September 28, 2006
Israeli Press Office Protests Staged, Doctored Photos
The Jerusalem Post today reports:
The Government Press Office held a meeting with heads of foreign news agencies earlier this month to protest the doctoring of photographs of the recent Lebanon war and the ongoing conflict with the Palestinians ... .
Seaman spoke of staged photos from the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, such as people standing in front of destroyed homes and falsely claiming ownership and instances in which photographers asked people to "recreate" reported incidents. He also said Palestinian photographers would sometimes tell children to throw rocks or have adults carry children pretending to be injured.
He also referred to photos making damage in Lebanon appear worse than it actually was.
Read the whole thing here.
September 26, 2006
Ha'aretz Changes Direction on 443
After stubbornly refusing to correct earlier false reports that Highway 443 (from Modi'in to Jerusalem through the West Bank) is "Jewish-only," Ha'aretz today reports that the road "has been serving Israelis only," that is Arabs and Jews.
Though writer Akiva Eldar gives a history of Palestinian efforts to gain access to the highway, he ignores the history of Palestinian attacks on the highway since 2000--including the murder of eight motorists--which prompted the IDF to prohibit most Palestinian traffic.
(Hat tip: Nathan W.)
September 25, 2006
Ethical Media is Credible Media
Readers of this blog and CAMERA's Web site will occasionally come across references to "journalistic standards" or "ethical guidelines" (or "journalistic ethics" or "ethical standards").
These standards, encapsulated in codes of ethics drawn up by news organizations (see here for some examples), are meant to ensure that the news media remain credible.
And since there are no real penalties when a news organization strays from its obligations to accuracy and objectivity, CAMERA pushes those organizations to uphold their self-imposed standards, and lets the public know when those standards are ignored. When a news outlet consistently ignores journalistic ethics (see for example here), readers can then conclude that outlet isn't trustworthy.
The relationship between ethical media and credible media was summed up well In a column last Saturday by the Atlanta Journal Constitution's public editor, Angela Tuck: "Ethical guidelines are what separate credible news organizations from the tabloid press," she wrote. "Pictures, like stories, must accurately reflect the news."
Ironically, Tuck herself wasn't very accurately reflecting the news when she stated: "British-based Reuters news service discovered that at least two photographs taken of the Israeli-Hezbollah conflict by a Lebanese freelancer had been altered."
Reuters deserves no credit for "discovering" the manipulated photos. In fact, its photo editors had dropped the ball, leaving it to the blogging community to expose the photo fraud.
As CNN's Mary Snow noted on Sept. 22, "Reuters admits fault because its photo editors didn't catch the altered images. It was a blog site that blew that whistle."
September 24, 2006
Al Jazeera Part of Fight Against Americans?
Is Al Jazeera part of the fight against America? The head of one terrorist group thinks so.
A major insurgent group in Iraq praised Al-Jazeera television in an audio message posted on the Internet on Sunday, saying the Arab satellite station served the fight against the Americans.
September 21, 2006
UPDATE: Columbia University Plans to Welcome Iran's President Fall Through
UPDATE: The Columbia Spectator is reporting that "the President of Iran will not speak on campus Friday due to logistical reasons, according to University officials."
In yet another outrageous move, Columbia University has invited Iranian President Ahmadinejad to address its students. The New York Sun reports:
The invitation comes a day after Mr. Ahmadinejad told the General Assembly that Israel's creation was "a great tragedy with hardly a precedent in history" and that the Jewish nation "has been a constant source of threat and insecurity in the Middle East region, waging war and spilling blood and impeding the progress of regional countries, and has also been used by some powers as an instrument of division, coercion, and pressure on the people of the region."
Yesterday, the foreign minister of Israel, Tzipi Livni, called on the international community to "stand against" the threat of Iran, whose suspect nuclear program has become a top security concern for President Bush and Israel.
This is not the first time Columbia has been at the center of controversy regarding its anti-Israel actions. Professors in Columbia's Middle East and Asian Languages and Cultures (MEALAC) Department were accused of anti-Israel bias and intimidation of students who voiced contrary opinions. And at the beginning of 2005, a university panel advocating a one-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict served as a forum for vicious propaganda and hate speech against Israel.
