Netanyahu: Israel will react firmly to recent Palestinian violence [VIDEO]


Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Wednesday that Israel will react firmly, responsibly and wisely to a recent wave of Palestinian violence.

“The government, the Israel Defense Forces, and the Israeli public has an iron will to defend the country and its citizens,” Netanyahu said before boarding a flight to Russia.

“Israel will act firmly, responsibly and wisely to preserve the quiet and security that prevailed here over the past two years,” he assured.

Netanyahu issued his statement just hours after a bomb killed a 59-year-old woman at a crowded bus stop in Jerusalem. Earlier Wednesday, southern Israel was bombarded by Palestinian rockets and mortar fire.

Read more at Haaretz.com.

The CNN-NPR-NY Times Middle East Conspiracy


Have you noticed that when people complain about bias in the media, it’s always bias against their own point of view and never bias in favor of their side?

When press accounts confirm your interpretation of events, they’re fair, accurate and objective. When the upshot of a news story is that your team is the bad guys and the other team is the good guys, it’s obvious that the reporter or paper or network or corporation is in the tank for the other side. And when articles and broadcasts balance ammo for your side with ammo for the other side, they’re guilty of the fallacy of false equivalence, which turns righteous battles between right and wrong into vapid he-said/she-said standoffs.

Nowhere is this more true than in coverage of the Middle East.

Supporters of Israel are furious that when pictures of Palestinian casualties are shown, the causes and context of the war are left out—Hamas’ rocket attacks on southern Israel, which precipitated the attack on Gaza; its cynical use of civilians as human shields, which is a war crime; its intention to destroy Israel and Jewry, which amounts to genocide—all get scandalously short shrift from the press.

Supporters of Hamas are just as enraged about the inhumane living conditions in Gaza, which Israel has blockaded; the Israeli refusal to allow the international press into the battle zone; what they believe is the original sin of Zionism, the displacement of Arabs, and that when Israel is portrayed as a victim, the suffering of the Palestinian people is conveniently omitted.

And what if you’re not a partisan of either side, but think of yourself instead as an independent advocate for human rights and peace? Then not only will you bring down on yourself the opprobrium of both sides for failing to take a stand at a moment that demands a choice, you will also find in the prevailing media narrative no hook to hang your conciliatory analysis on, no peg for your empyrean perspective, no patience for your it’s-all-so-complicated heartsickness.

Any news story can be successfully picked apart from any vantage point. Why does the Los Angeles Times disparage the Israeli point of view as ““>anonymous mitigating hearsay about a Hamas sniper? Why aren’t the networks airing the “>Israeli scholar’s assertion that Palestinian casualties aren’t excessive because “so far well over three-quarters have been armed gunmen, and that is a percentage which is very rarely attained in urban warfare”?

In fact, two reasons make it really hard to conclude (but not to claim) that a mainstream media outlet is biased—on the Middle East or on anything else. And a third reason makes the whole enterprise of watchdogging the press somewhat quixotic.

One is the sheer quantity of content. The stories and pictures you saw may be plenty to convince you, say, that the Associated Press is unfair to Israel, but the plural of “anecdote” is not “data.” The only way to determine anything defensible about bias in reporting is to analyze a scientific sample—to examine a slice of stories that’s large enough to be representative of all stories and to choose that slice randomly, without knowing what’s going to be in it.

Some people may feel that they watch CNN so much or read The New York Times so regularly that they have plenty of data to base conclusions on. Not so. That’s why pollsters are paid big bucks: The methods they use to construct the universe of people they survey are even more important than the questions they ask them.

Second is the difficulty of coming up with an objective measure of bias. One person’s terrorist is another person’s freedom fighter. If you can show me a journalistic scoring system that Alan Dershowitz and Noam Chomsky can agree on, then I’d like to show you how to earn 12 percent a year in a very special investment fund.

But even if you had a scientific sample; even if you devised a neutral litmus test for bias, the strange truth is that media spin probably matters a lot less than we assume.

Yes, public opinion is an important element of public policy. Nations care what people think about them. But the audience for cable news is astonishingly small, maybe 2 million people on a good day; the daily readership of a prestige newspaper is hardly more than that, and the only way that public radio can claim north of 20 million listeners is to count all the people who listened to any of its programs during a week.

Sure, the Internet has surged as a source of news, but its audience is fragmented into niches. If you want to get really depressed, chew on this: For decades, Americans have said that their number one source for news is local television news. Not only is that audience scattered among a thousand stations in a couple of hundred media markets, the amount of attention those stations give to international news is a tiny fraction of the airtime they give to celebrities, freak accidents and crime.

