Israeli officials have expressed dismay that BBC reporter Orla Guerin, who has come under sharp attack for what some perceive as an anti-Israeli bias in her coverage, will receive an MBE honor from the British government for "outstanding service to broadcasting."BBC reporter's award stuns Israel
Diaspora Affairs Minister Natan Sharansky, who last year wrote a formal letter of complaint to the BBC over Guerin's coverage, said it is a pity that the absence of anti-Semitism was not a criterion for the award.
If it were, he said, Guerin would not be receiving the honor. The MBE stands for Member of the British Empire, one of a number of honors issued each year by the queen.
"It is very sad that something as important as anti-Semitism is not taken into consideration when issuing this award, especially in Britain where the incidents of anti-Semitism are on the rise," Sharansky said.
Guerin, when contacted Wednesday, would not speak without receiving permission from her home office in London. A phone query to the BBC offices in London, followed – as requested – by an e-mail with a short description of the line of questioning, did not yield a response from either the BBC or Guerin.
According to the Sunday Times, the 38-year-old Guerin will be presented the award by Baroness Symons, the minister of state for the Middle East in the British Foreign Office. According to this report, Guerin, who has spent 10 years reporting from war-torn countries, was to receive the honor last year, but the ceremony was postponed so she could report from Ramallah on Yasser Arafat's funeral.
In addition to Jerusalem, she has also reported from Kosovo, Grozny, Moscow, and the Basque country.
One Israeli official, who responded to the news by saying he was "shocked," said Guerin is among the most anti-Israeli journalists reporting from Israel today.
According to this official, granting her an award fits into a pattern that began in 2003 when the United Kingdom's Political Cartoon Society awarded Dave Brown of the Independent its "cartoon of the year" award for a cartoon he drew depicting a naked Ariel Sharon biting off the bloodied head of a Palestinian child.
"It seems if you are anti-Israel, you will get an award," the official said.
Last year, in response to one of Guerin's dispatches about Israel's capture of a mentally challenged 16-year-old would-be suicide bomber, Sharansky wrote the BBC that it employs a "gross double standard to the Jewish state" that smacks of anti-Semitism.
Sharansky protested that Guerin, in her report, portrayed the event as "Israel's cynical manipulation of a Palestinian youngster for propaganda purposes." He said this "reveals a deep-seated bias against Israel. Only a total identification with the goals and methods of the Palestinian terror groups would drive a reporter to paint Israel in such an unflattering light instead of placing the focus on the bomber and the organization that recruited him."
The report, he said, "has not only set a new standard for biased journalism, it has also raised concerns that it was tainted by anti-Semitism."
In his letter, Sharansky quoted Guerin as describing to viewers how the IDF "paraded the child in front of the international media," then "produced" the child for reporters, "posed" him a second time for the cameras, and then "rushed him back into a jeep."
Likewise, the Evening Standard, which interviewed Guerin in 2003, wrote that she "questioned Israel's claim to be a democracy, compared its press freedom with Zimbabwe's, and accused its officials of paranoia."
During that interview, Guerin, referring to a period that year when Israel refused to cooperate with the BBC, said "I can't imagine any other government thinking like that – Zimbabwe is the comparison. I'm absolutely stunned that they think it's appropriate."
"Israel talks regularly – at this point, in my view, with less justification – about being the only democracy in the Middle East," she said. "But how can you still be a democracy and try to harass the press? This is not how a democracy behaves."
'I have been particularly incensed by the activities of certain universities, most notably SOAS. I am currently attending Aberystwyth University, and I can assure you that the rot within academia seems to be all pervasive.Read the nauseating rest of it: Melanie Phillips's Diary: Running the campus gauntlet
'The most notable decline in academic rigour is the opinion of most of the academic staff that all the world's current ills can be attributed to the activities of the US and Israel, and those that can't are the result of our colonial legacy. This results in a refusal to try and investigate or understand the problems in the developing world; or more precisely the Islamic world.
'Certain members of the academic staff hold some quite frankly offensive views. During a recent series of lectures about terrorism, the lecturer gave an admirably balanced assessment of most of the terrorist groups and their activities around the world. Then came the 'Middle East Conflict'. He began by handing out photocopied pieces of his own published work that sought to claim that the myriad terrorist groups operating in Israel and Palestine were necessary to prevent 'Israeli genocide'. He then went on to inform us that during the course of his research he had met and interviewed numerous members of Hamas and Hezbollah, and that he counted some of these men as 'close personal friends' and had invited one of them to his native Holland.
'I found this situation entirely unpalatable. suppose that the lecturer had declared his support for another of the terrorist groups he was lecturing about -- Combat 18 for example, or perhaps the numerous Aryan/White power groups in the US. Can we imagine that he would still be teaching, or for that matter that he would be anything more than a pariah?
'A Jewish friend put this question to the department and was essentially told that first of all he couldn't really have an opinion because religion clouds the individual's judgement, and that secondly he was an undergraduate and therefore not able to understand academic objectivity.
'It also seems that the only way to really succeed within the university industry is to pander to the prejudices of the academic staff; anything that differs with the anti-Semitic orthodoxy results in rather harsh marking. When I first went to university, I came with the naive belief that study at such an institution was about the pursuit of knowledge and truth; it is about lies, propaganda and the worst sort of prejudice.
Hamas’ decision to move toward power sharing largely is due to the shift in Palestinian public opinion since Arafat’s death. A poll taken by the Palestinian Center for Public Opinion after the Feb. 8 Sharm el-Sheik summit showed that some 63 percent of Palestinians were satisfied with the summit’s results. Some 70 percent said they were worried about the diffusion of weapons in Palestinian society, and wanted one central authority that could maintain law and order.Hamas’ role is diversifying as parliamentary elections draw near
Without at least the appearance of a move toward moderation, Hamas risked being marginalized by a Palestinian public increasingly fed up with the terrorists’ efforts to draw Israel into confrontation. Hamas violence and the resulting Israeli retaliation has caused severe suffering among ordinary Palestinians during the intifada.
