The Arab world is not the monolith that Arab nationalists try to project nor is it full of people who want to surrender to Israel at the drop of a hat, as its critics suggest. Opinion in the Arab world is divided on how to deal with Israel and its paymaster, the US.
Officially, the rulers are beholden to Uncle Sam and its surrogate, the Zionist State of Israel but there are critical voices being heard, increasing in volume, over the last few months. Even in Egypt, the country that spearheaded the so-called peace process with Israel, columnists are beginning to question the policy of accepting everything that the US throws at them.
Not only are journalists - and these do not belong to the Islamic or leftist groups - condemning the intransigence of Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, they are also taking the US to task. A particularly interesting piece appeared in the Saudi Arabic daily, Al-Hayat on May 2. Jihad al-Khazen questioned the US state department report, released in April, in which Syria was accused of supporting ‘terrorism’.
The US report, Modes of International Terrorism 1996, admitted that ‘There is no evidence that Syrian officials have been directly involved in planning or executing terrorist attacks world-wide since the year 1986. Yet Syria still hosts a number of organizations that undertake or support such attacks. Whereas Syria has declared its abidance with the peace process, it did not take any measures to stop the attacks of Hezbollah and the Palestinian resistance groups in South Lebanon.’
Khazen wrote: ‘South Lebanon is occupied by Israel. So if the US administration is now punishing Syria for its support of attacks undertaken in an occupied land as admitted and recognized by the whole world, it only means that the administration supports this occupation and hence backs Israeli terrorism.’
The writer asked in obvious anger at such American hypocrisy: ‘How could resistance in an occupied land be termed ôterrorismö while armed occupation is not considered terrorism against civilians in South Lebanon?’ He goes on to ask, why is it that the US lectures Arab regimes about democracy and multi-party rule, ‘but theirs is a democracy that does not tolerate any dissent if it is opposed to Israel’, referring to the Palestinian opponents of the Oslo sell-out.
And Khazen is not very impressed by the peace process either, which he says is being shred to pieces by Netanyahu. On May 19, even Martin Indyk, the US ambassador to Israel, admitted that the peace process was dead. This he could have learned three years ago if only he had cared to listen to alternative voices from Palestine and the Muslim world.
By the time he gets to the end of his piece, Khazen is livid. ‘Bringing the US to account should come before dealing with Israel,’ he says. It is ‘the US... that encourages Israeli terrorism against Palestinians, Lebanese and all Arabs, and accuses the Israelis’ victims of being terrorists.’
Mohammed Amin, writing in the Egyptian paper, Al-Siyasi al-Masri (April 6), not only called for a halt to normalization of relations with the Zionists but also condemned those Egyptian businessmen who have invested in Israel. He said that Egypt needed the investment money much more than the Zionists. Besides, Amin wrote, ‘Netanyahu does not understand any language except force. We should not allow him to go on constructing more Israeli settlements in Jerusalem while we disagree over normalization.’
And Yehya al-Gamal writing in Al Usbu` on April 28 not only thanked Netanyahu for ‘uniting the Arabs’ again but called for the establishment of a special fund in every Arab capital to save Jerusalem from Zionist encroachment. ‘There should be defenders of Jerusalem in every Arab country since Zionists are greedy enough to include the whole Arab land in their expansion plans.’
Such strong words have not been heard in Arab capitals for a long time. This may be just long-winded rhetoric but it still comes as a breath of fresh air from the stale parrotting of the peace process that has dominated the official media for the past three years.
Muslimedia - June 1-15, 1997