November 29, 2010
Jerusalem Post: Media "Silent" on Fatah Intransigence
The Fatah emblem
An editorial in today's Jerusalem Post, which describes the uncompromising positions staked by Mahmoud Abbas's Fatah party at its recent convention, argues that the media's indifference to the group's intransigence betrays readers and perpetuates prejudice. Below is an excerpt. You can read the whole thing here.
THE FATAH council’s articulation of such an extremist position has far-reaching ramifications for the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. That’s why Palestinian affairs correspondent Khaled Abu Toameh’s report on the council’s decisions appeared at the top of this newspaper’s front page on Sunday.
By bizarre contrast, the vast majority of local and international news outlets have so far refrained from reporting at all on Fatah’s hard-line declarations. While news media usually respond quickly and amply to steps taken by Israel that are perceived as potentially detrimental to the peace process, the silent treatment of the Fatah decisions reflects a media norm, in which Palestinian incitement and intransigence is often downplayed or completely ignored.
Just last Monday, for instance, this paper was the first to report on the PA Ministry of Information’s outlandish “study” claiming that the Western Wall, known to Muslims as Al- Buraq Wall, constitutes Wakf property and that “the Zionist occupation falsely and unjustly claims that it owns this wall.” Some other news outlets reported this several days later; others not at all.
Similarly, a survey commissioned by the Israel Project, indicating highly antagonistic Palestinian attitudes toward Israel, barely received media attention when it was released earlier this month.
Two-thirds of Palestinians living on the West Bank and Gaza agreed that “over time, Palestinians must work to get back all the land for a Palestinian state.” Sixty percent said that “the real goal should be to start with two states but then move it to all being one Palestinian state.” Fifty-six percent agreed that “we will have to resort to armed struggle again.”
When news reporters and editors fail to give the proper space to revelations of Palestinian extremism and intransigence, they help perpetuate prejudices against Israel. Not only is skewed journalism a betrayal of the profession and those who rely on it, in this case it hurts the peace process by untenably misrepresenting the imperative for compromise by the Palestinian leadership and their public, thereby dooming hopes for negotiated progress.
November 22, 2010
Murder in Beirut, Censorship in London?
Will the BBC cower in the face of Hezbollah threats?
It's a legitimate question.
The BBC has reportedly delayed the broadcast of Murder in Beirut, a documentary about the assassination of former Lebanese Premier Rafik Hariri in 2005.
The documentary, which according to numerous reports, implicates Hezbollah in Hariri’s murder, was originally slated to air on Saturday Nov. 20, but the BCC pulled the show at the last minute and has so far not set a new broadcast date for the documentary.
The Guardian reports that insiders at the BBC “admit there is nervousness about its impact in the current volatile climate.” The Guardian provides more detail:
Nadim Shehadi, a Lebanon expert at the Chatham House thinktank in London, said: "There is an atmosphere of terror in Beirut. It may be a deliberate campaign to apply pressure to the tribunal. It is almost as if there is a communications strategy."
The producer, Christopher Mitchell, told the Guardian: "It is true that the film's transmission has suddenly been postponed. I am assured by the BBC that the series hasn't been dropped. Stories about the Middle East are … highly sensitive and go through a lengthy period of fact-checking and approval. I hope it will appear in the near future. Was this justified? I don't yet know, though I understand the sensitivities involved. Murder in Beirut tackles a difficult subject and everybody on the production worked hard to make sure it was as fair and accurate as possible. Naturally we are very disappointed that the broadcast has been delayed."
A BBC spokesman said: "All programmes shown by BBC World News must comply with the BBC's editorial guidelines. This applies equally to programmes we commission from the BBC, independents or, in this case, bought-in programmes. From time to time, the compliance process requires more time to complete. This can affect scheduling. This series of programmes falls into this category."
If the BBC does back down and refrains from broadcasting the documentary, it will not be the first time that a major network has behaved in such a manner. In a piece published in The New York Times in 2003, Eason Jordan, a former news executive for CNN admitted that the network refrained from reporting about human rights abuses in Iraq for fear of reprisals against CNN employees.
The sad fact is that threats and violence affect coverage of the Middle East.
The Guardian reported that the BBC “has not been warned specifically to screen the series…” Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of Hezollah, has stated however, that he will cut off the hand of anyone who tries to arrest members of his organization for Hariri’s death. With this threat – made as the UN’s Special Tribunal for Lebanon is preparing to issue indictments – Nasrallah has revealed himself, once again for what he is – a leader of an authoritarian mass movement intent on undermining the rule of law and Lebanon’s nascent democratic institutions. In other words, a fascist.
