Backspin FrontPage
Backspin FrontPage
Media Backspin
About Media Backspin Contact Media Backspin Media Backspin
  Media Backspin
Backspin FrontPage
Media Backspin RSS Feed   [ About RSS ]
Subscribe with Bloglines
Add to My AOL
Subscribe in Bloglines
Subscribe to MyMSN
Subscribe in NewsGator Online
Add to Google Reader or Homepage
ARCHIVES January 2011 December 2010 November 2010 October 2010 September 2010 August 2010 July 2010 June 2010 May 2010 April 2010
Media Backspin
« August 2010 | Main | October 2010 »

Wednesday, September 22 2010

Sukkot Pause Button

I'm taking off for Sukkot. In the meantime, check out some amazing Israeli images on Flickr.

> Night River
> Stairway to Heaven
> Man Jogging
> Calatrava Remix

Happy holiday to all our readers. I'll resume blogging on Sunday, October 3.

iPhone Apps Enter Mideast Political Battlefield

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

Considering the Internet world’s steady shift towards mobile phones and the Apple iPhone’s runaway success with user-generated mobile applications (apps) – software widgets for mobile devices – it was only a matter of time before someone designed an application around the Middle East conflict.

This week, the Americans for Peace Now (APN) launched their “Facts on the Ground” app designed to allow people to track settlement activity through their mobile phones.

The app consists of a map of the West Bank with dots identifying Jewish communities in the region. When a user clicks on a dot, the app shows a wide range of information about the community, including when it was established and how much “private Palestinian land” it takes up.


According to Haaretz, APN believes that the application “democratizes data” about the West Bank to help people who are unable to go on Peace Now’s tours of the region get a grasp of the situation:

APN intends to update the map regularly with new information, such as the establishment and dismantling of outposts, and violent incidents between Palestinians and settlers. Their stated intention is to turn the app into a "comprehensive real-time view of what is happening on the ground in the West Bank."

The app’s appearance raises two important questions.

1. How democratic can app can be when it's created by a group attempting to influence politics in Israel? The timing of the app’s launch – the same week Israel’s West Bank settlement freeze is due to expire – points to APN's political ambitions. While it may strive to provide “facts on the ground,” APN is limited by its own perspective on the issue, which does not represent the consensus opinion in Israel.

2. How will Peace Now’s opponents respond? Wired magazine noted, in its own coverage of the new application, that Israel has a poor record spreading its message through apps.

Most Israel-related apps are mostly touristy projects about finding good restaurants on Dizengoff Street in Tel Aviv. (You can, however, download MyPalestine, a Palestinian heritage app that veers into anti-occupation rhetoric.)

Facts on the Ground represents an early attempt at turning the App Store into contested geopolitical territory. It surely won’t be the last. Don’t be surprised to see apps popping up that show, say, where Hamas rockets fired from Gaza have landed on southern Israeli towns; or the latest anti-Semitic rant from Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Wired is right: there is plenty of room for Israel’s supporters to use social platforms like iPhone apps to spread their message. But social media is not like the mainstream media. It cannot be pressured to provide balanced coverage of an issue.

That means a response to the APN app will come only if Israel’s supporters take the matter upon themselves.

The issue also reminds us that the Internet provides an open platform, which can be used by both sides of the conflict. Unfortunately, the pro-Israel side is playing catch-up once again instead of taking to lead in the use of progressive technologies.

Previously in Alex's series: Mike Wise's Whale of a Fail

Globe & Mail Flies Off the Radar

Last week, Iyad Shilbayeh, a senior Hamas commander in Tulkarem was killed during an IDF arrest raid.

The raid happened to take place in the late afternoon on the eve of Yom Kippur, while the rest of Israel was shutting down for one of the most important holidays on the Jewish calendar.

I'm wondering what correspondent Patrick Martin of the Globe & Mail (via HonestReporting Canada) was thinking when he filed his report. His double-spinned story called the arrest raid a "targeted killing." And Martin implied that the operation took place on the eve of Yom Kippur to take advantage of the dead media time:

And it came just hours before Israelis celebrated Yom Kippur, the holiest of Jewish holidays. As a result, there was almost no news of the killing in Israeli media – no newspapers are published Saturday, and almost all Israeli broadcasting goes off the air at midday on Friday.

Addressing the targeted killing claim is easy enough. Buried at the bottom of his dispatch, Martin himself quotes an army spokesperson that Shilbayeh was shot when he moved towards soldiers who had ordered him to halt.

