Thursday, April 25, 2013

Mideast Media Sampler 4/25/13: In Canada, More Simplistic Explanations To Deny Terrorism

by David Gerstman, contributing blogger at Legal Insurrection

1) Shia is Shia and Sunni is Sunni and never the twain shall meet 

A couple of Al Qaeda terrorists were arrested in Canada. So of course, expect the LA Times to start its account with this: 
Police in Canada said Monday that two men suspected of plotting to derail a passenger train were guided by Al Qaeda elements in Iran, but the statement surprised many experts who study terrorism in the Middle East and Iran. “It frankly doesn’t compute for me,” said Barbara Slavin, a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council. "If there is any link, I would think it was extremely tangential." 
Iran and Al Qaeda have frequently had chilly relations, according to Slavin and other experts. Iran is majority Shiite, while Al Qaeda is firmly Sunni. In Syria, Al Qaeda has jumped into the fray alongside opposition fighters while Iran has backed President Bashar Assad. Iran has also held Al Qaeda members in the country under house arrest, monitoring their activities. Documents confiscated from Osama bin Laden's hide-out in Pakistan and released last year suggested discord between the two.
Of course, if Iran denies it, it must not be true. 
Iran FM: "most hilarious thing I've heard in my 64 years," adding that AQ link to Iran is "truly ridiculous."
— Jonathan Schanzer (@JSchanzer) April 23, 2013
But wait. 
Iran-AQ cooperation. Where have I heard that before? Oh, yeah. 9/11 Report. Multiple Treasury designations...
— Jonathan Schanzer (@JSchanzer) April 22, 2013

AQ members forged contacts with Iranian regime in Lebanon in the 1990's. Many fled Afghanistan post- 9/11 for safe haven in Iran.
— Michael Ross (@mrossletters) April 24, 2013

2) Our good friend is good friends with Hamas 

I was very happy that Secretary of State Kerry told President Erdogan not to visit Gaza. It was the right sentiment. However, diplomacy only works when a country has influence. Jonathan Tobin observes in Turks show Kerry who's boss
President Obama’s brokering of what we were told was a rapprochement between his friend Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was considered a great diplomatic achievement. But even though the United States continues to act as if that phone call actually did change something, virtually everything Turkey has done in the weeks since that conversation has served to expose this claim as a fraud. The latest instance of the Turks throwing cold water on these expectations came yesterday when the Erdoğan government rebuked Secretary of State John Kerry for having the nerve to ask that the Turkish leader forebear from undertaking a state visit to Gaza. The Turkish insistence on going ahead with a gesture designed to prop up the Islamist dictators of Gaza shows that the entire premise of Kerry’s plan for a new bout of Middle East peace negotiations is based on false hopes and misperceptions. While Kerry already seemed to be setting himself up for failure with the Palestinians, the umbrage expressed by Ankara seems to indicate that more is wrong here than the new secretary’s faith in shuttle diplomacy. It’s not only that the administration seems blind to the realities of the Middle East. The former senator, who thinks of himself as a skilled and sophisticated envoy to the world, is handicapped by his blind faith in diplomacy and determination to ignore the power of Islamist ideology. And as this latest spat with Turkey illustrates, that failure may lead to Kerry making a bad situation even worse.
Look who's celebrating. 
#Hamas Celebrates Erdogan Gaza Trip As End of U.S. Hegemony
— The Tower (@TheTowerDotOrg) April 24, 2013
3) The politicized marathon 

This past Sunday there was a Bethlehem marathon. The LA Times issued a press release on behalf of the organizers ran a story about it
With the Boston Marathon bombings on their mind, hundreds of Palestinian and international runners participated Sunday in what was billed as the first Palestinian marathon. The Right to Movement Palestine Marathon kicked off in front of the Church of the Nativity in the biblical city of Bethlehem in the West Bank. Before it began, Jibril Rajoub, head of the Palestinian Olympic Committee, asked runners to bow their heads in silence for one minute in remembrance of the Boston Marathon victims.
Wow, they're so pro-American! Since the story was about a Palestinian triumph, it wouldn't be complete without a villain. 
Twenty-six runners from the Gaza Strip were denied permission to cross from the Palestinian territory to the West Bank through Israel to take part in the marathon.
The article misses a few relevant points. For example, there was an earlier scheduled Palestinian marathon that was cancelled. The New York Times reported at the time
The ban is the latest in a series of decisions by Hamas, which governs here, seeking to enforce tougher Islamic strictures on an already conservative society. But some of the measures have been unpopular, and enforcement has ebbed and flowed. 
But that would have put a damper on things, wouldn't it have? There's another element missing. Dan Diker wrote
If The Palestine Marathon had nothing to do with politics, it had everything to do with political warfare. It is likely the first marathon in the history of modern sports that categorically prohibited runners from Israel from taking part, banning Israeli Jews, Muslims and Druse athletes. Palestinian Olympic committee member Itidal Abdul- Ghani told The Times of Israel on April 22, a day after the race, that “Israelis weren’t welcome to join the marathon while their military occupies Palestinian lands.” Haaretz reported that a number of Israeli runners were turned back and their registration fees returned. The Palestinian Authority’s marathon policy places them in the company of the Iranian and Syrian regimes, whose BDS (Boycott, Divestments, Sanctions) sport campaigns prohibit their athletes from competing against Israelis and punish them for violating the boycott.
Evelyn Gordon added
Israel’s incompetence, however, doesn’t excuse the international media’s decision to report only the ban on Gazans, and not the ban on Israelis. By any objective standard, the latter was actually more newsworthy. After all, Hamas-run Gaza is openly at war with Israel, but the Palestinian Authority is supposedly Israel’s “peace partner.” Shunning one’s “peace partner” is surely more noteworthy than shunning an enemy. Yet only the Israeli media deemed it worth mentioning.
But why rain on the Palestinians' marathon?  

4) O'Malley's retort 

I'm not a big fan of Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley, but he deserves credit for his comeback to a reporter the other day. Jodi Rudoren reported In Israel, O’Malley Talks Jobs, Foreign Policy and, of Course, 2016
A reporter pointed out that on his way into Bethlehem, he would see the controversial separation barrier Israel has erected in the West Bank. Mr. O’Malley said he had seen something similar in Northern Ireland. “They call it the peace wall,” he noted.
Why is it that a reporter asked that question. I thought that they were supposed to report the news, not make it. But the response is a good one. There are a number of fences on international borders or dividing hostile ethnic groups, but only Israel's - built in self defense - is considered by some to be "controversial." It was good that O'Malley taught the reporter that.

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