The Arabist

The Arabist

By Issandr El Amrani and friends.

Posts tagged television
Egypt in TV: Of revolution and conspiracy

It is finally over. The debate over whether or not the January 25 revolution was indeed a revolution or a Zionist/Iranian/US/Turkish/Serbian conspiracy has finally ended. Kinda.

The limbo over the final classification of the 2011 uprising had raised an awkward question for propagandists, which is if you both truly trust President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and think people who call Jan 25 a revolution are traitors – doesn't that by extension make Sisi a traitor for calling it that and writing as much in the constitution or worse someone who is fooled by them? Or do you, lowly latenight television host, know something the former head of military intelligence and current president does not know? It also raised the awkward question of why Sisi, who claims to think it is a revolution, never made the effort to correct his supporters.

In addition to raising awkward questions, the revolupiracy (or was it a conspolution?) sparked fights.

"I never said Jan 25 was not a revolution," says Sada el-Balad host Ahmed Moussa (above), who said precisely that every single day since it happened with the exception of national holidays and weekends, when he took time off. "Anyway," he added, deciding that he doesn't have to explain himself to Youssef el-Husseiny, "you have an Arab-Israeli connection." 

For those of you who don't know, Youssef el-Husseiny is a macho host who still fancies himself a revolutionary, despite siding with the military on July 3, 2013, and cheering on the Raba'a and Nahda sit-in dispersal. This is why he now feels the need to pick such fights and spray insecticide on air to symbolically insult more consistent propagandists like Moussa, presumably to prove revolutionary fervor.

But now that el-Sisi's staunchest TV host supporter (and purveyor of fabricated leaks meant to tarnish the image of activists), Abdelrahim Ali (above), has come around, it is safe to expect an end to this debate.

"I can't call it a revolution, but it is the beginning of one," the Al Kahera Wal Nas TV host conceded. In Ali's world, a revolution requires two things to earn the title: first a gathering of the angry masses (check for Jan 25), and second political leadership like that Gamal Abdel Nasser provided in the 1952 coup that everyone still calls a revolution. On this, he argues, spies like Mohamed ElBaradei and the MB sullied it with all their conspiracies. The bottom line is that he will stop aggravating el-Husseiny and his likes by calling it the "Jan 25 conspiracy."

Speaking of the revolution, Mubarak's acquittal on the charges of killing have been the talk of the year. The reactions to it ranged from the expected glee of consistent pro-regime propagandists like Ahmed Moussa to less-than-credible fury from the wannabe "independent" propagandists like Amr Adeeb.

The most sincere one thus far was Mahmoud Saad's (below), who seemed genuinely at loss for words that made sense and would neither make him look like a sellout or get him in trouble with the authorities.

"Is it really important that we get into the details? I think not," he told himself, before listing the many types of people living in Egypt: apparently, some are having a hard time; others are socializing online; some lead good life but seek truth and accountability; some love Egypt and some don't. "Why were we born?" Saad began to wonder having strayed as far as logically possible from the trial without having to give us cooking advice.

The funniest reaction was from el-Faraeen’s Tawfik Okasha (first up above), who felt it was appropriate to use a cattle metaphor to encourage the families of those killed in 2011 uprising to move on with their lives. After all, do you sit and cry next to some buffalo you bought that ate a nail and died? For those not related to the victims, Okasha would like you to  remember that these are not your children, so easy on the sympathy and outrage. Same goes for those who are happy for Mubarak. He, too, is not your father or your stepfather. Chill.

The most annoying reactions came from the detesters-of-youth, Lamis Gaber and Ibrahim Eissa. The former compared people who dislike Mubarak to people who dislike a particular fuul cart without trying it out first: ignorant. (Not sure how 30 years of rule is not enough "trying" for her.) And the latter essentially came to dumb down the hundreds of pages long verdict to his viewers, impatiently, because he thinks some of them are not buying fast enough into the "protesters were killed by the Muslim Brothers and some rogue police officers who disobeyed orders" narrative. It should be noted that no one has made noise about even attempting to identify, yet alone prosecute, these officers.

Eissa then argues that if the police really did open fire on the protesters, then hundreds would have died (which they did), but only 239 died, according to the court (although the health ministry said 360) and five of them don't count as martyrs because they failed to get killed in the period between the 25th and 31th of January, 2011. This is period to which the revolution is limited as far as the court is concerned.

The reason behind this, Eissa explains, is the fact that the police had withdrawn its forces on the 31st (it was actually the 28th, but hey!) and so any protester that was killed afterwards couldn't have been killed by the police, who have already demonstrated an aversion to mutiny and lack the necessary civilian clothing to blend in crowds, of course.

