Ron Rosenbaum, Writer

December 31, 2006

Was it a Slip, or a Slap?

Filed under: Uncategorized — ronrosenbaumwriter @ 5:02 pm

I’ve been fascinated by the coverage of Ehud Olmert’s allegedly scandalous “slip of the tongue”. The one which, according to some reports marked an unofficial end of the unofficial policy of ambiguous “nuclear ambiguity” on Israel’s part.

For years Israel had maintained a policy of replying to questions about its possession of nuclear weapons with the same formulation: “Israel will not be the first to introduce nuclear weapons into the Middle East.”

Was it ambiguous in the sense that the word “introduce”: was ambiguous? Did it mean that Israel had the weapons but wouldn’t be the first to use (“introduce”?) them? Was the ambiguity designed to evade international and US non proliferation problems, when just about everyone knew, or thought they knew, that Israel did indeed have a nuclear arsenal for several decades?

Was there any truth to the rumor that Israel preserved the technical truthfulness of the official statement about “introducing” weapons by keeping its nuclear weapons in easy to assemble components, so that, in fact, until a state of alert it had no “weapons” as such, just parts of them which would–in case of alert–be “introduced” to each other.

And what about the stories that the weapons had been assembled at least three times: in 1967, 1973 and during the Scud attacks during the first Gulf War in 1991? Some estimates had Israel possessing upward of 200 nuclear weapons.

Seven types of ambiguity, clouds of ambiguity. But is it possible that ambiguity has outlived its usefulness?

That was the question behind the Olmert “slip of the tongue” furor. It may have been no accident that the “slip” took place on the eve of the Iranian Holocaust denial/promotion “conference” in the second week of December, 2006. It was treated in much of the Israeli and world press as a scandalous mistake by Olmert, abandoning Israel’s long tradition of “nuclear ambiguity” and admitting to possession of nuclear weapons. But it may have been deliberately designed to do just that. To remind the population of Iran that in their drive for nuclear weapons and its genocidal nuclear threats (see “my “Footnote 55” post) Iranian Islamic fundamentalist apocalyptic madmen were volunteering millions of non fundamentalists citizens lives for the involuntary martyrdom an attack on Israel or a nuclear threat to Israel might bring.

What Olmert said, when asked about Iranian nuclear ambitions was that Iran’s desire for a weapon must be considered in the light of the sort of outlaw, genocide threatening state it was: a state that incited to genocide, unlike other states such as France, the U.S., Russia and–here was the alleged “slip”–Israel.

He seemed to be admitting without ambiguity that Israel had nuclear weapons. The furor that followed saw the Israeli foreign ministry try to say the list of states Olmert had given that included Israel was just a list of more stable non- genocidal states, not a list a of nuclear states. But few believed that.

The initial assumption of almost all the media I saw was that this was an unintentional slip of the tongue. Some later analysts raised the possibility that Olmert had seized the occasion of the Holocaust deniers’ “conference” and the U.N. sanctions on nuclear enrichment to suggest that Israel was altering its strategic “doctrine” on the use of nuclear weapons. And what would that mean: if they were to change their policy with regard to admitting possession, would they change their doctrine with regard to first use and second strike?

Was it designed to keep Iran, keep the rest of the world guessing.

My more optimistic view is that it was deliberate, that it was a deliberate slip, a slap in the face of Iran. A statement that a nuclear armed nation was tired of hearing threats to “wipe it of the map” from ostensibly non nuclear states. That however euphemistic such statements might be interpreted, when combined with the language to be seen in the post below in “Footnote 55” (“nothing left on the ground”) they were not content to sit back and hope it was all metaphorical, just a policy proposal “wiping Israel off the map”.

A statement that hoped to knock some sense into the Iranian leadership that they were playing with fire with their nuclear ambitions and threats. One to awaken the world to the danger of a regional nuclear war in the Middle East getting out of control.

It reminded me of something I’d written about in my Harper’s piece on nuclear deterrence culture, the one reprinted in %%AMAZON=0060934468 The Secret Parts of Fortune%%. Something about what I called “the war of Kissinger’s footnote”. An illustration of the notional, virtual ways nuclear foreplay was conducted in the days of the Balance of Terror. In that case then Secretary of State Kissinger seemed to hint in a footnote to a prepared text of speech he delivered, that if the Soviet Union didn’t abandon plans for a first-strike capable nuclear force, the U.S. would move from a “ride out” strategy in case of a Soviet first strike to a “hair trigger” posture. In the former we were committed to wait until Soviet nukes landed on our missile silos etc before retaliating. If the Soviet Union changed its posture in the direction of first strike capability we move to a “hair trigger” or “launch on warning” posture, so attacks on our silos would find the missile there already launched. It was a policy that subverted the chances of a first strike succeeding but a policy that had a greater risk of starting an unintentional nuclear war.

