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Angry Arab’s Shameful Labeling of Western Reporting in Syria as “Shameful”

July 31, 2012

Today, an article by As’ad AbuKhalil (aka Angry Arab) appeared in the English version of Al-Akhbar, a newspaper associated with Hizbollah. In his lengthy piece, Abu Khalil calls Western reporting on Syria “shameful”, and “cowardly”. Abu Khalil lists his beefs with Western media in twenty-two points, most of which are the usual, insubstantial-as-vapor whines we have come to expect from the angry left (things like “all the coverage is the same”, “Western journalists cheer-lead one side”, and the usual whine distortion and mis-characterization of one side in the conflict.“).

Shameful indeed. Shameful that someone who has never been to Syria in his life, and who hasn’t lived in the Arab World since he fled to the USA in 1983, would call the work of the brave and magnificent Western journalists who routinely risked their lives to tell the world of the terrible events in Syria, “shameful”.

Let’s examine Abukhalil’s few tangible points (the vast majority of his whines are impossible to discuss, as it would be like trying to clutch at fumes and gas).

1) “the reliance on accounts of people through Skype and email whose names are not obtained through a random process”

Seriously? Does Abukhalil expect to be able to pick up the phone, dial a random number in Homs, and expect to get someone who speaks passable English, and with little regard for their own safety, talk at length about the regime’s atrocities? By now, journalists have built up a list of contacts and trusted sources. Enough time has passed to test the credibility of those sources. No journalist is going to keep referring to a source whose news is repeatedly proven to be fabricated or exaggerated. Skype is the *medium* used. Abukhalil’s obsession with the medium and technology forced on activists by their circumstances is ridiculous.

2) “Hiding behind the cliché that “the Syrian government does not allow journalists in” and “Such a disclaimer is never used against Israel, which imposes rigid forms of censorship on reports emanating from Israel”

This is Abukhalil’s way of trivializing the unheard of restrictions the Syrian regime places on reporting from inside Syria. If reporters are ever given visas to Syria, they are always accompanied by mukhabarat “minders”. They have to slip away from their minders to speak to sources opposed to the regime. And Israel does place restrictions on reporting sensitive military matters. That’s normal for any country in a state of conflict. But Arab news outlets are allowed to roam freely inside Israel and the Palestinian areas. Some of the most strident criticisms of Israel and Israeli society have been filed from Tel Aviv or Jerusalem. Whining about “Israeli press restrictions” is like calling fire-codes “Big Brother Orwellian State Repression.”

3) “The insistence that Bashar al-Assad has no power base in Syria – outside of the Alawi community – when the endurance shown by the regime requires more than a resort to brute force, which the regime is known for.”

Now Abukhalil is just making things up. I’ve seen numerous articles in the Western press that allude to the fact that many people in Syria stand by the regime out of fear of what may happen post-Assad. Abukhalil wants to get in his own talking point, the ridiculous fallacy that durability equals popularity. How long did Qadafi last? Quite a long time. Where did his tens of thousands of supporters disappear to when Tripoli fell? How long did Saddam last? A decade under sanctions, and yet scant few Iraqis shed any tears over his overthrow. And just ask the people of Western and Eastern Europe how long a tyrannical occupation power can last if it has the tanks and guns to impose their will, as the Nazis and Soviet Union did.

4) Lack of verification of published information.

This charge is so lacking in substance, it could mean anything. Western journalists have risked their lives to report from inside Syria. When they have been able to report freely, away from their mukhabarat minders, these reporters have confirmed the revolution activists’ versions of events.

5) Covering the story of Syria from other capitals, primarily Beirut

*facepalm* Does Abukhalil have no shame? This is a man who hasn’t lived in the Arab world since he fled to American in 1983. Not once has he himself been to Syria. For most of its existence, his cherished PLO lived and worked in exile, in Jordan, Lebanon and Tunisia. Western reporters report from Beirut and Amman out of necessity. To Abukhalil’s Baathist friends, a free press in Syria is as welcome as a dozen NATO divisions.

6) Covering up war crimes and other misdeeds by the Free Syrian Army.

Rubbish. Numerous articles have appeared in the Western press about the acts of some minor groups that carry out kidnappings and summary executions in the name of the Free Syrian Army. What Abukhalil neglects to mention is that the FSA itself has been unflinching in taking on such criminal elements.

7) The lack of hesitation to report lies and fabrications as long as they serve the cause of Western governments

Living in the West obviously hasn’t educated Abukhalil yet to the fact that there does not exist a monolithic, “Your-wish-is-my-command” corp of press in existence in North America and Europe. The right and the left are always at each other’s throats. Abukhalil’s shocking ignorance in claiming that conservative newspapers would do as Obama commands is astonishing for someone who actually teaches at the university level.

The rest of Abukhalil’s points are lacking in substance, and just serve as filler to take up space.

It is shocking and shameful that Abukhalil continues to try to muddy the waters, and deflect attention away from the undeniable crimes of the Baathist regime, with his infantile and insubstantial whining that Syrian activists use Skype and his absurd demands that Western journalists divulge the names, addresses and other personnel details of their Syrian sources.

It is shocking and shameful that Abukhakil would ignore the magnificent work of journalists like the BBC’s Paul Woods, who has unflinchingly put himself in harm’s way to report on events in Syria.

It is shocking and shameful that Abukhalil ignores the sacrifices made by journalists like Anthony Shadid, Marie Colvin and Rémi Ochlik to do what his Baathist friends fear most; report directly from the places the regime is oppressing.

It is shocking and shameful that Abukhalil has, apparently, no shame himself. Where shame should be, only an angry impotence exists.



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