What happens to basic decency during terror attacks coverage?


Let’s talk about decency.

 

Last week was the perfect example of the double-standards that dominate the global media – vowing to battle terror, but only when it’s outside Israel.

 

How can a Muslim extremist butchering innocent civilians be framed as a horrific terror attack when happening in Europe, and as a young teen being chased by police when happening in Israel?

 

To answer this question, we might need to go one step backwards, and ask ourselves how can a terror attack can even be called anything but what it actually is?

 

When terror strikes Israel, something strange happens to the global media. A terrorist becomes “a young teen,” his motive turns from hatred and extremism to “frustration from the ‘occupation’,” and he will never be neutralized and captured by heroic police officers, but “chased and killed by Israeli police.” Almost never will you read about the victims of the attack, because when it comes to Israel, the world turns upside down.

 

This severe issue of double standards was almost undetectable until Islamic terrorism started taking over Europe a few years ago. After years of Palestinian terror in Israel going almost unnoticed globally (as there was always a “justification” in the form of the “Israeli occupation and frustration,) we thought the tragedies that struck Europe would be a wake-up call to the world. These horrific attacks of innocent people outside of stadiums, on the street and in public transportation were supposed to be the tragic circumstances that will unite the world.

 

Sadly, it didn’t happen. The world, Israel included, united with Europe, but terror in Israel is still considered “justified.”

 

With every terror attack, we think “This is it. Now the Western World will unite against terror.” But sadly, Israelophobia gets in the way…


I recently stumbled upon a video of a lecture by journalist and public speaker Dennis Prager, at Oxford University. He was sitting in front of a room full of young men and women and asked the following question: “In the 1930’s was there a debate over the following proposition: that Great Britain is a greater threat to peace than Nazi Germany, or if Nazi Germany is a greater threat to peace than Great Britain?” Then, he said: “Nazi Germany was to Britain what Hamas is to Israel. Whether you agree with the Israeli policy or not – it is irrelevant.”

 

This is where international media lacks decency, and shows double standards and hypocrisy. Terror is terror is terror, no matter where. Justifications can always be found, because at the end of the day, news items are nothing but stories with carefully written plots. But just imagine what will happen if CNN or BBC will report an “armed teenager frustrated with Britain’s immigration policies was shot and killed by police after letting out his rage, resulting in 40 civilians killed.”

 

Can’t even imagine? This is what we see, to our deep sorrow, every time terror strikes us.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Paramedics load a victim into the back of an ambulance as members of the emergency services work on Westminster Bridge, alonside the Houses of Parliament in central London on March 22, 2017, during an emergency incident. British police shot a suspected attacker outside the Houses of Parliament in London on Wednesday after an officer was stabbed in what police said was a "terrorist" incident. NIKLAS HALLE'N/AFP/Getty Images

Israel, British Jewry offer condolences in wake of deadly London attacks


At least two civilians and a police officer were killed in a car-ramming and knife attack outside the houses of Parliament in London.

British authorities are calling the attack a “terrorist incident” as they continue to investigate the motive in the Wednesday afternoon attack.

More than 20 are reported injured, some seriously. The attacker was shot and killed by police after crashing into a crowd of pedestrians on Westminster Bridge and then exiting the vehicle brandishing a knife. He stabbed a police officer to death inside the gates of the Parliament building. The attacker has not yet been identified.

The Community Security Trust, the United Kingdom’s main watchdog group on anti-Semitism, called on the Jewish community to be “calm, vigilant and to cooperate with security measures,” a spokesman told the London-based Jewish Chronicle. The CST said there is not believed to be any immediate threat to the community.

Additional police patrols were visible in London neighborhoods with large Jewish populations, such as Stamford Hills.

U.K. Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis said in a statement: “Today’s attack, which targeted the very heart of our democracy in Westminster, will serve only to unite us against the scourge of violence and terrorism.

“The prayers of the Jewish community are with the families of the victims and with our security services, who so often selflessly place themselves in harm’s way for our protection.”

In Israel, Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely said in a statement: “Israel expresses its deep shock at the terror attack in London today and its solidarity with the victims and with the people and government of Great Britain. Terror is terror wherever it occurs and we will fight it relentlessly.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who also holds the foreign minister’s portfolio, was on an airplane back to Israel from China at the time of the attack.

The European Jewish Congress condemned what it called a “cowardly and barbaric terror attack.” The EJC statement also extended its condolences to the British government and the British people.

“This strike, at the heart of democracy, on the anniversary of the Brussels attacks which claimed the lives of 32 people, once again demonstrates that radical extremists continue to have the ability and motivation to commit mass murder in Europe,” EJC President Dr. Moshe Kantor said in the statement.

“This murderous ideology targets all of Europeans and all of Europe must stand together to fight this scourge.”

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson also condemned the attack.

“On behalf of the United States, I express my condolences to the victims and their families,” he said in a statement. “The American people send their thoughts and prayers to the people of the United Kingdom. We condemn these horrific acts of violence, and whether they were carried out by troubled individuals or by terrorists, the victims know no difference.”

The EU, Terror and the Transparency Bill


On the 7 December 1970, German Chancellor Willy Brandt knelt solemnly before the Warsaw Ghetto in contrition. During the 1973 Yom Kippur War, when Israel faced annihilation, the same Willy Brandt denied German landing rights to US planes carrying emergency supplies to Israel. 

Chancellor Merkel occasionally says that Israel’s “right to exist” is Germany’s raison d’etre.

Like Willy Brandt, Germany appears to be two tongued when it comes to antisemitism. Like the EU,  Germany makes a distinction between antisemitism and objecting to Israel’s policies, which on paper seems to be fair. Thus, giving the Hitler salute and denying the Holocaust are illegal. On the other hand, the annual Iran sponsored Al Quds March through downtown Berlin, calling for the destruction of Israel is legal. Berlin constantly turns a deaf ear to appeals to ban that march.

The JCPOA (Iran Deal) was enthusiastically supported by Germany enabling Iran to fully develop its nuclear program after a decade, whilst currently testing “Death to Israel” marked missiles. However, the same Germany decided that nuclear facilities for peaceful purposes were too risky for Germans. They are to be phased out by 2022.

Germany maintains it has a “special relationship” with Israel while the EU ambassador to Israel explained that Israel is singled out because “you are one of us.”

The EU countries support various NGOs despite being termed “non-government.” Germany’s Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) provides funding to NGOs as part of its foreign aid programs. Recently Prof Gerald Steinberg of NGO Monitor exposed the doublespeak of Germany yet further. The German government annually pays 4 million Euros to NGOs in Israel, of which 42% goes to organizations that support BDS and worse, like The Popular Struggle Coordination Committee which advocates violent riots in Judea/Samaria. The German Embassy in Tel Aviv does not deny the funding, but blandly states that Germany does not support boycotts of Israel. They donate to “organizations supporting peace.”

Some of the NGOs funded by the EU are Zochrot, Grassroots Jerusalem and Baladna Arab Youth Association, all of which are committed to getting  Palestinian refugees and their third and fourth generation descendants to “return” even though most have never been to Israel.  I have met some of these “refugees” who lead comfortable middle class lives, in Australia. They certainly do not fit the image of a refugee we see on TV. In my recent satire, “The trombone man: tales of a misogynist,” the story depicts one such comfortable refugee who, like his parents, has never been to Israel. Despite these anomalies, the EU generously funds these organizations that are dedicated to Israel’s disappearance as the Jewish State.

The EU therefore supports some organizations dedicated to Israel’s demise, while paying lip service to its “right to exist,” whatever that means. The EU, led by countries such as Germany, also supports labelling people and products from beyond the Green Line or “Auschwitz Lines” as former dovish foreign minister Abba Eban called it. Thus, while officially declining to support BDS, the same EU countries fund NGOs that do—all with a straight face.

