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[ISM Updates] First the good news...

1. Israeli Supreme Court: State Must Defend why Settlement Expansion
Near Bil’in Should not be Demolished 21st March 2006

2. Court moves closer to ordering illegal settlement houses razed - By Yuval Yoaz from Haaretz, 22nd March 2006

3. AP Erases Video of Israeli Soldier Shooting Palestinian Boy - by
Alison Weir
20th March 2006

4. The Earth According to Google: Where is Palestine? by David Nir
21st, March 2006

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1. Israeli Supreme Court: State Must Defend why Settlement Expansion Near Bil’in Should not be Demolished
21st March 2006

On the 21st of March the Israeli State and other parties were ordered to respond to a petition filed by Peace Now and head of the Council of Bil'in.

Defendants must convince the Court that construction plans for the illegal Matityahu East settlement should not be annulled. They must also explain why demolition orders should not be issued and a criminal investigation opened against those involved.

In a separate order issued by the Supreme Court on the 20th of March the military was denied the authority to implement a confiscation order of Bil’in land in order to build a military installation on the proposed wall route. To read the decisions in Hebrew go to:
http://www.court.gov.il/ and enter file numbers: 143/06 and 8414/05

The Israeli Civil Administration has admitted that, according to
Israeli law, illegal construction has been taking place on a massive scale. The administration also said it helps launder Palestinian land by declaring it state property then transferring it to private hands.

In Bili’n for example, attorney Moshe Glick signed in place of the village Muhktar (head), testifying that a resident’s land was paid for by settlers. Mr. Glick argued that the decision was justified because he claimed ‘any Jew entering Bil'in will be killed.’ He also said a military order forbidding Israelis from entering Area ‘B’ made it impossible to obtain the Muhktar’s signature. Both statements are false, yet the Civil Administration maintains the supposed land sale was legitimate.

Bil'in villagers have been protesting the theft of their land by the annexation barrier for over one year. The protests have become a prominent symbol of Palestinian non-violent resistance and joint struggle with Israeli and international activists. The Wall is planned along a route only meters away from the closest home in Bil'in. However it runs 700 meters away from the expanding illegal settlement, annexing over sixty percent of villagers’ agricultural land.

_______________________________________

2. Court moves closer to ordering illegal settlement houses razed
March 22nd, 2006
By Yuval Yoaz, Haaretz Correspondent

For original article see:
http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/696987.html

The High Court of Justice Tuesday gave the state 30 days to explain why houses built illegally in the Matityahu East neighborhood of the
Modi’in Ilit settlement should not be demolished.

Justices Aharon Barak, Eliezer Rivlin and Ayala Procaccia also ordered the state to explain why a criminal investigation should not be opened against those responsible for issuing the illegal building permits.

The order was issued against Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz, GOC Central Command Yair Naveh, West Bank district police chief Yisrael Yitzhak, the Civil Administration, the planning commission for the territories and the local council of Modi’in Ilit. It was issued in response to a petition by Peace Now demanding a halt to illegal construction in the neighborhood, which was built on lands belonging to the villagers of Bil’in to the east.

The court also upheld an interim injunction barring continued construction both on houses built without permits and on those built with permits issued illegally. In addition, it rejected the state’s proposal that tenants whose houses have been completed be allowed to occupy them.

At a hearing a week ago, the justices suggested that the construction companies reimburse any tenants who had purchased apartments in the project. Some 750 housing units are currently under various stages of construction, out of about 3,000 units planned.

‘The Matityahu East affair is the most extensive violation of planning laws in the West Bank that has been discovered to date,’ Peace Now’s lawyer, Michael Sfard, said Tuesday night. ‘At Amona, we asked that nine houses be demolished. Here, we’re talking about close to 500. This will be a test of whether the State of Israel is capable of dealing with its offenders.’

_____________________________________

3. AP Erases Video of Israeli Soldier Shooting Palestinian Boy
By Alison Weir
20th March 2006

"The trend toward secrecy is the greatest threat to democracy."
- Associated Press CEO, in a speech about the importance of openness

"The official response is we decline to respond."
- Associated Press Director of Media Relations, replying to questions about AP

In the midst of journalism's "Sunshine Week" - during which the
Associated Press and other news organizations are valiantly proclaiming the public's "right to know" - AP insists on conducting its own activities in the dark, and refuses to answer even the simplest questions about its system of international news reporting.

Most of all, it refuses to explain why it erased footage of an Israeli soldier intentionally shooting a Palestinian boy.

AP, according to its website, is the world's oldest and largest news organization. It is the behemoth of news reporting, providing what its editors determine is the news to a billion people each day. Through its feeds to thousands of newspapers, radio and television stations, AP is a major determinant in what Americans read, hear and see - and what they don't.

