Archive for the ‘Media’ Category

The AP’s Gonzo Journalism

Tuesday, January 31st, 2012

The decay of the traditional Western media into irrelevance continues, as it sinks to the level of the old Soviet Pravda.

News item (the numbering of the paragraphs is mine):

1. (AP) JERUSALEM — Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government has made two overtures to West Bank settlers in the run-up to his party’s leadership race on Tuesday: It’s offering financial incentives to encourage people to move to settlements and opening the door to legalizing rogue settler outposts.

2. The gestures appear to be aimed at appeasing hardline elements in the ruling Likud Party who are sympathetic to settlers. While Netanyahu is expected to win the leadership race, a relatively strong showing by his ultranationalist rival would suggest many Likud voters consider the prime minister too soft on peacemaking with the Palestinians.

3. The moves threatened to derail tentative new peace efforts with the Palestinians. A round of low-level peace negotiations ground to a halt last week, in large part because of Palestinian objections to Israeli settlement construction. U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon is expected in the region Wednesday in an effort to restart the talks…

4. Years ago, the Israeli government halted generous financial enticements designed to encourage Israelis to settle in the West Bank, the occupied territory the Palestinians see as the core of their future state.

5. But in this week’s government decision, 70 settlements appeared on a new list of 557 communities inside Israel and the West Bank that qualify for housing subsidies. The incentives, according to a statement from the prime minister’s office, are “meant to encourage positive migration to these communities.” …

6. In a separate move, the government on Monday appointed a committee to examine land ownership issues in the West Bank. The panel will review a 2005 government report that found several dozen outposts were built not only without state approval, but on privately held Palestinian land. Officials said the report needs to be reviewed because its author, state prosecutor Talia Sasson, later entered politics with a dovish political party, raising questions about her objectivity…

7. …the panel’s makeup aroused suspicions it would legalize at least some of the more than 100 outposts built without government authorization, including dozens Sasson says were erected on privately held Palestinian land.

This is presented as a news story, not an editorial. Let’s look at how it’s constructed.

In the very first sentence, the idea is introduced that these actions were taken in order to improve PM Netanyahu’s chances in the Likud primary. This may be true to some extent — although his opponent, Moshe Feiglin, is in no way a real threat (initial results show Netanyahu with 63% of the vote vs. Feiglin’s 36) — but surely, unsourced speculation about Netanyahu’s motives does not belong in the lead sentence of a news story.

The reporter does not let up in the second paragraph, where he refers to “hardline elements” who are “sympathetic to settlers.” I would hazard a guess that almost all Likud party members are to some extent sympathetic to Jews living east of the Green Line, considering that they face pressure from the Arabs, the US, the EU and the (vanishing but foreign-supported) Israeli Left to leave their homes and become refugees like the former residents of Gush Katif.

In paragraph 3, we get the usual line that “settlement construction” — meaning construction within existing settlements — may “derail” peace efforts. Why is that? It doesn’t change anything, particularly since most of the construction is in the larger settlements or eastern Jerusalem neighborhoods that would be expected to become part of Israel in any reasonable peace agreement. It is a problem only because the Palestinians insist that it will be. One would think that the introduction of the Hamas into the Palestinian Authority and the likelihood that it will win future elections (or coups) would be a much bigger problem! But the writer doesn’t mention that.

Then in paragraph 4, he trots out the “occupied territory the Palestinians see as the core of their future state.”  The implication is that Israelis don’t have a right to live here, and Palestinian demands for Jew-free land are acceptable. I’ve discussed the falsehood of this view here.

Only in paragraphs 5-6 do we get to something partially resembling factual reporting. We are led to understand that there is a controversy concerning a 2005 land use report authored by Talia Sasson. The writer tells us that she became associated with a “dovish” party and so her objectivity  when she determined that many settlements were built on “private Palestinian land” may have been questionable.

