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Islamic Encroachment: the Western Poverty and Lack of Education Syndrome

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Western political culture concentrates on the issue of poverty, misery, economic distress, social despair and lack of education that lead to homicide bombings in particular and terrorism in general. This political-cultural perception finds out a direct link between oppression, poverty and humiliation to terrorism and homicide bombings.

This follows by the assumption that remedy is addressed from its root cause: removing poverty and hunger, and providing the population with high education will lead to economic prosperity, that in turn leads to political moderation, to a democracy and open society, and that will put an end to terrorism.

Fawaz Gerges, an Arab Christian from Lebanon residing in the US, is an example of Western apologists and appeasing approach: for him,

Muslims are politically oppressed and socially repressed in their countries of birth in the West. They face racial profiling, perceived as a plague of nihilism that must be kept in isolation. Welcome nowhere, they have become the pariahs of the twenty-first century. They do not understand why they are being punished for the crimes they have not committed.

And the utmost peak of his words

Muslims under the age of thirty make up about 60 percent of the world’s Islamic population, yet only a tiny fraction turns to violence and terrorism.

This is also the case with the prominent Norwegian journalist Sven Egil Omdal, who believes that economic factors and social exclusion of Muslim immigrants explain the radicalization of the Muslims. He condemns those “who focus on Islamic ideas or religion or culture.” Moreover, for him “Jihad is caused by European and Western xenophobia, oppression and racism, rather than the Islamic religion and culture xenophobia. Omdal compares Israel to Nazi Germany. Israel’s jihadist Muslim enemies, openly advocate its genocide, are not to be blamed.

State Department Spokesperson, Marie Harf, told MSNBC in February 2015 that the U.S. needs to focus on the root causes that leads people to join terrorist groups, such as “lack of opportunity for jobs: “We cannot win the War on Terror, nor can we win the war on ISIS by killing them. We need to find them jobs. We need to get to the root cause of terrorism and that is poverty and lack of opportunity in the terrorist community.”

There is so much delusion in Harf’s statement and in many other claims in Western governments that one could fill volumes analyzing this profound ignorance. The same misunderstanding that Harf espouses was held by Presidents Clinton and Bush and is still maintained President Obama, who said that Boko Haram terrorist group is a “byproduct of poverty and inadequate social services.”

For Secretary of State, John Kerry, Jihadists are poor and miserable. However, if Kerry were correct in his ‘poor Jihadist’ myth, and terrorism is simply a byproduct of poverty, why isn’t Haiti and Bolivia terrorist states? Why isn’t the world plagued with African suicide bombers? This gives us a look into the federal government’s inability or unwillingness to change conventional wisdom, even when confronted with facts and credible academic studies. CIA Director John Brennan said that the recruits to the Islamic State, at least 20,000 fighters from more than 90 countries join the organization because of economic reasons. That is why the U.S. has spent and will continue to spend billions of Dollars on the assumption that poverty causes Jihad terrorism, but again and again it is proven that Jihad followers are better educated and wealthier.

Unfortunately, this so nice formula, seems so simple and logical solution, so pervasively accepted in the West, is exactly the mirror image which reflects Western fallacies and misconceptions. This is totally mistaken and is perhaps the main cause why Western civilization stumbles and fail, and why Islam will occupy the world. The chronic cluelessness of the root-cause apologists of Jihad never ceases to amaze and to embarrass. Obviously, the purpose of having a job is to improve one’s family’s life, and joining a terrorist group is not exactly a promising career choice, but more death wish. However, this so deeply rooted approach must be clearly understood and totally eliminated, as it has become the highest barrier to overcome Islamic terrorism.

It is outrageous, but not surprising if one looks at the political pattern that even 9/11 and especially since the Islamic Caliphate State (ICS) burst onto the scene have not changed the conceptions. President Obama even went so far as to deny that the Islamic State is neither Islamic nor a state; both of which it clearly is. This is what happens when you deny the existence of an ideology that people clearly see in front of their eyes.

The poverty lack of education syndrome stems mainly from the following sources:

First, culturally, Westerners cannot comprehend the ‘illogical extreme behavior’ of the Muslims, the fanatic barbarian inhumane activity, seems inconceivable to the Western mind.

Second, the media, which is the most important means of molding and shaping public opinion, uses again and again this view, and seemingly supports it without checking it.

