x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 17 January 2018

Arab expenditures for weapons, not science

Israel outperforms the Arab world in scientific research, as Arab states spend 53 times more on armaments than they devote for science.,

In a comment article for the Bahraini newspaper Al Wasat, Obeidli al Obeidli underscored the fact that Israel outperforms the Arab world in scientific research. According to papers presented on the academic situation in the Arab world, 35 per cent of Arab academics live in the diaspora, and two thirds of those have no plans to return. Quoting Idriss Laghrini, a Moroccan thinker, al Obeidli says that Arab countries lost the opportunity to take advantage of its academic diaspora. He accused a dilapidated bureaucracy for not offering an environment conducive to research and innovation.

Saeed Hanna, a Syrian writer quoted by al Obeidly, highlighted some statistics. Israel in 2004 spent 4.7 per cent of its GNP on research and development, and about 30 per cent of its public budget went for higher education. This is aided by extra funds from the private sector, which stands as the major sponsor of research. In Arab countries, the biggest share of the budget goes to cover salaries, allowances and other marginal expenses. The private sector is also less active in funding. Ironically, the Arab states spend seven per cent of their GNP on armaments, or 53 times more than they devote for science.

In an opinion piece for the Jordanian newspaper Addustoor, Orayb al Rantawi reported on a survey conducted recently by the Norwegian think-tank Fafo about the main political trends among Palestinians. The poll results indicated that the majority of Palestinians still look at the present Palestinian Authority as reliable leadership, yet 30 per cent do not trust either of the main factions.

Fafo's report predicted that if elections were to be conducted now, Fatah would possibly win, although almost half the population is still undecided about Hamas and Fatah. The poll results praised both the economic peace project led by Salam Fayyad's government and the security forces being deployed in the West Bank. The Hamas security apparatus is less popular among the population. An overwhelming majority, 89 per cent, would like legislative elections to be held as soon as possible, provided that they cover both the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, with the participation of Hamas.

About 70 per cent advocated civil resistance against the occupation. "I think this tendency has increased since the assault on the Freedom Flotilla, which has provoked wide international condemnation against Israel." A similar figure also supports continuation of negotiations with Israel on condition that the latter freezes expansion of settlements.

In a comment piece for the Kuwaiti newspaper Al Jareeda, Salah al Qallab reported that Jordan is still enduring an economic crisis caused by the world financial meltdown. He wrote that Jordan, under economic pressure, raised prices of some commodities, including fuel, and such a trend is likely to continue. He called on rich Arab countries "to take into consideration that this region is one extended security area, and that poverty begets terrorism. The experience of Somalia, Iraq and Afghanistan is a testimony to this." Poverty attracts "political" money that goes to fund terrorist operations, which affects the ability of a state to tightly control its borders. It is generally known that the Houthis in Yemen and before them al Qa'eda could have been controlled before they reached such a terrifying size if the target countries had been swiftly pulled out from the economic quagmire.

The Houthis could never empower their movement without the "terrorist money" they received from abroad. Similarly, al Qa'eda would not prosper in the region if the economic situation of many countries were immediately addressed and improved. Europe should set an example for all. The EU's consolidated effort to help Greece through its financial plight was motivated by a conscious desire to stop the spread of the crisis into Europe.

"Has Israel really eased the blockade on Gaza Strip?" asked Mazen Hammad in an opinion piece for the Qatari newspaper Al Watan. From what has been seen, Israel has eased some restrictions on the security cordon on land routes, but still tightly controls the sea route. The new list of goods Israel agreed to enter the Strip was very limited: food, toys, stationery, kitchenware, towels and bedding. But necessary construction materials for rebuilding Gaza were denied entry. This contradicts the agreement said to have been concluded with the Quartet envoy Tony Blair.

Again, Israel has not met its obligations. It is ironic to know that the press release issued by the Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office differs in content. While its English version, intended for international media, stated a decision for easing the embargo, the other in Hebrew makes no mention of such a resolution. Thus, the news reported by international media about a decision by Israel to loosen the blockade is just a big lie as the cabinet did not vote on any specific action. "There was only a declaration of intent."

* Digest compiled by Mostapha El Mouloudi @Email:melmouloudi@thenational.ae