December 30, 2007
Sugar-Coated Coverage for the New Year
It seems that the international press corps aims to keep coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian coverage artificially sweet for the New Year. The IDF Spokesman's office released to journalists on Dec. 29 that several weeks ago,
a truck was caught at one of the crossing points in Judea and Samaria carrying approximately 6.5 tons of Potassium Nitrate. The Potassium Nitrate was disguised in sugar bags, and was intended for use by terrorists in the Gaza Strip.
Potassium Nitrate is a banned substance in the Gaza Strip and the Judea and Samaria region due to its use by terrorists for the manufacturing of explosives and Qassam rockets.
The terror organizations disguised the Potassium Nitrate in sugar bags that were marked as being part of the humanitarian aid provided by the European Union.
The wire services, as well as the major Western media outlets, all ignored the critical story, thereby paving the way for yet more unbalanced reports on the West Bank checkpoints.
Shh! Don't Implicate Fatah 'Moderates'
The Jerusalem Post reports today that Fatah members in the West Bank confirm that some of the gunmen who killed two Israelis hiking near Hebron in Friday were Fatah members.
Will the major papers that initially reported on this shooting cover this critical development? Yesterday, the Los Angeles Times reported only on an Islamic Jihad connection, as did the New York Times.
As for the Chicago Tribune, its brief on the shooting incident is accompanied by the abominable headline:
3 killed when off-duty Israeli soldiers trade fire with gunmen
A casual reader of the paper who just checks headlines would have no idea that Palestinian gunmen fired on the two off-duty soldiers who were enjoying themselves on a hike. The fatally injured Israelis managed to return fire, killing immediately one of of their assailants. (A second reportedly died on the way to a Palestinian hospital.)
December 21, 2007
What kind of god?
Judging from a prayer she wrote to be used in worship services on the last two Sundays of 2007, Disciples of Christ member Krista Johnson worships one of two gods.
The first god is deaf to the calls of those who call for Israel’s destruction, blind to acts of violence perpetrated against Israel and dumb enough to believe that anti-Semitic groups like Hamas and Hezbollah can be mollified by conciliatory behavior on the part of the state they want to destroy.
The second god is too weak to be asked to address the really intractable problems facing humanity and can only deliver what is reasonable -- not what is necessary.
Johnson, a Sabeel activist who was recently denied access to Israel for problems with her visa, wrote a prayer currently published on the website of the Global Ministries Board, an institution supported by the United Church of Christ and the Disciples of Christ. The prayer offers a general petition for "peace with justice and security for Palestinians and Israelis." But when it comes time for the rubber to hit the road and for Johnson to make specific requests that reveal her understanding of the Arab-Israeli conflict, her indifference to Israeli suffering becomes manifest.
Below are the petitions Johnson offers:
• A renewed peace process;
• An end to the Occupation;
• A viable Palestinian state (yes, with the obligatory reference to security for both Palestine and Israel);
• The removal of checkpoints;
• A tangible loosening of restrictions on freedom of movement;
• A prayer for all those who struggle with visa renewals;
• A prayer for clergy serving around the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Gaza who face new limits on their abilities to travel;
• A prayer for Palestinian political prisoners,
• A remembrance for 12,000 prisoners in Israeli jails; and,
• A prayer for all of those who continue to utilize nonviolence, in the face of oppression.
Judging from Johnson's petitions and remembrances, it appears that the only people suffering as a result of the Arab-Israeli conflict are the Palestinians and that all the concessions needed to end the conflict must come from the Israelis. No where does Johnson offer any specific acknowledgment of Israeli suffering and Palestinian and Arab responsibility for the conflict. It's not as if recent events denied Johnson material to work with.
For example, Johnson could have prayed for the well-being of Israeli soldiers still in captivity after being kidnapped by Hamas and Hezbollah during the summer of 2006.
She could have acknowledged the suffering of the inhabitants of Sderot who have been subjected to rocket attacks from the Gaza Strip on a regular basis since the end of 2005.
She could have asked that Hamas end its policy of refusing to acknowledge Israel's existence.
She could have asked that the smuggling of weapons into the Gaza Strip come to an end.
