Doubting Thomas

David Gerstman fisks a strange Tom Friedman outburst on the Sharon Plan from Sunday’s New York Times.

April 23, 2004 10:30 By Category : Backspin

Pastrami at The Nation

The Nation has an article on Sharon, ‘Pastrami & Champagne’, that begins with this quote:

Three decades ago Winston Churchill’s grandson asked Ariel Sharon how Israel should deal with the Palestinians. “We’ll make a pastrami sandwich out of them,” he replied. “We’ll insert a strip of Jewish settlements in between the Palestinians, and then another strip of Jewish settlements right across the West Bank, so that in twenty-five years’ time, neither the United Nations nor the United States, nobody, will be able to tear it apart.”

Mission accomplished. On April 14 in Washington, Sharon unwrapped his pastrami sandwich and received George W. Bush’s seal of approval.

This highly questionable Sharon quotation (Churchill’s grandson?) appears on anti-Semitic sites all over the web. We challenge The Nation, a respected American opinion journal, to provide some proof that Sharon actually uttered these words. (Hat tip: Robert M.)

Comments to The Nation: click here

(See New York Times’ public editor Daniel Okrent’s recent comments on accuracy in opinion pieces.)

Note also that an advertisement for (convicted) Holocaust denier Roger Garaudy’s book ‘The Founding Myths of Israel’, including a web address for the despicable Institute of Historical Review, appears on p. 58 of the current issue of The Nation. See Blue Octavo Notebooks for comments on this.

UPDATE: Blue Octavo editor writes: ‘Winston Churchill’s grandson gave a talk at the National Press Club in October 2001 during which he recounts the alleged anecdote. (Here, at minute 52) The Nation’s description makes this sound alot more solid than that.

The Nation writes: ‘Our source is Geoffrey Aronson, a Washington-based expert on settlements from the Foundation for Middle East Peace’

April 23, 2004 10:07 By Category : Backspin

Tommy Lapid on BBC’s Hardtalk

Israeli Justice Minister Tommy Lapid withstood a hostile interview (more like an antagonistic assault) on BBC World’s HardTalk today. Lapid stood up well to host Tim Sebastian on the following issues: Rantissi, Yassin, disengagement, Vanunu, American support to Sharon, and the disapproval of the international community for the Israeli policy of target assassinations.
It’s well worth watching: (req. RealPlayer) HardTalk interview with Lapid

Near the very end Lapid realizes what’s happening and says to Sebastian, “Israel’s reputation is exposed to suffering from people like you…You are trying to hurt Israel’s reputation as much as possible…Mr. Sebastian, I was in your profession longer than you are…you are deliberately trying to create an anti-Israel atmosphere…you are more understanding toward the Palestinians.”

(Hat tip: Irene H.)

Sebastian also recently interviewed Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal — available here in text. An excerpt:


April 22, 2004 23:50 By Category : Backspin

All the (Arab) Rage

We’ve just released a new communique to HonestReporting subscribers, critiquing the media’s overemphasis on Arab emotion: Occupied by Arab Rage

To receive HR communiques by email, the moment they’re released, just sign up above.

Here’s another in the wave of articles on Arab rage: Palestinians Blame Plight on US, Israel (AP)

Mohammed Domeh was relaxing on his living room sofa, watching the TV news when he heard the fateful words: President Bush was flatly ruling out the return of Palestinians such as himself to what is now Israel.

“When I heard what Bush had to say — and I am saying this as a Palestinian intellectual — I wished I could wear an explosive belt around my waist and blow myself up in front of Bush,” said Domeh, 44.

Such anti-American rage, from an otherwise mild-spoken, middle-class Palestinian writer, is being echoed around the Arab world at a volume some say is unprecedented.

No mention whatsoever of the more constructive Palestinian responses outlined in our communique. Are the news agencies more interested in projecting conflict/drama than they are in telling the whole story?

April 22, 2004 16:13 By Category : Backspin

Reuters journalist responds to criticism

Reuters reporter Jeffrey Heller has responded to HonestReporting’s critique of Heller’s recent articles. (Joining his parents, who also wrote us regarding it.)

