Friday, August 28, 2015

08/28 Links Pt2: Iran Cancels Berlin Opera over Israeli Conductor; Arab Spring Blowing into Gaza?

From Ian:

Report: Iran Cancels Berlin State Opera Show in Tehran over Israeli-Argentine Conductor
Iran said it canceled the concert of a Berlin orchestra set to be led by renowned Jewish conductor Daniel Barenboim because they consider his Israeli citizenship “illegitimate,” a BBC reporter revealed Friday on Twitter.
BBC correspondent Hadi Nili said a spokesperson for the Iranian Culture Ministry announced the cancellation, adding there is “no room in Iran for artists related to Zionist regime.”
Barenboim, the general music director of the Berlin State Opera and its orchestra, the Staatskapelle, announced this week his plan to take Germany’s top orchestra to Iran for a concert. His decision sparked outrage and protests from Israel, who lobbied the German government against the visit, The Guardian reported.
Barenboim, who moved to Israel from Argentina with his family when he was 9, has spent most of his career in Germany. He also has a Spanish and Argentinian citizenship.
The Israeli-Argentinian conductor has yet to comment on the cancellation of the concert.
Who’s Funding Pro-Palestinian Israeli ‘Human Rights’ Groups?
The organization goes by the unwieldy name of the Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law Secretariat. According to its annual report, it is “a project implemented by NIRAS NATURA AB – Sweden, and the Institute of Law, Birzeit University, Birzeit, Palestine, with generous support from the governments of Sweden, Denmark, the Netherlands and Switzerland.”
In other words, the money itself is European. But the ones who decide what to do with it are Niras Natura – which describes itself as an international consultancy firm in the field of sustainable development – and the faculty of Birzeit. And since the Birzeit people are the ones actually on the ground, they presumably have considerable influence over how the money is spent.
The Secretariat’s main job appears to be funneling money to other organizations. According to the annual report, it had 24 “core grantees” and 19 “project grantees” last year. Nine of the former and two of the latter are Israeli; the rest are Palestinian.
When the war broke out in July 2014, the Secretariat put out a call to its core grantees soliciting emergency funding requests. “The emergency funding call focused on activities related to monitoring and documentation of IHL [international humanitarian law] and human rights violations in the Gaza Strip, arising from the then ongoing war,” the report said. Requests were received from 11 organizations, including three Israeli ones, and the Secretariat decided to fund nine of them, including two Israeli groups – B’Tselem and BTS.
But the money was intended for “monitoring and documentation” of alleged violations by one side only – Israel. That’s crystal clear from the report’s summary of its emergency grantees’ “achievements”: Not one of the nine says a word about the massive Palestinian violations of international humanitarian law.
The section on Breaking the Silence is particularly blatant. The Secretariat would have considered its money well spent, the report declared, had BTS managed to scrounge up even a single anti-Israel testimony from Israeli soldiers:
Watch How Anti-Israel Protest Leader Responds When We Ask Her if Hamas Is a Terrorist Organization
The leader of an anti-Israel protest in New York City Wednesday contended that the United States government is “much worse” than Hamas when asked if she would characterize the group as a terrorist organization.
“Do you think of Hamas as a terrorist organization?” a reporter for TheBlaze asked protest leader Lana Povitz, who represents Jewish Voices for Peace.
“I think of the United States government as a terrorist organization,” she responded.
“What’s worse: Hamas or the United States government?” our reporter pressed.
“The United States government is much worse,” Povitz said.
The anti-Israel activist said that Hamas is “not my favorite,” adding that her “first fight isn’t with them.” When asked who her first fight is with, Povitz answered, “The U.S. government because they are funding Israel.” (h/t Effect)
U.S. Government Worse Than Hamas, Says Anti-Israel Protest Leader

EoZ top posts of the week

Here they are:

10. 08/22 Links: Khamenei: Islamic unity against real enemies - US and Israel; Frank Sinatra and Israel

1. UNRWA school encourages running over Jews with cars

Yes, it was UNRWA week here, with my Sunday post going viral and being absurdly denied by UNRWA, as if random people make up UNRWA school webpages and add items for a couple of years. 

UNRWA's reaction was so ridiculous that I spent much of the rest of the week documenting many other UNRWA employee violations on Facebook. And I'm not done yet!

Sunnis upset at new Iranian film about Mohammed

From Reuters:
A film on the life of Prophet Mohammad is expected to break box office records in Shi'ite Muslim Iran after its release on Thursday, but some Sunni Muslim clerics in the Arab world are already demanding that Tehran ban it.

