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Media Backspin
« October 2009 | Main | December 2009 »

Monday, November 30 2009

Now the Jewish Lobby's Into Boxing

The Sunday Times profiles Jewish boxer Dmitriy Salita:

Now he has arrived in Newcastle, ready for the opportunity of his life, buoyed by the good wishes of the New York fight crowd, the Jewish lobby and all those touched by his struggle and his quiet, serious demeanour.

Who will pick up on this angle first? Sylvester Stallone or Peter Oborne?

Parsi's Precedent


At the Huffington Post, Trita Parsi argues that the US can and should stop Israel from attacking Iranian nuclear facilities. He even cites this precedent:

On August 2, 1990, almost a year after the fall of the Berlin Wall and the end of the Iron Curtain divide, Iraq invaded Kuwait. Within months, the George H. W. Bush administration carefully assembled a coalition of states under the UN flag and defeated the Iraqi army and restored Kuwait's ruling family, the House of Sabah. The Bush senior administration saw particular value in ensuring that the international coalition contained numerous Arab states. But to get the Arab's to join a war alongside the US and against another Arab power, Israel needed to be kept out of the coalition.

This turned out to be a tricky issue, particularly when Saddam Hussein hurled thirty-four Scud missiles at Tel Aviv and other Israeli cities, in an obvious attempt to lure Israel into the war . . . .

Just as Israeli retaliation against Iraq in 1991 would have been devastating for the US, an Israeli preventive attack against Iran today would spell disaster for US national security.

The Israeli debate over deterrence vs. undermining coalition forces was as anguished as Parsi goes on to describe. There was the added uncertainty -- which Parsi doesn't acknowledge -- of Saddam's Scuds being outfitted with chemical or biological warheads. Fortunately, Saddam Hussein didn't raise the stakes with a non-conventional attack.

Parsi expresses no concern for the threat Iranian nukes pose to Israeli national security (and Palestinian national security, for that matter).

We've seen that the Israeli public is remarkably resilient in the face of Iraqi Scuds, Palestinian Qassams and Hezbollah Katyushas. But Parsi's then-and-now comparison breaks down because air strikes on Iran would be to prevent it from acquiring nuclear weapons.


Sunday, November 29 2009

November 29 Links


Israel is Europe's Blind Spot
The more concessions Israel makes, the more it's attacked.

Ehud Olmert Still Dreams of Peace
The ex-Prime Minister goes into surprising detail about peace offers he made to Mahmoud Abbas -- and Abbas never responded to.

America vs. The Narrative
Tom Friedman gets it right on Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, who believed in "The Narrative" of an "American-Crusader-Zionist conspiracy to keep Muslims down."

'Dispatches' and Anglo-Jewish Self-Confidence
An academic's mea culpa for appearing on Channel 4's "investigation" into the UK's so-called "Israel lobby."

The UN Report: A Substantive Critique
An expanded version of Dore Gold's presentation at Brandeis University debunking the Goldstone report, in pdf format.

Mumbai Terror: The Phone Transcripts
A sad, sobering reminder of the different natures of "terror" and "warfare."

Muslim Birthrate On the Decline in Israel
What demographic time bomb?

Hezbollah's Global Fundraising Reach
An overview of the organization's lucrative connections to drug traffickers, weapons dealers and money launderers in South America, Hong Kong, Africa and the US. And they call themselves the Party of God . . .


Thursday, November 26 2009

HonestReporting's Latin American Affiliate Launches Web Site

HonestReporting's new Latin American affiliate, ReporteHonesto, recently launched its Spanish language web site.

ReporteHonesto's monitoring coverage of the Israel and the Mideast in the Latin and South American media, and will also handle translating Honesteporting material into Spanish.

Check it out, spread the word, and join their mailing list. Contáctenos

Mandela He Ain't

Barghouti It finally occured to me why the latest media spin -- that Marwan Barghouti is the Palestinian Nelson Mandela -- rings hollow. It's because nobody asked the Palestinians.

Jerusalem Post columnist Khaled Abu Toameh takes a critial look at the way Barghouti's regarded:

Unlike many in the Western media, Palestinian journalists and writers have rarely - if ever - referred to Barghouti as a "charismatic" leader or as the "Palestinian Nelson Mandela." Cynics and conspiracy theorists in the Palestinian territories go further by arguing that Barghouti is actually part of a US-Israeli scheme aimed at turning him into the next leader of the Palestinians. To back up their argument, they ask simple questions such as: Since when does Israel allow a security prisoner to give media interviews or hold meetings with Israeli, Palestinian, European and American officials in his prison cell?

Undoubtedly, Barghouti is respected by many Palestinians. Yet, this is not because he's the Palestinian Nelson Mandela or Salah Eddin - the Muslim warrior who drove the Crusaders out of Jerusalem - but because he's sitting in Israeli jail.

If the Palestinians themselves don't view Barghouti as a Mandela, why does the MSM keep spinning it that way? The most recent example of this comes from Irish Times correspondent Michael Jansen, who writes:

He is seen by many Palestinians as their Nelson Mandela.

Don't tell me how Barghouti's perceived, show me how Barghouti's perceived. Get a fresh man-on-the-street quote from one of the "many Palestinians."

There's always the possibility of judging Barghouti in his own words, since he's Israel's most-interviewed security prisoner these days. Talking to Corriere Della Sera, he left open the option of violence.

Of course, that doesn't jive with the Western media's rosy perception of Barghouti . . .

Read Toameh's full column.