What they don't is profoundly important. I investigated one such omission when I was in the Palestinian Territories last year working on a documentary with my colleague (and daughter), who was filming our interviews.

On Oct. 17, 2004 Israeli military forces invaded Balata, a dense, poverty-stricken community deep in Palestine's West Bank (Israel frequently invades this area and others). According to witnesses, the vehicles stayed for about twenty minutes, the military asserting its power over the Palestinian population. The witnesses state that there was no Palestinian resistance--no "clash," no "crossfire," not even any stone-throwing. At one point, after most of the vehicles had finally driven away, an Israeli soldier stuck his gun out of his armoured vehicle, aimed at a pre-pubescent boy nearby, and pulled the trigger.

We went to the hospital and interviewed the boy, Ahmad, his doctors, family, and others. Ahmad had bandages around his lower abdomen, where surgeons had operated on his bladder. He said he was afraid of Israeli soldiers, and pulled up his pants leg to show where he had been shot previously.

In the hospital there was a second boy, this one with a shattered femur; and a third boy, this one in critical condition with a bullet hole in his lung. A fourth boy, not a patient, was visiting a friend. He showed us a scarred lip and missing teeth from when Israeli soldiers had shot him in the mouth.

This was not an unusual situation. When I had visited Palestinian hospitals on a previous trip, I had seen many such victims; some with worse injuries. Yet, very few Americans know this is going on. AP's actions in regard to Ahmad's shooting may explain why.

We discovered that an AP cameraman had filmed the entire incident. This cameraman had then followed what apparently is the usual routine. He sent his video--an extremely valuable commodity, since it contained documentary evidence of a war crime - to the AP control bureau for the region. This bureau is in Israel.

What happened next is unfathomable. Did AP broadcast it? No. Did AP place the video in safe-keeping, available for an investigation of this crime? No.

According to its cameraman, AP erased it.

We were astounded. We traveled to AP's control bureau in Israel. With our own video camera out and running, we asked bureau chief Steve Gutkin about this incident. Was the information we had been told correct, or did he have a different version? Did the bureau have the video, or had they indeed erased it. If so, why?

Gutkin, repeatedly looking at the camera and visibly flustered, told us that AP did not allow its journalists to give interviews. He told us that all questions must go to Corporate Communications, located in New York. He explained that they were on deadline and couldn't talk. I said I understood deadline pressure, and sat down to wait until they were done. When he called Israeli police to arrest us, we left.

Back in the US later, I phoned Corporate Communications and reached Director of Media Relations Jack Stokes, AP's public relations spokesman. I had conversed with Stokes before.

Over the past several years I have noticed disturbing flaws in AP coverage of Israel-Palestine: newsworthy stories not being covered, reports sent to international newspapers but not to American ones, stories omitting or misreporting significant facts, critical sentences being removed from updated reports.

I would phone AP with the appropriate correction or news alert. One time this resulted in a flawed news story being slightly corrected in updates. In a few cases stories were then covered that had been neglected. In many cases, however, I was told that I needed to speak to Corporate Communications. I would phone Corporate Communications, leave a message, and wait for a response. Most often, none came.

Several times, however, I was able to have long conversations with AP spokesman Stokes. None of these conversations, however, ever ended with AP taking any action. Some typical responses:

* The omitted story was "not newsworthy."

* The story deemed by AP editors to be newsworthy to the rest of the world - e.g. Israel's brutal imprisonment of over 300 Palestinian youths - was not newsworthy in the US (Israel's major ally).

* Burying a report of Israeli forces shooting a four-year-old Palestinian girl in the mouth was justified.

* Misreporting an incident in which an Israeli officer riddled a
13-year-old girl at close range with bullets was unimportant.

Despite this unresponsive pattern, when I learned firsthand of an AP bureau erasing footage of an atrocity, I again phoned Corporate Communications. I no longer had much expectation that AP would take any corrective action, but I did expect to receive some information. I gave spokesperson Stokes the numerous details about this incident that we had gathered on the scene and asked him the same questions I had asked Gutkin. He said he would look into this and get back to me.

After several days he had not gotten back to me, so I again phoned him. He said that he had looked into this incident, and that AP had determined that this was "an internal matter" and that they would give no response.

While I should have known better, I was again astounded. AP was blatantly violating fundamental journalistic norms of ethical behavior, and clearly felt it had the power to get away with it.

Journalism, according to the Statement of Principles of the American
Society of Newspaper Editors, is a "sacred trust." It is the bulwark of a free society and is so essential to the functioning of a democracy that our forefathers affirmed its primacy in the very first amendment of the Bill of Rights.

According to the Society of Professional Journalists, one of the four major pillars of journalistic ethics is to "Be Accountable." According to SPJ's Code of Ethics:

"Journalists are accountable to their readers, listeners, viewers and each other.

