Monthly Archives: September 2008

Matthew Sheffield on The Washington Post’s Cartoon Double-Standard

Matthew Sheffield, writing on his blog at Newsbusters, has an insightful examination of the Washington Post’s double-standard regarding political cartoons. At the heart of the issue is the Washington Post’s decision to run a cartoon mocking Palin’s church, which lies in stark contrast with the Post’s refusal to run the Danish Muhammad cartoons for fear of offending Muslims.

The cartoon is clearly quite offensive to Pentecostals. But in the rules of politically-correct discourse, conservative Christians somehow fall in the “unprotected” category. Mormons do as well, as evidenced by the treatment of Mitt Romney during his run for the presidency.

Writing in today’s Washington Post, ombudsman Deborah Howell focuses on political cartoons and how in many cases they can cause offense. I was struck in particular by a few of Howell’s offhand admissions most. The first is that the top editorial cartoonists across the country are mostly liberal.

A Discussion on Strategy vs. Tactics

In last night’s debate, the issue of the distinction between tactics and strategy arose during an exchange. McCain attacked Obama’s description of the surge as a tactic.

OBAMA: They have done a brilliant job, and General Petraeus has done a brilliant job. But understand, that was a tactic designed to contain the damage of the previous four years of mismanagement of this war.

MCCAIN: I’m afraid Senator Obama doesn’t understand the difference between a tactic and a strategy.

Many people do not properly understand the difference between the two, and it is a crucial difference.

CAIR’s Demopathic Attack on Those Who Say “Islamist Terrorism”

Demopaths are people who use democratic language and invoke human rights only when it serves their interests, and not when it calls for self-criticism or self-restraint. Demopaths demand stringent levels of human “rights” but do not apply these basic standards for the “other” to their own behavior. The most lethal demopaths use democratic rights to destroy democracy.

CAIR is a perfect example of a demopathic organization. They attempt to stymie honest discussion of the problem with Islamist terrorism by calling for the end of equating any terrorism with any religion. As if Jewish terrorism is an especially common and problematic problem facing the world today. They use the language of respect and dialogue to defend Palestinians, while vilifying Israel in the worst kinds of terms.

Appeasement Yesterday and Today: Fishman reflects on the 70th anniversary of Munich

Joel Fishman, an American-born and -trained historian living and thinking in Jerusalem and whom I am pleased to call a friend, has an excellent meditation on the 70th anniversary of the “Munich Agreement,” the prime example of the folly of appeasement in Western history. It is a sad tale of liberal cognitive egocentrism, moral arrogance, and, as Fishman puts it, “lack of imagination [for evil]” that drove Chamberlain not only to pursue a(n effectively) suicidal policy, but to silence anyone who disagreed with it and keep “his” public in the dark. The interesting thing is that not only are those who forget history condemned to repeat it, but especially those who refuse to learn from history… And therein lies our curious paradox: why are our leaders – even, here below, George Bush – so intent on denying the lesson Munich offers.

Seventy Years Since the Munich Agreement

By Joel Fishman Friday, September 26, 2008

Photographic stills and newsreels have immortalized the moment when Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain returned from Munich and at Heston airport triumphantly waved the signed agreement in the air. The British Prime Minister proclaimed that he had brought “Peace in our Time… Peace with Honor,” and the crowds received him as a hero because he responded to their deepest hopes.

The job of the historian is not merely to look back from a sadder and wiser time – after some 50 million people died in World War II, most of them civilians – and say, “what folly!” The historian needs to recreate that time of “innocence,” before people knew it was folly, and grasp the enthusiasm, the sense of triumph that this folly inspired at the time. Only then can we begin to grasp the conditions under which it can happen again. Note the reference to an “honorable peace” in Chamberlain’s statement

    [The following is the wording of a printed statement that Neville Chamberlain waved as he stepped off the plane on 30 September, 1938 after the Munich Conference had ended the day before]:

    “We, the German Führer and Chancellor, and the British Prime Minister, have had a further meeting today and are agreed in recognizing that the question of Anglo-German relations is of the first importance for our two countries and for Europe.

    We regard the agreement signed last night and the Anglo-German Naval Agreement as symbolic of the desire of our two peoples never to go to war with one another again. We are resolved that the method of consultation shall be the method adopted to deal with any other questions that may concern our two countries, and we are determined to continue our efforts to remove possible sources of difference, and thus to contribute to assure the peace of Europe.”

    [Chamberlain read the above statement in front of 10 Downing St. and said:]

    “My good friends, for the second time in our history, a British Prime Minister has returned from Germany bringing peace with honour… I believe it is peace for our time… Go home and get a nice quiet sleep.”.

