Adonis Diaries

Posts Tagged ‘Jeffrey Goldberg

 

Before the Beheadings mania: Time for recalling 

In the spring of 2000, I lived for a month in a Taliban madrasa, a religious seminary, located on the Grand Trunk Road outside of Peshawar, in Pakistan.

The chancellor of the madrasa, a wrinkled, bearded, and often barefoot man named Samiul Haq, was said to be a confidante of Mullah Omar, the Taliban leader. I did not believe, when we first met, that he would agree to my presence in his school.

I was open about my intentions: my goal was to write about the religious education of Pashtun boys who would soon be fighting on behalf of the Taliban, and by extension al-Qaeda, in Afghanistan.

Before the Beheadings

Remembering a time when Islamist extremists wanted to persuade reporters, not kill them

The author observes a class at the Haqqania madrassa, outside of Peshawar Pakistan, in 2000. (Laurent Van Der Stockt/Gamma-Rapho/Getty)

It turned out that Haq was keen to have me understand the work of his madrasa. In our first meeting, he even made an attempt at bonding. “The problem is not between us Muslims and Christians,” he said. “The only enemy Islam and Christianity have is the Jews. It was the Jews who crucified Christ.”

In my travels, Palestinian terrorists generally understood the implication of my last name, as did many members of Hezbollah, the Shia extremist group. But Islamists in Pakistan and Afghanistan seemed less Semitically attuned.

“I’m Jewish,” I said.

He paused. “Well,” he said, “you are most welcome here.”

Not long after my stay at the madrasa, I visited a mosque outside Muzaffarabad, in Kashmir. The mosque was affiliated with Lashkar-e-Taiba, the group that would go on to commit the famous massacre in Mumbai in 2008.

The subject of my religion came up in conversation. The imam was fascinated. He was anti-Semitic, but impersonally so. His abstract detestation of Jews was trumped by a practical curiosity. He phoned a friend who, like him, had never met someone from my tribe.

That friend brought another friend. Soon, we were having a colloquy on several subjects—the putative righteousness of Osama bin Laden’s cause, the alleged treachery of Bill Clinton—but our focus narrowed to matters of faith.

I raised the subject of Muhammad’s often complicated, sometimes violent relationship with the Jews of Arabia. These men, like many Muslims, believed that the Jews had behaved perfidiously toward their Prophet, and they endorsed Muhammad’s decision to behead some 600 of his Jewish enemies, the males of the vanquished Banu Qurayza tribe.

The extremists don’t need a middleman anymore. Journalists have been replaced by YouTube.

Back then, it did not seem foolhardy to engage Muslim terrorists on the subject of beheading.

It was not as though they didn’t already hate Jews, and Americans. Even in the 1990s, the hatred, particularly in Pakistan, was sometimes palpable. I once went, at night, to a sketchy section of Rawalpindi, to interview a man named Fazlur Rehman Khalil, the leader of a terrorist group then called Harkat ul-Mujahideen.

Khalil had co-signed bin Laden’s 1998 fatwa calling for the killing of Americans and Jews. He gave me tea, and told me that he would happily use nuclear weapons to eradicate the enemies of Islam. “If we had them, we would use them as necessary. But they’re very expensive,” he said. The conversation turned to the fatwa.

Why Jews?, I asked. “Because you are from Satan,” he said. When we were done with the interview, our transaction complete, I left for my hotel.

I had glimpsed a treacherous and secret subculture, and I was happy, because a reporter’s deepest need is to see what is on the other side of a closed door. In exchange, I would tell people in the West about Khalil and his beliefs.

I was appalled by his message, and I wanted readers to understand the horror of it. But Khalil believe 5 d he 6a1 was doing good works, and he wanted the world to celebrate his philosophy. Back then, the transaction worked for both parties. Today, when I think about the meeting, I shudder.

I spoke recently with a friend, Dexter Filkins, of The New Yorker, about the assumptions we used to make. I first met Dexter in the spring of 1998, on the runway of the airport in Kabul, a couple of months after bin Laden issued his fatwa. The order seemed like the grandiose outburst of an impotent fantasist, and Western reporters who traveled in Afghanistan did not take it seriously, at least not as concerned their own safety.

“I used to tell people that as a reporter for an American news organization, it was like we were wearing armor,” Dexter recalled. “People just didn’t go after American reporters.”

