Flotilla: Even state officials say Netanyahu, IDF spread lies

Posted: June 29th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: In the News, media | Tags: , , , , , , , | 17 Comments »

According to government sources, the army doesn’t have any evidence that the flotilla activists are planning violent resistance, yet it publicly accuses them of conspiring to murder soldiers

Flotilla activists preparing weapons for their encounter with IDF soldiers (photo: Mya Guarnieri)

Flotilla activists preparing weapons for their encounter with IDF soldiers (photo: Mya Guarnieri)

The top story in two of Israel’s leading daily papers yesterday was a bombshell: The IDF unveiled plans by flotilla passengers to kill soldiers trying to stop the ships from getting to Gaza.

Yedioth Ahronoth, Israel’s most widely read paper, ran a headline declaring “Flotilla activists set to kill,” which was attributed to military sources (but only in the fine print). The story declared, “Intelligence information revealed violent plans.” In the inside pages, the headline declared that this flotilla is considered to be “more violent than the previous one.”

Maariv’s top story covered the same topic: “IDF intelligence reveals: Lethal acid on flotilla boats.” The free paper Israel Hayom had a smaller headline in the front page. “Fear: Flotilla activists will try to kill soldiers.” Haaretz is the only paper that didn’t give the story such prominence in its print edition, but it was the top headline on the paper’s website throughout the previous evening. The Jerusalem Post’s headline read “IDF: Some flotilla activists planning to kill soldiers.

You can view all front pages of the Hebrew papers in this pic, taken from the media blog Velvet Underground. Yedioth and Maariv are the bottom two.

Front Pages of Israeli papares, June 28 2011 (photo: velvet underground blog)

Front Pages of Israeli papares, June 28 2011 (photo: velvet underground blog)

Chemical Weapons? Against the Israel Navy Seals, Air Force and war ships? Even as a suicide mission, it sounded too fantastic. And how could this flotilla be “more violent,” when the notorious IHH, whose members were on the Mavi Marmara last year, cancelled its participation? Who exactly is going to execute the soldiers with the lethal acid, 64- year-old Alice Walker? It was the kind of propaganda no thinking person could believe, yet the entire Hebrew media – even Haaretz! – went for it.

Luckily, it didn’t take Max Blumenthal to debunk this one. The media’s tone today was entirely different. Government sources have told Maariv that the so-called “intelligence information” was a spin by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, reflecting “a Hasbara [propaganda] hysteria.”

“It’s unthinkable that in cabinet meetings we receive information according to which there are no threats of violent actions from the flotilla activists or [indication of] the presence of terror elements on the ships, and that at the same time, senior political sources, including the army, feed the media with information that is the exact opposite of what we were given.”

Information that the media was only to eager to swallow, one should add.

A day too late, Yedioth Ahronoth’s military correspondent was the voice of reason in his paper:

“There isn’t a shred of evidence that extreme elements will initiate resistance against IDF soldiers. There is no knowledge of the existence of firearms on the ships.”

The damage, however, was done. The reports of the murderous intentions of the flotilla activists traveled around the country and across the world. Not for the first time, a group of unarmed European and American activists traveling on old yachts was presented as a threat to the security of the region’s superpower. The only question is: for how long will the world continue to buy these kind of stories?

Maariv’s story today offers a comment from Prime Minister Netanyahu’s office, claiming the information that was passed to the media came from IDF spokesperson unit. In response to my question today, the IDF spokesperson’s office made it clear they stand behind the information that was released yesterday.


US media more exited about peace talks than Israelis and Palestinians themselves

Posted: September 2nd, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: In the News, media, The Right, The Settlements, the US and us | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Take a look at today’s front pages shown here. The one on the Left is Yedioth Ahronoth’s, Israel’s leading tabloid. On the right is the American NY Post.

yedioth vs. nypost

Yedioth’s top story reads “wave of terrorism”, referring to the two shooting attacks carried out by Hamas militants against settlers in the last 48 hours. On the bottom and on the right side of the page there are health, sports and other magazine stories. The only reference to the peace process is the quote in small print, on the top of the page. It reads: “Netanyahu: I came for an historic compromise.”