Related reading: Barghouti Is No Mandela

Facebook Hate Group Bites the Dust

Thumbs up to the Jerusalem Post's inquiry, which sparked Facebook to delete a group calling calling for people to "kill Jews."

The page, which belonged to a group that called itself "anti-semitism," listed dozens of members under a tagline that said, "We hate Jews so we must kill them."

It also contained a photo album labeled "we must kill the Jews" which contained numerous anti-Semitic images.

Contacted by the Post on Monday, Facebook took down the page within hours of receiving the inquiry.


Wednesday, November 25 2009

Gilo In Perspective


See HonestReporting's latest media critiques:

Gilo In Perspective: How did the media report building plans for a Jerusalem suburb?

Press TV Spreading Hate & Incitement: Iran's propaganda arm fails to moderate hate speech on its website.

Are We Part of the UK Israel Lobby?

Simon Plosker, HonestReporting's managing editor, was interviewed on JNet Radio, where he discussed Dispatches: Inside Britain's Israel Lobby. Listen to it on Humyo or by clicking below.

Related HonestReporting links responding to Channel 4:

Why We Didn't Talk to Channel 4
'Myself As Exhibit A'
Under Attack: HR Accused by UK TV Documentary
HonestReporting Responds to Channel 4
Oborne's Opening Shots at the Israel Lobby
A Warped Look at Britain's 'Israel Lobby'

Insightful Or Inciteful Comments?

Iran’s Press TV covers the Israeli helicopter crash that killed three Israelis and a British tourist off the coast of Netanya. Nothing objectionable, but Stephen Pollard notes that comments posted on the site are pretty disgusting.

To Press TV's credit, the comments Pollard cites have now been removed, but others like this one are online:

Falesteeni anti-Arabs& Israhell
Tue, 24 Nov 2009 16:46:20 GMT
MUSIC TO MY PALESTINIAN EARS, Any Amerikkkan scumbags on board?

Fortunately, Press-TV doesn't enjoy the quite same veneer of legitimacy as other bastions Israel-bashing free speech, like, say, The Guardian's Comment is Free section (which is suffering its own peculiar form of Foot in Mouth Disease).

This says a lot about the kind of audience Press TV plays to, and further validates HonestReporting's decision to boycott the station last year.

UPDATE Nov. 26: Big whoops. Stephen Pollard just brought to my attention that the comments he cited are still online. Press TV divides the comments by page and I overlooked where to click on Next to see more comments.


Tuesday, November 24 2009

Only Write What You Know


Past efforts to bring home Gilad Shalit have had a lot close calls, empty promises and disinformation, so I'm taking today's press coverage with a grain of salt.

As I read today's papers, I'm reminded of a basic element of Journalism 101.

Only write what you know.

I'm giving a thumbs up to NY Times bureau chief Ethan Bronner, whose update on the Shalit talks essentially quotes who said what to whom. And it works. My fave snippet:

“Those who don’t know can talk,” Dan Meridor, Israel’s intelligence minister, said Monday on state radio. “Those who know should keep silent.”


Monday, November 23 2009

Quote of the Day

"For every 30 people who come to Israel and stay here for one week, it means one person will be employed for a full year in the tourism industry."

Moshe Even-Zahav, the Ministry of Tourism's Director of Organizational Relations, on the importance of tourism to Israel's economy, in speaking to HonestReporting's mission.

5 Must-See Israel Photos

I spent some time surfing Flickr. These five photos are "must-see."

Air Force Ballet

Dusk Over the Kinneret

I'm So Cute

Negev Sand Tsunami

Sunset Skater


Sunday, November 22 2009

Bulldog Apology

After U. of Georgia Jewish students protested this Bill Richards cartoon in the Red and Black, editor Carolyn Crist apologized.

Crist and Richards were brave enough to admit that this cartoon equating Israel's security fence with the Berlin Wall was Off the Wall.


HR Editor Discusses Channel 4 Fuss

HonestReporting's managing editor, Simon Plosker, will appear on JNet Radio today to discuss Channel 4's documentary, Inside Britain's Israel Lobby, and the work of HonestReporting.

Be sure to tune in today at 3:15 p.m. GMT (5:15 p.m. Israel time). Click below to listen.



Thursday, November 19 2009

Why We Didn't Talk to Channel 4

Simonplosker2 Emails and comments on HonestReporting's response to Dispatches: Inside Britain's Israel Lobby continue to roll in.

A few readers are asking why we chose not to grant Channel 4's request to interview HR's managing editor, Simon Plosker. It's a fair question -- we deliberated over this too.

The aggressive nature of the initial email Plosker received from C4 was a big factor. So was the premise of the documentary, which already seemed to take for granted the existence of an "Israel lobby" in the UK. The email, which basically wanted Plosker to justify HonestReporting's work, reeked of hatchet job.

The possibility of balancing out C4 by playing along with them was accompanied by the risk that Oborne would cherry pick quotes from the interview, as well as the perception of HonestReporting legitimizing Oborne's "investigation" by appearing on it.

Plosker wrote back to C4 offering to answer more specific questions about HonestReporting by email. That message included some background info about HR and himself. But Channel 4 dropped any pretenses of politeness when Peter Oborne barged into MediaCentral office with a film crew looking for Plosker.

(MediaCentral is a Jerusalem-based HonestReporting initiative, providing support services for foreign journalists. The association with HonestReporting is openly stated on MediaCentral's web site.)

Here's the seven-minute portion of the video of relevance to HonestReporting. I think it validates our decision not to legitimize this documentary.