The implication that the IDF operation was timed to "fly under Israeli public radar" is even more ridiculous. Senior Hamas commanders aren't stupid don't spend enough time in one place to allow the IDF the luxury of scheduling arrest raids around holidays.

Or would Martin have us believe that Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab scheduled his Christmas Day bombing attempt to fly under the international media's radar too?


Tuesday, September 21 2010

Success! Q107 Removes Anti-Israel Survey, Airs Apology

After scores of HonestReporting Canada readers complained about a biased anti-Israel survey hosted on a Toronto rock station's web site, the station removed the survey and publically apologized.

See HonestReporting Canada's follow up communique: Success! Q107 Removes Anti-Israel Survey, Airs Apology.

Settlement Activity, Sukkot, and the WSJ

The Wall St. Journal chose an interesting photo to accompany Josh Mitnick's report about settlers looking forward to an end to the settlement freeze.

The image?

A Reuters photo of a settler building a sukkah. At first glance, you might think the WSJ story is about the man in the photo. At least the WSJ and Reuters make it clear what the man is building.


Jewish settler Avraham Binyamin carries a wooden plank as he builds a sukkah, a ritual booth used during the upcoming holiday of Sukkot, outside his house on the West Bank Jewish settlement of Yitzhar, south of Nablus September 20, 2010. (REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun)
Toronto Radio Survey: Crass, Biased & Unfair Against Israel

A Toronto rock station demonstrates that survey questions sometimes reveal more about the pollsters themselves than the questions they attempt to answer.

See HonestReporting Canada's latest communique: Q107 Radio Survey: Crass, Biased & Unfair Against Israel


Monday, September 20 2010

An Experiment Exposes Academia's Double Standards Against Israel

Illinois A U. of Illinois professor exposed the hypocrisy of academia part in the boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign against Israel with a unique experiment of his own.

It began when Dr. Fred Gottheil noticed a letter to President Obama by USC professor David Lloyd signed by 900 academics. Gottheil explains to FrontPage Mag (via Power Line) what he did next:

The thought occurred to me: Would these same 900 sign onto a statement expressing concern about human rights violations in the Muslim Middle East, such as honor killing, wife-beating, female genital mutilation, and violence against gays and lesbians? I felt it was worth a try. My ‘Statement of Concern’ became a four-page document providing evidence of these human rights violations . . . By late spring, I had the email addresses of 675 who signed Lloyd’s petition and sent them my ‘Statement of Concern,’ requesting their support. The results were surprising even though I thought the responses would be few. They were almost non-existent.

Only 27 people signed Gottheil's letter. His scathing conclusion:

It turns out that with all their professing of principle, they are sanctimonious bigots at heart. And some are so obsessed about Israel that they would undermine their own self interest.
Read the whole thing.

The Washington Post: An In-Depth Analysis

Is the Washington Post guilty of publishing anti-Israel propaganda?

See HonestReporting's special media study: The Washington Post: An In-Depth Analysis

Australian Journalist Cleared of Anti-Semitism Charge

The Australian Press Council dismissed a complaint against Sydney Morning Herald columnist Mike Carlton.

Background: On June 5, Sydney Morning Herald columnist Mike Carlton reacted to the Mavi Marmara incident. Complaints from outraged Jews sparked followup columns on June 12 and June 19 (scroll down to the second half).

A reader then filed a formal complaint against Carlton with the Press Council, saying the latter two commentaries were anti-Semitic. The APC regulates Australia's print media.

Is Carlton entitled to express his views? Yes.

Were the two columns offensive? Yes.

Were they anti-Semitic? I don't think so.

It was fair of SMH readers to write letters to the editor, for bloggers to fisk Carlton's pieces, for people to share their outrage on Facebook, Twitter and other social media platforms. That's all part of the online conversation.

But accusing someone of anti-Semitism is too heavy a charge to throw around lightly. It changes the terms of the debate, and that's a shame because other issues raised by the substance of Carlton's columns were overlooked. Such as:

  • Accusing a Jewish lobby of coordinating a response rudely dismisses legitimate criticism out of hand.
  • There's no comparison between the Mavi Marmara and The Exodus.
  • Calling Israel's prime minister a "thug addicted to the use of Israeli military might" is a cheap shot.

So I can't say I'm surprised by the Press Council's ruling. Even worse, it now became just a little bit harder to fight real anti-Semitism (especially Down Under).

With the chapter closed, I can only wonder if Carlton ever appreciated the more legitimate reasons why SMH readers were offended.


