Ted is a Boston-based Middle East observer and graduate of Northeastern University and Suffolk University Law School. Ted traveled throughout the Middle East while studying at the American University in Cairo and subsequently while as a history teacher at a private school in Cairo. Ted is a social media evangelist and father of two adventurous boys, whose observations on fatherhood can be read at dadslittleblog.com
Contact him via email at: firstname.lastname@example.org
I describe myself, in the byline of this column and elsewhere online in my social media profiles, etc., as a “hasbara buster.” Hasbara is a special kind of propaganda used by the government of Israel and its supporters to employ hyperbole and bigotry in delivering a nationalist message. It looks solely to the most extreme message it can deliver, hoping to shock its audience into believing the absolute worst, so that any inkling of an alternative perspective would be overlooked. Israel is not, of course, alone in its use of such tactics; but it is unique in the method of its delivery, which can range from the common public relations campaign, to the use of international lobbying organizations, right up to members of its government taking an active role in its dissemination.
“The roar produced by the chants and the megaphones eliminates thought. Thought is retribution, a crime, treason against the Leader,” reflects Fathi Sheen. “Silence is wisdom when talk is praise for the Leader,” says his girlfriend, Lama. Therein lies the dichotomy in Nihad Sirees’ first English language novel, The Silence and the Roar. Sheen, a writer, a media personality has rejected the roar of the Leader’s propaganda machine, and paid the price. He is ostracized, branded a traitor by its security services and is forced to decide between recovering his former life of remaining an outcast, and risking the lives of his family to live in the silence.
If there is anything that the phenomenon known as the “Arab Spring” has taught us, it is that the true power in the Middle East rests with the people themselves. Whether it was the singular act of Mohammed Bouazizi’s self immolation that led to the downfall of the Tunisian government or the masses that flooded Cairo’s Tahrir Square and toppled Hosni Mubarak, the crowd, the street, has shown itself to be a formidable force.
Dear President Obama,
During your recent State of the Union address, one of the issues you announced that you would focus on in the coming years is illegal immigration. I have a few suggestions with respect to that area that I would like to bring to your attention. At first blush, these ideas may seem a little unorthodox, possibly downright controversial. But, research tells me that they have been tried and tested and have met with success elsewhere.
On January 25th, Egypt marked (you can’t really say celebrated) the second anniversary of the start of the revolution that toppled the dictatorship of Hosni Mubarak. Since that fateful day, Egypt has suffered two replacement dictators, the first in the form of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), the second in the (ironically) democratically elected President Mohammed Morsi, the leader of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood. The first tried desperately to cling to the power, largess and financial windfall they had enjoyed for the previous 50 years. The latter, elected under the guise of “defending the revolution” has worked to co-opt it at seemingly every step.
To the extent that the international media has paid attention to the situation in the Middle East, their stories have focused on the obvious and the easy: Israel’s elections, protests in Egypt on the anniversary of its corrupted revolution and, of course, a constant reminder that Iran may someday develop a nuclear weapon. The ongoing civil war in Syria garners hardly a notice, except when the international community pats itself on the back for its “aid packages.” Mali’s developing conflict, and its impact on Algeria, has filled plenty of by-lines with new stories of Islamic militancy. But, one story that is gradually slipping below the fold is the situation in Iraq.
I first wrote about the crisis in Syria in August of 2011 under the title “Weathering a Front of the Arab Spring.” It was at about that time that the uprisings in Hama, Dera’a and their surroundings, and the subsequent crackdown by the Assad regime, had become something more than just another set of protests. Syrians wanted change and they were willing to — and were — dying for it. At that time the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) put the death toll at 2,000. The numbers were shocking. Egypt and Tunisia had not come close to those figures and only Libya compared by breaking into a war.
On November 29, 1947, the United Nations General Assembly passed a resolution calling for the partition of Mandatory Palestine into two states, Palestine and Israel. On the same day, 65 years later, a UN General Assembly resolution has finally recognized the statehood of Palestine.
The two main candidates for the Presidency of the United States recently held a series of debates. They were stage plays, presented for the television audience, and none of them were particularly “debate-y.” The third, and final, debate, however, was (supposed to be) about foreign policy. Now, while easily 50% of the conversation was instead about domestic policy, roughly 10% about who agreed with who more, the remaining ~40% covered something of a “foreign policy” nature.
I had the opportunity this past week to attend part of the Boston Palestine Film Festival. While my travel schedule had, sadly, kept me from attending most of it, I made sure I could attend at least one night. The film being screened was called ‘5 Broken Cameras.’ It is a documentary by Palestinian filmmaker Emad Burnat and Israeli filmmaker Guy Davidi.
About the Columnist: Ted Graham
Ted is a Boston-based Middle East observer and graduate of Northeastern University and Suffolk University Law School. Ted traveled throughout the Middle East while studying at the American University in Cairo and subsequently while as a history teacher at a private school in Cairo.
Ted is a social media evangelist and father of two adventurous boys, whose observations on fatherhood can be read at dadslittleblog.com