The Kissinger footnote, after having been read by all and sundry was “withdrawn” by the State Department when questions were raised about it. But the ambiguity remained. That’s how the game is played. In the early stages. With conceptual moves, footnotes, slips of the tongue.

Let us hope the game remains in its “early stages”, because the game has now begun. Indeed a deterrence theorist, Louis Renes Beres, has explicitly called (in the December 27 issue of The Jewish Press for an unambiguous end to Israel’s nuclear ambiguity, to replace opacity with transparency whether Olmert made an accidental “slip of the tongue” or not.

He made the case that the changed circumstances brought out by Iranian genocidal threats and nuclear ambitions call for specificity to replace ambiguity. Israel should spell out to Iran the rest of the Muslim–and the Western world–just what might happen if Iran were to use nuclear devices against the State of Israel.

There must be a targeting option document so the targets know what is at stake with Iranian posturing. It would be hard to imagine a more explosive piece of paper.


December 27, 2006

The Most Important Question of Our Time?

Filed under: Uncategorized — ronrosenbaumwriter @ 3:32 pm

In a previous post, “Footnote 55 and the ‘One Bomb State'”–about the way the ideology of suicidal martyrdom undermines conventional nuclear deterrence in the Middle East–I asked readers if anyone had “any ideas?”. Any ideas for deterring a regime like Iran whose leaders have expressed willingness to martyr millions of their people in a nuclear exchange–if it would result in “leaving nothing on the ground” in the state of Israel.

I found myself both impressed and depressed by the response. Impressed by the number and variety of suggestions (34 in the comments to that post as I write). Impressed by the depth of anger, despair thoughtfulness and passion that people brought to the question. By the urgency expressed about the prospect of a second Holocaust, the need to take Ahmadinejad’s genocidal threats seriously.

But also, cumulatively, inevitably it was depressing to read the proposed deterrent scenarios, from preemptive attacks using weapons of mass destruction, to multiple successive serial assassinations, to “second strike” retaliatory threats to take out not just Iran but Islamic Holy places, oil-fields, capitals, all of Islam in some scenarios.

It is the second strike question I find most troubling. I’d studied and written about the strategy and morality of “second strike” retaliation in the context of the U.S./U.S.S.R. “Mutually Assured Destruction” deterrent stand-off in the Cold War Era.

Mutually Assured Destruction you’ll recall involved the declaration by both sides that any first strike by the opposing side would be followed by an undeterrable “second strike” upon the populations centers of the first strike side, ensuring the deaths of tens even hundreds of millions, thus putting an unacceptable price on a first strike however “successful”. (A second strike attack would have to target population centers since missile silos and air-bases and other military targets would have already fired their weaponry).

The question that those on the Right and Left raised about M.A.D. “doctrine” was this: if one side initiated a first strike, deterrence by Mutually Assured Destruction had–by definition–failed. So what would be the point of carrying out the mass killing of civilians. Tens of millions of civilians might be destroyed by an all out first strike, what would be the point of destroying the rest of the world in a second strike specifically designed to mass-murder civilians? For the pure principle of punishment? Would it be justice or vengeance? Rationality or madness? Would any individual take responsibility for such a choice?

That is why Dr. Strangelove “doomsday” scenarios were contemplated: taking the choice out of the hands of any one human, making the second strike, the second half of planetary extinction something hardwired, locked in, not dependent on human-initiated order or choice. Automatic. Irrevocable. As it would have to be to insure believability, to make deterrence efficacious.

Fortunately–I think–no such system could be made fail-safe, fool proof, accident immune and none was ever employed (contra Nelson DeMille who, in his popular thriller, Wildfire, appears to believe automated “doomsday” second strike response was a component of M.A.D. It wasn’t. See my Harper’s piece “The Subterranean World of the Bomb”, which can be found in %%AMAZON=0060934468 The Secret Parts of Fortune%%).

