September 02, 2014
Why is New Religious Freedom Group Silent on Abuses in Iran?
Given the violence that Christians and other religious minorities have endured in Muslim-majority countries in the Middle East, North Africa and Asia, the recent creation of a group called In Defense of Christians, should be cause for celebration.
The organization’s website and Facebook page provide numerous links to articles and videos about the mistreatment of Christians at the hands of radical Muslims in the Middle East. In the past few months, its website and Facebook page have been used to draw attention to violence against Christians in Iraq at the hands of ISIS.
The organization, which was founded sometime after 2012 in response a keynote address offered by Archbishop Francis Chullikatt at the Catholic Prayer Breakfast held annually in Washington, D.C., is charged with engaging in “policy advocacy for vulnerable Christians and other religious minorities.”
The organization says that it will focus most of its efforts on influencing the actions of “the U.S. foreign policy community” in an effort to convince them to “promote values abroad that are consistent with the universal rights of religion and conscience.” The statement continues in part:
These values are not exclusively Christian, nor does IDC seek only to protect the human rights of Christians, but all religious groups. These rights are universal, applicable to all human persons. In this sense, “Christian” refers not only those who confess the Christian faith, but also Muslim, Jew, Hindu, Buddhist, Baha’i, and even the freedom to confess no religious belief at all.
IDC believes that America’s foreign policy apparatus, especially the State Department, too often projects indifference on the question of persecuted religious minorities in the region, especially Christians – a policy that only invites further violence. In some instances, the U.S. government even provides significant foreign aid to regimes that persecute Christians, as with Pakistan and now Egypt. With a vigorous and sustained public awareness and advocacy campaign, IDC believes this can change.
All this is well and good, but there are some troubling aspects about the organization that give room for some nagging doubts.
3 "Health Workers" Killed in Israeli Strike Exposed as Terrorists
The Algemeiner on September 2, 2014 published an article exposing three "heath workers" killed in an Israeli missile strike as Islamic Jihad operatives. The Algemeiner piece reproduces the original report from the Palestinian Center for Human Rights [PCHR], one of the better known non-governmental "human rights" groups in Gaza that western news media occasionally cite. PCHR's entry on Aug. 2 stated,
At approximately 15:30 (August 1), Israeli warplanes bombarded an ambulance of the Ministry of Health. As a result, 3 health workers were killed: ‘Aatef Saleh al-Zameli, 42, the driver; Yousef Ejmai’an al-Zameli, 33, a nurse; and Yousef Jaber Darabih, 25, a volunteer paramedic.
The Algemeiner published the martyr photographs of the "driver," "nurse" and "volunteer paramedic" proudly posted on the web site of the terrorist group, Islamic Jihad, in their military garb.
Revealing the Truth About the Gaza Conflict Piece By Piece
The Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center [ITC] continues the arduous task of exposing the facts about who was killed in the Gaza Strip during the most recent escalation of violence between Israel and Hamas.
An analysis so far found that 273 of 600 names evaluated whose status could be identified (out of 667 names looked at) were terrorist operatives. That amounts to 46 percent or nearly half of the fatalities. The Center's investigators continue to investigate the remaining fatalities. There is every reason to expect the completed evaluation will show a similar breakdown of combatants to non-combatants. The ITC analysis published photographs showing terrorist groups claiming credit for a slain operative. Not surprisingly, most of the male fatalities aged 18-30 are identified as members of terrorist groups, providing validation for the age demographic study by CAMERA and others that cast doubt on excessive civilian fatality claims offered by Palestinian and UN organizations and repeated as fact by the media.
If one accounts for civilian fatalities resulting from misfired Hamas rockets, executions of "collaborators" by Hamas and those persuaded or forced to act as human shields, it is already evident that the media improperly served the purposes of Hamas propaganda by promoting the perception of indiscriminate Israeli fire. Rather than repeating the mantra-like statement that the majority of the fatalities resulting from Israeli bombardment were civilians, it is increasingly apparent that civilian fatalities resulting from Israeli fire, separate from circumstances involving human shields, make up a minority of the total number of fatalities.
Former BBC Correspondent Discusses Gaza Coverage, Media Aversion to Self-Reflection
Matti Friedman's devastating critique of news coverage of the Arab-Israeli conflict has inspired another media veteran to weigh in. "There is much that Matti Friedman writes that resonates," writes former BBC correspondent Richard Miron, mentioning specifically "the disproportionate coverage that Israel receives, and the way that the foreign media has broadly speaking accepted a narrative of the conflict which prescribes given roles to Israel (as the guilty party) and the Palestinians (as the victims)."
While the entire piece is well worth a read — find it on Miron's blog here (or at Haaretz here) — one of the more disheartening bits is his conclusion that any improvement in the media's performance would require a degree of self-criticism that has generally been absent among journalists:
the (Western) media must also account for itself and for its own conduct including apparent omissions and failures in the reporting of the conflict. It must question where reporting may have ended and emoting began, if it held Israel to a standard apart from all others, and why it allowed Hamas a free pass in controlling the flow of information. Its coverage had consequences in fuelling the passions (and hatred) of many on the streets of Paris, London and elsewhere towards Israel, and by extension towards Jews.
The media is instinctively averse from turning the lens of scrutiny upon itself, and will – in all likelihood – veer away from any self-examination. It is better at calling out the wrong-doing of others, than admitting to its own faults. But whatever it chooses to do or not, the picture it painted of Gaza 2014 and its consequences are already etched in the consciousness of many around the world, and will serve as a further chapter in this never ending story.
