News and Views
The Ramses Railway Station in Cairo, 1998.
Photo: Heidi Levine
As you can see from my CV I spent the years 1994 to 1999 working as the Middle East correspondent of the Danish newspaper The Berlingske Tidende.
Sadly the atmosphere has got even more hostile and confused since I left with claims and counterclaims flying through the media.
If you happen to be interested in The Middle East and are trying to chase the elusive truth, let me throw in my two cents worth and give a bit of very personal advise for people seeking information in English on the Web.
Rule number one is to be very critical of your sources. Every site on the Web is there for a reason - know that reason before you make up your mind about the credibility, and visit as many sites as possible.
If you are in a hurry go for the good old BBC - they are not perfect but they are among the very best for a quick overall view.
First of all: Regarding the country that everybody is talking about these days, don't miss Idleworm
For news apart from the BBC try the well known TV-station al-Jazeera, and the American radio network PBS.
For maps and some general background try The National Geographic, and The Virtual Tourist.
There are many other websites worth looking at. Often they go down without notice but I keep them on the list in case they show up again. You may want to try:
The Iraqi National Congress - one of the main political groups.
The Iraq Foundation - an NGO founded by Iraqi expatriates.
The Iraqi Forum for Democracy - another NGO.
Electronic Iraq is an anti-war site.
Bodycount - sad put very much on topic.
UNMOVIC - The Weapons Inspectors - and IAEA - The International Atomic Energy Agency used to be important players.
Iraqwatch also deals with weapons of mass destruction.
The British Royal United Services Institute has a special section on Iraq.
For Secretary of State Colin Powell's point of view look at Saddam Hussein's Iraq.
Iraqi Tourist Board. No, I'm serious: I do advise you to wait for more peaceful days but if you ever get the chance, go there. It is one of the most interesting places I have visited in my life.
And the official view from Baghdad used to be on the site of the Iraqi Mission to the U.N.
If you are looking for more try the collection of links at The Journalist's Toolbox, and Future of Iraq Portal.
Whatever your feelings about the State of Israel are be assured that democracy in the Western sense of the word works better there than in the neighbouring countries.
There are two daily newspapers with websites in English, The Jerusalem Post, and Ha'aretz, plus the web-only IsraelInsider.
Also note the highly recommendable news magazine The Jerusalem Report.
If you want the official point of view drop by the Israeli Foreign Ministry. They have an excellent collection of links plus a seemingly endless supply of official documents. Or try the official Israel Government Gateway.
A more critical attitude is supplied by Israeli Democracy Institute.
Even more criticism you can get from the human rights organisation B'Tselem.
If you are looking for a general, commercial portal try the I-guide.
For more relaxed moments I like the official photo collection. The Israelis have done a tremendous job of documenting the history of their country.
Snow in Jerusalem, 1998.
Photo: Hans-Henrik Landsvig
The Palestinian media and websites are suffering not only from the practical difficulties of working under war conditions but also from very strong interest from various official bodies whose heavily armed representatives occasionally reverse roles and take local journalists for interviews at unsocial hours and inconvenient locations.
The daily newspapers are in Arabic - and so are their websites - but Birzeit University in The West Bank has a good collection of links to sources.
You should also have a look at
The Electronic Intifada,
The Jerusalem Media and Communications Centre,
The Alternative Information Center,
The Palestine Times, and at
The official website is the Palestinian Authority's International Press Center.
Crossing the river into Jordan we find the main source of English language daily news to be The Jordan Times. It is under heavy supervision by the authorities so don't expect to find anything critical about the King or his government in it.
Also try The Star - a weekly published every Thursday. Nice but working under the same rules as the other Jordanian papers.
The al-Urdun al-Jadid Research Center's site is a political think tank worth visiting.
The official way into Jordan is via the National Information System. Nice convenient and guaranteed uncontroversial.
And don't forget to pay a visit to His Majesty himself. He is a very important person in Jordan.
The Ramses Railway Station in Cairo, 1998.
Photo: Heidi Levine
The old country by The Nile has its own very big internal problems, but apparently the international media are more interested in what is going on in Israel, and the local media are not encouraged to independent reporting about controversial domestic matters.
Thus the Al Ahram Weekly does not seriously dispute the thinking in the government offices.
The Cairo Times is quite different but subjected to close interest from The Ministry of Information.
The Middle East Times strives to cover not only Egypt but most of The Middle East. The magazine's situation may be summed up in the fact that it uses the website for publishing stories that the editors do not dare put on print in Egypt.
The official Egyptian website calls itself not only an information centre but also a »decision support centre«. Nice to know for decision makers...
Moving North to Lebanon one has to realise that French is the preferred foreign language of the Christians whereas the Moslims tend to speak English.
The French language paper L'Orient le Jour has been well known for many years. English speakers go for The Daily Star which provides interesting stuff as well.
Also have a look at The Middle East Intelligence Bulletin, and Monday Morning.
Lebanon has always been more oriented to the west than many other Arabic countries, even if the civil war took it's heavy toll also on the freedom of expression. But reasonably often one can find interesting news about other Arab countries in the Lebanese press - possibly more interesting stuff than the Lebanese editors find fit when reporting on domestic matters.
For official wisdom visit The Presidential Palace, but you may be in for more controversial stuff. In that case surely the Hizbolla website will be of interest to you.
If you want more than this the British newspaper The Guardian has a good collection of links.
The Middle East Media Guide is very comprehensive.
ArabNet provides a general but rather uncontroversial entrance to many countries.
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