Archive for the ‘Media’ Category

Emotions first at the NY Times

Wednesday, November 20th, 2013
The emotion-laden photo of the mother of murderer Hussein Gawadra, used by the Times to illustrate its article about the murder of Eden Atias

The emotion-laden photo of the mother of murderer Hussein Gawadra, used by the Times to illustrate its article about the murder of Eden Atias

Jonathan Haidt, in his excellent book The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion, argues that we are motivated by emotions, not reasoning. Logic can rationalize our beliefs (and the actions we take) afterwards, but emotions drive us.

Even the facts that we use to rationalize our feeling-driven conclusions are perceived, remembered and given weight selectively, through an emotional filter.

So if you want to persuade someone of something, start with the emotions. Facts and logic can wait.

I often wonder if the journalists of the anti-Israel media like NPR and the NY Times do this out of conscious intent or instinctively. Both focus strongly on the emotional aspects of the conflict. While there may be ‘balance’ in the facts presented, the weight of emotional content is always on the side of the Arabs.

Do they have meetings in which the editors explain the best propaganda techniques? Or are they expected to have learned this stuff in Journalism school?

Recently the NY Times embarrassed itself by going more than a little over the line in this direction when it published a story about the gruesome knife murder of a sleeping 19-year old Jewish soldier, Eden Atias (my take on the murder is here), illustrated with a photo of the grieving mother of the murderer!

The article, which devotes more space to Israeli plans to construct homes outside of the Green Line than it does to Arab terrorism, incitement and murder, is bad enough — but the photo provoked a storm of complaints to Margaret Sullivan, the Times’ public editor, who responded with a rare admission that the Times had made a “wrong choice” in selecting it to illustrate the story.

But the editors’ mea culpas ignored the real problem, that the emotional content of the photo was biased, and pleaded only to the lesser crime of irrelevance:

[Ms Sullivan] spoke on Monday afternoon to two senior editors at The Times. Both agreed that the photo was a regrettable choice. The dominant image with an article should reflect the overall point of the article and the reason for its newsworthiness.

This did not represent the essence of the story, which was clearly the moment of the Israeli soldier being stabbed,” said Michele McNally, the assistant managing editor in charge of photography. She said a less-senior picture editor chose the photograph, along with one representing what she considered the other side of the story, which showed an Israeli police officer at the crime scene.

The selection of the Palestinian mother’s image with the article was an effort to achieve balance, but such an effort was not appropriate in this case, Ms. McNally said. In the print editions of the newspaper, the two photographs were published on an inside page with the Palestinian photograph above the other. On the website and in other digital presentations, the Palestinian photograph was by far the more dominant image and remains so.

Of course that misses the point, which is the bias inherent in the choice. But not satisfied with merely looking dense, the editors felt the need to make up a transparent excuse:

It was only later in the news cycle that photographs of the soldier’s funeral — which would have been an appropriate choice for a dominant image — became available, she said. (A photograph of the victim would also have been appropriate, she said.) “We should have waited for that or substituted it once it came,” she said.

Were there no photos of the crime scene or of Eden Atias available immediately after the murder? Funny — all the Israeli newspapers had them. How is it that the carefully composed picture of the murderer’s mother, which could only have been taken hours after the murder and the arrest (by Palestinian Gonzo photographer Muhammad Ballas), was available to them early and these others were not? And why didn’t they substitute another picture?

Stupid or evil: you decide.

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Is this guy for real? Unfortunately, he is.

Wednesday, March 20th, 2013
Steve Clemons (center) with Chuck Hagel

Steve Clemons (center) with Chuck Hagel

While writing about Jonathan Pollard, I came upon something that more or less took my breath away for its sheer mean-spiritedness.

A creature called Steve Clemons wrote this in The Atlantic, which I remember as a serious magazine (but that was years ago):

In my book, Pollard should die in prison for his deeds that betrayed his fellow citizens and only be released if he became a bargaining chip in a scheme moving forward America’s strategic interests.  That means if folks want Pollard out of prison, then Prime Minister Netanyahu and his associates like Bob Wexler can ‘do much more’ to engineer a close to the ulcerous, toxic mess of the Israel-Palestine peace negotiations standoff.

The piece, from August 2011, was called “Jonathan Pollard’s Only Remaining Value: Strategic Bargaining Chip.”

Now there are very few people that I would like to see die in prison, and they are all very vicious criminals indeed. Clemons wants Pollard to suffer because, in his words (in a blog post of January 2011),

As one former Reagan administration official stated, Pollard ferreted away and transferred to Israel, which allegedly passed along the information to the Soviet Union, the “crown jewels” of America’s national security strategy.

I presume Clemons’ tax return says ‘journalist’ on it, so you would think that he would know that this view of the matter is at the very least highly controversial, if not almost certainly false. A competent journalist would have read a little about the case before declaring that this human being, despite his flaws, had no value other than as a bargaining chip.

So what would Clemons like to see Obama get in return for freeing Pollard? His blog post continues,

Convicted spies can be bargaining chips. If Netanyahu were to commit to collapse his government, reassemble with sensible pragmatists in the Knesset, and deliver definitively on an internationally-accepted two state arrangement between Israel and Palestine, then I would support releasing Pollard to the Israelis.

There is nothing less than that that would suffice as the price for the release of this person who betrayed his nation. Israelis and Palestinians say that they could do a deal — if both were serious — in just a few months.

If so, then do the deal — and release Pollard after the leaders have signed the pact and the Quartet and Arab League have blessed the arrangement.

Do I have to write “the mind boggles” yet again? Netanyahu should collapse his government, and invite the extreme Left (“sensible pragmatists”) to join him in implementing a solution acceptable to the Arab League? The mind, … er, never mind.

But despite his political naiveté and journalistic laziness, Clemons is “Washington editor at large for The Atlantic and editor of Atlantic Live.” He is also a Senior Fellow at the New America Foundation, a ‘progressive’ think tank funded by the biggest names in liberal philanthropy, including Bill Gates, Eric Schmidt (of Google), and — yes — several George Soros-connected donors.

