Daily Mail characterizes Israeli tourists at Syrian look-out point as “ghoulish”

Ghoulish: Morbidly interested in death or disaster 

The Mount Bental Look-Out point in the Golan is one of the more popular Israeli mountain peaks, due in part to the beautiful views of the Golan, Mt. Hermon and Syria, and because it was the site of a battle during the Yom Kippur War in which 160 Israeli tanks successfully held off nearly ten times their number of Syrian tanks. 

Sightseers can also of course look down at the Syrian town of Quneitra and the Quneitra crossing point, the only border crossing between Syria and Israel on the Golan Heights – the sight, quite recently, of fierce fighting between rebels from the Nusra Front and Syrian government forces.

Here’s the Daily Mail’s headline, evidently inspired in part by an EPA photo of the Bental look-out point, published on Sept. 5th.

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Now here’s a photo (and caption), used to illustrate the Daily Mail article, of those “ghoulish” Israeli daytrippers:

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Here are the opening passages of the article:

Donning T-shirts, shorts and sunglasses, they stand on a mountainside platform, gazing into the distance through sets of binoculars.

But these Israeli daytrippers aren’t just admiring the landscape – they are watching a fierce battle just over the Syrian border. One that now involves ISIS.

The militant group – which released a video of their execution of American journalist Steven Sotloff earlier this week – are now just half a mile from the Golan Heights border crossing between Israel and Syria.

The Queneitra crossing has already seen fierce fighting between the Syrian army and the al-Qaeda-affiliated Nusra Front, with the rebels taking control of the Syrian checkpoint just weeks ago.  

Today, smoke could be seen rising from the outskirts of the town of Quneitra as the Syrian military fired at the rebels, killing at least 16

Overlooking orchards spilling down the mountainside, the platform was the perfect spot for the local daytrippers to watch battle commence.

‘I can see the terrorists at the checkpoint,’ Majd Abu Akl, a Druze Israeli farmer, looking east through binoculars to Syria, told the Financial Times.

He identified some of the men as belonging to the Nusra Front by their black uniforms, while others were driving around in UN jeeps with black ISIS flags.

Israelis, who have long considered Syrian President Bashar al-Assad their bitter foe, are now worried about the threat of the ever-nearing militants.

‘There is a battle for control on the other side of the border; we are watching it carefully,’ said Peter Lerner, a spokesman for the Israel Defence forces.  So far it hasn’t been pointed in our direction, but we need to be prepared for that day.’

Even if we are to assume that some of the Israelis seen in the photo came to his extremely popular lookout site specifically to watch the fighting, the big question which leaps to mind is how on earth the Daily Mail was able to establish that they came because they get perverse “ghoulish” pleasure in watching the death and destruction.

Finally, in a classic case of burying the lead, the next passage in the article highlights another dynamic related to ISIS.

It comes as a report of a gathering of ‘thousands’ of ISIS supporters at Jerusalem’s Temple Mount has increased concerns that the extremist group’s sights are focused on Israel as a future target.

So, to recap:

1. A few dozen Israeli tourists go to Mt. Bental, where those “armed with binoculars” can evidently see fighting between Islamist rebels and Syrian government forces over the Quneitra border crossing.

2. Thousands of Palestinians showed up at Jerusalem’s Temple Mount to show their support for barbaric jihadists known as ISIS.

3. The Daily Mail frames the story by speculating on the ill-motives of the Israeli tourists, while brushing aside (evidently as morally insignificant) the ugly spectacle of thousands of Palestinians showing their support for ISIS. 

As our analysis of the UK media’s coverage of the region consistently indicates, not only do foreign journalists see their job as making sure that “every flaw in Israeli society is aggressively reported”, but in fact often manage to frame even the most benign and innocent Israeli behavior in the most negative light possible.

Brits for the Islamic State: Guardian publishes two pro-ISIS letters

Based on a recent poll, 7 percent of residents in the UK support the barbaric jihadists of the Islamic State (ISIS), which, though incredibly disturbing in its own right, represents a far lower level of support than in France, where 16 percent expressed their approval.

While support in Europe for ISIS presumably comes mostly from Islamists in predominantly Muslim immigrant communities, the following letters, published at the Guardian on Aug. 27 (which were in response to an op-ed titled ‘Isis: an apocalyptic cult carving a place in the modern world‘) were penned by Brits in largely white, non-immigrant communities. 

The Islamic State caliphate finally realises a dream that goes back to the 1920s when the Muslim Brotherhood was established. Syria has been its main target since the 1960s. Assassinations of government figures hardened the Assad regime’s security apparatus and freedom was sacrificed for security. Syria remains resolutely secular and the nation’s disparate minorities continue to support Assad. The Islamists could not overthrow them, even with US weaponry and Saudi finance. Now they have established a base where they can fulfil their dream of an Islamist state. Why not let them have it? Agree new borders with Syria and Iraq to replace the Sykes-Picot lines in the sand, encourage repopulation of the region with fundamentalists and fund relocation of the refugees. The state of Israel was established against a similar background of desperation mixed with terrorist cruelty – existential challenges bring out the worst in people. The west supported the Zionist dream, so why not the Islamist one?
Craig Sams
Hastings, East Sussex

John Gray (An apocalyptic cult carving a place in the modern world, 26 August) says that “to view Isis as expressing the core of one of the world’s great religious is to endorse Isis’s view of itself, which Islamic religious authorities across the world have rejected”.

I thought the point of the Enlightenment (and the Guardian) was to take nothing on authority but to think for oneself and test one’s theories rationally. Mr Gray, author of Al Qaeda and What it Means to be Modern, appears to have missed this point. Neither the views of Isis about itself nor the views of “religious authorities” are or should be determinative. I prefer to think for myself and, having read the Qur’an from cover to cover several times, I agree with Isis.
Paul Simmons
East Twickenham, Middlesex

We’ve read some outlandish letters at the Guardian before, but these are simply beyond comprehension.

