Posts Tagged ‘al jazeera’

Fisk: "Saudi Arabia & Qatar funding a ‘resistance’ – without apparently caring very much who the "resisters" are!"

July 22nd, 2012 Comments off

“… His story was as revealing as it was frightening. Damascus was about to be attacked. But the fighters were out of control. There were drug addicts among them. “Some of our people are on drugs,” the visitor said. “They will take anyone out. We can’t guarantee what some of these men will do. If they went into Malki [a mixed, middle-class area of central Damascus], we couldn’t protect any of the people who live there. We are against the Salafists who are fighting – there are good Syrians, Druze and Ishmaeilis [Alawites] who are with us. But if we capture Damascus, we don’t know how to run a small town, let alone a country.”
It was a true civil war story. There were bad guys among the good guys and good guys among the bad. But sectarianism is biting into the Syrian revolution. At the end of last week, one Syrian told me that “they are bayoneting people in the villages around Damascus”. Women, they say, have been raped outside the city of Homs – one estimate puts the number of victims as high as 200 – and the rapists are on both sides…….
….this initially took the form of unarmed demonstrations across the country – provoked by the torture and murder of a 13-year-old boy by secret policemen in Deraa in March last year – armed men did appear rapidly on the streets of some towns. There is video footage of gunmen on the streets of Deraa that same month and al-Jazeera footage of armed men fighting Syrian troops just across the northern border of Lebanon in April 2011. Mysteriously, al-Jazeera chose not to broadcast it.
Now, of course, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, where al-Jazeera is based, make no secret of the funds and weapons they are running into Turkey and Lebanon for the resistance – without apparently caring very much who the “resisters” are. The Lebanese army managed to stop one out of five shiploads of guns, but the others, carried on Sierra Leone-registered vessels, were able to unload.
One of the two organisations that claimed responsibility for last week’s Damascus bombing, Liwa Islam – the Islam Brigade – raises again the Salafist element in Syria’s armed opposition. One newly arrived refugee from Syria told me last week that they have forbidden alcohol and openly say they intend to die fighting in Damascus. Given the savage response of the Syrian regime, they may get their last wish.”

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"Palestinians pressured not to seek international probe into Arafat’s death"

July 12th, 2012 Comments off
Peter sent me this: “Thought you might be interested in this piece. China’s Xinhua News Agency has recently taken a higher profile in its Middle East reportage. It’s just my personal impression, but I think the Chinese government is trying to take a more active role in the Middle East and also sees al Jazeera’s recent credibility issues as a chance to put Xinhua forward as a quality news source for the ME (as well as helping the Syrian government get its message out in the face of massive Western disinterest).”

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Votes that count… this time in Egypt

June 24th, 2012 Comments off


I am starting to write this post before the “official” results of the Egyptian election are said to be announced at 3 pm Egyptian time. As one twitter message on Al Jazeera just suggested, “I bet the world can hear the heartbeats of 80 million Egyptians.” With the heartbeat of Mubarak so close to closure, the irony in this statement does not escape me. Will it be Morsi, who virtually all the unofficial accounts indicate won the vote, or Shafiq, the epitome of the old guard that the revolution was supposedly ousting? I have no crystal ball and I have no doubt that votes can be manipulated (especially after having lived through the 1980 U.S. election in which our Supreme Court elected GWB (not the bridge) in full view). So as soon as I see the results across my screen, I will stop in my tracks and note the “winner.” I suspect that Morsi will be declared victor, as there have no doubt been negotiations behind the scenes to ensure that the military maintains its power. By recognizing Morsi, the military will be praised for not stealing the election, even though they have already stolen the power of the president. I also suspect that U.S. officials are pulling for Morsi as well, as that will lessen the chances for riots and will finally create a situation where the Brotherhood must put up or shut up.

Can the Brotherhood revitalize Egypt’s economy? This is the relevant question. An Islamic state in the image of Iran (which is not likely to happen unless the Fatimids regain power in Cairo) would not solve the problem of jobs. Egypt relies heavily on its greatest natural resource, apart from its people: an extraordinary history that the world adores and invites tourism. Tourists will only flock to Egypt if it is a safe environment with plenty of liquor flowing in the major hotels. Despite the number of veiled women in the streets, this is after all the country that Nasser built. Socialism may be passé, but the world that Umm Kulthum sang about lives on and this is not one that was around in the 7th century.

Much has been written about the Brotherhood, both pro and con. Apart from partisan Islamophobes, it is clear that Morsi is not Mullah Umar of the Taliban. If you were to poll Egyptians about the desire to see all statues of Ramses blown up, as happened to the Bamiyan Buddhas, I doubt you would find many who would applaud such an absurd idea. Islam is the dominant religion in Egypt, but the Pharaohs still reign in Egyptian hearts. To the extent that Egyptians view their cultural origins as Umm al-Dunya, they are not about to do in their mother. The Pyramids have survived for some five millennia, before Judaism, Christianity or Islam. They are more than likely to survive all three of these major monotheisms in their present form.

Time is twittering away, at least for me on a picture-perfect weather Sunday morning in New York. The hour of 3 pm in Cairo (9 am EST) has come and gone, but ma’a laysh. Inshallah the results will be out soon. Meanwhile, while browsing the Arabic edition of Al-Ahram, I see the picture (below) of Morsi.


