Abu Ali Express — not the shopping site, an Arab writing in Hebrew to Israelis
An interesting and mysterious blogger who, for some reason beknownst only to him, has named his blog “Abu Ali Express” was recently brought to my attention. He (or maybe he is a she, but then she would likely call her blog “Um Ali Express”, unless she wanted us to think she was a he) writes in Hebrew, obviously for the Jewish Israeli audience and he brings messages to us from the Arab world to which those of us (most of us) who cannot read Arabic would not have access. He can be found on Telegram and on Twitter and I feel more comfortable in the latter.
Abu Ali often opines about current events related to Israel and/or the Middle East in general and he had something to say about Biden’s reaction to the abduction and murder of the Saudi journalist, Jamal Khashoggi, reportedly carried out by agents of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. There are those who commented on Abu Ali’s Tweet and Abu Ali responded to some of them. First, his original Tweet, below which I translate it into English:
אחרי שראינו איך נוהג ממשל ביידן בסעודיה על רקע רצח העיתונאי הסעודי ג’מאל ח’אשקג’י הגיע הזמן לשאול כיצד ינהג ממשל ביידן בסוגיית רוח אללה זם – העיתונאי האיראני שהוצא להורג באיראן ב 12.12.20
בשני המקרים המשטרים חטפו עיתונאים מבני עמם והוציאו אותם להורג.
מוסר כפול?#روح_الله_زم pic.twitter.com/QgARejlZFz
— Abu Ali (@Abualiexpress) February 28, 2021
After we see how Biden’s government acts toward Saudia Arabia against the background of the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, it is time to ask how Biden’s government will behave regarding the issue of Ruhollah Zam — the Iranian journalist executed in Iran on Dec 12, 2020. In both cases, the regime abducted journalists, nationals of their own nations, and executed them. Double standard?
On his Telegram account he asks if Biden will show the same determination to demand respect for human rights when it is regarding Iran as he says he intends to do regarding Saudi Arabia.
Remember, Abu Ali writes in Hebrew and all comments are from Israelis in Hebrew. And in case you never heard of the Zam case, you can read a bit about it here. And then perhaps ask yourself why everyone (well, lots of people who keep up with the news) heard about Khashoggi but few, it seems, had heard about Zam before this moment, me included.
One commenter wanted to give Biden more time, saying you cannot compare response to an assassination that occurred a month before Biden was sworn in as president (Zam) to an assassination that took place two years ago (Khashoggi). Abu Ali says he was using the Zam case as a convenient parallel (two journalists) and claims that there are still unanswered questions regarding the Khashoggi killing. The fact remains that much “ink” has been spilled in the media about the case whereas it seems that both the media and the USA administration just shake their heads forlornly in view of the fact that the Iranian regime has killed, among others, at least 1500 demonstrators and an athlete, and hangs gays in public places; these are indisputed facts, admitted to by the Iranians, and have been going on for years.
Another commenter asks how Abu Ali can compare the American response to Saudi Arabia, with whom there is a relationship, and the response to Iran, with whom there is seemingly no relationship. Abu Ali responds that one does not publicly humiliate an ally, especially one from the Middle East. Doing so demonstrates a total lack of understanding of Middle East mentality. He also asks if the commenter has not noticed how, since Biden became president, Iranian-promoted terrorism has visibly and dramatically increased? He connects the differential reaction of Biden to the Khashoggi and Zam murders (and the intention to ease up on sanctions against Iran) as a troubling sign that Biden’s approach will upset any possible balance in the Middle East and lead to many more deaths.
Another commenter noted how Biden seems ready to consider cultural differences and go soft when dealing with America’s enemies but not when dealing with her allies.
Why is this of interest to Israel? As Seth Franzman wrote two years ago, Israel’s relationship with Saudi Arabia, that is now open but then was still largely under the radar, may affect Israeli-American relations. Israel supports the Sunni state that has moved away from the Moslem Brotherhood, a move that was fodder for Khashoggi’s criticisms of the Crown Prince. Israel has no interest in seeing Saudi Arabia punished by Biden.
Let me add that Biden, now the one upon whose shoulders responsibility lies, is facing the reality that ‘what you see from here you do not see from there’; remember:
… during the 2020 [election] campaign [Biden] called Saudi Arabia a “pariah” state with “no redeeming social value,”
and from that position he threatened the Crown Prince, declaring that he would call the Saudis to be accountable for their human rights abuses. Now, however, it appears that he may have relented on his determination to punish the Saudi crown prince for diplomatic reasons — because the Saudis are an important ally in the Middle East, apparently even though they were friends with Trump and Kushner and Biden would like nothing better than erasing all things connected with the previous administration.
Abu Ali Express asks if Biden’s government is acting from a double standard regarding moral and ethical behaviours on the parts of Saudi Arabia versus Iran. Yet it seems clear that morals and ethics have nothing to do with anything — the equation determining national decisionmaking is one that includes a list of relative interests alone. And it is upon the basis of Israel’s own national interests that we need to form our own decisions, behaviours and responses to the acts of both our friends and our enemies. It should be a matter of morals, but it is not that simple. For us, it is a matter of our very survival.