Russia is the new target of Arab press critics

Russia is the new target of Arab press critics

Moscow slammed for obduracy over Syria; top Egyptian singer exalts Muslim Brotherhood in new song

Elhanan Miller is the former Arab affairs reporter for The Times of Israel

Al-Quds Al-Arabi: When soccer became war
Al-Quds Al-Arabi: When soccer became war

Wednesday’s tragedy on an Egyptian soccer field, which dominated many international news broadcasts for hours, unsurprisingly led the news in most Arab newspapers on Thursday.

“Soccer massacre in Egypt costs dozens of lives,” screamed the headline of A-Sharq Al-Awsat, a Saudi-owned daily based in London, followed by dry, factual coverage of the basic facts, with a marked absence of finger pointing.

Al-Quds Al-Arabi, a nationalist London-based daily, used the Egyptian television images and interviews as the basis for its reporting. “This is not soccer. It’s war, and people are dying in front of us,” Muhammad Abu-Treika, a player for the Al-Ahli team — which was attacked following the game by its opponent’s fans from Port Said — told Egyptian television. Al-Quds Al-Arabi included the player’s criticism of the ensuing anarchy. “People died and there was no action by security and no ambulances.”

Both these two dailies featured pictures of players fleeing and fans storming the field; neither attempted to place the bloody events in the wider context of the Egyptian uprising, focusing solely on a play-by-play account of the evening’s events.

Strangely, however, the story did not even appear among the six front page stories on Al-Hayat, a leading Arab daily published in London; perhaps the paper had already gone to press.

For many Arabs, Russia is now the bad guy

Soccer tragedy aside, Russia’s roll in blocking a decisive international decision to intervene in Syria continues to dominate the Arab news media. Al-Quds Al-Arabi’s long headline today underscores Russia’s obduracy: “Russia: No to sanctions and no to military intervention and no to Assad stepping down. France expects a vote in the Security Council next week.”

The newspaper’s editor Abd Al-Bari Atwan opines that Russia’s position stems from its fear that a new Syrian regime will fall under the political influence of the United States. “The Syrian regime is gravely mistaken … if it believes in can rely on external forces like Russia, and not on the Syrian people, to survive.”

Al-Hayat is a bit softer on Russia, its headline reading “Russia demands a clear decision removing military intervention in Syria.” However the daily does stress the futility of the UN deliberations, arguing that “the Security Council meeting … changed nothing in the battle map of Syria.”

Pro-intervention Arabs have began to point fingers at Russia, with Al-Hayat columnist Hassan Haidar even calling for an Arab boycott of Moscow. “Moscow bears the same responsibility as the Assad regime in prolonging the suffering of Syrians,”  he writes today.</p>
<p style=”text-align: justify;”><strong>A-Sharq Al-Awsat</strong>, staunchly anti-Syrian, chooses to focus on the humanitarian crisis in Syria rather than on Russia’s roll in it. “Bone breaking in Syria, and war of words in the Security Council,” its headline reads, an ironic allusion to the ineffectiveness of the UN in stopping the violence.

Islamists to win in Kuwaiti elections

Kuwaitis go to the polls today to vote in parliamentary elections. Dubai-based news channel Al-Arabiya predicts that the Islamist opposition will win a large majority of the votes. A pollster interviewed by the channel says Islamists are expected to win between 26 and 33 of the parliament’s 50 seats.

Al-Arabiya’s Qatar-based competitor Al-Jazeera focuses its coverage on the political turmoil that brought about the early elections and the street violence involved in the political campaigning. The burning of a campaigner’s tent indicated “the unprecedented heat in the parliamentary elections this time,” writes Al-Quds Al-Arabi’s Mahmoud Harbi, in an article titled “Kuwait elections: Accusations and rumors but no political programs.”

If you attack the Brotherhood, beware of God

If you want to know where the political winds in Egypt are blowing, ask the country’s most popular folk singer, Shaaban Abd Al-Rahim. Shaaban, who won fame years ago with the song “I hate Israel, I love you Hosni Mubarak,” has now changed his tune and become a supporter of the Muslim Brotherhood.

In a short article published Thursday by<strong> Al-Quds Al-Arabi, Shaaban (known adoringly as Shaabula) says he is about to release a new song titled “O attacker of the Brotherhood, where will you run from God?” in response to anti-brotherhood demonstrations in Tahrir Square last Friday.

Shaaban says he was saddened and surprised by the recent attacks on the Brotherhood. “We should let them reform the country after they won the elections,” he told the MBC TV station.

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