Monthly Archives: June 2010

Will The NY Times Ever Retract Michael Oren’s Falsehoods?

Michael Oren makes stuff up. But the NY Times doesnt have to publish it.

Michael Oren makes stuff up. But the NY Times doesn't have to publish it.

Nearly a month after publishing Israeli Ambassador the US Michael Oren’s apologia for the flotilla massacre, the NY Times has yet to correct two of the most glaring lies Oren made. The first of Oren’s deceptions was his assertion that “religious extremists embedded among those on board were paid and equipped to attack Israelis.” The notion that al-Qaeda affiliated mercenaries were on board the Mavi Marmara was discredited as soon as the IDF Spokesman’s Office changed a headline on a press release about terrorist “mercenaries” to read, “Attackers of the IDF Found Without Identification Papers.” The headline was quietly altered on June 3, the same day the Times published Oren’s op-ed. Shouldn’t their fact checkers and editors been better informed?

The second of Oren’s lies was at least as ludicrous as his first. He wrote:

Also found on the boat were propaganda clips showing passengers “injured” by Israeli forces; these videos, however, were filmed during daylight, hours before the nighttime operation occurred.

If this was true, then where were the clips? Why hasn’t the IDF released any footage to support Oren’s claim? Probably because such clips do not exist anywhere. As far as I can tell, they were never on the website of the IDF Spokesman’s Office or the Israeli Foreign Ministry. The footage is not even available on YouTube. So where are they? Certainly the IDF would have wanted to publish anything that supported its version of events. But they could not conjure anything to bolster Oren’s bizarre claim (which seemed to suggest that the killing and maiming of flotilla passengers by Israeli commandos was simply “propaganda” and therefore never happened).

Unless Oren or the Israeli military can produce the “propaganda clips” Oren mentioned, the New York Times should be compelled to retract the falsehoods it published. The Times Public Editor Clark Hoyt can be reached at public@nytimes.com or (212) 556-7652

Where “A Day of Fun” Is A Crime

In a May 7 article, Haaretz reporter Ilana Hammerman described in dramatic detail a crime she had methodically planned and committed. In defiance of laws supposedly related to Israel’s security, Hammerman picked up three teenage Palestinian girls in their village in the West Bank, took them through the Betar checkpoint, and drove them into Tel Aviv. There they ate ice cream, visited the mall and museum, and played in the sea. Even though the girls lived just a few kilometers from the beach, Israel’s military occupation had prevented them from ever visiting it before their illegal “day of fun.”

Hammerman wrote in her account of the experience, “If There Is A Heaven:”

“The end was wonderful. The last photos show them about two hours after the trip to the flea market, running in the darkness on Tel Aviv’s Banana Beach. They didn’t want to stop for even a minute at the restaurant there to have a bite to eat or something to drink, or even to just relax a bit. Instead they immediately removed their sandals again, rolled up their pants and ran into the water. And ran and ran, back and forth, in zig-zags, along the huge beach, ponytails flying in the wind. From time to time, they knelt down in the sand or crowded together in the shallow water to have their picture taken. The final photo shows two of them standing in the water, arms around each others’ waists, their backs to the camera. Only the bright color of their shirts contrasting with the dark water and the sky reveals that the two are Yasmin and Aya, because Lin was wearing a black shirt.”

But the fun ended as soon as a group called The Legal Forum for the Land of Israel filed a request with Israeli Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein demanding that Hammerman be prosecuted for breaking the country’s “Law of Entry to Israel” forbidding Israelis from assisting Palestinians in entering Israel. If Weinstein agrees to the request, Hammerman could face as much as two years in prison.

Continue reading

The Israeli Media’s Flotilla Fail

My summary of the Israeli media’s shambolic performance following the flotilla massacre was originally published here in Hebrew at Dvorit Shargal’s excellent Israeli media blog, Velvet Underground. The English version follows:

If the raid of the Gaza Freedom Flotilla was a disaster for the Israel Defense Forces, its aftermath demonstrated an equally bewildering performance by the Israeli media. The IDF Spokesman’s Office churned out one misleading claim after another, each one more implausible than the next, seeking to implant in the public’s mind a version of events that bore little relation to reality. To a degree, this was to be expected; but it was startling to see how some of Israel’s most respected reporters lined up to serve as military stenographers, barely challenging the IDF’s rapidly changing versions of events. IDF claims about the flotilla passengers’ links to Al Qaida, anti-Semitic statements shouted at the Israeli Navy, and their terrorist intentions were eagerly broadcast by the Israeli media without a second thought. When independent reporters forced the IDF to retract or “clarify” all of these claims, Israeli news outlets refused to correct their errors, or covered them up without acknowledgment.

It so happened that I arrived in Israel for a research trip the day after the flotilla raid. As a result, I was able to do something which I always thought to be a very basic journalistic practice, so basic it’s supposed to be applied routinely: Asking an implicated party in a story to produce evidence for its claims. What I found bewildering is that at least judging from Israeli media reports, few, if any, mainstream reporters applied this practice, and when a visiting colleague did their job for them – nobody bothered to correct or withdraw their original report.

On June 2, the IDF disseminated a press release entitled, “Attackers of the IDF soldiers found to be Al Qaeda mercenaries.” The accusation was not accompanied by any conclusive evidence — the IDF reported that Mavi Marmara passengers were equipped with night-vision goggles (gasp!). This did not stop Yedioth’s Ron Ben-Yishai, who was embedded with the Navy commandos, from amplifying the baseless charge. Citing an “interrogation” of Marmara passengers — “lynchers,” he called them — Ben-Yishai wrote the same day, “Some among the [flotilla passengers] are believed to have ties with World Jihad groups, mainly Al Qaeda.” The article made no reference to any efforts on part of Ben Yishai to investigate this claim, nor did he seem to think to ask why the IDF was about to release dangerous operatives of Osama Bin Laden — presumably they would attack again, wouldn’t they?

Continue reading

Israeli Gov. Promotes Glenn Beck’s Gaza Flotilla Screed

Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs — the diplomatic disaster area of Avigdor Lieberman — is promoting Glenn Beck’s infamous episode on the Gaza Freedom Flotilla on its “selected articles” page. Apparently Israel’s department of hasbara does not realize that Beck is looked at by everyone but the most ardent members of the Tea Party movement as a conspiratorial, racist demagogue with no credibility. Nor does it seem to care that Beck has an extensive record of endorsing the work of virulent anti-Semites like the Nazi apologist Elizabeth Dilling.

Didi Remez has an excellent analysis at Coteret on what he calls “the Tea Partying of the US-Israel relationship.” Remez reports that numerous mainstream Israeli opinion leaders have posted the Beck clip on the Facebook pages along with Caroline Glick’s notoriously racist, “We Con The World” video. Now the Israeli government has gotten in on the act. It’s no wonder being “pro-Israel” in the US is becoming increasingly synonymous with being a Tea Party-style Republican.

Continue reading

(Updated) Nailed Again: IDF Description of Suspicious Photo It Distributed Is Retracted

Update: The subject of the photo has been identified. Reader el_sirio writes: “The guy in the picture is Yemeni lawmaker Mohammad al-Hazmi, showing his ceremonial dagger (known in Yemen as Jambiya), which is carried by every single man in Yemen and is an essential part of the traditional Yemeni dress. Al-Hazmi was detained by the Israelis along with 2 other Yemeni MPs who were on the flotilla. One of them told Yemeni newspapers that the picture was taken long before the Mavi Marmara was attacked by the Israelis. Al-Hazmi was showing off his ceremonial dagger to curious journalists and foreigners on the ship. In this link [Arabic] MP Hazza al-Maswari says that at the time of the Israeli attack, al-Hazmi did not have his Jambiya on him.”

On May 31, the IDF Spokesman’s Office distributed a photo of a bearded Muslim man with a knife surrounded by reporters. Daylight was pouring in from a window or door behind the reporters. Offered without context or explanation, the photo played up a classic Orientalist stereotype of violent, fanatical, and even suicidal Muslims determined to kill Jews. It was included in an article based on testimony from anonymous commandos with the following title: “Israeli Navy Commandos: Gaza flotilla activists tried to lynch us.”

The IDF apparently told Haaretz that the photo was taken immediately after its Naval commandos raided the Mavi Marmara and other flotilla ships — at least, that’s how Haaretz described the photo based on an IDF source. Yet the raid was conducted under the cover of darkness. How could a photo obviously taken during daytime have portrayed an event that took place during the late evening? Do Muslims have magical powers that allow them to turn night into day? And why were reporters standing around, casually taking photos when commandos were supposedly getting “lynched?” Once again, the IDF’s story was highly suspect.

The original IDF-sourced caption — “holding a knife after” commandos boarded — is below:

The original Haaretz caption claims the photo was taken after the Navy commandos raided the Marmara

The original Haaretz caption claims the photo was taken after the Navy commandos raided the Marmara

I called the IDF Spokesman’s Office to inquire about the photo. Why did the IDF claim the photo depicted an event that took place after the commandos raided the flotilla when it was clearly taken during the daytime? I asked.

idf-lie-knife2

After I questioned the IDF's claim of the photo's timing, Haaretz quietly changed the caption, removing language about the photo being taken after the raid

Spokesman Sgt. Chen Arad told me he did not know whether the photo was taken before or after the commandos landed on the Mavi Marmara. “It could be that the claim was made by commandos in the interview,” he maintained. I reminded him that Haaretz’s source for the photo was not the commandos, but the IDF Spokesman’s Office. After confirming that his office released the photo, Arad said, “It is reasonable that it was before the actual takeover but I’m not sure what was claimed with Haaretz.”

Soon after I spoke with Arad on June 8, Haaretz scrubbed its caption of the suspicious photo, removing the phrase, “holding a knife after Israeli commandos boarded their ship.” However, Haaretz did not mention the retraction, probably assuming no one would notice. The retraction raises disturbing questions about the level of coordination between the IDF and the Israeli media. Did the IDF Spokesman’s Office tip Haaretz off after I called them? And why does Haaretz accept the IDF’s version of events on the Marmara at face value? Besides casting a shadow over Haaretz’s coverage of the flotilla raid, this episode once again proves that nothing the IDF says can be trusted.