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Tuesday, November 30 2010

Wikileaks-Israel Roundup, Part 2


It ain't liveblogging, but the roundup of Wikileaks-Israel material continues.

• Reporters will have a harder time with government sources. So predicted Prime Minister Netanyahu in a meeting with editors and journalists:

Netanyahu said that as a result of the huge cache of diplomatic cables that were released Sunday, leaders and diplomats will be more reticent in what they say, and to whom they say it . . .

According to Netanyahu, as a result of the Wikileaks revelations there will now be efforts to reduce the number of people who have access to information, and as a result there will be fewer revelations.

"I'm not sure that this helps you do your job, or us do ours," he told the journalists . . .

• Egypt's role as a regional mediator takes a big hit -- especially President Mubarak's efforts to broker Hamas-Fatah reconciliation:

For years, Mubarak's regime has presented itself as the only diplomatic actor capable of resolving the 2007 split between Palestinian factions Hamas and Fatah that left Hamas in control of Gaza and Fatah in control of the West Bank. Palestinians deem reconciliation critical to the success of any peace deal with Israel, but many accuse Egypt of being a biased mediator and therefore unfit for the job. The disclosed documents appear to leave little doubt as to where Egypt stands.

• I was impressed with the reaction from this Chicago Tribune staff-ed:

American diplomats may be embarrassed by these leaks. And WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange makes no secret that one of his missions is to expose and curb American power around the world.

But this time his method has backfired. These documents reveal an important truth: The U.S. and its allies, including Israel, are not alone in standing against Iran's nuclear bull rush.

Much of the Middle East is rooting for America to stop Iran before it gets the bomb. And blocking Iran's nuclear ambitions also means stopping whatever assist Tehran gets from North Korea. There's no secret about any of that anymore.

See also part 1, which I posted earlier today.

Wikileaks-Israel Roundup

Dos2 Here's a roundup of some revelations, thoughts and fallout on Wikileaks and Israel. I'll post more as people sort through the mountains of info.

Before Operation Cast Lead, Israel asked the PA and Egypt to assume administrative control of Gaza after the conflict. Both refused, and the PA already denies having any advance knowledge of war plans.

• The US independently assesses that Turkish PM Erdogan really does hate Israel:

"Our discussions with contacts both inside and outside of the Turkish government. . . tend to confirm Levy's thesis that Erdogan simply hates Israel," the cable said.

• The leaks are "devastating" to the Walt/Mearsheimer netroots claims that Israeli neocons goading for war with Iran. Meanwhile, Fisk's being Fisk again.

• Not surprisingly, the Arab  media plays down revelations that their own leaders' support for an attack on Iran:

Many of the same Arab governments that called for an investigation into U.S. war crimes based on the WikiLeaks Iraq war log continue to ignore revelations in the latest trove of leaked documents that show Arab leaders pushed the United States to use military force against Iran . . .

Most mentions of the WikiLeaks documents in official Arabic news outlets were scrubbed of any reference to the countries of the Arabian Peninsula, focusing instead on U.S. attempts to control the damage to its diplomatic relations.

UPDATE 2:05 p.m.: I just posted Part 2 of this ongoing roundup.


Sunday, November 28 2010

WikiLeaks: Iran Smuggled Weapons to Hezbollah in Ambulances

IRCPlenty of juicy tidbits already emerging from the latest WikiLeaks info dump. One State Dept. cable published in The Guardian lays out how Iran smuggled weapons and spies in ambulances to Lebanon during the 2006 war.

According to a source quoted in the cable:

The Iranian Red Crescent again facilitated the entry of Qods force officers to Lebanon during the Israel-Hezbollah war in summer 2006. Although [NAME REMOVED] did not travel to Lebanon during the conflict, he reiterated that the only true IRC officers dispatched to Lebanon were [DETAILS REMOVED] all others were Iranian Revolutionary Guards and Ministy of Information and Security officials. [NAME REMOVED] further said that the IRC shipments of medical supplies served also to facilitate weapons shipments. He said that IRC [DETAILS REMOVED] had seen missiles in the planes destined for Lebanon when delivering medical supplies to the plane. The plane was allegedly "half full" prior to the arrival of any medical supplies.

Makes me wonder about other pseudo-humanitarian aid flotillas . . .

Harriet Sherwood in Jerusalem: A 6-Month Assessment

CiFWatch assesses Harriet Sherwood's six months in Israel for The Guardian. Spoiler alert:

To conclude, Sherwood does not appear so far to be meeting her own standards as professed above. She is definitely “covering the same ground as everyone else” . . .

Here's a visual breakdown of Sherwood's coverage:


Read the full analysis.

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Thursday, November 25 2010

10 Politically Incorrect Things I'm Thankful For

Cornucopia 10. Israelis put security ahead of political correctness. I wish Ben Gurion Airport's passenger profiling, metal detectors in every mall, the security fence, checkpoints, and the Gaza blockade weren't necessary -- but they are.

