The Rise and Fall of a Modern ‘Devshirme’ in Erdogan’s Turkey
by Burak Bekdil
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Originally published under the title, “How Non-Muslims “Survive” in Turkey.”
Prominent non-Muslims in Turkey, then and now. Left: an Ottoman Janissary officer. Right: the Armenian Christian intellectual Etyen Mahcupyan, who retired as advisor to Turkey’s prime minister after saying “what happened to Armenians in 1915″ was “genocide.”
Last October, Etyen Mahcupyan, a leading Turkish Armenian intellectual, “liberal” writer and columnist, was appointed as “chief advisor” to Turkey’s Prime Minister, Ahmet Davutoglu. At first glance, this was good news in a country where Islamists privately adhere to the old Ottoman millet system, in which non-Muslims were treated as second-class (if not third-class) citizens.
In reality, Mahcupyan was a reincarnation of the Ottoman “devshirme” system, in which the Ottoman state machinery produced several non-Muslim converts who enjoyed a place in the higher echelons of the palace bureaucracy, and the finer things of life, because their pragmatism earned them excellent relations with the ruling Muslim elite.
In a December interview with Turkey’s leading daily, Hurriyet, Mahcupyan said, “Whatever has been a [political] asset for Turkey’s Armenian community (they number around 60,000) is an asset for the Jewish community too. But… there is Israel… As long as the psychology of the Israel issue continues to influence politics in Turkey and relations between the two countries do not normalize…” The line, which Mahcupyan shyly did not finish, probably would have gone on like this: “Turkey’s Jews will keep on paying the price.”
Mahcupyan admitted that if Turkey’s Jews felt alienated, it was the government’s responsibility to do something about that.
What more? “I have lived through this personally for the past 60 years,” he explained. “Among Turkey’s non-Muslim minorities, including Jews and Armenians, there is an opinion about humiliating Muslims.” As Mahcupyan’s statement is not true, it therefore just seems a way to justify Islamists’ intimidation of Jews.
Next, Mahcupyan argued, “Both Jews and Armenians are better-educated [than Muslim Turks] and more open to the West. And this brings in a feeling of superiority complex.” In this view, daily attacks on Turkey’s Jews and other non-Muslims happen because Jews and Armenians humiliate Muslims — they are better-educated than Muslims and hence their superiority complex. The charge is, at best, silly.
As in Ottoman times, just one unpleasant utterance can suffice to end a devshirme’s career in government service.
Only a few months later, Mahcupyan would learn how wrong he was about the Islamist supremacists in Ankara and their inherent intolerance to liberal thinking.
Mahcupyan recently commented on Pope Francis’s remarks on April 12, in which the Pope described 1915 as “the first genocide of the 20th century,” and said that the Vatican had “thrown off a 100-year-old psychological burden.”
If, Mahcupyan said, accepting that what happened in Bosnia and Africa were genocides, “it is impossible not to call what happened to Armenians in 1915 genocide, too.”
It was probably the first time in Turkish history that a senior government official recognized the Armenian genocide. Once again, at first glance, that was good news in a country where outright denial has been the persistent official policy. But it seems Turkey was not quite as liberal as Mahcupyan had thought.
Immediately after his remarks became public, EU Minister Volkan Bozkir expressed unease, saying that “Mahcupyan’s description was not appropriate for his title of adviser.” But that was not the only price Mahcupyan would have to pay.
A few days after his remarks on genocide, Mahcupyan “retired” as chief adviser to Prime Minister Davutoglu — after only about six months in the job.
Officially, Mahcupyan had retired in March after turning 65, the mandatory retirement age for civil servants. But it was an open secret in Ankara that his departure came simply because Turkey’s Islamists were not quite the liberals he had claimed they were.
The “Mahcupyan affair” has a message to Turkey’s dwindling non-Muslim minorities: Just like an Ottoman devshirme, a non-Muslim can rise and become a darling of today’s neo-Ottoman Turks. He can win hearts and minds in important offices in Ankara — and a bright career. But to maintain his fortunes he must remain loyal to the official Islamist line, both in deed and rhetoric. Just one unpleasant utterance would suffice to end a devshirme’s career in government service.
That is the kind of collective psychology into which Turkey’s ruling Islamists force non-Muslims: either become a collaborator, or…
There is another Turkish Armenian columnist who looks more seasoned than Mahcupyan in his devshirme career. Markar Esayan, a writer for a fiercely pro-government daily, recently said in reference to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s 2014 statement about the Armenian victims of 1915: “[Erdogan's] message of condolences illustrates how we have achieved the Ottoman spirit in line with this century and its democratic practice. Furthermore, the practices in the last 13 years [of the Justice and Development Party's rule] have positively influenced our [Armenian] community and non-Muslims.”
Apparently Esayan is happy with Turkey’s neo-Ottomans and their Islamist rule, including their rigid policies of genocide-denial, which he claims have done good to Turkey’s Armenians and other non-Muslim citizens. Etyen Mahcupyan may have been punished, but Markar Esayan is being rewarded for his loyalty: he has been selected to run for parliament on the ticket of Prime Minister Davutoglu’s party!
The Iran Nuclear Negotiations move now to the technical level of IAEA in Vienna and the Austrian Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz will stand by to help. Austria’s President Heinz Fischer stated that these negotiations do provide the best possible answer to the Iranian nuclear problem. The Austrian oil company OEMV is preparing to rekindle its own activities with Iran that stopped because of the sanctions.
At the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Fusion Energy Conference 13-18 October 2008, Geneva, Switzerland. Iran and the IAEA were close to reaching agreement on a framework for Iranian cooperation. Further information comes from IAEA October 28, 2008, from Geneva. Iran and the IAEA were close to reaching agreement on a framework for Iranian cooperation but it blew away because of the disagreements on credibility.
The United States and Iran may have agreed now on a vague framework for resolving issues between them, including the lifting of sanctions, but the final stage of the negotiations will bring a diplomatic confrontation over the sequence and timing of lifting sanctions.
And the most difficult issue in the coming talks will be how the “Possible Military Dimensions” or “PMD” – the allegations of Iranian nuclear weapons work that have been at the center of the entire Iran nuclear crisis for several years – is to be linked to lifting certain UN Security Council sanctions.
On that linkage Iran will insist that its cooperation in providing access to the International Atomic Energy Agency must be reciprocated with the lifting of certain sanctions on an agreed-upon timetable, regardless of how long the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) takes to make up its mind, and what judgment it renders, according to a source in close contact with the Iranian negotiating team (as per Mr. Porter).
However, nothing was officially agreed on in Lausanne on how Iranian cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) on the PMD issue would be linked to sanctions relief, according to the source close to the Iranian negotiators. But the source said that an informal understanding was reached that the linkage would involve the lifting of UN Security Council sanctions directly involving Iran’s imports for its nuclear and missile programs.
Iran continues to insist that the evidence being used to impugn its intentions was “manufactured.” Nevertheless, Iran “would be ready to give access to the IAEA on PMD even though that goes beyond NPT [Nonproliferation Treaty],” the source told Truthout.
Once the IAEA completed its visits and its environmental sampling, however, Iran will consider that the process is finished. “We don’t care what the IAEA analysis would be or how long it took,” the source said. “What Iranians cannot accept is that [the PMD issue] becomes an indefinite instrument for the Israelis, because they want to find out about Iranian capability and ask for this or that military site and a new inspection.”
The negotiations on the PMD-sanctions linkage will be part of a broader set of negotiations in which Iran will insist on a detailed set of arrangements on sanctions relief in return for each of its concessions in the agreement, according to the source. “Each of the elements listed in the US fact sheet must have a step-by-step plan with a timetable and proportionate reciprocation,” said the source.
Obama Under Pressure He Helped Create
The Obama administration has been under heavy pressure from the Israelis and their supporters in Washington to insist that Iran confess to having carried out nuclear weapons research and development as a condition for sanctions relief.
That pressure is the result of several years of news media coverage that has treated allegations that Iran carried out research and development on nuclear weapons, published by the IAEA in 2011, as established fact. The media have constantly repeated the theme that Iran has been “stonewalling” the IAEA to cover up its past nuclear weapons experiments.
Absent from the media narrative is the fact that the allegations that the IAEA is demanding that Iran explain are all based on intelligence that is now known to have come from Israel and which the IAEA itself suspected of being fabricated, from 2005 to 2009.
But the Obama administration itself helped to make PMD a hot button issue in American politics. It made Iran’s alleged refusal to cooperate with the IAEA investigation of the purported intelligence alleging an Iranian nuclear weapons research and development program the rationale for imposing punishing sanctions on Iran.
The US administration has been wary of demanding an actual admission of guilt, which it knew was unrealistic, but it has been unwilling to completely dismiss the position of the Israelis and their followers either. Last November a “senior Western official” told Reuters that the United States and the other five powers would try to “be creative” in finding a formula to satisfy both those who were insisting that Iran must “come clean” about its nuclear past and those who said it was not realistic to expect a confession.
In an April 8 interview with Secretary of State John Kerry, the host of “PBS NewsHour” Judy Woodruff asserted that the IAEA wanted Iran to “disclose past military-related activities” but that Iran was “increasingly looking like it’s not going to do this.” Woodruff then asked, “Is the US prepared to accept that?”
Without challenging the premise that Iran is expected to “disclose past military activities,” Kerry responded, “No. They have to do it. It will be done.”
Fabricated Intelligence and IAEA Investigation
The George W. Bush administration pressed documents supposedly from the laptop computer of an Iran scientist involved in an Iranian nuclear weapons research program on the IAEA in mid-2005. But Mohamed ElBaradei, then IAEA director general, refused to regard the documents as legitimate evidence because they had never been authenticated, and Bush administration officials refused to answer questions about their origins. In his memoirs published in 2011, ElBaradei writes, “The problem was, no one knew if any of this was real.
Information now available shows that the documents were created in Israel. According to a senior German office official, those documents were given to Germany’s foreign intelligence service, the BND, in 2004 by the Mujahedin e-Khalq (MEK), the armed exile Iranian opposition group that had been an Israeli client organization for several years.
A popular Israeli history of the most successful covert operations by Israel’s Mossad, originally published in Hebrew in Israel, asserts that Mossad provided some of the documents to the MEK that later become the centerpiece of the case against Iran.
ElBaradei also reveals in his memoirs that the IAEA received another series of purported Iranian documents directly from Israel in summer 2009. Among them was a two-page document in Farsi describing a four-year program to produce a neutron initiator for a fission chain reaction. The former IAEA chief inspector in Iraq, Robert Kelley has recalled that ElBaradei found that document to be lacking credibility because it had no chain of custody, no identifiable source, and no official markings or anything else that could establish its authenticity. But ElBaradei’s successor as IAEA director general, Japanese diplomat Yukiya Amano, gave the IAEA’s imprimatur to the entire collection as well as the earlier set of documents in an annex to the November 2011 report. After his election, Amano assured US officials that he was “solidly in the US court” in his handling of the Iran file.
The IAEA has never revealed that Israel was the source of the latter set of documents. The IAEA justified its decision to keep the identity of the member states that provided intelligence secret by citing the alleged necessity to protect “sources and methods.” The decision to maintain silence on the source has served to shield both Israel and the IAEA itself from questions about the obvious political motives behind the purported intelligence.
The other major purported intelligence find published by the IAEA was the claim from Israel that Iran had installed a large steel explosives containment cylinder at its military base in Parchin in 2000 for nuclear weapons-related testing. But no corroborating evidence has ever been produced, and Robert Kelley has challenged the IAEA’s adoption of the Israeli intelligence claim on the grounds it was technically implausible.
Relations between Iran and the IAEA on cooperation over the PMD issue have gone through three major phases. In a series of meetings in early 2012, Iran and the IAEA were close to reaching agreement on a framework for Iranian cooperation. Iran agreed on an IAEA visit to Parchin, where the bomb test cylinder was said to have been located, as part of the process. But the talks broke down over the IAEA’s insistence that the investigation would never have an end point, and that the Agency would have the right to return to any question or site, even after Iran had provided the necessary access and other cooperation.
A second phase of relations began when Iran and the IAEA reached agreement on a “Framework for Cooperation” in February 2014. Iran agreed to provide information and access in regard to a list of PMD issues, starting with the “Exploding Bridgewire” (EBW) issue.
But after Iran provided documentary evidence to show that its research in the field was for its oil and gas industry and not for nuclear weapons, Amano refused to acknowledge publicly that Iran had discredited one of the arguments about the intelligence documents.
The head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization, Ali Akhbar Salehi, claimed that the IAEA had promised in the agreement to close issues once Iran had provided required information, and the IAEA did not challenge his claim. Amano insisted, however, that the IAEA would not issue any assessment until it had completed its investigation of all of the issues.
Iran apparently concluded from that experience that the IAEA would keep Iran on the hook as long as the United States and its allies wanted to maintain leverage over Iran. The Obama administration has now confirmed that conclusion by holding the lifting of sanctions hostage to Iran’s “cooperation” on PMD writes Porter.
US officials have never explained how they would expect Iran to satisfy the IAEA if the intelligence at issue was indeed fabricated.
von Arian Faal, Wiener Zeitung
The Austrian President in above interview states clearly that Israel’s Prime Minister Netanyahu is wrong in his opposition to the deal President Obama and the heads of the other four powers are trying to strike with Iran. The point being th prospective deal is indeed the best that can rationally be expected from Iran.
Further, President Fischer expects the deal to be agreed upon and signed by all involved by July 1st 2015, and he expects to go on a State visit to Iran after the agreement has been obtained. He will thus be the first of a EU-Member-State leader to go to this newly cleaned Iran.
Foreign Minister Sebastien Kurz wrote on his Facebook page today, April 17, 2015 about the return of the negotiations to Vienna
Minister Kurz already told the Kurier yesterday that the Vienna negotiations that deal with the details that can allow the removal of sanctions will be hard and sensitive. Experts and politicians will be here next week for two days – the first time since last November. The Iranian deputy Foreign Minister is expected. But the Kurier article is not optimistic indeed that it all will be wraped up before the end of June and mentions the news from Tehran that an extension will be required.
Ende der Sanktionen
Diesmal soll es also weniger um den großen Wurf – an dem war man ja im November in Wien gescheitert – sondern um die heiklen Details gehen. Die politischen Direktoren der UN-Vetomächte sowie Irans Vize-Außenminister Araqchi werden erwartet.
Im Mittelpunkt steht vor allem die Frage, wann und wie die Sanktionen gegen den Iran im Falle einer Einigung aufgehoben werden sollen. Teheran will sie natürlich umgehend loswerden, um der ohnehin angeschlagenen iranischen Wirtschaft endlich neue Auftrieb zu geben. Im Westen will man weiterhin eine stufenweise Aufhebung und dazu die Möglichkeit, im Falle eines iranischen Vertragsbruchs sofort zu den Boykottmaßnahmen in voller Härte zurückzukehren. Darauf drängt auch der US-Kongress in Washington, der sich ohnehin eine Entscheidung über die Sanktionen nach einer Einigung Ende Juni vorbehält.
Inzwischen aber wachsen die Zweifel, dass die auch tatsächlich zustande kommt. In Teheran spricht inzwischen sogar Revolutionsführer Khamenei von einer weiteren Verlängerung.
And coincidenta;;y, when looking up the Kurier I found an April 3, 2015 article that shows the Austrian Oil Company OEMV is alreadty sharpening its pens to reach out to Iran, to fulfill agreement for oil and gas they started before the sanctions hit. So – this is a sign of high Austrian interest in the success of these negotiations and the end of sanctions.
Ob die OMV, die vor den Sanktionen große Gasförder-Pläne im Iran hatte, auch bald wieder ins Iran-Geschäft zurückkehrt, ist noch offen. OMV-Sprecher Robert Lechner: „Wenn ein so großer Player im Energiebereich zurück auf die internationale Bühne kommt, muss man das zunächst neu bewerten. Derzeit ist es aber noch zu früh, konkrete Schlüsse zu ziehen.“ Die OMV unterhält noch immer ein Büro in Teheran.
