Friday, March 30, 2007

March 26 Special Report: “Are there two sides to every story?”

HonestReporting has produced one its deadly dull ‘videos’ (just a slide show actually, with horrible muzak), on the excavation work at the Haram al-Sharif.

The answer to their question is no, but not in the way HR mean.

Those of us who haven’t completely surrendered our gift for independent thinking, know that there are many takes on a single issue, rather than just 2 sides. But according to the intolerant partisans at HR, even 2 sides is too much – there is only one, and that is the stridently pro-Israel side!

According to HR, the media are reporting “a story that is not true”.

They pick the usual targets – let’s see how they misrepresent and distort the BBCs coverage to come to this amazing conclusion.

The media reported baseless claims say HR,

BBC – “Muslims say the work threatens holy remains

HR continues,

The only problem is: It Isn't True.
Did the BBC report this? Yes. Did some muslims say this? Yes. So it is true.

But, as manipulative as ever, HR edit out the rest of that sentence in the BBC report,

a charge Israel denies.

See, there is a controversy, with the Palestinians making one set of claims and Israel denying them, and the media are reporting this, quite faithfully from what I’ve seen.

Now you could protest at this point and say that this is just ‘he says, she says’ reporting from the BBC, which might be a fair point (not that HR makes this point). But the BBC article provides a link on the archelogical issues, or lack of them,

An independent observer, Father Jerome Murphy-O'Connor, from the French institute the Ecole Biblique in East Jerusalem, said that the work was "completely routine".

"This work is not inside the Haram. It is outside, leading to the Moors' Gate. The earth ramp fell down and has to be replaced," Father Murphy-O'Connor, author of an Oxford University guide 'The Holy Land', told me.

"I do not know why the Palestinians have chosen to make an issue out of this. It is a recognised Jewish area under the arrangements that prevail in the Old City.”

Doesn’t that just reek of anti-Israel media bias? That’s right, it doesn’t. But this does expose HRs own, very pronounced bias. Since they disagree with, or don’t like, Palestinian objections to the excavations, this is a story which isn’t true and therefore the media should not cover it.

Next the BBC is targeted for this head-line in an article,

Some in the media still insist on their own interpretation of the facts: BBC – “Israel must halt Jerusalem dig

Notice the quotation marks. The order appears to be issued by the BBC – “the only problem is: It Isn’t True”.

This is the actual headline,

Israel 'must halt' Jerusalem dig

This is especially funny, given one of the HR slides announces,

UN Investigation – work is legal

Besides the fact that the UN investigation doesn’t say that the work is legal, the ‘must halt’ comment comes from that same UN investigation. It was actually UNESCO and they said,

The Government of Israel should be asked to stop immediately the archaeological excavations……

So yes, there is more than one aspect to a story like this, such as the political dimension to the dispute – Israel conducts such activities without any consultation (as required by UNESCO) to demonstrate their claim of sovereignty and the Palestinians protest to challenge that claim. Or that Israels illegal annexation of East Jerusalem means that Israel has no recognized authority to be doing the work.

It’s just that this kind of open debate is something that HonestReporting can’t tolerate, hence we have HRs desperate distortions in an attempt to fabricate allegations of media bias.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

March 27 Media Critique: "ABC: Giving Airtime to Extremists"

Things must be good for the rabid pro-Israel partisans – they are having a hard time finding “media anti-Israel bias”.

So much so that they have strayed into the dark recesses of my own ABCs (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) radio division, and visited Radio National (for US readers, its Australia’s NPR, but better), selecting the relatively obscure Religion Report as the hapless victim of one its pointless and dishonest ‘Media Critiques’.

Onto the distortions!

The charge of Zionist collaboration with the Nazis is a form of Holocaust revisionism that is barely deserving of a response

That’s as unequivocal a charge as you could ask for. It must be true, mustn’t it?

Here’s what Radio National said,

Which Israeli Prime Minister in his youth was a member of an organisation that offered to collaborate with the Nazis at the height of World War II, because of their shared racial ideology of blood and soil?

Hang on…..where’s “the charge of Zionist collaboration with the Nazis”??

