by Mordechai Kedar
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Read the article in Italiano (translated by Yehudit Weisz, edited by Angelo Pezzana)
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The most obvious example of a country intervening in the affairs of another is Qatar. This principality has been shaking up regimes in the Arab world since the end of 1996, when it launched the al-Jazeera channel
Presently, several battles are being waged on several levels in the Middle East. On the global level we see how the battle between the West and Iran is drawing to an end with the brilliant victory of Iran which is supported by Russia and China, and the humiliating defeat of the United States, Europe, Saudi Arabia, the Gulf Emirates and Israel. The Iranians’ determination and willingness to suffer during the years of sanctions, as well as the ayatollahs’ dictatorial control of the people, has brought them victory. Compared to Iran, the West seems like a spineless jellyfish.
On the regional level a war with hundreds of thousands of fatalities is being conducted between Saudi Arabia and Iran on the soil of Syria, Iraq, Lebanon and Yemen. This war is the direct historical outgrowth of 1400 years of battle between Sunni Islam, represented by Saudi Arabia, and Shi’a, represented by Iran. Figures such as al-Qaeda, the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) and Jabhat al-Nusra, which represent the Sunni side, and the Revolutionary Guard and Hizb’Allah representing the Shi’a side, are running across the chessboard.
On the internal-state level internal battles are being conducted in Libya, Sudan, South Sudan, Yemen and Egypt, over the direction of the state and the image of the ruling elite that leads it. Many of the internal struggles are influenced by the regional level and the global level, and countries intervene in each others’ business.
Qatar has been shaking up regimes in the Arab world since the end of 1996, when it launched the al-Jazeera channel
The most obvious example of a country intervening in the affairs of another is Qatar. This principality – the whole thing is nothing but a pimple jutting out from Saudi Arabia into the Persian Gulf - has been shaking up regimes in the Arab world since the end of 1996, when it launched the al-Jazeera channel and began showing the Arab peoples the true faces of the dictators who are controlling them, with an iron fist, a raised arm and dim torture chambers. There were those in the West who called this channel “the CNN of the Arab world”, because they did not understand its true, long-range agenda: overthrowing the Arab regimes in order to bring the Muslim Brotherhood to power.
The Arab world was well acquainted with the goal of the channel: the public has been watching it intently day and night, and its ratings have soared to the skies. The rulers were wary of it and the information that was hidden in its safes, therefore they only rarely dared to shut down its broadcasts and limit the activity of its writers. The rulers preferred to be the subject of negative reports rather than have fatal information released, and the channel kept a balance as well.
One of the means that the al-Jazeera channel has used in order to promote the Muslim Brotherhood’s agenda is Sheikh Dr. Yusuf al-Qaradawi, who was born in Egypt 88 years ago, then studied in the University of al-Azhar and afterward joined the leadership of the Muslim Brotherhood. Because of the persecution in the days of Gamal Abd al-Nasser he moved to Qatar in 1961 and in the course of time was named mufti of the country. Al-Jazeera is at his disposal and he appears there almost every week in his show Shari’a and Life, where he mixes the Qur’an, the Hadith (the oral tradition), current affairs and politics. It was during this program that he called on the sons of Iraq to attack and eliminate American soldiers, and authorized suicide attacks. Qaradawi was not permitted to visit Mubarak’s Egypt for thirty years.
Beginning in 2010 it seemed that Qatar was succeeding in its goal
Beginning in 2010 it seemed that Qatar was succeeding in its goal: the rulers in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Yemen were overthrown, each in his own way, and Islamist groups came to power. In Libya Qatar took an active part in the revolution against Qadhaffi, and flew in weapons and ammunition for the rebels. In February 2011, even before the clouds resulting from Mubarak’s removal from power in Egypt had cleared, Qaradawi made a “comeback” to Cairo’s Tahrir Square, delivered a Friday sermon for millions of listeners and seized the revolution for the Muslim Brotherhood. In that speech he praised the Egyptian army highly for not following Mubarak’s orders to act against the revolution.
