Posted by Alex on Sunday, November 9th, 2008
Let me begin with technicalities, in which I’m sure you won’t be interested.
When I write a news item, I write it in Hebrew. The item you see in English is translated, and the translation process can sometimes cause inaccuracies.
Reading the content carefully, you’ll see that such an inaccuracy did take place here. Those things happen, unfortunately, but I don’t think that in this case the damage is that big.
As for the selective quotes in Haaretz from Ambassador Mustapha’s interview on Syria Comment, I think that he was extremely cautious in choosing his words in the interview. It is understandable when you’re a diplomat, especially in such a sensitive position, but this means that you’re taking the risk of not saying anything that stands out.
I was trying to get the most interesting and new statements from the interview, and not quote again the known Syrian positions on peace which everyone now knows by heart. But in any case, the item you’ve read in English is done by the news editor (and this is why I’m not signed on it) and is different from what I’ve written in Hebrew.
A more interesting question is the one about how to describe Alex and Sami Moubayed.
Covering Syrian (and other Arab states) affairs for an Israeli journalist is a very challenging task, not to say impossible, if you don’t want to quote SANA and Tishreen every day.
But imagine what would happen to a Syrian or even a foreign visitor in Damascus if I pick up the phone and call him from here in Israel to chat, just like a diligent journalist should do.
If one wants to keep the Syria – Israel story alive, and it is alive, very alive, behind closed doors, one goes for other possibilities.
A very important channel that has developed gradually over the past years is Syria Comment. Where else can you see Israelis and Syrians, officials, semi officials, academics and just civilians, exchange views like they do here?
I think that the interview Ambassdor Mustafa gave Alex is a good example for the level of interest on the Syrian official side in the possibilities of forwarding messages through this channel. The letter of Mr. Makdissi is even a better example. And for this reason, Alex, I would describe you as someone “close” in his views and analysis to the Syrian regime.
The same goes for Sami Moubayad. Yes, I know he is “an independent writer, historian, professor, and political analyst”, like he himself has written to you. But following Syria for the last 5 and half years or so, through the media, I realized that senior analysts from Damascus represent the regime views, informally, better than any one else.
It can be Sami Moubayed in Asia Times, Imad Fawzi Shoueibi with Arabic BBC, Samir At-taki in Al-Jazeera int’l or others. And it is probably for this reason that all media call them again and again and ask them to comment on the events.
I can only respect what Sami Moubayed says in his letter to you. Still, when he writes his article next week in Asia times, I would still describe him as an analyst who’s views (on foreign policy / Israel / peace process) represent the Syrian regime views.