"Journalists should:

* Clarify and explain news coverage and invite dialogue with the public over journalistic conduct.

* Encourage the public to voice grievances against the news media.

* Admit mistakes and correct them promptly.

* Expose unethical practices of journalists and the news media.

* Abide by the same high standards to which they hold others.

Finally, this week, on deadline with a chapter about media coverage of Israel-Palestine, I again tried to confirm some of my facts with AP. Certainly, I felt, during "Sunshine Week" AP would respond. As part of the Sunshine campaign, AP's CEO and President Tom Curley is travelling the country giving speeches on the necessity of transparency and accountability (for government) and emphasizing "the openness that effective democracy requires."

"The trend toward secrecy," AP's president has correctly been pointing out, "is the greatest threat to democracy."

I emailed my questions to AP, talked to Stokes by phone, and again was told he would get back to me. Again, I got back to him. Then, in a surreal exchange, he conveyed AP's reply: "The official response is we decline to respond." As I asked question after question, many as simple as a confirmation of the number of bureaus AP has in Israel-Palestine, the response was silence or a repetition of: "The official response is we decline to respond."

The next day I tried phoning AP's President Curley directly. I was unable to reach Curley, since he was on the road giving his Sunshine Week speeches ("Secrecy," Curley says, "is for losers"), but I left a message for him with an assistant. She said someone would respond.

I am still waiting.

It is clearly time to go to AP's superiors. The fact is, AP is a cooperative. It is not owned by Corporate Communications spokespeople or by its CEO or even by its board of directors. It is owned by the thousands of newspapers and broadcast stations around the United States that use AP reports. These newspapers, radio and television stations are the true directors of AP, and bear the responsibility for its coverage.

In the end, it appears, the only way that Americans will receive full, unbiased reporting from AP on Israel-Palestine will be when these member-owners demand such coverage from their employees in the
Middle East and in New York. As long as AP's owners remain too busy or too negligent to ensure the quality and accuracy of their Israel-Palestine coverage, the handful of people within AP who are distorting its news reporting on this tragic, life-and-death, globally destabilizing issue will quite likely continue to do so.

In the final analysis, therefore, it is up to us - members of the public - to step in. Everyone who believes that Americans have the right and the need to receive full, undistorted information on all issues, including Israel-Palestine, must take action. We must require our news media to fulfill their profoundly important obligation, and we must ourselves distribute the critical information our media are leaving out.

If we don't take action, no one else will.

To obtain cards exposing AP actions to disseminate in your community go to: http://www.ifamericansknew.org/media/clues.html

AP can be reached at 212-621-1500.

Alison Weir, a former journalist is Executive Director of If Americans Knew, which is currently conducting a statistical analysis of AP's coverage of Israel-Palestine, to be released within a few months.

________________________________

4. The Earth According to Google: Where is Palestine?
By David Nir
21st March 2006

There's A new wonderful service by Google: "Google-Earth": Takes few minutes to load the free software. One can within several tens of seconds apply close-ups to view any point on the globe, even with 3 dimensional modeling, roads, restaurants, webcams for real time .....
Some places have resolution so articulate that individual persons can be seen. As an example one can see tennis players in action at the UC

Berkeley sports center or view the nearby stadium full of spectators in the midst of a football game.

But wonder of wonders:

Unlike other zones on the globe, it seems that the ultra-right-wing
AIIPAC had the last word on what Google will let us see in Palestine & Israel. While all the illegal settlements, even the tiniest ones' are listed by their names, it seems that most of the Palestinian villages or towns had miracolously disappeared. Full size cities like Nablus are marked by tiny letters, while Elon More, according to the letter size, is probably a 10,000,000 size metropolis, thus Nablus may be suspected as a slum neighborhood at it's outskirts.

Some examples - what is written for what it is.

Nablus Yeshiva = Hawara

Matkhan Tapuah = Tsomet Tapuach

Rehelim = Sawieh

nothing written = Akrabe

Karmei Tsur with HUGE letters, Beit Ummar hardly noticeable.

Also the resolution quality at the Palestinian zones is extremely poor, compared to all other places on the globe. Undoubtly this is intentional. Therefore we are denied of the lovliest of sights such as the overcrowded checkpoint zones, the splendid appartheid wall (the 9th wonder), the demolished homes....... . As a compensation we can see the tip of Eiffel tower and observe nearby strollers, or glide near the Everest's crest.

Of course the press a mentioned week ago ("The Marker"?) that Google accepted to blur Israel's sensitive security zones (such as military airfields or Beit Zacharia's launch sites), but could it be that someone tricked Google to apply this magic also to "innocent" views whereby the Palestinian communities are represented as a blurry spot on the global scene, just as they are treated by the majority of the enlightened countries?

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