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Thursday, December 24, 2009

Former Haaretz Editor on Al-Dura Massacre

Chanoch Marmory, former editor of Ha'aretz, discusses how he was taken in by the Pallywood Muhammad al-Dura fabrication. The supposed murder of Al-Dura by Israeli soldiers, broadcast around the world, sparked the major violence of the so called Second Intifada. Marmory He was not the only one who "bought" the Muhammad al-Dura fabrication. The IDF bought it too. And when I circulated, simply as a point of information, news of a reconstruction that showed that Israeli soldiers could not possibly have killed al-Dura, I was bitterly condemned as a Zionist propagandist. But it was all a lie, just as the "Jenin Massacre" was a lie, and just as the "Gaza Humanitarian crisis" is a lie.

The title "Purity of shame" - "Tohar Habusha" is a pun on a Hebrew expression for ethical conduct.

Translated from the Hebrew

The purity of shame

By: Chanoch Marmory [Former editor of Haaretz]

Release Date: 10/12/2009

Today, when I know more about the way in which the Palestinians related their tragedy, and from across the years and experience accumulated during those years, I can openly accept even the film of German journalist Esther Schapira, "Al Dura - child, death and the truth". Today I know we bought that story too quickly, and cheaply.

It was on my shift, so you can certainly see self-criticism in what is written here. Nine years have gone by since then, and the personal memory of every detail has gone dull a long time ago. But the emotional turmoil caused in me by the scene of father and son, Jalal Mohammed A-Dura and young Muhammad, I remember well. Those were feelings of shame and anger.

In the face of every scene of horror, the emotional reaction of the journalist precedes the journalistic one. Muhammad A-Dura was then my son's age, and it was easy to identify with the pain of the father who had his child lying shot at his feet. But we had to pull together and act as journalists even if the redness of shame often covered the cheeks.

The important lesson the years of intifada had taught me is that there is no way to do real journalism with veiled eyes. And even when the purity of shame blurs the vision, it is forbidden to abandon, even under the most difficult of circumstances, the basic tools of the journalist – curiosity, skepticism and a critical approach. Later it became evident how well the Palestinian side would exploit the embarrassment and shame of journalists like me as a tool in its combat.

The contribution of a minute and a half video segment taken at the gunfire exchanges at Netzarim junction on September 30, 2000 was decisive in turning protest demonstrations over Ariel Sharon's visit at Har-Homa into a complete Intifada. The clip that reflected the story of a son's dying in his father's arms after the two were caught partially exposed in the heart of the gunfire scene was embarrassing and shocking and was taken at face value: The was son killed and the father injured in the exchange of fire – whether it be IDF fire or Palestinian fire.

Wonder for the meaning of the event evaporated completely after the then Deputy Chief of Staff Gen. Boogie Yaalon and Major General Giora Eiland stated publicly that the child was shot by IDF fire, accidentally of course. Even when the IDF investigated and retracted to state that Al-Dura was killed by wild Palestinian crossfire, we did not return to it. Anyone who then tried to keep digging around this innocent case the case was seen as a madman or one with a political agenda - or both.

We've left the issue with a certain relief, especially when the blaze swept all the territories and the full resources of journalistic coverage. Today it is clear we should have been more skeptical about eye impressions, also that the eyes were of only one camera: the camera of Talal Abu-Rahma, questionably hot material from the front, where there are those who describe it as Pallywood – the Palestinian video drama industry.

In time it became clear how this market took hold in the world, and especially in Western Europe, what drew the European media to provide with relative comfort and with low risk, bloody stories from the intifada fields of battle to a mostly non-critical audience that is not particularly selective. It was easy for the Palestinians to sell stories to the foreign press, and it was easy for those stories to produce bold headlines.

In disproving at least one instance I was involved personally; in setting things straight in the story of Abu-Ali, a resident of the Jenin refugee camp during the days of "Operation Defensive Shield", which was given in the French magazine "Le Nouvel Observateur" the title: "My Nine children were buried under the rubble". Abu-Ali's house was indeed destroyed during the battle, but his children escaped and were found safe and sound. However, and despite this, the French magazine, which did a very sloppy job, avoided publicly retracting their words.

Today, when I know more about the way in which the Palestinians related their tragedy, and from across the years and experience accumulated during those years, I can openly accept even the film of German journalist Esther Schapira, "Al Dura - child, death and the truth" that was broadcast last night on "Mabat Sheny".

Today I know we bought that story too quickly, and cheaply. We were skeptical towards the IDF investigation, also because the army had a reputation of a body that suits investigative conclusions to its own needs. But from the moment when the army itself took responsibility for the case, we rid ourselves of it, while at the same time we showed impatience towards tests conducted by those perceived as obsessive. In the midst of the intifada there is no time for those who dig around in an old case, when events pile up on the table frequently.

Yair Atinger, the only one of the TV critics who referred this morning to the film that was broadcast last night, offers as a main lesson from it: "Do not believe anything that runs on the screen". I agree with his statement and his words that that "a picture, even a video image, may be the perfect lie, and effective television needs trusting viewers, not necessarily intelligent ones".

However I find it hard to accept Atinger's inclusion of the Al-Dura case into one package with Elvis legends and stories of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, i.e. in the category of conspiracy theories. If you take into account the fact that a minute and a half of photographic material created the great myth of the second intifada, a myth of the suffering, heroism and sacrifice, which generations of Palestinian children grow on, we should have made every effort to get at the truth of the affair. It was our job, to tell what exactly happened. And if not us, anyone who is willing to stick a pin in this myth should have been accepted openly. We had to try to distinguish between bothersome possessed people and meticulous researchers.

The question whether Muhammad Al Dura had indeed been shot by Israeli fire or if it was Palestinian gunfire will no longer get an answer. What happened there in the heat of battle could not be proven any more – especially given that the former Gaza Division commander, Brigadier General Yair Naveh, ordered the immediate destruction of all constructions located at Netzarim junction that were within firing distance of the outpost, and among them the wall that the father and son clung to during the shooting.

Either way, Esther Schapira manages to impress us with the contradictions she found in that video segment: the ground beneath the killed and the injured is without blood stains, fresh blood stains that emerge at the scene later, and blood stains on the video that pop up and disappear and change their location on the body of Muhammad as if they were a red rag he was holding in his hand.

Schapira presents the testimony of the sole witness, the cameraman Talal Abu-Rahma, who filmed for Charles Enderlin, a regular representative of the French network France 2, as false and fraudulent and baseless. She finds contradictions in his testimony that claims Al-Dura died before his eyes. According to him, he watched the continuous shooting from his car for about 45 minutes, took about 18 minutes of film, yet only submitted fragmented footage of one minute and a half of the father and son, when he could allegedly have shot continuously and had a charged battery in his hand. Abu-Rahma inexplicably interrupted the filming and his video did not capture the entire process of extracting the body, though he could have done so.

