Saturday, December 20, 2014


Who will win tomorrow in Tunisia? Qatar or Saudi Arabia?

The art of Seth Rogen

And let us face it: who can better educate the world about foreign affairs and human rights than Seth Rogen?  

How could you, North Korea?

Will humanity be able to survive without the high art and humor of Seth Rogen? How could you, North Korea?

diet of Gaza

From Marc: "doesnt this sound like the "diet" israel puts gaza on:

In the spring of 1960, US Secretary of State Christian Herter expressed the need to take a "positive position which would call forth a line of action while as adroit and inconspicuous as possible makes the greatest inroads in denying money and supplies to Cuba, to decrease monetary and real wages, to bring about hunger, desperation and overthrow of government.""

Sony and the movie

So Sony first said that everyone got it wrong: that it did not decide to not release the movie, and that movie theaters decided to not run it. Today, Sony said that it has decided to release the movie, although as of yesterday it was denying stories that it did not release. Now we can all enjoy the high art of Seth Rogen.

Notice the word "possibly"

What #Assad & #Syria regime hardliners did to cling to power, possibly killing their own too on July 18, 2012 @WSJ

Have Arab regimes taken over Arabic Wikipedia?

I have been noticing as of late: Arab intelligence services seem to have taken over Arabic Wikipedia. They really control the full text of the entries on issues and personalities that they care about. The entry of Qaboos is clearly written by his media office. Look at this entry of Muhammad Ibn Abdul-Wahab: it does not even mention the opposition to him by his own brother (who authored the first refutation of Wahhabiyyah ever), and it puts claims of wide travels and education by the illiterate man.  Finally, it claims he was prolific when he actually never authored books or articles by collected Hadith to bolster his kooky Jihadi terrorist cause. 

Sam Dagher's previous work on Syria

A reader sent me this: "Zamzam Khalil, 95, refugee Tiberias was eating grass in " did'nt do this" "
Embedded image permalink Older women used to have tattoos on their faces, and Mr. Dagher thought it was from eating grass. What do you say to that?

A response to the Sam Dagher's story in the Wall Street Journal

A well-known Western journalist in the Middle East (who does not wish to be identified) sent me this reaction:
"Any article that begins by quoting Manaf Tlass as a source immediately loses credibility, but then the only thing that discredits one more than quoting Tlass is quoting Walid Jumblatt
I’m curious why they decided to publish this now, its very weird, an article blaming Iran and Hizballah without any evidence or anything new to say about an explosion over two years old. There has to be something to the timing.
Tlass never told me or any of his close friends either story until now and they are surprised by his claims. He’s making up the story about being personally targeted. Also he would not know anything about this stuff, he was cut off from the internal workings of the regime, and he left before it happened. Moreover important insurgent leaders claimed to be behind the attack and western intelligence agencies did not blame the regime but thought it was an insurgent operation.
Shawqat was in fact well liked by many of the local opposition leaders he met at the time, whether in Homs or Reef Dimashq or elsewhere. And some were wondering if he was building his own kingdom. But he was not the only pragmatist in the regime at the time.
While elements in the regime might be cynical enough to do something like this, this article proves nothing and repeats rumor and gossip. It’s a surprise because Dagher is one of the best Western correspondents covering the Middle East and his work on Syria was better than most.
The bombing did not spur more Alawites to support the regime any more than any other incident let alone the nature of the opposition itself, and the nature of Alawites themselves too
The article greatly exaggerates the role of Iran and Hizballah, important as their roles are. Syria is not in the hands of Iran but of course Iran has influence and there are Iranian advisors.
“The killing of two Syrian protesters by regime forces on March 18, 2011, in the city of Deraa, changed everything. It shattered a short period of peaceful marches by mostly Sunni crowds calling for Mr. Assad’s ouster.”
March 18 was the first Friday demonstration in Daraa, so the short period had not started yet, nor had calls for Assad’s ouster really started yet
Also I do not think Faruq Sharaa was put under house arrest."

The journalism of Sam Dagher: the story of Abu Karo

Readers from around the Middle East have been sharing with me samples of the journalistic work of Sam Dagher. I thought it was a spoof, I swear.  I mean, it is possible that Abu Karo was one of the sources of his story in the WSJ yesterday. 

PS Did you notice that most Western journalists and even foreign editor were circulating the story as it it had some damning evidence?