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Obaminology

Monday, March 18th, 2013

Do you remember “Kremlinology,” the study of what was actually going on behind the walls of the Soviet citadel? Experts would scrutinize photos of Soviet officials to see who was standing closest to the leaders, who had moved farther away, or, ominously, who was not present at all. Since the Soviets were not exactly transparent about their policies, a known ‘hawk’ moving closer to party chiefs might signal a threat.

A free society is expected to be more transparent. Officials should announce policies, which are more or less the policies that the government then tries to carry out.

But in the America of today — and particularly with regard to Middle East policy — this is not the case. At least the pro-Israel community finds it necessary to microscopically examine the behavior of important officials, to try to determine what the administration intends. At times like this — immediately preceding the presidential visit to Israel — speculation reaches a high pitch. We find ourselves engaged in Obaminology.

There are some simple methods that can be employed. First, what doesn’t work: it is usually a waste of time to listen to the President’s actual words. As we can see by his recent comments to “Jewish leaders” and to representatives of American Arab organizations, he will tell his audiences what they want to hear. Such statements are carefully calibrated so that they will be technically true but either vacuous or open to multiple interpretations.

One useful technique is to look at the ‘friendly’ media. For example, the New York Times often presents the official line or floats trial balloons for the administration. And the Times has run no less than four anti-Israel op-eds or stories in the past seven days: the Joseph Levine piece arguing that Israel did not have the right to exist as a Jewish state (which I commented on here); an op-ed by Columbia professor and Palestinian apologist Rashid Khalidi which claims the US has enabled Israel’s “apartheid” policies; a long story in the magazine by Ben Ehrenreich, blaming the IDF and ‘settlers’ for provoking ‘resistance’ by saintly Arab residents of Nabi Saleh; and a front-page news story by bureau chief Jodi Rudoren critical of Israel for allowing Jews to live in what she calls “Arab East Jerusalem.”

All of these articles had this in common: they are intended to reduce sympathy for Israel, to establish the ‘Palestinian’ narrative of both historical and current events, and to weaken the Jewish one.

This is nothing new for the Times, but the concentration of coverage makes one wonder. And it is not only the Times: this weekend NPR presented an interview with Khalidi making the same points as his op-ed.

If the President’s words are not useful in sniffing out his intentions, his actions are. Wednesday, President Obama will be visiting Israel, where he will snub the democratically elected Knesset by speaking at a nearby convention center, unlike Presidents Carter, Clinton and Bush, who chose to speak at Israel’s parliament. This is apparently because of the unprecedented lengths to which the Obama Administration has gone to deny Israel’s sovereignty over any part of Jerusalem. To add insult to injury, students from one of Israel’s accredited universities — the one that happens to be located in Ariel, east of the armistice line — were left out of the invitations offered to students at other universities.

I believe that the administration believes that it has set all of its ducks in a row for the upcoming visit. I do not believe that it will be “merely a photo-op,” as some have suggested, because Obama has no need for a photo-op today. The visit is costly and complicated, and will have objectives that the President and his advisers think are important.

It has also been suggested that the President will concentrate on issues involving Iran and the Syrian civil war rather than the question of the Palestinian Arabs. But this is not what is implied by the media offensive and the deliberate snub of Israel’s parliament and government.

Obaminology tells us that these objectives will be related to the ongoing effort to force Israel to withdraw from Judea, Samaria and eastern Jerusalem. Probably there will be renewed pressure to freeze construction east of the armistice lines, including Jerusalem. It would not surprise me if support for Israel in possible future actions against Iran were conditioned on concessions in the Palestinian arena.

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Show me the money!

Monday, March 11th, 2013
Saudi Prince Alwaleed Bin-Talal speaks at Harvard, 2012

Saudi Prince Alwaleed Bin-Talal speaks at Harvard, 2012

Rob Vincent is back, with a follow-on to his previous piece, “How the heck we got here.” This time he asks the question “how come we don’t know where we are?”

The corruption of public discourse over Israel
By Robert K. Vincent

Ideally, here in the U.S. and also in other Western societies, one would expect a relatively free and open forum of discussion for competing points of view, in what some have called the “marketplace of ideas”.  In this realm, the venues for discussion are academic institutions, and for the public at large, national-level print and broadcast media organizations.  These venues – which I would collectively term as the “organs of thought control” – define the acceptable parameters of debate on any issue. Points of view that are deemed unacceptable in these realms, rightly or wrongly, are relegated to the fringes of public discourse, and thus have little chance of influencing public opinion or policies where relevant.

Inherent in the concept of being a “marketplace” of ideas, the relative competitiveness between various points of view should be measured in terms of who has the better command of facts, of logic, and pertinent history.

But what if this “marketplace” were corrupted, in a manner analogous to the “fixing” of actual marketplaces?  What if, as was the case during the “robber baron” days of 19th century America, a “Standard Oil” could buy out or otherwise shut down any form of competition?  From there, a narrative of questionable veracity and authenticity could nonetheless dominate public discourse unopposed, leading to negative policy outcomes.

On the international stage, we have already seen this dynamic play out in at least one successful instance.  Consider the course of the Vietnam War.  In this conflict, the U.S. had every material advantage as these are normally calculated in warfare.  Yet, in unprecedented fashion, despite winning every battle, we lost the war.  Though many cite the failure of American will as the primary reason for American defeat, this only tells half the story.  American failure of will was brought about as a result of deliberate calculation and tactical genius by our foes.

Without delving too greatly into the specific history here, it can fairly be said that while the U.S. concentrated on a two-dimensional battlefield focused on the clash of arms, Vietnamese leaders recognized the impact that could be brought to bear by a clash of perceptions that were vulnerable to manipulation in the modern media age.  This was a revolutionary development, on a par with the groundbreaking historical significance of Nazi Germany’s “blitzkrieg” tactics of WW2.

Indeed, everything of this nature that was done to the U.S. during the Vietnam War is being done to Israel today.  Terrorism, combatants routinely disguised as civilians, the deliberate use of civilians as human shields for media impact, child warriors, suicide bombers, and agitation on college campuses, all of these tools which sound so familiar to those of us involved in the defense of Israel were pioneered, in their modern form, by the Vietnamese communists.