But Talia Sasson is a board member of the New Israel Fund, a member of the Public Council of Yesh Din, a foreign-funded left-wing NGO which carries out ‘lawfare’ against Israel in the name of ‘human rights’, and a Knesset candidate of the fringe New Movement-Meretz party (which has 3 seats out of 120 in the Knesset). She is a professional opponent of the Jewish presence in the territories. Her objectivity is more than questionable, it is non-existent.

Finally, paragraph 7 uses the loaded phrase “arouses suspicion” and quotes Sasson as an authority.

Although the writer clearly has a point of view, it would still have been possible to provide some balance by including other interpretations. But this was not done: the article does not quote a single spokesman for PM Netanyahu or the Israeli government. It does, however, give voice to the Palestinian position:

“They are adding obstacles at a time when everyone is intensifying efforts to try to resume peace talks,” said Palestinian government spokesman Ghassan Khatib. “I think with every additional settlement activity, the feasibility of having two states is diminished.”

And just to be fair, a spokesperson for Peace Now also appears:

After suspending benefits unique to the settlements, the government is now encouraging settlers to move to the West Bank under a different program, said Hagit Ofran of the anti-settlement group Peace Now. “They put in 70 settlements, in effect encouraging them to live there,” Ofran said.

I know that there is a place for what Hunter Thompson called “Gonzo journalism,” but it isn’t a wire service news report, where the ancient Five Ws are still appropriate.

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Israel’s information enemies

Thursday, January 19th, 2012
Hard-Left Ha'aretz publisher Amos Schoken. A "main enemy" of Israel

Hard-Left Ha'aretz publisher Amos Schoken: a "main enemy" of Israel

A report from Steve Linde, editor of the Jerusalem Post, about a conversation with PM Netanyahu:

“He said, ‘You know, Steve, we have two main enemies,’ ” Linde had said on Wednesday of Netanyahu, according to a recording of the WIZO speech provided to JTA. “And I thought he was going to talk about, you know, Iran, maybe Hamas. He said, ‘It’s The New York Times and Haaretz.’ He said, ‘They set the agenda for an anti-Israel campaign all over the world. Journalists read them every morning and base their news stories … on what they read in The New York Times and Haaretz.’ ”

Of course, PM Netanyahu denied saying it, and Linde indicated that he had actually been paraphrasing the PM’s statement, not quoting it exactly. And I’m sure that nobody expects Israel to bomb Ha’aretz or invade Times Square. Everyone knows who Israel’s main enemies are.

But in a sense, we also know what he was getting at. While — at least so far — Israel has been capable of defeating its Arab enemies on the battlefield, it is particularly inept at countering the information war being waged against it, in part by the anti-Zionist Left.

Netanyahu knows that unless something unlikely and unforeseen happens, the moment will come when he will have to order the IDF to attack the Iranian nuclear complex. This is the last thing he wants to do — or rather, it is the second last, the last being to become aware that Iran has deliverable atomic weapons.

He knows that such an attack will be followed by retaliation which will undoubtedly kill many Israelis, despite the plans of the IDF to take out Hizballah’s rockets, neuter Hamas and deter Syria, and despite Israel’s well-developed missile defense capabilities.

He knows that the only thing worse than making the decision too early will be making it too late. It is reminiscent of the decision faced by Eshkol, Dayan and Rabin on the eve of the Six Days War.

So it doesn’t help when the Times publishes op-eds suggesting that the best way to solve the problem of Iranian nukes is for Israel to give up its own nuclear deterrent.

He is pressured on other fronts, too, as by a European diplomatic assault to force Israel to evacuate the area east of the Green line, which would effectively allow it to become a terrorist base. And speaking of terrorist bases, there is the increasingly dangerous condition of the Sinai peninsula, which has become a no-man’s land for multiple radical groups.

He really doesn’t need — just one striking example — for US decision-makers to read top Times columnist Tom Friedman saying that the standing ovation he received in Congress was “bought and paid for by the Israel lobby,” or, for that matter, anything about Israel written by Friedman, Roger Cohen or Nicholas Kristoff.