There’s no question that some elite media set the agenda for much of the rest of the press. And some nonnews programming, like talk radio hotheads, get demonstrably big listenerships. But it’s next to impossible to prove a cause-and-effect relation between these bloviators and public opinion, and the same is true of the impact of the mainstream press on public attitudes and beliefs. In the end, why Americans think what they do about Israel and Hamas is as much a mystery as how they decide who to vote for or what toothpaste to buy.

I get just as steamed as anyone else when I see a Middle East news story that I think is wildly unfair. I’m just unwilling to ascribe it to a conspiracy or to think it matters as much as the frustration and fury I feel.

Marty Kaplan is the Norman Lear Professor of Entertainment, Media and Society at the USC Annenberg School. His column appears here weekly. He can be reached at martyk@jewishjournal.com.

Gaza campaign shows cautious regional unity


There are no coincidences in the Middle East. Not between the Israelis and the Palestinians, not between Fatah and Hamas and certainly not between the international community and Israel or the Palestinian Authority.

What there are, this time around, are startling confluences in planning and policy that have driven a wedge in Arab unity, while providing unprecedented illustrations of cooperation between Israel and some of its neighbors. Operation Cast Lead, as the Israelis call it, foreshadows far more than another temporary period of relative quiet along a border.

At work is a fascinating scenario in which Israel “does the deed” — toppling Hamas — which arguably benefits the Palestinians, Egyptians, Saudis and other Arab states as much as it does Israel. Jordan faces a special dynamic. But there’s more: In doing so, are the Israelis in effect clearing the way for an agreement with the Palestinians (road map for peace plan) and with the entire Arab world (Arab — nee Saudi — initiative)?

For months there has been speculation as to who will invade Gaza: Could Mahmoud Abbas and his American-trained cadre of fighters do the job, or must it be the Israelis who clearly wanted to avoid taking the plunge and risking the ever-present quagmire?

As Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmad Abu Al-Gheit admonished Hamas at a Cairo news conference after the Israeli campaign began, it could not fire 300 rockets into Israel between the Dec. 19 end of the “calm agreement” and the Dec. 27 response without forcing Israel’s hand. Israeli military planners, meanwhile, never doubted the Hamas obstinacy and certain course to conflict.

It was a lesson about which Jerusalem and Cairo were very much in synch. Egypt went to the well twice and came up empty: in its attempt to negotiate a rapprochement among Palestinian factions and in its attempt to negotiate an extension to the Israel-Hamas “calm agreement.”

With a presumed good measure of prodding from the White House and vigorous nodding from the U.S. administration-elect, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak took the decision not to allow U.S. largesse to crumble at the self-defeating hands of Hamas.

Once he took the plunge, Mubarak never vacillated, showing courage in feeding Hamas the disinformation that flushed its leadership out of hiding in time for the first Israeli assault, fighting back the surge of Gazans trying to enter Egypt and allowing Al-Gheit to cast the blame for the Israeli onslaught on Hamas itself — courage helped along by a fear of the Muslim Brotherhood and the allure of continuing American aid.

Abbas, meanwhile, emerges as the primary beneficiary of this extraordinary convergence of interests. Gingerly testing the waters from Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, and from Cairo — anywhere but Ramallah — he provided an important piece to the puzzle. When Saudi King Abdullah phoned President Bush to demand that Israel be reined-in, Abbas himself was still in the city, the two leaders having just met. No coincidence here, either. Clearly the Americans, Saudis and Palestinians were all on the same page as the Egyptians and Israelis.

And Iran? Not much in the way of sabre-rattling this time around. Tehran fights Israel through proxies: the Syrians, Hezbollah on Israel’s northern border and Hamas down south.

Syria continues to weigh the long-term benefits of patching up things with Washington; Hamas is being left with little but rhetoric, and some military wonks believe Hassan Nasrallah is savvy enough to realize he bit the bullet in 2006 and should not be quick to bite the apple again. Accordingly, it is noteworthy that Nasrallah inveighed against Cairo, not Jerusalem, when Operation Cast Lead began.

In all, while remaining mindful that not without reason generations of peacemaking in the Middle East has failed miserably and that courses chartered through the region are rarely completed, the participants appear to have put on an impressive demonstration of coordinated international gamesmanship that, in its first stage, was carried out with precision planning and cooperation that extended across ancient fault lines.

