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Monday, May 31 2010

Video: Armed 'Peace Activists'

10:26 p.m: Now that the dust is starting to settle, here's the casualty count from the IDF Spokesperson's Blog:

7 soldiers wounded
9 activists dead

The deaths are regrettable, but what happened today can't be called massacre by any stretch of the imagination. It won't mitigate calls for an inquiry though. I'll let Robin Shepherd explain why:

But why call for an investigation if you’ve already drawn your conclusion that the use of force was excessive?

9:35 p.m: Jonathan Kay (via Martin Kramer) on WWNKD (what would North Korea do):

If Israel truly had wanted to “massacre” the Hamas sympathizers and fellow travellers aboard a six-ship Gaza-bound flotilla, the operation would not have been complicated. The Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) would have used the trusty North Korean solution: Torpedo the ships and watch them sink to the bottom of the sea. That’s certainly what Hamas would have done to a boatload of Jews, if it got the chance . . . 

Like the bogus Jenin massacre, this episode will be used as just another stick to beat the Jewish state — even by those same pundits and activists who can’t be roused to say a single word when genuine “massacres” unfold in other parts of the world, such as the slaughter of more than 90 members of the Ahmadi sect in Pakistan. On sea, as on land, this is the double-standard that Israel always must battle when it acts to defend itself against terrorists and their media-savvy enablers.

9:28 p.m: Clothes make the man. David Hazony writes:

A good friend of mine is a nurse who was on duty in the emergency room at a Jerusalem hospital when some of the injured “activists” were brought in. She tells me that many of them are wearing camouflage. “Not sure they were official Turkish army clothes,” she says, “but they weren’t civilian dress, that’s for sure.”

9:13 p.m: Does this AFP caption from the NY Times front page prove that politics makes for strange bedfellows? Who knew there was any disparity of views between anti-Israel demonstrators and Iranian police?


9:01 p.m: Back after dinner and bedtime with the kids. I see Israel's statement to the UN Security Council is on the Washington Post web site (pdf format).

6:14 p.m: My prediction for the unfolding media battle: UK papers to lynch Israel anyway. Worth watching is how the Israeli intercept plays out in North American op-eds over the week. Everyone's coming back from Memorial Day weekend preoccupied by the latest from the Gulf oil spill.

5:57 p.m: The Channel 2 video that originally started this post is now on YouTube for your embedding-sharing-posting pleasure. Credit Elder of Ziyon for uploading.

5:37 p.m: Bibi's White House meeting cancelled.

5:20 p.m: I agree with Stephanie Gutmann on the affair being "win-win" for Hamas:

Over the last few years, Hamas, controller of the Gaza strip, has increasingly discovered the joys and cost efficiencies of media war. If you’re lucky, a rocket fired from the Strip kills one or two Israeli civilians. Meanwhile a well-timed Al Jazeera or BBC videotape of Israeli military “atrocities” goes around the world. Increasingly Hamas and its international supporters have attempted to engineer such atrocity tapes; civilian lives are considered a small price to pay.

5:09 p.m: I'll just continue updating this post in reverse chronological order. I didn't plan to live-blog today, but one post with everything makes the most sense. The IDF posted this video filmed from a helicopter hovering over the Mavi Marmara.

Commandos also recounted what happened to YNet News.

3:52 p.m: Israel's Channel 2 has footage of Gaza "peace activists" attacking soldiers with knives and crowbars aboard the Mavi Marmara.

To better understand the video, the Free Gaza people are the ones in the orange life vests.

Special Alert: Flotilla Battle Unleashes Anti-Israel Wave

Will the media report accurately and fairly as anti-Israel activists violently resist an IDF naval boarding with tragic results?

See HonestReporting's special report: Flotilla Battle Unleashes Anti-Israel Wave


Sunday, May 30 2010

Yahoo Weather Rains on Jerusalem

Despite the fact that the weather in Israel is either hot or even hotter, Simon Plosker, our Managing Editor, still likes to check out the forecast for Jerusalem on his iPhone using the pre-installed Yahoo Weather application.

But over the weekend he couldn't work out why the weather for Jerusalem simply wouldn't update. Turns out that the Weather application has unilaterally divided Jerusalem into "West Jerusalem" and "East Jerusalem, West Bank". Check out these two screen grabs:



"West" and "East" Jersualem aren't stand-alone geographic entities. Jerusalem was always a unified city -- the only exception being from 1948-1967, when Jordan captured the city's eastern neighborhoods where both Jews and Arabs lived.

I wonder what prompted Yahoo Weather to suddenly follow the footsteps of the UK Advertising Standards Authority, which ruled that Israel can't promote eastern Jerusalem as part of the Jewish state. 

It's just another example of the soft, creeping spin denying historic Jewish claims over Jerusalem.

UPDATE May 30: This is part of a larger, ongoing problem at Yahoo Weather. In January, Mere Rhetoric first blogged Yahoo Weather getting twisted up in knots trying to politicize weather reports in Ariel, Jenin and Gilo.

Even the weather's political.

May 30 Links

Gaza Flotilla's Ties to Turkish Terror
FW de Klerk Dismisses Claim of Israeli Nuclear Offer
The Struggle for Gaza: Hamas vs. the UN
PA Officials Think About Replacing Israeli Shekel With Palestine Pound
Syria Accused of Arming Hezbollah From Secret Bases
Australia Part of Fake Passport Swapping Club


Thursday, May 27 2010

SUCCESS! - Comedy Central Caves in to Pressure

• The offensive "I.S.R.A.E.L. Attack!" game is removed in its entirety following HonestReporting's successful campaign: SUCCESS! - Comedy Central Caves in to Pressure

• A NY Times syndicated cartoonist draws an inappropriate response to a Palestinian donkey bomb: Cartoonist Makes an Ass of Himself

Why is Israel Gov't Press Office Recommending Gaza Restaurant?

Roots_club_dinnerJust why is Israel's Government Press Office recommending a restaurant in Gaza -- of all place?

