What's the Deal With Kuwait, and Why's the World Ignoring It?

Monday, June 04, 2018 |  Tsvi Sadan

Kuwait calling for a UN resolution to set up an international "protection mission" for the Palestinians is just the latest in a long list of initiatives to condemn and vilify Israel by the oil-rich emirate. 

One need but recall the outrageous behavior of the speaker of Kuwait's National Assembly, Marzouq Al-Ghanim, during the Forum for International Parliaments held in St. Petersburg last October. "Occupiers and murderers of children," he lashed out at the Israeli delegation, who left the forum after Al-Ghanim said that Israel "represents the worst form of terrorism." For more than two years now, Kuwait Airways has been discriminating against Israelis, a practice that, by the way, was approved by a German court. In short, Kuwait, which owes its very existence to the West, has become a real menace for Israel. 

To better understand the behavior of Kuwait's de facto ruler, this 49-year-old billionaire who is largely filling in for the absent 89-year-old Emir Sabah Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, I spoke with Edy Cohen from the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies. Cohen, who has tens of thousands of followers on his Arabic-language Facebook page and is one of the very few Israelis invited to speak on Al-Jazeera, knows the Muslim world at least as well as the Muslims themselves.

Cohen says that Al-Ghanim's Israel-bashing is a shrewd tactic to gain popularity in the Muslim world. His reputation was badly damaged after his 2011 jailing of Kuwaiti lawmakers who protested against corruption. Al-Ghanim is now a hero of the Palestinians, who, we must not forget, cheered for Saddam Hussein. Streets in Nablus and Qalqilya are named after him. This thing, says Cohen, shows once again that Israel-hatred is what unites the otherwise deeply divided Muslims.

Kuwait's condemnation of Israel, says Cohen, is yet another severe case of hypocrisy. Few in the world have ever heard of "Bidoon," he says. Bidoon, translated "without," which is particularly prevalent in Kuwait, refers to a social class without rights. Cohen views these Bidoons as nothing less than 21st century slaves. It was Al-Ghanim himself who canceled the Kuwaiti law that granted citizenship and rights to more then 70,000 people living under the oppressive Bidoon status. This person who condemns Israel ceaselessly, who is feeding on the Palestinian hope of eradicating Israel, denies basic rights to his own people.

This is the new Kuwait, says Cohen, and it is a shame that the rest of the world continues to turn a blind eye toward the real villains in this region. Cohen concludes that all one really need to do to get away with despotism in today's Middle East is deflect one's own misconduct toward Israel.

An Israeli participating in the 2007 Jordan Rally poses with Kuwaiti sheikhs. Such a friendly encounter would today likely be frowned upon by Al-Ghanim's regime. (Nati Shohat/Flash90)

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