The state-sponsored "Mohammad, Messenger of God", directed by Oscar-nominated director Majid Majidi, is at $40 million Iran's most expensive movie to date.

"I decided to make this film to fight against the new wave of Islamophobia in the West. The Western interpretation of Islam is full of violence and terrorism," Majidi was quoted as saying by Hezbollah Line, a conservative Iranian magazine.

The 171-minute movie, the first part of a planned trilogy, focuses on the prophet's childhood. His face will not be shown on screen, in accordance with traditional Islamic strictures. The camera shows the boy actor playing him only from behind, or only his shadow.

A steadicam was customised especially to depict Mohammad's point of view by the movie's Oscar-winning Italian cinematographer Vittorio Storaro. The identity of the boy playing Mohammad has not been made public.

Egypt's Al-Azhar, the most prestigious institute of Sunni Islam, is not satisfied with such precautions and has called on Iran to ban the film.

"This matter is already settled. Sharia (Islamic law) prohibits embodying the prophets," Al-Azhar told Reuters in a statement.

"It is not permissible in Islam that someone (an actor) has contradictory and conflicting roles; sometimes we see him as a blind drunk, sometimes as a womanizer ... and then he embodies a prophet ... this is not permissible."

..."Mohammad, Messenger of God" is only the second full-length movie drama on the prophet. The first, "The Message" (1976), was directed by Syrian Moustapha al-Akkad. Anthony Quinn played Mohammad's uncle, Hamza.

That film did not depict Mohammad's face on screen, but some Muslims were offended. Akkad was killed in a 2005 suicide bombing in Amman. It is not known whether the attack was related to the movie.
This is going to be interesting.

The kid who played Mohammed should be very afraid.

08/28 Links Pt1: Slandering the US - PA demonizes its largest donor; Hamas Refuses 'Settlement' Aid

From Ian:

Slandering the US - PA demonizes its largest donor
The Palestinian Authority continues to demonize anyone who has an opinion different than their own. Even the United States, the largest donor to the PA, is subject to verbal attacks by PA leaders and its official media. Any statement or activity that the PA disagrees with can be used as the hook to insult even its biggest financial supporter.
When US presidential candidate Mike Huckabee visited Israel recently, he expressed support for Israel's right to the Land of Israel. He spoke about Jewish history in the land going back thousands of years. As Palestinian Media Watch has documented, the PA denies Jewish history in the Land of Israel and Jerusalem in order to deny Israel's right to exist.
Presidential candidate Huckabee's statements in support of the Jewish right to Israel were used by former editor-in-chief of the PA official daily, and now regular columnist, Hafez Al-Barghouti to demonize the US and its policies since America's founding:
"It is possible that the US is the biggest settlement country, since it was established on the ruins of the original inhabitants, wiped out millions of them, enslaved millions of Blacks, and today enslaves millions of Hispanics in the same manner." [Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, Aug. 20, 2015]
In the same article, Huckabee is likewise demonized as "inane creature... jellylike... wicked, despicable man... carry[ing] the genes of settlement and racism." Another Presidential candidate, Donald trump, was also demeaned as "aged teenager, the swindler and realtor, the billionaire, rabid."
Hamas Refuses Reconstruction Aid over 'Settlement' Origins
Gaza's "Economy Ministry" has successfully foiled an aid shipment of "settlement goods" through the Kerem Shalom crossing, it announced Friday.
The shipment included 204 multilock doors manufactured in Barkan, a Jewish industrial complex in Jewish areas of Judea-Samaria, all of which carried the Israeli company logo of lock manufacturer "Rav Bariach."
The doors had been labelled as being for the purpose of the reconstruction of Gaza - an issue which Palestinian Arab authorities have made into a public platform begging for more humanitarian aid.
But instead of gratefully accepting the offer, Hamas claimed the import "exploited the situation to sneak settlement goods into Gaza."
Hamas, which controls Gaza unrestricted by its pact with the Palestinian Authority (PA), sees Israel as the enemy, an illegal political entity - which it seeks to boycott. Nonetheless, it also demands that Israel open its border crossings and allow a steady flow of goods from the PA, and possibly from within Israel as well.
PreOccupied Territory: UNRWA Faces Pig Lipstick Shortage In Nazi Sympathizer Coverups (satire)
A spokesman for the United Nations agency that cares or Palestinian refugees issued an urgent call for international assistance Friday, saying that the organization is running short of materials with which to conceal or make cosmetic changes to the rampant phenomenon of teachers in its employ who openly call for terrorism against Jews and who sympathize with Nazi ideology.
Chris Gunness appealed to donors to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) to provide emergency funding toward lipstick for the the agency’s herds of swine, noting that the constant need to apply the cosmetics to the animals in order to make them look better has drained UNRWA’s stock, and they now require an infusion of at least $400 million to continue. He blamed right-wing organizations for the shortage, saying it would not be necessary to apply the lipstick to the pigs if not for the smear tactics of groups and individuals opposed to UNRWA’s work who insist on finding and publicizing Facebook images uploaded by teachers and principals at UNRWA schools.
“We have to waste valuable resources making all these cosmetic changes instead of investing in the students’ future,” lamented Gunness. “We ran out of band-aids two months ago, and have had to use more expensive measures such as pig lipstick. Warmongering bloggers such as Elder of Ziyon and troublemaking organizations such as UN Watch keep pointing out how UNRWA doesn’t follow its own guidelines or disciplinary procedures, forcing us to expend our limited resources on pretending those aren’t real teachers, that the offending schools have been closed, that somebody faked the alleged images, or that auditing and disciplinary procedures have actually taken place. They’ve put us in a very difficult position.”