We’ll leave the simply delusional comparison with Zionism, in the first letter, aside, and just note that ISIS represents a simply monstrous brand of Islamic extremism, whose members have kidnapped large numbers of women for sex slavery and engaged in the mass murder of religious minorities.  Their objective is the establishment of a worldwide Caliphate.

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ISIS Tweeted this photo showing a child holding a severed head of an executed man, with a phrase boasting that: “This is how the cubs of the Caliphate are raised up”.

The SITE Intelligence Group provides good background:

The massacres carried out by IS are an integral expression of the organization’s worldview and not random atrocities.  This ideology, while related to the jihadi-salafism practiced by al-Qaeda (AQ), is far more extreme, leading the Islamic State to claim that it is AQ that has altered the original creed and methodology of Usama bin Ladin.  Among the specific aspects that set it apart from al-Qaeda’s belief system are a requirement of absolute obedience to their so-called “caliph” with no dissention and no organizations that are separate from his control; a demand for constant warfare against anyone who supports the “apostate” regimes; and a focus on wiping out entire cultures and people groups, including Yazidis, Christians, Sabaeans, and all Shi’a.

Each piece of this abhorrent ideology comes with deliberate planning and purpose-built organizations designed to realize the new “caliph’s” vision.  For instance, in order to impose their horrific vision of society on the people of Syria, the Caliphate is forcibly inculcating ordinary Muslims, especially the young, into the Islamic State’s version of Islam.  Recent reporting from Raqqa, Syria, by Vice News, an edgy group of journalists known for their work in dangerous spots around the world, shows the use of indoctrination centers (some in former churches), mobile proselytization vans, and outdoor propaganda gatherings to introduce unwilling citizens of Raqqa to the Islamic State’s ideology and way of life.  There is also video footage of strangely compliant prisoners, all calmly agreeing that they have sinned and deserve their punishment of death or beatings.

To coerce conquered populations into living out IS’s vision, the groups has set up “shari’a police,” or the Hisba.  Based on a medieval institution sometimes known as the “Body to Command Right and Forbid Wrong,” the Hisba enforces compliance with the group’s extremist version of Islamic law.  AQ affiliates like Shabaab have set up similar units that have the authority to arrest anyone caught committing infractions against that group’s stringent legal code

IS has also created an ideologically motivated force, similar to the Nazi SS troops, to act as their shock forces in this fight.  The units, known as the “Inghimasiyun,” or “those who plunge [into battle],” recall a concept of warfare from the early days of Islam, when the most ardent of the believers would rush into the enemies’ ranks without taking care for their own lives.  In a similar fashion, accounts from Iraq and Syria suggest that the Inghimasiyun often carry out suicide bombings either as part of the planned assault or as a way to avoid capture. 

Even more disturbing than the Inghimasiyun are the so-called “Dhabiha” (or “Slaughterers”), which constitute what would be the Einsatzgruppen (Nazi death squads) of IS.  The purpose of these units, as with the Nazi “task forces,” is to carry out the massacre of enemies of the state in an organized fashion.  Unlike the Nazi units, however, the Dhabiha take care to film themselves carrying out their atrocities and post photos and videos to social media in order to terrify others into obedience.  The recent beheading of 700 tribal members involved in an attempted uprising in Dayr al-Zawr, Syria against IS fits the modus operandi of the Dhabiha, as does the posting online soon afterward of videos of the carnage.

SITE reasonably characterizes ISIS’s medieval ideology as akin to the worst totalitarian states of the last century.

ISIS is simply evil, and the thought that even 7 percent of Brits – including, evidently, some inspired by a far-left ideology – view the group favorably is truly frightening. 

Guardian fauxtography: Chris McGreal pulls a Jon Donnison

You no doubt recall when, during the last war in Gaza in 2012, BBC’s Jon Donnison tweeted a photo of a girl with the title “Pain in Gaza”, to which Donnison added his own commentary – “Heartbreaking”.  It of course turned out that the genuinely heartbreaking image was actually from Syria and not from Gaza – a mistake for which Donnison subsequently apologized. 

Well, within the last hour, the Guardian’s Chris McGreal just retweeted the following, to his nearly 4,000 followers, a Tweet by Sarah Leah Whitson, Executive Director, Middle East and North Africa Division, for Human Rights Watch.

syria

However, this photo of a boy (8 year old Eid) holding his new prosthetic leg was taken in Syria, not Gaza.

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The article posted at the site of Palestine Children’s Relief Fund explains:

Thanks to the support of donors all over the world, the hard work of the PCRF Jordan Chapter, and Mr. Charl Stenger, an orthotics specialist working in Dubai, 8-year-old Eid from Syria got his new artificial legs after losing them from a bombing earlier this year (his mother was killed and his 5-year-old sister also lost a leg).  The PCRF is dedicated to helping any child in need, regardless of their nationality, religion or ethnicity.  

No doubt, apologies from McGreal and Whitson will be forthcoming.

UPDATE: Whitson deleted her tweet and wrote this:

delete

No word yet from McGreal.

Everything you always wanted to know about media coverage of Israel but were afraid to ask

In carrying out this blog’s mission, we often attempt to contextualize Guardian/UK media coverage of Israel and the Jewish world by explaining not only what they get wrong, but also why they get it wrong.

eye_stardavid400x246_3k8lxgc5Tablet Magazine just published a long and extremely important article (by former AP correspondent Matti Friedman) which masterfully dissects such institutional bias against Israel – in the broader Western media – and we strongly encourage those who’ve thought seriously about the subject to read the 4,000 word essay in full.

