Monday, October 10, 2011

Mideast Media Sampler 10/10/2011

From DG:
1) Is Iraq the model?

Jackson Diehl asks Is Iraq the model for the Mideast after all?
It turns out that the end of autocracy in the Arab Middle East, unlike in Central Europe or Asia, will not happen peacefully. People power isn’t working. Dictators such as Assad, Moammar Gaddafi and Yemen’s Ali Abdullah Saleh, backed by mountains of weapons and armies bound to them by tribe or sect, prefer to fight to the death rather than quietly yield. Despite seeing Hosni Mubarak in his courtroom cage — or maybe because of it — they don’t shrink from crimes against humanity.

The carnage might be seen as regrettable but acceptable if the bad guys were losing. But with the notable exception of Gaddafi, they are not. Assad has been written off by most of the West’s intelligence services, but his tanks and artillery are proving more than a match for the ragtag groups of army defectors in towns such as Homs and Rastan. Saleh was nearly killed by a bomb, but on his return after three months in a Saudi hospital, forces commanded by his son still held the presidential palace in Sanaa.
Diehl, a few paragraphs later argues that, imperfect as it is, the current state of Iraq must be the envy of revolutionaries in Syria and Yemen. Diehl doesn't discuss with the problem of Iraq seemingly moving into the orbit of Iran.

2) Is there any place for Jews and Christians in the new Middle East?

Barry Rubin observed yesterday:
Christians are fleeing the Middle East and Western Christians are indifferent. More than half of Iraqi Christians, threatened with death and terrorism are out of that country, though many are in neighboring Syria. Virtually all Christians have  fled the Islamist Gaza Strip and Syrian Christians generally (though not all) support the regime there, fearing an Islamist takeover. 
But Egypt is home to millions of Christians that dwarf these numbers. In fact, the number of Christians in Egypt exceeds the populations of Israel, Lebanon, Jordan, and Tunisia. 
Copts have emigrated in the past, but they have been so rooted in Egypt as to tend to remain there.  Now the Egyptian Union of Human Rights Organizations reports that 95,000 Christians have emigrated since March 2011. If Egypt continues to look as if it is going down an Islamist road, or at least if the government and military appear ready to tolerate such assaults, one can easily imagine one million or so Copts heading for the exits in the next few years. How would Europe like to receive these people who—in contrast to many other immigrants—would be legitimate asylum seekers with a genuine fear for their lives?
Today's news: Church Protests in Cairo Turn Deadly
A demonstration by Christians angry about a recent attack on a church touched off a night of violent protests here against the military council now ruling Egypt, leaving 24 people dead and more than 200 wounded in the worst spasm of violence since the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak in February. 
Note how carefully the article blames the military council for the violence. Muslims are generally portrayed as protecting the Christians. Here's how the reporter framed the conflict:
Nada el-Shazly, 27, who was wearing a surgical mask to deflect the tear gas, said she came out because she heard state television urge “honest Egyptians” to turn out to protect the soldiers from Christian protesters, even though she knew some of her fellow Muslims had marched with the Christians to protest the military’s continued hold on power. 

“Muslims get what is happening,” she said. The military, she said, was “trying to start a civil war.”
Later on there's an acknowledgement:
The protest took place against a backdrop of escalating tensions between Muslims and Coptic Christians, who make up about 10 percent of the population. Christians had joined the pro-democracy protests in large numbers, hoping for the protections of a pluralistic, democratic state, but a surge in power of Islamists has raised fears of how much tolerance majority rule will allow.
But then it's hedged with:

But the most common refrain of the protests on Sunday was, “The people want to bring down the field marshal,” adapting the signature chant of the revolution to call for the resignation of the military’s top officer, Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi. 

“Muslims and Christians are one hand,” some chanted.
One question is whether the reporter was on the scene as the protests happened or simply interviewing witnesses after the fact, when he can be a lot more selective about what aspects of the story to emphasize.

Naharnet has a rather different approach.
Several cars were on fire in a large street next to the hospital, and Coptic protesters were tapping the cars to make petrol bombs. 
"God is with us, Christ is with us. They want that it (the state) be Islamic, but we will not leave," said one of the demonstrators. 
The Muslim protesters, for their part, chanted: "Islamic, Islamic", of their view for the Egyptian state.
The Naharnet does blame security forces for the killing of protesters, but doesn't mix in the "Muslim concern for their Christian neighbors" theme so prominently included in the New York Times report.

More from Elder of Ziyon and Israel Matzav.

Knowing that the threat of Islamization may accompany the downfall of a tyrant might be one reason why the New York Times reports Fearing Change, Many Christians in Syria Back Assad.
Abu Elias sat beneath the towering stairs leading from the Convent of Our Lady of Saydnaya, a church high up in the mountains outside Damascus, where Christians have worshiped for 1,400 years. “We are all scared of what will come next,” he said, turning to a man seated beside him, Robert, an Iraqi refugee who escaped the sectarian strife in his homeland. 
“He fled Iraq and came here,” said Abu Elias, looking at his friend, who arrived just a year earlier. “Soon, we might find ourselves doing the same.”
In fact a few years ago Keith Roderick observed:
While the Muslim population has expanded rapidly in Europe and the U.S., Christians in the Middle East have experienced a negative population-growth rate. The only country noting a positive growth rate for Christians is Israel.
(Don't worry there are still plenty of people who blame Israel for the declining Christian population in areas ruled by the PA.)

Elder of Ziyon notes that revelations in Wikileaks endanger few remaining Jews in Iraq. David Gerbi's experience in Libya may not be an isolated incident. 
Is one of the likely outcomes of the so called "Arab spring" even less tolerance for non-believers?
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