Hot off the Arab press

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

A trader works at the Egyptian stock exchange in Cairo on Tuesday (photo credit: REUTERS)
A trader works at the Egyptian stock exchange in Cairo on Tuesday
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Let’s not forget to be civil
Al-Okaz, Saudi Arabia, March 6
I have been reading and hearing a lot of harsh remarks made in the Saudi media against the entire Lebanese people. “They should all be kicked out of the Gulf,” one pundit exclaimed, suggesting that Lebanese laborers only came to Saudi Arabia, Dubai, and the United Arab Emirates to steal local jobs and exploit the local economies. This cannot be further from the truth. Let’s not forget that our problem in the Gulf is not with Lebanon, but rather with certain Lebanese militias that chose to stand alongside Iran. Years of close ties with our brothers in Lebanon cannot be simply erased because of Hezbollah’s involvement in Syria.
We cannot allow our criticism against extremism to turn us into extremists ourselves. Suggesting mass deportations – of any group within our society – is not an idea that bodes will with us and what we want our society to represent. Those we engage in terror activity, weather Lebanese or not, should surely be treated with an iron fist. But in our battle to protect civilization let’s not forget to be civil ourselves. The vast majority of Lebanese people are our brothers and sisters, and they should not be collectively punished for acts of a sinister minority among them. – Turki al-Dakhil
Egypt’s water problem… and Israel
Al-Watan, Egypt, March 7
I have read an article several months ago calling Egypt to reach out to the Israelis for help with our growing water problem. The author claimed that as long as the Egyptian government receives assurances that it will control its own water sources, such cooperation would not be harmful. I don’t know how true this argument is or isn’t, but I know what former president Sadat knew: that 99 percent of the Middle East’s issues, including the Palestinian problem, are the fault of the United States. Sadat repeated this mantra during the Cold War, and managed to almost entirely push Egypt away from the Soviet Union and towards the United States. Today, I believe that another layer could be added to this argument: that 99% of the problems in the Middle East are at the hands of Israel, since the latter influences almost anything that happens in Washington.
In other words, we must not think of Israel as an omnipotent regional player capable of doing whatever it wants without checks and balances, but we do need to come to terms with it influence on the region. Politics aside, we also know that our water problem is becoming extremely difficult. We have access to the exact same water resources we had several decades ago, when our population consisted of 17 million people.
Since we have grown to almost 92 million people, but our water sources remained the same. Today, people shower more, irrigate more, and consume more water.
This situation is simply unstable. Whether it is the Israelis, the Europeans, or the Americans that help us overcome our water crisis, we should not be afraid to cooperate with others to solve our national problems.
We should not undermine the knowledge of others.
We must remember that Egypt is a proud nation that stands tall, with hundreds of years of history behind it. We are much greater than any individual crisis we experience. – Hilmi al-Namnam
Arab siege on Hezbollah
Al-Itihad, United Arab Emirates, March 4
Last Wednesday, Gulf states designated Hezbollah, the armed Lebanese militia, as an armed “terrorist” group, calling to block all funding and support to the organization. This is just a symbolic step, but it’s an important step in the right direction. It suggests that Gulf countries have began building a wall around the Shi’ite terror group, which has been operating at the behest of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard for several years now. The foundations have been officially laid, and the wall will now grow larger and larger. And unlike the Europeans or the Americans, who only declared Hezbollah’s military wing – and not political arm – an armed group, Gulf countries called to ban the organization as a whole. Of course, other Arab organizations must now follow through. The Arab League, the Organization for Islamic Cooperation, and other governments in the region should also adopt this decision and put an end to Nasrallah’s attempts to destabilize our region. The Iranian government, the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, and spokespersons of the Houthi rebels in Yemen have all criticized the decision, claiming that it will only serve “Zionist interests.” But attempts to deflect criticism away from Hezbollah will not help. Neither will Nasrallah’s speeches. The Arab world is finally imposing a siege on Hezbollah, and there is no way out now. – Mashari al-Zayidi
Satire television – between Trump and Nasrallah
ASharq Alawsat, London, March 7
Last week, Lebanese television aired a 60-minute- long satire show, mocking Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah and the contradicting remarks he made throughout the years. The show, which managed to subtly touch upon the most burning issues of Lebanese politics, was a huge hit. Interestingly enough, just several days later, I came across an episode of an American satire TV show, in which the host, the famous John Oliver, mocked Donald Trump for his racist and inconsistent remarks throughout the presidential debates. The two shows, though very different, struck a remarkably similar chord. They both succeeded, through humor, to expose the remarkable bigotry that exists within their respective politics and societies. This style of journalism is very popular in the United States and in Europe, but has not taken off in the Arab World. Particularly since the Arab Spring, when authorities closely monitored any political dissident activity, Arabs have become wary and suspicious of satire. But now, following several shows launched in Egypt by talk show hosts, satire television is re-emerging on Arab TV. To some, this might seem like a cheap form of entertainment. But to others, myself included, this is a valuable tool to address real political problems on our agenda, while appealing to a wide demogaphic. – Dina Maqled
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