So that will always leave retaliation, revenge, second strike deterrent target choice in human hands. Most probably, in the nuked-Israel scenario, it will likely be in the hands of the commanders of Israeli submarines equipped with nuclear armed missiles. Probably those three Dolphin Class subs the Israelis bought from the Germans (!) in the late 90s. Whose job would be to insure that no first strike on the land of Israel could deter massive retaliation from under the sea.

But what would such sub-launched nuclear missiles target? What would be purpose of their second strike capability.

One of the commenters to the “Footnote 55” post argues (with what degree of authority I know not) that “It is well known but not officially admitted that Israeli second strike tactic is to strike against anyone who could be a threat to the survivors and not only the [initial] attackers”.

This implies a degree of precision and control, intelligence and long term second strike survivability I’m not sure is attainable from the likely submarine-launched second strike missiles, or even surviving land based missiles in hardened underground silos, say. Second strike weapons are designed for indiscriminate deterrence since precision in a post nuclear environment is unrealistic.

Still one must credit the commenter who brought the subject up: protecting the survivors. Could there be anything more grim, devastating, heartbreaking to contemplate.

And yet these are matters someone must contemplate. Indeed it would not be surprising if there is an super secret subcommittee of intelligence and cabinet officials in Tel Aviv contemplating it at this very moment.

There must be a “doctrine”, as they say in nuclear war studies, that lays out the strategic, tactical and moral considerations involved in targeting options: questions of proportionality, degree of responsibility, command-and-control (who will make the second strike decisions if the Israeli cabinet is destroyed for instance).

It is likely that the “doctrine” is being re evaluated in the light of the new, Iranian, threats. Should the new doctrine on second strike options be made public?

Evidence that this re-evaluation is going on can be found in the controversy over Israeli Prime Minister Olmert’s so called “slip of the tongue” about Israeli nuclear capacity and what it portended for Israel’s long held position of” nuclear ambiguity”.

I will examine the “slip of the tongue”, and the debate over “nuclear ambiguity” and the question of its continued usefulness, in a subsequent post. Meanwhile I’d still be interested in whether readers have any further ideas about second strike doctrine, what roles justice, vengeance, proportionality and morality should play. It may become, alas, the most important question of our time, not just for Israel, but for the rest of the world which could easily be drawn into a Middle East nuclear conflict.

December 23, 2006

"This is no way to live": The Human Cost of Holocaust-Incitment

Filed under: Uncategorized — ronrosenbaumwriter @ 9:36 am

It is possible–as I and a number of commenters have done below–to respond to Iranian Holocaust incitement with talk about indictments and deterrent strategies, to treat it as an urgent military, strategic and political problem. Which it is, of course. As something that is either preventable or not preventable. Which suggests that the damage is something in the future.

But a case could be made that damage has already been done, is being done every day by these evil clowns who make a murderous mockery of religion, the Holocaust denier/promoters.

I was prompted to think of this–the damage already done– by this despairing sentence in a comment to the last post by “Shmuel, Jerusalem”: “As long as Iran can make realistic but unanswered annihilationist threats, even without following through, Zionism is dead. Let me tell you this is no way to live.”.

“This is no way to live.”

No way to live with daily threats of extermination, with extermination written into the charter of the Hamas entitiy now ruling Palestiine, with Islamic bombs and loose nukes rattling around central Asia and many pledged to die to “wipe Israel off the map”.

This puts in perspective doesn’t it, those pollyanna American Jews who are always talking about how “lucky” American Jews are. “The luckiest Jews in history” was I believe the now notoriously foolish quote of one self styled writer/ sage.

Yes, lucky–if you isolate the American situation entirely and pay no attention to–feel nothing for, no kinship to– those who have to live with realistic exterminationist threats every hour of every day. No it won’t happen here, but it might happen there.

Luckier still if you believe that the euphemism “wipe Israel off the map” refers only to eliminating a geographical distinction. Another all too easy excuse to ignore the theat, the exterminationist context in which those words are uttered. The real world conseqences of a “binational state” Hey, nothing to worry about, it’s just a policy proposal. Again, read the Hamas charter.

Perhaps we will turn out to be extremely lucky and a second Holocaust will be averted, and the regional nuclear war that escalates beyond the region will not ensue. But meanwhile damage is being done every day to the innocents, by the loathsome Holocaust denier-promoters (and their defenders) who make the threats.

“This is no way to live”.

December 21, 2006

Footnote 55 and the "One Bomb State"

Filed under: Uncategorized — ronrosenbaumwriter @ 8:38 am

One of the commenters on the previous post made two points, one of which I emphatically agree with. Yes, indict all, all the inciters to genocide. Throw the book at them.

