Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Gay Pride Parade in Jerusalem

I recently covered the annual Gay Pride Parade in Jerusalem for Time.com. We ended up profiling Nitzan Horowitz, the first openly gay politician to be elected to the Israeli Knesset. There was another openly gay MP before him, named Uzi Even, but he wasn't elected.

This was by far the tamest parade in recent history. The Haredi, or ultra-orthodox sect, which generally stirs up the most vitriolic protests, were commanded by their rabbis not to go near the parade. They did this for two main reasons: 1. The rabbis realized that the more they protest, the more media attention the parade gets. 2. The rabbis are embroiled in another fight over a public parking lot, therefore they wanted to direct the anger of their legions towards that instead.

What was surprising was to see a face from another sector of Jewish fundamentalism leading the protest. Baruch Marzel, who organized the controversial march through Umm al Fahm earlier this year, received permission for 50 guys to protest against the Gay Parade in France Square. The religious Zionist settler from Hebron was responsible for bringing in the signs that said "Holyland, not Homoland."

Thankfully, there wasn't much violence this year. Only one incident of an egg being thrown was reported.

Here's the vid:

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

The Tunnels of Gaza

Well, at long last, the piece on the Gaza tunnels is up on the New York Times website. Check it out and let me know your thoughts on this controversial story.

Great Article by Friedman

Reading this great op-ed by Friedman made me realize that a democratic Revolution of sorts that I have been predicting for years now, hosted and facilitated by the internet and new media, may in fact be underway in the Middle East.

There is a positive correlation between blogging and repressive governments.

However, this correlation is like a pimple. It can only get so big and then it must pop.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Not Worth Mentioning

I have just watched a video that's circulating on the Internet that depicts drunken, religious American Jews walking the streets of Jerusalem, bashing Obama and slurring African Americans. I am not so appalled by the sensationalism of the video, which is to be expected in an age where intelligent monkeys can produce, shoot, and edit video, but by the pathetic low that newspapers in Israel have sunken to by covering such a "story." The only reason I learned about it is because it has made it to the home page of both the Jerusalem Post and Haaretz websites.

At the risk of being the pot that calls the kettle black, I would like to call out these two "newspapers" for publishing stories about this manipulative, tasteless, and lowbrow video.

While I recognize the sad existence of these young, drunk, ignorant Jews that tend to migrate back and forth from NYC to Jerusalem, I have the good sense to realize that their extreme views are not representative of the population at large. Others do not. So why facilitate this distortion of reality for your readership?

I encourage the filmmakers to re-edit their material and put it in its proper context in order to make it something that closely resembles journalism. However, I don’t believe the filmmakers ever wanted to make anything greater than a bigoted piece of provocation designed to incite, misrepresent, and direct negative attention towards the subjects and most importantly, themselves.

What the Haaretz and Jpost should have editorialized is that this was actually more of an experiment on the effects of manipulative interviewing and camera induced groupthink on drunken teenagers than any sort of real political dialogue.

When real journalists do MOS or "man on the street" interviews they get a cross section of the population to speak. It seems like these provocateurs went to a couple bars on Ben Yehuda Street on a summer night in Jerusalem, where the average demographic is 18-21 American religious Jews who for the first time are able to purchase and consume alcohol legally.

This video should be part of a new series called "Yeshiva Boys Gone Wild."

In that context, I might actually watch it.

But for the writers of these stories to call the producers of this video "journalists" is an insult to the profession that they claim to be a part of.

Huffington Post Blog wisely rejected the video for having no journalistic merit.

Shame on Haaretz and Jpost for plunging their standards to these low levels in order to boost their popularity.



Saturday, June 13, 2009

Obama Speech in Cairo

I didn't like it, I loved it.

This paragraph is about as truthful as it gets:

"For decades, there has been a stalemate: two peoples with legitimate aspirations, each with a painful history that makes compromise elusive. It is easy to point fingers - for Palestinians to point to the displacement brought by Israel's founding, and for Israelis to point to the constant hostility and attacks throughout its history from within its borders as well as beyond. But if we see this conflict only from one side or the other, then we will be blind to the truth: the only resolution is for the aspirations of both sides to be met through two states, where Israelis and Palestinians each live in peace and security."

Everyone in the world with an objective and educated understanding of the Middle East knows that two states is the only solution. Only those people too emotionally involved or religiously deluded see it differently. How unfortunate it is that we have an American president who finally "gets it," but must deal with local leaders who, as usual, "don't get it." At a time where Israel is governed by a right-wing coalition and Palestinians are completely divided, Obama's idealistic vision for the Middle East will probably fall unto deaf ears.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Thoughts on NK Sentencing

Some people have asked for my thoughts on the sentencing.

I must say that I'm not surprised.
The sentence was harsh, but expected.
The US should waste no time in sending an envoy such as Bill Richardson over to NK to try and make a deal.

It's hard to imagine the anguish those girls and families must be feeling right now, with the chance that they could be sent to a place like this:

a 21st century gulag

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Open Letter to Kim Jong-Il

Dear Dear Leader,

The purpose of this letter is to serve as testimony in the upcoming trial of Laura Ling and Euna Lee.

I am not sure if you are allowing objective character witness reports into your tribunal, but if you are, please accept this letter as one voice among the thousands of people who would be honored to speak out to proclaim the innocence of these two human beings.

I don’t know the details of what transpired near your border on March 17th, but I do know Laura Ling.

I have worked with Laura at Current TV on and off for the past five years. We are not close friends or relatives, but colleagues. She has helped me produce various packages that I produced for Current TV from several countries.

I know Laura mostly as a soft, yet assertive voice on the other end of the telephone line, guiding me through the structure of a story, or through the finer points of editing.

I met her only once in person, and she was kind enough to invite me out for a wonderful Mexican lunch when I visited Current TV headquarters in San Francisco a couple years ago.

Laura is a very talented and energetic producer, and someone with a great eye for television. She has done incredible work all over the world, most recently covering the drug wars in Mexico.

As with any great journalist, Laura liked to push the boundaries of what is possible, but she also understood the risks inherent in this line of work.

I remember a specific conversation I had with her when I was covering the Israel-Lebanon War in 2006. She warned me to be careful and make sure to wear my flak jacket. Before we hung up, she said that no story is worth risking your life for.

Truer words have never been spoken.

I know Laura never meant to risk her life for this story. But fate has intervened, and suddenly you have two young lives to account for, one in each palm.

I implore you to put politics aside when making this decision. Think about the loss of one of your family members, perhaps your dear son, and how that would hurt you. Don't think of them as representatives of the United States. They were not on a political or diplomatic mission. They are two human beings who made a mistake. These women are nothing more and nothing less than loving wives, daughters, sisters, and Euna, a mother to a four year old girl.

Laura and Euna may have indeed trespassed onto your sovereign territory, and if that’s the case, then I am sure they are deeply apologetic. The entire world, possibly yourself included, knows these women don’t deserve to spend the prime of their lives in prison. Human beings are not pawns in a chess game.

You have charged Laura Ling and Euna Lee with hostile acts against your regime. I ask you, Dear Leader, to look into the eyes of those two girls pictured below. Are they really a threat to you and your regime?

Let this tribunal teach them and other potential trespassers a lesson. You have shown that you have the power and the will to punish these women severely. Now please do the right thing and release these women back to their petrified families as soon as possible.

Keeping them imprisoned is the ultimate sign of weakness. If you give them their lives back, you will benefit from the great power that is yielded through justice. The open hand of mercy is infinitely stronger than the closed fist of rage.


Jaron Gilinsky