The Media Line Looks at Its Key Stories in 2021

The Media Line Looks at Its Key Stories in 2021

Who and what will be the winners in 2022?

  • The Middle East economy: Bouncing back or breaking down?
  • COVID-19 and variants: Can we take back our lives?
  • The Biden Administration: Will it breathe new life into the moribund peace process or at least toss the Palestinians a lifesaver?
  • Iran nuclear deal: It’s going to happen but at what cost?
  • New dynamics of the Middle East: Are the Abraham Accords the new reality or will obstacles derail the new détente?
  • Afghanistan: Will the Taliban do what ISIS could not?
  • Travel: Has COVID clipped our wings permanently? What will Middle Eastern travel look like?

We’ve got our work cut out for us in 2022. We’re no longer covering news stories that impact our immediate region alone. Instead, The Media Line is covering more existential realities at one time than ever before!

Readers tell us that they need The Media Line now more than ever because, while content is king, context is crucial. With The Media Line, you have a front-line source of information on the Middle East, by journalists who live in the Middle East, that you know you can trust.

Join us as we look back at some of last year’s most significant stories from our team of journalists, who always delve and deliver, and curated by members of The Media Line staff.

Felice Friedson, the president and CEO of The Media Line, sat down in Ramallah for an important, in-depth interview with Palestinian Authority Civil Affairs Minister Hussein Al-Sheikh. See Exclusive: Palestinian Authority’s Hussein Al-Sheikh Tells The Media Line PA Is Ready for Direct Talks With Israel.

In celebration of International Women’s Day, Friedson interviewed the always-impressive Dr. Shaikha Rana bint Isa bin Daij Al Khalifa, undersecretary of Bahrain’s Foreign Affairs Ministry. See EXCLUSIVE: Bahrain’s Rana Al Khalifa on Women in Politics: Be Confident, Be Brave and Above All, Have Patience (with VIDEO).

In Seychelles, Friedson interviewed President Wavel Ramkalawan on the eve of the island nation’s 45th independence day celebration. See Seychelles President to The Media Line: I’m Ready to Play Role as Negotiator.

Back in Israel, Friedson boarded a Sa’ar 6-class corvette newly arrived at Haifa Port – the latest ship in the Israeli Navy’s fleet. On board, she interviewed Lt. Col. Liav Zilberman, deputy chief of the Haifa Naval Base. See On Board the Sa’ar 6 Protecting Israel’s Gas Fields.

Mohammad Al-Kassim, The Media Line’s bureau chief in Jerusalem, spoke with Nizar Banat, a Palestinian rights activist and critic of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, in what was Banat’s final interview before he was arrested and killed in PA custody. “They can’t take me to court because they don’t have anything on me, but I know they want to kill me,” Banat told The Media Line. Banat’s death was allegedly from injuries he sustained when he was severely beaten during his arrest, in a case that shook the Palestinian street. See Outspoken Activist Dies After Violent Arrest by Palestinian Security Forces.

In June, as talks between Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan over the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam reached a political impasse, and fears increased that the crisis could turn into a military conflict, Al-Kassim produced an important video report examing the question: How Do Egypt, Ethiopia Stack up, Militarily?

Al-Kassim also wrote a significant piece on the economic troubles and political frustrations that dominate public discourse at the Jenin refugee camp in the West Bank. See No Political Resolution, No Jobs: Palestinians Warn Jenin Refugee Camp Is ‘Ticking Time Bomb’.

Maya Margit, The Media Line’s arts, culture and science correspondent, reported on Muslim medics who, in a little-known example of Arab-Jewish coexistence, provide lifesaving first-response care to people of all religious and ethnic backgrounds as volunteers for United Hatzalah. See Muslim Medics Tend to Wounded in Recent Jerusalem Violence (VIDEO).

Margit also brought an important and timely story dispelling the commonly held view that bats are to blame for the coronavirus pandemic. See COVID-19 Not Connected to Bats, Israeli Biologists Say (with VIDEO).

From Pakistan, correspondent Arshad Mehmood reported the shocking story of the release of Ahmed Omar Sheikh, the main suspect in the brutal murder of journalist Daniel Pearl. See Pakistan High Court Orders Release of Prime Suspect in Killing of US Journalist Daniel Pearl.

Forced marriage is a regional issue, in some places practiced widely with devastating effects on the empowerment of women , that The Media Line has frequently covered. Mehmood brought the story of an unexpected development in Afghanistan – a decree by the Taliban‘s supreme leader requiring a woman’s consent to marriage. See Afghanistan: Taliban Ban Forced Marriage.

One of the biggest stories out of Israel this year was the end of Benjamin Netanyahu’s unprecedented 15-year tenure at the helm of Israel’s government. With the curtains closing on the Netanyahu era, Keren Setton looked back at the remarkable career of Israel’s longest-serving prime minister. See Netanyahu’s Legacy: A Reflection.

