September 29, 2014
To Slam Israel, a New York Times Op-Ed Deceives Its Readers
Was a famous Israeli comedian fired because she said she felt bad about innocent Palestinian deaths during the recent round of fighting between Hamas and Israel? That’s what The New York Times would have you believe.
A recent Op-Ed in that newspaper seeks to convince Americans that Israel is engaged in “aggressive silencing of anyone who voices disapproval of Israeli policies or expresses empathy with Palestinians.” Yes, such hyperbole from the Israeli political fringe is not uncommon in the pages of The Times. After all, this is the same newspaper that has cited as a credible source an activist who openly celebrated the death of Israelis.
And yes, the larger idea that Israelis can’t speak their minds is absurd. As CAMERA’s Tamar Sternthal points out, dissent is alive and well in Israel, perhaps more so than in most other countries.
But what about the comedian? Here’s how the New York Times Op-Ed contributor, Mairav Zonszein, put it: “In an interview during the Gaza war, the popular comedian Orna Banai said she felt terrible that Palestinian women and children were being killed — she was subsequently fired from her position as spokeswoman for an Israeli cruise ship operator.”
The cause and the effect are plain for all to see. Banai was fired because she feels bad about the loss of innocent Palestinian lives. Israelis don't tolerate dissent, or even empathy.
Except it is not true, and New York Times readers are being severely misled. The cruise ship operator, Mano, announced it would no longer use Banai in its advertisements on July 20. This was only after the comedian made controversial and insulting statements aimed at her fellow Israelis, which went far beyond mere expressions of sympathy for innocent Palestinian casualties.
Banai said she would not join those who said “let the IDF win” in its operation to put a stop to Palestinian rockets. More insultingly to the average Israeli, to whom Mano intended her to sell cruise tickets, the comedian said that “most” people in her country are “driven by hatred and narrow-mindedness,” and expressed shame at being a part of the people of Israel.
A few days later, as the Palestinian rockets continued to rain down on Israel, Mano announced on Facebook that it would no longer be using Banai. The first sentence of the announcement seemed to be a direct response to Banai’s damaging expression of embarrassment and her equivocation about an IDF victory. “We wish all residents of Israel, which we are so proud and happy to be a part of, better and quieter days.”
It’s beyond the scope of this piece to comment on whether Mano should have severed its relationship with the comedian. But of course it makes perfect sense from a marketing perspective. And it seems obvious that it was marketing, and not any “silencing of dissent,” that drove the cruise operator’s decision.
But the bigger issue isn't marketing but media. The New York Times has severely misled its readers by concealing Banai’s more controversial statements and pretending empathy for Palestinian civilians was what got her fired. They owe readers an apology, and a clarification.
September 23, 2014
Over a Thousand Protest the Met's Obscene Opera
As The Metropolitan Opera opened its season on Monday, September 22, over a thousand people gathered at Lincoln Center to protest the company’s upcoming production of “The Death of Klinghoffer,” an opera that romanticizes terrorists and maligns Jews in the guise of “art.” CAMERA first made this a national issue and did not let up on The Met, even after the planned international simulcasts were canceled. Now the protests are keeping the heat on the company.
Numerous distinguished speakers addressed the crowd including former New York Governor George Pataki, former U.S. Attorney General Judge Michael Mukasey and New York Congressman Eliot Engel. Survivors of terrorism and family members of victims spoke movingly before the gathering. People of all ages and religions stood together to voice their disgust that an institution as prestigious as The Met would lend credibility to bigotry and “humanize” vicious murderers. And do not forget that The Met gets taxpayer funding to do it!
There was media coverage of the event, with The Wall Street Journal accurately reporting that “more than a thousand people protested.” It is not surprising that The New York Times downplayed the protest turnout, saying that only “several hundred” participated. Of course, The Times had bemoaned the cancellation of the simulcasts in an editorial earlier in the year and recently endorsed the antisemitic production itself.
Several times during the course of the protest, the police had to move the barriers and expand further into the street to accommodate the crowd. The pictures speak for themselves.
September 21, 2014
Ex-Haaretz Readers Walk Out of Publisher's Event
Last Friday (Sept. 12), Haaretz publisher Amos Schocken hosted an unusual meeting with more than 100 Israelis out of a reported total of 600 subscribers who recently cancelled their subscription to the daily paper. The mass cancellation was widely regarded by the Israeli media as a response to a July opinion piece by Haaretz columnist Gideon Levy attacking the morality of Israeli pilots participating in Operation Protective Edge:
I would like to meet the pilot or the operator of the drone who pushed the death button. How do you sleep at night, pilot? Did you see the pictures of the death and destruction you sowed – on television, and not just in the crosshairs? Did you see the crushed bodies, the bleeding wounded, the frightened children, the horrified women and the terrible destruction you sowed from your sophisticated plane? It’s all your doing, you excellent young man.
The Seventh Eye, an Israeli media watchdog, published a detailed account of the meeting, which ended in a mass walkout by the audience.
Things started smoothly enough, with the crowd granting a warm reception to both Schocken and Haaretz Editor Aluf Benn as the two described the paper's liberal policy. Benn reassured: "We are not the United Nations, we are Israelis, we live within Israeli society, and as such we covered the events that happened to the Israeli side."
Things quickly unraveled, however, once the floor was opened to questions from the audience. The Seventh Eye reported:
Zuzovsky says he was a Haaretz subscriber for a total of 60 years, and had canceled his subscription twice – both times because of Gideon Levy. His wife, Zuzovsky said, was the widow of an Air Force pilot, and he cannot bring home a newspaper comparing her grandchildren's grandfather to murderers.
The "Seventh Eye" describes how the atmosphere in the meeting slowly devolved from a high cultured social tête-à-tête to a no holds barred tit-for-tat:
The exchanges with the publisher shattered any sense of hierarchy in the room. “No one canceled his subscription because of Nehemia Strassler,” [a Haaretz economics writer] shouted someone in the hall. “Yes!” screamed other members of the audience [in agreement]. “There were those,” says Schocken. “There were not! None!” one shouted back.” “Let's try to keep the order," pleaded Schocken.
Another audience member announced he will not renew his subscription of 39 years until Levy apologizes. The next, who identified himself as a Haaretz reader for 35 years, announced theatrically that he will turn his back to the stage and only then speak. He is received with applause. He demanded Levy's apology as a condition to renew his subscription. Various other speakers, including ex-pilots, echoed similar sentiments to loud applause.
As members of the agitated audience left the room, those remaining heckled Schocken who admonished: "You were Haaretz subscribers, you can be ‘Haaretz unsubscribers’ but we can still talk like civilized people." The diminished crowd grew increasingly hostile as the publisher argued that Levy was had been proven right when he wrote a similar article in the past. Finally, Schocken gave up on the possibility of convincing many to renew their subscriptions, and the former Haaretz readers left the room.
