"Ain't Gonna Study War No More"

My Photo
Location: Brooklyn, New York, United States

Right-To-Life Party, Christian, Anti-War, Pro-Life, Bible Fundamentalist, Egalitarian, Libertarian Left

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Arafat Poisoned, Says Israeli Journalist

Danny Rubinstein, longtime journalist and Palestinian affairs analyst for the respected Israeli daily Ha'aretz, believes that Arafat was poisoned, but felt proscribed from writing about his conclusions in Ha'aretz.

Rubinstein explained why in an interview to Keshev, The Center for the Protection of Democracy in Israel:

Keshev: So from your point of view, is the security/political establishment's narrative compatible with the media's narrative? Has the media been able to present its own independent premise?

DR: No. In most cases, after all is said and done, the media follows the establishment. You mentioned the Arafat example. In my personal estimation, based on several findings and testimonies, we poisoned Arafat. Writing that today seems like an exercise in futility: 'those Arabs, with their imagination, and their conspiracy theories, etc.'. It is so opposed to our narrative and so identified with theirs, that I can't put that in. I think that's true for today's media in general: it's careful not to target sacred cows. In the end, all the systems adopt an approach held by part or most of the establishment.

Rubinstein discusses a wide range of issues on Israel/Palestine coverage:

Rubinstein: in my estimation, Israel poisoned Arafat

Danny Rubinstein
By: Keshev (interview with Danny Rubinstein)
January 2006

Danny Rubinstein, born in Jerusalem and a graduate of The Hebrew University, has been working as a journalist since 1967, first for Davar, then for Ha’aretz. He teaches communications at The Hebrew University and at Sapir Academic College.

Keshev: Hello, Danny Rubinstein. We wanted to begin this interview with a personal question: What made you decide to be journalist, and to cover Palestinian society?

Danny Rubinstein: It all began by chance. At university, I studied sociology, Middle East and Arabic as well, then went on for my Master`s in sociology. And then, in 1967, the war broke out. When I came back from the war, I began writing for Davar [newspaper]. At that time the Palestinian issue was not considered a field of coverage in its own right. The issue was covered primarily as a geographical subject, and was thought to be temporary. Then, unexpectedly, they needed someone who knew Arabic, and I liked the writing, because it gives you the illusion of being free.

Keshev: Why `illusion`?

DR: Because after all, a journalist is subject to many bosses, just like any clerk. But you have the material, and I thought people would judge me for what I write. I couldn`t adapt to work in an office, to fighting for respect and prestige, and I thought – I was very na?ve – that this was the most important thing. That`s how I got into journalism. The media of those days was completely different from today`s media. It was much more loyal. There was only one paper whose coverage was unbiased: Ha`olam Ha`zeh. There was no investigative reporting. I worked at Davar, which had to be super-loyal, because it was the Histradrut [Labor Federation] mouthpiece.

Keshev: Reporting from the Territories, how did you handle the paper`s allegiances?

DR: Very quickly Mapai [Israel Worker`s Party], as well as the paper`s editorial staff, began to split up into `hawks` and `doves`. We conformed with Yigal Alon`s hard line, which was the Labor Party`s dominant line. We didn`t really care what the Arabs said or did. This was also related to the trauma of `67, to the feeling that we could face annihilation. The Arabs were being compared to Hitler. So why should we take them into consideration?

Keshev: Were any of your reports changed, or left unpublished?

DR: Yes. They did allow reporting of humanitarian cases. But they didn`t like the word `Palestine`, for example. Whenever I wrote `the Palestinian mayor`, they would change that to `the Arab mayor`. Also, this was when the first attacks began. They were very `anemic` compared with today`s attacks. A dummy charge, a grenade somewhere, almost no casualties. But they made a huge impression, because suddenly people began to understand that there could be the possibility of resistance. Of course, it was called `terror`. They did not perceive it, like today, as `they don`t want us here`.

Keshev: At what stage did you realize that, for you, journalism was a career, and when did you begin to shape your journalistic perceptions about coverage of `the other side`?

