Sunday, August 20, 2006

Suspicious minds

News just in from the BBC...

'Suspicious' pair taken off plane

Two men were taken off a flight bound for Manchester after some passengers became alarmed about what they regarded as suspicious behaviour. People on the Airbus 320 at Malaga alerted staff and demanded their removal, Monarch Airlines said.

The pair were subsequently taken from flight ZB 613, carrying 150 passengers and seven crew, early on Wednesday. Two men, reported to be of Asian or Middle Eastern appearance, were questioned for several hours. Flight delay Authorities allowed them to fly back to the UK later in the week. The plane had been due to take off about 0300 BST but was delayed by about three hours.

A spokesman for Monarch Airlines said: "There were two passengers on the flight who came to the attention of the other people because they were apparently acting suspiciously. "The flight attendants were sufficiently concerned to alert the crew who in turn informed the security authorities at Malaga airport." No details of their "suspicious" behaviour were revealed.

The Conservative homeland security spokesman, Patrick Mercer, described the incident as "a victory for terrorists". "These people on the flight have been terrorised into behaving irrationally," he told the Mail on Sunday. "For those unfortunate two men to be victimised because of the colour of their skin is just nonsense."

Freedmanslife has noticed something interesting about this, which leads us to believe it's yet another of those Zionist conspiracies. The flight number, ZB613 - it sounds like one of those classic wind-up announcements that bored activists would put over the tannoys at NUS Conference (would the driver of blue and white Volvo numberplate E475 FZY please move their car). For the uninitiated (ie uncircumcised), E475 is a non-kosher E-number in food, FZY is a youth movement where we brainwash nice Jewish kids into the Green Lizardoid Plot, 613 is the number of mitzvot (rules and regs, heavenly-rewarded) in the Bible, and anything with a Z in it is something Zionist-related. In this case I propose Zionist Belligerence.

As Freedmansmother commented this morning, it seems rather unfair that two possibly Middle Eastern men, looking uncomfortable and talking in their native language, should be thrown off a plane at the passengers' request, having been cleared by security. After all, wouldn't we be rather peeved if two bubbes were thrown off a flight for gesticulating wildly and yabbering in yiddish? Well, firstly if that was a criterion for removal, no El Al flight would ever make it to the skies, and secondly, I am struggling to remember the last time there was an almost-daily terror alert in which the prime suspects were all Jews.

Any further suggestions on what coded message may be hidden in flight number ZB613 gratefull received...

Saturday, August 19, 2006

A Small, Open-minded World

In response to the posting I made a couple of weeks back, my interlocutor posted this response, which, whilst I may not agree with it, is at least open-minded and informative. I think it's best to read the original first, whilst aSW members can visit the entire original thread here:

First, I would like to express you my gratitude in expressing your deep thoughts about the Israelis society through the concept of psyche I tried in a clumsy way to nail it, this to better understand our current situation. You have covered many fields outlining the progress of your society and I thank you for that.

Thank you for acknowledging my efforts in that sens. Beyong the usual facts and events, I took and still take great interest during few years in trying to question myself on how I can better perceive your society to understand its motivation and its policies. It is a challenge for various reasons especially that I never travelled there.

The root of my research are aimed in trying to understand your state of mind. I already mentionned that in another thread that for me, once both sides understands each parties state of mind, peace can be achieved in 24h. That's why I mentionned in my prevous post the effect of Holocaust and the persecutions during centuries your own had to face. It is a huge trauma I have tried and still try to understand (understand is a big word because I believe one must be Jew to fully understand its effect). Out of it I came up with the need to secure its own community.

During 10 years in Algeria, we have been witnessing Algerian extremists acting like barbarians in their crimes. Trully the word babarian is generous for who wants to explore how evil a human can be against its own. Thank God we turned that page in our country since few years but for who goes there, despite the return of peace, there is a trauma people tries to not question yet because too fresh. It is hidden by a great sens of enjoying life as it comes but it will take time for the population to heal its pain. Long time. This fight has been only achieve by us and no one did help.

Our national psyche is made of lots of strenght and there is at the same time a quest for resourcing ourselves in our identity that has been denied during 132 years (1832-1962) of french colonization. We are considered as a tough people in North Africa because we are the only one with very few nations that had to fight during 7 years with our bloods for our independance. That gives us a strong sens of pride and nationalism in reaction to colonial humiliation. If you ask me how come some Algerian extremists could act like barbarians in cutting heads when killing for example children, I could answer you that may be because deep down our psyche there is something that is a result of historical oppression that still needs to be healed, in resourcing ourselves by rebuilding our collective conscious. I am not even sure I can be right about that and these are my own thoughts.

Hence, facing the brutal occupation Israel is doing, I do wonder where in your national psyche this strenght can be explained. Of course, we have to take in consideration various events and wars that challenged Israel vs Palestinians vs Arabs. That is why also I was questionning the lack of humanity on a global way when I see the strong support your government is getting from his population..

You are right when you are mentionning about the general fatigue because I do sense it a bit after two years of intense debats with few israelis I respect in this forum but also through some I have met because Israelis cousin of friends. I sensed that also when travelling in Carabeans where I met out of nowhere first time in my life few israelis who just spent their 2 years IDF. I sensed in them something like a fatigue and desire for peace. I am not blind Michael even if my post seems tough sometimes. It's because I understand a bit better your situation that I seem to be very demanding for more steps when it comes to making peace on a political topics. You have in common with Palestinians the same deep love for that Land you live on. If there is a sacred Land in this planet people fight for like crazy because deeply attached it's certainely the one you live in.

I agree with you about the generational aspect between those who faced army like you mentionnned and the ones who grown up with war stories. I believe this is the challenge of your generation Michael that can make the difference. This challenge is now on another context because there are more road to build peace upon if you compare our times to the Yom Kippour political context one (as per your example). That is why I fight hardly in this direction. Several bridges exist and they need to be used. You have bridges with Jordan, Egypt and several Arabs countries that wouldnt mind in building them once for all. The fatigue of your generation is the same for mine who would like to see this conflict resolved.

I often mention a lack of communication between Jews and Arabs. How come abroad we can be best friends and build strong relationship, but once in our respective Land, it becomes difficult and feeling a sens of schizophrenia ? I wont deny that the Arabs World, for various countries, there are still deep problems with extremism. I believe Israelis must understand that only Arabs can deal with it and know how, instead of being scared to have to face them one day.

Extremism is a common enemy Michael. Not only for Israel when facing Hamas but also for various Arabs States with their own. The only way to eradicate it is to face them not with weapons but with economic growth and complete recognition of final borders for the Palestinians.

That's what the world is waiting for and that's why the world is making strong critics against Israel. Yes, I can understand that you feel the world is disconnected of your realities, but your neighbours arent Michael. Instead of going to war against Lebanon, I believe that another way of dealing with Hezbollah could have been used.

The world today is challenged by 2 antagonists methods. One is proning the use of force and the other one prones the use of brain in the light of human history.

Look honestly what the use of force as method has achieved in past 7 years if not openning crisis. this is the same methods used against Palestinians, and look the result if not more extremism. Methods can be changed.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

A Small, Disgusting World

I am a member of an online community called A Small World (aSW). In recent weeks, its discussion boards have been filled with debates on Lebanon, Hizballah, Israel etc. By sheer weight of numbers, aided by staged and doctored media reports, the "destroy Israel" (sorry, I mean "Israel is being disproportionate") grouping have filled the many threads and posts with enough vitriol that the aSW management made a decision to shut down any Middle East-related threads, under a "ceasefire" agreement. Luckily, they have been much more successful in persuading the pro-Hizballah wing to disarm than the UN will be on the ground.

In response to the site owner, Scott Rutherford's posting to anonunce the ceasefire, I sent this (subsequently I removed it because the usual suspects, who had previously called me a terrorist, denied and belittled the Holocaust, been overtly or covertly anti-Semitic, claimed Israel-Nazi links etc, didn't see the funny side and I was too exhausted to debate any more):


We at the lizardoid neo-con mind-meld faction of aSW would like to thank you for your decision, as we were hopelessly outnumbered by the waves of people who shouted louder and got more emotional than us and were therefore obviously right. We assure you that a cheque will be in the post just as soon as we make some money from our recently-acquired Iraqi oilwells, unless we have to fund a hostile takeover in Tehran first...

All the best

Michael F
ZOG HQ, Tel Aviv

Dear Neo-Con and/or Secretly-Horned aSW members (all 14 of you)

The Most Zionist Elder of the Lizardoid Council has asked me to interject here to point out that Scott's decision was in no way related to the recent sale of a very substantial stake of aSW to a member of our Council, as this would not be in keeping with the Protocols, which require much more subtlety of their members.

For example, we had managed to keep the following secret, until recently uncovered by aSW members on these boards:

- the whole ongoing Zionist-Nazi conspiracy
- how Israel is actually secretly a Nazi inheritor state, hell-bent on genocide
- how our beloved IDF was using chemical weapons in Lebanon
- that the Yanks have given us laser-guided bombs especially so we can maximise the civilian casualties, because for reasons I am not allowed to go into in public, this is strategically in our interests
- that I am actually a terrorist mouthpiece and rabid extremist
- that the Holocaust maybe didn't happen, or was certainly exaggerated
- assorted stuff we had kept secret about widespread Jewish terrorism

It's very sad that all our evil secrets have come out, but now they have, we respect Scott's totally independent choice to shut the threads down. We at the ZOG HQ are sure his decision was not influenced in any way by the fact that we have used our conspiratorial powers to make some of the claims of certain aSW-ers illegal in certain countries, as well as amounting to national and personal libel or slander in others, and we have certainly done a thorough job in dressing up these wholly true and justified accusations against Israel as anti-Semitism. Luckily, we have the most expensive lawyers, and also have the judiciary in our pockets anyway, so calls for extremists and terrorists like me to be banned from aSW have fallen on deaf ears.

