1) Meanwhile in Egypt
The New York Times is reporting Egyptians Struggle as Wary Tourists Stay Away:
Tourism plummeted in 2011 with the fall of President Hosni Mubarak and the unrest that followed. Some tourists have started to return, but officials say they are mostly beachgoers rather than the more lucrative cultural tourists who spend 10 days or more in Egypt, and spend accordingly during once-in-a-lifetime vacations.
Every headline about a riot in Egypt deepens the crisis. Cairo has been the hardest hit, with hotel occupancy falling to below 15 percent or worse in parts of the city closest to protests, according to Hani el-Shaer of the Egyptian Hotel Association. From Cairo, the hardship ripples across the country, affecting taxi and horse carriage drivers, boat operators, tour guides and store vendors.
“If something goes wrong in Cairo, tourists cancel the whole trip,” said Hisham Zaazou, Egypt’s minister of tourism.
There is no direct mention in the article that the repressive nature of the Muslim Brotherhood government might be deterring tourists.
An editorial in the Washington Post warns New laws would cripple Egyptian democratic institutions:
The former, autocratic government of Hosni Mubarak sporadically sought to repress NGOs, and the military regime that ruled the country in 2011 brought a criminal case against dozens of NGO employees, including a number of U.S. citizens. The flare-up in U.S.-Egyptian relations was defused when the Americans were allowed to leave the country, but the criminal case has continued, with a verdict now set for June. While saying that it is “determined to ensure that civil society is empowered,” President Mohamed Morsi’s government has done nothing to stop the criminal case; and now the legislative Shura Council, which is dominated by the ruling party, is considering restrictions on NGOs that go much further than those of the Mubarak government.
The editorial board of the Washington Post was originally supportive of the government, seeing anything to be better than Mubarak or the military. It’s good to see, however belatedly, that they’re recognizing the nature of the new government.
So what’s important for Egypt? Prosecuting a comedian. The New York Times reports Diplomatic Incident Arises Over Egyptian Comedian:
The comedian, Bassem Youssef, is being investigated by Egyptian prosecutors for statements he made on his popular television program, in which he was accused of insulting President Mohamed Morsi, denigrating Islam and disturbing public peace. On Sunday, prosecutors questioned him for hours, releasing him after he posted bail.
Human rights advocates and critics of Mr. Morsi’s framed the investigation as a part of a wider crackdown on free expression, and questioned why, given the long list of Egypt’s post-uprising crises, the government was wasting resources investigating comedy skits. Mr. Morsi has said the public prosecutor, whom he appointed, was acting independently after citizens complained about Mr. Youssef’s show.
On Monday, Victoria Nuland, the State Department spokeswoman, called the arrest warrant served on Mr. Youssef and other activists “evidence of a disturbing trend of growing restrictions on freedom of expression.”
Jon Stewart, mentioned later in the article – for comments made here – ties things better than I could hope to.
2) What deaths are worth acknowledging
Recently the New York Times ran an obituary of Mariam Farhat, known as “mother of martyrs.” The obituary, written in plain, antiseptic English tells of Farhat’s greatest accomplishments:
Ms. Farhat was elected to the Palestinian Legislative Council in 2006. Four years earlier, her 17-year-old son, Mohammad, was shot to death after he stormed an Israeli settlement with an automatic rifle and explosives, killing five students. Shortly before the attack, Ms. Farhat made a video in which she appeared with Mohammad to show support for what he was about to do.
“I wish I had 100 boys like Mohammad,” she once said. “I’d sacrifice them for the sake of God.”
Two more of Ms. Farhat’s sons, Nidal and Rawad, were later killed in clashes with Israel.
Is this why she was deemed worthy of an obituary? Her distinction is promoting death and violence. Lacking in this obituary in any sense of moral outrage or judgment about this woman’s views and actions.
