Sunday, July 02, 2017

Eyeless in Gaza: A corrective to a bias long overdue

The truth behind the Gaza situation is often “what you’ve been told”. Rarely do we get an honest account of both sides. A pioneering Australian-lead doco looks to put the question of bias to bed.

Gaza has been a flashpoint between Israelis and Palestinian Arabs for many years, but with recurrent intensity since 2005, when Israel unilaterally withdrew its military and civilians from the territory it had conquered in the Six-Day War. Calculated at once to divest Israel of the headache of ruling a tinderbox and as an earnest of goodwill, the Israeli withdrawal actually proved a fillip for Hamas, the radical Islamic movement committed in its Charter to Israel’s elimination and the murder of Jews.

As a history lesson, it’s important to know that since its founding in 1988, Hamas had proved a challenger to Fatah, a party founded by Yasser Arafat, and the dominant power within the Palestinian Authority that had emerged from the failed Oslo peace accords. Indeed, in 2007, Hamas seized control of Gaza, ejecting Fatah forces and throwing their officials and loyalists from the tops of buildings. Rocket fire into Israel increased exponentially, leading to three major Israeli military incursions into Gaza since that date. The latest, the Gaza War of 2014 and the issues arising from it, are the subject of a documentary produced by Robert Magid.

Eyeless in Gaza investigates how the outside world and mainstream media arrive at the popular perceptions that have prevailed of the Gaza conflict. At its basic core, the prevalent international perception of Gaza is of a dominant Israeli power, unwilling to accord independence to stateless Palestinian Arabs who have taken up arms as a result. As a corollary, there is much sympathy for the residents of Gaza, who have found themselves in the midst of Israeli-Palestinian firefights and anger with Israeli military action that results in dead and shattered Gazan lives. It is the contention of Eyeless in Gaza that this version is the product in large part of profoundly and systemically flawed international reportage and media bias.

Eyeless in Gaza opens with a flourish of footage from protest rallies against Israel during the 2014 war, seeking the origin of the passions it unleashed. It then embarks on a journey through news footage; interviews with journalists, researchers and participants, both local and foreign; examination of the methodology of reportage and telling excerpts of Arabic language interviews with Hamas officials that undermines the prevalent international perception.

There is a good deal of footage that may be familiar, of Hamas terror tunnels unearthed into Israel for mass-casualty attacks, mayhem on Gaza streets during fighting and injured Palestinian youth. But there is also much footage shown that will be new to many Australian viewers, such as the lines of hundreds of trucks daily entering Gaza from Israel with food and medicines. No less interesting is the footage we do not tend to see of Hamas launching missiles from hospitals and schools, thereby endangering all non-combatants around them, or of dead Hamas gunmen or destroyed rocket launchers. Still more uncommon footage shows Israelis scrambling for bomb shelters as Hamas fires rocket barrages into Israeli towns. Equally rare interviews and footage of Israel blanketing Gaza suburbs with leaflets informing residents of impending attacks on Hamas installations ensconced among them show Israel to be taking all manner of measures to minimise civilian casualties.

Interviews with foreign reporters show a good deal of censorship and self-censorship is at work, clearly under Hamas intimidation. The little of what we do see of Hamas rockets launched from civilian neighbourhoods and the like emerge from reports filed only after the foreign journalists had left Gaza and felt safe to share them with the world. Much of the breaking footage we tend to see, while presented by foreign media outlets, is not actually produced by them: it is Palestinian stringers and cameramen who, if not already critical of Israel, must in any case continue to live in the Hamas-controlled enclave, who file copy.

Hamas officials tend to be sufficiently savvy in foreign interviews, reliably reproducing a litany of Israeli sins and avoiding the more blood-curdling statements that emerge at their rallies, although the odd refusal to accept Israel’s existence when pressed emerges from time to time. However, interviews with Arabic language media shown here tell a different story, of unbridled antisemitic hallucinations of world Jewish control. Hamas figures speak of the Holocaust as simply an exaggerated episode in history, the product of a stupendous Jewish conspiracy to frighten Jews into leaving Europe and taking over Palestine, of evil Jews having no raison d’être other than controlling the world through finance and vice.

That this thinking infects Hamas’ overseas supporters becomes evident in the case of Lauren Booth. Booth, sister-in-law of former British Prime Minister Tony Blair and a convert to Islam, whom we see stridently supporting “resistance” at a pro-Hamas rally in London at the start of the documentary, insists with calm certitude in an interview that BBC editorial policy on Israel is determined by the Israeli embassy.

