Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Gaza Flotilla, US Media Coverage and Pakistanis

Aaj TV's Talat Hussain and his producer Raza Mahmood Agha, and Nadeem Ahmed of Khubaib Foundation are three Pakistanis who joined the Free Gaza Flotilla to deliver humanitarian aid to the Gazans who have been under siege since 2007. All three were on one of the six ships that included the Turkish ship that was brutally attacked by the Israeli commandos yesterday, claiming the lives of nine peace activists on board.

The latest reports indicate that all three Pakistanis were detained by the Israeli commandos, and are now at the Jordanian embassy in Tel Aviv. Their arrival in Pakistan is expected on Wednesday.

Pakistani government has strongly condemned the Israeli assault on Gaza aid boats and murder and detention of activists in international waters as "a flagrant violation of international law and norms."

"It is a sad incident. The people and government of Pakistan strongly condemn it. There is no moral and legal justification for it," Pakistani prime minister Yousuf Raza Gilani told GeoTV.

"The killing of members of this humanitarian mission, which also included women, is brutal, inhuman and constitutes a flagrant violation of international law and norms," Pakistan's foreign ministry statement said.

William I. Robinson, a Jewish-American Professor at University of California at Santa Barbara, has compared Gaza with Nazi concentration camps in Europe. "Gaza is Israel's Warsaw -- a vast concentration camp that confined and blockaded Palestinians. We are witness to a slow-motion process of genocide," he wrote last year.

Most of the powerful American news bureaus and offices in the Middle East are staffed by pro-Israeli Jewish-Americans. And the editorial control of reporting from the Middle East is also retained by Jewish-Americans and their allies in the United States. For example, New York Times Jerusalem Bureau chief Ethan Bronner is a Jewish-American whose son is currently serving in the Israeli military.

The Israeli Lobby has reliable allies in the mainstream American media: the debate among Middle East pundits, the journalist Eric Alterman writes, is "dominated by people who cannot imagine criticizing Israel".

Here is how Professors John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt describe the US media bias for Israel:

Alterman lists 61 "columnists and commentators who can be counted on to support Israel reflexively and without qualification". Conversely, he found just five pundits who consistently criticize Israeli actions or endorse Arab positions. Newspapers occasionally publish guest op-eds challenging Israeli policy, but the balance of opinion clearly favors the other side. It is hard to imagine any mainstream media outlet in the United States publishing a piece like this one.

"Shamir, Sharon, Bibi – whatever those guys want is pretty much fine by me," Robert Bartley once remarked. Not surprisingly, his newspaper, the Wall Street Journal, along with other prominent papers like the Chicago Sun-Times and the Washington Times, regularly runs editorials that strongly support Israel. Magazines like Commentary, the New Republic and the Weekly Standard defend Israel at every turn.

Editorial bias is also found in papers like the New York Times, which occasionally criticizes Israeli policies and sometimes concedes that the Palestinians have legitimate grievances, but is not even-handed. In his memoirs the paper’s former executive editor Max Frankel acknowledges the impact his own attitude had on his editorial decisions: "I was much more deeply devoted to Israel than I dared to assert … Fortified by my knowledge of Israel and my friendships there, I myself wrote most of our Middle East commentaries. As more Arab than Jewish readers recognized, I wrote them from a pro-Israel perspective."

As expected, the pro-Israeli western media are already busy full time spinning the news of the Gaza Flotilla tragedy as part of their usual campaign to justify all Israeli atrocities.

I see parallels between the Indian and Israeli methods of organizing what Professor Paul Brass calls "production of violence" and the role of the mass media in creating justification for it. All one has to do is substitute "Israeli-Palestinian violence" for "Hindu-Muslim riots", and the deliberate attempts to mislead, and blame the victims in each case, become obvious. Here's Paul Brass's description of what is often dishonestly called "Hindu-Muslim riots":

"Events labeled “Hindu-Muslim riots” have been recurring features in India for three-quarters of a century or more. In northern and western India, especially, there are numerous cities and towns in which riots have become endemic. In such places, riots have, in effect, become a grisly form of dramatic production in which there are three phases: preparation/ rehearsal, activation/enactment, and explanation/interpretation.1 In these sites of endemic riot production, preparation and rehearsal are continuous activities. Activation or enactment of a large-scale riot takes place under particular circumstances, most notably in a context of intense political mobilization or electoral competition in which riots are precipitated as a device to consolidate the support of ethnic, religious, or other culturally marked groups by emphasizing the need for solidarity in face of the rival communal group. The third phase follows after the violence in a broader struggle to control the explanation or interpretation of the causes of the violence. In this phase, many other elements in society become involved, including journalists, politicians, social scientists, and public opinion generally.