-- Gidon Shaviv
Telegraph Corrects Unit 8200 Letter. AFP Doesn't
In response to communication from CiF Watch, a CAMERA affiliate, The Telegraph has commendably corrected a Agence France-Presse article it had published which wrongly referred to a protest letter written by reservists in the elite Israeli military intelligence Unit 8200.
The AFP article which appeared on The Telegraph site erred:
As noted by CiF Watch's Adam Levick, the protest letter does not at all mention "targeted assassinations."
While The Telegraph has removed the unfounded claim that the letter referred to targeted assassinations, AFP editors have once again failed to set the record straight on this straightforward factual error.
September 19, 2014
Israeli Tactics Greatly Reduced Gaza Civilian Casualty Rates
Israel's detractors engage in moral inversion, falsely accusing Israel of crimes and sins that the enemies of the Jewish state commit. In the recently concluded summer war of 2014 between Israel and Hamas, the usual clique of UN organizations, human rights groups and media organizations accused Israel of recklessly causing disproportionate civilian casualties in the Gaza Strip, while paying less attention to Hamas crimes against both Israeli and Palestinian civilians. Groups like Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch demanded investigations of Israel for war crimes and called for embargos against the Jewish state. But a web site that specializes in military analysis, DefenseNews, describes innovative Israeli tactics that significantly reduce civilian casualties. The article quotes Israeli Brig. Gen. Amikam Norkin, Israel Air Force chief of staff, who explained that
Protective Edge marked the first time fixed-wing fighters were used as dedicated assets to division- and brigade-level forces.
“Over the last year, we drilled in a very substantive way with the ground forces and we built a process where our fighters could attack at much closer distances … We did this hundreds of times during the operation.”
The result according to Norkin was that Israel was able to far surpass
an international average of five innocents killed for each targeted terrorist. He said preliminary data from Protective Edge indicates “we’re slowly closing in on numbers of one to one.
Norkin went on to explain,
“When there are residential buildings of three, four and five floors, and the civilians are already evacuated, fixed-wing precision air power is most effective. ... I’m talking laser, [joint direct-attack munitions], all of them,”
Norkin's claims received support from an American analyst of the use of air power and an Air Force general.
Ben Lambeth, a veteran air power author and analyst formerly of Santa Monica-based Rand Corp, said the response time and ranges that Israel claims to have conducted constitute a clear and possibly unprecedented achievement.
Retired US Air Force Lt. Gen. David Deptula said Israel appears to be headed in a very good direction. “Anything that reduces time, increases accuracy and drives down miss-distance is all good,” he said.
Will the media cover important post-conflict analysis?
September 18, 2014
Washington Post Readies Palestinian-American Clan for Close-Upside Down
The Washington Post’s report on hardships and arrests of family members of Muhammad Abu Khieder, the Palestinian Arab teenager slain in Jerusalem following the murder of three Jewish youths (“Slayings, protests, arrests vex Palestinian clan with strong U.S. ties”, Sept. 2, 2014) withheld until near its conclusion key information.
Leo Rennert, a former White House correspondent and Washington bureau chief for McClatchy Newspapers, pointed out that the dispatch, by Post correspondent Anne Marie O’Connor, “paints the family’s painful travails in 26 paragraphs spread over more than a half page with a headline that reads: ‘Palestinian clan tested by ordeal in Jerusalem – Sprawling Abu Khieder family, which has strong U.S. ties, has endured a killing and many arrests’.”
According to Rennert, “O’Connor describes in her lead ‘an old and respected Palestinian clan that welcomes American cousins’ to Jerusalem for family reunions. But sadly, this ‘established middle-class family’ now has been engulfed ‘in riots, beatings and arrests.’ ” (“WaPo's Tolerance of Palestinian Violence”, American Thinker, Sept. 5, 2014). So focused was the article on the family struggles that it almost didn’t mention the reasons Israeli authorities arrested various family members. Rennert asks:
“So what gives? Why all these arrests? It’s a bit of a mystery.”
He observed that The Post mentioned one abu Khieder member threw firecrackers at police but did not explain why members were arrested.
As Rennert wrote: “Finally, in the 19th and 20th paragraphs, O’Connor belatedly sheds a bit more light on the throwing of rocks as she recounts that after the killing of Mohammad Abu Khieber, Palestinian ‘protesters responded with rocks and Molotov cocktails.’ Asks Israeli police spokesman Mickey Rosenfeld: ‘Why was an American citizen involved in a full-scale riot and throwing stones, and arrested with six other students who were also wearing kefiyeh, and some of them armed with knives?’
“Which finally and much too late brings readers to the nub of all those arrests. It’s the violence. But by then,” Rennert suspected “most readers have long since switched to other articles in The Post’s September 4 edition.”
Rennert charged that The Post delayed on connecting the Khieder family to violent protests, and asserted that the paper “camouflages with all sorts of irrelevancies” its obscuring of key facts.
“Thus, the headline informs us that a Palestinian clan is enduring an ordeal, that it’s a sprawling family with strong ties to the U.S., that it is enduring a ‘killing and many arrests.’ But no mention in a lengthy headline that the same family and other Palestinians have used violent tactics with lethal weapons to express their grief or protests.”
Was The Washington Post okay with rock throwing by Palestinian Arabs at Israeli police and other security forces as a protest tactic? Rennert said that the newspaper’s headline key words, “slaying, protests, arrests, vex Palestinian clan,” suggested that the answer was yes. -- Ziv Kaufman
USA Today, not The Guardian, Gets 'State Land' Story Right
News media often refer erroneously to the West Bank as “Palestinian land” or “Palestinian territory” and Israeli acquisition or development there often get reported as “land grabs.” For example:
Referring to Israel’s decision to declare almost 1,000 acres adjacent to the West Bank community of Gva’ot as state land, The Guardian (U.K.) wrote, “Israel has published tenders to build 283 homes in a West Bank settlement, days after announcing its biggest land grab on occupied Palestinian territory [emphases added] for three decades.” (“Israel to build 283 homes in West Bank”, Sept. 5, 2014)
USA Today, by contrast, eschewed hyperbole for context. Special Correspondent Michele Chabin reported of Gva’ot and the newly-designated state land that “this community of 17 Israeli families, apartments for disabled adults, a school for disabled children, several horses and a petting zoo is accustomed to solitude. So [Rachel] Pomerantz, who rents a small prefab home here, was surprised by the sudden international attention on the settlement since … the Israeli government announced it would designate a swath of land next to Gva'ot as state-owned property.”
Gva’ot is close to the 1949 Israeli-Jordanian armistice line and the adjacent 988 acres at the center of the media-diplomatic dust-up lie between it and the Gush Etzion settlement bloc just south of Jerusalem. As USA Today tells readers, “the Gush Etzion bloc’s core communities [in the West bank] were founded before Israel’s establishment in 1948 on land purchased by Jews in the 1920s and 1930s.