Al-Ahram reports that Morsi will be making a speech after the announcement,no matter which way it goes. This picture is fascinating. Morsi does not look very Brotherhoodish here and stands securely in front of the national symbol of Egypt. He sure looks like a winner here and I will hedge my bets and say that I think he will be the announced winner. But we await the official results, or at least the right kind of twitter… I see via twitter that the announcement is about to be made. Listening to the live broadcast on Al Jazeera… Long winded and driving everyone crazy… and we hear that the election commission has been guided by Allah (now that’s a change)… Millions of people watching and this gets dragged out in a boring monotone and with self promotion that nobody cares about… this will make a great Adel Iman film… or maybe it is one …

And the winner is … Morsi!

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Afghan photographers shoot to glory

June 18th, 2012 Comments off

Al Jazeera English, Afghan photographers shoot to glory:

This interesting article is illustrated with a slideshow of excellent photos.
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The sadness of Egypt’s presidential election

June 17th, 2012 Comments off


Above, a picture of a voter by Nehal ElSherif, on Flickr — via Elijah Zarwan who comments “He looks like you just caught him selling out his conscience.”

Al Jazeera’s Sherine Tadros writes:

As I was crashing to make the deadline for my elections piece on the first day of voting, I trawled through the raw pictures the cameraman had collected from various polling stations looking for that classic woman-holding-up-purple-finger-and-smiling shot.

I didn’t find it. There were lots of purple fingers (the ink stain you get showing you’ve voted) but nobody held theirs up to the cameraman with pride, the hallmark shot of previous election days.

There is a distinct lack of energy or enthusiasm surrounding this vote. It’s safe to predict that most of those eligible to vote will not cast their ballots this time around – a mixture of apathy, confusion and active boycott.

There are of course those who tell me they are voting Mohamed Morsi or Ahmed Shafik out of conviction but ask a few more questions and you’ll find the conviction is more about the other not winning than belief in the candidate they are voting for.

For many others, the deep seated depression surrounding the vote comes from the realization that whoever wins, it’s the military rulers or SCAF that will end up running the country.

February 12th was not the start of a transition to democracy, it was a military takeover.

Yes, it was a military takeover. One many hoped would end the chaos mostly promoted by the security services in their panic, and that could provide a safe transition back to civilian rule. The mistake was to trust them. In this election, SCAF gets to define the powers of the president depending on which candidate wins.

On another note, I am rather tired (and know many others who also are) of the purple-finger chasing craze that started with the Iraqi election. There’s no need to go to polling stations. The fraud, if there is any, will be way too subtle to be detected by wandering through. The fraud in this election is not necessarily in the electoral process, it’s in the electoral context and the meta-politics of this “transition.”

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June 15th, 2012 Comments off
A. wrote me this first review of Al-Mayadin:  “I just saw al-Mayadeen for the first time (saida), Sami Kulaib is such a good host, he knows how to run a debate, and the level of discussion is really high (compared to al-Jazeera and even western channels) and they do actually bring differing viewpoints – to an extent. Also, the little I’ve seen of their syria coverage seems to give the impression of credibility.”

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Arabic Really Must Still Be Dying: Even the New York Times Says So

June 12th, 2012 Comments off

It’s been a while since we’ve had a “death of Arabic imminent” article, which I always enjoy dissecting; purists have been complaining about the threat to the language since the lexicographer Ibn Manzur back in the 13th century, when Persian was threatening it. These days the culprits are usually English or French, or the spoken dialects. You can find many of my earlier comments on these types of articles (a surprising number of which are published in the Middle East in either English or French, apparently without a sense of irony).

But it must be true. Now even The New York Times says so.

Actually, the key point that is apparent in the article but not in the headline is that this is talking about the Gulf, where English has long been the primary language of higher education, and where Modern Standard Arabic is often neglected after the primary grades. It’s not surprising that graduates of some of the (US) universities in Doha have to offer courses to train Qataris and other Arabs to speak media Arabic well enough to appear on Al Jazeera. If (Modern Standard) Arabic really is under threat anywhere in the Arab world, it’s the Gulf (and maybe still Algeria, where French still holds elite dominance).  The University of Qatar is switching its language of instruction to Arabic, and the Saudis and others are placing new restrictions on English.

So I won’t be as snide about the “death of Arabic” theme as I usually am: in the Gulf, the story is not so exaggerated.

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Ex-Al Jazeera DG claims Egypt has become a "tool for dictators"

June 10th, 2012 Comments off

A former director general of the Al-Jazeera television network, Wadah Khanfar has revealed that the Egyptian state has become a "tool for dictators", and if the Brotherhood candidate loses, it would b
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at Al Aqsa Mosque: ‘Assad is not a ‘kafir’; NATO is your door; al Qaradawi fooled you & Al Jazeera is a fraud!’

June 6th, 2012 Comments off

Grandma, A Thousand Times

June 2nd, 2012 Comments off

Al Jazeera has posted a wonderful Lebanese film by Mahmoud Kaabour about his grandmother in Beirut. This is well worth watching.

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