Analysis News
Visit our Hebrew site, "Local Call" , in partnership with Just Vision.

Ex-Brigadier General speaks out against Israeli strike on Syria

As Israel continues to debate whether to act in (or on) Syria – for the moment, it’s “watch and wait” – Shlomo Brom, a retired Israeli brigadier general who headed the army’s strategic planning division, emerges as a voice of reason, warning against an Israeli air strike on Syrian chemical weapons facilities.

Ehud Barak, the Israeli Defense Minister, visited the occupied Golan Heights on Thursday to remind the world just how vulnerable Israel is to the developments in neighboring Syria and the outcome of the 17-month uprising. Standing at an elevated position in the hills, Barak noted that he could see the conflict on just the other side of the border. He warned of a potential flooding of refugees, now mostly heading to Turkey to Syria’s northwest and to Jordan to Syria’s south, into Israel via the Golan Heights. And he once again sounded the alarm bell over components of Syria’s chemical arsensary getting into the wrong “rogue” hands. That, again, has prompted discussions in Israel on whether Israel’s air force should attack Syrian installations, a move that could backfire for a number of reasons.

A number of international news outlets in Israel quoted Shlomo Brom’s opposition to such moves and to the mounting fear rhetoric. In an effort to counter the populist trend in Israel that often succumbs to talks of “pre-emptive” strikes, it is worth highlighting some of Brom’s comments.

Speaking to the Financial Times:

It is important to keep in mind these points as Israeli hawks make an argument for a potential attack on Syria to prevent the proliferation of its materials.

View article: AAA
Share article

Thousands protest austerity measures in Spain

Madrid – In Spain on Thursday, yields on the country’s five-year bond reached a 16-year record high as the Conservative government tried to convince investors and European finance ministers that Spain can properly handle its budgetary crisis. The news came as tens of thousands of protestors took the streets in some 80 cities across the country, angry at the country’s recent austerity measures.

Puerta del Sol is a popular Madrid plaza, filled with shops, cafes and, on Thursday, thousands of demonstrators from all across the capital region. A march that began less than one kilometer away ended steps away from the Spanish Congress. (Police barricaded  Carrera de San Jeronimo, the street that runs right in front of the Congress and leads up to Puerta del Sol.) For the past several days, legislators have been signing into law a series of reforms aimed at reducing the country’s budget deficit from the current 8.9 percent to below three percent by 2014, putting it in line with EU regulations.

Mariano Rajoy, the Conservative prime minister, is doing everything he can to ensure that Spain does not fall prey to an all-out Greece-style bailout.

At the square where the march ended, union leaders who were among the organizers of the mass demonstrations gave speeches stating their opposition to Rajoy’s measures, which have included a series of tax hikes and budget cuts.  Nuria Alberto is one of the rally co-organizers:

Rajoy’s finance minister, Cristobal Montoro, testified on Wednesday and Thursday before the House of Deputies (the lower congressional chamber), stating that Spain has no choice but to push through the government’s austerity plans, and he insisted public sectors workers know that there is no money in the state coffers to pay them.

Ironcally, Rajoy’s government was brought into office some seven months ago, ousting the previous Socialist government of Jose Luis Zapatero. In his bid to get elected, Rajoy insisted there would not be an increase in taxes under his leadership. But that clearly has not been the case. Even from day one, when Rajoy began trying to balance Spain’s books, he increased income taxes. Now come Rajoy’s latest measures.

Rajoy knows he has to slash 65 billions euros from the government’s budget. He and his cabinet have gone through public expenditures like an a la carte menu and started trimming, introducing the harshest reforms Spain has seen in its thirty years of democratic rule. ...

Read More
View article: AAA
Share article

Olmert acquitted on major criminal charges

JERUSALEM – Ehud Olmert, a former Israeli Prime Minister, has been acquitted of criminal charges in two out of out three cases in a rare triple trial.

Former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert emerged from the Jerusalem District Court on Wednesday morning promising this will not be the last the public hears from him. With his trademark smile on his face towards the end of his comments to the press, Olmert  said he felt vindicated by the decision delivered by a “respectable” court. Olmert repeatedly stated “there were no envelopes, there were no envelopes,” a reference to the accusations he accepted cash bribes prior to his position as Israeli premiere. Olmert was convicted of a lesser charge of “breach of trust” in the “Investment Center” case, which is unlikely to carry a prison term.

