A change in Arab media


On Sunday February 24th, millions of views turned their attention to the 85th Academy Awards to see what movies would win an Oscar. This year two films regarding the conflict between the Palestinian’s and Israeli’s were nominated for best documentary, “The Gatekeeper” and “5 broken Camera’s”. Under the direction of Dror Moreh, the film “The gatekeeper” tells the story of the last 6 leaders of the Shin Bet (Israeli National Security Service) and criticizes them for their lack of action to resolve the conflict. In this film, the history of the conflict is told from its beginning following the 1967 war and shows how it has developed over time to where it is currently today. Throughout the documentary, viewers are given a firsthand look at how leaders of the Shin Bet have discussed national security, assassinations, and resistance by the Palestinians leading to arrest and detention by the Israeli forces. On the other hand, in the film “5 Broken Camera’s” directed by Guy Davidi and Emad Burnat, the opposing view is depicted of the conflict and struggle from the Palestinian view under Israeli occupation. When it comes to the name of the film “5 Broken Cameras”, this came as a result that in the five years of filming the struggle 5 cameras or 1 camera per year were broken as a result of attacks on Palestinian protesters by the Israeli’s. Davidi and Burnat claim that the reason behind composing the film stems from both their hope to spread the word to the world on the struggles that the Palestinian’s endure as well as the hope to inform and preserve the issue for younger and future generations. While each documentary portrays the views of opposing sides, both films come to the conclusion that the longer the conflict continues both sides will continue to suffer.

With the Arab World becoming significantly more western in their media both through reporting of news as well as entertainment, the issues facing the Arab World are becoming more publicized and debated around the world. Through this shift of publication in the media, not only is the information able to spread at a much greater pace, but also provides more accurate and realistic accounts of what is really going on in the area. Both the directors of “5 Broken Cameras” and the director of “The Gatekeeper” realize that even though neither of the films won an Oscar, both sides have spread the story to the world. In a quote by Davidi, he states “I wasn’t disappointed [not to win an Oscar]… the world knows our voice and our struggles now”. http://forward.com/articles/171838/the-gatekeepers-and–broken-cameras-makers-claim/

To take the issues of the conflict shown in the documentary on a lighter note, Ted the talking bear from the highly popular movie “Ted” joked about the issue along with Marc Wahlberg while taking the stage following the announcement of the best documentary winner. Even with neither film taking the award, prior to presenting the award for best sound mixing Ted poked fun at being Jewish stating “everyone is at least half-Jewish in this business …  I was born Theodore Shapiro and I would like to donate money to Israel and continue to work in Hollywood forever.” http://forward.com/articles/171838/the-gatekeepers-and–broken-cameras-makers-claim/ Through making these puns while on live television to the nation, Ted further brought this conflict to spotlight attention as the film would have if they won the award. Through doing this, not only did Ted create a comedy routine to further entertain the national audience, but also assisted in spreading Arab culture and ideas to the World through the ongoing issue in the Middle East. With this attempt, hope is that the conflict will get the attention that it needs and will come to a peaceful resolution in the near future.


Syria opposition to join Rome talks after foreign aid pledge

British Foreign Minister William Hague and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry have met in London this past week to discuss foreign policy objectives, specifically the role their governments will play in the ongoing activity in Syria. The Syrian opposition leadership had also reversed their decision to not participate in planned peace talks in Rome. The switch in stance was likely the result of both Hague and Kerry pledging significantly increased support to the Syrian people.

While the notion of peace talks in a neutral setting are an excellent step in the right direction, the opposition has made it clear that they are expecting results from this summit, suggesting an unwillingness to negotiate. This may set a negative tone even before the plane has landed. It is also not above either side to simply walk out on talks, as both have done it before. What makes this set of talks different is the fact that momentum is building for the rebels as they have two superpowers (and NATO members) in their corner. Whether or not the regime seems to care is another story, although this could prelude more direct and aggressive (military) action by foreign governments. As I mentioned in a previous post, one can only wonder what the world superpowers’ clandestine intelligence community has been up to in Syria over the past two years or so. It’s a bit naive to dismiss the notion of covert involvement, but it is unreasonable to suggest that the U.S. government is not only “assisting” the opposition (interpret that as you see fit), but also actively destabilizing al-Assad’s rule?   


An increasing number of businesses have been fleeing Syria as it has become increasingly obvious that the conflict will be sustained for a long period of time. Part of the reason businesses have been able to relocate so quickly is the fact that they have low physical infrastructure and have become accustomed to quickly moving around to sidestep violent conflict. The more profitable domestic industries of textiles and food processing were worth several billion dollars, at least before the crisis began two years ago. 

Egypt is now the destination of choice for many of Syria’s former entrepreneurs, due to its low living costs, casual visa regulations, skilled workforce, and low labor costs. The Egyptian government has even gone as far as to formulate a Ministry of Industry and Foreign Trade, and has set up a unit specifically to engage with Syrian businessmen and was seeking to create a “Syrian industrial area.”

With the migration of physical and financial capital from Syria, it looks as if the country is destabilizing in more ways than one. With jobs drying up, many citizens take to the streets to protest what they see as failed governmental policies designed to promote commerce. Does this sound the death knell for the al-Assad regime? It could very well mean that the influx of commerce to Egypt could sway the support of the Egyptian government in favor of the emigrants, which could increase the pressure on the regime to dissolve or otherwise absolve power. The United States government’s stance on the uprising has been clear, and Egypt’s new President Morsi could curry favor by joining the cause. 


