Sometimes, it's all too much

Sometimes, things here in Israel-Palestine just get to be too much.

There are always things to write about — too many, more than one person can possibly handle, sometimes 5 – 25 things a day.

Due to this pressure, and circumstances beyond our control, I could not write for a while.

So, with apologies for the unscheduled break, I plan to resume shortly.

If posts were Tweets…

I’ve spent a lot of time on Twitter this year, since the January 25 (#Jan25) demonstrations in Egypt that successfully demanded “Irhal” (Get Out!) the departure of the former Egyptian leader Hosni Mubarak — who left Cairo for Sharm as-Sheikh on 11 February, but who formalized military rule in his place.

Demonstrations flared up again in November, just before the first round of elections for a new parliament, and then again last Friday, just after the second round. The violence is so extraordinary that it almost doesn’t matter at the moment who will win. [Final results are not yet in, but it is believed they will show a substantial victory for Muslim religious groups.]

The violence of the military and police forces against demonstrators has been unspeakable.

You can look it up on Youtube, as pictures speak a thousand words.

One of the many scenes of official brutality against unarmed [and, in this video, also handcuffed] demonstrators can be viewed here. This one, said to contain scenes filmed on Friday 16 December, features extraordinary brutality against women demonstrators. Some of those attacked are said to have died from the beatings.

Somehow, it has not been possible for me to post as I used to… events accelerated in Israel + in Palestine, with not fewer than five stories per day (if not more) worth covering, but it was overwhelming and not possible to maintain the pace. Events in the region and the world also demanded time that they have not been given.

Twitter in the meanwhile has been compelling. I use Twitter like a wire service, and see breaking news hours before it appears even on the wires. The links posted by journalists and other interesting Tweeps are incredibly useful: first, I stopped reading the newspapers in print, and only read them on the internet; now, I hardly even go on my former ususal patrol of websites, and simply check Twitter at regular intervals.

I’ve spent a massive amount of time studying the Twittosphere, and working on my Twitter technique (@Marianhouk). Seeing how others do it, and distilling down large chunks of information takes quite a while. Then, there are deliberate attacks from lurking Cyber-bullies — on which professional advice varies: ignore them, or take them on. Sometimes pure adrenalin kicks in…

I will continue to post my longer analyses, according to possibility and inspiration.

Otherwise, I will try to make my posts more like 140-character Tweets.

Denial of Service attacks on blogs

Readers may have noticed that this blog has been down three times in the last week.

The person who maintains this blog’s server has been attentive, and has speedily attended to the situation — which was then repeated. “I’m starting to think the server is being attacked”, he said to me today.

Now, new security measures have been implemented.

I’ve just read Richard Silverstein’s post on his Tikun Olam blog today, reporting troubles on his own California-based blog and on two blogs in Israel: “After mounting an intense DoS [Denial of Service] attack against this blog and two others in Israel, my web host seems to have figured out a defense against the assault”…

He links the cyber-attacks with death threats he has received, reporting that: “some members at the Rotter forum, among whose circle this assault may’ve originated, have resorted to homicidal ranting. One poster wrote the following (Hebrew): ‘I’m in favor of erasing Silverstein from this world at the hands of a Mossad hit squad‘.” This is posted here.

We are now nearing the first anniversary of an anonymous death threat, reported last 22 August, here. In this case, the person or persons who made this death threat — written both in Arabic and [just to make the point perfectly clear, and to make sure it was understood] in English — has still not identified either him/her self [or themselves], or his/her/their exact motivation[s]…

Majority of World's 125 Jailed Press are Online Journalists

There are now 125 members of the press jailed world-wide, according to the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) — and 56 of them are on-line journalists, “reflecting the rising influence of online reporting and commentary”, CPJ says in its newly-released annual census of imprisoned journalists.

According to its report, “CPJ found that 45 percent of all media workers jailed worldwide are bloggers, Web-based reporters, or online editors. Online journalists represent the largest professional category for the first time in CPJ’s prison census … The number of imprisoned online journalists has steadily increased since CPJ recorded the first jailed Internet writer in its 1997 census. Print reporters, editors, and photographers make up the next largest professional category, with 53 cases in 2008. Television and radio journalists and documentary filmmakers constitute the rest”.

The total number of jailed journalists is down slightly — two fewer than in 2007 — and down from a peak high of 139 imprisoned in 2002.

The CPJ notes that its research “shows that imprisonments rose significantly in 2001, after governments imposed sweeping national security laws in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the United States. Imprisonments stood at 81 in 2000 but have since averaged 128 in CPJ’s annual surveys”.

The annual census also reveals that “Forty-five of the journalists on CPJ’s census are freelancers; most of them work online. These freelancers are not employees of media companies and often do not have the legal resources or political connections that might help them gain their freedom. The number of imprisoned freelancers has risen more than 40 percent in the last two years, according to CPJ research”.

And the CPJ reports that “The number of imprisoned online journalists has steadily increased since CPJ recorded the first jailed Internet writer in its 1997 census. Print reporters, editors, and photographers make up the next largest professional category, with 53 cases in 2008. Television and radio journalists and documentary filmmakers constitute the rest”.