That we see these very same tactics used against Israel is no coincidence:  Yasser Arafat traveled to Hanoi during the late 1960s in order to glean wisdom from North Vietnamese leaders regarding the methods by which he could defeat a materially superior foe.  Here, he was exposed to the techniques North Vietnam used in order to change the terms of the debate regarding the conflict in question, of manipulating public opinion to one’s own advantage.  The rest, as they say, is history.

Now, consider the Cold War.  During this time, starting most noticeably in the 1970s, the Soviets employed what they called “active measures” aimed at swaying opinion in Western countries so that the threat they posed would be minimized in the minds of Western publics.  They admitted to spending some $50 million annually on such efforts.  Although the recipients of such funds would not be publicly acknowledged for obvious reasons, as a student at the University of Michigan in the early 1980s, it was easy for me to spot the campus agitators and activists who promoted the Soviet line.  In the national media of that era, it was almost as easy to spot the various journalists, syndicated columnists, etc., who reflexively blamed the West in general or the U.S. in particular for every issue of contention between the West and the Soviet Bloc, who opposed every major American weapons program while remaining utterly silent about the Soviet arms industry, and so on.  Some of this “noise” might have been arrived at independently and honestly by those who made it, but the Soviets admitted to paying for at least some of it.  $50 million might have only bought a squadron of fighter jets in those days (it would buy maybe one today), but it would certainly grease a lot of palms.

With all of the above in mind, let us return to the Arab-Israeli conflict.  There could not be an issue for which debate and reportage over the same, in the “organs of thought control”, has become more outrageously one-sided.  Finding a professor at a major university who will openly take the side of Israel is harder than finding a bag of pork rinds in the Rabbi’s pantry. With the partial exceptions of FOX and the Wall Street Journal, finding a major national or international-level print or broadcast news organization that does not take the Arab side against Israel in nearly every instance is also next to impossible.

The “marketplace of ideas”, where this issue is concerned, simply does not exist.  Here, there is only one “product” for sale and the consumer can either accept it or ignore it, but it is amazingly resistant to any challenge in the form of genuine debate.

This phenomenon is so pervasive and comprehensive, it beggars belief that it could simply come about as mere coincidence.  Could so many legions of professors and journalists be so willfully and consistently ignorant to such an enormous degree, on the same issue, all at once?

Remember the Soviet’s “active measures” program:  What if a smear campaign aimed at demonizing Israel and promoting the Palestinian narrative, while at the same time, obscuring the true medieval, barbaric nature of Israel’s foes, wasn’t supported by a paltry $50 million per year…but instead by hundreds of millions of dollars every year, year in and year out, for literally decades?  That would grease many, many palms, wouldn’t it?

Precise figures are impossible to come by, but we know they are doing this.  Reports of multimillion dollar Saudi grants to major universities are legion.  In 2005 alone, Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal – the nephew of Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah and reportedly the fifth richest man in the world today – awarded grants totaling $40 million to Harvard and Georgetown universities in order to “advance Islamic studies and further understanding of the Muslim world”…even as many of his own subjects are mired in poverty and illiteracy. Where media organizations are concerned, it has been reported, this very same Saudi prince owns a 7% stake in NewsCorp, the parent company of both FOX and the Wall Street Journal.  This is the second largest share of any investor.  This does not tell the whole story; his stake consists of special “preferred” stock that gives him the equivalent of 40% voting rights on their board of directors.

Now, consider what happened to Glenn Beck in 2011.  Whatever you may think of him, there was no question but that he was an incredibly staunch and courageous supporter of Israel.  His special program on that subject, scheduled to air in early April of that year, was abruptly cancelled for no stated reason.  Speculation was rife in many quarters that weekend that he was being taken off the air, and eerily, in classic Stalinist style, columnists such as Dana Milbank, writing in the Washington Post, were already writing his journalistic obituary, incredibly accusing Beck of being an “anti-Semite”!  His Israel special aired the following week anyway, but his show was ultimately cancelled in June of that year, even though his contract had him running until December.  But he had scheduled his “Restoring Courage” event in Israel for later that summer; some “coincidence”.

Stop and consider the implications of this.  What could be so controversial about someone coming out in support of one of America’s most important and staunch allies?  Why was this so objectionable, when the solid majority of Americans support Israel in any event?

Academia and the media are not the only places petrodollars are finding their way so as to influence public perceptions of Israel.  Churches are also being targeted.  For example, in 2012, the Presbyterian Church USA’s General Assembly Mission Committee endorsed a resolution that would require that church to divest from holdings in Caterpillar, Motorola, and Hewlett-Packard due to the relationships these firms have with Israel.   What possible interest could a Christian church of any denomination have in punitive actions against Israel, the only Middle Eastern country where Christians can freely practice their faith?  Can leaders of these churches be so completely ignorant of the growing violent persecution of Christians throughout much of the Muslim world?  In Egypt alone, since the overthrow of Mubarak, Islamist persecution of Coptic Christians there – to include Church burnings and deadly mob violence – has led some 100,000 Coptic Christians to flee that country so far.

Yet, even in the face of this propaganda juggernaut, arguing the case for Israel is not a waste of time.  We need to make every effort in this regard for the sake of strengthening the convictions of our friends and enlightening the genuinely curious and uninformed.  We have one important advantage:  The other side has to convince the public that 2+2=5, whereas we only have to remind people that 2+2=4, a far easier task.

After all, what are Israel’s detractors supporting?  Israel does not exist in a vacuum, in isolation.  She is engaged in a state of war at one level or another with most of her neighbors, who make no secret of wanting to see her destroyed.  By casting Israel as being “bad”, this, by logical extension, by default, casts her adversaries as “good”.  Let us take a moment to remind ourselves – and resolve to remind anyone we debate or inform – just who Israel’s adversaries are.  I would submit to you that the political and philosophical gulf between the West and Muslim SW Asia is greater than between the West and the Soviet Bloc during the Cold War, or even between the Western allies and Nazi Germany.  At least in the USSR or in Nazi Germany, a woman could drive a car or get a job.

