem with offending Christians because they know they’re unlikely to wind up in a video on the internet, wearing a hood and surrounded by a pack of sword-wielding nuns.

Post your comments below.


Tuesday, October 28 2008

Not-So Humanitarian Aid
Jerusalem Post: IDF personnel at the Kerem Shalom crossing have discovered military fatigues aboard a truck carrying humanitarian supplies to Gaza. No word yet on the which organization was responsible for the delivery.

Monday, October 27 2008

What's Wearing Out Ahmadinejad?
Supplying arms to so many Mideast "liberation armies" can be exhausting.

Sunday, October 26 2008

AqsaTube Returns
Aqsatube_lThanks to a Russian server and a few tweaks, Hamas' AqsaTube is back and sharing jihadi videos online.
Ombudsman Admits Bias

It was bad enough when the Johannesburg Star published a nasty screed in April by South Africa's Minister of Intelligence Ronnie Kasrils. Red Ronnie's commentary (no longer online) blamed Israel for the 1982 Sabra and Shatilla massacre.

Accompanying the column were three photos: one from Sabra and Shatilla, one from Jenin after the non-massacre, and one from Tyre after an Israeli air strike during the Second War in Lebanon. The images and their captions certainly fit Kasrils' warped view of a bloody IDF.

Now, the Star's ombudsman, Joe Thloloe,has issued a half-baked apology (only available online to premium subscribers) merely acknowledging there was no massacre in Jenin. And the assertion that Israel was responsible for Sabra and Shatilla? No apology for that, even though Christian Phalangists were found responsible for that.

In an outrageous defense of the image selection, ombudsman Joe Thloloe reveals his and the Star's severe lack of objectivity, writing (via It's Almost Supernatural):

Whether one agrees or disagrees with Kasrils on the source of the violence it is true that Israel has been on a bloody path. The intention of the newspaper in using these pictures was to illustrate that path.

Big Yawn: Hamas Recruits Hackers

HackersHamas is now actively recruiting hackers to attack Israel web sites. The LA Times picks up on a report in a Farsi news site that the terror organization's Tehran office

is offering cash prizes for any intrepid computer whiz who hacks into a "Zionist" website . . . .

Contest organizers describe the hack-Zionist-websites-for-cash competition as a "peaceful and non-violent initiative."

Israeli computer security expert Gadi Evron wasn't impressed, telling Backspin editor Pesach Benson the threat is over-rated:

What can they do that they haven't done already?

Last summer, Evron discussed cyber warfare and Israel in an exclusive interview with Backspin after Russian attacks on Georgian web sites made headlines.


Thursday, October 23 2008

A Stabbing in Gilo

Some media employ Palestinian terminology following a stabbing in a Jerusalem neighborhood. Read more at HonestReporting's latest communique: A Stabbing in Gilo

An Out of Step Headline

BbcWhich of the following headlines was written by the BBC?

Man killed in Jerusalem stabbing attack

Israeli killed in Jerusalem knife attack

Two stabbed in Israeli settlement

Sir Shimon

YNet News: Queen Elizabeth to make President Shimon Peres a knight in a few weeks.

Think the UK media can handle calling any Israeli sir?


Wednesday, October 22 2008

Nasrallah Poisoned?

NasrallahA Hebrew language news site, Walla, quoting an unidentified Iraqi news source, says Hassan Nasrallah is in critical condition after being poisoned.

A team of Iranian doctors was dispatched to save the Hezbollah chief. An individual described as close to Nasrallah denies that anything happened, but admits he hasn't seen the Nasrallah for a week.

In recent days, the Arab media reported that Nasrallah appointed his cousin, Hashim Safi Al-Din, as his political successor. And Egypt today denied reports that it invited Nasrallah to Egypt.

Stay tuned . . .

UPDATE: More info at Memri.

A Split in the Rankings

Rsf_2In its annual Press Freedom Index rankings, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) split Israel's ranking in two: "Israel (Israeli territory)," ranks 46, while Israeli actions in the PA "Israel-extra territorial" (read: the IDF) ranks 149.

Perhaps the split is a positive move, reflecting the difficulties of balancing the values of media freedom and security concerns. For better or for worse, Israel and the US were the only countries labeled with such a distinction.

The split rankings shed light on Palestinian press freedom. The collective Palestinian Authorities the index refers to as "Palestinian Territories" ranks 163. Bottom line: the Palestinian stringers the MSM relies on enjoy more press freedom from the IDF than from their Hamas and Fatah leaders.

FYI, Iceland took top spot for greatest press freedom; While Eritrea edged North Korea for last place.

