My affection for President Carter is endless

19 04 2008

From Egypt’s Daily Star. Don’t you just wish he was your grandpa?

Responding to criticism by a student member of the audience that he was talking to “terrorists” Carter responded, “Over a period of seven years 13 [Israeli] people have been killed which is bad, any person killed is bad and I consider that an act of terrorism because the rockets are fired not in physical combat with soldiers but likely to cause death among the civilians.”

“At the same time if you look in Gaza, you know that for every Israeli killed in any kind of combat, between 30 and 40 Palestinians are killed because of the military capability of Israel with their pinpoint accuracy or missiles and their F-16s and their helicopters with which they can attack Palestinians,” he continued.

“Israel commits acts of terrorism too, says Carter”

Many, many people are angry at Carter over here for speaking to Hamas, and he’s being represented in the U.S. press as some kind of crazy old coot who has taken to radicalism in his old age. The reality is that he’s actually a very moderate voice in this conversation. He is only radical if not following the talking points set by people who are lying is radical.

‘What is going to be gained by having discussions with Hamas about peace when Hamas is the impediment to peace?’ [U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice] asks.

Ynetnews: “Rice criticizes Carter over Hamas Plans”

Gee, Secretary Rice, when you put it like that, your objections totally make sense.

Something worth noting: the Daily Star article is about how former President Carter said he thinks what Israel does to Palestinians is terrorism, too, and I do have qualms with the definition of terrorism he’s using–essentially he’s equating it with violence against civilians. I think what Israel does to Palestinians is despotic and verging on genocidal, and in fact, much worse than most forms of terrorism. But as I’ve mentioned before, the definition of terrorism I find most useful excludes states as actors.


Return from a long, long break.

4 01 2008

First there were finals, and then there was laziness, but I’m back to talk more about why U.S. coverage of the Middle East is totally stupid.

I don’t watch television news very often because it is generally useless, but I’m knitting a scarf and can’t listen to NPR for another three hours, so I flipped on CNN. Your World Today was on, and in addition to some primary coverage and a story on Britney Spears’ latest breakdown, was running a rather perplexing piece on an English-language Saudi blogger who got arrested for supporting 10 reform advocates that the Saudi government has accused of being linked to terrorism.

This is not really news–the Saudi government is constantly arresting people for saying things it doesn’t like. They must have spent 15 minutes (a long time in television news) on this report, and the anchor kept saying, “Is individualism in danger in Saudi Arabia?” As if individualism was once highly prized in Saudi Arabia. It was all very weird.

I did a little (very little) investigating and discovered that the Bush administration is petitioning for this blogger’s release–a fact not mentioned in the televised CNN report. It seems to me as if the whole thing is a ploy to make it look like this is an aberration, when in fact it’s an extremely common occurrence.


9 11 2007

I mentioned a while ago that I was going to write a defense of al-Jazeera, but their code of ethics says why I love them better than I ever could. If CNN has such a code in their “about” section, it’s very difficult to find.

There are 10 points, and every progressing number fills me with love, but for the sake of brevity I’ll just quote the first three and you can check the rest out yourself.

1. Adhere to the journalistic values of honesty, courage, fairness, balance, independence, credibility and diversity, giving no priority to commercial or political considerations over professional ones.

2. Endeavour to get to the truth and declare it in our dispatches, programmes and news bulletins unequivocally in a manner which leaves no doubt about its validity and accuracy.

3. Treat our audiences with due respect and address every issue or story with due attention to present a clear, factual and accurate picture while giving full consideration to the feelings of victims of crime, war, persecution and disaster, their relatives and our viewers, and to individual privacy and public decorum. Read the rest of Al-Jazeera’s code of ethics

It’s fair to say that having a good code of ethics doesn’t mean an organization will always follow it, but if you compare al-Jazeera’s coverage of world events to say, CNN’s, I think you’ll agree that a good code of ethics definitely helps.

MTV and Nickelodeon in Arabic

8 11 2007

spongebobMTV Arabia will be launched November 17, and Nickelodeon Arabia will be launched in 2008. Both will include a combination of subtitled programs and local programming.

MTV Arabia has plans for an original Arabic series called “Hip Hop Na,” a reality show to find the best hip hop acts in seven Middle Eastern countries. The winner gets a record deal. I hope I will be able to find this on YouTube.

I think the Nickelodeon channel has a better shot at success than the MTV channel, because, as the article notes, the Middle East market is already flooded with Arabic-language music channels. And I’m not sure how many people share this impression, but in my mind MTV is so symbolically linked with American excess.

Then again, there appears to be a pretty serious dichotomy among Muslim and Middle Eastern youth – at the same time there’s a distrust of the American media, people also kind of eat it up.

Relevant statistic: about 60% of the population in the Middle East is under 25.

(Image from Asharq Alawsat)

U.S. high fives Egypt, sticks tongue out at Iran

3 11 2007

I guess maybe you’ve heard by now about the U.S. backing Egypt’s nuclear power program. It alarmingly hypocritical, given that we’re itching for war with Iran over the same thing.

To be fair I have to point out that, right now, the Egyptian government is much more favorably disposed to the U.S. (and to Israel) than Iran. But Mubarak is not going to live forever, and the Muslim Brotherhood is gaining more support in Egypt daily. Which makes our support for the Egyptian nuclear program seem somewhat foolish – if we are labeling the clerical government in Iran dangerous, an Egyptian government lead by the Muslim Brotherhood would have to be equally as dangerous. And such a government is possible in the near future.

But that is not really the point. The point is that this is the kind of behavior that engenders resentment of the U.S. We are clearly not concerned with nuclear proliferation here – we’re concerned with making sure our buddies get what they want, and that anyone who opposes us doesn’t.

And people don’t appreciate being bullied like that.

Background on the Kurds, Turkey and the PKK

3 11 2007
The Kurds
The Kurds

Dreams of independence
Turkey’s lonely Kurdish villages
Turkey’s Kurds try to be heard

In search of Kurdistan

Al-Jazeera has this handy little table in its recent article about nationalist, anti-Kurdish sentiment in Turkey. It’s definitely worth checking out if you want to know more about the Kurdish/Turkish/PKK situation.

King Abdullah University of Science and Technology!

27 10 2007

Groundbreaking of KAUST, Oct 27On October 22 King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia held a groundbreaking ceremony for a new university in Thawal called the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST).

With one of the largest university endowments in the world, KAUST is using MIT as a model and is aiming to be world-class in every respect – students, faculty, facilities. The website is also quite impressive.

I am jumping-off-the-walls excited about this. One hindrance to development in the Arab world is the lack of original research going on at the universities. A lot of countries have an awful brain-drain effect going on, and as a result the academic community is generally not thriving.

So a university like this, which has the potential to keep some of the brain power of the Middle East in the Middle East, is a big deal. It’s very exciting.

KAUST will be co-ed – a fact that is pretty significant in Saudi Arabia. It will be the first co-ed university in the country.

Saudis can be hardcore conservatives–The Saudi national motto is the Shahadah.  And very conservative Saudis are often less than approving of their royal family, who sometimes appear to be pretending conservatism to avoid revolt. It’s inevitable that King Abdullah will face criticism from within the kingdom for this – probably harsh criticism.

Anyway, it might be very difficult for KAUST to attract non-Saudi women, Muslim or otherwise. Living in Saudi Arabia as a single woman with no family would be damned near impossible, even if the university you were attending was progressive.

More on KAUST: