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Media Backspin
« July 2009 | Main | September 2009 »

Monday, August 31 2009

August 31 Links

Following Inflammatory Article, Sweden to Demand EU Condemn Anti-Semitism
What Obama Is Missing In His Policy On Israel
Israel Has Iran In Its Sights
Israel, Iran and Obama
Dichter Launches 'National Conversation' on Arab Peace Plan - But Only on Facebook

UPDATE SEPT. 1: Bildt: No Plan to Condemn Anti-Semitism


Sunday, August 30 2009

'Israel and the Jewish People Are Intertwined'

David Stavrou, an Israeli writer based in Sweden debunks the idea that the Aftonbladet blood libel isn't so serious because it targeted the IDF, not Jews in general:

The differentiation between Jews and Israel in this case, like in many others, is wishful thinking on the part of many. In reality, there is no differentiation. Like it or not, Israel and the Jewish people are intertwined, each paying the price when the other is attacked, each rising and falling with the others' successes and failures. Aftonbladet knows this of course and takes advantage of it. They can make racist attacks disguised as legitimate political journalism.

Theirs isn't traditional anti-Semitism based on religion (the Jews killed Jesus). It isn't even modern anti-Semitism (the Jews are rich and control the world). This is post modern anti-Semitism. It's all about ratings and it's business orientated. It sells newspapers. Nobody cares about the truth because it's subjective anyway, nobody has time for research and you can definitely count on it that no one will take responsibility. The writer gets his 15 minutes of fame; the paper makes millions. And damn the consequences.

Stavrou flies in the face of Seth Freedman, a frequent contributor to The Guardian's Comment is Free section. Here's how Freedman, who served in the IDF, inexplicably reacted to Aftonbladet:

However, bad journalism does not automatically an antisemite make, especially when the allegations were directed at the Israeli army, rather than at Judaism and its practices. Had the article claimed that Jewish teaching encouraged the killing of gentile children and the use of their blood for ritual purposes – the classic definition of blood libel, and the origin of the phrase – it would be another matter, but in this case the accusations are clearly made against a subsection of Israeli society, not against Israelis per se, let alone the worldwide Jewish community.

Memo to Freedman: Bostrom referred to the New Jersey scandal too, broadens the body-snatching to a global level.

Read Stavrou's full column.


Friday, August 28 2009

Following Up on Aftonbladet

AftonbladetA roundup of recent developments and commentary on the Swedish blood libel.

• First of all, if you still haven't read a translation of Donald Bostrom's original article, read it in English here.

James Savage lists several serious reasons why the Swedish government isn't going to condemn Aftonbladet.

Stephen Dubner talked to one unconvinced organ transplant expert:

Al Roth, the Harvard economist whose work on matched-pair organ donations has started to transform the organ-transplantation scenario, told me he found the accusation unbelievable because of the logistics of organ harvesting itself. “Organs don’t last very long and have to be matched rather particularly,” he said, “so it would be hard to take them on spec for an international market. So I think black market organs must mostly be from live donors. Live donors can take blood tests well in advance and travel to where the patient is. Deceased organs have to be put on ice, and the clock starts ticking immediately and fast.”

• Legal action against the paper? Alan Dershowitz and Yossi Klein-Halevi make compelling arguments for; Paul Schneidereit is equally persuasive against.

• Is the Israeli reaction political? So suggests Daniel Korski:

Diplomats I have spoken to are now speculating that the Israeli government - expecting a peace proposal in October from the Obama administration that it will not like - may have used the episode to outmaneuver the Swedish at a time when Stockholm holds the rotating EU presidency. This way, once the likely “Mitchell proposal” comes out, EU backing for the US position may have been undermined, if not neutered. There is already talk of Bildt having to postpone a scheduled visit to Israel.

• Donald Bostrom and Mordechai Kedar squared off in debate.

• And the Arab reaction? No surprises here.


Thursday, August 27 2009

Sky News Asks: Where is the Outrage?

Sky News' Tim Marshall contemplates the lack of reaction when Palestinians kill Palestinians. See HonestReporting UK's latest communique: Sky News Asks: Where is the Outrage?

Sky News: Where's the Outrage?


Must read: Tim Marshall of Sky News wonders where's the outrage over the Hamas executions of Jund Ansar Allah loyalists?

Thirty Palestinians killed. Women and children caught in the crossfire. Missiles fired at a Mosque. Muslim prisoners 'executed' in cold blood. A massacre. Media restrictions. A familiar tale? Indeed. International outrage and demonstrations in the streets of London? Nope.

And why might that be? Why it's simple. The Palestinians were were killed by Palestinians and, it would appear from the lack of reaction that in those circumstances their lives are cheap, but when they are killed by Israelis it is an outrage . . .

After they took the building they rounded up the survivors. Mobile phone footage shows what appears to be Hamas men 'executing' some of them.

It is not hard evidence, but local reporters say that is what happened, and the footage is certainly of the aftermath of the attack. Audio material has Hamas commanders ordering the killings.

I put 'executed' in quotation marks as in this context, ie, the killing of someone, it is a legal term. But in the context of what Hamas did, perhaps it should be substituted for murdered.

And where is the outrage about these murders. The marches, the petitions, the calls for a boycott, the conspiracy theory of a war against Muslims, ad infinitum? I hear just the wind blowing across the freshly dug graves. Because unless the Israelis kill them, people don't care.

Some journalists, like Orly Halpern, don't think it's a "massacre" because, in Halpern's words:

Can a battle between official security forces and an illegally armed group who has declared a new political regime to replace the one of the democratically elected ruling party be either ‘indiscriminate’ or a ’slaughter’?