Related HonestReporting links responding to Channel 4:

'Myself As Exhibit A'
Under Attack: HR Accused by UK TV Documentary
HonestReporting Responds to Channel 4
Oborne's Opening Shots at the Israel Lobby
A Warped Look at Britain's 'Israel Lobby'

Bedouins Fighting For Israel

CNN's Paula Hancocks files a nice dispatch about Bedouins in the IDF.


Wednesday, November 18 2009

'Myself As Exhibit A'


Jonathan Boyd says MSM coverage of Israel has a direct bearing on the levels of anti-Semitism. That's in spite of what The Guardian's editor, Alan Rusbridger, told Channel 4's Dispatches program.

Boyd writes:

Perhaps most important, it failed to mention in any detail why some Jewish leaders may feel compelled to support Israel. Leaving aside the politics of the region, the notion that Israel is the ancestral homeland of the Jewish people, or that Israel is the only nation state in the world in which Judaism is mainstream, Jewish culture is the norm and the Hebrew language is widely spoken and celebrated, were all ignored.

But it is, apparently, much easier to trot out the old antisemitic myth. After all, the public deserves to know what these nasty, rich Jews are up to. And what could possibly be wrong in uncovering the truth? There cannot conceivably be a connection between the way Israel and Jews are presented in the media and antisemitism on the streets of Britain.

Or so Alan Rusbridger would have us believe. In the documentary, he maintained that he found it "difficult to believe" that any journalistic coverage of events in Israel could result in acts of violence against Jews on the streets of Britain.

Boyd goes on to describe being attacked by a Briton in 2002, thanks to irresponsible media coverage of Jenin:

Well, allow me to present myself as exhibit A. In April 2002, at the height of the Palestinian intifada, media reports began circulating that a massacre had been committed by the Israel Defence Force in Jenin, in the West Bank. Rumours circulated that hundreds of Palestinians had been killed. The BBC suggested 150. Saeb Erekat, interviewed on CNN, claimed 500. Yasser Abed Rabbo intimated 900. The overarching impression was that the IDF had committed a horrific atrocity.

On the following Saturday, I was walking to synagogue, wearing my kippah (skull cap) in the north London suburb of Finchley. On the way, I was punched in the face by a young man. It was an entirely unprovoked assault. We were simply crossing paths when he delivered a sudden, forceful, right hook. Taken aback, my first response was to ask why he had done it. "That's what happens to Jews," he responded, "when they behave like that."

Mitch Bard reached a similar conclusion to about rising levels of anti-Semitism in 2002:

In Europe there has been a relatively high level of antisemitic activity including attacks on and harassment of Jews as well as physical damage to Jewish community facilities. These activities reached their peak in the months of April and May of 2002, parallel to the Defensive Shield Campaign.

Rusbridger should know better. Last year he apologized for this 2002 staff-ed about the fighting in Jenin which asserted:

Israel's actions in Jenin were every bit as repellent as Osama Bin Laden's attack on New York on September 11."

The Guardian removed that odious comparison from the page -- but not before Boyd's attacker had ample time to read it. Perhaps Rusbridger should be the real exhibit A about the dynamic between the MSM and anti-Semitism.

Under Attack: HR Accused by UK TV Documentary

HonestReporting responds to a Channel 4 investigation of the UK's 'pro-Israel lobby'. See HonestReporting's latest communique: Under Attack: HR Accused by UK TV Documentary.

November 18 Links

What Does "Pro-Palestinian" Really Mean?
Abbas Has Only Himself to Blame
Shallow Polemic On Pro-Israel Lobby


Tuesday, November 17 2009

HonestReporting Responds to Channel 4


Channel 4 posted on YouTube last night's broadcast of Dispatches: Inside Britain's Israel Lobby.

Most of the video deals with domestic UK political angles which other UK organizations and bloggers are already addressing.

It's at 35:00 in the video when presenter Peter Oborne finally turns his attention to media issues related to the so-called Israel lobby. I'm only responding to the video from that point.

• If news staffers are looking over their shoulder as Charlie Beckett told Peter Oborne, then media watchdogs like HonestReporting are succeeding. We're not trying to create a chilling effect on the UK media, we just want news services to be responsible in the way they cover Israel and the Mideast.

As a publicly funded news service, BBC especially should be held accountable for its coverage. Beckett's comments indicate a BBC newsroom with an entrenched world view that's out of touch with a large segment of the public.

• Perhaps trying to illustrate our work, Oborne focuses on criticism of the BBC's April, 2003 documentary, Israel's Secret Weapon, which looked at Israel's nuclear program and Mordechai Vanunu (the video's here). With a voice of disdain, Oborne quotes from HonestReporting's website:

"The inference behind the film is that Israel would have been a more appropriate target than Iraq for coalition forces to attack."

On this point, Oborne's sloppy: HonestReporting never critiqued "Israel's Secret Weapon." The page Oborne read from was written in July, 2004, more than a year afterwards. That communique, Documenting BBC Documentaries, was based on an exhaustive report by Trevor Asserson: The BBC and the Middle East: The Documentary Campaign 2000-2004

We stand by Asserson's assertion about the film's inferences. But if Oborne wants to villify someone for criticizing what we maintain was a lousy documentary, Oborne targeted the wrong Zionist conspirator.

If this how Oborne "investigated" HonestReporting, what does this say about the veracity of the rest of his investigation?


• Our criticism of Orla Guerin's coverage of the Lebanon war (BBC's Orla Exposed) was based on bloggers and media watchdogs comparing Guerin's August 14, 2006 report with -- of all news services -- Channel 4.

