Hot off the Arab press 482418

What citizens of other countries are reading about the Middle East

Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Trump (photo credit: AVI OHAYON - GPO)
Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Trump
(photo credit: AVI OHAYON - GPO)
Too soon for Israel to celebrate
Al-Jazeera, Qatar, February 17
Any right-minded individual who observed the interaction between US President Donald Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu during the latter’s visit to Washington understands that we are entering a day and age in which America is becoming even more biased in its favoring of Israel. This spells bad trouble for the Palestinian Authority and President Mahmoud Abbas. At the same time, I believe that it is too soon for the Israelis to celebrate.
The Israeli government would have been wise to curb its enthusiasm and demonstrate more prudence, and a little less arrogance, in its celebration of the new American administration. So far, the only consistent thing about Trump has been his inconsistency.
Trump’s policies have changed, shifted, appeared and disappeared – not only between his campaign and when he actually stepped into office, but also within the last few weeks. During his press conference at the White House, Trump put Netanyahu on the spot by calling him to limit settlement activity in front of the cameras. The terrified prime minister reluctantly looked back at the president without saying a word. Israel’s so-called strongest ally caught lecturing the Israeli prime minister on live television.
What’s more, Trump – unknowingly perhaps – opened a Pandora’s box by claiming that he would back the one-state solution if that is the solution that the two sides agree upon. Other than reflecting the president’s shocking ignorance on the subject matter, this statement horrified right-minded Israelis. To those who understand basic demographics, the one-state solution means one of two options: either a binational state, or an apartheid one. Under the first scenario, Israel will cease to be Jewish. Under the second one, it will cease to be democratic. Both solutions seem to stand in complete contradiction to Israel’s very own raison d’etre; that is, its founding ethos and vision.
These are only some of the mishaps that have occurred, publicly, within a month of Trump’s presidency.
There is much more to come. The sheer chaos representing the new American administration will not leave Israel unaffected. It is true: Trump blindly favors Israel. But it is too soon for Israel to celebrate.
His ineptitude and incompetence might leave the Israelis missing former president Barack Obama.
– Osama Abu Rashid
The horrible truth of Sednaya Prison
Al-Araby al-Jadeed, London, February 15
In its report on the Sednaya Military Prison in Syria published last week, Amnesty International estimated that “between 5,000 and 13,000 people were extra-judicially executed at Saydnaya between September 2011 and December 2015.”
I have read the report very closely. There are no proper words in the Arabic language to describe the horrors of that place. Language can simply not describe the atrocities experienced by those incarcerated in the compound: people sleeping on top of others who are suffocating to death, guards breaking the bones of those they are about to execute, and a systematic torturing of the inmates. These testimonies are not taken from a horror film or novel; they describe the systematic behavior of the Syrian regime against its political opponents.
And so, the same story repeats itself: Western governments are now reacting to the report by expressing shock and disbelief with the testimonies. Ministries of Foreign Affairs are releasing condemnation messages full of denunciation and admonition. But does all of this matter? When we take a minute to think about it, we quickly realize that the regime responsible for these heinous crimes would not have remained in power had it not been for the consent of these very same Western governments. Their benevolent democratic regimes have been supporting Assad – first the father, and then the son – for decades on end.
The Amnesty report from last week is only the tip of the iceberg. Much grosser violations of human rights occur on a daily basis throughout Syria. If those in the West aren’t familiar with the brutality experienced by Syrian civilians today, they don’t need to look far: it is enough to stare at their very own politicians; those who have been turning a blind eye to the human rights violations of the Syrian regime for several decades.
– Yamen Dabki
Failing leadership in the face of growing occupation
Falesteen, Ramallah, February 10
A significant event took place last week in Hebron, although very few people paid attention to it. The Palestinian Authority, led by Mahmoud Abbas, decided to hand over a large piece of land, housing several Muslim artifacts, to the Russian Orthodox Church.
Despite being only 300 meters wide, this disputed land stands at the heart of Hebron. It was handed over to Russian authorities after the Russian Church made claims to have owned it during the Ottoman Era. Interestingly, no paperwork was found to support this claim.
To make matters worse, a local Hebron resident by the name of Tamim al-Deri claimed ownership of the land after presenting documents that prove his family had bought it. Mahmoud Abbas decided to ignore al-Deri’s claim and discount the rule of law by proceeding with the handing over of the land to the Russians.
Now, from a practical standpoint, the question must be asked: what is the difference between the actions of the Russians and those of the Israelis? The Israeli parliament recently passed a law that allows every Israeli settler to claim ownership of land on which he built a house, regardless of the existence of any documentation proving such a claim. The only thing that Israelis have to do in order to take over Palestinian lands is build a house and turn to the government with the demand to take over it.
Sadly, in both the Russian and Israeli case, the reaction of the Palestinian Authority has been rather dismal.
Instead of putting up a fight with the Russians, Mahmoud Abbas decided to appease his associates in Moscow by giving up pieces of Palestinian land. Similarly, he has failed to take any action against the passing of the despicable Israeli law, which puts an end to any claims of Palestinian sovereignty in the West Bank.
In the absence of a true leadership that protects the Palestinian people against flagrant violations of their rights, the expansion of settlements and the theft of lands from their rightful owners are only expected to grow.
– Lama Khatar
Do Trump’s policies only help radicals?
Al-Sharq al-Awsat, London, February 13
In one of his latest public appearances, Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei, thanked US President Donald Trump for “showing the true face of America” with his recent presidential decrees. Similarly, Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, who usually keeps an affable attitude in his interactions with the West, sounded more combative in his recent statements than ever before.
With the change of the American administration, Iran is definitely facing rough days ahead. America under Trump is by no means the America under former president Barack Obama. To this point, many pundits have been claiming that the new winds blowing from Washington are dangerous, since they have empowered Iranian hard-liners. The average Iranian citizen, the old argument goes, will rally around the flag and support the mullahs over liberal and moderate politicians.
I couldn’t disagree more. We heard these exact warnings numerous times throughout history, and we were fooled, again and again, into believing that the liberals in Iran can wield true political power.
The sad truth is that the Supreme Leader is the ultimate bearer of political power in the country. Iran’s moderates have been used by the radicals as nothing more than a facade. The ultimate victim of this trick was Obama, who believed that by lifting the sanctions on Tehran, Iranian liberals would be empowered.
Again, this proved to be false. The nature of the regime in Tehran is not likely to change, regardless of American foreign policies. The mullahs rule the country based on a fundamental political and religious ideology that isn’t malleable to the White House.
The only change we have witnessed in Iran is an improvement in its ballistic missile program, and its progression one step closer toward being a nuclear power.
This is true with or without Trump.
– Abd al-Rahman al-Rashed