Schapira finds flaws with the father's version in regards to his own injury. With the aid of an Israeli doctor who treated him before, she proves that the scars he presented as caused in the Netzarim shooting incident were caused in mysterious circumstances for which he underwent treatment in Israel. Her hypothesis: body injuries such as those are caused by Hamas members as punishment for those who collaborated with the enemy, hence the question arising is even wilder: Has Hamas used the father and son forcing them to position themselves at the scene, so that the father will make amends for his crime against them?

Schapira presents the court verdict from a year ago, in which a French court accepted the appeal of Phillip Karsenty, a French Jew who has devoted most of his time to the rebuttal of the Al Dura story. After he claimed that the report Enderlin had broadcast was staged (Enderlin never stayed in Gaza during the shooting, but in Ramallah), France 2 filed a libel suit against Karsenty, and he was convicted initially. The courthouse of appeals did not ratify Karsenty's assertion, but ruled that it is not libelous. During the trial France 2 was forced to reveal the raw material taken before editing, and in a short piece that was not aired the boy, declared as dead, is shown to be moving his limbs.

Schapira does not settle for this. She creates a broader picture, of directing of injury scenes, of conflicting testimonies, of irrational scheduling, and finally raises a claim, relying on a face recognition expert, that the boy who was brought for burial that day at the mass funeral is not Muhammad Al-Dura, but another boy whose name is Rami Al-Dura, who was shot in his head or at least had a marking on him similar to a gunshot wound. From here, in her opinion, the possibility of raising the question if he is actually dead is open.

It is not clear who is this Rami Al-Dura, and under what circumstances was he killed. Esther Schapira makes it clear in the language: she does not claim that Muhammad Al Dura is alive. She just claims that he did not die during the video taking at the Netzarim crossing and that he is not the boy that was brought for burial during the funeral procession. This sounds like a fantastic option, but the whole scene is full of contradictions and inconsistencies. And there are those who made vast political capital from the funeral procession. Elvis case, then, it is not.

The Palestinian myth will remain strong even if there would be found clear cut evidence that the story of Muhammad Al-Dura was staged entirely. There will always be those who will argue that even if it is not clear what exactly happened there, the basic story remains as is: a helpless child was caught in Israeli fire and was shot deliberately.

Now that this film was presented to us, it is clear that what you see in the video shots of Talal Abu- Rahma is not the whole story. And possibly, it is an entirely different story. Suddenly, with considerable delay, the need returns to do another round on it, in an attempt to get at the truth. Now I have to know what really happened there. It's not a petty matter and not a question of professional honor. I must know who they are, and of course, who we are.

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Monday, December 14, 2009

What is Hanukkah about, what is history about and what is David Brooks about?

David Brooks seems to have created a bit of a stir with his article about the "true" history of Hanukkah. His main controversial but more or less unarguable points are that the Maccabees were "fanatics" who along with their good deeds also did brutal things like forced circumcision, and who revolted against a "superior" Hellenistic civilization, and that the "miracle" of Hanukkah (or "Hannukah" or as some people spell it, "Honnoker") was an invention of religious authorities. .

What Brooks writes is basically more or less true according to recorded history, but recorded history is not always unbiased, and it is certainly not true in a larger sense. Those who compare the Maccabees to current "hard core" settlers are off the mark. The Maccabee revolt was a revolt against foreign oppression, not a revolt against a Jewish government by Jews living as free people. That is the main point that seems to have escaped Brooks. The issue was not eating ham or not eating ham, but rather who makes the decisions in the land of Israel, the Jews or the Seleucid kings. There are other nuances that Brooks missed.

The Seleucid empire of Antiochus was not an enlightened Greek city state, but an Asian despotism of the usual kind that had assumed some of the superficial trappings of Greek culture. There was no great academy in the Seleucid state and there were no philosophers or writers of great literature or splendid architects fostered by that society. It was neither Athens nor Sparta nor Corinth.

Taken out of context, the forced circumcisions practiced by the Hasmoneans are barbaric. But in history, context is everything. When Pliny wrote to Trajan concerning the troublesome Christians, it was considered a hallmark of Roman tolerance that Trajan agreed that those Christians who recanted their faith would not be "punished." The other side of that judgment is of course that those Christians who were steadfast in their faith would be "punished." The "punishment" was death. Circumcision in that context seems to be a fairly mild remedy for religious deviance. The Maccabees, from their point of view, had no choice. The Seleucid rule had split the Jewish people. Those who remained uncircumcised would be lost to the Jewish people. It would be absurd to practice the mores of the 2nd century BC in the twenty-first century, but it would be equally absurd to judge force the mores of the twenty-first century on the Maccabees.

The Maccabean revolt, explained in terms that the New York Times would understand and endorse, was "legitimate resistance to occupation." The fate of Jewish traitors was no different from the fate of French collaborators with the Nazis at the hands of the Maquis. If you liked the American Minutemen, the Maquis and the Partisans, you should love the Maccabees. If you liked Benedict Arnold and Quisling, you will shed many tears for the collaborators killed by the Maccabees.

Brooks should also consider that the things that you are liable to read in the ancient history books, they ain't necessarily so. This cuts in many more directions than he might imagine. Our main source for the doings of the Maccabees and the history of that period is Josephus Flavius. Flavius seems to have been as precise as he could be about material facts that could be checked, but was probably very misleading as to motives and events that could not be checked. He was both a Pharisee and therefore opposed to the Maccabean/Hasmonean dynasty, and a Hellenizer anxious to please his new Roman masters. He had many axes to grind and he ground all of them in his books. Like all ancient histories, they should be treated with respect, but with skepticism.

The "miracle" of Hanukkah was no doubt the Pharisee way of attempting to make a secular celebration "kosher." Later, they took more drastic steps, because any display of national feeling was dangerous. They replaced the feast of Nicanor, celebrating a victory over the Seleucid general, with the fast of Esther, marking the probably mythical events of Purim, and more or less suppressed Hanukkah entirely. The Pharisees were careful to serve their Roman masters in suppressing anything that related to inconvenient manifestations of national spirit.

Brooks should keep in mind that every nation and every faith has edifying miracles associated with their history. Is Brooks going to write next about the issue of George Washington and his cherry tree, or are we going to be treated next to a scientific discussion of whether Jesus Christ was really born on December 24, whether or not there is a Santa Claus and whether or not virgins can give birth to male children, in honor of Christmas? I don't think so. If Brooks is really daring, he can take up the question of flying horses, and examine the story of Muhammad's night journey to Jerusalem on his flying horse (pretty good horse) al Buraq from the point of view of equine aerodynamics, refueling problems, wind resistance etc. It is a poor idea to look a gift miracle or miracle horse in the mouth.

It is very unlikely that Brooks or anyone else will take up subjects that are offensive to the Christian and Muslim religions, or question the national myths of other peoples, or that the New York Times would publish such stories. Why is the Jewish religion different from all other religions, and why is the Jewish people different from all other peoples?