Unlike the vicious murder of Hallel Ariel (z”l) and countless others before and after her, the EU, committed to democracy and human rights, has been “deeply concerned” about the recent transparency law passed by the Knesset, even though there is no suggestion these NGOs would be banned from practising their dubious activities. The State Department termed it “chilling,” despite its funds being surreptitiously used to help influence the outcome of Israel’s last election. In the meantime, Europe is reeling with regular terror attacks, for which Europeans cannot find an answer—except to insultingly compare Israel to Putin’s Russia and be “deeply concerned” with their fellow democracy that struggles to maintain some balance in civil rights while upholding its citizens right to life.

Israel remains a vibrant democracy despite the underhand tactics of the EU. As Europe grapples with increasing terror, their exaggerated concern with an ally threatened daily by internal and external terror is misplaced and misguided.

NGO Monitor has shown in great detail the doublespeak of the EU countries which mouth unconvincing platitudes regarding Israel’s “right to exist,” but simultaneously fund many NGOs that promote exactly the opposite.

At the end of the day, it should be remembered that the hidden agendas of many of these NGOs have little to do with “human rights” per se but more to do with providing conditions that would end  the State of Israel, by stressing the Nakba, hope, resilience and the “right of return” of refugees and their descendants.

That is why it is always worth remembering Willy Brandt 1970 and Willy Brandt 1973. It sums up Europe perfectly.

Ron Jontof-Hutter is Fellow at the Berlin International Centre for the Study of Antisemitism. He recently authored of the satire “The trombone man: Tales of a misogynist.”

U.S. court rules Arab Bank liable for Hamas terror


Arab Bank provided material support to Hamas, a U.S. court found, and must compensate the victims of 24 attacks carried out by the terror group.

Jurors in Brooklyn District Court delivered the verdict Sept. 22 following two days of deliberations and a six-week trial, Reuters reported, in what is believed to be the first civil case on terrorism financing to come to trial in the United States.

Damages will be determined at a future trial.

Nearly 300 American citizens who were either victims or related to victims of the attacks in Israel and the West Bank sued the Jordan-based bank in 2004, accusing it of violating the Anti-Terrorism Act.

The bank was accused of knowingly handling accounts for Hamas operatives, as well as financing millions in payments for the families of suicide bombers and those imprisoned or injured during the second Palestinian Intifada.

Lawyers for the bank had argued that it merely offered routine banking services, and most of the people and organizations named by the plaintiffs had not been designated by the U.S. government as terrorists at the time.

Boston bomb suspect identified, no arrest


BREAKING NEWS — UPDATES HERE

[UPDATE: 12 p.m.] “Contrary to widespread reporting, there have been no arrests made in connection with the Boston Marathon attack,” the FBI said in a statement.  “Over the past day and a half, there have been a number of press reports based on information from unofficial sources that has been inaccurate.  Since these stories often have unintended consequences, we ask the media, particularly at this early stage of the investigation, to exercise caution and attempt to verify information through appropriate official channels before reporting.”

[UPDATE: 11:43 a.m.] Boston Police, U.S. attorney in Boston say no arrest made in investigation of Boston Marathon bombing.

[11:29 a.m.] There have been no arrests made yet in the bombings at the Boston Marathon that left three people dead and scores injured, U.S. government and law enforcement sources said on Wednesday.

One of the sources said there was no one in custody either.

[11:00 am] Authorities have arrested a suspect in the Boston Marathon bombings based on security video that showed a man depositing a bag at the scene before the blasts, CNN reported on Wednesday, citing U.S. and Boston law enforcement sources.

A U.S. law enforcement source told Reuters that a suspect had been identified and that a formal announcement would be made later in the day.

The developments are the biggest publicly-disclosed breaks since Monday's blast at the marathon finish line killed three people and injured 176 others. Investigators were searching through thousands of pieces of evidence from cell phone pictures to shrapnel shards pulled from victims' legs.

Based on shards of metal, fabric, wires and a battery recovered at the scene, the focus turned to whoever may have made bombs in pressure cooker pots and taken them in heavy black nylon bags to the finish line of the world-famous race watched by crowds of spectators.

A stretch of Boston's Boylston Street almost a mile long and blocks around it remained closed as investigators searched for clues in the worst attack on U.S. soil since the hijacked plane strikes of Sept. 11, 2001.

Cities across the United States were on edge after Monday's blasts in Boston. Adding to the nervousness was the announcement that mail containing a suspicious substance addressed to a lawmaker and to President Barack Obama. The FBI said, however, that agents had found no link the attack in Boston.

The blasts at the finish line of Monday's race injured 176 people and killed three: an 8-year old boy, Martin Richard, a 29-year-old woman, Krystle Campbell and a Boston University graduate student who was a Chinese citizen.

Boston University identified the student as Lu Lingzi.

No one has claimed responsibility for the attack.

“Whether it's homegrown, or foreign, we just don't know yet. And so I'm not going to contribute to any speculation on that,” said U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, who until January was Massachusetts' senior senator. “It's just hard to believe that a Patriots' Day holiday, which is normally such time of festivities, turned into bloody mayhem.”

FBI ASKS WITNESSES FOR PHOTOS

The FBI was leading the investigation and asking witnesses to submit any photos of the blast site — which was crowded with tens of thousands of spectators, race staff and volunteers and runners. Many of them have turned in thousands of images, authorities said.

“Probably one of the best ways to get a lead is to go through those images and track down people coming and going with backpacks,” said Randy Law, an associate professor of history at Birmingham-Southern College in Alabama and author of “Terrorism: A History.”

“It's the needle in the haystack but when you have the resources that the local and federal authorities have, they can go through what I'm sure will be thousands and thousands of photos and hours of videos. You can find something occasionally,” Law said.

The head of trauma surgery at Boston Medical Center, which was still treating 19 victims on Wednesday, said his hospital was collecting the shards of metal, plastic, wood and concrete they had pulled from the injured to save for law enforcement inspectors. Other hospitals were doing the same.

“We've taken on large quantities of pieces,” Dr. Peter Burke of Boston Medical Center told reporters “We send them to the pathologists and they are available to the police.”

NYLON FRAGMENTS, BALL BEARINGS AND NAILS

Bomb scene pictures produced by the Boston Joint Terrorism Task Force and released on Tuesday show the remains of an explosive device including twisted pieces of a metal container, wires, a battery and what appears to be a small circuit board.

One picture shows a few inches of charred wire attached to a small box, and another depicts a half-inch (1.3 cm) nail and a zipper head stained with blood. Another shows a Tenergy-brand battery attached to black and red wires through a broken plastic cap. Several photos show a twisted metal lid with bolts.

The nickel metal hydride battery typically is used by remote-controlled car enthusiasts, said Benjamin Mull, a vice president at Tenergy Corp. The batteries, made in Shenzhen, China, are sold on the internet and in hundreds of outlets.

People at the company “were shocked and appalled” when they learned their battery had been used in the blast, he said.

Security officials who spoke on condition of anonymity said instructions for building pressure-cooker bombs similar to the ones used in Boston can be found on the Internet and are relatively primitive.

Pressure cookers had also been discovered in numerous foiled attack plots in both the U.S. and overseas in recent years, including the failed Times Square bombing attempt on May 1, 2010, the officials said. Additional reporting by Mark Hosenball in Washington, Svea Herbst-Bayliss in Boston and Terril Yue Jones in Beijing; Editing by Daniel Trotta and Grant McCool

European Jewish Parliament to EU: no half-measures on Hezbollah


Members of the European Jewish Parliament have urged 27 foreign ministers to avoid the “error and half-measure” of calling only Hezbollah’s military wing a terrorist entity.

“Let us insist on the fact that there is no distinction between Hezbollah’s ‘political wing’ and ‘military wing,’” members of the European Jewish Parliament – a Brussels-based body founded in 2011 – from the European Union's 27 member states wrote in letters sent on Tuesday to their respective foreign ministers.