The CPJ says that it “does not apply a rigid definition of online journalism, but it carefully evaluates the work of bloggers and online writers to determine whether the content is journalistic in nature. In general, CPJ looks to see whether the content is reportorial or fact-based commentary. In a repressive society where the traditional media is restricted, CPJ takes an inclusive approach to work that is produced online.

According to CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon, ” ‘Online journalism has changed the media landscape and the way we communicate with each other … But the power and influence of this new generation of online journalists has captured the attention of repressive governments around the world, and they have accelerated their counterattack … The image of the solitary blogger working at home in pajamas may be appealing, but when the knock comes on the door they are alone and vulnerable … All of us must stand up for their rights–from Internet companies to journalists and press freedom groups. The future of journalism is online and we are now in a battle with the enemies of press freedom who are using imprisonment to define the limits of public discourse.”

And, the CPJ annual survey reveals that “About 13 percent of jailed journalists face no formal charge at all. The tactic is used by countries as diverse as Eritrea, Israel, Iran, the United States, and Uzbekistan, where journalists are being held in open-ended detentions without due process. At least 16 journalists worldwide are being held in secret locations. The CPJ reports that “U.S. military authorities have jailed dozens of journalists in Iraq–some for days, others for months at a time–without charge or due process. No charges have ever been substantiated in these cases”.

This information is published in full here.

Elsewhere on its website, the CPJ reports that 713 journalists (of whom over 11% were freelance) have been killed world-wide from 1 January 1992 through 11 October 2008 — and it says that 28.8% were threatened before being killed. and 18.7% were taken captive before being killed:

Type of death:
* Murder: 72.1%
* Crossfire/Combat related: 17.5%
* During other dangerous assignment: 10.2%
* Undetermined: 0.2%

Type of weapon used:
* Small arms (includes handguns, rifles): 53%
* Heavy arms (includes artillery, air strikes): 14.3%
* Explosives: 10.5%
* Knives: 6.6%
* Hands (includes beating, strangling): 5%

Suspected perpetrators in murder cases:
* Political groups: 31.2%
* Government officials: 18.5%
* Criminal group: 11.1%
* Paramilitaries: 7.2%
* Military: 5.8%
* Local residents: 2.1%
* Mob: 1.2%
* Unknown: 22%

Impunity in [these] murder cases:
* Complete impunity: 88.5%
* Partial justice: 6.4%
* Full justice: 5.1%

The CPJ also says on its website that “We do not include journalists who are killed in accidents—such as car or plane crashes—unless the crash was caused by hostile action (for example, if a plane were shot down or a car crashed trying to avoid gunfire)”.

This information can be studied in full here.

On blogging – continued (again)

By following links on Dion Nissenbaum’s blog yesterday, I came across this 20 June post on blogging, from Adam Reilly’s blog for the Boston Phoenix,
“…there’s a lot of disagreement out there about what, exactly, ‘blogs’ and ‘bloggers’ are. Who decided, for example, that writing like a grown-up means you’re not blogging? Or that writing pieces that stand on their own means the same thing? To my mind, something’s a blog if it’s A) published online and B) subjected to less editorial oversight than an article that runs in print (though not necessarily no editorial oversight at all). It’s hard to come up with a narrower definition. Most blogs allow comments; some don’t. The author’s point of view is usually dominant, but not always. Some are self-published by amateurs; some are written by professional journalists for their employer. Some are obscene and juvenile; some are high-minded and esoteric. That’s precisely why anyone who makes blanket statements about what blogs are and aren’t risks looking like a jackass. You wouldn’t condemn ‘newspapers’ after reading Page Six, or ‘radio” after listening to Michael Savage. Same deal here”.

On blogging and audiences

Minimedia guy writes: “Tsk, tsk on Paid Content today for taking a snarky potshot at Yahoo’s Hot Zone, the series in which ( dangerously handsome) roving reporter Kevin Sites serves up pathos from world hotspots. Paid Content says this magical misery tour attracted only 1.38 [million, it turns out — see below] visitors in March, versus more than 27 million forYahoo proper and adds: “Nor have advertisers fully embraced the Hot Zone as a place to sell their wares.” Now consider this MediaPost report on the launch by Scripps Network of its second channel on bath design — the first being kitchen design — and the character of new media comes into focus … Of course advertisers won’t ‘buy’ the Hot Zone. What would they sell? Kevlar vests ? In contrast Scripps Network can mine a rich advertising territory in its kitchen and bath design channels. On a brief visit there this morning I noticed that portable, inflatable spas for just under $800. Wouldn’t Kevin Sites love to luxuriate in one of those after schlepping across the Sudan. Maybe we can do something groovy and user-participatory and take up an online collection to send him one … I wonder whether my notion of journalism — once defined as ‘comforting the afflicted and afflicting the comfortable’ — can survive in an era in which algorithms reward content that better enables us to feather our nests? Personally I am astonished and impressed that 1.38 million unique visitors took time out of their days to let Sites expose them to conditions so alien to our comparative everday luxury. And I hope Yahoo News general Manager Neil Budde is adamant about maintaining and supporting the less lucrative but entirely laudable Hot Zone” … This and other interesting posts can be found on here .

