January 30, 2015
Highlights from Matti Friedman's Speech on Mideast Media Coverage
Building on his important critique of Middle East media coverage (in Tablet), his short follow-up (also in Tablet), and his more detailed exploration (in The Atlantic), former Associated Press reporter Matti Friedman this week delivered a masterful speech on how and why journalists get the story of Israel and the Palestinians so wrong.
The full text of the lecture, delivered at a Bicom dinner, can be found here. You should read it. Meanwhile, we’ve put together a few highlights from the speech, and a couple of thoughts, below.
In his presentation, Friedman asks, and then sets out to answer,
How have the doings in a country that constitutes 0.01 per cent of the world’s surface become the focus of angst, loathing, and condemnation more than any other?
More than any other? If you’re not sure whether that’s plausible, consider the findings of our recent 6-month study of The New York Times Opinion pages, which notes that that even the overwhelming bloodshed and destruction in what was once Syria was less important to Times opinion editors than Israel and the Palestinians. “While 75 opinion pieces focused on Israel or the Palestinians,” we pointed out, “56 focused on Syria.”
Friedman offers a corrective to those who would think the hundreds of thousands of dead in Syria might put into context the relatively minor conflict across Syria’s south-west border:
One would expect the growing scale and complexity of the conflict in the Middle East over the past decade to have eclipsed the fixation on Israel in the eyes of the press and other observers. Israel is, after all, a sideshow: The death toll in Syria in less than four years far exceeds the toll in the Israel-Arab conflict in a century. The annual death toll in the West Bank and Jerusalem is a morning in Iraq.
And yet it is precisely in these years that the obsession has grown worse.
“Obsession” seems an apt word to describe a media climate in which even t-shirts becomes an international story. Says Friedman,
In early 2009, to give one fairly routine example of an editorial decision of the kind I mean, I was instructed by my superiors to report a second-hand story taken from an Israeli newspaper about offensive t-shirts supposedly worn by Israeli soldiers. We had no confirmation of our own of the story’s veracity, and one doesn’t see much coverage of things US Marines or British infantrymen have tattooed on their chests or arms. And yet t-shirts worn by Israeli soldiers were newsworthy in the eyes of one of the world’s most powerful news organizations. ... Much of the international press corps covered the t-shirt story.
And another example of AP’s obsession:
At around the same time, several Israeli soldiers were quoted anonymously in a school newsletter speaking of abuses they had supposedly witnessed while fighting in Gaza; we wrote no fewer than three separate stories about this, although the use of sources whose identity isn’t known to reporters is banned for good reason by the AP’s own in-house rules.
The anecdotes, by the way, turned out to be little more than hearsay and rumors.
It’s important to note, and Friedman does, that AP is hardly the only organization involved in this obsession. Nor is it the worst. The New York Times actually published four articles about the rumors from the newsletter. At the time, CAMERA pointed out that the first of its stories appeared on the front page of the newspaper, above the fold. We also noted that The Times decided to place more importance on these Israeli rumors than on similar accounts by American servicemen. A large gathering of US soldiers alleging atrocities a year earlier was ignored by the newspaper. And even American confessions to possible war crimes in Iraq were placed far from the front page. CAMERA explained that
when a US sniper testified before a military court in February 2008 that "he had ordered a subordinate to kill an unarmed Iraqi man who wandered into their hiding position near Iskandariya, then planted an AK-47 rifle near the body to support his false report about the shooting," The New York Times buried the story on page 8.
When the newspaper learned in August 2008 that two American soldiers confessed, in a signed statement to army investigators, to executing handcuffed and blindfolded Iraqi prisoners and dumping their bodies into a canal, the story ran on page 11. And when the soldiers were formally charged with murder a month later, it was noted on page 16.
Such is how, as Friedman put it, "Israel’s flaws were dissected and magnified, while the flaws of its enemies were purposely erased." He elaborated:
I saw how a fictional image of Israel and of its enemies was manufactured, polished, and propagated to devastating effect by inflating certain details, ignoring others, and presenting the result as an accurate picture of reality.
That's the "what." Friedman also addresses the "why," describing the flawed coverage as deliberate result of a inclinations by journalists (AP covered Israeli t-shirts because "we sought to hint or say outright that Israeli soldiers were war criminals") or even of a policy of obfuscation ("Our policy … was not to mention the assertion in the Hamas founding charter that Jews were responsible for engineering both world wars and the Russian and French revolutions, despite the obvious insight this provides into the thinking of one of the most influential actors in the conflict").
This, Friedman explains, stems from a fashionable political stance in the world of journalism and beyond:
The international press in Israel had become less an observer of the conflict than a player in it. It had moved away from careful explanation and toward a kind of political character assassination on behalf of the side it identified as being right. It valued a kind of ideological uniformity from which you were not allowed to stray. So having begun with limited criticism of certain editorial decisions, I now found myself with a broad critique of the press.
… The press was playing a key role in an intellectual phenomenon taking root in the West, but it wasn’t the cause, or not the only cause – it was both blown on a certain course by the prevailing ideological winds, and causing those winds to blow with greater force.
And that political stance, in turn, is an extension of an old, bad habit:
What presents itself as political criticism, as analysis, or as journalism, is coming to sound more and more like a new version of a much older complaint – that Jews are troublemakers, a negative force in world events, and that if these people, as a collective, could somehow be made to vanish, we would all be better off. This is, or should be, a cause for alarm, and not only among people sympathetic to Israel or concerned with Jewish affairs. What is in play right now has less to do with the world of politics than with the worlds of psychology and religion, and less to do with Israel than with those condemning Israel.
And he goes on:
The only group of people subject to a systematic boycott at present in the Western world are Jews, appearing now under the convenient euphemism ‘Israelis.’ The only country that has its own ‘apartheid week’ on campuses is the Jewish country. Protesters have interfered with the unloading of Israeli shipping on the West Coast of the United States, and there are regular calls for a boycott of anything produced in the Jewish state. No similar tactics are currently employed against any other ethnic group or nationality, no matter how egregious the human rights violations attributed to that group’s country of origin.
Anyone who questions why this is so will be greeted with shouts of ‘the occupation!’, as if this were explanation enough. It is not. Many who would like to question these phenomena don’t dare, for fear that they will somehow be expressing support for this occupation, which has been inflated from a geopolitical dilemma of modest scope by global standards into the world’s premier violation of human rights.
The human costs of the Middle Eastern adventures of America and Britain in this century have been far higher, and far harder to explain, than anything Israel has ever done. They have involved occupations, and the violence they unleashed continues as I speak here this evening. No one boycotts American or British professors. Turkey is a democracy, and a NATO member, and yet its occupation of northern Cyprus and long conflict with the stateless Kurds – many of whom see themselves as occupied – are viewed with a yawn; there is no ‘Turkish Apartheid Week.’
(Egypt, too, has garnered some yawns, we recently pointed out.)
And he goes deeper:
Observers of Western history understand that at times of confusion and unhappiness, and of great ideological ferment, negative sentiment tends to coagulate around Jews. Discussions of the great topics of the time often end up as discussions about Jews.
The coagulation is visible when we look at the Dreyfus affair, Friedman explains, and at German concern with Jewish bankers in the lead up to Nazism, and at communist concern with Jewish capitalists, and at capitalist concern with Jewish Bolsheviks. And it's visible now.
The West today is preoccupied with a feeling of guilt about the use of power. That’s why the Jews, in their state, are now held up in the press and elsewhere as the prime example of the abuse of power. That’s why for so many the global villain, as portrayed in newspapers and on TV, is none other than the Jewish soldier, or the Jewish settler. This is not because the Jewish settler or soldier is responsible for more harm than anyone else on earth – no sane person would make that claim. It is rather because these are the heirs to the Jewish banker or Jewish commissar of the past. It is because when moral failure raises its head in the Western imagination, the head tends to wear a skullcap.
We summarized only part of Friedman's analysis. There's much more worth reading, including, for the easily depressed among us, an optimistic conclusion. So again, check the speech out in its entirety here, and share it with your friends.
January 28, 2015
Where's the Coverage? Israeli Program Educates and Supports Palestinian Farmers
Earlier this month, The Jerusalem Post reported:
A group of 30 Palestinian farmers […] came to Israel for a two-day continuing education program in the Sharon region, to learn about some of the strawberry-growing methods used in Israel. The group, predominantly from the Tulkarm and Jenin areas, met with farmers developing commercial seedlings and others experimenting on new growth techniques – both employing hanging systems and traditional in-ground planting methods.
“I came to study new things today,” said Abed al-Salam, who is from a village near Tulkarm, where he grows both strawberries and vegetables.
The tour was organized by Israel’s Civil Administration of Judea and Samaria, the principle facilitator for similar such collaborative ventures between Israeli and Palestinian farmers.
Nasser Bsharat, from Al-Jiftlik in the Jordan Valley, stressed how much there is to learn about the different types of strawberries that can be grown – pointing out that there are 42 different types being cultivated at their first stop of the day, the Romano Strawberry Nursery.
The nursery, sandwiched between Kibbutz Tel Yitzhak and the Neveh Hadassah Youth Village in the Hof Hasharon Regional Council area, develops and markets strawberry seedlings to growers.
Bsharat said the farmers are keen to learn new techniques for growing strawberries both within greenhouses and in fields, as well as disease-prevention mechanisms.
Stressing not only the importance of cooperation between Israeli and Palestinian farmers, but also the routine nature of such relationships, Bsharat said the Jiftlik community lives “as neighbors” with the residents of the nearby Masu’a settlement.
“If I have any problem [with my farm], I ask my neighbors,” he said.
Well, this is certainly not the image of Israeli-Palestinian interaction promoted by most of the mainstream news media. How does this square with the apartheid narrative? How does this fit with the story of Israeli “settlers” persecuting Palestinian Arabs? It doesn’t. Better not report it then. And the popular press does not. Not a peep about any of the cooperation and positive contact.
Not a word about what The Jerusalem Post reported:
Cooperation on the agricultural level is longstanding between West Bank Palestinians and Israelis, with some 10 study-tour groups – about 1,200 farmers – coming to Israel each year, according to [Samir] Moaddi [the agricultural staff officer of the Civil Administration in Judea and Samaria]. Already at the end of January, he will be accompanying a group of 50 Palestinians to the Arava Open Day agricultural exposition at the Yair Research and Development Center in Hatzeva.