Speaking thirty minutes prior, Olmert’s attorney verbally attacked the attorney general’s office for what he said was a witch-hunt against his client, insisting on a speedy trial and immediate revelation of facts that would “shake the earth.” Olmert’s legal team suggested the attorney general acted out of line and as part of a concerted effort to topple Olmert. The 2008 charges led to Olmert’s resignation as head of the center-right Kadima party, and to the end of his tenure as prime minister. He was replaced temporarily by Tzipi Livni, then serving as foreign minister, who eventually lost in the elections to Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu.

The charges against Olmert stemmed from his earlier positions as mayor of Jerusalem and as minister of trade. The trial was unique for a number of reasons, not least of which because it involved a former prime minister. Additionally, it was heard before three judges, as opposed to one, and encompassed three different cases – the Investment Center, the “Talansky” case (a reference to American businessman and rabbi Morris Talansky) and the “Rishon Tours” case (a reference to Olmert’s private tour company), in which he was accused of knowingly double- and triple-billing Jewish organizations and pocketing the profits. Olmert restated his innocence:

Olmert’s attorney indicated he will not appeal the guilty verdict (on the lesser charge) if the Attorney General’s office does not appeal the acquittal (on the greater charges).  But Olmert also still faces a legal battle in the so-called “Holy Land” case, which centers around his involved in a housing project in West Jerusalem.

In December 2011, former Israeli President...

Read More
View article: AAA
Share article

Cyprus assumes EU Presidency amid bank crisis

Nicosia – The small eastern Meditteranean nation of Cyprus has taken over the six-month presidency of the Council of Europe just days after two of its three largest banks asked for assistance.

The lanes have all been freshly painted, the flowers have been freshly planted, and the flags have been freshly flown. Yes, the Cypriot capital has been given a face lift as the nation of a little over one million people – a figure that includes Northern Cyprus (more on that soon) – assumes the European Union’s presidency. Cypriot President Demetris Christofias could not be prouder, returning from last week’s Council of Europe Summit in Brussels where he received reassurances from Angela Merkel during a sideline bilateral meeting with the German Chancellor.

I need a loan

The rotations are scheduled, so Cyprus has known for about nine years that this day would come. But perhaps less planned and thus more surprising was  a revelation less than one week ago by the country’s second biggest private bank, Laika Bank (or, in English, Popular Bank) that it needed roughly 1.6 billion euros in recapitalization funds by the end of the month. Making matters worse, days later, another one of the country’s largest banks, the Bank of Cyprus, revealed that it, too, would need external help.

Symeon Matsis, a local financial analyst, called the timing of the announcement embarrassing:

But George Markopoulitios, the European Commission’s Representative to Cyprus, says the timing actually offers a unique opportunity:

Much of Cyprus’ financial shortcomings are due to two things, both related to neighboring Greece. First, Cyprus’ private banks were heavily exposed to Greek sovereign debt. Much of those losses were written-off during the so-called “haircut” to Greece by the EU, in which the debt was sold-off at a discount to the lenders, in this case many of them Cypriot banks. However, according to Matsis, the Cypriot banks had already absorbed those losses. But further damage was revealed thanks to a relatively high exposure to Greece’s private sector debt – that is, loans by Cypriot banks on the Greek mainland to small businesses and individual mortgages. The latest request for money relates directly to those loans-gone-bad.

Indeed, hindsight is 20:20, perfect version. But actually, according to Matsis, the Cypriot banks could not have predicted what was going to happen and, at the time, were behaving quite reasonably:

President Christofias has gone on the offensive attacking the private...

Read More
View article: AAA
Share article

Italian Communists liken Merkel to Hitler

Rome, Italy — Ahead of last week’s visit to the Italian capital by German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Italy’s Communist party put up posters likening Merkel to Adolf Hilter.

Posters have appeared in a few spots in Rome portraying the German Chancellor Angela Merkel wearing an SS-style uniform, with a Euro-currency emblem on the arm patch in lieu of the Nazi (National Socialist Movement of Germany) swastika. The posters are credited to the Communist Party of Italy.

As if the comparison wasn’t obvious enough, someone clever went around with a marker and added in the Third Reich’s leader’s infamous mustache.

The argument made on the posters is that the EU is a cover-up for the banks, a protectorate of monopolies. And it must be defeated.

While the use of Hitler-like images rouses emotions, it lacks rationale.  The situation in Germany now is much different than it was in the 1930s. It was not hyperinflation in the 1920s that brought Hitler to power, but rather depression and high unemployment a decade later. Domestically, Merkel isn’t dealing with those issues, and her position of strength is derived from a totally different style of policy-making.