Scott, as we said, cheque's in the post, just as soon as we get that damn Prudhoe Bay oilfield pumping again. Seems that shut-downs are endemic these days...


Dear Most Zionist Elder

Apologies, I swear on the secret map of Greater Israel from Nile to Euphrates that I shall atone for this error, but I think I just sent this to everyone at aSW instead of just the neo-cons. Please tell me what I can do to correct this - perhaps another 3 years in the Zionazi Occupying Forces, either in the Middle East or Hollywood?

Junior Lizardoid
(Oil Wealth Expropriation Division)

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Israel's Broken Heart

I was just about to write something very much like this, by Yossi Klein Halevi:

However hard Ehud Olmert tries to spin it, the U.N. ceasefire that began yesterday is a disaster for Israel and for the war on terrorism generally. With an unprecedented green light from Washington to do whatever necessary to uproot the Iranian front line against Israel, and with a level of national unity and willingness to sacrifice unseen here since the 1973 Yom Kippur War, our leaders squandered weeks restraining the army and fighting a pretend war. Only in the two days before the ceasefire was the army finally given the go-ahead to fight a real war.

But, by then, the U.N. resolution had codified the terms of Israel's defeat. The resolution doesn't require the immediate return of our kidnapped soldiers, but does urgently place the Shebaa Farms on the international agenda--as if the Lebanese jihadists fired some 4,000 rockets at the Israeli homefront over the fate of a bare mountain that the United Nations concluded in 1967 belonged not to Lebanon but Syria. Worst of all, it once again entrusts the security of Israel's northern border to the inept unifil. As one outraged TV anchor put it, Israeli towns were exposed to the worst attacks since the nation's founding, a million residents of the Galilee fled or sat in shelters for a month, more than 150 Israeli civilians and soldiers were killed along with nearly a thousand Lebanese--all in order to ensure the return of U.N. peacekeepers to southern Lebanon.

This is a nation whose heart has been broken: by our failure to uproot the jihadist threat, which will return for another and far more deadly round; by the economic devastation of the Galilee and of a neighboring land we didn't want to attack; by the heroism of our soldiers and the hesitations of our politicians; by the young men buried and crippled in a war we prevented ourselves from winning; by foreign journalists who can't tell the difference between good and evil; by European leaders who equate an army that tries to avoid civilian causalities with a terrorist group that revels in them; by a United Nations that questions Israel's right to defend itself; and by growing voices on the left who question Israel's right to exist at all.

At least some of the disasters of the past weeks were self-inflicted. We forfeited the public relations battle that was, in part, Israel's to lose. How is it possible that we failed to explain the justness of a war fought against a genocidal enemy who attacked us across our U.N.-sanctioned international border? It's hard to remember now, but we began this war with the sympathy of a large part of the international community. Some Arab leaders, for the first time in the history of the Middle East conflict, actually blamed other Arabs for initiating hostilities with Israel. That response came when Israel seemed determined to defeat Hezbollah; but, as the weeks dragged on and Hezbollah appeared to be winning, moderate Arabs adjusted accordingly. They didn't switch sides because we were fighting too assertively but because we weren't fighting assertively enough.

Even before the shooting stopped, the reckoning here had already begun. There are widespread expectations of dismissals for senior military commanders who--when finally given the chance to end the Hezbollah threat they had been warning about for almost 25 years--couldn't implement a creative battle plan. But demands for accountability won't be confined to the army alone. Journalist Ari Shavit, who has taken on something of the role of Motti Ashkenazi--the reservist soldier who led the movement to bring down the government of Golda Meir and Moshe Dayan after the Yom Kippur War--wrote a front-page article in Haaretz calling for Olmert's resignation. And that is only the opening shot. Even Maariv's Ben Caspit, one of Israel's most pro-Olmert journalists, published an imaginary Olmert speech of apology to the nation. A cartoon in Maariv showed Olmert as a boy playing with a yo-yo inscribed with israel defense forces. None of Israel's wars was ever fought with greater micromanagement by a government, and no government was ever less qualified to manage a war as this one. Just as the post-Yom Kippur War period destroyed military and political careers and eventually led to the collapse of the Labor Party's hegemony, so will the post-Lebanon period end careers and perhaps even the short-lived Kadima Party experiment.

A long list of reckonings awaits the Israeli public. There's the scandal of the government's abandonment of tens of thousands of poor Israelis who lacked the means to escape the north and were confined for weeks in public shelters, their needs largely tended to by volunteers. There's the growing bitterness between Jewish Israelis and Arab Israelis, many of whom supported Hezbollah in a war most Jews saw as an existential attack on the state. And there's the emergency need to resurrect the military reserves, which have been so neglected that a majority of men over 21 don't even serve anymore and those that do tend to feel like suckers.

Still, in the Jewish calendar, the summer weeks after the fast of the Ninth of Av, commemorating the destruction of the Temple, are a time of consolation. "Be consoled, be consoled, my people," we read from the Torah on the Sabbath after the fast. And so we console ourselves with the substantial achievements of the people of Israel during this month of war. First, our undiminished capacity for unity. My favorite symbol of that unity is the antiwar rapper, Muki, whose hit song during the era of Palestinian suicide bombings lamented the absence of justice for the Palestinians but who, this time, insisted that the army needs to "finish the job" against Hezbollah. Second, our middle-class children, with their cell phones, iPods, and pizza deliveries to their army bases. In intimate combat, they repeatedly bested Hezbollah fighters, even though the terrorists had the advantage of familiar terrain. This generation has given us some of Israel's most powerful images of heroism, like the soldier from a West Bank settlement and father of two young children who leaped onto a grenade to save his friends, shouting the Shema--the prayer of God's oneness--just before the grenade exploded. Along with the recriminations, there will be many medals of valor awarded in the coming weeks.

But the last month's fighting is only one battle in the jihadist war against Israel's homefront that began with the second intifada in September 2000. Israel won the first phase of that war, the four years of suicide bombings that lasted until 2004. Now, in the second phase, we've lost the battle against the rockets. But the qualities this heartbreak has revealed --unity and sacrifice and faith in the justness of our cause--will ensure our eventual victory in the next, inevitable, bitter round. Such is the nature of consolation in Israel in the summer of 2006.

Yossi Klein Halevi is a foreign correspondent for The New Republic and senior fellow of the Shalem Center in Jerusalem.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

The dawn mist

Apparently Israel is surrendering, I mean entering a ceasefire, tomorrow morning. But don't let the dawn mist camouflage what has really happened. Olmert's leadership rating has gone from excellent to pretty poor in the last few weeks. The collective military inexperience of his Cabinet was exposed as they failed to give free rein to the generals for an early and decisive ground offensive. The total lack of skill at shaping world opinion, whilst the other side were staging and doctoring entire montages, has left Israel even more isolated and detested than before. The dive for a ceasefire before even coming close to achieving the objectives set out at the beginning, and will probably be interpreted as a sign of weakness by its enemies, thus leading in the near future to more hostilities.

There are only two types of victory: complete and unquestionable, ie 1967, or enough to achieve your objectives whilst letting the other side believe it was some form of success for them too, ie 1973. This is certainly not the former, and given that the objective of destroying or permanently crippling Hizballah has not been achieved, seems not to be the latter.

In any case, a first hat tip goes to Freedmansdad for the articles below, which remind us that there are some sane people left in Britain and Beirut, both unlikely to be blinded by tomorrow's dawn.

Iain Duncan Smith: Israel is one of the most vulnerable nations on the planet
Iain Duncan Smith MP reflects on the current crisis in the Middle East

Recent surveys have shown little public support within Britain for Israel’s actions against the Hezbollah terrorists in Lebanon. Israel’s leaders protest that they have a right to self-defence but these protests win little sympathy. Most observers, including some leading members of my own party, believe that Israel has acted “disproportionately”. The nature of the media coverage has encouraged this belief. BBC and other reporters broadcast the horrific scenes of civilian areas flattened by Israeli bombs. Hardly any attention is given to the fact that Hezbollah launch their missiles from residential areas. Hezbollah think nothing of using family homes and flats as human shields. When Saddam Hussain did that we were appalled. But not now.

I have always supported Israel because I admire its democracy and the constitutional freedoms enjoyed by its citizens. Many of the nations in the region fund terrorists and repress their own people. All of the world’s democracies should have a natural solidarity with Israel but there has been little sign of such solidarity in recent days or in recent years.

Israel has failed to win the support it deserves because the rights and wrongs of situations do not matter enough in our postmodern societies. What weighs most heavily on today’s western minds are perceptions of strength. Israel is seen as the strong man of the region. It has the advanced weaponry, the elite troops and the support of America. The Palestinians first and now the Hezbollah operatives are seen as the underdogs. It’s plucky Hezbollah versus mighty Israel on the media. People feel ‘disproportionate’ sympathy with the people of the Gaza Strip and southern Lebanon because there is a clear imbalance between their crude forms of organisation and weaponry and of that available to Israel.

