Norway is officially on Easter holiday, with most Norwegians safely tucked away at remote cabins, looking for snow so that they can re-connect with their inner Norwegian, the one on skis, a lone figure, braving storms and avalanches as he or she crosses endless mountain plateaus.
Therefore, the newspaper silly season has an early start this year, with news mainly focusing on where to find the best ski conditions, last minute cabin rentals, however also seasoned with news on the ongoing money scandal in our Government, the tragedies in Syria, Mali (there were Norwegians there), etc.
And of course also on Israel. Whether it is a persisting tendency, or simply down to the fact that there are so many other and much more urgent conflicts going on at the same time that even the most indoctrinated journalist realizes they cannot fantasize their way out of reporting on also these conflicts, is yet too early to know for certain, but so far the impression is that the mainstream newspapers have modified – at least to a certain extent – how they report.
For instance, Aftenposten covers the “expansion” of settlements on the West Bank thus, citing NTB as a source
Israeli officials called Wednesday for tender for 1,121 new homes in the occupied areas
Most of the new homes will be built on Palestinian territory in the Har Homa in East Jerusalem, Givat Zeev and in the north of Jerusalem, while 69 will be built in Katzrin on the Golan Heights, which is actually Syrian territory.
According to Lior Amihai in Peace Now, the new housing units in Har Homa involve a significant expansion of the settlement adjacent to Bethlehem. He says it will cut off Bethlehem from Jerusalem.
The same day that the new tenders were advertised, Israeli police evicted a group of settlers from a Palestinian house in the old city of Hebron after settlers ignored the deadline they had received.
The 600 settlers in Hebron reacted with anger at the eviction. One of them accused the Israeli police to treat them “as the enemy.”
The Israeli settlements on Palestinian territory is a major obstacle for new constructive talks between Israel and the Palestinians. (© AP)
Whilst not blatantly untrue, this short article does not discuss the fact that most of the areas where these new tenders are released fall well within areas that have been defined as Israeli in previous rounds of negotiations, or refer to areas that have become nationalized as is the case for Katzrin, but also other towns in the North, mainly home to Druze and Circassian communities.
It is also a matter of opinion whether Israeli construction is an obstacle to renewed negotiations, or whether perhaps the fact that the PA consistently is trying to “negotiate” outside the legal framework and tries to resolve its issues in international fora where they enjoy the support of an automatic majority, such as for instance is the case in the UN Human Rights Council and the UNGA might explain the difficulties encountered. It certainly is a baffling fact that it is the PA/PLO that has walked away from the opportunity to get their state time after time, not Israel.
Nevertheless, in the current climate, myopic “researchers” such as Hilde Henriksen Waage seem to have gone past their sell by date, in particular since her colleague at PRIO, Ola Tunander accused Israel of having had something to do with the 22/7 tragedy, which caused the institution serious damage in terms of credibility and decency. Perhaps they are busy painting over the ugly brown spots that were uncovered in that episode?
Dagsavisen - as far as I have been able to ascertain – is the only mainstream newspaper to report – briefly – on the rocket attacks on Eilat this morning:
Israeli tourist town hit by missile
ROCKET Impact: The port city of Eilat in southern Israel was hit by a rocket fired from the Sinai Desert in Egypt on Thursday. Neither persons nor buildings were damaged in the incident.
JERUSALEM: Police have found the remains of the rocket at a construction site, about 400 meters from a residential area, said chief of police in Eilat, Ron Gertner, to the Army Radio.
According to Israel Radio, the police in the tourist town on the Red Sea has increased preparedness to its highest level as a result of rocket attack, which occurred just after midnight Thursday.
- The rocket, launched from Egypt, exploded in the city but caused no injuries,said Gernter.
In all, three loud explosions shook the city, but only one rocket was found Thursday morning.
One would have liked a condemnation of the event, say for instance from the Norwegian People’s Aid, or Norwegian Church Aid, but in the very least the incident has been reported in a paper not known for its sympathies for Israel or terror attacks against it.
So, reports are more or less factual, not necessarily 100% balanced, but it certainly is a step in the right direction that information is transmitted in a neutral manner.
Klassekampen however stands out. And this time in a “positive” manner, being the first news paper that calls the Turkish bluff. Turkey has sailed on what it thinks is high moral ground since the Mavi Marmara incident, and has stepped up its belligerent behavior not only towards Israel, but also Cyprus, Greece and as usual, their own vulnerable minority group, the Kurds.
