July 20, 2006

Postcards from Lebanon

Posted in Middle East at 8:42 am by greatparanoiac

Bombing areas with civilian populations is not a sovereign state’s right to self defense. Destroying infrastructure and economic livelihood is not a measured response.




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July 19, 2006

Stop the Killing of Iraqi Civilians

Posted in Middle East, United Nations at 4:12 am by greatparanoiac

The human rights office of the U.N. Assistant Mission for Iraq- UNAMI– reported yesterday that more than 14,000 civilians had been killed during the first half of this year, including more than 3,000 in June. The death toll for the past month averaged more than 100 civilians a day.The report describes an increase in lawlessness and crime, including assassinations, bombings, kidnappings, torture and intimidation.

iraqi-civilians.jpgHundreds of teachers, judges, religious leaders and doctors have been targeted for death, and thousands of people have fled, the report said. Evidence suggests militants also have begun to target homosexuals, the report said.

According to an article in the Washington Post, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, vowed is administration will do everything possible to tackle violence and foster reconciliation among Iraqis. His efforts to bridge the divisions among Iraq’s religious, ethnic and political groups rests on his national reconciliation initiative.

[This initiative is] “the only bridge and crossing point through which we can reach the safe shore that unites the sons of the Iraqi people, ends the violent situation, provides stability and puts an end to all discriminatory ideas, whether of sect, political party or race,” al-Maliki said.

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July 17, 2006

Constructing a Neutral Narrative in the Middle East

Posted in Middle East at 12:10 am by greatparanoiac


I promise to get back to posting things on Africa soon. But I compiled this information I found on different sites and excerpted remarks from reports by the Palestine Media Watch. It ties into some of  the things I posted in the past couple of days–about Western media not portraying a Palestinian narrative in their news coverage.

So we can have a better understanding of both sides–I’m listing a pro-Israeli narrative, a pro-Palestinian narrative and what a neutral narrative of both sides of the conflict should look like. Once we have a neutral narrative I hope it helps the media to be more critical as well as help both sides move beyond this impasse.

What Both Sides Are Saying… Read the rest of this entry »

July 16, 2006

New York Times’ Portrayal of Arab Leaders

Posted in Middle East at 7:00 pm by greatparanoiac

To follow up on recent posts about coverage trends in the Middle East, I wanted to direct your attention to Electronic Intifada, a colleague brought this website to my attention recently. EI offers readers a more comprehensive look at the Palestine-Israel conflict from different perspectives. It also gives us the Palestinian narrative which is missing from our traditional press.

Yesterday there was a column posted by Patrick O’Connor, who works with the International Solidarity Movement, on Western coverage of the Middle East. In particular it criticizes the New York Times for not taking a neutral position, especially since as a paper of record it influences public opinion and foreign policy. It also fuels the current crises in Gaza and Lebanon:

In blaming only Arabs and consoling Israel about the lack of fairness in the “real world”, the Times displays complete blindness to Israeli provocations. Ironically, The Times’ recent editorials have barely hinted at the scale of Israeli violations, though much of the following Israeli violence can be found in past New York Times news articles.

Mr. O’Connor is currently researching the major US newspapers’ coverage of Israel/Palestine.

July 15, 2006

FOX News Stresses Israeli Casualties in Lebanon Invasion

Posted in Middle East at 5:18 pm by greatparanoiac

beirut.jpgHizballah’s capture of two Israeli soldiers from the Israeli side of the Lebanese border on Wednesday. In retaliation Israel launched air and artillery attacks against targets in Lebanon, including Beirut’s international airport and bridges and highways south of the capital, and instituted an air, sea, and
land blockade. According to media reports, the attacks have killed at least 73 civilians and wounded more than 100. Hizballah forces have launched scores of rockets across the border into northern Israel, killing two civilians and injuring approximately 150. 