Here are some excerpts:

Intro:

The lasting importance of this summer’s war, I believe, doesn’t lie in the war itself. It lies instead in the way the war has been described and responded to abroad, and the way this has laid bare the resurgence of an old, twisted pattern of thought and its migration from the margins to the mainstream of Western discourse—namely, a hostile obsession with Jews. The key to understanding this resurgence is not to be found among jihadi webmasters, basement conspiracy theorists, or radical activists. It is instead to be found first among the educated and respectable people who populate the international news industry; 

How Important Is the Israel Story?

Staffing is the best measure of the importance of a story to a particular news organization. When I was a correspondent at the AP, the agency had more than 40 staffers covering Israel and the Palestinian territories. That was significantly more news staff than the AP had in China, Russia, or India, or in all of the 50 countries of sub-Saharan Africa combined

To offer a sense of scale: Before the outbreak of the civil war in Syria, the permanent AP presence in that country consisted of a single regime-approved stringer. The AP’s editors believed, that is, that Syria’s importance was less than one-40th that of Israel.

What Is Important About the Israel Story, and What Is Not

A reporter working in the international press corps here understands quickly that what is important in the Israel-Palestinian story is Israel. If you follow mainstream coverage, you will find nearly no real analysis of Palestinian society or ideologies, profiles of armed Palestinian groups, or investigation of Palestinian government. Palestinians are not taken seriously as agents of their own fate

Israeli actions are analyzed and criticized, and every flaw in Israeli society is aggressively reported. In one seven-week period, from Nov. 8 to Dec. 16, 2011, I…counted 27 separate articles, an average of a story every two days….this seven-week tally was higher than the total number of significantly critical stories about Palestinian government and society, including the totalitarian Islamists of Hamas, that our bureau had published in the preceding three years.

The Hamas charter, for example, calls not just for Israel’s destruction but for the murder of Jews and blames Jews for engineering the French and Russian revolutions and both world wars; the charter was never mentioned in print when I was at the AP

What Else “Isn’t” Important?

In early 2009..two colleagues of mine obtained information that Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert had made a significant peace offer to the Palestinian Authority several months earlier, and that the Palestinians had deemed it insufficient. This had not been reported yet and it was—or should have been—one of the biggest stories of the year. The reporters obtained confirmation from both sides and one even saw a map, but the top editors at the bureau decided that they would not publish the story….

This decision taught me a lesson that should be clear to consumers of the Israel story: Many of the people deciding what you will read and see from here view their role not as explanatory but as political. Coverage is a weapon to be placed at the disposal of the side they like.

How Is the Israel Story Framed?

The Israel story is framed in the same terms that have been in use since the early 1990s—the quest for a “two-state solution.” It is accepted that the conflict is “Israeli-Palestinian,” meaning that it is a conflict taking place on land that Israel controls—0.2 percent of the Arab world—in which Jews are a majority and Arabs a minority. The conflict is more accurately described as “Israel-Arab,” or “Jewish-Arab”—that is, a conflict between the 6 million Jews of Israel and 300 million Arabs in surrounding countries…

The “Israeli-Palestinian” framing allows the Jews, a tiny minority in the Middle East, to be depicted as the stronger party

The Old Blank Screen

For centuries, stateless Jews played the role of a lightning rod for ill will among the majority population. They were a symbol of things that were wrong. Did you want to make the point that greed was bad? Jews were greedy. Cowardice? Jews were cowardly. Were you a Communist? Jews were capitalists. Were you a capitalist? In that case, Jews were Communists. Moral failure was the essential trait of the Jew…

Like many Jews who grew up late in the 20th century in friendly Western cities, I dismissed such ideas as the feverish memories of my grandparents. One thing I have learned…is that I was foolish to have done so. Today, people in the West tend to believe the ills of the age are racism, colonialism, and militarism. The world’s only Jewish country has done less harm than most countries on earth, and more good—and yet when people went looking for a country that would symbolize the sins of our new post-colonial, post-militaristic, post-ethnic dream-world, the country they chose was this one.

Who Cares If the World Gets the Israel Story Wrong?

Understanding what happened in Gaza this summer…requires us to understand what is clear to nearly everyone in the Middle East: The ascendant force in our part of the world is not democracy or modernity. It is rather an empowered strain of Islam that assumes different and sometimes conflicting forms, and that is willing to employ extreme violence in a quest to unite the region under its control and confront the West. Those who grasp this fact will be able to look around and connect the dots

Israel is not an idea, a symbol of good or evil, or a litmus test for liberal opinion at dinner parties. It is a small country in a scary part of the world that is getting scarier. It should be reported as critically as any other place, and understood in context and in proportion. 

Read the rest of the essay here.

Robert Fisk is worried about terror threat posed by ‘radicalized British Zionists’

 An article in the Independent on June 22nd reported that “hundreds of veteran fighters from Syria and Iraq are already back in Britain, among them radicalized jihadists intent on mounting terror attacks”.  In a speech last October, MI5 director-general Andrew Parker said: “A growing proportion of our casework now has some link to Syria, mostly concerning individuals from the UK who have traveled to fight there or who aspire to do so.” Even more troubling, according to the Financial Times “more than half of MI5’s anti-terror investigations involve Britons who have travelled to fight in Syria“.

While it’s well-known that the 7/7 London bombers trained in jihadist camps in Pakistan, and that the main suspect in the murder of Lee Rigby attempted to train with a group linked to al-Qaeda, the threat posted by radicalized European Islamists was illustrated more recently when it was reported that the terrorist who murdered four at the Brussels Jewish Museum spent over a year in Syria training with “jihadist terrorist groups”.

Nonetheless, despite such incidents, the threat which seems to keep Robert Fisk up at night is one of fairness – the question of whether British security agencies are equally keeping an eye on a potentially radicalized group of another religious tradition.

