April 21, 2014

Middle East Media Sampler for March 11, 2012


1) Befitting yellow journalism

Last week the New York Times ran an editorial, The IRS does its job:

Taxpayers should be encouraged by complaints from Tea Party chapters applying for nonprofit tax status at being asked by the Internal Revenue Service to prove they are “social welfare” organizations and not the political activists they so obviously are.

Tea Party supporters claim they are being politically harassed with extensive I.R.S. questionnaires. But the service properly contends that it must ensure that these groups are “primarily” engaged in social welfare, not political campaigning, to merit tax exemption under section 501(c)(4) of the tax code.

Such I.R.S. inquiries are long overdue and should be applied across the board to the growing number of organizations, allied with the major political parties, that are also ludicrously posing as “social welfare” groups. Legitimate social welfare organizations are allowed limited political activity. But these political offshoots are using that tax status in a transparent ploy to keep big donors secret while funneling the money to campaigns. Chief among these groups are American Crossroads, the campaign machine created by Republican guru Karl Rove, and Priorities USA, the Democratic counterpart founded by former White House aides, now openly encouraged by President Obama as he runs for re-election.

There has been very little original reporting of this in the mainstream media. Conservative or Republican leaning media outlets have been publicizing this. There is some dispute as to whether the questionnaires are intrusive or not. There was a fascinating observation in the Roll Call report on this IRS activity:

Conservative organizations have been most willing to go public with these letters, so it is unclear how many left-leaning organizations might have received similar communications. But several liberal groups contacted by Roll Call did not report similar experiences.

For example, a spokesman for Protect-

YourCare, a 501(c)(4) set up to defend the new health care law, said the group has not received any kind of questionnaire from the IRS. Another liberal 501(c)(4) granted tax exempt status in May received only a modest six-part questionnaire.

Roll Call does not claim that its survey of liberal groups was exhausted, but the lack of complaints and the limited survey together suggest that the IRS hasn't been as aggressive in pursuing liberal groups.

Even if the IRS is within its rights, it may well be enforcing the law selectively.

Contrast the New York Times current cheerleading for the I.R.S. with its editorial last August, Not befitting a democracy:

Israel’s reputation as a vibrant democracy has been seriously tarnished by a new law intended to stifle outspoken critics of its occupation of the West Bank.

The law, approved in a 47-to-38 vote by Parliament, effectively bans any public call for a boycott — economic, cultural or academic — against Israel or its West Bank settlements, making such action a punishable offense.

It would enable Israeli citizens to bring civil suits against people and organizations instigating such boycotts, and subject violators to monetary penalties. Companies and organizations supporting a boycott could be barred from bidding on government contracts. Nonprofit groups could lose tax benefits.

First of all, note the assumption: that the law diminishes Israel's democracy. Second of all, it wasn't targeting "critics of [Israel's] occupation," it was targeting people and groups who advocated a specific activity, not an uncommon legislative action, even in Western democracies.

To the New York Times if the executive branch is abusing its power, it's to be praised as long as it's targeting the correct targets. If the Knesset passes a law that isn't uncommon, but possibly hurts some of the Times's favorite sources for anti-Israel news stories, that's a threat to democracy.

Further, consider how the New York Times treated, "libel tourism." To its credit, the Times took a strong stand against the phemonenon, but consider the conclusion of an editorial from last year, Libel Tourism, R.I.P.?

The proposed barrier against jurisdiction is significant and a welcome change. In most other respects, the bill is not nearly as protective of speech as American law, and the burden remains on the defendant. Still, the bill has the potential to bury London’s deserved reputation as the world’s libel capital. It deserves the measured praise it is drawing.

The words "democracy" and "freedom" appear nowhere in the editors' words. (They appear in a quote from the British justice secretary.) If Israel's anti-boycott law is not befitting a democracy, why aren't Britain's libel laws? Or is hyperbole a necessary component of criticizing Israel? Clearly for the New York Times, freedoms only belong to those with whom it agrees, a rather selective position to be taken by a supposed supporter of the freedom of speech.

2) Militants again

The New York Times reports, Violence Continues for Israel and Militants. That's a lovely, non-judgmental headline. The report leaves out at least two major points.

The sudden flare-up of hostilities began Friday when Israeli air-to-ground missiles killed the leader of one of the militant groups, the Popular Resistance Committees, and his assistant in Gaza. Israel said that the strike on the men’s car had been timed to thwart a terrorist attack that the group was planning against Israelis from across the border with Egypt.

Militants in Gaza retaliated by firing barrages of rockets into southern Israel, and the Israeli Air Force struck back at numerous rocket-firing squads and facilities used by the militant groups. The exchanges continued, albeit with less intensity, through Saturday.

Actually, as Challah Hu Akbar notes, there were rockets fired into Israel prior to IDF's successful attack to kill the two terrorists.

Early Friday, terrorists in Gaza fired two rockets into Israel. A few hours later, in a preemptive strike against terrorists planning a major terrorist attack, the IDF carried out a targeted assassination, which killed the Secretary General of the Popular Resistance Committees, Zuhir al-Qaisi, as well as senior Popular Resistance Committees member, Ahmed Hanani.

According to the IDF, Al-Qaisi (or Kaisi) was responsible for a number of previous attacks:

Zahir Kaisi born in 1963 and from Gaza City, was the head of the Popular Resistance Committee terror organization and was also its political commander. Kaisi was among the leaders who planned, funded, and directed the combined terror attack that took place on Route 12 in August 2011, in which 40 people were injured.

Kaisi was also involved in rocket fire at Israel, as well as in the attack on the Nahal Oz fuel terminal in April 2008, in which two Israeli citizens were killed. In addition, Kaisi was in charge of transferring funds from Hezbollah to terror organizations in the Gaza Strip.

In other words, Israel had intelligence that Al-Qaisi planned a terror attack that took place a half year ago, in the same area; which is probably the reason that Israel closed Route 12 in anticipation of an attack. But that wasn't news that the New York Times determined to be fit to print.

Contrary to the implication of the headline, violence doesn't just occur naturally. There is usually a cause. In this case, the cause was information that terrorists from Gaza were going to attempt an attack similar to the one last August. This was a bit of information that the Washington Post's reporters found significant enough to include:

The violent escalation threatened to spark a new wave of warfare along the volatile Gaza-Israel border, where a relatively low-level cycle of reciprocal attacks has become routine. The clashes started Friday morning, when an Israeli airstrike on Gaza City killed the top commander and a second member of the Popular Resistance Committees, or PRC, a militant faction that Israel accused of staging a raid into southern Israel from Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula last August that killed eight Israelis.

The Washington Post, though, like the New York Times did not mention the earlier rockets on Friday.

One last point about the New York Times article: it wouldn't be complete without a good word about Hamas:

They chanted, “No free hudna from now on” and “We will not accept the degrading hudna,” referring to the fragile truce with Israel that has been largely observed by Hamas, the larger Islamic group that controls Gaza. Hamas often presses smaller militant groups to refrain from firing rockets at Israel.

A ceasefire that is "largely observed" is not a ceasefire. Furthermore, given that Hamas has been imposing its will on Gazans in other matters, it hasn't been "pressing" very hard to prevent terrorists from targeting Israel.

Other elements of bias are noted by Israel Matzav (via memeorandum), Elder of Ziyon, Israelly Cool (via Daled Amos ), Honest Reporting, and from the #1 source documenting AP bias against Israel, Meryl Yourish.

About Daniel Goldstein

Daniel Goldstein is a media critic and recovering blogger. He has been critiquing media bias against Israel since his first letter to the editor in 1987.