Category Archives: omertà

Women, Journalism, and Violence in the Middle East

The Grey Lady reports on the Egyptian demonstrators’ assault on Laura Logan in Tahrir Square last month and the issue of both violence against women and against journalists in the Middle East (except, of course, Israel, which despite being better by far on these issues, is somehow viewed as worse). Logan shows great courage in discussing these matters, even if she reveals an amazing naivete. (HT: NBH)

CBS Reporter Recounts a ‘Merciless’ Assault

Chester Higgins Jr./The New York Times

Lara Logan, a CBS News reporter, was sexually assaulted while working in Cairo on Feb. 11.

By 
Published: April 28, 2011
Her experience in Cairo underscored the fact that female journalists often face a different kind of violence. While other forms of physical violence affecting journalists are widely covered — the traumatic brain injurysuffered by the ABC News anchor Bob Woodruff in Iraq in 2006 was a front-page story at that time — sexual threats against women are rarely talked about within journalistic circles or in the news media.

There are huge areas of violence and intimidation against journalists that are not reported. We didn’t hear for months that NYT reporter David Rhode had been kidnapped in Afghanistan; and we don’t have any idea how often reporters are abducted in places like Iraq, Pakistan, the Palestinian Territories, etc., for a few hours and then released, thoroughly intimidated (including about speaking about what happened) into the mainstream pool to then report back to us about “what’s going on.”

Ignoring Taguieff: Al Durah, Judeophobia, and the Success of Islamism in Europe

Pierre-André Taguieff sent me two links to articles that deal with the omerta of the French media about Taguieff’s book, « La nouvelle propagande anti juive ». I have already posted on this issue when Robert Redeker lost his position as book reviewer for a small Luxembourgeois paper for daring to review it favorably. Now two articles, including one in the Nouvel Observateur have taken up the cudgels for Taguieff.

Both point to Taguieff’s work on the Al Durah case as one of the main causes of the silence of the MSNM on his work. I reproduce the two passages on Al Durah below.

Note also an interesting incident in the French Senate during hearings for the new head of France2, in which a Senator put the appointee on the spot about the Al Durah story. This story is covered in still greater detail by the indefatigable Veronique Chemla in which she points out that a) the Senator in question (Plancade) gave the new head of France2 (Pflimlin) Taguieff’s book; and b) that none of the MSNM mentioned Plancade’s intervention. (HT/Eliyahu)

Vladimir Vladimirovitch A Lire

Par ailleurs il décrit et démontre la complicité des médias dans le processus précédent. En s’appuyant noatamment sur l’affaire Al Dourah qui lui permet de décrire par quels processus la classe médiatique, au mépris de toute déontologie, a manifesté sa solidarité avec Charles Enderlin, auteur du reportage contesté dans sa véracité (bien qu’il n’ait pas été présent au moment des faits). Israël ne pouvant être que coupable et les Palestiniens des victimes, il n’était en effet pas possible de revenir sur cette version des faits présentant les soldats israéliens comme des tueurs d’enfants palestiniens sans défense. Pourtant bien des éléments méritent qu’une enquête soit menée sur la validité de ce reportage. Ce qu’ont fait d’ailleurs des journalistes allemands demontant point par point la thèse d’Enderlin.

[Among other things he describes and demonstrates the complicity of the media in the preceding process (i.e., the alliance between the left and the islamists - rl). He emphasizes the al Durah affair to describe the way the "media class" (information professionals - rl), acting in violation of all professional ethics, showed its solidarity with Charles Enderlin, author of the contested report (even though he wasn't present at the time of the events). Since Israel can only be guilty and the Palestinians only victims, it was impossible to revise this version of events in which the Israeli soldiers were killers of defenseless Palestinian children. And yet many aspects of the case indicate that an investigation be carried out on the validity of the report... which German journalists did, dismantling point by point Enderlin's contentions.]

Les médias ne présenteront donc pas ce livre. Parce qu’il les met en cause et parce qu’il navigue à contre courant en démontrant que cette nouvelle propagande antijuive dont ils sont les porteurs constitue une arme de l’islamisme non pas contre Israël simplement, mais contre les démocraties. Ouvrage donc iconoclaste.

[The media will therefore not present this book. Because it questions them, and because it sails against the prevailing winds, dhowing that this new anti-Jewish propaganda of which they are the carriers constitutes an arm of Islamism not only aimed at Israel, but against democracies. Therefore, an iconoclastic work.]

Tarnero’s article is longer, published in a relatively new and iconoclastic publication, Causeur, which has taken on the Al Durah case already. Again, I only cite the segment directly concerned with Al Durah.

The Hidden Costs of Jew-Baiting in England

For the linked version (and the place to leave comments) go to the PJMedia site. -rl

The Hidden Costs of Jew-Baiting in England
Jew-baiting has become something of a sport in England, as Brits feed the monster — radical Islam — that devours them.
July 10, 2010 – by Richard Landes

London is an amazing place, full of vitality, intensity, foreign tourists and residents, a patchwork of pluralism. Talk to the average person, and nothing seems amiss: this cab driver, having driven in London for 40 years, sees no significant change in the neighborhoods he travels through; this financier sees no signs of intimidation; this shopper, this tavern-hopper, this man on the bus, lives in an interesting and relatively normal world. A superficial walk through the [Regent’s] park gives the distinct sense of normality.

But talk to the Jews, and you get a different story. The International Association of Jewish Lawyers and Jurists held a conference here this week. The topic: Democratic and Legal Norms in an Age of Terror. Panels discussed everything from the Goldstone Report, to the BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions) movement, to “universal jurisdiction” (lawfare against Israelis brought in foreign courts). Here, in the Khalili Lecture Theatre of the SOAS (School for Oriental and African Studies), Jewish lawyers discussed a grim reality whose only public appearance on an everyday basis is the drumbeat of calumny that a boisterous elite — NGOs, journalists, academics — rain down on Israel.

Perhaps the most startling of the sessions concerned the BDS movement. Jonathan Rynhold, from the BESA Center at Bar Ilan, and Anthony Julius, author of Trials of the Diaspora: A History of Anti-Semitism in England, both presented a picture of British anti-Zionist activity whose intellectual and moral foundations were profoundly irrational, a dogmatic will to stigmatize and destroy Israel that responded to no argument about proportion (what about other places?) or reason (you make no moral demands of the Palestinians). And behind that lies a much weightier volume of negative feeling, a kind of unthinking animosity that expressed itself in its most banal form when a woman explained to Julius: “We all know why the Jews are hated: you marry among yourselves and live in ghettos like Golders Green and Vienna [sic].” In so doing, she put her finger on the most widespread subtext for hostility to Jews – “they think they’re the chosen people.”

Daniel Eilon, an English solicitor, explained to me one of the mechanisms. It isn’t real anti-Semitism. In fact, most of the stuff that comes out against Israel is intellectually hopeless — phony narratives based on fantasy “facts.” This is really just good old-fashioned Jew-baiting. It’s saying things in all righteous innocence that you know will hurt the Jews to whom you address the criticism. The problem for the Brits (and the Europeans in general), he pointed out, is that historically, there’s never been a particularly high price to pay for Jew-baiting. Now there is.

What my friend referred to with this last remark is lucidly analyzed by Robin Shepherd in his recent book, A State Beyond the Pale: Europe’s Problem with Israel. The elephant in the room, of course, is radical Islam — the people who interpret being “chosen” by Allah as a charter to dominate the world and submit everyone, willingly or not, to Islam. They’re the people no one dares bait; and they’re the folks who take full advantage of every deference to press for more. Daily aggressions from violent gangs constantly expand the territories where the Queen’s writ does not run. In tempo with the retreat of British law and enforcement, Sharia advances from internal community affairs (explicitly on the model of Jewish religious courts) towards the policing of community boundaries and claims on the state for special treatment. The British — like so many other Western nations –mainstream the extremists and marginalize the moderates. As Nick Cohen put it: “The world faces a psychotic movement and won’t admit it to themselves.”

“What’s Your Problem with that?”: Enderlin and the Intellectual Corruption of the MSM

(This article has been published at Pajamas Media.)

The startling footage of Neda, the 27-year old woman shot to death in the streets of Tehran recently has reminded some of the image of 12-year old Muhammad al Durah (HT Tom Gross):

The footage of a Palestinian man [sic] being shot dead [sic] next to his 12-year-old son, Muhammad Jamal al-Durrah, by Israeli forces in Gaza in 2000 has been etched in the minds of many Iranians, as state television has continually replayed the images to highlight the “Zionist regime’s brutality.”

Now, the Islamic regime itself has become the subject of similar allegations at home and abroad after gruesome footage of a dying young woman during the suppression of an opposition protest on Saturday was released on the internet.

The image of Neda Salehi Agha-Soltan, a 27-year-old philosophy student, bleeding to death on the asphalt road of a Tehran street after she was shot in the chest, has become the rallying cry of the country’s opposition, which is disputing the June 12 election of Mahmoud Ahmadi-Nejad.

