Nasr firing is yet another shameful capitulation to the lobby

Israel/Palestine
on 24 Comments

In the summer heat, America’s  demonstrations of subservience to the Israel lobby are bidding to reach the parody level. First we have General David Petraeus writing  panicked emails to neocon war promoter Max Boot to explain that he didn’t actually say that Israel-Palestine conflict caused strategic difficulties for the United States, and then adding, in an grovel so abject as to cause wonder how the guy got to be a general, would it help to know that he’s recently had the Elie Wiesels over as dinner guests.   (Boot calmly replied that the grovel wasn’t necessary, the worry wasn’t over “anti-semitism” but the lobby’s concern, boiled down to its essence, that Petraeus might not be absolutely and completely willing to recognize that America’s national interest and Israel’s are identical.)

Then we have President Obama, who definitely knows better, capitulating on every issue of contention between Washington and Netanyahu-Lieberman coalition, failing so obviously to call attention to Israel’s illegal settlements that one commentator thought that Netanyahu had himself established a settlement on the White House grounds.  

Now finally comes CNN—a pioneer in global broadcasting and at one time a major force in world journalism —firing twenty year veteran editor Octavia Nasr for a 140 character twitter tweet that expressed “respect” for a highly respected Shi’ite Muslim cleric, Ayotallah Fadlallah.    I’ve lived in America most of fifty- eight years, and though I missed out on the McCarthy era as an infant, I find the firing almost unbelievable. For what Nasr did, simply, was to fail to express an emotion other than the mandated bigotry and contempt for a figure who was highly accomplished, respected and revered in much of the Islamic world. I had never before heard of Ayotallah Fadlallah—but he was significant enough within Islam for the Times to devote to him a major obituary.   Octavia Nasr’s tweet was nearly anodyne—and obviously failed to convey much complexity about a figure who had justified some acts of terrorism, criticized others, (such as 9-11) and was viewed a religious modernizer with the Sh’ite world.  But it was not enough to stop America’s thought police, or, more accurately, the thought police of a foreign power who operate at will in America.  Led by Abe Foxman of the Anti-Defamation League, the war-mongering Weekly Standard, and former Israeli prison camp guard Jeffrey Goldberg, a campaign against Octavia Nasr was begun. It achieved its aims so quickly most observers hardly realized there was a controversy.  Apparently mention, even in a tweet, that a figure associated with Hezbollah might be worthy of respect was the kind of thought crime that had to be snuffed out, decisively and immediately. Everyone instantly realized that.  

Of course there were some complications: as Think Progress’s Matt Duss pointed out in a brilliant post,  Ayotallah Fadlallah was not only a revered figure in Lebanon, but in Shi’ite Iraq, where he wielded considerable influence over Nouri Al- Maliki’s ruling Da’wa party—to the extent that the American backed party is unwilling to transgress moral and political guidelines that he has a strong hand in setting.   Says Duss:  

So here’s the neocon logic: When a reporter acknowledges the passing of a revered, if controversial figure in a way that doesn’t sufficiently convey what a completely evil terrorist neocons think that figure was — that’s unacceptable. But when the United States spends nearly a trillion dollars, loses over 4,000 of its own troops and over 100,000 Iraqis to establish a new government largely dominated by that same “terrorist’s” avowed acolytes — that’s victory.

There are all many levels of political subservience, but the kind which the Israel lobby demands would be particularly easy for CNN, and other Americans, to shrug off.  They could quite simply say no. What would Jeffrey Goldberg do? As it is, one hopes that if there is any justice, CNN will pay a price for its submissiveness, and at the very least will be see its way to formally apologizing to Octavia Nasr for what will one day be seen go down as one of the most craven and shameful capitulations in the history of American broadcast journalism.

Editor’s update: Here is David Ignatius in the Washington Post showing respect for Fadlallah in 2002 (h/t Sean Lee):

“I came away with sincere respect for Fadlallah’s intellect and passion; he is one of the few Muslim clerics who recognize that there is an urgent need for Islam to find a better accommodation with the West. And he has a nimble mind, which is evident in the curious eyes and the arched eyebrows that seem to reach almost to his black turban as he listens to questions."

About Scott McConnell

Scott McConnell is a founding editor of the American Conservative. The former editorial page editor of The New York Post, he has written for Fortune, The New Criterion, National Review, Commentary and many other publications.

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24 Responses

  1. Kathleen
    July 8, 2010, 4:20 pm

    “Now finally comes CNN—a pioneer in global broadcasting and at one time a major force in world journalism”

    CNN has always been Israeli occupied territory.

    Have you ever seen this clip of Wolf Blitzer

  2. sydwalker
    July 8, 2010, 5:08 pm

    This may sound naive, but are there no civil liberties in the USA?

    Why can’t a dismissal such as this be challenged in the courts?

    It’s surely a matter of human rights.

  3. azythos
    July 8, 2010, 5:11 pm

    At this point, I wonder if the “power of Internet” has reached the point where it’s worth considering an intensive campaign to discredit CNN, specifically. This here is something that, if built up to a certain volume, could possibly threaten CNN’s credibility in the gullible public. This time, it would not be dependent on “controversial” interpretation of the news and, given enough momentum to it, could create anxiety at CNN. The time may be OK now to oppose, on the one hand, summary dismissal for this tweet, and on the other the openly Zionist reporting that burns incense to the war criminals. It looks like some significant part of the public is getting aware of the war crime angle.

  4. MHughes976
    July 8, 2010, 6:01 pm

    I hope that Ms.Nasr will now be able to tell us about the ME without the constraints of a respectable employer.
    James Thurber had a story about a road that was long and getting longer. The road to peace, justice and progress in the ME seems increasingly like that.

    • Walid
      July 8, 2010, 6:28 pm

      Whenever I heard Octavia Nasr talk about Hizbullah, it was always in negative terms. Imam Fadlallah was not the main Hizbullah guru as most of them consider Ayatollah Khamenei as their Supreme Jurist. Nasr did not admire Fadlallah for his Hizbullah connection but for his great humanitarian work and the fatwas he put out against the abuse of women and his call to women to defend themselves and participate more in the country’s politics. He was not in favour of the Wilayat al-Faqih that is in effect in Iran. The firing of the high-profile Nasr is most probably to spook the others into watching their steps.

      • thankgodimatheist
        July 8, 2010, 8:47 pm

        As’aad abu Khalil (the Angry Arab) has interesting comments on Victoria Nasr:
        “l’affaire Octavia Nasr

        The dismissal of Octavia Nasr proves this: 1) no matter how much you grovel and how much you insult Arabs and Muslims in the US, as Nasr has largely due to her ignorance of Middle East and Islamic affairs, it will never be enough. Unless you advocate the Likudnik positions as Fouad Ajami has, you will be suspect of you are of Arab origin; 2) Israeli orientalists rule supreme in US popular media. We may know that Muhammad Husayn Fadlallah has no position whatsoever in Hizbullah, but US media still insist that he is Hizbullah’s leader. 3) Octavia Nasr does not deserve our support or tears. She has played a lousy job inside CNN. Of course, she is first and foremost unqualified but she has started her “journalistic” work at LBC TV when it was a mere tool of the Lebanese Forces during the war years. I discussed this once with CNN’s Bernard Shaw and he expressed surprise and said that at CNN they thought that LBC TV stands for a state-run TV named Lebanese Broadcasting Company. The CNN’s Middle East correspondents did not think highly of Nasr and some expressed that privately to me. 4) In the US, you may only expressed sympathy and admiration for Jewish and Christian religious figures. Muslim religious figures are all a bunch of terrorists, Sunnis and Shi`ites alike, regardless of views.
        link to angryarab.net

        • Walid
          July 9, 2010, 2:49 am

          TGIA, As’aad called it right, Octavia reflected the required Jewish point of view more than the Arab one in the same way Amanpour described events in Iran. BTW, LBC-TV is no longer owned or controlled by the LF and 4 years ago, it produced a documentary on the missing terrorist aviator Ron Arad with 2 Israeli co-producers and subsequently sold the TV rights to broadcast it to an Israeli TV station. It now has a daily direct audio or recorded video feed on news about Israel from its reporter in Haifa.

        • thankgodimatheist
          July 9, 2010, 3:44 am

          Thanks Walid. I didn’t know that about LBC..So is it better or worse than when it was F.L owned ? Very hard to know really..

        • Walid
          July 9, 2010, 4:24 am

          TGIA, overall, it’s still has excellent programming but politically, it’s still slanted towards the US and by extension Israeli view of things. The ownership change was still being contested in the courts lately by the LF that has meanwhile invested its cash and political influence in the reopened very pro-US MTV. The LBC is still benefitting somehow from its former associations; it broadcasts daily live audio or recorded videos of news happening in Israel from its reporter in Haifa.

  5. Cliff
    July 8, 2010, 6:03 pm

    Screw CNN. I hope Al Jazeera English picks her up.

    • Frances
      July 9, 2010, 12:35 am

      Why? She was an unremarkable journalist who never said one thing worth hearing until she tweeted (TWEETED!) something not entirely Bushian about Fadlallah. I like Al Jazeera and I don’t think they need to take in CNN’s cast-offs. If Octavia Nasr is a genuinely good journalist, then I hope they take her on, but what I’ve seen of her record so far doesn’t really merit AJ snapping her up immediately.

      Her firing just shows how stupidly regulated MSM has become that someone as dull as Octavia Nasr can become a terrorist-supporting, America-undermining cancer that has to be removed post-haste.

      • Walid
        July 9, 2010, 3:08 am

        Frances, she expressed regrets at the loss of a great humanitarian; they said she was praising a Hizbullah-loving terrorist. This is what the Imam said about suicide bombings that gives you an insight on what he’s about:

        “… As for those suicidal bombers who kill innocent people as well those who accuse others of unbelief, just because they differ with them in some sectarian views even within the same religion… or those who explode car bombs, killing women children, elderly and youth who have nothing to do with any war of aggression.

        To those we say that their inhuman brutal actions have nothing to do with Islam whatsoever, and that what they are doing will lead to God’s wrath and not His satisfaction.

        It also undermines the image of Islam and Muslims and gives others a wrong idea about Islam and Muslims.”

        Frances, a couple of years back, Imam Fadlallah issued a fatwa on the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women supporting the woman’s right to defend herself against any act of violence.

        The fatwa reaffirmed the right of women to defend themselves, both at the workplace and at home, and stated that Islam forbids men from exercising any form of violence against women.

        The Imam said, “Physical violence in which women are beaten proves that these men are weak, for only the weak are in need of unjust violence.”

        • Frances
          July 9, 2010, 7:18 am

          Walid, I think you misunderstand me. I certainly don’t mean I think Octavia Nasr should be fired and your post seems to be “correcting” that assumption on my part. I found Octavia Nasr to be, just as I said before, a totally banal and unremarkable journalist who never said a thing worth listening to. She expressed regret over the passing of a famous and influential Lebanese political and religious figure, and I consider that totally acceptable.

          The point I was making is that Al Jazeera needn’t take her on simply because she was one of the many casualties of the Israel lobby. They have journalistic standards to uphold. If they find that Octavia Nasr is a suitable candidate for their network, then hire her by all means. I certainly won’t object. But don’t hire her simply BECAUSE she was a victim of the lobby.

        • Walid
          July 9, 2010, 9:25 am

          Frances, we’re in agreement about her blandness. I didn’t like her analyses of Arab-world stories that she customized for American and Jewish ears. We’ll know more on how the real Octavia thinks in the next job she takes.

  6. Mooser
    July 8, 2010, 8:53 pm

    She said something not completely negative about a person who has the title “Ayatollah”? We find the defendant guilty as hell, Your Honor! Case closed.
    Anyway, Hophmi should be happy; now we know what the ADL does.

    • Frances
      July 9, 2010, 12:36 am

      Re: hophmi’s ADL screed

      “You don’t know the history of psychiatry. I do.”

  7. James
    July 9, 2010, 12:05 am

    link to salon.com

    worth repeating….

  8. KenDavis
    July 9, 2010, 8:12 am

    Scott McConnell writes an article about Ayotallah Fadlallah and doesn’t even mention he’s a holocaust denier.
    One wonders how much money the Arab oil lobby is paying McConnell.

