Please explain the divide?

hezbollah fighterThe good news is that The Boston Globe corrected its mistake when it said that Jesus Christ was born in Nazareth. It took a few days, but the article has been updated and a correction posted at the end. But I doubt we'll see CNN.com posting a retraction anytime soon. Let's move on to more significant issues. Mainstream media reports continue to ignore the ideological factors that play into the raging violence between Israel and Islamic militants and what has become essentially a civil war in Iraq. We dwell on this so often because until American voters properly understand the issues, how can we expect our leaders to make informed decisions?

See Exhibit A, here in the July 24 edition of Newsweek magazine:

Iran's clerics have deep ideological differences with the nettlesome Shiite leader Moqtada al-Sadr. Even so, Tehran supports him and his Mahdi Army militia, which has repeatedly been linked to ferocious death-squad killings. "I used to fight for free," a former member of Sadr's forces told Newsweek, "but today the Mahdi Army receives millions of dollars every month from Iran in exchange for carrying out the Iranian agenda." Part of the program: assassinations of prominent Sunnis and former Iraqi military officers who fought against Iran in the 1980-88 war. The United States would not like to confront, again, the kind of simultaneous Sunni and Shiite insurrections it faced in 2004, but tensions are fierce. "The government is unable to do anything to control the Mahdi Army," says Sheik Abu Muhammad al-Baghdadi, a well-connected figure in the Shiite holy city of Najaf. "This Army is a bomb set to go off in the near future."

I guess we should give Newsweek credit for mentioning that there are "deep ideological differences" between Iranian clerics and al-Sadr. I kept flipping around the print version trying to find that elusive sidebar that would outline the differences, but I'm still looking.

Early this week, Comedy Central's Daily Show did one of its fake news reports, and while I haven't been able find the link, I remember it clearly because it was such an effective demonstration of the pathetic nature of American's broadcast news, both cable and network. The fake correspondent took out a notepad and began reading from a script that was clearly out of date. Host Jon Stewart quickly mentioned this fact, and the correspondent lamely stated that she was reading from a form, which he had failed to update from a previous Middle East conflict. In other words, reporters are stuck in a rut when it comes to covering Middle East conflicts.

israeli fighterTake, for instance, this New York Sun article pointing out that a silent Arab majority does not believe that "Neanderthal Muslim imams who have never read a book in their dim, miserable lives" should rule the roost in the Middle East. Does this fit the mainstream media reports' typical characterization of Muslim and Israeli conflicts? I don't think so:

The Arab League put it succinctly in its final communique in Cairo, declaring that "behavior undertaken by some groups [read: Hezbollah and Hamas] in apparent safeguarding of Arab interests does in fact harm those interests, allowing Israel and other parties from outside the Arab world [read: Iran] to wreck havoc with the security and safety of all Arab countries."

As for Hezbollah and its few supporters, who have pushed for an emergency Arab summit meeting, the response could not have been a bigger slap in the face. ...

All in all, it seems that when Israel decided to go to war against the priestly mafia of Hamas and Hezbollah, it opened a whole new chapter in the Greater Middle East discourse. And Israel is finding, to its surprise, that a vast, not-so-silent majority of Arabs agrees that enough is enough. To be sure, beneath the hostility toward Sheik Nasrallah in Sunni Muslim states lies the deep and bitter heritage of a 14-century Sunni-Shiite divide, propelled to greater heights now by fears of an ascendant Shiite "arc of menace" rising out of Iran and peddled in the Sunni world by Syria.

Back to Iraq for a moment. As civil war breaks out, it will be interesting to see if the media cover the divide between Sunnis and Shiites in a serious way. I would think they would be forced to do it. But if this New York Times article is any indication, I am not getting my hopes up:

BAGHDAD, Iraq, July 19 -- Gunmen kidnapped as many as 20 employees of a government agency that oversees Sunni mosques on Tuesday and Wednesday, grabbing them on their way home from work at ad-hoc checkpoints north of Baghdad, an official said.

Throughout the country, at least 49 people were killed or found dead on Wednesday, including an Interior Ministry official who was shot in his car at 8 a.m.

Most of the attacks appeared to be sectarian-related, and they came a day after a suicide car bomber killed at least 53 people and wounded more than 100 in the Shiite holy city of Kufa. On Wednesday, the Mujahedeen Shura, an insurgent umbrella group that has often directed attacks against Shiite civilians, posted Internet messages claiming responsibility for that bombing.

We have Sunni mosques, 49 people dead and a Shiite holy city in the first three paragraphs, but little explanation of the group's differences, similarities or histories.

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