Worth Reading Today

* Robert Fulford at National Post talks with a Palestinian human rights activist who’s willing to point his finger at the PA:

He believes human rights develop from the bottom up; they are seldom bestowed by those in authority. “You have to take human rights. No one will give them to you.” He expressed contempt for the European Union, which gives vast sums of money to Palestinian leaders without any honest accounting.

Despite his resentment of the Israelis, he has no illusions about the virtues of the Palestinians. He wondered aloud who was more to blame for Arafat’s crimes: Arafat, or the populace that tolerates and even reveres him? He said Palestinians fall into three categories. Those who support the Arafat gang out of self-interest, those who are apathetic, and the rest, who are afraid to speak.

* Shimon Samuels reports that the anti-globalization World Social Forum has been hijacked by the anti-Israel movement:

The takeover of the World Social Forum by advocates of the Palestine cause, who made it the central axis, was insidious. The phenomenon may not have been widely picked up by the media, but its effects have been sown subliminally and globally among a young generation, and disseminated throughout civil society.

What can be done? The WSF must be constantly monitored. It must be challenged and engaged.

* From IMRA: Palestinian media figures guilty of advocating mass murder

February 3, 2004 10:47 By Category : Backspin

Sharon: Evacuate Gaza settlements

Quite a statement by Ariel Sharon to Haaretz today:

“It is my intention to carry out an evacuation – sorry, a relocation – of settlements that cause us problems and of places that we will not hold onto anyway in a final settlement, like the Gaza settlements,” the prime minister added.

“We are talking of a population of 7,500 people. It’s not a simple matter. We are talking of thousands of square kilometers of hothouses, factories and packing plants. People there who are third-generation.”

Reuters picked it up right away.

Now, will media outlets continue to insinuate that Sharon’s government is land-hungry and stubbornly refuses a peaceful settlement? Or will they properly turn attention to the PA’s failure to take parallel steps, such as the uprooting of terror organizations?

February 2, 2004 15:05 By Category : Backspin

Abu Ayish

IDF action today:

Israeli soldiers killed four Palestinian militants, including a one-armed leader of the militant Islamic Jihad group, in an intense gun battle in a Gaza refugee camp Monday.

The one-armed ‘militant’ was Yasser Abu Ayish. How did he lose his other arm (and two legs)?

Associated Press: ‘Abu Ayish’s legs and arm were blown off last year when a rocket he was building exploded prematurely.’

But Reuters reported:

A Palestinian militant who lost his legs and an arm to an Israeli tank shell a year ago battled soldiers who came to arrest him on Monday in a Gaza Strip raid that ended with him being killed along with three other gunmen…Yasser Abu al-Aesh, a senior local leader of the Islamic Jihad group who lost three of his limbs and four comrades a year ago when a tank shell hit his rocket-firing squad in Rafah.

Let’s assume Reuters is right that Abu Ayish was injured by an IDF shell — to bury the fact that he was actively firing rockets into Israel at that time is partisan reporting that sacrifices facts for drama. Note also how Reuters cranks up the near-heroism of the one-armed ‘militant’ ‘battling’ soldiers.

We reiterate our action item from the last HR communique: Encourage your local paper to stop carrying Reuters articles on the Mideast.

February 2, 2004 13:36 By Category : Backspin

Star-Trib finds terrorists

The Minnesota Star-Tribune ran a profile of an evangelical priest who grew up in Jerusalem. Reporter Kay Miller describes his surviving the 1946 Irgun bombing of the King David Hotel (emphasis added):

It was midday July 22, 1946. Ovikian was eating in the basement of the King David Hotel when Zionist terrorists struck…
The Brits had fortified the hotel’s eight-story southern wing with barbed wire and tanks. But the terrorists sneaked in the northern end dressed as delivery people, their milk cans filled with TNT.

The Star-Tribune, which completely refuses to call relentless, deliberate Palestinian murder of Israeli civilians ‘terrorism’, describes the King David bombing as ‘Zionist terror’. This, despite the fact that the Irgun warned the hotel, the adjacent French Consulate, and the Palestine Post of the impending military strike against the British command, and there is no indication that civilians were intentionally targeted. (For more information on the King David bombing, see the Wikipedia entry.)

