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Media Backspin
« September 2010 | Main | November 2010 »

Sunday, October 31 2010

October 31 Links

The Islamization of the Palestinian Cause is an Obstacle to Its Resolution
A brave Ramallah reformist speaks out.

Olives of Wrath
Are journalists and aid workers staging olive-harvest provocations?

Israel's Right to Exist is Nonnegotiable
"The intensity of the Palestinians' rejection of recognizing Israel as a Jewish state uncovers a fundamental challenge to the two-state solution."

Hamas-Fatah Divide Turns the Lights Out on Gazans
No candle light vigils blaming Palestinian leaders for daily power outages.

Christian Science Monitor Supports PA's End-Run At UN

CsmonitorIt's bad enough the Palestinians want to bypass peace talks with Israel by getting UN support for unilateral statehood.

Now, a Christian Science Monitor staff-ed calls on the US to "quietly acquiesce" the move.

The state of Israel was created out of a 1947 UN resolution that called for both a Jewish and Arab state in the Holy Land. And the Palestinians long ago unilaterally declared a state of their own, but that wasn’t enough to force Israel to support such a step.

With little chance ahead that Obama has the clout with Israel to achieve a negotiated, two-state solution, he should now take an even-handed approach and let the Palestinians seek help at the United Nations.

Yes, Israel was created by a UN resolution. But the Monitor fails to note a crucial point: the UN partition plan would have created a Palestinian state too, had the Arab world not denounced the partition and went to war.

I'll let Jackson Diehl explain why a green light for the PA's UN approach isn't even-handed:

Seeking a UN declaration of statehood would have one big advantage for Abbas: It could give him an excuse to avoid further talks with Netanyahu indefinitely. The Palestinian leader has made it clear ever since the Israeli prime minister took office in early 2009 that he does not want to negotiate with him. That could be because Abbas doesn't believe that Netanyahu will ever offer acceptable terms for Palestinian statehood. Or, it could be that the aging Palestinian leader is unwilling to consider any realistic terms for peace, since those would involve major -- and dangerous -- compromises. An imaginary state, like that declared by Arafat, is a lot easier to found.
Why No MSM Protest Against PA Media Restrictions?

Hand2The PA is trying to restrict the flow of information by barring journalists from visiting the West Bank on press tours facilitated by Israelis. One press tour of Jericho was already cancelled.

Now, Palestinian journalist Khaled Abu Toameh wonders: why isn't the MSM protesting this strike against press freedom?

The Western-funded Palestinian government is actually telling foreign journalists that from now on they should report only on matters that shed a positive light on the Palestinian Authority and its leaders.

By insisting that foreign journalists arrange their visits to the Palestinian territories only through Palestinians, the Palestinian government is proving that its attitude toward freedom of the media is not much different that that of Hamas, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad or Bashar Assad.

Foreign journalists covering the conflict in the Middle East should not allow a situation where anyone would threaten them or tell them what to write. Foreign journalists should be allowed to work freely both inside Israel and in the Palestinian territories; they should also have the right to consult with whomever they wish and visit any place through anyone they feel comfortable working with.

Toameh sheds more on the PA's pique with this LA Times dispatch by correspondent Ed Sanders:

The decision, according to informed Palestinian sources, came in the aftermath of a news story that appeared in the Los Angeles Times and which obviously embarrassed the Palestinian government.

The story, which was related to a ceremony marking 10,000 years for Jericho's birthday, said that many Palestinians and foreign dignitaries who were invited to the party did not show up.

Obviously, the Los Angeles Times correspondent had failed to "coordinate" his visit to Jericho with the Palestinian government spokesman's office.

MediaCentral is a project of HonestReporting, providing support services for journalists in the region. It did not facilitate Sanders' report from Jericho.

Unfortunately, this isn't the first time the mainstream media was cowed into silence by the Palestinians. Earlier this year, British journalist Paul Martin was detained by Hamas for a month, with nary a peep from the Western news services.

The NY Times's Digital Transformation

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

As the USA's vaunted “paper of record” for the entire field of journalism, the NY Times has credibility and reach rivaling any news outline in the mainstream media. And that’s just the print edition.

New stats show the Times also attracts more Twitter followers than any other newspaper – a whopping 2.6 million people receive the paper’s 140 character tweets.

Not only did the Gray Lady out-distance the runner-up Wall St. Journal's 464,000 Twitter followers, the Times was the only paper on the list with more Twitter followers than readers of its print edition.


Meanwhile, the Times recently announced that print advertising was expected to fall again in the third quarter of 2010.

The company said print advertising across all its media companies — which include The New York Times, The Boston Globe, The International Herald Tribune and several local papers — is expected to decline 5 percent. Revenue from circulation is expected to decrease about 5 percent.

Revenue from online advertising, however, is expected to rise 14 percent.

Could the paper’s success attracting readers through social media herald a new direction for the Times towards a predominantly digital future, particularly in light of trends towards decline in print revenues?

Time will tell, but the paper clearly understands the importance of social media to its online success. While it remains committed to launch a paywall at the start of 2011, the paper has indicated that it will allow people who come through Facebook or Google to continue viewing content for free.

Previously in Alex's series: 'My Story' Marketing: A Lesson For Israel Advocates


Thursday, October 28 2010

Sky News Follows Bouncing Ball

In Umm al-Fahm, Sky News caught Israeli security's latest non-lethal crowd dispersal techniques in action.

Bouncing blue balls.