Die OMV muss allerdings gegen riesige Konkurrenz antreten. Denn trotz des niedrigen Ölpreises dürften sich die Branchen-Riesen um Investitionen in neue Öl- und Gasfelder anstellen. Alexander Pögl von der Ölmarkt-Beratungsfirma JBC: „Grundsätzlich werden internationale Investoren vor der Tür stehen, so viele Möglichkeiten für einen Explorationszugang gibt es nicht.“ Der Iran verfüge zwar wegen der Sanktionen derzeit über große Lagerbestände, müsse aber nach deren Verkauf rasch in neue Fördertechnologien und -gebiete investieren.
In der österreichischen Wirtschaft und Politik findet derzeit geradezu ein Wettlauf statt, wer zuerst nach Teheran fliegt. Offiziell will man darüber nicht viel sagen. „Die Einladung des Iran an Bundespräsident Heinz Fischer ist aufrecht“, heißt es aus der Hofburg zum KURIER. Gut informierte Diplomaten erwarten, dass die Reise noch heuer stattfindet.
Autor: Franz Jandrasits
(kurier) Erstellt am 03.04.2015, 18:00
Middle East Forum
Middle East Quarterly – Spring 2015
Why Yemen Matters
How Many Qatari Nationals Are There?
by Onn Winckler
Qatari demographic policy is aimed at achieving a high population growth by encouraging a high natural increase rate. Qatar has no income tax, and its citizens are recipients of generous subsidies and extensive social welfare programs, many of which are meant to encourage marriages and large families. These include providing loans for housing, reducing the cost of dowries, and giving family allowances that increase according to the number of children per couple.
Most states do not divulge all demographic parameters of their population. At times, this data is unavailable due to the weakness of the regime as is the case with many sub-Saharan African countries and, more recently, with Yemen, Syria, and Iraq due to their prolonged civil wars. In other countries, such as the United States, Belgium, and France, there is a lack of data on the religious composition of the population due to official separation of church and state.
While none of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states have ever published the religious composition of their indigenous populations, Qatar has lagged further behind: It does not even make public the total size of its indigenous population, considered “a national secret.” As the online editor of a Qatari-based business publication was told when approaching the Qatar Statistics Authority (QSA) for the data: “We regret to inform you that the required data is not available.”
Until the early 1980s, the Qatari authorities did not in fact have complete demographic data of their indigenous population. Since then, and certainly following the implementation of the 1986 census, this data has been comprehensive and accurate and deliberately hidden. Why are the Qatari authorities not publishing the basic data on the number of their citizens as do all other countries? The reason for this, it seems, is quite simple: The national population is too small to match the country’s political needs and aspirations. Since Qatar prefers not to naturalize vast numbers of foreigners, including Arab Sunnis, the only option has been to hide the small size of the national population through the evasive pretense of not having the data. The principal aim of this article is to explore this “secret.”
The first estimate of Qatar’s population made by John Gordon Lorimer of the British Foreign Office in 1904 put the emirate’s total population at approximately 27,000. Before the discovery of oil, pearl fishing was the emirate’s economic mainstay; however, the development of the Japanese cultured pearl industry at the beginning of the 1930s, together with the Great Depression, and the onset of World War II led to a severe economic recession and an attendant sharp decline in Qatar’s population to some 16,000 by the mid-1940s. The beginning of oil exports in 1949 reversed this economic trend. Consequently, more and more people entered the emirate, and by 1950, Qatar’s total population was estimated at approximately 25,000-30,000.
The first Qatari census, taken in 1970, put the indigenous population at 45,039. However, since it was assumed by those who implemented the census that the under-enumeration (mainly of females and children) of that census was approximately 6 percent, it seems that the number of Qatari citizens at the time was closer to 47,700 (see Table 1).
According to an estimate by demographers J. S. Birks and C. A. Sinclair, by 1975, Qatar’s national population numbered 60,300 (see Table 1), a rise of 34 percent from the 1970 official census result. This rapid population growth could not be the result of natural increase (i.e., births minus deaths) alone as it would require the unlikely annual average natural increase rate of 4.8 percent. Since Qatar’s crude death rate (CDR) in the early 1970s was approximately 18-20 per 1,000 people (see Table 3), this means that in order to achieve a natural increase rate of 4.8 percent, the crude birth rate (CBR) would have to be more than 65 per 1,000, which is unreasonable (see Table 3). Thus, taking into consideration a natural increase rate of about 3.2 percent on an annual average during the first half of the 1970s, Qatar’s indigenous population in 1975 should have totaled some 56,000, about 4,300 fewer than Birks and Sinclair’s estimate.
Since the Qatari naturalization policy at that time was very strict, it is implausible that the authorities would have naturalized more than 4,000 immigrants, namely 7-8 percent of the total Qatari citizenship, within a period of only five years. The only alternative for evaluating Birks and Sinclair’s 1975 estimate and that of the U.N. Economic Commission for Western Asia’s (ECWA), which estimated Qatar’s nationals at 65,357 in 1980 (see Table 1), is to find the number of Qatari citizens in the March 1986 census and implement a “back projection” method.
In 1985, HRD Base Ltd., a subsidiary of Lloyds Bank, estimated Qatar’s indigenous population at 84,240, namely 29 percent higher than the 1980 ECWA estimate. The nominal natural increase, namely the surplus of live births over deaths during the 1980-85 period was 15,689 (see Table 3), representing an increase of 24 percent over the ECWA estimate. This expresses a difference of 3,200 people between ECWA’s estimate of 1980 plus the natural increase of 1981-85 period and the estimate of HRD for 1985. This gap could be explained by the naturalization of foreign women married to Qatari nationals—a very common phenomenon, which the Qatari government highly encouraged—as well as by adding some unrecorded births, reflecting the fact that Qatar’s civil registration system had then been in its infancy.
The problem, however, is with the March 1986 census results. According to official Qatari data, Qatari nationals fifteen years and older numbered 54,502 (26,878 of whom were males and 27,624 females). According to figures from the U.N. Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA, formerly ECWA), Qatari nationals in the 1986 census totaled 101,859 (see Table 1). This figure implies that Qataris under the age of fifteen constituted 46.5 percent of the total Qatari citizens—a rate which is plausible based on the extremely wide-based age pyramid of the Qatari indigenous population due to the high natural increase rates during the 1970s and the first half of the 1980s.
However, it is unlikely that in one year—between mid-1985 and March 1986—the number of Qatari citizens increased by 17,619 people. Moreover, if there was a massive naturalization of women who married Qatari nationals between the 1970 and the 1986 censuses, the number of Qatari women twenty years of age and older in the 1986 census data should have been much higher than that of males. This, however, was not the case. According to the census results, the number of females twenty and older was fewer than 1,000 above that of males (21,670 females and 20,734 males). Data calculated from official Qatari statistics on the rate and the nominal number of the natural increase puts the total number of Qatari citizens at 91,979 in 1984, growing to 99,642 in 1986, namely, 2,217 less than ESCWA’s figure (see Tables 1 and 2).
With the absence of data on naturalization, it is impossible to evaluate the number of Qatari nationals between the 1970 and 1986 censuses.
In light of the number of Qatari citizens calculated from the official Qatari data on the natural increase and the actual 1986 census results, the only plausible conclusion is that during the period between the 1970 and the 1986 censuses, namely, during the “bonanza oil decade,” there was massive naturalization of both males and females in Qatar.
A clear indicator of this large-scale naturalization of women of childbearing age is the sharp increase in the number of births, which grew from 2,853 in 1980 to 4,034 in 1986. This means that in six years alone, the number of live births increased by as much as 41.4 percent. Taking into consideration that during that period the total fertility rate (TFR, average number of children born to a woman during her lifetime) not only did not increase but rather substantially decreased, the only logical explanation for the rapid growth in the number of live births was due to a substantial increase in the number of women of childbearing age. However, due to the absence of any data regarding naturalization in Qatar, it is impossible to evaluate the number of Qatari nationals during the period between the 1970 and 1986 censuses.
Moving forward in time, according to the 1997 census results, Qatari nationals aged 15- years old and above numbered 84,902 while those aged ten and above numbered 103,273. The number of live births minus infant deaths (children under the age of 1) during the decade prior to the census implementation was 48,498 (see Table 4a). If we assume 0 emigration of the 0-10 age group and 0 mortality of children in the 1-10 age group, this amounts to total Qatari citizens of 151,771 with the under-10 age group representing 32 percent of the total population—a plausible percentage given Qatar’s natural increase patterns at that time.
Comparing the 1986 census results to those of 1997 indicates a nominal increase of 49,912. The nominal gap between the 1986 and 1997 data is almost identical to the natural increase between the two censuses, which numbered 48,266. The small gap of 1,650 people between the natural increase and the actual growth is probably due to the naturalization of foreign women, which also explains the small surplus of females over males identified in the 1997 census data in the age group of 15-years and above. Since no official Qatari data is available on either the scale or the timing of the naturalization, it is reasonable to distribute the 1,650 surplus equally across the entire period between the two censuses. Thus, adding 150 to the natural increase each year during the eleven years between the two censuses produces the exact increase throughout the period between the two censuses.
By the time of the March 2004 census, the Qatari authorities were publishing data regarding citizens 3-years old and above (168,958). By adding live births minus infant deaths during the three years prior to the implementation of this census (19,059), one arrives at a total figure for the Qatari indigenous population of 188,017 (see Table 1).
Measuring the natural increase between the 1997 and the 2004 censuses suggests the figure of 36,748. Thus, the 1997 census results plus the natural increase between the two censuses suggest 188,519, namely, 500 more than the actual 2004 census results—an insignificant number that is probably due to some deaths of nationals in the 1-10-age group and some misreporting or errors in the censuses. The calculated number according to the Qatari natural increase data suggests the figure of 194,092 in mid-2004 (see Table 1) which is about 3 percent higher than this author’s calculation for the census results. This gap could be attributed to the fact that there are three and a half months between the census implementations, namely between mid-March, and mid-year (end of June). Another reason is that the rate of the natural increase provided by the QSA is not totally accurate as it includes only one digit after the decimal point.
In 2005, the Qatari authorities revoked the citizenship of 6,000 members of the Murrah tribe on suspicion of disloyalty to the emir.
The latest Qatari census was implemented in April 2010. As in the 1997 census, the authorities only published data regarding the population of 10-years old and above. According to that census, nationals of ten years and older numbered 174,279. If one adds 65,763—live births minus infant deaths during the decade prior to the census (see Table 4b)—the result is a Qatari indigenous population numbering 240,042 in late April 2010.
However, a curious and significant anomaly emerges. This is because adding the natural increase between the two censuses (38,641) to the 2004 census data yields 226,658, namely, 13,384 less than the actual 2010 census results. This substantial gap could not be explained by an under-enumeration of births. This is not only due to the fact that since 2000, the Qatari civil registration system has been totally computerized but also because Qatari parents have had every reason to register new births due to various benefits granted by the government for every Qatari newborn. Moreover, because of the short time between the two censuses, it is quite easy to compare age groups in these two censuses.
Under a condition of “zero naturalization and migration balance,” i.e., the natural increase only, the number of Qatari citizens in the age group of 4-58 from the 2004 census should have been close to identical to the 10-64 age group in the 2010 census. In reality, however, while the 4-58 age cohort in the 2004 census numbered 155,024, the 10-64 age group in the 2010 census numbered 166,932, about an extra 12,000 people.
The unexplained gap between the two censuses could not be justified by the matter of the al-Murrah tribe, when in March 2005, the Qatari authorities revoked the citizenship of about 6,000 members on suspicion of disloyalty to the emir. This is because their citizenship had already been returned in February 2006. Thus, both revoking and returning their citizenship occurred during the period between the two censuses.
Thus, while the difference in the number of Qatari citizens between the 1970 and the 1986 censuses could be explained at least partially by an under-enumeration of births at a period when the Qatari civil registration system was just beginning, this was certainly not the case in the period between the 2004 and the 2010 censuses. The only plausible conclusion is that, during the period between these two censuses, there was a massive naturalization of about 13,400 people, representing approximately 5.6 percent of the country’s citizens in the 2010 census.
The Qatari natural increase data also indicates massive naturalization during the period between the two censuses, particularly in 2007 and 2008. While according to the calculations based on the Qatari natural increase data, the number of Qatari nationals increased from 215,199 in mid-2007 to 232,267 in mid-2008, the actual natural increase in those twelve months was less than 7,000 (see Tables 2 and 3), namely, about 10,500 less than the actual growth. However, since it is not clear when this large-scale naturalization actually occurred, it is reasonable to divide the “extra” growth beyond the natural increase equally across the 6-year period between the two censuses.
Some analysts estimate that 88 percent of Qatar’s population is made up of migrant workers. But Qatar has made no progress in abolishing laws that effectively force foreign workers into slavery.
With the beginning of the Persian Gulf states’ oil era, but particularly following the October 1973 oil boom, these states were confronted with two options for closing the gap between their labor needs and the available supply: Adopt the labor migration policies of the developed world and naturalize vast numbers of foreign laborers, or import temporary labor migrants in order to solve shortages in the short run. This second option was eventually implemented by all of the Gulf oil states including Qatar. It was hoped that in the not-too-distant future, the majority of the required workforce would be supplied by nationals through substantial investments in education and professional training on the one hand and by generous pro-natalist measures that would encourage high fertility rates on the other. This policy was adopted in response to the fear that large-scale naturalization of foreigners, even of Sunni Arabs, could upset the “intimate nature” of these societies. There was also a fear of the introduction of “revolutionary-republican ideologies” by Egyptians, Syrians, Palestinians, or Lebanese migrants, which could potentially topple the royal houses whose legitimacy and hold on power were becoming increasingly tenuous in a modern world.
Thus, in each of the Gulf oil states, the authorities enacted laws to prevent the naturalization of foreign workers, even Sunni Arabs and even if they had lived in the country for decades. Nor would birth in one of the Gulf states entitle newborns to citizenship or even permanent residency. The naturalization laws in each of these states are so strict that even marriage of a foreign male to a Gulf female does not grant citizenship to the husband. On the other hand, a foreign woman who marries a Gulf male does become a citizen of the host country. This difference is due to the fact that according to the Shari’a (Islamic law), the religion of children follows that of the father. Therefore, the vast majority of non-natives who have received citizenship in these countries are females married to GCC males. Only in exceptional circumstances have the authorities granted citizenship to a male foreigner; their number, in any case, was insignificant.
In the case of Qatar, before the Citizenship Act (No. 38) of 2005, foreigners were granted citizenship solely at the emir’s discretion. The new act provides for the first time a legal mechanism by which a foreigner can apply for Qatari citizenship. According to the new law, Qatari citizenship may be obtained for those who fulfilled the following conditions: (a) residency in Qatar for at least twenty-five consecutive years; (b) the ability to speak Arabic; (c) a clean criminal record; and (d) a lawful means of income. In addition to these conditions, those born to a naturalized Qatari father shall be deemed a naturalized Qatari. The new law, however, limits the number of those to be granted Qatari citizenship to only fifty annually.
It should be noted in this respect that the Qatari authorities regularly insisted that the number of those who acquired citizenship in this fashion was very small. Thus, for example in a 2010 interview, Qatari emir Sheikh Hamad stated: “A policy to increase the population; we don’t have this actually. But we give [citizenship] for the people first who apply and who fulfill our own regulations. Until now there are not many who are asking.”
While official Qatar followed the common naturalization policy of the other GCC states with the majority of those receiving citizenship being foreign women married to Qatari nationals, evidence indicates that a substantial number of foreign males also succeeded in receiving Qatari citizenship.
Recently, Qatar apparently started a new process of naturalization of Bahraini Sunnis. However, as it probably began following the implementation of the 2010 census, this process is beyond the scope of this article. Moreover, since the latest publication of vital statistics annual bulletins of the QSA is from 2011, it is impossible to try to evaluate the scale of the Qatari national population following the 2010 census.
But whatever the number of naturalized citizens in Qatar, the major contributor to the rapid growth of the indigenous Qatari population since the 1970s has been natural increase.
Qatar University College of Pharmacy. Eighteen female pharmacy students receive their bachelor of science degrees from Qatar University College of Pharmacy, November 30, 2011. It is probable that the decline in the fertility rate of Qatari women has been due to both a substantial increase in the number of indigenous females receiving post-secondary education and to delayed marriages.