Whether the planners will achieve their respective goals in subsequent stages will depend on their ability to remain focused on the benefits of their cooperation and eschew impulses to push beyond agreed limits.

Felice Friedson is president and CEO of The Media Line News Agency, a U.S. organization specializing in Middle East coverage, and founder of the Mideast Press Club. She can be reached at editor@themedialine.org.

How we fight


Am I dreaming?

Did Israel actually trick our terrorist enemy into complacency before catching it off guard? Did we use the six-month cease-fire with Hamas to beef up our intelligence and plan a blitzkrieg counterattack in response to the incessant bombing of Israeli civilians?

Did we really put those delusional peace talks on hold and say enough is enough, now it’s time to defend ourselves? Did we also launch a PR and diplomatic offensive with the international community to defend our actions?

Excuse me, but this is not the weak-looking and tentative Israel I’ve come to know over the past few years.

Complete Gaza CoverageEver since Israel evacuated all civilians and army personnel from Gaza in the summer of 2005, Hamas has fired some 6,300 bombs targeted directly at Israeli civilians, killing 10 and injuring 700. While these bombs were falling, Israel fought a dumb and sloppy war in Lebanon that only emboldened our enemies; chose a policy of restraint despite the thousands of Hamas bombs; and desperately pursued unrealistic peace talks with a splintered Palestinian people and a terror-sponsoring state (Syria).

In the process, Israel lost much of its power of deterrence, which is a diplomatic way of saying: Our enemies stopped fearing us. This deterrence was crucial to Israel’s ability to survive for 60 years in a neighborhood with 300 million hostile neighbors. The situation got so bad that a few days before Israel’s Gaza offensive, Hamas was mocking Israel’s weakness, demanding that Israel reopen the crossings into Gaza and offering, well, more bombs and the continued imprisonment of Gilad Shalit.

Even the eminently reasonable and peace-loving Barack Obama seemed to be giving the Israelis a lesson when, during a summer visit to Sderot, he said: “If somebody was sending rockets into my house where my two daughters sleep at night, I would do everything to stop that, and would expect Israel to do the same.”

Apparently, Israel has decided to follow Obama’s advice, which might not be so bad.

As Michael Oren and Yossi Klein Halevi argued in The Wall Street Journal this week, giving Israel full leeway to counterattack against Hamas is a good thing for the peace process, because Israelis will never agree to further land concessions if they feel they can’t defend themselves against terrorist aggression.

Of course, if Israel does not heed Obama’s message and fails to “do everything” it can to stop the terror on its doorstep, we can expect even less willingness from Israelis to take risks for peace.

In other words, in Israel today, the best way to fight for peace is to fight against terror.

As it turns out, a day before Israel launched its anti-terror offensive, I was sitting in the New York apartment of one of the Jewish people’s toughest and most relentless terror fighters.

She is a diminutive woman in her 50s named Rachel Ehrenfeld, director of the New York-based American Center for Democracy, and author of “Narco-Terrorism” and “Funding Evil, Updated: How Terrorism is Financed and How to Stop It,” among other books.

Ehrenfeld’s obsession is money. If we can figure out where and how the terrorists get their funding, she says, we can suffocate their efforts.

She has spent the last few years of her life trying to expose “the most vital and venomous sources of terrorists’ financial power” — including state sponsorship, government corruption and the illegal drug trade. “Funding Evil,” which has a foreword by former CIA Director James Woolsey, is a highly detailed exposé of the labyrinth of terrorist financing, with a special focus on a major culprit, Saudi Arabia.

Since the book came out four years ago, she has had death threats and, most recently, has been the target of a lawsuit launched in a British court by a Saudi billionaire, Khalid bin Mahfouz, who denied the charges made in the book of his connection to terror financing.

Ever the fighter, Ehrenfeld turned the tables on Mahfouz by countersuing and got a bill passed in New York State called “Rachel’s Law,” which protects American authors published in America from getting sued in foreign courts for libel. She is now fighting to get the bill passed in Congress.

She says she gets little support from the Jewish community, because many of her findings are “politically incorrect,” as they involve American allies like Saudi Arabia, with whom America does a lot of business. But out of her tiny, orchid-filled apartment in midtown Manhattan, she will continue, she says, her one-woman campaign to expose the money trail of global terrorism.

“It’s an outrage that all the information is out there, and we are acting as if these people [the Saudis] are our best friends,” she said.

So, yes, there’s more than one way to fight terror. For the Ehrenfelds of the world, we must follow the money and get it out of the terrorists’ hands. For those on the front lines, we must make clear to our terrorist neighbors that while we do long for peace, that won’t stop us from doing whatever it takes to defend our people.