It is to the documentary’s credit that it seeks not only to expose that a systemic bias against Israel is at work in the international media but to probe its origins. Here, the results are unnerving. The journalists concerned do not share the relative ignorance of the public they misinform. One is obliged to conclude, as researcher Matt Friedman does when interviewed, that the media is not merely conforming to Hamas’ wishes and directives in Gaza. Rather, it is predisposed to cooperating with it in purveying a false narrative of Jewish moral failure in a conflict that is actually devoid of resolution so long as Palestinians insist on Israel’s removal from the map. The Jews as examples of moral failure is a preoccupation of centuries. The late Irish statesman and scholar, Conor Cruise O’Brien, once wrote that the West tends to perceive Jews through the eyes of Christian antisemitism, which posits that the Jews were once holy people who are now very unholy. Eyeless in Gaza shows that it is this – what Friedman calls a “deep thought pattern” – which often prevails in how Israel is reported to the world.

As a corrective to a bias that poisons as it misinforms, Eyeless in Gaza is overdue and has much to offer to viewers willing to keep an open mind.


How the Guidestar battle was won

The left has a problem.

Americans are doing all the wrong things. They’re voting for Republicans, reading conservative sites and donating to conservative organizations. Something needs to be done about it. Something is being done.

Post a conservative story on Facebook or search for it on Google and out pops Snopes, a partisan site, to warn you of wrongthinking. And, until recently, when you searched for a conservative organization on Guidestar, out popped the Southern Poverty Law Center to accuse you and it of being deplorable bigots.

The Southern Poverty Law Center and Snopes are left-wing partisan groups with no qualifications to do anything except hate conservatives. The SPLC’s list of hate groups includes numerous individuals, including me, also listed until recently as a hate group was a sign outside a Pennsylvania bar.

Morris Dees, a mail order guru and cut rate lawyer for a KKK thug, built the Southern Poverty Law Center into one of the greatest mail order scams on earth. Harper’s Magazine dubbed the SPLC a “fraud” that casually throws around the “hate group” label, “shuts down debate” and “stifles free speech”.

The FBI dumped SPLC’s scam artists, but Guidestar decided to help the left-wing group stifle speech.

Guidestar’s mission is providing information about non-profits. Instead its boss, leftist activist Jacob Harold, pursued a partisan agenda. 46 organizations were accused on Guidestar’s listings of being hate groups. According to Harold, the SPLC "has the most comprehensive information on hate groups".

There’s no question that the SPLC’s listings are comprehensive. They included, at one point, Ben Carson, Rand Paul, Ted Cruz’s father, a Republican nominee for Governor of Colorado, a former Republican member of the House from Colorado, a Republican member of the House from Iowa and the African-American former Secretary of State of Ohio. Current SPLC targets include the President of the United States and nearly every member of his cabinet. The SPLC’s definition of extremist is Republican.

The David Horowitz Freedom Center was among the conservative groups targeted by the SPLC/Guidestar collaboration. Having lost the White House and its access to the IRS, the left was looking for a new way to attack the finances of conservative organizations. Jacob Harold first dragged Guidestar into partisan waters with an election post that praised the Clinton Foundation and disparaged Trump.

Now he was looking to go after conservatives. But the Freedom Center didn’t let him get away with it.

The Freedom Center’s legal team warned Guidestar that it would be held accountable for these slanders. Other conservative groups joined the outcry. And before too long, Guidestar backed down.

The Guidestar attack was the latest manifestation of the left poisoning the open informational spaces of the internet with partisan agendas. Harold, a “social change strategist” was a veteran of left-wing organizing. He had participated in at least one anti-Trump rally. Even afterward, Harold had insisted in an editorial that Guidestar’s mission would still include attacks on “hate groups”.

"Hateful words can cultivate a climate of hostility. That hostility can yield tragic consequences: The FBI documents thousands of hate crimes each year, with most directed against vulnerable people in marginalized communities,” Harold wrote.

There is zero evidence linking the conservative groups smeared by Harold and his SPLC allies to violence. The same cannot be said for the SPLC which has been linked to violence against its political targets.

Floyd Lee Corkins’ shooting spree at the Family Research Council began with the SPLC. Corkins confessed to the FBI that he had used the SPLC website to research targets. James Hodgkinson, who opened fire at a Republican charity baseball practice, was a fan of the SPLC. The Middlebury College assault which injured a female professor was driven by the SPLC’s wrongful listing of Charles Murray.

While the SPLC claims to fight bigots, it defended a Hamas supporter who had called for the mass murder of Jews in its attack on David Horowitz, while calling Horowitz “the Godfather of the anti-Muslim movement in America,” which actual hate groups continue to use against him.