“The Palestinian population is hungry for knowledge,” Moaddi said.
About 60 percent of West Bank Palestinian produce is sold to the Israeli market each year, while some 200,000 tons of Israeli produce is sold in the opposite direction, Moaddi said.
This kind of economic cooperation and productive educational exchange just doesn’t match the storyline that Israelis oppress Palestinians at every turn. Therefore, rest assured you won’t be reading about it and we’ll have to ask… Where’s the coverage?
January 26, 2015
European Jews' Latest Offence? Being the Target of Anti-Semitism Old and New
For some at the BBC, there is a clear discomfort with talking about about European anti-Semitism — at least when the result is dead Jews, whether in 2015 or in 1940s.
Tim Willcox recently stunned viewers when, immediately after the murder of four Jews in a French kosher market, he took issue with a French woman's call for open acknowledgment that Jews are being targeted, countering that "Many critics of Israel’s policy would suggest that the Palestinians suffer hugely at Jewish hands as well." In other words, French Jews don't deserve to be acknowledged as targets if some people are offended by Jews thousands of miles away. (Willcox later apologized on Twitter "for any offence caused by a poorly phrased question," though he has yet to apologize to his television audience.)
This Jewish problem, though, seems to extend beyond Jews daring to speak out about contemporary anti-Jewish murders. Seems it's time that they shut up about the Holocaust, too. Yesterday morning, a BBC program focused on "moral, ethical and religious debates" asked its audience the following:
Our one big question this morning: Is the time coming to lay the Holocaust to rest? #BBCTBQ— The Big Questions (@bbcbigquestions) January 25, 2015
When People Who Know Better Say Tel Aviv is Israel's Capital
Ellie Geranmayeh, a policy fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations, is the second observer of international affairs in recent days whose fancy title didn't stop her from misidentifying Tel Aviv as Israel's capital in a leading American newspaper.
Referring to the capitals of Iran, the U.S and Israel, respectively, Geranmayeh writes today in The New York Times ("Political sabotage over a deal with Iran"): "Spoilers have been striking from Tehran, Washington and Tel Aviv." (Emphasis added.)
In The International New York Times, the mischaracterization of Tel Aviv as Israel's capital is highlighted in a pull quote.
Further on in the Op-Ed, Geranmayeh repeats the erroneous reference to Tel Aviv as Israel's capital, stating: "The results of the Israeli elections could deflate Tel Aviv's fierce opposition to current negotiations with Iran."
Earlier this month it was Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch, who was also in a position to know exactly where the seat of Israel's government is. Nevertheless, he wrote in a Jan. 15 Op-Ed in The Los Angeles Times ("The Palestinians' decision to join the ICC deserves support"):
In Washington, Ottawa, Paris and London, as well as in Tel Aviv, the response [to the Palestinians' move to join the International Criminal Court] has ranged from discouraging to condemnatory.
Following communication from CAMERA, Los Angeles Times editors commendably published the following correction Jan. 22:
Israel: A Jan 15 OpEd about the Palestinians' move to join the International Criminal Court implied that Tel Aviv is the seat of the Israeli government. The government is based in Jerusalem.
The New York Times itself in the past has previously corrected this point. The Nov. 22, 2002 correction stated:
An article yesterday about a man accused of having tried to hijack an El Al plane en route to Istanbul from Tel Aviv referred incorrectly to Tel Aviv. It is not he capital of Israel; Jerusalem is.
CAMERA has sent a request to Times editors that they again correct.
If Roth and Geranmayeh freely misrepresent a fact as basic as the location of Israel's capital in order to suit their political agendas, what else are the supposed experts on international affairs distorting?
January 23, 2015
There Were No Palestine Borders, And No Palestine, in 1967
A story in today's New York Times print edition, "Obama Not Planning to Meet With Israeli Premier," written primarily by the newspaper's Washington bureau, included erroneous and anachronistic language about Israel's "1967 borders with Palestine."
In 1967, of course, there was no country, territory, or entity called Palestine.
And the boundary between Israel and the territory in question, what had been the Jordanian-occupied West Bank, was explicitly not regarded as a border. As the 1949 armistice agreement between Israel and Jordan made clear, "The Armistice Demarcation Lines defined in articles V and VI of this Agreement are agreed upon by the Parties without prejudice to future territorial settlements or boundary lines or to claims of either Party relating thereto."
This phrasing helps underscore why CAMERA has long called for newspapers to correct inaccurate references to "1967 borders" (even without explicit references to a pre-1967 entity called "Palestine") and why we've often gotten corrections on the topic. The implication — not often spelled out, though it is in this particular piece — is that there was between 1948 and 1967 a sovereign country between the Green Line and the Jordan River, one that had internationally recognized borders, and one that is therefor the legal sovereign of all land east of the Green Line, whether that be the Jewish Quarter, the consensus settlements of the Etzion block, or beyond.
Readers of this blog might immediately recognize that this isn't at all true; but the average New York Times reader may not, so the newspaper's references to 1967 "borders" is likely to lead to substantive geopolitical misunderstanding on the part of its audience.
The New York Times has thanked CAMERA for making it aware of the erroneous language, but has not yet published a correction. We'll hope to update this space soon with information about a correction.
Update: The newspaper has half-corrected half of its errors. Online, it quietly removed the false assertion that there existed a Palestine in 1967. But it did not remove the imprecise reference to "borders." Moreover, it did not publish a formal correction, which means those who were misinformed by the article as published will almost certainly not know of the modification, and those who encounter the article in the future on online news databases will continue see the inaccurate language.
Update 2: The newspaper has now published a formal correction in print and online:
Correction: January 27, 2015 An article on Friday about a planned visit to the United States by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel referred incorrectly to President Obama’s suggestion, in a 2011 conversation with Mr. Netanyahu, for a baseline for negotiating the borders between Israel and a future Palestinian state. He suggested using the pre-1967 lines that separated Israel from the Jordanian-controlled West Bank, not Israel’s “1967 borders with Palestine.” (There was no state called Palestine in 1967.)
Iran's Geopolitical Pincer
For centuries, military commanders have employed the tactic called a pincer to encircle an opposing force, box it in and then annihilate it with a coordinated attack from all directions. Such a tactic also applies more broadly as a geopolitical manuever to encircle entire nation-states. When one views a map of the changing strategic landscape in the Middle East, it is evident that Iran is conducting a vast geopolitical pincer movement westward. Enclosed within this vast pincer are Saudi Arabia and the State of Israel.
Although Iranian intentions toward Israel (as well as Saudi Arabia) are well known, major news purveyors like The New York Times continue to focus on the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians, as evidenced by the disproportionate number of articles on Israel and the Palestinians at the expense of in-depth coverage of more expansive conflicts in the region.
Despite the immutable nature of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict over the course of many years, major news media continue to amplify relatively minor incidents, routine demonstrations and property vandalism in the West Bank and publish flurries of articles whenever housing construction permits are issued by Israeli authorities in disputed parcels of land surrounding Jerusalem. This hyperfocus on Israel and the West Bank means less resources are available to draw attention to events that threaten to reshape the entire region with potentially catastrophic consequences. An example of a conflict that has not received the attention it deserves is the extension of Iranian influence in Yemen, culminating in the overthrow of the pro-Western government.
Periodically, the CAMERA blog has posted items discussing the importance of events in Yemen. Yemen is the most impoverished Arab state, even though it borders the wealthiest Arab state, Saudi Arabia. It has long been a hotbed of terrorism, spawning what is currently the most dangerous branch [internationally] of Al Qaeda. Its government was a key partner in the war against terrorists. With the fall of the Yemeni government to an Iranian-backed Shiite militia, two major blows have been struck against the West. Al Qaeda will have a freer reign to promote terrorism. But, an even greater risk is the continuing evolution of Iran's reach in the region.
Some commentators are trying to draw attention to Iranian moves. Charles Krauthammer's column in the Washington Post, "Iran's Emerging Empire" discusses what is taking shape in the region, from Lebanon, to Syria and Iraq to Yemen.
In order to completely encircle Israel, Iran still must overcome large geographic obstacles - Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the Mediterranean Sea. But new permutations are conceivable. Saudi Arabia, ruled by a perpetual gerontocracy, may not prove as durable as it currently appears, especially if the United States decides to pursue a policy of disengaging from the region. Although Turkey is a regional Sunni competitor to Shiite Iran, under its current leadership, which has shown a penchant for anti-Israel and anti-Semitic outbursts, it may be open to some form of collaboration with the Iranians against Israel.
It would be helpful to American audiences if the media that focuses so much attention on Israel and the Palestinians would devote more resources and space on their pages to what Krauthammer refers to as the emerging Iranian Empire.
January 22, 2015
Memo to Martin Marty and Scott Appleby: You Got Played
Last week, in a piece about Christiane Amanpour’s misuse of the word “activist” when describing the Charlie Hebdo murderers, Snapshots highlighted how a book published in 1997, Islamic Activism and U.S. Foreign Policy, downplayed the radical Islamist agenda and the violent agenda of a group called Jama’at-i-Islami, a Pakistani organization founded by Islamist radical Sayyed Mawdudi in 1941.
The book, written by Scott W. Hibbard and David Little, portrayed Jama’at-i-Islami as a grassroots organization that relies on “constitutional and legal means for achieving its goals.” The book portrayed the organization’s founder, Sayyed Mawdudi as a man whose ideas were “revolutionary” but whose methods were “evolutionary.”
In the same entry, Snapshots reported that in fact, Jama’at-i-Islami was responsible for terrible massacres during Pakistan’s civil war and that Mawdudi was in fact, a radical who “called on his followers to fight (and kill) in an effort to impose their understanding of God’s will on their fellow citizens. Mawdudi's followers used his writings to justify their violence.”
Hibbard and Little deserve criticism for downplaying the violence of Jama’at-i-Islami and the radicalism of its founder Sayyed Mawdudi, but they are not the only folks who sanitize the violent agenda of Jamaat-i-Islami and its founder Mawdudi.
Hibbard and Little’s mistake is that they relied on an essay that appeared in an influential book, Fundamentalisms Observed for their information about Mawdudi and Jama'at-i-Islami.
