Wednesday, September 20, 2006

September 19 Media Critique: "The Power of the Pen"

The latest ‘Media Critique’ would be much more accuratley titled ‘The Power of the Poison Pen’, and HonestReporting gets what it so richly deserves – a big black eye.

This is meant to be some kind of recognition of the effect that HonestReportings’ endlessly gullible subscribers have on journalists and media organisations, when they write abusive and inaccurate emails to them.

First it’s the "The Red Cross Amblance Libel" hoax. HR wants its’ readers to believe that the Zombietime story it was promoting retains some credibility. It doesn’t, as the response of journalists demonstrated. More embarrassing for the promoters of this hoax, is that one of bloggers who was first to question the missile attack on the Red Cross ambulances, soon came to the conclusion that Zombietime was wrong. What’s more, he reached this conclusion on the same day that HR joined the empty-headed gaggle desperately trying to discredit the story. Here’s the basic thrust of his comments,

The fact is ZombieTime's post does not do what it claims, proving the ambulance attack demonstrably false …………..It isn't my intention to offend or alienate any fellow bloggers, but frankly, when it comes to the Red Cross ambulance story, we all need to get a grip.

Second, the “Kasrils - Minister of ‘Intelligence’?libel. HR gets its' ass handed to it in a paper bag, by the South African Mail& Guardian newspaper, after the latter received a torrent of spiteful emails prompted by HonestReportings' September 4th ‘Media Critique’. HR misrepresented and distorted the views of the South African Minister of Intelligence (detailed here) in an effort to provoke the bleating sheep that are HRs subscribers, to do exactly what they ended up doing – sending lots of stupid emails to try and close down free discussion of the ME conflict.

It’s heartening to read the whole M&G editorial to see that at least some media organisations have the balls to stand up to pro-Israel bullying. Here are a few highlights,
The real disgrace is the barrage of hysterical invective from the pro-Israel lobby across the world, of which we print a fraction on our letters pages this week.Most of it comes straight from the gut -- there is little evidence of engagement by the cerebral cortex. Intelligence Minister Ronnie Kasrils is accused of lies and misinformation by people who, for the most part, offer no counter-arguments. He is accused of ignorance by some who clearly do not know he is Jewish and that he played a prominent role in South Africa’s anti-apartheid struggle. One letter-writer thinks he is a journalist. Many letters are laced with anti-Arab and anti-Muslim prejudice; others trash South Africa……

The recurrence of the same text in letter after letter -- with a photograph of Kasrils, as if lifted from a police file -- suggests rapid response networks primed for total onslaught immediately Israel is criticised anywhere. If so, it is a mistake. Israel’s cause is discredited by lobbyists who know nothing of South Africa or the Mail & Guardian, and who make their bigotry and anti-democratic instincts plain.For that is the most disgraceful aspect -- the persistent demand that Kasrils should be denied his democratic right to express his opinions, justified by the persistent canard that anti-Zionism is anti-Semitism……..

The M&G will not be bullied by any of the world’s teeming enemies of intellectual diversity and free expression.

Yep, that is exactly what HR is, an “enemy of intellectual diversity and free expression”, appealing to the “bigotry and anti-democratic instincts” of its’ utterly credulous readership.

Most amusing this time around is the next section, “Remember To Write Right”. Why the need for this gentle reminder? Because of the storm of “bigotry”, specifically “anti-Arab and anti-Muslim prejudice”, unleashed by HRs defamatory scribblings.
HR writes to its’ thoughtful fans, “state your argument in a rational manner”. You really have to laugh at this. After employing slurs and total fabrication to attack people such as Kasrils, HR wants its’ readers to be “rational” in their responses. Typically for HR, it fails to take any responsibility for its’ own role in the bigotry its’ spiteful and deliberately dishonest attacks have inspired.

Again some examples from the Mail&Guardian, so we can see exactly what kind of letter writing HRs’ dishonesty and lies inspire,

"neo-Nazi propaganda worthy of Goebbels. He clearly supports the fascists in the Middle East." - David Bornstein, Sydney, Australia

"Kasrils has no other way to channel his hatred for black people [than to] pick onJews." - N Greenger, California

"Anti-Semitic diatribes that would win Kasrils an editorial position in Der Stürmer" -Matt Topas

"There’s no point in attempting to debate with such a Nazi/Islamic pig. Do African Negroes believe he isn’t a former enforcer of apartheid?" – Nathan

"Apartheid only exists here in the minds of sick people like Kasrils. I do not see much difference between him and Hitler." - David Gershon, Israel Institute of Technology
And what is undoubtedly true, is that the blind and stupid sheep that read HR , mostly wouldn't have even heard of the Mail&Guardian before, let alone read it. And as their letters demonstrate, they don’t bother to read the original articles, they just take HRs mendacious ‘Media Critiques’ as gospel-truth.