Guerin and C4's Alex Thomson were both in Bint Jbeil on the same day, yet had diametrically opposed descriptions of the scope of the town's damage. 'Nuff said.

• Viewers love the drama of an investigative reporter showing up at someone's door with cameras rolling, ready to confront some nasty person and somehow bring a little justice into the world. That was the confrontation Oborne had in mind when he and a film crew showed up at Media Central looking for HR managing editor Simon Plosker.

(MediaCentral is a Jerusalem-based HonestReporting initiative, providing support services for foreign journalists. The association with HonestReporting is openly stated on MediaCentral's web site.)

Oborne apparently wanted to confront Plosker and portray him as shadowy figure connected to various organizations who make up the monolithic "Israel lobby." The stunt wasn't necessary though: Plosker's extensive background in Israel advocacy is described on HonestReporting UK's Meet the Team page.

In any event, Plosker's isn't obligated to be interviewed. He did supply C4's vaguely worded email requests with background info about himself and HonestReporting -- emails they chose to ignore.

Stay tuned for a more in-depth response to Channel 4 from HonestReporting tomorrow.

Tom Friedman's Second Hand Smoke

Looks like Roger Cohen caught a whiff of Tom Friedman's second-hand smoke:

Obama, who has his Nobel already, should ratchet expectations downward. Stop talking about peace. Banish the word. Start talking about détente. That’s what Lieberman wants; that’s what Hamas says it wants; that’s the end point of Netanyahu’s evasions.

It’s not what Abbas wants but he’s powerless. Shlomo Avineri, a political scientist, told me, “A nonviolent status quo is far from satisfactory but it’s not bad. Cyprus is not bad.”


Monday, November 16 2009

Oborne's Opening Shots at the Israel Lobby

Israel_lobby_pamphlet Peter Oborne, the Channel 4 journalist responsible for tonight's documentary, Inside Britain's Israel Lobby, explains his work in today's print edition of The Guardian:

During an investigation lasting several months, we have been able to reach several important conclusions. We maintain there is indeed a pro-Israel lobby in Britain. It is extremely well-connected and well-funded, and works through all the main political parties.

Some thoughts off the top of my head:

  • First of all, I blogged yesterday that HonestReporting was also contacted by Dispatches just days ago. For an investigation "several months" in the making, it's very fishy that Channel 4 waited till the very last minute to contact HonestReporting and other Jewish organizations.

  • I don't know anything about openDemocracy, which Oborne links to in the above snippet, but they're already offering "The Pro-Israel Lobby In Britain pamphlet." It's safe to assume that openDemocracy was intimately involved with C4's investigation -- its logo on the cover sits right beside the Channel 4 logo. You can even order a copy before tonight's broadcast, or save the money and read the pamphlet (pdf format) in full at Channel 4's web site for free.

  • My antennae are also twitching at openDemocracy's introduction, which was written by one Antony Lerman. If you look at Lerman's archives at The Guardian, you'll understand why.

  • The headaches created by Professors Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer have come full circle. Walt and Mearsheimer wrote about a Jewish lobby in the US, but it was a British publication, the London Review of Books, that was first to give a soapbox to their views. Will UK Jewry respond to Oborne the way American critics addressed Walt and Mearsheimer?

This is going to get more interesting . . .

UPDATE November 16: See reax from Melanie PhillipsRobin Shepherd and Tom Gross. Gross wishes there was a so-called Israel lobby worthy of Oborne's attention:

The complete lack of any effective pro-Israel lobby in Britain (as opposed to well organized anti-Israel groups) goes a long way to explaining why some of the coverage of Israel in the British media is among the worst in the world, and sometimes rivals the Iranian and Egyptian media for its sheer nastiness.

It also explains why Britain failed to back Israel last week at the U.N. General Assembly vote on the Goldstone report into Israeli war crimes . . .


Sunday, November 15 2009

A Warped Look at Britain's 'Israel Lobby'


Tomorrow night, UK viewers will be treated to what Channel 4's "Dispatches" program bills as Inside Britain's Israel Lobby.

Here are three reasons why HonestReporting's expecting the worst.

1. HonestReporting was in Channel 4's sights, too.

C4 emailed HonestReporting editor Simon Plosker about being interviewed.

By the time Plosker responded to the email, reporter Peter Oborne and a film crew showed up at the offices of MediaCentral with cameras rolling, looking for Plosker and an expose.

(MediaCentral is a Jerusalem-based HonestReporting initiative, providing support services for foreign journalists. The association with HonestReporting is openly stated on MediaCentral's web site.)

However, Plosker was in the UK on a speaking tour, leaving Oborne and MediaCentral director Aryeh Green together for an unpleasant exchange. As the camera rolled, Green simply asked Oborne to identify himself while Oborne badgered Green.

Under Ofcom regulations, Channel 4 -- as a public broadcaster -- is obliged to notify HonestReporting of any allegations it may be planning to broadcast, a point Plosker made in a followup email.


2. Channel 4's description of the show takes for granted the existence of a powerful "Israel lobby."

Here's how Channel 4 explains its "investigation."

Dispatches investigates one of the most powerful and influential political lobbies in Britain, which is working in support of the interests of the State of Israel.

Despite wielding great influence among the highest realms of British politics and media, little is known about the individuals and groups which collectively are known as the pro-Israel lobby.

Political commentator Peter Oborne sets out to establish who they are, how they are funded, how they work and what influence they have, from the key groups to the wealthy individuals who help bankroll the lobbying.

He investigates how accountable, transparent and open to scrutiny the lobby is, particularly in regard to its funding and financial support of MPs.