This book, published by the University of Chicago Press in 1991 was the first text issued by “The Fundamentalism Project,” a six-volume study produced with great fanfare under the aegis of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. (The Fundamentalism Project has its own entry in Wikipedia.)
The book, edited by Martin Marty from the University of Chicago and Scott Appleby from Notre Dame, received lot of play and praise when it was first published. Writing in The Christian Century, the house organ for mainline Protestantism (where incidentally, Marty served as senior editor for many years), Robert Wuthnow declared that the text provided a “valuable overview of some of the most important religious developments of our time.”
Another commentator declared that the book’s “individual contributions are of exemplary quality” that provide “sometimes brilliantly distilled synopses of their respective subjects.”
Such praise cannot, however, describe the book’s treatment of the previously mentioned Jama’at-i-Islami and its founder, Sayyed Mawdudi.
In the book’s essay on Islamic fundamentalism in South Asia, Mumtaz Amhad, a scholar who teaches at Hampton University in Virginia, described Jama’at-i-Islami’s actions during the 1971 war in very benign terms. He writes about the alliance between Jama’at-i-Islami and the Pakistan military during the war:
In pursuit of its firm belief that the defense of the territorial integrity of the Pakistani state was a religious obligation, the Jamaat collaborated with the military government throughout the East Pakistan crisis. Its workers and followers among students organized themselves in the paramilitary unit of Al-Badr and fought side by side with regular Pakistan army troops…
What Ahmad leaves out is that during the 1971 civil war is that Al-Badr perpetrated massacres of Bengali intellectuals as part of an effort to deprive the emerging state of Bangladesh of the elite class it needed to succeed as a nation state. Jama’at-i-Islami members who joined Al Badr did not merely fight “side by side with regular Pakistan army troops.” They carried out a deliberate plan of mass murder.
In 2013, the New York Times published an article about death sentences imposed on two members of Jama’at-i-Islami for the murder of 18 Bengali intellectuals during the 1971 war. The article reports that “The so-called intellectual killings took place in 1971, from Dec. 10 to 15, when it had become all but certain that Bangladesh would win independence from Pakistan. The three-judge tribunal called the killings ‘elitocide.’”
It should be noted that Human Rights Watch condemned the tribunal that sentenced the two men to death for an alleged bias in favor of the prosecution, but there is no doubt that mass killings took place during Pakistan’s civil war and that they were perpetrated by members of Jama’at-i-Islami. Estimates peg the number of people killed in East Pakistan (now known as Bangladesh) as high as 3 million.
The mass killings perpetrated by Jama’at-i-Islami are a crucial bit of history that most scholars and policy makers would want to know in an introductory essay about the organization, but Ahmad omits any reference to them.
Then there is Ahmad’s treatment of riots that took place in Lahore in 1953. These riots, which resulted in the deaths of hundreds of Ahmadiya Muslims (who adhere to beliefs regarded as heretical by Sunni and Shia Muslims), were instigated in large part by the writings of Sayyed Mawdudi who declared them to be infidels who should not be allowed to serve in Pakistan’s government.
When Ahmadiya Muslims achieved positions of power in the Pakistani government, Muslim leaders in Pakistan convened a meeting that called on their followers to engage in “direct action” against the government in support of an ultimatum demanding that the Ahmadiya be declared a non-Muslim minority in Pakistan and that Pakistan’s foreign minister (and other Ahmadiya adherents) be removed from their posts.
This call for direct action and the accompanying ultimatum laid the groundwork for pogroms that were put down by the imposition of martial law by the Pakistan government. What Ahmad does not reveal to his readers is the role Mawdudi and Jama’at-i-Islami played in instigating these pogroms.
Here is what Ahmad wrote about Jama’at’s involvement with the Lahore Riots of 1953:
At a time when the Jamaat-i-Islami wanted to focus all its attention on the issue of an Islamic constitution, it was drawn into the anti-Ahmadiya movement launched by the ulama in 1953. This movement subsequently degenerated into widespread and violent anti-Ahmadiya riots. The ulama demanded that the government declare the Ahhmadis—a heretical sect founded by Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (d. 1908), who claimed to be a prophet and the promised Messiah—to be outside the pale of Islam. The Jamaat wholeheartedly endorsed this demand but was reluctant to launch a popular movement on the issue, fearing that this would sidetrack the fundamental issue of writing an Islamic constitution. [Sayyed] Maududi published a book on the Ahmadiya question, arguing that since the sect had denied one of the fundamental beliefs of Islam, the finality of the prophethood of Mohammad, it was no longer part of the Muslim ummah and thus deserved to be declared non-Muslim. However, Maududi disassociated himself and his party from the mob violence against the Ahmadhis and asked the government to resolve the issue peacefully. The government nevertheless considered Maududi’s book provocative. Martial law was imposed in Lahore and Maudid and a few other ulama [Muslim leaders] were arrested on the charge of inciting people to violence. A military court tried and sentence Maududi to death.
[Author’s note: The death sentence was later commuted to life imprisonment, and Mawdudi was released from prison three years later.]
With this passage Ahmad relays, without challenge, Mawdudi’s defense as it was presented to a Court of Inquiry charged with investigating his role the 1953 Lahore riots.
The story is that Mawdudi and his organization were unfairly blamed for the riots – which were started not by Jama’at-i-Islami, but by other Muslim groups in Pakistan. Mawdudi and Jama’at-i-Islami were “drawn into” the mayhem but did not cause it.
The official report issued by the Court of Inquiry in 1954 found that Mawdudi and Jama’at-i-Islami bore a large measure of responsibility for the riots and ensuing deaths they caused. They were not “drawn into” the riots. Mawdudi and Jama’at-i-Islami incited them.
Mawdudi and the organization he led argued before the Court of Inquiry that they were innocent because they did not take part in a Jan. 18, 1953 meeting of Pakistani Muslim leaders that called for “direct action” against the government. But the court heard testimony from other sources indicating that this meeting was in fact attended by Mawdudi’s personal representative, Maulana Sultan Ahmad.
The Court of Inquiry reported that even if Mawdudi or his representative did not participate in meetings in which “direct action” was contemplated, it still bore some responsibility because at no point did Mawdudi or his group express opposition to the call for action.
To nail this point down, the Court of Inquiry reports that at a February 26, 1953 meeting of Muslim leaders, Maulana Sultan Ahmad (Mawdudi’s personal representative) “did not dissociate himself" from preparations for the impending riots.
Furthermore, Mawdudi helped precipitate the violence by distributing an anti-Ahmadiya tract, “Qadiani Masala,” on March 5, 1953. The day before he released this text, a mob beat a police superintendent to death outside a mosque that had become the scene of anti-Ahmadiya agitation. (“Qadiani” is a derogatory term for Ahmadiya Muslims.)
In one notorious passage of this book, Mawdudi describes Ahmadiya Muslims as “like a cancer eating up and gradually consuming the vitals of the Muslims society.”
And the day after Mawdudi released this 40-page tract – March 6, 1953 – an Ahmadiya mosque in Lahore was set on fire and Ahmadiya adherents were set upon throughout Pakistan. Many were killed.
Compare this chronology with Ahmad’s description of Mawdudi’s actions: He “published a book on the Ahmadiya question.”
Ahmad omits the religious slur present in the book’s title.
He omits any reference to the notorious “cancer” passage.
And he fails to mention that the book was published the day before a pogrom.
All this might help to explain why the Pakistan government, in Ahmad’s words, “considered Maududi’s book to be provocative.”
The Court of Inquiry reports that once the government started firing on rioters (who were ransacking Ahmadiya businesses and killing people) and imposed martial law, Mawdudi condemned the government for its oppressive policies and called on officials to “negotiate” with the rioters. In other words, Mawdudi portrayed the rioters – who were killing their Ahmadiya neighbors and looting their homes and businesses – as victims.
How does Ahmad report this turn of events? By reporting that Mawdudi “asked the government to resolve the issue peacefully.”
There is little doubt that Mawdudi harbored great hostility toward the Ahmadis. According Abdul Basit Shahid, a prominent Ahmadiya leader in Pakistan, Mawdudi met with Ahmadiya leaders prior to the riots and told them, “Amend your doctrine or else you will be crushed.” (Shahid’s testimony can be seen here at about 15 minutes, 25 seconds into the video.)
In any event, Jama’at-i-Islami was not simply “drawn into” the anti-Ahmadiya movement, as Ahmad states. The organization helped initiate it and the riots that ensued. And Mawdudi did not try to stop the riots, as Ahmad states; he provoked them and then tried to distance himself from their aftermath.
Here is the judgment of the Court of Inquiry on the role Mawdudi played in the 1953 riots:
The impression that one gets from the evidence about his attitude […] is that he was anticipating the whole system of administration to crumble down and expressing his glee over the expected discomfiture and surrender of Government. And when all this is taken into consideration with the avowed object of Jama’at-i-Islami to seize power, because, according to it, this is the most effective way of achieving its object of establishing religious institutions under the Sovereignty of Allah, no doubt is left in one’s mind that what was happening had the complete approval of the Jama’at.
Given that the Ahmadiya community has itself been the target of Islamist violence, it is no surprise that the community’s leader in Israel, Sheikh Muhammad Sharif Odeh condemned the terror attack that took place at Har Nof Synagogue in Jersualem in November, 2014.
The upshot is this: Mumtaz Ahmad, a prominent Islamic scholar in the U.S. engaged in an irresponsible whitewash of Jama’at-i-Islami and its founder Sayyed Mawdudi.
Ahmad’s whitewash made its way into the mainstream academy with the help of his editors Martin E. Marty from the University of Chicago and Scott Appleby from Notre Dame. These two scholars let Ahmad’s egregious whitewash appear in a prestigious, high-profile text presented to the academy as an authoritative and comprehensive assessment of religious fundamentalism.
Now some readers might ask: Does it really matter that book on fundamentalism published in 1991 got it woefully wrong about the Jamaat-I-Islami and omitted crucial information about the organization’s founder?
That’s a question to direct at the friends and relatives of the people who were murdered in Lahore in 1953 and in East Pakistan in 1971.
In '48 War, the Jews "Didn't Want These People to Leave the Village"
Israeli-Arab town of Jisr az-Zarqa
Alexander Galloway, a former UNRWA director in Jordan, famously said that the Arab world was not interested in solving the Palestinian refugee problem, but instead preferred to "keep it as an open sore, as an affront to the United Nations and as a weapon against Israel."
