Palestinian medical fundraiser

The Palestinian Red Crescent Society (the equivalent of the Red Cross in the U.S.) is having a little fundraiser it seems, and is selling some items over at CafePress.

How about this poster for your bedroom wall:

Good to see the Red Crescent Society is motivated by medical, humanitarian concern, and not old-fashioned anti-Semitism.

January 8, 2004 16:18 By Category : Backspin

Trib Public Editor on Bias

Chicago Tribune Public Editor Don Wycliff has ‘the first in an occasional series’ on the issue of media bias. First, he addresses the seriousness of the matter from the perspective of journalists:

Nothing wounds a good newsman or newswoman as deeply as an allegation of bias. Even if the bias is conceded to be unintentional, it suggests a failure of the professional discipline that we journalists pride ourselves on and that is the basis of our credibility. If it is said to be intentional, it amounts to an allegation of deliberate distortion and bad faith.

Wycliff then turns to recent accusations of bias at the Trib, which have mostly focused that paper’s coverage of the Bush administration, since ‘the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians [is] in a relatively quiet phase’ (!) Here’s an interesting line:

When the media report skeptically and critically about [Bush's] message–and what’s the point of doing journalism if not to be skeptical and critical?–they come off as “negative.”

Is the point of journalism to be ‘skeptical and critical’? We thought the point was to bring news stories to the public’s attention in as accurate a manner as possible. Independent news media should not become mouthpieces for any government, but all too often in Israel coverage, the IDF/Israeli government position is granted very little legitimacy, or omitted entirely.

January 8, 2004 16:01 By Category : Backspin

New Guardian Mideast Expert

We knew Guardian contributors were no great friends of Israel, but this byline gives us chills.

(They’ve outdone even the LA Times’ op-ed page on defining legitimate contributors.)

Responsible newspapers won’t do this, because they reserve op-eds for individuals who deserve their readers’ fundamental trust (the bin Laden tape was therefore just a news story everywhere else). When printing an op-ed, editors implicitly express to their readership, “I don’t necessarily agree with this person, but s/he deserves your attention as an credible, well-intended thinker.”

Telling indeed that bin Laden fits this definition according to The Guardian.

January 7, 2004 13:06 By Category : Backspin


Two important items on Syrian President Bashar Assad:

* MEMRI brings us an article from the website of the Syrian Communist Party showing how Assad recently pulled a Yassir on his people – speaking peace and concession to the West, while saying something else entirely to his people in Arabic. The issue in question is Assad’s Nov. 30 interview with the New York Times, in which Assad expressed willingness to resume peace talks with Israel. Though it was ‘reprinted’ in Syria, it had been tampered with:

Is it conceivable that the president makes statements for quoting to the American press (which is the international press, since the interview was published in English), but that these statements aren’t exactly the same as the ones published in the Syrian media?

Let us begin with the numbers: The English version, as published on The New York Times website, had 11,280 words… The Syrian news agency Sana and the official Syrian press published what it called the ‘full version’ but this had only 5,500 words. The London paper Al-Sharq Al-Awsat published the ‘full Arabic translation’ of the interview, which was 7,667 words long.

Where did the 2,200 words vanish to, if, as the American press said, it was the president’s office that prepared the English translation? What did Al-Assad tell America and the entire world yet at the same time thought not fitting to tell the Syrians?

The part that was omitted included questions and answers regarding [Syria's] domestic situation, Iraq, Hizbullah, normalization with the Hebrew state, and U.S.-Syrian security cooperation.

* The (UK) Telegraph has a number of important articles on Assad and Syria: An interview in which Assad all but admits that Syria has a WMD stockpile, Assad’s verbal gymnastics when discussing suicide bombers, a profile of Assad, and a well-done staff-ed on the Syrian dictator.

January 7, 2004 11:38 By Category : Backspin

Editors weigh in on ‘T-word’

HonestReporting has continually stressed the importance of calling terror ‘terror’ in news reports, whether the premeditated attack against innocent civilians occurs in New York City, Jerusalem, or Baghdad.