Tue, 20 Apr 2004


Thank you for your comments on my Washington-datelined article.

I am sorry you misconstrued my use of the phrase “flaunt in the face of opponents”. I had no intention of portraying Prime Minister Sharon as a caricatured, vindictive figure, as you suggested. Remember the Brannif Airlines commercial of 1969 ? “If you’ve got it, flaunt it?” It was meant in that spirit, following what was hailed in Israel as a major diplomatic triumph by the Israeli leader. But it’s our job as journalists to keep it simple, and if you couldn’t understand it, then perhaps I could have said it better.


April 21, 2004 21:35 By Category : Backspin

CNN snoopers

JPost reports that a CNN camera crew went a little too far in culling material for a Vanunu story:

Police, acting on a tip from security sources, detained a CNN television crew Tuesday filming near the restricted Dimona reactor deep in the Negev.

The crew were taken to the Dimona police station and questioned why they had been filming in an area clearly marked was a military area and photography was forbidden. Police confiscated their video film and it was sent to security officials for examination. The CNN crew was then dismissed with their equipment.

This isn’t the first time:

CNN has a history of violating Israel censorship.

It was taken off the air temporarily during the 1991 Gulf War when it revealed the location of Scud rocket impacts, information that could help launchers adjust subsequent missile strikes.

April 21, 2004 12:30 By Category : Backspin

Culture of Terror

The NY Times reports on a Hezbollah TV game show, “The Mission,” which glorifies terror and is aired on Al-Manar. One US official dubs it “Name Your Favorite Terrorist.”

Speaking of the culture of terror, Reuters reports on a Palestinian DJ who spins tunes for Hamas rallies.

April 21, 2004 11:05 By Category : Backspin

BBC rents flat for Vanunu

The Israeli financial paper Globes is reporting (in Hebrew, req. reg.) that the BBC has rented a luxury apartment in Jaffa for Mordechai Vanunu, the Israeli atomic spy who is due to be released from prison today. The rent: $4,750 per month. Paid for by British TV viewers.

Globes states:

At this point, it’s not clear what BBC is receiving in return for the payment of Vanunu’s apartment, but one could assume that BBC will receive a TV interview with him.

Stay tuned.

UPDATE: Globes is now reporting (at same link) that BBC intended to rent the place for Vanunu, but that Vanunu turned them down after the story hit the press. See BBC’s denial of the whole thing in comments below.

April 21, 2004 10:40 By Category : Backspin

Over-reporting of Israel, part 2

Here’s a cool page that represents in graphic format the content of the GoogleNews aggregator: NewsMap

The more stories about the given topic, the larger it appears on this page. Note the disproportionate prominence of Israel coverage. As of this posting, the topic ‘Sharon Vows to Continue Strikes’ simply dominates the world news.

In this post we noted a similar online project from a Harvard researcher, and offered some thoughts about what it means for Israel, and for anti-Israel media bias.

April 21, 2004 10:26 By Category : Backspin

BBC scare quotes

From BBC coverage of a Simon Wiesenthal Center report:

The net is being used by racist and “terrorist” groups trying to recruit new members and spread their message…

Jewish human rights group The Simon Wiesenthal Center monitors 4,000 websites used by racist, “terrorist” and other extremist organisations. It has been tracking such hate sites for about nine years.

The latest report shows how important the net has become to these extremists, which includes racists, “terrorist” groups and homophobic organisations, and details the way that the groups use websites to spread their messages.

William Sjostrom at Atlantic Blog asks:

Any speculation why terrorist is put in scare quotes, but not racist? I mean, if the terrorist apologists are allowed to say that one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter, then why aren’t the racists allowed to say that one man’s racist is another man’s anti-genetic modification campaigner? Does al-Qaeda have to blow up a BBC studio to end their ideological fantasies?

Why doesn’t the BBC put scare quotes around hate (one man’s hate is another man’s “expressive anger”) and homophobic (one man’s homophobe is another man’s “pro-Darwinian exponent”)? Is it which words elicit giggles at their cocktail parties? A pox on the BBC.

Comments to BBC:

April 21, 2004 9:51 By Category : Backspin