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July 15, 2006

Comments

Deb

Mr. Lynch, I read Middle Eastern news items and blogs all day long. I can hardly understand where you're getting the idea that the "Arab street" is placing the main blame on Israel over the latest happenings in Lebanon. For every writer I come across who blames Israel, I find dozens who blame Hezbollah.

I'm truly hoping you're not basing your opinion on a item reported by Al Jazeera. If not, what are you basing it on?

Opinionated Voice

As usual, the arabs ignore what is occuring. I am not suprrised.

Jamal

Deb: Arab blogs and news in English are a great source of news, but they're also very slanted. English Blogs from the Middle East (and even native-language blogs) are overwhelmingly written by folks from the upper middle class who have access to the internet. Internet penetration in most corners of the Middle East remains remarkably low. So when you read them, you're automatically getting a statistically skewed sample that is going to tend to be much closer to western modes of thinking. The vast majority of the middle east has little internet access and tends to be far more conservative and far more angry at what is going on. It takes perhaps a bit of time on the ground to understand that. Of course there are multiple levels of nuance here, of course people can point out exceptions, but take this as a general rule and you won't go too far off course.

Lebanese blogs as well (I presume you're probably reading a bunch of them) reflect a similar though uniquely Lebanese type of skew. While Shi'ites represent a plurality of the Lebanese population, they are also as a whole much poorer and have less internet access. Christians and other comparatively wealthier and more pro-western Lebanese have more access and in my admittedly limited experience have a greater internet presence which outweighs their presence on the ground. Do a spot check and see how many of the Lebanese blogs - irrespective of views towards Hizbullah - are written by Shi'ites. And taken more broadly in the region, check and see how many of the blogs are written by conservatives in general. I assure you, conservatives, Arab nationalists, and especially Islamists are a much larger part of the population than is represented in the blogosphere. The fact that Islamists do so well whenever they get a genuine shot at a free vote is perhaps the best concrete evidence of this.

Another sign of this is al-Jazeera's success itself. It has done so well in large part because it is a "populist" news source. It has gotten its large viewership by in many respects giving its viewership the angle they want to see on the news. Again, there are of course nuances and Jazeera's success varies from country to country, but by in large it is showing the majority of people in the region the reality that they believe is really before them that has been one key element of their success. Meanwhile the al-Hurra's of the region flounder.

And finally, on reading non-Jazeera sources, I am only guessing here at the sources you've seen, but my guess would probably be that you've probably been reading things like ash-Sharq al-Awsat's English edition, Arab News, and the Daily Star (please correct me if I'm wrong, but those are some of the most readily accessible ones). Arab News and AAwsat.com are both Saudi owned (and their editorial line strongly reflects it) and the Saudis have taken a diplomatic position completely at odds with a lot of populist sentiment in the region but strongly in line with their general anti-Syrian and anti-Iranian politics-of-the-moment. The Saudis loved Hariri and were seriously ticked at the Syrians for either assassinating or letting his assassination happen and this utterly broke their previous alliance with them. On the Iranians, ever since the US invasion of Iraq and the rise to power of hardline Islamist Shi'a parties in Iraq, the Saudis and the Gulf states in general have been getting increasingly freaked out by rising Islamist Shi'a power. Both these sets of issues are at play in Lebanon right now so it's not surprising that their media like their diplomacy is not in line with the vast majority of regional opinion. On the Daily Star, it's a great paper in many ways, I read it frequently, but it also on many key issues has a very anti-Hizbullah sectarian slant. That's fine, their right, but just realize that that view is just one of many in Lebanon and not necessarily a majority one (although Lebanon is more complex on these views than the region as a whole and not nearly as much of an opinion-poll slam-dunk).

Yes, there are loud regional media voices that blame Hizbullah, but realize those are not voices which structuraly tend to be in line with popular opinion on the street.

Ric Locke

Jamal,

I understand what you're saying, and you confirm something I had concluded on my own, namely that bloggers aren't very representative of the societies they live in in many cases.

Now you, and others, need to understand something.

Israel is there. Israel will stay there. Israel is a permanent feature. Deal with it.

And by "deal with it" I mean that it is always a bad idea to back an animal with teeth and claws into a restricted corner. At this moment the Jews are very likely feeling that they have nothing to lose, and therefore no restrictions on their behavior. They're hurting the Lebanese, very badly, as they attempt to "prepare the battlefield" for their adventure against Hizb'Allah. They aren't doing that on purpose; they don't particularly want to hurt the Lebanese. But they don't give a [curse] either.

You're going to see more of that.

America... would really, really rather stay out of it. But yes, if the argument is between Israel and the "Arab street", Israel gets guns and ammo and Arabs get bupkis. This is strictly, 100% a result -- the result of half a century of Arabs, and Arab regimes, respoding to anything and everything from a hangnail to a major earthquake with the same "solution": Kill Joooooooos!

