Adonis Diaries

Posts Tagged ‘Al Jazeera

Documentary movies on civil wars; (Written in 2005 and posted on August 17, 2009)

I am mining my diary.

From September 21 to 25, 2005, The City Theater (Masrah El Madina), in Hamra (Lebanon) and located at the former movie theater called Saroula, exhibited documentaries from different regions of the world dealing with civil wars.

These documentaries of about 90 minutes each and free of charge covered the start of the civil war in Lebanon between 1975-76 by Volker Schlondorff and called “Circle of Deceit”, and from Bosnia by Laurent Becue-Renard entitled “War-Wearied”, then about Rwanda by Anne Aghion, and about Chechnya by Johann Freidt, then about Kurdish Iraq close to the border with Turkey by Bahman Ghobadi called “Turtles can Fly”, and culminating with the atrocities of Sabra and Chatilla, initiated by Israel while occupying Beirut in 1982, by Borgmann, Slim and Theissen.

I attended the first two and the last two documentaries and missed the ones on Rwanda and Chechnya because my back pain exacerbated and prevented me from driving my shift car; I could not convince anyone to drive me there, a 30 minutes drive, and to join me to watch these rare showings.

I liked “Turtles can Fly” best among the ones that I was fortunate to see.  This documentary show how the Kurdish children, mostly crippled, in a refugee camp manage to follow a leader their age in order to survive by organizing themselves in groups removing land mines and selling them.

The 14 years old leader falls in love with a 13 years old refugee girl from Halabja (the town that they say Saddam pounded with poisonous gas). You must know the town in Iraq bordering Iran which was exterminated chemically by Saddam Hussein during his war with Iran.

The girl has been raped in her destroyed home town by a few Iraqi soldiers then gave birth to a blind boy whom she hates and tried at least 4 times to murder her child only to be saved by the children.

She succeeded by drowning her bastard child and then jumped from a cliff. The whole camp and surrounding towns were relying on the kid leader to provide them with a satellite dish in order to follow the impending war by the USA against Saddam Hussein only to be faced by news in English.

I guess the cable Al Jazeera must have been a mane for them, later on, because it provided coverage in Arabic. The movie ends by the proclamation of the fall of Saddam and the return of refugees to their hometowns.

The documentary about the massacre of Sabra and Chatila tries to extract eye witness testimonies from 7 Christian militias who participated in the massacre.  The perpetrators claimed that, in the beginning, they were ignorant wretched kids of 15 when they were driven to take part in the war and they are still wretched adults and still addicted to drugs and as poor as can be.

They were addicted to Neoprene, LSD, and half a dozen drugs which were abundant during the civil war and were actually distributed freely.

These murderers affirm that Israel planned this massacre to the minutes details, providing transportation, logistics, driving the bulldozers, digging the huge pit near the Camille Chamoun stadium to bury the more than 2000 dead bodies, providing the plastic bags for the last three layers of bodies dumped in the pit and the chemicals to squelch the putrefied odors and lighting the areas during the night for the militias to resume their rampage.

At 6:30 a.m. the next morning these killers witnesses a few of their colleagues executing Palestinians over the pit, ordering the living Palestinians to throw the dead into the pit, knowing very well that they are next to be shot.

One of the killers was a butcher by profession and he opted to slaughter his victims.

One of the murderers kept a vivid picture of slain beautiful horses and wondering why innocent animals had to be killed.

The orders came directly from Israeli officers and the high command of the Lebanese Forces, among them Elie Hobeika, Maroun Machaalani, and George Malek.

Maroun ordered them that every one in the camp is to die, man, women and newly born babies so that Elie Hobeika could construct a fine garden in these razed places.

Most of the killers were trained in Israel for at least 6 months before Israel invaded Lebanon in 1982.

One of them said that, at one point, in their military training in Israel they were driven to Eilat to a nude beach.