There is a perhaps more to Brooks' innocent-seeming meanderings about Hanukkah than appears at first sight. For Hanukkah, more than any other modern Jewish holiday, was adopted by the Zionist movement as the Zionist holiday. If the Maccabees were benighted fanatics fighting "progress" and enlightenment, then how would David Brooks characterize Theodor Herzl? Is Brooks' article really about oil that lasts or doesn't last eight days and forced circumcision. or is it really about Zionism, Herzl and Ben-Gurion?

Ami Isseroff

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Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Good news for Jews - we're taking over Britain

According to UK Channel 4, the "Israel Lobby" (AKA World Jewish conspiracy) is poised to take over Britain when and if the Conservative party comes to power, since an all powerful Jew conspiracy has permeated the corridors of British power. The next British monarch will be Ikey I, by the grace of God, King of Great Britain, and the Menorah will be printed on British bank notes. The Channel 4 documentary evidently has compiled a list of the Jew lovers in the Conservative party, preparing to subvert the innocent British people, about to pass legislation that forces pubs to serve Manischewitz wine and kosher snacks. It must be the influential Jewish conspiracy that is responsible for tacit recognition of Sharia law and other pro-Zionist moves of the Zionist Occupied British government. The same Jew lobby was no doubt responsible for the spate of British Boycott Israel initiatives. Them Jews will get you every time, right?
Or is the documentary evidence of a quite different trend in Britain? What do you think?
Ami Isseroff
Israel lobby 'big influence in UK'
The programme links Hague, left, and Cameron to the Conservative Friends of Israel [EPA]
A British documentary has alleged that any future Conservative government will be disproportionately influenced by a powerful pro-Israeli lobby in the country.
Channel 4's Dispatches programme on Monday said that at least half of the Conservative shadow cabinet are members of the Conservative Friends of Israel (CFI), one of a number of pro-Israel lobby organisations.
The prorgramme, entitled 'Inside Britain's Israel Lobby', said that such organisations make up "one of the most powerful and influential political lobbies in Britain", but that "little is known" about these groups and their associated individuals.
CFI members and their businesses are alleged to have donated more than $16.8m to the Conservative Party over the past eight years.
The alleged donations include tens of thousands of pounds to William Hague, after he was appointed shadow foreign secretary in 2005.
The documentary alleged that Lord Kalm, a CFI member and significant donor to the Conservatives, threatened to remove Hague's funding after he said that Israel had used "disproportionate" force during its war in Lebanon in 2006.
David Cameron, the Conservative leader, is alleged to have promised not to repeat the conjecture.
Stuart Polak, CFI's director, disputed the figures in the UK's Guardian newspaper.
"CFI as an organisation has donated only £30,000 [$50,000] since 2005. Each of these donations has been made transparently and publicly registered," he said.
"In addition to this £30,000, it is undoubtedly the case that some of our supporters have also chosen, separately, to donate to the party as individuals."
The Dispatches documentary also claims that Poju Zabludowicz, a Finnish billionaire and chairman of Bicom (the British Israel Communications and Research Centre), gave $25,000 and $84,000 donations to Cameron and the Conservative Central Office respectively.
Zabludowicz has a business interest in a shopping centre in Ma'aleh Adumim, an Israeli settlement in the occupied West Bank deemed illegal under international law.
Bicom organises briefings on and trips to Israel for journalists. The CFI and the Labour Friends of Israel (LFI) group, which is described in the documentary as "less unquestioning in its support of the Israeli government than CFI", plays a similar role, accounting for 13 per cent of the total number of paid-for foreign trips for MPs and candidates.
'Openness needed'
Zabludowicz told The Jerusalem Post newspaper that the Dispatches programme "seems to have a predetermined agenda".
"Some people have suggested that the production team felt compelled to 'balance out' their two recent programs exposing the footprint of radical Islamism in the UK," he said.
"I come to this conclusion with a heavy heart, having been led [through] a not-so-merry dance over the past 10 days by the programme-makers.
"Bicom is an advocacy organisation. We work with journalists every day. It is in our DNA to put our side of the story forward and to be transparent."
While the programme said that the donations are legal, one of its makers, David Oborne, a political columnist for the British Daily Mail newspaper, said that more needs to be known about the Israeli lobby's workings and power.
"There is nothing resembling a conspiracy," he wrote in the Guardian.
"The pro-Israel lobby, in common with other lobbies, has every right to operate and indeed to flourish in Britain.
"But it needs to be far more open about how it is funded and what it does ... mainly because politics in a democracy ... should be out in the open for all to see."
In 2006, Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer, two American academics, released a paper stating that Washington's support for Israel was predicated by a hugely powerful Israeli lobby in the US.

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Saturday, September 5, 2009

Will Tel-Aviv become an "illegal settlement"?

They are after Tel Aviv now. It was inevitable.

First they went after Jerusalem. UN resolutions "internationalized" Jerusalem. The "international" status of the city was ignored as long as Jordan illegally occupied the old city and east Jerusalem, but vigorous protests were issued when Israel conquered Jerusalem in the Six day war. Even the United States does not recognize any Jewish claims to Jerusalem, does not recognize any part of Jerusalem as part of Israel in violation of United States law, the 1995 Jerusalem Embassy Act. The US Consulate in Jerusalem insists that it is a mission to the Palestinian Authority. The Palestinians have long insisted that Jews had no historical connection with Jerusalem. The most recent statement to that effect was issued by the Muslim Chief Justice, Taysir Tamimi, denying Jewish historical rights in Jerusalem. He claimed it was never inhabited by Jews. The first temple is erased from history as well as the second temple, as well as the long habitation of Jews in Jerusalem prior to 1948, when Jerusalem was ethnically cleansed by the Jordan Legion.

The Arab and Muslim "narrative," given academic credentials by such people as Nadia Abu el-Hajj of Barnard University, is that Jerusalem was always an Arab city. Never mind the Menorah in the Arch of Titus. Never mind the description of the siege of Jerusalem by Josephus Flavius. Never mind the inscription from the time of Hezekiah, which describes the tunnel built to divert water from Shiloach during the siege - precisely as recorded in the Old Testament. The Palestinians have a different "narrative." The Beit al Maqdes (temple) was built by Suleiman the Muslim. Muhammad secured Jerusalem for the Muslims by flying to Jerusalem in one night on his horse (pretty good horse!) al-buraq, and tying it up at the Wailing wall, which ensures that the wailing wall is Muslim too. So much for "Zionist Myths. Jerusalem is Arab and "Arab East Jerusalem" now belongs to the Muslims.

But now they are going after Tel Aviv as well. According to the old "Zionist narrative," apparently incorrect, Tel Aviv was founded in 1909, originally to be called "Achuzt Bayit." It was built on empty land purchased from Arabs. But a film festival in Toronto celebrating Tel-Aviv's Centennial is being boycotted, on the grounds that Tel-Aviv was stolen from the Arabs! No doubt, soon it will be discovered that Muhammad visited Tel Aviv too, and tied his horse up in Dizengoff Center. Such luminaries as Jane Fonda are boycotting the film festival:

Jane Fonda, Danny Glover and Eve Ensler have joined the growing list of artists who are boycotting the Toronto film festival over a program honoring Tel Aviv's 100th anniversary, gossip blogger Perez Hilton reported on Friday.