Back to the total: 103 of the dead were found near the attacked police stations and so the court decided, and Eissa agreed, that they must all be thugs deserving of their deaths. That leaves us with 131 dead, 95 of which could not be identified and so will be excluded as well, leaving us with only 36 proper protesters dead, whose deaths can be split between narcissistic police officers, the Brothers and the crossfire between them. So if you really think about it, hardly anyone died and there is no reason to be mad at the police at all.

The most telling reaction, however, was Amany al-Khayat's (above). The OnTV host interviewed a Christian victim's relative ("to be sure he is not MB") and all but demanded that he repeats after her – he doesn't think the verdict warrants he joins forces with the MB, no? He will not take to the street with other families since that will simply result in more deaths, right? This begs the question: why does Amany al-Khayat seem to think protesting such a sure way of getting killed in Egypt?

Also lacking the self-awareness to realize he has said something that defeats rather than serves his purpose was former ruling party parliamentarian, diplomat and Mubarak advisor Mostafa al-Feky (above). In an attempt to paint an objective (and nicer) portrait of Mubarak, el-Feky revealed that he once received a phone call from him wondering what is all this talk about passing down the presidency to his son was about – something Mubarak said he would never do because he wants a normal life for his Gamal. "Why, then, do you let him steer the National Democratic Party's ship?" el-Feky asked. Mubarak answered saying that it was because he feared Gamal would emigrate and leave him behind in his old age if he doesn’t. Not only does al-Feky miss  the obvious nepotism and despotism here, but he also couldn't see anything beyond nostalgic amusement when he remembered the time he was banned from writing because he had written some "indirectly" critical column about Gamal.

That being said, al-Khayat's and al-Feky's lack of self-awareness combined doesn't come close to that of Gaber al-Karmouti and Amr Adeeb (above, left and right respectively). The two hosts were annoyed that Sisi said he would step down should the people ask him to because that is not how democracies work and he has a term to finish!  (In case you are wondering, yes, these two screamed the exact opposite argument during and after June 30.)

Embarrassingly though, what arguably sparked the most controversy this year was Reham Saeed's djinn special (above). The episode was about five young women, who were allegedly running around Tanta at night and convulsing (or pretending to convulse) uncontrollably, until Saeed arrived to tilt her big head at them and stand next to a former MP-turned-exorcist who read some Quran to them (in some special way that the 22 sheikhs their parents got before couldn't do) and freed them from demonic possession.

Interestingly, no public figure called in to ask Saeed to stop this charade, quite unlike when Wael al-Ibrashy attacked pro-MB sheikh Mahmoud Shaaban, who sounded surprisingly reasonable. Shaaban challenged people to produce the footage of him inciting violence rather than just call him a terrorist (here he is saying it was religiously acceptable to kill Morsi’s opposition because they were trying to topple him) and wondered why the police shot to kill rather than injure clearly unarmed protesters who were running away during the dispersals of the Rabaa and Nahda square sit-ins.

Having received one too many phone calls from public figures like the minister of endowments and Tamarod's Mahmoud Badr asking al-Ibrashy to kick him off the studio set due to his harmful effect on their blood pressure, Shaaban stalked off, while al-Ibrashy struggled to hide his smile – a smile so wide it rivaled Amr Adeeb's when he announced that the pro-MB Al Jazeera Mubasher Masr has been shut down.

Another interesting development is the mounting criticism of the formerly-unquestioned political thinker, veteran journalist, and all-around oracle Mohamed Hassanein Heikal. He was recently attacked by Mubarak's attorney, Farid el-Deeb, who accused him of fabricating history and suggested he retires like the senile old man that he is. The reason this is interesting is because el-Deeb wouldn't launch such an attacked without Mubarak's nod of approval, which is odd given that both Heikal and his groupie interviewer, Lamis el-Hadidi, are pro-regime.

One can only speculate that the sudden resentment towards Heikal is related to the corruption case against his son, which also includes his former business partners Gamal and Alaa Mubarak. Apparently, Heikal denied that his son had any connection to the Mubaraks or the charges – claims that el-Deeb found laughable, but that Sisi's chief aide and office manager summarized and sympathetically repeated to the attorney general in one of the recently leaked phone calls.

The new leaks also included generals discussing the forgery of documents necessary to legalize the detention of deposed president Mohamed Morsi, which prompted Amr Adeeb to scream that those who think Morsi should have been sent to a regular prison should go mouth off to Obama about Guantanamo Bay instead – as if Obama got away with it criticism-free. Because, you see, since Adeeb and his colleagues think that the military and Sisi's critics are all US government decision-makers or people who support them, only throwing back US policy at them will shut them up.