In a truly risible column at the Indy on July 28th titled “It’s not just radicalised Islamists – what about foreign fighters who flock to the IDF?”, Fisk writes the following:

Now I think it’s a good idea that the lads in blue are keeping their eyes open at Heathrow for British citizens who’ve been fighting in the Middle East. I hope they are doing a thorough job of it – and I mean thorough. I don’t want to bump into a chap who’s been firing missiles at Christian families in Syria. But on the other hand, I also don’t want to bump into a chap who’s been firing tank shells into the homes of Palestinians in Gaza.

it would be very interesting to know if the British government is taking as close an interest as it should in any UK citizens – even if they have any other passports – who have been fighting in Israeli uniform in Gaza in the past couple of weeks.

First, can Fisk cite even one example in the history of Israel of a foreign-born IDF soldier who returned to his former country (be it the UK, US, France, Australia or anywhere else) and committed an act of terrorism?

Moreover, while we don’t have inside information into the workings of that nation’s intelligence agencies, our humble guess is that citizens in the UK can relax, and be confident that there is no intel suggesting that ‘radicalized Zionists’ in neighborhoods like Hendon, Stamford Hill and Golders Green are even conceiving of (yet alone plotting) terror attacks on British soil.

Did Jon Snow engage in Jon Donnison-style fauxtography? (UPDATED)

Channel 4 News presenter Jon Snow may have just made the same mistake that the BBC’s Jon Donnison made back in 2012, when, you likely recall, he tweeted a photo of a girl with the title “Pain in Gaza”, to which Donnison added his own commentary – “Heartbreaking”.

However, it turned out that the genuinely heartbreaking image was actually from Syria and not from Gaza – a mistake for which Donnison subsequently apologized. 

The following was Tweeted by Jon Snow at 12:24 AM, July 24, which included a link to his blog at Mashable, in a post tiled “Will I die tonight Daddy‘?

tweet by snow

Here’s the original post at Snow’s blog (at Mashable), which the tweet linked to:

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Then, a little more than an hour later, someone Tweeted the following in response:

syria

 

Later, we saw this:

first tweet

 

Snow then deleted the photo from blog, and it now includes the following:

UPDATE 4:02AM ET: Due to an editing error, an earlier version of this story featured an incorrect photo.

However, the damage was already done, as the Tweet (with the original erroneous photo) went somewhat viral, garnering over 4000 mentions in 24 hours.

Interestingly, we were able to trace the original photo (the one Snow deleted) back to Getty Images, and it contains the following caption:

Injured Palestinians at the Al Shifa Hospital

 So, is the boy from Syria, as Snow claimed in his apology Tweet, or from Gaza?  

At this stage it’s unclear exactly what kind of “editing error” the Channel 4 News presenter made.

UPDATE: It get’s stranger. Snow has deleted his apology tweet, and his blog post now includes the original photo that they had taken down, and they’ve noted the following:

update

Challenge to UK media: name an army that goes to greater lengths than the IDF to protect civilians

Writing in Jerusalem Post on Friday, Amotz-El noted that “twenty-seven years after its establishment in the wake of the first intifada, Hamas was in its worst strategic situation ever”.

Amotz-El elaborated:

[It lost Syria] its longtime ally and host – after having gambled on President Bashar Assad’s defeat in his country’s civil war. 

Down with Syria went its Iranian sponsor’s financial infusions and arms shipments to Gaza, and also the cheerleading of Hezbollah, which this week remained conspicuously quiet even as Gaza came under flames.

Having lost Syria, Hamas went on to lose Egypt.

Meanwhile, Egypt’s wrath at Hamas is fully shared by Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates, all of which also loathe any threat to the Arab world’s established regimes. Finally, Hamas managed to ruin its fledgling harmony with the Palestinian Authority, just weeks after its much-heralded announcement of a unity government with Fatah.

In short, Hamas has isolated itself so hermetically that it is shunned by monarchies and republics, Sunnis and Shi’ites, Iranians and Americans, and a world that now sees Hamas as part of a trouble-making Islamist international that runs from Nigeria through Iraq to western China.

Even Hamas’s last ally, Turkey, said little this week when the Israel Air Force pounded targets in Gaza

However, despite its diplomatic isolation, Hamas still knew it had one trump card to play: provoking a war with Israel which would result in Palestinian civilian casualties, thus eliciting positive media coverage from a compliant Western media.

As Jeffrey Goldberg observed in his recent column, in the context of trying to explain Hamas’s objectives in provoking a war:

Mahmoud Abbas, the sometimes moderate, often ineffectual leader of the Palestinian Authority, just asked his rivals in Hamas a question that other bewildered people are also asking: “What are you trying to achieve by sending rockets?”

Later in his op-ed, Goldberg provides an answer to Abbas:

Hamas is trying to get Israel to kill as many Palestinians as possible.

Dead Palestinians represent a crucial propaganda victory for the nihilists of Hamas. It is perverse, but true. It is also the best possible explanation for Hamas’s behavior, because Hamas has no other plausible strategic goal here.

This propaganda strategy, however, is dependent on Western media groups playing along, not only by highlighting every tragic Palestinian civilian death, but by also pretending that such casualties are not the result of Hamas’s cynical strategy of using human shields and other tactics meant to maximize the number of casualties.

To boot, the following heartbreaking photo and headline appeared in the print edition of The Independent on July 12th which highlighted the tragic case of a young Palestinian girl named Mariam Al-Masery.

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The Indy journalist who wrote the story, Kim Sengupta, also addressed the broader issue relating to the number of civilian deaths, and seemed incredulous in the face of IDF “claims” that the Hamas use of human shields (and related tactics) largely explains the phenomenon.

In the story’s sixteen paragraphs, only two present the Israeli side, with almost all of the remaining text providing details of the civilians’ deaths and quotes from Palestinian expressing their outrage.