Sunday, September 19 2010

PA Budget (And Donors) Funds Hamas Terror

Earlier today, I blogged that Hamas makes no distinction between civilian cops and Qassam Brigades.

Hamas Interior Ministry spokesman Ehab al-Ghossain's admission to Time magazine struck me as significant because after the Gaza war, the casualty count and the status of many Palestinians as "military" or "civilian" casualties became a major point of contention.

Now, Elder of Ziyon raises a different point more relevant to the here and now: The PA provides funding for Gaza's civilian Hamas-affiliated police force. How much?

At first blush, one would be certain that Hamas pays them all. However, a little number crunching indicates that between at least a $269M is paid out of the PA budget to security in Gaza annually, and perhaps as much as $630 million!

. . .

These numbers can be adjusted somewhat lower if the salaries are going to former policemen who are being paid to do nothing. But on the surface, this is part of the security budget, and any way you slice it, hundreds of millions of dollars of the PA security budget is being spent in Gaza, ostensibly for security.

This may be why Hamas maintains a legal fiction between the al-Qassam Brigades and the police - because they are being paid out of different pockets, and this way Hamas terrorists can draw a second salary, courtesy of the world's nations.

Hamas and its apologists already muddy the waters with false distinctions between the terror organization's "armed" and "political" wings. So it's no surprise that the Palestinians further whitewash the role of terrorists because they're bureaucratically defined as civilian cops.

There's too much money at stake.

Read more at the Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center.

Hamas Confirms: No Distinction Between Civilian Cops and Qassam Brigades

Remember the wrangling over the Gaza war's casualty count, as Hamas and Israel argued over the definition of civilians?

Now, Hamas confirmed that there's really no distinction between civilian police and "the resistance" groups who attack Israel. Time writes:

Referring to both the uniformed police and the plainclothes Internal Security, one civilian says, "They're all Qassam." The government does little to deny it. "Many of the Qassam operate within both the Qassam brigades and the Internal Security," Interior Ministry spokesman Ehab al-Ghossain tells TIME. "In our laws, we do not prevent any resistance fighter from joining the police or a security service, provided that he is committed to the rules and regulations of the department he belongs to . . . We make sure that their activities, outside of their official jobs, remain separate."
The lines are going to become even more blurred now that Hamas is laying the groundwork for what many Gazans expect to be mandatory conscription.
Al-Ahram Editor Doth Protest Too Much

Osama Saraya, the chief editor of Egypt's state-run daily paper, Al-Ahram, lashed out at critics of last week's doctored photo of the White House summit.

I haven't found an English translation of Saraya's thin-skinned Friday column, so The Daily News of Egypt will suffice for now:

Al-Ahram chief-editor Osama Saraya wrote in an editorial Friday that altering the image wasn’t meant to distort the truth but to illustrate the leading political role of Egypt’s president.

Explaining that the photo was published in its original format earlier in the month, Saraya stressed that the paper doesn’t lie or alter the truth. He accused his critics of violating the ethics of the profession by the pointing the change in the photo.

“The published photo is illustrative; so those who don’t understand could,” he wrote, saying the critics shouldn’t mislead others by “claiming to have uncovered a hoax. . . . They are the ones who mislead, who lie, and who believe themselves, then accuse us.”

Illustrative purposes only? The doctored image wasn't labeled as such, which makes it misleading. Had the image of Mubarak's so-called "leading political role" been expressed, for example, as a painting, cartoon or sketch, nobody would've cared except for the poor artist left to fight for his paycheck.

More revealing is Saraya's blowback. If the image was really for illustrative purposes, a grudging boilerplate clarification proabably would've left the issue pushed off and buried. Methinks the editor doth protest too much.

If you haven't seen the images yet, here's the reality:


And here's what the state-run paper calls an illustration:


Illustrative purpose. Yeah, right.

Mike Wise's Whale of a Fail

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

Ben_roethlisberger Can you trust news from the internet?

That’s the question Washington Post sportswriter and radio personality Mike Wise seemed to ask when he posted a fabricated “scoop” about the fate of Pittsburg Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger a few weeks ago.

The Steelers’ star player had been suspended for six games by the NFL, though football insiders widely believed the suspension would be reduced on appeal. Shortly before the NFL was due to announce its decision, Wise wrote a on his Twitter account -- which identifies him as a writer for the Washington Post:

Roethlisberger will get five games, I'm told.

In fact, Wise had not spoken to anyone. He made up the information and posted it on Twitter as a stunt for his radio show to demonstrate that online media will pick up anything without verification. Five minutes later, Wise wrote another tweet admitting the hoax, but that followup tweet didn't get posted due to a glitch at Twitter. Wise only discovered the error when he finished taping his radio show -- 40 minutes later.

