VOICES FROM THE ARAB PRESS

A weekly se­lec­tion of opin­ions and analy­ses from the Arab me­dia around the world

The Jerusalem Post Magazine - - ARAB MEDIA - COM­PILED BY THE ME­DIA LINE

THE BRU­TAL­ITY OF OUR REGIMES

An-Na­har, Le­banon, Oc­to­ber 16

Ev­ery now and again we are re­minded of the bru­tal­ity of Arab regimes. The re­cent kid­nap­ping and mur­der of Saudi jour­nal­ist Ja­mal Khashoggi by his very own gov­ern­ment is a stark re­minder about abuse of power. Khashoggi is cer­tainly not the first to “dis­ap­pear” due to his po­lit­i­cal ac­tiv­ity.

I still re­mem­ber the case of Mahdi Bin Baraka, a Mo­roc­can po­lit­i­cal ac­tivist who went miss­ing in Paris in 1965 dur­ing a visit to the city. While Baraka es­poused leftist po­lit­i­cal views, he never posed a real threat to the regime of King Has­san II of Morocco. And still, the 45-year-old Mo­roc­can dis­ap­peared from the face of the Earth one bright morn­ing. Only a few decades later it was dis­cov­ered that Mo­roc­can in­tel­li­gence, with the aid of French po­lice, had killed him.

A dif­fer­ent case that re­minded me of Khashoggi is the dis­ap­pear­ance of Man­sour Rashid el-Kikhia, who served as Libya’s for­eign min­is­ter and later as its am­bas­sador to the United Na­tions. Af­ter de­fy­ing the rule of Libyan leader Muam­mar Gaddafi, Kikhia mys­te­ri­ously van­ished in 1993 while at­tend­ing a con­fer­ence in Cairo. His body was dis­cov­ered in Libya only two decades later, dur­ing the re­cent upris­ing, in the home of a for­mer se­cu­rity of­fi­cial. It turned out that the Libyan in­tel­li­gence ser­vices, to­gether with their Egyp­tian coun­ter­parts, kid­napped Kikhia, in­ter­ro­gated him and ex­e­cuted him.

These are just two ex­am­ples of hun­dreds, if not thou­sands, of sim­i­larly bru­tal cases. Arab regimes have long fol­lowed a prac­tice of tor­tur­ing and killing any­one who is per­ceived as a threat to the sta­bil­ity of the regime.

While Gulf states seemed to have re­frained from this prac­tice to date, things are clearly chang­ing. Saudi Crown Prince Muham­mad Bin Sal­man in par­tic­u­lar has been work­ing on mod­ern­iz­ing his coun­try and im­prov­ing its re­la­tions with the West. To this end, he in­tro­duced his na­tional trans­for­ma­tion plan known as Vi­sion 2020, which seeks to pro­mote de­moc­ra­ti­za­tion in the king­dom. Sadly, if Khashoggi’s fate is sim­i­lar to that of Baraka or Kikhia, Saudi Ara­bia is still miles away from achiev­ing true de­moc­ra­ti­za­tion. In fact, it would prove to be much closer to Bashar As­sad’s Syria, Sad­dam Hus­sein’s Iraq, or Muam­mar Gaddafi’s Libya than any other coun­try in the world. – Bassem Ajami

I still re­mem­ber the case of Me­hdi Ben Barka, a Mo­roc­can po­lit­i­cal ac­tivist who went miss­ing in Paris in 1965

FAB­RI­CATED RE­PORTS IN THE SER­VICE OF QATAR

Al-It­ti­had, UAE, Oc­to­ber 14

The story of the Saudi jour­nal­ist Ja­mal Khashoggi still lacks many de­tails that are cru­cial in un­der­stand­ing ex­actly what hap­pened at the Saudi con­sulate in Is­tan­bul. Khashoggi’s story has been dis­torted and ma­nip­u­lated by the me­dia, es­pe­cially the Qatari ones, in or­der to launch a ma­li­cious cam­paign against the Saudi royal fam­ily. The fab­ri­ca­tions are mul­ti­ple and suc­ces­sive.

The first is the claim that Khashoggi’s dis­ap­pear­ance was inevitably a kid­nap­ping. Not a sin­gle source so far, Turk­ish or other, con­firmed this claim. This did not pre­vent po­lit­i­cal pun­dits from spread­ing the mes­sage that the Saudi gov­ern­ment ab­ducted Khashoggi. Some re­porters pro­vided de­tails of the al­leged killing. Oth­ers added imag­i­nary ref­er­ences of tor­ture. Sev­eral pa­pers even went as far as claim­ing that the in­ci­dent was recorded on Khashoggi’s smart­phone watch, a fact that was later re­futed by se­cu­rity ex­perts.

