Should You Report When the Public Doesn’t Care?

I apologise for my long silence. The few days’ illness turned into 2 weeks spent in bed. I’m re-establishing my rhythm.

This article summarizes my thoughts about reporting for countries and societies that have no interest in the truth, but rather confirmation for their own biases and opinions:

Covering wars for a polarized nation has destroyed the civic mission I once found in journalism. Why risk it all to get the facts for people who increasingly seem only to seek out the information they want and brand the stories and facts that don’t conform to their opinions as biased or inaccurate?

And without a higher purpose, what is a career as a reporter? It may count among the so-called “glamor jobs” sought after by recent graduates, but one careers website has listed newspaper reporting as the second worst job in America, based on factors such as stress, pay, and employment uncertainty; toiling as a janitor, dishwasher, or garbage collector all scored better. Even if you love the work, it’s hard not to get worn down by a job that sometimes requires you to risk life and limb for readers who wonder if maybe you suffer all the downsides and hazards just to support some hidden agenda.

Every day when I write or argue or think about Egypt, I wonder what is the point when even the most prominent activists are deflated and considering giving up. I’m coming to politics and journalism much later in life than most reporters;yet, I feel a lot of their same disillusionment, frustration, and futility.

I no longer call or consider myself a ‘revolutionary’ because I was never in the streets like others and I never fought on any of the frontlines: media, courts, social activism, so on. This feeling that I am not at all worthy to be called an activist came from reading Alaa’s open letter published yesterday.

What are we reporting for?

The Complexity of Islamism in Egypt and the Middle East

El-Watan News reported this morning that Egyptian security services uncovered and detained 13 jihadists involved in planning to set up a local chapter affiliated to the Islamic State (IS).

The most striking part of the article is the following:

وقال أبوصهيب الليبى، القيادى بـ«داعش»، فى فيديو مصور بثته مواقع جهادية، أمس الأول، بعنوان «رسائل من أرض الملاحم»، … ، إن أول من سيبدأ بقتله تنظيم الدولة الإسلامية، حال دخوله مصر، هو الرئيس المعزول محمد مرسى، الطاغوت والمجرم الأكبر، لأنه كان يتمسح بالدين ويتستر به، مضيفاً: «العوام والغلابة كانوا يقولون إنه أكثر حافظ للقرآن، ويقيم الصلاة، لكنه مجرم، وقريباً نتقرب إلى الله بقتل المرتدين والطواغيت فى مصر».

My own translation:

Suhaib el-Libi said 2 days ago in a recorded broadcast, entitled “Messages from the Epic Lands” on a jihadist website … that [upon his entry into Egypt] the first one to be killed is the ousted president Mohamed Morsy because he flirted with the use of religion and used it as protection. He added that common people and the poor would say of him that he knew the Quraan well and attended to his prayers but he is a criminal. Soon we will near ourselves to God by killing the [Muslim] apostates and oppressors in Egypt.

El-Libi won’t be able to achieve this because he died in a military operation in Syria after the broadcast of the video. Clip about Egypt below:

For most commentators and viewers, this is a strange and confusing message. Middle Eastern and Western governments have developed their rhetoric by lumping together all Islamists under one term “terrorism”. But, here is a militant Islamist hoping for the blood on his hands of another Islamist. With this report and yesterday’s piece by Omar Ashour on Al-Jazeera English, a different picture emerges. Key sections of Ashour’s essay below:

In the 1990s, during a low-level insurgency led by the Egyptian Islamic Group (EIG) and the Egyptian al-Jihad Organisation (EJO), the MB offered “assistance” to the Mubarak regime to combat these groups. These political positions aroused the ire of a younger, radical generation of Islamist activists, represented by Ayman al-Zawahiri’s 1993 book, The Bitter Harvest of the Muslim Brothers, in which he criticised the MB’s pragmatic behaviour and gradualist ideology in general and the post-1970 changes in particular.

When the “de-radicalisation” process of the EIG ensued in 1997 with their unilateral ceasefire declaration, the MB supported the transition. In 2002, the leadership of the EIG renounced its radical literature, and declared that it replaced its curricula with those of the MB, to signal an acceptance of non-violent gradualist reformism. Overall, from the 1970s onwards, the MB presented itself as a transnational movement that upholds the “correct” form of Islamist sociopolitical activism, which is anti-jihadi and anti-takfiri. From the 1980s, the MB was perceived as an alternative and a rival to Saudi-style Wahabbi form of Islamism. 