Only neither Jamal (the father) nor Muhammad al Durah (the son) were killed, not by Israelis soldiers, probably not by anyone, and certainly not “on TV.” These days when real footage, shot spontaneously, of victims of brutal repressive forces make it out of Iran, a country where the leaders make every effort to shut down the media, it may be useful to revisit the case of Muhammad al Durah.

With al Durah, we have a case of footage uncensored by authorities coming out of a conflict in which the allegedly repressive regime — the Israelis — provides the most welcoming atmosphere of freedom for journalists. These journalists repay the Israelis for their tolerance by running Pallywood footage staged by the Palestinians, specifically designed to provoke outrage. And in the case of Muhammad al Durah, the boy behind the barrel at Netzarim Junction on September 30, 2000, the footage was not only staged, but, thanks to the efforts of France2′s Middle East correspondent, Charles Enderlin, it made it around the world with the imprimatur of Western Mainstream media. In short order, it became an icon of hatred, provoking outrage, hatred and violence against both Jews and Israelis — the first blood(less) libel of the 21st century.

One of Enderlin’s favorite arguments is, “look, if there were any substance to these allegations, the Israelis would be all over me and Talal. The fact that they’ve done nothing is proof that we’re right, and Talal is “as white as snow.” He most recently repeated these arguments at his blog.

So let me suggest a counter-argument: If there were any substance to Charles Enderlin’s defense, he would have informed himself of the details of the evidence.

Instead, he continues to remain supremely ignorant of all the telling problems with both Talal’s account and his own.

His performance in his interview with Schapira for the new movie shows us precisely the kind of know-nothing folly that first inspired the term Pallywood, which came not from evidence of Palestinian fakes — I’d already seen many — but from Enderlin’s complacent response to having them pointed out: “Oh yeah, they do that all the time. It’s a cultural thing.”

Here are some views of the moral and intellectual bankruptcy of a major MSM figure, one of the most influential journalists in Europe for the last two decades. Not one word that he utters has any substance in terms of serious argumentation. In any first-year graduate seminar in history the kind of cavalier contempt for hard evidence and argumentation that Enderlin displays here would earn him the disbelief of fellow students and a ticket to ride from the professors… Unless, of course, we were in an honor-shame culture where someone with protected status could get away with anything he wanted to say.

Both in the details, and in the argumentation, Enderlin gets an “F” in Second Draft of journalism.


Enderlin handles a question from Esther Schapira.

It’s a smear campaign by people who don’t like my work

Here is Charles in court the day of the showing of Talal’s rushes (the beginning of his downfall), pugnaciously leading with his chin. He is typically dismissive — “you can say he was killed by Martians…” and categorical “we didn’t fabricate these images” (if that we includes Talal, it’s problematic). But the most revealing “argument” is that people who oppose him do so because they “don’t want my reports, my books, and my commentaries.”

Note the revealing slip at the beginning: “This is a libel suit… uuuh, a libel against me.” He’s the one bringing the libel suit against Karsenty, but he’s trying to position himself as the victim. Indeed, we met one vociferous ex-Israeli French journalist in the court who was indignant at how Enderlin was being dragged through the judicial mud by this suit against him.

But the larger question is certainly worth considering. Enderlin, true to style, uses conspiracy-theory logic. Cui bono? To whom the good? If I lose this case, then my whole oeuvre will be in doubt. Ergo, those who attack me on this case actually want to discredit me entirely.

Actually, I had never heard of Enderlin before this, and my concern was both to challenge so powerful and hate-engendering an icon — a blood libel — and, as I became involved, to challenge the inexcusable complaisance of the MSM with Pallywood footage. As I’ve learned more about Enderlin, I think he’s right on one point: his behavior here should call into question the rest of his work which, as I’ve learned, is also tendentious and treats evidence loosely. But to go from that to “it’s a conspiracy to shut me up” not only shows the paranoid quality of Enderlin’s thinking, but also the nature of his appeal: “Don’t listen to them; they don’t like my politics.” Alas, this works all too often these days.

***

That’s how I do a story: “The child is dead” is a statement. What’s your problem with it?”

Here’s Charles asked about why he claimed that the child was dead and then three “takes” later, he’s still moving. This is, of course, a critical issue, since the scene in which the child moves was one that he cut from his broadcast.

I don’t know if Schapira asked him why he cut it, but I presume he’d have answered the same way he has for 9 years — “it was the death throes, and too unbearable for the public to view.” You be the judge on to whom this cut footage is unbearable — the viewer or Talal’s and Enderlin’s “narrative.”

In response, Enderlin let’s us know how he works: “This is the way I do a story…”

I’m very sorry, but the fact is the child died. Maybe not at the precise moment I showed. But this is the way I do a story. “The child is dead,” is a statement. What’s your problem with it?

How many Teamsters does it take to change a lightbulb?
12.
Why 12?
You got a problem with that?


Enderlin: “Maybe not at the precise moment…”

Like the Teamsters, this man thinks he won’t be challenged by anyone who counts. He doesn’t have to give a serious answer, because the people who count — his bosses at France2, his fellow journalists — support him fully.

***

The “Public Secret” Dossier: Revelations about the MSM from the Al Durah Affair

This constitutes a longer version of the op-ed piece at the Jerusalem Post where I exercise my “right of reply” to respond to Larry Derfner’s most recent attack on my arguments. The essay contains links (more to be added), three additional documents, and a number of paragraphs dropped from the published piece.

The Self-Destruction of the Al Durah Faithful

When I first began work on the al Durah affair, I knew I was on to a story whose unraveling would reveal a wide range of cultural dynamics at the beginning of the 21st century –

    • the dramatic dysfunctions of the Mainstream media’s news reporting,
    • the resurgence of various forms of

Judeophobia

    , from the paranoid anti-Semitism of the Muslim world to the joyous moral

Schadenfreude  

    of the European “left”,
    • the mainstreaming of an

active-cataclysmic apocalyptic movement in global Jihad

    , and its weapon of choice, suicide attacks on civilians.
    • the cultural vulnerabilities of Western democracies faced with an asymmetrical war so lopsided they cannot take it seriously
    • the pathologies of

Leftist

     and Jewish self-criticism,
    • the disorientation of liberals, prisoners of a special, optimistic, politically correct brand of cognitive egocentrism, and
    • the moral failure of the “progressive left” from the dawn of this century (Al Durah, Durban I, Response to 9-11) to defend progressive values in a cognitive war we are badly (and inexcusably) losing.

By any standards this offers a fairly good scope of issues to illuminate with a “thick description” of one single incident, even if it strikes many as what one French friend classed as a “human interest story” (faits divers).

Part of what attracted me to the topic was its quality of “public secret.” Everywhere I looked there were public secrets: from the obvious staging of Pallywood and the stunning complacency in private of the Western media (“oh, they do that all the time”), to uncanny refusal of otherwise rational people to reconsider despite the deeply troubling evidence. Karsenty calls it the “so what” defense: No blood… so what; no bullets… so what; 55 seconds not 27 minutes filmed of an alleged 45 minutes of non-stop Israeli firing… so what; no “death agonies” that Enderlin cut to “spare the public”… so what; no ambulance evacuation scenes… so what; the kid moves after he’s supposed to be dead… so what; Talal lies… so what; Enderlin lies…

Indeed quite early on, in addition to seeing this story as having strong parallels to the Dreyfus Affair, I began to see it as a case of the Emperor’s New Clothes. Here the tailors are Talal and his friends who spin their story; Enderlin is the chamberlain who comes back from examining the evidence and announces that the tale is good and true, the MSM are the courtiers to whom he gave both the evidence and the talking points for announcing the great news in order to prepare the tale’s public exposure, the media launch of the icon of hatred, the martyr Muhammad al Durah. And a string of lonely individuals, from Shahaf, to Juffa, to Huber, to Poller, to Landes, to Karsenty, tried unsuccessfully to say, hey wait a minute, this martyr’s narrative robe is woven of wholesale deception. And each of us were told, as does the father of the child in Andersen’s tale, “Hush child.” Only whereas in the original tale, the “revelation” was that those who couldn’t see the magical cloth were “fools and unworthy to rule”, in this one, those who saw a fake were “far-right-wing Zionist conspiracy freaks.”

Like many such “public secrets,” this tale does not wear well over time. (The French call them secrets de Polichinelle, secrets like pregnancy that will, eventually, out.) What I did not expect, was how often the defenders of al Durah would reveal the nature of these dysfunctions I was trying to chronicle and explain. Now Larry Derfner has added his text to the dossier of self-revelatory texts that explain so much about the al Durah affair. He has, as a result, inspired the formal launching of the Al Durah Affair’s Public Secret Dossier. So in his honor, I propose to go over some of these extraordinarily revealing texts and compare and contrast them.

1) Letter of Ricardo Christiano to the Palestinian Authority, October 13, 2000.

