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Friday, July 30 2010

Hamas Honors Journos

Hamas honored journalists killed by the IDF.

Hmmmm. Do you think Paul Martin or Dr. Ahmad Hamad covered the event?

Thursday, July 29 2010

Google Earth and the Rise of 'Neogeography'

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

Israel_map With over 600 million downloads, Google Earth is quickly becoming the most widely used – and most important – world map on the planet. Together with its other prominent mapping program, Google Maps, Google has managed to stamp its own distinctly Web 2.0 sensibility on the field of cartography.

While Google Maps is used primarily for finding street directions, Google Earth combines state-of-the-art satellite imagery with user-generated content to create something much bigger. Users can zone in on virtually any part of the world. And contributors can add notes to geographic locations on one of the sites' numerous “layers.” The result is a new Internet-based approach to mapping known as “neogeography.”

Israelis got a taste of this new phenomenon in 2008, when Palestinian activist Thareen Darby began labeling Israeli towns sites of Arab expulsion during the Israel’s War of Independence. Eventually, residents of Kiryat Yam sued Google for libel after Darby added their city to his list.

According to journalist John Gravois, who examined Google’s impact on the mapping world in an article for the Washington Monthly, Google’s approach to international disputes, particularly over geographic names, has ruffled many feathers.

Persiangulf Gravois cited one dispute between Iran and the Arab world over what to call the body of water traditionally known as the Persian Gulf. In 2008, Google accepted the relatively new Arab claims to the name Arabian Gulf, placing the name alongside the UN-backed Persian Gulf moniker. In response, Iranians launched a petition calling for the “immediate and unconditional deletion of ‘Arabian Gulf’ from Google Earth.” The petition gathered 1,235,743 signatures.

Google, however, refused to back down. As Gravois explains:

Google responded to the debate with a rather novel set of cartographic norms, throwing all historical criteria out the window. Two months after the “Immediate and Unconditional Deletion” petition went live, the corporation posted a statement explaining its protocol for naming bodies of water. The statement, which made no direct mention of the Gulf or the Iranian petition, explained that Google decides what to call various geographical features purely by determining what names are in use today. Google Earth “displays the primary, common, local name(s) given to a body of water by the sovereign nations that border it,” wrote Andrew McLaughlin, Google’s then director of public policy (and now President Obama’s deputy chief technology officer). “If different countries dispute the proper name for a body of water, our policy is to display both names.”

Displaying “both names,” as McLaughlin wrote, eliminates the need to take sides in a dispute but rarely leaves both sides happy. And despite the democratic aura of the policy – letting the people decide what to call something – the ultimate decision rests in one place, Google.

Geographyart And while the policy may be ripe for abuse, a bigger problem is the loss of authority. Increasingly, it is harder to consult the biggest map in the world for a definitive answer to a geographic question. Indeed, in an interview on the radio show, On the Media, Gravois noted that the definition of the word "map" is beginning to change.

It’s almost like we shouldn't use the word “map” any more. It’s a completely different thing. It’s a completely re-scalable document that can hold authoritative information but it can also have other layers of information that are just sort of repositories of a bunch of different opinions, or even conversations. That’s neat, and it may play a really huge, valuable social role in the future. But the process of adjusting to that new norm is going to be really, really hairy.

So if online maps are moving in the new direction of neogeography, the key is to move along with them to ensure that all points of view are expressed. Because, in the increasingly collaborative Internet world, participation is the coin of the realm.

Previously in Alex's series: Digital Diplomacy . . . And Its Discontents


Wednesday, July 28 2010

Israel 'Ethnically Cleansing' Bedouin Arabs?

The demolition of an unrecognized Bedouin settlement in the Negev attracts some foreign media looking to fit the story into their own one-sided agenda.

See HonestReporting's latest communique: Israel 'Ethnically Cleansing' Bedouin Arabs?


Tuesday, July 27 2010

Olympia Food Co-Op Boycotts Israeli Goods, Gaza Mall Doesn't

Yesterday, The Independent visited the new Gaza mall and discovered something that should have movers and shakers in the boycott-divestment-sanctions movement (BDS) scratching their heads:

The difference is that most consumer goods were previously smuggled through the tunnels from Egypt – whereas the mall's managers say 90 percent of its new stock is imported from Israel.

How does that square with the Olympia Food Co-op's boycott of Israeli products?

Sounds like the co-op and its Facebook supporters are acting more Palestinian than the Palestinians.


Monday, July 26 2010

Hate Mail -- From the UNRWA

Unrwa_logo Hate mail from a UNRWA email address arrived in my in-box today. I'm omitting the first half of the email address so this person doesn't get bombarded with emails.

From: A/RAHIM, Saadi
. . .
Date: Mon, Jul 26, 2010 at 10:21 AM

Dishonest reporting, That’s your true identity, and your true character. Thank God that many people; including Jews, all over the world even inside Israel, whom you like to call self hating Jews; have started to see the big lies of Zionists including yours. I wonder how many truly of those around. If you really want to be fair and honest about it, which I doubt, go back and read history with a fair and nonbiased mind.

I did some Googling, and found on LinkedIn a Saadi Rahim who works for the UNRWA -- as an officer in charge of transportation and logistics in Jordan.

What unstated big lies of the Zionists (and HonestReporting) is Mr. Saadi Rahim referring to? These?

UNRWA: Perpetuating the Misery
UNRWA Knew Camp Was Infiltrated, Did Nothing
UNRWA's Hamas Employees
What Else is the UNRWA Not Telling Us?
Extracurricular Activities

More importantly, by using a UNRWA email address, he may technically be representing the UNRWA. Do Rahim's views of Zionism represent the UNRWA? What does this say about the organization Rahim works for?

Even if Rahim's views don't technically represent the UNRWA, he did use an official email address the same way Octavia Nasr had CNN written all over her tweet.

Fauxtography Files: Nabi Saleh Photo Opportunism (Again)

This protest in Nabi Saleh is the same old story: small kids at front, soldiers try to negotiate with organizers. With photographers and cameramen in between, protesters push things to the point where they get a confrontation.

And like previously in Nabi Saleh, I'm relying on an activist's video to prove my point.