Hamas revealed its contempt for democracy by overrunning Gaza in a bloody 2007 takeover and continues to manifest its contempt for human life. So yes, "indiscriminate" and "slaughter" are reasonable descriptions.

Read Marshall's j'accuse, watch the footage online and draw your own conclusions.

Related reading: Who Gets the Virgins?

Neve Gordon Too Extreme For Stephen Walt

1stephen waltProfessor Stephen Walt reacts to Dr. Neve Gordon's recent call for a boycott of Israel. At the end of this paean to the Ben Gurion U. professor, Walt writes:

I might add that I dont support the "Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement" myself. This is partly because I'm uncomfortable with even mild forms of collective punishment and partly because, like Gordon himself, I do worry about the double-standard issue (i.e., if you think it's ok to boycott Israel, why not China or Burma or any number of other countries?). And I'm especially leery of efforts to interfere with academic exchanges, because I don't like anything that interferes with free speech or obstructs the free flow of ideas. But I respect Gordon's motives and his op-ed did make me wonder: what if he's correct and this is in fact the only way to get a two-state solution? Making people think is something scholars are supposed to do, right?

Stephen Pollard can hardly restrain his disgust:

So after spending years spewing out bile and giving spurious academic legitimacy to traditional lies about those manipulative, secretive Israelis running US foreign policy, he casually mentions that he doesn't actually support the genie he has let out of the bottle.

Chutzpah is being kind. I can think of other words to use.

Are Walt or Gordon getting enough oxygen in the thin air at the top of their ivory towers?


Wednesday, August 26 2009

Christian Science Monitor: Erasing Jewish Rights

Walter Rodgers goes far beyond a simple debate over settlements. See HonestReporting's latest communique: Christian Science Monitor: Erasing Jewish Rights

Legal Action Against Aftonbladet


An Israeli lawyer filed a lawsuit against Aftonbladet in a New York court. YNet News explains why the Big Apple:

Ophir claimed, "The newspaper published an anti-Semite and racist blood libel which constitutes incitement to racism against Jews and IDF soldiers." He added, "The suit was filed in New York since the paper is distributed there and since the reporter made a connection to claims of New York resident rabbis who trade with organs."

Activists in Sweden also have the wheels of justice turning, but judging from reports in The Local and Haaretz, the outcome will be likely be Swede and sour.


Tuesday, August 25 2009

Hamas Massacre Video Online

Last night, Israeli TV aired footage apparently showing Hamas gunmen executing followers of the Jund Ansar Allah in a mosque courtyard. You can now watch the video at Israel's Channel 2.

See Haaretz for background:

The stations said the blurred, jumpy video was taken by cell phone from across the street. Channel 2 said Hamas rival Fatah distributed the video.

No cameo appearance by Charles Enderlin, who narrated the Al-Dura video. Media outrage's only reserved for alleged Israeli massacres

Join HR's New Facebook Group


Although the Golan falls under Israeli law, residents of the region wishing to write "Israel" in the Hometown section of their profiles are not give the option.

For example, if someone from Qazrin fills in the Hometown space, the only option will be "Qazrin, Syria." The same is true for all of the other Jewish towns, including Ramat Magshimim, Geshur, Mevo Hanna, and Had Nes.

It is not for Facebook to decide the national origin of Golan residents. At the very least, Facebook must include the option of writing "Israel" in the hometown section, as it has done with Jewish residents of the West Bank.

Check out HonestReporting's new Facebook group, Facebook, Golan Residents Live in Israel, not Syria. As of this posting, it's rapidly grown to 646 members.

Imagine the Headlines

Israeli TV aired footage of Hamas gunmen killing Jund Ansar Allah in a mosque courtyard. I haven't seen a hint of international outrage.

Can you imagine the headlines if Israeli soldiers were caught on film doing this?

Ghanem Family: We Never Said Son's Organs Were Stolen


This Swedish blood libel was further undermined when the family of Bilal Ahmed Ghanem said they never told any reporter that their son was missing organs.

Jerusalem Post reporter Khaled Abu Toameh tracked down the family:

The mother denied that she had told any foreign journalist that her son's organs had been stolen.

However, she said that now she does not rule out the possibility that Israel was harvesting organs of Palestinians . . . .

Jalal said that he and other villagers recall that a Swedish photographer was in the village during the funeral and that he managed to take a number of pictures of the body before the funeral. "That was the only time we saw this photographer," he recounted.

Ibrahim Ghanem, a relative of Bilal, said that the family never told the Swedish photographer that Israel had stolen organs from the dead man's body.

"Maybe the journalist reached that conclusion on the basis of the stitches he saw on the body," he said. "But as far as the family is concerned, we don't know if organs were removed from the body because we never performed our own autopsy. All we know is that Bilal's teeth were missing."

So much for Bostrom's previous excuse, which lame in its own right:

"I am just referring to what other people are telling me.

Aftonbladet editor Jan Helin also defended the article:

"The article poses a question – why has this body been autopsied when the cause of death is obvious? There I think Israeli authorities owe us an answer."

Since Aftonbladet was raising the accusations, the burden of proof is on the newspaper. Israel's not obligated to prove that something didn't happen, whether the accusations deal with body snatching, blowing up the World Trade Center, killing Arafat, poisoning the wells, tsunamis, etc. Stay tuned for an Aftonbladet exclusive on the Zionist tooth fairy taking Bilal Ghanem's teeth.


Monday, August 24 2009

Swedish Scandal Exposed

Does Swedish salmon secretly involve horrific crimes against Norwegian villagers? A shocking YNet News "report" raises ugly questions and demands an international inquiry.

