By Ira Sharansky
Letter from Israel 

What's the fuss?


December 14, 2018

A Saudi journalist went into his government’s consulate in Turkey, and may have exited some time later in a number of parcels. The disappearance has riled the media with the persistence of the Brett Kavanaugh confirmation.

The folks are holding Saudi Arabia to a much higher standard of justice than should be expected.  And it’s Turkey that is among those leading the fray.

It is competing with Saudi Arabia and Egypt for leadership of Sunni Muslims. Turkey’s leader may be dreaming of the extent achieved by the Ottoman Empire. And he has his own record of forceful opposition to those who dare oppose him, including academics and journalists. 

Is it because Khashoggi was a journalist, published in western media, and and therefore could expect greater expectations of protection? Or has something happened to change standards about a Third World country that may execute criminals even more readily than the United States, and for crimes substantially lower in scale that would merit capital punishment in the U.S.?

The Jerusalem Post has an item headlined, “With Khashoggi crisis, Trump faces another obstacle to his peace plan.” The item explains that the U.S. administration has hoped that the heir to the Saudi throne would endorse a peace proposal, and push the Palestinians to begin negotiations. However, with the commotion about the dead journalist, and American legislators struggling to push the president to say more about the Saudi’s involvement, there goes the possibility of actually announcing what the Administration proposes to get things moving in Israel and Palestine.

As if the weakness of Abbas and the problems out of Gaza weren’t enough to keep that plan in the drawer?

The president’s concern indicates that the story has legs. He’s called it the biggest cover up ever. So far Trump has held to the importance of Saudi Arabia’s purchase of some billions worth of American goods, and the Saudi leader’s willingness to do something to individuals who may have been directly involved in the journalist’s death.

So it’s a rich Third World country. And Turkey is part of NATO. But are either of them on this side of what we expect to be really civilized? Both are Muslim, and that’s an issue. Or a problem. 

Unless the motto of the media is that all are to be judged similarly.

One can guess that it’ll go the way of Kavanaugh—with lots of attention, then a decision that goes against the thrust in much of the media, then quiet as the man proceeds to do what may be close to four decades of professional service.

In this case, the attention also seems likely to disappear under the wave of some other issue, with a few Saudis punished in some degree, but then business as usual.

Perhaps greater attention will come from the news that explosive devices were mailed to prominent Democrats and leftists—the Clintons, Barack Obama, George Soros, Joe Biden, and CNN.

The local news is about an alleged plot between a Likud former minister (Gideon Sa’ar), and President Reuven Rivlin to create a putch, in which the president would ask Sa’ar, rather than Netanyahu, to form a government after the next election.

The president suggested that the prime minister was paranoid, and the government opposed a proposed law banning an individual who was subject to a criminal investigation from forming a government. 

And, at least among Jews, the news from Pittsburgh will produce a period of contemplation.

Comments welcome.

Ira Sharkansky is a professor (Emeritus) of the Department of Political Science, Hebrew University of Jerusalem.


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