In the meantime, mainstream publications such as the Miami Herald and the NBC sports blog, ProFootballTalk picked up on the tweet, carefully attributing the information to Wise.

The stunt didn't involve the Washington Post directly, but editors considered it a major breach of rules for reporters – specifically the ones against making things up and publishing them. The Post suspended Wise one month for harming the paper's credibility. Since then, Wise has made the rounds on talk shows, taking full responsibility for his actions.

Fail-whale As the issue continues to be discussed online, it's worth examining Wise’s “experiment” and what it says about attitudes towards social media in some sectors.

Notably, Wise didn't experiment by fabricating information in his Post column. But he had no problem posting false information on Twitter, even if he intended to “correct” the record quickly. Apparently, platforms such as Twitter inherently lack credibility to some people.

But the storm surrounding the experiment gone awry proves that Wise misunderstood a key principle about social media – one that makes it different from the mainstream media: It isn't the platforms that have the credibility but the people who use them. The Miami Herald and others accepted Wise’s tweet because they trusted that Wise, as a Post reporter, properly verified the story.

They relied on the source, not the information.

In the end, Wise proved the opposite of his original intention. Instead of showing that the Internet lacked journalistic ethics, he put a spotlight on his own lapse, harming his and the Post's credibility.

But what about Wise's main point – that bloggers and Internet aggregators post information without verification? There may be truth to that point.

But someone will have to find a better way to prove it.

Previously in Alex's series: What Is Online Conversation?


Thursday, September 16 2010

VOA Erases Hebron's Jewish History

Voa Voice Of America reporter Luis Ramirez erases centuries of Jews living in Hebron. Describing one Palestinian living adjacent to Kiryat Arba, Ramirez states:

He is on the front line of the conflict between Palestinians who have lived here for hundreds of years and Jewish settlers who have made this their home here over the past few decades.

Mitch Bard chronicles the continuous history of Hebron's Jewish community, through Biblical, Roman, Crusader, Mameluke, Ottoman and British Mandate eras. In 1929, after rioting Arabs killed 67 Jews, the Jews fled the city but later returned in small numbers; British authorities fearing another massacre evacuated them in 1936.

Jews were unable to return to Hebron until 1967.

Memo to Ramirez: The 31 years that Hebron was Jew-free is a drop in the bucket compared to the more than 2,000 years Jews continually lived in and around the city.

Phosphorus Follies

Palestinians in Gaza fired two shells at Israel containing phosphorus.

If you listen carefully, maybe you'll eventually hear equally vociferous condemnations from Judge Goldstone and the UN Human Rights Council. Don't strain yourself . . .


Wednesday, September 15 2010

Yes, an Amnesty International Official Apologized to Israel

Frank Johansson, director of Amnesty International's Finland branch, apologized for calling Israel a "scum state."

Hard to imagine what's so "colloquial" about a statement like that, but at least we can close the chapter on the affair.

September 15 Links

> Um No, Jesus Was Not a Palestinian
> Why Israelis Care About Peace
> Hamas Summer Camps: Paramilitary Training for Children
>This Isn't About Semantics
> Iran Donates $25 Million to Turkey's Ruling Party

Egyptian Gov't-Owned Paper Caught Photoshopping White House Summit

Al-Ahram, Egypt's government-owned daily, was caught photoshopping an image of Mideast leaders at the White House summit. It's a great example of the power of manipulating an image, and the extent of propaganda in the Arab government-controlled media.

Here's the real image. I'll head off the conspiracy theorists by comparing everyone's positions to the same image in the White House photo gallery (image 19/23).


Now here's the image Al-Ahram readers saw (see WaElk's screen capture, via The Arabist). Note the prominence of President Mubarak, strolling front and center.


I can't wait to see Al-Ahram's photos of the new round of talks Egypt's hosting in Sharm el-Sheikh.


Tuesday, September 14 2010

Israel As a Jewish State: A 'Relatively Minor Issue'

UPDATE: See HonestReporting UK for a more in-depth response: The Indie: Recogniton of a Jewish State - A "Relatively Minor Issue". Catrina Stewart's belittling of a key Israeli negotiating demand demonstrates a fundamental misunderstanding of the bigger picture.

* * *

Independent-logo Who gave The Independent's Catrina Stewart carte blanche to editorialize in this news story?

