Monday, May 26, 2008

May 22 ‘Media Critique’: "Al-Dura Trial: Karsenty Wins in Paris”

Yet again we visit HonestReportings current favourite conspiracy – the shooting of Mohammed Al-Dura.

In what must be considered an exemplary display of mass stupidity, the story is all over the stridently pro-Israel blogosphere where a French courts over-turning of Phillip Karsenty’s libel conviction is being described as proving that “al- Dura [is] a hoax!’. No, it’s not. It’s a French courts interpretation of what constitutes libel under French law. The decision seems to be that Karsenty was deemed to have made good faith criticisms that could not be seen as libelous. Karsenty no longer has to pay his 1 Euro fine. Until the likely appeal.

Not that you can blame them. It’s certainly a good tactic to focus on a single prominent incident where doubt can be cultivated, and so ignore the pile of bodies where there is no doubt.

It’s worth remembering that Mohammed al-Dura died two days into the Second Intifada, and while HR and others like to pretend that this was the start of the violence, the truth is that by September 30, 2000, Israeli forces had already killed 8 unarmed Palestinians. Two years later the number of dead children was 270. Ha'aretz noted in October 2002,

IDF bullets killed 231 Palestinian children. That is, 85 percent of the children who were killed were shot. An accusation that has been appearing in all the reports published by human rights organizations in Israel and internationally is that IDF soldiers are "trigger-happy" and that during the suppression of demonstrations and various kinds of protest actions, in which children also participate, the IDF "employs exaggerated force that is deadly and disproportionate."

Israels apologists will continue to focus on any doubt they can, to ignore this reality. Take another uncontested example. You’ve probably never head of 7 yr old Sami Abu Jazzar. He died just 12 days after al-Dura. But it wasn’t filmed.

However, several field workers from Amnesty International did witness his murder,

On 10 October 2000 Amnesty International delegates witnessed the aftermath of a stone throwing demonstration in Rafah on the southern edge of the Gaza Strip. Israeli soldiers shot at a crowd of some 400 people, mostly primary schoolchildren, who were throwing stones at an Israeli military post. Sami Fathi Abu Jazzar was shot in the head; a live bullet entered his forehead above his left eyebrow, went through the skull diagonally and exited at the back of his head. He died the following day, on the eve of his 12th birthday. Six other children were injured by live fire in the same incident. Amnesty International delegates, including an expert in riot policing, concluded that the lives of Israeli soldiers were not in danger and that their use of lethal force was unjustified, as their position was not only heavily fortified, but there were also two wire fences between the post and the stone throwers, who were some 200 metres away. - (‘Killing the Future: Children in the Line of Fire” AI, 30/9/2002)

Repeatedly, Israeli forces have demonstrated their complete disregard for the lives of unarmed Palestinian civilians, including children. Mohammed al-Dura wasn’t an icon or, unfortunately, anything terribly special. He was just one of a number, a number that now stands at almost 1000 Palestinian children killed since September 30, 2000.

The tactics of the pro-Israel lobby have always struck me as a cynical public relations campaign. I was recently reading how the tobacco industry approached the thorny problem of the facts of smoking in relation to human health. The following quote from one the most infamous memo’s produced by the tobacco lobby, immediately made me think of HonestReportings “al-Dura affair” and the tactics of the pro-Israel media campaigners in general,

Doubt is our product, since it is the best means of competing with the 'body of fact' that exists in the minds of the general public. It is also the means of establishing a controversy.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

May 20 ‘Media Critique’: “Revising History: NY Times Op-Ed Promotes Pappe”

Simple intolerance explains HonestReportings latest plaintive whines.

The past few weeks have witnessed a deluge of articles, op-eds and features surrounding the 60th anniversary of Israel's independence. Many of these have focused not on Israel itself but on the Palestinian "Nakba" or "Catastrophe"

Many”, “focused”? Examples – 1. Which is about the only article in the NYT that does what HR claim to any significant degree, but that's proably because it's an article written about the Palestinians in relation to Israel's 60th. Elias Khoury must have had HR in mind when he wrote,

No one wishes to hear the Palestinian story.

The same day saw this published by the NYT, but the complete absence of a mention of, let alone a focus on, Palestinians is not a fact likely to perturb HR from its fictions.

Worst of all Khoury mentions the work of Illan Pappe, evoking more outraged intolerance for daring to report the views of someone HR does not agree with.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

May 14 ‘Media Critique’: “Exposed - Anti-Israeli Subversion on Wikipedia”

Except HonestReporting manage to expose nothing.

This is really just a reaction to the self-inflicted black-eye that the other main pro-Israeli media advocacy group, CAMERA, managed to give itself.

If you haven’t heard about this, Electronic Intifada exposed a CAMERA-sponsored group that was trying to secretly infiltrate Wikipedia with the express purpose of becoming Administrators, who would then have voting rights on contentious issues relating to content. And of course, the plan was to exercise this right to ensure content was more to their pro-Israel tastes.