The Roots Club, an upscale restaurant and club came to light when journalist Tom Gross highlighted a growing Gaza middle class not covered in the MSM. Gross writes:

Indeed the BBC and other prominent Western media regularly lead their viewers and readers astray with accounts of a non-existent “mass humanitarian catastrophe” in Gaza.

What they won’t tell you about are the fancy new restaurants and swimming pools of Gaza, or about the wind surfing competitions on Gaza beaches, or the Strip’s crowded shops and markets. Many Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza live a middle class (and in some cases an upper class) lifestyle that western journalists refuse to report on because it doesn’t fit with the simplistic story they were sent to write.

Here, courtesy of the Palestinian Ma’an news agency, is a report on Gaza’s new Olympic-sized swimming pool . (Most Israeli towns don’t have Olympic-size swimming pools. One wonders how an area that claims to be starved of water and building materials and depends on humanitarian aid builds an Olympic size swimming pool and creates a luxury lifestyle for some while others are forced to live in abject poverty as political pawn refugees?)

Tongue in cheek, GPO director Danny Seaman sent an email to the foreign press corps recommending the restaurant for journos heading to the strip to cover the Free Gaza flotilla. Seaman told the Jerusalem Post of the angry responses he received:

“The same journalists who constantly point a finger at Israel were outraged by this. One journalist asked me in response, ‘don’t you have rich and poor areas [in Gaza] like everywhere else?’ I responded by asking her, ‘Why don’t you write about the affluent parts of Gaza?”

Is there a lot of poverty in Gaza? Yes.

Does the closure create difficulties? Undeniably.

Does Hamas bear any responsibility for the situation? Absolutely.

I wonder if Lauren Booth is on Seaman's mailing list.


Wednesday, May 26 2010

Why Facebook Is Sweeping Aside Arab Media

OnlineHonestReporting's social media editor, Alex Margolin, contributes occasional posts on social media issues. He oversees HonestReporting on Facebook.

The shift from print media to the Internet and social media is like a tidal wave sweeping everything in its path – even the Arab world. The BBC reported this week that Facebook membership in Arab countries has surpassed the number of newspaper readers.

The BBC cited a Dubai-based public relations firm, which found that 15 million Arabs use Facebook, while the combined newspaper circulation, including English and French editions, falls just under 14 million. (The full study's here.)

Magdi Abdelhadi, the BBC’s Middle East editor who wrote the article, implied that Facebook’s incredible penetration, even in countries like Saudi Arabia, could have been predicted:

The findings should come as no surprise. The majority of the region's more than 300 million people is young, and Internet use is on the rise.

In societies where political freedoms are severely limited, many have also resorted to Facebook as an alternative to the public sphere.

Abdelhadi may have seen it coming, but others who follow Internet trends might be astonished by the news. After all, news articles that mention both Facebook and Arabs or Muslims tend to focus on topic such as government bans on the service. Just last week, Pakistan banned Facebook and Youtube for “sacrilegious” content.

Sometimes the bans are political. Last year, following HonestReporting’s successful campaign to force Facebook to allow Golan residents to list Israel in their home country, the Syrian government banned Facebook for a second time.

Surprises aside, Abdelhadi is right about Facebook and other social media serving as outposts of freedom in otherwise dictatorial regimes.

Following Iran's contested election last year, protestors took to Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter to tell the world what was happening. They had no choice – Iran blocked traditional media from covering the protests.

But social media is more than a lifeline for the oppressed. It serves the basic human need to communicate more naturally than any media before it. That’s why it will continue to sweep aside traditional media -- especially when the media is a state-run organ for repression.

UPDATE: May 27: Carrington Malin of SpotOn PR, who wrote the report, shares further thoughts in the comment section below. Carrington, please keep us posted on the changes you observe.

Previously in Alex's series: Is the Internet Creating a New Type of News Bias?

Palestinian Journo Reacts to Death Threats

Khaled_abu_toamehThe background: While on a visit Down Under, Palestinian journalist Khaled Abu Toameh was threatened by the PLO's "ambassador" to Australia, Ali Razak.

The threat: Razak told The Australian:

Kazak told The Australian: "Khaled Abu Toameh is a traitor." These are dangerous words in the context of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and Kazak admits that many Palestinians are murdered in the West Bank and Gaza for being traitors.

He says he doesn't agree with it but: "Traitors were also murdered by the French Resistance, in Europe; this happens everywhere."

Asked why he calls Abu Toameh a traitor, Kazak says: "Palestinians are the victims. He shouldn't write about them, he should write about the crimes of the Israelis."

Kazak admits there is corruption and violence in the West Bank and Gaza. "Of course, Palestinian society isn't perfect. I myself have criticised it," he says. But Kazak objects to Abu Toameh writing about it.

The response: Toameh writes:

Kazak's threat does not come as a surprise to those who are familiar with the methods used by Arab dictatorships to silence anyone who dares to demand reforms and transparency.

The threat reminds journalists like me how lucky we are that we live in Israel and not under the jurisdiction of the PLO or Hamas . . . .

The PLO, like most of the Arab dictatorships, has a long history of targeting journalists who refuse to "toe the line." This clampdown is one of the main reasons why the Palestinian media is still far from being independent and free . . . .

The absence of a free and independent media in the Palestinian territories has driven many Palestinians to seek work in the Western media, including Israeli newspapers and radio and TV stations.

Read the whole thing.

The problem Toameh spotlights doesn't just effect Palestinian news consumers. Western news services rely heavily on Palestinian stringers, who face the same pressures. Earlier this year, when the Journalists Syndicate voted for new leadership, Fatah was caught rigging the vote. Hamas' regulations on style and wording prompted one reporter to despairingly exclaim:

"I'm unconvinced by every term I draw on in my reporting."

For Palestinian journalists living under Hamas or Fatah jurisdiction, the alternative to speaking out is to follow the party line. It makes for dreary reporting, but it's safer, isn't it?