One Man's Defense Minister Is the BBC's Terrorist

I'm glad to see the BBC calling terror for what it is. Gen. Ahmad Vahidi, tapped for Iran's next defense minister, is wanted by Interpol.


This definitely an improvement compared to AP's labels. In May, the wire service described presidential candidate Mohsen Rezaei -- who is also wanted by Interpol for involvement in the same attack -- as a "conservative."


Sunday, August 23 2009

The Guardian's Frei For All

In response to HonestReporting's recent communique, The Guardian amended Slavoj Zizek's commentary making some ugly comparisons between Israel and Nazi Germany. A note at the bottom of the page now states:

This article was amended on 20 August 2009. The online version originally referred to "Palestinian-frei", while the print version had been edited to say "Palestinian-free". This editing change should have been applied to the online version. This has now been done.

It's welcome change, but just a minor one. As Harry's Place aptly points out, the paragraph that the term "Palestinian-frei" appeared in is still slanderous in its own right. Here's what Zizek originally wrote:

Palestinians often use the problematic cliché of the Gaza strip as “the greatest concentration camp in the world”. However, in the past year, this designation has come dangerously close to truth. This is the fundamental reality that makes all abstract “prayers for peace” obscene and hypocritical. The state of Israel is clearly engaged in a slow, invisible process, ignored by the media; one day, the world will awake and discover that there is no more Palestinian West Bank, that the land is Palestinian-frei, and that we must accept the fact. The map of the Palestinian West Bank already looks like a fragmented archipelago.

To which Harry's Place points out:

So, according to Zizek, the Palestinians’ “problematic cliche” of Gaza being “the greatest concentration camp in the world” is “dangerously close to the truth”. Israel, one presumes, is becoming the new Nazi Germany, and Palestinians are becoming the new Jews. Furthermore, this moral and historical perversion of Holocaust imagery is nothing more than a “problematic cliche” that is, anyway, now coming to fruition . . . .

There is more than one “problematic cliche” in Zizek’s article, and in its publication by the Guardian and CiF. The most egregious part of one of those has been belatedly taken care of, but how many more “problematic cliches” will the Guardian stable keep chucking at us?


Thursday, August 20 2009

Fringe Views

Why in the world does the LA Times give Professor Neve Gordon op-ed space to call for a boycott of Israel?

Nothing else has worked. Putting massive international pressure on Israel is the only way to guarantee that the next generation of Israelis and Palestinians -- my two boys included -- does not grow up in an apartheid regime.

Gordon makes his case as an Israeli, yet within Israel, his views are completely fringe. He represents nobody but himself and small handful of people like David Landau.

Following Up On the Swedish Blood Libel


Donald Bostrom continues defending his blood libel. The Swedish journalist was quoted in the Jerusalem Post:

Apologize for what?" he said. "I am just referring to what other people are telling me."

"What other people tell me" is unverified gossip; it is not what's called "news," and certainly not the basis for the double-page splash Aftonbladet gave Bostrom's screed.

Meanwhile, Tundra Tabloids rounds up furious Swedish media and blogger reactions to Aftonbladet. Among the items he raises:

According to the TT's main source, Reinhard, "Both the MSM and the blogosphere are out opposing this. Again, the liberal/right is taking the Left to task for its anti-Semitism. Also the Dagens Nyheter, the other Swedish daily: notes that Boström (Aftonbladet journalist) has previously attacked the Israeli army with the same accusations but has never been able to prove anything. He's the editor of the peace book, Salam: On War, Peace and Islam (Arena, 2007). So the Swedish Muslim "peace movement" lets a dedicated anti-Semite edit its anthology about the Islamic message of peace.

Mats Skogkär, who wrote the piece in Sydsvenskan, wrote in 2005 that Boström's previous allegations were based on what relatives of killed Palestinians had told him. He admitted this in a telephone conversation with Skogkär, and agreed that it was peculiar that the Palestinians didn't show any interest in investigating further."

TT also links to other Swedes blogging the fallout.

'No Comment' Would've Sufficed

Abbas_bashirMahmoud Abbas visited Sudan for talks with President Omar Bashir. Bashir is wanted for crimes against humanity in Darfur. AFP quotes Abbas:

"We are with Sudan," said Abbas when asked about the Palestinian position about the international warrant for arrest issued against al-Bashir for war crimes in Darfur. Abbas added, "We are with the president. We support Sudanese unity and entirely agree with Sudan's position."

Why should Israel be expected to treat the International Criminal Court with any more respect than the Palestinians?

UPDATE Aug. 20: See how Business Week highlights the South African justice system's political pitfalls as it juggles its own Bashir and Gaza files.

A Momentary Lapse of Reason
Pink Floyd's Roger Waters narrarated a 15-minute UN film about Israel's security fence.
Israel's Media Image

Interesting take at Dry Bones:


A friend called me yesterday and he asked when it was that Israel had ceased to be the brave little David fighting off an axis of Giant Goliaths.

After mulling this over, I realized that our image as a mighty power was, in fact, part of the demonization and defamation of the Jewish State. Antisemites have always fantasized about Jewish Power. Anti-Zionists are no different.

Check out case studies of this very phenomenon at HonestReporting's interactive feature on The Big Lies.

Wednesday, August 19 2009

Realpolitik's Unpleasant Taste

Mahmoud Abbas today visits Sudan to meet with President Omar Bashir, who is wanted by the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity in Darfur. So leave it to The Guardian’s Comment is Free section to defend the trip.

Realpolitik always leaves an unpleasant taste . . .

When it comes to allegations of Israeli war crimes, the Palestinians respect the ICC a lot more.

But imagine their reaction if Israel defended it's security measures to the unpleasant taste of realpolitik . . .