2) News analysis of William Orme for the New York Times, October 24, 2000

3) Response of Adam to James Fallows’ Atlantic Monthly article June, 2003

4) Nouvel Obs Letter of Support to Charles Enderlin, May 27, 2008

5) Larry Derfner’s Second Column on Al Durah in Jerusalem Post, June 18, 2008

Letter of Ricardo Christiano to the Palestinian Authority, October 13, 2000

On October 12 (less than two weeks after the al Durah footage first aired and provoked rioting throughout Israel’s Arab population), two Russian-born reservists took a wrong turn and landed in Ramallah, Arafat’s “Oslo” capital. Palestinian police took them into custody, but the rumor of their presence spread rapidly. A lynch crowd soon stormed the police station, and in a frenzy, Palestinian men beat the soldiers to death with their bare hands, threw their bodies out the window, and a mob below literally tore apart their bodies, beaten to a pulp, dragging the parts through the street, shouting all the while, “Revenge for the blood of Muhammad al Durah.”

Omerta and the European MSM: Rosenthal on the Al Durah Case

John Rosenthal, one of the most astute journalists at work in Europe today, whose work I have featured a number of times here at the Augean Stables, has an excellent article up at PJMedia on the French media’s reaction to the Al Durah affair. For the first time in the history of this blog, not only has one of my posts been mentioned, but still more important, the commentators who contribute so much to the discussion with their learned and lively comments.

    Le Nouvel Observateur’s “Appeal for Charles Enderlin” positively exudes such a sense of corporate privilege, as Richard Landes and his commentators on Augean Stables were quick to point out.

Rosenthal examines a number of the signatories (the “List of ignominy”) of signers of the Nouvel Obs petition, including the head of “Reporters without borders” an organization, as Rosenthal points out, one would have expected to view Karsenty as a classic “cyber-dissident” taking on the “grands medias.” Alas, not really an NGO, it appears to be another PGO (para-governmental organizations). I suspect that this list will serve as the starting point for PhD theses in media studies (if civic polities survive).

Hattip to all of you who have contributed.

When it Comes to Al-Dura, Journalists Are Against Free Speech
Despite the Al-Dura ruling, reporter Charles Enderlin can still count on his colleagues to stand by his story.

June 20, 2008 – by John Rosenthal

Earlier this month, the French weekly Le Nouvel Observateur launched a surreal “Appeal for Charles Enderlin” in response to a French court judgment clearing media critic Philippe Karsenty of charges of having “defamed” Enderlin and his employer, France 2 public television. The court thus overturned the October 2006 condemnation of Karsenty by a lower court.

A full professional translation of the higher court’s judgment is available here on Richard Landes’s Augean Stables blog. (The complete judgment in French is here.) Richard Landes’s translation of the Nouvel Observateur’s “Appeal for Charles” is here. The “Appeal” has in the meanwhile been signed by hundreds of Enderlin’s colleagues in French journalism, plus several “personalities,” and even some simple “web surfers” [internautes].

I say that it is surreal, since it is by no means clear what the point of the appeal is supposed to be or what exactly the signatories want done “for Charles Enderlin.” It was not, after all, Enderlin who was on trial: he and France 2 were the plaintiffs. The “Appeal for Charles” identifies Karsenty as the “person mainly responsible” for an “obstinate and hateful campaign” against Enderlin. But, as PJM readers will know (and Nouvel Observateur readers might not), Karsenty is in fact just one of numerous critics who have challenged the authenticity of Enderlin’s September 2000 report allegedly showing the killing of the Palestinian boy Mohammed Al-Dura by Israeli troops.

It was indeed France 2’s legal strategy of singling out Karsenty and two other website owners for prosecution – as well as Karsenty’s “obstinate” refusal to be intimidated – that converted him into one of the chief protagonists of what has become the “Al-Dura affair.”

The authors of the “Appeal” – like Enderlin himself in a blog post published shortly after the rendering of the court’s decision – take heart in the fact that the higher court “recognized” that Karsenty’s litigious remarks regarding the Al-Dura report “unquestionably do damage to the honor and reputation of news professionals”: i.e. Enderlin and France 2 as a whole. But the court’s observation in this connection is in fact a mere tautology. In his November 2004 text – in which, incidentally, Karsenty called for the “immediate dismissal” of Enderlin and France 2 news director Arlette Chabot – Karsenty himself describes Enderlin’s Al-Dura report and, above all, France 2’s defense of it as “a masquerade that does dishonor [déshonore] to France and its public television.”

The real question, of course, is whether Karsenty’s criticisms of France 2 are well-founded and whether the underlying accusation that the Al-Dura report was a fake is true – or, in other words, whether it is not in fact, as Karsenty’s remarks suggested, Enderlin and France 2 that brought the “dishonor” upon themselves. The French court did not answer this question. Nor indeed did it have any need to do so.

Read the rest.

When People have Intellectual Integrity: Elie Barnavi on Charles Enderlin

UPDATE: see Jean Daniel’s initial response to this letter, below.

One of the major events that’s been happening in the Francophone world since the court decision is a series of French intellectuals who have broken ranks with the emperor’s court and come out on the side of Karsenty et al. Among them, one of the most important is Elie Barnavi, a French historian and, from early 2001 onwards, Israeli ambassador to France. I first met Barnavi in the early Fall of 2003 when he came to speak at Wellesley. He is an impressive intellect, self-consciously to the “left” but distinctly independent of mind.

Although he had early information on the high level of staging in Talal’s rushes, he, like so many other figures, kept his distance, perhaps out of loyalty, perhaps out of a concern for his reputation, perhaps out of concern for his opportunities in a European setting where taking the side of those who doubted Enderlin was a fast ticket to the Siberia of “right-wing conspiracy nuts.”

Now, however, and in response to the corporatist petition circulated by the Nouvel Observateur, Barnavi has come out against France2 and Charles Enderlin, in the pages of Marianne, an independent publication that prides itself on its political iconoclasm. In so doing he has shown remarkable courage, and represents, in my reading of history, a major contribution to the cultural resilience of democratic Europe.

[This is my translation. Corrections welcomed. I have added some information in brackets since, perhaps for lack of space, the article is at points excessively laconic.]

“The Honor of Journalism: On the al Durah Affair
Elie Barnavi
Marianne, 7-13 June, 2008

On September 30, 2000, an unbearable scene went around the world. At Netzarim Juction in the Gaza Strip, a young boy was killed in the arms of his father who tried, pathetically, to protect him. Commented on in “prime time” by Charles Enderlin, the correspondent of France2 in Jerusalem, the atrocious image offered to the “Second Intifada, which had scarcely begun, a first martyr, a rallying cry, and an inexhaustible them of propaganda. Since Jews and Arabs have struggled on this bit of land, nothing has had a more devastating effect on the image of Israel and its army than the death of the little Muhammad al Durah. Only the massacre at Deir Yassin, the 9th of April, 1948 had more serious consequences. Such is the power of television.

In arriving in Paris three months after this incident, I had to get involved, despite myself, in the al Durah affair which would not be forgotten. Well-intentioned people tried to enroll the ambassador of Israel in a crusade against France2; less well-intentioned journalists wanted to know what I, humanist and “man of the Left” that I was supposed to be, thought of the assassination, filmed live, of the child. I explained to the former that it was best not to stir the mud, that the damage was done and that fighting the evidence of the images would only bring on more blows. I explained to the latter, that I too was thrown into turmoil by the sight of the horror of a child’s death, but that it was certainly not an “assassination”, that the Israeli army, which I knew quite well, was not in the practice of massacring children, and that the only way to avoid further such cases was to put an end to the violence and return to the negotiating table. I was right with the latter, but perhaps not right with the former.

Ivan Rioufol, Figaro columnist denounces Nouvel Obs petition

Ivan Rioufol, one of the more courageous (and therefore lonely) French journalists writing today, has dedicated his column to the Nouvel Obs petition. I’ll provide a commentary and translation of key passages next week. At the time of posting, this already had 41 comments. This is one hot topic in France… which at this point has a much more active and informed public on this topic than the USA, despite the fact that most material has been published in English. Turns out that MENA, Media-Ratings, Debriefing.org, Vérité Maintenant, and other blogs like Aiain Jean-Mairet, have made silent inroads in a previously silent population.

Bloc-notes: les médias, pouvoir intouchable

Par Ivan Rioufol le 13 juin 2008 0h01 | Lien permanent | Commentaires (41) | Trackbacks (0)

Le Nouvel Observateur vient de publier un appel, soutenu par de talentueux confrères, dénonçant une “campagne obstinée et haineuse” contre Charles Enderlin, correspondant de France 2 à Jérusalem. Le texte reproche à “des individus” de contester la véracité d’un de ses reportages montrant Mohammed al-Doura, 12 ans, “tué par des tirs venus de la position israélienne le 30 septembre 2000 dans la bande de Gaza, lors d’un affrontement entre l’armée israélienne et des éléments armés palestiniens”. Enderlin, journaliste infaillible?

