May 25, 2016

Middle East Media Sampler #17

1) Where no king has gone before

new theme park based on Star Trek is planned in Jordan

The “Red Sea Astrarium” will be built in the country’s sole port of Aqaba, 350 kilometres (217 miles) south of Amman, spanning 184 acres (74.4 hectares), and will include a Star Trek-themed centre.

“Revolving around ancient history with Nabatean, Babylonian, British and Roman influences,” the park is scheduled for opening in 2014, according to Jordan’s Rubicon Group Holding (RGH), which announced the plan.

No word if this will have any effect on the anti-government protests.

2) The report of my death …

In Syria -

Former Syrian Defense Minister Ali Habib appeared on Syrian state-owned television Wednesday in order to dispel rumors of his death, which were published by websites affiliated with Syrian opposition groups.
“My health condition has kept me from continuing in my position, and I was hospitalized for a few days in order to receive treatment,” he explained.

In Libya

Khamis Gadhafi’s appearance at a Tripoli hospital on Tuesday, if genuine, would make the first time he has been seen in public since the reports of his death. The younger Gadhafi was shown visiting several people wounded in a NATO airstrike. The footage could add to the troubles of the opposition, raising questions about the veracity of their reports even as they try to shore up their image after Younis’ killing through the Cabinet reshuffle.

3) Fantasy and history

August 12, 2000 cited by MEMRI

Arafat told Clinton in this regard: “I am a religious man, and I will not allow it to be written of me [in history] that I have… confirmed the existence of the so-called temple underneath the mountain.”

August 10, 2011 from an AP report with accompanying photographs in the Washington Post (via Daily Alert)

On Monday, archaeologists from the Israel Antiquities Authority unveiled a sword found in the tunnel late last month, measuring 24 inches (60 centimeters) in length and with its leather sheath intact. The sword likely belonged to a member of the Roman garrison around the time of the revolt, the archaeologists said.
“We found many things that we assume are linked to the rebels who hid out here, like oil lamps, cooking pots, objects that people used and took with them, perhaps, as a souvenir in the hope that they would be going back,” said Eli Shukron, the Israel Antiquities Authority archaeologist in charge of the dig.
The archaeologists also found a bronze key from the same era, coins minted by rebels with the slogan “Freedom of Zion,” and a crude carved depiction of a menorah, a seven-branched Jewish candelabra that was one of the central features of the Temple.

4) The Fate of the Palestinians

Anthony Shadid and David Kirkpatrick report in the New York Times, In Tumult, New Hope for Palestinian Cause

In all the tumult of the Arab revolts, one of the most striking manifestations of change is a rejuvenated embrace of the Palestinian cause. The burst in activism in Egypt, Lebanon and even Tunisia has offered a rebuttal to an old bromide of Arab politics, that authoritarian leaders cynically inflamed sentiments over Israel and Palestine to divert attention from their own shortcomings.
But the embrace of the issue also helped confirm its status as a barometer of justice and freedom for many Arabs and Muslims. And now, the demands of an empowered public raise the possibility of a significant change in the region’s foreign policies which, at least tacitly, capitulated to the dictates of the United States and Israel.

In Tunisia, activists have insisted on an article in the Constitution banning normalization with Israel and making support for Palestinians state policy. Through a vibrant social media network, Lebanese and Palestinian youths have organized marches and sought ways to have a greater say in decisions of the Palestinian leadership. Protesters in Egypt have urged officials to let boats sail from Egyptian ports to break the partial blockade against Gaza; one boat docked in Alexandria last month before the Israeli military boarded and seized it.

Shadid and Kirkpatrick make the purpose of their report clear: it’s “a rebuttal to an old bromide,” but is it?

An appropriate question about this assertion is: Is it possible that Arab leaders who held power without regard to the will of the people on anything else, respected the will of their citizenry on the issue of the Palestinians?

The example from Tunisia is instructive. Banning normalization with Israel, is not primarily motivated by support of the Palestinians, but by hatred of Israel and Jews. Anti-Zionism and antisemitism has been part of every Arab nation. The problem is that this is one facet of the older governments that the reformers refuse to change. (If the reformers advocated closer ties with Israel and fought antisemitism, it would be a surer sign that they were agitating for freedom and not just a new boss not much different from the old boss.) In Egypt the support for Gaza is based on a common ideology between the ascendent Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and Hamas in Gaza.

