Get involved, sign the pledge, make use of the URI Toolkit: Positive Actions in Response to Hate Speech, and take advantage of these handy toolcards for youth and community leaders.
Visit uri.org/talking_back_to_hate to find out more!
Get involved, sign the pledge, make use of the URI Toolkit: Positive Actions in Response to Hate Speech, and take advantage of these handy toolcards for youth and community leaders.
Visit uri.org/talking_back_to_hate to find out more!
“Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters” – Isaiah 55
If you were to look out from the planet Mars, you might be able to detect Earth by its faint blue glow. The Earth is uniquely blue because roughly 72% of its surface is covered by water. However, somewhat paradoxically, news headlines all around the world are declaring that Earth is entering into an era of water crisis. The question that I am sure many of you are asking is how could this be possible if the majority of our planet is covered by water?
The answer is that only a small percentage of the water on Earth is available to humans, and humans are using up and polluting what little water is available. Of all the water on the planet, only 2.5% is freshwater. Furthermore, 68% of all freshwater is locked in glaciers and ice caps, 30.1% is stored underground, and 1.3% is surface water. To put this in perspective, a sphere of Earth’s liquid water in the ground, lakes, swamps, and rivers would easily fit within the borders of Ohio. Therefore, along with impacts of climate change, human pollution, and population growth, increasing demands for water are putting enormous strains on Earth’s limited resources.
Much like the rest of the world, the Middle East faces a grave challenge in the future. As a result of its arid climate and shared water resources, Middle Eastern countries are going to need to find ways to work together and conserve their precious water supplies. Currently, water reservoirs in the Middle East is dwindling. As an example, the Jordan River is a resource utilized by Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Israel, and Palestine. Therefore, the Jordan river has become a center for dispute and controversy. Of the 57 military conflicts over water since 1950, 32 have been in the Middle East and 30 involved Israel and its Arab neighbors. Each nation competes to control the water flow by developing dams and irrigation systems to divert water to cities and regions that have no other water supply. As a result, The Jordan river has lost 90% of its original flow in the last five decades. Similarly, the river has become heavily polluted and some areas in Jordan have almost no clean water. For these reasons, water security in the Jordan River basin is a central political issue, and it has the potential for being at the heart of peaceful negotiation in future years.
Despite the fact that the Middle East is one of the regions that suffers the most from water stress, it is already becoming a world leader for water and energy conservation and innovation. At the POWER-GEN Middle East and WaterWorld Middle East2013 conference, Minister of Energy and Industry of Qatar, HE Dr. Mohammed bin Saleh Al-Sada, recognizes that Qatar’s consumption of water increased by 9% and power consumption increased by 13% last year. He claimed that he “hopes to introduce the latest smart technologies and develop large-scale renewable energy stations to become a role model for the rest of the region.” Qatar is not the only country recognizes its duty to develop a capacity to handle water and energy stress in the future. Countries The United Arab Emirates (UAE), Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, and Egypt are setting standards to reduce fossil energy consumption and improve energy efficiency.
Qatar is also demonstrating its commitment to address issues of climate change. In November 2012, Qatar hosted the International Conference on Food Security in Drylands which highlighted the importance of developing water-saving methods and technologies in order to adapt to climate change and variability. Soon after, Qatar hosted the UN Climate Change Conference in Doha where the government announced its intentions to build a 1.8 GW of solar power by 2020. By developing their renewable energy sector, Qatar is enhancing its ability to provide and conserve water. Because most Middle Eastern countries receive little water from rainfall and climate change is expected to cause increases in weather variability, countries are searching for water solutions that do depend on rainfall. Many Middle Eastern countries are turning to oceans for answers.
Desalination is an energy intensive and expensive operation that removes salts and minerals from saline water for human consumption and irrigation. For example, Saudi Arabia uses 1.5 million barrels of oil per day for desalination. However, despite the costs, it is a reliable and rainfall-independent water source. By developing their renewable energy sectors, countries in the Middle East will be able to provide desalinated water without using as many fossil fuels. Therefore, not only are they supplying their countries with an essentially renewable water resource, but they are doing it sustainably!
