First Published on 18 January in The Times of Israel
Jan 18, 2014
Jan 11, 2014
The United Arab Emirates deems itself as the epitome of modernity among the largely conservative Islamic nations of the Gulf region. It brags about tolerating a cosmopolitan culture and society that is intolerant towards racism and boasts of a fresh industrial revolution which has resulted in an influx of skyscrapers; a ubiquitous sight in the cities of Dubai and Abu Dhabi. This roaring success is largely seen as a welcome change in an otherwise turbulent and chaotic region. But looks can be deceptive and the UAE has been successful in camouflaging its ugly, dark and radical face.
The good-boy image of the UAE was shred to bits last week when Dan Mori, an Israeli footballer playing for Dutch club Vitesse Arnhem, was denied entry to the Gulf state. In fact, the UAE has issued a ban on anyone carrying an Israeli passport. It is as a result of their strong support for a Palestinian state and a venomous hatred towards anything that has a touch of Israel in it. Boycotting a country for a good cause seems reasonable, it is absurd in the case of Israel, but persecuting innocents on the basis of their nationality is deplorable. Last year, Itay Shechter, also an Israeli footballer, was banned from the UAE. He was left out of the Swansea squad which was gearing up for a friendly in the country.
This feeling of animosity towards Israel is a common feature among many Arab and several other predominantly Islamic nations. While they maintain that they are actually boycotting Israel because of the ‘barbaric’ treatment of the Palestinians; the truth is that an air of antisemitism pervades the very fabric of these states. The worst part is that they tend to ignore the faults of the Palestinians and turn a Nelson’s eye to acts of violence and brutality being perpetrated around many corners of the globe.
The case of India and Pakistan is an interesting one. The two neighbouring countries began their hostilities ever since their independence in 1947. Both the countries claim Kashmir and India was hit by a wave of terrorism some two decades ago which is very much alive today. They have fought four brutal wars and skirmishes between the two neighbors are quite common. Tensions may exist at the diplomatic level but that does not mean that Indians are barred from entering Pakistan and vice-versa. Both the countries frequently battle it out in the cricket field, which evokes a chauvinistic fervor among both sides. Cricket matches are also used as a means of conflict resolution between India and Pakistan.
But even Pakistan harbors a deep-rooted abhorrence of Israel. There are, virtually, no diplomatic relations between Israel and Pakistan. Pakistan has also imposed strict restrictions on Israeli passports. The Pakistani attitude towards Israel underscores its great hypocrisy. The same applies to the case of the UAE and the rest of the racist bandwagon.
This blind hatred of Israel is simply nauseating. It becomes even more outrageous when the United Nations fail to condemn this growing display of antisemitism. The UN is quick to condemn Israel’s retaliatory strikes on terrorist hot-spots but why does the international organization which preaches peace fail to take action against this incessant racism. Serious questions need to be raised about the UN’s indifferent attitude towards Israel.
The ban imposed on Dan Mori is not the first instance of discrimination against Israeli citizens. In 2011, Yossi Benayoun, probably Israel’s greatest footballer, was racially abused in Malaysia. During the 2008 Beijing Olympics, an Iranian athlete withdrew from a Judo match because his opponent was from Israel.
Israel is the only country in the world which faces such widespread discrimination. The Palestinian cause is only an excuse used to justify this hatred but the truth is that this hatred of Jews existed even before Israel was born. Boycotts and racial taunts are only new found methods of expressing their hatred.
Jan 5, 2014
"Who cares???? Its boring now", writes one Facebook user in a response to a BBC article about the bomb blast that ripped Beirut just three days ago. "Another day, another bombing, Middle east pffft, catch up and get out of the dark ages" and "what's wrong with this hell Arab people", are what a couple of other respondents have to say about the serial blasts which seems to have shaken Lebanon to its core. Even Israel is not spared, as one detractor remarks,"For ignorants & fools hezbullah may be a militant group..but for people who use common sense..its a Resistant movement..found to resist Zionist occupation..". People have the right to be cynical and give vent to their hatred, but the fact is that Lebanon is burning. It is burning this very moment and it seems that the country is reverting to a state of bloody violence that had marred the region about three to four decades ago.
The Lebanese civil war that lasted from 1975 to 1990 was one of the most brutal conflicts to have plagued the Middle-East. The social, cultural and economic fabric of the country was rent asunder by the war. What began as minor clashes between the Druze units and the Phalange militia later transformed into a full-fledged war between the two, particularly after the infamous 'Black Saturday' incident. The subsequent involvement of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) only exacerbated the conflict. The later arrival of other groups and both the Syrian and Israeli interventions tore apart Lebanon. Social order deteriorated, anarchy prevailed and massacres flourished.