Enemies of the Lebanese people

"The United Nations General assembly passed a resolution on Friday asking Israel to pay over $850 million in damages to Lebanon for the 2006 oil spill that occurred because of an attack by the Israeli air force. The resolution, approved by 170 members of the council, was denied by six members while three members abstained from voting. Israel, the U.S., Canada, Australia, Micronesia and Marshall Islands voted "no" for the resolution,"

Israel's dirty hands in Syria

"Covertly however Israel is a key player in prolonging the depleting war on Syria and the major beneficiary of neutralizing the military of the only immediate Arab neighbor that has so far eluded yielding to the terms dictated by the US-backed Israeli regional force majeure for making peace with the Hebrew state." "Israeli air force and artillery intervened several times to protect the al-Nusra Front's "safe haven" against fire power from Syria, which is still committed to its ceasefire agreement of 1974 with Israel. Last September for example, Israel shot down a Syrian fighter jet that was bombing the Front's positions, only three weeks after shooting down a Syrian drone over the area."

But of the total, only $100 million or so has been received by Gaza

"The conference in Cairo had been hailed as a success, with Qatar promising $1 billion, Saudi Arabia $500 million and the United States and the European Union a combined $780 million in various forms of assistance." "But of the total, only $100 million or so has been received, according to U.N. and other officials." "The Arab countries haven't paid anything until now," Mufeed al-Hasayna, the Palestinian housing minister, said this month." (thanks Amir)

Why would the West be bothered when the Turkish military rule didn't bother them

"President Tayyip Erdogan's tightening grip on power is likely to meet little more than symbolic resistance from the West next year, as Turkey's G20 presidency and the fight against Islamic State trump concerns about a slide towards authoritarianism."

Obama deepens Israeli-American relations

"The U.S.-Israel Strategic Partnership Act increases the value of emergency U.S. weaponry kept in Israel by $200 million, to a total of $1.8 billion. It promotes closer U.S.-Israeli links in energy, water, homeland security, alternative fuel technology and cybersecurity. It also offers a verbal guarantee of Israel maintaining a qualitative military edge over its neighbors."

Pastry chefs

Basim sent me this: "Sheikh al-Masri is a moderate Islamist advocate, who makes a living from a pastry shop he owns in the area of Abi Samra in the northern city of Tripoli. "

Abu Ali al-Shishani: From pastry chef to ‘Islamic State’ emir. He added, in the midst of these events “I told myself that jihad began in Syria so I left Lebanon where I worked as a pastry chef” and headed to Syria."

Tunisian pastry chef Slim Gasmi died on a Syrian battlefield and was lionized with a hashtag: #martyrdomofabuqatada. By the time he was killed in April more than 1,500 miles from home, he had transformed into a warrior with a long beard and a nom de guerre, Abu Qatada, celebrated on a radical jihadist Twitter feed."

Western discourse on Islam: and anti-Semitism

You don't think we notice? That grotesque bigotry against Muslims never gets the same (justified) outrage that anti-Semitism brings?  How would those haters be perceived historically?  And why don't people point out the striking similarity between current Western discourses on Islam and the past Western (and even German) discourses against Jews prior to WWII.   "In the interview, he said: "There's a definite urge - don't you have it? - to say, 'The Muslim community will have to suffer until it gets its house in order.' What sort of suffering? Not letting them travel. Deportation - further down the road. Curtailing of freedoms. Strip-searching people who look like they're from the Middle East or from Pakistan." "  If he said the same about Jews this man would not be allowed in polite company and he would never be allowed to publish anywhere. 

Yellow journalism mixed with crude propaganda: Sam Dagher in the Wall Street Journal

