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More ‘Qatar to buy Man Utd’ rumours 24, January 2011

Posted by thegulfblog.com in Qatar.
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Rumours are surfacing once again suggesting that a Qatari consortium is in discussions to buy Manchester United. The current owners of the English Premiere League club, the American Glazer family, are thought to want some £1.5 billion. Though the price is high, Manchester United have been Britain’s most successful football club for over a decade now and are consistently ranked among the very top earners in the sport.

Notions of Qatari backing make sense. Not only is Qatar one of the richest countries on earth but they have a penchant for high-priced often British blue chip companies. Manchester United would fit well into their burgeoning portfolio. Also with Qatar hosting the World Cup in 2022, Qatar seems intent on increasing its profile in the world’s most popular sport. The Asia Cup is currently underway in Doha, the Qatar Foundation recently signed a sponsorship deal with Barcelona football club and Abdullah bin Nasser Al Thani has recently bought Malaga, a side in Spain’s top division.

On the Al Jazeera Israel-Palestine leaks 24, January 2011

Posted by thegulfblog.com in Israeli-Palestinian Conflict.
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When I tell people that I am doing a PhD and researching generally on bits and pieces to do with the Middle East, more often than not, if they have any interest in the topic as a whole, I will be asked about Israel and Palestine. Will a peaceful solution ever be found? Don’t I think that Arafat/Sharon is the greatest/most evil man ever? And so on.

Without fail I immediately declare my ignorance on the topic. Though I know a good deal about the history of the conflict and probably far more than ‘the average person’, when it comes to the personality politics of those involved today I cannot pretend to be an expert.  I quite simply do not have the time or inclination to delve into the minutiae of this Herculeanly complex topic. It takes all my time as it is to keep on top of what is going on in the Gulf.

(I note that I am relatively alone in this desire not to wax intellectually on topics on which I would not consider myself well enough informed: witness the amazing burgeoning of Tunisian experts in recent weeks).

With this disclaimer in mind, I feel compelled to make a few comments on Al Jazeera’s Palestinian paper leaks.

– While clearly newsworthy and interesting, it seems rather mean spirited of Al Jazeera to publish these documents. No, indeed, one could hardly expect them to have them and not publish, but still, it has put the Palestinian leadership is a wickedly difficult situation.

– Only one half (the Palestinian half) of story has been leaked. There are no facts from Israel’s side of things.

– These papers will seriously damage the Palestinian Authority and strengthen Hamas.

– No one whatsoever ought to be surprised to see that the PA made concessions. This is what negotiations are all about. Not that this will placate those living in squalor in chunks of Palestine, clinging to notions – fed scurrilously by Hamas et al – that ‘one day’ all of Palestine and Jerusalem will be returned to Arab control and Israel will…err…magically dissappear.

– The release highlights Israel in a highly negative light: manifestly the stronger power, constantly pushing the PA for more and more  concessions (which they get) but none of which are enough. Having said this, one must be aware of point 2: this is only half the story. Don’t misunderstand me, I think that this is overall an accurate picture: Israel in the clear ascendancy, bullying the PA. Also, one must not forget that this is Israel’s ‘job’: to push as hard and as far in negotiations as they can. They can hardly be blamed for this.

– It is only because these documents came through Al Jazeera – a news organisation that I trust (the only one in the Middle East) – that I believe these documents. Ordinarily, they present such a devastating picture for one half of an issue (the PA half) and even come with revelations about British spies (hmm…), that I’d dismiss them out of hand.