Saturday, January 3, 2009

Happy New Year, and GCC Conference tells off Israel

OK – it’s a new year. People are generally back at work today, and life in the Sultanate proceeds to return to normal now the AGCC conference is over and we have our roads, coast, and hotels (and their associated bars and restaurants!!) back. The weather is, if anything, a little on the cool side, and that bloody red tide is still stopping decent swimming in the sea. If this period of red tide (must be 2 months now?) is going to be the norm, Oman can forget about coastal resort tourism as a growth business!

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.


  1. Saudi hates Hamas… while Qatar supports the movement vociferously. The GCC summit for leaders was a divided house …most nations disagreeing with each other on Israel-Palestine issue…like you mentioned they actually said nothing tough on Gaza attacks…Arab media from non-GCC nations was very pissed off with the weak resolution it is said.

  2. A very insightful post on local politics.

    Other than the islamofascist comment, I second that the main issue for the hypocrisy is that Hamas is Shia, while most of the GCC upper/royal class are Sunni: precisely the reason the House of Saud hate Hamas.

    Sheikh Mohammed ordered the New Year's celebrations in Dubai to be canceled too. The always pragmatic Abu Dhabi hosted Shakira.

    I would like to hear a little more on the US-Oman FTA. Other than giving us (yanks) the chance to dump goods onto the Omani market, what other implications will it have? Will Bank Muscat report my income to the IRS upon request?

  3. Do you think that a rise in the oil price whenever Israel and Palestine have a stoush might have entered the argument at all?

  4. Boxster,
    If you disagree with the Islamofacist comment, why don't you use your extensive knowledge of the Arab world to explain what is wrong with it? Oh, by the way, Hamas is not Shia. Harakat al-Muqawama al-Islamiyya - HAMAS - which also means enthusiasm, is a Sunni group. The Palestinians are predominantly Sunni. And, as you say, the Sauds are Sunni. So, now why, precisely, do the Sauds hate HAMAS? The Sunni-Shia thing doesn't work for everything.

    Hizb Allah, the Party of God, in Lebanon is a Shia movement. The Iranians support Hizb Allah, Shia extremists. They also support Hamas, Sunni extremists. They're equal opportunity extremist supporters. Why? They have an interest in instability in the region. They have an interest in encouraging Islamic revolutionary zeal. Hmmm. So, now why would the House of Saud have a problem with that? Not because Hamas is Sunni...

    So, try again with your comment and do try to explain what is wrong with the Islamofacist term. That should be interesting. I don't use Islamofacist, solely because it is negatively associated with Bush, but I'd like to see your take on the issue.

  5. Hi Gang- One subject that I will never discuss in Oman is the Palestinian-Israeli morass. If there is ever a lose: lose/ no-win: no-win situation, this is it. To analyze and understand the current situation there is like trying to understand `Chaos’-it is possible under certain limited conditions, but only for a brief instant in time. Be careful that we don’t begin sounding like Shiekh Essa and start doing his job for him- telling a tale…”full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.” WOW!, I feel so intellectual when I quote Sheikh Spear (but I don’t know if he was Shia or Sunni). But really, I shouldn’t joke, real people are dying in Gaza and Israel, innocent people. And, what the Qur'an and Hadith do spell out clearly is that human life is sacred and that spilling the blood of innocent people is a major sin and a major crime, whether you are Jewish or Muslim. The tragedy is (I believe) there is NO solution. That why I don’t discuss it, but I do cry inside my heart. Abd

  6. Leo - thank you for the correction; I did indeed over-generalize.

    I too have a bitter taste for the term "islamofascism" for the same exact reason as you do.

    Hamas does not seek a military dictatorship, nationalist expansionism, corporatism, bureaucracy - some of the fundamental elements of fascism by any definition.

    With a grass-roots (or rather guerilla) resistance methodologies, together with humanitarian and populist welfare activities (hospitals, refugee camps, libraries, etc.) the eternal revolutionaries that are Hamas should technically be referred to as islamo-socialists. Yet even this term is not accurate. From the point of view of political science, islamic fundamentalism is in a class of its own.

    Any possible success by the islamo-revolutionaries could spillover and inspire the neighboring "wronged and oppressed". Hence the regional monarchies could see the end of their reign at the hands of the angry proletariat, as did, for example, the monarchy in Imperial Russia.

  7. Boxster
    military dictatorship, nationalist expansionism, corporatism, bureaucracy - some of the fundamental elements of fascism by any definition.

    Rule of law under Quran = military dictatorship
    Regional Caliphate = nationalist expansionism
    State control = bureaucracy

    Perhaps we can widen the definition. Coercion and repression, nanny state, expansionism, nationalism, state controlled and sponsored religion, abnormal military spending, sabre rattling, sponsoring of regional instability and proxy wars, stifling of press, imposition of acceptable culture, revisionist historical interpretation, = Fascist


    Its unfortunate the idiotic Bush travesty used the word so successfully, because I find it sooooooo appropriate.

    Glad you didn't come after me!

    Understand. But I'm not talking about the mess so much as the GCC political effects. But one should be able to voice a reasoned opinion. Especially in Oman. I'll be amazed and shocked if HM ever thinks that intelligent, respectful debate; and opinion offered with good heart and a sharp observation of verifiable facts, is a thing any Omani should feel the need to shrink from, just because of fear of him or his Government.

    And, IMHO, you don't need an old book to tell you that killing women and children is a bad thing to know that its a bad thing.

  8. UD,
    Sorry for the vitriol. A major pet peeve is criticizing something without saying why. Like saying "so-called" without saying why the term is "so-called." But, I do like that Boxster came up with a concrete criticism which allows for a debate of the issue...

  9. UD - let me respectfully disagree. I feel your re-interpretation is more applicable towards Al Qaeda than Hamas.

    Hamas participate in democratic elections; they want the Islamic Republic only in the lands of Palestine; they do not hate the Jews or Christians but the state of Israel.

    Just those points make them less dictatorial, expansionist and nationalist.

    Iran - yes, Israel - yes; even the USA more so than Hamas.

  10. Talking about fascism: your friend Essa has provided a perfect example today in his Viewpoint...

  11. Speaking of today's Viewpoint, I could not believe what I read. I sat at the office in utter shock to what can only be described as tactic approval to Hitler's mass genocide of the European Jews by the editor of a "leading" national newspaper.
    Just when I thought it could not get worse.

    Essa should be ashamed of himself.

  12. What ever may be the case war is not the solution for any thing. All kings,sulatans presidents to be discussed and sought some suitable solution. We pray the god to stop all wars at the earliest.


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