NY Times editorials and the great preponderance of op-eds that relate to Israel blame it for the conflict or denigrate it as undemocratic or otherwise unsavory. Recently the Times published an outrageous attack on Israel for ‘pinkwashing’ — using its reputation for tolerance of gays to cover up oppression of Arabs — by a member of the extremist group “Jewish Voice for Peace.”

Ha’aretz is worse, if possible. Its staff includes Gideon Levy, Amira Hass and Akiva Eldar, who simply echo the Arab narrative in which Israel is a racist apartheid war-criminal state, which should never have been created. Because it is an Israeli newspaper — with an elaborate, up-to-date English website —  it is often quoted as representative of opinion in the country, whereas its positions are actually shared only by a small minority of Israelis on the far Left.

Both of these organs are considered the ‘newspaper of record’ in their respective countries, and as Netanyahu noted, their views are repeated by journalists around the world.

This is how the campaign to delegitimize Israel — to paint it as a criminal among nations, a rogue state, a state which is forbidden to defend itself — is fed every day. From the top.

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Israel did keep its promise to Hamas, despite left-wing media fairy tale

Friday, January 6th, 2012
Palestinians demonstrate triumphantly at the second phase of the Gilad Shalit prisoner swap, December 18, 2011

Palestinians demonstrate triumphantly at the second phase of the Gilad Shalit prisoner swap, December 18, 2011

An article by John Glaser published yesterday at “antiwar.com” is headlined thus:

Israel Plans to Betray Promise on Prisoner Swap Deal

The second part of the agreement – to release another 550 Palestinians after the return of Gilad Shalit – may be abandoned

Glaser goes on to say that

… a government-appointed panel in Israel recommended in a secret report Thursday to back out of the deal. Defense Minister Ehud Barak would not divulge details of the report but said Israel has “no choice but to overhaul the rules” now that Sgt. Gilad Schalit has been freed.

The second half of Palestinian prisoners, some of whom are children and minors, are reportedly serving sentences for “security offenses,” not for violent attacks or for being part of either Hamas or Islamic Jihad.

Now here is the reality:

The second and final half of the prisoner release deal (what I have called the ‘jailbreak’) occurred 0n December 18. A total of 1027 prisoners, including multiple murderers, were released in the swap for the kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit.

It is true that the 550 convicts released in the second phase tended to be those serving lighter sentences or those near the end of their sentences. This is because the deal called for Hamas to pick those to be released in the first part and Israel the second. The mass murderers and other more serious offenders were released in October.

In a fascinating example of the pathological thinking of the Israeli extreme Left, Ha’aretz writer Akiva Eldar said that Israel had treated the Palestinians unfairly by releasing too many car thieves and not enough murderers!

The ‘secret government report’ that Mr. Glaser refers to deals with recommendations for the appropriate strategy for Israel to take the next time the savages take hostages and demand ransom:

Interviewed on Israel Radio, [Defense Minister Ehud] Barak was asked about a classified report submitted to him on guidelines for handling negotiations regarding abducted soldiers. The interviewer asked whether the rules were expected to be made stricter so it would “no longer be 1,000 terrorists for one soldier.”

“I believe that will be the conclusion,” Mr. Barak said. “There is no choice. We have to change the rules fundamentally to protect the state’s overall interests.” He said an important part of the report’s conclusions were on “how to approach the negotiations, in what framework, with what rules, and I think it’s clear that the rules will be a lot stricter.” — NY Times

Glaser’s story is simply fabricated. In fact, Israel did keep its word to the terrorist organization that had held a young man, Gilad Shalit, underground in the Gaza Strip and incommunicado for more than five years.