UPDATE: Despite RSF's equally explicit criticism of problems in Cuba, Bolivia, Peru, France, Russia, China, Afghanistan, Burma, Morocco, Lebanon, Senegal, Mauritania, Eritrea and the Palestinian Authority, the BBC gives inordinate attention to Israel and the US.

Catching Up On The Conflict

Self-Induced Naqba
The historical narrative of Arab victimization doesn't hold water.

Palestinian "Return Button"
The "right" of return ain't so inalienable.

Gaza's Bombshell Bride
Women increasingly recruited for martyrdom ops.

Hamastan = Afghanistan
So says Arab pundit.

Tunnel Digging Spreads to West Bank.
Location suggests terrorists planned to bypass checkpoints, though explosives were found in sophisticated tunnel.

Catching Up On Web, Media Issues

Al-AqsaTube Taken Offline
ISP removes Hamas video-sharing site following this expose.

Jihadis Prey on Mentally Ill Recruits
London court hears how Pakistani radicals online recruited Briton with Asperberger's Syndrome and mental age of 10 for suicide bombing.

MassmediaAl-Qaida Web Sites Go Dark
Possible explanation: Sunnis and Shiites hacking each others' sites. The Christian Science Monitor has more on this.

5 Tips for Bloggers Overwhelmed By Web 2.0
Encouragement for social media challenged bloggers (including myself), via Micropersuasion.

The Readers' Editor on . . . Unpublishing
"Some people still don't fully understand the implications of speaking to or even writing for a news organisation in the web age." Or posting comments on blogs . . .

Algorithms To Make Human Editors Obsolete?
Web 2.0 fosters surprising collaborative journalism as print media goes down the tube.

Traditional Media Has 5 Years Left
Price-Waterhouse analyst explains why.

Catching Up On the Journalists

Look Left In Anger
What leads a "nice Catalan girl" and journalist to speak up for Israel and blast Spanish media coverage too?

Lauren Booth Responds to Critics
4,784 words, nothing new to say.

The Write Stuff
Mark Steyn prevails over Muslim hype and kangaroo court.

Catching Up: Misc.

Catching_upTime to start catch up on everything after a week off . . . .

Iranian Advisers Urge Pre-Emptive Strike On Israel
More trash talk, or something to be concerned about?

Japan Edges Iran For Security Council Seat
Another round of musical chairs at the UN.

How Green is My Army?
We're not talking about IDF winter fashions.

UCU Faces Legal Action Over Israel Boycott
(Via Z-Word)


Monday, October 13 2008

Sukkot Pause Button

I'm off for Sukkot, but Backspin will be back on Wednesday, Oct. 22. Here's a photo I took of Tel Rogem, a little-known site on the southwestern edge of Jerusalem. Happy holiday to all our readers.



Sunday, October 12 2008

Internet Activism Guide

HonestReporting and StandWithUs are proud to launch our new internet activism guide: Learn How to Defend Israel With Your Computer.
This 24-page book (pdf format) covers the principles of online activism, including:

• Creating your own blog/online journal.

• Spreading your message through e-mail networks.

• Tips on improving search results.

• Navigating the world of user-generated content . . . and more.

Download a FREE PDF version of the guide NOW. Print it out and save it as a reference.

Iranian Foothold in West Bank

Memri picks up on Arab media reports that Iran is positioning itself as a sugar daddy in the West Bank:

Salah Thabet, commander of 'Imad Mughniya groups in Fatah's Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, has said that the groups are receiving economic and logistical aid from Iran.

Fatah sources said that some group members were trained by Hizbullah,which last year transferred thousands of dollars to West Bank residents to carry out terror attacks.

Co-opting Palestinian groups is bad enough. But co-opting the thugs who pay lip service to Mahmoud Abbas is outrageous. Where have you gone, Yasser Arafat?

Weekend Glitch

Bad_computerReaders visting Backspin over the weekend got an unexpected security popup requesting a login name and password.

The problem had to do with a security setting for an experimental site in the works. Instead of restricting access to just that site, it cut off readers to Backspin as well.

There's no intention to restrict Backspin access -- as you can see for yourself, everything's back to normal. And a thank-you to everyone who took the time to let us know how much they missed the blog.


Friday, October 10 2008

Iran Consolidating Grip on Hezbollah

Iran dispatched intelligence officer, Mohammad Rida Zahidi to Lebanon to replace Imad Mughniyeh. Lebanon's Daily Star, quoting Italian media elaborates on the job responsibilities:

. . . Zahidi, who is nicknamed "Hassan Mahdawy," will coordinate between Hizbullah and the Syrian intelligence agencies, help build new locations in South Lebanon for military training and ensure the flow of weapons to Hizbullah.