Today, ironically, it is UNRWA, the United Nations body responsible for Palestinian refugees, that's often charged with perpetuating the refugee status of Palestinians. And if the refugee problem is still used as a weapon against Israel, it is largely as a key component of the simplistic, hostile narrative that holds Israel as uniformly guilty and the Palestinian as fundamentally victims.
An example of this narrative: The claim in a The New York TImes Op-Ed a few years back that, in 1948, "a people had been expelled from their land in a comprehensive ethnic cleansing operation."
But from those not enlisted in the war-of-words against Israel — from those who speak casually, as citizens and not as warriors — that narrative is often undermined. In today's Chicago Tribune (and in the LA Times last week) there is a story about the Arab-Israeli coastal town of Jisr az-Zarqa. One older resident is quoted talking about that allegedly "comprehensive ethnic cleansing operation":
In 1948, amid fighting between Arabs and Jews surrounding the creation of Israel, there was no fighting in Jisr.
Arabs living in nearby villages fled, but "we didn't even think about it, never even thought about leaving our lands," said Gamil Jarban, 72, a retired fisherman, who said his father built the first house in Jisr. He said the people of Jisr were left alone because they were peaceful.
"Even when the Jews came here, they didn't want these people to leave the village," he said.
To those most dedicated to talking points drawn up by Palestinian rejectionists, Jarban's frank remembrance might be viewed as a betrayal. But even Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas can't be angry. He's been known to contradict his own narrative now and again.
January 21, 2015
Where's the Coverage? Satellite Shows Iran's Long Range Nuke-Capable Missile
The Times of Israel reports:
Iran has built a 27-meter-long missile, capable of delivering a warhead “far beyond Europe,” and placed it on a launch pad at a site close to Tehran, an Israeli television report said Wednesday, showing what it said were the first satellite images of the missile ever seen in the West.
It stressed that the missile could be used to launch spacecraft or satellites, but also to carry warheads.
Given that Iran is in negotiations with the “P5+1” (the five permanent members of the UN Security Council –the U.S., France, Great Britain, China and Russia– plus Germany) aimed at keeping the Islamic Republic from obtaining a nuclear weapon, a missile capable of carrying such a weapon is a big deal. Yet, none of the major news outlets have covered it.
Given that President Obama in his State of the Union address threatened to veto proposed bi-partisan legislation that would impose sanctions on Iran should the negotiations between Iran and the P5+1 fail to come to a successful conclusion by June of this year, a clear weapons program is a newsworthy political development as well. But, the mainstream media is silent.
Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ), ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee has said, “Iran is clearly taking steps that can only be interpreted as provocative. Yet the Administration appears willing to excuse-away any connection between these developments and signs of Iran’s bad faith in negotiations.” Menendez went on:
The more I hear from the administration and its quotes, the more it sounds like talking points that come straight out of Tehran. And it feeds to the Iranian narrative of victimization, when they are the ones with original sin: An illicit nuclear weapons program going back over the course of 20 years that they are unwilling to come clean on.
Certainly Iran’s production and implementation of a missile system capable of carrying a nuclear warhead is a development worthy of reporting. It is a national security story. And when a senior Senator takes a President from his own party to task, it is a major political story as well. And yet… Where’s the coverage?
For NY Times' Overseas Readers, Paris Kosher Market Attack Just a "Claim"
Maybe Jews were killed at a Kosher Market. Maybe they were weren't. All we know that someone claims it happened.
At least that's how The New York Times' International edition put it.
The domestic edition, on the other hand, got it right. "Earlier, surrounded by a huge security detail, Mr. de Blasio had gone to a kosher market in eastern Paris to place a wreath where a third terrorist had killed four hostages in a siege that galvanized France’s Jewish community."
January 20, 2015
New York Times: Miss Lebanon, Israel's Latest Arab Victim
"Strengthen the coverage of Palestinians. They are more than just victims, and their beliefs and governance deserve coverage and scrutiny," advised Margaret Sullivan, public editor at The New York Times, in a recent column on the paper's coverage of Israel and the Palestinians.
She might just as well have been writing about the paper's treatment of any Arabs in conflict with Israel, not just Palestinians. Her observation would certainly apply to the paper's coverage of Miss Lebanon, Saly Greige, who recently distanced herself from a photograph in which she appeared with Doron Matalon, Miss Israel.
"Miss Israel’s Selfie Puts Another Miss in a Bind" is The New York Times headline, casting the Lebanese beauty as the hapless, helpless victim of Miss Israel, the real player in this drama, responsible for sowing discord by daring to inject herself into (her own) selfie with Ms. Greige, too delicate to be seen with her.
Indeed, Miss Greige herself addresses her failed attempts not to fall victim to the bombastic Miss Matalon: “Since the first day of my arrival to participate to Miss Universe, I was very cautious to avoid being in any photo or communication with Miss Israel,” she noted on her Facebook page in defense of her appearance in the offending image. "I was having a photo with Miss Japan, Miss Slovenia and myself, suddenly Miss Israel jumped in, took a selfie, and put it on her social media.”
While it is Lebanese anti-Semitism and anti-Israel sentiment which place Miss Lebanon in a "bind," The Times fingers the young Israeli woman as responsible for the situation in which a Lebanese woman refuses to be photographed with an Israeli. A 2011 Pew opinion poll found that only 3 percent of Lebanese hold positive views of Jews, and, according to an Anti-Defamation League survey, 78 percent of Lebanese hold anti-Semitic views.
Blaming the Israeli for discord, and exonerating the Arab side, isn't confined to just the beauty queen drama.
Of the military conflict between Israel and Lebanon, Anne Barnard writes:
Officially, a state of war has persisted between Israel and Lebanon since 1948. The creation of Israel, and the ensuing war, flooded Lebanon with Palestinian refugees. Israel invaded Lebanon several times, and ultimately occupied parts of the south until 2000. It fought a war with Hezbollah in 2006.
Barnard notes that Israel's creation "flooded Lebanon with Palestinian refugees" and that "Israel invaded Lebanon," but she ignores that Lebanon was among several Arab armies which attacked the nascent Jewish state in 1948. Had Palestinian Arabs and neighboring Arab states, including Lebanon, not attacked the new Jewish state, would there have been a flood of refugees to Lebanon? The journalist likewise includes not a word about the Palestine Liberation Organization's creation of a state within a state in southern Lebanon, where it established a base from which it attacked Israeli civilians for decades. Nor does she note any Hezbollah violence against Israelis and Jews, both in Israel and abroad.
January 18, 2015
As Four Jews Buried, MSNBC's Ayman Mohyeldin Redirects Back to Palestinians
As the four Jews slaughtered as they went about their pre-Shabbat kosher shopping in Paris were laid to rest in Jerusalem Tuesday, and questions about the future of European Jewry were hanging in the air, MSNBC's Ayman Mohyeldin avers that the real "context" of Jewish immigration to Israel is the denial of rights to Palestinians. (See eight minutes into the broadcast.)
In a Jan. 13 broadcast about the funeral which included a discussion of the future of French Jewry, host Abby Hunstman asks: "Israel is also experiencing a rise in the return of Jews from all over Europe because of the broad rise of anti-Semitism across the EU. You’re in Israel. How is the migration being handled there?"
To which Mohyeldin responds:
Immigration from Europe particularly to Israel has always been a sensitive one given the history of Europe and what has happened there with the Jewish population. The Israeli government really affords a lot of resources to try to make that possible, to make it as easy as possible. The World Jewish Agency certainly plays a very important role in that. The issue of immigration to Israel always is a sensitive one here. The Israeli government says every Jew around the world is allowed and welcome to Israel, their ancestral homeland as they call it. But at the same time denies similar rights obviously to Palestinians born within Israel. And it is always seen from that perspective in this context. There is this tension when it comes to the issue of migration. But in terms of resources provided by the government the Israeli government really spares no effort to try to help individuals and families try to get on their feet once they arrive here in a performance that’s called “ali” and that’s the journey of coming here to Israel, to return here to Israel as the Jewish population calls it. (Emphasis added.)
In other words, according to Mohyeldin, when considering the flight of Europe's Jews in face of rising anti-Semitism, one must not lose perspective of the "context" of this sad story: Palestinians are the ultimate, perpetual victims.
(The skewed perspective that Mohyeldin advocates does not include the fact that many countries, including Norway, Germany and Ireland, have immigration policies aimed to maintain their ethnic-cultural characters.)
January 15, 2015
Words Matter Because Lives Matter
CNN's Christiane Amanpour has been roundly criticized for her use of the word “activist” when describing the two brothers who, on January 7, 2015 murdered 12 people, 10 of them staffers at Charlie Hebdo, a satirical newspaper in Paris that published pictures of Mohammed.
Amanpour’s use of the word “activists” in reference to the two Islamist murderers was wrong, but maybe there is something that actually can be said in her defense. Maybe it was an honest mistake on her part.
Prior to using the word herself, Amanpour read from an interview with Charlie Hebdo editor Stefane Charbonnier (aka Charb) in the French newspaper Le Monde in which he said, “When activists need a pretext to justify their violence, they always find it.” Charb made this statement after his paper was firebombed in 2012.
After reading Charb’s statement on the fly, on live television, Amanpour then said, “And on this day, these activists found their targets and their targets were journalists. This was a clear attack on the freedom of expression, on press, and on satire.”
Maybe it’s a mistake to give Amanpour (who once compared an Evangelical Protestant to the Taliban) the benefit of the doubt over her misuse over the word “activists.”
She is a seasoned journalist and should have known better than to use the word “activists” to describe the murderers who ended 12 peoples’ lives on Jan 7.
But it is live television, and Amanpour had just quoted Charb, who used the word “activists” himself. Maybe the word was at the top of her mind and she just unthinkingly repeated it.
And then there’s this: If Amanpour is at fault for using the word “activists” then so was Charlie Hebdo editor Stefané Charbonnier. The people who firebombed his newspaper were “terrorists” and “arsonists,” not “activists.”
Whether Amanpour made an honest mistake or not, the outrage she elicited is reasonable because terminology matters, especially in a time such as this. Intellectuals in the West have been downplaying the horror of Islamist ideology and the violence it generates for a long time, and it’s usually done in the name of peace.
Examples of this tendency abound.