Here’s one of the two paragraphs which even tries to present the Israeli side, though it immediately dismisses Israeli claims as running counter to the evidence: 

Many residents, however, maintain that missiles and bombs aimed at the homes of militants considered legitimate targets by the Israelis have also hit neighbouring family homes. This claim would run counter to repeated insistence by the Israeli authorities that the air strikes are being carried out with surgical precision to avoid collateral damage.

Of course, this is an absurd conclusion to reach, as the fact that ‘family homes’ were hit doesn’t in any way contradict IDF claims that “air strikes are being carried out with surgical precision to avoid collateral damage”. It simply means that such homes are placed in close proximity to military targets, and that the precision IDF strikes – no matter how carefully executed – obviously can’t guarantee 100% success at avoiding hitting civilian structures.  

(It’s actually quite telling that after more than 1300 Israeli strikes on terror targets thus far during the war – in the ‘densely populated’ strip – the number of Palestinians killed, combatants and non-combatants, is roughly 120. )

Of course, if the Indy journalist wanted to write a fair account of the civilian deaths, evidence abounds of Hamas culpability, whose leaders have explicitly acknowledged their human shield policy.

Additionally, the Indy journalist could have cited videos proving that Hamas places weapons caches in civilians areas, and how carefully the IDF works to attack the terror target while avoiding harming homes, schools and clinics:

Here’s another video of a precision strike:

Humanitarian tactics employed by the IDF include dropping leaflets, placing phone calls and sending text messages to Palestinians in harm’s way, and the ‘knock on the roof’ tactic (seen above).

It’s also worth noting, in the context of such reports imputing Israeli culpability in Palestinian deaths, that the Indy has thus far failed to note that almost all of the more than 800 rocket attacks on Israeli towns since the war began have been fired at civilians – each, therefore, clearly constituting a war crime.

The real story of the war – one which the UK media won’t tell – is how Hamas uses tactics which maximize the danger to their own civilians and intentionally targets all Israeli civilians, while the IDF goes to extraordinary lengths to protect both Israeli and Palestinian civilians.

On Twitter recently, we asked a source cited in a Guardian Live Blog (who had criticized as ineffective IDF tactics of warning civilians prior to an attack on a terror target) to respond to a simple question:

Name one army in the world that goes to greater lengths than the IDF to protect civilians during war.

We’re still awaiting his response.

Read Adam Levick’s latest article in The Jewish Chronicle

Here are the first few paragraphs of Adam Levick’s latest article in the Jewish Chronicle:

“You have to keep an eye on who you are following on Twitter and where the picture you’re tweeting came from,” warned a BBC journalist in a short video that accompanied an article posted on BBC Trending, a section on the corporation’s website which selects stories that are popular on social media around the world.

The article was entitled, “Are #GazaUnderAttack images accurate?”, and looked at images shared on social media by pro-Palestinian activists during the current war in Gaza.

The short post focused on the above Twitter hashtag, which, the BBC noted, “has been used hundreds of thousands of times, often to distribute pictures claiming to show the effects of the air strikes”.

The BBC warned that a “BBC Trending analysis has found that some date as far back as 2009 and others are from conflicts in Syria and Iraq”.

Read the rest of the article here.

Sunday Times journo gets caught with a Twitter faxutography

Courtesy of blogger JudgeDan, here’s a tweet by Sunday Times ‘award winning’ reporter Hala Jaber:

faux

 As Dan pointed out, the photo was from the Gaza War in November 2012.

Here’s her apology:

Though not quite at the level of the fautography of the BBC’s Jon Donnison exposed by BBC Watch in 2012, Jaber’s carelessness represents more evidence of the necessity of monitor groups and citizen journalists holding journalists accountable to professional, accurate and ethical reporting within the social media and more traditional media.   

Brussels Jewish Museum shooting suspect – lessons for Europe

 Cross posted from the blog of the CST

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Miriam and Emanuel Riva, two of the Brussels victims.

On Friday 30 May, customs officials in Marseilles, southern France, arrested 29-year-old French national Mehdi Nemmouche on suspicion of having perpetrated the previous Saturday’s terrorist attack at the Jewish Museum in Brussels, Belgium. If this is the terrorist, then there are some blatant lessons to be learned about modern Jihadism and the security implications for Jews and non-Jews in Western Europe.

The truth is that by now, after over a decade of terror attacks and plots, from Madrid to Manchester, these lessons ought merely to be confirmed: but many people are still reluctant to accept them.

The Brussels attack occurred on Saturday 24 May and was carried out by a gunman using a pistol and an AK 47 assault rifle. CCTV images showed an unidentified man walking into the unguarded building, before he opened the museum door and shot inside, leaving three dead and another on the brink of death. The gunman then walked away. News of Nemmouche’s arrest was supplemented by statements from Belgian prosecutors and French authorities.

These were initial responses and came before Nemmouche’s initial questioning had concluded, never mind any actual trial and confirmation of guilt. Nevertheless, a summary of the current information is extremely worthwhile:

  • Nemmouche was radicalised whilst in French prison. He was jailed for robbery and spent five stints in prison. Of Muslim origin, he went from having little or no interest in Islam, to becoming a would be Jihadist radical.
  • He joined Jihadists in Syria. He left for Syria on December 31, 2012, three weeks after being released from prison.
  • In Syria, he fought with ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant), the most radical of the Syrian Jihadist groups: more so even than Al Qaeda’s Syrian affiliate, Jabhat al-Nusrah, from which it split (and to which it is now hostile). ISIS is the most popular destination for western Jihadists traveling to Syria.
  • Nemmouche returned to Europe in March 2014. (Having spent over one year in Syria.)
  • He was known to the French authorities. How closely they were monitoring him before, during or after the Brussels attack remains to be seen. He was arrested in what is described as a customs search of the coach on which he was traveling from Brussels to Marseilles. (It had originated in Amsterdam.)
  • In his luggage was found the same weapons as apparently used in the Brussels attack; a baseball hat similar to that worn by the shooter; and news cuttings about the attack.
  • The weapons were found with a white cloth bearing in Arabic the name of ISIS and “G-d is great”.
  • Nemmouche also had a Go Pro camera similar to that used by Mohamed Merah when he filmed his murderous shooting attack at the Jewish Ozar Hatorah primary school in Toulouse, France in April 2012. Nemmouche has apparently admitted that the camera was strapped to his bag so it would film the attack, but it failed to do so. In his possession, Nemmouche had a 40 second film of the weaponry, which includes someone (seemingly him, but not definitely) saying they carried out the attack.

