Friday, October 26, 2007

UAE and Israel

It has been interesting to note the absence of comment in the UAE press (in English and what I have been able to see of the Arabic titles) about the US's Annapolis peace conference in November, other than the usual stuff about the need for a serious conference, not a US sponsored photo op. In the western and Arab media several candidates for participation in the peace conference have been proffered. Egypt and Jordan already have formal peace deals with Israel of course, and major financial subventions from the US as well as a strategic alignment. The latest from Cairo is that they will be there. Jordan maintains full level diplomatic representation with Israel and thus can hardly be expected to be absent. Morocco and Qatar have been suggested, two countries that have low level relations with Israel, as does Oman that gets mentioned less often as a possible attendee. Saudi blows hot and cold, but can hardly be expected to blow out the US as long as Abbas is there - and he has nowhere else to go. Syria, with more important business to attend to in Lebanon, has been begrudgingly given an indirect US invite with Saudi, and no doubt UAE, encouragement, but seems unlikely to bite. Bahrain has stepped up de facto normalisation in recent weeks. This more or less leaves the UAE. It is a member of the so-called Arab Quartet together with Egypt, Saudi and Jordan, which meets periodically with Condi to express concerns on the peace process and swap intel stories. While not exactly a normalisation with Israel vehicle, the AQ was encouraged by the Americans and the Saudis as the way to bring major Arab players half way to the table with Israel in order to encourage Israeli movement in their direction too. This was about Palestine but also about containing the common enemy Iran. The partial reaching out to Israel fitted with the Saudi Peace Plan under which Riyadh offered Israel a warm peace in exchange for Palestine, more or less lock stock and barrel on 1967 lines. While the virtual flirting continues in the run up to Annapolis, Condi is trying to get the Israelis and Palestinians (with Arab connivance) to agree an outline that would nail down some principles for a final status deal and offer some kind of timetable (don't say "roadmap") for getting there. This is pleasing the Saudis, but what does the UAE government think? Is there an alignment of view between the key players (player?) in Abu Dhabi and the singular leadership in Dubai? Of this we hear nothing, nada, zilch, nil, sifr, walla ish. This from a country that has built homes in Gaza, discussed buying the old settlements there, and over the longer term held credibility among Palestinians for its "steadfast" position over the historic Question. My guess is they can't fail to come to the Annapolis ball. They were at Madrid after all, but they are they not yet being named as possible attendees at this multilateral bash. What has been said to the roving "peaceniks" Condi and Blair in Abu Dhabi to suggest a coolness about Annapolis that is greater than their Arab brethren? Could it be that the long standing and still close relationship with the largely ostracised Syria is encouraging caution by the UAE?

Sunday, October 14, 2007

"Extremists" allegedly threaten Bryan Adams

It now appears that the Jericho event has been cancelled due to threats from "extremists". However this will not prevent Mr Adams performing at the Tel Aviv event. Sad that the organisers/"artists" felt so intimidated by threats when security dangers are a daily reality on the ground for the locals. According to organisers "One Voice", the event is under threat from Palestinian "extremists", but this organisation is currently sparing most of their factional invective for rivals in the peace camp who have apparently been accusing them of petitioning for a sell-out of the refugee cause.

I must say I didn't think that Palestinian "militants" would have been responsible for the threat to the event in Jericho, given that the performers would probably be seen as "useful idiots", to quote a dead Russian's dictum. I thought in fact that the Rabin killers may have gotten their way in Jericho, and would then be free to threaten the event in Tel Aviv. One Voice seem to be implying that "hardline" (often western) peaceniks have stirred up some dangerous local Palestinian hostility to the Jericho gig. But what do the organisers of the event think would have happened in Jericho? Palestinians suicide bombing fellow Palestinians attending a music event?

Monday, October 8, 2007

Involuntary martyrdom needed

"Don’t tell me it's not worth fighting for, don’t tell me it's not worth dying for....."

For once I feel that an Israeli Defence Force targeted assassination would be a gift to humanity. This is one Canadian nobody, repeat nobody, needs


"Bryan Adams to sing for peace"
Oct 07, 2007 04:32 PM
by Dalia Nammari

RAMALLAH, West Bank – Canadian rocker Bryan Adams will headline concerts for peace in the West Bank and Israel later this month, with performances relayed by satellite to simultaneous events in London, Ottawa and Washington, organizers said today.

Adams, 47, had a string of multi-platinum albums during the 1980s and mid-1990s and was nominated for an Academy Award for ``Everything I Do,"
his theme for the 1991 Kevin Kostner film Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves.

The New York-based One Voice peace movement said the concerts are aimed at bolstering its campaign to collect one million signatures from ordinary Israelis and Palestinians demanding that their leaders finalize an agreement on a Palestinian state living at peace with Israel.

The head of One Voice's Ramallah office, Fathi Darwish, said Adams would launch the West Bank event at a football stadium in the ancient town of Jericho, then head to Tel Aviv to perform in the second half of the three-hour show there.

The two venues are about 90 minutes apart by road, though Israeli army roadblocks can make the trip significantly longer. Darwish said Adams might travel by helicopter.

Other artists booked to appear on the Jericho stage are Iraqi guitarist Ilham Al Madfai, Israeli Arab Hip-Hop outfit DAM and Palestinian singers and dancers.

"Our goal is to send a message to the world, that the Palestinian people love life, and hope for life and liberation," Darwish said.

In Tel Aviv, Mashina, Hadag Nachash, Ehud Banai and other rock and pop acts are to perform.

Both events will feature addresses by officials and local peace activists. Hollywood celebrities were expected to send messages by videolink, the organizers said.

One Voice's Hollywood supporters include Brad Pitt, Jennifer Aniston, Rhea Perlman, Danny de Vito and Jason Alexander.

One Voice said last month it so far had just over half a million signatories to its initiative – split about equally between Israelis and Palestinians – and was aiming to reach the one million target by the end of the year.

Entry to the Oct. 18 events will be free, but concertgoers must sign the One Voice petition to gain entrance, the movement's website said.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

A Warning to All You Husbands Out There

I found this most amusing, especially as my wife has an obsession with Saudi Channel 2 (English language; religiously-based programming)....not for nothing do some clerics call it Sunduq al-Sheitan (The Devil's Box)

Saudi Arabia: “Judge turns down divorce request for [wife] alone with the television”

On September 29, the Saudi Shams newspaper carried the following report by Ibtissam Al-Qahtani: “A judge in a tribunal in Riyadh turned down the request of a Saudi citizen who asked that his divorce be settled under the pretext that his wife was alone with men while watching a program on a satellite channel. The judge considered it was illogical to hold the wife accountable for that and that his wife watching television was not considered an illegitimate seclusion. The judge asked the husband to review his decision… but the latter insisted on the divorce.

“Ali Al-Harbi, one of those who copied the divorce papers at the public notary’s office, said to Shams that the husband asked the judge to state the reason why he filed for divorce and to try her for having disobeyed him by watching television alone while there were men [in one of the programs]… For her part, the wife who was divorced said to Shams she was surprised by her husband’s request… She added: “The judge was very fair when he turned down my husband’s request and explained to him that he was mistaken for divorcing me because I watched a program on TV that is hosted by men. However, my husband’s obstinacy prevented him from understanding what the judge was saying and he insisted on getting divorced”.

“She pointed out: “A few weeks ago, I was watching a talk show on an Islamic channel. I was very worried because I was afraid my husband would come in and see me watching television since I am banned from doing so… Unfortunately he entered the room while I was still watching TV and I tried to turn it off. But he prevented me from doing so, insulted me and asked me to leave the house.”