Soccer Dad's Middle East Media Sampler
Here's Soccer Dad's Middle East Media Sampler fort Thursday, November 22.
1) The "pragmatic confidence" of Mohammed Morsi
In Egypt’s Leader Is Crucial Link in Gaza Deal, Peter Baker and David Kirkpatrick write:
The White House phone log tells part of the tale. Mr. Obama talked
with Mr. Morsi three times within 24 hours and six times over the course
of several days, an unusual amount of one-on-one time for a president.
Mr. Obama told aides he was impressed with the Egyptian leader’s
pragmatic confidence. He sensed an engineer’s precision with
surprisingly little ideology. Most important, Mr. Obama told aides that
he considered Mr. Morsi a straight shooter who delivered on what he
promised and did not promise what he could not deliver.
It isn't clear who admires Morsi more, the administration or the
reporters. (Or is the administration's admiration that is amplified by
the reporters? )
“The thing that appealed to the president was how practical the
conversations were — here’s the state of play, here are the issues we’re
concerned about,” said a senior administration official who spoke on
the condition of anonymity to discuss private conversations. “This was
somebody focused on solving problems.”
The Egyptian side was also positive about the collaboration. Essam
el-Haddad, the foreign policy adviser to the Egyptian president,
described a singular partnership developing between Mr. Morsi, who is
the most important international ally for Hamas, and Mr. Obama, who
plays essentially the same role for Israel.
That third paragraph quoted above is astonishing. That Egypt is a
interlocutor for Hamas is portrayed as a good thing (and parallels
American support of Israel even!) even though Hamas an anti-American,
anti-Israel terrorist organization.
There is some good advice in the article:
“I would caution the president from believing that President Morsi
has in any way distanced himself from his ideological roots,” said
Robert Satloff, executive director of the Washington Institute for Near
East Policy. “But if the president takes away the lesson that we can
affect Egypt’s behavior through the artful use of leverage, that’s a
good lesson. You can shape his behavior. You can’t change his ideology.”
Little in the article though suggests that the Obama administration is
interested in "artful use of leverage" when it comes to Egypt and Morsi.
The relationship between the two leaders has come a long way in just
10 weeks. Mr. Morsi’s election in June as the first Islamist president
of Egypt set nerves in Washington on edge and raised questions about the
future of Egypt’s three-decade-old peace treaty with Israel. Matters
worsened in September when Egyptian radicals protesting an anti-Islam
video stormed the United States Embassy in Cairo.
Note here that the "woodshed" was a phone call, not a public dressing
down, which Obama reserved for Netanyahu when it was announced that more
apartments would be built in Jerusalem. A preventable violation of
American sovereignty received a more discrete response than activity
that was officially consistent with American policy.
Mr. Obama was angry that the Egyptian authorities did not do more to
protect the embassy and that Mr. Morsi had not condemned the attack. He
called Mr. Morsi to complain vigorously in what some analysts now refer
to as the woodshed call. Mr. Morsi responded with more security for the
embassy and strong public statements that the attackers “do not
represent any of us.”
Also as Eric Trager noted,
the protests at the American embassy in Cairo were announced two weeks
in advance of September 11, and their primary purpose was to demand the
release of Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman. This is a goal that, as Kirkpatrick
reported, Morsi shares,
but was conveniently omitted from this article painting the Egyptian
leader as a moderate America could work with. Kirkpatrick and Baker
stick to the fiction that the riots were primarily about the film that
In pushing Hamas, Mr. Morsi came under crosscurrents of his own. On
one side, advisers acknowledged, he felt the pressure of the Egyptian
electorate’s strong support for the Palestinian cause and antipathy
toward Israel as well as his own personal and ideological ties to the
Islamists in Hamas. But on the other side, advisers said, Mr. Morsi had
committed to the cause of regional stability, even if it meant
disappointing his public.
The line about "disappointing his public" is great praise, isn't it?
That's one more quality that Morsi has: he's willing to put "regional
stability" ahead of his own ideology. I'm not sure that that's true.