Surprise, surprise, it doesn’t exist. More blatant lies from HonestReporting.

Let’s review the facts for HRs benefit. The former Israeli PM Yitzhak Shamir, was a member of Lehi – fact.
Lehi offered their services to the Nazis in the fight against the Allies in WWII – fact.

You could argue about the reasoning for the offer – while Lehi shared some ideological points with the Nazis, they primarily wanted to establish a Jewish state in Palestine and saw Great Britain as the enemy.

So, there was no charge of Nazi collaboration.

Unfortunately, it gets worse.

Next HR attack the guest, Lenni Brenner, on this edition of the Religion Report. Name-calling is a favourite. Brenner is an “extremist”. Why? HR indulge in some classic deceptions to make the point. Firstly,

The neo-Nazi right was delighted with Brenner's book….

They probably also like Readers Digest. Does this make it extremist'?


Left-wing revisionists such as Brenner do not deny that mass murder took place but seek to blame Zionist Jews for the actions of the Nazis.

Where does this come from?? Just another scurrilous assertion from HR. Brenner makes no suggestion like this in the interview or in his writings . That’s probably why HR sensibly refrain from quoting any of Brenners words to demonstrate their claims – it’s not possible.

HR then talk about “classic Holocuast deniers”, lumping Brenner in as not one of them , but like them, and then have another go at it, throwing the Iranian President in for good measure, just in case anyone hasn’t quite got the point yet,

Abusing the memory of 6 million murdered Jews is a malicious method to attack Israel and has most recently been employed by Iranian President Ahmadinejad. Why has ABC indulged an extremist like Lenni Brenner?

OK, got it, Brenner’s not exactly a Holocaust denier, but……..

I feel like I need a shower after wading through this bit of mud-slinging. HR again display their anti free-expression instincts – how dare the media air views that we disagree with.

HonestReporting - partisan, intolerant, and dishonest.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

March 19 MC: "The Palestinian Government: 'All Forms of Resistence' "

This was as surprising as the sun rising in the morning – HonestReportings take on the Palestinian unity government and its' desperate efforts to find “media anti-Israel bias’ in the coverage.

As ever, blatant dishonesty is HRs mainstay in its’ effort to fabricate bias out of media reporting of the conflict. HR is shocked by an appalling “whitewash” of the evil, violent Palestinians,

Some of the international media attempts to whitewash the new Palestinan unity government.

Palestinian PM Haniyeh has stated that the new Palestinian unity government will support "all forms of resistance".

Naturally, despite the use of quotation marks, Haniyah doesn’t say that anywhere I've seen, and they don't provide a link except to his formal statement. Can’t these guys help themselves, or is lying just second nature to them? This is the relevant part of Haniyehs statement,

The government affirms that resistance is a legitimate right of the Palestinian people as granted by the international norms and charters; our Palestinian people have the right to defend themselves in face of any Israeli aggression and believes that halting resistance depends on ending the occupation and achieving freedom, return and independence.

The closest it comes to is this, the unoffical translation of Haniyehs speech,
The government affirms that resistance in all its forms, including popular resistance against the occupation, is a legitimate right of the Palestinian people as granted by the international norms and charters; our Palestinian people have the right to defend themselves in face of any Israeli continuous aggression.

HRs main target is AFP. And, as usual, their criticism of AFP is wrong, regarding the statments of US National Security Advisor, Stephen Hadley.

HR only provide part of Hadleys words quoted by AFP,

"This government needs to renounce terror and violence," Hadley told CNN.

But that wasn’t all Hadley had to say. In the very next sentence, which HR failed to provide for their gullible readers, is this,

"It needs to acknowledge the right of Israel to exist," he said, adding that those conditions so far have not been met.

Ignoring this, HR then screech on cynically about the Quartets demands,

Does the AFP regard a call to renounce terror and violence as "hardline"? What would the AFP consider to be moderation? Why are Hadley's comments, which reflect the position of the Quartet, regarded as such while Haniyeh's do not merit any similar judgment?

Because Hadley’s comments only “reflect the position of the Quartet” after some careful selective quoting of them by HR.

