Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Getting Good Information on the Gaza War

OK, web and techie types, this blog is for you.

I've been trying to get good real-time information on the War in Gaza. As usual, I've been scanning the various Israeli and Palestinian web sites. And 2 days ago, I found an add-on tool for my IE browser (there is also a version for Firefox) from, a localized version of Google, which allows me to watch live Israel Channel 10 & 1, al-Jazeera in Arabic and English, BBC, SkyNews, CNN, Iranian TV, Hezbollah's al-Manar station - you name it. Unfortunately, the interface of the add-in bar is in Hebrew, so I can't recommend it to everyone. I've got a PC connected to my 1080p 60" HDTV, so I can watch any of these things in my living room, full screen. Right now I am watching Uri Avneri being interviewed live from Tel Aviv and Daniel Pipes live from Philadelphia on al-Jazeera English (what a combination!). A minute ago I was watching the Channel 10 morning news, just as 3 Katyusha missiles hit northern Israel. This add-on toolbar is incredible.

Another way to go is Livestation. This might work better for those who can't use a Hebrew interface, or on a MAC or Linux. It's one way you can get Ramattan's live feed from Gaza City, as well as most of the channels I've mentioned above, and it allows full screen mode.

Based on my viewing, what Ethan Bronner reported in Tuesday's New York Times is absolutely true: Israeli media is ignoring (I am compelled to say censoring) the images and stories of humanitarian havoc in Gaza; on the other hand, these images and stories are all that one can see on al-Jazeera, where Hamas missileers are referred to as "fighters." No wonder Israeli public opinion is 90% supportive of what its army has done, and the Arab world is so inflamed. In Israel, there has been very slight coverage of the bombing of the al-Fakhura school, or the incident in Zeitoun, or the use of horrific white phosphorous armaments on human targets. (Update note: White phosphorous is not a banned armament, and is normally used for smoke screens. In 2006, the US was accused of using white phosphorus against humans in Fallujah.) I find only two Israeli journalistic voices who are attempting to report and comment on the human wreckage inside Gaza, and both write for Haaretz: Gideon Levi and Amira Hass, who are being simultaneously picked apart by colleagues on their own paper. I suggest people take a look at their writing on the Haaretz English web site -- Hass has a piece in today's Hebrew edition, which I suspect will make its way over to the English site later today.

I'll mention one other interesting online open-source tool which I heard about earlier this evening on BBC: the software is called ushahidi (Swahili for "testimony"), and al-Jazeera is using this open-source software to aggregate reports on an interactive map. This is a far from reliable informational tool, since it relies on anonymous, non-journalistic reports (even Twitter postings), but it nevertheless is an interesting and novel application of web technology.

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