Tag Archives: Arab

4 Hamas Billionaires and 600 Millionaires Turning Civilian Suffering into Hard Cash

By S.M. Lightening

The media in Israel, but more so in neighboring Egypt, is full of condemnations of Hamas leaders, who live in luxury hotels at the expense of the Qatar oil sheiks, or in mansions with the latest fitness equipment, while instructing the downtrodden civilians in the Gaza Strip to become martyrs in service of the Palestinian cause.

Middle East expert Col. (res.) Dr. Moshe Elad spoke to Globes this week about the estimated wealth of those Hamas leaders, who are beginning to be known popularly as the Arab world’s new tycoons.

Elad spent 30 years in the IDF, as Governor of Jenin district, Bethlehem district , Tyre district (in South Lebanon), and as Head of Security coordination with the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank, during the implementation of the “Oslo Accord” (’95-’98). Since his retirement, Elad has been teaching today at Western Galilee College, and at Galil – the International Management Institute.

“The vast majority of Hamas founders and leaders were refugees or second generation refugees,” said Elad. “They had no money at all. When they and Hamas were just starting out, the organization (not in its own name) was nurtured by the Israeli military government, which fostered the Islamic associations working in the Gaza Strip as a counterweight to the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). Their phenomenal wealth started accumulating when they decided to disassociate themselves from Israel and search for alternative financing sources.”

The money, says Elad, came from wills of the deceased, charity funds, and contributions from Syria, Saudi Arabia, Iran, and these days Qatar.

To remind you, the strongly pro-Hamas Al Jazeera Media Network is also funded by the ruling family of Qatar, the House of Thani.

With US based charities starting to funnel funds to Hamas, in the early 1990s, Hamas leaders began to acquire big money. “One of those fundraisers was Dr. Musa Abu Marzook, the number 2 man in Hamas,” says Elad. “He began a fundraising campaign in the US among wealthy Muslims, while at the same time founding several banking enterprises. He himself became a conglomerate of 10 financial enterprises giving loans and making financial investments. He’s an amazing financier.”

The US arrested Marzook in 1995, on charges of supporting terrorism. After he spent two years in jail, he was expelled without a trial. And he got to keep the money.

“When he was expelled from the US in 1997, he was already worth several million dollars,” Elad says. “Somehow he evaded the clutches of the US Internal Revenue Service and was not charged with financing terrorism. People in the know say he probably became connected to the administration and cooperated with it. There is no proof, but it’s hard to think of any other reason why he escaped punishment for such serious offenses. In 2001, in the investigation of the September 11 events, it turned out that he had extensive financial connections with Al Qaeda, including the transfer of funds to the 21 Al Qaeda operatives accused of the attacks.”

Today, Marzook is considered one of Hamas’ wealthiest billionaires. “Arab sources estimate his wealth at $2-3 billion,” Elad says.

Another Hamas leader-turned-tycoon is Khaled Mashaal. “Estimates around the world are that Mashaal is currently worth $2.6 billion, but the numbers mentioned by the Arab commentators are much higher, varying from $2-5 billion invested in Egyptian and Persian Gulf banks, and some in real estate projects in the Persian Gulf countries,” Elad notes.

Another tycoon terrorist is Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh. “He is a scion of a family from the Al-Shati refugee camp, and his capital is estimated at $4 million,” Elad says. “He registered most of his assets in the Gaza Strip in the name of his son-in-law, Nabil, and in the name of a dozen of his sons and daughters and a few less well known Hamas leaders. They all have homes in good neighborhoods in the Gaza Strip, where the value of every home is at least $1 million.”

The Arshaq Al-Awsad newspaper, one of the most prestigious in the Arab world, recently reported that at least 600 millionaires were living in the Gaza Strip. Much of that money came from the smuggling operations, through hundreds of tunnels that used to lead into Gaza from Egypt.

“Senior Hamas leaders charged a 25% tax and $2,000 on every disassembled vehicle coming through the tunnels,” said Elad. “From June 2007 until 2010, $800 million in cash was transferred in tunnel deals (according to information from Hamas money traders). Hamas also taxes Gaza merchants on everything traded, from boxes of vegetables to luxury cars, and the leaders scoop the money into their pockets.”

Another source of wealth for Hamas leaders was land acquisition. “They took over land mainly near the sea in good areas, such as the former Gush Katif, then sold it. In effect, they are the cat guarding the cream – the land – so they were able to take over land and loot it for themselves,” Elad explains.
“This is corruption at the highest level, Elad concludes. “What has united the Palestinian leaders all throughout the years is the saying, ‘We have to get rich quick.’ This is how the regime sees it. Their leaders have no shame. Shortly after they got power, they took control of fuel, communications, and any other profitable sectors in the country. There are get-rich-quick schemes and corruption in Western society, too, but there it’s done sophisticatedly with envelopes of money and complex structures of bribery and the like. Among the Palestinians, they tell you straight out, ‘I want to get rich.’”

Why the Middle East’s borders will never be the same again

46by – Scott Anderson

Scott Anderson is a veteran war correspondent who has reported from Lebanon, Israel, Egypt and many other strife-torn countries. A frequent contributor to the New York Times Magazine, his work has also appeared in Vanity Fair and Esquire. His latest book is “Lawrence in Arabia.”

(CNN) — Many observers gazing upon the current bloodshed in the Middle East have wondered aloud if we are seeing the disintegration of the nation-state boundaries established in the region nearly a century ago. But the crises in Iraq and Syria have simply laid bare a phenomenon that has been under way for quite some time.

What’s more, this process is now almost certainly irreversible, and will lead to a radically different Middle Eastern map than we have known.

In the heady early days of the Arab Spring, many people imagined that the Arab world might finally be entering a period of greater democratization, one that would inevitably lead — so the thinking went — to greater social unity.

That didn’t happen. The “people’s revolution” in Egypt was subverted, and the fledgling democracy movement in Bahrain was crushed with Saudi military assistance. But more devastating than that is the ongoing fracturing of nations into their historical component parts.

The world may be focused on the rifts in Iraq between its Shiite, Sunni and Kurd communities — but the same “Balkanization” has already occurred in Libya, which is now effectively split into three de facto states. Almost surely next on the chopping block is Syria.

Syria’s savage civil war has divided the nation into a patchwork of government and rebel-held zones, and there is now talk within Bashar al-Assad‘s embattled regime of slicing off the Alawite-dominated western portions of Syria to create a more defendable mini-state.

READ MORE: Map of Iraq’s sectarian divide

Just how did we get here? To answer that, one would do well to look at a map of the region during the Ottoman Empire.

In order to keep the peace and hold together their fantastically diverse and far-flung realm, the Ottoman sultans devised a clever system known as the “millyet.” So long as they pledged ultimate allegiance to the sultan and paid their taxes, the empire’s various religious and ethnic communities were allowed to largely govern themselves.

It was hardly a trouble-free arrangement, but this system of autonomy was probably what enabled the weak Ottoman Empire, the proverbial “sick man of Europe,” to survive into the twentieth century.

That all ended in 1914, when the Ottomans joined forces with Germany and Austro-Hungary in World War I. To the rival empires of Great Britain and France, the Ottoman lands now became known as “the Great Loot,” the last great frontier for European control and economic exploitation.

Of course, Britain and France first had to win the war — and well into 1915, they displayed scant ability to do so. In desperation, the British forged a secret agreement with Emir Hussein, the ruler of the Hejaz region of western Arabia, to raise an Arab revolt against the Ottoman Turks. In return, Hussein and his rebels were promised independence for virtually the entire Arab world.

READ MORE: The terror group taking Iraq by storm

No sooner had Britain made the pact with Hussein, however, than it surreptitiously entered into negotiations with France. Under the terms of the secret Sykes-Picot Agreement, the future Arab independent nation was to be relegated to the wastelands of the Arabian Peninsula — oil hadn’t been discovered there yet — while Britain and France would take possession of most everything else. Continuing in this vein, Britain also penned the Balfour Declaration, encouraging Jewish emigration into the Palestine region of Syria, an initiative that would ultimately prove to be the catalyst for the creation of Israel.