Look closely at the police line towards the left to spot it. A bouncing rubber ball bullet hurtles towards the stone throwers. It is a rubber plastic ball. They are coloured blue and fired up in the air making them hard to see coming with the sky behind. Plenty of top spin guarantees they come back down to Earth, bounce and then into the target, in this case an Israeli Arab youth who yowls in pain.

They are fired at a relatively low velocity but hurt like hell when they hit you. Colleagues who have also been hit while trying to cover clashes say they are disconcerting because the seem to come from nowhere and leave a bruise and a stinging agony.

Bouncing blue balls follow in the footsteps of other Israeli R&D, most notably The Skunk, The Scream, sand bullets, and now out-of-favor paintball guns.

HonestReporting Attacked by Plagiarizing Palestinian Paper

Palestinian "news" websites engage in gross misinformation and anti-Semitism.

See HR's latest communique: HonestReporting Attacked by Plagiarizing Palestinian Paper

HonestReporting Israel Conference

As support for Israel erodes, learn more about what is happening and what you can do about it.

Don't miss a special HonestReporting conference in Jerusalem on Tuesday, Dec. 14, 2010. Expert speakers include:

  • Melanie Phillips, British journalist
  • Lt. Col. Avital Leibovich, IDF Spokesperson's dept.
  • Khaled Abu Toameh, veteran Jerusalem Post reporter
  • Danny Seaman, Government Press Office

Click for more details and registration.

Islamic Jihad's Stupid Security Lapse Over 'Souvenir Photos'

Islamic Jihad's upset that its "souvenir photos" of Turkish peace activists posing with guns are being exploited by Israel for propaganda. YNet News writes:

"The occupation took advantage of the souvenir photos that were published on websites as filthy Israeli propaganda against the solidarity activists, to defeat their attempts to break the blockade (on Gaza)," said Islamic Jihad official Daoud Shihab to Palestinian news agency Maan.

Shihab emphasized that the various factions of the resistance "are determined to preserve the lives of these activists." The aim of the factions, he said, was to get the activists out of the Gaza Strip back to their own countries unharmed, therefore they are "keeping them away from all danger."


Not smart. If you're protecting this guy, you never never never A) dress him up in an Islamic Jihad-branded head band and shirt, B) give him a gun, C) photograph his full face and D) post it on your web site.

The Jihad boys have no one to blame but themselves for this.

Related Reading: Selective Outrage Over Provocative Photos


Wednesday, October 27 2010

The Legal Niceties of Hamas Executions

Gaza_collaborator_killedThe Problem: You view yourself as the legal ruler of Gaza, but Palestinian law only empowers that rival president in Ramallah to sign off on executing collaborators.

The Solution: Change the law, as described by ABC News:

But Palestinian law dictates the president, now Mahmoud Abbas, must sign off before a sentence is carried out - something he has been reluctant to do.

But Mahmoud Abu Rahma says Hamas rulers in Gaza who refuse to recognise the president's authority are now illegally approving the executions themselves.

"Now the basic law states that the prime minister assists the president in implementing the law," he said.

"They interpreted this as the prime minister, for them in Gaza, Mr Ismail Haniyeh, can actually assist the president in implementing the court rulings, which includes the death penalty."

The Outcome: You now have a veneer of legal cover for your latest witch hunt.

October 27 Links

Poor Lauren Booth – She Would Do Anything to Get In With the Tough Kids
"And now her meal-ticket is Mohammed."

Why Israel Sees Double Standard in Response to Wikileaks' Iraq Files
World shrugs over latest allegations. Why?

In Mideast House of Cards, U.S. Views Lebanon as Shaky
The White House's more concerned about losing Lebanon than pushing Israeli-Palestinian talks.

If Iran Gets the Bomb
Iranian nuclear ambiguity would make Jerusalem a more strategic city for Israel, while challenging US hegemony over Persian Gulf.


Tuesday, October 26 2010

The Palestinians and Israel: Just Say No

Check out the latest video from the AJC's Z-Word blog pinpointing why peace talks haven't yielded any results.

Chinese Army Getting PR Pointers From IDF

Chinese_armyAccording to Globes:

The sources said that the PLA Spokesman's Office asked for training for spokesmen in urban combat situations, and in public diplomacy.

PLA officers will take courses in various subjects at IDF Spokesman's Office facilities. The Chinese offices will come to Israel for courses in combat photography, spokesmanship in situations of mass casualties, and conduct vis-à-vis the public about casualties during public incidents.

Whoda thought?

Selective Outrage Over Provocative Photos

When I think of peace and humanitarian activists, I'd like to think of images like this associated with the Peace Corps and other well-meaning organizations.


Unfortunately, I think of so-called "humanitarian activists" from Turkey hamming it up in Gaza with their Islamic Jihad friends, thanks to pictures like this in today's  YNet News.


I should've learned my lesson a few years ago when International Solidarity Movement "activists" posed for this similar photo.


Without excusing Eden Abergil, are the Turkish IHH photos any less outrageous?


Do you think any Palestinians or Turks will denounce the new photos? Don't hold your breath . . .

PA Moves Against Press Freedom, Media Tour Cancelled

As if press freedom in the West Bank and Gaza is depressed enough. The PA and Hamas put enough pressure on the Palestinian reporters who Western news agencies already over-rely on.

Now, the PA is moving against Western journalists themselves. The Jerusalem Post explains:

The Palestinian Authority said on Monday that foreign journalists who visit the West Bank through Israeli media facilitators are “unwelcome.”

The move is seen as an attempt by the PA to prevent journalists from writing stories that may reflect negatively on the Palestinian government’s image.

The Jerusalem-based Media Central organization thus canceled a planned tour of foreign journalists to Jericho, which was to have taken place on Tuesday . . .