DR: Slowly, I began to understand that there is no big difference between `news` and `views`. Writing a report equals expressing your opinion. If you`re writing, as I did in the beginning, `The shabab rioted at Rachel`s Tomb`, rather than `Young people demonstrated at Rachel`s Tomb`, you`re stating your position. When I understood the difference, I began to be very careful, choosing between passive and active voices, between `was shot` and `found his death`, `was killed` and `was murdered`. But that took me a very long time, two, three years.

Keshev: In this context, how do you view the media`s role in covering the `other side`?

DR: The coverage, the media, are part of society, just like the courts. If the Court had refrained from intervening in house demolitions, or settlement building, we could at least say that these were decisions by the state that never received legal/moral approval. The same is true for the media: the media gave its approval for seizing the territories, for settling there, for confiscating. It provided the justifications for these actions, which in retrospect I see wrong, certainly immoral. Israeli society in its entirety, including us, stood humbled before Gush Emunim`s people. We nearly bowed down before their devotion, their idealism and self-sacrifice. The only one who spoke of them differently was Yeshiyahu Leibovich. In one of his lectures, that I will never forget, Leibovich said that the biggest idealists of this century were the SS agents, who, by force of their devotion to Hitler and to the Nazi philosophy, dominated almost the whole world. That hit me like lightning. But Leibovich was ostracized. The media collaborated with the ugliest aspects of the establishment.

Keshev: Has that changed?

DR: The big change in mood did not happen until the first intifada, in 1987. Until then, it was believed that there would be some kind of arrangement east of the Jordan, or, as Dayan believed, that we would give them autonomy and they would be satisfied. Only in 1987, 1988, after the big settlement campaign of 1980-1981, did the public begin to understand that we could not stay there forever. This shift was expressed in the media as well. Suddenly, the media began to highlight the suffering, the Palestinians` nationalist sentiments, and mine and others` writing was taken seriously. Suddenly people said, there`s a problem here, we can`t stay in the Territories.

Keshev: And ever since, the media has changed.

DR: No doubt. For me, the most dramatic development had to do with the attempt to erase the existence of the Palestinian people, or that of the PLO, expressed in the outlawing of interviewing or making contact with members of the PLO, which seems alarming today. It was a reaction to the recognition of the Palestinian problem. Afterwards, when the Palestinian Authority was created, I explicitly wrote less and less about their plight. Since the Oslo Accords, I saw the Palestinian administration as responsible for taking care of these things. In one of my conversations with Arafat [for the writing of his biography, `Arafat`, among other things – Keshev], I said to him, `They closed the checkpoint? You tell them you are stopping negotiations with Israel. It`s your duty, the duty of your journalists, your institutions, to stand up for your rights and to fight for every last detail.` But Arafat preferred to give his people VIP cards, because that was his governing style.

The problem today is different. The media has many fewer political allegiances, but is not taken so seriously. The attitude is: so what if they stole a little from an Arab, beat an Arab up a little? They come in and blow us up, and then they expect that we respect their property? In this regard, the reports have become less and less relevant. You`re troubled, it`s difficult writing about what they deserve, when a murderer, a suicide bomber, does what he does.

Keshev: You mentioned Arafat. Keshev published a report on the Israeli media`s coverage of Arafat. How do you view the Israeli media`s treatment of him?

DR: Both during his lifetime and after his death, Arafat has been regarded as the devil. I once wrote that the problem is that when he was alive, he was called a terrorist. Today Abu Mazen is called weak. In either case, there is no one to talk with. But what is interesting is that they do not want to talk. Clearly, talking means making concessions. Otherwise, what is there to talk about? About annexing territory? Building settlements? You have to talk about making concessions.

Keshev: Clearly, there are political interests. But what is the media`s role?

DR: Overall, in these aspects the media serves the establishment almost entirely. Today, I am concerned that the massive campaign portraying Abu Mazen as weak has a purpose. When you write something that coincides with the administration`s position, it immediately gains new momentum, like the portrayal of Arafat as a terrorist. It`s hard to say how this trend began. Part of it is the quality of the Israeli intelligence agencies. At one time I was a kind of source, providing information about what happens there. Today, there has been a huge change in the balance of powers between journalists and the Israeli intelligence agencies. The Israeli intelligence system that deals with the territories employs thousands of people. Electronic means enable them to hear, see and bomb. How can I, by talking with someone and reading the papers, compete with these people?