If Israel is ever to win more international allies the western understanding of the region needs to be reframed. The reality is that Israel is one of the most vulnerable nations on the planet. It is certainly the most besieged. It is surrounded by fundamentalist preachers, terrorists and dictators who object to its very existence. This true axis of evil is led by the President of Iran. When President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad recently called for a war against the West, and for Israel “to be wiped off the face of the map”, one of the biggest mistakes made was to (i) treat this as something new and (ii) to dismiss it as political rhetoric. Far from being a one-off statement, Ahmadinejad was confirming a series of statements by Iranian leaders. In 2001 Ayatollah Ali Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani stated “if a day comes when the world of Islam is duly equipped with the application of an atomic bomb, it would not leave anything in Israel but the same thing would just produce damages in the Muslim world”. Iran, in particular, and Syria are now the world’s leading funders of terrorism. Both Hamas and Hezbollah are nurtured from Tehran. How would we feel if nearby nations were funding Britain-hating terrorists? What would we think of our political leaders if they waited six years to respond to missile attacks from those terrorists?

The ‘world community’ asks Israel to act proportionately but what will ‘world community leaders’ do in order to protect Israel if it does act in a way that Annan, Chirac and Putin think appropriate? Not, of course, that these leaders act proportionately in defence of their own interests. Putin almost bombed Grozny back to the stone age when Chechnya wanted independence. Chirac ignored world opinion when France tested nuclear weapons in the South Pacific. Annan turned a blind eye to the corruption of the oil-for-food programme – corruption that contributed to the loss of thousands of lives every month in Saddam’s Iraq. The best clue to understanding how the world will protect Israel in the next few years is to reflect on recent history. The best thing the world community does is talk. Disproportionate talking is in fact the only thing it does but jaw-jaw has not stopped the suicide bomb or missile attacks on Israel. After Israel unilaterally withdrew from Lebanon in accordance with UN resolutions the world community promised to disband Hezbollah and protect the northern territories of Israel from shelling. It didn’t. The promise never evolved into action. $100m has been sunk into the UN’s interim force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) in every year of the last six but Hezbollah has only grown stronger. The only newsworthy story generated by UNIFIL was a recent financial scam.

Israel played by the international rules for six years but ‘disproportionate diplomacy’ did nothing to stop attacks on civilians or its soldiers being kidnapped. Israel now watches the same international community engage in a ‘disproportionate dither’ over Iran’s nuclear programme. Tel Aviv has seen the world fail to protect Israel from Hezbollah. Why should it have much hope that we will protect it from a nuclear Tehran?

Ultimately the terrorists of Hezbollah and their backers are responsible for the loss of life in Israel and across Lebanon. If peace is to be found for all people of the region it needs to begin with a fundamental reappraisal of recent years of international diplomacy. From Bosnia to Darfur and from Iraq to Lebanon the UN has chalked up a terrible record of failure. After this immediate crisis has passed it is vital that we first face up to the reasons for that record of failure.

The Abdication of Lebanese Leaders
State of Denial by Michael Béhé

[ Editor's Note: This article was originally published by the Metula News Agency, for whom it was translated from the French by Llewellyn Brown, and is reprinted with permission. ]

Beirut, Lebanon

The politicians, journalists and intellectuals of Lebanon have, of late, been experiencing the shock of their lives. They knew full well that Hezbollah had created an independent state in our country, a state including all the ministers and parallel institutions, duplicating those of Lebanon. What they did not know--and are discovering with this war, and what has petrified them with surprise and terror--is the extent of this phagocytosis.

In fact, our country had become an extension of Iran, and our so-called political power also served as a political and military cover for the Islamists of Teheran. We suddenly discovered that Teheran had stocked more than 12,000 missiles, of all types and calibers, on our territory and that they had patiently, systematically, organized a suppletive force, with the help of the Syrians, that took over, day after day, all the rooms in the House of Lebanon. Just imagine it: We stock ground-to-ground missiles, Zilzals, on our territory and the firing of such devices, without our knowledge, has the power to spark a regional strategic conflict and, potentially, bring about the annihilation of Lebanon.

We knew that Iran, by means of Hezbollah, was building a veritable Maginot line in the south, but it was the pictures of Maroun el Ras and Bint Jbail that revealed to us the magnitude of these constructions. This amplitude made us understand several things at once: that we were no longer masters of our destiny; that we do not possess the most basic means necessary to reverse the course of this state of things; and that those who turned our country into an outpost of their Islamic doctrine's combat against Israel did not have the slightest intention of willingly giving up their hold over us.

The national salvation discussions that concerned the application of Resolution 1559, and which included most of the Lebanese political movements, were simply for show. Iran and Syria had not invested billions of dollars on militarizing Lebanon in order to wage their war, simply to give in to the desire of the Lebanese and the international community for them to pack up their hardware and set it up back home.

And then, the indecision, the cowardice, the division and the irresponsible behavior of our leaders are such that they had no effort to make to show their talent. No need to engage a wrestling match with the other political components of the Land of Cedars. The latter showed themselves--and continue to show themselves--to be inconsistent.

Of course, our army, reshaped over the years by the Syrian occupier so it could no longer fulfill its role as protector of the nation, did not have the capacity to tackle the militamen of the Hezbollah. Illustration courtesy Michael Behe/Metula News AgencyOur army, whom it is more dangerous to call upon--because of the explosive equilibrium that constitutes each of its brigades--than to shut up behind locked doors in its barracks. A force that is still largely loyal to its former foreign masters, to the point of being uncontrollable; to the point of having collaborated with the Iranians to put our coastal radar stations at the disposal of their missiles, that almost sunk an Israeli boat off the shores of Beirut. As for the non-Hezbollah elements in the government, they knew nothing of the existence of land-to-sea missiles on our territory ... that caused the totally justified destruction of all our radar stations by the Hebrews' army. And even then we are getting off lightly in these goings-on.

It is easy now to whine and gripe, and to play the hypocritical role of victims. We know full well how to get others to pity us and to claim that we are never responsible for the horrors that regularly occur on our soil. Of course, that is nothing but rubbish! The Security Council's Resolution 1559--that demanded that our government deploy our army on our sovereign territory, along our international border with Israel and that it disarm all the militia on our land--was voted on September 2, 2004.

We had two years to implement this resolution and thus guarantee a peaceful future to our children, but we did absolutely nothing. Our greatest crime--which was not the only one!--was not that we did not succeed, but that we did not attempt or undertake anything. And that was the fault of none else than the pathetic Lebanese politicians.

Our government, from the very moment the Syrian occupier left, let ships and truckloads of arms pour into our country. Without even bothering to look at their cargo. They jeopardized all chances for the rebirth of our country by confusing the Cedar Revolution with the liberation of Beirut. In reality, we had just received the chance--a sort of unhoped-for moratorium--that allowed us to take the future into our own hands, nothing more.

To think that we were not even capable of agreeing to "hang" Émile Lahoud --Al-Assad's puppet-- on Martyrs' Square and that he is still president of what some insist on calling our republic. ... There is no need to look any further: We are what we are, that is to say, not much.

All those who assume public and communicational responsibilities in this country are responsible for this catastrophe. Except those of my colleagues, journalists, and editors, who are dead, assassinated by the Syrian thugs, because they were clearly less cowardly than those who survived. And Lahoud remained at Baadbé, the president's palace!

And when I speak of a catastrophe, I do not mean the action accomplished by Israel in response to the aggression against its civilians and its army, which was produced from our soil and that we did strictly nothing to avoid, and for which we are consequently responsible. Any avoiding of this responsibility--some people here do not have the minimal notions of international law necessary to understand!--means that Lebanon, as a state, does not exist.

The hypocrisy goes on: Even some editorialists of the respectable L'Orient Le Jour put Hezbollah's savagery and that of the Israelis on a par! Shame! Spinelessness! And who are we in this fable? Poor ad aeternumvictims of the ambitions of others?

Politicians either support this insane idea or keep silent. Those we would expect to speak, to save our image, remain silent like the others. And I am precisely alluding to General Aoun, who could have made a move by proclaiming the truth. Even his enemy, Walid Jumblatt, the Druze leader, has proved to be less ... vague.

Lebanon a victim? What a joke!

Before the Israeli attack, Lebanon no longer existed, it was no more than a hologram. In Beirut, innocent citizens like me were forbidden access to certain areas of their own capital. But our police, our army, and our judges were also excluded. That was the case, for example, of Hezbollah's and the Syrians' command zone in the Haret Hreik quarter (in red on the satellite map). A square measuring a kilometer wide, a capital within the capital, permanently guarded by a Horla army, possessing its own institutions, its schools, its crèches, its tribunals, its radio, its television and, above all ... its government. A "government" that, alone decided, in the place of the figureheads of the Lebanese government--in which Hezbollah also had its ministers!--to attack a neighboring state, with which we had no substantial or grounded quarrel, and to plunge the United States into a bloody conflict. And if attacking a sovereign nation on its territory, assassinating eight of its soldiers, kidnapping two others and, simultaneously, launching missiles on nine of its towns does not constitute a casus belli, the latter juridical principle will seriously need revising.

Thus almost all of these cowardly politicians, including numerous Shia leaders and religious personalities themselves, are blessing each bomb that falls from a Jewish F-16 turning the insult to our sovereignty that was Haret Hreik, right in the heart of Beirut, into a lunar landscape. Without the Israelis, how could we have received another chance--that we in no way deserve!--to rebuild our country?

