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Saturday, January 15, 2005

Rules for Reporting from the Middle East

This from the New York Times. Not to be taken tongue-in-cheek or read with a grain of salt. #6 finally answers my most pressing question of Why doesn't the middle east make an effort to manage their own regional problems?



January 13, 2005
By THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN

In trying to think through whether we should press ahead with elections in Iraq or not, I have found it useful to go back and dig out my basic rules for Middle East reporting, which I have developed and adapted over 25 years of writing from that region.

Rule 1 Never lead your story out of Lebanon, Gaza or Iraq with a cease-fire; it will always be over by the time the next morning's paper is out.

Rule 2 Never take a concession, except out of the mouth of the person who is supposed to be doing the conceding. If I had a dime for every time someone agreed to recognize Israel on behalf of Yasir Arafat, I would be a wealthy man today.

Rule 3 The Israelis will always win, and the Palestinians will always make sure that they never enjoy it. Everything else is just commentary.

Rule 4 In the Middle East, if you can't explain something with a conspiracy theory, then don't try to explain it at all - people there won't believe it.

Rule 5 In the Middle East, the extremists go all the way,and the moderates tend to just go away - unless the coast is completely clear.

Rule 6 The most oft-used phrase of Mideast moderates is: "We were just about to stand up to the bad guys when you stupid Americans did that stupid thing. Had you stupid Americans not done that stupid thing, we would have stood up, but now it's too late. It's all your fault for being so stupid."

Rule 7 In Middle East politics there is rarely a happy medium. When one side is weak, it will tell you, "How can I compromise?" And the minute it becomes strong, it will tell you, "Why should I compromise?"

Rule 8 What people tell you in private in the Middle East is irrelevant. All that matters is what they will defend in public in Arabic, in Hebrew or in any other local language. Anything said in English doesn't count.

It is on the basis of these rules that I totally disagree with those who argue that the Jan. 30 Iraqi elections should be postponed.

Read the rest for some spot-on (as usual) Friedman commentary.

// posted by Ellen @  19:52   //Permalink// 
Ellen says hey
Mainer, New Yawka, Beijinger, Californian, points between. News, views and ballyhoos that piqued my interest and caused me to sigh, cry, chuckle, groan or throw something.


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