Beirut-based English language news website, Al Akhbar
An established US journalist has condemned a Beirut-based English language news website he worked for until recently, saying he would be “betraying” his principles if he were to continue writing there due to its
“hypocritical” pro-Syrian regime slant.
Max Blumenthal publicly announced that he would no longer contribute to Al Akhbar English, accusing the news site of “defending the Syrian regime behind the cover of leftist ideology,” in a blog entry he wrote on his own website on Wednesday.
The journalist referred to “pro-regime op-eds” recently published on the site and writers who have “thrown their weight behind [Syrian President Bashar] al-Assad’s campaign of brutality.”
Blumenthal wrote that Al Akhbar English had recently featured “an attack on Arab Third Wayers (supporters of the anti-imperialist, anti-authoritarian political tendency)” in a recent opinion piece, which he deemed to be in line with the “Syrian regime’s long record of exploiting the Palestinian struggle to advance its narrow self-interests.”
“For me, it was the final straw,” wrote Blumenthal. “Had Al Akhbar’s editorial leadership provided a platform to [such writers] because of the quality of their writing or because of their willingness to defend the regime behind the cover of leftist ideology?”
More than 15,000 people in Syria have been killed since a revolt erupted against Assad’s regime last year, according to activists. The international community has fiercely condemned Assad’s use of force to crush the uprising, which the embattled leader has repeatedly blamed on terrorists and foreign elements.
“The crisis is not an internal crisis but an external war with domestic tools,” Assad said in a speech last month, which was entirely rejected by the Syrian opposition. “What is required today is to stand united,” he added.
International commentators have accused the Syrian state media of failing to report a true reflection of the Syrian uprising, with death tolls conflicting that of opposition groups and blame recurrently being placed on terror groups for mass killings which have taken place across the country.
Blumenthal labeled particular writers at Al Akhbar as “Assad’s apologists” who had “invoked the scary specter of The Terrorists … to justify morally indefensible acts of violent repression.”
By working with them, Blumenthal said he “was merely providing them cover by keeping [his] name and reputation associated with Al Akhbar.”
“More importantly, I decided that if I kept quiet any longer, I would be betraying my principles and those of the people who have encouraged and inspired me over the years. There is simply no excuse for me to remain involved for another day with such a morally compromised outlet.” he wrote.
Blumenthal’s blog piece, titled “The right to resist is universal: A farewell to Al Akhbar and Assad’s apologists,” suggestively began with a quote from a 1976 open letter from the Palestinian residents of a refugee camp in Lebanon.
He draws emblematic parallels with what the residents of the Tal al-Zaatar camp in northeast Beirut had written during the Lebanese civil war.
They had recounted a “murderous lie” told by the “rulers of Damascus.”
And in recent months, violence has spilled over from Syria into Lebanon, increasing along the border, as Lebanese supporters of Syrian government and Syrian opposition settle scores with tit-for-tat kidnappings and shootings.
Back in 1976, the open letter evokes a similar story.
The refugees wrote: “Syrian weapons are being used – most unfortunately – against our camp, while the rulers of Damascus continue to repeat that they are here in Lebanon in order to defend our camp. This is a murderous lie, a lie which pains us more than anyone else…”
Blumenthal then brings up more of his own qualms with Al Akhbar English’s reporting on present-day Syria, and its implications on the topic of the “Palestinian struggle” in particular.
“By denying the Syrian people the right to revolution while supporting the Palestinian struggle, they are no less hypocritical than the Zionists who cynically celebrate the Syrian uprising while seeking to crush any iteration of Palestinian resistance. In my opinion, the right to resist tyranny is indivisible and universal. It can be denied to no one,” Blumenthal added.