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Thursday, June 10, 2010

Israel provides World Cup broadcasts in Arabic. Arabs complain.

Daniel Kurtzer, former US ambassador to Israel and Egypt, wrote in a recent op-ed:
In the aftermath of the flotilla fiasco, it is not just Israel’s military tactics and its blockade of Gaza that need a thorough reexamination. Its narrative does, too. A dose of empathy might be a place to start. Israel will not break by military force and tough rhetoric alone the political and moral double standards by which the world judges its actions. But it can make its case better by tempering force with diplomacy, by caring as much about the humanitarian distress among Palestinians as it does about humanitarian causes elsewhere in the world, and by developing a storyline infused with the moral and ethical standards by which Israelis judge their own behavior.
Kurtzer thinks that if Israel would just act nicer towards Arabs, they will naturally reciprocate that goodwill and this could be a first step towards peace, love and cute little puppies.

An article in Palestine Today indicates that this is not necessarily the case.

Gazans are scrambling to find ways that they can watch the World Cup. Al Jazeera is scrambling its World Cup signal and requires that viewers pay for the right to watch it. It is unclear from the article whether Gazans are unable or unwilling to pay, so they are trying alternative means to receive the games.

Some are building TV antennas to pick up signals from pirate TV stations in the West Bank who are trying to get around AL Jazeera's monopoly. Others are trying to descramble the Al Jazeera signal to watch for free. (Al Jazeera announced that some of the games would be broadcast for free.)

The article then mentions that "the occupying power" is providing World Cup coverage in Arabic for free, alongside its Hebrew coverage. It is hiring senior Arab sports analysts for these broadcasts.

But rather than showing appreciation for this move, the article says that this is being done to steal Arab viewers away from the Al Jazeera coverage!

Kurtzer is way too optimistic. Arabs might privately appreciate and respect what Israel does, but the culture is set up so that it is inconceivable that this private appreciation will ever translate into the public sphere.

Perhaps the reason that Kurtzer is not writing op-eds about that aspect of the problem is because he knows, deep down, how useless it is.