She could have asked that Iran stop supporting Hezbollah and that President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad refrain from issuing provacative statements about the destruction of Israel. She could have asked that Iran stop supporting Hezbollah.
She could have asked that Syria stop meddling in the affairs of Lebanon.
But she did none of these things in her prayer, which is more than a petition, but an act of proclamation meant to inform congregants about the Arab-Israeli conflict. She is not only speaking to the god she worships, but on behalf of this god to the gathered assembly of Christians.
Are these issues so far removed from Johnson's prophetic imagination that she can't be bothered to raise them? Is it impossible for her to ask that Palestinian leaders come to their senses, that the rocket attacks come to an end, that the incitement on Palestinian television stop? Are the kidnapped Israeli soldiers and their families so distant from Johnson's circle of Christian concern that she can't be bothered to offer a petition on their behalf? Has she not heard about Sderot's suffering? Is there no balm in Krista Johnson's heart for the Israelis?
Maybe there is another explanation for her silence on these issues. Maybe she understands just how intractable problems on the Arab and Muslim side of this 60-year-old conflict are. Maybe she secretly believes that the hand of the god she worships is too short to fix these problems and that it is not worth the effort to ask.
Maybe for Krista Johnson, offering a prayers for peace is the art of asking for what is humanly possible, not what is necessary. If this is the case, Krista Johnson's prayer is actually an implicit acknowledgement of what leaders and peace activists of mainline churches are loathe to admit: Asking Hamas and Hezbollah to acknowledge Israel's right to exist out of the goodness of their hearts is a waste of breath, and at least the Israelis at least listen to criticism, no matter how one-sided, unfair and devoid of context.
Making one-sided demands of Israel may not achieve peace, but at least mainliners in the U.S. can say they are doing something when they offer prayers and resolutions about the conflict -- no matter how harmful, unfair, unreasonable and divorced from reality their statements are.
Whatever motivates Johnson's one-sided prayer, it is part of a pattern. The Global Ministries Board that published her prayer is supported by the United Church of Christ and the Disciples of Christ, two denominations whose 2005 synods passed resolutions asking Israel to take down the security barrier -- without asking the Palestinians to stop the terror attacks that prompted its construction. (Talk about unreasonable, unfair and harmful.)
Krista Johnson's prayer raises an important question. Is the god to which she prays that indifferent to Israeli suffering?
Or is this god stupid?
Or is this god just too impotent to be trusted with the really tough stuff -- the problems that try our patience and test our faith in ways we dare not admit?
Is it too much to ask that progressive Christians start praying about the problems in the Middle East they would rather not talk about?
The upshot is this: The words of prayer and prophecy that flow so freely from the lips of mainline churches about the Arab-Israeli conflict reveal more about the god worshipped by these churches than they do about the conflict itself. And sadly enough, the god that inheres in mainline public speech about the Arab-Israeli conflict has some pretty ungodly characteristics.
LA Times' Reporting Slammed by Judge
And the latest player to get caught in Major League Baseball's performance-enhancing drugs scandal is... the Los Angeles Times.
A report in today's New York Times notes that the L.A. newspaper was slammed by a US magistrate judge for seemingly fabricating a 2006 story on the scandal. Said Judge Edward C. Voss: "At best, the article is an example of irresponsible reporting. At worst, the ’facts’ reported were simply manufactured."
See the excerpt below for more details, or read the entire piece here.
The judge who unsealed the Grimsley affidavit had harsh words for The Los Angeles Times, which printed a report in October 2006 headlined "Clemens Is Named in Drug Affidavit." Clemens was not named in the affidavit, although he was named last week by Mitchell.
The newspaper had been challenged on the accuracy of its story by the United States attorney in 2006. It had said its report was based on two sources and that its reporter, Lance Pugmire, had seen the affidavit, and the newspaper stood by the report. In fact, the Los Angeles Times got four of the five people it named wrong.
Edward C. Voss, a United States magistrate judge, wrote in the unsealing order signed Thursday: "A review of the disclosed affidavit proves that the Times never saw the unredacted affidavit. Roger Clemens is not named in the affidavit and Grimsley makes no reference to Roger Clemens in any context. At best, the article is an example of irresponsible reporting. At worst, the ’facts’ reported were simply manufactured."