Tuesday, May 25 2010

Apartheid Nukes: The Day After

One day after The Guardian's sensationalized report that Israel offered nuclear weapons to South Africa's apartheid regime, I'm seeing more indications -- some from South Africa -- that the allegations don't hold water.

I'll start off with the South African Press Association, which quoted former foreign minister Pik Botha:

"I doubt it very much," he said. "I doubt whether such an offer was ever made. I think I would have known about it." . . . .

But as minister of foreign affairs from April 1977, and, towards the end of his term, as negotiator with the US on the signing of the nuclear non-proliferation treaty, he had known "what was going on."

"I was very closely connected with our Atomic Energy Board and later Corporation. I would have known about it," he said.

And Reuters reports:

Waldo Stumpf, the former head of South Africa's Nuclear Energy Corporation, who led the project to dismantle the country's nuclear weapons program, said he doubted Israel or South Africa would have contemplated a deal seriously.

"To even consider the possible international transfer of nuclear devices . . . in the political climate post the 1974 Indian 'peaceful' explosion, would have had very serious international complications," he said, referring to India's first nuclear test blast.

See also Jonathan Hoffman's reaction.


Monday, May 24 2010

One Decade Since Israel Left the Lebanese Security Zone

Lebanon_borderTwo Lebanese nationals look back on Israel's withdrawal from the southern Lebanese security zone after 10 years.

Elias Bejjani and Charbel Barakat explain why a lot of co-nationals fled to Israel, and how the withdrawal changed strategic equations in the Mideast. Their grim conclusion:

As a result of the Israeli withdrawal, there has been an enormous global escalation of terrorism not only in the Middle East, but in many other countries. Progress of peace efforts suffered a remarkable setback and worldwide violence prevailed leading to the 9/11 attacks and to subsequent acts of terrorism throughout Europe and the rest of the world . . . .

Sadly, Lebanon is now living a repeat of same ghastly milieu that prevailed in 1982: tension, instability, chaos, and forced absence of any input on what goes on its land. The war-peace decision making process is again in the hands of Syria and Iran, while weapons of all kinds are smuggled to Hezbollah and to other Lebanese - Palestinian armed terrorist groups via Syria without any kind of control or impunity.

Related reading: Re-examining Hezbollah History

Nukes & Apartheid: The Guardian's Double Libel

A sensationalised "exclusive" highlights The Guardian's obsession with Israeli 'apartheid'.

See HonestReporting UK's latest media critique: Nukes & Apartheid: The Guardian's Double Libel


Sunday, May 23 2010

Is There A Double Standard On Home Demolitions?

Is the destruction of Palestinian homes news? Not when Hamas is behind it. Yarden Frankl and I discuss double standards in media coverage of the Mideast. Click to hear today's podcast.

'Jew Producer' Silenced: Comedy Central Update

Your protests hold Comedy Central to account but an offensive game remains "hidden" online.

See HonestReporting's latest communique: "Jew Producer" Silenced: Comedy Central Update

AFP and Islamic Jihad's Kiddy Cannon Fodder

Nader Abu Dakkar and Hamdi Abu Hammad, both 17 years old, were killed by the IDF after breaching the Israel-Gaza border fence. They were carrying Kalashnikovs, and tactical military vests.

Islamic Jihad deliberately sending kids to die is bad enough. After seeing their skewed adjectives in this dispatch, I have to wonder if AFP has any moral compass either:

Militants Bury Gunmen Killed in Israel Shootout

AFP - Calling for revenge against Israel, gun-toting Islamic Jihad militants on Saturday took part in the funeral of two of their comrades killed on a rare cross-border raid into Israel.

Nader Abu Dakkar and Hamdi Abu Hammad, both aged 17, were shot dead in an exchange of fire with Israeli troops on Friday after they breached the Gaza border fence and headed toward nearby Israeli villages, the military said.

Despite their youth, Islamic Jihad identified the two young Palestinians as members of Al-Quds Brigades, its military wing . . .

The two militants had infiltrated Israel "apparently with the intention of carrying out terror attacks," Israel's Haaretz newspaper website said.

I don't believe that Dakkar and Hammad were -- in AFP's own words -- "gunmen," "comrades," "members," or "militants."  Those adjectives suggest a higher level of choice and training they could not have had. It's known that the Palestinian terror groups send kids to test IDF responses.

Here's a more grimly accurate adjective that comes to mind: cannon fodder.


Thursday, May 20 2010

Chomsky, Wilders and the MSM's Dissident Dissonance

Noam_chomskyRobin Shepherd brings some sanity to the debate over Israel's refusal to allow Noam Chomsky to enter Israel and the West Bank.

He compares how the media spun the UK's ban on Dutch politician Geert Wilders from visiting last year.

In the sharply contrasting reactions to what ostensibly looks like two similar cases, what we have here is a remarkably illustrative case study of how the dominant opinion formers in the western media view the world. Chomsky, an extremist who displays complete contempt for reasoned discourse and who provides succour to totalitarian movements and their apologists around the world, is hailed as a hunted hero: a dissident being oppressed in a manner which led the Times gleefully to report an Israeli writer as saying “we may be becoming fascists”.

The Times article in question opened by describing Chomsky as “a leading left-wing political thinker”. The BBC went further, admiringly describing him as “Renowned US scholar Noam Chomsky”. Wilders is always described as “far-Right” Dutch politician, Geert Wilders. The tone of articles about him is condemnatory; the subtext consistently portrays him as a racist with no place in polite society.

Such are the values and beliefs which guide the thinking of a liberal establishment in Europe which has a near monolithic dominance over the political mainstream. A storm in a tea cup involving one of their heroes on the Jordanian border is indignantly magnified into a grotesque example of the horrors visited upon a gentle and brilliant intellectual by an oppressive Jewish state. A flawed but brave Dutch politician, a genuine political dissident who faces the threat of death and jail for his views, is excoriated and branded a pariah even though he has no grudge against the state which denied him entry.

