Monday, March 05, 2012

The Middle East Sampler 3/5/2012: Palestinian TV

From DG:
1) The TV stations

Last week Israeli Troops Raid Two Palestinian TV Stations in the West Bank:
Officials at the two stations, Al Watan and Al-Quds Educational Television, said that officials from Israel’s Communications Ministry, accompanied by soldiers, spent several hours removing the equipment and documents.
The Israeli ministry said in a statement that it had repeatedly warned both stations that they were using frequencies that violated Israeli-Palestinian agreements and that interfered with communications and transmission systems in Israel. An Israeli military spokesman said the interference was affecting airplane communication at Ben-Gurion International Airport.
An Israeli military spokesman, asked why documents and hard drives were confiscated from Watan TV if the concern was about transmission frequencies, said that once the soldiers entered the premises, they noticed suspicious documents and extended what they took with them.
The Washington Post and Los Angeles Times reported on the raids too. Missing Peace points out that according to the Oslo Accords the Palestinians were authorized to have six television stations and that these two stations were not on the list. While the American newspapers were scrupulous about capturing the outrage of Palestinian officials over the raids, Challah Hu Akbar points out that the Palestinian Authority has been clamping down on media critics for years, and, especially, in recent weeks.

In addition to the arrests of journalists, since late January 2012 the Palestinian Authority, under the direct orders of Mahmoud Abbas, have targeted a number of websites critical of Abbas, specifically InLightPress. Two weeks ago, a Palestinian official admitted that the Palestinian hacked InLightPress. According to the official, InLightPress broadcasts “sedition and lies to break up the structure of Palestinian society.” As a result, the official said that “It is our right to defend ourselves against this malicious and suspicious campaign.”The official also said that the attacks against Mahmoud Abbas are coming at a bad time because the Palestinians are seeking to wage a diplomatic campaign against Israel.
2) When the music stops ...

Barry Rubin concludes in The New Middle East: Arab versus non-Arab Muslims; Sunni versus Shia:
This is the new Middle East, quite different from the region as understood for the last sixty years. The battle for predominance among the three strong Arab nationalist regimes—Egypt, Iraq, and Syria—has now given way between Sunni and Shia blocs. Increasingly, Arab assessments of threats from Egypt in the west to the Persian Gulf on the eastern end barely mention Israel at all.
Michael Young looks at how the current revolution in Syria might play out:
Some Lebanese minority leaders are looking afar for new friendships. Walid Jumblatt and Samir Geagea visited Iraqi Kurdistan in recent months. Both men are astute enough to sense that the Kurds will be big players during the coming decade, and are unlikely to fall under the thumb of Islamists. Jumblatt and Geagea support the Syrian uprising, but are also aware that the policies pursued by the Assad regime, as well as the aid Syria’s opposition is receiving from Qatar and Saudi Arabia, may cede the initiative to Islamists and Salafists, who are as hostile toward the Druze as toward the Maronites. In such circumstances, novel minority alignments may prove useful in the event communal self-preservation becomes the name of the game. 
Christians have used the fate of their coreligionists in Iraq as a cautionary tale for what awaits minorities in the Middle East. That’s a shallow way of looking at things. Minorities – Kurds, Shiites, Druze, Alawites and Christians in general – will be vital in defining what occurs next in the region. Be that good or bad, to assume that an iron curtain of Sunni Islamism will necessarily descend on us all is to underestimate the influence of those, secular Sunnis and Islamist Shiites included, who reject such an outcome.
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