If Guidestar wants to list hate groups that harm vulnerable people, it can start with the SPLC. Unless Howard thinks that defending Hamas calls for the murder of Jews is acceptable behavior.

And then there’s one of the SPLC’s “Active Hate Groups”: Bosch Fawstin.

Bosch is only one man. But the SPLC decided to list him as a hate group. It added him to the list after the first ISIS terrorist attack in America. Their target was the Draw Mohammed contest. Had the attack succeeded, Bosch would have been killed. But instead of adding Islamic terrorists to its list, the SPLC’s Heidi Beirich announced that it was adding him instead because it had figured out a location for him.

Tragic consequences indeed.

The Freedom Center’s victory is important. The left had overreached this time. Pressure from a range of conservative activists forced a temporary retreat. But Harold has made it clear that he will try again.

Newly emboldened conservative activists are turning the tide against the left. They are refusing to accept being harassed, abused, threatened, assaulted, marginalized and silenced as business as usual.

Conservatives rallied, stood up and fought back. The targets included the Family Research Council, which had come under fire because of the SPLC hate map, and AFDI, which was targeted in the ISIS attack. Among other groups listed by Guidestar/SPLC was Tea Party Nation and the Center for Security Policy.

The SPLC list is heavily biased, tainted and flawed. It is not based on any meaningful research. And yet it continues to be widely used. Meanwhile the SPLC’s Heidi Beirich is campaigning to further censor internet search results. The message is that the left’s agenda of embedding its worldview into the informational spaces of the internet will be the major battle of the next five years.

And the Freedom Center is eager to fight that battle.

The Freedom Center has fought hard for academic freedom. It believes that the marketplace of ideas should stay open. It is convinced that the internet must also remain free of left-wing censorship.

The first freedom is the right to dissent. The SPLC’s mission is the suppression of dissent. It deliberately jumbles together totalitarian and open organizations, racists and conservatives, Nazis and anti-Islamists as a smear campaign to delegitimize everyone it disagrees with. And that’s everyone to the right.

Guidestar can’t be a trustworthy information source and participate in a partisan campaign; particularly an unprincipled extremist campaign such as the SPLC is conducting. Like Google and Facebook, it must choose. And the Freedom Center will remain vigilant in this fight for freedom.

This time the Freedom Center beat the Southern Poverty Law Center. But the battle goes on.


UK: Christian preachers fined £300 each for shouting 'Mohammed is a liar' and telling shoppers 'being gay is immoral' have their convictions OVERTURNED

Two Christian street preachers who were fined £300 each over a sermon they gave to shoppers have won appeals against their convictions.

Michael Overd, 53, and former US marine Michael Stockwell, 51, were found guilty of religiously-aggravated public order offences in Bristol four months ago.

The men had been filmed in July 2016 shouting 'Mohammed is a liar' and telling shoppers being gay was 'immoral' while preaching at Broadmead shopping centre.

But both men, who are street preachers rather than ordained vicars, insisted they were simply reading from the King James Bible - and denied aiming hostility at other faiths or sexualities.

Yesterday, judges at Bristol Crown Court said Mr Stockwell, from Selden in New York, 'did no more than express his no doubt sincerely held religious beliefs'.

They added that Mr Overd, of Creech St Michael, Somerset, seemed to take some satisfaction in 'working the crowd', but had not committed a public order offence.

In July last year, the men preached to shoppers about Islam, Buddhism, and even Jehovah's Witnesses, as well as sex before marriage and sexuality.

One witness claimed they were there 'to pick a fight' and that that the incident in front of up to 100 people took place on the first day of the Muslim festival of Eid.

Prosecutors claimed there was 'considerable' hostility from the crowd, and the men refused to turn down their amplifier after being asked by a nearby trader.

The crowd then chanted 'go home' at the men before police came and arrested them. Footage from a body camera worn by Mr Overd was shown in court.

During the video, Mr Stockwell said: 'Allah is the greatest deceiver - that's in the Koran.' He added: 'You will die for your sins and be cast into hell.'

Mr Overd told the crowd: 'Mohammed is a liar and a thief, just like you and me. Buddha isn't on the cross - he is a liar, just like you and me.'

He said sex before marriage was immoral and that it used to be a shameful thing to get divorced. 'David Cameron is no more a Christian than my dogs,' he added.

In February, the men were each given a £300 fine, ordered to pay a £30 victim surcharge and shared prosecution costs of £3,372 – totalling £2,016 each.