The three have added their names to a letter aimed at festival officials claiming that Tel Aviv was built on violence, ignoring the "suffering of thousands of former residents and descendants," Hilton reported.

Well yes, there was a war here. We didn't start it. Remember? There were also a few wars between Germany and France. Alsace is also "built on violence, ignoring the 'suffering of thousands of former residents and descendants.'" What about "former residents" of Washington DC or for that matter Toronto? Or former Jewish residents of Cairo and Baghdad? Is that a reason to boycott these cities? Will Jane Fonda and her friends leave any corner of Israel that may be claimed by Jews as our birthright?

If Tel Aviv does not belong to the Jewish people by right, then surely Beersheba, an Arab town from 640 C.E. until 1948 is Arab by right, and Neve Gordon, the boycott advocate, should not be living and teaching there. Even the most obtuse boycotters can now understand that the boycott movement is not aimed at ending the occupation, but at ending Israel.

Ami Isseroff

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Sunday, August 30, 2009

Saudi Prof: TV channel owners as bad as Zionists and Crusaders and should be executed. Islam casts fear...

TV channel owners who show the "wrong" materials are as bad as the Zionist enemy and the crusader Americans and therefore should be tried and executed, according to a Saudi professor.

The professor was frank about the nature of Islam in his view:

Sheik Yousuf Al-Ahmad: Islam itself casts fear...

Interviewer: No, it doesn't. Islam is a religion of tolerance and leniency, Sheik.

Sheik Yousuf Al-Ahmad: Allah says otherwise. Islam is lenient, but the infidel West trembles in fear of it. Allah has ordered us to prepare: "Prepare for them what force and steeds of war you can, to cast fear in the hearts of Allah's enemies and of your own." Our human nature may tell us that stoning is unacceptable, but this is a punishment decreed by Allah. If Allah decrees death – this is how it should be. If the Islamic scholars ruled that the punishment for drug dealers is death, this is how it should be.

I believe that [the TV channel owners] are more dangerous than all of these. Forget about whether or not they should be killed – we demand that they face trial in an Islamic court of law. I call upon the good, honorable businessmen to contribute their millions in order to hire lawyers to file Islamic lawsuits against these TV channels owners, and to persecute them legally. I call upon lawyers and good people in Saudi Arabia, in the Gulf states, in Egypt, in Yemen, and everywhere, to banish them from all Muslim countries.

The religion of fear...

Ami Isseroff

MEMRI August 8, 2009 Clip No. 2216

Saudi University Professor Yousuf Al-Ahmad: Al-Walid bin Talal and Other Owners of Saudi TV Channels Should Be Executed According to Islamic Law

Following are excerpts from an interview with Sheik Yousuf Al-Ahmad, a professor of Islamic law at Al-Imam University, Riyadh, which aired on Daleel TV on August 8, 2009.

Interviewer: A year ago, Sheik Saleh Al-Lahidan issued a fatwa that made all hell break loose. He demanded that owners [of liberal Arab TV channels be placed on trial] and repent. Do you support Sheik Al-Lahidan's demand?

Sheik Yousuf Al-Ahmad: I believe all Muslim scholars support him in this.


I believe that one of our problems is that we continue to bury our heads in the sand, and talk about "Lebanese" TV channels, as if we are being honest. Take LBC, for example. We all know who owns it. We should say to [the owner] Al-Walid bin Talal: Beware. The same is true of MBC TV, Al-Arabiya TV, the ART and Rotana channels – all these [Saudi] channels serve to destroy Islam and the Muslims.


Regarding these base channels that I have mentioned, and others like them – I have no doubt whatsoever that their danger to the Islamic nation is no less than that of the Zionist Jews, or of the Crusader Americans in Iraq and elsewhere.

Interviewer: What led you to such an extremist view? Note that you are equating channels owned by Muslims, by Saudi citizens, with the Jews.

Sheik Yousuf Al-Ahmad: I wasn't equating them. I said they are more dangerous. I was being precise. in my view, the deadly poison that they are spreading has reached the bone marrow.


The people who spread corruption in the land – whether highway robbers, drug dealers, or the owners of these TV channels, who are even more dangerous... These channels broadcast corruption and nudity. They are all people who spread corruption in the land, and they should be tried in an Islamic court of law and sentenced to death. This [fatwa] is clearly in accordance with Islamic law. There's no doubt about it.

Interviewer: The ferocity of this fatwa has cast fear in the hearts of...

Sheik Yousuf Al-Ahmad: ... of the hypocrites.

Interviewer: In everybody's hearts. Even in the West, it received much attention.

Sheik Yousuf Al-Ahmad: Islam itself casts fear...

Interviewer: No, it doesn't. Islam is a religion of tolerance and leniency, Sheik.

Sheik Yousuf Al-Ahmad: Allah says otherwise. Islam is lenient, but the infidel West trembles in fear of it. Allah has ordered us to prepare: "Prepare for them what force and steeds of war you can, to cast fear in the hearts of Allah's enemies and of your own." Our human nature may tell us that stoning is unacceptable, but this is a punishment decreed by Allah. If Allah decrees death – this is how it should be. If the Islamic scholars ruled that the punishment for drug dealers is death, this is how it should be.

I believe that [the TV channel owners] are more dangerous than all of these. Forget about whether or not they should be killed – we demand that they face trial in an Islamic court of law. I call upon the good, honorable businessmen to contribute their millions in order to hire lawyers to file Islamic lawsuits against these TV channels owners, and to persecute them legally. I call upon lawyers and good people in Saudi Arabia, in the Gulf states, in Egypt, in Yemen, and everywhere, to banish them from all Muslim countries.

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Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Sweden revives blood libel against Israel