Each Irano-Syrian fort that Jerusalem destroys, each Islamic fighter they eliminate, and Lebanon proportionally starts to live again! Once again, the soldiers of Israel are doing our work. Once again, like in 1982, we are watching--cowardly, lying low, despicable, and insulting them to boot--their heroic sacrifice that allows us to keep hoping. To not be swallowed up in the bowels of the earth. Because, of course, by dint of not giving a damn for southern Lebanon, of letting foreigners take hold of the privileges that belong to us, we no longer had the ability to recover our independence and sovereignty. If, at the end of this war, the Lebanese army retakes control over its territory and gets rid of the state within a state--that tried to suffocate the latter--it will only be thanks to the Tsahal [Israeli Defense Force], and that, all these faint-hearted politicians, from the crook Fuad Siniora, to Saad Hariri, the son of Lebanon's plunderer, and general Aoun, all know perfectly well.

As for the destruction caused by the Israelis ... that is another imposture: Look at the satellite map! I have situated, as best I could, but in their correct proportions, the parts of my capital that have been destroyed by Israel. They are Haret Hreik--in its totality--and the dwellings of Hezbollah's leaders, situated in the large Shia suburb of Dayaa (as they spell it) and that I have circled in blue.

In addition to these two zones, Tsahal has exploded a nine-storied building that housed Hezbollah's command, in Beirut's city center, above and slightly to the left (to the north west) of Haret Hreik on the map. Image courtesy Metula News AgencyIt was Nasrallah's "perch" inside the city, whereby he asserted his presence and domination over us. A depot of Syrian arms in the port, two army radars that the Shiite officers had put at Hezbollah's disposal, and a truck suspected of transporting arms, in the Christian quarter of Ashrafieh.

Moreover the road and airport infrastructures were put out of working order : they served to provide Hezbollah with arms and munitions. Apart from that, Tsahal has neither hit nor deteriorated anything, and all those who speak of the "destruction of Beirut" are either liars, Iranians, anti-Semites or absent. Even the houses situated one alley's distance from the targets I mentioned have not been hit, they have not even suffered a scratch; on contemplating these results of this workyou understand the meaning of the concept "surgical strikes" and you can admire the dexterity of the Jewish pilots. Beirut, all the rest of Beirut, 95 percent of Beirut, lives and breathes better than a fortnight ago. All those who have not sided with terrorism know they have strictly nothing to fear from the Israeli planes, on the contrary! One example: Last night the restaurant where I went to eat was jammed full and I had to wait until 9:30 p.m. to get a table. Everyone was smiling, relaxed, but no one filmed them: a strange destruction of Beirut, is it not?

Of course, there are some 500,000 refugees from the south who are experiencing a veritable tragedy and who are not smiling. But Jean Tsadik, who has his eyes fixed on Kfar Kileh, and from whom I have learned to believe each word he says, assures me that practically all the houses of the aforesaid refugees are intact. So they will be able to come back as soon as Hezbollah is vanquished.

The defeat of the Shia fundamentalists of Iranian allegiance is imminent. The figures communicated by Nasrallah's minions and by the Lebanese Red Cross are deceiving: firstly, of the 400 dead declared by Lebanon, only 150 are real collateral civilian victims of the war, the others were militiamen without uniform serving Iran. The photographic report "Les Civils des bilans libanais" made by Stéphane Juffa for the Metula News Agency constitutes, to this day, the unique tangible evidence of this gigantic morbid manipulation. Which makes this document eminently important.

Moreover, Hassan Nasrallah's organization has not lost 200 combatants, as Tsahal claims. This figure only concerns the combats taking place on the border and even then the Israelis underestimate it, for a reason that escapes me, by about a hundred militiamen eliminated. The real count of Hezbollah's casualties, that includes those dead in Beirut, the Bekaa Valley, Baalbek and their other camps, rocket and missile launchers and arms and munition depots amounts to 1,100 supplementary Hezbollah militiamen who have definitively ceased to terrorize and humiliate my country.

Like the overwhelming majority of Lebanese, I pray that no one puts an end to the Israeli attack before it finishes shattering the terrorists. I pray that the Hebrew soldiers will penetrate all the hidden recesses of southern Lebanon and will hunt out, in our stead, the vermin that has taken root there. Like the overwhelming majority of Lebanese, I have put the champagne ready in the refrigerator to celebrate the Israeli victory.

But contrary to them--and to paraphrase [French singer] Michel Sardou--I recognize that they are also fighting for our liberty, another battle "where you were not present"! And in the name of my people, I wish to express my infinite gratitude to the relatives of the Israeli victims--civilian and military--whose loved ones have fallen so that I can live standing upright in my identity. They should know that I weep with them.

As for the pathetic clique that thrives at the head of my country, it is time for them to understand that after this war, after our natural allies have rid us of those who are hindering us from rebuilding a nation, a cease-fire or an armistice will not suffice. To ensure the future of Lebanon, it is time to make peace with those we have no reason to go to war against. In fact, only peace will ensure peace. Someone must tell them because in this country we have not learnt what a truism is.

Michael Béhé is a writer for the Metula News Agency.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Plot foiled, plot missed

Yesterday, in a coordinated operation across the country, police and security forces apprehended 24 people involved in a plot to blow up a number of commercial airliners en route to the USA. But apparently, the real news on those arrests, as seen through the eyes of the many respected figures from the British Muslim community who have already responded in this morning's papers: this whole thing is more likely to be a plot to frame Muslims and scapegoat Islam than it is to be a thwarted terrorist attack by Islamic fascists (now Bush uses this term too, I shall feel free).

This is coupled with Jon Snow's documentary this week, showing the staggering proportion of British Muslims who think Israel and America might have been behind 9/11 (45% said they were and another 35% said they didn't know either way). Oh, did I mention that just 29% believed the Holocaust happened as the history books show (the rest thought it didn't, was exagerrated, didn't know, or had never heard of it).

Here are some choice comments from my fellow right-wing nut-jobs:

"By Thursday morning security forces had arrested some 21 suspects. All are British citizens. All are Muslims. It is not a stretch of the imagination to assume that these British Muslims are jihadists. Indeed, it can probably be assumed that, like their predecessors last July 7, they made their decision to commit an unspeakable atrocity against their countrymen to advance Islam's takeover of Britain... why is the jihad picking up steam now? Why are fanatical Muslims on the march this summer? It would seem that the answer to this question is found in the increased cultural weakness of the two states leading the war against radical Islam: the US and Britain. In both countries, for the past two years, the forces of leftist radicalism and appeasement have been on the rise." Caroline Glick in the Jerusalem Post, 11 August 2006

"Britain, like much of Europe, has discarded the anchors that held society in place and enabled it to endure in times of uncertainty. Churches are being turned into mosques... Britain has made a virtue of its post-colonial guilt and its own loss of values by embracing multiculturalism, a fuzzy notion which holds that all cultures, all standards, all values are of equal merit. Into this morass of uncertainty step the young Muslims, certain of their belief and confident in their identity. Like the stranded passengers at London's airports, wandering around glassy eyed and lost, Britain has become a soft target for these new Islamists. They know exactly who they are and where they are going." Douglas Davis in the National Post, 11 August 2006

"Islam has an identity crisis that it must combat. A virulent strain that mixes testosterone and a nihilistic theology has afflicted a small minority of young Muslims... There will also be critics and cynics who are not Muslim, who would like to believe that if only foreign policy would change, the threat would immediately recede and the extremism evaporate. Those who would commit mass murder are not to be appeased by this or that policy fluctuation. Jihadists see Western society as innately evil, an existential threat to their puritanical, obscurantist version of Islam. They cannot come to terms with sexual equality, Western values, tolerance or democracy. To them, the Palestinian or Iraqi contexts are only settings for the introduction of an ideology that is utterly intolerant and regards moderate Muslims as apostates. If policy on either changed, they would look for other justifications for their fanaticism." Editorial in the London Times, 11 August 2006

Not sure I have all that much to add, except to thank the paranoiacs at Islamophobia Watch, who collated the articles above to add to their list of people who criticise too much. I look forward to them trawling and adding some of my articles; I would consider it a badge of honour to be placed alongside the editors of the Times, Caroline Glick, Julie Burchill et al, in the annals of outspoken enmity to Islamic fascism.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

More Beeb bias

Thought I'd bring you a few snippets from the BBC newslog, written by James Landale in Nick Robinson's absence. Here is the key excerpt:

Well, some of the thinking in Number 10 goes like this - you persuade Lebanon that the Israelis are keen to leave and will do so in the short term, after a cessation of violence, but only if they can be replaced by a mixture of Lebanese troops and existing UN forces which are already on the ground (they are called Unifil, they number about 2000 and they've been there for years).

These troops, Downing Street sources suggest, could be "bolstered" and given a more active role. So under this scenario, there'd be no big bang withdrawal by Israel, just a slow, incremental, coordinated pull back, with no vacuum filled by Hezbollah. That at least is the theory. There are a lot of 'ifs' built into the plan and the reality on the ground, as ever, could prove rather different.

