Media Cheat Sheet 01/15/2012

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Everything you need to know about the weekend coverage of Israel and the Mideast.

Is killing Iranian nuclear scientists moral? Why did the Columbia Journalism Review’s look at “Israel and the NY Times” prompt an apology to Jewish readers? And what was one prominent UK publisher thinking when he visited Ismail Haniyeh?

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Iranian Atomic Urgency

 Israel’s Secret War: The Sunday Times (paywall, see republished story in The Australian) says Israel killed Mostafa Roshan last week, though Uzi Mahnaimi’s source is a single, anonymous Israeli who doesn’t directly attribute the killing hit to the Jewish state:

One Israeli source claimed the killings were a precursor to a military strike, not merely an alternative, to make it more difficult for Iran to rebuild facilities if they are bombed.

Is killing Iranian nuclear scientists moral? Yes, says Michael Burleigh (Daily Telegraph):

The Israelis believe that anyone who knowingly participates in developing weapons of mass destruction or terrorism should be aware that these are not risk-free activities. Iranian scientists know full well that electronic switches are used in nuclear triggers, and that enriching uranium beyond a certain percentage is not for the production of medical isotopes. And they accept the considerable financial rewards involved. If there are questions about the morality of killing such men, there are questions about the morality of their work in the first place . . . .

They work for a regime that has explicitly threatened Israel (and by implication many ambient Palestinians) with such a weapon. I shall not shed any tears whenever one of these scientists encounters the unforgiving men on motorbikes, men who live in the real world rather than a laboratory or philosophy seminar.

While a Toronto Star staff-ed says the hit plays into Tehran’s hands, The Australian says the mullahs deserve every chicken that comes home to roost:

The moral dilemma of a covert war apparently picking off Iranian scientists does not mask the fact the regime has brought this upon itself. It has sponsored terrorism, armed Hamas and Hezbollah to attack Israel, and promoted sectarian strife in Iraq. There is no escaping the grim reality, as Mr Netanyahu says, that the world faces catastrophe if Iran gets nuclear weapons.

Mostafa Roshan

• Jonathan Tobin to Glenn Greenwald: Killing Iranian nuclear scientists ain’t terror. I hope Tobin CCed Andrew Sullivan.

 A former Israeli commando discussed the issues of covert action in Iran with The Daily Beast.

 At Foreign Policy, Mark Perry spins a really creative conspiracy theory: Mossad agents posing as CIA personnel recruited members of Jundallah — a Pakistan-based Sunni terror group — to assassinate Iranian figures. Israeli officials dismissed the accusation as “nonsense.”

Via Israel Matzav, who explains why Perry’s claims need to be taken with a grain of salt. He’s a former advisor to Yasser Arafat, who in more recent years compared Israel to the Barbary pirates and attributed adubious comment to Gen. David Petraeus.

 Hamish McDonald, an editor at the Sydney Morning Herald, recently in Israel, has an interesting take on the Iranian situation:

From Israel it can look as though the nuclear question in Iran is just the surface of a deeper struggle between China and the United States for control of oil supplies, with China set on establishing countries such as Iran and Sudan as its own versions of Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states, all American protectorates.

In this power play of giants, Israel is reduced to a minor party, being told by the Americans to hold off.

Indeed, China’s premier is visiting Saudi Arabia and neighboring Gulf states. The NY Times explains the significance:

It comes as China’s strategic alliance with Iran is less certain than before . . .

For decades, Iran has offered China a generous supply of oil and a foothold in an American-dominated Middle East. In return it received a lucrative trade relationship and a powerful defender in the United Nations and other diplomatic circles. The latest Iranian crisis puts that comfortable arrangement under new strains, some analysts say.

The LA Times details Iran’s draconinan internet restrictions, which go into effect this Wednesday. Big Brother’s watching . . .

Among other restrictions, the new rules require computer users to show photo ID when visiting cyber cafes, provide their full name and the name of their father, as well as show their national Iranian identification number. Internet cafe owners, meanwhile, will be required to install close-circuit cameras in their facilities and maintain records of browsing history and websites visited by users.

 Iran’s Unlovable Opposition: A mostly pro-Israel crowd gathered to hear a spokesman for an Iranian dissident, “primed to cheer what they expected would be a harsh condemnation of Ahmadinejad and his bellicose rhetoric, and a promise of change by the green coalition.” They were sorely let down.

I later asked him how people in the West should think about the disparity between the decade or more he said real change in Iran would require and the one to three years that may separate the current regime from a nuclear weapon. “This is a real problem,” he replied. “I have no prescription for this crisis.”

Israel and the Palestinians

Evgeny Lebedev, The Independent‘s owner visits Ismail Haniyeh.

The reality of Gaza is what the surrounding wall makes it: a prison in which one and a half million people are held.

The head inmate is Ismail Haniyeh.

Prison? Gaza’s head inmate, had just returned from a triumphant regional tour, and is planning another visit to Iran and Qatar.

• You’d think Hamas and Fatah would allow newspapers from each other’s territory into their own West Bank and Gaza fiefdoms as confidence building measures for national reconciliation. But for now, says Maan News the Palestinian pen ain’t so mighty. Hamas still bans West Bank papers from Gaza, while Fatah still bans Gaza papers from the West Bank.

Arab Spring Winter

• How can you not be disturbed by this Sunday Times dispatch? Assad Soldier ‘Cut Off Baby’s Head’. Syrian forces have deliberately tortured and killed children.

When Syrian soldiers burst into the home of a man they suspected of sheltering rebel fighters, only to find that he was out, they turned on his wife and children instead.

The officer in command snatched up the youngest child, a boy of seven months, from the corner of the living room, where the family were cowering.

Then he laid him on the floor, pulled out his army knife and cut off the baby’s head, according to a soldier from the army’s 11th Armoured Division who claims to have witnessed the killing.

He hung the head above the front door they had kicked down and screamed that the same fate would befall the other children unless their father gave himself up, the soldier claims.

The story was told last week by Mohammed, a fresh-faced 22-year-old who declined to give his full name. He said he had retched at the sight of the child’s murder in the northwestern town of Jisr al-Shughur during an army operation after the deaths of 120 members of the security forces last June.

“That was when I decided to defect,” he said, tears rolling down his cheeks as he spoke at an opposition safe house in the Lebanese city of Tripoli. “I’ll have to live with that memory for ever. We did things I never want to remember.”

• Tim Marshall (Sky News) visits a Damascus prison with Arab League monitors.

The man who wanted to talk beckoned me forward. This was a delicate moment, I had no wish to put him in danger so simply asked how he was. He immediately responded with an emotional outburst about how he just an ordinary protestor but had been kept in detention for three months by the special security police. I asked if he was sure he wanted to talk and he continued ‘they are humiliating us all the time’. Tears appeared in his eyes. I was about to ask about ill treatment but at that point three prison guards came down the line, cut the conversation short and led the men away.

They were then taken to see the monitors, it was left unclear if they were allowed to talk with them without any security officials present.

•  The Economist scoffs at the Russian naval flotilla visiting Syria:

In any case they would be little use in a real fight: America’s Sixth Fleet alone has probably more firepower than Russia’s entire navy, which has barely 20 seaworthy surface ships.

Mohammed Elbaradei

• Mohammed ElBaradei quits Egyptian presidential campaign, says the military leaders are making fair elections impossible. The way AP describes it, Elbaradei woke up and realized he was the junta’s useful idiot:

The Nobel Peace laureate’s pullout is a slap to the military and the credibility of its plans for Egypt’s transition. He was seen as the most pro-revolution of the candidates and the strongest advocate of deep change in a country long under autocratic rule. His participation, therefore, gave a degree of legitimacy to the military-run election process.

He had a significant role behind the scenes in putting together the network of youth activists that launched the 18-day uprising that ousted Mubarak. He has been sharply critical of the military’s handling of the transition since.

But he has resisted pressure to step forward as the leader of the movement, which some feel needs a figure to unify and guide it. His reluctance gave him a Hamlet-like reputation that frustrated some activists. Many Egyptians in the broader public saw him as aloof or arrogant, or too “foreign” because of his decades living abroad.

 Worth reading: In the Washington Post, Fouad Ajami expands on some myths about the Arab Spring:

The leaders of the Arab rebellions may not be fervent, public advocates of peace with Israel, but they have emerged out of the recognition that the dictatorships used the conflict with Israel as a convenient alibi for their own political and economic failures. Does anyone truly believe that the people of Homs dread Israel more than Assad’s tyranny?

Rest O’ the Roundup

 The Columbia Journalism Review takes an interesting look at whether or not the NY Times has been fair to Israel. The print edition includes this illustration for which CJR editor Mike Hoyt apologizes.

Mike Hoyt  shouldn’t be confused with the NYT’s former public editor, Clark Hoyt.

 Greg Sheridan of The Australian discussed various issues with Benyamin Netanyahu: Iran, peace with the Palestinians, and just how isolated Israel is in the world.

The torching of a mosque in Tuba-Zangaria drew international scrutiny to price tag attacks, but now, one Arab resident says the arsonists came from within the Israeli-Arab village. More at Elder of Ziyon.

 What does it mean to be pro-Israel? It depends on who you ask.

 Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah blows off Ban Ki-moon over Hezbollah’s arms. More at the Jerusalem Post.

 Memri takes a look at how Hamas is using Twitter to spread its message. Twitter accounts include Hamas Info, the Al Qassam Brigades, Aqsa TV Channel, Al-Aqsa Voice Radio, Al-Aqsa Voice Breaking, and Hamas officials Mousa Abu Marzook and Izzat Risheq.

Last I looked, these seven accounts combine for 10,262 tweets and 21,647 followers. You gotta question the legality of a designated terror organization being allowed to spread its message on Twitter and other Western-based social media platforms like this.

YNet: Turkey’s suspending efforts to prosecute Israelis involved in ordering and carrying out the Mavi Marmara raid:

The State Department said that this decision is linked to US efforts to defuse tensions between Israel and Turkey. This includes attempts by Israeli envoy to Turkey David Meidan to find a formula which will allow the sides to end hostility.

 An evaluation of 5,000 newspaper and magazine iPhone apps revealed at least one “serious shortcoming” in one-third of the apps. Rebecca McPheters writes in AdAge:

The biggest issue revolves around authenticating print subscribers. Authentication errors, in which the app fails to recognize existing subscribers, are reported for almost half of the publications that offer digital versions free to print subscribers.

But there are a host of other issues. Pages, video and audio can fail to load. Links may be broken. Audio sometimes won’t turn off, leaving users the choice of closing the app or continuing to listen against their will. Spontaneous crashes are common. Downloads continue to be a problem with many apps, particularly when consumers want to download issues over a 3G network or without high-speed connections . . . .

News apps that don’t come from magazine or newspaper brands malfunction with markedly lower frequency, according to our analysis at iMonitor.

(Chinese dragon via Wikimedia Commons/Sodacan, Elbaradei via YouTube/CharlieRose)

For more, see Thursday’s Media Cheat Sheet.

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