The Quartets demands are not for the recognition of “Israels right to exist” as Hadley demanded, so AFPs comment is quite reasonable.

Utterly, deliberately dishonest and utterly typical of HR.

Four words from an Australian journalist sum up HRs rubbish perfectly,

Rank distortion…..scurrilous assertions


Warning! : HR arse-covering exercise.

The real problem with the previous ‘Media Critique was that HR falsely presented the LA Times headline as the words of Saree Makdisi. When the LA Times later changed the headline, it just highlighted HRs dishonesty.

Just desserts. Idiots.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

March 12 Media Critique: "LA Times and Israels 'Right to Exist' "

Questioning Israel's very "right to exist" is a well-employed tool of Israel's detractors to call into question the Jewish state's legitimacy as part of an effort to undermine her.
Aaargghhh! So close…they almost got it right. I think this would have hit the nail on the head,
Constructing false accusations of questioning Israel's very "right to exist" is a well-employed tool of Israel's apologists to call into question the critics of the Jewish state's actions as part of an effort to undermine them.

And HR just love doing it.
In February, HonestReporting highlighted an op-ed in the Christian Science Monitor that questioned Israel's right to exist.

This is more of HRs self-referential, blatantly dishonest, 'fact'-creation strategy. See here.

Now, the Los Angeles Times follows suit, giving space to Saree Makdisi to ask, "Why does The Times recognize Israel's 'right to exist' "?

Did he ask this? You might think that given the use of quotation marks ("Why does The Times recognize Israel's 'right to exist'?" “) that this is a direct quote from Madski’s article (seems a reasonable assumption doesn't it?). Alas no, Saree Makdisi did not say that, HR are just being blatantly dishonest, as usual. All perfectly normal at HR – they aren’t to be deterred by mere reality. If Makdisi doesn’t say exactly what suits HR, they just make something up and attribute it to him.

In this latest LA Times piece, Makdisi muddies the issue of "recognition" in legalistic jargon while failing to acknowledge that the issue goes deeper than this in practical terms....
Yes, Makdsi is truly evil, employing logic and relevant legal principles to the question of what is meant by ‘recognising Israel’.

Israel and the Palestinians recognized each other by signing the Oslo Accords and final borders could be negotiated as part of an overall settlement.
Confusion reigns! The evil Palestinians won’t recognise Israel, whines HR….but they did 14 years ago. How did that one slip through? I’m looking forward to the next HR announcement –‘Heads Roll at HR for Telling the Truth’.

This is brilliant stuff from ‘Honest’Reporting - the central premise of this entire “Media Critique” is a lie. I guess they are employed for their ideological obedience, not their intelligence or grasp of basic ethics.

March 10 Media Critique: “Time for a Retraction”

It’s hard to know what exactly should be retracted. HR is typically inaccurate,

In October 2006, notoriously anti-Israel journalist Robert Fisk was given the front page of the UK's Independent to spread the libel that Israel had used uranium-based weapons in southern Lebanon during last summer's war.
And Fisk was typically circumspect, asking questions rather than making unsupported assertions like the one that HR makes – “the libel that Israel had used….. ”. HR would do well to take a lesson in objectivity from Robert Fisk. Here are a few examples,

Did Israel use a secret new uranium-based weapon in southern Lebanon…..?
Fisk details the evidence supporting the charge,

But scientific evidence gathered from at least two bomb craters in Khiam and At-Tiri, the scene of fierce fighting between Hizbollah guerrillas and Israeli troops last July and August, suggests that uranium-based munitions may now also be included in Israel's weapons inventory - and were used against targets in Lebanon. According to Dr Chris Busby, the British Scientific Secretary of the European Committee on Radiation Risk, two soil samples thrown up by Israeli heavy or guided bombs showed "elevated radiation signatures". Both have been forwarded for further examination to the Harwell laboratory in Oxfordshire for mass spectrometry - used by the Ministry of Defence - which has confirmed the concentration of uranium isotopes in the samples.

And gives a chance for those subject to the allegation a chance to respond,

Asked by The Independent if the Israeli army had been using uranium-based munitions in Lebanon this summer, Mark Regev, the Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman, said: "Israel does not use any weaponry which is not authorised by international law or international conventions.
Any chance of HR retracting its false allegation against Robert Fisk? A snowflakes chance in hell.

