My National Post column: how anti-Israel wishful thinking masquerades as dispassionate analysis.
The gas-rich state of Qatar is supposedly making a bid to host the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), now based in Montreal.
As nothing-burger stories go, this one is a Whopper.
Let’s remember, please, that two years ago Singapore made a bid to host the ICAO. Singapore is a true aviation hub, unlike Qatar. Yet Singapore’s bid went nowhere. The ICAO Council — its functional board of directors — is heavily tilted to major aviation nations, almost all of which want to leave the ICAO where it is.
Moreover, any move by the ICAO must not only be approved by a 60% vote of the 191 ICAO member-nations (hard enough), but also (and this is harder) get itself on the docket of the ICAO no later than May 13 in time to be voted upon by the member nations at the ICAO’s general assembly in September.
A Qatar bid would face even more difficulties than Singapore’s, for several reasons:
1) Qatar’s most recent reach for global recognition — its bid for the 2022 World Cup — is beset with difficulties. Qatar must build at least eight new soccer stadiums. Because of the 120-degree heat that can be expected in a Qatari summer, those stadiums will have to be equipped with air-cooling technology that has not yet been invented.
The World Cup experience has left many governments skeptical of Qatari promises — and embarrassed by the brutal methods Qatar uses to advance those promises. In March of this year, the German magazine Bild reported on working conditions at the Qatari stadium sites: “The foreign workers (mostly from Nepal and the Philippines) get a pittance of less than one euro per hour (78 cents), live in tiny rooms, some at 50 degrees without a working air conditioner. Often they cannot leave Qatar because their employers have taken their passports from them.”
2) Qatar’s political stability cannot be taken for granted. Nearby Bahrain has been wracked by protests and riots, and just across the Persian Gulf is a nuclear-arming Iran. Qatar is backing the anti-Iranian Islamists in the Syrian civil war, opening itself to retaliation from its dangerous neighbor. Given that Qatar’s guest-worker population outnumbers citizens 1.3-million to 300,000, the wealthy little state offers a vulnerable target.
3) The idea that there would be a 60% vote of the world’s governments in favor of Qatar is itself fanciful. Qatar is not exactly Ms. Popularity, even within the Arab world. It often seems, in fact, that the main function of Qatar’s state-backed al Jazeera television network is to wage cold war against the rival ruling families in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. Meanwhile, Qatar’s outspoken support for Hamas in Gaza has irritated and offended the United States and the United Kingdom.
Yet it’s this same fanciful idea of a pro-Qatar juggernaut in the UN General Assembly that has got the Canadian press most excited by the prospective Qatari bid for ICAO.