Swedish Blood Libel Author: 'I Have No Clue'

Donald Bostrom, who wrote the Aftonbladet story accusing Israel of harvesting Palestinian organs, now says he has no idea if the story is true. The Jerusalem Post writes:

"I have a personal opinion, it concerns me that it's true," Donald Bostrom, who penned the story, told Israel Radio en route to an emergency meeting at the editorial offices Aftonbladet, presumably to discuss the aftermath of the report.

"I was [present] during the interview that night, I was a witness. It concerns me to the extent that I want it to be investigated," Bostrom told the station. "But whether it's true or not - I have no idea, I have no clue."

But Aftonbladet's digging in it's heels.

Asa Linderborg, an editor of the newspaper's culture section which printed the story, told Haaretz that the publication "stands behind the demand for an international inquiry."

Whatever happened to fact-checking and independently verifying sources?

Who Gets the Virgins?


Hamas reasserted its iron fist over Gaza, first by cracking down on Jund Ansar Allah, then banning journalists from Rafah and starkly warning Palestinians: don't talk to reporters.

As the dust settles, media analysis comparing Al-Qaida’s global jihad to Hamas’s perceived localized resistance overlook Hamas ties to the Muslim Brotherhood, ties enshrined in article two of the Hamas charter.

The Brotherhood, Hamas, and Al-Qaida share a common goal. As Jonathan Dahoah-Halevi explains:

The Muslim Brotherhood and Al-Qaeda differ regarding tactics but share a common strategy. Al-Qaeda favors an implacable jihad to destroy the economies of the Western countries. The Muslim Brotherhood supports terrorism and jihad against foreign presence in the Islamic world, but its top priority is constructing a Muslim infrastructure in the West which will slowly but surely enable it to rule during the 21st century. As far as the final goal is concerned, there are no policy differences between al-Qaeda and the Muslim Brotherhood. The two organizations have the same objective: to place the entire world under an Islamic caliphate.

Muslim Brotherhood branches are players throughout the world, making news in Egypt, Jordan, Iraq, Syria, Bahrain, Kuwait, Sudan, Somalia, even the U.S.

Which means you’re not getting the full picture when reporters like the Christian Science Monitor’s Eric Cunningham write:

Hamas is a militant Islamist organization but also a nationalist group largely focused on the creation of a Palestinian state and opposition to Israel. The US calls it a terrorist organization and its rival, the secular Fatah party, says it wants to impose Islamic rule on the Palestinians.

So who gets the virgins in this turf war?

Outrage: IDF Accused of 'Harvesting Palestinian Organs'

A Swedish newspaper publishes disgraceful accusations. See HonestReporting's latest communique: Outrage: IDF Accused of 'Harvesting Palestinian Organs'


Tuesday, August 18 2009

In Need of a Reality Check

A Guardian op-ed inverts reality while employing Nazi language. See HonestReporting UK's latest communique: In Need of a Reality Check


Monday, August 17 2009

Yasmin Alibhai-Brown's Broken Heart
I wonder how Yasmin Alibhai-Brown's latest column is going over with the family of Ophir Rakhum.
Human Rights Activist: Murder Great for Morale


See Noah Pollak for a translation of a Maariv expose of the latest Human Rights Watch report villifying Israel.

Turns out that the author of the HRW report, Joe Stork, is a radical Marxist who supported the Munich massacre and shows little regard for factual accuracy when it comes to undermining Israel:

Several times in the past, Stork has called for the destruction of Israel and is a veteran supporter of Palestinian terrorism. Already as a student, Stork was amongst the founders of a new radical leftist group, which was formed based on the claim that other leftist groups were not sufficiently critical of Israel and of the United States’ support of it. Already in 1976, Stork participated in a conference organized by Saddam Hussein which celebrated the first anniversary of the UN decision that equated Zionism with racism . . . .

Where does Stork stand regarding matters of objectivity and neutrality? He criticized Professor Ibrahim Abu-Lughod, himself a PLO figure, because he edited an anthology which tried, at least seemingly, to produce a balanced presentation. “Academic neutrality is deceitful,” wrote Stork. And what about factual accuracy? Stork claimed that Menachem Begin said that, ‘The Palestinians are two-legged animals.” In fact, Begin said that those who come to kill children are “two-legged animals.” The difference is, of course, huge. Stork, time after time, justifies his high standing in the industry of hate and lies against Israel.


Stork reached his peak in a statement published by the Middle East Research and Information Project [MERIP] which dealt with gathering information on the Middle East conflict, and in which Stork was a leading figure. This was a statement that included explicit support for the murder of the eleven Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympics:

“Munich and similar actions cannot create or substitute for a mass revolutionary movement,” the statement said, “But we should comprehend the achievement of the Munich action . . . It has provided an important boost in morale among Palestinians in the camps.”

Murder and terrorism, if so, are a matter of morale.

This is the man. A radical Marxist whose positions have not changed over the years. On the contrary. Objectivity, neutrality or sticking to the facts are not Stork’s strong suit. He even proudly exclaims that there is no need for neutrality.

I'm struggling to understand this.

  • A human rights organization employs a man who thinks murder is great for morale.

  • Stork, who thinks intellectual and factual dishonesty is reasonable, is tasked with writing a report requiring intellectual and factual honesty -- about the one country he has an axe to grind with.

What kind of organization is HRW?

It's nother tarnish in the HRW's halo effect on the media. As NGO-Monitor explains that phenomenon:

The evidence shows that many journalists simply reprint NGO reports without question or verification.  This is known as the “halo effect”, and violates both journalistic ethics, which require skepticism and independent verification, and the norm when reporting from other sources, including government officials.  But when a “highly respected human rights watchdog” such as Amnesty International or HRW makes a statement, journalists tend to ignore the bias and repeat this as fact.