Consider Saudi Arabia.  This is a society where there is no free press, no freedom of religion, no labor rights, and no women’s rights as we understand these.  But it gets much worse than that.  In Saudi Arabia, the courts have sentenced women to death – to death – for allegedly casting a spell on their husbands that made them impotent.  This is a country where pre-adolescent girls are routinely forced into marriages with grown men in their thirties, forties, or even fifties.  Here, 19-year-old rape victims are flogged for the “crime” of being in the company of an unrelated male.  And these pathologies are hardly limited to Saudi Arabia; in various forms, they are rampant throughout the region.  I sometimes wonder if this entire fantastic charade of demonizing Israel is not really some giant smokescreen intended to distract the rest of the world from the horrific nature of their own societies, to “keep the closet door closed”, so to speak.

Make no mistake, however.  The Saudi-led propaganda campaign against Israel is not simply wanton hatred for its own sake.  This has a very calculated objective.  The Saudis and their friends mean to inflict upon Israel what was carried out against Rhodesia in the 1970s.  Unable to defeat Israel on the battlefield, unable to compete with her economically, this is the only effective weapon in their arsenal.  Israel is to be branded a pariah state and strangled through political, diplomatic, and economic isolation.  The immediate objective in this campaign at the present time is to deprive Israel of her most important major power ally and strategic partner for the past four decades, the U.S.

When American Jews advocate for Israel, some even among our own criticize our efforts as amounting to “single-issue” politics, as if this were somehow unacceptably selfish to engage in.  But at this point in history, in view of the very real possibility that we stand to lose the anchor of our claim to people hood, with all the attendant consequences, I would implore you all to ignore such criticisms.  We can still care about the disadvantaged, about education, about the rights of those who are discriminated against, as we always have.  As a people, we have done so much for so many others outside of our community, that I submit to you that we have earned the right in the present moment to put ourselves first as that is expressed in the defense of Israel.

We must never allow ourselves to be intimidated or silenced.  We must do all we can to speak with as loud and unified voice as we can muster as a people.

As daunting as this task may seem, remember that the Soviet Union collapsed anyway, even as the government there had total control of the ‘organs of thought control’.  The Vietnamese communists may have won their war, but it turned into a hollow victory.  The Maoist ideal of Ho Chi Minh’s Vietnam has never been realized.  Their leaders now come begging to their former capitalist, “imperialist” foes for trade and investment.  Most ironically, Vietnam today is aggressively courting Israel as a source of such support.

Beyond our own grassroots efforts, my greatest hope is that more will be done to publicly expose the petrodollar propaganda machine.  I would compare this enterprise of theirs to “The Wizard of Oz”:  An impressive show of noise, light, and power, all based on illusion, all controlled by some little old man hiding behind a curtain, pulling levers and pushing buttons.  We must tear that curtain away and expose that little man for the pathetic wretch he is, expose his corrupt friends for what they are, and in this way, ensure our place as a people, in the eyes of all other peoples in the world.

Robert Vincent, a U.S. Army veteran, obtained his BA in Russian and East European Studies from the University of Michigan, his MA in International Relations from the University of Chicago, and his MBA from the University of Findlay.  He lives and works in Northwest Ohio.

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The NY Times: dishonest, defamatory and deliberate

Thursday, December 13th, 2012

new_york_times_frontpage1

I have often criticized the New York Times for slanting ‘news’ stories as well as for its consistent anti-Israel bias in editorials, selection of op-eds, columnists, etc.

Now the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA) has prepared a study of the Times’ content that they argue demonstrates that the newspaper is as bad or worse than I’ve said:

The dominant finding of the study is a disproportionate, continuous, embedded indictment that dominates both news and commentary sections. Israeli views are downplayed while Palestinian perspectives, especially criticism of Israel, are amplified and even promoted. The net effect is an overarching message, woven into the fabric of the coverage, of Israeli fault and responsibility for the conflict.

The summary (the full report, with detailed data will be available soon) lists several newsworthy  topics — the peace process, the Mavi Marmara affair, the ‘siege’ of Gaza, violence and incitement in Israel and the territories. It argues that the Times’ coverage of these has been biased to the extreme. It also notes that editorials and articles chosen for the op-ed pages have been almost entirely anti-Israel — some totally irrational, such as a remarkably ugly piece by an anti-Israel extremist that “characterized Israel’s tolerance toward homosexuals as a devious ploy to conceal abuses of Palestinian human rights.”

There is no doubt in my mind that the data will confirm rigorously what I noticed years ago and continue to notice: that the New York Times has chosen the path of dishonesty and even deliberate defamation, over responsible journalism. They are not disinterested observers of events; they are fighters in an information war.

I think we must draw a distinction here between the normal political ‘slant’ of an editorial policy — all media have them — and a sustained policy to abet the assassination of a nation. I am entirely serious when I say that the difference between the New York Times and Der Stürmer is one of style and degree. The intent is similar.

“Oh, come on,” you say. “Don’t be an extremist yourself. It’s just the usual liberal bias.” No, it isn’t. It is a sustained campaign to establish certain false propositions in the minds of the public — an educated, influential segment of the public. These beliefs are intended to influence policy, in a way which will directly damage Israel’s security. The New York Times is doing its best, in other words, to get people (Jews) killed.

Here are some of the false propositions that are repeated, over and over, in the pages of the Times:

  • The conflict continues because Israel is not prepared to make peace with the Palestinians.
  • Any defensive action in the face of terrorism is collective punishment of Palestinians.
  • Any defensive action that hurts Palestinians is disproportionate.
  • Israel’s government is an extremist right-wing regime.
  • Israelis in general are racially prejudiced against Arabs.
  • The security fence is a land grab.
  • Israeli Jews have no right to live beyond the Green Line.
  • Eastern Jerusalem is “Arab Jerusalem.”
  • ‘Settlers’ are terrorists, Palestinian Arabs are oppressed.

