NY Times’ Friedman Calls BDS Third Intifada

Thomas_Friedman_2005_(5)We’re in the midst of the Third Intifada, writes New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman. “But this Third Intifada isn’t really led by Palestinians in Ramallah,” he clarifies. “It’s led by the European Union in Brussels and other opponents of the Israeli occupation of the West Bank across the globe.”

In other words, he writes, the growing trend of European banks and pension funds divesting from Israel is based on “a strategy of making Israelis feel strategically secure but morally insecure,” which could win concessions from Israel.

This formulation might have resonance in some circles if the “other opponents of the Israeli occupation” he refers to were as focused on Israel’s presence in the West Bank as the EU appears to be. But Friedman would be naive to believe the BDS movement – the main “other opponents” – is working towards a two-state solution, or that peace is the endgame of its activity.

Actually, the movement is working for a series of goals, including the flooding of millions of Palestinian refugees to areas inside Israel. As BDS founder Omar Barghouti told the New Republic, the boycott movement would not end if Israel withdrew from the West Bank:

BDS is tied inextricably to the demand for the right of return for the roughly five million Palestinian refugees, most of whom descend from those created in and around 1948. Barghouti confirmed this to me, writing, “The BDS movement upholds the basic rights of all Palestinians, including the right of return.” Or, as he put it in one interview, “‘If the occupation ends, would that end your call for BDS?’ No, it wouldn’t. … The majority of the Palestinian people are not suffering from occupation, they are suffering from denial of their right to come back home.”

So if BDS is fighting for the “right of return” of 5 million Palestinians, that would be a direct assault on the Jewish character of the democratic Israel. In other words, Mr. Friedman, BDS may be non-violent but it still aims for the destruction of Israel as we know it, just like the armed struggles before it. That’s not exactly an expression of “making Israelis feel strategically secure but morally insecure.”

There may well be a Third Intifada underway, but it’s not the one Friedman thinks it is. Just because it’s not bombing buses in Jerusalem does not mean BDS occupies the moral high ground. And that may be why it’s had no effect until the European banks and other more moderate players got involved.

For more information about BDS and how to counter it, visit our Facebook page, Fighting BDS.

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February 5, 2014 12:38 By Category : Backspin Boycott Divestment Sanctions (BDS)

Comments and the Roar of the Crowd – 5

A sampling of the latest from my inbox.

Scarlett Johansson

Scarlett Johansson

1. Scarlett Johansson stood up for Israel, earning the respect and admiration of a lot of HonestReporting readers. How can her new fans express their appreciation?

From: …gmail.com
Date: Thu, Jan 30, 2014
Subject: Re: IDNS: Scarlett Johansson Renounces Oxfam Ties Over BDS

I’d like to thank Scarlet Johansonn for her support and for seeing what is really going on. Do you know how one can do that?

Johansson’s principled stand has certainly earned her the gratitude and encouragement of Israel and its supporters. You can send an email through her publicist: marcel@truepublicrelations.com

There’s also a Facebook group, I support Scarlett Johansson against the haters. Last I looked, it had more than 26,000 likes.

2. Are we overdoing the shorthand?

From: …@gmail.com
Date: Tue, Feb 4, 2014
Subject: Re: Seeing SodaStream For Myself

Everything about BDS I wanted to know? What the hell does BDS mean?

BDS is an acronym for the anti-Israel Boycott Divestment and Sanctions movement. This is a campaign that wants undermine Israel by encouraging people, organizations and countries to boycott Israeli products, academia, sports, culture, etc., divest themselves of investments in Israeli businesses, and place various sanctions on Israel (such as special labels identifying items produced in settlements, among other things).


This movement’s a growing challenge to Israel. That’s why HonestReporting launched Fighting BDS, to raise awareness about the campaign’s worldwide efforts. We’re using the BDS acronym because A) it’s been commonly used for years, and B) its easier than spelling out  Boycott Divestment and Sanctions.  You’ll be seeing more about this from us over the coming months.

The proper style for dealing with acronyms is to spell it out in the first reference and then use acronym for the rest of the article. I think we’ve done a good job of that, but I’d like to know: Does anyone feel shut out by the shorthand?

(Image of Johansson via YouTube/EntertainmentTonight)

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February 5, 2014 9:04 By Category : Backspin Tags:, , , , , ,

HonestReporting Coming to Limmud Winnipeg

HonestReporting’s USA Executive Director Gary Kenzer will be presenting at Limmud Winnipeg in March. Details below:


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February 4, 2014 13:43 By Category : Backspin Tags:, , ,

A “Correction” Obscuring Real BDS Goals

anti-BDS-signThe Guardian, which has a history of dubious corrections, struck again this week. Referring to an article about the BDS pressure on Oxfam to drop Scarlett Johansson over ties to SodaStream, The Guardian issued the following correction:

In another story about the issue, which examined the relationship between Oxfam and Scarlett Johansson, we said that the charity was “under pressure from anti-Israel campaigners to sever ties” with the film star. It would be more accurate to describe the activists in the campaign for boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel as “opposed to settlements” (Oxfam under pressure to drop Johansson over Israeli ties, 30 January, page 23).