The IDF dismissed the HRW report saying it was based on unreliable witnesses. It would've been better to say it was based on an unreliable organization.

Read Pollak's post of the whole expose.

UPDATE August 19: For an interesting partial defense of Stork, see Volokh Conspiracy posts one and two, via Solomonia.


Sunday, August 16 2009

The Altalena Moment We Weren't Waiting For


This weekend, Hamas utterly destroyed a group of Al-Qaida supporters. The rumble in Rafah wasn't the Palestinian Altalena moment I had in mind.

The idea refers to the Altalena affair of 1948. During the War of Independence, Yitzhak Rabin and the Haganah -- acting on orders from David Ben-Gurion -- destroyed an arms ship belonging to Menachem Begin and the Irgun. More than 30 Jews, mostly from the Irgun, died that day.

Begin's refusal to resist the Haganah is widely credited with preventing Israel from possibly sliding into civil war. The Irgun was eventually absorbed into the Haganah to create the Israel Defense Forces. Israel had, what Mahmoud Abbas would describe as -- with a twinge of jealousy --"one authority, one gun."

During Oslo's headier days, who would've predicted an Altalena moment between radical Muslims and even more radical Muslims?


Thursday, August 13 2009

The Facetious 'Firebrand' of Fatah

Marwan Barghouti's back in the news, along with the first news report --courtesy The Independent -- spuriously labeling him Fatah's "firebrand." 


  • Barghouti was convicted in an Israeli civilian court on five counts of murder, which included ordering the 2002 attack on Tel Aviv's Sea Food Market.

  • He was a central figure in Fatah's Al-Aqsa Brigades, a designated terror organization in the USA, EU and Canada.

  • An estimated 130 people have been killed in suicide bombings alone carried out by the Brigades.

Sounds like a terrorist to me.

"Firebrand" carries the connotation of someone prone to be provocative, outrageous, and not politically correct. Like, say, Avigdor Lieberman, who is not associated with murder and doesn't have a private militia. Hmmmm. So what makes Lieberman any less deserving of warped Mandela comparisons?


Wednesday, August 12 2009

August 12 Links

Hamas is Conducting a “Smile Spin” For the West
Pull the Plug on Hezbollah TV
“Missile City” Children Get a Voice
Latin American Jews Contend With Spike In Anti-Semitism
An Arab Call for Resettlement of Palestinian Refugees
Israel Too Successful For Losers of the Leftist Intelligentsia
Newspaper War: Who Keeps the Tweeps?

Pilger's Preposterous Peace Prize


Australia's Jewish community's in an uproar because journalist John Pilger is receiving the Sydney Peace Prize, the country's most prestigious international award.

It's bad enough that Pilger's polemics debase journalism. Among other things, he has mishandled quotes and produced Palestine Is Still the Issue, a discredited documentary.

Unfortunately, the Sydney Peace Foundation also cheapens the concept of peace prizes. Previous winners include Hanan Ashrawi, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Mary Robinson, Hans Blix and Irene Khan.

I doubt we'll receive any Rosh HaShanah cards from Pilger. He considers HonestReporting "a thoroughly sinister organization."


Tuesday, August 11 2009

HRW: Too Little Too Late

Human Rights Watch finally issues a report on Hamas rocket attacks. See HonestReporting's latest communique: HRW: Too Little Too Late


Monday, August 10 2009

Blame What On Israel?

Over at The Guardian, Ben White's disturbed by Hamas and its virtue campaign. He documents an impressive laundry list, including harassing of shopkeepers who use female mannequins, compelling women to cover their hair, and a legal ruling that female lawyers must wear hijabs.

You'd think White's describing a group of repressed Islamic misogynists. But he blames Israel:

But why is this happening now? One answer is that these developments in Gaza are a consequence of the state of siege that the tiny territory has been under – a society that has been fenced-in, starved, and seen its very fabric torn apart by unemployment and wanton military destruction. In the words of a Gaza human rights worker, isolation bred "extremism and dark ideas".

Eyad Sarraj, a prominent Gazan mental health expert and psychiatrist, noted that Hamas is focusing on the likes of "women's dress" and "segregation of the sexes, especially in public or in schools". Rather than prioritising "honesty or financial probity", the obsession is with "sex", because "these things are visible and people are easily intimidated because such issues address their traditional anxieties".

The Palestinians knew what Hamas stood for back when they voted the Islamists into power in 2005: No dancing and gays if Hamas gets its way.

The Life of a Bogus Quote


It's amazing how a mishandled quote takes on a life of its own, even over a period of years. A case in point is a "comment" falsely attributed to Moshe Yaalon, now an Israeli cabinet minister. It's worth looking at now that another major paper has just corrected the record (more on that point below).

The story of this bogus quote goes back to 2003. Referring to Israeli claims that it had no negotiating partner among the Palestinians, Henry Siegman, wrote in the New York Review of Books:

This consensus has enabled Prime Minister Sharon's government to maintain that its only option is to wage an unrelenting war against the Palestinians that, in the words of the Israeli Defense Force's chief of staff, Lieutenant General Moshe Ya'alon, will "sear deep into the consciousness of Palestinians that they are a defeated people" before any political process can begin.

The Siegman version of the quote was "cited" by Gary Fields (a professor of communications, no less) in the Chicago Tribune in 2004, as did Toronto Star columnist Haroon Siddiqui (I can't find his original column online). It was picked up again in 2006 by Boston Globe columnist H.D.S. Greenway; Siegman repeated it in 2007, this time in the London Review of Books.

