Soccer Dad's Middle East Media Sampler
Here's Soccer Dad's Middle East Media Sampler for Thursday, November 29.
1) Israel responds ... officially
In his recent "Media Equation" column, David Carr of the New York Times wrote Using War as Cover to Target Journalists:
Mahmoud al-Kumi and Hussam Salama worked as cameramen for Al-Aqsa TV,
which is run by Hamas and whose reporting frequently reflects that
affiliation. They were covering events in central Gaza when a missile
struck their car, which, according to Al-Aqsa, was clearly marked with
the letters “TV.” (The car just in front of them was carrying a
translator and driver for The New York Times, so the execution hit close
to our organization.) And Mohamed Abu Aisha, director of the private
Al-Quds Educational Radio, was also in a car when it was hit by a
Carr was taken to task by Adam Chandler of Tablet:
Now let’s say that being identified as a major Hamas military
commander in a news story prior to the Gaza war isn’t enough evidence to
warrant a second look. (Also suppose that you’re unconvinced by this
martyr’s tribute to one of the other “journalists” on the website of the
terrorist group Islamic Jihad.) Let’s zoom out and look at the media
affiliation itself. Two of the men that Carr mourns worked for the
Hamas-affiliated Al-Aqsa TV, which he acknowledges in his
story–apparently in the belief that Hamas’ TV network plays by
similar-enough rules, and serves as similar-enough social function, to
be thought of as Gaza’s CNN.
Now Col. Avital Leibovitch has a letter in the New York Times objecting to the column, Terrorist or journalist?
But that’s simply not true, which is why Al-Aqsa TV, has been designated
by the United States Treasury as a terrorist financing organization.
“Al-Aqsa is a primary Hamas media outlet and airs programs and music
videos designed to recruit children to become Hamas armed fighters and
suicide bombers upon reaching adulthood,” notes the 2010 press release.
“‘Treasury will not distinguish between a business financed and
controlled by a terrorist group, such as Al-Aqsa Television, and the
terrorist group itself,’ [Treasury Secretary Stuart] Levey said.”
The real question raised by Mr. Carr’s column is whether a station
that is ideologically motivated and subsidized by a terrorist
organization deserves the same treatment as CNN or The New York Times.
Moreover, should a Hamas commander who painted the words “TV” on his car
be considered a journalist?
Another media effort to whitewash Hamas was Photo of dead baby in Gaza holds part of the ‘truth’ by the Washington Post's ombudsman, Patrick Pexton:
Mr. Carr is quick to incriminate the Israel Defense Forces for targeting
journalists, but he does not mention that terrorists are actively
exploiting journalists as shields.
Mr. Carr is worried about freedom of the press and rightly so. However,
when terrorist organizations exploit reporters, either by posing as them
or by hiding behind them, they are the immediate threat to freedom of
I think we can all agree that the Gaza rocket fire is reprehensible
and is aimed at terrorizing Israeli civilians. It’s disruptive and
traumatic. But let’s be clear: The overwhelming majority of rockets
fired from Gaza are like bee stings on the Israeli bear’s behind.
The Israeli ambassador to the United States, Michael Oren, responded to Pexton's column (which is linked to but not explicitly named) in an op-ed today, Falling for Hamas’s media manipulation:
These rockets are unguided and erratic, and they carry very small
explosive payloads; they generally fall in open areas, causing little
damage and fewer injuries.
Gaza, meanwhile, is almost entirely urban and densely populated; bombs
there will kill civilians no matter how precisely targeted.
In reporting Palestinian deaths, media routinely failed to note that
roughly half were terrorists and that such a ratio is exceedingly low by
modern military standards — much lower, for example, than the NATO
campaign in the Balkans. Media also emphasize the disparity between the
number of Palestinian and Israeli deaths, as though Israel should be
penalized for investing billions of dollars in civil-defense and
early-warning systems and Hamas exonerated for investing in bombs rather
than bomb shelters. As in Israel’s last campaign against Hamas in
2008-09, the word “disproportionality” has been frequently used to
characterize Israeli military strikes. In fact, during Operation Pillar
of Defense this year, Hamas fired more than 1,500 missiles at Israel and
the Israeli Air Force responded with 1,500 sorties.