Water in the Middle East can either be a source of conflict or a source of collaboration. Already, nongovernmental organizations like Friends of the Earth Middle East (FOEME) are working to develop relationships across borders in order to protect shared environmental resources. The Israeli co-director of FOEME, Gidon Bromberg, emphasizes the importance of cross-national cooperation when he state that “there are few major sources of water that don’t cross one or more political boundaries. That creates a natural interdependence between countries.” Despite a history of violence and dispute over resources, the Middle East has both the technological and diplomatic capacity to develop a peaceful coexistence where resources and ideas are shared. What needs to happen now is a willingness for both citizens and politicians to talk with each other about how collective resources can be managed so that all parties can share in the benefits. If the arid region of the Middle East can find a solution, then so can the rest of the world.
For more information:
“Parting the Waters” from National Geographic
“Is it time to rethink water and energy links in Middle East?” from Responding to Climate Change
“POWER-GEN Middle East and WaterWorld Middle East 2013 officially opens with leading keynote speakers” from AMEinfo.com – The ultimate Middle East business resource
Since the turn of the century, “terrorism” has been an especially sensitive buzzword in international politics. For many people, the term may invoke a slew of graphic images and negative connotations. Due to the fear it incites, terrorism is also prone to being vastly misinterpreted. In order to squarely handle the issues posed by terrorism, it is first important to clarify what the term means. Only then are we able to move forward in the direction of a terrorism-free society by replacing fear with understanding.
The term terrorism was first coined during the French Revolution and it referred to the violence inflicted by the French government against its people during the Reign of Terror. The goal of terrorism at the time was to commit acts of violence in order to frighten innocent civilians into submission. More recently, the popular use of this term has been largely misconstrued as being specifically associated with religious groups from the Middle East. Some people may be surprised to learn that any extremist group, regardless of their religious affiliation (or lack thereof), can practice terrorism.
David P. Barash, author of Peace and Conflict Studies, broadly defines terrorism as “a premeditated, usually politically motivated, use, or threatened use of violence, in order to induce a state of terror in its immediate victims, usually for the purpose of influencing another, less reachable audience, such as a government”. Based on this definition, we can begin to see how terrorism is not linked to any particular culture or ethnicity. By exposing terrorism in this light, we lose false prejudices and are better equipped to confront terrorism effectively.
It is not surprising that prior to the 2012 U.S. presidential elections, the American public highlighted terrorism as one of the most critical issues facing the country’s leadership. In response to this demand, TED Talks released a series of 12 videos representing a diversity of voices on this topic. Each speaker offers a different approach in terms of what security policy is best suited to combat terrorism in the 21st century. These individuals range from military experts to mothers united in forgiveness after the events of 9/11.
These brief videos are designed to inform citizens about the threats and motives involved in terrorism so that we can work toward realistic solutions. Several speakers promote pragmatic action, counter to passive awareness, as a means to achieve peace. Rather than identifying terrorism with a certain racial or religious profile, these speakers regard terrorists as a minority of extremists. Collectively, they demonstrate that with greater understanding, the moderate majority can help alleviate the problems presented by terrorism.
Check out what these enlightened speakers have to say by clicking on the link below!
By Hani Azzam, Euphrates Fellow, Tufts University
Since Mohamed Bouazizi’s self-immolation over a year ago, North Africa has undergone a series of rapid, fundamental, and interconnected changes. The rise to power by a spectrum of Islamists, from politicians to militants, has left many western observers wary of the region’s future, especially in terms of their relationship with the United States and Europe.
No incident embodied or inflamed western fears more than the takeover of northern Mali by militant Islamist groups following a nationalist revolution by the Touareg people and a coup d’état in the country’s capital, Bamako. France spearheaded a frantic response that involved dreaded “boots on the ground” and logistical support from a coalition of NATO members. The operation’s success thus far has already left us with one of 2013’s most ironic moments – the former French colonial city of Timbuktu welcoming President Francois Hollande as its “liberator”. In the short-term, France’s military intervention may have staved off the imposition of Sharia law on parts of Malian territory, but it’s a cosmetic and temporal fix to a broader movement, albeit a fringe aspect, that has amassed a serious amount of clout in North African politics.