For now, the most important lessons appear to be very obvious:

  • Europeans (including hundreds of Britons) who travel overseas to fight Jihad pose a potentially deadly terrorist threat upon their return here.
  • The lack of internal European border controls makes it easy for radicals and weaponry to travel throughout the continent.
  • Comparisons of European Jihadists with International Brigade fighters of the Spanish Civil War are misguided, dangerous nonsense.
  • Those who rushed to claim that these killings were somehow not what they appeared (such as supposed brilliant intellectual Tariq Ramadan) should have kept their biases to themselves.
  • Even if some west European commentators and politicians want to keep hiding from the ramifications of each successive Jihadist terrorist attack and plot, their local Jewish communities can have no such luxury.
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Guardian op-ed suggests that Jerusalem ‘drives’ Barack Obama’s foreign policy

The argument that Israeli leaders or pro-Israel groups in Washington drive US policy in the Mid-East represents something akin to conventional wisdom at the Guardian, and a recent op-ed in the paper by Carne Ross, about Barack Obama’s May 28th foreign policy speech, contributes to the media group’s impressive body of work in perpetuating this reactionary narrative.

Ross – a British diplomat turned political analyst, Occupy Wall Street fan and apparent Noam Chomsky enthusiast - writes the following in the section of his op-ed dealing with the Mid-East:

The Obama administration can hardly be blamed for the descent of Iraq, Lebanon, Syria and much of Northern Africa into fratricidal and sectarian violence. But you can challenge it for supporting the Al-Sisi regime in Egypt, the repressive behavior of which tragically mimics that of Mubarak, who was the perfect recruiting sergeant for al-Qaida. As Egypt drifts into a persistent low-level civil war, and thousands of Muslim Brothers are imprisoned with barely the pretense of judicial process, the soil is being fertilized for yet another generation of anti-Western terrorists.

There’s a legitimate suspicion that US foreign policy on this front is not being driven by America’s own needs. Even Obama said as much

Then, to buttress his claim, Ross quotes a small excerpt from Obama’s May 28th speech:

In Egypt, we acknowledge that our relationship is anchored in security interests – from the peace treaty with Israel, to shared efforts against violent extremism.

However, as you can see, Obama is certainly not acknowledging, as Ross suggests, that his administration’s foreign policy “is NOT being driven by America’s own needs”. The president is merely saying that his administration’s policy is driven by US security interests in the region – the desire to maintain peace between historic adversaries and the effort to fight violent extremism.

Next, Ross contextualizes – and grossly distorts – the Obama excerpt further:

Indeed, Israel prefers “stability” in Egypt – just as it resists military intervention in Syria or significant game-changing arms supplies, like MANPADs, to the pro-democracy Syrian opposition.

First, Israel has not resisted US military intervention in Syria, and indeed openly supported possible US strikes against Syrian defense capabilities (in response to Assad’s chemical weapons attack against civilians) last year.  

Additionally, Israeli and US opposition to MANPADs (sophisticated shoulder-launched surface-to-air missiles – or SAMs) is not, as Ross suggests, driven by fear that such “game changing weapons” will get in the hands of “the pro-democracy Syrian opposition”, but is driven by concerns that these SAMs will eventually get in hands of non-democratic extremists like Hezbollah or jihadists groups.

Moreover, even if there is a significant degree of overlap between Israeli and US interests in the Mid-East, policy agreements between two countries are of course not evidence of causation.

Indeed, perhaps someone should remind Ross of the painfully obvious fact that Barack Obama is the President of the United States, and that it is Obama and his advisers – not political leaders in Jerusalem – who determine US foreign policy, based on what they determine to be, rightly or wrongly, “America’s own needs”.

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Fighting the caricature that spawned the boycott threat

The following essay was written by Roslyn Pine and first published at the Jewish News

The President and Vice President of the Board of Deputies of British Jews  recently commented on how the Diaspora should deal with the threat of Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) following the refusal of the Methodists to reject it, and how to influence the Israelis and PA “to make the difficult concessions necessary for a lasting peace”.

Their Panglossian sentiment that peace will come when we engage in “bridge building” between Palestinians and Israelis doesn’t address the problem any more than would treating a very sick patient with paracetamol.

Enormous efforts towards reconciliation and peace have been expended by Israel and world Jewry for decades, only to be rewarded by hatred and a denial of the national, religious and historic rights of the Jewish people to its nation-state in its ancient homeland.

Numerous acts of outreach by Israelis towards Palestinians and disaster relief abroad are viewed with cold indifference by those promoting BDS of ‘apartheid’ Israel, because their ultimate goal is the demise of the Jewish state. Who acknowledges, for example, the ongoing dangerous Israeli rescue of Syrians caught up in the civil war, or the generosity of many Jewish charities for this cause?

So what to do?

We need a structured educational programme to negate the grotesque caricature that has spawned BDS, namely, that Israel is a colonial enterprise committed to the usurping of an indigenous, powerless third-world people.

We must teach that the wellspring of Israel’s sovereignty and legitimacy in international law derives from the San Remo Resolution of 25 April 1920 (recognising the Balfour Declaration), as does that of Syria, Lebanon and Iraq, following the WWI settlement. It was supplemented by the Mandate for Palestine of July 1922, and the Franco British Boundary Convention of December 1920, all binding to the present day.

