Hot off the Arab press 489145

What citizens of other countries are reading about the Middle East

Bronze statues of North Korea’s late founder Kim Il-sung and late leader Kim Jong Il as they offer flowers to the statues in Pyongyang this week, to mark the 85th anniversary of the founding of the Korean People’s Army (photo credit: REUTERS)
Bronze statues of North Korea’s late founder Kim Il-sung and late leader Kim Jong Il as they offer flowers to the statues in Pyongyang this week, to mark the 85th anniversary of the founding of the Korean People’s Army
(photo credit: REUTERS)
An-Nahar, Lebanon, April 15
Imagine the following scenario: a Russian minister publicly threatening to send one of Russia’s neighbors “back to the Middle Ages” by destroying the country’s national infrastructure to the ground. Now imagine the public outcry that would soon ensue. Imagine the condemnations that we would hear from East and West.
Now channel yourself back to reality, and realize: such a statement was, in fact, publicly made. Not by a Russian minister, but rather by an Israeli one. And when it comes to Israel, the West’s pet colonizer, everything is allowed. These statements were voiced by Naftali Bennett, Israel’s education minister, who threatened that Israel would send Lebanon “hundreds of years back” if another war broke out with Hezbollah.
Citing the previous Lebanon War, in which over 1,500 Lebanese civilians were killed by Israel, the minister claimed that so far the Israeli Army has shown “restraint,” but this will no longer be the case moving forward. Because Hezbollah embeds itself in civilian infrastructure, including mosques, schools and hospitals, these will all become legitimate targets, the minister explained.
This is a clear genocidal threat. An Israeli minister unequivocally making a threat to indiscriminately kill civilians. Where is the public uproar? Where is the pushback? What is even more troubling is that these words were voiced by Bennett in his interview with Israel’s “liberal” newspaper Haaretz. This is a sad reminder that even the so-called Israeli “peace camp” still views the Arab world as its primordial enemy. This is not surprising in the least, given the fact that it was Israel’s left-wing party that carried out the worst crimes against Arabs, including the ethnic cleansing of 1948 and the occupation of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip in 1967.
This is just another friendly reminder about who we are dealing with on the other side. – Muhammad al-Nimr
Al Jazeera, Qatar, April 17
Stealthily, without much notice, British foreign policy toward Israel and Palestine seems to have changed.
Just a few months ago, weeks before US president Barack Obama stepped out of office, Palestinians jubilated with the passing of Resolution 2334 at the UN Security Council, which described Israel’s settlement activity in the West Bank as “illegal” under international law. The decision was shaped, to a great extent, by the British Foreign Office, which helped craft the resolution and even word it.
This attitude seems to have changed quite dramatically and rapidly, when just a few weeks later, UK Prime Minister Theresa May already blasted the resolution and described settlement construction as a non-issue. Instead, she claimed, the world should be concerned with the growing terrorist threat against Israelis.
This approach continued when Britain refused to send a high-level delegation to the Middle East peace conference organized by France in January. Then, a month later, the British representative to the Security Council accused the UN of its “bias against Israel,” and refused to participate in a discussion on Israel’s violation of human rights. More recently, several reports confirmed the change in the UK’s visa policy, which will make it more difficult for Palestinians to obtain permission to enter the country.
All of these signs should be of utmost concern to us all. In the day and age of Trump-ism, there seems to be diminishing room for criticism against Israel. Following Brexit, the UK seems to be following suit with the Americans by removing itself from its international commitments and siding with Israel. – Nasseer Jawda
Asharq Al-Awsat, London, April 18
There is no doubt in my mind that the North Koreans are looking back at the days of US president Barack Obama with longing. To them, Obama’s eight years in office were a golden age: they developed their nuclear arsenal, they conducted ballistic missile tests, and they repeatedly provoked their neighbors, including South Korea and Japan.
Like North Korea, Iran, too, benefited from Obama’s presidency. It extended its reach to Syria, Iraq, Yemen, and even Libya. It continuously provoked its neighbors in the region. Perhaps most importantly, both countries were never held accountable for their actions.
When US President Donald Trump stepped into office in January and threatened Iran, the mullahs refused to take him seriously. They believed that just like his predecessor, Trump was about big statements and empty words. But then came a series of decisive actions: the American attack on the Syrian airbase, the departure of Vice President Pence to a series of meetings and consultations in Seoul (including a public visit to the DMZ), and the deployment of an American aircraft carrier to the East China Sea.
Trump means what he says. He is well aware of his country’s enormous force, which remains the strongest in the world. He is determined to restore faith in America’s power abroad. These are all important and encouraging developments.
Still, it is important to remember that power alone is not enough. The world is becoming ever more dynamic. Non-state actors are more influential and powerful than they ever have been. Washington, therefore, cannot go at it alone. It needs the support of other major powers, particularly in Europe. Most importantly, it cannot fight everyone else’s battles. It needs the help of local power themselves: Saudi Arabia against Iran and South Korea against North Korea.
Only then will it be able to project its power again onto the world. – Abdulrahman al-Rashed
Al-Arabiya, Saudi Arabia, April 17
The next big threat might be a biological one.
The recent sarin gas attack in northwestern Syria again called into attention the significant risks associated with the use of chemical and biological weapons against civilian populations. Small attacks of this sort could prove to be extremely lethal, leading to even more deaths and casualties than those involving conventional weapons used by armies.
So far, we have seen very few examples of this. Barring the anthrax attack on the United States in the aftermath of 9/11, no major attack of this sort has taken place to date. But there are precedents. Living pathogens have been used in terrorist attacks in the past, both in the United States and abroad. In the wake of the recent Ebola crisis, more and more security officials have become concerned with the possibility of a terrorist organization taking advantage of these kinds of weapons. While they require some technological understanding, they are much easier to develop than nuclear and chemical weapons. They are also easier to hide.
In documents retrieved from computers in Iraq, for example, it was found that ISIS has been actively trying to get its hands on such weapons. Unlike al-Qaida, which maintained its use of “conventional” weapons such as guns and explosive devices, ISIS seems to be keen on pushing its offensive capabilities even further. Security agencies around the world are well aware of this growing threat, but so far have failed to collaborate on a plan to combat it together. With the recent threats coming from Pyongyang, as well as those in the Middle East, this threat is becoming more and more real.
In the First World War we saw the use of chemical weapons. In the Second World War we saw the use of the atomic bomb. The next big threat seems to be the living one: the use of biological weapons by terrorist organizations against civilian populations. The results will be far more severe than any conventional attack using guns and bombs. – Issa Rantawi