La pétition suggère qu’un reporter, singulièrement dans une zone de conflit, ne saurait être jugé que par ses pairs: un esprit de corps qui a pour effet d’imposer une vérité, en décrédibilisant les contradicteurs. La presse soviétique procédait pareillement. Certes, les médias aiment mieux donner des leçons qu’en recevoir. Mais l’omerta sur la contestation de ces faits, qui ont eu de considérables répercussions au Proche-Orient, fait injure à la démocratie.

La diffusion par France 2 de la mort de l’enfant auprès de son père blessé avait attisé la deuxième intifada. Deux réservistes israéliens allaient être lynchés par des Palestiniens. Ceux qui, devant une caméra vidéo, tranchèrent la tête du journaliste américain Daniel Pearl, en 2002 au Pakistan, avaient la photo de la scène. Elle ébranla des esprits aussi avisés que Catherine Nay: “La mort de Mohammed annule, efface celle de l’enfant juif, les mains en l’air devant les SS, dans le ghetto de Varsovie.”

Mideast Journalism’s Public Secret and the News We Get:

This article is up at PJMedia

La version française, traduite par Menahem Macina, se trouve ici.
Al-Dura et le “secret d’intérêt public” du journalisme au Moyen-Orient

In the summer of 2006, Reuters News Agency, humiliated when bloggers caught them duped by obvious photographic manipulation, fired both the photographer and the chief of their photographic bureau. They then removed all the photographer’s photos from their news archive. In so doing, they acted decisively in punishing two of the cardinal sins of modern journalism: “creating evidence” and getting duped by created evidence.

These principles – i.e., the ethics of a free press – go so deep, that Westerners apparently have difficulty imagining that others might not share our commitments. Thus few people believe claims that footage of Muhammad al Durah, the twelve year old boy allegedly gunned down by Israelis at Netzarim Junction on September 30, 2000, was staged. Charles Enderlin, the correspondent for France2 who presented the tale to the world, derisively and successfully dismisses such claims as a conspiracy theory as ludicrous as those about 9-11. How absurd: Palestinian journalists would not do such a thing; and if they did, the Western media would catch it. To this day, most journalists still ask, “Who killed al Durah?” not, “Was he killed in the footage we see?”

take6
The last time we see al Durah on Talal’s camera:
He holds his hand over his eyes not his allegedly
deadly stomach wound. He lifts his up his arm and
looks around. Enderlin had already declared him
dead in an earlier scene, and (therefore?) cut this
scene from his broadcast.

And yet, one of the major differences between Western journalism and self-styled “Islamic media men” emerges on just this issue of the permissibility of staging the news and attitudes towards what constitutes honest information. According to the Islamic Mass Media Charter (Jakarta, 1980), the sacred task of Muslim media men [sic], is on the one hand to protect the Umma from “imminent dangers,” indeed to “censor all materials,” towards that end, and on the other, “To combat Zionism and its colonialist policy of creating settlements as well as its ruthless suppression of the Palestinian people.

So when asked why he had inserted unconnected footage of an Israeli soldier firing a rifle into the Al Durah sequence in order to make it look like the Israelis had killed the boy in cold blood, an official of PA TV responded:

These are forms of artistic expression, but all of this serves to convey the truth… We never forget our higher journalistic principles to which we are committed of relating the truth and nothing but the truth.

When Talal abu Rahmah received an award for his footage of Muhammad al Durah in Morocco in 2001, he told a reporter, “I went into journalism to carry on the fight for my people.”

These remarks serve as an important prelude to considering the France2 rushes that will be shown in court in Paris on November 14 in the Enderlin France2 vs. Philippe Karsenty defamation case. These tapes were filmed by Talal abu Rahmah on September 30, 2000, and for seven years, Enderlin has claimed that the tapes prove him right and show the boy in such unbearable death throes that he cut them out of his report. But several experts who have seen the tapes (this author included) claim that the only scene of al Durah that Enderlin cut was the final scene where he seems alive and well; and still more disturbingly the rest of the rushes are filled with staged scenes. Indeed there seems to be a kind of “public secret” at work on the Arab “street”: people fake injury, others evacuate them hurriedly (and without stretchers) past Palestinian cameramen like Talal, who use Western video equipment to record these improvised scenes. Pallywood: the Palestinian movie industry.

Which brings us to a problem more complex than the fairly straightforward observation that Palestinian journalists play by a different set of rules in which this kind of manipulation of the “truth” is entirely legitimate. What do Western journalists do with these products of propaganda? Do they know these are fakes or are they fooled? Do they tell the cameramen working for them and using their equipment that filming such staged scenes is unethical and unacceptable? And if they do, why do cameramen who have worked for them for years – Talal worked for Enderlin for over a decade when he took these rushes – continue to film these scenes. And how often do our journalists run this staged footage as real news?

Here the evidence provided by the Al Durah affair suggests that, in some sense, journalists are “in” on the public secret. When representatives of France2 were confronted with the pervasive evidence of staging in Talal’s footage, they both responded the same way. “Oh, they always do that, it’s a cultural thing,” said Enderlin to me in Jerusalem. “Yes Monsieur, but, you know, it’s always like that,” said Didier Eppelbaum to Denis Jeambar, Daniel Leconte, and Luc Rosenzweig in Paris.

As an echo of this astonishing private complacency, Clément Weill-Raynal of France3 made a comment to a journalist that he meant as a criticism of Karsenty:

Karsenty is so shocked that fake images were used and edited in Gaza, but this happens all the time everywhere on television and no TV journalist in the field or a film editor would be shocked.

The implications of this remark undermine its very use in his argument: How can Karsenty defame Enderlin by accusing him of using staged footage when, as Clément Weill-Raynal here admits, everybody does it? Is it wrong to do this? And if so, why does Weill-Raynal criticize Karsenty for blowing the whistle? And if not, where’s the defamation?

We may have stumbled here onto the very nature of public secrets and the value of a good reputation: everyone can cheat so long as no one is caught. It’s okay for the insiders to know, but the effectiveness of the (mis)information depends on the public not knowing. As Daniel Leconte reproached Eppelbaum: “the media may know [about this staging], but the public doesn’t.” Indeed, the public must not know. CNN advertises itself as “The Most Trusted Name in News,” not because it struggles against the influences, like access journalism, that destroy trustworthiness, but because it knows how important trust is to their audience public consumers of news. Thus, even if Western journalists use staged footage regularly, they cannot admit it. And, if denial doesn’t work, then, apparently, the next move is to say, “it’s nothing; everyone does it.”

An incident at Ramallah, however, suggests that Western journalists have systematically submitted to Palestinian demands that they practice Palestinian journalism. On October 12, 2000, to cries of “Revenge for the blood of Muhammad al Durah,” Palestinian men tore to pieces the bodies of two Israeli reservists. Aware of the potential damage, Palestinians attacked any journalist taking pictures. And yet, one Italian crew working for a private news station, at great risk to their lives, smuggled out the footage. Eager to avoid being blamed, the representative of Italy’s “official television station RAI,” wrote to the PA that his station would never do such a thing,

…because we always respect (will continue to respect) the journalistic procedures with the Palestinian Authority for (journalistic) work in Palestine…

Just what are these “journalistic procedures”? Do they resemble the rules of the Jakarta charter, including the censorship of anything damaging to the Palestinian cause (no matter how true), and publication of anything damaging to the Israeli cause (no matter how inauthentic)? The PA, apparently unaware that this is not how journalism should be done in the West, published the letter.

But on the side where modern journalism allegedly reigns, such revelations were profoundly embarrassing: even the normally timid Israeli government “temporarily suspended” the press card of Roberto Cristiano, and no one in the normally aggressive Western media objected. Cristiano had violated the basic rule of Western journalism’s omerta, and openly admitted shameful practices. The public consumer of Mainstream Media (MSM) “news” needs to ask, “How many journalists adhere to these Palestinian rules, and how much does that adherence distort, even invert, our understanding of what goes on in this interminable conflict? Can we afford this “public secret”?

Nor can we expect the MSM to discuss this willingly. On the contrary, awareness of the importance of trust often enough leads journalists to hide their mistakes rather than admit and learn from them. As a French friend put it to me: “No one admits publicly to mistakes in France. It’s a sign of weakness.” While these are the rules of honor-shame culture, civil society depends on having people prefer honesty to saving face, no matter how painful that may be. And while we cannot expect people to volunteer for public humiliation, we can and must insist that there are limits to both individual and corporate efforts to resist correction.

This is Charles Enderlin’s problem with the al Durah case. He has, with his eagerness to get the scoop, foisted upon an unsuspecting world, a nuclear bomb in the world of information warfare. As Bob Simon put it, to the background of a medley of Pallywood images: “In modern warfare, one picture is worth a thousand weapons.” And no image has done more to inspire the desire for violent revenge and global Jihad than this “icon of hatred.” To admit his mistakes, to release the public from this image’s thrall and alert us to the possibility that such colossal errors not only occur, but go years without correction, would destroy Enderlin’s career.