This double-cross of the Arabs was not fully revealed until the postwar Paris Peace Conference, then put to paper in the 1920 San Remo Agreement. Despite the furious protestations of Arab nationalists, greater Syria was divided into four parts — Palestine, Trans-Jordan, Lebanon and modern-day Syria — with the British taking the first two, the French the latter.

Even more volatile, as events would soon prove, were British machinations in Iraq. In their first negotiations with Emir Hussein, the British had asked for “special administrative arrangements” in those southern regions of Mesopotamia where oil had been discovered. But by the war’s end, oil had also been discovered in the north and, with the promise of Arab independence long discarded, the British simply joined three of the Ottoman’s semi-autonomous regions together and called it a country.

Through their blithe hubris, British and French imperialists had built themselves a volcano and then sat atop it. For the next three decades, they managed to weather the periodic eruptions of Arab rage by propping up pliant local leaders or rushing in troops to quell the inevitable revolts.

But by the early 1950s, their sway in the region had collapsed along with their empires. Into the vacuum stepped a generation of ardently nationalist military dictatorships that would eventually stretch from Libya all the way to Iraq.

But how did this transmogrify into the chaos and dissolution we see in the region today? I think the answer lies in a subtler, more psychological, legacy of the “order” that was imposed by the European powers a century ago.

READ MORE: How Iraq crisis may redraw borders

Ever since that grand betrayal, the Arab world has tended to define itself more by what it is opposed to — colonialism, Zionism, Western political and cultural imperialism — than what it aspires to, and even if Arab leaders have capitalized on this culture of grievance to channel popular discontent away from their own misrule, it is a mindset that has become internalized.

In twenty-five years of covering conflict zones around the world, I’ve found that guerrillas or dissidents most everywhere can articulate what they are fighting for; in the Middle East, by contrast, it is almost always an articulation of what they are fighting against. One result, I believe, is that there’s little in the way of consensus going forward once the existing order of things — artificially-imposed or otherwise — has been swept aside.

Instead, a vacuum is created, and the “Arab street” fills it by turning to those allegiances that predated the object of their rage: their faith, their clans, their tribes. While the result is less devastating in a place with a strong national identity like Egypt — there, the lack of consensus simply means the “people’s revolution” can be gradually smothered — in an “artificial” nation like Iraq, a centrifugal force takes over that, once given full power, is almost impossible to reverse.

We are now at that point in Syria. Since none of its warring factions can be militarily defeated — and the various regional powers backing their respective proxies will see to that — the slaughter there will continue until the creation of de facto mini-nations.

In Iraq, Kurdistan is already independent in all but name, and has no reason to give it name lest its chief protector, Turkey, become alarmed. The only larger question is whether ISIS — the Sunni terror group that has taken Iraq by storm in recent weeks — will manage to consolidate its current hold in the center of the country and join it to the great swath of eastern Syria it controls. Perversely, there may soon come a time when both the Shiite-dominated regime in Baghdad and the Alawite-dominated one in Damascus both decide such a terror-state might be the best way to be rid of their Sunni enemies.

Surely the biggest surprise thus far has been the relative calm in Jordan, a nation cut from whole cloth by the European powers after World War I. Despite concerns that it too will fall into the abyss, Jordan might well be saved by the need for all its warring neighbors to have a “Switzerland” in the neighborhood.

What might explode next? Here, the old map of the Middle East actually offers some solace. We’re simply starting to run out of places that the European imperialists screwed up.

Egypt’s Pres Mansour calls on Arab leaders to fight terrorism, extremism and illiteracy

President Adly Mansour

In his speech Tuesday at the Arab League summit in Kuwait, Egypt’s interim President Adly Mansour called on his Arab counterparts to join in the fight against terrorism.

Terrorism is “threatening the whole region,” said Mansour, but he insisted that terrorist groups would only make their opponents “more determined to uproot them.”

Mansour urged those attending the summit to reactivate the Arab Convention on the Suppression of Terrorism, an anti-terrorism pact signed in 1998 by 18 out of 22 members of the Arab League, but which has never been enforced.

