Friday, July 06, 2012

The Middle East Media Sampler 7/6/2012: Media Fixated On Arafat And Polonium

From DG:
1) Phony PoLOnium

The efforts to explain the "news" that Israel killed Yasser Arafat continues.

The Washington Post helps out with As Arafat polonium mystery swirls, a look at the radioactive element’s deadly properties by the AP. This is a disgraceful piece of work filled with innuendo. 
While it informs the reader of what Polonium is and how it kills, it never ties Israel to killing Arafat, except by implication:

"That category includes Russia — producer of the polonium believed to have killed Litvinenko — and Arafat’s foe, Israel." 
"Israeli author Michal Karpin has claimed that the cancer deaths of several Israeli scientists were the result of a leak at the Weizmann Institute of Science in 1957. " 
"But he says it would still be much higher than normal background levels, and with an autopsy it should be possible to tell “with a pretty high confidence” whether Arafat had polonium in his body when he died."
In addition a couple of contradictory points were glossed over.
"The symptoms shown by Litvinenko — nausea, hair loss, throat swelling and pallor — are also typical. "
As the photograph here shows, Arafat, at the end of his life, had a beard and a ruddy complexion.
"Scientists caution that traces on Arafat’s clothing aren’t sufficient proof of poisoning. Exhuming his body would a surer method. Derek Hill, a radiological science expert at University College London, said eight years after Arafat’s death in 2004, any polonium would have decayed and would be far less radioactive than it was at the time."
This would make sense if the polonium readings from his clothing were low; but they weren't. They were unusually high.

Elder of Ziyon did some calculations:
The authors note that 1 GBq will kill a man in a month. They then note that this amount would yield about 1.4 mBq in the urine after some 20 half-lives of decay, in February 2012. 
And then they say that they measured 180 mBq in February, over a hundred times more!
But doesn't that mean that Arafat ("Mr. Louvet" in the report) would have ingested over 100 Gbq of polonium in 2004 - 100 times the dosage that kills within a month? If so, how did he survive as long as he did after he took ill?
Dr. Ely Karmon, an expert, came to the same conclusion and concluded that the polonium was planted:
“If it had been used for poisoning, minimal levels should be seen now. Yet much higher levels were found. Someone planted the polonium much later,” Karmon said. 
“Because of the half-life of the substance, the conclusion is that the polonium is much more fresh,” he added. 
Karmon added that the Al Jazeera report raised additional unanswered questions. Referring to the fact that Arafat’s widow, Suha, provided the researchers with Arafat’s belongings, Karmon asked: “If Suha Arafat safeguarded these contaminated materials, why, after seven years, was she not poisoned too? She touched these things and Arafat in hospital.”
Somewhat better is Inside the Arafat Assassination Conspiracies by Harvey Morris at the New York Times website. At least Morris acknowledged the existence of unsubstantiated conspiracy theories prevalent among Palestinians. (Not all of them, that would have taken too long. But Palestinian Media Watch has a comprehensive list.)

Unfortunately Morris ruins his essay by asserting:
Israel’s Jerusalem Post came up with its own conspiracy theory this week, claiming Mr. Abu Sharif’s contributions to the poisoning debate were part of an attempt to pin blame on Israel and divert any possible link to Mahmoud Abbas, Mr. Arafat’s successor as president of the Palestinian Authority.
That's not a conspiracy theory. That was reported by the Jerusalem Post nearly three years ago. A few weeks after Farouq al-Qadoumi accused Mahmoud Abbas of conspiring with Israel to kill Arafat, Bassam abu-Sharif proposed a commission to establish that Israel was guilty of Arafat's death:
The sixth General Assembly of Fatah unanimously adopted a proposal on Thursday calling for the establishment of a committee to investigate the death of Arafat. The panel will abide by the following guidelines: Israel bears full responsibility for Arafat’s death, the issue continues to remain open, and the investigation will enlist international support. 
One Foreign Ministry official quipped that if the convention already determined that Israel was guilty, what exactly was it going to investigate? The proposal was raised by Bassam Abu Sharif, Arafat’s former political adviser, and was motivated both by demands from a number of Fatah delegates at the gathering, and by estranged PLO leader Farouk Kaddoumi, who in an interview in mid-July claimed he possessed a document proving Arafat’s death was the result of an Israeli-Palestinian conspiracy…. 
The ubiquity of unfounded conspiracy theories is a hallmark of the Palestinian political culture. Even if Morris were correct that the Jerusalem Post's assertion was such a "theory," it hardly matches the scope of what is disseminated officially and unofficially in the Palestinian Authority. Unfortunately, people in media tend to treat the paranoia cavalierly rather than as a problem to be exposed and challenged.

One final note: yesterday I observed that there was supposed to be a second test of Arafat's personal effects. Given that the results were not reported, I speculated that it might have been because the test showed too little radiation, so the results were quashed. That speculation isn't consistent with the evidence reported. However, I still wonder if a second test was ever administered.