But the "quote" didn't get the scrutiny it deserved until last January, when Columbia professor Rashid Khalidi "cited" it in the NY Times. That's when our colleagues at CAMERA raised the first red flag. Moreover, CAMERA pointed out a 2002 interview where Yaalon told Haaretz (parts one and two) something far different than what Siegman, Fields, Siddiqqui and Greenway presented. Yaalon told journalist Ari Shavit:

Shavit: "Do you have a definition of victory? Is it clear to you what Israel's goal in this war is?

Ya'alon: "I defined it from the beginning of the confrontation: the very deep internalization by the Palestinians that terrorism and violence will not defeat us, will not make us fold. If that deep internalization does not exist at the end of the confrontation, we will have a strategic problem with an existential threat to Israel. If that [lesson] is not burned into the Palestinian and Arab consciousness, there will be no end to their demands of us."

Yaalon later added:

The facts that are being determined in this confrontation -- in terms of what will be burned into the Palestinian consciousness -- are fateful. If we end the confrontation in a way that makes it clear to every Palestinian that terrorism does not lead to agreements, that will improve our strategic position.

The Times and the Globe corrected their online commentaries, and the Trib issued this correction. Today, the Toronto Star issued this mea culpa, with Siddiqui explaining:

"The statement attributed to (Yaalon) was not just in the blogosphere but was widely quoted in mainstream, respected publications," explained Siddiqui. "There had been no correction or clarification sought or given that I was aware of. So I had no reason to think it was not a valid quote."

Better late than never.

Unfortunately, a lot web-sites and blogs with their own axe to grind with Israel in all likelihood won't make any correction. Electronic Intifada comes to mind.

And Siegman, to my knowledge, has yet to explain how a quote about terror not defeating Israelis morphed into a comment that the Palestinians must be utterly defeated. I haven't seen any editors note at the NY or London book review sites.

Mishandling quotes can kill a journalist's career. In 2002, Holger Jensen, foreign editor at the Rocky Mt. News, was forced out after a penning a column that included comments incorrectly attributed to Ariel Sharon.

This fumbled quote is just another skeleton in Siegman's closet.

Erez Crossing Shelled During Medical Transfer


Palestinians shelled Erez crossing yesterday while Gazan medical patients were being transferred to Israel for treatment.

Physicians for Human Rights is in today's news too, but not for expressing outrage over the inhumane attack.

The Erez transfer was miraculously completed without any casualties to the patients or medical crew.


Sunday, August 9 2009

Israel and the Lessons of Hiroshima

I just finished reading an excellent piece at Editor & Publisher on how the press covered "the day after" Hiroshima.

The MSM relied completely on the US War Department, something unthinkable today:

Almost without exception newspaper editorials endorsed the use of the bomb against Japan. Many of them sounded the theme of revenge first raised in the Truman announcement. Most of them emphasized that using the bomb was merely the logical culmination of war. "However much we deplore the necessity," The Washington Post observed, "a struggle to the death commits all combatants to inflicting a maximum amount of destruction on the enemy within the shortest span of time." The Post added that it was "unreservedly glad that science put this new weapon at our disposal before the end of the war."

Referring to American leaders, the Chicago Tribune commented: "Being merciless, they were merciful." A drawing in the same newspaper pictured a dove of peace flying over Japan, an atomic bomb in its beak.

It would be weeks before the first western reporter, George Weller, would reach Nagasaki to file his own independent reports -- the first to draw attention to radiation-related illnesses. Compare that to this year's Gaza War. Despite Israeli media restrictions, we knew a lot more about developments in the Strip -- much of it in real time.

The increased concern for human rights is also hard to overlook. During Operation Cast Lead, the IDF made more than 200,000 phone calls warning Gazans of impending air strikes. To put that number in perspective, Hiroshima's estimated casualites (dead and injured) is 135,000.

None of which prevented the media from skewering Israel.


Thursday, August 6 2009

New York Times: Just the Facts?

A six month study of the New York Times shows a bias toward the Palestinian narrative. See HonestReporting's special report: New York Times: Just the Facts?

Thoughts On My 1st Twitter Anniversary


I'm celebrating my first anniversary on Twitter today.

I've been "on" Twitter for longer actually, but for the first few weeks, posted no tweets, and didn't bother keeping track of milestones like my first follower, and the first exciting time a soul in the vast Twitterverse retweeted me.

Apparently, that's all pretty typical of a lot of Twitter users: signing up, then wondering, What the heck was I thinking? Can anyone honestly be articulate in 140 characters? Who cares what I'm having for breakfast? Are all these people mad?

A year later, I've seen for myself how much people on Twitter talk about Israel. Some of the conversation is ugly, but many people have a genuine, honest curiousity and are simply misinformed. Other people are interested in information, ideas,or witty bon mots that can help them be more effective advocates.

But more importantly, I've learned that you only get out of Twitter as much as you put in. This means taking the time to network with others. The more you do that, the easier it is for others to find you. This is putting the "social" in social media.

With that in mind, here are a few active tweople worth following: @Daroff, @davidsaranga, @davidhazony, @tamarabraham, @Forecasthighs, @Martin_Kramer, @ASoldiersMother @JewishChron, @IsraelDC, @israeluk,@HonestRepCanada and, of course, @HonestReporting. You can follow me at @mediabackspin.

I wish I could list more people; for further networking, check out the people I'm following and the people following me.

Speaking up for Israel means taking the initiative being active. Join the conversation.

UPDATE Aug. 6: Bah humbug! Thanks to some denial-of-service attack on Twitter, I can't even tweet my own birthday.

HRW: Why Now?

