Category Archives: Media

Buyer Beware

by Marilyn Kleinberg Neimark

In the unusual category of GOOD news for discourse around Israel and Palestine, Patrick B. Pexton, ombuds for the Washington Post until last March, gave new owner Jeff Bezos some excellent advice in an open letter he published in the Washington City Paper: Fire Jennifer Rubin.

Rubin, as Muzzlewatch readers may recall, occupies a place in the crowded precinct of rabid Islamaphobes on the Zionist right. Here’s how Pexton puts it:

“Have Fred Hiatt, your editorial page editor—who I like, admire, and respect—fire opinion blogger Jennifer Rubin. Not because she’s conservative, but because she’s just plain bad. She doesn’t travel within a hundred miles of Post standards. She parrots and peddles every silly right-wing theory to come down the pike in transparent attempts to get Web hits. Her analysis of the conservative movement, which is a worthwhile and important beat that the Post should treat more seriously on its national pages, is shallow and predictable. Her columns, at best, are political pornography; they get a quick but sure rise out of the right, but you feel bad afterward. Continue reading

AIPAC Bars Me From Media Access to Their Conference

This is a guest post by Souciant Magazine and Inter Press Service writer Mitchell Plitnick, formerly with Jewish Voice for Peace and B’Tselem:

It’s a little hard to imagine. The self-proclaimed “most influential foreign policy lobbying organization on Capitol Hill,” an admittedly deserved sobriquet, is apparently afraid of what little old me might say about their conference.

It’s hard to interpret what has happened in any other way, after my approved media credentials for AIPAC’s annual policy conference were rescinded without explanation just a few days before the event.

I applied for media access to the conference back in January. Soon after, I received an email from AIPAC’s then-media relations officer, Ari Goldberg, confirming acceptance of my application to attend as a reporter.

I am hardly unknown in this arena, and a quick search on Google would certainly have revealed that I was a progressive blogger, but also that I had written numerous pieces of straight journalism for Inter Press Service, the agency for which I will still be reporting on the conference.

So, it was no surprise that AIPAC credentialed me. Just as a major event at, say, the Center for American Progress (a think tank with unabashed ties to the Democratic Party) would not think twice about credentialing someone from FOX News, it is standard practice that such large organizations credential a wide range of media.

More surprising was the revocation of those credentials with just a few days to go before the conference.

With the conference slated to start on Sunday, I got a curt note on Wednesday, simply stating: “Thank you for your interest in attending this year’s AIPAC Policy Conference as a member of the press.   However, press credentials for the conference will not be issued to you.  We regret any inconvenience this may have caused.”

It came from someone named Sarah Coopersmith at Scott Circle Communications, a firm AIPAC contracted with to handle the press logistics. The email wasn’t even signed.

Inquiries to both Coopersmith and AIPAC’s new press officer, Adam Harris brought no response. Ari Goldberg, despite having left AIPAC, did respond to me, expressing surprise and the hope that this was just a mistake.

To say this is highly unusual behavior would be an understatement. And I wasn’t the only one this happened to.

Philip Weiss of Mondoweiss, who had been credentialed the past three years without incident, and Adele Stan, the Washington Bureau Chief at AlterNet were also rejected without explanation. As I understand it, Phil and Adele were rejected outright. In my case, I was given media access and then had it revoked.

The combination was enough to get the attention of Ron Kampeas of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency. Ron has been in the DC scene writing about the politics here around Israel for years. He knows just how unusual this is. As he wrote, “Barring coverage in Washington is rare; Government institutions in Washington are known for accommodating a broad range of journalists, including those adamantly hostile to the government of the day.”

Apparently, as well, Chris McGreal of the Guardian (UK) was also summarily excluded, but after Ron’s piece came out in the JTA, AIPAC reinstated him, saying it was an oversight. Maybe it had nothing to do with trying to prevent the story from getting much bigger by excluding such a large international news source. Maybe it had everything to do with it, and Ron’s story made AIPAC nervous. I’ll let you make that call.

Kampeas, who has known me personally for several years, described me in JTA this way: “… a liberal blogger who has sparred with right-wing pro-Israel groups as well as anti-Zionists, and who was going to provide coverage for Inter Press Service, which emphasizes developing nations coverage as well as what it calls marginalized groups.”

Sounds like someone critical of AIPAC, but hardly like someone who would frighten them so much they would revoke credentials already given.

