Media Cheat Sheet 12/12/2011

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

“Synthetic outrage” over Mughrabi Gate. Newt Gingrich is still a lightning rod. And why is Iran diverting funds from Hamas to Islamic Jihad?

Mughrabi Gate

Tim Marshall‘s take on the “synthetic outrage” over the Mughrabi Gate. The wooden ramp leading up to the Temple Mount was closed for safety reasons:

Oddly enough when the wooden ramp was first built, to replace a crumbling earth ramp, the Muslim authorities opposed its construction.

How closing the ramp amounts to a ‘war on the Muslim holy places’ is beyond me, but not beyond the Palestinian negotiator Saad Erekat who believes ‘this shows their determination to judaize Jerusalem and to take over the city’s Muslim holy places,”

In fact the decision to temporarily close the ramp in no way prevents Muslims from accessing the Haram al-Sharif . . .

Many Muslims around the world will view this ‘outrage’ with a shrug of the shoulders, there are other, genuine issues to care about, including some in that tiny part of the world known as Israel/Palestine. But Hamas wants permanent outrage, for without that, what do they have? 

The Mughrabi Gate ramp leading up to the Temple Mount

• Quoting Hamas personalities reacting to the Mughrabi Gate closure alone gives the impression that Israel has done something wrong. But that’s exactly what AFP did:

Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhum strongly condemned the closure, saying it was an attack against sacred Muslim sites.

“This is a serious step that shows the Zionist scheme of aggression again the Al Aqsa mosque,” he told AFP.

“This is a violent act that amounts to a declaration of religious war on the Muslim holy places in Jerusalem.” 

Newt Notes

AP fact checked Gingrich’s promise to move the US embassy to Jerusalem, prompting James Taranto to fact check AP.

The trouble here is that there isn’t a fact to check. Gingrich’s statement is one of intent, not fact. To the extent that the headline is true, it is because it is trivial. Any promise by any politician “may be empty.” . . . .

It would not have been hard to recast this story to make it journalistically sound, though it would have entailed a bit more work. Gearan could have begun by reporting the Gingrich promise, then put it in historical context by noting the record of other presidents. The arguments for why such a move is a bad idea could have been aired, too–not in Gearan’s own voice, but by interviewing diplomats or scholars who think it’s a bad idea. It might also have been worthwhile to seek a follow-up interview with Gingrich or a spokesman to ask why voters should expect him to keep this promise when past presidents haven’t.

Instead, the AP published what is essentially an opinion piece, and a rather lazy one at that.

• The Daily Telegraph quotes this Arab League official’s response to Newt Gingrich:

“If an Arab or Palestinian official said a racist comment that was one-millionth of what this US candidate said, the world would have been in continuous uproar,” said Mohammed Sobeih, the Arab League official who handles Palestinian affairs.

How many times have Palestinians referred to Jews as subhuman descendants of apes and pigs, denied Jewish nationhood, our historical and religious ties to the land, praised the Holocaust, and threatened to finish what Hitler started?

Peace Process

• According to the Jerusalem Post, Iran’s diverting funds earmarked for Hamas over to Islamic Jihad.

The Iranian objective is to establish a force on Israel’s southern border that will have capabilities and quantities like those of Hizbullah in Lebanon.

Egypt deniesJerusalem Post report that Hamas has set up rocket production facilities in the Sinai. According to the Post, Hamas relocated its Qassam factories to the Sinai side of the border, believing that Israel will not risk its already strained relations by launching attacks on Egyptian soil:

Israel has called on Cairo to increase its efforts to restore order in Sinai and to prevent attacks, but the Egyptian military has held back from dismantling the Hamas infrastructure in the peninsula.

More than a dozen Egyptian army battalions allowed into Sinai with Israel’s permission (required because of limits placed on Egyptian forces there under the peace treaty) are still operating there, although with limited success in stopping terrorist activity and arms smuggling to the Gaza Strip.

• In a recent interview, Saeb Erekat says settlements only cover 1.1 percent of the West Bank. If so, asks Evelyn Gordon, how are they obstacles to peace?