But there is another point I’m afraid I have to disagree with: That Iran would “lose” a war with Israel Perhaps now, perhaps for the next few months or (at most) the next few years. But as soon as Iran has nuclear weapons (if they haven’t bought them already), they can arm their Shehab-3 missiles and foreign bought submarines with them–and is there anyone so naive as to doubt that sooner or later, probably sooner–a nuclear exchange with Israel will result.

That is what people don’t get in this situation: it won’t matter whether Israel has more nukes or bigger nukes or better delivery systems. The logic of nuclear deterrence that once prevailed in the U.S./USSR Cold War no longer obtains. Now one side (Iran) feels it can absorb and survive nuclear retaliation if necessary to exterminate the other side (Israel).

Once Israel had a nuclear deterrent to conventional attack. Now however consider the words to be found in footnote 55 to the indictment of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad for inciting to genocide. Footnote 55 to the indictment, the “Referral” to the International Court of Justice under the Genocide Convention described in the previous post, is the heart of the matter, the heart of darknesss.

These words, this genocidal sentiment, which I have been citing since 2002 in writing about the situation, in postulating the prospect of a second Holocuast, were uttered by the leader of what the Western press has lately taken to calling the “pragmatic conservatives” in Iran, Ayatollah Hashemi Rasfanjani:

“If one day the world of Islam comes to possess the weapons currently in Israel’s possession [meaning nuclear weapons]–on that day this method of global arrogance would come to a dead end. This…is because the use of a nuclear bomb in Israel will leave nothing on the ground, whereas it will only damage the world of Islam.”

“Nothing on the ground” versus mere “damage”. In other words, as one rather dramatic version has it, Israel is “a one bomb state”. A state you can wipe off the map, along with its people, with a single nuclear device. Yes Terhan might be destroyed in return, other Muslim capitals as well perhaps, by Israeli retaliation. But at the end of that bleak day there will be “nothing on the ground” in Israel, once the homeland of five million Jews. And there will still be a billion or so Muslims, many of whom will be celebrating the outcome.

The Soviet Union was not suicidal, thus deterrence worked in the Cold War. There is no deterrent to suicidal fanatics who are willing to accept millions of casualties, aka “martyrs” to accomplish the murder of millions of Jews. All “a one bomb state” requires for its extermination is, well. one bomb.

Once Iran was distant from Israel (though within range of the Shehab 3 missile). now Israel’s borders are surrounded by Iranian catspaws, Hizbullah and Hamas.Is there any doubt that, one way or another, sooner or later “one bomb” can reach Tel Aviv? Remind me how Iran would “lose” this war.

There is no deterrent to suicidal martyrdom, involuntary mass martrydom. No deterrent that depends on belief in the value of life by genocidal murderers on a “martyrdom mission”. Is there a solution to this problem aside from pre-emptive strikes which will likely be catastrophic for both sides and probably only postpone a second Holocaust? Are there any deterrrents that will stop Ahmadinejad and his ilk from carrying out their genocidal designs? I wish I could believe there were. Any ideas?

December 20, 2006

Incitement Indictment: Time to Bring Ahmadinejad to Justice

Filed under: Uncategorized — ronrosenbaumwriter @ 6:19 am

The time has come, the precedents are there. Precedents in the sense of past failures of the international community to prevent genocide in places like Rwanda and Darfur (not to mention Europe in the 40s). Precedents in the post facto convictions of Rwandan mass murderers not just for genocide but for “incitement to commit genocide”.

The time has come–if we take history and genocide seriously– to bring Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to justice for that very crime.

Until last week I had not realized that under well established international law not only genocide but “incitement to commit genocide” is a crime for which certain malefactors, those complicit in the Rwandan mass murder, have already been indicted and convicted.

I was made aware of the legalities, if not the likelihood of such action in regard to the Iranian president by a scrupulously researched 68 page booklet entitled Referral of Iranian President Ahmadinejad on the Charge of Incitement to Genocide. A referral, or request for indictment sponsored by The Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs which you can download from its website HERE.

I found out about the Referral from a correspondent for New York’s Jewish Week newspaper, Stewart Ain. He and I were taping appearances on the syndicated TV show, The Leon Charney Report hosted by the distinguished former Middle East diplomat. I was there to discuss the recent Iranian Holocaust deniers’ conference and the Iranian strategy of using Holocaust denial to prepare the way for a second Holocaust, the destruction of the Jewish state. Mr. Ain had with him a copy of the “Referral”.