Ominously enough, an investigator from the STL was attacked by a group of veil-clad assailants in late October. The investigator's briefcase was stolen. This is exactly the type of street thuggery that fascist movements engage in prior to staging overthrows.
Will the BBC allow Hezbollah to set its editorial policy? If it does, then all that talk about the BBC Trust's decision to uphold a complaint against Jeremy Bowen seems a bit overheated, now doesn't it?
CBC Stepping into the Breach
Fortunately, the CBC is apparently willing to do what the BBC is apparently afraid of doing -- cover the story and let the chips fall where they may. The CBC has posted a lengthy article about the assassination. Video of the CBC's investigation can be seen below.
November 16, 2010
The Contagion Spreads: Jew Attacked in Genoa by Palestinian, Italians Flee
By now, the relationship between anti-Israel propaganda and anti-Semitism is readily understood by everyone but the most evasive. Arab and Muslim extremists in the Middle East portray Israel as a monstrous nation and its inhabitants worthy targets of violence. It takes a while, but eventually, this hostility expresses itself in anti-Jewish incidents in Europe and to a lesser extent, in North America. Some people express outrage, but for the most part bystanders do nothing and in some instances, run away from the confrontation for fear of putting themselves in harm's way.
One recent manifestation of this process took place in Italy where an Israeli Jew, a student at Genoa University, was menaced by a Palestinian who apparently has done this sort of thing in the past. According to Ynet, his fellow students tried to protect him for a while, but eventually disappeared in the face of the assault. The police refused to investigate the attack until pressed by Jewish community leaders. The student who was attacked is abandoned by most of his friends and condemned for calling the police:
"Only one lone Italian student came up to me and said that he was willing to testify to the police about what happened. All the rest – even the guy who shares my dorm room and witnessed the incident – saw everything but are afraid to be associated in the case. The house mother at the dorms came up to me and said, 'why are to turning to the police? It will ruin his life.' In her opinion, if I'm kicked out of the dorms it would be the best solution."
Robert Wistrich from Hebrew University in Jerusalem offers some insight into the process in a Nov. 15, 2010 interview in Arutz Sheva:
Wistrich explained that anti-Semitism today is directed not just towards Israel but towards Jews around the world. According to him, most people identify anti-Semitism with very obvious symbols and images, such as Nazis, fascist demonstrations, or calls to throw the Jews out of a particular country. However, as he explained, these images are much less visible today, and anti-Semitism in 2010 has changed its form. “In the last 40 years, the most dynamic form of anti-Semitism is the one that is transmitted through anti-Zionism and hatred of Israel,” explained Wistrich.
He believes that anti-Semitism based on hatred of Israel is easier to carry out since it is legal in most countries to say anything one wants against Israel and not be prosecuted by the law.
Addressing the question of whether differences exist between anti-Semitism of the past and modern anti-Semitism, Wistrich said that there are not many differences today, since boycotts of Jews which existed then and still exist now. “[A] boycott works first of all against the Jews who live in Israel and it works against Jews who are supportive of Israel. This is a clear continuity from the classic anti-Semitism that we knew in the past.”
The contagion spreads.
November 15, 2010
"The France Two news report is a blood libel. It's a hoax. Fabrication. And that's it."
The image of a young Palestinian boy, Mohammed Al Dura, hiding behind his father during a gunfight in Gaza in 2000 helped generate several years' worth of violence during the Second Intifada. The boy's alleged death at the hands of Israeli soldiers in October 2000, confirmed what many extremists wanted everyone to believe -- that Israel, the Jewish state, was a monstrous nation. In light of this image, anything that happened to Israelis during the ensuing years seemed understandable because well, they killed that little boy, what do they expect?
The image - and the story it told - was, in the words of Nidra Poller, a "lethal narrative."
It took a while, but because of the work of Phillipe Karsenty, people have come to understand that the image, initially broadcast by France 2 Television, was a fake. It had to be. The little boy who was allegedly struck by numerous bullets, did not bleed. Neither did his father. There was no blood at the scene after they were taken away. A close inspection of the video reveals Al Dura lifting his arm up to see events unfold -- after he was allegedly killed.
By repeatedly raising questions about the footage, Karsenty convinced most reasonable people that indeed, the footage was fake. He did not purport to know what actually happened to Al Dura, but merely demonstrated that the 50 seconds of video shown throughout the world by France 2 during the early days of the Second Intifada was not to be believed.
Karsenty, who successfully defended himself against a lawsuit filed by Charles Enderlin, the journalist who filed the report, got another chance to make his case on the Michael Coren Show on CTS Television in Canada. Appearing on the Nov. 11 broadcast Karsenty did not pull any punches: "The France Two news report is a blood libel. It's a hoax. Fabrication. And that's it."
