Russia’s Anti-Western, Pro-Assad Propaganda for the Arab World

In 2007, the Kremlin-owned television- and Internet-news platform RT (formerly Russia Today) opened an Arabic-language channel, which has since then become one of the most popular news outlets in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and several other Arab countries. RT, which began in 2005, offering only English-language broadcasting, was created to distribute pro-Russian propaganda to a non-Russian audience; it subsequently has created television channels, websites, and social- media accounts in several other languages. To RT, Moscow more recently added the Sputnik news service, which also features extensive Arabic-language content. Anna Borshchevskaya and Catherine Cleveland analyze the perspectives being spread by the two networks in the Middle East:

The RT and Sputnik websites typically publish brief news articles and occasionally longer op-eds. The quickly published factual articles help shape media opinion primarily through click-bait titles that often editorialize otherwise neutral content. Meanwhile, the lengthier op-eds and TV segments tend to present more overtly conspiratorial points of view, such as the video segment “The Vatican, the Masons, the CIA, and the Mafia . . . with Documents, Names, and Records of Assassinations” or the op-ed “Israel Announces Its Rights; The Crimea Is Ours.” Relying on conspiracy theories to develop a sense of “revealing the truth” is a tactic RT Arabic shares with its English-language sibling. . . .

[While] RT English has adopted a style that often employs sarcasm and irony to suggest holes in a “dominant narrative,” . . . RT Arabic relies on established media narratives—and specifically those that reinforce an anti-Western perspective. . . .

And while RT’s English-language coverage often inserts a positive picture of the Assad regime in a supposedly “alternative” view of groups such as the White Helmets, a volunteer aid outfit, [RT Arabic’s] coverage of Syria emphasizes Russia’s control over the situation, as exemplified in the assertion that Israel’s July 2018 downing of an Iranian drone over Israeli airspace occurred after affirming the drone was not of Russian origin, and in the repeated emphasis on both Russian and Assad military successes against “terrorists.” RT frames its coverage to cause maximum distrust of Syrian opposition groups. . . .

Coverage of Israel embodies RT Arabic’s inconsistent tone when faced with delicate subject matter. On the one hand, RT Arabic relies on the longstanding media practices of Arab countries, such as a focus on Israel’s military and civil actions against Palestinian communities and conspiracy theories about the reach of the Mossad. On the other hand, RT presents Israel as cautious and respectful of Russia’s regional interests. Such coverage lines up with the Kremlin’s desire to portray itself as a great power, to which a country like Israel is beholden.

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Read more at Washington Institute for Near East Policy

More about: Bashar al-Assad, Media, Middle East, Politics & Current Affairs, Russia

Why Israel Pretends That Hamas Fired Rockets by Accident

March 21 2019

Israeli military and political officials have repeated Hamas’s dubious claim that the launching of two rockets at Tel Aviv last week was inadvertent. To Smadar Perry, accepting Hamas’s story rather than engaging in further retaliation is but a convenient, and perhaps necessary, way of aiding Egyptian efforts to broker a deal with the terrorist group. But even if these efforts succeed, the results will be mixed:

The [Israeli] security cabinet has met in Tel Aviv and decided that they would continue indirect negotiations with Gaza. A message was sent to Egypt, whose delegation is going back to Gaza to pass on the Israeli demands for calm. The Egyptians also have to deal with the demands from Hamas, which include, among other things, an increase in aid from $15 million to $30 million per month and an increase in the supply of electricity.

The requests are reasonable, but they do leave a sour taste in the mouth. Israel must ensure that this financial aid does not end up in the pockets of Hamas and its associates. [Israel] also knows that if it says “no” to everything, the Iranians will step in, with the help of their Gazan friends in Islamic Jihad. They are just waiting for the opportunity.

Hamas also must deal with the fallout from a series of massive handouts from Qatar. For when the citizens of the Gaza Strip saw that the money was going to the Hamas leadership, who were also enjoying a fine supply of electricity to their own houses, they took to the streets in protest—and this time it was not Israel that was the focus of their anger. . .

[But] here is the irony. With Egyptian help, Israel can reach understandings for calm with Gaza, despite the lack of a direct channel. . . . In the West Bank, where the purportedly friendlier Fatah is in charge, it is more complicated, at least until the eighty-three-year-old Mahmoud Abbas is replaced.

As evidence for that last statement, consider the murder of two Israelis in the West Bank on Sunday, and the Palestinians who threw explosives at Israeli soldiers at Joseph’s Tomb in Shechem yesterday.

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Read more at Ynet

More about: Egypt, Gaza Strip, Hamas, Israel & Zionism, West Bank