Interview with Akram Belkaid, Algerian journalist and writer

jeudi, 09 juillet 2015 08:06

akrambelkaidInterview with Akram Belkaid, Algerian journalist and writer

1 / Last October you published a detailed analysis on "below the Qatar-bashing" by mentioning that it was a "campaign orchestrated by the United Arab Emirates and Israel." Since then, relations between Qatar and its neighbors (notably Saudi Arabia) have notoriously improved. Do you think that this campaign is still relevant and that the Emirates are still behind?

One must give credit where credit is due. Indeed, it is primarily the American press, including The New York Times, which highlighted the hidden mechanisms of "Qatar-bashing."

I resumed, after checking, certain information about lobbying agencies counting among its clients the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and openly dedicated to undermining the Qatar image in the media. I also would like to emphasize another point: it does not mean that Qatar deserves no criticism or questioning. The way it is systematically stigmatized - unlike its neighbors - caught my attention. This kind of campaign is never innocent. Getting back to your question, I think that although relations have improved, it remains a quiet action. In North America and Europe, many media continue to be encouraged by consultants and lobbyists - sometimes it is even former journalists - to "dig" Qatar folder, ie to continue to publish information criminalizing the emirate.

2 / Israel seems to be at the forefront of this campaign of demonization of Qatar. What are the reasons? Do you think that Qatar-bashing in France has its roots in the same elements as you described with regard to the US? Otherwise, what are the reasons of focusing on a part of the elite of Qatar?

To be honest, I do not know if Israel is the main cog in this campaign and I would rather think that its role in this case is secondary. It is certain that Tel Aviv does not forgive Doha for supporting Hamas during the Israeli military intervention in Gaza in 2014. There was also a convergence of interests between Israel and some Gulf countries. This concerns for example the Iranian nuclear issue, but also the distrust of the Muslim Brotherhood. What is certain is that pro-Israeli lobbyists involved in the campaign against Qatar. This is the case of very active personalities like Matthew Epstein and Steve Emerson. Very present in the media, these two men, who pose as Middle East experts, do not mince their words against Qatar as we know their neo-conservative and pro-Israeli sympathies. Regarding Qatar-bashing in France, however, it is a confusing mix of distrust of everything that comes from the Arab world, of racism - do not be afraid to say the word - but also of legitimate concern and annoyance. In my opinion, the great mistake of Qatar and some of its representatives in France was that they were too present, too active ... In other words, the emirate was "too purchaser" of too many things in a short period. Number of French, not just elites, have felt shaken. In the 1950s, the acquisition of French companies by US companies created controversy, which is also the same case for Qatar. I think people will eventually get used to it, but one has to admit that an Arab cannot buy Paris Saint-Germain football club without causing a kind of chauvinistic reflex among the public opinion. So it is a communication problem, too. This also applies to the organization of the 2022 World Cup. When Qatar submitted its bid to the world cup, it caused inevitable resentment.

3 / You suggested on Twitter that the fact that the Telegraph wrote in England over thirty articles against Qatar was not without significance. Can you tell us more?

There are coincidences that arouse questioning. In 2014, the Telegraph was at the forefront of a very hard campaign against Qatar, openly accused of funding terrorism. Other items returned on the controversial issue of the football World Cup in 2022. However, as several English media revealed, the campaign coincided with a real financial battle between Qatar and the owners of the Telegraph. The dispute concerned the control of three luxury hotels in London, and it was Qatar that acquired those institutions that David and Frederick Barclay -who owns the English newspaper- also wanted. Of course, the editors from the Telegraph deny any influence of their bosses and proclaim their independence. Everything stops after a final transaction that cleared the dispute between Doha and the Barclay brothers. What a coincidence...

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