Tuesday, July 25, 2017

The human rights poseur

Hezbollah presses to return Syrian refugees to "safe" zones where no one guarantees the safety.

He is a political hack really.  The story he cites is by a politically biased source. In reality, this plan about the relocation of the Syrian refugees has been pushed for a few years by the Awni movement and the Maronite patriarchate. (thanks Basim)

US ambassador in Lebanon refers to Charles Malik in 1960

"it is certain that we will be called upon once more to go through the not very rewarding process of convincing the Lebanese that Charles Malik’s promise of “unlimited, unconditional American aid” is a figment of Lebanese political imagination."

Richard Dawkins, again

Richard Dawkins talks about the punishment of apostasy as one of the main evils of Islam today.  Who is doing this punishment for apostasy really? Can you give us examples? This is like faulting Christians today for the crusades.

Richard Dawkins on Islam

So among his many insults on Islam and Muslims is this: "I think Islam is the greatest force for evil in the world today".  Aside for the insult, I don't understand how an avowed atheist "preacher" like him would use the world "evil".  

Richard Dawkins and KPFA

I was not surprised or furious that KPFA-Berkeley would be hosting Richard Dawkins.  I have had a very long association with KPFA and was a very frequent guest in their studios especially in the years when I lived in Berkeley.  But KPFA has changed over the years and management did not treat the staff well and there were deep organizational and political divisions, and the station drifted less progressive.  For that, I was not really surprised that they would invite Dawkins for a fund-raisiner. Can you imagine if they were to invite an anti-Semite (and Dawkins is the equivalent of an anti-Semite) for a fund raiser?

Some elements of Qatari regime media are indeed sympathetic to Al-Qa`idah

Al-Quds Al-`Arabi, one of the most sectarian Arabic newspapers publishing today is clearly and unabashedly pro-Al-Qa`idah, especially toward the Syrian branch of the terrorist organization.

The AlAzhar (the religious university which is always for sale) opens kiosks for Fatwas

I am not kidding. Al-Azhar opened kiosks to dispense fatawas on the run.  Johny-on-the-spots
would have been more useful.

From the funeral of Muhammad Jawawdeh, 16, who was shot by an Israeli embassy terrorist in Amman

It says "death to Israel".

Monday, July 24, 2017

There is a clear division in the Saudi royal family

Yesterday there was a very popular hashtag in Saudi Arabia in defense of Muhammad bin Nayif and against the leaks by Muhammad bin Salman about his drug addiction.

New York Times has a new bureau chief in Jerusalem

He has no background in Middle East studies (he has a degree in English) and has covered Hollywood and NYC prior.  That--by the standards of NYT--makes him supremely qualified for the stint.  It is not clear if he has a son--as the New York Times tradition--serving in the Israeli occupation army.

Jacobin Magazin on Khan Shaykhun

Regarding this piece in Jacobin.  Aside from the subject matter (and I personally think that Seymour Hersh's piece was not convincing and its documentation was rather unreliable or too thin), and while I  disbelieve all sides on Syria, especially the US government and its compliant Western media, it is striking that Jacobin proves that it relies on the New York Times for its analysis of Arab politics: ""Indeed, as Anne Barnard reported, the sarin attack fits into Assad’s broader strategy. " This sentence is quite classic for me. Next in Jacobin, I expect to read: as Thomas Friedman has taught us about the region, ....

Only when it comes to the Middle East, reporting rumors is acceptable news in Western media

"Yesterday in Baghdad, Iraqi actor Karar Nushi was murdered due to rumours of his homosexuality."  We still don't know why he was killed and there is no evidence that he was killed because of his looks or whatever orientation.  The article is based on wild exaggerations and unsubstantiated claims--but exactly what the West loves about writing on gender and sexuality in the region.

Mashru` Layla

I watched the latest video of Mashru` Layla, titled Roman.  It appears to me the product of a classical Orientalist fantasy, or an attempt to produce music which an Arab imagines Westerners would like (in fact, Rabi` AbuKhalil (no relation) made a career of producing music that a Westerner would like Arabic music to sound like).   And why does the Arabic in the song sounds like as if it was spoken by a Lebanese immigrant in San Paulo who has never been back in many decades?

