And I’m back to the blog after a short break, much enjoyed.
The big issue of late – dominating the GCC publicity machine, and in the country at large – is the continued and rapidly escalating war between Hamas and Israel in the Gaza strip.
Hamas keeps sending rockets into Israel, Israel responds with aerial bombardment and border closures, Hamas sends more rockets, … (repeat endlessly). All the signs now are that Israel is bombing the crap out of north Gaza in preparation for a ground attack with troops and tanks. Meanwhile, Hamas are hunkered down in their bunkers, relatively safe from most of the bombing, and busy trying to beef up their stockpiles of ammunition and heavy armaments ahead of the anticipated ground invasion, with materiel smuggled through their tunnels connecting Gaza and Egypt, tunnels which Israel keeps trying to bomb too.
So, the GCC naturally discussed the Israel/Gaza issue and issued their totally weak communiqué, packed full of 'deep concern', lofty ‘calls’ and ‘urges’, while lacking any actual unilateral action. Expect more of the same from the Arab League.
Photo: GCC Leaders agreeing to give Israel a very big telling off, and to ask it to please stand in the naughty corner (but only if that wouldn't be too much trouble).
Wow, the Israelis must be quaking in their boots after this missive…
Gulf leaders ask Israel to end Gaza massacre
By Sunil K. Vaidya, Bureau Chief
Published: December 30, 2008, 23:46
Muscat: Leader of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) strongly condemned the barbaric Israeli aggression on the Palestinian people in Gaza and held Israel responsible for taking the situation to a dangerous level.
In the final communique of the 29th GCC Summit concluded in Muscat yesterday, the council voiced deep concern over the flagrant Israeli offensive, which led to a large number of deaths and injuries, destruction of properties and terrorising civilians with no consideration for ethics, humanity or international legitimacy resolutions.
The council called on Israel to stop its brutal aggression against the unarmed Palestinian people and end the unfair siege imposed on all Palestinian territories, including Gaza.
It urged the international community to take immediate action to stop massacres and tyrannical practices by the Israeli military machinery. The council also called on the international community to provide the necessary protection for the Palestinian people who endure all forms of atrocities and oppression due to Israel's stubborn policies and inhuman practices.
The council called on all Palestinian factions to unite their ranks, as national unity is the shield and the sole means to protect the Palestinian people and regain their legitimate rights, including the establishment of an independent state with (occupied) Jerusalem as its capital.
The GCC leaders held Israel responsible for the deterioration of the peace process due to its tight siege on the Palestinians, especially in Gaza, confiscation of lands and construction of colonies, the building of apartheid wall and its ongoing excavations under the Al Aqsa mosque.
The GCC also called on the international community to provide necessary protection for the Palestinian people.
What a joke.
The problem is that the GCC States only ever give lip-service to their declared total support for the Palestinians. Are they providing significant funding to Fatah or Hamas or the Palestinian authority? No, and certainly not Hamas. Perhaps they could provide easy access to the safe GCC countries so that lots of ordinary Palestinians could live here and work? Er, No.
Are they providing military support to the Palestinians? Or sending their Airforces and Navies to provide humanitarian aid? No, of course not!
Do they back these statements up with boycotts, sanctions, or other actual actions with teeth, rather than just talk and posturing? No. Are they perhaps taking action to pressure Egypt to provide support for Gaza? No. Are they pressuring the USA to act more strongly? No.
Just a telling-off (aka ‘strong condemnation’) to Israel and more whining to the UN Security Council. Sure, they allow their tightly controlled press to bitch about Israel/USA, and also allow (limited) street protests in support of Gaza. Oh, and the King of Bahrain cancelled his country’s New Year celebrations in support of the Palestinians. Wow, that’ll really make them feel better in Gaza with the bombs falling.
Why such hypocrisy?
Because it is in the best interests of the Gulf States that chaos reigns in Israel/Palestine. It keeps the GCC populace focused on the issue of Israel/Palestine, instead of having the time and energy to address more difficult and uncomfortable domestic issues (such as unemployment, how to meld increased democratic representation and secularism with Islam, improving the distribution of wealth and opportunity, women’s rights, unionisation, expatriate labour, etc etc etc).
While everyone hates to see bombings with civilians being killed and injured, to be frank the last thing the GCC leaders would like to see is a strong Hamas and/or Hezbollah. Hamas and Hezbollah are Islamofascists, dominated by theological ideologues rather than pragmatists. Hamas actively opposes the legitimacy of the GCC’s set of monarchs to rule their countries, and both Hamas and Hezbollah are effectively supported by Iran with money, arms and training. And remember that the brotherly state of Iran is the real enemy of the GCC - with their continued support for Shia extremists, counter claims on islands claimed by the UAE, counter-productive sabre rattling with the Americans and Israelis, periodic threats to blockade the strait of Hormuz, a regime representative of a successful Islamic revolution over a ruling Monarch, etc etc.
This general revulsion of most Arab countries to Hamas and what it stands for is why Egypt are so willing to provide the anvil against which Israel pounds Hamas in Gaza. Hamas are effectively an offshoot of the hated and illegal Muslim Brotherhood, and the last thing the rulers of Egypt (or the GCC) would do is support such an outfit. Thus, if you read the communique from the GCC you'll find lots of condemnation of Israel, but no support for Hamas. In fact, Hamas are not refered to at all except as a 'faction' who are urged to get back in line with Fatah and Abbas. LOL.
One should note that all GCC members continue to host numerous and significant American military bases:
Oman: US Airforce use RAFO bases in Thumrait, Masna’ah and Masirah, have radar and intelligence gathering stations in Musandam, plus a large strategic War Reserve Materiel (WRM) storage facility in Seeb,
Qatar:Home of the regional US Central Command base, plus a big US Airforce base at Al Udeid,
Bahrain: US 5th Fleet HQ, plus Shaikh Isa Airbase,
Kuwait: Ali Al Salem and Ahmed Al Jaber Airbases, plus 2 big US Army bases,
and of course,
Saudi: Eskan Village Airbase and several other bases.
Oh, and Jan 1st 2009 finally marks the start of the Oman/USA Free Trade agreement. And Oman certainly is not going to do anything to either impact that agreement, nor to get off on the wrong foot with the new US Administration.
Hence, a very strongly worded telling off for the Zionist Fascists, and otherwise carry on with business as usual chaps!
I expect an especially incisive Times of Oman 'Viewpoint' opinion piece from Essa tomorrow that will say how totally and unbelievably fantastic the GCC Conference was, how much great stuff was achieved (more from me on that issue tomorrow), and how evil the Israeli/US actions in Gaza are. I'll be amazed if he mentions Hamas or their rockets though...
Happy New Year everyone. Nothing's changed.
So, that’s alright then.