Moreover, Enderlin’s failure, at this point, seven years later, implicates the larger MSM who, with their refusal to even allow the critique to air, protect him. This dilemma may partly explain why the MSM in France has scarcely mentioned this case; why they had nothing to say about the initial trial until Karsenty lost, at which point they leapt into print to reassure the public that the image choc of the Intifada “was not staged.” Enderlin, after all, is not some Palestinian hack, even if he trusts and therefore regularly channels the work of such “journalists.” He is perhaps the best known and most widely trusted European correspondent in the Middle East. Surely, as a Jew and an Israeli, he would not report false stories that blackened his own country’s name. They must be true.

More ominously, just as Al Durah represents a “higher truth” for Muslims — a justification for hatred, a call to revenge — so does it carry symbolic freight with Europeans. Catherine Nay, a respected news anchor for Europe1, welcomed the image:

The Death of Muhammad cancels out, erases that of the Jewish child, his hands in the air from the SS in the Warsaw Ghetto.

al durah warsaw ghetto
From Ramsey Clark’s International Action website.

How ironic! The Europeans use an image produced by those who admire the Nazis and dream of genocidal victory over the Jews, to erase their own guilt over the Holocaust. In so doing, Europe has “atoned” for its sins against the Jews by empowering its Muslim extremists.

So not to admit such mistakes, destroys the very fabric of the civil society that allows a free press. In the long history of blood libels, no people have benefited from embracing the twisted hatreds they evoked.

At what point does self-protection become self-destruction, not only for the journalists who deny their errors no matter how costly, but for the public that believes them? As an Israeli journalist remarked: “Every day I have to walk the fine line between loyalty to my sources and loyalty to my audience.” How grievously have our journalists betrayed us, their audience, for the sake of finding favor in the eyes of their sources?

Palestinian journalists, in their own ethical declarations, argue that their role is to defend their cause and weaken its enemies. Journalism for them is war by other means; the media, a theater of war. Honesty and fairness do not intrude on this ethical prescription, but merely present a requirement for versimilitude designed to deceive susceptible Western audiences and incite Muslim rage.

In this clash of journalistic cultures, how often has the Western media played the “useful idiots” to Palestinian demands. How often have they presented Palestinian “truths” to us as “news”? And if they have done so as often and as destructively as Pallywood and its greatest success, the Al Durah Affair, suggests, how much longer will they persist?

Welcome Breath of the Beast: The Second Draft Enters its Second Phase

When I first launched Second Draft, I wanted something that could accommodate a great deal more than just Pallywood (no matter how “big” I thought that issue was). But undertaking such a task was well beyond my capacities. Now I am pleased to announce that I have the partnership of a blogger whose work has, from his first post, pushed the envelope of deep and pertinent thinking in the blogosphere, Yaakov ben Moshe of Breath of the Beast.

He has posted on this at his own blog, and we are cross-posting a variant here.

The announcement.

I have, over the past four months or so, been talking about forming a new non-profit organization with a fellow blogger. Richard Landes of Augean Stables and Second Draft. Richard is not only a blogger, he is also a professor of history at Boston University. We began working together in earnest when I helped him pull together the petition initiative to support Philipe Karsenty. Karsenty was found guilty of libeling France2 and Charles Enderlin by pointing out that the televised report of what Enderlin claimed to be the killing of 12-year-old Mohammed al Durah by Israeli gunfire really appeared to have been a staged scene in which nobody died.

Rather than admit that his report — which slandered the Israel and its Jewish supporters the world over, and provoked a wave of violence, anti-Semitism and terror that continues to propagate today — was either a grotesque mistake or an obvious fake, Enderlin and France2 sued Kasenty.

Landes, has, for the last four years, (summary of activity here) been a lonely voice in exposing this blood libel and showing how destructive and pervasive this sort of manipulation is, whereby anti-western and anti-Semitic Islamists of manipulate a compliant mass media. Even more importantly, he has been able, in a scholarly and non-politicized way, to show that one of the best defenses for Israel, The United States of America and (by extension) Western Civilization, lies in first identifying and then figuring constructive ways to deal with media’s susceptibility to this kind of manipulation.

We will be combining our efforts under the banner of a new non-profit organization which is now filed for under the U.S. tax code. The name of our new organization, Second Draft (shared by one of Landes’ pre-established websites) plays upon the adage that Journalism is the first draft of history. Second Draft will undertake to study the media, its behavior and its power.

We take a different approach to producing our second draft of history. We will go deeper than the usual correction of individual inaccuracies and sorting out the bias in various of stories. Our ultimate goal will be to use certain key dossiers (like the one already compiled on the al Durah Affair) at once to illuminate a particular case, and permit an exploration of the deeper questions about why our media exhibits such vulnerability to manipulation and so often adopts inappropriately anti-Western positions which undermine the very culture of freedom upon which the media depend.

False but “Accurate”: Demopathic Myths from “Nelson Mandela”

Joel Pollack of Guide to the Perplexed has a couple of posts on the Sabeel conference at the Old South Church. In the first one he discusses a quotation from Nelson Mandela on the back of the Official Program.

I sat down in a pew near the front and opened the folder of conference materials. The back page of the official program was entitled “Apartheid?” and was filled with quotes and maps aimed at proving the Israel-apartheid analogy. They had a line from Jimmy Carter, a line from Archbishop Desmond Tutu (the conference’s keynote speaker), and a line from—no, wait, really?—Nelson Mandela:

    “Apartheid is a crime against humanity. Israel has deprived millions of Palestinians of their liberty and property. It has perpetuated a system of gross racial discrimination and inequality. It has systematically incarcerated and tortured thousands of Palestinians, contrary to the rules of international law. It has, in particular, waged a war against a civilian population, in particular children.”

Sounds rather damning, doesn’t it? And who could disagree with Nelson Mandela? There’s only one problem: Nelson Mandela never said, wrote or endorsed those words. They are the creation of an Arab journalist named Arjan El Fassed. When I exposed El Fassed’s fraud earlier this year, he claimed: “There is no possible basis for Pollak to say I intended people to believe the memo was written by anyone other than myself.”

In spite of El Fassed’s admission, the Israel-haters continue to use his Mandela quote to promote their views.

Do the authors of the pamphlet know that this attribution is not true? (Certainly, anti-Zionists are carefully attuned to the meaning of perceived mis-attribution when it’s in their favor, as in the case of Martin Luther King’s Zionist sympathies.) So either they don’t know a “mock memo” when they see one, and/or they don’t care.

On the contrary, my sense is that this text represents what might best be called, mythical status. It embodies an axiomatic “higher truth” for anti-Zionists, and attributing it to Nelson Mandela gives it a further luster that, inaccuracy aside, it clearly deserves in their eyes. In other words, they feel fully justified in presenting it as true. How else can people be mobilized to do what is so obviously the right thing to do “for peace and justice” (i.e., condemn Israel)? When confronted withe problem, they, like the defenders of Dan Rather’s forged memo, can always plead “fake but accurate.”

Such an attitude brings us to one of the key issues separating propaganda from information, separating the informing of an autonomous public, empowered to make decisions, and the manipulation of a public whose decisions, the activists wish to control. In our imperfect world where objective reality cannot be reduced to verbal formulae, only a commitment to accuracy and empirical evidence distinguishes those who report to us, as reliably as they can, from those who tell us what they want us to think. Fake but accurate is the refuge of true believers who consider convenient fictions — what medieval Christians referred to as “pious forgeries” — acceptable means to convey the message.

A commitment to calling it and telling it fairly, even when it is against your own interests, marks an informtion source with integrity. Note, for example, how the allegedly partisan CAMERA (which is careful to document everything it writes) had to deal with a similarly manipulated “Zionist” citation attributed to Martin Luther King, they didn’t mince words and in their headline called it a hoax.

The ability to distinguish empirical information that reflects what happened, and information that comes from dishonest sources, constitutes one of the fundamental skills of any civil society. If you can look at the rushes taken by Palestinian cameramen at Netzarim Junction on the 30th of September, and not see street actors, completely unafraid of Israeli soldiers, with military directed by civilian directors, play scenes before the cameramen of injury and evacuation, rather than people actually injured and taken away, then you have failed the most elemental level of journalistic intelligence.

At that point, you can accept rebuke and become a more critical information provider, exercising shrewder and more penetrating judgment, or you can use the excuse of the PA TV official who explained that doctoring footage of al Durah to accuse the Israelis of deliberately targeting the boy was a form of “higher truth” to which he as a journalist is dedicated above all things. This is the excuse Enderlin used for running the footage of the boy without investigating the reliability of the report, because “it corresponded to the situation in Gaza and on the West Bank.” This is the way many people dismiss the significance of the al Durah as staged: “after all, the Israelis do target children.” As Adam Rose put it so succinctly,

    …the critical question in an examination of the dynamics of Mohammed al-Dura’s “martyrdom ” is not whether the singular “Story of Mohammed al-Dura” is true, but whether the “universal Mohammed al-Dura Story is true.