“Peace in our time… peace with honor!” Something for everyone. Curious that someone who had so little understanding of what “honor” meant in the Nazi context would declare his concessions honorable. And behind it lurks the coming of the worst war in history and the greatest disgrace imaginable for Chamberlain. As for sleeping soundly, it was almost two years to a day that the blitz began and Londoners slept underground.

Barry Rubin Captures AP’s PCP Complex

Prof. Barry Rubin, writing for Watch on the Middle East, critiques several recent AP articles that betray the media’s devotion to the Politically-Correct Paradigm, the principle that we cannot understand “others” without empathy, and cannot empathize without restraining our tendency to impose our own mentality on others, especially in making value judgments. In the articles that Prof. Rubin has collected and analyzed, we see journalists who instinctively project the civic ideals that they believe in onto the Palestinians, ignoring all evidence to the contrary. In so doing, of course, Israel comes out as the aggressor who forces peaceful Palestinians to reluctantly turn to violence as the last resort.

In an article of September 20, Ali Daraghmeh, “Army says troops kill Palestinian with firebomb,” there is a long discussion of the current state of the peace process.

British Publishers of Novel about Muhammed’s Bride Have Offices Attacked

On August 11, The Augean Stables covered the unfolding story of Random House’s withering in the face of anti-free speech threats of violence. Random House decided not to publish The Jewel of Medina by Sherry Jones, a fiction novel about A’isha, Muhammad’s youngest bride. After hearing that the publishing house might face violence for publishing the book, Random House decided to cancel its contract with Jones.

It took an independent British publishing house, Gibson Square, to show the American publishers what standing up for principles is. The publishing director at Gibson Square decided to publish to book despite threats, because in an “open society there has to be open access to literary works, regardless of fear”.

B’tselem’s Cognitive Egocentrism Increases Palestinian Violence

The Elder of Ziyon blog has an insightful post up about B’tselem’s decision to provide West Bank Palestinians with cameras so that they can document settler violence. B’tselem, through a shallow understanding of Arab culture, or through wanton desire to demonize Israeli soldiers and citizens, has likely caused an increase in violence through their move. Their cognitive egocentrism keeps them from understanding it, the cameras do not inhibit “Israeli aggression”. Instead, since they benefit from scenes of Israeli violence, Palestinians are actually encouraged to do whatever they can to cause Israelis to react so that they can be captured on film.

It should cause B’tselem to reconsider their policy, but B’tselem has never been about finding a just solution.

McCain Website Behind the Times on Goldwasser/Regev

John McCain’s website has a section on his policy positions on the Middle East, especially Israel. But it seems that whoever is responsible for it is asleep on the job.

His site reads:

John McCain Will Bring More Attention To The Kidnapping Of Three Young Israelis In 2006. In the summer of 2006, Hamas and Hezbollah kidnapped three young Israelis and have held them ever since. John McCain has met with the families and will bring attention to their situation, insist that the Geneva Conventions are observed, and call for the swift release of these men.

Of course, on July 16th of this year, the bodies of Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev, kidnapped by Hezbollah, were returned to Israel. Gilad Shalit’s plight remains urgent, and one that might especially interest McCain because of his experience as a POW.

Jutland it isn’t: ISM Boat vs. Israeli Navy, Part Two

After the Israeli Navy refused to take the bait and surprisingly let the ISM’s two boat slip into Gaza and back out without incident, there appears to be a rematch taking shape. The ISM plans to set sail Thursday from Cyprus, aiming once again to arrive during Shabbat, in order to increase the inconvenience of the Isreli sailors.

The ISM is upping the ante this time as well, attracting higher profile supporters.

The organizers of the boat said about 20 protesters will be on board, including Balad MK Jamal Zahalka, 1976 Irish Nobel peace prize winner Mairead Maguire, who has been involved in the protests at Ni’ilin, Palestinian Legislative Council member Mustafa Barghouti and human rights lawyers and monitors, as well as five doctors.

Vehicular Terror in Jerusalem Again

Tonight, Jerusalem suffered its third vehicular attack by an East Jerusalem Arab in as many months. Although there has been no connection established between the three attacks, it is unlikely that all three were disgruntled Arabs acting alone. It is equally unlikely that the attackers would have the cooperation of East Jerusalemites, though they may well have the sympathy of many. The rights, jobs, and freedom cherished by East Jerusalem Arabs are put in jeopardy by these attacks, and these residents have a history of acting primarily to protect those rights, especially when threatened with the possibility of becoming part of a Palestinian state.

Unfortunately, it seems inevitable that a driver will accidentally lose control of his car in Jerusalem at some point, and nearby police or soldiers will mistake him for a terrorist and potentially open fire.