The objective of this propaganda is to make it harder for Israel to defend itself against terrorism and war, and to facilitate diplomatic pressure to reverse the outcome of 1967. Of course, once that is accomplished, it will be the results of 1948 that will be placed under pressure.

I could go on. I could speculate about the motivations of the editors and publishers. But wondering about the motivations of their enemies is a Jewish disease.

What we should do is to stop giving aid and comfort to them. To stop subscribing to this newspaper, even if we like the book reviews or sports articles. You wouldn’t make donations to Hizballah, right? Then don’t buy the Times.

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US media and the E1 controversy

Thursday, December 6th, 2012

On Monday, the NY Times published an editorial which included this:

[Netanyahu’s actions] could doom the chances for a two-state solution because building in the E1 area would split the northern and southern parts of the West Bank.

Yesterday, NPR’s Philip Reeves, probably the single journalist most responsible for promulgating the 2002 “Jenin Massacre” blood libel against Israel, announced in a “news” broadcast that

There’s particular concern over plans, still at a preliminary stage, for an area called E1. If built, this would cut the West Bank in two. Diplomats say this would make a two-state solution to the Middle East conflict almost impossible.

And today, I was greeted by the following in an editorial in the McClatchy-owned Fresno Bee newspaper:

Yet Israel has decided to … prepare construction of a 4.6 square-mile project near Jerusalem known as E-1. That would effectively cut the occupied West Bank in two and make establishment of a contiguous Palestinian state alongside Israel with Jerusalem as a shared capital, impossible.

Folks, look at a map. If you didn’t see it in yesterday’s post, here it is again:

Do you see the “West Bank” cut in two? I don’t either. As I pointed out yesterday, if Israel annexes Ma’ale Adumim, the proposed Palestinian state will be wider at is narrowest point than Israel would be with pre-1967 borders!

If the problem is supposed to be that it will be harder for Palestinians to drive from Bethlehem to Ramallah, Israel plans a bypass road around Ma’ale Adumim for Palestinian traffic that would actually be faster, and would not require passage through the security barrier’s checkpoints. There are also plans for a 4-lane underpass to some Arab neighborhoods in eastern Jerusalem,  while others would not be affected at all by the planned construction.

Actually, the shoe is entirely on the other foot. If the E1 plan is not completed, then Palestinian construction in the area will cut off Ma’ale Adumim — a town of 46,000 that has been expected to remain part of Israel in all proposed  peace agreements with the Palestinians — from the rest of Israel. It will make it harder for Israel to keep control of the strategic Jerusalem-Jericho road, which would be necessary to transport troops and tanks to the Jordan Valley in the event of an attack from the east.

Every Israeli Prime Minister since Rabin has supported the plan, but it has never been carried out because of pressure from the US and Europe. Meanwhile, illegal Palestinian construction in the area — illegal under the Oslo agreements, not that the Palestinians have ever paid attention — continues. It has already narrowed the corridor for the E1 plan, and at some point will make it impossible.

In other words, the true situation is exactly the opposite of what Palestinians and their supporters claim!

It’s time to face reality, which is that there will not be a two-state solution that will meet Palestinian requirements, because these requirements are incompatible with the survival of a Jewish state. Much as I would like to see Israel retain all of Judea and Samaria, and much as the Palestinians would like to see a ‘Palestine’ from the river to the sea, these outcomes are unlikely.

What could happen is a realignment in which Israel retains places with large Jewish populations (like Ma’ale Adumim) and areas that are strategically vital (like E1), and withdraws from others. This would have to be implemented unilaterally, but then the Palestinians have already officially renounced a bilateral solution by turning to the UN.

What I find remarkable is the way the US media have swallowed the Palestinian story hook, line and sinker, when a simple glance at a map would show that it is wrong. Are they following the lead of the administration?

One wonders what they — and the administration — want: a strong American ally in a Middle East where allies are rapidly disappearing, or yet another radical Islamist base for anti-Western and anti-American terrorism?

Take your pick — because those are the options.

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Yasser Arafat, Pallywood zombie

Wednesday, November 28th, 2012
Dead, but still fighting for the Cause

Dead, but still fighting for the Cause

Yasser Arafat’s tomb has been opened, samples taken from his body by a Palestinian medical team, and placed in the hands of “forensic experts” from several countries.

Arafat’s porcine widow Suha claims that she found traces of radioactive polonium 232 on clothes that she had kept since his death in 2004, although the hypothesis that he was poisoned by polonium is physically impossible (see also here).

Even if it wasn’t polonium, many Palestinians are convinced that he was poisoned. Here is an example of their reasoning:

Dr. Bashir Abdullah, a physician on the Palestinian team of investigators, said Tuesday that Arafat’s death “cannot be explained in the framework of disease, and therefore our explanation is that there must have been poisonous material.”

Now that is what I call a scientific diagnosis! I wonder what his ‘investigation’ will reveal? Especially since the samples were taken by Palestinians.

Of course Arafat was in terrible shape at 75, had been badly injured in a plane crash some years before from which he had not fully recovered, and had incompetent doctors (the Dr. Abdullah quoted above is an example). It’s not at all surprising that he died when he did.

Naturally they want to blame Israel. But no one has come up with a good explanation of why Israel, which could have killed Arafat in the years when he was relevant, would wait until he was 75 and ailing to do so. Barry Rubin writes,

…there was a clear Israeli decision not to kill Arafat taken in the 1970s. A much-seen photo of Arafat taken through the scope of an Israeli sniper rifle in southern Lebanon was circulated following Arafat’s 1982 evacuation from Beirut. If Israel had wanted to kill Arafat it had numerous opportunities to do so when it mattered, not at the end of his career when he was largely discredited.

Incidentally, the Israelis-poisoned-him theme has been used repeatedly in the case of others whose death obviously had other causes. The Palestinian leader Faisal Husseini and the publishing mogul Robert Maxwell immediately come to mind. This kind of thing is merely a modern-day version of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion.

Rubin goes on to discuss why this kind of no-evidence libel against Israel spreads so readily:

A fair-minded observer might start thinking: something different is going on here, some hidden agenda or psychological factor that impels Israel and the Jews being put into a special category with negative implications in today’s world. As it once was for so many centuries.