Comments to Star-Tribune: click here

February 2, 2004 11:54 By Category : Backspin

The Language War

Dartmouth University linguistics professor Lewis Glinert has an important article on language, the media, and the Mideast conflict: The Language War. Excerpt:

Advocates for Israel have fought a long and largely unsuccessful fight on this terrain. The term “peace activist” effortlessly scores a point about who is for peace and who is against it. When a 15-year-old Palestinian boy is shot by the IDF, the word “boy” tends to evoke tender age and innocence (compare “Police arrested several youths for loitering”). The term “Palestinian,” by association with “Palestine” – used unchallenged as the time-hallowed name for the Holy Land – sends a clear message as to who are the rightful inhabitants of the land…

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February 2, 2004 9:27 By Category : Backspin

Sinking the Palestinian Swimmer Story


Raad Awassat

Earlier this month a highly moving story broke that was reprinted in news outlets everywhere: A Palestinian swimmer who aspired to the Olympics was overcoming
tremendous difficulty, including a supposed Israeli refusal to allow him to practice in a heated pool, and hoped to make it to Athens against all odds.

Phillip Whitten of SwimInfo was disturbed by some of the innaccuracies in the story and decided to follow up. Whitten discovered that the whole story was a sham:

It’s a great story, with all the classic drama of David versus Goliath. You can’t help but root for the kid, the underdog struggling against overwhelming might and bureaucratic red-tape. And, indeed, the story proved irresistible to news media around the world. It was picked up and either reprinted or elaborated upon in the Washington Post, London Times, New York Times, Guardian, Minnesota Star Tribune, Newsday and the Chicago Tribune, among many others. MSNBC picked it up, as did CNN. It was reported in at least 60 countries in newspapers, radio, T.V. and on the Internet. At least half a dozen friends e-mailed the story to me from various points around the globe…

The only trouble is: it’s dead wrong. None of the reporters or news media bothered to check out the allegations or interview a single official from the YMCA or Israeli Swimming Federation. If they had, they would have learned that almost every aspect of the story is either false or a misrepresentation of the facts…

There was, indeed, a sad story to emerge from the waters of Jerusalem’s swimming pools, but it was not the story that made the newspapers and other media around the world. Rather, it was the story of how ideology and sloppy reporting can totally distort reality and muddy what should be the crystal-clear waters of international sport.

Read the whole thing – it’s a classic case of anti-Israel bias, and a fine example of alert media monitoring.

February 1, 2004 14:46 By Category : Backspin

Worth Reading Today

* Daniel Gordis reflects on the soldiers’ return and Thursday’s bus attack in a moving column: Coming Home

Adi Avitan, Benny Avraham and Omar Souad came home today. But they came home to a very different country than the one from which they were stolen. A country that’s been at war for three years. A country that when they were killed was just weeks post-Camp David, when we thought that virtually anything and everything was possible. To a country that no longer yearns for a peace that we suspect will not be, but still hopes for the sort of quiet that we had for a while. Until this morning.

* Jerusalem Post reporter Eric Schechter was wounded ‘moderately’ in Thursday’s attack. So we understand better what news reports mean by this designation, here’s Schechter’s diagnosis:

In Schechter’s case, “moderate” wounds are a broken left knee and a severed vein in the calf below it; puncture wounds in his right leg and back, from slices of metal packed into the explosives; a broken shoulder suffered on impact when the blast threw him from one part of the bus to another; lungs and spleen contused by the force of the explosion; and singed eyebrows from the blistering heat.

* JPost’s editor-in-chief Bret Stephens was at the scene of the attack: Jerusalem, 8:45 am

I doubt many reporters have actually witnessed a suicide bombing up close – indeed, not many Israelis have. After today, I know there is a basic difference between what one sees in the first five or ten minutes and what one sees in the next 20 or 30 minutes. Most of the reporters who “covered” the bombing did not actually see the corpses on the ground. They do not know about the body convulsing in the bus. What they saw was a bus blown to smithereens, which is awful enough, while the rest was left to their imaginations. But if you haven’t seen it before, you cannot imagine it. You don’t have a clue. If I learned one thing today, it is this.

* Haaretz’s Danny Rubenstein on Law and Order in the PA:

The fact that Thursday’s suicide bomber in Jerusalem was a traffic policeman from Bethlehem and a member of Fatah’s Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade says something about the state of that movement, which has long been considered the ruling party of the Palestinians. In some parts of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, the Brigades operate as gangs of local hoodlums who have almost completely severed ties with the senior members of the movement crowded into Arafat’s headquarters in Ramallah.