Compare the video (further down) with these stills: The film shows a rather tame confrontation, but the wire photos suggest something more dramatic. Of course, that's exactly what the organizers wanted. The goal of this protest was to produce wire photos such as images 1, 2, 3, and of course heroic 4.






Now let's see what really happened:

These are the kinds of images that the Palestinians know reinforce Western attitudes about those nasty Israelis. And the Palestinians know how to keep a costant supply of fresh photos available for Big Media.

Related reading: And You Thought Vuvuzelas Were Annoying

The Guardian Plays With Fire

In the context of a story laying out Israeli-Arab grievances and warning of a third intifada, The Guardian twists one particular key fact. Judging from reporter David Hearst's description, what kind of outcry do you think he's describing?

When a policeman who shot a Palestinian car thief dead was this month given a three-year sentence there was such a public backlash the court took the unprecedented step of issuing a press release defending its decision.

An example of injustice against Israeli-Arabs, with the court troubling itself to whitewash a lax sentence with a press release?

What Hearst doesn't report is that officer Shahar Mizrahi's three-year prison sentence was doubled from 15-months. The press release was to explain the new sentence to Mizrahi's supporters, who claim the officer killed Mahmoud Ganaim in legitimate self-defense.

Haaretz even got this reaction from the Israeli-Arab community:
Meanwhile, Jaffar Farakh, director general of Musawa Center for Arab Rights in Israel welcomed the decision and said that Mizrahi should have been relieved of his duties the day of the incident.
Raising the specter of an intifada among Israeli-Arabs is playing with fire. Hearst's twisted facts only makes the situation more volatile.
Palestinian Corruption and Foreign Aid

Must-see film on Palestinian corruption and wasted foreign aid by FreeMiddleEast.


Sunday, July 25 2010

Gaza, Attack On Modernity

Cremonesi We've received a number of emails in recent days about Lorenzo Cremonesi, the Italian reporter who recently filed a shocking story about Hamas repression.

Here is an English version of Cremonesi's dispatch (originally published in Italian by Corriere Della Sera).

Cremonesi bucked Big Media's groupthink during the Gaza War when he reported that Palestinian death toll was grossly inflated.

Digital Diplomacy . . . And Its Discontents

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

The Israeli Foreign Ministry may have its own flickr page and iPhone application, but it still lags far behind the US State department in using social media to achieve diplomatic goals.

According to the New York Times Magazine, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has deemed social media as an important element in “21st century statecraft,” and assigned two staffers, Alec Ross and Jared Cohen, to push social media initiatives alongside more conventional diplomatic efforts.

Traditional forms of diplomacy still dominate, but 21st-century statecraft is not mere corporate rebranding — swapping tweets for broadcasts. It represents a shift in form and in strategy — a way to amplify traditional diplomatic efforts, develop tech-based policy solutions and encourage cyberactivism. Diplomacy may now include such open-ended efforts as the short-message-service (S.M.S.) social-networking program the State Department set up in Pakistan last fall.

The program, with its seal of government approval, has already registered a number of important achievements: In 2009, Cohen convinced Twitter to skip a planned maintenance closure so that Iranian protestors could continue using the service following Iran’s disputed election; in 2010, the State Department helped James Eberhard of Mobile Accord raise $40 million in aid for Haiti’s earthquake victims through a new system allowing donations by mobile phone text messages.

According to Ross, digital diplomacy represents a paradigm shift in political engagement.

“A lot of the 21st-century dynamics are less about, Do you comport politically along traditional liberal-conservative ideological lines?” Ross says. “Today it is — at least in the spaces we engage in — Is it open or is it closed?”


Open platforms, such as YouTube and Twitter, are the hallmark of Web 2.0 technologies, allowing people to collaborate in new ways and across great distances.

But not everyone is convinced that they represent progress in diplomatic affairs. In a widely-read essay in the Wall Street Journal, Evgany Morozov points out that the Internet and its open systems can be used by anyone for any purpose.

Hezbollah and the Muslim Brotherhood are very active online too. It's not at all guaranteed that empowering those forces by weakening the state with the help of the Internet is going to speed up the process of democratization.

Facebook and Twitter empower all groups—not just the pro-Western groups that we like. To put it in a more formal framework: not all social capital created by the Internet is bound to produce "social goods"; "social bads" are inevitable as well.

The problem Morozov describes is real – terrorists and cyber-criminals have benefited from the Internet alongside Iranian protestors and Haiti’s earthquake victims. But is possible misuse of the Internet any reason to forgo its benefits?

The answer, of course, is the opposite. Diplomats and activists must take to the Internet in large numbers. And since Hezbollah and others are already “very active” online, there is simply no time to waste.

Previously in Alex's series: Fixation Factor on Fading Facebook

Thursday, July 22 2010

AP Goes Soft on Hardcore ISM

The Associated Press whitewashes the real agenda of a radical anti-Israel group, portraying them as a bunch of youthful and peaceful idealists.

See HonestReporting's latest communique: AP Goes Soft on Hardcore ISM

The Mohammed Dura Message Comes Home to Roost

Dura Arab media reports indicate that much of the medical assistance from foreign countries is unusable -- particularly expired medicine or broken equipment.

"They're bringing more harm than good," the article explained, describing expired medicines and broken supplies sent by different countries and organizations.

Mounir el-Barash, director of the donations department in Gaza's Ministry of Health told al-Jazeera that only 30% of the aid sent into the Gaza Strip is used.

Gaza officials also expressed anger at receiving burial shrouds for children from Arab countries.

Why fault Arab countries for sending burial shrouds for kids? Hamas brainwashes kids to be martyrs. And tales of Zionists butchering kids are a staple of Arab state-run media. The Palestinian "message" of Mohammed al-Dura is coming home to roost.

Stupid Headline of the Day

After spotting figures approaching the Gaza border fence, the IDF fired a shell that killed Mohammad Al-Kafarneh. Islamic Jihad identified him as one its "fighters."

And yet this headline in The Guardian a) identifies Kafarneh as a militant, and b) in quote marks, as if to cast doubt that Kafarneh was even that, even though c) Harriet Sherwood's article notes that Islamic Jihad called him a "fighter" and d) the IDF Spokesperson blog says Kafarneh's group was preparing to fire a rocket.