My letter to UNRWA and what you can do next

Last night I emailed the other spokesperson for UNRWA, Sami Mshasha, who usually deals with Arabic media but who has responded to me in the past. I cc'd Chris Gunness as well:


As you may know, I am a blogger who has been discovering a number of Facebook pages from UNRWA teachers, principals and other employees with highly offensive content, including anti-antisemitism, terror support and even support for Nazi imagery. I have tweeted many examples over the past day after Chris Gunness denied that any such pages exist, and claimed that all the ones found were from forged accounts.

This is clearly wrong, as I have found many pages that were from proud UNRWA members, showing events at their schools and teaching materials as well as the occasional hate message. The idea that multiple Facebook pages are elaborate forgeries is too far-fetched to even imagine.

Since Chris hasn't answered my emails for a couple of years, and he blocks me on Twitter, could you tell me what process I can use to formally complain about these Facebook pages when I find them, and what follow-up I can expect from UNRWA to ensure that there has been an appropriate and transparent response?

Also, in 2013, I discovered a Jordanian dean of students who favorably quoted Adolf Hitler. Gunness was quoted as saying that the matter will be investigated. What was the result of that investigation?

Attached are two relatively tame examples of the types of things I am finding, with the names of the UNRWA teachers who have been posting them. I have many, many more. I am most interested in learning more about how they will be investigated.

If UNRWA is truly serious about excising hate from its staff, I am seeing no evidence of it. Frankly, all the responses appear more like a cover-up.

I look forward to your response.


The workday in their time zone is now over and there has been no response.

One hint why comes from a tweet by Chris Gunness this morning:

So it appears that when well-documented evidence of abuses by UNRWA teachers comes from someone anonymous, they will use that as an excuse to ignore it. Which is a direct contradiction to Gunness' claim on TV that UNRWA takes all such reports seriously.

It is time for you to do your part. You can email Gunness at c.gunness@unrwa.org, Mshasha at s.mshasha@unrwa.org, and cc: embassies or foreign offices that support UNRWA and favorite journalists. Ask them politely but specifically about the UNRWA teachers whose hate I've been uncovering, by name, without mentioning me.

Here's an example that I tweeted. Abu Mohammed al Madhoun is a teacher in Gaza; here's a photo of him addressing his New Gaza Prep (A) Boys School in front of the banner with his photo and UNRWA logo quite visible:

UNRWA cannot deny that he is an employee.

His Facebook page includes this caricature of a hook-nosed Jew being locked up by the proverbial Palestinian key:

This is a relatively minor example, but it is well documented and an indication of how he runs his school. And UNRWA says it will take expressions like this seriously. So demand that they do.

And let me know what the response is, if any.

All my UNRWA-tagged posts are here.

The top western donors to UNRWA are the US, EU, UK, Germany, Sweden, Norway, Australia, Netherlands, Switzerland, Denmark, France, Belgium, Finland, Ireland and Spain, in that order.

UNRWA is on the defensive. This is the time to hold them to their own stated standards of neutrality and of taking hate seriously.

