Monthly Archives: January 2009

Gideon Levy Responds to AB Yehoshua

Here’s Levy’s response. I leave the commentary to commenters here.

Gideon Levy / An open response to A.B. Yehoshua

By Gideon Levy

Dear Bulli,

Thank you for your frank letter and kind words. You wrote it was written from a “position of respect,” and I, too, deeply respect your wonderful literary works. But, unfortunately, I have a lot less respect for your current political position. It is as if the mighty, including you, have succumbed to a great and terrible conflagration that has consumed any remnant of a moral backbone.

You, too, esteemed author, have fallen prey to the wretched wave that has inundated, stupefied, blinded and brainwashed us. You’re actually justifying the most brutal war Israel has ever fought and in so doing are complacent in the fraud that the “occupation of Gaza is over” and justifying mass killings by evoking the alibi that Hamas “deliberately mingles between its fighters and the civilian population.” You are judging a helpless people denied a government and army – which includes a fundamentalist movement using improper means to fight for a just cause, namely the end of the occupation – in the same way you judge a regional power, which considers itself humanitarian and democratic but which has shown itself to be a brutal and cruel conqueror. As an Israeli, I cannot admonish their leaders while our hands are covered in blood, nor do I want to judge Israel and the Palestinians the same way you have.

The residents of Gaza have never had ownership of “their own piece of land,” as you have claimed. We left Gaza because of our own interests and needs, and then we imprisoned them. We cut the territory off from the rest of the world and the occupied West Bank, and did not permit them to construct an air or sea port. We control their population registrar and their currency – and having their own military is out of the question – and then you argue that the occupation is over? We have crushed their livelihood, besieged them for two years, and you claim they “have expelled the Israeli occupation”? The occupation of Gaza has simply taken on a new form: a fence instead of settlements. The jailers stand guard on the outside instead of the inside.

Baby Wars: Why Israeli civilian casualties are low

I was just on a radio program/debate with Dr. Hashem Mubarak in Florida. One of his major challenges was “why are there more Palestinian than Israeli civilian casualties. Upon hanging up, I looked at my email, and here was the answer (HT: Shim Berkowitz):

Dr. Mubarak, although he had never read the Hamas charter, had no hesitation telling the audience that this was not a religious issue.

Here’s the debate.

Sounds of Sanity I: AB Yehoshua Rebukes Gideon Levy

A fine lesson in the self-critical nature of the Israeli left. Gideon Levy has no sense of boundaries; AB Yehoshua does.

A.B. Yehoshua / An open letter to Gideon Levy (HT: JW, JL)

By A.B. Yehoshua

Dear Gideon,

You remember that in recent years I called you occasionally to praise you for your articles and your writing about the wrongs done to the Palestinians in the administered territories, whether by the army or by the settlers. Physical wrongs, land expropriations, acts of abuse, perversions of justice and so on. I told you that it is very difficult to read what you write, because it weighs on our conscience, but that the work you are doing and the voice you are sounding are extremely important. I was also concerned about your physical safety, knowing that you risked your life by visiting such hostile places.

I did not ask you why you did not visit Israeli hospitals in order to tell the painful stories of Israeli citizens who were hurt in terrorist attacks. I accepted your position that there are plenty of other journalists doing this and that you had taken on the crucial mission of telling the story of the afflictions of the other side, our enemies today and our neighbors tomorrow. Accordingly, it is from this position of respect that I find it necessary to respond to your recent articles on the war in which we are engaged today, so that you will be able to preserve the moral validity of your distinctive voice for the future.

A few years ago, when the Hatuel family – a mother and her four children, of blessed memory – were killed on the way to one of the settlements in Gush Katif, I believed that this terrible death pained you as it did all of us but that like many of us you said in your heart: Why should these Israelis endanger their children by living provocatively, hopelessly, dangerously and immorally in Gush Katif? By what right do 8,000 Jews expropriate a sizable area in the densely overcrowded Gaza Strip in order to build blossoming villages before the eyes of hundreds of thousands of refugees living in such abysmal conditions? You were angry, as I was, at the parents and at those who sent them. And even though I believe that like all of us you felt the pain of the children who were killed, you did not brand the leaders of Hamas “war criminals” as you did the Israeli leaders, and you did not demand the establishment of an international tribunal to try them.

When I asked you after the disengagement from Gaza, Gideon, explain to me why they are firing missiles at us, you replied that they want us to open the crossings. I asked you whether you truly believe that if they fire missiles the crossings will be opened, or the opposite. And whether you truly believe that it is right and just to open crossings into Israel for those who declare openly and sincerely that they want to destroy our country. I did not get an answer from you.

I wonder why.

BBC Silent about being Terrorized in Gaza: Discretion or Cowardice?

Israeli media reports that Hamas took over the first floor of the building that the BBC offices in Gaza last night and fired rockets from there, trapping the journalists above. Despite the fact that their reporters have now escaped the building, the BBC has so far not said anything about this.

When I was interviewed on the BBC last week, I commented on the pervasive intimidation of the MSM in Gaza, which is one of the reasons that there were none there when the hostilities broke out. I pointed out that the last journalist resident in Gaza, Alan Johnston, now the editor in chief, only survived because he was so openly pro-Palestinian, and even he got kidnapped and brutalized.

“I’ll cut that out to spare you a law suit, my interviewer said. You’re impugning the integrity of a journalist, and without his credibility he can’t practice his profession.” I was at once struck by the combination of concern for reputation and shamelessness involved in such a “favor” to me.

But here’s the BBC, used as human shields by Hamas, and they won’t let the public know.

Now on the other hand, the Foreign Press has decided to boycott the visual material released by the Army Spokesperson’s Unit (Dover Tzahal) because they object to not being allowed to go into Gaza and — get this — to the Israelis shelling buildings that hold press offices in Gaza. (I kid you not.)

From: The Foreign Press Association

Sent: Thursday, January 15, 2009 2:27 PM

Subject: Urgent notice to members

The FPA rejects and condemns the IDF policy of controlling the news coverage of the events in Gaza. by preventing the entry of foreign journalists into Gaza and bombing buildings housing offices of international media - contrary to IDF assurances that these media buildings would be safe – the IDF is severely violating basic principles of respect for press freedom.

As a result of these unconscionable breaches, the FPA calls on all its members not to broadcast or print stills and videos the IDF provides as a substitute to independent reporting – until such time the IDF issues a formal apology for the attacks on the media buildings and offers assurances that no such event will occur in the future.

The Foreign Press Association

It’s hard to find a finer illustration of the sad truth that the media will behave in craven fashion towards those who will hurt them if the journalists displease them, and in arrogant fashion towards those who won’t retaliate. Despite the many and vociferous denunciations of the Israelis in their statements during the current conflict, not one discusses misbehavior by Hamas.

And the righteous indignation of the letter further illustrates my belief that, unable to admit to either their public or themselves that they are intimidated, they hid behind a pseudo-ideology that permits them to wax morally eloquent. Alas for the state of journalism. Alas for the MSM’s Western public! Alas that Israel won’t denounce these hypocrites.

Pallywood Alert: Bruno Stevens on the Gaza Beat

Rudi Roth writes from Belgium that Bruno Stevens is in Gaza. In a comment to an article in HLN.BE on anti-semitic graffiti on a French synagogue, Anti Volkenmoordenaars, Tervuren writes:

Bruno Stevens, is fully occupied in Gaza. He’s the only journalist who can get in despite the fact that the Jews [sic] tried to hide the truth by blocking the journalists. [Note, no comment about why the Egyptians have blocked them.] His first messages and photos can be seen in HNB. Soon also in NW, PM, and Stern!!

Rudi writes:

That is the same guy who took the photo of the never shot F16 above Lebanon…

and “knows” everything about Al Dura, just everything.

We can expect a lot of pallywood with that guy..

I am ashamed that such a man has my nationality.

I’ve discussed Bruno‘s work and his analysis in the Lebanon War, also available in French.

Keep an eye for his photos.

UPDATE: It’s started. Here’s one:

bruno

Here he is on TV.

Just what is genetically coded in the history of Judaism? Bill Moyers’ Wretched Failure

On January 9, 2009, Bill Moyers presented his thoughts on the Gaza situation. In it he (apparently) couldn’t resist connecting it to biblical issues. And in doing so, he revealed an appalling, and for someone steeped in biblical interpretation, inexcusably vicious reading of the texts.

From Bill Moyers’s transcript:

What we are seeing in Gaza is the latest battle in the oldest family quarrel on record. Open your Bible: the sons of the patriarch Abraham become Arab and Jew. Go to the Book of Deuteronomy. When the ancient Israelites entered Canaan their leaders urged violence against its inhabitants. The very Moses who had brought down the commandment “Thou shalt not kill” now proclaimed, “You must destroy completely all the places where the nations have served their gods. You must tear down their altars, smash their pillars, cut down their sacred poles, set fire to the carved images of their gods, and wipe out their name from that place.”

So God-soaked violence became genetically coded.

Alvin Rosenfeld, someone exceptionally familiar with the “new anti-Semitism” of the 21st century, wrote him as follows:

Some Comparative Urban Aerial Warfare: Martin Sherman Compares Allies in Kosovo vs. Israelis in Gaza

At the beginning of this operation I posted about the civilian casualty tolls, suspecting that they would be considerably lower than any other comparable aerial bombardment campaign. Now, Martin Sherman has done the job with the most oomparable case — in terms of time frame (less than a decade ago) and in terms of army with an ethic of not harming civilians. As suspected, and as with the case in Jenin, the comparison places the Israelis far above the rest for effective protection of civilians caught in the urban warfare.