Interestingly enough, Islamic parties from Mali to Egypt played a passive role during their countries’ initial periods of turmoil. In Mali’s case, Touareg rebels seeking to establish a national state seized much of the country’s north and declared the independent state of Azawad. Only after the international community’s commitment to Mali’s “territorial integrity” and refusal of Azawad’s independence did Islamist militias like AQIM (Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb) and Ansare Dine wrest control from the secular Touareg militias. We find a similar progression in many states undergoing transitions after the “Arab Spring.” Purely Islamic grievances or the mobilization of Islamic political parties did not drive these massive, popular revolutions that overthrew entrenched governments. However, in the consequent turmoil, Islamists have skillfully exerted their influence.
While this repeated sequence speaks to the importance of Islamism in the region, it also reveals the precarious nature of the movement’s newfound power. From a western perspective, we must take extra care not to conflict political Islam and militant Islam, and not shrink from engaging political partners. Islamists in Tunisia and Egypt now confront one of the most moderating tasks of all, leading a country where the government answers to its people. Whereas before, these groups operated introspectively in many ways, they now hold the reins of a government, and therefore must extrovert their scope if they want to remain at the helm.
When Hamas democratically won Palestinian National Authority elections in 2006, the United States and its western allies made the immediate decision to isolate the newly formed coalition government. This decision essentially forced the Islamic group into a box, with no room to maneuver, and ultimately led to a brief Palestinian civil war and Hamas control of Gaza. At the moment of the group’s electoral victory, the West failed to seize an opportunity to bring them into the mainstream. This refusal to engage has only radicalized Hamas further and undermined American credibility as an honest broker in the conflict.
I reference this precedent as a cautionary tale for the western response to rising political Islam in North Africa. Imposing western will, through both financial and military might, runs the very real risk of only distancing the U.S. from emerging governments and the people they represent. Blind fear of everything “Islamist” will generate reactionary foreign policy towards an entire region where confidence in the U.S. already stands at an all time low. In this case, no amount of nuance to our policy will constitute “too much”. Each situation requires utmost caution, as well as a willingness to engage rather than isolate.
While the situation in Mali is far from over, western powers must not only make a point to withdraw ground troops as soon as possible, but also to acknowledge the legitimate desire for self-determination exhibited by the Touareg people. Responding to this populace can actually strengthen forces that will reject militant Islam in the region. Like any other political entity, these militants require popular support to maintain power. If we choose a constantly aggressive posture, we only make their job easier.
In honor of the UN-established World Interfaith Harmony Week, the first week of each February , the Euphrates Fellows will dialogue via Skype with an Iraqi Shia Muslim living in London, UK to learn more about Islam. The Skype conversation will take place on Friday, March 8 from 10-11 am in Arabia room in the School of Nations, Principia College. All are welcome to join.
“The artist transcends the immediate. Transcends the here and now. Transcends the madness of the world. Transcends terrorism and war. The artist thinks, acts, performs music, and writes outside the framework that society has created…The artist is taking us away from the moments of horror that we experience…by showing us what is possible.” - Howard Zinn, Artists in Times of War
Amidst the torrent of media reports of continued conflict and violence across the Middle East, I am always grateful for the gems of hope that poke out through the ominous headlines. This week hope seemed to come in the form of dialogue between key regional policymakers: we saw plans solidified for the renewal of talks on Iran’s nuclear program; Egypt’s president Morsi welcomed Iranian President Ahmadinejad to Cairo, the first visit by any Iranian leader since 1979; and, another first, Syrian opposition leader Mouaz al Khatib met in Munich with Iranian and Russian foreign ministers – both backers of the Assad regime – to discuss possibilities for a peaceful resolution to the Syrian crisis.