Miron has clearly seen this "aversion" to self-examination as an insider, just as CAMERA has occasionally (though not universally) seen in our decades of holding the media accountable. But the situation is not hopeless. We've also seen that when the internal voice for improvement is missing, the collective voice of a public that insists on accuracy and fairness can and must take its place as a needed impetus for change.
September 01, 2014
LA Times' Inflated Gaza Casualty Stat Exceeds Palestinian Source's
Sept. 2 Update: LA Times Corrects Inflated Figure for Gaza's Civilian Casualties
Some media outlets have accepted as fact overstated Palestinian casualty figures. But, last month, The Los Angeles Times went a step further, inflating Gaza's civilian casualties beyond even what Palestinian sources have claimed.
Laura King reported Aug. 21 ("Hamas denies Israel airstrike in Gaza killed elusive leader"):
According to the Palestinian Center for Human Rights, 2,168 Gazans were killed in the conflict since July 8, of which, says the PCHR, 76.6 percent, or 1,662, were civilians. According to the Palestinian Al Mezan organization, 1,666 out of a total of 2,168 Gaza fatalities were civilian. The U.N.'s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs claims that out of a total of 2104 casualties, 1,462 were civilians.
Thus, according the U.N., in addition to Palestinian sources, King's figure is greatly exaggerated.
Moreover, Israel disputes the Palestinian and U.N. figures, saying almost half of those Gazans killed were combatants.
In a subsequent article, King did accurately report on the disputed casualty figures. She commendably wrote August 25:
About 2,100 Palestinians in Gaza have been killed in this round of fighting, most of them civilians, according to the United Nations, but Israel says hundreds were fighters for Hamas or other militant groups.
August 28, 2014
Mennonites and Quakers Leave Churches for Middle East Peace
The changes have been made with little fanfare, but two of the more radical anti-Israel organizations that supported Churches for Middle East Peace are no longer listed on the group’s roster.
The two groups are the Mennonite Central Committee and the American Friends Service Committee. A phone call to one of the organizations confirms that both the AFSC and the MCC left the CMEP in the past few weeks.
The CMEP is well-known for its tendency to issue one-sided condemnations of Israel while remaining silent about war crimes and human rights abuses perpetrated by Arab and Muslim countries in the Middle East.
Prior to the departure of AFSC and MCC, two other institutions had left CMEP’s roster – the Catholic Conference of Major Superiors of Men’s Institutes, and the Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns. These two organizations were listed on the organization's roster in the middle of 2013 but are no longer listed.
As a result of these departure's, CMEP's roster has shrunk from 25 members in mid-2013 to 21 members today.
The departure of the MCC and the AFSC was confirmed by the organization's executive director, Warren Clark.
The Moral Emptiness of Those Who Use the Holocaust to Libel Israel
Alvin Rosenfeld, professor of English and Jewish Studies and director of Institute for the Study of Contemporary Antisemitism at Indiana University, addresses the disturbing phenomenon of self-proclaimed Holocaust survivors arrogating moral authority from their status as victims to turn public opinion against Israel. In his piece, "Moral Emptiness of Holocaust Survivors Who Took on Israel," appearing in the Forward, Rosenfeld discusses the recent advertisement in The New York Times by a group of "Holocaust survivors and descendants of survivors" who cast Israelis as the new Nazis, threatening genocide against the Palestinians.
Rosenfeld establishes that "Jews deriding and defaming other Jews" is not new and provides an anecdote about Hitler and his cohorts taking pleasure in observing such a spectacle.
Rosenfeld gets right to the point in exposing what motivated the Times advertisement,
Israel’s war with Hamas has exacted many casualties, but nothing remotely like “genocide” is taking place in Gaza. Why, then, charge Israel with a crime of this kind and magnitude? Those who are on to the rhetoric of “anti-Zionism” will instantly recognize this language for what it is: a collection of familiar political clichés employed time and again by the purveyors of anti-Israel vilification.
It is important to point out that only a portion of the 327 signators to the letter accusing Israel of Nazi-like aggression are actually Holocaust survivors, many more have tenuous connections.
Rosenfeld offers sage advice on how one can be alert to such twisted moral posturing,
Whenever someone begins a sentence with the words “as a Jew…,” what follows is likely to be full of political posturing and should be met with skepticism. The same often holds true when someone opens a sentence with the kindred formula, “as a Holocaust survivor….”
What should one take away from this grotesque misappropriation of conscience?
According to Rosenfeld,
Sanctioning such propaganda by stamping it with the moral authority that supposedly belongs to Holocaust survivors does not turn these lies into truth. What it does instead is expose as fraudulent the claims of certain Holocaust survivors and their kin to possessing an enlarged moral and political consciousness. In fact, it is unlikely that many people emerged from Hitler’s camps ennobled or enlightened. To believe otherwise and to arrogate to oneself as a “survivor” or a relative of a “survivor” some special access to wisdom and virtue is, as IJSN’s ad shows, little more than moral pretense.
Where’s the Coverage? Media Miss Hamas’ Admission of Kidnapping
After the June, 2014 kidnapping of three Jewish teenagers in the West Bank, Israel was accused of exploiting the incident first to crack down on Hamas (Palestinian Islamic Resistance Movement) and then, as Hamas and other terrorist groups intensified mortar and rocket fire into Israel, to launch Operation Protective Edge against the Gaza Strip.