But it's hard to imagine a Western or allied leader getting this kind of
Analysts further noted that Mr. Morsi needed the United States as he
secures a $4.8 billion loan from the International Monetary Fund at a
time of economic trouble. “There’s no way Egypt is going to have any
kind of economic recovery without Washington,” said Khaled Elgindy, an
adviser to the Palestinian negotiators during the last decade.
As for Mr. Obama, his aides said they were willing to live with some of
Mr. Morsi’s more populist talk as long as he proves constructive on the
substance. “The way we’ve been able to work with Morsi,” said one
official, “indicates we could be a partner on a broader set of issues
The second paragraph here is truer than the first. But the question is,
will the Obama administration press Morsi if they're unhappy with his
behavior? Or does it intend to support him unconditionally?
Who's responsible for this article? Did the administration go to the New
York Times and say, "say, you really need to highlight how valuable
Morsi is?" (I'd guess that an article like that would more likely have
been written by Helene Cooper or Mark Landler.) I suspect that the mover
behind this article is David Kirkpatrick whose goal is to make the
Muslim Brotherhood appear reasonable to the American public.
2) The New media and Amud Anan
The other day Yaacov Lozowick sifted through his Twitter threads and discerned three different ways people are against Israel. There are the obvious says and then there's Lozowick's third category:
Finally, in an entire different category, there are the well
intentioned rationally-minded observers. These tend to be liberal in the
American meaning, or left-leaning in the European political vocabulary.
Their problem is not a deficiency of moral thinking, nor a disability
to apply it to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Their problem is the
inability to accept the degree to which people can be immoral. They
cannot accept that some people are so different from them as to be
unrecognizable. The implication being, that if only everyone seeks hard
enough it will be possible to resolve most differences. As a number of
them have said to me in recent days: if your pessimism were to be
justified, Yaacov, then there's no hope. There needs to be a resolution
to the conflict. There must be a resolution to the conflict. If you're
not seeing it it's because you're not truly seeking it – and this
laziness is unacceptable; ultimately, it’s a moral weakness, since
you're willing to remain in a state of war when it's possible to leave
This is where much of the media is. Though I think a lot of people in this category end up moving to his second category.
Raheem Kassam sees Twitter as a way that Israel has gotten its message out effectively. (via Yaacov Lozowick)
Just over a week ago, the Israel Defence Forces had 100,000 fewer
followers on Twitter than it does today. Its Facebook and YouTube
followings have experienced similar levels of growth. In recent years,
it has often been the apologists for the likes of Hamas that have
utilised social media in propagandising. Israel's response has been to
throw open its information to public scrutiny and the rightfully prying
eyes of the international media. Today, it is acknowledged that IDF
press releases and Twitter updates can be relied upon to be factual,
whereas various occasions over the past week have lent to the scepticism
of what emanates from Gaza. This is the right way of thinking, and one that many have attempted to ignore for far too long.
More generally Fast Company interviewed Eytan Buchman about the history of the IDF's social media efforts.
I'll skip ahead for a second. Most of the innovation that comes from
inside the IDF happens because we're a very young army. We're a very
young military because of universal draft, most people come in when
they're 18. Males serve for three years and women serve for two years.
This forms a parity where people find themselves between 18 and 21 and
inside military operations. The idea of flexibility and innovation is
Though it's marred by a few of obnoxious judgments, Gizmodo profiled Sacha Dratwa. But the profile was spurred by a more comprehensive article, The ‘Kids’ Behind IDF’s Media:
When flexibility and innovation reaches the communications world,
suddenly it opens up new horizons. A number of years ago, one of our
soldiers inside the foreign press branch suggested that we try to
increase our social media presence. Initially, it was very grassroots
inside the military. At one point, a soldier paid for a WordPress
account using her own credit card just to get it off the ground instead
of dealing with the military bureaucracy.
