Hot off the Arab press 386408

What citizens of other countries are reading about the Middle East.

Iraqi Christians attend a mass at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Baghdad. (photo credit: REUTERS)
Iraqi Christians attend a mass at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Baghdad.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Israeli attempts to penetrate the Arab energy sector
Dar al-Hayat, London, December 21
Last week, the Palestinian Studies Institute (PSI) held a symposium in Beirut under the title of “Gas in the Eastern Mediterranean: Challenges and Possibilities,” which discussed the geopolitics of the recent gas discoveries in the Mediterranean waters. Particularly prominent in the discussion was Israel’s signing of memorandums of understanding with several Arab states to supply them with gas for 25 years, and the fear of foreign investors to cooperate with Israel due to Arab boycotts. Several of the studies presented at the conference showed that Israel is attempting to penetrate the Arab energy sector, in order to influence electricity prices in the concerned countries.
Interestingly, the Jordanian parliament – with which Israel signed such a memorandum – recommended to the government not to approve the Israeli deal and suggested importing gas from Qatar instead.
Egypt, meanwhile, is negotiating with Cyprus for an alternative to the Israeli pipeline, and considering importing gas from neighboring Algeria. The only deal that was actually signed was between Israel and the Palestinian Electric Company, to supply gas for a quarter of a century to the Jenin power plant that is currently being built. It is interesting to note that Israel views this as “internal consumption” and not an export abroad, which suggests that it is determined to continue occupying the West Bank. On another front, Israel has been preventing the Palestinians from developing the marine field that was discovered across the shores of Gaza in 2000, while power shortages and outages are being experienced on a daily basis in the Occupied Territories. – Walid Khadouri
Gaza citizens build houses to hide from the cold
Erem News, UAE, December 10
The immense destruction caused by the Israeli war on Gaza left many Palestinians in the Strip with no home or shelter. With the cold winter months around the corner, and given Israel’s tight restrictions on cement imports, many on the streets are now looking for innovative ways to reconstruct their homes, instead of moving into portable caravans – which have become an infamous part of the Gaza landscape. Several engineers have discovered that by condensing rubble and debris from destroyed homes, they can create a type of compressed brick that can be used for building, without the need for cement. The new bricks, allowing for a warm winter and a cool summer, provide much better insulation than the thin caravan walls. The engineers explained that creating a significant supply of bricks takes less than 10 days, and that each block becomes stiffer and more cohesive with time. As for now, the bricks can only sustain buildings up to two stories high; meaning that building will have to be wide and sprawled. However, the new innovation will still be able to provide a home to the devastated families. – Romouz al-Nahal
Iraq’s Christians cancel their celebrations
Masr Al-Arabiya, Egypt, December 25
For the first time in history, the church bells of Iraq were silenced. The only sign of Christmas in Baghdad was one single mass attended by Christian Iraqi officials, after all other celebrations were canceled amid the ongoing violence in the country. In June, many Iraqi Christians fled the city of Mosul and the Nineveh Province, after militants belonging to the Islamic State threatened to kill them if they failed to pay a special non-Muslim tax. Most Christian property was confiscated or looted and Christian homes were marked with the letter “N,” short for “Christians” in Arabic. One of the mass participants was the head of Iraq’s Islamic Supreme Council, Ammar al-Hakim, who called on all Christians to stay in their homes and in Iraq. He added that all parties in the country, of all religions, should join forces in the fight against the Islamic State. – Masr Al-Arabiya Staff
Have the Islamists learned their lesson?
, Saudi Arabia, December 25
The recent elections in Tunisia could have ended in a similar way to the Libyan or Tunisian ones: with a ruling Islamist party that democratically won the ballots, but refused to accept a democratic regime once elected.
Luckily, while Tunisia fell into severe political turmoil – with some politicians even being assassinated for speaking out against Islamic extremism – it still managed to alienate the extremist parties from its parliament and prove that its long history of public order and civil obedience still exists. Unlike in Egypt, where the Muslim Brotherhood took over the regime following Mubarak’s fall, Tunisia voted against Islamic extremism.
Its main Islamic party, the Renaissance Movement, abandoned its members who held extremist ideologies such as those promoted by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, and adopted a more liberal and inclusive understanding of politics. I have very little faith in religious politics. In Iraq, Sudan, Gaza, Egypt and Libya – we can all witness how religious movements yielded despotic regimes that abuse their people. If the Renaissance Movement continues its collaboration with other political forces, then the Tunisian case will prove that coexistence between the secular and Islamists can still take place. But if it follows a more extremist line and attempts to use democratic means to achieve non-democratic ends, then new elections in Tunisia are just a matter of time. – Abd al-Rahman al-Rashed
Egypt and Qatar – the definition of victory
Al-Watan, Egypt, December 25 Among the hundreds of questions that have been raised around the Qatari-Egyptian reconciliation, an important one was missing: If Egypt and Qatar are at war, what is the definition of a state of victory? Does it require the emir of Qatar to apologize for all of his country’s wrongdoings and apologize for everything it has done? Does it consist of a complete overthrow of Qatar? I believe that Cairo must have a clear vision and a specific definition of what its “victory” means. It must formulate the necessary plans to meet this goal, and refrain from using ambiguous metaphors to describe its bilateral relations. It is also important that it be measurable; that is, possible to evaluate and quantify. Today, more and more Egyptians realize the extent to which Qatar has been working against Egypt in recent years: from media attacks on Al Jazeera, to conspiring against its regional role, to harming its oil imports and exports.
Cairo should remain vigilant to winds blowing from Doha and decide whether the two countries have, in fact, achieved peace. – Yasser Abd al-Aziz is an American nonprofit news agency covering the Middle East.