One morning, a female Israeli officer showed up stark naked and ordered them to undress completely for the morning training.  These fighters have never seen a naked girl before and were utterly embarrassed to obey such an order, but they ended up jogging totally naked along the length of the nude beach.

They claimed that they feared their fathers and would have respected their dads’ orders but unfortunately, it was their fathers who encouraged them to pursue war trainings and get involved in the fighting.

We have to pity these mothers who married the worst kind of husbands; more on that first showing of the film later on.

The film on Bosnia review the psychological rehabilitation of 4 mothers, for a whole year, in a special surrounding after their husbands and families were massacred.

After the rehabilitation they were supposed to go back to their home towns to restart their lives.  Now, consider the wonder of the Lebanese experience of sending back people to their home towns just because money has been disbursed for reconstructing their destroyed homes.  Why do you think only 13% returned?

Joanna has started her European tour on the first of the month and will last for the duration of the month. She purchased her Schingen train ticket in Lebanon for about $600.

Janna will be visiting Germany where she will drop her girl friend at the university then on to Belgium, then France, then Italy, then Spain, then Holland for an interview to a graduate graphic design program next year, and back to Paris and lastly returning from Germany.

She has been forwarding email news from time to time but I got the news from her mother (sister) Raymonde when she is in a talkative mood.

It appears that Joanna wrapped her arms with toilet paper so that they let her in the Vatican, and after another failure to enter she crossed over to the nearby merchant, cursed him for his high priced shawls that are not worth a dime, then paid him 3 euros for a shawl instead of 15, then snatched it and fled inside the Vatican.

She was invited by a taxi driver at Venice to stay overnight at his house and he gave her a tour of Venice the next morning for free.

By the way, taxi drivers take home 600 euro a day.  No doubt that this exclusive trip on the canals will be the most memorable adventure in her life.

Cedric has been working his ass off as a trainee in the management program at the Sheraton Hotel in Verdun. He finally got a sort of a girl friend. He spent a whole day at her bungalow in Delb Country Club and took her to Kfarselwan, a summer retreat of his uncle Nicolas.

Kfarselwan is 1600 meters above sea level and Cedric slept over night under a genuine nomad “bedouin” huge tent made of goat skins. I did not ask him if she slept over too.

William spent at least a whole week, days and nights, backing up his hard disks and those of Joanna’s.  He used up 43 DVDs’ for that purpose, each with a capacity of 4.7 gigabytes.

Most of the files are audio-visual, digital photos, animations and graphic and architectural design projects.  My more than a thousand pages of word processing files would occupy a meager space on a lousy CD.

The LAU engineering departments at Byblos is hard pressed this year.  There are no enrolments, even for major courses and thus might cancel many required course this fall.

The industrial engineering department hired a visiting professor to teach operations research courses; these courses were taken away from full time faculty members.

I told the chairman that I can generate 50 students to enroll in my elective course of “Risk assessment and occupational safety” if they offer it this fall, but it was clear that they didn’t considered this course to fit strictly in an engineering program. They will create a new course called “Reliability” to fill the quota for a faculty member.

I called up the chairman of engineering at AUST and told him that I could teach 5 of his courses in the BS curriculum.  He told me that these courses are slated to be graduate courses and not about to be offered any time soon.

Operation Brother’s Keeper? Noura Erakat responds

Jadaliyya Co-Editor Noura Erakat Responds to Israeli General Consul Regarding Operation Brother’s Keeper On Al Jazeera America

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[Screenshot from video below.][Screenshot from video below.]

On June 12, 2014, three Israeli settler boys were kidnapped on a hike near the Gush Etzion settlement bloc(First settlement after the preemptive war of 1967)

Although a police recording indicated that one of the boys had been immediately killed, Israel set off a national search for the boys, entitled “Operation Brother’s Keeper,” in which it killed 6 Palestinians, arrested 545 others, and violently invaded 1,300 Palestinian sites.

On 30 June 2014, the bodies of the three boys were found in Halhul, just north of Hebron.