At first, multiple narratives vie for primacy in controlling the explanation of violence. On the one hand, the predominant social forces attempt to insert an explanatory narrative into the prevailing discourse of order, while others seek to establish a new consensual hegemony that upsets existing power relations, that is, those which accept the violence as spontaneous, religious, mass-based, unpredictable, and impossible to prevent or control fully. This third phase is also marked by a process of blame displacement in which social scientists themselves become implicated, a process that fails to isolate effectively those most responsible for the production of violence, and instead diffuses blame widely, blurring responsibility, and thereby contributing to the perpetuation of violent productions in future, as well as the order that sustains them."

As the world seeks to find out the full details of what really happened on the Turkish ship yesterday, a powerful campaign is already well underway by the pro-Israel US media to control the explanation of "violence" to suit the Israeli narrative of the latest massacre of unarmed peace activists by the Israelis.

Although the Pakistani media have only a tiny fraction of the power and the reach of the American media, it will still be interesting to hear the eyewitness accounts by Talat Husain and his fellow Pakistani reporters on the scene in the Mediterranean at the time of the Israeli commando assault.

Related Links:

Pictorial Review of Young Gaza Victims

Israel's Gaza Attack is Criminal, Not Defensive

Is Obama True Friend of Israel?

Who Rules America?

The Nakba

Warsaw's Nazi Concentration Camp

Pakistani Media Revolution


Haseeb said...

Another timely article! It is a disgrace that many Arab countries have very timid response to this atrocity. See some interesting editorials on this incident.

Patrick Cockburn: PR dangerously distorts the Israeli sense of reality http://bit.ly/cNNKkA

Mark Steel: Of course, they were asking for it http://bit.ly/ddPXW0

Louise Arbour: Good may yet come of this tragedy for Gaza http://bit.ly/dppBf4

Robert Fisk of The Independent: Western leaders are too cowardly to help save lives http://bit.ly/cWisKR

Operation Mini Cast Lead by Gideon Levy of Haaretz in Israel http://bit.ly/9pXTO7

Mayraj said...

# Israeli ambassador to US compares Gaza attack to fight against Nazi Germany
# This isn't America or Europe, it is the Middle East, where there is no mercy for the weak, says Israeli defence minister
# Israel bows to world pressure and deports activists seized in botched raid


Zen, Munich, Germany said...


while you are right to point out the obvious US media bias against Palestinians or Arabs, there has never been a time in the history when Arabs and Muslims looks better positioned - thanks to increasing Muslim participation through Web 2.0 and cable TV. Many of pro Israeli articles appear in Australian and Canadian blog columns written by Coolie witers affiliated to pro Jewish newspapers, apart from needless to say the American ones. The way they tried to defend the indefensible clearly smells desperation. If they dare to call a group comprising 3 German MPs and a Nobel laureate Al Qaeda terrorists, Israelis themselves seem quite desperate.

Over the last two days, I read and participated extensively in many of the heated discussions in the blogs of Reuters, CNN, WSJ, The Economist and many smaller blogs. One thing I clearly noticed - many of the pro Israeli posters are full time propagandists either directly employed by Israelis or probably some other Jewish organization. Many of them have almost computer generated like usernames, multiple posts were being made in the same second, often slowing down the whole website.

Another funny thing - as a comic relief in otherwise heated debates, there were many upper caste Hindutwa bigmouths who posted enormously dumb comments which advertized their bigotry and a general lack of grip of the reality and complexity of middle east issue(eg: it was funny to see why they always brought up Mughal invasion by "Mohemmadans" into the middle east issue even though that was clearly off topic). It was funny to watch them struggling to show that they are more pro-Jewish than Jews themselves. Even though I assume that most Western readers may have shrugged their comments off as a nuisance, I saw occasionally Turkish and Chinese posters humiliating them by pointing out their meaningless rantings.

Riaz Haq said...


Thank you for your insightful comment on what's happening cyberspace.