But you wouldn’t have known this if you are getting your news from the unfair and unbalanced Fox News. Check out the posts from the blog News Hound:

[Greg] Burke [reporting from Beirut] did not attempt to recap any sort of human toll, restricting his comments to saying that the Israelies “hit a lot of bridges, a lot of power stations. Now we’ve also seen cell phone towers. It seems to be a sort of isolation campaign, get the country of Lebanon isolated, which they have done through the air and sea blockade, and get the different parts of it isolated, first the south where Hezbollah is so strong … and now hitting very hard the southern suburbs of Beirut,” he said.

The viewer is almost relieved. The Israelies are just hitting bridges and cell phone towers, .not actually killing anybody like the “two elderly people” who were injured by the nasty rockets that hit Israel. No question who the villain is in this piece. It can’t be Israel. They haven’t even killed anybody, right?

Michael Tobin reporting for Fox from Israel also was quick to point out that any casualities as a result of Israeli warplanes destroying suburbs in Beirut were the bad guys…”only people with Hezbollah’s blessing can get in there.”  Tobin never addresses where exactly these bombs fell.

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July 14, 2006

Pardon the Interruption…

Posted in Middle East at 4:12 pm by greatparanoiac

Zena el-Khalil writing from Beirut, Lebanon            13 July 2006

Ladies and gentlemen, I did not want to burden you with the troubles of  war but…

lebanon.jpgFor the last half hour or so, I have been watching the skyline outside my balcony. It is on fire. It’s 4:14am.

At 3:28am this morning, I woke up to the sound of Israeli jets flying low over our skies in Beirut. I was just beginning to finally fall asleep, had racing thoughts in my mind all night, cramps in my stomach, fear…

Just as I thought I was going to fall asleep, I heard the sound of jets, followed by one explosion after another.

It has calmed down now. I hear morning prayers in the distance. I am at home with some friends who have taken refuge with us. A lot of them foreigners. We are trying to explain… Who, what, why…

But, we’re also trying to be normal. Because being normal is what got the Lebanese through 20 some years of war. We are joking about how the airport is on fire because of all the alcohol in the duty free. We are trying to be normal.

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July 13, 2006

Bias in Coverage of Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

Posted in Middle East at 10:36 pm by greatparanoiac

With events quickly unfolding in the Middle East and taking a turn for the worse, it’s hard to get any information from the Western media on the Palestinian narrative or even, how the situation there has deteriorated so quckly.

I’m posting an op-ed column from Middle East Online by Ramzy Baroud. He is an Arab-American journalist and a regular columnist in many English and Arabic publications. He is editor-in-chief of PalestineChronicle.com and head of Research & Studies Department at Aljazeera.net English.

He writes about racism in the Western media’s coverage of the Middle East and how people in the West can’t understand the situation if they don’t seek out other news sources. Racism is a loaded term in the States given our legacy of the civil rights movement and continued treatment of ethnic minorities. But in any political science course you take, the first thing they teach you when studying conflict is too disaggregate the data and look at race and gender. You’ll always see at the root–inequality. Happy reading…

Racism Plagues Western Media Coverage 

Racism is “the belief that one ‘racial group’ is inferior to another and the practices of the dominant group to maintain the inferior position of the dominated group. Often defined as a combination of power, prejudice and discrimination.”

This is how the British Library defines racism on its Web site. The above definition hardly deviates from the essence of almost all definitions of the ominous concept. And, indeed, the concept is being fully utilized with Israel’s onslaught against the Palestinians, and the international community and media’s mild, if not accommodating response to the onslaught.

The capture of Israeli soldier, Gilad Shalit is an act of self-defense. According to international law and the Geneva Conventions, he can be considered a prisoner of war, but not according to CNN, Fox News and the increasingly spineless BBC, which presents the soldier as a victim, who was “kidnapped” by Palestinian “militants” who are “affiliated” with the Hamas government.

By not challenging the Israeli narrative in any meaningful way, the uncritical media has become a tool in the hands of Israel’s war strategists and their eternal concoctions.

