It’s not just YouTube videos that contain vile speech, of course. Writing in Asharq Alawsat — though the link goes to Al Arabiya TV — Abdulrahman al-Rashed points out that the copyright to Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf expires next year under German law. The book is already banned in Germany, Austria, Poland, Russia and China. Germany wants to keep it that way and is discussing a new law to keep the book from being republished. That’s going to be hard to do, at least with any effect.
As al-Rashed points out, the book is not banned in France, nor is it banned in the US. Nor is it — nor could it be — banned on the global Internet. Anyone who really wants to read it can find a way to do so.
I think al-Rashed gives too much credit to the book. It’s turgid, wandering, and requires a certain amount of dedication to read it. I’ve read the first volume and consider it interesting from the point of view of trying to understand what was going through Hitler’s mind. But it’s hardly coherent. The book, though a ‘best seller’ because it was thought a good thing to have during the Nazi reign, was not widely read. It only mattered that you had a copy of it on your bookshelf in Germany during the 1930s and early 40s. It wasn’t widely read because it was too damn hard to read.
Mein Kampf has been available in the US as long as I’ve been alive. And while there is an American neo-Nazi movement, it is on the fringe of the fringe. Most people coming across it do not start goose-stepping and shouting Seig Heil!. At best, it’s a curiosity.
The problem of neo-Nazis is not Mein Kampf. It is a combination of social and educational failures. Rather than worrying about the effect of a ludicrous book (or obnoxious video), states should be concerned about how they can change the situation so that every one of their citizens can appreciate how awful some materials available to them are and why they should be avoided. They could also take a useful step in not themselves promoting hatred in the way too many Arab states do in republishing and distributing pap like “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion,” a late-19th C. fraud.
Mein Kampf and other books of hatred
There is one year until the rights to the book Mein Kampf (My Struggle) by Nazi leader Adolf Hitler expire. Afterwards, the rights to the book become available to whoever wishes to publish it. According to German copyright law, a book enters the public domain 70 years after the author’s death. The book’s copyright was registered again in Germany in 1945 was written by Hitler 20 years before that. Hitler ensured that the book was very popular among Germans, so much so that a quarter of a million copies were sold in 1933. Part of that wealth, no doubt, allowed him to buy his new Mercedes. When his party won and he took over as chancellor, he ordered that his book be distributed for free to soldiers and newly-weds. Germany, which owns the rights to the book until the end of next year, plans to ban selling and distributing the book under its anti-terror law.
The ban is planned for Germany, Holland and Poland, but the book is still available in France. The law allows for publishing it and selling it in the U.S. as well. Racists and fascists, including Nazis, are in general allowed to distribute their publications and books. Two rare copies of Mein Kampf were sold in Los Angeles in an auction a week ago.
Al Arabiya TV reports that three Arab films are competing for the Oscar, symbol of the Academy Awards this year. Interestingly, they’re competing in three different categories.
Three Arab films to compete for Oscars
Shounaz Meky | Al Arabiya News
Arab cinephiles will have three regional films to cheer for when the 86th Academy Awards, the film industry’s highest honors, opens Sunday at a ceremony in Hollywood.
Palestinian film “Omar,” directed by Hany Abu Assad, will compete against “The Hunt,” Italy’s “The Great Beauty,” Belgium’s “The Broken Circle Breakdown,” and Cambodia’s
“The Missing Picture” for the best foreign-language Oscar on March 2 in Los Angeles.
An interesting piece from Al Arabiya TV. Professor and media analyst Joe Khalil writes that the ubiquitous ‘man on the street’ interviews in the Arab world — the vox populi, may not quite be as ‘populi’ as one might expect.
He writes that increasingly, Arab media are being deft in finding the voices they want to hear from, the voices whose message they can assume. Rather than collecting the opinions of Arabs-at-large, they are focusing more on their own nationals — not necessarily a bad thing — but also picking them out in places where people of certain tendencies are likely to be found. You can be sure of getting a particular, narrow range of opinions if you’re pulling your interviewees out of a crowd of university students, just as you can be sure of getting different ones if you conduct your interviews as a country club or outside a religious establishment.
