Qatar Takes Its Middle Eastern Rivalries to the Big Business of Soccer

March 26 2021

For some time, Qatar—a major backer of Hamas, the Muslim Brotherhood, and other Islamist groups—has been locked in a strategic struggle with the pro-Western and loosely pro-Israel bloc of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and Egypt. It has also kept up friendly relations with Iran, the sworn adversary of both the moderate Gulf states the Jewish one. Jordan Cope explains how this intra-Arab rivalry has spilled over into the realm of soccer:

Last spring, Qatar deployed its state-financed broadcast network, beIn Media Group, to sabotage Saudi Arabia’s effort to purchase [the British team] Newcastle United. The company, which holds regional broadcasting rights for Premier League games, contacted all twenty teams in the league and accused Riyadh of “siphoning off its broadcast signals.”

While this might have been a business move, it could also have been another skirmish in Qatar’s “proxy war” against Saudi Arabia and its allies—the UAE, Bahrain, and Egypt—over the question of Islamism. . . . Despite its small size, Qatar enjoys great influence and oil wealth. It has given nearly $5 billion to U.S. universities and sponsors Al-Jazeera. It is now seeking to exert international cultural influence through soccer, the world’s most popular sport. Soccer offers Qatar an opportunity to supplant Saudi and Emirati influence, seize the world’s attention, and sanitize its Islamism.

Qatar Airways has also partnered with Europe’s elite clubs—Bayern Munich and AS Roma in 2018, and FC Barcelona between 2013 and 2017—that the Qatar Foundation sponsored between 2011 and 2013. With global soccer domination in sight, Qatar now seeks a stake in Leeds United and the Emirates-dominated Premier League.

Qatar’s partnerships [a covert way for] it to boost its popularity as it finances terrorism and Islamist insurrections. Fans must demand better corporate accountability from their clubs.

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Read more at BESA Center

More about: Middle East, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Soccer

 

What Israel Can Offer Africa

Last week, the Israeli analyst Yechiel Leiter addressed a group of scholars and diplomats gathered in Addis Ababa to discuss security issues facing the Horn of Africa. Herewith, some excerpts from his speech:

Since the advent of Zionism and the birth of modern Israel, there has been a strong ideological connection between Israel and the African continent. . . . For decades, [however], the notion that the absence of peace in the Middle East was due the absence of Palestinian statehood prevented a full and strategic partnership with African countries. . . . The visits to Africa by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu—in 2016 to East Africa and in 2017 to West Africa—reenergized the natural partnership that was initiated by Israel’s Foreign Minister Golda Meir in the 1960s.

There is much we share, many places where our interests converge. And I don’t mean another military base in Djibouti. . . . One such area involves the safety of waterways in and around the Red Sea. Curtailing contraband, drugs, arms smuggling, and other forms of serious corruption are all vital for us. . . . But the one critical area of cooperation I’d like to put the spotlight on is in the realm of food security, or rather food insecurity.

Imagine Ethiopia’s cows producing 30 or 40 liters of milk a day instead of the two or three that they produce today. Imagine an exponential rise in (organic) meat exports to Middle Eastern and even European countries, the result of increased processing, storage, and transportation possibilities. Cows today can have a microscopic chip behind their ears that sends messages to the farmer’s computer or mobile phone that tracks what the cow ate, what its temperature is, and what care it might need. Imagine a dramatic expansion of the wheat yield that can make Ethiopia a net exporter of wheat—to Egypt, perhaps in the context of negotiations over the waters of the Nile.

Israel has proven technology in all of these agricultural areas and we’re here; we’re neighbors. We are linked to Africa, particularly the Horn of Africa, in so many ways.

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Read more at Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs

More about: Africa, Ethiopia, Israel diplomacy, Israeli agriculture, Israeli technology