And best of all, operating with a depth of cynicism one has to grudgingly admire for its audacity, HR warns that this is “a time when extremists are attempting to shut down debate by employing hostile language and threats of violence”.

Yes, they are, and HonestReporting is one of them, inciting its’ zombie-like followers to do likewise.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Sept 14 Special Report: “What's in the Palestinian Textbooks?”

Good question. The answer – another opportunity to distort and mislead.

This has been a long-standing favourite of the ‘supporters of Israel’. It began in earnest in the 1990’s and has been re-hashed on almost a yearly basis ever since.

Now HR does yet another re-hash in conjunction with TKP: Teach Kids Peace. TKP says it “is a project of Honest Reporting dedicated to highlighting the culture of hatred that is being taught to children in certain parts of the world.”. Its website is divided into 3 sections – Palestinian Areas, Israel and the World, listing articles related to the topic. All the stories in the Palestinian and World sections are negative stories on Palestinians, Arabs or Islam. The few Israeli stories, are, surprise surprise, accounts of how Israel strives for peace.

Given their obvious resources it’s surprising they couldn’t manage to find this report, Child Recruitment in Israel (PDF), on the militarization of education, and recruitment of children into militias, in Israel. Not to mention the practice of Israels' security service, Shin Bet, using threats and coercion to try and recruit Palestinian child collaborators.

Some of the first efforts on this old canard were by the Centre for Monitoring the Impact of Peace (CMIP) which popularised the notion of “incitement” in Palestinian textbooks.

Nathan Brown, who was employed to review the new Palestinian curriculum, gave a summary of CMIPs interesting methods,

-The strong anti-Israel and anti-Semitic material in the curriculum comes from books that the Palestinians did not author and are replacing;
-Books that were written by the Palestinian Authority in 1994, 2000, and 2001 are free of such material;
-The CMIP’s method is overly prosecutorial and deeply flawed;
-The CMIP’s reports are seriously misleading.
However, to be fair, CMIP eventually turned its’ critical eye to Israeli textbooks as well, the following being typical of their robust critique,
There is no indoctrination against the Arabs as a nation, nor a negative presentation of Islam. Rather, Islam, the Arab culture and the Arabs' contribution to human civilization are presented in a positive light.

Which is rather different from the experiences of others. Nathan Brown lived in Israel while reviewing the new Palestinian education system. In a 2002 speech recounting the textbook controversy, he gave this interesting experience with the Israeli schooling system and its' treatment of Arabs,
my son’s class was taught a song about a watchman guarding the city; the song lauded the guard for beating an Arab and quoted him approvingly, ‘Get out of here, ‘Abd Allah. You should die, God willing, but just not in Tel Aviv.'

A 1999 report quoted other research into Israeli textbooks and childrens books,
Cohen points out that the authors of these children’s books effectively instill hatred toward Arabs by means of stripping them of their human nature and classifying them in another category. In a sampling of 86 books, Cohen counted the following descriptions used to dehumanize Arabs: Murderer was used 21 times; snake, 6 times; dirty, 9 times; vicious animal, 17 times; bloodthirsty, 21 times; warmonger, 17 times; killer, 13 times; believer in myths, 9 times; and a camel’s hump, 2 times.

It also noted that from around the mid-1990's Israeli school textbooks started to remove the overtly negative Arab stereotypes that populated its' textbooks.

The controversy stimulated a Report to the US Congress (PDF) in 2004,
While there are many areas for improvement in the Palestinian textbooks, it can be said that these new textbooks do not incite against Israel or against peace.
........the textbooks promote an environment of open-mindedness, rational thinking, modernization, critical reflection and dialogue........

The IHT also ran a story highlighting some critical context for the debate,
The biggest constraint, in the words of a Palestinian parent, is that Israeli tanks and soldiers are shooting in the streets outside while teachers are trying to promote peace in the classroom.

And Ha’aretz noted research that moved beyond the CMIP framework and compared the Israeli and Palestinian textbooks with each other to see how they treated contentious issues,
Surprisingly, the two researchers found an almost absolute parallel between the books in three areas: Both sides ignore periods of relative calm and coexistence between the nations - for instance in 1921-1929 - or mention them as a misleading interval in a prolonged conflict, the two sides do not reveal any tendency to tell the pupil the story of the conflict from the enemy's point of view, both skip over details of the human suffering of the other side, and each side gives a reckoning of its victims alone.