All very underhanded and totally against Wikipedia rules.

And according to HRs understanding of balance, a negative story about pro-Israel meddling at Wikipedia, requires the same on the other side of the fence, no matter how flimsy the attempt. The best HR can come up with is a pretty poor effort in damage control from NGO Monitor. They try to suggest that 2 publicly known groups, a Yahoo group and, even more desperately, an officially recognized and acceptable WikiProject group, where equivalent manifestations of the same problem from pro-Palestine groups.

Complete rubbish.

The Palestine groups are quite honest and up-front. The CAMERA effort was secretive (though eventually uncovered) and deeply dishonest. The group expressly discussed ways to disguise their real agenda until they became administrators and could exert their pro-Israel influence on content.

I wouldn’t be the slightest bit surprised if there were similar elements from HR exercising their intolerance and prejudices at Wikipedia.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

May 11 ‘Media Critique’: “Hari Seeks to Smear HonestReporting”

How so (Hari's response here)?

HonestReporting critiqued Johann Hari's op-ed in the Independent, systematically exposing the many distortions, omissions and Hari's reliance on fringe revisionist sources and individuals.

Distortions. Nasty. Pity HR didn’t take the opportunity to explain its own monstrous distortion of Hari’s story when it fabricated this - “Hari compares Israel to excrement”.

Hari never even suggested this. HR’s silence on its own appalling transgression of basic standards of honesty says it all.

HR point to another op-ed in The Independent to defend them. Howard Jacobson writes

Indeed, accusing your detractors of carrying out a campaign often amounts to carrying out one in return - for it is a smear in itself to accuse people who disagree with you of acting out of no other motive than malice. He who says I smear him when I don't smears me.

Unfortunately for HR, Howard constructs a defence one could drive a truck through…sideways. See, Hari didn’t criticize HR for no reason other than malice, but because HR misrepresented what he wrote by falsely claiming, amongst other things, that Hari compares Israel to excrement”, . He didn’t. That was dishonest. A fabrication. A lie.

Yes Howard, it was, by your definition, a smear. Thanks for clearing that up.

Not content with that fairly crude and transparent bit of sophistry, Howard had more pearls of wisdom,

Something else doesn't feel quite right to me about Johann Hari's unearthing of this "campaign", and that is his assertion that "it is an attempt to intimidate and silence – and to a large degree it works". To my ear, that answers intimidation with intimidation, since it impugns the intellectual honour of those of whom he speaks, and coerces us into thinking the worst of them. Furthermore, it is patently untrue that "intimidation" has worked. Johann himself is demonstrably not intimidated. Nor is it easy to see who else is.

Well Howard, if Hari had written ‘it totally works’, you might have a point.

And how dare Hari impugn the "intellectual honour” of those who fabricated the allegation against him by pointing out the fabrications, and “coerce” us into thinking that telling lies about others isn’t right. Thanks Howard, that has to be one of the biggest piles of horse-shit dressed up in pseudo-liberal garb that I’ve heard in quite some time.

Intimidation? – it’s Hari’s that seems most problematic to Howard. HR lie about Hari’s writing, asking its readers to complain based on the lies, and they oblige, sending many letters demanding Hari be sacked. Johann shame on you for your intimidation!

Needless to say, neither HonestReporting, nor its erstwhile defender, Howard, have uttered a single syllable about HRs fabrication of the “Hari compares Israel to excrement” lie.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

May 7 ‘Media Critique: “The BBC's Birthday Present to Israel”

HonestReporting’s whine is now about a BBC film that most people can’t even watch (it is only available in the UK).

It’s especially problematic as it was produced by the BBC’s Middle East Editor, Jeremy Bowen. Bowen is one of the best Middle East journalists going around. He’s knowledgeable, experienced, and worst of all from HRs point of view, he’s not susceptible to attack from partisans demanding that his work conform to their particular prejudices.

The events leading up to the creation of the modern-day State of Israel exactly 60 years ago have been examined and re-examined by qualified historians. So why was Jeremy Bowen given the responsibility of producing the BBC's one-hour documentary "The Birth of Israel" broadcast on May 4, 2008?

As usual, you only need to go back one week to see HRs flip-flopping on matters of principle. Today it wants historians, last week it denounced Johann Hari for relying on a historian. For HR it’s all a matter of which one best suits it tastes, and Illan Pappe didn't.

What follows is a HR lesson in history – the way HR would like it reported, which is from the perspective of a strong emotional identificition with Israel. Anything else is bias, of course.

Being the reasonable types they are, HR then emplore it’s readers, most of whom will not have seen the film, to send your considered comments to the BBC Complaints website”. Those considered comments being exactly what HR have just told them to think.

And being the stupid sheep that they are, many probably will.