Cyberspace is starting to be dominated by more professional propagandists working for governments such as Israel's. Images are proving to be more powerful than words, with each side promoting their narrative.

Youtube videos are a particularly powerful tool as produced and being used by the Israeli military to promote their lies.

Here's an excerpt from a report in today's New York Times:

"The flotilla videos have proved a popular draw online, with one from the Israel Defense Forces attracting more than 600,000 views on YouTube. Scenes from both perspectives have been shown in a continuous loop on television news programs all over the world, stirring public outrage.

But what is missing so far from the flotilla clips on both sides is context: it is difficult to establish the sequence of events or, more simply, to determine who attacked first. The videos have made it all the more murky.

“On a matter like this, public opinion is awfully important, in terms of determining which image is really going to last,” said Jim Hoge, the editor of Foreign Affairs, who observed that there had been a gradual increase in the use of video clips to bear witness and shape opinion.

“First it was people in crowds with mobile phones,” he said, speaking about the Neda video. “Now, as is so often the case, governments catch up and begin to use the tools for their own purposes.”

Activists do, too. The flotilla’s organizers, from Insani Yardim Vakfi, the Free Gaza Movement and other groups, were Webcasting live from the open seas as the confrontation started, using the services of Livestream, a New York-based company that hosts free Webcasts.

The organizers “chose to make their trip to Gaza a media event,” said Max Haot, Livestream’s co-founder. Aboard the ship was a “full multicamera production,” he said, uplinked to the Internet and to a satellite that allowed news channels to rebroadcast live pictures of the raid in progress.

The Israeli military has used its YouTube channel to post nearly 20 videos, sometimes enhanced by graphics and captions, trying to show that its soldiers were acting in self-defense.

Representatives of the Israeli military and the Free Gaza Movement did not respond to interview requests about their media operations on Tuesday".

Unknown said...

Please read: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Megaphone_desktop_tool. You will be shocked at the extent to which these propagandists go these days. Like the Israeli general said, it IS essentially an information war.

Riaz Haq said...

Razz: "You will be shocked at the extent to which these propagandists go these days. Like the Israeli general said, it IS essentially an information war."

Thank you for sharing the link.

Here's the gist of it:

According the Jerusalem Post, Amir Gissin, head of the Public Affairs Department of the Foreign Ministry of Israel, has expressed support for the tool's use. "The Foreign Ministry itself is now pushing the idea, urging supporters of Israel everywhere to become cyberspace soldiers in the new battleground for Israel's image." it reports.

Computing website The Register has described use of the software as "highly organised mass manipulation of technologies which are supposed to be democratising" and claimed Megaphone is "effectively a high-tech exercise in ballot-stuffing" The Register also reported that the BBC History magazine website "noticed an upsurge in voting on whether holocaust denial should be a criminal offence in Britain. But the closing date had already passed and the result had already been published, so the votes were invalid anyway." Stewart Purvis, former editor-in-chief of ITN, has noted that an independent panel reviewing the BBC's Israeli-Palestinian coverage received a large number of letters from North America which accused the BBC of being anti-Israeli. He states there was evidence of "pressure group involvement".[13]
[edit] Commercialization
Main article: Collactive

Following the success of the Megaphone tool, the developers formed the company Collactive.[14] In 2007, Collactive released their "Web Assistant", a general-purpose commercial version of the Megaphone tool.

The tool has received a wide range of reactions, from praise to criticism. Amir Gissin, head of the Public Affairs Department of the Israeli Foreign Ministry, praised the tool, noting its efficacy during the Adnan Hajj photographs controversy in obtaining an admission from the Reuters news agency that a photograph by Adnan Hajj had been improperly edited with photo editing software.The tool has similarly been praised by a number of pro-Israel organizations for helping to fight what they perceive to be anti-Israel media bias. At the same time, it has been criticized by Independent Television News, and others for stuffing the ballot of online polls, generating excessive comments and 'spam' on internet message boards, and stifling online discussion. Critics have also noted that the tool is not limited to pro-Israel lobbying, with a hacked version called "Hacking for Lebanon" providing an online lobbying tool for the other side, using GIYUS's own action alerts.

Zen, Munich, Germany said...

Razz: In the media war, Palestinians have an inherent disadvantage as they dont have a real state and no money for doing this. Arab regimes who could have filled this vacuum are puppets, much of the reason for the anger of Arab streets. Turkey is essentially trying to fill this vacuum as is Iran. Some of the principled European Governments like Sweden may be more fair to Palestinians than Egypt or Jordan.