Now, I certainly have been very critical of AIPAC and the so-called “Israel Lobby.” But I have also engaged in public debates, including one appearance just after his book came out with Stephen Walt (who, in spirit of full disclosure, knows I disagree with parts of his thesis and nevertheless has developed a personal and professional relationship with me that has, at least from my end, been amazingly rewarding), when I believe the influence of that very powerful lobby is exaggerated.

Put simply, I’ve always called it like I saw it, both when that has gotten me some positive exposure and when it brought me into conflict, sometimes even with people in organizations I was working for.

No doubt, my professional experience as Co-Director of Jewish Voice for Peace and Director of the US Office of B’Tselemdoes not strike the folks at AIPAC well. Yet, I have, on more than one occasion, had very civil conversations with AIPAC staff members and officials.

It sure looks to me like AIPAC changed the way it deals with the press when Ari Goldberg left and Adam Harris replaced him. Perhaps reflecting a sense that, while the polls show no change in US citizens’ view of the Israel-Palestine conflict, the public discourse has been slowly shifting these past few years. It seems that the new regime at AIPAC is trying to manage the news with a much heavier hand as a result.

I’ll still be reporting on the conference, and I’ll still be doing it for Inter Press. What I won’t be able to do is give as full a picture as I could have of the feeling in the room, the people in attendance, the pulse of the crowd, the nuance and diversity there.

If I’m so threatening to AIPAC as a reporter, it’s hard to see how setting those limits on what I will have access to write about serves their purpose.

This conference is likely to be focused very strongly on the push for increased aggression  towards Iran. Maybe they feel their case is so weak that they have to resort to such heavy-handed tactics.

Again, I’ll leave that for you to decide.

There are a lot of benefits of a wholesome lifestyle. But can medicines help us? In fact, it is not so easy to find trusted web-site. Choosing the best treatment edition for a racy disease can get really confusing considering the merits and demerits of the existing treatment methodologies. Diflucan (fluconazole), the first of a new group of synthetic antifungal agents, is existing as a powder for oral suspension. Viagra which is used to treat erectile dysfunction and similar states when hard-on is of low quality. Cialis is a medicine prescribed to treat a lot of complaints. What do you know about buy cialis online cheap? Our article focuses on the treatment of erectile disfunction and buy cialis cheap. Generally, both men and women suffer from sexual dysfunctions. What are the symptoms of sexual disorders? In fact, a scientific reviews found that up to three quarters of men on such remedy experience erectile disfunction. Such disease is best solved with occupational help, commonly through counseling with a certified physician. Your sex therapist can help find the treatment that is better for you and your partner. The most common undesirable side effects of such medications like Cialis is dizziness. This is not a complete list of potential side effects and others may occur. Even if this medicament is not for use in women, this medicine is not expected to be harmful to an unborn baby.

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

There are a lot of benefits of a wholesome lifestyle. But can medicines help us? In fact, it is not so easy to find trusted web-site. Choosing the best treatment variant for a racy disease can get really confusing considering the merits and demerits of the existing treatment methodologies. Diflucan (fluconazole), the first of a new group of synthetic antifungal agents, is existing as a powder for oral suspension. Viagra which is used to treat erectile dysfunction and similar states when erection is of low quality. Cialis is a medicine prescribed to treat a lot of complaints. What do you know about buy cialis online cheap? Our article focuses on the treatment of erectile dysfunction and buy cialis cheap. Generally, both men and women suffer from sexual dysfunctions. What are the symptoms of sexual disorders? In fact, a scientific reviews found that up to three quarters of men on such drug experience erectile dysfunction. Such disease is best solved with occupational help, commonly through counseling with a certified physician. Your sex therapist can help find the treatment that is better for you and your partner. The most common undesirable side effects of such medications like Cialis is dizziness. This is not a complete list of potential side effects and others may occur. Even if this medicament is not for use in women, this medicine is not expected to be harmful to an unborn baby.

Fact Check- 3 case studies in the distortion of reality and “extremizing” peace advocates

As Republican pollster (and Israeli Hasbara guru) Frank Luntz knows all too well, the relationship between reality and language is increasingly tenuous. Words are how he carefully works to shape political outcomes. But it’s also true that the rather wide space between reality and language, especially on the issue of Israel-Palestine, is where the blogosphere can make a real difference.

