Closing the Loopholes

Palestine Media Watch got the attention of Congress by documenting how Palestinian organizations (even municipalities) exploited loopholes in US foreign aid regulations.

One example of how US taxpayer money was spent: Approximately $410,000 in US aid helped pay for a Nablus recreation center named after Salah Khalaf, whom the Washington Times describes as “the spiritual godfather of the Palestinian Black September faction responsible for the 1972 massacre at the Munich Summer Olympics.” The Times goes on to report that the Senate Appropriations subcommittee overseeing USAID funding is looking to close the loopholes.

June 20, 2004 11:42 By Category : Backspin

Oldie But ‘Goodie’

Instapundit’s Glenn Reynolds notes an issue with a BBC Gaza reporter that HonestReporting highlighted more than two years ago. Since we still get occasional emails about Beeb correspondent Fayad Abu Shamala, here’s a reminder of what Abu Shamala proclaimed at Hamas gathering on May 6, 2001:

“Journalists and media organizations [are] waging the campaign shoulder-to-shoulder together with the Palestinian people.”

Tom Gross says that Abu Shamala is still reporting for the BBC from Gaza.

(Hat tip: David G.)

June 20, 2004 11:16 By Category : Backspin

CSM Editor on bias

Christian Science Monitor Editor Paul Van Slambrouck addresses the question of his paper’s biases. Van Slambrouck invited readers to respond and now publishes some of their comments.

June 17, 2004 16:57 By Category : Backspin

NBC catches Saudi double-speak

abdullahKudos to NBC News for picking up on the Saudi double-speak on the kingdom’s latest wave of terror — for western audiences, the royals blame Al-Qaeda, but or home audiences, the Saudi leaders blame – guess who – the Zionists.

The material used in the NBC report came from MEMRI. It’s certainly a positive sign that MEMRI’s documentation is getting more play at major western news outlets.

June 17, 2004 10:52 By Category : Backspin

BBC Radio, still unbalanced

Last night, BBC Radio 3 had a 13-minute segment on its ‘Night Waves’ program that addressed media coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The program included three guests: A BBC deputy head of news, a BBC Mideast reporter, and the central guest ‘expert’ — Professor Greg Philo of Glasgow University, who recently did a study that, he claims, demonstrates a anti-Palestinian bias in TV news coverage of the conflict.

Philo’s primary claims: 1) BBC News doesn’t give enough historical background on Arab suffering at the hands of Israelis, and 2) BBC journalists are intimidated by pro-Israel activists, and therefore hold back on criticizing Israel. Philo is a notorious anti-Israeli ideologue whose biggest fans appear to be John Pilger and Noam Chomsky.

What’s unbelievable here is that BBC radio has once again produced a show on an important topic in coverage of the Mideast conflict, but refused to present the balance necessary to fairly tackle the issue. (In March, the issue was the terms ‘terrorist/freedom fighter’, and the two BBC Radio guests were terrorist-sympathizers.) Certainly BBC Radio should have balanced out Philo’s anti-Israel views — which they present as ‘academic’ and therefore supposedly ‘neutral’ — with those of another British critic of BBC coverage, such as Trevor Asserson at BBC Watch, who has produced three exhaustive studies demonstrating the BBC’s anti-Israel bias.

Comments to BBC Radio 3: click here

(Hat tip: Arnold M.)

See the HR communique on this topic.

June 16, 2004 12:00 By Category : Backspin

Worth reading today

* The Baltimore Sun reports on the failure and irrelevance of the Palestinian Authority:

After more than three years of bitter fighting with Israel … the people of the West Bank and Gaza Strip are increasingly disillusioned with Arafat and the government he leads, the Palestinian Authority. The forces arrayed against him include many of the people who had looked to him as the person who could best help them gain an independent Palestinian state.

* IDF home demolitions are driving Rafah residents to confront smugglers (Haaretz):

Two angry residents of the Al-Salaam neighborhood in Rafah murdered Fathi Abu Ghali, who was active in Rafah’s popular resistance committees, after he dug a new shaft that connected to a smuggling tunnel, capping a series of actions by Rafah residents against tunnel operators

* NY Times: Differing attitudes among Orthodox Jews on Gaza withdrawal

* Anti-terror: Two Al Aqsa leaders killed in Nablus; foiled car bomb attack in Gaza

* Wash Post’s Richard Cohen agrees with Jeff Goldberg on Israeli settlers. (Barbara Sofer and Andrea Levin disagree.)

