Media Cheat Sheet 12/01/2011

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

Iran’s feeling the heat on a lot of levels. Big Media thinks Israeli start-ups are cool. And Time says, “So what?” as Israel releases tax revenue to the PA.

Iranian Issues

• While the Brits are shutting down Iran’s embassy, they should also get rid of Press TV. So argues Houriya Ahmed in a biting Times of London op-ed:

The siege of the embassy and the expulsion of the British Ambassador demonstrate that Iran intends to heat up its public diplomacy war. Free speech laws should not extend to hosting the propaganda service of a belligerent government. As long as Press TV is funded by the current Iranian regime, the closure of its London operation is a necessity.

• Ofcom fined Press TV £100,000 for it’s interview with Maziar Bahari. Details at the Jewish Chronicle.

• Michael Rubin (Fox News) raises an important point about the attack on the British embassy:

Tehran scarcely reacted when the United Nations Security Council designated specific companies and individuals involved in proliferation or Iran’s nuclear program, but as soon as London went after Iran’s Central Bank, Iranian officials reacted. They recognize their vulnerability.

Should the West sanction Iran’s Central Bank effectively, neither Russia nor China can continue to do business with Iran. Security Council buy-in would be irrelevant.

The attack on the British compound suggests that the Iranian government fears economic isolation much more than diplomatic isolation. Perhaps it is time to enforce both.

Tim Marshall and Max Boot make similar connections.

AP says Iran released the students who stormed British Embassy. Are the mullahs going soft? Nah.

Under Iranian law, damaging property carries a prison term of up to three years. It could, however, indicate the 11 have high-level protection from circles within the Iranian establishment.

Ehud Barak

• Ehud Barak says an attack on Iran is not imminent. Which means:

  1. An attack on Iran is not imminent.
  2. An attack on Iran is imminent, but we want Iran to think it’s not.
  3. An attack on Iran is not imminent, but we want Iran to think it is.
  4. Saying “no comment” would only raise more red flags.

• According to Missing Peace, last week’s explosion at Bigdaneh was meant to assassinate Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Khameini:

Daniel Ashrafi, an Iranian expat now living in Canada, told us that Ayatolla Khamenei was supposed to be on the air force base in Bidganeh, when the first explosion took place. His arrival was delayed, however.

Ashrafi also said that after the humiliating events in Isfahan and Bidganeh, the regime deliberately created the crisis at the British embassy in Tehran in order to divert the attention to an external enemy . . .

Missing Peace’s other sources believe the Isfahan explosion was at an air force base, and not a nuclear facility.

• US Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told Reuters he doesn’t know if Israel will notify the Washington ahead of a strike on Iran.

Joschka Fischer‘s take on Iran was spot-on until the very end, when he called on Europe to take the lead on diplomatic engagement with Iran. Sigh. I really believed Fischer was going to beat the war drums.

• A German businessman is being investigated for spying for Iran. In the event of air strikes against Iranian nuclear sites, Tehran wants to attack US Air Force bases in Germany. More at Bloomberg News.

• The UK says it will support an embargo of Iranian oil imports. Reuters says the Saudis will likely (and happily) make up the supplies.

Peace Process

• Everybody and his mother picked up on Israel releasing frozen tax money to the PA. Karl Vick’s dispatch in Time stands out. I call it “taxwashing.”

• Fact checkers on holiday: The Guardian incorrectly identified Tzipi Livni as leader of the Labor Party. Do the editors know something that Shelley Yacimovitch doesn’t?

Debra Feuer: Why the US should stop funding UNESCO.

Anne Bayefsky: The UN’s “International Day of Solidarity With the Palestinian People” turns back the clock.

• Well well well: Suha Arafat says her husband planned the intifada.

Arab Spring

• Israel’s former ambassador to Cairo, Shalom Cohen, discussed the Egyptian situation with the Irish Times.

• At NPR, Mona Eltahawy continues speaking out about being sexually assaulted by Egyptian security personnel.

• According to NBC News, the Muslim Brotherhood took advantage of the complicated voting system that would make the old-style American political machine quite proud:

Voter confusion played into the hands of the FJP. Many voters simply did not know who the candidates were because of the sheer number of mostly unknown candidates (4,000), unknown parties (35 new ones since President Hosni Mubarak fell from power) and a complicated voting system requiring choices of farmer, labor and independent candidates.

