Friday, February 01, 2013

The Middle East Media Sampler 2/1/13: Israeli Soccer And New York Times Racism

From +David Gerstman:
1) Reflected attitudes

The New York Times reported, Some Fear a Soccer Team’s Racist Fans Hold a Mirror Up to Israel:
The angry, defiant exchanges that punctuated Tuesday night’s unusually tense game here came amid intense protests by Beitar Jerusalem supporters over the team owner’s plans to recruit two Muslim players from Chechnya. Some young men had unfurled a banner at the previous game declaring “Beitar pure forever,” which reminded many here of Nazi Germany’s purging of Jews from athletics in 1933 and prompted statewide discussion about racism on and off the field.“People in Israel usually try to locate Beitar Jerusalem as some kind of the more extreme fringe; this is a way to overcome the embarrassment,” said Moshe Zimmermann, a historian at Hebrew University who specializes in sports. “The fact is that the Israeli society on the whole is getting more racist, or at least more ethnocentric, and this is an expression.” Reaction to the purity banner, perhaps the most controversial in a series of Beitar outbursts, was swift. One of the fans who made the sign was arrested and banned from games for the season. Fifty more were barred from Tuesday’s match, along with banners of all kinds, and the team was fined about $13,500, amid concerns that the episode could threaten Israel’s scheduled hosting of a European Under 21 soccer tournament in June.
In response, Lori Lowenthal Marcus wrote in NYT: Fans Mirror Israel’s Racism—Ignores Europe’s Hate Stadiums:

When Beitar management last week brought in two Muslims from Chechnya to join the team, the response by the haters was ugly, if not unexpected. Despite official efforts to celebrate the inclusion of Muslims into the Beitar family as an important Israeli value, some fans responded at a game over the weekend with shameful calls for "Beitar purity," and unfurled a vicious banner: "Beitar, pure forever." But today's New York Times story about the incident is shocking in its narrow focus and excessive reliance on Israel haters to suggest that the racism of the worst Beitar fans accurately reflects Israeli society. Rabbi Abraham Cooper of the Simon Wiesenthal Center told The Jewish Press by telephone from Berlin, "You want to know what "mirrors" Israeli society? Walk in the Mamilla Mall on a Saturday night, Arabs and Israelis, Muslims and Jews, all strolling, eating and shopping together - that's the mirror of Israeli society."
While the focus of her article is what the antisemitic attitudes that the New York Times missed, this point by Mrs. Marcus is important. By focusing on a minority of Israelis and using selective sources to project those attitudes to the larger society, the New York Times reflects its attitude towards Israel. To the Times Israel is assumed to be the sinner, unless shown otherwise.

An interesting contrast can be drawn to an article from nearly a year and a half ago in the Times, Beyond Cairo, Israel Sensing a Wider Siege. In discussing the siege and sacking of the Israeli embassy in Cairo, the reporter wrote:
But as the months of Arab Spring have turned autumnal, Israel has increasingly become a target of public outrage. Some here say Israel is again being made a scapegoat, this time for unfulfilled revolutionary promises. But there is another interpretation, and it is the predominant one abroad — Muslims, Arabs and indeed many around the globe believe Israel is unjustly occupying Palestinian territories, and they are furious at Israel for it. And although some Israelis pointed fingers at Islamicization as the cause of the violence, Egyptians noted Saturday that Islamist groups, including the Muslim Brotherhood, distanced themselves from Friday’s protests and did not attend, while legions of secular-minded soccer fans were at the forefront of the embassy attacks.
(Contrary to the implication of this article, calls for attacking the embassy did come from the Muslim Brotherhood.) Note the contrast with the recent article on the Beitar Jerusalem fans. In addition to explaining the attack on the embassy as being anti-Israel not antisemitic, the article justifies the antisemitic attitude. Instead of taking an aberration and projecting it onto the whole society, the New York Times took pains to explain away a society's hatred of Israel and Jews.

2) What about 1701?