Third, this view is highly connected ideologically with Marxist-Bolshevik academia members. Their ideological make up clearly fits their attitude in supporting “oppression,” “colonialism,” and other 19th century slogans.

Fourth, the mirror image, advanced by sociologists and criminologists, and is so prevalent in Western mind (‘we are all the same culturally’), brings us to believe in social deprivation as the cause of miseries, and the remedy of it will remove all troubles.

Fifth, this view fits so much Western values, attitudes and beliefs, as it seems to be the succeeding code of Western civilization, and therefore it fits everywhere.

This approach is more than ridiculous let alone cannot be substantiated and corroborated by scientific data. Moreover, data crystal clear proves the opposite. Indeed, it proves ignorance, lack of understanding and detachment from reality. It exactly exemplifies the mirror image which reflects Western twisted approach. To begin with, it is well known that persons armed with knowledge are ideologically-motivated and tend to extremism. On the contrary, persons who are poor and ignorant do not have the time, the knowledge, and the ability to organize and to fight for ideas.

It is a syndrome: a fanatic ideology, even a religious zealotry, increases directly with higher education. The causes and motivations for terrorism, violence and anarchism are an integral part of fanatic ideology and religious zealotry. It is proven time and again all along history: not only that poverty and education are not intertwined, but poverty leads to crime; never to terrorism.

Most of the Third World countries are hungry and their socio-economic reality is miserable and wretched. Nevertheless they did not create so profound an infrastructure of organized inhuman terrorism backed up by religious ideology. Africa is the poorest continent in the world and its peoples are really in deep situation of humiliation and wretchedness, but it did not nor does it establish fanatic terrorism, a state-like institutionalized terrorism as the Palestinians; not a state-sponsored terrorism like Saudi-Arabia or Iran; and not huge terrorist groups like the Muslim brotherhood organizations.

Japan must have been fanatic anti US as it was inflicted by two atomic Bombs on its cities; yet, Japan is pro-Western and an ally of the US. India, which was harshly repressed and exploited by the British colonialists, not only does it not support terrorism, it is even a thriving stable democracy. And if occupation is all about, then Egypt was under Western control for 67 years, Syria for 21 years, Iraq for only 15, and Saudi Arabia was never under Western control. Contrast this with Spain, which was under the Muslim yoke for 781 years, Greece for 381 years, and vast areas of the Middle East and Asia are still in Muslim hands. Yet, we are unaware of any Spanish or Greek or original Asian and North-Africa politics of victimhood and an ideology of terrorism against imperialist colonialist Islam. It must be bear in mind: European imperialism was here and gone; Soviet Imperialism was here and gone; American imperialism was here and gone. Only Islamic imperialism was here and still here, and it threatens to expand and to occupy the entire world.

Alexis De Tocqueville, in his research on French Revolution, discovered that violence and revolutions break out precisely with an improvement in socio-economic condition. Only when one has leisure time and education to understand and to evaluate the situation, he then has the ability and incentives to act. Indeed, when you are hungry and without education, you have no time nor knowledge, let alone ability to fight for values. You are totally preoccupied with bringing food and nourishing your family.

It was the Egyptian American, Fuad Zakariyah, who explained this so ably:

The radicalism virus of the Islamic fanaticism resembles the Nazi ideology, and it has nothing to do with poverty, wretchedness, social disorders and humiliation. Like in all ideologies, fanatic Islam flourishes among the educated and well-being economically and socially. Extreme ideology belongs to people with plenty of leisure time and higher education to execute their desires. The poor and miserable are not here.

Eli Kedourie has investigated most of the third world countries in search of independence. His book Nationalism in Asia and Africa, supports De Tocqueville’s approach: the national flag is brandished when there is food, leisure time and high education. Some arise up the post-colonial theories, pertained to the repression and exploitation experienced by the Muslims countries from the West. Yet, similar issues in Africa and Asia existed, without their harsh externalized aggressiveness.

Theories of criminology and social psychology prove that motives of security and group affiliation precede hunger and misery. Marc Sageman, a former CIA officer and a forensic psychiatrist, had conducted an analysis of 500 members of the Islamic terror organization al-Qaeda, “Understanding Terror Networks,” which revealed that the majority of them were well-educated, upwardly mobile men in their twenties from a middle-class background. “Two-thirds of them had a university education.” The recruits came from solid, middle-class backgrounds; their leadership hailed from the upper middle class, and they also tended to come from the wealthier Arab countries. The common stereotype of Islamic terrorism as a product of poor men is clearly wrong, he concluded his research.