The TV presenter who was proud of working for security

Quite a remarkable intervention by Egyptian TV presenter Ahmed Moussa, responding so some allegation by journalist Hamdi Qandil (if someone has a link or can explain in the comments, I'd be grateful) in which he says he is proud of working for security, that it's not a shame of working for the police of your country but the real shame is working for "foreign embassies."

I think more people like him should come out, or perhaps to make it easier, they could present their shows in uniforms.

[Via Elijah]

‘Zaat’ and her bathroom – and television

On Mada Masr, Dina Hussein reviews the television adaptation of Zaat, Sonallah Ibrahim's great novel about rising consumerism of Intifah Egypt in the 1970s and 1980s:

Watching “Zaat” on television today subjects viewers to this alternative representation of history. The series interrupts Egyptian lives to provide the historical background to their struggle today. One could say that Zaat’s story is the historical preamble to Egypt’s revolution. In the novel, Ibrahim describes the transmissions that surround Zaat as the “march of destruction and construction.” And I honestly do not see a better description of Egypt today other than a continuation of this march of destruction and construction. But there is another more basic reason for why the series succeeded in grabbing people’s attention today: empathy.

Ibrahim’s choice of Zaat as the name of his protagonist is not accidental. In her 1994 book, “Egyptian Writers Between History and Fiction,” Professor of modern Arabic literature Samia Mehrez tells us how “Zaat” is Ibrahim’s “ultimate objectification of the self.” She explains how Zaat in Arabic means an indefinite self; it can mean multiple selves and/or one self. This “objectification of the self”, she adds, is a strategy that Ibrahim uses to break the boundary between the private/individual and the public/collective. Zaat resembles the ordinary; her life reflects the mundane in Egyptians’ everyday life. Ibrahim succeeds in making Zaat’s private life a representation of the collective identity of the nation. This is precisely why her story, especially when televised, has grabbed people’s attention. Watching “Zaat,” particularly the episodes taking place in the 1980s, triggers an intense sense of empathy from viewers who see her as a reflection of themselves.

The serial went beyond the timeframe of the novel and into the 1990s and 2000s, ending just before the 25 January 2011 uprising.

On "Homeland"

Nuance, Depth and the Relative Islamophobia of Homeland « Christian Christensen

I watched the newish TV show Homeland a few months ago, and stopped after a few episode. It wasn't because I found it lacking in its depiction of Islam (caricatural approaches are so rife that I'm pretty oblivious to that) as much as that I did not think it was that entertaining. But here's a take on the show and its treatment of Islamic fundamentalism and that perennial classic of American popular entertainment and political paranoia, the enemy who looks like one of us (for this I prefer the "Invasion of the Bodysnatchers" movies):

When critics hail Homeland, they would do well to ask themselves how they would react to a program where a Muslim captive at Guantanamo Bay succumbs to Stockholm Syndrome, converts to Christianity, returns to Kabul/Tehran/Riyadh, rises through the political ranks to a position of authority, and, with the help of a radical Christian CNN journalist, plots a campaign of terror in his home country at the behest of a Christian extremist. I think I can guess some of the words used to describe such a program, but “nuanced” and “grounded” would not be among them.
Ramadan TV show stirs argument across Arab world

Ramadan TV show stirs argument across Arab world

More on Omar, this Ramadan season's hit soap opera about the second caliph, from Reuters' Mahmoud Habboush:

Conservative clerics denounce the series, which is running during the region's busiest drama season, the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan. Scholars see an undesirable trend in television programming; the foreign minister of the United Arab Emirates has publicly refused to watch it.

But at dinner tables and on social media around the region, "Omar" is winning praise among many Muslim viewers, who admire it for tackling an important period in Islam's history. Some think it carries lessons for the Arab world, which is grappling with political change unleashed by last year's uprisings.

Salam Sarhan, a columnist at the Lebanese newspaper Diyar, said the show was part of a gradual trend for the Islamic world to re-examine its heritage more critically, and would open the door for more television and cinema productions depicting central figures in Islam.

"If anyone dared to depict these figures 20 years ago, he would have been accused of blasphemy," he wrote. "Simply put, depicting these revered figures with their mistakes, limitations, rivalries, anger, hunger and thirst will thrust Islamic societies into a new phase."

I'd previously noted the show here.