9. Living in Jerusalem: Regardless of what the UN says, visiting the Western Wall reminds me why this place is the heartbeat of the Jewish people.

8. Free online news: Enjoy it while it lasts.

7. Ofcom exposed George Galloway for who he is: an Israel-basher whose show lacks any and all pretense of "impartial" debate.

6. Someone went to the trouble of flying down to Dubai to kill Mahmoud Mabhouh. The world's a better place without that Hamas arms dealer.

5. The Mavi Marmara photos cropped by Reuters were published uncropped in Hurriyet.

4. Despite the MSM inexplicably ignoring Paul Martin's captivity in Gaza, the British journalist's plight wasn't as long as Alan Johnston's.

3. The Stuxnet computer virus: Nothing else is slowing down Iran's nuclear program.

2. Hezbollah's squirming over a CBC investigation.

1. Israel is indeed a rogue state we can be proud of.

Bad Guys Bought Stuxnet on Black Market

Sources tell Sky News that unidentified "bad guys" bought the Stuxnet on the black market.

The list of vulnerable installations is almost endless – they include power stations, food distribution networks, hospitals, traffic lights and even dams.

A senior IT security source said: "We have hard evidence that the virus is in the hands of bad guys – we can't say any more than that but these people are highly motivated and highly skilled with a lot of money behind them."

You know that someone's just bound to interrupt his Thanksgiving weekend to blame Israel for this.

Nuanced Notes on the Western Wall

Western-wall Gotta give credit where credit is due. AP's Diaa Hadid's nuance strikes the right note on the Western Wall:

Decades of archaeology have shown that the Western Wall, the holiest place where Jews can pray, was a retaining wall of the compound where the two biblical Jewish Temples stood 20 centuries ago. The Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, Islam's third-holiest site, is built atop the ruins.

Where are you, Harriet Sherwood?


Wednesday, November 24 2010

Hezbollah Conceding It Killed Hariri?

YNet News picks up on the quote of the day:

A Hezbollah parliament member, Walid Sukkarieh, made an unusual statement Wednesday and said that "even if Hezbollah murdered Rafik Hariri, we have no interest in destroying Lebanon," the London-based al-Sharq al-Awsat reported.

Even if?

Nasrallah's sweating over that CBC documentary more than I thought.

PA Kills Death Penalty For Selling Land to Jews

Forsale The PA says it's illegal for Palestinians to sell land to foreigners (read, Israelis). But how illegal is a different manner. The LA Times picks up on a Bethlehem man going through the grinder of PA justice for selling land to Jews.

The unidentified man was sentenced to five years in prison with hard labor, and the possibility of being executed.

But an appeals court labeled the sale "a commercial transaction with a member of an enemy state for personal gain or greed," which didn't harm national security. The ruling: misdemeanor, two years in prison without hard labor, removing the specter of execution.

The PA's attorney general convinced the courts to reinstate the felony ruling. But the Times adds:

As the battle of the courts continues, a proposed Palestinian law, intended to replace the Jordanian law, also bans the sale of property to foreigners, including Israelis, and classifies the sale of property to Israelis as a felony but not punishable by death.

Under pressure from human-rights organizations, the Palestinian Authority has decided to abolish capital punishment.

That's a relief.

For comparison, last year, the Israeli media reported that Galilee farmers were selling agricultural land to investors from Persian Gulf states with no ties to Israel. Officials from the Israel Land Administration said -- like it or not -- they couldn't intervene as the transaction involved privately-owned land . . .


Tuesday, November 23 2010

Watch CBC's Full Report on the Hariri Assassination

The blogosphere's still buzzing over the CBC's bold investigation tying Hezbollah to the Rafik Hariri assassination. The full documentary's on YouTube now.


I do hope the politically correct BBC execs who buried their own documentary are watching.

Via Elder of Ziyon.

Dejudaising Jerusalem: The Guardian Helps Promote Palestinian Lies

Does The Guardian buy into Palestinian claims that Israel and the Jewish people have no spiritual or historical connection to the Western Wall and the Temple Mount?

See HonestReporting UK's latest critique: Dejudaising Jerusalem: The Guardian Helps Promote Palestinian Lies

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In this free, six-part course, you'll learn everything you need to use the Internet to become an effective advocate for Israel. Click on the image for more info and to sign up.



Monday, November 22 2010

Ofcom: No Real Conversation On George Galloway's Show

George_galloway George Galloway and Press TV were found in breach of the UK broadcasting code by Ofcom, Britain's media standards authority. Bottom line: Galloway's show, Comment, is just a vehicle for the former MP to bash Israel.

The ruling was the result of a complaint by a viewer against a February broadcast discussing the death of Hamas leader Mahmoud Mabhouh in Dubai. 