“Arab soldiers destroyed the communities when they fought against Israel's founding during the 1948 war” (“Quiet strip of land, a loud dispute”, USA Today, Sept. 5, 2014)
“To Pomerantz,” Chabin wrote, “the international outcry doesn't take into account Jews’ religious and historical ties to the West Bank. Gva’ot appears in the Old Testament [Hebrew Bible], and ‘the biblical land of Israel is inseparable from the state of Israel,’ she said.
“ ‘On a practical level,’ Pomerantz added, ‘there is an acute shortage of housing, so construction is vital.’ ”
A picture of Pomerantz walking with her children helps personalize the story for readers.
Additionally, a map accompanying the article showed Gva’ot’s location sandwiched between the Gush Etzion block and Israel proper. Most Israelis expect the block to remain part of Israel in any agreement with the Palestinian leadership. A small inset map showed tiny Israel in comparison to the rest of the Middle East. The two maps together amount to a visual commentary that perhaps there has been exaggerated international focus on Israel’s designation of the adjacent land territory, about the size of four or five Midwestern farms, as state land.
The Guardian’s “Palestinian territory” description contradicts the basics. Since the end of Ottoman rule in 1917 no country has been recognized as sovereign over the West Bank. It remains disputed land taken by Jordan in a war of aggression in 1948 and which Israel won in a defensive war in 1967.
U.N. Security Council Resolution 242, passed following the ’67 Six Day War, required withdrawal of Israeli armed forces from some but not necessarily all territories gained in the conflict. The authors of Resolution 242, U.S. Under Secretary of State Eugene Rostow, U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Arthur Goldberg and British Ambassador Lord Caradon made clear at the time and subsequently that Jews and Arabs had claims in the disputed territories, which included the West Bank (Judea and Samaria). Hence the need for Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.
News media err when, prematurely assuming the results of such negotiations, they mislabel the land as “Palestinian” and Jewish settlers and settlements as illegal when "close Jewish settlement on the land" west of the Jordan River is encouraged by the League of Nations’ Palestine Mandate, Article 6 and perpetuated by the U.N. Charter, Chapter 12, Article 80.
USA Today 1, The Guardian 0. -- Ziv Kaufman
September 17, 2014
NY Daily News Photo Bias
A headline yesterday in The New York Daily News is perfectly straightforward -- "New Mortar Fire From Gaza Strikes Israel During Ceasefire" -- but photo editors nevertheless had trouble selecting an appropriate image. Though Israel had just been hit from fire from Gaza, editors selected four images of debris and devastation in the Gaza Strip, some of them from last month.
Editors did not include a single image relating to yesterday's mortar attack on Israel, or to any of the more than 4,500 rocket and mortar attacks on the Jewish state over the summer.
The headline and most prominent image follow:
In addition, a photo gallery accompanying the article includes the following three images:
A Palestinian family takes shelter amid the rubble of their destroyed house in Khan Younis.
A Palestinian family looks from the window at the rubble of the collapsed 15-story Basha Tower following early morning Israeli airstrikes on Aug. 26.
A car exits the Bisan City Zoo in the northern Gaza Strip Sept. 12.
What exactly is the newsworthiness and relevance of a car exiting a zoo in the northern Gaza Strip to a mortar attack on southern Israel?
Though photo editors may not have been able to find an image of this particular mortar attack which caused no damage or injuries in this case, there was no shortage of images of the results of rocket and mortar attacks from August.
In International NY Times, Palestinian Refugees Forever Young
Palestinian refugees who fled or were expelled from Israel in 1948 are forever young. Or so one must conclude based on an article in the Sept. 15 print edition of The International New York Times. Those refugees, who are now at the minimum 66 years old, are the parents of children studying in first through ninth grades in the Gaza Strip, according to The Times.
The International New York Times erred:
There are two apparent errors in this sentence.
First, it seems that the article should have stated "grandchildren or great-grandchildren of Palestinians who were expelled from or fled homes in Israel and the West Bank." Indeed, another version of the piece, which appeared in an earlier New York Times edition accurately referred to "descendants of Palestinians who were expelled from or fled homes in Israel and the West Bank."
It is impossible that the parents of students ranging from age 5 to 14 (kindergarten through ninth grade) were expelled from or fled homes in Israel in 1948.
If the parents were alive in 1948, they would have to be at least 66 years old today. Clearly, the parents of all of these elementary and middle school students are not, at a minimum, 66 years old.
The mean age of Gaza women when they first marry is 20.1. For men, the figure is 24. In other words, Gaza's parents are young, not old.
Similarly, if the parents were displaced from the West Bank in 1967, and this category is much smaller than 1948 refugees, they would have to be at a minimum 47 years old, which also seems highly unlikely, though not impossible.
Second, it is not true that 70 percent of Gaza's 1.8 million residents are "Palestinians who were expelled from or fled homes in Israel and the West Bank."
In fact, as reported by the Associated Press, of those Palestinians who were expelled or fled homes in Israel in 1948 there are now some 30,000 still alive, living around the world, not just in the Gaza Strip. So if ALL of the surviving Palestinian Arabs who fled or expelled from their homes in Israel lived in the Gaza Strip -- and they don't, they also live in the West Bank, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and elsewhere -- then they amount to a total of 1.6 percent of the 1.8 million residents in Gaza, not 70 percent.
On previous occasions, The New York Times has corrected erroneous figures which similarly conflated those who were expelled or fled in 1948 and their millions of descendants.
CAMERA has informed The International New York Times of the editing error. Stay tuned for an update.
September 10, 2014
Where's the Coverage? Human Rights Expert: "U.N. Leading Global Purveyor of Antisemitism"
The World Zionist Organization reports that, during Operation Protective Edge in July, there was a nearly 400 percent increase in antisemitic incidents over the same period the previous year. As the Times of Israel reports:
During July 2014, Europe saw a 436% increase, while the US saw a 130% rise. There was a 1,200% increase in anti-Semitic acts in South America and a 600% rise in South Africa, according to the organization.
So a conference on the explosion in global antisemitism at the United Nations would be entirely appropriate. And Monday, September 8, there was one. However, not surprisingly to anyone familiar with the workings of the international body, it was not sponsored by the U.N. Instead, hundreds gathered at a meeting, “Global Anti-Semitism: A Threat to International Peace and Security,” organized by the Eng Aja Eze Foundation and hosted by the Permanent Mission of Palau to the U.N. Yes, Palau!
When panelist Anne Bayefsky, director of the Touro Institute on Human Rights and the Holocaust and president of Human Rights Voices, spoke, she mined the irony of the U.N’s relationship with global antisemitism:
The U.N. is not having a conference on the threat that global antisemitism poses to international peace and security. This is lunch-time. The courageous organizer, assisted by the principled representative of the small state of Palau, is independent of the U.N. The facilities are not free.