The outrage is compounded by a death that the New York Times failed to acknowledge. In response to the New York Times Magazine article that called for a third “intifada,” Frimet Roth wrote a letter to the New York Times correcting the impression the article made about the non-violent nature of the town that was the article’s focus. Mrs. Roth wrote (h/t Daled Amos):
Ahlam Tamimi, the villager whom Ehrenreich described as a woman who “escorted a suicide bomber”, is in fact the self-confessed engineer and planner of a bloody terrorist attack. By her own account and after several scouting forays, Tamimi selected a target: the Sbarro restaurant in the heart of Jerusalem, on a hot August afternoon in 2001.
Tamimi has said she chose it because she knew it would be teeming at the appointed hour with women and children. She transported the bomb, enhanced with nails and bolts to maximize the carnage, from Ramallah across the Qalandia security checkpoint and into Israel’s capital. Israeli soldiers still waved females through without inspection in those days.
Tamimi and her weapon, the bomber, both dressed in Western garb and chatting in English to appear as tourists, strolled through the city center. At the entrance to Sbarro, she briefed him on where and when to detonate, instructing that he wait 15 minutes to allow her a safe getaway. Fifteen men, women and children were murdered that afternoon. My teenage daughter Malki was among them. Ehrenreich, who writes warmly about Nabi Saleh’s children, displays a cold detachment when relating to the bombing’s victims, the youngest of whom was two years old: “Fifteen people were killed, eight of them minors.”
Apparently a priority of the New York Times is to celebrate the life of a remorselessly evil woman. Correcting a portrayal of a conscienceless terrorist is not so important.
3) Miftah responds
After smearing Elder of Ziyon, the Palestinian NGO, Miftah, finally, sort of, appologized. Elder of Ziyon writes:
Indeed, Miftah has previously happily published the modern equivalents of the blood libel, parroting false claims that Israeli Jews targeted and stole organs from Palestinian Arabs, Ukrainians and Haitians. And Miftah itself ridiculed the idea that such accusations are in any way anti-semitic.
In other words, this apology rings hollow. But it was necessary, not because Miftah cares about doing the right thing, but because it was clearly under pressure from its donors to do something so as not to embarrass them.
This is from Miftah’s apology:
It has become clear to us after investigating this incident that the article was accidentally and incorrectly published by a junior staff member. The said staffer has been reprimanded and all our staff has been informed as to the disgusting and repulsive phenomena of blood libel or accusation, including its use against Jews. Dr. Hanan Ashrawi, as founder, has nothing to do with the day to day management at MIFTAH and was no way involved in this incident.
The game here is to protect the “moderate” reputation of Ashrawi. After denying any wrongdoing, blaming a “junior staffer” is might convenient. The problem is that despite here carefully cultivated image – aided and abetted by international news organizations – Ashrawi is hardly moderate.
In an e-mail, Barry Rubin pointed out to me that she had opposed changing the Palestinian charter in 1996. Later that year, in a column, Charles Krauthammer wrote:
Two years later, upon signing the implementation accords (Oslo II) with Shimon Peres, he promised he was really going to do it this time. He didn’t.
Things were getting embarrassing. With the Israeli elections approaching last May and Shimon Peres needing to show that he was not being taken for a fool, Arafat called a meeting of the Palestine National Council to change the charter. Despite what you might have read in the press, it still didn’t.
What the PNC did was vote to establish a committee that would report back in six months with changes to the charter. (Hanan Ashrawi, America’s favorite Palestinian “moderate,” voted against even this farcically modest step. Has anyone in the fawning American media ever asked her about this vote?) That was April 24. It’s been two months now since the deadline passed, and not a word has been heard about this committee.
Here a “junior staffer” has taken the fall and Ashrawi has been distanced from the incident, helping to maintain the illusion of her moderation. Of course the main reason Miftah receives thousands of dollars in international funding is because of its association with Ashrawi.
But then Miftah itself isn’t moderate and its apology is transparent buck passing. If Miftah was really concerned about blood libels it would be busy fighting those libels that appear regularly in the Palestinian media.
Elder of Ziyon has provided an important service. If nothing else he forced Miftah to worry about its ill gotten largesse.DONATE
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