One egregious example took place in 1997 with the publication of Islamic Activism and U.S. Foreign Policy by Scott W. Hibbard and David Little.
This book, published by the United States Institute of Peace, is not about benign “Islamic activism” as the title states, but about Islamic terrorism, a fact revealed in the first sentence of the text: “Political violence in the Middle East and elsewhere in the world has come to symbolize for many people the threat of ‘Islamic activism.’” Somewhere in the middle of that sentence is a magical machine that transforms murder and terrorism into “activism.” (Too bad such a machine doesn’t exist in the real world.)
The publicity letter sent to reviewers at the time of the book’s publication followed the same bizarre line of illogic. The first sentence reads as follows: “For many in the West, political violence in Algeria, the Middle East, and elsewhere has come to symbolize the threat of ‘Islamic activism. Terrorist attacks such as the  bombing of the World Trade Towers have solidified this view.”
This is exactly the type of thinking that lays the ground work for the use of the word “activist” when referring to jihadist killers. For example, in their discussion of “Islamic activism” in Pakistan, the authors describe the Islamist organization, J’ama’at-i-Islami, as a grassroots organization that relies on “constitutional and legal means for achieving its goals.”
Activists, in other words.
In their description of J’ama’at-i-Islami, an organization founded in 1941 by Sayyid Mawdudi, the authors downplay the group's role in the mass murder of thousands of Bengalis during Pakistan’s civil war in 1971. The authors report that the organization “participated with government forces in military action against the Bengali separatists in East Pakistan."
People who are the least bit familiar with the history of violence in East Pakistan (now known as Bangladesh) will know that this is a polite but dishonest, euphemism that fails to accurately describe what happened during Pakistan’s civil war of 1971. It was not “military action” but mass murder. The Pakistani army and J’ama’at-i-Islami brutally massacred unarmed Hindu and Muslim Bengalis during the civil war.
J’ama’at-i-Islami is not merely a “grassroots” activist organization. It is a totalitarian organization that has perpetrated mass murder. In 2013, one of its leaders, Abdul Quader Molla, was convicted of genocide by a Bangladeshi tribunal and eventually sentenced to death. (Others were convicted as well.)
Molla was not an “activist.” He was a killer.
Hibbard and Little’s essay also includes a quote describing the ideas of J’ama’at-i-Islami’s founder, Sayyid Mawdudi as “revolutionary” but his methods as “evolutionary.” After reading this description, most observers would have no reason to suspect that Mawdudi promoted jihad or holy war.
But he did.
In his influential text, Let Us Be Muslims, Mawdudi made it perfectly clear that that the whole point of Islamic practices such as prayer, charity, making the Haj and fasting is to prepare Muslims for jihad. And the whole point of jihad is to overthrow secular governments that do not enforce shariah. Mawdudi makes it explicit in a chapter titled “Meaning of Jihad.” He wrote:
The Prayer, Fasting, Almsgiving and Pilgrimage at their deepest level provide preparation and training for the assumption of just power. Just as governments train their armies, police forces and civil services before employing them to do their job, so does Islam, the Din [way of life or system of governance] given by Allah. It first trains all those who volunteer for service to God before allowing them to undertake Jihad and establish God’s rule on earth.
Mawdudi states that anyone whose heart is devoid of “any intention to undertake Jihad will find all ritual worship empty of meaning. Nor will those acts bring you any nearer to your God.”
The last chapter of Mawdudi’s book, titled “Central Importance of Jihad,” exhorts his readers to “come forward and fight in Allah’s cause with whatever we possess.”
Mawdudi was not merely calling for grassroots activism. He called on his followers to fight (and kill) in an effort to impose their understanding of God’s will on their fellow citizens. Mawdudi's followers used his writings to justify their violence.
Another commentator who has used the word activist inappropriately – if not dishonestly – is Reverend Dr. Gary Burge, a professor of the New Testament at Wheaton College in Wheaton, Illinois.
In the second edition of his error-laden book Whose Land, Whose Promise: What Christians are not being told about Israel and the Palestinians, Burge describes the “Free Gaza” flotilla that attempted to break Israel's blockade of Gaza in May 2010 as follows: “Ships with 700 international activists. The Israeli Navy intercepts, 16 killed.”
While many of the people involved in the flotilla can be called “activists,” the word cannot be used to describe the passengers on board the Mavi Mamara, (where a total of nine – not 16 – deaths occurred) who attacked Israeli soldiers as soon as they landed on the vessel. The Israeli soldiers boarded the ship to enforce a legal blockade. They did not go onto the vessel with the intent of harming its passengers. For that reason, they used paint ball guns during the early part of the confrontation.
And for their troubles, the Israeli soldiers were beaten with iron bars, had their side arms stolen, and were stabbed with knives.
Prior to the flotilla some of the passengers chanted “Khaibar, Khaibar, oh Jews! The army of Muhammad will return!" (“Khaibar” is a reference to a 7th century battle that resulted in the extirpation of Jews from the Arabian Peninsula.) (See Itamar Marcus and Nan Jacques Zilberdik, “Gaza flotilla participants created war atmosphere before confronting Israel: Participants chanted Islamic battle cry invoking killing of Jews and called for Martyrdom,” Palestinian Media Watch, May 31, 2010.)
The people who initiated the violent confrontation on board the Mavi Marmara were combatants, not “activists.”
Why does it matter? Why can’t we use the word “activist” to describe the two men who killer the Charlie Hebdo staffers with an unspoken understanding that we all really know that they are terrorists and murderers?
We must call people and things by their true names because the words we use help determine how we respond to the threats we face.
If the perpetrators of the Charlie Hebdo massacre were merely “activists,” then we really have nothing to worry about, because its politics as usual. But if they are killers, then we’ve got a security problem that demands a forceful response.
Minimizing the dangers we face with words like “activism” lets leaders responsible for protecting their citizens off the hook.
It also defames the victims of terror.
Bengali college students and intellectuals who were killed during Pakistan’s civil war in 1971 knew full well that the members of J’ama’at-i-Islami who murdered them were not grassroots activists with whom they had a resolvable political disagreement. They were being shot to death by people who regarded their existence as an obstacle to the millenial goals they wished to achieve.
The Israeli soldiers who were attacked with knives and steel pipes after they rappelled onto the deck of the Mavi Marmara in 2010 eventually learned full well they were not dealing with humanitarian peace activists, but with jihadis intent on killing them or taking them hostage.
And Stefané Charbonnier may have politely called the arsonists who firebombed his office in 2012 “activists” but when he and his staffers were shot to death during an editorial meeting in 2015, they knew full well it wasn’t “activism.”
It was murder.
More on The New York Times and Haredi Photoshop
Yesterday we discussed Jodi Rudoren's article about a Haredi Jewish newspaper that photoshopped, awkwardly and with potential to offend, images of women from a photo of world leaders in Paris. Our blog post focused mostly on how Rudoren's piece fit into a well-established pattern at the New York Times of obsessing over Israeli-Jewish flaws, real and imagined, in a way glaringly disproportionate to how the newspaper deals with most other groups (even Americans).
Last night, Rudoren posted an update on her Facebook page, which reaches only a small fraction of her New York Times readership. The update included noteworthy information that contradicts some of the allegations in the original story, and also prompted a discussion in which some interesting points were raised, including by professors of journalism.
First, the noteworthy added information: The Times published the piece before it was able to get comment from anyone at the Israeli newspaper—and readers lost out. Although Rudoren's article charged the Israeli paper with "denying the fact that in the wider world, beyond the ultra-Orthodox Jewish community, women do stand on the world stage and shape events" and with "tr[ying] to make it appear as though no women had been there to begin with," that newspaper's editor later told The Times that, in fact, his front-page story about the Paris march "listed Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany among those who led it." Is that, to Western sensibilities, exculpatory? Maybe not. Is it relevant to the discussion? Definitely. But missing from The New York Times story.
Now to some of the comments left on Rudoren's Facebook page:
Journalist and journalism professor David Greenberg raised the question of whether the behavior scrutinized in Rudoren's article is any different than policy about not showing images of Mohammed imposed by New York Times executive editor Dean Baquet:
Jodi, The editor's argument is that running a woman's image would offend his audience's religious beliefs. Isn't this the exact same argument as Dean Baquet's for not running Muhammad's image? (I'm not asking you to defend his policy!)
To which another Facebook user replied:
Yes, David. It is the same idea except that he is not doing it because it would offend his non-readers, he is doing it to avoid offending his readers so that they will buy the newspaper. And his readers are not telling the NYTimes or anyone else that they may not publish the photos. So it really isn't the same thing at all.
Rudoren argued that the difference between her employer and the religious newspaper is that The Times chooses not to publish images of Mohammed, while the newspaper she wrote about published the photo but surreptitiously edited it. Greenberg agreed, but added that "both editors are wrongly catering to religious sensitivities at the expense of important news."
Another professor of journalism, Ira Rifkin, raised doubts about the newsworthiness of Rudoren's piece:
Move along, move along. Nothing NEW going on here. Why is this even a story -- again? Removing women from photos in Haredi publications is so common place that it should have ceased to be news long ago. This is what it's readership wants and expects. Just because it seems sexist and dishonest to non-Haredi readers does not make it a story worth repeating time and again.
A CAMERA researcher asked Rudoren about her views on the the story and her update:
Two questions I hope you might be able to answer, Jodi.
First, do you think your Facebook post, which of course doesn't have nearly the same circulation as your initial article, is good enough?
Here's what I mean: In a piece that refers to the photoshopping largely in terms of prompting "snickers" and "satire," of being a "sin," of causing "embarass[ment]" (twice), and of amounting to "religious extremism" that's analogous even to murder, was your one cryptic quote by a haredi woman at the end enough? If you couldn't immediately get in touch with anyone at HaMevaser, should you have waited a day?
Because honestly, the information you share above — that their the front page story in fact noted that Angela Merkel led the march — seems to be not only an important counterpoint to Sommer's charge that the newspaper is " denying…women…stand on the world stage" and your charge that they "tried to make it appear as though no women had been there to begin with," but an essential counterpoint.