But why couldn’t the U.N., founded on the ashes of the Jewish people, and presently witnessing a widespread resurgence in antisemitism, sponsor a conference on combating global antisemitism? The answer is clear: because the United Nations itself is the leading global purveyor of antisemitism.
Photo ops of the U.N. Secretary General and the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights at the gates of Auschwitz are not an alibi. One does not honor the memory of Jews murdered by intolerance six decades ago by inciting murderous intolerance towards the remnant of the Jewish people in the here and now.
Incitement to hate, like declaring Israel to be racist, as does the U.N. Durbin declaration, the flagship of the UN racist anti-racism program of action.
In theory the U.N. charter demands equality both of individual men and women, and of nations large and small. In reality, the U.N. mass-produces inequality for Jews and the Jewish nation.
Thirty-five percent of all resolutions and decisions ever adopted by the U.N.’s top human rights body, the Human Rights Council, that are critical of the rights records of specific states, condemn one state: Israel. That’s antisemitism.
Fifty percent. Fifty percent of the emergency special sessions of the general assembly over six decades were convened to denounce Israel. No emergency special session has been called on any other state in over thirty years. That’s antisemitism.
The human rights council has a fixed agenda with one item to condemn Israel at every session, and one item to consider the other 192 U.N. member states, if required. That’s antisemitism.
Seventy percent of all the 2013 General Assembly resolutions criticizing specific countries for human rights abuses were about Israel. That’s antisemitsm.
Modern antisemitism targets Israel’s exercise of the right of self-defense because self-defense is the essence of sovereignty. Demonize and delegitimize self-defense, the plan is, and the viability of the Jewish state will be degraded.
Today, U.N. antisemitism has taken yet one more treacherous turn. The U.N. has launched a legal pogrom against the Jewish state. Hired guns posing as independent arbiters, like William Schabas, are appointed to discover what they’ve already found: guilty. Phony legal rules misinterpret proportionality to favor a more even number of dead Israelis. The Iron Dome worked too well. And the International Criminal Court is poised to pounce.
Serious about “never again”? Then never forget that the perversion of the legal system is how genocide begins. A legal pogrom serves as a license to kill.
The U.N. is not having a conference about combating antisemitism but we are. So let us start, let us start by combating the legal henchmen and human rights imposters at the United Nations.
While this speech and the conference were reported by some bloggers and some in the specialty, Jewish and Israeli media, major news outlets ignored both. As incidents of global antisemitism skyrocket and as the United Nations gears up to run Israel through another gauntlet of phony investigations and kangaroo courts, the conference was certainly newsworthy. And yet… Where’s the coverage?
Watch Anne Bayefsky deliver her entire speech:
September 09, 2014
J Street Funded Representatives Oppose Iron Dome
J Street claims to be the “political home for pro-Israel, pro-peace Americans.” Yet, 11 members of the U.S. House of Representatives backed by J Street recently either refused to back funding for Israel’s Iron Dome short-range anti-missile system or voted against it.
“Three of the House lawmakers who voted against funding for Iron Dome—Reps. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), and Walter Jones (R-N.C.)—have received a combined $21,145 in this election cycle from J Street, according to publicly available Federal Election Commission (FEC) documents.
“The eight other J Street-funded lawmakers who abstained from the vote are Reps. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.), Susan Davis (D-Calif.), Lloyd Doggett (D-Texas), John Garamendi (D-Calif.), Jim McDermott (D-Wash.), Raul Ruiz (D-Calif.), Jackie Speier (D-Calif.), and Ed Whitfield (R-Ky.)” (“J Street in Congress Refuse to Support Iron Dome Funding for Israel”, Washington Free Beacon, Aug. 21, 2014).
Members of Congress, Democrats and Republicans, overwhelmingly have supported Iron Dome. As thousands of missiles were launched from the Gaza Strip during the July-August Israel-Hamas war, Iron Dome protected three quarters of the country’s civilians. Had the system not been in place, the number of noncombatants killed in Israel likely would have been much greater than the four who were slain. The response from Israel would have been much harsher, possibly leading to a wider war.
The disconnect between J Street’s “pro-Israel, pro-peace” self-description and the votes of the 11 noted above caused comment.
“Pro-Israel community insiders say that this is proof that J Street cannot even convince its own people to support a vaguely pro-Israel line,” The Free Beacon stated. “ ‘I suspect that if J Street had its druthers, its few congressional allies would have actually voted for Iron Dome funding, just to keep up appearances,’ said Noah Pollak, executive director of the Emergency Committee for Israel.
“ ‘But J Street ’s allies in Congress are genuinely dedicated to being anti-Israel, and so they’re happy to take J Street money and then vote the wrong way, confident that the checks will clear,’ Pollak said. ‘It’s embarrassing for J Street, but it’s also the price of maintaining good relations with anti-Israel members of Congress.’ ”
J Street’s “pro-Israel and pro-peace” self-portrait misleads. Working toward peace with Palestinian Arab leadership has been a goal of the Jewish state at least since the country signed the Oslo accords in 1993. Israel brought the Palestinian Liberation Organization and its leader, Yasser Arafat, to the Gaza Strip, withdrew from West Bank cities and granted Palestinian Arabs autonomy prior to a two-state solution floated by President Bill Clinton and Prime Minister Ehud Barak in 2000. Not only did Arafat reject the proposal, but he also launched an intifada that included suicide bombings and other attacks and resulted in the deaths of more than 1,000 Israelis and visitors, and 4,000 Palestinian Arabs.
Regardless of Palestinian behavior, J Street claims that “being pro-Israel doesn’t require supporting every policy of its government.” True, but frequently opposing policies of Israeli governments chosen by majorities of the country’s voters and funding politicians who don’t support break-through defense programs like Iron Dome are hard to square with pro-Israel activism.
Guilt by association can be unfair. But groups as well as individuals are known by the company they keep—and the politicians they fund. On the Hill, J Street appears to need some new pro-Israel, pro-peace friends. –Ziv Kaufman
September 08, 2014
Turning the Tables on Israel's Critics
Author, scholar and specialist in the study of campaigns demonizing Israel, Manfred Gerstenfeld seven years ago launched the ingenious blog Bad News from The Netherlands which continues to make an important point powerfully. If news media ONLY (or nearly only) report the negative stories about a nation, readers will inevitably gain the impression that nation is bad. As he describes in a September 3, 2014 Jerusalem Post column, his device was to focus on Holland where Israel is often given rough media treatment and simply to post stories in blog form every day about the shortcomings of that country, its corruption, discrimination, sloth, violence and general failure to operate as a wholesome, just society.
Begun in 2007, the Bad News blog now has 2,800 entries and reading it underscores the experience ordinary news consumers may have in reading about Israel in stridently negative and biased news outlets. However much one may hold positive views about Holland (or Israel), immersion in endless stories about misconduct has an impact.