Still, the overwhelming evidence is not enough to convince some people. Another one of Coren's guests, Palestinian activist Elias Hazineh, states that because Al Dura was a small child, he would not have bled very much even if he was hit by gunfire.
"If you'd been under fire as a child, scrolled under the corner for 10, 15 minutes or whatever, your blood would dry up before your hit. You're not going to get much blood out of him."
Yes, that is what he said.
November 09, 2010
Israeli Press Official Opens Up on His Experiences With Foreign Press
There is much of interest in outgoing Government Press Office director Danny Seaman's interview with the Jerusalem Post.
Among the noteworthy points is Seaman's view that skewed international reporting about Israel stems in large part from the Israeli media. When outspoken Israeli reporters vent their opinions to foreign correspondents who are unfamiliar with the region, he tells Jerusalem Post Editor-in-Chief David Horovitz, those views are transmitted without the context that Israelis are naturally familiar with.
Seaman:Unfortunately, the Israeli media is to a large degree responsible for a political indoctrination that represents only a small percentage of the Israeli public’s opinion.
Horovitz:The Israeli media is the original skewer of the conception of Israel, and the foreign media then plays into that?
Seaman: Absolutely. An example: During the war in Lebanon [in 2006], I was up North, among the journalists. In the evenings I saw the interaction between Israeli media and the foreign media. Some of the Israeli journalists were sitting there and making the most atrocious statements about the State of Israel. They had been p***ed off about a lot of things, unhappy with the way [the war was] being conducted. In some cases there was a political tone to what they were saying. That’s good and legitimate for the internal debate. But somebody from the outside doesn’t understand the basis for this or that argument. Yet [the Israeli journalists] are more than happy to convey their opinions to somebody from the outside, not understanding how somebody from outside perceives this. They’re legitimizing the delegitimization of the State of Israel.
This is perhaps the greatest threat that we have been facing over the past decade: It’s no longer a case of Israel versus the Palestinians. It’s a deliberate, concerted effort to delegitimize Israel’s existence. [Our enemies] tried to beat us on the battlefield. They tried defeating us on the low-intensity battlefield. When they lost on these two levels, they suddenly understood that the only way to fight us today is to delegitimize our right to exist...
Part of my problem with the foreign press – and I’ve been accused of being combative and feisty in fighting them – is that you have journalists coming in here not having the faintest idea of what is going on.
They live off what they get from their colleagues; they meet certain people who come from the same social-economic background; they live off of one newspaper, Haaretz. They don’t make an effort. When you have a conversation with them, you find that they have a complete lack of knowledge of the elementary issues.
November 08, 2010
Washington Post: Cat Stevens/Yusuf Islam a 'mellow folkie'
Washington Post coverage of television’s Comedy Central October 30 rally in Washington, D.C. wavered between credulous and collaborative. It included this uncritical reference to one of the rally entertainers:
“ .... [M]ellow folkie Yusuf Islam (formerly known as Cat Stevens) had an interruptive session with metal-head Ozzy Osbourne.”
A generation ago Stevens, from Great Britain, had a string of folk-rock hits. In 1977 he converted to Islam and changed his name.
In 1989, he supported Iranian leader Ayatollah Khomeini’s fatwa (religious decree) calling for the death of author Salman Rushdie. Rushdie’s novel The Satanic Verses was deemed blasphemous. Though Islam denied calling for Rushdie’s death, the author said Islam’s interviews made clear he upheld the fatwa.
In 2000, Israeli authorities deported him for allegedly helping raise funds for Hamas (Islamic Resistance Movement), the terrorist organization responsible for the murders of hundreds of Israelis and visitors to Israel.
In 2004, his name appeared on the U.S. “no-fly” list and Islam was denied entry. The British foreign ministry protested. Two years Islam was admitted into the United States without incident.
In 2009, Islam said he would donate the proceeds from a record to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA, the U.N. arm that perpetuates Palestinian “refugee camps”) and to the Save the Children organization. An Israeli diplomat criticized Islam for not donating to all children harmed by violence, Arab and Israeli.
Islam has received numerous awards, mostly in Europe, for philanthropic activities. When the U.S. government denied him entry in 2004, Stephen Schwartz, writing in The Weekly Standard, said the singer was not a terrorist but rather a Muslim fundamentalist of the intolerant Saudi Arabian, Sunni Wahhabi school.
Whatever Cat Stevens/Yusuf Islam has become, The Post’s “mellow folkie” doesn’t begin to
November 02, 2010
Reason for Hope
A woman from Ramallah has spoken up against the problems in Palestinian society in a forceful way. The interview was translated and excerpted by MEMRI.
