After his recent attack on a respected and independent journalist known for his opposition to the Oslo accords, the Palestinian Authority (PA), and Arab dictatorships and as an outspoken supporter of the 2011 Arab freedom uprising, Hussein Ibish has moved on to singing the praises of a Lebanese right-wing journalist and apologist for the House of Saud. Ibish has lately been expressing his admiration for Raghida Dergham, columnist and Senior Diplomatic Correspondent for the London-based Al Hayat, a Saudi propaganda outlet:
“Very well deserved, for one of my favorite Arabic-language columnists (by far): “Power 100 Women – 42. Raghida Dergham.”
And one week later:
“Yet another excellent, thoughtful essay by the outstanding Raghida Dergham: The “Arab Spring” and the Palestinian Cause”
A recent example of Dergham’s “journalism” and propagandizing for the house of Saud came when the Saudi regime’s security forces moved into Bahrain to help its monarchist counterparts violently repress a popular uprising by peaceful protesters demanding freedom, democracy, and social justice. In a Huffington Post piece Dergham explained the US-backed Saudi attack on Bahrainis this way:
“With respect to Bahrain, the fact that Saudi, Emirati and Qatari forces have been deployed to Bahrain constitutes the first-of-its-kind activation of the security agreement — known as the Peninsula Shield — among the six countries, which are the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Kuwait, Oman and Bahrain. This deployment at the behest of Bahrain is neither an invasion nor foreign intervention, as the Islamic Republic of Iran sought to portray it. The concern by the GCC countries for the security and the regimes of one another is an institutionalized agreement within a regional framework.”
Dergham is also a stark example of the Arab with an inferiority complex that maintains two personalities, one for Americans and Westerners and another for Arab audiences. Unlike her appearances on US cable news channels like MSNBC where Dergham remains polite, professional, and courteous, when invited on Arabic-language channels she consistently comes across as rude, abrasive, and angry. Thin-skinned, condescending, and incapable of tolerating any views opposed to her own, Dergham is quick to dismiss all those opposed to US/Saudi policies in the region as extremist or irrational, and lacking the insight and reason she gained from her time in the West and/or participation in the World Economic Forum meetings at Davos or the Dead Sea. She’s very proud of her invitations to partake in these meaningless gatherings.
Dergham’s well-known political views are consistent with the Lebanese right-wing ideology and outlook. Her passionate attacks on Arab resistance in any form to US-Israeli hegemony and wars in the region are matched only by her zealotry in defending the Saudi regime and all US policies. This Lebanese journalist once berated a discussant on an Aljazeera talk show for criticizing Condoleezza Rice, an enthusiastic accomplice in Israel’s criminal and barbaric war on Lebanon in 2006, for her infamous remark describing the wanton slaughter of 1500 Lebanese civilians as the “birth pangs of a new Middle East.” When commenting on the government’s in the region, she divides her time and energy between defending the Saudi regime, the most repressive, misogynistic, and reactionary in the world, and criticizing other relatively less repressive dictatorships in Syria and Iran ostensibly for their lack of democracy and abysmal human rights record. This hypocrisy is very common among Arab journalists working for “news organizations” under the direct or indirect control of members of the Saudi ruling family.
Ibish’s praise of Dergham came just a few days after attacking Abd Al-Bari Atwan, editor of the London-based Al-Quds Al-Arabi, one of the few independent, Arabic-language newspapers unencumbered by the mukhabarat monitors of the Arab police states, and uncorrupted by Saudi oil money. That Ibish’s ridiculous evaluations of Arabic language journalism and journalists are politically driven and bereft of any professional measure or personal integrity is obvious to anyone who follows the writers and newspapers he has taken it upon himself to review and report on for his non-Arabic reading audience.
This is not the only reason, however, that Ibish’s evaluations of various Arabic-language newspapers and writers, if these political hack jobs can be described as such, are quickly discounted by readers of Arabic. Despite his pretense Ibish does not understand, write, speak, or read Arabic. We don’t point this out because we enjoy mocking and ridiculing Salam Fayyad’s Washington concierge (although we do), but because his readers in the United States are entitled to know if Ibish speaks Arabic when he offers his opinions of journalists writing and commenting in Arabic. Just as non-Arabic speaking talking heads on American cable news channels should be dismissed when they attack Aljazeera, so to should Ibish’s politically motivated appraisals of Arabic language newspapers and writers.
Dergham does write extensively in English and her Arabic articles are often translated by the Saudi Dar Al-Hayat where she has been employed since 1989, but by referring to Dergham as his favorite “Arabic-language” columnist, Ibish is clearly implying he can read Arabic. Ibish’s continuing efforts to promote or denigrate Arab journalists based on their political views are intellectually dishonest, and pretending to speak Arabic in order to infuse his worthless opinions on the subject with some credibility reduces him to an outright shameless fraud. There is enough bad information about public discourse within the Arab world in the US without Ibish’s own political agenda and vendettas clouding the reality even further.
As for Dergham’s “well deserved” mention: It turns out to be a silly list compiled by an online magazine in the UAE emulating something you would see on the cover page of People Magazine and find sitting right next the Enquirer. About 10% of the Arab world (35 million out of 350 million) live in the countries that make up the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), but 60 out of the 100 names mentioned were from the GCC states. With the exception of a few accomplished and respected Arab women, such as the Aljazeera anchorwoman from Algeria, Khadeeja Bengana, the list is largely made up of the rich and elite from the gulf region and others connected to the ruling families’ relatives, friends, businesses associates, “foundations” or media outlets in some capacity. Rima Fakih’s physical appearance also earned her a mention on the list. Her prime time strut last year was considered a contribution to “culture and society” which, if you think about it, is not unlike Dergham’s contribution to unbiased, independent journalism. As for Ibish, he would be well-advised to critique journalists who write in languages he actually reads and understands.
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