The pro-Israel lobby aims to shape the debate about Britain's relationship with Israel and future foreign policies relating to it.

Oborne examines how the lobby operates from within parliament and the tactics it employs behind the scenes when engaging with print and broadcast media.

Channel 4, in its very own words, pre-supposes or implies that organized UK Jewry:

  • Has exaggerated influence on politics and the media.

  • Has a problematic dual loyalty between Israel and Britain.

  • Is neither transparent, nor accountable to anyone.

  • May employ inappropriate "behind the scenes" tactics "within parliament" and while "engaging with print and broadcast media."

3. Is there anti-Semitism involved?

Ssimon_plosker2 Indeed, this might explain why the Community Security Trust received a similar email from C4, even though the CST fights anti-Semitism and is not involved with Israel advocacy. I liked how the CST blog summed up the issue:

. . . while we would not expect Dispatches or Hardcash Productions to make an antisemitic programme, all the standard tropes of antisemitic conspiracy theory are present in this website text: inordinate power and influence, large amounts of money, manipulation of politicians and media, and all done in secret. Even the way that “the pro-Israel lobby” is referred to as a single actor, moving and acting as one, suggests a sophisticated conspiracy, in which different organisations and individuals are in fact simply arms of the same single machine.

Dispatches has some hard-hitting investigative journalism under its belt, including Undercover Mosque, which took the first serious look at UK Islamic extremism. C4 officials told the Jewish Chronicle that Inside Britain's Israel Lobby is "not the synagogue equivalent of Undercover Mosque."

Stay tuned . . .

UPDATE November 16: The Jerusalem Post fills in more details on the brewing controversy.


Thursday, November 12 2009

Blurring the Line Between News and Commentary


I don't know if editors at The Scotsman intended this article on Benjamin Netanyahu's White House trip to be "news," "commentary," or a fuzzy in-between piece known as "news analysis."

But I do know it's in the paper's international news section. Ben Lynfield writes:

Before meeting US president Barack Obama at the White House on Monday, Israel's prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, gave a speech to American Jewish leaders with the standard desire-for-peace clichés, not taking into account that it is years of empty talk about peace while Israel entrenches occupation and grabs more land that has made Abbas's advocacy of negotiations unconvincing to many of his own people.

I wouldn't bat an eye if this were an op-ed or a properly labeled analysis.

But if this is what The Scotsman claims to be objective, acceptable news reporting, I can get the same tripe from the Palestinian media, where there's neither a pretense or expectation of fair coverage.

UPDATE 1:00 p.m.: This might be an example of an artificial Israeli "credibility gap," which Haviv Rettig Gur unspins:

The more likely source for this skepticism seems to be an effort to will Israeli intransigence into being so as to match the current Palestinian inability - born of internal Palestinian politicking - to come to the negotiating table.

Diplomats (and, as with Thomas Friedman, those who spend most of their days with them,) are unused to seeing a "conflict" in which the tactically weaker side might be the more belligerent one. With the Palestinian Authority demanding a total settlement freeze as a precondition for discussions, diplomats are striving to find an equivalent Israeli unwillingness to reach peace.

Gur's assessment is well worth-reading.


Wednesday, November 11 2009

A Buzzword's Worth 4,979 Words

Over at the NY Review of Books, Robert Malley and Hussein Agha needed 4,979 words to offer their take on the latest between Israel and the Palestinians and how to best fix things.

I'll boil it down to two words: Conflict Management.

Methinks we'll see more of this buzzword in 2010.

Off the Wall

Is there really a moral equivalence between the Berlin Wall and Israel's security fence? Steve Bell of The Guardian certainly thinks so: 


Unfortunately, he's not the only one. HonestReporting Canada already addressed similar spin at the CBC. And Jordan's Queen Rania writes at the Huffington Post:

Today, we celebrate the fall of the Berlin Wall; next year, we will celebrate the end of Apartheid in South Africa. These two events taught us that when barriers are removed - whether physical barriers, legal barriers, or the walls people build in their hearts - the ground is laid for progress, peace, and development for both sides. The people of my region yearn as well for justice and reconciliation.

What better way to honour these anniversaries than to tear down another wall?

But Eldad Beck explains why Bell, the CBC and the queen's comparisons are, uh, off the wall:

Apart from certain visual similarities, there is no connection between the Berlin Wall and the security fence.

The Berlin Wall separated members of the same nation who aspired, to some extent or another, to reunite in a joint political framework. Meanwhile, the security fence marks, to some extent or another, a future border between two nations that do not wish to coexist in one state, but rather, to split their shared land into two separate states.

It is surprising that precisely those who for a long time fought for the Palestinian right for their own state now demand to dismantle the security fence. After all, this fence pushed the Palestinians closer to geographical and political division that would constitute a basis for a separate political entity.

Charges regarding the “apartheid fence” reveal the true motives of the Palestinians and their supporters, who are uninterested in dividing the country and co-existing alongside Israel; rather, they are interested in taking over the entire land.

Let's face it, as a protection from terror, the wall works, but don't take my word for it. Islamic Jihad chief Ramadan Shalah gets it.

Beck refers to another barrier, which only the Arab world can tear down:

There is another wall in the Middle East which objectors to the security fence refuse to see, not to mention fight against, even though it is this wall that perpetuates the conflict between Jews and Arabs: The wall of boycotts and isolation imposed by most of the Muslim world against Israel since its establishment . . . .

As long as this wall exists, the sides would not be able to get to know each other and it would be impossible to counter the bias that fans the flames of this conflict. The “Middle Eastern Wall” had been established much before the security fence and it bears absolute responsibility for the security fence’s existence.