The place, the size and the coloring of Netanyahu’s words put his speech in its proper context. But if you get your news from the Post (and let’s hope you don’t), you might actually believe history can be made here.

maariv

This is Maariv, another Israeli tabloid: the front page combines the story of the West Bank attacks and their aftermath, the attempts by settlers to renew construction in the territories and the diplomatic process. The talks themselves don’t get the top story, not even a central image, like they do in the New York Times, shown below. Again, the US papers seem to give the talks a greater importance than the Israeli media. Bizarre, to say the least.

NY_NYT

As part of a research for a story I’m working on, I recently went through the archives of Maariv and Yedioth from 1993-1994, the years the Oslo accord was negotiated and signed. Entire papers, not just the front pages, dealt with the talks. The same goes for the days of the Camp David summit in 2000. Today on the other hand, nobody in the Middle East really cares about the diplomatic process, and I actually wonder how many even know we might be “one year from a final agreement,” as the White House puts it.

It’s easy to tell when things get serious. The settlers make a good litmus test for the intentions of the Israeli leadership. They have good ties with the Israeli administration and army. When the settlers sense danger, they let it show. And while they went after Sharon and Rabin with everything they got, they are awfully quiet now. There wasn’t even a single major protest against Netanyahu, The NRP is still in the government, and the right flank of the Likud has never been more silent. The Israeli tabloids – like all tabloids – reflect their society’s mood: This is clearly not a country on the verge of its most important decision in decades.

The NY Times editorial declared that with optimism and conviction, the talks might lead to an agreement and the administration asked the parties not to give in to cynicism. But the diplomatic process is not a sports competition, and pep talks can’t help when the gap between the parties is too big.

The Palestinian leadership has lost most of its credibility and legitimacy with its own people, and the bleeding gets worse with every picture of Abu-Mazen shaking hands with Netanyahu. Hamas has just given us the first taste of what leaving it out of the process means. Even so, the positions of PM Fayad and President Abbas are incredibly far from those of Barak and Netanyahu. The Israeli leadership – and to be honest, the Israeli public as well – cannot give the Palestinians the minimum they can settle with. Under these circumstances, even if an agreement is reached, it won’t mean a thing.

As I’ve written before, the current stage in the conflict is not just about peace. It’s about ending the occupation and getting the Palestinians their rights. Some people in the American administration understood that, but for their own reasons, they decided to pursue the failed policies of the past two decades. I have a lot of criticism for the way the Israeli media covers the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but this time they got it right: for now, this round of talks is a farce.

UPDATE: The Israeli media finally joined the party. Friday’s top story is the summit in Washington, though most pundits remain very skeptic regarding the chances that the talks will have a meaningful result.

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I will be working and writing from New York in the next three months.


Gaza flotilla | Things the IDF doesn’t want us to know

Posted: June 2nd, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: In the News, media | Tags: , , , , , , | 25 Comments »

The videos released by IDF from the Mavi Marmara are controlling the news cycle in Israel for the past 48 hours. Their effect has been tremendous: They silenced all questions on the operation, and had the public rally behind the government and the army, as the Maariv poll shows. They made Israelis go out to the streets, demonstrating in front of the Turkish Embassy and having smaller rallies around the country.

But Incredible as it may seem, it’s been almost three days since the army raided the ship, and we know nothing on the attack itself, except for the fact that some of the men on the Mavi Marmara stormed the soldiers as they descended from the helicopter to the upper deck. We also have reason to believe that this attack was planned in advance, but that there were no firearms involved.

In other words, we only know what Israel wanted us to know.