Iron­i­cally, when it was re­vealed that all of this in­for­ma­tion had no ground­ing in re­al­ity, Al Jazeera and its

sis­ter sta­tions quickly re­moved all of their tweets per­tain­ing to Khashoggi from the Web, due to the fear of be­ing ac­cused of de­lib­er­ate fab­ri­ca­tion.

The sec­ond false story per­tains to a group of 15 Saudi cit­i­zens who sup­pos­edly ar­rived in Turkey by pri­vate plane just be­fore the in­ci­dent in or­der to at­tack Khashoggi. How­ever, it has now been re­vealed that these 15 in­di­vid­u­als were Saudi tourists who came to Is­tan­bul to travel, just as mil­lions of other tourists do each and ev­ery year.

This did not stop re­porters from ac­cus­ing Saudi Ara­bia of send­ing a team of as­sas­sins to Turkey. These bla­tant lies show that many news chan­nels have very lit­tle re­gard for cred­i­bil­ity or pro­fes­sion­al­ism. This is true even of news­pa­pers like The New York Times and large news agen­cies such as Reuters. All of them jumped to con­clu­sions with­out wait­ing for re­sults from the joint Saudi-Turk­ish in­ves­ti­ga­tions com­mit­tee. In­stead of ex­am­in­ing the data, mon­i­tor­ing the in­ves­ti­ga­tion, and search­ing for the truth, these out­lets in­vented their own ver­sion of what hap­pened to Khashoggi. Will they stop spread­ing their lies? Prob­a­bly not. There are those who stand with truth and those who stand with de­ceit.

The UAE will con­tinue to stand shoul­der to shoul­der with Saudi Ara­bia in its bat­tle against defama­tion.

– Ab­dul­lah bin Be­jad al-Otaibi

KHASHOGGI’S DIS­AP­PEAR­ANCE: A SEN­SI­TIVE IS­SUE ON THE GLOBAL AGENDA

Al Jazeera, Qatar, Oc­to­ber 17

Within just a few days, the mys­tery sur­round­ing the dis­ap­pear­ance of Ja­mal Khashoggi in Turkey gained wide­spread in­ter­na­tional at­ten­tion and set all eyes in the global arena on Riyadh. There are many ques­tions hang­ing in the air, but what we know for sure by now is the fol­low­ing: Ja­mal Khashoggi en­tered the Saudi con­sulate in Is­tan­bul on Tues­day, Oc­to­ber 2, but did not come out the same way he went in. We also know that since he dis­ap­peared at the con­sulate, it is Saudi Ara­bia that is ul­ti­mately re­spon­si­ble for his fate.

Khashoggi’s case is of par­tic­u­lar sen­si­tiv­ity to Turk­ish Pres­i­dent Re­cep Tayyip Er­do­gan for three main rea­sons. First, it is a hu­man­i­tar­ian is­sue. Hid­ing, kid­nap­ping or killing a hu­man be­ing on Turk­ish soil is a se­ri­ous is­sue that the Turk­ish au­thor­i­ties will seek to in­ves­ti­gate. Sec­ond, Khashoggi was a no­table jour­nal­ist who was in the process of mar­ry­ing his Turk­ish fi­ancée and was thus in the process of re­ceiv­ing Turk­ish cit­i­zen­ship. Third, the use of a diplo­matic in­stal­la­tion to con­duct il­le­gal ac­tiv­ity on Turk­ish soil is a bla­tant vi­o­la­tion of the Vi­enna Con­ven­tion on Diplo­matic Re­la­tions, which could be con­sid­ered a breach of Turk­ish sovereignty.

For these three rea­sons, Ankara did not want this in­ci­dent to go by un­no­ticed, so as to not cre­ate a prece­dent that al­lows these kinds of events to take place in the fu­ture. Er­do­gan does not want Arab states to set­tle their ac­counts with po­lit­i­cal op­po­nents on Turk­ish ter­ri­tory, es­pe­cially in light of the large num­ber of po­lit­i­cal dis­si­dents who sought refuge in Turkey fol­low­ing the Arab Spring.

De­spite the sever­ity of this event, the re­ac­tion of the Turk­ish au­thor­i­ties was com­posed and mea­sured. The Turk­ish po­lice re­leased footage de­pict­ing Khashoggi’s ar­rival at the con­sulate, in ad­di­tion to sur­veil­lance videos of what ap­pears to be a squad of Saudi as­sas­sins ar­riv­ing in Is­tan­bul that day. Fur­ther­more, Er­do­gan an­nounced the launch­ing of a full in­ves­ti­ga­tion into Khashoggi’s dis­ap­pear­ance to un­der­stand ex­actly what hap­pened. Fi­nally, Er­do­gan in­ter­na­tion­al­ized the in­ci­dent. In­stead of mak­ing it a Turk­ish prob­lem, he suc­ceeded in turn­ing it into a truly global one. Much of this was achieved thanks to the global me­dia, which de­voted con­sid­er­able at­ten­tion to the af­fair.