This practice — while hardly limited to Arab media — distorts the information we receive. Not only to media consumers tend to go to the media that will confirm or reconfirm their own preferences, Khalil notes, but by using only selected voices to stand for the ‘voice of the people’, the range of opinions narrows.
Since the 1990s, there has been a constant flurry of interest in investigating what Arabs think about, and how and what their likely collective actions might be. This trend of pulsing “Arab public opinion”- if it can be measured empirically – was strongly embedded in Western constructs of polling, understanding the public, the impact of media on audiences and some assumed shared principles of human behavior. Such trends have accelerated as an immediate policy response to the events of 9/11 and as a way of estimating Arab popular reactions about the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and the United States’ repeated case for “war on terror” and “democratization.” Similarly, a second major wave of interest in Arab public opinion emerged with a particular focus on discovering how and why young people, or Islamists, were mobilized in popular uprisings during the so-called “Arab Spring.”
The UAE’s Gulf News runs a report on the rise of Prince Mohammad Bin Naif, Minister of the Interior, as a replacement for Prince Bandar Bin Sultan as the point-man for Saudi efforts in Syria. Mohammad, who established the Saudi rehabilitation program for returned/captured jihadists, has been working to separate Syrian rebels battling the Al-Assad regime from the extremists who are also fighting, but for entirely different reasons. The mixing of the two groups has been a serious impediment to US efforts in Syria as the US is simply unwilling to provide support if it ends up in the wrong hands.
The article notes that among those looking at Saudi succession issues, Mohammad is rated as being very much in the game.
Riyadh (Reuters): Saudi Interior Minister Mohammad Bin Nayef, perhaps the most powerful younger prince in the ruling Al Saud family, is shaping Riyadh’s new emphasis on protecting the kingdom from a fresh wave of Islamist militancy inspired by the war in Syria.
The United States pulled out the stops for him when he visited Washington last week to prepare for President Barack Obama’s fence-mending trip to Riyadh next month.
Secretary of State John Kerry, National Security Adviser Susan Rice, Central Intelligence Agency chief John Brennan, Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson, Federal Bureau of Investigation director James Comey and National Security Agency director Keith Alexander all sat down with the 54-year-old, a veteran of Saudi Arabia’s fight against Al Qaida.
Prince Mohammad seems likely to be a central figure in the world’s top oil exporter for decades to come. Many Saudis say he is a strong candidate to become king one day.
“He’s now playing not only the role of Interior Minister, but also that of a senior diplomat and adviser to the king,” said Robert Jordan, US ambassador to Riyadh from 2001-03.
Prince Mohammad, btw, escaped being killed by a suicide bomber back in 2009 who carried his bomb within his own body.
An interesting opinion piece from Al Arabiya TV. The writer, a Fellow in Muslim Politics and Societies at the Center on National Security at Fordham Law School, ponders the role of modern technology and its intersection with the politics of the Middle East. Questioning whether the Internet and social media were the means or the end of Arab Spring, he goes on to note that governments can — if they chose to do so — exert far more control of the media than they currently do. Just in surveilling the media, they can learn more about its users than the users realize. He concludes with the observation that perhaps the thought of living in an alternate reality — the one provided by the closed chambers of social media — is enough, at least for some.
The Middle East has met the enemy, and he’s online
It all happened so fast. Tunisia was in America’s peripheral vision; we’d read, from time to time, of mounting protests, huge crowds straining the grand avenues of Tunis, the Arab street finally out on the street.
But then the dictator fell, and so did many a pundit’s career. There rose in their place new voices, closer to the ground, more sympathetic to the reality, more optimistic about the possibilities. Everybody had told us this could not happen. Except it did.
On Jan. 25, when Tahrir square became the center of massive protest, you can bet we were all glued to screens of various sizes.
Drunk on the Kool-Aid
The first revolutionaries knew how to sell themselves, and we were primed to buy. We believed in social media. We got drunk on the Kool-Aid. We worshipped at the altar of technology. What had started in Tunisia wouldn’t stay in Tunisia.
After some three weeks, Mubarak was forced to resign, and the crowds went home, for reasons unfathomable today.
