Category Archives: Media

JINSA advocates censorship, military strikes on “partisan” media outlets

JINSA is the hard-line, Likudnik Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs. They boast a pretty powerful line-up of present and former advisors including Dick Cheney, John Bolton, Douglas Feith and Richard Perle. If you’re looking for groups to blame for helping to get us into the endless war and now occupation of Iraq, JINSA is certainly a great place to start.

The new edition of their house organ includes this remarkable gem, Wishful Thinking and Indecisive Wars, from retired US army officer Ralph Peters who says openly what we all suspect to be true every time an Al Jazeera office accidentally gets blown up in a war with the US, or the Israeli Defense Forces accidentally shoot a reporter. Revealing both constitutional contempt and the creepy linkages between right-wing Jews and fundamentalist Christian Zionists, Peters actually calls the media godless “neo-pagans” and advocates not only censorship but military strikes. The media, he insists, are a “hostile third party” in war, and must be treated as such.

Of course, the media have shaped the outcome of conflicts for centuries, from the European wars of religion through Vietnam. More recently, though, the media have determined the outcomes of conflicts. While journalists and editors ultimately failed to defeat the U.S. government in Iraq, video cameras and biased reporting guaranteed that Hezbollah would survive the 2006 war with Israel and, as of this writing, they appear to have saved Hamas from destruction in Gaza.

What????? It gets worse…

Pretending to be impartial, the self-segregating personalities drawn to media careers overwhelmingly take a side, and that side is rarely ours. [Ed. emphasis] Although it seems unthinkable now, future wars may require censorship, news blackouts and, ultimately, military attacks on the partisan media. Perceiving themselves as superior beings, journalists have positioned themselves as protected-species combatants. But freedom of the press stops when its abuse kills our soldiers and strengthens our enemies. Such a view arouses disdain today, but a media establishment that has forgotten any sense of sober patriotism may find that it has become tomorrow’s conventional wisdom.

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Catch and release: Reporter Amira Hass arrested

Ha’aretz writes in “Haaretz reporter Amira Hass arrested upon leaving Gaza“:

Israel Police on Tuesday detained Haaretz correspondent Amira Hass upon her exit from the Gaza Strip, where she had been living and reporting over the last few months.

Hass was arrested and taken in for questioning immediately after crossing the border, for violating a law which forbids residence in an enemy state. She was released on bail after promising not to enter the Gaza Strip over the next 30 days.

Hass is the first Israeli journalist to enter the Gaza Strip in more than two years, since the Israel Defense Forces issued an entry ban following the abduction of IDF soldier Gilad Shalit in a 2006 cross-border raid by Palestinian militants.

Last December, Hass was arrested by soldiers at the Erez Checkpoint as she tried to cross into Israel after having entered the Gaza Strip aboard a ship run by peace activists from Europe.

Upon discovering that she had no permit to be in Gaza, the soldiers transferred her to the Sderot police.

When questioned, Hass pointed out that no one had stopped her from entering the Strip, which she did for work purposes.

Hass was released then under restriction, and Nahmani said her case would be sent to court.

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NY Times Getting Tougher on the Israel lobby?

Some surprising headlines seen in the last week or so of the New York Times: “With ‘Annapolis’ a warning to Israel”, “Israel cries wolf” , and “Israel on Trial”. The war on Gaza, the Israeli move to the right in its recent election, and the new US administration may be having some non-trivial effect on both who and what is appearing in the mainstream press, in particular, the New York Times.

It’s difficult to know if this implies a significant change or an exception that proves the rule.  It is clear, however, that there is, to some extent, a different type of dynamic being set by the Obama administration compared to previous years, one which might actually hold the Israelis, and not just the Palestinians, accountable for their actions.  For example Obama’s recent and unambiguous call for a process based on Annapolis “With ‘Annapolis’ a warning to Israel” goes directly against statements  recently made by Israeli Foreign Minister Lieberman.

