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Thursday, November 22, 2012

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.
“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.
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? )

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.
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.”
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.

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 insulted Islam.
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.
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 going forward.”
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 positive coverage.

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 it.
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 always encouraged.
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 languages.
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:
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.
“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.”
3) The old Abbas is the old boss

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, of Hamas.
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 Nasser.
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 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.

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