Here's last year's coverage of Wilders from the Times and the Beeb for comparison. Read Shepherd's full post and judge for yourself.


Tuesday, May 18 2010

Comedy Central's Signs of Regret

Signs of regret at Comedy Central?

Their I.S.R.A.E.L. Attack! game is still online, but CC no longer features it so prominently.

Also, their introductory video has removed the contentious phrase, "You lied to me, Jew producer."

The original, unedited version, can be seen here (hat tip: Jewlicious)


Original Video- More videos at TinyPic

If Comedy's Central's acting on the defensive, it's only because readers are letting the station know that I.S.R.A.E.L. Attacks! is simply indefensible.

As Dvir Abramovich wrote at the Sydney Morning Herald:

The unmistakable message is that when there’s any slaughtering of children to be done, it’s I.S.R.A.E.L that does the job. According to the creative team at Comedy Central, that’s the natural association we should all make when we think of the Jewish state and its people.

That not one executive found anything objectionable, defamatory, tasteless and hateful about the game speaks volumes about how entrenched and mainstream the vilifying of Israel and Jews has become. It seems that the notion of self-censorship did not apply when the demonising of Jews was on the agenda.

Our new Facebook group now has nearly 1,800 members. See HonestReporting's original critique, plus my take on additional points raised by comments and the roar of the crowd.

Detractors Go Postal To Stamp Out Israel

A stamp commemorating Israeli-Canadian friendship sparks backlash in the media.

See HonestReporting Canada's latest communique: Detractors Go Postal To Stamp Out Israel


Monday, May 17 2010

Comments and the Roar of the Crowd

Comedy_centralOur critique of Comedy Central really touched a nerve with readers. In less than 24 hours, our new Facebook group is at nearly 1,000 members, with plenty of comments. There's also more reader buzz on Backspin here, on YouTube (one place hosting our podcast), and on HonestReporting's Facebook page.

I'd like to respond to three points readers are raising.

1. Comedy Central's game is a joke. HR should lighten up.

I strongly disagree. I find this argument dismissive of the fact that Comedy Central's game perpetuates a stereotype of Israel as kid-killers. The Comedy Central name on an online video game creates an aura of cool around some very offensive humor and inaccurate stereotypes. This comment posted on Backspin by Jay highlights the point:

Oh I get it, they're alluding to the fact the idf killed many innocent children during the gaza siege right?

2. Jews aren't the only people offended by Comedy Central. They knock everyone.

After sending out the critique, it was brought to our attention that the game, I.S.R.A.E.L. Attacks, is in the context of a crude Comedy Central animated TV show called Drawn Together. Although that show was cancelled in 2007, a Drawn Together movie was released in April. Normally, I'd link to the show or the movie so readers can see and judge for yourself, but they're too crude and explicit.

The argument that "they offend everyone" really means "they're offensive." It doesn't mitigate Drawn Together's painful stereotyping, whether we're talking about Jews, Catholics, Muslims, blacks, gays, etc. I can only imagine the Christian reaction to another Comedy Central series under consideration: JC.

Let's keep some perspective: We're not asking Comedy Central to have thought-police monitor their own content, we're not condemning the network as a whole, nor are we calling for a boycott. We're simply asking that I.S.R.A.E.L. Attacks be removed from Comedy Central's web site. On this point, I'll give the last word to John in Michigan, who wrote on Backspin:

The video game suggests to me that the Drawn Together producers were desperate for publicity, and will try anything to attract controversy.

3. HonestReporting is silencing dissenting views.

Not at all. The podcast began with Yarden Frankl describing how his wife's car was stoned by a Palestinian last week. I'm going to elevate Penparc's comment on YouTube:

The guy lives in a West Bank colony and he complains about Palestinians throwing rocks at his car. Weird!!

Human rights doesn't stop at the Green Line. Stoning an Israeli car ain't mitigated by which side of the border it takes place on.

Rachel Corrie Died for This?

Rachel_corrieJournalists were barred as Hamas demolished 30-40 homes in Rafah, but AP filed this eye-opening dispatch:

Hamas police wielding clubs beat and pushed residents out of dozens of homes in the southern Gaza town of Rafah on Sunday before knocking the buildings down with bulldozers, residents said.

Gaza's militant Hamas rulers said the homes were built illegally on government land. Newly homeless residents were furious over Palestinians on bulldozers razing Palestinian homes.

For years, Palestinians have criticized Israel for destroying houses, mostly because they were built without permits issued by the military. Now, Rafah residents complained, their own government, run by the Islamic militant Hamas that seized power in Gaza in July 2007, has done the same.

Rafah residents expect more home demolitions. Is this what Rachel Corrie died for?


Sunday, May 16 2010

May 16 Links

Journalist Says Only Truth Will Set Palestine Free
Why are Palestinians in Australia threatening visiting journalist Khaled Abu Toameh?

The Media Honor-Shame Game: Humiliate Israel, Spare and Taunt the Arabs
"The overall contribution of these subliminal messages which pop out here and there, is to stir hostility to Israel. It is as if the journalists want, above all, to have Israel get slapped in the face."

Israeli-Palestinian Conflict Rages on Wikipedia
Palestinian activists adeptly sidestep Wikipedia safeguards to advance their agenda.

Palestine Central Bureau of Statistics Lies
Lies, damn lies, and Palestinian stats.

FBI Files Discuss Cronkite Aiding Vietnam Protesters
And that's the way it was? Say it ain't so, Walter.

'You Lied to Me, Jew Producer': Comedy Central Shocker

An offensive online game plays on an association of Israel as a child killer.

See HonestReporting's latest communique: "You Lied to Me, Jew Producer": Comedy Central Shocker

Join our new Facebook group dedicated to spreading this campaign to a wider audience. Yarden Frankl and I also discussed Comedy Central's not-so-funny game in this podcast.


