December 31, 2014
Why the Palestinians' International Efforts Do Not Bode Well For Peace
The Palestinian draft resolution was voted down at the UN Security Council, but PA President Mahmoud Abbas continues to plough forward with efforts to bypass Israeli input. Dore Gold explains why Abbas' UN bid was unacceptable to Israel, while the Algemeiner discusses the potential impact of President Abbas' proposed bid for membership in the International Criminal Court (ICC).
....the draft resolution that was rejected exposes the strategy adopted by Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian Authority president. He does not want to negotiate with Israel. Instead, he seeks to use international institutions in order to impose a solution on Israel. That is a course of action that no Israeli government can accept and the international community should not give it any support if it wants to see the Israeli-Palestinian conflict resolved.
Abbas' proposed next step is equally disturbing. The Algemeiner discusses its potentially negative impact -- both for Israel and for Abbas himself.
Will Gabriel Nadaf Speak at Christ at the Checkpoint in 2016?
Every even-numbered year, the folks at Bethlehem Bible College, (a school known for broadcasting anti-Israel propaganda), organizes a Christ at the Checkpoint Conference. At CATC conferences, the elites of Bethlehem’s Christian community tell the world how badly the Palestinians are suffering and how it is all Israel’s fault. They also tell the world just how wonderful life is under the Palestinian Authority.
Some of the people who speak at the conference lie to their guests from North America and Europe about how the security barrier completely surrounds the City of Bethlehem, when in fact it doesn’t. Three people did this at the 2014 event.
Apparently, Westerners who come to the event, which is held at the Jacir Palace Hotel in Bethlehem, enjoy the show, because the folks who put it on are oh so authentic, even if you can’t trust a word that comes out of their mouths.
Attendees are not bothered by the involvement of folks like Rev. Dr. Stephen Sizer, an Anglican Priest known for his recent pilgrimage to Iran, where leaders call for Israel’s destruction and portray Zionism as the enemy of all mankind.
For folks who are into that sort of thing, CATC conferences are the Siegfried Follies of Israel bashing.
In 2014, the spectacle was complicated somewhat by the murder of Christians in Syria and Iraq. It’s hard to portray Israel as the source of suffering in the Middle East while ISIS in Iraq is decapitating Christians and Yazidis because of their faith.
Still, CATC organizers were game, rewriting the script somewhat by acknowledging that these things take place, but adding that anti-Christian hostility in the Middle East is rooted in American support for Israel.
It’s more than a year off, but CATC organizers are already preparing the 2016 event. Here’s a suggestion for them. Invite Father Gabriel Nadaf, the spiritual father of the Aramean Christian community in Israel to speak at the event. Let him tell his story.
Nadaf, who, as part of the Israeli Christians Recruitment Forum, is encouraging Christians in Israel to join the IDF. Instead of attacking Israel, he is lauding it, declaring it to be the one place in the Middle East where Christians can practice their faith in safety. In a recent op-ed, Father Nadaf declared the following:
Christians in Arab countries live on the margins, without rights, with their property stolen, their honor trampled, their children sacrificed and the slaughter ongoing.
Within this chaos, only one island of sanity can be found where the Christians are not persecuted, where they enjoy freedom of religion and ritual, freedom of expression, and where they can live in peace without fear of genocide. That island is the State of Israel.
The story Nadaf tells is exactly the opposite of what the folks at CATC want us to hear. Nadaf tell us, in not so many words, that Israel is the model, not the problem in the Middle East. He argues that Israel’s democracy is buttressed, not undermined by its status as a Jewish state. For telling this story, Nadaf and his family has been threatened, defamed and attacked by Israeli Arabs, who cannot bear to hear what he has to say.
Do the people who organize CATC have the nerve to invite Nadaf to speak?
Voice of America Wrong on American Veto
Jan. 4, 2015 Update: Voice of America Corrects: U.S. Didn't Veto Palestinian Statehood Bid
Voice of American incorrectly reports in the lead of its article on the failed Palestinian statehood bid in the United Nations:
The United States has vetoed a United Nations Security Council draft resolution on Palestinian statehood that demanded Israel withdraw from the occupied territories.
Likewise, the VOA headline incorrectly states that the U.S. vetoed the Palestinian resolution:
In fact, given that the resolution fell one short vote of the nine votes required to pass, the United States, which had voted against the draft, did not have to exercise its veto right. The American vote against a resolution is not a veto so long as the draft falls short of the nine countries in favor. As reported correctly by The New York Times:
So Mr. Kerry worked to line up enough abstentions from American allies like South Korea and Rwanda so that the United States would not have to wield its veto. . . .
By avoiding a veto, the United States also avoided a fresh irritant in its relations with Arab nations, some of which have joined the United States in the campaign in Iraq and Syria against militants from the Islamic State.
In addition, CNN accurately reports:
The United States voted against the resolution on the table and had been expected to exercise its permanent council member authority and veto the measure, had it passed.
December 30, 2014
Shavit's Lydda "Massacre" Reaches Israel
Ari Shavit has won enormous adulation among American Jews for his book, My Promised Land: The Triumph and Tragedy of Israel, in which he movingly recounts the early years of struggle to establish Israel but which also alleges Jewish fighters committed a massacre in the town of Lydda during the 1948 War of Independence.
CAMERA was hardly alone in challenging Shavit's account. Scholar and President of Jerusalem's Shalem College Martin Kramer deconstructed the implausible Lydda charges in a July 2014 Mosaic magazine article and now has presented much of this information to an audience of Israeli veterans of the 1948 war, including some who fought at Lydda.
