A weekly selection of opinions and analyses from the Arab media around the world.

Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas chairs a PLO meeting (photo credit: FADI AROURI/REUTERS)
Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas chairs a PLO meeting
(photo credit: FADI AROURI/REUTERS)
Al-Araby al-Jadeed, London, August 4
“The Syrian war is one of the greatest travesties of our time. Hundreds, if not thousands, of innocent civilians are being butchered every single day while the world observes quietly from the side. Not a single country agreed to take action to prevent this holocaust, allowing Syrian men, women and children to be sent to their deaths at the hands of Bashar Assad’s regime and Islamic State.
“Yet there is a population that is even more miserable than the average Syrian citizen. These are the Palestinian refugees in Syria. For years, they have been discriminated against, marginalized and left to the sidelines of society. When death and destruction struck the country six years ago, these communities were the first to pay the price. Unlike regular Syrian nationals, Palestinians are not allowed to leave Syria to seek refuge in neighboring states. Many of them don’t even have passports. Even Lebanon, where roughly one million Syrians have found shelter, does not permit entry to Palestinian Syrians. Palestinians have to enter the country as tourists and are therefore not privy to basic access to UN aid services.
“The most infuriating thing about this catastrophe is that the biggest traitor of the Palestinian people is its leadership. Instead of fighting for the protection of Syria’s Palestinians, the PLO turns a blind eye to the travesties in the Levant, aligning itself with Assad and the forces of evil. It abandons its own people, who have already been expelled from their homes before, and leaves them to die a miserable death in their quest for freedom. This is a shame for all world leaders, especially those in Ramallah.”
Samir al-Sabban
Alanba, Kuwait, August 2
“The global diamond trade has long been closely scrutinized by international organizations and multinational agencies, due to its potential to spark, perpetuate and fund conflicts. What has gone less noticed, however, is Israel’s involvement in the trade of diamonds, which is often carried out illegally and in violation of international law.
“Israel is one of the largest importers and exporters of diamonds in the world. It buys most of its diamonds from African countries such as Liberia, Congo and South Africa, and then sells the vast majority of the processed product to European and Asian markets. In fact, according to some reports, roughly 30% of Israel’s gross national income comes from these sales.
“Jews in Europe were known to make a living from the sale of diamonds and silver and many brought these professions with them when they immigrated to British Mandate Palestine. Following its independence, Israel maintained close ties with South Africa’s apartheid regime, which allowed the young state to develop a competitive advantage over other diamond traders around the world whose governments boycotted South Africa.
“In recent years, Israel has started leveraging its connections in Africa to enhance its arms sales in the region. Instead of buying diamonds with cash, Israeli traders now provide weapon systems and armaments to corrupt African dictators in return for mining rights in their countries. These weapons have been used to fuel wars, resulting in the death of hundreds of civilians.
It is possible that without Israel’s intervention in Africa, the phenomenon of child soldiers wouldn’t have become so prevalent in the war-torn continent.
“To make matters worse, proceeds from these sales have also been used to enhance Israel’s occupation of the West Bank. Many of Israel’s leading diamond traders, such as Lev Leviev, invested massive amounts of resources in Jewish Jerusalem and towards the displacement of Palestinians. Israel continues to maintain these practices not only because of its disrespect for international law, but also because it isn’t being held accountable. It is fueling war and sectarian conflict in an effort to enhance its own economic gains and continue the displacement of the Palestinian people. This is a double evil that must be stopped.”
– Hassan al-Aasi
Asharq al-Awsat, London, August 1
“Just a few decades ago Bahrain was the world’s largest exporter of pearls. The Bahraini economy flourished as a result of this trade. And then, one bright morning, the Japanese discovered a cheaper alternative to pearls, sending Bahrain’s economy into a tailspin.
“This is the exact fear faced by Saudi Arabia these days in regards to oil. So many resources have been invested in building up the kingdom’s oil infrastructure that it is hard to imagine the country without its vital export: black gold. But today’s world is changing at a fast pace. More than 10 countries have already announced their plan to ban the manufacturing of petrol-consuming cars. With them, more and more governments have committed to clean energy policies that limit the release of pollutants.
“The world is moving towards a future that relies less and less on oil, and Saudi Arabia must adapt to changing priorities. It can no longer afford to send most of its laborers abroad without developing local employment opportunities at home. It cannot allow its people to remain illiterate without investing in better education systems. It must diversify its economy and examine new ways to strengthen its local industries.
Whether the future of the Saudi economy lies in sectors such as tourism or manufacturing remains to be seen. However, the kingdom is taking the right step by acknowledging its weaknesses and committing to addressing them in the near future.
“The world is changing at a rapid speed, and so is Saudi Arabia. That is the country’s only way to ensure its stability and prosperity in the long run.”
– Abdul Rahman al-Rashed
Al-Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, August 1
“It is no secret that relations between Saudi Arabia and Iraq have hit rock bottom in recent years. Riyadh has been engaged in a war of self-defense against Houthi militias in Yemen, an ethnic group that many Iraqis widely sympathize with. Many Iraqis, meanwhile, falsely accuse Saudi Arabia of supporting Islamic State and its activities in Iraq.
“Several events that took place recently might reveal, however, a positive change in relations between the two countries. Just a few months ago, in May, Iraqi President Fuad Masum visited Riyadh, where he attended, together with other Arab leaders, the Islamic- American summit. A few weeks later, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi arrived on an official state visit to Saudi Arabia and met with the king. Both visits were very successful. Indeed, communication between the two countries continued to grow, culminating in the rare visit last week of Muqtada al-Sadr, a notable Iraqi Shi’ite cleric, who arrived in Saudi Arabia to meet with the king and called to improve relations between the two countries.
“Anyone following this chain of events can easily understand that both countries are investing great efforts into restoring ties between them. The sectarian tensions that plague our region have undoubtedly placed Baghdad and Riyadh on a collision course. Yet both countries’ leaders seem determined to change this trajectory, and overcome the animosity that once existed among them. If proven correct, this rapprochement between Baghdad and Riyadh might spell out a new strategic alliance in the Middle East; one which is able to overcome sectarian tensions in the region. In a day and age where more and more violence takes over the Middle East in the name of religion, this is a blessed move. Allowing two historical foes to come together in a close alliance can set an unprecedented example to other states around us.
“There is surely still much work to be done before relations between the two countries will be fully normalized.
However, these developments may very well signal a new era for Saudi-Iraqi relations, and the Middle East more broadly.”
Hassan Mustafa