When Lebanese nationalists invite ridicule for their bragging of Lebanese achievements

"During the campaign, Mr Trump reportedly bragged to influential guests about how many successful Lebanese friends he had. Lebanese-American businessman Thomas Barrack, who spoke at the Republican convention, is one."

This is how much the Economist knows about the Arab world

"Ever since the leading pan-Arab newspaper, Asharq al-Awsat, launched in Britain in 1978, London has served as an Arab media hub. Fleeing the censors at home, journalists found freedom in exile."  Ash-Sharq Al-Awsat is the leading Saudi regime propaganda outlet.  It is the epitome of censorship and sends the signal to other Saudi regime propaganda outlets on the new ever-changing rules of censorship.  In fact, it was launched in 1978 for a simple reason: the Saudi royalty was spending so much time in Europe and they wanted a daily Arabic newspaper because they could not read the daily foreign press.   Worse: the Economist then adds this: "Al-Hayat, was once lauded as the most professional of Arab newspapers, but now tends to toe the line." If you read Arabic you will wonder in amazement at this: when did Al-Hayat (the mouthpiece of Khalid bin Sultan since 19991) NOT toe the line?

I thought Western media trust blindly the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights?

For the last few years, Western media have been copying religiously whatever claims made by the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.  Yet, I noticed that none of the Western media copied the last release from the observatory in which it estimated that US-led coalition in Syria has managed to kill 9274 Syrian civilians since September 2014.  Is that not news for you? Can you imagine the uproar if that was by Russian bombing? Can you imagine the tears of the Western correspondents in Beirut?

Sunday, July 23, 2017

What is the US stance about the war between Hizbullah and elite Al-Qa`idah forces in Jurud `Irsal?

I am certain that although Al-Qa`idah was behind the biggest terrorist attack in the US ever, the US government and Congress are sympathetic to Al-Qa`idah against Hizbullah in the on going-war simply because Israel sympathizes with Al-Qa`idah (it is amazing how Israeli assistance and cooperation with Al-Qa`idah was not a big story in US media).  As one Arab journalist said on TV the other day, the Al-Qa`idah terrorists in `Irsal's jurud constitute the elite force of this organization. 

The Jordanian responds toughly and fiercely to Israeli violent repression of Palestinians


The New York Times explains how the "free press" operates in American democracy

"The Pentagon raised no objections with The Times before the story was published".

Guy Laron's new book on 1967: the third (and last) installment of my critical review of the book

My weekly article in Al-Akhbar: "Was the 1967 Defeat a Destiny?  Zionist Historiography and Schadenfreude".

Was it painful for Western correspondents in Beirut?

Was it painful for Western correspondents in Beirut to see footage of the flag of Al-Qa`idah being taken down from Jurud `Irsal? Was it?

Don't accuse American media of not wanting to represent the Arab and Muslim views of events in the Middle East

Here, Newsweek, being keen on having the Arab and Islamic views represented, it asked this guy to write on the subject of Jerusalem.  Who is he?  It says: "Mohammed Kaabiya is a strategic advisor on the Arab world to Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs."

Friday, July 21, 2017

The war in East Lebanon

Do you have doubt that in the war between Hizbullah-Lebanese Army against Al-Qa`idah-ISIS, that the Western correspondents in Beirut are cheering Al-Qa`idah?

US liberation of other countries continue unabated


U.S. invasion of Syria

"The list published by the Anadolu news agency points to a U.S. presence from one end to the other of the Kurdish self-administration region—a distance of more than 200 miles." (thanks Amir)

Western correspondents in Beirut can't stop weeping

"Trump ends covert CIA program to arm anti-Assad rebels in Syria"

A propaganda blitz for Israel in US media

So Israel summoned the Western media and told them that it is humanitarian and shipping aid to Syrians near the border with Golan.  Of course, in such cases, all US media oblige and report verbatim what they are fed by Israeli professional propagandists.  This reminds me of how US media reported Israeli role in the Lebanese civil war (and reporters back then were less misinformed and less pro-Israel): Israel would report that it is delving aid to the "Security Zone" near the border with Lebanon, while not reporting to the press about its shipment of bombs and arms to the right-wing death squads of Lebanon.  Look how NYT and WP reported the same Israeli propaganda talking points.