The goal is to shine light on what they are desperately trying to hide. Since your tax dollars almost certainly support UNRWA, you should demand accountability and transparency from the agency.

It is terrible to allow Jews to buy houses in Jerusalem

This article from Wafa, the official Palestinian Authority news agency, speaks volumes:

Ateret Cohanim Jewish organization Thursday forcefully took over a Palestinian-owned building in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan, according to Wadi Hilweh Information Center (WHIC).

WHIC said some 60 Israeli settlers broke into the area before dawn and broke into a Palestinian-owned building, claiming they had purchased it from a Jerusalemite Palestinian named Jamal Sarhan. The settlers declared the building a Jewish property.

According to WHIC, Sarhan earlier asked the tenants, all of whom are Palestinians, to leave their apartments by force in order to make way for the settlers. It said while most of the Palestinian tenants were forced to leave, one of them refused to leave his apartment and tried change the doors’ locks. The settlers, nevertheless, were able to open the locks and enter the premises.

According to local sources, Sarhan is a high-profile broker who in recent years attempted to pass the ownership of several Palestinian properties to Jewish organizations.

Maher Abdel-Wahed, Palestinian owner of an adjacent building, said the settlers’ takeover of the nearby building would likely endanger the remaining Palestinian-owned homes in the area, making a reference to the recent upscale in attacks by Jewish fanatics on Palestinians.

Abdel-Wahed urged the local Jerusalemite community in Silwan to act with no mercy against those who sell their property to Jewish settlers, since this could undermine the Arab and Palestinian presence in the city.

Recently, Jewish organizations, including Ateret Cohanim, forcefully took over multiple Arab-owned buildings in Silwan. This came amid reports of an increasing number of high profile sales of Palestinian homes to Jewish organizations in East Jerusalem.

Palestinian government and civil society organizations have at times considered all those who sell their property to Jewish settlers or settler organizations as “traitors”.

In October 2014, President Mahmoud Abbas toughened the penalty for citizens selling property to Israelis by imposing a sentence of hard labor for life on “anyone diverting, renting or selling land to an enemy state or one of its subjects.”

In the closing statement of a Ramallah conference on October 2014, Fatah’s Revolutionary Council accused Palestinians who sold their property of “high treason,” calling on the government and legal system to “take the necessary steps to deter them.”

The movement also called on the public to “boycott and humiliate them on all popular levels.”

“Those whose sick souls allowed them to sell their land or homes, or enable such sales to the enemies of the Palestinian people, are a gang of traitors to their nation and religion,” said Fatah spokesman Osama al-Qawasmi in a statement previously published by WAFA. “They have brought shame and scorn upon themselves in this world and in the afterlife.”

One would rather die than sell his honor and betray the most sacred land in the world, saturated with the blood of prophets and martyrs throughout history,” he said. “Those traitors are destined to die a humiliating death.”
Nowhere does this article say that Jews stole the properties. They bought them and the Arab owners made a lot of money. (The Silwan website admits this explicitly.)

But apparently the progressives of the world believe that Jews should be banned from buying homes in some Jerusalem neighborhoods. And Arab laws to imprison people selling buildings to Jews does not evoke the slightest angst.

Let's be honest: the world uproar when  these things happen isn't about Israelis. It's all about Jews.

Israeli Arabs can buy houses in all parts of Jerusalem without protest, and indeed thousands of them do. 

But the EU, the UN and the people who supposedly are in the forefront against discrimination want to ban Jewish purchases of homes in their holiest city.

(h/t Bob K)

UNRWA school principal supports executions, rockets

Here's another UNRWA official - a principal at the Al-Fukhari Primary School in Khan Younis - who supports terror on Facebook.

Ahmed Fathi Bader posted this "prescription" for sending rockets to Israel:

Name of patient: Ben Gurion Age: 78 years old Male
1 M75 (Hamas rocket) twice a day, a rocket in the morning and a rocket in the evening at 6 o'clock, before eating, together with a warning siren

Bader posted this photo of Hamas executing "collaborators" with the comment:

"How pleased I was today when the execution of a group of collaborators with the Jews it was announced."

I have photos. I have screenshots. I have links. Anyone can check these and find out that it is true for themselves.

And Chris Gunness denies it.