The broadcast code allows free speech to presenters like Galloway, providing that impartiality is preserved, as described in this rule Ofcom cited:

Rule 5.5: ‘Due impartiality on matters of political or industrial controversy and matters relating to current public policy must be preserved on the part of any person providing a service. This may be achieved within a programme or over a series of programmes taken as a whole.’

But Ofcom found a pattern of criticism over several broadcasts it couldn't overlook. I don't have room to mention all the examples it cited; suffice to say, Ofcom didn't feel there was enough real "debate" to allow Comment to accurately describe itself as "impartial." The watchdog's conclusion says it all:

Further, the broadcaster failed to engage or debate with any point of view that was contrary to the view presented by George Galloway. Rather, Ofcom is of the view that George Galloway, in particular, used the alternative opinions made by the viewers, which were contrary to his own, only as vehicles to punctuate what could be classed as a form of on-going political polemic, delivered by the presenter directly to camera and unchallenged.

Press TV is run by the Iranian government, meaning Galloway's on the payroll of the mullahs. That helps explain this comment on June 10:

If I was running Iran I would build a bomb because Israel is aiming hundreds of nuclear weapons at me.

(Hat tip: The Wire)

Hariri Assassination: CBC Points Finger At Hezbollah

An impressive CBC investigation of the Hariri assassination concludes Hezbollah did the dirty deed.

Among Neil Macdonald's findings:

  • Cell phone records indicate Hezbollah responsibility for the assassination.
  • Hezbollah penetrated the UN investigation early on.
  • A Lebanese policeman, Capt. Wissam Eid, who cracked the case, was murdered by a Hezbollah car bomb after an ominous warning to back off the investigation.
  • UN investigators were slow to appreciate the significance of Eid's findings.
  • The slain PM's chief of protocol, Col. Wissam Hassan, hasn't adequately explained his whereabouts during the assassination, while a confidential UN memo labels him a possible suspect. Moreover, Col. Wissam was a liason between UN investigators and Lebanon's Internal Security Forces (ISF). He is now the ISF's intelligence chief.
  • The weakest link in prosecuting any suspects is the difficulty of converting the cell phone analysis into evidence that will stand up in a court of law.

I hope the BBC -- which timidly shelved its own documentary on the assassination -- watches this video.

This is the strongest media investigation I've seen of the murder.


Sunday, November 21 2010

Hamastan: The State of the Witch Hunt

The Christian Science Monitor shines a spotlight on the Hamas witch hunt for collaborators. With hundreds of people arrested, fear and distrust are everywhere. And human rights are out the window.

Gazans were astounded not only by the number or arrests, but by who was arrested. Prominent figures in society, including many doctors, were reportedly among those caught in the sweep. As the hunt for spies continues, Gazans say the revelation of the network’s reach is eroding trust between neighbors, coworkers – even family members . . . .

Many of those accused of collaborating are tortured, and Mr. Younis says confessions extracted by coercion or torture are common. Additionally, collaborators are tried in military, rather than civilian courts, which Younis says deprives them of rights. And the Hamas government’s execution of collaborators is done technically outside the law, since the law requires a death sentence be authorized by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. That hasn’t been obtained because of the split between Hamas and Fatah.

Because of the secrecy surrounding the campaign, it is also unclear whether the government is using it to punish political enemies.

It's not the kind of dispatch Hamas wants you to read, so be sure to read it all.

New Dutch Blood Libel

George_sluizer Haaretz picks up on the latest blood libel:

The claim first appeared in the Volkskrant, the third largest paper in the Netherlands, in an interview with the well-known Dutch-Jewish director George Sluizer. According to Sluizer, 78, he witnessed Sharon killing two Palestinian toddlers with a pistol in 1982 near the refugee camp Sabra-Shatilla while filming a documentary there.

Like Donald Bostrom's Swedish blood libel, there's no corroborating evidence. The cameraman who Sluizer claims also witnessed the shooting, Fred van Kuyk, is dead. And Sharon's in a coma.

So we can only take Sluizer's word for it.

An Israeli defense minister personally killing Palestinian toddlers would've been quite a scoop back in '82. Why is Sluizer only coming out with these allegations now?

Radio-Canada Host 'Regrets' Equating Israel with Iran and Sudan

After obscenely equating Israel with Iran and Sudan, Radio-Canada's Simon Durivage expressed "regret" for this "inappropriate comparison."

See HonestReporting Canada's latest communique: Radio-Canada Host 'Regrets' Equating Israel with Iran and Sudan


Thursday, November 18 2010

Palestinians, Anarchists, Torch Israeli-Owned Land Again

Israeli security arrested a dozen anarchists suspected of torching land belonging to the Bat Ayin. YNet News explains what happened:

The incident began at around 8 am when a group of 30 anarchists, accompanied by a number of photographers from the Al-Jazeera television network, arrived at the site. The anarchists set the field on fire and planted olive trees in the torched soil.

