Media Cheat Sheet 11/06/2011

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

Talk of an Israeli strike on Iran and UNESCO fallout overshadowed a flotilla that was so irrelevant, one MSM headline asked:

What if they had a Gaza flotilla and no one noticed?

 The Peace Process

• Now that the PLO’s a member of UNESCO, it intends to take action against Israel in international forums for “systematically destroying and forging Arab and Islamic culture in Jerusalem,” and “for stealing Arab and Islamic antiquities and assaulting Islamic and Christian holy sites.” Details at the Jerusalem Post.

• Britain, France and Colombia to abstain from Security Council vote on Palestinian statehood. According to The Independent, there’s big time doubt the PLO will muster nine yeas.

• Yoram Ettinger: Why a settlement freeze is an obstacle to peace.

• Another airstrike foiled an attempted Saturday evening Islamic Jihad rocket launch. At least AP gets the chronology right.

Egypt warns Gaza factions that if they don’t keep the lull, Cairo won’t be able to protect them from a largescale IDF ground operation.

• Olivia Ward (Toronto Star) weighs in on the Palestinians joining UNESCO.

Iran and the War Drums

Haaretz notes that the Iraqi no-fly zone is due to expire at the end of the year. And this matters to Israel because the shortest flight route from Israel to Iran is over Iraq:

Clause 27 of the agreement states that, if asked, the United States must thwart threats to Iraq’s sovereignty and not let its land, territorial waters or airspace be used for attacks on other countries.

The clause has special significance considering the increased speculation in recent days that Israel might attack Iran’s nuclear sites. It is unclear to what extent the United States will be obligated under the clause after its forces leave Iraq. In any case, the obligation will certainly not be as binding as it is now.

US Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcon over Iraq, November 2010

• A staff-ed in The Observer blasts Israel’s tough talk on Iran. While I understand the point this snippet makes, you can hear the concern for Israel’s public image oozing:

Whatever Netanyahu is thinking, he is playing a high-risk game for even higher stakes, betting Israel’s security and international prestige against an uncertain outcome, even by allowing it to be suggested that Israel might strike. After Israel’s failure to defeat Hezbollah in Lebanon in 2006, its failure to break Hamas in Gaza in 2009 – and with the international opprobrium that followed that operation – Israel risks talking itself into a corner where it appears weak if it doesn’t act and perhaps weaker if it does, a country increasingly bereft of any notion of how to manage relations with its neighbours except through the threat of aggression.

Meir Javedanfar assesses the likelihood of an Israeli strike on Iran. Bottom line: Israel won’t do anything without a green light from Washington. See also an Irish Times staff-ed and Mark Whittington‘s commentary.

Arab Spring

• Now it’s Israel’s fault that the West isn’t intervening in Syria because Israelis are happy to see Syrian blood being shed. This from Memri:

In an article titled “Syrian Blood for Matzas,” posted on, which is close to Syrian Islamic opposition circles, Dr. Osama Al-Malouhi claimed that a public opinion poll conducted in Israel shows that 80% of Israelis support Bashar Al-Assad’s remaining in power, and adds that Israel’s support of Assad is the reason the world does not act against him.

Christian Science Monitor: Inspired by the Arab Spring, Young Gaza protesters who oppose Palestinian factionalism feel oppressed by Hamas:

Though the youths who launched the protest movement were not fans of Hamas, and there were few, if any, youth loyal to the Islamist movement involved in organizing it, the movement was not anti-Hamas. Yet the government’s suppression has turned more activists in that direction. They do not say so explicitly, and are wary of what they perceive as an Israeli desire to make them forget the large enemy by focusing on the small one. Still, the anger is there.

“In the beginning we were not against Hamas. But if they want to be against us, to take our rights . . . they either have to be against us or give us our rights,” says Mr. Yousef, the young activist.

See more on Gaza youth restless for change at the Washington Post.


• Turns out there was no humanitarian aid found aboard the two ships trying to break the Gaza blockade.

But The Lede‘s surprised, noting that Al Jazeera filmed one of the flotillistas talking about how they hid $30,000 worth of medicine in cardboard boxes labeled as food to avoid drawing the attention of Turkish authorities.

The Guardian‘s media blogger, Roy Greenslade, rounds up the jouranlists detained by Israel aboard the flotilla.