“There is a risk that the ministers who will meet on Feb. 18 in Brussels will decide on this half-measure,” European Jewish Parliament Co-Chair Joel Rubinfeld said, in reaction to a report by Bulgarian security authorities last week that linked Hezbollah to a deadly July 18 terrorist attack on Israelis in Bulgaria. The report found the attack was carried out by agents of Hezbollah’s military wing and was funded by the organization in general. Hezbollah has denied any involvement in the attack that killed six people.

Currently, in the European Union only the United Kingdom makes a distinction between Hezbollah's military and political wings, and regards the military wing as terrorist but has not outlawed Hezbollah in general. The European Jewish Parliament encouraged other EU states to follow the example of the Netherlands, the only member state where Hezbollah in its entirety is considered a terrorist group.

The letters by the European Jewish Parliament  contain a quote from 2009 attributed to Hezbollah No. 2 man Naim Qassem: “Hezbollah has a single leadership …. All political, social and jihad work is tied to the decisions of this leadership.”

State terrorism report praises Israel, counts settler attacks as terror


The U.S. State Department’s annual report on terrorism said Hamas and Hezbollah continued to destabilize the Middle East, described Israel as a “resolute” partner in counterterrorism and listed as “terrorist incidents” extremist settler attacks on Palestinians.

“Both Hamas and Hezbollah continued to play destabilizing roles in the Middle East,” said the executive summary of the report for 2011, which was released on Tuesday.

Much of the summary, which highlights what the authors believe to be the report’s most salient points, was devoted to al-Qaida, and it led with the assassination last year by U.S. forces of the group’s founder, Osama bin Laden.

Turning to the Middle East, the summary said Hezbollah’s “robust relationships with the regimes in Iran and Syria, involvement in illicit financial activity, continued engagement in international attack planning, and acquisition of increasingly sophisticated missiles and rockets continued to threaten U.S. interests in the region.”

The report also stated: “Meanwhile, Hamas retained its grip on Gaza, where it continued to stockpile weapons that pose a serious threat to regional stability. Moreover, Hamas and other Gaza-based groups continue to smuggle weapons, material, and people through the Sinai, taking advantage of the vast and largely ungoverned territory.”

The country report on Israel was unusually robust in its praise, for the first time describing Israel as a “resolute counterterrorism partner,” and noting, for instance, Israel’s cooperation with the international community in tracking financing for terrorists.

The country report also unequivocally listed settler attacks on Palestinians as “terrorist incidents,” scrubbing distinctions in previous reports between “settler violence” and terrorism. It listed several arson attacks on mosques that are believed to have been made by settlers.

The report continued to again list Kahane Chai, an extremist settler group, as a designated terrorist group, as well as five Palestinian groups, including Hamas, Islamic Jihad and two affiliates of the Palestine Liberation Organization.

The report listed four state sponsors of terrorism: Cuba, Iran, Sudan and Syria.

“Iran was known to use the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Qods Force (IRGC-QF) and terrorist insurgent groups to implement its foreign policy goals, provide cover for intelligence operations, and support terrorist and militant groups,” it said.

It also noted that Hamas and other Palestinian terrorist groups continued to headquarter in Damascus, adding that Hamas left toward the end of 2011 because of the surging unrest in that country.

In listing American victims of terrorism last year, the report noted that one American was killed in Jerusalem on Sept. 23 and one was injured in Tel Aviv on Aug. 19.

Deadly Bulgaria attack survivors recall chaos, tragedy


Vered Kuza was standing with her daughter, Amit, on an airport shuttle bus at Sarafovo International Airport in Burgas, Bulgaria, when she suddenly heard a blast.

“It’s an attack!” Kuza, 54, shouted at Amit, 26. “We need to get out of here!”

She pushed her daughter through the door just as the bus exploded. Kuza was knocked unconscious. Her daughter landed on the ground, debris ripping into her left shoulder, through her chest and down to her liver.

When Vered Kuza regained consciousness, her feet “were swollen to a ridiculous size.” Her daughter was nowhere to be seen.

“Everything was broken,” Kuza told JTA, lying in a hospital bed in a Tel Aviv emergency room on Thursday, her feet wrapped in gauze and plastic and a red No. 2 scrawled on her forehead. “There were body parts around me. I didn’t know what was happening. It was smoking, hellish. It was horrifying.”

Five Israelis died in the attack that Kuza survived. According to Israeli reports, the five deceased are Amir Menashe, 27; Itzik Kolengi, 27; childhood friends Maor Harush, 26, and Elior Priess, 26; and Kochava Shriki, 44. In addition, the bus driver and suicide bomber died in the attack.

Ynet News reported that minutes before the attack, Shriki called her sister and told her that she was pregnant for the first time. Shriki’s husband, Yitzhak, survived and spent hours searching for his wife.

After the bomb exploded, “I walked toward the exit and called to my wife, ‘Come toward the door!’” he told Ynet. “After a few seconds I realized she wasn’t with me. The fog was thick like sand, and I went to look for her but it was impossible to get through.”

Kuza was one of 33 Israelis injured in the attack to be flown back to Israel’s Ben-Gurion Airport on Thursday afternoon and sent to hospitals throughout the country, according to the Israel Defense Forces. Her daughter was one of three Israelis who were too seriously injured to make the trip and remained hospitalized in Bulgaria.

The head of the IDF Medical Corps, Itzik Kreis, said that the injured passengers who arrived in Israel “got very good medical care in Bulgaria” and “were less seriously hurt than we expected.”

The IDF Medical Corps landed in Bulgaria on Wednesday night to tend to the victims and bring them back to Israel. Kreis said that the injuries the corps saw were similar to those suffered by bus bombing victims in Israel.

A plane carrying 70 Israeli tourists in Bulgaria scheduled to fly home on Wednesday night was delayed, but arrived on Thursday.

Seven people died in the attack, which occurred Wednesday at about 5 p.m. The dead included five Israelis, the bus driver and the suicide bomber. Names of those killed were scheduled to be announced on Thursday night after their bodies arrived in Israel.

An airport security camera at the Sarafovo airport in Burgas revealed that the bomber was a Caucasian man with long hair and a backpack who had been wandering around the area for about an hour. He reportedly was carrying a fake Michigan driver’s license.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu quickly accused Iran of sponsoring the attack. In a statement on Thursday, Netanyahu called on “the world’s leading powers” to recognize “that Iran is the country that stands behind this terror campaign.  Iran must be exposed by the international community as the premiere terrorist-supporting state that it is.”

Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said he had information that the attack was the joint work of the Lebanese terrorist organization Hezbollah and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, according to The Jerusalem Post.

Iran has denied the allegations.

Soon after the attack, Amit Kuza was taken by paramedics to a hospital in Sofia, Bulgaria’s capital. Her mother “sat on the side of the road,” unattended for two hours because she was deemed to be in stable condition, she said.

“I had no one to talk to,” Vered Kuza said. “I didn’t even have a glass of water. They don’t know English. It was primitive.”

Bulgarian officials told Kuza that her daughter was in Sofia and in a stable condition. But Kuza was not able to speak to her daughter until Thursday morning. Amit and the two others who had remained in Bulgaria were scheduled to arrive in Israel on Thursday evening.

When news of the attack reached Israel, Arik Kuza, Vered’s husband, called the Foreign Ministry to find out if his wife and daughter were alive.

“I called 50 times,” he said, standing at Vered’s bedside. “They put me on hold and I heard music. I waited for hours.”

Lying in her hospital bed, she spoke in a calm and even tone. With her daughter scheduled to arrive in a few hours, she said she felt lucky to be alive.

At least 7 Israelis reported killed, dozens injured in Bulgarian terror attack


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[11:35 a.m., Haaretz] According to Bulgaria’s interior minister, five people were killed in the attack and 33 were wounded, 3 of whom are in critical condition.