It is business as usual for Arab media to find murderous conspiracies that can be blamed on Jews or Israel. What I find surprising is the degree to which the mainstream Western media take this absolute rubbish seriously.

For example, an AP news article by Karin Laub quotes Suha Arafat, numerous Palestinian officials, doctors, etc. all suggesting that the Original Terrorist was poisoned (there is one short quotation from an Israeli saying that Israel had no reason to kill him at that point). But most importantly, there is no indication that many observers — including some who are not at all friendly to Israel — think that the conspiracy theory is simply insane. The takeaway from this article could be described as “hmm, maybe there’s something to this.”

CNN’s Christiane Amanpour interviewed Suha Arafat and wrote a similar article, also with a one-line denial by an Israeli spokesperson. This article is a bit better than Laub’s, because it presents some of the reasons that the polonium theory is unlikely to be true. But again, the impression it leaves is that the jury is still out on whether Arafat was poisoned (and if he was, no possible suspects beyond Israel are discussed).

Neither Laub nor Amanpour give anything but a passing mention to Arafat’s remarkable history of murder and terrorism, although both refer to his Nobel Prize.

A Google News search shows similar ‘reporting’ from numerous sources.

This has all of the signs of a Pallywood production. The independent investigators, working with samples of the terrorist’s flesh provided by Palestinians, will — shockingly — find evidence of poison!

And you can bet that Karin Laub and Christiane Amanpour will be on the scene to speculate about who killed the great leader of the Palestinian people.

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How our media blew a story

Sunday, September 16th, 2012

In 2010, Egyptian officials claimed that shark attacks were a Mossad plot to disrupt tourism to the Sinai. More recently, Palestinian Arabs have blamed Israel for crop damage by wild pigs. Indeed, there is a Wikipedia entry devoted to Arab Zoological conspiracy theories, of which these are representative.

We laugh — gullible Arabs that believe this stuff, and their media that promulgates it! But how much better is American media?

When this week’s riots in which Americans were murdered and embassies destroyed broke out, national outlets like the AP reported that the film-maker responsible for “Innocence of Muslims” was “Israeli born” and the film was funded by “100 Jewish donors.” It soon turned out that this was false; and while some media updated their stories, many did not for several days.

The story now has legs, and is running around the world while the truth is still putting its pants on. The whole thing could have been avoided by careful fact-checking before going public with the fanciful story of the nonexistent “Sam Bacile.”

But that’s not the only way our media have blown this story. Following the administration’s line, many news stories today are still blaming an idiotic amateur film (if there even is a complete film behind the snippets on Youtube) for the coordinated, almost simultaneous riots around the world. Hillary Clinton called the film ‘disgusting’, its maker was brought in for questioning about a a possible parole violation, and the US asked Google to suppress it (Google said no).

But the film was a pretext and “Islamophobia” had little or nothing to do with the disturbances. In general, the goal was to boost the position of radical Islamists in many nations against moderate or nationalist forces. There is no better way to do this than a good anti-Western (especially US) outburst, and any excuse that works will be exploited.

The media are downplaying this angle, because it suggests that the administration policy toward the Muslim world expressed in the President’s Cairo speech of 2009 is dangerously wrong-headed, and because it supports the idea that free expression in the US should be limited in accordance with Muslim concerns, something the Administration also seems to believe.

This story is just one example. There are plenty more. If our media — with a few exceptions, like (sometimes) the Washington Post — could concentrate more on serious journalism and less on re-electing the President, the American people might be better informed than Egyptians reading about Mossad-controlled sharks and Zionist boars.

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Today’s media failures (mostly NPR)

Wednesday, August 29th, 2012
Before and after Corrie's death. Different bulldozers, different time of day.

Before and after Corrie’s death. Different bulldozers, different time of day.

Here are three examples of what is either utter incompetence, deliberately slanted reporting, or both. I’m going for ‘both’.

***

This morning’s news mentioned that France was preparing to open a homicide inquiry into the death of Original Terrorist Yasser Arafat, based on the allegations of his porcine widow Suha that he was poisoned by Polonium 210.

Simple arithmetic proves that even if there had been an impossibly large amount of Polonium 210 in Arafat’s underwear that Suha tenderly saved for 8 years, it would be undetectable today. Anyway, his symptoms were not consistent with polonium poisoning.

Yet the New York Times and NPR report this insanity with a straight face!

***

NPR struck again with this report from Sheera Frankel in Haifa:

Rachel Corrie was crushed by an Israeli military bulldozer as she stood trying to block the demolition of Palestinian homes, in Rafah, Gaza. Today, a panel of judges ruled that she could have saved herself by moving out of the way. And they dismissed her family’s lawsuit against the government.

In a document released by the court, the Haifa district court judges said that they found no negligence on the part of the army of the State of Israel. The judges called Corrie’s death a regrettable accident, and noted that she had ignored repeated warnings to leave the area.

Cindy Corrie, Rachel’s mother, said she was saddened by the verdict and the seeming impunity of the Israeli military. The family averred that Rachel was clearly visible to the driver of the bulldozer, in her bright orange vest and loudspeaker. Corrie’s family fought a nine-year battle in Israel’s courts, arguing that the military never launched a full and credible investigation into the case. The Corrie family lawyer said they would appeal the case to Israel’s Supreme Court.

First, Corrie wasn’t ‘crushed’. The court established, based on testimony from other ‘activists’ as well as IDF personnel, that she became entangled in a pile of dirt that the bulldozer was pushing, and probably died after her head was struck by a piece of concrete. Yes, she’s still dead, but the emotional content of ‘crushed’ is much greater.

Second, she wasn’t trying to “block the demolition of Palestinian homes.” The bulldozer was clearing debris in a place where numerous tunnels used to smuggle weapons and explosives across the Egyptian border to terrorists in Gaza were located. Many of the ‘homes’ nearby were covering tunnel exits.