Crimes of Saudi regime--like crimes of Israel--are casually reported (and in passing)

"The Saudi-led coalition fighting Houthi rebels in Yemen prevented a U.N. flight carrying aid agency staff from traveling to the Houthi-controlled capital, Sanaa, on Tuesday because three international journalists also were aboard, aviation officials said." Can you imagine the uproar if this was an anti-US regime? HRW would have released four reports on this incident.

A man who lived in China and is fluent in Mandarin Chinese is appointed ambassador in...Russia

Jon Huntsman as ambassador to Russia

What happened on UAE and Saudi twitter and Facebook accounts has been unprecedented

Basically, while Western media continue to coverup abuses and tyranny in Gulf countries, UAE and Saudi Arabia managed to silence every single Twitter and Facebook account except the vulgar and cheerleaders of the despots.  When Sultan Al-Qassemi becomes silent on social media, you know the extent of repression.  

How China takes dissent on the internet? David Ignatius speaks

Of course, Igantious would not report on the same phenomenon by his friends, the ruling tyrants of the Gulf.

NYT's Ben Hubbard and his deep knowledge of Saudi Arabia

Correction: July 20, 2017 
An article on Wednesday about infighting among members of the royal family in Saudi Arabia misstated the relationship between Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Prince Mohammed bin Nayef. Mohammed bin Salman is Mohammed bin Nayef’s cousin, not his nephew." (thanks Basim)

Western media are clueless: you don't think that Western embassies in the ME do the same to Arab visa applicants?

Thursday, July 20, 2017

How did the Economist document its statement that Hizbullah is involved in drug smuggling? I will tell you. (Research standards of Institute of Middle East Studies at GWU)