It re­mains some­what re­mark­able that Riyadh has pro­vided such a faint ac­count of the events, and sim­ply pre­tended that the in­ci­dent never hap­pened. Saudi Ara­bia’s si­lence may have served it well in the past, but given the grow­ing in­ter­est in Khashoggi’s fate, this in­ci­dent may very well come back to haunt Riyadh and its re­la­tions with its al­lies in the West. – Saeed al-Haj

WHY THE CLAIMS AGAINST RIYADH ARE EX­AG­GER­ATED

Asharq al-Awsat, Lon­don, Oc­to­ber 21

In the few weeks that have passed since the dis­ap­pear­ance of Ja­mal Khashoggi at the Saudi con­sulate in Is­tan­bul, I came across a wide range of ar­ti­cles sug­gest­ing that a diplo­matic cri­sis be­tween Saudi Ara­bia and the rest of the world is sim­ply in­evitable. I would dare chal­lenge this ar­gu­ment and claim that it is in­cor­rect. Once the dust sur­round­ing the Khashoggi scan­dal settles, Riyadh will con­tinue to ex­ert the ex­act same power it en­joyed to date. Sim­i­larly, its re­la­tions with key al­lies, in­clud­ing the United States, will be re­stored to nor­mal.

Some might ask why I think so. The sim­ple an­swer is this: When we eval­u­ate power pol­i­tics, it is im­por­tant to al­ways keep in mind coun­tries’ strate­gic in­ter­ests. Saudi Ara­bia is too vi­tal a player in the eyes of so many global ac­tors to be os­tra­cized or shunned. In terms of en­ergy, Saudi Ara­bia is the world’s largest oil pro­ducer, sur­pass­ing ev­ery other OPEC coun­try. On the mil­i­tary front, Riyadh’s strate­gic im­por­tance, es­pe­cially in coun­ter­ing Iran’s in­flu­ence in the Mid­dle East, can­not be stressed enough. Re­li­giously, Saudi Ara­bia is the pil­grim­age site for over 1.5 bil­lion Mus­lims around the world. Sim­ply put, sanc­tion­ing Saudi Ara­bia will not only hurt Riyadh it­self but also weaken most of the Western world.

Granted, the Turk­ish al­le­ga­tions about the killing of Khashoggi are alarm­ing. They must be ex­am­ined and ad­dressed. Yet the in­ves­ti­ga­tion can­not be­gin by de­ter­min­ing its fi­nal out­come. The world can­not pun­ish Riyadh be­fore reach­ing a fi­nal con­clu­sion about what ac­tu­ally hap­pened at the con­sulate.

This at­tempt to reach pre­de­ter­mined con­clu­sions be­comes all the more com­i­cal when we think about the high stan­dards that Saudi Ara­bia is held to, com­pared to those of Iran. If an Ira­nian gov­ern­ment dis­si­dent were to dis­ap­pear in Europe, not a sin­gle coun­try would have called for an in­ves­ti­ga­tion. I highly doubt we would have read much about it in the news. But that’s not the case when it comes to Saudi Ara­bia. In­stead of wait­ing for the in­ves­ti­ga­tion to con­clude, cer­tain po­lit­i­cal pow­ers, both in the Mid­dle East and beyond, launched an or­ches­trated smear cam­paign against the royal house.

We must urge the Saudi au­thor­i­ties to con­duct a thor­ough in­ves­ti­ga­tion of the in­ci­dent, yet we should also ask our­selves who is stand­ing be­hind the pow­er­ful ef­fort to make Khashoggi’s dis­ap­pear­ance the most burn­ing topic on the global po­lit­i­cal agenda. In my hum­ble opin­ion, this cam­paign will even­tu­ally lose its mo­men­tum and fade away. It won’t be long be­fore this saga will come to an end. – Ab­dul­rah­man al-Rashed

These bla­tant lies show that many news chan­nels have very lit­tle re­gard for cred­i­bil­ity or pro­fes­sion­al­ism

(Pho­tos: Reuters)

MOROCCANS HOLD por­traits of for­mer Mo­roc­can op­po­si­tion leader Mahdi Bin Barka dur­ing a can­dle-lit gather­ing in Ra­bat in 2002.

STAFF WORK in­side the head­quar­ters of Al Jazeera Me­dia Net­work, in Doha, Qatar, in June 2017.

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