Jan 2, 2005 9:28 pm


These are some must read articles which should give you hope about the positive changes that are taking place in the Middle East if for no other reason than that they have been so reluctantly written and published:

1. The War Inside the Arab Newsroom written by Samantha M. Shapiro Here is a taste:

When Al-Rashed arrived at Al Arabiya, he replaced the news director and hired a new executive editor. The three men share a vision for the station that involves less gore and a wider definition of what is news and what should captivate the interest and emotions of their viewers. The new leadership triumvirate is interested in reporting stories about honor killings and violence against women in Arab countries, a widespread phenomenon rarely considered newsworthy by other Arab media outlets. Al-Rashed and his top editors also push for lighter stories about daily life -- the kind of apolitical features that fill much of the programming day on Western news channels.

On directions from Al-Rashed, Al Arabiya anchors and correspondents now refer to American troops in Iraq as ''multinational forces,'' not ''occupying forces.'' He told the producer of ''The Fourth Estate,'' a program that serves as a roundup of Western media, to stop quoting from The Guardian and The Independent, two left-leaning British papers whose content used to provide much of the show's material. One Al Arabiya host told me that she had been instructed to cut off guests who digress into anti-American rants, and other hosts I spoke to said they were being encouraged to ask tougher questions in their interviews.

To Al-Rashed, the challenge he faces is much bigger than simply revamping a television channel. His goal is to foster a new kind of dialogue among Arabs, to carve out space for moderate and liberal ideas to enter the conversation, and in the process to do nothing less than save the Arab world from itself. ''People become radicals because extremism is celebrated on TV,'' he told me. ''If you broadcast an extremist message at a mosque, it reaches 50 people. But do you know how many people can be sold by a message on TV?''

Al-Rashed, 49, had never worked full time in television before coming to Dubai. But he knows that television is the medium that is remaking the Middle East, for bad or good. ''I am sitting on a nuclear reactor,'' he said, speaking of Al Arabiya. ''It could produce electricity and light up a city, or it could cause destruction. It's up to the person sitting in the chair where I am sitting to decide which way it will go.''

2.Palestinain stirrings by Denis Ross.He makes two important points though without taking any responsibility for not pushing for these transformations while he was the negotiator and, of course, he suggest reverting to appeasement as a way to push the process forward:

I was asked to speak about the role of the United States. Even before I spoke, I heard Otte and Kalugin challenged not on their own positions but on American behavior. The United States was charged with being biased, uncaring and a party to the punishment that Israel has inflicted on Palestinians. But in the midst of what was often a highly emotional litany of complaints and charges, I found this same Palestinian audience openly asking the official representatives of the European Union and Russia about Palestinian responsibilities. What is it, they asked, that Palestinians must do now?

As someone who probably dealt with Yasser Arafat more than any non-Palestinian, I can safely say that Palestinian responsibility was never on his agenda. . . . And while most of the comments directed to me were about America's responsibility to right the wrongs done to the Palestinians, some in the audience picked up my challenge to recognize that the United States could help the Palestinians only if they were prepared to fulfill their obligations, particularly on security. Indeed, when I declared that there would be no Palestinian state born of violence -- with the leading proponents of that violence sitting there -- several Palestinians responded by saying that violence was a mistake and nothing would be achieved by it.

What struck me about these comments was that there was no hesitancy to make them. With the opposition sitting there, with the entire conference being conducted in Arabic and televised throughout the Middle East, declaring that violence against the Israelis was wrong bore no stigma and apparently little risk. Declaring that Palestinians had responsibilities to fulfill was also treated as legitimate, not sacrilegious.

3.Daily Star editorial: A message both human and divine: Arabs must aid Asia's tsunami victims Money quote -

"Business as usual" is, however, precisely the mentality that should be re-evaluated in the present circumstances. One hundred thousand people have likely died in one of the worst natural disasters in modern history, and the world is appalled. Aid is beginning to pour into the disaster zone. What is the Arab world's share in this outpouring of compassion? Thus far, precious little. The governments of Qatar and Saudi Arabia have each pledged $10 million; Kuwait has signed its name to $2 million. Is that all?

Long-established images - nay, caricatures - of white-robed sheikhs sailing their luxury yachts on seas of oil and using $100 bills to light their Havana cigars will only be reinforced in the face of collective miserliness in this hour of human need, especially if the petroleum-rich Gulf states do not dig a bit deeper into pockets that have become quite deep indeed over the last few years of high oil prices. Yes, these states may have many years of budget deficits to repair and extensive economic and socioeconomic reforms to fund, but here is an opportunity to display to the world another Arab characteristic that is too often overlooked: generosity.

And the responsibility - indeed, the obligation - to step forward in this time of tragedy, lies not only with governments. The Arab private sector must also play its part. In fact, the private sector, especially, has an opportunity to make a difference. Rightly or wrongly, Arab businesspeople had their noses rubbed in the dirt after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. Here, then, is the chance to do something about a dubious reputation, a chance to prove that the Arab private sector is not only interested in money and activity within its own borders. A global opportunity has presented itself riding on the back of global responsibility.

4. A better year is in store for Sudanese, no thanks to the Arab League" - Editorial

Once again responsibility seems to be the attribute missing from the Arab world:

"So while the peak Arab body is nowhere to be seen, it is others, once again, who will help make things work in an Arab state - the European Union, upon news of the peace accord, announced that it will end its freeze on development aid. On Sunday, the EU offered Sudan $545 million, which should be a handy start to repairing the wounds of war. It is, no thanks to Cairo, looking like a better year for the Sudanese.

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