2) The editors on the bid
The imbalance is also of language. “Hamas health officials said 45 had
been killed and 385 wounded,” the Times’ front page reported. “Three
Israeli civilians have died and 63 have been injured.” The subtext is
clear: Israel targets Palestinians, and Israelis merely die.
The media perpetuated Hamas propaganda that traced the fighting to
Jabari’s elimination and described Gaza as the most densely populated
area on earth. Widely forgotten were the 130 rockets fired at Israel in
the weeks before Jabari’s demise. For the record, Tel Aviv’s population
is twice as dense as Gaza’s.
The New York Times has an editorial, The U.N. bid from Palestinians. There is little to object to in the opening paragraphs of the editorial:
On Thursday, a week after the Gaza cease-fire between Hamas and
Israel, the Palestinian Authority, which controls parts of the West
Bank, is scheduled to ask the United Nations General Assembly to upgrade
the Palestinian status to nonmember observer state.
There is a notable omission. A year and a half ago, Abbas wrote an op-ed
in the New York Times advocating this lawfare strategy against Israel.
That underscores the overall problem with the editorial.
The 193-member body is expected to approve the application. That support
has grown since the Gaza fighting, with France and other European
nations declaring their backing for the Palestinian bid — in part as a
way to bolster the more moderate Palestinian forces, which recognize
Israel’s right to exist and seek a two-state solution.
But passage of the resolution — which would allow the Palestinians to
try to join the International Criminal Court, where they might be able
to bring cases against Israel — would not get the Palestinians any
closer to statehood. A negotiated deal with Israel is the only way to
ensure creation of a viable Palestinian state and guarantee Israel’s
The rest of the editorial portrays Abbas as a hapless participant in
Middle East peace processing. But he's one of the reasons there has been
no progress since 2008. He refused to respond to an offer from then
Prime Minister Olmert and once Netanyahu was elected, he waited for
American pressure on Netanyahu to get what he wanted with no
negotiation. (The truth is that Hamas is too powerful. Any agreement
Israel achieved with Fatah - assuming one could be reached - would be
The Washnington Post's What will Palestinians do after the U.N. vote? is more sober, though imperfect:
The Palestinian leader has hinted at a couple of different and
contradictory courses. One would involve immediately entering into
direct peace negotiations with Israel — something Mr. Abbas has refused
to do for almost all of the past four years. A spokesman said this month
that after the U.N. vote “the way will be open to direct talks,” and
Mr. Abbas himself made a conciliatory-sounding statement about the
Palestinian claim of a “right of return” to Israel, though he later
retreated from it. By engaging the government of Benjamin Netanyahu in
unconditional talks, Mr. Abbas could force it to spell out its bottom
line on terms for Palestinian statehood — something that, thanks to Mr.
Abbas’s intransigence, this Israeli government has never had to do.
Reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas, of course, will end the peace
process. (Ironically, the Post worries about Israeli hard-liners, but
seems unbothered by the presence of the unreformed terrorist
organization in the Palestinian government.) At least the Post, unlike
the Times acknowledges that Abbas is part of the problem, not some
innocent swept up in events out of his control.
Mr. Abbas’s advisers, however, have also talked of another strategy:
using the new U.N. status to bring cases against Israel in the
International Criminal Court and possibly other international forums,
while describing its continued occupation of parts of the West Bank as
an act of international aggression. This would cheer many opponents of
Israel, but it would also provoke a backlash from European governments
as well as Israel and the United States, which would probably respond by
cutting off funding to the cash-strapped authority once and for all.
Meanwhile, any U.N. agency Palestine sought to join would probably find
itself, like UNESCO, contemplating the loss of the one-fifth of its
budget supplied by Congress.
At age 77, Mr. Abbas may well shrink from either course, instead
claiming the U.N. vote as his legacy. For the umpteenth time, there are
efforts underway to broker a reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas;
this could lead to long-overdue Palestinian elections, along with Mr.
Abbas’s retirement. Though touted by the Obama administration as a
peacemaker, the Palestinian leader appears unwilling to commit himself
to the concessions that would be needed for a deal with any Israeli
government. Meanwhile, with Israeli elections due in January, Mr.
Netanyahu appears to be more dependent than ever on nationalist
hard-liners in his Likud Party.
3) Peace Diehl?