Press Ignores Pro-Israel Rally in NYC
On Wednesday, September 20, 2006, over 30,000 Israel supporters rallied across from UN headquarters in the heart of New York City to protest Iranian President Ahmadinejad’s presence there and to call for the unconditional release of the kidnapped Israeli soldiers. Speakers voiced support for the war against terrorism and called upon the United Nations to confront Ahmadinejad for trying to incite genocide against the Jews.
But this protest was largely ignored by the media. The New York Sun covered the rally, as did Agence France Presse and the JTA, but the New York Times carried no mention of it. Its New York desk apparently found other stories more newsworthy; its lead story was about a model subway train company planning to use sounds recorded in the New York City transit system.
It is interesting that American anti-Israel protests—even outside NYC, and drawing only "thousands of protesters"—have warranted more coverage in the Times recently. (For example, "Rally Near White House Protests Violence in Mideast" Aug. 13, "Marchers Oppose Israeli Bombing" [in Dearborn, MI] July 19).
Does the Times see news of this large pro-Israel rally unfit to print?
Numbers on Peace and Violence
Meeting yesterday with President Bush, Palestinian President Abbas stated:
And I mentioned to the President that more than 70 percent of the Palestinian population, they believe in the two-state solution, a state of Palestine and a state of Israel, living in peace and security next to each other. That means that the Palestinian people desire peace, and there is no power on Earth that can prevent the Palestinian people from moving toward the peaceful solution, and living and coexisting in peace.
Here are some other statistics to keep in mind about the Palestinian people's views about peace. According to the Center for Opinion Polls and Survey Studies at An-Najah University:
* 61.3 percent of Palestinians "strongly support" or "support" "armed Palestinian operations inside Israel." This compares to 32.8 percent who "reject" or "strongly reject."
* 52.5 percent of Palestinians "support" or "strongly support" the "launching of rockets by Palestinian factions against Israel from the Gaza Strip." In comparison, 42.5 percent "reject" or "strongly reject" rocket launchings.
September 20, 2006
Hurricane Katrina Compares to Holocaust: Baltimore Sun
The claim makes one's jaw drop. Reviewing Spike Lee's HBO television documentary, "When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts," Baltimore Sun television critic David Zurawik wrote ("A Filmaker's Fury," Aug. 21, 2006):
"With violin and cello sounding a somber elegiac tone, the camera catalogs body after body -- many bloated, discolored, or distorted -- floating in the sewer-sickened water that covered parts of New Orleands after the storm [Hurricane Katrina]. Lee is visually comparing New Orleans to the Holocaust; sadly, a comparison can be made."
No it can't. The Holocaust encompassed a continent, not a just city or even a region. The Holocaust was history's most egregious act of mass murder; Hurricane Katrina was an act of nature, perhaps made worse unintentionally by human decisions. The Holocaust was part -- a seminal part -- of World War II; Hurricane Katrina was a storm -- a large one, but still a storm. The Holocaust was followed by, among other things, 40-plus years of political upheaval in Europe and creation of the United Nations. Hurricane Katrina was followed by a change in leadership of a government bureaucracy, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and BY the re-election of New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin.
It's been nearly two generations since Federal Communications Commissioner Newton Minow described television as a "vast wasteland" and he was talking about a medium with only a handful of networks. It's been observed since that the multiplication of networks and channels has fueled a virtually insatiable demand for "product," for something, anything, to fill the ever-expanding airwaves. Perhaps Zurawik's time in front of the tube has dulled his critical faculty. In any case, in the presence of what he describes as Lee's ambitious work -- "like a symphony ... structured in grand movements" -- he's plainly lost his sense of proportion.
Don't Bank on Hamad's Word
Taking Palestinian spokesman Ghazi Hamad on his word is not a wise move. The New York Times learned this lesson the hard way. On Sept. 12, the paper reported:
But Mr. Hamad points out that the charter of Israel's conservative Likud Party calls for an Israel on both banks of the Jordan River, even as Likud governments have recognized the Oslo peace agreements of more than a decade.
