Monthly Archives: July 2010

Goldstone and the lies of the Smear Machine: No Accountability. For shame!

It’s nearly impossible to compile all of the profoundly shameful statements made by Israeli-Reputation-Gatekeepers against respected Jewish South African jurist Richard Goldstone and his report on Operation Cast Lead, last year’s Israeli war on Gaza. (Back then, MIT professor Nancy Kanwisher wrote about this under-appreciated but remarkable study she did on the ceasefires between Israel and Gaza, concluding,  “a systematic pattern does exist: it is overwhelmingly Israel, not Palestine, that kills first following a lull. Indeed, it is virtually always Israel that kills first after a lull lasting more than a week.”)

There’s Michael Jackson’s rabbi, Shmuley Boteach (and, presumably because of his sage advice to the singer, one of Newsweek’s top 50 rabbis) who said, “The Goldstone Report is a modern-day blood libel against the Jewish state.”

The Hudson Institute just called the report “the UN blood libel” while Alan Dershowitz, wanting to one-up his colleagues, likened Goldstone to the infamous Nazi doctor Josef Mengele. That, after he called him an evil, evil man. And as Hybrid States Yaniv Reich adds:

Defense Minister Ehud Barak described it as “false, distorted, and irresponsible“.  Information Minister Yuli Edelstein called it “anti-Semitic“.  Israeli Ambassador to the US Michael Oren said it “insidiously… portrayed the Jews as the deliberate murderers of innocents“.  Foreign Minister Lieberman argued that its true purpose “was to destroy Israel’s image, in service of countries where the terms ‘human rights’ and ‘combat ethics’ do not even appear in their dictionaries“.  And the US House of Representatives banded together in bipartisan harmony to pass a resolution (344–36) that called “on the President and the Secretary of State to oppose unequivocally any endorsement or further consideration” of it.

For nearly a year now, vicious attacks on the Goldstone report and on Judge Goldstone himself have been the thing for Israel’s numerous apologists to do.

But now, partially because of pressure created by the Goldstone Report, the Israeli military, the IDF has released it’s own report. As Reich says:

There is just one not-so-minor problem with this knee-jerk criticism of the report and infinite stream of ad hominem libel against its main author.  A majority of the most damning—and damaging—war crimes that are alleged to have taken place have now been confirmed by the IDF’s own investigations into the matter, themselves only conducted in an effort to derail the Goldstone report’s referral to the International Criminal Court.

Reich has the details. A must-read.

Meanwhile, I suppose the Smear Machine has no more chance of being made accountable for their outrageous attacks than the still highly-paid US pundits who said the US war with Iraq would be a walk in the park.

Israeli Knesset completes step 1 of 3 in criminalizing nonviolent economic pressure against the Occupation

Real News Network, a professional online alternative to US corporate media, has this comprehensive report about a Knesset bill to criminalize Palestinian, international and Israeli efforts to promote and enact boycotts against Israel. Last week, it passed its “preliminary reading” in the Knesset, with two more rounds to go to become law.

If passed, this stunning bill will mark the most severe and antidemocratic backlash thus far against the boycott, sanctions and divestment movement (BDS) to pressure Israel to abide by international law. Continue reading

Liberal PR firm drops Gaza advocacy group under pressure

Fenton Communications is a well-known liberal, Democratic public relations firm that caught the “adoring” eye of the Israeli Likudnik crowd because liberal Zionist lobby group J Street founder Jeremy Ben Ami is a former Senior Vice President. Back in March, 2009 Fenton signed a contract with the Qatar based Fakhoora campaign to advocate for accountability over Israel’s attacks on Gaza. Accountability and Israel-now that’s a no-no for the pro-settler lobby. But back then, the right wing echo chamber couldn’t do anything with that information, Ben-Ami had left the year before and denied any connection.

Fast forward over a year and The Israel Project and their right wing buddies are after Fenton (and Ben Ami) again. Amazingly, this time, they were successful and Fenton dropped the account. Completely. JTA reports:

July 11, 2010

WASHINGTON (JTA) — A U.S. public relations firm said it will not renew its contract with a pro-Palestinian group that helped to organize the flotilla that aimed to breach Israel’s blockade of the Gaza Strip.

The announcement from Fenton Communications, which specializes in PR for not-for-profit groups, followed The Israel Project’s distribution of a news release publicizing Fenton’s representation of Fakhoora on June 23.

The release noted Fakhoora’s role in helping to organize the flotilla of six aid ships. An Israeli raid on one of the ships on May 31 resulted in the deaths of nine passengers on board.