He concludes with some excellent suggestions for how Israel should handle both international diplomats and a media permeated by rank hypocrisy. I suspect that no one currently in the world of Israeli public diplomacy will adopt any of this — way too confrontational for them. But the idea that both international diplomats and MSM reporters be held up to the scorn of a global public that cannot understand why Israel will not fight back on the media front, strikes me as a capital idea. (HT/NB)

Proportionality and hypocrisy

Why are military ops in Gaza, Kosovo judged by wildly disparate criteria?

Martin Sherman
Published: 01.14.09, 23:46 / Israel Opinion

“There is always a cost to defeat an evil. It never comes free, unfortunately. But the cost of failure to defeat a great evil is far higher.”
Jamie Shea, NATO spokesman, BBC News, May 31, 1999

It was in these words that the official NATO representative chose to respond to criticism regarding the numerous civilian casualties incurred by the alliance’s frequent air attacks during the war in Kosovo between March and June of 1999. He insisted NATO planes bombed only “legitimate designated military targets” and if civilians had died it was because NATO had been forced into military action. Adamant that “we try to do our utmost to ensure that if there are civilians around we do not attack,” Shea emphasized that “NATO does not target civilians…let’s be perfectly clear about that.”

However, hundreds of civilians were killed by a NATO air campaign, code named “Operation Allied Force” – which hit residential neighborhoods, old-aged sanatoriums, hospitals, open markets, columns of fleeing refugees, civilian buses and trains on bridges, and even a foreign embassy.

Exact figures are difficult to come by, but the undisputed minimum is almost 500 civilians deaths (with some estimates putting the toll as high as 1500) – including women, children and the elderly, killed about in 90 documented attacks by an alliance that included the air forces of Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Holland, Italy, Turkey, Spain, the UK, and the US. Up to 150 civilians deaths were reportedly caused by the use of cluster-bombs dropped on, or adjacent to, known civilian areas.

By contrast, the military losses inflicted by NATO on the Serbian forces during almost 80 days of aerial bombardment, unchallenged by any opposing air power, were remarkably low – with most estimates putting the figure at less than 170 killed.

Meanwhile, NATO forces suffered… no combat fatalities! This was mainly due to the decision to conduct high altitude aerial attacks which greatly reduced the danger to NATO military personnel in the air, but dramatically increased it for the Serbian (and Kosovar) civilians on the ground. Moreover, the civilian populations of the countries participating on Operation Allied Force were never attacked or – even threatened – in any way by Serbian forces.

When all is said and done, my estimate is that civilian casualties in Operation Cast Lead will have a 3:1 combatant to civilan ratio of casulties, and that that ratio is unmatched in the history of aerial urban warfare and will be so for a very long time to come (unless it’s the next Israeli operation).

The significance of all this for Israel, beset as it is by a maelstrom criticism and censure regarding its military campaign in Gaza, should be starkly apparent. It raises three trenchant issues which it would fail to address to its great detriment:

1. The irrelevance of proportionality in military engagements
2. The unlimited hypocrisy of international politics
3. The disastrous incompetence of Israeli international diplomacy

The issue of proportionality, or rather, the alleged lack thereof, has been the basis for the fierce condemnation of Israel’s conduct in its military operations in Gaza because the number of Palestinians casualties far outweighs that of Israeli ones. However, the conduct of military operations in Kosovo by many of Israel’s present detractors shows that this was never a consideration or constraint which they felt bound by.

Quite the contrary, the very modus operandi they adopted – i.e. high altitude bombing – demonstrates that they deliberately aspired to disproportionality. As noted, this ensured an almost zero casualty rate among their own combatants but inevitably resulted in less accurate targeting of alleged military objectives on the ground, exposing a virtually defenseless civilian population to far greater danger and far higher casualties.

‘Put a sock in it’

All of this serves to underscore vividly the crass hypocrisy of Israel’s critics. Indeed, in stark contrast to NATO’s willful disregard for enemy civilians, the IDF has often placed Israeli soldiers in mortal peril to prevent Palestinian civilians from being harmed. Furthermore, Israel’s use of military might has invariably been in response a tangible threat – or actual assault – on its citizens.

The blatant disregard for any semblance of proportionality by democratic belligerents and the shameless hypocrisy of their self-righteous and misplaced criticism of Israel highlight a crucial deficiency – often diagnosed and equally often neglected – in the overall structure of its international strategy: the incompetence – indeed impotence – of Israeli diplomacy. For the documented data on the conduct of the war in Kosovo by the world’s leading democracies should provide ample material with which to resolutely rebuff much of the pompous tirade of condemnation being hurled at Israel today.

Sadly however, this has not happened. Although up to now Israel’s media management during the Gaza operation has shown a marked improvement relative to the appalling performance during the 2006 Lebanon War, it still appears to be trapped in mindset of unbecoming apologetics and mired in a misplaced timidity which undermine its credibility and persuasiveness.

For Israel to prevail in the crucial battle for public opinion it must go on the offensive. It must convey confidence and conviction in the fundamental moral validity of the nation’s actions. It must not shy away from resolutely repelling unjustified slander and from reprimanding malicious slanderers.

It should not shrink from convening all the NATO country ambassadors in a public forum, open to the international media, and sternly point out how unacceptable “stone throwing” is for residents of “glass houses,” how inadvisable it is for “pots” to accuse “kettles” of being black, and to firmly demand – in appropriately discreet diplomatic terms – that they “put a sock in it.”

It should not refrain from confronting unprincipled correspondents who concoct malevolent fabrications against Israel, and unambiguously convey to them that gross lack of professional integrity and balance will not be tolerated, and that excessive abuse of journalistic privilege will result in its withdrawal. It should be made clear to those in the international media who reside in Israel but insist on portraying it in an unfair and unfounded light that they will have to cover events in the region while residing in some Arab country – where they presumably will find society less objectionable and less defective.

It should not hold back the resources required to assertively – even coercively – replace political correctness with political truth in the international discourse on the Middle East in general and on the Israel-Palestinian conflict in particular. It must bring these truths to the attention of political opinion-makers and of politically aware publics across the globe – if need be by circumventing hostile and obstructive editorial bias by means of prominent, paid infomercials in major media channels.

Only measures such as these will allow Israel to gain the upper hand in the battle for public opinion, to prevent it being the victim of unjust, unjustified and unjustifiable double standards, and to ensure that military operations in Gaza and Kosovo are not judged by wildly disparate criteria.

Signs of Diversity in Gaza: Alas! Extremist and Beyond

When I make generalizations about the Arab and Muslim world – e.g., they believe the existence of Israel is a humiliation which must be washed away with blood – I am often criticized for being an “essentialist” and denying the “variegated” nature of Arabic Muslim culture. They have many points of view. I normally quip that “Yes, indeed, there’s a major debate in the Arab world today: Is the US a pawn of Israel? Or vice-versa? — with the prize for paranoia going to the latter side.

Now, from MEMRI, we get a new wrinkle in the variegated nature of Muslim society: Should Salafis (Muslims who believe that they – and all Muslims – should live according to the principles of Muhammad, closely allied with al Qaeda) support Hamas in its war against Israel? Or is Hamas insufficiently Muslim because it has failed to institute Sharia as soon as it took power?

It’s a sordid tale of violent religious zealotry and lust for revenge, in which both sides cordially distrust and despise each other, in which the Salafis rejoice in Israel’s pummeling of their Hamas persecutors.

The Current Crisis in Gaza and the Salafi-Jihadi Dilemma

The current fighting in Gaza poses a dilemma for the adherents of the Salafi-jihadi ideology in Gaza and elsewhere. On the one hand, the Salafi-jihadis perceive Hamas as engaged in defensive jihad against the Israeli invasion of Gaza, and thus feel obligated to assist it. At the same time, they view Hamas as insufficiently devout in that it has refused to implement the shari’a law in Gaza fully and to the exclusion of any other legal system.(1)
 


Debates on Islamist Internet forums reveal that the Salafi-jihadis’ dilemma is doctrinal in nature.(2) Salafi-jihadi forum members discuss whether the Hamas regime in Gaza should be viewed as apostate, or as a devout Islamic regime that is nevertheless neglecting some aspects of Islamic law. If the latter is true, one is obligated to assist Hamas against Israel, whereas if the former is the case, one is prohibited from any association with Hamas, even during a crisis. 
 


Some Salafi-jihadis contend that “Hamas’ announcements and conduct” since its coming to power (i.e., its failure to implement the shari’a, its participation in a secular parliament, and its association with Iran) are sufficient legal grounds for declaring it apostate.(3) They state that “the banner of Hamas… is a banner of jahiliyya… defiled by apostasy, [prohibited] innovation, and distortion, and fighting under it is therefore the biggest error and deviation [from the shari'a], even during [war] against the Jews.”(4) Indeed, a communiqué recently published by the Gaza-based Salafi-jihadi group Jaysh Al-Ummah calls on the Salafi-jihadis to resist the Israeli invasion, but stresses that they must fight under the banner of tawhid (rather than the banner of Hamas) and that the goal of the campaign is to “render the word of Allah supreme,” rather than merely resist occupation.


Arab Reformer Challenges the West’s Unconscious Racism

“The gift of liberty is like a horse, handsome, strong, and high-spirited. In some it arouses a wish to ride; in many others, on the contrary, it increases the desire to walk.” Massimo d’Azeglio, Italian observer of the failure of the 1848 democratic revolutions.