The version the same day in the International Herald Tribune was:
But Hamad pointed out that the charter of Israel's Likud party calls for an Israel on both banks of the Jordan River, even as Likud governments have recognized the Oslo agreements and a two-state solution.
The NYT and IHT ran corrections yesterday and today, respectively. The IHT correction reads:
A front-page article Sept. 12 about an announcement by the Palestinian president of an agreement to form a unity government misstated a provision of the charter of the Likud party in Israel regarding Israel's borders. The charter defines the Jordan River as the eastern border of Israel and does not call for an Israel on both banks of the Jordan, though some early participants and leaders in the party took that position.
September 19, 2006
Palestinian News Agency Attacked
WAFA, the Palestinian Authority's official news agency, reports today:
Unknown masked gunmen attacked WAFA'a office in the southern Gaza Strip of Khan Younis, WAFA reporters and witnesses said.
Witnesses affirmed that the armed men severely beat up WAFA reporter in Khan Yousin, Amr al-Farra, who was at the office. Al-Farra was admitted to hospital after the gunmen destroyed the office and left.
Witnesses also said that the assailants threatened to attack the Agency and its employees claiming that "it is not partial" in dealing with specific issues.
According to the Jerusalem Post:
Fatah officials accused Hamas of standing behind the attack, noting that Hamas leaders have been inciting against Fatah-affiliated media outlets over the past few months.
Conflicting Accounts on Lebanese Sites
Were Lebanon's ancient cultural sites damaged during the war? It depends on whom you ask.
According to an AFP article today, and its sources at UNESCO, yes. The article, by Albion Land and Pierre Sawaya, reports:
But while the Ashrafiyeh site was spared the damage of war, the same cannot be said for some of the ancient ruins that dot the country, dating back beyond the Romans, to the Greeks and Phoeniceans.
A team from UNESCO has already begun assessing the damage from 34 days of bombing and shelling to often fragile structures, already ravaged by time, earthquake, looting and previous wars. . . .
UNESCO's deputy director general, Mounir Bouchnaki, told AFP that "the major sites registered on the World Heritage List suffered damages, but it was minimal.
He has visited not only Baalbek, but also sites in Tyre, on the southern Mediterranean coast and Byblos, north of the capital, and said more time will be needed to assess the true extent of damage.
Bouchnaki told a press conference in Paris Monday that the stones of the port would have to be cleaned by hand, one at a time, and that the cost could reach 100,000 dollars. . . .
[The Temple of Jupiter in Baalbek] was spared any direct hits, but Professor Giorgia Croci, a specialist on the temple who was part of the UNESCO team, said "new cracks appeared during the Israeli offensive and a plan of action needs to be developed quickly.
Bouchnaki said a detailed evaluation needs to be carried out over the next six months to determine the true extent of damage. . .
Meanwhile, Lebanese Culture Ministry Director Halablab disagrees. National Geographic reports:
Also on August 21, the government official charged with reconstruction of the country—Fadel al-Shalaq, head of the Lebanese Council for Development and Reconstruction—told CNN that the recent conflict was the most devastating since the 1975 Lebanese civil war. But he did not mention any harm to cultural sites.
Lebanese Culture Ministry Director Halablab told National Geographic News by email that the Israeli military has not targeted such sites. He also confirmed al-Shalaq's statement that no damage was caused to cultural sites during the war.
'Activist' With a Gun
"Israeli army kills Palestinian activist in West Bank" is the headline for an AFP story today. The "activist," Nabil Hanani, was an armed member of the Al Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades who died in a gun battle with Israeli troops. The story reports:
Israeli soldiers early Tuesday killed an armed Palestinian activist in the village of Sanur near Nablus in the north of the West Bank, a military spokesman announced.
An army unit surrounded a building where a wanted Palestinian was hiding and he came out shooting.
September 18, 2006
Another Angle on 'Fauxtography'
Today AP reports on the U.S. military's detention of its photographer Bilal Hussein, a native of Fallujah. The military charges that he has close relationships with "persons known to be responsible for kidnappings, smuggling, improvised explosive device (IED) attacks and other attacks on coalition forces." Whether or not Hussein is guilty as charged, his case raises important questions about the impartiality of local journalists reporting on conflicts. The article states:
The AP does not knowingly hire combatants or anyone who is part of a story, company executives said. But hiring competent local staff in combat areas is vital to the news service, because often only local people can pick their way around the streets with a reasonable degree of safety.