Because Shavit's book was published in English, most Israelis have been unaware of its massacre allegations. When Professor Kramer spoke to the veterans as part of a December 4 panel sponsored by the Galili Center for Defense Studies, the response to claims of a "revenge" atrocity against Lydda's Arabs was shock and anger. Kramer recounts:
The reactions tumbled forth in immediate response to Shavit's text. I heard gasps of disbelief and angry asides.
He reports the anguish of some of the audience:
At this point, none of them is up to challenging a well-connected media celebrity of Shavit's caliber, and the persons specifically accused by him are gone. An elderly gentleman came up after my presentation and asked if I intended to publish my article in Hebrew. We ourselves can't set the record straight anymore, he pleaded.
So, while Ari Shavit is reaping accolades across America for a book with shoddy, unsubstantiated charges of a Jewish atrocity, those who actually fought in the War of Independence hope their countrymen will come to understand one of their most celebrated journalists has gone abroad and defamed them all.
December 28, 2014
Degeneration of a New York Times Headline, Part II
The original New York Times headline last week about Palestinian violence on the Gaza Strip border with Israel was straightforward, precise and accurate: "Palestinian sniper attack on Israeli patrol at Gaza border sets off clash."
Which is why we immediately took a screen shot, fully expecting it to change in short order. Indeed, by the next day, the updated headline carefully exonerated Palestinians from responsibility for the sniper attack and for setting off the clash.
Who was that sniper? Palestinian or Israeli? Casual readers who glance just at headlines would have no idea. An editor made the deliberate choice to no longer have the sniper identified as Palestinian.
This is the second time in recent weeks in which we have seen a New York Times headline become less informative with the passage of time.
Last month, after a Palestinian fatally stabbed an Israeli soldier at a Tel Aviv train station, The Times initially ran a headline which clearly identified the perpetrator as Palestinian: "Palestinian Stabs Israeli Soldier at Tel Aviv Train Station."
By the end of the day, after a second lethal Palestinian stabbing attack, the headline devolved into:
As we noted at the time:
The first, clearer headline is active ("Palestinian stabs"), while the passive language in the newest headline ("Palestinians are suspected") downplays Palestinian culpability. The first headline states as fact that a Palestinian was responsible for the stabbing. According to the latest version , Palestinians are only "suspected."
In the current headline, Israelis "die," they are not "killed," language which again downplays Palestinian responsibility for violence.
At The New York Times, editors consider it their job to eliminate clear, direct headlines about Palestinian violence.
December 24, 2014
National Geographic Misidentifies Judaism's Holiest Site
The Independent is the latest media outlet to correct the false claim the Western Wall is Judaism's holiest site. It follows earlier corrections at The Washington Post, Haaretz, and the BBC, among others.
Judaism's holiest site is the Temple Mount, the site of the first and second Jewish temples which housed the Holy of Holies (the inner sanctuary where the Ark of the Covenant was located). The Western Wall, a retaining wall of the Temple Mount compound, obtained its holy status due to its proximity to the Holy of Holies. The National Geographic Society, with its focus on archeology and history, and which prides itself on being "one of the largest nonprofit scientific and educational institutions in the world," should know this.
Yet it too recently misidentified the Western Wall as Judaism's holiest site.
Stay tuned for news of a correction.
In addition, as one reader points out, a paragraph in the accompanying article ("Blessed. Cursed. Claimed," by Paul Salopek) contains the following insidious nugget:
Weeks later, yet another round of Palestinian-Israeli fighting would flare. Rockets would scratch the skies. Israel would invade nearby Gaza.
Employing a common double standard, Salopek uses passive language to describe Palestinian belligerence (rockets "scratch") versus active language for retaliatory Israeli strikes (Israel "invades"). And he erases Hamas out of the equation entirely.
December 23, 2014
Fracking Strikes an Unexpected Blow at Iran
Bret Stephens pens an incisive editorial in the Wall Street Journal discussing the positive effects redounding from fracking technology (hydraulic fracturing of shale). Fracking has been the main driver for sharply reduced oil prices. This has had a salutory effect on the American economy; at the same time, the reduction in oil prices has had a negative impact on Iran and other regimes that heavily rely on oil revenues.
A reduced flow of money means the Iranians will face constraints in their activities underwriting terrorism, fighting proxy wars and building a nuclear weapons arsenal. The relaxation of sanctions and robust oil prices had provided a considerable boost to Iran in recent years. Its economy had turned the corner and was showing signs of improvement and the regime's proxies were on the march in Yemen and elsewhere.
The credit for fracking according to Stephens belongs to that characteristically American figure, the stubbornly individualistic entrepreneur. He writes of fracking,
It didn’t happen because America’s big energy companies are uniquely skilled or smart or deep-pocketed: Take a look at ExxonMobil ’s 2004 Annual Report and you’ll barely find a mention of “fracturing” or “horizontal” drilling.
Nor, finally, did it happen because enlightened mandarins in the federal bureaucracy and national labs were peering around the corners of the future. For the most part, they were obsessing about the possibilities of cellulosic ethanol and other technological nonstarters.
Instead, fracking happened in the U.S. because Americans, almost uniquely in the world, have property rights to the minerals under their yards. And because the federal government wasn’t really paying attention. And because federalism allows states to do their own thing.
Stephens continues, "Fracking has now upended energy markets, pummeled petrodictators, confounded OPEC..."