Keshev: But we have also seen disagreement and contradictory theories within the security establishment.

DR: Correct. I believe they are drowning in a sea of information that is difficult to manage, that`s true. And that`s why my ability to make judgments is still valid.

Keshev: What about the structural issue – the journalist`s role and interests vs. those of the military man, the military perspective vs. a more civilian perspective – in your view, are they on the same level?

DR: In my view, every person, whether intelligence agent, soldier or journalist – must first of all be a decent human being, faithful to the basic values of human dignity. I am less inclined to view it as a function of interests. I have broader considerations on all these issues.

Keshev: Nonetheless, when Chief of Intelligence Ze`ev Farkash estimated for the government that `Arafat will either live or die`, the ministers were astonished by this lack of knowledge. Until then, in all of the years of the second intifada, government ministers and the media never publicly doubted the capabilities of Israeli Intelligence. Amos Gilad`s approach, which maintained that we know that Arafat planned everything, controlled everything and was responsible for all the events, predominated.

DR: Correct. And the media collaborated with that.

Keshev: So from your point of view, is the security/political establishment`s narrative compatible with the media`s narrative? Has the media been able to present its own independent premise?

DR: No. In most cases, after all is said and done, the media follows the establishment. You mentioned the Arafat example. In my personal estimation, based on several findings and testimonies, we poisoned Arafat. Writing that today seems like an exercise in futility: `those Arabs, with their imagination, and their conspiracy theories, etc.`. It is so opposed to our narrative and so identified with theirs, that I can`t put that in. I think that`s true for today`s media in general: it`s careful not to target sacred cows. In the end, all the systems adopt an approach held by part or most of the establishment.

Keshev: What you`ve said raises an internal complexity: on the one hand, you have strong professional connections, and perhaps also personal ones, to Palestinian society, and on the other hand, you seem to come from the heart of Israeli society. How do you reconcile these two sides?

DR: I grew up in what was known as Working Israel, in a very Zionistic environment. And now the post-Zionist era is upon us, and you say, something has to be changed. The state of Israel exists, and needs to be a normal state. We have to start rethinking the Law of Return, the Citizenship Law… these are things that are hard for me to grasp. But they are beginning to trickle into me, from a journalistic standpoint as well. Maybe this is not just the beginning, these things have already become quite established. Even Zionism has its boundaries. The Law of Return needs to be restructured, because the Arabs have rights in this land too.

Keshev: We`ve talked a lot about the Israeli media. What can you tell us about the Palestinian media`s coverage of Israel?

DR: Their allegiance to the establishment is ten times greater than ours in their reports. That`s not all- they know that the primary struggle between us and them is not military but political, with the media as the primary battleground. They cannot allow themselves to pass self-criticism, or to justify us, and they will be very wary of expressing sympathy, in reports on the Park Hotel, for example. On the other hand, there is the phenomenon of translations, that I am discovering now. They translate us, almost pathologically. Tens of articles a day. This surprised and fascinated me, especially since we do no such translating at all. In Israel, if we run one article a year by a Palestinian, people say, `Why are you giving him a forum?` while the Palestinians give twenty a day. I am investigating this phenomenon. Usually, Palestinians know us much better than we know them. They are very curious to know why they lag behind us. Why is their average income per capita $1,000 and ours $17,000? They also translate us a lot in Egypt, as well as in the entire Arab world. That is, out of curiosity. Therefore they are sometimes taken in by irrational things. The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, for example. It gives them some kind of explanation why we are doing well and they`re not. We are not that curious about them. When I ask my students, `Why don`t we translate them?` they say, `Why do we need to hear those idiots?` or `What can we learn from them? Then we`ll be like them.`

We don`t understand them because we don`t understand their values. Their society behaves differently than ours. They`re not so concerned about the rights of the individual, similar to the ultra-Orthodox Jews. In these societies, there is a kind of social pact, that sometimes appeals to me: you hand your individual rights over to the sheikh or the rabbi, your family or hamullah, in exchange for security, refuge from loneliness and helplessness –the ills of the Western world. Among the Palestinians there are no homeless people, no nursing homes. When I see this I envy them a great deal. We can`t understand this; it astounds us. I can`t understand how they run the family, the housekeeping, what the status of women is like. But now I do know what things I don`t understand. There are things you can never understand.