Beyond these front page worthy stories, this week I have been following the contributions of young people in Syria, Gaza, and Afghanistan, who have chosen to use spray cans, rope, clothes pins, hiphop beats, and classical instruments – rather than bullets and bombs – to stand up to injustice. These young artists represent the kinds of spontaneous and heartfelt grassroots initiatives that fly in the face of conventional wisdom, which claims that it is politics and systems – not people –which make change. While the Arab Spring continues to remind us that the people, rather than regimes, will mold the future of the region, these young artists raise themes of hope, togetherness, peace, and possibility in their local communities and around the world. They remind us that we are each capable of using the resources at our fingertips – however scant they may be – to realize the change we wish to see in the world around us.
Art can be transformative. It brings us together around a common object to discuss a subject that may be sensitive, taboo, polarizing, or even outlawed. Whether through a moving performance that helps us to recognize our own biases or a colorful-yet-simple image that reminds us of our own childlike innocence as well as that of our neighbors, it taps into our shared experiences of humanhood through color, movement, tone, and texture. But art does more than simply stir emotions. It expresses truth through a medium that can be louder through its silence and more vibrant through its basic strokes. The arts provide a platform through which we can come together to confront our past, overcome our differences and, ultimately, envision a better future.
Through their work the young artists you’ll meet below embody beautifully the words of peace activist Thich Nhat Hanh: “Our own life has to be our message.” Whether garnering international attention or simply bringing cheer to the streets of their local neighborhoods, these artists have chosen a message of peace.
Topping my list of artists taking peace into their own hands this week is Khalifa, a nineteen-year-old computer science major who has taken to the streets of Aleppo with bottles of spray paint in an effort to bring joy, hope and healing to a city whose walls have been scorched and scarred by bombs and bullets. The Syrian conflict has impacted Khalifa on a very personal level: his two brothers were killed fighting for the opposition, and Khalifa himself withdrew from school after being identified on television while participating in an anti-government protest. He now spends his days decorating war-ravaged building with words of love and brightly-colored cartoon characters. Khalifa’s paintings pose a stark contrast to the graffiti slogans left behind by fighters on both sides of the conflict. His goal: to inspire and distract city residents for whom destruction and desolation have become commonplace. Read more about Khalifa’s work here:
While Khalifa has sought to inspire the neighborhoods of Aleppo through his art, another Syrian artist takes on a broader theme: the impact of western policy on the Syrian conflict. Tamman Azzam’s tweeted image of a Damascus building pockmarked with bullet holes and superimposed with Gustav Klimt’s “The Kiss” went viral this week. His series “Syrian Museum” combines popular western art images with real-life images of Syria’s war, bringing vividly to life the challenges of remaining silent as the Syrian conflict continues to escalate. Through his work, Tamman seeks to provoke thought and action. See more of Tamman’s work here:
The Afghan Youth Orchestra kicks off a two-week tour of the U.S. this week to showcase Afghanistan’s musical heritage at such prestigious venues as the Kennedy Center and Carnegie Hall. It is the post-Taliban story of hope that these young musicians embody, however, that has people talking. Under the Taliban, music was banned and women were prohibited from attending school. Today, the Afghanistan National Institute of Music enrolls male and female students from across the ethnic and socio-economic spectra of Afghan society. Many of the students are orphans. Beyond the opportunities for personal enrichment and professional development, the school offers a glimpse of what a vibrant and integrated Afghan society –one characterized by inclusivity and equality – might look like. Meet some of the members of the Afghan Youth Orchestra here:
Rounding off this week’s stories of Middle East artists for peace is a group of young Gazan breakdancers who have taken to the streets with increasing fervor over the last year offering Gaza’s youth an alternative to armed uprising. Their educational workshops give the children of Gaza the opportunity to confront issues of identity and explore peaceful channels of expression. The group’s popularity demonstrates the potency of art as a source of stability and meaning for youth in conflict communities.
