November 28, 2014

Middle East Media Sampler for April 23, 2012


1) Selective

At The Times, a mention of CAMERA frequently induces eye-rolling or shrugs. Editors have clearly lost patience with the group.

Neil Lewis – Israel in The New York Times Over the Decades

Last week, the "Lede" blogger for the New York Times scored a cheap point against Israel, Israeli Minister Agrees Ahmadinejad Never Said Israel ‘Must Be Wiped Off the Map’. Back in 2005, President Ahmadinejad reportedly called for Israel to be wiped off the map:

Those words were attributed to Mr. Ahmadinejad in 2005, in English translations of his speech to a “World Without Zionism” conference that October. As my colleague Ethan Bronner reported the next year, one problem was translating a metaphorical turn of phrase in Persian that has no exact English equivalent — there was, for instance, no mention of a map — and there was a heated debate about whether the original statement was a threat or a prediction.

Last week, Teymoor Nabili of Al Jazeera suggested during an interview with Dan Meridor, Israel’s minister of intelligence and atomic energy, that Mr. Ahmadinejad’s rhetorical flourish had been misinterpreted. “This idea that Iran wants to wipe Israel out,” Mr. Nabili said, “now that’s a common trope that is put about by a lot of people in Israel, a lot of people in the United States, but as we know Ahmadinejad didn’t say that he plans to exterminate Israel, nor did he say that Iran’s policy is to exterminate Israel.”

In response, Mr. Meridor said that Mr. Ahmadinejad and Iran’s ruling cleric, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, had said repeatedly “that Israel is an unnatural creature, it will not survive. They didn’t say, ‘We’ll wipe it out,’ you’re right, but, ‘It will not survive.’ ”

But, as CAMERA points out, Bronner didn't exactly write what Mackey attributes to him, Just how far did the go, those words against Israel?.

But translators in Tehran who work for the president's office and the foreign ministry disagree with them. All official translations of Mr. Ahmadinejad's statement, including a description of it on his Web site (www.president.ir/eng/), refer to wiping Israel away. Sohrab Mahdavi, one of Iran's most prominent translators, and Siamak Namazi, managing director of a Tehran consulting firm, who is bilingual, both say "wipe off" or "wipe away" is more accurate than "vanish" because the Persian verb is active and transitive.

The second translation issue concerns the word "map." Khomeini's words were abstract: "Sahneh roozgar." Sahneh means scene or stage, and roozgar means time. The phrase was widely interpreted as "map," and for years, no one objected. In October, when Mr. Ahmadinejad quoted Khomeini, he actually misquoted him, saying not "Sahneh roozgar" but "Safheh roozgar," meaning pages of time or history. No one noticed the change, and news agencies used the word "map" again.

Ahmad Zeidabadi, a professor of political science in Tehran whose specialty is Iran-Israel relations, explained: "It seems that in the early days of the revolution the word 'map' was used because it appeared to be the best meaningful translation for what he said. The words 'sahneh roozgar' are metaphorical and do not refer to anything specific. Maybe it was interpreted as 'book of countries,' and the closest thing to that was a map. Since then, we have often heard 'Israel bayad az naghshe jographya mahv gardad' — Israel must be wiped off the geographical map. Hard-liners have used it in their speeches."

Bronner concluded:

So did Iran's president call for Israel to be wiped off the map? It certainly seems so. Did that amount to a call for war? That remains an open question.

(Admittedly this is different from what CAMERA wrote:

Bronner may have asserted that Ahmadinejad didn't use the exact word for map. But his bottom line seemed to be the very opposite of what Mackey writes. The Iranian president's statement was more a threat than a prediction.

Bronner confirmed that the "map" translation was likely accurate. He was less willing to agree that it was a threat. Still CAMERA's point that Mackey selectively quoted Bronner is correct.)

By the way to support his thesis, Mackey quotes the Washington Post "fact checker," Glenn Kessler. In his "fact check," Kessler cites some authorities. In the first case he writes:

Then, specialists such as Juan Cole of the University of Michigan and Arash Norouzi of the Mossadegh Project pointed out that the original statement in Persian did not say that Israel should be wiped from the map, but instead that it would collapse.

Cole said this week that in the 1980s Khomeini gave a speech in which he said in Persian “Een rezhim-i eshghalgar-i Quds bayad az sahneh-i ruzgar mahv shaved.” This means, “This occupation regime over Jerusalem must vanish from the arena of time.” But then anonymous wire service translators rendered Khomeini as saying that Israel “must be wiped off the face of the map,” which Cole and Nourouzi say is inaccurate.

In the second case he writes:

But the story doesn’t end there. Karim Sadjadpour, an Iranian specialist at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, notes that Iranian government entities began to erect billboards and signs with the “wipe off” phrase in English. Joshua Teitelbaum of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs compiled an interesting collection of photographs of these banners, such as one on the building that houses reserve military forces of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. “Israel should be wiped out of the face of the world,” the sign reads in English.