In an interview to a liberal Arab website, Palestinian reformist Zainab Rashid condemned the manner in which the Palestinian cause has been hijacked by Muslim extremism. A key quote:
"If we want this struggle to end, we must stop Islamizing the [Palestinian] cause by interpreting [current] affairs according to what is written in religious texts... How can we resolve this struggle while people, relying on the holy texts, still believe in the depths of their hearts that it will continue until Judgment Day, when the trees and rocks will call on the Muslim to come kill the Jews hiding behind them?
An extended excerpt from the interview can be found at MEMRI's website, here.
Baghdad Church Invasion Highlights Christianity’s Handicaps in Middle East
The murder of a few dozen Christians at the Church of Our Salvation in Baghdad on Nov. 1, 2010, has directed attention to problems that were barely referenced in the final “official” statement issued by the Synod of Bishops from the Middle East last month – unrelenting hostility toward Christians on the part of Muslim extremists in the region and the failure of government officials to protect the rights of religious and ethnic minorities in their countries.
This is not the first time Christian statements about life in the Middle East been overtaken by events. In 2004 and 2005 a number of mainline Protestant churches passed resolutions condemning Israel and portraying it as a singular obstacle to peace in the Middle East. In sum, these churches affirmed a narrative offered by Sabeel in 2005 – “End the occupation and the violence will end.” Israel withdrew from the Gaza Strip in 2005 only to witness an electoral victory from Hamas in early 2006 and an attack by this organization that summer. People who bought the story told by these churches had no way to predict, explain or understand events as they happened.
A similar scenario has played itself out again. A group of Catholic bishops in the Middle East meet at the Vatican and affirm a statement that gives light treatment to Muslim violence and hostility toward Christians, Jews and Israel but levels direct and vocal criticism at Israel the Jewish state. The underlying testimony offered by the bishops about Muslim hostility toward Christians – and the theology that underpins this hostility – is included in the proceedings but not referenced in the final message, which speaks in bland and diffuse terms about the rights of citizenship.
And then, a few days later, terrorists in Iraq invade a Catholic church, murder the security guards, then the priest, and then terrorize the worshippers before killing many of them as well. Before the massacre, the terrorists – members of Al Qaeda – threatened to exterminate Christians in Iraq.
This is no joke.
Christians use to number more than a million in Iraq, but in recent years, their numbers have dwindled to less than approximately 400,000. This type of hostility is what drove many Christians to support Saddam Hussein when he was in power. He was a murderous dictator, but he kept Christians relatively safe. Now that he is gone, Christians are vulnerable.
Fortunately, Pope Benedict was able to do what the bishops from the Middle East could not – forcefully and unapologetically condemn an act of violence against Christians in the Middle East. And to its credit, the World Council of Churches also condemned the attack, which took place on the eve of a “consultation” with representatives World Islamic Call Society (WICS).
Neither of these condemnations, however, mentioned exactly who perpetrated the attacks. Imagine if these attacks were perpetrated in Israel -- by Jews.
Clearly, there is a problem in the Middle East and it can no longer be ignored – the mistreatment of a Christian minority by Muslim extremists in the region. It’s a problem that has manifested itself in Palestinian society, in Egypt and in Iraq.
Christian institutions that cannot bring themselves to address this problem in a direct manner cannot claim to offer up credible words of peace and justice to the region.
Pointing this problems out may make interfaith dialogue with Muslims difficult and uncomfortable, but what good is dialogue if difficult topics cannot be addressed? Muslim leaders have not refrained from making their complaints known.
And when Christians talk about Israel and Judaism, they speak in particularly forceful terms, in part because they know they can get away with it.
The choice is simple.
Speak truth to power.
November 01, 2010
New Admissions by Hamas Underscore Flaws in Goldstone Report
In the wake of Israel's military incursion into Gaza on Dec. 27, 2008, the Jewish state was accused of employing indiscriminate violence against the Palestinian civilian population. The alleged evidence rested on the tally of civilian casualties reported by Palestinian non-governmental organizations like the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR). PCHR estimated that 84 percent of the 1417 Palestinian dead were civilians and only 236 were combatants. These figures formed the basis of reports condemning Israel by human rights groups like Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and, most importantly, the United Nations Human Rights Council. In its Gaza Mission Report (The Goldstone Report), the UN council gave credibility to the casualty figures provided by PCHR and other groups, which claimed disproportionately high civilian casualties, while rejecting Israeli figures of at least 709 combatants and 295 confirmed civilian deaths.
