Posts Tagged 'Johann Hari'

Dubai: a mirror to our own failings

Dubai, once hailed as the shining star of Arab enterprise, has hit the headlines in recent weeks for all the wrong reasons.

I am currently watching a BBC Panorama investigation into the horrific conditions faced by foreign workers left destitute by the downturn in the country’s construction industry and last week Johann Hari, of the Independent, wrote an article about how the recession is revealing the corruption at the heart of “Dubai Disneyland”.20380_dubai_towers

As Dubai’s illusory wealth vanishes in the stark reality of recession, the scene is ugly. Yet in the sprit of free debate, I thought it only right to publish a reaction written by Sultan Sooud Al Qassemi, a journalist based in Dubai.

If you think Dubai is bad, just look at your own country

I recently figured that if British journalists such as Johann Hari (Tuesday, 7 April, The Independent) who come to Dubai don’t send back something sensationalist it won’t get printed and they won’t get paid. After all, sleaze sells. I called a British journalist friend of mine and said: “I’m going to write an article about London, the same way your compatriots write about Dubai.”

By the time I was back at home I had come to my senses, it’s not fair to London, a city so dear to my heart, or Londoners to be judged by the actions of a few. It’s easy to generalise about a country when figures are manipulated to sensationalise and sell papers.

Say for example that I had written an article that states that, in wealthy first world Britain there are 380,000 homeless people, many of them mentally ill, starving and abandoned in sub-zero temperatures to live on the streets.

Say then that I wrote an article that states that Britain, the so called “jail capital of Western Europe” sentenced in 2006 alone a staggering additional 12,000 women to prison and that up to seven babies a month are born in jail where they spend their crucial first months.

I could have written an article that stated Britain, victor in the Second World War, had given refuge to 400 Nazi war criminals, with all but one of them getting away with it.

Or one stating that the number of Indians who died while serving the British Empire, to build your Tube and grow your tea, is so large it is simply unquantifiable by any historian.

Or say I write an article about the 2.5 million-strong Indian volunteer army who served Britain during the Second World War, where 87,000 of them died for their occupiers’ freedom and yet until recently those who survived continued to be discriminated against in pay and pension.

I could have written an article that stated that, in civilised Britain, one in every 23 teenage girls had an abortion and in 2006 more than 17,000 of the 194,000 abortions carried out in England and Wales involved girls below the age of 18.

torture-abuI could have written an article stating that Britain, the human rights champion, not wanting to get its hands dirty, had resorted to secretly outsourcing torture to Third World states under the guise of rendition by allowing up to 170 so called CIA torture flights to use its bases.

Or that Britain’s MI5 unlawfully shared with the CIA secret material to interrogate suspects and “facilitate interviews” including cases where the suspects were later proven to be innocent.

I could have written an article that stated that the Britain of family values is the only country in the EU that recruits child soldiers as young as 16 into its Army and ships them off battlegrounds in Iraq and Afghanistan, putting it in the same league as African dictatorships and Burma.

I could have written an article that states that Britain either recently did or has yet to sign the Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings, the United Nations Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict or the UN’s International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families.article-0-05e80fa00000044d-109_468x3681

I could have highlighted the fact that liberal Britain is responsible for the physical and racial abuse of hundreds of failed asylum-seekers at the hands of private security guards during their forced removal from the country.

I could have written about the countless cases of slave-like working conditions of immigrant labours such as the 23 Chinese workers who lost their lives in 2004 as they harvested cockles in the dangerous rising tides in Morecambe Bay.

I could have written about how mortality rates from liver diseases due to alcohol abuse have declined in Europe in recent decades but in Britain the rate trebled in the same period reflecting deep societal failures.

I could have written about how in “Big Brother” Britain maltreatment of minors is so serious that one in 10, or an estimated one million children a year, suffer physical, sexual, emotional abuse or neglect.

Or that according to Oxfam 13.2 million people in the UK live in poverty – a staggering 20 per cent of the population in the sixth richest nation in the world.

I could have written all that, but out of respect for Britain, I decided not to. Because when you stitch together a collection of unconnected facts taken out of context, you end up with a distorted and inaccurate picture: something that Britain’s Dubai-bashers would do well to learn.

A siege mentality: Gaza’s pain

As the world looks on with horrified eyes at the devastation that is being wreaked in Gaza, the Israeli authorities have vowed that the strikes will continue.

Defence Minister Ehud Barak said the Israeli authorities would expand the attacks “as much as necessary” to “deal a heavy blow to Hamas”.

Officials estimate that the Palestinian death toll currently stands at over 383 with hundreds more injured, though the lack of medical supplies promises many more. As the hours pass and the body count rises, it becomes ever more certain that the ramifications of Israel’s actions will be felt far beyond the rubble of Gaza.

Yet, despite the relentless barrage of Israel’s rockets, it seems inconceivable that they will succeed in their espoused aim to rid Gaza of their government and ever less likely that Fatah leader Mahmoud Abbas will be able to advance peace talks on the West Bank.

Wayne White, a Middle East expert, believes that Israel’s attacks will fail because they are based on a fundamental misunderstanding of the Palestinian mindset.

He argues that they are predicated on “a salient and mistaken psychological assumption: that the attitude of a defiant population typically can be changed and its will broken through military force and siege.

“This assumption was disproved in the course of a number of case studies related to the Second World War alone.

“Whether it was Germany’s effort to undermine British morale in late 1940 by bombing urban areas, the Germans’ attempts to break the will of Russians in besieged Leningrad during 1941-1943, or of Britain’s to break German civilian morale by laying waste to city after city during a campaign that spanned several years, this strategy largely has been discredited.

“The military force being brought to bear against Gaza, jarring as it may be, does not begin to compare with the examples above. Nor has the blockade been nearly as severe as that employed against Leningrad, especially during the winter of 1941-1942.”

As Palestinians in Gaza are besieged by the Israelis, this will only make their compatriots in the West Bank question any potential deal with Israel and undermine any attempt at negotiations. Words of peace as people are dying in their hundreds are nothing more than a farce.

For the Palestinians, it is not just an ideology but their homes and lives that are under threat. What the Israelis are ignoring, but must understand, is the conviction that rises from necessity when everything around you is razed to the ground.

As Johann Hari of the Independent argues: “This morning, and tomorrow morning, and every morning until this punishment beating ends, the young people of the Gaza Strip are going to be more filled with hate, and more determined to fight back, with stones or suicide vests or rockets.”

The most detailed poll of Palestinians, by the University of Maryland, found that less than a fifth want to reclaim the whole of historic Palestine while 72 per cent want a two-state solution based on the 1967 borders.

The 1.2m people living in Gaza are not militants, they are civilians and children who are watching their friends and family die around them. But the longer this continues, the more likely it is that these children will grow up defiant and radicalised.

Ephraim Halevy, the former head of the Israeli intelligence agency Mossad, believes that Hamas are “ready and willing to see the establishment of a Palestinian state in the temporary borders of 1967.” But this dream is quickly fading amid the smoke.

April 2020

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