The indispensable MEMRI put up an article by Omran Salmon, an Arab “reformer” to the implicitly racist assumption that the Arab world is incapable of democracy. It’s an interesting challenge because in some senses it seems to contradict my arguments about cognitive egocentrism in which I claim that by projecting liberal Western attitudes positive-sum attitudes onto Arabs, we automatically assume that they’re capable of democracy when they’re not. That, I contend, is a form of prejudice in which liberals give Arabs a free pass because, assuming Arabs are incapable of democratic values, liberals are afraid to make the demands necessary.

It turns out, Salmon’s attack on the West reflects precisely the problem Arabs have with democracy, and confirm the judgment of pessimistic Westerners. I’ll try and sort out some of the issues by responding to Salmon’s comments [in bold] below.

Special Dispatch – No. 2182
January 9, 2009 No. 2182

Arab Liberal Criticizes European Parliament President for Suggesting That the Middle East Does Not Deserve The Democracy Enjoyed By The West
www.aafaq.org, December 21, 2008.

During a December 20, 2008 visit to the Omani capital Muscat, European Parliament President Hans-Gert Poettering stated that democracy in the Middle Eastmust evolve from within, that it must reflect local traditions and values, and that the West should not pressure the region to adopt a European-style democratic system. This statement sparked criticism among Arab intellectuals; the next day, ‘Omran Salman, editor of the reformist website Aafaq.org, [1] posted an article harshly critical of Poettering’s statements.

Following are excerpts from Salman’s article:

Western Officials Would Rather Keep the Middle East Under Dictatorships

“…What is the meaning of statements [such as Poettering's]… that the democratic system followed in Europe is appropriate for countries all over the world except in the Arab region?

“Naturally, such statements are not innocuous, nor are they for the benefit of these alleged exceptions [i.e. the Arab countries]; rather, they are manifestations of racist tendencies as well as self-serving objectives.

“These people [like Poettering] believe that Arabs deserve nothing better than their present governments – [that is,] they do not deserve the democracy enjoyed by civilized nations. It follows that it is better not to pressure dictatorial regimes but instead to grant their wishes, [and receive] in exchange agreements, money, and profits – while the people there can go to hell.

Not a promising beginning. This indignant charge — which assumes Arabs are perfectly capable of having a democracy — comes close to a conspiracy theory about the West wanting to keep the Arab world run by dictators. A little self-critical humility might have been in order. After all, the Arab world is virtually a universal political failure, and only tiny emirates rolling in petrodollars have even come vaguely close to democracy.

The irony, of course, is that poor President Poettering was just trying to be accommodating, and, rather than make demands on the Arabs, hoped to appease them by not imposing western standards — women’s and minority rights, free press and speech — for which no Arab nation or culture (even in the diaspora) shows much aptitude. This indignation seems a bit misplaced.

Shrinking, Densely populated Gaza: The Trope of the War

If there’s a major trope that virtually every media “talking head” and anchor has repeated — ad nauseam — it’s that a) Gaza is the most densely populated place on earth, and b) you can’t bomb without killing LOTS of civilians. Somewhat like Annie Lennox, the very sight of airplanes bombing Gaza means “absolute” “horrific” “carnage” in which innocent women and children” are “inevitably” on “the receiving end.”

Martin Kramer has an excellent and witty blogpost on the misrepresented size of Gaza and its population density.

Last week, I was listening to a podcast of an interview with Professor Rashid Khalidi on a Chicago public radio station. I had downloaded it in great anticipation, and it got off to a great start. Khalidi, a Palestinian-American, is the Edward Said Professor at Columbia, editor of the Journal of Palestine Studies, author of a well-regarded book on Palestinian identity, and the man whom Obama said reminded him of “my own blind spots.” (He was never a PLO spokesman in Beirut—don’t believe anything you read by those people.) Khalidi was smoothly guiding me through the injustices inflicted on the Palestinians at his customarily rapid clip, and I felt I was in good hands. If you can’t believe what Rashid Khalidi says about Palestine… well, who can you believe?

And then, four minutes and twenty seconds into the interview, it happened. Khalidi was explaining how Israel knew “every inch” of Gaza. After all, he said, “the Gaza Strip is about ten or eleven miles by two.”

I spewed a mouthful of coffee all over my keyboard. The Gaza Strip is over six times larger than Khalidi’s “ten or eleven miles by two.” Not an order-of-magnitude mistake, but approaching one. Khalidi’s estimate would make Gaza four times more densely populated than Singapore (in fact, population density in Gaza is somewhere over half of Singapore’s). Did Khalidi think that was possible? I wondered. Perhaps it was a mere slip. But then, eight minutes and forty seconds into the interview, came this: Israel was using battlefield weapons “in the most heavily populated area on earth.”

No, not him too! Too many of my idols have been toppled! Juan Cole, who thought that Israel’s Jenin operation (April 2002) had provoked 9/11 (September 2001)… Joel Beinin, who insisted that $100 billion in total aid to Israel make a trillion… Sara Roy, who wrote that the average Gazan consumes half a ton of flour a day… So many champions of Palestine have been martyred by math and chronology! But Rashid Khalidi had been my rock—ever-reliable, academically impeccable.

Do I expect too much? “You can’t swing a cat in Gaza,” Rashid added. “You can’t throw a stone without hitting somebody.” I imagine this isn’t literally true. And if we allow this license for words, why not for numbers?

Why not?

Indeed, why not? Because, like Pallywood, it’s just one more coffin nail in the civil society based on any basis in reality. If Obama thinks that a man as intellectually dishonest as Khalidi can help him identify a blindspot, then he’s exchanging an area of ignorance for a toxic narrative. To paraphrase Twain, “If you don’t listen to Palestinian sources, you uninformed; if you listen to them you’re disinformed.” As the perils of post-modernism.

Read the rest of the blogpost and register you’re estimates of comparative population density.

And for something even funnier (academics’ sense of humor, even when they have one, can be pretty dry), try this from the global conspiracist, Elder of Zion (HT/Caecilia):

Lee Hiromoto of the IDF Spokesman’s Unit: Proud of my Fight

I’ve had the honor and privilege of having Lee Hiromoto, a soldier in the IDF and member of the North American Desk of the Spokesman’s unit as a guest at my house, and I am pleased to publish on the blog his letter to his alma mater, Yale University’s newspaper.

Hiromoto: Proud of my fight
Lee Hiromoto
Published Tuesday, January 13, 2009
JERUSALEM

Sometimes I yearn for the amoral, analytical freedom I had during my bright college years. The chance to look at an issue from all sides and deconstruct it in an ethical vacuum to understand all points of view was invaluable for my personal growth and intellectual satisfaction. But that era, like so many throughout history, has ended, and I have arrived in reality.

My reality is that two and a half years after graduating from Yale College, I am a soldier in the Israel Defense Forces, and I have found myself in the middle of a conflict between my adopted country and those who would see it and its citizens wiped off the face of the earth. Extremist zealots from groups like Hamas and Islamic Jihad seek to annihilate the State of Israel and its diverse communities of Jews, Christians, Druze and (yes) Muslims.

Like most Israelis, I believe in and refuse to give up on the dream of peaceful coexistence with our Palestinian neighbors. Before being drafted into the IDF, I studied Arabic diligently at Yale and spent a year working for a network of Arab-Jewish schools in Israel. When Israel left Gaza in 2005, I, then about to begin my senior year in the Elm City, shared the global hope that Gazans of all political stripes and ethno-religious backgrounds would embrace the new beginning to bring peace and prosperity to our region.

Alas, that dream has been torn asunder. The Iranian surrogate Hamas, a longtime sponsor of terror, usurped the Palestinian people’s democratic processes and seized control of the Gaza Strip in a coup in 2007.

Gaza and its Palestinian residents are currently hostages of the Hamas regime. Their homes and street corners have been rigged with mines and bombs, their places of worship turned into weapons warehouses, and their schools jury-rigged as launchpads for their rockets. Indeed, Hamas has made Gaza, once home to ordinary life, a battlefield in their unholy war against the freedom and hope that have been embodied by the State of Israel in its short 60 years of life.

This perpetual existential adversity has not stopped the Israeli people from realizing the dream of a strong and democratic state. Whereas other countries might have used hostile populations on all sides as a pretense for dictatorship and tyranny, the State of Israel has become a model for multiethnic democracy. Judicial review is rigorous (a Christian Arab judge sits on the country’s Supreme Court), civilians exercise full control over the military, and women and gays enjoy legal equality (including compulsory service in the Israel Defense Forces for both). Within its democratic framework, Israel has followed the American model of welcoming immigrant groups from around the world: My basic training unit included soldiers from North America, both Eastern and Western Europe, Ethiopia, Ghana and India.

Israel’s only reward for a painful yet hope-filled departure from Gaza has been over 6,000 rockets directed against innocent Israeli civilians since August 2005. Today nearly 1 million people living in southern Israel must cower every second of the day for fear that one of these dread-inspiring creations will explode and shatter their lives. I often think of my octogenarian grandmother — would she be able to make it to a bomb shelter within the 15 seconds allotted by such a launch?

While the current situation, where IDF forces have reluctantly re-entered the Gaza strip, is not an easy one, I know that our cause is just and that we have no other choice. What country in the world would tolerate daily barrages of rockets and mortar bombs against its civilians for eight years?