For my part, I don’t believe that there is a moral obligation to treat murderers and hostage-takers fairly. Here’s what I said at the time of the first release:

Let’s remember that Israel is not releasing these prisoners, who by all rights should serve out their sentences, because it lost a bet on a football game to Hamas and the PLO. They are being released in payment of ransom, to free a kidnap victim … There is no difference between this and a situation in which gang members free their confederates by holding a gun to the head of a hostage. The idea that one could behave dishonorably toward the gang in that situation is absurd.

I’ll send this information to Glaser. Let’s see if he’ll retract his story.

Update [1402 PST]: Antiwar.com took the article down. Glaser apparently received a lot of heat for it, because he apologized.

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Palestinian incitement hits the big time

Tuesday, December 20th, 2011
Palestinian cartoon equates the Israeli army with Nero, Hulagu (Mongol ruler), Bush, and Hitler. Text on helmet on skull reads "Israeli army moral values". Courtesy PMW.

Palestinian cartoon equates the Israeli army with Nero, Hulagu (Mongol ruler), Bush, and Hitler. Text on helmet on skull reads "Israeli army moral values". Courtesy PMW.

One island of stability in a sea of change has been the continuous, vicious incitement to hate and murder Israelis and Jews that issues from every mouthpiece — schools, media, mosques, summer camps, textbooks, etc. — of the PLO (and I am not even talking about Hamas).  Dore Gold tells us,

Formally, there are many clauses on incitement throughout the Oslo Agreements, especially the 1995 Interim Agreement. The parties are legally bound to abstain from incitement and hostile propaganda. They were supposed to foster “mutual understanding and tolerance.” The first phase of the 2003 Roadmap calls on “all Palestinian institutions to end incitement against Israel.” But in practice many of these clauses were dormant. Israeli governments put the greatest attention to the most politically explosive issues like borders and security. The most senior officials in the Prime Minister’s office were involved in those committees and not in the incitement committee. There were those who undoubtedly felt that if Israel complained about incitement, it would be perceived that it was looking for an excuse to get out of the peace process and not make any concessions.

But it ought to be a matter of the highest priority. “After all,” Gold asks, “what prepares a Palestinian terrorist to slit the throats of Israeli children and kill their parents in cold blood?”

Arafat and Abbas both promised to end it, and Abbas even announced that he had, but neither did. Although the PLO can make concessions to Israel when it sees an advantage, this seems to be something they will never concede, either because Palestinian honor demands it, or because indoctrinating the youth to create the next generation of murderers is too important.

The contrast between Israel’s ‘educating for peace‘ by replacing Zionist history with special ‘coexistence’ curricula, and the PA’s glorification of the worst terrorists has been stark.

Until recently, this issue was below the radar of the mass media. But Newt Gingrich’s recent comment about “the hatred [Palestinians] teach in their schools” (although Gingrich gave an example which apparently was not genuine) seems to have forced them to take notice. And the issue is impossible to ignore or deny, thanks to the Palestinian Media Watch (PMW) organization, which simply records and translates material from the official Palestinian media.

The frustrating thing about PMW for those who try to blame Israel for the ongoing conflict is that what they present is cold, hard fact. They are recordings, not interpretations or arguments. Here’s a recent example, chosen at random:

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Now the NY Times’ Isabel Kershner has taken up the subject.

For years, many Israeli and Palestinian analysts have said that what Palestinian leaders tell their own people in their own language — as opposed to English-language statements tailored to opinion in the rest of the world — is the truest reflection of their actual beliefs. This has had the effect of further entrenching the sides to the conflict and undermining confidence that it can ever be resolved.

“There is no doubt in my mind that in the mainstream of the Palestinian national movement, Israel is not considered legitimate,” said Shlomo Avineri, an Israeli professor of political science at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, reflecting a widespread sense of disillusionment. “This is the inner truth of the Palestinians,” he said. “They really mean it. It is not what they say on CNN, but it is what they teach their children.”

But for many, the subject of incitement and media monitoring has become as contentious as some of the messages, especially since these pronouncements are often used to score propaganda points.