The attacks of 9/11 weren’t the decisive break in the relationship between jihadists and journalists. It was the decision made by a set of extremists in Pakistan to kidnap the Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl in January 2002 that represented a shift in jihadist thought. To his kidnappers, Pearl was not a messenger to the outside world, but a scapegoat to be sacrificed for the sins of his fellow infidels. Murder was becoming their message.

Danny Pearl was the reporter who first gave me telephone numbers for important figures in Pakistani extremist circles. Danny was generous, Danny was careful, but Danny was unlucky. Even after his murder, I convinced myself that this horrible moment was the exception that proved the rule.

Non-Jewish reporters, meanwhile, could tell themselves that Danny’s death had more to do with his religion than his profession.

“It just seemed to me like a freakish anomaly,” Dexter said. “I went to the tribal areas in Pakistan, to Wana, by taxi, after he was killed. It used to be pretty easy. You could go into situations that were very dangerous, and the chances of being hurt were very small.”

Today, Western journalists who seek out jihadists are courting death. The beheadings of James Foley and Steven Sotloff by ISIS, the Islamic State terror group, are persuasive arguments for prudence.

Why have some groups rejected the notion of journalistic neutrality?

For one thing, the extremists have become more extreme. Look at the fractious relationship between al-Qaeda and ISIS, which is an offshoot of al-Qaeda but which has rejected criticism from Qaeda leaders about its particularly baroque application of violence.

Another, more important, reason relates to the mechanisms of publicity itself. The extremists don’t need us anymore. Fourteen years ago, while I was staying at the Taliban madrasa, its administrators were launching a Web site. I remember being amused by this. I shouldn’t have been.

There is no need for a middleman now. Journalists have been replaced by YouTube and Twitter. And when there is no need for us, we become targets.

Three years ago, Dexter and I both found ourselves in Pakistan again, staying in the same anonymous guesthouse in Islamabad, which seemed safer than any alternative. Especially after the killing of Osama bin Laden, when so many people in Pakistan were contemplating revenge, the large hotels had become irresistible targets for terrorists. They were also infested with agents of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) directorate, the handmaiden of many of the terrorist groups.

I was reporting on the security of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons; Dexter was investigating the murder of a Pakistani journalist who was killed, apparently, by agents of the ISI.

Both topics were dangerous territory, and we came under harassment. I was followed; Dexter’s phone was tapped. Each time I returned to the guesthouse, I could tell that strangers had been in my room. One day, I got a call from someone who identified himself as a reporter for a major Urdu daily newspaper. “We understand that you’re a prominent Zionist, and we want to write about you on the front page,” he said.

Such an article would have gotten me killed. The reporter’s call represented an invitation from the ISI to leave Pakistan right away. I knocked on Dexter’s door. He had been in the country for a month, and he seemed haunted. His room reminded me of Martin Sheen’s in the opening scene of Apocalypse Now.

Time to go, I said. In the taxi to the airport, we discovered that Dexter’s visa had expired. We edited his passport with a Sharpie, while standing behind a tree outside the terminal. The ISI did not impede our departure.

Each unhappy place has its own rules.

In Iran, Western reporters are often welcome, and sometimes arrested while performing their duties.

In Gaza over the summer, Hamas, the Muslim Brotherhood’s Palestinian branch, was both eager to help reporters inspect the damage done by Israeli air strikes, and rigorous about denying reporters access to the rocket crews launching attacks on Israeli civilians.

In Lebanon, Hezbollah maintains a sophisticated media-relations operation designed in part to thwart independent reporting.

I no longer spend much time with Islamist groups.

Today, even places that shouldn’t be dangerous for journalists are dangerous. Whole stretches of Muslim countries are becoming off-limits. This is a minor facet of a much larger calamity, but it has consequences: the problems of Afghanistan and Pakistan and Syria and Iraq are not going away.

Our ability to see these problems, however, is becoming progressively more circumscribed.

Once, in Upper Egypt, in Minya, a Salafist cleric was lecturing me on the characteristics of unbelievers. It was a typical rant, and it ended with a justification for sacred violence, to be directed by followers of the one true faith against those who defy God.

I must have been tired, or frustrated, because I impulsively asked: “Why haven’t you personally killed any unbelievers? What are you waiting for?” Left unspoken was: Here’s my throat.

He answered simply, “Everything happens according to a plan.” In other words: All in good time.

Young reporters sometimes come to me for advice about working in the Middle East.

