In European coverage of Israel, confusion over who is attacking whom


At an Israeli bus station, several uniformed officers surround an Arab woman before opening fire on her, dropping her to the ground. Standing over her motionless body, a Border Police officer toting an automatic rifle speaks into a radio while another officer chases away a bystander documenting the scene on his cellphone.

That’s how the Dutch public broadcaster NOS presented an Oct. 9 incident in the northern Israeli city of Afula in which Israeli officers shot and arrested Asraa Zidan Tawfik Abed, an Arab-Israeli woman from Nazareth who the police said had tried to stab a soldier at the city’s main bus station.

NOS used only 13 seconds of the 52-second cellphone video, dispensing with footage that showed Abed holding the knife aloft and making stabbing motions while officers shouted at her to drop the weapon. The full video also showed Abed alive despite being shot.

Marcel Gelauff, the chief editor at NOS News, defended his network’s coverage of the incident, telling JTA that it was not aiming to provide “a clear and detailed picture” of what transpired, but rather “an impression of a few events.” Gelauff added that NOS regularly receives complaints of perceived bias from both sides and noted that the title of the segment, “Violence in Israel is expanding,” demonstrates that “we are dealing with growing violence from both sides.”

But critics of European media coverage of Israel say the choice not to show the full video is emblematic of how missing or misleading context distorts public perceptions of the recent upsurge in violence in the region — mostly to Israel’s disadvantage.

“No media in Europe have recognized who’s attacking whom, to my knowledge,” said Simon Plosker, the Israel-based managing editor of HonestReporting.com, which monitors international news coverage of Israel. “Palestinians who are carrying out the attacks are being portrayed as victims who are presumably being driven to desperate measures by Israeli policies.”

On the website of London’s Daily Mail, a right-leaning tabloid, the Afula footage was presented under theheadline “Amateur footage shows Palestinian woman executed in Afula,” though “executed” was later changed to “shot.” The paper posted 39 seconds of the video — enough to show the standoff with Abed, but not enough to see that Abed was still alive after being shot.

The BBC also changed a headline in its coverage of the recent violence. The story was about a Palestinian who was killed by Israeli security forces after stabbing two Israelis to death. Initially the headline read “Palestinian shot dead after Jerusalem attack kills two.” Following complaints, the BBC changed it to “Jerusalem: Palestinian kills two Israelis in Old City.”

Salomon Bouman, a former Israel correspondent for NRC Handelsblad, a daily considered to be the Netherlands’ newspaper of record, attributed the problem in Europe to a scaling back of coverage of Israel in general.

The extent of reporting on Israel has “diminished considerably in Europe because of local problems, such as the refugee issue,” Bouman said. And while “concern over the arrival of hundreds of thousands of Muslims resulted in more sympathy for Israel on the one hand, the de-prioritization of news about Israel leads to shorter pieces with less context, which to some extent comes at Israel’s expense in the final product.”

During the last wave of Israeli-Palestinian violence, in 2014, coverage in Europe was more balanced than it has been of late, Plosker said. During the earlier round, European and other foreign journalists reported extensively — at least initially — on the targeting of Israeli civilians by Hamas, which was clearly portrayed as the aggressor.

But in coverage of the recent spate attacks — much of it perpetrated by lone Palestinians armed with knives rather than organized terror groups — “perpetrators are not seen as affiliated with either Fatah or Hamas, just desperate people who are being portrayed as taking desperate actions with the only weapons they have access to,” Plosker said.

Compared to the European media, American news coverage has been more mixed, Plosker said. Some U.S. media reported what Plosker deemed an accurate cause-and-effect scheme, but others led with headlines that emphasized the victimhood of Palestinian assailants. On Oct. 10, the Los Angeles Times website carried the headline “Four Palestinian Teens Killed In Israeli Violence, which was later changed to “6 Palestinians dead as violence grips Gaza, Jerusalem.”

In Norway, the online edition of the country’s second-largest newspaper, Verdens Gang, informed its readers on Oct. 10 that “a Palestinian was killed in East Jerusalem” in the headline of an article that also noted that the Palestinian died while stabbing a Jew.

Other recent headlines in leading Norwegian media included “2 teenagers killed by Israeli forces,” “20 Palestinians died in October” and “2 knife attacks committed on Friday.”

To Eric Argaman, a pro-Israel activist from Oslo, the trend in coverage shows that some European media outlets will “do anything” to fit the facts to an enshrined narrative of Israeli aggression.

“I don’t blame Norwegians for being one of the most anti-Israel countries in Europe,” Argaman said. “The right to the truth has been robbed from the public.”

Yeshiva U. group tops dreidel-spinning mark


Yeshiva University students and others broke the Guinness world record for most dreidels spun simultaneously.

Some 618 students, alumni, faculty, staff, neighbors and friends of the university topped the record Tuesday night during “Dreidel-Palooza,” an event organized by Students Helping Students, a student-run organization that raises money for undergraduate scholarships.

The previous record of 541 was set in 2005 at an event at Temple Emanuel in Cherry Hill, N.J.

VideoJew Jay Firestone reports on a 2008 Santa Monica attempt.

