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by Hassane Zerrouky

Gaza: The Arab countries lack vigor

Translated Friday 2 January 2009, by Anatoli

The Arab countries are calling upon the international community while they have no means to influence the situation as it evolves.


In his usual manner, and undoubtedly in order to appear in a better light, the top Libyan leader, Muammar Qadhafi, criticized the rulers of other Arab countries. “One of them proposes a peace initiative. Another one offers humanitarian aid, which is in no way binding. The next one makes a speech, and another wants an Arab Summit to be held in emergency” was his statement at a public meeting in Tripoli on Saturday. From his side, Hashem Safieddin, a Lebanese Hezbollah executive, also denounced them: “Americans made a decision to go ahead with strikes, Israelis have implemented it, and Arabs have been their accomplices.” At the very least, one must acknowledge that what is called “the Arab street” does not remain insensitive to such kinds of bitter criticism. This is the case because there is truth in the criticism. It highlights the weakness of will of Arab countries, particularly Egypt and Saudi Arabia, to become involved in the situation in the Middle East.

As a confirmation, it was from Cairo, Egypt’s capital, that Tzipi Livni, the Israeli Minister of Foreign Affairs, threatened Hamas with repression. Speaking on Thursday in the follow-up of her meeting with President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt, she made it clear that Hamast “has decided to target Israel, and this must be stopped, and this is what we are going to do.” Her Egyptian counterpart was not in the least offended by that.

For the population of the region, watching the Al Jazeera TV channel and its competitors, Al Arabiya or Abu Dhabi News, there is no doubt at all that Egypt, together with some of its allies near the Gulf, headed by Saudi Arabia, has been kept updated by Israel and has done nothing to prevent the latter from action. People also know that those countries never do anything without an endorsement from Washington. Nobody has forgotten that Saudi Arabia, supported by Egypt and Jordan, tried hard to undermine the Doha Agreement. This put an end to the Lebanese crisis and finally achieved the recognition of Lebanon by Syria, as well as their agreement to exchange ambassadors and to wrap up the situation that has lasted since the end of the civil war in Lebanon.

More generally, Qadhafi and Hezbollah’s criticisms only irritate the Islamist Arab movement, particularly in Egypt, but also in Syria, in Alger and in Morocco, where political Islamism is gaining ground. In the Arab world, political and media space and freedom of expression have been virtually silenced by the powers-that-be. In an environment of repression, only Islamists are able to make their voices heard. They manage to do this through a net of mosques and powerful charity movements under their control.

Nonetheless, during the Riyadh Summit in March 2007, the same Arab countries made a peace proposal to Israel: withdraw from occupied territories and establish a Palestinian state with its capital in East Jerusalem in exchange for a normalization of relations with the Hebrew state. They buried the proposal rather soon in order to join Washington in insisting on the road map approved at a meeting in Annapolis in November 2007, which has never produced any result! No surprise, therefore, to see street demonstrations since then condemning “Arab cowardice” and justifying Qadhafi and Islamists’ criticisms from Cairo to Beirut and from Baghdad to the West Bank.

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