There was an almost messianic fervor to the dispatches I’d get. It was young Arabs, not the stodgy Islamists, who’d change things. Political parties were so 20th century.
Social media would free everyone. Google, Facebook, Twitter. Who needed ideologies?
The National newspaper out of Dubai sees Saudi Arabia as the bellwether of renewable energy in the Gulf. The article notes Saudi planning on solar, wind, waste, and geothermal sources. It also gives brief outlines of what the other Gulf states have on the drawing board.
The reasons behind this expanded interest in renewable energy is that the countries of the GCC — with Saudi Arabia again in the lead — are becoming major energy consumers. To date, the countries have met this need through the use of domestically produced oil and gas. The day is coming, though, when domestic demand will outstrip production. This will not only impact those who rely on the energy being produced, but will kill the economies based on the export of oil.
The UAE’s Arabian Gulf neighbours have announced various renewable energy plans aimed at reducing their reliance on oil and gas for power and water generation, with Saudi Arabia leading the way with an ambitious programme, as the drop in solar energy prices encourages governments.
“Governments are well aware that our oil and gas resources are not infinite and require careful management,” said Gus Schellekens, Middle East sustainability leader, and Hannes Reinisch, senior manager for sustainability and renewables, at PricewaterhouseCoopers. “There is a crossover point where our own domestic economies will use more of the hydrocarbon production than is exported, reducing the revenues we can derive from international markets.
“Prices have dropped dramatically over the past year for certain renewable technologies, most notably solar photovoltaic. The business case for pursuing solar projects is now stronger than ever.’’
For example, Saudi Arabia, the world’s biggest oil exporter, plans to generate 54,000 megawatts (MW) from renewable energy by 2032, with 41,000MW coming from solar, 9,000MW from wind, 3,000MW from waste-to-energy and 1,000MW from geothermal power.
The kingdom is expected to spend more than US$100 billion to reach these figures over the next two decades and has indicated that it will favour local producers.
A peculiar story in Saudi Gazette — which, following Saudi custom, names no names. The owner of a satellite TV channel is being charged with sedition after he admitted taking direction and money from the government of Qaddafi’s Libya to defame Saudi Arabia. Over the last ten years of Qaddafi’s reign, he was at loggerheads with Saudi Arabia and particularly with King Abdullah.
Providing the person’s name, or at least that of the TV channel would have been most helpful in understanding this piece.
Saudi admits receiving money to spread chaos
Saudi Gazette report
RIYADH — A Saudi who owns a satellite channel has admitted to a court that he received money to spread sedition in the Kingdom, Al-Hayat daily reported.
The prosecutor from the Bureau of Investigation and Public Prosecution (BIP) has called for the strongest penalties against the defendant. He said the accused received $1.8 million from the now overthrown Gaddafi regime in Libya to incite public unrest in the Kingdom.
He claimed the defendant tried to link the Kingdom with terrorism and said Al-Qaeda was of Saudi origin.
The prosecutor said the accused received the money, claiming that it was for a Holy Qur’an contest, and has admitted to broadcasting controversial programs on his channel. The purpose of these programs was to educate the public of their rights, that the country was “kidnapped”, and that the Arab Spring helped people obtain their rights, said the prosecutor.
The prosecutor said that the programs were broadcasted under titles such as “Mental Terrorism”, “The Religious Establishment”, “Administrative Corruption”, “Slavery and Ignominy”, “The Kingdom and Terrorism” and “The Kidnapped Country”.
The prosecutor added the accused has claimed the country has insulted expatriates and deprived them of their rights, and that there is no other nation that deprives expatriates of their rights apart from Muslim countries.
The accused has admitted that he prepared and broadcasted these programs. The judge then asked the defendant to respond to these accusations, but he claimed the investigation procedures were not legal or valid.
He told the court that he felt remorse for his actions. He said that he explained this to the authorities in the Kingdom and he was allowed to return to the country because he was abroad when a warrant was issued for his arrest.
The defendant asked that his case be closed, claiming the time he spent in prison was enough punishment. The judge will announce final decision on the case in the next hearing scheduled next month.