However, a spokesman for the PA informed Media Central that foreign journalists should coordinate their visits to the West Bank through the PA’s press office and not through Israeli bodies. The spokesman said that foreign journalists whose visits are organized by Israeli groups are “unwelcome.”

(MediaCentral is a project of HonestReporting, providing support services for journalists in the region.)

It's not hard to imagine what West Bank coverage will look like if the PA is responsible for facilitating press tours. Hopefully, journalists will realize their own freedom is at stake.

UPDATE 6:45 p.m.: See the following Jerusalem Post update on the situation.

Also, MediaCentral director Aryeh Green released this statement:

"In four years of providing professional, credible services to the foreign press based in or visiting Israel and the PA, I am concerned and appalled that a representative of the Palestinian Authority would lay down such an exclusionary and divisive policy."

"The PA - interested in promoting coverage of subjects such as the history of a city like Jericho with its multi-faceted and multi-religious layers of settlement - has in the past been a partner with MediaCentral in helping foreign correspondents develop a more nuanced understanding of the complexities of the issues surrounding the conflict(s) in this region. I very much hope this is not a new and worrying step in the hardening of a Palestinian anti-Israel stance, nor a reflection of mounting restrictions on freedom of the press in the Palestinian areas."

Reuters Photographers and The Trouble With Rubble

Having Gazans pose amid the strip's rubble is one of the favorite past-times of Palestinian photographers. Unfortunately for Reuters, Mohammed Salem slipped up.


Here's the original caption:

A Palestinian woman looks out of her damaged house in Beit Lahiya on the northern Gaza Strip October 25, 2010. (Reuters/Mohammed Salem)

Now check out the corrected caption.

REFILE - ADDITIONAL CAPTION INFORMATION A Palestinian woman looks out of her house which was damaged in the Israeli offensive last year, in Beit Lahiya on the northern Gaza Strip October 25, 2010. REUTERS/Mohammed Salem

Strictly speaking, a photo of the woman standing in the rubble of a home destroyed during a war nearly two years ago has no news value.

But the image is on the wires because it fits the world view of Palestinian photographers like Salem, the photo editors at Reuters, and the Hamas rulers who offer zero press freedom.

Thumbs up to IsraellyCool for the spot.


Monday, October 25 2010

Anticipating the Upcoming Blame Game

AP is anticipating the collapse of the peace talks, looking towards "the day after," and who will take the blame:

The thinking is that few people believe a full peace deal within a year is achievable. And the impasse that has emerged over settlement construction has brought a difficult question to the surface: If the United States cannot compel Israel to extend a settlement freeze for a few months, how can the U.S. persuade Israel to make wrenching decisions over control of Jerusalem?

Question: During the previous 10-month settlement freeze, what did the Palestinian leadership do?


More alarmingly, where are the Palestinians now?

A new poll by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research (via Daled Amos) finds that, overall, half the Palestinians support armed attacks against Israeli civilians. The PLO is sending signals that it will break reconsider its previous agreements with Israel.




Sunday, October 24 2010

What More Context Could Possibly Be Missing Here?

I just discovered that the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review has its own Mideast correspondent, Betsy Hiel.

How much context could this Gaza dispatch be lacking? An awful lot. There is no mention of:

  1. The Israeli disengagement.
  2. The Egyptian border, which is also blockaded.
  3. Hamas's genocidal intentions towards Israel, as set out in its charter.
  4. Gaza's slowl improving economy, including Israel's lifting of many restrictions.

And the Hamas takeover of Gaza? That was just a "violent clash" with Fatah.

I can't remember reading a more useless piece of journalism.

60 Minutes - Tough Journalism or Biased Reporting?

My HonestReporting colleagues, Yarden Frankl and Alex Margolin, discuss 60 Minutes' dispatch from Silwan. Was Lesley Stahl just being a tough journalist, or was her story unbalanced?

Watch the podcast and post your comments below.

Lauren Booth Converts to Islam

Lauren_boothLauren Booth, who was named Dishonest Reporter of 2008, has converted to Islam.

She follows in the footsteps of Yvonne Ridley, who converted after the Taliban kidnapped her while she covered the war in Afghanistan.

Both are vocal critics of Israel, have sailed on Gaza flotillas, and work for Iran's English-language Press TV, which means they're on the Iranian government payroll.

Bottom line: nothing's going to change.

A 'Stunning' Headline

After HonestReporting complained about this Daily Telegraph video from Silwan, I see the paper changed their headline.

The original headline,

Israeli police use grenades in Jerusalem

Has now become

Israeli police use stun grenades in Jerusalem

'My Story' Marketing: A Lesson For Israel Advocates

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

As Transmedia Storytelling catches on, it's worth looking at some of the techniques people are using to tell their stories. The most basic way, of course, is to simply tell one's own story to a camera and put it up on YouTube. Sounds simple enough.

In a recent NY Times article about Abe's Market, an online hub for organic and health-related products, the Times notes that Abe's encourages its merchants to tell the story behind the business:

This is all part of a phenomenon that branding experts call "my story" marketing: a style of reaching out to consumers that emphasizes the people behind the products.

"It's hugely about humanizing the businesses and connecting who they are with the imputed values of their target customer set," said Nancy F. Koehn, a historian and brand expert at the Harvard Business School. "That's a long way from 'four out of five dentists recommend Trident for their patients who chew gum' — or Mrs. Olson talking to you, saying your marriage will fall apart if you don't use Folgers."

Humanizing the business and connecting with their target audience through shared values is exactly the type of activity in which Israel's advocates should engage.

