Last Chance for Peace

In my latest piece for Souciant, I look at what President Obama can do to create a more positive view of the United States in the Arab world, and how some steps that need to be taken in response to the Arab Spring can actually help move the politics around Israeli-Palestinian peace forward. In turn, that forward motion would also, obviously, help enhance the US’ standing in the Arab world, a pleasant symbiosis that I highly doubt Obama will pursue.

A Damaging Hoax: A Gay Girl in Syria (UPDATED)

[NOTE: Updating now that the Syrian government has cheerily started reporting on this: “MacMaster’s hoax aimed at enhancing continuous fabrications and lies against Syria in term of kidnapping bloggers and activists.”

MacMaster claims he is trying to “educate” others about the conditions in the Mideast. Yet he didn’t think of how the Syrian government could use his charade for their purposes if it was ever discovered? One really has to wonder if his motives were as pure as he’d like us to believe.]

I freely admit to being one of the many people around the world who was taken in by the hoax perpetrated by the blog “A Gay Girl In Damascus.” I applaud Ali Abunimah for his dogged efforts at exposing this sham, and thank him for doing so.

Any of you who have followed my bursts on Twitterabout this know I’m angry about it. Perhaps it’s because I hate being suckered. But I think the reasons are much deeper

Tom MacMaster, perpetrator of "Gay Girl In Syria" hoax

than that.

Tom MacMaster, the charlatan who perpetrated this hoax, initially issued a very thin apology, where he blamed “liberal orientalism” for the controversy. He later posted a much more sincere and convincing apology.

OK, what more could he do? He can’t be expected to rake himself over hot coals or something. But we should still take a long, hard look at this and understand just why so many activists were angered at what he did.

The real-life Syrian activist Sami Hamwi sums it up nicely in his blistering attack on MacMaster: “I say shame on you!!! There are bloggers in Syria who are trying as hard as they can to report news and stories from the country…We have to deal with more difficulties than you can imagine. What you have done has harmed many, put us all in danger, and made us fearful about (pursuing) our…activism…Your apology is not accepted, since I have myself started to investigate Amina’s arrest. I could have put myself in a grave danger inquiring about a fictitious figure.”

Sami Hamwi himself uses a pseudonym to edit the web site And I’m sure more than a few of you are now saying “How can we believe that Hamwi is a real person? If Amina was a hoax, why couldn’t Hamwi be as well?” Continue reading

Obama: Losing the Middle East

In the early days of the Egyptian revolution, before Hosni Mubarak stepped down, as the Obama administration was still trying to figure out a stance, the idea that the United States would not support their friend and loyal partner Mubarak prompted many conservative columnists to opine that Obama was going to go down in history as the President who lost the Middle East.

They were right, albeit for the wrong reasons.

Obama’s standing in the Middle East has plummeted from the heights it held in the wake of his speech in Cairo in 2009. His administration’s policies and actions have reflected none of the pretty words he uttered and that has been noticed.

This dim view of Obama in the Arab world has not brought him approval in Israel, where he has been mistrusted from day one. His subsequent pursuit of a settlement freeze has deepened that mistrust. Few in Israel, much less the increasingly right-wing elements that are falsely labeled “pro-Israel” in the United States, either realize or are willing to acknowledge that Obama has done more to enhance Israel’s military capabilities than any other president.

Obama has tried to walk a very fine line between the Arab peoples and the Western concerns that are his primary constituency and it is heading toward a result that will be an utter disaster for the US. Continue reading