December 19, 2014
An Update on the Bloodied Shoe Tweets
Yesterday, we wrote about some misinformation that was spread across Twitter by prominent journalists. Now that there have been corrections, that post could use an update. So here it is.
First, a summary of what we shared yesterday:
• BBC Watch pointed out that a journalist on Twitter inaccurately described a photo of a little girl's bloodied shoe as having been taken Gaza during this summer's fighting between Hamas and Israel. Ironically, the journalist's misinformation came in the form of a "fact-check" type post, directed at those who had wrongly described the photo being from the recent attack in Pewshawar, Pakistan. BBC Watch also noted that a BBC journalist retweeted the photo — even though the BBC itself acknowledged the shoe belonged not to a Palestinian girl in Gaza, but rather to an Israeli girl in Ashkelon.
• We pointed out here yesterday that at least two additional journalists had shared the misinformation. After we informed the journalists of their error, some were evasive, while others didn't immediately reply, perhaps because they had yet to see our call for a correction.
Now that enough time has passed for the dust to have settled, let's look at how the journalists reacted after being informed that they had inadvertently spread misinformation to untold thousand of people. First, the best news:
Rana Jawad, the BBC journalist mentioned by BBC Watch, commendably fixed her mistake. She updated her 15,700 Twitter followers with a clear post that included the word "correction" and a link to BBC's article describing the bloodied shoe as belonging to an Israeli in Ashkelon:
Correction to a RT from earlier this week: Here's the real story behind the picture. http://t.co/wvF0w0CLOe— Rana Jawad (@Rana_J01) December 19, 2014
France24's Julien Pain also cleared the record after CAMERA informed him that he had shared the misinformation. To his credit, Pain's tweet to his 6,000 followers made clear the shoe was was not from Gaza, but from Ashkelon.
We have another example of a clear correction by Syrian commentator Aboud Dandachi. In a Twitter thread today, he claimed the photo was from Iraq.
Upon being informed of the facts, he quickly corrected:
Two other journalists were not quite as effective in clearing the record.
The original source of the inaccurate information was Dutch reporter Harald Doornbos, who tweeted the following to his 40,500 followers:
After it became clear in the Twitter conversation that followed the above tweet that the photo was not actually from Gaza but Ashkelon, Doornbos faded away.
It's important to note some Twitter intricacies here. The thread that followed Doornbos's initial tweet does not make itself visible to all of the Dutch journalist's followers. For this reason, it's virtually certain that only a small small subsection of the 40,500 people exposed to the initial, inaccurate tweet also saw the meandering conversation that followed. Even Doornbos's own subsequent contributions to the conversation were not broadcast to all of his followers, since those comments all opened with an at-sign (@). So, for example, the following tweet would only automatically appear on the timeline of Twitter users who follow both Doornbos and Majid Pandit:
This morning, Doornbos posted on his blog a detailed explanation describing how he came to wrongly believe that the photo was from Gaza. The transparency is welcome. But unfortunately and inexplicably, Doornbos as of this writing has not shared that blog post, or any other corrective information, with all of his Twitter followers. His initial tweet went out to over 40 thousand Twitter users. And it was retweeted 238 times, meaning an additional thousands of Twitter users saw the misinformation. But he only transmitted his correction to perhaps several hundred Twitter users.
The strangest "correction," though, was at the hands of Dutch radio correspondent Rena Netjes. After she retweeted Doronbos's inaccurate information to her nine thousand Twitter followers, CAMERA informed her that the tweet was inaccurate and should be corrected.
Netjes replied with a denial, a call for CAMERA to "remove [our] false accusation," and, bizarrely, a link to the very BBC article that showed her tweet was inaccurate:
She later appeared to insist that her tweet claiming she saw no need to correct was actually a correction:
Update: At some point during the writing of this blog post, or immediately after it was published, Doornbos deleted his inaccurate tweet.
December 18, 2014
Will Journalists Sharing Misinformation on Twitter Correct?
We get it. It's really, really easy to share someone else's Twitter posts — just a quick copy and paste, or a click on the retweet button. One imagines it's even easier to share if the post in question refers to Israeli violence and if you're a journalist with "unnecessary buttons" and a "distaste for Israel," as Matti Friedman put it.
Admitting an error, on the other hand, is not always the easiest thing to do. But journalists have responsibilities, not least among them a responsibility to correct after inadvertently misinforming their audience.
When Dutch journalist Harald Doornbos, in a failed attempt at fact-checking, stated that a heart-wrenching photo of a small, bloody shoe circulating on Twitter was from Gaza and not, as many had claimed, from a recent attack in Pakistan, he simply replaced one error with another. Despite the implication that what was pictured was evidence of a Palestinian casualty at the hands of Israel, the photo was actually of an Israeli girl's shoe, taken after she was injured in a Palestinian rocket attack on the Israeli city Ashkelon.
And as CAMERA-affiliate BBC Watch pointed out, his inaccurate tweet was shared by BBC journalist Rana Jawad, retweeted to her nearly 16,000 followers.
She wasn't the only reporter to misinform readers with Doornbos's tweet. So did France 24's Julien Pain.
And so did Rena Netjes of the Dutch radio station BNR.
Mistakes happen. And mistakes left all four journalists (and perhaps others) in a position to demonstrate their adherence to journalistic norms calling for in accuracy and clear, forthright corrections when needed. So what did they do?
As of this writing, Doornbos, the originator of the misinformation, faded away as commenters under his tweet pointed out the actual source of the photo. He never informed to his 40,000 Twitter followers that the information he had shared was inaccurate, nor even deleted his tweet.