Shadid and Kirkpatrick carefully construct their narrative, but they ignore too much. This is agenda driven journalism rather than straight reporting. It’s pretty clear that they are trying to create a new bromide: that a Palestinian state is essential to assuring that the “Arab spring” achieves true freedom and that this is a priority of the protesters.

4) Now you see Israel

(h/t Challah Hu Akbar)

At the Weekly Standard, an observation that the State Department is lining up with the rest of the administration in the Zivotofsky case.’

5) Sol Stern vs. Jeremy Ben Ami

Jeremy Ben Ami recently published a book, “A New Voice for Israel” and is promoting it in sympathetic media outlets.

It was recently brought to my attention that Sol Stern wrote a rather harsh critique of Ben Ami and his politics. (h/t Benjamin Weinthal)

But it takes a huge historical leap and considerable conceit to suggest that there is any valid comparison between J Street’s political movement of today and Jeremy’s father’s struggles in the 1940s to alert Americans to the ongoing destruction of European Jewry. For daring to advance their own ideas about the best way to rescue the endangered Jews of Europe, Yitzhak Ben-Ami and his Irgun colleagues were subjected to calumny and dirty tricks directed against them from mainstream Jewish leaders like Rabbi Wise.  These leaders betrayed their moral obligation to forcefully advocate the rescue of Jews in Nazi occupied Europe because of their lack of political imagination and a cowardly unwillingness to challenge a popular American president.
The situation today is almost reversed. Whatever else one might say about AIPAC and the current “establishment,” American Jewish leaders have apparently learned the dreadful lessons of the 1940s. On the other hand it is the J Street “dissidents” who seem indifferent to the fact that Israel’s five million Jews are threatened with either physical destruction or politicide by a new international coalition of Jew haters. In that circumstance it is perfectly reasonable for American Jews to express their solidarity with whatever government Israelis have chosen (at the ballot box) to lead them in the current emergency.

It’s ironic but appropriate for Sol Stern to observe the political migration of the Ben Ami, because he undertook a similar journey – in the other direction. Stern document his changing views on Israel in 2003, in Israel without apology.

When I returned to Berkeley, I wrote about my visit for Ramparts, the flagship publication of the New Left, of which I had been an editor. Thanks to my leftist bona fides on virtually every other issue, I had permission to deviate from the party line on Israel. It was the first and last time that anything remotely sympathetic to the Jewish state appeared in Ramparts or in any other New Left journal.
Still, my article was no ringing endorsement of Israeli policies—only an effort to convince my fellow leftists that Israel was more complicated than their vulgar Marxist categories allowed. For authority, I cited the work of Marxist historian Isaac Deutscher, an icon of our antiwar movement, who during the 1950s had expressed sorrow that his doctrinaire anti-Zionism had kept him from urging European Jews to go to Palestine, where they might have escaped the gas chambers. I also profiled some of the Israeli leftists I had met on my trip, including Ran Cohen. I hoped Ramparts readers would find themselves moved by this sympathetic Israeli radical, experiencing the demonization of his country by the same international Left he nevertheless pined to join.
In my quest to convince the Left on Israel, I made sure to distance myself from the neoconservative writers whose solidarity with Israel I deemed excessive. I cast them as people whose “tribal loyalties” made them unthinking cheerleaders for every Israeli government policy, as if I were apologizing for Israel’s support from the Right. I also couldn’t yet acknowledge something else I had noticed on my brief trip: Israel’s extraordinary achievements in just two decades of independence derived precisely from its embrace of such free-market, rather than socialist, values as individual merit, entrepreneurship, scientific inquiry, and technological progress.
In any event, my quest proved futile. I doubt I persuaded a single leftist to change his view. On the other hand, opponents called me a lot of names, of which “Zionist Pig” was the kindest.


About Daniel Goldstein

Daniel Goldstein is a media critic and recovering blogger. He has been critiquing media bias against Israel since his first letter to the editor in 1987.