But they successfully appealed against their conviction at a two-day hearing at Bristol Crown Court this week in front of Judge Martin Picton.

In July last year, the men preached to shoppers at Broadmead shopping centre in Bristol about Islam, Buddhism, and even Jehovah's Witnesses, as well as sex before marriage and sexuality

The judge and two magistrates said they found the prosecution had not proved the preachers showed hostility to members of another religious group.

The preachers celebrated with supporters after their court victory, with Mr Stockwell telling the Bristol Post: 'I feel elated that it is over.

'My heart is still for the Bristol people, and that they will be able to hear the gospel being preached on the streets unhindered.'

Mr Overd told the BBC: 'This is not an isolated case. How many times must we go to court before there is respect for the law? My heart bleeds for this country.

'But I am a patriot and I will be back on the streets to preach. My life is not my own. I am a Christian soldier and I rejoice in this prosecution.'

Andrea Williams, chief executive of the Christian Legal Centre which has been supporting the men, said yesterday's ruling was a 'victory for freedom of speech'.

She added: 'The Bible and its teachings are the foundation of our society and provided many of the freedoms and protections that we still enjoy today.

'At a time where Christians are becoming increasingly fearful about expressing their beliefs in the public space, this is a welcome and needed result.'

In February 2012, Mr Overd was cleared of harassing a gay couple on Taunton High Street in Somerset after telling them homosexuals would 'burn in hell'.

A court heard he approached the pair and called them 'sinners', but Mr Overd claimed he was exercising his right to expression by reading from the Bible.


Playing Offense: Defeating the Assault on Free Speech

We live in times of hypersensitivity. One way in which collectivism acts against individual freedom is by declaring morally reprehensible—and oftentimes prohibiting—what is deemed “offensive.” The expression “political correctness” has come to define this assault on free speech that hides behind the mask of respect for the sensibilities of others.

Any attempt to deviate from this hypocritical abuse of power should be welcome. Which is why we should rejoice at two recent developments.

One is the courage shown by Kara McCullough, Miss USA 2017, a young scientist who works for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, in answering two questions during the pageant. She was asked whether affordable health care for all Americans is a right or a privilege. She said that she sees it as a privilege because her own insurance comes from her employment; in order to obtain coverage one should get a job, she added, and we should cultivate an environment in which people can have jobs and therefore health care. When asked about feminism, she stated that she was more for “equalism” and associated the other term with not caring about men. Of course, she was massacred in the social media and part of the mainstream media (which, realizing she was not going to back down, subsequently tried to present her comments on the controversy as a retraction).

The second development is the decision by the Supreme Court to side with the Asian-American rock band The Slants against the Patent and Trademark Office, which has refused to register a trademark for the group on the grounds that the name is offensive to Asians. This is not the first time the Patent and Trademark Office, armed with a provision against offensiveness in the federal trademark law, has made decisions based on political correctness. They canceled the Washington Redskins’ mark in 2014 on the grounds that the name offended Native Americans.

Of course, neither Kara McCullough nor the Slants had any intention of being offensive. In the first case, regardless of one’s views on the matter, all you have to do is watch her making the original comments to see that she was responding quite honestly based on personal experience. In the second case, it’s even more absurd to take offense since the name actually ridicules the stereotype by wearing it as a badge of honor.

John Stuart Mill, who wrote in the nineteenth century, might as well have been living in our times when he attacked, in the second chapter of his book “On Liberty”, the idea that offensiveness should be used as an argument against free speech.

The first problem, Mill noted, is where to draw the line (fixing “where these supposed bounds are to be placed”)—because anyone who finds it hard to counter an argument will accuse their opponent of being offensive (“intemperate”). The second problem is that limiting free speech for the sake of political correctness will be unfair to people of perfectly good faith. People who are informed and competent often misrepresent other people’s views or suppress facts and arguments. Who is to say what is a perfect representation of someone else’s views? The offended party? That would turn people of good faith into “morally culpable” beings all the time! The third problem is that the denunciation of offensive speech, as Mill maintained, usually targets those who defy the “prevailing opinion”.

Free speech is one of the protections we have, as individuals, against the tyranny of the majority (whether it is truly a majority or not). The world needs more people like Miss USA 2017 and more Supreme Court decisions that defy political correctness.



Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the  incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.

American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of  other countries.  The only real difference, however, is how much power they have.  In America, their power is limited by democracy.  To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already  very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges.  They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did:  None.  So look to the colleges to see  what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way.  It would be a dictatorship.

For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH,   EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS and  DISSECTING LEFTISM.   My Home Pages are here or   here or   here.  Email me (John Ray) here


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