Some Italians chose to welcome Merkel with a different sort of sign. Another poster – this one put-up by the Center-Left Democratic Party – called on Italians to rally to Greece’s support in order to save Europe.

Merkel was in Rome for a 4-way meeting with her counterparts from Spain, France and host country Italy. All are due, along with other European leaders, in Brussels later this week for a two-day EU Summit due to start on Thursday. Ahead of the meeting, on Wednesday, Merkel is due to meet France’s recently elected Socialist President Francois Hollande.

However, whatever progress they have made may now be overshadowed by news that another European country, Cyprus, needs its banks bailed-out. On Monday, the government in Nicosia announced that it would seek recapitalization funds from Europe. That may be in addition to possible bilateral loans it was trying to obtain from Moscow (which in the past offered discounted below-market rates) and China (which is looking to get a foot in the door in Cyprus thanks to recent natural gas discoveries). Cyprus’ Minister for Commerce, Economy and Tourism is currently in Beijing, presumably seeking such funding.

Indeed, Cyprus is but a rounding error in the Eurozone economy. It pales in comparison to France, Spain and...

Read More
View article: AAA
Share article

Heads of Europe's biggest economies meet in Rome

Rome, Italy — Leaders from Germany, France, Spain and Italy meet in rare 4-way meeting to try to reach consensus on Euro crisis plan ahead of critical summit in Brussels.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, easily the biggest fan of the Euro currency among those who attended the so-called “Mini-EU Summit” alongside her on Friday – the heads of government from France, Spain and Italy – arrived at Rome’s Villa Madama Palace a little more reassured than she could have expected just one week ago. In recent days, voters in economically-troubled Greece chose a centrist, pro-bailout government just one month after electing extremist parties on the political left and right (who were unable to form a government).

And Spain just days ago asked Europe to borrow up to 125 billion dollars to recapitalize its struggling banks, a sign that it recognizes Brusselle’s ability to help. Merkel insists the loans will come with some conditions, though it is not technically an austerity plan per se. Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy used every word, term and phrase to describe the move, short of calling it a bailout. But still, the fact that Madrid is knocking on Europe’s door and willing to take some advice on fiscal responsibility is again good news for Merkel.

Arguably, the somewhat reserved German leader was already feeling good about herself after making a strong showing in Mexico last week, making a strong push for her version of a European fiscal union at the G20 Summit in Los Cabos. Even American President Barack Obama signaled slight supportive for the initiative, for which he had previous reservations.

Indeed, things seemed to be going Chancellor Merkel’s way as she arrived for the quadrilateral meeting, and even she for once appeared peppy. But Merkel is a big advocate of what she calls “responsible fiscal policy.” And before she hands over Germany’s credit to any of its neighbors, she insists on making sure strict fiscal rules of governance are in place. Effectively, that means less power in Europe’s capitals (plural) and more power in Europe’s capital (singular).  Speaking to the media after the meeting, Merkel vowed to strengthen not only Europe’s fiscal belt.

“More Europe” is slowly becoming a catchphrase associated with Merkel, whose Federal-system allows her to more easily transfer some sovereignty to Brussels. France’s recently-elected President Francois Hollande presides over the Fifth Republic, ties his hands slightly more. Which is why...

Read More
View article: AAA
Share article

Author of 'The Color Purple' boycotts Israeli publisher's translation

Alice Walker, author of the award-winning novel ‘The Color Purple,’ has reportedly refused translation rights of her book to an Israeli publisher, citing Israel as an ‘apartheid state’ with policies worse than the treatment of blacks in the southern United States and South Africa.

The Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel posted on its website a letter said to be from Walker, in which she notes:

Activism is a vital form of expression in a free society. It is a crucial form of checks-and-balances which keeps governments and institutions-of-power in-check. And on a personal note, I think it is important that individuals fight for a cause that is greater than their own.

That said, I have long opposed the BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanction) Movement against Israel and actions like the ones supported by Walker. While I think it is commendable that those behind it – well, some of those behind it – truly believe such acts will help remedy the plight of the Palestinians, I think such moves are misguided and short-sighted at best, and worse yet, hypocritical.