In the space of only a couple of years, it blossomed into a full-size
branch with people who deal with all different forms of
mediums--interactive mediums on a variety of platform and a variety of
It’s not clear who’s running the Qassam Brigade’s twitter feed, but
in Israel, the IDF’s social media operation is run by a 26-year-old
immigrant from Belgium named Sacha Dratwa. In the past two years, Dratwa
has taken a small operation initially created during Operation Cast
Lead to streamline the IDF’s YouTube and Facebook presence and turned it
into the most globally visible arm of the Israeli military. In the past
year, the new media desk has rapidly expanded into new terrain, from
commissioning content designed for viral sharing to creating a
Foursquare-style game for the IDF blog that rewards frequent visitors to
the site with badges. The IDF is also posting video of its drone
strikes, starting with the Jabari assassination, as well as of Israelis
taking cover during air raids and of Iron Dome units successfully
thwarting rockets launched from Gaza.
3) The old Abbas is the old boss
“The government still has to generate the talking points, what we want
to achieve, and then we turn it over to the kids, and they translate it
into this new language of social media,” said Daniel Seaman, deputy
director general of the Ministry of Public Information and Diaspora
Affairs, who ran the government press office during Operation Cast Lead.
“I say it’s magic.”
“We want to explain to people what happens in Israel, simply,” Dratwa
said in a brief telephone interview late last week. “We believe people
understand the language of Facebook, the language of Twitter.”
In Hamas's Miscalculation, Jonathan Spyer observed:
From the historical perspective, it is now clear that the “Arab
spring”—that is, the fall of decrepit Arab nationalist regimes and their
replacement by Islamist ones—began not in Tunisia in early 2011, but in
Gaza in the summer of 2007. The expulsion of Fatah and the PLO from the
Gaza Strip, and their defeat at the hands of the Islamists of Hamas,
set the prototype in miniature for what has followed in Tunisia, Egypt,
Syria, and Yemen.
In his initial post at the Volokh Conspiracy, Fatah: A Fossil, Prof. Eugene Kontorovich makes a similar observation:
But there is a more fundamental problem with the strengthen-Fatah
trope. Hamas is gaining strength – but not because of any Israeli acts
or omissions. The rise of Hamas is just the local instance of a general
rise in Islamist movements across the Middle East, and the Muslim world.
Indeed, the rise of the once-banned Muslim Brotherhood to power in
neighboring Egypt only boost the legitimacy, and apparent inevitability,
Even if Hamas is riding the wave of the future, it is possible, as Fouad Ajami writes in Will the Arab Spring deliver for Hamas? that the growing Islamism may impose limitations on Hamas too.
The decline of Fatah is even more over-determined. Fatah is a secular
Arab nationalist movement. Article 1 of the Fatah charter spoke only of
pan-Arabism, not of Palestine. Thus it is part of an ideology that once
reigned across the Arab world – from Libya to Syria. It was an exciting
movement that inspired millions, and the Fatah leadership was just the
local manifestation – with the same authoritarianism, cronyism and
corruption that made the other regimes so unpopular.
Now, it is an anachronism, a throwback. With Assad crippled, Fatah
remains the last Arab nationalist party standing – and ironically, this
delicate fossil only survives in the museum protected by the IDF.
Everyone wants to be on the winning team. Fatah’s team doesn’t exist
anymore, and so it should not be surprising that is prestige and
influence wanes. Israel can no more stop this than it can resurrect
The Palestinians ignore a fundamental truth about the Arab Awakenings
at their peril. These rebellions were distinctly national affairs,
emphasizing the primacy of home and its needs. Indeed, the Palestinians
themselves have bristled in indignation that the pan-Arab media have
zealously covered Syria while all but ignoring Palestine, which was the
obsession of the 1960s and 1970s.
History has moved on, and Arab populations have gone their separate
ways. They caught on to the sobering conclusion that the cause of
Palestine had been hijacked by military regimes and tyrants for their
own ends. As they watched the Syrian fighter jets reduce so much of the
fabled city of Aleppo to rubble, they understood that their wounds are
self-inflicted, that their political maladies have nothing to do with
Israel. Hamas better not press its luck. Palestinian deliverance lies in
realism, and in an accommodation with Israel. Six decades of futility
ought to have driven home so self-evident a lesson.
Labels: Barack Hussein Obama, Egypt, Fatah, Hamas, Middle East Media Sampler, Mohammed Morsy, Operation Pillar of Defense, Soccer Dad, Twitter