Washington Post’s Subtle Bias

National Review Online’s The Campaign Spot blog found a fine example of media bias at the Washington Post. It is subtle, but once it is pointed out, the bias is beyond question.

Here is how the Post quoted Barack Obama on September 17:

He chided Sen. John McCain some at both. “Yesterday, John McCain actually said that if he’s president, he’ll take on the, quote, old boys’ network in Washington,” Obama said in Elko.

“I am not making this up. This is someone who’s been in Congress for 26 years – who put seven of the most powerful Washington lobbyists in charge of his campaign – and now he’s the one who will take on the old boy network?” Obama continued. “The old boy network? In the McCain campaign, that’s called a staff meeting.”

Here is the Post quoting Sarah Palin on the same day:

“John? John?” Sarah Palin called to John McCain. “Can I add somethin’?” …
One woman wanted to give her the chance to address those who say Palin can’t be a mother and vice president. “Well, let’s prove ’em wrong,” Palin said to cheers.

She talked about her role if the ticket is elected: “Let me tell you, I know a little bit about energy. That’s gonna be my baby when I get to Washington, D.C.”

Notice anything?

 Whereas Obama was quoted with correctly spelled language, Palin is quoted as saying “somethin'”, “’em”, and “gonna”. It a subtle way of reinforcing her image as a boorish hunter from small town Alaska who has no business being on the national stage.

Why the Arab World is a Failure: Honor-Shame and the Iraqi-Israeli Disconnection

Recently an Iraqi parliamentarian came to Israel to attend the annual conference on Counter-terrorism held at Herzliya. Upon return, his fellow legislators voted unanimously to strip him of his immunity and some now want to execute him because of his deed. It’s hard not to view such a response as one more nail in the coffin of the Arab world’s ability to join the modern world. And the reason for this violent (and self-defeating) response? Honor!

Lawmakers accused him of humiliating the nation with a trip to the “enemy” state.

It is at once pathetic, and highly indicative of the profound mental and cultural resistance that permeates the Arab world to normalizing relations and getting on with the business of establishing a civil society.

Sep 22, 2008 16:58
Iraq may execute MP for Israel visit

Talkbacks for this article: 27

First his two sons were murdered. Now he faces prosecution. The reason for Mithal al-Alusi’s troubles? Visiting Israel and advocating peace with the Jewish state – something Iraq’s leaders refuse to consider.

The Iraqi is at the center of a political storm after his fellow lawmakers voted overwhelmingly to strip him of his immunity and allow his prosecution for visiting Israel – a crime punishable by death under a 1950s-era law. Such a fate is unlikely for al-Alusi, though he may lose his party’s sole seat in parliament.

Because he had visited Israel, many Iraqis assume the maverick legislator was the real target of the assassins who killed his sons in 2005 while he escaped unharmed.

Now he is in trouble for again visiting Israel and attending a conference a week ago at the International Institute for Counterterrorism.

“He wasn’t set to speak, but he was in the audience and conversed with a lecturer on a panel about insurgency and terrorism in Afghanistan, Iraq and Israel,” said conference organizer Eitan Azani. “We didn’t invite him. He came on his own initiative.”

Al-Alusi has a German passport, allowing him to travel without visa restrictions imposed on other Iraqis. Lawmakers accused him of humiliating the nation with a trip to the “enemy” state.

Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor called the reaction to al-Arusi’s visit “very distressing” and said it was sad this was the response to someone who merely visited Israel and was interested in a dialogue with it.

“It is very unfortunate that the reaction was so violent and aggressive,” he said. “It adds nothing.”

Michael Oren: Support for a Jewish State is Integral to the Idea of the United States

Prof. Michael Oren spoke tonight at a synagogue in DC on “America and the Zionist Idea”.  He traced the history of American support for the idea of a Jewish state in Israel from the Mayflower through the modern day.

Oren began by mentioning his upcoming piece on the differences between McCain and Obama on issues relating to Israel. Despite the profound differences that he found, there is no difference between their support for Israel as a Jewish state and as a strategic ally. Unprecedented in American politics, both politicians visited Israel at the height of their campaigns.

There are those out there, especially in the press and academia, who would attribute this to the nefarious influence of the Israel lobby. Oren says that support for Israel comes from something deep-rooted in the American story, and not in any cabal of pro-Israel lobbyists.

Good News?: France2 agrees to an independent investigation

This just in a few days ago: France2 has met with the head of the French-Jewish organization CRIF, Richard Prasquier, who held a news conference a month ago demanding a committee of investigation into the al Durah affair, and has agreed to one. It’s hard to know what’s going on, since such an investigation, pursued impartially will be very harmful to France2, but initial responses from French sources close to the event are cautiously optimistic. Article below with brief commentary.

