Watch out Aleppo!

Times readers are coming! First Damascus is chalked up as the next Marrakesh. Now Aleppo is plastered in the Sunday travel section, with the obligatory shill for vastly overrated Beit Sissi and some evocative prose about the souk. Though can’t hate too hard — I love Aleppo. As for whatever their writer has to bemoan about the bar at the Baron Hotel, the bartender is delightfully surly and the old leather chairs comfy despite the Euro-tourists.

Having contributed some stories of my own on the looming tourist boom in Syria, I can’t totally decry this cozy travel coverage. For a look past the souk and cherry kebab of Aleppo, though, might I plug my Syrian travelogue for the Faster Times one more time? A Syria roadtrip, seriously.

Mrs. Clinton’s statement was intended to clarify her remarks in Jerusalem, which had left some of her aides nonplused because she had not voiced the administration’s official position that settlements are illegitimate.

Though not a core subject in peace negotiations, Jewish settlements are a charged issue for Israelis and Palestinians because they involve building in areas that both claim as their ancestral lands.

How not to start the day: read bits like this in the Old Gray Lady, wonder why they go to pains to misinform. The words occupation, occupied land, international law, violation of international law, land seized in war, illegal annexation and the like were axed, because the Times doesn’t want you to think of the conflict like that. It’s about ancestral land claims and, in fact, colonies housing a half million Jews on the occupied West Bank (very much including East Jerusalem) are not a core subject in this nebulous thing called the peace process. No, they’re not.

Instead read this interview with Rashid Khalidi on He says very clearly what many others have on the need to negotiate confront the settlements:

The point is, though,that settlements were designed expressly to make a negotiated resolution of this conflict impossible. We have to accept this. They’re not just there because they happened to grow like mushrooms on hilltops. They were scientifically planned so as to cut Jerusalem off from its hinterland. They were scientifically planned to cut the West Bank into pieces. They were scientifically planned to prevent movement from point A to point B. As long as these objectives are achieved, there’s not a West Bank state. There is not sovereignty, there is not contiguity, there is not economic viability.These huge settlements have to either be removed or enormously shrunk or subjected to some other arrangement whereby the objectives for which they were established are defeated. I’m sure it would be hard for an Israeli government but otherwise you won’t have a deal, or you’ll have a deal that collapses immediately and then everybody will go back and say “well we told you so.” I’m telling you now, if you don’t deal with the root issues caused by the settlements you won’t have a viable deal.”

Read Mondoweiss


An excellent blog on Middle Eastern politics and ideas. Recently, it posted this analysis of the lack of coverage and courage in leading American papers on the fallout of the Goldstone report and the continued legacy of Israel’s war on Gaza on the left in America (that is, its vaunted editors and writers don’t want to talk about it. One exception being Harper’s) :

The New York Times is covering the Goldstone Report. Where is it covering it? Well: the furor over the report among Palestinians. We’re pretty sure this is a good story. Neil MacFarquhar is on it. But it’s really not The Story, it’s just an angle of a hugely-important international story, and the only angle the Times is covering.

Here’s what the Times refuses to cover:

–the furor over the Goldstone report on the part of the Israel lobby in the U.S., and the pressure it’s put on the Obama administration, number one. Even J Street has been quiet about the Goldstone report, while it puts out a statement applauding an Israeli Nobelist.

–and what about the political jockeying over the report, the decision by the Obama administration to bury it and make the Palestinian Authority do the dirty work? Important story. Nothing. Mike Hanna of the Century Foundation said two weeks ago that the report’s troubling findings were going to be very “tricky” diplomatically for the Obama administration. He was right. He knows what’s gone down. Why isn’t the Times calling him for comment?