Some foreign experts and I use the blog’s items in lectures and articles both in Israel and abroad, to illustrate media bias. Its main use, however, is to be able to show experts and foreign journalists, within two minute of conversation, how the demonizing of Israel works. Many reactions I got were surprising. Irrespective of which seven negative items were up on the front page, a number of them told me that after reading this blog, the Netherlands would not be a country they would want to visit. I would argue that they knew that the blog only contains negative items. They replied that this did not matter – since as these news items are true, they would not want to go the Netherlands.
Such reactions to the blog taught me, once again, how strong the force of negative exposure is, and that it often cannot be compensated for by positive publicity, however much effort is made in that direction.
The exercise is valuable for anyone who doubts the importance of reducing, correcting and preventing distortions that may poison perceptions.
Is the Goal Victory or Achieving Mission Success?
Professor Asa Kasher, whose biography states that "He led the writing of the first IDF code of ethics" published a thought-provoking article in the Jewish Review of Books, "The Ethics of Protective Edge," discussing the principles guiding Israeli military activity against terrorists embedded in a civilian population.
Kasher describes competing humanitarian principles to which the IDF must adhere. He establishes at the outset that the guiding principle that "people may never be treated as mere objects or instruments" applies to "Palestinians in Gaza who pose no terrorist threat." Nonetheless, this principle is tempered by the notion that "no state should shoulder as much responsibility for the safety of enemy civilians as it does for its own people." These principles are encoded in the IDF's concept of 'purity of arms,' that is "to use the minimum force necessary to subdue the enemy."
Kasher recognizes that there are exceptions,
circumstances in which the principles of restraint and respect for human dignity in times of war might be disregarded. In his famous address to Parliament in 1940 Winston Churchill spoke of “Victory at all costs, victory in spite of all terror, victory however long and hard the road may be, for without victory there is no survival.”
But he contends that the sentiments expressed by Churchill are "now obsolete, not only for ethical reasons but for strategic ones."
To illustrate the shift, he contrasts Israel's military objectives and accomplishments in 1967 - the destruction of enemy armies - with the 2006 Summer war against Hezbollah which "significantly diminished the military force of Hezbollah, but it could and actually did continue launching rockets at northern Israel for a time." According to Kasher, "In the 'new' wars of recent decades, victory has been replaced by the ideal of successfully accomplishing given missions."
Consistent with this change, "the missions of Operation Protective Edge were defined in the course of the fighting as the elimination of the threat to Israel created by the Hamas offensive tunnels and the reduction if not elimination of the threat that Hamas’ rockets pose to most parts of Israel." Kasher believes the response should deter Hamas from future attacks, "only as a by-product of the operation, not one of its military ends."
He admits that contemporary Israeli doctrine goes against conventional strategic wisdom, but he defends that choice:
In The Art of War, Sun Tzu said that "if someone is victorious in battle and succeeds in attack but does not exploit the achievements, it is disastrous." This is not the spirit in which Operation Protective Edge was undertaken, for good reasons.
Kasher could have also mentioned the Israeli doctrine contradicts the advice attributed to the eminent political philosopher, Machiavelli, which reflects Sun Tzu's perspective:
People should either be caressed or crushed. If you do them minor damage they will get their revenge; but if you cripple them there is nothing they can do. If you need to injure someone, do it in such a way that you do not have to fear their vengeance.
Kasher's emphasis on mission success rather than victory ushers in a less ruthless approach to war that he calls consistent with Jewish values, although such an approach goes against the advice of the most eminent historic strategists.
Nevertheless, Kasher draws the line on how far Israel should go in avoiding harm to the enemy population when it conflicts with protecting the lives of Israeli citizen-soldiers. Kasher states,
One must bear in mind that most of the IDF combatants, in particular in the army and navy, are conscripts. As citizens in military uniform, they are entitled to ask the state, as well as the IDF and its commanders, whether they are being placed in greater jeopardy to save the lives of enemy non-combatants who have been repeatedly warned to leave the scene of battle. An affirmative answer to this question would be morally unacceptable.
September 05, 2014
NYT Gets It Wrong on ISIS
In a Sept. 4, 2014 article about the murder of Steven J. Sotloff, The New York Times reported the following:
Moshe Yaalon, the Israeli defense minister, on Wednesday signed a declaration outlawing ISIS though there has not been any indication of activity by the group in Israel or the Palestinian territories.
The Times got it wrong. ISIS activity has been documented in the Gaza Strip. Writing in The Gatestone Institute in Early July, Khaled Abu Toameh reported the following:
Last month, Hamas sent its policemen and militias to disperse a rally organized by ISIS followers in the Gaza Strip to celebrate the recent "military victories" of the terrorist group in Iraq. Hamas prevented local journalists from covering the event as part of its attempt to deny the existence of ISIS in the Gaza Strip. … Earlier this year, masked militiamen in the Gaza Strip posted a video on YouTube in which they declared their allegiance to ISIS. The militiamen are believed to be members of a radical Islamist salafist group that has been operating in the Gaza Strip for the past few years. … At the funeral of two Islamists killed by the Israel Defense Forces last week in Gaza, funeral-goers carried flags and banners of ISIS.
That's not all.
Another article published by JNS in August cited Egyptian Newspaper Al Masry Al Youm, which, according to JNS reported that “15 ISIS terrorists were arrested by Egyptian security forces trying to enter Gaza from the Sinai. Eyad al-Bazam, a spokesman for Hamas, has flatly denied the reports, calling them ‘blatant lies’ and part of an Egyptian smear campaign against Hamas.”
ISIS may not have a huge presence in the Gaza Strip, but The Times’ assertion that there “has not been any indication of activity by the group in … the Palestinian territories” does not hold water.
There are signs of ISIS activity in the Gaza Strip.
September 04, 2014
Why is Religious Freedom Group Still Downplaying Mistreatment of Christians in Iran?
A few days ago, Snapshots posted an entry about the newly established organization “In Defense of Christians,” which is hosting a summit next week in Washington, D.C. about the mistreatment of Christians in Muslim-majority countries in the Middle East.
The organization’s focus is primarily on Christians in the region, but its website says that it is devoted to promoting the cause of religious freedom and the welfare of all religious minorities in the region.
Interestingly enough, the organization's website mentioned the plight of Baha’i but made no mention to their country of origin, Iran, where they are brutally mistreated along with Christians, Jews and Muslims.
This prompted Snapshots to ask a pretty obvious question: Why did In Defense of Christians, an organization ostensibly created to promote the cause of religious freedom make no mention whatsoever of Iran, which is one of the worst abusers of religious freedom in the world?
The organization’s website did not even include Iran in a drop down menu listing the countries that were on its radar.
Well, sometime in the past few days, that has been rectified. The drop-down menu on the organization’s website now includes a link to Iran and Sudan, another country where religious minorities are brutally mistreated.
Hold the Hallelujahs.