I am proud to be wearing my uniform now because I, like the other women and men who wear it, am working to build a peaceful, stable Middle East despite extremist elements plotting to destroy this vision. Indeed, if not for those years of observation and analysis in the hallowed halls of the Ivy League, I may not have developed the discernment to understand the difference between the inherent justice of self-defense and the immorality of brutal aggression directed deliberately against innocent Israeli civilians.

This critical difference between the necessity of self-defense and the barbarity of terror, like the stark contrast between academic theory and palpable reality, empowers me and all other peace-seekers to continue to hope, pray and, if necessary, fight to create a better world in our three-dimensional real time so far from textbooks and lectures.

Lee Hiromoto is a 2006 graduate of Morse College.

France2 Steps in the Pallywood Doodoo… and what a revealing whopper!

A recent incident, well covered in both the blogosphere and (some) of the MSM, casts a brilliant light on some of the darker alleys of the media theater of war, particularly on the inner workings of Pallywood.

France2′s combination of “the tailor” Talal abu Rahme and his boss, “the chamberlain” Charles Enderlin, producing the Pallywood magnum opus al Durah, first revealed the workings of this disturbing symbiosis of Palestinian and Western media to me in October 2003.

Not content with his work, Enderlin, in one of those fits of arrogance that often befall those who fool too many people too often, got France2 to sue Philippe Karsenty for saying France2 had presented the staged Al Durah Hoax as real news. In the appeals case, the court demanded that Enderlin show the (Pallywood) footage (which he cut), and then presented the court with a video that used Pallywood footage to try and convince the court they didn’t use staged footage.

They deservedly lost in court.

Now we see them in a particularly egregious error that anyone who had been paying the slightest attention to what the issues involved in Palestinian footage would have caught:

I. The incident: On September 23, 2005, at a celebration of the “victory” of having driven the Israelis from Gaza after the “Disengagement,” a victory float of Hamas “activists” and their arsenal exploded, killing more than a dozen Palestinian civilians including several children drawn by the sight of the weaponry. Hamas tried, in true Pallywood style, to blame Israel, but with a less than united front between Hamas and Fatah, the real story leaked so badly the press did not snatch at the proferred bait. Of course, once the Israelis were no longer to blame, the story — Palestinian militants kill Palestinian civilians — had no legs. For the MSM, it died there.

II. The resurrection of the mutilated flesh: On January 1, 2009, Mounir1426 put up one of his first videos at LiveLink entitled, ISRAEL CARNAGE CIVILIANS CHILDREN GAZA. The explanation offered: Israel just bombed a large civilian street market in Gaza. His logo reads: FOR GAZA.

III. Viral Spread: The video spread rapidly particularly in Muslim and radical anti-Zionist circles, with half a million hits in some cases. Including a French site. [Documentation of its viral spread welcome here.]

IV. The immediate response of the critical blogosphere nails the video as incorrect. Already Sunday, January 4, Little Green Footballs summarized the discussion to that point. Even the poster of the video admitted error (although he refused to take down the libelous running header for fear of “losing the conversational thread that would ensue with changing it).

V. France2 runs with it: On the afternoon, Monday, January 5, 2009 France2 ran the following program in which they both reported Palestinian claims of a bomb hitting a house and killing a family of five, and then this report of a Gaza market place:

The narrators voice (not Charles Enderlin but that of Renaud Bernard, a signatory of the embarrassing letter of support for Charles after his loss in court) tells us:

“To show the violence of the combat, Arab televisions and Internet broadcast these images, photographed by a telephone. It would be a question [il s'agirait] of a missile strike on the first of January. The military [in the footage] wear the Hamas armband. In the crowd there are military, but also many civilian corpses.

Analysis

This sequence of events is immensely revealing about the dynamics, the driving forces that keep up Pallywood inertia, long after they’ve been brought to light. In a sense, this is the “Adnan al Haj” incident of the war, the poster-child for how the war has been waged in the media theater, and prima facie evidence of the perduring MSM attraction to Pallywood footage.

First, note that the original incident is actually a terrifying example of the contempt for human life that the people in Hamas — and many other Palestinian leaders — have for the lives of their civilians. To parade with live ammunition so badly maintained that it explodes in front of gawking youth at a demonstration, renders our legal term “criminal negligence” impoverished. This is a terribly and terribly revealing insight into the mentality of people enlisted in a death cult.

Of course, as with the Gaza Beach tragedy a year later, Hamas tried to blame Israel for their work — the classic scapegoating instinct that informs so much of Pallywood. At the time, given the presence of an opposing Palestinian voice (political rival Fatah), their efforts failed. But since the MSM showed no interest in the affair once it violated their framing narratives, what might have offered Western audiences an important insight into the dynamics of Palestinian political culture, failed to make much of an impact in the MSM.

But it stayed in the toxic blogosphere and reappeared as a Hamas originally wanted to use it — an accusation against Israel for precisely the brutality that Hamas directs, not at Israeli civilians, but at their own! It would be harder to find a more morally corrupt act of disinformation than this, even though such deeds abound in cyberspace.

Second, note how rapidly France2 was forced to retract, from the action of the blogosphere. This is, in a sense, the equivalent victory for the French empirically-critical blogosphere, whose gestation period benefited from the revelations of the Al Durah case, and which had already made itself felt when France2 circulated their stunningly ignorant petition for Charles Enderlin. The many comments on the Figaro article about it are overwhelmingly critical of France2 and fully aware of the links between this and the Al Durah affair. As one punned, “Pourvu… que sa Dura. ["As long as/would that it last/s."]

The apology of Etienne Leenhardt, Adjunct Director of Information at France2, is revealing:

It is an error on our part to have broadcast these images, which in fact, date from 2005. The sequence that we broadcast was supposed to ilustrate the war of images on the Internet. The people who prepared the subject went too fast. It’s a good warning inoculation for our production unit. It reminds us to be very attentive on verifying our sources. We will present our excuses to our viewers tomorrow [Tuesday], during the JT of 1 PM.

Arlette Chabot, key player in the Al Durah trial, added her dismissive apologies — “In any case it’s not a manipulation, and the diffusion of the images only lasted 10 seconds…”

Note that the France2 team in Paris had every opportunity to check the viability of this video on the internet before running with it. A half a minute would have revealed the real story to any minimally competent fact checker. But it’s actually worse: France2 is the poster child for Western media dupe to Pallywood. They were forced to show (and felt compelled to censure!) their footage before a packed courtroom, and when they tried to defend themselves with their own video, they made more mistakes.

Part of what makes this video so shocking to people who know this material, is how sloppy this is. And it doesn’t stop at one piece of footage. It’s a whole mentality, fed by a systematic lack of familiarity with the issues at play.

Apparently the whole fiasco wasn’t warning enough. France2 and Enderlin tried to maintain their dignity even as it maintained a flatlined learning curve.

And what about the documentary that came to their defense that warned against toxic content on the internet? Surely they knew about that.

So, une petite piqure, a little shot innoculating them from missteps is actually pretty weak language. France2 actually participated in the very viral war of images — on the side of the haters, on the side of those who are destabilizing Arab governments throughout the Middle East, and tearing up the streets of Paris and London.

This is hardly a “petite bavure,” a little slip. On the contrary, this incident deserves closer attention and denunciation. Fortunately, call for serious censure has come from a number of anti-raciste organizations in France, including LICRA the one whose director is supposed to do the investigation into the Al Durah case. France2 cannot be happy.

Note the careful circumlocutions and the framing of the presentation: the narrator makes it clear this is not France2 footage, that it may be suspicious (although that word is never uttered). He may well know that this is unrealiable but wants to use it anyway.

And the reason for that, is that this footage fits into his narrative seamlessly: “Israelis slaughter Palestinian civilians mercilessly.” The preceding scene covered a strike that Palestinian sources claim came from an Israeli naval vessel firing off the coast. Then, to drive home the point, he runs with the toxic footage.

The narrative is clear: Everything we ever read about how Western imperialists engaged in rampant, genocidal slaughter of native populations… is true again, of the Israelis. Think a scene from The Last Samurai, where he feverishly remembers the slaughter of Indian civilians… that’s the Israelis.

(The bitter irony of it all, is that the Arabs are unquestionably frustrated genocides, who openly declare their intentions to anyone who cares to listen.)

What this incident reveals most strikingly is what one might call the irresistible appeal that MSM reporters — especially Europeans like the folks at France2 — have for footage and stories that make Israel look bad, or even worse, like the most ruthless murderers around. Little truffles of moral Schadenfreude that make Europeans feel so superior to the Israelis, a sense that permeates the challenges posed to them by TV anchors with limited understanding of the conflict. With such bait within reach, our journalist could not resist snapping at it.

The wretched irony here is that had Stephane Malleterre and his Canal+ crew, who did an investigative report on the toxic elements on the web, rather than putting Philippe Karsenty and me in the same bag with Holocaust Deniers and 9-11 Truthers as “conspiracy nuts,” but showed how France2 had fed a worldwide hatred by being duped by Talal abu Rahmeh, then perhaps this might have been avoided. Had Canal+ held its colleagues at France2 up for criticism as dupes of this conspiratorial toxic web culture, rather than smeared us, who know? Maybe France2 would have already gotten their “inoculation”?