"We want people who are not part of a story. Sometimes it is a judgment call. If someone seems to be thuggish, or like a fighter, you certainly wouldn't hire them," Daniszewski said. After they are hired, their work is checked carefully for signs of bias.
Lyon said every image from local photographers is always "thoroughly checked and vetted" by experienced editors. "In every case where there have been images of insurgents, questions have been asked about circumstances under which the image was taken, and what the image shows," he said.
The blogosphere which so commendably exposed the "fauxtography" scandal, including the photoshopped work of Adnan Hajj, a Lebanese employee of Reuters, also has some questions about the work of AP's Hussein.
IHT Covers France 2 Trial
The International Herald Tribune today covers France 2's slander case against French blogger Philippe Karsenty, who questions reporter Charles Enderlin's claims about the killing of Mohammed al-Dura ("Can Internet criticism of Mideast news footage be slander?")
September 17, 2006
On Thursday, we blogged about how Palestinians are starting to say enough blaming the "Israeli occupation" for Palestinian woes; it is time Palestinians take responsibility for their own problems.
The UN, ever the enabler to Palestinian suffering, is slow to pick up on the message. In an Op-Ed today in Ha'aretz, Raja Khalidi, a senior economist with UNCTAD (United Nations Conference on Trade and Development) in Geneva is still blaming the "occupation":
It is now clear that the Palestinian economy and the mass of Palestinians under Israeli occupation are the big losers in this latest stage of the conflict.
Hilarious Headlines on Irish Radio
"You can't make up something this funny," remarked one observer about a headline Thursday found on the site of Ireland's public broadcaster. The headline read:
Amnesty Slams Israeli Human Rights Violations
What's so funny about that? Read the accompanying story to find out.
It seems that editors have since caught on. The headline now reads:
Notice that the headline writer made an extra special effort to alter (ie soften) the headline accordingly. When Israel is supposedly the rights violator, Amnesty "slams" the country. When Hezbollah is the violator, Amnesty merely "highlights" Lebanon.
(Hat tip: Barry R.)
September 13, 2006
Such incitement is extremely dangerous, because schools and the mass media efficiently spread the venemous message to large chunks of Palestinian public.
But at the same time, there is a hidden incitement, less noticable, but perhaps even more damaging. It is a homegrown hatred passed from parent to child behind closed doors in the homes of Palestinian extremists.
New Yorker writer Jeffrey Goldberg sat in one of these homes, and described what he witnessed in the Sept. 11 issue of the magazine:
As we sat in Abu Hussein's living room, he pulled his son, Hussein, close to him. Hussein is a spirited ninth grader whose passion, he told me, is drawing. "I want him to finish his studies, but if he happens to die I don't have a problem," his father said, "so long as he dies as a martyr, and on the condition that he takes Jews with him when he dies. I will be happy if he dies this way." ...
"We're happy to sacrifice our families to win this battle."
Hussein said, "I'm his only son, and he wants me to die!" Then he laughed and put his arm around his father.
It's Not the Occupation, Stupid
In recent days, several reports have come out underscoring the fact that Palestinians (not the "occupation") are to be blamed for hardships in the Gaza Strip:
1) A scathing self-criticism by the PA (Hamas) government spokesman, Dr. Ghazi Hamad, who wrote:
The anarchy, chaos, pointless murders, the plundering of lands, family feuds. . . what do all of these have to do with the occupation? We have always been accustomed to pinning our failures on others, and conspiratorial thinking is still widespread among us . . .
2) An AFP report about an appeal by Palestinian businessmen to armed groups to halt attacks which harm economic activity near vital crossing points between Gaza and Israel. It stated that the businessmen
asked militant groups not to make border crossings a part of their conflict with Israel, a reference to repeated attacks at Karni, the frequently closed transit point for all goods entering Israel.
Gaza Chamber of Commerce official Mohammed Al-Qidwa told a press conference the Palestinians themselves were to blame for the blockade.