Nor is this merely a problem with Middle Eastern reporting. Fudging the line between real evidence and desired conclusions is a human tendency that threatens scientific research and reporting. The impact of CNN’s decisions on quantity over quality of information from around the world, had an enormous impact on the behavior of nations in the last decades of the 20th century — including Bosnia. Ultimately, critical issues like our understanding of the two great global threats of our age: global climate, and global Jihad warming, are at stake. Is Gore “fake but accurate”? Is that why he declares the debate closed. Or is he saying, the new global warming paradigm acquired and it’s time to move into action? Is Podhoretz just “making it up“? Or should we be taking strategic action against global Jihad? How do we asses the nature of future threats and make decisions on how to deal with them? We have to start with the best information about the present we can get.

The unique commitment to discerning and reporting the “truth,” as best one can consensually determine it, constitutes one of the more unusual characteristics of the West, and it makes modern science (and hence technology) possible. Civil society did not emerge as a constitutional experiment in the West until this commitment had given rise, thanks to the printing press, to a public sphere presided over by a city of letters, a culture of debate and information exchange. In order to do so, one must overcome the demands of honor and shame — above all, do not contradict an alpha male in public.

Of course, people are always tempted to, and often do lie. But one is much more careful about lying in a culture that punishes such behavior with public humiliation. Only through the acceptance of reliable negative feedback — i.e., the ability to self-criticize and deal with moral ambiguity — can we begin to grapple with the world beyond our egos; only when a free press informs the public as best it can, and trusts the public to make its own judgments, rather than manipulating the public to make the judgments journalists have decided are true, can a democracy sustain itself.

Apparently, for the organizers of this conference, not only was distributing material under false pretences legitimate, but in not taking questions from the floor, they indicated how little they are willing to deal with negative feedback. As Jacques Elul says, “Propaganda begins where dialogue ends…” And, apparently, that’s where this conference begins.

Arjan el Fassed

Let’s first consider the identity of the author of the document. This will not only raise questions about the reliability of the broad and aggressive generalizations this text contains, but also about the moral arguments which actually constitute the core of the indictment. According to CommonDreams.org, a news center for the “progressive community.”

    Arjan El Fassed, a Palestinian political scientist, media activist, and human rights specialist living in the Netherlands had also distinguished himself as an effective cyber-activist, spearheading boycott campaigns against Burger King and Benneton for opening franchises in Israeli settlements in the Occupied Territories, and producing a prodigious amount of Op-Eds and letters to editors of papers in Europe, the US, the UK and Canada. El Fassed is also a co-founder of Al-Awda, the Palestine Right of Return Coalition.

He has a blog, and is one of the co-founders and regular contributors to the Electronic Intifada, which announces its stated intention of provide an alternative to what it deems “the prevailing pro-Israeli slant in U.S. media coverage by offering information from a Palestinian perspective.” El Fassed is clearly far more concerned with Israeli crimes against the Palestinians (which he makes a central focus), than either Palestinian crimes against Israelis (surprise!) or Palestinian crimes against Palestinians. When Arjan tells you that every Palestinian man woman and child in prison has been tortured, don’t expect that to refer to those in Palestinian prisons. This latter point is important: he claims to be a “human rights policy advisor,” and a proponent of Palestinian democracy.

It does not seem like too much of an exaggeration to say that his work represents partisan advocacy, and that he has no hesitation attributing evil intent to the Israelis regardless of the circumstances. As far as he’s concerned, Rachel Corrie was murdered regardless of discrepencies in the evidence. He is an avid consumer and propagator of Pallywood and Hizbollywood products.

In other words, the work of Arjan is impressively consistent in its use of every rhetorical device to indict Israel, and the accompanying omerta that reigns over internal problems. [The only surprise in his predictable record of opinion and moral indignation is his take on Darfur.]

Differently put, Arjan el Fassed is a prime candidate for an award in energetic demopathy. He employs a ringing moral discourse, but only applies it to the enemy: overwhelmingly Israel, but any Palestinian faction that looks like it will “cave” to the Israelis. Any report of Israelis killing Palestinian children outrages him. Reports of “democratically elected” Hamas executing civilians don’t seem to register.

Now calling someone a demopath is not just a smear tactic. Demopathy involves a specific moral hypocrisy which uses human rights language as a weapon with which to assault an enemy (one committed to human rights), while refusing to apply the same (or really any) standards to oneself. In other words, it’s a form of information warfare that weaponizes accusations of immorality, not to increase morality, but to win a battle for dominion with an enemy committed to morality. Nietzsche called this the ressentiment of the slave morality: the weak, whining at the injustice of their being down, even as they seethe with impatience to get the power whereby they can inflict their own injustices.

The “Mock” Memo: Studies in Demopathy

And one of the best indexes of such Nietzschean demopathy is the degree to which someone accusing his enemy shows an awareness of the same flaws on his own side. So in assessing the combination of strong generalization and moral accusation in each of these sentences, let’s consider the accusations in the framework of Palestinian behavior in each of the crimes that Arjan brings to the docket.

Apartheid is a crime against humanity.

We begin with a moral statement. The subsequent “observations” are all efforts to direct it against Israel.

Israel has deprived millions of Palestinians of their liberty and property.

In order for this to hold true, the Palestinians would have to be able to point to a period in history where liberty “ruled” and property rights were respected. But the Arab inhabitants of the region never had liberty, and the vast majority of them were, before the advent of the Zionists, tenant farmers who worked land owned by the effendis is Cairo, Alexandria, Damascus, and Istanbul. This historical observation is not to say that they should not have liberty and property. But it underlines two points:

  • First, everywhere that Arabs rule Arabs, they deprive their subjects of liberty and property, certainly by any modern “civil” definition of the issue. Arab political culture has not yet figured out how to grant even their own people liberty, much less their minorities. Everywhere where Arabs rule, even in fabulously oil-rich states like Iran, Iraq, Lybia, Saudi Arabia, the majority live in poverty and powerlessness. Thus, we have the most embarrassing situation of all: Arabs in Israel enjoy more liberty and property than Arabs in the Arab world.
  • Second, to therefore blame Israel for taking away an Arab “liberty” that never has and does not exist, blames Israel for an Arab failure, radically misdiagnoses the problem. Get the Israelis out of the equation, and the Palestinians will not be any freer… on the contrary, alas. When the border between Gaza and Northern Sinai (Egypt) opened up briefly, Egyptian brides came flooding across the border to marry Gazans since, at least from their view, Gaza in its worst condition under Israeli rule (2000-2005), was a step up from everyday condition in Egypt. Today, after two years of Gazan rule, it’s unlikely even Northern Sinai Egyptians want to go to Gaza.

So for Arjan to accuse Israel of taking away Arab liberty when Israel is the only place in the Middle East where Arab liberty has appeared, systematically misconstrues what liberty means.

But it does sound good as an accusation.

It has perpetuated a system of gross racial discrimination and inequality.

Here’s the “apartheid” accusations. Here is where Arjan as the author of the statement becomes significant. The culture he advocates for has the worst record of apartheid in human history. The only significant difference between the UN resolution’s definition of apartheid, and what goes on in the Muslim world is the substitution of the word “religious” and “gender” for “racial.” Islam systematically and legally discriminates against its own women and against infidels in its political control. For gross (and violent) discrimination, the Palestinians, in their few moments of power (Jordan, 1964-70; Lebanon, 1970-82; PA, 1993-present), have demonstrated the most extraordinary propensity to violence, hate-mongering, and discrimination against their neighbors, regardless of race, creed, or gender. They are equal opportunity offenders. So on what basis, by what standards of justice is Arjan complaining of Israel’s behavior towards the Palestinians?

It has systematically incarcerated and tortured thousands of Palestinians, contrary to the rules of international law.

Again, we run into this strange situation. The Palestinians have not even the semblance of law, domestic or international. People are executed in the streets without trial for “collaboration”; Hamas created “order” in Gaza by ruthless murders; Palestinian prisons abound with torture victims. Now, none of this excuses Israel from living up to its own (and international) standards, but it does call into question just how reliable someone who defends a culture with no moral standards can be when he throws out his accusations. Does Israel have thousands of Palestinians incarcerated. Yes. Of course, many are incarcerated because Israel doesn’t have the death penalty, and therefore, they are imprisoned despite involvement in mass murder. Listening to Arjan on Israel is a little like having a tour guide take you through a desert who focuses your attention on the lack of jungle in the only section where plants grow.

It has, in particular, waged a war against a civilian population, in particular children.

This brings us to the climax of Arjan’s moral dishonesty. If anyone has “waged a war against a civilian population, in particular, children,” it’s the Palestinians, who openly declare their desire to commit genocide, target civilians, and celebrate their successes. Indeed, they use their own children to kill Israeli children.

Given this shameful and shameless behavior on the Palestinian side, to have Arjan accuse the Israelis of what the people he advocates for advocate, is sheer hypocrisy. Indeed, he is engaged in only a slightly more sophisticated version of the systematic disinformation that Palestinian media feed their own people.