Wednesday, July 21 2010

Fauxtography Files: MSM Cries Foul

Earlier this week, two Palestinian photographers were injured by the IDF; in response, the Foreign Press Association griped about the state of free press.

Now, a foreign photographer posted this video of the incident. It actually highlights the fauxtography going on.

A few things strike me about this video.

Fil Kalers, the British photojournalist who shot this video, is a well-known Palestinian sympathizer. Here are some examples of his work. This already raises some questions about this video's objectivity. It's not surprising that a photographer like him received advance notice for this photo-op.

It seems to me that there are more photographers than bona fide demonstrators -- even if you include kids as legitimate demonstrators.

This video contradicts photos taken by the wire services. It clearly shows photographers right in the soldiers' faces, and debunks the FPA's accusation of soldiers "smashing the face of a clearly marked photographer working for a known and accredited news organization with a stick." The only photographers I saw injured were one with a hurt leg still snapping shots from a sitting position (2:15 point) and another who I presume was stunned by a stun grenade that exploded too close for comfort (3:15 point).

Rest assured that any photographer smashed in the mouth in front of all his colleagues would've become the posterboy of Israeli press restrictions.

Such are the risks journalists proudly take when covering combat zones. After all, here's what the FPA said about Israeli press restrictions on Gaza when Operation Cast Lead began:

The claim that this is being done "for our protection" is patently ridiculous.

(Yes, the claim was ridiculous. Reporters are big boys. Here's the real reason for the media restrictions)

So what kinds of images hit the wires? Images one, two, three and four. They fail to convey the role of the kids, the minimal number of real protestors. Half emphasize the victimhood of the poor journalists who lost my sympathy after watching the video.






The film's best moment wasn't reflected in any of the coverage I saw. At 4:00 a soldier asked one of the demonestrators why he brought children along. If only the MSM would ask that question.

Related reading: And You Thought Vuvuzelas Were Annoying

Flotilla Lessons: Turkish Suport for IHH Convoy Clash in Egypt

Viva_palestina_clash Still not convinced that the Turkish violence aboard the Mavi Marmara was pre-meditated?

Check out this comparison of the flotilla incident with clashes that broke out between members of George Galloway's Lifeline 3 aid convoy with Egyptian security forces last January. That's when members of Viva Palestina clashed with Egyptian security forces over restrictions on humanitarian aid being delivered overland.

One Egyptian soldier was killed, some 50 activists were injured and Galloway was ignobly deported. But IHH involvement and Turkish support was off everybody's radar.

The Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center (Malam) analyzed what happened in Egypt, finding that the violence was far more serious than we realized, and that it was actually a warm-up for the Mavi Marmara. Among Malam's findings:

  • Two hundred and fifty Turks participated in the convoy, approximately half of the total number, and prominent among them were IHH activists led by Bulent Yildirim.

  • In both instances Turkish support was central. The Turkish government played an important role in Lifeline 3, even though the convoy was dispatched by Viva Palestina. The Turkish government was involved in arranging for the convoy, and its organizers were guest of the Turkish Parliament. The heads of the government even intervened with the Egyptian authorities on behalf of the convoy.

  • The Egyptian restrictions led to confrontations between the security forces and the members of the convoy, prominent among whom were IHH activists led by Bulent Yildirim. According to a statement by Yildirim during the confrontation IHH activists took seven Egyptian soldiers captive. A short time thereafter three wounded soldiers were released and the remaining four were held as bargaining chips. During the confrontations 50 activists were wounded, five of them seriously . . .

  • IHH and Hamas learned the lessons of the Lifeline 3 convoy and the harsh Egyptian reaction. The main lesson was the need to avoid confrontations with Egypt in the future and to shift the focus of attention, practically and for the media, to Israel.

The Egyptian soldier killed in the clashes by the border may have been shot by a Hamas sniper. If so, then the Israeli navy was wise to intercept the Mavi Marmara flotilla in international waters. Haaretz reported that the navy rejected waiting for the convoy to reach Israeli waters for operational reasons:

The navy expressed concern that it would not be able to stop the flotilla once the ships reached within 20 miles of the coast," said an official who had a hand in the planning of the operation. "The IDF was fearful that the naval forces would not have adequate time to complete the operation. The army wanted to overtake the ships gradually and at a relatively great distance from the coast."

Who knows what stunts Hamas might have tried had the boats reached close enough to Gaza's shore?

For what it's worth, Amira Hass also notes that Hamas didn't treat Galloway's group very well either.

Read Malam's full report.

US Flotilla to Gaza: The Audacity of Hype

The Washington Post (via Powerline) reports plans for another flotilla -- this one from the US. President Obama's friend, Professor Rashid Khalidi is raising money to buy a boat to be named "The Audacity of Hope."

Andy McCarthy wonders if the Obama administration will allow the endeavor:

The United States has neutrality laws against things like fitting, furnishing or arming vessels with the intent of committing hostile acts against a country with which the U.S. is at peace. (Challenging a blockade is a hostile act.) We also have laws against providing material support to terrorist organizations like Hamas. Will the Obama Justice Department pursue an investigation of Khalidi?

Memo to Khalidi: Rename the boat, "The Audacity of Shopping." Despite the evil blockade, Gazans managed to build and stock a sparkling new mall and provide needed employment opportunities.


Tuesday, July 20 2010

Tisha B'Av and Jewish Ties To Jerusalem

Jlem Today's the 9th of Av, which on the Hebrew calendar marks the anniversary of the destruction of the first and second Temples. It's a day of fasting, and for many Israelis, a day off work too.

In a tangential way, the 9th of Av also highlights Jewish ties to the holy city, so in that vein, here are three links about Jersualem from the blog archives. They're just as relevant today as when I first wrote them.

Jerusalem Stories

Tel Aviv and AFP's Lousy Synecdoche

MSM and the Palestinian Rumor Mill

Last but not least, test your knowledge with the JCPA's Jerusalem quiz.

I'll resume blogging tomorrow.


Monday, July 19 2010

The Thanks Israel Gets

Israel busted a Hamas terror cell responsible for the drive-by shooting which killed Israeli police officer Yehoshua Sofer in June.