Sep 19, 2008 17:24 | Updated Sep 20, 2008 18:38
Panel of experts to probe al-Dura video

The head of the state-owned France 2 television station has agreed to a demand from a Jewish community leader to establish a panel of experts to probe the controversial “Muhammad al-Dura broadcast,” the European Jewish Press reported Friday.
al durah take 3
Footage from the controversial Muhammed al-Dura video, aired by France 2.
Photo: AP [file]

As usual, lazy journalists put up the inflammatory picture Enderlin broadcast, not the anomalous one that Enderlin cut:

Take 6, two “takes” after Enderlin has declared the child dead, according to Talal after bleeding to death from a stomach wound for 20 minutes.

In September 2000, a France 2 broadcast showed the “killing” of Muhammad al-Dura,12, during an exchange of gunfire between IDF soldiers and Palestinian gunmen.

The report was based on footage taken by the station’s Gaza-based Palestinian cameraman Talal Abu Rahma, and accused the troops of killing the boy as he and his father tried to find cover.

The images shocked the world and caused outcry over Israel’s policies in the Gaza Strip. But Philippe Karsenty, head of French media watchdog Media-Ratings, raised questions on the report’s authenticity. Karsenty argued that Dura’s death was staged, and accused France 2’s Jerusalem then-correspondent Charles Enderlin of doctoring the footage. Enderlin was not in Gaza at the time of the incident.

France 2, however, stood by Enderlin and the Palestinian cameraman who submitted the footage in question. The station sued Karsenty for libel.

In May of this year, a Paris appeals court reversed the original decision against Karsenty, saying that the examination of the footage had not resolved the question of the film’s authenticity. Karsenty presented judges with new evidence including a ballistics report and footage from other sources, which he said proved the boy’s death had been staged.

Karsenty’s claims are based on inconsistencies in the footage, including a publicly available video-taped admission by Abu Rahma that there are untold secrets related to the case, the fact that only seven bullet holes are seen behind Dura despite Abu Rahma’s repeated statements that the child survived 45 minutes of continuous shooting by Israeli forces directed at the boy, footage clearly showing pretend gun battles and faked ambulance runs at the junction that day, testimony of the IDF soldiers stationed at the junction who said they did not participate in any firefight that day, and the lack of footage of Dura’s actual shooting.

Abu Rahma’s video shows Dura hiding, and then cuts to footage of him lying, apparently dead, at the junction. It does not show the child being killed.

In addition, the 55 seconds of video footage broadcast by France 2 in the original TV report were only part of some 18 minutes. The full film was shown in court, and detractors of France 2 claim that there is still more footage that has not been released.

The ruling absolving Karsenty of libel said that he had “exercised in good faith his right of criticism against the power of the press. [The watchdog head did not] exceed the limits of freedom of expression recognized by the European Human Rights Convention.”

The Anti-Defamation League has expressed support for the call for an independent investigation into the report. The panel of experts is expected to be established in November, and will be headed by Patrick Gaubert, chairman of Licra, the International League Against Racism and Anti-Semitism, who is also an EU Parliament member.

I don’t know much about Gaubert, but the LICRA looks like a good organization, and is certainly on the right side of the UN/human rights debate. That, in and of itself, is extremely encouraging, since Al Durah played such a prominent role in what LICRA justifiably sees as a travesty of human rights, namely Durban I.

Karsenty called the decision to set up a panel “good news” but said he would monitor who was selected as “experts” as well as what material was submitted for the panel’s consideration.

France 2 has appealed against the latest ruling to France’s Supreme Court.

The IDF concluded in its own investigation of the incident that Dura was not killed by soldiers. In 2007, deputy commander of the IDF Spokesman’s Office, Col. Shlomi Am-Shalom, wrote to France 2 asking for the entire unedited 27-minute film shot by France 2’s Palestinian cameraman on September 30, 2000, as well as footage the cameraman filmed on October 1, 2000. Am-Shalom stressed that the IDF had ‘ruled out’ the notion that Dura was killed by Israeli fire.

Citing the findings of the IDF’s probe into the incident, ordered by then-OC Southern Command Maj.-Gen. Yom Tov Samia, Am-Shalom wrote, “The general has made clear that from an analysis of all the data from the scene, including the location of the IDF position, the trajectory of the bullets, the location of the father and the son behind an obstacle, the cadence of the bullet fire, the angle at which the bullets penetrated the wall behind the father and his son, and the hours of the events, we can rule out with the greatest certainty the possibility that the gunfire that apparently harmed the boy and his father was fired by IDF soldiers, who were at the time located only inside their fixed position [at the junction].”