All in all, the disinterested academic research confirms that the curriculum designed by the PA was quite reasonable, not without flaws, but comparable to Israels. Certainly not indoctrinating a "culture of hate" as HR alledges.

Having set up its' distortion, HR then invites its' gullible subscribers to act on this disinformation by signing a petition to "stand up for the rights and future of Palestinian children". Perhaps this would be more convincing if HR asked its' readers to stand up for the rights of Palestinian children not to be killed by the IDF so that they might have a future in the first place, or to even get to school .

All this is in service of one huge deception that ‘supporters of Israel’ wish to promote; that the conflict is perpetuated purely by Palestinian hatred, passed down from father to son and aided by the education system. In this propaganda fantasy, 40 years of Israeli occupation, land theft, home demolitions, discrimination, torture, imprisonment and brutal repression have absolutely no consequences. The issue is only Palestinian antipathy to Jews.

This is a monstrous fabrication, one that HonestReporting is keen to encourage. Its' latest effort to dehumanise and vilify Palestinians is conducted, with supreme cynicism and hypocrisy, under the guise of concern over the promotion of hatred.

Monday, September 11, 2006

One from the Archives

This particular HonestReporting story ("Israeli Aid, Unreported", 28/12/04) has always struck me as the nadir of HonestReportings often mendacious, always strained, "Media Critiques" on alleged anti-Israel media bias.

Remember the asian tsumani of December 2004? Hundreds of thousands killed, millions affected. It was one of the worst natural disasters of modern times.

Not for HonestReporting. Quite incredibly, and tastelessly, for HR this was just another opportunity to push their anti-Israel media bias bandwagon. The problem this time being that the major media outlets weren't lauding Israels' humanitarian contribution.

It’s almost ghoulish in its’ focus on allegations of media bias at such a time. This is what HR found the time to worry about,

Yet, with the exception of UPI (as of this writing - Tues. 4pm EST), none of the major news outlets have dedicated an article to this remarkable Israeli humanitarian effort. This, despite the fact that the IDF sent all Israel-based journalists a press release Monday evening (Dec. 27), inviting them to the airport to cover the departure of one IDF group.
And why was HR so keen to have media organisations report this story?
The lack of media interest in this Israeli humanitarian effort means that Israeli benevolence toward other peoples is not fairly conveyed to the western world. Perhaps if it were conveyed, observers would come to understand something else ― that Israel's response to Palestinian violence is also motivated by the highest ethical concern for all human life….
That’s right, HR thought it was missing a great propaganda opportunity - to use the media coverage of the tsunami disaster to cast a better light on Israels’ treatment of the Palestinians.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Sept 4 Media Critique: "Kasrils - Minister of 'Intelligence'?"

Slow news week at HonestReporting.

The bulk of this ‘Media Critique’ is about the views of the South African Minister for Intelligence, Ronnie Kasrils, who has views that HonestReporting doesn’t much like. A particular problem is that Kasrils quotes the Norwegian writer, Joostein Gaarder, who also raised the ire of Zionists by criticising Israeli actions and drawing parallels with Apartheid.

Referring to the recent Lebanon conflict, Kasrils uses a clever sleight of hand to sum up his own feelings by quoting Norwegian writer Jostein Gaarder:
HRs effort to portray Kasrils as using "sleight of hand" is purely to lend a sinister air, as the first line states that “Kasrils is well-known for his anti-Zionist views”.

In an attempt to discredit by association (falsely, as I show below) HR then claims that,

Kasrils allows himself the license to project his own distorted view of Israel without taking responsibility, while failing to mention that Gaarder actually sought to distance himself from his original article

Not quite. In the same Ha’aretz article where HR asserts Gaardner is distancing himself from his claims, it says “However, Gaarder refused to retract publicly his main theme.”

But what are these perfidious "anti-Zionist views" that Kasrils has? HR doesn’t elaborate, but let me.

I am Jewish born. Since Israel purports to speak and act in the name of Jews everywhere... we are saying: No, not in my name. Never.
And in 2004 Kasrils visited the West Bank, leading him to make the following remark,

This is much worse than apartheid. The Israeli measures, the brutality, make apartheid look like a picnic. We never had jets attacking our townships. We never had sieges that lasted month after month. We never had tanks destroying houses. We had armoured vehicles and police using small arms to shoot people but not on this scale.
It is this particular claim, that Israels policies towards the Palestinians are similar to Apartheid, that HonestReporting is especially keen to counter by labelling Kasrils as that all-purpose derogatory adjective turned-noun, “extreme”.