Let us face it. America's favorite armed gangs in Syria are not doing well at all. Your hero, Gen. Engineer Dr. Salim Idriss is nowhere to be found; the Syrian national coalition can't even meet because of dissent and divisions; what used to be called "rebels and activists" are now basically a variety of Bin Laden's children (Nusrah versus ISIS), and what is left of the Fee Syrian Army often defects in whole units to ISIS as happened in the north just recently.  And there are no more defections from the Syrian regime--not even clerks and photographers--to celebrate in the Western media. So what to do in such cases?  Well, the best thing is to cook a propaganda story and fabricate a fable that only those fabricated it can believe it. Sam Dagher has this article which adheres to the lowest standards of journalism that I have seen (and the standards of journalism on Syria in the Western press are the lowest I have seen in a long time). But look how Dagher documents his story: "Two dozen people, including past and current regime officials, opposition leaders, activists and rebels, and politicians in neighboring countries with ties to Mr. Assad told The Wall Street Journal".  But in fact the two dozen people he mentions are the same people: they are Syrian opposition people and their handlers in the Arab intelligence services.  It is really one source. But the favorite part of the story is that it relies mostly on the account of Munaf Tlas. Mr. Tlas sat on this explosive story for three years and just now remembered it? I mean, who not share it when the oil media were desperate for your stories and inside information although you provided none. And now when nobody talks about Tlasn and when it became clear that all factions of the Syrian rebels are not ready to work with him, he decided to pick a willing cheerleader for the Syrian rebels to tell his story.  Only now? And I like how the revelation came on the 3rd anniversary of the bombing.  But here is my favorite part of the anthology of lies:  "One opposition activist said Mr. Shawkat seemed to be the regime representative most interested in the discussion."  What? Most interested in discussion? All the time when the Syrian war started and up until the time when the bomb exploded and long after Shawkat died, the entire media of the Syrian opposition (armed and unarmed) were talking about Shawkat as the butcher of Damascus and as the worst man in the entire regime.  So Dagher wants us to now forget that we read all those accounts and believe that the Syrian opposition believed that he was a man of moderation and negotiations?  Finally, I need to add one last bit: among Dagher's sources for this article is...Walid Jumblat. Need I say more?

House of Saud forces assaults `Awamiyyah last night (or early morning Saudi time)

Victim, Salim Abu `Abdullah.

Friday, December 19, 2014

"The CIA Didn’t Just Torture, It Experimented on Human Beings"

"Human experimentation, in contrast, has not been politically refashioned into a legitimate or justifiable enterprise. Therefore, it would behoove us to appreciate the fact that the architects and implementers of black-site torments were authorized at the highest levels of the White House and CIA to experiment on human beings. Reading the report through this lens casts a different light on questions of accountability and impunity."

Israelis: when they try to claim that the handful of Arabs who are not opposed to Israel are "great"

Never mind that Salem does not promote Israel in Arabic, or that he has written anti-Semitic stuff, or that he is published in the mouthpiece of Prince Salman, or that his claim to fame is a plagiarized play.  From Khelil:  "I remember you writing about Ali Salem and how Zionist media are keen to promote him and exaggerate his significance (it would be more accurate to say they invent his significance) all because he traveled to Israel. The Jerusalem Post has found their favorite Egyptian and wants readers to know that this guy’s books are “classics” and cites by way of authority Daniel Pipes’ journal: “Salem has written 25 plays and 15 books, and some of them Egyptian classics, said the article.” Silly "

Nir Rosen

""In it, he argues that the armed opposition has become hopelessly radicalized, while the Assad regime is nonsectarian in nature." “While the Syrian state was not the most attractive one even before the 2011 uprising, it also was not the worst regime in the region,” he writes. “It has strong systems of education, health care and social welfare and compared to most Arab governments it was socially progressive and secular…. It had a solid infrastructure and a relatively effective civil service.” "Rosen also argues against the assumption that Assad presides over an Alawite-dominated regime. “Most of the regime is Sunni, most of its supporters are Sunnis, many [if] not most of its soldiers are Sunni,” he writes. “The regime may be brutal, authoritarian, corrupt and whatever else it is described as, but it should not be seen as representing a sect.” The sectarianism that does exist in Syria, Rosen argues, is preponderantly on the side of the anti-Assad opposition."" So Nir does not believe in the theory that the Sufis and whiskey fans are running the "revolution" anymore?

fair and free elections

"This must be why Republicans demand that Cuba holds “free and fair elections” before any agreement between them. Because the one thing connecting the people the US backed during those 50 years – from Pinochet to the Indonesian military; Saddam when they liked him; the Emir of Kuwait; the Saudi royal family; Assad when they liked him; the Shah of Iran; Marcos in the Philippines; and Bin Laden when they liked him – is you can’t mention their names without thinking the words “free and fair elections”."