According to the Jerusalem Post, two weeks before the attack, one of the cell's leaders took his six-year-old daughter to Hadassah Hospital where doctors removed a tumor from the girl's eye. The operation was funded by an unspecified Israeli organization.

Veteran Israeli journalist had a similar situation two years ago. While filming a documentary about four-month-old Mohammed Abu-Mustafa, the baby's mother ruined the mood -- to put it mildly -- by telling Shlomi Eldar she hoped her son would grow up to be a shahid. Haaretz explains that whopper:

From an innocent conversation about religious holidays, Raida Abu Mustafa launched into a painful monologue about the culture of the shahids - the martyrs - and admitted, during the complex transplant process, that she would like to see her son perpetrate a suicide bombing attack in Jerusalem . . .

And Eldar was angry. "Then why are you fighting to save your son's life, if you say that death is a usual thing for your people?" he lashes out in one of the most dramatic moments in the film.

"It is a regular thing," she smiles at him. "Life is not precious. Life is precious, but not for us. For us, life is nothing, not worth a thing. That is why we have so many suicide bombers. They are not afraid of death. None of us, not even the children, are afraid of death. It is natural for us. After Mohammed gets well, I will certainly want him to be a shahid. If it's for Jerusalem, then there's no problem. For you it is hard, I know; with us, there are cries of rejoicing and happiness when someone falls as a shahid. For us a shahid is a tremendous thing."

Golda Meir's quote comes to mind:
We will have peace with the Arabs when they love their children more than they hate us.
In spite fof it all, Israel will continue treating Palestinian children because they're humans and we're humans and it's the right thing to do.

What Hamas Doesn't Want You to Read About

Hamas exerts considerable influence over journalists. Look at what is and isn't being reported in the news.

In the news (AP)

Gaza Family Struggles to Survive In A Tent

Out of the news (Elder of Ziyon)

Grand Opening of the Gaza Mall

In the news (AFP)

Top EU Diplomat Calls for Further Lifting of Gaza Siege

Out of the news (Daled Amos)

Gazan Businessmen Demands Hamas Embargo As Israel Relaxes Restrictions

So Palestinians have enough cement and want to shield their businesses from competition from outside products. How come correspondents on the ground in Gaza aren't following up on these stories?


Sunday, July 18 2010

Big Media Kvetches About Israeli Press Freedom, Ignores Hamas Restrictions

Two Palestinian press photographers covering weekend West Bank clashes were wounded by the IDF. According to the Jerusalem Post:

The photographers were said to be among the protesters, making it difficult to pick them out.

Here's what's known about the incident: One of the photographers worked for AFP. And the Foreign Press Association issued a statement suggesting that Israel's Border Police are getting too rough, then sniffed:
We would appreciate it were the authorities to remind the various forces involved, that open, unhindered coverage of news events is a widely acknowledged part of the essence of democracy.

Everyone knows how these protests work. Scripted clashes and grandstanding for the cameras have been the modus operendi for years.

It's always the same: Palestinians start protesting, at first peacefully. Gradually, the situation escalates till soldiers are forced to fire rubber bullets and tear gas to protect themselves and disperse the crowd. The violent images are the ones you always see in the news.

Journalists covering clashes know what they're in for, and have no right to complain. War correspondents who bristled at Israeli press restrictions during the Gaza war correctly pointed out that they're big boys who don't need the IDF's patronizing protection (those media restrictions were for a different reason, however).

Now let's talk about press freedom in Gaza. This weekend, (via Elder of Ziyon) the Palestinian Center for Development and Media Freedom (MADA) listed far more severe Hamas press restrictions. These include:

• detaining the dean of Media faculty in Aqsa university Dr. Ahmad Hamad and the Greek director Bindles Baba Byblos after filming a wedding in Beit Hanoun

• preventing AFP photographer Mohammed Al-Baba from covering a march for Hizb Al-Tahrir

• blocking three journalists from traveling to Egypt

• continually barring the delivery of three West Bank daily newspapers in Gaza

The FPA's criticisms of Israel aren't leveled at Hamas of course. Democracies are so much easier to slam when journos decide access is more important than principle.

Special Analysis: The Obama-Netanyahu Summit

An analysis of the good, the bad, and the ugly reporting that the Canadian media produced on the Obama-Netanyahu summit.

See HonestReporting Canada's latest communique: Special Analysis: The Obama-Netanyahu Summit


Thursday, July 15 2010

Mavi Marmara Timeline
The IDF released a detailed video timeline explaining what happened during last month's flotilla intercept -- with special detail on the Mavi Marmara. It's a powerful mix of computer animation, real footage, and info I wasn't aware of before.

Imagine the Headlines if Israel Did This

Maan News reports that unidentified assailants tossed a grenade into Gaza's YMCA center. Shrapnel hit a nearby playground, but fortunately, nobody was injured.

Other than a buried note at the end of a general AP update, I haven't seen this picked up yet by any Western news agencies.

Imagine the headlines (and lawfare) if Israel did this.


Wednesday, July 14 2010

July 14 Links

Palestinians Silencing Attempted Rape of U.S. Peace Activist?
"Separation fence activists know of other incidents in which Palestinians molested and sexually assaulted foreign peace activists . . ."

Israelis Sue Al-Jazeera Over Lebanon War Reporting
Suit says network deliberately violated censorship regulations, enabling Hezbollah to aim rockets more accurately.

Wikipedia's Jewish Problem
Wiki rules and norms don't work well for Jewish editors.

Rupert Murdoch Takes Stake in Rival to Al-Jazeera
Saudi Prince Alwaleed teams up with Fox News for Arabic language TV news network. Whoda thought?

Israel Skewered by Medical Journal

The Lancet publishes a multi-article series on Palestinian health written by Israel boycotters that goes way beyond accepted medical norms.

See HonestReporting's latest media critique: Israel Skewered by Medical Journal.

Might France 2 Actually Apologize For Al-Dura Video?

Dura The Mohammed Dura video raised its head at a hearing with France 2 TV's new president, Remy Pflimlin. There's no way to tell if the winds of change at France 2 will result in an apology 10 years after the fact, but credit Senator Jean-Pierre Plancade for not letting the station off the hook.

