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May 24, 2013 11:10 am

Lethal Journalists React to the Al Durah Report: Insights Into the NGO-Journo Matrix

avatar by Richard Landes


Jamal and Muhammad al-Dura take cover in the Gaza Strip in 2000. The IDF is not responsible for the 2000 al-Dura shooting, a new Israeli government report found. Photo: France 2.

It’s well known here in Israel that the journalists, the NGOs and the UN folk party together, that within a few weeks of coming to the Middle East, even fair-minded journalists get “turned” into partisans of a particularly weaponized version of the Human Rights Complex. The senior journalists (like Charles Enderlin), UN employees, and the NGO folk form the “honor group” which, above all, new journalists need to please in order to get along, and they, in turn, of course, are all  concerned with pleasing the folks on the Palestinian side who can be either very generous friends or very unpleasant foes).

So it’s not hard to imagine what goes into the kind of pack mentality that produced consensus around the Al Durah story. As Pierre André Taguieff wrote over a decade ago, in the midst of the initial madness that opened the 21st century, “When all the fish swim in the same direction, it’s that they’re dead.” And yet, our journalist-NGO-UN peer group are quite alive, indeed they represent the matrix of the lethal journalism that has been dumping Palestinian narrative sewage in our public sphere for over a decade now. What goes through their minds that they can convince themselves that they’re “real” journalists, an indispensable part of a “reality-based” community?

I have, in the past speculated on a kind of cowardly narcissism, in which they can’t admit to their readers that they’re intimidated because they’d lose their credibility, and they can’t admit to themselves that they’re doing that because they admire themselves too much, so they become advocates for the “weak,” they adhere to Underdogma.

What the Facebook exchange, prompted by the release of the Kuperwasser Report on the Al Durah incident, captured below clarifies, is how some of them handle a cognitive challenge. While some of us look at the evidentiary basis of the Al Durah story and shake our heads at the how impossibly sloppy and shoddy the whole thing was, unable to imagine how anyone could have fallen for it, they look at the evidence and live on a different planet. Call it Planet rekaB… or maybe, Planet Al Durah.

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At the level of cognitive anthropology, this is fascinating stuff. In a sense, the report is like a rock thrown in a hive of lethal journalists, who didn’t know we got a glimpse at their private response to having one of their most iconic figures taken away.

Vultures: AP, AFP reporters trash Israel in secret Facebook group


May 22, 2013 2:15 pm A “secret” Facebook group of foreign correspondents and human rights activists quickly devolved into an anti-Israel hate-fest on Tuesday following the release of a new Israeli government report that cleared the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) of wrongdoing in the 2000 death of a Palestinian boy. The Israeli government report contests the claim that the IDF killed a Palestinian boy, Muhammad al-Durrah, in a famous 2000 incident in Gaza that helped ignite the Second Intifada.

Journalists and activists mocked the report, attacked the IDF, and claimed pro-Israel lobbyists were influencing the media coverage, in a private Facebook group for foreign correspondents known as the “Vulture Club.”

This is a classic trope in the anti-Zionist camp. Unless the Zionists are impotent, they are exercising a sinister influence. It was prominent in the reaction to the removal of Joseph Massad’s piece from Al Jazeera, leaving it up only at Stormfront (Nazi site).  In other words, any success in marginalizing even the most vicious rants is a sign of the “Jewish Lobby.” This is what we, in the scholarly community call a Protocols analog” – in other words a theme (meme) from the Protocols of the Elders of Zion that has been stripped of its original context and redeployed in less obviously forged form.

Peter Bouckaert, a senior official at Human Rights Watch, dismissed the report as “typical IDF lies.” “As usual, it takes them a long time to really build up the falsehood,” wrote Bouckaert. Bouckaert also blasted the New York Times for its coverage of the report. “It really isn’t good journalism to write this up as if these are credible allegations when it is a pack of lies,” he wrote.

Bouckaert is a major player in the NGO world of global “human rights” (the “progressive global left”), among those who hijacked it in the 1990s and who was implementing the Durban Strategy when he wrote his reports on the Lebanon War 2006, where HRW’s work, double-checked, looks very weak on accuracy and very high on lethal narratives.

Correspondents from numerous outlets, including the Associated Press and the Agence France-Presse, also piled on. “[T]he lobby uses all its strength and is able to push anything in majors [sic] English newspapers or in the NYT[imes],” wrote El Mundo reporter Javier Espinosa.

