Everything you need to know about today’s coverage of Israel and the Mideast.
Big Media ties the IDF’s hands, defector says Assad’s paying thousands of Iranian and Hezbollah snipers to kill protesters, and a Kiryat Shemona soccer team draws international attention.
• Ronen Bergman asks, Will Israel Attack Iran?
• William Pfaff asks, Is a Nuclear Iran Really to Be Feared?
• Thomas Barnett asks, Would Assad’s Fall Limit the Nuclear Menace to the Mideast?
• Daniel Freedman asks, If Assad Survives, Peace With Israel?
• Olivier Roy asks, Will Egyptian Islamists Choose Jobs or Jihad?
• Ed Koch asks, Where’s the NY Times’s outrage over the Mufti’s call to kill Jews?
• Malam asks, What propaganda stunts do BDSniks have in store for 2012?
• Michael Bradley asks, Is Twitter a conversation or a delivery system?
Israel and the Palestinians
• The IDF’s reconsidering the use of phosphorus shells in Gaza — not for operational reasons, but because of PR. Has Big Media’s Smokescreen Coverage Tied the IDF’s Hands?
• Abbas says exploratory talks are over. I liked AP‘s coverage.
• Khaled Abu Toameh‘s amazed at the PLO’s hypocrisy: Its security forces are rounding up Hamas members throughout the West Bank, yet it condemns Israel for doing the same thing.
Why does the Western media keep reinforcing these double-standards instead of exposing them? Their collusion in concealing the truth only plays into the hands of the dictators and extremists.
• A senior Syrian defector told the Times of London that Bashar Assad is paying “thousands” snipers from Hezbollah and Iran to kill protesters.
The salaries of the marksmen are paid through a slush fund replenished with US dollars flown in from Iran, according to Mahmoud Haj Hamad, who was the treasury’s top auditor at the Defence Ministry until he fled Syria last month. The same fund is used to pay the Shabiha, the gangs of thugs who have joined the state security services in torturing and killing protesters. . . .
Even as the Government was blaming the uprising on plots by its Arab neighbours and “foreign elements”, it was turning to its regional allies to help to suppress the protests. “The Syrian intelligence weren’t qualified, they didn’t have decent snipers or equipment,” he said in an interview. “They needed qualified snipers from Hezbollah and Iran.”
The Times also reports that Qatar and the Saudis agreed to fund the Syrian opposition.
• I want to see the Assad regime explain the death of a Red Crescent official and a priest in separate incidents.
According to CNN, Abd-al-Razzaq Jbeiro, the Red Crescent secretary-general for Syria was shot in the head while driving a marked Red Crescent vehicle. The priest, Basilious Nassar, was shot while giving first aid to a wounded man.
• Bloomberg News describes some rare winds of common sense in the UN: More than two-dozen countries are working to expel Syria from its seat on UNESCO’s human rights committee.
• Bad news from Cairo: Egyptian authorities are refusing to allow a group of Americans who volunteered for democracy and human rights groups from leaving the country. The LA Times writes:
The travel bans and raids appear to be part of a strategy to intimidate non-governmental organizations. Egypt’s generals have repeatedly blamed “foreign hands” for the nation’s economic and political turmoil. Egypt claims the organizations are violating funding and licensing requirements.
Iranian Atomic Urgency
• In an interview with AP, Saudi Prince Turki Al Faisal warns of an atomic arms race and calls for a Mideast nuclear weapons-free zone.
Turki’s proposal could impose sanctions against Iran if there is evidence it is pursuing weapons of mass destruction, which include nuclear as well as chemical and biological weapons. But it could also put Israel under sanctions if it doesn’t come clean on its suspected nuclear arsenal.
• Police in Azerbaijan foiled an Iranian plot to assassinate Israel’s ambassador. More at the Daily Telegraph.
• Frida Ghitas weighs in at CNN on Israel’s Iranian problem.
Rest O’ the Roundup
• Hackers took down Haaretz‘s Hebrew web site, and promised attacks on other Israeli sites. The hacker group known as Anonymous took credit, but what to make of their followup tweet?
• The Hapoel Kiryat Shemona soccer team’s on an unexpected course to qualify for the UEFA Champions League. The NY Times picks up on their impressive run:
When The New York Times recently contacted Adi Faraj, the club’s 26-year-old press officer, about doing an article about the team, he was initially convinced the phone call was a hoax.
“Why would The New York Times want to write about us?” he said.
But as its remarkable run of victories mounts, more and more attention will come its way.
• The LA Times picks up on Footnote, the Israeli film nominated for an Oscar.
• The Daily Mail passes NY Times as world’s largest online newspaper property. Poynter rounds up the numbers, background, and links.
(Image of phosphorus shell via YouTube/CBSNewsOnline)
For more, see Wednesday’s Media Cheat Sheet.