x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

The Mediterranean: site of culture and war

In a comment piece carried by the Lebanese daily Al Safeer, Satea Nourredine wrote that the Mediterranean Sea still conveys conquerors and seafarers and the Levant still attracts foreign powers.

In a comment piece carried by the Lebanese daily Al Safeer, Satea Nourredine wrote that the Mediterranean Sea still conveys conquerors and seafarers and the Levant still attracts foreign powers.  A huge US navy fleet off the Palestinian  coast is currently  undertaking  military exercises  alongside its Israeli counterpart, while the French ship La Meuse has docked in Beirut under the framework of a Mediterranean cultural project, "Ulysse 2009". The project was initiated by France to encourage a cultural exchange between the two shores of the Mediterranean.

The Americans choose to come with warships to the shores that demarcate the borders between two civilisations, cultures and religions. They came as if to confirm that they not only have the power to convince the Arabs that they have lost the war, but also to force them to assimilate their ideas and buy their products. In contrast, French brought in a cultural project led by thinkers, French and Arabs, to revive a shared civilisation and history.  The Mediterranean has always been a site of wars throughout history. Those scores of French and Arab writers carried by La Meuse - a ship used to carry soldiers and munitions - are unlikely to erase the long history of conflict, though they may mark a contrast with the Americans who have come to display their military power at a stone's throw.

"Conferences on investment in Iraq has become a commonplace headline on the business pages of the press. The most recent one was held in Washington this week and another is scheduled in November in Berlin," wrote Zuhayr al Dujayli in an opinion piece in the Kuwaiti newspaper Al Qabas. Despite the efforts of Iraqi senior officials who have  toured the capitals of donor countries, few results have been achieved and foreign investments have not appeared yet.

"Organising conferences and launching investment initiatives are good for an economy devastated by war and hampered by occupation and sectarian conflict, yet these efforts should be focused to yield concrete results. Iraq badly needs foreign investments as its 2010 budget shows a deficit of 20 per cent, while 80 per cent would go to pay salaries of public employees." Moreover, the crisis over oil exploitation rights and investment between Kurdistan and the Iraqi central government, together with a lack of funds, dramatically impede Iraq from reaching its production target of 6 million barrel a day to increase its revenues. So far, diplomacy has proved inefficient in convincing stakeholders worldwide to come to invest. Iraq needs therefore to achieve political stability and provide a more conducive atmosphere to investment by enforcing its laws. 

The London-based newspaper Al Quds al Arabi criticised in its editorial Mark Thomson, the BBC director general, for allowing Nick Griffin, leader of the British National Party (BNP), to appear on Question Time.   "The BBC's argument was that the BNP had achieved noticeable popularity among British society - two seats in the European parliament and several others on local councils - and therefore it had a duty to give Mr Griffin the right to appear on its popular political panel. 

"We do not disagree on freedom of expression per se, but it  should serve the unity of society. Griffin just did the opposite. He intentionally abused Muslims when he said Islam is not compatible with the basic tenets of British society and that Muslims in the UK should understand that Britain should remain British and Christian. "Mr Thomson showed bias when he refused to air an appeal to aid Gaza on the BBC network, while he accepted to pass on the racist message of Griffin. The BBC was wrong in hosting Mr Griffin as it gave him a podium on par with members of the cabinet. "The BBC's decision was absolutely faulty. It will lead to division within British society by encouraging right-wing parties to spread feelings of Islamophobia, which will incite Islamist extremism in turn."

Ahmed Amrabi, in an opinion piece featured in the UAE daily Al Bayan, wrote that the US position towards Sudan crisis is twofold. On the one hand, there is a group of officials, led by Scott Gration, President Barack Obama's envoy for Sudan, who offer incentives to different Sudanese factions. On the other hand, another group, represented by Susan Rice, the US ambassador to the United Nations, threatens to impose sanctions on the Sudanese. Described as "carrot and stick" approach, this US policy  is aimed at imposing as a fait accompli that the Sudanese government had been involved in genocide in Darfur province.

"To consider that the violence that erupted in Darfur was an act of genocide is engulfed with ambiguity, especially since Mr Gration himself, after field inquiries and multiple visits to the region, assured the international community that no systematic massive killings were undertaken there. Moreover, the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague dropped this charge from the indictment forwarded by the ICC prosecutor general Luis Ocampo."

US officials are steadily forcing the Sudanese government to take action to correct the situation in Darfur and change its policy there. * Digest compiled by Mostapha Elmouloudi @Email:melmouloudi@thenational.ae