Soccer Dad's Middle East Media Sampler
Here's Soccer Dad's Middle East Media Sampler for Monday, March 11.
1) More fallout over the Samira Ibrahim selection
Robert Mackey has established himself as an anti-Israel activist.
Following last week's revelation that Egyptian activist Samira Ibrahim
had been making antisemitic and anti-American comments, Mackey was back
in business. He asked, Samuel Tadros, the scholar who had uncovered the
statements if he (Tadros) was a Copt. Since Tadros's religion was
irrelevant to the story there was not point in asking. Some found the question inappropriate. Eric Trager rebuked Mackey.
@robertmackey 1.The Samira Ibrahim case has nothing to do w/Islamism; 2.You are essentializing his perspective as Coptic, which is shameful.
Mackey defended himself, claiming that he was seeking to provide
"context." Those familiar with his work regarding Israel know that context is not one of his strong suits. Mackey's work on the Ibrahim story can be summed up by looking at two paragraphs of his report, Egyptian Activist Subjected to ‘Virginity Test’ Dropped From U.S. Honors List for Tweets. (Note. too, that the title is specific about Ibrahim's claim to fame, not about her sins.)
— Eric Trager (@EricTrager18) March 8, 2013
Ms. Ibrahim did not respond to requests for comment, but late Thursday
she appeared to back away from the claim that she had been hacked in a
new update to her Twitter feed which read: “I refused to apologize to
the Zionist lobby in America for previous comments hostile towards
Zionism under pressure from the American government so the prize was
She did not back away from the claim. She responded once a writer for
the Times of Israel showed that her claim of being hacked was likely untrue.
After playing up Ibrahim's dual nature, the final paragraph of Mackey's report reads:
In what may have been an attempt to repair some of the damage, Ms.
Ibrahim’s most recent update on Twitter compared the plight of Egypt’s
Christian Coptic minority to that of Jews who were forced to leave the
country decades ago. “What is happening to the Copts now in Egypt
previously happened to the Jews,” she wrote. “Enough racism, enough
hatred, Egypt is for all Egyptians.”
It was too little, too late.
Lee Smith faults the State Department for the fiasco.
It is unfair that the American embassy in Cairo is taking most of the
blame for the Ibrahim affair. Yes, they should’ve done a better job of
vetting her before sending her name on to Washington. To get a read on
Ibrahim’s political positions, all embassy staff had to do was check
with some of Egypt’s genuine liberal activists, like those who since the
story broke have criticized her vicious opinions, or like Samuel
Tadros, or Mina Rezkalla and Amr Bargisi, or anyone from the Egyptian
Union of Liberal Youth.
Michael Rubin, though, disagrees with Smith on the culpability of the American embassy in Cairo.
But that hardly excuses management at Foggy Bottom, who should have
smelled something fishy at the outset. Did no one question whether or
not Ibrahim was really—as her biography stated before it was scrubbed
from the State Department’s website—“arrested” in high school for
writing a paper criticizing Arab leaders’ insincere support of the
Palestinian cause? Maybe a Mubarak loyalist at the school gave her a
stern talking to, maybe her parents were called in, maybe she was
interrogated by a security official, but actually put in jail? For a
high school paper? I am trying to imagine how State Department
officials, including those in the Bureau of Near East Affairs with many
years of experience in a region full of hard-security regimes,
rationalized this: “Sure, at the infamous Tora prison there was one bloc
set aside for hardcore Islamists—and another for militant high school
essayists.” “But if the Mubarak regime’s control of Egypt was so
comprehensive, why couldn’t state security or the military stop Iranian
missiles from getting into Hamas’ hands via the Sinai?” “That’s because
they chose instead to stop teenage schoolgirls from writing that Mubarak
didn’t support Hamas.” This absurdity is not on the embassy alone but
the entire State Department.
That is certainly right, but it only scratches the surface. Something is
very rotten at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo which was, until the 2003 Iraq
War, the largest U.S. embassy in the world. “Samiragate” is the rule
rather than the exception. Remember, after an Egyptian-American posted
on YoutTube the trailer for an amateurish film mocking the Prophet
Muhammad, the embassy overruled the State Department and tweeted
apologies to the militants attacking the embassy. Public affairs officer
Larry Schwartz became the fall guy for that episode, but he merely
reflected the culture the embassy cultivated.
2) A defining image, redefined
Anne Patterson, the U.S. ambassador to Egypt, is a career foreign
service officer who has led the embassy since 2010. She has set the tone
for the embassy’s embrace of the Muslim Brotherhood. Explaining why
Mohamed Morsi deserved American F-16 fighters, despite an increasing
disdain for the rule of law and revelations about his hateful
incitement, Patterson declared Morsi deserved the weaponry so Egypt can
“continue to serve as a force for peace, security, and leadership as the
Middle East proceeds with its challenging yet essential journey toward
Here’s the kicker: Guess who seems to be a finalist under Secretary of
State John Kerry for a promotion to become assistant secretary of State
for Near Eastern affairs? That’s right, Anne Patterson. If Samiragate
was truly the result of incompetence, then Patterson could use her new
position to bring that quality to the broader Middle East. Conversely,
if it really was illustrative of the cultural and political bubble that
Patterson imbued or let develop in her staff, then get ready for several
more years of self-inflicted wounds.
The defining image of Israel's defensive war, Pillor of Defense, was the
picture of BBC journalist, Jihad Mishrawi holding his dead son, said to
have been killed by an Israeli missile strike. Elder of Ziyon
immediately asked a number of questions about the report.
Still, few media outlets were bothered by these questions.
For example, Max Fisher of the Washington Post wrote The story behind the photo: Journalist’s 11-month-old son killed in Gaza strikes.
Reuters also had a photographer at the Gaza City hospital where
Misharawi took his son. The story that these photos tell, of loss and
confusion, may help inform the Palestinian reactions – and, as the
photos continue to spread widely on social media, perhaps the reactions
from beyond the Palestinian territories – to the violence between Israel
Patrick Pexton, then the ombudsman of the Washington Post, defended the paper's decision, Photo of dead baby in Gaza holds part of the ‘truth’:
MaryAnne Golon, The Post’s director of photography, explained to me that
the purpose of any front-page photo, regardless of subject, is to move
the reader, whether through its beauty, sentiment or drama.
Pexton, whose job it was to defend journalistic practices, apparently felt that "truth" is not absolute.
“When we looked at the selection that night of Middle East photos from
the wire services, this photo got everyone in the gut,” Golon said. “It
went straight to the heart, this sobbing man who just lost his baby
Post staff then authenticated and verified the facts behind the
Associated Press photo. The dead baby was real. The bombing was real.
Last week a report from the UN confirmed Elder of Ziyon's speculation. It isn't clear that any publication or organization have issued any corrections.
Perhaps they will; perhaps they won't.
But here's the important question: If it had been known for certain at
the time of Omar Mishrawi's death that he had been killed by a Hamas
rocket, would it have been front page news? Or is it only news when
Israel, defending its citizens, makes a rare mistake?
Labels: anti-Semitism, Gaza, Hamas rockets, human shields, Middle East Media Sampler, Operation Pillar of Defense, Soccer Dad, US State Department