The facts indicate otherwise. Scouring the West Bank in search of the missing boys, Israel arrested 350 Palestinian Arabs, most of them Hamas members or suspected members, some recently released as part of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.
In retaliation for the arrests and apparently because one of its Gaza-to-Israel infiltration tunnels had been exposed—not to mention disrupting what Israel hoped was a search-and-rescue mission—Hamas increased rocket fire. Israel hit terrorist targets in retaliation.
Some news media claimed that there had been no proof that Hamas had been responsible for the kidnappings. For example:
“Beyond Netanyahu’s accusations of Hamas responsibilities, there is no evident link between the abduction and the Hamas leadership in the Gaza Strip” (“Israel debates action over deaths”, The Miami Herald, July 1, 2014)
“[Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu did not publicly cite specific evidence tying Hamas to the kidnapping, and Israeli military officials refused to do so (“Netanyahu Says Three Were Taken by Hamas”, The New York Times, June 15, 2014) .
But Hamas officials subsequently confirmed Netanyahu’s charge by claiming responsibility for the abduction:
“A recording of a top Hamas official admitting the terror group was behind the June kidnapping and slaying of three Israeli teens in the West Bank emerged Wednesday [August 20], representing the strongest evidence yet of Hamas involvement in the attack.
“Sheikh Saleh al-Arouri, a senior Hamas religious figure, is heard on the video saying that he ‘blessed the heroic action’ which was ‘carried out by the al-Qassam Brigades’—the armed wing of Hamas. This action, ‘the kidnapping to Hebron of the three settlers,’ was an ‘operation spoken of far and wide,’ al-Arouri added” (“Top Hamas sheikh admits to June kidnapping of Israeli teens”, The Times of Israel, Aug. 20, 2014) .
Qatar-based Hamas political chief Khaled Mashaal confirmed Al-Arouri’s acknowledgement (“Mashaal admits Hamas members killed Israeli teens”, The Times of Israel, Aug. 23, 2014) .
Yet, The Washington Post did not mention confirmation by group leaders of Hamas’ role in the kidnappings-murders. Neither did The New York Times.
The Washington Times published only a three-paragraph brief discussing the admission by al-Arouri (“Senior Hamas leader admits kidnapping Israeli teens,” Aug. 22, 2014). The Miami Herald reported the confession by Hamas, quoting al-Arouri saying:
“Allah has chosen and willed that a large battle would be ignited” (“Hamas admits kidnapping Israeli teens”, Aug. 21, 2014) .
The Washington Post did publish a half-page article covering hardships Gazans experienced due to the fighting (“Gaza factories hit hard in conflict”, Aug. 21, 2014) one day after reports of Al-Arouri’s admission, two days before other media noted Mashaal’s acknowledgement . The Post article overemphasizes its subject. Gaza Strip factories would not have been hit at all had Hamas not launched hundreds, then thousands of mortars and missiles into Israel and built tunnels meant to facilitate mass kidnappings and murders of Israelis.
The Post’s narrow focus and exaggerated emphasis on Gaza’s economy failed to mention how the fighting started. The connection between the hardships imposed on the Arabs of the Strip by Hamas’ terror attacks against Israel, which forced six million Israelis to be able to reach bomb shelters within 15 to 90 seconds of alarm sirens sounding, was buried.
Palestinian Arabs were quoted bemoaning the destruction and blaming Israel, with no reminder to readers that they were not free to do otherwise. Hamas punishes dissidents it labels “collaborators” and, in fact, reportedly murdered several dozen Gazans it so accused a few days before the late August ceasefire. The organization regularly threatens and intimidates Gazans and, directly or indirectly, journalists.
In such an environment it is impossible to report comprehensively. This means news media should remind audiences that they are not getting the full picture. Reporting that Israel did not provide evidence to support its initial charge of Hamas responsibility for the kidnappings but downplaying or failing outright to cover the group’s confirmation when it came is another example of that failure to report comprehensively.—Ziv Kaufman
August 27, 2014
Former AP Reporter Pens Devastating Media Critique
Matti Friedman's powerful and troubling analysis of what's wrong with journalism when Israel is under the microscope (August 26, 2014, Tablet) should be mandatory reading in journalism schools. Entitled "An Insider's Guide to the Most Important Story on Earth," the piece notes at the outset that:
The lasting importance of this summer's war, I believe, doesn't lie in the war itself. It lies instead in the way the war has been described and responded to abroad, and the way this has laid bare the resurgence of an old, twisted pattern of thought and its migration from the margins to the mainstream of Western discourse -- namely hostile obsession with Jews. The key to understanding this resurgence is not to be found among jihadi webmasters, basement conspiracy theorist, or radical activists. It is instead to be found first among the educated and respectable people who populate the international news industry;
Friedman touches on the serious distortions so often detailed by CAMERA, including hugely disproportionate focus on relatively modest faults of the Jewish state and at the same time journalistic neglect of the suffering of millions across the globe and of their tormentors.
He makes the key point that, contrary to what might appear to be intense journalistic interest in the plight of the Palestinians, reporters actually do not have real curiosity about the breadth and depth of that community. Only as Palestinians intersect with Israel do they come into view -- not for themselves. He writes:
If you follow mainstream coverage, you will find nearly no real analysis of Palestinian society or ideologies, profiles of armed Palestinian groups, or investigation of Palestinian government. Palestinians are not taken seriously as agents of their own fate. The West has decided that Palestinians should want a state alongside Israel, so that opinion is attributed to them as fact, though anyone who has spent time with actual Palestinians understands that things are (understandably, in my opinion) more complicated.