Voss wrote he was "compelled to point out what appears to be an example of abusive reporting."
The Los Angeles Times ran a correction on Friday that said the newspaper, “incorrectly reported that in a search warrant affidavit filed in May 2006 in federal court in Phoenix, an investigator alleged that pitcher Jason Grimsley named former teammates Roger Clemens, Andy Pettitte, Brian Roberts and Jay Gibbons as players linked to performance-enhancing drugs.” The correction said that, “Grimsley did not name those players,” and the 2006 article incorrectly stated that Grimsley said Tejada used steroids. “The only mention of Tejada in the affidavit was as part of a conversation with teammates about baseball’s ban of amphetamines,” the times said. A front page story clarifying the affidavit ran in Friday’s edition.
"We acknowledge the inaccuracies of the report and deeply regret the mistake," Stephan Pechdimaldji, a spokesman for The Times, wrote in an e-mail message.
December 12, 2007
A Subtle Semantic Skew
A Dec. 12 Associated Press story about Jerusalem shows how history can be subtly skewed with just a few words — and the omission of some other words.
The AP article touched on the history of Israel and Jerusalem with the following sentence: "When the British pulled out in 1948, Israel declared statehood and seized control of the western part of Jerusalem, while Jordanian troops took over the eastern side of the city."
Those aggressive Israelis! Or so it seems in the absence of even one word about the context of Israel's declaration of statehood (e.g. that it was in line with UN General Assembly Resolution 181, as well as the League of Nations mandate calling for "the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people") and the absence of even one word about how Israel came to take over western Jerusalem (i.e. because the Arab world launched a war of destruction against the country). Relaying this context would certainly make the article much more fair and informative.
And just as the words omitted from the article skews the piece against Israel, so do the words included. Not only does the passage paint Israel as an aggressor in 1948 by suggestion Israel "seized" western Jerusalem for no apparent reason, but it uses much more innocuous language to describe the Jordanian conquest of Jerusalem. Israel "seized," but Jordan simply "took over." (How did they "take over" Jerusalem? Peacefully? By agreement? By right? Violently? Illegally?)
If anything, the language should be reversed, with the more aggressive word "seize" being applied to Jordan. After all, Jerusalem was part of the Palestine Mandate, of which Transjordan was no longer a part. Put another way, the Jordanians had absolutely no claim on the city, and certainly had no business invading, seizing and annexing part of it.
Finding Amnesty at Ha'aretz
Ha'aretz dedicates a tremendous amount of space today -- half a page including a prominent four column photo -- to a puff piece on Amnesty International researcher for Israel and the Palestinian areas, Donatella Rovera. The reporter asks no challenging questions and does not contradict her many misleading statements.
Rivero, for instance, insists that some Israelis
were surprised [to learn] because they though that the wall separated Israel from the territories and they did not know that 80 percent of its route was inside the territories and in fact separated Palestinians from Palestinians.
Here, Rovera is extremely deceptive. United Nations maps and numbers confirm that the barrier adheres to the "Green Line" along about 140 km (45 percent) of the line's route. Yet, eighty percent of the barrier is nevertheless on the eastern side, because, as the UN states, due to the barrier's "meandering path into the West Bank, the length is more than twice the length of the 'Green Line' – 315 km."
Moreover, Rovera admits there are international conflicts far more devastating than the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Yet, Ha'aretz fails to follow up with the obvious question: why, then, does AI devote more energy and words to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict than other conflict? (See NGO-Monitor chart above.)
Overall, Rovera dismisses critics who charge Amnesty of being anti-Israel, claiming they "base their anti-Amnesty attitude on short reports in newspapers or on TV that describe in a sentence or two the content of report that are over 80-100 pages." And thus Ha'aretz writer Aryeh Dahan allows Rovera to duck serious criticism from NGO-Monitor, which carefully reviews all of Amnesty's work on the region.
Watch for more follow up from NGO Monitor.