Muslims make up a vastly disproportionate number of the inmates in many Western jails. The psychologist Nicolai Sennels, who worked with Muslims in Denmark that had been convicted of serious crimes, reports how these inmates rarely feel any personal responsibility for what they have done. For them, Islam is the utmost to expand, by immigration, by diplomacy of deceit, even by coercion. At the same time, out of cultural tendencies they usually see themselves as innocent victims of outside forces. They are oppressed and discriminated. In their own minds, they never do anything wrong, but many wrongs are imposed upon them by others. They are a malicious phenomenon of people lacking humanity and to whom human life has no value.

Ibn Warraq has repeatedly stated, the root cause of Islamic terrorism is Islam’s teachings and the example of Muhammad in the Sharī‘ah, and his companions as described in traditional sources. Therefore, those who claim that Islamic terrorism is caused by poverty and oppression are ignorant, stupid, and Bolsheviks that parrot Marxist dogma, as if violence is caused by ‘oppression’ or ‘racism’ or ‘colonialism.’ Islam is an exemplification of the centrality of religion and ideology as the basis of political operational behavior.

Islamic terrorism and fanaticism is part of the religion and culture. The reality is clear: there is no one nation in the world that does not suffer Arab-Islamic rage, violence and terrorism. The statistics is unfortunately very sad: every minute there is at least one victim around the world from the Muslims. Most of them Muslims, but still they are also victims of Islamic religion. More than 70 percent of world violence, and more than 90 percent of world terrorism are clearly Islamic. In 2015 there were 452 cases of homicide bombings. All of them are Islamic origin and operation (one case is doubtful). This data clearly brings to one conclusion.

Another angle to look at the situation is the following: most if not all world states have minorities. The US is the best example for a nation that is represented by so many minorities. However, most of them have been so deeply accommodated and integrated, literally blessing their new states and actively become loyal and contributing citizens. They do not want to impose their culture on their new countries; they do not want to change its constitution and to coerce their way of life. More important and relevant, Chinese, Japanese, Koreans, Vietnamese, Jews, for example, neither do not intend nor do not want to impose their religion on their new states. However, unfortunately, this is not the situation with Islam. Only Muslims are outrageously rebelling aggressively and violently demand to change Western societies’ way of life, culture and religion. This is something never happened before in history: a small minority penetrates to an established progressive modernized society that generously accepted it, and act to totally change its construct.

This is exactly how Muslims act, and Western societies have lost their ability to defend themselves. Moreover, by using their thrice mutual offensive strategy of Jihad, Da’wah, and Hijrah, Western societies are in deep visual agnosia as to look at the situation and understand its logic and its consequences. In fact, Western societies even change their language as to describe the situation. Now Islam is a religion of peace and compassion, and the Muslim terrorist organization not only do not represent Islam but in fact are not Muslim at all. Indeed, the strategy of using religious deception by smiling at the infidels and promising mountains of living together promises while plotting to kill them, is a common feature of many would-be Jihadists in Western countries.

All surveys clearly prove: the leaders and activists of Islamic World Jihad groups are members of the middle and even the upper classes. Most have a high university education and many of them have doctoral, medical or engineering. They have never asserted in their declarations that the reasons for their activity were poverty, ignorance and hunger. They speak of Western crusaders, whom they are attempting to expel from Arab-Islamic lands and to overturn in the Dar al-Harb territories; of Israeli aggression, they wish to destroy as a national entity and as a sovereign state; of Arab regimes, which they struggle to overthrow; and of the future apocalypse when Islam fights all other religions and overcome to control the world. They have no plans for social advancement and economic well-being. They have no intention to provide employment, education or welfare to the masses. They consider themselves revolutionary elite, the vanguard. They are the Islamic elite who deserve to rule and to subdue.

It is well proven that poverty does not motivate people to extreme violence, but ideology and religion. Research investigated terrorist organizations in the world shows that members of Bader-Meinhoff in Germany; Red Brigades in Italy; even the Tupamaros, Montanerros and the Light Path in Latin-America; let alone Hezbollah, Hamas, Fath and Taliban organizations come from economically advantaged families with a proven high level of education.

