Friday, January 28, 2011

How important Egypt is to US

US foreign aid to Egypt

This might be of use: a bit of statistical context that suggests just how important Egypt is to US foreign policy.

Since the Israel-Egypt peace accord in 1979, these two countries have been the number one and two recipients of US foreign aid. (Excluding money spent on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.) This amounts to around one-third of total US foreign aid.

The homemade charts below use data from the US State department and the Federation of American Scientists, via this site. A look at the background budget documents confirms the figures for the last three years, give or take some rounding. But please take these as indicative rather than definitive. The 2011 numbers are requested figures — not actual sums.

Note that the x-axis runs stats with 2011 on the left-hand side, and that the scales are different. Figures are in millions of dollars (nominal).

1. Israel

2. Egypt

This military-economic imbalance partly explains the attitudes towards the US that eye-witnesses are picking up on the streets of Cairo. A few dollars of aid per person has barely registered, according to the Carnegie Endowment, whereas knowledge of military support is of course ubiquitous.

“I didn’t come to Israel, I came to Palestine.”

A Turkish anti-Israeli film titled Valley of the Wolves: Palestine (to be released on January 28) portrays the Mavi Marmara incident as a premeditated attack by the IDF on innocent people. Germany protested the screening of the film in its territory and the timing chosen for its premiere (Holocaust Remembrance Day)

One of the promotional posters for Valley of the Wolves: Palestine
One of the promotional posters for Valley of the Wolves: Palestine


1. Valley of the Wolves: Palestine, a feature film based on the Mavi Marmara incident, will be released in cinemas across Turkey on January 28, 2011. It will also be released in other countries (at least in Germany). The movie is a sequel to a popular TV series that ran for several seasons and a previous film, both titled Valley of the Wolves.

2. Some 400 actors and crew members took part in the production of the film, which was shot in southern Turkey. The plot follows a bold Turkish agent on a quest for revenge against the cruel Israeli general Moshe Ben Eliezer who planned and carried out the Mavi Marmara raid (the character is played by a Turkish actor wearing an eye patch, reminiscent of Moshe Dayan). The Valley of the Wolves: Palestine trailer begins with an Israeli commander ordering the Mavi Marmara to stop. When it refuses to do so, IDF soldiers board the ship and attack the passengers who attempt to defend themselves. Later, the Turkish agent and his team are sent to Palestine to pursue revenge against the Israeli commander. The film depicts characters playing IDF soldiers shooting handcuffed Palestinian prisoners. In the final scene, not even the Israeli general’s cruelty and the advanced technological means he has at his disposal can save him from the avenging Turks.

3. The film creators say its aim is to expose the “human drama” of Palestine to the Turkish audience. In reality, a narrative of Israeli soldiers deliberately killing innocent sea-faring passengers and representing the Turks as coming to Palestinians’ aid in the struggle against Israel. It integrates authentic clips from the IDF takeover of the ship in which the passengers are seen sitting in the main lounge, among them sheikh Ra’ed Salah, head of the northern branch of the Islamic Movement in Israel.

Promoting the film

4. Prior to the release of Valley of the Wolves: Palestine in January 2011, an intensive marketing campaign was launched in Turkey to advertise the film. The campaign included:

a. A series of promotional film posters. The posters showed hands holding stones, people holding guns, or the lead actor who plays the Turkish agent aiming his weapon.

One of the promotional posters featuring the lead
One of the promotional posters featuring the lead
actor’s character aiming a rifle (top left)

b. Several trailers with anti-Israeli messages were screened and, according to Turkish media, millions of people watched them. The trailers show, among other things, a battle aboard a ship (i.e., the Mavi Marmara), Israeli tanks (possibly on the streets of Gaza) confronting stone-throwing Palestinians, and Israeli soldiers being killed by the Turkish agent and his team. In one of the trailers, an Israeli (probably a senior official) is heard saying that the Arab population will grow faster than the Jewish population, and that it cannot be allowed to happen (Akşam, January 10, 2011).

Scenes from the trailers
Scenes from the trailers: an Israeli tank (possibly in Gaza) (left);
Israeli commandos preparing to board the Mavi Marmara (right)

c. In an interview with lead actor Necati Şaşmaz, who plays the agent, the actor said that the idea to produce a film set in Palestine had come up during the filming of the film about Iraq.1 The existing script was rewritten following the Mavi Marmara incident (Sabah, January 16, 2011).

Lead actor Necati Şaşmaz shaking the hand of Turkey’s PM Erdogan
Lead actor Necati Şaşmaz shaking the hand of Turkey’s PM Erdogan
(Sabah, January 16, 2011)

Reactions in Germany

5. In Germany, a country with a large potential Turkish audience for the film, it is expected to be shown in about 100 movie theaters and will likely attract a large number of moviegoers, particularly among the Turkish emigrants residing there. The film will premiere on January 27, the same day as the International Holocaust Remembrance Day.2 The film’s distributor company claims it was not aware of the significance of the timing chosen for the premiere (Eldad Beck, Israeli daily Yedioth Ahronoth, January 23, 2010).

6. The release of the film, and particularly the timing chosen for the premiere, were strongly criticized by many in Germany. For example, Christian Democratic Union spokesman Philipp Mißfelder said that the timing of the film’s release showed disrespect and disregard for the feelings of Holocaust victims. Kerstin Griese, a parliament member for the Social Democratic Party of Germany, said that the movie was problematic because it's anti-Israeli and “incites anti-Semitic sentiments”. Green Party representative Jerzy Montag claimed that the decision to release the film on January 27 was irresponsible and took it out of its historic context. In response, a spokesman for Pana Film, which produced Valley of the Wolves: Palestine, said that the company was unaware of the sensitivity of the release date.

7. The German newspaper Die Welt said that the notion of vengeance for the Mavi Marmara incident resulted in the portrayal of Israel as the enemy. According to the newspaper, the James Bond-like hero of the movie exacts vengeance from Israeli leaders. The movie, Die Welt says, shows an Israeli senior officer indiscriminately killing Palestinian children.

8. Valley of the Wolves: Iraq, a previous movie in the series, which criticizes the U.S. operations in Iraq and contains anti-Semitic themes, was a success with the Turkish community in Germany. It was pulled from cinemas in the U.S. for incitement and was strongly criticized in Germany (although it was not banned there).3

In Dubai, some residents are celebrities just because of their address

Dubai's Burj Khalifa, the world's tallest building, officially opened in January. For building residents, the rent also buys a bit of fame.

By Ruth Sherlock

Burj Khalifa reaches 2,716 feet.


The Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building, stands beside the world’s largest fountain, and above the world’s largest mall. The glimmering glass-clad tower thins to a shining needlepoint at 828 meters (2,716 feet), effortlessly surpassing the jungle of Dubai’s skyscrapers.

The building, which officially opened in January, is already a world icon. Residency in one of the tower’s 900 apartments centers on extravagant excess. Fast-flashing lights in the trees outside give paparazzi glamour. The lobby includes a marble table, rumored to cost $2 million. Armani’s six-star hotel is also here.

Hundreds of paying day-trippers stare as residents – a constant source of intrigue – walk to the private lift, a concierge carrying their purchases in tow.

“You are buying a feeling of exclusivity and status at the Burj – walking past the line at the mall with your pass,” says one resident. “It is shallow, really, but I like it.”