While many people hold endless online political debates, often with no resolution, too few take the time to explain what Israel really means to their lives. As Koehn implies, it's more effective than quoting stats or using scare tactics.

A personal story often works because it captures more than the facts it conveys. It also captures the human dimension behind those facts, giving people a fuller experience. Focusing on the people behind Israel can help build common ground between people with political differences.

No need to look further than Abe's Market itself to see how effective "my story marketing" can be. This outstanding video speaks for itself.

Previously in Alex's series: Text, Video, Audio, Images, and More . . .


Thursday, October 21 2010

Canadian Reporter Engages in Anti-Israel Advocacy Journalism

HR-logoSee HonestReporting's latest communiques:

• Patrick Martin's anti-Israel advocacy reporting must be challenged: Canadian Reporter Engages in Anti-Israel Advocacy Journalism

• A video report uses a misleading headline while the narration conveniently omits a stone throwing incident: Daily Telegraph Video: Context Tossed Out With Grenades

Israel Demonizers and The Cartoonists Who Love Them

Ahmet Öztürklevent, a cartoonist whose aim was to "draw attention to the Palestinian problem and the Middle East" was presented an award at a Turkish cartoon competition.

Here's what earned Öztürklevent that honor:


Cartoonists demonizing Israel are dime are unfortunately common enough; but it says a lot about the people who honor these poison pens.

Pat Oliphant was guest of honor at the Australian Cartoonists' Association's annual awards for this appalling cartoon after the Gaza war; and the UK Political Cartoon Society recognized Dave Brown's depiction of Ariel Sharon eating babies as 2003's cartoon of the year.

Cartoons are very, very powerful, but these are only worth of Der Sturmer.


Wednesday, October 20 2010

'Israel Today Really is Behaving Like a Spoiled Child'

Thomas_friedman NY Times columnist Thomas Friedman thinks Israel's behaving "like a spoiled child" these days:

It is a measure of how spoiled Israel has become that after billions and billions of dollars in U.S. aid and 300,000 settlers already ensconced in the West Bank, Israel feels no compunction about spurning an American request for a longer settlement freeze — the only purpose of which is to help the United States help Israel reach a secure peace with the Palestinians.

Friedman's entitled to his views. But President Obama's offer -- including an arms package and American veto protection in the UN, in exchange for a one-time 60-day extension of the recently expired moratorium on settlement activity -- may not be as clear cut as Friedman makes it out to be.

Without taking a position on whether or not Israel should agree, consider the following three points:

1. If the US offer was that simple, I think the Prime Minister and the Israeli right would have jumped on the deal. Settlers would sit tight for 60 days, and the US would be in no position to ask for any more settlement freeze, whatever the outcome of peace talks in the ensuing period.

2. There's probably more to the deal than what's being reported. I presume there a quid pro quo that the US expects a freeze on settlement activity for longer than 60 days in return for its hefty investment.

Is the Prime Minister trying to avoid a precedent that would potentially freeze settlement activity for the duration of negotiations? Are there other unwritten understandings we may only learn of years from now?

3. Friedman would do well to recall the NYT's own role in trying to unravel understandings reached between Ariel Sharon and George Bush Jr. over -- of all things -- settlements.


No way. 

Just cautious. And justifiably so.


Tuesday, October 19 2010

Which Headline to Believe?

Headlines like this are so cliche:


But reality bites, as CNN picks up on warming Israel-Greece ties. YNet News went so far as to call Foreign Minister Dimitris Droutsas' just-concluded visit:


Who to believe?


Monday, October 18 2010

60 Minutes Visits Silwan

I just finished watching Lesley Stahl's report on Silwan for 60 Minutes. Overall, it wasn't as bad as I was expecting.

I do wish she had questioned the Palestinian activist about illegal construction.


Sunday, October 17 2010

Today's Photo File Bile

Here's a really nice photo ruined by a caption that has absolutely nothing to do with the image.


Palestinian children play and swim at a Gaza City beach on Friday. Two Palestinians were killed and a third wounded on Sunday in a pre-dawn Israeli air strike north of Gaza City, Palestinian medics said. (AFP/Getty Images/file photo/Mohammed Abed)

To better understand this phenomenon I call photo file bile, where a nice image serves a vehicle for an irrelevant caption, here's a different AFP/Getty photo whose caption I doctored to make my point:


Fly by the moon : A commercial plane, a Boeing 747 flying in front of the moon is seen from Martigues, close to Marseille, southern France. Two Palestinians were killed and a third wounded on Sunday in a pre-dawn Israeli air strike north of Gaza City, Palestinian medics said. (AFP/Getty Images/Gerard Julien)

October 17 Links

The Undeniable Jewish State
Democracy and ethnic distinctiveness are perfectly compatible.

Hezbollah Chief 'Deceived' Iran Leader With Gun Gift
'Najad went to Lebanon, and all he got was a lousy FNFAL 7.62 rifle -- out of use since '74 . . .

General Dayton Ends his Tenure, Replaced by US Air Force General
Who is Michael Moeller, and what does he bring to PA security training?

No Ceasefire Means No Peace In War On Israel
Rupert Murdoch speaks out on the war against Israel.

Text, Video, Audio, Images, and More . . .

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

TransmediaThe rise of social media has made it easier for anyone to bring their thoughts and opinions into the world and has also increased the number of ways people can express themselves.

Anyone with a digital camera or even a smart phone can post a video on YouTube or a photo on flickr; those who prefer to write can start a blog or submit articles to information sharing sites; it is also simple to record audio podcasts and distribute them through iTunes or Podbean.