Third — and most important — the piece doesn’t mention that court very carefully examined the question of whether the bulldozer operator could have seen Corrie and concluded that he could not. It quotes the family’s contention that she was holding a bullhorn and in plain view, but this is based on a deliberate photographic fraud. Eyewitnesses said that she was immediately in front of the bulldozer’s blade where she could not be seen when she was hit (see yesterday’s post for a summary of the court’s decision).

One would think that a reporter on the scene would be able to do better with the simple facts. The piece also employs the usual NPR technique of emphasizing the emotional content of the anti-Israel side and barely mentioning opposing views.

***

A couple of weeks ago, an anti-Israel blogger copied a fanciful scenario about an Israeli cyberattack on Iran from a discussion forum, and claimed it was an actual war plan ‘leaked’ to him by an Israeli official. He managed to fool a few media outlets with it, even the BBC.

It was quickly debunked (see also here and here).

But guess who picked it up this week? Apparently NPR’s reporter Tom Gjelten found it too delicious to ignore, despite the fact that it was 100% bull pucky. Do they ever check this stuff?

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Obama, not Israel, “outrageously cynical”

Tuesday, August 14th, 2012

I’ve been asked why I bother writing about anything in the NY Times. Don’t I know that they are predictably biased against Israel? Haven’t I seen David Gerstman’s analyses of Times op-eds (which last month came out 5 anti-Israel to 1 pro-Israel)?

Well, yes. But the Times is important because its positions are so closely correlated with those of the Obama Administration. At least on foreign affairs, the Times is Obama’s Pravda.

Right now the administration is being very, very careful about saying what it thinks about Israel, not wanting to upset the electoral applecart. But the Times isn’t afraid to let it all hang out, as it did in today’s editorial on Israel and Iran:

Israeli leaders are again talking about possible military action against Iran. This is, at best, mischievous and, at worst, irresponsible, especially when diplomacy has time to run.

Let’s see: recent intelligence reports are said to put Iran closer to the bomb than ever. Diplomacy has been ongoing with Iran for a decade, and Iran has made steady progress towards nuclear weapons. Sanctions — which “have not set back the Iranian program by one iota,” according to PM Netanyahuare best compared to Swiss cheese, with 20 nations, including all of Iran’s major trading partners, having received waivers, and rogue financial institutions facilitating their violation.

Time, and therefore continued diplomacy, is on Iran’s side. Considering that the attainment of nuclear weapons is seen as a top-priority national goal, and understanding that  unhappiness on the part of the Iranian middle class isn’t likely to deter a regime that is prepared to shoot down demonstrators (as it did in 2009), the Times’ contention that diplomacy and sanctions may yet stop Iran is what’s “irresponsible.”

Let’s not leave out estimates, well known to Israeli leaders, that Israel would suffer greatly from the consequences of attacking Iran — both casualties and major economic damage. They would not contemplate such action unless they believed that the alternative was far worse.

The editorial continues:

It is impossible to know what Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is planning or why he has ignored American entreaties to give diplomacy a reasonable chance. There is, however, persistent speculation in Israel that Mr. Netanyahu wants to attack in the coming weeks in the belief that President Obama will be forced to support the decision because of his political needs in his re-election campaign. Such a move would be outrageously cynical.

Boy, do they have it backwards. Clearly the White House is applying maximum pressure (more than mere ‘entreaties’) to prevent Israel from doing anything upsetting before the election, regardless of Israel’s security imperatives. This is what is “outrageously cynical!” Unfortunately, Israel feels that it must strike in self-preservation before the hostile Obama has free rein to act on his demonstrated anti-Israel beliefs.

The editorial continues with some remarkably weak arguments against Israeli action. I won’t bother to quote any more; you can read it yourself. The important thing to keep in mind is that Israel would not undertake this, with all the possible negative consequences and dangers, foreseen and unforeseen, unless its leaders felt that there was no other alternative consistent with the continued survival of the Jewish state.

The Obama Administration has made the judgment that the danger to Israel is more than offset by the danger to the President’s reelection.

And its Pravda chimes in.

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NY Times: Stupid and biased again

Wednesday, July 11th, 2012

The decision by a commission of legal scholars, led by retired Israeli Supreme Court Justice Edmond Levy, that Israeli settlement in Judea and Samaria is legal created a storm of protest from the usual quarters.

Today I’m going to dissect one paragraph that epitomizes the misconceptions surrounding Israel’s legal rights in Judea and Samaria. It happens to appear in a New York Times editorial, but that’s really not important (unless you are still awed by the ignorance or malice of the editors of that newspaper).

Here is the paragraph:

Most of the world views the West Bank, which was taken by Israel from Jordan in the 1967 war, as occupied territory and all Israeli construction there as a violation of international law. The world court ruled this way in 2004. The Fourth Geneva Convention bars occupying powers from settling their own populations in occupied lands. And United Nations Security Council resolution 242, a core of Middle East policy, calls for the “withdrawal of Israeli armed forces from territories occupied in the recent conflict.”

Most of the world

This can’t mean most of the world’s 6.9 billion people, most of whom don’t give a rat’s posterior about Israel. It probably refers to most of the members of the UN General Assembly, where there has been an automatic majority against Israel on every imaginable subject since the 1970s. Is this supposed to add authority to their argument?

view the West Bank

“West Bank” is a term applied to what had previously been called by its biblical names, Judea and Samaria, by Jordan in 1950. Using this expression obscures the historical Jewish connection and suggests that Jordanian control of the area, which lasted only 19 years, was somehow ‘normal’.

which was taken by Israel from Jordan in the 1967 war

This continues the theme that the normal situation was usurped by Israel in 1967. But when Jordanian troops marched into the area in 1948, killing and driving out the Jewish population, they violated the provision of the Mandate that set aside the area of ‘Palestine’ for “close Jewish settlement,” and the one that called for the civil rights of all existing residents — Jewish or Arab — to be respected. It also violated the UN charter which forbids the acquisition of territory by force. Only Pakistan and the UK recognized the annexation of the area (even the Arab League opposed it).