Washington hopes to bring the Israelis and Palestinians to a framework agreement within one year, yet the two sides remain deeply divided over even relatively minor issues, such as the Palestinian reluctance to recognise Israel as a Jewish state.

It says a lot that Palestinian recognition of Israel as a Jewish state is trivial in the eyes of Stewart and everyone else in The Independent's editorial chain of command.

Last year, I blogged several reasons why it's important for Palestinians to recognize Israel specifically as a Jewish state. In short:

  • There's a profound difference between recognizing Israel's existence and recognizing Israel as an inherently Jewish state.
  • The Second Intifada and calls for Israel's destruction reinforce fears that a purely diplomatic accord will not leave Israel secure.
  • Jews have legitimate aspirations for national self-determination.

Read the whole post.


Monday, September 13 2010

Image Is Everything: Hamas vs. the IDF

A Gaza rally against Koran-burning must have been pretty un-photogenic. Wire photographers focused on impressively artistic images of Hamas security.

Of course, when it comes to shooting Israeli soldiers, photographers make them look menacing by shooting from low angles to make them look bigger.

Other preferred tricks: dehumanize Israeli soldiers by cropping out their heads, and angle the shot so that guns appear deliberately pointed at children.

First, get a load of the Hamas images:


Members of Hamas' security forces cast shadows on a wall as they stand guard during a rally in Gaza City acknowledging people who memorized the Koran September 12, 2010. The rally was organized by Dar Koran association. (Reuters/Ismail Zaydah)


A Palestinian Hamas security members stand guard during a rally in Gaza City, Sunday, Sept. 12, 2010. (AP/Ashraf Amra)


A Palestinian, of the Islamic Hamas group security members, stands guard during a rally in Gaza City, Sunday, Sept. 12, 2010. (AP/Ashraf Amra)

Now compare them to these strikingly dehumanizing images of Israeli soldiers.


An Israeli soldier stands in front of Palestinian demonstrators holding up their national and the Turkish flags during a protest against Israel's separation barrier in the village of Maasarah, near the West Bank city of Bethlehem, on June 4, 2010. (AFP/Musa Al-Shaer)



Israeli soldiers stand guard during a demonstration against the Israeli controversial separation barrier in the West Bank town of Beit Jala near Bethlehem on July 4, 2010. Israeli and Palestinian officials said they expected to start indirect peace talks within days, following the Arab League's endorsement of a US-brokered plan to end the impasse. (AFP/Musa al-Shaer)


An Israeli soldier stands guard in front of a Palestinian youth who was stopped at a checkpoint following an ambush on an Israeli police car in the south of the occupied West Bank in which security officials said two Israeli police officers were wounded and one dead, on June 14, 2010. (AFP/Hazem Bader)

With Israeli soldiers, photographers shoot with no constraints because they know they won't get in trouble with the army, and editors can't get enough of these images.

The same standards don't apply to Hamas, simply because photographers really fear running afoul on Hamas.

Truth, or Consequences?
“as much as justice and truth were important, the country’s stability is even more important.”

Lebanese politician Walid Jumblatt, speaking to French FM Bernard Kouchner about the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) investigating the assassination of Rafik Hariri. (Source: Daily Star)

How can Lebanon ever have stability if everyone sticks their heads in the sand?


Sunday, September 12 2010

Hamas Official's Non-Sequitur of the Day

Wasfi Kabaha, a Hamas politician in the West Bank, told BBC reporter Jon Donnison:

Mr Kabaha says the military wing operates quite separately from the political wing of Hamas, taking most of its orders from Gaza or from Hamas leaders based in Syria.

But the Hamas figures who (pardon the pun) call the shots from Gaza or Syria are "political" too. As Hamas founder Sheikh Ahmed Yassin himself told Reuters:
“We cannot separate the wing from the body. If we do so, the body will not be able to fly. Hamas is one body.”
Will MSM Followup on New 'Rape By Deception' Info? (Part 2)

Last week, I asked if the MSM will followup on new "rape by deception" info.

Unless you read The Guardian, Sydney Morning Herald or Toronto Sun, you'll just have to keep following blogs like this one. 


Tuesday, September 7 2010

Thoughts On a New Year: Now and 10 Years Ago

UPDATE Wed. Sept 8: Tuvia Grossman and HonestReporting's Simon Plosker discussed fauxtography and HR's founding with the Jerusalem Post

In the interview, Tuvia referred to an Egyptian web site that misrepresented his image, depicting him as a Palestinian. That web site,, removed the poster, but not before we got a screen grab. It illustrates (literally and figuratively) Tuvia's main point:

“Even though the Times printed a correction, cousins of mine witnessing a pro-Palestinian rally in Sao Paulo, Brazil noticed demonstrators holding up posters of me to demonstrate Israeli brutality,” he quips. “There are always going to be people who saw original and but did not see correction.”