Thursday, May 13 2010

Guess Who 'Enjoys' US-Israeli Tensions

Who is having an "unusual and enjoyable new experience" watching the US-Israel spat? Find out at HonestReporting's latest communique: Guess Who 'Enjoys' US-Israeli Tensions

Remove Hamas' Terror Tweets

TwitterWhy is Twitter enabling Hamas to spread its propaganda with an official account?

That's what Jacob Shrybman of the Sderot Media Center wondered when he discovered @AlqassamBrigade, which links to an official Hamas web site. So he sent a complaint to Twitter's powers-that-be and received this automated reply:

Twitter provides a communication service. As a policy, we do not mediate content or intervene in disputes between users. Users are allowed to post content, including potentially inflammatory content, provided that they do not violate the Twitter Terms of Service and Rules (name calling is not a violation) . . . .

If a violent threat is posted in the future, please let us know, and send the status link.

Which left Shrybman wondering:

So, only if Hamas tweets about the imminent launch of a missile attack will Twitter take action?

A look at the account shows that AlqassamBrigade has 283 followers and posted 955 tweets. It's clearly active.

What about freedom of speech?

Even if AlqassamBrigade were only tweeting inanities like Ismail Haniyeh's breakfast, Gilad Shalit's backgammon style, or how bad the Rafah tunnels smell everytime they smuggle goats, it would still humanize Hamas.

The tweets I saw weren't of that nature. One tweet claiming "American-Israeli conspiracy against Jerusalem" was typical in that it sought to drive web traffic to a Hamas web site with a hyperlink.

So in a not-so-dramatic way, Twitter's facilitating the propaganda efforts of a designated terror organization.

What can you do?

Follow @SderotMedia and send a complaint to Twitter. Click for contact info.


Wednesday, May 12 2010

Jeremy Bowen's 'Enjoyable New Experience'

BBC bureau chief Jeremy Bowen is enjoying the tensions between Israel and the US.

Here's Bowen in his own words:

It has been an unusual and enjoyable new experience to be able to look on as the Israelis argued with their most important ally. The fact that the dispute is over Jewish settlements is even better for the Palestinian.

Bowen's entitled to enjoy Gilad Shalit's captivity, Iran's relentless pursuit of nuclear weapons, or the failed Times Square bombing too.

It brings Marc Garlasco to mind. It wasn't so long ago that the military analyst was forced out of his job at Human Rights Watch over his Nazi memorabilia collection. Wearing iron cross sweatshirts is perfectly legal, but its incongruous if you're a human rights watchdog monitoring Israel.

It also brings to mind BBC reporter Barbara Plett crying for Yasser Arafat when he left Ramallah for the last time. Plett was censured for that. Now Bowen betrays a similar emotional bond with the Palestinians.

Would the BBC's culture would allow Bowen to express pleasure in the death of Mahmoud Mabhouh?

UPDATE May 13: I see the BBC revised the wording:

It has been an unusual and enjoyable new experience for Palestinians to be able to look on as Israel argued with its most important ally. The fact that the dispute is over Jewish settlements has been even better for them.

Bowen also sent the following explanation to Just Journalism:

Jeremy Bowen responded to our report via email, saying that there was a 'glitch in [his] editing process' and that when calling a chill in U.S.-Israeli relations 'enjoyable' he had meant to attribute this view to the Palestinians. The article was subsequently amended on the BBC News website but no acknowledgement of an error was made.

Bowen's off the hook, but given his record, it wouldn't surprise me if this reflected his real views. A Freudian slip?

Blogger Survey: The Media Battle Over Jerusalem, Part 4

JerusalemIt's Jerusalem Day and responses to my survey of bloggers are still coming in. I emailed bloggers asking for their take on the following question:

"Is Israel winning the media battle over Jerusalem?"

See other bloggers' responses in parts One, Two, and Three.

David Hazony

The fact that everyone's talking about Jerusalem is the clearest proof that Israel is losing the media war about the city. It was not long ago that debate over the peace process focused not on Israel's insistence on building its national capital and millennial holy city, but on the Palestinians' continued support for terrorism. Today, the world focuses instead on the question: Will Israel give up on its most "irrational," historical attachments and bring peace, once and for all? The question, of course, is itself the problem: Instead of asking what concessions Israel is willing to make, nobody seems to be pointing the same questions at the Palestinian side.

After giving up the Gaza Strip, publicly announcing a formal building freeze in the West Bank, and effecting a de facto freeze in Jerusalem, and receiving nothing in return, Israelis have lost almost every bit of confidence in the Palestinians' willingness for peace. So what's required is, as the lingo has it, confidence-building measures. What sacrifices are the Palestinians willing to make for peace? Here are a few suggestions: First, an end to anti-Semitic and anti-Israel incitement in the schools (this should be a prior condition to any negotiaions, like the West Bank building freeze). Peace will never come from a culture of war. Second, drop the idea of a Palestinian "right of return" to Israel that would destroy Israel as a Jewish state. Third, state unequivocally that they seek a permanent end to the conflict (something that for some reason never makes it onto the agenda). And fourth, to abandon the idea of armed "resistance" -- that is, the terrorism they have been waging against Israeli civilians since before the occupation ever even happened. If even one of these were to happen, the question of Jerusalem might seem a little more timely. Until then, it seems, well, unseemly at best.


First, it's not a war, it's a perpetual conflict. There will never be a peace treaty signing and Israel will have to figure to be engaged for the long term. In the United States, despite some very poor reporting on the Ramat Shlomo matter -- including on Fox News -- the public is very sympathetic to Israel's position. It seems to me that this is happening in spite of the media battlefield, and not because of it. Israel's position was helped greatly by the invaluable and powerful statements made by mainstream figures such as Ron Lauder and particularly Elie Wiesel, whose personal credentials can't be written off. This is the type of thing that influences the popular consciousness -- something far more important than influencing any particular reporter.

Is the Internet Creating a New Type of News Bias?