"Legitimate criticism" of Israel reached new lows of depravity in Sweden when Sweden's leading daily newspaper revived the medieval blood libel accusation against the IDF. in a sensational article titled ""Our sons plundered for their organs"(Swedish article is here: Based on this accusation, "Anti-Zionist" Web sites and e-mail lists are hurrying to circulate the "news" that the IDF kills Palestinian Arabs in order to extract their organs for transplants.
The reporter, one Donald Bostrom, assembled a farrago of unrelated stories about illegal organ trafficking from Israel, including a story about the arrest of a New York Jew engaged in selling kidneys contrary to Israeli law. He used hearsay and rumor from Palestinians about the fate of relatives killed during the Intifada:
I was in the area and worked on a book when I several times was contacted by UN staff who were concerned about the development. Those who contacted me felt that body theft actually took place, but that they were unable to act. On behalf of a television company, I then went around and spoke to a large number of Palestinian families in the West Bank and Gaza....
"'Our sons are used as involuntary organ donors,' relatives of Khaled from Nablus said to me, as did the mother of Raed from Jenin as well as the uncles of Machmod and Nafes from Gaza, who all had disappeared for a few days and returned by night, dead and autopsied. - Why did they keep the bodies up to five days before we can bury them? What happened to the bodies in the meantime? And why is the autopsy when the cause of death is obvious, and in all cases against our will? And why are the bodies returned at night?".
Evidently, the rumors spread due to ignorance of forensic autopsy procedures and Jew hate, encouraged by UN personnel. Bostrom described in detail the case of one Bilal Achmed Ghanian, 19, whose body was returned after autopsy after he was killed in 1992. It is probable, but unclear, that the victims were dead when they were evacuated. Of course, organs cannot be harvested from cadavers. Bostrom quoted an IDF denial and explanation that the autopsies were routine, but Bostrom implied that the denial is false:
The routine autopsy of killed Palestinians, as told by the army spokesman is not true in reality in the Occupied Territories. .
The use of rumor and hearsay, and more especially the unrelated material about illegal organ traffic, make it clear that Bostrom set out to intentionally libel Israel and the Jewish people. The Israeli ambassador lodged a strong protest, but this can hardly be a deterrent to people like Bostrom. If a similar report about Muslims had been published in a Scandinavian journal, wouldn't there be violent world wide demonstrations as there were after the Danish Muhammad cartoons?

Swedish Jews claim Bostrom is a known anti-Semite and AftonBladet has published similar articles. The Swedish Embassy in Israel has apologized, but a culture editor of Aftonbladet told Haaretz that the publication stands by the story and insists on an "international investigation" of the alleged nefarious Jewish activities.
The libel of organ stealing is not new and may have originated with Yasser Arafat himself. According to a 2002 Honest Reporting article:
the Islamic Association for Palestine reported that Yasser Arafat "has accused the Israeli apartheid regime of murdering Palestinian children and youths and extricating their vital organs for organ transplants."
It is one thing when racist Palestinian leaders make accusations of Jewish blood libel, but quite another phenomenon and much more ominous when they appear in a respected northern European "Nordic" country journal. It seems that there are no longer any real limits to what may be published under the guise of supposedly "legitimate criticism of Israel." A competing Swedish newspaper has published a horrified editorial.The liberal Sydsvenskan - southern Sweden's major daily ran an opinion piece of Mats Skogkär called "Antisemitbladet" (a play on the name Aftonbladet):

"We have heard the story before, in one form or the other. It follows the traditional pattern of conspiracy theory: a great number of loose threads that the theorist tempts the reader to tie into a neat knot without having been provided with any proven connection whatsoever..."
"Whispers in the dark. Anonymous sources. Rumors. That is all it takes. After all we all know what they [the Jews] are like, don't we: inhuman, hardened. Capable of anything," the opinion piece says. "Now all that remains is the defense, equally predictable: 'Anti-Semitism' No, no, just criticism of Israel."
The tale is not told in a cultural vacuum of course. The stories of Bilal Achmed Ghanian and the others are backed by a rich European tradition of "legitimate criticism" of Jews. They have joined the European pantheon of fraudulent blood libel martys, which includes numerous "saints" revered by the Catholic church for many years, such as Saint Andreas of Rinn , Saint Simon of Trent, and Saint Hugh of Lincoln. Aftonbladet has carried on in a more modern tradition of Nordic journalism, illustrated by the following twentieth century cartoon from the Westdeutchen Beobachter, also considered "legitimate criticism" by its defenders:
Blood Libel

Ami Isseroff

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Wednesday, March 25, 2009

IDF Investigation Refutes the Testimonies About Gaza Killings.

Maariv in (Hebrew)
[Complete translation by Israel News ]
Today, Sunday, an IDF officer whose troops fought in Gaza will present the conclusions of his personal investigation in the wake of testimony of soldiers in his brigade about incidents of killing of Palestinian civilians during Operation Cast Lead. The investigation reveals that in at least two of the incidents mentioned in the testimony, which raised a storm of public controversy, no Palestinian women were killed as had been claimed.
Two central incidents that were brought to light in the testimony, which Danny Zamir, the head of the Rabin pre-military academy presented to Chief of Staff Gaby Ashkenazi, focus on one infantry brigade. Today the brigade's commander will present the findings of his personal investigation about the matter which he undertook in the last few day to Brigadier General Eyal Eisenberg, commander of the Gaza division,, and after approval, he will present his findings to the head of the Southern Command, Major General Yoav Gallant.

Light Finger on the trigger

Regarding the incident in which it was claimed that a sniper fired at a Palestinian woman and her two daughters, the brigade commander's investigation cites the sniper: "I saw the woman and her daughters and I shot warning shots. The section commander came up to the roof and shouted at me, ?Why did you shoot at them.' I explained that I did not shoot at them, but I fired warning shots."

Officers from the brigade suspect that fighters who remained in the lower story of the Palestinian house thought that he hit the the women, and from there the rumor that a sniper killed a mother and her two daughters spread.

Regarding the second incident, in which it was claimed that soldiers went up to the roof to entertain themselves with firing and killed an elderly Palestinian woman, the brigade commander investigation found that there was no such incident.

According to one of the officers, "The number of terrorists killed and the extent of arrests in "Operation Cast Lead" varied from brigade to brigade because the troops fought in different areas, and as part of the tradition there is always competition to show that your brigade is more combat ready. Nonetheless, the official evaluation has not yet begun and among field commanders there is a fear that troops will bring to light additional incidents that took place during the fighting.

An officer of an elite unit that fought deep in Palestinian territory in Operation Cast Lead told NRG Maariv, "There was a light trigger finger during operation Cast Lead without a doubt, and non-combatant ("uninvolved") civilians were killed without doubt. But there was no deliberate harm done to innocent civilians. I am fully convinced that there was no soldier who shot for no reason out of a desire for revenge. I don't know of any such cases.

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Wednesday, February 11, 2009

About "Bullets in box" - letter to Ethan Bronner

Mr. Ethan Bronner

c/o  N.Y. Times

620 Eighth Avenue

New York, N.Y. 10018


                                                In re: "The Bullets in My Box,"  January 25, 2009






Dear Mr. Bronner,


Forgive me if this letter is not quite coherent. I'm still weeping over your sad plight. You want to be a good journalist by reporting "in a way both sides can accept as fair" and everyone is picking on you. No one's happy. What's a reporter to do? To paraphrase Herr Eichman, you are just doing your job, following your conscience. We all know (we all should know) that there is no such thing as absolute truth. There are only different perspectives, competing narratives. Had you been working for the Times during World War II, you would surely have been the one courageous enough to show the Nazi side (After all, there's always another side to the story): how traitorous Jews betrayed Germany's war effort causing it to lose World War I; how plutocratic Jews undermined the German economy; how Communist Jews were trying to take away the profits of hard-working German citizens; how degenerate Jews were leading to the general decline of culture and morality; how even American auto magnate, Henry Ford, and the inspirational Catholic priest, Father Coughlin, subscribed to Nazi views on the Jewish menace.  And, as the advertisers say, there's much, much more. Indeed, a very good case could be made for Hitler's cause. Morality is in the eye of the beholder. If you put a pound of gold on one side of the scales and a pound of baloney on the other, the scales will balance. A pound is a pound no matter what it's made of. If it balances, it's fair. No? A good journalist understands that everyone has his own truth. His job is to keep things even.


