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WSJ: flagrant intellectual dishonesty 29, September 2010

Posted by thegulfblog.com in Opinion.
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Abu Muqawama has an excellent post skewering Elliott Abrams for what amounts to blatant intellectual dishonesty. Abrams wrote an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal. In this he quoted two reports on the Palestinian Authority.

The World Bank reported this month that “If the Palestinian Authority (PA) maintains its current performance in institution-building and delivery of public services, it is well-positioned for the establishment of a state at any point in the near future.” The West Bank’s economy will grow 8% this year, said the bank. Meanwhile, tax revenues are 15% above target and 50% higher than in the same period last year.


Regarding security, cooperation between Israeli and PA forces has never been better. This month the International Crisis Group acknowledged that “In the past few years, the Palestinian Authority (PA) largely has restored order and a sense of personal safety in the West Bank, something unthinkable during the second intifada. Militias no longer roam streets, uniformed security forces are back, Palestinians seem mostly pleased; even Israel — with reason to be skeptical and despite recent attacks on West Bank settlers — is encouraged.”

These quotes from reputable scholarly sources paint a rosy picture. However, these quotes are flagrantly taken out of context and wholly misrepresent the general thrust and conclusions of the reports themselves.

One of the key conclusions of the The World Bank is that

Sustainable economic growth in the West Bank and Gaza, however, remains absent. Significant changes in the policy environment are still required for increased private investment particularly in the productive sectors, enabling the PA to significantly reduce its dependence on donor aid.

The obstacles facing private investment in the West Bank are manifold and myriad, as many important GoI restrictions remain in place: (a) access to the majority of the territory’s land and water (Area C) is severely curtailed; (b) East Jerusalem — a lucrative market — is beyond reach; (c) the ability of investors to enter into Israel and the West Bank is unpredictable; and (d) many raw materials critical to the productive sectors are classified by the GoI as “dual-use” (civilian and military) and their import entails the navigation of complex procedures, generating delays and significantly increasing costs. … Unless action is taken in the near future to address the remaining obstacles to private sector development and sustainable growth, the PA will remain donor dependent and its institutions, no matter how robust, will not be able to underpin a viable state.

As Abu Muqawama notes:

The point of the whole friggin’ World Bank report was that the very real economic gains we have witnessed in the West Bank over the past few years will turn out to be ephemeral if they are not followed by a political settlement between Israel and the Palestinians. That political settlement doesn’t necessarily have to lead to the immediate creation of a Palestinian state, but it has to address the areas of concern highlighted in the above paragraph. And that bit about “access to the majority of the territory’s land and water” being severely curtailed? Any guesses from the readership what the World Bank research staff thinks is doing the curtailing?

As for the Crisis Group Report, Abrams has cherry-picked (again) to an absurd degree, ignoring its central conclusions.

The undeniable success of the reform agenda has been built in part on popular fatigue and despair – the sense that the situation had so deteriorated that Palestinians are prepared to swallow quite a bit for the sake of stability, including deepened security cooperation with their foe. Yet, as the situation normalises over time, they could show less indulgence. Should Israeli-Palestinian negotiations collapse – and, with them, any remaining hope for an agreement – Palestinian security forces might find it difficult to keep up their existing posture. … Without a credible Israeli-Palestinian peace process or their own genuine reconciliation process, Palestinians will be stuck in their long and tenuous attempt to square the circle: to build a state while still under occupation; to deepen cooperation with the occupier in the security realm even as they seek to confront it elsewhere; and to reach an understanding with their historic foe even as they prove unable to reach an understanding among themselves.

This is really, really naughty stuff. Pure and simple, whole-scale, grade-A, Pinocchio-like dishonesty. Read the original post for more withering and well-sourced criticism of Abrams’ article.

On Qatari media 29, September 2010

Posted by thegulfblog.com in Al-Jazeera, Opinion, Qatar.

It’s hardly a revelation that the newspapers in Qatar are in a poor state. Too often filled with Ministry press releases and utter fluff, they are used as an example of the double standard when it comes to Qatari media: mostly free if you discuss other countries; wholly emasculated on domestic matters.

An article delivered to my Google Reader about a certificate given to a Qatari employee at the Movenpick hotel prompted this post.

Ali Abbas Al Khanji, a Qatari national working as a Bill Collector with the Movenpick Hotel Doha since March 1 this year has scored a perfect attendance. As a Bill Collector his job is to deliver invoices to customers and receive payments from them on behalf of the hotel. He is also assigned to follow up on pending issues and notify the Credit Manager of any failed collections. On August 29, the hotel awarded a Certificate for Perfect Attendance to Al Khanji.

Is this news: a meaningless certificate given to an employee for not missing work in the – hold the phones – 6 MONTHS that he has worked there? Granted, the fact that he is Qatari and hasn’t skipped work is something of a story, but they don’t pursue this tack (can’t imagine why).

Non-stories like this feed the cliché about the duplicity of Qatar when it comes to the media. Some of the criticisms are true and just. There is very little domestic criticism for Qatari leaders to deal with. The newspapers in Qatar know their red lines and they do not cross them. Al Jazeera is frequently lambasted for its harsh, investigative and uncompromising reports on other Arab governments and their almost absolute silence on matters in Doha.

On this last matter I disagree.

Firstly, Al Jazeera’s audience is the Arab world and beyond. I’m not too sure how much they care about what goes on in Doha. Instead, the audience, I’d have thought, would prefer to hear about what is happening in Palestine, Egypt and Saudi Arabia. These are far larger issues than Qatar and are thus covered far more.

Secondly, what exactly happens in Doha that is interesting? I like the city but aside from traffic, there seems to be relatively little to report: not much happens. Some argue that Al Jazeera did not cover the recent mooted coup attempts but these were little more than summer rumors in Saudi and Jordanian newspapers. What other ‘dirt’ is there that Al Jazeera does not cover in Doha? They way that critics lampoon Al Jazeera one would think that there are countless fascinating stories that they simply pass up. I’m just not sure that that is the case.

Thirdly, there have been a few documentaries critical of Qatar over their treatment of domestic workers.

Despite this robust defence, I do realise that after the return of the Saudi Ambassador to Doha in 2008, Al Jazeera was muzzled vis-a-vis KSA to a large degree. Also, their tone towards Bahrain has manifestly calmed down over the last decade and more. Nevertheless, I am still a defender (of sorts) of Al Jazeera.

As for those that see Al Jazeera as some kind of terrorism propaganda HQ, all I’d say is that, as Kaplan put it, ‘Where you stand depends on where you sit’.