I wonder if it means anything to Bell, the CBC and Queen Rania that November 9 isn't a German national holiday -- the Times of London, to its credit, notes that this it's also the anniversary of Kristallnacht.

Update November 12: They just don't learn. HuffPo published yet another commentary equating the two barriers.

CBC Promotes False Barrier Analogy

CBC's attempt to liken the Berlin Wall to the Israeli security barrier deserves to be challenged. See HonestReporting Canada's latest communique: CBC Promotes False Barrier Analogy.


Tuesday, November 10 2009

Social Media in a Nutshell - Part 2

Tapping Facebook's potential: See HonestReporting's latest communique: Social Media in a Nutshell - Part 2

MSM and the Palestinian Rumor Mill


A journalist describes Palestinian intimidation of the press during the recent eastern Jerusalem disturbances over the Temple Mount.

The intimidation intertwined with rumors that Israeli security operatives were posing as journalists -- endangering Israeli, Western and Palestinian journos too. The source of the rumors comes from a Palestinian whose responsibility is to look after the interests of photojournalists. (I'll come back to that point).

At The Augean Stables, the anonymous Israeli reporter describes the scene in eastern Jerusalem during the street clashes:

“You’re an undercover cop!” he screamed in Arabic, a rock in his right hand as he grabbed onto me with his left.

“No, I’m a journalist!” I answered back, caught off guard at by the sudden jolt.

“No you’re not- you’re an undercover cop!” he screamed back. “Prove to me that you’re not an undercover cop!”

I reached into my pocket and pulled out my government-issued press card, thinking at the same moment that he would see the name of my publication, realize that it was an Israeli one, and my troubles would only grow.

But as he was scanning the card, another journalist, an Arab photographer, approached the both of us, and told the young man in Arabic that I was in fact a journalist.

“Enough, let him go,” he told him. And the young man did as he said . . . .

A few days later, tensions in and around the Old City were up again, and riots broke out - this time on the Temple Mount itself. I was there, covering additional unrest that broke out in the Muslim Quarter of the Old City, and I ran into the same Arab journalist who had assisted me during the Succot riots in Ras al-Amud.

“Thanks man,” I told him in Hebrew. “You really saved my ass that day - it was a close call.”

“You have no idea,” he responded. “I have family in Ras al-Amud, and I had to go back there that night and spend hours convincing them that I wasn’t working for the Israelis. They thought because I vouched for you, I was in on it too.”

Rumor The unidentified Palestinian hero blames Al-Jazeera, which the Israeli journalist couldn't confirm.

But a key player in spreading the rumor is Awad Awad. He's the chairman of the Palestinian Photojournalists Committee. Last month, he shared his allegations with Benjamin Joffe-Walt of The Media Line; the full report was republished in the Jerusalem Post:

Palestinian photographers are claiming that undercover Israeli security officers have been posing as photojournalists covering the recent Muslim demonstrations in Jerusalem.

Awad Awad, chairman of the Palestinian Photojournalists Committee, said a group of local residents had confirmed the presence of an Israeli police unit known to imitate Arab civilian dress, as well as Israeli security personnel posing as photojournalists and then arresting protesters.

"People in east Jerusalem claimed they saw this on Thursday, but at first I just thought they were talking," Awad told The Media Line. "But then on Friday lots of people saw three policemen dressed as still-photographers suddenly detain one of the protesters. Lots of Palestinian photographers started calling me and one resident caught it on his cellphone camera, but he says he doesn't want to get in trouble and he hasn't given me the pictures."

But Awad's story doesn't square with other journalists who were there. Joffe-Walt goes on to write:

There was disagreement among photographers at the scene of last week's clashes as to whether the incident took place, and the Foreign Press Association decided not to issue a statement on the matter. While other photojournalists on the scene confirmed the presence of police in civilian dress, many said they did not see Israeli officers posing as media people.

"I'd be the first one to stand up on the rooftops and shout this is not kosher, but as far as I know this did not happen and I think it's just a rumor," said a foreign photographer, who asked that his name not be published. "If it did happen, it wouldn't be the first time, but I was there and while I saw the undercover police I did not see this happen, and neither did other foreign and local photographers I asked."

"The problem is that even if it didn't happen, the fact that people may believe that it did makes it more difficult for the press to work, because people don't trust the press," the photographer told The Media Line. "So I think it needs to be squashed as soon as possible."

I wouldn't put it past the Israeli security services to pose as journalists, and I hope the allegation isn't true.

That said, I find it mind-boggling that Awad, whose role is to protect the interests of Palestinian journalists has endangered them (and their Israeli and Western counterparts) without furnishing any evidence.


Monday, November 9 2009

Missing Ambassador's Media Appearance

Wondering where was Susan Rice, the US ambassador to the UN, when the General Assembly endorsed the Goldstone report? Turns out she was taping an appearane on the Daily Show with Jon Stewart. Credit Phyllis Bennis for connecting the dots:

There was lots of speculation why Rice was not there herself - had she been called to the White House for last-minute consultations? Would her presence somehow give the resolution and thus the Goldstone report itself too much significance? Was her deputy better at playing "bad cop"? Actually, it was none of the above. The US Ambassador to the United Nations, Her Excellency Susan Rice, was indeed in New York, but not at United Nations headquarters. The defining clue came at 11 p.m. that night, when The Daily Show With Jon Stewart came on the air. Featuring special guest Ambassador Susan Rice.

