Tag Archives: Christian Science Monitor

Erasing Gaza’s Jewish history with the help of the BBC

Readers visiting the homepage of the BBC News website on January 7th will have noticed the feature entitled “Preserving the Past”.

hp 7 1 features

The link leads to an article entitled “Gaza’s archaeological treasures at risk from war and neglect“.

Gaza archaeology

The article opens:

“Settled by civilisations spanning some five millennia, Gaza has been built layer-upon-layer since the Bronze Age.

As each era ended, its people left behind remnants of their times – churches, monasteries, palaces and mosques, as well as thousands of precious artefacts.”

Detail from mosaic in 6th century Synagogue from Gaza

So from its very beginning, this article airbrushes out any mention of one group of people who were among the most consistent inhabitants of Gaza, beginning with the Hasmoneans in 145 BCE (long before the religions which built churches, monasteries or mosques were founded) through the Middle Ages and up to 1929 when, in the wake of the Hebron massacre, the British mandatory authorities ordered the Jews of Gaza to leave.

Israelis, however, do get a mention in this BBC feature. It is, according to the author, because of them that Gaza’s archaeologists have no equipment to take care of the antiquities and cannot attend professional conferences abroad.

“It is not only war that makes her job so hard. Israel strictly controls passage out of Gaza, for what it says are security reasons, and does not allow in machinery and other equipment which it suspects can be used against it by militants.”

“People working here can’t travel for training outside and we are only able to use local tools, which don’t allow us to excavate in a precise manner,” Ms Albetar said.” [emphasis added]

It is also suggested that because of Israel that the people of Gaza have, apparently, little interest in its archaeological treasures.

“Most Gazans are too preoccupied with high unemployment, poor housing and the restrictions on agriculture, fishing and importation to care about ruins and antiquities.”

Of course no real context is given either by the author of this piece or her Hamas-employed interviewees as to why restrictions exist or what steps Hamas might take to reduce the risk to archaeological artifacts by ending its terror war on Israeli civilians. Instead, this article is constructed in such a way as to leave the reader with the impression that Israel alone is to blame for the impending loss of historical treasures.

The reason behind that becomes a little clearer if one stops to take a look at the ideological CV of the article’s author.

In addition to this latest piece for the BBC (some of her previous BBC contributions are here and here), Welsh-born Ruqaya Izzidien has also written for the Guardian and the New York Times. However Ms Izzidien does not confine herself to the mainstream media: she also writes for outlets such as the vehemently anti-Israel blog Mondoweiss, the Egyptian site Bikya Masr, Al Jazeera, the Christian Science Monitor, ‘Ceasefire‘ magazine and the Lebanese site Al Akhbar which includes among its editors a member of the organizing body of the March 2012 ‘Global March to Jerusalem’, Rami Zurayk. Her work has even been picked up and reproduced by the Muslim Brotherhood’s Ikhwanweb and Occupied Palestine.

al akhbar zurayk

Inevitably, Ruqaya Izzidien’s writings on Gaza-related subjects paint context-free, monochrome portraits of helpless Palestinians just trying their best to get along under the yoke of Israeli restrictions, and without any agency of their own. This latest piece for the BBC is no exception.

Does the BBC really think it appropriate to reduce the standard of its reporting even further by providing a platform for the kind of ideologically-motivated polemics which are to be found in abundance on anti-Israel sites such as those which already publish Ms Izzidien’s work?From BBC watch


Christian Science Monitor writer says Egypt’s proposed necrophilia law is utter hooey because…he wants it to be

So many people have sent this story to me this morning that it seemed worth posting, but not as the cautionary tale it was meant to be. Rather, it is an object lesson in irresponsible journalism. Several days ago I posted this story from al-Arabiya, which has now circulated around the world and aroused considerable disgust. Even the most indefatigable Islamic supremacist apologists, such as the serial liar Sheila Musaji at The American Muslim, are embarrassed by it, and immediately tried to start explaining it away. Now Dan Murphy of the august Christian Science Monitor has come to their aid, reassuring us all that the story is “utter hooey.” His evidence? Read on:

“Egypt ‘necrophilia law’? Hooey, utter hooey,” by Dan Murphy for the Christian Science Monitor, April 26 (thanks to all who sent this in):

Today, Egypt’s state-owned Al Ahram newspaper published an opinion piece by Amr Abdul Samea, a past stalwart supporter of the deposed Hosni Mubarak, that contained a bombshell: Egypt’s parliament is considering passing a law that would allow husbands to have sex with their wives after death.It was soon mentioned in an English language version of Al-Arabiya and immediately started zipping around social-networking sites. By this afternoon it had set news sites and the rest of the Internet on fire. It has every thing: The yuck factor, “those creepy Muslims” factor, the lulz factor for those with a sick sense of humor. The non-fact-checked Daily Mail picked it up and reported it as fact. Then Andrew Sullivan, who has a highly influential blog but is frequently lax about fact-checking, gave it a boost with an uncritical take. The Huffington Post went there, too.

There’s of course one problem: The chances of any such piece of legislation being considered by the Egyptian parliament for a vote is zero. And the chance of it ever passing is less than that. In fact, color me highly skeptical that anyone is even trying to advance a piece of legislation like this through Egypt’s parliament. I’m willing to be proven wrong. It’s possible that there’s one or two lawmakers completely out of step with the rest of parliament. Maybe.

But extreme, not to mention inflammatory claims, need at minimum some evidence (and I’ve read my share of utter nonsense in Al Ahram over the years). The evidence right now? Zero.

Follow the progression of Murphy’s thought. He first says that the chances of such legislation being voted on by the Egyptian parliament are zero. Then he says that it wouldn’t pass, anyway. Then he says that he doesn’t think anyone is even trying to get it passed. Evidence for his claim? None. He doesn’t offer any. Then he claims that there is no evidence for the report in the first place.

