Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Oh Man! | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
Select Page

It is unfortunate that the Goldstone report has been transformed into a playing card to win over false popularity and to score political points, as it is being used by states, groups, the media, and journalists, and most prominently by the Egyptian journalist Mohamed Hassanein Haykal, who went far in his criticism of the Fatah movement and the Palestinian Authority.

Haykal swore that if he had known that the Goldstone report was going to be postponed, he would not have introduced [late Palestinian President and Fatah leader] Yasser Arafat to [late Egyptian President Jamal] Abdul Nasser. According to the Egyptian El Dostor newspaper, which quoted Haykal on Al Jazeera, he said, “I’m the one who took Yasser Arafat to President Jamal Abdul Nasser, and Fatah became something else altogether…I swear if I thought that things were going to reach this stage I would not have taken him.”

Oh man! Has journalistic and political arrogance reached such a degree? Has excessive exploitation of the [Palestinian] cause also reached such a degree? Have matters really been reduced and simplified so much, and has history become a slave to egotism?

It is strange that Haykal says that the Goldstone report is “extraordinary because it [emerged] in extraordinary circumstances.” The question here is when were circumstances in our region ever normal? Have we not been afflicted by coups, assassinations, catastrophes and wars that caused us loss after loss for no less than 100 years? Aren’t we still suffering at the hands of groups that are making our states crumble from within in service of foreign agendas? Did we ever see a movement carry out a military coup [against its own people] whilst the nation is under occupation in the same way Hamas did in Gaza?

If Haykal regretted introducing Yasser Arafat to Abdul Nasser because of the Goldstone report, which is nothing more than another legal round in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, then what about what Arafat did in Beirut, and before that in Jordan? What about Arafat’s position on the Iraqi occupation of Kuwait? In fact what about Arafat’s position during the Oslo Accords, the agreement that is considered a focal point in the history of the conflict with Israel?

The problem with Haykal is not one of conflicting viewpoints; rather, the problem is old school journalism. This school does not convey facts without being part of them or showing great egotism [in the process]. The leading stars of this old school of journalism got used to praise and accolade and expected this from readers. This requires a new generation of journalists to cure it.

The best way to describe the school of “egotism”, which our region and journalists have suffered from, can be found in a British document (reference FCO 39/765) that described Mohamed Hassanein Haykal as a journalist “who publishes everything he hears, or what he thinks he has heard.” In other words, [he publishes] without respecting the principles of the profession, or what is known as the ABC’s of journalism. These are: interviews for publication, interviews for publication without naming the source or information to learn about and understand [something] but not for publication. This is an issue that many books have focused on and it is included in most style guides of international newspapers set as clear instructions for international journalists, because it is a matter that is taken into account by courts that deal with publication issues, whether in Britain or America, and above all it is to uphold the reputation of the journalist and the paper and maintain respect for the source. The aforementioned British document says that “Haykal cannot always be trusted as a journalist.” Need we say more?