3) A comprehensive report in Ha'aretz today, detailing how "[m]any Palestinians dare to admit that the economic and social deterioration in the strip is not the outcome of Israeli actions alone."
As it turns out, there is money -- but only for Hamas members. A prime example of this is the huge budget provided for Hamas-run schools in the strip. For Gaza residents, Hamas membership can assuage economic distress. The organization manages to assist people and pay them allowances, while Fatah members are approaching bankruptcy.
In addition, the article describes how the Hamas government initially prohibited sick people, aside from a few well-connected patients, from entering Israel because of "budgetary problems."
The father of one of the children whose treatment in Israel Naim initially rejected, said at the time that if Hamas were to draft 1,000 fewer soldiers for the "operational forces" and use the funds for the Health Ministry, there would be no problem paying for his son's treatment in Israel.
Significantly, the reporter also points out that Physicians for Human Rights is guilty of propagating the "blame Israel" fallacy, in that it ignored Hamas' harmful policy and singled out Israel for criticism.
September 11, 2006
New York Times Public Editor Byron Calame has a column yesterday on the paper's photographic coverage of the Israel-Hezbollah war ("Picturing the Conflict: Perspective Versus 'Balance'"). Some observations:
1) A public editor is supposed to take an independent stance. When it comes to Lebanon's casualty figures though, Calumne simply parrots the Times' questionable claims about the number of Lebanese civilian casualties.
2) I trust that the editors, those who Calame says "met [the paper's] obligation to provide a fair and accurate perspective on the fighting and its impact," know more about the fighting than Calame himself. After all, Calame writes:
One factor [in the higher Lebanese death toll], of course, was that Israel's population apparently had more access to shelters that offered greater protection from Hezbollah's bombs.
Israel's population was threatened by Hezbollah's missiles, not bombs. An editor for the public editor, anyone?
3) Incredibly, Calame makes absolutely no mention of the "fauxtography" scandal, perpetrated mostly -- but not exclusively -- by a Reuters photographer. He even links to a Times photo essay which includes a picture of "Green Helmut Guy." But he makes no comment on GHG's role as a photo manipulator. Nor does he mention the fact that the Times itself fell victim to a photo hoax, having carried an image of a dead man subsequently seen walking around pointing things out to photographers. (The paper ran a correction Aug. 9.)
While Calame writes extensively about "fairness," and that the (exaggerated) lopsided deathtoll of civilians was a determining factor of what pictures were fair to run, he has nothing to say about the fairness of just one side manipulating and doctoring photos. He acknowledges that
Times editors responsible for both photography and news articles had those cumulative numbers of the deaths on each side in their minds each day.
They obviously, however, did not have the trustworthiness of each side in their minds each day.
4) To his credit, Calame notes that the Times barely ran any photos of Hezbollah fighters and noted that "Photographers were actively discouraged from taking pictures of them."
5) Mediacrity also takes a dig at Calame's column.
September 08, 2006
Parliamentary Enquiry Finds Burgeoning Antisemitism in UK
Today an all-party parliamentary inquiry on anti-Semitism published its findings, conveying in "stark terms the problem" faced by Jews in the UK.
In a commentary piece on the Guardian Web site entitled "Antisemitism is back," Denis MacShane, who chaired the inquiry, wrote:
The conclusion is inescapable. Too many British citizens, who happened to be born Jewish, now face harassment, intimidation, and assault that is unacceptable in democratic Britain. Their synagogues are attacked. Their children jostled and insulted going to school. Their social events requiring levels of security protection that no other faith or community has to undertake.
MacShane, a member of parliament for the Labour party and a former Minister of State for Europe, also pointed out that "the Commission had 14 MPs on it. None is Jewish. None is active in Middle East politics ..."
The inquiry discusses the intimidation and harrassment Jewish students face at British universities, noting that "Jewish students have become increasingly alarmed by virulent and unbalanced attacks on the state of Israel." Discourse on the Middle East is "manipulated and used as a vehicle for anti-Jewish language and themes."
According to Mr. MacShane, there is a double-standard at work in the barrage of critical coverage of Israeli policies and measures while other regimes commit far more egregious acts and receive little or no negative coverage.