At this point it is extremely important to say what we don’t know: We don’t know the names and nationality of the killed passengers (UPDATE: Turkey released some details). we don’t know for sure how many people were injured. We don’t know where they were killed, when, and how they died. we don’t know if and when people were given medical treatment. There were security cameras on deck, but Israel doesn’t show us what they filmed, except for the material which serves its purposes. The night vision clips released by the army end just before the shooting begins.

We don’t know what happened before the civilians attacked the commandos. There were passengers claiming soldiers opened fire before they even boarded the ship, but we don’t know if that’s true.

Most important, we don’t know anything about the battle itself – if it was a battle. It seems that it was a long one, since we have short recording, in which you can hear Israeli MK Hanin Zoabi calling for help and begging the soldiers in Hebrew and English to stop shooting (It’s the second clip on this page). At this time there were already passengers hurt, and one can assume that the attack on the soldiers ended. But the shooting went on.

Some of this information could have been available had the IDF not confiscated all material from the Mavi Marmara. What’s even worse is that the army is now editing the films and releasing it in a way which suits its own narrative. This film, shot from the upper deck, seems to have been taken by a camera crew or a passenger on board the ship. The film embedded below, showing the passengers getting ready for the Israeli attack was taken from the ship’s security camera.

Here is a good post regarding the IDF clips on the New York Times lede blog. Robert Mackey notes in it that the images the army released lack context. My only remark is that they were deliberately taken out of context.

The way Israel is withholding information is very troubling. If the army has nothing to hide, why not release the material? Naturally, Israel is also refusing to address the bigger questions, such as why the flotilla was attacked in international waters, and if so, whether the passengers actually had the right to resist the soldiers’ attempt to board their vessel.

The worse effect of this PR war is on the Israeli public, which now views the entire flotilla as a terrorist enterprise. One can see the effect of this nationalistic mood in the way the members of Knesset almost physically attacked MK Zoabi today (video here). In fact, the government’s campaign was so successful, many protested the release of the detained passengers, claiming “the terrorists” should be “brought to justice”.

All this leads to the conclusion that only an internationally led investigation might shed some light on the events on the Mavi Marmara. Even so, the chances the IDF will give full access to the materials and soldiers are slim at best.


The blog celebrates its first year!

Posted: October 22nd, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: media, this is personal | Tags: , , | 11 Comments »

It’s been exactly a year since I’ve posted the first item on this blog. I thought of writing a political blog for sometime before, but never really got to it. I’m obsessed with politics – there is no way going around that – and as the political climate changed here in Israel, I felt a growing desire to voice my opinions, but it was only after traveling to cover the Republican and Democratic national conventions in 2008 that I really understood the importance and impact of blogs. That’s also when I decided to write in English – the language of the international debate.

I think this point needs some further explaining. English, as most of my readers could figure out immediately, is not my first language. I’ve never even lived or studied in an English speaking country. Writing in English was a daunting task at first – in remains a constant challenge, even after 181 posts. I make typos and grammar mistakes which embarrass me very much (this is a good opportunity to thank my friends who e-mail me with corrections every now and then), and while expressing myself in Hebrew is fairly easy and natural for me, everything takes at least twice the time in English, and more often than not, I am not that as happy with the result. I mean, these are my words and I stand behind them, but sometimes I don’t really recognize myself in them. I guess I am still searching for my voice.

On the other hand, writing and editing in Hebrew is what I did on my day job until a month ago – and when I started writing this blog, I didn’t want to take the job home as well. I felt that if I really want to say something in Hebrew, I can do it through my work, or on other platforms, and even reach more people. And on top of all, I think that my two cents just worth more in English. My opinions, or something close to them, are well represented, even today, in the Hebrew media and blogosphere. The Israeli-English blogosphere and media, on the other hand, is a bit more limited, and more often than not, written by Olim from English speaking countries, most notably the US. I guess this is only natural, but still, it makes a difference. Read the rest of this entry »