A Human Rights Watch report and video slams Hamas for firing rockets at Israel, going so far as to call it unlawful.

HRW's criticisms aren't exactly timely. Since Operation Cast Lead ended a half-year ago, Sderot and the western Negev have been mostly quiet. It would've been more appropriate to level these criticisms in December, before the war. HRW didn't need months on end reach these conclusions.


Wednesday, August 5 2009

3 More Reasons I'm Concerned About Fatah Confab

Yesterday, I blogged 6 reasons why I’m concerned by the Fatah confab. Today, I have three more reasons to be concerned.

1. We’re seeing the first woeful indications of who Mahmoud Abbas would like to succeed him.

Khaled Abut Toameh writes:

To further strengthen the old guard camp, Abbas sought and received permission from Israel to allow Mohammed Ghnaim, a hard-line Fatah leader, to move from Tunisia to the West Bank. Ghnaim is one of a handful of senior Fatah leaders who remain strongly opposed to the Oslo Accords, insisting that the "armed struggle" against Israel is the only way to "liberate Palestine."

Ghnaim is now being touted as Abbas's successor as head of Fatah and the Palestinian Authority as to ensure the continuity of the old guard hegemony over the affairs of the Palestinians in the West Bank.

2. Fatah’s inexplicable denial of Oslo shows its true colors.

David Schenker explains why:

In short, the desire for popular support has not moderated Hamas, but has radicalized Fatah . . .

The leading faction of the PLO that signed the Oslo Accords with Israel -- in which both sides agreed to "recognize their mutual legitimate and political rights . . . and achieve a just, lasting and comprehensive peace settlement and historic reconciliation through the agreed political process" -- now says it never consented to the terms of the deal. Fatah's formal rejection of the Oslo terms of reference essentially constitutes the PLO's renunciation of the entire agreement.

3. Decisions made at this congress will likely undermine Salam Fayyad's authority.

That's Israel's fear. Fayyad’s the only person who gives the PA any real credibility in the eyes of donor states and Israeli officials who deal with the PA on a day-to-day basis. Tom Friedman even coined a new buzzword: Fayyadism

Fayyadism is based on the simple but all-too-rare notion that an Arab leader’s legitimacy should be based not on slogans or rejectionism or personality cults or security services, but on delivering transparent, accountable administration and services.

The sad irony is that on the very day Friedman comes to rightfully praise Fayyad, Fatah comes to bury him.

Not All Evictees Are Palestinian

CNN grilled Israeli spokesman Mark Regev about two families evicted from homes in eastern Jerusalem following a Supreme Court ruling. As you watch, keep in mind this observation by Carl in Jerusalem, who also posted the video:

The rule of law means that the courts decide. It's the same in the US as it is here in Israel. The court rules and you have to obey. Israel's government had nothing to do with this case, and it's not up to the government to interfere.

Only Palestinian evictees are worth CNN's time, so it's understandable if you're not aware of other recent evictions of note:

3,000 Kenyans Out In the Cold After Forced Evictions
Monks Evicted From Monastery In Row With Government
Thousands Left Homeless in Angola
Missing Amy Fitzpatrick ‘s Mother to Be Evicted From Home in Spain
Head of Foreclosure Prevention Group Loses Home
Overtown Woman Evicted After Block Party Ends In Mass Shooting
Zanu PF Politician Evicts 30 Families From Farm
Former Detroit News Anchor Evicted From His Home
Ongombo Squatters Evicted, Leaders Arrested
Big Brother: All Housemates Face Eviction
Bicycle-Riding Rooster May Be Evicted From Home


Tuesday, August 4 2009

Al-Manar, Australia, And the Folly of 'Wings'


Hezbollah's Al-Manar TV got permission to broadcast in Australia. According to The Age, this is a great example of the lunacy of distinguishing between Hezbollah's so-called military and political wings.

Hezbollah, a militant Lebanese Muslim party, is banned in the United States as a terrorist organisation, but only its armed wing is proscribed in Australia. Its TV programs endorse suicide bombers, call for Israel’s annihilation, and refer to Jews as the offspring of pigs and apes.

Why is such disgusting programming being allowed to air down under? Because the Australia Communications and Media Authority only monitored Al-Manar for violations of narrow anti-terror laws. ACMA said in a statement:

The Anti-terrorism Standard prohibits the broadcast of programs which could reasonably be construed as directly recruiting a person to join, or participate in the activities of, a terrorist organisation or as soliciting funds for a terrorist organisation.

While the ACMA found references in some program content to a designated terrorist organisation (Hezbollah), there was no content that could reasonably be construed to directly recruit people to join or participate in the activities of Hezbollah, or to solicit funds for (or assist in the collection or provision of funds for) Hezbollah. As a consequence, no breach of the Anti-terrorism Standard was found.

What makes the Australian distinctions even more insane is that Hezbollah itself doesn't differentiate between its own "wings." Hezbollah's no. 2 man Naim Qassem told the LA Times:

"All political, social and jihad work is tied to the decisions of this leadership," he said. "The same leadership that directs the parliamentary and government work also leads jihad actions in the struggle against Israel."

Come to think of it, Top Gun boosted Navy and Air Force recruiting without directly soliciting viewers either.

6 Reasons I'm Concerned About Fatah Confab


The last time Fatah held a party congress, Seinfeld was in the first month of an uncertain future. Today, the party billed as Israel's peace partner kicked off its confab in Bethlehem.

Here are six reasons I'm concerned about this gathering.

1. Discredited figures are entrenching themselves.

According to The Independent:

There has thus far been no accountability in Fatah. Indeed, rather than resign, the people responsible for its debacles are now seeking promotions. Nabil Amr, an Abbas ally and a one-time Arafat associate who was trounced by a Hamas candidate in parliamentary elections for the Hebron district, is trying to nevertheless move up from the revolutionary council to the central committee.

