Israel, Zionism and the Media

Tag: uprising

Libyan massacres – UN enquiries?

I eagerly await the UN’s enquiry into the violent suppression of the popular demonstrations in Libya.

According to the latest reports there was what has been characterised as a ‘massacre’ by the BBC in Benghazi. At least 200 protesters have been killed.

But not just killed but executed by snipers with deliberately lethal shots to the head and heart.

As we know, the UN was very keen to demand a rapid enquiry into Israel’s interception of a so-called humanitarian flotilla intent on breaking Israel’s maritime blockade of the Gaza Strip. Nine ‘activists’ were killed, eight of whom were associated with the IHH, an Islamist organisation with close links to Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood.

In this incident Israeli commandos boarded the lead ship, the Mavi Marmara, where they were subject to a prepared attack by a mob wielding iron bars, knives, and, apparently, at least one firearm. In an act of self-defence the Israelis shot and killed 9 activists at close quarters. Several were reported to have been shot in the head.

The world was up in arms that such ‘unarmed’ humanitarians were ‘attacked’ by Israeli soldiers.

I have already written about this incident and a recent report by the Israeli Turkel commission exonerated the IDF. A Turkish report was also produced which came to a completely opposite conclusion that the deaths were deliberate; an absurdity quite happily accepted by the Muslim world.

Israel faced worldwide condemnation, and pressure was brought to ease the embargo of goods entering Gaza.

Let’s remind ourselves that even if you take the worst view of this incident, Israel killed 9 activists protesting against Israel’s policy in Gaza.

Yet, in Libya, we already have at least 300 casualties, killed for protesting about the policies of their own government, killed deliberately, not in a physical struggle, but at distance by snipers. Killed by their own government for having the audacity to want freedom and democracy.

How much worse is the action of the Libyans in Benghazi and elsewhere than the actions of Israel even interpreted at its worst?

By any system of logic and fairness or consistency the UN must require that Libya immediately investigate these killings. And while they are at it, maybe they can ask the Egyptians to investigate more than 300 deaths or the Bahrainis to investigate the live ammunition used against its citizens, killing several.

The test of a UN that is not biased and is not obsessed with demonising Israel, initiating resolutions and investigations into every state action, would be for there to be equal treatment of the egregious actions of Arab governments.

The UN Human Rights Council has condemned Libya, Bahrain and Yemen, but what actions will they actually take?

In the UK and elsewhere, will academics break of contact with their counterparts in Arab countries whose governments suppress their people with such ruthlessness?

Will Trades Unions vote to divest from these same countries and to cut off co-operation with their fellow unionists?

Those who tell us Israel is not treated differently from other countries and is not held to higher standards, now have their chance to prove it.

UPDATE The speed of events in Libya may well mean that there is nothing left of the Gadaffi regime before too long. (22.00 20 Feb 11)

Egypt and the Web 2.0 revolution

Who cannot be moved by the images coming out of Egypt and especially Tahrir Square in Cairo over the past 3 weeks.

Who can fail to be impressed by the dignity and self-control, the patriotism and the aspiration. after all, don’t we all want democracy everywhere?

What we have witnessed is a new type of revolution. The precursors of this revolution have been the Iranian protests about the allegedly rigged re-election of President Ahmadinejad, the popular protests in Tunisia which ousted the incumbent president and even the student protests in the UK over student fees.

Copycat uprisings have also sprung up in Jordan and Algeria with little impact so far.

Is this a new dawn of democracy for the Middle East?

As many commentators have observed, these popular uprisings and protests have been co-ordinated by young people using social media and mobile devices.

This is seismic because in the Brave New World of cyber- protest and revolt, political agitation and organising, it is the youth of the world (and the Arab world is a particularly young demographic) who are setting the pace, upsetting old norms and paradigms and leveraging their knowledge of social media and the World Wide Web to attempt to sweep away the former centres of power.

This new-found power is bad news for dictators and tyrants. Democracies can absorb it and even use it. Authoritarian societies which try to suppress the freedom of information and control the press are finding it increasingly difficult to outwit those members of their societies who find on the Internet an outlet for grievance and an access to the truth.

The media has presented us with well-spoken, western-dressed, young, savvy Egyptians who give us hope that Egypt can find its way to true democracy and  provide inspiration for other oppressed people in the Middle East and beyond.

Yet, all this could still go wrong. The new military government has confirmed the existing treaty with Israel but has now suspended the Constitution. What will that mean?

If democracy is established, can it be sustained? Will Egypt become a second Iraq where its very freedom will, ironically, allow dark forces, those of fundamentalism, to infiltrate from home and abroad and pitch the country into turmoil? Will the spirit of settling old scores, now apparent, throw the country in an internecine struggle.

Can Egypt divest itself of the antisemitism that is so pervasive?

And finally, those sophisticated representatives of Egyptian society who spoke so well  in front of the world’s cameras are the educated minority of Egypt’s middle classes and ruling elite.

On the street there are millions of impoverished and disinherited Egyptians whose leanings and inclinations may be more in the direction of the Muslim Brotherhood, especially if there aspirations and expectations are not met in good order.

Will Egyptian democracy be good for Israel? I would say ‘yes’ were it not for the clear underlying and sometimes overt demonstrations of anti-Israel sentiment and the known dislike of Israel and the Jews that is so endemic in Egyptian society.

If the miracle does happen, an Israel-Egypt alliance would be a powerful force for peace and democracy in the region.

Somehow, I feel it will be more complex and dangerous than the euphoric media now expect.