Since there are no official vital demographic statistics prior to 1980, the only possibility for estimateing Qatar’s natural increase rate during the 1970s is through comparison with other countries with similar socioeconomic conditions. According to the ECWA estimate, in 1975 the crude birth rate of the indigenous Qatari population was approximately 50 per 1,000 while the crude death rate was 20 per 1,000. The total fertility rate in 1975 was estimated at 7.2 (see Table 3). These values are quite similar to those which prevailed in other Gulf countries at that time. For example, Kuwait’s CBR amounted to 51.1 in 1975 while the TFR was measured at 7.2. Thus, an average natural increase rate of about 3.1-3.3 percent (31-33 per 1,000) during the first half of the 1970s is a reasonable estimate for Qatar as well.
Like other Gulf oil states, Qatar’s natural increase rate rose rapidly following the onset of the oil boom, due to a sharp decline in CDR as greater oil revenues translated, in part, into better health services and a sharp rise of living standards. According to ECWA’s estimate, in 1980, Qatar’s natural increase rate climbed to 4.1 percent (with a CBR of 51 and a CDR of 10); an average of 3.7 percent annual increase during the second half of the 1970s can, therefore, be reasonably assumed.
Due to its nearly exclusive reliance on oil revenues, Qatar fits the classic model of a rentier state, that is, a country that receives a considerable portion of its national revenues from the sale of its natural resources to external clients. Qatar has no income tax, and its citizens are recipients of generous subsidies and extensive social welfare programs. As a result, Qatar is pro-natalist by its very nature, like other rentier states.
Since more than 80 percent of Qatari males work in the public sector, family allowances are, in effect, granted to almost all citizens.
In addition to the indirect pro-natalist measures, there are also various direct pro-natalist measures, first and foremost generous family allowances for each child of male heads of households who are employed in the governmental sector. Since more than 80 percent of the Qatari males work in the public sector, family allowances were and still are in effect granted to almost all citizens. Further, the high salaries and luxury work conditions (without any work-reward causation) offered its national employees can be construed as pro-natalist behavior as are the various full subsidies of public services, including healthcare and education, as well as high subsidies on housing, foodstuffs, and energy products.
The impact of these measures can be seen in the demographic data. In total contrast to what would be expected in line with the “demographic transition theory” (i.e., after a sharp decline in death rates, fertility rates decline substantially), during the 1980s, and particularly in the second half of the decade, despite a sharp decline in infant and child mortality rates and the rapid increase in life expectancy, the fertility rate of indigenous Qatari women only declined slightly. By 1986, the total fertility rate of indigenous Qatari females was 5.8 (see Table 6), a rate much lower than it had been a decade earlier but still very high in comparison to other Arab countries.
This pattern continued through the 1990s when despite great improvements in both healthcare and educational services (which led, in effect, to healthcare indicators similar to those of the developed world), Qatar’s fertility rates remained very high. By 1997, the total fertility rate was 5.8, identical to 1986. While the significant improvement in these services led to a substantial delay in first births, their cumulative number remained the same (see Table 6).
This trend ended, however, by the early 2000s with the fertility rate of Qatari women gradually declining to 3.4 in 2012. It is probable that this decline, marked especially by the drop in births to women under the age of twenty-four, was due to both a substantial increase in the number of indigenous females receiving post-secondary education and to delayed marriages.
At least by 2004, the Qatari authorities had acknowledged the problem and established the Permanent Population Committee (PPC) to promote higher fertility. Its main objective was to, “Raise the current natural population increase rate for nationals, or at least maintain it to achieve an appropriate balance among Qatar’s total population.” In its 2011 annual report, the committee specifically declared that the main objective of Qatar’s population policy was to “increase the proportion of citizens among [the] total population.” This aim was to be achieved mainly through encouraging and facilitating marriages among Qatari citizens; the adoption of policies that would reduce delayed marriage, especially of girls; facilitating the remarriage of divorcees and widows; providing loans for housing; reducing the cost of dowries, and giving family allowances that would increase according to the number of children per couple. In addition to these financial incentives, the Qatari authorities have recruited prominent religious figures who constantly emphasize the religious duty of marriage and childbearing.
Birth in Qatar does not entitle newborns to citizenship; the marriage of a non-Qatari male to a Qatari female does not grant citizenship to the husband or to the child. As a result, these children are denied privileges such as free electricity and water, subsidized food products, free education, and government jobs set aside for nationals.
Thus far, not only have all of the demographic projections for Qatar totally failed, but they have not even been maintained for a decade. For example, in the mid-1990s, the World Bank projected that Qatar’s total population, both nationals and foreigners, would reach 693,000 in 2010 and increase to 769,000 in 2020. Even more recent projections were wildly inaccurate. In 2004, for example, the Population Division of the U.N. projected that Qatar’s population would total 874,000 in 2050. In 2009, analysts Berrebi, Martorell, and Tanner quoted a forecast by the U.S. Census Bureau that “in 2020, the population [both Qataris and non-Qataris] is expected to exceed 1.1 million people.” By the time the article was published, Qatar’s population was already much higher, amounting to 1.64 million in mid-2009.
The failures of these projections were largely due to two factors: First is the impossibility of predicting Qatar’s high demand for foreign labor, even in the short run. The country’s economic development during the past decade has been unique—even among the GCC countries—with a real GDP growth rate of 17.7 percent in 2008, dipping to 12 percent in 2009, and then accelerating to the incredible level of 16.6 percent in 2010. In 2012, Qatar’s per capita GDP was the highest worldwide, amounting to more than $102,000 (in purchasing power parity terms). This rapid economic expansion was accomplished through the massive import of foreign workers who were the main contributors to Qatar’s population increase during the past two decades. The second factor for the demographic projections failure was the lack of knowledge of the number of Qatari citizens, which made it impossible to predict their nominal growth even in the short run.
Despite pro-natalist measures, the fertility rate of indigenous Qatari women has gradually declined since the early 2000s.
Overall, the following three components will dictate future demographic developments for the indigenous Qatari population:
The natural increase rate. Despite significant pro-natalist measures, the fertility rate of indigenous Qatari women has gradually declined since the early 2000s. In 2012, the total fertility rate of indigenous Qatari females was quite similar to that of Jordanians and only a little bit higher than in Egypt, both of which had implemented open, anti-natalist policies, at least until the onset of the Arab upheavals. However, in Egypt and Jordan, the total fertility rate is approximately 3.1-3.3 due to a huge difference between low fertility rates in the urban centers and much higher fertility rates in rural and peripheral areas, yielding an average TFR of 3.1-3.3. Qatar’s current fertility rate, by contrast, is due to the great financial benefits given to all nationals, which in practice overshadow the various specific, pro-natalist incentives. What else can the Qatari government give its nationals in order to increase their fertility rate? In other words, Qatar, as the most rentier state worldwide, has no more “carrots” for encouraging its nationals to increase their fertility level. Thus, Qatar’s current TFR is probably at the highest level possible under the current rentier system while in Egypt and Jordan, for example, the fertility level is more elastic and could rise or decline, in line with the natalist policy. Consequently, Qatar’s fertility rate is projected to stabilize at 3.0-3.2 for the foreseeable future.
The age pyramid. However, even if the fertility rate continues to decline to less than three children due to its current, wide-based age pyramid (see Table 5), Qatar’s indigenous population will continue to increase rapidly at least into the foreseeable future—a result of the “demographic momentum” phenomenon, i.e., the tendency for a population to continue to grow because the number of women of reproductive age will continue to increase for a number of decades before finally stabilizing. Therefore, it is reasonable to predict an average natural increase rate of 2.6-2.7 percent for the coming decade and approximately 2.3-2.5 percent for the decade following. The natural increase rate of the indigenous Qatari population is expected to go down not only due to declining fertility rates but because of an increasing crude death rate as the percentage of the elderly population naturally increases due to the sharp decline of the fertility rates since the early 2000s.
The naturalization scale. Among the three components, this is the least knowable. This is the case not only because Qatari authorities have not published any data on naturalization but also because, as previously discussed, naturalization in Qatar occurred in two large, unexpected waves that had hitherto been undetected. Thus, if there is a next large-scale naturalization, it will probably also be unexpected and consequently unpredictable.
Despite the fact that the latest publication of the annual bulletin of vital statistics of the QSA is from 2011 and that the scale of naturalization since the 2010 census is unknown, it would be reasonable to assume that the number of Qatar’s citizens has increased by about 4 percent annually since the implementation of the 2010 census. Thus, one can conclude that in early 2015, the number of Qatar’s citizens will total approximately 290,000 and will increase to about 440,000-470,000 in 2030.
Achieving high population growth by encouraging a high natural increase rate was and still is the basic demographic policy of the Qatari authorities. In this respect, the emirate is no different from other GCC states, such as the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait. However, both censuses and official natural increase data indicate that the Qatari population grew significantly also due to two waves of naturalization.
Who are these “new Qataris”? Was this mass naturalization a consequence of a huge labor shortage? Unfortunately, the Qatari authorities have barely mentioned the issue of naturalization and have never acknowledged any form of mass naturalization.
Qatar may continue to act according to its current super rentier policies due to its huge per capita income. It has also enjoyed unusual economic growth for a GCC country as the result of a rapid increase in liquefied natural gas exports and a massive development of infrastructure. It remains to be seen how the new emir, Sheikh Tamim, will run the country with a much larger indigenous population and with a much larger national workforce which cannot be employed almost exclusively in the public sector, as is currently the case.
Onn Winckler is associate professor in the department of Middle Eastern History, University of Haifa, specializing in political demography and economic history of the Arab countries. The author thanks Noa Josef and Fany Pesahov for their assistance in data.
The Year then followed by the three columns:
(a) Semi-official and
(b) Author’s calculation
(c) Author’s estimate
1970 (c) 45,039(c) – 47,700(c)
(c) = census; (uo) = unofficial estimate; (so) = ESCWA semi-official data; * End of the year; ** See Table 2.
Sources for Semi-official and unofficial estimates: 1970: British Embassy in Beirut, Middle East Development Division, by N.B. Hudson, The First Population Census of Qatar, Apr./May 1970 (Beirut, Oct. 1970), p. 17; 1975 (uo): J.S. Birks and C.A. Sinclair, International Migration Project, Country Case Study: The State of Qatar (University of Durham, Department of Economics, February 1978), table 1, p. 6; 1980 (so): ECWA, Demographic and Related Socio-Economic Data Sheets for Countries of the ECWA, No. 3 (Beirut, May 1982), table 1, p. 131; 1985 (uo): HRD Base Ltd., Lloyds Bank Chambers, Socio-Demographic Profiles of Key Arab Countries (Newcastle, May 1987), table 1, p. 151; 1986 (so): ESCWA, Population Situation-1990, table 9.1, p. 153; 1986 (uo): Gulf Labour Markets and Migration (GLMM).; 1990 (uo): Birks, Sinclair & Associates Ltd., GCC Market Report-1990 (Durham: Mountjoy Research Centre, May 1990), table 1.1, p. 108; 1992 (uo): Birks, Sinclair & Associates Ltd., GCC Market Report-1992 (Durham: Mountjoy Research Centre, 1992), table 1.1, p. 82; 1994 (so): ESCWA, Demographic Data Sheets, No. 8 (1995), table 1, p. 92; 1996 (so): ESCWA, Demographic Data Sheets, No. 9 (1997), table 1, p. 84; 1997 (uo): Gulf Labour Markets and Migration (GLMM). Available at: gulfmigration.eu/population-by-na…; 1998 (so): ESCWA, Demographic Data Sheets, No. 10 (1999) table 1, p. 83; 2000: ESCWA, Demographic Data Sheets, No. 11 (2001), table 1, p. 116; 2004 (uo): Gulf Labour Markets and Migration (GLMM); 2010 (uo): Matthew Gray, Qatar: Politics and the Challenge of Development (Boulder, CO.: Lynne Rienner, 2013), p. 222;Mehran Kamrava, Qatar: Small State, Big Politics (Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press, 2013), p. 5; Gulf Labour Markets and Migration (GLMM).
Year and again column we present here but which are better viewded in the original
CBR = Crude birth rate; CDR = Crude death rate; NI = Natural increase
The formula for calculating: N = E(X) (Under the assumption of a binomial distribution) P; N = Total Qatari citizens; E(X) = The nominal number of the natural increase; P = NI (natural increase) per 1 Qatari citizen. Sources: CBR and CDR: Qatar Information Exchange; Live births and Deaths: Table 3.
Table 3: Natural Increase Rates in Qatar, 1975-2010 (author’s calculations)
Total Fertility Rate
– No data available.
The CBR and CDR were calculated by the average of Qatari citizens each year. For example, the average Qatari citizens in 1998 was their number at the end of 1997 plus their number at the end of 1998 divided by 2 (155,664 + 160,533 : 2 = 158,099).
Sources: Natural increase, 1975: “Available Demographic Socio-Economic Data for Countries of the ECWA Region,” Population Bulletin of ECWA, Nos. 10-12 (1978), p. 25; 1980-1982: Vital Statistics Annual Bulletin, 1st Issue, 1984 (Doha: Central Statistical Organization, Sept. 1985), table 2, p. 2; table 19, p. 30; 1983-1992: Vital Statistics Annual Bulletin, 9th Issue, 1992 (Doha: Central Statistical Organization, June 1993), table 2, p. 5; table 25, p. 59; 1993-1999: Vital Statistics Annual Bulletin, 16th Issue, 1999 (Doha: Central Statistical Organization, July 2000), table 2, p. 5; table 25, p. 61; 2000: Vital Statistics Annual Bulletin-2009, 26th Issue (Doha: Qatar Statistics Authority, July 2010), tables10 and 28; 2001-2010: Vital Statistics Annual Bulletin-2010, 27th Issue (Doha: Qatar Statistics Authority, July 2011), table 3; 2011: Annual Statistical Abstract-2012 (Doha: Qatar Statistics Authority, 2013), chapter 3, tables 2 and 10; Total Fertility Rate, The data on the TFR except for the 2005-2007 period is taken from Table 5.; The Data for the 2005-2007 period is taken from: Vital Statistics Annual Bulletin-2009, 27th Issue (Doha: Qatar Statistics Authority, July 2010), table 1.
Number of births
Number of infant deaths (0-1)
* Since the census was implemented in mid-March, the live births and infant deaths were not included Jan., February and half of March; ** Since the census was implemented in mid-March, the infant live births and deaths were included Jan., February and half of March.
Sources: Live Births, 1987: Vital Statistics Annual Bulletin, 4th Issue (Doha: Central Statistical Organization, June 1988), table 4a, p. 4; 1988-1997: Vital Statistics Annual Bulletin, 14th Issue, 1997 (Central Statistical Organization, June 1998), table 2, p. 5; table 4.1, p. 7; Infant deaths, 1987: Vital Statistics Annual Bulletin, 4th Issue (Doha: Central Statistical Organization, June 1988), table 38, p. 77; 1988-1997: Vital Statistics Annual Bulletin, 14th Issue, 1997 (Doha: Central Statistical Organization, June 1998), table 39, p.123; table 41, p. 128.
Table 4b: Qatari Nationals Ages 0-10 in 2010
Number of births
Number of infant deaths (0-1)
* Data include the period of May-Dec.; ** Data include the period of Jan.-Apr.
Sources: Live Births, 2000: Vital Statistics Annual Bulletin-2000, 17th Issue (Doha: Central Statistical Organization, Apr. 2001), table 4-1, p. 7.; 2001-2004: Vital Statistics Annual Bulletin-2009, 27th Issue (Doha: Qatar Statistics Authority, July 2011), table 3.; 2005: Vital Statistics Annual Bulletin-2005, 22th Issue (Doha: Central Statistical Organization, Sept. 2006), table 7-1, p. 25; table 44, p. 205.; 2006-2009: Vital Statistics Annual Bulletin-2009, 27th Issue (Doha: Qatar Statistics Authority, July 2011), table 3.; 2010: Vital Statistics Annual Bulletin-2010, 26th Issue (Doha: Qatar Statistics Authority, July 2010), table 6-1.; Infant deaths, 2000: Vital Statistics Annual Bulletin-2000, 17th Issue (Doha: Central Statistical Organization, Apr. 2001), table 41, p. 168.; 2001-2009: Vital Statistics Annual Bulletin-2010, 26th Issue (Doha: Qatar Statistics Authority, July 2010), table 53.; 2010: Vital Statistics Annual Bulletin-2010, 26th Issue (Doha: Qatar Statistics Authority, July 2010), table 20.