    In an interview with Al-Manar TV on March 21, 2008, Fadlullah stated:
    Zionism has inflated the number of victims in this holocaust beyond imagination. They say there were six million Jews – not six million, not three million, or anything like that… But the world accepted this [figure], and it does not allow anyone to discuss this.

    • Walid
      July 9, 2010, 10:57 am

      What was it that Imam Fadlallah said that wasn’t true? A denier is someone that denies it happened unless you are saying that his questioning the fact that Zionists won’t let anyone question the actual number of victims makes him a denier, which would be absurd and typically Zionist thinking. In his words, ‘Zionism… does not allow anyone to discuss this”. Doesn’t sound like a denier to me. Maybe the Zionists have something to hide and don’t want anyone snooping around. Maybe.

      • Walid
        July 9, 2010, 11:32 am

        From the NYT obituary:

        “…Ayatollah Fadlallah was often mistakenly identified by Western governments as the spiritual guide of Hezbollah, the militant Islamist organization that was founded in 1982 with Iranian help and that spearheaded a violent campaign against Western and Israeli targets in Lebanon.

        …In 1989, Ayatollah Fadlallah distanced himself from Hezbollah, when it named as its new marja the Iranian successor to Ayatollah Khomeini. ”

        Israelis have to make up their minds if Hizbullah answers to Iran’s Imam Khamenei, as they have been spooking themselves with that possibility or if it answers to Lebanon’s Imam Fadlallah as it is now conveneiently claiming because he’s today’s news and conveniently used to get Octavia Nasr fired. The Shia in the region answer to only one spiritual leader, Ayatollah Fadlallah of Lebanon, or to Ayatollah Khamenei of Iran, or to Ayatollah Sistani of Iraq. A few of Hizbullah’s Shia answered to the moderate Ayatollah Fadlallah but most were followers of Ayatollah Khamenei. Lebanon’s other Shia political and paramilitary group, Amal, followed Lebanon’s Ayatollah Fadlallah.

  9. KenDavis
    July 9, 2010, 8:16 am

    Good article about Fadlallah how he was a terrorist supporter.
    And this is who Scott McConnell supports.
    How much power does this Arab Oil Lobby have?
    link to jcpa.org

    Ayatollah Mohamad Hussein Fadlallah, the most important religious authority among the Shiites of Lebanon and the Gulf states, is the most senior Shiite religious figure in Lebanon to have praised the massacre of eight Israeli students at Mercaz Ha-Rav Yeshiva in Jerusalem on March 6.

    Go to the link to read the entire article.

    • Walid
      July 9, 2010, 11:43 am

      I’m not trying to make the case for Ayatollah Fadlallah, my input is not needed for that but I am trying to make the point about the big Zionist lie that has turned him into a terrorist and the cause of Octavia’s Nasr’s firing from CNN.

      A 260-word testimonial from the British Ambassador in Beirut. It should tell Ken and other Jewish idiots something about the man they are disparaging:

      The passing of decent men

      Frances Guy: The British Ambassador to Lebanon

      One of the privileges of being a diplomat is the people you meet; great and small, passionate and furious. People in Lebanon like to ask me which politician I admire most. It is an unfair question, obviously, and many are seeking to make a political response of their own. I usually avoid answering by referring to those I enjoy meeting the most and those that impress me the most. Until yesterday my preferred answer was to refer to Sheikh Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah, head of the Shia clergy in Lebanon and much admired leader of many Shia muslims throughout the world. When you visited him you could be sure of a real debate, a respectful argument and you knew you would leave his presence feeling a better person. That for me is the real effect of a true man of religion; leaving an impact on everyone he meets, no matter what their faith. Sheikh Fadlallah passed away yesterday. Lebanon is a lesser place the day after but his absence will be felt well beyond Lebanon’s shores. I remember well when I was nominated ambassador to Beirut, a muslim acquaintance sought me out to tell me how lucky I was because I would get a chance to meet Sheikh Fadlallah. Truly he was right. If I was sad to hear the news I know other peoples’ lives will be truly blighted. The world needs more men like him willing to reach out across faiths, acknowledging the reality of the modern world and daring to confront old constraints. May he rest in peace.

    • demize
      July 9, 2010, 9:22 pm

      What’s this boner you seem to have for the “Arab Oil Lobby”? To what exactly are you refering OPEC?

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