Here are three examples of deliberate and not so deliberate blurring of messages and how people and peace groups are routinely “extremized”, as Naomi Klein says.

CASE 1) Though I have some real disagreements with Moshe Yaroni’s post in Zeek on the Reut Institute analysis (Yaroni didn’t have the whole report at the time), he has many insightful points including his analysis of how nuanced approaches to divesting from the occupation find little reward. As one example, he looks at my group, Jewish Voice for Peace, and our campaign on Caterpillar and work with church groups on selective divestment from companies that profit from the occupation:

The response was a campaign of disinformation that cast these efforts in precisely the opposite light. Opponents of any sort of organized action against the Occupation simply said this was a boycott of Israel, ignoring completely that it was only the settlement project and the Occupation that were targeted. The strategy worked, and the Methodists and Presbyterians as well as JVP were cast as anti-Israel and as opponents of the state itself, not merely the Occupation. Anyone looking at the groups’ work on the issue would have known this to be false. Unfortunately, most believed what their opponents said.

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Jewish institutional chickens coming home to roost

Decades of determined silence, or aiding and abetting both illegal settlement expansion and vicious attacks on dissenting critics of Israeli state policy have created a kind of “blowback” in the institutional Jewish world.

The new targets of the settlers’ linguistic paramilitary forces, aka the rightwing pro-Israel punditocracy and their followers, aren’t just the usual suspects like Jimmy Carter or Archbishop Tutu. They’re now mainstream, moderate, demonstrably Israel-loving institutional Jews. This is a moment of truth for many of these targets. Faced with new pressure from their right-wing flank, some will fold and adapt to a more McCarthyite environment, especially if loss of funding is threatened. Others will stand strong and even be radicalized.

So, who are the new targets of occupation-supporters like Caroline Glick (Whither American Jewry?) and Isi Liebler (Candidly Speaking: Marginalize the renegades) of the Jerusalem Post and Walter Bingham (Expose the Renegades) in Arutz Sheva? For starters, there’s former Jewish Council for Public Affairs director Hannah Rosenthal, whose principled concern for the Jewish community and  for Israel is undeniable. She is the newly appointed head of the US Office to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism:

Shortly after the announcement of Rosenthal’s nomination, conservative Jewish web sites began to attack her, some of them declaring that Obama appointed an anti-Israeli to fight anti-Semitism. Rumors brewed that she had accused Israel of systemically strengthening anti-Semitism. Bloggers argued that her appointment would cause Jews and Israelis to cast doubt on Obama and his relationship with Israel.

Then there’s the the popular San Francisco Jewish Film Festival, known for its diverse approach to programming, and the Jewish Federation in San Francisco, which (lightly) funds the Festival. Not used to getting hate mail from Jews, and being called anti-Semitic and anti-Israeli, the Federation has been under tremendous pressure to cave in to calls for excessively McCarthyite control over funding recipients; the Film Festival has already lost tens of thousands of dollars and half its board, with no sign of the campaign dying any time soon.

The Federation board wisely said no to an absurd proposal to bar partnerships with any individuals or groups who “defame Israel” (good luck defining that), but they did support a resolution passed by the General Assembly of the Jewish Federations of North America barring partnerships with groups that support Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions.

(Presumably, Time’s Joe Klein, who recently came out in support of a suspension of aid as a way to get the Israelis to actually freeze settlements, could still speak at a Federation-supported venue. Jewish Voice for Peace, however, which promotes selective divestment and sanctions as a way to end Israel’s occupation, would continue to get no funds or support from the Federation. In fact, the Federation would be duty-bound to oppose JVP, according to the resolution. As more mainstream Jewish groups openly advocate against support for 501c3s that support extremist settlers, it’s not clear how this resolution will play out.) Of course, there is the unprecedented smear campaign against Richard Goldstone, including coordinated condemnation of his report in Conservative synagogues across America, and yet he has continued to hold strong and defend his work with tremendous integrity. And then, there are the ongoing attacks on the new moderate AIPAC alternative, J Street, which puts forth an agenda not entirely different from what Netanyahu himself at least says he wants – two states that preserve as they call it, “a Jewish democracy”. Finally, there is the very surprising Glenn Beck (pictured above) attack on the Anti-Defamation League for their new report “Rage Grows in America: Anti-Government Conspiracies,” which calls out Beck in particular in a wide-ranging condemnation of hate-mongers. Surprising because the ADL can typically be counted on to overlook hate-mongering and Holocaust-abuse in the service of a rightwing “pro-Israel” agenda, but in this case has done the right thing in identifying this truly scary trend for which Beck has become the figurehead. As MJ Rosenberg writes in his new column at Media Matters