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Popcorn effect: the world is changing

For those of you old enough to remember making popcorn in a pot over the fire or stove, you know you have to wait a long time as the heat builds up slowly. Finally, just one lonely kernel pops. Then, an eternity later, another one pops on the other side of the pot. Wait awhile, and another one pops. When you’re really hungry, it can feel like forever. But then something happens- the frequency starts to change and you get 2 or 3 kernels popping at a time, first here and then there. And then, the unthinkable happens- it’s as though all the kernels start popping simultaneously in a big cacophony until there’s no room left in the pot.

Well, it’s hard not to feel like we’re finally getting the popcorn we’ve been waiting for,  a sudden acceleration of open speaking and thinking, after years of more solitary popping of voices here and there. The war on Gaza has gone a long way in making that happen. The most recent example? After Jon Stewart and  Bill Moyers on Gaza, or the NYT’s Roger Cohen’s amazing columns, we have The Los Angeles Times, which on the same day, in a spirit of real openness to debate, printed Ben (son of Barbara) Ehrenreich’s Zionism is the problem. who wrote:

Yet it is no longer possible to believe with an honest conscience that the deplorable conditions in which Palestinians live and die in Gaza and the West Bank come as the result of specific policies, leaders or parties on either side of the impasse. The problem is fundamental: Founding a modern state on a single ethnic or religious identity in a territory that is ethnically and religiously diverse leads inexorably either to politics of exclusion (think of the 139-square-mile prison camp that Gaza has become) or to wholesale ethnic cleansing. Put simply, the problem is Zionism.

and Judea (father of Daniel) Pearl’s Is anti-Zionism hate? who lays out why he thinks “anti-Zionism is in many ways more dangerous than anti-Semitism.”

… modern society has developed antibodies against anti-Semitism but not against anti-Zionism. Today, anti-Semitic stereotypes evoke revulsion in most people of conscience, while anti-Zionist rhetoric has become a mark of academic sophistication and social acceptance in certain extreme yet vocal circles of U.S. academia and media elite. Anti-Zionism disguises itself in the cloak of political debate, exempt from sensitivities and rules of civility that govern inter-religious discourse, to attack the most cherished symbol of Jewish identity.

Three cheers for the Los Angeles Times who will certainly be targeted by right-wing groups for daring to actually allow a real debate. A colleague of mine who suggested to me that while the rest of the pundit (and academic class) is shifting, quite dramatically, the dominant institutional Jewish world (of which my colleague is a part), not knowing what to do, is becoming even more closed and rigid. IMHO, Judea Pearl’s essay, which focuses endlessly on we Jews as victims but fails to even once acknowledge the undeniable price paid by Palestinians for the founding of Israel, is an example of this deeply emotional but thoroughly corrosive phenomenon.

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DirecTV Censors US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation’s Gaza TV ad.

The US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation received an emergency grant from Cultures of Resistance and produced this commercial on Gaza. After extensive discussion with DirecTV the company declined the ad. This is not an atypical action for corporate US media, but it does demand a response. (The Campaign is now running the ad on various progressive blogs.)

The Campaign wrote:

We thought, “What better way to bring this important information to the attention of people in the United States than to advertise nationally on DIRECTV?” the largest satellite television subscription service in the country.

After detailed discussions with DIRECTV, including agreement on rates, times, and network placements of the ad, when we gave them the final product, they abruptly decided not to do business with us.

This blatant act of censorship is preventing millions of U.S. households from learning the truth about our government’s crucial role in enabling Israel’s war on and siege of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.

Watch the extended edit of the video above. And let DirecTV know what you think by clicking here.

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Media Circus: Bill Moyers, 60 Minutes’ Bob Simon and the backlash

Bill Moyers My sister recently stumbled on a blog post by a far right pseudo-journalist that accused me, her peace-love-and-justice baby sister and the keeper of our family’s terrible Holocaust history archives, of being a Nazi sympathizer. Her reaction was a mix of horror at the viciousness of the post, and amusement at its unintentional camp hilarity. My response to her was, “Welcome to my world. This is what it’s like to work on Israel-Palestine issues. Every day.” (I am on staff with Jewish Voice for Peace, which works to end Israel’s 41-year occupation.)

