September 2, 2014

Middle East Media Sampler for November 16, 2011


1) This train’s got the disappearing Israel blues

At first the essay, From Nablus to Jerusalem, by Raja Shehadeh, seemed innocuous. But upon a second reading the final paragraphs stuck out.

More than one hundred years ago, the Ottomans built a vast train network throughout the Middle East, first connecting Jaffa and Jerusalem and eventually linking the main cities of the Arab Middle East — Amman, Basra, Beirut, Cairo, Damascus, Jerusalem and Medina — to Istanbul. Construction on the Nablus-Jerusalem segment was interrupted by the outbreak of World War I, and the Nablus train station was largely destroyed during the Arab-Israeli war of 1948. 
Today, no train crosses the borders of our tiny territory. The only Green Line we know does not connect the capitals of the Middle East; it divides them. Yet for just one moment last Saturday, the imagination of two young Palestinian artists made it possible to project ourselves beyond this dismal present.

During the Ottoman Empire there was no Israel (and no Palestine either). The Green Line is more or less where those who advocate a two state solution would place the border between Israel and Palestine. But Shehadah doesn’t want that. (Of course if a future Palestine would truly live in peace with Israel, then of course there would be trains from Nablus to Jerusalem again.) He wants the connectivity of the Ottomans, without the inconvenience of Israel.

During September, the editors of the New York Times claimed that they wanted a two state solution that was negotiated not imposed, yet they published five or six op-eds supporting the Palestinian unilateral declaration of independence. Now they’re publishing an article that imagines a one state solution. It’s interesting the points that the editors of the New York Times deem worthy of debate.

2) If only it were so simple

The editors of the New York Times support Egypt’s Elections.

The Egyptian people showed great courage when they overthrew Hosni Mubarak. It is now up to them, with international support, to ensure a democratic transition. Voters should aim high and elect a Parliament that will assert civilian control, ensure transparency and protect the rights of all, including religious minorities and women.

Some words that don’t appear in the editorial are “Islamist” and “Muslim Brotherhood.”

First of all, the Egyptian people didn’t really overthrow Mubarak, the army did.

Second of all as Mshari al-Zaydi writes in the Muslim Brotherhood Spring (h/t Barry Rubin)

They said that this proves that the Arab regimes were lying to the world – and to the political elites who champion the idea of the civil state – when they said that should their regimes be toppled, this would result in Islamists and religious fundamentalists coming to power. Those who supported the Arab Spring always countered that this was nothing more than a lie fabricated by these regimes to remain in power, and that the Arab Spring youth had proved their mettle and their belief in civil values.
Now, these same well-intentioned writers – or at least many of them – have returned to warn against the Arab Spring being hijacked and despoiled. They have expressed their confusion about the presence and popularity of these radical Islamists who are overwhelming the political scene, and are asking: where did the Facebook youth go?
These writes are perplexed. Some have claimed: this situation [hegemony of the Islamists] is the work of the remnants of the former regime that have reformed their ranks and are working to abort the revolution. Whilst others have claimed that there are foreign hands tampering with the revolution and attempting to alter its course, however they then go on to disagree as to just which foreign party is responsible for this. Is it Iran or Israel? The US or Saudi Arabia? Perhaps it is China, or maybe even the Comoro Islands? Who knows? It’s all just a shot in the dark!

In this case the New York Times isn’t even arguing that the Muslim Brotherhood will moderate itself in office. It’s just arguing that elections will magically turn Egypt into a Western style democracy and that the only obstacle to that outcome, is the army.

3) The power of poetic truths

Shelby Steele writes about The Narrative of Perpetual Palestinian Victimhood. (h/t Lynn)

Poetic truths like that are marvelous because no facts and no reason can ever penetrate. Supporters of Israel are up against a poetic truth. We keep hitting it with all the facts. We keep hitting it with obvious logic and reason. And we are so obvious and conspicuously right that we assume it is going to have an impact and it never does.
Why not? These narratives, these poetic truths, are the source of their power. Focusing on the case of the Palestinians, who would they be if they were not victims of white supremacy? They would just be poor people in the Middle East. They would be backwards. They would be behind Israel in every way. So this narrative is the source of their power. It is the source of their money. Money comes from around the world. It is the source of their self-esteem. Without it, would they be able to compete with Israeli society? They would have to confront in themselves a certain inferiority with regard to Israel – as most other Arab nations would have to confront an inferiority in themselves and be responsible for it.
The idea that the problem is Israel, that the problem is the Jews, protects Palestinians from having to confront that inferiority or do anything about it or overcome it. The idea among Palestinians that they are victims means more to them than anything else. It is everything. It is the centerpiece of their very identity and it is the way they define themselves as human beings in the world. It is not an idle thing. Our facts and our reason are not going to penetrate easily that definition or make any progress.

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.