But the best option may be to use as many different forms as possible to tell a single story. It’s called "Transmedia Storytelling," and according to many Internet experts, including Steve Rubel, it’s a good way to get noticed amid the plethora of noise on the Internet:

Transmedia Storytelling doesn’t need to be fancy. It can be executed with low budget tools. However, it does need to be thought through. It requires that a business’ subject matter experts know how to simultaneously tell good stories and to do so using text, video, audio and images depending on the venue.

Transmedia storytelling is the future of marketing. And those who can span across formats and share their expertise will stand out in an age of Digital Relativity. There’s a first-mover advantage here. However, it remains to be seen who will grab the ring.

To be successful in Transmedia storytelling, it is vital to create continuity between different formats, not just to repeat the same content in different forms. Earlier this year, HonestReporting succeeded in forcing Comedy Central to remove an offensive video game from its website largely by taking a multi-platform approach.

HR’s campaign included a general-information communiqué on the issue, an audio podcast placing the game into perspective, and a Facebook group to serve as hub of activity.

The three-pronged approach increased the number of “entry points” people had for getting involved in the campaign. The communiqué and podcast served as viral content, with one or the other picked up by many bloggers and commentators. But each entry point led supporters to the Facebook group in order to build a critical mass of protest.

With the incredible diversity of materials available on the Internet today, it takes creativity to get noticed. Telling a good story in one form is difficult, and extending it to other forms is even harder. But the rewards for doing so appear to be well worth the effort.

Previously in Alex's series: War: PR By Other Means


Thursday, October 14 2010

Meanwhile At City Hall . . .

Nir-barkatJerusalem mayor Nir Barkat is proposing a major re-zoning plan for eastern Jerusalem. AP says it would legalize thousands of illegally built homes and also put an end to housing demolitions.

But AFP calls it

a move that could fuel tensions in the flashpoint Holy City.

Palestinians refuse to participate in local elections, saying they won't grant legitimacy to Israeli government institutions. Therein lies the rub.

The issue isn't about the merits of the mayor's proposal. It's about "the system" the proposal is coming from.

Fitting Into Adrian Hamilton's World

IsraeliflagAdrian Hamilton, a columnist at The Independent, is against recognizing Israel as a Jewish state. Here's why:

The more closely you define Israel as a uniquely "Jewish" state, the less room there is for it to act as a co-operative member of a Muslim majority Middle East. Its role becomes that of an enclave which views itself as not just separate but in clear opposition to everyone else about it.

There's simply no point under these circumstances in pursuing peace negotiations.

Where in Hamilton's world can Jews go to "fit in?"

Related reading: An End to Israel's Invisibility

A New Blog on the Block

Our colleagues at Just Journalism revamped their web site and launched a new blog called The Wire.

Check 'em out.


Wednesday, October 13 2010

Did Helen Thomas' Apology Have Any Meaning?

Helen_thomasI hope this is the last time I ever have to blog anything about Helen Thomas. After she told Rabbi David Nesenoff on video that Jews should "get the hell out of Palestine," the veteran White House correspondent resigned.

In a new interview, (from AP's summary) Thomas told Scott Spears of Ohio's WMRN radio:

I hit the third rail. You cannot criticize Israel in this country and survive . . .

She issued an apology, she told the radio interviewer, because people were upset and she thought she had hurt people. "At the same time, I had the same feelings about Israel's aggression and brutality," Thomas said.

She's entitled to her views, but if you listen to the full interview, you can't help but wonder if her apology had any real meaning.

I don't miss her.

Eyewitness Journalist Contradicts Turkish Narrative of Mavi Marmara

Şefik Dinc was a Turkish journalist aboard the Mavi Marmara who wrote a book contradicting Turkish claims that the IDF opened fire without provocation.

In an interview with Israeli television (full English transcript from Malam) Dinc, said:

I saw with my own eyes that when the soldiers came on helicopters and started landing on the ship, they did not fire. It wasn’t until the soldiers were met with resistance and realized that some of their friends’ lives were in danger that they began using live ammunition.

Watch the video.

'Complaints From Both Sides' Is No Rationalization for Lousy BBC Coverage

Mark_thompson"We get complaints from supporters of both sides of the story, so we must be doing something right."

I've heard journalists make that claim quite a few times, in regard to the Mideast conflict, and about other issues as well.

That argument was most recently advanced by the BBC's Director General, Mark Thompson. See how he handled this question from Bob Garfield, of the NPR's show, On the Media:

BOB GARFIELD: I must say there have been times that I've listened to the Beeb, and I've gone, well that sounds almost like this presenter is an apologist for the Palestinian point of view. And as a newsman, my eyebrows have gone up.

I'm not a Zionist but if I'm thinkin' that, I imagine that there's hard core Zionists who are thinking that, and much worse. How do you monitor your coverage on an ongoing basis, to make sure that you're not infuriating large swats of your audience in coverage in the Middle East?

MARK THOMPSON: The BBC's minutely, minutely observed by all the players in that conflict, as we are in the conflict in Kashmir, in Sri Lanka and three or four other particularly vituperative conflicts around the world.

But the answer is that we do everything we can to monitor exactly how we cover these stories, the language we use, the balance we use, recognizing that these are conflicts where attitudes are so polarized that many on either side, let's say, of the Israel-Palestine conflict, themselves have a very particular view about what fairness sounds like.

But this is one of a handful of the topics where we get the most numbers of complaints, though I want to be clear, we get very, very large numbers of complaints from both sides.