And so, the cost of spreading the toxic environment that fuels the street demonstrations, that rally useful fools like Annie Lennox, France2 feeds the fatal addiction of Europeans for anything that gives them a sense of moral superiority to the Israelis. Alas, what a tragedy for everyone, Palestinians included.

pouring gas on jihad ansm

Martin Defends Himself

In a message he’s probably posted on any blog that’s treating this, the key Western player in the Mashharawi affair defends his position. Feel free to analyze the response before I get a chance.

WORLD NEWS & FEATURES, which has been operating in zones of conflict since 2001, is responsible for the supply of video material to a number of major television stations during this Gaza conflict, and we are very careful to ensure we work only with people we know and trust in the Gaza Strip. Ashraf Mashharawi is probably the most respected independent producer in the Gaza Strip. We have worked with him, and with his late brother Ahmed, an excellent cameraman, on and off there for at least five years, and throughout the Mashharawis have been fair and accurate. We would expect even the most objective Western journalist to be somewhat upset when he has to carry his own 12-year-old brother to hospital, fatally wounded by a rocket while playing on the roof of his own home. No-one in their right mind would suggest that any person would allow doctors to play games with a dying or dead younger brother. The idea is bizarre and deeply insulting, and actually damages the credibility of your blogger’s scrutiny of TV output in general – a scrutiny which in principle we would strongly applaud.

The tape, filmed by Ashraf’s cameraman, was fed to London and used by several outlets, without WNF itself actually having the facility to watch it beforehand. But having now done so we continue to stand by the complete genuineness of the footage. What is shown is just the very final stage of doctors’ failed efforts to save Mahmoud. I suppose the reason their effort as shown is so gentle is that they have already in effect concluded that it is futile. And I think your blogger’s understanding of TV is somewhat flawed in this respect: no-one would need to ‘dramatize’ any such death, gently or vigorously. The death itself and the fact that Ashraf’s cameraman had filmed all the PREVIOUS events, and the subsequent return to the home with the body, and the funeral, would have been dramatic enough… in fact the hospital post-death concluding effort by the doctor(s) in no way enhanced the power of the filming – if anything it weakened it… just a body lying there and Ashraf mourning over his dead brother’s lifeless corpse would have been more powerful.

So there is no logical reason to suspect that this doctor was playing to the camera (if so he would have bacted much more dramatically, of course) – let alone that Ashraf would have asked him to do so. The hospital has confirmed that Mahmoud Mashharawi, aged 12, was brought in still breathing but subsequently was pronounced dead. There is therefore not the slightest indication of any faking.

I think a decent apology to Ashraf might be in order.

I might also add that trying to suggest Ashraf has some political agenda is also a false trail. He does not. He was (but is no longer) employed by a company that produced the .ps suffix, and just as anyone can sign up for a .com or a .info or a.tv suffix on payment of a small fee, so can anyone buy a .ps suffix – even Little Green Footballs. All Palestinians like the .ps suffix so anyone can sign up, including affiliates of Hamas. So what WNF has also used this company’s services, because it has a big US-based server that can contain a lot of video, and it is quite cheap! We are happy with this web hosting service – which has no influence at all on our editorial output – we can switch to any commercial provider whenever we wish. The fact that we have had both a personal and a commercial relationship with Ashraf Mashharawi is one good reason why we are relying ONLY on his services during this current conflict while I myself and our other people cannot enter Gaza itself. We have other Palestinians offering to work for us there but have turned all of them down so we can rely only on someone about whose integrity we have certainty.

Finally, an attempt was made by one of your bloggers to show that one of the doctors wanted to make a film with Ashraf. His brother, who died in a car crash, was hosted by a family in Norway and that is probably how he came to know about Ashraf’s production services. The idea that this somehow resulted in this same doctor and Ashraf acting out some faked scene over his dying or dead youngest brother is ludicrous and sickening. Ashraf’s father, who is a medical doctor too by the way, deserves better than to have the death of his child portrayed in any way other than the truth – Mahmoud died because a rocket hit him while he was playing on the roof of his apartment. It is a legitimate story for the media to cover.

I would however suggest that it is vital for the media also to cover why such events occur, and to give balanced and fair overall coverage. Some filmed reports may show one aspect of the complex events, while another should show another side. For example, WNF is investigating (and has also asked the IDF) whether unmanned drones have cameras which produce only fuzzy pictures and therefore cannot or did not distinguish whether figures moving on a roof are fighter or just kids. That may well be the case. WNF is proud to be a very independent producer of news and current affairs from ALL sides of a conflict. Presently I am in Israel filming with the Israeli medical teams who go to the sites of rocket attacks, for example.

Finally, we welcome and encourage and salute scrutiny of the media, but we urge bloggers first to think before they leap to the keyboard, and then to be moderate and considerate, especially when alleging things that will be deeply hurtful to other human beings. Anyone with further queries (or apologies) is welcome to contact me.

Oh yes, by the way when the war is over and I can get into Gaza myself, I will get thea full video of the original filmed tape, and make it available to all on our website. We would then welcome honest analysis.

Mads Gilbert: Some background from Scandinavia

Blogpost from Scandanavia about Mads Gilbert. More for the CNN Controversy Dossier.

According to an Icelandic contact, Mads Gilbert is the culture hero of the hate crowd. The author of this blog, Dr. Vilhjalmur Örn Vilhjálmsson from Iceland writes the following here:

Icelandic State Television (RUV) interviewed the Norwegian doctor Mads Gilbert on the evening of 7. January that is the same day that the brother of the Gaza cameraman is supposed to have been killed by an Israeli drone.

Mads Gilberts describes two 14 year old boys, who during the truce were brought to the hospital he was working in. According to the Norwegian Media today, Mr. Gilbert is no longer in Gaza.

From Gilbert’s description in the Icelandic Television, (which is In Norwegian), of the two 14 year old boys, which Gilbert said he attended on 7 January, the boy in the CNN feature cannot be one of these boys. Gilbert describes great head injuries on the two 14 year old boys he received at his hospital on 7 January. However, there are no head wounds on the boy in the CNN feature.

Listening to Gilbert on Icelandic Television made me question the CNN feature even more, and put a question mark to the CNN feature. I even contacted the CNN/Michael Holmes and informed him about the discrepancies between the information in the CNN feature and in the Icelandic TV news program called Kastljos. The day after the feature was broadcast on CNN, it was no longer available on the CNN website.

Today, I read this blog and saw that other people have been wandering about the authenticity of the feature on CNN. On my blog in Icelandic (with an English translation) you can see the CNN feature and listen to the phone interview with Gilbert in Norwegian.

This is what the Norwegian doctor had to say about the alleged attack during the truce, when the Icelandic reporter interviewed him after work on 7 January 2009:

Reporter: “How was it during the truce?”

Gilbert: “Yes, there was a three hour truce today and there was sunshine and we all hurried out. It was wonderful to be free to hear the bombs but we heard some bombs though. But there were much fewer bombs. We received two patients then, “aargh” or more, they [the Israeli] didn’t actually respect the truce. One of the boys, a 14 years old, lost both eyes and had his entire face crushed. We do not know whether he will survive. He has been operated. The other boy got bomb shrapnel through the scull and the brain and is operated and is in a respirator, they are both in a respirator.”

Norwegian readers of this blog, please listen to Dr. Gilbert on the Icelandic TV and let me know what you think.

Good Article by NYT Correspondent Taghreed el-Khodary from Gaza

I complain regularly about a) the Grey Lady’s Middle East coverage, and b) Arab correspondents who wrap their advocacy up in a pretence of reporting. And there’s plenty of both in this current conflict to keep my mill going for a long time. But yesterday’s paper has a remarkable piece by Taghreed el-Khodary in Gaza about the contrast between Palestinian civilian victims and the mad warriors of Hamas and Islamic Jihad. Note in particular how Taghreed challenges the fighter in the name of the civilians. That’s a lot more than any BBC or CNN anchor I’ve been watching has done.

Fighter Sees His Paradise in Gaza’s Pain
By TAGHREED EL-KHODARY
Published: January 8, 2009

GAZA CITY — The emergency room in Shifa Hospital is often a place of gore and despair. On Thursday, it was also a lesson in the way ordinary people are squeezed between suicidal fighters and a military behemoth.

Dr. Awni al-Jaru, 37, a surgeon at the hospital, rushed in from his home here, dressed in his scrubs. But he came not to work. His head was bleeding, and his daughter’s jaw was broken.

He said Hamas militants next to his apartment building had fired mortar and rocket rounds. Israel fired back with force, and his apartment was hit. His wife, Albina, originally from Ukraine, and his 1-year-old son were killed.

“My son has been turned into pieces,” he cried. “My wife was cut in half. I had to leave her body at home.” Because Albina was a foreigner, she could have left Gaza with her children. But, Dr. Jaru lamented, she would not leave him behind.

A car arrived with more patients. One was a 21-year-old man with shrapnel in his left leg who demanded quick treatment. He turned out to be a militant with Islamic Jihad. He was smiling a big smile.

“Hurry, I must get back so I can keep fighting,” he told the doctors.

He was told that there were more serious cases than his, that he needed to wait. But he insisted. “We are fighting the Israelis,” he said. “When we fire we run, but they hit back so fast. We run into the houses to get away.” He continued smiling.

“Why are you so happy?” this reporter asked. “Look around you.”

A girl who looked about 18 screamed as a surgeon removed shrapnel from her leg. An elderly man was soaked in blood. A baby a few weeks old and slightly wounded looked around helplessly. A man lay with parts of his brain coming out. His family wailed at his side.

“Don’t you see that these people are hurting?” the militant was asked.