Each of these stories constitutes an individually-inspired movement for peace. Through their various media and forms of expression, these young artists have raised poignant questions, inspired hope, overcome barriers, and transformed thought. Speaking to artists of their greater social responsibility, Howard Zinn said “What most of us must be involved in–whether we teach or write, make films, write films, direct films, play music, act, whatever we do–has to not only make people feel good and inspired and at one with other people around them, but also has to educate a new generation to do this very modest thing: change the world.” I believe that these artists are doing just that.
This Weekly Current was written by Kristin Lauria. Each week you can look forward to finding relevant, refreshing quick-reads in your inbox that inform you about current events, inspire you with stories of bridge-builders, or offer up tips and tidbits we think are worth a mention! Just like the current of a river is always progressing downstream, how we think more deeply about the Middle East and our relationship is a constant flow of ideas. So whether you’re new to Middle East issues or a proven pro, these weekly bulletins can help to round out your knowledge of this critical region, as well as boost your skills as a peacemaker in an era when both are equally critical towards the ultimate goal — personal and global transformation!
We love knowing what you think of these weekly bulletins, and what topics you’d like to see featured next! Just reply to this email and send us a question or a subject that interests you. We invite you to share this bulletin on Facebook and Twitter to help spread the word. And as always, if you like what you’re reading and you find these bulletins helpful, please consider a donation in support of Euphrates.
“As censorship fears began to dissolve along with the governments that enforced them, new voices began to emerge in the arts” - Safa Samiezade’-Yazd, Aslan Media
We all remember watching the first chaotic scenes on the news as the Arab Spring unfolded across the Middle East. Videos of police brutality and government abuse went viral, thanks to widely accessible social mediums like Youtube and Facebook.
But underneath the surface of chaotic violence, oppressive government crackdowns, and rocky new regimes lies a source of hope for Arabs and non-Arabs alike. That hope is music. From Tunisia to the Palestinian Territories, new artists as well as old ones came out to express their rage, frustrations, and dreams with the help of a guitar or simply their voices. Here, we take a look at some of the inspiring and talented artists who spread their messages through song.
One of the best parts about this music is that now, more than ever before, artists do not need a professional platform or a record deal to reach millions with their voices. Social media has helped move ideas and messages at lightning speed to all parts of the world, frustrating government efforts to repress them. The grassroots-made soundtrack of the Arab Spring is addictive, and with the help of avid music lovers everywhere, creative expression has proved itself as a force for social change in the region.
While many of these events and the birth of their anthems are already years behind us, the messages of those impassioned voices and poignant songs live on in the hearts of millions of young Arabs, who continue every day to fight for the freedom they believe in.
American-born Khaled M. raps in English about Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi, whose regime his parents escaped years before by fleeing to the US. In “Can’t Take Our Freedom”, he references not only Libya but the struggles in Egypt and Tunisia as well. Adel al Mshiti’s haunting ode entitled “We Will Stay Here” honors a doctor who spent six years behind bars for treating victims of Gaddafi’s brutal crackdown in 1996. And Ibn Thabit, an anonymous hip hop artist famous for his anti-government songs, delivers a soulful, mellow rap praising the city of Benghazi. Check out his site, featuring Thabit’s music produced in collaboration with artists from all over the Middle East and the US.
Listen to heartfelt homage to the revolution by some of Cairo’s rock celebrities, called “The Voice of Freedom”. They sing, “Our voices reached those who could not hear them/And we broke through all barriers/Our weapon was our dreams/And tomorrow is looking as bright as it seems.”
Female long-time artist Aida el Ayoubi joins Egyptian band Cairokee in “Ya el Medan”, a slow, beautiful melody recognizing the Tahrir protestors.
Check out Egyptian folk act El Tanbura, whose members, working to preserve the heritage of Egyptian folk music, recorded their performance of “Tahrir Square Jam”, addressing the grievances and desires of ordinary Egyptians.
Discover more Arab Spring songs at Louder than War, a blog dedicated to rock music and musical causes.
Read even more at Middle East Voices from Voice of America.
