Tuesday, May 15, 2012

The Middle East Media Sampler 5/16/2012 Media On End Of Palestinian Hunger Strike

From DG:
1) Hungering for more information

Both the New York Times and Washington Post reported on the recently ended prisoners strike. Both reports were pretty straightforward, but not without troubling omissions.

Isabel Kershner reported Palestinians in Jails End Hunger Strike for the New York Times.
Although only a minority of the hunger strikers were identified with Mr. Abbas’s secularist Fatah Party, he had taken the lead in pressing for a resolution. Israeli officials preferred to give Mr. Abbas the credit, and presented the agreement as a good-will gesture.
“In response to the request of the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, Israel has negotiated the end of the strike,” said Mark Regev, an Israeli government spokesman. “It is our hope that this decision will serve to build confidence between the parties and further peace.”
We'll see how much more responsive he is to Israeli overtures now.
Most of the 4,500 Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails have been tried and convicted of security offenses.
Israel’s internal security agency, known as the Shin Bet, said in a statement that the agreement became possible after the prisoners made a commitment “to completely halt terrorist activity inside Israeli prisons,” and “to refrain from all activity that constitutes practical support for terrorism, including recruiting people for terrorist activity, guidance, financing, coordinating among recruits, aiding recruits,” and related activities. 
The two sides had seemed intent on reaching a deal before Tuesday, when the Palestinians commemorate the “nakba,” or catastrophe, on the anniversary of Israel’s declaration of independence in 1948. The war that followed the declaration led to the flight or expulsion of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians, and the day is traditionally observed with protest marches.
The acknowledgement that most of the prisoners had been convicted of security offenses is important.  Most of those still in jail committed their crimes after the Oslo accords. In other words they committed terror after the Palestinians officially renounced terror. Yet it was Abbas of Fatah, the moderates who want peace who was interceding for the prisoners.

Karin Brulliard of the Washington Post reported Palestinian prisoners end hunger strike following agreement with Israel:
The officials said Israel also agreed to free about 320 prisoners who are being held without charge or trial in administrative detention, provided they finish their current six-month detention terms and no new evidence against them surfaces. 
Administrative detention, which can be renewed indefinitely, is a key focus of the detainees who have been on hunger strike the longest. Critics say Israel uses it punitively and, by withholding evidence from both detainees and their lawyers, prevents them from mounting a proper defense. Israel says divulging that information could expose informants and jeopardize national security.
Sahar Francis, director of the prisoners’ rights organization Addameer, said the concessions granted by Israel amounted to a success for the prisoners. But the change to administrative detention is vague, she said.
I wish when organizations like Addameer are quoted more background is given. Here's what NGO Monitor has written about the group:
Addameer (Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association) 2009. Addameer refers to the Israeli army as the “Israeli Occupying Forces,” and accuses Israel of “collective punishment” and a “policy of using Palestinian prisoners as pawns to achieve political and military gains.” 
Addameer endorsed the call for BDS against Israel, which calls for “[e]nding [Israel’]s occupation and colonization of all Arab lands and dismantling the Wall,” and compares Israel to apartheid South Africa, in a manner consistent with the Durban Strategy of anti-Israel demonization and the use of soft-power warfare.
Addameer then is part of the Palestinian society that denies Israel's legitimacy. This is something that should be remembered and reported.

Why did Israel make the deal? Brulliard explained early in the report::
The prisoners — all jailed in Israeli military prisons on suspicion or convictions of terror-related activity — agreed to “completely halt terrorist activity inside Israeli prisons,” Israel’s domestic security agency, the Shin Bet, said in a statement.  
Here it would reasonable to point out that Palestinian prisoners often make such promises, but they also regularly violate them. Already a number of those released in the Shalit deal last October have been re-arrested by Israel. Again this is something that needs to be reported.