Saudi Arabia has proposed that the Gulf Cooperation Council move to become a more perfect union. Despite Oman’s reluctance to take that step because it believes that its own multicultural status would be deprecated, the urge is there.
The proposal comes on the heels of — and as a response to — US moves toward calming tensions with Iran. The Gulf States, and particularly Saudi Arabia, believe the US to be naive on the issue, ready to give away security for a few minutes of favorable press coverage.
The smaller states are concerned that simple demographics would make them lesser partners to a dominant Saudi Arabia. And while Gulf Arab cultures are similar, there are extremely important differences that they do not wish to see submerged in a sea of conservatism.
Nor do all Gulf States have the same sort of relationship with Iran. All do have tensions, but some, like Oman and the UAE, have warmer trade and political relations than others.
Unification may be a step that will be taken, but the timing does not look right.
People of the Gulf, unite!
Mohammed Fahad al-Harthi
The Arab world is now open to all options and the accelerating developments entail a myriad of dangers. Today, the Gulf States have an opportunity, coupled with risks. As they say, “during times of crises there are chances for new beginnings.” The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states are facing major challenges that call upon their leaders to realize their responsibilities while taking decisive decision.
In politics, taking decisions proactively is preferable to making them under the exigencies of circumstances and necessity.
Gulf citizens live in enormous wealth, their countries having a huge gross domestic product (GDP) and political stability that makes them, in light of the anarchy that has swept across the region, an oasis of security and stability.
A former political analyst at the Saudi embassy in Washington, DC, offers his views of Saudi Arabia’s engagement in Syria. He sees the Saudi government cautiously reprising its actions during the 1960s civil war in Yemen but with a better outcome. It sees, says Fahad Nazer, a chance to achieve a three-in-one-blow victory against Iran, against the Al Assad regime, and against Hezbollah.
Saudi Arabia’s proxy wars
Source: Yemen Times
Saudi Arabia appears resolute: It wants Bashar Al-Assad out of Damascus. The Saudis view the fighting in Syria with the same intensity that they did the civil war in Yemen that raged in the 1960s—as a conflict with wide and serious repercussions that will shape the political trajectory of the Middle East for years to come.
The Syrian war presents the Saudis with a chance to hit three birds with one stone: Iran, its rival for regional dominance, Tehran’s ally Assad and his Hezbollah supporters. But Riyadh’s policy makers are wary. They know that once fully committed, it will be difficult to disengage. And so they are taking to heart the lessons of another regional war that flared on their border 50 years ago.
The war in Yemen that broke out in 1962 when military leaders ousted the centuries-old monarchy and declared a republic quickly turned into a quagmire that sucked in foreign powers. The Soviet Union provided the new regime with air support. British airstrikes aided the royalists and the United States offered warplanes in a symbolic show of force.
More than anything else though, the conflict became a proxy war between Saudi Arabia, which backed the deposed imam and his royalist supporters, and Egypt’s Gamal Abdel Nasser, who supported the new republic. Nasser’s vision of a united Arab “nation” free of Western domination and sterile monarchies resonated across the Arab world. The Saudi monarchy, wary of this republican fever on its border, decided it was not going to stand on the sidelines. The kingdom used all available means to try to check Nasser’s ambitions—but it did not send troops.
By some estimates, Egypt sent as many as 55,000 troops to Yemen, some of whom became involved in fighting well inside Saudi territory, while others were accused of using chemical weapons supplied by the Soviet Union. Saudi Arabia provided money and weapons to the royalists. Yet neither side achieved its goals. Egypt’s war with Israel in 1967 led Nasser to withdraw his forces, but the Saudis were unable to turn the tide. Riyadh was eventually forced to recognize Yemen’s republican government.
The UAE’s Gulf News runs a Reuters piece on a World Bank report on the status of women’s right around the world. Saudi Arabia — as well as the rest of the Middle East and South Asia — do not fare well.
Women’s legal rights ‘worst in Saudi Arabia’
Middle East shows the least progress and some countries have gone backwards
Washington (Reuters): Saudi Arabia tops the list of countries for laws that limit women’s economic potential, while South Asia, the Middle East and North Africa have made the least progress over the last 50 years in improving women’s economic opportunities, a report issued on Tuesday says.