>> Click here to read and participate as +972 bloggers debate Alice Walker and the cultural boycott >>

The Palestinian economy is dependent on the Israeli one, and thus a boycott of the latter will likely be detrimental on the former. Moreover, those calling for such one-sided action do so using electronic devices that were likely developed in Israel thanks to a culture here that encourages and promotes technological innovation. It is highly plausible that every computer, every iPad, every instant message and every web-post these activists – and even Walker herself – use to promote a boycott of Israel, ironically, is only possible thanks to some sort of Israeli contribution.

And then comes the boycott of information. Or in this latest case, literature. Surely knowledge is power, and surely there should be some room for separation between various entities. Mixing culture with politics risks doing more damage to this fight for literary freedom.

In her letter, Walker notes her decision, in the past, to wait until after the end of South Africa’s apartheid to share the film with the likes of Winnie and Nelson Mandela. The film was directed in 1985 by Steven Spielberg, a well-known supporter of Israel and contributor to projects in this country. His cooperation with Walker is what helped her make...

Read More
View article: AAA
Share article

Cote d'Ivoire leader visits Israel in shadow of deportations

Cote d’Ivoire’s president, Alassane Ouattara arrived in Israel late on Saturday evening, his first official visit to the country as leader of the West African nation. Ouattara’s visit comes exactly 50 years after independent Cote d’Ivoire’s first president, Félix Houphouët-Boigny, visited the country. But it also comes just as Israel launches a major crackdown on African nationals, including Ivorians, it says are illegally living in the country.

During his four-day trip, Ouattara is due to meet key officials, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak, before attending later this week President Shimon Peres’ annual Presidential Conference, where he will be the keynote speaker. On Sunday, Ouattara was welcomed at the President’s Residence by Peres, fresh off the heels of a trip to Washington where he received the highest medal of honor possible from U.S. President Barack Obama.

Speaking alongside Peres, Ouattara highlighted what he called the long-standing relations between the two countries:

Also on Sunday, Ouattara and his delegation toured Israel’s national Holocaust museum, Yad Vashem, commemorating the murder in Europe of some six million Jews more than half a century ago.

Ouattara declined an interview request, but his travelling press officer noted the leader was feeling emotionally overwhelmed by the tour.  It is protocol for visiting heads states to receive such tours, commemorating Europe’s bloodiest genocide in modern history and honoring those who died. But some say Ouattara’s biggest challenge back home will be doing more to protect those who are trying to stay alive.

People like Bernard Abet, who left Cote d’Ivoire 15 years ago, and has been in Israel since.

Question: Do you feel safe to go home?

Abet has four daughters and a wife, whom he has not seen in more than a year. They, too, were in Israel, but have since gone to Ghana, where he says they are currently living. He hopes to join them soon. He says he appreciates the Israeli people and respects the Israeli government. He understands why it is carrying out the deportations, but does not support the way it has gone about doing it. According to Abet, in recent days, one woman from his community was arrested, along with her 4-year old child who was pulled out of school.

Abet’s friend Sheif, strolling through the park with his 2-year old son, isn’t waiting.  He’s been in Israel for 17 years, speaks fluent Hebrew, French and English, but says...

Read More
View article: AAA
Share article

'Pinkwashing' preferred over 'pinkstoning'

Israel’s record on gay rights should be applauded and celebrated, just as its record on Palestinian rights should be scrutinized and challenged. But the military should stay out of the first if it can’t find better answers for the second.

The Israeli military, the IDF, is enjoying both widespread praise and criticism this week for the posting on its English-language Facebook page of a photo of two uniformed men holding hands. The photo was taken and distributed just days after Tel Aviv’s Gay Pride Parade, which attracted thousands of foreign visitors to Israel. Its distribution comes amid growing accusations that the Israeli government through its various ministries, is engaging in a public relations campaign dubbed “pinkwashing” – the touting of Israel’s record on gay rights as a diversion or deflection from the attention it has received over its treatment of Palestinians in the occupied territories.

In the first two days, the photo generated nearly 9,000 “shares,” more than 10,000 “likes,” and more than 1,500 comments on the IDF’s Facebook page (ranging from “incredibly proud” and supportive to the expected accusations of “abomination”), plus countless other “chats” on the pages of various Facebook users who re-posted the picture. The uniformed men have their backs to the camera, making their identities almost impossible to ascertain. Those familiar with the berets fastened on their shoulders safely assumed that one serves in the elite Givati Brigade while the other is enlisted in the Artillery Corps. However, within 24 hours, it was discovered and confirmed that the photo was staged, that both men serve in the IDF’s spokesperson’s unit, and that one of the men is not gay at all, and thus, the two are not actually a couple, as effectively suggested by the photo. The Times of Israel, a somewhat new publication headed by the former editor of the relatively conservative Jerusalem Post, David Horovitz, was among the first to call the post “misleading.” The IDF told a writer from the publication, in response to its query, that:

But the IDF did not deny that the photo was staged.