Second, can you help me understand why (and correct me if I'm wrong) your newspaper didn't cover Ikea's removal of all women from the Saudi version of its catalog? Ikea, a huge, hip multi-billion-dollar organization, is no less important than this small newspaper serving a small population, is it? Do you accept the "Jews are news" axiom as a legitimate excuse to disproportionately focus on Jews—most often, (Israeli) Jews behaving strangely or (Israeli) Jews behaving badly—relative to Ikea or Saudis or Jordanians or Palestinians? Or is it an axiom that describes a problem, one that should be fixed?
Saudi Arabia Builds Another "Apartheid Wall" to Keep Out Terrorists
The Washington Times reports that Saudi Arabia has decided to build a 600 mile security barrier in response to concerns that ISIS and other terrorists may try to seize control of Mecca and Medina. The Saudis already have in place a 1000 mile security barrier to keep out terrorists from Yemen.
The article compares the Saudi fence-building fervor to China's Great Wall that was constructed to keep out marauders beyond China's northern border. But the design of the system of security fences and monitoring posts suggests the Saudis have taken their cue from another Middle Eastern nation's attempt to stop terrorists from infiltrating. Israel devised a similar design to stem the epidemic of suicide bombers infiltrating into Israel from the West Bank during the Second Intifada. The Saudis apparently took note of the barrier's role in virtually ending suicide bombings in Israel.
Unlike the furor that erupted over Israel's decision to construct its security barrier, to date no demonstrations against the Saudi's "apartheid wall" have transpired on American or European university campuses.
January 14, 2015
Where's the Coverage? Only Woman Murdered at Charlie Hebdo Was "Definitely Killed Because She Was Jewish"
If you have seen any of the news reports of the terrorist attacks in Paris, you have witnessed the media bending over backwards not to call the attacks antisemitic, though even the president of France labeled the attack on the Hyper Cacher kosher market as “a terrible antisemitic attack.”
What you have seen even less coverage of is the fact that the murderous attack at the Charlie Hebdo magazine was also antisemitic. The online Jewish magazine Tablet writes:
Of the dozen killed at Charlie Hebdo by [Hyper Cacher murderer Amedi] Koulibali’s collaborators, the Kouachi brothers, there were 11 men and one woman. Her name was Elsa Cayat. Other women on the premises, also held at gunpoint, were permitted to go on living. One of the murderers told Sigolène Vinson, a Charlie freelancer who had gone to the morning meeting: “I’m not going to kill you because you’re a woman. We don’t kill women, but you must convert to Islam, read the Quran and cover yourself.” Then he cried out: “Allah hu Akbar.”
Now here’s the thing. The killers must have known that Elsa Cayat was Jewish. There is no likelier explanation for the chilling fact that of the women on the scene, Cayat was the one singled out for murder. Cayat’s cousin, Sophie Bramly, told CNN’s Erin Burnett that the killers’ selectivity, in this regard, has not come in for much comment by French media. Nor, outside the CNN report, has the point been much noted in the Anglo-American media. But there it is. In the eyes of the killers, male cartoonists were enemies of Allah. Women who were not otherwise cursed were deemed salvageable. After all, Allah is merciful. But a Jewish woman is unsalvageable. As in 1976, when non-Israeli Jewish passengers were assigned to the Israeli group and kept hostage by Palestinian hijackers when other nationals were released; as in 1985, when Leon Klinghoffer and other Jews were sequestered for special treatment on the Achille Lauro—in 2015, Elsa Cayat forfeited her right to live by virtue of being a Jew.
You may have learned from the coverage that the Kouachi brothers knew exactly who they were looking for, that they called out the names of their victims and methodically executed them. But very few media outlets have reported on Elsa Cayat. If you did not see this brief interview on CNN, you may not know that the only woman killed was killed because she was Jewish. This is a major aspect of the story. This proves that the gruesome terror attacks in Paris were not just an assault on freedom of expression, not just an assault on freedom of the press, not just an assault on liberal democratic values. The terror attacks were all of those and more.
They were also attacks on Jews because – and this is the element that must be stressed – the Jews are the canary in the coal mine. When the forces of evil come for the Jews, the rest of society should pay attention because the rest of society is next.
The terrorists who “don’t kill women” killed one woman. A Jewish woman. Where’s the coverage?
Ultra-Orthodox Have Certain Habits, And So Does The New York Times
When a Palestinian television program two weeks ago told viewers that “the Jews are, by nature, a corrupt people who sow corruption everywhere,” The New York Times said nothing. When the Mayor of Ankara, Turkey’s capital city, claimed Israel was behind the Charlie Hebdo terror attack, the newspaper was likewise unmoved.
When Ikea, a huge, hip Western company, photoshopped women out of the Saudi version of its catalog, it wasn’t considered newsworthy enough for the Times print edition. But when a minor newspaper serving Israel’s small minority of Haredi (ultra-Orthodox) Jews altered a photo of world leaders marching in Paris to remove three women from the shot, The New York Times made it a page-A4 story about “snickers” and Israeli embarrassment.
It is of course understandable that a newspaper might expose the world customs that, to the modern Western reader, would appear strange or unreasonable. But The New York Times has shown itself to have an Israel problem. And the fact that these conservative Israeli Jews are considered a significant story but not, for example, similar behavior by Ikea, let alone the dozens of Palestinian “honor killings” over the past two years, fits the pattern all too well.
Israeli Jews are subject to a different, harsher, discriminatory standard. An opinion editor at the newspaper recently admitted as much. Maybe news editors should come clean and similarly admit their own bias?
Where Was MSNBC's Interception of Intercept's Jeremy Scahill?
According to Freedom House, Israel is the only country in the Middle East with a free press, but according to Jeremy Scahill, a journalist interviewed yesterday on MSNBC, the Jewish state is among the worst "enemies of a free press."
Of the world leaders marching at the front of the Paris rally yesterday, Scahill, a co-founder of Intercept, said on "The Ed Show":
Yeah, I mean, well, first of all on the one hand I think it`s moving to everybody to see so many people pour to the streets. And to have this discussion about freedom of the press, and to defend journalists even when they are saying something or drawing something that we find hateful or offensive or demeaning to our faith, those are all important principles. But when I watched it, I looked at all those leaders and the world leaders that were in the front row there, by the way, they weren`t on the side street, they weren`t exactly leading this march of millions of people.
Many of them are enemies of a free press. There are several dictators from Africa there who are enemies of a free press. The leader of Ireland has outlawed blasphemy. You now, Benjamin Netanyahu who`s government has killed scores of Palestinian journalists, apparently targeting some of them at times. So I think that we have to weigh the hypocrisy that`s almost always on display when world leaders are at the forefront of what`s supposed to be a sort of, you know, people`s response with the actual facts.
The notion that Israel has killed Palestinian journalists, even specifically targeted them, because of their offensive or even anti-Israel work, is completely unfounded. The large majority of those said to be Palestinian journalists killed by Israel were killed in the course of violent conflict between Israel and Hamas, both in the summer of 2014 and in November 2012.
Many of them were later identified as members of Hamas, Islamic Jihad, or other terror groups. They include Abdulla Murtaja of Hamas, Islamic Jihad leader Ramez Harb, Mahmoud Al-Kumi and Hussam Salama of Hamas, and Ezzat Salama Duheir of Islamic Jihad.
Neither host Ed Schultz nor Steve Clemons of The Atlantic, the segment's other guest, challenged Scahill's assertion that Israel is an enemy of free speech. (Anyone who reads Israel's Haaretz on any given day knows how off the mark he is). But Clemons did take on Scahill's similarly unfounded allegation that Islam, and Mohammed, had been uniquely lampooned by Charlie Hebdo.
This takes on much greater significance in terms of the public debate, and I think a lot of Muslims that I talked to, including almost every single Muslim I know that condemns this attack, they say, this is happening to the Prophet Muhammad and people are OK with printing this, but they wonder if anti-semantic cartoon would be printed in the same manner in solidarity.
Now there`s not an exact comparison there, but there is a sense that because it`s the Prophet Muhammad, that it`s more acceptable than any other religiously offensive image, and that`s -- I think the point worth debating.
Clemons commendably responds:
I like to just simply, remind people that both, you know Jesus Christ and other Jewish leaders have all been lampooned on the front of Charlie Hebdo as well, I mean, you know, we`ve been talking a lot about the fact that it`s going after everyone, but if you go back in the history of the images in Charlie Hebdo, there`s plenty to grab in terms of equal opportunity taboos in a variety of religions that magazine has taken on.
And so, I agree with Jeremy that it will be interesting to see what comes out next, but the notion that, you know, we have one publication targeting this week, you know, Muhammad and with all that represents, I think, if you go back to this -- that`s what made the magazine so interesting...
UPDATED: Seek and You Shall Find: Bias in Europe
Update follows letter.
Responding to a New York Times call to European Muslims, to share their experiences, and specifically incidents of anti-Muslim bias, Dr. John Cohn, CAMERA's 2003 Letter-Writer of the Year, wrote to Margaret Sullivan, the paper's public editor:
Dear Ms. Sullivan,
While on the Times website I came across the following pages, with the caption, "Share your experiences as a Muslim in Europe, The New York Times would like to hear from Europeans, particularly Muslims, about their experiences." The link took me to a page with preloaded questions, such as:
What types of anti-Muslim bias, if any, have you experienced or witnessed in your daily life?
If you are Muslim, how comfortable are you practicing Islam in Europe?
In the aftermath of the attacks, how might your life change, if at all?
This led me to wonder if the Times had similarly solicited information from Christians in Saudi Arabia, Syria, or Iraq, or gays, women or Christians in Gaza. Has it?
There are, of course, no Jews to query in those places, but you could ask Israeli Christians how they are doing in the only Middle Eastern country with a growing Christian population compared to their co-religionists in neighboring Arab states... Likewise, at this time of trouble, I would think you would be soliciting the concerns of all Europeans, Christians, Muslims, Jews, agnostics and atheists.
Similarly, I was struck that your paper asked, "What types of anti-Muslim bias, if any, have you experienced or witnessed". I think the lawyers call that a leading question.
In the memory of some Times readers, 6 million Jews were murdered by Europeans. And it was the synagogues of Paris, not the mosques that closed last weekend from fear of violence. I will not defend anti-Muslim bigotry, nor do I want to suggest some universal Islamic responsibility for acts of violence claimed by the perpetrators to be in the name of Islam, but who has the most to fear?
Or does that not lead to the story your reporters have already decided to write?