Wikipedia Arab-Israeli and Islam related articles are full of propaganda from professional full time Jewish editors who influence the article to such an extent that Wikipedia is no longer considered as a Reliable source of information. Some of the pages look more like the website of ADL or AIPAC. Here there is another disadvantage - propaganda machinery like JPost, FOX are considered as "reliable source" by Wikipedia whereas Islamonline etc. are considered unreliable(well, see the stupid name of the latter ;-))
If Muslims want to defend their legitimate causes in Cyberspace(which would completely replace print media in a few decades) and effectively retaliate against the anti Muslim venom disguised as Free speech through Web 2.0(what I call "Hate 2.0"), they will need lots of creativity and imagination and to some extent educate themselves about reality. Banning Facebook like Pakistan did is the dumbest thing one can do.

Riaz Haq said...

The Israeli spin-Machine is in overdrive, says former US Senator JAMES ABOUREZK in a piece he wrote for Counterpunch:

Armed Israeli commandos, the elite of the elites, rappelled to the deck of a Turkish ship carrying humanitarian relief supplies to the 1.5 million prisoners in the Gaza concentration camp.

Although the Israelis did not see the attack as an attack, but an action only to defend themselves, as only Israelis have a right to do. It is a right that Palestinians do not have, nor do the other activists who were attempting to deliver the supplies to the Gazans It appears, from the scanty non-Israeli news available, that the Turkish ship was some 40 miles or more off the coast of Gaza, and that the activists aboard were not armed, except with kitchen knives and some clubs lying around the ship that they could round up when they were surprised by the Israeli commandos.

In the melee that followed, nine activists were dead -- mostly Turkish -- and several were wounded. Reports tell us that several of the brave elite commandos were also injured, one of them with gunfire from a gun an activist took away from one of the commandos. The Israeli propaganda spin machine was ready in an instant to spin the news their way about the incident. They were said to be, of course, entitled to defend themselves, a mantra chanted over and over again by the Israeli talking heads we’ve seen on American television. Listening to these commentators’ paeans to Israel’s conduct, It's very much like listening to a bully who, after punching someone smaller in the jaw, requires the victim to apologize for getting his face in the way of the bully's fist.

Even more thrilling were the American television commentators becoming instant pro- Israeli dittoheads, the very same characters they laughingly bring up when discussing Rush Limbaugh. One of the first stories attributed to the Israeli propaganda machine was that the commandos were armed only with paint guns--you know, the kind of weapons red-blooded American middle-aged men use to shoot at each other on weekends here in America. We all know how harmless they are. Somehow the Israeli government was unable to stop a couple of reports which told of the commandos whining that they were set upon by these radical terrorists with metal clubs and knives.

President Obama took a strong stand against violence. He did not actually say, "why can’t we all just get along?" But when he expressed his regrets over the loss of life, a whiff of Rodney King's famous words blew over the airwaves.

What is desperately needed now is legal advice from Alan Dershowitz , perhaps America’s top Israel apologist. If you remember, Dershowitz was the legal expert who once wrote in the New York Times that, not to worry, the Israeli Supreme Court was always there to protect the rights of the Palestinians living under occupation. We are certain that the Israeli Supreme Court is sincere in its efforts to protect the rights of the Palestinians living under the illegal occupation, but it's obvious that no one has told the Court about the Palestinian home demolitions, the Palestinian olive trees uprooted by Israeli settlers, and the multiple beatings visited on Palestinians who tend to object to being treated like subhumans.

anoop said...

Number of protests about atrocities by Israel vs number of protests about atrocities by Taliban in Pakistan. Which is greater?

I am not defending Israel's actions or the Taliban's but there is a double standard here.

Riaz Haq said...

anoop: "Number of protests about atrocities by Israel vs number of protests about atrocities by Taliban in Pakistan. Which is greater?"

Pakistanis are doing far more than protest against Taliban; they are overwhelmingly supporting the military in the war against Taliban.

Israel, on the other hand, has been getting away with mass murder, terror and torture unleashed on the Palestinians (and peaceful protesters) with active support from the US and western members on the UN security council.

Riaz Haq said...