Wash_post_mobileHonestReporting's social media editor, Alex Margolin, contributes occasional posts on social media issues. He oversees HonestReporting on Facebook.

When it comes to the Internet, Marshal McLuhan was right: the medium really is the message.

That’s what the Washington Post and other heavyweights of traditional media are discovering as they struggle to create a vibrant web presence. The Post invested in building a strong stable of bloggers for its website.

The problem, as Politico reported, is that the success of the Post’s liberal bloggers has pushed the website to the left of its print edition:

The Post now hosts three of the strongest liberal blogs on the Internet, and draws a disproportionate share of its traffic and buzz from them, a significant change for a traditional newspaper that has struggled to remake itself.

The Post’s National Editor Kevin Merida said online readers have different demands than traditional newspaper readers.

“The web is a place where people want to come to the news of the day and developments in the political world and public policy from different vantage points, so you’re trying to offer people online a pretty robust smorgasbord,” he said

That smorgasbord, which can also describe the Internet itself, is increasingly guided by the “unseen hand” of user traffic and reader engagement. So the bloggers with the most traffic or the most incoming links or comments will ultimately rise to the top. Even an institution like the Washington Post feels the need to bow to reader demands at that level.

That may ultimately balance out when discussing new technologies, such as blogs, which are native to the Internet. But what about real news reporting? Will coverage of global issues, such as Israel, remain unchanged even as newspapers shift their emphasis to their websites? Unless newspapers are extremely careful, we may begin seeing a type of bias emerge – one driven by Internet economics, not the rules of the newsroom.

In other words, the medium is changing – we’re moving from print to digital – so how will that affect the message? As we see from the Washington Post’s recent experience, it is difficult to provide a balanced menu when the form calls for a smorgasbord.

Previously in Alex's series: Anti-Semitism and the New Mainstream Media


Tuesday, May 11 2010

Blogger Survey: The Media Battle Over Jerusalem, Part 3

I'm surveying bloggers on the question, "Is Israel winning the media battle over Jerusalem?" See parts One and Two. And my take?

Orient_houseThe battle for Jerusalem ebbs and flows. Busses aren't blowing up. Beit Jala gunmen no longer fire on Gilo. Faisal Husseini, the one Palestinian most adept at spinning Jerusalem, is dead. And how long has it been since Husseini's mansion on Abu Ubaida Street -- the Orient House --was in the news?

The North American papers then covering the bus attacks with disjointed moral ambiguity now fight for their very solvency. Local news, the economy and health care get more play than Jerusalem's current issues: Ramat Shlomo, Sheikh Jarrah, the King's Garden national park plans, etc. And the editor's credo, "If it bleeds, it leads," still applies -- only it's Pakistan, Iraq and Afghanistan.

I worry more about the British press. BBC reporter Fayad Abu Shamala is a member of Hamas. Lauren Booth and George Galloway shill for an Iranian regime whose foreign policy is based on messianic nuclear fantasies. The Guardian's vaunted Comment is Free section is a cess pool of venomous anti-Semitic expression. Channel 4 even spun my HonestReporting co-worker and friend, Simon Plosker, as a key figure in a sinister UK Israel lobby.

Today's British college students grew up on a steady diet of Mohammed al-Dura, Jeningrad, and Dave Brown's cartoon of Ariel Sharon eating babies. Is it any wonder that the UK's a hub of the "boycott, divestment, sanctions campaign (BDS) against Israel?

Lest I forget Jerusalem, the UK Advertising Standards Authority recently dived into the fray, ruling that tourism ads can't say that the Western Wall is in Israel. "Misleading," the ASA sniffs.

Did the Orient House open a branch in London?

UPDATE May 12: Don't miss Part Four.


Monday, May 10 2010

Three Strikes Against the Boston Globe

A Boston Globe staff-ed on the peace talks just struck out.

Strike one: The Globe assumes the Palestinians support a two-state solution. Actually, that support is falling.

Strike two: The Globe also assumes that the Israeli government's incitement index is aimed at extremists. But the index is aimed at the PA and its media services.

Strike three: The Globe equates radical settlers and Islamic extremists in terms of being part of the Israeli and Palestinian mainstream. Radical settlers are not part of Israel's mainstream. But as a Palestinian Media Watch study shows, the glorification of terror among Palestinians comes from the PA itself, not fringe elements.

A little fact-checking should have caught the first two strikes. But the third strike is a sad, sad, consequence of the MSM being out to lunch on issues like the West Bank's Abu Jihad sports complex.

Blogger Survey: The Media Battle Over Jerusalem, Part 2

More bloggers responded to my pre-Jerusalem Day survey, which asked, "Is Israel winning the media battle over Jerusalem?" (In Part One, Yisrael Medad, Elder of Ziyon and A Soldier's Mother shared their take.)

Stephanie Gutmann

Logos Many recent big polls on American attitudes show Americans solidly behind Israel by significant majorities. I think this reflects a number of things: 1. The American mainstream media is fairer to Israel than it used to be (if you look at the coverage of the second intifada as the high watermark of biased reporting.) 2. The American people, for reasons not related to Israel, continue their rejection of mainstream outlets like CNN, the New York Times and NBC and 3. The American people are not at all sure they trust the Obama administration.

In short, vis a vis building in Jerusalem, outlets like the Associated Press have done their best to present the old narrative of a grasping, hegemonic Israel versus helpless Palestinians but on the whole Americans aren't buying it. Events have been on our side, as well. Jerusalem news has been drowned out by a tsunami of other news of more immediate concern to Americans like the passage of the health care bill, the growing deficit, and domestic terrorism.