For those who did not understand the voting system, the FJP had people on hand before the election to explain how to make their ballots count – for FJP candidates. 

• NY Times: Egypt’s Christians Prepare For New Political Climate

• Der Spiegel: Syria’s Christians Side With Assad Out of Fear

• Turkey ratcheted up sanctions on Syria. According to the WSJ, this includes freeing the Assad regime’s assets in Turkey and on official lines of credit, and more:

He said Turkey would end relations with Syria’s central bank; halt all credit to the Syrian government; halt new transactions with the Commercial Bank of Syria; and freeze an existing credit agreement signed to support Turkish involvement in Syrian infrastructure projects.

Josh Landis: Syrian currency “has lost 25 percent of its value since March.”

• The BBC picks up on an Amnesty International report slamming a wave of Saudi repression:

In its 73-page report published on Thursday, Amnesty accuses the Saudi authorities of arresting hundreds of people for demanding political and social reforms or for calling for the release of relatives detained without charge or trial.

Bad News for the BDS Movement

• Here’s a really positive Financial Times (via Google News) piece about Israel’s high-tech start ups. Best snippet:

As Mr Vardi points out: “More high-tech billionaires were created from [IDF Unit] 8200 than from any business school in the country.”

• If you see BDSniks gnashing their teeth, it’s possibly because St. Paul’s mayor sees Israeli start-ups as a model for the Twin Cities. The St. Paul Pioneer-Press writes:

Why is an untested gamble like Better Place suddenly closer to the mayor’s heart than, say, Google or Ford? Because homegrown start-up companies stick around and grow in place, creating jobs and tax base wherever their headquarters are.

BBC‘s Katia Moskovitch profiles Takadu, a Tel Aviv-based start up helping London’s utility company save water.

• Ukraine’s president arrived in Israel. After describing an unusually warm reception, the Jerusalem Post writes:

Bilateral agreements in the fields of diplomacy, infrastructure and medicine were signed in the presence of the two presidents.

• Albanian PM Sali Berisha’s visiting Israel too. YNet News talked to Berisha, a strong supporter of Israel who is currently visiting Jerusalem. He’s also looking to expand trade and tourism ties now that Turkey unfriended Israel.

• Not all good news though: An Israeli dance troupe was dropped from an Australian multi-cultural dance festival. The Machol Israeli Dancing Club was dropped from an Aussie multi-cultural dance festival in a tiff over removing “Israel” from the troupe’s name.

Rest O’ the Roundup

• Radio Canada’s ombudsman ruled that the station violated its own guidelines. HonestReporting Canada writes:

For example, a series of maps of Israel shown on an RDI program, 24 Heures en 60 Minutes, hosted by Anne-Marie Dussault reflected a distorted version of history suggesting, among other things, there was a Palestinian and Israeli state in existence in 1945. Another suggested that Israel built settlements on 59% of the West Bank when settlements comprise a mere 1.4%.

David Ouellette, on his blog, explains how Radio-Canada’s new ombudsman concluded that the maps are “incorrect, confusing and incomplete” , that the sources were “not identified” and that the program has to “respect the principle of accuracy, one of the five values at the base of Journalistic Standards and Practices for Radio-Canada “.

• Heads are rolling after a video of soldiers goofing around an IDF base was posted on YouTube. YNet News discovered the video and notified the army, which had the video removed. But not before it went viral. Confidential maps, sensitive command and control equipment, a bulletin board with operational orders could all be seen.

At the end, the soldiers who most likely produced the clip receive full credit.

• In a clear nod to New Mainstream Media, the Pulitzer Prize is changing some of its rules to reflect real time reporting. Julie Moos writes:

The Seattle Times’ breaking news Pulitzer for 2010 exemplifies the category’s new “real-time” goal, confirms Pulitzer Prize administrator Sig Gissler. The Times’ award-winning coverage of a police shooting that killed four officers included breaking news stories on its website as well as a Dipity timeline, Google Wave, Twitter, a Facebook page honoring the dead and more. One of the keys to the Times’ coverage was its effective use of mobile video and social tools to document breaking news.

Matthew Ingram and the Nieman Journalism Lab argue that there should be an award for live-tweeting.