Neocons in Washington have launched orchestrated attacks against Turkey for its criticism of Israel and Security Council vote against Iran sanctions, according a report in Asia Times:

As the right-wing leadership of the organized United States Jewish community defends Israel against international condemnation for its deadly seizure of a flotilla bearing humanitarian supplies for Gaza, a familiar clutch of neo-conservative hawks is going on the offensive against what is seen as the flotilla's chief defender, Turkey.

Outraged by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's repeated denunciations of the May 31 Israeli raid, as well as his co-sponsorship with Brazil of an agreement with Iran designed to promote renewed negotiations with the West on Tehran's nuclear program, some neo-conservatives are even demanding that the US try to expel Ankara from the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) as one of several suggested actions aimed

at punishing Erdogan's AKP (Justice and Development Party) government.

"Turkey, as a member of NATO, is privy to intelligence information having to do with terrorism and with Iran," noted the latest report by the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs (JINSA), a hard-line neo-conservative group that promotes US-Israeli military ties and has historically cultivated close ties to Turkey's military, as well.

"If Turkey finds its best friends to be Iran, Hamas, Syria and Brazil (look for Venezuela in the future) the security of that information (and Western technology in weapons in Turkey's arsenal) is suspect. The United States should seriously consider suspending military cooperation with Turkey as a prelude to removing it from the organization," suggested the group.

Its board of advisers includes many prominent champions of the 2003 Iraq invasion, including former Defense Policy Board chairman Richard Perle, former Central Intelligence Agency director James Woolsey, and former United Nations ambassador John Bolton.

Neo-conservative publications, notably the Wall Street Journal, the Weekly Standard and the National Review, have also been firing away at the AKP government since the raid.

"Turkey now represents a major element in the global panorama of radical Islam," declared the Standard's Stephen Schwartz, while Daniel Pipes, the controversial director of the Likudist Middle East Forum, echoed JINSA's call for ousting Ankara from NATO and urged Washington to provide direct support for Turkey's opposition parties in an article published by the National Review Online.

The Journal has been running editorials and op-eds attacking Turkey on virtually a daily basis since the raid, accusing its government, among other things, of having "an ingrained hostility toward the Jewish state, remarkable sympathies for nearby radical regimes, and an attitude toward extremist groups like the IHH [Insani Yardim Vakfi - the Islamist group that sponsored the flotilla's flagship, the Mavi Marmara] that borders on complicity."

On Monday, it ran an op-ed by long-time hawk Victor Davis Hanson that labeled the IHH "a terrorist organization with ties to al-Qaeda", while an earlier op-ed, by Robert Pollock, its editorial features editor, called Erdogan and his Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu "demagogues appealing to the worst elements in their own country and the broader Middle East".

Meanwhile, in an op-ed published by The Forward, a Jewish weekly, Michael Rubin, a Perle protege at the American Enterprise Institute, accused Turkey of having "become a conduit for the smuggling of weapons to Israel's enemies", notably Lebanon's Hezbollah.

Riaz Haq said...

George Freidman of Stratfor in his book "The Next 100 Years" says the Islamic World will recover from the current chaos imposed by the United States in its conflict with al Qaeda. He also argues that Turkey, not Pakistan, Indonesia, Iran, or Egypt, will emerge as a great world power, and the leader of the Muslim world.

Here's how Friedman describes the four great powers of the twenty-first century:

"Japan, Turkey, and Poland will each be facing a United States even more confident than it was after the second fall of the Soviet Union. That will be an explosive situation. As we will see during the course of this book, the relationships among these four countries will greatly affect the twenty-first century, leading, ultimately, to the next global war. This war will be fought differently from any in history—with weapons that are today in the realm of science fiction. But as I will try to outline, this mid-twenty-first century conflict will grow out of the dynamic forces born in the early part of the new century."

Riaz Haq said...

Mark Glenn Piece Contd:

For supressing the information from the American people of your involvement in the September 11 attacks and sending us in the wrong direction in search of answers, we bless thee.

For using one of your agents in the US Army Weapons Lab, Lt Colonel Philip Zack to steal anthrax and distribute it into our mail system, terrorizing US citizens and killing several in order to blame the Arabs, we bless thee.

For using your agents in the US Government, namely, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Perle, Abrams, and the rest into initiating this war in the Middle East so that you could bring to heel all the enemies you have made during the last 50 years, we bless thee.

For using your agents in the media to lie to us on a minute by minute basis about the war, how "just" this cause is, and what the real reasons behind it are, we bless thee.