It's significant that the issue isn't fading away. Pajamas Media quotes Sen. Plancade's question and Pflimlin's response:

Mr. President, you talked about trust, independence, rigor and accuracy. I really care about these words. Your appointment comes at a time when each and every profession should show its deontology and ethics which are essential values on which we shouldn’t mitigate. The French public TV should be irreproachable and exemplary.

This is why I’d like to talk to you about an affair which is so important to me, which has been lasting for much too long, and which concerns France 2.

I’d like to talk to you about the so-called death of Mohammed al-Dura, who according to this news report, was killed by an Israeli bullet.

After France 2 aired this news report came a suspicion that French public TV broadcast a fake news report; suspicion confirmed by the fact that France 2 didn’t succeed when the channel sued one of our fellow citizens who accused France 2 of having aired, let me quote him, “a pure and simple staged scene.”

I recently watched a documentary coming from the German public TV, ARD — “The Kid, the Death, and the Truth” — which also proves that France 2 aired a fake news report.

Daniel_pearl_video Let me remind you that this news report triggered the second Intifada, incited Muslims all over the world; that squares are dedicated to the child and that postage stamps have been printed with the picture of Mohammed al-Dura. The American journalist Daniel Pearl was even beheaded to avenge Mohammed al-Dura’s death.

Recently, a book of the French philosopher Pierre-André Taguieff has been published in a prestigious book house which also claims that France 2’s news report was a hoax, and he was not sued for defamation.

I think it is high time to raise this suspicion over France 2 which has probably breached the code of ethics of the French public TV.

Therefore, I’d like to know, Mr. President, what are the steps you intend to take to regain confidence and reveal the truth on this matter? I take advantage of our meeting to give you Taguieff’s book and the DVD of the German public TV.

Pflimlin's unfortunate response didn't surprise me.

Of course, I’ll look at this story.

Is it conceivable that France 2 might just apologize for the Dura video?

And if it does, what value do you think it will have 10 years later?


Tuesday, July 13 2010

AP Frets Over IDF Fauxtography?

We see photos day after day from Gaza and the West Bank blatantly staged by Palestinian stringers, and wire services put them up without question.

Yet in this caption, AP essentially declares says it can't independently verify the pics. Check out the last part of the caption in capitals.


Okay, it's a standard disclaimer for images that weren't produced by the wire service.

I think AP needs a disclaimer for images produced by Palestinian stringers too. Trust-but-verify works both ways.

Fixation Factor on Fading Facebook
FacebookHonestReporting's social media editor, Alex Margolin, contributes occasional posts on social media issues. He oversees HonestReporting on Facebook.

When it comes to spreading information across the Internet, it is difficult to find a platform more effective than Facebook.

The site boasts an international membership of more than 400 million, including a whopping 125 million active users in the US alone. And its main purpose – keeping friends connected – means that information travels from friend to friend, network to network, though trusted relationships, the most effective way to get people’s attention.

Facebook has become such a major part of mainstream culture that it functions almost as a miniature Internet inside the Internet -- except that Facebook does not allow anonymity, which keeps discourse cleaner and more responsible (for the most part.)

We saw how effective Facebook could be during the Gaza flotilla crisis. One Facebook group devoted to spreading truth about the flotilla “activists” reached 252,700 members. Another group with a similar purpose has 97,000 members. A Facebook group also played a key role in HonestReporting’s campaign to force Comedy Central to remove an offensive game from its website.

But it looks as thought he Internet giant has started to approach its plateau.

According to the website Inside Facebook, the site gained only 320,800 new members in June. While most Internet properties would envy that sort of growth, it represents a monumental drop from the 7.8 million new members it gained in May.

Even more surprising, the site lost members from its key demographic – people ages 18 to 44. At the same time, Facebook added more members in the 13-17 range and the 45-55 range.

Wired magazine offered its own assessment of Facebook’s decline in growth:

One possibility is that the May and June controversies over Facebook's privacy policies and dominance have kept the company from tremendous new growth and even led some to curtail their use.

Another possibility is that it's just a statistical aberration, or a result of changes to the advertising system, where Inside Facebook says it gleans its numbers.

But there's also the possibility that almost every American who has any interest in joining Facebook already has. Facebook says it has about 125 million active U.S. accounts and is likely closing on half a billion accounts worldwide.

Does that mean Facebook has reached its peak? Will it soon fade from its exalted Internet status? Not likely. It still holds second place (behind Google) as the most visited site on the Internet. And it remains the biggest site for sharing photos online.

But as the site’s growth flattens, it could mean a change of approach for the company. Instead of looking to draw more members, it could focus instead on improving services for its current members. That might mean finding new ways to strengthen connections between friends, and new ways to share information.

So for those who see Facebook as a platform for viral content, Facebook’s “decline” could be the best news yet.

Previously in Alex's series: Are Hyperlinks Hyper-Jinxed?

Monday, July 12 2010

Fenton Passes on Pro-Palestinian P.R. Project

I've received a number of emails from readers about Fenton Communications in recent days. Fresno Zionism's post about the P.R. firm taking on the Qatar-funded Fakhoora project sparked a lot of discussion.

The JTA now reports that Fenton is closing its Fakhoora file.

Times of London's Mavi Marmara Revisionism

It's been a few weeks since the Israeli navy intercepted the Mavi Marmara. Although videos of Turkish "activists" have been viewed all over the world, the Times of London is still in doubt about the incident:

The report is expected to be tough on the military decision-making process and focus on the intelligence failure that led Israel to send its commandos one by one into a crowd of activists allegedly armed with metal clubs and knives, and whom Israel accused immediately after the killings of being linked to global terrorism.

For the benefit of the Times of London staff, here's the viral video of so-called "activists" attacking commandos with "alleged" metal clubs and knives.

World Cup Runneth Over With Fauxtography

Here's a photo-op whose brazen concept is more impressive than the lousy images it produced. The Palestinians combined the security fence and Bethlehem with the World Cup, then managed to get AP photographer Tara Todras-Whitehill to show up.

How could any self-respecting photo editor put an image like this onto the wires?


At least these other weeks-old file photos from AP and Reuters (etc.) made it clearer they were watching soccer -- while making sure the security barrier was the obvious focus of an otherwise static image.