John R. Cohn
Update: The newspaper subsequently changed the questionnaire to include all Europeans and their experiences, as opposed to seeking out Muslims and examples of anti-Muslim bigotry specifically.
Jan. 18 Correction: The writer's letter originally erred in stating that there are no Jews in Iran.
January 13, 2015
Abbas Plays Along With Erdogan's Ottoman Fantasies
Turkish Islamist President Recep Tayyip Erdogan won election to another term in August, 2014. Buoyed by his continued domestic popularity, he recently hosted Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in an ostentatious ceremony exhibiting pageantry that recalled the extinguished Ottoman Empire.
The Arab media is somewhat perplexed by Erdogan's idiosyncracies. In reporting on the event, Al Arabiya quoted one commentator as describing the scene with Abbas as a "circus." The article further noted that Erdogan just completed a 1,150 room presidential palace. That is a residence fit for a modern-day Sultan.
The Arabs are not entirely comfortable with Erdogan's theatrics over past Turkish military glories. Ottoman rule in the Middle East lasted for centuries, preceding European domination. But the history of Turkish-Arab relations was not so congenial.
The Ottoman Turks were the last in a series of nomadic invaders originating from what is today western and northern China. The Turkish newspaper Hurriyet documented the sixteen "Turkish" empires. Proudly included in the list was Timur (the lame), known in the west as Tamerlane, who like ISIS today, had no problem slaughtering Muslims who were not to his liking. According to legend, he had a mountain built out of 90,000 skulls of the inhabitants of Baghdad he had ordered slaughtered.
Not explicitly mentioned were the Mongols, a non-Turkic people, who nevertheless incorporated many Turkish soldiers into their armies as they swept across Asia in the 13th century, leaving a trail of devastation where centers of Islamic culture once stood.
It was these waves of Asiatic invaders, not the Christian Crusaders, that sealed the fate of the Arab-dominated Caliphate and irreversibly transformed the Islamic world. The Turks seized Constantinople, the seat of the once dominant Christian state in the Middle East and made it their capital. They adopted Islam and the Turkish Sultan assumed the role of Caliph.
Abbas's visit appears intended to curry favor and legitimacy from the Turkish President as part of the on-going jockeying for regional support between his more secular Fatah party and Hamas, the Palestinian Islamist group that rules the Gaza Strip.
Hamas finds itself increasingly isolated from its traditional Arab sponsors. The Egyptian government is locked in a bitter conflict with the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas's organizational parent. The Gaza Strip has served as a base for supporting terrorist operations against the Egyptian government. With Hamas increasingly reliant on Shiite and non-Arab Iran, Sunni Turkey is an important and desirable ally. Under these circumstances, Erdogan has emerged as a principal sponsor of Hamas.
Erdogan has pursued an aggressive policy to reassert Turkey's once dominant presence in the region. This has included a repudiation of the once friendly relations between secular-ruled Turkey and Israel. His outreach to Hamas puts him in sharp conflict with Egypt and Saudi Arabia. It also demonstrates his ambition to become a power-broker among the Palestinian factions. Further complicating the picture, Turkey is a member of NATO.
What will be next for the grandiose Erdogan? In his zeal to revive the erstwhile Ottoman Empire from its ashes, will he reinstitute the Corps of Janissaries, the Sultan's infamous slave-soldiers whose ranks were replenished by kidnapped Christian boys from the Balkans?
Blame the writers, Bossypants, blame the writers
Without meaning to, Tina Fey, who recently hosted the Golden Globes, may have misinformed her audience about the professional achievements of Amal Clooney (ne Alamuddin).
In a funny take down of Amal's husband, actor George Clooney (who was receiving a lifetime achievement award at the Golden Globes ceremony) Fey listed some of the achievements of his wife Amal, which truth be told, are probably a bit more demanding (but less lucrative), than George's. "So tonight, her husband is getting a lifetime achievement award."
During her joke, Fey reported that Amal "was selected for a three-person UN commission investigating rules of war violations in the Gaza strip."
She was offered a seat on the panel, but turned it down.
Maybe Amal can convince her husband to add some heft to his resume producing the movie The Forty Days of Musa Dagh which was stuck in development hell for decades before a disappointing version was made in the early 1980s.
In the 1930s, MGM bought the rights to the book by the same name written by Franz Werfel, who told the story of five villages that successfull defended themselves from destruction at the hands of the founders of the modern state of Turkey.
A new translation of the book, translated from German by Geoffrey Dunlop and James Reidel and published by David R. Godine, is available here.
As it turns out, Turkish government blocked the production of the movie for many years. That should incense Clooney, who was furious at how the rollout of a more recent movie, "The Interview," was disrupted by hack attacks blamed on the North Korean government. Clooney would be doing the world a great service if he could get a decent version of The Forty Days of Musa Dagh produced for a wide audience.
January 12, 2015
Reuters Disparages Benjamin Netanyahu's Show of Support for Parisian Jews as "Gauche"
Without even the courtesy of a grace period for the burial in Israel of the Jewish victims, Reuters has wasted no time producing a hit piece against Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
The authors set up their attack on Netanyahu by quoting "the particularlly stern" Rabbi Menachem Margolin, the head of the European Jewish Association, who dismisses Netanyahu's call for Jews to emigrate to Israel, saying, "Anyone familiar with the European reality knows that a call to Aliyah is not the solution for anti-Semitic terror."
The article then calculates that "Only a few French Jews move to Israel each year -- last year 7,000 out of the 550,000-strong community. That number is expected to rise to more than 10,000 in 2015, in part because of last week's attacks."
So, according to Reuters, 1 out of every 80 French Jews departing France for Israel in just a single year somehow qualifies as "only a few."
The next paragraph injects more blatant politicking, stating, "Helping more of the Jewish diaspora migrate to Israel remains a central policy of the right-wing government, which faces elections in March."
Although the authors of the piece apparently don't know this, encouraging immigration to Israel is not a "right-wing" policy, it is an essential component of Zionism shared across the mainstream political spectrum.
The article's authors, Luke Jackson and Tom Henegan, conclude their piece, published just days after the murder of six French Jews, by disparaging Netanyahu's "behavior" as "gauche." The behavior they apparently refer to includes his participation in the march against terrorism and his impassioned speech at the main synagogue in Paris.
Yes, how gauche it must appear to these reporters and their editor, Giles Elgood, with their heightened sensitivity to etiquette and politesse, for the leader of the Jewish state to demonstrate in-person his support for French Jews who have been targeted by the terrorists because they are Jews.
How gauche indeed.
On Death Threats, Haaretz Cartoons and Charlie Hebdo
Ronen Shoval, a candidate with the right-wing Habayit Yehudi party, is calling for an investigation of Haaretz on suspicion for "defeatist propaganda" for running a cartoon paying tribute to the murdered Charlie Hebdo journalists.
Or at least that's what the Haaretz print edition would have readers believe today. The page three article ("Haaretz death threats appear on rightest politican's Facebook") reads:
Facebook users have called for the murder of members of Haaretz's editorial board, responding to a call by a right-leaning politician who wants an investigation into Haaretz's editors on suspicion of "defeatest propaganda" under Statute 103 of Israel's penal code.
Ronen Shoval, who is running in right-wing party Habayit Yaheyudi's primary, called for the investigation on Facebook over the weekend. This came after Haaretz had run a cartoon in which its graphic designers paid tribute to the cartoonists killed in the terror attack on the Charlie Hebdo newspaper in France.
But Shoval is not calling for an investigation of Haaretz because a Haaretz graphic artist paid tribute to the murdered Charlie Hebdo attackers. Nor are those issuing death threats doing so on the basis of Haaretz's solidarity with the Charlie Hebdo victims. Shoval's objection is to a Haaretz cartoon which likened the murdered Charlie journalists to 13 Gazans said to be journalists killed in fighting over the summer.
The online edition includes the cartoon in question at the bottom of the article.
But the print edition did not at all describe the controversial cartoon, likely leaving readers completely puzzled about why a tribute to the victims of the Charlie Hebdo massacre would provoke cries of incitement as well as death threats in right-wing circles.
BBC's Tim Willcox in Paris: A New Low
Cross post from BBC Watch, a CAMERA affiliate
BBC News coverage of the rally in Paris on January 11th included the clip below in which Tim Willcox interrupts an interviewee talking about the recent antisemitic attacks in France to inform her – forty-eight hours after four Jewish hostages had been murdered in a terror attack on a kosher supermarket – that:
Many critics of Israel’s policy would suggest that the Palestinians suffer hugely at Jewish hands as well.
He then goes on to lecture her:
But you understand; everything is seen from different perspectives.
The EUMC Working Definition of Antisemitism includes the following:
Readers no doubt recall that just two months ago, Willcox made use of the age-old stereotype of ‘rich Jews’ and failed to challenge the ‘Jewish lobby’ trope in a programme he was hosting.
-- Hadar Sela
January 07, 2015
USA Today Op-Ed on Israeli 'Buffer Zone' Needs Remedial Thinking
In a USA Today commentary, “Do Buffer Zones Deter Wars?” (Dec. 29, 2014) Lionel Beehner writes that such zones "maintain the uneasy peace between Israel and Egypt and Syria over the past few decades." But “the one place in the Middle East with no real buffer … is within Israel itself, which is partly why violence with the Palestinians rekindles every few years.”
Are there "real buffers" in Syria? Iraq? Yemen? Libya? Never mind.
One hundred and twenty miles of largely unpopulated Sinai Desert, hosting a U.S.-led multinational observer force, does buffer Israel and Egypt. Israel occupies the Golan Heights, separating it from and looking down on a relatively unpopulated part of Syria.
But anti-Israel violence by Palestinian Arabs rarely comes from “within Israel itself.” Israel’s West Bank security barrier, which was a response to suicide bombers of the second intifada, plus checkpoints, good intelligence and occasional raids usually buffer Israel against terrorism from the well-populated territory that begins where suburban Tel Aviv and eastern Jerusalem stop.
What periodically rekindles Israeli-Palestinian violence? Contrary to Beehner, it's not the lack of a buffer zone. At fault are the genocidal intentions of Hamas, which dominates the Gaza Strip, and repeated rejections of a "two-state solution" if it means peace with Israel as a Jewish state by the Fatah rulers of the West Bank.