Reporting like Kevin Sites’ used to make money. Then, it was supported by the editors and other parts of whatever publication or publishing empire it belonged to, as a kind of a public service. Now, reporting from other places and conflict zones costs so much money that it uses up the budgets of most of the other sections of the publication — so you have contraction, bureaus closing,and the wire services left as the only reporters in the field…

On blogging at the New York Times

“Blogs are treated somewhat differently from news stories because they are somewhat different. They must adhere to the same standards, in that a blogger can’t make unsupported allegations and needs to have done some reporting, but they have a different tone and purpose from news articles. And because blogs are by nature reactive, blog postings should be made as quickly as possible. Nearly all of our blog postings go through at least one editor, whether a backfield editor or a copy editor, immediately before or after posting. (We are working to be sure all the blogs are covered, but we have more than 50 already, and they multiply, so it’s sometimes hard to keep on top of them all.) Even the best reporter makes mistakes, and if those mistakes distract the reader, the reporter’s information can get lost. The magic of the Internet is that someone can swoop in and fix any mistake as soon as it’s discovered. And our readers discover as many as we discover on our own”… The full text can be read on the NYTimes website
here .

Give us a break, says Gaza-Sderot blog

OK, maybe some NGO suggested this to them (or maybe not), but here is a very new blog co-authored by two friends, one from Gaza, and one from Sderot.

The Christian Science Monitor reported the news: “The two men have not seen each other in about a year. But they are now reunited in the blogosphere, writing a joint diary to stave off their own despair and prove that a dialogue is still possible across the divide. Titled, ‘Life must go on in Gaza and Sderot’, the pair rants in (uneven) English about the seeming futility about the Hamas-Israeli hostilities, the daily stress of surviving the violence, and the loneliness of optimists. ‘Peace man’, an unemployed bachelor who resides in Gaza’s Sajaiya refugee camp, blogs between Gaza’s power outages and complains of insomnia from the constant overflights of Israeli attack helicopters. ‘Hope man’, a software programmer whose Sderot house has been buffeted on all sides by Qassam rockets, worries about being away from his kids – who are at school – when the next rockets fall … Afraid their public conversation may be seen as disloyal by their countrymen, they assiduously guard their true identities. The Gaza blogger says in a phone interview that some of his friends who know about the blog have expressed concern for his well-being … The bloggers met about two years ago through an Israeli-Arab dialogue group sponsored by the Center for Emerging Future in Boise, Idaho, which obtained Israeli army permits for Peace Man to cross into Israel to attend dialogue meetings in Jerusalem and Sderot. Danny Gal, the Israeli coordinator for the center, said the group encourages Israelis and Palestinians to set up joint peace ventures … Desperate for a respite from the violence, the blogging pair recently started calling for a one-month truce in the fighting, which they say will give a chance for the anger to ease on each side and for leaders to think creatively about searching for a solution”. The full CSM article is posted
here .

RiverBend has left Iraq for Syria

Joshua Landis’ SyriaComment posts today a report from the Iraqi blogger Riverbend, who has now left Iraq and arrived in Syria.

Riverbend writes…”It took me at least three weeks to teach myself to walk properly again- with head lifted, not constantly looking behind me. It is estimated that there are at least 1.5 million Iraqis in Syria today. I believe it. Walking down the streets of Damascus, you can hear the Iraqi accent everywhere … Within a month of our being here, we began hearing talk about Syria requiring visas from Iraqis, like most other countries. Apparently, our esteemed puppets in power met with Syrian and Jordanian authorities and decided they wanted to take away the last two safe havens remaining for Iraqis- Damascus and Amman. The talk began in late August and was only talk until recently- early October. Iraqis entering Syria now need a visa from the Syrian consulate or embassy in the country they are currently in. In the case of Iraqis still in Iraq, it is said that an approval from the Ministry of Interior is also required (which kind of makes it difficult for people running away from militias OF the Ministry of Interior…). Today, there’s talk of a possible fifty dollar visa at the border … [So] we were refugees. I read about refugees on the Internet daily… in the newspapers… hear about them on TV. I hear about the estimated 1.5 million plus Iraqi refugees in Syria and shake my head, never really considering myself or my family as one of them. After all, refugees are people who sleep in tents and have no potable water or plumbing, right? Refugees carry their belongings in bags instead of suitcases and they don’t have cell phones or Internet access, right?  Grasping my passport in my hand like my life depended on it, with two extra months in Syria stamped inside, it hit me how wrong I was.  We were all refugees.  I was suddenly a number.  No matter how wealthy or educated or comfortable, a refugee is a refugee. A refugee is someone who isn’t really welcome in any country – including their own … especially their own“.

SyriaComment’s post about River Bend is here.
Continue reading RiverBend has left Iraq for Syria