Age group Year 0-4 5-9 10-14 15-19 20-24 25-29 30-34 35-39 40-44 45-49 50-54 55-59 60-64 65-69 70-74 75+ Total Qatari population
(a) =Include the period of May 2000-Apr. 2005; (b) = Include the period of May 2005-Apr. 2010
Sources: 2004, 0-3 age group: Vital Statistics Annual Bulletin-2004, 21th Issue (Doha: Central Statistical Organization, June 2005), table 1.7, p. 26; table 44, p. 208; Vital Statistics Annual Bulletin-2007, 24th Issue (Doha: Qatar Statistics Authority, July 2008), table 5, p. 26; table 44, p. 208; 3 years and above: At-Ta’dad al-’Amm lil-Sukan wal-Masakin-2004 (2004 Census) (Doha: Majlis at-Tahtit, Dec. 2004), table 1, p. 141; table 8, p. 154; 2010, 0-9 age group: Table 4.b.; 10 years and above: The General Census of Population and Housing, and Establishment, Apr.-2010 (Doha: Qatar Statistics Authority, 2010), table 24.
Table 6: Age-Specific Fertility Rate, Qatari Indigenous Women, 1980-2012
Year Age Group 1980 (so) 1984 (so) 1986 (o) 1988 (so) 1992 (so) 1994 (so) 1997 (o) 2000 (o) 2004 (o) 2008 (o) 2009 (o) 2010 (o) 2011 (o) 2012 (o)
o = Official Qatari data; so = Semi official data (ECWA/ESCWA).
Sources: 1980: ECWA, Demographic Data Sheets, No. 3 (1982), table 2, p.132.; 1984: ESCWA, Demographic Data Sheets, No. 4 (1985), table 2, p. 124.; 1986: Women and Men in the State of Qatar: A Statistical Profile-2006 (Doha: Central Statistical Organization, Apr. 2006), p. 27; 1988: ESCWA, Population Situation-1990, table 9.4, p. 156; 1992: ESCWA, Demographic Data Sheets, No. 7 (1993), table 3, p. 108; 1994: ESCWA, Demographic Data Sheets, No. 8 (1995), table 3, p. 94.; 1997: Women and Men in the State of Qatar: A Statistical Profile-2006 (Doha: Central Statistical Organization, Apr. 2006), p. 27; 2000: Qatar Information Exchange; 2004: Women and Men in the State of Qatar: A Statistical Profile-2006 (Doha: Central Statistical Organization, Apr. 2006), p. 27; 2008-2011: Woman and Man in the State of Qatar: A Statistical Profile-2012 (Doha: Qatar Statistics Authority, 2013), table 1/5, p. 16.; 2012: Qatar Information Exchange. Available at: www.qix.gov.qa.
The research for this article is mainly derived from two kinds of sources:
(a) Official Qatari data, which includes two types of materials. The first is the five censuses which Qatari authorities implemented, beginning in April 1970 and most recently in April 2010.
The second is drawn from the Qatari civil registration system and ongoing demographic and health statistical publications. Although Qatar implemented its first census in 1970, it did not have an accurate system of vital demographic registration until the early 1980s. In 1980, the Central Statistical Organization (CSO) was established and, in 1998, it was integrated into the Planning Council. In June 2007, the Statistics Authority (QSA) was established as a new independent governmental agency.
(b) ECWA/ESCWA publications. The U.N. Economic Commission for Western Asia (ECWA) was established in 1973. In 1985, the name of the organization was changed to the U.N. Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia. The data provided by ECWA and ESCWA since the early 1980s is quite detailed. In addition to providing the total number of Qatari citizens according to sex and age groups, it covers a wide range of other demographic parameters such as the crude birth and death rates, age-specific fertility rates, and in some years, even the scale and structure of the indigenous workforce. However, in many cases, the estimates provided by ECWA/ESCWA were not accurate, and in some instances, there was quite a substantial gap between the data it provided and the estimates from our research on the number of the Qatari nationals.
The “accuracy hierarchy” supposition on which this research is based is that since the mid-1980s, the most reliable data is that published by the Qatari authorities themselves, followed by that published by ECWA/ESCWA. Unofficial estimates have been credited with little accuracy as their research methodology was not specified. This article did not use any data from the World Bank or the CIA, as the demographic data published by both organizations lumps the Qatari nationals and the foreign population into one group without any distinction between them.
In light of the above-mentioned accuracy hierarchy, the Qatari official data served as a “fulcrum” on which the calculated estimates were based regarding both the total number of Qatari citizens and their natural increase. In many cases, ECWA/ESCWA’s data serve either to check the probability of the Qatari official data or as a supplement to Qatari partial official data.
 Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Qatar, Kuwait, Oman and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
 Jure Snoj, “Population of Qatar,” bq magazine (Doha), Dec. 18, 2013.
 “History of Census in Qatar,” Qatar Statistics Authority, Doha, accessed Jan. 15, 2015.
 Allen J. Fromherz, Qatar: A Modern History (London and New York: I.B. Tauris, 2012), p. 1.
 Population and Development, Issue No. 6: Development Policy Implication of Age-Structure Transitions in Arab Countries (New York: U.N. Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia, 2013), annex I, table 1, p. 67; The Population Situation in the ECWA Region-Qatar (Beirut: U.N. Economic Commission for Western Asia, 1980), p. 8.
 N.B. Hudson, The First Population Census of Qatar, April/May 1970 (Beirut: British Embassy in Beirut, Middle East Development Division, Oct. 1970), p. 17.
 Ibid., pp. 3-4.
 J.S. Birks and C.A. Sinclair, Country Case Study: The State of Qatar, International Migration Project, (Durham: University of Durham, Feb. 1978).
 Women and Men in the State of Qatar: A Statistical Profile-2006 (Doha: Central Statistical Organization, Apr. 2006), table 1/4, p. 96.
 At-Ta’dad al-Amm li-l-Sukan wa-l-Masakin-March 1997 (Doha: Majlis at-Tahtit, Feb. 1999), table 13, p. 65.
 The natural increase between the two censuses included the natural increase growth for the period of Mar.-Dec. 1986, the whole period of 1987-1996 and that of Jan., Feb., and half of Mar. 1997 since the census was implemented on Mar. 16.
 According to the 1997 census data, the age group of 15-65 represented 51.3 percent among the males but 54.5 percent among the females. See Women and Men in the State of Qatar, p. 16.
 At-Ta’dad al-Amm li-l-Sukan wa-l-Masakin-March 2004 (Doha: Majlis at-Tahtit, Dec. 2004), table 1, p. 141, table 8, p. 154.
 Vital Statistics Annual Bulletin-2010, 26th issue (Doha: Qatar Statistics Authority, July 2010), table 10, p. 29, table 53, p. 201.
 The natural increase growth between the 1997 and the 2004 censuses was calculated as follows: half of the natural increase in March 1997 plus the whole natural increase of the rest of that year; the natural increase of the whole period of 1998-2003; and the natural increase of Jan., Feb., and half of Mar. 2004.
 Census of Population and Housing, and Establishment, April-2010 (Doha: Qatar Statistics Authority, 2010), table 24, p. 91.
 The natural increase growth between the two censuses was calculated as follows: half of the natural increase in Mar. 2004 plus the whole natural increase of the rest of that year; the natural increase of the whole period of 2005-09; and the natural increase of Jan.-Mar. and two-thirds of Apr. 2010.
 Since there is no available data for the age group of 55-59 each year, the total population of this age group was divided by 5 (since this cohort contains 5 years) and multiplied by 4 (since only 4 not 5 years are needed for the comparison), thus producing 2,606 people for the age group of 55-58.
 At-Ta’dad al-Amm li-l-Sukan wa-l-Masakin-March 2004, table 1, p. 141, table 8, p. 154.
 Census of Population and Housing, and Establishment, April-2010, table 14; Summary Results of 2010 Population, Housing and Establishments Census (Doha: Qatar Statistics Authority, 2010), table 2-1, p. 11.
 See Gianluca P. Parolin, Citizenship in the Arab World: Kin, Religion and Nation-State (Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2009), p. 116; Gulf News (Dubai), Apr. 3, 2005.
 Baquer Salman al-Najjar, “Population Policies in the Countries of the Gulf Co-operation Council,” in Abbas Abdelkarim, ed., Change and Development in the Gulf (London: Macmillan Press and New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1999), pp. 138-9.
 Nasra M. Shah, “The Management of Irregular Migration and Its Consequence for Development: Gulf Cooperation Council,” ILO Working Papers, International Labour Organization, Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific, Bangkok, Mar. 2009, p. 8.
 See, for example, Philippe Fargues, “Immigration without Inclusion: Non-Nationals in Nation-building in the Gulf States,” Asian and Pacific Migration Journal, no. 3-4 (2011), p. 273.
 Law No. 38 of 2005 on the acquisition of Qatari nationality, 38/2005, Qatar Legal Portal (al-Meezan); Zahra R. Babar, “Citizenship Construction in the State of Qatar,” Middle East Journal, Summer 2014, pp. 411-3; Gulf News, June 6, 2006.
 Financial Times, Oct. 24, 2010.
 Asharq al-Awsat (London), Sept. 18, 2014; Justin Gengler, “Bahrain Drain: Why the King’s Sunni Supporters are Moving Abroad,” Foreign Affairs, Sept. 5, 2014.
 Statistical Abstract of the Region of the Economic Commission for Western Asia, 1970-1979, 4th issue (Beirut: U.N. Economic Commission for Western Asia, 1981), table 1-2, p. 174.
 Demographic and Related Socio-economic Data Sheets for Countries of the ECWA, no. 3 (Beirut: U.N. Economic Commission for Western Asia, May 1982), tables 2, 3, pp. 132-3.
 “World Population Policies-Qatar,” Population Studies, no. 102, vol. 3, U.N. Department of International Economic and Social Affairs, New York, 1990, pp. 39-40.
 “Labor Force Sample Survey-2011,” Qatar Statistics Authority, Doha, Nov. 2011, pp. 11-2, 14.
 For comparison, see Onn Winckler, Arab Political Demography: Population Growth, Labor Migration and Natalist Policies (Brighton and Portland: Sussex Academic Press, 2009), table 2.4, pp. 62-3.
 Bulletin on Population and Vital Statistics in the Arab Region, no. 16 (New York: U.N. Social and Economic Commission for Western Asia, 2013), table 77, p. 102.
 The State of Qatar’s Population Policy (Doha: Permanent Population Committee, Oct. 2009), p. 13.
 Annual Report-2011 (Doha: Permanent Population Committee, Jan. 2012), p. 8.
 The State of Qatar’s Population Policy, p. 13.
 World Population Projections, 1994-95 Edition, The World Bank (Baltimore and London: John Hopkins University Press, 1995), p. 442.
 World Population to 2030 (New York: U.N. Dept. of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division, 2004), table A11, p. 200.
 “Qatar,” International Data Base, U.S. Census bureau, Dec. 2013.
 Claude Berrebi, Francisco Martorell, and Jeffery C. Tanner, “Qatar’s Labor Market at a Crucial Crossroad,” Middle East Journal, Summer 2009, p. 429.
 Annual Abstract-2014 (Doha: Qatar Statistics Authority, 2014), table 5.
 “Qatar: 2012 Article IV Consultation,” IMF Country Report No. 12/18, International Monetary Fund, Washington, D.C., Jan. 2012, table 1, p. 27.
 “Qatar Economic Insight-2013,” Qatar National Bank, Doha, Nov. 2013, p. 2.
 For a detailed methodological examination of the various demographic sources used in the article, see Appendix A.
Related Topics: Demographics, Persian Gulf & Yemen | Onn Winckler | Spring 2015 MEQ This text may be reposted or forwarded so long as it is presented as an integral whole with complete and accurate information provided about its author, date, place of publication, and original URL.
April 13, 2015, 11h20-13h20, to be held at DAEGU_EXCO – Room DEC_303,
11h20-11h35: Keynote Speech by Angel Gurría, Secretary General, OECD
11h35-12h15: A High-level Perspective on OECD’s Principles to Water Governance
Moderated by Peter Glas, Chair, OECD Water Governance Initiative
Jeong Yeon-man, Vice-Minister of Environment Korea
§ Lesha Witmer, Coordinator and steering committee member of the “Butterfly Effect” NGO coalition
Francisco Nunes Correia, Professor, Minister of Environment of Portugal (2005-2009)
12:15: Release of the Daegu multi-stakeholder Declaration on the OECD Principles on Water Governance
12:20-13h10: Parallel Roundtables to Take the Principles Forward : Towards an Implementation Action Plan
Chaired by Rolf Alter, Director for Public Governance and Territorial Development, OECD
Multi-level governance – moderated by Sasha Koo-Oshima, US EPA
13h10-13h20: Conclusion and next steps
Link to other sessions of the OECD Water Governance Initiative at the 7th World Water Forum
For more information: Aziza.Akhmouch at oecd.org
Ultra-Orthodox woman fights for representation in Knesset.
She has created a political party of ultra-Orthodox women — the first in the history of the State of Israel — that ran for a seat in the Knesset on March 17. For many years, she has exhausted the legal system and other institutions with petitions, demonstrations and locally organized rebellions: for instance, in the municipal elections in the town of Petah Tikva, in the elections for the student council of a college and in struggles against various religious institutions. She does it all virtually alone, with her own two hands, fighting tooth and nail. She encounters defeat after defeat, gets up, dusts herself off and moves on. She knows that her victory will be measured by the clock of history. At some point, maybe in a year, or 10 or 50, an ultra-kosher Orthodox woman will get her very own seat in Israel’s Knesset, the legislative body of the State of Israel. When that happens, that woman will know that her path to the Knesset was prepared by Colian.
Intensive coverage has been accorded by Western media to women living under radical Islamic rule: Saudi women not allowed to drive a car, women disenfranchised of the right to vote, to express and realize themselves and women devoid of personal freedoms. The media devotes very little space to the condition of Jewish women in the ultra-Orthodox world. There are several large ultra-Orthodox communities in the United States, and in Israel a huge ultra-Orthodox community flourishes, with about 1 million members, about half of them women.
Ultra-Orthodox women are generally forced to bear on their own the burden of providing for the family (the men often devote their lives to holy studies). They raise a large number of children (an estimated average of six to seven per family), slave away around the clock to maintain jobs and the home, bear and raise children, clean, cook and so on, while hidden by their community inside their homes. These women are virtually not seen in public. They vote in Knesset elections but as far as their community is concerned they are not allowed to run in them (none of Israel’s three ultra-Orthodox parties — Shas, Yahadut HaTorah and the new party of Eli Yishai, Beyachad — have female lawmakers). They are not involved in political activity and do not take part in festivals and joyous occasions, unless they are discreetly hidden. Even at the Western Wall, Judaism’s holiest site, they are discriminated against: Their access to the area is from a narrow side entrance. They are banned from mixing with men in public. They are forced to cover their hair, sometimes their face, and wear modest clothing; the more radical among them force the women to shave their heads and to wear a scarf or a wig instead.
Colian is one of the first to dare come out against these phenomena in public, trying to breach the walls of the women’s ghetto. She tried to run in the elections for the student council at the college where she studied law and in the municipal elections in the town where she lives, Petah Tikva. She conducts bitter struggles in all sorts of areas and each time finds herself facing the entire ultra-Orthodox rabbinical establishment. They try to kick her young children out of the ultra-Orthodox institutions where they go to school, curb her activities, designate her a rebel, a heathen, a traitor. She was supposed to have broken down and given up a long time ago, but she hasn’t.