Of course, the journalism of the Economist, especially on the Middle East, has been steadily deteriorating over the years.  Its correspondent in Beirut is now indistinguishable form other Western correspondents in Beirut (which was not the case a decade or more ago).  Look at this article which blames the drug smuggling of Captagon to Hizbullah: "But an investigation by the Institute for Middle East Studies at George Washington University concluded in 2015 that the only faction systematically involved in producing the drug was Hezbollah, an Iranian-backed Lebanese militia." Investigation, here is the paper cry the GWU's Institute of Middle East Studies.  There is no investigating whatsoever, and the paper merely cites previously published material, which in turn did not "inevestigate" the matter and did not cite one credible source.  Here is what the Institute of Middle East Studies cite: "Elizabeth Picard’s chapter on the political economy of Lebanon during and post-civil war provide a relatively clear and concise background on the relationship between Hezbollah and the Lebanese government, as well as a description of Hezbollah’s record of involvement with the drug economy.57 A joint article by Boaz Ganor and Miri Wernli takes this history and brings it to the present issue of Captagon, connecting Hezbollah’s activities in the Bekaa Valley with production of the drug in the region following the 2006 war with Israel."  Picard does not in turn one source of her chapter the book edited by Steve Hydemann, War, Institutions, and Social Change in the Middle East.  She cites the pro-Saudi newspaper, Al-Hayat, and rumors.  And I never understand why and how do scholars "investigate" financing of terrorism or matters of drug trade and such.  These are issue for lousy journalism and lousy journalism are better suited for this type of writing.    And Picard, whose previous work on Lebanon I have respected, talks about some weird association of Hizbullah being involved with a `Alawite party in Tripoli in drug, when that party was closer to Amal Movemnet.But what about the second source cited by the Institute?  What about The article by Ganor and Wernli? Here is what the article says about it: "While no direct connection between Hezbollah and Captagon within Syria has been uncovered, there is enough correlated evidence to say there is a high probability that Hezbollah is one of the major Captagon producers and traffickers. Although Hezbollah likely is the major producer and distributor in the area, there is significant evidence suggesting that other actors in the region are producing smaller quantities.  Hezbollah has a long history of actively participating in the production and sale of illicit drugs. Hezbollah’s home state, Lebanon, has been both a transit point for drugs moving from the eastern to western markets, as well as a source location for hashish and opium.47...This, combined with their prolific involvement in the country’s civil war, suggests a correlation between this past activity and the current production out of Syria. Additionally, Hezbollah has an established global network and experience in managing the logistics necessary to maintain not only its fighting forces, but its fundraising and humanitarian efforts. Hezbollah’s experience and resources make it the ideal organization to set up and manage the operations necessary for a Captagon enterprise to be successful."  With this we now can know something not only about documentation by the journalism of the Economist but also about the research standards of the George Washington University's Institute of Middle East Studies.   Also, what is striking about this genre of writing about the topic of Hizbullah and drugs is that NONE OF THOSE SOURCES EVER MENTION that Nasrallah personally made speeches against the proliferation of drugs in Shi`ite areas and against Captagon.  Furthermore, those article politically conveniently leave out a major fact about the topic: that many of the drug dealers of the Biqa` Valley are in fact politically aligned with Amal and not with Hizbullah. But what the hell: Saudi and Israeli propaganda want to drag Hizbullah into it.  Having said all that: I am not denying or asserting but merely stating that I have not seen evidence, and I encountered before how lousy Israeli propaganda used to make unfounded allegation that Arafat and the PLO were involved in drugs in Lebanon (when it was the Syrian regime and its intelligence and army who were involved).  For a sobering treatment of this issue, read the (journalistic) book by Jonathan V Marshall, The Lebanese Connection: Corruption, Civil War, and the International Drug Traffic, " published by Stanford UP.

PS The sources for Picard and all the rest on this is clear: the propaganda apparatus of Hariri family in Lebanon and the Saudi regime media. They have been claiming this along with Israeli and Zionist media. 

PPS Notice that the Economist missed the biggest element of the Captagon story: that a Saudi prince was caught at Beirut Airport while smuggling the largest ever shipment of Captagon into Saudi Arabia.  

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

And now for a sobering analysis from Istanbul in...the Washington Times

"“They want to convert all of Syria to Shiism".  That pretty much sums up the situation. Thanks for listening.  

US State Department report on terrorism: its section on Hizbullah

So the report (in chapter 2, the section on Lebanon) calls Hizbullah the biggest terrorist threat in Lebanon and is listed as the first terrorist threat to Israel (in the section on the Israeli occupation state), and yet: look what it lists as terrorist incidents in Lebanon in the last year:
"2016 Terrorist Incidents: Lebanon suffered from a number of terrorist incidents in 2016, ranging in type and alleged perpetrator. Five of the most significant events are listed below:
  • On January 8, Syrian militants affiliated with ISIS conducted a drive-by shooting at the house of an ISF Information Branch officer near the town of Aarsal. The killing was reportedly in retaliation for the officer’s undercover work against ISIS in Aarsal.
  • On April 12, unknown militants assassinated a senior Fatah official with a bomb outside Ain el-Helweh, Lebanon’s largest and most volatile Palestinian camp.
  • On June 12, a bomb exploded outside a Blom Bank location in downtown Beirut, damaging the bank’s structure, but causing no injuries. The bomb was widely considered to be a message from Hizballah to the banking sector over implementation of Central Bank circulars focused on Hizballah.
  • On June 27, a series of eight suicide bombings killed five people and wounded at least 28 others in the Christian village of al Qaa in the Bekaa valley. It is unknown who perpetrated the bombings.
  • On August 31, a bomb outside Zahle killed one person and injured several others in the Bekaa Valley. The bombing was thought to be targeting Shia participants traveling to an Ashura celebration event in Southern Lebanon."
PS And not that the bulk of terrorism is by groups opposed to Hizbullah.