Keshev: In view of all this, how do you see the role of Keshev in locating problematic patterns in coverage of the conflict? What advice can you give us?

DR: As for text analysis, the content vs. the headlines and so on, the fact that everyone sees only the headline, that`s clear. Whatever is written in small print, almost no one sees. A huge proportion of people walk down the street and only see the headline, they don’t even buy the paper. Today, it`s considered `awkward` to write a positive headline about Arabs. The perception of `they`re there, we`re here`, separation and disengagement, is very popular. So the paper`s editor puts in a negative headline on Abu Mazen, knowing it`s incorrect. He wants to sell the paper. Over time, to make the journalist happy, they put the truth in too, so they can say, `we are faithful to the truth too`. There are consistent reporting patterns that have corrupted the language. For example, they always talk about `Arab` and `village`. You never hear about `the villagers of Kfar Vitkin` [a Jewish Israeli village – Keshev], or about `respected` or `educated` people, as the Arab leaders and intellectuals are referred to by the Israeli media. Not long ago I witnessed the uprooting of a large orchard near Beit Hanoun. Afterwards I heard the IDF Spokesperson report that `the IDF cleared away vegetation that served as a hiding place for terrorists`. `Cleared away vegetation`? You might think they had placed a bunch of trees to conceal terrorists. Simply a corruption of the language. A corruption of consciousness.

Keshev: We started out with your start in journalism. To come full circle: what advice would you give journalists who are just starting out?

DR: First, know the language. Without the language you are totally disabled. Second, I would stress broad values. I would say to a journalist, you don`t need a license to be a journalist. You need a license to drive people around. Anyone who writes something beautiful, and good as well, is doing journalism. But, no less important: to be a journalist, you have to be a decent human being.

Keshev: Thank you very much

Submitted by David Bloom on Tue, 01/31/2006 - 16:42.

Let The 'Chipping Away' Begin

"While he worked in the solicitor general's office for President Reagan, he suggested that the Justice Department should try to chip away at abortion rights rather than mount an all-out assault. He also wrote in a 1985 job application for another Reagan administration post that he was proud of his work helping the government argue that "the Constitution does not protect a right to an abortion."

Senate Confirms Alito to Supreme Court

Samuel Anthony Alito Jr. became the nation's 110th Supreme Court justice on Tuesday, confirmed with the most partisan victory in modern history after a fierce battle over the future direction of the high court.

The Senate voted 58-42 to confirm Alito — a former federal appellate judge, U.S. attorney, and conservative lawyer for the Reagan administration from New Jersey — as the replacement for retiring Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, who has been a moderate swing vote on the court.

All but one of the Senate's majority Republicans voted for his confirmation, while all but four of the Democrats voted against Alito.

That is the smallest number of senators in the president's opposing party to support a Supreme Court justice in modern history. Chief Justice John Roberts got 22 Democratic votes last year, and Justice Clarence Thomas — who was confirmed in 1991 on a 52-48 vote — got 11 Democratic votes.

Alito watched the final vote from the White House's Roosevelt Room with his family. He was to be sworn in by Roberts at the Supreme Court in a private ceremony later in the day, in plenty of time for him to appear with President Bush at the State of the Union speech Tuesday evening.

Alito will be ceremonially sworn in a second time at a White House East Room appearance on Wednesday.

With the confirmation vote, O'Connor's resignation became official. She resigned in July but agreed to remain until her successor was confirmed. She was in Arizona Tuesday teaching a class at the University of Arizona law school.

Underscoring the rarity of a Supreme Court justice confirmation, senators answered the roll by standing one by one at their desks as their names were called, instead of voting and leaving the chamber. Alito and Roberts are the first two new members of the Supreme Court since 1994.