Is this view extreme?

Hardly, and Kasrils is far from alone in this view. In a 2002 article, famous anti-Apartheid activist Archbishop Desmond Tutu, said much the same,

Yesterday's South African township dwellers can tell you about today's life in the Occupied Territories.
Other ANC veterans have similar views. And one in particular has an especially interesting opinion. Arthur Goldreich fought in the Palmach in 1948, returning to his native SA in the 1950s to fight with the ANC against the Apartheid regime. He returned to Israel after escaping prison, and said this about Israels approach to the West Bank,

bantustanism…….through a policy of occupation and separation
And Nelson Mandela has backed an anti-Apartheid style boycott campaign against Israel.

Let’s be clear about this, Kasrils is “extreme” regarding Israel, in precisely the same way he was extreme regarding Apartheid South Africa. That is, he stood for justice and human rights against a repressive state. That HR attacks him for this, tells you all you need to know about HR.

HR continues,

In keeping with Kasrils' non-recognition of Israel's right to exist, he questions Jewish rights to their homeland while….
In keeping with HRs non-recognition of truth, Kasrils does not say anywhere that he doesn't recognise Israels’ "right to exist", but HR tries to credit Kasrils with what it claims is Gaarders' view, because he quoted Gaarder.
Doubly dishonest, as HR actually invents the view that it attributes to Gaarder. Gaarder wrote “We no longer recognize the state of Israel”, not ‘we no longer recognise the state of Israels' right to exist’.
Tripely dishonest, Gaarder wrote this in the context of the South African Apartheid regime; "We no longer recognize the state of Israel. We could not recognize the apartheid regime".
Gaarder was saying that, just as he refused to recongise the South African government while it enacted illegitimate policies, so too, he would not recognise the Israel government until it changed its’ policies. Instead, HR attempts to play the ‘pushing the Jews into the sea’ gambit, implying a threat against the existence of the state of Israel, where there is none.

Appallingly dishonest and manipulative, but quite normal for HonestReporting.

This, despite all the evidence to the contrary, including Israel's 1 million Arab citizens currently living in the state with equal rights under the law to Israel's Jewish population
As inaccurate as ever, is HR. Israels' Arab citizens do not have equal rights under the law. For instance, they are prevented from working in a wide range of professions within Israel. They are prevented from leasing state owned land, which is freely accessible to Jewish Israelis. Just a few examples of the long list of discriminations that Arab-Israelis are subject too.

Bizarrely, Kasrils also claims that ‘Lebanon, too, has been a part of Zionist annexation plans. Israel long regarded the Litani river to its north as its natural border...
The only thing bizarre abou this is that HR thinks it’s bizarre. Kasrils has a far better understanding of Israels' view on southern Lebanon than does HR.These were some of the comments from a member of the Israeli Govt after Israels’ 1982 invasion of Lebanon,

the nearby region[Lebanon] which, geographically and historically, is an integral part of Ertez Yisrael.....
an agreement on border rectification….Israel could integrate the strip south of the Lintani…

According to HonestReporting, the problem with Kasrils’ view is that he has a “one-sided and distorted hatred for Israel”. There is another possibility, which HR studiously avoids in preference to its’ one-sided and distorted views, and that is that Kasrils’ “hatred” is of unjust and repressive government, whether it be South African or Israeli. And as Kasril says, he won’t allow injustice to be perpetrated in his name. I suspect what has really riled HR is that Kasrils is a prominent Jewish-South African, and in the world according to HR and other strident ‘supporters of Israel’, Jews should either support Israel or shut up.

"Storm in a Tea Cup"
Kasrils is not the only target.

AP and the BBC are also under the microscope for their choice of headlines in a story on a Palestinian who sought political asylum in the UK by entering the British Embassy in Tel Aviv and threatening to kill himself.

The headlines are HRs beef; “Israeli Police Storm British Embassy” (AP) and “Commandos storm Tel Aviv embassy” (BBC).

Though in thoroughly typical HR style they misrepresent the facts. The BBC headline was actually “Raid ends Tel Aviv embassy siege”. But that doesn’t make the case for HRs claim of a “subtle yet insidious form of media bias” anywhere near as well, so they chose part of the sub-headline while falsely claiming that it was the headline.