Most journalists don’t cover Israel-Palestine every day, and so they are unaccustomed to the inevitable tsunami of hyperbolic nastiness sure to come their way should they dare to touch the topic.

Bill Moyers, however, one of America’s most respected journalists and moral voices, could not have been surprised by the response last week to his powerful video commentary in which he condemned Hamas and asserted Israel’s right to defend itself, but also said,

Brute force can turn self defense into state terrorism. It’s what the US did in Vietnam with B-52s and napalm, and again in Iraq with shock and awe. By killing indiscriminately, the elderly, kids, entire families… Israel did exactly what terrorists do and exactly what Hamas wanted. It spilled the blood that turns the wheel of retribution.

He presciently went on to describe exactly the muzzled world in which we live here in the U.S.

Our political elites show neither independence nor courage by challenging the consensus that Israel can do no wrong.  Although one recent poll found Democratic voters overwhelmingly oppose the Israeli offensive by a 24 point margin, Democratic party leaders in Congress nonetheless march in lockstep to the hardliners in Israel and the White House. Rarely does our mainstream media depart from the montonous monologue of the party line. Many American Jews know, as Aaron David Miller writes in the current edition of Newsweek, that the destruction in Gaza won’t do much to address Israel’s longer term needs. But those who raise questions are accused by a prominent reform rabbi of being “morally deficient“. One Jewish American activist told me this week, that never in 30 years has he seen such blind and binding conformity in his community. You’d never know, he says, that it is the Gazans who are doing most of the suffering.

Moyers’ analysis, it turned out, was prescient because the backlash of calls and letters calling him a rabid anti-Semite, and one would presume Nazi-sympathizer, was so strong–even good old Abe Foxman of the ADL got into the fight– forced him to take the rather unusual step of addressing the onslaught of criticism at the top of his next show. (Sorry Bill, welcome to my world.)

A satirical columnist for the SF Chronicle learned a similar lesson this week an off-hand reference about “recalcitrant Israelis,” part of a humorous litany.

I knew I’d hear from American supporters of Israel, because that’s what happens. Any journalist can tell you that – pro-Israeli journalists, Jewish journalists, any writer who says anything that might be taken by somebody as a criticism of Israel or its current policies is gonna get reamed out. Dead babies are frequently mentioned, and crazed Palestinian fanatics – these folks go right for the top of the rhetorical ladder.

Finally, we can only imagine what awaits 60 Minutes’ Bob Simon for this generally fantastic and in the U.S, downright courageous piece of journalism,  Time Running Out for a Two-State Solution? (I say generally, because at times it erroneously gives the impression that “reasonable” voices like Tzipi “there is no humanitarian crisis in Gaza” Livni are drowned out by the extremist settlers. In fact, Likud, Labor and Kadima have all been deeply complicit in the settlement project and the violation of human rights of Palestinians.)

Send your support to Bob Simon by commenting here. Bill Moyers might like to hear from you as well. Comment here.

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Israel lets journalists back in to Gaza

Associated Press reports today:

JERUSALEM (AP) — Israel said Thursday it is lifting restrictions on foreign journalists entering the Gaza Strip, a ban that had drawn strong criticism from news media.

The government said journalists would be free to enter and leave the war-ravaged territory starting Friday — two days before the Israeli Supreme Court was scheduled to rule on a request by the Foreign Press Association to declare the restrictions illegal.

The court hearing will probably not take place if the government lifts the ban.

Israel imposed restrictions on entry to Gaza in early November as a cease-fire with Gaza’s Hamas rulers began to fray. It tightened the rules after launching a military offensive Dec. 27 and ignored a Supreme Court order six days later to allow limited access to international reporters. Only when a cease-fire was declared Sunday did Israel begin opening the border to a trickle of journalists.

Though the ban was instituted well before heavy fighting began, the government argued the security situation made it unsafe for journalists to visit. News groups charged that Israel wanted to manage coverage of the fighting and said the restrictions violated press freedom.