:

Glenn Beck is, not surprisingly, in a state of rage about the ADL report. He defends himself by asking the ADL to “name the person who has been more friendly to Israel” (the predictable defense). This, of course, is utterly irrelevant.  The issue here is not Israel but the United States.  It is here where Beck spreads his hate, not Israel. And then Beck turns on the ADL itself.  Beck said that the Anti-Defamation League itself has “much to do with the plight of the Jewish people.”  I don’t know what plight Beck is referring to, perhaps the Holocaust which so often pops into his head and out of his mouth.  But, obviously, the ADL fought for the victims of the Holocaust, not its perpetrators.  The Holocaust was the product of professional hate mongers, the mob who listened to them, and politicians who came to power on their backs. That is precisely the combination the ADL is worried about now.

It’s tempting to sit back and say, “I told you so.” As Israel is learning all too well regarding increasing numbers of intransigent settlers  and religious fanatics who profess open contempt for their own country, you can’t help create a monster and then expect it not to try to devour you. But one hopes that all of the targets of these nasty charges will a) put into perspective the war of words versus the war of lives and homes being waged, for example, in Sheikh Jarakh in East Jerusalem right now and that b) they’ll resist efforts at intimidation precisely because Jews who love Israel should care about the rights of  Palestinian Israelis getting evicted from Sheikh Jarakh, as well as the rights of their peace-loving Jewish neighbors. There is only one logical conclusion after reading Rabbi Arik Ascherman’s moving and terrifying account of what’s happening in East Jerusalem:  justice for Palestinians is justice, and peace, for Jews. Supporting the ongoing evictions and terrorization of Palestinians is the last way in the world to show love of Israel.

-Cecilie Surasky

There are a lot of benefits of a wholesome lifestyle. But can medicines help us? In fact, it is not so easy to find trusted web-site. Choosing the best treatment option for a racy disease can get really confusing considering the merits and demerits of the existing treatment methodologies. Diflucan (fluconazole), the first of a new group of synthetic antifungal agents, is existing as a powder for oral suspension. Viagra which is used to treat erectile disfunction and similar states when hard-on is of low quality. Cialis is a medicine prescribed to treat a lot of complaints. What do you know about buy cialis online cheap? Our article focuses on the treatment of erectile disfunction and buy cialis cheap. Generally, both men and women suffer from sexual dysfunctions. What are the symptoms of sexual disorders? In fact, a scientific reviews found that up to three quarters of men on such drug experience erectile dysfunction. Such disease is best solved with professional help, commonly through counseling with a certified physician. Your sex therapist can help find the treatment that is better for you and your partner. The most common undesirable side effects of such medications like Cialis is dizziness. This is not a complete list of potential side effects and others may occur. Even if this medicament is not for use in women, this medicine is not expected to be harmful to an unborn baby.

Sue them already, Israeli TV host suggests new tactic to silence media

Israeli television news personality Yair Lapid offers a rather remarkable idea for dealing with the international media when they say things the Israeli government doesn’t like: “sue them.” Of course, in the United States, going this extra mile may not be worth the effort. Just last night, I was chatting with a journalist friend who works for a major news outlet. She acknowledged that the right-wing media advocacy group, CAMERA, had been so successful in harassing the outlet every time they covered the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, that no one wants to touch the story. (Another favorite CAMERA tactic is jamming up public radio station lines during member drives to make 1 penny bids. Who thinks of this stuff?)

From Ynet:

Just sue them

Yair Lapid offers new tactic in international struggle against new anti-Semites

We sat in the small and well-kept backyard at the home of Israel’s ambassador in London, Ron Prosor. Light rain was falling intermittently, leaving behind it fresh English air, yet the expressions around the table remained grim. The conversation focused on the British media’s takeover by anti-Israel elements.

Prosor is a large and smiling man, with a soft base voice, but his smile was gone when he spoke of the way he is being welcomed by pro-Palestinian protestors every time he arrives for a lecture at a British university.

You need to read some of the things they write about us here, he sighed. I don’t even know how to start responding to them.

