Monday, January 02, 2012

Mideast Media Sampler 1/2/12: Grapel On His Captors, Letting Air Out Of Airekat, Blanford Bland On Hezbollah and Dummies Guide To Hamas

by DG:
1) Grapel writes

Ilan Grapel wrote an op-ed In Egypt, jailed but not broken for the Washington Post about his experiences in an Egyptian jail.
On previous visits, the friendships I developed overpowered the omnipresent anti-Israel propaganda of the Arab world. Some former adherents of the Muslim Brotherhood actually wished me luck when I left to do reserve duty in Israel. Most Egyptians I met and chatted with over coffee ended our conversations by admitting to holding misconceptions about Israelis. This reinforced my hopes for common ground.
So during the summer I emphasized my Israeli background, even when I entered Egypt as an American. I identified as a Zionist Israeli to all of my Egyptian friends, taught them Hebrew and showed them Israeli movies. In return, I received lessons in Arabic, Islam and Egyptian culture.
It's hard to know what to make of the op-ed. It sounds like Grapel is both idealistic and naive. It's clear who Grapel blames:
People ask, “So what do you think of Egypt and your mission now?” My answer is constantly evolving. As my detention and recent events and repressions in Egypt make clear, the revolution brought only superficial change. The junta’s focus on external actors represents a desperate attempt to avoid culpability and abdication of power. 
Hosni Mubarak’s notorious state security forces still arbitrarily arrest Egyptians without real charges or trials (as they did me), denying anything resembling due process. Prosecutors and judges go through the motions of court proceedings, but the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces really calls the shots. 
It's also clear whom he absolves:
My hasbara provided a viewpoint that changed the mentalities of former Muslim Brotherhood members, the prosecutor and my guards, whose last words were “Shalom, we hope you forgive us.” Israelis and Arabs can continue to maintain the status quo of mutual avoidance or they can dare to coexist. To those who wrongly held me, I say simply, I forgive you.
2) Airekat's critics write 

The Washington Post published two letters to the editor in opposition to Maen Areikat's op-ed last week under the title of Missing Pages from the Palestinian history books. The first letter by Arty Berko was especially effective.
In regard to the period surrounding Israel’s establishment as a state in 1948, Mr. Areikat generically wrote that “a conflict began,” as if it came out of nowhere. The “conflict” was a war of aggression launched against the newly formed Jewish state by several Arab neighbors, including Syria, Jordan, Egypt, Iraq and Lebanon. And he then said that the trauma of that war “triggered our characteristic defense mechanism . . . stout perseverance.” 
But he conveniently omitted from his story any mention of the repeated use of global terrorism, including suicide bombings and plane hijackings, in the name of the Palestinian cause against innocent Israelis and other victims, including Americans, worldwide.
3) Badran writes about Blanford 

A few weeks the Wall Street Journal published an essay Hezbollah waits and prepares by Nicholas Blanford. Blanford concluded the essay:
The dilemma for Hezbollah is that launching a war against Israel in response to an attack on Iran will reap massive destruction on Lebanon and on Hezbollah's core Shiite constituency—all for the sake of defending the nuclear ambitions of a country lying 650 miles to the east. 
Hezbollah officials remain coy on the organization's likely reaction to an attack on Iran. Much would depend on the scale of the strike and the political situation in the Middle East. Sheikh Nasrallah recently said that neither the U.S. nor Israel is in a position to launch a fresh war in the Middle East, describing media speculation about a possible attack on Iran as "intimidation."
"Let them attack Iran. It will be great," said a young, stocky Hezbollah fighter named Khodr. "It will mean that Israel is finished."
Blanford has written a book, "Warriors of God: Inside Hezbollah's Thirty-Year Struggle Against Israel," and Tony Badran has reviewed it for the Washington Post.Badran's conclusion identifies what bothered me about the November essay:
The book’s primary weakness is that it uncritically reiterates aspects of Hezbollah’s narrative and leaves quotes by its officials to stand on their own, without analytical evaluation. For instance, at one point Blanford reproduces a claim by the group’s chief that he had turned down an attempt by the United States to “buy off Hezbollah with hundreds of millions of dollars in exchange for the party’s renouncing its struggle against Israel and dismantling the Islamic Resistance.” This dubious claim is left to stand on Hezbollah’s authority alone. The only reference to back it up is an interview with the group’s secretary general. 
Although “Warriors of God” is likely to be an important source on the subject for years to come, a comprehensive critical history of Hezbollah has yet to be written in English.
4) Hamas are no dummies, but they arrest them 

Ma'an News reports (via memeorandum):
Police sources told Ma'an that 142 fortune tellers were forced to sign an agreement at the Ministry of Interior pledging that they would not practice their craft. 
As well as predicting the future, fortune tellers sell amulets for protection and are sometimes called on to solve personal or family problems. 
Another campaign targets boutiques displaying lingerie on mannequins. Police officials told Ma'an that security forces inspected clothes shops across the Gaza Strip and warned owners not to display naked mannequins, lingerie or "indecent advertisements."
It would be easy to laugh it off, but Saudi Arabia just executed a woman for practicing "witchcraft and sorcery." CNN reported:
The London-based Saudi newspaper Al-Hayat quoted a source in the country's religious police who said authorities searched Nassar's home and found books on sorcery, a number of talismans and glass bottles filled with liquids supposedly used for the purposes of magic. The source told the paper Nassar was selling spells and bottles of the liquid potions for about $400 dollars each.
It sounds like the executed woman was practicing something very similar to "fortune telling."

In somewhat related news, Saudi Arabia is now allowing women to sell lingerie to other women.
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