Thursday, November 30, 2006

Nov 29 Media Critique: "UN Man's Apartheid Charge"

HonestReporting strike again. Another attack on free expression out of blind and misplaced loyalty to Israel.

Todays target is the UNs Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, John Dugard. Dugard was recently published in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, and HR claim that,

In his one-sided diatribe, Dugard takes aim at Israeli military activities but fails to acknowledge the existence of Palestinian terrorism or any other legitimate reasons for Israeli self-defense. Indeed, it appears that in Dugard's world, Israeli rights simply do not exist.

HR often find themselves having to resort to this particular tactic to find grounds to complain. And that tactic is that the writer must present a counterposing or counterbalancing opinion, for every opinion they express. Nonsense of course. If HR really believed this, they would have to change their Media Critique sub-heading from this,

The UN's ‘Special Raporteur’ airs his one-sided views in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.”,

to something like this,

The UN's ‘Special Raporteur’ airs his one-sided views in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. But some would say he actually has a point”.

And one day hell will freeze over.

So this is HR’s basic point, Dugard is “one-sided”. . They quote from his article just the once, preferring to go to others sources for 2nd hand attacks, such as the execrable FrontPage Magazine. It is notable for the crude distortions it employed to smear Dugard. Dugards 2005 report noted that Palestinian and Israeli sources were telling him that Israeli policies in the OT’s were making a 2-state solution near impossible. FrontPage Magazine turned this into the headline “UN Envoy Calls for End of Israel”. Say no more.

And when you read the article it’s not hard to see why HR eschews many quotes. Dugard is quite fair and reasonable, writing that

Although military occupation is tolerated and regulated by international law, it is considered an undesirable regime that should be ended as soon as possible.

Before describing the current reality and Israels abuses of the military occupation system,

In principle, the purpose of military occupation is different from that of apartheid. It is not designed as a long-term oppressive regime but as an interim measure that maintains law and order in a territory following an armed conflict and pending a peace settlement. But this is not the nature of the Israeli occupation of Palestine. Since 1967 Israel has imposed its control over the Palestinian territories in the manner of a colonizing power, under the guise of occupation. It has permanently seized the territories' most desirable parts — the holy sites in East Jerusalem, Hebron and Bethlehem and the fertile agricultural lands along the western border and in the Jordan Valley — and settled its own Jewish "colonists" throughout the land.

Israel's occupation of the Palestinian territories has many features of colonization. At the same time it has many of the worst characteristics of apartheid. The West Bank has been fragmented into three areas — north (Jenin and Nablus), center (Ramallah) and south (Hebron) — which increasingly resemble the Bantustans of South Africa….

Many aspects of Israel's occupation surpass those of the apartheid regime. Israel's large-scale destruction of Palestinian homes, leveling of agricultural lands, military incursions and targeted assassinations of Palestinians far exceed any similar practices in apartheid South Africa. No wall was ever built to separate blacks and whites.

And there is one piece of information HR doesn’t tell its' readers about Dugard and his comparing of Israeli policies with Apartheid. And it’s information that would be vital in allowing readers to form a judgement on Dugards' opinions on this matter – John Dugard is a South African, and was a long-time anti-Apartheid activist. It must have been an oversight on HRs part not to mention that.

There is a common thread running through a few recent HR items. And it’s that it enthusiastically attacks South Africans who are critical of Israels conduct, finding in it distasteful reminders of Aparthied. You might think that South Africans, better than anyone, might recognize Apartheid-like policies when they see them, but not according to HR. Recently there was the hatchet job on South African minister, Ronnie Kasrils, who had the double temerity to be a Jewish South African. He made similar criticisms to John Dugard. The totalitarians are always doubly incensed when it is ‘one of their own’ who fail to march in lock-step. Let’s be clear about this – what angers HR is that people like John Dugard are allowed to have their say.

Again HR are determined to prove that the South African Guardian&Mail had it exactly right when they described groups like them as “enemies of intellectual diversity and free expression”.

And here is the Special Rapporteurs latest report on the Occupied Territories.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

November 23 Media Critique: "Must See TV"

HonestReporting must have given up trying to conjure examples of “anti-Israel media bias” as this time it settles for promoting a CNN ‘documentary’ – “Exposed: The Extremist Agenda”.

This has, not surprisingly, only aired on American CNN. CNN, being a good corporate operator, knows to play to its' audience. This one-dimensional, axis-of-evil, us-versus-them stuff just won’t go down so easily with a non-US audience.