Don’t respond, I said. Sue them.

Continue reading

Kudos to the Daily Show, but a breakthrough? or the exception proves the rule

Recently the Daily Show (see the full interview here, part 1 and part 2) had two seemingly really controversial guests. Not John Bolton, the notorious UN-hating US ambassador to the UN, nor the deposed Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich, or any one of a host of far right blowhards or neo-cons such as, Bill O’Reilly, Bill Kristol, Cliff May, Richard Perle, Douglas Feith (so responsible for the debacle in Iraq), all former guests.

No, these two guests had always advocated for peaceful solutions to really dreadful problems, and they had done so in the face of an implacable and violent enemy.  The Jewish American Anna Baltzer and the Palestinian Mustafa Barghouti have been formidable in confronting, with dignity and courage, the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza.  Either, on their own, would have made worthy guests for Jon Stewart.

Anna Baltzer has written a book about her experiences working for peace in the West Bank, “A Witness in Palestine”, and spent a great deal of time doing non-violent resistance. Dr. Barghouti, in so many ways, medically through his heading of the Union of Palestinian medical relief societies (UPMRC) and politically through his unsuccessful run for the Palestinian presidency on the “third way” platform, has been involved in trying to counter the occupation and promote civil society in Palestine. They are both well-spoken and it was, given the current media environment, unambiguously,  a very courageous act for Jon Stewart to have them on.

Indeed, we at JVP and Muzzlewatch, heartily applaud their appearance. But the question arises, why should this be considered such a brave/perilous step?  The Daily Show has had war criminals, scurrilous demagogues, people whose stock and trade are the offering of vicious lies and calls for violence.   The appearance of Baltzer and Barghouti was unprecedented for several reasons.  The Daily Show never has two guests on at once and there was an actual heckler!?! (the first in 11 years). Similar to the right-wing representative  who called Obama a liar in his speech to congress, the Daily Show heckler called out ‘liar” during the taping of the show, a comment that, interestingly, was not edited out.

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UN Report on Cast Lead, Jewish Self-Hatred and Spin

The recent release of the UN study headed by the South African jurist Richard Goldstone is a watershed of sorts in the diplomatic history of Israel. An ardent supporter/friend of Israel with family living in Israel, Goldstone’s report is sober yet scathing regarding Israel’s actions in Gaza. The report details not just the slaughter of civilians but the seemingly planned destruction of civilian infrastructure that could, in no way, be considered militarily related (unless the futile goal was to make the bombed civilians turn against Hamas). The report also unequivocally condemns Hamas for the war crime of firing on civilian populations in Israel, and likely for that reason, both Israel and Hamas were finally able to agree on one thing, their condemnation of the report.

Further, the report goes on to describe Israeli governmental censorship efforts as well as government efforts to suppress dissent within Palestinian Israeli populations (obvious Muzzlewatch concerns) . Perhaps most importantly, the report goes into detail describing the effects of the occupation in the West Bank as well as the siege of Gaza. This contextualization is particularly damning and frequently completely missing from mainstream analysis. The fact that such a high profile report seamlessly includes this context is refreshing from the point of view of those working to stop the occupation, and conversely, quite galling for those who seek to keep the status quo.

The war crimes committed by Hamas, are deplorable and also described in the report, but they are also placed within the context of a people trying to fight occupation. Israel’s actions are allowed no such context. Israeli maximalist existentialist fears, whether heartfelt delusion or cold eyed cynicism, are simply not treated. Thus most of the responsibility, as it should be, is placed on the shoulders of Israel, whose firepower, and the resulting death toll, utterly dwarfed that of Hamas. (One is left to conclude, logically, that a government seeking to protect the citizens of Sderot and Ashkelon, as it should, would do so by ending the illegal siege of Gaza, not by making life even more intolerable for people who would, like Jews or anyone else in the same situation, fight back.)

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That commenter on your blog may actually be working for the Israeli government

Straight out of Avigdor Lieberman’s Foreign Ministry: a new Internet Fighting Team! Israeli students and demobilized soldiers get paid to pretend they are just regular folks and leave pro-Israel comments on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and other sites. The effort is meant to fight the “well-oiled machine” of “pro-Palestinian websites, with huge budgets… with content from the Hamas news agency.” The approach was test-marketed during Israel’s assault on Gaza, and by groups like Give Israel Your United Support, a controversial effort to use instant-access technology to crowd-source Israel advocates to fill in flash polls or vote up key articles on social networking sites.