The document, whose principal author is an international law specialist, Justus Reid Weiner, makes a compelling case for bringing Ahmadinejad before the International Court of Justice for violation of the Genocide Convention. I obtained a copy from the Conference of Presidents of American Jewish Organizations in New York, and I was impressed by its seriousness, it’s legal and historical scholarship particularly in regard to the lessons learned from the Rwandan genocide.

Most compelling is the precedent for indictment and conviction for incitement to genocide even before genocide happens. Frankly the only time such an indictment and conviction would matter. An extremely important provision because it doesn’t just seek to punish those for mass murder already committed but to punish those who incite mass murder before it happens. Before the killing starts.

The booklet cites the case of Rwanda’s Radio Mille Collines. The Hutu extremist station “allowed ‘the genocide planners’ to ‘broadcast murderous instructions directly to the people.'”

Acting on these murderous instructions 800,000 or so Tutsis were exterminated. Only afterward were Radio Mille Collines and its principals convicted of the crime of “incitement to genocide” by the International Court of Justice. The Ahmadinejad “Referral” makes the case that the anti-Genocide Convention makes possible the arraignment and conviction of those who incite to genocide before the crime is committed. That incitement is a separate crime in itself; timely prosecution of which could prevent genocide from being committed.

It has never happened before, this kind of preemptive indictment, but that doesn’t mean it can’t happen now, or that it shouldn’t happen now, or that the international law making incitement a separate crime shouldn’t be applied to Ahmadinejad and his genocidal incitement against the Jewish state.

At this point I don’t think I need to review the record of Ahmadinejad’s genocidal incitements. (The referral is thorough in doing so. ) After summarizing the loathsome murderous litany of incitements the “Referral” concludes, “…there exist a multiplicity of potential prosecutors and legal venues that are available to commence legal action. Bluntly put, Ahmadinejad’s incitement necessitates an indictment

In addition to the Jerusalem Center, a group led by Alan Dershowitz is pursuing an alternative course of action that would lead to indictment. You may say all this is an unrealistic expectation, and perhaps it may be. But to fail to seek an indictment for the incitement of genocide is to make such incitement cost-free. We’ve seen the consequences in Rwanda and now Darfur (where such indictments are long overdue).

Considering the hideous historical record of failure in the past to prevent genocide, failure to pursue this course (in addition to any others that may be necessary to stop or prevent genocide) would itself be a crime. Read the Referral. Demand the international community live up to its words and its laws.

Indict the inciters. Bring Ahamdinejad to justice before it’s too late.

December 19, 2006

More on Islamo-fascism

Filed under: Uncategorized — ronrosenbaumwriter @ 10:13 am

I sought to establish in my previous post that I don’t equate Islam and fascism. I know there are differences, thank you. What I’ve been suggesting is that what a certain variety of radical fundamentalist, police-state and/or terror- promoting Islamic entites, whether they be nation-states or al Qaeda-like groups share with fascism is more important than the ways they differ. Yes, radical, fundamentalist police state Islam is not the only kind of Islam, just as fascism isn’t the only kind of totalitarianism, but there is a great deal of overlap in the ideology and reality of both.

A commenter has written, about the previous post, that “not all totalitarianism is fascist and not all Islamic totalitarianism is Islamo-fascist.” I would counter that by referencing Hannah Arendt’s still invaluable Totalitarianism in which she made the point that what Leninist and fascist dictatorships share–the attempt to enforce total control of the soul of its subjects–is more important that their ostensible differences. A point Orwell made in 1984 of course.

As for “not all Islamic totalitarianism is fascist”, I would argue that this comes close to being what is referred to as “a distinction without a difference”. Common to almost every fascist regime are these factors: police state use of torture, terror, and political executions, reperession of all human rights, organized hatred of Jews and other minorities. Let’s see, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Hamas-ruled Palestine, Taliban ruled Afghanistan all seem to qualify as fascist by that definition. Remind me, are they Islamic as well?

You could say fascism lacks the religous component but that would only be true if you ignored Hitler’s hysterical theology of “blood”, the cult of mystical Aryan divinity and the religious cult worship Mussolini and Franco demanded for themselves.

