Hot off the Arab press

What citizens of other countries are reading about the Middle East.

December 8, 2016 12:28
Naftali Bennett

Naftali Bennett. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)

Al-Jazeera, Qatar, December 10

This past June, Elie Wiesel, a Zionist thinker and Nobel Laureate, died in New York. Wiesel was well known for his uncompromising backing of Israel and his avid support for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. But more importantly, he was infamous for his tendency to distort historical facts and portray Palestinians as criminals.

What have Palestinians done to deserve this unfair portrayal? How could have Wiesel ignored half a century of brutal Israeli occupation? How could he justify the killing of innocent Arab children simply because they are Arab? Even if Hamas does, in fact, use children as human shields – as Wiesel so frequently claimed – are the lives of children taken by Israeli soldiers not worth living? Elie Wiesel might have been a Nobel Laureate, but he was also a racist. He expressed, again and again, his satisfaction with the murder of innocent Palestinians.

He completely forgot how he and his family members once stood in the ghettos and concentration camps of Europe, with their lives at the grace of others.

Sadly, many other Jewish and Zionist thinkers hold similar positions to his. They are empathetic and forgiving when those at hand are Jews, but harsh and inhumane when those at hand are Palestinians. Those who truly want peace and justice, those who truly deserve a Nobel Prize, must be empathetic to all human beings, simply by virtue of their shared humanity. This was not the case of the Elie Wiesel, regardless of the prizes and accolades he may have received throughout his life.

– Ali al-Ramdi

Al-Rad, Jordan, December 9

Ever since Donald Trump won the presidential election in America, Israeli officials have been particularly vocal about the pro-Israel sentiments of the incoming administration.

Several ministers, including Education Minister Naftali Bennett, went as far as celebrating the “demise,” to borrow their words, of the two-state solution.

Indeed, during the election campaign itself, Trump’s advisers made far-fetched promises to their Israeli counterparts. Chief among them was the promise to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem if and when Trump gets elected. Now that Trump won the elections it is time for action. The Palestinians are carefully monitoring the statements coming out of Washington, fearing the president-elect’s future policy on Palestine.

However, I would encourage all of us to hold off on our panic. Trump might not be as horrible to the Palestinians as we make him out to be. First, Israeli politicians exaggerate the extent to which Trump supports Israel. They do so to pressure his team to adopt a hardline stance against the Palestinians. In reality, however, Trump is more moderate than he seems, and probably understands how Israeli actions, particularly the settlements, have been an obstacle to peace.

Secondly, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict does not unfold in a vacuum. The United States is an important regional player, yet certainly not the only one: the European Union and Russia can also exert influence over the two sides, regardless of who sits in the Oval Office.

They will not stand idly as Trump provides a hawkish Israeli government with a cart blanche.

Lastly, Trump might enjoy a majority in Congress, but he also offended many of his party members throughout his presidential campaign. There is still a system of checks and balances designed to prevent him from acting on his own without consulting seasoned Republican statesmen.

For all these reasons, I would suggest that we wait and judge the new president by his actions, and not only by his words.

– Fadi al-Atrash

Al-Okaz, Saudi Arabia, December 8

Saudi judicial authorities released their verdict this week against a group of 15 people accused of belonging to an Iranian spy cell operating in the kingdom. According to minutes released from the trial, the 15 individuals were influential Saudi officials who have been recruited by Tehran to provide sensitive information about infrastructure in the country.

Luckily enough, Saudi intelligence agencies succeeded in intercepting this cell, and arrested the involved individuals. During the investigation it was revealed that the Iranians used their consulates and embassies abroad to promote their plans, by recruiting local collaborators abroad.

What is most surprising about the thwarting of this scheme is how such high-ranking Saudi officials have been so easily recruited to work for the Iranians.

Have they lost all sense of loyalty to their country? Do they not care about their fellow citizens and their homeland? There is no doubt that the harsh verdict – imprisonment and execution – will deter others from acting similarly in the future. But we still must stop and think how Saudi nationals – successful businessmen and women who spent their entire lives and careers in the kingdom – forsake their homeland and agree to work for our enemy.

– Turki al-Dakheel


Akhbar al-Khaleej, UAE, December 6 Donald Trump’s transition team recently announced General James Mattis, nicknamed “Mad Dog,” as the next Secretary of Defense. Because General Mattis will likely make important decisions pertaining to the Middle East during his time in office, it is important we stop and examine who he is.

Mattis is an individual who devoted his entire life to the military. He is neither married nor does he have children, and takes pride, instead, in his extensive collection of books. Those who know him well claim that he is extremely well read and can quote the most prominent philosophers, political thinkers and statesmen of our time.

Mattis has been outspoken in his criticism against politicians, especially civilians, who make rash judgments without fully understanding the context in which things unfold on the ground. In several of his public appearances, he described Iran as the United States’ biggest threat of our time. In contrast to President Barack Obama’s optimistic worldview, Mattis does not believe in the Iranian regime’s ability to change its attitude towards the West by becoming more moderate.

What is interesting is that Mattis has been a staunch supporter of enhancing the Untied State’s involvement abroad – in places like Syria, Iraq and Iran.

Therefore, his worldview is inherently contradictory to the one promoted by his next commander in chief, Donald Trump, who repeatedly called to retract US involvement abroad. Only time will tell how these two worldviews will align, but one thing is sure: Mattis represents a new security doctrine in Washington, one that aims to restore American power and influence abroad, and does not shy away from on-ground interventions.

While Trump is mocked for being ignorant and inexperienced, the same most certainly cannot be said about Mad Dog Mattis.

– Mamdouh al-Muheni


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