Friday, December 29, 2006

Dec 28 Media Critique: "Video Message from Sderot"

The awful biased media are at it again. Ignoring the plight of Israelis injured by Qassam rockets, specifically, the two 14yr old boys hurt on December 27. HonestRepoting says,

The mainstream media continues to downplay or even ignore the continuous Qassam strikes against Sderot and surrounding communities by Palestinian terrorists.
Yet stories appeared in the New York Times, the International Herald Tribune, and the wire services, Reuters and AFP covered it.

In my back yard, the story was covered by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, SBS, the Sydney Morning Herald and The Australian. They were the only ones I checked, but they all carried the story. It’s not a good sample size to make significant claims of probability, but you get the idea.

HR continues,

Commenting on the daily threat to Sderot, the Jerusalem Post points out: "It has become a curious game of Palestinian Roulette ... The rocket that fell in a Sderot nursery school playground could have, with a little less luck, taken the lives of many toddlers."
If the Qassams didn’t result in so few deaths, they could really kill a lot of people.

But, let's be serious. This is an indefensible act. Innocent civilians are clearly at risk. And it’s just as clear that HRs’ protestations that the media “downplay or even ignore” such incidents is pure invention.

I’ll also provide a touch of the ‘context’ that HR so loves. Since the new truce began at the end of November, we now have 2 injured Israelis. And on the Palestinian side? Israel has killed 15. No, that’s not a typo – 15 , during the ‘truce’.

That’s how these things work, Palestinian actions put cease-fires at risk, but Israel can go on killing and it’s ‘business as usual’. The apologists will now interrupt – but the ‘truce’ only covers Gaza. Yes, that’s right, so why do we bother pretending that there actually is one?

Some more context – Israel has killed 660 Palestinians in 2006. Palestinians have killed 23 Israelis . I don’t want to engage in the algebra of body-counts, but it lends some relevant perspective.

To gauge just how much the mainstream media ignore the suffering of Israeli civilians , let’s take the opportunity to do a comparison with a recent incident where a Palestinian child was not just injured, but killed, and see what kind of media attention it grabs. On December 19, the IDF shot and killed 13 yr old Do'a Nasser Hamid, near Tulkarm.

Never heard of the incident? That’s because it went almost completely unreported. Which major media outlets reported this? NYT?-No. IHT?-No. Reuters or AFP*?-No. On my patch – those 4 media outlets that reported the 2 injured Israeli teens – none of them reported the killing of this 13 yr old Palestinian girl. Not one. Try the Google sampling test for yourself. If you can’t be bothered, the returns for the killed Palestinian girl are a remarkable 4, versus between 100-400 (depending on which name you use) for the 2 injured Israeli boys.

Yet, HR whines on,

We ask why Israeli children never earn the iconic status and outpouring of sympathy that the media accredits to other child victims of war or terror in other parts of the world (including the Palestinian areas).

Yes, those lucky, lucky Palestinian children are given such iconic status in the media that their death at the hands of the IDF can go completely unnoticed.

But, for those of us not in the fantasy land of the pro-Israel fanatics, this is not news. We know that reality is the exact opposite of what HR tells its credulous readers. Detailed studies by If Americans Knew demonstrate that media sources vastly under-report Palestinian deaths and fully report Israeli ones. This anecdote just illustrates the trend, which is even more pronounced when the victims are children (IAK found that the NYTs reports Israeli child victims at a rate 10x greater than Palestinian victims.)

Why the sudden beat-up over 2 injured boys in Sderot. Pardon my cynicism, but HR’s last paragraph of this overwrought piece provides a clue,

As the tax year draws to a close, now is your last opportunity this year to make a real difference for Israel. Please make the most generous tax-deductible gift you can today by clicking here.

All makes sense now.

* Significantly, AFP did report the killing of 2 IJ members on the 20th but made no mention of the IDF killing of the 13 yr old girl the day before.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Dec 25 Media Critique: "Bethlehem-Abusing the Christmas Story"

I thought we may enjoy some respite from HonestReporting’s absurdities at this time of the year, but there’s no rest for the wicked.

Todays target – the British newspaper, The Independent. A good article from Johann Hari on the implications of the occupation and movement restrictions on women in labour.

As usual HR goes for some outraged hyperbole,

The media employs seasonal religious symbolism to attack Israel
Yes, Israel is being beaten with a statue of the Virgin Mary by a British newspaper. How crass.


In a tasteless affront to one billion Christians worldwide, the Independent, a leading British daily, describes the Virgin Mary as a "Palestinian refugee in Bethlehem", and present-day pregnant Palestinian women as "21st century Marys" who "have been giving birth in startlingly similar conditions to those suffered by Mary 2,000 years ago."

