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March 14, 2005

More Half-Truths from Official Palestinian Media

The official Palestinian media continues to report supposedly "unprovoked" Israeli attacks on Palestinians, IMRA points out.

With the Palestinian Authority now ostensibly a democracy, how will government sponsored misinformation about Israel randomly attacking a "peaceful" rally, or Israel shooting Palestinian children for no reason, affect the judgement of Palestinian voters?

Posted by at 12:15 PM

March 10, 2005

Freedom in the Middle East?

The March 14 issue of Newsweek has an informative and compelling graphic spanning the bottom of pages 24 and 25 which compares Israel to its neighbors... But first some context:

In a Dec. 17-20, 2004 poll, Britons ranked Israel as one of the least democratic countries from a list of 23 countries—it ranked worse even than Egypt in this category.

View image

Ironically, on the last day of polling (Dec. 20), the human rights group Freedom House released a major survey of global freedom, aptly entitled "Freedom in the World," which rated 119 countries on two criteria: political rights and civil liberties. Here is what Freedom House said, as seen in Newsweek (lower numbers are better):

   Israel Jordan Kuwait Morocco Bahrain    Egypt Lebanon Qatar Iran U.A.E    Syria

Click here for close-up.

So, did the Freedom House survey disabuse Britons of their misconception about Israel? Don't be so sure. A search by CAMERA suggested that none of the major British newspapers reported on the survey.

The report wasn't widely publicized in the U.S. either. Those in the media who did mention Israel's high rankings—including the Miami Herald, Associated Press, and National Review—deserve credit.

Posted by at 04:55 PM

March 09, 2005

"Forgotten Refugees" Remembered

Semha Alwaya, founding member of Jews Indigenous to the Middle East and North Africa (JIMENA), has written an excellent column informing San Francisco Chronicle readers of the often ignored Jewish refugees from Arab countries (and Iran). In it, she tells this chilling story of an anti-Jewish pogrom in Iraq:

In a two-day period Arab mobs went on a rampage in Baghdad and elsewhere in Iraq, murdering, raping and pillaging these cities' Jewish communities. Nearly 200 Jews were killed, more than 2,000 injured; some 900 Jewish homes were destroyed and looted, as were hundreds of Jewish-owned shops. My father was a survivor of the carnage. He hid in a hole dug in the ground to save his life. He saw Iraqi soldiers pull small children away from their parents and rip the arms off young girls to steal their bracelets. He saw pregnant women being raped and their stomachs cut open.

Read the rest of the column here.

The Chronicle also deserves credit for having in the past reported on the Jewish refugee issue with a detailed news report.

Posted by at 03:35 PM

March 08, 2005

Of Watchdogs and Terrorists

In his Sunday column, the often insightful New York Times public editor Daniel Okrent addressed two important media issues: 1) media watchdog organizations and 2) the media's use of various forms of the word "terrorist."

Of media watchdog organizations, he notes that brushing off these groups as "partisan" doesn't invalidate the substance of their arguments:

There was one more bugbear in that overloaded paragraph up top: "Media watchdog organizations." That's what you call the noble guardians on your side; the other guy's dishonest advocates are "pressure groups." Both are accurate characterizations, but trying to squeeze them into the same sentence can get awfully clumsy. It's also clumsy to befog clear prose by worrying over words so obsessively that strong sentences get ground into grits. But closing one's ears to the complaints of partisans would also entail closing one's mind to the substance of their arguments. [emphasis added]

Of the word "terrorist," he expounds:

But I think in some instances The Times's earnest effort to avoid bias can desiccate language and dilute meaning. In a January memo to the foreign desk, former Jerusalem bureau chief James Bennet addressed the paper's gingerly use of the word "terrorism."

"The calculated bombing of students in a university cafeteria, or of families gathered in an ice cream parlor, cries out to be called what it is," he wrote. "I wanted to avoid the political meaning that comes with 'terrorism,' but I couldn't pretend that the word had no usage at all in plain English." Bennet came to believe that "not to use the term began to seem like a political act in itself."

I agree. While some Israelis and their supporters assert that any Palestinian holding a gun is a terrorist, there can be neither factual nor moral certainty that he is. But if the same man fires into a crowd of civilians, he has committed an act of terror, and he is a terrorist. My own definition is simple: an act of political violence committed against purely civilian targets is terrorism; attacks on military targets are not. The deadly October 2000 assault on the American destroyer Cole or the devastating suicide bomb that killed 18 American soldiers and 4 Iraqis in Mosul last December may have been heinous, but these were acts of war, not terrorism. Beheading construction workers in Iraq and bombing a market in Jerusalem are terrorism pure and simple.

Given the word's history as a virtual battle flag over the past several years, it would be tendentious for The Times to require constant use of it, as some of the paper's critics are insisting. But there's something uncomfortably fearful, and inevitably self-defeating, about struggling so hard to avoid it.

For more on the 'T' word, see:

Posted by at 10:38 AM

March 07, 2005

Quote of the Day

Mark Steyn's latest in the JWR contains this priceless zinger.

The lesson of these last weeks is that it turns out Washington's Zionists know the Arab people a lot better than Europe's Arabists.

Of course, his quip brings to the fore a thought that has percolating here in CAMERAland. While I hesitate to bandy about the 'R' word, lest I seem like a Ward Churchill type, it seems that the "European Arabists" and their ilk can be called racist. After all, they long argued that the souk could not handle Western style democracy and that the average Arab was quite content with an Islamic boot in his face forever. The Iraqi election and its offspring are proving those falsehoods to be self-evident.

I'd call their view of the 'Arab Street' "lazy and condescending," but Steyn has already used that phrase in his latest. I wish he'd stop reading my mind.

Posted by JW at 12:23 PM