Friday, May 02, 2008

April 30 ‘Media Critique’: “The Stench Spreads: Johann Hari's Stinking Op-Ed”

HR are in a lather over this op-ed piece from Johann Hari.

Again, HR exhibit their anti-free speech instincts by attacking Hari for expressing his opinion, based on his experience in the West Bank. Hari saw, and smelt, at first hand the settlements discharging their untreated sewerage onto Palestinian land.

HR sum it up thus,
"Using a falsified quote and revisionist history, Hari compares Israel to excrement."

HR is back to an old favourite tactic – misrepresent a story to incite it’s readers. An angry reader is an emailing reader, firing off complaint emails with a minimum of cerebral activity. And what better way to do it than with this lie – “Hari compares Israel to excrement”. No, he didn’t. There was no comparison being made, just a recollection of the smell he experienced. HR deliberately misrepresent Hari's words immediately after complaining of "falsified quotes"! They're nothing if not audacious in their dishonesty.

And onto the “falsified quote”. Hari reproduces a quote from Illan Pappe’s 'The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine'

The Arabs will have to go, but one needs an opportune moment for making it happen, such as a war.

Pappe gives 2 sources for the quote in his book. HR refer to a letter written by Benny Morris in 2006, after Hari first used the quote, to back their claim,

……is an invention, pure and simple, either by Hari or by whomever he is quoting (Ilan Pappe?)……..

Forgive me if I’m not entirely convinced by Morris’s assertion when he isn’t even sure of the source of the quote. Ephraim Karsh can usually be relied upon to point out any such errors by the ‘New Historians’ if they’ve been made, but I’ve seen no reference to this by him (corrections on this point welcome).

Interestingly, HR leave out the next sentence from Morris’s letter,

It is true that Ben-Gurion in 1937-38 supported the transfer of the Arabs out of the area of the Jewish state-to-be…

The real problem for HR with this article is simply the fact that it expresses an opinion that they don't agree with, and don't want to see expressed, because it is critical of Israel.

HR - enemies of intellectual diversity and free expression.

Sadly for HR, the chances of The Independent rolling over in the face of its contrived outrage are zero.


The HonestReporting zombies aren’t known for their capacity for independent thought, but the absolute disregard for fairness, accuracy and honesty displayed by HR in this case, has even been noticed by a few of the faithful. This is from HRs own comments section,

HR, you are up in arms that Hari dared to call you dishonest and fanatical, but take a look at how you've misrepresented him here, you claim he compared Israel to excrement then quoted him

Whenever I try to mouth these words [of reassurance for Israel], a remembered smell fills my nostrils. It is the smell of shit.’

conveniently cutting out the following sentence,

Across the occupied West Bank, raw untreated sewage is pumped every day out of the Jewish settlements, along large metal pipes, straight onto Palestinian land. From there, it can enter the groundwater and the reservoirs, and become a poison.’
which clearly shows Hari was not comparing Israel the country to excrement, but was talking about the failure of Israeli settlements to deal with their sewage properly by dumping it on Palestinian land. His point was quite clear.

……………And maybe it's time HR stopped fanatically defending everything Israel does, and perhaps put some of their time and effort into holding Israel to account where need be? Maybe a communique calling on readers to write letters to the relevant authorities in the Israeli settlements to deal with their sewage problem properly? – Alex

That'll be the day Alex!

Personally, I'm offended that HR slanted its quote in that manner. It was Dishonest Reporting; exactly the kind of "reporting” I do not look for in HR's reports.

……………..If Hari has a point, REPORT IT fully. I find that clipping a quote to be as disingenuous as anything I’ve ever seen in HR. – Beverly.

April 27 ‘Media Critique’: “Passed Over: Shorts You May Have Missed”



An interesting article from Mahmoud al-Zahar in The Washington Post.

HR have tried this lame angle before. Anything to throw mud at media organizations who dare to allow non-approved opinions appear in their pages.


So Israel is not restricting fuel and other suppliers into Gaza? It certainly is, but HR show that they can spin with the best,

Despite Hamas attempts to manipulate the situation, Israel continues to allow humanitarian aid and fuel into the Gaza Strip even if the media fails to report it.

Yes, obviously they should be praised for the small amounts they continue to allow in.



There is only the dead cameramans own footage showing him being fired at by the tank, so let’s be very careful and note that this is just an accusation.

In the spirit of defending freedom of the press, a principle very dear to HR, they post a long excerpt from JPost making it clear that even if it was the Israeli tank that killed the Palestinian camerman, it was actually the Palestinians who are to blame.

It was only June last year that HR was heroically defending ‘freedom of the press’,

Freedom of the press, however, is a fundamental value and essential if the media is to report on the Palestinians, free from the threats imposed by the behavior of Palestinian terror groups and their allies.

Apparently it's not so essential when it’s the IDF killing journalists.

Anyone surprised?


And just as I predicted, the “Al-Dura Affair”………