Horrendous. How can anyone make such a shocking comparison. As all good apparatchiks know, these pregnancies will result in the birth of the devils spawn, who will dedicate their lives to the slaughter of Jews. This journalist makes them sound almost human.

Who can blame HR, sticking to the facts would just undermine the point they’re trying to make. And that point is…, I’m not quite sure either. Maybe that it is “biased” to report what is actually happening in the Occupied Territories.

Oh no, forgive me, this is the point,

Yet, readers must scroll down halfway through this 1,500-word piece to discover the real cause of Palestinian suffering:
"Following the election of Hamas, the world choked off funding for the Palestinian Authority, which suddenly found itself unable to pay its doctors and nurses. After several months medical staff went on strike, refusing to take anything but emergency cases."
Nasty, nasty, Johann Hari, hiding the fact that the death of Fadia Jemal’s baby in 2002 was caused by the election of Hamas in January 2006. Thanks HR for exposing this deceit.

Hari provides some detail of the scale of the problem (1.),

Since Fadia's delivery, in 2002, the United Nations confirms that a total of 36 babies have died because their mothers were detained during labour at Israeli checkpoints.

But HR knows the real problem,

The Independent blames Israel for checkpoint security measures, but fails to provide context with the well-documented Palestinian abuse of ambulances and medical facilities to transport and harbor terrorists. Nor does the Independent mention the 2002 arrest of a Palestinian terrorist recruited to carry out a suicide bombing disguised as a pregnant woman -- a graphic reminder of the depths that terror groups will sink in their efforts to bypass Israeli security.
Yes, Israeli has no choice but to detain pregnant Palestinian women at checkpoints, because they might be terrorists in disguise! Poor Israeli soldiers, they can’t tell the difference between a pregnant woman and someone with a pillow stuffed up their shirt!!

B’Tselem point out the real reason for the existence of the checkpoints,

One of the main purposes of the movement restrictions policy is to protect Israeli settlers. Given that the settlements are illegal, the policy only aggravates the situation: it comprehensively and disproportionately impedes the freedom of movement of an entire population in order to perpetuate the settlement enterprise.

Yes, Palestinian women and babies die at checkpoints for the convenience and comfort of Israels’ illegal settlers.

As for the “well-documented Palestinian abuse of ambulances”, this is typical HR fantasy. There is none. HR provides a link to an Israeli Govt website that claims to detail several incidents. The most serious one is the claim that a suicide belt was transported in an ambulance, a claim over which there is serious doubt. Just remember the Qassam in the ambulance story, where the Qassam turned out to be a folding stretcher. However, there is evidence of the mis-use of ambulances by armed groups – the IDF. The IDF used an ambulance to take soldiers into the West Bank to arrest Fatah leader Marwan Barghouti in 2002, as well as on other occasions.

But wait, there’s “More Abuse of the Christmas Story”.

The Chicago Tribune also “engages in abusing religious symbolism”.

The problem, yet again, is its “one-sided criticism of Israel”. HR would much prefer that someone else was blamed (Martians perhaps?) for the 6m high concrete wall and the travel restrictions that are making life hell for the residents of Bethlehem. Worse still, the Chicago Tribune fails to note the real reason for the difficulties of the Christian population of Bethlehem- HR knows it is “Muslim persecution”, of course. Isn’t it funny how the Christian population of Bethlehem flourished for around 1300 years despite Muslim persecution”, but has been suddenly affected by it over the last 50 or so. I really can’t figure this out…..

It’s just more of the same – factual descriptions of life in the Occupied Territories are beyond the pale. Blame can be apportioned, as long as journalists remember that Israel is completely blameless. Stories must be ‘balanced’ with liberal helpings of Israeli hasbara, otherwise they are biased. Well actually, no they don’t. Journalists are meant to go beyond the competing claims and official pronouncements and try to describe reality. A reality that HR finds disturbing, preferring it to remain buried under an avalanche of obfuscation and distortion.

1. BBC News "UN Fears over checkpoint births", 23/9/2005.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

December 8 Special Report: "The UN Human Rights Council"

On this occasion, HR abandons its stated purpose of watching the media to indulge in that all-time favourite activity for the pro-Israel zealots - shrill denunciation of the UN, especially its human rights body. As of June this year, the old Commission on Human Rights gave way to a new body, the Human Rights Council. The move was meant to address deficiencies in the old system, and the Israel cheer-leaders hoped that their team might get an easier run. The poor darlings have been immediately disappointed, leading to all the usual complaints,

The Council decided that Israel was abusing human rights and, to validate their predetermined conclusion, they ordered an investigation. The Council was very clear in what it expected the investigation to conclude.

As usual HR get their facts wrong. The Special Rappoutuer for the Occupied Territories has already reported on Israels extensive human rights violations. This is not predetermination, but simple fact .