“We are currently preparing a list with the names of the people on the flight, in order to identify the victims,” he said.

For more, visit ” title=”Haaretz.com” target=”_blank”>Haaretz.com.

[9:00 a.m., Reuters]: Three people were killed and over 20 injured by an explosion on a bus carrying Israeli tourists outside the airport of the coastal city of Burgas on Wednesday, Bulgarian authorities said.

The mayor of the city, on Bulgaria’s Black Sea coast, said the bus was carrying Israeli tourists, but police could not immediately confirm their nationality. Police said several other buses at the site had been damaged.

“Initial information showed three people have died, there are injured,” a spokeswoman for the interior ministry said.

An Israeli witness said in an interview with Israeli army radio that the explosion was probably caused by a suicide bomber at the entrance of the bus.

Bulgarian police said it was investigating and could not say at this point what caused the explosion.

Bulgarian national radio said many people were injured in the blast. Burgas airport was closed after the incident and flights were redirected to the airport of Varna, police said.

Israeli officials had previously said that Bulgaria, a popular holiday destination for Israeli tourists, was vulnerable to attack by Islamist militants who could infiltrate via nearby Turkey.

Reporting by Tsvetelia Tsolova; editing by Ralph Boulton; Editing by Louise Ireland

Palestinian terror cells uncovered


Israel’s Shin Bet security service said it discovered several Palestinian terror cells operating in the Hebron area.

One of the cells is affiliated with Hamas and another planned to kidnap Jews living in the Kiryat Arba area, according to the Shin Bet. Another cell detonated an explosive near an Israeli car using a cell phone.

Earlier this week, the Shin Bet announced that it had arrested nine Palestinians from the Ramallah area for attempting to kidnap an Israeli woman and her young daughter after surrounding the car in which they were riding.

FBI: Radicalized individuals, Hezbollah are potential terror threats for Detroit-area Jews


Hezbollah poses no specific threat to Jewish communities in metropolitan Detroit, the FBI’s head of counterterrorism in Michigan reportedly said at a suburban Detroit JCC.

However, Assistant Special Agent Todd Mayberry told a security conference Tuesday at the Jewish Community Center in West Bloomfield, Mich., the Jewish communities face potential and general threats, the Detroit Free Press reported. Mayberry cited Hezbollah, the Lebanon-based terror group that is a proxy of Iran, and the “self-radicalization” of terrorist sympathizers who visit jihadist websites.

“If I gave you the number of Michigan IP addresses that are on some of these sites, it’s staggering,” Mayberry was quoted as saying in the Free Press.

Mayberry said the FBI would investigate terrorism supporters in their mosques or schools.

Rising tensions between Israel and Iran have raised fears that Hezbollah might attack Israel.

“The Iranian issue … that is a huge deal … their use of the proxy group Hezbollah—these are things we’re very concerned about,” Mayberry said, according to the Free Press.

Italian convert to Islam arrested on terror charges


An Italian convert to Islam arrested for suspected links to terrorism was connected to a suspect who planned to bomb Milan’s main synagogue.

Andrea Campione, 28, who worked in a picture frame factory, was arrested in the Adriatic seacoast town of Pesaro on Monday during an anti-terrorism crackdown in several cities. Authorities said Campione was associated with Mohamed Jarmoune, a Moroccan man arrested last month on suspicion of plotting an attack on Milan’s main synagogue.

Reports said Campione had a Moroccan girlfriend and was apprehended as he was about to leave Italy for Morocco.

Investigators, who said Campione disseminated jihadist material, seized his computer and other digital material. They said that Campione had sent Jarmoune and others links to Internet sites containing information on how to carry out terror attacks.

Palestinian terrorists released in Shalit swap return to terror


Israel’s Shin Bet security service highlighted two Palestinian terrorists released in the swap for Gilad Shalit who have resumed terrorist activity.

One of the terrorists, who was deported to Gaza, wrote guidelines for future abductions, including “The captive should not be hidden in remote locations, caves, or woodland unless it’s a dead body or the captive’s head.” He also tried to recruit young Palestinian residents of the West Bank to kidnap Israelis.

A second terrorist was sentenced to 44 months in prison last month for arms trafficking. He also must serve his prison term for his original offense.

Some 1,077 Palestinians in Israeli jails were released six months ago in a prisoner swap between Israel and Hamas in order to secure the release of Shalit, an Israeli soldier who had been held captive in Gaza for more than five years.

Eight Palestinian prisoners released as part of the swap for Shalit have been arrested again for participating in terrorist activity, Haaretz reported.

Israeli troops foil Gaza terror attack


Israeli troops foiled a terror attack along the Gaza border.

The military on Tuesday discovered and defused a powerful bomb planted next to the security fence, the IDF announced Tuesday evening.

The bomb was meant to attack soldiers patrolling near the security fence separating Israel from the Gaza Strip, according to the IDF, which said in a statement that the bomb was planted at the end of last week, using the cover of heavy fog.

“This incident proves, yet again, that terror organizations, headed by Hamas, use the area adjacent to the security fence in order to carry out terror attacks against Israeli citizens and IDF soldiers,” the IDF spokesman said. “IDF soldiers’ alertness prevented a terror attack aimed at them.”

Iran’s nuclear ambitions


Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu blamed Iran for attacks on Israeli embassy staff in Georgia and India on Monday Feb. 13 that wounded at least two people. “Iran is behind these attacks. It is the biggest exporter of terror in the world,” Netanyahu told members of his Likud party. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland seemed much on the same wavelength two days later.

The Iranian regime has not to blame others for finger pointing it. In fact, since some time the most senior authorities in Iran have been threatening to retaliate against presumed Israeli covert operations targeting nuclear scientists in Iran.

Following the assassination in Iran on Jan. 11 of Mostapha Ahmadi Roshan, vice-president of Iran’s Natanz uranium enrichment facility, the country’s supreme leader Ali Khamenei blamed the “international terror network led by the CIA and the Mossad”, threatening that “we would never refrain from punishing the culprits and those behind them.” 

Iran’s Intelligence Minister warned that “the British, the Americans and the Mossad would taste the firm and heavy response of the Islamic Republic.”

General Massoud Jazaeri, second in command of the Armed forces of the regime stressed that “capabilities stemming from the Islamic Revolution’s strategic depth – a term normally used for proxies in the Near East, notably the Hizballah – were being considered.”

Subsequently a Lebanese man arrested in Thailand and suspected of having relations with the Hizballah led the Thai police to a hideout containing bomb making facilities. An Iranian injured in an explosion in Bangkok on February 14 was detained by the police for further inquiries. 

So Iran’s being behind the Monday embassy explosions is only logical conclusion. Retaliating against the assassination of nuclear scientists is however a mere pretext, rhetoric fit for internal use: the true issue is Iran’s covert nuclear. So regardless of who is really behind the assassination attempts, the clerics’ rhetoric is a political one first and foremost.

Two issues are at stakes: the nuclear impasse, and the internal dissent.

Engulfed in a deep internal crisis, the clerics see no way out except what they call a “life insurance” in the form of military nuclear might. At the same time, they have to keep opposition under control.

On the first issue, terrorist acts against Israeli embassies and other similar attempts are meant to send a “strong” message to the West. Not being able to step back from a strategic agenda for survival, the regime resorts to terrorism as “a legitimate foreign policy tool,” in terms used by Victoria Nuland.

The obvious message is: “Yes we can.” In other words, “do not underestimate our capability of nuisance, especially in an election year in the United States.” Iran’s ruling clique believes that the West might back off with a much feared wave of destabilizing terrorist acts in sight.