Political Critique of U.S. policy towards Israel (Cartoon)


I found this cartoon while searching the internet for Arab Cartoons. It is a depiction of the U.S. Capitol building with an Israeli Flag flying over it and barbed wire surrounding it which is also reinforced by money bags. This cartoon is a clear commentary of not only the close U.S./Israel relations but also of the power and effectiveness of Israeli interest groups lobbying in the United States Congress. The negative undertones and sarcasm are very clear to see. This is well displayed in the text labeling the Capitol building as the “The Eternal, United, Undivided-(Both Houses)-Capitol of Israel.”  This is a clear reaction by a Palestinian artist towards the Israeli presence in the Occupied Territories and an impasse over the Two-State solution.

To say that this cartoon is appropriate is totally based on your perspective. Cartoons like this are quite popular and well distributed by the Arab Media. We can see a new image of the Middle East and Arab World, in particular, by the emergence of this new Media in which civil society is more vocal (sometimes more radical in that approach) while also weakening the shackles of state censorship. The bottom line is that Palestinians are becoming more and more vocal over the territorial disputes with Israel and this is well portrayed by the increase in anti-Israel cartoons that are becoming more broadly distributed by a rising Arab Media.

Palestinian Hate Cartoon

My first few blogs focused solely on either news articles or commentary of our class readings thus far. So, I decided to look for visual media and found a very interesting video. This video is a Palestinian Cartoon/TV show which promotes hostility towards Israelis and the State of Israel. The video is rather derogatory of the Israeli State with comments such as “May Allah curse these infidels, who have gone astray” and “the (American) cowboys have spoken heresy as well.” Two things are clearly evident upon watching this particular video. (1) This video is clearly linked to a sub-branch or organization within Hamas that seeks to promote her message across the Palestinian Diaspora. (2) This video is an obvious response to the Danish cartoonist portrayal of the Prophet Mohammad back in 2006. There were two examples that illustrated this point well. At 1:14 in the video, the rabbit asks the little kid “Do you boycott Israeli and Danish products?” with the kid responds “Yes, Assud I do.” Also, at 2:24 the kid asks Assud “How did these Danes have the audacity to affront the messenger of Allah?” with which he responds “No I don’t. because the Arabs and Muslims keep silent.”


The reason I posted this video is because it shows some of the negative consequences of the expansion of Arab Media in which radical thoughts are being distributed quicker and easier than ever before. But, it also allows for a Western audience to view the sentiments of many Palestinians despite the extremist undertone in this video.

The Tunisian Crisis According to Arab Sources

Al Arabiya has reported that Tunisia is facing its worst crisis so far now that the Prime Minister has resigned. The Arab source gives a much more dire outlook on what could happen now in the revolutionary state, claiming that the country is going to fully collapse. Al Arabiya actually reported that the S&P downgraded Tunisia’s credit rating before the current Prime Minister resigned, and in the article described the current power structure now that the government has started to come apart. American and Western sources have reported the resignation of the Prime Minister but for the most part have ignored the potential impact and effects of this on the government. The Arab news source, in contrast goes much more in depth with their analysis of the government.

The difference in reporting between Arab and Western news sources is obvious here. While Western sources focus on the regional impact and the actual event itself, Arab sources focus more in depth on the in-country effects of events like this and predictions of what could happen based on past precedent. So the question is, which is better? Western news media will obviously never have the same understanding of regional politics that Arab news sources will. However, the fact that Arab media sources are  new means that they are still getting used to the way to accurately report news and fully escape the influence of governments in the region. I encourage you to look through the articles linked below and look at the contrast first hand.

Al Arabiya: http://english.alarabiya.net/en/2013/02/20/Is-Tunisia-falling-apart-Here-s-what-s-going-on.html

CNN: http://www.cnn.com/2013/02/19/world/africa/tunisia-pm-resigns/index.html


Habits That Came to be Part of the Norms

Talking about “Qat” the other day in class, I was kind of surprised of how famous Yemenis have became of using it, and I just want to add a little bit more on the subject. As you know, Qat is widely grown and used in Yemen by almost everybody, it is the big phenomenon Yemen is known for in the Arabic peninsula, even the neighboring countries of Yemen is not ever familiar with using Qat, except the Yemenis who live there. The repetitive usage of the substance can become very addictive, which is why Yemenis are not even missing one single day of using, some can’t even start the day and function without it. The wide spread of Qat has mingled and became a big part of the culture, knowing the fact that it can be harmful to the body, I might say it has been accepted in society as a national treasure. Back home, I have seen a lot of Yemenis who were there for work and they do not go any where without Qat in their pockets, and I wondered how did they manage to get it in the country because its prohibited as it is an addictive and is considered a drug, so I found out that they can get it but for a lot of money counting in the smuggling expenses, what a hardship!. It is somewhat similar in Arabia, with the hookah places that are so common and popular, but there is little to no consideration to the protocols of the health department, where kids that are under the age of 18 can still go in with out an inspection of age. The way hookah is very common, made such a situation be taken as lightly and seen as normal, but if everybody was doing it, that does not necessarily make it alright.