Palestinian uprisings and violence, the 1936, 1987 and 2000 erupted precisely during periods of economic growth, when the economy was prosperous and the standard of living of the population was proportionately good. If one compares the Palestinian economic and social situation to that in some Arab states let alone African, Asian and south American states, it is much higher and better, and their rate of education is the highest in the Arab world proportionately. The year 2000 was the best in the Palestinian economic history with GNP of 2600 dollars, and yet the Palestinians are the leading front of regional and international terrorism.

Indeed, Palestinian terrorism of homicide bombings and vicious violence prove this reality. It is not stemmed from poverty and lack of education, but motivated by political and ideological reasons and religious total demands. Since Oslo agreements in September 1993, up till the end of September 2000, 63 homicide bombers were counted. From September 2000 until 2010, 267 homicide bombers were sent on suicide actions, among them 35 women. Of all the 155 successful suicide bombers, more than 50% had university education; and most of them 50% came from al-Najah University in Nablus. Indeed, the homicide bombers are not hungry or miserable. They are in total repulsion of Jews and Zionism, and motivated by Islamic fanaticism of dehumanization of Israeli-Zionist existence.

The terrorists of September 11 lived in the West, were economically prosperous with a higher education. They were not poor and wretched. 14 of them were from Saudi Arabia, a very wealthy oil country which has never been under European colonial rule but is itself the cradle of one of the world’s most brutal religiously fanatic imperial traditions. “Jihadi John,” the Muslim British executioner of ISIS snuff videos, Muhammad Emwazi was a highly educated young man from a middle class background. Many Islamist terrorists are physicians: Nidal Hasan (the Fort Hood shooter) and al Qaeda’s current leader, Ayman Al-Zawahiri. “Lady al-Qaeda” Aafia Siddiqui was a scientist. Mohammed Atta, the leader of the 9/11 crew, was an engineer and the son of a middle class family. Another engineer: Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the Underwear Bomber, who is the son of a wealthy Nigerian businessman. Most of the Palestinian terrorist organization excel in this, being engineers and physicians, and this is also the pattern with all Muslim terrorists.

Indeed, what motivated them is not poverty and social misery, rather a profound hatred to all that Western culture stands for: permissiveness, secularism, liberalism, and above all logic and reason and believing in human responsibility. What furious them is placing man at the center and focusing on sovereignty of the mind, rather than submissiveness and devotion to Allah. All terrorist groups, when their ideology analyzed, there is no attention to social and economic miseries and conditions.

Studies have documented time and again that Islamic jihadist terrorists have above average education and income. This was the conclusion of a survey of 400 Al-Qaeda members all the way back in 2004. In 2011, a secret MI5 file indicated that ‘two-thirds of the U.K’s jihad suspects came from middle or upper-middle-class backgrounds, showing no relationship between poverty and involvement in Islamist extremism,’ most of them are with high education. The report contradicts commonly held stereotypes of terrorists and suicide bombers being ‘mad,’ ‘loners,’ and ‘psychopaths,’ as 90% can be categorized as ‘sociable,’ ‘rational,’ and have high number of friends. ‘It also challenges the theory that individuals who turn to radical or extremist networks are those who are unable to make friends in normal life.’ The study says that the ‘mean age’ at which a Muslim becomes radicalized is 21.6 years, while anyone between the ages of 16 and 32 is regarded as vulnerable. Moreover, half of the suspects were married and had children. ‘This indicates that having commitments to a spouse and children did not necessarily restrain these individuals from becoming involved in terrorist activities.’

Reviews of empirical evidence proves, as the RAND Corporation has reported, that “terrorists are not particularly impoverished, uneducated or afflicted by mental disease. Terrorist leaders actually tend to come from relatively privileged backgrounds.”

Muhammad Mahfouz claims:

The only way to end violence and terrorism is to fight a cultural and ideological battle. Terrorism is one of the most dangerous problems encountered in recent times, for it undermines the stability and security of human societies. The relationship between the phenomenon of terrorism in Islamic society and culture is like the relationship between the cause and consequence. This may explain why youths belonging to rich families and from well position in society are implicated in terrorist crimes.

This means that financial and economic factors cannot be associated with this fanatic ideology and terrorism. It is cultural and religious factors that motivate to murder innocent people. The only way to put an end to the wave of violence and terrorism is to fight ideological cultural battle against terrorism carried out by a group of brain-washed youth, influenced by glamorous slogans. Any delay in fighting this ideological cultural battle will drag us to the abyss of instability. We need more than ever to dismantle the cultural and ideological incubators which feed this phenomenon and mold it socially and culturally.