As we reported earlier,  major news outlets were really ticked off about being barred from Gaza. Said Simon McGregor-Wood, bureau chief for ABC News in Jerusalem and a Foreign Press Association board member:

“We never accepted the argument that it was about our security. We always thought it was a strategic :decision to restrict access to Gaza for whatever benefit they thought it would give them. I think it is pretty clear they didn’t want us going in,” he said.

“We want free, unfettered access as it was before the new restrictions started creeping in, and we hope that there won’t be any bogus restrictions imposed in the future.”

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Gaza and the media, perhaps a silver lining

No matter the claims of the Israeli government, who, as you would expect, have trumpeted an overwhelming victory in Gaza, something else is perceived by the rest of the world. Even in the US, things are starting to break against the finely tuned Israeli propaganda machine. Perhaps the most startling media example of this was a recent press conference in Washington where Foreign Minister Livni was essentially confronted as a terrorist. Given her recent fatuous claims that there was no humanitarian disaster in Gaza and that Israel, alone and in disregard of UN resolutions will decide when the Gaza campaign is finished,  it seems as if there is some little ray of hope that Israel will start to feel the real effects of its frank crimes against humanity in Gaza. This will hopefully be leveraged by media outrage of the banning of reporters during the 3 week offensive, where even the NY Times expressed concern The Times also reported fairly accurately on the recent attacks against obvious UN buildings and they also prominently reported the awful story of the pacifist Palestinian doctor (devoted to reconciliation) who called Israeli TV to describe the death of his three daughters by IDF shelling. A threshold has been crossed where even the notoriously obtuse NY Times has found a “gagging point” in which it could not take it anymore. As the press, en mass, is finally let into Gaza we can only imagine, based on the reporting that did manage to occur, what will confront international reporters. Hopefully this massive war crime will spur all parties concerned to make a more concerted effort to develop a just peace for all peoples in the region. The following is the Haaretz article on the Livni press conference.

Journalist calls Livni ‘terrorist’ during press conference on Gaza operation By Natasha Mozgovaya, Haaretz Correspondent and The Associated Press Tags: Gaza Strip, Israel News
Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni had a testy press conference Friday in Washington, D.C., moments after she signed an agreement with U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice meant to combat arms smuggling to Gaza.

From the starting moments of the press conference, Livni was beset by a less-than friendly barrage of questions, with a number of journalists asserting that Israel’s military operations in Gaza will only make Middle East peace more distant.

Some journalists went so far as to compare the Israeli government to that of dictat Robert Mugabe’s Zimbabwe, due to Israel’s decision to bar journalists from Gaza. One of the more tense moments came when one journalist began to quote at length a Human Rights report on the situation in Gaza, before asking Livni to comment on “the murder of innocent civilians in the Strip.”

When the man was asked to finish his question, he yelled out that Livni had been speaking for an hour and that the journalists weren’t being allowed to ask questions. He then asked since when the U.S. has been hosting “terrorists”.

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Jon Stewart on Gaza, “The Mobius Strip of Issues”

“There’s only one side.”

Remarkable stuff from Jon Stewart and The Daily Show.

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Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting on Islamophobia: tip toes to the edge but won’t jump in

FAIR\'s Smearcasters report now available

Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR) has done us all a service by publishing this important downloadable report, Smearcasters: How Islamophobes spread fear, bigotry and misinformation. It is filled with a familiar right-wing cast of characters like self-styled “terrorism expert” Steve Emerson, inveterate Muslim-basher Daniel Pipes, David Horowitz “the Islamophobia movement’s premier promoter”, and Fox talking heads Sean Hannity and BIll O’Reilly.

So what’s wrong with the report? While FAIR documents numerous examples of false reporting, hyperbole, McCarthyite innuendo and pure hate promulgated by these people, they seem to self-censor and deliberately avoid the obvious: the central role played by US-based Likudnik groups in funding and promoting much of this anti-Muslim hysteria.

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