He also explained that
the report cites the increasing acceptance of notorious antisemitic images as a particularly worrying sign. In the 1930s, the language was of the Jewish "cabal." Today, it is the Jewish "lobby" that is all-powerful. The demonisation of Jews was meant to have died in 1945. Alas it did not.
"I cannot stand silent when I see anti-semitism back in 21st century Britain," MacShane added.
In the piece, MacShane also commented on the Guardian and its readers.
He questioned the Guardian's coverage of the report ...
why was the Guardian's coverage of our report quite as titchy as it was? The other broadsheets gave it full whack but it was a surprise to me that the Guardian reduced an important report based on a year's parliamentary work to a tiny news story.
... and wryly noted that "emails are pouring into my parliamentary inbox denouncing Israel in terms that will be familiar to all readers of ... [the] Guardian comment pages."
Read the full report here.
September 07, 2006
Reminder: UN Resolution 1701 Calls For Release of Israelis
U.N. Resolution 1701, which put the cease-fire in place between Israel and Hezbollah, calls for "the unconditional release of the abducted Israeli soldiers," but you wouldn't know this from reading recent wire stories which mention the Israeli prisoners.
This AFP article today, about the imminent end of Israel's air and sea blockade on Lebanon , for example, mentions the two Israelis, stating:
Israel's planned move also raised the ire of the families of the two soldiers seized by Hezbollah guerillas on July 12 and who remain captive despite the ceasefire.
And, although the article extensively discusses the ceasefire resolution, it fails to mention that Hezbollah is violating the resolution by not releasing the soldiers unconditionally. But AFP's Jocelyne Azblit doesn't hold back when it comes to reporting Israeli ceasefire violations:
Lebanese officials blasted the continuing blockade as a violation of UN Resolution 1701 . . .
AP didn't fair much better. In an article today, also about the lifting of the blockade, Sam F. Ghattas resorts to the old "Israel demand" formula:
But a deal on the thorniest unresolved issue the return of two Israeli soldiers whose July 12 capture sparked the fighting will be far more difficult to broker. Israel has demanded their unconditional release, but Hezbollah has insisted on a prisoner swap.
September 01, 2006
Blame and Responsibility in Gaza
Even after Israel withdrew from the Gaza Strip, some pundits in the West continued to heap blame on Israel alone for all that is wrong in the Gaza Strip.
Remarkably, two high ranking Palestinian officials—from Hamas and Fatah—have recently acknowledged something often overlooked by those pundits: Palestinian responsibility.
On August 27, a Palestinian newspaper quoted Ghazi Hamad, the Hamas government spokesman, saying he wants to "own up to our (Palestinians') mistakes." The New York Times summarized his comments:
After so much optimism when Israelis pulled out of Gaza a year ago, he wrote, "life became a nightmare and an intolerable burden."
He urged Palestinians to look to themselves, not to Israel, for the causes.
A couple of days later, Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas also pointed to Palestinian actions as the cause of suffering in Gaza:
In the West Bank, [Abbas] called on Palestinian militants, as he has before, to stop firing rockets into Israel. ... "What is happening in Gaza as a result of rockets fired in vain must stop right now because there is no interest in this continuing," he said.
If these two Palestinians—one of whom represents a group that still speaks of destroying Israel—can engage in such self-examination, maybe it's time for those Western analysts who see only Israeli wrongs to also open their eyes to Palestinian responsibility.
Cotler Discusses Principles vs. Even-handedness
In an interesting column in the Toronto Star, former Canadian Justice Minister Irwin Cotler discusses Canadian policy on Middle East, arguing that sticking by one's principles will sometimes result in support for one side in a conflict:
a review of the seven principles of Canadian foreign policy in the Middle East, as appears below, makes it clear that the notion that this foreign policy has been — or should be — even-handed is misplaced. Indeed, the notion that Stephen Harper's support of Israel is "one-sided" or "ideological" runs the risk of suggesting that if giving expression to Canadian foreign policy principles means ending up siding with Israel, we should thereby jettison our principles. Who, then, is being ideological here?
Read it all here.