The worst exploitation

The Israeli consul to New England on Palestinians’ use of women suicide bombers:

From childhood, Palestinian girls are targeted by the same propaganda campaigns as their male counterparts: school textbooks teach hate, posters of male and female suicide bombers hang on classroom walls, and children trade “martyr medallions” like baseball cards. However, women in Palestinian society are especially vulnerable to such coercion due to their subordination, which is enforced both legally and socially. Terror organizations frequently recruit women with problematic social statuses, such as suspected adulteresses and rape victims. In fact, one of the most despicable methods used by Yasser Arafat’s own terror organization, the Fatah, is to seduce young women or arrange their rapes and subsequently pressure them to rehabilitate their social status by becoming “martyrs.”

June 9, 2004 13:06 By Category : Backspin

Foreigners First

When Washington Post correspondent Daniel Williams was nearly killed by Iraqi insurgents, the paper’s foreign editor, Philip Bennett wrote that covering Iraq is unlike any other war zone:

Good reporting is as urgently needed as ever, with lives and the political futures of perhaps two countries at stake. But it has never seemed more dangerous. Kidnappings and ambushes have driven most foreign civilians out of the country, or into bunkers guarded by U.S. soldiers. For journalists, the familiar rules of engagement have been stripped away. Gone is the assumption that correspondents are more valuable as witnesses than as targets, and that they share only the risks that all civilians face in wartime. To insurgents, foreign journalists are foreigners first, just another element of an occupying force to which we don’t belong….

It is worth asking whether these conditions make coverage overly negative, expressing journalists’ oppressive sense of siege, or too complacent, reflecting the reporters’ estrangement from Iraqis and their lives. As an editor spending a few days in Baghdad with Post correspondents and local staff, I didn’t see evidence to support either view. But I was struck that what is invisible in Iraq now feels much larger than what is visible.

Courageous reporting is necessary in places like Iraq, Afghanistan, and the Gaza Strip. But if a reporter’s mental stress can impact coverage, we have to wonder about the accuracy of what’s presented. The Post published Williams’ account of Friday’s ambush on the dusty desert highway between Falujah and Baghdad.

June 8, 2004 17:26 By Category : Backspin

Uncle Samadi Wants You

UncleSamAn Iranian group calling itself “The Committee for the Commemoration of Martyrs of the Global Islamic Campaign” claims it has registered thousands of recruits for “martyrdom operations” against Israel, American forces in Iraq, as well as Salman Rushdie. Forms were sent to religious universities, and spokesman Mohammad Ali Samadi says the committee awaits permission from Iran’s ‘supreme leadership’ before dispatching bombers. (Hat tip: Daily Alert)

[UPDATE: Here's the official application form to participate in the 'martyrdom operations'.]

June 8, 2004 11:42 By Category : Backspin

NY Times Duped Again?

Joel Mowbray argues that the NY Times was used by the CIA and State Dept. to smear Ahmed Chalabi and his allies in the Bush administration. The Times recently admitted it was duped by questionable sources about Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction program.

June 7, 2004 15:23 By Category : Backspin

Bird’s Eye View of the Liberty Incident

miragexThe USS Liberty incident continues to provide grist for all kinds of conspiracy theories (here and here among others). Recently, the Israeli Air Force allowed a reporter from the Jerusalem Post to listen to tapes of the radio transmissions before, during and immediately after the June 8, 1967 attack on the US intelligence-gathering vessel. One of the pilots involved, Brig.-Gen. (ret.) Yiftach Spector, agreed to be identified for an interview as well.

On that fateful day, a mysterious ship was reported off the coast of El-Arish; the IDF thought the ship might have been responsible for the shelling of an arms depot on the beach. Three torpedo boats were dispatched but then the Air Force was requested to intercept the ship.


June 7, 2004 12:20 By Category : Backspin

Winning vs. the terrorists

Two further items to support our communique from yesterday:

* ‘Is Israel Winning the War on Suicide Bombers?’ Arieh O’Sullivan, JPost

Every night, soldiers and Shin Bet agents round up suspected Palestinian terrorists and fugitives in the West Bank in a quiet but effective crushing of terrorism. Intelligence from interrogations of detained Palestinians is key to thwarting attacks. There were three major suicide bombings inside Israel in the first five months of 2004 that killed 28 and wounded 120 people. In comparison, in the first six months of last year, six suicide bombings killed 54 people and wounded over 300. In 2003, there was a total of 23 suicide bombings that killed over 180 people.

* Security Fence Brings Stability to Jenin – Matthew Gutman, JPost

According to Hader Abu Sheikh, an official of the Palestinian Legislative Council, “there is 70% more nightlife in Jenin than a year ago.” “We are talking about the resumption of traditional Palestinian nightlife,” explains Abu Sheikh. “Weddings, men sitting in cafes late at night, women visiting each other….The point is, people are no longer confined to their houses at night, because Israel has left the city.” According to the IDF, the security fence relieves the army of the necessity to regularly patrol the city.