Framing of the story of what's happening in Israel further skews the reality and misleads news consumers. As Friedman notes,
"A knowledgeable observer of the Middle East cannot avoid the impression that the region is a volcano and that the lava is radical Islam, an ideology whose various incarnations are now shaping this part of the world. Israel is a tiny village on the slopes of the volcano."
Other logical framing of the region would cast Israel with other minority groups. But
The Israel story is framed to seem as if it has nothing to do with events nearby because the "Israel" of international journalism does not exist in the same geo-political universe as Iraq, Syria, or Egypt. The Israel story is not a story about current events. It is about something else.
August 25, 2014
"Holocaust in Gaza" Hyperbole
According to Yahoo News, "The political chief of Hamas has called on President Barack Obama to intervene with the Israeli government ... to stop a 'holocaust' against the Palestinians."
Meshal's alarming statement might go unrecognized as the moral perversion that it is if one only read the The New York Times, with its flow of news dispatches and Op-Eds devoted to the situation in Gaza. Even the slaughter in Iraq and Syria and numerous seething conflicts from Ukraine to Africa do not slow the deluge of articles and opinion pieces conveying the message that Israel is guilty of reckless destruction and probably war crimes in its response to Hamas's rocket fire.
In such an environment emerged the outrageous paid advertisement appearing in The New York Times National edition on Aug. 23, 2014, bearing the signatures of some 300 individuals wrapping themselves in the mantle of "Jewish survivors and descendants of survivors of the Nazi genocide" and accusing Israel of committing a "massacre" and of ongoing "occupation" and "colonization of historic Palestine."
Leave aside for the time being this grotesque abuse of the historical consciousness of the genocide of the Jewish people in order to promote a new campaign to isolate and demonize Jews and set the stage for a repeat of past horrors. It is also instructive to look at the raw numbers of real campaigns of massacre and genocide and contrast them to the situation in Gaza (and the West Bank) in order to comprehend the deceit, the anti-historical mendacity of those who would use the language of mass murder and victimization to promote a new blood libel against the Jewish state and people.
Here are some numbers to digest:
From June 22, 1941 until May 8, 1945, about five and a half million Jews perished as a result of the German-inspired genocide against the Jews. That calculates to 3,890 Jewish children, women and men put to death every single day for 1414 days. This slaughter was in turn a hot spot within a conflagration driven by German supremacism that took 35 million lives in Europe alone, amounting to nearly 25,000 war-related deaths every single day for 1414 days.
Now if this comparison seems too jarring for New York Times' cultivated readers - let's not forget the Times never gave the Holocaust of European Jewry the sort of front page coverage it gives to Gaza - let's turn the dial down two orders of magnitude and look at the most violent conflict currently raging in the Middle East. In Syria and Iraq over the past three and a half years, at least 250,000 children, women and men have perished in civil conflicts, amounting to nearly 200 human beings per day for 1260 days. Low by World War II standards, but still an alarming number.
Now let's look at the conflict between Israel and Hamas that provokes relentless criticism of Israel in The New York Times and compelled hundreds of alleged Holocaust survivors and their descendants (as if being a descendant of a Holocaust survivor bestows some sort of unique moral authority) to sign a letter decrying Israel's alleged "massacre" and accuse its Jewish citizens of calling for "genocide" and imitating "neo-nazis." All the while, these same signators ignore, or even deny, actual documented incitement to commit genocide against the Jews voiced by supporters of Hamas.
In almost 50 days of escalated hostility between Israel and Hamas, just over 2000 Gazans have died. That amounts to about 40 per day in circumstances where terrorists insinuate themselves among Gazan civilians to launch rockets at Israeli cities, intentionally drawing Israeli return fire on to civilians.
Some will argue that the conflict deserves such attention because of its persistence over time and resistance to any resolution. So addressing that argument in a numerical fashion, in the 14 years since the beginning of the Second Intifada about 8,000 Palestinian fatalities have occurred due to conflict with Israel. That calculates to about one and a half Palestinian fatalities per day. The total number of Palestinian fatalities in 14 years equals about 2 days of the Jewish toll during the Holocaust period and about one morning's worth of the death toll for Europe as a whole during World War II.
The Palestinian death toll is not remotely comparable to any "genocides," large-scale "massacres" of entire populations or campaigns of "ethnic cleansing" that have occurred in numerous places around the world over the last century. But that doesn't stop anti-Israel activists, academics and self-proclaimed anti-Zionist Holocaust survivors and their acolytes from using those terms and news services like The New York Times and the BBC from giving them the exposure they crave.
For a numerical comparison, the scale of violence of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict would be most comparable to the persistent low-intensity violence seen among urban minority populations of stable western societies.
Characterized by brief escalations of violence interrupting extended periods of relative quiet enforced by vigilant Israeli security, the conflict between Israel and Palestinian terrorist groups has produced an overall violent death rate of the combined West Bank and Gazan populations over the last 14 years of under 20 violent deaths per 100,000 population per year; a figure lower than the violent death rates in many American cities during the 1980s and 1990s and in some cities to this day.
In fact, the violent death rates in Gaza and the West Bank are considerably lower than rates experienced over the years in urban African-American communities in major American cities like Washington DC, Detroit, New Orleans, St. Louis, Chicago and during the 1980s and 1990s in New York City, which recorded violent death rates as high as 50-100 per 100,000 population per year. Another way of putting this: African-American residents of many major American cities experience about a 3 to 5 times higher risk of dying from random urban violence than a Palestinian in the West Bank or Gaza from Israeli military responses to terrorism.