June 15, 2004 14:47 By Category : Backspin

The Fatah-Al Aqsa Brigade

In February, we issued a communique on the media’s misrepresentation of the relationship between Yassir Arafat’s Fatah faction and the Al Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigade – one of the most deadly Palestinian terrorist groups. While the large media outlets were describing ‘loose ties’ between the two, the evidence clearly showed a direct and ongoing bond.

Now, Fatah is openly acknowledging that bond. The Jerusalem Post reports that a disagreement between the two groups has led Fatah to publically recognize its obligations to the AAMB. For their part, the AAMB is feeling abandoned by their sponsor:

“Thanks to us, Fatah restored its dignity and power during the intifada,” [an AAMB leader] added. “But now the members of the Fatah Central Council are putting pressure on us to disband. We don’t trust them any more and we tell them that they are the ones who must go.”

Given this acknowledgement, there is now even less justification for media distortions of the ties between Arafat’s dominant party and this terrorist gang. As we noted in February:

This is not merely a semantic matter. The close ties that bond the Fatah-led PA to terrorist groups are the fundamental problem that prevents progress toward peaceful reconciliation. The dominant political party in the PA remains a direct sponsor of ongoing terrorism ? the ruling politicians and the terrorists are one and the same.

If you see a news article that continues to describe mere ‘loose links’ between Fatah and the AAMB, please notify us at

June 15, 2004 10:25 By Category : Backspin

Romeo and Juliet in Gaza

romeoVia Yediot Achronot (Hebrew):

On Wednesday, IDF soldiers spotted a Palestinian couple in their 20s approaching the security fence near Kfar Darom in Gaza.
The soldiers at first thought they were dealing with suicide attackers, but something about the pair caused the soldiers to hesitate before opening fire.

After their capture, the couple explained that they had been seeing each other for six years, but their families disapproved of their marrying.

Out of despair, they decided to commit suicide by entering a forbidden zone so that the soldiers would shoot them.

After additional questioning, the two were released.

June 14, 2004 18:57 By Category : Backspin

Gulf News’ idea of journalism

BJ Turner of Fort Smith, AR points us to her correspondence with the Dubai-based Gulf News, which is presently on the Gulf News letters page. See the ‘editor’s note’ at bottom:

Sad, but true
From Mrs. B. J. Turner, Arkansas, US

This letter definitely will fall on deaf ears and will not be published in the letters column. Nevertheless, I feel the need to write it. I find it amusing, pathetic, that you publish letters using the term “Israeli terrorist” yet you always edit mine when I write using the word “terrorist” in connection with certain Palestinian actions by substituting it with the word “militant”. And you call yourself “free” and “open-minded”.

I would be only too glad to write rebuttals to Messrs. Aluva and El Thaher’s letters (“Ground realities” and “Uprising” Gulf News, Online, June 8) but won’t because Gulf News edits my 100 word emails so heavily that I often don’t recognise my own writing. Shame on Gulf News for this censorship!

Editor’s note: Mrs. Turner should thank Gulf News for publishing her letters regularly, though she sends them from America. Every newspaper has a policy – and our policy towards all Palestinians is that they are freedom fighters. If Mrs. Turner does not like our policy, then she can stop writing to Gulf News.

June 13, 2004 15:58 By Category : Backspin

Buried context

In the HonestReporting communique from Thursday, we raised concern for Associated Press burying the context for last week’s Israeli airstrike just south of Beirut. Lack of context suggests the IDF acts aggressively for no good reason.

HR reader Ed F. from Winnepeg adds an important point:

In practical terms, burying the context or the Israeli side of events deep in the story often means that such information gets cut by newspaper copy editors. At the newspapers, that is usually not done for reasons of hostility to Israel but due to shortage of space and the exigencies of moving on to the next story and getting the paper out.

The question is: Do the editors at the news agencies who send these stories out over the wires know that?

They probably are aware of this issue. But even without getting cut by copy editors, the buried context is not seen, or properly understood, by the great majority of readers. And that’s bad reporting.

June 13, 2004 14:39 By Category : Backspin