The executive editor of the Miami Herald has just expressed his paper’s commitment to do so:

It’s Herald policy to use the most neutral language available in a given situation. We, too, label those who fight for a cause as militants. But unlike some of our colleagues, we see a line where a militant becomes a terrorist and we don’t shy away from the latter word. When a suicide bomber blows up a bus carrying innocent civilians, it’s an act of terrorism, not militancy.

The Herald is the latest in a string of papers to recently address this issue head-on, however belatedly.
Here’s an overview of the positions they have expressed. (Note particularly the distinction between al Qaeda and Hamas that the Orlando Sentinel, Boston Globe and Washington Post attempted to make) :


 Date of

we call Hamas ‘terrorists’ in news reports?

Should we call
al Qaeda ‘terrorists’  in news reports?

Reasons for
double standard

Manning Pynn,
Orlando Sentinel
August 24,
No Shouldn’t
have, but it’s too late now, so yes
shock; US wasn’t at war, Palestinians are resisting occupation

Philip Gailey, St. Petersburg Times
August 31,
Yes Yes n/a – double
standard should end

Christine Chinlund, Boston Globe
Sept. 8, 2003 No; but their
acts can be called “terrorism”
Yes Only Qaeda
fits def. of “groups that have no clearly
identifiable or explicitly articulated political objective”; Hamas’ social
service functions; Israel is “far flung”

Michael Getler, Washington Post
Sept. 21, 2003 No Yes Hamas’
territorial ambitions, nationalism, social work; al Qaeda is everywhere, but
Hamas is regional; al Qaeda does random attacks, but Hamas part of war

Tom Fielder, Miami Herald
 Jan. 4,
Yes, when
describing act at least
n/a n/a


January 6, 2004 20:45 By Category : Backspin

Worth Reading Today

* AP has an interesting feature about the relationship between Palestinian refugees and their Arab hosts. The refugees, it seems, face a lot of discrimination in Egypt, Jordan, and elsewhere.

* The Arab League has decided that Palestinian ‘freedom fighters’ are not terrorists. For the irrational basis of this, see Q and A in Arab News.

* Haaretz reports on Islamic Jihad funding via Syria.

* Jerusalem Post goes into some detail on PA finance minister Salam Fayyad’s threats to resign due to Arafat’s cronies stalling Fayyad’s reform efforts.

* Shlomo Avineri has an op-ed in the LA Times on Geneva Accord:

The biggest problem for Israelis is that what the document’s authors claim it says and what it actually says are very different. Many Israelis – including those ready to make considerable concessions – feel that with the Geneva initiative, they have been taken for a ride by the Palestinian propaganda machine and some willful – or naive – Israeli accomplices.

* Former National Security Council member Kenneth M. Pollack on ‘America and the Middle East After Saddam’:

The Arab states are broken. They are absolutely stagnant, politically, economically, and socially. And their people know it. The vast majority of Arab schools don’t teach anything useful to their students and don’t produce students who have useful job skills. Most of the students specialize in humanities, many of them aspire to be lawyers and Islamic scholars: two-thirds of all of the Ph.D.s issued in Saudi Arabia every year are in Islamic studies.

January 5, 2004 23:26 By Category : Backspin

Palestinian NGOs

Why are Palestinian non-governmental organizations (NGO’s) refusing to sign a commitment to the US that they won’t transfer money to terror organizations, and why won’t the western media pick up on this?
From Jerusalem Post:

The US and some EU countries lately informed the Palestinian NGOs that, prior to entering into funding agreements, they must sign the pledge, which is entitled “Certification Regarding Terrorist Financing.”

According to the document, the Palestinian NGOs pledge not to “provide material support or resources to any individual or entity that advocates, plans, sponsors, engages in, or has engaged in terrorist activity, including but not limited to individuals and entities”…

A statement issued by one of the major “coordinating committees” of the Palestinian NGOs called for a series of meetings to begin on Monday to discuss the antiterrorism commitment and how to put pressure on Washington to scrap it…

“It is not clear on what basis and upon which criteria the definition of ‘terrorist acts’ has been set, especially in light of Israeli attempts to portray the struggle of the Palestinian people for freedom and independence as ‘violent and terrorist acts,’ ” the statement added.