The release was issued to The Israel Project’s mailing list and Fenton clients.

“The purpose of a public relations firm is to help provide a good name to their clients, and only a PR firm with their own good name and reputation can succeed in business,”  said Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi, founder of The Israel Project.

Representatives from Fenton were unavailable for comment. The firm, well known in Democratic and liberal circles in the United States, has represented Jewish groups, including the American Jewish World Service, a relief group.

According to its website, Fakhoora is a campaign to help improve education for children in Gaza. The organization is supported by the second wife of the emir of Qatar, whose office paid Fenton to represent Fakhoora from March 1 to Aug. 31.

Fenton distributed materials on the Fakhoora’s website, such as a “flotilla action alert,” and helped spread the organization’s message through social networking sites such as Facebook. Fenton has offices in New York, Washington and San Francisco.

Octavia Nasr,20-year CNN career ended over a tweet. UK ambassador Frances Guy removes blog post under pressure.

There’s really little to add to Glenn Greenwald’s comprehensive post on the hypocritical firing of (until now, the very safe and non-controversial) CNN Senior Middle East News Editor Octavia Nasr over just one short tweet she posted this weekend:

“Sad to hear of the passing of Sayyed Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah  . . . . One of Hezbollah’s giants I respect a lot.”

Fadlallah was one of the world’s most revered Shia leaders. He was also the religious leader most associated with the political party of US ally Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. Upon his death, UK ambassador to Lebanon Frances Guy wrote in a piece (which, believe it or not, she has now taken down, presumably due to pressure after the Nasr uproar- on her official blog) called (cached version) The Passing of Decent Men, “When you visited him you could be sure of a real debate, a respectful argument and you knew you would leave his presence feeling a better person.  That for me is the real effect of a true man of religion; leaving an impact on everyone he meets, no matter what their faith…The world needs more men like him willing to reach out across faiths, acknowledging the reality of the modern world and daring to confront old constraints.”

After the Twitter controversy first happened, Nasr wrote a thoughtful explanation. But to no avail.

Greenwald goes on:

That message spawned an intense fit of protest from Far Right outlets, Thought Crime enforcers, and other neocon precincts, and CNN quickly (and characteristically) capitulated to that pressure by firing her.  The network — which has employed a former AIPAC official, Wolf Blitzer, as its primary news anchor for the last 15 years — justified its actions by claiming that Nasr’s “credibility” had been “compromised.”  Within this episode lies several important lessons about media “objectivity” and how the scope of permissible views is enforced.

First, consider which viewpoints cause someone to be fired from The Liberal Media.  Last month, Helen Thomas’ 60-year career as a journalist ended when she expressed the exact view about Jews which numerous public figures have expressed (with no consequence or even controversy) about Palestinians.  Just weeks ago, The Washington Post accepted the “resignation” of Dave Weigel because of scorn he heaped on right-wing figures such as Matt Drudge and Rush Limbaugh.  CNN’s Chief News Executive, Eason Jordan, was previously forced to resign after he provoked a right-wing fit of fury over comments he made about the numerousand obviously disturbingincidents where the U.S. military had injured or killed journalists in war zones.  NBC fired Peter Arnett for criticizing the U.S. war plan on Iraqi television, which prompted accusations of Treason from the Right.  MSNBC demoted and then fired its rising star Ashleigh Banfield after she criticized American media war coverage for adhering to the Fox model of glorifying U.S. wars; the same network fired its top-rated host, Phil Donahue, due to its fear of being perceived as anti-war; and its former reporter, Jessica Yellin, confessed that journalists were “under enormous pressure from corporate executives” to present the news in a pro-war and pro-Bush manner.

Bottom line-the tectonic plates are shifting.

And yet, with all this movement, in the mainstream media in the US, as Greenwald says, holding the Israeli government narrative is still seen as neutral, while anything even slightly more critical (or, I would argue, more reality-based) is seen as biased. Cross that line, and as journalist Letty Pogrebin calls them, “the Israel right or wrong mafia” won’t hold back in making sure a price is paid. It is shameful that institutions of all kinds capitulate to such threats. It’s only a matter of time, though, before the extremist settler ideology pit bulls are revealed to have nothing in their favor but empty threats.  Meanwhile, bigots can feel safe knowing that they can offer racist platitudes about Arabs and Muslims, celebrate Israeli terrorist attacks on civilians and so forth, and remain good friends to the US, and respected journalists in good standing.

Some must-reads on the incident:

Juan Cole

Stephen Walt

Matt Duss at Think Progress