Abdallah Rashid, an Arab liberal, asserts:

The greatest mistake is to attribute the causes of terrorism to the lack of social justice; the situation of poverty; and the harsh social conditions in most of the Arab and Islamic countries. The socio-economic situation of most of the terrorists is very good. They are from well-off families, with high education and good jobs. 61% of the volunteers to fight in Iraq are from Saudi-Arabia and the Gulf States. They come from families that are not poor and from a social environment that does not suffer from economic problems and wretchedness. They are brainwashed at the hands of ‘religious clerics,’ the media, the educational system. They are nourished with various kinds of racist views, destructive fanatic principles, and with hostility, hatred, and resentment towards the others.

Abd al-Hamid al-Ansari states that

There were those who said that it was out of ignorance. But can the Shuyukh teaching the creed of the faith in distinguished universities be ignorant? There were those who said that it was due to oppression and lack of freedom. But these people are not interested in human freedoms. There were those who said that it was due to few work opportunities and high unemployment. But how does this correspond with the fact that those who carried out the operations had money and weapons, besides living in rich societies? There were those who said it was due to America’s pro-Israel bias. But the Jihad organizations have only recently begun to wave the banner of Palestine. However, the explanation for terrorism and violence lies in an examination of the educational system, and in the religious, cultural, and media discourse.

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Who are the real betrayers of Egypt, Critics or Sycophants?

Mohammed Nosseir

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“You are betraying your country by exposing its defects!” is a common accusation made by the sycophants to the ruling regime in Egypt who have managed to well situated themselves in our society simply by blindly praising the ruler’s policies. Apparently, these sycophants place a higher value on the privileges that they have gained to living in a truly advanced nation. In fact, the real betrayers of any given authoritarian nation are those who justify this immoral ruling mechanism for their own personal gain.  

Despotism is the evilest ruling mechanism ever devised; apart from its cruelty and unfairness, it works on inflating the ruler’s ego by mirroring his thoughts that are always passionately endorsed by his flatterers, regardless of their merits! Meanwhile, the ruler’s manipulation of the entire political sphere impairs the state’s ability to detect and correct its blunders. Concurrently, the harsh and inhuman treatment of the state’s critics, which includes threats to their personal lives, results in spreading fear throughout the entire society.

A successful strategy for running a country ruled by a tyrannical government is to enable ignorant citizens to dominate the state media exclusively, thus empowering them to express their opinions on a much wider scale than knowledgeable citizens. This approach consequently creates significant friction between knowledgeable and ignorant citizens, resulting in the polarization of the entire nation. The state methodically fuels this process by labeling the mediocre as loyal citizens and accusing its critics of treason.

The privileging of sycophants financially, along with advancing their power and upscaling their status, have prompted many Egyptians to join this beneficial club, which prerequisites praising superiors and justifying their faults, thus compensating for the natural dullness and incompetence of the flatterers. Meanwhile, the state’s critics who demand freedom and stand by their values are aware that they are engaged in a long-lasting battle and are risking their lives for generations to come!

In fact, sycophants are the weakest link in the state’s ruling dynamics. They hypocritically heap intense praise on the security apparatus who sacrifice their lives to defend our nation – but do their utmost to ensure that their youngsters abandon their military duty; just one facet of their deceitful conduct. Sycophantic behavior and false testimony are the most sinful acts in Islam; yet they have become, ironically, a habitual pattern of behavior in our social norms.  

That Egypt needs to be ruled by an Iron-fist is a common argument put forth by the flatterers. It is translated into applying harsh measures to critics and laxity toward lawbreakers – a proposition that reflects the low moral values espoused by flatterers to secure their status. The policy of maximum repression adopted by the current ruling regime might be successful in controlling society; however, it has certainly contributed to an escalation of terrorism activities by political Islamists against the military apparatus.

In my former party, the Egyptian Democratic Front, a few executive party members used to instantly report our internal discussions to the State Security apparatus. In addition totheir immoral conduct and betrayal of their peers, they used to enhance their ratting out by exacerbating our opposing political stands. I argued, at that time, for either offering those ratters a crash course on “minutes-taking” or inviting the State Security apparatus to participate in our meetings to better learn about our viewpoints.