Jackson Diehl has written Lessons from Gaza. In it he concludes:
Rather than watch another sterile round of diplomatic maneuvering
among Abbas, Netanyahu and Obama, Egypt seems bent on overseeing another
attempt to broker a reconciliation between the Palestinian factions. In
the short run this would prevent peace negotiations, to the
satisfaction of hard-liners on both sides. But in the long run it might
make a deal more possible. Palestinian elections — a likely part of any
internal accord — could bring in new and stronger leaders. Meanwhile
Morsi’s government will have to choose between pushing the Palestinians
toward an accord with Israel or tolerating growing instability on
When I first read this, I thought he was hyping Hamas too much. It's not
as bad as my first impression, I still think he gives Hamas too much
credit. The reliability of a truce with Hamas will depend on how well
Israel is able to police the situation.
Even if no comprehensive peace is possible, the new regional
alignment may allow Israel and Hamas to work out a modus vivendi that
benefits both sides. In exchange for more open borders and an
opportunity to develop economically with backing from its new Arab
allies, Hamas could agree to a more thorough and reliable truce that
leaves southern Israel in peace. That’s a long way from real peace — but
it’s better for both sides than going to war every couple of years.
Khaled Abu Toameh offers some advice to those inclined to trust Hamas, How Hamas is trying to fool everyone:
Hamas is engaged in a subtle campaign to win the sympathy of the
international community by appearing as if it is ready to abandon its
dream of destroying Israel. Mashaal's remarks should be seen in the
context of a new Hamas tactic aimed at turning the radical Islamist
movement into a legitimate and recognized player in the international
and regional arenas.
Those who have been misled into believing Hamas's lies should be
referred to the movement's charter, where it is clearly stated that "The
Islamic Resistance Movement believes that the land of Palestine has
been an Islamic Waqf throughout the generations and until the Day of
Resurrection, no one can renounce it or part of it, or abandon it or
part of it…the liberation of that land is an individual duty binding on
all Muslims everywhere. When our enemies usurp some Islamic lands, Jihad
[holy war] becomes a duty binding on all Muslims."
The next time CNN or any other Western media outlet interviews a Hamas
leader, it would be advisable to ask him whether his movement was
willing to change its charter. Unless Hamas does so, the talk about
changes in its strategy only serves to spread the movement's campaign of
Last week, Yaacov Lozowick made an excellent observation:
International relations: they played out well, don't you think? If
there was any light between the Israeli and American governments, I
didn't see it. William Hague, a British fellow not know for giving
pro-Zionist speeches, was supportive. His German counterpart traveled
over to say Israel has a right to defend itself and Hamas has no right
to be shooting at Israeli civilains. The UN passed no resolutions - and
now won't set up any new version of the Goldstone Commission, either.
Yesterday Jonathan Schanzer made a parallel observation in Why U.S. Israeli Ties just got warmer:
None of this happened by accident. Israel doesn't get international
support by default, and certainly not at time of war. Just as with the
the military and media aspects, someone worked hard in advance to
achieve the result. Syrian bestiality helped, as did blatant Hamas
ciminality, but the diplomats have apparently been earning their upkeep
by the sweat of their luggage.
For Israel, Pillar of Defense was not about killing terrorist
masterminds like Ahmed Jabari or blowing up Hamas headquarters. Those
were ancillary targets. This round of hostilities was actually a hunting
expedition for Fajr-5s.
As Israel's air force methodically struck these rocket sites, one after
the next, Hamas realized it was "use 'em or lose 'em." They began —
along with Palestinian Islamic Jihad – firing off their Iran-supplied
weapons. But even then, the Fajrs hurtled some 50 miles out of Gaza only
to be shot out of the skies over Tel Aviv by Iron Dome, an anti-missile
system developed jointly by the U.S. and Israel.
In other words, Operation Pillar of Defense bears unmistakable signs of
close coordination between Netanyahu and Obama. And while the White
House may not admit it in public, Netanyahu appears to have done
everything in his power to ensure that Israeli military operations did
not get in the way of Obama's bid for reelection.
Labels: Abu Mazen, anti-Israel media bias, Barack Hussein Obama, Binyamin Netanyahu, Egypt, Hamas-Fatah reconciliation, Middle East Media Sampler, Palestinian state RIGHT NOW syndrome, Soccer Dad