Soccer Dad

There are a number of factors that need to be made in considering Israel's case for maintaining its hold on Jerusalem. Are there historical ties between the Palestinians and Jerusalem? As Daniel Pipes writes, there are none, but it's a major issue politically. Is Israel required to cede "East" Jerusalem according to the dictates of Resolution 242? Dore Gold answers that 242 was intended to specify temporary ceasefire lines not permanent borders. Is division of the city even viable? Yaacov Lozowick shows from a number of examples that previous attempts to divide cities have been unsuccessful or aren't comparable to the situation prevailing in Jerusalem. Is Jewish construction an attempt to change the facts on the ground? Israel Matzav argues that it is the Palestinians, with no restrictions on their building in Jerusalem who are attempting to change the nature of the city.

Now read Janine Zacharia's account of building in Jerusalem from last week's Washington Post. Does she address any of these issues? Clearly the governments of Israel, going back quite some time have failed to make an effective case for Jerusalem.

Mere Rhetoric

Obama_western_wallUnfortunately, the Obama administration has successfully managed to move the center in the debate over Israel's sovereignty over Jerusalem. After months of journalists pushing anti-Israel talking points in the guise of objective reporting - and with the help of anti-Israel foreign policy experts who "evaluated" US/Israeli tensions - the conventional wisdom is now that Jerusalem is just another settlement over which Israel is expected to negotiate. It was occasionally a subtle dynamic, but the thousands of articles blandly describing the dust up over Ramat Shlomo as a disagreement over "settlements" altered the diplomatic playing field in a way that was deeply damaging to Israel.

The Israeli government's inability to influence the framing of the White's House's manufactured crises - to emphasize not just the substantive incoherence of a strategy premised on hardening Palestinian positions, but also its essential dishonesty - represents another failure in Israeli public diplomacy. In the context of Jerusalem, it's a failure that threatens the security of Israeli citizens and the identity of the Jewish State.

UPDATE May 12: See more responses at parts Three and Four.


Sunday, May 9 2010

May 9 Links

Complex Crisis Most Analysts Fail To Explain
A South African columnist's eye-opening visit to Israel.

Biased Broadcasting Corporation?
An interview with BBC monitor Trevor Asserson.

Glorifying Murderers Only Scores Points at Home
"It must be incredibly difficult for the Palestinians who truly want peace to live in a society infused with pathological bloodlust."

Blogger Survey: The Media Battle Over Jerusalem, Part 1

JerusalemIt’s difficult to recall the last time Jerusalem’s status was the subject of such contention. With Jerusalem Day coming up this week, I surveyed a few bloggers to hear their take on the following question:

Is Israel winning the media battle over Jerusalem?

I’m posting responses as they come in. Here are the first:

Yisrael Medad


Israel refuses to make its case for Jerusalem. For example, the issue of "expansion of municipal boundaries" can be addressed by pointing out that the International Entity recommended in the 1947 UN Partition Resolution actually had Jerusalem from just south of Ramallah to Bethlehem inclusive and from Maaleh Adumim today to Motza. The ethnic cleansing operations by Arabs in emptying out Jewish resident in the Old City, Atarot, Neveh Yaakov, etc. are also ignored. There is no assertiveness and our opponents take advantage of our weak approach. The lack of a Jewish presence or identity on the Temple Mount also disables Israel's position.

Elder of Ziyon

Western_wall_1967Israel's true claim to Jerusalem is the Jewish claim to Jerusalem, which is based on thousands of years of history and billions of tears. No one will be convinced of Israel's claims by the minutiae of legal analysis about "occupation" or the laws of war - only by the realization that Jerusalem is the heart of the Jewish people.

The media, by its nature, is not concerned with anything that lasts longer than a news cycle, and their deep background analysis goes back mere decades. Given that, Israel has almost no chance to win that battle - and it is indeed losing it.

A Soldier’s Mother

The simple answer is that no, Israel is not winning the battle over Jerusalem. As it happens, yesterday, I escorted a sweet Christian woman from Indiana to a few sites in Israel. During our time together, over and over again, I heard her tell me that we should not let others determine our policy; that the American people, if not the government, support Israel. As we drove through Jerusalem, I pointed and explained. If Obama has his way, to the right would be some Palestinian state, to the left, Israel. "Absurd," she responded. Absurd it would be. "Obama doesn't understand," she continued. And in that, she has summed up our efforts on Jerusalem.

People outside of Israel do not understand two key factors about Jerusalem: the history and the geographical realities. They believe the solution is as simple as a Solomon-style knife coming and dividing the land. They have little understanding that Ramat Shlomo is to the north of Jerusalem, not to the east. That Har Homa was built on an adjacent, barren hilltop. So long as Israel fails to explain the important issues, the natural tendency of the majority of people (and governments) will be to believe the tremendous (and effective) efforts of the Palestinian propaganda machine.

UPDATE May 10: See Part Two for responses from Stephanie Gutmann, Soccer Dad and Mere Rhetoric.

UPDATE May 12: More bloggers weigh in at parts Three and Four.

Goldstone: Just Following Orders

Here’s the YNet News in-depth look at Judge Richard Goldstone’s controversial judicial record during the apartheid era.

Yedioth Ahronoth's findings show that Goldstone sentenced at least 28 black defendants to death. Most of them were found guilty of murder and sought to appeal the verdict. In those days, he actually made sure he showed his support for the execution policy, writing in one verdict that it reflects society's demands that a price be paid for crimes it rightfully views as frightening.

In another verdict, in which he upheld the execution of a young black man convicted of murdering a white restaurant owner after he fired him, Goldstone wrote that the death penalty is the only punishment likely to deter such acts.

Goldstone claims he wanted to reform the apartheid system from within. This snippet says a lot about how successful he was:

Only in 1995 when Nelson Mandela took power was the South African constitution amended and the death penalty abolished. Hundreds of people sitting on death row were spared, including some that Goldstone himself sent there.

Related reading: Who Is Goldstone to Judge Israel?


Thursday, May 6 2010

BBC's Non-Response to HR Report

The BBC prefers to shoot the messenger rather than address the message. Read more at HonestReporting's latest communique:BBC's Non-Response to HR Report

Who Is Goldstone to Judge Israel?