In addition, some changes in Israeli policy contributed to Hamas’ own change in tactics. They included the release of hundreds of prisoners, the disappearance of helicopter gunships from Palestinian airspace, the end of targeted killings of leading terrorists, a slowdown in arrests of suspected terrorists, a growing sense of personal security in Palestinian areas and the beginning of Israeli withdrawals from some Palestinian cities.
“The fact that Hamas is compelled to pay attention to the necessities of society is the main factor in bringing Hamas into the political field," Steinberg said. “The ideal situation for Hamas would have been for most of Palestinian society to accept its ultimate values, but the fact that society is tired, worried and yearning for a kind of time out from the intifada, compels Hamas to enter the political arena."
The group’s rhetoric remains nearly as belligerent as always, but the political consequences are different. A Hamas leader in Gaza, Mahmoud Al-Zahar, said his movement wants to join the Palestine Liberation Organization, the main umbrella body for Palestinian groups, “to consolidate the resistance option in its capacity as the strategic option toward the liberation of Palestine."
Zahar reacted to growing concern among secular Palestinians that Islam and democracy can not go together. The issue recently has been raised by Ghassan Khatib, the P.A. minister of planning, in an article on Bitterlemons. The Web site has dealt at length with Hamas’ growing power.
Secularists question whether Islamists who take power by democratic means are committed to maintaining democracy, Khatib wrote.
Fatah would be expected to rally its forces to face the challenge from Hamas. But Fatah, the ruling party, is preoccupied with an internal crisis that is developing mainly along the rift between the so-called old and new guards.
“Today in the eyes of most of the population, Fatah is identified with corruption and the disfunctionality of the P.A., whereas Hamas is considered clean by comparison," Steinberg said in the Bitterlemons interview.
Roman Catholic, Orthodox and Muslim clergy showed rare unity Sunday in marking the 60th anniversary of a mass break-out by inmates of a death camp that became known as the "Auschwitz of the Balkans."
The ceremony was on the site of the World War II Jasenovac camp, where one of the camp chiefs had been a former friar nicknamed Brother Satan, whose crimes the late Pope John Paul II asked Serbs to forgive during a 2003 trip to the Balkans.
Elderly survivors of the camp -- Serbs, Jews, Croats, Muslims and Gypsies -- commemorated the anniversary at the site of the camp set up by the Nazi-allied Ustasha regime, which ruled Croatia during World War II and enforced racial laws.
Roman Catholic, Orthodox and Muslim clergy stood silently side by side at the foot of a towering flower-shaped stone monument at the site.
Each of them recited religious prayers before a column of up to 2,000 people, many of them elderly survivors, filed through the marshy field to lay wreaths and flowers.
Brother Satan, who took part in a World War II massacre of 2,000 Serbs by Ustashe troops and whose real name was Tomislav Filipovic Majstorovic, was defrocked in 1943 but stayed on in the camp, where he was said to have killed freely.
John Paul II, whose successor Pope Benedict was inaugurated Sunday, held mass in Bosnia in 2003 and asked Serbs to forgive wrongs committed by the Catholic Church -- a reference to Brother Satan's murderous acts.
Jasenovac camp was notorious for its brutal treatment of inmates and mass executions of Jews, Serbs, Gypsies and anti-fascist Croats between 1941 and 1945.
Former inmate Abinun Jesua said his whole family had perished in the camp, later dubbed the Auschwitz of the Balkans.
"My father was killed here in 1941, my mother and two sisters in 1942. People suffered a great deal, they were bludgeoned or knifed, the lucky ones got the bullet," he said.
"On April 22 1945, when the Ustashe were killing fast before closing down the camp, we, the remaining inmates, jumped on the guards and broke out. So today I feel sad but also proud, having survived and lived to see the 60th anniversary," the 85-year old told Reuters.
Independent historians put the number of victims executed there at between 80,000 and 100,000. Serbs, who put the death toll at more than 700,000, staged their own ceremony at a camp site in neighboring Bosnia's Serb part a week earlier.
Prime Minister Ivo Sanader, who first visited the camp site in 2004 and publicly condemned Ustasha crimes, said the victims "have a right to have the full truth told" and urged both Serbs and Croats to stop manipulating the number of victims.
"One side kept blowing the already heinous crimes out of proportion, while the other denied the crimes ... But it is important that these crimes are not forgotten, lest they should happen again," he told the gathering.
A previous nationalist Croat government was often accused of whitewashing the Ustasha crimes and re-instating some symbols of their rule, provoking anger from Jewish leaders worldwide.
Croatia and Israel established diplomatic relations in 1998 after President Franjo Tudjman apologized for comments seen as anti-Semitic.
The alpha wolf that led a famous Denali National Park pack in Alaska was shot and killed by a hunter last weekend, causing dismay among activists who say wolf hunting should be made illegal in the state.
Here's what happened when we got to Busch Gardens: we paid 8$ for parking, and found a great spot right by the tram pick up in the Italy parking lot. We caught the tram and debarked at the ticket booths only to find... that Busch Gardens built an entirely new and nice building specifically to service the military customers that is even closer to the main gate entrance than the ticket booths for the general public.Go read the rest, it's lovely :-)
Walking down a sparkling clean walkway (even Disneyland Anaheim wasn't this clean!) we saw "Salute to the Heroes" signs all over the place! Wow - quite a change from our San Francisco experience. We were feeling pretty good about then.