Governments don't interfere in the art of Seth Rogen in the West

"The claim that the State Department played an active role in the decision to include the film’s gruesome death scene is likely to cause fury in Pyongyang. Emails between the Sony Entertainment CEO and a security consultant even appear to suggest the U.S. government may support the notion that The Interview would be useful propaganda against the North Korean regime."

Seth Rogen

Seth Rogen to Western civilization, from what I read in the US media, is what Victor Hugo was to French literature.

decades of US plans to kill Castro: Castro won

"Fleming, it is claimed, told Kennedy, that killing Fidel Castro was not simply enough, he had to be thoroughly humiliated." "Other agents studied the possibility of killing Castro while he was diving. Plans were discussed which considered infecting his air supply with a biological agent. But Desmond Fitzgerald, the CIA's former head of Cuban operations said he bought two books on Caribbean mollusks, to find a seashell suitable to hold an explosive device, which would kill the communist leader on the sea bed. Another plan, which seemed similar to one discussed at the Kennedy dinner table involved a CIA campaign describing Castro as the anti-Christ, while a US submarine would light up the sky with starbursts announcing the Second Coming." (thanks Amir)

Will we ever laugh again, in the Western world?

Will we be able to laugh again in the Western world now that Sony censored yet another hilarious art project from Seth Rogen? I doubt it.

Learn about Islam from US media: secular Fatwas and semi Fatwas and kabab fatwas

"STEVEN CLEMONS, EDITOR AT LARGE, "THE ATLANTIC": Well, I think it helps  the right, because it makes everyone concerned about what might happen on their street corner in their local mall. This is the kind of act that al Qaeda wouldn`t do. Al Qaeda bombed planes and took on trophy targets.  They didn`t go after small targets like this.

MATTHEWS: But anyone with --you don`t need ISIS and the territory they`ve grabbed, Iraq, Syrian territory. All you need is somebody with a Web site to issue these semi-fatwas. Remember, they`re secular fatwas. What do you  make of it? " (thanks Basim)

Sony movies

What will befall Western civilization without Sony movies and the art of Seth Rogen? I shudder when I think.

Hugh Naylor: his method of journalism

Would the foreign editor of the Post and Times allow a story about Israel to be attributed to "security officials and people in Israel, as he does here: "according to security officials and people in Lebanon".   He then adds: "has been widely reported in the Lebanese and Arabic media".  But he fails to add that the story only appeared in Saudi and Hariri media, exclusively. No other media reported about it.  But he leaves that out.  [This without me commenting on whether the story in question is true or not, or about what I know about it, but I am merely commenting about his method of documentation).  But this is my favorite part: Naylor says: "Hezbollah refuses to deny or confirm the reports", but then he cites this expert saying: "“Hezbollah’s response to this is very deliberate, and it’s a response that was certainly decided on by the senior leaders, even Hassan Nasrallah himself,” he said." Wait. You just said that Hizbullah had no response, and then cited an expert saying that its response is very deliberate, whatever that means??  Learn journalism from Mr. Naylor.

Gay Marriage in Lebanon II

Saja kindly translated my remarks from Arabic about the TV show on New TV in Lebanon, which dealt for the first time with gay marriage.
"Some remarks with regard to the “Lilnashr” show on gay marriage:
1)    Did you notice the episode’s formal title? It was “First public gay marriage for the eyes of Lebanese society.” What does “for the eyes of Lebanese society” mean? It insinuates incitement as if to call on Lebanese society to assault the two young men, or worse.
2)    Dear Pierre [Abi Sa`b, culture editor of Al-Akhbar] did a great job raising important points and answering questions but he wasn’t allowed to complete his points. Contrary to some inaccurate impressions of Pierre that stem from his civility and democratic spirit (in a positive way), Pierre is actually assertive in debates. I’ve seen him defend the resistance at a conference in Berlin and you would’ve thought he was about to brandish a sword.
3)    Why do religious figures get invited to discussions of this type? When did religious figures become experts on various life matters? Why do religious figures make the topics of food, drink and especially sexuality repulsive? This is their objective even if they don’t know it. Religious figures should only address their own fields of expertise albeit the orientalist Philip Hitti used to say that Muslim religious figures do not enjoy privilege over laypersons in religion (Abdullah Alayili shared a similar opinion).
4)    Who is this physician, George Yarid, who talks at the beginning of the show and compares the homosexual to the “normal person”? He said it twice. If the “physician” thinks this way, what would one expect of laypeople?
5)    What did Rima Karaki mean when she spoke of the gay “composition”? Is there a composition that differs from everyone else’s?
6)    Equality between homosexuals and heterosexuals requires avoiding both demonization and romanticization of homosexuals. They’re like everybody else; there are good and bad, funny and unfunny. Male chauvinism manifests itself in gay couples as it does in heterosexual couples. In the show Muhammad is insufferable and treats his boyfriend “Jennifer” with the same repression and control that a traditional man would display towards his wife. Frankly, I fear for “Jennifer” vis a vis both his boyfriend Muhammad as well as the rest of society. He didn’t let him speak and he was rude and admitted to his possessive drive in relationships. I’m concerned that “Jennifer” could be the victim of taunting in the relationship, which of course exists in homosexual relationships according to numerous studies in several societies.
7)    I fear that our racist society would accuse Syrians of bringing homosexuality to Lebanon since Muhammad is of Syrian origin. In fact, in his outstanding book, La Personnalité et le devenir arabo-islamiques even the unparalleled historian, Hisham Djait, blamed Persians for historically bringing homosexuality to Arab society. Seriously.
8)    The agenda behind discussing such topics in sensational shows (in both the west and east) isn’t a noble one, unfortunately. "