* * *

Tuvia_grossman It's now known that the Second Intifada began when the Camp David talks broke down.

But my reference point for bloody wave of terror's kick off was the savage beating of Tuvia Grossman by a Palestinian mob outside Damascus Gate. He was saved by a group of soldiers. AP dramatically immortalized the moment by describing the bloodied student as a Palestinian beaten by the soldier on the Temple Mount.

The incident happened on the eve of Rosh HaShanah, the Jewish new year. A day later, images of another boy -- Mohammed al-Dura -- were beamed into televisions around the world. All hell broke loose as suicide bombers, gunmen and rocket squads targeted Israelis for years. On the Jewish calendar, the anniversary is now.

The foreign press corps, which works according to the English calendar, will presumably note the important 10th anniversaries closer to the end of September. Anniversaries provide journalists with opportunities to look back on events; when the period of time is only a decade old, the incidents are recent enough to be relevant to news readers, but far enough back in time that reporters can look at events in a larger context.

This is when events begin moving from "history's first draft" mode to "history." So journalists plan out their coverage well ahead of time.

Mohammed_dura I presume that towards the end of September, we'll begin seeing some lookbacks that may touch on issues like the failed summit, Ariel Sharon's visit to the Temple Mount, Mohammed Dura, the Ramallah lynch, Operation Defensive Shield, "Jeningrad," the Church of the Nativity exiles, Sderot under rocket fire, the most memorable suicide bombings, and more.

We may see commentary and analysis assessing Israeli security measures, Palestinian leadership, and the international response to the conflict and other issues. Perhaps unexpected new revelations will surface too. That sometimes happens on these anniversaries.

- I hope anniversary coverage includes appropriate followup on overlooked Israeli victims who survived Palestinian terror attacks, went through rehab and moved on with their lives.

- I hope anniversary narratives don't become a political issue between Israeli and Palestinian peace negotiators.

- I especially hope that Sept. 30 (Dura's anniversary on the English calendar) doesn't devolve into ugly day of rage -- on the streets or in the press.

I won't speculate on how Fatah and Hamas might mark their red letter dates. Don't expect any Israeli commemorations or P.R. initiatives. Israelis still view the Second Intifada as a wound not worth reopening.

Will we find that history's first draft of intifada is still too contentious? Or will we find hard national narratives starting to soften? And how will all this reflect on the media watchdogging and web activism of HonestReporting, bloggers and Israel's other supporters?

Just some thoughts as we enter a new year.

Shana tova to all our readers. I'll resume blogging on Sunday.

Podcast: How AP Photos Misrepresented Terror

Yarden and I discuss AP's inappropriate and irrelevant "illustrations" from last week's fatal roadside shooting.

Time Reporter Defends Controversial Cover Story

Time_cover Reporter Karl Vick defends his controversial cover story in Time magazine. He tells CNN's Kevin Flowers:

Vick, who was recently assigned to Jerusalem says the cover headline for the story was "meant to be provocative and intrigue" but defended the reporting. "There is always debate and criticism of anything that challenges conventional wisdom" he said.

"It was apparent to me that life here is really good and when security is good there is no urgency."

Vick still confuses Israel's jaded views on the peace process with disinterest in the overall goal of peace.

That nuance is why the Jewish world is outraged with Time, and not with Yossi Klein Halevi and the LA Times over a commentary similarly titled:

Israelis Do Not Have High Hopes in Peace Talks

You can read HonestReporting's response to Time by clicking here, or by clicking on the link Flowers cited in the CNN post.

Will MSM Followup on New 'Rape By Deception' Info?

After a judge convicted an Arab man of "rape by deception" in July, liberal commentators jumped all over Israel.

Andrew Sullivan, in particular, said the ruling was "about racism, religion and the risk of miscegenation." Reader comments on The Lede, and the Daily Kos further browbeat Israel, while The Guardian gave Saber Kushour a soapbox to share with the world how the conviction "ruined his life."

But newly released court documents are turning all the accusations on their head. I'll let Maan News sum up the newest revelations:

The Israeli weekly magazine HaIr on Friday published testimony given in court by the complainant.

Kushur was initially charged with rape by force, and the conviction of "rape by deceit" was a plea bargain formulated and agreed to by the prosecution and defense. According to the report in HaIr, Kushur's lawyers initiated the "rape by deceit" charge.