“There are positive business indicators, as people are starting to think of capital and investment and commerce again,” said Ziad Mifleh, director-general of the Jenin Chamber of Commerce. Even Palestinian Legislative Council member Sakhri Turkuman, a Fatah official, concedes that the security fence has “created some stability in Jenin.”

Now why don’t the major Western media outlets pick up these stories?

June 4, 2004 18:06 By Category : Backspin

Dore Gold on the ‘neocons conspiracy’

doregoldDore Gold is the latest to address the problem of blaming ‘Jewish insiders’ for the Bush administration’s decision to go to war on Iraq. Excerpt:

* An insidious but steady drumbeat can be discerned over the last several weeks charging that the primary interest of the Bush administration in going to war against Saddam Hussein was to defend Israeli security interests. This newest wave is often more subtle but also far more mainstream than what was voiced in this regard just last year.

* Yet from Israel’s perspective, by 2003 the Iraqi Army had been severely degraded in both military manpower and equipment. Continuing UN sanctions had made Iraqi re-armament difficult and Iraq was clearly not Israel’s primary concern. Former Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Arens concluded in August 2002 that in the immediate future, “the [missile] threat that Israel most likely will have to contend with” is that of Syria. He described the Iraqi capability as “relatively limited.” During the same month, Israel’s current chief of staff, Lt. Gen. Moshe Ya’alon, declared in Jerusalem that the threat posed by Iraq “doesn’t make me lose sleep.”

* In other words, the American war against Iraq may have had an unintended side-effect of removing a secondary or tertiary threat to Israel, but not a primary threat.

See also our earlier post on this topic.

June 3, 2004 23:05 By Category : Backspin

HR’s response to AJR article

The American Journalism Review published an article by Barbara Matusow criticizing the role of media monitors in coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Here’s HonestReporting’s response to the AJR:

To the AJR Editor,

In her recent article ‘Caught in the Crossfire’, Barbara Matusow critiques our organization among others that advocate balanced coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Unfortunately, Ms. Matusow omits any mention of the countless corrections and significant improvements in coverage that our organization has been reponsible for, and for which Mideast correspondents themselves often express appreciation. Perhaps worse, Ms. Matusow maligns responsible news outlets such as CNN that have devoted resources to improving balance in their Mideast coverage, claiming editors there are merely bowing to the “intense pressure.”

“One newspaper reporter,” laments Ms. Matusow, “acknowledged in an interview that she has balanced the number of quotes in her dispatches to ward off criticism.” Our understanding is that balanced quotations are a desirable practice when covering a conflict. Why does Ms. Matusow consider this an unfortunate result of media monitors?

Indeed, Ms. Matusow’s tendentious piece is precisely the type of journalism our organization seeks to correct.


Michael Weinstein
Managing Editor

June 3, 2004 14:55 By Category : Backspin

Dershowitz at Berkeley

Transcript of a fine speech by Alan Dershowitz at UC Berkeley on May 29, 2004:

a young student came to me from Harvard College and asked me for forgiveness. I said, “What do I have to forgive you for? I don’t even know you.”

He said, “I never speak up on campus, in my classroom, in my dormitory, at dinner. I never speak up in favor of Israel even though I’ve been there on Operation Birthright and I know the facts and hear the lies.”

“Why not?” I asked.

He replied, “Because if I am perceived as pro-Israel, pro-Zionist, in favor of Israel, I won’t be able to get dates with young girls.”


June 3, 2004 8:58 By Category : Backspin

Jay Rosen on bias, balance, and fairness

Big discussion on Jay Rosen’s blog regarding issues of media bias, balance, and fairness.

Rosen doesn’t think ‘bias’ is a helpful term at all, since

any work of journalism is saturated with bias from the moment the reporter leaves the office–and probably before that–to the edited and finished product.

There’s bias in the conversation our biased reporter has with his biased editor, bias in the call list he develops for his story, bias in his choice of events to go out and cover, bias in the details he writes down at the event, bias in his lead paragraph, bias in the last paragraph, bias when his editor cuts a graph. The headline someone else writes for him– that has bias. There’s bias in the placement of the story. (No bias in the pixels or printer’s ink, though.)

Two of Rosen’s readers reframe the question, therefore:

Any selection of facts will necessarily represent a bias. I think the main problem most Americans have with the current incarnation of the mainstream media is not that they have biases, but rather that they all share the same rather narrow biases, a reflection of the fact that almost all the media is now controlled and produced by a very narrow and unrepresentative slice of the population.


The overriding value in journalism, along with accuracy, must be not objectivity but fairness. Not the kind of fairness wherein for every Hannity you have a Colmes, but the kind of fairness where, regardless of the journalist’s personal feelings, he or she can judge a piece of reporting on whether all the important points of view have had a legitimate chance to change minds.

Though we at HonestReporting sometimes use the term ‘bias’ to describe problematic Mideast coverage, ‘fairness’ might be a more appropriate term in many cases. And there is certainly a narrow, pack mentality among many Israel correspondents that results in unbalanced coverage of this conflict.

June 2, 2004 16:07 By Category : Backspin