Media Cheat Sheet 12/29/2011

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

Iran bangs the war drums with “strait” talk. Arab League monitors in Syria are losing credibility. And why so many long faces at a gathering of Israeli envoys?

Israel and the Palestinians

Haaretz reports that the Palestinians have offered to resume peace talks without a settlement freeze. But hold your optimism and read the fine print:

. . . the Palestinian Authority informed the Quartet two weeks ago that it would renege on its demand for a settlement freeze if Israel releases 100 prisoners as a show of good will . . .

The Israeli official indicated that Israel rejects the Palestinian offer for two reasons: 1) That is replaces one precondition with another, and 2) since officials say the Palestinian proposal is too vague and did not make it clear whether the prisoners’ release will lead to full talks that would include meetings between Netanyahu and Abbas or just the preparatory sessions.

Over at The Guardian, reporter Phoebe Greenwood hops into bed with Physicians for Human Rights. The latest accusation: Palestinians hoping to leave Gaza Strip — especially for medical care — are asked to collaborate with Israel. Simon Plosker took apart al-Guardian earlier today.

I liked David Keyes‘s take on Israel-Hamas dialogue.

Arab Spring

Worth reading: Egyptian army officer’s diary of military life in a revolution. Key snippet at the end says army dissent against the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) is significantly growing:

Most of the mid-level officers now think of him as Mubarak’s right-hand man, and they hate the fact that Scaf’s violence has tarnished the army’s image in the eyes of the public. Many still disapprove of the current protests because they feel it’s not the right time, and also because they’re resentful that others can go and demonstrate on the streets when they themselves do not have such freedom. But that attitude is beginning to change, especially as independent TV channels have been airing video clips of the recent violence and the brutality of the security forces is being openly discussed by people like [prominent media personalities] Yosri Fouda and Ibrahim Eissa. More and more mid-level officers are turning against Scaf, and against Tantawi.”

Two Syrian dissidents who obtained US asylum talked to YNet News. Meeting with Israelis is considered treason, so there’s great risk for the two activists identified only as Rahim and Amar. They want Israelis to notice that the flags being burnt are Iranian, Russian and Hezbollah, not Israeli:

“The Syrian opposition and Israel share a joint interest. We have no ideological hatred for Israel or for Jews. I know that’s what you think, but it’s not the case. It’s true that for years they taught us to hate Israel and fight is, but many Syrians already realized that they are being taught to hate Israel to divert attention away from the oppression in the country.”

A free-lance filmmaker got in and out of Homs. Here’s the video he did. CNN says more to come.

• Arab League observers in Homs spent the day dodging bullets and being followed around by activists carrying video cameras. According to the Daily Telegraph, the monitors have already bankrupted their credibility.

Lt Gen Mohammed Ahmed Mustapha al-Dabi, head of the mission, described the city of Homs, where it is thought more than 1,000 people have been killed, as being “nothing frightening“, although he conceded “some places looked a bit of a mess“.

 At one point, the opposition denied a group of monitors entry to the besieged rebel enclave of Baba Amr because their security detail included a lieutenant colonel from the Syrian army.

 Eventually he agreed to step aside, but activists later claimed that the group had been unable to visit a secret Assad detention facility because of an outburst of gunfire nearby.

The Lede rounds up all the videos, links etc. 

•  Gaddafi’s daughter reportedly seeks asylum in Israel. As if that’s not strange enough, the LA Times adds:

But Aisha may not need to make a formal request and chance refusal; she might qualify for immigration rights. Stubborn rumors have persisted among Libyan Jews in Israel for years that Kadafi himself is Jewish.

In recent years, several elderly Israelis of the Jewish community that once lived in Libya have come forth with stories about the dictator’s allegedly Jewish heritage.

•  FYI, The National Review picks up on Spanish reports that Mahdi al-Harati, a key Libyan rebel commander, was aboard the Mavi Marmara and spent nine days in Israeli detention.

Iranian Atomic Urgency

•  An Iranian news report details how the regime would close off the Straits of Hormuz. Memri says Mashreq News is “close to Iranian military circles.”

In a further threat, the article stated that Iran would in the future be able to attack the 480-km pipeline with a capacity of 2.5 million barrels/day that the UAE is planning to build in order to bypass the Strait of Hormuz in order to neutralize Iran’s ability to disrupt the world’s oil supply: “As for the plan… to construct a [pipeline] from the UAE that will be an alternative in times of emergency in case the Hormuz Strait is closed, we should note . . .  that the entire territory of the UAE is within range of Iran’s missiles, [so Iran] will easily be able to undermine security at the opening of this [pipeline] using weapons to be discussed this report.”

Is Iran really capable of closing off the straits? Time talks to the experts. The general consensus says blocking the straits would damage the Iranian economy and US naval forces would prevail. But it’ll be a tough fight.

Worth reading: Iran’s battle for TV influence takes shape on Press TV

You Know Israel’s Image is Taking a Beating When . . .

You know Israel’s image is taking a beating when a friendly writer like Miami Herald columnist Frida Ghitis worries about settler youth and haredi extremists threatening democracy. Unlike others, Ghitis doesn’t go off the deep end:

There are wild claims that Israel is becoming a Taliban-style theocracy. That’s absurd. The country remains a vibrant democracy that juggles different lifestyles and worldviews.

You know Israel’s image is taking a beating when glum Israeli envoys gathering in Jerusaem say they now spending more time in damage control over domestic issues than addressing diplomatic and security matters. Haaretz writes:

Yet, in contrast to past annual gatherings, one topic kept coming up during all the discussions, this being an understanding that developments in Israel’s domestic arena have a negative impact upon the country’s reputation overseas. Within hours, ultra-Orthodox men who spit at children in Beit Shemesh, or who threaten women bus passengers in Ashdod, cause huge diplomatic damage to Israel around the world. To garner the extent of such damage, it sufficed to read one of this week’s The New York Times editions, which carried three lengthy reports about discrimination of women in Israel, Egypt and Somalia.

You know Israel’s image is taking a beating when a staff-ed (in this case, in the Christian Science Monitor) leads off equating the status of women in Israel and Egypt:

When ultra-Orthodox Jews in Israel recently put up signs telling women not to walk past their synagogues, the reaction was swift. Government workers took down the signs and Israel’s leaders denounced the public discrimination.

In Egypt, too, strict Islamic norms that treat women differently in public circumstances or as strictly sexual beings are also under challenge. On Tuesday, a court faulted the military for forcing “virginity tests” on women arrested during protests. The physical exams, done ostensibly to prevent the Army from being accused of rape, violated the women’s rights, a judge declared.

Rest O’the Roundup

Richard Silverstein

Aussie Dave’s feud with Richard Silverstein escalated when Silverstein outed (or so he thought)  the anonymous IsraellyCool blogger. Turns out Aussie Dave fed Silverstein false info and Silverstein wasn’t careful with his fact-checking.  

Silverstein’s a prominent blogger and has been cited as a reliable source by the NY Times (Israeli espionage in the US), YNet News (Israel masterminded an explosion in  Iran), and Maan News (missing Iranian general died in Israeli prison). Earlier this year, Silverstein told Israel’s Channel 10 News (fast forward to 2:14)  that he’s reported false info before, “and I’m trying to be more careful about not getting taken in by such scams.”

Disclaimer: HonestReporting’s a sponsor of IsraellyCool’s Pro-Israel Blog-Off.

(Map via Wikimedia Commons/Ryantashma)

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