After the conviction, Israeli press reports on the court's verdict were quickly picked up by the international media, which cited the court's decision as an example of discrimination against Israel’s Arab citizens . . .

According to the report, the initial rape charge was reduced to "rape by deceit" to avoid further traumatizing the woman, who had come under aggressive questioning about her history of being sexual abused, and her former occupation as a sex worker.

Other than the JTA , Maan News, and a Haaretz commentary, I haven't seen any mainstream English papers pick up on the story yet. The MSM needs to update the record. Otherwise, they're partners in a deception that allowed Israel to be raped in the court of public opinion.

(Hat tip: Victor Shikhman)


Monday, September 6 2010

Why Time Doesn't Care About Israel

Time cover story claims decadent Israelis no longer care about peace.

See HonestReporting's latest communique: Why Time Doesn't Care About Israel

Is the Media Making A U-Turn on Bibi?

Netanyahu_tvs It's been awhile since I've seen the media refer to Prime Minister Netanyahu with terms like "hawkish" or "hardliner." In fact, it's worth asking if the media's starting to make a U-turn on Bibi. Here's what's making my antennae twitch:

Exhibit A: Newsweek's Dan Ephron:

Recognizing the advantages of secret talks, Netanyahu has tried several times during the past year to interest Palestinians in a back channel, according to an Israeli official who has worked alongside Netanyahu for much of his current term. In secret, the strategy was for Netanyahu to offer concessions and gauge the Palestinian willingness to bend—without the risk of losing his coalition. If an agreement did appear possible, he could go public with the outline and put it to a referendum or even call a snap election. The Israeli official told me he thought Netanyahu might possibly be willing to risk his coalition for the prospect of having his name attached to a historic peace agreement. But he would not be willing to risk it merely to engage the other side.

Palestinians repeatedly turned down the offer, the Israeli source said. A Palestinian official confirmed the account . . .

Exhibit B: Haaretz columnist Aluf Benn:

The current Netanyahu government is the most dovish Israel has seen since Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated. The right-wing leader is displaying far more restraint than his predecessors in using the army and in expanding the settlements. He supports the establishment of a Palestinian state alongside Israel and is now returning to negotiations on a final-status agreement.

Exhibit C: Aluf Benn again, this time in the Washington Post:

Ten months ago, Netanyahu told me in a phone interview for Haaretz, the liberal Israeli daily where I am a columnist and editor: "I want to promote a peace agreement with the Palestinians. I can bring a deal." I wrote afterward that I believed him, only to receive mocking comments from many readers who called me naive. But I have not changed my mind -- and neither has Netanyahu.

Exhibit D: Yesterday's Sunday Times reported the PM is seriously mulling a referendum on withdrawing from the West Bank:

“Withdrawal from the West Bank, the core of Judaism, is the most difficult decision any Israeli PM has ever made,” said a close aide. “To make this work, Bibi [Netanyahu] must get overwhelming support from the Israelis in the form of a referendum.”

Exhibit E: The Independent. The UK paper wouldn't ask this question for nothing:

Is Netanyahu ready to make peace? The test is yet to come
Related reading: Is Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu a "Master Manipulator"?

Sunday, September 5 2010

What Is Online Conversation?

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

Davinci20 People who spend a lot of time on the Internet, particularly on social media sites, often refer to the entire phenomenon of user-generated content as “The Conversation.”

What they're referring to, in most cases, is the ability for people to post content they like on numerous forums, such as blogs, Facebook or YouTube, and for other people to respond to it without filters or editors.

That conversational quality, a by-product of the democratization of the Internet, is one of social media’s greatest contributions to mass media.

But lately, there's been a great deal of, well . . . conversation online about whether there really is any conversation taking place at these forums.

Social media marketer Mitch Joel, a leading advocate for social media as a space for direct, person-to-person communication, recently wrote a highly provocative blog post titled The End of Conversation in Social Media, arguing that what most people do online – post Facebook status updates, tweets, comments – doesn't amount to personal engagement.

Looking at the various social media platforms, Joel concludes:

. . . the majority of "conversation" I have come across is nothing more than the posting of a thought with very little engagement beyond that.

Joel's right that there is little direct back-and-forth between individuals on the Internet. But he's wrong that there's little engagement.

In fact, there's almost nothing else. The engagement takes place over the giant scope of social media. It's not only between people but also between people and ideas, with many people contributing thoughts on similar topics. People read blogs and, instead of leaving a comment, respond with their own blog post on the subject. People create and share a massive amount of content each day in response to what others created one day earlier.