This year's Ramadan serial commentary

It's an annual MENA tradition I look forward to — analysis of the major Ramadan soap operas, TV serial, and overall programming choices on Arab national and satellite television. Here's a few links:

  • Al-Ahram Weekly | Front Page | Something wrong with the wires
  • L’écho des feuilletons arabes sur CPA | Culture et politique arabes
  • Al-Ahram Weekly | Culture | The Fourth Serial
  • The to Yves Gonzalez-Quinjano's wonderful site, Cultures et Politiques Arabes, is a full archive of his pieces on Ramadan serials over the last six or seven years — great stuff. I really like his recent piece on the serial about Omar Ibn Khattab's life in the context of the regional Sunni-Shia pseudo-confrontation. In English on the site, stats about this megaproduction:

    The Largest Arabic Drama Production in History : 1970 swords, 650 spears, 1500 horses, 3800 camels, 4000 arrows, 400 bows, 170 sheilds, 15 drums, 14200 meters of fabric, 137 statues, 39 costume designers & tailors, 1600 pieces of potery, 10000 silver coins, 7550 slippers, 322 actors and actresses, 10,000 extras in the ba.lefield, 299 technicians from 10 countries
    The Old City of Makkah and its areas were reconstructed across 12,000 sq meters, 29 in-studio sets, 89 outdoor shooting locations
    322 days of filming & post-production
    = 463.680 minutes
    = 72.820.800 seconds (source : http://butheina.wordpress.com)

    As Yves notes, it's a fascinating evolution of the Wahhabi-led fight for the domination of mass cultural production that their propaganda (as this clearly is) now eschews the traditional fundamentalist distaste for physical representations of companions of the Prophet and of the Rightly-Guided Caliphs.

    And like a lot of major political developments in the region lately (support for the Libyan and Syrian uprisings, the covert war against Iran, the tacit alliance with Israel, support for Salafists across the region, etc.) this too is a Qatari-Saudi production.

    Video: "People have this thing called a remote control"

    A wonderful appearance on Egyptian TV by my friend Ezzedine Shukri-Fishere, in which he pulls out a remote control out of his pocket and proceeds to explain that every one has one of these in their house and can switch the channel from State TV. He then says enough with accusations of foreign hands, spies and agitation, there are tactics from the 20th century and we are in the 21st. The presenter is quite defensive. He goes in to say State TV must be the television of the Egyptian people, not that of the Interior Ministry or SCAF.

    Although State TV continues to be fairly bad, especially with the call-ins, I have to say it has improved tremendously even since Maspero last month. It may be partly because of rumored rebellions by its employees. And there’s still much, much room for improvement.

    The civil state: an Egyptian infomercial

    I love this short informercial on what a civil state is. It airs on Qabila TV, which I hadn't heard about, and advocates the creation of a civil state. In the cute cartoon, the state is compared to a bride and there are three choices: the theocratic bride, the military bride, and the civil bride. The first two have little tolerance for disagreements, whereas the civil bride-state does. It's well done, the music is good, and the message simple (if of course a secular one.) Personally I'm glad to see it's out there.

    [Hat tip: Sarah Carr.]

    Wael Ghonim relaunches the revolution

    Everyone following events in Egypt knows by now that, last night around 11pm on Dream 2, Wael Ghonim — one of the instigators of the January 25 movement who has just been released after 12 days in detention — gave the country one of the most moving moments of television I have ever seen. After explaining his ordeal, his ideals, and his views on why the people in Tahrir were right, host Mona Shazli showed pictures of the "martyrs" of this uprising. Ghonim broke down and cried, saying as he sobbed: "It's not our fault. To the mothers and fathers, it's not our fault. It's the fault of the people in positions of authority who don't want to leave power."

    This cathartic moment may be the spark that was needed to revive Egypt's revolutionary fervor. The regime had, to some extent successfully, driven a wedge between the protestors and the majority of Egyptians who have spent the last two weeks terrified about the lack of security and hurting because the economy has come to a halt. It also spread insidious, xenophobic propaganda about how the people in Tahrir were foreigners, paid by the US to protest, agents of Israel and Iran (those two fight a lot but will always get together against Egypt, obviously), or simply that their behavior is "not Egyptian."

    I thought that the next step for the people in Tahrir would have been to retake the initiative by suggesting its own roadmap for transition, or focusing on the many deaths and reports of the use of snipers that are coming out. After two weeks, the world's media is getting tired of this story and there needed to be a relaunch. Who better than a marketing executive from Google to do that? Ghonim's appearance was heartfelt and genuine, and kudos to Dream — especially the wonderful Mona Shazli, who has the uncanny ability to frame her questions with both an air of maternal authority and convey an everyman's take on events — for airing this interview and so many others that reveal the criminality of the government and the courage of the protestors.

    Today's day of rage should be big, and with these few minutes of television the people in Tahrir may finally have a leader.