We should emphasise that Israel behind the Green Line sits on just 8,000 square miles, 17 percent originally allotted to it, while the 21 countries of the Arab League occupy more than five million square miles, almost double that of the United States.

The mantra of “illegal settlements” must be exposed as a dishonest device to prevent Jews from living in land designated for Jewish sovereignty, defying Article Six of the Mandate for Palestine, the provisions of which are still binding.

As the eminent American jurist Eugene Rostow ruled in 1967: “The Jewish right of settlement in Palestine, west of the Jordan River, was made unassailable” by the Mandate, and “has never been nullified”. Other international jurists, like Stephen Schwebel, came to the same conclusion on the ground that the West Bank had itself been illegally occupied previously.

Such an educational programme must reach universities, the press and government bodies and demands a concise, memorable and convincing message. Additionally, the use of existing legislation in the UK and elsewhere regarding boycotts should be increasingly deployed by experienced lawyers to counter them.

Future negotiations must be dependent on the deletion from The Palestine Charter of articles calling for the destruction of Israel, characterising its creation an illegal act and denying any Jewish connection to Palestine. It was promised in the past, but never delivered.

There should be intense lobbying of the EU whose largesse, courtesy of our taxes, helps fund the PA, that such humanitarian aid be conditional on the cessation of the incessant stream of hate-filled PA propaganda against Israelis and Jews in its media and schools, poisoning the minds of every generation. It should come as no surprise that reliable surveys among Palestinians demonstrate that a majority supports the two-state solution only as a conduit towards a unitary state of Palestine replacing Israel.

Ben Gurion’s legacy of standing firm in 1949 against intolerable threats from President Truman to “give up land for peace” including “occupied West Jerusalem and the Negev” should serve as a reminder to our leaders that, in rejecting this formula, he delivered peace for many years.

Following the War of Independence when the Jews prevailed against six invading Arab armies, the resultant armistice line (the Green Line) represented an area 40 percent greater than that allocated to the Jews under the illegitimate 1947 UN Partition Plan. Ben Gurion enacted legislation to incorporate the liberated land into Israel, which today everyone accepts as Israel proper.

As US Ambassador to Israel, James McDonald recorded, Ben Gurion’s determined stance ushered in a strong strategic relationship between the two future allies (“My Mission in Israel 1948-1951”). The rest is history.

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Did Mahmoud Abbas outrage Syria’s Palestinian refugees by waiving their right to live?

Mahmoud Abbas outrages Palestinian refugees by waiving his right to return‘ screamed the Guardian headline accompanying a November, 2012 report by Harriet Sherwood.  

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Sherwood explained that Abbas was “facing widespread condemnation” in ‘Palestine’ and abroad “after he publicly waived his right of return” – a repudiation, she added, which is “of huge significance for Palestinian refugees”.

She then wrote the following:

After his image was burned in refugee camps in Gaza, Abbas rejected accusations that he had conceded one of the most emotional and visceral issues on the Palestinian agenda, the demand by millions of refugees to return to their former homes in what is now Israel.

He insisted that comments made in an interview with an Israeli television channel were selectively quoted and the remarks were his personal stance, rather than a change of policy.

Abbas told Channel 2 he accepted he had no right to live in Safed, the town of his birth, from which his family was forced to flee in 1948 when Abbas was 13.

The comments sparked protests in Gaza, where people in refugee camps burned images of the Palestinian president. Abbas was denounced on Twitter by pro-Palestinian activists.

This story came to mind when Elder of Ziyon reminded us of news a couple of months later (which the Guardian didn’t cover) that Abbas rejected Israel’s conditional agreement to allow thousands of Palestinian refugees from war-torn Syria to resettle in the West Bank and Gaza.

AP reported the following on Jan. 10, 2013:

The Palestinian president said he has rejected a conditional Israeli offer to let Palestinian refugees in war-torn Syria resettle in the West Bank and Gaza, charging it would compromise their claims to return to lost homes in Israel.

Abbas said he asked U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon last month to seek Israeli permission to bring Palestinians caught in Syria’s civil war to the Palestinian territories. The request came after fighting between Syrian troops and rebel fighters in Yarmouk, the largest Palestinian refugee camp in Syria. About half of the camp’s 150,000 residents have fled, according to a U.N. aid agency.

Abbas told a group of Egyptian journalists in Cairo late Wednesday that Ban contacted Israel on his behalf.

Abbas said Ban was told Israel “agreed to the return of those refugees to Gaza and the West Bank, but on condition that each refugee … sign a statement that he doesn’t have the right of return (to Israel).”

Finally, AP noted Abbas’s chilling response:

So we rejected that and said it’s better they die in Syria than give up their right of return,” Abbas told the group.

Think about this for a moment.  

The Palestinian leader rejected a deal to save the lives of tens of thousands of Palestinians caught in an orgy of violence and deprivation in a neighboring country because they would (reportedly) have been forced to relinquish their ‘right of return’.  

According to Abbas’s own words, he’d rather let them die.

First, as we’ve demonstrated previously, the overwhelming majority of ‘Palestinian refugees’ aren’t even refugees but, rather, are the children, grandchildren, and even great-grandchildren of Palestinian Arabs who may have once lived in historic Palestine. (Indeed, the number of actual Palestinian refugees from the Arab-Israeli War who are still alive, out of the initial 710,000 or so, is estimated to be roughly 30,000.)

Additionally, everyone – including Abbas – of course knows that, in the event a final status agreement is reached between Israel and the Palestinians, Israel will, at most, only allow a few thousand Palestinian ‘refugees’ in total into Israel – as a symbolic gesture meant facilitate an end to the conflict.