When was the last time someone - who was taken seriously - invoked incendiary terms like "genocide" "massacre" or "ethnic cleansing" to describe the level of violence visited upon African-Americans in urban America ?
August 22, 2014
Amira Hass's Flawed Analysis of Gazan Civilian Casualties
On Aug. 22, 2014, Haaretz published an analysis piece by Amira Hass, "How many Palestinian civilians is a single militant worth?" claiming that 76.8% of the 2090 documented fatalities in the recent hostilities between Israel and Hamas were civilians. Hass discusses the controversy over the proportions of the fatalities in the Gaza Strip that are civilians and militants. Israel claims that Hamas is concealing the true number of combatants in order to generate international outrage at Israel. But Hass counters that this strategy "contradicts the deep Palestinian and Hamas ethos of pride over those who were killed fighting the Zionist enemy."
She then delves into the crux of the controversy, that a disproportionate number of the fatalities, admitted to by the Palestinians themselves, are male and young males at that. Hass writes,
Some journalists have challenged UN and Palestinian categorizations, asserting that the number of young men killed in Gaza was relatively high compared to their size within the population. The conclusion is that most of the men killed – and they are the right age to be engaged in militant activity – were indeed militants.
According to Hass,
This conclusion is faulty in not being aware that public space in Palestinian society in general and in Gaza in particular is appropriated mainly by men. The men go to the mosque early in the morning and the evening; only men go to funerals; men sit outside their homes on hot days and watch World Cup games, and men are the ones who run out to retrieve the wounded and dead immediately after an attack or go to get water during an attack. So, it is natural that the number of men killed would be higher relative to the population, and not only because this is the right age to join in the fighting.
Hass's argument is fractured and falls apart under scrutiny.
1) She asserts that the high proportion of males is due to their higher propensity for public spaces, but she offers no evidence that the Israelis preferentially target public spaces where crowds of men might routinely assemble. Without offering evidence that the Israelis indiscriminately target public spaces - independent of situations in which the presence of combatants have been confirmed - her assertion has no value. In fact, there is evidence pointing to the opposite conclusion. In light of the more than 5000 targeted missiles and thousands of artillery shells fired by the Israelis and only 2,000 Gazan fatalities that resulted, the evidence strongly indicates that the Israelis make every effort to avoid firing into public spaces occupied by random people. If Israeli air strikes and artillery shelling were routinely striking public spaces in a wanton manner simply to inflict casualties, the fatality count would be much higher.
2) While she offers an explanation - unsubstantiated as it is - why there are many more male fatalities than female, her explanation fails to address the age pattern of the fatalities. There is a spike starting at the age of 17 and peaking in the early to mid 20s which then rapidly diminishes. This pattern is more credibly explained by combatants than it is by Hass's observations that males attend mosques, funerals and hang out watching the World Cup.
3) She also ignores a crucial issue, that of distinguishing combatants in an urban environment where combatants do not categorically don uniforms. Under such circumstances, a so-called non-uniformed "civilian" who comes to the aid of a wounded combatant or serves as a look out or approaches soldiers despite warnings assumes a questionable status.
4) And finally, there is the issue of civilians serving as human shields. This is a separate issue from the discussion of disproportionate young males among the fatalities, but is crucial to the overall discussion of Gazan civilian fatalities.
In conclusion, Hass's attempt to discredit Israeli claims that combatants contribute a far higher portion of the fatalities than the Palestinian groups admit is not at all convincing.
UN Claims 191,369 Killed in Syrian Civil War
The United Nations published its updated figures on the number of deaths caused by the three-and-a-half year Syrian civil war: 191,369. The release of the updated statistics was a relatively low-key affair. It did not prompt calls for mass demonstrations throughout Europe and the United States in sympathy for the beleaguered Syrian people; nor did it generate expressions of heightened outrage or demands for tribunals and investigations from international human rights groups or UN organizations. Such actions are strictly reserved for the situation in Gaza, where over the same time frame over 2,000 have died as a result of recurring hostilities between Israel and Hamas.
According to the Associated Press, the UN's top human rights official, Navi Pillay, "criticized the world's 'paralysis' over the fighting in Syria, which 'has dropped off the international radar' in the face of so many other armed conflicts around the world." That would be the same Navi Pillay who recently criticized the United States for failing to assist Hamas in obtaining the same missile defense system as that developed by the Israelis.
August 21, 2014
Has New York Magazine Learned Its Lesson Not to Rely on Biased Reporters?
On July 25, New York Magazine published an article by Katie Zavadski casting doubt on Israeli assertions that Hamas was responsible for the kidnapping and murders of three Israeli teens, Gilad Shaar, Naftali Frenkel, and Eyal Yifrach, in June, 2014. Now that Hamas has publicly come out and admitted they did it, Zavadski has had to backtrack, repeating the statement issued by Hamas itself on Aug. 21, 2014,
"The popular will was exercised throughout our occupied land, and culminated in the heroic operation by the Qassam Brigades in imprisoning the three settlers in Hebron," al-Arouri said at a conference in Istanbul. "This was an operation from your brothers in Qassam undertaken to aid their brothers on hunger strike in (Israeli) prisons."