When the Knesset elections moved up to March 17, she decided to turn the tables on the establishment and established a movement called “Bizchutan, ultra-Orthodox women foster change.” She somehow managed to raise the required funds and put together a list of Knesset candidates. Together with three other ultra-Orthodox women she worked on getting through to ultra-Orthodox women and convincing them to pick her party as their representative when they find themselves behind the curtain at their polling station. Elections in Israel are conducted by secret ballot, and in principle, this could have been possible. But Colian, without funding or rich backers, had been unable to even film campaign commercials for television and social media (which all other parties produced). When she tried to place advertisements in the ultra-Orthodox press, she was turned down on the spot.
Two weeks before the elections, Colian had been holding discreet negotiations with Yesh Atid, the centrist party of Yair Lapid, one of the strongest liberal voices in Israel. The idea had been to sign a surplus vote-sharing agreement between the two parties. Such a move would position Colian at the top of the media agenda and provide her with the needed publicity. Lapid, who had yet to sign a surplus vote-sharing agreement with any party, gave the idea serious consideration. There is no electoral value of such an agreement with a party that will not reach the electoral threshold, but signing it would generate great ethical and moral value for Lapid, one of whose flagship issues has been the fight against the ultra-Orthodox establishment and the effort to impose a military draft on ultra-Orthodox men and to encourage them to go out into the workplace, instead of studying all day.
In the end, Lapid opted for investing his energies in an attempt to reach a surplus vote-sharing agreement with Isaac Herzog’s Zionist Camp. Simple politics trumped morality. Colian, in despair, considered a street demonstration with her party’s other candidates in the town of Beit Shemesh, with its particularly radical ultra-Orthodox community. “We want to stand on the sidewalk on which women are not permitted to walk, across from the synagogue, and see what happens,” she told Al-Monitor the week before the elections. “I know this could result in a big melee, but someone has to do this at some point.”
Beit Shemesh has often made the headlines in recent years after ultra-Orthodox radicals attacked women — cursing them, spitting at them and insulting them after they walked on sidewalks that had been designated off-limits. These are exactly the kinds of phenomena that Colian is fighting.
Following the elections, she sounded defiant. “I’m not naive. I know that the minute the elections are over, Yair Lapid and all the other politicians won’t give us the time of day, us ultra-Orthodox women. They will need the ultra-Orthodox parties in the government coalition and will forget our existence. But we are here. We are hundreds of thousands of women fed up with being a disciplined pool of voters. Women who want to realize dreams, who are sick of looking on from the sidelines, discarded in corners and used for the sake of procreation, cooking and cleaning. Every such woman is a whole universe. Among us are very talented women, who could be effective in public office. It’s about time that someone represent this large group in the legislature. Someone closely familiar with our distress. One day it will happen,” she said.
In the run-up to the elections, Colian’s party scored its first isolated victory when the Lod District Court complied with the party’s demand to require the ultra-Orthodox newspaper Yated Ne’eman to print a fully paid election advertisement in its name. The newspaper quickly appealed to the Supreme Court, which decided to overturn the decision until more exhaustive deliberations on the issue could be held. The women did not give up. Meanwhile, they received the unexpected support of reserve Maj. Gen. Giora Eiland, former head of the National Security Council, who publicly declared his support for the party. Eiland even donated money toward their improvised election campaign.
But on the day of the election, they were less successful. The Bizchutan list (Hebrew for “in their merit”) garnered 1,977 votes. To meet the electoral threshold and earn four seats in the Knesset, more than 120,000 votes are required. But Colian and her friends are far from despair and will continue on the path they have set for themselves. The number of votes they received coincidentally represents an important historic year (1977) in the annals of Israel — it was the year of the first “great political turnabout” of the state. That was when the Likud Party rose to power and replaced the Labor Party, which had ruled Israel for the first 30 years of its existence. Someday, the turnabout of ultra-Orthodox women will also take place. The first baby step in that direction has already been taken. Now the journey begins.
Ben Caspit is a columnist for Al-Monitor’s Israel Pulse. He is also a senior columnist and political analyst for Israeli newspapers, and has a daily radio show and regular TV shows on politics and Israel.
More from Israel Pulse:
Read more: www.al-monitor.com/pulse/original…
Moderate rebel groups are suffering. The Islamic State and Nusra are gaining ground. And Washington’s piecemeal efforts are worthless. Here’s a grand plan worth paying for.
By Robert S. Ford
The current U.S. strategy in Syria isn’t working. Despite the coalition airstrikes against the Islamic State, the group still has strategic depth in Syria to back its campaign in Iraq. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime, meanwhile, isn’t fighting the Islamic State — it’s locked in combat with the moderate opposition. Despite Washington’s hope for a national political transition away from Assad, there is no sign of a cease-fire, much less a comprehensive political deal.
More than ever, Americans — and Syrians — need to ask themselves what has gone wrong and what can be fixed. U.S. strategy needs to center on taking back ground from the Islamic State and driving a wedge between Assad’s small ruling circle and his increasingly wobbly support base so that a new government can be established to rally more Syrians against the jihadis. Reinforcing Syria’s moderate rebels is still the key component in achieving these goals, but we — and they — have to get the strategy and tactics right.
The quiet end to the Syrian armed opposition’s Hazm Movement, with which the Americans had worked in northern Syria, was the latest signpost of the current failed policy. With aid coming too little and too late, the movement was easily knocked aside by al Qaeda-linked extremists who gained new territory and border crossings. It is far from the only moderate rebel group to suffer large setbacks in recent months: Others are simultaneously under attack from Assad regime forces (which are strongly reinforced by Iranian and Hezbollah troops), jihadis from the al Qaeda-affiliated Nusra Front, and the Islamic State.
Meanwhile, the Americans didn’t ramp up aid to the secular moderates when they needed it most. Instead, assistance to moderate Syrian fighters has been small and erratic, and the rebel fighters have been badly divided by foreign states parceling out desperately needed aid among multiple groups. This has created a vicious cycle, forcing the moderate rebels to compete against each other and to sometimes cooperate with al-Nusra Front. That in turn has aggravated foreign states and scared off any regime elements that might want to negotiate a deal, thus extending the war of attrition to the benefit of the Islamic State.
The larger package deal is vital. Simply increasing material aid to the moderate fighters in northern and southern Syria, even by huge amounts, won’t be enough. The key is settling on a revised strategy that establishes a unified command structure for the non-jihadi opposition.
This unified structure must be the sole conduit for external funding, arming, and training. It must include the main non-jihadi rebel groups and must be led by a Syrian who enjoys wide support from Syrians fighting on the ground and from foreign states. Those who refuse to follow orders from the unified command must be cut off from any assistance. This is the only way to end the fragmentation that has long plagued the moderate armed opposition and to ensure it will support any eventual negotiation.
Ankara has been trying to exploit extremists to fight both the Assad regime and the PYD, the terrorist PKK-affiliate operating in Syria. A U.S. strategy that provides greater support for moderate forces fighting Assad and the jihadis, and which also ends U.S. actions that foster Kurdish separatism in Syria, could convince Turkey to abandon this path. SustainabiliTank.info editor takes exception from this last proposition that originates with the author iof this paper!}
While U.S. military aid to the Syrian Kurdish fighters from the PYD helped to combat the Islamic State around the northern city of Kobani, it also fosters the PYD’s separatist ambitions. The PYD has already unilaterally announced an autonomous zone in northern Syria, which has spurred fearful Arab tribes in the area either to back Assad or the Islamic State. The U.S. emphasis on using Syrian Kurds against the Islamic State won’t end the jihadi threat — it will only aggravate it, and the broader Syrian conflict. The Syrian Kurds’ demand for decentralization may be the only way to reassemble a shattered Syria one day, but for now, the Americans and their allies must tell the PYD that autonomous zones only belong as part of longer-term political negotiations involving all Syrians.
Hugely boosted U.S. aid to the Syrian opposition should come with strings attached — a lot of them. In return for increased support, the Syrian opposition writ large must agree on these six conditions:
1) That armed groups receiving assistance from the newly created central command will obey its orders only.
2) That the armed opposition will stop atrocities against civilian communities that have backed the Assad regime and that the armed opposition command will accept responsibility for actions of its constituent groups.
3) That the armed opposition will sever all ties with al-Nusra Front.
4) That the armed opposition’s leadership must constantly reiterate that it is not seeking to destroy Christian, Alawite, or other minority communities and is prepared to negotiate local security arrangements, including with Syrian Arab Army elements, to protect all Syrians.
5) That it will negotiate a national political deal to end the conflict without Assad’s departure as a pre-condition.
6) That any political coalition purporting to lead the opposition must have genuine representation from minorities and top-level businessmen in Syria — communities that have, broadly speaking, supported Assad’s government — and that representation will not come mainly from long-term expatriates.
Implementing these steps would help create a moderate rebel force able to confront the Islamic State and al-Nusra Front, and also pave the way for a real national political negotiation. If U.S. regional partners and the Syrian opposition won’t accept the strategy and the tactics to make it work, or if the Obama administration won’t expand its level of assistance and the air mission, then Washington needs to drop the goal of significantly degrading the Islamic State in Syria over the next several years.
It would be better for American credibility to walk away than try more halfhearted measures in Syria.
It would be better for American credibility to walk away than try more halfhearted measures in Syria.
After two years of experience, we should realize that limited actions aren’t enough to address the major threats emanating from Syria. Our foreign partners want U.S. vision and leadership to contain extremists and launch a successful negotiation for a Syrian unity government, which is the only sustainable fix to the extremist threat. Let’s give it to them.
A Week before the Elections in Israel and it looks already that Democracy will be Reinforced by bringing the Arabs into the Israeli Government or at least make them the Official Leaders of the Opposition.
The following article expresses the realism we wrote about earlier – that the Palestinian issue will find a solution only if the Israeli Arabs will pick it up as part of the only democracy in the Middle East – the State of Israel. So, activism of the Israeli Arabs is a good thing for everyone as long as it is done as part of the Israeli democracy. Seemingly, the Arab citizens of Israel have found a true leader in Ayman Odeh of Haifa who understands how political democracy can help the cause of all Israeli citizens including its Arabs, and by doing so will help also the Arabs outside borders of Israel.
To be successful in bettering their own positions, the Arabs of Israel will now fight for the common interest on the side of all other citizens of Israel – these interests are SOCIAL JUSTICE AND PEACE. By playing their cards within the system they could be part of the new government or at least be recognized as the in-land political loyal opposition.
Ayman Odeh, leader of the joint Arab ticket, talks about equality, peace and a lasting settlement. Ayman Odeh’s Campaign
Until this election cycle there were four Arab parties represented in the Israeli parliament. They were very different, ranging from: the Chadash party, (originally the Israeli Communist party), which has always included Jews and Arabs; Balad-Ta’al, two highly nationalistic, but secular parties; and the Islamic party, whose platform is reflected in its name.
Previous attempts to unite these parties into a single list failed, due to the large ideological differences between the groups. However, the last Knesset passed a law, sponsored by the party of Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, that raised the threshold of votes a party is required to receive before it can be admitted to the Knesset.
Many believe that Lieberman’s unstated goal to was to push the Arab parties out of the Knesset. Indeed, in a debate held before this interview, Lieberman turned to the Odeh and said, “You are here for now.”
At the time of writing, polls show the United Arab List receiving 12 places in the upcoming Knesset, although many believe that that number will grow to as many as 15 seats as the existence of the United List will result in an increase in Arab Israeli participation in this election. For the Center-Left to win this election it is clear that the joint Arab slate will be key—minimally in blocking Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s ability to build a coalition.
I met the leader of Hadash who heads the joint Arab effort, Ayman Odeh, toward the end of long day. The fatigue was visible on his face, as well as on the faces of his weary campaign staff. With just two weeks to go until the election, there was no time to lose for this 40-year-old, who was born and grew up in Haifa, has a law degree and is married with two children.
Odeh has the personality of a natural politician. He immediately put me at ease. In a Clintonian manner, he knew how to make me feel that (at least for the moment) I was the center of his world. The mission he accepted—i.e. holding together his diverse coalition and becoming a significant player on the larger Israeli political scene, will be a challenge. Here is a condensed transcript of our conversation that took place in Hebrew:
Tell me a little about your background and why you got into national politics?
Odeh: I was a member of the Haifa City Council when I was 23 years old, which made me the youngest city councilman in Israel. When I began my political career, I identified with Malcolm X. After two or three years, I evolved—and not to a small degree—because of my service on the council in the city of Haifa, which is the most liberal multicultural yet homogenous city in Israel.
As a result of that experience I was transformed from being someone who believed that either the Jews or the Arabs could survive here, to someone who thought that Arabs and Jews must work together. I began to feel that I now must follow in the footsteps of Martin Luther King, who believed in working together.
So I began to look for the good in all the residents. I understood that what is generally good for people in distress is good for the Arab population; that democracy is good for the whole country, including the Arab population. I learned that social justice benefits the whole population, including the Arab citizens.
This attitude shift helped me connect to all sorts of groups. Four years ago, I sat for a whole month on Rothschild Boulevard (the place where the Israeli social protest movement began). I believe I was the only Arab to do so. I was the one who helped develop the slogan “The people demand social justice.” At the first demonstration, people were initially chanting all sorts of slogans. But in Egypt the people had already been demonstrating, shouting “The people want.…” so I borrowed the phrase “the people want” and added “social justice.”
My ideological transformation was part of my political maturation, choosing to become part of the greater whole. This does not mean that now I ignore the specific needs of the Arabs in Israel. On the contrary, as part of the greater whole, I can better address the needs of the Arab community.
Now, in every party meeting of our Joint List I say, yes, we will address the needs of Arab Israelis, but not only the needs of Arab Israelis. We will have 15 seats in the upcoming Knesset. We will raise our hands in support for the handicapped, for the pensioners, for all of the weaker sectors.
Do you think the four parties you represent who came together will be able to work together—minimally for the medium term, not to mention for the long-term?
Odeh: When our four parties began to work together we discovered that our positions are actually very close to each other. Together we developed both long-range and more immediate plans. The long-term plans talk about peace, based on the U.N. Resolutions: equal rights for everyone in the country; social justice for everyone; and equality between people in the State of Israel. As to our short-term achievable goals, I am developing a plan, which the other groups support. I have a ten-year plan to close the socioeconomic gaps between Jews and Arabs.
We have many disagreements on the nationalist level. I, Ayman, will not give up on any of my national rights. I will continue to speak about them. However, there are some things that we do not need to fight over—for example, equal civil rights, employment in general, employment of women, elimination of violence, recognition of the recognized Bedouin villages in the South and bus service to the underserved Arab towns. I put forth 90 new civil programs, and I have expert opinions from economists who agree that within two years the country would directly benefit from my plan.
When I speak about our national rights, people respond by saying, “How scary.” But it is not scary. It would be good for both of us. I tell you, I want two nations here by choice. I want two cultures here. That is good for me. It adds something important for me. We are all richer because there are two nations and two cultures here. Let’s focus on the positive things that unite us and not what separates us.
There was a recent Ha’aretz Newspaper poll showing that 70 percent of the Arab population in the country are more interested in matters of economics and daily life than questions about the Palestinian issue. How do you respond to those findings?
I will not run away from the nationalistic issue. Our society, our joint society will never be a moral society as long as we occupy another people, not only from a moral and democratic point of view but also economically. Instead of wasting money in the occupied territories, money should be spent here in Israel for the good of all of us—for education, for health and for social programs. However, all of what I just said here is secondary to the fact that the Palestinian people have a right, just like all people in the world, to have their own state.
What do you respond to Israelis who say, “Yes, we agree with you theoretically, but if you look at the state of the Arab world at the moment, this is not the time to make drastic any changes?”
Odeh: Let’s look at the reality of the world around Israel. Israel made peace with Egypt, the largest Arab State. There are militant Islamists there, but there is also law. There are agreements and also defense arrangements there. So, was it better to make an agreement with Egypt or not?
Now let’s look at Jordan, the country with which we have the longest border. Jordan is home to members of the Muslim Brotherhood. In Jordan, there are Salafim, and there are even some members of ISIS.
However, there is a monarchy that runs an independent government. In Jordan there is law and there is security cooperation. Where there is law, and where there is government, there is security. Therefore, I believe it is better for there to be clear borders and independence.
The Palestinian Arabs accept the framework that they will get a state on 22 percent of the land that they dreamed of. I believe that you cannot push them any further to the wall. There is an historic opportunity. Abu Mazen [Mahmoud Abbas, leader of the Palestinian Liberation Organization] is a pragmatic person, a peace loving person, in everyone’s opinion—other than the opinion of the Israeli government.
