The media has already killed Khashoggi
Seven years on from what has been called the “Arab Spring,” the Middle East is plagued, on top of the military activities, by continuous conflict. The region’s volcanoes are in constant eruption and the lava has not yet stopped flowing. They all seem to us like passing crises, but they are in fact recurring, whether between one government and another, or governments and militant groups in what seems to be a tug-of-war situation aiming either to change the status quo or prevent change.
Actually, it does not come as a surprise that governments embarking on a self-changing policy, like the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, are being targeted. Moreover, change is always difficult because it attempts to get rid of deeply-rooted ideas, widespread cultures and major structures. In that sense, our fellow journalist Jamal Khashoggi has been “murdered,” even if he reappears alive. This is simply because he has been used as a bullet in the media battle; and those who claim to be defending him are the least concerned about him, as their real target is in Riyadh.
Those who believed that eradicating, or even marginalizing, militant groups would go smoothly are now discovering how difficult the task is. These groups are present, fierce, and are spreading again throughout the region. For example, some of those committed to the Muslim Brotherhood have fled to Turkey and Qatar, and have started using their tentacles in Europe and the US, after having their activities partially disabled in Egypt and the Gulf countries, and their presence weakened in Tunisia and Morocco; while the rest have been driven to work underground.
Beside the “Brotherhood,” there are still remnants of other ideological schools and organizations that are reconsidering their status in the aftermath of the Arab Spring. These organizations do not die out, but temporarily disappear or reposition themselves.
Khashoggi is thus a victim of the war raging in the region. His battle is part of the chain of ongoing media and political battles, each of which is now exploiting his “cause.” In the crisis precipitated by his disappearance, the ultimate aim is to portray a government, in this case the Saudi government, as evil; as another North Korea or Russia or any other that had been portrayed as such.
Saudi Arabia is being attacked here because it is the country that has taken the boldest and most far-reaching steps in the field of internal reforms, which are facing opposition throughout the region. These different and recurring crises cannot be interpreted but as a major political and media battle.
Saudi Arabia is being attacked here because it is the country that has taken the boldest and most far-reaching steps in the field of internal reforms.
Given these challenges, is it possible to contain or curtail the activities of the previously mentioned ideological and organizational powers in the region until the end of the difficult road? We must realize that eliminating the regional extremist ideological and organizational foundations, which have taken root over more than four decades, is not an easy task, and will even get harder as time passes.
Moreover, targeting Saudi Arabia is expected, as it is the locomotive leading the change that is expected to affect a vast geographical and demographic area, extending from Indonesia to California; and it is also reformulating moderate political and religious concepts at the expense of the old order in the Muslim world.
TV channels will broadcast other news, using random accidents and cases to distort the image of the new “Arab order” as an alternative to the old one. More confrontations will seek to create an opposing Arab or international image, and claim that either the modernization project is exaggerated and is nothing but personal work for individual interests; or that it is below expectations, using the ongoing and inherited constraints as proof, in addition to confusing individual with governmental practices. The simple truth here is that getting out of the previous situation will not be cost-free.
In conclusion, the case of the disappearance of Khashoggi calls for reflection. From both the human and moral standpoints it is completely and utterly unacceptable, and if he was really killed — according to the Qatari-Turkish propaganda — it would be an international crime. At the moment, it is being turned into a battle against the new Saudi project. This project has attracted, over the course of two years, a welcoming international enthusiasm because it is both transparent and bold; and it is now rebuilding and moving forward.
It should be expected that some would exploit crises to spread doubt, disrupt the project, and try to turn the welcoming and enthusiastic international public opinion against it; just as we have seen in the Western media regarding the Khashoggi case.
Change, as we see it, is a major battle between two camps: Those who have declared their unflinching commitment to reform and will let no one stand in their way; and those who have vowed to foil all attempts to carry out reform by challenging it, distorting its image, and building an opposing bloc against it.
Abdulrahman Al-Rashed is a veteran columnist. He is the former general manager of Al Arabiya news channel, and former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat. Twitter: @aalrashed