Zavadski placed the responsibility for her initial misinformed piece on the sources she relied upon, Sheera Frankel of Buzzfeed and Jon Donnison of the BBC, writing on Aug. 21,
The circumstances of the incident, which sparked Israel's Operation Protective Edge, have been subject to much debate. Israel immediately blamed the militant group, which controls the Gaza strip, but Qatar-based Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal denied that the group's involvement. Veteran correspondents Jon Donnison and Sheera Frenkel both reported that Israeli intelligence had no concrete links between Hamas and the kidnappers, who are said to belong to a clan that frequently operates outside of Hamas control. Yet later, Israeli officials said they had concrete evidence of the link between the group and the kidnapping.
It is to Zavadski's credit that she posted the Hamas admission and did not try to brush over her initial article. She had already begun to walk back her July 25 piece in an update on Aug. 7, 2014 discussing proof offered by Israel. Zavadski has written some of the more insightful pieces for the New York Magazine on the conflict. Her article on why so many of the casualties in Gaza are children offered the important point that those under 18 represent nearly half the population and that if Israel was firing indiscriminately they would account for half the casualties, which they clearly don't.
However, there is still the lingering issue of why she relied upon Frankel and Donnison in the first place, as both have displayed a consistent anti-Israel bias that undermines their credibility as reporters. This speaks to a media culture that is all too willing to ascribe credibility to journalists who inject their anti-Israel bias into their reports.
Frankel's Buzzfeed tweets are frequently misleading and based on unsubstantiated sources.
Donnison's anti-Israel bias was exposed in March 2013 when he rushed to accuse Israel of killing the baby son of Omar Mashrawi, a Palestinian BBC staffer. After the UN Human Rights Council - itself a serial basher of Israel - investigated and concluded that Israel was not responsible for the baby's death, Donnison refused to retract his accusation against Israel.
The New York Magazine article on July 25 cast doubt on Israel's claim that Hamas was behind the kidnappings and pinned the blame for the escalation of violence on Israel implying that Israel used the incident as a pretext to escalate hostilities with Hamas. This was the line pushed by Frankel.
Now that she has egg on her face for relying on the two biased journalists, will Zavadski continue to rely on Frankel and Donnison? Or will she buck the pressure to slant stories against Israel and get her information from reliable correspondents who don't inject their anti-Israel agenda into their reports.
August 20, 2014
That Porous 'Siege' of the Gaza Strip
The word “siege” is often used by news media referring to Israel's partial blockade of the Gaza Strip. The description has become commonplace despite its tendency to echo misleading Palestinian allegations. For example:
A Daily Star (Beirut) article was titled “Lifting siege vs. disarmament clouds Gaza talks” (Aug. 13, 2014 ). The Economist misused the word by writing that “[t]o stop the fighting Hamas must promise not to fire its rockets into Israel. But in return Israel should agree to honour an agreement dating to 2012 to lift the siege that has immiserated Gaza’s inhabitants since 2007 in an effort to enfeeble Hamas (“Israel and Gaza: Stop the rockets, but lift the siege,” July 26, 2014).
But in terms of the transit of goods into and a large number of people out of the Strip, there is no siege.
In his blog, "Haifa Diary," Stuart Palmer explained what's wrong with journalists' parroting the Palestinian "Gaza siege" mantra: “Not only do food, medicine, fuel and aid enter freely at all times, but in peacetime, commodities and consumer goods of every type are transferred daily from Israel to Gaza through the land crossing.
"The types and amounts of consumer goods are determined by Palestinian merchants and depend primarily on market forces in Gaza. For the more affluent, Gaza offers a variety of consumer opportunities, from a modestly-sized mall to upscale restaurants. Even during the latest hostilities in Gaza, an international journalist reported on shopping at one of Gaza's supermarkets, which offered (“The Myth of an Israeli Siege on Gaza”, “Haifa Diary”, Aug. 12, 2014) "all kinds of goods".
Hardly a siege. There is a partial blockade imposed by Israel and Egypt following the takeover by Hamas of the Gaza Strip in 2006 and its violent ouster of Palestinian "unity government" partner Fatah in 2007,. The blockade is a response to, not a cause of terrorist attacks by Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad and other Muslim fundamentalist groups in the Gaza Strip.
The maritime blockade is legal under international law. As Palmer explains:
“In 2011, a special panel convened by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon examined the maritime blockade. The U.N. panel found both the naval blockade and its enforcement, including in international waters, to be legal. This panel of experts emphasized that all assistance to Gaza should be transferred only through the designated land crossings.
"The panel also found that Israel had legitimate security concerns regarding violence by Hamas and that weapons trafficking to Gaza permitted Israel to enforce a naval blockade. Repeated attempts to smuggle dangerous weapons via the sea--including powerful long-range rockets from Iran--attest to the fact that the maritime blockade is an essential security measure.”
In response to continued terrorist infiltration attempts including construction of an elaborate tunnel network, the launching of thousands of mortars and rockets by Hamas and other groups into Israel and pervasive anti-Israel, antisemitic incitement, an Israel siege might make sense. Instead, large volumes of humanitarian aid and consumer goods enter Gaza and tens of thousands of Gazans are admitted to Israel for medical treatment annually.
“While Israel faces a serious threat from terrorists in Gaza, it still allows the supervised movement of people into Israel," the Haifa Diary pointed out. "In the first five months of 2014, approximately 60,000 individuals entered Israel from the Gaza Strip. Many of these were patients and their escorts who received medical treatment in Israel and elsewhere, while large numbers of Gazan businessmen and merchants also visited Israel.”