Bbc_logoI have four thoughts on this:

1. Thompson is essentially admitting that the Beeb's Mideast coverage stinks in totality. I won't argue that point.

2. Thompson brushes off critics by implying that the lousiness is equal. However, it would take an in-depth study to confirm that. Fortunately, such a study exists; it's called the Balen Report, but the Beeb has spent more than £270,000 of taxpayer money covering it up.

3. I have a hard time believing that the number of complaints from supporters of both the Israelis and the Palestinians are as equal as Thompson suggests. But even if they are, you have to factor in the pool of potential complainants.

Let's say -- and I'm just making up this figure -- 90 percent of the Beeb's audience favors the Palestinians. The complaints coming from Palestinian supporters would have to be 10 times the number of complaints coming from the pro-Israel crowd before implying that both sides' complaints somehow "balance each other out."

4. Making sense of the BBC complaints site was so maddening, I wrote this Idiot's Guide To Navigating BBC Complaints. It's Backspin's most widely-read post since we started tracking the stats. And don't get me started on the Beeb's lack of responsiveness to those complaints.

So I'm not sold that reader complaints really matter, even as Thompson uses them to tell us the playing field is level. Yeah, right.


Tuesday, October 12 2010

October 12 Links

> Haniyah Stresses Importance of Victory in Media War Against West
> Israel's Border With Iran
> PA Submits Request For New Airport
> Lattes, Beach Barbecues (and Dodging Missiles) In the World's Biggest Prison Camp
> International Recognition of a Unilaterally Declared Palestinian State: Legal and Policy Dilemmas
> Censors Pull Plug on Screenings of Iranian Protest Film during Ahmadinejad Visit

Commiserating With Chile's Media Frenzy

Chilean_miners In 2004, we learned that Israel receives 75 times more coverage than any other area of equal population, and 10 times more coverage by population.

There have been cuts in news bureaus since then, but the sheer amount of reports filed from Israel is still, uh, disproportionate.

Fortunately, Jerusalem never resembles the media frenzy AP describes in Copiapo, Chile (via Romenesko), where rescue workers are almost ready to begin extracting trapped miners, surrounded by 750 accredited journalists:

Hundreds of journalists jostle for position, shout over each other's questions, walk into each other's camera shots and battle for space for motor homes and tents . . . .

But there are so many journalists on the story that the trapped men's relatives largely stay away except for on weekends. The few families that have zealously maintained a vigil at the mine since the Aug. 5 collapse are swarmed by the swelling media here.

Unlike Israel, though, Chile's flood of reporters will eventually leave.

Food For Thought on the Loyalty Oath Issue

Without weighing in on the loyalty oath myself, I want to point out an observation this Washington Times staff-ed makes on the issue:

The Palestinians would rather avoid the subject; a spokesman claimed "the issue of the Jewishness of the state has nothing to do with the matter."

National identity, however, has everything to do with the matter on the Palestinian side. The preamble to the Palestinian Basic Law notes "the continuous attachment of the Arab Palestinian people to the land of their fathers and forefathers" and claims, "the organic relationship between the Palestinian people, their history and their land has confirmed itself in their unceasing effort to prompt the world to recognize the rights of the Arab Palestinian people and their national entity." Article 1 asserts, "Palestine is part of the larger Arab world, and the Palestinian people are part of the Arab nation." Article 4 proclaims, "Islam is the official religion in Palestine" and "the principles of Islamic Sharia shall be the main source of legislation." Article 116 states, "laws shall be promulgated in the name of the Palestinian Arab people." . . .

Hamas decried the oath in similar terms, overlooking the declaration in its charter that "the Islamic Resistance Movement is a distinct Palestinian Movement which owes its loyalty to Allah, derives from Islam its way of life and strives to raise the banner of Allah over every inch of Palestine." The Hamas slogan is "Allah is its goal, the Prophet its model, the Koran its Constitution, Jihad its path and death for the case of Allah its most sublime belief." That's hardly a declaration of inclusiveness. If the peace process fails to yield results, it will be because of Islamist sentiments like these - not because of an Israeli citizenship oath that acknowledges the obvious.


Monday, October 11 2010

AFP/Getty Recycles Nasty Photo

This nasty photo's on the wires today.


A Palestinian boy watches as an Israeli army patrol passes through the occupied West Bank city of Hebron. Israel has refused Palestinian and international demands to extend a 10-month moratorium on new settler homes that expired last month despite Palestinian leader Mahmud Abbas vowing that there will be no further talks until settlement activity halts. (AFP/Getty Images, Hazem Bader)

It's a recycled image from last year, and it has nothing to do with settlement freezes. And as you'll read on, you'll see confirmation that the soldier wasn't really pointing his gun at the kid, though the angle of the image suggests just that.

I couldn't find the photo with its original caption online anymore, but it was emailed to me just now.

A Palestinian boy stands up as an Israeli army patrol passes by in the occupied West Bank city of Hebron following a knife attack attempt by a Palestinian man against an Israeli soldier at a nearby checkpoint on August 26, 2009.  (Hazem Bader/AFP/Getty Images)

AP photographer Nasser Shiyoukhi (via IsraellyCool) was standing next to Bader and took the same photo. Shiyouki's caption is remarkably more honest. The soldier "uses his rifle to indicate the direction as he tells a Palestinian boy to leave the scene . . ."

Recycling photos is simply lazy, unethical journalism. When we caught the Times of London recycling a photo from Jenin, the paper apologized. Sally Baker's response would be just as apropos here had AFP written it:

It is always bad practice to publish an old photograph and allow readers to think it might be a recent one; against the background of the Middle East it is doubly so, and we were in error. Still, at one point on Monday afternoon the e-mails were landing in the letters inbox at the rate of almost 500 an hour, preventing anything else from getting through, so we had some comeuppance.
MSM, Stone Throwers Collude and Collide In Silwan

How did so many photographers happen to be in the right place at the time?