Teitelbaum’s report, while written from a pro-Israel perspective, includes a number of threatening statements about Israel that are similar in tone to Ahmadinejad’s controversial statement.

Note, to Kessler, Cole and Norouzi are specialists, but Teitelbaum writes "from a pro-Israel perspective." A qualification like that without attesting to its accuracy is a way of saying the judgment is biased. Given that Teitelbaum collected statements from news reports and photographs, why is his perspective even relevant? (Kessler could just as well have written, "Teitelbaum, once a legislative aide to Congressman Paul N. McCloskey …" McCloskey is not known for his pro-Israel view, to put it mildly.)

Yesterday, Patrick B Pexton, the ombudsman of the Washington Post wrote The Post fails a young blogger.

(h/t My Right Word). I'm not especially sympathetic to the young blogger, Elizabeth Flock. She was apparently what the Post hoped would be their version of Robert Mackey. But she wasn't as overtly political as Mackey and she didn't have his flair for writing.

BlogPost was supposed to attain 1 million to 2 million Web hits a month, Flock said, a huge number. On many days Flock was the only reporter filing for blogPost. Last month, she averaged 5.9 blog posts per day. These are not 100-word briefs but often 500-word summaries of complicated news events that ranged from the killing of Trayvon Martin to the use of pink slime in ground beef to the impact of general strikes in Spain.

Flock made two mistakes in the past four months, which earned her two tough editor’s notes disavowing her actions.

She did a roundup on Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney allegedly using an old Ku Klux Klan slogan in his stump speech — a story that went viral online yet was untrue — and she didn’t call the Romney campaign for comment, nor did any editor make sure she did. And on April 13, she aggregated a story trending online about life on Mars. Scientists reexamining data collected from the 1976 Viking lander on the red planet concluded that there might be bacterial life there.

If all she was doing was blogging (and being paid for it!) I don't understand why it was so hard to attribute a story correctly.

But compared to Mackey's intentional deception, Flock's infractions seem relatively minor. The New York Times clearly has fewer standard than the Washington Post. Maybe they shouldn't be so quick to stop listening when CAMERA has something to say.

2) No gas

The New York Times reports, Egypt Cancels the Delivery of Gas to Israel.

Mohamed Shoeib, the head of the state-owned Egyptian Natural Gas Holding Company, told The Associated Press on Sunday night that it was exercising a legal right to terminate the contract because its Israeli customers had not paid for the gas for four months. “This has nothing to do with anything outside of the commercial relations,” Mr. Shoeib said.

Some Israeli officials expressed concern over the suspension of the gas deal. In a statement reported by Israeli news media, Yuval Steinitz, the finance minister, said it was “a dangerous precedent that overshadows the peace agreements between Israel and Egypt.”

Based on Steinitz's comment, I'm assuming that Israel hasn't really missed payments. But the reporter doesn't mention that, just that many Egyptians feel that Israel was paying too little.

The reporter David Kirkpatrick also writes:

After wars with Israel in 1967 and 1973, Egypt’s military government signed the 1979 Camp David peace accords without any public debate or consent. Egyptians of all political stripes overwhelmingly resent Israel because of its continued occupation of the West Bank and Gaza, which many here believe to be a violation of the accords.

This is pernicious. So now anything done by the previous governments is automatically bad or illegitimate. Israel no longer occupies Gaza (and it's debatable whether it occupies the West Bank given that the vast majority of Palestinians now live under the jurisdiction of the Palestinian Authority.) Kirkpatrick, though, bends over backwards to justify the Islamist hatred of Israel. Yes he notes that all three major presidential candidates support keeping the peace treaty with Israel. But given all else that he reported, it appears that is a cynical posture maintained to continue receiving American aid. We can expect Egypt to turn the cold peace even colder in the future.

3) Two outstanding soldiers

Recently the IDF named its outstanding soldiers of the year. I've seen items about two of them. One, (via Daily Alert Blog) comes from Israel Hayom.

“S,” an Arab from eastern Jerusalem, is one of the outstanding IDF soldiers who will be recognized at this year’s Israel Independence Day ceremony at the President’s residence.

“First of all, I’m an Israeli,” he says. “For me, to continue to serve in the IDF is a dream.”

Another is Chaya Schijveschuurder who was injured but survived the Sbarro's bombing, though her parents and three of her siblings were killed. Israel Matzav has more:

Every year on Independence Day (which is being celebrated next Thursday), outstanding soldiers are honored at the President's residence. Chaya is one of the soldiers being so honored.

Yedioth Aharonoth put the story on its Facebook page, and has asked people to 'like' it. So far, 7,572 people have. And it just went up yesterday.

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.