How to beat ISIS–no, really

Bankrupt ISIS–that’s the way to beat it. Not mass airstrikes, not ISIS picsanctions–and this intelligent article by an economist who actually lives in the Mideast doesn’t even mention the idea of large-scale Western troop commitments, because that’s so far off the subject of effective means. Her solution is a long-term one of ending the Syrian civil war and providing jobs for the region’s poor to counter the appeal of radicalism.

I started reading “Rebel Economy” while I was in Egypt, and I found it a good source of deep, original thinking. Economist Farah Halime used to crank out a column once a week or so–now her output is more sporadic, but it’s always work examining and thinking about.

And this is a good place for me to pound my usual drum–the most ch26important story in Egypt, and in most of the Middle East, is the economy. Not the Muslim Brotherhood, not the military dictatorship, certainly not Israel. And the second most important story is the oppression of women. I wish I could say I don’t understand why journalists don’t write more about these issues, but it’s no great mystery–journalists find economics boring, and they have more important things to do than write about women–like quoting the latest government communique or following up on the latest scandal. So they’re missing the boat–and leaving it for me to write books about.

Israel opening mission in Abu Dhabi–part of Mideast realignment

The future Israeli diplomatic mission in Abu Dhabi probably won’t have a

Mideast Syrian Turkmens Glance

Russian plane shot down, Russia moving anti-aircraft missiles into Syria

flag flying in front of it, but it does underline how Israel fits into the regionwide realignment that’s in progress. Israel has had quiet relations with a number of moderate Arab regimes, and it sees common enemies in Iran and ISIS. And there’s a link to tensions between Turkey and Russia over Syria.

I discussed all this a few minutes ago with host P.J. Maloney on KQV Radio in Pittsburgh.

AP finally reports about Abbas rejection of Israeli peace map

It took a full day and a bit of shaming, but The Associated Press has finally run a story about Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’s rejection of Israel’s peace map in 2008.

Besides me and those who read these posts, the AP is the only outlet that has reported how Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert offered Abbas a map with the borders of a Palestinian state–the equivalent of all of the West Bank, all of Gaza, a link between the two and the Arab sections of Jerusalem. The AP article quotes Abbas without comment, that he couldn’t sign a map he didn’t have a chance to examine. He never met Olmert again.

His excuse is nonsense, of course. For decades the Palestinians have been Abbas mapdemanding a state according to he cease-fire lines after the 1948-49 war, known erroneously as the 1967 borders. Of course Abbas understood the map, and he demonstrated that by racing back to his office and drawing his recollection of what he had just seen. Here’s a photograph of that map, as obtained by The Tower magazine.

So the question remains–why did it take a full day and some outside pressure to get a single, solitary news outlet to write this story. It is, of course, the largest news agency in the world–and the same one that banned me from reporting it when I discovered it in March 2009.

My bosses at The Associated Press claimed then that it’s not news, there was no such offer, and Abbas did not reject it. If you needed any further proof that all three of those contentions are and were ridiculous, now you have it, in the voice of Mahmoud Abbas himself.

And now the AP has reported it from the mouth of the man who rejected it.

This should feel good, but it doesn’t.

There are too many negative factors coming into play here. It’s clear that most of the problem is the fact that AP and all the others out there are short-staffed. Whereas just a few years ago a senior editor would be on duty and jump all over a story like this, writing a news alert, a bulletin, a quick story, an expanded story and possibly an analysis within seconds, minutes and hours after the broadcast–now there just aren’t enough reporters and editors to do the job right.

And no doubt the AP would have missed this one altogether if the size and scope of the story had not been brought forcefully to their attention from the outside.

But what throws this imaginary, good-ol’-days scenario of proper news coverage of last night’s earth-shattering interview into question is the fact that there were plenty of staffers around in 2009 when the AP blocked my original story, which quoted chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat saying, on the record, much the same as Abbas did last night. Then it wasn’t a matter of staffing. It was a matter of ideology.

By then it was clear to the West that Israel was the strong side, the aggressor, the cruel occupier. The Palestinians were the weak side, the occupied, the victims. A story that did not fit into that little box, like the Palestinians turning down a reasonable offer of a state of their own,  just couldn’t see the light of day. By then it was an automatic response.

It continues to this day. So there’s no reason to rejoice.

Still no reporting on Abbas admitting he turned down Israeli offer of Palestinian state

We’re well into the news second cycle after the first acknowledgment by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas that in 2008, he refused to sign a map offering his people a state in the equivalent of all of the West Bank, all of Gaza, a link between the two, and the Arab parts of Jerusalem–and still no coverage of this development in world media.

If you search for it, all you’ll find are this and this. The first one is my blog from last night. The second is a post by The Tower, which picked up my blog. That article includes this photo of the map Abbas himself drew after hurrying back to his office in the wake of refusing to Abbas mapinitial the map Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert offered him. You can see clearly Abbas’s recollection of the territories Israel would have given the Palestinians in exchange for settlement blocs. So clearly, he understood it, though he told his interviewer that he didn’t sign it because he’s not an expert with maps.

So the question becomes–why is no one else interested in this? So far I’ve determined that a leading news agency was aware of the program on Israel TV Channel 10 last night, someone watched it, but no story was written. I’m told one of the news agencies will put out a story at some point today. Make no mistake–this disclosure warranted news bulletin treatment in real time.

There is, of course, a pattern here. I discovered the offer with the map in March 2009, four months after it was offered. Israel had wanted to keep it quiet, since releasing it would have made it the starting point of the next round of Palestinian demands. Yet my bosses at The Associated Press banned me from writing about it, claiming that it’s not news, there was no such offer, and Abbas did not reject it. If you needed any further proof that all three of those contentions are and were ridiculous, now you have it, in the voice of Mahmoud Abbas himself.

So why isn’t this news? I suspect it’s a combination of short-staffed news bureaus and the classic idea that if Abbas turned it down, it’s because the Israelis were wrong. They always are. That’s not news.

And that’s why I left journalism.