Thursday, October 9 2008

Gaza Tunnels Go Legit

According to AP, tunnel owners are registering with Hamas, paying workman's comp, even notifying Hamas inspectors of deliveries.

Municipal officials confirmed they supervise tunnel operations.

Tuesday, October 7 2008

Blogger's Confession

My last post before Yom Kippur. As we prepare to spend a day fasting, praying and fessing up to misdeeds, I must own up to a few blogging sins.

The sin: Linking to my own blog posts too much.
The atonement: You can’t "click here" to read more about it.

The sin: A lack of concern for keywords.
The atonement: Occasional bursts of irrelevance geared for cheap search engine optimization. For example: Harry Potter and Britney Spears search Yahoo for a free MP3, but if you Ask Jeeves, the best job available is to chat about Ebay baby name downloads.

The sin: Hogging computer time while my wife waits to check her emails.
The atonement: Cancel her email account.

The sin: Underestimating the intelligence of readers.
The atonement: Overestimate the intelligence of readers.

May we be written and sealed for a good year. I'll resume blogging on Sunday.


Monday, October 6 2008

Medical Entry Permits: By The Numbers

Erez_crossingDr. Elihu D. Richter exhaustively studied the issue of Israeli medical permits for Palestinians to obtain treatment in Israel.

4,932 Palestinians granted medical permits for treatment in Israel in 2006.

90.2% Proportion of medical entry requests granted in 2006.

7,176 Palestinians granted medical permits for treatment in Israel in 2007.

81.5 % Proportion of medical entry requests granted in 2007.

45 % Increase in overall number of Gazans obtaining medical treatment

8,796 Palestinians granted medical permits for treatment in Israel in the first six months of 2008.

66 % Proportion of medical entry requests granted in the first six months of 2008.

20 Incidents where Palestinians used medical missions to attempt terror attacks.

3 "Patients" who admitted purchasing forged medical referrals to carry out terror attacks.

11 "Patients" who admitted purchasing forged medical referrals to visit relatives in Israel.

200 Approximate number of rockets and mortars fired since the disengagement at the Erez crossing -- a "medical sanctuary" where Palestinian patients are transferred to Israel.

0 Statements from the World Health Organization or Physicians for Human Rights condemning attacks on the Erez crossing.

170 Palestinians killed in Hamas-Fatah violence in July, 2007 alone.

Hadassah_hospital_5123,000 Approximate number of Palestinians treated in Jerusalem's Hadassah hospitals annually.

$3 million Annual subsidy provided by the Hadassah Medical Organization to treat Palestinians.

32 Cases of deaths allegedly following denial of entry permits. Dr. Richter took a closer look at the 32 deaths and found the following:

10 Did not receive medical permits for security reasons.

3 Were denied permits to enter Egypt by Egyptian authorities at the Rafah crossing.

5 Refusals attributed to lack of available beds.

1 Patient who Physicians for Human Rights claimed died, turned up alive in Gaza.

1 Patient who died in Gaza after receiving treatment in Israel.

2 Patients with advanced cancer who would not have been saved anyway.

Read the whole study.

Israel Branding 101

Israeli_nanotechHaaretz reports that a British P.R. firm is helping Israel launch its rebranding efforts by year's end. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has spent years trying to fine-tune how Israel's image should be presented to the world.

Richard Cravatts best articulated Israel's need for rebranding:

New products can be positioned from the outset in whatever way the marketer wishes. For existing brands, however, such as countries, a branding effort generally involves a re-positioning effort, which involves redefining the attributes, benefits, and overall image of the brand so that customers see its value-relative to competitors-in different and more positive ways . . . .

The irony is that Israel's founding brand story, that of a tiny, plucky new nation emerging from the ashes of the Holocaust, defeating an Arab onslaught, and bringing bloom to the barren desert, was a powerful, resonant image for the first 20 years of the State's existence. That position has effectively been pre-empted by the Palestinian cause now, as they have assumed the victim role and their own struggle for nationhood and self-determination has eclipsed that of Israel and has garnered wide-ranging sympathy.

In other words, Israel's image -- to an excessive degree -- has been defined by the Arabs and the media. But the Mideast conflict, Israel's struggle to survive, only represents one side of the country. There are many positive facets to Israel that the world can identify with if given a chance: resiliency and can-do optimism, rich cultural diversity, numerous technological achievements, and of course, the cradle of monotheism, to name a few.

