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Merchants of the Black Market - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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Every crisis, no matter how bad it may be, has its beneficiaries. This is the case with the current Gaza crisis. Many have died as a result of the recent attacks on Gaza, mainly civilians, and people are suffering from fear, terror, and destruction at the hands of the Israeli army, including those defending peace and coexistence in the Middle East.

The recent attacks have caused heavy losses. There has been a humanitarian response on one hand and a response of impure political motives on the other.

This article is not about the position or role of Hamas in this war, the objectives of its policies and its opposing viewpoints, or about the significance of Iranian instigation from afar. Nor is this article about Iranian President Ahmadinejad’s comments about the obligation of martyrdom and struggle for the sake of Palestine until the last drop of Palestinian blood is spilt. There is as little good-intention in these comments as there was in Amr Ibn Hamiq, one of the men responsible for the murder of Uthman Ibn al Affan, the third of the four Rightly-Guided Caliphs. According to the historian Ibn al Atheer, ‘Ibn al Hamiq jumped on to Uthman and sat on his chest and with Uthman on the verge of death, Ibn al Hamiq stabbed him nine times. He said, ‘I stabbed him three times for God’s sake and six times because of the anger in my breast against him.’’ In a similar manner, the first few outcries by Ahmadinejad and Supreme Leader of Iran Ali Khamenei regarding Palestine could be for the Palestinian cause indeed. The rest, however, are to quench Iran’s thirst for expansion!

This article is not about the victims of war in Gaza; it is the about the beneficiaries. There are beneficiaries to every crisis and disaster. Even in the most difficult of misfortunes such as the loss of a friend or lover, there are people who benefit such as those offering funeral services or those who are hired to lament and wail at funerals. What about in cases of more complicated issues?

I will not discuss the benefits that Israel will reap from these attacks; some have already alluded to the battle of the election campaign between the Labor, Kadima and Likud parties within Israeli society. This is neither innovative nor interesting for Arab readers.

So what is different this time? The answer is the prevalence of exploitation of innocent blood that is being shed in Gaza whether for elections, political parties, trade or public relations. This has been demonstrated clearly through the actions of some artists who are riding the wave, and the advertisements transmitted by some commercial companies about their donations to Gaza.

With regards to the artists, there is nobody funnier than the popular Egyptian singer Shaaban Abdel Rahim. His songs vary in accordance with current affairs. For instance in one song he praised Iraqi shoe-thrower Muntazar al Zaidi, in another song he threatened Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and in another he defended President Mubarak, all released within a short time span.

These may be simple examples of how the Gaza crisis is being exploited. But there is also exploitation of the Gaza tragedy in order to consolidate political gains in favour of one party over another or to strengthen a certain ideology adopted by stubborn national factions and for politicising religion.

This was demonstrated clearly by the actions of some fundamentalist members of parliament in a number of Arab countries most prominently Egypt, where a quarrel broke out in parliament between the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) and the ruling National Democratic Party (NDP) blocs. The MB raised its tone and criticized Egyptian policy in the same way as Ahmadinejad, Hassan Nasrallah and Khaled Mishal, and to some extent, two Arab capitals, one in the Gulf and one in the Levant.

During the last few days that I spent in Egypt going through opposition, independent and government newspapers and speaking to figures of the NDP, independent figures and political researchers, I noticed that the MB organisation had pounced upon and monopolised the Gaza issue and reduced it to a conflict between the MB and the ruling regime. This was demonstrated clearly in the quarrel between the MB and NDP parliamentary blocs during a session last Saturday morning when Brotherhood MPs raised their shoes at an NDP parliamentarian who said that some people in Egypt were serving foreign interests. There was uproar and Brotherhood MP Sayed Askar shouted, “Only Islam can unify the Ummah. Islam comes first, then Egypt.” Dr. Mostafa El Feqi reacted nervously shouting, “No Egypt comes first,” (Al Masry al Youm Newspaper, 11 January 2009). Dr. Mostafa El Feqi is a nationalist and has strong links to the Palestinian cause.

What has the discussion got to do with the identity of the state and the concept of the state; a discussion which preceded the Gaza crisis or even the establishment of the Hamas movement in 1987 or even the establishment of the Israeli state in 1948?

Sheikh Ali Abdul Raziq’s book entitled ‘Islam Wa Usul al Hakm’ [Islam and the Principles of Authority] published in 1925 refuted the idea that Islam outlined a specific model for ruling a state. Rather, the book considered such worldly affairs as a responsibility to be dealt with by humanity.

But the question remains, what has this debate, which predates Al Azhar’s Sheikh Abdul Raziq and will not be concluded by the Brotherhood MP’s shoe, got to do with getting medical aid across the Egyptian Rafah crossing into Gaza or the controversy over whether opening the crossing is for humanitarian aid only or for weapons, as Hassan Nasrallah and Khaled Mishal said in response to the recent Security Council’s resolution?

It is apparent that the MB has mixed its discourse, and disputes with others regarding controversial issues such as the state, citizenship, religion and identity, with the current crisis in Gaza. This is related to opposing political and security interests between the Hamas state and Egypt, as alliances are being formed that frighten Egypt’s vision of supreme security.

The funniest and most dangerous item that I came across was a news article published by the Kuwaiti Al Watan newspaper (January 11, 2009) about a Salafist Jihadi figure in Kuwait who asked for donations to be sent to him so that he could personally transfer them to Gaza in less than half an hour, without going through the Kuwaiti government.

In truth, among the crowds, the noise of demonstrations, the pain, the fear of death and the agony of mothers bereaved of their children, and this congestion of humanitarianism, merchants of the black market are creeping amongst us. The profits that they reap will appear after the storm. For this reason, let us point them out now whilst the storm continues to rage.

Mshari Al-Zaydi

Mshari Al-Zaydi

Mshari Al-Zaydi is a Saudi journalist and expert on Islamic movements and Islamic fundamentalism, as well as on Saudi affairs. He is Asharq Al-Awsat’s opinion page editor. Mr. Zaydi has worked for the local Saudi press, and has been a guest on numerous news and current affairs programs as an expert on Islamic extremism.

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