If you click on the link to Iran, you’ll see that In Defense of Christians provides the following information about religious freedom in Iran:
For people who can read between the lines, this does not qualify as an honest assessment of the sad state of affairs in Iran, but a shameful effort to downplay the regime’s horrible record regarding religious freedom.
By reporting that the government guarantees “Christian minorities certain rights” In Defense of Christians is not promoting religious freedom as a principle, but is obliquely suggesting that the Iranian governments imposition of dhimmi status on Christians somehow qualifies as the protection of freedom of religion in that country. That's not how it plays out in reality.
Not by a long shot.
In 2011, the World Evangelical Alliance’s Religious Liberty Commission warned that Christians and other religious minorities were likely to experience increased oppression in the years ahead. The report read in part, as follows:
The [Iranian] constitution grants equal rights to all Iranians irrespective of ethnicity, color, or language – but not irrespective of religion. All basic freedoms are subject to Islamic principles – as the State interprets them. All non-Muslim Iranians are required to mention their religion on census forms. Non-Muslims cannot work in the government or commissions in the armed services. There is a provision for minority representation in the parliament, but the Christian quota is only for the Orthodox denomination, and not for Protestants or Roman Catholics. For admission in universities, all students must pass a test in Islamic theology.
Worse, a Muslim can kill a non-Muslim in Iran and get away with it by paying blood-money, which too can be waived off by courts, without any jail term. If a Muslim kills a Baha’i or an “apostate,” authorities will not take any action, as if they were not human beings. And if a non-Muslim man has sexual relations with a Muslim woman, he faces death.
It appears the commission’s prediction that things will get worse for Christians in Iran have come true. In 2013, the U.S. State Department reported the following:
The [Iranian] constitution states that all laws and regulations must be based on undefined “Islamic criteria” but protects certain aspects of religious freedom for members of some but not all religious minorities. In practice, the government severely restricted religious freedom, and there were reports of imprisonment, harassment, intimidation and discrimination based on religious beliefs. There were continued reports of the government charging religious and ethnic minorities with moharebeh (enmity against God), “anti-Islamic propaganda,” or vague national security crimes for their religious activities. Those reportedly arrested on religious grounds faced poor prison conditions and treatment, as with most prisoners of conscience. The frequent arrest and harassment of members of religious minorities continued during the year, following a significant increase in 2012. There continued to be reports of the government imprisoning, harassing, intimidating, and discriminating against people because of their religious beliefs. The constitution states that Ja’afari Shia Islam is the official state religion. It provides that “other Islamic denominations are to be accorded full respect” and officially recognizes only three non-Islamic religious groups, Zoroastrians, Christians, and Jews, as religious minorities. Although the constitution protects the rights of members of these three religions to practice freely, the government imposed legal restrictions on proselytizing and regularly arrests members of the Zoroastrian and Christian communities for practicing their religion. The government occasionally vilified Judaism. The government considers Bahais to be apostates and defines the Bahai faith as a “political sect.” The government prohibits Bahais from teaching and practicing their faith and subjects them to many forms of discrimination not faced by members of other religious groups.
Government rhetoric and actions created a threatening atmosphere for nearly all non-Shia religious groups, most notably for Bahais, as well as for Sufi Muslims, evangelical Christians, Jews, and Shia groups not sharing the government’s official religious views. Bahai and Christian groups reported arbitrary arrests, prolonged detentions, and confiscation of property. Government-controlled broadcast and print media continued negative campaigns against religious minorities, particularly Bahais. All religious minorities suffered varying degrees of officially sanctioned discrimination, particularly in the areas of employment, education, and housing. Bahais continued to experience expulsions from, or denial of admission to, universities.
There is no way that In Defense of Christians can square its bland and dishonest statement about the status of Christians in Iran (“some persecutions have been documented”) with what is actually happening in that country, unless of course, “some persecutions” actually means “a systematic campaign of persecutions."
So we are left with a question similar to the one we asked a couple of days ago: Why is In Defense of Christians still downplaying the mistreatment of Christians in Iran, even after making a gesture of acknowledging the problem?
What is going on here?
September 03, 2014
Where's the Coverage? Israel's Enemies = America's Enemies
Sadly, gruesome beheadings by Islamist terrorists are being posted on the internet. But only some of them receive the attention they deserve from American mainstream media. The Times of Israel reported:
A jihadist group operating in the Sinai Peninsula has taken responsibility for executing five more people for collaborating with Israel, after it announced Thursday that it had beheaded four people on the same charges.
Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis claimed responsibility for the execution for espionage of nine Bedouins in all, Israel Radio reported Tuesday.
In a video released Thursday, Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis claimed responsibility for the executions and said the men had provided intelligence to Israel’s Mossad agency.
The video showed men in black masks beheading the accused collaborators as they knelt on the ground....
Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis ironically translates to “Supporters of the Holy Temple,” named after the Jewish Temple that Islamists deny ever existed. (Beit Ha-Mikdash is Hebrew for the Temple.) Regardless of whether these victims were in fact working with Israel, the mere suspicion brought about their execution, as the fact that Jim Foley and Steven Sotloff were American brought about theirs.
According to the U.S. State Department, which has designated Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis (ABM) a terrorist group, “In August 2012, ABM claimed responsibility for a rocket attack on the southern Israeli city of Eilat, and in September 2012, ABM militants attacked an Israeli border patrol, killing one soldier and injuring another.”
This enemy of Israel is remarkably similar to – even part of the same movement as – the enemies of the United States and all people of goodwill. So is Hamas. And Hezbollah. Former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger highlighted this in an article published in The Sunday Times of London:
To a globalised, largely secular world judging itself to have transcended the ideological clashes of “history”, the views of [Muslim Brotherhood ideologist Sayyid Qutb] and his followers appeared so extreme as to merit no serious attention. Yet for Islamic fundamentalists these views represent truths overriding the rules and norms of international order.
They have been the rallying cry of radicals and jihadists in the Middle East and beyond for decades — echoed by al-Qaeda, Hamas, Hezbollah, the Taliban, Iran’s clerical regime, Hizb ut-Tahrir (the Party of Liberation, active in the West and openly advocating the re-establishment of the caliphate in a world dominated by Islam), Nigeria’s Boko Haram, Syria’s extremist militia Jabhat al-Nusra and the Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham (Isis), which launched a big military assault this year.
Apparently, they also “merit no serious attention” from the American press. Even though Reuters covered the Sinai beheadings, as did the Israeli, some international and Arab media, few if any major U.S. news outlets picked up the story.
Could it be that the fact that Israel is fighting the same enemy murdering Americans and threatening American interests simply does not fit with the popular press narrative? How can the media continue to portray the Jewish state as the bad guy when Israel is fighting the really bad guys, the same bad guys arrayed against the U.S.? Best to ignore the truth, then.
But the facts are plain. When attacked by Jabhat al-Nusra forces in Syria several days ago, United Nations peacekeeping troops fled into Israel. Even Saudi Arabia, earlier this year, designated Islamic State (ISIS or ISIL), Jabhat al-Nusra, the Houthis in Yemen, Hezbollah and the Muslim Brotherhood, parent organization of Hamas, as terrorist groups.
