Friday, August 16, 2002

My final night in Italy (Monday), the RAI network broadcast a documentary (filmed mostly in April I think) on the Israeli-Palestinian situation. I saw plenty of familiar places, and various Israelis with Italian (which I don't understand) dubbed on top.

They showed a large right-wing demonstration from Kikar Rabin in Tel Aviv and spoke to the young, religious demonstrators.

Then they went to Kikar Paris in Jerusalem and showed the 15-35 person "Women in Black" demonstration that happens every Friday (filmed from low down, with the camera pointing upwards at the women with their "enough to the occupation" signs). Then they showed the 3 person pro-Kahane counterdemonstration. They didn't show the nearby Cafe Moment - presumably it hadn't yet been bombed at the time of the filming.

At that point they seemed to say: "that's Jerusalem, people in Tel Aviv are different". They cut to a Tel Aviv disco and then talk to a few young people outside. Extensive comments by novelist A. B. Yehoshua. Scene of a Palestinian lifting up is shirt (to show he has no explosives) at the Kalandia checkpoint, and then scenes of driving in a truck with a middle class Palestinian. Extensive comments from Italian journalist Fiamma Nirenstein.

I was impressed that the documentary seemed calm and measured - the images represent part of the actual experience here.

But I saw only the Israelis from the marginal extremes of the right and left. A. B. Yehoshua is a respected novelist, but as a pundit he's quirky and likes to be controversial. The Kikar Paris demonstrators aren't representative of the typical Israeli who is likely to vote for Labor, Likud, or the Russian party. And while there is a Palestinian middle class, it is much less influential than other groups eg. descendents of refugees, Muslim radicals. So if they were trying to show what Palestinians and Israelis are really thinking, they probably missed their mark.

Thursday, August 15, 2002

Just got back from the Hutzot Ha-ir street fair downtown. Kikar Tzion and the Ben Yehuda pedestrian mall were packed with people - they've been almost deserted in recent months. There were concerts by the rock group Teapacks and jazz group "So What".

A picture of me in Venice.
Last Saturday, CNN Europe's "International Correspondents" program decided to take up the issue of why the European press so unskeptically accepted the Palestinian fabrications about a "massacre" in Jenin..

Janine Di Giovanni (of the London Times) claimed that the press really did the best job that it could to evaluate the competing Israeli and Palestinian versions of what happened, that reporters such as herself who were out on the ground in the West Bank were not merely heroic and but also the most reliable, that the press was actually heavily impressed by IDF spokesman Ron Kitrey's later-retracted remark of "hundreds dead" (though in reality, Kitrey spoke of 100 "casualties"), and that what "we were really concerned about" was the human rights violations conducted by the IDF such as those described in the Human Rights Watch report on Jenin eg. the "use of human shields".

Peter Hitchens of the Mail on Sunday was less slick, but he skewered Di Giovanni's attempt to portray herself as circumspect by reading from an article she wrote entitled The Meaning of Jenin: "The refugees I had interviewed in recent days while trying to enter the camp were not lying. If anything, they underestimated the the carnage and the horror. Rarely, in more than a decade of war reporting from Bosnia, Chechnya, Sierra Leone, Kosovo, have I seen such deliberate destruction, such disrespect for human life."

While praising those brave journalists on the ground, di Giovanni described how the IDF turned Palestinian homes into "sniper's nests" (another nice phrase she would never apply to Palestinian snipers). She said this as if she were describing a major revelation - though it's well-known that the IDF established positions in buildings in the Jenin refugee camp. She could have found that out from the Israeli press; I've even heard second and third-hand stories that started with reservists.

What di Giovanni said on CNN does not stand up to even minimal scrutiny - she was relying on her charisma, the uninformedness of her audience, and the limited ability of her opponent to respond. If CNN were to place transcripts on its web site it would contribute to the quality of public debate by preventing people from getting away with this kind of thing.

That accusation of the "use of human shields" - you don't hear much about what accusation is about. It would seem to be this ie. ordering local Palestinians to go door-to-door advising residents to evacuate. Maybe that's unethical or even really does contravene international conventions, but the intentional vagueness on the part of di Giovanni (and apparently HRW) is obviously tendentious.

Wednesday, August 14, 2002

Right after I return from vacation, my ISP decides to make its cable modem customers use a DSL-style Microsoft VPN dialer.

Of course this doesn't work at all .... I can ping the VPN server OK, but everything that goes into the VPN (including DNS packets) are getting lost. Tech support claims that Norton firewall is to blame even though it is disabled.

Update: English translation of the above is that I was offline today because of software problems. Now things are finally fixed.

Tuesday, August 13, 2002

Just returned from a relaxing 6-day visit to Venice, Padua, and Verona (aided by some good tips from my readers).

My return flight made a surprise landing in Cyprus. Alitalia flight crews are no longer willing to spend their between-flight "down time" in Tel Aviv, so they now switch crews in Cyprus - meaning an extra hour in flight time for passengers. T. and I tried to reconstruct why we decided not to take El Al; a few minutes later some people next to me had the same conversation.

When I got to Ben-Gurion Airport there were several rows of arriving Thai workers lined up at Passport Control. They were wearing t-shirts and jackets with the logo of the recruiting company that brought them here.
If you have access to the Arabic al-Jazeera satellite channel, right about now they are supposed to interview Israel's president Moshe Katzav.