According to the settlers, the method is commonly used to take over land. "When the olive trees grow the Civil Administration has a difficult time determining who the land belongs to," one of them said.

The grove has been set on fire three times over the past few weeks by anarchists.

Now how do you think Al-Jazeera knew where and when to show up with a camera crew?

It's all an unreported aspect of the olive harvest war I discussed with Yarden Frankl in our most recent podcast.

Who the Heck is Mandated With Resettling Refugees? (Part 2)

Elder of Ziyon's video makes a similar point I blogged, asking Who the heck is mandated with resettling refugees?

Dare I say Israel has treated Palestinian refugees better than Fatah, Hamas, the neighboring Arab states, the UN . . .

Why Did BBC Pull Documentary About Hariri Assassination?

Murder_in_beirut The Guardian reports that the BBC suddenly yanked a documentary implicating Hezbollah in the Hariri assassination:

The first of three parts of Murder in Beirut was scheduled to be broadcast on BBC World this Saturday, but the producer was told without warning on Tuesday that it was being delayed.

The BBC said the film had not yet complied with its editorial guidelines. No new date has been set. But the decision to postpone it was taken after a Lebanese newspaper described how it accused the militant Shia group of the 2005 assassination, in which Hariri and 22 others were killed by a massive car bomb . . . .

The films include interviews with decision-makers in Beirut, Damascus, Washington and Paris, promising to tell "the gripping inside story of what's really at stake in the struggle for power in the Middle East". The BBC has not been warned specifically not to screen the series, but insiders admit there is nervousness about its impact in the current volatile climate.

I'm glad the Beeb is concerned for fact-checking, but I'm a little surprised that it's The Explanation this close to air time. I wouldn't be at all surprised if there were political considerations. The Beeb is supported by a license fee, which means public money has already been spent on this project.

Here's the trailer I found online.

UPDATE Nov 22: I hope the Beeb's powers that be are watching this bold CBC investigation on the assassination.

Time Magazine and the King of Paean

So Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan is the leading vote getter for Time's person of the year.

I can hardly wait to see the fawning cover story should he win.

People often knock Time for naming Hitler as 1938's person of the year. But that cover story is surprisingly more critical than the "king of paean" I assumed.

For what it's worth, my vote goes to the Chilean miners for the ray of good news they gave us by simply hanging on.


Wednesday, November 17 2010

Closure for Alan Johnston, Not Gilad Shalit

Gilad_shalit An Israeli airstrike killed Islam and Mohammed Yasin, two figures in the Army of Islam who are believed responsible for kidnapping BBC journalist Alan Johnston in 2007. According to the IDF, the two planned to kidnap Israelis in the Sinai.

Perhaps this will give some sense of closure to Johnston, who was held captive for four months.

The Army of Islam's also implicated in the kidnapping of Gilad Shalit, 1,606 days ago. Unfortunately, no closure there to speak of.

It's Only An Outrage When Israel Does This

Imagine the headlines if Israel did this:

To Save Lives, NATO Is Razing Booby-Trapped Afghan Homes
The Internet Ain't 'Public Domain'

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

Apple_pastryHeavy users of the Internet know that the web contains some level of copyright infringement. Bloggers routinely reprint whole articles from mainstream newspapers or magazines. And digital publications often “borrow” content from blogs and websites.

But sometimes a violation – and its subsequent justification – is so brazen that the Internet has no choice but to take collective action.

The case of writer and blogger Monica Gaudio versus Cooks Source magazine is a case in point, one that demonstrates what can happen when, in the words of All Things Considered, the Internet gets angry.

Cooks Source, a small Massachusetts magazine about food, published A Tale of Two Tarts by Gaudio (with credit) without informing the writer or seeking permission. When Gaudio discovered that her copyright had been violated, she e-mailed the publication, requesting an explanation, an apology and a $130 donation to the Columbia School of Journalism.

This, in part, is the response she received from Cooks Source editor Judith Griggs (bold added):

But honestly Monica, the web is considered "public domain" and you should be happy we just didn't "lift" your whole article and put someone else's name on it! It happens a lot, clearly more than you are aware of, especially on college campuses, and the workplace. If you took offence and are unhappy, I am sorry, but you as a professional should know that the article we used written by you was in very bad need of editing, and is much better now than was originally. Now it will work well for your portfolio. For that reason, I have a bit of a difficult time with your requests for monetary gain, albeit for such a fine (and very wealthy!) institution. We put some time into rewrites, you should compensate me! I never charge young writers for advice or rewriting poorly written pieces, and have many who write for me... ALWAYS for free!