Yet, The New York Times at one time wrote that Hamas was “vague on whether [eliminating Israel] remains its ultimate goal.” (CAMERA Monograph, page 77) Though written to minimize the threat posed by Hamas in the minds of readers, perhaps The Times actually stumbled upon the truth. Eliminating Israel may not be Hamas’ “ultimate goal.” Perhaps Hamas, like its ideological brothers at ISIS/ISIL and other terrorist groups, seeks to be part of a global Islamist caliphate.
In that case, the public really must demand of the media… Where’s the coverage?
Amnesty International's Deceit
Amnesty International [Amnesty], the internationally known human rights organization, has for many years engaged in anti-Israel agitation under the guise of advocating for the rights of Palestinians. Amnesty activities are intended to undermine Israel's standing in the world and hamper the Jewish state's capacity to defend itself. The group's actions against Israel are often synchronized with other groups with a similar agenda (like Human Rights Watch) and the United Nations Human Rights Council. Such activity is especially visible during Israeli military operations in response to terrorist attacks.
Using the language of human rights, Amnesty lodges trumped up charges against the Israeli Defense Force, accusing it of war crimes and disproportionality in its responses to terrorist attacks. Amnesty often relies on dubious witness testimony, bolstered by controversial interpretations of laws and regulations relating to the legitimate use of force. In parallel to these accusations, Amnesty campaigns to render the Jewish state defenseless in the face of terrorist attacks, for example by lobbying the United States government to deny Israel crucial support for its military operations.
And so on Aug. 4, Amnesty's web site contains a call to "Stop US shipment of fuel to Israel's armed forces as evidence of Gaza war crimes mounts." Characteristically presenting its charges in the context of a feigned evenhandedness, Brian Wood, who has the title of "Head of Arms Control and Human Rights" at the organization, states
“The USA and Iran are both guilty of enabling violations of international law by providing military support to the conflicting parties. Without the supply of military technologies neither side in the Gaza conflict could have repeatedly violated international law with impunity on such a scale. Until violators on both sides are held accountable, no shipments of military supplies that can be used for serious violations should be permitted,”
Of course, the effect of such calls for denying military supplies falls entirely on Israel. Iran and other suppliers of weapons to Hamas are not in the least bit affected by Amnesty's call for an arms embargo - and Amnesty knows that. The result, if Amnesty's demands were to be implemented, would be to give terrorists free reign to continue to launch rockets onto Israeli communities. In reality, Israel is the only target of Amnesty's campaign.
Amnesty also published Updates that superficially reinforces its sham evenhandedness. But as always, the outrage is overwhelmingly directed at Israel, not at Hamas. Amnesty cannot find evidence of Hamas using civilians as human shields. It obviously doesn't look very hard, as the Islamist organization's own spokesman effectively called for citizens to act as human shields.
The war-crimes investigations Amnesty calls for start and end with Israel's pre-ordained guilt. They are given the seal of approval from a U.N. Human Rights Commission dominated by serial human rights abusers doctrinally aligned against the Jewish state.
Amnesty International promotes itself to impressionable young Americans at the high school and college level.
People of conscience need to expose and publicize the moral rot at the core of Amnesty International. One place to start would be exposure of Amnesty's major donors and their political and ideological allegiances.
September 02, 2014
Why is New Religious Freedom Group Silent on Abuses in Iran?
Given the violence that Christians and other religious minorities have endured in Muslim-majority countries in the Middle East, North Africa and Asia, the recent creation of a group called In Defense of Christians, should be cause for celebration.
The organization’s website and Facebook page provide numerous links to articles and videos about the mistreatment of Christians at the hands of radical Muslims in the Middle East. In the past few months, its website and Facebook page have been used to draw attention to violence against Christians in Iraq at the hands of ISIS.
The organization, which was founded sometime after 2012 in response a keynote address offered by Archbishop Francis Chullikatt at the Catholic Prayer Breakfast held annually in Washington, D.C., is charged with engaging in “policy advocacy for vulnerable Christians and other religious minorities.”
The organization says that it will focus most of its efforts on influencing the actions of “the U.S. foreign policy community” in an effort to convince them to “promote values abroad that are consistent with the universal rights of religion and conscience.” The statement continues in part:
These values are not exclusively Christian, nor does IDC seek only to protect the human rights of Christians, but all religious groups. These rights are universal, applicable to all human persons. In this sense, “Christian” refers not only those who confess the Christian faith, but also Muslim, Jew, Hindu, Buddhist, Baha’i, and even the freedom to confess no religious belief at all.
IDC believes that America’s foreign policy apparatus, especially the State Department, too often projects indifference on the question of persecuted religious minorities in the region, especially Christians – a policy that only invites further violence. In some instances, the U.S. government even provides significant foreign aid to regimes that persecute Christians, as with Pakistan and now Egypt. With a vigorous and sustained public awareness and advocacy campaign, IDC believes this can change.
All this is well and good, but there are some troubling aspects about the organization that give room for some nagging doubts.
No Mention of Iran
The organization seems reluctant to draw attention to the mistreatment of religious minorities in Iran. The group’s Facebook page offers little, if any, information about the lack of religious freedom in Iran and the country is not even listed in the drop-down menu that provides information about various countries in the Middle East where religious freedom is a problem. See the screenshot below.
The organization’s failure to educate its supporters about the lack of religious freedom in Iran is more than a curiosity, it troublesome. In listing the members of the Baha’i faith elsewhere on its website (see the section quoted above), In Defense of Christians is implicitly acknowledging that Iran, where this religion was founded, has a terrible record on religious freedom. But if you search the website, you will find only three passing references to that country. Moreover, there are no references to Hezbollah, an organization well known for its hostility toward Christians in Lebanon.
There is an indirect reference to Israel on the organization’s website. The group’s page on the Holy Land offers the tropes were used to seeing about the Christian population “dwindling” in the Holy Land despite the fact that the population of Christians has grown from 34,000 in 1949 to more than 130,000 today.
What’s going on here? Why are the organizers of In Defense of Christians so quiet about Iran on the group’s Facebook page and website? Clearly, the organization should be on the group’s radar.
The U.S. State Department’s 2013 report about religious freedom in Iran is a litany of abuses against non-Shia Muslims in that country. Christian Pastors have been imprisoned, practitioners of the Baha’i faith harassed, vilified and jailed, and Sunni Muslims have been convicted, under torture, of heresy, which is a capital offense in Iran. For more information about the mistreatment of the Baha’i in Iran, go here.
And yet for one reason or another In Defense of Christians, an organization that is dedicated to promoting the rights of religious minorities in the Middle East does not even list this country on its website.
Given Iran’s terrible record on human rights, this is no accidental omission.
What is going on here?