While Abu Mazen [Abbas] might have the image of someone who wants peace, doesn’t he have the image of being a weak leader?
Odeh: Abu Mazen has proved he can control the West Bank. There have been very, very difficult events for the Palestinian people, and despite these outbreaks and the ongoing occupation Abu Mazen has shown he can maintain order—even though in reality, that is not his job. If he successfully brings accomplishment to his people, his position will be strengthened. He is weak because he does not succeed. It is the Israeli government who prefer him weak.
Why do you think during the last few years there has been such a rise in racist actions against Arabs in Israel?
Odeh: I will explain something that might sound backwards. I believe that since the Bar-Ilan speech by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the right wing has understood that there is no choice (i.e. there will have to be a Palestinian State.) This realization by the right wing has fueled racism towards the Arab citizens of Israel. MK [Member of the Knesset] Avigdor Lieberman speaks every Monday and Thursday against the Arab citizens of Israel. Yet even Lieberman, when he repeats his slogan “Um-El -Fahem [an Arab Israeli town] to Palestine,” is implicitly recognizing that there will be a Palestinian State.
In 2006, Prime Minister Netanyahu said that the main danger to Israel was not the Arabs in the territories but, rather, the Arabs inside Israel. In some ways I think he is correct. The Arab population does not want to turn inward and be isolated, it could throw all of its weight into the political process.
The Arab population should not sit on the side and wait until 50 percent of the Israeli population is convinced about some of our views. We can be satisfied if we are able to convince 30 percent of the Jewish population. Then together with our 20 percent we will be at least 50 percent. This is the reason the right wing attacks us.
All we have to do is become determined to get involved in the political game and the right wing will be in big trouble.
I have to ask the question that everyone asks—If you are asked by [chairman of the Labor Party and Leader of the Opposition] Yitzhak Herzog to join the government, will you?
Odeh: The most important thing is that the Netanyahu government, which has been so bad for all parts of the Israeli population, must come to an end. However, at the same time, we are not in Herzog’s pocket. If and when we get to that junction [where Herzog approaches us], then we will decide.
Assuming you have approximately 15 seats—which is (more or less) the number people expect you to have—what do you think you can accomplish?
Odeh: If Yitzhak Herzog is the one picked to form the government, he should have the courage to rely on us. His party (actually it was the Labor party, under the leadership of Yitzhak Rabin) had good experiences when they relied on us as a blocking guard. We want the next government to be one that seeks peace and equality. We plan to bring our population what they deserve.
If there is one large coalition government compromising Labor and Likud, we will be the head of the opposition. Then, for the first time in history, the head of the opposition will receive foreign visitors. I will bring up the issues facing the Arab population to those who visit.
The head of the opposition speaks after the Prime Minister in the Knesset and receives government briefings. All of this will happen for the first time in history—That will be a good position for us to be in.
Historian Marc Schulman is the editor of historycentral.com. An archive of his recent daily reports from Tel-Aviv can be found here. A longer version of this interview can be found at historycentral.
After Netanyahu Speech, Congress Is Officially High School
07 March 15
ears ago, when I was just starting in this business, I had the privilege to meet a well-known muckraker and columnist. I asked him the secret of his success.
“Two things,” he said. “One: when you’re hammered after a night out, drink an entire liter of water before you go to bed. An entire liter, do you understand? Otherwise the whole next work day is shot.”
“An entire liter,” I said. “Got it.”
“Second, never write about Israel. It just pisses people off. No matter what you say, you lose half your Rolodex.”
I frowned. How he could ignore such an important topic? Didn’t he care?
“Son,” he said, “we’re prostitutes. We don’t enjoy the sex.”
Mainly by accident, I sort of ended up following that advice, but I did watch the Benjamin Netanyahu speech and its aftermath this week. A few thoughts on one of the more unseemly scenes Congress has cooked up in a while:
First of all, the applause from members of the House and Senate was so over the top, it recalled the famous passage in the Gulag Archipelago about the apparatchik approach to a Stalin speech: “Never be the first one to stop clapping.”
Watching it, you’d almost have thought the members were experiencing a similar terror of being caught looking unenthusiastic. I say almost because in reality, it’s a silly thought, in a democracy: nobody’s getting taken out back and shot for showing boredom.
But then, no kidding at all, a gif apparently showing Rand Paul clapping with insufficient fervor rocketed around social media.
It got enough attention that the Washington Post wrote about it and Paul himself had to issue a statement on Fox and Friends denying he wasn’t clapping really, really hard. “I gave the Prime Minister 50 standing ovations. I co-sponsored bringing him here,” Paul pleaded. Is the Internet age beautiful or what?
But the telescreens weren’t just watching the Republicans. Cameras also captured Nancy Pelosi looking somewhat south of enraptured during the speech.
Those photos only circulated more after she said she was “near tears” because she was saddened by Netanyahu’s speech, which she termed an “insult to the intelligence of the United States.”
This in turn led to more social media avalanching and a cartoonish response from South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham, who told a donor at a fund-raiser: “Did you see Nancy Pelosi on the floor? Complete disgust. . .If you can get through all the surgeries, there’s disgust!”
Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the U.S. Senate! If Kathy Griffin ever bombs out on Fashion Police, Graham will have a job waiting for him.
After Bloomberg traitorously reported on Graham’s locker-room joke about Pelosi’s face, a storm of criticism from Democrat members raged and the Senator was forced to walk his comments back (“I made a poor attempt at humor,” he said, in what is looking like the go-to lawyer-drafted apology line of our times).
All of this preening and adolescent defiance, all these bitchy homeroom-style barbs and insults: has the U.S. government ever seemed more like high school?
Indiana Republican Jackie Walorski apparently thinks school’s still in. This is her reacting after Netanyahu’s speech, according to Slate:
“Wooh, baby! That was awesome!”
Around the world, not everyone was so enthused. Several Israeli diplomats took to Twitter to voice their concerns over Netanyahu’s appearance. (Everybody tweeted about this speech. There were more Iranian officials on Twitter Tuesday than there were sportswriters at the Super Bowl).
Yigal Caspi, Israel’s ambassador to Switzerland, retweeted a line from an Israeli journalist: “Is it no longer possible to suffice in scaring us here in Hebrew? [Netanyahu] has to fly all the way to the US Congress and tell them in English how dangerous Iran’s nuclear program is?”
Caspi and two other diplomats got the ax for their social media responses to the speech. Meanwhile, British journalist Jeremy Bowen got caught in the Twitter Punji-trap when he made a comment about Elie Wiesel, the author and Holocaust survivor who sat in the Speaker’s box with Netanyahu’s wife, Sara.
A safe joke to make about Wiesel’s presence probably would have been something along the lines of, “I guess that book Elie was planning on co-writing with Barack Obama is on hold.” The BBC’s Bowen went in a different direction, bluntly declaring that Netanyahu was “playing the Holocaust card” by bringing the Nobel laureate and camp survivor.
Instantly accused of anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial, Bowen and the BBC insisted that he was just using “journalistic shorthand,” and that the wording was appropriate because Netanyahu was raising the “specter of another Holocaust.” As of this writing, Twitter warriors are still feasting on Bowen’s head and should have him skeletonized by nightfall.
Nobody came out of this week looking good. Regardless of where you stood on a possible nuclear deal with Iran, the whole episode this week made the American government look like what some in the Iranian press apparently called it: a clown show.
Once upon a time, the opposition party pursuing a second line of foreign policy for domestic political purposes was considered unseemly.
Think candidate Dick Nixon submarining the 1968 Vietnam Peace talks behind LBJ’s back, or the fabled October Surprise conspiracy theory. This was something one did in secret, preferably in trench coats instead of ties, with no press at all present, unless you count Sy Hersh’s future sources.
But this was like the October Surprise as a pay-per-view MMA event. That this sleazy scheme was cooked up mainly for the political gain of both the hosts and the speaker (who faces an election in two weeks) was obvious in about a hundred different ways, beginning with the fact that the speech was apparently timed so that Israeli audiences could watch it over dinner.
But the gambit only sort of worked for Netanyahu, whose Likud Party has experienced only a modest bounce since the speech, if it got one at all. American news outlets humorously had different takes on the same polls showing Likud gaining one or two seats (HuffPo: “Netanyahu’s Popularity Rises After Speech to U.S. Congress: Polls”; Washington Post: “Netanyahu’s Speech to Congress Fails to Jolt Electoral Needle At Home”).
Similarly, if the move had any benefit to the Republicans in congress, it was hard to perceive. Nobody in the media drew a link between Bibi’s speech and the Republicans’ surrender on the Homeland Security funding bill, but on some level there must have been one.
You can’t invite a foreign leader into the House Gallery to accuse a sitting president of being soft on terrorism in an event covered by 10 million journalists, and then turn around the same week and defund the president’s Homeland Security department over some loony immigration objective.
Even worse, the decision to try to conduct their own foreign policy in the shadow of the White House went over so badly with American voters, it actually gave Barack Obama a 5-point sympathy bump in his approval rating.
Put it all together, and the Republicans’ big roll-out this week had to be the most self-defeating political pincer move since the Judean Peoples’ Front sent their Crack Suicide Squad to the rescue in Life of Brian.
This was a week that made everyone look bad: congress, the media, Netanyahu, the Tweeting Supreme Leader in Iran, everyone. Obama only came out looking OK because he mostly stayed off camera and kept his mouth shut.
Mostly, however, it was just a depressing, circus-like demonstration of how schizoid and dysfunctional Washington politics have become. The logical next step after a caper like this is the opening of Republican and Democratic embassies abroad. Let’s hope it’s a long time before anyone tries this again.
SOME OF THE COMMENTS:
If Korea re-unites a lot of money will be lost by the US military industry. Will they let this happen? Can President Obama move on this? A call to action on this 70 years old “Forgotten War” is brought up now by an international women’s group.
International women peacemakers are planning a peace walk across the De-Militarized Zone to bring global attention to the unresolved Korean War and amplify women’s leadership to help reunify the country.
The year 2013 marked the sixtieth anniversary of the armistice agreement that ended the Korean War. The temporary ceasefire has never been replaced with a peace treaty, and the 2 mile-wide and 155 mile-long demilitarized zone (DMZ) continues to divide the Korean peninsula with recurring tensions that serve as a sobering reminder of the possibility of renewed war.
Traversing the seemingly impermeable border, five New Zealanders crossed the DMZ in August 2013. They rode their motorbikes from Mt. Paekdu on the northern border with China all the way down the peninsula to Mt. Halla on the southernmost island of Jeju. This inspired me to begin imagining a women’s peace walk across the DMZ by international women peacemakers – many from countries that fought in the Korean War – to bring global attention to the unresolved Korean War and amplify women’s leadership to help reunify the country. After talking to one of the organizers of the August 2013 crossing, I decided to sequentially follow their blueprint and reached out first to the North Korean government
A year ago, I went on this peacebuilding mission to Pyongyang to discuss an international women’s peace walk across the two-mile wide De-Militarized Zone (DMZ) separating the two Koreas. To my relief, Pyongyang responded very favourably towards our proposal, but with a stern caveat: only if the conditions were favourable.
Today, despite New Year calls for engagement by both Korean leaders, tensions remain very high. And this month, the United States and South Korea are conducting a two-month long period of military exercises called Key Resolve and Foal Eagle, which the North Korean Rodong Sinmun believes are “aimed to occupy the DPRK through pre-emptive strikes.”
The conditions are not favourable, but we are still planning the women’s peace walk across the DMZ this May. We have formed an organization called Women De-Militarize the Zone, and thirty women from more than a dozen countries have signed dup to walk for peace and the reunification of Korea. They range from Nobel peace laureates to artists, academics, humanitarian aid workers, and faith leaders.
This year marks the 70th anniversary of the division of Korea by the United States and the former Soviet Union. For nearly seven decades, Koreans on both sides of the DMZ have long awaited a peace treaty to formally resolve the 1950-53 Korean War that only ended with a ceasefire agreement. Instead, 70 million Koreans across the peninsula, from the northern border of China down to the southern-most Jeju Island, have endured political repression and an endless arms race.
In 1945, after Japan’s defeat in WWII, the United States landed in Korea, which had been under brutal Japanese colonization for 35 years. Without the consent of Koreans, who were awaiting its liberation and sovereignty after an entire generation under Japanese occupation, the two Cold War powers – Washington and Moscow – divided the peninsula along the 38th parallel. It was supposed to be a temporary division, but instead the creation of two separate states precipitated the 1950-53 Korean War.
Despite the massive loss of human life and destruction, the Korean War has come to be known as the “forgotten war.” More bombs were dropped on Korea from 1950 to 1953 than on all of Asia and the Pacific islands during World War II, and President Truman came seriously close to deploying an atomic bomb. One year into the Korean War, US Major General Emmett O’Donnell Jr. testified before the Senate, “I would say that the entire, almost the entire Korean Peninsula is just a terrible mess. Everything is destroyed. There is nothing standing worthy of the name . . . There [are] no more targets in Korea.” According to University of Chicago historian Bruce Cumings, during the Korean War, U.S. airstrikes led to the destruction of 18 of 22 major North Korean cities. Cumings cites Hungarian journalist Tibor Meray, who recalled, “I saw destruction and horrible things committed by American forces… Everything which moved in North Korea is a military target, peasants in the field often were machine gunned by pilots, who, this was my impression, amused themselves to shoot targets which moved.”
In 1953, after nearly 4 million people were killed, mostly Korean civilians, North Korea, China and the United States, representing the United Nations Command, signed the armistice agreement with a promise within three months to sign a peace treaty. Over 60 years later, we are still waiting for a peace treaty to end war.
What has ensued instead for the past six decades is an endless arms race between North and South Korea. Whether we like it or not, the fact that the Korean War ended with a temporary cease-fire rather than a permanent peace treaty gives both Korean governments justification to invest heavily in the country’s militarization. According to the Ploughshares Fund World Nuclear Stockpile Report, North Korea possesses less than 10 nuclear weapons of the 16,300 worldwide that are predominantly held by Russia and the United States. North Korea invests approximately $8.7 billion — significantly higher than the $570 million Pyongyang claims — or one-third of its GDP in the military, according to the South Korean government-run Korea Institute of Defense Analyses. In 2013, to great surprise, Pyongyang acknowledged how the un-ended war has forced it “to divert large human and material resources to bolstering up the armed forces though they should have been directed to the economic development and improvement of people’s living standards.”
But it’s not just North Korea. According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) 2014 Yearbook, South Korea was the world’s 10th highest military spender, with its expenditures reaching $34 billion for the year. World Bank data shows that in 2012, 13.6 percent of the central government’s expenditures in South Korea went towards defence spending. According to a North Korea expert at Seoul National University, Suh Bohyuk, in 2011, South Korea became the world’s number-two weapons importer. In September 2014, South Korea spent $7 billion for 40 Lockheed Martin F-35 fighter jets. “The reason that we are building up our military is to counter North Korea’s attacks and provocations,” said a South Korean military official. According to political science professor Yang Seung-ham of Yonsei University, “The Park administration is rapidly purchasing many advanced weaponry for military security, which does not help in easing inter-Korea tensions.” Conservative hawks in Washington are also pushing South Korea’s militarization. According to the Friends Committee on National Legislation, although Washington withdrew 11 types of nuclear weapons from South Korea in 1991, hawks in U.S. Congress are now advocating for the return of U.S. nukes.
North Korea’s heavy military spending isn’t just to defend against South Korea, but against the world’s most powerful military in the world: the United States, which has since it landed on Korean soil in 1945 maintained thousands of soldiers and bases throughout the southern half of the peninsula. Washington regularly conducts military exercises with Seoul, simulating the invasion of North Korea. In January, in order to promote dialogue on the Korean peninsula, Pyongyang offered a moratorium on nuclear testing in exchange for the United States to postpone war game exercises with South Korea. The olive branch came a day after the North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s New Years Day speech in which he offered to meet President Park if “the mood was right” and that the two Koreas should promote reconciliation on the 70th anniversary of Korea’s liberation from Japanese rule. North Korea’s gesture to lessen tensions was rebuffed by Washington, which recently passed another round of sanctions against North Korea for its alleged hacking of the corporation, Sony.
