I was with someone last night who lives in one of the more liberated Arab countries (in the Gulf) and who is involved in making short films. They relayed how a film out soon will make a few comments about radical Islam. The maker has left the country in question never to return. The alternative is prison or worse. That is free speech in the Arab world in 2014.
The one Middle Eastern country many in the West like to demonise is Israel. Its former PM Ariel Sharon died today aged 85. Sitting in Bristol, I can say that for standing by and allowing the Christian militia in Beirut to slaughter Palestinians in the Sabra and Shatila camps in the early 1980s this man was a war criminal. He was a monster. And his actions (inactions) were bad news for Israel. He was a disgrace and he will, I am sure, rot in hell.
In his early life he was a war hero as Israel fought to retain one small strip of land where Jews could be safe from persecution but where folks could also say what they want, vote out their leaders, not get stoned to death or string up from a crane for being gay or opposing the regime, etc. But for his crimes in later life he was a monster and there can be no excuses made. Sharon will rot in hell.
I say this as an unswerving supporter of Israel. And the odd thing is that were I sitting in Tel Aviv or Jerusalem today I could say exactly the same thing. I could write it and post it on the internet. Such opinions will appear in sections of the Israeli press. In Israel free speech exists. Even if it means criticism of the State or its leaders. That makes that country unique in the Middle East. Yet so many opt to demonise Israel and laud the other regimes of the region that behave so differently in every respect.