That is why you can write that "Among Israel's Jews . . .  Zionism . . . is bathed in a celestial glow," even though you know that there is an active peace movement in Israel for whom the word "Zionism" has become radically tainted. Israel's insular arrogance must be emphasized in order to balance your statement that "Zionism stands for theft, oppression, [and] racist exclusionism" throughout the Middle East. Jews may be well-meaning, but they're blind. Arabs may be overly hostile, but they have good reason to be. Each side overstates his case. What's not a good idea is to mention that while there are over a million Arab Muslims living as citizens in Israel, no Jew is allowed to live in Jordan or Saudi Arabia (although Jews once had a flourishing population in the Arabian Peninsula). Forget also that close to a million Jews were unceremoniously kicked out of practically every other Muslim state. And that even though the Arab world is, for all intents and purposes, Judenrein, somehow, it's Israel that's apartheid. But there are no villains, just a "cycle of violence" that goes on and on.


Because everyone's at fault in the "Greek Tragedy" that is the Middle East "crisis," it is important to blame both sides for the failure to bring about peace. Thus you write that "an understanding crystallized over a decade ago over the outline of an eventual solution," but you do not mention that the PLO never changed the clause in its charter that refused to accept the existence of a Jewish state, although acceptance was a core requirement of that understanding. Better to write that "the two sides' narratives have actually hardened." For it would certainly be hitting below the belt to call attention to the ways in which Arafat's P.A. broke all of its agreements within a day of the arrangement with vicious attacks and educational propaganda essentially erasing Israel from the map. And it would be snide for someone to point out that Israel "actually" softened her stance by choosing to ignore Palestinian violations. Even more troubling would be to mention that in 2000 and in 2001 Israel offered deals that "actually" sweetened the Oslo accords and that Arafat turned them down unequivocally (never pondered them, argued them, or came back with an alternative). Instead his response was the second Intifada--suicide bombings--the murder of school children in pizza parlors and buses, the murder of celebrants during a Passover Seder. So, the  P.A. has a terrorist wing. So, Israel has settlers. The Arabs make terror! The Jews make concessions! If you want to do business you have to have bargaining chips. Only the Mafia would recognize this deal as a form of extortion called "the protection racket." Besides, both sides accepted the agreement--didn't they? Both are responsible for its failure--aren't they? If Arafat was a bad guy, so was Ariel Sharon.



And if the "bad guys" are on both sides of the fence, there can be no aggressor, no defender. There can be no deterrence, only retaliation (a dirty word). Thus you can write that "opponents of Israel" believe her to be "a kind of Sparta that dehumanizes the Palestinians" as an excuse for her use of  "overwhelming force," but it would be tacky to even hint that overwhelming force (a dirty phrase) is the only way Israel has of stopping Hamas rockets. Because that would suggest that Israel's "excuse" for using overwhelming force might not be an excuse. And it would be just as tacky to suggest that Israel could, with minimal risk to her army, have carpet bombed Gaza and Hamas (as well as most Palestinians) would have been obliterated. But that would suggest that Israel's restraint showed she was interested in deterrence not retaliation (You know, that Jewish thing, an eye for an eye?). Nor is it in the best of taste to remind folks how Israel tolerated eight years of weapon smuggling and rocket attacks of an ever-increasing range on her innocent civilians--nursery schools and kindergartens; or that her civilian losses have been low because she has gone to the trouble and expense (cheated?) of building bomb shelters and early warning systems; or that the trauma for Israeli children undergoing years of close calls is comparable to the P.T.D.S of adult war veterans.  True! True! But, if a reporter has any decency at all, as you so obviously do, he must consider that the casualty count for operation Cast Lead was so lopsided, it would hardly be cricket to say anything that allows Israel to claim existential necessity. And, as an unfortunate corollary, gives the Palestinians the burden of responsibility.


In the same way (For obvious reasons Palestinians always seem to be getting the worst of things) it's perfectly legitimate to quote those who say that Israelis put "racist graffiti" on walls (I'd be curious to know how prevalent such graffiti are, or if the statement is even true). But it would be racist to bring out the fact that there has never been a national celebration of Palestinian deaths in Israel, whereas thousands turned out on the streets of Gaza and the West Bank to cheer and pass out candy whenever Jews were murdered in horrific explosions by devices filled with nails and poisons or, more recently, when eight Yeshiva students were shot in cold blood as they were studying torah. And it would certainly smack of bigotry to condemn the feisty Gazans who poured into the streets to mock in effigy a captured Israeli soldier who is being kept, against all international standards, incognito with never a single visit by the Red Cross. The barbaric pleasure Palestinians get from reveling in Jewish misery and Jewish blood must be downplayed, rationalized and justified lest charges of Islamophobia be brought to bear. That is why news of the omnipresence of anti-Semitic graffiti on Palestinian walls must be suppressed along with the broadcasts of anti-Semitic libels on Palestinian TV where even kiddie shows watched by three year olds feature a rabbit named Assud who kills and eats Jews. The scales must not tip. Palestinians must look at least as good as Jews. Better! Because to look at Palestinian blood lust squarely would be too appalling. True, anti-Semitism is a kind of entitlement for the poor, down-trodden Arabs, but it's wiser not to hit people over the head with it.


In this eternal war without cause, no reporter worth his salt would charge either side with evil intent. Palestinians may seem a little over-ardent in their struggle against "occupation," but then Israel is only too ready to demonize them in order to justify her "assault" (as one news report put it) on women and children. And you can write about "those who saw in this war an affirmation of their [Israeli's] beliefs--that Hamas . . . hides its fighters behind women and children," even though you know that this charge is not merely a belief but a fact corroborated by eye-witnesses and video tape; even though, in fact, Palestinians speaking among themselves on their own TV stations brag about their citizens' willing martyrdom and the delight it gives them; even though it is a well-known fact that Palestinians have, for years, been putting their families, their children, in harm's way as a PR gambit. But it is standard media fare that when Palestinians kill they are Hamas and when they get killed they are "innocent civilians." We mustn't blame the victim. Yes, Israel has every right to defend herself, but not to violate the rules of war. How an army can defend itself without returning enemy fire is not a question reporters need answer. Point-of-view determines fact.