With ever-worsening news on Syria, the Israeli-Palestinian impasse, and Egypt’s new “pharaoh”, we thought it was time to shed some light on the good news–the people on both sides of the Middle East-West divide, who are transforming their communities at the grassroots level. These are individuals and groups we have the privilege of working with, but whom you rarely hear about on the news
By: Cassidy Orth-Moore, Euphrates Fellow, Media & Publications Committee
In a world that is rapidly transforming, it is important for us to work toward an understanding of what it is that makes the world change and how it is changing. On the evening of October 2, 2012, three individuals from different religious groups convened together to share their thoughts about the faiths some individuals choose to hold fast when faced with the constant commotion of the world. A Sikh, a Mormon, and a Christian Scientist all joined forces together, forming a religious panel to explore different perspectives.The Sikh faith was represented by Harjot Singh Padda, a second generation American, the first ever “Yankee” in his family from St. Louis, Missouri. Sikhism originated in India, currently home to approximately 27 million Sikh’s from the city of Punjab alone. Through immigration, Sikhism theology has spread to different locations around the world, teaching acceptance and the mercy of their one God. The Sikh belief system has been formed through a layering of prophesies from the eleven Gurus (Sikh divine leaders). This belief system continues to grow today as new Gurus are appointed. This chain of manifested inspiration started with Guru Nanich Dar, who was directed by visions to strongly oppose the Indian caste system. Padda emphasized how accepting and welcoming Sikhs are to every individual regardless of origin. The Sikh practice of feeding the needy serves as a great testimony to this pillar of Sikhism. At the “Golden City” temple, Sikhs feed approximately 150 to 175 thousand people per day.
Sikhs live all around the world, with a population of about 500,000 in the United States. Members of the Sikh religion can be recognized by their turbans, which are usually blue, orange, white or black. Although they are a peaceful people, many Americans confuse Sikhs as Islamic fundamentalists, the turban isn’t hiding anything but hair, which they choose not to cut! Sikhism is the fifth largest organized religion in the world and is commended for its beliefs in equality, respect, tolerance, meditation, and self-examination.
Reid Mortonsen represented the Mormon faith. As a Christian religion, the Mormons share many similarities with other branches of Christianity. These basics include that God is the eternal Father and that He sent us His only son, Jesus Christ, as the Savior. They accept the admonition of Paul and seek only after good. The Mormons accept Jesus Christ as their personal savior and role model and accept all who believe that Jesus is the son of God. Mormonism is also a very peaceful religion, as expressed by their acceptance of everyone else and their beliefs. They believe it a privilege to be able to worship God and want to allow all others the same right, whether they agree or not. Mormons unite with 14 million followers, all following both the Bible and the Book of Mormon, a sacred text Mormons believe to be their interpreted word from God recorded by ancient prophets.
One of the most important views that the Mormon faith holds is that of eternal family. This entails that God ordains marriage and that family is the center of progress and development in the world. Family history is therefore very important to Mormons. In order to support children through life, Mormon temples hold early morning seminaries for children. If there is no temple nearby, many parents hold their own seminaries for their children at home. Young people, particularly men, are encouraged to complete missions, which are trips designed to travel around the world and spread the Mormon faith. Mormon families value their children as the future of the world and raise strong, God-driven individuals, and instilling the importance of family.
Christian Science is full of the appreciation for love and respect, and the idea that God is Love and nothing less. Christian Scientists adhere to the Holy Bible, and their religious beliefs are explained in their textbook Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy. The religion is considered a branch of Christianity because it follows the teachings of Jesus. It is considered a Science because it rests upon a foundation of provable divine laws. While Christian Science also correlates with much of the Christian religion, it is different because its followers rely solely on God for healing and guidance. In fact, Christian Scientists believe that resolving difficult challenges with health, relationships, employment, etc., can be done through prayer. Maryl Walters talked about how Christian Science practice teaches that there are seven synonyms for God: Principle, Mind, Soul, Spirit, Life, Truth, and Love.
Christian Scientists take the “inspired word” of the Bible as their sufficient guide, as explained by Mary Baker Eddy. With this said, Christian Scientists rely on the power of prayer in healing. As a side note, Maryl Walters also pointed out that, as a woman, Mrs. Eddy illustrated that women did not have to be subject to the masculine-dominant society in the day. She made a point to emphasize equality between the sexes. One of the greatest similarities between these three religions represented in the panel was the clear evidence that expressing God’s love is natural and necessary.
