Wednesday, November 28, 2012

The Middle East Media Sampler 11/28/2012: The Media Still Digs Arafat

From DG:

Ambulance chasing as journalism
Can we film the operation?
Is the head dead yet?
You know, the boys in the newsroom got a
Running bet
Dirty Laundry - Don Henley 
The Washington Post reports Samples taken from Yasser Arafat’s remains to see if he was poisoned:
Tissue samples were taken Tuesday from the remains of Yasser Arafat, the longtime Palestinian leader who died in 2004, as part of an inquiry into whether he might have been poisoned, Palestinian officials said.
The probe was ordered after an investigative report on the Arabic satellite channel al-Jazeera in July presented what it said was evidence of possible poisoning, reviving suspicions surrounding Arafat’s death.
Did the reporter have to withhold a chortle when he wrote "investigative report ... on ... al-Jazeera?" Rumors that Arafat have been poisoned have been part of Palestinian rhetoric over the past eight years. Just because the Islamist channel al-Jazeera claimed to have more rumors doesn't make the charge any more credible.

(I don't believe that Israel is the main target of these rumors. The story that Arafat was poisoned lately has been peddled by his former henchman Mohammed Rashid who is engaged in a feud with Mahmoud Abbas.)

The New York Times reports Arafat’s Body Is Exhumed for Poison Tests:
On Tuesday, as part of an inquiry into whether he was poisoned, Mr. Arafat’s remains were exhumed in a subdued, reflective atmosphere, with his people more fractured and less certain of their future than when he was alive. 
Mr. Arafat died in a Paris hospital in 2004 at the age of 75, an event that was swiftly surrounded by contention and mystery. Israeli officials have categorically denied Palestinian accusations of involvement. And though lab test results are expected in about three months, according to experts, they may leave open more questions than they resolve about the Palestinian suspicions. 
“Our people are convinced that Israel committed this act,” Tawfiq Tirawi, a Palestinian official who leads the Palestinian investigating committee, told reporters here in a news conference. “We are seeking evidence.” 
For those unfamiliar with the name Tawfiq Tirawi, he was implicated in the killing of Palestinian land dealers who had the gall to sell land to Jews.

(Really, if someone wants to do an investigative story about Arafat why not find out how much the perpetually cash-strapped Palestinian Authority is funding Suha Arafat's lavish expatriate lifestyle.)

Barry Rubin made an important observation as to why these rumors are treated as "news."
In the case of any other alleged perpetrator, the kind of claim being made against Israel in this case would have been ridiculed. Yet part of the world seems to believe that the Jews are capable of anything. 
There is even a special name for such tales, blood libel, and its echoes can be found in the fabricated or exaggerated tales about Israel deliberately murdering children, most recently just now in the war with Hamas. sStories of Jews murdering people out of religious hatred—often to use their blood allegedly to make Passover matzos—go way back. One example is in Thomas Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, published first in the late fourteenth century. About 130 years ago, one of my ancestors living in Czarist Russia was accused on the basis of no evidence of the ritual murder of a teen-aged Christian. The local peasants rioted, wrecked the Jewish workshops and stores, and beat up several Jews. Fortunately no one was killed. According to then-prevalent tales in the region, the Jews had a barrel whose inside was studded with nails so as to extract the blood efficiently.
This past week the ombudsman of the Washington Post defended the decision to publish a front page picture of an anguished Palestinian man holding his dead son. He wrote about how the photograph told "part of the truth." The Washington Post didn't report much on the years of rocket fire from Gaza targeting Israel's south. It didn't report much on the supply of materiel from Iran and other sympathetic sources to Hamas. Only when Israel finally struck back did it see fit to report comprehensively on the conflict between Israel and Hamas. (The Post is not alone. Once Operation Pillar of Defense started, there was a migration of journalists to Gaza.)

Hamas locates its terror infrastructure in civilian areas knowing that it will lead to dramatic pictures. Media organizations obliged Hamas with boots on the ground to record Israel's response. All was left was to wait for the inevitable civilian casualties and Hamas's strategy would be vindicated. (In this case it isn't even clear if it was an Israeli bomb, as the ombudsman claims, that killed the baby.)

By reporting on Arafat's exhumation news organizations are giving credence to rumors. By extravagantly claiming that they're exposing some essential "truth" news organizations are furthering Hamas's media strategy. The mainstream media has become an ossified relic driven more by cynical calculations than any sort of enlightened principles.

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