Thursday, June 14, 2012

The Middle East Media Sampler 6/14/2012: Media Coverage Of Flotilla Report

From DG:
1) The Comptroller and the Flotilla

Both the New York Times and Washington Post report on the State Comptroller's report that criticized the way the Netanyahu government handled the flotilla two years ago.

The New York Times reported in Israeli Watchdog Criticizes Government Over Gaza Flotilla Raid:
When the commandos reached the deck of the ship in the raid, they met with violent resistance and killed nine pro-Palestinian activists — eight Turks and an American of Turkish descent. The deaths incited international outrage and damaged Israel’s already troubled diplomatic relationship with Turkey, a former close regional ally.
The Washington Post similarly reports, Israeli government report faults Netanyahu’s handling of 2010 flotilla raid:
Israeli commandos killed nine pro-Palestinian activists during clashes aboard the Mavi Marmara, one of six ships in the flotilla that had sailed from Turkey and attempted to breach Israel’s naval blockade of Gaza. Gaza is under the control of the Islamist organization Hamas, which Israel and the United States consider to be a terrorist organization, and Israel says the blockade was necessary to prevent shipments of weapons from reaching militants. The activists said they were transporting humanitarian aid.
Note what neither account says: the commandos were attacked when they boarded. The New York Times does allow that Israel claimed self-defense, in the final paragraph. But the fact that the Israeli commandos were attacked isn't merely an Israeli claim; it is a fact verified by video (shot by the terrorists themselves) and the testimony of a sympathetic  journalist Sefik Dinc. It is two years since the incident and this is a basic piece of information that was omitted from two major news stories.

Furthermore, the name "IHH" appears nowhere. IHH is the organization that arranged the flotilla and it has extensive terrorist ties. That the Turkish government apparently allowed IHH to attempt to break the blockade shows that Israeli ties with Turkey were pretty badly damaged even before the raid.

Another aspect of the reporting here that's troubling is the context in which both accounts place the comptroller's report. Here's the New York Times:
Still, the report may tarnish Mr. Netanyahu’s leadership credentials at a time when Israel insists on keeping open the possibility of a larger military operation, a strike against Iran’s nuclear facilities. The defense minister, Ehud Barak, was also criticized in the report. 
Former security chiefs who worked closely with Mr. Netanyahu and Mr. Barak have already criticized their judgment, calling into question their competence to make a decision on whether to launch a strike on Iran. In April, the recently retired chief of Israel’s internal security agency, Yuval Diskin, spoke of “a leadership that makes decisions based on messianic feelings,” and said that after observing Mr. Netanyahu and Mr. Barak up close, “I fear very much that these are not the people I’d want at the wheel.”
The Washington Post:
Critics seized on the report as evidence that Netanyahu and Barak could not be trusted to handle Iran, whose nuclear program Israel considers an existential threat. 
“Today, we all have to be very concerned. The Barak-Netanyahu pair is making decisions on security affairs in a way that is not serious and not responsible,” Dov Henin, a lawmaker with the left-wing opposition party Hadash, told Israel Radio. “In the same way they made decisions regarding the Marmara, they can make decisions tomorrow regarding Iran. Therefore, this pair is dangerous.”
Admittedly, the Washington Post is more careful in this, by attributing the harsh judgments to critics of the government. However, last week the chief of staff, Gen. Benny Gantz dismissed the criticisms of the former government officials.

Both articles acknowledge that even Lindenstrauss mentioned that even if the decision making process had been ideal, the results of the raid may have been no better.

The omissions of both of these articles, though, underscores a very real problem. Regardless of what Israel does from a public relations standpoint, much of the media is willing to ignore relevant information to present Israel in a less than flattering light.

Israel Hayom presents a comprehensive summary of the comptroller's report. Simon Plosker writes of the military's failure to get information out more expeditiously. (both via Media Backspin) Elder of Ziyon faults the Foreign Ministry. Again, even if their responses had been perfect, I wonder if the relevant information would have been reported in a timely fashion. Israel Matzav has more on the Turkey / IHH collaboration.

2) Global Terrorism Forum followup

Yesterday I wrote about Israel's exclusion from the Global Counterterrorism Forum. Barry Rubin observed at the time of its founding:
Finally, among the new organization’s plans is the “first-ever multilateral training and research center focused on countering violent extremism, which would be based in the Gulf region.” Note that by siting it in the Gulf region, as opposed to all of the other places it could have been done, ensures that no Israeli will ever be an instructor or a student there. The center easily could have been put in the territory of more than twenty other non-Arab members.  
But there’s more. The United States is not leading this new organization alone. It has a co-director. That co-director is Turkey. 
Certainly, Turkey has faced terrorism in the past. While one has great sympathy for it in that battle, the Turkish government has also used methods involving death squads and human rights’ violations far worse than those methods condemned loudly by the United States when done by other countries.
So the problem is less that Israel was excluded from one or another event sponsored by this forum; it was excluded at its founding. That's a much bigger scandal; not to mention counterproductive.

3) Lesser evils

From George Jonas's A half century of self-destructive Western foreign policy (via Martin Kramer)
Who knows if we could have saved Iran from the ayatollahs — but we didn’t even try. By the late 1970s, we were part of a new culture that got its start 20 years earlier. I’ll risk sacrificing nuance and describe this new culture as having evolved from (A) the oldest doctrine of foreign policy, which is supporting friend against foe, through (B) the newer Cold War doctrine of supporting the lesser evil against the greater evil, to (C) the latest scary doctrine of trying to achieve moral leadership by supporting foe against friend, especially nasty foe against nasty friend.
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