But the second issue, internal opposition, is also a source of concern. That is why the clerics try to make the most out of the assassinated scientists’ affair. In an interview with the NBC, Ali Larijani, advisor to the supreme leader, alleged that the main opposition, the Mojahedin-e-Khalq (MEK) cooperated with the Mossad to assassinate the Iranian scientists. A shear lie meant only to send another hurried message to the US State Department, which under recommendations by the Appeal’s Court of DC is studying the removal of the MEK from its list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations (FTO), an act considered a redline by the regime in power as it would send an encouraging message to a hostile population waiting for their turn at the regime.

Iran’s leaders resort to terror because the tool has proven its effectiveness in the past. An explosion perpetrated by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards in Lebanon in 1983 that killed 241 US marines and 58 French paratroopers prompted the withdrawal of the International Peace Force from the country. A wave of bloody street bombings in Paris in 1986 and French nationals taken hostage by proxies in Lebanon made the French government muzzle Iranian dissidents and leave the Lebanese territory open to Iranian influence.

As of the FTO list, Hillary Clinton has been sitting on the decision to de-list the Iranian opposition since about two years, in spite of Justice’s recommendation, for the obviously political reason of not wanting to antagonize Iran.

So it is a logical conclusion for the clerics that terror pays. The best way to correct their impression is to stick to a principled approach:

Regardless of reasons, terrorist acts should be punished with extreme firmness. A few months ago the highest officials in the US affirmed that an Iranian plot to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to the US had been defused, but no action was taken. Leaving terrorist acts unpunished for political considerations is a fatal negligence of principles.

On the Iranian opposition, whatever the nature of their struggle against the regime, the court has cleared them of terrorism. Keeping them on the FTO list is yet another negligence of principles. That is playing into the clerics hands.

Principles apart, from a political point of view there is no sense in kowtowing to a regime on the brink of internal chaos and unable to hold falling pieces together. It is losing a strategic ally in the region, the Syrian regime, and the increasing pressure of international sanctions is beyond the endurance limit of a population opposed to the regime it considers responsible for all the misery. Sources from inside Iranian ruling circles point to a state of extreme stress around the supreme leader, even from close aides, in dealing with crushing effects of recent sanctions adopted against the country because of its unlawful behavior in dealing with the nuclear issue.

So harsh words and saber rattling should deceive nobody.

Gaza rocket injures foreign worker in Israel


Rockets fired from Gaza on southern Israel over the weekend injured a foreign worker.

Two rockets fired at southern Israel on Saturday night landed near Ashkelon. A foreign worker from Thailand suffered shrapnel wounds in the attack.

A rocket from Gaza had landed in the same area on Friday night. Following that strike, the Israeli Air Force a night later attacked an Islamic Jihad terrorist cell in southern Gaza preparing to launch a rocket into Israel, according to reports. The Israeli strike killed one of the cell members, Palestinian sources told reporters.

Rockets from Gaza shatter short-lived calm


A rocket fired from Gaza landed in Ashkelon was the first since a barrage of rocket fire on southern Israel ended.

Two mortars landed Monday afternoon in the western Negev shortly after the Kassam attack stopped at midnight.

“There is no cease-fire, no negotiations and the IDF continues its operations,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told Likud Party lawmakers before the start of the opening meeting of the winter Knesset session. “Anytime someone disrupts the peace in the South, our response will be severe, just as it was on Saturday, and I’m telling you, even more severe.”

The latest attacks follow a weekend in which at least 39 rockets and mortars were fired from Gaza at Israel. The barrage, for which Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility, appeared to be sparked by an Israeli airstrike Saturday that thwarted an attempt by a terrorist cell preparing to fire long-range rockets from southern Gaza into Israel. The Israeli military reported that it was the same terrorist cell that was responsible for rockets fired on Israel last week

Several long-range Grad missiles hit in and near cities throughout southern Israel, including Ashdod, Ashkelon, Gan Yavne and Beersheba. A school and a private home were damaged in the attacks, and several cars were burned. Some 200,000 children stayed home from school, and several colleges and Ben-Gurion University did not open for the start of the new academic year on Sunday as scheduled.

An Ashkelon resident and father of four, Moshe Ami, 56, died from injuries sustained when he was hit by shrapnel Saturday as he ran to a shelter from his car. He died in the hospital from stomach wounds several hours after the attack.

At least 10 Islamic Jihad terrorists have been killed in the Israeli strikes.

Third suspect arrested in mosque arson


A third suspect has been arrested in the arson attack on a mosque in an Israeli-Arab town.

The suspect, reported to be a 17-year-old resident of Gush Etzion, was arrested Sunday in connection with the Oct. 2 attack on a mosque in the Upper Galilee Bedouin town of Tuba Zanghariya.

Two other suspects arrested shortly after the attack, both minors who studied at a West Bank yeshiva, were released a week ago due to lack of evidence directly linking them to the attack.

The third suspect allegedly also was involved in the arson of a West Bank mosque near Hebron in October 2010. He was ordered held until Thursday during a hearing Sunday in the Rishon Lezion Magistrate’s Court.

A gag order on the case remains in place.

Noam Shalit faces terrorist victims’ families outside courtroom


Noam Shalit faced a bevy of protesters opposing the release of his son Gilat as he arrived at the Israeli Supreme Court in Jerusalem to urge the court to allow the prisoner exchange.

Shalit was met with heckles from members of the families of those killed by some of the 1,027 Palestinian prisoners due to be released in exchange for his son. Shalit was at the court in order to oppose the petitions.

“Nobody knows what the impact of any delay or any change, even the smallest, in the terms would be,” he wrote in a letter addressed to the court.

Yossi Zur, who lost a son in a 2003 suicide bombing in Haifa, told Shalit, “You shouldn’t have come to this discussion,” according to Ynet. Zur told reporters that Shalit’s attendance was like “stabbing someone in the back and twisting the knife.”

“From our experience with past deals, and sadly we have a lot of experience, we know how many Israelis will be killed as a result of the release of these terrorists,” Zur told Channel 10 television. “I am here to protect my children who are still alive.”

Schvuel Schijveschuurder, who lost his parents and three siblings in a 2001 bombing in Jerusalem, and who last week vandalized the Yitzhak Rabin memorial in Tel Aviv, yelled at Shalit, “Hang a black flag over your home in Mitzpe Hila, this is a day of mourning.”

Schijveschuurder is among the petitioners asking the court to cancel the exchange deal. Gilad Shalit is expected to be released Tuesday; the release of Palestinian prisoners will begin the same day.

Ze’ev Rapp, whose daughter was murdered in Bat Yam, shook Shalit’s hand and told him that the protesters had nothing against him or his son. Rapp added that he is considering returning his family’s identity cards and reserve force certificates in protest of the exchange.

“I am not against Shalit’s return, I am against the release of my daughter’s murderer,” he said. “I have a written commitment from three prime ministers who promised me that he won’t be released. If this is the country I live in, I’ll draw my conclusions.”

Ynet reported that Shalit listened to the demonstrators but did not respond.

Israeli air strike kills chiefs of Gaza’s PRC group


An Israeli air strike killed the leader of an armed Palestinian faction, a top lieutenant and three other members in the southern Gaza Strip Thursday, the group said, hours after Israel blamed gunmen from the territory for cross-border attacks.

The Popular Resistance Committees (PRC), a faction that often operates independently from Gaza’s Islamist Hamas rulers, identified their dead leader as Kamal al-Nairab and said their military chief, Immad Hammad, had also been killed.

A sixth fatality in the attack on Rafah town was a nine-year-old boy who had been in the same house as the militants, local Palestinians said.

Hours earlier, gunmen killed seven people in a triple attack in southern Israel. Israel said the gunmen had come from Gaza through neighboring Egypt, a charge denied by Hamas.

“The Israeli military is already taking action against the head of the Committees in Gaza,” Defense Minister Ehud Barak told reporters at the site of the gun attacks.