Indeed, the IDF does have an open policy regarding the sexual orientation of its soldiers, and that should be applauded. While some gay men may use their sexuality (combined with a recommendation from a psychiatrist) to avoid military service, most serve and, if they chose, can serve openly, without risking official condemnation. Such...

Read More
View article: AAA
Share article

Sudanese refugees, activists hope for change in policies

Activists believe the deportation of South Sudanese will most probably not lower the number of African migrants in Israel, and it is also a direct violation of Israel’s obligations under international commitments.

Israeli authorities have begun arresting dozens of African migrants, as reported by +972’s Mya Guarnieri. It is the latest in an effort to crackdown on individuals who over the years have entered the country illegally. The move comes despite a court order that the government allow them one week to turn themselves in voluntarily. The one week period expires on Thursday.

The government hopes to deport an unspecified number of migrants in the coming days, mostly back to South Sudan. Joseph Monyde Malieny, a postgraduate South Sudanese who has been in Israel since 2006, has written on +972 an email plea urging the government to allow his fellow nationals to stay.

Figures vary on the exact number of South Sudanese who are in Israel. Asaf Weitzen, an attorney with the Hotline for Migrant Workers, estimates the number to stand at around 700, while the government places the figure at more than double. Due to their newly-independent state, the South Sudanese are no longer technically afforded the same protections their northern Sudanese neighbors are, namely the right to remain in Israel.

By its own admission, Israel cannot repatriate Sudanese – and Eritreans – back to their home country, as it is a signatory to an international convention that serves as a guideline for the treatment of refugees. (That has not stopped Israeli Interior Minister, Eli Yishai, tasked with dealing with the issue, from suggesting that war-torn Eritrea is just as dangerous as Israel’s southern city of Sderot.)

Sudanese and Eritrean nationals make up 85 percent of the estimated 60,000 African migrants currently in Israel. Meaning, deportating all non-Sudanese and non-Eritreans will not really put a dent in the number of African migrants in Israel. It may indeed encourage others not to come, as the government hopes and claims. But it might also further highlight Israel’s policy of not deporting Sudanese and Eritreans, and thus draw more of them to Israel.

The government insists it will detain those who are here in order to prevent others from coming.  But activists here say such moves are in direct violation of Israel’s obligations under its international commitments. For Weitzen, what-to-do is clear:

Levinsky Park sits in the heart of the slummy center of...

Read More
View article: AAA
Share article

Israel's n**** word: efforts to teach it, and attempts to erase it

My thoughts about Nakba, Nakba Day, and the so-called Nakba law are simple. Silencing another’s narrative does not make that narrative go away. And in a similar vein, giving a voice to another’s narrative does not invalidate one’s own.

I commissioned the image above to convey visually what I fear currently risks haunting Israelis forever. That is, despite efforts to shun discussions about the “Nakba” – an Arabic term meaning “catastrophe” often used to reference Israel’s process of independence – the narrative simply will not go away. It will continue to creep into Israeli consciousness through the shadows and cracks. Israelis, therefore, should try to understand the perspective as seen by those who commemorate the event, rather than rejecting such narratives wholeheartedly. At the same time, Israelis should feel comfortable enough in their own history to not feel threatened by such declarations.

In general, a diversity of narratives is a good thing. And in all likeliness, the truth lies waiting to be discovered somewhere in the middle. Geographically, if a tree falls somewhere between person A and person B, there is a very good chance that the eyewitness testimony of both individuals will differ. Person A may go so far as to call Person B a liar. B may spend his entire life refuting A’s testimony. Still, each will stand his ground, insisting on sharing his words and memories. That’s okay, and it’s nothing to fear. An honest discussion that includes both individuals may reveal there to be some truth in each’s versions.

Winston Churchill once noted, “History is written by the victors.”  That does not mean those who did not get to claim victory do not have a history to tell. It means theirs has been less told, but not necessarily less valid. One of the most fascinating courses I ever took during my years as an undergraduate student at UCLA was a sociology lecture entitled something like “Re-writing history from the perspective of the minority.” I am sure the actual title was more academic, but essentially that was the point. The course itself was eye-opening, the stories shared by students were engaging. And I am reminded of those lessons today. It is clear that the Arab inhabitants of what is now known as the modern State of Israel witnessed the developments of May 1948 in a way that was different to the Jews. Israelis should now hear...