The hit show of Comedy Central, The Daily Show airs in the late-night slot. But it always tapes the show ahead of time, around 5:00 in the afternoon. The UN vote to endorse the Goldstone report took place at 4:45.

Sure enough, Rice's segment's online. Feel free to disagree, but I'm not going to criticize the the ambassador for shunning a debate whose odious outcome was anyway a foregone conclusion. Stewart and Rice discussing Goldstone would've made for great blogging, but the issue didn't come up.

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart Mon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Susan Rice
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Political Humor Health Care Crisis
Abbas Undermining Fayyad?

How is Salam Fayyad to get the UN and Obama's support for unilateral statehood while West Bank officials openly talk about dissolving the Palestinian Authority?


Sunday, November 8 2009

November 8 Links

Analysis: Abbas Stepping Down
The Goldstone Illusion
IDF Colonel Discusses Dilemmas of Warfare
Hezbollah Gears Up For New War
We Need "A Street," Not J Street
Saudi Cast Lead


Thursday, November 5 2009

NY Times Misses Iranian Connection


NY Times readers can be forgiven for not believing Iran is connected to arms boat seized en route to Syria. Reporter Myra Noveck writes:

News reports quoted the Israeli president, Shimon Peres, and other officials saying the ship had been carrying the arms from Iran to Hezbollah forces in Lebanon, but officials released no evidence to support those claims.

Heh. AP detailed that evidence:

Open crates from a cargo ship seized Wednesday by Israel revealed dark green missiles inside. Containers from the vessel bore writing in English that said "I.R. Iranian Shipping Lines Group." . . . .

Some of the weapons were hidden in the Francop's containers behind stacked bags of polyethylene labeled in English "NPC National Petrochemical Company," and the flame logo used by both the company and the Iranian Petroleum Ministry . . . .

The Francop's containers were carefully unloaded on army forklifts to avoid accidental detonation. Some of the containers had the initials "I.R.I.S.L.'' printed on one side and the fuller title, "I.R. (Islamic Republic of) Iran Shipping Lines Group" on the other. Explosives experts and dog-sniffing units examined the haul.

The Israeli military said cargo certificates showed the ship departed an Iranian port for Syria, from where the weapons would be transferred to Hezbollah in Lebanon. The military did not show the documents, and Syria denied the vessel was carrying weapons.

The AP story is on the NYT's web site. Good thing the Gray Lady's not experimenting with dropping AP content this week.

UPDATE: I see The Guardian and The Independent made similar mistakes.

Watch The Goldstone Debate Live

Who: Judge Richard Goldstone, author of the Goldstone Report, and Dore Gold, former Israeli ambassador to the UN.

What: Debate the report and the issues of Operation Cast Lead it raises.

Where: Brandeis University, Waltham, Mass.

When: Today, 5:00 p.m. Eastern Standard Time (that's 10:00 p.m in the UK, and midnight in Israel)

Why: If you have to ask, check out Understanding the Goldstone Report and HonestReporting's special report - The Goldstone Report: Rewarding Palestinian Terror - for more information.

How to watch: Just click on the play button to watch in streaming video.


Wednesday, November 4 2009

Nominate This Year's Dishonest Reporter


Besides some other elections in the news, now’s the time to send us your nominations for the 2009 Dishonest Reporting Awards -- our annual recognition of the year’s most skewed and biased coverage of Israel and the Mideast conflict.

Please nominate one reporter or news service along with a brief explanation why he/she/it deserves to receive our ignoble award. Then send your submission to

We’ll announce the results in a special year-end communiqué. Due to the volume of mail, we can't acknowledge nominations. See our past "winners" -- and don’t forget to vote!

More Swedish Blood Libels

Not only has Donald Bostrom reiterated his bodysnatching charge against the IDF, Sunday's Aftonbladet reported (and Haaretz picked up on) that the Swedish daily has been in contact with

"a woman in Geneva whom, together with a lawyer, is preparing a letter to the UN concerning 15 illegally autopsied Palestinians, of whom eight have been proven to have missing organs - as late as in 2008."

Haaretz elaborates:

The piece, written by culture section editor Åsa Linderborg, claims that the material has not yet been disclosed as the Palestinian families in question are scared to death of Israeli reprisals.

Linderborg referred to a recent organ trafficking case in Haifa, in which two men were jailed, and the case of Yehuda Hiss, Israel's chief state pathologist and former director of the Abu Kabir forensic institute, who admitted to have taken tissue from a deceased Israeli soldier in 2001.

"Two months after the publication by Aftonbladet, the first verdict hits [in the Israeli organ affair]. There will be more," said the piece.

The Haifa incident was indeed shameful, and the case of Yehuda Hiss even more so. But Aftonbladet's attempt to link them (and the New Jersey scandal) to the IDF is based on no evidence.

The same Haaretz report also describes a telling exchange between Bostrom and one of his Swedish critics:

Economist Anna Vider also attacked Boström's working methods, citing his use of witness reports solely from Palestinians, his failure to follow up with the Israeli authorities, the lack of interviews, and research. She also slammed him for linking a 1992 incident to allegations of organ trafficking in New Jersey in 2009.

"It takes a lot of research, it´s not just something you do in a week," Vider said: "As a journalist, he [Boström] should have taken it further. I think it's dishonest."

Boström rebuffed the criticism by saying: "I'm a reporter, not an investigator."

"He links the events, but refuses to discuss the connection," Vider continued. "It is indecent to wait for the scandal in New Jersey before publishing it. Why didn't he do it in 1992? This article has great impact on how Israelis look on Sweden and our involvement in the conflict."

