The Arab Voice – October 2020

Arab writers from the Middle East and beyond, opine on the shift towards peace of the Gulf states towards Israel, the increasing danger of an unchecked predatorial Turkey and Kuwait’s devasted education system due to Covid-19.

My Opinion on the Peace between the Emirates, Bahrain and Israel

By Muhammad Al-Sheikh 

Al-Jazirah, Saudi Arabia, September 24, 2020

Following the signing of the peace agreement between the UAE and Israel, Washington announced that the Kingdom of Bahrain will be the second Gulf state to establish ties with Israel. Such a decision is a sovereign decision, which pertains exclusively to the two countries involved in the agreement. No one else has a right to intervene. These two states are the only ones who assess their political strategies and come to form a decision. I’ve heard multiple claims of pious groups suggesting that this agreement is religiously impermissible. However, several notable political jurists, such as Sheikh Ibn Baz and Sheikh Ibn Uthaimin, may God have mercy on them, have issued religious verdicts permitting reconciliation with Israel, which cancels this claim from the ground up. In my opinion, these agreements only serve our interests.

The Emirati, Israeli and American flags attached to a plane of the Israeli company El Al, decorated with the word “peace” in Arabic, English and Hebrew, on its arrival at Abu Dhabi airport on Israel’s first ever commercial flight to the UAE, August 31 2020. © AFP – Karim Sahib.

They bring to the fore issues that the Arabs, in general, and the Palestinians, in particular, have failed to solve through wars. However, remarkable progress has been made through peaceful negotiations. Anyone who reads the history of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict from 1948 until now, a lifetime extending to 72 years, will find that the Palestinian issue has been experiencing a continuous deterioration, slowly becoming relegated to the lower rungs of the Arab world’s political agenda, while Israel continues to annex more land. While the partition plan originally allocated approximately 49% of the land for the Palestinians and 51% for the Israelis, Israel has by now seized nearly 80% of the Palestinian geography. In other words, the wars that took place between the Israelis and the Arabs were all won by Israel, while Egypt and Jordan, as well as the Palestinians themselves, were only able to obtain lands through direct peace talks. The truth is that Israel is no longer the Gulf’s biggest enemy, as was the case before the Iranian Revolution of 1979. Since the rise of the mullah regime in Tehran and the rise of Erdogan’s government in Turkey, the Arab world became subjected to continuous efforts on behalf of both of these states to export their revolutions and restore their long-gone empires. Both of these countries are far more dangerous to us than Israel ever will be.

Israeli Ministry of Foreign AffairsIsraeli Foreign Minister Yisrael Katz with his Bahraini counterpart Al Khalifa

The other matter that is often ignored is that Gulf countries are increasingly diversifying their economies and turning away from their reliance on oil. Israel is a great partner to collaborate with on technology, science, finance and healthcare. It is one of the most superior countries in innovation and peaceful cooperation, and it will help benefit our collective development and modernization.

– Muhammad Al-Sheikh 

How Long Will We Keep Silent About Turkey?

By Dr. Abdullah Al-Madani

Al-Bayan, UAE, August 27, 2020

In 2014, my Saudi colleague Jasser Al-Jasser wrote an opinion piece calling on his government to impose a ban on all travel between Saudi Arabia and Turkey. In his piece, he implored other Gulf states to do the same, given Turkey’s disinterest in stopping the flow of fighters into the hands of Islamic State and Al-Nusra in Syria.

Al-Jasser’s plea was not answered. However, today, the countries of the Gulf can no longer afford to sit idly by as Turkey continues to threaten the security and stability of our entire region. Ankara, led by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party, is an unabashed supporter of the Muslim Brotherhood and is clear about its aspiration to lead the entire Muslim world by restoring the Ottoman caliphate.

More diplomatically isolated than ever in Arab world, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (left) is welcomed by Khalid bin Mohammad al-Attiyah (right), the Qatari deputy prime minister and minister of state for defense affairs, at the airport in Doha, Qatar. (Getty Images)

Erdogan’s Turkey is no longer a friendly country with good intentions toward us. The opposite is true: Turkey has become one of the most malicious nations in the world, deploying mercenaries all over the region and destabilizing the security and stability of distant countries in an effort to lock in political and financial gains. In his most recent inflammatory speech against Egypt, Erdogan described President Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi as a “tyrant”. Last year, Ankara directly undermined the legitimacy of the Egyptian government by hosting and embracing a group of Egyptian “revolutionaries” who sought to carry out a coup in their country.

Furthermore, Ankara has been a steady source of support to the Hamdeen regime in Doha, led by the emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, who has led a boycott of four Arab countries. Finally, we must not forget the close cooperation between Erdogan’s Brotherhood regime and the Iranian mullahs, whose efforts to undermine the stability of Gulf Cooperation Council states are widely known. Given these repeated attacks and Turkey’s hostile stance toward Arab people, how can we ever trust Ankara? Given Erdogan’s vulgar aggression against Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Syria, Iraq and Libya, how can we stay silent?
Dr. Abdullah Al-Madani

The Academic Year of Deception

Modhi Abdul Aziz Al-Hamoud

Al-Qabad, Kuwait, September 25, 2020

By virtue of both age and circumstance, I happen to have experienced two bitter crises that had monumental impacts on our country’s education system. The first was the brutal Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, which led to the shutdown of schools for an entire academic year. Following liberation, the educational authorities were forced to make a tough decision that many of us recall to this very day, by imposing the “year of integration”, in which the educational curriculum of each grade was merged to cover two years’ worth of teaching.

Kuwait’s academic year has officially ended with all students deemed to have passed. (Photo for illustrative purpose only).

Today, over three decades later, another crisis is threatening our educational system. This time, it’s the coronavirus, which has disrupted education in all countries of the world. While this most recent crisis is far from unique to Kuwait, our country does stand out in the disproportional effect of the virus on our children’s education. While many other states implemented remote learning solutions that enabled students to maintain a degree of normalcy in everyday life, the Kuwaiti Ministry of Education decided to simply send our students home.

The solution, according to the ministry, was simply to bump students up a grade without achieving any of the learning requirements for the year. Ironically, no one at the ministry is owning this policy outright. Last week, it published the so-called “pass rates” for the most recent high school matriculation examinations. The figure stood at 99.7%. Now let’s be clear: Not even the most advanced nations and the most endowed educational systems in the world, in places like Finland and Singapore, yield this kind of completion rate.

Kuwait City.

Therefore, it is surely impossible that Kuwaiti high-schoolers did. Unfortunately, the problem doesn’t end in high school. Given these fabricated rates, our university systems will be the next to suffer. With limited seats available to students, how will our higher education institutions know which students to admit? How will they make use of their limited governmental budgets to accommodate larger classes of students?

The absorption of all high school graduates into our few universities will create a crisis of its own. Yes, the decision pleased the students and their proud families. It also allowed our politicians to remove great pressure from their own shoulders. But it inevitably led us into an educational crisis that no one knows how to get out of. The absence of academic excellence, let alone basic academic competence, should be a concern to us all.

–Modhi Abdul Aziz Al-Hamoud

*Translations by Asaf Zilberfarb

While the mission of Lay of the Land (LotL) is to provide a wide and diverse perspective of affairs in Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish world, the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by its various writers are not necessarily ones of the owners and management of LOTL but of the writers themselves.  LotL endeavours to the best of its ability to credit the use of all known photographs to the photographer and/or owner of such photographs

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