April 24, 2014

Middle East Media Sampler for January 10, 2012


1) What we have here is a failure to integrate, or not

Sarah Wildman wrote The new Scapegoats of Europe in the Latitudes section of the New York Times:

One afternoon in November, Océane Sluijzer, a 13-year-old Belgian Jewish girl, was beaten up after soccer practice by a group of schoolmates. Her tormenters, girls of Moroccan descent, called her a “dirty Jew” and told her to “go back to her own country.”

A few paragraphs later she wrote:

In fact, the real answer lies much closer to home: according to a position-paper by the Brookings Institution, if Muslim communities in Europe felt less marginalization and had more economic opportunities, they would resort less to misdirected violence. Although attacks on Jews are scary and hard to explain away, there is no broad and systematic anti-Jewish sentiment in Europe, neither among Muslims nor among the rest of the population. This is not 1936.

This is the same Sarah Wildman who, in a different context, recently wrote (h/t Prof Gerald Steinberg):

That is why when anti-Semitism is falsely applied, we must also stand up and decry it as defamation, as character assault, as unjust. That is why when we debase the term by using it as a rhetorical conceit against those with whom we disagree on policy matters, we have sullied our own promises to our grandparents. For if we dilute the term, if we render the label meaningless, defanged, we have failed ourselves, our legacy, our ancestors, our children.

Wildman's article in the New York Times began by recounting an antisemitic incident in order to illustrate the lack of tolerance in Europe towards Muslims. Wildman apparently excuses Muslim antisemitism in Europe because of European failures towards Muslims, rather than condemning European tolerance of antisemitism that allows it to persist.

No the European antisemitism of 2012 doesn't (yet) have the virulence of the antisemitism of 1936, but that doesn't mean that it doesn't exist. Someone who so easily dismisses or explains away antisemitism really is in no position to judge when antisemitism is "falsely applied."

2) Elephants don't fly and the world is not flat

Imagine that Thomas Friedman had written:

Here is what was so striking: virtually all the women we interviewed after the voting — all of whom covered their hair — said that they had voted for either the religious parties. But almost none said they had voted that way for religious reasons.

Many said they voted for Chareidim because they were neighbors, people they knew, while secular liberal candidates had never once visited. Some illiterate elderly women confided that they could not read the ballot and just voted where their kids told them to. But practically all of them said they had voted for the United Torah Judaism or Shas candidates because they expected them to deliver better, more honest government — not more synagogues or yeshivas.

Of course, he would never write such a thing. However, in his most recent column, Watching Elephants Fly, Friedman wrote a very similar paragraph – about Egypt:

Here is what was so striking: virtually all the women we interviewed after the voting — all of whom were veiled, some with only slits for their eyes — said that they had voted for either the Muslim Brotherhood or the Salafists. But almost none said they had voted that way for religious reasons.

Many said they voted for Islamists because they were neighbors, people they knew, while secular liberal candidates had never once visited. Some illiterate elderly women confided that they could not read the ballot and just voted where their kids told them to. But practically all of them said they had voted for the Muslim Brotherhood or Salafist candidates because they expected them to deliver better, more honest government — not more mosques or liquor bans.

Friedman is so invested in the success of the Egyptian "spring" that he glosses over the totalitarian nature of the Muslim Brotherhood.

James Taranto pointed out that last year Friedman assured us that the Egyptian revolution was not a revolution of the Muslim Brotherhood:

"And, as we sit here today, the popular trend is not with the Muslim Brotherhood. Indeed, what makes the uprising here [in Egypt] so impressive–and in that sense so dangerous to other autocracies in the region–is precisely the fact that it is not owned by, and was not inspired by, the Muslim Brotherhood."

At least in his latest column Friedman suggested that he didn't foresee this outcome. Still it doesn't excuse his whitewash of the Muslim Brotherhood. A report from Egypt has more on Friedman's views of Egypt. (h/t Challah Hu Akbar)

"For decades, Egyptians were missing the Arab nationalist, and most importantly, an authentic political alternative during Mubarak's rule, now they finally found it represented in the 83-year-old Islamist group of the Muslim Brotherhood," Friedman said.

"The Muslim Brotherhood is legitimate, authentic, progressive alternative. Only faced by the four-month old liberals, they had to win," he added.

The Muslim Brotherhood now has a press agent.

3) Obama's failed ideas

Jackson Diehl writes in Obama's foreign initiatives have been failures (h/t My Right Word):

The easiest one to document — and the one most likely to draw Republican attention next fall — is the busted Israeli-Palestinian peace process. Obama arrived in office afire with the ambition to create a Palestinian state within two years. But his diplomacy was based on a twofold misunderstanding: that the key to successful negotiations was forcing Israel to stop all settlement construction — and that the United States had the leverage to make that happen.

Here again there appears to be a disconnect between Obama’s 1970s-vintage ideas and the real world of the early 21st century. There’s nothing wrong, and modest good, in extending Cold War nuclear conventions with Russia, or extracting highly enriched uranium from Ukraine and Chile. But the most dangerous proliferation threats emanate from countries that don’t attend summits or sign international treaties, such as North Korea and Iran. In terms of nuclear capability, both are ahead of where they were in 2009.

That’s largely because, in pursuing “engagement,” Obama has mishandled the biggest international development of his presidency: the popular revolutions against autocracy. Detente with dictators can sometimes yield results, but Obama’s outreach turned out to be spectacularly ill-timed. Following the failure to back Iran’s Green movement, the strategy caused the administration to lag in supporting the popular uprisings in Egypt, Syria, Bahrain and elsewhere.

While Diehl credits Obama for being a good counter-terrorism commander, Jane Novak notes a failure on that count too.

As one example, former Interior Minister Hussain Arab issued an official travel permit to Abdel Rahman al Nashiri in 2000, covering the period of the USS Cole attack that killed 17 US service members. Not only would the law absolve Mr. Arab of any complicity in the al Qaeda attack, it may also absolve Mr. al Nashiri.

If Al Nashiri, who is currently scheduled for trial at Guantanamo Bay, can produce witnesses to the involvement of Yemeni government officials in the attack, the Obama administration will be placed in the uncomfortable position of having lobbied for immunity for al Qaeda operatives who attacked a US war ship.

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.