Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Soccer Dad's Mideast Media Sampler, 8/15/12

Today's sampler and analysis of Mideast media content from my pal Soccer Dad:

1) The Washington Post surpasses the New York Times

Thirty years ago if you asked me, I would have said that the editorial position of the New York Times was more sympathetic to Israel than that of the Washington Post. Things have changed a lot. Yesterday's New York Times editoiral, Israel and Iran was neatly summed up by Jonathan Schanzer:
It's wrong to talk about pre-empting someone threatening to shoot you when you can still try to reason with him.
In other words, the Times was arguing that Israel is a greater threat to the stability of the Middle East by even thinking of responding militarily to the Iranian threat, than Iran itself is.

Today's Washington Post argues U.N. Chief should boycott Tehran conference:
THE UNITED NATIONS Security Council has repeatedly voted for sanctions to deter Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. The five permanent members of the Security Council plus Germany have devoted years of diplomacy to slowing Iran’s quest for an atomic bomb. The hints from Israel of impatience with all this, and a desire for a military strike, are growing.
All of which makes it passing strange that Ban Ki-moon, the United Nations Secretary General, might appear in Tehran to attend the conference of the Non-Aligned Movement, which opens Aug. 26. Already, the street lamps are being painted and hotels prepared for the arrival of heads of state as the Islamic republic thumbs its nose at Western sanctions and isolation. Iran is taking over chairmanship of the movement for the next three years.
Perhaps Mr. Ban entertains a hope that he can single-handedly persuade Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to end their quest for nuclear weapons. That assumes that the United Nations leader has more clout than anyone else who has tried. We’re told that Mr. Ban sees this as a crucial moment for a diplomatic last-ditch effort. But it doesn’t seem even remotely likely to succeed.

There are no illusions here, except, perhaps, that the U.N. and its Secretary General are relevant. But the editors of the Washington Post understand who presents a threat to the Middle East and that the likelihood that further negotiations will help is remote.

2) Making excuses

Last week it was reported that two men were arrested for their role in the 2000 lynching of two soldiers in Ramallah.
The suspects were apprehended in June as part of a larger operation against Hamas terror cells operating in Ramallah and the Binyamin region. It was following their arrest that the two men confessed to taking part in the barbaric murders nearly 12 years ago.
“We notified the families of the victims about the arrests after the investigation, and before publication of it. We acted with sensitivity,” said police spokesman Dudi Asraf.
Yossi Avrahami and Vadim Nurzhitz had mistakenly reached a Palestinian checkpoint in October of 2000 and were subsequently taken to the Ramallah police station. As word spread around the city that Israelis were being held inside the station, a mob approached and proceeded to engage in what British photographer Mark Seager said “was murder of the most barbaric kind.”

Since these two confessed, presumably this is the first time they were apprehended and neither is the member of the gang who was released as part of the Gilad Shalit exchange last October. Remarkably relatives of Nurzhitz (Norzich) made Aliyah as a response to his brutal murder.

At the time of the lynching, the late Scott Shuger wrote an excellent analysis of the press coverage, Making Excuses for Ramallah.
All this points to the trouble newspapers have with two key ideas. First, their dedication to objectivity commits them to fairness, and second, if a newspaper is going to be fair, then every news story in it must be fair. These principles are subtly false. True objectivity entails being fair in the way you conceive stories and execute them. That is, you should ensure that all the players are given a chance to explain themselves, but having done that, if you discover that someone's action can't be explained away, that some violent act in the story really is worse than some other, it's wrong to add or spin material in order to smooth everything out again.
When a story turns out not to have two sides, it's the antithesis of objectivity to supply both. A newspaper achieves fairness by a sustained effort over time at seeking out all sides and aspects of a subject. But on any given day an honest effort at fairness may result in a news story in which one side is right and the other wrong. Thinking a balanced paper is built out of only balanced news stories is like thinking a round house is built out of round bricks.