Some of the worst massacres in world history were committed during the war. The Sabra and Shatila massacre in which thousands were mowed down by Phalangist militiamen was one of the most ghastly crimes against humanity. The bombings of the US embassy and Marine barracks also altered the tune of the war dramatically as it signified the rise of Islamist militants.
The latest outbursts of violence in Lebanon serves as a grim reminder of the depravities of the 15 year war. The intense conflict between Sunni and Shiite militants is spilling into the suburbs of Beirut. The bombing of the Iranian embassy in November, the assassination of Mohammad Chatah and last week's car bombing in downtown Beirut have asserted the fact that the previous two months have been nothing short of a roller-coaster ride.
A library was also, surprisingly, a victim of the ongoing strife. In an act of madness, Lebanon's second largest library was torched and more than 70,000 books were lost in the conflagration. Another worrying factor, is the steady rise of Al Qaeda in Lebanon. They have already claimed responsibility for last week's blasts. It seems that the terrorist organization is gaining a foothold in the region. Their presence has been significantly bolstered in Iraq and Syria.
Hezbollah, undoubtedly, is the numero uno militant organization in Lebanon. Recent reports claim that Hezbollah has added advanced guided missiles to their arsenal and this could spell disaster for Israel. Their conflict with Al Qaeda would make matters worse for Israel and the peace loving minority of the region.
Now that the Israel-Palestine peace talks are back on track and the upcoming Geneva II conference may bring about a halt to the Syrian conflict, the Middle-East is ready for a new renaissance. But any prospects of peace could be shattered if the violence amplifies in Lebanon. There seems to be an iota of hope for the moment. An end to all hostilities in Syria could save Lebanon from another civil war. Will the Lebanese people be able to see light at the end of the tunnel? Only time can answer this question and the maximum that we observers can do is pray that region is not dragged back to its darkest days.
First published at The Times of Israel on 6 January, 2014.
Jan 1, 2014
David LuizCourtesy @Ben SutherlandDownloaded: http://www.everystockphoto.com
David Luiz is at a crossroads in his career with two perplexing choices. The Chelsea defender can either accept the status quo or move on to greener turf. Luiz's career looked bright and optimistic until the arrival of Jose Mourinho. His life at Chelsea took a dramatic twist after the ex-Los Blancos chieftain was anointed as the new Blues' manager in 2013. Luiz, who was viewed as a rising star among the ranks of the club, was reduced to a substitute under Mourinho's reign. Without the Brazilian the Blues probably would never have tasted European and Champions League glory. The shaggy haired Brazilian has and still remains a vital asset for Chelsea. But Ze Mario has rent asunder a career brimming with success. But our protagonist has one last chance, it seems, to rekindle his dwindling career.
Barcelona had an almost perfect run in 2013 and they still remain at the helm in 2014. But looks can be deceptive. Both Real and Atletico Madrid are very much alive and are steadily zeroing in on the champs. The Catalan club is in a wobbly position at the top of the table. They are one of the best attacking forces in club football today but their defensive barricade looks weak and lacklustre. The club's propensity to keep the ball for lengthy spells of possession means that they are not always on the offensive. Thereby making it mandatory not to lose possession. An abrupt loss of possession would inevitably make way for a counterattack and the defence needs to remain bold, calm and sturdy during troubling times. Here lies Barcelona's one and only flaw and that is why they have been after David Luiz for almost a year.
Luiz's daredevilry on the field and his determination to perform better are what attracted Barcelona's attention. They tried to sign him last year but that episode had failed miserably. It looked like Barcelona was extremely content after signing Brazilian wonderkid Neymar. No doubt, Neymar has been brilliant so far but the fact remains that their defence needs a complete overhaul. With an out of form Carlos Puyol and an inconsistent Gerard Pique, Barcelona's central defence is already in jeopardy. Dani Alves looks pretty good but the tattooed Brazilian can underperform when his club needs him the most. Only Marc Bartra has had a spotless season.
Our shaggy haired Brazilian defender, who looks somewhat similar to Puyol, is just what the Catalan club needs. His has a tall stocky figure that can be intimidating, his pace is blistering, he can perform some gravity-defying stunts, he can score from impressive lengths, his heading ability is unbelievable and guess what, he can score from free-kicks. All these facets make him the quintessential Barcelona defender. He just needs to sign that transfer paper.
Jose Mourinho's distrust in him will make life hellishly impossible for Luiz to survive in Chelsea. And the funny part is that Mourinho prefers the clumsy Gary Cahill for Luiz! What a farce! Barcelona needs Luiz and Sandro Rosell should strive hard to sign the Brazilian. The transfer window has opened and there are no more excuses for not signing David Luiz. He might just provide the magic formula Barcelona are desperately seeking. And for a die hard cule like me, what better New Year gift than signing the majestic David Luiz.