For using your agents in the Christian Evangelical community, such as Falwell, Graham, Swaggert, and the rest who praise you as God's chosen people and further keep Americans in the dark about who you really are, what you have done, and what you are truly about, we bless thee.

For bringing idiots like Limbaugh, Liddy, Hannity, Beck, and Savage to the forefront as paid liars that will support you and further lead Americans astray, we bless thee.

For making America your attack dog, and for sending her sons and daughters to fight and die in all your future wars, we bless thee.

For using your influence in the media to hide the real statistics about the war, the dead and wounded on both sides, we bless thee.

For using us in such a way that not only further inflames the Arab world against us, but as well has succeeded in our alienating ourselves against those nations with whom we have been friendly for over a century, we bless thee.

And finally, for using your influence in our media and academia to flood our minds with pornography and lies, as well as inculcating in us a hatred for our history, religion, and culture, for dividing our nation between races and sexes, and for releasing into our society all of your plagues and filth that have left us a rotted out corpse of a once great nation, oh Israel, our friend,we bless thee.


For further information regarding the above cited events, read either books written by ex- Israeli Intelligence agent Victor Ostrovsky entitled "By Way of Deception" and "The Other Side of Deception".

Riaz Haq said...

Here is a piece by Robert Fisk in the Independent newspaper about Israeli and western spin with repetition of the terror in the aftermath of Gaza Flotilla massacre by the Israeli commands. This could easily be applied to the Indian and western propaganda against all things Pakistan or Muslim:

Following the latest in semantics on the news? Journalism and the Israeli government are in love again. It's Islamic terror, Turkish terror, Hamas terror, Islamic Jihad terror, Hezbollah terror, activist terror, war on terror, Palestinian terror, Muslim terror, Iranian terror, Syrian terror, anti-Semitic terror...

But I am doing the Israelis an injustice. Their lexicon, and that of the White House – most of the time – and our reporters' lexicon, is the same. Yes, let's be fair to the Israelis. Their lexicon goes like this: Terror, terror, terror, terror, terror, terror, terror, terror, terror, terror, terror, terror, terror, terror, terror, terror, terror, terror, terror, terror.

How many times did I just use the word "terror"? Twenty. But it might as well be 60, or 100, or 1,000, or a million. We are in love with the word, seduced by it, fixated by it, attacked by it, assaulted by it, raped by it, committed to it. It is love and sadism and death in one double syllable, the prime time-theme song, the opening of every television symphony, the headline of every page, a punctuation mark in our journalism, a semicolon, a comma, our most powerful full stop. "Terror, terror, terror, terror". Each repetition justifies its predecessor.
Most of all, it's about the terror of power and the power of terror. Power and terror have become interchangeable. We journalists have let this happen. Our language has become not just a debased ally, but a full verbal partner in the language of governments and armies and generals and weapons. Remember the "bunker buster" and the "Scud buster" and the "target-rich environment" in the Gulf War (Part One)? Forget about "weapons of mass destruction". Too obviously silly. But "WMD" in the Gulf War (Part Two) had a power of its own, a secret code – genetic, perhaps, like DNA – for something that would reap terror, terror, terror, terror, terror. "45 Minutes to Terror".

Power and the media are not just about cosy relationships between journalists and political leaders, between editors and presidents. They are not just about the parasitic-osmotic relationship between supposedly honourable reporters and the nexus of power that runs between White House and State Department and Pentagon, between Downing Street and the Foreign Office and the Ministry of Defence, between America and Israel.

In the Western context, power and the media is about words – and the use of words. It is about semantics. It is about the employment of phrases and their origins. And it is about the misuse of history, and about our ignorance of history. More and more today, we journalists have become prisoners of the language of power. Is this because we no longer care about linguistics or semantics? Is this because laptops "correct" our spelling, "trim" our grammar so that our sentences so often turn out to be identical to those of our rulers? Is this why newspaper editorials today often sound like political speeches?

For two decades now, the US and British – and Israeli and Palestinian – leaderships have used the words "peace process" to define the hopeless, inadequate, dishonourable agreement that allowed the US and Israel to dominate whatever slivers of land would be given to an occupied people. I first queried this expression, and its provenance, at the time of Oslo – although how easily we forget that the secret surrenders at Oslo were themselves a conspiracy without any legal basis.