By contrast, the al-Arabiya report is quite specific. It names Egypt’s National Council for Women (NCW) as mounting opposition to the measure, saying specifically that Dr. Mervat al-Talawi, head of the NCW, sent a message to the Egyptian People’s Assembly Speaker, Dr. Saad al-Katatni, complaining about it. It also names al-Ahram columnist Amro Abdul Samea, who wrote about the story.

All these specifics make this story open to easy verification. Murphy could have contacted Amro Abdul Samea, or Saad al-Katatni, or Mervat al-Talawi. But he didn’t. He just decided it was “utter hooey” apparently just because it is so…icky. Or because it puts Islamic law in a bad light, especially since a Moroccan Muslim cleric has said the same thing, as Murphy grudgingly admits and then dismisses:

There was a Moroccan cleric a few years back who apparently did issue a religious ruling saying that husbands remained married to their wives in the first six hours after death and, so, well, you know. But that guy is far, far out on the nutty fringe. How fringe? He also ruled that pregnant women can drink alcohol. Remember, alcohol is considered haram, forbidden, by the vast majority of the world’s Muslim scholars. Putting an unborn child at risk to get drunk? No, that’s just not what they do. Whatever the mainstream’s unpalatable beliefs (there are plenty from my perspective) this isn’t one of them….

Maybe the story is false. Certainly al-Ahram and al-Arabiya don’t have spotless records for accuracy. But that can only be established by fact-checking, not by wishful thinking, which is all that Dan Murphy offers here. The whitewash of noxious elements of Sharia is universal in the mainstream media, and when these noxious elements cannot be ignored, as in this case, it is a shame to see a staff writer for a respected publication simply waving them away without the slightest bit of evidence instead of confronting them honestly. A shame, but not a surprise.

Posted by Robert

Tehran mocks US with $4 drone toys

Morality police also intensify drive against Barbie-led ‘cultural invasion’

Miniature toy models of the US drone RQ-170 with a slogan quoted by Iran’s late founder of the Islamic, Republic Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, reading in Farsi: “We will step on the United states”.

Tehran: Toy shelves in Tehran will be making room for a new design that will make some Iranians smile and US officials grind their teeth: a scale model of the American stealth drone that Iran brought down in early December.


Iranian officials trumpeted an “intelligence coup” when they brought down the top-secret batwing craft that had been on a CIA spying mission over Iran’s nuclear facilities.“As a joke I will probably buy one, because it would take the sting out of the reality, as a kind of relief”

Tehran resident

An Iranian engineer working to unlock the secrets of the drone told the Monitor at the time how Iranian electronic warfare specialists had “spoofed” the drone’s GPS navigation system, causing it to land in Iran.

Now that event has been immortalised in a 1:80 scale model of the RQ-170 Sentinel drone. Though Sentinel models are already on the international market, Iran’s come in an array of bright colours and atop a stand engraved with the words of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini – the father of Iran’s 1979 Islamic revolution: “We will trample America under our feet.”

“What is annoying are the toy shop tactics, when we have such serious issues to confront,” says a Tehran resident who asked not to be named. She noted drums-of-war rhetoric coming from the US, Israel, and Iran; the covert war against Iran’s nuclear programme; and mounting sanctions.

One for Obama

“Our savings have lost 40 per cent of their value in a season, and they are making drone toys!” she says. “As a joke I will probably buy one, because it would take the sting out of the reality, as a kind of relief.”

The models began release last week, and the makers say they have already set aside a pink one for President Obama – who has asked for Iran to return the original US craft.

“He said he wanted it back, and we will send him one,” Reza Kioumarsi, the head of cultural production at the Ayeh Art group was quoted as saying on Iranian state radio.

Production is set at 2,000 models a day, selling for the equivalent of $4 (Dh14.68) each.

Military option

The drone capture was presented in Tehran as the most significant response so far to recent setbacks for Iran that have included killings of nuclear scientists, the Stuxnet computer worm that disrupted uranium enrichment, and unexplained blasts at missile and industrial sites.

Neither the US nor Israel has taken the military option off the table to prevent Iran building a nuclear weapon. Iran says it has no intention of doing so, but wants to peacefully produce nuclear power.

“They are so kitsch — they are kitschifying [America] and they are kitschifying the drone,” says the Tehran resident. “What other espionage agency in the world celebrates a day for itself? Or puts up billboards which say: “Talk to us about your security concerns.”

The drone model enters a cultural arena already hotly contested in Iran, where regime ideologues have battled “Westoxication” for a generation.

Top of the target list for toys have often been Barbie dolls, with their busty proportions and array of clothes and accessories seen as symbols of a permissive Western lifestyle.

In recent weeks, Iranian officials have renewed their protest at this Barbie-led “cultural invasion,” decrying it as part of a “soft war” against Iran’s religious values.

One Tehran shopkeeper said that morality police visited three weeks ago “asking us to remove all the Barbies.” Past crackdowns have sought to remove Barbies from toy shelves they shared with Batman and Power Rangers and a host of other US- and European-style toys.

More than a decade ago, Iranian educational officials decried Barbie as “like the wooden horse of Troy with many cultural invading soldiers inside it.”

Another crackdown against such “spiritual pollutants” was launched in 2002, on the Barbie dolls that have often — despite their higher cost, and questionable legality — been openly displayed in toy shops.

Sara and Dara Iran’s effort since 1999 to make its own version of Barbie and Ken — an Islamically appropriate pair known as Sara and Dara, with the girl in a headscarf — have not been big hits because they are heavier and stiffer.— Christian Science Monitor