Jenny Tonge in Israel

British MP Jenny Tonge was asked to leave Parliament last month after she said of Palestinian suicide bombers: “If I had to live in that situation – and I say that advisedly – I might just consider becoming one myself.”

The enterprising BBC saw a great opportunity for a hire, so they sent Tonge to visit and report from Israel and the Palestinian areas. In her journalistic debut, Tonge files a choppy, strange and disturbing column today in BBC Online. In Bethlehem, Tonge goes to meet “some al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade terrorists” and visits the home of a suicide bomber, where she remarks:

The stories of indoctrination of little children right through their schooldays didn’t seem to apply here.

Did Tonge honestly believe that during her five minutes in a Palestinian living room she would hear an Arabic sermon calling for jihad against the Zionist entity?

Then there’s the kicker:

It is certainly true that suicide bombers are regarded as national heroes here, but what else do they have – born out of despair and the desire to resist occupation, laced with religious belief.

Civilian targets are chosen because there is no way of getting at military targets.

Regarding the first point, we encourage Tonge to read Itamar Marcus and Barbara Crook’s recent article, Aspiration, Not Desperation, which debunks the myth of suicide bombers being motivated by economic or political “desperation.”

And we’re baffled by Tonge’s second point — that Palestinian suicide bombers choose civilian targets because they “can’t reach” military targets. In fact, in order to reach Israeli civilian targets, the terrorists must somehow bypass the considerably easier military targets. Just last month in Gaza, a mother terrorist demonstrated how relatively easy it is to blow up a military checkpoint, when the IDF lowers its guard for humanitarian reasons.

Tonge is missing — willfully or otherwise — the most fundamental moral outrage of terrorism: the choice of innocent civilians as intentional targets for murder.

Does Tonge fail to understand just why her statement of “understanding” for suicide terror caused such a backlash — and the loss of her own job?

UPDATE: Here are Tonge’s BBC radio reports.

February 17, 2004 16:29 By Category : Backspin

Wash Post on Brown cartoon

The Washington Post has an article on Dave Brown’s outrageous cartoon of Ariel Sharon eating Palestinian babies, and the growth of anti-Semitism in Europe:

Many British Jews reacted with revulsion, accusing Brown and the newspaper of anti-Semitism. Some said the drawing echoed the virulent Jew-hatred of cartoons that appeared in Nazi publications such as Der Stuermer before and during World War II, while the Israeli Embassy here contended it perpetuated the ancient “blood libel” that Jews prey on non-Jewish children.

But Brown and the Independent have stood their ground, insisting that the drawing represented fair criticism of a head of government. They claimed vindication after the state-run Press Complaints Commission dismissed a formal complaint from Sharon and the embassy, and again, more recently, when the illustration won the annual award for best drawing from the Political Cartoon Society.

Still, the cartoon remains at the center of a simmering debate in Britain and throughout Europe over the distinctions between anti-Sharon, anti-Israel and anti-Semitic views.

After mentioning the role of HonestReporting and others who encouraged protest of the Brown cartoon, Brown himself chimes in:

“To me it was an obvious case of being a manufactured outrage,” he said. “I’ve no doubt a large number of people willfully misinterpreted the cartoon.”

‘Willfully misinterpreted’?? What does that mean?

February 16, 2004 18:33 By Category : Backspin

Get active on security fence issue

Recently, North American opinion pages include op-ed’s in favor or, or against, the Israeli security fence almost every day. The battle for popular opinion on the fence is at its height, so now is a great time for you to write to your local paper as well.

Here’s a recent, very good opinion piece: Ilana Freedman in the (Boston area) Metrowest Daily News makes many of the same points we covered in our recent communiques ‘Photo Op’ and ‘Not an Apartheid Fence’:

Earlier this week, a photograph of a weeping Palestinian woman appeared in the international press. Standing in front of Israel’s new separation wall, part of the barrier now being built around the West Bank, the photograph showed her with her hands covering her eyes. The wall behind her was adorned with graffiti in both Arabic and English. A truly heart-rending photograph, I thought. Until I saw a second photograph, taken from a different angle and further away. This photograph showed the same woman, surrounded by photographers, who were covering her tears from every position. Not surprisingly, no newspaper carried this photograph.

That is not to say that there isn’t a great deal to cry about in a land that has been torn apart by a conflict that seems to have no end. But this was clearly a photo op, photojournalists creating news instead of reporting it. It was deceptive and inflammatory, and illustrated the worst of what too much of today’s cynical journalism has to offer…

Language, like photographs, can have great power, and the emotional content of loaded symbols can lead opinion and shape history. “Apartheid Wall” conjures up ugly images of the old South Africa, where blacks were kept separate from the mainstream culture by a system of brutal laws and customs that kept them at the bottom of society. The “Berlin Wall,” as Palestinians also call the Israeli project, is no less evocative, the highly emotional image of a city torn in half by a wall running through its heart. The labels are intended to inflame and evoke an emotional response that casts Israel deep into the role of tyrant and aggressor.