The religion panel opened up eyes to see that we aren’t completely different just because we don’t have the same beliefs. Many aspects of the three religions represented on that board have similarities that many people in that room would never have known existed had they not attended that religious panel.
This panel was a great representation of the ideals that the Euphrates Fellows Program tries to uphold in regards to communication. The most important thing we can do to improve the world is to improve our relationships. To improve relationships there must be some sort of mutual dialogue between the different parties. People are inherently good and have the desire to help one another in whichever way they can. However, the problem that arises is that people do not know about issues that they can assist. We are not different species, we are all a part of one collective group: humanity. This means that we all have similar challenges in life, though they might arise in different forms. To communicate more would eradicate the belief that we are too diverse to understand one another. While some of us may seem to be worlds apart, we are still a part of collective whole and we are not separate entities. This does not belittle the individual, but rather, the individual blesses the collective. There is no “us vs. them,” and with dialogue we can begin to understand that there really is only “us.”
By: Vincent-Immanuel Herr, Media & Publications Committee
The news almost came as a surprise, even to those actively staying updated on global events. While eyes around the world are watching the inner-Syrian conflict spill over into neighboring countries, many news stations neglected events in the Gaza strip. Emir Hamad Al Thani’s visit to the Hamas-controlled territory, however, has the potential of being really big news. Let’s establish some facts first.
The Gaza strip is part of the Palestinian territories bordering Israel. In contrast to the West Jordan land, however, the radical-Islamist Hamas organization, to international observers known as a terrorist group, autonomously rules the Gaza strip. Hamas took over power in 2007 and has since ruled the small strip at the Mediterranean Sea. Since Hamas took power, no head-of-state of any country has visited the poverty-struck, politically isolated region.
Emir Hamd Al Thani, monarch of oil-rich Qatar, is not only enormously prosperous due to his country’s resources, but only actively seeking to support radical Islamist groups in the entire region. His connections to the Muslim brotherhood in Egypt are strong and he has provided weapons to Islamists fighting Qadaffi and now to Islamist rebels in Syria. It is also bizarre that Qatar hosts a massive U.S. military base. Overall, the small island nation qualifies as one of the most ambivalent, but also ambiguous countries in the Middle East.
Al Thani has ended the international isolation of the Gaza strip when his armored cars rolled through the dusty streets of Gaza City. But the visit in itself is not the end of the story. Al Thani has big plans for the Gaza strip and the Palestinian territories in general, as a speech at the Islamic University in Gaza shows: “”The Palestinian cause … remains a bleeding wound in the Arab body as Israel continues every day to change the face of Palestinian land through its settlement activities and Judaisation in the occupied West Bank and especially in Jerusalem”
The highlight of the visit was the cornerstone-laying of a new residential city in the strip named after the emir himself, Hamad, who is financing the entire project. Highways, a hospital, thousands of jobs are being promised to the Palestinians, who were cut off from international shipments for several years now. Overall, 250 million dollars worth of construction and planning is being invested in the region with insufficient infrastructure. The Gaza people’s reactions show their excitement and enthusiasm. The entire region was on its feet greeting the emir, waving Qatari flags as the Mercedes convoy passed by, and even planting trees on the streets the emir would come through.
The loser it seems is the Palestinian Authority (P.A.), de facto ruling entity in the Westbank. The P.A., dominated by the Fatah, is rendered much more moderate than Hamas and has recently tried to reach diplomatic solutions with Israel rather than utilizing violence. However, the message is that the Emir is not visiting the moderate P.A. in the Westbank. Instead, he is coming to the poorest part of the Palestinian territories and shaking hands with the more radical Hamas leaders. The message to many Palestinians and the international community is clear: Radical Islamism gets rewarded.
Picture/Caption Credit: http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/world_now/2012/10/qatari-emir-visits-gaza-strip.html