Giving reality a chance, Saudi chess failures, & French kids magazines

December 30, 2017

Anna Muzychuk (above, with her medals from last year) forfeited her two World Speed Chess titles by refusing to attend this week’s tournament in Saudi Arabia. She said that she had decided “not to play by someone’s rules, not to wear an abaya, not to be accompanied [as a woman] going outside, and altogether not to feel myself a secondary creature”.

Saudi Arabia has also been criticized for refusing to admit Israeli chess players this week. Many of the world’s greatest chess players have been Jewish, among them several Israelis. (Editorial below from The Washington Post.)

 

* United Arab Emirates foreign minister tweets: We will never allow Turkey’s Erdogan and his Muslim Brotherhood friends to succeed in their quest to lead the Arab world. He accuses Turkish troops of looting the holy city of Medina a century ago.

Erdogan replies: “Some impertinent man sinks low and goes as far as accusing our ancestors of thievery ... What spoiled this man? He was spoiled by oil, by the money he has.”

 

* January 2018 issue of leading French-Belgian magazine for children aged 5-8, is recalled from news kiosks after it writes that Israel is “not a real country”. French Jewish leaders criticize magazine for telling a “flagrant lie”. Magazine apologizes.

 

* Haaretz: Pro-Palestinian Wikipedia editors are criticized for protecting American-Palestinian activist Linda Sarsour by helping her cover up sexual assault claims. (Other Wikipedia entries, for example for Edward Said, also criticized for editors having censored out criticism.)

 

* Daily Beast: Never before published KGB training manual reveals Soviet intelligence efforts in the Middle East were thwarted by Israel’s unexpected gains in the Six-Day War

 

SETTING THE HISTORICAL RECORD RIGHT ON CHEMICAL WEAPONS USE

[Note by Tom Gross]

I attach seven articles below on a variety of Middle East-related topics.

Regarding the first one: Over the past four years I have repeatedly criticized the New York Times for its failure to report properly on the continued use of chemical weapons by the Assad regime after the much-praised (by the New York Times) deal by President Obama that was supposed to bring an end to their use. As is the case with many other aspects of the Times’s foreign coverage, efforts to portray the Obama administration as having had a successful foreign policy in recent years (in Burma, Iraq, Cuba, Iran and elsewhere) has led to some highly distorted reporting on many foreign issues.

The New York Times article (below) by Edmond Mulet, the former head of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons-United Nations Joint Investigative Mechanism, is therefore welcome. It admits that there were dozens of uses of chemicals and poison gasses (almost all by the Syrian regime and its Iranian and Hizbullah backers) in the 3-4 years following Obama’s failure to act on his “red line” to stop them in 2013.

You may also wish to see my TV interview and article from April 2017 after President Trump hit Assad’s chemical weapons stockpiles: “Someone had to enforce Obama’s red line”

 

AN OUTSTANDING PHOTO ESSAY

I also criticized the New York Times, BBC and others several months ago for their failure to properly cover Yemen and the Rohingya crisis. Belatedly, both have now done so, and this photo essay by the New York Times last Sunday is outstanding.

 

The second article below, from Thursday’s Wall Street Journal, “In the Mideast, Trump Gives Reality a Chance” by Reuel Marc Gerecht (a former CIA operative in Iran, and a longtime subscriber to this Middle East email list) makes a variety of interesting points and covers some of the same ground as my December 6 interview here: Might Trump and Netanyahu oversee the creation of a Palestinian state?

 

CONTENTS

1. “How the Security Council failed the Syria Chemical Weapons Investigators and Victims” (New York Times, Dec. 29, 2017)
2. “In the Mideast, Trump gives reality a chance” (Wall Street Journal, Dec. 27, 2017)
3. “Turkey will not lead the Arab world, says top UAE diplomat” (Reuters, Dec. 28, 2017)
4. “Never before published KGB training manual reveals Soviet failings in the Mideast” (Haaretz, Dec. 28, 2017)
5. “Letting Saudi Arabia host a chess tournament was a big mistake” (Washington Post, Dec. 29, 2017)
6. “Sex, Lies and Wikipedia: Pro-Palestinian editors accused of protecting Linda Sarsour over harassment claims” (Haaretz, Dec. 27, 2017)
7. “French magazine for children recalls issue after calling Israel not a ‘real country’” (JTA, Dec. 27, 2017)


ARTICLES

HOW THE SECURITY COUNCIL FAILED THE SYRIA CHEMICAL WEAPONS INVESTIGATORS AND VICTIMS

How the Security Council Failed the Syria Chemical Weapons Investigators and Victims
By Edmond Mulet
New York Times
Op-Ed Contributor
Dec. 29, 2017

On Aug. 21, 2013, a Damascus suburb called Ghouta was attacked with sarin gas, resulting in the deaths of hundreds of civilians.