Qaradawi promoted Mursi’s candidacy and supported him and his government heart and soul after his election in July of 2012, and Qaradawi became infuriated with the defense minister, Abed al-Fatah al-Sisi who removed Mursi from the presidency in the beginning of July 2013, pressured by millions of Egyptians. Even now, the al-Jazeera channel still characterizes this act as a revolution, in order to delegitimize Sisi’s rule.
Meanwhile something had happened in Qatar, and the Emir – in June of 2013 Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani – passed the rule on to his son, 33-year-old Tamim bin Hamad. Sheikh Hamad gave no reason for his resignation, but it seems to this writer that he had become disappointed with the “Arab Spring”, which he had instigated but which eventually turned the Middle East into a boiling cauldron of blood, fire and tears, and when he felt that his primary project – placing the Muslim Brotherhood in power in Egypt – was about to fail, he stepped down from the stage in order to avoid the shame. He knew ahead of time that Mursi might be deposed, whether because millions of Egyptians planned a demonstration on the 30th of June, the anniversary of Mursi’s rise to power, or from information that apparently came to al-Jazeera that al-Sisi had decided to depose Mursi from the presidency because of these demonstrations, which is what actually happened.
The new Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim, apparently decided to take a less dogmatic and more pragmatic line, mainly because of al-Sisi’s determination and the decisive way that he relates to all open criticism regarding himself and Mursi’s dismissal. In recent months Sisi’s rule has become increasingly well established in Egypt, and the Muslim Brotherhood – the darlings of Qatar and the United states – has been made illegal, they and and their many organizations, having been declared a “terror organization”. They are forbidden to hold demonstrations and gatherings, they are forbidden to distribute flyers, and the police have even become involved in the universities in order to suppress the Brotherhood’s activities.
You may disagree with the Egyptian regime’s behavior and call it “undemocratic”, but you must admit that it has the support of many millions of Egyptians.
You may disagree with Sisi’s and his people’s definition of the Muslim Brotherhood organization as a “terrorist organization”, but you cannot deny that the Egyptian regime is determined to sweep the organization out of the political field, despite the fact that tens of millions of Egyptians identify with them and their goals. You may disagree with the Egyptian regime’s behavior and call it “undemocratic”, but you must admit that it has the support of many millions of Egyptians. You may also condemn the violence used by the Egyptian regime against those who oppose its actions, but you have to admit that in the Middle East there are many more violent regimes, for example, Syria and (democratic!!) Iraq.
Sisi also knows quite well the position of the American government, and specifically President Obama’s negative opinion of the actions taken against the Brotherhood, but he does not get excited about Obama, or John Kerry either, and he is not impressed by Qatar or al-Jazeera. He does not change his goal and does not retreat from the approach that he takes against the Brotherhood. My heart tells me that Sisi has already stopped returning telephone calls from Kerry or Obama when they phone him, trying to convince him to ease the pressure on the Brotherhood, just as he does not submit to the entreaties to return Mursi to the presidency after he deposed him in the beginning of July 2013. Moreover, Sisi is not deterred from putting Mursi in the defendant’s cage and accusing him of murder, which could bring a death sentence upon him.
They come and say that the Brotherhood is a terror organization? Who here is a terrorist?!? You, people of the military, you are the murderers and the terrorists
But Qaradawi continues in the same way: two weeks ago, in his Friday speech, he attacked Sisi and the military people (my comments are in parenthesis, M.K.) with strong words: “The soldiers of the revolution are murderers and terrorists, and Allah who is great and is the god of revenge, writes down all of their crimes and the ways that they oppress the public, and Allah’s revenge will surely come…They come and say that the Brotherhood is a terror organization? Who here is a terrorist?!? You, people of the military, you are the murderers and the terrorists…A soldier is forbidden to rule over a citizen except in an era of tyranny, and since the military people deposed King Faruk (=in the Officers Revolution of 1952, M.K.) they have been corrupting the political, economic, social and religious life in Egypt… We thought that Bablawi (the prime minister, M.K.) is an economist, but it turns out that he is a very ugly person. All of Egypt is with the Brotherhood… Mohammad Badie (the general guide of the Brotherhood, M.K.) told the entire world that our revolution is a revolution of peace, will remain a revolution of peace, and is stronger than the army’s bullets… Mursi was righteous, his righteousness and Islam have awakened the rage of the Zionists and the enemies of Islam (a hint at Sisi, M.K.)… O Sisi, O Bablawi, O Mansur (the president, M.K.), O Tartur (bum, rhymes with Mansur, M.K.) Allah will ask you (on judgment day, M.K.): Who killed this people! Beware of Allah, beware of Allah, beware of Allah”.
