December 29, 2010
Israeli forest fire singes Washington Post feature
A jarring irrelevancy appears in the middle of The Washington Post’s December 27 feature “Forest fire fuels review of Israel’s tree-planting traditions; Devastation has experts reassessing practice of greening the hills”. By Post special correspondent Joel Greenberg, the dispatch tells of Israeli forestry officials’ inclination to let the Mount Carmel woods reseed naturally rather than by traditional extensive planting.
Reporting on Israel’s worst forest fire, The Post says, apropos of nothing, that “Jewish National Fund forests, some planted over the ruins of Palestinian villages emptied during Israel’s war of independence [emphasis added], became popular picnic and recreation areas, providing shade and greenery in a sun-baked land.”
In “Storm socks East Coast; D.C. Area Is Largely Spared; Transportation delays strand many holiday travelers,” in the same edition, The Post reported that “flights were grounded at airports from the Carolinas to Boston, with more than 1,000 cancellations at New York City-area airports alone.” It did not write “flights were grounded at airports from the Carolinas to Boston, land largely emptied of its native American Indian population even before the U.S. War of Independence, with more than 1,000 cancellations at New York City-area airports alone.”
The latter would be read instantly as irrelevant editorializing in a news story. What accounts for the former?
As for “Palestinian villages,” early in the 20th century the term “Palestinian” applied usually to the Jews of that part of the Ottoman Empire. After World War I, it typically meant a Jewish inhabitant of British Mandatory Palestine. Arabs often shunned it as a synonym for Zionist, sometimes describing themselves as residents of greater Syria.
And what portion — probably quite small — of JNF forests were planted over war-ruined Arab villages? How many of those villages were relatively new, built by Arabs attracted by Jewish economic development? Most of all, would any of them have been destroyed had not the Arabs rejected the U.N.’s 1947 partition plan and started a war they lost? In context, it would be obvious immediately that “the ruins of Palestinian villages emptied during Israel’s war of independence” had nothing to do with Israel’s forest fire.
December 28, 2010
HRW Founder: "Little Has Changed" With Group's Bias
Last year we drew attention to a remarkable Op-Ed by Robert Bernstein, in which the Human Rights Watch founder and former chairman publicly dissociated himself from the NGO's anti-Israel agenda.
At the end of our article, CAMERA senior analyst Ricki Hollander asked:
Now that Mr. Bernstein has issued a public disavowal of HRW for violating its own principles, will the organization continue to promote the biased and error-riddled Goldstone Report and to assault Israel with its one-sided criticism or will it return to its original purpose of seeking to alleviate oppression of peoples living under undemocratic, totalitarian and repressive regimes?
We now have an answer. Last month, speaking at the University of Nebraska, Bernstein noted: "It has been over one year since the op-ed appeared. Little has changed."
You can, and should, read his explanation, and the entire lecture, here. Meanwhile, we'll highlight one other important passage from the speech:
On Thursday, November 4, a report came out that Fathi Hamad, the Hamas administration’s Interior Minister, revealed that as many as 700 Hamas military-security operatives were killed during Operation Cast Lead. The number, consistent with Israel’s examination, is significantly higher than the numbers given by Hamas and used by the Goldstone Report. It would indicate that about 60 percent of those killed in the war were actively engaged and not civilians – despite Hamas’s tactic of embedding itself in the civilian population of Gaza. If this report holds up, it will be interesting to see if the Goldstone Report and Human Rights Watch reports are reevaluated by them – all of which took the Palestinians’ figures as fact.
One month after the lecture, there has been no such reevaluation.
December 23, 2010
No Crosses in Bethlehem, No Christmas in Baghdad
Christian and mainstream media outlets have routinely used the Christmas season as an opportunity to draw attention to the suffering of Christians living in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. In years past, Palestinian Christians have been portrayed as the modern-day equivalent of the Holy Family that was forced to give birth to baby Jesus in a manger because of the oppressive policies of the Roman empire. Predictably, Israel was cast in the role of the Roman oppressors.
The trope became so obvious that CAMERA coined the term "Bethlehem Fomula" to describe the process by which the Christian liturgical calendar was used to generate contempt towards Israel. As tourism has improved in recent years, the template of Palestinian Christians as the Holy Family and Israel as the Roman empire has been increasingly difficult to apply.
This year is no exception, especially since Christian merchants in Bethlehem have stopped selling crosses for fear of offending their Muslim neighbors.
This is a sad story, but there's one that's even sadder that doesn't seem to be getting much traction in the community that has routinely targeted Israel for condemnation. Still reeling from the Oct. 31 attack that killed several dozen Christians in Baghdad, church leaders in Iraq have decided not to celebrate Christmas this year.