Santa Monica Synagogue set its dreidels on a world record [VIDEO]


They may not be the fastest or strongest, but that didn’t stop one West Coast synagogue from aspiring entry into The Guinness Book of World Records.

On the second night of Chanukah, the Santa Monica Synagogue attempted to set a new world record: Most Dreidels Spinning Simultaneously.

The group, which attracted both children and adults, gathered between Arizona Street and Santa Monica on the Third Street Promenade and waited for the potentially historic event to take place. Santa Monica Mayor Ken Genser officially opened the ceremony, proclaiming, “Santa Monica is now the dreidel spinning capital of the world!”

The synagogue needed at least 542 spinners to break the previous record of 541, set in 2005 by Temple Emanuel of Cherry Hill, N.J.

In accordance with Guinness’s strict regulations, Santa Monica Synagogue Rabbi Jeffrey Marx directed volunteers to not only keep an official tally, but also to enforce the strict rules for event, which require one dreidel per person and that all dreidels must spin simultaneously for 10 full seconds. Any type of dreidel was acceptable, regardless of whether the miracle took place ‘there’ or ‘here.’

But on the promenade’s cracked and creased pavement, spinning a dreidel for 10 seconds proved harder for the less experienced spinners. Ultimately, the effort fell short of its goal, only 336 dreidel spinners hit their 10-second mark.

Marx said he was nevertheless pleased with turnout, but added a of caution to New Jersey: “We’ll be back next year to try it again.”

02Max puts a youthful spin on the gym scene


At first glance, the brightly decorated warehouse-turned-gym space of O2Max Fitness in Santa Monica may seem like your conventional workout space, filled with typical cardio and core training apparatuses (think treadmills, balance balls and resistance bands). But it only takes a few steps upstairs to figure out that this is no ordinary gym.

The loft portion of the space is filled with couches, lounge-style furniture, magazines, a television and a computer workspace. The walls are brightly painted and decorated with inspirational quotes from a variety of notable people.

And then look closer: Everyone here seems young — really young. That’s because O2 Max is designed just for teens and college students.

Thinking of everything from one-on-one personal trainers to Princeton Review classes for college entrance exams, entrepreneur Karen Jashinsky has created a full teen hangout, where fitness is just one component.

“We are creating a venue that empowers teens,” said Jashinsky, a New Jersey yeshiva day school graduate who now lives in Los Angeles. “Obviously, fitness is an important part of what we doing — it’s a huge part of what we’re doing — but we’re also creating a social environment.”

Around 30 to 40 teens a month work out at O2Max, which opened last spring. Some kids pay by the day, others pay $80 a month for membership and some do volunteer work for the gym to pay for their workout time.

Jashinsky says that she got her inspiration to get into the teenage-fitness market after working as a personal trainer, which she felt was a fun way to earn money during graduate school at USC’s Marshall School of Business.

“When I started working as a personal trainer I had a few ideas of the fitness industry and then kind of decided to focus on teens because they weren’t being addressed,” she said. “It really evolved into this sort of cool fun social venue that [the teenagers] could come to after school to work out, hang out, meet friends from other schools, rent it out for parties, events, lectures and workshops.”

As a graduate of Frisch yeshiva in New Jersey, Jashinsky is also aware the students at Jewish schools might need an extra nudge when it comes to athletics and fitness.

Upon joining, teenagers are walked through an individual fitness test to assess their fitness capacity and are then given a food journal. After filling out the food journal for two days, students go over the journal with a licensed nutritionist, who gives them tips and pointers to make their meals more nutritionally valuable.

“Our goal is that by the time you graduate college you know how to eat properly, you know how to put an exercise program together,” Jashinsky said.

Seasonal programming can also help with motivation. O2Max is sponsoring the Fall Fitness Fusion starting Oct. 1, a six-week challenge in which students team up with an instructor and earn points for various exercises. The challenge is free to all teens, and the teams that knock out the most points win prizes.

But while exercise is associated with improved physical and mental health, there is a risk that comes with targeting a group that is already thought to be thoroughly overworked and overbooked.

“The issue is that it can’t be another part of the parental schedule,” said Dr. Ian Russ, a psychologist who works with adolescents. “If it’s the parents saying ‘you should go to the gym’ then you might get some exercise out of it, but nothing else. If it’s something kids can do freely and have their life, it sounds like a nice thing.”

O2Max has an interactive Web site with tips on how to eat right and how to exercise even if you can’t make it to the gym, and a blog that all people, not just O2Max members, can access. The Web site also provides a safe forum for kids across the nation to chat about whatever is on their mind. People leave posts, ask questions and respond to each other all within the confines of the Web site.

Such social interactions are part of what make 02 Max “not your parents gym,” as the advertising suggests.

“The way the fitness industry is evolving … [the gym] is becoming your home away from home,” Jashinsky said. “You have your work, you have your home, and you have your gym, and teens aren’t that different, they just don’t need a tanning room or a spa. They need a place to hang out and do their homework and get on the computer.”

O2MAX Fitness is located at 3026 Nebraska Ave. in Santa Monica. For more information, call (310) 867-1650.

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