3) Lone Soldiers

Jodi Rudoren wrote an excellent profile of the recent group of "lone soldiers" to make Aliyah, Enlisting From Afar for the Love of Israel:
Part of a growing cadre of what are known as lone soldiers, they left behind parents, girlfriends, cars and stuffed animals to become infantrymen, intelligence officers, paratroopers and pilots in a formerly foreign land. All told, according to a military spokeswoman, Israel has enlisted 8,217 men and women from other countries since 2009, 1,661 of them from the United States, second only to Russia’s 1,685.
They receive a host of special benefits: three times the typical soldier’s salary, a personal day off each month, a free flight home and vouchers for holiday meals. But with few exceptions for dual citizens from certain countries, they serve side by side in even elite combat units with native Israelis drafted out of high school.
“Their motivation is often way higher than the average Israeli,” said Col. Shuli Ayal, who oversees the lone-soldier program. “They want to make their service as meaningful as possible.”
Aside from a paragraph about Israel's "identity crisis," this is an excellent overview of those who choose to make Aliyah.

4) Morsi's motivations

Thomas Friedman tweeted a recommendation of Hussein Ibish's analysis of Mohammed Morsi's dismissals of top Egyptian military officials. Though Ibish mostly seems to cast the struggle between Morsi and the old order, he concludes:
Assuming that the military and, for the meanwhile, the courts, allow Morsy's decisions to go effectively unchallenged, Egypt, in effect, has a new dictator, albeit an elected one. Beyond the urgent need of restoring legislative authority through new elections, the power struggle in Egypt will increasingly focus on the crafting of the new constitution, which will either produce a system that involves real checks and balances or which consolidates yet another system in which the presidency wholly dominates the political system.
It would seem that the latter possibility is more likely.

Meryl Yourish looks at the evidence and sees a cynical ploy:
What I’m thinking is that Morsi has to be seen as harsh on Gaza–for now. Sixteen Egyptian soldiers were murdered as they sat down to their break-fast meal during Ramadan. The Egyptian populace is furious. So Morsi has found a scapegoat (the generals), shut down the Rafah crossing because the jihadis got help from there, and now is going to play a waiting game. When the furor dies down, look for Rafah to reopen and Hamas to become in good odor again.
What I see is something I don’t like at all. I see Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood laying the groundwork for a war with Israel. They are going to try to get Israel to agree to let them have more and more militarization of the Sinai, which would be yet another border that Israel would have to defend if things come to war.
And let’s face it: It’s not a stretch to think that the MB was somehow involved with the terror attack. It was going against Israel, after all, and all of the jihadis have shown that they don’t care if they murder their own on the way to murdering Jews. We’re all “infidels,” after all.

(Also see Daily Alert.)

This might sound familiar. Back in January, Barry Rubin observed:
In meeting Haniyeh at the Brotherhood’s new headquarters’ building, the Brotherhood’s leader Muhammad al-Badi, said that Hamas had been a role model for the Brotherhood. While this might be mere flattery it might be noted that Hamas first won an election, then went into a coalition with a “more moderate” partner (Fatah), and then staged a coup to seize complete power. That’s an interesting precedent for Badi to cite.
Haniyeh described Hamas as the Palestinian branch of the Brotherhood. Referring to their alliance Haniyeh said, “Our presence with the Brotherhood threatens the Israeli entity.” It certainly does since Hamas will enjoy the Brotherhood’s full support in its anti-Israel activities including the use of violence and, probably, in the event of any future war with Israel.
Since the Brotherhood will be the main party in parliament that also expresses Egyptian policy, however circumscribed it might be by the army and by a non-Brotherhood president. Of course, there might be a Brotherhood president, too.
(At the time the Brotherhood claimed that it would be fielding a presidential candidate.)

Elder of Ziyon finds support for this view of things.
According to multiple articles, Tantawi said that he had evidence that the militants who were attacking Egyptian soldiers and others in the Sinai came from Gaza, and he insisted that the Rafah crossing be closed once and for all because of the magnitude of the threat to Egyptian national security.
Morsi, who had made promises to Hamas to enlarge the Rafah crossing, responded that Palestinian Arabs would never accept such a closure.
This would support the view that Morsi's declared closure is a temporary measure.

Morsi's move against Egypt's military leadership seems to be a way of solidifying the Muslim Brotherhood's hold on Egypt and its relationship with Hamas.

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