An article in USA Today provides some detail:
On Tuesday, al-Qaeda insurgents threatened more attacks on Iraq's beleaguered Christians, many of whom have fled their homes or the country since the church attack. A council representing Christian denominations across Iraq advised its followers to cancel public celebrations of Christmas out of concern for their lives and as a show of mourning for the victims.
"Nobody can ignore the threats of al-Qaeda against Iraqi Christians," said Chaldean Archbishop Louis Sako in Kirkuk. "We cannot find a single source of joy that makes us celebrate. The situation of the Christians is bleak."
This would seem like a good opportunity for Christian organizations such as the National Council of Churches and the World Council of Churches to express solidarity with their co-religionists in Iraq, but so far, two days before Christmas, they have yet to release a statement. By way of comparison, the World Council of Churches has issued a statement on the Kairos Document which was released more than a year ago. Talk about beating a dead horse.
Will either of these organizations comment on this sad state of affairs in time for Christmas? Or will they take a pass? And if they do lament the sufferings of Christians in Iraq in time for Christmas, will they mention exactly who perpetrated the attack on Oct. 31 or will the attackers be left unnamed?
December 20, 2010
Washington Post omits Kissinger on 'Jews in gas chambers'
“The Jews are just a very aggressive and abrasive and obnoxious personality,” President Richard M. Nixon told White House aide Charles W. Colson in a 1973 conversation, The Washington Post reported (“New Nixon tapes reveal anti-Semitic, racist remarks; In casual conversation, he rails against Jews, blacks, Italians, Irish,” December 12).
The latest Nixon tapes to be made public also document, The Post noted, that “when Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir was in Washington, Nixon gave instructions to [presidential secretary Rosemary] Woods about who should be invited, or not invited, to what he called ‘the Jewish dinner.’”
But the newspaper did not report that the tapes also featured Secretary of State Henry Kissinger telling Nixon, after a March 1, 1973 meeting with Meir, that “the emigration of Jews from the Soviet Union is not an objective of American foreign policy.” Meir had pleaded for Washington to pressure Moscow to let Jews emigrate. “And if they put Jews into gas chambers in the Soviet Union,” Kissinger continued, “it is not an American concern. Maybe a humanitarian concern.”
“I know,” Nixon responded. “We can’t blow up the world because of it.” Earlier, The New York Times (“In Tapes, Nixon Rails About Jews and Blacks ”, December 10) had found Kissinger’s comment newsworthy.
Kissinger is Jewish and he escaped as a child with his family from Germany in the 1930s. The Post, like The Times, reported Nixon’s derogatory comments about Irish, Italians and blacks as well as Jews. But not the startling Kissinger-Nixon exchange about hypothetical Jewish genocide in the Soviet Union.
December 16, 2010
Why Israelis are Wary of a Peace Agreement
Time magazine and its Jerusalem correspondent Karl Vick were roundly criticized for their article alleging Israel "doesn't care about peace" because Israelis are too busy "making money" and lounging on the beach.
Carlo Strenger, a self-declared liberal columnist for Israel's Ha'aretz daily, seems to have a dramatically different take on his compatriots' attitudes:
The deepest reason most Israelis are weary [sic] of signing a peace agreement with the Palestinians is that they don’t believe that such an agreement will guarantee Israel’s long-term security and survival. They are afraid that the two-state solution is really a two-stage solution; that once a Palestinian state is established within the 1967 borders, the Palestinians will continue to demand the right of return to the State of Israel. As a result, Israel would not receive final legitimacy from the Arab world while losing the negotiating chip of the settlements; and the Jewish homeland would continue to be under threat.
(Vick did briefly allude, in two sentences buried deep in his article, to Israeli doubts about whether there's a Palestinian partner for peacemaking — but not before about 20 preceding paragraphs implant in readers' minds that that gluttony and greed are the real reasons for Israel's purported disinterest in peace.)
December 14, 2010
Jaws 5 -- Mossad Invades!
There has been a spate of shark attacks on tourists snorkeling and swimming off the coast of Egypt in recent weeks, resulting in several injuries and one death. What is the cause of these rare attacks? According to Egypt’s Governor of Southern Sinai, Abed Al-Fadij, Israel may be the culprit. Arutz Sheva has the story:
We must not discount the possibility that Mossad threw the shark into the sea, in order to attack tourists who are having fun in Sharm al-Sheikh. Mossad is trying to hurt Egyptian tourism in any way possible, and the shark is one way for it to realize its plan.
This is, simply put, crazy talk. Many experts have been investigating the cause of the attacks and the reason why the sharks are so close to shore. Some scientists have theorized that sharks are coming closer to shore due to lack of food in the open seas; others accuse tourist boats of intentionally luring the sharks close with meat so that tourists can take pictures of them. But Mossad?
