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.
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.
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.
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:
The process of the campaign upstages the campaign itself.
Publicity risks raising skepticism before the launch of the campaign.
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."
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
In 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.
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 . . .
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.
Readers 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.
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.
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.
Haaretz 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.
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.
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.
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?
According 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.
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.
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.
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.