See HonestReporting's latest communique: MSM, Stone Throwers Collude and Collide In Silwan


Sunday, October 10 2010

Silwan's Full Court Press

Earlier today, veteran photographer and image analyst David Katz told me that Silwan locals don't like journalists operating in their neighborhood, except for those they trust. Anyone else is in physical danger.

Confirming that point today,  an Israeli Channel 2 film crew was stoned in Silwan today, including veteran journalist Moshe Nusbaum. A woman being interviewed was lightly injured.

Meanwhile, there are calls for the Government Press Office to suspend the media credentials of the reporters and cameramen at the scene of Friday's stoning.

4 Reasons Why Silwan Photographs Reek of a Set-Up

SilwanFor a more professional assessment of the photos of Silwan stone-throwers being run over by an Israeli car, I talked to veteran photographer and imagery advisor David Katz. He offers four reasons why the incident reeks of a set up.

(The video Katz refers to is here.)

1. The Location

Silwan's isn't really the most tense place. Photographers waiting for stone-thowings would be more likely to go to places like Bilin or Hebron. You wouldn't hang around Silwan unless you knew ahead of time that something was going to happen.

Also, the only photographers who can safely work in Silwan are the ones who are already known to the locals. Newcomers wouldn't be allowed to operate, and would be in physical danger. I've seen it.

2. The Photographers' Positions

When photographers are getting ready for something, but they're not sure how it's going to play out, they tend to position themselves close together. Here, the photographers are more spread out at different sides of the action. It seems everyone wanted to get their own unique position.

Israel has security cameras around Silwan, so there may be CCTV footage of what happened before, during, and after the stone-throwing. If there is, there are a few things I'd watch for. At what point did the photographers position themselves? The other cars parked there: were they deliberately put there? At what point was the back window hit? If other cars were allowed to safely pass before the stone throwing, it would shed light on whether they were targeting the driver [the driver, David Be'eri, is the director of Elad, which advocates for Jewish families living in eastern Jerusalem], or whether they just happened to get him.

If the stone throwing were really spontaneous, the kids should've been throwing from above. It's safer for them, and they can do as much damage, if not more. But that's less photogenic.

3. Reactions to the Hit and Run

When a car's coming at you, and hits a kid, your first thought is your personal safety and what's happening to the boy. But when you watch the video, nobody looks scared, nobody screams in horror. The children just continue throwing stones and the photographers keep snapping photos.

I have to wonder what the photographers were expecting. What would they have done if the car had stopped? Everyone there knows that when a car is stoned, the driver's in greater danger if he just stops. Is that what the photographers thought would happen?

As human beings, the photographers should've warned the police. But today's Mideast photographers are a different breed. Because of the nature of the business -- it's a cash cow -- why spoil a good picture?

4. The Dynamics of Staged Stone-Throwing Incidents

Adults, perhaps one of the local elders, will tell the kids to throw stones. Another adult who has connections and friends with photographers will tip them off.

It's absolute collusion. Why? It's either for money, for politics, or both. The news agencies want these images because they sell, and they fit in with their worldview. Photographers know these kinds of images will move. Most importantly, if there had been no photographers present, there would have been no incident.

Related Reading: Border Clash: A Case Study in Reuters Photography

War: PR By Other Means

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

Mavi_marmaraIn a recent address to the Canadian Journalism Foundation, veteran journalist and blogger David Frum spoke about the changing landscape for news and information. One of his main points is the rising importance of what he calls "strategic communications."

In broad terms, strategic communications is the skillful use of information to achieve a strategic goal -- a form of soft power difficult to counter. Those who wish to challenge Israel’s legitimacy and turn it into a pariah state use strategic communications as their primary weapon.

Frum points to coverage of the Gaza flotilla as an example of strategic communications in action:

The boat organizers hoped to focus international condemnation on Israel. Their plan backfired when Israel released video footage of the knife-armed boat crew savagely attacking Israel commandos.

This incident is a microcosm of modern warfare. Yes there was actual violence in which actual people got hurt. But while in traditional warfare, the purpose of violence is to impose one power’s will by force upon the enemy, the violence in modern war is deployed to shape global public opinion. War is PR by other means.

Frum makes a vital point. Gaza flotilla organizers knew they could not smash Israel’s blockage of Gaza, but they understood how to use strategic communications to marshal pressure on Israel to ease the blockade. It is difficult to imagine how the international community would have reacted had Israel not supplied its own strategic communications on the form of videos.

The movement for cultural boycott against Israel is another example. Every time an international performer is scheduled to appear in Israel, boycott organizers pressure the artist to cancel. When they do cancel, it sends a powerful message to their fans – that appearing in Israel is not acceptable, that Israel is not a legitimate place to perform. Even those who do not have a grasp of the political situation understand the message – that Israel must be shunned.

Those who care about Israel must learn to think in terms of strategic communications. It has never been as easy to spread and share information as it is today. In real ways, it can change the world.

Previously in Alex's series: iPhone Apps Enter Mideast Political Battlefield


Saturday, October 9 2010

New Meaning to Ambush Journalism

Get a load of the photo tip The Guardian offers along with this AFP/Getty image:


The photographer, Ilia Yefimovich, is in the right place at the right time and captures this dramatic scene using a large depth of field and fast shutter speed

Here's HonestReporting's more accurate "photo tip."