• Decent throwaway line at the end of this AFP flotilla update:

Two months ago, a UN report on the flotilla raid accused the Jewish state of acting with “excessive force” but found that its naval blockade on the coastal territory was legal.

That’s more authorative than this AP throwaway line, where you have to take Israel’s word for it:

Israel says its naval blockade is vital to stop weapons from reaching Palestinian militant groups like Hamas, which rules Gaza.

Rest O’ the Roundup

Archbishop Desmond Tutu

• Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Michael Mansfield got op-ed space in The Guardian (print edition) to explain why they’re supporting the Russell Tribunal on Palestine. On a related note, John Dugard fires back at Judge Goldstone with a NY Times letter to the editor insisting that Israel engages in apartheid practices.

But Robin Shepherd and Benjamin Pogrund agree: the tribunal is just an Israel-bashing kangaroo court that cheapens the struggles of South Africans who opposed real apartheid.

• A Quebec TV host says Israel indiscriminately kills Palestinians with bulldozers. HonestReporting Canada translates the relevant links.

“In revenge for the admission of Palestine to UNESCO, they decided to build 2000 homes in areas that do not belong to them, the occupied territories, so they are going to bulldoze people, kill people, they will give them 5 minutes to get out and then they’ll run people down with bulldozers.”

National Post columnist Jonathan Kay weighs in on the matter, making a larger statement about French-Canadian  coverage of Israel (and nicely plugging our Canadian affiliate too):

Gone are the days when Canada’s mainstream English-language media would casually spout slurs against Israel. Much of the credit for this lies with HonestReporting Canada (HRC), an independent, non-profit group whose mission is to ensure that Canadians get a balanced picture of the Middle East. Beginning in 2003, HRC started calling out the Toronto Star, Globe & Mail, CBC and other outlets on stories they believed were unfair. As a result, the English media landscape has been greatly improved.

Unfortunately, the French-language media still has its stubborn Israel-haters.

• Sinai Bedouins steal human organs from Sudanese refugees trying to reach Israel, then leave them to die in the desert. CNN coverage from the Sinai continues.

BBC correspondent Tim Franks is back in Israel. After being away for 18 months, he says the settler movement has become a greater part of Israel’s mainstream.

• The LA Times picked up on a study that looked into the background of 157 Palestinians who carried out (or tried to carry out) suicide bombings. The findings?

A 5 percentage point increase in the unemployment rate was shown to increase the probability that the attacker would have some academic background and would previously have been involved in some kind of militant activity. The higher jobless rate was also likely to increase the chance that the attacker would  target a city with a population of more than 50,000, according to the research.

In other words, the higher the unemployment rate, the more mature, educated and experienced the people who join the potential reservoir of would-be suicide attackers, the study found. And this allows recruiters to be more choosy, handpicking only the most suitable candidates.

• Lebanese media restrictions have news sites like Now Lebanon fretting.

Jonathan Pollard

• Benjamin Netanyahu’s reference to Jonathan Pollard in last week’s Knesset speech is raising some hackles in the US.

After discussing the prisoner exchanges that gained the release of Gilad Shalit and Ilan Grapel, the PM said he would never forget Pollard “continue to do everything we can to bring him to Israel.” To which Andrew Exum replies:

Really, Mr. Netanyahu? You’re now elevating Jonathan Pollard to the same level as Gilad Shalit? (And what does that make us? Hamas?)

(Via Allen MacDuffee)

The Independent and The Economist both take a black and white look at the Good Negev Bedouins vs. the Bad Israeli Bureaucrats.

• The Navy SEALs who killed Osama Bin Laden are at odds with the White House over the raid’s portrayal in media reports. Here’s the key snippet from beyond the Sunday Times of London paywall:

Osama Bin Laden was killed within 90 seconds of the US Navy Seals landing in his compound and not after a protracted gun battle, according to the first account by the men who carried out the raid. The operation was so clinical that only 12 bullets were fired.

The Seals have spoken out because they were angered at the version given by politicians, which they see as portraying them as cold-blooded murderers on a “kill mission”. They were also shocked that President Barack Obama announced Bin Laden’s death on television the same evening, rendering useless much of the intelligence they had seized.

• The Times of London makes hay over Ambassador Ron Prosor “meeting” with Marine Le Pen, head of France’s National Front. Haaretz presents a muddled affair, while AFP published a photo of the two smiling for the cameras.

(Image of Temple Mount via Flickr/sashapo. Image of USAF via The Long War Journal)