In the last half century, women’s rights worldwide have improved significantly and yet in almost 90 per cent of the 143 countries surveyed in the World Bank study, at least one law remains on the books to bar women from certain jobs, opening a bank account, accessing capital or making independent decisions.
Twenty-eight countries make 10 or more legal distinctions between the rights of men and women, and half of these countries are in the Middle East and North Africa, followed by 11 in sub-Saharan Africa, it said.
The World Bank report shows that when there is a gender gap in legal rights, fewer women own their businesses and income inequality is greatest, a finding that offers fresh insight on the impact that reducing barriers to women’s economic opportunities could have on reducing world poverty.
“When women and men participate in economic life on an equal footing, they can contribute their energies to building a more cohesive society and more resilient economy,” said World Bank President Jim Yong Kim in releasing the report, Women Business and the Law.
The UAE’s Gulf News reports that Saudi Arabia has agreed to a GCC treaty calling for cross-border cooperation among the Gulf States on matters of national and collective security. As a result, each member state is to treat warrants issued by other states as legally actionable. Further, each state agrees to share information on criminal and security matters.
Saudi Arabia ratifies GCC security treaty
Habib Toumi Bureau Chief
Manama: Saudi Arabia has ratified the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) security treaty, endorsed by the GCC Supreme Council at its 33rd summit in Bahrain in December and promoted as crucial in boosting collective security among the six-member states.
The Saudi cabinet at its session on Monday said that it had taken into consideration the decision of the Shura (Consultative) Council to approve the treaty. Some of the major features of the pact that were mentioned in the official Saudi media communiqué included cooperation among the state parties to prosecute those who break the law or order and those wanted by the states parties, regardless of their nationality, as well as taking the necessary action against them.
According to the treaty, each state party takes legal action in what is considered a crime, according to its legislation in force, whenever its citizens or residents interfere in the internal affairs of any of the other states’ parties, the Saudi cabinet said. The treaty stipulated that each state party would “cooperate to provide the other parties — upon request — with information and personal data on citizens or residents of the requesting state, within the terms of reference of the ministries of the interior”.
Gulf News also reports that the GCC states have agreed on a mutual approach in dealing with terrorism. They will work from a unified understanding of both criminal and financial transaction laws to limit the spread of terrorism and to work against it within their borders and the region as a whole. The statement issued on this also reiterates that the GCC, as the EU, consider Hezbollah a terrorist organization.
Dubai: Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states have reached “a full agreement” on measures to be taken against all terrorist organisations, a senior Kuwaiti security official has said.
“The GCC security officials agreed on a set of recommendations and suggestions aiming to ensure security and stability in the GCC member states,” Interior Ministry Undersecretary Ghazy Al Omar told the Kuwait News Agency (Kuna) following a meeting of the undersecretaries of the GCC interior ministries in Riyadh on Sunday.
The official stressed the significance of unifying security positions and policies and executive security plans and measures by the GCC member states to handle regional events and changes, Kuna said.
The recommendations will be presented to interior ministers at a meeting in Bahrain for further discussions, the Kuwaiti security official added.
The recommendations include measures by all GCC member states to control terrorist organisations, he said.
Will he; won’t he? Should he; shouldn’t he? When, if ever? The Saudi media is seized by the idea of US President Barack Obama’s approach to Syria.
It’s pretty clear that Saudi Arabia is down on the Syrian government. If nothing else, it views Bashar Al-Assad as a tool of the Iranians. It is urging the US to take action that will end up with Al-Assad being deposed and the Ba’ath Party chased out of power. It is not exactly clear, however, just what the Saudis see as a suitable replacement.
Writing in Asharq Alawsat, Mshari Al-Zaydi thinks that Obama is dithering and needs to bite the bullet. US action, he says, will be the straw that breaks the camel’s back and will provide the tipping point the Syrian people need to help them reclaim their freedom. I’m not so sure about that.