In years past, I would tell them that this was an excellent idea: save some money, go learn Arabic, be a newspaper stringer, grab for the big stories, and you’ll have an interesting life.

Steven Sotloff was one of those who sought my advice.

His Middle East career was already under way (he was living in Israel at the time), and I prefer to think that he could not have been dissuaded.

But I’m capable of learning, and my advice now is to go somewhere else.

President Barack Obama Speech at Jerusalem Cultural Center

President Barack Obama delivered a bold message to young Israelis in Jerusalem Thursday, asking them to see the world through the eyes of their adversaries in the Middle East.

In Israel proper, Obama speech sucked up entirely to the Zionist State and never mentioned Palestine or the Palestinians, which prompted many Arab commentators to view Obama and all the US administrations as actual lackeys to the Zionist movement

Grace Wyler posted in the Business Insider on Mar. 21, 2013, at 11:31 AM “Obama Just Finished His Speech In Israel, And People Are Already Saying He Made History”

“Addressing students at the Jerusalem Cultural Center, Obama called on a new generation of Israelis to take up the peace process — including halting settlement construction — and work harder toward achieving an independent Palestine.

This key paragraph from his speech concerning the two States of Israel and Palestine:

But the Palestinian people’s right to self-determination and justice must also be recognized.

Put yourself in their shoes – look at the world through their eyes. It is not fair that a Palestinian child cannot grow up in a state of her own, and lives with the presence of a foreign army that controls the movements of her parents every single day.

It is not just when settler violence against Palestinians goes unpunished. 

It is not right to prevent Palestinians from farming their lands; to restrict a student’s ability to move around the West Bank; or to displace Palestinian families from their home.

Neither occupation nor expulsion is the answer. Just as Israelis built a state in their homeland, Palestinians have a right to be a free people in their own land.

The speech was remarkably blunt, particularly considering Obama’s fraught relationship with Israelis and their prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu.

At times, Obama even appeared to be trying to circumvent his Israeli counterpart, calling on his young audience to challenge political leaders on the peace issue.

” I can promise you this, political leaders will never take risks if the people do not push them to take some risks.”

“You must create the change that you want to see. Ordinary people can accomplish extraordinary things.”

"I'll be speaking at GW in DC tonight, 7 pm Marvin center (800 21st St NW Washington, DC 20052) room 402"  -- Miko Peled
“I’ll be speaking at GW in DC tonight, 7 pm Marvin center (800 21st St NW Washington, DC 20052) room 402” — Miko Peled

The message was extraordinarily well-received, both by the audience and veteran Israel correspondents, many of whom are calling Obama’s speech “historic.” Here’s some of the reaction:

Jeffrey Goldberg of The Atlantic: 

Read more: http://www.businessinsider.com/obama-israel-speech-2013-3#ixzz2OCaQm2VJ

Funny. Absolute Jordan’s King Finds Fault With the “Other” Arab absolute monarchs

King Abdullah II of Jordan (Not the ailing monarch of Saudi Arabia) leads one of the smallest, poorest and most vulnerable Arab nations.

Such a British-made  “Kingdom”gives this King is a huge catalyst to looking down on many of those absolute monarchs and dictators around him, including the leaders of Egypt, Turkey and Syria, as well as members of his own royal family, his secret police, his traditional tribal political base, his Islamist opponents and even United States diplomats.

For example,

1. President Mohamed Morsi of Egypt has “no depth,” King Abdullah said in an interview with the American journalist Jeffrey Goldberg, to be published this week in The Atlantic magazine.

2. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey is an authoritarian who views democracy as a “bus ride,” as in, “Once I get to my stop, I am getting off,” the king said.

3. President Bashar al-Assad of Syria is so provincial that at a social dinner he once asked the monarchs of Jordan and Morocco to explain jet lag. “He never heard of jet lag,” King Abdullah said, according to an advance copy of the article.

 published this March 18/2013 in the NYT:

“The King’s conversations with Mr. Goldberg, an influential writer on the Middle East and an acquaintance of more than a decade, offer a rare view of the contradictory mind-set of Washington’s closest ally in the Arab world as he struggles to master the upheaval of the Arab Spring revolts.

Seldom has an Arab autocrat spoken so candidly in public.

Pool photo by Sergei Ilnitsky. King Abdullah II of Jordan during a state visit to Russia in February, when he met with President Vladimir V. Putin.

King Abdullah appears humbled and even fatigued by the many challenges he failed to foresee when he inherited the throne 14 years ago, describing himself before coronation as a “Forrest Gump” in the background of his father’s long reign.