President Barack Obama had warned that the United States would take military action if President Bashar al-Assad of Syria used chemical weapons. The attack on Ghouta crossed Mr. Obama’s “red line,” but he chose coercive diplomacy instead of military action.

Syria acknowledged that it had chemical weapons. The United States and Russia reached a deal in mid-September 2013 under which Syria had to destroy its chemical weapons program.

The Syrian government hurriedly acceded to the Chemical Weapons Convention and turned over what it said was its complete chemical weapon arsenal to a team of experts from the United Nations and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, which monitors adherence to the convention.

In mid-August 2014, the organization announced that the destruction of the chemical weapons declared by Syria was complete.

Yet the Syrian government has continued using chemical weapons in Syria. Between December 2015 and last November, the organization recorded 121 alleged incidents. In 2016, it confirmed 23 uses of chemicals as weapons between April 2014 and August 2015; its investigations continue.

The Security Council responded by creating in August 2015 a Joint Investigative Mechanism between the United Nations and the chemical weapons organization to identify perpetrators of these atrocious crimes.

From August 2015 to October 2016, a team of investigators looked into eight cases of the use of chlorine as a chemical weapon and one case involving the use of sulfur mustard. Three attacks were attributed to the Syrian government and one to the Islamic State. The Security Council failed to reach agreement on any consequences for these crimes.

A few weeks after an April 4 sarin gas attack on Khan Sheikhoun, Syria, which killed approximately 100 and injured at least 200, I accepted the job to lead the investigative team.

Identifying perpetrators of mass atrocities in an active conflict, against a complex political backdrop, especially in cases involving banned chemical weapons, is incredibly difficult.

Sarin, a colorless, odorless liquid nerve agent with extreme potency, had been used in Khan Sheikhoun. Its production and use require advanced technical expertise. Exposure to sarin kills within minutes.

Forensics and chemistry were instrumental in the investigations. A Syrian government aircraft was flying over Khan Sheikhoun at the time of the attack, an aerial chemical bomb was launched over the town, and its residents began dying within minutes.

Investigators collected medical and environmental samples provided by the Syrian government and local groups. It was rigorous work in a laboratory that proved that a sarin precursor known as DF that was used in Khan Sheikhoun was identical to the sarin component produced and stored by the Syrian government. The Syrian government had not declared any stocks missing or stolen.

In another incident, in September 2016, Islamic State militants fired a mortar containing sulfur mustard blistering agent from one of their positions. Two women in the village of Umm Hawsh were seriously sickened when they tried to clean the chemical off their homes. The incident showed that the Islamic State retained the ability to produce and use sulfur mustard.

On Nov. 7, I reported to the Security Council that the investigators had found sufficient evidence to identify the Syrian government as responsible for the use of sarin in Khan Sheikhoun. I also reported that we found evidence that the Islamic State was responsible for the use of sulfur mustard in Umm Hawsh.

Most members of the Security Council voiced strong support for the investigations. Bolivia, China, Egypt, Kazakhstan and Russia questioned the team’s methodology and the outcome of the investigations. Russia and Syria accused me of making political judgments and criticized us as conducting remote investigations.

On Nov. 16, Russia and Bolivia voted against a United States proposal that supported our findings and would have extended the investigators’ mandate for a year. A Russian proposal that would have renewed the mandate for six months but required reopening the investigations did not receive sufficient support to be voted on formally.

The next day Japan proposed a compromise extension of 30 days to buy time to find a way to ensure continuity of our work. Japan’s proposal also asked the United Nations secretary general for ideas on the structure and methodology of my team.

Despite their differences, members of the Security Council agreed that what we were was doing was important and should be continued. Yet again, Russia and Bolivia rejected the Japanese proposal, effectively ending our work.