It seems more likely that the ties between different Islamist groups are more fluid, morphing with the times, circumstances, and political conditions of their respective countries. An example of this is that IS was a part of Al-Qaeda until February this year.

Going back to Egypt, understanding the dynamics and shifting ties between different groups becomes very critical. It may help to understand who burnt the Coptic churches last year in southern Egypt after the violent dispersals of the sitins at Rab’aa and Nahda squares.




Fact-Checking: ‘Hamas is Israel’s Frankenstein’

As you traverse social and mainstream media to understand the current Israel-Gaza war, you won’t be able to hop far on one foot before you stumble or fall over or get in the hit in the face by a barrage of conspiracy theories, myths, and urban legends that have become ‘accepted fact’. (In the Middle East, this can be read as ‘I heard it and it then must be true because it’s anti-Israel and anti-America’)

The only defense available, in the midst of the proverbial faecal shower, is to grab the myth or ‘accepted fact’ in your hand and crumble it, piece by piece.

I stumbled upon this piece by Hassane Zerouky the other day. It attempts to assert and prove that Hamas was created and fashioned by the Israeli regime, and then let to grow in size under its bemused eyes… while the regime twirls its mustache.

Origin of Piece and Authorship

There is no information online about the author. The piece is quoted across a myriad of message boards, conspiracy theory blogs, and alternative news websites. However, the identity of the author cannot be ascertained from either Google web or image results. I contacted L’Humanité to confirm the identity of Hassane Zerouky. [add response from them]

The first clue comes from one article on the alternative website War is Crime that references the piece:

The article below originally appeared in the French daily L’Humanité on December 14, 2001, translated to English by Global Outlook in 2002, and published by Global Research in March 2004. It shows how the so-called Islamic Resistance Movement (Hamas) was founded by Israel’s Institute for Intelligence and Special Tasks (Mossad) with the strategic purpose to prevent the creation of a Palestinian State.

On L’Humanité‘s website, the only information about the author is a cryptic single sentence: “International News” with no further hyperlinks or explanatory paragraph. The link to the original French article points to the wrong piece; the real essay in question is found here.

I ran Google Translate over the article because my French is as impeccable as my Sanskrit. This is the opening paragraph from the original French:

For many Palestinians, people without territory, subject to repression, humiliation and repeated closures, the radicalism of the fundamentalist Hamas embodies the ultimate recourse against the occupation. How was created and developed the organization that took the late train “resistance” to Israel? It does not say enough, it is Israel that has basically created Hamas, “thinking ensures Zeev Sternell, historian, professor at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, it was smart to play the Islamists against the PLO. “

Compare this with the opening paragraph in the alleged English translation:

Thanks to the Mossad, Israel’s “Institute for Intelligence and Special Tasks”, the Hamas was allowed to reinforce its presence in the occupied territories. Meanwhile, Arafat’s Fatah Movement for National Liberation as well as the Palestinian Left were subjected to the most brutal form of repression and intimidation

Let us not forget that it was Israel, which in fact created Hamas. According to Zeev Sternell, historian at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, “Israel thought that it was a smart ploy to push the Islamists against the Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO)”.

I searched through the original French article for the phrase ‘Institute for Intelligence and Special Tasks’. It’s not there. A cursory glance shows that the English leans more towards a paraphrase of the original French, with some editorialized embellishments thrown in for good measure. I contacted Global Research for comment. [add their response]

Questions around the Publisher

The editor’s note above on the War is Crime article mentions that Global Outlook translated the article from the French original, and then Global Research published it on its website. It’s curious that the two links in the editor’s note point to the same translated piece. A search online didn’t bring up any results for Global Outlook.

Global Research (Centre for Research on Globalisation) does not list its editorial or production teams on the about page, but does outline its submission requirements. They stipulate that references and sources be made available and linked to citations. For a controversial piece like Hamas is a Creation of Mossad, there are no footnotes or sources in both the English and French articles.

Let’s Go Through It… One by One

I will be using the English translation, referring to the original French in the event of a substantial discrepancy between the two versions.

Let us not forget that it was Israel, which in fact created Hamas. According to Zeev Sternell, historian at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, “Israel thought that it was a smart ploy to push the Islamists against the Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO)”.

This is a very bold assertion. I contacted Dr. Zeev Sternell to confirm this and he replied with the following:

The quotation as far as I can remember is correct but totally out of context. I have said that various Israeli governments had preferred to play the religious elements against the nationalist, believing that religion was much less dangerous than nationalism. Must people did not understand so many years ago neither the nature of radical islam nor that of radical judaism. That does not mean that the Mossad has created Hamas, which is idiotic.