October 26, 2014

Middle East Media Sampler for October 7, 2011


1) Countering Kristof

The New York Times published two letters objecting to Nicholas Kristof’s stupid column yesterday. I want to highlight Michael Brenner’s argument for its elegant simplicity.

The Israeli public elected Benjamin Netanyahu to be prime minister, and Mr. Netanyahu is simply trying to follow the will of the majority of Israelis, who do not want a dysfunctional terrorist state on their border.  

2) Syria’s reach

The Lede at the New York Times reports Syrians Abroad Report Harassment and Intimidation. The report tells of incidents where relatives of Syrians currently living abroad were attacked within Syria. There was also an incident in France:

Rabee al-Hayek, a 35-year-old software engineer and French resident for seven years, said he and a group of demonstrators were set upon by a small group of men and women carrying pro-Assad banners. “Three of us were hurt, including a young woman,” he said.
Amnesty International said its report showed the need for Western countries to look into whether such instances are being orchestrated by the Syrian government in order to stop Syrians living abroad from supporting activists at home.
A spokeswoman for the State Department called the Syrian ambassador, Imad Mustapha, in early July to express concern over such activities.

According to Jennifer Rubin the Syrian embassy sent a rather thuggish letter to the editorial page editor of the Washington Post. Later on she quotes Syrian ex-pat Zhudi Jasser:

Zhudi Jasser, an American of Syrian descent who co-founded Save Syria Now! to press for the democratization of Syria, is well aware of this routine. He told me last night, “Does the Syrian embassy take us Americans for fools? Their fictional press releases and denials do not change the facts on the ground in Syria and wherever Syrian expatriates live. Our communities have been living in a very real and deeply intimidating culture of fear and reprisals against any human being who even whispers a word against the evil that is perpetrated by the regime of Bashar Assad and his mukhabarat (Intelligence services) around the world.” He explains, “The truth is that the Assad regime has insidious tentacles of intimidation into almost every Syrian community, neighborhood, family, organization, and activists inside and outside Syria. As an American of Syrian descent, it remains unfathomable to me how suffocating to our community this intense culture of fear is that is systematically sown by the Assad regime. Every Syrian with even remote family living inside the ‘prison’ which is the nation of Syria knows that their relatives will likely pay a high price for any criticism waged against the barbarism of Assad’s thugs. Amnesty International has now finally weighed in on what every honest Syrian has known to be the realities of the regime’s intimidation techniques of reprisals for almost a half a century against our families.”
 
While this behavior has gone on for decades, Jasser tells me, “With the recent demonstrations for freedom, the chatter among Syrians about the activities of embassy agents has risen to a level I have never personally seen or experienced in my lifetime.” It is not surprising, then, that the regime would lash out.

In a recent short “World Briefing” report, the New York Times reports:

The United Nations human rights office said in a report issued on Thursday that at least 2,900 people have been killed in Syria since pro-democracy protests began there in mid-March.  


The announcement came as activists in Syria said that at least 12 people were killed during clashes between armed men loyal to the government of President Bashar al-Assad and soldiers who deserted their ranks, in the northern province of Idlib, near the Turkish border. 

The editors of the Washington Post lament a failed attempt to condemn Syria in the Security Council.

THE CAUSE OF FREEDOM in Syria took a blow Tuesday when Russia and China vetoed a watered-down U.N. Security Council resolution on the slaughter of peaceful protesters by the regime of Bashar al-Assad. But there was a silver lining: The governments of Vladi­mir Putin and Hu Jintao finally were held accountable before the people of Syria and the larger Middle East for their cynical and self-interested obstructionism.
For months the two governments have prevented Security Council action on Syria, even though the United Nations’ human rights commission has reported at least 2,700 people killed and warned that the regime’s actions may constitute crimes against humanity. With its 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown still in mind, Beijing routinely opposes what it regards as “interference in the internal affairs” of other dictatorships. But China might have allowed the European-drafted resolution on Syria to pass had it not been for the resolute stance of Russia, which has sold billions in weapons to Mr. Assad. 
The Kremlin might have been expected to show the same sagacity as Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who formerly cultivated the Assad regime but now, recognizing that it is probably doomed, has turned against it. To his credit Mr. Erdogan on Wednesday brushed off the U.N. vote and reiterated that Turkey will soon adopt sanctions. But Mr. Putin, unlike the politically skilled Turkish president, has little interest in how Russia is perceived by the people of Syria or the Middle East. He is also likely bound by the corruption networks in his government that increasingly drive official policy — and feast on arms sales.
Honest Reporting noted that the editors of the Wall Street Journal felt that the vote was mostly for show.

A lot of Israel’s critics bemoan the fact that the United States will veto a Palestinian statehood resolution in the Security Council. Does it bother them as much that China and Russia vetoed an attempt to condemn a tyrant? Or are they only bothered by the United States standing up for an ally?


3) He really means it

Glenn Kessler the “fact checker” at the Washington Post bizarrely looks into the claim as to whether or not Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad actually promised to wipe Israel of the map. Since he was trying to minimize the impact of the statement, Kessler relied upon ideologue Juan Cole. Elder of Ziyon critiqued Kessler’s effort. If I understood Kessler, he argued that Ahmadinejad did indeed say it, but he meant it in the nicest way possible.

But how would Kessler interpret this:

Imagine the scandal if an Israeli diplomat said: “The Palestinian Authority should disappear.” On Friday, Alzeben Ibrahim, the Palestinian ambassador in Brazil, told a group of university students that “Israel should disappear.”
“And this is not the ambassador of Iran or President Ahmadinejad who is speaking.”
Thus it was evident that he did not mean Israel must disappear from the West Bank, but wiped off the map as Ahmadinejad preached.
Hamas also believes that Israel must disappear.

(Translated from the Portuguese by the Daily Alert.)

About Daniel Goldstein

Daniel Goldstein is a media critic and recovering blogger. He has been critiquing media bias against Israel since his first letter to the editor in 1987.