Here’s the detail from the first session so you can see just how unfair the UNHRC is,

-reaffirmed that all acts of hostage-taking, wherever and by whomever committed, were a serious crime aimed at the destruction of human rights and were, under any circumstances, unjustifiable; strongly condemned all acts of hostage-taking anywhere in the world

-adopted the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance

-adopted the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples as proposed by the Chairperson-Rapporteur of the Working Group of the Commission on Human Rights

-welcomed the report of the Open-ended Working Group with a view to considering options regarding the elaboration of an Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights

-endorsed the conclusions and recommendations adopted by consensus by the Working Group on the Right to Development

-decided to extend exceptionally for one year, ……… the mandates and the mandate-holders of all the Commission's special procedures, of the Sub-Commission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights

-the Human Rights Council decided to establish an intersessional open-ended intergovernmental working group to develop the modalities of the universal periodic review mechanism

-decided to establish an open-ended intergovernmental working group to formulate concrete recommendations on the issue of reviewing and, where necessary, improving and rationalizing all mandates, mechanisms, functions and responsibilities in order to maintain a system of special procedures, expert advice and a complaint procedure

-welcomed the entry into force, on 22 June 2006, of the Optional Protocol to the United Nations Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, following ratification by 20 States.

-endorsed the conclusions and recommendations contained in the report of the Intergovernmental Working Group on the Effective Implementation of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action on its fourth session

-requested the relevant Special Rapporteurs to report to the next session of the Council on the Israeli human rights violations in occupied Palestine

-decided to request the Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief and the Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance as well as the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to report to the next session on this phenomenon.

See, it’s all about Israel! Bias!!

HR then points to the Councils ‘Special Sessions’ to further press its claims of ‘bias’. The first called for an investigation into Israels conduct in the OT’s that had seen several hundred Palestinians killed in the previous months. And the second - can anyone name a UN member state that in July committed the international crime of armed aggression against a neighbouring sovereign state? Well, I can only come up with one name. Israel. Perhaps the UNHRC should have ignored this to show how committed they are to human rights.

HR then whines about that standard hasbara talking-point, Darfur, and how the UNHRC has done nothing on Darfur. Unfortunately for the incompetents at HR, just 4 days after they published this latest rubbish, the UNHRC convened a ‘Special Session’ on Darfur.

If only they weren’t such brain-dead apologists, they would have known that it was coming. Contrary to HRs accusations, the UNHRC had a very busy and varied agenda, so much so, that it couldn’t adopt resolutions at its second session (aside from one on Kyrgyzstan) and had to deal them at the third session which started on November 27.

If HR had taken the minimal effort to inquire, they would have found that the UNHRC was discussing human rights issues on the following countries during the second session in September,

"The Council also considered the reports of country-specific Special Rapporteurs and Experts, including on Belarus, Somalia, Cuba, the Occupied Palestinian Territory, Cambodia, Haiti, Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Burundi, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Myanmar, Sudan and Liberia”, as well as “Iran, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan."
Maybe they forgot that Darfur is in Sudan. Or maybe they just never bothered their pretty little heads to find out what the UNHRC was actually doing.

The decision to hold the 4th Special Session on Darfur was announced on November 30th, more than a week before HRs latest and dumbest “Special Report”. The date for the 4th Special Session was then announced (PDF) on December 4th.

But these are mere facts. What use are they to HR when it has an axe to grind?

There was a further Special Session following the killing of 19 Palestinians by IDF artillery fire in Bayt Hanun. HR claims that it ignored Israeli concerns,

No mention was made of protecting Israeli civilians from further assault.

Of course HR is wrong, as usual. The UNHRC resolution,

urged all concerned parties to respect the rules of international humanitarian law, to refrain from violence against civilian populations and to treat under all circumstances all detained combatants and civilians in accordance with the Geneva Convention of 12 August 1949.

And HR desperately push the IDF PR line that the incident was,

an equipment malfunction…..terrible tragedy occurred due to an unintended accident. The government of Israel apologized immediately.....

Followed by the standard strategy of blaming the victims,

if the Palestinians had stopped firing rockets on Sderot, this accident could not have taken place.

HR should consult a dictionary on what constitutes an accident. Others could see this coming. This is what B’Tselem had to say in April when the IDF changed its firing regulations to allow artillary to be fired to within 100m of residential areas in the densely populated Gaza strip,

Three Israeli human rights organizations and two Palestinian organizations jointly wrote to the Israeli Minister of Defense and Chief of Staff demanding the cancellation of the decision to reduce the 'safety zone' for artillery fire on the Gaza Strip, due to the danger it poses to the civilian population and its cost in human lives.

Yes, this was no “unintended accident”, but the foreseen consequence of a voluntarily adopted policy.

HonestReporting – biased, unfair, inaccurate, dishonest. Exactly what we expect.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

December 6 Media Critique: "Carters Book: Presidential Pulp"

This is the second consecutive ‘Media Critique’ on Jimmy Carters new book Palestine: Peace or Apartheid?”.