That is why you can write that "one side says . . . the Jewish nation has returned to its rightful home" and the other side says "there is no Jewish nation," as if every argument were a simple matter of narrative disjunction. Although you know (you must know) that, despite Palestinian efforts to "prove" that there was never a Jewish nation in the Middle East, every archeological study, every legitimate history (including Muslim ones) documents the opposite. And you also know (you must know) that there is not and has never been a Palestinian state because the people who call themselves Palestinians have said to Israel "No negotiations. No recognition. No Peace." And you know (you must know) that before 1948 Palestine was a geo-political territory designated as such since 135 C.E., and that Palestinians were considered Jews (even by most Arabs) until the creation of the state of Israel; and that a unit called The Palestinian Brigade, comprised entirely of Jews, fought along side the British in World War I. And you know (you must know) that those who now call themselves Palestinians have never worked to build a state in the territories they lay claim to by creating viable institutions through government, commerce, and the arts or even by setting forth reasonable boundaries. Instead they turned the lushly developed area where Israel gave them total autonomy into a vast warren of weapons caches, a launching pad for deadlier and deadlier aerial attacks.  Why? Because they've based their nationhood on one overarching principle: the destruction of Israel and the Jewish people. No Jew may have a sovereign state in Arab/Muslim territory. No Jew may triumph over a Muslim. It says so in the Koran: "He made you masters of their [the Jewish tribe of Khayber]  lands, their houses, and their goods," Sura 33:23. Jews cannot be winners. (It would be too humiliating.) As one who's written about the Middle East for years, you have to know this because it's plainly stated in the charters of both Hamas and the PLO.


But admitting that "occupation" in the Palestinian lexicon means that Israel and the Jews must be wiped off the face of the earth would be to stack the deck against a proud and ancient people whose language, culture, and religion just happen to have originated in the Arabian Peninsula. You might have to acknowledge that the real Palestinians (Philistines) were a sea people from the European continent, invaders who disappeared some 2500 years ago, absorbed into the dominant population who happened to be (Hmm!) Jewish. Well, if there's no Palestine, only disputed territory; no Palestinian ethnicity, only one sample of Arab particularity, of what does the vaunted Palestinian identity consist? Is it a hoax? Could it be that it is made entirely of lies, hatred, bigotry and self-pity? Is this the glue that holds Palestinians together? Dear me, no. Such an ugly characterization must not be promulgated. That would be--mean-spirited


The Palestinians are too abject. The Israelis too successful. "Envy," "intolerance," they're only a "story line," a construct of the pro-Jewish lobby that has nothing to do with reality. Thus it is imperative that you write that "the other side tells a different story . . .;" that you repeat the canard that the Israeli Jews are colonialists who "stole and pillaged, throwing hundreds of thousands off their lands," that Israel was "born in sin" (an Israeli formulation, by the way); even though you know that Jews bought every inch of land they had, land which Arabs were happy to sell at exorbitant prices, until five Arab nations declared war on them.. You also know, I'm sure you do, that if any ethnic cleansing went on, it was done by Arabs whose pogroms pushed the Jews completely out of areas like Hebron where Jews had resided since biblical times. And this was before there was ever a Jewish State. You must also know, I'm sure, that since the middle of the 19th century, Jerusalem was a predominately Jewish city until Jordan purged East Jerusalem of its Jews after the '48 war. Are you lying? Heaven forbid. Unless there's such a thing as the lie of omission. You're just telling what you've heard. What you choose to hear.


As you say, everything depends on who is telling the story. What does it matter if one side strains toward peace and the other is full of murderous violence? If the Israelis are always apologizing, they must be guilty of something. If the Palestinians are always defiant, they are obviously being oppressed. The Israelis have their tanks. The Palestinians their suffering. No back story is necessary. As long as balance is maintained, the reporter has fulfilled his obligations. A reporter cannot lie if he is quoting each side accurately. He is being objective. He is performing a great public service. No one's self-perception should be denied or discounted, even if it is false or falsely acquired. If one side looks bad (or good), the true reporter must make the other side look the same. No favoritism--for heaven's sake. Taking sides is for the Op-Ed pages. Everyone sees himself as victim anyways.


Truth, as you so diligently have reminded us, depends upon the light in which it's shown. Of course, it is the reporter's task to shed that light. Ultimately (the media's dirty little secret), it is the reporter who tells the story. That is why certain uncomfortable glitches must be smoothed out, covered over, or ignored like the emperor's new clothes. And that is why certain uncomfortable stories like the Mohammad Al-Dura hoax gets not one word of press from the New York Times. Again, I'm sure that you must have some knowledge of this affair which is prominent on the internet. It concerns a cynical fraud perpetrated by Palestinians that was instrumental in the death of thousands of people, including that of reporter Daniel Pearl and, if given appropriate attention by the mainstream media, might inspire more than a few pundits to call into question every explanation, every justification, every claim Palestinians make for themselves.


But righteousness (self-righteousness) must never give way to moral fatigue. Fair play demands that other side be given its due, especially when the "other" comes from an exotic culture that the reporter can never really comprehend. He must struggle against his "natural" biases in order to equalize the scales. He must neutralize (neuter?) the issues so that no one side can stake a claim to the moral high ground. He must make blanket pronouncements and all-purpose generalizations so that only noble ends are weighed, never despicable means, especially if those means belong to the underdog. Above all, justice, as well as his journalistic honor, demands that he work the text and shape the context, so that his piece will conform to some abstract model of public virtue. Thus the underdog (as he is perceived) must be raised up and the lucky dog (as he is perceived) must be put down. Deficiencies on one side need to be made up by subtractions on the other (besides, the pornography of violence sells). And, since the Palestinians are the needier, they are the ones who merit the handicap. If they come out slightly ahead, it's only because the Jews tend to win the battles (if not the war).  And when Jews are winners the reporter, especially if he himself is Jewish, must, often as not, look the other way. But then again, just as an Ahmedinejad can make homosexuals disappear by saying "There are no homosexuals in Iran," a reporter, particularly one working for as prestigious a vehicle as the New York Times, can always say, "If we don't print it, it doesn't exist." 




                                               Mitzi Alvin

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Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Israelis abroad make excuses

Roi Ben Yehuda is an Israeli, or ex-Israeli, who lives in Spain and writes frequently for Ha'aretz. He previously (see 'Epiphany in a Spanish neo-Nazi bookstore,' Haaretz June 15, 2008) alleged that a Neo-Nazi Book shop is selling anti-Semitic materials in Barcelona. He further alleged that "just about everywhere he looked" he saw swastikas and anti-Nazi graffit. These claims were made by no-one else to my knowledge. They made Barcelona sound like a description of Berlin in 1932. This assertion could not be verified by a friend living in Spain. She notes that the sale of such materials is forbidden by Spanish law and that she did not see much graffiti in or posters of the type described in Barcelona. Perhaps others can enlighten us. Roi's story about Nazi bookstores and graffiti in Spain is therefore dubious, to say the least.

Roi's latest article tells us that many people, including apparently himself, believe that you can be an Israeli living in Spain or the United States or some other country. (See "Why Jews can have more than one home," Haaretz August 26, 2008). As Roi notes, there are as many as 600,000 such "Israelis" living in the United States.

This concept of "Israeli Lite" is shared by many Israelis living abroad. But the truth is that most people can have only one home and are not happy with split identities. You can be an Israeli with Spanish or American citizenship or an American with ties to Israel, but you cannot really be both an American and an Israeli at the same time.