(h/t Bob K)

Thursday, August 27, 2015

08/27 Liks Pt2: Syrian opposition: 'Israel Is the Most Humane Country in the Middle East'

From Ian:

'Israel Is the Most Humane Country in the Middle East': Why Syria's Southern Neighbors Are Working on Their PR
All of this has done remarkable things for Israeli-Syrian relations in rebel-held stretches of southern Syria. According to one Syrian opposition commander speaking in Amman: "Israel is the most humane country in the Middle East."
And that, said Elizabeth Tsurkov, a Syria researcher at Israel's Forum for Regional Thinking, is exactly the result Israel is looking for.
"This is a humane but also a very smart policy for Israel — its gets positive PR for treating Syrians, goodwill among civilians on the other side of the border fence, and intelligence about possible threats from southern Syria," she told VICE News.
In the past, Israel could rely on Syria's Baath regime to keep the border quiet. But with much of Quneitra now out of the government's control, Israel is increasingly looking to Golan residents to do the job. And it is no secret, said Tsurkov, that medical treatment of rebels in Israel is conditioned on them not attacking Israel and keeping Islamic State (IS or ISIS) militants at bay.
"While the treatment of injured Syrians in Israeli hospitals is a humanitarian effort, the impetus behind it is absolutely not humanitarian and Syrians are well-aware of this," she said.
Andrew Tabler, a senior fellow at the Washington Institute, said this pragmatic approach offers southern Syria's neighbors the chance to understand and build trust with whatever new political reality is forming there.
"This is part of a general strategy, which Jordan shares, of keeping ISIS out of southern Syria through the use of soft as well as hard power," he told VICE News. (h/t Alexi)
Europe's NGO Jihad Against Israel
Beneath a vexing tangle of funding operations -- most hiding under a pretense of "good works," "humanitarian aid," and "public interest" -- there is at work a sophisticated, multi-faceted, well-oiled propaganda machine against Israel.
A chief concern in the Knesset is how to curb the influx of millions of foreign dollars used to fund anti-Israel hate-groups operating as NGOs. These organizations are accused of using their "human rights" designation to mask a deceptive advocacy agenda to undermine, and even to destroy, Israel.
When Israel works to build "bridges for peace," such as SodaStream, where Arabs and Jews worked peacefully together, these organizations then knock them down.
Apparently, no one at World Vision asks the obvious question: Why are there even refugee camps in territories controlled by the Palestinian Authority (PA) and Hamas, such as Gaza, Jenin and Ramallah? Not only have those areas been under exclusive PA or Hamas civilian administration since 1994, but Israel totally evacuated the Gaza Strip in 2005.
Praise for Carter Ignores Ex-President's Anti-Israel Obsession
Falsifying the Camp David record
In 2006, Carter published Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid. It was laden with at least 38 errors, as CAMERA documented in our monograph Bearing False Witness: Jimmy Carter's Palestine, Peace Not Apartheid (2007). The work was widely debunked by Middle East experts, various news outlets, former President Bill Clinton and even some of Carter's long-time associates at the Carter Center.
Falsifying Jewish history and Israeli rights
In Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid, the one-time Georgia governor went so far as to omit the historic existence of the Jewish people in the land of Israel. As noted civil rights attorney and Harvard University Law School professor emeritus Alan Dershowitz pointed out, Carter wrote that Christian and Muslim Arabs have lived in what became modern-day Israel, yet he “leaves out the fact that Jews have lived in Jerusalem (where they were a majority since the first modern census), Hebron, Tzfat, and other cities far longer—continuously, in many cases.” (The Case Against Israel's Enemies)
Echoing Terrorist Claims
In keeping with his habit of both trying to cast Israel as an expansionist nation and simultaneously acting as an interlocutor for the Jewish state's opponents, Carter claimed that Israel did not withdraw completely from Lebanon in the spring of 2000. In fact, Israel's withdrawal was certified by the United Nations, which noted on June 16, 2000 that “Israeli forces have withdrawn from Lebanon.” Carter—echoing the Iranian-backed, Lebanese Hezbollah, a U.S.-designated terrorist organization—misrepresented Israeli counter-terrorism action on the border with Lebanon as proof the Jewish state had not withdrawn completely.
Carter also took at face value claims made by PLO leader Arafat. The former president repeated Arafat's lie that “the PLO has never advocated the annihilation of Israel. The Zionists started the ‘drive the Jews into the sea' slogan and attributed it to the PLO.”

Antisemitic UNRWA teachers on Facebook. UNRWA pretends they aren't there (UPDATE)

Today, Chris Gunness has told The Jerusalem Post that the UNRWA school whose Facebook page I discovered had antisemitic material had nothing to do with UNRWA.