Someone is worried. First it was the Mearsheimer&Walt controversy , and now the ex-US President, Jimmy Carter, weighs in with his strong criticisms of Israel, making allusions to Apartheid. You know things are changing when even someone like Carter gets it. No wonder HonestReporting and all the other pro-Israel zealots are in an uproar. Carter can expect to be relentlessly attacked for daring to break from the consensus. The attacks will be out of all proportion to the perceived crime, because the zealots see cracks appearing in the ‘Israel right or wrong’ position of US elites. If Carter doesn’t get enough grief, others might be emboldened to express similarly frank views, which might lead to the ‘disaster’ of a real, just peace along the lines of UN Resolution 242.

HR repeats its' claim from the previous 'Media Critique' that it has “previously debunked the false comparison between Israel and apartheid South Africa”. Of course it’s done no such thing, HR just likes to claim that it has. As some of the targets of its vilification have pointed out, the comparisons with Apartheid are unfair, not for the reasons HR gives, but because Israels' action are worse than South African Apartheid. Here are the thoughts of 2 South Africans who know something about Apartheid. First, John Dugard, now Special Rapporteur for the Palestinian territories,

Many aspects of Israel's occupation surpass those of the apartheid regime.

And Ronnie Kasrils, anti-Apartheid activist, and now Minister in the South African government,
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.
And how about the Israeli human rights group, B’Tselem,
By unlawfully discriminating against Palestinians based on their national origin, the Forbidden Roads Regime is reminiscent of the apartheid system that existed in South Africa.

And a group of IDF soldiers got together to make 'Breaking the Silence', which gives just a small taste of the treatment the IDF metes out to Palestinians on a routine basis, just in case human rights groups aren’t your cup of tea.

HR leads its assault on Carter with that professional sophist, Alan Dershowitz, the man who makes Stalinists look like reasonable, open-minded people. Dershowitz attacks Carters most “egregious errors”. As in any book of its kind, errors exist, mostly of the careless or very minor variety, in contrast to the ‘errors’ Dershowitz makes, which are calculated and deliberate attempts at deception. Here are a few examples of what Dershowitz calls errors,
Mr. Carter gives virtually no credit to Israel's superb legal system……Even Israel's most severe critics acknowledge the fairness of the Israeli Supreme Court.
This is straight out of Dershowitz’s propaganda tract, “The Case for Israel”.

So, Israels “most severe critics” think the Supreme Court is fair? After criticising Carter for making claims “without any citation”, he offers not a single scrap of evidence or even one citation to back this extraordinary claim. But let me. Here is David Kretzmer, a law professor at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, who wrote a book about the legal aspects of Israels occupation, giving his opinion on Israels Supreme Court,
The court has rationalized virtually all controversial actions of the Israeli authorities, especially those most problematic under principles of international humanitarian law.
On the question of the new Israeli laws preventing family re-union, several Israeli human rights groups (ACRI, Adalah) took the issue to the Supreme Court which upheld the new law. Adalah issued a press release after the verdict was announced,
the Supreme Court effectively approved the most racist legislation in the State of Israel; legislation which bars the unification of families on the basis of national belonging: Arab-Palestinian. Drawing a comparison, Adalah added that,
In 1980, during Apartheid, a Court in South Africa refused to approve orders similar to the Nationality and Entry into Israel Law, because they contradicted the right to a family.” Adalah’s General Director Attorney Hassan Jabareen emphasized that today, the Supreme Court has instituted three tracks of citizenship on the basis of ethnic background: a direct track for Jews under the Law of Return; a middle track for foreigners according to the graduated procedure; and the harshest track, for Arab citizens.
If that is them acknowledging the Israeli Supreme Courts fairness, their criticisms must be extremely harsh.

I hope HR takes note of the South African parallel, which again demonstrates that the comparisons of Israel with Apartheid SA are unfair – to South Africa!

And for our final Dershowitz example of Carters ‘error’,
He claims that in 1967 Israel launched a preemptive attack against Jordan. The fact is that Jordan attacked Israel first…
In my humble opinion Carter’s only error here is to be too accommodating to the Israeli position that the 1967 war was a case of a pre-emptive strike. But even that is not obsequious enough for Dershowitz who demands total agreement with his perspective - that Israel was completely blameless in 1967.

Most of the other 'errors' are in a similar vein. If these really are the “most egregious errors” in the book, then Carter has done a great job.

I wonder if HR or Alan Dershowitz have ever bothered to gauge how their Pollyanna-ish views on Israel stack up against the experience of IDF soldiers?

The intellectual walls of fortress Israel in the US are beginning to be besieged, and in testimony to their flimsy construction, the cracks are already showing.