Protocols analog as shorthand. Anything favorable to Israel immediately dismissed as the influence of the lobby. The logic here runs: the Jewish lobby’s impact will be effectively eliminated when the Israeli narrative has been eliminated.

“Israeli embassies call their contacts in all those newspapers and they agree to publish that information.”

This is precisely what other players do with a great deal more success… take, for example, the Al Durah story.

“That reinforces lack of media credibility and conspiracy theories as we are being used as mouthpieces for propaganda,” Espinosa added.

Yes, it does. And that’s precisely what should happens as long as you reporters believe that freedom of the press means freedom to say whatever you want (e.g., lethal narratives of the most destructive kind) without having to answer to pesky citizen critics like Karsenty.

Associated Press photojournalist Jerome Delay wrote, “The IDF thinks the earth is flat, btw.”

This sophomoric attempt at humor is a nice piece of projection. These people live on a flat planet where a boy who “dies” on film, when the film corroborates none of the key claims – that he died, that he was shot by Israelis, that they shot him on purpose or recklessly – is so unquestionably a child killed by Israelis that anyone who doesn’t think so must be ridiculed. Not a healthy intellectual atmosphere.

The journalists also took shots at Philippe Karsenty, a French media analyst who was sued by France 2 television after he accused the network of airing staged footage of the al-Durrah incident. “And fuck no, it’s not true that ‘Everyone in France knows the footage is a hoax,’ as Karsenty says,” wrote AFP reporter Marc Bastian. “Everyone here knows that [France 2 journalist Charles] Enderlin is an honest man, and Karsenty is an extremist.” “

This is cute. It’s true that Philippe, like so many of the earlier bearers of the “Al Durah staged” torch, has a tendency to overestimate the persuasiveness of their argument. (I remember walking with Gerard Huber in Paris and he’d point to someone and say darkly,

GH: He knows, he just won’t admit it.
RL: How do you know that?
GH: I sent him my book.
RL: But Gerard, that’s assuming three things that are not clear: 1) that he read the book, 2) that he understood it (it’s in a typical French allusive style), and 3) that your arguments convinced him.

So on one level, Bastian is right, not everyone agrees with Karsenty. Just more and more honest intellectuals (defined in the Dreyfus Affair as someone who can change his mind when confronted by empirical evidence) changing their mind, one by one, all the time. (Karsenty is nothing if not tireless.)

But on another, he’s given us the key to how they talk on Planet Al Durah: Enderlin honest, Karsenty extremist. And if Enderlin is not honest – au contraire! – and Karsenty is right? Inconceivable!

That’s about the kindest way to describe Karsenty,” replied Bouckaert. “I would add a few descriptive words after extremist.” “I know, I’m always too polite,” responded Bastian.

This kind of verbal abuse is widespread among the left, and just led to a major scandal in Paris because a Judges Syndicat had a “Wall of Imbeciles” (Mur des cons) in which right wing figures (really anyone not on the left) were posted, ridiculed and smeared as fascists and neo-Nazis. (It’s presence was revealed by a journalist who has been involved in exposing the Al Durah hoax, Clement Weill-Raynal.) Of course these same folks will scream “smearing” and “chill wind of McCarthyism” at the drop of criticism of one of them. If this seems like an intense “us-them,” tribal mentality, it is. Amira Hass revels in her belonging to the hamoulah [clan] of global progressive left.

Andrew Ford Lyons, an activist with the International Solidarity Movement, which has supported anti-Israel terrorists, called the al-Durrah report “a feeble attempt at historical revision, at best.”

ISM is one of the major promoters of the most extreme Palestinian factions even as they claim to be a peace movement. They ran interference in the West for the Hamas-driven suicide bombing campaign that targeted Israeli civilians on both sides of the Green Line that took off in the wake of Al Durah (December 31, 2000-) with the oxymoronic slogan, “Resistance is not Terrorism.”

Bouckaert, who is currently the emergencies director at Human Rights Watch, declined to discuss his comments to the Vulture Club on the record when contacted by the Washington Free Beacon. “The group is a secret FB group, and our discussions are confidential,” Bouckaert said. Human Rights Watch’s founder, Robert Bernstein, publicly broke with the group in 2009 and said the group’s anti-Israel activism was distorting the issue. Human Rights Watch did not comment. The Vulture Club has around 3,500 members. Espinosa also declined to explain his comments when contacted over Twitter. “[Y]ou have some personal examples at the facebook page that you have read,” he wrote. The Associated Press did not respond to requests for comment.

In other words, “This is part of our public secret. Back off.”

Who said sunlight was the best disinfectant?

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