Whoa! Bostrom's shirking off a reporter's basic responsibility of fact checking. As every student learns in Journalism 101: "If your mother says she loves you, check it out."

Demonization, Day In Day Out

By monitoring and translating Arabic media, Memri and Palestinian Media Watch have opened an important window into the Arab world's views. The Memri blog frequently flags political cartoons like these; after seeing enough of them as I scroll down my feed, I "got used to" the poison pen style.

Fortunately, Tim Marshall of Sky News reminds us that this demonization isn't something we should "get used to." His wake up call was sparked by this cartoon in the PA-controlled daily, Al Hayat Al Jadida:


The context? Coverage and commentary of Hillary Clinton's about-face on Israeli settlements, Marshall explains:

Then comes another article. "Why, Mrs. Hillary? How much did the Zionists pay you as a bribe?"

Aha, now the Americans are in the pay of the dastardly Zionists. This shift through the gears of paranoia and prejudice then accelerates backwards to the 1930's and a cartoon which could have come straight from the poisoned pages of the Nazi publication, Der Sturmer (The Attacker).

Uncle Sam looks into the mirror to see himself reflected as hook nosed religious Jew wearing a hat with the star of David. What a noxious collection of images, all rolling into the big lie that Jews control the world . . . .

When Israeli soldiers commit criminal acts in times of war, or scrawl 'Death To Arabs' on walls in Gaza, they are rightly taken to task, but this casual, day in day out, demonization of a people passes as normality in the Arab world, and without mainstream comment elsewhere. Why?

Why, indeed?


Tuesday, November 3 2009

Discovering Jewish Terror


See HonestReporting’s latest media critiques:

Imagine the Outrage if Israel Did This

Worldweb From today's Globe & Mail:

In the wake of violent rioting in the western city of Urumqi back in July, Chinese authorities took a radical step: cutting off all Internet, text-messaging and international telephone services in Xinjiang, a restive province home to 21 million people.

Nearly four months later – and despite official assertions that calm has returned to Xinjiang following the ethnic violence that left almost 200 people dead – the cut-off remains in place, effectively severing the predominantly Uyghur Muslim region from communicating with the rest of the planet.

It's only called "collective punishment" if Israel does it.


Monday, November 2 2009

Bostrom in Israel: Contrasting Interviews


While in Israel for the Dimona Media Conference, Donald Bostrom -- better known for writing the Swedish blood libel -- was interviewed by Haaretz's Gideon Levy and by Channel 2's Yair Lapid.

Talk about stark contrasts. Levy gives Bostrom a platform to spout off with unchallenged answers like this:

Would you write it differently now?

"If I were writing it again, I would stress that the IDF liquidates so many youths without a trial and that they take bodies and conduct autopsies on them without the permission of the families. My article created confusion and was incorrectly interpreted. I admire your democratic courage to invite me to explain myself here."

Lapid, on the other hand, pulled no punches:

Lapid shot back, "To say this without a shred of evidence, that Israel possibly harvested organs from Palestinians who disappeared, in other words, whom we kidnapped, killed, and robbed their organs, is a degrading and monstrous idea."

In response, Bostrom said that he understands why people are angry, saying that everyone lies while at war. He said that it is difficult for reporters to distinguish between what is correct and what is a lie. "If it were just one family, fine. But there were many families. Mothers have a right to know what happened to their sons," claimed Bostrom.

See also Lapid's commentary on Bostrom, published before the interview.

November 2 Links

How Israel Destroyed Syria's Al Kibar Reactor
Writing Jews Out of Jerusalem’s History
Turkish TV Consultant Resigns Over Palestinian Protest
Can One Bad Mouth Israel?
Scandal Watch: New York Times


Sunday, November 1 2009

A Poor Excuse for Stifling Debate

Donald Bostrom, better known as the journalist behind the Swedish blood libel, has now arrived in Israel to attend a media conference in Dimona.

To give you an idea of the passions surrounding Bostrom, the Swedish journalist -- who wrote that Israel was using the IDF to harvest Palestinian organs -- is being provided with bodyguards. Meanwhile, the Ministry for the Development of the Negev and the Galilee withheld $60,000 allocated for the event, which is going ahead as planned.

Don't say Bostrom's free speech was stifled in Israel . . .

HR Canada Launches New Website

Check out HonestReporting Canada's new website, with exciting new features and a bevy of information, resources, and user functionality.

Playing With Matches On the Temple Mount

The Palestinians and the MSM like to describe the Temple Mount as a tinderbox and Israeli actions could spark a new intifada or regional conflict. Two weekend Israeli media reports knock holes in that conventional wisdom.

First there's Haaretz, which reports that Fatah has been helping organize the latest violence at the Jerusalem holy site:

As is the case with his fellow Fatah activists, it's doubtful that [Hatem] Abdel Qader really wants the escalation on the mount to spark a conflagration throughout the territories. Their main intention seems to be to make their presence felt, to let off steam and then to return to routine in the compound. But the political environment, and especially the media, pushes them to make very aggressive statements against Israel, including accusations of attempts to damage the Al-Aqsa Mosque, even though nothing has changed on the ground at the Temple Mount in recent weeks.

Meanwhile, the Jerusalem Post reports that Waqf officials who oversee the Temple Mount are quietly pleased that Israel finally clamped down on Qader and Sheikh Raed Salah. As Vered Levine argued two years ago, Salah's another troublemaker whose media fame is disproportionate to the constituency he actually represents.

So if another "the second Al-Aqsa intifada" breaks out, just remember the Palestinians and the big media were playing with the matches beforehand.


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