So, here are two questions:

  1. Are Palestinians in Syria and throughout the Middle East – as well as their mouthpieces in the media – outraged by the fact that the Palestinian President decided that tens of thousands of Syrians of Palestinian descent should rather die than give up on the chimera that they will, one day, “return” to a land where they have never lived?
  2. Can anyone at this point refute the argument made at this blog and elsewhere that those keeping the ‘Palestinian refugee issue’ alive are engaged in a supremely cynical exercise meant to demonize Israel, and are not even remotely concerned with the actual welfare of Palestinian refugees and their descendants?

We’re not holding our breath for some sort of mea culpa from pro-Palestinian activists, but we can at least hope that those sympathetic to the cause of ‘Palestine’ will remember Abbas’s cold indifference to the lives of Syria’s Palestinians the next time he waxes eloquently on the plight of the ‘refugees’.

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Guardian fails to reveal that Brit arrested for terror is ‘Comment is Free’ contributor

As we first learned from Guido Fawkes, Moazzam Begg, a former Guantanamo Bay prisoner who became a spokesman for the “human rights” group Cageprisoners, was arrested by British police on Tuesday morning for terror offences which he is alleged to have committed in Syria.

Begg is widely believed by American intelligence officials to have been a jihadist involved with Al-Qaida and reportedly attended terrorist training camps in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and the UK “so he could assist in waging jihad against enemies of Islam.”  Begg reportedly assisted several prominent terrorists, recruited young operatives for jihad and provided financial support for terror camps.

AdditionallyBegg is believed to have been associated with the radical cleric Anwar al Awlaki, the senior al Qaeda recruiter who was involved with planning operations for the group, and later killed by U.S. forces.  Al Awlaki helped motivate at least three terrorist attacks inside the U.S. (Begg’s group actually lobbied to free Al Awlaki from Yemeni custody after he was detained in 2006, broadcast his live messages and reproduced his propaganda on their website.) 

Begg – who, you may recall, was promoted by the NGO Amnesty International – is also a frequent contributor to the Guardian’s blog ‘Comment is Free’, having penned 20 essays at the site since 2006, most of which were aimed at casting himself as an innocent victim of US and British intolerance and Islamophobia. 

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Interestingly, the Guardian’s report on Begg’s arrest by  (Moazzam Begg among four arrested in Birmingham terror raids, Feb. 25) didn’t even note this extremely inconvenient relationship.

While we don’t yet know the details of Begg’s alleged terror activity in Syria, if it turns out that he was fighting for jihadists it wouldn’t be at all surprising.  

As we’ve demonstrated previously, the Guardian is a media group which often promotes and defends Islamist extremists, and frequently welcomes into their ‘ ‘liberal’ salon ‘demopaths‘ such as Begg – those who cynically exploit the language of democracy when it serves their interests, and demand stringent levels of human “rights” of the West yet don’t apply these basic standards to their own behavior.

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American Studies Association ‘boycott Israel’ motion: The Justification

Here’s the 3rd post on the proposed ASA boycott, by Jon from DivestThis! (Here’s part 1 & part 2)

ASAProbably the most embarrassing part of the entire ASA boycott debate is the response of those defending a choice to flush devotion to academic freedom down the toilet for the sake of one (and only one) political pet peeve.

Long-time BDS watchers will recognize the well-rehearsed responses to typical questions about why an organization is choosing to target one nation and one nation only for boycott vs. targeting nations with far worse human rights records (which pretty much includes every nation supporting the BDS “movement”). 

First you’ve got the pre-digested word-blobs that seem to get trotted out whenever BDS selective morality is brought into question.  My favorite is the one about how the boycotters would gladly respond to any call if it came from members of non-Palestinian civil society organizations (implying that the best way to avoid the wrath of the morally perfect is to actually be a totalitarian government that crushes civil society, rather than one which lets it exist to organize global boycott campaigns).

And whenever these and all the other hypocrisies and inconsistencies are exposed (not to mention the truncated arguments and outright fabrications that fill the BDSer’s bill of indictment), the next automatic set of responses include:

  • Ignoring critics and pretending that smashed arguments were never responded to
  • Flooding the airwaves with pictures and stories of Palestinian broken children (even if some of those photos need to be imported from Syria) in hope to elicit an emotional response from the audience that will overwhelm reason
  • Claiming (falsely) that any argument against a boycott boils down to nothing but accusations of anti-Semitism

The thing is, when years ago I summed up the various defenses and responses you are now seeing used by the ASA leadership and its supporters as a blast shield against legitimate criticism, I was thinking about them in the context of how undergraduates use these tactics when making their case to other undergrads on a college campus.  But in the case of the ASA, it is not just grownups using the same tired strategies to avoid the debate they set in motion, but college professors who allegedly represent the virtues of open-mindedness, critical thinking and the importance of following evidence and inquiry wherever it leads.

In other words, the people claiming that their role as scholars gives them and their proposed boycott special meaning have chosen to act like garden variety propagandists – hiding facts, substituting gut emotion for rational debate, limiting rather than encouraging inquiry and debate – to get what they want.  And if they manage to eke out a victory, they will immediately try to use the virtues of scholarship they had so recently jettisoned to give their decision extra moral weight.

As this story plays out, don’t forget that nothing is preventing any ASA members from writing and saying anything they like about the Arab-Israeli conflict or joining a group dedicated to defaming the Jewish state.  But that’s not what they want, is it?  For a professor speaking in his own name is just a partisan individual who can be judged based on the strength and honesty of his or her arguments. 

But get a boycott passed by an organization (by any means necessary) and suddenly those partisans can claim to speak in the name of every man and woman in the association and, by extension, the field (if not the academy as a whole).  In other words, getting a voting majority (which may very well constitute a membership minority) to pass a boycott will allow a group of single-issue partisans to punch considerably above their weight, the needs of the association and the profession be damned.

As with other equally ill-conceived campaigns, Israel will survive this particular flaccid string and blunt arrow.  But I’m not sure the same thing can be said regarding the American Studies Association.