For The New York Times, Gauging “The Arab World’s” Reaction to Jerusalem Move Means a Focus on the 1%
The Mideastwire Blog -

This is a deeply problematic article by Anne, Mr. Hubbard and Mr. Walsh. One would have expected that Anne, especially, would have recognized the pitfalls of the approach she co-authors here:

1) Leading with a Lebanese blogger who has very little engagement with or impact on the issue at hand is simply confounding. Mustapha is a good blogger on Lebanese politics but he has zero impact and relation to the headline that suggests the “Arab World” has lost its voice and impact on Jerusalem.

2) The headline is misleading to the extreme. The Arab rulers and dictators are one thing. The headline suggests that Arabs writ large are at play in essentially not caring as they once did about the Jerusalem issue.

3) The error is magnified by the old device of saying “Many” are thinking this way: “…many across the Middle East wondered if so much had changed in recent years that the real Arab response would amount to little more than a whimper.” These three journalists have no way to credibly gauge if “Many” Arabs are thinking this way today. Polls are deeply problematic in security states, but such an assertion is made without any reference to polls or anything at all etc. A very simple correction is to moderate your claims, perhaps to “Some!”

4) I have no idea what “Real Arab Response” means. This of course is at the core of the article’s main blindspot: The three authors are blurring – on purpose or not, we don’t know – what a few unelected dictators and kings think and may or may not do, with “real” popular sentiment and popularly supported movements, parties and formations in general. To blur the real and deep with a narrow elite does a great disservice to the unknowing reader.

5) Incredibly, Hezbollah is the first and only specific example given of hypocrisy on the issue, of all the non-popularly supported dictators and kings which one could call out for hypocrisy over the decades. This, sadly, demonstrates a lack of depth in analysis that fails to account for major changes on the Palestine issue that have been happening since at least May 2000 — when Hezbollah pushed Israel out of Lebanon militarily and provided a new “model” for Arafat that arguably affected his calculations at Camp David that summer — and changes that have been gaining speed since the 2006 war and the Syria war. In this graf, the authors therefore fail to shed light for readers about how Nasrallah’s argument and actions – whether morally repugnant or not – actually carry important weight that managed to underline substantial support for its actions in syria, all of which played a key role in reversing Assad’s decline and in building up Hezbollah’s power to a point where Israel’s QME is under enough threat for Israel to reportedly be considering a “pre-emptive” attack. They write: “…When Hezbollah, the Lebanese militia and political party formed to fight Israel, sent fighters to help save President Bashar al-Assad of Syria, its leader, Hassan Nasrallah, claimed in a speech that “the road to Jerusalem” went through a list of Syrian cities, including Aleppo. Critics posted maps on social media showing that that was only true if you took a particularly circuitous route.”

6) Here again the authors blur the difference between what an Arab people – overwhelmingly subjected to security regimes – and “leaders” or elites do or don’t do. Interestingly, the authors also leave out how some Arabs have indeed taken matters in their own hands and launched armed movements against Israel – whether morally repugnant or not. They write: “… And many [Palestinian Leaders] note that the Arab world has done little more than issue notes of protest as the Israeli government has extended its de facto control over the eastern part of Jerusalem since seizing it from Jordan in the 1967 Mideast war and annexing it in a move still not recognized by most of the world.” They also of course leave out the 1973 War here…

7) There is no Palestinian quoted in the piece (or is there a Palestinian buried somewhere there?).

8) Except for the two bloggers, the “Arab world” people quoted are all wholly within a very narrow elite, thus undermining the article’s headline and overall thrust.

9) Again and again, wide generalizations – all the way to claims of deep emotional understanding – are made with no evidence, links or much of anything to support the claims: “…but on Wednesday, the emotions were as much of sadness and resignation as of anger and threats. An explosion of violence could still come, but so far there is something more like an explosion of sighs.

10) My favorite part is the reference to March 14’s Nohad Machnouk – probably one of the last people one would list as an historical, significant supporter of the Palestinian cause. At least quote Alloush or Fatfat, who fought for Palestinian factions in Lebanon but who changed their views significantly. These voices might have some bit more marginal contribution to the piece and the attempt at another generalization: “Nohad Machnouk, the interior minister of Lebanon, tweeted a clip from a song by Fairouz, the Lebanese diva — “Our home is ours, Jerusalem is ours, and with our hands we will return it to its glory” — the words determined but the music wistful and nostalgic.”

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