This must have really hit a nerve. Why else would HR keep telling it’s readers of every ‘debunking’ of John Dugards opinion on Israeli practices in the OTs.

Just to remind you, Dugard might know something about Apartheid as he is a South African. HR link to an Op-Ed piece that tries to ‘debunk’ Dugard,

In his introduction he states: "I shall not consider the violation of human rights caused by Palestinian suicide bombers. Nor shall I consider the violation of human rights caused by the political conflict between Fatah and Hamas."
That sort of bias taints every page of Dugard's report and destroys the credibility of its conclusions...
Yes, someone’s bias is on display, but it’s the Op-Ed writer, who ignores the final sentence of that paragraph where Dugard explains why this is the case.
Such matters are of deep concern to me, but my mandate precludes me from examining them.
Of course you can imagine that a report on South African Apartheid that failed to detail the criminal acts of the ANC or the conflict between the ANC and the Inkatha Freedom Party would have had it’s credibility destroyed……..or so apologists for South African Apartheid would probably have argued.

You can read the whole of John Dugards detailed report here.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

March 1 Media Critique: "Missing the Big Picture"

HonestReporting have come up with some pretty thin pretexts for its’ Media Critiques, and this one is right up there with the thinnest of them.

We highlighted how many media outlets were prepared to take the libels surrounding Israeli excavations at the Mugrabi Gate at face value…… the meantime, the media has taken its eye off the ball and has still not corrected its coverage.

Highlighted”? This must be a synonym for 'alleged', as HRs February 11 report could provide not a single example of what it claimed the media was doing wrong.

This is an emerging favourite HR strategy – self-referencing claims. The original report makes allegations with no evidence to back them and a few weeks later a subsequent report references the old report as the source of an established fact.

The media “has still not corrected its coverage”, because there is nothing to correct.

This is the gaffe that isn’t.

Several ultra-Orthodox Jews protest against the excavations at Al-Haram al-Sharif and about the Israeli state in general. This is accurately reported by Reuters. What’s the gaffe?? That this fact was reported, apparently. All HR can complain about is a lack of “context”. The context that HR would seem to prefer would be if they were totally ignored. Reuters took a photo and gave it an accurate caption and the Times of London gave the story 2 paragraphs, which is a “full news brief” according to HR. I wonder what their partial news briefs look like?

Yes, what??

The mainstream media has reported claims by the Russian Foreign Minister that Hamas has pledged to end missile attacks and violence against Israel. While Hamas supreme leader Khaled Mashaal attempts to project a "moderate" image in order to persuade the Russians to help lift the international boycott of the Palestinian government, the media has virtually ignored the steady stream of Qassams that continues to fall on Israel, launched from the Gaza Strip. This, in addition to other Palestinian terror that includes the murder of Erez Levanon in the West Bank.

HR has a flexible approach to the truth, which allows them to fabricate the assertions above. The article linked to about the visit to Russia is headlined “Russian official: Hamas may halt attacks”. Not much of a “pledge” is it? The article quotes Khaled Meshal which makes the “maybe” quite clear,

First of all, Israel has to end its occupation of Palestinian territory and put an end to the suffering of the Palestinian people.

And the “steady stream” of Qassams amounts to one incident where Islamic Jihad fired 5 Qassams in response to the IDF killing 3 of it’s members in Jenin, with a few other episodes of smaller numbers of Qassams landing inside Israel, with no injuries reported.

Finally the killing of a West Bank settler didn’t get much coverage, but it was reported in The Independent.

By selectively reporting events in Israel, the media contributes to creating a distorted picture of the reality.

HR demonstrates that its extremely selective attention enables it to claim whatever it likes, despite the facts.

It’s still very unclear what parts of the “big picture” are being missed. Maybe that the Israeli Occupation will reach its 40th anniversary this year, or the general humanitarian situation in the OTs, the travel restrictions, or the ongoing human rights abuses.

All very important, and under-reported, parts of the “big picture”, but probably not what HR meant.