This reasonable position drew some indignant responses, but my favourite two were these:

#1. At 03:19 PM on 08 Aug 2006, Richard O'shea wrote:

How does the prime minister intend to adjust Israels extreme and indescriminate use of force? Today we hear that they will destroy any moving vehicle, without cause, just the possibility that it may be carrying war material. This should not be tolerated nor should attempts be made to justify it as the result of such force is the potential loss of inocent life.

How does the prime minister intend to adjust Israels abuse of the institution of the UN? Using the threat of taking inocent life to pressurise the UN into decisions that benefit only Israel is abhorent to humanity, biased and unsustainable.

How does the prime minister intend to adjust his language to better reflect the views of the British people. How does he intend to adjust his own personal views on the Middle East, views that are not contained in the parties manifesto.

When the dust settles and the wholesale destruction of Lebanon is seen, how will the peace be maintained in the light of such injustice?

#17. At 10:40 PM on 08 Aug 2006, Stanley wrote:

The reality is that Israel is invading Lebanon as part of a planned push forward towards it's continuing plan to occupy and eliminate arab peoples. (no I'm not arabic)

It is absolutely astounding to me that journalism is not seeking to address this clear and historical abuse of rights and war crimes from the Israeli army.

However misguided Hezbullah's actions were that precipitated this full scale invasion one doesn't need to be a political analyst to see the writing on the wall: Israel's goal with the help of Bush and Blair's support has been to invade all along.

It is more repeating patterns of 1947 when the British and Zionists hacked out the Balfour agreement - nothing much has changed in terms of manipulations and hidden agendas.

The other postings were broadly critical of the BBC, accusing them of pandering to Tony Blair, rather than anything too directly attacking Israel. But to the idiots above, I felt compelled to write a reply - we shall see if it makes it past the BBC censors:

I was just about to respond to the absurdities of Richard O'Shea (#1) when I read the even more ridiculous nonsense of Stanley (#17). Let's get some things straight here...

1. If Israel's use of force was so extreme and indiscriminate, could someone explain how any of Lebanon is still standing? But then I guess it depends on whether you prefer your photos of Beirut doctored or not.

2. Richard's condemnation of Hizballah as extreme (calling for Israel's destruction) and indiscriminate (boasting that it aims for civilians) is notable by its absence.

3. Perhaps Richard might also comment on the UN's abuse of Israel? For example, how after voting it into existence, it has repeatedly stood by whilst other member states seek its obliteration, or the gross double standards that have led to an absurd number of resolutions against it, whilst ignoring the real egregious regimes and acts of genocide in Rwanda, Darfur etc.

4. The views of the British people are reflective of the sources of their information. If people like Richard and Stanley are the denizens of the BBC's opinion pages, it would come as no surprise if the public were hostile to pretty much anything Israel did. I would like to give them more credit than that, but it's funny how any eruption of Middle East violence is immediately followed by a rise in anti-Semitic attacks in Britain, showing that the British public have no sense of nuance, and by their actions, see a direct link between Israel and Jews.

5. Stanley is effectively perpetuating a national blood libel against Israel. The idea that they want to eliminate all the Arabs is palpably absurd on so many levels, not least that if they really did want to do this, they are currently the only nuclear power in the Middle East, so they could do this in an afternoon if they were that bothered.

6. It is absolutely astounding to me that the public is not seeking to address this clear and historical abuse of journalism that we are now seeing in the wilful misreporting of the situation in Lebanon, by Reuters, AP and others, who have all been caught doctoring and staging photos. Even Fox and CNN have admitted to self-censorship on reporting Hizballah's activities.

7. After Stanley's ranting, I was at least expecting him to get some facts right, but he disappoints on that too. The Balfour Declaration was actually written in 1917, and had it been enforced, instead of the Jewish side giving massive compromises because ANY state was more important to them than the exact size or borders, Israel would stretch into most neighbouring countries already. Instead, it tends to give up land gained in defensive wars, in the hope of peace. What it gets is more terrorism, more biased UN resolutions, and more attacks from people like Stanley and Richard.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006


OK, so some people are burying their heads in the sand on this (cue Reuters headline "Israel leaves decapitated shills in desert"), so here's a proper synopsis, courtesy of the nice folks at Zombietime.

Reuters Commits Four Types of Fraud

An overview of the photo hoaxes committed by Reuters, discovered so far

The recent discovery that the Reuters news agency released a digitally manipulated photograph as an authentic image of the bombing in Beirut has drawn attention to the important topic of bias in the media. But lost in the frenzy over one particular image is an even more devastating fact: that over the last week Reuters has been caught red-handed in an astonishing variety of journalistic frauds in the photo coverage of the war in Lebanon.

This page serves as an overview of the various types of hoaxes, lies and other deceptions perpetrated by Reuters in recent days, since the details of the scandal are getting overwhelmed by a torrent of shallow mainstream media coverage that can easily confuse or mislead the viewer. Almost all of the investigative work has been done by cutting-edge blogs, but the proliferation of exposés might overwhelm the casual Web-surfer, who might be getting the various related scandals mixed up. In this essay I hope to straighten it all out.

It's important to understand that there is not just a single fraudulent Reuters photograph, nor even only one kind of fraudulent photograph. There are in fact dozens of photographs whose authenticity has been questioned, and they fall into four distinct categories.

The four types of photographic fraud perpetrated by Reuters photographers and editors are:

1. Digitally manipulating images after the photographs have been taken.

2. Photographing scenes staged by Hezbollah and presenting the images as if they were of authentic spontaneous news events.

3. Photographers themselves staging scenes or moving objects, and presenting photos of the set-ups as if they were naturally occurring.

4. Giving false or misleading captions to otherwise real photos that were taken at a different time or place.

All of these forms of fraud have the same intent: to serve as propaganda for Hezbollah, and to make the Israeli attacks look as brutal as possible. And, taken together, they raise a very serious question: can any of the coverage by the entrenched media by trusted?

Let's examine each type of fraud, with the photographic evidence itself:

1. Digitally manipulating images after the photographs have been taken.

This is what has been getting the majority of coverage in the media, because it is the most clear-cut -- even if the actual significance or newsworthiness of the photos involved is not particularly great.

This is the fraudulent photo that has gotten by far the most coverage. This hoax was first exposed on August 5 by Little Green Footballs, when a reader named "Mike" pointed out the photo to LGF's Charles Johnson, who incontrovertibly demonstrated that the image had been altered using the Photoshop "clone" tool. For more info, click on the link above; this case has also been covered extensively throughout the mediasphere.

This is an untouched version of the original photo before it was digitally altered. Reuters released it on August 6 when they admitted the doctored photo was indeed fraudulent, and announced they were no longer going to work with Adnan Hajj, the photographer who had Photoshopped the image. No word on what punishment the editors who released the obviously fake photo to the world would receive. Hajj used the Photoshop "clone" tool to copy portions of the smoke-column and repeatedly paste it into the sky, to make the smoke look larger and darker -- though his manipulations really didn't change the effect of the photo to any great degree. His claims that he accidentally added the extra smoke when he was merely trying to remove some dust flecks from the picture are so absurd as to barely even merit comment.

The other instance of digital photo doctoring was discovered by Rusty Shackleford at The Jawa Report on August 6. The original Reuters caption for this photo was "An Israeli F-16 warplane fires missiles during an air strike on Nabatiyeh in southern Lebanon." As Shackleford pointed out, first of all, those are not missiles depicted in the photo -- they're defensive flares. But more importantly, the photo had been doctored to show three flares, when in fact there had only been one.

This image, also shown on the Jawa Report, demonstrates that the clone tool had again been used to copy portions of the photo and paste them in repeatedly elsewhere. In this case, the trails of one flare were copied and lengthened to make it look like there had been three flares. Click on the link above for a detailed explanation and several more photos proving the case. The photo-hoaxster in this instance was again Adnan Hajj, proving beyond doubt that he was very familiar with how to alter images in Photoshop. Ynet News featured an article on this photo manipulation as well.

After the public outcry over the obviously fake photos, Reuters fired Adnan Hajj and pulled all his photos from distribution, admitting that both photos were doctored. They made no mention of how or why their editors allowed fake photos to be released as real news, perhaps hoping that the firing of Hajj would put an end to the scandal. But Photoshopping images was only one of several ways in which Reuters has committed journalistic fraud during the war in Lebanon.

2. Photographing scenes staged by Hezbollah and presenting the images as if they were of authentic spontaneous news events.

This is where the Reuters scandal started: with bloggers noticing that some of the images showing the aftermath of the July 30 air raid on Qana looked fishy. There are by now dozens of different photographs from that day whose authenticity has been seriously questioned, so all I can present here is a small representative sample.

The first series that raised suspicions was this one, pointed out at many blogs, of a green-helmeted "rescue worker" who seems to parade around with the corpse of a child for an extended period of time. The blog EU Referendum had the most complete photo series compilation, showing that each image individually might be accepted as an unposed authentic news photo, but that when one considers all the photos taken that day by Reuters, AP, and Agence France Presse, it becomes obvious that the entire scene was some kind of gruesome theater performance, apparently with actors posing as rescue workers parading around with a few corpses, seemingly posing for the cameras instead of evacuating the bodies as efficiently as possible.