“But I am from the people, too,” he said, his smile incandescent. “They lost their loved ones as martyrs. They should be happy. I want to be a martyr, too.”

Yesterday, the Skye interviewer asked the IDF spokeswoman Avital Leibovich “Do you really expect the world to believe that Hamas has turned the entire Gaza Strip into a military operation?” What an astoundingly misinformed comment… to which I will return….

CNN Defends their Pallywood Error. Let’s See Mr. Mashharawi’s Rushes

The CNN footage from the Gaza Hospital is still hotly contested. Follow the multiple postings at LGF and an update at Powerline. Here below, I deal with CNN’s defense of the footage in detail because it so resembles the kinds of arguments that Charles Enderlin made about his own monumental gaffe with Talal abu Rahmeh and his “Al Durah” story.

January 9, 2009 — Updated 0034 GMT (0834 HKT)

Gaza video genuine, journalists say

You wouldn’t know it from the title, but there’s only one “journalist” whose opinion is cited in the article (unless Mashharawi the cameraman under suspicion is also considered a journalist).

(CNN) — There’s no truth to accusations by bloggers that a Palestinian camera crew staged a video showing the death of the videographer’s brother after an Israeli rocket attack, said the team’s employer.

In the video, camerman Ashraf Mashharawi is seen holding his brother.

“It’s absolute nonsense,” Paul Martin, co-owner of World News and Features, said of accusations leveled by bloggers at videographer Ashraf Mashharawi.

“He’s a man of enormous integrity and would never get involved with any sort of manipulation of images, let alone when the person dying is his own brother,” Martin said. “I know the whole family. I know them very well. … [Mashharawi] is upset and angry that anyone would think of him having done anything like this. … This is ridiculous. He’s independent.”

I don’t know much about Paul Martin, but it’s clear he spends lots of time in Gaza, and manages to have considerable access to Hamas “militants” whose narrative he seems to feel the world needs to understand. In any case this remark is nothing short of breathtaking. Mashharawi’s about as “independent” as Diana Buttu. The idea that a cameraman working in Gaza is not a militant for the Palestinian cause (perhaps not Hamas, but even that’s unlikely in the last years), is close to preposterous. No genuine independent could survive there for any period of time.

But the rhetoric is crucial here. Just like Charles Enderlin defending Talal, the ploy here is to present Palestinian cameramen as living up to the highest Western standards of journalism. And of course, this is only for public consumption. As Charles told me off the record when I pointed out that Talal’s rushes were full of staged scenes, “Oh sure, they do this all the time.” But on the record, “Talal is a top journalist.”

As for the “I know the whole family…” that’s just what Charles told me that Talal would never lie to him because their families had shared meals together. The credulity of these Western journalists who think that because they’ve sat down with their Palestinian colleagues and broken bread that means that their newfound friends would break ranks with their people’s struggle, is somewhat breathtaking.

Raafat Hamdouna, administrative director at Shifa Hospital in Gaza City, said Friday that “Mahmoud Khalil Mashharawi, a 12-year-old, was brought to the hospital, and he was breathing, but he was hit in the head and all over his body by shrapnel. He died later in the hospital. He was treated by the Norwegian team. When he was brought in, he was breathing. The team did their best to save him. I am not really sure if they even tried to rush him to the surgery room, because he was badly hurt.”

Mashharawi’s video footage originally appeared on British television’s Channel 4 and later on CNN. It showed futile attempts by doctors to resuscitate Mashharawi’s 12-year-old brother, Mahmoud, after he and his 14-year-old cousin, Ahmed, had been wounded in what the family said was a rocket attack from a remote-controlled drone Sunday.

Ahmed also was taken to the hospital, but he had been fatally struck in the head and chest by shrapnel and had lost a foot, Hamdouna said. Hamdouna said the hospital records reported Ahmed’s age as 16, not 14, as the family said.

At the time of the attack, the family said, the two boys were playing on the rooftop of the family’s three-story house. The video showed a blood-splattered area where an explosion had taken place and where shrapnel had pierced the roof.

Mashharawi has regularly worked with World News and Features since 2004, Martin said. His multimedia company serves television, radio and newspapers.

Martin said accusations that Mashharawi owns a company that hosts Hamas Web sites were falsely based on Mashharawi having worked at a company that created the PS suffix to allow anyone of any political persuasion to create Palestinian Web sites.

The video footage appeared on CNN television networks and on CNN.com for 24 hours before CNN removed the material in the belief that it had no further right to use it. CNN, standing by the video, has since reposted it. Some bloggers had cited its removal as evidence that CNN did not stand by its reporting.

Responding to accusations that the resuscitation efforts of Mashharawi’s brother appeared inauthentic, Martin said that, based on his years of reporting from Gaza, doctors often go through such efforts even with little hope that a patient can be saved.

This is rich. Note that CNN did not consult a doctor on this one, but Martin’s experience in Gaza. I’ve consulted a doctor and a number of people with experience in CPR have commented both at my article at PJMedia and at LGF. But here it’s Martin’s long experience in Gaza that comes into play. There are two ways to explain this remark, neither of them working in the way Martin would like.

  • 1) Doctors in Gaza are so incompetent that what appears to Western experts as a joke, really is their best effort. The incompetence is doubled by Martin’s qualifying remark: as commenters have noted, if the patient is dying, the CPR should be more vigorous.
  • 2) Doctors “often go through such efforts even with little hope that a patient can be saved” as long as the cameras are rolling. Maybe Martin wasn’t paying attention to that detail.

In the video of the incident, the boy appears lifeless when brought to into the hospital.

In a brief conversation with CNN, Mashharawi said that doctors tried everything they could to save his brother and that he rejected suggestions that any of his work was inauthentic.

Before bloggers made their accusations, Mashharawi told CNN, “I believed at that moment if I didn’t record that nobody will believe what’s happened to my brother. Because it is unbelievable. Until now, I can’t believe what’s happened.”

It’s not clear what’s “unbelievable. That a child would be hit by rockets in a war zone and die in a hospital is hardly unbelievable. That one needed to film it for the sake of “proof” strikes me as pretty unconvincing. That he filmed it to arouse anger against Israel with the pathos of the scene, strikes me as more likely; and as I argued in the Gaza Beach tragedy documentary I made, this is “exploiting grief.”

To get a sense of the difference in cultures here, no Israeli cameraman would film the death of a family member (or anyone else) and then give it to Western media to show the world the plight of the Israelis. None.

What’s most appalling about this article — but will eventually, I suspect, redound to CNN’s discredit — is that they ran this article based on the denial of two already committed sources. CNN made no effort to corroborate any of this. It’s just “he said, she said.”

What we need is the rushes that Ahraf Mashharawi shot that day
, that we see in edited form. Like the rushes of Talal, we’ll be able to judge better what was going on that day if we could see them. And unlike Talal’s rushes, let’s see them uncensored. I suspect we won’t, because when it comes to the clash between Palestinian journalism, channeled through advocacy journalists, the clash between narrative and evidence is so great, they cannot afford to let us see.

I may be wrong. This may be genuine footage. I am open to being convinced so. But let us see the evidence.

CNN Steps in the Pallywood Doodoo: Heartrending footage Staged by Norwegian Doctors

This morning CNN ran a heartrending story:

(CNN) — At a Gaza hospital, doctors tried to revive a 12-year-old victim of the violence, but their efforts were in vain. Mahmoud died.

Recording the tragedy at the hospital was his brother, freelance cameraman Ashraf Mashharawi.

Just a short time earlier, Mashharawi had been filming other, less personal images of the war– scenes like incoming missiles and the damage they do. Then, he got a phone call. Mashharawi was told the family home had been hit by a rocket.

His brother, Mahmoud and his 14-year-old cousin Ahmad, had been allowed to play on the roof after days of being cooped up inside as Israel continued its assault on Gaza.

Both boys died after the rocket hit.

The family had believed their house — now pockmarked by shrapnel and splattered with blood — was safe from the conflict. The family says the rocket was fired by a pilotless Israeli drone.

Mashharawi filmed the doctors’ efforts to save his brother’s life at the hospital; he also captured images of relatives cradling the boy wrapped in a white sheet after his death. Why? Because he said his family wanted the world to see the human toll of the conflict.

Just hours after play turned to death, Mahmoud was laid to rest.

Israel says it does not target civilians and it does all it can to avoid civilian casualties. Israel says it is unaware of the incident in this report.

With it, they ran an even more heartrending video of the cameraman’s footage.

Except, the footage seems to be a fake. A medical doctor commented at the indispensible Little Green Footballs:

I’m no military expert, but I am a doctor, and this video is bullsh-t. The chest compressions that were being performed at the beginning of this video were absolutely, positively fake. The large man in the white coat was NOT performing CPR on that child. He was just sort of tapping on the child’s sternum a little bit with his fingers. You can’t make blood flow like that. Furthermore, there’s no point in doing chest compressions if you’re not also ventilating the patient somehow. In this video, I can’t tell for sure if the patient has an endotracheal tube in place, but you can see that there is nobody bag-ventilating him (a bag is actually hanging by the head of the bed), and there is no ventilator attached to the patient. In a hospital, during a code on a ventilated patient, somebody would probably be bagging the patient during the chest compressions. And they also would have moved the bed away from the wall, so that somebody could get back there to intubate the patient and/or bag him. In short, the “resuscitation scene” at the beginning is fake, and it’s a pretty lame fake at that.