By Nov. 17, Russia had cast three veto votes to block the Security Council from extending our authorization.

Russia singled me out as “an instrument of the West” and demanded that my team visit the “crime scene,” which is under the control of Qaeda affiliates. Russia also wanted us to collect samples from the Shayrat air base in Syria. The United States hit the air base with missiles after American intelligence found out that the aircraft that dropped sarin gas over the Syrian town had taken off from there. As the air base, which is spread over about four square miles, had been a former storage site for chemical weapons, sampling would not have proved anything.

Despite our rigorous, technical and scientific work, the Joint Investigative Mechanism came to an end on Nov. 17 after the Security Council failed to extend our mandate. These investigations are critical to ensure that those responsible for the use of chemical weapons, a war crime, face their day in court.

Security Council action is equally important to deter any use of chemical weapons in the future. We owe this to the victims, who have yet to see justice and assistance as they cope with the consequences of these prohibited weapons. The international community has a moral responsibility to act and ensure that their use is stopped forever.

 

IN THE MIDEAST, TRUMP GIVES REALITY A CHANCE

In the Mideast, Trump Gives Reality a Chance
The first step toward peace is to stop indulging the Palestinians’ fantasies of destroying Israel.
By Reuel Marc Gerecht
Wall Street Journal
Dec. 27, 2017

A lot of people are in a funk over President Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. The liberal media, most former government officials who’ve dealt with the Israeli–Palestinian imbroglio, and just about everyone at the United Nations appear certain that the decision had a lot to do with Mr. Trump’s disruptive nature, the president’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, Evangelical Christians and pro-Israel Republican donors.

It’s possible that his decision was based instead on an old-fashioned understanding of the way the world works, one that would be familiar to Middle Easterners: There are winners and losers in every conflict, and Palestinians have decisively lost in their struggle with the Jews of the Holy Land. Diplomacy based on denying reality isn’t helpful.

This view runs smack into the tenets of contemporary conflict resolution, in which diplomacy tries to make losers feels like winners, so that unpleasant compromises, at least in theory, will be easier to swallow. It alleviates the guilt of a Westernized people triumphing over Arabs that has made many in Europe and even the U.S. uncomfortable with Israeli superiority. It also runs counter to an assumption held widely among Western political elites – to wit, quoting the current French ambassador to the U.N.: “Israel is the key to peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians.” Israelis, in this view, must make the big compromises.

The truth is surely the opposite. Recognizing the extent and irreversibility of Palestinian defeat is the first step in the long process of salvaging Palestinian society from its paralyzing morass. Far too many Palestinians still want to pretend they haven’t lost, that the “right of return” and Jerusalem’s unsettled status give hope that the gradual erosion of Israel is still possible. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas tapped a common theme among Palestinians in his recent oration before the Organization of Islamic Cooperation when he complained that Jews “are really excellent in faking and counterfeiting history and religion.”

The biggest problem the Palestinians have is that the Israelis don’t trust them, and the Israelis cannot be ignored, sidestepped, bullied, bombed or boycotted out of eastern Jerusalem and the West Bank. Fatah, the lead organization of the Palestine Liberation Organization and the muscle behind the Palestinian Authority, has often acted publicly as if the Israelis weren’t the foreigners who truly mattered, appealing to Europeans, Russians and Americans to intercede on its behalf. Americans and Europeans have consistently encouraged this reflex by stressing their own role in resolving the conflict, usually by suggesting that they would cajole or push Israelis toward Palestinian positions.

For the Israelis, this has seemed a surreal stage play. The Fatah leadership is well aware that only the Israeli security services have kept the West Bank from going the way of the Gaza Strip, where Fatah’s vastly better-armed forces were easily overwhelmed by Hamas in 2007. Fatah’s secular police state – and that is what the Palestinian Authority is – has proved, so far, no match for Hamas.

Western diplomacy has failed abysmally to recognize the profound split between Palestinian fundamentalists and secularists and played wistfully to the hope that a deeply corrupt Fatah oligarchy could conclude a permanent peace accord with Israel. This delusion’s concomitant bet: Such a deal would terminally weaken Hamas, since the secularists would have finally brought home the mutton.