The Jordanian invasion and annexation of Judea and Samaria was, in fact, illegal under international law. Israel’s conquest in 1967, on the other hand, can be seen as a realization of the terms of the Mandate.

as occupied territory

As I wrote yesterday, the concept of a ‘belligerent occupation’ does not apply here. What country owned the territory that Israel ‘occupied’? Not Jordan, which was there illegally, nor Britain, whose Mandate had ended, nor the Ottoman Empire, which no longer existed. The nation with the best claim was Israel, the nation-state of the Jewish people, who were the intended beneficiaries of the Mandate. Judea and Samaria are disputed, not occupied, and the Jewish people have a prima facie claim based on the Mandate.

and all Israeli construction there as a violation of international law. The world court ruled this way in 2004.

This refers to the advisory opinion against the security fence issued by the International Court of Justice. The opinion refers to Israel as an “occupying power” and says that the fence is built on “occupied Palestinian land,” despite the fact that there is no legally delimited border between Israeli and ‘Palestinian’ land.

The Fourth Geneva Convention bars occupying powers from settling their own populations in occupied lands. And United Nations Security Council resolution 242, a core of Middle East policy, calls for the “withdrawal of Israeli armed forces from territories occupied in the recent conflict.”

Since the land is not ‘occupied’, the Fourth Geneva Convention does not apply. And even if it were occupied, legal scholars (including the Levy commission) have made excellent arguments that the Convention was not intended to apply to voluntary ‘transfers’ of population like settlements, but to forced deportations like the Nazi transfer of German Jews into occupied Poland.

According to its drafters, UNSC 242 does not call for the withdrawal from all territories occupied in 1967, leaving room for the states involved to negotiate secure borders as part of a peace agreement:

(i) Withdrawal of Israel armed forces from territories occupied in the recent conflict;

(ii) Termination of all claims or states of belligerency and respect for and acknowledgment of the sovereignty, territorial integrity and political independence of every State in the area and their right to live in peace within secure and recognized boundaries free from threats or acts of force.

Of course no such boundaries have been agreed upon. And if you think any Arab countries or the PLO are interested in terminating claims on Israel regardless of borders, I have a bridge you may be interested in.

So much for the international law experts on the Times editorial board and their statement that the decision was “bad law.” I’ll leave their arguments that it is “bad policy” and “bad politics” for another time.

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Toulouse and NPR, ideology, and Fayyad

Thursday, March 22nd, 2012

The murderous rampage of Mohammed Merah has been weighing on my mind.

It has been widely reported (for example, here) that Merah, the young Islamist terrorist who killed three French soldiers two weeks ago, and four Jews (including three children) at the Otzar HaTorah school in Toulouse this week, murdered Jews “to avenge the deaths of Palestinian children.”

But NPR went one even better, reporting — in the words of “All Things Considered” host Robert Siegel — that “the gunman told officials that he killed his victims in part to avenge slain Palestinian children.”

As far as I can tell, there is no direct quotation available from the terrorist (not ‘gunman’), or even a second-hand report that included an equivalent statement. NPR’s correspondent on the scene, Eleanor Beardsley, said (in the same segment) that

He’s been speaking to police and he told police that he’s angry about children in Palestine, he’s angry at France being in Afghanistan, he’s obviously angry at Jews, he’s angry at fellow Muslims who would wear the French uniform…

French Interior Minister Claude Gueant, who should know what Merah told the police, said that he

wanted to avenge Palestinian children and take revenge on the French army because of its foreign interventions.

Some time after the attack and 24 hours before the police raid in which he was killed, Merah called the newsroom of French TV station France 24, where he spoke to News Editor Ebba Kalondo (video in English here). He gave his reasons for his actions, a litany of Muslim complaints against France, particularly including the ban on Islamic veils. With regard to the Otzar HaTorah murders, she said,

As for the attack on the Jewish School, he was adamant that it was revenge, for the killings of what he termed “my little brothers and sisters, in Palestine.”

In the absence of a direct quotation from Merah, NPR host Siegel could have quoted Kalondo or Gueant — or used a more neutral paraphrase. The phrase “slain Palestinian children” is more than journalistic exuberance: it implies that there is an equivalent, deliberate and vicious, action on the Israeli side to avenge. It suggests the narrative that “both sides are engaged in tit-for-tat violence” that NPR is always at pains to promote.

Although it is a staple of anti-Israel propaganda that Israel deliberately kills Arab children, the proposition is a blood libel and a case of reality inversion, given the long list of Israeli children targeted by Palestinian Arab terrorists. NPR shouldn’t help it along.

***

Of course, there is also the incredible craziness of the idea of ‘avenging’ the actions of France or Israel by grabbing an 8-year old girl by the hair and shooting her through the temple. The various news reports seem to accept this as expected in the world of Islamist terrorism.

Our administration seems to think that only al-Qaeda shares the ideology that works this way. But what is the ideology behind the random launching of rockets into Israel, a staple of Hamas, Hizballah and other Arab terror groups? What was the ideology of the terrorists that slaughtered the Fogel family, including 4-month old Hadas?

If we are not already numb, there’s this:

Merah, born in Toulouse of Algerian parents, told police negotiators he had murdered three small Jewish children, and a teacher, outside a school on Monday to “revenge Palestinian children”. However, he also, chillingly, told police that he had attacked the school in a random act of frustration after he failed to locate a soldier to continue his series of street killings of off-duty paratroopers.

So we have an ideology in which it makes sense to murder little children to ‘avenge’ actions by other people with whom they share an ethnicity, and the selection of Jews as the default murder victims when the preferred ones are not at hand.

Think about being the default murder victims when you wonder if the government of Israel is paranoid about Iran, for example.

***

Finally, there is the technocratic Palestinian Prime Minister Salaam Fayyad, so moderate that Hamas would not have him in a unity government, who made  this statement on the murders:

It is time for these criminals to stop marketing their terrorist acts in the name of Palestine and to stop pretending to stand up for the rights of Palestinian children who only ask for a decent life.

Either he is a hypocrite or entirely non-representative of his movement, because the official media of his own Palestinian authority this very month found it appropriate to honor terrorist Dalal Mughrabi, who murdered 37 Israelis, including 13 children.

Perhaps the real Palestinian leadership should pay attention to his words.

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