Jawad and Pain, both of whom were notified of the error they shared, have not yet updated their readers. (Though neither appears to have posted on Twitter since being notified, so the possibility remains that they haven't yet seen the corrective information.
After CAMERA informed her of the misinformation, Netjes strangely replied that it was CAMERA that got it wrong:
A CAMERA researcher asked for clarification, and documented that she did indeed share the inaccurate information:
Netjes replied that she did share a link to the BBC story explaining the origins of the photo.
But it appears from an examination of her Twitter timeline that the only place she linked to the BBC story was in her tweet claiming CAMERA got it wrong — which would mean we got it right, and more importantly, would mean that she has never informed all her readers of the false information she had passed on to them earlier.
So far, not so good. But fortunately it's never too late to clear the record. Will the four journalists do the right thing and broadcast a clear correction to all of their readers?
December 17, 2014
Hamas Still Hamas, Says Will Never Recognize or Relinquish "Even an Inch" of Israel
Remember when it was all the rage for some journalists to pretend Hamas recognizes Israel and wants a two-state solution, never mind what the Islamist group's own leaders repeatedly and consistently said to the contrary?
There was The New York Times, which told us that a Hamas leader, in the words of its headline, "Calls for Two-State Solution." (No, he didn't.)
And don't forget The Guardian, chroniclers of the "news" that Hamas "agrees to Israeli state." (Wrong again.)
Alas, it seems Hamas leaders were never close readers of those newspapers. The organization stubbornly has continued to be clear about its ideology, as it did again just a few days ago. Over to you, MEMRI:
Speaking at a December 12 rally in Khan Younes, Hamas political bureau member Mahmoud Al-Zahhar said: "Anyone who thinks that we will recognize the existence of the [Zionist] entity or the 1967 borders is deluded... Palestine stretches from the Egyptian border in the south to Lebanon in the north, and from Jordan in the east to the Mediterranean sea in the west, and we will never recognize anything less than this." He added: "If part of our land is liberated, we will establish our state in that part without relinquishing even an inch of the rest. Just as we liberated Gaza and established a genuine administration in it, [with] an army and security apparatuses that defend us, rather than the Israeli enemy [unlike those of the PA], we will do the same in the West Bank, as a prelude to attaining all of Palestine."
Oslo Promises That Never Were
Vincent Fean, Britiani's consul-general in Jerusalem from 2010 to 2014, writes in The New York Times this week ("Signs of recognition"): "At Oslo, the Palestinians were promised statehood."
In fact, this is sheer imagination on the part of the former British diplomat. In no way did the Oslo Accords promise Palestinian statehood. The Sept. 13, 1993 "Declaration of Principles on Interim Self-Government Arrangements" does not mention the word "statehood." Article I states:
The aim of the Israel-Palestinian negotiations within the current Middle East peace process is, among other things, to establish a Palestinian interim Self-Government Authority, the elected Council (the "Council"), for the Palestinian people in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, for a transitional period not exceeding five years, leading to a permanent settlement based on Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338.
Likewise, the Sept. 28, 1995 "Israeli-Palestinian Interim Agreement on the West Bank and the Gaza Strip" also does not mention -- never mind "promise" -- Palestinian statehood.
CAMERA has requested a correction. Stay tuned for an update.
December 16, 2014
AP Said Settlement Population Growth "Surged" (Oh, and "Slowed")
Former Associated Press reporter Matti Friedman points out a bizarre contradiction by the AP yesterday:
If I tried to point out every instance of press dishonesty I'd literally be doing nothing else. But I think this a good example. This story from the AP informs us in the first paragraph that the number of settlers has "surged" under Netanyahu. The problem is that reporters who actually cover the settlements (like Tovah Lazaroff of the Jerusalem Post) know the opposite is true -- though Netanyahu is certainly pro-settlement, population growth in the settlements has actually decreased since he came to power. And indeed, in the sixth paragraph, the AP reporters remember that actually growth among settlers has "slowed slightly" under Netanyahu. So which is it, guys? "Surged" or "slowed"? And does anyone actually take this stuff seriously anymore?
Indeed, the story as it appeared for some time yesterday opened with the announcement that "The population of Jewish settlers in the occupied West Bank has surged during Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s years in office." That article's original headline relayed the storyline so many journalists are drawn to: "Netanyahu years see surge in West Bank settlements."
But indeed, AP explained deeper in the story that settlement growth during those years slowed from 31 to 23 percent.
(And yes, AP describes this as a "slight" drop in population growth. By contrast, the wire service once stated Mexican population growth slowed "dramatically" after it fell from 3.5 to 2.4 percent, though in percentage terms that drop is nearly the same as the decline in settlement population growth.)
The language was eventually changed, and the final version of the story asserts that "The population of Jewish settlers in the occupied West Bank has continued to surge" during Netanyahu's tenure.
December 15, 2014
NBC's Richard Engel Reveals His Obsession With Israel
An extraordinary exchange between Chuck Todd, host of Meet the Press and Richard Engel, chief foreign correspondent for NBC, occurred on Sunday, Dec. 14, 2014. It went as follows:
CHUCK TODD [Host]: December visit here. What's creating more terrorists, Bush interrogation program or Obama's drone program?
RICHARD ENGEL [NBC correspondent]: Creating more terrorists?
CHUCK TODD: Yeah.
RICHARD ENGEL: It's very hard to know. People are radicalized--
CHUCK TODD: But there's worry that--
RICHARD ENGEL: --for a variety of reasons.
CHUCK TODD: --both do that.
