Voices from the Arab Press

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

AN AERIAL view, captured via drone, shows buildings and roads submerged by floodwaters near the Nile River in South Khartoum, Sudan, on September 8. (photo credit: REUTERS)
AN AERIAL view, captured via drone, shows buildings and roads submerged by floodwaters near the Nile River in South Khartoum, Sudan, on September 8.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Al-Arab, London, September 19
Many around me have criticized the decision made by some Arab states to normalize their relations with Israel. But the truth is that, whether you like it or not, these normalization agreements have only strengthened and empowered those who pursued them.
In fact, the voices criticizing the UAE and Bahrain for their recent agreements with Israel are the very same voices that criticized the Egyptians for reaching a peace deal with Israel. When former Egyptian president Anwar Sadat decided to enter negotiations with Israel, he did so because he realized that the time for war had passed and that a new approach – that of diplomacy – was needed. Unfortunately, the Palestinian leadership has failed to reach the same conclusion.
Everything surrounding the Palestinian issue has changed. Geopolitical developments in the region managed to reshuffle the old Middle East politics and create new alliances in the region. The Oslo Accords marked the end of the Arab world’s wars with Israel. Unfortunately, in the entire time that has passed since, the Palestinians failed to establish an independent state of their own. They failed not because of an armed struggle but because the Palestinian political elite simply didn’t want to achieve statehood. Fighting for statehood, instead of actually fulfilling that goal, allowed the Palestinian leadership to continue selling the narrative of an armed struggle while practicing corruption and bribery behind closed doors.
The Palestinian leadership must understand that Arab leaders have grown tired of this conflict. They have grown tired of the Palestinian Authority lying to its people and failing to represent their interests. Therefore, Arab countries have put the Palestinian issue aside and began developing and pursuing policies that promote their own well-being. It’s time for the Palestinians to search for new solutions and actively work to reach a lasting peace with Israel; we’ve had enough of them playing the role of the passive observer waiting for his own fate to be determined by others. – Farouk Youssef
Al-Arabiya, Saudi Arabia, September 19
Sudan is experiencing a national state of emergency after its villages and cities have been struck by terrible floods. Following several days of storms, more than 33,000 buildings in the country have been damaged, some 50,000 others have been completely destroyed, and 15 people have been declared dead or missing.
Sudan is a country still recovering from the wounds of war. This natural disaster comes at a time when the country is already dealing with internal strife, political disorder, and the COVID-19 pandemic. All of these have exacerbated the suffering of the Sudanese people and their ability to effectively respond to this national emergency.
The people of Sudan lived under three decades of the worst kind of tyrannical rule. During this time, the country’s leaders adopted a hard-line religious identity and implemented Sharia law. All the while, the theft of public money and the suppression of all political opponents continued to unfold. And while the people eventually revolted against their leaders and managed to install a new government, the effects of this era are still felt in the country to this very day.
The floods we are witnessing today are yet another manifestation of the failure of the current Sudanese political system. The post-revolution government is still in its infancy, working to repair the political and legal cracks left by the previous ones. But this process takes time and public buy-in, both of which are lacking in Sudan. Away from the endless political disputes and quarrels within the Arab world, the people of Sudan are in dire need of a helping hand. The whole world, and especially Arab countries, must do whatever they can to help.
The Sudanese state has been exhausted by corruption and fighting and it cannot carry this heavy burden alone. The passage of time only makes conditions worse. The televised pictures coming from the center of the country are heartbreaking. Thousands of individuals became homeless overnight. The water sources have become polluted. There is real fear of famine and the loss of basic necessities. In a catastrophic situation like this, it is our duty – indeed, the duty of any capable state, business, relief organization, or global institution – to extend a helping hand to Sudan.
Therefore, official and unofficial assistance, both Arab and international, is crucial. This assistance must not stop at the simple transfer of aid funds or relief goods. Rather, the Arab world must hold the current Sudanese government accountable and help its officials set up political structures that will serve the Sudanese public transparently and effectively in years to come. – Ammar Hassan
Al-Masry Al-Youm, Egypt, September 18
The State of Qatar recently hosted a reconciliation conference between the Afghan government and the Taliban, under American auspices. Many observers of Afghan politics were surprised to discover that the United States is directly negotiating with a designated terrorist organization like the Taliban. This raised a lively debate about the similarities and differences between the Taliban and other extremist groups with which the United States is not negotiating. The consensus stemming from this debate suggests that the Taliban differs from the rest of its extremist brethren for two main reasons.
First, the Taliban government rose to power in direct response to the American presence in the country, and the US is perceived as the occupying, and thus accountable, force in Afghanistan. However, this explanation is not entirely convincing since the US could equally be considered an occupier in Iraq, yet it did not negotiate with al-Qaeda or ISIS, two movements that grew in the country.
This brings us to the second reason: that pertaining to the difference in the sociopolitical environment that gave rise to the Taliban. While al-Qaeda and ISIS are closed extremist organizations that grew their power by forcefully taking over large concentrations of population, the Taliban is a widely-supported movement in Afghanistan. It enjoys support from the Afghan public. Specifically, the Taliban forbids the killing of civilians not participating in fighting and most of its members belong to the Pashtun sect, which represents about 40% of Afghanistan’s population, corresponding to some 15 million people.
The truth is that the national, tribal, and religious environment in which the Taliban is rooted has made it impossible to eradicate it. While extremist religious groups like the Muslim Brotherhood, al-Qaeda, or ISIS can be marginalized and eradicated, the Taliban is an integral part of Afghan society. Just as Turkey’s iron-fist policy did not succeed in eradicating Kurdish armed organizations, which enjoy the support of an entire nation, so, too, the United States cannot simply erase the Taliban.
The challenges facing the Doha dialogues (which are exciting and deserve more attention) currently revolve around a US-Taliban prisoner exchange deal. Another point of contention is the identity of the Afghan state, with the Taliban insisting that it be Islamic, while the US is demanding more freedom for ostracized groups, including women. Only time will tell what these talks might lead to. –  Amr Al-Shobaki
Translated by Asaf Zilberfarb.