2) Freedom of  expression

France 24 reports Arab countries withdraw prize reward for novelist who visited Israel:

Boualem Sansal had been due to receive the Editions Gallimard Arabic Novel prize for his book “Rue Darwin” [Darwin Street] earlier in June. 
A15,000-euro cheque was to be given by the Paris-based Arab Ambassador’s Council, which founded the award in 2008. 
But between being nominated and being awarded his prize, Sansal attended the Jerusalem Writers Festival in May – as guest of honour.
JoshuaPundit notes a contrast and what it means:
Sansal may not think he's at war with Israel, but the Arab leaders certainly do. And they act accordingly.They do it for one reason...because of what it says about Jews in the Qu'ran and Hadiths. And there's no getting away from it. 
Contrast this with the attitude of the Israelis, who had no problem cordially inviting a prominent Arab writer to come to Israel as the guest of honor to a literary festival in their capitol. 
That's the key to the Middle East situation in a nutshell..not 'land for peace', not 'settlements' or the so-called occupation, but the widespread Islamic hatred of Jews and the very fact Israel exists at all.
Is the Arab Spring a harbinger of greater openness? Not if Tunisia is an example, as Barry Rubin reports:
The much-touted, Islamist-led coalition government in Tunisia is showing how little has changed. It is imposing the regime’s power on the media, choosing loyal editors and censoring the news. The liberal and independent National Authority for the Reform of Media and Communications (INRIC) is so disgusted that it’s closing down. 
Leaders of the INRIC openly accuse the government of trying to control the media ensuring that it spreads the government’s message, ideology, and misinformation. In fact, the Independent Authority for Audiovisual Communication (HAICA) is supposed to appoint editors. The INRIC also points out that the government is not implementing previous decrees to protect journalists. 
The Islamist, Ennahada party which leads the government is the main offender. Reporters without Borders has also complained about the censorship and takeover of the media.
3) Other than being Jewish, what do Weiss, Blumenthal, Silverstein, Rosenberg, Beinart and Friedman have in common?

Ben Cohen answers in Attacking Israel Online:
But Rosenberg, Weiss, and Beinart take a different view of their place in the media conversation. They believe themselves to be fearless truth-tellers who actively resist a censorious tribal culture that bulldozes any hint of discord. Rosenberg offered a pithy insight into this in an April 2012 opinion piece for the website of Al Jazeera. After claiming that pro-Israel advocacy organizations were hindering efforts to secure a peaceful resolution of the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians, he concluded with an exhortation. “Being pro-Israel means caring about Israel,” wrote Rosenberg, whose career has been built on the fact that he briefly worked for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee three decades ago. “It does not mean using it as an excuse for power brokering and suppressing dissident voices.”  
Dissident voices? Properly understood, the word dissident describes intellectuals and activists operating in oppressive societies. What they do frequently results in imprisonment, torture, and even death. The dissidents of whom Rosenberg speaks so modestly, since they include himself, are not silenced, but rather celebrated, by media establishments ranging from the Huffington Post to the BBC. 
The persistent inclusion of these “dissident voices” in discussions of America, Jews, and Israel has proven very useful indeed, since their membership in the tribe is deemed to give them special standing in presenting their indictment of Israel—and, somewhat more subtly, inoculates Gentile critics of the Jewish state against the charge that their attacks on Israel might be anti-Semitic. How can they be if they are merely echoing the arguments made by such passionate, such moral, such fearless, such dissident Jews?  
One man's "dissident voices" are another man's useful idiots.

4) The C-130 pilot

Joshua Shani piloted the led plane - a C-130 Hercules transport - in the Entebbe rescue mission, this week in 1976. The IDF blog interviewed him in honor of the anniversary of the miraculous rescue. Here are some highlights:
The flight to Entebbe is about 2,500 miles (4,000 km). How’d you do it?

We had to fly very close to Saudi Arabia and Egypt, over the Gulf of Suez. We weren’t afraid of violating anyone’s air space — it’s an international air route. The problem was that they might pick us up on radar. We flew really low — 100 feet above the water, a formation of four planes. The main element was surprise. All it takes is one truck to block a runway, and that’s all. The operation would be over. Therefore, secrecy was critical. At some places that were particularly dangerous, we flew at an altitude of 35 feet. I recall the altimeter reading. Trust me, this is scary! In this situation, you cannot fly close formation. As flight leader, I didn’t know if I still had planes 2, 3 and 4 behind me because there was total radio silence. You can’t see behind you in a C-130. Luckily, they were smart, so from time to time they would show themselves to me and then go back to their place in the formation, so I still knew I had my formation with me.
How were you greeted in Israel?

The plane with the hostages landed at Ben-Gurion Airport, where they were reunited with their families. The other three planes remained for a debrief. Here comes Yitzhak Rabin, prime minister of Israel, walking up to me. I had been in my flight suit for 24 hours straight, in temperatures over 100 degrees in the airplane, sweating and smelly, and here walks the prime minister with big open arms. I’m thinking — please don’t hug me — he may die from this! He hugged me for what felt like a full minute, and said only “Thanks.”

What was it like returning to Israel as a hero?

After my father’s death, I found his letters from Bergen-Belsen that he sent to Kibbutz Mishmar Haemek. The letters describe his experiences during the Holocaust, what happened to his family, etc. I won’t discuss it here. One of his letters said, “My only comfort is Joshua. He gives me reason to continue.”
The reason I mention this letter is because, 30 years later, when I returned from Entebbe, my father hosted a party for me. Family and friends were all there to celebrate the success of my mission. My father was in a great mood. I know what he was thinking, a Holocaust survivor. His son at the time was a lieutenant colonel in the Israel Air Force and had just flown thousands of miles in order to save Jews. It probably added ten years to his life.
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