After Gaudio published Griggs’ email on her blog, the response was quick and furious. Hundreds of indignant Internet users blogged the issue, and thousands more left hostile comments on Cooks Source Facebook page and tweeted about it relentlessly. A songwriter even put the words of Griggs’ letter to music and posted his performance on YouTube.

Moreover, the phrase “But honestly Monica…” became a catchphrase for misinformed defenses for wrongdoing, while a new verb “to griggs” was added to online lexicon, meaning to steal content then demand payment for editing it.

Eventually, Griggs had no choice but to take down the magazine’s website and offer an apology. She also posted a statement “explaining” how the copyright violation happened:

One night when working yet another 12 hour day late into the night, I was short one article... Instead of picking up one of the multitude of books sent to me and typing it, I got lazy and went to the www and "found" something. Bleary-eyed I didnt notice it was copy written and reordered some of it. I did keep the author's name on it rather than outright "stealing" it, and it was my intention to contact the author, but I simply forgot, between proofreading, deliveries, exhaustion.

The explanation didn't satisfy the Internet mob, which by then hijacked the magazine’s Facebook page. Collectively analyzing Griggs' website, angry readers found more alleged copyright violations, including articles pilfered from CNN, National Public Radio, and Martha Stewart’s Living.

The “I simply forgot” justification also failed to address Griggs’ real offense – her condescending and insensitive response to a writer who had been wronged. Had Griggs simply apologized, the case would have been nothing more than a reminder that some people have insufficient regard for others’ intellectual property.

But Griggs' myopic first response hit two particularly sensitive areas for Internet denizens. First, the statement that the Internet is public domain is a bewildering expression of entitlement, suggesting that Internet content has little value or merit. At best, Griggs seems to be saying, it can serve as filler for her tiny niche publication when she finds herself “short one article.”

Second, Griggs is suggesting that she improved the original article and the writer should be grateful that her work was altered, even without her consent. This statement is a violation of the very essence of what it means to own a piece of work. It means that no one can come along and change it without the owner’s approval. While copyright-centered arguments over “mash-ups” and “remixes” continue, the dispute focuses on the right to create new works from existing material, not to simple edit someone else’s articles.

In the end, Griggs noted that her small publication was unlikely to survive the Internet tsunami unleashed by her bad choices. But the magazine will maintain a legacy long after it disappears. As Matt Smith noted in a City Pages review of the incident, “the magazine may well become a digital textbook example of how not to respond to grievances in the internet age.”

Previously in Alex's series: Google Uber Alles

Who the Heck is Mandated With Resettling Refugees?

I commend John Ging's desire for dialogue with the Israeli public. As the UNRWA's director of Gaza operations, Ging and his organization have a lot of explaining to do.

Adi Schwartz interviewed Ging. This snippet highlights UNRWA culpability in protracting the refugee situation:

Why don’t you resettle the refugees?

“This is not our mandate. I am by mandate given for action, not to resolve the conflict. The question of the refugees is an issue that should be decided upon in the negotiations between the parties themselves”.

Gaza is under Palestinian control. Have you tried to initiate a resettlement project there together with Hamas?

“Why would I do that? You are asking me to solve one of the protracted issues of the conflict. This is not our mandate”.

It's not just Gaza.

Lenny David points out that Rawabi, a planned Palestinian city under development near Ramallah, hasn't earmarked any of its 30,000 housing units for refugees. And that's a shame, because there are exactly 30,000 refugees in Lebanon's still-unreconstructed Nahr el-Bared refugee camp on the verge of losing UNRWA assistance for lack of funds. (See Voice of America for more on that.)

If neither Hamas, Fatah or the UNRWA are taking advantage of such obvious opportunities to resettle Palestinian refugees, whose mandate is it?

The Chronicle of Higher Education Fails Intifada 101

AcademiaJust finished reading Amy Kaplan's take on the state of Palestinian academia under Israel's thumb. The Israeli security restrictions she describes in the Chronicle of Higher Education are indeed unpleasant.

But they don't take place in a vacuum.

Here's a quick crib sheet of Intifada 101 stats covering 2001-2007 which Kaplan overlooks. These figures are from 2001-2007.

1,194: People killed by Palestinian violence and terrorism

8,342: Israelis wounded in terror attacks

140: Suicide bombings

I'm also curious about Kaplan's thoughts on Palestinian terror attacks on Israeli academia.

In particular, Roni Yechiah, was killed when a Qassam rocket hit the campus of Sderot's Sapir college. And who can forget the Hebrew University massacre? Nine students were killed and around 100 more were injured when a bomb blew up in a cafeteria.

If there was no terror, there wouldn't be a need for the security fence, checkpoints, and bureaucratic restrictions.

It's all a long time ago in blog years. But for Israelis like me who lived through the years of bus bombings and more, this isn't ancient history either.


