Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Middle East Miasma: Denying, Ignoring, or Explaining Away What We See Every Day

From the marvelous book on Africa by Richard Dowden, Africa: Altered States, Ordinary Miracles. This is the kind of thing the "experts" in the West don't understand and the journalists generally don't write about.

Dowden goes to the Congo where he meets the secretary-general of the Movement for the Liberation of Congo.

The man tells him that his group has nothing to do with officers of the dreaded former Mobutu dictatorship that looted the country and also gets no help from Uganda.

In fact, Dowden had come in on a plane from Uganda bringing arms and medical supplies to that group's army. Dowden continues:

"After a long chat with him I wander upstairs to find a man in military uniform slumped in front of the television watching Eurosport. He introduces himself as the minister of defense of the Movement. And what was he before that?

"I was a colonel in Mobutu's army,' he says proudly."

I've had experiences like this in the Middle East. But somehow here we'd end up hearing how the local revolutionary terrorist group was really seeking social justice and not at all terrorist by the way, and those crates in the corner full of arms from Iran or Syria? Not important since the group denies such links exist.

After all, the Palestinian Authority, to cite only one example, daily has programs or articles on its media, lessons in its schools, and diatribes by its appointed and paid prayer leaders in mosque sermons that violence is good and Israel will be wiped off the map. Then we hear media and governmental reports about how moderate it is.

Here's today's example. At an official Fatah--that's the ruling party in which PA leader Mahmoud Abbas is supposedly at the top--high school graduation ceremony, armed struggle against Israel is extolled and Haifa, Acre, and Jaffa (which also implies Tel Aviv) are mentioned as cities of the future Palestine.

Syrian leaders swear that they will never abandon Iran and Syrian media preach jihad, then we hear about how the government is ready to split with Tehran and is very secular.

Thousands of such examples can be given. Unfortunately, far fewer are reported and barely any are taken into account in setting Western policy.

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