The final paragraph in the Washington Post report is troubling:
The prisoner issue is deeply emotional for Palestinians, most of whom have relatives who are or have been incarcerated in Israeli prisons. Palestinians said at least 2,500 prisoners participated in the hunger strikes.
There are two ways to read this. The first is that it is emotional for the Palestinians because Israel arbitrarily arrests Palestinians. The second is that even though Israel is fully justified in arresting Palestinians involved in terror, the prisoner issue is emotional.

I have no doubt that the second is true. But what does it say then if Israel justifiably arrests such a high percentage of Palestinians? Shouldn't the prisoner issue then be framed as being indicative of widespread support for terror against Israel in Palestinian society?

By casting the "prisoner issue" as an emotional one for Palestinians with no further background suggests the first option is true.

Two central points are usually omitted from news stories about administrative detention. According to NGO Monitor these are:
Most NGO statements omit the fact that administrative detention is a common procedure used by democratic and rights-respecting states around the world in security-related cases, including the US and the UK. Israel's detention law meets and often exceeds the due process standards required by criminal procedure and human rights law. 
Contrary to the claims of NGOs, it is not true that administrative detention is “without charge.” The administrative detention laws require that the detainee be brought before a judge within a short period of time and any detention must be based upon credible evidence. All detainees have the right to challenge their detention to the Israeli Supreme Court sitting as the High Court of Justice.
Finally if administrative detention and hunger striking prisoners are worthy of news coverage, shouldn't these two stories also be reported?

The omission of so much information suggests that Israeli arrests and detentions are arbitrary and unique. Unfortunately, when the mainstream media covers this situation its omissions help construct a false narrative.

2) Intelligence design

Marc Thiessen requests Mr. President please don't kill this terrorist. However, this isn't exactly a plea for clemency:
A drone strike would vaporize this ingenious terrorist intent on attacking the United States. But it would also vaporize all the intelligence inside his brain. Our national security would be better served if the United States captured al-Asiri and kept him alive for questioning, so we can find out what he knows. 
What would be lost if President Obama chose to kill, rather than capture, al-Asiri? According to former senior intelligence officials involved in terrorist captures, a high-ranking terrorist leader such as al-Asiri could provide us with treasure trove of information on al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula — the terror network that poses the greatest threat to the homeland today.
Two related article underline Thiessen's concern.

Patrick Poole reports that Al-Qaeda Infiltrator was Working for Brits not CIA, Cover Blown for Election Year Politics. This is the plot that was masterminded by al-Asiri.
As the story broke, the establishment media was more than happy to attribute the intelligence coup to the CIA and the Obama administration, describing the mole as a “CIA informant.” 
It turns out that wasn’t true. The double-agent hadn’t been recruited and placed by the CIA, but by British intelligence, who also managed the operation. In fact, the Americans had only recently been made aware of the joint British-Saudi effort. 
The leaks about the operation from the American side have infuriated British intelligence officials, who had hoped to continue the operation. The leaks not only scuttled the mission but put the life of the asset in jeopardy. Even CIA officials, joining their MI5 and MI6 counterparts, were describing the leaks as “despicable,” attributing them to the Obama administration.
Since George W. Bush is no longer president we can't expect the media to look into whether intelligence was compromised for political gain.

But it isn't just the White House that might make such political calculations, sometimes the intelligence agencies do too. Peter Huessy asks (regarding intelligence spending) What are we getting for our $80 billion?
"Don't worry" says the former deputy director of its Counterterrorist Center: it is not the fault of the intelligence community: "They screw things up all by themselves" he states. "On major foreign policy decisions, intelligence is not the decisive factor".
Is the intelligence community really that innocent? 
Now retired, this same 28-year CIA veteran had a hand in the 2007 National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on Iran. The report was a bombshell: its summary dismissed Iran as a threat to US, effectively taking it out of the mix of national security issues in the 2008 Presidential campaign.
No doubt those working in intelligence are devoted to their tasks. The question remains how will what they learn be used?
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