Qatar got a lesson in determination from Sisi, and it may be that Qatar’s policy of public support for the Brotherhood will become less intense.
This speech was the straw that broke Sisi’s patience. He called the ambassador of Qatar and threatened him that Egypt would cut off relations with the Emirates and remove the ambassador if he continues to support the Brotherhood. The new Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim, retreated slightly, and announced to Qaradawi that for the time being he does not permit him to deliver the Friday speech in the mosque. It is not clear if this ban will continue, and it may be that Egypt and Qatar will come to some agreement behind the scenes that will leave the embassies open. Nevertheless, Qatar got a lesson in determination from Sisi, and it may be that Qatar’s policy of public support for the Brotherhood will become less intense.
In the background, there is also Qatar’s failure in Syria: Since the founding of the Free Syrian Army in 2011 Qatar has supported it with funds, weapons and ammunition and in the political sphere as well. During the past year this organization has been losing its strength and the weight of the Salafi organizations – jihadists operating in Syria with Saudi money - is increasing. Qatar’s failure in this sphere as well is another factor that causes Sheikh Tamim to behave with caution in dealing with determined rulers, and Asad - without a doubt – is one of them.
The economic support that Sisi’s regime gets from Saudi Arabia allows it to behave so audaciously towards Qatar that the al-Jazeera channel almost does not operate within Egypt, and the channel accompanies its reportage on Egypt with videos that it downloads from the Internet. Without doubt this is a great humiliation for the channel that shook the Middle East from end to end.
The Americans, the Qataris and other Brotherhood supporters will have to decide how they will act, faced with the Egyptian determination: will they totally break off relations with Egypt and leave this country to manage its own weary affairs, or perhaps they will swallow the frog and continue to support Egypt, especially in the civil arena, in order to keep Egypt from seeking new friends in Iran or to return to its old friends in Moscow. In my opinion those who oppose Sisi have yielded and will continue in the near future to submit to his determination and to accept – albeit under protest – his policy.
Any display of weakness only increases the desire for dominance that is inherent in Middle East culture
The State of Israel can draw several conclusions from what Sisi has done to Qatar and to al-Jazeera, and the principal one is that with extortionists like Qatar and al-Jazeera you must show determination, because any display of weakness only increases the desire for dominance that is inherent in Middle East culture. They do not demand democracy or excel in the freedom of speech, rather they believe only in their Islamist agenda and exploit the democracy and freedom of communication that is practiced in Israel and Western countries in order to promote an agenda that is totally opposite from democracy and freedom.
According to the rules of Takiyya, Islamic deceptiveness, they disguise themselves as a regular media outlet and behave as if they are a regular media outlet, but their true intention is to promote the interests of political Islam and to introduce it into every place possible. Sisi told them “That’s the limit”, and showed them the way out so they are cautious with him. The fact that Qaradawi is prevented from delivering the Friday speech is the proof that in the Middle East the only thing that works is determination.
Dr. Kedar is available for lectures
Dr. Mordechai Kedar (Mordechai.Kedar@biu.ac.il) is an Israeli scholar of Arabic and Islam, a lecturer at Bar-Ilan University and the director of the Center for the Study of the Middle East and Islam (under formation), Bar Ilan University, Israel. He specializes in Islamic ideology and movements, the political discourse of Arab countries, the Arabic mass media, and the Syrian domestic arena.
Translated from Hebrew by Sally Zahav with permission from the author.
Additional articles by Dr. Kedar
Source: The article is published in the framework of the Center for the Study of the Middle East and Islam (under formation), Bar Ilan University, Israel. Also published in Makor Rishon, a Hebrew weekly newspaper.
Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the author.