September 20, 2014

Middle East Media Sampler for January 23, 2012


1) If they aren't a terrorist organization, what are they?

The conclusion of a New York Times op-ed, 3 weeks ago by Jean Herskovits, In Nigeria, Boko Haram Is Not the Problem:

The United States should not allow itself to be drawn into this quicksand by focusing on Boko Haram alone. Washington is already seen by many northern Muslims — including a large number of longtime admirers of America — as biased toward a Christian president from the south. The United States must work to avoid a self-fulfilling prophecy that makes us into their enemy. Placing Boko Haram on the foreign terrorist list would cement such views and make more Nigerians fear and distrust America.

This weekend's news Death toll in Nigeria terror onslaught tops 170

(via The Volokh Conspiracy) :

The death toll from terror attacks on Friday in the Nigerian city of Kano has climbed to at least 150 as estimated by the Red Cross, amid conflicting reports on casualty figures. The victims died in bombings and shootings aimed at eight government buildings across the city.

"We have 178 people killed in the two main hospitals. There could be more, because some bodies have not yet come in and others were collected early," the senior doctor in Kano's Murtala Mohammed hospital told Reuters on Sunday, citing records from his own and the other main hospital of Nasarawa.

The radical Islamist terror group Boko Haram, believed to have carried out over 500 terror attacks last year, has already claimed responsibility for the violence in Kano. The group, whose name can be translated as “Western education is a sin,” said that the onslaught was a protest against the government’s refusal to release its members from prison.

2) Praise for Israeli paramedic service. Where?!?!

Someone told me about this, but I had forgotten until I saw Elder of Ziyon. Algemeiner Journal has more background:

Throughout this week, the Al Jazeera news network is running a short film about the Jewish Paramedic Service ‘United Hatzolah’. Entitled Jerusalem SOS, the film follows Jewish and Arab volunteer paramedics as they cross the “psychological divides” between their communities of East and West Jerusalem.

Al Jazeera, though a secular news service, has become the mouthpiece for Islamic Fundamentalism in recent years, most noticeably in airing the video messages of Osama Bin Laden, and their usual scathing denigration of Israel. The coverage of this film and the positive light it lends the Jewish state is intriguingly out of character for the Al Jazeera network.

How the film will be received in the Arab world is yet to be seen, but Head of United Hatzolah, Eli Beer, signaled this as a “learning experience for the Al Jazeera network and the Arab world,” noting that they are beginning to understand “all blood is the same.”

3) Zbig does the full Tommy

I sure hope that Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, understands that the standing ovation he got in Congress this year was not for his politics. That ovation was bought and paid for by the Israel lobby.

Thomas Friedman, Newt, Mitt, Bibi and Vladimir – The New York Times, December 13, 2011

A longtime foe of Israel’s partisans in the United States, he says the Obama team “fumbled by getting outmaneuvered by the Israelis.” Then he gets blunter: “Domestic politics interceded: The Israelis have a lot of influence with Congress, and in some cases they are able to buy influence.”

Zbigniew Brzezinski in Zbig: Israelis “bought influence” and outmaneuvered Obama – Salon, January 20, 2012 (via memeorandum)

No doubt, next week Brzezinski will tell Gary Rosenblatt that he meant to say "engineer influence," not "buy influence."

4) The Islamists won, but don't fear all will be well

The Guardian reports Egypt election results show firm win for Islamists (via memeorandum):

The Muslim Brotherhood, which was banned under Mubarak's regime, won the biggest share of parliamentary seats (38%), according to the High Elections Committee. Its Freedom and Justice party (FJP) has named Saad al-Katatni, a leading Brotherhood official who sat in the old parliament as an independent, as speaker of the assembly.

The hardline Islamist Al-Nour party came second with 29% of the seats. The liberal New Wafd and Egyptian Bloc coalition came third and fourth respectively.

The result means that Islamists will wield major influence over a new constitution, which is set to be drafted by a the country's first freely elected parliament.

Ken Roth of Human Right Watch tells us not to worry. (h/t Israel Matzav)

HRW executive director Kenneth Roth said in the group's annual report that the past year's Arab Spring pro-democracy uprisings across the region have shown it is vital for the West to end its policy of backing "an array of Arab autocrats" in exchange for supporting Western interests.

The West should also be more consistent in supporting pro-democracy forces in the Arab world and elsewhere, he said in HRW's 690-page report on human rights abuses worldwide.

"The international community must … come to terms with political Islam when it represents a majority preference," he said. "Islamist parties are genuinely popular in much of the Arab world, in part because many Arabs have come to see political Islam as the antithesis of autocratic rule."

HRW doesn't applaud all elections in the Arab world, for example it has harsh words for Iraq.

“Iraq is quickly slipping back into authoritarianism,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director for the New York-based group. “Despite U.S. government assurances that it helped create a stable democracy (in Iraq), the reality is that it left behind a budding police state.”

Iraqi officials could not be immediately reached for comment.

Protests against Iraq’s U.S.-backed and democratically elected government erupted around the country in February 2011, partly inspired by demonstrations elsewhere in the Arab world.

Clearly things are not proceeding as hoped in Iraq and the criticism is justified. But is there a reason to criticize Iraq but does that justify turning a blind eye to the Islamist victories across the Middle East? Or is this just another rebuke of the war to defeat Saddam?

5) A few more notes about CJR

On Friday I critiqued an article by Neil Lewis at the Columbia Journalism Review about the New York Times' coverage of Israel. Honest Reporting noted that the print edition had an offensive cartoon included. David Bernstein was less critical of the article than I was, but he observes that Lewis neglected to mention that Chris Hedges headed the New York Times Middle East Bureau at the time Deborah Sontag was reporting. Finally, CJR identified Lewis as being a 2010 Shorenstein fellow at Harvard. According to the Center's website Lewis was a fellow in the Spring of 2011. That's a nitpick, but a publication devoted to journalism ought to be able to get easily verifiable details correct.

About Barry Rubin

Prof. Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center, editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal, and a featured columnist for PajamasMedia at http://pajamasmedia.com/barryrubin/. His latest books are The Israel-Arab Reader (seventh edition), The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Wiley), and The Truth About Syria (Palgrave-Macmillan)