Meanwhile, diarist Palmer adds, "Gaza's existing resources are systematically abused by Hamas for its own nefarious goals. Enormous amounts of money are used for procuring and producing weapons, training and funding terrorists, building terror infrastructures and for the enrichment of Hamas' leaders. Almost unimaginable quantities of cement were diverted from the construction of housing, schools and hospitals to building an underground city of terror tunnels and bunkers for Hamas members.”
Such is the Israeli “siege” of the Gaza Strip. Under it the territory's Hamas rulers have survived up to now, with cash first from Iran, then Qatar, to arm and training thousands of gunmen. They've acquired technology and material from Iran and Syria for an arsenal (before Operation Protective Edge) of 10,000 or more rockets and missiles. Imported too were building materials for numerous fortifications and tunnels. Simultaneously, jihadis infiltrated from Gaza into Egypt.
In World War II, the Warsaw Ghetto was under siege. So was Leningrad. The Gaza Strip is subject to something much less. For accuracy's sake--that is, for journalistic precision--call it a partial blockade. Hamas and other Palestinian apologists have reason to repeat the "siege" cliché; reporters have a duty to be skeptical. -- Ziv Kaufman
Washington Post Ventures from Gaza to Cover Israel
News coverage of Operation Protective Edge mainly focused on casualties in the Gaza Strip, missiles launched at Israel and tunnels built by Hamas. There was comparatively little attention to the lives and hardships of Israelis, especially those who resided close to Gaza. So The Washington Post’s feature “I want to come back but, I’m afraid” (Aug. 14, 2014) was a noteworthy gesture toward balance.
The article commented that “[f[or the past month, ‘frontline communities’ such as Nahal Oz and a neighboring kibbutz, Kfar Aza, resembled ghost towns. Most residents fled what had become a combat zone, with Israeli artillery whooshing above them and Gaza rockets flying the other way, sometimes landing on rooftops or in gardens and schoolhouses.”
After Hamas took over the Gaza Strip in 2006, the southern Israeli town of Sderot and nearby kibbutzim have endured a rain of mortars and rockets that was under-reported by news media. Despite Israel’s complete withdrawal from Gaza in 2005, Palestinian complaints of “Israeli occupation” and Israel’s “siege” (a partial blockade aimed at limiting importation of material useful to Hamas and other terrorist groups) tended to draw the bulk of news reporting.
Without better balanced coverage, audiences don’t learn what life has been like on the Israeli side of the armistice line or the reasons for military operations conducted by Israel. (CAMERA has noted previous examples of more comprehensive coverage such as “Exhibit A: USA Today’s Well-Balanced Gaza Reporting”, July 15, 2014).
The Post ’s feature helped make real to readers the experiences of Israelis near Gaza. “People are so tired of living as refugees in their own country,” said Noam Stahl, 47, a plastics consultant and resident of Kfar Aza who was born and raised in the kibbutz.
The Post showed how Palestinian terror attacks affected the residents of Israel’s south wherever they were in their own country:
“Residents patiently answer questions about why they don’t move somewhere safer, as if it were so obvious it needs no explanation. Where in Israel is safe?
“‘In Tel Aviv, five years ago, people were afraid if they got on a bus it would explode,’ Stahl said. ‘Jerusalem was the same. At Kiryat Shmona in the north, for 15 years they had Katyusha rockets come at them from Lebanon. If I decide it’s no longer safe to live here, if I take my family and move elsewhere in Israel, who can guarantee we won’t be the target of a terrorist attack in our new home?’”
Stahl depicts Israel’s situation as it is. Israel bashers sometimes falsely describe the Gaza Strip as an “open air prison”. Such loaded language would not accurately describe Israel but the Jewish State is surrounded by countries and terrorist groups who have been seeking its destruction and since its inception in 1948. Perhaps more media attention to this enduring hostility and its effects on Israelis, less uncritical attention to Palestinian grievances and claims of Israeli oppression would help readers understand the conflict.
The Post’s “I want to comeback, but I’m afraid,” accurately described the situation for many residents of southern Israel . In doing so it informed readers of another side to the Arab-Israeli conflict—better, the Arab-Islamic conflict with Israel—too little discussed: the impact on Israelis. Other media outlets should take note. -- Ziv Kaufman
August 19, 2014
Where's the Coverage? ALS Patients Live Longer in Israel than Anywhere in the World
You may have seen a number of your Facebook friends posting videos of themselves being doused with buckets of ice water. You probably have heard of the “Ice Bucket Challenge.” This is an incredibly successful campaign by the ALS Association to raise awareness and donations for the fight against the disease commonly referred to as Lou Gehrig’s Disease.
Numerous celebrities, musicians, athletes and public figures have participated including LeBron James, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, Jennifer Lopez, Justin Bieber, Gwen Stefani, Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates, Jimmy Fallon, Chris Christie and others. The campaign has garnered millions of Twitter mentions, over a million videos posted on Facebook along with tens of millions of “likes,” and news coverage. Plenty of news coverage. A Google news search of “ice bucket challenge” turned up almost 24 million hits.
But the news stories miss one fact: ALS patients in Israel live longer than anywhere else in the world. Two to four times as many patients survive past the 10-year mark. Israel Hayom reports:
A study encompassing data collected from Israel for the first time found that the survival rate among Israelis suffering from Lou Gehrig's disease (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis) is two to four times that of patients in other countries.
In global terms, between 5 and 10 percent of ALS sufferers survive more than 10 years after being diagnosed. But in Israel, 20 percent of ALS patients survive longer.