The discovery catalyzed a nation-wide hysteria for revenge among Israeli society as well as a military campaign of collective punishment against Palestinian society including a bombing campaign against the Gaza Strip and demolition of the home of the accused kidnapper.

Israel insists that Hamas  is responsible for the kidnapping notwithstanding repeated denial of responsibility by the Palestinian political party.

In addition to the military campaign, vigilantes have also violently attacked Palestinian children resulting in the death of a twelve-year old girl in Hebron crushed by a car  and the death of a fifteen-year old boy whose body was found in West Jerusalem.

In this interview on Al Jazeera America, Jadaliyya co-editor Noura Erakat responds to the Israeli General-Consul on these recent events. Noura emphasizes the immorality of the collective punishment campaign, the lack of evidence incriminating Hamas, and on the root causes of the conflict.

[Noura’s apperance starts at 7:20.] 

 

Aktham Suliman “Estero ma shefto minna”, Former AlJazeera Germany correspondent 

The news station Al Jazeera was committed to the truth. Now the truth is being twisted. It is about politics, not about journalism. For reporters this means: it’s time to go.

An Al Jazeera correspondent had images relating to Syria that didn’t suit the station’s headquarters and which were not broadcast. This is no isolated incident.

Aktham Suliman published on Dec. 11, 2012 in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung “A farewell to Al Jazeera: Estero ma shefto minna (Forget what you have seen!)”  

Aleppo, December 2012

What do you regard as a terrorist attack and what is an act of legitimate resistance?

An interesting question that Nabil Khoury, the Lebanese-born spokesman for the U.S. State Department in Iraq, asked me one autumn day in Baghdad. His gaze was reproachful.

At the time, Al Jazeera stood accused of supporting the violence in Iraq under occupation, in the eyes of American politicians and the media.

Suliman replied: “The matter is simple, Mr. Khoury. Actions that target U.S. military installations are resistance. Killing Iraqi civilians is terrorism.”

Khoury demanded: “Name an example!”

“Well yesterday, rockets were fired at the Al-Rashid Hotel, which houses the U.S. joint chief of staffs. That is resistance.” –  

“Aktham! I was at the hotel. The explosions were so close that I was thrown out of my bed. Some friends and colleagues of mine were injured.”

With all due sympathy for Mr Khoury, I could not change the definition.

Resistance to occupation is an internationally recognized right, irrespective of sympathies.

It was the time of relative clarity and self-confidence at Al Jazeera. One felt committed to the truth and principles of independent journalism, no matter what the cost.

Criticism of the channel from the outside and especially in front of rolling cameras was seen as confirmation, as welcome promotional material that was spliced together and repeatedly rebroadcast on our station.

The declining station 

Arab viewers will certainly recall the juxtaposition of US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and the Iraqi Information Minister Mohammad Said Al-Sahhaaf  (currently residing in one of the Arab Emirate) in one of these episodes. Both delivered the message that Al-Jazeera was not telling the truth.

Al Jazeera at the time acted according to the motto: If both parties to the conflict are saying so, then it is confirmation of the accuracy of our reporting.

For extended periods, politicians, parties and governments were furious with Al Jazeera; spectators and staff, by contrast, were happy. The decline from 2004 to 2011 was sneaky, subtle and very slow, but with a catastrophic end.

I asked Ali Hashem,  the Al-Jazeera correspondent in Lebanon, “Ali! It’s me, your colleague from Berlin. Have you seen the alleged e-mail correspondence between you and Rola circulating on the Internet?” on the phone earlier this year. I had just stumbled upon the alleged email communications between Al Jazeera staff published by the so-called “Syrian Electronic Army”, a Syrian pro-government hacker group.

In one of the emails, the correspondent Ali Hashem had  told Syrian TV presenter Rola Ibrahim, who was working at the network’s headquarters in Qatar, that he had seen and filmed armed Syrian revolutionaries on the border with Lebanon in 2011.