Mohammed Dahlan, whose security forces were routed by Hamas fighters in Gaza, has his sights on the top body.

And Rawhi Fattouh, a former speaker of parliament who caused embarrassment last year when Israeli border inspectors found 3,000 contraband mobile phones in his car, is also a candidate.

Without naming names, Musa Fawaz, a delegate from Lebanon, said that the success of discredited figures in these leadership elections would sound a death knell for Fatah.

2. The party's taking an inexplicably hardline position.

One leading official doesn't want Arab states to begin normalizing relations with Israel -- a move requested by President Obama to give peace some momentum. The Daily Telegraph explains why:

"Normalisation of Israel's ties with Arab countries before the occupation ends in the Palestinian areas is the last thing that the Palestinians should have to experience," said Abu El-Izz Dajani, a former PLO ambassador who is running for a post in the Fatah leadership. "It is as dangerous as the Nakba, as dangerous as the 1967 seizure of the West Bank and Jerusalem."

3. Fatah's program leaves open the option of "armed struggle."

Reuters adds that Mahmoud Abbas insists on this.

4. Fatah rejects Israel as a Jewish state.

Moreover, Rafik Natsheh, a member of the party's central committee recently said that Fatah never will, and has never asked Hamas to recognize Israel either.

5. Decisions made at this gathering could set the stage for another intifada.

I can't dismiss Avi Dichter's concerns:

"Fatah's statements are clearing the way to what may eventually be the third intifada," he said. "Once you say that the fight will go on by all means necessary – anyone in their right mind understands that spells an armed conflict . . . .

"What I find particularly disturbing is that it's the moderates that plan to have the convention vote on an article titled 'continuing the fight against Israel by all means necessary.' Sixteen years after the Oslo Accords, it's Fatah's way of saying they see an armed conflict as a legitimate way to conduct dialogue with Israel.

6. Despite the literally obvious signs, some reporters don't get it.

Case in point is AP's Mohammed Daraghmeh, who wrote:

A banner in the conference call showed a boy in a military uniform and a Kalashnikov assault rifle, with the slogan, "Resistance is a legitimate right of our people."

However, the political program presented this week for convention approval marginalizes that idea, and instead emphasizes negotiations and civil disobedience as the path to statehood.

Missed opportunities for peace can be very dangerous, so I'm not dismissing the significance of what's happening in Bethlehem. But 20 years from now, Seinfeld reruns will probably have more relevance than Fatah.

Censured: Galloway & Press TV

Ofcom criticises Iran's propaganda channel and its most prominent presenter. See HonestReporting UK's latest communique: Censured: Galloway & Press TV


Monday, August 3 2009

Congrats to Our MacBook Winner


Congratulations to Norbert Goldberg, of Chappaqua, NY, for completing HonestReporting's reader survey, and in the process, winning our grand prize: a brand new MacBook.

Goldberg told HR in an email:

I think that HR provides a very valuable service by pointing out and counteracting media bias all over the world which, unfortunately, is still very prevalent. As a child of Holocaust survivors, I am keenly aware of the importance of not keeping silent in the face of injustice and prejudice. HR is doing just that. Keep up the good work.


Sunday, August 2 2009

B'Tselem Retracts IDF War Crimes Accusations


It's been five years since an IDF air strike on a Gaza soccer field sparked outrage from FIFA and war crimes accuastions from B'Tselem.

The reason for the attack? The site was being used as a Hamas training camp, a fact which Hamas itself confirmed. But only now is B'Tselem retracting its charges against Israel. Arutz-7 reports:

The first version of the B’Tselem group’s story reported that the IDF killed 14 Palestinian Authority Arabs “not engaged in fighting” during an Israel Air Force aerial attack on a Hamas community centre on Sept. 7, 2004. Ostensibly, Arab civilians were wrongly killed while engaging in a harmless cultural activity. The casualties were included in B’Tselem’s database of Arab civilians killed by the IDF.

Now, nearly five years later, B’Tselem reports that the Arabs were “engaged in fighting” and “were stationed at a Hamas training camp.”

Dahoah-Halevy notes that on the very day of the attack, Hamas itself made an official announcement stating that the bombed target was a training camp and that the 14 Arabs that were killed were members of the Al-Kassam military brigade of Hamas . . . .

In contrast, B’Tselem has not published an official apology nor explained why it took the organization nearly five years to change the story.

Another tarnish on what NGO-Monitor calls the halo effect:

The evidence shows that many journalists simply reprint NGO reports without question or verification. This is known as the “halo effect,” and violates both journalistic ethics, which require skepticism and independent verification, and the norm when reporting from other sources, including government officials. But when a “highly respected human rights watchdog” such as Amnesty International or HRW makes a statement, journalists tend to ignore the bias and repeat this as fact.

A recent Harvard study of reporting on the 2006 Lebanon War shows that most of the media around the world continued to cite HRW’s claims on the Qana incident, even after HRW was forced to admit their errors. And there are many other examples, not only with respect to Israel, but in Colombia, Iraq, and wherever NGOs rely on “eyewitnesses” and lack independent capabilities.

August 2 Links

A Jewish – And Non-Legitimate State
Fix Tehran Issue, And We’ll Act on Palestine
Arab Responsibility for Palestinian Refugees
Cyber Warfare and Fears of Collateral Damage
Israel’s New Mini-Plane in the Sky
World Birdlife in Danger if Israeli Sanctuary Closes
En Route to Israel
Print Newspapers Still Dominate Readers’ Attention


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