Mansour suggested that a meeting be held before June with Arab justice ministers and interior ministers to gauge how much of the pact is currently being implemented.

The pact stipulates that signatories must not give shelter to terrorists, Mansour noted, which means that Arab states must hand over persons for whom Egypt has issued arrest warrants.

Many leaders of the now-outlawed Muslim Brotherhood have used Qatar as a refuge from an ongoing security crackdown on its members by Egyptian authorities.

On 14 March, two Brotherhood leaders were arrested by INTERPOL in Kuwait and Saudi Arabia – both strong backers of Egypt’s interim authorities and adamant critics of ousted president Mohamed Morsi.

During his 29-minute speech, Mansour dwelled mostly on terrorism. However, he also spoke of the Syrian and Palestinian conflicts – key points of this year’s summit.

“We are exerting efforts to mediate between different opposition forces in Syria in order to reach a unified vision towards a political solution,” the only kind of solution which will end the Syrian conflict, Mansour said.

Mansour further affirmed that the Palestinian conflict remains one of the main challenges to the region, expressing his full support to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and for the need to end the Israeli occupation and return to the pre-1967 Palestine with east Jerusalem as its capital.

He also slammed Israeli’s assault on the Gaza Strip, calling on “human rights defenders to play their role in lifting the misery from Palestinians in Gaza.”

Beyond these conflicts, Mansour also highlighted two other problems in the region: illiteracy and extremism.

The next 10 years should be dedicated to eradicating illiteracy from the region, Mansour proposed, with the first step being a meeting in the next two months between Arab education ministers for the purpose of implementing an agenda.

As for extremism, Mansour suggested that Arab countries adopt a unified strategy to confront “extremist ideology.”

Stressing that terrorism cannot be faced with just security solutions, Mansour offered that a meeting be held at the Bibliotheca Alexandrina to host intellectuals and experts to develop a framework to defy extremist thinking.

Egypt has been rocked by a wave of militant attacks on police and army targets since Morsi’s ouster on 3 July, sparked by a subsequent crackdown on his supporters.

Bombings and shootings in the volatile Sinai Peninsula, and more recently in Cairo and the Nile Delta, have killed tens of security personnel.

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Arab Analysts: Egypt at Top of Agenda for Obama Saudi Arabia Trip

Middle East Institute Scholar Mohamed Elmenshawy on Tuesday published an extensive analysis of the psychological and geopolitical role played by the Egyptian army in the Arab world, amid increasing coverage and analysis in the Arab world regarding President Barack Obama’s potentially pivotal upcoming visit to Saudi Arabia.

Obama will soon go to meet Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah in Riyadh at a time when bilateral relations are very tense because of nuclear talks with Iran that could lead to improved relations between Tehran and the West. They also differ on the Syrian crisis especially after Washington refused to use force despite reports of the Syrian regime iusing chemical weapons against its opponents. But the real cleft between the two began earlier because of their opposing positions on the January 25 Revolution and this has not been addressed until today. Accordingly, Egypt will be high on the agenda of summit talks between Obama and King Abdullah.

The visit comes at a time of unprecedented public strain between Washington and its traditional Gulf allies, and earlier this week the Daily Beast revealed that relations between the United States and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) were in an unprecedented crisis. Gulf nations are known to be livid with the administration over its handling of Egyptian political turmoil, which they believe the White House has irresponsibly stoked without regard for the risks presented by populist Islamist movements.

Elmenshawy’s analysis – published in Ahram Online under the headline “Egypt, the wound in US-Saudi relations” – quoted one Gulf diplomat as explaining that Cairo is looked to as the source of “tens of thousands of soldiers if needed” to help repulse threats to Arab countries.

“If we ever face such a terrible day as Kuwait did at the hands of Saddam Hussein’s Iraq in 1990, we all know there are only two armies that can truly help us, including sending tens of thousands of soldiers if needed. They are the US and the Egyptian armies.”

via Arab Analysts: Egypt at Top of Agenda for Obama Saudi Arabia Trip – The Tower – The Tower.

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