Sunday, February 15, 2015

15-Feb-15: What unites the Arabs? This editor knows - and brotherhood and goodwill have little to do with it

September 2013: Atwan, the strategic commentator, bemoaning
a reversal in a strategic Arab position [Image Source]
To put the quote below into a meaningful context, readers ought to take a quick look at "18-Oct-12: This is not an attack on Abdel Bari Atwan", a post we published here after a string of earlier reflections on Atwan and his output. And perhaps this too: "4-Dec-10: Should this man be accorded the respect due to an objective, professional journalist?"

He is quoted again today by the good people at MEMRI who provide an invaluable service translating Arabic media content into English and thereby helping people who wish things were different to understand how things actually are.

Speaking on the Lebanese Mayadeen TV channel on January 31, 2015, Abd Al-Bari Atwan, recently-retired editor-in-chief of the London-based newspaper "Al-Quds Al Arabi," said:
In my view, Jihad must be directed, first and foremost, against the Israeli enemy. This is the enemy about which there is a consensus. Arabs who do not think that Israel is an enemy are neither Arabs nor Muslims. Our compass must point toward that enemy. All our guns must be turned toward that enemy, regardless of our differences, because this is the only thing that unites us. [Transcript here; Arabic-language video source here]
At various times, we have republished here various offensive, racist and/or hate-based statements attributed to Atwan over a period of years. The problem, naturally, is not that a loathsome man with hateful views exists, or even that he is active in London and Europe, or that people want to hear him. It's that those noxious views of his continue to be aired via public platforms and in respectable places as commentary, as if he were some sort of objective voice, free of passionate involvement on one side of the conflict he interprets. We're baffled by that. As we wrote back in October 2012:
We think this can only be because the people in those places (a) don't know what he writes in Arabic, (b) don't care or (c) share Atwan's self-opinion (on his website) that this is actually a function of his "lively and passionate debating style". Examples of the respectable places that give Abdel Bari Atwan a platform? His website lists some of them here: BBC News (as recently as two weeks ago); Al Jazeerah; BBC DatelineBBC News ReviewRT ("Russia Today"); Chatham House London... These are the people who need to be criticized. We don't say Atwan should be shut up or shut out. Many of us live in free societies, and obnoxious views like his are part of the price. What we do say is that presenting him as a sober and objective stakeholder in the robust public marketplace of ideas is irresponsible, dishonest and disingenuous. His viewpoints on terrorism alone should have been enough to remove him from mainstream broadcast media years ago. The fact that he keeps on popping up suggests a serious degree of systemic prejudice at work inside Bush House and other such places of huge global influence.
The questions that occupy us have not changed much. Nor has the nature of his advocacy for offensive and violent positions. What has changed, grown larger, is the scale of the danger to which being foolish about such issues leads.

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