Eastern Approaches


The London-based Saudi Al-Sharq al-Awsat newspaper has just opened an English-language site, and it looks competently done. The opinion page is particularly interesting. Alas, as I noted in an earlier post, among the by-products of Arab journalism are those frequent attack jobs done on individuals who, for some reason or another, are disliked by the author, the author's paymaster, the author's paymaster's sovereign, or any permutations of the previous.

Particularly irritating in this regard is the commentary by Syrian columnist Ghassan al-Imam on "the fate of journalists addicted to a single subject matter." The target of the hit, after many circumlocutions, is the departed Samir Kassir, killed over two weeks ago by a bomb placed under his car.

The article merits being highlighted only for its sheer venality. The gist of the argument is that Kassir only focused his attentions on Syria, and must have done so for dark reasons Imam will not otherwise go into: "Did he receive encouragement to harass the Syrian regime? … Opposition to authorities in any country is no shame. However, a journalist's credibility diminishes when his dedication to slandering a certain government turns into an obsession, to the degree where he loses his objectivity."

Of course Kassir wrote about very much more than Syria, and no he was not on anyone's payroll, other than that of his newspaper; had he been, he would almost certainly, like Imam, have still been alive, since that kind of journalist is far too versatile to get killed. But then again, what's easier than kicking a dead man?

That said, Imam, in his byzantine way, also seems to point to a Syrian motive for killing Kassir, even if it comes across as something of a justification:

Let us ask ourselves another question: for whose benefit was Qassir's continuous political criticism which was replete with malice and provocation? Had the murdered journalist become too close to some in the anti-Syrian camp that he endangered the security of the regime in Damascus?

Now you can read all this splendid cravenness in English (and next year Al-Jazeera will be following suit, with an English-language station). The Arab world lies before you.