I’ve done the hard yards with his one and sat through the whole 41 painful minutes of this stuff. The presenter kindly lets us in on some useful information right at the start,

I am not a journalist, I don’t pretend to be one.

I would never have guessed.

It’s all pretty standard stuff from the look-out the-big-bad-muslims-are-coming-to -wage-jihad-on-your-ass crowd. Though they go to lengths to reassure the audience that this is ground-breaking, never seen before material. It ain’t. Updated? Yes. An ‘expose’? No.

The Iranian President gets a going over, but a rather limp one. The poverty of the case was amply demonstrated when the segment on Ahmadinejad concluded with footage of Hitler at the Nuremburg rally. The strained attempt to equate the two made me squirm with embarrassment.

Don’t expect to see this on CNN International any time soon - it isn't suitable for an audience with their critical thinking faculties intact and functioning.

Naturally HonestReporting ses this as perfect material for their audience. And they are absolutely correct. As we’ve seen in the past, HR is always keen to stoke the fires of anti-Arab and anti-Muslim bigotry.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

November 15 Media Critique: “Time Magazine Gets Caught Lying”

The more strident HonestReporting’s headlines, the less substance there usually is to the allegation.

The latest ‘Media Critique’ demonstrates this,

Time Magazine Contradicts Eye-Witness Account

Would an editor who had never visited the scene of a photograph deliberately contradict the photographer's account of events? Is it possible that someone would change a caption that ends up incorrectly describing what took place? Moreover, would a prominent media outlet accept the claims of a terrorist organization over that of its own photographer?

Sounds hard to believe, but according to recent revelations by a photojournalist, this is exactly what happened with a photograph that was featured in Time Magazine during Israel's conflict with Hizbollah.

Ironically, HR makes an accusation of editorialisation. Editorialising is commonly seen in headlines, where opinion is inserted that is not backed up by the information contained within the body of the story. The fundamental problem with editorializing is that it is opinion, masquerading as fact. HR’s headline is exactly that.

The basic premise is that the photographers original caption has been altered by Time. This was the caption as supplied by photographer Bruno Stevens,

Kfar Chima, near Beirut, July 17, 2006 An Israeli Air Force F16 has allegedly been shot down while bombing a group of Hezbollah owned trucks, at least one of these trucks contained a medium range ground to ground missile launcher.

And this is the caption Time used,

The wreckage of a downed Israeli jet that was targeting Hizballah trucks billows smoke behind an armed Hizballah gunman in Kfar Chima, near Beirut. Jet fuel set the surrounding area ablaze.

Times decision to edit the caption is probably reasonable given that the photo used didn’t actually show the trucks with the missile launcher that the caption referred to. The Time article appeared in their July 31st print edition, and the web version seems to have appeared on July 24th. The photo was taken on July 17th. The photographer went back to re-visit the site and subsequently changed his caption, with the final version not mentioning the allegedly downed Israeli jet. HR then claims that Time's mention of the downed Israeli jet is a ‘lie’.

HR ‘accidentally’ mix up the order of events to make it appear that Time altered the final caption used by the photographer. The photographer makes it clear that Time had his original caption, not the later altered version. He then goes on to explain the events that lead him to change the caption. HR run the story in the reverse order, quoting Stevens on how he came to alter the caption and then providing this quote from the earlier part of his explanation of events,

They [Time]choose to caption it this way (I had NO control in this matter), they HAD my original caption.

And so imparting the impression of Time completely ignoring the photogpraher’s later version. Or as HR dishonestly put it,

the editor……made up the caption that contradicted the photographer's eye-witness account.

Cute. Too cute.

As usual, it’s the fact that HR needs to resort to such distortion and hyperbole in its’ allegations that makes the best case against its’ allegations of “anti-Israel media bias”.

More sterling work from those masters of mendacity at HonestReporting.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

November 9 Media Critique: "Beit Hanoun in Context"

This is one of HonestReportng’s favourite phrases - “in context”. Recently we had “Qana in Context”, now it’s “Beit Hanoun in context”. I think the translation is “not Israels fault! ”. Let’s see – “Qana; not Israels fault”, “Beit Hanoun; not Israels fault”. Yeah, that’s about right.

What does HonestReporting want?

HonestReporting calls on the media to recognize the circumstances surrounding this terrible accident.

Specifically, HR demand that “the media needs to report this incident within the proper context.”

And what is the “proper context”. The proper context is that,

Nonetheless, the accident in Beit Hanoun is exactly that - an accident

Why is HR so sure? Because the IDF say so. And if that’s good enough for HR, it should be good enough for everyone else. Why doesn’t the world media understand this, when a fearless proponent of journalistic standards like HR does?