The shadowy side: Publisher William Nygaard warned against looking at Turkey as a model for the Arab Spring. He believes that the regime represents a kind of neo-fascism.
In discussions about new, more democratic governance that has blossomed in the wake of the Arab spring, many have looked to Turkey, a modern country with a secular state. The strong foreign policy, particularly the increased criticism of Israel, has made the country popular in neighboring countries.
- To draw attention to Turkey as a democratic model for other countries in the region testify to the lack of insight. We’re talking about a kind of neo-fascist regime, with a terrible human rights policy. It’s just sad, says William Nygaard, to Klassekampen.
- Completely lawless
The former Aschehoug CEO was in Turkey in mid-March, as the representative of the International Publishers Association and PEN.
- We really got to see Turkey’s double face: on the one hand, a modern country with great economic progress. On the other hand, a society that is completely lawless when it comes to human rights. I still believe that it hardly possible that such things can happen in a so-called modern Muslim society, he said.
Turkish human rights organizations took Nygaard and his colleague Eugene Schoulgin along to a prison outside Istanbul. There, they attend a trial, and had the opportunity to exchange a few words with the accused.
- It was a fairly arbitrary court, in a huge courtroom, where people were put on trial in a mass trial, 10-15 at a time. Most of the defendants had been jailed since 2008, and neither they nor their defense lawyer had been told why, says Nygaard, and lists the different fates: a publisher who received a 17 year long jail term. A university chancellor with a cancer diagnosis. A television station owner, with yellowing of the skin after sitting in solitary confinement. One general. A journalist, who had been in isolation for four years. In a break the accused grabbed the opportunity to shout out their stories of abuse over the railing.
- This is a reality that is far too unknown in the Western society, including in Norway, says Nygaard, and calls for more attention to the human rights situation in Turkey.
- Both the EU and the U.S. probably know what’s going on, but it seems like they have enough with their own problems, he said.
Kurdish hunger strike
Erling Folkvord, a politician for Red and long-standing friend of the Kurds, confirms the picture of a country where human rights and freedom of expression are denied.
- Kurds in Turkey have suffered and extremely tough reality, especially since last summer, he says, pointing out that the Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party had great success in the Turkish elections last year in June.
- Since then, Ankara stepped up detention and legal action against the legal Kurdish parties and organizations, and to a greater extent than before attacked Kurdish parliamentarians.
Now there 1500 Kurdish prisoners on hunger strike in Turkish prisons,demanding better prison conditions for themselves and for the imprisoned Kurdish leader Abdullah Öcalan. In Strasbourg 15 Kurds have been on hunger strike since 1 March. One of the hunger strikers is Kurdish-Norwegian Negar Enayati, former City Council representative in Oslo Red.
A large Kurdish march that began in the German city of Mannheim on 31 March has now arrived to Strasbourg, where they will organize a mass rally, where Erling Folkvord plans to participate.
- The Kurds fight to win support for the claim that Turkey must stop the war against the Kurdish liberation movement, and initiate negotiations for a peaceful solution to the conflict, says Folkvord.
- Until last spring, it was a promising development, and there was some dialogue between the Kurds and the Turkish authorities. Abdullah Öcalan was involved with this dialogue, and I must say I am impressed by the willingness to dialogue among Kurds. Now Öcalan been in isolation for eight months, without having had the right to meet a lawyer, and under tough conditions.
Folkvord will also use the visit to Strasbourg to try to meet Jagland.
- As Secretary General of the Council of Europe, Jagland should have contacted Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and try to influence him. Both Jagland and the Norwegian government must say clearly that Ankara must stop the persecution of legitimate Kurdish organizations, journalists, and other media people. Norway should also ask Turkey to begin sincere negotiations with the Kurds, for a peaceful solution.
Apparently, we will now have to look out for flying pigs or leopards who have changed their spots, when even a seasoned Israel basher as Norman Finkelstein thinks Israel bashing has become too easy.
Still, these are early days and trends may not turn into clear tendencies, so pressure should be kept up to expose the biased and dangerous media coverage of Israel, that not only has given rise to a dramatic increase in anti-Semitism all over Europe, but even more unfairly, has denied billions of people around the world a fair chance to inform the world about their suffering.