Opinion: A Wake-Up Call
Obama continues to downplay the plans the US is making for strikes against Bashar Al-Assad’s troops, saying that they will be limited, and that it will neither be a full-scale war nor will it be intended to overthrow the regime. All that’s left for Obama to tell Bashar is the coordinates of the targeted sites so that they can be evacuated, and for Bashar and his brother Maher to go away on summer vacation until after the strike is over.
Obama is following a path he hates to travel. The worst news he ever heard from his men was that Assad’s troops have, in fact, used the forbidden chemical weapons, which means that he has crossed Obama’s red line. So now Obama has no option but to reinforce the credibility of his warning.
It is not true that all wars are waged for one reason only. Wars are waged for any number of reasons, such as geographic expansion, resources, religion, patriotism, and even for personal motives—leaving aside the wars sparked by moral embarrassment.
Obama is being pulled into a war the entire world can see he does not want to fight. We all know how Obama shunned American involvement in Syria for two years—despite the bloody nature of the Syrian state of affairs—and how he declined to take a real action on the ground.
In fact, this is a war to restore American credibility. It is also a war to prove the moral responsibility of the West, as much as it is about a shared norm in modern warfare: the abstention from using internationally forbidden weapons.
We have no idea about how serious will this war be. Perhaps all we will see is a handful of missiles, fired to no avail.
It is a source of sorrow that the Arabs have become addicted to repeating the anarchic conduct of denial. In Yemen, pro-Bashar demonstrations took place to express solidarity with the chemical killer, and a Yemeni delegation was even sent to Syria to support him. In Egypt, newspapers—even the sedate ones—are full of various reports critical of the idea of a military strike, and full of talk about conspiracy theories in a manner reminiscent of the Arab media following Saddam’s invasion of Kuwait.
Asharq Alawsat also reports that the Saudi government is pushing the Arab League to take action against Syria. That’s not likely to happen, either. The Arab League is mostly a talk-shop. Brave and loud declarations may issue from it, but action is not one of its fortes.
Cairo, Asharq Al-Awsat—Arab League foreign ministers declared Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad responsible for the crisis in Syria, and condemned the chemical attack in Damascus in August, which the US says killed 1,400 people, following a meeting of the organization in Cairo on Sunday.
Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud Al-Faisal said it was not possible to wait until Assad killed more Syrians, adding that any move to help the Syrian people “should not be considered foreign intervention.” He further added that “any objection to international action against Assad will encourage the Syrian government.”
The Foreign Minister said Saudi Arabia shared with the Syrian people their demands for deterrent international action against the government. He condemned the Syrian government, which he said used chemical weapons “without mercy or compassion.”
Ahmad Al-Jarba, chairman of the opposition Syrian National Coalition, called on Arab foreign ministers to defend the Syrian people by supporting the possibility of military strikes by the US against the Assad government.
Jarba said: “Syria is living through a catastrophe, especially from the humanitarian point of view.” He accused the Assad government, which “invited armies to kill the unarmed people in the name of resistance and rejection,” adding, “I ask the Arab League to support a military strike against the Assad government.”
Jarba pointed out that there was sectarian incitement behind the suffering of the Syrian people, adding that “fighters from Iran and Hezbollah are killing Syrian people, and Iraqi militias are also taking part in killing our people, too.”
“We want you as Arabs to take a historic stance to relieve the suffering of the Syrian people,” adding “we ask that Russian arms and Iranian sectarian interference are confronted,” he continued. “I ask for the support and help of the Arabs to stop the regime and support the military strike, and what Syrians expect from you is for your stance to be much greater than any Western support.”
So what will happen in Syria? That’s anyone’s guess. No matter what the US does, it will be blamed — by different audiences — for over-reacting and under-reacting, for acting too late and for acting precipitously. It is being blamed for supporting jihadist groups in the opposition as well as not supporting the opposition sufficiently. The US is in and will remain in a lose-lose situation for the foreseeable future.
It might be nice to be able to say, “We’ll just sit this one out and let others deal with Syria,” but it’s not really possible to do that. Syria is a problem for the world, and not just the Arab world. It’s use of chemical weapons, if proved, sets an extraordinarily dangerous precedent and cannot go unanswered. What answers the world thinks appropriate, though, is not at all clear. Why the US should have a clearer vision is its own curious question.