RICHARD ENGEL: Yeah, that both can radicalize people. There's a whole history of why people are being radicalized. It goes back to U.S. support for Israel, what's considered to be a war against Islam. But the drone war is certainly part of it. The torture program is certainly part of it. I don't know if you could say one is more influential and creating more of a problem than the other.
CAMERA and other media monitors have described the obsession some in the media have with Israel. Here is an example where the host specifically asks Engel to compare the effect of the drone war and the "Bush interrogation" on generating terrorists. Israel is not part of the discussion. Yet Engel answers U.S. support for Israel. Injecting blame for Israel into the conversation suggests an obsession.
And what's Engel's evidence that American support for Israel generates terrorists? None.
In fact, radicalization in the Muslim world goes back further than Israel. Modern Islamic terrorism has many roots. It is telling that Engel does not cite American military involvement in the Gulf states, including Saudi Arabia, a complaint more central to Al Qaeda and its offshoots and more relevant to the question Todd asked him.
This is not the first time Engel has revealed his bias against Israel. In the war between Israel and Hamas during the summer of 2014, he had this to say about ceasefire negotiations:
Israel says it wants to trade quiet for quiet. But Israel isn't stopping its Gaza mission entirely. The army said it will continue to destroy Hamas tunnels along Gaza's perimeter. It gave no time limit for how long that might take.
What is Hamas getting in return? So far, nothing. No deal, no immediate lifting of the closure of the Gaza Strip. Just a reprieve from Israel's assault that has flattened entire Gaza neighborhoods and killed more than a thousand Palestinians, many of them civilians, many of them children. The war could easily escalate again. Hamas wants an agreement to end the fighting, not for Israel to unilaterally scale back the assault on its own terms.
Engel seems to be prodding Hamas to not agree to a ceasefire.
NBC's coverage of Israel has been problematic. Richard Engel's obsession with Israel serves as a reminder of the bias that permeates some elements of the media.
December 10, 2014
Farah Stockman Demonstrates the Double Standard
If someone asks for a two-word description of what's wrong with so much media coverage of the Arab-Israeli conflict, there probably is no better answer than "double standard."
The double standard can often be subtle — for example, when many months pass between the evincing of one standard and the second, shifted standard. Who would have noticed this example?: The New York Times considered it to be front-page news when Israeli veterans met in 2009 and shared with each other rumors they had heard of atrocities during wartime. Front-page news, and the topic of repeated articles. But when twice in 2008 US soldiers actually confessed, in court and in signed documents, to the same type of atrocities, the news was buried deep inside the newspaper. And when American veterans informally met in 2008 to do just what the Israeli soldiers did, exchange atrocity stories, The Times didn't even bother to cover the meeting. Clearly a double standard, but not an easy one to notice.
Other times, though, the double standard is glaring. Such is the case with Boston Globe columnist Farah Stockman's recent two-part series about Jerusalem.
In article number one, Stockman derisively dismissed the idea that Palestinian incitement could be linked to Palestinian acts of violence. "Netanyahu blames the attacks on 'incitement' by Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas, a claim so disingenuous it was contradicted by his own intelligence chief," she stated. Instead, the violence against Israelis is framed as being Israel's fault. (Stockman explained away the murder of four Jews praying in a synagogue as being "what separation sows.")
But in article number two, published less than two weeks later, it's a whole different story. In fact, a main theme of the piece is the idea that the "toxic atmosphere" created by the words of Jewish radicals is a cause of an attack by Jews on a Jewish-Arab school.
Why the different standard? Why is it that Stockman believes an obscenely toxic atmosphere has no effect on Palestinian society, while an atmosphere in which some hateful currents exist, but are roundly condemned, drives Israelis to arson? Are Palestinians immune to the racist rhetoric in schools, calls for violence on television, and celebration of terror by government leaders, all of which are unfortunately exist Palestinian society, but Israelis are propelled to act violently by extreme language that is much more rare?
The Arab-Israeli conflict cannot be understood, and cannot be effectively explained, when a shift in focus from one side to the other coincides with a shift in the lens, the cropping, the standards, the expectations, and the physics of the situation. It's simply unreasonable to laugh off concerns about Palestinian hate speech just before claiming that an Israeli arson is a "symptom" of Israeli rhetoric. It is the kind of double standard that impairs so much of the conversation about the conflict.
Where's the Coverage? Press Ignores Pro-Israel Voice
CAMERA’s Snapshots blog has highlighted the recent articles by former Associated Press reporter and editor Matti Friedman detailing the systemic bias against Israel by the mainstream media from an insider’s point of view. In August, we covered his piece in Tablet, “An Insider's Guide to the Most Important Story on Earth,” and recently we reported on his follow-up in The Atlantic, “What the Media Gets Wrong About Israel.”
In the most recent story, Friedman describes a directive within the Jerusalem bureau not to quote Professor Gerald Steinberg, President of NGO Monitor, an organization that exposes the manner in which non-governmental organizations (NGOs), often funded by European governments and others with an anti-Israel agenda, assail the legitimacy of Israel. A CAMERA article notes:
By placing a cone of silence around Gerald Steinberg and NGO Monitor, the AP is giving NGOs such as [Human Rights Watch] and Amnesty International – groups that have a huge influence on how people interpret the Arab-Israeli conflict – a pass. By censoring NGO Monitor, the Associated Press is protecting one side of the debate over human rights and war crimes in the Arab-Israeli conflict.