If you live and work in the United States or Spain, your children will learn Spanish or English, and not Hebrew, and they will be Spanish or American. It is not likely they will be Israeli. Sooner or later, they or their children or their grandchildren are going to decide they are not Israelis. Roi is going to find himself less and less Israeli the longer he lives in Spain.

Everyone must make their own choices, but I am fascinated by the phenomenon of Jews who insist on living in various European countries: Spain, Poland, Germany, and also insist on complaining about anti-Semitism in those countries. All those countries have a history of anti-Semitism of course. If you live in France, expect good wine. If you live in Spain or Poland, expect the characteristic specialties of those countries.

In my view, living in Spain and complaining about anti-Semitism is like eating ripe Camembert and complaining about the taste. Often, these claims are clearly exaggerated, as happened in a hoax letter circulated about French anti-Semitism. Is anti-Semitic persecution a part of the "Jewishness" of these folks?

Roi is entitled to his opinion. The question is, why Ha'aretz wants to publish it.

More interesting is the question of why Sara Miller of Ha'aretz, as well as Roi Ben Yehuda himself sent me letters trying to tell me what I can and cannot write about Roi Ben Yehuda and claiming that what I wrote was 'libelous.' Of course, Ha'aretz would be justifiably upset if someone tried to censor them. What I wrote can scarcely be libelous unless there is indeed a major Nazi revival in Barcelona, which no other journalist has reported. Nor did anyone else report that everywhere they looked in Barcelona there are Swastikas. And if it is "libelous," what are we to make of the writings of Gideon Levi, Amira Hass and Yitzhak Laor about Israelis and Zionists? Is Ha'aretz prepared to guarantee that every accusation they make is absolutely grounded in fact and provable in a court of law?

As I have no desire for legal problems with Ha'aretz, the article is duly altered, but the message is the same.
Ami Isseroff

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Monday, July 14, 2008

Media Watch International: some background

Here are some notes on Media Watch International, a pro-Israel advocacy group that has been mentioned in media reports about Prime Minister Olmert's finances.

Israel police on July 9 questioned Sharon Tzur, executive director of the New York-based group. Investigators reportedly asked Tzur about her connection to Morris Talansky, who had told police that Tzur was present on at least one occasion when Olmert received an envelope containing thousands of dollars. Media articles have described Tzur as an Olmert confidante and former Likud activist, and as "the mastermind behind"

In May, the newspaper Haaretz reported that in 2005 Tzur and Media Watch International paid a $2,200 bill for Olmert and his wife, Aliza, at the Peninsula hotel in New York City. According to the newspaper, Tzur said Olmert, who was then a cabinet minister, took part in eight meetings on behalf of her organization.

According to the group's website, "Tzur founded Media Watch International to counter the growing media bias in coverage of the Middle East. She oversaw the runaway success of, until it reached over 50,000 activists and became an independent organization."

The Jewish Telegraphic Agency quoted Tzur in 2001 as explaining that Aish HaTorah helped create Media Watch International: "In December [2000], the Jerusalem Fund of Aish HaTorah, an Orthodox group focused on outreach to secular Jews, provided close to $150,000 in seed money to create Media Watch International for a dual purpose: to absorb HonestReporting and continue with its activism and media watchdog work, and to educate the media with position papers, Tzur said." HonestReporting began as a project of Jewish university students in London after the Second Intifada broke out in late September 2000.

On its U.S. tax return, Media Watch International states that its primary purpose is to "monitor, review and evaluate the accuracy, quality and fairness of media coverage regarding the Middle East."

In 2006, the most recent period for which its tax return is available, Media Watch International reported it received tax-exempt gifts of $496,468 and spent $522,566. The outlays included $111,430 in salary and pension benefits for Tzur, who is listed as the organization's president. Its assets at the end of 2006 were $29,100 in cash, according to the tax return.

According to the tax return, the group's corporate name is "Media Caravan Inc. D/B/A Media Watch International."

The Media Watch International website states that its flagship program is Caravan for Democracy, which "fosters pro-Israel sentiment about Israel and the Middle East on colleges throughout the United States."

Media Watch International's website lists four other key people in addition to Tzur:

* Laura B. Newmark, manager of programs

* Lenny Ben-David, consultant and writer. A former deputy chief of mission at the Israel embassy in Washington, Ben-David is an independent consultant and publishes a blog at

* Ronn Torossian, communications and marketing consultant. Owner of a New York public-relations business with a Los Angeles office, Torossian publishes a blog at

* "Our ghost writer," described as a New York native who lives in Israel.

How does Media Watch International compare to other pro-Israel organizations engaged in public affairs and media monitoring? Here are some highlights from tax returns for 2006:

The Israel Project, Washington, D.C.
Purpose: "The purpose of the Israel Project is to help protect the existence of Israel and the Jewish people and to combat anti-Semitism by educating the public in the US and in other countries about Israel and situation in the Middle East, and by educating opinion leaders and the media to the same effect."
Total revenue: $6,088,157
Officers' salaries and benefits:
$200,000 - Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi
Net assets: $2,808,608

Zionist Organization of America, New York City
Purpose: "Public affairs -- to create public awareness in communities around the country about the happenings affecting the Jewish people. Zionist education -- to educate the public concerning the values of Zionism."
Total revenue:
Officers' salaries and benefits:
$279,346 - Morton Klein, president
$170,144 - Meir Jolovitz, executive director
$48,000 - Sheldon Fliegelman, executive director
Net assets: $11,315,771

Middle East Media and Research Institute, Inc. (MEMRI) Washington, D.C.
Purpose: "to serve as a clearinghouse for information regarding news and other cultural media in and on the subject of the Middle East"
Total revenue: $4,078,038
Officers' salaries and benefits:
$87,268 - Steven Stalinsky, executive director
$62,314 - Yigal Carmon, president (20 hours per week)
Net assets: $1,551,622

Committee on Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America, Inc., Boston, Mass. (CAMERA)
Purpose: "To provide the educational services necessary to give members and the general public the ability to evaluate Middle Eastern reporting"
Total revenue: $2,559,469
Officers' salaries and benefits:
$174,368 - Andrea Levin, president
$115,707 - Alex Safian, associate director
Net assets: $4,169,269, Inc., New York City (Middle East Media Watch, Skokie, Ill.)
Purpose: "To monitor and promote objective reporting by the media of events emanating from the Middle East in connection with the Israeli-Arab conflict."
Total revenue: $1,146,018
Officers' salaries and benefits:
Net assets: $230,626
NOTE:, Inc., reported a total U.S. payroll of only $20,880. It listed as key officers [Rabbi] Ephraim Shore, Beitar, Israel, president; Joe Hyams, Beit Shemesh, international director; [Rabbi] Shraga Simmons, Kiryat Sefer, Israel, secretary; and Michael Weinstein, Jerusalem, treasurer. Its largest expense item was a $414,476 payment to HonestReporting Israel.

--Joseph M. Hochstein, Tel Aviv

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