I also experienced on my long weekend in New York yet another way that Jews fight terror. It was an evening event at a synagogue on the Lower East Side billed as “our most powerful response to the Mumbai massacre.”

What was it? It was 200 Jews beating their drums at a Chanukah party sponsored by my friend, Rabbi Simon Jacobson of the Meaningful Life Center.

Late into the chilly Manhattan night, these Jewish hipsters followed the beat of a professional percussion band, led by an exuberant conductor named Aviva Nash, who urged the ecstatic crowd to just let it rip as if the whole world were watching.

There was no talk of deterrence or money trails at this Chanukah party. There was just a noisy reminder of how some of us fight, and what, in the end, we’re all fighting for.

David Suissa, an advertising executive, is founder of OLAM magazine and Ads4Israel.com. He can be reached at dsuissa@olam.org.

World Briefs


Amnesty Blasts Suicide Attacks

A report by Amnesty International calls Palestinian terror attacks on Israeli civilians “crimes against humanity.” None of the Israeli military’s actions in the West Bank and Gaza Strip justify Palestinian attacks on Israeli civilians, the report added.

Land Bill Stand Reversed

Israel’s Cabinet retracted its support for a bill that could bar Israeli Arabs from owning homes on state-owned land. The Cabinet voted 22-2 Sunday to refer the bill for review by a governmental committee on constitutional affairs. Prime Minister Ariel Sharon defended the decision, saying it could harm Arab-Jewish relations. Last week, the Cabinet created a furor when it voted to back the bill.

Yeshiva Bill Sparks Threat

Ultra-Orthodox lawmakers threatened to bolt the Israeli government over a bill granting draft exemptions for yeshiva students. The lawmakers took issue with a provision in the bill requiring yeshiva students to serve 12 days a year in the Civil Guard. Meanwhile, the secular Shinui and Meretz parties threatened to submit no-confidence motions in the government, charging that the bill institutionalizes draft-dodging.

Deri Released on Parole

Aryeh Deri, the former leader of Israel’s Orthodox Shas Party was freed Monday after serving two years of a three-year sentence for accepting bribes and misappropriating state funds. Deri said upon his release that he would fight to clear his name. When granting him early release, a parole board ruled that he cannot enter politics for one year.

Toronto Murder Suspect Arrested

Toronto police arrested Christopher Steven McBride, the prime suspect in the murder of a Chasidic man, late Monday night following a raid on an apartment in the city’s West End. Police soon began to interrogate the prisoner, who is a slight 20-year-old with a shaved head and tattoos.

According to police, David Rosenzweig — a father of six who was wearing a kippah — was approached from behind by two men and a woman early Sunday morning. After one of the men stabbed him in the back, all three assailants fled the scene. While not ruling out that the attack was a hate crime, police said Monday there is no concrete evidence that Rosenzweig was murdered because of his religion.

Bedouin Judge Sworn in

Israel’s first Bedouin judge was sworn in. Nasser Abbed-Taheh, 39, was one of 35 new judges who were sworn in Monday at a ceremony at the president’s residence in Jerusalem.

Paris Exhibit Vandalized

An exhibition in Paris about children who were deported in 1942 by the Nazis was vandalized by a 55-year-old woman. Christiane Castillon, who had no prior police record and is not believed to belong to any extremist organization, explained the July 7 incident by saying that “people make too many allowances for Jews where the Holocaust is concerned.”

Seeds of Peace Founder Dies at 59

John Wallach, the founder of Seeds of Peace, died July 10 of lung cancer at 59. In 1993, Wallach proposed to then-Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres that the group be created to bring Israeli, Palestinian and Egyptian youths together on neutral soil in the United States. Each summer since then, hundreds of Israeli and Arab teenagers have gathered in the woods of Maine in an effort to increase mutual understanding.

Shabbat Law Vetoed in Brazil

A law that would have recognized Saturday as a day of rest was vetoed by the governor of a Brazilian state. The bill would have given official recognition to the beliefs of some 12,000 Jews who live in the state of Rio Grande do Sul. Following the governor’s veto, a movement has been launched in an effort to reverse that decision.

ADL Provides Workplace Guide

The Anti-Defamation League released a guide detailing U.S. laws on accommodating religious observance in the workplace. “Religious Accommodation in the Workplace” offers employees and employers general information on relevant federal laws. It is available at www.adl.org.

Briefs by Jewish Telegraphic Agency.