Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Mideast Media Sampler 06/29/2011

From DG:
1) If you're going to publish propaganda, at least get your story straight

There's a reasonable story in the New York Times, Israeli Advocacy Group Helps Delay Departure of Gaza-Bound Flotilla, which tells how Shurat Hadin managed to get Greek Authorities to delay the flotilla.

However towards the end of the article we read:

Israel, the United States and the European Union regard Hamas as a terrorist group. Flotilla activists, however, say their intentions are only to assist civilians in Gaza and not to express support for any particular Palestinian political group. 
I suppose this is meant to convey "balance." Israel says this; its critics say that.

But the other day, Ethan Bronner reported in the New York Times:

Some of the vessels planning to take part this year are bringing construction equipment and humanitarian aid, including medicine, which have been scarce in Gaza because of a siege imposed by Israel and Egypt for the past four years to isolate Hamas. 
But the real purpose of the flotilla is less to deliver goods and building supplies, which are increasingly available in Gaza now, than to challenge Israel’s control over Gaza’s borders. The American vessel, for example, will not be loaded with any goods. 
Once the New York Times has established that the flotilla is mostly about undermining the blockade, not aid, that should be part of future reporting. I notice that the reporter who covered the Shurat Hadin story, isn't one of the usual Middle East reporters, so maybe he just substituted his own limited knowledge for actual reporting. But the editor's job is to make sure that reporting is accurate and consistent. In addition, I believe that many flotilla activists admit that aid is not their primary goal.

2) Syrian opposition

Yesterday I noted a New York Times report on a meeting of Syrian opposition leaders.

Apparently though, the meeting wasn't as open as advertised. Tony Badran tweeted:

DoS's Nuland praised "opposition" meet. But it was handpicked by Asad (with Ford's encouragement). Bunni told AP regime "vetoed" some names.
The article is here:

"This meeting will be exploited as a cover-up for the arrests, brutal killings and torture that is taking place on daily basis," said opposition figure Walid al-Bunni. He told The Associated Press from Damascus he was not invited to the conference because authorities had "vetoed" some names.
And here's the State Department briefing to which he referred.

QUESTION: Given the apparent stonewalling of the past several weeks of Ambassador Ford’s efforts to see people within Asad’s government, what’s changing that suddenly people can meet in the capital and not have the meeting broken up by security forces? What has made it possible for the ambassador to actually have these meetings after weeks of being turned down? Is there something going on that the U.S. is trying to encourage?
MS. NULAND: Again, I can’t speak to the Syrian Government’s decision-making process, but throughout this period, we’ve made clear that we have an ambassador in Damascus so that he’s available to speak to all sectors of Syrian society, including the Syrian Government. And over the last 10 days, doors have been more open among the people around Asad, and Ambassador Ford has used those opportunities to state, in strongest terms, that the United States view is that the opposition ought to be allowed to meet.
When there was some concern that the meeting would not be allowed to go forward or might be broken up, he represented very strongly our views to those people, the meeting went forward, and he and we here are saying to the Syrians, in strongest terms, that’s the right approach, keep going; if these guys want to meet again, allow it to go forward, allow peaceful protests to go forward.
We believe that we’re also seeing some positive moves in the direction of allowing peaceful protest in other parts of Syria. For example, we’ve seen in Hama and Deir ez-Zor recently that protestors have been allowed to meet without their movements being broken up. But this is by no means a universal phenomenon in Syria. We’ve still had security force violence against some peaceful protest, notably in al-Kiswah over the weekend. So it’s an uneven picture, but we are continuing to make our points in strongest terms.
3) Now they're starting to farm

Originally, the Gazans destroyed the greenhouses in Gaza that had been purchased by international donors after Jews were removed from their communities in 2005. But now, the Palestinians are farming there. The New York Times reports:

Hundreds of acres of watermelons, orange saplings and grapevines stretch in orderly rows out to the horizon. Irrigation hoses run along the sand, dripping quietly. Apple trees are starting to blossom nearby. Avocados and mangoes are on their way. 
Gaza, cut off by Israel and Egypt for the past four years and heavily dependent on food aid, is expanding an enormous state-run farm aimed at gaining partial food independence. Most striking is that the project sits in the center of the coastal strip on the sites of the former Israeli settlements whose looted greenhouses and ruined fields became a symbol of all that had turned sour in the Israeli withdrawal six years ago. 
Israel pulled out its 9,000 settlers and all of its soldiers from Gaza in 2005. The settlers’ high-tech greenhouses, which were bought for the Palestinians with $14 million in donations, were left unguarded and within days were stripped of computer equipment, irrigation pipes, water pumps and plastic sheeting. 
There were two interesting items later in the story:

That was the scene several years ago but is not now. The changes in the land come as no surprise to Shlomo Wasserteil, the founder and curator of the Gush Katif Museum and a former farmer here. 
He knows about the shifts because he stays in touch with his former Palestinian workers. They have told him about the synagogue-turned-mosque, the rows of produce, the drip irrigation. The farmers themselves are considered by Hamas officials to be collaborators with Israelis so the farmers are not working on the government project here. 
Hamas won't allow experienced farmers work on Hamas owned projects if the were deemed to have helped Jews.
Mr. Wasserteil has followed on-the-ground changes here, but presses for more details of his former home. In an echo of many Zionist accounts over the years, Mr. Wasserteil tells of what he and his fellow settlers found when they first arrived. “There was nothing but sand, not even a bird, like the Sahara. We produced the best tomatoes in the world. We revolutionized cultivation in sand and taught our neighbors in Jordan how to do it.” 
So "settlers" helped Arabs.
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