In 2012, Washington spent $682 billion on its military, or 39 percent of the world’s total spending. While the Pentagon uses China’s military spending, which has grown annually in the double digits, to justify Washington’s Asia-Pacific Pivot, the unresolved Korean War gives regional powers such as the United States, China, and Japan justification to further militarize, including expanding missile defence systems and building new military bases, as they continually lack funds for social welfare, such as education or childcare. Last year, at a March 25 Senate Defense Committee hearing on the 2015 budget, the commander of the U.S. Forces in Korea (USFK), General Curtis Scaparrotti, argued that while the 28,500 U.S. troops based in South Korea were “fully resourced,” he was concerned about the readiness of “follow-on” forces needed if fighting erupted. According to investigative journalist Tim Shorrock, during heightened tensions with Pyongyang in 2013, Washington deployed a new THAAD portable defense system to Guam and that plans are underway for a massive expansion of the U.S. missile defense system in Alaska and along the west coast as a “precautionary” measure against a possible North Korean missile strike.
Since military intervention is not an option, the Obama administration has used sanctions to pressure North Korea to de-nuclearize. Instead, North Korea has since conducted three nuclear tests, calling sanctions “an act of war”. That is because sanctions have had deleterious effects on the day-to-day lives of ordinary North Korean people. “In almost any case when there are sanctions against an entire people, the people suffer the most and the leaders suffer least,” said former U.S. President Jimmy Carter on his last visit to North Korea.
International sanctions have made it extremely difficult for North Koreans to access basic necessities, such as food, seeds, medicine and technology. Felix Abt, a Swiss entrepreneur who has conducted business in North Korea for over a decade says that it is “the most heavily sanctioned nation in the world, and no other people have had to deal with the massive quarantines that Western and Asian powers have enclosed around its economy.”
A less obvious legacy of the Korean War is how governments use the state of war to justify repression in the name of preserving national security. Whether in Pyongyang, Seoul or Washington, the threat of war or terrorism is used to justify government repression and overreach, such as warrantless surveillance, imprisonment and torture in the name of preserving national security.
While repression in North Korea is widely known, less known is how the South Korean government uses the antiquated 1948-enacted National Security Law (NSL) to prosecute political dissidents, particularly those sympathetic towards or seeking to engage North Korea. In South Korea, the Constitutional Court recently abolished the Unified Progressive Party, a liberal opposition party, on charges of being pro-North. Amnesty International says that this case “has seriously damaged the human rights improvement of South Korean society which has struggled and fought for freedom of thoughts and conscience and freedom of expression.” And in January, the South Korean government used the NSL to deport and ban for five years Shin Eun-mi, a 54-year old Korean-American housewife who had written about her travels to North Korea, including describing North Koreans as warm-hearted and urging Korean reunification.
There is wide consensus that replacing the temporary armistice agreement with a permanent peace treaty would go a long way towards de-escalating tensions that have long plagued Korea and the region. In a 2011 paper, the U.S. Army War College warns that the only way to avert a catastrophic confrontation is to “reach agreement on ending the armistice from the Korean War” and “giv[e] a formal security guarantee to North Korea tied to nonproliferation of weapons of mass destruction.” U.S. Ambassadors to Korea since the 1980s have argued for engagement and a formalized peace process. James Laney, U.S. Ambassador to South Korea in the Clinton administration prescribed, “to remove all unnecessary obstacles to progress, is the establishment of a peace treaty to replace the truce that has been in place since 1953. One of the things that have bedeviled all talks until now is the unresolved status of the Korean War…. Absent such a peace treaty, every dispute presents afresh the question of the other side’s legitimacy.”
Perhaps most tragic about Korea’s division is the two-mile wide De-Militarized Zone that separates millions of Korean families. In April 2014, South Korean President Park said in her Dresden speech on Korean reunification that in 2013, “some 3,800 people who have yearned a lifetime just to be able to hold their sons’ and daughters’ hands — just to know whether they’re alive – passed away with their unfulfilled dreams.”
To end the state of war and help reunite families, international women peacemakers have come together to form Women De-Militarize the Zone, an organization dedicated to promoting the peaceful reunification of Korea through women’s leadership. From Northern Ireland to Liberia, we have seen how women’s participation in peace negotiations makes peace attainable, and that peace itself is inextricably linked with the advancement of women. We will work towards seeing the passage of a peace treaty to defuse dangerous tensions in Northeast Asia and de-militarizing our world. We must act now to give hope to Koreans that peace and reunification is tenable in their lifetimes and to the thousands of Korean elders that they will be able to embrace their loved ones across the DMZ before they pass away.
An Austrian Academic is worried that Europe might be in the process of losing its Jews – and worse – getting Muslims incited against the ‘non-believers’ in their place. His article appeared in Die Presse.
“Die Presse”, Print-Ausgabe, 24.02.2015
Ein Prediger in Saudiarabien verkündet, dass die Erde stillstehe. Bei uns werden massenweise Bücher verschenkt, die per manipulativer Vermischung von Islam und Wissenschaft im Stil des Kreationismus nachweisen wollen, dass Charles Darwin falschlag. So etwa „Der Evolutionsschwindel“ des türkischen Schriftstellers Adnan Oktar.
Aber der Islamische Staat tötet im Namen seines Islam massenhaft „Ungläubige“, und besagter Autor leugnet nicht nur die Evolution, sondern auch den Holocaust. Munter verbreitet er bekannte jüdisch-freimaurerische Weltverschwörungstheorien gegen den Islam. Und natürlich inszenierte der US-Geheimdienst CIA 9/11 selbst, um einen Anlassfall für einen Kreuzzug des Westens gegen den Islam zu haben. Leider werden solche lächerlichen Ideen weltweit von vielen Muslimen geglaubt – auch in Europa.
Der Kern jeder modernen liberal-aufgeklärten und demokratischen Staatlichkeit ist die Trennung von Glauben und Wissen, von Religion und Staat. Dies ist aber dem Islam systemfremd. Mittlerweile ist er zwar Teil Europas, viele Muslime sind aber noch immer nicht angekommen, weil sie die europäischen Grundprinzipien weder verstehen noch akzeptieren wollen. Mit ein wenig Integration ist es nicht getan, zumal 70 Prozent der heimischen Imame diese ablehnen und torpedieren. Um wirklich anzukommen, muss der Islam sich letztlich selbst aufklären.
Europaweit glaubt eine seltsame Allianz zwischen einem islamischen und einem rechtsradikalen Bodensatz an die jüdische Weltverschwörung. Dass die Hetze gegen Juden da wieder in Schwung kommt, braucht uns daher nicht zu wundern.
Der Exodus aus Frankreich ist nur die Spitze des Eisbergs. Antisemitische Beschimpfungen und Schmierereien sind in Europa längst wieder „Normalität“, auch in Österreich. Die Schwelle zur physischen Gewalt sinkt beständig. Satte europäische Bürger schauen irritiert(?) weg – so wie damals, als Juden in Wien per Zahnbürste die Straßen putzen durften. Und ach so humanistische Linke skandieren auf ihren Demos gegen Israel antisemitische Parolen, schweigen aber zum neuen Megaskandal.
Angesichts der langen Geschichte der Pogrome wäre jede Begründung für den Schutz jüdischer Mitbürger eine zu viel. Dennoch: Juden waren und sind maßgebliche Träger der europäischen Kultur, der Wissenschaften und Künste. Beim Islam muss man sehr weit zurückgehen, um Ähnliches behaupten zu können.
Wien etwa verlor mit der Vertreibung und Vernichtung der Juden das kulturelle und wirtschaftliche Rückgrat, die Universität ihr großartiges wissenschaftliches Profil, wohl eine der nachhaltigsten Verwüstungen durch die Nazi-Herrschaft. Das mag nach Semitophilie klingen, ist aber im Kontrast zum mangelnden kulturell-wissenschaftlichen Beitrag des Islam zur europäischen Bürgergesellschaft schlicht eine Tatsachenfeststellung.
Die neue Hetze gegen die Juden in Europa richtet sich gegen unsere zentralen Werte, gegen aufgeklärtes Denken und Liberalität. Sie ist ein alarmierendes Symptom für ein Europa auf Talfahrt.Ob wir alle Charlie sein wollen, bleibe dahingestellt, angesichts der Skepsis gegenüber dem Ausleben von Meinungsfreiheit mittels Beleidigung. Aber es ist hoch an der Zeit, dass wir endlich alle Juden sind. Je sui Juif. Ganz ohne Wenn und Aber.
Kurt Kotrschal ist Zoologe an der Uni Wien und Leiter der Konrad-Lorenz-Forschungsstelle in Grünau.
E-Mails an: debatte at diepresse.com
Kurt Kotrschal is an Austrian intellectual, professor at the Vienna University – product of the State of Salzburg where he studied with an Erwin-Schrödinger fellowship and followed up with a year at the University of Colorado in Denver – his topic was the evolution of fish and the development of nervous systems.
We found in our e-mails that Kurt Kotrschal participated in 2012 in a discussion we attended – a Karl-Renner-Institut backed event.
Montag, 19. November 2012, 20.00 Uhr
Podiumsdiskussion zu Richard Sennett: “ZUSAMMENARBEIT. Was unsere Gesellschaft zusammenhält.”
Moderation: CORINNA MILBORN
February 17, 2015
Tesla’s Disruptive New Plan to Power Your Home
From a surprising source – Dr. Kent Moors’ Oil & Energy Investor’s site we picked up the following:
February 17, 2015 – but we picked this up only February 25th because Google deemed the posting a “Promotion rather then “Primar
TESLA’s DISRUPTIVE NEW PLAN TO POWER YOUR HOME.
Dear Oil & Energy Investor,
The first is a major test of a joint project between Tesla Motors Inc. (NasdaqGS: TSLA) and SolarCity Corp. (NasdaqGS: SCTY) involving 500 California homes.
Sources have told me they expect this test to be the final “proof of concept,” followed by wider applications in both residential and commercial uses.
The lynchpin between the two is a family connection.
Tesla’s CEO is Elon Musk, one of the most innovative entrepreneurs of our time, while his cousin Lyndon Rive is the CEO of SolarCity. Musk is also SolarCity’s biggest shareholder.
Now the two are coming together in hopes of solving the industry’s biggest roadblock…
This was followed by:
Solar Power Comes of Age
Tesla, of course, needs very little introduction. The California-based company has a very visible position in cutting-edge electric cars.
SolarCity, on the other hand, is the market leader in residential solar power installations. In the third quarter of 2014, SolarCity led the pack in this portion of the business by grabbing 39% of the market. Meanwhile, SolarCity’s next-closest competitor came in at 16%.
The two market leaders are now combining some of their operations in a very serious attempt to bring solar power into more consumer areas. In short, SolarCity is working with Tesla to make rooftop panels that are fitted with Tesla batteries.
Now a major test is underway in California that may usher in a new age of residential solar battery use.
The California test will utilize a solar battery with the ability to power a home for two days in the event of a blackout. In everyday use, the unit is expected to allow homeowners to store solar-generated power for use during high-cost periods, giving them the flexibility to use the conventional grid for cheaper, off-peak electricity.
Storing generated power for use at other times – in short, perfecting a new line of cost-effective batteries – has been the industry’s single biggest hurdle.
So the California residential test may well usher in a whole new ballgame. Considering the batteries from the Tesla-SolarCity venture (involving more than the California test) utilize a new generation of silicon batteries, rather than relying on rare earth metals or lithium, is also a plus. This type of approach is already well advanced, and is based on considerable familiarity and history.
It also doesn’t hurt that Tesla is building the biggest battery factory on the planet right now. Dubbed the “Gigafactory,” the plant is expected to have a dramatic effect on the energy storage market, helping to bring battery costs down by as much as half by 2020.
So while the initial price of these installations may come in high, as with any generation-changing new technology, the cost will eventually come down. What’s more, there may be some credits and other inducements provided by the companies to stimulate usage.
This development, combined with the recent decisions by Apple Inc. (NasdaqGS: AAPL) to power its new Pentagon-like headquarters via solar and Google Inc. (NasdaqGS: GOOG) opting for wind power for its San Francisco Bay Area base, show that renewables are now moving into all aspects of electricity end use here in the States.
and the SECOND BIG NEWS OF THE INTRODUCTORY PIECE:
India Breaks Ground on the World’s Largest Solar Plant
The second major development for renewables is unfolding halfway around the world.
India has announced a major push to provide 15% of its electricity needs from renewables with an initial push into solar power, which is unfolding right now. It’s the first high-profile effort to provide concrete plans for a major Asian advance into solar power distribution.
The Times of India reported yesterday that the construction of the world’s largest solar power plant has begun in the central Indian Rewa district, within the state of Madhya Pradesh. The plant, a joint venture between state-run PSU Urja Vikas Nigam and the Solar Energy Corp. of India, will provide 750 megawatt of electricity. Once online, the plant will be 36% bigger than the largest plant currently in operation.
The current world leader is the 550-megawatt Desert Sunlight Solar Farm, which just opened in California’s Mojave Desert. Situated on 3,800 acres near Joshua Tree National Park, the plant produces enough energy to power 160,000 homes.
But the Indian push into solar power hardly ends there. The government has plans for two dozen solar farms strategically placed throughout the country.
In all, the State Bank of India has committed resources for the development of 15 gigawatt of solar power by 2020. The objective is to provide a full 15% of the nation’s energy needs from renewable sources within five years.
To be sure, there are some doubts that New Delhi can pull this off. For one thing, the price tag is very debatable. For another, the national electricity distribution grid is in a sorry state, and would require significant, pricey, and (at the moment) an unspecified amount of investment to be able to shoulder the anticipated new power load.
Still, with the Chinese committed to a similar 15 gigawatt goal from solar by 2020, Germany’s decision to end its reliance on nuclear power, and the continued growth pattern in the U.S., one conclusion is already abundantly clear.
The future of solar, wind, biomass, geothermal, and other renewables is longer dependent on the price of crude.
The News from Aleppo are that people there dream of rebuilding Syria. We wish them best of luck but know this dream will not be fulfilled because Syria was never a Nation State and thus can not be cobbled back together again.
A daring plan to rebuild Syria — no matter who wins the war.
Thanassis Cambanis, a fellow at The Century Foundation, is the author of the forthcoming “Once Upon a Revolution: An Egyptian Story.” He is an Ideas – columnist and blogs – at thanassiscambanis.com.
He writes from Beirut: With the battle still ongoing, a huge team of Syrian planners plots the restoration of Aleppo and beyond.
Then … The first year of Syria’s uprising, 2011, largely spared Aleppo, the country’s economic engine, largest city, and home of its most prized heritage sites. Fighting engulfed Aleppo in 2012 and has never let up since, making the city a symbol of the civil war’s grinding destruction. Rebels captured the eastern side of the city while the government held the west. The regime dropped conventional munitions and then barrel bombs on the rebels, who fought back with rockets and mortars. In 2012, the historical Ottoman covered souk was destroyed. In 2013, shelling destroyed the storied minaret of the 11th-century Ummayid Mosque. Apartment blocks were reduced to rubble. More than 3 million residents fled, out of a prewar population of 5 million. Today, residents say the city is virtually uninhabitable; most who remain have nowhere else to go.
In terms of sheer devastation, Syria today is worse off than Germany at the end of World War II. Bashar Assad’s regime and the original nationalist opposition are locked in combat with each other, and also with a third axis, the powerful jihadist current led by the Islamic State. And yet, even as the fighting continues – a movement is brewing among planners, activists and bureaucrats — some still in Aleppo, others in Damascus, Turkey, and Lebanon — to prepare, right now, for the reconstruction effort that will come whenever peace finally arrives.
Critics dismiss the ongoing planning effort as a premature boondoggle, keeping technocrats busy creating blueprints that will have to be revised when fighting finally ebbs. But Thierry Grandin, a consultant for the World Monuments Fund who has worked and lived in Aleppo since the 1980s and is currently involved in reconstruction planning, disagrees. “It is good to do the planning now, because on day one we will be ready,” Grandin says. “It might come in a year, it might come in 20, but eventually there will be a day one. Our job is to prepare.”