Their response isn't directed solely at an individual, but at everyone else interested in the idea.

It's wrong to expect the Internet to function as a telephone line between individuals. Social media is something new in the annals of media – instead of one-to-one, social media is one-to-many communication. How the many respond will vary from individual to individual.

That’s why the entire phenomenon is called “The Conversation.” It's all around us. Ideas are debated, reconstructed, and ultimately, advanced. Some are rejected. But everyone can add their voice to the conversation.

Or, as Lisa Hickey said in a comment to Joel’s post,

It's not just "back and forth" that defines conversation these days, it's "here, there, everywhere."

Previously in Alex's series: Google: Gaming on Gaza


Thursday, September 2 2010

NY Times' Top 10 Conditions of Anonymity

Nytimes_logo Via Romenesko, Gawker obtained a NY Times memo indicating the Gray Lady is cracking down on anonymous sources.

Editors rightfully want to restore credibility by shedding light for readers on why a source isn't sharing info by name.

Here's a Top 10 List of Conditions of Anonymity I'd like to see in Mideast coverage.

10. The Gaza resident spoke on condition of anonymity because public criticism of Hamas will get him killed.

9. The Israeli negotiator spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn't authorized to speak on such matters, and this journalist really needs to attribute these views to someone.

8. The Fatah cadre spoke on condition of anonymity because he didn't want to draw attention to his superfluous position and bloated salary.

7. The Hamas official spoke anonymously for fear of sending a message conflicting with higher echelon figures who haven't decided the party line.

6. A foreign aid worker afraid of being branded a Mossad spy spoke on condition of anonymity.

5. The White House figure spoke anonymously because it's the accepted practice of raising trial balloons.

4. The UN official said spoke anonymously because her comments aren't politically correct within her agency.

3. The ministry official spoke on condition of anonymity because he's not privvy to anything important but likes impressing reporters.

2. The Palestinian medical worker spoke on condition of anonymity because he's not authorized to disclose accurate casualty figures.

1. The Israeli politician spoke on condition of anonymity because the time isn't ripe to backstab coalition partners.

Time Headlines: A Cautionary New Media Tale

Israelis don't care about peace. That's the conclusion Time magazine reporter Karl Vick would have us believe after quoting two Tel Aviv condo salesmen (and nobody else):

"The people," Heli says, "don't believe." Eli searches for a word. "People in Israel are indifferent," he decides. "They don't care if there's going to be war. They don't care if there's going to be peace. They don't care. They live in the day."

I'm guessing that Vick did talk to other Israelis -- who were dropped from web site's abridged version. Time wants you to pay for the magazine or their iPad app to read the whole story. It's even noted at the bottom of the page that story's abridged. Fair enough.

But it appears that Time cut so much that what's left online no longer supports the original headline's thesis:



Wednesday, September 1 2010

Kids Celebrate Massacre

Credit where credit is due. AP and Reuters got photos of Palestinian kids morbidly celebrating the roadside shooting that killed Talya and Yitzhak Imes, Kochava Even-Haim, and Avishai Shendler.


Palestinian children, waving green Islamic flags and making a victory sign, participate a rally, to celebrate a militant attack in the southern West Bank, in the Jebaliya Refugee camp in the northern Gaza Strip, Tuesday, Aug. 31, 2010. A Palestinian gunman opened fire on an Israeli vehicle traveling in the West Bank on Tuesday, killing four passengers, authorities said, in a deadly attack that cast a long shadow over Mideast peace talks set to start this week (AP Photo/Hatem Moussa)


A Palestinian boy holding a toy gun is carried by his father as they celebrate the shooting attack in the West Bank, in Jabalya refugee camp in the northern Gaza Strip August 31, 2010. Four Israeli settlers were shot dead in their car in a drive-by attack in the occupied West Bank on Tuesday, on the eve of a U.S.-sponsored Middle East peace summit in Washington. The armed wing of the Islamist Hamas movement, the Islamist group which controls the Gaza Strip and opposes peace talks, claimed responsibility for the shooting in a statement. (REUTERS/Mohammed Salem)

Those images, plus photos like these, are far more relevant to the story than the disgraceful illustrations AP photo editors sent last night.

Great Moments in Blaming Victims

Palestinian media activist Ali Abunimah provides a great moment in playing blame-the-victim game:


See here for more about his appalling take on Israelis killed by Palestinian terror.


HR Links

HR Social Media

Featured Blogs

Featured Links

Media Backspin