Yeah...someone forged an UNRWA page for a couple of years in hopes that its antisemitism would be discovered by someone like me eventually. Makes perfect sense.

He also dismissed claims that a staff member in the Palestinian territories had posted anti-Semitic material on a Facebook page.

“The posting on Facebook appears to have been designed to look as if it was posted by an UNRWA staff member but there is no evidence that any UNRWA staff member was involved,” Gunness said.

Separately, Gunness added, UNRWA had written to Facebook about another impostor account, which has since been removed.

“In the last year, upon UNRWA’s request, Facebook has removed or disabled access to over 90 pages and groups using UNRWA’s name and/or our logo without authorization,” Gunness said.
Amazing! All of those posts I discovered from people who identified themselves as UNRWA teachers, many with photos of their schools, really weren't from UNRWA teachers!

Earlier today I posted about how UNRWA promises to investigate any serious allegation of bias on the part of its staff, suggesting that we send examples of such bias to UNRWA and copy their donors in the EU and US to demand an investigation.

Here's one I wrote about last year that was widely tweeted at the time and Chris Gunness didn't do anything - the antisemitism is still on Facebook today.

It would be hard to argue that Mohammed Abu Staita doesn't work for UNRWA. He is friends with many other UNRWA teachers, there are photos of him at professional seminars and in the classroom.

So here is another poster to send to the State Department or Foreign Office demanding that UNRWA live up to its obligations to investigate this UNRWA teacher and publicize its findings and disciplinary action.

This cartoon was not the only one advocating murdering Jews on his page, by the way. 

Is this a credible enough allegation, Chris?

I've been tweeting other Facebook pictures from UNRWA teachers that were never removed from when I discovered them last year:

I'm sure they are all fake!

UPDATE: In case Gunness claims that Staita is not an UNRWA employee:

He runs their Respect and Discipline Initiative for his school, the Al-Rimal boys junior high school "A". Here he is:

(h/t Bob K)

How the Internet has wrecked political discourse (Vic Rosenthal)

Vic Rosenthal's weekly column:

If you are reading this, chances are that you would describe yourself as pro-Israel and probably right of center.

You probably read several other pro-Israel and conservative blogs. You do not read +972 Magazine, or Mondoweiss. If you are American, you probably prefer Fox News to MSNBC. If you are Israeli, you might read Israel Hayom or Makor Rishon. You would not be caught dead buying Ha’aretz.

This is called an ‘information bubble’. If you are inside such a bubble, you are only exposed to opinions that you already agree with. A large part of the reason is the psychological phenomenon of confirmation bias, by which we tend “to search for, interpret, favor, and recall information in a way that confirms one's beliefs or hypotheses while giving disproportionately less attention to information that contradicts it.”

Confirmation bias has been the subject of much study by psychologists and brain scientists, who have found that the process of finding confirming evidence for a proposition that one is already committed to is accompanied by brain processes associated with release of emotional tension and pleasure. Reading Gideon Levy in Ha’aretz is, for a certain kind of individual, similar to sex (or at least more available).

What has happened is that the Internet and especially social media, which might have been expected to remove limitations and provide a plethora of options to consumers of information, have had the opposite effect. They have become amplifiers of confirmation bias.

This is because of the economic facts about advertising-supported sites. The more clicks, the more money. So developers want people to look at their sites as much as possible, which they accomplish by doing their best to figure out what users want to see and giving it to them.

In his book titled “The Filter Bubble,” left-wing activist Eli Pariser (they can be right about some things) argued that search engines like Google and social media like Facebook amplify our own confirmation bias by trying to show us what their algorithms think we want to see, on the basis of our location, age, gender, interests, use of keywords, ‘likes’ and prior searches.

In Pariser’s search engine example, “one user searched Google for "BP" and got investment news about British Petroleum while another searcher got information about the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.”

Facebook’s algorithm is tuned to produce pleasurable sensations from confirmation of biases and agreement with prejudices in order to keep its users clicking. It is applied psychology at its most sophisticated, rivaling addictive video slot machines which combine visual and auditory stimuli with just enough monetary reinforcement to keep the player going until she (usually) or he drops. In Facebook the reinforcement is in the form of agreeable information bites, but it is just as possible to become addicted to it as to slot machines.