As ridiculous as the accusation is, the media’s relative silence on this libelous fairytale is troubling. A search on Nexis indicates that only a handful of outlets have covered the story. By ignoring the story the media has yet again allowed incitement against Israel to fester. Rumors such as this routinely spread through the Middle East and elsewhere. To be fair, faux journalist Stephen Colbert has done a send-up on this story. But why is it that we have to rely on a comedian for coverage of this story?
Al-Fadij's assertion that the Mossad is putting sharks into the Red Sea to attack tourists is part of a bigger problem in the Middle East. Israel has been accused of of creating “super rats" and sending them into Palestinian homes in the Old City of Jerusalem. (Somehow the rats know not to go into the homes of Israeli Jews. Smart Rats!) Israelis have also been accused of giving Palestinian women aphrodisiac gum so as to corrupt their morals.
They have also been accused of intentionally spreading AIDS. And sadly enough, these accusations have been accepted as fact in many parts of the Middle East. And we wonder why underdevelopment is a problem in the region.
To read more about the media’s failure to adequately cover incitement against Israel, click here.
Richard Holbrooke on Resolution 242
Richard Holbrooke, the well-respected U.S. diplomat whose untimely death is being mourned today, served as ambassador to the U.N. and to Germany, Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific, for European and Canadian affairs, and special envoy, among other positions.
In 2007, Holbrooke delivered a talk about the principles of peacemaking and UN Resolution 242 at a Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs Conference on "Israel's Right to Secure Boundaries." His knowledgeable assessment of Resolution 242 bears repeating:
... an analysis of the original meaning of the resolution, as opposed to its inadvertent or intentional misconstructions by certain people, is essential. This is especially necessary in light of the fact that numerous publications and media outlets have reiterated the misconception that the resolution calls for full withdrawal from all territories.
Perhaps most importantly, Hobrooke noted Resolution 242 calls for "a negotiated solution which includes mutual recognition between the parties." This bears remembering in light of media pundits who continue to blame Israel for scuttling peace prospects, even while Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh's declares that "Hamas will never recognize Israel" while Fatah rejects any acceptance of "the so-called Jewish state."
December 13, 2010
AP Multiplies Number of Palestinians Displaced to Jordan
How many of the roughly 600,000-700,000 Palestinians who fled their homes during the Arab-Israeli war found refuge in the Jordan?
If you guessed 1.8 million, you should re-read the question, a bit more closely this time.
Mathematical impossibility notwithstanding, the Associated Press insists that 1.8 million Palestinians displaced after 1948 live in Jordan, along with an unknown number of their descendants. As AP's Jamal Halaby put it in an article about clashes between Bedouin and Palestinian fans of rival soccer teams,
There is a long history of violence between supporters of the two teams, stemming in part from the decades of tension with Jordan's large Palestinian population, which includes an estimated 1.8 million refugees displaced after Israel's 1948 creation and their descendants.
Whether a result of bad English or bad faith, readers are misled. In fact, the 1.8 million figure includes descendants of the displaced. The language remained unchanged even after AP was informed of the problem.
December 10, 2010
Not erroneous, but wrong: Washington Post on Mideast diplomacy
Errors of omission cause “U.S. tactics in Mideast talks criticized; Analysts say Obama should have stuck with call for settlement freeze,” a December 9 dispatch by The Washington Post’s Jerusalem bureau chief, Janine Zacharia to focus disproportionately on Israel. Disproportionate focus yields a distorted picture.
* Omits that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and his negotiators let nine months of Israel’s 10-month West Bank construction freeze expire before entering direct talks — and then only under American pressure.
* Omits that Palestinian insistence on an Israeli construction moratorium and its extension was something new. The Post does not remind readers that from the 1993 start of the Oslo process neither Yasser Arafat nor his successor, Abbas, had made a settlement freeze a prerequisite to talks until after the Obama administration insisted on one.
* Does not mention, in highlighting comments from Ha’aretz columnist Akiva Eldar and Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erekat, that both men have credibility problems. See, for example (Eldar) and (Erekat). As a result, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, not PA President Abbas, is portrayed as President Obama’s chief headache. The article cites former U.S. negotiator Aaron David Miller, a more neutral source, but no one to directly balance Eldar or Erekat.
* Does not report, in conveying Erekat’s reference to “the 1967 borders” between Israel and the West Bank, that such borders do not exist. Until they are negotiated according to U.N. Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338, it is the 1949 Israeli-Jordanian armistice line that separates Israel proper and the West Bank (Judea and Samaria).
* Omits, in reporting Erekat’s comment on Argentine, Brazilian and Uruguayan recognition of “Palestine,” that such putative recognition contradicts Resolutions 242 and 338 and undermines attempted U.S. mediation.
The one-sided presentation in “U.S. tactics in Mideast talks criticized” leaves the inaccurate impression that Israel obstructs America efforts to restart direct Israeli-Palestinian talks desired by the PA.