In response to Friedman's charge, the Associated Press has issued a statement over the signature of Paul Colford, the organization's director of media relations. In reference to the allegation regarding NGO Monitor, Colford states “There was no ‘ban' on using Prof. Gerald Steinberg. He and his NGO Monitor group are cited in at least a half-dozen stories since the 2009 war.”
CAMERA exposes the weakness of this denial. If it were true, there would be articles that quote Professor Steinberg and cite NGO Monitor. But there are not. Not in most of the mainstream media.
The only recent stories citing Professor Steinberg are about the controversy itself and run in the Jewish, Israeli or niche press. The Hill just posted an article citing CAMERA and supporting Friedman’s assertion:
In a world where journalists take risks to interview brutal dictators, terrorists, mass murders, and any variety of psychopaths for a sensational story, the off-limits sign on a distinguished professor appears to make no sense.
Steinberg upset the ideologically critical relationship between the AP and its sources in non-governmental organizations (NGOs), groups that Steinberg revealed are more concerned with bashing Israel than advancing human rights.
Just the other day, in her New York Times front page article “Bill on Status as Jewish State Fuels an Israeli Identity Crisis,” Jodi Rudoren assailed Israel’s democracy (again), citing several NGOs and political scientists, but not including any reference to NGO Monitor nor quoting Professor Steinberg. The New York Times is not the AP. Presumably the entire media corps that covers Israel was not given the directive alleged by Friedman and supported by a colleague, Mark Lavie.
Or is a directive unnecessary? Is there an unspoken rule throughout the mainstream media? If you search Google News for articles about “Israel” you will find literally millions of stories and the only ones that include Professor Steinberg’s name are in blogs, Jewish or Israeli media. Can this be a coincidence?
Gerald Steinberg is Professor of Political Studies at Bar Ilan University. His fields of expertise include international relations, Middle East diplomacy and security, Israeli politics and arms control. Given the ongoing diplomatic and security upheavals in the Middle East, the nuclear arms control talks with Iran and Israel’s upcoming elections, one would think Professor Steinberg could have some important insights. Yet… where’s the coverage?
December 04, 2014
Where's the Coverage? Vast Majority of Jewish-Israeli Teens Face Antisemitism Online
A poll released by the Anti-Defamation League found that anti-Semitism and “anti-Israel expression” faced by Jewish-Israeli teenagers was on the rise from last year.
According to The Times of Israel, the survey found:
…that 51 percent of the participants reported encountering “attacks” on the Internet because of their nationality, compared to 36% last year. Eighty-three percent of the teens reported seeing anti-Semitism online in some form through “hate symbols, websites, and messages found on social media and in videos and music,” compared to 69% last year.
The survey also found that the teens encountered more anti-Semitism on social media websites such as Facebook and Twitter. Eighty-four percent reported seeing anti-Semitism in Facebook posts or tweets, compared to 70% last year.
Eighty-four percent of Israeli-Jewish teens reported encountering antisemitism on Facebook and Twitter! That is a stunning number. If 84 percent of any other ethnic group encountered racism on the internet, it would be on the front page of the New York Times and the lead story on every evening newscast. But – maybe because it’s faced by Jews and Israelis – the mainstream media are silent. Only the Israeli and Jewish press reported this story.
With this shocking level of hatred and bigotry, one has to ask, where’s the outrage? Where’s the indignation? Where’s the coverage?
December 03, 2014
Looming Clash Between Iran and Egypt?
As much of the world media's attention is focused on the conflict in Syria and Iraq or between Israel and the Palestinians, Iran continues to pursue its aggressive strategy of expanding its reach in the region and encircling Israel.
Over the last year, a Yemeni Shi'ite militia, known as the Houthis, have siezed the initiative and taken control of portions of Yemen, including its capital city, Sanaa. The Houthis are widely considered to be an Iranian proxy, reports and photographic images of the militia show them marching with placards suggesting alignment with Iran and Hezbollah. They now are pushing to establish control of the strait of Bab al-Mandeb on the Red Sea. Commanding this strait would give Iran control over the chokepoint between the Suez Canal and the Indian Ocean.
Jacques Neriah, a retired Israeli colonel, wrote a piece in October describing who the Houthis are and the strategic implications of their takeover of Yemen. Neriah writes,
suspicions about Iranian influence on the Houthis have been borne out by recent developments. On January 23, 2013, the Yemeni Coast Guard intercepted the Jihan 1, a weapons ship carrying 40 tons of military supplies from Iran and bound for the Houthi rebels. At about the same time, Yemeni diplomatic sources accused Iran’s Revolutionary Guards of training Houthi rebels on Red Sea islands belonging to Eritrea.
On November 12, 2014, I24, an Israeli news site, featured an article by Emmanuel Navon describing the Iranian strategy:
Ali Akbar Velayati, a former Iranian foreign minister who now advises the Supreme Leader Ali Khameni, declared that his plan is for the Houtis to become to Yemen what Hezbollah is to Lebanon... Ali Riza Zakani, an Iranian member of parliament who is also close to Khamenei, added ... there are now four Arab capitals in Iran’s hands: Baghdad, Damascus, Beirut, and Sana’a... the Iranian ring around Saudi Arabia is taking shape... Iranian journalist Mohammed Sadeq Al-Husseini declared on the pro-Iranian Lebanese television station Mayadeen that Saudi Arabia is a tribe on the verge of extinction and that once Iran controls the Bab-el Mandeb strait, it will block Israel’s access to the Indian Ocean. Iran’s control of Bab-el Mandeb will also make it harder for Israel to intercept ships carrying weapons, which Iran dispatches to Gaza.
