Those of you who have taken my advice and read Lee Smith’s The Strong Horse: Power, Politics, and the Clash of Arab Civilizations won’t be surprised by this Economist piece about the popular Arab Al Jazeera news channel.
Al Jazeera’s anti-Western populism was strongly echoed at its recent forum on “the Arab and Muslim world: alternative visions”. Many speakers, denoting piety or loyalty to political Islam, prefaced their remarks with incantations of reverence for the Prophet Muhammad. On Palestine, not a single one of 200-odd invited participants spoke up for a two-state solution, apart from a clutch of doveish Americans; Hamas’s official one-state preference for the Jewish state’s abolition easily prevailed. A senior Hamas man waxed eloquent. If a representative of the Palestinian Authority, now in “proximity talks” with Israel, was present, his voice was unheard.
On Iraq, not a single speaker, apart from a forlorn parliamentarian from the Iraqi prime minister’s party who made a desultory comment by video-conference, expressed a flicker of sympathy for the new Shia-led order, which several voices denounced as wholly illegitimate. The Gazan who edits al-Quds al-Arabi, a populist London-based newspaper that resonates in the Arab world, drew the loudest applause with a ringing call to back the continuing Iraqi “resistance,” even though the fight is now almost entirely between Arabs.