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June 18, 2006

Media Freedom in the Arab World

Posted in Middle East at 9:30 pm by greatparanoiac

The results of a survey conducted by the Amman Human Rights Centre (AHRC) were reported on Tuesday by IRIN News claiming that state control in the Arab world limits freedom of opinon of its major news organizations.

“Arab regimes are increasingly imposing restrictions on journalists to prevent them from exposing their practices, mostly in terms of corruption and human rights. There are more taboos every day, and journalists find themselves targeted by police, the judiciary system, political parties and even armed groups,” said AHRC head Neham Assaf.

press.jpgThe countries that have been the most dangerous for journalists are Iraq and the Occupied Palestinian. The report stated that at least 24 journalists were killed in Iraq in 2005, while 11 others were kidnapped. “Iraq, the West Bank and Gaza continue to be the most dangerous places for journalists to conduct their work,” Assaf said. “They must be provided with protection in order to tell the truth.”

Over the course of last year, the study monitored the press in 16 Arab countries, including Jordan; the United Arab Emirates; Bahrain; Algeria; Sudan; Iraq; Egypt; Algeria; Kuwait; Yemen; Tunisia; Djibouti; Palestine; Lebanon; Libya; and Syria. Assaf pointed out that his organisation “faced difficulties in monitoring the press in Saudi Arabia and Oman”.

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May 27, 2006

Muslims Fighting Muslims in Sudan

Posted in Middle East, Sudan at 3:50 pm by greatparanoiac

sudan-janjaweed.jpgI wrote 10 days about the reluctance of Arab countries to speak against the Sudanese government over the crises in Darfur or pressure them to allow a UN peacekeeping force. I found this opinion column on Beliefnet. com, a website on spirituality and religion.

I’m not sure when this column was written, it’s by Hesham Hassaballa, a physcian from Chicago who contributes regularly to the website on issues of Islam. The essay, Shameful Hypocrisy, looks at the history of the different ethnic groups in Western Sudan and also references what the Qu’ran says about Muslims fighting each other. On the site, there is a sidebar with readers’ comments. I’m posting the whole thing. Check out Hassballa’s blog God, Faith and a Pen for more postings on Islam in the face of terrorism.

By Hesham Hassaballa 
When the photographs of the abuse of Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib first emerged, the Muslim world rose up in condemnation. The Organization of the Islamic Conference, for instance, “expressed its strong condemnation of the brutal acts of torture perpetrated against Iraqi prisoners…in flagrant violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention.”

Yet as the chorus of condemnation loudly rang across the Muslim world, worse crimes were being committed within the Muslim world–crimes that also were in “flagrant violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention.” As angry fingers were wagged at the West, they passed over vicious genocide being committed in the Darfur region of Western Sudan.

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May 17, 2006

Arab Reluctance toward Sudan

Posted in Middle East, Sudan at 6:26 pm by greatparanoiac

I wanted to follow up on a couple of items I mentioned yesterday about Arab countries not pressuring Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir to allow an UN peacekeeping force in Darfur or that there isn’t much mention in the press about Muslims denouncing the genocide.

After much searching on Google, I found this interesting commentary “Darfur at the Crossroads” on ZNet by Farid Omar. It dates back to August 2004, but can be applied to the situation today:

“While western hypocrisy on the situation in Darfur is really problematic, Muslim complicity in the Darfur mayhem is equally disturbing. The Muslim people and their allies around the world should stand up for Darfuris, denounce and expose western double standards and condemn the AL and the OIC for their inaction and failure to put pressure on Sudan to contain the crisis in Darfur.”

Omar goes onto to state how the member states of the Arab League and Organization of Islamic Conference violate human rights in their own countries and do not have the moral authority to condemn the excesses of fellow-member state Sudan.

Omar also makes an interesting point refuting commonly held beliefs that the politicization of Islam is the mobilizing force behind the Janjaweed militia in Darfur. 

“The reactionary Islamist forces in Sudan do not command widespread support. In its heydays, Sudan’s main Islamist party, the National Islamic Front (NIF), has never commanded a significant popular following, and has gained and retained power only through intrigue and coup.”

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