Before discounting Israel's rebranding campaign, consider the origins of what may be the most successful rebranding effort of our generation:

A film short called The Big Apple came out in 1938, with an all-Black cast featuring Herbert “Whitey” White’s Lindy Hoppers, Harlem’s top ballroom dancers in the Swing Era. In a book published the same year, bandleader Cab Calloway used the phrase "Big Apple" to mean "the big town, the main stem, Harlem." Anyone who loved the city would have readily agreed with Jack FitzGerald: “There's only one Big Apple. That's New York."

The term had grown stale and was in fact generally forgotten by the 1970s. Then Charles Gillett, head of the New York Convention & Visitors Bureau, got the idea of reviving it. The agency was desperately trying to attract tourists to the town Mayor John Lindsay had dubbed “Fun City,” but which had become better-known for its blackouts, strikes, street crime and occasional riots. What could be a more wholesome symbol of renewal than a plump red apple?

Nation branding isn't only about boosting tourism. It's about the associations made when people around the world hear the name "Israel." And as Haskell Nussbaum argues, Israel's supporters have a role to play in branding efforts too.


Sunday, October 5 2008

The Daily Telegraph Finds Terror

According to a Daily Telegraph headline, terror only happens when Jews do it

Jewish Terrorism Threatens Israel

The Telegraph's editors -- like their counterparts at The Guardian and The Independent -- don't object to the word "terror" per-se. Their only objection to terror is when the victims are Israeli or American.

What will it take for the British press to come up with this headline?

Palestinian Terror Threatens Israel
Blame Israel: Coming Attractions

Hamas_fatahAccording to the Jerusalem Post, Fatah plans a major assault against Hamas in the West Bank in the coming weeks. Why?

Abbas's presidential term is scheduled to end on January 9, and the IDF Central Command is preparing for the possibility that Hamas will try to take advantage of political instability in Ramallah to take over West Bank towns and cities.

In the absence of elections or a compromise with Hamas, according to the Palestinian Authority constitution, Abbas will be replaced by the speaker of the Palestinian Legislative Council, Abdel Aziz Dweik, a member of Hamas who has been in an Israeli prison since August 2006.

The senior IDF officer said there was evidence that Fatah forces were planning a widespread West Bank operation against Hamas infrastructure and terrorist cells to weaken the Islamist group ahead of potential clashes in January.

I can already imagine the MSM spin blaming Israel for this.

Disproportionate Force vs. War of Attrition

How strong should Israel's military response be to a future Hezbollah provocation? Gabriel Siboni articulates why a disproportionate reaction is preferable to a more politically correct war of attrition.

Related reading: . . . No, It's Survival


Thursday, October 2 2008

October 2 Links

Appeasement in Our Time
On the anniversary of Neville Chamberlain’s most infamous moment, Clifford May (via Daled Amos) shares his thoughts with those who would do the same today. See also Tim Rutten's latest column.

State of the Blogosphere 2008
Technorati finds the line between the blogosphere and mainstream media blurring.

What’s A Charticle?
Print journalism’s latest fad. (Hat tip: Romenesko)

Web Smears: Fighting Back
What to do when your ex-wife or ex-employee smears your good name all over the web.

The Seven Habits of Highly Ineffective Terrorists

Stanford wonk Max Abrahms published paper (in pdf format) that turns the conventional wisdom of terror on it's head. Wired sums up this eye-opening study well enough:

In a paper published this year in International Security that -- sadly -- doesn't have the title "Seven Habits of Highly Ineffective Terrorists," he discusses, well, seven habits of highly ineffective terrorists. These seven tendencies are seen in terrorist organizations all over the world, and they directly contradict the theory that terrorists are political maximizers:

Terrorists, he writes, (1) attack civilians, a policy that has a lousy track record of convincing those civilians to give the terrorists what they want; (2) treat terrorism as a first resort, not a last resort, failing to embrace nonviolent alternatives like elections; (3) don't compromise with their target country, even when those compromises are in their best interest politically; (4) have protean political platforms, which regularly, and sometimes radically, change; (5) often engage in anonymous attacks, which precludes the target countries making political concessions to them; (6) regularly attack other terrorist groups with the same political platform; and (7) resist disbanding, even when they consistently fail to achieve their political objectives or when their stated political objectives have been achieved.

While we're on the subject of highly ineffective terrorists, here's the latest video (via WeaselZippers) making the rounds. An organization called "Hamas in Iraq" released a video of its own man getting blown up by his own rocket.

No Disguising Terror

US judge to PLO: you can’t disguise terror as acts of war.

If only a judge would also tell the MSM it can't disguise terror as anything else.


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