Lost in Translation at Ha'aretz II
It turns out that coverage of Har Homa construction wasn't the only discrepancy between the English and Hebrew editions of Ha'aretz on Sunday. The English edition (print and Internet) ran a story about a new report by the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) alleging that racism is reaching new heights in Israeli society.
The Hebrew edition (at least the Web site) did not run the story at all.
Why? If ACRI's findings are accurate, isn't the problem of Israeli racism more relevant to the Israeli population than to foreigners? Not if your goal is limited to defaming Israel internationally, as Ha'aretz writers have been known to do.
December 11, 2007
Joint Chiefs Reassure Israel --- Not in Washington Post
The New York Times covered it, and The Boston Globe picked up The New York Times' story. The Los Angeles Times covered it, and The Baltimore Sun published The Los Angeles Times’ version.
But the one-day visit on December 10, 2007 to Israel by America’s top military officer, Adm. Michael G. Mullen, didn’t rate even a news brief in the print version of The Washington Post.
The New York Times reported that “Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, made an unusual visit to Israel and got a polite earful on Monday about Israel’s gloomy assessment of Iran’s nuclear ambitions. Israel thinks than an American intelligence assessment of Iran’s nuclear weapons program, published in an unclassified version last week, is unduly optimistic and focuses too narrowly on the last stage of weapons development — fashioning a bomb from highly enriched uranium.”
The Los Angeles Times said Mullen “reiterated America’s view that Iran continues to mislead nuclear regulators about the extent and intentions of its program.” The Joint Chiefs chairman said of Iran, “their hegemonic views, their regime’s rhetoric, still speaking to the elimination of Israel, is all highly disturbing to me.”
CAMERA frequently criticizes The Washington Post for Arab-Israeli reporting that portrays Israel primarily not as a country and people worthy of coverage on their own, but through a Palestinian filter. The tinted filter shows West Bank and Gaza Strip Arabs as hapless victims of an aggressive Israel. The Post did publish a one-paragraph news brief mentioning the Jewish state in its December 11 edition. Adm. Mullen was filtered out, and this was filtered in:
“Palestinian Gunman Killed — A Palestinian gunman was killed and at least two others were wounded by an Israeli missile strike in the northern Gaza Strip on Tuesday, militant sources and medics said. An official from the radical Islamic Jihad organization said the man killed was a member of their group.” — E.R.
Lost in Translation at Ha'aretz
In Sunday's English edition of Ha'aretz (both print and Internet), the front-page story by Barak Ravid and Jonathan Lis on new planned construction in the Har Homa neighborhood is headlined:
Rice: Har Homa homes harm talks
In other words, the emphasis is on the American condemnation of the Israeli move as an obstacle to peace. I was surprised, therefore, to discover that the Hebrew edition ran a fuller version of the article, with a different slant and a very different headline (translations are mine):
The Prime Minister's Bureau: The Building in Har Homa is Legal
The Hebrew article begins with the following paragraphs, which don't appear at all in the English edition:
Sources in the Prime Minister's office yesterday said that the building in the Har Homa neighborhood of Jerusalem does not violate Israel's Annapolis commitments. The statement was made in response to U.S. Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice's criticism Friday of the report of the tender to build new residential units in the neighborhood, in which she said that "the building of residential units does not help build trust between the Israelis and Palestinians."
On Thursday, Ha'aretz reported that the United States requested that Israel clarify its plans for the building of the 307 new residential units in the Har Homa neighborhood, which were reported at the beginning of the week. The Secretary General of the United Nations, Ban Ki-Moon, also voiced opposition to the decision and said that it was "not helpful." The Prime Minister's office communicated yesterday that the publication of the tenders was done legally and that it does not oppose Israel's commitments. "This is not a settlement and not defined as a settlement and everything there was done according to the law," the sources said. "Even if you wanted, you could not stop construction there, given that we are speaking about land belonging to the municipality of Jerusalem." It was also said that Olmert will soon hold deliberations in order to clearly define what the policy will be concerning settlement building in the West Bank. "The Prime Minister committed in the government meeting before the Annapolis summit that there will not be land expropriations and there will be no new settlement building and Har Homa is not included in these categories," the source said. "Regarding the rest of the sites, we will soon have to make clear definitions."