Photographer knew ahead of time that a car was going to be stoned and positioned himeslf  above the action, unlike (EPA and Al -Jazeera). The photographer didn't expect the driver to have the presence of mind to put his foot down and drive away, rather than be surrounded and lynched, which is what would have happened had he not accelerated.

By the way, AP's Moammar Awwad also "just happened" to be in the right place at the right time, with a position similar to Yefimovich.

When we add it all up, kids get to cause trouble for Israelis and a bunch of photographers are guaranteed great shots. I'd say the kids and the photographers colluded with each other. Gives new meaning to ambush journalism.



Thursday, October 7 2010

'Squeezing Out Christians and Muslims' - Irish Times Blames Israel

Article claims Israeli policies "designed to cause animosities."

See HonestReporting's latest communique: "Squeezing Out Christians and Muslims" - Irish Times Blames Israel

Your Daily Dose of Photo File Bile

Who the heck signed off on this crummy photo from AFP/Getty? Are photographers so lazy that they're now using tree branches to create the effect of barbed wire?


A picture taken from the Palestinian village of Hawara shows in the background the hard-line Jewish settlement of Yitzhar in the northern West Bank on October 6, 2010. (AFP/Getty Images, Jaafar Ashtiyeh)

There's definitely a pattern in photo file bile. This is the same photographer I blogged yesterday over a different file photo.

Remember the old days when photographers used real barbed wire to create the effect of settlements as defiant and dehumanizing? I'm talking about images like this:


The West Bank Jewish settlement of Beitar Ilit is seen through a barbed wire fence, Friday, Sept. 4, 2009. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is expected to approve some hundreds of new housing units in West Bank settlements before slowing settlement construction, two of his aides said Friday, in an apparent snub of Washington's public demand for a total settlement freeze. (AP/Sebastian Scheiner)


Wednesday, October 6 2010

Photo File Bile

On slow news days, photojournalists often go out and shoot photos of different things that catch their eye.

It gives them a chance to see things that would otherwise be overlooked while on other assignments, work a little more creatively, and -- importantly -- it helps build up and update a news service's bank of file photos.

File photos help papers illustrate certain stories or updates that don't lend themselves to a "breaking photo." They also give editors the option to update readers with a simple photo and caption explaining what's new.

So, for example, quality images of the Singapore skyline, a speeding truck, a German car exhibition, or even a folder may not be in high demand when the photographer goes out, but they can be useful months or years later.

But what happens when the photo has a particular agenda? That's the question I'm asking after seeing this:


Over looked by the Har Bracha Jewish settlement, a mineret is under consruction in the Palestinian village of Burin in the Israeli occupied West Bank, several kilometers from the northern city of Nablus on October 4, 2010, which the Jewish settlers are trying to block. The International Court of Justice and the international community consider the settlements being buildt in the West Bank to be illegal. (AFP/Jaafar Ashtiyeh)

The imagery consists of a Palestinian town's minaret overshadowed by an ominous Israeli settlement lurking above. The minaret is a symbol of Islam, the scaffolding a sign that not all is well. Har Bracha is close enough to be identifiably Israeli and modern, but far enough away to suggest something monolithic and faceless.

The image, in and of itself, isn't newsworthy. It's merely a vehicle for a caption reinforcing the view that settlements are illegal. And now, the image joins AFP's collection of file photos . . .

Do Jews Really Control the News Media?

Now that Rick Sanchez put the issue up for discussion, Brian Palmer lays the rumors to rest:

Setting aside the propriety of Sanchez's claims, is he right? Do Jews control the media?

Maybe the movies, but not the news. If Sanchez was referring to people in the television news business, he's wrong. Not one of the major television news operations—Fox News, CNN, MSNBC, ABC News, CBS News, or NBC News—is currently headed by a Jewish executive. (That includes Ken Jautz, the man who fired Sanchez.) Or at least none of these executives has talked about being Jewish in a public forum. The Internet is littered with rumors about various media moguls being Jewish, but few of those claims are backed by any evidence.

There are more Jews at the head of the country's major newspapers, but it's still a stretch to say these publications are controlled by them.

Had Sanchez instead talked about Arab control of the media, his comments would've flown under everyone's radar.


Tuesday, October 5 2010

Stuxnet: Will Iran Strike Back in Cyberspace?

virus Whether or not the Stuxnet worm attacking Iranian sites originated in Israel, the US, or somewhere else, expect the Revolutionary Guards to retaliate -- in cyber space.

Newsweek spotlights Iran's "Cyber Army":

After a number of government Web sites were hacked during the disputed 2009 presidential election—presumably by supporters of the opposition—Tehran started to fight back by forming the Iranian Cyber Army, a group linked to the Revolutionary Guards. Last year, these pro-government hackers briefly took down Twitter, and they intend to expand their targets: a Guard spokesman has said that the goal of the Cyber Army is to “conquer virtual space.”

As part of that effort, 120 members of the Basij, a youth militia, were recently sent to Mashad for training in “writing weblogs, social networking, psychological operations, protection from Internet spying, mobile phones and their capabilities, Basij cybercenters and videogames that would allow penetration into virtual space.” Regardless of who created Stuxnet, it’s clear that Iran intends to fire its own shots in the cyberwar.

Two years ago, I interviewed Gadi Evron, one of Israel's top computer security experts. He told me that we'll never be able to definitively prove that a state was behind cyber attacks. But that probably won't stop the Iranians from striking back. The deniability level's too good.

Unless the Iranians produce security footage of mysterious people with wigs, tennis rackets and false mustaches walking into Bushehr . . .


Monday, October 4 2010

The Guardian Confirms: Israel Not Undermining Al-Aqsa Mosque

Nice correction in The Guardian, if not overdue.



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