EU Referendum pointed out that if the time stamps on the photos are taken at face value, then the rescue operation becomes even more farcical, with bodies unnecessarily put on display for hours, though the news agencies later claimed that the time stamps do not necessarily reflect the actual time each photo was taken. Lost in the argument over this detail is the fact that the photos were widely doubted even before the time stamp issue, and that even a casual glance at the photo series from Reuters and the other agencies reveals that, in whatever order they were taken, the images seem to reveal at the very least a partly staged scenario, in which unprofessional "rescue workers" seem more concerned with how they and the bodies appear on camera than they do with conducting an actual rescue operation. These doubts were compounded when additional photos of the mysterious "Mr. Green Helmet" were found from other rescue operations in other parts of Lebanon (such as here, for example), at which he similarly seemed to pose for the camera. Many bloggers speculated that he is in fact a Hezbollah "set designer" and media relations officer whose job it is to milk maximum propaganda value from each photo opportunity, with the cooperation of willing photographers, who must witness his shenanigans in person, but not report on them. Ynet News had an excellent article summarizing the different aspects of the Qana photo opportunity.

Another bit of possible staging was uncovered by Cathy Brooks, a reader of Power Line in a series of photos also taken by Hajj and released by Reuters. As the full series of photos displayed at Power Line shows, what are supposed to be real-time shots of "citizens" running across the Qasmiya Bridge, which had been damaged by Israel, must in fact be something else altogether. For not only are the two men running pointlessly back and forth across the same bridge, but one of them magically becomes a "civil defense worker" in the next caption.

But things start to get completely bizarre when in a later photo, the exact same damaged car seems to be quite a distance away, once again on its roof (and notice the other photographer taking a close-up of the car). However, Seerak, an astute photo expert on Little Green Footballs, pointed out in this detailed comment that the photographer may been been alternating between powerful telephoto and wide-angle lenses, which produce only the appearance of the car being moved. If so, then this example belongs more in the "false and misleading captions" section than in this section. The foreshortening is so extreme that it's hard to believe it could be produced simply by different lenses, but it may be possible.

Power Line's analysis finishes with a final photograph of a completely different damaged bridge, which is also identified as the Qasmiya Bridge. The only conclusion one can reach upon seeing these images is that the entire scenario on the first bridge is a fabrication, that the "citizens" are being stage managed to run back and forth, and that the bridge in question was just a convenient theatrical set for the photo shoot, and probably wasn't even the bridge named in the caption.

Incredibly, in response to the initial questions about the Qana pictures, Reuters issued a statement that completely denied any of its photos were staged, stating, "Reuters and other news organisations reviewed those images and have all rejected allegations that the photographs were staged." But their denial has fallen on deaf ears in the blogosphere, as more and more seemingly staged photos are discovered every day.

3. Photographers themselves staging scenes or moving objects, and presenting photos of the set-ups as if they were naturally occurring.

Many bloggers have stated that some photo-stringers in Lebanon are not merely willing dupes for Hezbollah propagandists, but occasionally even participate in the staging of scenes themselves. Though this form of fraud is much more difficult to prove, several examples have cropped up of vignettes that just seemed "too good to be true" for them to be naturally occurring scenes.

This Reuters image, for example, which was found in various media outlets (and preserved on the Bagel Blogger site), came with this caption: "A mannequin adorned with a wedding dress stands near the site of an Israeli air raid in Qana July 31, 2006, where more than 54 women and children were killed a day earlier. REUTERS/Sharif Karim (LEBANON)." C'mon -- an explosion large enough to knock down a building happened just a few yards away, and an entire day has passed with hundreds of rescuers and media members and everyone else running around, and after all that, a mannequin in a wedding dress is discovered standing right next to the bomb site, as if posing in front of the wreckage? And that no one noticed it until then? A much more likely explanation is that the photographer -- or someone helping him -- found the mannequin elsewhere, and placed it exactly where he wanted for that "perfect shot."

Dozens of blogs have pointed out similar questions about other artificial-seeming scenes that smacked of the photographers' handiwork. The most comical of these is "The Passion of the Toys" at Slublog:

All of these pictures were taken by Reuters photographers in Lebanon, except for the first Mickey Mouse image which was taken by an AP photographer. While it may be possible that these photographers all just happened to stumble on toys and stuffed animals perfectly positioned for maximum emotive response, the cumulative effect of all the pictures together (along with others visible on Slublog) suggests that some if not all of the photographers moved the toys to be better positioned for a good photo.

But this is not a definitely conclusive example of fraud -- it's almost impossible to prove that a photographer moved an object to his benefit. Instead, the images just feel faked.

4. Giving false or misleading captions to otherwise real photos that were taken at a different time or place.

Power Line again drew attention to another form of photojournalistic fraud, this time possibly committed by the Reuters editors themselves. This photo, as Power Line pointed out, was captioned, ""Journalists are shown by a Hizbollah guerrilla group the damage caused by Israeli attacks on a Hizbollah stronghold in southern Beirut, July 24 2006. (Adnan Hajj/Reuters)." But look at the next photo below.

Here, the caption says, "A Lebanese woman looks at the sky as she walks past a building flattened during an overnight Israeli air raid on Beirut's suburbs August 5, 2006. (Adnan Hajj/Reuters)." But a cursory glance shows that it's the exact same destroyed buildings in both photos. If they were already destroyed on July 24, they couldn't have been destroyed on August 5, especially since the damage is identical in both pictures. It's quite obvious that photos of the same scene were re-released to make it appear as if Israeli bombing raids were continuously hitting Beirut, when in fact Reuters was just recycling the same damage over and over.

Further demolishing the credibility of this photograph is yet a different image of the same woman by AFP, this time "inspecting the destruction," in a scene in which she is obviously cooperating with the photographer -- contradicting the implication of the Reuters photo in which she is supposed to be just a passerby.

But, as was revealed in this article on The Shape of Days site, captions for news photos are mostly written by the editorial staff, with the photographer supplying only the basic facts. It was up to the Reuters editors to properly caption this photo, and if it was misattributed, it is entirely their responsibility.

In the next example, as discovered by the Drinking from Home blog, a Lebanese woman somehow had her house destroyed twice, two weeks apart, by the Israelis. In this first photo, Reuters claims, "A Lebanese woman wails after looking at the wreckage of her apartment, in a building, that was demolished by the Israeli attacks in southern Beirut July 22, 2006. REUTERS/Issam Kobeisi."

But wait! Here she is again, in a photo supplied by AP: "A Lebanese woman reacts at the destruction after she came to inspect her house in the suburbs of Beirut, Lebanon, Saturday, Aug. 5, 2006, after Israeli warplanes repeatedly bombed the area overnight." As Drinking from Home points out, it's definitely the same woman. The photo captions, supplied by two different news agencies, contradict each other. Which leads one to question whether the woman had anything to do with the building at all, or if she was just asked to pose in front of it for drama's sake. Either way, the editor's captions are necessarily untrue, since her home obviously couldn't have been demolished twice. The photos may or may not be authentic, but at least one of the captions is a falsehood.

These pictures of a Hezbollah gunman -- as pointed out by Hot Air, jester_6 and Riehl World View -- not only appeared on the cover of U.S. News and World Report, but was captioned, "A Hezbollah gunman aims his AK 47 at a fire caused by an explosion in Kfarshima, near Beirut, Lebanon, Monday, July 17, 2006. Lebanese TV stations broadcast video pictures Monday claiming to be an Israeli military aircraft falling to the ground in the area, but Israeli military said no aircraft was shot down over Beirut and there was no immediate confirmation of the cause of the explosion." The photos were taken by both Reuters and AP photographers.

But a close-up reveals that the scene is entirely counterfeit: the fire, as the gunman and the photographers must have known, was nothing more than tires burning in a garbage dump. The captions conveyed the "fact" that the gunman was in a dangerous situation, ready to fire at a downed Israeli aircraft. It's not entirely beyond the realm of possibility that Hezbollah set the fire themselves, to provide a dramatic backdrop for an iconic propaganda image.

What to make of all this? As is demonstrated on this page, Reuters has committed not just one instance of fraud, and not just one type of fraud, but four distinct categories of fraud.

Now, of course there is a real war going on, and there is real damage, and authentically tragic scenes. No one is denying that. So, with all the actual honest footage of unstaged war imagery floating around, why is Reuters resorting to supplementing its coverage with obviously fake photos? Several theories have been posited in opinion pieces since the scandal broke. Here's a summary of the various possibilities.
Theory A: The Reuters editorial staff is sympathetic to the aims of Hezbollah, and is using propagandistic images exaggerating Israeli violence to increase world pressure on Israel to stop its attacks, thereby giving Hezbollah a chance to regroup, and claim moral superiority.
Stage magicians sometimes used what is called the "smoke-and-mirrors" technique, in which chaotic and distracting effects on stage draw the audience's attention away from the magician's sleight-of-hand. According to Theory A, Reuters is resorting to "smoke-and-mirrors" by taking advantage of the chaos of war, and the chaos of the international media coverage, to promulgate staged or contradictory news reports. Working on the assumption that no one person would ever see enough different media outlets to notice the fraud, which only becomes apparent when comparing different images which are published in a wide variety of media outlets, Reuters has slipped the false reports into the news stream.