Reporting by Nidal al-Mughrabi; Writing by Dan Williams; editing by Crispian Balmer

Musicians Kill Only Themselves


I’d love to know if, in the long history of human evil, a great musician ever became a mass murderer. I ask this question because I’ve always had this crazy theory that when someone is busy and obsessed with creating and playing music, he or she doesn’t think about killing other people.

For example, I can’t imagine Amy Winehouse expunging her rage by going to a gun shop and mowing down people who trigger that fury. Similarly, I can’t imagine Norwegian mass murderer Anders Behring Breivik going on his rampage if his passion had been playing the guitar and writing great songs. He might write protest songs to convey his anger, but chase down kids and kill them? I don’t see it.

Of course, I might be completely and stupidly wrong on this. I have never seen any formal evidence for my theory. In fact, there’s evidence that mediocre painters who get rejected by art schools (Hitler) or who paint silly clowns (John Wayne Gacy) don’t turn out very well. But I’ve observed many artists up close over the years, and, especially with musicians, one thing I’ve noted is that most of them pour their hearts into their art and music above all else—even above their most valued human relationships.

That’s because, from what I’ve seen, their true love—their deepest passion—is for their music. Nothing satisfies their egos or constant craving to create quite the same way. Their music is their spouse, lover, best friend and sibling all rolled into one. Unfortunately, often it’s also their drug dealer. Creating and playing music can be as addictive as doing drugs. In the case of Winehouse, the two acts seem to have merged.

But for all the tragedy of her death, who lost the most? Who lost a life? Her family and friends are devastated, yes. But who is dead and who is alive?

Breivik, however, is still alive, and 76 people are dead because of him. Maybe they are dead because he had no other way to express himself but through violence.

I can only lament that he was not a passionate and tormented musician whose hatred for foreigners had led him to overdose on cocaine rather than bullets.

Israeli Air Force strikes Gaza targets in response to rocket fire on south


The Israeli Air Force struck targets in the Gaza Strip in the early hours of Thursday, a day after Palestinian militants fired about a dozen rockets and mortars across the border.

Hamas, which controls the Strip, said the Israeli airstrike targeted smuggling tunnels along the Gaza-Egypt border, as well as one of its training camps in central Gaza.

An Israeli Defense Forces spokesperson confirmed the air strike, saying that it was in response to the rockets fired at southern Israel.

A third strike hit a power transformer, causing blackouts in the area, Gaza witnesses said. Medical workers said no one was injured in the strikes.

Read more at Haaretz.com.

Jerusalem bomb casualty was British tourist


The lone casualty in the bombing at a bus stop in central Jerusalem was a British woman studying at Hebrew University.

Mary Jean Gardner, 59, had been in Israel since January, the Jewish Chronicle reported.

British Foreign Secretary William Hague called Wednesday’s attack a “callous and disgusting act of terrorism directed against innocent civilians which I condemn unreservedly.” Hague also expressed Britain’s “unwavering support for the people of Israel in the face of such horrific acts.”

More than three dozen people were injured in the bombing. Among them was an American teenager spending a post-high school year in Israel.

Leah Green of Cleveland suffered burns and shrapnel wounds, the Cleveland Jewish News reported, when the explosion threw her in the air and her leg caught on fire.

The bomb had been left in a bag near the bus stop on a major Jerusalem thoroughfare across from the International Convention Center. Two buses in front of the stop had their windows blown out.

Obama relays condolences to Netanyahu, pledges support


President Obama conveyed to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu his condolences over recent terrorist attacks and reaffirmed “unwavering” commitment to Israel’s security.

“President Obama called Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu today to convey his condolences over the terrorist attack in Jerusalem yesterday, which killed one person and wounded many others, and to express his concern about the recent rocket and mortar attacks against Israel from Gaza,” a White House statement said on Thursday. “The President reaffirmed the United States’ unwavering commitment to Israel’s security.”

The statement said Netanyahu “appreciated” the call and that the leaders “agreed to remain in close touch on a range of regional security issues.”

Israel has been seeking American reassurances in the wake of a wave of uprisings in the Arab world.

Robert Gates, the defense secretary, on Thursday met with Ehud Barak, his Israeli counterpart, and said advancing peace talks with the Palestinians was more critical than ever because of regional turmoil.

“The Israelis have a very deep strategic interest in getting out in front of the wave of populism that’s sweeping the region,” Reuters quoted a senior U.S. defense official as saying.

New violence suggests end of calm between Israel and militant Palestinians


Violence between Israel and militant Palestinians rose sharply this week with a bombing in central Jerusalem and a dramatic increase in rocket attacks on southern Israel.

In a terrorist attack on Wednesday afternoon, a bomb planted near a telephone pole exploded near Jerusalem’s International Convention Center, Binyanei Ha’uma, killing a 59-year-old woman and injuring more than two dozen people.

Earlier, rocket attacks from Gaza on Tuesday and Wednesday struck the Israeli cities of Beersheba and Ashdod, injuring one man.

Meanwhile, Israeli forces struck targets in the Gaza Strip, including what the Israeli Air Force described as the rocket launcher from which a Grad rocket was fired at Ashdod on Tuesday night. In one of the Israeli air raids, four members of Islamic Jihad traveling in a car were killed. In another, four Palestinian civilians were killed in an area from which mortar shells had just been fired.

The killing of civilians prompted a statement of regret from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who also said that “It is regrettable that Hamas continues to intentionally rain down dozens of rockets on Israeli civilians even as it uses civilians as human shields.”

The sudden escalation in attacks, coming with Israel still reeling from the March 11 attack in the Jewish West Bank settlement of Itamar in which five family members were stabbed to death, raises fresh questions about the sustainability of the calm that has prevailed between Israel and militant Palestinians since the end of the Gaza war in January 2009.

Since the cease-fire that ended that war, known in Israel as Operation Cast Lead, rocket fire on southern Israel has been sporadic and mostly carried out by groups other than Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip. But the mortar and rocket attacks in recent weeks, which have included the use of more sophisticated, longer-range missiles known as Grads, have been the work of Hamas—a sign that the shaky cease-fire between the Palestinian terrorist group and Israel may be falling apart.

“I see the escalation is already here in a number of fronts—in the South and also in Jerusalem,” Interior Minister Eli Yishai said at the scene of Wednesday’s explosion in Jerusalem, according to The Jerusalem Post.

In the South, Deputy Prime Minister Silvan Shalom threatened a new operation in the Gaza Strip.

“The period of restraint is over; we must do everything we can to strike out against those who wish to hurt the innocent,” Shalom said on a visit to the site in Beersheba struck Wednesday by two long-range Grad rockets. “I hope it won’t come to another Operation Cast Lead, but if there is no other choice we will launch another operation.”

As of late Wednesday afternoon, no one had taken responsibility for the bombing in Jerusalem, the first major bombing in Israel’s capital city since 2004. More recent deadly terrorist attacks involved gunmen, as in the case of the Mercaz Harav attack in March 2008 that left eight yeshiva students dead, or Palestinians commandeering bulldozers or cars and using them as weapons.

Following Wednesday’s attack, Netanyahu said he would delay a planned trip to Moscow.

Police said the bomb was left in a bag in a telephone booth next to a busy bus stop along a main artery in central Jerusalem about a block from the city’s central bus terminal. The blast blew out the windows of two buses picking up passengers.

JTA Managing Editor Uriel Heilman reported from New York. Israel correspondent Marcy Oster reported from Jerusalem.

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.

Palestinian terror cell indicted for American woman’s murder


Members of a Palestinian terror cell were indicted for the murder of an American tourist in a forest near Jerusalem.

Four Palestinians from villages near Hebron were indicted Wednesday in Jerusalem District Court for the murder of Christine Logan, 40, also identified by some media outlets as Christine Luken, and for the attempted murder of her hiking partner Susan Kaye Wilson. The two women were attacked Dec. 18, 2010, while hiking at Khirbet Hanut, an archaeological site near Beit Shemesh. Wilson pretended to be dead and survived the ordeal and provided descriptions of the attackers. The suspects reportedly have confessed to the attack.