You, and others, keep telling us to "empower moderate Arabs". The trouble is, we don't see any "moderate Arabs", which by our definition would be Arabs who have some solution, any solution, to any problem, however trivial, that doesn't involve killing Jews first. What we see, instead, is glowingly scary documentaries on TV about the Protocols of the Elders of Zion -- which was written by Czarist propagandists in the early Twentieth Century to support their own Jew-killing -- and the "blood Seder" libel, which is a damnable, lie.

Until, and unless, "moderate Arabs" appear and start talking against that sort of BS, telling the "Arab street" that Hamas is not heroic and Hizb'Allah will not be their savior, the situation will not change materially, unless you do, in fact, convince the Jews that they have nothing to lose. At that point they may very well decide to go down with their teeth in your throat. What the United States might do at that point isn't very predictable, but it will not include fending them off for you.

Regards,
Ric

CaseyL

Seconding what Rick said. I'd be less confrontational, but only out of politesse, not because I don't agree with what he's saying.

I feel sorry for the Arab demographic that makes up "the street," because they've been used by their own leaders, who use Israel as a way of diverting anger away from themselves. I feel sorry for the Palestinians, who have been used as pawns by other Arabs against Israel and who have consistently ripped off by their own leaders, esp. Fatah, so that billions of dollars that should have gone to things like schools and hospitals instead went to Swiss bank accounts - or to purchase weapons.

But it should have occurred to the Arab "street" and to Palestinians long, long ago that they have nothing, absolutely nothing, to show for 60 years of "Death to Israel!"; that they have nothing, absolutely nothing, to show for their championing of such Arab "heroes" as Yasir Arafat and Saddam Hussein; that they have nothing, absolutely nothing, to show for supporting militant/terrorist organizations who send suicide bombers into Israel to short-circuit peace initiatives. Nothing, that is, except more poverty, more violence, and more oppressive/corrupt leaders.

I kept hoping that sooner or later it would dawn on those with the most to lose that they were considered expendable by the very people who tell them to never reach or accept any peaceful terms with Israel. That, sooner or later, they would notice that the people encouraging them to blow themselves up are still around, Israel is still around, and the status is still quo. It hasn't, it looks like it never will, and I can't understand why.

Elaine Meinel Supkis

Wow.

Every time someone conquers Jerusalem, they announce they will be there forever and forever so everyone should surrender.

Even in the Old Testament, the owners of Jerusalem change hands nearly constantly. If anyone rules it for more than 200 years, that is most unusual.


Many massacres have bloodied those famous streets and alleys. Each time a new invader murders as many previous inhabitants as possible, the same thing happens. They tire of trying to hold it, their grip relaxes and off we go with yet another invasion, another bloodbath.


Of all people, the Jewish people should know this. Why they are forgetting it doesn't baffle me. It saddens me.


This is why it should have been a 'heritage' site rather than subjected to yet another ethnic/religious cleansing by yet another suicidal religious fanatic group.

Ric Locke

It's like this. The West lost. The Crusades were decisively defeated.

But winning isn't always the best thing that can happen, and losing isn't always the worst (provided, of course, that you survive at all.)

Losing the Crusades discredited the Church as Arbiter of Christendom, and that led, via various complex and often painful paths, to separation of Church and State, and as society became more complex forced the tribes of Europe to coalesce bloodily into the ethnically-based nation states we know today.

The Arabs won -- and took that as a Sign. They nailed the sociopolitical methods of the time down as permanent -- they did, after all, win. That includes the religious structure, which places the religious authorities of Islam as Arbiters of the Umma, with secular rulers subordinate.

Fast forward twelve centuries. The West has had continuous and rapid change over that entire period; the Arab world, almost no change. The result is that the balance has shifted. The people who beat the Crusaders made their own weapons and equipment using the highest technology available in the world at that time. Today you will search the entire Arab world and not find a single factory making computer chips, cars, or even guns. The very explosives they use to destroy their enemies are made, not by the Warriors of God, but by the enemies they're blowing up or by old enemies like the Persians.

The religious authorities of the Umma have decreed jihad. From outside it's clear that this is an attempt to maintain their positions as arbiters; that the influx of Western ideas and sociopolitics is eroding their authority. This is precisely the same motives the Popes had in organizing the Crusades.

They tell us that jihad means "struggle" or "war for God." Fooey. It means "crusade", and that's exactly what is going on. It'll work out the same way in the end, too -- it's just that a lot of people are going to be hurt in the process.

Regards,
Ric

No Preference

This is strictly, 100% a result -- the result of half a century of Arabs, and Arab regimes, respoding to anything and everything from a hangnail to a major earthquake with the same "solution": Kill Joooooooos!

Actually, what we've had for half a century and more is wretched propaganda like this, which has only a small relationship to what has happened in the past, and what's happening now.

Israel is hated because of what it has done, not because Arabs have an innate lust to "Kill Joooooooos!". The current brutal, totally out of proportion attack on Lebanon is an example.

Powerpuff

Iran needs to make US suspension of all military aid to Israel a pre-condition for any talks regarding its nuclear enrichment program.

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