Doss, a commenter on Little Green Footballs, made a very well researched comment showing the systematic bias in Reuters editorial captions to photos of the war in Lebanon, with links documenting each point. According to Doss, "Every time, if an Israeli is hurt, it was a "rocket" that did it; if a Lebanese/Hizb is hurt, "Israel" did it. Humans hurt Lebanese, but inanimate objects hurt Israelis, according to Reuters." This clearly points to an anti-Israel bias on the part of Reuters.
Theory B: The stringers employed by Reuters are sympathetic to Hezbollah, and successfully duped the Reuters editors into publishing propaganda.
To accept Theory B, you'd have to conclude that the Reuters editorial staff are cataclysmically incompetent, and were unable to notice numerous frauds so obvious that "untrained bloggers" could easily spot them.
Theory C: The stringers employed by Reuters simply wanted to make a name for themselves, and resorted to fraud to obtain the most spectacular images, regardless of their political outlook.
Again, Theory C requires an almost unbelievable level of incompetence on the part of the Reuters editorial staff. This theory is also doubtful because the propagandistic nature of the photos and captions is almost always anti-Israel.
Theory D: Reuters photographers and editors are intimidated by Hezbollah, and publish Hezbollah's propaganda out of fear for their lives.
This is an intriguing theory. There have been reports coming out of Lebanon that reporters are indeed being bullied and intimidated. A new report reveals that Hezbollah has copies of all journalists' passports and that they threaten those who tell the truth. Michael Totten reported last year how he was at first charmed by the Hezbollah media representative -- a relationship which suddenly turned to fear when he was bullied and threatened once Hezbollah realized he wasn't going to repeat their lies. And CNN's Nic Robertson shockingly admitted that his own news reports were stage-managed by Hezbollah in an interview on July 23. In it, Robertson said,

Well, Howard, there's no doubt about it: Hezbollah has a very, very sophisticated and slick media operations. In fact, beyond that, it has very, very good control over its areas in the south of Beirut. They deny journalists access into those areas. They can turn on and off access to hospitals in those areas. They have a lot of power and influence. You don't get in there without their permission.

And when I went we were given about 10 or 15 minutes, quite literally running through a number of neighborhoods that they directed and they took us to.

What I would say at that time was, it was very clear to me that the Hezbollah press official who took us on that guided tour -- and there were Hezbollah security officials around us at the time with walkie-talkie radios -- that he felt a great deal of anxiety about the situation. And they were telling him -- I just listened to an explosion going off there, coming from the southern suburbs. They were -- they were telling him -- a second explosion there. They were telling here -- rumbling on -- they were telling him get out of this area, and he was very, very anxious about it.

But there's no doubt about it. They had control of the situation. They designated the places that we went to, and we certainly didn't have time to go into the houses or lift up the rubble to see what was underneath.

So what we did see today in a similar excursion, and Hezbollah is now running a number of these every day, taking journalists into this area. They realize that this is a good way for them to get their message out, taking journalists on a regular basis.

Another description of how Hezbollah intimidates journalists in Lebanon can be found on the Anderson Cooper blog.

So --which of these theories is true? At this stage, it's impossible to tell. The actual truth may be a combination of all four theories.

This scandal casts doubt not just on Reuters' coverage of the current war in Lebanon -- it casts doubt on all media coverage of this war, and of all wars in the past. How long has such chicanery been going on? Could it be that the public for the first time is learning that the media is not as impartial as it has always claimed?

The Scandal Widens to Other News Services

As can be gleaned from the examples above, Reuters is not the only news service involved in some of these bogus photo reports coming out of Lebanon. Photographers from Associated Press and Agence France Presse, in particular, have been present at some of the staged scenes as well, and AP's captions have repeatedly drawn criticism from several bloggers. Now the New York Times enters the fray, with a transparent hoax being featured prominently on its site. On August 8, Gateway Pundit unveiled the ruse:

In this first image, one of a series on the N.Y. Times site, a man with a greenish cap (on the right) is seen gesturing at the rubble.

In the second image, you can see the same man at the lower right, wearing the same cap and baggy, washed-out trunks.

And in this final picture, the same man is seen -- easily identifiable by his trunks, his hat pressed under his arm, and his distinctive nose -- pretending to be dead as someone else tries to lift his "fallen comrade." The Times captioned the image, "The mayor of Tyre said that in the worst hit areas, bodies were still buried under the rubble, and he appealed to the Israelis to allow government authorities time to pull them out. (Photo Tyler Hicks The New York Times)." The unmistakable implication is that the photo depicted what the caption was describing -- a "body" still buried under the rubble. In other words, the guy is now supposed to be dead.

Here's a clearer version of the final picture. It's not only obvious that the man is still alive and only feigning death, making the scene a staged hoax, but that Tyler Hicks, the photographer, must have known that he was only acting for the camera, since Hicks had taken the earlier pictures as well. Hezbollah and the New York Times teamed up here to create a propgandistic image.

Additional Links

Thomas Lifson at Real Clear Politics also has a good essay summarizing some of the ever-widening aspects of the scandal.
Media Matters embarrasses itself trying to defend the authenticity of all the Reuters photographs coming out of Lebanon, falsely claiming that Reuters' denial of the accuracy of its Qana time-stamps somehow defuses the entire issue.
This post at James Taranto's Best of the Web -- about an AP photograph that at first appeared to show a dead body getting up -- turned out to be a false alarm when Augean Stables pointed out that the body likely had rigor mortis in a sitting position.

If you know of any other noteworthy examples of Reuters fraud in its coverage of the war in Lebanon, or if you have comments or corrections about this page, send an email to zombietime here.

(Click here to visit zombietime)

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Flak back

Since my posting "10 Things I Believe", I have been criticised by some to the point of being labelled a terrorist because of my apparently extreme views on the Middle East. One of the main bones of contention was this statement:

"I believe that journalists who wilfully misreport the situation, fail to intervene to save lives or help the injured, and in otherways reduce themselves to partisans, fifth columnists and shills, are legitimate targets for Israel to strike, whether in Beirut or Shepherd's Bush... The massed ranks of the liberal media disseminate their bias to ensure that the groundswell of opinion around the world remains staunchly on the Arab side, regardless of the atrocity, thus making it harder for the IDF to respond to attacks without the limitations and sanctions of the world being placed upon it. The media, by doing so, are placing Israeli citizens in danger. Israel has the right to respond to protect itself against the attack of the pen as much as that of the sword."

It turns out that many aspects of that posting were rather prescient of things to come. The current scandal over Reuters (and it will transpire, others too) doctoring photos, setting up shots, or allowing/turning a blind eye to set-ups, has come as a surprise to people. But not us. For too long, supporters of Israel have been accused of paranoia when claiming that there is complicity between willing journalists and the propaganda machines of the Palestinian Authority and Hizballah. Now there is a growing body of evidence of this double standard - or as Bibi Netanyahu pointed out in a speech in London last week, a triple standard; the Arab side gets overly favourable treatment, the rest of the world is largely ignored, and an impossibly high one is applied to Israel. It is a level that will always remain out of reach, for every time Israel strives to achieve it, however unfair the pressure on it to do so, more is demanded.

I could publish a host of pictures and the accompanying analysis, to show the kind of deception that has hitherto been lapped up by the media, and will no doubt continue to be so, as soon as the dust settles (if it is not airbrushed out of course). Instead, I think this sums it up very well:

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

A Small World

I am a member of a network that contains a large selection of the world's young, rich intelligent elite, and a few hangers-on like me. I posted this reply to someone on a discussion board this evening - I think it requires no further context.

Thanks for restoring my faith in aSW as a place for people who may disagree with each other's ideas but can still manage civilised dialogue. Having been personally compared to a terrorist and seen plenty of postings comparing Israel and Jews to Nazis, it's refreshing to have an open-minded debate.

I can't claim to have any Lebanese friends (though my uncles were all brought up in Beirut in the 1920s and 1930s), but of course I feel for them, and most Israelis and Diaspora Jews do too - certainly everyone I have spoken to. This is precisely because of the suffering we have been through for literally thousands of years.

I don't think there can be many other nations that face existential threats every day, and still have an enormous peace movement and a right wing that ultimately also accepts a two-state solution (with the exception of a very small minority), allows members of its parliament to stand up in the Knesset and call for Israel's destruction, permits free movement of journalists in the country, and relatively open access in what are effectively military zones in the West Bank and Gaza... for me, that says something about Israel's confidence in openness, democracy and freedoms of all kinds.

I think what caused me to write on my blog this now infamous piece about what makes a legitimate target, is that the reward Israel has had for its transparency is for the world to hold it up to a level of scrutiny on every action that it does not - cannot - apply to other countries. I don't think Israel is much better or worse than most Western nations. As George Orwell probably never actually said, good people sleep soundly at night because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf. Every nation has an underbelly. Every nation does things that it perceives to be in its national interest that harms others. But Israel is constantly in the spotlight and is always seemingly caught red-handed, then the evidence is reproduced and distributed for maximum effect. Sometimes, evidence is fabricated, but there is always a willing and unquestioning audience for it.

This is not a justification for those actions; nor do I think they are all unjustified. They simply are there. This is the burden of sovereignty - uncomfortable decisions, or in Sharon's words, "painful compromises", have to be made. Usually in other countries, their own public - let alone the world - never finds out what these things are.

So I have now come to agree that something might just be dying inside Israelis and Jews. This is nothing to do with the Holocaust, and everything to do with this feeling of being constantly scrutinised and criticised. We are damned if we do and damned if we don't.

I believe the common psyche of Israel has changed in the past 30 years since the Yom Kippur War, which defined it as unbeatable by the combined might of all its neighbours' traditional armies, and forced a change of tack from those seeking its destruction, into the guerrilla and terror methods used today by Hezballah and Hamas. During this time, Israel has become materially as wealthy as most of Europe, it has become more secular, and less tied to the land. This last point is important - Zionism was historically related to working the land in some way - I remember countless trips to kibbutzim and forests to plant trees and pick grapes, and feeling intrinsically linked to the earth of Israel. In the modern economy, that is fading.

