Soccer Dad's Middle East Media Sampler
Here's Soccer Dad's Middle East Media Sampler for Wednesday, November 28.
Ambulance chasing as journalism
Can we film the operation?
The Washington Post reports Samples taken from Yasser Arafat’s remains to see if he was poisoned:
Is the head dead yet?
You know, the boys in the newsroom got a
Dirty Laundry - Don Henley
Tissue samples were taken Tuesday from the remains of Yasser Arafat,
the longtime Palestinian leader who died in 2004, as part of an inquiry
into whether he might have been poisoned, Palestinian officials said.
Did the reporter have to withhold a chortle when he wrote "investigative
report ... on ... al-Jazeera?" Rumors that Arafat have been poisoned
have been part of Palestinian rhetoric over the past eight years. Just
because the Islamist channel al-Jazeera claimed to have more rumors
doesn't make the charge any more credible.
The probe was ordered after an investigative report on the Arabic
satellite channel al-Jazeera in July presented what it said was evidence
of possible poisoning, reviving suspicions surrounding Arafat’s death.
(I don't believe that Israel is the main target of these rumors. The
story that Arafat was poisoned lately has been peddled by his former
henchman Mohammed Rashid who is engaged in a feud with Mahmoud Abbas.)
The New York Times reports Arafat’s Body Is Exhumed for Poison Tests:
On Tuesday, as part of an inquiry into whether he was poisoned, Mr.
Arafat’s remains were exhumed in a subdued, reflective atmosphere, with
his people more fractured and less certain of their future than when he
For those unfamiliar with the name Tawfiq Tirawi, he was implicated in the killing of Palestinian land dealers who had the gall to sell land to Jewish.
Mr. Arafat died in a Paris hospital in 2004 at the age of 75, an event
that was swiftly surrounded by contention and mystery. Israeli officials
have categorically denied Palestinian accusations of involvement. And
though lab test results are expected in about three months, according to
experts, they may leave open more questions than they resolve about the
“Our people are convinced that Israel committed this act,” Tawfiq
Tirawi, a Palestinian official who leads the Palestinian investigating
committee, told reporters here in a news conference. “We are seeking
(Really, if someone wants to do an investigative story about Arafat why
not find out how much the perpetually cash-strapped Palestinian
Authority is funding Suha Arafat's lavish expatriate lifestyle.)
Barry Rubin made an important observation as to why these rumors are treated as "news."
In the case of any other alleged perpetrator, the kind of claim being
made against Israel in this case would have been ridiculed. Yet part of
the world seems to believe that the Jews are capable of anything.
This past week the ombudsman of the Washington Post defended the
decision to publish a front page picture of an anguished Palestinian man
holding his dead son. He wrote about
how the photograph told "part of the 'truth." The Washington Post
didn't report much on the years of rocket fire from Gaza targeting
Israel's south. It didn't report much on the supply of materiel from
Iran and other sympathetic sources to Hamas. Only when Israel finally
struck back did it see fit to report comprehensively on the conflict
between Israel and Hamas. (The Post is not alone. Once Operation Pillar
of Defense started, there was a migration of journalists to Gaza.)
There is even a special name for such tales, blood libel, and its echoes
can be found in the fabricated or exaggerated tales about Israel
deliberately murdering children, most recently just now in the war with
Hamas. Stories of Jews murdering people out of religious hatred—often
to use their blood allegedly to make Passover matzos—go way back. One
example is in Thomas Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, published first in the
late fourteenth century. About 130 years ago, one of my ancestors living
in Czarist Russia was accused on the basis of no evidence of the ritual
murder of a teen-aged Christian. The local peasants rioted, wrecked the
Jewish workshops and stores, and beat up several Jews. Fortunately no
one was killed. According to then-prevalent tales in the region, the
Jews had a barrel whose inside was studded with nails so as to extract
the blood efficiently.
Hamas locates its terror infrastructure in civilian areas knowing that
it will lead to dramatic pictures. Media organizations obliged Hamas
with boots on the ground to record Israel's response. All was left was
to wait for the inevitable civilian casualties and Hamas's strategy
would be vindicated. (In this case it isn't even clear if it was an Israeli bomb, as the ombudsman claims, that killed the baby.)
By reporting on Arafat's exhumation news organizations are giving
credence to rumors. By extravagantly claiming that they're exposing some
essential "truth" news organizations are furthering Hamas's media
strategy. The mainstream media has become an ossified relic driven more
by cynical calculations than any sort of enlightened principles.
Labels: al-Jazeera, blood libel, Gaza, Hamas, human shields, journalists, Middle East Media Sampler, Operation Pillar of Defense, Soccer Dad, Yasser Arafat