Now the real question is not why Arjan el Fassed does what he does, but why his “mock memo,” itself a shameless piece of demopathy, gets recycled as a statement by Nelson Mandela and used as an epigram for a conference where progressives secular and clerical, come to hear Israel assaulted for depriving of liberty a culture that can neither provide liberty for its own people, nor, a fortiori, for others?

Intellectual Probity vs. Cynicism: Where’s the Indignation?

The following article by Brett Kline covers the renewed al Durah affair. The piece at least brings in new voices, in particular those who wish, mightily, to dismiss the whole affair. In particular, he has a fascinating and disturbing quote from Clément Weill Raynal that epitomizes a characteristic and troubling aspect of French intellectual life — intellectual probity vs. cynicism — which in turn raises a fundamental issue in the constitution and survival of a civil society.

Al-Dura controversy lives on

Brett Kline

Published: 09/17/2007
PARIS (JTA) — Ever since Mohammed al-Dura was shot and killed at Gaza’s Netzarim Junction on Sept. 30, 2000, some have claimed the boy’s death was staged for prime-time television.

One of them, the director of a small French media watchdog group called Media Ratings, is going to court Wednesday to defend his version of the controversial story.

Philippe Karsenty will be appealing a 2006 decision that he slandered state-run France 2 television, whose camerman caught the 12-year-old’s death on tape during the fateful exchange of gunfire between Israeli forces and Palestinians.

Karsenty was slapped with two $1,380 fines — one to be paid to France 2 and one to the station’s reporter — and ordered to pay another $4,000 in court costs when he wrote that the shooting was a hoax, saying it constituted a “masquerade that dishonors France and its public television.”

He says the original trial was a travesty. Some partisan Jewish groups like the Zionist Organization of America and Camera-The Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America have lined up behind him, but French Jewish groups have withheld their support.

Note that this is phrased in the terminology of what the French would call “communautarisme” — the conflict between “partisan” Jewish groups, and, generally, the French Jewish community, which has “withheld its support.” It’s important to realize that as much as Americans on the right and the left dismiss each other’s arguments as dishonestly partisan, the situation in France/Europe — especially in what concerns Israel — is far worse. Gentiles who defend Israel or discuss the serious rise of antisemitism in Europe, readily find their interlocutors responding, “Oh, I didn’t know you were Jewish.” Much of this debate has been handled at this level, rather than the substantive one.

That would not be so bad, in and of itself, if it were not that the accusations of bad-faith communautarisme are directed overwhelmingly and vehemently against Israel. Where the French are systematically méfiant (suspicious) of anything a Jew says in support of Israel, they are terminally credulous of anything a Palestinian says in support of his cause. As a result, the avowedly militant and devastatingly effective partisanship of Talal abu Rahmah’s “journalism” — amply on display in his as-yet unseen rushes — cannot be called into question. To do so, according to opponents of such a thesis, would be to get involved in a conspiracy theory.

Honor Killings, Silence, and the Meaning of Speaking out

What can we learn from the latest monstrosity in the world of Arab honor-killings. This one occurred in Israel, in the Ramle, a town with a large Arab population. Understanding the dynamics to this terrible “custom” sheds a fierce light on the nature of the Arab-Israeli, and more broadly Islamist-Western conflict.

Abu-Ghanem women speak out against serial ‘honor killings’

The murder of Hamda Abu-Ghanem, whose bullet-riddled body was found in mid-January at her parents’ house in Ramle, surprised nobody.

As police set about their investigation, everyone was aware that the victim’s brother had been threatening to kill her, and that long before the murder, she had taken refuge in a battered women’s shelter.

It was a typical “honor killing,” meant to remove some perceived stain on the family’s reputation.

The perpetrators of most honor killings in the Arab community are not apprehended. Hamda’s murder, however, was one too many for the women in the Abu-Ghanem family. She was the eighth woman to be murdered in the extended family in the last six and a half years. All her predecessors also lost their lives in “honor killings.”

This time, instead of keeping mum when the police questioned them, the Abu- Ghanem women gave detailed testimonies of everything they knew. One said she had seen Rashad enter the house where Hamda was. Shortly afterward she heard shots and seconds later saw Rashad, the key suspect, fleeing from the building.

The Fauxtographer’s Temptations: Advocacy Journalism and the Lebanese War

Stuart, one of the commentaters at this site has sent in a translation of a Le Monde article on the Fauxtography Scandal. It is emblematic of everything that ails the MSM, everything that created and maintains the Augean Stables.

I will post a fisking later of the whole piece in his translation, followed by the original for those who either prefer French or want to check his/my translation. But in the meantime, there is a particularly revealing passage at the end of the article about matters of “unethical behavior” among journalists working for Western media outlets in the Middle East, and the reluctance to reveal its presence that, I think, sheds a bright light on the problems we face. So I will first post this segment of the analysis here, and follow with the full fisking later.

War in Lebanon and Fauxtography

The conflict has triggered a controversy on the Net of conservative bloggers suspecting images of being manipulated.

…………

The photographers admit with difficulty the existance of little arrangements. One of them admitted on the Net having seen photographers in Lebanon asking rescuers to pose with the victims adding that “the dead bodies, they were real.”

Today he regrets having made the statement and wishes to remain anonymous. “I wanted to encourage the handful of photographers who have carried out such condemnable practices to act with greater ethics.” In reality, my statement mostly harmed the Lebanese people. Rather than reflecting on the atrocities carried out on one side and the other, each one is searching in the images for the means to prove that there were no war crimes…”

Now as a medievalist who is trained to look for evidence of supressed material, this is precious. The journalist herself tells us that photographers admit these manipulations “with difficulty” — obviously they’re not supposed to do it, and if they can they’ll deny it. Like the ad for mouthwash that has someone asking advice “for a friend with bad breath,” the reluctant photographer admits that a “handful” of photographers do this, but hastily adds “the bodies were real.” (As if manipulating real dead bodies for sensational pictures were somehow a mitigating circumstance.)

But even that is too much. He now regrets his remarks and seeks to assure his anonymity. In the primary community to which this photographer “reports back,” this was not a “good” thing to say. So he self-censors.

Who is it who so objects to these remarks that it makes him regret them? What is this primary group to which he answers back? Not, apparently, his public, who clearly would like to know what’s going on “behind the scenes” as it were.

He insists of anonymity. Why? What does he risk having it known that he’s admitted that a minimal amount of staging goes on? The obvious answer is, he risks offending the powers that be on the scene, i.e., Hezbollah, and thus at the very least losing “access” to more pictures, and more seriously losing the use of any or all of his limbs. But to say that outright would be to admit to intimidation. That’s also not supposed to happen.

Instead we get a marvelous piece of ideological justification that clues us in to the intellectual world this anonymous photographer inhabits and reports from, and answers back to.

In reality, my statement mostly harmed the Lebanese people. Rather than reflecting on the atrocities carried out on one side and the other, each one is searching in the images for the means to prove that there were no war crimes…”

Wow! Let me unpack this for those not used to the language of PCP advocacy journalism (i.e., those who brought us Pallywood). Our anonymous’ statement “mostly harmed the Lebanese people,” and therefore he should not let his public (us!) know even that watered-down admission. Among other things, this means that he gauges his statements according to their effect and not either their relevance or accuracy.

According to what criteria do we judge this “greater good”? The answer appears to be: “According to a calculus in which the perceived interests of the Lebanese people are at the front of my concerns, indeed sufficiently strong that these perceived interests override my willingness to give outsiders information that they might find important to know.”

In other words, “I won’t offer them any support for the argument that they’re being given Pallywood as news.” This is remarkably close to the remark that Charles Enderlin made to Esther Shapira that “I will not give the Israeli Army the rushes so they can whitewash themselves.”

He’s saying in effect that as part of his advocacy journalism, he militates for that which he believes to be the “right” or “deserving” side, and controls information with an eye to implementing that which works towards his goal. In this case, “the good of the Lebanese people.”

So what issues determine what the good of the Lebanese people is?

Rather than reflecting on the attrocities carried out on one side and the other, each one is searching in the images for the means to prove that there were no war crimes…”

Now that’s a really good one. Strictly speaking, it is strictly neutral. “Both sides” are carrying out atrocities; “each one” is searching for the means to exonerate its side; let us journalists and photographers not let that happen.

But the reality here is, that Hezbollah is not trying to exonerate its side from targetting Israeli civilians — it revels in the number of Israelis killed. And of course, Israelis don’t orchestrate media events around dead civilians. Indeed the media seems largely uninterested in showing Israeli civilian casualties, and none of the outspoken moral institutions — from the UN to the NGOs to the “statesmen” seem inclined to hold Hezbollah accountable.

Hezbollywood, on the other hand — the images here in question — serve a particular one-sided goal: they consistently demonize the Israelis and if not justify, certainly to buoy the hopes of Hezbollah. That’s why Hezbollah spends so much time courting and intimidating the press…. it matters.

So even-handed appearances aside, this remark basically means: “I’m sorry I mentioned the staging because it gives Israel the opportunity to get off the moral hook by claiming that phony coverage is manipulating Western outrage. Moreover, as I see it, it is in the interests of the Lebanese people to have Israel on that moral hook since they are the ones bombing the Lebanese, and getting them to stop will make the Lebanese situation better.”