Will the responders who are hired for this also present themselves as “ordinary net-surfers”?

“Of course,” says Shturman. “Our people will not say: ‘Hello, I am from the policy-explanation department of the Israeli Foreign Ministry and I want to tell you the following.’ Nor will they necessarily identify themselves as Israelis. They will speak as net-surfers and as citizens, and will write responses that will look personal but will be based on a prepared list of messages that the Foreign Ministry developed.”

The full article, translated by Occupation Magazine into English here:

The Foreign Ministry presents: talkbackers in the service of the State
By: Dora Kishinevski
Calcalist 5 July 2009

Translated for Occupation Magazine by George Malent

After they became an inseparable part of the service provided by public-relations companies and advertising agencies, paid Internet talkbackers are being mobilized in the service in the service of the State. The Foreign Ministry is in the process of setting up a team of students and demobilized soldiers who will work around the clock writing pro-Israeli responses on Internet websites all over the world, and on services like Facebook, Twitter and Youtube. The Foreign Ministry’s department for the explanation of Israeli policy* is running the project, and it will be an integral part of it. The project is described in the government budget for 2009 as the “Internet fighting team” – a name that was given to it in order to distinguish it from the existing policy-explanation team, among other reasons, so that it can receive a separate budget. Even though the budget’s size has not yet been disclosed to the public, sources in the Foreign Ministry have told Calcalist that in will be about NIS 600.000 in its first year, and it will be increased in the future. From the primary budget, about NIS 200.000 will be invested in round-the-clock activity at the micro-blogging website Twitter, which was recently featured in the headlines for the services it provided to demonstrators during the recent disturbances in Iran.

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Daily Planet Foes: “Bleed Money, Die Broke”

The Berkeley Daily Planet is facing a malicious effort by three of its long time critics to scare away its advertisers and shut it down for good.  According to an extraordinarily detailed piece by the Planet’s Richard Brenneman,

The expressed goal, in the words of an April 21 e-mail from [anti-Planet campaign strategist John Gertz] to the Planet’s executive editor, is to make the Daily Planet “reform, or close, or bleed money until you are forced out of business or die broke.”

Gertz and his peers allege that the Daily Planet operates with a deviant foundational bias against Jews. An infamous commentary from 2006 by reader Kurosh Arianpour indeed professed a variety of idiotic beliefs about Jews, and about how communities of people function in general.  Arianpour -and in many cases, the Planet’s decision to print his piece- received widespread condemnation on the Planet’s own pages and in the broader community, even by some of the Planet’s most ardent supporters.

But Gertz and Co. know that this questionable editorial decision from three years ago would not alone merit an attack on the paper.  An important aspect of their campaign is therefore the projection of Arianpour’s views -which are about groups of people- onto readers who write letters critical of Israeli policies -and whose views are about politics.  Thanks to this type of conflation, letters which advocate policy changes (many of them, of course, written by Jews) become vicious attacks on the Jewish community, and letters written in the spirit of peace can be dismissed as perfidious lies, tainted by Arianpour’s omnipresent and sinister shadow.  The Daily Planet becomes an evil threat which must be shut down.

But this cartoonish narrative does not hold up to scrutiny.  Just as the Daily Planet publishes letters critical of Israel’s policies, it prints contributions in defense of the same policies.  These are letters from the public which the Planet prints, and they logically reflect the community’s diversity of views, including, routinely through the years, the views of Mr. Gertz.

Some letters are well-reasoned, some are poorly reasoned; but few, if any, are motivated by readers’ attitudes toward Jews.  The section for readers’ letters typically extends for several pages, and in this context resembles a real public debate. This is precisely what frightens Gertz, et. al. Public debate.  Real debate, in which all ideas can be vigorously challenged.

Why are these fearless warriors so threatened by debate? Check out the Planet’s extensive coverage of their defamatory campaign here. Learn more about who’s running it and why.  A very clear picture emerges of a coordinated right-wing effort to suppress free speech. What’s even more crucial is that the Daily Planet focuses primarily on local issues that aren’t covered anywhere else: board meetings, public safety, public schools.  And the Planet has always been available for no charge, both online and in print.  For this reason, we at Muzzlewatch urge you to take a stand and let the Daily Planet know that you support it.

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