• Looking for international legitimacy and leverage with Fatah, Hamas “joined” the Muslim Brotherhood. Why do I qualify that with quote marks? The Hamas charter already identifies the organization as a member of the Muslim Brotherhood. Here’s Article 2:

The Islamic Resistance Movement is one of the wings of Moslem Brotherhood in Palestine. Moslem Brotherhood Movement is a universal organization which constitutes the largest Islamic movement in modern times. It is characterised by its deep understanding, accurate comprehension and its complete embrace of all Islamic concepts of all aspects of life, culture, creed, politics, economics, education, society, justice and judgement, the spreading of Islam, education, art, information, science of the occult and conversion to Islam.

• An AP dispatch says Hamas is softening up on enforcing strict Islamic rule on Gaza.

Mustafa Tamimi

• An official in the IDF Spokespersons Dept. is accused of mocking  Mustafa Tamimi, who died at a protest in Nabi Saleh. Here’s Maj. Peter Lerner’s tweet:

I wouldn’t have included the #fail, but I think the critics who talked to the Daily Telegraph are looking for an excuse to make sweeping generalizations:

“Fail”, and its stronger variant “epic fail”, are American slang terms, popular on the internet, used in a derogatory fashion to denote extreme stupidity.

Activists said that Maj Lerner’s choice of language was symptomatic of a culture of indifference to Palestinian rights within the Israeli army.

But YNet News says the Telegraph overlooked the context of Lerner’s online conversation:

Moreover, when looking at the entire tweet timeline, something the UK newspaper did not address, it is easy to see that as early as the day of the incident itself, after Tamimi was transferred to the Belinson Medical Center, Lerner wrote: “I am happy that it seems Mustafa Tamimi will survive the unfortunate incident. I would say that if you can’t stand the heat keep . . . ” He most likely meant to say If you can’t stand the heat, stay out of the kitchen.

It is not easy to see from Lerner’s tweets who he was having a conversation with, or what the other side was saying . . .

The Lede rounds up more of the Who Said What.

• The LA Times uses Tamimi as a springboard to look at the case of Tristan Anderson. His parents are waging a legal campaign for IDF compensation after Anderson was left brain damaged and partially paralyzed after being hit in the head by tear gas canister in 2009.

Israeli officials have refused to apologize or pay damages because they say Anderson put himself in danger by refusing to leave the area, • which Israeli forces had declared a closed military zone.

Arab Spring

Tom Gross rounds up some interesting news videos coming out of Syria. CNN adds another one to the mix: about a boy hit in the head by a sniper bullet.

AFP: “Syrians voted in municipal elections held amid a general strike called by the opposition.”

Rest O’ the Roundup

• The Dutch government is reconsidering its funding of the UNRWA. As the agency’s sixth-largest donor, this is significant. The European Jewish Press writes:

UNRWA uses its own unique definition of refugees, different to the UN’s. The refugee issue is a big obstacle for peace. We therefore ask the government acknowledge this discrepancy, which leads to the third-generation Palestinian refugees,” VVD speaker Hans Ten Broeke said.

• Yet another mysterious explosion in Iran — this one at a steel factory possibly tied to the nuclear program. YNet News writes:

Foreign reports suggesting Iran received North Korean steel used for uranium enrichment and the production of exhaust systems of missile engines may indicate that there is such a connection.

Initially, the Iranians claimed that the cause for Sunday’s blast was the penetration of water into the steel’s melting pot but later said that ammunition brought to the factory had exploded.

• Shira Herzog (Globe & Mail) and a Financial Times staff-ed (click via Google News) are concerned about some controversial Knesset bills potentially curbing freedom of speech.

• Kofi Annan takes to the Christian Science Monitor to shill for the UN Human Rights Council.

• A Katyusha fired at Israel fell short, instead hitting a Lebanese house, injuring a woman.

• A British PR firm is under attack for editing Wikipedia entries about its clients. The BBC writes:

Bell Pottinger admitted to editing entries, but said it had “never done anything illegal”.

Mr Wales said he was “highly critical of their ethics”.

More at The Independent.

(Images: Gingrich via Flickr/Gage Skidmore, Mughrabi Gate via Wikimedia Commons/Avishai Teicher)