Now is a great time to draft your own op-ed, or even an succinct letter to the editor, supporting Israel’s right to defend herself via the security fence against relentless Palestinian terror. For talking points, see the following HonestReporting communiques:

- Not an ‘Apartheid Wall’

- Photo Op

- Security Fence Distortions

February 16, 2004 10:34 By Category : Backspin

BBC: We’re not biased on Israel

Haaretz reports on a gathering in a Jerusalem synogogue with the BBC Mideast bureau chief:

Standing in the basement of a Jerusalem synagogue this week, the bureau chief of the BBC’s Middle East desk acknowledged that he was entering a lion’s den…


February 16, 2004 1:08 By Category : Backspin

No ‘Terror’ at ABC

From TownHall: The Australian government officially recognizes Hizbullah and Hamas as terror organizations, but the Australian Broadcasting Corporation has directed its staff not to call them ‘terrorist’ – in keeping with the UN standard:

An internal memo to ABC staff reportedly reads: “Please be careful with Middle Eastern references. Several recent slip-ups have attracted justified complaints. The ABC follows U.N. guidelines on proscribed groups: Hamas, Hizballah, and Islamic Jihad are not included in the U.N.’s list of terrorist organizations and therefore must not be described as such.”

Tulloh declined to elaborate on the “justified complaints,” saying that correspondence from ABC listeners and viewers was private.

(Hat tip: LGF)

The ABC should start hearing ‘justified complaints’ from the other side, indicating that the refusal to call these mass murdering groups ‘terrorist’ is both inaccurate and morally appalling.

Comments to:

February 16, 2004 0:56 By Category : Backspin

Palestinian journalists boycott PA

Palestinian journalists are taking a brave stand against PA intimidation:

The Palestinian Journalists Syndicate in the Gaza Strip has called on its members to stop covering events related to the Palestinian Authority’s security forces to protest against continued attacks on journalists.

The boycott, which goes into effect on Sunday, is also directed against the PA Ministry of Justice, which is accused of failing to take appropriate measures to punish the perpetrators.

The journalists were instructed not to cover the activities of the security forces or interview their commanders until tough measures are taken against those responsible for a spate of attacks on correspondents and newspaper and TV offices.

Does this indicate a real, internal movement for Palestinian democratic reform? Are the journalists the vanguard of a larger, grassroots statement that Palestinians are fed up with the corruption and lack of freedom of expression under the PA?

UPDATE: Now they’ve taken over the Palestinian Legislative Council.

February 15, 2004 13:09 By Category : Backspin

BBC breakup?

From AFP:

Britain’s government is considering a plan to break up the BBC and remove its independent status in the wake of a bitter row with the state-funded broadcaster over the Iraq war, a report said.

Government papers detailing possible changes to the BBC’s structure proposed breaking it into separate regional entities for England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, The Sunday Times said…

Plans being considered include giving a government media watchdog greater control over the BBC’s output, closing BBC outlets which are not considered “public service” and even forcing the corporation to share some of its licence fee revenue with other broadcasters.

Also this today from The Weekly StandardThe Wreck of the BBC :

Its Middle East coverage is notoriously one-sided. Its pro-Palestinian bias is so marked that recently the London bureau chief of the Jerusalem Post refused to take part in any more BBC news programs because he believed the corporation was actually fomenting anti-Semitism.

See a recent HonestReporting communique on double standards at the BBC here.

Support the movement to reform the license fee by writing to UK Culture Secretary Tessa Jowell:

February 15, 2004 11:48 By Category : Backspin

Hamas’ Use of Human Shields

IMRA says photos like this one from Reuters yesterday in Gaza go a long way toward explaining why Palestinian civilian casulties are so high:


February 12, 2004 22:28 By Category : Backspin

HR communique dubunking ‘Apartheid wall’

An HonestReporting communique clarifying why Israel’s security fence is not an ‘Apartheid wall’ has just been released and is available online here.

To receive HR communiques by email, the moment they are released, signup in the box above.

February 12, 2004 22:19 By Category : Backspin

HR cited

HonestReporting’s communique on photojournalistic ethics received a link yesterday from Instapundit — which triggered the coveted ‘Instalanche’.

The lead article in the Hartford Courant today — addressing the Israeli Foreign Ministry’s decision to publicize a video of the aftermath of the last suicide bombing — cited HonestReporting as well:

“The Israeli government has refrained from doing things like this, from showing films like this in the past,” said Michael Weinstein, managing editor of, a website in Jerusalem that monitors media coverage of Israel. “Israel had considered it crass and inconsiderate to the victims to air such films.”

The efficiency with which Israelis clean up areas where suicide bombings have occurred, he said, and a reluctance to allow photographs have had a “disinfecting effect” on how the attacks are reported in the mainstream media.

“The goriness of the video is intended to show this was not a legitimate military strike – this was beyond the pale,” Weinstein said.

February 11, 2004 20:30 By Category : Backspin