Actually, the original statement, which can be read to suggest BDSers target all of Israel in their boycott demands, was right on the money. The correction, which gives the impression the movement only targets companies with West Bank interests, distorts BDS goals. As the BDS Movement itself states:

Boycotts target products and companies (Israeli and international) that profit from the violation of Palestinian rights, as well as Israeli sporting, cultural and academic institutions. Anyone can boycott Israeli goods, simply by making sure that they don’t buy produce made in Israel or by Israeli companies. Campaigners and groups call on consumers not to buy Israeli goods and on businesses not to buy or sell them.

So why is The Guardian correcting information that was reported correctly in the original text? Is it better for the movement to be perceived as targeting just the West Bank rather than all of Israel, despite its true intentions? It might be a case of what the New Republic wrote this week explaining the BDS movement:

In practice, based both on the preferences of BDS supporters (including [Omar] Barghouti, a co-founder) and the movement’s tenets, BDS’s success is most likely to involve the end of the Zionist project. And what this means is that any BDS supporter effectively advocates a one-state solution, even if, should you put the question to him, he would tell you he would prefer two states.

 For more news about the BDS movement, visit and “like” our Facebook page, Fighting BDS.

February 4, 2014 13:26 By Category : Backspin Boycott Divestment Sanctions (BDS)

The Case Against “Generic” News Images

Sometimes, editors need an image for a story but don’t have anything useful or available right away.

That’s when stock photos come in handy.

But unless they’re clearly labeled as “file photos” used for “illustrative purposes,” these images can be very misleading.


Palestinians clash with Israeli soldiers over (fill in the blank) on (fill in the date).

Robert Fisk raises an important point about “generic” news photos used to illustrate articles.

Some 20 years ago, I made a series of documentaries on the Middle East under the title From Beirut to Bosnia.  During the course of our filming, we shot footage of Palestinian youths throwing stones at Israeli soldiers in the Gaza Strip in protest at the destruction of dozens of homes by Israeli forces. Some hours later, I was watching a news report on CNN on the return of the Palestinian delegation from fruitless peace talks with the Israelis.  In this same report, the very same Palestinians – I recognized them individually – were seen throwing the same stones. But the report said they were ‘protesting’ at the peace talks. They were not, of course. But when I asked the CNN Bureau Chief in Jerusalem to explain the pictures, he said that Palestinians disapproved of the way the talks were going and that the pictures of the protestors were ‘generic’.

The implication, of course, was that the Palestinians usually protested, and protested with stones; indeed, that Palestinians were generically violent people. Yes, Palestinians did throw stones at Israeli soldiers. And these Palestinians were throwing stones at Israeli soldiers. But they weren’t throwing stones at them for the reasons stated in the report. ‘Generic’ footage was being used to illustrate a story that did not even touch on the reasons for the violence we were actually watching on the screen.

Three quick thoughts:

Daily Telegraph

The Daily Telegraph recycled this image one year after Operation Cast Lead.

1. Recycled images can indeed distort reality. One especially blatant example was when the Daily Telegraph recycled a photo of destruction from Operation Cast Lead to illustrate an article on Gaza poverty a year later.

2. The dynamics driving Mideast photos make it hard to believe papers won’t usually have current images on hand. As photojournalist Ruben Salvadori revealed, editors are hot for photos of street clashes, photographers know those are the shots that they’ll get more money for, and the rock-throwers are more than happy to cooperate with the cameramen.

3. The perception reinforced by years of biased photography (detailed in HonestReporting’s Shattered Lens report on wire service images) depicting Palestinian rock throwers as heroic has finally brought us to the point where editors think Palestinians aren’t just violent, but — in Fisk’s words –”generically violent.” What Fisk means by generically violent is a media portrayal of Palestinians stemming from preconceived notions, not from objective fact or from anything we can call honest reporting.

Now, if photo bias is having a cumulative effect on the way Big Media and the world regards the Palestinians, what does that say about the long-term effects of irresponsible imagery on Israel?

(Image of stone thrower via YouTube/Raul Alejandro)

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February 4, 2014 12:57 By Category : Backspin Tags:, , , ,

Haaretz Tweets BDS Propaganda Image of Scarlett Johansson

It may be an appropriate image to accompany an article about the rise of political photoshopped images of Scarlett Johansson proliferating on the Internet, but did Haaretz really need to give this propaganda image more exposure by sending it out as a tweet along with the article?

Others have written about the same issue and even used the image without promoting the agenda of BDS propagandists.

Let us know what you think.

Update: Haaretz issued a follow-up tweet:

CLARIFICATION: We tweeted a meme attacking Scarlett Johansson’s SodaStream ad. This shouldn’t be seen as endorsement. http://htz.li/1fownOw

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February 3, 2014 12:14 By Category : Backspin Tags:, ,

Shock and Horror as Israeli Embassy Supports… Israel!

Not quite sure why The Guardian thinks this is newsworthy:


Just imagine – the Israeli embassy taking sides in the SodaStream / Scarlett Johansson saga and choosing… Israel.

