Everything you need to know about the weekend media coverage of Israel and the Mideast.
Hamas is in the news for a variety of eyebrow-raising reasons. And Press TV is kicked off British airwaves.
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Israel and the Palestinians
• Hamas softens on the Right of Return — to Gaza:
Gaza Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh said Saturday that his Hamas-led government will allow the return of 80 Fatah supporters who left the Gaza Strip when his Hamas party took power.
• If you didn’t know the Hamas alliance with Iran, Syria and Hezbollah wasn’t fraying, here’s a new wake up call. Hamas security forces beat up Shiites in Gaza. The National explains the significance:
Saturday’s crackdown on Shiites – occurring as Hamas dismantles its headquarters in Damascus amid Syrian president Bashar Al Assad’s political troubles – is an obvious affront to its long-time patron and may be a sign that one strut of that axis is rickety.
It also may be an indication that the tectonic political shifts underway since the Arab Spring erupted last year may be affecting the Gaza Strip.
“Because Hamas is straying from this Hizbollah-Syria relationship, that means they are freer to do these kinds of things,” said Hani Habib, a political analyst and writer, who lives in Gaza.
However a source close to the Hamas chief informed Asharq Al-Awsat that Meshal did not try to meet with al-Assad on his return to Damascus, but instead met with Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem, who he passed this message on to.
According to the Arab source, Meshal’s actions in Cairo served as a source of embarrassment for the Hamas movement, not least because many senior Hamas members – including Meshal himself – live in Syria as guests of the al-Assad regime, whilst the majority of other Palestinian factions are of the view that the Palestinians should not get involved with the Syrian crisis, as this could serve as a pretext for Syrian intervention in Palestinian affairs.
• Ismail Haniyeh’s recent Mideast tour was more political than we realized. Haniyeh — the top Hamas figure in Gaza — wants to replace Mashaal as Hamas’s top dog. Picking up on foreign reports, the JPost writes:
Haniyeh’s recent visits to Sudan, Egypt, Tunisia and Turkey were organized as part a campaign to acquaint the countries’ leaders with the Hamas prime minister, the report explained, adding that trips to Qatar, Bahrain and Iran have been planned as well.
• Palestinians fired on an IDF patrol near Ramallah. Nobody was injured. AFP picked up on the story.
• YNet: Several Israeli-Arab MKs have met with Hamas.
Arabeed is the beneficiary of an extraordinary economic spurt in Gaza – not just in construction, but also agriculture, the hotel and restaurant industry, transport and manufacturing. All sectors have seen growth over the past year, with private sector employment increasing by more than 50%, albeit from a very low base, according to the United Nations refugee agency, Unrwa.
• I would expect no less: Robert Fisk plugs the late Tom Hurndall’s Mideast diary.
• Land grab or historical heritage? The Christian Science Monitor looks at Israeli plans to create an archaeological greenbelt around Jerusalem.
Iranian Atomic Urgency
• According to London’s Sunday Times, Israel will give the US just 12 hours advance notice of a strike on Iran.
The refusal to give more advance warning, which would prevent the US blocking the raid, is the latest sign of a breakdown of trust between the two allies over Israel’s response to Iranian ambitions to develop nuclear weapons.
• Motorcyclists in Iran strike again, killing a military officer. According to YNet, “the mid-level officer was identified as Raze Ali Fimani.”
• Tony Burman (Toronto Star) frets over Israel sparking a Mideast war.
• China’s premier says he opposes Iran pursuing nuclear weapons, quietly cuts back on oil imports. More at the Daily Telegraph.
[They] refused to obey his order to shoot protesting civilians in the Bab Qebli suburb in Hama.
• The law of averages finally works in favor of Egyptian security forces, who foiled an attack on the Sinai gas line to Israel.
Rest O’ the Roundup
• Good news: Ofcom (pdf) revoked Press TV’s license to broadcast in the UK. What did in Press TV? Their broadcasting license was held in the UK, but editorial control was in Tehran, which breached Ofcom regulations. The Guardian summarizes:
Ofcom wrote a letter to Press TV in November highlighting the issue and offered a choice of two remedies.
The first was to switch editorial control for Press TV’s programming to the UK, the second to transfer the broadcasting licence to Iran . . .
Ofcom said Press TV failed to respond to or implement either of these two options.
A few weeks ago, Houriya Ahmed made the case for banning the Press TV from Britain. Her key point:
The siege of the embassy and the expulsion of the British Ambassador demonstrate that Iran intends to heat up its public diplomacy war. Free speech laws should not extend to hosting the propaganda service of a belligerent government. As long as Press TV is funded by the current Iranian regime, the closure of its London operation is a necessity.
• The sheer stupidity amazes me: Publisher Suggests Mossad “Order a Hit” on Obama.
• A Knesset committee grapples with Israel’s poor media image — without any media input. What does that say in itself?
• The hacking war continues. An Israeli hacker named “Hannibal” posted tens of thousands of stolen Arab Facebook logins. More on that at ZDNet.
• Now in the US for a Journalism 101 refresher, Johann Hari says he decided not to return to The Independent:
There are two reasons. I’m willing to take the flack for my errors myself: when you screw up, you should pay a price. But I’m not willing to see other people, who are played no part in those errors and are unimpeachably decent people, take the flack too. It’s not fair on them. The Independent has been great to me, and we need its principles in the public arena without distractions.
Secondly, while doing some journalistic retraining in the US, I’ve started working on a book on a subject I believe is important and requires urgent action. To be done properly it needs international travel and the kind of in depth focus that’s not possible when you are writing a heavily researched column at the same time.
• The Economist looks at the state of the “Start Up Nation.”
But even in Israel turning tech start-ups into big companies is difficult. For all the comparisons with Silicon Valley, Israel has not begotten a Hewlett-Packard, an Intel or a Google. Its best companies are often bought by American giants while still in their infancy.
For more, see Thursday’s Media Cheat Sheet.