Tellingly, HR doesn’t provide a single example of media not reporting the “circumstances”. What HR really wants is for the media to excuse Israeli actions.

Lawerence of Cyberia has some thoughts on Israel and its’ “accidents”. The invaluable LoC also details the IDFs propensity for lying in these situations. My rule of thumb is that the IDFs first public statements on an issue usually have zero correlation with the truth.

This was an “accident” in much the same way that drunk drivers inexplicably are the victims of many unfortunate “accidents”. When a certain type of behaviour is repeated, despite the likely consequences of that action being known, the outcome is not an accident. Predictable, culpable, negligent, reckless, yes. An accident, no.

In Gaza , Israel knows that its' policies of shooting, shelling and bombardment of densely populated areas are guaranteed to “accidently” kill innocent men, women and children. What do you call it when a certain outcome is the known and acceptable consequence of a voluntarily adopted policy? I call it deliberate. Not the specific incident, but the general situation. Israeli policy is to punish the entire civilian population of the Occupied Territories for; a) continuing to exist, b) refusing to hand over 1 captured Israeli soldier and c) having a democratically elected government that Israel doesn’t like. Whether this is via under or mal-nutrution, deaths due to preventable disease or courtesy of ‘steel rain’ doesn’t matter much, except that the later is a PR problem.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

October 31 Media Critique: "Seale of Approval"

HonestReporting is up in arms about an article in the International Herald Tribune. Patrick Seale performs the uncommon act of accurately describing Israels conduct in the Gaza Strip. The main problem is that it’s all “one-sided”, according to HR. This means that every Israeli act should be 'balanced' or put in context to demonstrate that it’s not really Israels fault.

Seale cannot recognize the Hamas government as that of a terror organization that refuses to recognize Israel's right to exist and continues to hold Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit hostage. Nowhere does Seale mention Israel's summer 2005 Gaza Disengagement or the current round of internal Palestinian violence between Fatah and Hamas members.

See? You can’t mention the fact that Israel is killing large numbers of innocent Palestinians without reminding your readers that it’s all the Palestinians fault for abducting 1 soldier. B’Tselem has documented the recent deaths in Gaza. Of the roughly 300 killed since the capture of the Israeli soldier, 155 were innocent bystanders. B’Tselem's list of those killed gives some perspective on the dead that Israel and it’s supporters dismiss as “terrorists”.

Seale's other crime is that he is “seeking to downplay Palestinian terror and Qassam attacks from Gaza”, by describing them as “highly irritating but largely ineffectual weapons”. That Seale provides the relevant facts in which he grounds this opinion does not deter HR. It produces a story from Ynet News on the hundreds of Israelis “injured” by Qassams in the last 18 months. The Barzilai Medical Center records 300 people were “hurt” in Qassam attacks since January 2005. The article goes on to say that most were vicims of “shock”. In lay- mans terms that means having received a scare or fright. Or, in other words – not actually injured.

Shock actually is a recognized medical condition, but HR, as usual, can’t play it straight. In November 2005, HR put out a Media Critique, ‘Booms Over Gaza’. The Guardian newspaper and the BBC had published stories about Israeli jets producing sonic booms over Gaza to terrorise Palestinians. Palestinian sources were quoted on the “hurt” caused by the tactic. HR, of course, was highly skeptical about claim sof harm caused by the sonic booms, wanting to know why the media was “prepared to take Palestinian anecdotal evidence at face value?”.

Loud noises frightening Israelis is cause for serious concern, but only cause for skepticism when it comes to Palestinians.

HR finishes off with a minor spat involving one of its’ fellow-travellers ( CAMERA) and the Guardian. If only HR had paid attention to the details we could have all been saved the trouble of this latest missive. The Guardian ran a piece by Chris McGreal, in which he noted the Apartheid-like aspects of Israel. CAMERA complained (of course), taking it to the UK’s Press Complaints Commission – which dismissed CAMERAs complaint (no surprise there). This is the part of the Commissions findings that HR should have read, and re-read until it understood it,

The newspaper was entitled – in the Commission’s view – to select material, in the form of quotations (which had not been disputed by the people quoted) or statistics, that supported the clearly-stated premise of the article. It was not obliged to attempt to balance every statement with reference to a counter-argument or counter-interpretation that existed elsewhere and opposed the position espoused in the article.

This is what HR ignores in its’ ‘critique’ of Patrick Seale. They have an alternative viewpoint, and only theirs is acceptable, everything else being “anti-Israel media bias”.