    Here is the interview, with English subtitles:

    Video Subtitles courtesy Alive in Egypt

    Video Subtitles courtesy Alive in Egypt

    (If that last video doesn't show subtitles, go here — this is the key part of the interview.)

    Reassessing al-Jazeera

    This is an important piece on al-Jazeera. Olivier Da Lage starts off noting the commonplaces about al-Jazeera's pioneering role in Arab satellite TV and the political impact of its hard-hitting reporting and interviews. And then he makes this crucial point:

    But Al Jazeera was launched in 1996 and this is 2010, 14 years later. We cannot be satisfied repeating the same clichés, however true they may be, about the pioneering role of Al Jazeera. In the course of these 14 years the media and political landscapes around Al Jazeera have profoundly changed, largely due to the role it played in disrupting the traditional media system in the Arab world. But these changes, in turn, affected Al Jazeera for two main reasons. The most obvious reason is that, in 1996, Al Jazeera's style of reporting was unchallenged in the Arab world. This is no longer true. By setting the standard, Al Jazeera created the conditions and the framework for real competition and pluralism, and everyone had to more or less adapt to the Al Jazeera model. As a result, Al Jazeera is still a figurehead and a major actor, but it no longer has a monopoly on professional and independent reporting in Arabic. The second reason might be less obvious but it is linked to the reason for which Al Jazeera was originally created. Irrespective of the sincerity of the new Qatari Emir regarding freedom of the press, Sheikh Hamad had set himself a major objective: put Qatar on the geopolitical map well beyond the size of its territory and population. Al Jazeera was instrumental in achieving this goal, as the subsequent years have proven.

    By its constant interviewing of political opponents, Al Jazeera infuriated virtually all Arab heads of state, and western leaders alike. Some of its bureaux were closed, and diplomatic relations were (temporarily) severed. Throughout this turmoil, the Qatari Emir stood by Al Jazeera's management in the name of democracy and freedom of the press. Whether his interlocutors were convinced by his stance remains to be seen, but they had to accept it, and, usually after a few months, the bureaux were reopened and ambassadors sent back to their posts. The trick was not to alienate every Arab government at the same time, and one must admit that Al Jazeera did a good job of taking them on one by one, making it easier, if not easy, for the Qatari government.

    Meanwhile, as Sheikh Hamad had planned, Qatar had developed a reputation for itself. Its diplomacy became active in mediating between Arab or Muslim factions, a role that previously had been the domain only of Egypt and Saudi Arabia. Despite numerous misgivings, most Arab states - notably Saudi Arabia - had reluctantly come to terms with the existence of Al Jazeera, and had normalised their relations with Qatar. Several high-level meetings between the Qatari and Saudi leadership marked this reconciliation after long-standing strains in their relationship. (In 1992, there were even armed skirmishes on their border, resulting in three deaths.)iii

    Mohammed Jassim Al Ali had been Al Jazeera's managing director since its inception, and he had embodied the new brand of journalism, and its resistance to government pressure that was represented by the channel. Needless to say, he was not very popular with the Saudi or American authorities. So, when his replacement was announced in May 2003, it was difficult not to see a connection. Since then, no one disputes the fact that Al Jazeera has retained its professionalism, but many observers contend that its programmes are less offensive to Saudi Arabia or the United States than they previously had been. Many point out that the first Al Jazeera was a curious blend of Islamic conservatives, Arab nationalists, and, to some extent, free thinkers. The new Al Jazeera has definitely a more religious and conservative flavour. In a nutshell, many have the feeling that Al Jazeera has been normalised along with the normalisation of Qatar's diplomatic relations.

    Al Jazeera's conservatism is indeed becoming more and more obvious — even when they interview secularists, they often counter them with several opposing points of views from the religious perspective. And it's obvious to anyone who knows some of their staff in Doha that the channel is basically infiltrated by Muslim Brothers (Egyptian and otherwise) as well as other Islamists. It's still very good, because it's professional, but it's been sad to see its leftist/nationalist side eclipse, not just for political diversity and the religion issue, because one suspects some of these old secularists were also the people most willing to be critical of state policies. 

    How Israeli hasbara works

    Hasbara is the Hebrew word for public diplomacy, i.e. the role people outside of government can have to spread pro-Israel messages and attack Israel's critics. It is a tried and tested propaganda method long relayed not only by Israeli citizens, but also pro-Israel lobbies (e.g. AIPAC), pro-Israel Jewish community groups (e.g. CRIF) and pro-Israel think tanks (e.g. WINEP). With the advent of the web, pro-Israel groups working in tandem with Israel's Ministry of Foreign Affairs has conducted an often successful and often intensive hasbara effort targeting bloggers. This has included, for instance, efforts to leave comments in blog posts regarding Israel to defend the Israeli perspective.