Wait a minute — evidence of Palestinian duplicity is bad because it undermines confidence?  What about the more basic issue, which is that it shows that the whole project of trading land and security for ‘peace’ is misguided? The suggestion is that publicizing Palestinian dishonesty damages the Peace Process, which might otherwise succeed. From this point of view, of course the activities of PMW are ‘contentious’!

Am I going too far? Look at this, which appears later in the piece:

Some Israelis struggle with the practice of monitoring the Palestinian news media, acknowledging the importance of knowing what is being said in Arabic, yet disturbed by how its dissemination is exploited by those not eager to see Israel make concessions.

Not clear yet? Let me make it more explicit:

The delusional Israeli Left, which wants Israel to make concessions regardless of the likely consequences, finds exposing the truth about Palestinian intentions inconvenient.

Still, it’s hard to criticize someone for simply documenting reality. What to do? Any student of rhetoric knows: attack the messenger with a traditional ad hominem:

Mr. [Itamar] Marcus, who set up Palestinian Media Watch in 1996, says that he wants to foster genuine reconciliation. His critics, however, note that he is a settler who lives in the Gush Etzion bloc south of Jerusalem, a contested area of the West Bank that Israel intends to keep under any agreement with the Palestinians. [my emphasis]

Let me insert an aside, although of course the question of where Marcus lives is beyond irrelevant; if Marcus lived in the most flagrant of Judean hilltop caravans, his recordings would be no less accurate. The Gush Etzion region was settled by Jews long before 1948, when the Jordanian army expelled the Jews from the region (all but four of the defenders of Kibbutz Kfar Etzion there, founded in 1927, were massacred by the Jordanians).

In response to PMW items that show maps of the entire area from the Jordan to the Mediterranean as ‘Palestine’, Kershner tries to argue that Israel, too, is guilty of bending the truth:

While the Israeli government and news media usually say the same things in Hebrew and English, Palestinians and Israeli critics say they also do little to promote the idea of a Palestinian state. Official Israeli maps do not show the Green Line, the pre-1967 boundary that demarcates East Jerusalem and the West Bank. In Israeli officialdom, the West Bank is routinely referred to by its biblical names, Judea and Samaria. The Israeli education minister recently adopted a plan to take Israeli schoolchildren on trips to a historic Jewish holy site in the West Bank city of Hebron.

Actually, I have an Israeli road map in my hand that does show the Green Line, and I’ve seen it on maps produced by the government as well. It may be true that maps do not show it as a border, but the position of the Israeli government (and that of the US) is that borders will be decided by negotiations between Israel and the PA. And while it is true that Israeli maps don’t include something called ‘Palestine’, there is a state of Israel and there isn’t, at least not yet, an entity called ‘Palestine’.

The ‘biblical names’ Judea and Samaria are the names that were used for these places by everyone, including Arabs and the UN, until 1950 when the Jordanians decided to rename them to make a political point. Should Israel follow them?

Finally, what exactly is the problem with Jewish children visiting a site in Hebron (incidentally, a place where Jews lived for centuries, until 1929 when they were forced out in a murderous pogrom)? Does Kershner think we should go back to the pre-1967 condition in which Jews were not permitted to visit their holy sites?

Finally, she adds,

This summer, the Israeli police briefly detained two rabbis for questioning over their suspected endorsement of a treatise co-written by a third rabbi that seemed to justify the killing of non-Jews, even babies, in wartime.

Perhaps this is intended to show that Jews  can also be guilty of incitement. But the difference is that these are extremists, not the official TV station of the Israeli government. And note — they were detained by police. They were an embarrassment for the government, not official heroes.

Kershner wants to show, in keeping with Times ideology, that Israel is as responsible for the lack of peace as much as the Arabs and that an agreement between Israel and the PA that creates a Palestinian state is the answer to the conflict. But she concludes with an anecdote that, I think, contradicts both of these ideas:

In one of the most egregious examples of Palestinian doublespeak, Yasir Arafat spoke in a mosque in South Africa in May 1994, only months after the signing of the Oslo accords, and called on the worshipers “to come and to fight and to start the jihad to liberate Jerusalem.”