Riaz Haq said...

The western media coverage of Pakistan is almost always one dimensional, and sometimes downright venom-filled, as the piece (and its accompanying illustration of scorpion) from the Economist titled "Land of the Impure" shows in abundance. Here is an excerpt from it:

THREE score years and a bit after its founding, Pakistan—which means land of the pure—still struggles to look like a nation. Economically backward, politically stunted and terrorised by religious extremists, it would be enough to make anyone nervous, even if it did not have nuclear weapons. For these shortcomings, most of the blame should be laid at the door of the army, which claims, more than any other institution, to embody nationhood. Grossly unfair? If the army stood before one of its own tribunals, the charge sheet would surely run as follows:

One, a taste for military adventurism on its “eastern front” against giant India, which has undermined security, not enhanced it. No adventure was more disastrous than the one in 1971, which hastened the loss of East Pakistan, present-day Bangladesh. More recently, in 1999, General Pervez Musharraf, then army chief, sent troops into Indian-controlled Kashmir without deigning to inform the prime minister, Nawaz Sharif. Mr Musharraf thus forced a confrontation between two nuclear states. It was an international public-relations debacle for Pakistan. Today the army remains wedded to the “India threat”. India, meanwhile, for all its gross abuses in Kashmir, is more concerned about economic development than invading Pakistan.

Two, endangering the state’s existence by making common cause with jihadism. This policy started with General Zia ul-Haq’s “Islamisation” policies in the late 1970s. After the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan in 1979, Pakistan (along with the CIA) financed the Afghan mujahideen opposition. The policy turned into support for the Taliban when the movement swept into power in the mid-1990s. Taliban support continues today, even though Pakistan is America’s supposed ally in Afghanistan’s anti-Taliban counterinsurgency. A new report by the London School of Economics claims that not only does Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) spy agency finance the Afghan Taliban, but the ISI is even represented on the Taliban’s leadership council. The claims have been loudly rejected, but in private Pakistani military men admit that corners of the army do indeed help the Taliban.

For years both Islamist and liberal generals have also backed jihadists fighting for a Muslim Kashmir. Though vastly outnumbered, the militants have managed to tie down a dozen Indian army divisions. Mr Musharraf and an aide once joked about having such jihadists by their tooti—ie, literally, “taps”, by which he meant their private parts.

Riaz Haq said...

Egypt is easing Gaza restrictions, according to a report in The Independent:

A declaration by Egypt that it will permanently open its crossing into Gaza to ease the blockade on the territory has fuelled concerns in Israel about the future direction of Cairo's foreign policy.

Nabil al-Araby, Egypt's foreign minister, told Al-Jazeera that his country would take "important steps to help ease the blockade on Gaza in the few days to come", and described Cairo's previous decision to seal the border as "shameful".

Egypt has already eased restrictions on movement across the Gaza border since the fall of the Mubarak regime. But free passage of goods and people into Gaza would be seen as a major security threat by Israel, which has argued that even with Egyptian co-operation on blocking arms shipments, Hamas was able to import weaponry into the territory and would do more without it.

It is not clear how comprehensive the opening of the crossing at Rafah will be, but Mr al-Araby's remarks follow a spate of others indicating a potential shift in foreign policy which is being closely watched in Israel.

A senior Israeli official told The Independent yesterday that the government had raised concerns with Egypt about a series of indications from Cairo that it was softening the more hostile policy maintained by the former president Hosni Mubarak towards Iran and Hamas. Both are seen by Israel as enemies.

The official said that Egypt, which on Wednesday said it had brokered a draft accord between the Palestinian party Fatah and its rival Hamas, had tended to respond by taking "account of public opinion now and some of that opinion is opposed to you [Israel]".

The Israeli official cited a more emollient tone in Egypt's pronouncements about Iran and a new "lenience" towards Hamas, exemplified in part by its apparent unconcern about Hamas prisoners who escaped from Egyptian jails during the uprising in February.

Although a recent poll indicated opposition to the 1979 peace treaty with Israel among a majority of Egyptians there have been no moves to annul it. But Egyptian analysts and officials say that the country is reassuming the pivotal role it once performed in the Arab world which had been hampered by the country's close diplomatic ties to Israel. "We are opening a new page," Menha Bakhoum, a spokeswoman for the foreign ministry told The New York Times. "Egypt is resuming its role that was once abdicated."