The Israeli high-tech firm NSO, a world leader in offensive cybersecurity, couldn’t stay out of the headlines this year. The company’s Pegasus spyware, sold to governments across the region and around the world for the remote surveillance of criminals and terrorists, kept showing up on the cellphones of government opposition leaders, journalists, human rights activists, and dissidents. Correspondent Ksenia Svetlova reported from Israel on how NSO’s troubles may lead to broader changes in the startup nation. See After NSO Scandal, What’s Next for Israel’s Cyber Industry?.

Svetlova also examined an unmistakable shift in the focus of US foreign policy, from the troubled Middle East to Asia and the Pacific. The trend began under former President Barack Obama and continued, with some variation in form, during the Trump Administration and now under President Joe Biden. See Analysis: American Priorities Don’t Include the Middle East Anymore. It Is Not a Sign of US Weakness.

Senior news editor Steven Ganot has been covering the coronavirus pandemic with weekly stories and a roundup of COVID-related statistics from 27 counties and territories across the MENA region. Ganot reported that, aside from the direct effects of the virus on the physical health of infected individuals, the pandemic has had long-term effects on mental health, particularly among young people. And these mental health effects could persist well after the virus itself has been beaten back. See Depression, Anxiety Among Youth Has More Than Doubled During Pandemic.

News editor Marcy Oster provided readers with vital background and context on complex issues in several explainers this year. One of the most important of these shed light on the seemingly endless chaotic violence in Syria. See EXPLAINER: Syria Marks 10 Years of Civil War.

From Bahrain, Hudhaifa Ebrahim reported on a plan to significantly increase the country’s production of oil, from both conventional sources and shale, over the next few years. The plan could bring an economic explosion to the kingdom. See Bahrain Sits on Major Oil Wealth, Plans To Drill 900 Wells in 5 Years.

Reporter Daniel Sonnenfeld covered an important story out of the Gaza Strip on the repurposing of foreign aid and imported materials – seemingly for legitimate uses, such as medical equipment and fertilizer – to build weapons for Hamas and other armed groups. See Made in Gaza: Hamas Rockets the Product of Foreign Aid and Smuggled Material.

Daoud Kuttab reported from Amman on new opportunities being made available for women in the Jordanian military, particularly with the opening of a Military Women’s Training Center. The center was inaugurated in June, with the support of Princess Salma, the king’s daughter and the first female jet pilot in the Jordanian Armed Forces. See Jordanian Armed Forces Making Great Strides in Gender Equality.

Kristina Jovanovski reported from Turkey on a story that threatened to push relations between Ankara and Jerusalem over the brink. See Turkey Risks Harming Relations With Israel Over Arrest of Tourist Couple, Analysts Say.

During the violence that broke out between Israel and Palestinian forces in the Gaza Strip in May – the first major conflict since the signing of the Abraham Accords – correspondent Melanie Swan reported from Dubai on efforts by Israel’s new Arab allies to restore calm and encourage peace in the region. See Gulf States Leverage New Alliances To Call for Israeli-Palestinian Peace.

Among the most interesting political developments in the region this year was the inclusion of an Islamist party in Israel’s coalition government – the first independent Arab party to join a governing coalition in Israeli. From Gaza, Sanaa Alswerky reported that many Palestinians were not pleased. See Palestinians in Gaza Outraged as Islamist Party Head Mansour Abbas Agrees to Israeli Government.

Reporter Mike Wagenheim brought readers the story of the Shai Fund, an Israeli organization that works in coordination with the US government to evacuate from Afghanistan human rights defenders and other activists who are direct targets of the Taliban. See Israel-Based Organization Sending Private Flights to Get Activists Out of Kabul.

Aron Rosenthal, a student at the University of Edinburgh and an intern in The Media Line’s Press and Policy Student Program, wrote about the dangers faced by Afghan journalists who associated themselves with American news outlets and now fear Taliban retribution. See As America Leaves Afghanistan, Concern Spreads Over Fate of Local Journalists.

Rosenthal also reported on cases of participants in long-term programs in Israel either unknowingly entering the country while carrying the coronavirus or developing COVID-19 while in Israel. Unfortunately, the impact of international travel on the spread of this and future viruses is an issue that will not be going away anytime soon. See British Student Group Participants Develop COVID in Israel.

We appreciate our valued readers and thank you for your input and support, and look forward to sharing new programs and features in the coming year. From The Media Line team, wishing you a happy and healthy new year.

Give the Gift of Truth This Jewish New Year

The Media Line has been leading for more than twenty years in pioneering the American independent news agency in the Middle East, arguably the first in the region. We have always stayed true to our mission: to provide you with contextual sourced and trustworthy news. In an age of fake news masquerading as journalism, The Media Line plays a crucial role in providing fact-based news that deserves your support.

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