Tuesday, November 16 2010

Israel Now Akin to the Barbary Pirates

Barbary-pirates-jpgThe blogosphere best remembers Mark Perry for claiming that Gen. David Petraeus shifted Pentagon strategic thinking away from Israel.

Now, the American security incentives being offered for a new settlement freeze raises more conversation about US-Israeli relations, and Perry muddies the waters again, comparing Israel to the Barbary pirates.

When the Pasha of Barbary demanded ransom for U.S. ships he had seized, Jefferson sent a U.S. naval squadron to punish him. The resulting victory is now celebrated with a half-verse in the Marine Corps hymn (which celebrates the triumph on "the shores of Tripoli") and a knock-out political slogan that energized a nation: "Millions for defense, but not one cent for tribute."

If only Jefferson could see us now. This weekend, the Obama administration promised to turn over $3 billion in stealth fighters to Israel (supplementing the 20 F-35s it will buy with the $2.75 billion in "grants" it gets from Washington) and veto any U.N. resolution that questions Israel's legitimacy -- all in exchange for Israel's pledge to extend a ten-month partial settlement moratorium for another 90 days. This is a bad idea. And it's dangerous. There are differences, of course, between the events of the last 24 hours and the crisis that Jefferson faced in 1804. Then, we protested that we were "paying tribute," now we are "providing incentives." Then too, Israel is not making any "demands," they are simply (in Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu's words) "insisting." Oh -- and let's not forget -- the pirates of Barbary were America's "enemy." That's a lot different than now; Israel is our "friend."

It's fair to debate whether the offer should have been made, and if it's over the top. So it goes with all political horse-trading. But that's not Perry's point. By comparing Israel to those pirates, Perry, a former Arafat advisor who is squarely in the Walt/Mearsheimer camp:

  1. Implies that Israel is holding the peace process hostage.
  2. Overlooks the previous 10-month settlement freeze, squandered by the PA's refusal to talk.
  3. Suggests that Israel is extorting the US.

Last but not least, I have to wonder if Perry's evoking the imagery of US Marines "from the halls of Montezuma to the shores of Tripoli," on some level, suggests a desire for US military intervention against Israel.



Monday, November 15 2010

Podcast: The Olive Harvest War

Last week, Palestinians and international anarchists were filmed starting forest fires in Gush Etziyon.

But the film raises issues beyond that particular forest fire. This year, the mainstream media's all over the "olive harvest war."

What the MSM's not reporting is that in many cases, the Palestinians plant trees on land that doesn't belong to them, giving literal meaning to "facts on the ground."  Yarden and I discussed this issue in our latest podast.

Apologist for Hamas: See No Evil, Hear No Evil

A St. Petersburg Times correspondent stumbles blindly through Gaza ignoring the worst aspects of Hamas rule.

See HonestReporting's latest media critique: Apologist for Hamas: See No Evil, Hear No Evil


Sunday, November 14 2010

Man Pleads Guilty For Anti-Semitic, Threatening Talkbacks

ScotsmanIt's comforting to see a court hold accountable someone who posted vile and threatening anti-Semitic comments on a newspaper's web site talkbacks.

Mohammed Sandia pleaded guilty to distributing threatening and insulting antisemitic material through the website of The Scotsman newspaper. According to the Jewish Chronicle, Sandia

posted comments referring to Jews as a "genetically mutated inbred tribe. Jews are not fit to breathe our air and should be attacked wherever we see them."

No gray area about that.


Thursday, November 11 2010

Another Hamas Crackdown on Press Freedom

Hamas broke up a memorial for Yasser Arafat, detained journalists, and ordered them to turn over all footage of the event. The Foreign Press Association slammed the action.

According to the AP, the memorial was nothing more than a private screening of a video about Arafat, attended by 30 people.

A Palestinian Dig At Israel Over Chilean Miners Visit

Mario-Gomez-in-prayerThe Palestinians are already taking a dig at Israel, which invited the 33 Chilean miners for an all-expense paid visit to tour Christian holy sites during the Christmas season.

According to The Guardian, the PA may not want the visitors showing up under Israeli auspices:

But the invitation – for a seven-day stay – risks triggering an angry response from the Palestinians.

"We are not against them coming. But the Israelis cannot invite someone to the house of their neighbours", Fayez el-Sakka, a Palestinian MP from Bethlehem, said.

I can understand why the PA might be concerned.

Recent rulings by advertising standards watchdogs in Britain and Holland don't allow Israeli tourism ads to suggest that tourist sites in disputed areas are in Israel. The PA won't want to appear to undermine those rulings.

(The UK/Dutch logic suggests that the PA shouldn't be allowed to market tourist sites in disputed areas either, but that's a separate can of worms.)

The idea of peace on earth and goodwill to all men may be buried by stubborn principle. That could lead to an avalanche of bad PR.

I hope the Chileans don't get shafted.