The New York Times reported Syria Says It Has Right to Counterattack Israel:
But military analysts said that the Israeli jets’ flight pattern strongly suggested a moving target, possibly a convoy near the center, and that the Syrian government might have claimed the center was a target to garner sympathy. Hitting a convoy made more sense, they said, particularly if Israel believed that Hezbollah stood to acquire “game-changing” arms, including antiaircraft weapons. Israeli leaders declared days before the strike that any transfer of Syria’s extensive cache of sophisticated conventional or chemical weapons was a “red line” that would prompt action. 
Hezbollah — backed by Syria and Iran — wants to upgrade its arsenal in hopes of changing the parameters for any future engagement with the powerful Israeli military, and Israel is determined to stop it. And Hezbollah is perhaps even more anxious to gird itself for future challenges to its primacy in Lebanon, especially if a Sunni-led revolution triumphs next door in Syria. 
But if weapons were targeted, analysts said, it is not even clear that they belonged to Hezbollah. Arab and Israeli analysts said another possibility was that Syria was simply aiming to move some weapons to Lebanon for safekeeping. While there are risks for Hezbollah that accepting them could draw an Israeli attack, said Emile Hokayem, a Bahrain-based analyst at the International Institute for Strategic Studies, there is also an upside: “If Assad goes down, they have the arms.”
In the whole discussion about the meaning of the target and its implications, one detail is missing: where is resolution 1701 - the resolution ending Israel's war with Hezbollah in 2006? The provisions of 1701 include:
14. Calls upon the government of Lebanon to secure its borders and other entry points to prevent the entry in Lebanon without its consent of arms or related materiel and requests Unifil as authorised in paragraph 11 to assist the government of Lebanon at its request; 
15. Decides further that all states shall take the necessary measures to prevent, by their nationals or from their territories or using their flag vessels or aircraft; 
a. the sale or supply to any entity or individual in Lebanon of arms and related materiel of all types, including weapons and ammunition, military vehicles and equipment, paramilitary equipment, and spare parts for the aforementioned, whether or not originating in their territories, and; 
b. the provision to any entity or individual in Lebanon of any technical training or assistance related to the provision, manufacture, maintenance or use of the items listed in subparagraph (a) above, except that these prohibitions shall not apply to arms, related material, training or assistance authorised by the government of Lebanon or by Unifil as authorised in paragraph 11;
Israeli efforts to prevent arms transfers to Lebanon would seem to be justified by the language of this resolution. See Elder of Ziyon for a similar observation.

At the end of his assessment of the Israeli strike, Barry Rubin writes:
While much of the Syrian opposition is radical Islamist or even part of al-Qaeda, Sofrin continued, that is a new threat but not an immediate threat like that emanating from Hizballah. However, given the likelihood of the regime being overthrown and replaced by a government that is led by the Muslim Brotherhood and, either willingly or because it is unable to prevent them from doing so, gives a free hands to Salafist groups or even al-Qaeda affiliates, Israel cannot predict what its security situation will be like with Syria a year from now. Note that if al-Qaeda gets its hands on chemical weapons — and that means deadly nerve gasses — this would be a direct threat to the United States and other Western countries as well as to Israel.
The New York Times also provided a similar assessment attributed to Boaz Ganor at the end of its article about the more general threat Syria chemical weapons could pose in the future.

Tony Badran makes a an interesting inference from this air strike:
Why Hezbollah chose to smuggle these systems at this moment is unclear. It could simply be that, having engaged in such transfers of its assets in Syria for a good year now without any Israeli interdiction, it thought it might be another routine operation. That Israel was able to obtain such detailed intelligence is a testament to its penetration of the organization. What’s more, although Israel prepared itself for possible retaliation, the lack of hesitance in taking out the convoy, on Syrian soil, underscores Hezbollah’s predicament. With its Syrian strategic depth in shambles, the Party of God is not in a position to start a major war with Israel.
3) The Islamists in government

Khaled Abu Toameh writes about the Talibanization of Gaza:
Those who thought that Hamas would ever establish a modern and liberal regime in the Gaza Strip received another reminder this week of how the radical Islamist movement is pursuing its effort to create a Taliban-style entity in the territory that has been under its control since 2007.  
The reminder came in the form of a decision taken by the Al-Aqsa University administration in the Gaza Strip to force female students to dress in accordance with Islamic teachings. This means that all female students would be required to wear the hijab or niqab which cover their heads and faces.
Remember the predictions about how the responsibilities of governing were going to moderate Hamas? Meryl Yourish does. Perhaps that should be a lesson regarding Egypt. (h/t Daled Amos)

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