Fascism can have many forms and varieties, theocratic fascism being one of them, Islamo-fascism an instance of theocratic fascism. If you prefer “Islamic totalitarianism”, or as I suggest in the post below, for Iran, “Islamo-annihilationism”, fine. But I just don’t understand the fear of the word “Islamo-fascism”. It seems to me an excuse to engage in an exercise in semantics rather than face the threat to human rights and enlightment values–to women, gays, Jews, liberal democrats, “infidels” and disssenters of all varieties the theocratic police state wants to eradicate.

I suggest those who have such terrible problems with “Islamo-fascism” use some of the polemical energy they expend on semantics to exhort such states–whatever you want to call them–to stop jailing, torturing and murdering dissidents. It would seem to be a more important task.

December 18, 2006

"Islamo-fascism" Denial and "Islamo-annihilationism"

Filed under: Uncategorized — ronrosenbaumwriter @ 9:02 am

It’s remarkable how much time so many half-bright self-proclaimed policy experts and pundits have spent denying that there’s such a thing as “Islamo-fascism.” So much earnest pontificating about the differences between radical annihilationist Islam and fascism and Nazism. Well of course there are differences. As they say in the think tanks–Duh.

But what’s more important is what radical fundamentalist Islam and fascism share: a belief in police state enforcement of their political theologies with the use of torture and murder of political opponents; a virulent hostility to freedom of expression, to the rights of women and gays; an annihilationist hatred of Jews and liberal democracy.

That should be enough, you would think, to make the case that the commonality expressed in “Islamo-fascism” has some basis despite the differences. And now we have a Holocaust Denier (translation: Holocaust Lover) “scholars’ conference” in Iran. Let’s see: a Nazi loving gathering sponsored by a radical fundamentalist Islamic regime. A police state regime that expresses Nazi-like annihilationist threats against Jews. Will the super-subtle, profoundly sophisticated thinkers who make such a big point of rejecting “Islamo-fascism” now concede there is some merit to the phrase? Or will they remain dead-end Islamo-fascism deniers?

And if they still resist “Islamo-facism”, here’s a suggestion for another phrase: “Islamo-annihilationism”. That’s what unites Hamas, Hizbullah, Iran, the Holocaust denying cultures of Saudi Arabia and Syria: their genocidal ambitions and the fascist police state culture of political assassination and repression of human rights they represent. I hope those who resist this phrase have read the Hamas charter in which genocide is enshrined as a legitimate goal of a Hamas led Islamist state. Those who have not yet read the Hamas charter are, frankly, not qualified to enter this dispute.

Okay, anybody want to deny the existence of “Islamo-annihilationism”? Speak up policy wonks. Analysts may differ on the implications of “Islamo-annihilationism”, but let’s hope they have learned a lesson from that conference in Tehran: a lesson about the consequences of denial.

December 14, 2006

On the al jazeera Phone Number…

Filed under: Uncategorized — ronrosenbaumwriter @ 4:23 pm

I love it. I made the suggestion in the post below that English language al Jazeera would be helped by having a listed phone number for their D.C. headquarters. A couple of commenters have called my attention to a D.C. area phone number on the al Jazeera website. Well I tried that number and guess what? it’s a recording on which the woman says she doesn’t check for messages, but you should get in touch with their NYC PR firm. This is not generally how a serious news operation works, since serious news operations like to make themselves available to the public for often invaluable tips.

Nonetheless, as those who have read the previous post will have noted, this is is exactly what I did: call their PR firm. I spoke with a woman there asking her how English language al Jazeera and its Arabic sister channel would be covering the Iranian Holocaust denier convocation. She promised to get back to me. That was last Friday. The conference has been over for two days. I still haven’t heard from her.

What to we learn from this? As I said, the al Jazeera phone number is not listed in the conventional meaning of “listed”– that is a number someone in the public could call 411 and get if perchance they were not within range of a computer terminal. Two, even the phone number they give on their website is not really a working phone number but a reference to a PR firm which fails to respond to inquiries.

So I stand by my suggestion that a working listed phone number would be a good first step for English language al Jazeera to gain legitimacy. A good second step can be found in the post below.

December 13, 2006

A Challenge to English-language al-Jazeera

Filed under: Uncategorized — ronrosenbaumwriter @ 6:54 am

Where art thou, al-Jazeera? While writing a column analyzing The New York Times’ coverage of the loathsome Tehran Holocaust conference — which you can find today on the New York Observer’s website — I sought to find out how the month-old English language al-Jazeera tv outlet would be covering the conference. You would think that would be easy to find out. but by the time my Observer column went to press I wasn’t able to find out because of English language al Jazeera’s weird inaccessibility for news organization.