An article in Al-Monitor, an Arab news analysis web site, quotes Egyptian officials raising the possibility of Egyptian intervention into Yemen.
Egypt is fighting an Islamist insurgency movement in the Sinai peninsula. It does not want an Iranian proxy controlling access to the Red Sea and possessing ports to hold and facilitate transport of weapons to the insurgency.
In the 1960s, Egypt sent in tens of thousands of troops into Yemen's civil war. As many as 26,000 Egyptian soldiers lost their lives in a fierce war that saw the use of poison gas. The total human toll of that conflict is not precisely known but probably exceeded 100,000.
Israel for its part already has its hands full interdicting the flow of Iranian weapons from East Africa and through the Sinai to the Gaza Strip. Red Sea access controlled by Iranian proxies would hugely complicate these efforts.
The Houthi conquest of Yemen may represent the opening act in a more expansive war that could involve a number of important regional actors traditionally aligned with the United States.
December 02, 2014
Are Declining Oil Prices Iran's Achilles Heel?
Things have been going well for Iran recently. Its proxy forces have made gains throughout the Middle East region, from Yemen to Iraq. The Islamic Republic has managed to stave off any negotiated agreement with the P5+1 group (U.S., Russia, China, the United Kingdom, France and Germany) that would impose constraints on its efforts to build nuclear weapons. In the meantime, the relaxation in sanctions the P5+1 group offered as an incentive to the Iranian regime to enter into negotiations has allowed its economy to rebound.
But just when everything seemed to be going as planned for the mullahs, world oil demand dropped. This in turn required major oil producers, like Iran, to come to an agreement on whether to decrease production and retain the price of oil, or to maintain production and watch the price of oil decline.
Daniel Yergin, who has written extensively on the worldwide impact of oil, wrote in the Wall Street Journal
The OPEC members in big trouble are the “have-nots”—those with small financial reserves and high government budgets.
These "have-nots" include Venezuela, Russia and Iran.
The official reason given for OPEC's decision to maintain oil production and absorb the price decline is that it wants to maintain market share in the face of aggressive non-OPEC producers. But, Saudi Arabia, the dominant member of OPEC, is deeply concerned with the Iranian nuclear program. Its influence was clearly felt. Like its smaller oil-rich Arab Gulf state neighbors, Saudi Arabia can absorb the revenue decline from lower prices.
Iran will have a more difficult time. Especially if it insists on devoting billions to its nuclear project. Its government budget is heavily dependent on the revenue generated from high oil prices. Oil prices have declined by nearly 40 percent over the last six months.
The unexpected decline in worldwide oil demand may have put an end to Iran's winning streak. As Robert Burns wrote in 1786, "The best laid schemes o' mice an' men often go awry."
AFP Ignores Hezbollah's Attacks Against Civilians
In a rare look at Hezbollah incitement geared towards children, French wire service Agence France Presse ignores the terror group's attacks against civilians ("In Hezbollah children's magazine, not fairies but fighters"). Today's article about a Hezbollah "Mahdi" Magazine for children, which includes glorification of a suicide bomber and coloring pages of grenades and automatic weapons, states:
The group carries out numerous attacks against Israeli forces during their 22-year occupation of Lebanon, which ended in 2000 with a withdrawal that Hezbollah claimed as a victory.
In 2006, Hezbollah's abduction of two Israeli soldiers prompted a massive military response by the Jewish state, but it failed to deal a death blow to the militant group.
Despite AFP's selective reporting, Hezbollah's attacks have not only been limited to Israeli military targets. Among Hezbollah's many attacks against civilians was the March 17, 1992 bombing of the Israeli embassy in Buenos Aires, in which 29 were killed and more than 200 wounded; the July 18, 1994 bombing of the Buenos Aires Jewish community center, in which 86 were killed and more than 200 were injured; and the firing of countless rockets against communities in northern Israel, including on Nov. 28, 1995, March 30, 1996, Aug. 19, 1997, Dec. 28, 1998, June 24, 1999, and April 9, 2002.
In addition, while AFP mentions Hezbollah's abduction of two Israeli soldiers in 2006, it ignores the fact that at the same time Hezbollah was kidnapping the soldiers, it was also bombarding Israel's northern towns with rocket fire.
Indeed, on the day of the attack, AFP itself reported (July 12, 2006):
The claim [that Hezbollah captured two Israeli soldiers] came after intense cross-border clashes that left at least four Israeli civilians wounded, according to Israeli military sources.
Hezbollah fighters fired dozens of Katyusha rockets and mortar rounds on the disputed Shebaa Farms border area, security sources said.
There was also a barrage of fire on northern Israel at the other end of the frontier close to the Mediterraenan [sic] coast, the sources added.
Additional Hezbollah activities ignored by AFP include attacks on American troops and hijackings of international flights. (See CAMERA's "Timeline of Hezbollah Violence.")
December 01, 2014
NY Times Again Whitewashes Palestinian Violence
Certain traditions die hard. Like camels in the Jordanian police force. And Times' whitewashing of Palestinian violence.
Hewing to a well-worn pattern, The New York Times again whitewashes Palestinian violence and responsibility for conflict. This time, though, there's a novel twist to the old, tired formula: the story doesn't involve Israel. In an interesting article about the traditional use of camels in Jordan's desert police force, Ben Hubbard writes (Nov. 29):
Jordan’s rulers have long seen those descendants of Palestinians, who tend to care less about the monarchy, as a demographic threat to their rule, according to Ora Szekely, an associate professor of political science at Clark University in Massachusetts, who studies Jordan.