In contrast to his father, King Hussein, King Abdullah promises to move Jordan closer to a British-style constitutional monarchy, and thus to stay ahead of the Arab Spring wave.

But he insists that only he can lead the transition to democracy, in part to ensure that democracy will not deliver power to his Islamist opponents.

The era of Arab monarchies is passing, King Abdullah said. “Where are monarchies in 50 years?” he asked. But even his own family, with 11 siblings and half-siblings, does not yet understand the lessons of the Arab Spring for dynasties like theirs, he said, adding that the public will no longer tolerate egregious displays of excess or corruption.

Photo: ‎الرجااااااااء المشاركة والنشر<br /><br /><br /><br />
خائن ابن خائن عميل لأمريكا واسرائيل<br /><br /><br /><br />
عاهر الأردن بدأ بادخال الاهابيين الى سوريا عبر الحدود وبعد اجتماعه بالصهاينة والعربان قرر فتح الحدود مع سوريا وسيدخل أكثر من 10000 ارهابي الى سوريا في الايام القليلة القادمة من الاردن وهذه معلومات مؤكدة والكل يعرف درعا وكم هي بيئة حاضنة لهؤلاء الارهابيين.</p><br /><br /><br />
<p>رجاء من الجميع نشر هذا البوست على أوسع نطاق ودعمه حتى لا تحذف الصورة....‎

The same absolute dinausor in a non-formal attire

“Members of my family don’t get it,” he said. “Look at some of my brothers. They believe that they’re princes, but my cousins are more princes than my brothers, and their in-laws are like — oh my God!” he continued.

“I’m always having to stop members of my family from putting lights on their guard cars,” he said. “I arrest members of my family and take their cars away from them and cut off their fuel rations and make them stop at traffic lights.”

Even his own sons should be punished if convicted of corruption, he insisted. “Everybody else is expendable in the royal family,” he said. “That is the reality of the Arab Spring that hit me.”

He blamed his own government’s secret police for blocking his efforts at political reform. For example, he charged that the secret police had conspired with conservatives in the political elite to block his attempts to open up more representation in Parliament to Palestinians, who make up more than 50% of Jordan’s population.

“Institutions I had trusted were just not on board,” he said, naming as an example the mukhabarat, or secret police. He said he had not realized at first how deeply “conservative elements” had become “embedded in certain institutions” like the mukhabarat. “Two steps forward, one step back,” he added.

Stopping the Islamists from winning power was now “our major fight” across the region, he said. He repeatedly mocked the Muslim Brotherhood, the pan-Arab Islamist movement behind the largest opposition party in the Jordanian Parliament and Mr. Morsi’s governing party in Egypt, calling it “a Masonic cult” and “wolves in sheep’s clothing.”

And he accused American diplomats of naïveté about their intentions.

The US has been training these people and dispatching them to Syria via Jordan

“When you go to the State Department and talk about this, they’re like, ‘This is just the liberals talking, this is the monarch saying that the Muslim Brotherhood is deep-rooted and sinister,’ ” King Abdullah said.

His job is to dissuade Westerners from the view that “the only way you can have democracy is through the Muslim Brotherhood.

The king was also frankly dismissive of the tribal leaders from the East Bank of the Jordan River who have traditionally formed his family’s base of support. “The old dinosaurs,” he called a group of East Bank tribal leaders, including a former prime minister, before a meeting with them in the town of Karak. “It’s all about, ‘I’ll vote for this guy because I am in his tribe,’ ” the king said of their political program.

Alarmed at the violence in neighboring Syria, King Abdullah said he had offered asylum and protection to the family of President Assad. “They said, ‘Thank you very much, but why don’t you worry about your country more than you worry about us?’ ”

“The monarchy is going to change,” the king vowed. His son will preside over “a Western-style democracy with a constitutional monarchy,” the king said, and not “the position of Bashar today.”

Apparently, this king has not ready fora  constitutional monarchy as long as he is alive.

Sweet talk: Constantly shifting the blame on the others and on the institutions that he leads…

The political leaders in Jordan have been urging King Abdullah to return all the properties that himself and his extended family have confiscated for no compensation, and stop the lavish life-style of the monarch that this poor country cannot afford…

A version of this article appeared in print on March 19, 2013, on page A8 of the New York edition with the headline: Jordan’s King Finds Fault With Everyone Concerned.


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