On Monday, Nov. 1, 2010, Hamas Interior Minister Fathi Hamad contradicted the PCHR figures. According to Agence France Presse (AFP) and others reporting on the interview, Hamad
told the London-based Arabic newspaper Al-Hayat that between 200 and 300 Hamas fighters were killed during the 22-day onslaught in addition to hundreds of civilians. "They say the people suffered from this war, but is Hamas not part of the people? On the first day of the war Israel targeted police stations and 250 martyrs were killed, from Hamas and other factions," he told the paper. "In addition to them, between 200 and 300 fighters from the Al-Qassam Brigades (Hamas's armed wing) and another 150 security forces were martyred." His numbers roughly match the 709 "terror operatives" the Israeli military said it had killed during the fighting, which included members of the Hamas-run police force that has patrolled Gaza since the group seized power in 2007.
This admission follows the admission by another Hamas operative named Abu Khaled, who acknowledged in an interview with the Christian Science Monitor that most of the Hamas policemen are members of the Hamas military organization as well. The Goldstone Report also sided with PCHR and other groups in describing the policemen killed by Israeli air strikes on the first day as primarily civilians.
What are the next steps?
The UN Human Rights Council should immediately correct the Gaza Mission Report.
Some relevant passages from the Goldstone Report. The numbers at the start of each paragraph are the paragraph numbers in the preliminary report.
30: The data provided by non-governmental sources on the percentage of civilians among those killed are generally consistent and raise very serious concerns about the way Israel conducted the military operations in Gaza.
359. The Israeli armed forces claim that 1,166 Palestinians were killed during the military
operations “according to the data gathered by the Research Department of the Israel Defense
Intelligence”. They allege that “709 of them are identified as Hamas terror operatives”, 295 are
“uninvolved Palestinians”, while the remaining 162 are “men that have not yet been attributed to
any organization”.222 Of the 295 “uninvolved Palestinians”, 89 were children under the age of 16
and 49 women. According to these figures, at least 60 per cent, and possibly as many as three out
of four, of those killed were combatants. The Mission notes, however, that the Israeli
Government has not published a list of victims or other data supporting its assertions, nor has it,
to the Mission’s knowledge, explained the divergence between its statistics and those published
by three Palestinian sources, except insofar as the classification of policemen as combatants is
1885. The Mission recognizes that the principal focus in the aftermath of military
operations will often be on the people who have been killed – more than 1,400 in just three
weeks. This is rightly so. Part of the functions of reports such as this is to attempt, albeit in
a very small way, to restore the dignity of those whose rights have been violated in the most
fundamental way of all – the arbitrary deprivation of life. It is important that the
international community asserts formally and unequivocally that such violence to the most
basic fundamental rights and freedoms of individuals should not be overlooked and should
1886. In this respect, the Mission recognizes that not all deaths constitute violations of
international humanitarian law. The principle of proportionality acknowledges that, under
certain strict conditions, actions resulting in the loss of civilian life may not be unlawful.
What makes the application and assessment of proportionality difficult in respect of many
of the events investigated by the Mission is that deeds by the Israeli armed forces and
words of military and political leaders prior to and during the operations indicate that, as a
whole, they were premised on a deliberate policy of disproportionate force aimed not at the
enemy but at the “supporting infrastructure.” In practice, this appears to have meant the
1890. The Mission recognizes that some of those killed were combatants directly engaged
in hostilities against Israel, but many were not. The outcome and the modalities of the
operations indicate, in the Mission’s view, that they were only partially aimed at killing
leaders and members of Hamas, al-Qassam Brigades and other armed groups. They were
also to a large degree aimed at destroying or incapacitating civilian property and the
means of subsistence of the civilian population.
1891. It is clear from evidence gathered by the Mission that the destruction of food supply
361. The Mission notes that the statistics from non-governmental sources are generally
consistent. Statistics alleging that fewer than one out of five persons killed in an armed conflict
was a combatant, such as those provided by PCHR and Al Mezan as a result of months of field
research,224 raise very serious concerns about the way Israel conducted the military operations in
Gaza. The counterclaims published by the Government of Israel fall far short of international law
1923. The Mission also concludes that Israel, by deliberately attacking police stations and
killing large numbers of policemen (99 in the incidents investigated by the Mission) during
the first minutes of the military operations, failed to respect the principle of proportionality
between the military advantage anticipated by killing some policemen who might have
been members of Palestinian armed groups and the loss of civilian life (the majority of
policemen and members of the public present in the police stations or nearby during the
attack). Therefore, these were disproportionate attacks in violation of customary
international law. The Mission finds a violation of the right to life (ICCPR, article 6) of the
policemen killed in these attacks who were not members of Palestinian armed groups.