This sentiment increased after Black September, the violent battle that began in 1970 between the Jordanian Army and the Palestine Liberation Organization. Thousands were killed, but the monarchy won and expelled the P.L.O. from the kingdom.
“This cemented the decision and convinced the monarchy that the only people they could trust were the East Bankers,” Dr. Szekely said, “and especially the Bedouin.”
What, exactly, convinced the monarchy that it couldn't trust Palestinians? Contrary to Hubbard's muddled reporting and the confusing statement by Dr. Szekely, the violence of Black September was not the cause of the late King Hussein's distrust of Palestinians; it was the result.
In addition, the source of King Hussein's lack of trust was not merely of a demographic nature. In August 1970, Yasser Arafat convened the Palestine National Council in Amman, which openly debated overthrowing King Hussein (Arafat's War, Efraim Karsh). Indeed, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine twice attempted to assassinate the King in early September 1970.
Marie Colvin wrote in The New York Times back in 1988:
Increasingly [after 1964], the P.L.O. created a state-within-a-state in Jordan: the Democratic Front broadcast lessons in Marxism over mosque loudspeakers; Habash's Popular Front plotted to overthrow King Hussein, then staged a spectacular series of hijackings, blowing up three passenger jets in the Jordanian desert.
The Jordanian Army finally moved in September 1970 - now known to Palestinians as Black September - killing thousands of Palestinian fighters and civilians. The P.L.O. withdrew, eventually to Lebanon.
Karsh wrote that in the late 1960s,
The Palestinians kidnapped Arab diplomats and unfriendly Jordanian journalists, attacked government buildings, and publicly insulted the Jordanian flag in front of Jordanian subjects. Incidents of thuggery and crime abounded, including sexual molestation and rape and acts of vandalism against bakeries that left some of the population without bread. Recalling a particularly chilling incident, Zeid Rifai, chief of the Jordanan royal court, graphically described how "the Fedayeen killed a soldier, beheaded him, and played soccer with his head in the area where he used to live."
Moreover, the King's distrust of Palestinians continued to grow following the bloody month of September 1970 as Palestinians carried on with their attacks on Jordanian aircrafts and politicians alike. As reported in The Palestinians: People, History, Politics (edited by Michael Curtis, Joseph Neyere, Chaim Waxman and Allen Pollack), these incidents included:
Nov. 28, 1971: Wasfi Tal, Prime Minister of Jordan, assassinated in Cairo by members of "Black September" (el-Fatah)
Dec. 15, 1971: Attempt to assassinate the Jordanian Ambassador in London by PLO agents.
Feb. 19, 1972: Attempt to hijack a Jordanian plane flying from Cairo to Amman failed. One PLO agent arrested.
Former AP Journalist Matti Friedman On the 'Israel Story'
Following up on his earlier seminal piece in Tablet on obsessive and distorted journalistic coverage of Israel and the Palestinians, former AP reporter and editor Matti Friedman writes yesterday in The Atlantic that the "pipeline of information from this place is not just rusty and leaking, which is the usual state of affairs in the media, but intentionally plugged." Excerpts from The Atlantic essay follow:
During the Gaza war this summer, it became clear that one of the most important aspects of the media-saturated conflict between Jews and Arabs is also the least covered: the press itself. The Western press has become less an observer of this conflict than an actor in it, a role with consequences for the millions of people trying to comprehend current events, including policymakers who depend on journalistic accounts to understand a region where they consistently seek, and fail, to productively intervene. . . .
Confusion over the role of the press explains one of the strangest aspects of coverage here—namely, that while international organizations are among the most powerful actors in the Israel story, they are almost never reported on. Are they bloated, ineffective, or corrupt? Are they helping, or hurting? We don’t know, because these groups are to be quoted, not covered. Journalists cross from places like the BBC to organizations like Oxfam and back. The current spokesman at the UN agency for Palestinian refugees in Gaza, for example, is a former BBC man. A Palestinian woman who participated in protests against Israel and tweeted furiously about Israel a few years ago served at the same time as a spokesperson for a UN office, and was close friends with a few reporters I know. And so forth. . .
[Following the 2008-09 Gaza war] a Jerusalem-based group called NGO Monitor was battling the international organizations condemning Israel after the Gaza conflict, and though the group was very much a pro-Israel outfit and by no means an objective observer, it could have offered some partisan counterpoint in our articles to charges by NGOs that Israel had committed “war crimes.” But the bureau’s explicit orders to reporters were to never quote the group or its director, an American-born professor named Gerald Steinberg. In my time as an AP writer moving through the local conflict, with its myriad lunatics, bigots, and killers, the only person I ever saw subjected to an interview ban was this professor. . . .
When Hamas’s leaders surveyed their assets before this summer’s round of fighting, they knew that among those assets was the international press. The AP staff in Gaza City would witness a rocket launch right beside their office, endangering reporters and other civilians nearby—and the AP wouldn’t report it, not even in AP articles about Israeli claims that Hamas was launching rockets from residential areas. (This happened.) Hamas fighters would burst into the AP’s Gaza bureau and threaten the staff—and the AP wouldn’t report it. (This also happened.) Cameramen waiting outside Shifa Hospital in Gaza City would film the arrival of civilian casualties and then, at a signal from an official, turn off their cameras when wounded and dead fighters came in, helping Hamas maintain the illusion that only civilians were dying. (This too happened; the information comes from multiple sources with firsthand knowledge of these incidents.)