    In the days before the flotilla's last journey towards Gaza, blogs such as this one were targeted by a message saying that the IHH, the Turkish humanitarian organization that owned the largest boat raided today, had links to al-Qaeda. Considering that IHH is legally recognized everywhere except the UN, engages in humanitarian actions with many other organizations and has consultative status with the UN, I am skeptical. IHH does seem supportive of Gazans and Hamas, but that's no crime and it's certainly not "fundraising for al-Qaeda." 

    I am posting the message sent to me below, at the bottom of the post, and you can compared its claims to the Wikipedia entry on IHH, which notes:

    In 2006, the Danish Institute for International Studies published a report titled "The Role of Islamic Charities in International Terrorist Recruitment and Financing", by conservative American analyst Evan Kohlman. Kohlman claimed that major international Islamic charities such as IHH, while providing genuine humanitarian relief, also occasionally serve as fronts and liaison with Islamic militants and terror groups. In particular, Kohlman blamed IHH for assisting the Iraqi Sunni insurgency, and mentioned a 1997 raid in which police found weapons, explosives and bomb-making instructions in the IHH headquarter in Istanbul. Apparently, Kohlman's theory about IHH has not gained traction, since IHH remains a legal organization everywhere except Israel, which banned it in 2008.

    With the advent of the May 2010 Gaza flotilla in which IHH played a key role, Kohlman's report was rediscovered by the Israeli think tank Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center. Their May 26 text on IHH, based mostly upon Kohlman's report, was repeated over the next few days with minor variations by the Israeli press and by Israeli government spokespersons.

    IHH organizer Izzet Sahin was arrested by Israeli forces in 2010 in the West Bank. The fact of his arrest was initially gagged by the Israeli security services. Sahin was later deported without charges.

    Needless to say, Kohlmann is one of those ubiquitous instant experts on terrorism who does not speak a word of Arabic. His work has never peer-reviewed, and there are various problems with his research and testimony in US courts that has been tracked by SpinProfiles.org. He appears to consistently exagerate his own credentials, and my favorite bit of all is this:

    Kohlmann’s company was a one man operation he ran from his bedroom in a high rise apartment in Manhattan’s West Village. National Public Radio journalist Mary Louise Kelly met him in his bedroom/office, which she described as “a gallery of photos of Al-Qaeda leaders”. Kohlmann works at a desk two feet from his bed, and on that particular occasion wearing “what looks suspiciously like last night’s pyjamas”. In October 2007 Evan Kohlmann closed his website and redirected traffic to NEFA which he said would be publishing all his future work.
    I am not surprised from a quick Google search that most of his publications appear in neocon outlets like National Review.
    We've seen Kohlmann's claims repeated this morning by Danny Ayalon, the Israeli deputy foreign minister, who claimed that "the organizers are well known for their ties to global jihad" and that "they have a history of arms smuggling". A member of the Turkish foreign relations committee replied: "Danny Ayalon is a liar." (I just saw both clips on Al Jazeera English, which is re-running them in its news updates.) 
    Here is the Hasbara message I received my the blog's contact form yesterday:
    Subject: news for your blog
    Message: Hi,
    My name is Michal Moreno, and I take part of an online campaign that aims at explaining Israel's point of view regarding the Flotilla approaching GAZA.

    The flotilla - that starts its progress towards the Gaza strip today, should arrive in Israeli territorial waters by tomorrow,
    and just as it arrives - I'd like to offer you some online content that represents our point of view on things.

    We found two documents that prove direct connection between the IHH - that's the organization that supports the gaza flotilla
    and extremist Islamic groups. 

    one - is a court document from the US Virginia court and the second is a report from the danish institute for international studies which links the IHH to Hamas, al qaeda and other terrorist organizations (they raise money for them). below are the links to the documents as well as a summary of key points that we put together.

    http://www.diis.dk/graphics/Publications/WP2006/DIIS%20WP%202006-7.web.pdf

    court document: http://www.investigativeproject.org/documents/case_docs/312.pdf#page=17