As the ambassador to Washington at the time, Mr. [Itamar] Rabinovich said he found himself in the awkward position of having to explain to anyone who would listen that jihad, usually translated as holy war, could also mean a spiritual struggle, in order to justify continuing the peace process.

Still, he said, it is not by chance that those focusing on Palestinian incitement and publicizing it are “rightist groups who use it as ammunition.”

Perhaps those “rightist groups” are on to something?

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Media response to mosque arson is hypocritical

Sunday, October 9th, 2011
Map of the Western Wall tunnel. In 1996, Arabs rioted after an exit was added at the Via Dolorosa end.

Map of the Western Wall tunnel. In 1996, Arabs rioted after an exit was added at the Via Dolorosa end.

The arson and vandalism at the Tuba Zanghariya mosque gave rise to a massive media outcry, reminiscent of the Baruch Goldstein affair. Far more ink and electrons were expended on it than on the murder that it was intended to avenge, the killing of Asher Palmer and his tiny son — and there is almost zero coverage, outside of Israel, of daily incidents of attempted murder of Jews by Arabs.

Let’s keep in mind that, like Baruch Goldstein, the 18-year old perpetrator of the mosque attack represents the fringe of the fringe in Israel. Perhaps there are a few dozen Israeli Jews that share his point of view. And of course even the most right-wing of Israeli political figures was horrified and embarrassed by this incident (nevertheless, Arab riots ensued and public buildings in Tuba Zanghariya were burned and damaged).

Need I add that there will  be no schools, camps, public squares or soccer teams named after this person, as is the fashion in the Palestinian Authority (PA)?

The US media does cover murderous Arab terrorism in Israel to some small extent, at least when Israel retaliates. But what about incidents of destruction of Jewish holy places? [h/t David Gerstman]

In September of 1996, in his first term as PM, Netanyahu opened an exit to an archaeological excavation of a tunnel in the Old City of Jerusalem near the Western Wall. Yasser Arafat’s PA and the Arab League claimed that the tunnel undermined the Temple Mount and was “part of an Israeli Zionist plot to destroy the Aqsa mosque [and] set up the Temple of Solomon.” The story was entirely false — the tunnel did not go anywhere near the Arab holy places (see map above), and needless to say was not a plot to rebuild the Temple.

Arabs rioted in Jerusalem and the territories, fighting with police and soldiers. More than 70 — Jews and Arabs — were killed, with armed Palestinian police joining the fray. The media stuck with Arafat’s version of the story far too long, and ignored evidence that it was a planned provocation. But at the same time, a Jewish holy place was attacked and the media mostly ignored it:

… there were incidents of murder and sacrilege. One occurred in Nablus, an Arab town under P.L.O. control. There is in Nablus a Jewish religious site, Joseph’s Tomb. Under the P.L.O.-Israeli peace accords, it remained a tiny enclave peopled by devout Jews and, for protection, a few Israeli soldiers. On Sept. 26, it was attacked by a Palestinian mob throwing firebombs. Six Israelis were killed. Many prayer books were burned.

This is the Middle Eastern equivalent of a mob of whites torching a black church, killing parishioners and burning its holy objects. Yet, while the tunnel received enormous coverage complete with diagrams, the desecration at Joseph’s Tomb, if reported at all, merited at most a few sentences. And a similar Palestinian attempt to firebomb Judaism’s third holiest shrine, Rachel’s Tomb in Bethlehem, received in the major American press no mention at all, save one in the New York Times–in a picture caption on page 12! — Charles Krauthammer, “A Desecration of the Truth” (Time, Oct. 14, 1996).

Joseph’s tomb, incidentally, has been attacked more than once since then, most recently when Ben-Yosef Livnat was murdered there.

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