Is The Guardian’s loathing towards Israel at the stage where Israelis defending their case is so outrageous? Whatever next? If Israel can’t even fight its case on Twitter in the eyes of The Guardian, then it’s not much of a surprise that defending Israeli civilians against Palestinian terror is treated with such disdain by the newspaper.

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February 3, 2014 10:29 By Category : Backspin UK News Tags:, , ,

Watchdog of the Week: RTE Makes On-Air Apology for Ariel Sharon Slur

watchdogoftheweekWhen Irish broadcaster RTE referred to ”the massacre that was led by Sharon in Beirut” on its 9pm news program, former HonestReporting Mission participant Stephen Franklin, as well as fellow UK activists Frank Baigel and Elliot Davis all contacted the station.

Ariel Sharon, of course, did not lead, participate in nor desire a massacre in the Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon in 1982.

They received the following response from RTE News Foreign Editor Cathy Milner:

Thank you for your recent email regarding our TV coverage of the aftermath of the death of Ariel Sharon.

I have now reviewed the report you complain of and have spoken to the reporter involved. In trying to paraphrase in order to save on-air time, we accept that a mistake was made and that the script line that the massacre was led by the late Mr Sharon was incorrect. Instead we should have explained the findings of the Israeli government commission of inquiry that Mr Sharon bore an indirect responsibility for these events.

We are sorry for this error and will carry a correction on our six and nine bulletins this Sunday, January 26.

And indeed, the correction was aired on that evening’s bulletin:

For taking action and achieving an on-air correction, our Watchdog of the Week is shared between Stephen Franklin, Frank Baigel and Elliot Davis.

Are You the Watchdog of the Week?

Have you achieved a success in the fight against anti-Israel media bias? Want to share your success with thousands of HonestReporting’s readers?

If the answer is yes, you could be the next Watchdog of the Week!

Here are just a few of the things you could do to qualify:

  • Sending a tip-off to HonestReporting through our Red Alert page  that we act upon;
  • Get a letter published in a media outlet;
  • Or perhaps you’ve achieved something else that you feel is deserving of this accolade.

Let us know by sending an email to action@honestreporting.com describing your recent achievement and maybe you can be the Watchdog of the Week.


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February 3, 2014 9:00 By Category : Backspin Ireland UK News Tags:, , , , ,

Anti-Normalization Absurdities

Fadi Arouri

Fadi Arouri

The anti-normalization movement is very powerful Palestinian movement. It opposes anything that “normalizes” Israeli-Palestinian relations, hounding everyone from entrepeneurs, grass roots peace groups, feel-good political delegations, and even Lionel Messi and FC Barcelona. (Is nothing sacred?)

Reconciliation and normalization are dirty words, which is why even Nelson Mandela would be run out of Ramallah if he were alive today.

Fadi Arouri, a Ramallah photojournalist and one of the anti-normalization movement’s big names (honored by readers as one of the Dishonest Reporters of 2013), obtained a permit to enter Israel. He even showed it off on Facebook. The District Coordination Office permit is dated January 16, and Arouri can go anywhere in Israel except for Eilat.

It got our attention because Arouri has an interesting history with Israeli reporters who visit the PA. Among other things, Arouri has:

  1. Disrupted the work of veteran Israeli Arab journalist Mohammed Najib, who was interviewing people in Ramallah. Najib couldn’t continue working for fear of his life.
  2. Incited Palestinian journalists to protest the presence of Israeli reporter Yoram Cohen at a PA press conference.
  3. Campaigned against a Press Freedom Day event in Ramallah simply because it was organized by the United States consulate.
  4. Staged a confrontation with soldiers so he and his friends could sell the photos.

I hope Arouri has a normal time in Israel, meeting the normal Israelis he normally chases out of Ramallah.

Fadi Arouri

(Image of Arouri via Vimeo/Fadi Arouri)

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January 30, 2014 9:46 By Category : Backspin Tags:, , , , ,

The Economist Finally Apologizes for Anti-Semitic Cartoon

We still haven’t had a response from The Economist’s Editor-in-Chief John Mickelthwait. This after contacting him asking for his magazine to adopt recognized working definitions of anti-Semitism and drawing attention to the 30,000 of you who signed our petition in support.


We pointed out why a cartoon implying that Jews control the U.S. Congress had crossed the line. Within hours of our initial post, The Economist added an Editor’s note that stated:

The print edition of this story had a cartoon which inadvertently caused offence to some readers, so we have replaced it with a photograph.

But this did not represent an apology and left us wondering if The Economist had actually internalized why the cartoon had caused such offense. Perhaps we have an answer as the Editor’s note has now been updated to the following:

This story was originally illustrated by a cartoon that combined the Star of David with the Congressional seal. Some readers felt that the cartoon implied that Jews controlled Congress. That is not what we intended to imply, nor what we believe, so we removed the cartoon. We apologise for any offence that was caused.

We are pleased that The Economist has finally apologized and stated, for the record, that the magazine does not believe that Jews control Congress.

Having taken this step forward, will John Mickelthwait acknowledge our petition and the call to adopt the EU Working Definition of Anti-Semitism?

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January 29, 2014 14:58 By Category : Backspin Tags:, , ,