Sunday, July 11 2010

Stephen Walt on Fawning Journalists
Ariel_sharon Just when I thought the dust was settling on the Octavia Nasr affair, Professor Stephen Walt weighed in at NPR:

More importantly, plenty of American journalists and politicians have shown "respect" (and in some cases, fawning admiration) for various world figures with hands far bloodier than Ayatollah Fadlallah — including Mao Zedong, Ariel Sharon, the Shah of Iran, or even Kim il Sung — but it didn't cost them their jobs. And let's not forget that plenty of American journalists treat our own leaders with plenty of deference and "respect," even after the latter have launched unnecessary wars in which tens of thousands have died or authorized the torture of detainees.

Let's see:

• An estimated 50-70 million Chinese died in as a result of Chairman Mao's Great Leap Forward, Cultural Revolution and other political purges between 1949-1976.

• Kim Il-Sung's North Korean personality cult remains strong even today, 16 years after the Great Leader's death. We'll never know how many people were killed by Kim's regime between 1948-1987. Estimates range anywhere between 710,000 and 3.5 million.

• As for the Shah of Iran, his security/intelligence agency, SAVAK, has blood on its hands. No more so than, say, the Iranian security forces who brutally repressed last year's anti-government demonstrations.

Unlike China, North Korea and Iran, Israel's democratic society is too transparent to allow for the kind of repression Walt snidely insinuates against Israel.

Which Western journalists fawned over Ariel Sharon anyway? Dave Brown?

Neve Gordon: Still On the Fringes

Last year, Israeli professor Neve Gordon called for an international boycott of Israel.

He's back with another boycott-divestment-sanctions bromide -- this time on page 13 among the more receptive op-eds of The Observer.

BDS is not about a particular solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but the demand that Israel abide by international law and UN resolutions.

It is, accordingly, something that you can support if you are for a two-state solution or a one-state solution. You can even support it as a Zionist.

I'm not going to tell Gordon he can't express himself.

But as I pointed out last year -- when the LA Times published the Ben-Gurion U. professor's more well-known commentary -- Gordon represents nobody but himself and small handful of people like David Landau. So why would any op-ed editor elevate a fringe view like this?

Related reading: Neve Gordon Too Extreme For Stephen Walt


Thursday, July 8 2010

Fauxtography Files: Captions Cross Wires

I'm trying to figure out the difference in captions for the same AFP photo. At the Getty Images web site, which hosts the work, the caption's straightforward enough:



But get a load of what was added to the caption at Yahoo News:


The White House summit has nothing to do with the image; the caption even jabs Israel.

But I don't blame Yahoo News for this. Aggregate news sites like Yahoo only copy and paste whatever caption they get from the wires. They probably aren't aware of this dig at Israel.

But the photographer, Hazem Bader, and the people he works for, certainly understand it very well and use it to their advantage -- usually unchallenged.

CNN Fires Octavia Nasr

CNN fired Octavia Nasr:

A CNN spokesman said Tuesday that Ms. Nasr had made an “error of judgment” that “did not meet CNN’s editorial standards.”  . . .

Her explanation of the Twitter message was apparently not enough for her CNN bosses. Ms. Khosravi wrote in the memo, “at this point, we believe that her credibility in her position as senior editor for Middle Eastern affairs has been compromised going forward.”

I really didn't expect things to go further after yesterday's explanation, and I'm impressed that CNN is demanding a higher standard from its staff.

Wednesday, July 7 2010

Octavia Nasr: I Regret the Fadlallah Tweet

Octavia_nasr CNN's Octavia Nasr regrets her recent tweet about the death of Hezbollah's Sheikh Mohammed Hussein Nasrallah:

Reaction to my tweet was immediate, overwhelming and a provides a good lesson on why 140 characters should not be used to comment on controversial or sensitive issues, especially those dealing with the Middle East.

It was an error of judgment for me to write such a simplistic comment and I'm sorry because it conveyed that I supported Fadlallah's life's work. That's not the case at all . . . .

Revered across borders yet designated a terrorist. Not the kind of life to be commenting about in a brief tweet. It's something I deeply regret.

The regret sounds sincere and I'm glad she was held accountable.
Hamas Blocks Newspapers From Outside Gaza

Newspaper Hamas blocked the the first delivery in three years of newspapers from outside Gaza. AP writes:

The Israeli military says that it was set to begin allowing 10,000 copies of three Palestinian dailies from the West Bank and Jerusalem into Gaza on Wednesday.

Hamas said on its website Wednesday it had blocked the shipment because it wasn't properly coordinated.

But an official familiar with Hamas' thinking says the group will not allow the newspapers in until the rival President Mahmoud Abbas lets Hamas-linked newspapers into his West Bank stronghold.

It's time to organize a humanitarian flotilla to deliver newspapers limp iPads for Gaza.

NY Times Shocker: Colluding with Radical NGOs to Upstage White House Summit

The Gray Lady becomes a politicized vehicle for a campaign timed to cause maximum embarrassment and target pro-Israel advocacy groups.

See HonestReporting's latest communique: NY Times Shocker: Colluding with Radical NGOs to Upstage White House Summit


Tuesday, July 6 2010

Fadlallah Died Authorizing Suicide Bombings

Earlier this week, I blogged that Hezbollah's Sheikh Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah died condemning Israel.

I wasn't completely correct.

Turns out Fadlallah died authorizing suicide bombings.

One of Fadlallah’s last acts before he died was to issue a fatwa authorising the use of suicide bomb attacks. The mystery here is why he waited so long. For as a founder member of Hizbollah – he sat on the organisation’s ruling council – Fadlallah gave his personal approval to the massive suicide truck bomb attacks that levelled the American Embassy and Marine compound in Beirut in 1983, killing more than 300 people, including the then CIA station chief. Fadlallah gave his personal blessing to the suicide bombers before they left for their deadly mission.

Octavia Nasr, where are you?

And You Thought Vuvuzelas Were Annoying

This photo illustrates a Times of London update on Prime Minister Netayahu's White House summit.

Set aside the fact that the image has nothing to do with the story. Check out the caption.


Mouths open wide, palms up, and one girl looks like she's out of breath. Yeah that looks like real attempt at dialogue. Here's the real caption.