I’d heard from someone visiting the station’s D.C. headquarters that the dates of the Holocaust (deniers) conference had been posted in grease pencil on a whiteboard in the station’s newsroom. So I tried to reach the Qatar based station’s K Street headquarters in D.C., but somewhat surprisingly for a news channel, it’s phone number is unlisted, What’s the deal.? I tried the Qatar Embassy, I tried the Arab Information Centers in D.C. and New York City. No one had a number for al Jazeera.

One hears complaints that no cable or broadcast operation has picked up the English language al-Jazeera feed. I’m all in favor of English language al Jazeera getting a cable outlet. Perhaps a listed phone number might help. Most journalistic organizations find them useful. Finally a journalist friend gave me a New York number for a p.r. firm that represents English language al Jazeera. I asked the rep. there if I could get any information on whether or how the English language and Arabic language versions of al Jazeera would be covering the Tehran Holocaust conference. I imagined that they would have access most Western stations would not. She said she’d get back to me. She never did.

I wondered what kind of coverage they’d give to a Holocaust denier conference, given the fact that Holocaust denial is extremely popular(and rarely challenged) in the Middle East and has become a fixture of Iranian President Ahmadinejad’s campaign to delegitimize the State of Israel. It would, I imagined, be a test and a challenge to English language al-Jazeera’s claim that it would not be an “objective” news channel, a kind of Middle East-focussed CNN, not the outlet for beheading videos, al Qaeda communiques and anti semitic rants its Arabic language outlet is known for.

I’ve always had great respect for Dave Marash the head of al Jazeera’s English language news division. The former Nightline reporter has pledged to run a straight-up news operation and I believe he wants to. But he must know there are those who are going to be skeptical until he proves them wrong.

Here’s a dramatic way to do so. Here’s my advice for–and my challenge to–English language al-Jazeera. Use your access to do a documentary about the Tehran Holocaust deniers conference. Expose the lies unchallenged there. Demonstrate that “objectivity” doesn’t mean reporting poisonous propaganda with neutrality. It would be a perfect way to prove your independence in a manner that would encourage cable and broadcast operations to pick up your feed. It would be a great service to the cause of truth and peace in the Middle East, since peace will only result from the exposure of hate propaganda.

What are you waiting for?

Oh, one more piece of advice for this supposedly professional broadcast news operation: get a listed phone number.

December 9, 2006


Filed under: Uncategorized — ronrosenbaumwriter @ 9:07 am

Is this insane or what? Just this morning I saw a stunning report on the selfishness and cluelessness of a major American charity (on the Fox News Channel) although that was not the ostensible thrust of the report.

It seems that five firefighters died courageously trying to save lives in a burning building in a central California community. The community reached out and raised a million or more dollars to donate to the families of the firefighters. They made the mistake of doing so through the local United Way. Mistake because the United Way, which should know the tax laws about charities inside and out, took their money and then “discovered” that they couldn’t distribute it to the firefighters’ families because of IRS regulations that charities like the United Way must distribute their funds to groups or institutions not to individiuals.

Fox had on a United Way spokesman who was lamenting that the families wouldn’t get the money before Christmas, indeed might not get the money at all unless special legislation was passed permitting it. He talked about California Senators introducing this legislation when Congress convenes again next year.

Buit wait a minute, why would the United Way take the money meant for the families if they knew they might not be able to give it to the families, because of IRS regulations? And if the United Way officials weren’t aware of IRS regulations that might prevent the money from going to the familes shouldn’t every single official involved be kicked to the curb for ignorance and incompetence?

The Fox on-air person ventured, sensibly, to suggest to the United Way person that one might think they’d have known of this difficulty. Mr. United Way replied weakly that he thought it might be because they’d raised more money than they thought (upwards of a million) Not convincing! Did they appeal to donors to give but don’t give too much, because if you give too much no one will get anything?

But the whole segment presented the United Way as victim rather than perpetrator of the problem. Sadly but stoically the United Way spokesman thought there might be hope to get a little money to some of the families before Christmas, but some might get none.


Humble suggestion: Until this happens no one in America should give a cent to the United Way. Give to other charities, give to individuals.
Make United Way give the money back! Find a way to get it the firefighters’ families now, immediately.or forever be knonw as United Morons.

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