I attach 15 short items dealing with the Israeli-Palestinian situation, and with media coverage, from recent days. Today's dispatch is split into two for space reasons, with the last six items contained in an email under the title "Gays Attacked At Palestinian Protest."
-- Tom Gross
1. The BBC shows Israel's concerns about Palestinian terrorism.
2. Ma'ariv catches CNN exaggerating again.
3. More pack journalism.
4. The Daily Telegraph news pages increasingly turning against Israel.
5. Massacres in Nigeria and elsewhere this week.
6. IDF spokesperson announcement.
7. Steinitz: Palestinians 'are perpetrating war crimes.'
8. UNRWA opens investigation after its ambulance court ferrying terrorists.
9. The Guardian and the Independent today print same letter criticizing Israel.
[All notes below are by Tom Gross unless otherwise indicated.]
THE BBC SHOWS ISRAEL'S CONCERNS ABOUT PALESTINIAN TERRORISM
The BBC has begun to sometimes give Israel's side of the story on its website, and also in parts of its reporting. This includes a new presentation on the IDF's activities in Rafah and their work in searching for gun and bomb--running tunnels.
The BBC's introductory text to its slideshow reads:
"The Israeli Army is attempting to destroy a series of tunnels in southern Gaza that are used for smuggling arms into the strip from Egypt. A photographer accompanied Israeli soldiers on a recent mission into southern Gaza. This is his record for BBC News Online of what he saw."
If you want to see the slides, click on 1 and follow through.
MA'ARIV CATCHES CNN EXAGGERATING AGAIN
After some years of not paying much attention to the high level of criticism Israel experiences in the international media, and of failing to understand that media campaigns against the Jewish state, can effect the international political and public climate against Israel, the Israeli press are finally waking up to this.
On Tuesday, Ma'ariv, Israel's second highest circulation daily, criticized CNN International for saying - in flashing red letters on the screen - that over 10,000 Palestinians had been made homeless in the past few days. CNN later adjusted their report downward by several thousand.
(Several senior editors at Ma'ariv are subscribers to this email list.)
MORE PACK JOURNALISM
Here is another example of the kind of pack journalism that characterizes so much of the Middle East reporting and is one of the factors why Israel gets such bad press.
On May 17, 2004, Reuters, the BBC, the Globe & Mail, and The Scotsman, all used the exact same quote from the Rafah home of one Abaed al-Majid Abu Shamala:
"I don't know what to take. I will start with clothes or the refrigerator or the television," said Abed al-Majid Abu Shamala, 52, preparing to leave a four-story building.
The Backspin / HonestReporting website adds: "Hmmm....did all four journalists just happen to be there at the moment Shamala said this, or was there a little dramatic quote-sharing going on?"
DAILY TELEGRAPH NEWS PAGES INCREASINGLY TURNING AGAINST ISRAEL
The highest-selling quality British daily newspaper, the Daily Telegraph, no longer under the control of Conrad Black, a practicing Canadian Roman Catholic, who is sympathetic to Israel's predicament, today runs an inflammatory headline against Israel.
10 die as Israelis fire on children's march (The Daily Telegraph)
The Telegraph suggests Israel targeted children (which is something Hamas and the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade have proudly admitted to doing on several occasions). One can be almost sure that if Israel was targeting a children's march, this would be highlighted in headlines of the Independent, The Guardian, and the resolution the UN has already passed. (Another recent Daily Telegraph news headlines referred to Palestinians being kept in cages.)
Headlines in UK media today:
10 die as Israelis fire on children's march (The Daily Telegraph)
Ten killed as Israel shells Rafah protesters (The Independent)
Israeli fire kills 10 Palestinian protesters (The Financial Times)
Israelis fire on peaceful protest (The Guardian)
Ten die as Israeli tank shells unarmed crowd (The Times)
Ten dead as Israelis fire on Gaza Strip protesters (The Scotsman)
10 die in Gaza protest (The Sun)
[Palestinian medical workers in fact announced yesterday evening that two of the ten dead were children.]
MASSACRES IN NIGERIA AND ELSEWHERE THIS WEEK
Most news outlets outside the US were more interested in highlighting the deaths of 10 Palestinians yesterday than the deaths of 40 Iraqis - possibly at a wedding party - at the hands of the US-led coalition in Iraq, or the deaths of eight Afghanis yesterday, not to mention the thousands killed in dozens of armed conflicts continuing daily around the world, but virtually ignored by the world media and the UN, which is too busy condemning Israel to notice them.
