Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Mideast Media Sampler 1/3/12: Being Palestinian Is A Good Career Move, The Virtue of Islamism

by DG:
1) A good career move

A few recent occurrences are worth considering.
  • Elder of Ziyon showed that Max Blumenthal is unreliable. Blumenthal, in fact, has been quoted by Arthur Brisbane and Patrick Pexton, ombudsmen of the New York Times and Washington Post respectively. This isn't the first time that Blumenthal has been caught lying. On the other hand Brisbane and Pexton are charged with insuring the integrity of the newspapers they serve. Why did they use Blumenthal as a source.

  • Last week, Israelly Cool sprung a trap on Richard Silverstein. Silverstein took the bait and published his findings only to discover that they were false. News organizations such as the New York Times (in an article lamenting the lack of civility online and presenting Silverstein as an innocent victim of incivility) and much more recently, Ynet have cited Silverstein as a source. As the sting showed, Silverstein is a lazy writer looking for a big scoop, regardless of veracity.

  • In the past six months, the New York Times has published 45 opinion pieces largely dealing with Israel. Only seven of them could be judged as being pro-Israel.
Blumenthal and Silverstein are well known anti-Israel activists. The lack of balance in the opinion pages of the New York Times can't be explained by random chance.

A long time ago, Daniel Pipes wrote that becoming a Palestinian was a "good career move."  Now we see that being anti-Israel is a good career move.

2) The virtue of Islamism

Matthew Kaminski of the Wall Street Journal editorial has long been promoting the virtues of the Islamists. Today he writes in Arab Democracy Is the Best Bet for a Muslim Reformation (available through the link here):
In any case the appeal of political Islam, which grows when religiosity is repressed by nominally secular regimes, tends to diminish over time in Muslim countries with freer politics. Why?
When the state isn't hostile to religion, ideological Islam isn't a bankable political issue. Elections usually turn on more pedestrian matters. The AKP re-election campaign last June was all about the thriving economy.  
By supporting Islamist candidates, Egyptians aren't voting for theocracy. Conservative lower- and middle-classes make up majorities that, for decades, were shut out of the establishment. To them, the Islamist brand suggests opposition to corruption and a common touch. For many, a vote for Islam was the most obvious rebuke to the ancien regime in a first free election.
This is a familiar argument - the responsibilities of governing will force the Islamists to moderate. But does it really work? Kaminski argues that the AKP's success in Turkey is the result of a thriving economy. But how does he explain that each time Erdogan and company are re-elected they further consolidate  their power?

Kaminski doesn't argue that this will be an easy transition to democracy, but there are others who see things moving their way.

For one, Iran is very happy from a strategic standpoint. Amani Maged writes in Al-Ahram:
Egypt is the most pivotal nation in the Middle East and Iran has long been looking forward to resuming normal relations with Cairo. Tehran is waiting until the new Egyptian parliament convenes and then discusses a bill to revive bilateral relations. In the several rounds of talks that have taken place between the two countries, Egyptian representatives expressed their readiness to resume relations but on the basis of a parliamentary decision, the implication being that the former regime had stood in the way of the resumption of this relationship. 
Tehran believes that Egypt's revival, in a new Islamic garb, will give extra support to Hamas and the Palestinian cause. Also, it thinks, Egypt may join the rejectionist front and revise its position on the Camp David accord. It is little wonder, therefore, that Supreme Guide Ali Khamanei declared his support for the Egyptian revolution from the outset and delivered an address in Arabic to the Egyptian people.
Maged, however, believes that Tehran misread that damage its support for Syria has done to its regional standing.

And there are clerics in Egypt who are encouraged too. (via memeorandum):
An Islamic preacher on Sunday called for the formation of a ministry to implement the teachings of Islam in schools, hospitals and in the street, similar to religious police in other countries.
...
During an appearance on Al-Hayat satellite channel, Sheikh Youssef al-Badry supported the idea, saying, "The promotion of virtue and prevention of vice is the job of prophets."
...
Countries like Sudan, Saudi Arabia and Iran have such committees, Badry said.
Maybe Kaminski will eventually be correct. But right now and for the foreseeable future the results of the Egyptian uprising have only strengthened the Islamists forces there.
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