And I think the process is accelerating. This is partly because of a general fatigue among the older generations, and the newer generations being too young to remember massed armies on their borders seeking their direct and immediate destruction. Instead, there is an exhaustion with the daily grind of queuing to pass through security to get into shops, cafes and bus stations, and a horrible desensitisation that comes from over a decade of seeing body parts strewn across the mangled wreckage of buses and pizza parlours.

It is enhanced by a sense of disconnect with the rest of the world, that they don't understand what we are going through, and why we respond the way we do. This is an inherently Middle Eastern conflict, and I think Israelis had somehow forgotten this and started responding in a European manner. All the peace processes and withdrawals have been touted by our enemies as signs of weakness, but the world eggs us on to give more. Seemingly, they pander to the other side because they know all these groups are tied in what Blair tonight called an "arc of extremism" that spans the Middle East and winds up on London's Tubes and in planes heading for New York.

I think Israelis and Jews have woken up to the fact that no matter what they do, they will be caught in the pincer of being sacrificed at the altar of this extremism by the West in a (vain) hope that this buys immunity from attack on the one hand; and at the same time finds its every action criticised and deconstructed across media outlets and NGOs when it responds to terror on its own doorstep on the other.

If we are to emerge from this with a hope for a positive Middle East that lives in quiet, and eventually peace, and perhaps even prosperity and mutual trust, Israel needs to feel that it can accede to the requests of the Palestinians to give them East Jerusalem, almost all the pre-1967 borders, and sovereignty over the Haram al-Sharif, without finding that they sacrifice all that only to have a new set of demands and a fresh wave of attacks against it, and must feel secure at all its other borders.

This requires the world to stop equivocating - the line it has taken on Hamas has thankfully highlighted the level of infighting, corruption and patronage in Palestinian society, whilst violence against Israel has only increased since the Disengagement. The world should stop equivocating over Hizballah - I read with disbelief the claims that it is not a terrorist organisation (correct insofar as it is not ONLY a terrorist organisation), when it openly states that it uses methods that can only be described as terrorist.

The notion of neutrality and even-handedness suggests that both sides start from a point where both claims are equal and valid. For exhaustively long reasons, I do not believe this to be the case, and ultimately nor do the leaders of the world's governments, which is why they still all do business with Israel but have cut off non-humanitarian aid to the Palestinians. Instead of railing against this, the media, the NGOs, and the swathe of "liberal" opinion, ought to be asking why.

Israel could help itself here, but again, I think the national psyche has become like one of a scolded child who refuses to speak because he feels hard done by, so it does not advocate its case with any eloquence. I have long been of the view that Israel can win any argument of the mind, but advocates on the other side will win every argument of the heart. Theirs is emotive, because they show dead babies and dusty streets, whilst the other side seems to be gleaming tanks protecting golden beaches and skyscrapers.

Israel could just as easily show the world some of the lovely white-painted, satellite-dished villa suburbs of Ramallah (pre-intifada, I took a stroll there once), and the serried ranks of armed Hamas militias, and compare them to some of the ugly cramped high-rises of old Rishon LeTzion, crammed full of recent immigrants, and the carnage of the latest suicide bombing. As I pointed out recently on my blog, Israel is still David, and the rest of the world is still Goliath; we have allowed the roles to be reversed in the eyes of most observers.

In this context, the world might provide more of what some have called "loyal criticism" at times like these. By all means, disagree with Israeli policy, but the wall-to-wall, unquestioning coverage of civilian tragedy without anything other than the hollow statements seen in this thread (such as 2 = 500,000), does neither side any good in the long run. Instead, the real "disproportionate response" has come from the world's media and the allegedly neutral UN, who seem to enjoy any excuse to challenge Israel's basic right to exist and defend itself.

To those of you for whom these are still legitimate questions: it is there, it is not going to disappear just to please you, so find a way to accept it and work with it, understand its pressures and its needs, in the same way as you have spent so long trying to understand those of the Palestinians (and frankly failing to do that either). And you wonder why I think Israel should strike back at the media and the UN...

And to those who are itching to claim that I seek some kind of censorship on reporting from Lebanon; I do not. But it would be good to see some more investigative journalism of the kind carried out by the Australian Sun Herald, that questions Hizballah's tactics and takes photographic evidence. If the press is being intimidated by Hizballah into not showing this (as has happened repeatedly under Hamas and Fatah with attempts to make critical reports of Palestinian society or action), or is already practising some kind of self-censorship either for its own protection or out of partisan sympathy, we deserve to know. And we should analyse what it might tell us about the rights, wrongs and causes of the conflict.

So I wish for the Israel we used to have, the one of hope, the one where we were proud of our achievements and sought positive solutions to our problems. I look at the possibilities we have by just being practical - I could post extensively on what should happen to the settlements, how to solve the water crisis, or why the biggest tragedy of a war in Lebanon is that they are the most natural allies Israel could have in the region.

Sadly, I can only think that the Israeli psyche has been on a downward spiral of despair, which is resulting in the actions we see today. It has tried a largely peaceful occupation where they traded prosperity for national aspirations (the fastest-growing regional economy in the world between 1967 and 1987 was apparently the West Bank), it has tried negotiating with Arafat and Abbas, it has tried disengagement from Lebanon and Gaza and leaving them to their own devices. Now, it is responding with the only card left in the hand, which is what often appears to be brute force.

There are plenty of other threads in which we can debate the rights and wrongs of this, but as I see it, Israel feels isolated and victimised (I expect the usual suspects to come tearing in with the typical shrillness on how Israel/Jews are always making themselves victims - funny how the same people usually peddle Jewish/neo-con conspiracy theories, though the two are surely mutually exclusive). So it does what it feels is in its best interests, and hang the consequences of world opinion, which - let's face it - will consist of some meaningless statements and resolutions, and some half-hearted action, just as it does for every other conflict that the West would rather ran its course without involving them.

The national psyche of Israel used to be different - the typical Sabra was tanned, healthy, simultaneously a whizz-kid and a kibbutznik, both educated and a beach-bum, full of gloriously rich contradictions. Most importantly, the Sabra had a thick, prickly skin but once you get into the middle, you find a sweet, soft interior (sabra is an indigenous fruit, hence the analogy).

But now it has been turned inside-out. It finds that its exterior is the soft and hence vulnerable part, and then when the world cuts away at that enough, it hits the prickly, hard interior and gets a very disagreeable reaction.

You should try and understand, as Malik is attempting to do, the psyche of a nation that was born out of the ashes of its parents and siblings, and has since been robbed of its innocence by a thousand cuts and a million words and images, from its enemies and so-called friends alike. You should guard against the one-sided and often calculating wall of "even-handed" opinion that swamps our institutions and journalists. You think you would demand the same scrutiny and criticism of yor own nations if they were in the same situation; but believe me, they would act in a far worse manner - and most have done in the past.

If the yardstick of opinio on Israel had been historically placed only after serious thought as to what you and your own country would do in similar circumstances, I believe (setting aside that this whole conflict may never have happened because Hizballah would have been disarmed or north of the Litani since 2000) that views on the situation might have been different. More people (and hence media) would have seen this as a defensive struggle in which Hizballah had to take most responsibility for civilian casualties on both sides.

I note that this is the majority view in the USA according to recent surveys. Setting aside the usual bunk about how the insidious "Jewish-Zionist lobby controls America/the Christian fundamentalist-neocons control America so of course they are biased", there is something of an affinity that I think runs between the national psyches of Middle America and Israel. I have travelled extensively in the MidWest, New South and SouthWest of the USA, which I consider to be "real America" - neither the European exclaves of the east and west coasts, nor the hicks and hillbillies of the Deep South and the far north. What I find there is a profound connection to the land, and the same contradictions I love in Israel - technology and farming, intellectual thought and the big outdoors, that same thick, prickly skin and sweet, soft interior. I think that is the real reason why most Americans understand Israel, and hence support it, when Europeans don't - they draw closer to the Israeli side because they understand it and see its merits and its claims for justice, whilst they cannot understand the other side, nor find much merit or an equal claim to justice.

Most of all, for my own sanity, I hope for the day when I can stop writing such long postings and aggressive-sounding blogs. I long for the point where I can sit in a cafe in Tel Aviv without being frisked, and meet a Lebanese family popping down on the coastal railway for a weekend. I look forward to my friends and family not having to pull on a uniform for a month every year. I cannot wait to show Payam, Adil, Malik, Marwan et al around the cooperatively built and run gas-fired power station between Sderot and Gaza that lights the schools in which children on both sides learn about the culture of the other, and visit each other to find out more.

I know for certain that this is a perspective held by about 99% of Israelis. Supporting them in this vision is not a zero-sum game - you do not have to stop criticising Olmert, or to abandon calls for a ceasefire, or to think you have deserted the Palestinian or Lebanese cause, and you certainly must not excuse the behaviour of errant Israelis who overstep the bounds of self-defense - we don't and won't either.

I hope this national pop-psychology gives you some insight on what I think is the problem - unfortunately, you can't plop a nation down on the psychoanalyst's couch, charge him $200 an hour, and talk through the problems so easily.