For example, over the last week, about 600 innocent Christians have died at the hands of Moslem mobs in Kano, Nigeria's second-largest city. "Over 600 people have been killed and 12 churches burned," one Nigerian survivor told Reuters. Another witness, David Emmanuel, a factory worker, told Reuters he saw two truckloads of corpses on Wednesday night, and he counted at least 30 bodies in the street. Elsewhere, correspondents have seen 35 mostly burned and mutilated bodies.
The UN has yet to pass a resolution on this issue.
IDF SPOKESPERSON ANNOUNCEMENT
[I attach this press release only because so few news outlets outside the US bother to also give Israel's side of the story.]
May 19, 2004
Today's incident in Rafah is a very grave incident and the IDF expresses deep sorrow over the loss of civilian lives.
At no point in this incident was intentional fire opened in the direction of civilians.
A large procession of several hundreds demonstrators, among them gunmen, organized by the Palestinian Authority, left central Rafah along the main road towards IDF forces in Tel-Sultan.
As the crowd, with the gunmen among them, drew near IDF forces, a warning fire of a single missile was fired from a helicopter into an open area, not towards the demonstrators.
In addition, flares were fired in the air to deter the crowd and to prevent endangering the demonstrators. As this did not deter the crowd and they continued to converge on the troops, machine gun fire was opened towards a wall of an abandoned structure along the side of the road and then four tank shells were fired at this abandoned structure.
It is possible that the causalities were a result of the tank fire on the abandoned structure. The details of the incident continue to be investigated.
It should be mentioned that the scene of the incident is an area of combat and an area of frequent exchanges of fire. The road has been rigged with explosive charges planted by the Palestinians. The IDF has not yet cleared the road of these explosives.
At this stage it is difficult to determine the cause of the civilian casualties. The incident is being investigated thoroughly at this time.
The IDF has approached the Palestinians and offered medical assistance, including the evacuation of the casualties to Israeli hospitals.
STEINITZ: PALESTINIANS ARE PERPETRATING WAR CRIMES
Knesset foreign affairs and defense committee chairman Dr. Yuval Steinitz (Likud) yesterday accused the Palestinian Authority of perpetrating war crimes.
He said: "The terrorist organizations and the Palestinian administration injure Israeli civilians intentionally using rockets and suicide bombers, and if this operation fails, they will target Israeli civilians using Katyusha rockets, as well."
"Furthermore, they are prepared to place their own people and their children into the eye of the fighting in order that there will be Palestinian civilian casualties. You cannot avoid shooting at armed gunmen just because they are surrounding themselves with innocent civilians. I would strongly advise everyone to remember who is really instigating war crimes in this region, murdering civilians intentionally and placing their own people in the line of fire, just so that they will be injured and killed for the sake of propaganda."
UNRWA OPENS INVESTIGATION AFTER ITS AMBULANCE COURT FERRYING TERRORISTS
This item is from four days ago (May 16) but I attach it because so few news outlets have mentioned it.
Following Israeli diplomatic pressure, UNRWA announced today that they would open an internal investigation after the Israeli army caught one of its ambulances transporting a man sought by Israel for terrorist activity and attempted murder in the area of the Philadelphia corridor in Rafah. Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom said "this is an additional proof of the terrorist organizations' cynical manipulation by the humanitarian aid given to them." He announced he would be trying to call UN Secretary Kofi Annan to urge him to begin an external investigation into the behavior of the UN agency regarding this and other incidents in which they have aided and abetted terrorists.
THE GUARDIAN AND INDEPENDENT TODAY PRINT SAME LETTER CRITICIZING ISRAEL
The British papers The Guardian and Independent today both print the same letter, below (together with other letters much more critical of Israel, accusing it of "ethnic cleansing," "war crimes," "brutal and barbaric policies of Israel," the "inhuman Israeli government," and so on.)
Independent, 20 May 2004 AND The Guardian, 20 May 2004
Sir: The Rafah house demolitions and the severing of Rafah from the rest of Gaza reflect what Sharon the general knows best - "hit them and hit them and hit them again". There may indeed be terrorists to thwart but the wholesale destruction of innocent people's homes is not the answer. What Sharon achieves by this is a further isolation of Israel in the international arena.
There is an alternative and the demonstration of more than 150,000 Israelis in Tel Aviv - in which Peace Now was prominent - suggests that a majority of Israelis want to see Israel withdraw from Gaza and desire a negotiated settlement to this bloody conflict. They do not support knocking down people's homes.
And they are appalled that their voice was ignored by a tiny minority within the Likud party apparently determining the fate of the Sharon withdrawal proposal. "Gaza first" may not be ideal, but it could be the start on the path to a negotiated solution.
Chair, Peace Now - UK