“Cairo is a dirty city” – a painful remark that I occasionally hear from international visitors to our capital. The Egyptian State will never be able to manipulate the perception of millions of diversified tourists who visit Cairo yearly, but we can easily work to bring order to our city and live in a hygienic place. The same applies to other qualities of life such as freedom, dignity and justice; we need to highlight deficiencies in these areas to be able to advance our nation.  

President Al Sisi has a clear desire to be a remarkable leader; he believes that expanding our roads and building new flyovers will make Egypt an advanced nation and that these developments will be credited to his legacy. The president is unaware that the future of our country will be written and judged by the youths of today, who are extremely angry with him due to his policy of demolishing humanity and freedom, compounded by his inability to create decent jobs for youngsters.

Egypt is currently confronting a number of complex internal and external challenges, including an economic slowdown, a civil war on our eastern borders, a potential water shortage due to the filling of Ethiopian GRED and rising unemployment. All of these challenges, and many more, will simply be intensified by our deep polarization, further weakening the state. The sycophants’ deliberate misleading of Egypt concerning these challenges is dragging our nation downward, transforming us into a fragile state.

Advancing an old-fashioned country like Egypt requires honest citizens who have bold ideas and enough courage to implement their ideas. These qualities are found more among knowledgeable citizens and critics of the state who are already sacrificing for their country; large numbers of them are spending their best years in prison simply for having voiced their opinions. Modernizing Egypt will require our president to unite our nation, appointing well-educated citizens to key positions and completely discarding state sycophants.

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Israel-China Relations: Staring Into the Abyss of US-Chinese Decoupling

Dr. James M. Dorsey

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Israel knew the drill even before US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo boarded his flight to Tel Aviv earlier this month four days after the death of his father. It was Mr. Pompeo’s first and only overseas trip since March.

Echoing a US warning two decades ago that Israeli dealings with China jeopardized the country’s relationship with the United States, Mr. Pompeo’s trip solidified Israel’s position at the cusp of the widening US-Chinese divide.

Two decades ago the issue was the potential sale to China of Israeli Phalcon airborne warning and control systems (AWACS). Israel backed out of the deal after the US threatened withdrawal of American support for the Jewish state.

This month the immediate issue was a Chinese bid for construction of the world’s largest desalination plant and on the horizon a larger US-Chinese battle for a dominating presence in Eastern Mediterranean ports.

Within days of his visit, Mr. Pompeo scored a China-related success even if the main focus of his talks with Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu was believed to be Iran and Israeli plans to annex portions of the West Bank, occupied by Israel since 1967.

Israel signalled that it had heard the secretary’s message by awarding the contract for the Sorek-2 desalination plant to an Israeli rather than a Chinese company.

The tender, however, is only the tip of the iceberg.

China’s interest in Israel is strategic given the fact that the Jewish state is one of the world’s foremost commercial, food and security technology powerhouses and one of the few foreign countries to command significant grassroots support in the United States.

If there is one thing Israel cannot afford, it is a rupture in its bonds to the United States. That is no truer than at a time in which the United States is the only power supportive of Israeli annexation plans on the West Bank.

The question is whether Israel can develop a formula that convinces the United States that US interests will delineate Israeli dealings with China and reassure China that it can still benefit from Israeli assets within those boundaries.

“Right now, without taking the right steps, we are looking at being put in the situation in which the US is telling us we need to cut or limit our relations with China. The problem is that Israel wants freedom of relations with China but is not showing it really understands US concerns. Sorek-2 was a good result. It shows the Americans we get it.” said Carice Witte, executive director of Sino-Israel Global Network and Academic Leadership (SIGNAL) that seeks to advance Israeli-Chinese relations.

Analysts, including Ms. Witte, believe that there is a silver lining in Israel’s refusal to award the desalination plant to a Chinese company that would allow it to steer a middle course between the United States and China.

“China understands that by giving the Americans this win, China-Israel relations can continue. It gives them breathing room,” Ms. Witte said in an interview.

It will, however, be up to Israel to develop criteria and policies that accommodate the United States and make clear to China what Israel can and cannot do.

“In order for Israel to have what it wants… it’s going to need to show the Americans that it takes Washington’s strategic perceptions into consideration and not only that, that it’s two steps ahead on strategic thinking with respect to China.  The question is how.” Ms. Witte said.

Ports and technology are likely to be focal points.

China is set to next year takeover the management of Haifa port where it has already built its own pier and is constructing a new port in Ashdod.

