Fisk defends the Assads

November 6, 2011

(Israel Matzav) And you thought Fiskie couldn’t sink any lower….

On Syrian television this week, I made the point that Gaddafi was insane and that – whatever else you thought of him – Assad was not. This was met (naturally) by vigorous agreement from the presenter. But wait. I promised to tell readers what happened to the programme. Well, two days ago, quite by chance, I bumped into the journalist who had interviewed me. Alas, he said, he thought the translation and subtitles wouldn’t be ready for Saturday night’s broadcast. Maybe we could do another interview later. Back to that old saw, I guess: we shall see.
In any event, I was made very much aware by her own personal assistant how “deeply hurt” Bashar al-Assad’s wife Asma was at a report in The Independent a couple of weeks ago which suggested that she was indifferent to the plight of civilian opponents of the regime killed by the security forces. The story – not by me – quoted an aid official in Damascus who was present at a meeting with the First Lady, saying that – when asked about the casualties – “there was no reaction”.
Needless to say, this report was gobbled up by the Arab media, including al-Jazeera, Assad’s most hated TV station. Now Asma al-Assad’s assistant has just given me the Syrian Arab Red Crescent’s own official Arabic-language account of the meeting. It makes interesting reading. SARC volunteers told the president’s wife that they received better treatment from the army “which has a clear leadership” than they did from the intelligence services at the checkpoints across Syria – they said the “muhabarrat” intelligence “enjoys no leadership or clear principles, at least from our point of view” – and that vehicles from the Ministry of Health are sometimes misused by “parties without control and this has created a situation of fear among citizens”. Mrs Assad was told how difficult it was for the SARC to work in dangerous areas and to move the wounded.
“Mrs Asma [sic] showed her understanding of the difficulties our volunteers are going through,” the SARC report says, “and expressed her deep admiration for their efforts in serving humanity and individual people … and promised to convey some of their demands to the authorities.” Mrs Assad’s visit was “informal” and the discussions “friendly”.
In the days that followed, the SARC report continued, the behaviour of “security checkpoints” towards their volunteers improved. A subsequent report in the weekly Syria Today quotes Mrs Assad as telling the Red Crescent volunteers that they “must remain neutral and independent during this time, focusing solely on humanitarian needs”.

I’m sure he’s quite popular in Britain….


“Orwellian” list of journalists nominated for 2011 Orwell Prize includes Guardian’s Rachel Shabi

March 31, 2011

“From where Winston stood it was just possible to read, picked out on its white face in elegant lettering, the three slogans of the Party:

WAR IS PEACE; FREEDOM IS SLAVERY; IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH.” – 1984, by George Orwell

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H/T Judy

George Orwell, prolific writer and a staunch opponent of totalitarianism (including communism), writing in the spring of 1945, in a long essay titled “Antisemitism in Britain“, for the Contemporary Jewish Record, stated that anti-Semitism was on the increase in Britain, and that it was “irrational and will not yield to arguments.”
He argued that it would be useful to discover why anti-Semites could “swallow such absurdities on one particular subject while remaining sane on others.”
Anti-Zionists today, those who are opposed to the Jewish state’s very existence and engage in demonization beyond any limits of reason, as those active in the fight for the state’s survival are acutely aware, is often equally irrational and unable to yield to even the most lucid arguments.
Indeed, the quote I cited above from 1984 reflects one of the common understandings the word “Orwellian” – the capacity to hold inherently irreconcilable, hypocritical, and/or irrational political views without the slightest cognitive dissonance.
The Orwell Prize for Journalism is characterized, on their website, as:

“Britain’s most prestigious prize for political writing. Every year, we award prizes for the work – the book, the blog which comes closest to George Orwell’s ambition ‘to make political writing into an art’.”

The 2011 list includes prolific Israel haters such as Robert Fisk (See here,  here, and here), the man with the proud distinction of engaging in journalistic bias so egregious as to inspire the word Fisking) and Guardian contributor, Rachel Shabi.
In discussing a review of “Not the Enemy: Israel’s Jews from Arab Lands”, the New Centrist succinctly sums up Shabi as follows:

“Shabi is part of small group of post-Zionist Mizrahi intellectuals who want to reclaim the non-European aspect their identity. I think this is a positive thing. But some of these post-Zionists have a tendency to borrow analytical frameworks from Marxists and others who view Ashkenazim and Zionists as imperialists and colonialists. In this narrative, the Mizrahim are indigenous people who have been victimized by Zionism, just like the Palestinians. In other words, Mizrahi Jews and Palestinians are people of color and Ashkenazis are whitey. Shabi and her political allies, in turn, are part pf the global resistance against the forces of global empire.

Here’s a sampling of Shabi’s offerings on the evils of Zionism and the moral sins of Israeli Jews:

“Most Israelis, in other words, seem to have convinced themselves that their own moral superiority somehow sanctions and justifies their own acts of moral repugnance. As a line of defence, it’s hard to see how this will stand up in court.” The self-defence defence January 23, 2009
But Palestinian analyst Ghassan Khatib says there is another factor at play in the overall media skew. “Even if the Palestinian side came up with proper messages, Hamas has been successfully labelled by Israel as a terrorist group and is portrayed in the western media in a manner similar to al-Qaida,” he says. As a result, western audiences are more prepared to sympathise with Israel – because it fits the “us or them” binary to which post 9/11 ears are attuned.” Winning the media warJanuary 10, 2009
“Kfir Brigade’s own former members describe its role in enforcing the Israeli occupation as having turned them into “monsters”. This brigade is the nightmare of bed-wetting Palestinian children and its deeds should be the nightmare of any Israeli who seeks peace, rather than perpetual loathing, between the Jewish and Palestinian peoples of the region.” Bruiting about brutes November 29, 2008

In the mind of Shabi, every Israeli act, her every fear and concern, can be contorted in a way to suggest the state’s inherent and immutable bigotry.
Indeed, her capacity to twist and turn prose in a way which assigns maximum malice to the Jewish state seems to have no limits as, more recently, she penned a piece for the Guardian which managed to spin Israeli concerns over the potential rise of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt as evidence of Israeli racism.
The Muslim Brotherhood, as we noted previously, is a viciously anti-Semitic movement, which openly calls the destruction of Israel and whose spiritual leader, Yusef al-Qaradawi has endorsed the Holocaust as divinely inspired just punishment of the Jews.
The capacity to engage in such a profound moral inversion – accusing Jews of racism for expressing their concern over a movement inspired by a man who endorsed the Holocaust – represents the dangerous doublethink so eloquently illustrated in the totalitarian dystopia of Orwell’s novel and seems, at the very least, inconsistent with the moral parameters of the prize which bears his name.