So the question is, were they re-enacting the resuscitation scene by repeating their actions on a corpse, because the child had died earlier? It’s likely that the answer is no, that child is still alive, and is just an actor pretending to be a child who was killed. Why do I say that? Because the big guy in the white coat, if he’s really a doctor, nurse, nurse’s aid, EMT, or any sort of health care provider at all would be entirely aware that tickling the boy’s sternum doesn’t really look like actual chest compressions. If the boy was dead, the man would have done a more convincing job in compressing the chest. The taps on the chest that he’s doing are the sort of thing you see in bad TV dramas, when you don’t want to make the poor actor playing the victim uncomfortable by really pushing on his chest. I think the man in the white coat knows this child is actually alive, and is making the simulated chest compressions gentle so as not to hurt the child. My guess is that he assumed the videographer, like those on better TV shows, would have been smart enough not to film as far down as the man’s hands on the chest.

CNN has now taken down the video, but left the story up. England’s Channel 4 has a similar story, also emphasizing the pathos of the affair:

Despite his own family tragedy Ashraf Mashharawi managed to send us the images surrounding his brother’s death and the impact on his family.

The family were keen that the story of what happened to them today should be told.

This incident deserves close attention. Like the Gaza Beach tragedy which the Palestinians turned into a Pallywood extravaganza, blaming Israel for a Palestinian “mistake,” this one has many of the usual suspects:

  • The Palestinian child who plays a part in the tragedy “for the camera,”
  • The Palestinian cameraman who, “with his little camera has a humanitarian message for the whole world” — his excuse for exploiting grief, for making propaganda out of tragedy.
  • The Western “volunteer” there to help the beleaguered Palestinian people. Then it was “military expert Mark Garlasco,” here it’s Norwegian radical and occasional doctor, Mads Gilbert, a radical Marxist (there still are some!) who thinks the US deserved 9-11 and who has spent many hours telling reporters what a disgusting people the Israelis are.
  • The Western media, ever eager to have their heart-rending story of Israeli cruelty and Palestinian suffering, who, when caught making an error, quietly remove the problem without admitting the error. (In a section entitled “From the blogs: Commentary, Controversy, Debate, none of the three that appear mention the problem.)

If indeed this is a false story, it tells us, above all, about how radically unreliable our information from Gaza. Here we have a European doctor engaged in staging a scene for the camera. As with the scenes from Netzarim Junction on September 30, 2000, we’re dealing with a public secret: staging is permissable.

All of our statistics and stories about what’s happening in Gaza come from Palestinian sources and NGO’s/UN personnel. Many who might discount Palestinian sources nonetheless credit the UN spokespeople and NGOs. In my viewing of the coverage, I’m struck by the Pallywood-style editing we are presented: no long shots, almost every sequence is less than 3 seconds, and it’s impossible to see whether the person is genuinely injured (e.g., many with no sign of blood). I am not denying that there are dead and wounded, but it may be that the numbers are significantly less that we are told, in particular the percentage of civilians, which, with every day, has become increasingly inflated.

Some have argued that it’s a good thing that the MSM has not made it into Gaza. I’m not so sure. Although I think the Western media is exceptionally badly behaved — an Augean Stables of bad habits — it’s not as wretched as the full-bodied weaponized mode of the Palestinian and Arab media. There is a difference between dupes and demopaths. I think had they been there, it’s very likely that a fair amount of the open faking that goes on might not happen so openly. Who knows, among the swarm of Western reporters, maybe somone would have the courage to say, “this is loony.”

And loony it is: the Western news media serve as the major battalion for Hamas in their battle with an Israel they cannot hope to defeat militarily. Alas, they serve a master who desires their destruction every bit as much as they desire the destruction of the Jews.

PS. I’m going to have to start giving out Most Valuable Idiot of the Hour awards at this rate.

Arab “moderates,” demopathy, and the incomprehension of media moralism

On the 9 pm (Jerusalem time), December 28, 2008, CNN International channel, anchor Ralitsa Vassileva challenged Tsipi Livni in an interview. Livni claimed that this attack was meant to strength the moderates on the Arab side. But Vassileva countered: “Couldn’t this backfire? Isn’t it more likely that the Arab moderates will necessarily rally around beleaguered Hamas? Isn’t that what we’re seeing around the Arab world?”


(from 3:00-

Not satisfied with Livni’s response, like a teacher who keeps calling on students to get the “right answer,” Vassileva then turns to Diana Buttu, an “independent Palestinian analyst.” Livni says this should help the moderates, but, she adds helpfully, don’t you think it will help Hamas? Buttu, who is anything but “independent,” and follows the Palestinian narrative quite crudely (it’s a “massacre, a war crime… the Israelis are telling a “complete lie… Tsipi Livni’s head is in the sand…”), needs no leading questions.

This exchange, like so many others from CNN anchors (Rosemary Church, Ralitsa Vassileva) and BBC (Peter Dobbie), reflect an interesting standard in the moral reasoning of our newsmedia, a standard that, when examined closely, reveals on the one hand, a puerile notion of morality (intention doesn’t matter) and on the other such a low set of moral expectations from the Palestinians as to almost constitute a kind of unconscious (racist?) prejudice against the Arabs. And, ironically, that serves the worst elements in the Arab world and undermines the very values each of these anchors think they uphold.

In order to understand the issues at play, I have analyzed the issue of two different cultural styles of moderation at work in this conflict. On the one hand we have a “fair-weather moderate” discourse that lasts only as long as it serves “my” side (my family, clan, people, state). When it comes time to chose between a self-critical adherence to moderate principles or a “my side right or wrong” solidarity, fair-weather moderates choose solidarity over principles of reciprocity, while committed moderates choose self-criticism and the principle of reciprocity over solidarity. These two styles align closely to what I have characterized as the difference between an “honor-shame culture” and an “integrity gult culture.” For those who wish to explore this issues further, I recommend my essay “Meditations of Moderation and Demopathy,” the final paragraphs of which are included below.

During the Oslo “Peace” Process, one could see the contrast between Israeli and Palestinian “moderates” in precisely these terms. The Israeli peace camp constantly criticized Israeli extremists, in particular, the settlers who, in their PCP conception of the conflict, were the base cause of Arab hostility. The settlers’ belligerence towards their Arab neighbors was inexcusable, culpable, worthy of public denunciation in no uncertain terms. Thus Israel abounds in groups and individuals who are once fiercely Zionist and fiercely moderate, who do not hesitate to publicize every Israeli sin that they can possibly find. As opposed to Arab moderates, they move in the remarkable direction of being even more severe on their own group rather than the hostile “other.”

The Arab peace camp and NGOs might have denounced the terror of the extremists, but they never even considered arguing that those terrorists should not dominate the political and cultural public discourse. On the contrary, the Arab moderates put far more effort into “softening” the image of their extremists in the eyes of the West than they did into fighting their extremists. Indeed, the genocidal Jihadism that drives suicide terrorists to their inhumane frenzy still dominates Palestinian TV and radio and schools on both parts of the Palestinian divide (i.e., “even” where the “moderate” Abbas “governs.” Instead, the vast majority of Palestinian “moderates,” spoke little of the self-generation of these hatreds and “explained” suicide bombing as the “understandable” rage created on the one hand by Israeli intransigence and on the other by the “hopelessness and despair” that intransigence “inevitably” instilled in the suffering hearts of the Palestinians.

Human Rights organizations are the product of integrity-guilt culture. Only when you view the “other” as equal to yourself, can you develop the notion that he or she deserves the same treatment before the law as you do, both in theory (constitutional government that guarantee such rights legally) and in practice (NGOs that try to remedy the injustices of the system). Thus Human Rights Groups in the West, from the ACLU to HRW, to B’tslem, scrupulously observe the human rights of the “other,” as the real measure of a commitment to egalitarian principles – my principles applied to all sides.

Most (all?) Israeli “human rights organizations” are genuinely moderate by my definition, dedicated to documenting Israel’s violation of the human rights of others. Indeed, they are so moderate, that they will unfairly side against their own side. The excessive predilection for this counter-intuitive direction produces what Charles Jacobs calls “the Human Rights Complex.”

Palestinian HROs, on the other hand, reflect a paper-thin moderation that has no principled adherence to any kind of reciprocity. Thus, they regularly document the violation of their own human rights by the (Israeli) “other”; but when it’s time to self-criticize, they beg off; what self-criticism one finds often appears only in the foreign language version of the website. Understandably, public self-criticism is taboo in serious honor-shame cultures: it shames those criticized. And of course, in a culture where any male who wants authority is expected, allowed, even required to shed someone else’s blood for the sake of his honor, public criticism regularly elicits violence against the critic.

Thus the classic demopathic pattern emerges – Palestinian “moderates” demand their side’s human rights, even as they defend fellow Palestinians who seek not just the systematic refusal of rights to the Israeli “other,” but even their annihilation. And of course, Israeli and Jewish dupes, eager to believe that by assuring the rights of the other, peace will come, embrace the Palestinian moderates. Mix such a near-unbeatable combination of demopathy and credulity with blood libels like Al Durah, stir with the potent cry of western radical and Islamic jihadi outrage, and voilà, the demopaths delight… Durban I, and, coming soon, Durban II.

Fortunately the picture is far more interesting than this stark and disheartening contrast. There is, for example, Bassam Eid’s Palestinian Human Rights Monitoring Group. When throughout the Second Intifada, while other Palestinian NGOs shouted Israeli genocide to the world, he remorselessly documented the systematic abuse of Palestinian human rights by Palestinian “authorities,” noting that over 15% of Palestinian casualties during that Intifada were inflicted by Palestinians on themselves! (There is no corresponding figure on the Israeli side.) When Hamas took over the Gaza Strip, he documented their brutal application of Machiavelli’s “economy of violence” in a depressing detail that should be read by every foolish pundit who talks about Hamas as a democratically elected – and therefore democratic – government.

Nor is Bassam Eid alone. MEMRI, for all the paranoid, frenzied and genocidal incitement it documents dominating the Arab and Muslim media globally, dedicates a special section to highlighting the work of real reformers, genuine moderates, in the Arab world. There we find that Lafif Lakhdar, for example, has just denounced

Hamas as another link in the chain of Palestinian rejectionism, i.e., in their tendency to refuse all suggestions of compromise. This tendency, he said, is rooted in religious extremism and brings disaster upon the Palestinians.

Thus, not all Arabs think with their shoes. But these folks are always in danger of being accused of being sell outs (coconuts: brown on the outside, white on the inside), an honor-shame accusation people like Saïd make against serious intellectuals like Kanan Makiya and Fouad Ajami, and Western commentators too readily accept.

The Western acquiescence in this honor-shame demand for solidarity no matter how inexcusably Hamas behaves has reached such a consensus that news analysts have no hesitation representing it as a given.
Here Alvaro de Soto, former UN envoy to the Middle East takes it as a given that the Israelis have no right to try and restrict their dealings to the moderates, whom he contemptuously refers to as “the ones who mark the x’s on the appropriate boxes…”

Rather than negotiating as if one portion of the Palestinian didn’t exist, the portion that supported Hamas in legitimate elections, the sooner it will be possible to get something serious. Because on the current path when you negotiate only with Palestinians you like and the ones you check the appropriate boxes, you won’t get anywhere.

Note that de Soto has already taken the position that Hamas — legitimately elected — has a right to the negotiating table, regardless of her stated goals, her principled acts of terror, her revolting discourse. Is this because he doesn’t know about it? Or because he is afraid to challenge it? Or because he really wants to see Israel forced to try and deal with a group that wants her destruction. In any case, he’s “objectively” a dhimmi, that is, someone subjected to Sharia law which demands public submission to Muslims.

This Western eagerness to submit to Arab honor-shame demands goes very far. It can actually have a Westerner egging on an Arab to show the kind of fraternal unity that their honorable cause demands. Here Nisha Pillai of the BBC, after having badgered Bibi Netanyahu for Israeli-caused casualties in Gaza, then challenges the Arab League spokesman (no fan of Hamas), not to moderation, but to a show of solidarity in response to Israel.

Where she has no hesitation telling Israel to play by civil rules, she has even less hesitation telling the Arabs to get their act together and fight back.

This astoundingly misplaced Western “peer-pressure” can make it difficult for Arabs to maintain “moderate” positions. Take the case of Mahmoud Abbas, who made a statement that looked a lot like that of a genuine moderate, although may well be that of a pragmatist who, like the Egyptian ruling party, happens to hate Hamas.

We want to protect Gaza, our people there, we don’t want genocide for our people. There are some who say, even if Gaza is wiped out, so be it. We reject this, this logic annot be accepted, has nothing to do with the interests of the people. We want to protect every drop of blood of our people…

Here’s a stark contrast between Abbas here and Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum who assured reporters that his organization “will continue the resistance until the last drop of blood,” and the Palestinians that Abbas refers to (presumably West Bankers) who say “even if Gaza is wiped out, so be it” (note the sweeping gesture). Now how genuine is Abbas’ moderation? When the Arab street starts screaming for Israeli blood, will he hold the line? When other Arab leaders start to abandon their silence and weigh in behind Hamas as the honor-shame imperative now demands, will he hold the line?

And note the vast contrast between how flabby Arab “moderation” and how vigorous, even extreme, Israeli moderation. In Israel there’s a whole world of intellectuals ready to say something quite close to “the other side, right or wrong,” who criticize relentlessly even when their “peers” (i.e., their own people) pressure them heavily to tone down their public criticism, especially when it’s based on dubious information. Not all the demonstrations or threats in the world could get them to rally round their own flag.

The stakes here are enormous. As Farid Ghadry, President of the Reform Party of Syria (a real moderate) points out:

How could Arabs and Muslims help their societies if their program for progress is built upon violence?… [Hamas or Hizbullah] seek power instead of duty, money instead of benevolence, and longevity in both instead of renewal for the good of their people… Hizbullah and Hamas must be destroyed and the regimes in Damascus and Tehran must be changed for all Arabs and Farsi people to survive and prosper… Their poisonous rhetoric of violence feeding a frenzied mass of ignorant Arabs leaning on their extreme religion to honor their incapacity to compete with the West is destroying future generations of hopeful saviors of our culture and traditions… We Arabs must be the ones to stop Hamas and Hizbullah, rather than support their demonic and twisted logic of resisting development, enlightenment, and progress of the region.

Let’s return to Ralitsa Vassileva’s question to Bibi. She assumes that the vast majority of Arab moderates are fair weather. Won’t your attack backfire? Won’t it force the moderates to side with Hamas? This is a question they repeatedly ask of their Arab “analysts” (with a distinctly leading tone), which they dutifully answer: “Of course.”

What we have here is the soft racism of low expectations. Vassileva not only does not expect real moderation from the Arabs, she assumes they will rally round their people. And the people she interviews, and introduces as “independent analysts” all represent the Arab honor-shame consensus that this is Israel’s fault and all Arabs should rally together to fight her.

Here the CNN anchor questions reporter Nic Robertson about the support for Hamas as a result of this onslaught. He first summarizes the remarks of a “human rights” reporter whom he then channels without the slightest caution: Hamas gets more support every day.

Notice how Robertson fails to inform his audience of the brutal means that Hamas uses to extract its unanimous support, or mention the alternate reading that suggests that although they’re ruthlessly intimidated into silence, as with the last time they started a bloodbath that killed many Gazans, they’re losing support.

After all, given Hamas’ revolting behavior, who would expect the people to rally around them other than someone who thinks they’re moral and rational idiots? To amend PT Barnum’s famous dictum, “the only way you can fool all of the people all of the time, is by knee-capping dissidents.” But rather than expose his audience to an alternative take, Robertson, along with his “Human Rights” worker, becomes the advocate of a united response: The Israeli Goliath is not going to pound this proud Palestinian David into submission.

Of course, when it comes to the Israelis, these same anchors have a radically different set of expectations. Challenging Bibi Netanyahu over when Israel will stop creating this humanitarian crisis, Nisha Pillai got the following response:

Her reponse to him was to interrupt and repeat her challenge — the international community’s great concern for innocent Palestinian civilians:

She’s missed the moral point entirely. He says, “watch out for playing the moral equivalency card” (in which case Israel loses the mathematical game because it kills more civilians than Hamas), because when you do, you basically favor people who target civilians. (In terms of this article, you basically support the anti-moderate honor-shame “unity” of Arab “resistance” to Israel, and feed Jihadi sense of entitlement the world over.) Her response resembles that of some of the less accomplished Israeli spokesmen who, when challenged, return to talking points rather than answer the question. Ironically she ends up answering Bibi by doing what he warned against: reiterating the scapegoating narrative that focuses exclusively on Israeli-caused civilian casualties.

Bibi patiently explains:

Her response? End of interview.

Even though one might be hard put to offer a different explanation, I don’t think her moral incomprehension reflects a lack of intelligence so much as an inability to even conceive of the vast gulf that separates Arab and Israeli moral culture. Politically correct insistence on moral equivalence makes such a thought not only inutterable, but unthinkable. In a sense, she cannot think this one through. Instead she takes refuge in an even-handedness that pleases no one except, perhaps, an audience that thinks this makes sense. And as a result, she makes a perfect dupe.

But given the huge global audience that these CNN and BBC anchors have, it offers a troubling prognosis for a troubled world. Here we find Western intellectuals incapable of even perceiving, much less analyzing the interests of the civil society in which they thrive, and which they endanger, precisely as Bibi described it, with their foolish moral equivalence.

Hamas in their own words

One of the more appalling aspects of the news coverage of this conflict is the pervasive cover-up of Hamas’ true nature. In their interviews with Arab/Muslim specialists (like Reza Aslan) who misrepresent Hamas without challenge, in their questions to Israelis, in their own characterizations of the matter, Hamas comes off as perhaps an extremist and difficult group, but nonetheless a legitimate player, someone that Israel needs to negotiate with.

The climax of this attitude is Annie Lennox’s startling and impassioned response when asked about Hamas’ desire to destroy Israel: “people need to sit down and have a dialogue…” And Jimmy Carter’s “they were defensive tunnels…”

The difference in coverage that might ensue from a serious understanding of the nature of the apocalyptic enemy would, I think, be massive. Towards that end, MEMRI has put out a collection of some of the stuff Hamas says in Arabic (not in English to Yimmy).

Interview with BBC Radio on Joe the Plumber’s Visit to Israel

Well, if PJMedia wanted to get publicity by bringing in “Joe the Plumber,” they’re getting it. Already I was interviewed by the BBC’s Dan Damon on the matter. Calls for interviews are coming in from both Israeli and foreign media.

Here’s my interview with the BBC. He cut some of my better remarks, but I guess that’s life.

I’m critical of some of the people who speak to the press sometimes. It’s not as easy as it looks from the armchair.