Jerusalem is Not a Settlement

Building plans for existing Jewish neighborhoods in Jerusalem kick up a new media frenzy.

See HonestReporting's latest communique: Jerusalem is Not a Settlement

Quote of the Day

"We do not practice any torture here," he says. "That takes place at the interrogation centre, before people are convicted."

Naser Suleiman, director of Gaza's new maximum security prison, to Sydney Morning Herald correspondent Jason Koutsoukis.


Wednesday, November 10 2010

Fact Checking, Iranian Style

Recently, the Working Group Against the Trafficking of Women set up a display at Tel Aviv's Dizengoff Center showing real women with price tags, as if they were merchandise for sale. The goals: raise public awareness and gather signatures for its petition.

The shock value paid off. According to Haaretz, "very few passersby reacted negatively or apathetically," and hundreds of people signed the petition.

It also drew the attention of an Iranian news site called Rajanews. Israelity explains what happened next:

The Iranian news website Rajanews picked up the story but instead of putting it in context, titled the piece “Prostitution in Israel” with a caption for the included picture (picked up straight from the Haaretz website) reading “Slavery Mall in Israel.” The article then proceeded to “shed some light” on modern slavery in Israel, a “country which claims to be a democracy.”

The Iranian “misunderstanding” (if you want to be kind) was reported by Mohammad Memarian, an Iranian blogger on the Mideast Youth site, who chastised his fellow countrymen for both publishing the libel and not immediately rejecting its fabrication.

To its credit, Rajanews removed the article, but you can still see it on other websites such as this one (it’s in Persian). Note that any slips of Israeli skin are blurred out. Falsehoods can be reported but, God forbid, there should be any immodesty on the Iranian web.

Mideast Youth's criticism hit the nail on the head:

Given the frank, unambiguous article published in Haaretz, I can hardly imagine that this case could be a simple misunderstanding. Rather, it’s fair to believe that the original news editor/translator distorted the story, assuming that no one would ever dare to find the truth. Such a bitter fact that awkward distortion of the truth is still considered a suitable instrument to manipulate the minds of the audience.

That's fact checking, Iranian style.

Was This Photo Digitally Altered?

This AFP/Getty Images photo raises some questions of digital alteration.


Palestinian women protect their noses and ears as they walk past an Israeli policeman ready to fire tear gas canisters at Palestinian stone throwers in the Arab village of Issawiya in east Jerusalem on November 9, 2010. (AFP/Getty Images/Ahmad Gharabli)

The caption's copied directly from the AFP/Getty Images web site (run your cursor over the caption's first words).

The soldier's presumably standing in a shadow, but his silhouette looks way too dark, compared to the women in the background. Even more curiously, if you look carefully enough, you can actually make out the Israeli Border Police patch on his arm.

Something just doesn't add up.

I can't prove anything, but it's worth asking if the border policeman was artificially darkened. Darkening's an image-altering technique that can create a more menacing effect (OJ Simpson comes to mind).

As an aside, the photo's silhouette could confuse readers that the policeman is pointing a gun at the women. Fortunately, the caption identifies the object (tear gas) and notes the unseen context: Palestinian rock throwers in Issawiya.

The rub is that newspapers don't necessarily publish the full caption, and readers don't always bother to read captions. And Palestinian activists often seize on these kinds of images for their own purposes, and they won't provide the missing context.

So if anyone sees a lighter version of this photo, let me know. I'd like to -- pardon the pun --see more light shed on this.

November 10 Links

Palestinian Stock Market Keen to Lure Foreign Investors
Thin trading volumes and a PA capital gains tax are bigger problems for the Palestinian stock exchange than "the occupation."

Hamas' Tightening Grip on Power: Targeting Fun in the Gaza Strip
Only in Hamastan could a water park get torched. Here are the real reasons why.

Peace Between Middle Eastern Nations Is Possible
Try a few factoids on for size.

Peace Breaks Out Thanks To Football, For A Few Minutes At Least
Good news from Hebron you might have missed.

Today's Cabinet Showdown Has Lebanon on Brink

This Beirut Daily Star report is pretty dramatic. The Lebanese cabinet wants to resolve the "false witnesses" controversy by referring (or not) the question to Lebanon's Judicial Council. The stakes are high:

A vote in the Cabinet, or a lack of it, could plunge the country into its worst political crisis since May 2008 and threaten the “national unity” government.

The Hizbullah-led March 8 coalition hopes to refer the issue of witnesses who gave false statements to the international investigation into the 2005 assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri to the Judicial Council in an attempt to derail the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL).

Prime Minister Saad Hariri and his allies want to avoid a vote and have called for the issue to be referred to the judiciary after the STL issues its indictment in the case. Hizbullah fears the indictment will name some of its members . . . .

It is still unclear which side is capable of securing the required absolute majority of votes regarding the matter.