Palestinian children shout at an Israeli soldier during a demonstration against the expansion of the nearby Jewish settlement of Halamish in the West Bank village of Nabi Saleh, Friday, July 2, 2010. (AP Photo/Majdi Mohammed)

The picture has absolutely no connection to the story and is only used for effect. This is exactly the reason Hamas wants these Palestinian photographers to get these kind of images. And the papers play right into their hands.

And you thought those loud vuvuzelas are annoying.

UPDATE July 6: What a can of worms this is. Max Blumenthal filmed this very incident. The Palestinians clearly provoked and staged the whole event to humiliate the IDF -- and they filmed themselves doing it.

See other images 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5 from this Nabi Saleh set-up for the cameras.


Monday, July 5 2010

No Media Hook Too Crooked for B'tselem

Btselem A cheesy B'tselem PR stunt proves that no media hook is too crooked for the MSM.

The Israeli human rights organization prepared a new report on settlement activity, then issued a press release obtained by HonestReporting timed to upstage tomorrow's Netanyahu-Obama meeting at the White House.

Press release - Not for publication until 6:00 A.M. on 6 July 2010

Army and Civil Administration data:One-fifth of settlements' built-up area is private Palestinian land

Settlements control 42 percent of West Bank land area

Today (6 July 2010), B'Tselem is publishing By Hook and by Crook:
Israel's Settlement Policy in the West Bank. The report, which analyzes the mechanisms used to gain Israeli control of land in the West Bank for building the settlements . . .

Pre-dated press releases are common in the public relations industry -- they're sometimes referred to as embargoed press releases because there's an understanding between the publicist and the journalist that the info will not be made public until a specific time.

Responsible journalists question the timing of embargoed press releases. In B'tselem's case, editors cannot fail to notice that the release happens to coincide with the White House summit.

But editors are also taken by the "halo effect" of non-governmental organizations, publishing and citing their reports without question or verification, which

violates both journalistic ethics, which require skepticism and independent verification, and the norm when reporting from other sources, including government officials. But when a “highly respected human rights watchdog” such as Amnesty International or HRW makes a statement, journalists tend to ignore the bias and repeat this as fact. A recent Harvard study of reporting on the 2006 Lebanon War shows that most of the media around the world continued to cite HRW’s claims on the Qana incident, even after HRW was forced to admit their errors. And there are many other examples, not only with respect to Israel, but in Colombia, Iraq, and wherever NGOs rely on “eyewitnesses” and lack independent capabilities.

Publicists fantasize about grabbing the media spotlight, but B'tselem's plan to upstage tomorrow's summit is too blatantly pre-meditated.

How do they expect to get away with this?

Maybe it's because this is the kind of spin that fits nicely into Big Media's view of the Mideast conflict, makes for sensationalized headlines, and creates a wedge between Israel and the US.

B'tselem has revealed an agenda that goes beyond questions of human rights as it bids to embarrass PM Netanyahu on his US trip. And the mainstream media will be only too happy to play along.

CNN's Cheerleader for Hezbollah

CNN's Senior Editor of Mideast Affairs professes her respect for an extremist sheikh and spiritual father of a terrorist organization.

See HonestReporting's latest communique: CNN's Cheerleader for Hezbollah

Fadlallah Died Condemning Israel

Reuters on the death of Hezbollah's Shiekh Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah:

A doctor at the Bahman hospital, to which he was admitted on Friday, said that when a nurse asked the cleric what he needed, he replied: "For the Zionist entity to cease to exist."

Nonetheless, one CNN editor considers Fadlallah "One of Hezbollah's giants I respect a lot."


Sunday, July 4 2010

'One of Hezbollah's Giants I Respect A Lot'

Octavia Nasr, CNN's senior editor of Middle East affairs, is going to get a lot of grief over this tweet about the death of Hezbollah's Sheikh Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah.


What is it about Fadlallah's record that earns Nasr's respect?

  • Fadlallah's approval of the Hezbollah manifesto, which describes "the necessity for the destruction of Israel?"

  • Fadlallah's links to the 1983 truck bombing of the US Marine barracks, the 2008 Mercaz HaRav Kook massacre, and his support for the 1979 seizure of the US embassy in Tehran?

  • A fatwa to boycott Israeli and USA products?

  • Holocaust denial?

As far as all-time sympathy for the devil goes, Barbara Plett's tears for Arafat still tops the list.

Related reading: Hizbullah in Lebanon

(Hat tip: dejerusalem)

The Oudeh Doctrine: Why Collateral Damage Means Never Having to Say You're Sorry

Munich_olympics No tears shed here for the death of Mohammed Oudeh, who masterminded of the 1972 Munich Olympics massacre. Here's how he once justified the attack on civilians:

"Some of them [the athletes] had taken part in wars and killed many Palestinians. Whether a pianist or an athlete, any Israeli is a soldier."

According to the logic of the "Oudeh Doctrine," there's no such thing as an Israeli "civilian" since any Israeli is, was, or will be a soldier or reservist. This includes women, children and the elderly. Palestinians have expressed this view before. Oudeh simply said so in a more public way than anyone else.

It means you don't have to apologize for terror attacks since no victims were truly civilian. And collateral damage? Doesn't exist. The beauty of the Oudeh Doctrine is that collateral damage means never having to say you're sorry.

Despite the fact that Palestinian terror groups brainwash children and send 11-year-old boys, mothers and grandmothers off to blow themselves up, the IDF will never treat non-combatants as legitimate targets.

2010 Mid-Year Report

I'm digesting the most-read content on HonestReporting and Backspin so far. Let's start with HR.

HonestReporting's most viewed critiques

Flotilla 1. Special Alert: Flotilla Battle Unleashes Anti Israel Wave
When Israel's back was shoved against the wall, readers felt the same way. Except for Operation Cast Lead and the Second War in Lebanon, I can't recall readers treating a development with such urgency.

2. You Lied to Me Jew Producer: Comedy Central Shocker
This was a perfect storm for an issue to go viral. A tawdry cartoon, a crude video game, and an unequivocally anti-Semitic line on a comedy station that had recently censored itself to appease Muslims.

3. Special Alert: Boats, Bias and Big Lies
See point one above.

4. Special Analysis: Fauxtography - Reuters Caught Again
There's been a lot of photo bias in recent weeks. Reuters selectively cropping flotilla images got the ball rolling. We've faced creative cropping, problematic captions, and recycled images ever since. Images tell a a very powerful story.