–the incredible discomfort that Goldstone, a Jewish judge who denounced apartheid, has created among liberal American Jews who know that Gaza was a horror but are afraid to face these facts. Nine dead Israelis, 1400 dead Palestinians: of whom the majority were civiilans. The Israelis destroyed the only remaining flour mill, destroyed chicken farms with bulldozers, and dropped white phosphorus on children. American Jews were never silent about napalm in Vietnam. Here they are tonguetied and helpless, and the Times is helping them to avoid this important question by suppressing the news.

–Nothing in the Times about the many Jews here who have supported Goldstone, including Jews Say No!

–No editorial yet in the Times.

This is about discourse suppression. It is related to the fact that the New Yorker, the leading cranial IV for the Establishment, has said nothing at all about Gaza in 10 months. No: Gaza and the persecution of the Palestinians there is an untidy embarrassment to  the liberal Establishment.

The New Republic has actually been more responsible than the Times and the New Yorker here. By publishing raving maniacs like Michael Oren and Yossi Klein Halevi, it has at least informed its readers where it hurts, that this is ideologically disputed territory. The Times has told its readers, Only Palestinians care about this. More mush from the wimp.

One other point. Mainstream liberals are quick to call for people to speak out on Third World countries and once upon a time in Eastern Europe when human rights are suppressed. It’s easy to condemn the Soviet Writers Union or ministries in Africa for not speaking out against genocide. What’s hard is to report and speak out on issues that cause your own readers to squirm. The true measure of intellectual courage is, you go ahead and do it anyway. The Washington Post, the Times, the New Yorker and others have failed this test.

The photo is of posters in Gaza, which read “To the trash dump of history, o traiter Mahmud Abbas.” From Reuters, via the Angry Arab.

“As if on cue..”

What I wrote from an email exchange with Josh Landis on Graham Bowley’s ridiculous Times story:

“This Times story was a crock. the protest was government-orchestrated — university students and working people were encouraged or even shooed into the Square and it dispersed pretty quickly. No surprises. But the tone of the article disregards any Syrian grievances. Bowley’s last article was filed from New York, he’s cribbing off of the AP and BBC reporters here and projecting his weirdly aggressive bias thousands of miles away, based on the anonymous US officials’ story.

Large scale popular protests may not be permitted… a fact of politics here… but that doesn’t mean people aren’t anrgy over the raid. I haven’t talked to a cab driver here who thinks the family in Abu Kamel was connected to this shadowy Iraqi smuggler. People are genuinely angry: their country was invaded. Why would the Times doubt that?

Bowley seems to delight in scorning Syria; the government and the people, whose anger is somehow illegitimate because their protest was “apparently stage-managed by the government.” Maybe Bowley, like BBC’s Paul Wood, should actually go to Deir az-Zur, to Abu Kamel, and interview people. He’d hear outrage and the widely held view here that the Americans killed civilians. He might even interview some of the wounded, or the relatives. But it’s a story the Times doesn’t want, so they don”t send their reporter.

Why is it that all of the articles about Syria this week in the Times are filed from the States or from Baghdad? As you wrote, where is Robert Worth? Damascus is no so far from Beirut.”

“Did the New York Times not know that `Abdu-s-Sattar is dead?”

A sign of the state of American reporting in Iraq? The New York Times printed a story on the “pacified” Anbar province earlier this week, with the following photo and caption:

Iraq’s national security adviser, Mowaffak al-Rubaie, right, and Abdul Sattar Abu Risha, a Sunni sheik, on Monday in Ramadi.”

Problem is, Abdul Sattar was killed last September in a high profile assassination by Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia. It was pretty big news, since he was the “key Sunni ally” of the US in Anbar, a figurehead for the so-called Sunni Awakening (how much did the Pentagon pay him, you wonder?). He was among other Anbar Sunni tribal leaders who met Bush in Iraq in early September 2007, barely a week before he was killed in a bombing near his home. Maybe the Times forgot about all that. After all, in this article about the shift from violence to apparent calm in Anbar, Dexter Filkins doesn’t even mention Abdul Sattar’s assassination.

Source and title quote: Angry Arab News Service.