They are also accused in the murder of Netta Blatt-Sorek, 53, of Zichron Ya’akov, whose body was found last February near the Jerusalem-area monastery of Beit Jamal. At least one of the indicted men reportedly has confessed to that murder.

In all, 13 members of the terror cell were arrested following a joint investigation conducted by the Shin Bet, border police, special army units, and police, Jerusalem District Police chief Aharon Franco said Wednesday. Indictments against the other cell members are being prepared, according to reports.

The suspects are also accused of two cases of attempted murder, one count of rape, another of attempted rape, seven incidents of robbery, seven cases of breaking-and-entering, and for shooting at an Israeli military jeep.

The cell’s motivation was at first criminal, according to police, but became terrorist after the January 2010 assassination of senior Hamas commander Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in Dubai, which is widely believed to have been executed by Israel’s Mossad.

PA subpoena for reporter’s testimony shelved


A federal magistrate ruled that the Palestinian Authority cannot force a reporter from The Atlantic magazine to testify in a terror-related lawsuit, Politico reported.

Jeffrey Goldberg, a national correspondent for The Atlantic, was subpoenaed recently by the Palestinian Authority and the Palestine Liberation Organization, which demanded that he testify about his relationship with Moshe Saperstein, a Jewish settler suing over a terrorist attack in the West Bank in 2002.

Magistrate Judge John Facciola in Washington granted Goldberg’s motion to quash the subpoena, stating that Goldberg had a qualified reporter’s privilege and, while he could possibly shed light on Saperstein’s credibility, it was not worth the hassle of bringing Goldberg into the case.

Goldberg had interviewed Saperstein for a New Yorker article published in 2004 and had worked with Saperstein at the Jerusalem Post. Goldberg claimed not to have direct knowledge of the shooting attack in 2002, when Saperstein attempted to run over a terrorist who had fired an AK-47 at another vehicle. The encounter cost Saperstein two fingers on his remaining hand; the other was lost in the Yom Kippur War.

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.

Death, fear and fighting take toll on both sides of Gaza border


ALTTEXT
Damage to a home in Sderot from a Qassam rocket. Photo by The Media Line

The body, wrapped only in a flag, is lowered into the ground as family members throw themselves toward the grave, screaming in anguish. At that moment, their world has ended.

For the hundreds standing around them, vengeance is the only path worth treading.

It doesn’t matter whether you are now imagining the victim as a Palestinian or an Israeli — the scene is identical.

Residents of the Gaza Strip and southern Israel alike will tell you that in years gone by, they built up close working relationships and, in some cases, real friendships. Yet throughout the last 40 years there has always been an unease between the two, which all too often has spilled over into bloodshed.

Ever since the creation of the Palestinian Authority in the early 1990s, Hamas has been a dominant force in Gaza, and when in 2006 the Islamist movement claimed victory in the Palestinian parliamentary election, it was clear that soon it would gain de facto control of the narrow coastal enclave. A year later, Hamas took over the running of Gaza from Fatah in what Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas described as “a bloody coup.”

Complete Gaza CoverageIt has left some Gaza-based Fatah officials smarting, angry and even prepared to blame Hamas rather than Israel for the current violence.

“We were protective of the people and made sure that the Palestinian cause was on the right path until we got the world on our side,” said Ibrahim Abu A-Naja, a member of Fatah’s Executive Committee.

However, the overriding view in Gaza is that Israel is directly to blame for the new reality on the ground, in addition to the troubles already besetting Gazans.

Similarly in Israel, the residents of the towns and villages that have been under rocket fire for eight years accuse Hamas and the smaller armed organizations in Gaza of being responsible for the violence and bloodshed.

“For years we’ve been suffering like this,” said Victoria, a 20-something resident of the Israeli town Sderot, which has faced the brunt of Hamas’ missiles. “I want the Israel Defense Forces to do exactly what it’s doing now and not to stop in the middle.”

That is the overriding view in southern Israel. Many people say the government was right to launch its Gaza operation against Hamas, and if there is collateral damage — the euphemism for civilian casualties — so be it.

“Yesterday the rocket blew out my window and just missed the propane tanks, and the last time it blew two doors off their hinges, and they were blown together like a sandwich,” said Yair Madmon, a man in his late 50s who said he served in the Israeli army as a reservist until he was 48.

Like many who live in Sderot, Madmon said he will never leave.

However, that is not the case for everyone. Since the missiles began raining in, people have fled the town. It means businesses are in decline, leaving the local economy in ruins.

The middle-age mustached owner of the local lottery franchise in Sderot, who asks not to be named, said he works on a percentage basis — his income dependent on the number of tickets sold. He said fewer people than ever come his way, and he spends much of his day running for shelter in the nearby supermarket. The strain on his family, both financial and mental, is enormous.

“My wife’s worried about me, and I am about her,” he said, while handing a white and pink lottery ticket to his solitary customer. “We panic when one of us doesn’t answer the phone or if the line’s engaged or if it’s out of order.”

ALTTEXTLooking for interviewees in the public areas of Sderot is not as easy as it used to be. The residents are wary of what they see as an apathetic, biased media and, more importantly, they are scared to stand in the streets for fear of what may fall from the sky as they relate their stories.

A woman runs by, having returned her supermarket cart, and smiles apologetically, calling out, “I would talk to you, but it’s too dangerous here; I need to be home.”

Indeed, the conversation with the customer at the lottery booth is rudely interrupted by a stern female voice, broadcast via a hidden loudspeaker, warning all residents to take cover. The few people in the public square run for shelter in the local supermarket. They have 15 seconds before the rockets hits.

That rocket was fired from just a handful of miles away in Gaza.

“Leave it, it’s mine,” is a normal cry from a Gazan who has spent his day in a line in front of a bakery, waiting to purchase a package of bread. There has been a lack of flour since the first day of the Israeli military operation.

That aerial attack at 11:30 a.m. on Saturday, Dec. 27, came like a bolt out of the blue for Palestinians and for Hamas in particular. Some 150 Hamas security personnel were killed in just three minutes. Since then, Gazans have awakened every day to the sound of explosions and the sight of smoke plumes peppering the sky. Many residents use the same word to describe their life over the last weeks: “Hell.”

Empty streets, closed stores, pale faces, police officers sleeping on Gaza’s roads, cameramen passing in their cars — those have been the dominant scenes in Gaza. Those, along with the ambulances racing from destroyed buildings to overcrowded hospitals.

“It’s a war crime. Many innocent civilians have been killed, particularly kids and women,” said Momen, a Gaza resident. “Besides, the humanitarian situation gets more difficult and totally inhumane because of lack of flour and gasoline.”

The shortages are not only in basic foodstuffs and the power supply but also in room in Gaza’s morgues. As a result, hospital employees are gathering bodies in the open air. The identification process has taken on a grizzly nature, with family members having to walk along the rows of bodies to see if any are their loved ones. Many of the bodies are mangled beyond recognition.

Basel Faraj, a trainee in a local media production company, was wounded while covering the first airstrikes in Gaza.

“He’s critically wounded, but we can’t transfer him to anywhere; I’m losing my son,” his mother cried. “As I passed by another bed in the intensive-care unit I found another victim struggling to survive, despite the lack of oxygen and medicine.”

A car arrives at Shifa Hospital, Gaza’s largest. Someone rushes in screaming: “He’s alive. Save him. Please save him.”

It is a man carrying a young adult. The wounded man is dying. He is a cameraman with Hamas’ Al-Aq’sa TV. It appears unlikely the ill-equipped ambulances and dirty conditions in the hospital will help in his failing fight for survival.

Five journalists were wounded on the first day of the military operation. Two of them were working with Al-Aq’sa TV.

The decision makers at the local level are at a loss. In Gaza there is little advice they can offer and no comfort. People cannot flee the situation. Many want to leave Gaza via the Rafah crossing into Egypt, but for the vast majority of the time, Cairo insists the border remain closed.

Hamas’ leadership has gone to ground in bunkers, tunnels and elsewhere, meaning there is no one to whom the public can turn for help.

In Israel, there are more options available to the population, but local politicians are still unsure how to advise their electorate.

“I’m not the general manager of the lives of the people here,” Sderot Mayor David Bouskila said from his underground logistics bunker. “I don’t know what to tell the people — to be here and suffer or to go elsewhere.”

In Israel, at least, the radio and TV channels are constantly broadcasting warning messages as to where the rockets are headed and offering phone numbers of psychological services available to residents of the south. National radio is calling on those living in northern Israel to offer home hospitality to all who desire. Many southerners take advantage of this support and are relocating to spare bedrooms up and down the country.

Schools, synagogues and offices are collecting foodstuffs, which are distributed to those still in the south. While fewer rockets are being fired from Gaza now that the Israeli ground offensive is in full swing, their range has increased, with Grad rockets capable of traveling some 25 miles being launched from Gaza.

In previous years, the name Sderot became synonymous with the Qassam rockets of Hamas and Islamic Jihad, but now the coastal cities Ashkelon and Ashdod can be added to the list, as well as the capital of the south Beer Sheva, Netivot, Qiryat Malachi and a host of other towns and villages.

While the damage is far less significant on the Israeli side of the border, the number of Israelis now within range of the rockets is reaching a par with that for the Palestinians. Schools are closed throughout the south. City and regional councils have unlocked bomb shelters that have been closed for years to prepare for worst-case scenarios.

While Israel has had to get used to daily rocket attacks over the last eight years, the international community is now firmly focused on Israel’s strikes against Hamas, with many ambassadors to the United Nations speaking of Jerusalem’s “disproportionate use of force.”

As has been the case in recent decades, Israel’s main detractor on the international scene is the Muslim bloc, as represented by the Organization of the Islamic Conference, which is arguably the strongest grouping in the United Nations.

In the days leading up to the Israeli strike and immediately following, Egypt proved to be the key exception by blaming Hamas for all the ills that have befallen the civilian population of Gaza.

The Islamist movement handed Israel an opportunity “on a golden plate” to attack, Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmad Abu Al-Gheit told reporters. Palestinian Authority leader Abbas made similar remarks as he toured regional capitals on the day the warfare commenced.

Israel’s key ally is the United States, with other “old friends” attempting to prevent comprehensive condemnation of Jerusalem’s actions. Among them: the United Kingdom and the Czech Republic, which crucially has just taken over the presidency of the European Union from France. Prague is stressing the Israeli action is “defensive” rather than “offensive.”

ALTTEXTYet, most in the international community see things differently. While criticizing Hamas’ rocket firing, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon roundly condemned Israel: “While recognizing Israel’s right to defend itself, I have also condemned the excessive use of force by Israel in Gaza. The suffering caused to civilian populations as a result of the large-scale violence and destruction that have taken place over the past few days has saddened me profoundly.”

In Muslim capitals and elsewhere, the rhetoric has been far stronger than that adopted by U.N. diplomats.

“Muslims of the world should stay united against world arrogance, the criminal Zionists in particular … to line up against [the] wicked party with more solidarity than ever,” the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps was quoted as saying by IRNA, Tehran’s official news agency. The comment was published as Said Jalili, Iran’s security chief, was in Beirut for talks with Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah, among others.

In Malaysia, Israel’s actions were described as “tantamount to genocide” by Abd Al-Rahim Bakri, the country’s deputy foreign minister,.

However, Israel maintains that during its aerial bombardment of Gaza it was doing its utmost to ensure civilians were not caught up in the airstrikes and only Hamas members and other combatants were targeted.

“We’re using very high-precision weaponry,” said Maj. Avital Leibovich, a senior IDF spokeswoman.

The Israeli message to the world has remained the same throughout the campaign: Hamas has brought the warfare upon itself and ordinary Gazans. It goes back to the time Israel withdrew all its civilians and military personnel from Gaza three years ago.

“We hoped the Palestinians would do something good with their lives,” Leibovich said. “We wanted a better future for them, and for a while it worked.”

She pointed to the successful exports of millions of dollars worth of flowers and fruits from Gaza in the first months following the Israeli pullback.

“But then Hamas was elected and changed the priorities,” the spokeswoman continued. “It invested a lot of money in building headquarters, recruiting troops, training them, digging hundreds of tunnels, buying weapons and explosives. That money did not go to the Palestinians themselves.”

A similar message came from Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak when he explained why Israel had moved to a land invasion of Gaza on Jan. 3: “I have said all along that our military activities will widen and deepen as much as needed. Our aim is to force Hamas to stop its hostile activities against Israel and Israelis from Gaza and to bring about a significant change in the situation in southern Israel.

“We have carefully weighed all our options,” he said. “We are not war hungry, but we shall not, I repeat — we shall not allow a situation in which our towns, villages and civilians are constantly targeted by Hamas. It will not be easy or short, but we are determined.”

Hamas, too, has repeatedly made a single point whenever it has been given the chance.

“We first declared a truce between the Palestinian parties and the occupation [Israel] to protect the Palestinians from the daily attacking, daily killing and assassinations, but the calm failed to put an end to their tragedy,” Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said.

As a result, he added, Hamas had little choice other than to refuse to extend the truce. The mood in Gaza made it clear the people did not want the unilaterally declared truce to continue any longer.

Hamas also has international media coverage on its side. The Palestinian Ramattan production company has set up video cameras on Gaza rooftops and is transmitting a live feed to any TV channels that want to broadcast the pictures. Indeed, on Arabic satellite TV, dozens of stations are choosing to show the pictures, which are interspersed with graphic scenes from Gaza hospitals, propagandist videos and one-sided studio discussions.

Similarly, the visual footage coming out of Gaza is being lapped up by the international media, given that it is far more graphic than pictures of Israelis sitting in their bomb shelters.

Those scenes are also bringing about a degree of renewed unity between Hamas and Fatah, its bitter Palestinian rival faction. Politicians from the two sides held their first publicized joint meeting in months with the outbreak of Gaza hostilities.

“Israel used the Palestinian division and the truce to prepare itself well in order to attack Gaza. Now Israel doesn’t differentiate between Hamas and Fatah. We’re also targeted in Gaza,” said senior Fatah official Faisal Abu Shahla, who chose to remain in Gaza rather than flee to the West Bank when Hamas took control of the coastal enclave in 2007.

Comments like these and others from Palestinians, Israelis and world leaders will soon be forgotten, but the vivid images from Gaza and southern Israel will be remembered for years to come: Palestinian and Israeli civilians alike weeping uncontrollably in the face of a fate they cannot control.

The following is a collection of quotations gathered both in Gaza and southern Israel in the last week — and they are remarkably similar:

“It was on Friday; my mother was preparing the food when the shrapnel hit her in the foot.”

“I hope the attacks will stop, and we can live in peace, and we can live a normal life like anyone — to go to school, to go to work in peace and to be able to sleep well.”

“I’m so scared to stay alone in my house.”

“It’s calm at this minute, but it wasn’t hours ago. We heard explosions. They attacked children. Not fighters. Children.”

“People are angry about this. Why didn’t the world say anything and take positive steps?”

The two people are divided by an enormous chasm, by fences, ditches, armed forces and a deep-set paranoia about the intentions of the other. Yet the two have far more in common than perhaps they are ready to admit as the rockets and shells still pound away.

Israelis and Palestinians are united in their fear of the power of weaponry in the hands of the enemy. Both sit in their homes wondering if the next explosive projectile is heading for them. They are making the same visits to hospitals to visit the victims of warfare.

And both are as one as they pay the ultimate price — burying their dead.

Images: Gaza bread line, funeral in Israel

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