NYT's Ben Hubbard's propaganda work for Muhammad bin Salman

He has determined (based on anecdotal evidence in an article in the Times about cellphones) that Muhammad bin Salman is wildly popular: "His programs, including increasing entertainment opportunitiesinside the hyperconservative kingdom, have won him fans among the two-thirds of Saudis who are younger than 30."  He does not qualify his statement by saying that not being a fan will get you a jail sentence in the kingdom.

U.S. President wanted to chop-off Syrian demonstrators' heads

" “We need to cut their heads off, ” then-President George Bush said of violent anti-western protests in Syria in 2006, former Israeli foreign minister Tzipi Livni said last month in Washington."

U.S. kills 12 Iraqi & Syrian civilians daily

"Airwars researchers estimate that at least 2,300 civilians likely died from Coalition strikes overseen by the Obama White House—roughly 80 each month in Iraq and Syria. As of July 13, more than 2,200 additional civilians appear to have been killed by Coalition raids since Trump was inaugurated—upwards of 360 per month, or 12 or more civilians killed for every single day of his administration.” "

Playing in Israel is whitewashing Apartheid

" “As the lights go out in Gaza and Palestinian cancer patients die because they are denied travel permits by Israel, while a Palestinian poet in Israel lives under house arrest for a poem she wrote on Facebook, while a young circus performer from the West Bank languishes in administrative detention without charge or trial – Thom Yorke speaks loftily about ‘crossing borders’ and ‘freedom of expression,’” Leigh said, adding, “One has to ask, freedom for whom exactly?” " (thanks Amir)

The sect of Al-Jazeera journalists is apparently relevant

"Mehi Hasan, a Shia, told the ABC terrorists killed fewer people than traffic accidents or domestic violence." (thanks Basim)

Meet Bruce Ridel: an analyst by day and a medical doctor by night

"“The weight of the evidence I have seen is that he was more injured in the assassination attempt than was admitted and that he then got onto a pain killer routine that was very addictive,” said Bruce Riedel, a former Central Intelligence Agency officer and director of the Intelligence Project at the Brookings Institution. “I think that problem got progressively worse.”"  I started to notice this guy back in the 1990s, when in an interview with Middle East Quarterly he said that the Arab people are not bothered by the US-impoised sanctioned on Iraq.  I said to myself: this is a clueless analyst and you need to pay attention to him.  Here, he is using his medical training to offer a medical opinion on a purely medical case: on whether Bin Nayif was or is addicted to painkillers.  When he says he has "seen" the evidence, what does that mean? Was he made to watch as Bin Nayif popped pills? Or was he offered a video in which Bin Nayif was seen buying a large amount of drugs?  DC Punditry is now worse on many levels (professional and ethical) than US journalism.  At least Reuters in the report on the succession today was reserved and said that it could not judge whether bin Nayif was addicted or not.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Saudi version of Islamic reform: `Adnan Al-`Ar`ur

By the way, this clerical kook is Saudi regime's answer to ISIS.  He once called for "mincing" Alawites.

Monday, July 17, 2017

George Will, the conservative, is saying what American liberals are not saying: the slow-motion US invasion of Syria

"Hundreds of Marines are manningfire bases in northern Syria. This intervention resembles a slow-motion invasion."

Is the Israeli occupation army a defense army?

Let Moshe Dayan vomit the answer (from an article he wrote back in April 1967):
"...although the Israeli Army's official title is "the Israeli Defense Forces," it is not a defensive force...the most visual manifestation of the new approach...is the lack of fortifications and fences along the borders...simply put, the Israeli Defense Forces are an aggressive offensive-minded fighting force.  The Israeli military implements this approach in its thinking, planning, and Modus Operandi.  [The offensive values] run in [the military's] DNA and [are] inscribed in the marrow of its bones."  Cited in the lousy book, Laron, Guy, The Six-Day of War: the Breaking of the Middle East, Yale UP, p. 275).