When media outlets refuse to call suicide bombings ‘terror,’ they contribute to (if not create) this blurring of the essential definition of terrorism:

Terrorism: The calculated use of violence (or threat of violence) against civilians in order to attain goals that are political or religious or ideological in nature; this is done through intimindation or coercion or instilling fear.

January 4, 2004 22:41 By Category : Backspin

Pedagogy of Hate

An important article by Itamar Marcus and Barbara Crook, on the still under-reported matter of Palestinian education to terror: Pedagogy of Hate

If you want to know what’s really at the heart of the Palestinian conflict with Israel, don’t ask the politicians or the diplomats. Go to the new experts: Palestinian children. Unlike the rest of the world, they’ve been paying close attention to what their leaders and educators have been teaching them and they are ready to practice what they have been taught.

For instance, children interviewed on PA TV last week state clearly and without reservation that Israel has no right to exist, and that their goals for which they’re willing to sacrifice their lives is Israel’s destruction and the expulsion of all Israelis.

“They [the Jews] came to take Palestine, that is Tel-Aviv, Jaffa, Haifa, Acco, Ramle. All these cities belong to Palestine,” one youth explains in the broadcast, echoing years of standard Palestinian Authority (PA) indoctrination. And because he is convinced that Israel has no right to exist: “We hope, hope, hope and I emphasize these things, that the Arab countries and the foreign countries, all the countries of the world, will support the Palestinians and will expel the Israelis.”

Read the whole thing here.

January 4, 2004 22:00 By Category : Backspin

Throwing Stones

The IDF is regularly charged with over-reacting to Palestinian stone-throwers. Here’s today’s version, courtesy of Reuters:

Israeli soldiers shot dead three Palestinians Saturday in the bloodiest confrontation in at least two weeks in the West Bank city of Nablus while a fourth Palestinian was killed in the Gaza Strip…Palestinian witnesses said Amjed el-Masri, 15, was shot in the chest by a sniper as he threw stones at an Israeli armored vehicle from a rooftop in the old city area of Nablus.

Now, when most folks think of throwing stones, they probably think fist-sized, maximum. Here’s what was actually happening, courtesy Associated Press:

Those aren’t ‘stones’…they are cement blocks, and from a few stories up they are deadly weapons by anyone’s standards.

Interesting also that the AP story on the event (via Yahoo News):

a) doesn’t have this picture beside it, but rather pictures of an Israeli tank, water cannon, and women protestors ‘against occupation,’ and

b) the AP article refers to the Palestinians’ violence as ‘disputed’:

The cause of the violence was disputed. The Israeli military said troops on patrol opened fire after being attacked with rocks, firebombs and a concrete block dropped from a roof, while Palestinian witnesses said Israelis killed an attacker and two bystanders, including a 15-year-old boy on a rooftop who was watching troops pass.

One would think this photo (from the AP, no less) would be included here, given the fact that there’s a dispute regarding what the rooftop gang was doing.

Comments to:

The BBC, meanwhile, called these men ‘protestors’: Three shot in West Bank protests

(Hat tip: Israpundit)

UPDATE: Yahoo News now includes the photo alongside this story – see it here. Original story, without the photo, captured here.

January 3, 2004 22:46 By Category : Backspin

Wash Post Buries Embarrassing Criticism

Syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer wrote a column on Dec. 26 on the topic of Gaddafi’s surrender, which began with a critique of a Washington Post headline on the event:

“Libya Vows to Give Up Banned Weapons; Two Decades of Sanctions, Isolation Wore Down Gaddafi”
– Washington Post headline, front-page news analysis, Dec. 20.

WASHINGTON — Yeah, sure. After 18 years of American sanctions, Gaddafi randomly picks Dec. 19, 2003, as the day for his surrender. By amazing coincidence, Gaddafi’s first message to Britain — principal U.S. war ally and conduit to White House war councils — occurs just days before the invasion of Iraq. And his final capitulation to U.S.-British terms occurs just five days after Saddam is fished out of a rat hole.

But when the Wash Post ran the column, they saved face by simply deleting the opening headline quote. And Krauthammer is on the Wash Post’s own staff!

Interesting that the Houston Chronicle, (Washington) Daily Herald, New York Daily News, and all other national papers didn’t happen to remove that opening headline…


January 3, 2004 22:22 By Category : Backspin