(Note: CAMERA has made multiple attempts to contact In Defense of Christians spokesperson Joseph Cella and has not been successful.)
3 "Health Workers" Killed in Israeli Strike Exposed as Terrorists
The Algemeiner on September 2, 2014 published an article exposing three "heath workers" killed in an Israeli missile strike as Islamic Jihad operatives. The Algemeiner piece reproduces the original report from the Palestinian Center for Human Rights [PCHR], one of the better known non-governmental "human rights" groups in Gaza that western news media occasionally cite. PCHR's entry on Aug. 2 stated,
At approximately 15:30 (August 1), Israeli warplanes bombarded an ambulance of the Ministry of Health. As a result, 3 health workers were killed: ‘Aatef Saleh al-Zameli, 42, the driver; Yousef Ejmai’an al-Zameli, 33, a nurse; and Yousef Jaber Darabih, 25, a volunteer paramedic.
The Algemeiner published the martyr photographs of the "driver," "nurse" and "volunteer paramedic" proudly posted on the web site of the terrorist group, Islamic Jihad, in their military garb.
Revealing the Truth About the Gaza Conflict Piece By Piece
The Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center [ITC] continues the arduous task of exposing the facts about who was killed in the Gaza Strip during the most recent escalation of violence between Israel and Hamas.
An analysis so far found that 273 of 600 names evaluated whose status could be identified (out of 667 names looked at) were terrorist operatives. That amounts to 46 percent or nearly half of the fatalities. The Center's investigators continue to investigate the remaining fatalities. There is every reason to expect the completed evaluation will show a similar breakdown of combatants to non-combatants. The ITC analysis published photographs showing terrorist groups claiming credit for a slain operative. Not surprisingly, most of the male fatalities aged 18-30 are identified as members of terrorist groups, providing validation for the age demographic study by CAMERA and others that cast doubt on excessive civilian fatality claims offered by Palestinian and UN organizations and repeated as fact by the media.
If one accounts for civilian fatalities resulting from misfired Hamas rockets, executions of "collaborators" by Hamas and those persuaded or forced to act as human shields, it is already evident that the media improperly served the purposes of Hamas propaganda by promoting the perception of indiscriminate Israeli fire. Rather than repeating the mantra-like statement that the majority of the fatalities resulting from Israeli bombardment were civilians, it is increasingly apparent that civilian fatalities resulting from Israeli fire, separate from circumstances involving human shields, make up a minority of the total number of fatalities.
Former BBC Correspondent Discusses Gaza Coverage, Media Aversion to Self-Reflection
Matti Friedman's devastating critique of news coverage of the Arab-Israeli conflict has inspired another media veteran to weigh in. "There is much that Matti Friedman writes that resonates," writes former BBC correspondent Richard Miron, mentioning specifically "the disproportionate coverage that Israel receives, and the way that the foreign media has broadly speaking accepted a narrative of the conflict which prescribes given roles to Israel (as the guilty party) and the Palestinians (as the victims)."
While the entire piece is well worth a read — find it on Miron's blog here (or at Haaretz here) — one of the more disheartening bits is his conclusion that any improvement in the media's performance would require a degree of self-criticism that has generally been absent among journalists:
the (Western) media must also account for itself and for its own conduct including apparent omissions and failures in the reporting of the conflict. It must question where reporting may have ended and emoting began, if it held Israel to a standard apart from all others, and why it allowed Hamas a free pass in controlling the flow of information. Its coverage had consequences in fuelling the passions (and hatred) of many on the streets of Paris, London and elsewhere towards Israel, and by extension towards Jews.
The media is instinctively averse from turning the lens of scrutiny upon itself, and will – in all likelihood – veer away from any self-examination. It is better at calling out the wrong-doing of others, than admitting to its own faults. But whatever it chooses to do or not, the picture it painted of Gaza 2014 and its consequences are already etched in the consciousness of many around the world, and will serve as a further chapter in this never ending story.
Miron has clearly seen this "aversion" to self-examination as an insider, just as CAMERA has occasionally (though not universally) seen in our decades of holding the media accountable. But the situation is not hopeless. We've also seen that when the internal voice for improvement is missing, the collective voice of a public that insists on accuracy and fairness can and must take its place as a needed impetus for change.
September 01, 2014
LA Times' Inflated Gaza Casualty Stat Exceeds Palestinian Source's
Sept. 2 Update: LA Times Corrects Inflated Figure for Gaza's Civilian Casualties
Some media outlets have accepted as fact overstated Palestinian casualty figures. But, last month, The Los Angeles Times went a step further, inflating Gaza's civilian casualties beyond even what Palestinian sources have claimed.
Laura King reported Aug. 21 ("Hamas denies Israel airstrike in Gaza killed elusive leader"):
According to the Palestinian Center for Human Rights, 2,168 Gazans were killed in the conflict since July 8, of which, says the PCHR, 76.6 percent, or 1,662, were civilians. According to the Palestinian Al Mezan organization, 1,666 out of a total of 2,168 Gaza fatalities were civilian. The U.N.'s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs claims that out of a total of 2104 casualties, 1,462 were civilians.
Thus, according the U.N., in addition to Palestinian sources, King's figure is greatly exaggerated.
Moreover, Israel disputes the Palestinian and U.N. figures, saying almost half of those Gazans killed were combatants.
In a subsequent article, King did accurately report on the disputed casualty figures. She commendably wrote August 25:
About 2,100 Palestinians in Gaza have been killed in this round of fighting, most of them civilians, according to the United Nations, but Israel says hundreds were fighters for Hamas or other militant groups.
Regarding the U.N.'s figures, it is important to keep in mind that, as documented by MEMRI, Hamas officials have encouraged Gazans to conceal the deaths of combatants. (Also, as indicated by The New York Times, human rights groups acknowledge that their figures, which form the basis of UN numbers, also likely include Gazans who were killed by Hamas as collaborators and those who died from natural causes, and other causes unrelated to Israeli strikes, such as domestic violence.)
Time published an online analysis by CAMERA's Steven Stotsky, using figures from the Palestinian Committee for Human Rights, found very low percentages of adult female casualties and high numbers of fatalities among males of combat age, 17 - 39 ("How Hamas Wields Gaza's Casualties as Propaganda, "July 29) after the first two weeks of fighting. Interestingly, there is a spike in casualties starting at the age of 17, peaking in the early to mid 20, and then rapidly diminishing.
It is also worth recalling that during the winter 2008-09 conflict between Israel and Gaza, many in the media repeated Hamas' claims as fact that "most" of those killed were civilians. Months later, when the world stopped paying attention, Hamas acknowledged that, in fact, it had lost many hundreds of its fighters, confirming the figures Israel had been stating all along.
CAMERA has contacted LA Times editors to request a correction of the inflated Aug. 21 figure, and to point out that subsequent accurate reporting does not obviate the need for the correction of the earlier error, which continues to live on uncorrected in cyberspace.