Sunday, April 11, 2010

On "moderation" and the Al Asharq al Awsat columnists (Zvi)

From Zvi, in commenting on my last post:
There's an important point to note here. A person can be a moderate or reformer when considering only Saudi local issues or some other topics, and still be an extremist regarding the Israel agenda. But Shobokshi is not a reformer in either sense.

I read Shobokshi's columns, but I don't expect him to penetrate the smoke-screen of anti-Israel incitement or abandon a long-term destroy-Israel agenda. In some cases, Shobokshi starts down a road that leads to some clear-headed analysis, but he always returns to the same old hostile mindset.

Of course, it's possible that Shobokshi really is smarter and wiser than this, but is forced by the constraints of Arab media and society to phrase things in a way that prevents others from labeling him a traitor. Your recent posts about Mira Awad and Ema remind us that Arab media figures who openly take unconventional stances on Israel or Jews are taking a risk.

But I don't see any evidence that Shobokshi thinks in this manner. Rather, he's deeply entrenched in the hatred of Israel and accepts without reservation the flagrant nonsense that is broadcast about it in the Arab media (examples).

I can laud Shobokshi's call to stop letting pursuit of "the Palestinian Cause" become the fig leaf that allows the leaders of the Arab world to run everything else into the ground. But he's no moderate.

At the end of the piece, Shobokshi shows that what affects him most deeply Shobokshi is Arab victory, not a better life for his people.

I do recommend reading several of the columnists on the English site. This is not because they agree with me on very much (I doubt that they do), but rather because I find that they have interesting opinions. I don't expect them to be friends of Israel or to support its point of view.

* Mshari al-Zaydi: I often find his columns to be very interesting, even when I don't agree with them (except that his most recent one embraces an easily-debunked myth - oh, well).
* Abdul Rahman al-Rashed is the general manager of Al Arabiya. Mr. al-Rashed sometimes gets muddled, and sometimes he does things for the wrong reasons, but regardless of my own opinion on a topic, his comments are often worth reading.
* Tariq Alhomayed is the Editor in Chief of Asharq al Awsat. Along with other sources, his comments can help to paint a picture about the regional hopes and concerns of modernist members of the Saudi elite. You do have to take what he says on some topics with a grain of salt, especially where the Saudi monarchy is involved.

As I said, don't expect these guys to be pro-Israel. I don't even expect them to be neutral; you'll just be disappointed. What I expect from them is that even when Israel is involved, they tend to have interesting analyses rather than engaging in knee-jerk ranting, bizarre flights of fancy or simplistic naivete. That's not true of some of the other columnists.

The most openly liberal commentator on the Asharq English site used to be Mona Eltahawy. But Ms. Eltahawy says that she was banned by the paper after she penned columns openly slamming the Egyptian government.

At least, with the Saudis and the Syrian/Iranian axis embroiled in a regional cold war, the paper seems to have stopped accepting regular contributions from the Syrian Minister of Expatriates and Paranoid Drivel, Bouthaina Shaaban.