What if PCP is Wrong? The Consequences of Well-Intentioned Error

But now we come to our real problem. What if our photographer — talented perhaps, but not a particularly deep thinker on matters of morality and geopolitics — is part of a community that systematically misreads the situation with the mistake only a beginner in liberalism persists in repeating: liberal cognitive egocentrism? That is to say, he systematically interprets the “other side” (the one whose culture is so different from his own) in the most generous liberal terms? What if his exclusive concern for the Lebanese people and loud silence about the good of the Israeli people reflects the degree to which his Politically Correct Paradigm (PCP) has imbibed the demonizing of the Israelis — they are the Goliath, why should he give them any sympathy?

But what if there are dead bodies here in such profusion on both sides of the line not because Israelis like to kill innocent civilians (Hizbullah’s account), but because Lebanon is in the grip of religious zealots who worship death and thrive on it? What if the vast weight of responsibility for the catastrophe that just befell the southern Lebanese was a) a mere fraction of the devastation that would have reigned down had it been, say, the Syrians who were reacting to an attack by declared mortal enemies hiding among civilians, and b) overwhelmingly the result of both long-range and short-range behavior from Hizbullah that systematically sought not only to shield themselves behind their civilians to take advantage of Israel’s constraints, but also to further spread hatred and violence throughout the world with their lethal narratives.

What if… ?

Then the entire reasoning of our photographer and the larger journalistic culture in which we need to place his solidarity (i.e., his desire for anonymity among, his regrets at breaking rank with) is working against his and their stated concern, the Lebanese people. What if the peer-group pressure of the an unconscious advocacy journalism pushes people to make terrible mistakes, to play the dupe to the demopaths, and, as with the Palestinian case, by running the “lethal narratives,” empower the very people who victimize the Lebanese people. In other words, what if our well-intentioned journalists were actually encouraging Jihad with their advocacy journalism based on the PC Paradigm and not the Jihad Paradigm.

One would imagine that a true advocacy reporter — i.e., someone truly committed to the principles of a civil society and concerned for civilians on both sides — would to expose the full range of sources of Lebanese suffering, rather than this confected demonization of the Israelis intended to help the Lebanese.

And certainly, among these sources, our intrepid reporter would emphasize to Westerners who have difficulty imagining what this world is like unless they’ve studied the Middle Ages and the early Modern period — what it means to be increasingly in the grip of a powerful mafioso-like organization which invokes religious war with calls to genocide, promotes a death cult, targets enemy civilians and easily sacrifices its own people, desecrating the corpses for PR victories.

But he need not be that much of a hero… just an honest and reasonably modest individual who does his job as he’s supposed to. With rare exceptions, journalists are not supposed to be visionaries who make decisions about what to tell people based on how that will lead them to the “higher good.” Journalists are supposed to give us clean, accurate, relevant information and let us make decisions as to what it means, and how to get to the “higher good.” The difference between propaganda and journalism is that one manipulates and the other informs; the former disempowers, the latter empowers the reader. Our journalists have no business making these kinds of decisions, for which they are completely unqualified.

Here what the readers (i.e., we still living in free societies and capable of making decisions on the basis of a free press) need most is an honest appraisal of how accurate the information our MSM provide us with. If the information is staged, if photographers break their ethical rules in order to get “exciting” pictures that get into the MSM, and if those “spectacular” photos lead the opinion makers to get morally hysterical about one side of the conflict while overlooking the moral depravity of the other… then I’d say we’re all in trouble.

The word is that when US Intelligence people wanted advice at the end of WWII, they went to medievalists because we’re trained to reconstruct a large picture from fragmentary evidence. When I saw Talal’s work, heard Enderlin’s reaction, and watched Bob Simon “cover” the Al Durah affair, I realized that Pallywood never could have happened without a wide-ranging and systemic failure in the MSM.

And nothing embodies that failure better than this passage from a typical product of Le Monde, on the brave new world of accountable MSM that the blogosphere heralds. Nothing makes it clearer that the members of the MSM who do work in the Middle East have to come clean about what’s going on. In a time of crisis like the current, we cannot afford a MSM that stinks like the Augean Stables.

Global Jihad Warming and the Media Greenhouse Effect

And when the MSM plays into this manipulation rather than denounce it, they not only sacrifice the innocent Lebanese people who do not want this religious mafia to take over and use them as sacrificial shields, but they damage civil society the world over. On the one hand, they blind us to the deeds and motivations of organizations like Hamas and Hezbollah, so that demopaths can ask us to join demonstrations under the rubric: “We are all Hizbullah!”. And on the other hand, they encourage the hatreds and angry desires for revenge that feed the global Jihadi appeal. Global Jihad warming shot up by 5 degrees after Qana as Muslims the world over looked in growing horror and outrage at the spectacles of these dead children milked transmitted by a misguided and eager media.

If it had turned into an international PR disaster for Hezbollywood, in which the world looked aghast at the ghoulish manipulation of dead bodies, whose very deaths were primarily the responsibility of a religious death cult, one can imagine that the temperature might have dropped considerably. Not only would the Jihadis not have found new fuel for their hatreds, but the real moderates would have found much strength.

But instead of exposing Hezbollah, our photographer reports in ways that channel Hezbollah’s agenda in the name of the Lebanese people. Instead of helping a people in the death-grip of a vicious elite, the media helps the vicious elite by broadcasting it’s poisonous propaganda as news — “the bodies were really dead.” And in so doing, they act like a hot-house, increasing the temperature of Global Jihadi passions by advertising these lethal narratives and incensing the world. How can a Muslim anywhere be anything but outraged that the USA would support a bunch of murdering maniacs like the picture he gets of the Israelis from the MSM?

Why?

Why does the same media who never cease to chide George Bush, Benedict XVI and any other critic of Islam with “making things worse” engage in such consistently dangerous activity that almost unquestionably makes this worse. Why don’t they speak out? Why don’t they denounce?

There are many troubling answers to this question including psychological ones. Here I want to focus on two: Intimidation and Advocacy.

We do not know, and our media will not let us know, just how bad the intimidation. If you don’t look closely at incidents like the kidnapping of Bob Simon (January 21, 1991), or the recent forced conversion of two Fox correspondants, then you have very little clue as to the degree of terror against the media that is currently operative in Arab, increasingly any Muslim culture. In the Arab-Israeli conflict, the assassination and kidnapping of reporters became a chronic feature of the landscape in the 1970s and 1980s, just the time Pallywood got going according to our current estimation.

This should not be surprising. It is characteristic of honor-shame cultures that criticism of those with power is viewed as an assault and a legitimate object of retaliation… all the more when a death-cult takes over.

What appears in the allusions to intimidation our anonymous journalist has made — and whose implications seem to have escaped Le Monde‘s reporter — suggests that this culture of enforced solidarity operates at nearly full force in this arena of Middle East newsreporting. It’s the only way to understand how Pallywood not only takes place but persists, year after year… how something like Al Durah can remain uncorrected for now six long years of constant, visible damage.

But there is an alternative explanation: that these journalists are committed ideologues and advocates, that they either don’t know what they’re encouraging global Jihad or don’t agree that that’s what they’re doing, people like anonymous who readily back down on even mentioning photographers giving into the temptation to “fix” scenes, “for the good of the Lebanese people.”

These are the ones who must decide now, whether they will continue to ignore the stench of the Augean Stables, continue to call those who pay attention to it “right-wing,” continue to adhere to a now clearly destructive — as well as dishonest — paradigm that holds Israel fundamentally responsible for Arab suffering.

These are the ones who need to find enough modesty to consider that they might most resemble the members of the Emperor’s court the day he processed naked in front of his people, who have swallowed a “line” that denies the very reality before our eyes, who need to be a good deal more professional and less ideological. As I said to Charles Enderlin the first day I met him and watched the rushes: “at least consider as a working hypothesis the possibility that you’ve been duped.” (And please don’t answer as he did: “Impossible, they would never even think of cheating like that because I’d catch it right away.”)

Time for honesty, no matter how painful. It is not for you to decide what information is “good for the Lebanese, or Palestinian people.”

An Appeal to Members of the MSM

So please, Mr. Anonymous, and all the other reporters and photographers who know better… how about some honesty? How about some accountability not to your handlers who give you “access” but to your readers who depend on you? How about some small cracks in the omertà that has created our Augean Stables?

Then people might be able to assess for themselves who they hold responsible for the victimization of the Lebanese people, rather than you telling us. Then people might be able to defend against an emotional manipulation by the Jihadis that plays on precisely those humane feelings that these Jihadis do not share (indeed they despise), in order to demonize Israelis, who do share those concerns for life and innocence.

That’s how blood libels work. They project the hatred of the libelers onto the libeled and hope to arouse violent hatred with the resulting tale. Why on earth would our modern MSM want to vehiculate such medieval cruelties?