    * This is supposedly a human rights organization, but they work with directly, support, aid and are closely affiliated with the Islamic terror network: explicit ties to Hamas, Al Qaida, as well other militant Islamic organizations based in Algeria,Libya, Turkey.
    * Cooperation between the Hamas government & IHH is pretty blatant. There was a recent joint press conference between a Hamas official, "the chairman of the governmental committee for breaking the siege on Gaza" and a representative of IHH. The Hamas minister of communications announced a month ago that the Hamas government made special preparations for the ships in the Gaza port including "repairing and dredging the basin of the port so that mid-sized ships could pass through". So Hamas is coordinating closely with this initiative. (Source: Right Side News)
    * In December 1997, Turkish authorities began a criminal investigation into IHH when sources revealed to them that the IHH had purchased semi-automatic weapons from Islamic militant groups. Their Istanbul bureau was thoroughly searched and the local leaders arrested. Inside the bureau an array of items were found: "firearms, explosives, bomb-making instructions and a jihadi flag." After analyzing seized IHH documents, the Turkish authorities determined that the arrested leaders were about to be sent to fight in Afghanistan, Bosnia, and Chechnya.
    * Famed counter-terrorism magistrate Jean-Louis Bruguiere found that in the mid 1990's the IHH president conspired to recruit members for jihad, and sent members to war zones in Muslim countries in order to gain combatant experience. He obtained support by these Muslim countries by transferring weapon and explosives caches to these countries.
    * In 1996, phone records of the IHH showed calls to an Al Qaida guesthouse in Milan and to Algerian terror cells throughout Europe.
    * Jean-Louis Bruguiere also testified to a U.S. Court that the IHH played a "central role" in the attempted Al Qaida Millenium bomb plot targeting LAX. He added that the IHH is a "cover-up" NGO which served to recruit, forge document and traffic weapons for these Mujahideens.
    * During the Iraqi war, IHH funneled funds to insurgents in a Sunni dominated area of central Iraq. These were funds used to kill American soldiers in Iraq.
    * They have doctored their photos of providing humanitarian aid and relief supplies.
    * During the 1999 earthquake in Turkey, the IHH was banned from providing relief aid efforts because it was deemed by the government as a fundamentalist organization and would not provide transparency to Turkish officials of their bank accounts.
    * The IHH has also had contact with Abdurahman Alamoudi, founder of the American Muslim Council, who is serving a 23 year sentence for illegal transactions with the Libyan government and was part of a Libyan plot to assassinate the Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah.
    * The IHH organization is banned in Israel. Defense Minister Ehud Barak signed an order citing the IHH as an organization that fund-raises for Hamas as well as assisting them. A worker from the organization was arrested on April 27th of this year in Judea and Samaria for assisting the IHH and other illegal organizations for "compromising the security of the area" according to the Shin Bet.
    (Sources: Court papers of U.S. vs.Abdul Rahman al-Amoudi, The Investigative Project on Terrorism, and the Danish Institute for International Studies) The IHH is one of many organizations "clothed as an NGO" and supposedly providing relief to refugees when they are actually backed by militant Islamic organizations so that they can maintain their operations without much disclosure or restrictions on the international intelligence level. Bin Laden is also said to have used NGOs to his advantage to equip and arm Al Qaida uner the international radar.

    Plesae let me know if you decide to publish this story.
    BR,
    Michal

    --
    Incidentally, this is Michal Moreno, the author of the above propaganda:

    Michal Moreno - Project and Account Manager

    Michal has extensive knowledge and understanding of the Internet content wise, marketing wise, and technology wise.
    Michal’s past experience includes project managing for Israel’s largest Internet and market research companies: 
    Senior Project Manager for Scepia Internet solutions LTD.
    Project Manager for Planet communications LTD.
    Special (custom made) reports analyst for ACNielsen Israel

    Among the projects Michal has managed, are:
    Israel Defense Forces website chain – concept and characterization
    Zer4u Israel 
    Tel Aviv municipality website
    El-Al website
    Israel State Comptroller website
    Coca-Cola Israel website
    And many, many more… 

    Michal has a bachelor’s degree in political science from the Tel-Aviv University, as well as a master’s degree in Information sciences from the Bar-Ilan University.

    I bet he won't be sending me any hasbara anymore.

    Update: Evan Kohlmann wrote with a link to his response and defense; I am reproducing it here out of fairness: link. I still fail to see the relevance of his allegations against IHH, which even if they are true, must still be contextualized with widespread international support (including Western) for mujahideen networks in Afghanistan, Bosnia, Chechnya and elsewhere at the time.

