Arab political satire did not start with Bassem Youssef. Satire and humor is part of the historical Arab political heritage. Khalid Kishatainy even wrote a book on Arab political humor. Egyptian political cartoons and popular poetry were used against ruling regimes for over a century. But Bassem Youssef brought something new to Arab political satire: he invaded the TV medium rather effectively.
It is almost touching. The US government stresses that it does not interfere in the affairs of Ukraine and Venezuela. The release of the phone conversation between Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Victoria Nuland and the US ambassador to Ukraine came as an embarrassing exposure of US lies and claims. Even the Washington Post (one of the key government mouthpieces on foreign policy among US dailies) had to admit the obvious: that the two officials were “laying bare a deep degree of US involvement in affairs that Washington officially says are Ukraine’s to resolve.” Typically, the US government changed the subject, and while grudgingly acknowledging the authenticity of the recording, blamed the Russian government for the taping. In Venezuela, the US government maintained the same claim of non-interferences and called on the Venezuelan people to resolve their differences.
Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times wrote an article for the New York Times in which he implored academics to play a bigger role in public life and debates. Kristof is right about that although I disagree with all his other diagnoses and prescriptions. It is remarkable that academics in the US have no connection or interactions with the public at large. In fact, academics are increasingly trained and socialized to disdain communication and interaction with the masses. Academics pride themselves on perfecting academic jargon to such a degree that style and form become more important than substance. There are social science fields that are more guilty than others: political science maybe the worst as the the field becomes more and more quantitative and the illusion of “science” in politics (something that Hannah Arendt frowned upon) has led to borrowing theories and paradigms from economics to attain more academic respectability.
There are many clichés said and written about the Arab world. In fact, Western analysis of Arab politics is deficient without a healthy amount of clichés. One can’t read a short piece on Arab politics without reading the word “bazaar,” and one can’t read anything about Arab women without a section about the veil and its various forms. For those who insist on cliché-ridden analysis of Arab politics, one should ask them to insert new clichés, at least, to make room for new realities and conditions in the region.
It is indubitable that the Yarmouk refugee camp in Syria is under siege by the troops of the Syrian regime; it is also indubitable that the Syrian rebels find it easy to use the camp as a staging ground for the continually-postponed attack on Damascus. Both sides have shown disregard for the lives of the Palestinians inside the camp. But then again, both sides in Syria have shown disregard for the lives of ordinary Syrians, and it isn’t surprising that they would be disregarding the lives of the Palestinians inside the camp.
The events of late June 1975 are still shrouded in mystery: How did Carlos, the jackal, manage at 9 Rue Toullier in the Quartier Latin to shoot dead two agents of the DST (Directorate of Territorial Surveillance – the highly secretive anti-terrorist force) and also manage to kill the Lebanese head of Wadi Haddad’s organization in Europe, Michel Mukarbil (often transliterated in the Western press as Moukharbal) and seriously injure yet another DST agent. Carlos then fled the scene. But the true role and background of Mukarbil is the most mysterious element of the story.
The eulogies for Ariel Sharon in the Western press are comparable to their eulogies of Nelson Mandela. In the US, people on the left and on the right competed to shower praise on the symbol of Israel’s terrorist right. Israeli terrorism and brutality is portrayed as “strength” and “might,” and CNN invited the Israeli ambassador in the US to write an ostensibly objective eulogy for the man. Ethan Bronner, the former bureau chief of the New York Times in Israel and a former foreign editor of the paper, wrote a long eulogy that can easily be classified within the genre of “love poetry.”
There are many parties that are pushing for an all-out confrontation in Lebanon. The spillover of the Syrian conflict into Lebanon helps further Israeli and Saudi interests by dragging Hezbollah into a protracted conflict that can easily exhaust its energies and resources and even divert it from focusing on the confrontation with Israel.
Something has to be said about the brilliant success of General Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi of Egypt. The man has been able to mobilize millions of Egyptians behind him, and from different socioeconomic backgrounds and ideological stripes. For the first time ever, Nasserists and Sadat rightists are in the same camp. All the enemies of the Muslim Brotherhood have gathered to bolster the new Sisi regime.