Sony art

How could a two-bit dictator in North Korea restrain or restrict the art production by...the Sony corporation. How could we then live?

Castro won

The US has asked for the release of what it termed "53 political prisoners" in Cuba.  America's closest allies in the Middle East hold 1000 times that number, without complaint from the US, of course.

Love poem to oil--kid you not

A Saudi columnist writes a love poem to the barrel of oil. (thanks Mariam)

Meet the jovial Saudi Minister of Oil

From the civil war in Lebanon

  The woman below (Samirah Bushnaq) was looking in 1986 for her two children after an explosion.  In the year 2002 (16 years later exactly), she posed for the picture (above) with her two children (now grown up, naturally).

New York Times calls the Sony movie with Seth Rogen "art"

"That determination and the cancellation of the film were new twists in a series of developments that has found a major studio fighting for its art".  It is art, by America's standards.  Hell, by America's standards Saturday Night Live is comedy.

The CIA Wikileaked report on Israeli terrorist campaign agaisnt Black September leaders

"Following the killing of 11 Israeli athletes during the Munich Olympics in September 1972 by the Black September faction of the PLO Fatah organization, Israeli leaders initiated a multidecade effort to eliminate PLO leaders. The subsequent killings of suspected PLO militants across Europe and the Middle East included low-ranking officials with questionable connections to the Munich events, as well as a Moroccan waiter in Lillehammer, Norway, who had no connection to terrorism, according to a book by a British journalist. 126 The program’s secrecy prevented its integration with other diplomatic and
military initiatives. International pressure following the July 1973 death of the Moroccan waiter forced Israel to curtail the effort. 127"

According to CNN, Israel has also added Kobani to its occupation collection

(thanks Fadi)

Thursday, December 18, 2014

President of AUB

The dean of the medical school, Muhammad Sayigh, met with Fu'ad Sanyurah, seeking Hariri support for his candidacy for president of AUB. 


Are Muslims going to be blamed now for the cancellation of the Sony movie, Interview?

Putin and U.S. Media

I wish the US media would treat the US president with the same cynicism and criticism as they treat Putin.  

that makes is credible: according to the Jordanian General Intelligence Directorate

"In Iraq, Jaysh Muhammad (JM) suffered a significant setback in late 2004 after British
forces captured the head of JM and his replacements in short succession, according to
the Jordanian General Intelligence Directorate."

Do you have a favorable or unfavorable view of the U.S.?

Surprisingly, Americans have a very favorable view of the US.

The hazards of heterosexual behaviour

"The hazards of heterosexual behaviour have been well documented. They include, but are not limited to, unplanned pregnancies, penile and cervical cancer, vaginitis, a host of sexually transmitted diseases (some of them incurable or deadly), a disproportionate propensity to engage in child molestation, global overpopulation, socially oppressive gender roles, and more. A recurring pattern of these health disorders resulting from the union of the penis and vagina has been named heterocopulative syndrome. These people could pose a serious public health threat if such practices continue unchecked and may be especially dangerous if employed as food handlers.(2)"