The most important point, however, is always ignored. Competent, transparent, nonviolent Palestinian governance is the only chance Palestinian society has of escaping the fundamentalist critique that has undermined oligarchs across the Arab world. Fearful of playing the imperialists and keenly aware of the efficiency of having a police state as a partner, Americans, Europeans and Israelis have failed to use the leverage of financial aid to set standards for Palestinian governance on the West Bank and in Gaza.

Palestinian Muslims are no different than other Muslim Arabs. Religious militancy has grown astronomically over the past 40 years as the ruling secular elites have calcified into corrupt, hypocritical, heavy-handed autocracies. Westerners have not dealt with this well, since it defies the top-down approach inherit in diplomacy – and also because fundamentalists terrify them. Yet the past ought to tell Americans and Europeans that a two-state solution to the Israel–Palestinian clash isn’t going to happen before Palestinians reconcile in a functioning democracy that doesn’t scare their Jewish neighbors. The overwhelming burden here is upon the Palestinians.

The most valuable American contribution to the peace process, so far only episodically delivered, is to remind the Palestinians that they first have to get their own house in order and the Israelis that they have to care about how Palestinians treat their own. Too often, the Israelis have viewed the Palestinians – and Arab Muslims in general – as the ineducable “other,” who is best left to his own rules so long as Israelis aren’t killed. Any Israeli effort to control Palestinian-on-Palestinian abuse will surely be met with a hail-storm of censure from the West. But the Israelis ought to take a longer view. Barrier or no barrier, they are going to live with the Palestinians forever. Israel should certainly want to correct its enormous mistake of allowing Yasser Arafat, the father of Palestinian nationalism, to import his thugocracy into the West Bank and Gaza.

Most Arabs have adjusted, however reluctantly, to the permanence of Zion. They did so four decades ago when Egypt, slowly collapsing under its own military dictatorship, checked out of the war. Americans, Europeans and Israelis – not “the Arabs” – are primarily responsible for elongating the big Palestinian delusions about the “right of return” and a sovereign East Jerusalem. It’s way past time they stopped. Mr. Trump’s decision, whatever the motivation, is a step forward.

 

TURKEY WILL NOT LEAD THE ARAB WORLD, SAYS TOP UAE DIPLOMAT

Turkey Will Not Lead the Arab World, Says Top UAE Diplomat
By Reuters
December 28, 2017

A senior UAE diplomat said on Wednesday the Arab world would not be led by Turkey, the Gulf State’s first comment on Ankara since a quarrel broke out last week over a retweet by the Emirati foreign minister that President Tayyip Erdogan called an insult.

Anwar Gargash, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs of the United Arab Emirates, said there was a need for Arab countries to rally around the “Arab axis” of Saudi Arabia and Egypt.

“The sectarian and partisan view is not an acceptable alternative, and the Arab world will not be led by Tehran or Ankara,” he wrote on his official Twitter page.

Last week, Turkey summoned the charge d’affaires at the UAE embassy in Ankara, after UAE Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahayan shared a tweet that accused Turkish troops of looting the holy city of Medina a century ago.

Erdogan himself lashed out: “Some impertinent man sinks low and goes as far as accusing our ancestors of thievery ... What spoiled this man? He was spoiled by oil, by the money he has,” the Turkish leader said at an awards ceremony.

Turkey’s state-run Anadolu newspaper reported on Saturday that Turkey planned to rename the street where the UAE embassy is located in Ankara after Fakhreddin Pasha, the commander of the Ottoman Turkish troops at Medina in 1916. Medina, the holiest site in Islam after Mecca, is now in Saudi Arabia.

The UAE sees itself as a bulwark against political forms of Islam, and views Erdogan’s Islamist-rooted ruling AK party as a supporter of groups like the Muslim Brotherhood, which it opposes.

 

NEVER BEFORE PUBLISHED: KGB TRAINING MANUAL REVEALS SOVIET FAILINGS IN THE MIDDLE EAST

Never before published KGB training manual reveals Soviet Failings in the Middle East

Soviet intelligence efforts in the late 20th century for influence in the region were thwarted by Israel’s unexpected gains in the Six-Day War, document acquired by The Daily Beast shows

Haaretz
December 28, 2017

A trove of never-before-published documents belonging to the KGB, the Soviet Union’s main security agency, reveals the organization’s self-assessed failings of its intelligence efforts in the late 20th century Middle East, including during Israel’s wars in 1967 and 1973.