Judge_goldstoneYediot Ahronoth's Hebrew site reports that that Judge Richard Goldstone sent 28 black South Africans to their death when they appeared before his court during the apartheid era.

And now that Yediot and the blogosphere is asking, "Who is Goldstone to judge Israel with his one-sided report on the Gaza war," the jurist's response is adding fuel to the fire.

First, the Yediot investigation, which will be published in full on Friday. Jerusalem Central (via Israel Matzav) provides details:

According to Yediot's findings, Goldstone confirmed the death sentences of at least 28 accused blacks, who had appealed their sentences, most of them for murder, and he expressed his support for death sentences in his decisions as well, as he wrote in the case of a young black man who was sentenced to death for killing the white owner of a restaurant after he fired him: "The death penalty needs to reflect the demands of society to take retribution for the crimes that people see, justifiably, as horrifying".

Goldstone, "declared that the gallows were the only punishment of deterrent in these cases", and wrote: "Fury is a relevant factor in the imposition of a suitable punishment".

Whoa! An internationally acclaimed jurist says that fury is a "relevant factor" in choosing a suitable punishment? Sounds, uh, disproportionate. If an Israeli judge were make such an assertion, can you imagine the outrage of the UN Human Rights Council, or Human Rights Watch?

Goldstone responded by telling Haaretz he was a good boy following orders:

"The law at the time stated that when there were aggravating circumstances, the death penalty was obligatory," he said. "The regrets I have now are the same that I had at the time. I have not changed my position on this. It was unpleasant to be involved in capital punishment - then and now. And I've always been against the death penalty. But when I accepted the position to the bench I had to honor the oath of office."

There's a rotten smell of hypocrisy here. Just yesterday, Goldstone dug in his heels at The Guardian's Comment is Free section:

It would have been hypocritical for me to continue to speak out against violations of international law and impunity for war crimes around the world but remain silent when it came to Israel simply because I am Jewish.

No. Goldstone's hypocrisy was in being an active participant -- however squeamish -- in a process that unfairly sent black men to their death, then sanctimoniously condemning Israel for defending itself from eight years of rocket attacks.

Yediots full report tomorrow is sure to have people scrambling, so stay tuned.

UPDATE May 6: See the Jewish Chronicle for Judge Goldstone's reax to Yediot.


Wednesday, May 5 2010

Should Israel Launch a Satellite News Channel?

China's launching a 24-hour, English-language satellite news channel in July.

Is it time for Israel to do the same?  


Tuesday, May 4 2010

The Beeb's Legal Opinion

BBCI'm tired of the BBC spouting off definitive legal opinions in its own voice:

The settlements are illegal under international law, although Israel disputes this.

Attributing this opinion to specific people, organizations, or even "the international community" wouldn't be a big deal. To better understand why "Israel disputes this" (i.e., disputes the BBC), see Eugene Kontorovich, Mitchell Bard, Eugene Rostow, and Jeffrey Helmreich, among others.

If the Beeb wants to weigh in against settlements in its own voice, here's one throwaway line that makes sense -- because it clearly labels the BBC's view.

Settlements may be legal in international law, but the BBC disputes this.

Corrections, Clarifications, and Outright Obfuscations

HonestReporting Canada's blog, Headlines and Deadlines, tackles recent Canadian media follies.

See HR Canada's latest communique: Corrections, Clarifications, and Outright Obfuscations


Monday, May 3 2010

5 Outrageous Comments 'Nejad Will Make at NPT

NijadHere are the five outrageous comments Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's most likely to make at the Non-Proliferation Treaty talks in New York. You read it here first.

1. "The Zionists have centrifuges in Ramat Shlomo."

2. "The Gulf of Mexico oil spill is divine retribution for American arrogance."

3. "Lauren Booth's fawning over my womens' rights record is making my wife jealous."

4. "Israel is toe jam; I'm the odor eater."

5. "But Obama bowed to King Abdullah!"


Sunday, May 2 2010

Anti-Semitism and the New Mainstream Media

Protocoles_peril_juifHonestReporting's social media editor, Alex Margolin, contributes occasional posts on social media issues. He oversees HonestReporting on Facebook.

Andre Oboler, the leading authority on anti-Semitism on the Internet, recently called for greater accountability from social media platforms that allow anti-Semitic material to appear on their sites.

Oboler points out that standards of acceptable speech differ between traditional media and the Internet. While blatant anti-Semitism would never be acceptable in the mainstream press, in some parts of the Internet, “to be racist is no worse than to support the wrong soccer team.”

This breakdown in standards, he argues, poses a threat that must be addressed. “If on-line society continues to develop in a moral vacuum, the lack of respect for human dignity may soon be reflected back in the ‘real’ world,” he wrote.

Oboler is right – and not just about hate speech. Any site that gives space to libels and distortions about Israel should also be held to the same account as the mainstream press. As Oboler points out, some of these platforms have unprecedented reach:

YouTube, for example, has a user base 50 times larger than the combined circulation of the top 10 newspapers in America. Can such a powerful medium really exist free of governmental control? With the power these companies wield, is no obligation owed to society?

Government control is one aspect of the solution. Certainly, material that is published on social networks such as Facebook and MySpace or content sharing sites such as Flickr, all of which reach millions or even tens of millions of people, should be subject to the same control as any member of the mainstream media.

But a change must also come from the way the general public relations to social media and the Internet. As long as the public perceives a division between “traditional media” and the “new media,” double standards will prevail. A better designation would be “the New Mainstream Media,” which would refer to the biggest members of both groups operating under the same standards.

The New Mainstream Media would include traditional stalwarts such as the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal alongside Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and other giant social media platforms. It would also include enormously popular sites such as the Huffington Post, which is on pace to pass the New York Times in online readership in 2010.

And it looks like the change is already starting to take place. For the first time, an online-only publication, ProPublica, was awarded a Pulitzer Prize for reporting.

That type of recognition could lead to a level of accountability for all online platforms -- but only if the public demands it.

Previously in Alex's series: The End of Free?


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