Haviv Rettig contributed to this report.

Pioneer Settler Rabbi Endorses Obama

Rabbi Menahem Frohman, one of pioneers of the religious settler movement in Israel, officially came out in support of Barack Obama for president. Frohman, from Teko’a, was in the news in February for drafting a proposed peace deal with Hamas, represented by Khaled Amayreh, that included the release of Gilad Shalit.

Paris Police Say Attacks not anti-Semitic

A follow-up to my earlier post about the attack on three Jewish youths in Paris-

It turns out that Paris prosecutors are not treating the attack as anti-Semitic. Bnei Akiva’s statement after the attack said that the boys were taunted by a group of North African youths, who fell upon the three Jews and beat them while yelling anti-Semitic slurs, but the police see the situation differently.

The Paris police have five youths under arrest, and interestingly, one of them is Jewish.  

Anecdote from US War College

I spoke today with a  professor who holds senior positions in government institutions and security think-tanks. Unfortunately, I am not at liberty to disclose who the gentleman is, but he is someone who is full of inside knowledge regarding the American military and the war on terror.

He had several interesting anecdotes to relate. Not long ago, a Pakistani brigadier general studying at one of the American war colleges remarked in a trip to Ground Zero, after being at the war college for a year, that Jews were warned to stay home on 9/11. This is not a new rumor, but it is striking that a Pakistani general studying for an extended period of time in America takes that conspiracy theory as fact.

The professor took the general to a memorial containing all the names of the victims. “Maybe you don’t know how to read names ethnically”, he said, “but your story simply isn’t true.” He then showed the general the many Jewish names on the memorial.

The professor also told me that Rupert Murdoch caught wind of the brigadier’s statement (though he did not tell me how) and called President Bush to ask him what kind of war college the country was running, if such statements are made by students who have been studying there for a year.

Osama Bin Laden understands the importance of the information war, the professor said.  He told me of intelligence that indicates that Bin Laden intended to strike on Yom Kippur in order to lend credence to the idea that Jews were behind the attacks. It is not known why the timing was changed, but it does speak to Bin Laden’s appreciation of propaganda.

RL interviewed by Jeff Whitaker

For those interested, today I was on Jeff Whitaker’s radio show now available in podcast. If you have suggestions about things I should have said, by all means.

Giving Russia the Benefit of the Doubt in the Georgia Crisis

Today at Georgetown University, Profs. Charles King and Charles Kupchan gave a talk entitled “Russia’s War with Georgia: Causes and Consequences“. The details and background they gave were extremely illuminating; their eagerness to give Russia the benefit of the doubt was decidedly less so.

King, a professor in the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown, spoke first. He introduced the idea of the war quickly becoming a “war of analogies”. Both sides tried to convince the world to view the conflict as analagous to a past one. Was this the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968 again (the CSM article linked here is indicative of that sentiment) ? Was South Ossetia modern-day Sudetenland? Was Russia using its citizens (though not ethnic Russians) as a lever like Hitler used his in the 1930’s? King says that the Georgians were quite skilled at the use of public relations and in the use of pushing these narratives, and Saakashvili was plugged into major power players in the American foreign policy establishment.  

Photographer Doctors Pictures of McCain for Atlantic Photo Shoot

Photographer Jill Greenberg (aptly nicknamed ‘The Manipulator’) was hired by The Atlantic to photograph John McCain for their October 2008 cover story. Greenberg, who is openly and proudly hostile to Republicans, manipulated photos from the shoot and posted them on her website. She also had McCain stand over a strobe light during the shoot to create devilish shadows on his face. The doctored pictures are shocking and make McCain look monstrous and, frankly, evil.

The editors of The Atlantic stand by Greenberg’s cover photo, and released this statement:

We stand by the respectful image of John McCain that we used on our cover, and we expect to be judged by it. We were not aware of the manipulated and dishonest images Jill Greenberg had taken until this past Friday.

When we contract with photographers for portraits, we don’t vet them for their politics-instead, we assess their professional track records. We had never worked with Jill Greenberg before (and, obviously, we will not work with her again). Based on the portraits she had done of politicians like Arnold Schwarzenegger and her work for publications like Time, Wired, and Portfolio, we expected her, like the other photographers we work with, to behave professionally.

Jill Greenberg has obviously not done that. She has, in fact, disgraced herself, and we are appalled by the manipulated images she has created for her Web site of John McCain.

However, Greenberg says that she manipulated the cover shot  to make his skin look bad.