Media Cheat Sheet 11/24/2011

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

Mahmoud Abbas and Khaled Mashaal made nice in Cairo, an archeological discovery leads to some sloppy spin denying Jewish ties to the Temple Mount, and France unilaterally ups the pressure on Iran.

Iranian Atomic Urgency

Reuters: France unilaterally banned Iranian oil imports.

• Andrew Sullivan (Sunday Times, paywall) says it’s preferable to contain a nuclear-armed Iran than to launch an attack:

In fact, a region with two nuclear powers facing off against each other is more stable than one country with a local monopoly of nuclear force . . .

There is a conservative solution to the problem: containment, vigilance and patience. It worked with the Soviets. And Iran has nothing like the record of territorial expansion that the Soviets had — and less, actually, than Israel.

Peace Process

• Thanksgiving feel-good spirit spilled over to today’s Mahmoud Abbas-Khaled Mashaal summit. AFP spin was like good turkey gravy: warm and smooth.

• A Canadian UNESCO official defends the organization’s concern that a recent Haaretz cartoon was inciting and endangered UNESCO personnel. Here’s the letter published in the National Post:

If UNESCO officials protested the subject of a cartoon in an Israeli newspaper as constituting incitement, it is not because they are opposing freedom of the press, but rather that they have genuine concerns about the safety of their personnel in Ramallah.

According to statistics released by the UN in 2009, 42 of its personnel were killed in 2007 and a further 34 died in 2008, all while doing their jobs. In addition, an attack by armed gunmen in Afghanistan on April 1 of this year killed seven while a car bomb attack on the UN compound in Abuja, Nigeria, on Aug. 26, killed 23 and injured 116. It is clear that incitement to violence against UN personnel needs no help.

Here’s the cartoon along with 5 Reasons UNESCO’s Pique With Haaretz is Hooey:

• I liked the NY Times‘ context here on the issue of Israel’s refusal to transfer millions of dollars in tax revenue to the PA:

The transfer of the more than $100 million a month is not, in theory, optional. It is mandated by the 1994 portion of the Oslo agreement. The money is made up of customs duties that Israel collects for Palestinian orders arriving here through Israeli ports, value-added taxes on major Palestinian purchases of Israeli goods and excise taxes on Israeli fuel bought by the Palestinians.

But the Israelis argue that by approaching the United Nations and engaging with Hamas, the Palestinian Authority is breaking its end of the Oslo accords, freeing Israel to do the same.

Arab Spring

• Karl Vick (Time) discussed Sinai lawlessness and what it means for Israel with Yoram Schweitzer:

Schweitzer tells TIME he’s worried that the indigenous extremists and escapees might be joined by even more seasoned and hard core jihadis, perhaps directed to Sinai by the man who succeeded Osama bin Laden: Ayman al-Zawahiri. Before joining al-Qaeda, the Cairo native was a leader of Egyptian Islamic Jihad, and was jailed and tortured after the group assassinated President Anwar Sadat in a bid to turn Egypt into a state governed by radical Islamism. The dream still lives. “I think what bothers me is the fact that since Zawahiri took control of Al Qaeda, he might invest more resources in this area,” says Schweitzer, whose recent paper on the group is titled, “Evil Develops in the South.”

The Guardian picked up on Netanyahu’s latest comments in the Knesset about the Arab Spring and peace efforts:

The Israeli prime minister said the Arab spring was becoming an “Islamic, anti-western, anti-liberal, anti-Israeli, undemocratic wave” . . .

Those calling for a swift resolution of Israel’s conflict with the Palestinians in the context of regional upheavals were misguided, he said. “Israel is facing a period of instability and uncertainty in the region. This is certainly not the time to listen to those who say follow your heart . . . . I remember many of you urged me to seize the opportunity to make hasty concessions, to rush to an agreement.

We can’t know who will end up with any piece of territory we give up. Reality is changing all the time, and if you don’t see it, your head is buried in the sand.”

• This defies belief: A UNESCO committee on human rights accepted Syria as a member. More at the Weekly Standard.

• In the first overt call for foreign intervention in Syria, France calls for a secure humanitarian zone. Reuters notes a further French twist Assad is sure to find hairy:

Foreign Minister Alain Juppe also described Syria’s exiled opposition National Council as “the legitimate partner with which we want to work,” the biggest international endorsement yet for the nascent opposition body.

• Bashar Assad’s exiled uncle has launched a new opposition organization. I doubt Syrians will buy into it though. Time writes:

Leaving aside his family ties, and his opulence, Rifaat Assad has a more serious handicap in attempting a comeback. His alleged involvement in Syria’s biggest-ever massacre, in Hama in 1982, when security forces crushed a nascent rebellion by the Muslim Brotherhood. In the 1989 book From Beirut to Jerusalem, Thomas Friedman cites Rifaat as telling his officers before the killings, “I don’t want to see a single house not burning,” and then, according to Friedman, boasting afterward to a Lebanese business associate, “We killed 38,000.”

• A Gulf News columnist gives Mahmoud Sharif Bassiouni’s inquiry into Bahrain’s Arab Spring violence a thumbs up, while a Washington Post staff-ed says the US should hold the royal family accountable for implementing reforms before moving forward with a $53 million arms sale to the Gulf country.

See also Christian Science Monitor coverage.

• Egypt’s military junta apologizes for deaths of protesters. More at the BBC. The NY Times responded with a staff-ed.

Rest O’ the Roundup

Jeffrey Goldberg responds to the NY Times pinkwashing op-ed by sharing a must-read email he received from an acquaintance in the gay rights movement:

It’s astonishing that someone would reduce the very visible presence of gay men and women in Israel, and their enfranchisement as members of the community in good standing as a mere public relations ploy . . .

She describes gay rights in Israel as an incomplete picture of civil rights in the country, which is fair enough, though as usual, it doesn’t acknowledge the arduous efforts of Netanyahu’s recent predecessors to grant the Palestinians almost all of what they purport to want.  But its not in the nature of politics to be perfect, especially with regard to minority rights.  It is always a struggle to build something inherently fragile in the face of a constant war of attrition against an often unyielding majority.  If the Left is not willing acknowledge the tangible differences between Israel’s treatment of its gay citizens and the persecution gay and lesbians face in many of the neighboring countries, and to throw its support to Israel, then it is risking seeing those hard-won gains evaporate.

• While we’re on the subject of gay rights and Israeli pinkwashing, here’s something Ruth Schulman will never see happen in Fatah or Hamas:

Israel’s gay community to launch new faction in Labor Party

• The Jewish Chronicle reports that the “final battle” to release the Balen Report is being heard in the UK Supreme Court. Stephen Sugar’s widow got permission to continue the legal fight.

JTA: Israel says it will defend Greek gas drilling in Cyprus from Turkey.

• Inconsistent photo captions at the Daily Mail label the Western Wall as “Judaism’s holiest site” and as “Judaism’s holiest prayer site.” At best, this is very poor copy editing that plays into the Palestinian denial of Jewish ties to the Temple Mount. My response to the images and captions clears the air: Temple Mount 101.

• In the Times of London (paywall), Sheera Frenkel picks up on a fringe settler group that wants to boycott non-Jewish businesses in the Mahane Yehuda shuk. Why give a nut case effort like this any attention?

• The Irish Times picks up on a BDS stink over an Israeli film festival in Dublin.

In one way, the IPSC has made its point: it has succeeded in politicising an ostensibly cultural event.

Israeli Film Days kicks off today.

(Image of gay pride parade via Flickr/nivs)

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The above is how Haaretz chose to illustrate the tensions in U.S.-Israel relations. This cartoon by Amos Biderman is offensive ...