One way of attempting to address US concerns would be to include technology companies in the purview of a still relatively toothless board created under US pressure in the wake of the Haifa deal to review foreign investment in Israel. It would build in a safeguard against giving China access to dual civilian-military use technology.

That, however, may not be enough to shield Israel against increased US pressure to reduce Chinese involvement in Israeli ports.

“The parallels between the desalination plant and the port are just too close to ignore. We can’t have another infrastructure divide,” Ms. Witte said.

The two Israeli ports will add to what is becoming a Chinese string of pearls in the Eastern Mediterranean.

China already manages the Greek port of Piraeus.

China Harbour Engineering Company Ltd (CHEC) is looking at upgrading Lebanon’s deep seaport of Tripoli to allow it to accommodate larger vessels.

Qingdao Haixi Heavy-Duty Machinery Co. has sold Tripoli port two 28-storey container cranes capable of lifting and transporting more than 700 containers a day, while a container vessel belonging to Chinese state-owned shipping company COSCO docked in Tripoli in December 2018, inaugurating a new maritime route between China and the Mediterranean.

Major Chinese construction companies are also looking at building a railroad that would connect Beirut and Tripoli in Lebanon to Homs and Aleppo in Syria.  China has further suggested that Tripoli could become a special economic zone within the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and serve as an important trans-shipment point between the People’s Republic and Europe.  

BRI is a massive infrastructure, telecommunications and energy-driven effort to connect the Eurasian landmass to China.

Potential Chinese involvement in reconstruction of post-war Syria would likely give it access to the ports of Latakia and Tartous.

Taken together, China is looking at dominating the Eastern Mediterranean with six ports in four countries, Israel, Greece, Lebanon, and Syria that would create an alternative to the Suez Canal.

All that is missing are Turkish, Cypriot and Egyptian ports.

The Chinese build- up threatens to complicate US and NATO’s ability to manoeuvre in the region.

The Trump administration has already warned Israel that Chinese involvement in Haifa could jeopardize continued use of the port by the US fifth fleet.

“The writing is on the wall. Israel needs to carve out a degree of wiggle room. That however will only come at a price. There is little doubt that Haifa will move into the firing line,” said a long-time observer of Israeli-Chinese relations.

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Will Gulf States Learn From Their Success in Handling the Pandemic?

Dr. James M. Dorsey

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The economic fallout of the coronavirus pandemic for Gulf states has done far more than play havoc with their revenue base and fiscal household. It has propelled massive structural change to the top of their agenda in ways that economic diversification plans had not accounted for.

Leave aside whether Gulf states can continue to focus on high-profile, attention-grabbing projects like Neom, Saudi Arabia’s $500 billion USD 21st century futuristic city on the Red Sea.

Gulf rulers’ to do list, if they want to get things right, is long and expensive without the burden of trophy projects. It involves economic as well as social and ultimately political change.

Transparency and accurate and detailed public reporting go to the core of these changes.

They also are key to decisions by investors, economists, and credit rating companies at a time when Gulf states’ economic outlook is in question. Many complain that delays in GDP reporting and lack of easy access to statistics complicates their decision-making.

Nonetheless, if there is one thing autocratic Gulf governments have going for themselves, beyond substantial financial reserves, it is public confidence in the way they handled the pandemic, despite the fact that they failed to initially recognize crowded living circumstances of migrant workers as a super spreader.

Most governments acted early and decisively with lockdowns and curfews, testing, border closures, repatriation of nationals abroad, and, in Saudi Arabia, suspension of pilgrimages.

To be sure, Gulf countries, and particularly Saudi Arabia that receives millions of Muslim pilgrims from across the globe each year, have a long-standing history of dealing with epidemics. Like Singapore, South Korea, and Taiwan, they were better prepared than Western nations.

History persuaded the kingdom to ban the umrah, the lesser Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca, in late February, days before the first case of a Covid-19 infection emerged on Saudi soil.

Beyond public health concerns, Saudi Arabia had an additional reason to get the pandemic right. It offered the kingdom not only an opportunity to globally polish its image, badly tarnished by human rights abuses, power grabs, and the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, but also to retain religious influence despite the interruption in the flow of pilgrims to the kingdom.

“Saudi Arabia is still a reference for many Muslim communities around the world,” said Yasmine Farouk, a scholar of Saudi Arabia at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

It also allowed Saudi Arabia to set the record straight following criticism of its handling of the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) in 2012 when the kingdom became the epidemic’s epicenter and in 2009 when it was hit by the H1N1 virus.