* Washington Post reports on Israeli survivors of terror in rehab. According to this, 3,000 Israelis have been injured in suicide bombings alone. Includes interviews with a good number of people, including a teen who has undergone 26 operations since the Dec. 2001 bombing of Cafe Rimon.

February 1, 2004 14:19 By Category : Backspin

PA Policeman – Terrorist

UPDATE: We’ve issued a communique on this topic – view it here, and sign up above to receive HR communiques by email.

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Yesterday it was reported by Reuters that Israel would allow the PA police to redeploy in the West Bank cities, after refusing this for some time:

The new security arrangement could be a rare step toward building trust as called for under a tattered peace plan being pushed by visiting U.S. envoys.

The army has destroyed dozens of Palestinian police stations in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, accusing security forces of either turning a blind eye to militant groups attacking Israelis or taking part themselves in the three-year-old uprising.

Taking part themselves? Well, today a PA policeman committed the horrific suicide bombing on a Jerusalem bus, killing ten and injuring more than 50:

The suicide bomber, identified as Ali Jaara, 24, a Palestinian Authority policeman from the Aida refugee camp on the outskirts of Bethlehem, left a note saying that he wanted to avenge eight Palestinians killed in fighting with Israeli troops in the Gaza Strip Wednesday.

This wasn’t the first time. Now back to the Reuters article – does Israel merely ‘accuse’ PA police of taking part in terrorist activity? Wouldn’t a more accurate term be, Israel ‘points at’ PA police terror, and demands they clean up their act?

Comments to Reuters: editor@reuters.com

January 29, 2004 21:39 By Category : Backspin

Different Reactions

Paul Crespo in the Miami Herald comments on how differently Israelis and Palestinians react to violence:

Rather than clear the rubble and rebuild the area [after IDF actions], the PA apparently chooses to keep the buildings in disarray as a monument to the Israeli military actions, which the PA calls invasions. This is part of a deliberate and generally successful Palestinian victimization strategy that contrasts sharply with the way Israelis handle Palestinian terror attacks

While the Israelis could keep dozens of destroyed restaurants and other past terror targets as permanent symbols of terrorism, they choose not to. They prefer not to dwell on the attacks.

We see this even today, when in the wake of the horrific suicide bombing in Jerusalem, the Israeli police quickly cleared away the carnage and allowed traffic to flow again on the busy downtown street.

Crespo addresses how this affects media coverage:

Their differing responses to attacks, along with the contrasting means that each side uses in its fight, also affect how the media portray the conflict.

• Palestinian terror attacks are usually nearly invisible. Terror groups such as Hamas and the al Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigade use lone suicide bombers who suddenly appear in a crowded city street, bus or store, and disappear in a flash of explosives.

• Israeli military raids against Palestinian militants regularly involve massive shows of force, often lasting several days. Israeli retaliatory strikes are often more physically devastating and visually dramatic than suicide bombers. Israel uses armored vehicles, its troops move shooting through Palestinian areas, and helicopter gunships hover and fire overhead.

Add the emotional outbursts of Palestinians carrying mangled bodies through the streets after an Israeli raid, and you have a gut-wrenching story. Never mind that the Palestinians have created a culture of death that glorifies as ”martyrs” the suicide bombers who indiscriminately kill Israelis.

January 29, 2004 21:18 By Category : Backspin

Herald Tribune Photos

Journalist and analyst Tom Gross has this to add to our recent communique on partisan editing at the International Herald Tribune:

The New York Times-owned IHT, aimed mainly at audiences in Europe and Asia, also regularly runs photos that don’t correspond with its accompanying stories — photos designed to paint Israel in a more menacing light.

For example, on January 14, 2004, a Palestinian mother, blackmailed into becoming a suicide bomber rather than face death through honor killing after she was caught cheating on her husband, murdered four Israelis at the checkpoint through which Palestinian workers cross into Israel from Gaza.

The next day, January 15, 2004, instead of showing a photo of the bomb scene, or its victims, or the perpetrator, the IHT ran a huge photo across most of the top of its front page of an Israeli soldier pointing a gun at Palestinian laborers, and another large photo at the top of page 4 showing another Israeli soldier, gun in hand, near unarmed Palestinian civilians. The IHT’s story on the bombing made no references to the identity of the victims. The photos, which took up considerably more space than the text of the articles, bore virtually no relevance to the articles, or the previous day’s news.

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January 28, 2004 23:56 By Category : Backspin