If it doesn’t fit with the media’s negative depiction of Israel, it doesn’t get press attention. If it can’t be twisted to defame Israel, it won’t make it to the front page of the New York Times. When it comes to the fact that Israel is at the forefront of medical research and treatment… Where’s the coverage?
Hypocrisy Is Thy Name, Condemning Israel Thy Game
Victor Davis Hanson, historian with the Hoover Institution at Stanford University, has again hit the nail right on in comparing the Gaza Strip versus Cyprus ("Occupation hypocrisy: Gaza vs. Cyprus," Washington Times, Aug. 13, 2014).
Hanson points out how the West yawns in uninterest about Turkey’s brutal occupation of the northern portion of the Mediterranean island of Cyprus since 1974 – while it’s continuously agitated over Israel’s self-defense measures against deadly threats like that from Hamas and other Palestinian terrorists in Gaza:
Turkish troops still control nearly 40 percent of the island — the most fertile and formerly the richest portion. Some 200,000 Greek refugees never returned home after being expelled from their homes and farms in Northern Cyprus ... Thousands of settlers were shipped in by the Turkish government to occupy former Greek villages and to change Cypriot demography. ... Why, then, is the world not outraged at an occupied Cyprus the way it is at, say, Israel?
Greeks in Cyprus and mainland Greece together number less than 13 million people. That is far less than the roughly 300 million Arabic speakers, many from homelands that export oil, who support the Palestinians.
No European journalist fears that Greek terrorists will track him down should he write something critical of the Greek Cypriot cause. Greek Cypriots would not bully a journalist in their midst for broadcasting a critical report the way Hamas surely would to any candid reporter in Gaza.
We see such hypocrisy when the West stays silent while Muslims butcher each other by the thousands in Afghanistan, Iraq, Lebanon, Libya and Syria. Only when a Westernized country like Israel inflicts far less injury [in response to thousands of terrorist mortar and rocket attacks and infiltration tunnels] to Muslims does the West become irate.
Israel is inordinately condemned for what it supposedly does because its friends are few, its population is tiny, and its adversaries beyond Gaza numerous, dangerous and often powerful.
And, of course, because it is Jewish.
In other words, as Hanson notes, aggression and its continuing consequences on the part of Turkey, a large Muslim country with a geographic and demographic foothold in Europe, barely rates comment from Western countries. This is so — even when the object of Turkish aggression is a European state, Greece. But Israel's invasion against Islamic terrorists in the Gaza Strip provokes criticism from the United States, a "war crimes" investigation by the United Nations, a threat to withhold future arms shipments by the United Kingdom and a general wave of hatred including mob attacks on French synagogues and beatings of individual Jews in several European countries.
If hypocrisy were a coin, its two sides would be anti-Zionism and antisemitism.
Middle Class Terrorists and Sixteen-Year-Old Soldiers
The rising tide of extremism in the Middle East has brought to the surface some realities that are too often obscured by formulaic media coverage of the region's conflicts.
An article in the Algemeiner, Islamic State Fighter: Hezbollah and the Jews Are Next, describes who are drawn to join Islamists groups from relatively stable societies in the West. It may surprise those conditioned by the usual bromides emphasizing conditions of poverty and few economic opportunities.
According to the report, Prof. Meir Litvak of the Department of Middle Eastern History at Tel Aviv University,
“most of them are not poor; no economic crisis pushed them into despair. Not at all. These youngsters are middle class...They’re attracted to whatever is the most ‘anti’ to whatever is in front of them,” he said. “And radical Islamic fundamentalism represents it – [opposition] to the ‘totally rotten and corrupt America'...These young people are highly alienated from their environment.”
The professor's observations are consistent with previous studies profiling suicide bombers, that found on average they had more years of education and often came from relatively comfortable economic circumstances.
An article, appearing in the Christian Science Monitor on Aug. 18, 2014, discloses that Hezbollah has sent adolescents as young as 16 years old into battle. The article documents the funeral of a 16- year-old fighter killed in Syria last month.
As Hezbollah resorts to using children, it would be no surprise if Hamas also had no compunction about doing the same. It has after all utilized women, children and intellectually handicapped individuals as suicide bombers. In light of the much publicized body counts of children provided by the Gazan Health Ministry and repeated without qualification by western media as innocent victims of indiscriminate Israeli military operations, such information should encourage some scrutiny as to whether these counts include some underage combatants.
August 15, 2014
About That "N"
By now it’s pretty clear that Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, the leader of the Islamic State (IS), which has taken over much of central and northern Iraq is guilty of genocide. The man is a killer as are his followers. Thousands of Assyrian Christians have been murdered and driven from their homes, as have many members of another religious group, the Yazidis, who have been driven to the mountains to avoid further destruction.
Numerous reports indicate that hundreds of Yazidis have been killed, some buried alive and the women who have survived these massacres have been sold into sexual slavery.
Shiite and Sunni Muslims have also been murdered in large numbers by IS.
Rev. Dr. Mark Durie, an Anglican Priest from Australia and expert on jihad, dhimmitude and Islamic doctrine regarding non-Muslims, summarizes the state of affairs as follows:
August 13, 2014
USA Today Headline Bias on Attack, Cease-Fire
Palestinians break cease fire. Palestinians hit Israel with 5 rockets. Israel then strikes back by hitting terror sites. Egypt and Palestinians announce that both Israel and the Palestinians agree to renewed cease-fire.
8/14 update: USA Today's print headline came much closer to capturing the story: "Israel, Gaza fighting as negotiations continue; Rockets launched, 'terror sites' targeted." The skewed online headline has not been changed.