The document “Acquisition and Preparation,” acquired by The Daily Beast, is part of a KGB training manual. It can be read, according to the report, as an “epitaph on KGB penetration of Arab nations published less than a year before the Wall came down and the Cold War receded.”

It’s these losses, the report finds, that Russian president Vladamir Putin has set out to rectify “with a vengeance” in his current foreign policy efforts in the region. Putin served as an operative in the KGB from 1975 to 1991.

More specifically, the document examines manpower and tradecraft necessary to recruit American officials as spies in a time when U.S. counterintelligence was undergoing a period of increased aptitude.

Soviet efforts vying for influence in the region were thwarted, the documents show, by the Six-Day War. As the dominant weapons-supplier to Egypt, the Soviets “failed badly” to anticipate Israel’s overwhelming gains in 1967. But thanks to improved intelligence, the Soviets proved far more prepared in 1973 when Egypt and Syria attacked Israel on Yom Kippur. “Washington was caught blind, deaf and dumb,” in that war, the report reads, but Moscow was not.

The report notes, however, that what was celebrated as a Soviet gain in 1973 became the rise of Henry Kissinger to the position of U.S. diplomatic power broker in the region, an unintended consequence of the war that sped up the decline of Soviet influence in Egypt and the Middle East.

The KGB document also went on to highlight, says the report, one successful recruit within the inner circle of former Egyptian president Gamal Abdel Nasser, Sami Sharaf. However, the CIA knew of Sharaf’s identity as a Moscow spy, then employing its own mole in Moscow. Not long after Sadat set out to arrest Sharaf and other pro-Soviet plotters, known collectively as the “crocodiles,” he pivoted toward Jimmy Carter’s favor and flew to Tel Aviv for his now-famous gesture of peace.

Clichés on the part of Soviet intelligence, such as stereotyping Arab actors as merely looking to snag a sweet deal, were just one of the errors that led to the Soviet Union’s decline not only in the Middle East and ultimately its collapse, reporter Michael Weiss claimed.

 

LETTING SAUDI ARABIA HOST A CHESS TOURNAMENT WAS A BIG MISTAKE

Letting Saudi Arabia host a chess tournament was a big mistake
Washington Post staff editorial
December 29, 2017

When a chess tournament opened in Saudi Arabia this week, the World Chess Federation said in a statement that it “has been working very hard and in a discreet manner to organise and safeguard the process of entry visas for all participants of the event.” The games are a “vehicle for promoting peace and development of friendship amongst all nations,” the statement said, adding that the federation and the Saudi organizers “are always ready to welcome any participant.” But as the games got underway Tuesday, those statements proved hollow. Saudi Arabia refused to give visas to seven Israelis to participate.

The reason for excluding them, a Saudi spokeswoman said, is that the kingdom and Israel do not have diplomatic relations. This is a flimsy pretext; the two countries do in fact have informal contacts and increasingly share a hostility toward Iran. The kingdom evidently would rather have secret contacts with Israel than welcome seven chess players to an open tournament. Rubbing salt into the wound, the federation and the kingdom issued an obsequious news release pledging to admit players from Qatar and Iran, both increasingly at odds with Saudi Arabia.

For seven decades, the Arab world has wished Israel would fall into the sea or be driven there. The Jewish state has not and will not. If Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is truly committed to rejuvenation of the kingdom, as he claims to be, then he might discard some of the calcified thinking of his forebears. His attempts to diversify Saudi Arabia away from dependence on oil, to permit women the right to drive, to allow public cinemas, to crack down on corruption and to pursue other initiatives all point toward a young leader capable of jettisoning an outdated mind-set at home.

The crown prince’s more open-minded instincts were reflected in a Nov. 14 statement about the planned tournament, which said of the dress code for female participants: “There will be no need to wear a hijab or abaya during the games, this will be a first for any sporting event in Saudi Arabia.” The sponsors proposed that men wear dark suits and white shirts, and women “dark blue or black formal trouser suits, with high necked white blouses.”