The channel didn’t broadcast the images because they showed an armed deployment, which did not fit the desired narrative of a peaceful uprising.

“My bosses told me: forget what you have seen!” Hashem wrote to Rola, as published.

Rola replied that she was faring no better. She had been “massively humiliated, just because I embarrassed Zuhair Salem, the spokesman for the opposition Muslim Brotherhood in Syria, with my questions during a news broadcast. They threatened to exclude me from interviews relating to Syria and to restrict me to presenting the late night news, under the pretext that I was jeopardizing the station’s balance.”

Mistakes become the routine

“Desirable” and less desirable images? Penalties for interviews that are “too critical”? At Al Jazeera?

Here it must be said that in the online propaganda war between supporters and opponents of the Syrian regime, anything is possible, including lies and deception, as the months since the outbreak of the uprising in mid-March 2011 have shown.

The Syrian Regime supporters wanted to show that the rebellion is solely waged by “armed gangs.” Regime opponents wanted to show that the Syrian army is the only [party] committing [acts of] violence.

That’s why I asked Ali Hashem whether the story was true. His answer was devastating: “Yes, it’s true. Those are really my emails with Rola. I do not know what to do now.”

Several days later, he knew the answer. Ali Hashem left.

Leaving is the only option that remains when these mistakes, which are altogether common in the fast-paced news industry, become the routine and are no longer recognized, treated or penalized as mistakes.

“There must be consequences. What do we do if the supervisor who told Ali that he should forget what he had seen, tells us one day: Forget that a hand has five fingers! Does a hand have more or fewer fingers based on the whims and needs of our superiors?” I remarked on Al Jazeera’s Talkback, an internal platform for employees.

No reaction. Internal discussions were no longer fashionable at Al Jazeera.

This process did not remain an isolated case. On the contrary: it became a lesson.

It quickly became clear to employees: this is about politics, not about journalism. More precisely: about Qatari foreign policy, which had subtly started to employ Al Jazeera as a tool to praise friends and attack enemies.

A hostage becomes a turncoat

It was not the first incident. When Al Jazeera’s Japan correspondent, Fadi Salameh, came to Doha at the end of 2011 to help out for a month at the channel’s headquarters, colleagues asked him how he – as a Syrian – assessed or felt about their Syria coverage. He responded evasively with something like: So-so. And why was that?

Fadi said: well, the issue of accuracy is no longer taken as seriously as it ought to be, and mentioned the story of his cousin, who  had been depicted as a deserter from the Syrian military only a few days earlier in a video broadcast on the channel. He was said to have defected to the Free Syrian army in a short recording placed online by the rebels.

But that could well be true, replied a colleague. “Not at all.” Fadi replied. “That was a hostage video. The fear apparent on my cousin’s face, having just been captured by the rebels, was unmistakable.”

Later Fadi went on to say that Al Jazeera now presumes to know better than one’s own family members what is happening to someone in Syria. “Only when I said that my cousin had disappeared two days before his wedding, were some people willing to reconsider,” Fadi said. “Thank God no one got the idea that the groom was trying to escape a forced marriage.”

Fadi doesn’t muster a laugh. His cousin never returned and is presumed dead. When the story was leaked to a Lebanese newspaper, this was the response from a person in charge at Al Jazeera: “Oh, those [damn] yellow papers…”

“This is an office of the Muslim Brotherhood”

Al Jazeera has become the mother of invention: Those who have protested to the editorial board or turned their backs on the station are “supporters of the Syrian regime,” as  Yaser Al Zaatra, the Jordanian author affiliated with the Islamist camp, wrote this spring in a guest article published on –  it almost defies belief – Al Jazeera’s very own website.

The attacks against its employees [waged] on its own website are meant to obscure the fact that Syria is not the core issue in this internal conflict, but rather the station’s lack of professionalism.