In addition to the mechanical coercion of the algorithm, a principle of Facebook etiquette has emerged that one doesn’t challenge the initiator of a thread. So if the same link has been shared by a right-wing and left-wing person, the comments on each post will mostly support the position of the initiator. The ‘wrong’ kind of comment will be met with vituperation and announcements that the commenter has been blocked. God forbid that anyone might see something that they disagree with!

The problem posed by the bubble to those, like me, who want to influence readers, is that the only people who will see my content are those who already agree with it. So it would be a waste of time for me to write an article aimed at refuting false perceptions of Israel. All I can do is try to provide my ‘base’ with new information or arguments. But such material will be as useless to them as it is to me, since nobody who doesn’t already agree with them will see it either. And if I do succeed to talk to someone on the ‘other side’, I find that we are working with an entirely different set of facts and assumptions, so that substantive interaction becomes impossible.

All bubbles are not created equal. For example, the right of the Jewish people to the land of Israel is a fact, based solidly in history and international law. This ‘bubble’ is a bubble of truth, and the bubble containing Gideon Levy is not.

Another issue, since discussion only takes place within groups that share the same ideology, is the one-way reinforcement of more and more extreme positions. The way to ‘ring the bell’ of the pleasure centers of the brain in a group with a particular ideological bent is to push the envelope. Moderation is boring, and doesn’t impress your peers. So when such a group goes off by itself and bounces ideas back and forth -- think of leftist academics -- the more extreme ones are reinforced. As a result, there is a sort of centrifugal force pushing the adoption of more radical positions and driving opposing groups farther apart.

It’s true that ‘traditional’ media like newspapers and national or local radio and TV have similar issues – I mentioned Ha’aretz – but it is to a far lesser extent. If there is a limited number of newspapers or TV channels available, more diverse groups will be exposed to them. So in the US for example many conservatives read the NY Times or listen to NPR because they provide some content of interest despite disagreement with their editorial slant. But the Internet provides an unlimited variety of slants, and in effect everyone’s Facebook timeline has its own individual slant.

There is a relationship between the Internet and the burgeoning of 'political correctness’. We have all been admonished at one time or another not to talk about politics because it is ‘divisive’. But in the age of the Internet, it is not politics in general, but politics that don’t agree with someone’s prejudices that one is not allowed to talk about. The Facebook etiquette I mentioned that forbids going against the ideology of a thread is an example.

Some people have developed exquisite sensitivity to what they will allow themselves to hear. I strongly doubt that the meme of ‘microaggressions’ (also here) would have developed before the Internet taught people that they ought to have the right – because on the Internet they have the ability – to be free from hearing anything that they might judge to be the slightest bit offensive. The same idea pops up in student demands for safe spaces – local restrictions on free speech – and trigger warnings on books, films, etc.

These demands are couched in language about ‘protecting’ students who may suffer from PTSD-like conditions, but in fact serve to override the principles of free speech and academic freedom. And the effect is usually to support leftist views. You don't hear a lot about 'safe spaces' for conservatives, or 'trigger warnings' for the presence of Marxism.

Finally, there is the much-discussed phenomenon that cyber-anonymity permits breaches of civility that would not occur in face-to-face discussion, or even signed correspondence. I think anonymity is just part of it; it’s the combination of anonymity with bubble-generated extremism and solipsism that have given us the ‘cesspool’ of the comments sections found on some sites. It’s ironic that the same technology that has encouraged acute hypersensitivity and attempts to restrict speech, has also given rise to a genre of take-no-prisoners verbal aggression.

08/27 Liks Pt1: Terrorist who stabbed officer was freed in 2013 after murdering professor

From Ian:

Palestinian who stabbed officer was freed in 2013 after murdering professor
The Palestinian who stabbed and lightly wounded an Israeli border policeman in Jerusalem’s Old City Wednesday evening is the convicted killer of an Israel Prize winning professor.
Muammar Ata Mahmoud, 56 of Hebron, was released in 2013 as part of an ultimately unsuccessful round of peace talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, Ynet news reported.
Mahmoud, along with Salah Khalil Ahmad Ibrahim (also released in 2013) was convicted of murdering Menahem Stern, a history professor at Hebrew University. Stern was stabbed to death while walking to work at the university’s Givat Ram campus on June 22, 1989. In addition, the two murdered a Palestinian suspected of collaborating with Israel, Hassin Zaid.
Stern’s daughter Meira Stern-Glick protested the pair’s release at the time, saying it caused her “great distress” and called their freedom unjust.
“These people are murderers,” she said. “A person who murdered in cold blood should sit for life.”
Mahmoud was overpowered by other Border Police officers after stabbing the officer in the leg outside Jerusalem’s Damascus Gate.
Despite Confession, Ramallah Lynch Terrorist 'Not a Murderer'
Fifteen years after the infamous “Ramallah lynching,” in which Arabs brutally murdered two IDF soldiers, a military court has decided that that one of its participants isn't a murderer, after all.
Marwan Ma'adi was convicted on Thursday of assault for his role in the murders, after his attorney successfully argued that Ma'adi “could not predict the final results of the spontaneous action he participated in.”
In the midst of the second Intifada on October 10, 2000, two IDF reserve soldiers, Yosef Avrahami and Vadim Nurzhitz who lost their way found themselves in Ramallah, where they were murdered and mutilated in a Palestinian Police station.
The soldiers were beaten, stabbed, had their eyes gouged out, and were disemboweled.
Since the incident, the IDF has been hunting down those who participated in the lynching, with several sentenced to long prison terms
For example, Aziz Salha, the murderer who appeared at the window of the police station displaying his bloody hands to a cheering crowd, was arrested in 2001 and sentenced to life in prison. He was among the terrorists released in the Gilad Shalit prisoner swap deal in 2011.
Ma'adi, a member of Hamas, was arrested in 2012 and admitted participating in the lynch. It was on that basis that the army sought to imprison him for a long-term sentence as well – if not on charges of murder, then on charges of being an accessory to murder.
However, his attorney, I'ad Mahmid, claimed that the IDF could not prove that his client was part of the lynch.
Rocket from Gaza explodes in Israeli territory
A rocket launched from the Gaza Strip exploded in an open field in Israel Wednesday night. There were no casualites in the attack and no damage was reported.
The rocket landed in the Eshkol Regional Council of the Western Negev. Local residents said no warning sirens had sounded prior to the explosion.
Security officials said the projectile had fallen near the border fence, possibly explaining the lack of sirens.
It was not immediately clear who was responsible for the attack.
Israel strikes Hamas site after Gaza rocket attack
The Israeli military carried out an airstrike in the central Gaza Strip Wednesday night, in response to a Palestinian rocket attack earlier.
The army said it struck a Hamas weapons production facility in the center of the territory, stating that it considered Hamas to be solely responsible for the happenings in the Gaza Strip.
There were no immediate reports of casualties on the Palestinian side.
The military noted that eight rockets had been fired from Gaza since the beginning of the month. Spokesman Lt. Col. Peter Lerner said the army would “not tolerate any attempt to undermine the security of Southern Israel. The Hamas terror organization is responsible for today’s attack against Israel.”

Apartheid is OK in Lebanon - it's a long-standing convention!

From AFP:

Two people were killed when gunmen briefly opened fire in Lebanon's largest Palestinian refugee camp, breaching a tense ceasefire, Palestinian sources said on Thursday.

A source from the Fatah Palestinian faction said a Fatah official and a civilian had been killed in fire by "unidentified gunmen" overnight in Ain al-Hilweh in southern Lebanon.

The breach threatened a ceasefire that ended several days of clashes between Fatah and an Islamist group in the camp.

Palestinian officials said the ceasefire remained in place despite the breach and that high-level contacts were made during the night to ensure it would be respected.

Ain al-Hilweh is an impoverished, overcrowded camp near the coastal city of Sidon, home to some 61,000 Palestinians, including 6,000 who fled the war in Syria.

By long-standing convention, Lebanon's army does not enter Palestinian refugee camps, meaning many have turned into lawless areas.
By long-standing convention, Lebanon does not allow Palestinian Arabs to become citizens.

By long-standing convention, Lebanon forces Palestinians to live in crowded "camps" where they cannot even build or repair buildings.

By long-standing convention, Palestinians who flee Syria are forced into these same camps (or to turn back to Syria) instead of accessing other facilities for other Syrians.

By long-standing convention, Palestinians in Lebanon are banned from many professions, including physicians, journalists, pharmacists or lawyers.

By long-standing convention, Palestinians in Lebanon cannot buy land.

By long-standing convention, the Lebanese army stops people from entering and exiting these ghettoes.

By long-standing convention, Palestinians are allowed to kill each other and the Lebanese authorities will not intervene.

So Lebanese apartheid against Palestinians isn't a real issue. Because it's always been that way. It's conventional!