Anna Muzychuk of Ukraine, who holds world champion titles in two types of speed chess being played this week, nonetheless chose not to defend her titles in Saudi Arabia, because of the kingdom’s broader restrictions on women’s rights: “Not to play by someone’s rules, not to wear abaya, not to be accompanied getting outside, and altogether not to feel myself a secondary creature,” she declared.

She could have added: not to take part in a tournament from which legitimate contestants are excluded. If a nation cannot welcome everyone, it should not be given the honor of hosting a world tournament.

 

SEX, LIES AND WIKIPEDIA: PRO-PALESTINIAN EDITORS ACCUSED OF PROTECTING LINDA SARSOUR OVER HARASSMENT CLAIMS

Sex, Lies and Wikipedia: Pro-Palestinian Editors Accused of Protecting Linda Sarsour Over Harassment Claims

Allegations that the American-Palestinian activist enabled sexual assault have repeatedly been deleted from her Wikipedia page, raising claims that some editors are inserting the Israel-Palestine issue into an unrelated matter

By Omer Benjakob
Haaretz
Dec 27, 2017

The recent allegations that American-Palestinian activist Linda Sarsour rejected a female colleague’s accusations of sexual harassment in the workplace has led to suggestions that pro-Palestinian editors at Wikipedia are keeping the story off Sarsour’s page in order to defend her public image.

On December 17, a website called The Daily Caller first reported that Sarsour had been accused of “enabling the alleged sexual assault and harassment of a woman [Asmi Fathelbab] who worked for the feminist activist” at the Arab American Association of New York in 2009. Donald Trump Jr. retweeted the story the following day, presumably only-too-happy to shine a negative light on the woman Politico has described as the “face of the resistance to Donald Trump.” Sarsour herself rejected the accusations, telling Buzzfeed, “This is character assassination. This is where we have to draw the line.”

Though it is common for political disputes to play out on Wikipedia – for example, pro-Israel and pro-Palestinian editors fighting over contentious topics like Jerusalem’s status – Sarsour’s case highlights how the Israel-Palestine issue can sometimes trump other important ones.

After an Israeli editor called Icewhiz edited Sarsour’s Wikipedia page to include the allegations (Fathelbab related that Sarsour had dismissed her harassment accusation because the accused was a “good Muslim” who was “always at the Mosque”), a Turkish editor called Seraphim Systemdeleted Icewhiz’s edit, claiming it was “unsuitable” for the Sarsour article. When Icewhiz attempted to reintroduce his content, his entry was again deleted.

This is not the first time these two editors have crossed paths. A review of their respective contributions to Wikipedia reveals a long-standing political feud that has played out on articles for Israel, Turkey, Jerusalem and even “Israel and the apartheid analogy.” Their history set the tone for the debate that ensued.

When another pro-Israel editor again added a new paragraph about Sarsour and the allegations (including her denial to Buzzfeed), a full edit war broke out. More pro-Palestinian editors joined the fray, fighting the attempts to integrate what they described as defamatory content to the Sarsour article.

However, intersectionality and Sarsour’s dedication to feminist causes left those arguing her corner having to explain why the allegations were not deemed “Wikipedia-worthy.”

“These allegations are widely reported by several reliable sources. Our usual policy (exercised recently quite frequently with the #MeToo revelations) with public figures is to include such allegations when they are made publicly and reported, qualifying that said allegations are allegations – not fact,” one editor wrote on Sarsour’s “Talk page” – a forum page linked to every Wikipedia article where editors are expected to discuss changes in a civil manner.

Seraphim System pushed back, seeking to undermine both the sources reporting the claims against Sarsour and the allegations themselves: “The sourcing is not very good (Fox News, Buzzfeed and the Daily Caller). It is only one person [Fathelbab] who says Sarsour didn’t believe her. It is only gossip – just because reliable sources report something, that does not mean it is suitable for Wikipedia.”

“This is certainly relevant given her outspokenness on women’s issues,” the second pro-Israeli editor retorted. I “concur that this material belongs in article [sic] because of her self presentation as an outspoken feminist,” wrote a third pro-Israeli editor, called E.M. Gregory.

The debate soon escalated out of control, with both sides accusing the other of hypocrisy. “Whaw. Just whaw. I haven’t seen worse hypocrisy or double standards for years. Yes, I’m looking at you, Icewhiz, and you E.M. Gregory: Recall [the debate] over the Elie Wiesel molestation allegations?” wrote Huldra, a female editor who has contributed to articles related to the Palestinians.