The UN Special Tribunal for Lebanon is widely expected to indict Hezbollah figures in the near future. Not surprisingly, Hezbollah blames Israel.


Tuesday, November 9 2010

Blame Those Settlements

During the 10 month settlement freeze, the Palestinians did absolutely nothing to advance the peace talks.

Nobody told Dave Granlund, who penned this Christian Science Monitor cartoon.

Google Uber Alles

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

GoogleHow deeply has Google penetrated how we use information?

More deeply than we think, it turns out. And its errors have effects we could never have imagined.

Just last week, Nicaragua invaded Costa Rica because Google Maps mistakenly showed certain disputed territories in Costa Rica as being part of Nicaragua. According to media reports,

A "bug in Google" inspired troops to enter an area near the long-contested border, remove Costa Rica's flag and raise its own. The "bug" quickly blew up into an international event, with the Organization of American States and the UN Security Council getting involved, and the search giant "fixing" the map.

A popular blog, Search Engine Land also covered the story. Ironically, it relied on an article from the Spanish press for information, using Google Translate to read the story.

At first, I thought the story was a hoax. Could an army possibly invade another country over information provided by an online map program? So I did what I always do when I suspect a hoax – I Googled it (yes, Google's a transitive verb that Merriam-Webster capitalizes) and discovered the story was real.

Google Maps. Google Translate. Google search.

Then I read that Google’s mobile phone system, Android, has surpassed Apple’s vaunted iPhone in revenue this year.

Resistance is futile. It's a Google world. We're at its mercy.

Previously in Alex's series: The NY Times's Digital Transformation

Radio-Canada Equates Israel with Iran and Sudan

By putting Israel, Sudan and Iran in the same boat, Radio Canada draws a false moral equivalence between the "rogue states."

See HonestReporting Canada's latest communique: Radio-Canada Equates Israel with Iran and Sudan


Monday, November 8 2010

Bungled Headline of the Day

Credit the Irish Times for today's Bungled Headline. Pay special attention to who is doing the inciting.


You have to read the article to find out that the razed mosque was built without a permit, and illegally funded too. Not a very insightful headline. See AP for comparison:


Sunday, November 7 2010

CNN Photo Razes a Ruckus

UPDATE: Just minutes after posting this, it was brought to my attention that CNN already removed the photo.

* * *

Israeli authorities demolished a Bedouin mosque near Beersheva. Yet CNN illustrates its story with this AFP/Getty Images photo -- from Gaza?


Rubble must be more gripping when it's from Gaza.

According to Haaretz, the mosque was built without any permits, and was funded by The Islamic Movement's Northern Branch, which is headed by Sheikh Raed Salah.

As for Rahat, it's located well enough within Israel that a Qassam rocket nearly wiped out a tent full of women and children outside the Bedouin village during Operation Cast Lead.

Is Britain Grovelling to the Israeli Bully?

See HonestReporting UK's latest media critiques:

South African Web Site Debunks Israel-Apartheid Claims

The South African Jewish community put together a nice web site debunking various misconceptions about Israel, including the "apartheid" smear.

Check out Let's Talk Israel.

Gov't Press Office Chief Bids Farewell With Blunt Interview

Danny Seaman is stepping down from his position as head of Israel's Government Press Office. In a frank, wide-ranging interview with the Jerusalem Post, Seaman discussed the ups and downs of working between the press corps and the government.

He touches on issues like:

  • Israeli media bias spilling over to the Western press
  • Keeping Sderot's suffering on the MSM's agenda
  • Parachute journalists who didn't understand the Gaza war
  • Mohammed al-Dura, Al-Jazeera's birthday party for released terrorist Samir Kuntar, and more.

I'll miss Seaman; best of luck to his replacement, Oren Helman.

Read the whole interview.


Thursday, November 4 2010

Analyzing the Analysis

 I just finished reading The Media Line and Newsweek assessments on what the US elections results may mean for Israel and the peace process.

For a sloppier analysis, see the Irish Times; the only person Michael Jansen bothered to quote is Juan Cole . . .


Wednesday, November 3 2010

Blog Notes

Israel_iconHonestReporting's mission to Israel kicked off today.

After hearing feisty participants give Mark Regev an earful about gov't resources not being readily available for Israel advocates, I added links to a few gov't web sites to Backspin's "Featured Links" section.

You'll find them on the right, just below the "Featured Blogs."

Links include the Prime Minister's office, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Israel's embassies in Washington and London, the NY consulate, UN mission plus the IDF and Knesset sites.

Check 'em out and empower yourself.

Is the PA Restricting Press Freedom?

Yarden and I discuss Palestinian media freedom and an abruptly cancelled tour of Jericho for the foreign press last week. Did the PA cross the line?


HR Links

HR Social Media

Featured Blogs

Featured Links

Media Backspin