"First there was the killer shark that Egypt said Mossad had dropped in its coastal waters to scare off tourists from its Red Sea resorts. Now Saudi Arabia has 'arrested' a vulture on suspicion of spying for the Israeli intelligence agency. The offending bird, which had apparently been tagged by researchers from Tel Aviv University studying migration patterns, was captured in a rural area of the Saudi kingdom, which is officially still at war with the Jewish state. The global positioning transmitter and a leg bracelet marked 'R65 - Tel Aviv University' were perceived by the Saudis as sophisticated espionage equipment to allow the bird to send intelligence back to Israel. The Saudi newspaper al-Weeam said residents of the area in which the bird was caught called the tracking paraphernalia evidence of a 'Zionist plot', although there was no official reaction from the security services to whom it was handed." (Vulture held as Mossad spy, James Hider, The Times/The Australian, 7/1/11)
Blimey, how dumb are those Arabs! But wait a minute, what's this? A caution from The Angry Arab:
"Although I had received many links from readers about the alleged Saudi accusation of a vulture spying for Israel, I refused to post any because I suspected that it was a fabrication of the Israeli propaganda machine. Today, a Western journalist in the Middle East, Rasmus, sent me this: 'I urge you to look closer at the story about the alleged spy-vulture. As far as I can find out, the original reports from Saudi media say NOTHING about a bird being in the custody of the Saudi security forces nor that they suspect it of having been trained by Mossad. It was just some villagers who got scared by the big bird with the weird transmitter, caught it and handed it over to the authorities (unspecified). The rest is only to be found in the report from the rightwing Israeli paper Maariv which started the flood of reports in the Western media, all saying that Saudi intelligence had arrested a vulture on charges of espionage (or, speaking more plainly: once again the stupid, anti-Semitic Arabs make wild claims). This story needs to be refuted'." (angryarab.blogspot.com, 6/1/11)
Indeed, but not only is your Times Middle East correspondent (and obvious David Attenborough wannabe), James Hider (author of The Spiders of Allah: Travels of an Unbeliever on the Frontline of the Holy War), unable to smell a rat when its distinctive odour is all over a story, but he actually goes on to pontificate on Arab 'paranoia':
"Paranoia among Israel's enemies and its nominal friends means countries such as Egypt, which has signed a peace treaty with the Jewish state, are locked with it in mutual distrust in what has been described as a 'cold peace'. Such paranoia reflects the reach of Israeli intelligence and the inability of intelligence organisations in the Muslim world to match it. Last week Iran hanged a man it accused of being a spy for Israel after several assassinations and kidnappings of its nuclear scientists. Lebanon has charged several of its citizens with spying for the Jewish state."
The implication, of course, is that not only are Arabs dumb and paranoid, but they've actually taken to eating their own out of sheer paranoia! Not bad mileage for a story about a tagged vulture.
But how could anyone with even the shakiest handle on the Palestine-Israel issue seriously say, as Hider once did to David Frost* (in Frost Over the World), that the problem basically boils down to an unwillingness to compromise. Your average Israeli from Tel Aviv and your average Palestinian from Ramallah, he told Frost, have probably got a huge amount in common - after all, they're just ordinary, normal people. The problem is that on the fringes you've got the Hamases on the one hand and the Israeli settlers on the other - and there's no room for compromise there. [*Hider's sufficiently happy with that interview to host it on his blog, jameshider.wordpress.com.]
How profound! Thankyou so much, James. We're all so refreshed and challenged by your unique point of view. See you later, alligator!
PS (13/1/11): You'll be pleased to know that, according to The Australian of 13 January, the Saudis have finally released the "Mossad vulture." The final paragraph of its brief report reads: "The Jerusalem Post reported that Dan Alon, director of the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel, was 'filled with joy to hear of the bird's release, and added that tracking the bird's movement will greatly aid in defended [sic] endangered species in the future'." (Saudis free 'Mossad vulture') Aw... that's so nice! The milk of human kindness only flows through Israeli veins.