“My opinion about including/not including this here is the same as in the Wiesel case: Unless there are several other instances, this stays out of the article,” she wrote.

“Why not? All the #MeToo allegations, even if denied, were added in Wiki,” the second pro-Israeli editor responded, attempting to see the content returned to the article.

Huldra then seemed to suggest a problematic compromise: If the allegations against Sarsour are to be published in Wikipedia, then the community of editors should also add the allegations against Wiesel. “Make your choice,” she wrote, deleting the allegations to the article again and demandingthat anyone wanting to add them should first file an arbitration request with Wikipedia calls a “Request for comment.”

The deft usage of Wikipedia guidelines and procedures are part and parcel of Wikipedia’s collective-editing process. However, in Sarsour’s case, there are a number of instances where seemingly pro-Sarsour editors are making use of Wikipedia’s rules to defend her personally rather than the actual content being debated. Moreover, one contributor tells Haaretz, it seems that at least two of these editors are using their Wikipedia status to defend the Sarsour article for non-encyclopedic purposes.

ABUSE OF POWER?

The main contributor to the Sarsour article is an editor called Sangdeboeuf, who also enjoys quite a senior status on Wikipedia, where they are frequently involved in policy debates. Judging by their past edits, Sangdeboeuf’s interest are mostly progressive issues that veer toward the left side of identity politics – most recently editing pages like male privilege.

Sangdeboeuf was extremely active in defending Sarsour from the allegations, writing: “I don’t think anyone’s disputing that the allegations were made. But saying that they have therefore been verified and corroborated is frankly laughable.”

However, as the debate escalated, some of Sangdeboeuf’s actions started raising eyebrows. For example, although deleting another person’s edits is customary on articles, it is not customary on the “Talk page.” Yet there are at least five instances where Sangdeboeuf edited the debate itself. For example, while the debate was labeled “Alleged enabling of sexual assault and harassment,” Sangdeboeuf renamed it “Asmi Fathelbab allegations,” shifting the onus from Sarsour to the accuser.

In the most problematic example, Sangdeboeuf and two other editors from the pro-Sarsour camp seemed to use their Wikipedia status to lock Sarsour’s page for editing, due to what one of them called “disruptive editing” – a move that ignores the content of the allegations and the claims made by other editors.

While all issues pertaining to Israel and the Palestinians are locked to public editing due to their contentious nature, this debate and the manner Wikipedia’s rules were used to block negative content from being added highlights how, for some editors, you can’t be both feminist and Zionist – at least when it comes to Linda Sarsour.

 

FRENCH MAGAZINE FOR CHILDREN RECALLS ISSUE AFTER CALLING ISRAEL NOT A ‘REAL COUNTRY’

French Magazine for Children Recalls Issue After Calling Israel Not a ‘Real Country’
JTA
December 27, 2017

The January [2018] issue of Youpi is being removed from Kiosks with an apology over what they said ‘clearly never intended to cast into doubt Israel’s existence’

A French children’s magazine has been withdrawn from newsstands after it admitted a “mistake” in writing that Israel wasn’t a “real country.”

The news editor for Youpi, a magazine for children from 5 to 8, told The Associated Press on Tuesday the January issue was being removed from kiosk sales in France and Belgium after writing that Israel was among a few states in the world that aren’t “real countries.”

The magazine for children features trivia game cards stating that Israel and North Korea are not real countries.

The cards that appeared in the January 2018 edition of the Youpi magazine, which belongs to the Groupe Bayard publishing house, read: “197: We call these 197 countries states, like France, Germany or Algeria. There are others, too, but not all the world’s countries agree that all of them are real countries (for example the State of Israel or North Korea).”

CRIF, the federation of Jewish communities and organizations of France, protested the publication of the cards. Francis Kalifat, the president of CRIF, called the cards, intended for children aged 5-10, a “factual lie and a flagrant one at that.”

Pascal Ruffenach, the president of the Bayard publishing house, which was founded in the 19th century, said in a statement that his establishment “clearly never intended to cast into doubt Israel’s existence,” saying the card in question was an “error.”

The publishing house said it will recall the magazines and pulp the cards in question.

 

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