Alito is a longtime federal appeals judge, having been confirmed by the Senate by unanimous consent on the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia on April 27, 1990. Before that, he worked as New Jersey's U.S. attorney and as a lawyer in the Justice Department for the conservative Reagan administration.

It was his Reagan-era work that caused the most controversy during his three-month candidacy for the high court.

Alito replaces O'Connor, the court's first female justice and a key moderate swing vote on issues like assisted suicide, campaign finance law, the death penalty, affirmative action and abortion.

Critics who mounted a fierce campaign against his nomination noted that while he worked in the solicitor general's office for President Reagan, he suggested that the Justice Department should try to chip away at abortion rights rather than mount an all-out assault. He also wrote in a 1985 job application for another Reagan administration post that he was proud of his work helping the government argue that "the Constitution does not protect a right to an abortion."

Tuesday, January 31, 2006 11:23 AM EST
The Associated Press

The Annual Hollywood 'Sleaze Awards"

R7fel Note:

"Walk the Line", "The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe", "Syriana", "King Kong", "The Constant Gardener", and "Cinderella Man" are snubbed as were Clooney and Crowe for gay agenda tripe like "Brockback Mountain" and "Capote". Welcome to the sleazy world of Hollywood.

'Brokeback Mountain' leads Oscar nods

"Brokeback Mountain," the story of two male ranch hands who become romantically involved, led all films with eight nominations for the 78th annual Academy Awards.

"Brokeback," based on a short story by E. Annie Proulx, picked up nods for best picture, best director (Ang Lee), best actor (Heath Ledger), best supporting actress (Michelle Williams) and best supporting actor (Jake Gyllenhaal). Its screenplay adaptation, by Larry McMurtry and Diana Ossana, also received a nomination.

Tuesday was also a big day for George Clooney, who picked up nominations for best director and co-writing the best original screenplay ("Good Night, and Good Luck"), as well as a pick for best supporting actor for his performance as a CIA agent in "Syriana."

"Good Night, and Good Luck" also received a nomination for best picture, while "Syriana" earned a nod for best original screenplay.

Other nominees for best picture are "Capote," "Crash" and "Munich."

"Walk the Line," the Johnny Cash biography that has earned acting honors for stars Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon, was shut out of the best picture race, but both Phoenix and Witherspoon were nominated in lead acting categories.

Other nominees for best actor are Philip Seymour Hoffman ("Capote"), Heath Ledger ("Brokeback Mountain"), David Strathairn ("Good Night, and Good Luck") and Terrence Howard ("Hustle & Flow").

The nominees for best actress are Felicity Huffman ("Transamerica"), Charlize Theron ("North Country"), Judi Dench ("Mrs. Henderson Presents") and Keira Knightley ("Pride and Prejudice").

The nominees for best supporting actor are Paul Giamatti ("Cinderella Man"), George Clooney ("Syriana"), Matt Dillon ("Crash"), Jake Gyllenhaal ("Brokeback Mountain") and William Hurt ("A History of Violence").

The nominees for best supporting actress are Rachel Weisz ("The Constant Gardener"), Amy Adams ("Junebug"), Catherine Keener ("Capote"), Frances McDormand ("North Country") and Michelle Williams ("Brokeback Mountain").

The nominees for best director are Paul Haggis ("Crash"), Ang Lee ("Brokeback Mountain"), Bennett Miller ("Capote"), George Clooney ("Good Night, and Good Luck") and Steven Spielberg ("Munich").

The nominees for best original screenplay are "Crash," "Good Night, and Good Luck," "Match Point," "The Squid and the Whale," and "Syriana."

The nominees for best adapted screenplay are "Brokeback Mountain," "Capote," "The Constant Gardener," "A History of Violence" and "Munich."

"Howl's Moving Castle," "Tim Burton's Corpse Bride" and "Wallace and Gromit: The Curse of the Were-rabbit" were the nominees for best animated feature. Interestingly, none of the three were computer animated.

The awards will be held March 5 at the Kodak Theater in Hollywood, California. Jon Stewart is the host.