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    Taming Arab satellite television

    From bendib.com

    More moves to implement the 2008 Arab Information Ministers' Charter, which sought pan-Arab regulation for satellite TV programming:

    RIYADH (AFP) – A proposal to create a pan-Arab television monitor is a "disturbing" move that could could lead to censorship of broadcasts critical of Arab governments, a media watchdog said on Saturday.
    The Saudi-Egyptian proposal to establish a regional office to supervise satellite broadcasters is aimed directly at Qatar-based Al-Jazeera, the Palestinian Hamas group's Al-Aqsa TV and Hezbollah's Al-Manar channel, Paris-based Reporters Without Borders said.
    "This proposal is disturbing, to say the least," the group said in a statement.
    "The danger is that this super-police could be used to censor all TV stations that criticise the region?s governments. It could eventually be turned into a formidable weapon against freedom of information."
    The proposal to create the "Office for Arab Satellite Television" is to be discussed when information ministers from Arab League countries meet in Cairo on January 24.
    Reporters Without Borders said the proposal stems in part from a recent move by the US Congress to allow satellite owners to be branded "terrorist entities" if they allow broadcasts by television channels also branded as such.
    Beyond a common interest in implementing censorship, this could also by a means to resolve the Arab media war taking place — with peaks and throughs — since the Gaza war. Egypt in particular is interested in calming al-Jazeera's coverage of the Rafah wall, and then of course there's always the Qatari-Saudi rivalries.
    See alsoArab Media & Society had a bunch of in-depth articles about the charter, and we covered the ministers' meeting here (search for more).
    Saddam TV

    BBC News - Mystery tribute channel to Saddam Hussein launched:



    "The 'al-Arab' channel, dubbed Saddam TV in Iraq first appeared on Bahrain-based Noorsat and Egypt-owned NileSat on Friday and is also streamed on the Internet.
    An Iraqi member of parliament, Jaber Habib Jaber, condemned what he called the channel's 'glorification of a tyrant'.
    One Baghdad resident told the BBC that the channel has become his favourite even though watching it makes him sad for reminding him of when Iraq was safe.
    However the BBC's Natalia Antelava in Baghdad says that many in the city are indifferent to the news of the channel's launch.
    It comes as Iraqi authorities are gearing up for parliamentary elections that are due to be held in January 2010."


    This story made me think: what' the programming grid on Saddam TV? His old ghostwritten biopics? Variety shows presented by Comical Ali? Cooking lessons with Chemical Ali? Documentaries about Stalin, Saddam's favorite historical figure? Tributes by the many journalists, think tankers, arms dealers and others who took money from Saddam in the old day? The Qusay and Udday Show, a sitcom based around two sons of an all-powerful dictator who get to drive around and terrorize Baghdad?

    Does every one and his dog have a satellite channel now in the Middle East?

    Via @Linaattallah.
    Ramadan TV
    The excellent Culture et Politique Arabes site has a detailed analysis of the commercial underpinnings of Ramadan entertainment (Al Quds Al Arabi estimates that the Holy months brings in $100 million in TV advertising revenues). The post points out that the Egyptians got the jump on other Arab countries this year--in an increasingly competitive TV market--by starting to air their Ramadan soap operas a night before everyone else. The post also mentions the lack of Ramadan spirit in the new Egyptian TV channel El Qahera wa En-Nas (Cairo Centric in English) whose yellow posters all across Cairo have been promising "Ramadan's most daring TV." The campaign has clearly already raised some hackles, as this article in Islam Online describes what they consider to be a controversial exchange on one of the stations' talk shows, in which the director Ines El Daghidi, to the question "When do you think you might take the veil?" replied يا رب ماتكتها علي'' ("Oh God, don't decree this for me"--I think). What's extraordinary is that  apparently this "daring" station is considering editing the exchange out of the broadcast.

    Also read Amira Howeidy's piece on Ramadan television in Al-Ahram Weekly, Made to Measure.
    Links for 09.10.09 to 09.11.09
    Al-Ahram Weekly | Egypt | Made to measure | Interesting Amira Howeidy article on Egyptian television, notably Naguib Sawiris' face-off with Ibrahim Eissa on the former's new TV show!
    Khaleej Times Online - Egypt school start delayed week in swine flu fear | While swine flu infections are spreading, this decision may be as much as leaving school until after Ramadan than a medical threat, IMHO.
    Reuters AlertNet - Egypt: Stop Killing Migrants in Sinai | HRW Statement on shootings at the border with Israel, referencing recent al-Masri al-Youm article with killer quotes on issue.
    Democracy, Tunisian style | Brian Whitaker | Comment is free | guardian.co.uk | Brian Whitaker engages in my favorite sport, Tunisia-bashing, pointing that Tunisia's much-vaunted stability comes at the price of a presidency for life.
    Dennis Ross, Bill Burns, Berman talk Iran with Jewish leaders conference (UPDATED) - Laura Rozen - POLITICO.com | For big push on Iran sanctions (and more?) by Jewish-American orgs.
    Last gasp for global Islam « Prospect Magazine | Review of a "woe-is-us" book by former Iraqi PM Ayad Allawi on Islam.
    aktub | Free Arabic typing tutor.