Honorable mention: HonestReporting's Dubai Mission a Big Hit
A satirical communique -- our first -- written for the Purim holiday. For a few weeks, the spoof was our year's most-read material. In May, it was knocked from the top spot -- perhaps fittingly enough -- by our response to Comedy Central. The Dubai Mission was a lot of fun to write, and it's still relevant.

Backspin's most-viewed posts

Nytimes_logo 1. NY Times and Appearances of Conflict of Interest
Around the beginning of the year, we made some changes in our email format that allowed us more flexibility to direct readers to Backspin. When Palestinians raised an issue with NY Times bureau chief Ethan Bronner, HR readers showed there's no apathy when it comes to the Gray Lady.

2. 10 Significant Articles From the 'Noughties' Decade
I'm grateful that readers showed interest in this early January post. I only regret not writing this in December, when it would've generated more interest.

3. Remove Hamas Terror Tweets
Twitter enables Hamas propaganda by allowing them to post tweets.

Honorable mention: Liveblogging the Free Gaza Media War
Liveblogging's intense, which is why I save it for the most intense days.


Thursday, July 1 2010

Fauxtography: Rubble's Double Trouble

Wire services cranked out some photos of Gaza sites hit by Israeli air strikes after an Israeli packing plant in Shaar HaNegev was badly damaged by a Qassam rocket.

The AP, Reuters and Getty stringers who took photos 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5 are giving the air strike more spin than Mariano Rivera's cutter because they're also getting double-use from the images: In addition to the air strike, the photographers convey an ongoing concrete rubble story too. 

Most blatant of all was this from Reuters.


Palestinians try to break off gravel from a destroyed building at an abandoned airport that was hit by an Israeli air strike in the southern Gaza Strip July 1, 2010. The gravel will later be sold and used for new construction. (REUTERS/Ibraheem Abu Mustafa)

Don't hold your breath waiting for the wires to get some shots of the damaged Israeli plant. YNet News already did; the images are neither dramatic, nor fit the wire services' pre-conceived view of the Mideast conflict.

Now the Terrorists Are 'Dissidents'

The MSM's slippery slope of calling terrorists "militants" and "activists" got even more slippery. Michael Jansen of the Irish Times visited Palestinian rejectionist groups in Damascus. Get a load of this headline:


Jansen's dissidents? None other than Hamas and the PFLP.

Could the Times possibly be any more morally obtuse? Gilad Shalit's Hamas captors now share the same label as Aung San Suu Kyi. As for the PFLP, if a decade of airplane hijackings doesn't qualify as terror, what does?

Are Hyperlinks Hyper-Jinxed?

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

Who would have thought the humble hyperlink – that dynamic marvel that turns the Internet into a world wide web – would be blamed for our diminishing attention spans?

Well, media theorist Nicholas Carr, whose new book, The Shallows, claims the Internet is turning our brains to mush, wrote recently on his blog that the good ol’ link may be one of the main culprits:

Links are wonderful conveniences, as we all know (from clicking on them compulsively day in and day out). But they're also distractions. Sometimes, they're big distractions - we click on a link, then another, then another, and pretty soon we've forgotten what we'd started out to do or to read.

Even if we don’t click on the link, he continues, it has an affect on how much we understand about that we read:

Your eyes notice it, and your frontal cortex has to fire up a bunch of neurons to decide whether to click or not. You may not notice the little extra cognitive load placed on your brain, but it's there and it matters. People who read hypertext comprehend and learn less, studies show, than those who read the same material in printed form. The more links in a piece of writing, the bigger the hit on comprehension.

Carr’s solution for writers: put links at the end of a piece rather than sprinkling them throughout. Sounds like a reasonable solution, one that reinforces the idea that links work best when they function as dynamic footnotes.

At the same time, the New York Times had its own concerns about links. But its worries had less to do with the “bunch of neurons” than about the potential loss of traffic if bloggers and others stop linking to the paper.

The NYT plans to begin charging for articles in 2011. Readers will be allowed a certain number of free articles and will be charged for any beyond the limit. But according to Peter Kafka’s Media Memo, the Grey Lady has already begun assuring bloggers that readers will not be barred from reading links posted by third-parties (such as bloggers, Twitter, Facebook), even if they are over the limit.

So there are two sides to every hyperlink – the linker and the linked-to – and both are coming under fire by parallel developments. As readers spend more time on the Internet, pundits grow increasingly concerned about the effect the Internet has on our brains. But more time online means more demand for quality content. And that means potentially link-blocking paywalls.

At least it seems the NY Times has found a way to have a paywall and keep social media's incoming links working. Someone alert the Wall Street Journal.

Previously in Alex's series: Is There Life After Depth?

Wire Services: Cream of 'The Crop'

Elder of Ziyon had a helluva spot comparing Reuters and Getty photos (and captions) taken at the funeral of Bassam Badwan. I'm adding AP to the mix because they're no better than Reuters. 

Exhibit A: Associated Press:


Palestinian mourners carry the body of Bassam Badwan, a militant from the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), out of his family house during his funeral in Gaza City, Tuesday, June 29, 2010. Badwan was killed Monday in an Israeli airstrike in Gaza. (AP/Khalil Hamra)

Exhibit B: Reuters:


Palestinians carry the body of militant Bassam Badwan during his funeral in Gaza City June 29, 2010. An Israeli air strike on the Gaza Strip on Monday killed at least one Palestinian militant, Badwan, and wounded two other people, medical workers said. An Israeli army spokeswoman said a military aircraft had "targeted a Palestinian who fired a rocket-propelled grenade at soldiers" that struck inside Israel. (REUTERS/Mohammed Salem)

Exhibit C: AFP/Getty Images, which didn't crop out the more interesting context.


Press photographers crowd around Palestinian mourners carrying the body of Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) militant Bassam Badwun duirng his funeral in Gaza City on June 29, 2010 after being shot dead by Israeli forces. (SAID KHATIB/AFP/Getty Images)

Not only do there appear to be more photographers than mourners, EoZ adds that some of the outstretched arms seem to be coming from the journalists!


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