Saudi Arabia is also blamed for contributing to a public health catastrophe in Yemen with its frequent indiscriminate bombings.

A country in ruins as a result of the military intervention, Yemen has grappled for the past four years with a cholera epidemic on the kingdom’s borders.

Trust in Gulf states’ handling of the current pandemic was bolstered by degrees of transparency on the development of the disease in daily updates in the number of casualties and fatalities.

It was further boosted by a speech by King Salman as soon as the pandemic hit the kingdom in which he announced a raft of measures to counter the disease and support the economy as well as assurances by agriculture minister Abdulrahman al-Fadli that the crisis would not affect food supplies.

Ms. Farouk suggested that government instructions during the pandemic were followed because of “trust in the government, the expertise and the experience of the government [and] trust in the religious establishment, which actually was following the technical decisions of the government.”

To be sure, Ms. Farouk acknowledged, the regime’s coercive nature gave the public little choice.

The limits of government transparency were evident in the fact that authorities were less forthcoming with details of public spending on the pandemic and insight into available medical equipment like ventilators and other supplies such as testing kits.

Some Gulf states have started publishing the daily and total number of swabs but have yet to clarify whether these figures include multiple swabbings of the same person.

“It is likely that publics in the Middle East will look back at who was it that gave them reliable information, who was it who was there for them,” said political scientist Nathan Brown.

The question is whether governments will conclude that transparency will be needed to maintain public confidence as they are forced to rewrite social contracts that were rooted in concepts of a cradle-to-grave welfare state but will have to involve greater burden sharing.

Gulf governments have so far said little about burden sharing being allocated equitably across social classes nor has there been transparency on what drives investment decisions by sovereign wealth funds in a time of crisis and changing economic outlook.

Speaking to the Financial Times, a Gulf banker warned that the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman “needs to be careful what he spends on . . . Joe Public will be watching.”

Headed by Prince Mohammed, the kingdom’s sovereign wealth fund has gone on a $7.7 billion USD shopping spree buying stakes in major Western blue chips, including four oil majors: Boeing, Citigroup, Disney, and Facebook. The Public Investment Fund is also funding a bid for English soccer club Newcastle United.

The banker suggested that Saudi nationals would not appreciate “millionaire footballer salaries being paid for by VAT (value added tax) on groceries.” He was referring to this month’s hiking of sales taxes in the kingdom from five to 15 percent.

The fragility and fickleness of public trust was on display for the world to see in Britain’s uproar about Dominic Cummings, a close aide to Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who violated lockdown instructions for personal reasons. Mr. Johnson is struggling to fight off demands for Mr Cummings’ dismissal.

To be sure, senior government officials and business executives in the Gulf have cautioned of hard times to come.

A recent Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry survey of CEOs predicted that 70 percent of the United Arab Emirates’ companies would go out of business in the next six months, including half of its restaurants and hotels and three-quarters of its travel and tourism companies.

Saudi Finance Minister Mohammed Al-Jadaan warned earlier this month that the kingdom would need to take “painful” measures and look for deep spending cuts as a result of the collapse of oil prices and significantly reduced demand for oil.

Aware of sensitivities, Mr. Al-Jadaan stressed that “as long as we do not touch the basic needs of the people, all options are open.”

There was little transparency in Mr. Al-Jadaan’s statements on what the impact would be on employment-seeking Saudi nationals in a labor market where fewer migrant workers would be available for jobs that Saudis have long been unwilling to accept.

It was a missed opportunity considering the 286 percent increase in the number of Saudis flocking to work for delivery services.

The increase was fueled by an offer by Hadaf, the Saudi Human Resources Development Fund, to pay drivers $800 USD a month, as well as a newly-found embrace of volunteerism across the Gulf.

The surge offered authorities building blocks to frame expectations at a time when the kingdom’s official unemployment rate of 12 percent is likely to rise.

It suggested a public acknowledgement of the fact that well-paying, cushy government positions may no longer be as available as they were in the past as well as the fact that lesser jobs are no less honorable forms of employment.

That may be the silver lining as Gulf states feel the pressure to reinvent themselves in a world emerging from a pandemic that potentially will redraw social, economic, and political maps.

Author’s note: This story was first published in Inside Arabia

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