Read More
View article: AAA
Share article

Controversy over Israeli envoy's address at gay rights forum

WASHINGTON – Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren delivered a keynote speech at the 20th Annual Equality Forum held over the weekend in the U.S. city of Philadelphia, but his selection as the featured guest angered some pro-Palestinian activists in the LGBT community.

The forum is intended to celebrate the rights of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transexual, Transgender, Queers and other individuals, often referred to as LGBT.  This year, the Forum’s executive committee chose to honor Israel, with its culture capital Tel Aviv recently listed as the number one gay destination in the world.  The committee invited Israel’s Ambassador to Washington to address the crowd on Saturday night.

Israel effectively decriminalized homosexuality in 1988 when it removed from its British-inherited penal code a ban on sodomy. Oren highlighted what he felt were Israel’s strong commitments to gay rights. He noted that an Israeli diplomat serving in Europe has received full rights and benefits for his same-sex Israeli partner via the foreign ministry.  He highlighted the military response in disciplining a soldier who harassed a lesbian soldier.  He recalled the gay pride parade that was held in Jerusalem, despite opposition from religious groups.

Oren referenced Israel’s now world-famous delegate to the Eurovision Song Contest, Dana International, a transgender performer whose 1998 song “Viva La Diva” secured Israel its third victory in the competition. An American by birth, Oren also compared gay rights in the U.S. to those in Israel, reminding those attending that as the United Staties was invoking the “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” policy (prohibiting LGBT individuals serving in the military from being open about their sexual identity) under former President Bill Clinton, Israel’s military banned all discrimination based on sexual orientation. Both at the event and in an interview before it, Oren argued that Israel provides asylum for Palestinian LGBTs from the West Bank, and that it houses two Palestinian groups fighting from LGBT equality for Palestinians in Israeli and the Palestinian territories.

+972’s Yossi Gurvitz argues that Oren got his facts wrong.

Oren’s speech was interrupted at one point by a man who stood up and accused Israel of denying rights to non-Israeli/Jewish LGBTs, particularly Palestinians.

The arguments he made echoed more clearly the sentiments conveyed by Katherine Franke.  Franke is the Isidor and Seville Sulzbacher Professor of Law and Director of Center for Gender and Sexuality Law at New York’s Columbia University.  In the days leading to the Forum, Franke posted...

Read More
View article: AAA
Share article

Marginalized groups that Qatari PR would rather you not see

The American network CBS – via its flagship news magazine show, “60 Minutes” – gave the tiny peninsula Kingdom of Qatar a free ride in its report earlier this year exploring the small gulf nation. Correspondent Bob Simon, dubbed by the network itself as “the most honored journalist in international reporting,” delivered a public relations coup to the Emir and his government (i.e. family) by failing to properly investigate life in the country of less than two million people (the majority of whom are foreign laborers).

Simon was partially right.  Yes, for many – namely, the wealthy portion of the one-quarter of population that is actually Qataris – life is content thanks to an absurd amount of amenities and luxuries courtesy of global oil prices. But those who do not fall into that category do exist, and for the most part their stories are untold.

Salim (not his real name) is a Lebanese man I met through friends over dinner at the souk one night in 2009. He is gay and has been with his partner – a married Qatari man – for a number of years. (Such extramarital affairs are said to be quite common.)  Salim has lived in Qatar for more than a decade.  And when we met, he revealed that a few years prior to the dinner, he was arrested upon arrival at the airport in Doha just as he was returning from a large party in Western Europe. Salim claims he was held and beaten for three days and repeatedly called names considered derogatory terms for homosexual men. Perhaps by coincidence, though likely not, he said that just days earlier, a male member of the extended Qatari royal family made advances towards him at the party. Salim rejected him, which he claims angered the Qatari man.

Michel (not his real name) is also Lebanese. When I met him in 2008, he was working for Qatar Airways, the national carrier, based in Doha but flying around the world.  He and other airline crew live in dormitories, which include a curfew and constant monitoring of their comings and goings. He told me that his first dorm-mate was evicted from the country when authorities discovered he was HIV-positive. According to Michel, the individual was taken from the government office – where he was told of...

Read More
View article: AAA
Share article