Thursday, March 10, 2011

Why Does the Media Report the Opposite of What's True in the Middle East?

By Barry Rubin

Here's one of a thousand examples of how Middle East reality is being misrepresented. I'm told by people that the deputy head of the Muslim Brotherhood gave an interview stating that his organization was ready to accept the treaty with Israel.

In fact, however, if you examine the actual text he says...the exact opposite!

[Al-Bayoumi] We respect international is the right of either side, or any one side, to review and discuss according to the circumstances and requirements. The Camp David Accords were never put to the people or even to the parliament in the proper manner, but rather these were enforced from above. One of the most important articles of this agreement was the establishment of a Palestinian State, very well, but let us ask: where is this [Palestinian] state?

"Secondly, where is this comprehensive peace in light of the daily massacres and brutal attacks that the Palestinians are subject to? Who has destroyed this agreement, in light of the genocidal plans against the Palestinian people, and the systematic move to Judaize Jerusalem and destroy the al-Aqsa Mosque? There is also the issue of the secret articles included in this accord, from selling Egyptian natural gas to Israel at a fifteenth of its real price. All of this must be put to the people, and it is the people's right to reconsider the conventions. Of course, we do not accept the Camp David Accords at all, but reevaluating and dealing with this must be done according to the law."

So in other words:

--Egypt can revise an international treaty whenever it chooses.

--The treaty isn't legal since it was never properly and legally confirmed in Egypt.

--The treaty isn't binding because it has not been implemented.

--Israel is evil and murderous so you can't and shouldn't want to make peace with it. Oh, and Israel has also abrogated the treaty anyway.

--The Brotherhood opposes the treaty.

--So it will submit it to a national referendum where the treaty will be rejected and thus it can be thrown away legally.

Now I'm not saying all of this is going to happen, but for such a statement to be turned on its head into claiming the Brotherhood accepts the treaty is part of the madness we are facing in understanding events in Egypt and the wider Middle East.

Indeed, at least four top-ranking Muslim Brotherhood leaders have said similar things about their rejecting the treaty, yet all one could read about is that they don't reject it!

But we are seeing a lot of this nowadays on coverage and analysis of the Middle East:

1. It is apparently not necessary actually to know anything about the region in order to explain developments and predict the future.

2. No one ever needs to examine Arabic-language sources.

3. Only what is said in English is important, especially if it is said to a reporter or "expert." That means the only two types of people to be considered in gathering information are:

A. Middle-class, urban, English-speaking democracy advocates who are then cast as representing the entire population ofthe country.

B. Middle-class,urban, English-speaking Islamists who are intent on proving they are nice, moderate people to journalists and "experts" whose naivete sets world records.

4. What is important is not what someone in the region says or does but what you want them to say or do in order to fit your theme.

5. The themes include: The Palestinians want peace; Israel doesn't; Islamists are no threat; they aren't haters of Jews and the West and they don't want to establish tyrannical repressive regimes. 

Thus, for example, the fact that the Palestinian Authorty has refused to negotiate seriously with Israel for more than two years and now seeks a unilateral recognition of independence without having to negotiate with Israel at all (or make any concessions) has no relevance. Yet this, like masses of other evidence that disproves almost everything being said in the Western media, is easily publicly available and the facts themselves aren't the least bit controversial.

With a few exceptions, having no idea what happened until last week is also helpful in making a mess of things. If one argues that free elections produce democracy, how can one explain the examples of Hamas and Hizballah taking over? If participation in elections moderates people how can one explain the examples of Hamas, Hizballah, and the failure of Yasir Arafat to follow that pattern in the 1990s?

One doesn't have to explain at all because either the journalist or "expert" isn't aware of these issues or just doesn't mention them.

What about the reader or viewer? Well he/she doesn't know because a real alternative view almost never appears. Op-eds saying that Syria would break away from Iran and become pro-Western (the Obama Administration still believes this!) or that the Muslim Brotherhood is moderate outnumber the opposite view by at least five to one. And the same applies to the people quoted or appearing on television.

In the modern history of North American and European democracies there has never been a disinformation and misinformation campaign like this one.

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