Across Syria, more than one-third of the population is displaced.
The task they have before them beggars comprehension. Across Syria, more than one-third of the population is displaced. Aleppo is in tatters, its center completely destroyed. The population exodus has claimed most of the city’s craftsmen, medical personnel, academics, and industrialists.
‘It is good to do the planning now, because on day one we will be ready. It might come in a year, it might come in 20, but eventually there will be a day one. Our job is to prepare.’ — Thierry Grandin, consultant for the World Monuments Fund.
To find a similar example of planning during wartime before the outcome was known, you have to go back to World War II. Allied forces spent years preparing for the physical, economic, and political reconstruction of Germany and Japan even before they could be sure who would win. Today, Americans tend mostly to recall the symbolic reconstruction after the war: the Nuremberg trials and the Marshall Plan, a colossal foreign aid program.
But undergirding those triumphs was the vast logistical operation of erecting new cities. It took decades to clear the moonscapes of rubble and to rebuild, in famous targets like Dresden and Hiroshima but in countless other places as well, from Coventry to Nanking. Some places never recovered their vitality.
Since then, a litany of divided and devastated cities has been left by other conflicts. Even those that eventually regained a sense of normalcy, like Beirut, Sarajevo, or Grozny, generally survived rather than thrived. Only a few countries — East Timor, Angola, Rwanda—offer what Syrian planners call “glimmers of hope,” as places that suffered terrible man-made disasters and then bounced back.
Of course, Syrian planners cannot help but pay attention to the model closest to home: Beirut, a city almost synonymous with civil war and flawed reconstruction. The planners and technocrats in the UN ESCWA tower overlook a gleamingly restored but vacant downtown from behind a veritable moat of blast barriers and sealed roads. Shell-pocked abandoned buildings stand as evidence of the tangled ownership disputes that have held back reconstruction a full quarter-century after the Lebanese civil war.
“We don’t want to end up like Beirut,” one of the Syrian planners says, referring to the physical problems but also to a postwar process in which militia leaders turned to corrupt reconstruction ventures as a new source of funds and power. He spoke anonymously; the Future of Syria team, which is led by a former Syrian deputy prime minister named Abdallah Al Dardari, doesn’t give on-the-record briefings. Since their top priority is to maintain buy-in from Syrians on all sides, they try to avoid naming names so as not to dissuade people they hope will use their plans when the war ends.
Syria’s national recovery will depend in large part on whether its industrial powerhouse – Aleppo – can bounce back. Until 2011, Aleppo had been celebrated for millenniums for its beauty and commerce. The citadel overlooking the center is a world heritage site. The old city and its covered market were vibrant, functioning exemplars of Islamic and Ottoman architecture, surrounded by the wide leafy avenues of the modern city. Aleppan traders plied their wares in Turkey, Iraq, the Levant, and all the way south to the Arabian peninsula. The city’s workshops, famed above all for their fine textiles, export millions of dollars’ worth of goods every week even now, and the economy has expanded to include modern industry as well.
Today, however, the city’s water and power supply are under the control of the Islamic State. Entire neighborhoods have collapsed under regime bombing and shelling: government buildings, hospitals, landmark hotels, schools, prisons. Aleppo is split between a regime side with vestiges of basic services, and a mostly depopulated rebel-controlled zone, into which the Islamic State and the Al Qaeda-affiliated Nusra Front have made inroads over the last year. A river of rubble marks the no-man’s land separating the two sides. The only way to cross is to leave the city, follow a wide arc, and reenter from the far side.
For now, said an architect who works for the rebel government in Aleppo under the pseudonym Tamer el Halaby, today’s business is simply survival, like digging 20 makeshift wells that fulfill minimal water needs. (He prefers not to have his real name published for fear that the government might target relatives on the other side of Aleppo.) Parts of the old city won’t be inhabitable for years, he told me by Skype, because the ground has literally shifted as a result of bombing and shelling.
Close to a thousand Syrians have consulted on the Future of Syria project, which comprises at least two ambitious initiatives rolled into one. The first and more obvious is creating realistic options to fix the country after the war—in some cases literal plans for building infrastructure systems and positioning construction equipment, in other cases guidelines for shaping governance.
At the Future of Syria, hospital administrators, civil engineers, and traffic coordinators each work on their given fields. They’re familiar with global “best practices,” but also with how things work in Syria, so they’re not going to propose pie-in-the-sky ideas. These planners also understand that who wins the construction contracts will depend on who wins the war. If some version of the current regime remains in charge, it will probably direct massive contracts toward patrons in Russia, China, or Iran. The opposition, by contrast, would lean toward firms from the West, Turkey, and the Gulf.
“Who will have the influence in Syria after the conflict? That will dictate who is involved in redevelopment. It all depends on who ends up being in political control,” says Richard J. Cook, a longtime UN official who supervised postconflict construction in Palestinian refugee camps and now works for one of the Middle East’s largest construction conglomerates, Dar Al-Handasah Consultants (Shair and Partners). Along with other companies, Dar Al-Handasah has offered its lessons learned from Lebanon’s reconstruction process to Syrian planners, and plans to compete to work in postwar Syria.
That leads to the second, more subtle, innovation of the Future of Syria project. For its plans to matter, they need to be politically viable no matter who is governing. So the planners have worked hard to persuade experts from all factions to contribute to the 57 different sectoral studies, hoping to come up with feasible rebuilding options that would be considered by a future Syrian authority of any stripe. Today, nearly 200 experts work full time for the project.
At the current level of destruction, the project planners estimate the reconstruction will cost at least $100 billion. Regardless of how it’s financed—loans, foreign aid, bonds—that’s a financial bonanza for whoever controls the reconstruction process. Some would-be peacemakers have suggested that reconstruction plans could even be used as enticements. If opposition militants and regime constituents think they’ll make more money rebuilding than fighting, they might have a Machiavellian incentive to make peace.
Underlying the details—mapping destroyed blocks, surveying the condition of the citadel, studying sewers—are bigger philosophical questions. How can a destroyed city be rebuilt, when the combination of people, economy, and buildings can never be reconstituted? Can you use reconstruction to undo the human damage of sectarianism and conflict? Recently a panel of architects and heritage experts from Sweden, Bosnia, Syria, and Lebanon convened in Beirut to discuss lessons for Syria’s reconstruction—one of the many distinct initiatives parallel to the Future of Syria project.
“You should never rebuild the way it was,” said Arna Mackic, an architect from Mostar. That Bosnian city was divided during the 1990s civil war into Muslim and Catholic sides, destroying the city center and the famous Stari Most bridge over the Neretva River. “The war changes us. You should show that in rebuilding.”
In the case of Mostar, the UN agency UNESCO reconstructed the bridge and built a restored central zone where Muslims and Catholics were supposed to create a harmonious new postwar culture. Instead, Mackik says, the sectarian communities keep to their own enclaves. Bereft of any common symbols, the city took a poll to figure out what kind of statue to erect in the city center. All the local figures were too polarizing. In the end they settled on a gold-colored statue of the martial arts star Bruce Lee.
“It belongs to no one,” Mackic says. “What does Bruce Lee mean to me?”
“You are being democratic without the consequences of all the hullabaloo of formal democratization,” says one of the Syrian planners who has contributed to the Future of Syria project and spoke on condition of anonymity.
What is certain is that putting Syria back together again is likely to be as least as expensive as imploding it. A great deal of money has been invested in Syria’s destruction— by the regime, the local parties to the conflict, and many foreign powers. A great deal of money will be made in the aftermath, in a reconstruction project that stands to dwarf anything seen since after World War II.
How that recovery is designed will help determine whether Syria returns to business as usual, sowing the seeds for a reprise of the same conflict—or whether reconstruction allows the kind of lasting change that the resolution of war itself might not.
We posted this out of admiration for people that seem to want to try to forget the terrible reality by drowning it in a lake of hope for which they have no good reason.
The reality is that Syria was never a Nation State in the Western sense – but its creation was only a sliver of the larger Levant region of the Ottoman Empire. The carving up of that region into would-be States of Lebanon, Palestine, Syria, and Iraq, was not done along National, Ethnic, Religious, or Language line – but rather according to future colonial administrative lines – and eventually the inhomogeneity of so called States had to find the cracks that broke up all these foreign pots. Lebanon had its explosion earlier and as Mr. Cambanis writes – Beirut could not be restored to its old true form. Syria is not like Germany that was in many sense united and then clearly defeated by a major power that led allies on which it imposed the notion that only by rebuilding but deNazifying it – peace can eventually be achieved in Europe. Having been split temporarily into two States Germany eventually reunified to become a power again. There is nothing of the kind in Syria where for years despots from a minority ruled over the very mixed majority. Now this majority has split along many lines and one future outcome will have to be a separate State for the Kurds that eventually will brake the French-British imposed borders, that did not respect the more logical Ottoman division of the region, and have been invalidated now.
Aleppo will eventually find its place in one of the resulting outcome states – separate from Damascus – perhaps indeed be the Capital of that State; it will be built again out of its ashes, but it will not be rebuilt in the sense of its becoming a direct continuation of a has-been that is no-more. Who knows – a connection of Aleppo to what is now Lebanon is not a farfetched idea.
This year, Tuesday March 3rd, happens on eve of Purim that young Jews celebrate with parties, this year it happens also that Prime Minister Netanyahu speaks before US Congress – it is all about an unsustainable attempt by Persians to persecute Jews.
As received from Lady Rabbi Judith Hauptman of the Ohel Ayalah community on New York City.
Dear Ohel Ayalah community,
P U R I M P A R T Y for 20s/30s
P U R I M, in a serious vein: The Scroll of Esther (the Megillah) will be read in synagogues on Wed night, March 4. One suggested (fun) venue is: JTS, 3080 Broadway, at 122 St. Time: 7 pm.
The danger that Memucan (one of the advisors) sees in Vashti’s refusal is preposterous. How will it provoke a rebellion by all the wives in the empire against their husbands? The burlesque of the great Persian empire, drowning in luxury, wine, courtiers, and incompetent management, reaches one of its high points here, with a touch of male sexual anxiety added for good measure (p17).
So read the rest of the Megillah in a communal setting on Wed night, Mar 4, or by yourself. Laugh but also cry. Here is a link to an online version of Megillat Esther: www.mechon-mamre.org/p/pt/pt3301….. You will need to click to get from one chapter to the next.
Please note: Passover is around the corner. Will be sending more information in a few weeks. Seder reservations open on Sunday, March 15. First night seder for all Ages, Fri April 3; Second night seder for 20s/30s, Saturday night, April 4.
Questions or comments? Write to me at Judith at ohelayalah.org.
Rabbi and Founder, Ohel Ayalah
by Maxim A. Suchkov – posted February 1, 2015 – Al-Monitor.
Maxim A. Suchkov, a former Fulbright visiting fellow at Georgetown University (2010–11), is currently a fellow at the Institute for Strategic Studies at the North Caucasian city of Pyatigorsk, Russia, and a contributor to the Carnegie Moscow Center’s Eurasia Outlook. On Twitter: @Max_A_Suchkov
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Summary? – Print Israel’s Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman believes his country is uniquely positioned to negotiate with Russia and Ukraine.
On Jan. 26, Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman visited Moscow to meet his Russian counterpart, Sergey Lavrov. While the encounter took place during the 70th anniversary observance of the Soviet liberation of Auschwitz, the two diplomats took the opportunity to check up on their busy bilateral agenda. They touched primarily on six main issues — the overall situation in the Middle East, Russia’s role in the region, the course of the “5+1” negotiations on Iranian nuclear program, Lebanon, the situation in Syria, and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. On the eve of his meeting with the Russian foreign minister, in an interview with the Russian media agency RIA Novosti, Liberman said Israel would be prepared, if necessary, to mediate peace talks between Russia and Ukraine.
The statement drew mixed reactions from both Israel and Russia, but the very intent, if it is at all serious, could be interesting to think about.
Over the more than yearlong conflict in Ukraine, Israel turned out to be neutral when it comes to Russia’s actions in its neighboring country. Israel’s diplomats were not present during the vote on the US-supported UN resolution condemning Russia’s annexation of Crimea, which made it look as if Israel were avoiding showing its stance on the issue. Although Tel Aviv explained that the vote coincided with a strike of Israel’s foreign affairs workers, few believed this explanation. Later, Israel refused to join the US-led sanctions regime against Russia. In both instances, the Obama administration, which cannot boast good relations with the Netanyahu government, took it as a sign of ingratitude toward Israel’s prime strategic ally at a time when America needed it most.
Essentially, while certainly not an act of support for Russian policies, it also was a sign of no opposition. At the initial stages of the war in Ukraine, in early 2014, the Israeli foreign minister, speaking on a TV program, said that “everybody understands that the situation [in Ukraine] is about standing up for the interests of each party [Russia and the US] in accordance with their own foreign policy courses.” That was a message that Israelis see the situation as a conflict of interests, not a conflict of principles. At the same interview, he declined any meddling with this conflict as a mediator between Russia and the US over Ukraine, saying Israel had enough to worry about with its own challenges.
The Israelis insisted, however, that neutrality didn’t mean inaction. A year hence, Tel Aviv wants to raise its political profile as a peacemaker, not between the Kremlin and the White House, but between Moscow and Kiev.
Indeed, as surprising as it may sound, Israel is uniquely positioned to mediate the conflict and ease the “Ukraine-Russia fatigue” that dominates the European security agenda. In this regard, Israel has three principal advantages. First, it clearly enjoys equally good relations with both Russia and Ukraine — a political luxury few nations can boast in today’s much-polarized context. Certainly, Russian-Israeli relations are far from being ideal, with the majority of the discrepancies lying in different priorities in the Middle East rooted in their own vision of national interests and historic political trajectories. At the same time, the Israeli leadership believes good relations with Russia are a “perceived necessity.”
Second, Israel possesses a key foreign policy resource — the large Jewish diaspora both in Russia and Ukraine. The number of Jews in the two countries is hard to estimate. Due to a well-known history of oppression, many had to flee, while others decline to identify themselves. Current estimates vary: in Russia from 190,000 to 228,000 to 380,000. That represents approximately 0.14% of Russia’s population and 1.7% of the global Jewish population, making Russia the country with the seventh-largest Jewish population. In Ukraine, the Jewish population was historically greater. At present, the figures range from 67,000 to 80,000 (0.16% national share and 0.6% global share). Other accounts say the Jewish population is as high as 300,000.
Most important, many Jewish figures occupy top positions in politics and business and have had significant influence on the two spheres. Therefore, Tel Aviv has a direct interest in their security and peaceful settlement of the crisis. Several influential Israeli public figures and politicians, including some from the Knesset, are actively raising awareness against more frequent instances of anti-Semitism in Ukraine.
Finally, the number of Israelis of Ukrainian and Russian descent in Israel itself is high. Many Israeli natives of the post-Soviet states occupying top political leadership positions have contributed to shaping a balanced stance on the conflict. While opinions on the crisis in Ukraine within this group are split, their expertise and action helped the State of Israel shape a policy that remained firm to outside pressure, including that of the US.
Liberman, a native of the Republic of Moldova, said, “It is precisely because we are from these countries that we can understand both parties. … If someone told me some time ago that Russia and Ukraine would become enemies, I would have told them to see a doctor.” Therefore, for a large group of Israeli policymakers, the crisis in Ukraine has a clear-cut personal connection. Yet at the same time, being foreign statesmen, they take a neutral position that potentially makes them “natural mediators.”
This is the benchmark data. In the end, however, the proposal represents the intent of only a fragment of the Israeli political spectrum and society — those coming from the post-Soviet space — and finds opposition from other Israeli groups.
In truth, taking the mediator’s burden in the conflict that already involves — in one form or another — a dozen actors carries high risks for Israel’s reputation and would engender an enormous, perhaps impossible, responsibility; in other words, it is a thorny path that may bear little fruit. At the same time, when no negotiation format seems to be working, Israel offers a straw that Russia and Ukraine could consider grabbing. Israel’s image as a middleman in a conflict may be something not many are accustomed to, and it does have some legitimate limitations. But what it can do is offer an important channel of communication.
Bennett, Liberman battle for defense portfolio
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