Cairo’s Al-Jazeera correspondent Samir Omer moved to Sky News earlier this year not because of Syria, but rather, as he told his colleagues:

“Because I could not stand it anymore. This is no longer an Al-Jazeera office. This is an office of the Muslim Brotherhood” – in other words, the very group that is supported by Qatar in all Arab countries, and is heralded as the winner of the” Arab Spring.”

Ministers are made into prophets

The Paris bureau chief Ziad Tarrouch was Tunisian, not Syrian. He left in silence last summer, shortly after the presidential elections in France.

Unsurprisingly, after weeks of continuous suffering and following repeated subpoenas from the French authorities, because Al Jazeera’s regular guest, Sheikh Yusef Al Qaradawi, had appeared on the station and called for the killing of former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi. This had invited a lawsuit against the station in France for “incitement to murder.”

”Damn it, I’m a journalist!” Ziad had mumbled to himself during his last days at the station. When the Russia correspondent Mohammad al-Hasan also left later that summer, he replied to media queries about his departure by saying that he was expected to deliver incendiary reporting on Russia. In response, the fanciful minds at AJ’s editorial department sought salvation in the claim that Al Hasan was leaving to open a kabab shop in Moscow.

It is difficult to gauge what the now retired former U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and former Iraqi Information Minister Mohammad Said Al-Sahhaaf are up to these days. But Al Jazeera would have granted them cause for belated delight. Both will go down in history as prophets for having declared that “Al Jazeera does not tell the truth.”

Now, almost ten years later, the statement has unfortunately come true.

And so it has finally come to this. Even for me, this means I must bid my farewell.

Since October, Al-Jazeera’s Germany correspondent can no longer be found “on the air.”

Note: cynicalcallme translated this piece by Akhtham Suliman, Al-Jazeera’s longtime Germany correspondent, in which he details the reasons for his recent resignation from the station.

There are interviews with Suliman circulating in English, but this piece, published in the FAZ, includes a number of poignant anecdotes, which paint a disturbing picture of Al-Jazeera’s decline.

CNNWire-Al Jazeera collaboration: A proposal (January 20, 2009)

            The Associated Press (AP) is a “non lucrative” cooperative managed by 1,400 dailies with the business of acquiring and disseminating news to the affiliated dailies; it hires over 3,000 journalists spread in over 100 States and sells news at a price; it has lately reduced its price rate for two major reasons.  First, the written news business is suffering from a constant reduction in readers; many major dailies have folded (like the Christian Science Monitor) and a few are resuming publishing via internet websites.  The second reason is the coming competition from CNNWire services.

            CNNWire is contemplating to diversify in this line of business and selling news to dailies; it did not renew its contract with Reuters as a first step in reducing its dependence on external medias.  CNN has been making profit over 10% for the last 5 years and has money to invest.  CNN has started as a television chain and then acquired many radio groups and internet sites and spreading its tentacles; CNN is already negotiating with several dailies desirous to cover major events.  CNN and has hired 3,000 journalists around the world and is focusing to expand greatly its Abu Dhabi bureau.

            Al Jazeera is the CNN counterpart for the Arab and Moslem World. It has covered the horrors in Gaza far better than CNN could around the clock.  Israel has denied access to Gaza for journalists and cable operators and reporters.

            My general proposal is that CNN and Al Jazeera link up to offer wire services to dailies and videos to cables.  There are thousands of graduates in audio-visual, graphic designer, typesetting, computer display and pagination, and internet navigators that can satisfy the requisite of wire service business after attending seminars and focused special classes.

            To be more specific, I contemplate teams of three employees combining the needed specialties in every small district to covering world news in the written and audio-visual mediums.  These teams of three or four can work at their homes and coordinate their efforts by meeting at locations with more sophisticated equipments.  A professional writer can head the team and be the secretary for coordinating the incoming and outgoing tasks, and thus saving headquarters hundreds of micro managers and secretaries with higher quality in precision and news display.


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