Though not without its critics, Edward de Bono's influential and commercially successful book Teaching Thinking appeared 39 years ago. Beehner, a member of USA Today's board of contributors, Ph.D. candidate at Yale University and editor of the start-up online journal Cicero, apparently hasn't read it yet.
(USA Today declined to publish a shorter version of the above as a letter to the editor.)
Where's the Coverage? Majority of Israeli Arabs Proud to Be Israeli
According to the annual Democracy Index, published by the Israel Democracy Institute, a majority of Israelis are proud to be Israeli – including a majority of Israeli Arabs.
The Jerusalem Post reports:
The poll of 1,007 respondents, representing a statistical sample of the Israeli adult population, has a margin of error of only 3.2 percent.
Since 2003, the Index has served as a critical barometer of Israeli public opinion for Israeli politicians, government decision-makers, and newspapers of record around the world.
The poll found that 86% of Israeli Jews and 65% of Israeli Arabs described themselves as either very or quite proud to be Israeli. Only 13% of Jews and 34% of Arabs were not so proud or not proud at all to be Israeli.
Despite the fact that “newspapers of record around the world” supposedly rely on this poll, most of the media has ignored it completely. Only the Israeli or Jewish press has reported on this finding.
As a basis for comparison, the most recent Pew poll on this issue showed that only 56 percent of Americans “often feel proud to be American,” with many subgroups expressing a much lower rate than that.
So, the supposedly "apartheid" state of Israel inspires a much higher rate of pride among the supposedly oppressed minority Arab population than the United States does among Americans broadly. That’s news. And yet… where’s the coverage?
January 06, 2015
Pressure on Qatar to Reduce Its Funding of Extremist Groups
On Dec. 29, 2014, the Wall Street Journal published an analysis piece by Yaroslav Trofimov, "Qatar Scales Back Intervention in Middle East Conflicts," describing the pressure brought to bear on Qatar to reduce its support for radical Muslim groups like the Muslim Brotherhood. The article delves into the important topic of Qatar's role in fomenting instability and radicalism and the reaction it has generated among the most important Arab states.
Qatar has a tiny population, but it enjoys outsized influence due to its enormous wealth derived from vast natural-gas deposits. In recent decades, it has increasingly used this wealth to promote the Muslim Brotherhood. Qatar's ruler, Emir Tamim bin Hamad al-Thant, controls the Qatari-based international news channel, Al Jazeera.
Since the overthrow of the Muslim Brotherhood-dominated Egyptian government and accession of General Abdel Fattah Al Sisi to the presidency of Egypt, Egypt and Qatar have been sharply at odds. As Egypt contends with chronic terrorism in the Sinai peninsula, Qatar's role as a main donor to Hamas in Gaza has become a major point of contention. It's not just Egypt that has a problem with the Muslim Brotherhood. The Brotherhood has antagonized Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and other Gulf emirates.
Saudi Arabia and the Gulf emirates recently took the unusual step of withdrawing their ambassadors to Qatar. Isolation from its fellow Sunni Arab states appears to have prompted the Qatari ruling clique to reconsider its stance in the region.
Trofimov recounts that after a visit by a senior Qatari envoy to Egypt, Qatar shut down its Egyptian channel of Al Jazeera. This decision came despite Al Jazeera's public campaign to shame the Egyptian government into releasing two of its correspondents who were arrested and convicted of supporting the Muslim Brotherhood and falsely reporting events.
Trofimov's piece is the type of reporting that major news organizations should encourage. Such analysis draws readers away from an excessive focus on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and provides insight into events unfolding in the Middle East.
January 05, 2015
HarperCollins Erases Israel, Then Corrects
HarperCollins, a venerable publisher of Atlases, erased Israel from the map of the Middle East in a school edition it sold to English-language schools in the Middle East. Although HarperCollins executives acted swiftly to correct the error, troubling questions remain about this incident.
Most reports indicate that it was the intercession of the Bishops' Conference of England and Wales that prompted HarperCollins to act. According to these reports, the bishops' warning that omission of Israel was "harmful to peace efforts in the Middle East" prompted the publisher to pulp any existing unsold copies and correct the error for any new printings.
What if it had been Jewish or Israeli groups that objected? Would Harper Collins have reacted the same way? What about the publisher's adherence to the integrity of the product that should have prevented the omission from occurring in the first place. Israel's existence is a geographical fact. Acknowledging the material presence of the Jewish state is not a statement of support for it or its government.
After this exposure, can HarperCollins' atlases - and other reference books it publishes - be trusted? Purchasers of HarperCollins books have to worry that other books published by HarperCollins have had factual material expunged because it was deemed politically inconvenient.
It is also notable that these atlases were English-language versions, raising the question of which students were intended to use the books. Are they the children of Arab elites who interact on a global scale with westerners? Was the atlas intended for the children of westerners residing for diplomatic and commercial purposes in Arab countries?
Because HarperCollins was forthcoming and acted swiftly, the controversy will fade quickly. But should it? How many other examples of denying Israel's existence remain in schoolbooks provided by western publishers?
John Allen, Jr. Misinforms in Newly Established Website
John Allen, Jr., former Vatican correspondent for the National Catholic Reporter, is now the lead reporter for Crux, a website that describes itself as devoted to “covering all things Catholic.”
John Henry, the new owner of the Boston Globe, recruited Allen away from NCR. The Globe established Crux in toward the end of 2014. A business brief announcing the site’s establishment described the new site as “anchored” by Allen’s reporting.
In a recent article published on Crux, Allen took a list of Catholic missionaries killed in the field during 2014 and used it as a basis for an article titled “Debunking three myths about anti-Christian violence.” Fides, the Vatican’s news agency, prepared the list of missionaries killed in the course of their work.
A teaser to the article states, “A careful reading of the Fides list debunks three common misconceptions about anti-Christian violence in the early 21st century.”
In his report, Allen acknowledges up front that list is not a “complete index of anti-Christian violence, just clergy and laity murdered while working full-time for the Catholic Church.”
But then, oddly enough, Allen draws conclusions from the text as if it represents what’s happening to Christians worldwide. And while he’s at it, he uses the word “myth” to describe a straw man argument he knocks down in the course of the article.
The straw man argument that Allen knocks down is that “That Middle East is not the only place where Christians are at risk, and radical Islam is not the only threat.”
To demonstrate that this is a myth, Allen reports that of the 26 victims killed in 2014, only two were killed by militant Muslim groups.
“That observation does not minimize the danger posed by forces as ISIS and Boko Haram, but it does make a simple point: Radical Islam could disappear tomorrow, and it would not mean Christians are safe,” he writes.
First off, who has ever said that the Middle East is the “only place where Christians are at risk” and that radical Islam is the “only threat”? Groups like Voice of the Martyrs and Open Doors and Christian Solidarity International have been around for a long time and were alerting people to the mistreatment of Christians long before the recent spate of anti-Christian violence took place in the Middle. Voice of the Martyrs, for example was founded during the Cold War, and started its work by addressing the mistreatment of Christians behind the Iron Curtain.
And the mistreatment of Christians in North Korea and China has been on the agenda of Christian rights activists for years.
And while Christians are mistreated worldwide, the reality is that if radical Islam disappeared tomorrow, Christians would be a lot safer than they are now.
There has never been a point in history where Christians have been 100 percent “safe" but today we are in a historical era where Christians are being killed in huge numbers and eradicated in the region of its birth.
In the past year, thousands of Christians have been killed in Iraq, Syria and Nigeria. Churches have been burned and Christians are even being threatened with violence tomorrow. The vast majority of violence against Christians is perpetrated by jihadist murderers. They killed a lot more than just two Catholic missionaries.
Christians in the Middle East are not just being persecuted; they are being ethnically cleansed.
That is why groups like Voice of the Martyr’s, Open Doors, and Christian Solidarity International are drawing attention to the problem. They are not propounding a myth, they are responding to a real crisis, one that currently dwarfs the violence against Christians elsewhere in the world.
The premise of Allen’s article is, to put it mildly, bizarre in light of his previous reporting on anti-Christian violence. Allen addressed the problem in a 2011 article for National Catholic Reporter about the appointment of Archbishop Edwin O’Brien as Grand Master of the Holy Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem, an organization that provides substantial financial backing to the Catholic Archdiocese of Jerusalem.
In the 2011 article, Allen recounted the problems facing Christians in the Middle East (which have only gotten worse since 2011) and expressed hope that Archbishop O’Brien will become the “’tip of the spear’ for a far more concentrated and effective global Catholic response to the realities facing Christians in today’s Middle East.”
So here it is: In 2011, John Allen, Jr. highlighted the threat to Christians in the Middle East and called on a more “concentrated and effective global Catholic response” to the problem.
In 2015, after thousands of Christians have been murdered at the hands of jihadists, Allen downplays the threat to Christians in the Middle East.
He does this by portraying a miniscule data set as somehow representative of what’s happening to Christians in the world when in fact its not (his caveat notwithstanding). And he uses a straw man argument to portray people concerned about this threat as promoting a “myth.”
Allen is not demolishing a myth, he is helping to create one that justifies inaction in the effort to protect Christians in the Middle East.
In 2011, Allen lamented this inaction.
In 2015, Allen is telling a story that justifies it.
January 02, 2015
Hamas Concealed Combatant Fatalities in Summer 2014 War
According to the Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center, Hamas carried out a "deliberate policy of concealment" of its military fatalities "to serve its diplomatic campaign against Israel" during the fighting in July and August 2014. The Jerusalem Post reports on the continuing investigation by the Center of the identities and affiliations of Palestinians killed during Israel's "Protective Edge" operation. The Israeli military operation was in response to escalating rocket fire from Gaza and infiltrations by Hamas fighters into Israel through tunnels. The newest report discussed by Yaakov Lappin points to the omission in casualty lists disseminated to the media by Palestinian authorities of Hamas combatants killed in offensive operations.
The Palestinians claim a high proportion of civilians among the fatalities resulting from Israeli military strikes in order to portray the Israeli military as reckless and guilty of possible war crimes. They rely upon international institutions like the United Nations and complicit "human rights" groups like Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch to validate their misleading casualty claims and negligent media to spread the misinformation.
Contrary to the claims widely cited in the media and by alleged human rights groups that 70-85 percent of the fatalities were non-combatants, evidence collected by the Meir Amit Center calculates about 55 percent of the fatalities so far identified were militants affiliated with Hamas or other terrorist organizations in Gaza.